"And so our Opumohn, son of Matann and Sahseesohn, son of Shashoav, son of Luhvret, daughter of Balaff and Laymair, son of Koshohnveace who was the son of Mohntuhr before him; after doing the work of the true Laizuvrian under the fire of the sun, and being tragically overcome in his extraordinary and heroic battle against that fire in the night, passes on through yet another fire to join the air, the soil, and the water, and all of us here today, and so also to all Laizuvrians."
Zholybet shifted her weight again. Rayuhr was an adequate panegyrist, and he seemed to genuinely enjoy the widely-shunned task, but, she thought again, she wished he wouldn't pause quite so long between nearly every word of his eulogy. It seemed they had been standing there in the mezzohnmohr for seasons.
Matann and Burfohn, of course, were seated near Rayuhr in the front. Zholybet let escape a small sigh of relief when she saw Burfohn rise and begin passing out the poobells. Finally!
"So, I must say to our Opumohn's shainu and friends," Rayuhr plodded on, "that, although this is a time of remembrance, a time of reflection, a time of trial, and dacoar, a time of great, great sorrow," - Matann's gratifying sobs rose to fill the inevitable lull between his words - "we must remember that it will not always be so. We must remember that Opumohn was a good friend, a faithful brother, an obediant son," - the sob broke into a low moan - "and, as many of us remember him, a skillful beazhatter," - Burfohn added an audible sniff to his prahnumpa's wail - "and be glad, glad that Opumohn was with us for the time he had, not sorrowful only that his time was not longer."
Matann slightly resented this veiled chiding, but she was magnanimous about it; she could wait until later to berate Rayuhr. Burfohn, fulfilling his traditional obligation, was occupied with distributing the poobells amongst all those who were in attendance, and hardly heard Rayuhr speak. He smiled grimly at Zholybet as he offered her the small zhat. She accepted it, touching his arm tenderly in an overture of sympathy, but he moved on without changing his expression.
"For we cannot say, 'The Luhvluhv will cease to flow, the sun to rise and set, the blaorzh to grow, or the babe to cry,' when at last our time is over for us. The Luhvluhv is ever changing, but always there. The sun is ever moving, but always returns. The blaorzh requires our constant care, but rewards our efforts with its life-giving goodness. And the new-born child will ever temper the joy it brings its shainu with the trial of its voice."
Zholybet considered the trial of Rayuhr's voice.
"So come with me now, as we offer the very life of our Opumohn to the soil and the water, and return to your shainus with these poobells, to bring his life into your own lives, and make him a part of you and yours, forever."
Rayuhr stepped forward and offered his arm to Matann for support, and she accepted it (as was customary), but did so in such a way as to make it apparent that she was only grudgingly making a concession to form, and that she neither required nor desired any assistance whatsoever, and furthermore that she was not to be pleased in any way by anyone. All this was communicated in half a moment through the coldest of smiles and a contemptuous stare which surprised Burfohn and chilled everyone who happened to remark it. She allowed herself to be led out of the mezzohnmohr, with Burfohn close in tow carrying the crematory zhat, and the mourners silently filed out behind them.
Zholybet decided to forego the rituals of the soil and the water. They would only allow Rayuhr more opportunity to exercise his tedius, if exact and proper, droning, and as devoted as she had been to Opumohn before his death, she felt her duty was fulfilled by attending poobell rites. She broke with the procession after extending her condolences again to Burfohn, and hurried home.
"What's that?" Monwyrt asked upon seeing her empty a small zhat into the doab on the grate. Zholybet glanced at Nuzhunpa, who shook his head quickly.
"Nothing," she said as tritely as she could. "What did you show him today, prahnum?"
This had been Monwyrt's second full day in Todymody.
The previous day had been full of revelations for both Monwyrt and Nuzhunpa as the old um had shown the Traeppedelfere how things were done there, and Monwyrt had then related the Traeppedelferean version of the same task or skill, if there was one. Nuzhunpa had learned that the Zhonoys were really much craftier than the Laizuvrians had ever suspected, and Monwyrt was developing a growing respect for the plains folk. Monwyrt had been amazed to learn, for example, that the wonderful light-weight ropes used (and highly prized) by the hunters for their snares were woven from hair cut from the heads of Mocwalwians. To Nuzhunpa's utter confusion, Monwyrt had laughed long and loudly upon learning this. Monwyrt only explained that it was good the hunters did not know what the ropes were made of, or they would not be traded for at all.
