Chapter 78:     Troubadour

Transcribed from dictation, ADAM speaking--

After four days spent successfully working on music with Masnia and nights 
socializing with Dabronat and Mayala I was reminded of the more serious aspect of 
my return to Squatchland.  Dagrolyt returned from his rounds with the information 
that Daklakht was aware of what I was doing and had sent Alutna agents around to 
warn the scattered population against welcoming me to play my forbidden Nokhso 
my°sik anywhere near them.

I wondered why Daklakht had not sent Alutna directly to me and stop me, but 
Dagrolyt and Dabronat agreed that it was so that I might commit some violation 
of Atli serious enough that I could be legally arrested and thus completely at 
his mercy.  Also that he would not attack me while I was guest at Dabronat's 
bakhl because of his personal relationship with the family, especially Masnia, 
so I was in a temporarily safe haven until I moved on. 

I've mentioned before how none of them spoke badly of Daklakht: that he was my 
official Adversary was to them as if we were opponents in a game rather than 
mortal enemies.  In fact, they applauded his strategy as clever and wondered if 
I could outsmart him.  Dagrolyt, as my mentor, was on my "team" but the others 
were not to interfere with the game.  They were emotionally "on my side", 
although more as spectators than participants. 

I asked Dagrolyt what he knew about the "Secret Verses" of Atli.  He said that 
he knew of those which Sha-hakas were allowed to access and maybe a few extra, 
but there were still many verses he had never heard, or even heard of.  I asked 
because just before we left my family in Monroe, he and I had argued about the 
wisdom of taking my guitar along to Squatchland.  I had only convinced him by 
referring to my Vision, in which I had seen myself playing it to a large crowd 
of Nokhons.  There had also been words within that prophecy, seemingly a verse 
of Atli justifying the use of an instrument, but I had forgotten them along with 
so many other words.  I was wondering if such a verse was among the Secret ones, 
but Dagrolyt didn't know of even one verse in the Atli that allowed skesk.

His rounds as Dwayarat completed for the month, Dagrolyt had time to spend on 
teaching me again, so I took a break from music to return to the far less 
pleasant task of learning to control my Syssk.  

We had gotten so far that I had already learned the basic technique of attack.  
Now I had to learn defense, how to deflect a Syssk-spell aimed at me.  
That was easy enough to learn, being quite instinctive, the only real 
complication was that Daklakht was probably the World Champion at psychic 
clobbering and I was totally inexperienced.  It would take me years to achieve 
his level, so I had to get around all that somehow.

Having lost my Orator abilities was also a great handicap, I could no longer 
remember every word I heard, so Dagrolyt had to repeat instructions and it slowed 
down the learning process.  He began to become irritated with me, after having 
been accustomed to my being his best student ever, he was now struggling to teach 
some just-average squatch.  

"If only you hadn't broken that promise, Dadamet, it has really changed 
everything!"  And because he was irritated, "How could you be so stupid as to DO 
that anyway?"  

"I've wondered about that myself.  I mean, Melly and I were aroused, sure, but 
we'd been there before and not even shy°ma can make me break a promise--
it's always been absolutely impossible!  In fact, even though we did TRY to 
y°ramma I couldn't keep my dakh stiff enough to do it until Daklakht 
commanded me to..." 

We looked at each other. Dagrolyt finished the story: "Daklakht was there, right 
behind you, doing his psychic mind-control magic."

"Do you think HE caused me to try breaking the promise?"

"Quite possible.  His plan has always been to disable your Orator abilities so 
that you cannot become the Negotiator. That would be a good strategy!"

"But how could he even KNOW about a promise I made in the Nokhso world 
years ago?"  

"You've told me about it, have you told anyone else?"

"Only old Da-nama-hat in Aket, but he and Daklakht are hardly friends, I don't 
think he'd tell him."

"But Da-nama-hat could have told someone else, it may not have seemed an 
important secret."

"But if Daklakht did a spell, was it really ME who broke the promise?  And is 
there anything I can do to become an Orator again?"

"That's beyond my expertise," Dagrolyt admitted, "you'll have to ask a specialist 
of oratorical discipline about that."

"Dambaraggan, my oration teacher at Aket.  Next time I see him."

"Well, you can't go to Aket right now and especially not with your guitar."

"Are you kidding?  That's the whole point of my being here."

