The multipliers

2 Tokn.— Dined with Bokugo tonight. Truly an unsung genius— it’s a shame he has to live in such a squalid quarter: the Dry Wells section, virtually in the shadow of the Aklu:ma Gate. We were bothered by beggars all evening, till Bokugo brandished a sword at them.

Discussed King’s Ear Nauroda’s decree against the followers of Munśuk. Bokugo was worried that his own support for Munśuk might come out, but I assured him that no one would ever know. The truth is, I doubt anyone in the Palace even knows Bokugo’s name. Still, I wish he would be more discreet about these things. Love what the King loves and prosper, as the proverb says.

Bokugo seemed unusually excited about one of his projects. Something about addition. It was lost on me; I have no head for higher mathematics.

4 Tokn.— All those who supported Munśuk in the late rebellion are to be skinned alive. A few prisoners were being tortured in the square in front of the Palace this morning. I can’t really approve of that. The morning is for work; such entertainment should be saved for lunchtime.

Met Bokugo on the Avenue of Kings. My mind was on a big deal that’s pending with the Saiśigu; I only gathered that he was on the verge of a great discovery. I told him that he was a genius and ought to go into the priesthood, but he only laughed.

5 Tokn.— The Saiśigu deal fell through. It’s too bad, but if the stupid barbarians don’t appreciate fine No:gala:i linen, what can I do? I’ve got a few Munkhâshi interested in copper; I’ve got to get hold of Seki the Na:iworgu.

7 Tokn.— Went to Śakipeś Street to dine with Bokugo, who was burning to show me his latest findings. He took out a clay tablet and asked me to add three and three and three. I complied, and got nine. Then he said that he was almost certain that, taking three quantities of three each, one would always find the sum to be nine. It’s a cute mathematical curiosity, I suppose, but how often does it come up?

10 Tokn.— Seki the Na:iworgu is out of town. I had to tell the Munkhâshi that Akśim does not favor those who sell copper in the first half of the month. The gods help me if they talk to another trader, but thankfully they are old customers. In the meantime we negotiated a minor deal, tin for resin.

Lunched with Miriŋi:l, the old silver magnate. I wouldn’t be caught dead with him if he wasn’t dripping with gold, but he seems to like me. “I appreciate honest young men,” he says, “there’s so few of them.” He had to fire three clerks recently for false addition (and moreover in the customer’s favor). He blames modern education: it’s all very well to read the great epics, but you can’t ignore addition and subtraction. He’s right, I suppose, but terribly rigid; you want a breath of fresh air after talking with him.

11 Tokn.— Went to Kaltoa at the Palace, to see about lessening my merchandise tax. Kaltoa knows me, so it took only a small bribe. He told me the latest Palace scandal: two of three of their Eminences the Princes seem to have taken some unprincely liberties with the King’s concubines.

It is rumored that Munśuk is still at large, hiding in the marshes of the lower Xengi. The King was going to send an expedition there led by his favorite prince Muku, but in fact Muku was one of the princes of the harem infiltration. It’s a tricky situation.

13 Tokn.— Bokugo came over to my house uninvited: he was anxious to show off his latest ruminations. He has found that whenever a given number of objects— tablets, oranges, it doesn’t matter what kind of objects— are distributed among the same number of people, the total quantity of objects can be calculated with complicated tables which he is working out. It’s all very abstract, but Bokugo seems to think he’s on to something. I asked him if people were really going to lug these tables around when they wanted to distribute skins of beer or whatever, but he didn’t pay any attention. He doesn’t have a practical bone in his body.

16 Tokn.— Second half of the month: the Munkhâshi were back. Yet Seki the Na:iworgu is still out of town. I could hardly have Akśim forbid copper selling all month, so I promised them that I’d have the copper within two days. What am I going to do?

17 Tokn.— Seki the Na:iworgu finally got back today. I dashed over to his shop and bought ten asses’ loads of copper at an exorbitant price, then hurried home and ferreted out the Munkhâshi. They revealed that they had misread their orders and only needed six loads. I charged them double, but I’m still stuck with four asses’ loads of copper. Botheration.