They had gone to the vashlymoss stalls, and Monwyrt had been further amazed. The Traeppedelferes keep no domesticated livestock, and the sight of rows and rows of the fat, awkward beasts fascinated him.
"Why do you keep them?" he asked, shouting to be heard over the din of the beasts, when Nuzhunpa showed him the four vashlymoss he owned.
"Food!" Nuzhunpa had shouted back, and Monwyrt nodded. They did look good to eat, he thought, surveying their bulk with an appreciative eye. Nuzhunpa pulled him into one of the pens. Monwyrt had grimaced, working his tongue, trying to get the taste of the place out of his mouth. "Here," Nuzhunpa shoved a crudely-shaped shovel into his hands, and pointed at a half-empty hand cart. "Clean up the stall." Monwyrt could not deny that it needed cleaning, and as Nuzhunpa was already busy scooping up the offal, he decided to help.
A long walk out into the shoz followed, but Monwyrt was still not able to shake the taste of the stalls, as he pulled the now filled-to-overflowing cart along behind him. "It's hard to believe that those clumsy things sound so fast and powerful out in the shoam," Monwyrt observed, when they could talk again.
"Well, they are wild, then," Nuzhunpa said, "and besides, they have all their legs."
"Do you mean that wild vashlymoss have more than four legs?"
"Fo, fo, you obviously have never seen a wild vashlymoss, or you would know what I mean," Nuzhunpa smiled. "In order to make them more manageable, we cut their legs off at the first joint. They can still hobble around their pens, but they are much slower and easier to keep. Also, they can't climb over the levee this way."
Monwyrt wrinkled his nose. He couldn't decide whether he was more impressed by the Mocwalwians' ingenuity or more offended by their calculated cruelty. He dismissed it from his mind with a resolution to reserve his judgment on the matter until after he had tasted roast vashlymoss.
There were many workers out in the shoz, and almost to a body they stood, stretched, and stared at them when they passed by on the road from the city. Nuzhunpa would smile and wave, usually to no response. Monwyrt trudged along, suddenly aware of his role as Nuzhunpa's lackey. "What are they staring at?" he asked sullenly, fully cognizant of the fact that they were staring at him.
"Laizuvrian," Nuzhunpa muttered under his breath. "Speak Zhonoy - er, Traeppedelferean, Monwyrt. Not Mocwalwian; they may hear!" Monwyrt began to mutter irritably to himself, then checked himself and looked at Nuzhunpa in surprise.
"You say 'Mocwalwian!'" Monwyrt blurted. "How you know that word?" It had a decidedly negative connotation amongst his tribe, and he had never heard it used by the Mocwalwians themselves. He had assumed they did not know it.
Nuzhunpa grinned. "I say it for reason. You soon find out where name came from." Monwyrt thought with a sense of foreboding of the load he was pulling in the cart.
Sure enough, Nuzhunpa soon indicated to Monwyrt that they had arrived. Nuzhunpa's plot of ground stood out in contrast to those all around: it was obvious that the owners of this lot had not been around to work in it for some time. The thin crust created when the mud left by the rainstorm had dried was still in evidence, while all the lots around it had been thoroughly turned already. Monwyrt, despite his utter ignorance of agronomy, noticed this.
"How that happen?" he asked, nodding to the softened dirt.
"Much work." Nuzhunpa's grin widened. "By Mocwalwians. You not do that today."
Monwyrt looked relieved.
"Today," Nuzhunpa went on, tossing Monwyrt the pelkrot, "you throw moc."
