Nation of Legends
Lomdi Lo Bodhi
A fox for all seasons
“Altrua, you ask a question to which there is no answer. Or, perhaps, there is. But who would know it? You should ask him yourself. I am sure he knows that you are seeking information about him. The Nari know these things,” the elderly fox said, his ears wiggling demonstratively. “You speak loudly and clumsily, how can we not hear?”
A good-natured smile came from the young scribe, and he repeated his request.
“I know, I know. We have a deal. But listen, you Altrua? You are loud. Bright. Overt. When a Nari travels, he moves through the shadows. Where you are light, we are dark. Where you are visible, we are invisible. Your idea of stealth is our idea of obviousness. This is the first step, and on the second step, we are the light, and Lomdi is the dark. Where we are visible, he is invisible. He moves between the clans like a ghost. The Fastpaws found him first, but he does not claim to be just of their clan. So you ask a question, and I must tell you, I have only part of an answer to give you.”
There was a pause, and the first of the elderly Nari took a slow sip from his cup of wine. One finger, covered with fur slowly turning white, leaving the orange that had originally resided there as a faded memory, pointed towards the young Altrua asking him for more information. As he did, the second of the foxes, wearing a broad-brimmed hat, slipped one hand into the pouch that the scribe had carelessly left on the table and relieved him of his coins.
“But we have a deal, yes. We will tell you what we know of Lomdi,” he said, and took another drink. His hand was shaking when he put the delicate glass down. The elderly Nari stared directly at the Altrua, and his face tightened into an unfriendly expression. “Write this down if you want to remember it. I am only going to tell you once.”
The young scribe was already seated, but his stylus was now held at the ready, waiting to hear what the old man would say. After that pronouncement, he had expected him to start immediately, but instead, the Nari stared out the window. The silence stretched on uncomfortably, and just as he was about to speak to prompt the elderly fox, the story began.
“It is hard to decide where to start. Of Lomdi’s early days, our clan knows very little, despite our cordial relationships with the Fastpaws. He obviously had parents, as that is how these things work,” the fox said, emphasizing it with a suggestive wiggle of his eyebrows, “but more than that, who can say? He obviously had a family, but not a single Nari alive can claim to have known them, or even their names. They might as well have been doves flying over snow. The one thing I know is that when a Fastpaw caravan was traveling in the southernmost reaches of this realm, they found him. Only him. A young Nari. Alone. No family in sight. No caravan of his own. Nothing. Just one fox. Of course, they took him in. Honor demanded it,” he said, knowing the Altrua would not understand that last point. No matter. Some things were just beyond the understanding of the less enlightened.
However, it was clear the fox was omitting details. Something about the story was deeply unsettling, but the scribe knew better than to pry. The shaking in the elderly fox’s hands had grown worse, and now it was clear that it was not from age. “They say he was different, marked by the stars. Despite his youth, he rose to the top of the caravan quickly, commanding the scouts and the smugglers. He was faster, sneakier, and more dangerous than any who competed with him. Within a few years, Lomdi was one of the most talented smugglers and merchants of the Nari, and that is saying something. There are few better than him, and all those who hold that title now, including our dear lady in this town, hold their edge because of their experience. For now.”
A deep breath was taken, and the fox seemed to have calmed himself. One finger trailed along the edge of his wine glass, his tail flicking idly behind him, before he continued. “Lomdi spent his time traveling among the clans. Building links with each of the smuggling guilds, uniting them in purpose while encouraging them to compete with each other. Each should be the most profitable, the most clever, the most skilled. He turned competition between them into an art form, pitting his own guild against the others, and all became stronger for it. He could have been the next great guildmaster, assuming he could stop sneaking between caravans in the night.”
That earned a short laugh from the other Nari, though he said nothing, and allowed the story to continue.
“This is how things are. Each follows his own path. Lomdi belongs to all the clans, and none of the clans. He travels between them, after giving up his position as the head of his own smuggling guild to his most promising protégé. Instead, he is an emissary, an ambassador, respected by all, yet beholden to none.”
The scribe looked up, as if to speak, and the second fox, who had not yet spoken, silenced him with a raised hand. “I know, this is not what you asked. You wanted to know how to influence him, and what his past was,” he said. “This is not so easy. He had money, he does not need more. He had power, and the smugglers from the clans respect him, and will do his bidding because he always makes sure they get a cut. With our people, power given instead of power earned means nothing, and will be taken away. So what can you offer him? You need to promise him that you can help him fulfill his vision for our people, and support him when he asks for it. Anything else will be of no value.”
The fox paused. His eyes fixed on the Altrua. His whiskers became very still. “Don’t ask about his past, though. Some things are not meant for others.”
The scribe nodded, and was dismissed from the presence of the two Nari. After he left, the first Nari looked towards the one in the hat, and raised one eyebrow. “Was that what you wanted?”
“Yes,” said Lomdi, taking off the hat and revealing his true form. “Hopefully they will have something worthwhile. The Altrua don’t understand that their stiff, antiquated ways will someday be their downfall, but they have good hearts. They could yet be useful to us. Also, the shaking was a nice touch. Well acted."
The older fox laughed, sadly. “It wasn’t all an act. I am no fool, youngling. I have my suspicions about what happened before you were found by the Fastpaws. But tell me, do you really believe it, Lomdi? Do you really think the silent city can still be built?”
Lomdi smiled, and pulled half the stolen coins out of the purse and handed them to the older fox. “I do. Just because something didn’t work once doesn’t mean it can’t work. Sometimes the idea is good, but the timing is off.”
“And it is now?” The older fox asked.
“That, my friend,” Lomdi said, smiling, “remains to be seen.”