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Tam

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Nohn          Tam

The humidity was high, the sun was low, and the day was heating up when the midwife delivered the squalling bundle of red-haired joy. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite what the proud parents were expecting.

"What in the name of the Emperor's ravening armies...?!" is a lousy welcome when you've just been evicted from a cozy, tax-free existence. But that's what greeted the four-armed, two-tailed ball of red fuzz that was delivered to its shocked parents by an equally alarmed midwife.

After a moment of panic, however, the squalling red ball separated into two tiny but very irate babies. Prefectly normal, perfectly healthy and perfectly male baby Peplian, as one promptly (and amply) demonstrated on the boot of his father.

This unseemly delivery had several unforseen side effects. For one, it was simply impossible to determine which was eldest. A race that close has no winner, and all anyone could reliably say was that the red-headed one was leading.

Since both had red hair, that was a safe thing to say.

The dual-delivery also meant that two names were now needed. This required some thought and a slight re-adjustment—the family tradition of naming the eldest male child after the paternal ancestor three times removed just wasn't going to work this time.

So their parents did what all good parents do: They made something up.

One landed the conventional, un-assuming name of Nohn Sen'Se. It seemed to fit—although, considering the nature of the twins, it was never certain that the recipient of that particular name necessarily kept it.

(Nohn's penchant for teething on paper contributed to this—all records made at their birth were said to have been destroyed through his infantile mastication. Private speculation, however, has it that records were never kept due to the inherent difficulties in determining who was who.)

As for the other baby Peplian, well... Desperate times call for desperate measures. But saddling a baby with the moniker of Twen Tiethann Iver'Sarymac was a terrible thing to do—he was lucky to have been called anything other than "Hey, you!"

Fortunately, after things settled down they just called him Tam.

As the twins grew older, a certain amount of confusion followed Nohn and Tam. Painting one blue was seriously considered at one point, but fortunately wiser heads prevailed and the twins continued to be indistinguishable from one another.

Much to their dismay, however, they also continued to share equally in any blame that was to be laid for one or the other's misadventures (like the time one of them destroyed the tanner's privy). This led to a certain amount of angst and discontent between the brothers.

It didn't help matters that a tribunal was unable to reach a resolution on the seniority issue. After noodling over the issue for some weeks, the tribunal eventually threw its collective hands in the air and passed the judgment on to fate; ie. whichever twin was still around when it came time to inherit, that was the one that would get the loot.

This didn't please either of the twins tremendously, and put further cracks in an already strained relationship.

Nevertheless, the young Peplian passed through childhood and into adolescence unremarked except for being indistinguishable from one another. In attitude, however, they were two completely different sides of the coin.

The one called Nohn was somewhat surly and prone to introspection. For this reason, it surprised no one when he accepted an apprenticeship with a nearby tailor who worked long hours in near solitude.

The one called Tam, however, was more ebulient than his twin and delighted the local baker by accepting his offer of apprenticeship. Having a bright, talkative young Peplian at the counter increased the number of ladies buying his wares and added considerably to the baker's bottom line. That Tam showed no lack of aptitude toward the art of baking was merely icing on the, err, cake.

Things, as they tend to do, progressed from there. Nohn, for instance, developed a flair for warm woolens and undergarments, while Tam became particularly adept at pastries of all kinds. (It was during this time it became easier to tell the twins apart—Tam was the chubby one.)

Strangely enough, Nohn was the first of the twins to flirt with greatness. No longer an apprentice but an accomplished tailor, Nohn gained local reknown for his long woolen drawers. To his dismay, his woolens were of such quality that the local market was soon satisfied (they just didn't wear out!) and attempts to reach a broader market were stifled by transportation issues.

That all changed the day an Imperial buyer happened across a pair of Nohn's woolen drawers. Now the Imperial court—like all stone monoliths throughout history—is glorious to look at, but it does suffer from drafts. And while the court clothiers are artists extraordinaire with stiff brocades and courtly costume, their abilities with undergarments (especially winter undergarments) leave a lot to be desired.

So when the Imperial buyer not only found a maker of such garments that not only were a comfort to wear but were warm as well, he went a little nuts.

Slapping a tremendous bag of coins on the counter, he said, "Son, this is yours if you can deliver five dozen pairs of your woolen drawers to me in four days time."

Nohn fainted dead away.

Needless to say, when confronted with an impossible task (and more money than he'd ever seen in his life), Nohn accepted the commission. Once he was revived, that is.

After four feverish days and nights the buyer took delivery of his long wooled drawers. Nohn, now considerably richer, faced the task of looking for a shop of his own and the potential of a contract with the Imperial court. The future, as they say, was bright.

Alas for his lost needle...

For, as Nohn struggled to finish the commission, he accidentally left a needle in the seam running across the seat of a pair of drawers. Of course, this was the pair of drawers drawn by the Emperor's valet, the very pair the Emperor wore the night he sat upon a stone bench in the gardens to view the stars.

The results: One pierced Imperial derriere; one furious (and disciplined) Imperial buyer; and one exiled tailor who formerly specialized in long woolen drawers.

