Some little time ago I was working on a story that involved one Salventi Anguila, also known as Venya Storven. I seem to have written these notes by way of putting my thoughts in order, though it may be that I always intended them as a blog. Whyever I wrote them, I have found them now and typed them up, and here is Coren’s introduction to his sometime traveling companion Jekka Storven.
Jekka Storven is a man of the middle rank. A man, as Sal was proud to tell me, who has a voice when the Regent is chosen. Her pride confused me, because it has been the boast of many Tormaben of my acquaintance that any one of them, from the smallest babe in a saddle to the frailest old man settled amongst the farmers of the hinterland, may sway the choice of Regent. I put it to Sal one night that she must mean that the Regent is elected by all the people, as the Dojh are. She was intrigued by the suggestion, and I was pleased to find some limit to her knowledge. I explained it as well as I was able, and it may be that I allowed myself to be distracted by my disquisition. She did not seem to esteem it highly as a system, but gave me in return only an impression of the Tormaben way. I believe that men such as Jekka speak directly at the Long Sitting, but take soundings first among their own people, and on their travels also.
Did Sal herself, I wonder, have some contribution to the last Long Sitting? She was little more than a child, but she has been a full year on the plains, and she had seen two of the candidates, at least, for they were part of the embassy sent to Khyre in her first term there. But it was Jekka I meant to tell you of.
You will know him for Tormaben in a heartbeat, and yet only the hat and the stock are unique to this magpie people. The hat he will leave at the door, determined to demonstrate that he knows how to conduct himself in Khyran society, and the stiff, coloured stock from his neck he will set aside at ease. If you are wise you will wait until he does so before you trade with him, and then proceed only if you can see the ncala at his throat, for if he has tucked it away, out of sight and away from his skin, he has given himself licence to lie to you. Yet even the ncala that no Tormaben goes without is a borrowed trifle. There are many songs to sing of the way that it came to the South, but I have not the space to set them down here.
To return to our Tormaben: he will be wearing Assani boots, as any sensible traveller does if he can get them, and his breeches will seem familiar if you have ever ventured as far as the mountains. For the rest, layer upon layer of coloured silks from the Dojhate, and if you choose to believe Dram Cetus that the colour is for nothing but gaiety, and the silk for nothing but luxury, then you are a bigger fool than ever I was.
If you have never travelled beyond the Shap then you may think Jekka Storven typical of his people. Naturally you will have met only those Tormaben who range across the continent, trading as they go, taking coin where they must but preferring barter. (Coin relies upon the word of the man whose face is stamped upon it – though it had intrinsic value once – and it loses its value when you find yourself trading with a man who does not recognise that face. The useful herbs of the sierra, the leatherwork of Assan, the horses of the wide plains broken by skilled Tormaben hands, these have value wherever you might be. They can be traded for metalwork or brandy, for pulses or cheese, for any fruit of a more settled life. They may not buy you a night’s lodging in Khyre, but they will buy you local coin.) But many Tormaben, you should know, do no more than a little barter in the hinterland, and some stay all their lives on the plains that they have made their own.
What else can I tell you of Dram Cetus’s ‘carefree, superstitious people decked gaily in flowers’? I can tell you what he should have noticed for himself: that the sickly cream flowers of the marsh starfoil are a powerful repellent to the tiny biting flies that plague the marches. I can tell you what his guides were too embarrassed to admit to him: that their children are assured that the scarlet flowers of the stormbane will ward off lightning, and it remains a comfort even to a brave man who knows that it has no such power. But perhaps you have not seen the lightning stalk the people of the plains? And if they sing to ward off the soul-sucking horror of that great bowl of sky, I entreat you not to comment until you have travelled a little below its eye.