Chapter 84:     Back to Aket

Transcribed from dictation, ADAM speaking--

Magga and I reported to the guards at the secret entrance to Aket just 
after dawn.  We wanted to be in Aket for the midday orienteering by the 
Three Elders.  The guards were expecting us; Daklakht had informed them 
while passing through the day before, seeming to have expected that we 
would take some extra time to arrive.  A guard escorted us through the 
tunnels and we were soon on the endless stairway leading down into 
the underground chamber of Aket.

The summer daylight shining down through the crystal rods was bright and 
cheery, as it had been when I left in May after all the dark winter days, 
Aket looked quite spectacular from above, tiny people moving around on 
Town Square.  I got the thrill one gets coming back to his old college 

We took the stairs halfway down, past the waterfalls, to where we could 
dive past those last few hundred steps into the lake below.  I wanted to, 
but that would definitely destroy my guitar so had to walk the entire way.  
Magga, however, had no such problem and no fear of jumping.  Squatch 
chicks, y'know, hardly delicate. 

"I'll go on ahead," she told me, "since I'm staying with Daklakht here in 
Aket, We'll have to go our separate ways for a while anyway."

"That's okay, no y°ramma allowed in Aket anyway," I said, teasing her.

"Not for you," she teased back, "but I have special duties."

She saw that she had won the teasing contest by more than intended and 
tried to comfort me with a kiss.  "Don't worry, Dadamet, he's my mentor 
but you are my only singer of songs.  We'll get together again sometime."

Then she dived into the lake far below.  I watched her as I continued 
down on foot.  Within a few minutes she was out of the water and on her 
way up the stairs into the City of Aket.  She waved to me just before 
disappearing into Alutna Headquarters.  Reporting for y°ramma-duty, 
I supposed.

I took it rather well.  Sure, I loved her, but now I knew she loved me 
back  and more than she thought she did.  Our journey together had been 
heavily sexual, but that's standard stuff during a shy°ma-rush, more 
satisfying had been how we had talked and been in touch with some deeper 
feelings.  Didn't hurt that she thought I was a musical god, either.

It probably took me an hour to make it all the way down to the path 
leading around the lake and start up the stairs into town.  Up on the 
second level, where the students live, I was greeted by many faces I knew 
and just as many I did not.  Being a place of study, the population of 
Aket is always changing and three months had passed since I'd last 
been there. 

By the time I got to the third level and Town Square it was obvious that 
almost everyone knew who I was and had heard about the my°sik concerts 
which were already famous.  My guitar bag attracted a lot of attention, 
in fact, I was surrounded and asked to play some music here and now, but 
I politely told people I had just arrived and was not ready yet, assuring 
them that I would play later. 

The tradition in Aket is for entertainers to perform at Town Square in the 
evenings, which is what I had in mind, but first I would have to see what 
the Three Elders would be saying at the midday session. Daklakht had 
mentioned that they had plans for me.

Suddenly that sexy little elf Masnia came rushing across the square to 
grab me.  She was so enthusiastic about being in Aket that she chattered 
like the teenage girl she actually is, everything would have been "wow" 
and "totally" if she'd been speaking English.  She was also being so 
outrageously affectionate to me that a few comments like "hey, no sex 
allowed in Aket" could be heard from bystanders.  I had to calm her down.  
Then I had to calm me down too, good thing her shy°ma-time was just 
about over.
It was still a while before midday but an audience was already gathering 
around the big chromed block upon which the Three Elders would speak.  
There were some people I needed to connect with while in Aket, who were 
probably right there, so I wandered through the crowd to see if I could 
find anyone.  Masnia wanted to accompany me, so I had to convince her that 
holding hands was inappropriate just there and then.  She promised to 
behave, or at least pretend to be a grown-up.

I was especially looking for old Da-nama-hat, my "virtual grandfather", to 
catch him before he went into his role as one of The Three Elders, but did 
not see him anywhere.  That seemed strange, he was usually early.

I did find Dahassat, my friend and teacher of Sha-haka magic.  He was glad 
to see that I had come back to resume my studies, although I had to tell 
him that I wasn't in Aket to stay long this time.  I explained that I'd set 
some things into motion in the Nokhso world that had to be attended to 
quite soon.  So we discussed alternate study plans--pretty much a replay 
of my last visit to the UW in Seattle, talking my professors into 
accepting my own special brand of courses for earning anthropology credits.  