Although control of my Syssk was developing pretty well academically, it was also obvious that I would not be ready to start swapping psychic Syssk-blasts with the formidable Alutna-Jii for years. We concentrated on the most basic defense techniques for the moment, learning any refinements was a waste of time I did not have. After two more days we called it good enough for now. I wanted to get going on my Big Quest to change the Nokhon World. Musically, I was ready. There was even a vague plan about where to go and what to do. Our little family of friends had discussed the Quest over the four days I had spent with them. They all agreed that I should go out there and do my street singer routine, spread the concept of Nokhon my°sik and become a star, although there was some uncertainty as to how I should go about it. Squatchland has no towns or streets to go stand in, nor concert venues for a one-man-band. It was agreed that I should go alone, although Masnia was burning to come along and sing with me. Naturally, her mother was against that and so were Dabronat and Dagrolyt. Being squatches, there were no moral qualms about their innocent little girl being unchaperoned with some horny guy (me), once Masnia had come of shy°ma-age she was free to be un-innocent with anyone and everyone--not that she wanted to. Nor did they fear that she would be threatened by my Adversary, they knew her father would never harm her. But there were other Nokhons who hate Nokhsos and anything that smacks of their culture or their skesk, who might react badly. There could be trouble. I agreed. I would've love to have had Masnia along with me: as backup singer, as nice sexy companion on the lonely road and--yes, as buffer between Daklakht and myself. But that just seemed too selfish of me: this was my quest, there was a potential danger, I couldn't justify putting her into it. I had to go it alone. The next day I was ready to go, guitar strapped on my back, said my thanks and farewells to the family. Masnia was crying with frustration. "It's no fair, Da-adam-ee, I'm a part of those songs, I'm your Poetess, I deserve to be going with you to present them." "I agree completely, Masnia and you know I want you along. But I have to make sure this is safe before we can do that. If so, I promise that you and I shall go together next time." "Is that the promise of an Orator?" she asked. "I don't really know how much of an Orator I am any more, but it IS the promise of your Brother." I gave her one of those Nokhso kisses that she had learned to like, although she never did get the hang of a sisterly version.
Dagrolyt and I walked together for part of the way, but it was agreed that my troubadour act was to be on my own. I was headed for a place that had been recommended to me by some of Masnia's friends at the lake. It was at another slightly smaller lake and was supposedly a popular place for young squatches to gather because there was lots of food growing around there. Dagrolyt and I parted ways up on a cliff, he was going home to Misma and Myr°la for a few days, then had an appointment at Aket. Busy guy for a Bigfoot, I know. We arranged to meet at the next Full Moon, when he was hosting the Kha-rat. He wished me luck and went West. I went East and up towards a jagged peak in the mountain range. If it sounds like I knew what I was doing or that I was confident about this "quest" then I've got you fooled. All right, I was still following that Vision which had led me to the big concert and now to this point, but I never claimed to understand any of it. Walking alone for the rest of the day had me thinking about everything that had happened and was supposed to happen according to that Vision of mine. For example, I had to wonder why I was on my way to sing songs out in some empty spot in the middle of nowhere, although there might not even be anyone around to hear them. I also wondered what I was doing falling in love with all these women. I'd been raised in the romantic tradition of American faithfulness--and suffered because of my hopeless love for Melly--only to have that explode all around me. I still loved Melly--and Magga, then Lissandra, now Masnia. The weird thing is that I KNEW they were all mine, without compromise or betrayal, I had four women who would eventually accept such a relationship. All that had been in the Vision! However, at the moment, Melly was mortally afraid of me, Magga was vacillating because I was just too Nokhso, Lissandra was--well, I didn't really know yet-- and Masnia felt betrayed that I'd left her behind. But I loved them all. I came to the lake that night. It was well-hidden, a tiny little valley hidden between some very steep mountainsides, the small lake sunken into the flat stone valley floor, no trees but lots of nettles growing around. I could see why squatches would like it--hey, I liked it--this was a place the Nokhsos would probably never find. In fact, there was no one but me. I was about to take out my guitar and play when it started to rain. Really rain, heavy and hard. I covered my guitar against the wet and looked for some kind of shelter, but there were only those very steep cliffs all around and rain water was gushing down them. I could see that the lake was growing; the little valley was flooding, water