Chapter 52:     Orators

Transcribed from dictation, ADAM speaking--

I've mentioned the evenings at the Town Square: magic shows, debates, 
story-tellers.  Well, the stories being told were never fiction, or 
even folklore--the Atli covers that--the stories were always about 
some actual personal experience.  Your own, or someone else you knew.  
You'd think that some exaggerations and embellishments would creep 
into such storytelling--just to make them more FUN.  But no.  Result 
being some very BORING stories with no point to them, no moral to be 
gleaned, no metaphors to ponder. In other words, no such thing as Art.

A popular subject of these stories were about a squatch's (accidental) 
encounter with those horrible little Nokhsos.  Invariably describing 
you silly humans in an unflattering light, either ridiculous ("he was 
SO scared that he fell over"--audience laughs) or dangerous ("then he 
pointed a skesk Noisekiller at me..."--audience gasps).

The Nokhon public was so uncritical and starved for entertainment that 
I considered telling some stories myself.  You know, as a way to 
become more accepted and popular instead of just strange and weird.  
But I wanted it to be something interesting--symbolically valid, 
artistic and relevant to the Nokhon culture.  Maybe the parable of 
The Good Samaritan?  But I chickened out because I considered my 
vocabulary still too primitive to pull off a good performance. 

Up to then I had never met another Orator. I was supposedly bred to 
become one myself, but was never quite certain what that meant, except 
that I had the gift of gab, phonographic memory, couldn't lie, etc. 

One day my fellow students told me about  Ayø'ota Ket, The Great 
Speaker of Atli, who would be coming to Aket as a guest instructor. 
They seemed very excited about that, as if their favorite band was 
coming to give a rock concert.  Knowing that I was cut out to be an 
Orator, they assumed I'd be thrilled that the Great Dambaraggan 
would honor us all with his presence.

"Who?" I asked, as if I'd never heard of him.  Actually I recalled 
Magga once mentioning the name to me in passing, but nothing more.  So 
they told me how famous he was, a master of the spoken word, an Artist 
of the Atli, he sounded wonderful.  I was intrigued, of course and 
wanted to see what could be done with the language.

About a week later our studies were interrupted by shouts, "He's coming, 
he's coming!  The Great Dambaraggan!"  We were inside a "classroom", 
so everyone ran out to look.

You know about that long stairway down from the entrance into Aket, the 
same one Dagrolyt and I had descended weeks before, it zigzags across the 
far side of the cavern wall and is visible from almost everywhere in town.  
Halfway down from the top we could see a group of four Nokhons making 
their way and one of them looked very special.  Bigger than the others, 
in every way. 

I had to comment, "Wow, that's got to be the FATTEST Nokhon I've ever 

That was The Great Dambaraggan of course and great he was indeed.  Not 
quite obese, but very round and heavy.  In fact, he seemed to be having 
trouble coming down the stairs, the three other guys were helping him.  
I'd found that stairway pretty scary myself, but for some reason I had 
no sympathy for that scandalously overweight Bigfoot.

I'll be honest; it was dislike at first sight, even from afar.  
Couldn't help it. Instinctive.

I didn't watch the entire descent, it was going to take a while and 
there would certainly be no diving into the lake to speed things up.  
So I went back to my studies rather than be among the crowd that was 
gathering at the foot of the stairs to welcome the Great Dambaraggan 
to the City of Aket.

But later that day the word was out that the Great Dambaraggan had 
arrived at last and would perform at Town Square after dark.  Be there 
or be nowhere.  I went with my classmates, but everyone else in town 
was there anyway.  It was an event.

The square was lit up with wizard fires, as usual, but overfilled with 
more people than usual.  Literally everyone.  We couldn't get anywhere 
near the center, but the Great Dambaraggan was up on top of the big 
chromed speaker's dais, so we could see him.  Couldn't miss him, he 
was so ponderous.  

He waited for the crowd to finish gathering before beginning to speak, 
posing for all to admire, basking in the limelight...  

Just a minute, I need to step back a bit whenever I talk about him, I 
can hear myself going into negative mode.  I tend to run him down every 
chance I get--and there's a reason for that, but it's not really his 

Art, you told me once how you'd been to see an Andrés Segovia guitar 
concert when you were a kid and that he played wonderfully, but your 
main impression was of what an unpleasant and arrogant old grouch El 
Maestro was.  This was like that for me.

