I stood before a large desk in a room brightly lit by sunshine. A sweet smoke-like haze filled the air and my senses. I felt giddy, lightheaded, even a bit silly. How long had I been here? I honestly couldn't remember. I wanted a chair but the only one in sight was a tall throne-like object on the other side of the room. I wasn't sure I could walk there. Looking down, I realized I was actually gripping the rounded front of the carved wood, bracing myself upright. I tried concentrating on my surroundings as a way to regain control of myself.
"Well, the desk is in front of you, start there," I thought.
Sprawling the length of the desk was a confusion of books, pens, and pages. Their presence buried ornate inkstands, a brass magnifying lens, and other less identifiable shapes which dully reflected the afternoon sun into the shadows of the paper leaves. Several large books with detailed drawings lay opened upon the top of the heaped library. The details were so fine I wondered if the small collections I saw on their pages were truly drawings, photos, or were actually adhered to the pages.
I heard a man's voice speaking, and focused in on the sound, trying to absorb the meaning. I turned to see him and fuzzily realized that I was without my glasses. He strolled by me lecturing as he paced the length of the room.
As he passed behind me he pulled one of the books toward me and continued onward in one graceful motion. I knew now his comments were directed at me. Evidently we were already having a conversation. Wish I knew what it was...
"As you will learn, we do not need to deal with such crude inventions...for example..."
He continued talking but I wasn't really listening, distracted by the book he had offered for my perusal.
As I focused my eyes upon the open pages, I saw that there was a collection of teeth in all shades and sizes. Some were white, some cream, and then there appeared to be a collection of darkened teeth. They were as long as the adult teeth but curiously spindly. A black one that particularly caught my eye that appeared to be lightly marbled. "He collects pictures of rotten teeth?" I stifled a grin.
The teeth seemed so real, so lifelike. I pondered within myself as to what I would feel if I touched them. I started to reach out but rapidly drew back my hand as I realized he was again approaching. He came up beside me and pointed to a line of thin black ones surrounded by small spidery handwriting. I bent over it but still could barely make out the characters. I soon realized I had no hope of reading it. I straightened up again. Well, if I wasn't brave enough to grab the book in front of him, maybe I should just ask.
"Are these real bones? These teeth I mean..."
He continued the lecture, "A good question," he nodded slightly, "The commoners did have bone teeth. They were replaced with teeth of the bones of suitable creatures when necessary."
This explained the different colors, I supposed.
"The more influential families had theirs replaced with a form of compounded stone which would be fused into the skulls' sockets directly. They would often outlast bone itself." He looked at me intently, awaiting my response.
I struggled to keep my face from a fresh spasm of hilarity. I didn't DARE open my mouth. I was envisioning the scene. An impeccably dressed D'ni yuppie smiled at the world with his new status dentistry just completed. He opens his mouth to a passing friend...displaying his perfect, rotten-looking teeth. My control wavered and I hid my face from him, my body shuddered as I sought to control laughter that now bubbled up like a volcano. I would burst!
"I am sure you can see the technological superiority of the system over other societies. The D'ni did not trouble themselves with such mediocre measures as dentures. They built to last the centuries."
Trolls teeth! They had troll teeth! My constrained laughter burst from me in short hacking coughs. He patted me roughly on the back and offered me a glass of something to drink. I sipped at it and gained some control. He distanced himself from me, looking a bit concerned. Whether it was for my health or his I couldn't judge. I finally dared another question.
" They really had black teeth? Wouldn't that look bad to the people they encountered?"
He gave me an appraising glance. In a somewhat sterner tone he replied,
" No, The teeth were covered in an enameling cement." Noticing my puzzlement as I glanced again at the page he continued, " It tends to break down over time."
I looked rather bemusedly at the examples again. I wondered how often they had to repave the old choppers....