Quasi-Indefatigable Xenolith



A Moment of Great Weight

I loathed "field trips" as a school-boy. They seemed to be little more than an excuse for a teacher to get a few hours away from the pressure cooker that is the common school. Nominally educational, the day would be packed with roll calls, constant loading and unloading from buses, hidden indiscretions, "getting lost from the group" in moments of authoritarian inattention, and the sort of inter-student retaliations that work best away from the formal school campus. Basically, it was the playground for thuggery.

Every teacher supposed that the students wanted to get away from the classroom just as much as they did, so there was little pressure required to coerce students into the field trip. The attitude often turned to using it like a privilege to elicit good behavior. Nasty students played along, knowing the opportunities to practically rape others or smoke marijuana on school time could not be passed up. I seemed strangely singular in contriving some excuse to miss the "opportunity", like getting a terrible case of some 24-hour flu or having to catch up on some assignment.

"Are you sure?" the teacher would say sympathetically, as if I should be distraught.

I would sneeze again with gusto and wave off her concern. "No, really. I would only be a burden."

At this, the pity would climb a notch and she would often pat me on the head. "You wouldn't be any trouble!"

The most important thing at this juncture is to get the teacher to be on your side. I always found that coughing up phlegm on some part of their pant-suit or dress would get the job done. "I'm so sorry!"

Disgusted, every teacher would move on, their duty to give you a "good college try" done. It was the way a teacher was trained to behave, a kind of vague heartiness for their charges without all the cruft of actually caring much about them. It makes their manipulation far easier as most students know.

Mullicynda has approximately the same attitude about field trips as I do. Her teachers have unspoken motives as well, but it is not just to get away from the school. The regular field trips to Trechiva were billed as cultural opportunities for future Ladies to learn how the "other" half lived, the people that would soon be serving them so faithfully. Of course, no one among the teaching staff or the student body actually believed this. I will offer you this one hint on the subject: everyone gets a thrill out of "slumming it" in some way. Well, the one exception may be Coryn.

"What this place needs is a good scrubbing," she said with rancor. "Both building and people."

It was quite obvious that the cluster of girls from the Convocation school were not a part of their surroundings. Although they were in uniform and not their formal-wear today, they still shown like freshly-minted pennies against the throngs of smelly things that varied from blackened muck to dark, dank brown. The girls didn't need to be told to close up ranks and stay together; the bustle around them only fitfully parted to let them through and the future Ladies reflexively kept their distance and pressed against each other.

One girl piped up to the elegant Matron that lead the group. "Where are we off to today?"

"The fish plant." This elicited groans from many girls and not a few put lacy handkerchiefs to their noses in preparation for a nasal assault. "Half of the Alaed economy is based on fishing, so half of your girls will likely have your start as mistresses of fishing. You will want some exposure to them before you rule them!" This revelation, if you readers felt comfortable calling it such a thing, didn't sit well with the trailing young women and the older Matron nodded at the expected response. "If you want to rise from this fishy fate, you will see how important your studies are to your future disposition."

I must say at this point that the Matron was telling a convenient lie here: far more than half of these schoolgirls would spend their lives as part of a fishing household, but far fewer than half would have the fortune of being the Lady ruling over it. Oh, and if you have not already learned this from our reality, I will reveal that the work anyone does in school has absolutely no bearing on anything that happens thereafter. There is your free insight for the day.

An over-eager girl piped up, ever trying to get a shoulder up on her fellows. "How much time did you spend in a fishing household, ma'am?"

The Matron's eyes were hooded as she turned on the offender. "I was recruited as a teacher immediately out of school." The other girls looked at the fool among them with a mix of pity and bemusement at her stupidity. "The powers that be saw my obvious worth to the preparation of you girls for the future." She fixed her gaze on the instigator of this fool-hearted-ness. "You might consider your own worth before asking such questions." There was a "ooooh" that rippled through the group until the Matron snapped her head up with a hawkish look. All went deathly silent. "Watch you don't fall into the pit like these." She indicated the throng that was all around them and turned back to the task of moving the group forward.

Mulls was not far from the front, looking about her at the hunched mass of dung-colored folk. She wondered where they were going and what purpose one or another might be about this morning. Often enough, she would find herself wondering if these dirty people were having more joy in their lives than she was able to muster in hers. Sadly, as this is not the story of the common folk of Trechiva, both I and Mulls must turn aside from this beguiling possibility.

Coryn was whispering deviously, as she often did. "That little tramp will be lucky to make it through the poise finals, much less speech class!" Mulls merely shrugged as she typically did when dealing with Coryn. "I doubt she's fertile anyway," the older girl continued. "It's a waste of resources to bring such as her on these outings in the first place. Her time would be better spent learning to clean commodes!" Coryn snickered at her own comment and a few other girls nearby who had heard her contempt chose stupidly to copy her.

"Oh, I think she will fare well enough." Mulls wasn't one to whisper, as she rarely had anything conspiratorial to say. "She's a cute girl and bubbly and I don't think the opinion of one Matron matters much as to what girl get invested." She was speaking clearly enough that the Matron in the lead likely heard it, but the older woman made no sign. There is no point arguing an obvious truth. The offending girl, who was getting elbows in the ribs from her neighboring classmates, brightened as she heard the assessment. Mullicynda moved closer to her junior. "You might do well to study the module on demureness again," she said quietly.

