Tales of Midbar: Poisoned Well

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It's a new academic year at Midbar's only University (at least in the Binah universe). A new group of students are starting but will the Prophesied Ruination and other problems (or are they all connected?) make studying difficult? Eleprin and Printorac are following a mysterious instruction from the improved (or corrupted) Mechanism. Glairia just wants to become a Universal Winemaker Celibate. Tan just wants to have fun. Dwendra's still in high school but she's with her theology student husband. The insane Old Magic mage Miandri is also there, claiming to have recovered from her mental problems. Vineyard Magis Breeze is helping part time in the magic department after the disappearance of the Wild Magis. Research is progressing to solve the problem of wormhole proliferation. All is not right with the staff who may have a questionable ideological agenda. It will be an interesting year but living in interesting times is a curse.

Scifi / Fantasy
Age Rating:

Traveling Companions

Narrated by Lirasci

“The Prophesied Ruination has come so why are we sitting here? Is there any point in continuing what we’ve been planning? What if anything can we do?”

The Hall Dean’s balcony overlooked the valley were most the University was situated, with Aleph shining red upon them. It was white day but there were no sapphires this high up. Nine people, five men and four women, were seated in a circle, each holding a small computer. It was one of the women who had spoken, passionately, an idlan with her hair died several different colors and brightly colored tattoos or makeup on her face. She spoke fluent Faharni with a bit of a Hecrini accent. The others looked at her.

“Enlighten us oh great prophetess,” said one of the four faharni men sarcastically.

“You don’t look like a glildac,” scoffed the man beside him.

“If you’re having doubts about your course,” said one of the three faharni women present, looking at the idlan woman, “you probably should discuss this with other people at another time.”

“Besides who are our enemies?” asked another faharni man. “Where are they? How do we fight them?”

“I thought we might want to take that into consideration,” said the idlan.

“We’re here to discuss if we see any likely problems in the coming term,” said the Hall Dean, calmly but sternly.

“Don’t look at me, racists!” said the one quippa man present. He was dressed in normal, if somewhat scruffy, Paxian clothing and clean shaven but his blond hair was long.

“It’s just that I don’t remember there being a quippa last year,” said the man who’d asked for enlightenment.

“I was the runner up in the vote for Harku Nuhar Hall president,” said the quippa. “Apparently they’ve had a lot of Nuhara’s enrolling this year so they’ve put a load of them in this hall.”

“Nuhara magi?” asked the man who wanted enlightenment.

“Not as far as I can tell!” said the quippa. “OK, I have forty three Nuhara men, mostly Aramatorans, in my chamber. No women. Is that really a good idea?”

“We had three new enrollments from Nuhara women,” said the Hall Dean. “We thought it wasn’t a good idea to put one, two or three women in a chamber with a load of men. We’d have done the same if they were Paxian, faharni Trulists. You can re-arrange yourselves later, if you want to. Do you think any of them are of particular concern?”

“I don’t know any of them,” said the quippa. “I haven’t heard of any of them either and the notes I’ve been given are rather bland. Some are taking sciences so they may be nibeyim. Yes, I know, I’m a moderate, OK?”

“Anybody else got problems with any of your students?” asked the Hall Dean.

“I’ve got fornicating Miandri!” said the curly haired faharni who hadn’t spoken before, drumming the six fingers of one hand on the back of her computer. “She’s notoriously insane and uses Old Magic!”

“She’s had therapy and should be OK now,” said the Hall Dean.

The curly haired faharni gave her a dubious look.

“I’ve got three quippa women,” said the idlan.

“Racist!” said the quippa.

“If that was the only issue, I wouldn’t have said anything,” said the idlan. “One’s a Paxian, Universal Winemaker Celibate. One’s a Paxian, Universal Winemaker Proselyte with mental problems. The last is Hecrini. So much for stereotypes! There’s also a male, faharni Universal Winemaker Proselyte, which seems rather strange, particularly as he’s sharing a room with the Celibate!”

“No comment,” said the quippa, of course referring to the tendency of Nuharas to claim that followers of all other religions were immoral.

“I’ve got three dimensional migrants,” the idlan continued, “a couple of off-planeters, I think that lot who landed in Minris. I’ve also got Latchmir’s son ...”

“So he’s a legacy,” said the Hall Dean.

“... He’s converted to Winemakerism, apparently. He’s also bringing his wife, Dwendra, also known as Sixteen who is, of course, a temporal migrant and claims to be Nuhar Zorg’s wife and the Grand Farmer! As her race and her previous religion were wiped out by Nuharas ...”

“That was centuries ago!” said the quippa.

“... she’s not exactly friendly towards them!” the idlan continued. “Then there’s Printorac, he’s a Trustee and a mage and rather young to be at University. Apparently he’s also converted to Winemakerism. He’s also bringing his wife, sorry women!”

“The marage was rather controversial,” said a fair haired faharni woman who hadn’t spoken before.

