Story art by Nicholas Jainschigg.
From the author: I got the idea for Rhys Llwewllyn and his particular role in Tanaka Corp. from a Human Resources magazine I subscribed to once upon a time. In the magazine was an article on how much corporate culture resembled tribal cultures around the world. And that got me thinking….
Rhys Llewellyn was both ecstatic and agitated when the surveys indicated that the largest temperate land mass on the planet Pa-Loana was rich in something the natives called "foon."
He was ecstatic because a rich source of foon, known on Earth and its colonies as "superlatex," was sure to revolutionize the manufacture of all manner of clothing, sports gear, space suits, medical supplies—in short, anything that required a durable, flexible, low-care material.
He was also ecstatic because foon was so plentiful on Pa-Loana; a form of algae, it literally covered the face of the Pa-Loanian waters.
The natives inhabiting the largest temperate land mass of Pa-Loana (the Pa-Kai, by name) were friendly folk amenable to selling rights to exploit what, to them, was a nuisance that had to be strained out of their drinking water. This was cause for further ecstasy.
Rhys Llewellyn was agitated because he knew that the Resource Survey Team had returned the same reports to Bristol-Benz and that right now, somewhere in their sumptuous corporate offices, their head Contract Negotiator was studying those reports and feeling both ecstatic and agitated.
From this point on, it would be a space race to determine who got their negotiating team into the tent of the Pa-Kai Tribal Council first. Rhys Llewellyn was determined that it would be Tanaka Enterprises. To that end, he and his two assistants arrived at the Tanaka Corporate Travel Park an hour and a half after the reports landed in his terminal.
They spent the bulk of the five day TAS transit taking SubLearn courses in Pa-Kai language and etiquette, going over the Environmental Impact surveys and discussing strategies to use in case Bristol-Benz appeared on the scene before they had a firm deal. This last measure turned out to be unfortunately necessary. Rhys and company arrived at the Pa-Kai Council Tent just in time to join the Council of Chieftains and Elders in greeting the Bristol-Benz negotiators.
The exchange between the Tanaka and Bristol representatives was barely cordial, a thing which the Pa-Kai Eldest noted immediately.
"You are enemies?" he asked Rhys in flute-like tones. His crest of sagittal hair shifted forward in a gesture Rhys knew indicated intense curiosity.
"No," Rhys assured him carefully, making the "Please do not think that!" face. "We are..." There was no word for competitors in Pa-Kai. "We are grazers of the same field."
The Eldest nodded sagaciously and herded the two parties of "grazers" into the huge tent. Inside, the negotiators were accorded side-by-side sets of cushions arranged as part of a gigantic circle. The remainder of the circle was occupied by the Chieftains of the Pa-Kai Clans, while directly across from the Human delegation was the raised pallet of the Eldest Chieftain. Just before him on the ground, within a circle of stones, sat a character out of a childhood nightmare.
Dressed in feathered and furred garb that made the garish robes of the Chieftains look drab, the kneeling form sported a rainbow of cloth strips tied to its crest hair and an equally colorful pattern of ornate lines and symbols painted on its camelid face.
"Is that the court jester?" whispered Assistant Negotiator Roderick Halfax in Standard.
Rhys shook his head. "Shaman," he said.
"She," said Rhys. "And she holds a very important place in the Pa-Kai tribal hierarchy. Of all the Clan Shaman, she's considered to be the greatest. All others are her apprentices." He indicated the area behind the circle of Chieftains where the Shaman and Elders from each of the nineteen Pa-Kai Clans sat to observe the proceedings.
When all had been seated, the Eldest took his place on the raised pallet. At his bidding, a fruit beverage was served, along with small edibles called tso-tso that one dipped in a creamy fruit pulp called gua. Following his lead, Rhys Llewellyn's two assistants dipped, ate, and drank the servings given to them on small woven platters, then nodded, smiled, and smacked their lips. The Pa-Kai did likewise and added to the proceedings murmurs of pleasure and musical chatter. Very quickly the entire assemblage was dipping, eating, smacking, and chattering.
The only exception to this was the Bristol-Benz delegation, which ate and drank in relative silence, watching the rest of the crowd expressionlessly. After about twenty minutes of socializing, the head B-B negotiator set his speaking frond in the stand before his cushions and pointed his chin at the Eldest.
All chatter ceased abruptly. In her stone circle, the Pa-Kai Shaman executed three pirouettes and dropped to her knees staring up at the Eldest. She made a gesture at the B-B team with the tips of her three fingers, then sat cross-legged on the ground.
According to Rhys’s understanding of Pa-Kai Tribal etiquette, the Bristol-Benz negotiator had just committed an act bordering on the impudent. He watched with interest, waiting to see the rewards of that impatience.
The Eldest pointed at the B-B representative and said, "Speak, please."
On his right, Rhys’s second assistant, Yoshi Umeki, glanced at him with obvious concern. He shook his head very slightly and tapped his ear. She turned her attention to the Bristol negotiator as he rose and began to speak, hands folded across his flat stomach in a demure gesture reminiscent of a Nineteenth Century priest.
"We have come to bargain, O Beauteous One," he said in deep, awesome tones. "You have a thing which is, to you, an itch, but which is, to us, a scratch."
Rhys nodded, impressed. He'd been pitted against Vladimir Zarber before and had to admire the man's aura of dignity. It had, he was forced to admit, lost him a few contracts. In fact, in a scored contest, he would have to allow that Zarber was ahead by a score of 6-2. It didn't help that he had that wonderful basso profundo vocal quality or those elegant, understated gestures or that rolling (and authentic) Oxford accent. Compared to that, Rhys Llewellyn's tenor with its airy brogue (also authentic), sounded downright wimpy. This, Rhys decided, could be a long, painful process.
