Chapter 54:     Authorities

Transcribed from dictation, ADAM speaking--

You may recall that the name Daklakht has popped up a few times in 
this story, although I had never met him: as my mother's once-lover 
and perhaps even my own father; as an old aquaintence of Dagrolyt 
and Dabronat; as an authority figure and some kind of special agent.  
Now the mystery man himself pops up.  

It seems he'd returned to Aket without fanfare in the middle of some 
night, having been on away on some kind of super-agent mission for 
most of a year deep in a tropical jungle (probably South America, 
among the Mapinguey).  Now he was back to reassume command of 
the Alutna at Aket.

Truth is I'd forgotten all about the guy and was quite ignorant of 
his arrival, probably because I hardly ever went to the mid-day 
orientations when the Three Elders do their Info Broadcast, me too 
busy studying and having no interest in politics.

But without even knowing who he was, I had noticed him several times 
over a week before we ever met.  He was the kind of Nokh one had to 
notice: impressively big and muscular even among all the other monsters, 
but also unusually elegant for a squatch.  I guess one could call him 
ruggedly handsome,  his cleft chin beardless.  One could also call him 
a bit of a dandy, sporting those rather stylish mutton chops and all 
his body hair looking neatly trimmed (like Melly usually trimmed mine 
every summer).  Most squatches, like me right now, look pretty shaggy 
and rumpled, but this guy seemed to be wearing a furry tuxedo.  He 
looked different and dangerous, either Hero or Villain, some kind of 
Nokhon version of James Bond.  But what I noticed most were his eyes: 
intently noticing me back.

I'd also registered his yellowish Sha-haka shoulder-bag, but couldn't 
identify the significance of that color.  I never got around to asking 
anyone about him, I'd only get a glimpse of him in a crowd or see him 
looking down at me from the next level up and then he'd be gone. But 
I did wonder: Who IS That guy?

But I finally got to meet him when the Alutna came for me--yet again--
and asked me to follow them to their Headquarters.  I was surprised 
to see that a crowd of elders were gathered there.  Ma-ralla-hata, of 
course, but also the others of The Three: my grandfatherly friend 
Da-nama-hat and the Vulcan-like Da-tobor-hat.  There were several 
other elders from the Studies Committee as well as my instructors, 
Dahassat and Dambaraggan.  I got the feeling that it was My Day In 
Court.  Which it was.

And up in front, my mysterious watcher, who seemed to be in charge of 
everything and everyone.  One of the Alutna officers called out to 
start the proceedings and formally introduced that man as: 

"Alutna-Jii Daklakht, Special Agent of the Alutnate of Shamballah 
and Personal Envoy of the Absolute Nine Themselves."  

It was first then I realized who he was: the Nokh I'd been interested 
in meeting someday to ask about my mother and if he was my father.  
I wanted to say, "Hey hi, I've been looking forward to..." etc. but 
this event seemed too official for a friendly chat just then, figured 
I'd just wait until I could catch him alone afterwards.

That introduction was incredibly long and went on to inform us all 
that Daklakht was the very Top Cop, the highest-ranking Alutna on the 
continent as well as some kind of super agent.  It was casually 
mentioned that he had just walked/run/swum from some other squatch 
city located in some lost jungle in the far south (probably non-stop), 
all the way here to Aket in the Cascades because he had been assigned 
to deal with the Negotiator Project.  

Nobody was telling me anything, but I quickly figured out that "The 
Negotiator Project" was ME.  It seemed that a political opinion had 
shifted in faraway Shamballah and the project--me--was falling out 
of favor.  

Super-Alutna Agent Daklakh addressed the congregation: "I have been 
observing Young Dadamet since I arrived at Aket several days ago.  I 
can see that he is a good student, adheres to the law and seems quite 

I had been confused and anxious about how this meeting was focused on 
me, so I relaxed a little.  Hey, this won't be too bad, this guy's on 
my side, I figured.  But then Agent Daklakht went on to say:

"...but I have also observed that deep within, this Negotiator is not 
one of us.  He is Nokhso through and through, trying to pretend he is 
a Nokhon!"

Only Old Da-nama-hat dared to comment: "I disagree..."