18 Tokn.— Invited over by Bokugo. He seems to have completed all of his tables; I’ve never seen him so excited. He demonstrated them. Say you have seven friends and given them each four silver bars. You will have given them twenty-eight bars, according to Bokugo’s tables. You could figure it out with addition, of course (I did just that, in fact, and came up with just the same number), but not so quickly.

Bokugo has calculated all such sums up to twelve friends and twelve bars, or twelve beggars and twelve figs, or whatever you like. He calls this process “multiplication”. He seems to think that it has practical applications; it doesn’t seem likely to me. Nonetheless, he is going to a priest tomorrow to see whether the idea has any scientific value.

21 Tokn.— Unloaded two asses’ loads of copper on another merchant, Aksaŋ. I’ve been all over the city, and no one else wants copper— I wish him well with it. Aksaŋ isn’t a very good businessman, but he is terribly earnest. He will probably try to sell the copper back to Seki the Na:iworgu.

22 Tokn.— It’s strange— today I was selling some carved vessels to a man from Yokye, ten vessels at five bars apiece. As I was adding the fives together, I remembered Bokugo’s “multiplication.” I had the idea that it would somehow simplify the calculation.

I went to see Bokugo, and found that his tables did indeed cover the problem. In fact, he had found the same answer, fifty. I asked for a copy of the tables, which he gave me.

The priests are still trying to understand his ideas.

24 Tokn.— The men of science have decided that Bokugo’s theories are mildly interesting; but as they were not revealed by the gods to those of proper training and enlightenment, they are neither useful nor important. For the time being, Bokugo is permitted to disseminate his theories by secular means.

Prince Muku is in disfavor. He has been sent as an envoy of the King to Śinji, which should get him out of the King’s way for a couple of years or more. The clean-up expedition against Munśuk will be led by King’s Ear Nauroda’s son Su:wata.

26 Tokn.— Bokugo has been telling merchants (and anyone else who will listen) about his multiplication scheme. Twice already I have used his tables: once when I was selling six assloads of figs to a De:iju at three bars the load, and once when I was calculating the tax on ten sales, at two bars per sale.

Aksaŋ bought another load of copper. Akśim knows what he’s doing with it.

27 Tokn.— Some of the younger merchants are starting to use multiplication in their shops. I myself am beginning to find it useful in routine addition. Aksaŋ, however, finds it quite beyond him. I tried to help him, but he’s helpless when it comes to anything intellectual.

Other merchants are not so kind, saying that multiplication is a specious novelty and may even be disrespectful to the mathematics of the priesthood. Talked with old Miriŋi:l today after lunch, and got an earful of this talk. He says that addition was good enough for our fathers and it’s good enough for him. He thinks a pious man should have nothing to do with multiplication. There’s something ominous in all this.

1 Wil.— The whole city is talking about Bokugo’s system of multiplication. I saw him in front of the Tausezoko Palace in the middle of a group of admirers, happily demonstrating his theories with clay tokens and wooden beads. He seems somewhat flustered by his new celebrity, but he has lost none of his usual eagerness to teach.

Many merchants have discovered that multiplication is not very difficult if one has a strong grasp of addition. We have used repeated addition for so long that it comes naturally. One trader from the West Side even claims that he has been multiplying for years.

Because multiplication is completely secular, however, the priests are worried that it will undermine the faith. They are “reconsidering” the decree which legalized multiplication; and there are rumblings to the effect that, whether or not the gods frown on multiplication, they are not smiling.

3 Wil.— Lunch with Miriŋi:l today. Many of the older merchants are complaining that customers prefer firms which multiply, as the accounting goes faster. Miriŋi:l, of course, is unaffected by this, because of his virtual monopoly on elcarin steel. Nonetheless, he refuses to learn multiplication, on the grounds that any practice the gods meant for us to use has already been revealed to us. He disparaged Bokugo’s following as “those damned Multipliers.” “This Bokugo isn’t even a priest,” he snorts. Naturally I kept silent about my own friendship with Bokugo and my use of his tables.