Monwyrt looked uncertainly down at the tool in his hands, then at the malodorous cartload, then at the strip of Nuzhunpa's unworked ground stretching out in front of him. The Laizuvrians in the neighboring shoz roared with laughter at the blank expression on his face, and Nuzhunpa had to join them. "Oh, Monwyrt! You not help name of Zhonoys now!" He took the pelkrot from him and showed him what he meant for him to do, saying with a sweep of his arm, "all over our shoz, all right? I'll watch."
Nuzhunpa smiled. He was going to enjoy this.
The next morning Monwyrt ached everywhere, it seemed. They had gone back to the shoz with the seayonuhr, an implement of torture Monwyrt had previously been blissfully ignorant of, and Nuzhunpa strapped him into it and forced him to drag it back and forth, back and forth across the shoz, turning the dirt. They worked through the morning while Zholybet had attended Opumohn's rites, until finally Monwyrt had begged for a rest.
"Mocwalwians always do this?" he panted, perspiration streaming down his face, his back and legs dancing with spasms.
"Every season," said Nuzhunpa, laughing. "Twice. But I forget you sick last three hand-days. We stop for now."
"Thank you!" Monwyrt gushed. "I not know Mocwalwians so strong! Is all this work really needed?"
"Um," Nuzhunpa answered. He did not tell Monwyrt that they had plowed more in a half-day than a team of Laizuvrians usually finished in an entire day, but that fact was not lost on those Laizuvrians in the shoz who had watched Monwyrt work. They had begun to exchange telling glances amongst themselves. Perhaps Nuzhunpa knew what he was doing, after all! they seemed to say.
So when Zholybet (who had come home earlier than her prahnum and his protege) pushed the ever-present beazhat aside from its customary place in the center of the Lazuvrian table and set a zhat of steaming doab, a handful of pahnbatohn, and a plate of an unidentified, somewhat odoriferous, yellow substance before him, Monwyrt was ready. He was hungry. At that point, he didn't care what it was made of: if they said to eat it, it would be eaten, and no arguments from him. He washed a second zhat of doab (it had a different taste to it, somehow) down with a great mouthful of water, and attacked the pahnbatohn, casting a curious (but not mistrustful) eye at the mysterious plate. Nuzhunpa and Zholybet had gone for that first, he noticed: it must be all right.
"I can't get over it," he mumbled through a mouthful of pahnbatohn, absent-mindedly toying with the beazhat game with one finger. "This tastes so much better than coecil that I can't believe it's made from the same thing."
A sudden light illuminated Nuzhunpa's face. "Perhaps it isn't," he said, pointing to the yellow stuff on his plate. "Monwyrt, do you know what that is?"
Monwyrt stopped chewing and looked down for a moment, studying the yellow flaps, then resumed as before. "Fo."
Nuzhunpa looked at Zholybet. "That's why the pahnbatohn tastes different," he said. "The Zhonoys don't have oofs!"
"Oofs?" spluttered Monwyrt, spitting crumbs all over the table.
"Dacoar, oofs!" said Zholybet, pointing at his plate again. "They are put into pahnbatohn."
Monwyrt sniffed at the plate again and looked up questioningly, as if to say, "These don't smell like something to eat!" but he tried a bite, anyway. It was rather bland, but with a little of the taste that the smell had advertised. He shuddered and frowned.
"I don't like oofs, I'm afraid; unless they are in some pahnbatohn." They laughed. "By the way," Monwyrt went on, lifting the beazhat and idly swirling the beas around inside it. "What is this?"
"What?!" Burfohn sprang to his feet, suddenly burning with an intense rage.
It was mid-afternoon, and Rokay had returned to Matann's hut with the two of them following the conclusion of Opumohn's rites of the soil and of the water.
"It said so itself!" Rokay repeated. "On the return float. It was talking about being attacked by malwozzohs, and it described how they burst into flames in the air."
"This is the Zhonoy that Nuzhunpa brought back?" questioned Matann. She, too, was suddenly afire with a lust for vengeance that only a prahnumpa would understand.
"Dacoar," said Rokay.
"Have you informed Paisohnprahn of all this?" she asked him. Rokay looked a little uncomfortable at this question.
"I, er, I have never addressed Paisohnprahn," he admitted.