"You may NOT disagree with me...please, respected Elder.  I know well 
the evil and decadent Nokhsoli persona; I have dealt with those hairless 
little vermin many times.  Yes, I have even killed some of them, which 
is my burden, but hopefully it will not come to that..."

That's right, that's what he said.  

"...but it is my duty to take action here.  In my observations of 
Young Dadamet, I have concerned myself with his skill as an Orator, 
which is what this is all about.  He is, in fact, so talented that I 
am inclined to regard the Negotiator Project as quite dangerous."

Finally I spoke up, "Will someone please tell ME what this Negotiator 
Project is all about?"

The mighty Alutna-Jii Daklakht walked over quite close and looked me 
straight in the eyes before he responded, obviously to intimidate me 
and let me know who was Boss. "I don't believe that you are so dense 
that you cannot fathom that it is..."

But I'd had enough of being intimidated and insulted: "Yeah, ME: Orator 
raised by Nokhsoli, I get that.  Bilingual Negotiator, check.  But 
negotiate WHAT?  And WHY haven't I been told anything about this?"

"Because YOU were not to know until WE knew what you are!"

"Well, now you know!  So tell me, just how far back has this secret 
project been in the works?  All my life?"

Daklakht was leaning into my effrontery, about to silence me with 
his superior status, when I suddenly knew the question I really 
needed to ask: "For example, was it planned to have my mother killed?"

Daklakht's aura of authority suddenly vanished and he looked as if 
I'd punched him hard in a weak spot.  He jerked back as if afraid of 
exactly that question.  Guilt, maybe?  It was one of those dramatic 
moments when everyone present freezes and nobody says nothin'.

But he regained his composure and his arrogance right away.  When he 
did speak it was not to me, nor to answer my question:  "You see what 
a clever Orator he would be?   He instinctively knows the right words 
to move us.  But I tell you: this golden-tongued orator is not going 
to talk his dirty little Nokhso friends into cooperating with us, but 
rather to seduce our young people into joining THEM!

"This is already happening--his fellow students almost worship him for 
his myøsik, which is simply Nokhso culture disguised as our own by 
clever twists of language.  Those sweet melodies he sings are not  
original, nor the result of his Nokhon genius, but common jingles stolen 
from the decadent pop-culture of the Nokhsoli.  They are broadcast all 
over the world with skesk noise-makers; we've all heard them when 
we come too close to the hairless devils. He is indoctrinating his 
comrades to accept Nokhso culture!"

Daklakht turned to point at me with an accusing finger.  "And most 
scandalous: I have learned that he is even planning to interrupt his 
training to RETURN to that den of Nokhso iniquity!"  

Da-nama-hat spoke again, still not intimidated:  "Dadamet has been 
honoring his promise to stay with us for 6 moons, then he may visit his 
Nokhso Mamama.  We have all agreed to that."

"I forbid it.  The Nokhsoli are the Enemies of the Nokhon Nation."

"No, they're not," I asserted, kind of pissed off now, "how can they 
be against us when they don't even believe we exist?  And I AM going 
back to them because that was the agreement, bound by my promise as 
an Orator.  I cannot break a promise."

"No, but you can make a new promise: to remain with your own kind 
until we agree that it is safe to release you."

"No, I can't.  I have also promised my Mamama to come after the six 
moons were done, which is by next Ma-mløt-klys.  I cannot break that 
promise either."

"She is a Nokhso, not really your mother!"

I allowed myself to scowl at him, "I have no other mother--your Project 
has seen to that."  I waited to see if that hit him, but got only a 
slight hesitation, just enough to press on. "A promise to a Nokhso is 
as valid as to a Nokhon, all sacred words of an Orator.  I can't undo 
it, you all know that."  All the other elders nodded in agreement with 
me, hey, Orator's gotta do wotta... etc.

"Then perhaps I must simply break your promise for you.  You can be put 
into the Labyrinth until your fate is decided..."

Da-nama-hat spoke up again, harshly this time.  "You shall do no such 
thing!  Dadamet is guilty of nothing!  It was not he who set the 
Negotiator Project into play, nor is he responsible for a change of 
policy at Shamballah, this smacks of Dastardat's dirty work..."

"Silence!  I have the authority..."

"DO YOU?  We of the Three Elders of Aket are gathered here now, 
let us convene."