Aksaŋ has been selling copper to Seki the Na:iworgu. And making money.

4 Wil.— I am finding that multiplication is useful in preparing the monthly sales report for the Palace. The accounting must take a quarter as long with Bokugo’s tables. I think I’m even beginning to commit them to memory.

Su:wata’s expedition to the southern marshes was ceremoniously launched today, with many speeches, and the execution of prisoners. There was a good deal about Blameless Conduct and Loyalty to the King, and an interesting warning that “elements of anti-clerical teaching will not be tolerated.”

7 Wil.— Quite a reaction against multiplication. Some merchants have taken to displaying signs reading, “Only Addition Practiced Here.”

Met Bokugo at lunch. He seemed gratified at the widespread use of his theories, but bewildered by the resistance of the “Adders.” He can’t fathom why anyone isn’t simply delighted by the advance of Truth. He looks healthier; some merchants have given him an allowance for his teachings.

Went to the Palace to turn in my monthly report, gave it to Kaltoa. He told me that although a few of the less important priests think that multiplication has some merit, the higher priests are all against it. They question whether Bokugo was divinely guided, and whether the epic kings would have allowed it.

8 Wil.— Nauroda has forbidden the practice of multiplication, on pain of bodily dismemberment. Angry grumblings met the reading of the decree in the Palace square, but Nauroda had prudently stationed soldiers throughout the crowd.

Have gone back to addition, of course, but find it cumbersome and time-consuming.

The decree itself simply states that multiplication is unlawful and displeasing to the gods, as implying that their gift of addition is insufficient. Furthermore, not a single epic mentions any form of mathematics higher than the subtraction of negative numbers.

9 Wil.— Today Bokugo was arrested while being entertained by some students. A group of young merchants gathered outside the Palace and clamored for his release. They would not disperse until the Palace guards came out and cut a few of them up.

Business very slow. A few friends dropped by— one of them, Ŋor, kept mentioning “solidarity,” and had some things to say about moss-backed obscurantism. Ŋor has always been a hothead.

10 Wil.— A high priest, accompanied by two soldiers, came into my shop today and questioned me about multiplication. I confessed— the soldiers had a very heavy grip on my windpipe— that I knew Bokugo and had practiced multiplication, but insisted that I hadn’t been aware of the gods’ hatred of the practice. I said I had destroyed my tablets and was no longer multiplying. The priest wasn’t satisfied. Evidently I was supposed to avoid multiplication because of its stink of unholiness.

Late at night, a loud voice was heard declaiming against resistance to novel and useful ideas and demanding the release of Bokugo. The cry was repeated three times, then stopped. Some time later there was a confused series of sounds, and then silence.

12 Wil.— There was a minor riot in the Palace square, as a great crowd shouted for Bokugo. Not just merchants present: many ordinary folk have taken up Bokugo’s cause. I’m sure they know nothing about adding two and two, much less multiplication, but the vision of an old man taken away for opposing the priests must have a romantic appeal for them.

Aksaŋ says that all this comes of questioning religion. I myself fail to see how multiplication can be an offense against the gods.

15 Wil.— Martial law. Yesterday there were rumors that Muku, the prince relegated to Śinji, was back; now he is definitely known to be in Losuji, not far from here. He has certainly not been to Śinji, for he’s only been gone a few weeks; his appearance in Losuji, therefore, is ill-boding, and his intent disloyal. In any case, Nauroda has declared an emergency, denounced Muku and linked his name with multiplication and other forms of radicalism.

Soldiers wander through the city, harassing the citizens. Generally we stay inside, but there are glimpses of banners and running figures. I took a walk by the Palace at lunch, for diversion; there was almost no one there, besides the omnipresent guards and a few peasants gawking at the stone carvings.

Every night now, we hear voices uttering vague threats and calls to action. They demand Bokugo... I wonder where he is. Bewildered, languishing in some dank cell, no doubt. He only wanted to serve mathematics.

Not a single customer today.