Burfohn understood. Paisohnprahn was a figure of such high authority that he had assumed a reputation of imposing proportions amongst the younger ums. The very idea of talking with Paisohnprahn was an intimidating thing, and Rokay, though he realized that this intelligence was probably something that Paisohnprahn should be appraised of, hesitated. Burfohn had never spoken to Paisohnprahn, either.
"You should go do it," Matann spat, "and do it now. I never liked the idea of that Zhonoy here in Todymody, but everyone said that Nuzhunpa had made it harmless. Now I learn just how harmless it is, and it cost me the life of a son to find out! Go to Paisohnprahn, Rokay; take Burfey with you if you want. Ask Paisohnprahn what would happen if that slow of a Zhonoy should decide to light another fire in the shoam roofs of Todymody, and ask him what about my poor Opumohn?! Go! go to Paisohnprahn now." And she rose and literally pulled Rokay to his feet before he had a chance to answer, and she swept the two of them out the door without any further discussion.
Burfohn looked at Rokay. "I suppose Paisohnprahn should know."
Rokay returned his glance. "I suppose so, Burfey." They reluctantly began to make their way through the alley. Burfohn ground his teeth.
Later that day Nuzhunpa also made his way to Paisohnprahn's door. He wanted to talk to his old counsellor about several things, including the business at the Ealdlazay Fair, but the topic uppermost in his mind was, of course, Monwyrt.
The Zhonoy had shown a remarkable ability to adapt to life in the city, Nuzhunpa thought, but he knew that the only way Monwyrt could hope to stay (if he did hope to stay) was if Nuzhunpa could somehow make good his boast to make a Laizuvrian out of him. This was impossible, of course, in a literal sense, but Paisohnprahn had the authority and, Nuzhunpa hoped, the compassion to make it possible for Monwyrt to be accepted for what he was: friendly, intelligent, and able. He knew his folk too well to hope that they would ever cease to think of Monwyrt as a Zhonoy. But Paisohnprahn could help.
The old um himself answered his door. "Salu, Nuzhunpa!" he greeted him cheerily. "Come in! I have been expecting you."
Nuzhunpa, himself one of the oldest Laizuvrians still to attend the Bazaar, felt like a raw youth beside Paisohnprahn. The ancient one moved with metered, but firm, deliberation, impressing any who would watch him walk that, even though it might take him a long time to reach his destination, he could continue at that measured pace until he did, no matter what the distance involved might be. Nuzhunpa marveled to look at him. As old as he appeared, he never seemed to change, and he didn't look any older now to Nuzhunpa than his childhood memories of him recalled. "Ah," mused Nuzhunpa, "I guess that's only because I am growing older along with him." He patiently waited until Paisohnprahn had seated himself, and then took the stool offered him.
"As you see," Paisohnprahn began, "we are alone. I thought perhaps we should speak in private, so I gave my little helper his liberty."
Nuzhunpa looked at him wonderingly. "Do you know, then, what it is I came to discuss with you?" he asked in awe.
"It's not that mysterious that I should know," Paisohnprahn laughed. "All Todymody talks of your Zhonoy. And today I had a most amusing interview with two very disturbed members of your vaisoh fleet." His sharp eyes watched Nuzhunpa closely.
"Fo," Nuzhunpa said slowly, "I should not be surprised that you knew of Monwyrt. If I may ask; who came to see you today? Was it Rokay?"
"Dacoar, along with the brother of that unfortunate one with the heavy breath."
"Burfohn." Nuzhunpa recognized Paisohnprahn's description of Opumohn immediately. "They, no doubt, do not approve of the Zhonoy."
"That should not surprise you, either, Nuzhunpa. In fact, the only surprising things about this whole affair is that you brought the Zhonoy here in the first place, and that the Laizuvry have not arisen in force to drive him away." Paisohnprahn still eyed Nuzhunpa keenly, adding, "Yet."
"Yet?! Are there such plans?" Nuzhunpa asked anxiously.
"Fo, as far as I have heard," Paisohnprahn admitted. "But I have not heard many things, as the saying goes. I have a great deal to hear, I believe, from you yourself yet. The bringing of a Zhonoy into Todymody, to say the least, requires some explanation. Don't you agree?"
