I have no hopes of doing something like the epic-like nature of Yorum or Eskandar stuff, I simply don't have the skill or flair to do something like that riddle battle (which was great). Beyond skill, I also don't have much of the interest, since I don't think the stories of Mesathalassa fit the style anyway.
That said, I hope I can at least make something slightly memorable. I have spent a lot of time worldbuilding the region, and I am satisfied with what I have done so far, even though much of it has yet to be explored.
Dusklands - A land north of Mesathalassa, west of Pictaraika, where light from the sun is altered by Julkofyr's influence. Oddlands (Pantalei)- Since Ilunabar replaced Julkofyr, the region has been slowly changing as her influence spreads in the form of Glamour. People cannot quite live normally near it, so an exodus has started. Sunlands/The Coast/The South - Many words used the refer to Mesathalassa in general.
Dzanya - A vague local word used to refer to anything Duskland related. From its people, to its culture, to its fauna and flora. Pura - Local word for 'Banner', though often used in a synonymous way to army/warband.
Mavadzugji - A dedicated priest on a quest to guarantee the future of the dzanya lore. Has recently invented a writing code for the Dzanya language. Tura Topami - A fellow priest and oldest friend of Mavadzugji. Tzevami - A priest who loves music and poetry. Has a history with secret societies.
Dzora - A tailor who is currently housing the priest, despite not being related to him. Batsami - One of Dzora's daughters. Dreams to become a traveling musician. Has been infatuated with Llapur Dyetzu, despite him being from one of the most prestigious duskland clans. Mutaraka- A merchant who lives in the southern border, often helpful to any refugee trying to outright leave the dusklands towards the south. Llapur Dyetzu - A warrior who once fought against unruly clans of the east dusklands but now focuses on protecting the west. The leader of the Tsahi Pura.
-After the creation of language, Mavadzugji's influence enters a paradoxical state of growth and waning. While more people hear him now, more people also influence him. The big issue is that he wants to jump into working on the local lore but the group keeps asking for translations. This leads to overworking. -The group around the priest starts to be called Tsefo, a plant that used to be the staple food of the region on the old days. It also helps the Dzanya flower to grow. -Suddenly the foreign who had met Mavadzughi in a party a while ago returns and invites him to see his super cool abbey full of tablets. The priest says no to him at first. It would mean losing even more influence on Tsefo. -Batsami steps in, says she will from now act as the priest's helping hand as she has lost too much sleep over him to allow him to fail. Makes a simple plan for him to follow and he accepts, decides to go south with the foreigner. -Along with the foreigner, Denolyo and his wife, Karcelli, the trio goes south, past the duskland-sunland border which is actually pretty dangerous. Some intrigues hard to explain in a summary happen.
Mavadzugji ========= 4 initial prestige +10 prestige gained -2 for the translation of the works he had inherited
12 prestige remaining.
Tsoti 3 (63 PR)
Family houses in the duskland are typically doughnut-shaped, with all rooms being connected to a central atrium/courtyard. This shape provides security, ventilation and makes it easy to illuminate a whole home with a single light source. Though the homes are overall larger than the typical Galbarian family home, they also house more people and use fewer materials (in comparison to homes of similar proportion), provided the majority of the rooms are open, with no walls between them and the central atrium. It is usually advised to have at least one closed room, as they are better for storage and can be used in an emergency such as a storm, but richer families typically can afford more of them.
Dzora's house was two-thirds open, though recently, while the number of walled rooms continued the same, the number of rooms that had a vision of the atrium decreased. This was due to a series of blankets hanging from the roof support beams. The arrival of the priest Mavadzugji a good while ago had changed some of the habits of the house, especially noticed by the daughters of Dzora, though with time they had all adapted and got accustomed to the new arrival, all that changed recently, as the priest had been bringing a whole lot of other priests to the home and tensions were high.
Batsami, as the youngest, therefore the one who stayed at home the most, was by far the most vocal on her displeasure over the constant presence of strangers. Even Tzevami, her friend on the bard life, was not free from annoying her. It was just unfair, to her the whole point of having a home was to practice music without worrying about judgment and to relax on a hammock, dressed on just the most basic of clothes, gazing upon the central garden.