Da-tobor-hat and Ma-ralla-hata looked at the old guru in surprise.  "It 
is not the usual time," tall thin Da-tobor-hat objected with his cold 
logic.  Ma-ralla-hata frowned, she didn't really want to contest the 
authority of the Alutna-Jii, she was on his side--and she may have had 
a teensy little grudge against me.

"CONVENE!" Da-nama-hat insisted ferociously and it just happened: I 
don't know if he overpowered them or what, but they happened to be 
standing in a loose group and suddenly that blue shining jelled around 
them and they were turned ON.  Then they stepped closer together in 
perfect sync and began to speak in one voice. 

"We are the Authority of Aket, second only to the Absolute Nine Elders 
of Shamballah.  We shall communicate with them now..." and they went 
into some kind of trance.   

It was pretty weird, we were all standing there waiting, wondering 
what was happening.  Super Alutna Daklakht suddenly didn't look so 
sure of himself, but that was a shadow of what I was feeling.  My 
instructors were looking worried and uneasy; the Alutna agents all 
stepped nervously back away from this power play.

After a while The Three offered us some practical information: "The 
various members of The Nine are scattered as individuals, but will be 
convening soon."  It hit me that this was just like making a Trans-
Atlantic call to a foreign government, everyone's asleep in another 
time zone, they have to wake up, take taxis--maybe telepathic taxis, 
I don't know.  It's a mess, takes a while to get them gathered. 

But then the blue aura around The Three Elders became much brighter, 
they straightened up from the slouches they had been slipping into 
and I could see that the power level had suddenly been screwed up 
to TOP.  They were that way for only a few minutes then spoke first 
after the blue glow diminished and they were on their own batteries 

"The fate of the Negotiator Project is yet undecided, Elders for and 
against are in balance, three Elders are still reserving judgment.  
There are to be no restrictions for the Potential Negotiator, Young 
Dadamet.  We must honor those agreements that have been made with 
him, as so must he.  That is all."

The glow faded and The Three were just three old squatches again.  
Ma-ralla-hata looked apologetically to Daklakht, but everyone else 
looked cautiously, wondering what he would say or do next.  

He surprised us all and smiled.  Smugly, as if quite satisfied. 

"Very well, if I may not legally restrict the movements of one whom 
I consider a potential danger to the entire Nokhon Nation, I shall 
do the other thing, which I am certain to find much more entertaining 
anyway: I shall offer my services as instructor to an especially 
gifted student."  

This was what he had wanted all along, I could hear it in his voice 
and the others could see it by the way he posed: hands behind back, 
bouncing energetically on toe-tips, ready to have some fun. 

"I hereby challenge Young Dadamet to endure the Ordeal of Adversity."

"The Ordeal of Adversity?  That has not been enacted since...since 
the ancient days of Atli!" That was my teacher Dahassat, "It was one 
of those barbaric customs our people have long discarded!"

"Nevertheless, it is a Nokhon tradition and I proclaim myself 
Adversary to the half-Nokhso Dadamet."  He looked at me with 
lightning in his eyes, "Prepare yourself, boy!"  

Literally with lightning: I felt a psychic SLAP on my face that 
stunned me and knocked me sprawling backwards onto my back.  It 
stung so bad that I was blinded by tears and gasping for breath.  I 
remember thinking: who IS this guy— Darth Vader?

"A hardened and conflict-experienced Special Agent and Sha-haka of 
highest rank against a young initiate," Dahassat complained, sticking 
up for me, "do you really consider that to be a fair contest?"

"Fair? Is it fair to entrust the fate of every Nokhon on this world 
to the abilities of an untested youth who has never had to deal with 

Da-nama-hat spoke: "Nevertheless, we shall have No adversities here 
within Aket!"

Daklakht bowed slightly, "Of course not, Aket is the wrong place to 
determine the fate of the world.  It shall be at the lair of Sha-haka-
ma Mastinta during the next Ma-mløt-klys."

"And what is the object of the Ordeal?" was asked.

"A simple test: he has given his promise as an Orator to stay among 
us for six full moons.  As proof of fulfillment he must attend that 
last Kha-rat before returning to the Nokhons, or he has broken that 
promise--and is therefore a False Orator."

He paused, then shrugged and said, "After that, I don't care what he 
does: a False Orator can never become The Negotiator."  With that he 
left the room.    