It was the Pa-Kai Shaman who returned Zarber's opening. "We hear you, O Deep Voice," she replied, her voice a flute to his bassoon. "We have foon. It is said you…need foon?" This last was said with what passed in Pa-Kai as a stifled snicker. The Shaman followed this by shaking a stick topped with a cluster of bells and uttering several shrill notes before hunkering down to hear Zarber's reply.
"This is the truth," said the negotiator solemnly. "We need foon."
A ripple of musical Pa-Kai laughter washed about the tent.
"Pardon our grins," said the Shaman, "but we find it difficult to eat the need of foon."
Zarber blinked and seemed momentarily nonplused. Rhys Llewellyn wondered if the Bristol-Benz reps had taken the time to study the Advanced Pa-Kai Dialect module of the Linguistic SubLearn package. Zarber's next comment indicated they had not.
"We don't intend to eat the foon," he said.
The Pa-Kai went into toots and twitters of mirth and the Shaman, her shoulders shaking with her own effort not to laugh, said, "We know you do not eat foon, O Humorous One. But what do you do with it?"
"We use foon to make another thing called super-latex or slatex. From this, we make many other things."
The Shaman seemed to find this as amusing as the idea of eating foon. "You use foon to make a thing to make another thing? Why not just make the thing?"
"We…used up…the foon on our home world," returned Zarber, lugubriously, making a face that said, "I am to be pitied." "Then we learned how to save it. We are letting our foon grow again, but we need so much super-latex, we must ask (pleadingly, his face said) for your excellent foon."
The Shaman had apparently never thought of foon as being excellent and stifled another display of mirth. "And you," she pointed her chin at Rhys. "You need foon, too?"
"Yes," he said. "We are here to bargain for what you call foon."
"And you used up all your foon, also?" The Shaman's snout wrinkled with her effort not to laugh.
"We are children of the same home world," explained Rhys. "We represent two different . . .clans. His clan wants the foon," —he pointed with all four fingers at Zarber—"and our clan also wants it."
The Shaman's semi-circular eyebrows rose sharply, causing her forehead to wrinkle. "Clans? You are Shaman, then, are you? Which of these are your chiefs? Pardon our eyes, but your clothing is so young and dirty we cannot tell you apart."
Zarber gave his clothing a secret glance, then said importantly, "Our Chief remains on our homeworld. He is handling other important business. We have come to speak for him."
There was a collective gasp from the assembled Pa-Kai. All eyes turned to the Eldest. He rose and all the Chieftains rose with him. Without a word, they filed silently out of the tent. Zarber gaped.
Rhys Llewellyn shook his head. While the lingual lessons had been relatively thorough, the etiquette sections had obviously left some serious gaps. He'd have to remedy that when this was over, but right now he prayed that notes on business etiquette were not all he came out of this with.
The Shaman had risen and jutted her chin at them. "Chiefs must be present," she said.
"But our Chief is on another world," objected Zarber with injured dignity. "He has many things to do."
The Shaman was obviously offended. "And our Chieftains sit on their hands? You cannot make decisions for your Chief."
"But I assure you, I can. I have his full authority."
"You are Shaman, not Chief," persisted the Shaman. "Shaman guides Chief, not takes the place of Chief."
"Pardon my muddiness," crooned Zarber, "but I am not a Shaman. I am a speaker for the Chief."
"Not Shaman?" The camel-like face displayed the "This is offensive/distressing/horrifying/unparalleled news" expression. She turned her dark violet-blue eyes to Rhys. "Are you not a Shaman, too?"
Rhys glanced from the Shaman to Zarber. "I am a Shaman," he said succinctly.
The Pa-Kai reacted by carefully opening her circle of stones and mincing across the tent to meet Rhys face to face. She jutted her chin at him and pointed at his chest. "You bring your Chief and we talk. You," she added, with a clipped gesture at the Bristol-Benz group, "bring a Shaman and a Chief, then we talk."
That said, she flourished her bell-stick, whirled in a rainbow of fabric and trotted from the tent. The Elders and other Shaman immediately dispersed.
"Whoof!" Rick Halfax shook his head. "That was a quark!"
"No, I should have anticipated it." Rhys picked up his brief-comp. "Let's go retrench."
"So, Llewellyn," said Zarber's bottomless voice from behind him, "what do you suppose you gained by pretending to be theTanaka Shaman?"
"What makes you think I'd tell you?"
The older man smiled, looking like a cross between a freshly fed Count Dracula and a cheerful mortician. "Just checking. Tell me, you aren't really going to ask Danetta Price to come out here and pow-wow with the natives, are you?"
"Do I have a choice?"
"You could use your imagination…that is, assuming you've got one."
"Use my imagination. You mean lie?"
Zarber shrugged. "You're already doing that, aren't you…Shaman?" He gathered his team and left.
"Are we going to ask Ms. Price to come to Pa-Loana?" asked Yoshi.
"If we want that foon, I think we have to."
"Are you sure this is necessary, Rhys?" Framed in the com-unit’s visual display, Danetta Price looked a little skeptical and a lot harried. "I'm in the middle of a buyout of Goodyear and the ‘B-B shooters’ are giving us a hell of a time."
"Tell me about it," said Rhys. "I've got Vladimir Zarber at this end."
"Oh?" Danetta was suddenly very interested. "That explains why he's not here. It also means they think this foon thing is as important as we do..." She chewed her lower lip, frowning. "By the way, you have my sympathy…about Zarber. But do you really-"
"Yes, I do think it's necessary. The tribal etiquette demands that both Chiefs and Shaman be involved in any negotiations that affect the tribal Clans. I've already established myself as the Tanaka Clan Shaman. Now, we just need a Clan Chieftain."
