Aristeidian liaison: a relationship between two fraas who are so terminally clueless that they don't actually realize that they are in a liaison with each other. From the Aresteides who appears in several important Dialogs and finally declares his obvious affections for Thelenes in The Commisatio.-- notes for the revision of The Dictionary, from the private leaves of Suur Tulia of Saunt Orolo
Fraa Lio didn't have to tell me that whatever he had come to speak with me about was important. It was evident from the expression on his face, and the fact that he didn't bother to steal up behind me silently, turn me upside-down, fold me into some kind of origami crane and drop me on my head before initiating the conversation.
There had been an interval when Lio had abandoned his long-standing habit of knocking me down whenever he had an opportunity, because his hours of studying Vale-lore with the fraas and suurs of the Ringing Vale had rendered his vlor so obviously superior to mine that there was no sport in it. After this brief and pleasant respite, Lio had resumed knocking me down whenever he had an opportunity because his hours of studying Vale-lore with the fraas and suurs of the Ringing Vale had rendered his vlor so obviously superior to mine that there was no sport in it.
"Raz, are you even trying to defend yourself?" he would demand with exasperation while I attempted to recover my composure, resettle my bolt and regain my dignity after one of these unceremonious greetings.
"I thought that was what I kept you around for," I would grumble. I had already long since resigned myself to the idea that I would never regain any kind of physical advantage over my longtime boyhood sparring partner, but Lio persisted in trying to goad me towards self-improvement with semi-ritualized displays of violence.
"What's wrong?" I demanded now, as tense and poised for action, in my own way, as any Valer.
In the six and a half years that had passed since the Second Reconstitution, many things had changed on Arbre, and some things had even been settled. One of those things was that I had found myself in charge of preserving the memory of Orolo, and settling all kinds of disputes among various parties that had become entangled in some way with the spirit of Orolo. I had felt unworthy of this role, just as I had felt unworthy at Eliger when my fraas and suurs had put aside their own desires and joined other orders so that there would be a place for me with the Edharians and Orolo. Finally, after one too many late night complaints about the heavy weight of responsibility on my shoulders, Ala had informed me that if I would just redirect a tenth part of the energy I spent worrying about whether or not I was good enough to actually weighing the possibilities that lay before me and choosing the ones that I thought best, I would do Orolo proud.
Lio hesitated, reluctant to broach the topic of whatever was so important. I took that to mean that he felt guilty about it in some way, which meant that it probably fell under the umbrella of 'security', which, knowing Lio, might indicate anything from barbarians at the gates to threats that lay centuries in the future. I rose to my feet, shrinking the sphere that I had been sitting on and tucking it away in my bolt in an automatic gesture. "Is it an emergency?" I asked, trying to pry enough information out of him to act upon.
"Not precisely an emergency," Lio said.
"Then what?" I demanded, half-wishing that I could knock him on his stubbly, stubborn scalp without my feeble attempt being observed and deflected.
"Saunt Orolo's leaves have disappeared."
Ovorolo: slang term with some currency among the first generation of the Second Reconstitution, arising from the relatively frequent necessity to distinguish between Saunt Orolo as a historical figure and the _______ of Saunt Orolo as an institution, and a lack of familiarity with Orth grammar among speakers of Fluccish and the various dialects of Urnud, Tro, Earth and Fthos. Often proposed as alternative to the depreciated term Concent, until it is pointed out that 'the Ovorolo of Saunt Orolo' sounds ridiculous.-- notes for the revision of The Dictionary, author unknown
The statue had been a collaboration between Cord and me, although she would insist that all she had done was model my wooden original on her syndev and render it in titanium, neglecting the fact that she had been the one who had given me the suggestion in the first place. Since we were starting from scratch at Saunt Orolo, we lacked the thousands of years of artifacts that had grounded us in tradition everywhere we looked in the mathic world, and it was up to us to start filling the space that we had carved out with the things that would be our physical legacy to the people who came after us, but I doubted that that was what my sib had been thinking of when she had urged me to hold my images of Orolo in my head, to sketch out the way I wanted to share those memories with others.
I had depicted Orolo standing, as in a chalk hall, the place where he had touched so many of us who had known him at Saunt Edhar. One hand rested on a telescope, representing his cosmological studies, although realistically, one would be unlikely to obtain any useful cosmological data from a telescope that was positioned in a chalk hall. The other hand gestured behind him, as if pointing out something he had written there. The expression that I had tried to capture was the one that had flitted across his face when he was amused by something stupid that one of us fids had blurted out, but also pleased, because he recognized that we were about to see our own errors and move closer to the truth.
