Tales of Midbar: Poisoned Well

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Orientation - part 5

Narrated by Eleprin

Craiddec Hall was one of a number of miserable looking buildings in University City. As we, meaning everybody from our chamber, even Tan, approached, I noticed a number of anavim nearby, obviously security, and some people in uniforms, obviously more security. Fortunately my morning sickness had worn off and I’d been feeling perfectly fine since Tan had been dragged unconscious from our chamber. A message had been sent out for all Winemakers to gather in this hall for “an important meeting”. A group of grey-robed quippas were standing nearby handing out leaflets and with a sign saying, AHMAZA IS ONE. We walked past them without taking a leaflet but I noticed that they gave Dwendra very hostile looks. There were two women, an idlan and a faharni, at the door, both nibeyot, checking our I.D. cards, presumably to make sure we were Winemakers. One of them just scanned mine and waved me in.

The interior was mostly one large room with uninspired decor and chairs were arranged in rows facing a stage at one end.

“What’s this about?” asked Tan. He’d come under protest and I was rather surprised he had.

“I don’t know,” I said, looking around. It was clear that a high proportion of those present were psychics. Most were either faharnis or idlans but there were a few other races.

Eventually an idlan woman got onto the stage, said she was a Winemaker priestess, and proceeded to say a prayer and got us to sing some Winemaker worship songs. Then she left the stage and a young faharni man and a young idlan man got onto it. The faharni was dressed smartly while the idlan was scruffily dressed. They were both holding microphones.

“We agreed that I’d start as I have the smaller group,” said the faharni. “My name is Krandian.”

“And I’m Varmigan,” said the idlan.

“For those of you who don’t know,” said Krandian, “I’m the chairman of the University Winemaker Society.”

“And I’m the moderator of the Campus Winemaker Community,” said Varmigan.

“Our two groups have traditionally not had very good relations,” said Krandian. “The UWS has been trying to make Winemakerism more acceptable to other religions and most our members have been Paxian faharnis who weren’t psychics or magi.”

“The CWC,” said Varmigan, “has been accepting of any Winemakers but we’ve had more non-faharnis, psychics and magi.”

“So join the other one,” muttered Tan.

“The thing is,” said Krandian, “we realize that Winemakers are facing unprecedented problems ...”

“Issues,” said Varmigan.

“Well issues whatever,” said Krandian. “For those of you who’ve just awakened from comas or arrived from another planet or through a wormhole or a timewarp or just haven’t been paying attention to the news, let’s summarize. A couple of years ago there were Universal Winemakers who were mostly Paxian quippas who lived in Righteousness and believed a bunch of stuff other Winemakers didn’t. Then there were the Haprihagfen who were weirdos but kept a low profile. Then there were people like Molgren and the Winemakers in the Theology department who don’t believe anything.”

“In the last few years, things have become more complicated,” said Varmigan. “We’ve now got avatars of Trulist gods who claim to be Winemakers. A girl claiming to be Nuhar Zorg’s wife ...”

“Bride!” shouted Dwendra.

“... and the High Farmer of Benai Nibeyim is trying to get us to follow the Yohoist scriptures and wants to turn Winemakerism back a millenium ...”

“That art not true!” shouted Dwendra.

Several people looked at her, and I think realized that nobody else looked that glildac.

“... Off-planetters have attacked us for unclear reasons. The avatars lured them into a battle in Rendamar, lots of Nuharas were killed and Navinuharbilag was destroyed, plunging Aramator into a civil war which has caused many Nuhara refugees to come into Pax.”

“A lot of people blame Winemakers for that,” said Krandian. “It’s also been revealed that most teleporters are Winemakers and our religion has a high proportion of psychics and magi.”

“Oh great!” said Tan, sarcastically.

“We’ve now got a president who hates psychics, magi and teleporters,” said Varmigan, “and is trying to turn everybody against them. The leader of the opposition is even madder and hates Winemakers. Somebody ordered Nuhara refugees to be housed in the Minris Vineyard, which is a Winemaker Holy Site, resulting in a lot of mysterious Winemaker refugees, some from parallel universes or from off-planet being housed there.”