"Lord, this is right up your ethnic alley, isn't it? Do they wear plaid kilts?"
"No, more like paisleys and feathers. Can you come, or shall I pack up and hie home?"
Danetta Price heaved a gigantic sigh. "What's Bristol-Benz doing?"
"I think Vladimir is considering bringing in a ringer. He's got a backlog of assistants to draw from. The only problems is, they're all fairly young. He had his senior assistant and secretary with him today and he's already established that neither of them is the Chieftain."
"Do you think the Pa-Kai can tell a young Human from a mature one?"
"I don't know, but I have a suspicion this Shaman of theirs could. They're humanoid themselves—or pretty much so. I can tell their young ones from the senior citizens. Although, I have to admit, that's partly a function of dress..."
"Get that introspective look off your face and advise me, Rhys. What do you think?"
"I think if we don't want to have to purchase all our slatex from Bristol-Benz, you'd better take the next TAS shuttle to Pa-Loana. I'm not going to snoot these people with a bogus Chieftain."
Danetta sighed again. "Damn your ethical hide, Rhys. All right, you're the Professor. Is it nice there? How's the weather?"
"It's beautiful. Lush, green, violet skies, mild temperatures."
She smiled. "Sounds like Newscot—except for the violet skies. You ought to be right at home."
He returned the smile. "Well, there aren't any stone circles, but I like it. When you get here, I'll show you the sights."
He broke the link and sat for a moment, staring at the blank screen of the com-unit. Then he went to find the shuttle's Captain.
"I don't understand," said Yoshi, frowning at the colorful piles of cloth. "Why are you making a costume?"
Rhys selected a vibrantly green rain tarp and flung it over his shoulders. It clashed agreeably with the red of his tartan. "I'm a Shaman, aren't I? I want to look like one."
"Count Vladimir is going to laugh his fangs out," warned Rick.
"Let him. If his fangs fall out, so much the better for us. Now, I want you two to do a little reconnaissance work. Go hobnob with some apprentice Shaman. Check out what they wear and how they act. Then, we'll design some costumes for you, too."
"Are you serious, Professor?" asked Rick, scrunching up his forehead.
"Look, Roddy, we've already made a not-so-wonderful first impression by appearing in 'young, dirty' clothes. We need to improve on that, don't you think?"
Yoshi frowned. "What does that mean—'young, dirty' clothes? Why did the Shaman say that?"
"Take a look around the villages. See if you can figure it out for yourselves. Now, get on it."
Rhys arranged the bright orange fingers he'd cut from a pair of Tanaka OmniClime all-weather gloves into a cockscomb atop his very red hair. He waggled his head to make sure they'd stay put, then left the shuttle.
He managed to locate the Eldest's Shaman without too much trouble and approached her, making the "Your humble equal approaches you" face and matching gestures. He sidled the last three steps to stand before her, underlining his appreciation of her station.
"You have put off your young, dirty clothes," observed the Shaman.
"That was my costume of travel," explained Rhys lightly. "We came to you straight from our ship and had no time to put on our proper clothing."
The Shaman nodded, looking Rhys over carefully. "You are much prettier," she said, then made the "Listen, I am saying something important" face. "A Shaman must never forget its dignity," she told him. "Better you should dress well and be late than appear in the Council Tent in a child's clothing."
Rhys nodded and looked woebegone, letting his shoulders droop. "This is so," he sighed.
The Shaman put her long narrow hand on his shoulder and canted her head to one side. "You are very young," she told him, "but I feel you have the colors of a good Shaman. You can learn much by watching your elders."
"It will be a privilege to learn (most humbly) from you, O Colorful One."
The Shaman smiled toothily. "Your praise is singing. Now, say why you have come."
"I wished you to know, O Bright and Shining One, that my Chieftain will arrive in four of your days and will be honored to sit in the Council Tent of the Pa-Kai."
The Shaman made a "Have I heard you correctly?" face and said, "Why does it take so much longer for your Chief to arrive? You and not-Shaman Rumble Mouth are from the same world, yet he sends an Elder to tell me his Chief will arrive tomorrow morning."
Rhys wished he could just bring himself to tell the Shaman that was because the Bristol-Benz "Chief" was a fake, but his personal code of ethics forbade that bit of back-biting. Besides, as far as he knew the Pa-Kai didn't have a word for fake. He suspected they would after associating with Humans for any length of time.
He didn't have any way to explain Time Altered Space travel to the Pa-Kai either, so he settled for trying to bill Danetta Price as a conscientious sort of Chief, in Pa-Kai terms.
"Your wise eyes will easily see why that is," he said. "My Chieftain is a female and she feels she must see to the needs of her Clan families before she can be free to do business."
The Shaman nodded approvingly. "An honorable Chieftain. I will advise the Eldest that we should wait for her arrival before speaking again of foon. It would be only courteous to do so."
"Thank you, Most Splendid Shaman!" exclaimed Rhys, bowing deeply, then capering two steps to one side. "I am fulfilled."
"Welcomes, young Shaman. Now, it would please me if you would adore to see my laboratory/workshop/office/place of colorings."
Rhys boggled at the rich palette of nuances the last word provided. He understood clearly, however, that he was being singled out for the Shaman's special attention. He accepted her invitation eagerly.
"Your place of colorings will be my School Tent, my Great Tent, my Paradise," he said, and realized that a deep part of him meant it in more than the polite sense.
