Celebrate my heart, at ease or on fire, in my usual featherbrained way.Horace, Roman PoetOde I-6, 23 BCE
Come closer, Kurokuma. It's quite safe.'Horace shuffled closer to the edge...'Quite safe, my foot,' he muttered to himself. 'And what's this Kurokuma you keep calling me?''It's a term of great respect,' Shigeru told him.'Great respect,' Shukin echoed.
What was that, Kurokuma?' asked one of the escorts riding near him. The others chuckled at the name.'Nothing important,' Horace said. Then he looked at them suspiciously. 'What's this Kurokuma business?'The Senshi looked at him with a completely staight face.'It's a term of great respect,' he said. Several others within earshot nodded confirmation. They too managed to remain straight-faced. It was a skill the Nihon-Jan had perfected.'Great respect,' one of them echoed.
Our way would seem quite familiar to the Romans, more by far than the Greek way. Socrates in the Symposium, when Alcibiades challenged him to drink two quarts of wine, could have done so or not as he chose, but the diners-out of Horace's day had no such freedom. He speaks often of the master of the drinking, who was always appointed to dictate how much each man was to drink. Very many unseemly dinner parties must have paved the way for that regulation. A Roman in his cups would've been hard to handle, surly, quarrelsome, dangerous. No doubt there had been banquets without number which had ended in fights, broken furniture, injuries, deaths. Pass a law then, the invariable Roman remedy, to keep drunkenness within bounds. Of course it worked both ways: everybody was obliged to empty the same number of glasses and the temperate man had to drink a great deal more than he wanted, but whenever laws are brought in to regulate the majority who have not abused their liberty for the sake of the minority who have, just such results come to pass. Indeed, any attempt to establish a uniform average in that stubbornly individual phenomenon, human nature, will have only one result that can be foretold with certainty: it will press hardest on the best.
There are always risks in battle. It's a dangerous business. The trick is to take the right ones.' [said Halt].'How do you know which are the right ones?' Shigeru asked.Halt glanced at his two younger companions. They grinned and answered in chorus, 'You wait and see if you win.
What the devil is Chocho?' Will whispered.Horace's grin broadened. 'You are. It's what the men call you,' he said. Then he added, 'It's a term of great respect.'Behind them, Halt nodded confirmation. 'Great respect,' he agreed.
Easy climb, Kurokuma. You do it easily.''Not on your life,' Horace said... 'That's what we have Rangers for. They climb up sheer rock walls and crawl along narrow, slippery ledges. I'm a trained warrior, and I'm far to valuable to risk such shenanigans.''We're not valuable?' Will said, feigning insult.Horace looked at him. 'We've got two of you. We can always afford to lose one,' he said firmly.
Will had been taken aback in his confrontation with Arisaka to discover that his name- Chocho- meant Butterfly... He was puzzled to know why they had selected it. His friends, of course, delighted in helping him guess the reason.'I assume it's because you're such a snazzy dresser,' Evanlyn said. 'You Rangers are a riot of color, after all.'...'I think it might be more to do with the way he raced around the training ground, darting here and there to correct the way a man might be holding his shield, then dashing off to show someone how to put their body weight into their javelin cast,' said Horace, a little more sympathetically. Then he ruined the effect by adding thoughtlessly, 'I must say, your cloak did flutter around like a butterfly's wings.
All we could get out of them was that they were taking us to 'Kurokuma'. We didn't know if that was a place or a person. What does it mean, by the way?''I'm told it's a term of great respect,' Horace said, unwilling to admit that he didn't know.
But...' Horace looked from one familiar face to another. 'How did you come to..?'Before he could finish the question, Will interupted, thinking to clarify matters but only making them more puzzling...'We were all in Toscana for the treaty signing,' he began, then corrected himself. 'Well, Evanlyn wasn't. She came later. But, when she did, she told us you were missing, so we all boarded Gundar's ship-you should see it. It's a new design that can sail into the wind. But anyway, that's not important. And just before we left, Selethen decided to join us-what with you being an old comrade in arms and all-and...'He got no further. Halt, seeing the confusion growing on Horace's face, held up a hand to stop his babbling former apprentice...Will stopped, a little embarrassed as he realized that he had been running off at the mouth.
Already, Cullum felt a stirring of interest. The name Horace and the mention of an oakleaf symbol struck a chord in his memory. Sir Horace, the Oakleaf Knight, was a legendary figure in Araluen, even in a place as remote as Norgate. Of course, the more remote the location, the more garbled and fantastic the legends became. As Cullum had hear tell, Sir Horace had been a youth of sixteen when he defeated the tyrant Morgarath in single combat, slicing the head off the evil lord's shoulders with one might strocke of a massive broadsword.Then, in the company of the equally legendary Ranger Halt, Sir Horace had traveled across the Stormwhite Sea to defeat the Riders from the East and rescue Princess Cassandra and her companion, the apprentice Ranger known as Will. Will! The significance of the name suddenly registered with the innkeeper. The jongleur's name was Will. Now here he was, in a cowled cloak, festooned with recurve bow and a quiver of arrows. He looked more closely and saw the hilt of a heavy saxe knife just visible at his waist. No doubt about it, Cullum thought, these cheerful young men were two of Araluen's greatest heroes!