It was agreed that I could be taking some magic lessons from Dagrolyt when 
he visited me in Monroe, but Dahassat insisted upon giving me some special 
instruction over the next five days before I left Aket, so I agreed.  The 
academic world works pretty much the same everywhere.

I had already arranged to meet with Dambaraggan for some open-ended Orator 
sessions, probably developing and performing our squabbling teacher/student 
routine for large audiences on Town Square--he loved doing that and it was 
fun for me too.  Five days sounded about right.

I'd already been gone from Monroe for most of three weeks by then and was aware of what a mess I had left behind for others to deal with, especially Melly. The media industry had to be very curious about the disappearance of Squatch & Friend's lead singer after that concert. But I also knew that things were working out as my Vision had told me they would. I was supposed to be in Aket exactly then and after that come home to...well, I'd still better not say if I want the final part of the Vision to come true. And I do. I also knew that Melly could and would take care of it all while I was gone. Even after what I had put her through last time we were together, even though she had been afraid of me when I left. Even though I was still feeling bad about where we were at just then, I had faith in her. This must all sound pretty arrogant of me, to assume that My Vision was more valid than anyone else's perceptions or emotions. To expect perfect love and faithfulness from Melly no matter what. And it must sound even worse to admit that I also expected it of the three other women I was involved with as well. But hey, I was on a roll, everything about that Vision of mine seemed to be coming true. Up until just then.
There was a stirring in the crowd, it was time for The Three Elders of Aket to go on stage and do their show. I could see that three Nokhons went up the steps of the big chrome dais, but noticed that something was different. The Great Lady of the Alutna, Ma-ralla-hata was there, as well as tall and thin Da-tobor-hat, but some other Elder had taken the place of my friend Da-nama-hat. I recognized the new Elder to be old Dafnat, that fussy old Atli fanatic I had met at one of my first Kha-rats and who had been no friend of mine before, although he had confirmed the validity of my claim that a secret verse of Atli allowed me to use my guitar as a magical talisman. There was enough murmuring going on to indicate that others were just as surprised by this change as I was. "Dahassat," I asked, "what's going on, where is Da-nama-hat?" "I don't know, Dadamet, I've heard nothing about any change of Elders." As custom requires, everyone present sat on the stone floor (instead of squatting) facing The Three Elders, who went into their trance to become One Mind and began speaking together in perfect sync. As usual, they began with a general news report for the City of Aket and entire Nokhon Nation before dispensing instructions and advice to individuals. But then The Three announced a restructuring of The Ultimate Nine Elders at Shamballah. One more of the oldest Elders had just died and been replaced by yet another Elder loyal to the Starda faction, which promised to bring about a shift of political orientation and changes of policy for the entire Nohon Nation. There was a reaction among the masses: surprise, muttering and mumbling, people looking around at each other nervously, most looked worried, a few seemed satisfied. I had no idea what was going on. But Masnia seemed to and she frowned; she obviously knew more about squatch politics than I did. The Three Elders went on to say that there would also be a restructuring of authority at Aket as well: the Elder Da-nama-hat had already been replaced because of his disrespect for the Authority of The Ultimate Nine Elders. Other changes would follow. And there would be a renaissance of Atli Law. And that was it, there were no further instructions, no advice. The Three Elders fell out of their telepathic link and went down from their dais, seemingly as confused as everyone else, since those individuals are not the same entity as when they are linked: words had been put in their mouths. A vast roar of discontent went up from the Town Square, a collective vocal exclamation/question mark. I was near enough the steps when the Elders came down to see that the two male Elders were frightened. But not Ma-ralla-hata, who seemed to be gloating to Da-tobor-hat about something. I heard her say the name "Elder Da-starda-hat" with great satisfaction, but he was upset and refused to respond. Then I lost sight of them because so many people were rushing to ask questions. "Khask! P°!" Masnia was saying vehemently, "not HIM again! This is the shits!" Yes, she knew her politics. But even I knew THAT name: Daklakht's "master". Old Da-nama-hat had warned me about the Elder Da-starda-hat, describing him as evil and politically ambitious, one of the few Nokhons who used murder as a tactic and who may have even arranged the death of my own mother. Nothing about his involvement sounded good to me. I looked around to see if Daklakht was also there on Town Square, but he was nowhere in sight. I began to think that being