Vladimir Zarber was furious when he heard that negotiations would be held up until the arrival of the Tanaka CEO. He didn't look furious or sound furious—at least not in front of the Pa-Kai. In front of the Pa-Kai he nodded and cooed and said merely that the Chief of Bristol-Benz would be disappointed. In front of Rhys and his team, Zarber was considerably more disgruntled.
"What did you do?" he asked Rhys suspiciously. "How did you get them to postpone the talks? I had that Shaman convinced our Chief was honoring them by showing up so fast. She was suitably impressed."
Rhys scratched his jaw and gazed cross-clearing at the Pa-Kai's tent village, glowing in the twilight. "I only told her our Chief had some things to take care of on Jamal first."
Zarber's eyes narrowed. "That should have put her off. You didn't tell her..."
Rhys could tell he was searching for the appropriate euphemism. "What, that there was no way in God's great Cosmos you could get your CEO here by tomorrow morning? No, Vlad. I didn't make a peep. Your…fairy tales are your concern. I'd only expose one of them if I thought it might endanger somebody."
"You make me sound like a crass materialist."
Rhys shook his head. "You're a businessman, Vladimir. Neither pure nor simple. But I do admire your style."
The older man raised silken brows in an arc of surprise. "Why, thank you, Llewellyn. Dare I hope that praise is sincere?"
"I'm always sincere."
"Yes, you are," agreed Zarber cheerfully. "And that, young man, is bound to be your undoing in this business. You have neither the ability nor the inclination to prevaricate."
Rhys shrugged. "I've always subscribed to the belief that, more often than not, honesty really is the best policy."
"That is a subscription best canceled," retorted Zarber, visibly pleased with the glib pun. "Most developed cultures expect cleverness in business dealings, whereas our primitive hosts here would be offended by what you call sincerity."
"I'm not sure I agree with your definition of cleverness, Vlad. But I think our 'primitive hosts' may be quite offended to discover that your 'Chief' is one of your assistants, and that the real CEO of Bristol-Benz couldn't be bothered to attend the negotiations."
Zarber's expression darkened. "Is that a threat?"
"No. I've already told you I have no intention of pulling your covers off."
"Then the point is moot, isn't it? Since there's no one else around to pull my covers."
"I suppose so… Look, it's getting dark and we've got a state dinner to attend." Rhys glanced toward the tent village again.
"Oh, yes, of course. And I suppose you're looking forward to it."
"Yes, I am. Now, if you'll excuse me...?" Rhys gave his competitor a slight nod and headed back to the shuttle.
He really was looking forward to the banquet, he realized as he donned his flamboyant Shaman's garb. His afternoon in the company of the Pa-Kai Eldest's Shaman, Pa-Lili, had been interesting and productive. Pa-Lili had given him a tour of her workshop, performed several characteristically Pa-Kai magics for his edification, and taken him on her "rounds," explaining certain spells, tonics, and cures as she executed them.
In turn, he had demonstrated the workings of both his communicator/recorder and his brief-comp, and shown her what Humans made with foon. He'd used his own purple dress unisuit by way of example, as well as the waterproof fabric of his "cape" and the fluorescent splendor of his head ornaments. Pa-Lili had been very impressed, although a bit disappointed to hear that his dress kilt was fabricated from the wool of a creature that thrived only on Earth and one or two of its colonies.
She'd made such delightful noises over his entire outfit that he had promised to make a gift of some similar garments. His preparation for the evening's festivities had included the careful folding and wrapping of those gifts, which now reposed on his bunk-side unit next to the little pile of Shamanistic fetishes and charms Pa-Lili had insisted he have to fill his sporran (which she had taken to be an empty medicine pouch). He smiled at them, feeling a genuine fondness for the Pa-Kai Shaman, and put on the lulac stone necklace with its small pendant spirit bag. It clashed wonderfully with the rest of his outfit and he knew Pa-Lili would approve.
So, he thought, might his ancient Celtic ancestors.
His assistants, on the other hand, did not approve.
"Do we really have to wear these crazy get-ups?" whined Rick. "I look like a neo-deco Franciscan monk."
"No, you look like a Pa-Kai apprentice Shaman," said Rhys. “Franciscan monks didn't wear that particular shade of chartreuse."
"Aren't we taking this 'when in Rome' stuff a little too far?"
"Not if it makes the Pa-Kai more comfortable with us."
"But why are we pretending to be Shaman?" asked Yoshi, peering at him from beneath the nest of colorful cloth strips that festooned her hair. "I thought you said we should always be honest in our dealings with indigenous cultures."
"Who said anything about pretending? All three of us are the product of cultures in which Shaman played an important early role. We're just reaching back to our own roots." Rhys studied the two dubious faces for a moment, then sighed. "Look, I realize this is a bit different from our usual negotiating style. Normally, we'd just throw on the dress clothing, behave in what is generally accepted to be a civilized manner, and offer the sought-after goods and technologies. And I realize you two are out of your element here. But consider this: We know that as far as the Pa-Kai are concerned, there are two parties necessary for official, binding negotiations—the Chieftain of the Clan or Tribe and the ranking Shaman. If our CEO is the equivalent of their Eldest..."
Yoshi nodded. "Then you're the logical equivalent of their Shaman and the Shaman must have apprentices and we have to look and act the part."
"Exactly. And when it comes to looking and acting the part, there is a…slightly different measure of decorum among the Pa-Kai than we're used to. The clothing we consider businesslike, they consider unworthy."
Yoshi continued to nod, her dark eyes lighting. "Yes. Our clothes seemed dirty to them—drab like the clothing worn by their children—little color."
Rick blinked at her. "Is that what that was all about?"
