“We were admiring your cloak,” Esteemed murmurs smoothly as he slowly circles around me. “It’s rather charming in its simplicity. It has an interesting feel too,” he adds, rubbing the fabric between his fingers. “A little too rough for my tastes. Is this what they wear in Haspel?”
Behind him a small group of Bormeas watch our every move, chuckling at the Esteemed’s remarks. For the Bormea, a chuckle is something akin to deep-throated grunts that might sound threatening to me if I wasn’t a Bormea too.
“Well,” I reply, “the garment is meant as a backdrop for the strings of tristal that we wear. If the fabric were any softer it would wear out from the constant friction that acts as a polisher.” I wave my hand at Esteem’s garishly colored robe. “Your garments, because they’re so festive and colorful don’t need added adornment.”
The Esteemed’s eyes narrow to slits as he looks at me before walking away. The other Bormeas don’t make a sound, as they look from what I’m wearing to their own garments.
While observation is a key element of our mission, what really controls the outcome is how we react. The biting comments from the Bormeas with their menacing undertones are going to be a constant assault that I’m going to have to deal with. What would have become of me had I not arrived with bags of tristal and a crowning head of cronacs?
“I’m very interested in bringing back some of your costumes to show my brothers how others dress without simple adornments,” I tell the Bormeas standing closest to me. While I observe their eyes narrowing and their skin even darkening a shade, I casually take another small bag from the pocket of my robe and fingered it lightly. “I’m sure what I have here is more than enough to outfit me with your local wares. How do I go about getting fitted?” I continue, seemingly unaware of their change in attitude. For all these Bormeas know I could have common stones in the bag, but since news of the contents of one such bag has already spread throughout the compound, I can tell they are more than willing to believe this one contains the same.
* * *
I thought once I took on the identity of a Bormea that my thoughts and focus would follow suit. My focus, however, refuses to stay firmly on my task at hand. My thoughts drift away at unexpected moments. This room in which I am now confined, banished from the company of others until the proper time, is so compressed with trinkets and goods I cannot find a single thing to remain fixed upon. Additional goods were brought here as though I didn’t have enough already. Accumulation of goods, it appears is a mark of a prosperous Bormea and they wish to show their wealth to me and keep me in their good graces so that I will share my assumed riches with them. I am something new, something to be observed, movements imitated, until I too become tiring to them and am left alone here, ignored like all their goods.
For, while the Bormeas go to great length to acquire, they do little to preserve and appreciate. There is dust in the corners, carpets that show any wear are hidden under another or thrown out. Garments worn only once or twice are discarded with the day’s trash. Initially, I had many visitors as many came to see me and to see what the Esteemed dug up from the storerooms to decorate my room. While the Bormeas greeted me, their eyes moved greedily about, moving quickly from one thing to the next, or focused solely on one item, unable to look away. I assume from their behavior that I should be flattered, impressed and grateful for the many things. I should probably revel in my apartment and spend each day admiring the many goods. But, I do not know the hands that shaped the carvings, that stitched the fine garments or sacrificed their life to create beadwork so intricate not one bead is loose. These possessions mean nothing to me beyond an appreciation of the artistry of the creation and the time spent doing so.
My sight and attention are continually drawn to the carpets and tapestries overlapping to such a degree that only a fraction of the entire piece is visible. Only a small portion of the creation shines in the dim light of my room. There are so many. I don’t believe I have seen any in the process of being made, yet each one seems like a glimpse through an open window into the life of the Caysas. As swiftly as my ponderous weight and clumsy hands allowed, I rolled up as many of the carpets as I could until I had only one layer on the floor. There the rich designs and deep colors resonated in the shadowy depths. How many Caysas does just these few rugs represent? How much of their time had been spent creating them? And, here they were being used simply as a layer of cushion, not to be looked at but to be trod on with no regard.
Doing the same with the tapestries, I soon found I had created a mound in the corner of my room, not necessarily of discarded pieces, but ones that I would save for another day. Lined up on the walls, one right after another, were brilliant tapestries. Looking from floor to walls it was difficult for me to determine the difference between the two. What made one a rug and another a tapestry? While the fibers of the rugs were coarser and thus more durable, they had no less attention spent in design. The tapestries did, however, drift toward containing images versus just design. The figures are lean and long limbed, looking more like a design element than a body – perhaps the only way the weavers could incorporate the figures in the design. As I look at them more closely, I realize the weavers incorporated many elements of the Caysas’ lifestyle in such an ambiguous way that it isn’t obvious to a casual observer, especially a Bormea who knows nothing of careful observation.
Sitting back in the only chair in the room I stare at the tapestries seeing all the forms and figures come alive as though I were there back with them. I wonder at the forces at work here that find me utterly alone, unable to fully experience my new identity because part of the identity requires isolation. And, in this isolation I can not escape what I left behind. Because, what I left behind surrounds me and echoes the loss in its very presence. Here I will sit and remember what I left behind, confronted with images of those who had reached out to me and accepted me in a way I had never experienced before. What, I wonder, is the purpose in this?
* * *
With all of his critiquing of my simple and coarse robe, not many days pass before the Esteemed presents himself at a banquet wearing a similar styled robe. Around his neck is a chain from which dangles all but one of the tristals that I gave him. Carnesol follows soon after with an even more simpler-styled robe. Although Carnesol still outclasses the others, his single speck of tristal is almost lost amid the folds of fabric. Regardless of its small size, I see him holding it up repeatedly to admire it himself or to show others.
The Esteemed sits at the head of the table showing off his ample strand whenever his neighbors finger the fabric of his robe. I sit at the opposite end reveling in the fact that I have adapted my Bormean form to the surroundings, by dressing like the others though with much more aplomb. Ironically, I wear the most garish robe, exploding with bold colors and large patterns that almost causes pain to look at, exactly what one would expect of my Bormean cousins. The Esteemed and Carnesol, trying to appear as prosperous as my kind have dressed simply to show off their new jewelry. I, at the opposite end, raise a glass to their attempt, showing my approval and nodding when the Esteemed returns the gesture. Both of us think we have outdone the other when in fact we have just copied one another.
“With all your cronacs, surely you must be the Esteemed in your city?” asks a Bormea sitting next to me.
If I am the Esteemed from Haspel, I would have come in a caravan and would fear a lack of welcome at my return. If I am but an underling in the group, I might lose my hold on the diplomacy here. Choosing my words carefully, I reply, ”While we also value the amount of cronacs, my position is one of … an ambassador. Since the cities are so far apart we felt there should be some source of communication between us. So, I am to travel about and help to determine how best to approach this venture.”
The reaction to my declaration is immediate. Those at the other end of the table, immersed in their own conversation, receive urgent murmurings from their neighbors.
“An Ambassador,” sneers Carnesol at the other end of the table, “they should have consulted us before starting something like that. We could have told them …”
The Esteemed swiftly sweeps out his arm, smacking Carnesol hard in the chest. “Communication with our cousins is an excellent idea. It’s something I’ve been mulling over for some time.”
“You have?” Carnesol replies, quickly recovering.
“Of course,” the Esteemed answers smoothly. “To new ventures,” he declares, raising his glass.
The Bormeas quickly grab their glasses and add to the toast as all eyes turn toward me.