We all left, I walking with old Da-nama-hat, thanking him for his 
brave support.  He warned me that it was not over yet and that it 
was I who had to be brave.   He asked me to come to his "office".

"Da-nama-hat, who IS this guy Daklakht--to me, I mean? I've heard he loved my mother and may even be my dadakh, but he certainly doesn't seem to have any fatherly affection for me. Do you know anything about him?" "I have known Daklakht for over half a century, but he has changed so much that I'm not certain I do know him anymore. As for his being your (biological) father: he WAS one of the four males assigned to impregnate your mother." "Sounds like a qualified Sorta," I grumbled. "Oh, it's more than that. Daklakht loved Mayala devoutly and intended to be your danat (mother's mate), in which case you three would have been a family. But he was sent--exiled, actually--to the faraway High White Mountains before you were born." "Then why does he hate me now?" (Actually, "hate" is a non-word to Nokhons, they never admit feeling that emotion— even if they do --but I'm skipping past the euphemisms to tell this story like it is.) "I don't believe he hates you personally, basically, this is political: Daklakht serves the purposes of the wickedly corrupt Da-starda-hat, one of the Absolute Nine Elders of Shamballah, who has been rallying opposition to the Negotiator Project for years now. He is your true enemy." "I have an enemy? Just who is Da-starda-hat?" "Twenty season-cycles ago he was the incumbent Alutna-Jii here at Aket, his name at that time was Dastardat. It was he who sent Daklakht on a mission to Shamballah, which was part of a political intrigue that is still going on to this day. "I may not really know Daklakht very well any more, but I still know Dastardat; far too well. He was and still is the most dangerous, most corrupt, most EVIL Nokhon alive and whose sole ambition is to dominate others--all others. And he has somehow won Daklakht over to become his disciple." Oh come on, I thought, so my sorta-father's gone over to the Dark Side. Haven't I seen this movie before? "When I first encountered young Daklakht," the old Nokh reminisced, "he was the finest Alutna agent I had ever met, doing a job that--let's face it--often attracts the kind of Nokh who likes to have (and misuse) personal authority. He was unusually skilled at his profession and capable of any mission, no matter how difficult or dangerous (he has the very rare Warrior gene, you know). And yet he was also fair-minded, never cruel and quite often protested against his commanding Alutna-Jii's corrupt decisions and injustices. Dastardat and Daklakht were more or less sworn enemies in those days. "Their bickering resulted in Daklakht being suspended from Alutna service several times, during which periods he studied psychic magic arts here at Aket and qualified as Sha-haka. But Dastardat always called him back to carry out some special mission no other agent could handle. Their final disagreement was over an assassination which Daklakht absolutely refused to carry out and Daklakht was exiled to Shamballah just before Mayala was to give birth to you, Dadamet. "Daklakht was first allowed to return to Aket after two season-cycles and by then Mayala had perished. After that he was a changed man. Surprisingly, it seemed that he and Dastardat were now best of friends. Like minded. In fact, sometimes when Daklakht speaks he sounds exactly like Dastardat, spouting those same cruel opinions, the same unjust rhetoric. Then Dastardat granted Daklakht his own position as Alutna- Jii and trundled merrily off to Shamballah, to seek a position of power among The Absolute Nine Elders, secure that he had his own faithful watchdog running things for him here at Aket." "Could this Dastardat character have put Daklakht under a spell, or something like that?" "That's unlikely; Daklakht was and still is one of the greatest masters of psychic magic. He is extremely capable of defending himself from any kind of psychic attack and Dastardat is not the kind of man who fights his own battles, he would never dare to challenge a Warrior like Daklakht head-on. I know this because Daklakht and I have had some very severe psychic confrontations since he became Alutna-Jii." "Yeah, I picked up on that today." Da-nama-hat went on, "To understand what is happening to you now, you must also know about your mother. She too, like yourself, was bred for a specific talent: to be a seductress." "Hmmm, I have heard a LOT of men say she was an especially great yøramma, but I assumed they were just being...uh...polite." "They WERE being polite, to yøramma Mayala was probably the greatest ecstasy they had ever known. She was beyond shyøma, due to her own special smell which caused males to feel LOVE instead of mere lust and for many Nokhon males that was a unique experience. You may have inherited some of that quality?" I thought about Melly and me sniffing each other into intense teen-age frustration, she burying her lovely little nose into my...well, you get the