"Didn't you notice? The young Pa-Kai wear drabber colors than their elders. I would say you earn your colors on this part of Pa-Loana. It's a sign of status. The more colors, the greater the status."
Rhys was pleased. The girl had the makings of a good cultural anthropologist. He wondered what either of them was doing in a negotiating team for a major corporation.
Rick nodded. "All right. So, we looked young and dirty. And since we want to impress them as mature and capable..." He shook his colorful habit.
"You've got it. But don't forget the behavior part of the equation. A Shaman is obviously expected to use the full range of body language to communicate. Our mannerisms probably seem …weak or even secretive to them."
Rick's eyes glinted with a sudden spark of realization. "Then, Count Vladimir, with his dress blues and dignity fetish..."
"May find that what were once assets are now liabilities," finished Rhys. "At least, that's what I'm hoping." He crooked his finger at them. "Let's go."
"But," said Yoshi, falling into step beside him, "what if Zarber catches on?"
"I'm hoping he won't. After all, he accused me of the same thing you did—pretense."
Yoshi blushed. "Sorry, sir."
"No apologies necessary. Now, think Shamanistic thoughts and smile."
The Tanaka contingent arrived at the collective village circle to find that the Bristol-Benz party had preceded them. Vladimir Zarber's expression went from arch to stunned to incredulous to amused and back to arch again in remarkably swift succession. Dressed in a midnight blue full-dress unisuit, he strolled over to Rhys with all the swagger of a nineteenth century buccaneer and looked him over from head to toe with a scathing, chuckling glance.
"What in the name of creation are you made up for, Llewellyn? Have you gone completely mad?"
Rhys smiled. "Not that I know of. I'm just trying to fit in with the other Shaman."
"Really? You could have just explained that where we come from, Shaman don't dress like that. That's what I intend to do if the subject of my 'youthful' garb comes up again. After all, Llewellyn, in our common culture, it's the immature who costume themselves in garish abandon."
"That's true. But this isn't our culture, common or otherwise."
Zarber shook his head. "Honestly, I can't imagine what Danetta Price was thinking of to hire a Professor of Anthropology over someone with Ph.D. s in Business Psychology and Diplomacy. You are completely unqualified for this line of work, you know. You belong in a dusty little museum somewhere, pottering about with bones and poring over hieroglyphs. It astounds me that you've enjoyed as much success as you have. I can only credit it to your beleaguered support staff." He flicked his gaze to Yoshi and Rick, who met his eyes with cool insolence. "You're an archetypal geek, Llewellyn," he said flatly. "And you're turning your assistants into geeks, too."
"So there!" muttered Rick when Zarber had stalked off again. "I guess that put us in our place. What was that about Price picking an Anthropologist over a Doctor of Biz-Psych?"
"I don't know," said Rhys thoughtfully. "Curious comment, wasn't it?"
A gong sounded just then, announcing the arrival of the Eldest and his Shaman. There was a general clearing away of Pa-Kai along his preferred route as he was carried to his place in the banquet circle by four hefty specimens, each bearing a corner of his carved and ornamented pallet. He was preceded by Pa-Lili and followed by a standard bearer whose pole-top pennant blazed with the Eldest's Clan emblem.
Rhys and his assistants bowed and bobbed along with the Pa-Kai, then went to greet their seated host. The Shaman showed them to their seats. She put Rhys to her right and Zarber to her left. Each set of apprentices sat flanking their Shaman. Rhys felt intuitively that the arrangement augured well, if for no other reason than that by placing him so, Pa-Lili seemed to be expressing a preference for his company.
She heightened his suspicion of favoritism by addressing him with great familiarity during the ensuing meal. At one point, having told what passed among the Pa-Kai as a joke, she even slapped him sonorously on the back.
Zarber, quite literally on the other hand, she treated with pronounced decorum. She referred to him always as "Shaman Tsar-Bar" and never once slipped from the Pa-Kai formal pronouns into the more familiar address she used with Rhys. Rhys was pleased with that, but he was the slightest bit uneasy about the fact that Zarber seemed as pleased with her formality as he was with her familiarity.
Just as bemusing was the title "Shaman" being accorded to a man who, earlier that day, Pa-Lili had referred to as "not-Shaman Rumble Mouth." Taking advantage of Zarber's distraction by the food and entertainment, Rhys turned to Pa-Lili wearing the "Question?" expression.
"Pardon my nose, O Radiant Pa-Lili, but may I ask why you refer to Zarber as a Shaman? I thought I heard him say he was not a Shaman of the Bristol-Benz Clan."
"Ah." Pa-Lili nodded. "Yes, that one was a little confused. He said he did not understand what was being asked of him. The word 'Shaman' was not familiar to him. He said among the members of his Clan he is called 'Doctor.'" Her violet eyes gazed at him very directly. "You had no trouble with the word."
"We are from different Tribes," explained Rhys. "Our training was very different."
"He has more age than you, Reeslooelen." The name rolled off Pa-Lili's long slender tongue with a fluidity Rhys had thought possessed only by native speakers of Gaelic.
He smiled and nodded. "Yes, he's quite a bit older than I am."
Pa-Lili displayed a most Human frown of bemusement and commented, "He dresses very young. Perhaps he is not comfortable enough with age to admit to it."
Rhys swallowed a chuckle. "May I also ask why you are so formal with Shaman Zarber?"
"I do this because he likes to be addressed from a distance," said Pa-Lili. "It strokes him. You would be put off with such formality."
Rhys bit the inside of his lip. He'd been wrong. Pa-Lili was obviously very sensitive to the personality quirks of other beings. As she was "stroking" Zarber with formality, she was "stroking" Rhys with intimacy.
