People seem to think that at the shrine of Aea in Her Aspect as the Personification of Tempered Enthusiasm, we effortlessly ricochet from crisis to crisis. In reality, days can flow tranquilly past with barely an incident to leave a ripple of the surface. There are days I can drop into the shrine when moving from one patron to the next and there is a somnolent hush which hangs heavy; lingering in the shadowy interior.
I feel that in the interests of balance, I ought to give an account of one of these days. Let us first call in to see Maljie and her sister Margarita. As you’d expect on one of the first hot days of summer, the two ladies doze quietly in the garden, the hum of insects hanging in the heavy air. To be fair, both ladies have been working hard. The particularly hairy mendicant discovered a large and remarkably hollow tree. Thus it was that Laxey managed to extract considerable quantities of honey from the bees who had built their nest there.
Now in Maljie’s kitchen, carboys and demijohns bubble and seethe. Considerable thought has gone into the process, apparently mead is made more rapidly if everything is kept properly warmed. Thus the assorted glassware stands in a long water bath. Think of it as a stream, which curls gently to embrace the containers standing within its banks. A sturdy mendicant heats water and pours it into the stream at one end and it flows languidly along its ordained channel, caressing and heartening as it goes. It passes through kitchen, hallway and eventually out into the garden where two junior mendicants catch it and carry it back to be re-warmed.
In the shade of the Shrine I come across the particularly hairy mendicant, pondering a jar. It turns out that the jar contains one of those remarkably expensive exotic cooking oils beloved of those who pander to every whim and fad of culinary taste. For myself I feel that a nut oil which at room temperature looks more like a wax than an oil must surely be of dubious utility.
Casually, merely to make conversation, I ask about the jar. Apparently he has acquired it (disposed of when the master of the house finally lost patience and demanded that from now on everything be fried properly, in horrocks dripping) free and gratis and is now pondering a possible use.
“I wondered if I could use it when Tikal and I give each other back rubs.”
They grow up so young nowadays. I merely pointed out that it wasn’t perhaps ideal and moved on.
I passed further into the Shrine where Laxey sat at his desk, exercising plausible deniability. Documents were being put into four piles. Those that never arrived, those that might safely be given to junior mendicants who could be relied upon to ensure that they were misfiled and lost. A third, smaller heap would receive a polite, bland, and non-committal answer which would hopefully assuage the wrath of whatever petty dignitary we had managed to upset this time.
The fourth heap was the smallest of all, it contained only one letter. This would be discussed with Maljie. Current thinking was that after an ‘in-depth’ discussion, it would be agreed that some of the burlier mendicants should be sent to discuss the contents with the letter writer. They would point out that courtesy costs nothing.
We sat and talked for a while, perhaps for a fair part of the afternoon. Then a solitary bell rang and Laxey looked up, “Is that the time. Could you take the Deacon his coffee?”
I went into the small kitchen and brewed coffee, making it particularly strong. Then filling one of the larger mugs I went and cautiously knocked on the door of the library. The sound of muttering came from the other side of the door and I warily opened the door. On one of the tables was a mound of sacred texts, commentaries and concordances. I ventured past the table, and lurking behind the embankment of volumes, I found the Deacon scribbling notes onto yet another sheet of paper. The pile of notes next to him threatened to soon overtop the mound of books hiding him from the rest of the world. He looked up from his paper and asked, “How can the ‘concept of being’ be univocal without there being a nature common to Aea and to creatures?”
I merely smiled weakly, “I suspect you have highlighted the weakness of Spanaan’s ontological argument.”
Whilst I confess to not understanding neither the question nor my response, the answer seemed to satisfy him. He took the coffee from me and settled once more to attack the papers in front of him, this time with greater vigour.
I picked up the empty plates, the discarded wine bottle and the usual debris of study and made my way out of the library, gently shutting the door behind me. The day was far gone and I had to assist a patron that evening. I made my farewells and made my way out of the shrine. I found myself following a remarkably beautiful young woman, who smelled strangely of exotic cooking oil.
Should you wish to learn more of Port Naain
Benor arrives in Port Naain intent on the simple task of producing a handbook for merchants. Then there is a murder, and a vengeful family who will stop at nothing to silence those who found the body. Suddenly Benor’s life is no longer simple.
As a reviewer commented, “Benor is a cartographer and he’s come to Port Naain to produce a handbook. He makes a home with Tallis, a professional poet and his wife Shena. She’s a mud-jobber or as we might say, a beachcomber. Some of her combings include bodies. Everything has a price and families will pay for the privilege of burying their dead and, if possible, finding who caused it. Benor is a natural. He’s a nosy person and, with the aid of the wonderful Mutt, a ten year-old wise beyond his years, he sorts out the villains from the corpses. This first short story from The Port Naain Intelligencer bodes well for the rest of the series. A really great Whodunit.”