picture and so did I. Da-nama-hat seemed to be reading my thoughts, "I thought so," he said. "The power to seduce, beyond mere Orator skills, is one of the qualities a Negotiator could put to great advantage. Mayala was bred specifically to become the mother of such a son." "Dj'iess! How far back have they been planning this Negotiator Project?" "Most of a century, there were many elements that had to come together. Daklakht was one of them: he has the very rare genetics of the Warrior Breed, now almost extinct among the peaceful Nokhontli and that is also your heritage." "I don't feel much like a Warrior, I'm pretty peace-loving myself." "Of course, that's the most preferable attitude for any Negotiator, but an affinity for combat is there if you need it." I remembered hitting Peter Sinsley with everything I had. "Handy if negotiations go sour, I suppose," I kidded, but Da-nama-hat didn't laugh. Neither did I. "There may never BE any negotiations if Dastardat has his way--and he just might. Not only has he manipulated and inveigled his way into becoming one of the Absolute Nine Elders, but is also in the process of consolidating his own preferred version of the institution: three of the Absolute Nine Elders have died in the last few years--oh yes, under mysterious circumstances--and their replacements have all been faithful cronies of Da-starda-hat. If one more Elder mysteriously dies ... Da-starda-hat could end up with the balance of power." "Well, if so, what would he do with it?" I asked. We're talking about domination of the Bigfoot world here, I wasn't sure how big a deal that could be. Shamballah was a lost "city" in the Himalayas, totally isolated and probably not much bigger than Aket--which is about the size and population of Monroe High School. I mean, this guy Dastardat sounded like a nasty mobster, but how much drama could all of this really generate? "He plans to destroy all the skesk in the world," Da-nama-hat informed me. "Well, that's ambitious," I noted, "but impossible." "No, the Nokhontli have toppled highly technological civilizations before. The more complex and advanced they are, the easier it is to do. All they have to do is agree to do so again." "Oh...really?"
Da-nama-hat told me what I needed to know about the Negotiator Project. The concept had come out of a verse of Atli, of course, suggesting a necessary cooperation between Nokhon and Nokhso concerning the quickly expanding dangers of pollution and ecological balance. Already a century ago the Elders had known that the weather was going to change: they'd seen it all before. They ordained the conceiving of an Orator child to be raised by humans, to bridge the language and cultural gap between Nokhontli and Nokhsoli. But the world was deteriorating faster than anticipated and suddenly they had to soon decide between negotiating with the Nokhsoli or crippling their all-consuming civilization. As Da-nama-hat said, this had been done before--Atlantis, Mu, Babel--and our modern civilization has exactly the perfect flaw required to make us a sitting target: overdependence on high-tech. An army of Sha-hakas could generate some kind of world-spanning short circuit with magic, zapping out ALL "lightning-skesk" (electrical technology) at once and revert the present highly-technological societies right back to a stone age (sounded like a world-wide EMP to me). "And even now," Da-nama-hat was saying, "the followers of Da-starda-hat are swinging the opinion of the Absolute Nine away from negotiation and toward a total shutdown of Nokhso technology. The Nokhontli would never go to war, nor would they personally kill any humans, but they have nothing against pulling the plug on all that wicked skesk." After that, the survival of the human race would be their own problem: many would die because there were far too many of them for the world to support by natural means, but so be it. "As ye sow so shall ye reap," says the Bible AND the Atli. The humans would have to start over, with smaller populations, forced to live humbly and frugal lives instead of riding the thunder in their demonic machines. There were still factions among the Elders of Shamballah who hoped that Mankind had finally grown up and would listen to reason. They had no wish to destroy any other culture, the Nokhontli are by nature quite humane. However everyone agreed that ten more years was the point of no return if the world was to be saved and many Sha-haka Elders did not believe that the Nokhsoli would ever be capable of self-control. It had been tried before, always ending in Mankind doing what it does best: War, Plunder and Commercial Marketing. "So now the Anti-Negotiator faction has sent their special agent Daklakht to trouble-shoot the situation. Da-starda-hat and cronies wish to put the Negotiator out of play, one way or another and an Ordeal of Adversity is a legally acceptable method. "An Ordeal of Adversity sounds kind of intimidating, just what IS it anyway?" I had to ask. "No one really knows," that wise old wizard actually told me, "it is