"And besides," Pa-Lili said, after a moment of thought, "I like you."
Rhys quite nearly blushed. He felt a rush of pleased surprise. "I like you, too," he told her.
She blinked and made the "This pleases" face, her crest hair rippling visibly. She patted his hand. "You wear my gift spirit bag," she noted.
"Oh, yes. Thank you, Many Hued Pa-Lili. Your gifts were most generous. My medicine pouch is full."
"What spell do you weave—or is it a secret one?"
Rhys mind went blank except for the entirely irrelevant thought that no one had ever asked him that before and was this what it was like to attend a Sorcerer's Convention?
"I would like to weave a spell of good will and complete honesty," he said. That sounded innocuous enough and seemed to please Pa-Lili.
"What, then, are the contents of your bag?"
"I, uh… It's empty." He knew that was wrong and gritted his teeth, waiting for Pa-Lili to register her offense at his ineptitude.
She merely shook her head and clucked at him from somewhere deep in her throat, her long face saying, Poor baby. "No spell may be drawn from an empty bag," she told him with the air of one repeating ageless advice. "You must place the spell-weaver within."
Rhys blinked, sensing his apprentice's eyes hot on the side of his perspiring face.
"A spell-weaver?" he asked limply.
Pa-Lili clucked again. "What do they teach you on your world, Reeslooelen?" She began a rhythmic recitation: "Within the bag must live/the fetish that will power give. Within the bag must dwell / the talisman that weaves the spell." She raised a long finger. "If a thing is to be tagged, a piece of it goes in the bag. If a soul is to be touched, a bit of their life will serve as such."
She finished the musical little chant and nodded once, then turned her eyes to Rhys. "They do not teach you this?"
"Not exactly, but I think I understand."
"I don't," said Yoshi unexpectedly. She colored as both Rhys and Pa-Lili turned to look at her. She pressed her hands together before her chest and bowed her head deferentially. "Pardon me, Most Wise Ones, but what does it mean—'a bit of their life?' How can you put a bit of someone's life in a bag?"
Pa-Lili deferred to Rhys. "Will you explain to your apprentice, Reeslooelen?"
Rhys nodded. "Certainly." He turned to Yoshi and crossed his fingers under the billow of his cape, hoping that Pa-Kai Shamanism followed the same rules as the ancient Earth cultures he'd studied—his own included. "What the Sagacious Pa-Lili means is that something pertaining to the person for whom the spell is intended must be placed in the bag to—ah—to bind the spell and to…point it in the right direction."
Out of the corner of his eye, Rhys could see Pa-Lili twitching the end of her camelid nose in agreement. He heaved a mental sigh of relief.
"Well spoken," said the Pa-Kai Shaman. "The bag contains the pointer to the spell, for the spirits/angels must know where the spell is to go—to what or whom it must be bound. So, you give them a twist of hair, a drop of blood, a slice of skin. If many people are involved—many bits of life go into the bag."
Yoshi looked queasy. "Blood and skin?"
Pa-Lili gave an artless Pa-Kai shrug. "Eh, those things are needed only for the most potent of healing or educational spells."
"Educational spells?" Rick echoed.
Pa-Lili looked at him sternly down the length of her nose. "You don't know about educational spells?"
"They are very young apprentices," Rhys defended them. "Also, on our world Shamanistic apprentices tend to—um—specialize."
"A serious mistake, Reeslooelen," remonstrated Pa-Lili. "If everyone specializes, there will soon be no masters of the total discipline. A Shaman is by nature a General Practitioner—a Knower of All Knowledge. How else are we to intelligently advise our Chieftains?"
"So true," said Rhys with a Sigh face barely hiding a smile. "I have often felt that on our worlds, the knowledge of each successive generation of Shaman is narrower than the one before. These children would benefit much by your knowledge, O Flamboyant Pa-Lili."
Pa-Lili's crest danced. She raised her elongated head and gazed fondly at the "children" through her sweet eyes. "An educational spell is used when the student is too dense to learn the normal way. It is a great restorer of law and order for those who cannot control their behavior."
"You mean, um..." Yoshi began, then stopped in bemusement. She turned to Rhys. "How do they say 'criminals?'" she asked in Standard.
"Actually, they don't seem to have a word for them." Rhys made the "How surprising!" face at Pa-Lili. "Do you mean that when people, er, misbehave or do wrong things, you put a spell on them to…instruct them?"
"To instruct and enlighten, yes. These are our educational spells."
"Do they work?" asked Rick incredulously—for which Rhys would have cheerfully kicked him, if he could have reached that far.
"Of course, they work!" hooted Pa-Lili. "What good is a spell that doesn't work?" She turned to Rhys and murmured, "This apprentice needs much remedial work. You might consider using a bit of an educational spell on him."
Rhys chuckled. "You may be right, O Wise Pa-Lili."
"I would wager the Wise Pa-Lili is seldom, if ever, wrong," said Vladimir Zarber's voice.
Rhys was pleased to note the fleeting expression that crossed Pa-Lili's face before she turned to include the Bristol-Benz negotiator in the conversation. The Advanced Lingual Base had translated it as, "An insect has just landed on an unreachable part of my anatomy."
In the next three days, Rhys and his two "apprentices" spent much time in the company of the Pa-Kai, taking tours of the nineteen Clan villages and "talking shop" with every Shaman they could collar. Pa-Lili's personal apprentices were eager to display their knowledge to their Human counterparts and gave a good deal of their time to do so.
"Today," said Rick at the end of day three, "we learned three different ways to cure crest hair loss and a couple of incantations for Pa-Lili's so-called educational spells." He set his recorder down on the table in the shuttle's small passenger lounge and peeled off his crestcap.
