Three adventurers chat in the Happy Yiffle, a tavern serving mostly Shiga customers on the outskirts of the substantial urban sprawl centered around Nagai City, and where Skye earliermet the mysterious Shiga, Catfish, and the barkeep, Jacksunn. There is a brief interruption in their conversation, as several Savanite slaves haul in freshly warmed rocks for the cold-blooded patrons to sit upon. After much slithering and shuffling around, and once the previous, cooled rocks are hauled back out by the Savanites, conversation resumes…
Skye dryly chitters, "It's Trilling, and I was told t'e region 'e was from. Not far from 'ere. Fur'er up t'e coast just a little a bit. One of t'e fishing villages, wit' more 'ouses on stilts, yes?"
Lakshmi sighs softly and a little glumly, "Joy. More water. All right… we'll track him down next." She has a sip of hot tea, then looks up. "Anything else to report, Skye?"
The canine perks up from where she has been sitting and unlike Lakshmi, seems to take an interest in water. "We swim yes?" she asks Lakshmi as she tugs lightly on her garment with a paw.
Reaching up, Skye rubs the back of neck for a moment, considering. "More water, an' quicksand too. But once we find a w'ispa, an bring it back, I was told t'at we might run into a lot of politics and honoraries running about wanting their say in w'at to do about t'e w'ispa. If t'at happens, I might have a name we can use to avoid such Temple-type clatter trap."
"Er… perhaps, Mandy." Lakshmi raises an eyebrow at Skye's comment. "That, I suspect, will be the Secretary General's problem, mostly… but contacts are always good to have. Ah! I almost forgot… Skye, you were mentioned in the letter Master Dorshall sent with you." She smiles at Skye, "He said you were well mannered, showing no sign of disrespect or rudeness. I'm tremendously pleased to hear that, and I thought you'd like to know of what the master said."
The girl wags her tail and smiles over across the table at Skye. "Good! You happy?" she asks him as she leans forward to place her head on the table.
Snaring his drink again with one paw, the Skreek opens his muzzle, about to continue until Lakshmi speaks. He clamps down, and takes a sip and then nods. "Thank yi, Laks'mi. Simple t'o. Yi never learn nut'in if t'e folk yi are talking to don't want to speak to yi in t'e first place. Besides … " Skye shrugs in an easy manner. "Was't just me. I annoy t'e s'opkeep, t'e taxidermist, t'e selona driver, it comes back to haunt yi, Boss'Laks'mi, like a bad s'ekel."
Lakshmi nods quietly, "So it does… so it does." She looks thoughtfully at Mandara. "So, Mandy… do you have anything to report?"
Ducking his long muzzle once, Skye taps the brim of his hat towards Mandara. "Yes." And then he pushes a serving of bromthen in her direction.
Mandara lifts up to turn towards her master, which places her head at an odd angle near Lakshmi's. She stares at her blankly for a moment before her ears perk and she nods a bit. "Treat slave badly," she frowns, "He scared, not talk lot."
Lakshmi frowns thoughtfully. "Mmm… Mandy, we're going to have to give you a crash course in Imperial. This half-way pidgin in the outlander tongue is too confusing. But for now… who are you referring to, please?"
Skye dryly chitters, "I think, Boss'Laks'mi, t'e Savanite, Master Dors'all's servant, was afraid t'at he is bound to follow in his predecessor's footsteps."
Again the girl stares at Lakshmi as if she was speaking Bosch. Skye's comment seems to help however, because she snaps out of it quickly. "Imperial? Me? Is hard?" she asks before lifting a hand and pointing to Skye. "He right," she tells lakshmi.
Lakshmi nods firmly. "Yes, Mandara, you. I think I have waited too long with you… " She sighs softly. "… and now it's time for you to start your training. We can't have you wandering around workrooms and snuffling other people's things when we go visiting, or you'll end up like that poor spotty of Master Dorshall's He got mixed up with a horrib due to carelessness, and I don't want that to happen to you." She rises. "So… have we finished eating? If so, I think now is an excellent time to start your training, Mandara."
Skye lays his paw upon the table, letting his fingers drum out a single riff. "A couple more notes, yes?"
Lakshmi nods, "Go on."
Lakshmi settles back down.
"No stuffed… " whines Mandara. She slumps some, her head once again vanishing from Lakshmi's line of sight as the girl lays it back against her master. "I learn."
Lakshmi rubs Mandy's ears softly as she waits for Skye to speak, and quietly reassures the girl, "No. I won't let you be stuffed, Mandy."
Leaning back, Skye takes a short breath before continuing. "T'e honor I met, here, seemed very knowledgeable. He knew about t'e w'ispa and even gave me some instructions on how to find him. He went by t'e name of Catfis' and said he had contacts in most cities, and t'e one in Nagai is called Jacksunn. A funny looking S'iga he was. All wrapped up in a cowl, his face hidden like some inquisitor out to be scaring a body. That and he told me two local tales. One about t'e tournament of fighting folk t'at t'e Emperor is being distracted by, and t'e other concerns t'e Savanites as a whole … if suc' matters interest yi, Laks'mi."
Lakshmi thinks a moment, then nods. "I'd be interested in the Savanite rumors… The poor spotties are getting the short end of the stick currently, after all, instead of the good training they deserve as loyal servants."
Mandara sits up again at the mention of the Savanites and opens her mouth to speak, but shuts it. Instead of speaking, she swivels her ears twords Skye and listens.
