Wednesday, 26 February 2014
Drinking In 1280 AD
"...kumiss..." (pp. 139, 162) is "...fermented mare's milk..." (p. 139), with mild alcohol content.
"...bonze..." (p. 166) is an obsolete Western term for Buddhist clergy.
"...kvass..." (p. 167) is a thin beer.
The Noyon Toktai offers to drink with the prisoner Eburar (Everard) but the latter does not like kumiss so they fetch his two captured canteens of Scotch. When Toktai samples it, he asks whether it is made of dragon's blood.
Everard, glimpsing a way out, offers a drink to his two guards. Toktai cannot object because Mongol officers share equally with their men. When Toktai says it is time to turn in, Everard taunts him with not being able to drink whisky so, of course, he continues. (In ancient Persia, Everard taunted Harpagus into attacking him, enabling Everard to dispatch Harpagus instead of continuing to fight with his two men.)
Most thirteenth century brews are well under five per cent alcohol with high food content whereas Scotch whisky cannot be drunk like beer or even like wine. Everard tries to grab the Scotch back and is knocked down to the guards' amusement. They do not notice Toktai passing out. One guard falls and vomits and the other is easily knocked out by Everard who is then free to escape.
This is perhaps Anderson's best "our hero has been captured but is able to knock out a guard and escape" scene. Every step from Toktai offering a drink to Everard knocking out the second guard is plausible. If Toktai had refused to continue drinking when taunted, what would have happened? Sandoval dies in captivity, Everard continues to be a prisoner, the Mongols conquer North America and the timeline guarded by the Time Patrol does not exist? Can the fate of the universe depend on the outcome of a drinking contest?
I think that some Danellians and retired Patrolmen, maybe including Everard, are based in the far past and can intervene to restore the preferred timeline if necessary.