My friends -- Lio, Arsibalt, Jesry, Tulia, and of course, Ala -- had assured me that I had truly captured something of Orolo in my amateur sculpture. For others who had gathered here with us, its grandeur as a monument derived less from my efforts, and more from the precious artifacts that had been incorporated into its display. Orolo's titanium hand gestured at nothing less than the leaves on which he had inscribed his notes while he worked in exile on Bly's Butte, which Fraa Jad had recognized and which had led us to the scene of his ultimate sacrifice at Orithena, preserved through the chaos and destruction that followed
It had gestured at them, anyway. Now Orolo was pointing at the blank stone surface of the great gate's vestibule, like a slate which has been erased. The knowing smile that quirked on his metal lips gave me no upsight into what might have happened to them.
Lio had blocked off the vestibule with cordons that he had improvised from surveyor's twine, but that only served to delay widespread discovery of the disappearance. That the value of the leaves was purely symbolic made the threat to our community greater, not less. The fragile peace that now existed between the two co-equal magisteria, and the openness of the long-cloistered world, was built up on a foundation of symbolism, like the cornerstone that we had laid in Year 0 made from the rod that had destroyed Orithena. The theft of the Leaves of Saunt Orolo would be like an accelerant tossed on the fire of those who were already ready to slam the gates shut on the messiness of the outside world. Lio and his other security-minded fraas were already preparing for that eventuality, but that didn't mean that he wanted it to happen now.
"It's all right," I told him, as much to reassure myself as to calm him. "We just need to track down the Leaves and recover them. Detective vlor, like in the speelies."
Lio looked unconvinced. He had always shown a preference for other genres of spec-fic.
I had my own doubts about my detective vlor. "We had better call in Sammann," I suggested.
"Naturally," Sammann said dryly when we had presented the situation to him, "you believe that a former Ita would know all about surveillance, forensics, and tracking down malefactors." He undercut his own defensive posture by proceeding to be highly knowledgeable about surveillance, forensics, and tracking down malefactors, but since the Ita no longer functioned as a necessary evil, distrusted by the Sæcular and the mathic world alike, the complaint had less rancor in it than when Sammann and I had first become acquainted.
Sammann was describing how he intended to piece together various bits of evidence to simulate the kind of surveillance equipment that he did not actually have at his disposal when he realized that our eyes were glazing over. "You could begin collecting evidence the old-fashioned way," he suggested.
"What's that?" I asked, caught off-guard and uncertain what sort of praxis he might be talking about.
"I believe he means interrogating people," Lio said.
"Interviewing," Sammann corrected. "Asking questions, nothing more."
"I'd rather this didn't go any further than this vestibule, at least for as long as possible," I demurred, thinking about the importance of symbolism and the fragility of community.
"Suit yourself," Sammann said, and got to work with his jeejah. Lio and I put it about that there were repairs going on in the vestibule and would everyone please just use one of the less impressive, less symbolic entrances for the time being, and then we were at loose ends.
"Well," I said finally, "how would you like to knock me down for a while?"
"I thought you would never ask," Lio said, pleased and preoccupied, and I hoped that if I learned any vlor that afternoon, it would never be useful for anything other than distracting Lio for a few hours.
Restoration (?) begun in the vestibule.-- excerpt from The Chronicle of Saunt Orolo, Year 7
"So, what happened today?" Ala asked me that night, rubbing a soothing ointment into the massive bruise on my left shoulder. I had landed on it repeatedly as Lio attempted to demonstrate the proper way to block a kick from a defensive crouch.
"Nothing," I said. "Ow!"
"That wouldn't hurt if it were nothing," Ala said serenely, her strong fingers working over the muscles around my neck. I sighed heavily and felt for my ribs to reassure myself that I hadn't broken any of them.
"I was practicing vlor with Lio," I admitted.
"I saw you in the vineyard," she said. Orolo's transplanted vineyard liked the sunnier clime, and even though there was no longer a Warden Fendant stationed on the premises with a watchful eye on any suspicious goings-on, it was a relatively secluded spot, shielded by the happy profusion of grapes, and I had selected it for a measure of privacy. I groaned, partly because Ala's fingers had returned to a hard, sore spot on the muscles of my shoulder, and partly because I was imagining what an entertaining spectacle I must have made of myself for any other observers.
"So, what happened that made you want to practice vlor with Lio?" Ala reiterated her question.
"What, I need a reason?" I parried, feebly.
"To suddenly take up Vale-lore after having nothing to do with it for years? Yes, I'd say you need a reason." Ala stopped rubbing my shoulders, and not because she was done with the massage. I wasn't afraid for her to find out about the theft, of course, but I had wanted to keep it to myself as much as possible until I had worked out a solution. Ala wasn't going to let me get away with that.
"Somebody stole the Leaves of Saunt Orolo," I admitted, twisting around painfully to look her in the eye. It was just a tiny bit satisfying to see her eyes widen in shock since Ala, with her sharp, knowing eyes, was so very difficult to surprise. It only took her a few moments to assimilate this piece of intelligence.
"You're worrying that this will provoke a breakdown in trust and cause strife in the community," she diagnosed.