Coryn sneered at her roommate. "Can't have much fun around you, can we?"

This brings to light something that is probably quite obvious to you savvy readers, but which I will mention now in the interest of the less cogent: Mullicynda is obviously both liked and disliked by all. Younger girls often adored her, if somewhat quietly so as not to lose their egos, for she is generous and kindly with her often-quite-valuable insights. The girls that are closer to her age and standing, those nearing their terminal examinations, hate her with vitriol because they are compelled to compete against her in contests and for all they know, the better girl will steal away a Lady-ship obviously intended for them. The Matron at the head of this particular group may fear her on some level as one who may shortly be her superior and exact some sort of revenge upon her if not treated carefully. Of course, there are unseen forces, both in the Convocation and without, who have an eye on this interesting young woman and may not know exactly how to feel about her or, in one case, how to manipulate her to their own advantage. I will say that those unseen folk are definitely planning something in relation to Mullicynda though there is no reason to say anything about that at this point.

As the group moves on, a peculiar excitement grips the cluster of potential Ladies. Even the conniving Coryn raises a brow and lets out a small smile as the anticipated circumstance draws close and I feel it is my duty to inform you that it has nothing at all to do with fish or the stated reason for this field trip. It is quite likely however that if this particular event were not a part of the trip, several of the girls would have come up with excuses or perhaps phlegm to avoid it.

Of course, the Matron in the lead is no fool and her vast experience understands the absolute vital-ness of some time spent before a certain storefront just around the next corner. Some of the girls are already twittering and whispering to the less informed of the group in preparation for what they will shortly experience. Mulls, though typically somewhat indifferent to the thing that is coming all too quickly, is experiencing a bit of a fluttering heart and a strange rising of the typically soft and fine hairs on the back of her neck that herald something that wants more than casual notice.

Annoyingly, I will take a short detour in the proceedings here to talk about the whole concept of portents. I hope all of you wonderfully adept readers either know exactly what I am referring to or will understand in very short order so that we can follow the Convocation schoolgirls around this anticipated corner. But until we can do that together, I feel the need to reveal that there is much happening in life that we can barely perceive, much less see.

I speak of forces that some regard as supernatural and others dismiss as some fantasy or bad digestion. For my part, I know that unseen powers can affect our lives, if we keep ourselves open to them. I choose not to view such things in a mystical context but rather attribute them to a God who is trying to guide me toward a better path and marvelous opportunities that await just out of sight around some metaphorical "corner". When I get a raising of the neck-hairs or a thought that makes my heart sing (for the lack of a better way to describe it), I have learned to look around for any evidence of God injecting himself into my day. I must say that I typically find such influence always leads to something positive and good for me. Where others run away from such feelings, perhaps referring to such sensations as something "spooky", I find myself increasing following those feelings and gawking with wonder at the vistas that such things open to me.

I don't really know how Mulls feels about premonitions or where they come from, but the sensation is there and I can say that she is not pulling away from it on this occasion. If anything, she is leaning forward to catch a better glimpse of what future might present itself around that corner that you readers and I will now finally turn.

Of course, all the girls know that it is the fitness room called the Stable. There is a large plate-glass window that lets the casual passer-by view the various men engaging in all sorts of glistening perspiration and physical exertion. I use the word "casual" as the Matron leading the group has feigned some reason to stop and engage a stranger in getting directions to the fish plant. The rest of the group has come up short as well and, with nothing conveniently better to do with their spare time, are having their collective gaze "innocently" drawn toward the activity on the other side of the window. Although some of the younger girls twitter and point, the more mature among the group keep up the casual and convenient "accident" facade while leering hungrily out of the corners of their eyes.

The men inside retroactively notice the schoolgirls loitering in front of their workout session, but they have also taken the attitude of casualness about the whole circumstance. Of course, if anyone besides you fine readers and I were really paying any attention, one would notice that the men, most in their early twenties, were flexing their muscles a bit more now that their exercise routines really required. In veiled response, even some of the very seasoned young women, mere weeks away from their investment as Ladies, could not keep up their pretense and gawked straight on with wide-eyed avarice.

May I say that "The Stable" was more than just a clever name that arose from following common marketing practice. The name was a very apt description of what the exercise room actually was. These be-muscled men were of a special sort, for it was typically the duty of human males to do the hard labor that the Convocation of Ladies required for the maintenance of society. Households certainly couldn't brook any free time to be taken by the common man for something as frivolous as bodybuilding. Yet, these behemoths were here, in the middle of the most productive time of the day, "unintentionally" showing their sizable muscles to a batch of future Ladies. These are men of the "consort" class and their fitness room and their existence in society at all has the absolute and enthusiastic sanction of the Convocation. The Matron who is acting rather befuddled by the directions she has been offered now for the fourth time knows this fact all too well.