coming in faster than it could drain out. I didn't feel that I was in danger, but my guitar was. The guitar bag had been sprayed with waterproofing, but that's only effective to a degree and it's never good to let a guitar become soaked, the wood will warp and split. I had to find shelter and the only way was up those slippery cliffs. Even under those conditions, any squatch could climb up but I had to protect the guitar from rain with my body, which meant that I couldn't just put in on my back to get my hands free. So I had to crawl up the slope like a one-handed hunchback, until I found a rock overhang where I could just barely hold the guitar under a roof, while I was stuck out in the pelting, hammering rain. There I was, hanging off a cliff, trapped by my guitar, dripping and pathetic. An hour earlier I had been the coolest squatch in the world congratulating himself for having those four beautiful lovers--none of them handy at the moment--but now I was just some stupid slob who couldn't get out of the rain. The entire concept of my winning the Nokhon Nation over to music and culture was based upon the beautiful sounds I could produce with my guitar, which was now in danger of becoming a trash-pile of unglued wood. I had come too far out into the wilderness, following a half-forgotten Vision. It could literally all fall apart here and now. I had to stay that way all night. Humbling, an all-time low. I know I've been stingy about information concerning my Vision, had to be, that's how it works. But now that some of it has already come to pass I can discard a few secrets. It was an Orator's Vision, thus not entirely visual, I also heard Words. Many Important Words. But when I lost my Orator abilities, I also lost those Words--I simply couldn't remember more than a few of them, so the message was muddled, if not gone. Therefore I was only running on Half a Vision, not quite sure if I was doing it right. It seemed that I was doing it wrong. When daylight finally did penetrate the clouds I decided to move on. Up was the only direction available, since the valley below me was flooded. A little break came in the rain and I strapped my guitar on and scrambled up the cliff side as fast as I could. Which put me up on a barren granite plateau with still no shelter in sight except for one large lone fir tree on a level higher up, a big bushy green umbrella. I went to it and pushed my way into the branches, which grew all the way down to the ground. It wasn't comfortable but at least I got the guitar out of the rain. And just in time, because it really began to come down after that. I was starving by then and the guitar was tucked safely away, so I went looking for some food. I found a bed of nettles, slightly soggy from all the rain, then went back to wait for the rain to end. But it rained all day, got dark and just kept raining. All I could do was keep waiting. I'm a squatch, don't mind rain normally, but was now stuck in a very boring place only because of that guitar I had to protect. Such an un-squatch concept: bound by a possession, a valuable one at that. How much simpler life was without such things. I began to regret having brought it along. I pushed myself in under the tree again and began snapping off branches to make a hollow place for me to be in. I don't like to damage trees, normally don't do it, so I apologized for every snap. But I was quite happy about the result: a cozy little dry room under the tree, with a floor of leafy branches to sleep on. I even had room enough to unpack my guitar and dry it off with the extra set of clothes that padded the guitar bag. Then I slept.
It was still raining in the morning, still prodigiously. I stepped out into it to go poo and pee and scarf an armful of nettles, then settled back into my cozy little clubhouse. I had accepted my fate for the moment, thinking: if I was a REAL squatch this would be what I was used to--day after day of boredom. I could always reflect upon Atli, meditate and seek enlightenment in the raindrops. But I was a Nokhso in my head, could only meditate so long before I had to DO something: turn on the TV, study something, play the guitar. Well, yes, why not? I played for a while. Meditated for a while. Played again, sang a few songs. At the end of a song I paused to hear how hard it was raining. I sensed something odd about the sound and pushed a branch aside to look outside. Found myself looking into the very wet face of a fellow Bigfoot, squatting in the rain just a few feet away. He'd obviously been listening to this musical tree with great wonder. We were both surprised but neither of us overreacted. I said, "Kha, ranoke," and he bobbed his head in greeting. "How are you making that sound?" he asked. I lifted my guitar for him to see between the branches, "Hollow log," I said. "Interesting. It sounds something like Nokhso music but the words you chant are Nokhontli. I've never heard that before." "You know about Nokhso my°sik?" I asked, preparing myself for a diatribe against it. "Oh yeah, there was a Nokhso bakhl I often passed, where the Tree-Cutters often came to drink fire water. It was loud, but I kind of liked it. I'd like to listen to you some more, if I may." "Oh, sure. Hey, I'd invite you in out of the rain but there's no room