Needless to say, this did little to improve Nohn's outlook on life. Presented with a choice of occupations in his soggy new home, he immediately seized a club and began whaling the tar out of all and sundry fauna that got in his path. (Several pieces of the landscape also earned his ire.)

Even today he can be found bashing rats and muttering about lost needles and the Emperor's underwear while berating the shipping company's moratorium on furniture...

After Nohn's exile, Tam's world opened up. Since the matter of seniority (for all intents and purposes) was settled, Tam's future was secured. His apprenticeship with the childless baker guaranteed him a future in his chosen occupation while his status as sole heir to his family's properties guaranteed his status in the community.

It also made it easier to pay court to local girls, since his brother wasn't constantly around trying to pinch his dates.

But (there's always a but!) the baker had a nephew. A very envious nephew. A very covetous nephew. A very upwardly mobile nephew who saw his uncle's bakery as a stepping stone to a higher station in life (he was a goat herder, and a poor one at that). A bakery that—as long as Tam was in the picture—he'd only visit as a customer.

Herding goats generally leaves you with an inordinate amount of free time on your hands. And if you're substantially motivated, you can make something with that time. Just follow this recipe:

Add four parts of nothing to do, two parts of ill-will, one part of greed, five parts of laziness, and a pinch of slime to a large bowl. Mix it well, bake it in a goat pasture for four years, and what do you have?

You got it. A conspiracy theory.

The campaign began in a pub. The baker's nephew, who was considerably inebriated at the time, accidentally blurted out how the Peplian would be taking back what was rightfully theirs, and he just happened to know all about it.

Strangely enough, the 40 or so Imperial constables who were in the pub at the time took notice. But not one of them wondered why a drunk Peplian would choose to drink in a pub that was normally shunned by all but the Emperor's men...

No one said a constable had to be bright.

Through a few more judiciously placed hints (what he lacked in subtly he made up for in quantity), the nephew soon found himself in front of the regional commander. Swearing loyalty to the Emperor, he promised to pass on any information he heard regarding the Peplian uprising.

"A Peplian uprising?" you ask? Yes indeed. Such was the story the nephew pitched to the constabulary, and such a story they bought hoof, shoe and nails.

Now that the nephew had a direct link to the constabulary, he stepped up his campaign of mis-information. He gave the constabulary dates, he gave them names, he gave them locations, he gave them everything his greedy little mind could make up.

To say Tam was a bit surprised when the entire constabulary burst into the bakery one morning is an understatement. The fact that they were there to arrest him on charges of treason surprised him even more.

In the uproar, Tam was clouted on the head (the nephew had a hand in that), the oven was neglected and the whole bakery went Phooomph! up in smoke.

So while Tam faced exile (and a large bump on the noggin), the nephew faced a future in the goat field, in addition to a reputation of being a stooge for the Emperor.

Tam, of course, denied any involvement in a Peplian uprising, but the body of evidence against him couldn't be overlooked. Besides, by the time he'd recovered from his concussion enough to put together a defense he'd been bundled onto an exile transport and was outbound for the Lok'groton Islands.

Tam's naturally friendly nature led him to hanging around with other groups of exiles, which in turn caused him to naturally drift into the healing arts. Aside from periodic bouts of depression and a certain longing for a cream tart he was never able to finish, his transition to life as an exile was uneventful and quite unremarked.

But don't ever, ever offer him a pastry cooked by Haricot. Yech!


Addendum:

This handbill was recently posted on the mainland, according to recent exiles:

"A recent rumor that Emperor Mobius is collecting identical twins for research purposes is held to be spurious, untrue, and defamatory. However, if you should happen to know the location of any such identical twins, please forward such information to local representatives of the Emperor's court, who may wish to question such individuals."

We're both quite worried about this...


Further Addendums:

Has anyone seen Nohn lately? Last I heard of that conceited, err, brother of mine was from Idiot Savant, who reported Nohn left the library briefly to relieve himself on the left heel of the Sentinel earlier this week. At least I think that's what Idiot meant...

No one's seen Nohn since, and that's quite unlike the noisy braggart. Familial discontent aside, I'm quite concerned that the rumors of exiles treating with the Emperor for safe passage away from these increasingly dangerous islands are true, and that his disappearance could be related to the Emperor's "twin research."

One can only fear what the Emperor's so-called "research" entails...

Tam


Further Addendums:

My no-good, deceitful, lying, traitorous, cowardly, fungus-gumming brother has turned up—and he wasn't even kidnapped!

It seems that Nohn took fright during the chaos of the Ripture War, collected a case of Old Dusty Whisker, and spent the ensuing time (and following seven months) safely ensconced beneath a table in a tavern. A dearth of liquor is the only thing that brought him from his safe perch, and a good thing, too; much longer and his liver (which is hanging by a thread as we speak) would have been as useful to him as a handful of wet ashes.

It was only after many long and torturous sessions with hot tea, cold water and thin broth that my drunkard brother was able to detail even this much of the events that led to his return to Puddleby. As to the source of the handbill that supposedly called for the seizure of all twins for the Emperor's research, well, I have yet to dredge the truth of that out of his pickled brain.

In disgust,

Tam