nowhere in sight might be a smart move since it was looking like a riot could happen any time soon; kind of scary. I had two priorities: to get Masnia out of there and to go find old Da-nama-hat. I took her hand. "I thought we weren't supposed to hold hands here," she said, but gripped mine gratefully and hard as we moved against the crowd flow, trying to get away from Town Square before things got ugly. I realized that she was trying to be brave by being funny, so I answered, "Yes well, I can be such a sissy sometimes." There never was an actual riot, Nokhons just don't do that, but it was a struggle to move through the traffic towards Da-nama-hat's office chamber. He wasn't there, but we were happy to see that Dagrolyt was, along with a group of upset Sha-hakas. "Where is Da-nama-hat?" I asked. "It seems that the Alutna took him away, nobody knows where to," Dagrolyt informed us, looking pretty grim about it. "My father rules the Alutna," Masnia insisted, "so he knows! Let's go find him." "No! The Alutna-Jii has to be involved in this," another Sha-haka said, "so he is certainly the wrong man to ask for help." "That may be true," I said to Masnia, "I saw that his second in command, Ma-ralla-hata, was too enthusiastic about what is happening!" "And we know that Daklakht is the special agent of the Ultimate Nine Elders, Shamballah's man in the field," another Sha-haka commented, "he must obey their orders." "I don't care what they say," Masnia insisted, "I want to find my father." "All right, I'll take you to him," I offered. What else could I do? At least she'd be safe with him. "I'll come too," Dagrolyt said, "we'd better find out where he stands in all of this anyway." Da-nama-hat is a much beloved Elder; so many other concerned Nokhons were arriving to ask why he had been replaced, until the chamber could contain no more big hairy squatches. We could barely squeeze our way out of the crowd. We tried to get to the Alutna Headquarters just off Town Square, but so did everyone else. A crowd was clamoring at the entrance, demanding some information, but it was closed for the moment. No one was getting in or out, no announcements were being made, the Alutna were incommunicado. We gave up trying and went down two levels to the lake, just to get away from all the Nokhons swirling through the streets in confusion. Dagrolyt wanted to find a quiet place. "Perhaps I can contact Da-nama-hat telepathically," Dagrolyt suggested, "if he is projecting now." I remembered how the two of them had done that before, to send me a message back in Monroe. Sha-haka magic, big time. So Dagrolyt went into a trance while Masnia and I watched over him. Gradually, two levels up, the City of Aket became calm again. Nobody knew where to go or what to do, or if anything was actually changed or not, so they went back to their various routines, studies, whatever. Masnia and I ate some nettles from the bushes along the lakeside. Daylight began to dim, the light crystals were glowing with sunset colors, evening was coming to Aket. "You think we should do our concert tonight?" she asked. We had planned to do one at Town Square but that happy idea seemed out of step with the new situation in Aket. "Let's see what Dagrolyt comes up with first. We might have to rescue old Da-nama-hat instead. Besides, if the politics have changed so much we might not be able to get away with it." "My father won't stop us, he promised me that." "Actually, I was pretty surprised that Daklakht ever bought my feeble justification for using the hollow log. It IS skesk and everybody knows that." "He's not as strict as people think," Masnia said, defending her father as any good daughter would do. "He really liked our my°sik. Especially Ha mm-kro y°ramma, we sang it together while we..." "Stop!" I interrupted her, "I don't want to hear about it!" "What? About walking to Aket?" "Oh, walking...well, that's all right. I was just afraid that...oh, never mind." "What? Tell me." She was intrigued, "Come on, Da-adam-ee!" "Never mind, little girl." "Does this have something to do with one of your perverse moral hang-ups?" She was having too much fun to give up, especially since it kept her mind off the turmoil all around us. "Well, if you must know, I was afraid that you'd be telling me about having sex with your own father." She blinked once, as if registering an entirely new concept. "Hmmm. So is that supposed to be bad? To Nokhsos, I mean?" "ě'skogome e'e," I informed her. "Oh. Hmmm. Interesting." And that was all she said about that. She really is a smart girl.