Rhys nodded at the recorder. "You put them on disc?"
"Sure, why not? I figured you'd be interested in their anthropological value…Prof," he added, grinning. "And besides, I think they're pretty hooky tunes. Put a band behind 'em and you've got some real hits. Here, give a listen." He turned the recorder on.
A melody of fluid grace cascaded out of the tiny machine accompanied by the rhythmic beat of a tuned drum and the crystalline ching! of some native chimes. Rhys was charmed. Yoshi smiled with delight, humming along.
"That's wonderful!" said Rhys when the chants were finished. "You were right—I think it's absolutely fascinating. What instrument was that Hi-Pok was playing?"
"A padachi," said Yoshi. She searched the medicine pouch Thuili, Pa-Lili's female apprentice, had given her and came up with what appeared to be a tiny drum with a handle. At the end of the colorfully wrapped handle was what looked like a green glass ball with a grinning mouth. Within the ball was a smaller ball made of some bright, golden metal. "She even showed me how to play it." Yoshi rolled into a sweet rendition of a soft, dreamy chant.
Rhys smiled, settling comfortably into a lounger to listen. The little piece made him think of hot cider and glowing fireplaces and vivid, soft plaid blankets.
He pulled himself from the drowsy reverie when he realized Yoshi had stopped singing. "That was—that was exquisite. What was it?"
"Thuili called it a rulurulu—a cradle charm. They use it to put sick or restless children to sleep."
The warm wash of his own amazement brought Rhys fully awake. He glanced at Rick, ready to admit laughingly that the charm had certainly worked its magic on him. But his apprentice was fast asleep, curled cozily among the voluminous folds of his chartreuse robes.
Yoshi giggled. "It had the same effect on him when Hi-Pok chanted it today."
"Well, he didn't fall asleep, but he got pretty dozy." She handed Rhys the padachi. "I guess it's all that late night feasting and dancing we've been doing, huh?" Her face said she wasn't sure she believed that.
"Yeah, I guess that must be it," agreed Rhys, turning the little drum over in his hands. The little ball-chime sounded musically and Rick stirred, smiled, and cuddled further into his robes.
"Makes me sleepy just looking at him," yawned Yoshi. "I think I'll turn in. What time tomorrow is Ms. Price due in from Corporate?"
"Uh, sometime in the late afternoon, if she's on schedule."
"Oh, good. Well, goodnight, sir."
Rhys got up, wondering if he should wake Rick or let him sleep. In the end, curiosity got the better of him. He crossed the cabin and shook the younger man's shoulder.
"Huh?" Rick blinked, brought his eyes into focus on Rhys’s face, then struggled to sit up. "What-?"
"You fell asleep."
Rick made a disgusted face. "That dratted cradle tune, again."
"You think it works?"
Rick shrugged, coloring. "It's certainly a relaxing little ditty."
"Just out of curiosity, what were you thinking about just before you…succumbed?"
The color in Rick's face heightened. "You'll laugh."
"Only if I was thinking similar thoughts."
"Well…when I was a kid, my mom would read me books in one of those old flotation chairs. She'd turn the heating unit up just a bit and I'd sit there bobbing up and down in her lap drinking hot chocolate, and in about the middle of the second story..." He shrugged. "She never once let me spill the chocolate."
Rhys chuckled. "I was having hot cider before a roaring fire wrapped in my favorite blanket." He looked at the padachi again, shaking his head. "Old wives' tales and folk magic—they've done well by humanity for millennia."
"This isn't the beginning of a lecture on folklore, is it, Prof?"
Rhys caught the look on Rick's face and laughed. "No, Roddy, I'll spare you that. Go ahead and get some sleep. We have a big day tomorrow."
He picked up Rick's recorder, popped the tiny disk out and slipped it into his sporran, tossing the recorder back to its owner. "See you bright and early, apprentice Roddihalfs."
They breakfasted at 0700 hours planetary time in a pleasant glen hard by the shuttle and still dressed in their shipboard "drabs." Rhys Llewellyn drank five cups of coffee and jotted notes on his pocket pad.
"You look tired, sir," observed Yoshi, then smiled shyly. "Did the lullaby wear off?"
Rhys shook his head. "I had some preparations to make for the negotiations tomorrow morning."
"But you have all day to do that, don't you, sir?"
"Today, we'll need to make strategic and physical preparations. I figured I'd get the computer work out of the way last night."
"What physical preparations?" asked Rick, munching a piece of native fruit.
"We'll need a banner, for one thing."
"Haven't you noticed that whenever a group of Chieftains gathers they each have a Clan banner behind them?"
"I noticed. But we don't have a Clan banner."
"No. We have a corporate logo. And your job for the day is to see that that logo is put onto a banner. A very colorful banner. There's still a good supply of those OmniClime tarps, which fortunately come in a myriad of bright colors. By the by, there's also the matter of Ms. Price's pallet for the banquet. The Pa-Kai will supply the wooden frame and set it up in the banquet circle, but it's up to our Clan to provide proper ornamentation. Yoshi, you're the ornamentation committee. See if you can determine what the well-turned out Chieftain is supposed to deck his or her self in."
Yoshi nodded eagerly, her eyes kindling. "I've already got a pretty good idea. It seems to be related to the goods a particular Clan produces… This is fun, sir."
Rick snorted, whether at Yoshi's comment or the approaching visitor, Rhys wasn't sure.
"Don't look now, but here comes the Count and he doesn't look happy."
That was an understatement, Rhys decided. Zarber looked incensed. In fact, if smoke had been curling out of his ears, it would have seemed completely natural.