Skye dryly chitters, "Well, I t'ink t'at t'e term 'loyal servant' might be taking on a w'ole new meaning Laks'mi." Skye takes a final and long last drag of his ale, to then set down the empty goblet. "Some folks, well, I guess t'ey have not liked the current condition of t'e spotted ones, and would t'at matters returned to the way it was before. But since t'ey can't, well, Catfis' was saying t'ey might be borrowing a s'ekel or two from t'e darker fringes of t'e Rep'idim Bazaar."
The Skreek shrugs, letting his fingers ripple atop the table once again. "T'e Nagai might be rediscovering indentured servitude."
Lakshmi sighs softly. "Indentured servitude, mm? Hmm… depending on how it was handled, that might be the most law-protected status for the poor spotties. When a class of individuals is promoted, it is always the class directly above them that most ardently fights such promotion… I suspect the Jingai are not happy about this. Well… we shall see. I'm sure the Emperor-Potentate has a plan in mind on how to deal with this." She glances at Mandara. "Mandy, did you have something to add?"
Skye looks back to Lakshmi, his words pragmatic and quiet. "T'e t'eory, Boss'Laks'mi, falls apart real fast once it comes down to servants and s'ekels. I would not be surprised t'at after a year of indentured servitude, some of t'e Savanites will be wishing they were just slaves again."
Lakshmi nods. "Skye, that's a good point… but if you don't mind, I think we should start Mandy's training soonest. We can discuss this further once we're traveling again."
"No!" barks Mandara with a shake of her head.
Lakshmi nods. "Very well then, I think I need to start your training. The simple things first… " She runs through very basic training sit, stand, come, down, walk to coil giving both the verbal commands, a description of exactly what she wants from Mandara on each command, and the hand gestures for each command. Then she adds, "Now, you repeat them back to me please, Mandy."
Mandara, already sitting, just points to herself to demonstrate she can in fact sit. Next, she lifts to her feet and bounces a bit on her toes as she points to herself again. She continues this all the way to walk to coil where she pauses to look between Lakshmi and the ground confusedly.
Lakshmi hisses softly, "Mandy, sit."
The canine's ears perk in a "oh! I see" fashion and she nods her head to Lakshmi. The slave lowers herself to her knees and settles back before looking up to Lakshmi and asking, "Good?"
Lakshmi looks pleased and pats Mandy on the shoulder. "Good girl! Exactly right. Now… here's how to walk to coil." She rises and moves forward about a foot, then points to a spot on the floor slightly behind and to the left of her, "Mandy, walk to coil."
Crossing his arms, Skye silently nods and lowers his head, to rest his sable muzzle upon them. Sharp eyes watch, and even sharper ears listen close, their flickering hidden beneath the shadow of his hat's wide brim. Every so often, the hat's long and gorgeous eep feathers twitch, as his attention is snared, but for the most, he quietly watches and learns. And it's certainly more interesting than casing an empty home of a fat and lazy merchant …
The slave once again stands up and walks while watching the spot pointed to. When she reaches it she settles back down on her knees and asks, "Yes?" before leaning her head over towards Lakshmi's hand.
Lakshmi hisses softly, "Excellent, except that you should not sit until I do. Now… when I am moving, that is the spot you want to walk in, and when I am standing, that is the spot you want to stand in. Do you understand?"
Lakshmi gently rubs Mandy's ears as she speaks.
"I understand. Do I stand now?" replies Mandara as she leans into rubbing. Her tail wags slowly now as she sits next to her master.
Lakshmi hisses softly, "Yes, please. Whenever we go into peoples' houses or shops, I'll have you walk to coil… That way they need not worry about your accidentally snuffling something you shouldn't. Also, we will need to return to Master Dorshall's so that you can apologize to him for wandering around his workshop last time you were there… That sort of thing causes artisans great concern, after all. I would like you to be on your best behavior while there. Don't worry, I'll tell you what you'll need to do, and he will not touch you You are mine, not his, and I do not allow people to harm those that are my responsibility." She stops rubbing Mandy's ears long enough to turn and gaze directly down at Mandy. "Do you understand all this? It's quite important that you do so, so if you are at all confused tell me, and we'll straighten things out at once."
Once standing, Mandara folds her hands behind her back and bounces on her toes. "I understand. Say sorry, make fix. But have question." She lifts her head to return her gaze and show she is paying attention. "Why nice?"
"Er… " Lakshmi looks perplexed again at Mandy's pidgin. "Try that again, please? Why nice what?"
Lakshmi mutters softly to herself, "I simply must start language lessons at once!"
Scooting a bit closer to Lakshmi, Mandara reaches for the woman's hand. She continues to look up at her master for a long moment before her other hand reaches to touch her own chest. "Why nice? Why not beat? Not like other master, not … used to nice," Mandara explains.
Lakshmi meets Mandy's eyes unblinkingly. She takes Mandy's hand gently, even though she looks faintly bemused at the question. "Is it nice? I've no idea, Mandy. I did it because… " she pauses, frowning thoughtfully, then slowly adds, "I do what I do because… it is the right thing to do."
Lakshmi adds briskly, "It would be foolish to attempt to teach through constant negative reinforcement. If positive reinforcement worked for me, I see no reason why it should not work just as well on those around me."
Lakshmi smiles and rubs Mandy's ears gently. "You're very smart, Mandy… You'll learn this too soon, I suspect. Now… we have people to interview and a whispa to catch. Shall we?"
"Oh," whispers Mandara with a slight hint of confusion. She stares at Lakshmi for awhile and suddenly smiles widely and says, "Like you, if mean anything. Make proud. We go now?"
Lakshmi smiles, "Yes… and yes." She quietly slithers out the door, Mandy at her side.