Chapter Thirty-Six: Invention
"I wanted to bring you in on a proposal... a project, perhaps. 'You' in the plural sense... my native language doesn't distinguish and I'm still having trouble with that." Dawn admitted. "The Sisters as an organization, not just yourself. But perhaps it would
be best if I discuss it directly with you, Sister Belona, first, before we take it to... whoever is in command."
Sister Belona nodded. "I have a private office, near the rooms we keep for the sick." She gestured to Dawn and Tengwar to follow, and led them through the simple door and down the stairs to the ground level, then down a long corridor. Dawn recognized it at once as the corridor that led to the chemistry laboratory, though they stopped well short of that section of the building, and Sister Belona led them through a small door into a chamber about the same size as Dawn's old bedroom in Sunnydale. A plain, half-circular, polished wooden desk occupied the center of the room, with one hard, straight-backed wooden chair on the straight side, its back to the wall. Sister Belona went around the table to claim that one. Around the curved side of her desk, there was just empty space, though Sister Belona indicated a somewhat dusty stack of interlocking chairs in one corner. Tengwar lifted one of the chairs free, passing it to Dawn, before claiming a second; there were three more left in the corner. They placed them according to their own preferences; Dawn, not wanting to have her back to the door, picked a spot somewhat to the left of center, and Tengwar selected a similar spot to the right, which resulted in the three of them sitting in almost a perfect equilateral triangle.
"What is it you
propose?" Sister Belona said, stressing the Lachryman word for the second-person singular as she pointed at Dawn.
Dawn grinned at the slight jab at her verbal weakness. "You," she hoped she was repeating the same word, but she couldn't be sure, "will recall that we discussed an emergency warning system for Wraith attacks. After the destruction of Athos and Keloria, we tried to cobble together a way to get the word out, but that's not an effective plan for how to do it in the future. What we need is a system
. As we discussed, that could only be done by someone paid to provide the service, but there's no way to convince people that it's worth paying for... at least, not by itself."
Sister Belona nodded. "We had also discussed somehow adding it to the duties of the medical Sisters who travel the worlds, but they are already so busy that they cannot spend the time we would prefer with some patients. There are also a handful of worlds where they have very small populations, such as Culebra or Giant Forest, and we do not routinely visit those worlds. It is simply a waste of time needed elsewhere, for us to offer services where they are not needed, except upon request; such a system would not effectively reach those worlds."
Dawn held up a hand. "The Sisters offer... additional services to the worlds with larger populations?"
Sister Belona nodded. "On many of the more populated worlds, where our services are often needed, we do maintain a small clinic, and Sisters are sent to serve there for a few hours or days at a time. Never for more than eight days at a time, and in most cases they are teams of multiple Sisters and at least one returns or is sent out every second day."
"I have never heard of that." Dawn protested.
Tengwar leaned forward. "Aside from Sateda, which had its own medical professionals, I have taken you only to the smaller worlds which have no clinics, except for Kas-Cerine. And there, we had limited time and energy to explore as the town is so far from the Ring."
Dawn shrugged. "Okay, so the Sisters do a little more than I thought on the bigger worlds. I didn't really count on getting the Sisters involved very much in this project, so no harm done... actually, it might make one part of this a bit easier. But moving on... two things occured to me after witnessing the destruction of Sateda."
Holding up one finger, she said, "First, think of the nature of money. Silver coins really don't have an intrinsic value. You can't eat them or wear them or use them as weapons. Their value comes from the ability to use them in trade for other things or services. The destruction of Sateda has removed many of the things that the coins can be used for, and as a result, the value of the coins will drop. You demonstrated that when I asked to rent the goggles and dust mask."
Sister Belona shook her head. "They are yours to keep."
Dawn blushed, ducking her head. "Thank you; I will still have need of them. My second point is that the destruction of Sateda also means there will be no more Fairs. Many of the trades between one planet and another, whether they are trades in kind or for coins, from what Tengwar has taught me, are based upon what happens at the Fair. Once word of the destruction of Sateda gets out, the businesses on all of the Ring worlds will suffer until a replacement is found."
"The third point I want to make, not referring to Sateda, is that if a warning system was placed in the hands of a government - even that of the Lachryman Sisters - it would not necessarily be trusted by others. To be effective, it must be independent."
Sister Belona nodded. "That is a fair point. I would argue that in the hands of the Sisters, it would be, but if the system failed somehow, it might damage our reputation enough to endanger our other work."