only briefly mentioned once in The Atli, when a king had to be chosen between twin brothers a very long time ago. It is a historical piece of our academic culture, but that's all. I am afraid that Daklakht may be rather creative in his administration of it." "Sounds like he just wants to be mean to me," I suggested. Da-nama-hat pondered a secret something for a moment, then decided to say it: "You should know, Dadamet, besides his official duty as Alutna-Jii for the Elders of Shamballah, Daklakht may have a personal prejudice in your case. He loved your mother Mayala and was against her delivering you to be raised in the Nokhso world, so perhaps he resents you for her death." "You should also know that Daklakht also hates all Nokhsoli. For several reasons; because not only Mayala, but also two of his childhood friends were killed by human hunters. They tracked him for days as well. He only survived by killing the hunters. For that sin his penance was to become a special kind of Alutna agent. Sometimes it is necessary to kill a dangerous rogue Nokhon, and Daklakht is the agent they send." I THOUGHT he'd reminded me of a Nokhon James Bond and sure enough: he’s got a License to Kill!
All of that was so far out from any concept I had of reality that I had trouble taking it seriously. Negotiator--I'm some Chosen One? Secret conspiracies from the Himalayas? Super Agents out to get me? I have an Adversary--what'd I do to deserve that? I mean, what movie IS this, "The Matrix" or "Star Wars"? It was all just too crazy to believe! So I simply carried on with my life as it had been: I had studies, duties, friends to hang out with. I tried to forget about Agent Daklakht, my "Adversary", almost believing that he had been foiled by the local law. What could he do? I was officially under the protection of the City of Aket. However, I was also getting ready to leave Aket. I had been among the Nokhontli since November and promised to remain among them for six moons. I had experienced three Ma-mløt-klys in the mountains and two more inside Aket. I would be free to go home after the next Full Moon and it had already been arranged that I was to attend a final Kha-rat at Mastinta’s on that night to close the deal. Besides, I did not want to go directly home from Aket. I yearned to spend the next Kha-rat out in nature, having become weary of the enclosed environment of Aket and the agonizing discipline of celibacy when the shyøma flooded the senses. In other words I wanted to go visit Magga before going off to another frustrating onslaught of celibacy in Monroe, Washington. Once the idea of coming outside got into my head I couldn't think of anything else. I took a week to round out my study projects, make arrangements with various teachers and start saying farewells to friends who might not be there when I came back. I was slightly sorry to leave while everything was going so well, but far more exciting was the thought of getting away for a while.
I can't say I was totally relaxed about the threat of a killer-agent "Adversary" hanging over my head. I decided to go speak with Daklakht and see if I could reason with him. I'll be honest, he scared me, but I also wanted to ask him about my mother, so I forced my quivering knees into Alutna HQ and asked to see him. The Alutna who came back with a reply was none other than Daset once again, who was all business, as if we were strangers. The message from Daklakht was that it would be "improper for An Adversary to fraternize with his Opponent." So get lost. Well, I tried. I also tried to talk to Daset, asked why he had become so unfriendly to me. He almost wouldn't answer, then said: "You are a troublemaker, Dadamet, and I won't compromise my position as Alutna for your sake." But I understood beyond his words and sensed that he resented me most for being able to say “No” to wicked old Ma-ralla-hata when she tried to rape me, since he didn’t have that option.
Dambaraggan was already aware that I'd be leaving Aket, having been present for Agent Daklakht's attempted lynching, but he insisted upon every protocol and I was to petition him for permission to interrupt my Orator studies. I went to his session chamber to take care of the formalities. Reluctantly, assuming we'd just get into an argument. He was in session with a man and a woman, not students. As I arrived I heard him say, "...I hereby promise never to hit my woman again. This is the vow of an Orator, inviolable and eternal." That seemed strange to me, Dambaraggan HAD no woman. But the man he was addressing stood beside a hefty Nokhon woman with a bruise on her cheek. Both their heads were bobbing. "And now I hereby transfer that promise to you, Dabatat," Dambaraggan said and offered his hand to the other man, who took it humbly with both of his. "Dabatat, do you accept that promise?" "Ra, ra!" the man agreed emphatically. He suddenly jerked, as if from a slight electric shock. "Then it is done," Dambaraggan pulled his own hand free, "that is now YOUR promise, which you can never break. Go on, now." "Thank