The idlan continued, “She’s also a student and also rather young to be here, Eleprin, who’s suspected of causing both Minris disasters and being the Burner. Both Printorac and Elerpin fought in the Battle of Rendamar. There were issues between them and Nuharas at school, and Printorac was only in school for a year! They also have an advisor named Nivulan who I don’t know much about as she isn’t a student. Then there’s also Tan. He’s not a mage. There’s a note about him having minor mental problems and he needs careful handling, whatever that means!”

Narrated by Gairlia

One was a quippa woman with lots of curley, blond hair and the other a faharni man, perhaps more of a boy, with the normal short, dark hair. They were dressed in the simple, black shirts and trousers you’d expect of Celibates but both had glasses with mirror-like lenses which wrapped all around the fronts of their heads so their eyes couldn’t be seen from any angle. That wasn’t expected of anybody.

I knew they were the people I’d be going with but told myself I was a hipsickah and these feelings were part of my illness. Sure enough, they came up to me, the woman wobbling on high heeled shoes, making her breasts wobble as Celibates don’t wear bras, as I stood with my parents and sister, waiting for the bus. They were carrying bags, as I was. Celibates are expected to have few possessions and travel light.

“Are you Gairlia?” asked the woman, looking at me, or at least pointing her mirror in my direction.

“Yes she is,” said Dad. “I take it you’re Celibate Sister Flarmia?”

“Yes,” said the woman. She waved a hand at her companion. “This is Boantor, my other Prosletyte.”

Her companion gave us a slight nod.

“A boy?” asked Mum, dubiously.

“We’ve both taken vows?” said Flarmia.

“They don’t want us contaminating Midbar with our DNA,” said Boantor.

“Here’s her medication,” said Dad, handing the applicator to Flarmia. “Use it every morning, she can’t be trusted to do it herself.”

You may be wondering why a hipsickah was a Prosletyte. Well everybody said I’d make a good Celibate and I sure didn’t know any boys I got on with. OK, I also have a mental illness which makes me think I’m seeing or, usually more feeling, things that aren’t real and there was this constant feeling something very bad would happen soon. Fortunately my medication mostly kept that under control. I suppose that was a good reason for not having children.

As soon as we left my home town of Vend, Flarmia pulled a pair of glasses, like those her and Boantor were wearing, and gave it to me. “Take this. It will protect you from the spiritual depravity we will doubtless encounter.”

“But we’re still in Righteousness,” I objected.

“If we’ve displeased Streculic, he is bound to attack us. This is Yoho’s means of protecting us for the eyes are the doors to the soul. Also this isn’t an independent country like Hecrin, it’s part of Pax so anybody can come here.”

I put them on but I was very dubious about the whole thing. I got the feeling that Flarmia wasn’t being entirely honest here. Of course that was stupid because I was a hipsickah and shouldn’t be able to read minds. The glasses made things look darker but I soon got used to them.

We chatted about our backgrounds and what courses we were taking. Flarmia was going to study healing while Boantor would be studying engineering. I told them I’d be studying theology.

The bus seemed normal enough and followed the expected, tortuous route through the mountains to Coldren.

“Part of the depravity at the University,” Flarmia said after a while, lowering her glasses and looking at me with the normal, slanted, blue, quippa eyes, “is this stupid points system. They don’t admit to it, of course, but they give people points depending on how much of a victim they, or groups they belong to, are thought to be. You get fifty points for being female ...”

I wondered if this was going to be so bad.

“... no points for being a Paxian, twenty points for being a quippa, twenty points for being mentally ill and twenty points for being a Winemaker and ... you are heterosexual?”

“Yes,” I said, “not that it really matters, I suppose.”

“It does to the university,” said Flarmia. “No points for that then and they subtract five points for being a Proselyte. That gives you a total of a hundred and five.”

“It works on sex,” said Boantor, “nationality, race, korbar, chronic illnesses, religion and orientation but they subtract points for being devout. The farther you are from being a male, Paxian, faharni, hipsick, with no chronic illnesses who’s heterosexual and a devout Trulist, the higher your points. That’s why they take points off for being devoutly religious.”

“Isn’t a Universal Winemaker Celibate more like a moderate Trulist than a devout Trulist?” I asked.

“I suppose you could argue that,” said Flarmia. “I didn’t make this up, somebody worked it out somehow, they don’t admit to doing this.”

“For example,” said Boantor, “I get no points for being male, no points for being Paxian, no points for being a faharni, ten points for being a nibey, no points for not being chronically ill and twenty points for being a Winemaker and no points for being heterosexual but they subtract five for being a Proselyte. Therefore I only get twenty five.”

“I get fifty points for being female,” said Flarmia, “no points for being Paxian, twenty points for being a quippa, ten points for being a nibeyah and twenty points for being a Winemaker but I lose ten for being a Celibate.”

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