|Episode #26: They're Absolutely
(Continued from episode #25)
Three figures, robed and veiled to hide any clue to their real appearance, are waiting to greet the train.
"Hello. We are not Sharans. We do not feel an irresistable compulsion to lie to foreigners. We don't hide our faces because we want you to be confused even about what we look like."
"Excuse me," Sycho interrupts. "But I think you slipped there. Isn't that last bit true?"
"True? Of course it is! We always speak the truth!"
(Which translates as "True? Don't be stupid! We never speak the truth!"
"Yes, but you want us to be confused, don't you? So since you said that you want us to be confused, that must be true."
The Sharans mutter to each other.
"Of course it is true! The first half of the sentence was not a lie. So the second half does not make perfect sense in context. It is quite obviously true."
"You are very intelligent!"
"Huh!" Sycho scowls and lets Shadar take over the conversation.
"Hello! We are not an Aes Sedai, an Asha'man and a Whitecloak travelling together. We have not been banned from our respective organisations for being incurable troublemakers. We are not totally insane."
"No. We're not."
"Oh, yes, of course - of course not - that is -" The Sharans go into a huddle to whisper together, their confusion not visible behind the veils but quite evident nevertheless.
" - obviously lying..."
" - obviously telling the truth..."
" - obviously telling the truth about lying..."
The Sharans finally separate and turn to face their guests again.
"We do not think you are much better at this than most foreigners," the first Sharan says firmly. "We do not think we should call a truce."
"We totally disagree," Shadar agrees.
So, of course, they call a truce, and Shadar, Shani and Sycho are declared honorary Sharans. Or maybe it was that they're not declared honorary Sharans. Or maybe honorary not-Sharans. This is just too confusing, so let's skip to the next bit...
A little later, as they pass the time in the marketplace, the first Sharan addresses them in more normal language. "You are obviously very skilled liars. Perhaps you would care to compete in a lying contest?"
"By all means!" Shani concurs immediately. "As an Aes Sedai I should have an excellent chance in such a contest. But we must set stakes. If I win, I want your entire silk cargo."
"Certainly," the first Sharan replies, "since it isn't really silk anyway. I will be our country's champion for the contest. If I win, I will sell all three of you as slaves."
"Of course," Shani agrees, "since you can't really do that anyway. But who will judge the lies?"
"An Aiel trading party has just arrived at the market," the second Sharan proposes, "let them be the judges."
Everyone approves of this suggestion, including the Aiel, so the lying contest gets underway.
"You are the host," Shani says graciously to the first Sharan, "you may tell the first lie."
The Aiel agree that this seems fair, so the first Sharan tells the Tale of the Shaven Seanchan.
Are you familiar with the strange people known as the Seanchan? You are? Then you will certainly agree that a number of their beliefs are extremely odd and nonsensical. Do you know why? It all goes back to a custom of theirs, that of having nobility shave their heads. Of course, when the higher someone stands the less hair they have, no Seanchan noble would ever cover their head and risk being mistaken for a mere commoner. Thus all the decisions of the Seanchan Empire are made by people with severe sunstroke.
As for where this custom came from in the first place, that is easy to explain. When Luthair Paendrag proclaimed himself Emperor he was, shall we say, getting on in years and his hairline was starting to noticeably recede. Thus the notion of baldness as a status symbol.
All the trouble caused by the Seanchan lately can, therefore, be directly ascribed to Luthair Paendrag's hairline.
The Aiel confer among themselves. "We do not think," one of them says finally, "that that can be definitely said to be a lie. After all, it is well known that wetlanders have many strange and foolish customs. It is the other liar's turn now."
The first Sharan looks disappointed, but Shani smiles, and tells the Tale of the Buttered Cats.
Perhaps you are not familiar with such esoteric information, but the scholars of the White Tower have studied science and philosophy for many centuries and have deduced the following laws of nature: Cats, when dropped, always land on their feet, and buttered toast, when dropped, always lands buttered side down.
If, therefore, a piece of buttered toast is securely attached, buttered side up, to the back of a cat and the cat is then dropped, these two laws come into conflict and cause the toast / cat unit to revolve in midair, while creating serious stress as the Pattern attempts to resolve the conflict.
An experiment of this nature was, in fact, how the Bore was created.
The Aiel confer.
"Well," one says finally, "it is true that the Tower knows many things. Unfortunately, we have no cats in the Waste on whom this theory may be tested. We cannot therefore absolutely rule out the possibility that it may be true."
Shani shrugs. Narrowing his eyes as he recognises a serious opponent, the first Sharan proceeds to tell the Tale of the Buttered Aes Sedai.
We too have studied such facts. But we perhaps have gone somewhat farther than you. You are no doubt aware, as a channeler yourself, that cats have an unusual affinity for female channelers and dogs for male channelers. It can be logically inferred, therefore, that female channelers exhibit cat-like traits to cats. Should one then attach a slice of buttered toast in the same manner to an Aes Sedai and throw her off the White Tower, she would also revolve in mid-air in precisely the same fashion. Perhaps you ought to carry out such an experiment to test this hypothesis for yourselves.
Shani laughs. "Not on me you don't."
The Aiel confer.
"The logic in deriving this statement from the previous one does not appear to be flawed. Therefore, as we have accepted the first as possible, we cannot rule out the second. Please, continue."
So Shani tells the Tale of the Female Dragon.
The scholars of our White Ajah have also determined that, in another turning of the Wheel, it would be possible for saidar rather than saidin to be tainted, and, therefore, for the Dragon to be female.
The Aiel shrug. "Well, we do not see why this could not be the case."
The first Sharan smiles smugly. So, to his surprise, do Shani, Shadar and Sycho. As he starts to tell his third story, Sycho leans out toward the readers and hisses "See!"
Where were we? Ah yes, the first Sharan was telling the Tale of the Fourteenth Forsaken.
It is generally accepted that there are thirteen Forsaken, or rather that, until recently, there were thirteen Forsaken. This belief is incorrect. There are fourteen, and the fourteenth of them is more dangerous than the thirteen all put together. This Forsaken is all but omnipresent, and his name is spoken with rage and loathing.
Can you guess who I speak of? This master of evil is of course the one known as Rafo.
The Aiel shudder. Then they confer.
"All the world knows that great evil is contained within that name. Your explanation is not totally implausible."
Sycho frowns, then whispers to Shadar. "But isn't RAFO a demon...?"
Unless one of you can come up with a better lie than that," the Aiel declare, "we see no reason to continue this."
"Well, it's my turn," Shani observes. "Here goes." And Shani tells the Tale of the Darkfriend That Was.
Once upon a time, the Whitecloaks caught a Darkfriend.
There is a long pause.
"Please repeat that," the Aiel request. "We could not have heard you properly."
"Once upon a time, the Whitecloaks caught a Darkfriend," Shani obliges. "A real Darkfriend."
The Aiel shake their heads in wonder. "We did hear you properly. What happened when they found out?"
"Most of them went mad," Shani explains.
"Well, that is certainly understandable. But the initial premise - no!" The Aiel shake their heads again. "We refuse to believe that any Whitecloak could ever catch a real Darkfriend. It is completely against their principles."
"Are you calling me a liar?"
"Without a doubt," the Aiel agree.
And so it was, that for the first and only time in history a Sharan was defeated in a lying contest. So goes the tale. What did you say? Is it true? But of course it is true! Would I lie to you?