Dawn shrugged. "I hadn't thought of it that way, but you're right. In any case, I think I've come up with a possible solution to all
of those problems. I'll need some more information before I can really get into details, but here's my proposal. A system will be created where written messages can be sent, for a fee, from any of the Ring worlds, and be carried by a paid courier to a central place, where they would then be sorted and sent on, again by a paid courier, to their destination worlds. The courier would, therefore, be able to deliver an emergency warning if one became necessary. Since it is my proposal, I would take personal responsibility for the courier service between worlds and the sorting facility; a portion of the fees could be set aside for local residents," looking up at Tengwar, "possibly to include the current Ring-travelling traders, to handle the collection and delivery of messages within their own communities."
Sister Belona smiled. "It is an ambitious plan... but for one thing. Lady Arwen, you are known to the people of the Ring worlds, as is your connection with Giant Forest. Given the size of the community there, if you are not already part of its government, you soon will be, so your statement about the reliability of the service applies equally to yourself."
Dawn sat back in silence, considering that for a moment, closed her eyes, and came to a decision. "If I was anything but
a Master Storyteller, yes, that would
be a problem." At Sister Belona's and Master Tengwar's blank looks, she explained, "In the stories of my people, there are several examples of heroes who fight against the evils of our world, and some evils that are found only in stories, heroes who wish to lead a normal life when they are not actively fighting. In many of these stories, they adopt costumes and alternate names, as well as distinctive weapons or tools, and only fight when so attired. They often have names such as Iron Man, Superman, The Flash, and so on." Dawn smiled. "I shall simply have to invent
the Courier. She will be an outlander, the only survivor of a lost world, and carry out her duties by use of a mysterious device that no others in all the Ring worlds know how to operate. I'm already working on the device, so we might as well make use of it. Her clothing and appearance will be distinctive, and for protection, she will carry Kera's sword. The location of the sorting facility can be kept secret easily enough, since only the Courier would have reason to visit it."
Master Tengwar narrowed his eyes. "You're not worried that people will figure out that she's a normal girl?"
Dawn shook her head. "Another storyteller's trick. It's called 'suspension of disbelief'. If you tell someone that they are supposed
to believe something..." Dawn glanced at Sister Belona and interjected, "not in a religious sense, but in terms of the story. If you convince people that they are supposed
to believe, then they will act like they do
believe, even if they actually don't." She smiled, adding, "In this case, people will learn to treat the Courier as a separate individual... if
I do my job as a storyteller well enough when I tell them her story. Besides," Dawn grinned at Tengwar, "maybe she's not
a normal girl, perhaps that's
the key. Being the last survivor of her people gives her quite a bit of latitude, I would think."
Master Tengwar sucked in a breath in surprise, let it out, and then nodded. "In that case... she
will need someone else to represent her, when it comes to speaking to the peoples of the other worlds. You can tell the story, but also speaking for
the Courier is a bit..."
Dawn nodded. "Yes, I agree. Perhaps the Sisters will help with that portion as well; it should not be much of a burden as it is not a long term committment. We will just need to speak with the rulers of each world, to convince them to allow the Courier system to operate on their world, and to regard the Courier herself as... inviolate. Meanwhile, I will make a tour of all the worlds, gathering the people and telling them stories, just as they expect from a Master Storyteller, and champion of the last of the Satedan Fairs. Only, those stories will necessarily include the ones with costumed heroes and one of my own composition about the Courier herself."
Sister Belona rose from her chair. "I fully agree. Let us take your... our
... proposal to the Sister who leads the Larissia Lachryma, Sister Kierse. I have the authority to do so; I am her second-in-command." She smiled a little at Dawn's look of surprise. "If she agrees, the medical Sisters, who are under my guidance, will be asked to assist the Courier so much as it does not interfere with their other duties. I cannot offer them to carry the local messages, however."
"I didn't expect that anyway." Dawn stammered, once she'd gotten over the shock. She hadn't known Sister Belona was the second-in-command, though it did explain her willingness to act on her own authority in several previous situations. "I may need to talk to some of them in the planning stages, about things like distances from the Ring, quality and type of trail, things like that for all the worlds. Tengwar's experience will also be helpful for those questions."
A/N: All along, I've been hinting at this rewrite including one major change that would help make room for a possible
sequel. Here it is: I will be posting the HD rewrite of the remainder of the original "The Courier" as a separate tale, because it really is
a separate tale.
This will allow for the insertion of a possible
sequel into the intervening time gap, without expecting readers to jump to another story and then back to the first one. That possible
sequel is not yet written or even actively outlined, so for now, I will be resuming the story (under another title) from the point of introduction of the SGA characters. If and when such a sequel takes shape, it will therefore become the middle story of a trilogy.