19 Wil.— I am under investigation. A group of soldiers broke into my shop last night and accused me of practicing multiplication and supporting the godless troublemaker Bokugo. They hauled me before an ecclesiastical judge in the Temple. In vain I protested that I had immediately stopped multiplying once it was decreed immoral, that I had tried to dissuade Bokugo from pursuing his heretical inquiries. This morning they let me return home, bruised and sleepless, but they will be back.

Last night a large tablet was placed on the wall of the Royal Storehouses on the Palace square. It accuses the priests of resisting the gods’ revelation to the humble, of distorting the words of the great epics, of betraying the true religion, of corruption and even blasphemy; it calls upon the King to dismiss Nauroda. It was blood-curdling to read. I don’t know why it has been allowed to remain— perhaps because those who can read, like me, are kept under strict observation.

20 Wil.— All day there have been clashes between peasants and soldiers. I don’t know how the peasants got involved.

Defying the decree, rebellious Multipliers have started scrawling pro-multiplication slogans on the walls.

21 Wil.— Heard from Ŋor why the peasants are involved: they’ve heard that the gods are not being accorded proper respect— by which side, I don’t know. Hundreds of farmers in town, hanging around the Temple.

25 Wil.— House ransacked by soldiers. Staying with Seki the Na:iworgu. Unbelievable disorder.

Whole city assembled by royal decree in Palace square. Nauroda, in imposing robes and sneer, declaimed against Muku and multiplication, above the hostile roar of the crowd. Ten merchants had their limbs cut off for multiplying, and a peasant was hanged for lack of respect for the God-King. When they start equating the King to the gods, you can be sure that the King has made some ghastly mistake.

The assembly lasted three hours. It was periodically held up while soldiers quelled disturbances among the crowd.

27 Wil.— A group of pious old merchants, led I think by Miriŋi:l, has been setting fire to the shops of suspected Multipliers, including mine. I’ll tell you, that’s the last time I fawn on that old goat, free lunches or no free lunches. They burned several farmers’ wagons that were in the way, too.

29 Wil.— Don’t know what to think. Fighting in the streets. Saw Miriŋi:l once, and Ŋor, and the new favorite prince. Helped Seki the Na:iworgu bury his merchandise. Never knew floors were so hard, or so littered with broken pots and other garbage.

2 Akś.— Is the army fighting itself? Opposition seems too organized for peasants.

8 Akś.— What a week! From scrambling around in Seki the Na:iworgu’s dingy hole to promenading in this mansion!

Nauroda and the King have been deposed by Prince Muku, who occupied the Palace yesterday and proclaimed himself King— disdaining ambition and responding only to divine guidance, of course. He immediately appointed Munśuk his King’s Ear and, of course, legalized multiplication and freed Bokugo. I can still see the poor old man on the Palace steps, blinking uncertainly at the cheering throng.

As a token of respect, the old King, who is after all Muku’s father, will be allowed to live in poverty; but the victorious party promises a spectacular execution tomorrow for Nauroda. All the most vocal Adders are in prison, and their houses have been confiscated and distributed to the Multipliers and their supporters. I got a splendid old house on the river; I’ve been wandering around in it all afternoon. Ŋor is now living in Miriŋi:l’s house. And Miriŋi:l, despite his heinous Additionism, still has some connections at the Temple; his life was spared, and he’s shoveling manure for Ŋor.

12 Akś.— The new regime has made multiplication mandatory. Gala execution today of hard-line Adders, many in new and imaginative ways. Dancing and cheering for the new King. We never gave Muku’s father such a welcome, but of course he never distributed Adder silver to the populace.

The priests now assure us that multiplication is divine revelation and that to oppose it is arrant blasphemy. They have even discovered it mentioned in the epics; something about reckoning the King’s armies by sixes and dozens.

Bokugo was offered a suite in the Palace, but he prefers his absurd little home on Śakipeś Street. He accepted only a teaching position at the Temple and a subscription to a theological journal.

10 Akś.— All is peaceful again. Visited Aksaŋ. He was worried that he would be found out as an Adder; I told him to forget about it, and be loud in his support of Muku. Love what the King loves and prosper, as the proverb says.

  © 2013 by Mark Rosenfelder

Virtual Verduria