John Anderson Tours the Ducal Residence


Guide:
Resh gol, boys and girls and covenanters of the Fayne! Welcome to the Ducal Residence. First, let’s see who is in our merry band. Please raise your hands when I call out your group. (A short pause; the sound of paper being unfolded) I see we have a secondary school history class from Barlamon… yes. A primary school group from Hapdorn… fine. And a tour group from Ylanfayne. (Raises his voice over the hushed chatter of the crowd) That accounts for everyone, except for that gentleman over there!
John Anderson:
(Loud) Do you mean me?
Guide:
Yes, I do! You don’t look like one of the students (general laughter) Could you be part of the tour group?
John:
(Loud) No, I am a local resident and covenanter of the Fayne. (The crowd falls silent) I know I don’t look Thorgelfaynese; I am a naturalized Human! (There are scattered “ahas” of recollection)
Guide:
(Scribbling sounds) That does explain why you stand out on my list! You’re the first alien on the tour in months!
This is the Ducal Residence of the Imperial Duchy of Thorgelfayne, as you all know, or you wouldn’t be here! (a murmur of laughter) The Residence was constructed over a period of years beginning in 390F, using the plans of the brilliant architect, Lalla Haktor. (To the students) Which one of you can tell me how long that was after the founding of the Duchy?
Young girl:
The War of the Fayne was 388F, so it would be exactly a half-hexacentury later.
Guide:
Very good! (continuing) The Residence was the actual seat of government and residence of the duke until when? (Hands shoot up, the guide chooses one) Yes?
Young boy:
Until 4100?
Guide:
Very close! (Several hands wave urgently. The guide chooses another) The one in the green pants.
Second boy:
Until 411A.
Guide:
Actually it was in 411B, but that’s close enough. This ceremonial entry hall was designed by the architect to serve as a formal reception area for foreign dignitaries. Furnishings are kept to a minimum, so that large numbers of people can be accommodated, and the murals that grace the walls on both sides depict the War of the Fayne and the original Swearing-In. Notice the fine detail work in this scene. You can almost read the license plates on two cars, as they plunge into the Larshtek Ravine.
A student:
Why does that ravine have a Fjarnian name? It’s right in the middle of Thorgelfayne!
Guide:
In a few years, you’ll learn about it in school. You are right; it is in the middle of modern Thorgelfayne, but the Duchy was much smaller in the early days. The ravine is named after Larshtek, an important figure in the Annals of Shame.
(From the sound of his voice, the guide turned around) On the back wall are symbolic depictions of the original sixteen guilds and a map of the original founding provinces.
A tourist:
(Interrupting in heavily accented Thorgelfaynese) Why was the Residence abandoned?
Guide:
Good question! The Residence was not really abandoned, it was simply outgrown. The guilds spread out to convenient locations throughout Thorgelfayne, but the Residence was retained as a link with the past and as a symbol of national unity. It is still occasionally used on ceremonial occasions.
The tourist:
I see. Does the duke still live here?
Guide:
The duke is selected once a year. Sometimes the same person is selected several times in a row; but that is uncommon. Thorgelfayne is a small country, and in this day and age of modern transportation, it is neither practical nor necessary for the dukes to make their residence here for such a short time. The current duke, Manni Thologar, lives with her husband and children in Lakeshore City, for example.
The tourist:
Thank you.
Guide:
Before we move on, I want to remind you all to keep the coverings over your shoes! These floors were not designed for the traffic they must bear today, and we must protect them from scratches and scuffs! Now, let’s shuffle through to the next chamber.

(The sound of muffled footsteps)

This is the Assembly Hall of the Useful Crafts Guild, one of the founding Guilds depicted in the mural back in the entry hall, which we just left. The Useful Crafts Guild built this building and has maintained it steadily over the hexacenturies, working hand-in-glove with the Hapdorn Historical Society. Because the Residence is so old, it has been estimated that in the course of routine maintenance and repair, the Guild has performed the equivalent of tearing down the building and rebuilding it half a sixteen times! (Oohs and ahs from the group. Snatches of comments indicate that everyone is admiring the murals, the ceiling, and the craftsmanship evident in the seats) To go back to a previous question, this Guild is now so large that even its Executive Council cannot physically fit into its own Assembly Hall!
A teacher:
Could you please explain the role that the Guilds had in the founding of the Duchy?
Guide:
Thank you for reminding me. Students, it is especially important to remember that the Guilds did not found the Duchy, but rather the first covenanters organized the Guilds to serve as their government. All matters of dispute were—and still are—adjudicated by experts in the proper fields.
A student:
What is this scaffolding for?
Guide:
That is the doorway to the next Assembly Hall; it is presently being restored. We have to return to the entry way and continue our tour from the central Common Hall.

(Sounds of muffled footsteps and muted conversation. Finally, the voices sound like they are within a very large hall)

Guide:
(Echoing slightly) This is the Common Hall, which was originally intended for official functions and short convocations of all the Guilds. Notice that the only adornment in this room is the architecture itself.
A tourist:
(Heavily accented) That is the most spectacular skylight I have ever seen!
A student:
What’s this thing here in the floor?
Guide:
(To the student) If you look closely at that thing, you will find that it is a metal plaque commemorating the Founding of the Duchy. (To everyone) The skylight above is constructed in a very special way. Not only does it fully illuminate this room, it has one other function. (The sound of footsteps) Every year on the anniversary of the Fayne, and on no other day, this plaque is illuminated by a beam of sunlight from that window there. Unless, of course, it is a cloudy day!
A teacher:
Is that still true today?
Guide:
No, unfortunately, our international standard calendar does not quite coincide with Homeland’s orbit around the sun, so now it is a day or two off. Now on this side of the room, there is another plaque of particular interest to our Human Thorgelfaynese. (Sound of muffled footsteps) Sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? (More footsteps) This plaque commemorates the discovery of Humanity!
Bold student:
That was the only alien civilization to be discovered by Homelanders, wasn’t it?
Guide:
Yes, that is quite right. We were discovered by the Zerpickers, who also discovered the Chernians, and on and on—but you all know about that. Notice that the plaque bears the sun’s official name in Human astronomical terminology.
A tourist:
(Reading carefully) Tau Ceti. (To no one in particular) How peculiar! I wonder why they gave our sun a two-part name?
Bold student:
Is the plaque here because the Homelander who discovered Humans was also a Thorgelfaynese?
Guide:
You are a sharp young man! Right again! The discoverer was a dock worker at the Alpha Centauri Transfer Point, by the name of… excuse me, but is that a recording device in your pocket?
John Anderson:
(Loud) Yes it is.
Guide:
I am terribly sorry to embarrass you, but recording the tour is strictly forbidden. I must request that you switch the device off.
John Anderson:
(Loud) My apologies. I was ignorant of the rules. I will be very happy to comply with…