"I could reproduce the content those leaves from memory," I said, feeling the strange urge to argue against my own position just because Ala had said it first, "and furthermore, all the observations that Orolo made on them have already been incorporated into our present theories about the polycosm. Orolo's legacy is secure."
"But you don't feel secure," Ala interrupted, "because your legacy has been threatened." When I looked confused, she made an inclusive gesture with both of her hands. "This place," she said.
"This isn't my legacy," I protested. "Everyone here is working on something more important than I am."
Ala shook her head at my thickness, a gesture that I was all-too-familiar with. "I suppose the vintner has nothing to do with the grape harvest, either," she said. I took the point of her metaphor.
"Sammann is investigating the matter," I said, endeavoring to dismiss the subject. "I'm sure he'll get to the bottom of it."
Ala wasn't one to be put off easily, but I did manage to distract her despite my battered state. She wound up sleeping peacefully with deep, even breaths, and I was still restless. I crept out of the tiny cell that we shared for a little midnight walk.
The only two structures which had been erected which even compared with the austere and majestic beauty of mathic architecture were the clock and the main gate; everything else was still made of wood or even earth, and rather than rising ever higher in pure theorics rendered in stone, they clung close to the earth like living, growing things. My sense of elevation as I stepped out under the sky was based purely on the natural beauty of the site, the rim of the crater taking the place of the walls of Saunt Edhar.
When I peered into the vestibule and saw Lio standing guard over the statue I realized that I had expected to find him there. There was no logical reason for anyone to be guarding it now, of course, which was precisely why we had both ended up here.
It was impossible for me to sneak up on him with no cover in the fifty yards that lay between us and a whole mess of cordons and emphatically-worded signs to penetrate besides, but Lio pretended that he didn't see me coming until I was within reach of him. When he extended his arm in my direction, my body reacted automatically in the way that it had refused to do while we were drilling in the vineyard. I used Lio's weight to tumble him to the ground and landed harder than I expected because Lio offered no resistance. We lay there together, deep breaths and hearts beating like helve hammers, and then awkwardly, gingerly, I reached over Lio's shoulder to shove myself up and off of him.
Lio, galvanized, inverted our positions, rolling me over and pinning me down. Above us, the statue of Orolo gazed down at us knowingly.
"Is this some new kind of vlor you've been working on?" I asked finally, at a loss for words.
Lio appeared to consider the notion. "I'm not sure the technique would be very useful," he said. Although he had me pinned with his weight, which was not inconsiderable, what kept me from moving was an odd feeling compounded of awkwardness and something else.
Since the time that I had been Vocoed I had been made to realize over and over that I had led a cloistered existence, sheltered not only by the severe walls of Saunt Edhar and the practice of the Cartasian Discipline but my own inexperience and obliviousness. None of these things, not even the discovery of travelers from other polycosms, quite compared to the surprise of Lio kissing me on the cold stone floor and me kissing him back and liking it, rough and hot and heavy and physical. I didn't know who surprised me more -- my friend, or my self.
Restoration completed (?).-- excerpt from The Chronicle of Saunt Orolo, Year 7
I was still utterly confused and hiding from the world when Sammann found me the next morning, further undermining his claims not to engage in some kind of comprehensive surveillance.
"I'll let you return these to their original places," he announced, producing a little sheaf of precious leaves and holding them over his head so that I could reach them from my perch on the roof of the small detached messal.
I ran my fingers over the surface of the leaves as though to reassure myself that they were real, not that such information would have been readily perceptible to my fingertips. "How did you manage to find them?" I demanded.
"That is an excellent story, and I look forward to recounting it," Sammann said, "but at the moment your wife is looking for you and all I'm going to say is that you had better find her before you do anything else. When you do put those leaves up again, I suggest that you encase them in archival poly or something," he added as I returned them, delicately, so that I could jump down from the eight-foot roof, landing heavily but on my feet.
When I did find Ala, she was in close conversation with Tulia, something perfectly common yet which brought back such a wave of powerful memories of our days as fids at Saunt Edhar that I was struck dumb. My wife and her best friend suffered from no such affliction, and in fact I could only describe the activity that they were engaged in as 'giggling'.
"If you had known when we were younger that the way to his heart was to beat him up, would that have made it easier or harder?"
Mud on my forehead did not even begin to express the humiliation.
"Easier because I would have had an outlet for the frustration; harder because I would have had to wait even longer for him to come around," Ala said.
"There is that," Tulia said, suppressing another giggle.
Maybe plasma, except that that would have mercifully struck me dead on the spot, rescuing me from future embarrassment.
Ala grabbed my hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "Next time you should remember that I always wake up when you get out of bed," she said.
Triad: a liaison formed by three parties, either for a single sexual encounter or for ongoing sexual contact, often associated with other countercultural sexual practices such as sadomasochism and thus associated with great disapproval from both mathic and Sæcular authorities. Well worth a try-- annotation of an existing entry in The Dictionary, author unknown