Dambaraggan began to recite Atli and he really did know how to address 
his Nokhon audience, they ATE it up.  His voice was powerful, his 
timing perfect, his body language enchanting.  He had that crowd in 
his power, he knew what they responded to, he was a magical channel of 
Nokhon culture.  

And man, did he make me feel jealous.  

The next day the studies committee informed me that I was to attend Oration sessions instructed by Ayø'ota Ket, the Great Orator Dambaraggan Himself. I knew I was supposed to be honored and impressed, but couldn't fake it and they could clearly see how reluctant I was. They surprised me by laughing and saying, "Yep, now we can tell that you really ARE an Orator, Young Dadamet!" I didn't understand that at the time. Anyway, I went to the chamber like a good student to see what a Nokhon Orator education was all about. There were only two other Orator potentials, it seemed, an older guy who seemed nervous and a young boy about 15 years old. They looked at me resentfully when I showed up and I began to learn about Orators and their Egos. All Orators evidently need to be in the spotlight, adored media stars. They don't like to be outshined, so any other Orator is a potential threat. I was above all that, of course, couldn't care less about stardom in their little fish pool, right? But they weren't the problem, it was the instructor, the Great Orator Himself. Dambaraggan was simply the most arrogant and pompous Nokon I'd ever met. He was really impressed with himself and insisted that we should be too. Meeting him up close I saw that Dambaraggan was an old Nokhon and big in every way, a foot taller than me and much wider. I was disappointed to see that he wasn't quite as soft as I'd assumed he'd be, there was lots of hard muscle too, but he was certainly plump, which was rare enough for a Nokhon. He moved heavily and with lots of pomp and drama, every gesture was Theater. Dambaraggan was an Acteur, a living tradition, a Star in His Own Mind. If I sound a little cynical, it's because he pissed me off more each time I met him. Oh and I pissed him off too. The resentful glance the two other students gave me was nothing compared to the suspicious sneer that man greeted me with. He didn't have to say it, his body language was blatant: "Oh shit, we've got another god damned punk kid here, who thinks he's gonna be a better Orator than me, the Great Dambaraggan Himself." He began the session by telling us to shut up, he would do the talking. And talk he did, on and on, about how he had performed a specific telling of the Atli so wonderfully and how the crowds had loved him. I got tired of listening and wondered if this was another form of the Enduring, when he went into one of his Atli routines. All right, he WAS good. He had an undeniable stage presence and when he got into the dramatic Atli material, he presented it well. Good material at least. So I guess he was a good speaker by Nokhon standards, just not by mine. He seemed old-fashioned, primitive, like one of the first movies with sound: corny, overdramatic and affected. And arrogant too--that's what actually put me off. He WAS famous in this little pool, and really proud of himself. I wasn't about to publicly criticize him, however. Crowds always gathered to hear him "instructing" us, the sessions open for anyone interested and he always aimed his performance at whatever audience he could get. And they enjoyed it, he gave them what they were used to, while I was trying not to groan out loud. Of course, it wasn't Dambaraggan's fault that I was used to television and movies rather than theater. Actually, he DID project rather well for having no PA System.
Although now assigned to study the discipline of Orator I was also still allowed to attend courses of basic magic, since an educated Orator was usually expected to become a Sha-haka as well. So I was still part of the same group of students I had started with. Which was good: I had no wish to start all over. When not involved in learning sessions I often found myself on top of our "university building", where we'd held that last Kha-rat, along with others in my study group. It was our alternative to Town Square, more private and offering a nice view of the entire cavern, lake below us, very scenic. Call it the campus hangout. By the time I'd been in Aket a month I had a pretty well established social life, was on friendly terms with most of them in my study groups, even made some close friends, male and female. But students came and went, some washed out, new strangers arrived. Still, everybody knew who I was: the "Oh So NokhSo-Nokon". After the slow start, it was finally easy to get into intellectual discussions, even with strangers, because everyone had an opinion one way or another about my wicked past. "Most of us don't know what to feel about you," a straightforward guy my age spoke