Chapter 53:     Arguments

Transcribed from dictation, ADAM speaking--

In a flash I had gone from being on a sublime spiritual high to 
being afraid and worried about what kind of trouble I was in.  
Because I knew that Ma-ralla-hata wanted trouble for me, one way or 
another.  Was I guilty of disturbing the peace and therefore at her 
mercy?  Or was I in the other kind of trouble, from a horny old 
woman driven crazy by shy°ma?

I was tempted to ask Daset what this was about but could sense that 
he was feeling compromised because he was too new to the job to be 
commenting on his orders, so once again we said nothing to each other. 

I didn't even consider making a break for it: where could I go?  I'd 
have to escape Aket--maybe via Dagrolyt's dangerous secret passage-- 
and give up my studies as well as my future among the Nokhontli. 
All this was running through my head as I followed the two Alutna 
through the port into Alutna headquarters. 

But they did not lead me down those labyrinthine corridors to 
Ma-ralla-hata's private chamber; we took stairs upward instead, 
ending up in the Alutna's central office.  It was a large room with 
a view over all of Aket, there were several men I assumed to be 
Alutna and Ma-ralla-hata herself, barking out orders with her usual 
arrogance and nastiness.

At least I was not alone with her, which was a relief.   I doubted 
that she would try to violate me in front of witnesses.  But if so, 
I was resolved to fight her off.

She ignored my presence for a while, of course, then turned to me 
and asked:  "What WAS that HORRIBLE NOISE you have been 
making, Silly Young Dadamet?"  

"It was a form of Oration," I said, making no attempt to be polite 
with any obsequious "Our Lady"s.

"Unlike any oration I have ever heard a Nokhon utter before.  
However, I have heard such disturbing sounds made by those evil 
little NOKHSO DEVILS!  Skosk sounds! Skesk sounds!  ě'skogme 

"That wasn't skesk," I argued, "it was only my own Nokhon voice."

"E'e ě'SKOGME!"  She stooped to shout it directly in my face.  
This was a decree by the Chief of Police: your my°sik is forbidden 
in Aket!

I got mad.  "Or what?" I challenged her.  Like I said, I was ready 
to fight if she violated me.

That got her mad.  Well, I couldn't really tell if she was madder 
than before, but I'd like to think she was.  Especially because of 
how it all worked out.

She shouted all right, but to her Alutna agents, not at me. Commands.  
Four of them, including Daset, took me in strong hands and led me 
into the dark labyrinth.  I did try to fight them off but they were 
trained to get a grip and effortlessly whisked me away.  We walked 
through the dark until they made me climb blindly down a grass rope 
into a deep pit.  They pulled up the rope and left me there alone 
in the dark.  I mean completely dark and completely alone.

I tried to feel my way out of there, but only went in a circle. The 
wall was smooth stone, I couldn't climb it.  I was obviously in some 
kind of jail.  That was scary: not knowing for how long, or really 
even why I was there.  For a crime?  Or the whim of an evil witch?  
A long time seemed to pass before I finally managed to fall asleep.

I was awakened by the sounds of several people approaching.  I saw 
light, flames flickering somewhere, getting brighter until I could 
see the pit around me.  It had to be about 25 feet deep with a 10 
foot diameter, smooth walls: I could never have gotten out on my own.  
Finally there was a small fire floating above me--a trick I'd seen 
somewhere before.  Then faces looking down, hands waving.

"Young Dadamet!  We're here to release you!"  I knew it would be old 
Da-nama-hat, that floating fire trick had tipped me off.  He tossed 
down one end of the rope of woven grass for me to climb up.  My teacher 
Dahassat was also there and two of my study comrades.  My rescue 

They told me what had happened.  It had seemed like days to me in 
the dark, but had actually only been overnight and until noon the 
next day.  I had been missed at classes, but not missed enough to 
have alerted anyone that I was, in fact, missing.  The actual alert 
was sounded at the mid-day session of The Three Elders.

