This work is well-known to the scholar from frequent references in our near-complete sources, particularly the magisterial "Peregrina Prodigiosa Uleria" (Pilgrimage of the Prodigious "Uleria", for a discussion of the meaning of this see my article in the 'zine TILTED TILNTA). But while it is not totally lost, it has only returned to us in definitely incomplete sources, primarily individual fragments preserved in the Jonstown Library and the Hilltown Cache. All of these are, of course, from variant manuscripts. After some extensive reconstruction and textual criticism, I am pleased to offer the first corrected text of a portion of "Personal Recollections of a Sutler with the Warm Sisters", (one of the few surviving examples of that finest of literary genres, the pornographic memoir,) what is generally accepted as Fragment 9.
We- Xorshid, Yanranda, Soritha White-mane, and myself- had been engaged in practice, what would be called "drill" but which was really more of an "awl" given our situation, for the better part of the week. At last, on Wildday, they, and I, rested. And yet I spent it in their company still. I suppose it was because that, whatever stories I might tell myself about simply being another Goldentongue girl, glib and detached, I was in the end becoming more and more silvery the more time I spent with these warlock women. But it was also on Wildday that I encountered Delenda S- again.
I suppose that the reader of this may well assume that I shied away from her, that I had been so engaged in the activities of the thighs over the past half-season that I had been unable to read through the text she had given me. Not so! Indeed, during certain activities it was quite easy to continue my reading, as, Xorshid for example, preferred a position in our activities that left quite an expanse of space on which to read. But in the event, I had read and pondered upon her gift, and so when Delenda S- appeared in their section of the barracks, I attended upon her at once, without her eyes having to flash or her mouth having to tighten.
"Have you read the story of Ingolf Dragonfriend, then?" she asked as we proceeded towards her own quarters. I affirmed that I had done so."Have you found your next question, then, seeker?" she asked, and I turned to her, recognizing the smile on her face. It was one of triumph, one which I had seen on several occasions, all of them intermingling awe and pleasure and terror (admittedly, most of those were simply watching as the Heartbreaker Curse I had helped the wyter perform took effect on those poor innocent souls that had stumbled into a destiny of death between their legs and in their chests.)
I contemplated, knowing that I had indeed been formulating a question, as I dove between Soritha's thighs or writhed in Yanranda's bonds or taken up the implements that Xorshid called her "Gerra", her "Natha", her "Danfive", etc. I knew also that it was quite possible that the question was the wrong one, or one that would disappoint her. But in the end, there was nothing to it but to trust in myself, wasn't there?
I asked, "What was Ingolf the Dragonfriend's error?"
She guided me into her quarters, which were otherwise empty. We were able to sit on the cushions there, and she looked into my eyes, and there was something unusual about them- not the usual aura of something unimaginable and vast and deep etc. etc., but rather a kind of soft humanity. I chilled, might have frozen solid in that moment, surrendered to a burglarish Valind. She said, "There were three errors that Ingolf Dragonfriend made, and a fourth that is attributed to him. You have already seen that the one that is explained in his story, the commentary one, is false." She took a deep breath. "Insightful, but you have still only considered that there would be one error." She shook her head. "Oh, you are already a student more capable than I can bear."
I leaned back. She regarded me. "The error as the text stated it," I said, "is that Ingolf used his secret magic to help other people, and this squandered his development, his understanding. What, then, I thought, of the fact that the dragonewts have a hierarchy among their kind, with priests and kings? What of the fact that it is called Right Action? Why, if it was simply that using dragonpower was a misuse, would the text say that it was specifically his use to help other people that was the error?" I breathed out. "So I concluded that there was something occult, and yet missed the possibility of multiple occultish meanings." I leaned forward, and touched my head to the ground.
Delenda pulled me up by my hair, albeit as gently as that can be done. "Well done," she said. "Though you knew nothing of EWF beyond what I have told you, you have intuited your way into the heart of EWF without letting your reason impede you." She offered me a pipe and a little packet of heliotrope. "But let us return now to reason and the powers of Fire within the body." I accepted them, and she had her own pipe, and we lit them and smoked together for a moment.
At last, she spoke. "Ingolf," she said, "Made three errors. The second of these errors was the smallest, for he made war upon the uz, to defend the voracious Voranstagos, and this was against his developing inclinations. But many sages have made greater errors, and he was caught within the trap of wishing to defend the people under EWF who had not yet entered into the paths." She coughed for a moment. "The last of these errors was greater, for he took the errors he had made before, and sought to entrap others in his erroneous actions, for he propagated the Ingolf Knowledge, that it was not only permissible but desired to use one's dragonpower, so long as it was for a particular purpose."
I sat, poised, aware of every mote of light and every little shift of the air. "And so his greatest error came first of all, and took him away from Right Action?"
"Yes," she said. "His first and greatest error was that he thought he was becoming a dragon. He understood Motion but not Stasis."
I knew my face gave away my thoughts. Delenda laughed. "Ingolf," she said, "thought that he was becoming a dragon, that he was in Motion towards Orvene, and so his dragonpower was not yet Himself. When he used it, he was not Himself, and it was something else that was acting, something that was not Ingolf that sent forth the Breath of Flames or chewed with its War Teeth. And so as he used his magic, bit by bit, he created something and made it grow, bigger and bigger until it was full-fleshed. A dream, a delusion, yes, but no less real for that." She sighed.
I looked at the ceiling, saw that once upon a time there had been a mosaic tiled upon it, but that it had been plastered inexpertly over and whitewashed after that and so now it looked as if the original subject had been veiled by mists and clouds.
Delenda coughed again. "And so when Ingolf died, his dream returned to him, but it had no eyes, and so he had not totally cut away his dragonself. But he returned to Kapertine, to the agony of knowing, cynical rebirth."
I said, "And this was because he believed he was becoming a dragon, and not that he was already a dragon?"
"No," Delenda said, "If he had believed he was already a dragon, he would have fallen into the Isgangdrang Error and shattered like glass before Alakoring." I scratched my head. She laughed. "I will find a text to explain those," she said. "But what Ingolf needed was to understand that he was both becoming a dragon and already a dragon, that he was eternally draconic and never would be draconic while he was Ingolf. The two things needed to come together. But Ingolf only had a Fore Claw and a Left Claw, no Right or Hind."
I bowed again. She reached out and pet me, like you might an alynx. "Dear disciple," she said, "I have wondered at whether my three comrades have brought you into their ménage a mélange for a clear, understandable reason. I wish now to put that to the test, if you are also willing." I stared at the hollow of her collarbone, her robes having loosened somehow.
"I," I began,
From here the textual reconstruction becomes impossible with the sources we have, as the manuscripts become too divergent. Perhaps the copyists and translators relied on divergent euphemisms. I hope to continue this work with Fragment 7 and Fragment 15, and thus begin the process of sorting our extant fragments into a reconstructed "portable soup" of the original text.