up, "but we're interested in finding out what we can before we pass any judgments. Many of us feel that it's time to stop the Nokhso path of destruction and that can only happen if we understand their minds. To us they seem to be mad--they have everything, yet keep taking more. Would you say that you truly understand the NokhSo mind?" "Sure, in fact I THINK with a NokhSo mind, it's the Nokhon mind I'm trying to comprehend. Maybe we can help each other out here, what do you want to know?" Off we would go, on these group discussions, intellectual and/or emotional. I liked the group I studied with, about thirty young people, male and female, almost all studying various Sha-haka disciplines and those who had survived the weeding-out processes were usually impressively intelligent. When they found out how far behind I was with Atli and Nokhon culture in general, they were amazed that I could have applied for apprenticeship at all. Many of them were younger than me but knew much more about their world than I did. Yet they were aware that I knew the REST of the world, the frightening high-tech outside world, of which they were almost totally ignorant. So we respected each other and had some great concept-expanding discussions. I loved it. Reminded me of talking with Doug...back when we were friends, that is. I was by default a source of new concepts for them. For example, none of them had EVER ONCE heard anyone speak of Western Civilization in positive terms, or explain their actions. It was politically correct to have a negative attitude about Nokhsoli--all your friends did. Seeing my white patch of hair over the scar from Peter Sinsley's bullet, more than one of them had said: "The Noksoli tried to kill you and you still haven't learned to hate them?" As if I was being a fool. My answer was, "Yeah, I got pretty angry with the who shot me, but then so did all my Nokhso friends and family. Am I really supposed to hate them all for what one nasty asshole did?" They'd never thought of Nokhsos as individuals, but now they had to. Yes, along comes the Devil (me) and whispers something else in your ear ...and oops, like all students everywhere they yearned to be the avant- garde champions for the New Idea of Our Time. Anyway, they began thinking new thoughts. I mean really: I also hit them with Newton and Einstein. Those student sessions and discussions and flirtings could go on forever, or at least until we got hungry. We'd go as a flock to the greens gardens down by the lake. Anyway, I was finally fitting into Nokhon society. Actually, being with that group of friends was a lot like the gang I'd become part of at the University of Washington. You know, a bunch of guys and girls being friends mainly because they shared a mutual academic interest. Of course, there was also sexual tension among those UW students, but compounded by ethical dilemmas which would simply NEVER arise among Nokhontli: can I have sex with him/her? (full moon, let's all do it) I like both of them, which one should I choose? (both & everyone else too) Oh I'd love to have sex with this girl, but I have to be faithful to my own girl friend (do them together). In Aket we were actually even MORE sexually frustrated than those UW students, but still, it felt like familiar group behavior. Of course, the big difference for me personally was that at the UW I could only observe the game, big hairy squatch being out of the sexual running, while at Aket I was an acceptable candidate.
Speaking of being an acceptable candidate, a not-so-funny thing almost happened during this period. I was walking across the Town Square early one evening when I saw young Daset coming towards me. As I greeted him I noticed that his beard was now braided. I was about to congratulate him for being a brand new Alutna when he stiffly said, "Dadamet, Our Great Lady demands your presence immediately." I was surprised to find myself suddenly being commanded by an Alutna on official business for Ma-ralla-hata, the old bitch who controlled law enforcement in Aket. Alutna Daset was polite about it— and slightly embarrassed --but I knew that neither he nor I could ignore a "demand" of the Gestapo Queen. “So you’ve met her,” I commented. He glanced sharply at me for a second, almost saying something, but bit it off. I saw something unhappy in his eyes— anger, disgust, shame? –then he looked away. "Let's not discuss that," was all he would say about her. Then, "Look, I'm sorry but I've been ordered to ask you to come with me, okay?" We walked in awkward silence as he led me to what passes for Aket's Police Station: a series of tunnels that run from the back of Town Square deep into the cavern wall, reportedly a labyrinth, mysterious and confusing. A large open-but-dark passageway was the only visible sign that such a complex existed-- that and some small peep-holes cut higher up in the wall, through which