“Also the Wild Magis disappeared,” said Krandian, “apparently due to an avatar. The Vineyard Magis has taken over some of his duties. A lot of people think she’s commuting between here and Minris by teleportation. The youngest Trustee, who’s also a mage, has converted to Winemakerism and married another Winemaker who a lot of people think is a mage.”

Varmigan took a deep breath and said, “All this means that a lot of Winemakers basically find themselves caught between so-called intellectual Winemakerism, which doesn’t believe anything, Universal Winemakerism which they were raised to dislike and Scriptural Winemakerism and Haprihagfen, neither of which they understand while non-Winemakers are becoming more hostile towards us. The question is, what are we to do about this?”

“We’ve asked some of our members to give presentations about this,” said Krandian. “Let’s start with Maigarna who’s going to talk about Universal Winemakerism.”

The two leaders withdrew as an untidily dressed, faharni woman with messy hair took the stage. She proceeded to mumble something she was reading from a hand computer. After a few seconds, there were shouts of, “Can’t hear you!” from the audience.

Maigarna stopped and mumbled something back. Then looked back at her computer. “This led to isolation until the Klarmidian river system dried up and they were forced to migrate north eastward. Their feelings of isolation from other Winemakers and Paxians fed into a system of organized crime ...”

“Do you actually know anything about Universal Winemakers?” somebody shouted.

Maigarna starred and said, “It’s a sociological study.”

“We’ve got some fornicating Celibates here!” shouted somebody, I think the same person. “Why not ask them?”

“Perhaps we should get the next speaker on,” said Varmigan. “Agmitac, isn’t it?”

Maigarna walked to one side, looking upset, while a smartly dressed, faharni man took the stage. He was a better speaker, in that we could hear him, but he proceeded to waffle about “intellectual” Winemakerism and it wasn’t very intelligible either, although I think Molgren and his kind would have been impressed.

The next speaker was an idlan man named Lindicam who started by quoting something somebody I’d never heard of had said. It was rather long-winded and I wasn’t sure what it meant. Then he proceeded with, “I’m sure this is correct. Haprihagfen are few in number and membership is hereditary but presumably not all born into it want to join. In the past, they’ve been able to rely on the Vineyard Magis but that’s no longer the case. Basically they’re just a glorified fruit farm and winery. Their religious position is unclear ...”

“Have you ever met any Haprihagfen?” shouted Water-Current.

“They’re very rare,” said the speaker, “but I found this thesis.”

“Vineyard Magis here!” shouted Breeze. “And I’m not the only Haprihagfen in this room!”

“This thesis was written by a Winemaker theologian!” said the speaker.

“Who had obviously not bothered to actually do any proper research,” shouted Clindar, “and they were obviously working on the basis that if they waffle enough, nobody would realize they had no idea what they were talking about!”

“Can we try to be polite to the speakers,” said Varmigan.

“Can you get speakers who know what they’re talking about!” I shouted.

“Do you realize how difficult it is to find people who know about Universal Winemakers, ‘intellectual’ Winemakers, Haprihagfen, avatars, Scriptural Winemakers, High Family Winemakers and Winemakers from parallel universes and off-planet?” asked Krandian. “It’s just not ...”

“Avatar expert!” I shouted, “and Scriptural Winemaker but Sixteen’s here!”

“Universal Winemaker Celibate!” shouted Flarmia.

“Haprihagfen!” shouted Breeze.

“From a parallel universe!” shouted Tenacious.

“From off-planet!” shouted Ya!trag.

“Printorac!” shouted Printorac.

“You think you can do better than us?” asked Lindicam who’d been talking about Haprihagfen.

“Yes,” I shouted.

Varmigan, Krandian and the priestess had a quick discussion.

“OK,” said Varmigan, “let’s hear what these people who think they know better have to say.”

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