"Dacoar, dacoar. That is, among other reasons, why I am here."
Nuzhunpa proceeded to relate to Paisohnprahn all he knew of the Zhonoy Monwyrt, beginning with his being found in the plain the morning after the fire. Paisohnprahn listened in attentive silence, stopping Nuzhunpa's narrative only once to ask a question. That question dealt with a specific point.
"This Monwyrt speaks Laizuvrian, you say."
"Dacoar," answered Nuzhunpa, "as well as any Laizuvry."
"But he persists in his claim that he had never met a Laizuvry before he awoke in your care."
"Dacoar," Nuzhunpa admitted, somewhat reluctantly.
"I don't know what I find more remarkable," Paisohnprahn went on, eyes sparkling, "his adherance to such a claim, or your ready acceptance of it! How does he explain his ability to speak our language?"
"He, well," Nuzhunpa stammered, "he said he couldn't explain."
"And why not?"
"Well, he said he was afraid that we could not understand."
"And you let it pass at that?"
"I have come to trust him," Nuzhunpa stated simply.
"So I see!" Paisohnprahn shot him a keen glance. "Go on with the tale."
Nuzhunpa told of the marshmancay, and of the Zhonoy Smerian's incredible misidentification of Monwyrt, which Paisohnprahn seemed not to be interested in at all. He looked up when Nuzhunpa told of Zholybet's interruption of the trockzelay, only to comment that he hoped the Zhonoys did not cut down the amount of sharbohn brought to the Ealdlazay Fair the next season because of his caving in on the concession of five wain-loads. But he waved that thought off right away, and Nuzhunpa finished his tale.
When he had finally brought Paisohnprahn up to the events of that very day, the old um shook his head condescendingly, and asked his second question.
"What does your Zholybet think of Monwyrt?" The question was asked in such a way that Nuzhunpa knew it was not meant to be answered superficially. He knew what Paisohnprahn was getting at.
"I think," he began resignedly, "even though she has not said it to me herself; I think she loves Monwyrt." Paisohnprahn nodded his understanding, and Nuzhunpa went on, "and I think, Paisohnprahn, I really think that Monwyrt loves her, too. I know the Zhonoys do not love, but this one is different in so many ways, and Zholy has never..." his voice trailed off as he realized what he had said, and what he had been about to say.
It was something which Nuzhunpa had refused to allow into his thoughts before, but had always lurked just around the corner of his doubts: that Zholybet and the Zhonoy loved each other. He had always hoped for his daughter to be happy, and she had seemed happy enough to him until he had seen her eyes shine for Monwyrt as they had shone for no Laizuvrian. He could not deny that she was not attractive to her own folk, but the idea of her pledging troth to a Zhonoy almost broke his heart.
And that thought was painful to him, too. He had always prided himself that he was a fair um, and harbored no ill will to anyone, but he was finding that he felt some of the same biases that he so decried in others, and that bothered him. He was determined to overcome this, if it meant that by doing so Zholybet might be happy.
But his doubts still lingered. Could Monwyrt be accepted into the city? And most importantly, would he prove to be a good um to his daughter? And how would he know for certain?
Paisohnprahn seemed to guess what was going on in Nuzhunpa's mind. He smiled. "You came here to tell me what a trove of lore this Zhonoy might be, but it occurs to me that, if it had not been for your daughter, you would not have brought him to Todymody at all."
"That may be so," Nuzhunpa admitted, "although Monwyrt himself was eager to continue downriver whether we brought him or not."
"I must confess, there is much about this Monwyrt which puzzles me," Paisohnprahn said. "He does not fit the description of the average Zhonoy, to be sure."
Nuzhunpa brightened a little. "Then you will talk with him?"
"Let's just leave things alone for a while. We'll find out how well he really adapts, and whether he makes any more friends or not. The interested parties, let's say, will know soon enough of your visit to me today, if they are not already discussing it, and there will be some speculation about what I intend to do about the situation, unless I miss my guess. I fear that if I were to actually interview the Zhonoy Monwyrt at this early stage, that speculation would inevitably grow into some kind of demand for action. It is not time for that, not yet."