for two of us." "Well, I was on my way to a nice dry cave not far from here where I'll be meeting some friends. We're going to eat some khos, want to join us?" That sounded so much better than staying where I was a minute longer, so I packed my guitar and made an umbrella of the branches I had slept on, then followed my new friend a few miles to the cave. His name was Dalarasseh, he was slightly younger than me, as were his two friends waiting in the cave. It was a big cave, cold but dry and roomy, obviously the local hangout for rainy days. We all introduced ourselves, heads bobbing and they asked about my "hollow log". I played some songs for them, they shared some khos with me, we ate some nettles, instant party. Especially when two girls showed up. They had to hear some my°sik too, of course. There were only positive reactions. Outside the cave it kept raining but nobody cared. One of the guys had heard about me before, "the my°sik-singing half-Nokhso" a friend of his had heard at Aket, it seemed I already had a reputation. They were fascinated with the guitar: how it sounded, how it looked, so skesk and shiny, yet obviously not one of the evil machines the Nokhsos used to destroy nature. I used Masnia's definition: "Good skesk" and they accepted that as a suddenly valid concept. I told them about my quest to introduce squatches to music, asked them where I might go next to find an audience. They had really enjoyed hearing those songs in their own language and became quite enthusiastic about the idea, but had no idea of where I should go next. "There is one place, but..." Dalarasseh started to say, then looked at his friends. There were silent exchanges of guarded looks, then agreement and bobbing heads. "...but it's secret. We don't want Alutna finding it." "That sounds perfect," I said, indicating my guitar, "I don't want any Alutna finding me either"
The next place was on the other side of the Cascades, overlooking the dry flat grassy plains of Eastern Washington. I had been to Spokane before, but this was a new area for me, out in the flatlands. There was not so much forest for squatches to hide in, so I had always assumed there would be none living there. Those young Nokhons had told me about a secret outlaw ml°noli that often held "underground happenings", mostly young squatches yearning to rebel against the system of Atli rules and Alutna control. Sounds more dramatic than it was; just some kids out to have fun in some kind of unauthorized way. Viva la revoluciˇn! Perfect for me. The weather had also become perfect for me, dry and sunny again after four days of heavy rain. Some flooding had taken place West of the Cascades, but cowboy country Eastern Washington could only be grateful for any extra water it got. I found the arroyo where the event was supposed to happen, a large but well- hidden dry gulley that offered some privacy from Nokhso eyes, considering that otherwise the plains were so open that automobile traffic could be seen driving along those roads off in the distance. It was a nice place, there were nettles and thistles, ota to eat, even a little stream of water due to all the rain. There seemed to be no one there when I arrived, but I knew just how invisible we squatches can be. I had myself crossed several Nokhso roads to get there, an unseen shadow flitting past. I was a stranger (perhaps even Alutna?), so they would observe me before making contact. So I took out my guitar and began to play, which no Alutna would ever do. By the third song I was facing 5 or 6 amazed Nokhons. I was in. I was pleasantly surprised by how many young Nokhons showed up, it was a cultural event, reminiscent of Town Square in Aket. Hardly on that level, no Sha-hakas performing magic tricks, no Orators reciting Atli with hypnotic voices, but there were stories being told, dramatic scenes being enacted. They were being creative! This was what I had missed from the Nokhon way of life. Of course there was lots of kosh consumed, even some feeble attempts at having an orgy without shy°ma, but mostly it was an attempt to have fun. And there I was, armed with songs and a guitar. Right place, right time. There must have been about 35-40 Nokhons of all ages gathered by evening, when I finally went "on scene" to play. There actually was a scene, a rock shelf slightly higher than ground level, it even reminded me of being at that other concert I had played two weeks before at the Paramount Northwest. This was not anywhere near as big a crowd, but considering how few squatches there actually ARE, it was an impressive turnout anyway. And just as important to me as that other one had been. I still felt nervous about how some Nokhons might react to my skesk-guitar playing troubadour routine, but that evaporated once I started playing because it was immediately clear that these folk were starving for some fresh culture in their lives and my Nokhon songs were exactly that. "Etra! Etra!" they called to me, More, more! That audience was so turned on that I was simply forced to take it to the next level: audience participation, the way I'd learned it from playing with Smokey Chesterton's band at Pelosa's. I got them to sing along, even dance the Bigfoot Bop. Success much? Yo, dude, as Pokey would say.
Chapter 79

Adam out of Eden