I wasn't there to see it, of course, but almost everyone else in Aket 
was.  The three individual elders had just come up onto the chrome 
dais and become The Three Elders, speaking in one voice, when they 
announced that The Chief Alutna had unjustifiably forbidden all 
performances of "the Orator Dadamet" and imprisoned him--that is, 
me.  The Three went on to decree that this was an overreaction on 
the part of the Alutna and was to be rectified immediately.  

In effect, Ma-ralla-hata was commanded to rescind her orders and 
not interfere with me about my orating, a real slap in the face, 
public embarrassment, the works.  

The funny thing is that SHE is one of The Three.  Which means that 
when she became One with the others she automatically snitched on 
herself, since she could hardly keep a secret from her own expanded 
consciousness.  So it seems to be true that those three individual 
elders become Someone Else: a Separate Authority between three 
bodies.  Lucky for me.

Nothing happened to her, she was still Number One Cop, but 
she had to leave me alone.  She obeyed the command of The Three, of 
course, who could she protest to?  I was happy to be free and was 
now officially allowed to make my°sik.

The Full Moon arrived two days later. Instead of the usual local ceremonies spread around Aket, the Town Square had the most popular show to offer, so everyone who was anyone was gonna be there or be square. I almost didn't go because the high point of the evening's ceremony was to be a performance of the Atli by the Great Orator Dambaraggan Himself. Yeah, my big fat and pompous teacher was evidently regarded as the Nokhon nation's most divinely inspired speaker. Except by me, of course. Oh, I went, but only because all my friends did. And the old lump of fat DID know how to please a crowd, everyone around me was hypnotized, even the shy°ma seemed to thin out as women forgot their bodies in the enchantment of words. But I thought he was overdramatic, overrated and...well, over the hill. My negative reaction had everything to do with being assigned sessions with precisely HIM to learn the "Discipline of Orating". More so because he had a similar reaction to hearing some elder say that "Young Dadamet has the potential to become a Great Orator." Which automatically made me his arch-rival and that sort of thing brought out the worst in him. I basically thought he was full of shit, so we became academic enemies. My gratitude for him having taught me how to use haka in my voice was soon forgotten because he always made a point of insulting me during our sessions and insisting that I respond when spoken to. Of course I was supposed to respond politely and with great respect, but often lost my temper and began to insult him right back. The other two students were shocked by my behavior, but Dambaraggan became enthusiastic because it drew an audience. He also seemed to enjoy that I was such an easy target: he had an impressive vocabulary and mine was so limited that he always came out the winner of any verbal exchange. At first. One thing that really sent Dambaraggan on a critical rampage was my singing. Ma-ralla-hata and a few grumpy elders aside, there had also been a positive response to the My°sik, some people asked me to do it again. So I began to sing regularly and even teach some simple songs to those interested in trying. I'd even worked out a few songs in Nokhontli by then and they became somewhat popular. Dambaraggan was offended that I would "use an Orator's potential talent on such inappropriate silliness." He and I would get into arguments, splitting semantic hairs on proper language usage. It was a lot like that time when Doug and I used to try to blow each other away with bigger words...well, you know. But this was much less friendly. The thing was, crowds would always gather to hear us rant at each other. I guess we became infamous for it, so people would come around to see if we were putting on a show today. And addressing a crowd was what Dambaraggan lived for, so he really got into it: "The words of that My°sik you chant, they tell untrue stories, lies!" Challenge of the day. "Not lies, but myths and metaphors, as in the Atli..." "NOT as in the Atli! And what could YOU know of Metaphors?" "I'm not ignorant. I AM educated in NokhSo lore and a metaphor is..." "NokhSo lore IS ignorance! And you can't mean METAPHOR, it's the wrong word." Then he'd arrogantly show me the proper nuance of an accompanying gesture I had SO STUPIDLY missed. "Well, my knowledge of Nokhontli is new, I can't be expected to have as complete a vocabulary as you... yet." "YET, little sky°ma? Not yet and you shall NEVER have!" And he would bow to the crowd when he thought that he had won a point. Of course, his vocabulary WAS better than mine, so he usually got to feel as if he'd won. But every time he pulled a bigger and better word out of his arsenal with which to blow me away...I learned that word too.