Dagrolyt finally gave up trying to locate Da-nama-hat by Sha-haka telepathy. It wasn't like making a phone call, both minds had to be tuned into it--not that I've learned enough about it to tell anyone how it works at all. We were left with "Now what?" Dagrolyt decided to go up to his fellow Sha-hakas on the fourth level and see if anyone had a clue. Since Masnia and I were not allowed up there, we were on our own. We looked at each other and agreed, "Okay, a concert it is." That may sound frivolous under the circumstances, but I really believed that I had to keep my Vision on track and a concert in Aket was an important detail of it. If nothing else, it would be a catalyst for... something. We also agreed that it was not to be at Town Square, which was eerily abandoned at present. Unrest was in the air, no one knew what would happen next. Alutna were still sequestered in their HQ, Sha-hakas up on their fourth level, students staying in their dormitory chambers. We went for the students. I knew the way: to the sleeping chambers where I had myself been living while studying in Aket. The same old hangout where I'd spent many evenings discussing magic and politics with fellow students, up on the roof from which I had first dared to broadcast my voice out over the general quiet of Aket. Normally there were only a few students around in the evenings, but the place was completely packed with young squatches by the time Masnia and I showed up. We were enthusiastically greeted by some old friends and newcomers who had heard about me. Masnia also seemed to have a growing rep in the youth-underground as an exciting chanting-poetess (whatever that might be). But the most mysterious rumors were about the "hollow log" hidden inside my guitar bag. I had to unwrap the guitar and show it to them, but refrained from actually playing it until we were ready to do our show. That was always a good trick for warming up the audience, titillating them by proximity to an object so blatantly skesk, astounding them by how such an impossibly perfect shape of wood reflected glossy light, thrilling them by the illegal sound made by gently drumming fingertips on the sound box arousing that tingle from the steel strings. There was one question I heard a lot: "Dadamet, how can you get away with bringing such obviously forbidden skesk into sacred Aket?" I had a pat answer for that: "Because it is a magical talisman for my own personal form of sorcery. Come on, we'll show you!" And we led them up onto the roof overlooking Aket by night. So Masnia and I did our thirteen songs. I suppose it might have been the most professional concert of them all, no mistakes, no deviations, a good clean set. But for me...well, it was like I wasn't really there at all, just running off a recording. Oh, it was a success, the audience response was positive-- extremely, in fact--but I'd become accustomed to that and was not overwhelmed by it any more. I'd performed that same set of thirteen songs too many times and was done with it. As far as I was concerned, that part of My Vision had been completed; now I was free. But while I was busy being a juke box, Masnia sang better than ever and I noticed how every guy was falling in love with her, including me all over again. When she did her ribald y°ramma-version of "I Like To Run" those guys were forgetting all about celibacy being the order in Aket. I just had time to wonder if we were going too far, considering where we were and what was going on around us. And of course, we were. The great chamber of Aket had rung with our music, there was no competition from Town Square, everyone could hear us from anywhere in town. Many had come down to the second level to be close to the action, although no more could squeeze into the dormitory or fit onto the roof where we were. Along the edge of the third level above us was an endless row of Nokhons with a good view of us below, watching and listening. When we finished playing there was a brief moment of silence, soon replaced by the audience calling and cheering. It got very noisy, call it disturbing the peace: you always know what's going to happen then. The Alutna tried to come for us, but couldn't get through the crowd. We were well out of reach. But then, who comes up from behind on a rooftop, out of nowhere? Yes, the Alutna-Jii Himself, looking stern. "Hi Daddy," should have been the magic words. I was packing my guitar in its bag, so it wasn't US making all the noise any more. But I had a feeling that trouble had arrived. "Skogsho!" he shouted, Silence, and hundreds of voices immediately were. Talk about stage presence, Daklakht had everyone's attention. "By Authority of the Ultimate Nine Elders of Shamballah I am arresting these two for violation of Atli. The rest of you shall disperse immediately or my agents shall be arresting you as well." Within a minute the only people in sight were the three of us on the roof, until two more Alutna finally made it up the stairs to join forces with Daklakht. "What are you doing, Daddy? You allowed us to play at the Kha-rat." "This is not about the my°sik," Daklakht said, "I have received commands from Shamballah, which I am forced to obey, and both of you are among those who are to be isolated from the population of Aket." "Isolated?" both Masnia and I asked simultaneously. "Just accompany me to Alutna Headquarters, please. Oh and Dadamet, I must take custody of your hollow log." "You're not going to try to smash it again, are you?" I had to ask. "I have received no such order yet, so I shall keep it safe for now." I handed him my guitar, there was no point struggling against the Alutna- Jii and two Alutna officers--not yet anyway. They politely escorted us to their Headquarters. Masnia tried to protest but her father was very formal with her, offering her no special consideration today. We soon discovered that we were not the only ones being arrested.

Chapter 85

Adam out of Eden