Tales of Midbar: Poisoned Well

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Strange Winemakers - part 1

Narrated by Gairlia

The next morning we ate with a few other Celibates. They kept us separate from the Temple Prostitutes. Flarmia gave me a shot of medication. This stuff was metabolized at a variable rate and the applicator had to measure how much was in my blood and then give me the appropriate dosage. Then we caught another bus. I noticed that Flarmia had given up on the heels. Good they hadn’t been fashionable for centuries but I suppose Celibates aren’t meant to be fashionable.

There was no direct bus from Coldren to the University so we had to take an indirect route via Laraget, Ermish, Bremplar and a number of villages.

I started getting a strange feeling that I couldn’t shake that Flarmia and Boantor were up to something immoral, perhaps even illegal although they seemed friendly. Of course they were nibeyim so that might have been an issue. I wondered if they were kidnapping me but I knew this had been arranged through the priesthood. I know some people tend to dislike the priesthood and obsess over sexual scandals but that’s really just the minority. Besides a sexually immoral priest wouldn’t involve Celibates, he’d just deal with his victims himself, wouldn’t he?

Flarmia and Boantor kept drilling me about the stupid point system. For some reason High Family members, athletes and Nuharas got extra points. Although it was supposed to reduce discrimination, it actually seemed very bigoted and discriminatory, not to mention irrational. Flarmia and Boantor agreed with me about that and claimed that it wasn’t their idea.

In Bremplar we caught a bus with UNIVERSITY on the front and most the passengers seemed to be students but I got weird feelings from most of them. The weird feelings were part of my illness so I tried to ignore them. This bus made few stops as there were few villages in that part of the mountains.

At last we came to a town that at first seemed to be fairly large, although it was located in an almost barren mountain valley. As we drove through, I realized most the houses were abandoned. Some had gardens full of dead plants while others had overgrown gardens. Some houses had been painted in strange patterns and others had odd looking solar panels or aerials on them. A couple had been burned (they were mostly built of stone) and one looked as if it had exploded.

We came to the center of the town. There was a large building, probably the town hall, opposite a small temple, like a geodesic dome. Even here, about half the buildings were boarded up, obviously disused. We stopped and took on a few young people, most of whom were willing to stand.

A short while later, we arrived at the University. I’d seen pictures so I knew what the University looked like. It was the afternoon. The bus stopped in a square with a number of old looking buildings around it. It was now clear that whatever nefarious plan Flarmia and Boantor had, it required getting me to the University. I was starting to wonder if the plan actually had anything to do with me. Then it was probably only a symptom of my illness anyway.

Several small vehicles were near the bus stop. Some young people, mostly faharnis, arranged the bus passengers into groups according to where we would be housed. We’d been assigned to a place called Quambrim Hall. I was a bit disconcerted by the fact that this group seemed to be more eccentrically dressed than the others, except for ... Yeah, we were wearing black clothing and mirror glasses weren’t we?

Our eccentric group were loaded onto a vehicle. It wasn’t very large, with no roof or walls, just seats and a platform for luggage. Two faharnis got in the front and we took off westward and mostly uphill. Of course the University is high in the western mountains, I think to give the best view for the astronomical observatory. We left the main area of the University and went through an area with few buildings with fields containing various animals, plants and even some XT’s and photoorganisms. There were a number of ancient circles, a couple unusually large, and the few plants didn’t seem to be cultivated and looked very weird. There were also a few ruined structures that looked as if they’d been built by humans. I was starting to wonder if this really was a kidnapping after all. I looked around at the other passengers. One was reading from a device. Some were looking around in awe. A couple of others were talking to each other and pointing at things. None of them seemed worried.

Eventually we drove through a door in the side of a mountain and through a tunnel. We came to what seemed to be a car park with a strange assortment of vehicles and stopped.

“Here we are!” said one of the drivers. “There are elevators over there which will take you to the appropriate floor.”


I looked around the chamber in astonishment. It was oval, several hundred meters long and a couple of hundred wide in the middle. The ceiling glowed with blue sky, a yellow sun low on the far end and puffy, white clouds. Around the edge were doors and windows to other chambers. There were beds of various plants around the edge. In the middle there was a large, round table with a kitchen in the middle. A few other people were there, a mixture of faharnis and idlans. Some talking to each other, one faharni woman examining the plants, one idlan sitting in a chair and reading a book.

“Now you’re in Unit 6 and we’re in Unit 5,” said Flarmia as we walked to the far end.

“Right,” said Boantor pointing. “So we’re in that one!”

“What?” I asked, trying to unravel what Flarmia had said.

“Boantor and myself in Unit 5,” said Flarmia, slowly, pointing to a door in the wall with 5 clearly written on it. “You, Gairlia will be in Unit 6,” she pointed to a door opposite unit 5, which had the number 6 on it, “probably with another Winemaker.”

I stared at Flarmia with my mouth open as if she’d just denied the divinity of Yoho. Then I realized my stare didn’t work so well with my glasses. “You two are sharing?”

“Men are more susceptible to temptations of the flesh than women,” said Flarmia, “so it will be safer if I can keep an eye on Boantor.”

I was shocked. During the trip, I’d never shared a room with them for the night but it had never been clear they were sharing a room. Of course I’d heard of sexual indiscretions by priests but I hadn’t expected this sort of thing from a Celibate Sister. Perhaps I should have given them the benefit of the doubt but I’d seldom felt more sure of anything.

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