Alutna inside could keep an eye on the city outside. I'd heard about it but had never been inside-- it was the kind of place one would rather avoid. Not that I worried about anything like police brutality among the Nokhontli, but...well, you know. In we went. Of course it was nothing like any law enforcement HQ you'd find anywhere else; no front desk, no desks at all because there was no paperwork or phones, no garage, although there were jail "cells" and weapons rooms. I was taken through dimly-lit passage ways, right and left, up and down stairs and soon was completely lost when we finally arrived to Ma-ralla-hata's chamber. There was a hanging of woven grasses before the door, perhaps the only example of a closable door I had seen among the Nokhontli. The Alutna did not enter, but announced: "Young Dadamet is here, Our Great Lady." Ma-ralla-hata's voice rasped from inside, "Very well, send the jerk in." He waited outside and I pushed my way in past the hanging. The room was a surprise. It was large and brightly illuminated with its very own crystal projecting daylight down through the ceiling. There were draperies covering the walls, large fluffy pillows scattered about, all in bright colors to give the place an amusing harem-tent effect. And in the center of the room stood Her Majesty Herself, wearing a long white silken scarf and posing like a squatch version of a very old Greta Garbo, lacking only an extremely long cigarette holder. This was squatch decadence! "Greetings, Our Great Lady," I had made certain to learn the proper etiquette, just in case, "you asked me to come?" "I did not ASK, I commanded!" she just HAD to say. "Okay, fine, whatever," I was tempted to be rude, but thought better of it: that lady was mean and BIG. "So how can I be of service?" "By servicing me." "Huh?" "I have heard that you can yøramma at all times, even without shyøma. Show me." "What? Here? Now?" "Of course, are you stupid?" "Uh...well, not so stupid that I'll break your laws. We both know that it's forbidden to yøramma in Aket." "Alutna Headquarters are separate from Aket. Besides, I say it is allowed here. Now I wish to ascertain if it is true-- so service me." She tossed her silk scarf dramatically, turned and bent over to present her hairy old butt to me. "Uhhh..." stalling for time, but I finally had to say "...well, NO!" She turned and straightened like a goosed general, surprised and outraged. "No? You tell ME no?" "I can't yøramma just like that. It doesn't work that way, sorry." "I have heard that you DID," she said with squinted eyes. "Well, that was with a special girl I really like..." "How DARE you dislike ME!" "Well, what do you expect? You're not very nice to me either..." "NICE?" she bellowed, ("RANA'A?" if you want to savor the actual linguistic impact), "I am not required to be nice to anyone!" And she proved it. Ma-ralla-hata grabbed my arm and pulled me to her and before I could squirm or wiggle away she had her other hand down on my crotch. I told you she was big and now I'll tell you she was strong, I didn't have a chance, it was like being raped. But of course all she could find down there was my poor suddenly shriveled little dakh and it wasn't about to be of any use to her at all. She thrust me away from her. "I was only testing you. I knew it was untrue! There are no real men anywhere!" I was told to go and man, did I! Alutna Daset was still waiting for me outside her door and he led me back outside to the Town Square. We didn’t speak, so I didn't know how much he'd heard and I wasn't about to ask. We also avoided looking one another in the eyes.
In the orating classes Dambaragan would recite something from the Atli and we would repeat it. None of us had any problem memorizing words--being all three natural born orators--but vocalizing them well required either talent or training. My major weakness was vocabulary, but that was being expanded by rote and repetition of the text Dambaragan recited for us. Dajimmieh, the young boy, was talented but awkward, while the elder fellow, Dagahaggat, was a bit too timid. As you all know, I'd already done a lot of public speaking in English, so I assumed I'd blow them away with my professionalism, but such was not the case. All those wonderful microphone techniques I had mastered were pretty much worthless here. Because I was slightly nervous about speaking for other orators--the most critical audience you can imagine--I had cleared my throat a couple of times before Dambaragan stopped my recitation in mid-vowel and asked with his usual arrogance, "What is WRONG with your voice?" "Nothing," I said, with my own usual arrogance. "Not so," he insisted, "your VOICE is nothing: you have neither volume nor tone. As if you had no haka." I admitted that haka was a problem for me, nor did I understand how to apply it to my voice. He rolled his eyes at my ignorance then