Between the frustrating battle of egos with Dambaraggan and my disappointment about reduction of actual Sha-haka training, I needed some encouragement in the rest of my experience at Aket. My°sik became that for me. As I've mentioned, my fellow students had a much higher opinion of my status as future Orator than I did, they actually considered me Very Cool. That was better than being a Nobody, of course, so I lapped it up a bit. Guys wanted to be my friend and some very nice girls offered to "choose me" later on when we were all done with our studies. But since I was genuinely uninterested in a career of unvarying repetitions of traditional Atli performances, I had to become an outlaw, of course. If I was to be an Orator, it would at least be something unique I orated. So I sang. I tried to translate a few American songs into Nokhontli, but always had to explain what the words meant anyway--my translations weren't good enough to smooth out the distance between cultural concepts while rhyming in 4/4 time. So I started writing original verses to them. Actually, I ended up putting together several songs in Nokhontli that I'm quite proud of, having friends help me with words, or ideas. Most of their ideas were: "Sing a song about me!" And that worked out pretty well, because they'd just give me words about themselves, we'd find some rhymes--loose, I admit--and a song would emerge. I did a whole bunch of them in 12-bar-or-talking blues. Some of them were really funny...ha! I'd play you the one about how Dapalet and Maenbwa got stuck during y°ramma...but I'd have to translate it...ahh maybe later, I've got this story to tell right now.
I lost track of time, busy with my studies, living in a cavern, until it was suddenly my second Full Moon in Aket. I'd been there almost two months. As the shy°ma got stronger, so did the songs I wrote. The rhythms got more up tempo and the text definitely became more pornographic as well. Since we were all suffering enforced celibacy together, those songs became popular rallying cries for the universal frustration of horny youth--and my "fans" learned to sing along. Not only that, the crowd would start to undulate with erotic moves and it became a scene, a happening. Squatch Rap. This went on at our campus hangout in the evenings, while other entertainers were making other kinds of noise at the Town Square, so there were no protestations at first. But we became loud enough to attract attention and the crowd grew. The concerts got bigger, involved more people, so the volume got higher and higher, thrilling and intense in the closed echo chamber of Aket. Loud, anyway. Okay, not everybody liked it, there was a protest about the noise, but it was only once in a first. Until so many people started to join in and try to sing--badly. So I tried to teach them how to sing--that is, hit those notes they'd never heard before, which evidently wasn't that easy to do. This meant lots of rehearsal time needed, ending up with lots of complaining about it. Finally the elders said we had to take it outside. And that wouldn't work on a freezing windblown mountaintop, so it came down to just me singing one song every evening, the others could just listen and learn that way. That suited me too, it was taking up too much time. Even so, that once a day I would sing a sort of mini-concert. It became organized enough that everybody interested showed up and squatted on the big floor and at sunset I'd come and do maybe three numbers and we'd all go our ways. So I worked on songs to make sure that at least I gave a semi- professional performance. My°sik was my magic, so I was working on it. Elders reminded me that I was being trained as an Orator, not Sha-haka, but I talked them into accepting that my singing was verbal and therefore a form of Oration, so I was given quite a bit of leeway. Actually, I'd just been waiting for someone to say "My°sik is NokhSo culture and therefore ě'skogome!" So I'd been careful to sing only in Nokhontli, without any kind of musical instruments. I'd been really tempted to make a tom-tom or a flute, but knew that'd be against the rule of No Artifacts. A weird social change happened for me. All those fellow students I'd been becoming friends with, having academic conversations with, some of whom had been slightly superior or patronizing to me, ended up squatting at my feet and looking up at me like I was the Great Guru Himself. I'd become the first Pop Music Star of Aket. It was pretty weird: I didn't want that, didn't think of myself as having a big Ego, not like the Great Dambaraggan. But at the same time, I liked it--it was fun, sure. It DEVELOPED my Ego. I've mentioned that battle of egos between Dambaraggan and myself. I was supposed to treat my Dwayarat with respect, which I did until he didn't treat me the same way and then I became very argumentative and competitive with him. The truth is, he liked that. Dambaraggan