Paisohnprahn went on. "On the one side, you know, and I know, and everyone in Todymody knows, that there is no place for a Zhonoy among us. Fo! don't argue - you can feel it in your stomachs, I know. I'm not saying this is the way it should be, only that this is the way it is. It may not always be this way, and Monwyrt may be the one to bring about the beginning of the change, but it is too soon to know. He will have to overcome many many long generations of resentment, some of it based on real wrongs suffered at the hands of his race, some based on no more than the fact that they look different."
"They are not all that much different," Nuzhunpa interrupted to protest. "Just look at my Zholybet, for instance; she could almost pass for a Zhonoy herself! And many of the Zhonoy hunters, such as Monwyrt, who have spent their lives outside their dark holes and mines, could almost be mistaken for Laizuvries at a distance."
Paisohnprahn raised his hand to stop him. "Dacoar! I agree completely. You are most open-minded and fair in regard to the Zhonoys - if you weren't you would not be sent to deal with them each season. But the Laizuvries at large do not share your appreciation of them. They do not deal with them, speak their language, or understand anything about their way of life, nor do they want to. Terrible Zhonoys haunt childhood dreams fueled by fantastic tales spun in their shainus. I would guess that the actual sight of Monwyrt was a great disappointment to many children, and maybe to their prahnums and prahnumpas as well. They will be waiting with a mixture of dread and hope for him to transform into the gruesome ogre they imagine real Zhonoys to be, and when he does not, it will only increase their distrust of him rather than alleviate their fears. You see, it will be hard to come to the realization that they have been wrong all this time.
"So, it would be in the best interest of everyone, Monwyrt included, for me to advise that he leave Todymody immediately, if it were not for one circumstance only. That is, the apparent attraction between him and Zholybet that you speak of. That is most interesting. Of course, I fear deeply that it may result in a great disappointment for her if things do not work out for the best. It is very dangerous for her."
Nuzhunpa questioned him sharply. "What do you mean, 'dangerous?'"
"Dangerous emotionally, of course," Paisohnprahn explained. "But potentially dangerous physically, too. You have to admit, Nuzhunpa, you may be putting your shainu at risk by protecting Monwyrt. It is unprecedented. The whole city may eventually condemn you, and tempers might flare. I have fo way of knowing what could happen, but the situation may arise where you will be confronted by the whole of Todymody, demanding the Zhonoy. What would you do then?"
"Surely you would stop things from reaching such an extremity!" Nuzhunpa cried in alarm. He had not considered that possibility.
"So I would hope, too," said Paisohnprahn. "But my method is to advise, not act. My advice has been found to be useful in the past, and I have been accorded much respect on that account, but what would happen if it were ignored in this case? We may be up against too strong a force for mere advice to sway, regardless of how sound it is."
Nuzhunpa was not convinced that this could happen. The Laizuvry had never failed to follow Paisohnprahn's counsel, as far back as he could remember, through fire, flood, and famine. This was a wholly different situation, of course; but was it really as explosive as Paisohnprahn was making it out to be? But then again, why would Paisohnprahn purposefully exaggerate the potential dangers, if he himself did not anticipate them? Nuzhunpa wondered.
"Then what are you advising me to do now?" he asked.
"I have asked you how your daughter felt about the Zhonoy," Paisohnprahn returned, apparently ignoring his question, "and you have answered honestly, although it was clearly hard for you to do so. Now I must ask you a question which may prove harder yet for you to answer. How do you feel about the Zhonoy yourself?"
Nuzhunpa had to stop a moment. He had never bothered to collect his own impressions of Monwyrt; his every thought had been bent to his daughter's feelings. She was the reason he had allowed Monwyrt to accompany them; she was the reason he had decided to afford Monwyrt the protection of their hut, and had invented the ruse of servility to explain his presence. But forced to put into words his own feelings, he was surprised to find that he had few real feelings to relate.
