Friday, September 25, 2009

"Shadow", Chapter 7, Part 2

Gurloes was one of the most complex men I have known, because he was a complex man trying to be simple. Not a simple, but a complex man's idea of simplicity. Just as a courtier forms himself into something brilliant and involved, midway between a dancing master and a diplomacist, with a touch of assassin if needed, so Master Gurloes had shaped himself to be the dull creature a pursuivant or bailiff expected to see when he summoned the head of our guild, and that is the only thing a real torturer cannot be. The strain showed; though every part of Gurloes was as it should have been, none of the parts fit. He drank heavily and suffered from nightmares, but he had the nightmares when he had been drinking, as if the wine, instead of bolting the doors of his mind, threw them open and left him staggering about in the last hours of the night, trying to catch a glimpse of a sun that had not yet appeared, a sun that would banish the phantoms from his big cabin and permit him to dress and send the journeymen to their business. Sometimes he went to the top of our tower, above the guns, and waited there talking to himself, peering through glass said to be harder than flint for the first beams. He was the only one in our guild - Master Palaemon not excepted - who was unafraid of the energies there and the unseen mouths that spoke sometimes to human beings and sometimes to other mouths in other towers and keeps. He loved music, but he thumped the arm of his chair to it and tapped his foot, and did so most vigorously to the kind he liked best, whose rhythms were too subtle for any regular cadence. He ate too much and too seldom, read when he thought no one knew of it, and visited certain of our clients, including one on the third level, to talk of things none of us eaves-dropping in the corridor outside could understand. His eyes were refulgent, brighter than any woman's. He mispronounced quite common words: /urticate, salpinx, bordereau/. I cannot well tell you how bad he looked when I returned to the Citadel recently, how bad he looks now.
This is an incredible characterization. Unfortunately, I'm having trouble thinking of anything to say here. I don't believe I've met anyone like this. I have met people who do the opposite, try to appear more complex than they are. Actually, I'd say they're already complex, and trying to look complex in a different way they think is more impressive. That's because I would consider most people fairly complex. Maybe you would disagree, but they are complex enough to try to act more complex: I wouldn't call that simple. The closest thing I can think of is people who fly thousands of miles in jets, then drive another very complex machine to a park maintained by a large group of people who work for a very large government agency, then take a walk with hundreds of dollars of camping equipment. That's called "getting back to nature." I'm not putting them down, it's an enjoyable activity. It's just not a return to the practices of our naturalistic primitive ancestors, or it would involve a lot more starvation and infant mortality. That's only one specific activity, though, not a whole persona. Have you ever met someone like Gurloes? Since I don't have much to say, I'll look up the archaic words Wolfe uses:
  • pursuivant: a junior herald
  • bailiff: in this context, seems to be similar to a small-town sheriff.
  • urticate: whip with or as with nettles
  • salpinx: a trumpet-like instrument of the ancient Greeks; a tube in the uterus or the ear
  • bordereau: A detailed statement, especially one containing a detailed listing of documents or accounts
These words would be quite common to Master Gurloes, who is a warden/manager/torturer/medical professional.

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