could have made much more trouble for me about the singing than he did. The elders checked in with him about me progressing as an Orator. I don't know what he told them, but the elders never did call me on improper behavior towards my teacher. But Dambaraggan sure argued with me about my songs, as loud as he could, drawing bigger and better audiences. He challenged me to defend my singing performances intellectually, to convince him that it wasn't a waste of time to chant words that had nothing to do with Atli. We swapped rapid-fire insults that became bigger and more absurd, inventive invective, funnier, more dramatic. So we never did get around to doing any Atli, Dambaraggan and I just debated and argued and bitched in front of an audience every session. That seemed to be all the training as Orator I was going to get. And truthfully, it really worked, I was holding my own with the Greatest Orator in Squatchland!
I paid another visit to Da-nama-hat, my all-knowing 250-year-old friend. Actually, I felt a real kinship for him, almost as if he was the Nokhon family I didn't have. That Grandfather feeling. But I was constantly surprised to learn just how much we had in common. This time it was I who had arranged our meeting and he seemed happy that I was actively interested in developing our friendship. Of course, I was still really grateful that he had rescued me from Ma-ralla-hata's pit, he was the right kind of friend to have. We talked about Nokhon history and again he evidenced so much knowledge about other continents, place-names and dates for time- frame reference, that I had to ask him how he could possibly know so much about the outside world. "I have personally known some NokhSo people," he said, "they taught me many things." "Were you friends with them?" "I've had several good friends--and enemies--among them. But my most intense relationship was with a Nokhso woman, who was my lover for many years." "Whaaat?" I asked, "A human woman?" "Yes, an Indian woman, more than a hundred years ago. She grew old and died, of course. That's how I know how short their lives are. I missed her for a long time. Love is different for them-- and with them." "Sure is." I may have spoken wistfully. "Ah, yes, you love a NokhSo girl too, don't you?" "How did you know that?" "My secret, ha ha." Da-nama-hat enjoyed being mysterious sometimes. I was interested in another secret. "Could you actually y°ramma with your woman? They're so small." "Oh yes, but not wildly like at the Kha-rat, which could kill any human woman. But then, it was the very gentleness required that made it so special. I've enjoyed very few Nokhon women as much. But I've also missed no one the way I missed her when she was gone, that part of it was hard on me and I would never go through such torment again." "Yeah. I miss mine too, probably always will." "Yours is young, as are you. You can have her for many years yet." "I can't have her at all. She's NokhSo, I'm Nokhon. I'm afraid it's one of those forbidden hopeless loves." "Oh, that's right, now I remember.." the old man actually laughed, "...forbidden and hopeless love, those funny concepts NokhSoli have about their passions." "Doesn't seem that funny to me." "My woman's love was forbidden as well, by her family and her tribe. She was exiled and so was I. But we were a pair for 50 years anyway and she came to rule the tribe. It's never hopeless." "This one is." I told him why...but actually, uh...that's something I can't tell you here in this story. Forget I mentioned it.
However, among the things I really must remember to mention is what Da-nama-hata taught me about Nokhon government, because it will soon be important to my story. You already know that the highest authorities at Aket are The Three Elders, Bwata Dy°Ketli, who "guide" the entire local area, which apparently includes all of what you guys like to call the Pacific Northwest. They make their decisions based upon telepathy and magic, High Priests running the whole show. Seems to work, though. However, those Three Elders are only the local government: the REAL Masters of all Nokhontli are the Bwamakaka Dy°Ketli, the Ultimate Nine Elders of Shamballa, somewhere far away in another mountain range. Sounds like some secret fantasy Shangri-La in the Himalayas. Pretty silly I know, but then again, Aket exists. At first I couldn't imagine how any authority that far away could actually rule over here in the Cascade Mountains without some kind of skesk-telecommunication, but of course they have that good old telepathic magic. Like I said, seems to work.
As you can hear, everything was going great for me in Aket: I was learning what I needed to succeed in the Nokhon world, I was having fun with friends--my my°sik was even making me popular, mean old Ma-ralla-hata was off my back and even old Dambarragan was turning out to be an okay guru. I mean, what could go wrong? Well, I'll tell you.

Chapter 54

Adam out of Eden