"Why, I like him, I guess," he began uncertainly. "I never stopped to think about it. He impresses me as being absolutely trustworthy and sincere, but at the same time there is a vagueness about him, a distance he keeps, that doesn't let me feel I really know him yet. Perhaps that impresses me in his favor, too: every Zhonoy I ever met before was utterly transparent; I knew them completely and could almost anticipate their every word once I had talked with them a while. But Monwyrt, Monwyrt is mysterious, in a sort of innocent way. He can be amazed at the most trivial things - you would have laughed, as Zholybet and I did, to see him swing the door open and shut, open and shut, open and shut, with his jaw literally hanging aslack - but then he can be singularly profound at times. You should have heard his defense against Rokay's accusation of him in Opumohn's death. Monwyrt very ably defined innocence as the absense of both intent and negligence; a very subtle and abstract argument for a slow Zhonoy, if you ask me, and one which some of our Laizuvries seemed unable to comprehend, to my embarassment. His dream of discovering the end of the Luhvluhv - what Laizuvry has ever thought of such a thing? And his contention that he has knowledge which the Giestranweard - excuse me, that is the Zhonoy lore-master - would be willing to kill him to learn is difficult to comprehend, but then believeable, too, somehow. I guess what I'm saying is that it doesn't seem to matter what I feel about him; he is outside the scope of my feelings, in a way. My whole acquaintance with Monwyrt has been enveloped in an aura of inevitability. I can hinder the process, or aid it, but I cannot stop it, whatever it is. I feel that it is right for me to help him, though; so here he is."
"You obviously do not feel that Monwyrt is just any Zhonoy."
"That is the main argument my Zholy used to convince me to bring him to you, and you are right, I don't. He is different enough from the rest so as to be almost not a Zhonoy at all, except in appearance and custom."
Paisohnprahn nodded. "Appearance and custom, dacoar," he said thoughtfully. "His appearance will become more familiar in time, of course; and you may succeed in teaching him our customs."
"Well, what do you advise me to do?"
"I will offer you the same advice I gave Rokay and his friend," he said. "Have patience. It will be easier for you than for them at first, I think. The Zhonoy's mere presence here provokes them. But I am warning you, if sentiment against the Zhonoy grows it may become very difficult for you, too. And explain this to Monwyrt, if he doesn't already know it. He must not do anything to inflame anyone, if he desires to stay."
"'If he desires to stay!'" Nuzhunpa echoed mentally.
"So!" exclaimed Paisohnprahn, dismissing the subject. "Tell me about the Ealdlazay Fair!"
The next morning, Monwyrt tossed another handful of shoam into the vashlymoss stall at Nuzhunpa's signal. He noticed one of the four, rather than immediately setting in to eat it, was carrying the shoam to a corner of the pen and deliberately stacking it up. He pointed to this, and shouted to Nuzhunpa over the squeals and grunts.
Monwyrt cupped his hands around his mouth. "Why do that?"
Nuzhunpa walked to that corner of the pen and motioned to Monwyrt to join him there. "Watch," he commanded when Monwyrt came close, "and listen."
The fat, awkward beast, apparently satisfied with its pile of shoam, nosed it into perfection, then turned around and carefully backed into it.
Nuzhunpa shook his head. Soon, Monwyrt heard a low, rythmic grunt coming from the vashlymoss, and he grinned.
"Shyay?" he guessed.
"Traeppedelferean!" Nuzhunpa admonished, in spite of the impossibility of being overheard in the din. "Anyway," he went on with a smile, "you wrong!"
Monwyrt knitted his brows, puzzled, and listened intently.
"Nnnngh," the vashlymoss sounded.
Monwyrt looked at Nuzhunpa. "Not moc?" he asked in disbelief. The other shook his head again.
"Nnnngh. Mnnngh. Hmmnnngh." Monwyrt threw up his hands.
"Hmmmnnngh!" the vashlymoss strained. "Hmmmmnnnngh!" This went on for what seemed like a long time to the Traeppedelfere, and he was about to lose interest and suggest to Nuzhunpa that they get back to work, when the beast noisily took in a huge gasp of breath and strained again.
"Hmmmmnnnngh! Hmm - Oof! Oof! Oof! Oof! Oof!"