rapid- fired words at me to demonstrate the power in his own voice, the clarity, the drama. Just made me resent him even more. I started to repeat his words but he stopped me, came over to me and touched my belly. I had already learned about tightening the diaphragm for speaking long ago, so I was thinking, "Yeah, yeah, I know all that..." Which is actually what kept me from learning about haka-voice for so long. Until Dambaragan lost the last iota of patience he had and punched me right in that diaphragm of mine. Not really hard or deep, a controlled blow, but the impact was enough that I gasped. "Now, HAKA, up and through your voice!" I was so offended and angry that he had done that to me that my haka came up, all right--to give me power to punch him back--and I shouted, "You may NOT do...." But I could already hear the new energy-level in my voice, a clarity of tone I had never before commanded. I discarded my anger and concentrated on a flow of haka-powered vocalization of my gratitude instead, "...yabenne-wah, Dwayarat Dambarragan!" It was a breakthrough: now I could finally project as an Orator should.
As the next Full Moon came around, the shyøma began to supercharge the atmosphere of Aket all over again. Everybody was practicing whatever magic they could do because they were getting extra power from their sex-drive and this was the time to achieve progress, to expand a talent, to have a breakthrough. I certainly had one. My haka was flowing pretty fair, I was beginning to feel that there was hope for me, that in a few years I could come up to a normal Nokhon standard. And then a newly arrived student said he'd heard about my myøsik from a young girl living with a couple he'd met, Dabronat and Malasna. That had been Masnia, of course, my own little PR agent. Up to now I'd been diligently suppressing my urge to do anything that might smack of Nohso culture. But all my new friends wanted to know what a Myøsik was. So after politely trying to refuse, not wanting to disturb everyone by making noise in the traditionally quiet Nokhon tradition, I finally sang a little song. I had intended to be discreet, sing something short and softly, racking my brains for a simple little song that might even sound good to them. I guess I was sort of shyly muttering the text to... you know, I can't even remember what it was, it was that vague. My audience was leaning toward me looking confused, "What? We can't hear you. Louder!" That Nokhon quiet I'd mentioned was already pretty much disturbed by the usual evening commotion down at Town Square, we could easily hear it from up on our rooftop campus hangout, so I realized I'd have to give it a bit more power. Use that haka-voice trick. And there was all this shyøma-power to draw from too, so I took a deep breath of it. It just came out full blast, without even knowing what I was going to sing I found myself doing a number I rarely attempt because it's so difficult to do well-- one of my favorite Spanish songs, Malagueña Salerosa. Maybe because I figured the wide vocal dynamic might echo nicely in the cavern. And it did. My god, I blew everyone and myself away. All that shyøma, all that magic and suddenly my haka-flow just overflowed: it was RUSHING up through me and out my lungs and mouth, supercharging my voice. I sang like I never dreamed I could, with a soaring power that felt literally Godlike. Especially that high-pitched over-sustained "Maaalllaaa- Gueeeeeeeey-Nyaaa" part. The cavern echoes felt like feedback from Jimmy Hendrix' guitar. I was barely aware of slapping rhythm on my chest and thighs, or mouthing Spanish guitar riffs in between the words. Guess I got kind of carried away. When the song ended I seemed to wake up, not quite sure of where I was. And all I could hear were the echoes of that song still reverberating throughout the cavern, there was no other sound. Not even a peep from Town Square, all those people there had shut up. I opened my eyes and saw that everyone was looking at me with their eyes and mouths frozen wide open and that there was no other sound simply because everybody was too stunned to say anything. Suddenly I felt embarrassed. I guessed they didn't know what to make of it, funny language and all. They'd been a part of it--I'd sung for them--but now I couldn't tell if they'd even liked it or not. Then I decided that it really didn't matter what anyone else thought, it had been a religious experience for me--cosmic, beyond judgment, MAGICAL. Myøsik was my Magic and I'd just done it right for the first time. But there was no time for a reaction, neither applause nor criticism, because suddenly two Alutna agents were among us. Young Daset was one of them. I bobbed my head in greeting but he pretended not to notice as his older partner said to me, "Dadamet, come with us immediately. Our Great Lady wants another word with you."

Chapter 53

Adam out of Eden