In every social system, there must be "perks" for those of higher status and seeming responsibility. A corporate chief executive officer must have his personal jet aeroplane, a starlet must have her glittering wardrobe, and a Convocation Lady must have, all crudeness aside, her boy-toy. The male consort is supposed to make his Lady the envy of all the rest by being the man they all want but cannot have, at least for the moment. Of course, he must be handsome of face and rippling of body, witty of speech and devoted of attention. To all eyes, he must be the ultimate fashion accessory that she puts on her arm when she goes out. After all, the Lady is only as good as the consort who escorts her and I must add that this is not the only "perk" she enjoys from him.

Even among this group of schoolgirls are those who have already passed all their tests and are only waiting for their sixteenth birthday and their investment ceremony as Ladies. Most of these particular young women are already enjoying one of the "other" perks of consorts and are already showing off the beginnings of their first pregnancies. This doesn't preclude them from visiting the "stable" of other potential consorts, for there is a definite market in "trading up" to a more luxurious model.

One should not think that this situation is demeaning at all to the men. There is a particularly physical and lusty competition among consorts to be noticed and chosen by Ladies of high title. The prestige of being on the arm of a Duchess rather than a simple Princess or Baroness is simply incalculable. The consort of the Queen enjoys a lifestyle and celebrity that every other consort might literally kill for, so these young studs are all too willing to spend copious amounts of time on exercise equipment and parading before teenage girls as one of these could be the next Grand Duchess and the ticket to social glory.

All at once, something, or rather someone, breaks the spell of this scene of mutual lust and desire. When he moves into sight in the interior of The Stable, everyone on both sides of the glass let forth an audible intake of breath. This person's presence in the room is so unbelievably stunning that no one, not even the Matron who takes a pause from her pretense of asking an eighth woman from the street for assistance, can help but notice the new arrival. Mullicynda herself has a fresh raising of her neck-hairs and really has no idea what to do with it.

This is the entrance of Daavor.

A few of the bo-hunks inside have already found new reactions to the incomer as the remainder can't seem to get past their disbelief. There are shouts and finger-pointing, but Daavor seems content to simply take a seat on a vacant piece of equipment and begin fiddling with its adjustments.

Three particularly big men move toward him in a menacing way and all by-standers, man and woman, are riveted to see what will happen next. Daavor seems non-plussed as he lays back and begins to move the bar of a bench-press machine up and down. Things were so quiet on the street among the schoolgirls that the sounds of shouting could be heard quite clearly, although the man on the bench-press seemed not to notice.

Just in case you were not paying attention previously or I failed to be clear, Daavor is not very muscular. As evidenced by the particularly puny weight he was struggling to bench-press, he was hiding no wiry tendencies either. I forget if it came up before, but this young man is also not particularly handsome, as his nose curves to one side and his face looks as if his attending obstetrician had chosen to beat him out of the womb rather than just allowing him to be born in the traditional way. To add further insult to injury, Daavor was likely shorter than most of the younger schoolgirls staring wide-eyed at him. Typical consort fodder he most definitely was not and that seemed the primary concern of the other men in the room. The Stable and its patrons had a reputation to protect, by golly.

The three vociferous men had formed a tight ring around the bench and had begun flinging insults and the occasional punch at Daavor who was doing his best to steadfastly ignore them. Next, the biggest grabbed him by the shoulders and brought him up straight off the bench, which looked awkward as the smaller man held tight onto the bar and didn't choose to let go. There were a few more jabs to the abdomen, each accompanied by a flinch from the collective girls outside and a rise in the pity level of Mulls. Finally, Daavor let go of the bar with his left hand and it flew up for all to see.

There on his left palm was the star brand - the mark of a Convocation sanctioned consort.

There were even more exclamations from the three men but there were now some from the other men in the room. Apparently, it was one thing to rough up a common man who had come into a place where he had no business, but it was quite another if you were working over a fellow consort, no matter how incongruously scrawny and ugly he may be. The three finally detached and returned to their workout with disgust that such a man could ever be in their ranks.

Daavor rubbed a bit at his bruises and stretched his pale and spindly chest to readjust his spine. Suddenly, without any provocation at all, he looked straight at Mullicynda and, beyond all reason, gave her a wink!

The young woman was flustered and reddened suddenly. The hairs on the back of her neck near pulled themselves out by their roots and she rubbed at them furiously. She looked behind her to see if the pathetic man had perhaps winked at someone else, but there was no one there.

"Mulls!" It was Coryn hissing at her from tail of the group that had already moved down the street after the Matron had finally found help that apparently satisfied her. The roommate was motioning her fiercely so that she would avoid any further embarrassment. The whole mess at The Stable had suddenly sagged beneath the dignity of a nearly-invested Lady such as Coryn in the course of a few seconds.

The slightly younger woman started to move away from the window and toward her group but seemed unwilling to take her eyes off of the curious little man. He smiled pleasantly enough at her and even offered her a small wave, which she tentatively returned.

It wasn't much of a meeting, as such things go, but God willingly takes whatever opportunity he gets. I even think the thought of the coming visit to a fish plant was now just a little less loathsome to our favorite young miss.


Next Chapter...

Copyright, Jason Nemrow. All rights reserved.