The exhausted brute panted a while in its corner, still half-covered in shoam, then struggled up on its stubs and hobbled away. Nuzhunpa reached down and pushed some shoam off of the top of the pile, and pulled out a warm golden sphere about the size of Monwyrt's fist. "Look!" Nuzhunpa said triumphantly. There were four others just like it lying in the shoam.
Monwyrt was still confused. "What is it?" he asked.
"What is it?" Nuzhunpa couldn't believe Monwyrt was so dull. "It is why we keep vashlymoss! It is what we eat!" He held the globe up under Monwyrt's nose.
Monwyrt recognized the scent immediately, and made a sour face. "Oofs!" he said, repulsed. "How you eat those, when you know where they come from?"
Nuzhunpa shrugged. "We like them."
"I don't," Monwyrt flatly stated. "When will we eat vashlymoss?" His mouth fairly watered at the prospect. He hadn't had a bite of meat since he had been under Nuzhunpa's care, and he was beginning to wonder about it.
"What?" Nuzhunpa shouted. In the noise, it had sounded like Monwyrt had asked about eating the vashlymoss itself, and not just the oofs. He must have misunderstood him.
"Eat vashlymoss," Monwyrt shouted, drawing his extended fingers laterally across his throat, a gesture completely lost on the Laizuvry.
Nuzhunpa looked at Monwyrt in horror. "What do you mean?" he gasped, "kill them? Eat their bodies?" He thought he was going to be sick.
Monwyrt watched Nuzhunpa's reaction with something like disgust. How could the Mocwalwians hack off the vashlymoss's legs, but object to killing them for food? he wondered. And what was worse, he suddenly realized that the Mocwalwians were not raising these juicy brutes for their meat, but for those revolting oofs. Oh, what he would give for big slab of roast thriddahype right then!
Zholybet spent the morning gathering shoam to feed to their vashlymoss. It was not a task that demanded concentration, and her mind soon wandered.
She and Monwyrt were bundling the shoam together, thatching the roof of their new hut. It wasn't a large one, but it was theirs, and it was miraculously set in a remote spot, out of sight of any neighbors, away from Todymody. Now she recognized the place: it was the camp at the Ealdlazay Fair! She stood, stretching, as much to rest from the imaginary roof-thatching as from the real shoam-gathering, and smiled to herself. They were strong; they could fend for themselves as no other Laizuvry couple could: the rigors of the frontier would mean nothing to them.
Dacoar, she would prepare the doab, just as she had when he was ill; and Monwyrt would come in from the shoz, hot from working the fields, and they would embrace. She clasped her hands in reverie, squeezing her sides a little with her bent arms, and closed her eyes. Just to be alone! No averted glances, no broken tittering just out of earshot, no whispers and suddenly turned heads! She was not blind. She knew full well, or thought she knew, what the numpas were saying about her. She had long known what the ums thought of her. She was more than willing to leave them all, if only Monwyrt... but fo, she dare not think of that. He would take her, he had to, she had committed too much to him already. But did he know it? He will know it, she vowed, if he doesn't already. And then, with Paisohnprahn's permission, which her prahnum could of course easily obtain, she and Monwyrt would become permanent caretakers of the camp.
It all fell into place so easily in her mind, as she absently pulled up the shoam, that it seemed that there could be no objection to the idea. Just the day before, when her prahnum had gone off to talk to Paisohnprahn, Monwyrt had shyly mumbled something about how nice she had been to him, and they had begun to talk, and before she knew what had happened they had embraced each other again, just like that time in the Luhvluhv. She thrilled and tingled yet just thinking about it! And he had been so embarassed by the whole thing - she might have thought he was just a child, instead of a supposedly slow Zhonoy! She laughed out loud at the description; no one had ever treated her with more respect, courtesy, and gentility than Monwyrt had shown; except her prahnum, of course.
That was the only dark spot in her bright vision. She hated the idea of leaving her dear prahnum, but she didn't know if he would care to follow them to the Ealdlazay Fair. He would see them, of course, every season, but the seasons were long, and the visits would be short, and he was not as young as he once was...
She stooped again to resume her chore.