you Great Dambaraggan," said the man Dabatat and his woman echoed him and they left, apparently quite happy. "What was that about?" I asked. "You make a promise and HE keeps it? Does that work?" "As long as they believe it works, it seems to," the old Orator said with kind of a shrug, like he wasn't really fooled himself. "But why are you here?" he asked with an irritated frown, "we don't have a session now." "You wanted me to ask for permission to leave Aket-- even though you know that I'm going no matter what." He looked at me very sternly, as if offended. "And why should I grant you permission? You need much work." "You know why. Besides, I'm not really learning Oration, you also know that. We just bitch at each other." "Really? It seems to me that your vocabulary has improved vastly, Young Dadamet, you're becoming much more difficult to make a complete fool of." I was surprised. It was the first time he had complimented me on anything. "Meet me at session time and we shall debate whether you receive my permission or not." It was a gimmick, but I understood what he wanted: a real good knock- down drag-out ferocious debate about loyalty and duty or anything that would appeal to the audience that would show up for the best show in town. I knew if I gave him a good fight I'd get permission... that is, if I earned it. And sure enough, the biggest crowd ever showed up at session time. I saw most of my friends there, Da-nama-hat, Dahassat, several elders. It was both intimidating and exciting, like performing a concert. Dambaraggan began, "So, you faithless little skyøma, you want to drop your studies to go off gallivanting. You have no interest in becoming a miserable Orator--it's far too humble a status for someone of your vast knowledge and ability!" I won't go into detail about the context of our debate, it was long and fast-paced, dealing with just about everything. We ranted and raved at each other and yet both controlling our tempers, attacking and carving each other with equally well-turned phrases and razor wit. The audience reacted to good hits, interacted, joined in sometimes, but no one could keep up with the language Dambaraggan and I were flailing each other with. Our hakas were flowing. Actually, it was really fun. I guess his Big Ego wasn't the only one around, I could show off my clever arguments too. The audience would laugh, or boo, hanging onto every word. Then I realized that Dambaraggan and I were actually feeding each other straight lines, setting up clever concepts for the other to resolve with some masterful wording--we were working the crowd and we were doing it together. It ended that I had permission to go because Dambaraggan made a great show of kicking me out of his session. He wanted to win the debate, so I let him. That is, I think I did.
So I left Aket over a week ago, planning to give myself about ten or eleven days of freedom outside before Full Moon, when I had to report in for my sixth Kha-rat. After that I could officially go home for a while. Everything was in place when I departed, I had arranged to return and continue my studies at some undetermined time--I've learned not to promise exactly when. I said goodbye to everyone I knew, and then started to climb all those stairs up Aket's high chamber wall. Leaving and entering Aket is a very public procedure, nothing like vanishing into a taxi. You are visible from almost anywhere in town, and it takes quite a long time to climb all those steps. So I had to wave again and again as friends, acquaintances and several absolute strangers called up to me. Wondered if I should have taken Dagrolyt's dangerous but quick secret escape route. Half way up I heard a voice speaking to me, very clearly, although there was no one else on those stairs. "I shall miss you, faithless little skyøma, you have been my best student in a generation." Looking down at the Town Square I saw him--impossible to miss, so big and fat--although tiny at that distance. Somehow The Great Dambaraggan had projected his magical Orator's voice all the way up to where I was, sounding as if he was right beside me. I waved, felt a surprising affection and determined that I was going to have to learn that trick from him next time. But he was not the last person I made contact with on my way out of the mountain: high up on the far wall over the City of Aket, across from the waterfalls, there are three windows carved into the cliff face. A big brawny man was waving to me from one of them. Super Alutna Daklakht. He was also smiling, but it wasn't a friendly smile, more like that of an Adversary getting ready to have his fun. "You're not my father," I decided, "and fuck you." Quietly and in English, of course. Then I reached the top and was greeted by the guards, who led me through the tunnels and on outside to the great wide world of blue sky and sunlight, trees waving in the wind, grass underfoot. Winter was over, it was the month of May. I ran down the steepness of the mountainside like a little kid again.

Chapter 55

Adam out of Eden