"To what do we owe this pleasant--"
"I have no intention of making this pleasant, Llewellyn," he said in his most profundo basso. "You are a scoundrel; an underhanded, sneaky, spineless individual---
"Yes, I know what a scoundrel is, thank you," said Rhys mildly. "How does it apply to me? I thought I was an archetypal nerd."
"You," returned Zarber, "have been fraternizing with the natives. Sucking up to that Pa-Kai medicine man all week, putting on your silly costumes, clutching your pouches, dangling your spirit bags. You've been working on a deal behind my back!"
Rhys sat up, his own temper on a sudden rise. "What kind of a half-assed accusation is that?"
"Rather more than half an ass, I think. Neither my assistants nor I have been blind to your dark plottings. You've monopolized not only the Shaman's time, but its apprentices’, as well. We haven't been able to get so much as a ten second audience."
"'Dark plottings?' Don't be so melodramatic. We're just being friendly and trying to win their respect. There's nothing sneaky about that."
"You're doing more than being friendly, you're currying favor. You're--"
"And what are you doing with the Eldest in the meantime?" asked Yoshi unexpectedly. "You and your so-called Chieftain have been having teapots with him every morning and bringing him little imported goodies every afternoon."
"We were invited."
"So were we. Pa-Lili invited us to fraternize. It's only courteous to accept the invitation."
"Is that what you call this silly masquerade—this shamanizing nonsense? Courtesy? You're making fools of yourselves."
Rhys’s mouth puckered thoughtfully. "Maybe you're right…but would you like to bet on it?"
Zarber's eyes narrowed, making him look as if he'd just bitten into a lemon (or into someone who'd just eaten one). "What do you know, Llewellyn, hm? What privileged information have you weaseled out of that Pa-Kai wind bag?"
Yoshi gasped. "You're a very rude man," she told Zarber indignantly. "That's a terrible thing to say about Pa-Lili. She's nice!"
Rhys smothered a laugh. Yoshi reminded him strongly of a certain little girl from Kansas facing down a certain Cowardly Lion. All she needed was to be clutching a little black mongrel. The impression was obviously shared by Zarber.
"Are all of your associates as gullible as Dorothy, here, or is that just an act?" he asked.
"I think Yoshi is right," said Rhys. "The only wind bag around here is you. Now, if you'll excuse us, we have a lot to do before the negotiations begin tomorrow morning."
Zarber glared at Rhys, iron-faced. "I'll just bet you do. Well, I can play charades, too, Llewellyn. Probably better than you can."
"Ooh," said Rhys, clutching at his collar. "I'm scared."
Zarber flushed a deep scarlet and left with long, dignified strides.
"If he could arrange to turn that color in front of the Pa-Kai, he might score some points," observed Rick. "Geez, he's slick. Slick as a wet rock." He turned an admiring eye on Rhys. "You handled that beautifully, by the way… Are you scared? Of losing this one to the Count, I mean."
Rhys nodded. "Terrified."
"I'm not," said the stalwart Dorothy. "I know you can out-maneuver him, sir."
Rick snorted. "I just hope he's not better at playing charades than we are."
"Who's playing charades?" asked Rhys. "I'm not. I hope you're not. And if Zarber is, then he might just sabotage his own position."
"We could help," suggested Yoshi. "Just let me get a lock of his hair."
"Good God, what for?" asked Rick, staring at her.
"Don't you pay any attention to Hi-Pok and Thuilu? You put the hair in the spirit bowl, immerse it in pure water, and lay the curse. Then, you put it in the spirit bag so the spirits will know what to do, and you wear the spirit bag over your heart so you can help direct their efforts. Very simple."
Rick ogled. "You don't really believe that stuff."
"Why not? The rulurulu worked on you—twice."
"I was exhausted and the melody was soothing. Big deal."
Yoshi shrugged. "So, don't believe. Laugh at your ancestors. I'm sure they don't care."
Rhys watched the exchange with quiet amusement. For all his study of the cultural lore of a thousand civilizations, both major and minor, he'd never come to a definite belief about magic. His own ethnic history was saturated with it—tales of the Druids, the Ancient Ones, the Elements; legends of Merlin (Myrddin to his Gaelic and Welsh speaking forebears), tales of stone circles and moonlit rites of power-dark sorcery. Yet his beliefs were nebulous—much less studied than the dry-paper facts and academic theories that were the meat of the twin fields of Anthropology and Archaeology.
Belief. He believed in a Deity, he knew that. And he'd always supposed that Deity communicated with Its myriad creatures in whatever way was comprehensible to each kind. Magic, spells, prayers (curses, even) could certainly qualify as the creatures' response to that communication. He tried to keep an open mind into which evidence like the effects of the rulurulu could freely fall. And, when the evidence hit bottom…
"Come on, Professor. Tell her she's being brain-washed," Rick was insisting. "She thinks you're going to put a curse on this guy."
Rhys shook his head. "No, I'm surely not going to do that. That would be…unethical, un-Shamanly…downright scroundrelly. I don't believe in putting curses on people, Yoshi. But I do appreciate the thought." He stood and stretched. "Okay. Everybody up. We've got work to do."
... Concluded in Part 2 ...
This story originally appeared in Analog.
The stories in this collection were first published in Analog between 1990 and 2011. They feature the adventures of eccentric kilt-wearing anthropologist / archaeologist / xenologist Rhys Llewellyn and his able assistants, Yoshi Umeki and Roderick Halfax. Given my fascination with archaeology, first contact...and all things Gaelic or Scottish, I suppose these stories were inevitable. Without further ado, let me introduce you to Rhys Llewellyn—
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