To her displeasure, Dzora was actually enjoying it. The matriarch loved guests, and to have the constant flow of guests in and out was like a blessing. She had even increased the house's spending on food, often serving guests with not only the best fishes from the lakes, rivers, and swamps but also frogs, prawns and some birds even, all of them not served on a raw grilled manner but often coated in honey, herbs or pepper and accompanied by mushrooms. There were also many after-lunch treats, from a variety of teas, following the three traditional Dzanya styles of tea but mostly focusing on the root-based earthly ones such as ginger tea, to confections made from the Tsefo seeds covered in honey.
It was awkward to have so many rags hanging around to give the home some privacy, but the issue to her was more on the poor quality of the fabrics instead of the whole situation.
The priest himself also was not too keen on having everyone in the home, but there was no other way around. No one else that cared about him had a semblance of wealth, not Tura, not Tzevami, nor any of the others the priests who became interested in his work, Tahtse, Gjenyo, Bohifir, Bedju, among others who showed up less regularly. It seemed very much Mavadzugji was far more popular with the younger and non-noble priests.
Of all of those, only Tura and Tzevami had fully learned how to write using the adapted script. While he had suggested The Madja, the flower, as the name of the script, the name that truly struck with everyone was simply Huto Pudji, whose meaning is something like "Word List". It was the first time ever Mavadzugji felt himself on the other end of the conflict between fancy and embellished against practical and proper, it was ironic this was also the first time the latter won without contest.
Another lost battle for the priest had been the division of tasks. To write down the lore of the dusklands was always his primary objective, yet, as he was the only one who knew southern languages, he was asked, if not tasked, to do the translations of a variety of Mesathalassan works first, then set down on writing the lore. It was obvious Mavadzugji was the central force of the circle of Tsefo, yet, with his social inability and Tura and Tzevami's uncanny ability to always sound reasonable, he was often finding himself with considerable less liberty than when he worked alone.
He could not complain, he was happy he now had some voice and a sense he was truly changing the direction society was taking, people now spoke of his circle of influence, nicknamed Tsefo which was a word as tricky as Dzanya, it could mean seed or origin but was also the name of the area near the fork of the great river that ran in the center of the dusklands where some said the first Dzanya civilizations emerged (the mythical status had only increased when the land was overtaken by the oddlands more than sixty years ago.), and as such, the name became associated with the common 'proper' Dzanya ways, mostly etiquette, and then slowly evolved into a concept unclear but well-regarded thanks to the overuse of it by the rich and noble.
The finishing stroke of the symbolism was the fact the very name was also linked with a plant also found in the central region of the Dusklands, it was in old times the staple food of the land, but now it had been overtaken by Cassava and Beans, which were far easier to produce and provided far more food. Tsefo remained being planted because its symbiotic relation with Dzanya Threads, Dzanya was an old word with a meaning close to 'starry twilight with a colorful horizon' and the threads when waved could reproduce such image, however, for such threads to be produced one needed to first plant Tsefo, let the plants go through its natural life only harvesting the edible seeds, then plant Dzanya Madja among the fallen stalks and leaves, once the flood season came and the waters of the sparkling central rivers flooded, the unique sort of lotus flower would bloom. A plantation-worth of those would, at the best of the years, only produce enough fibers for one to barely cover his palm with the fairest of textiles. Tsefo preluded Dzanya, and Mavadzugji hoped that was also the figurative case here.
It was Tzevami who came up with the naming convention, Mavadzugji discovered well after the bard-priest had whispered about the group to everyone under his influence, his knowledge of words and wording was truly something else, but the priest still felt his ways, worldviews, and habits of taking creative liberties, would not be the best to write down the lore and the stories of the land, which was why he wanted to rush forward and do those first and then work on the translations.
It was past late-night, the priests were long gone back to their homes, the house had long gone to sleep, yet Mavadzugji remained up, scribbling on his papers while sipping on the fire tea, a drink made from a variety of roots, leaves, and berries, it tasted way too bitter and spicy, but the pungent mix kept sleep away.
"Fi Tsoti va Rin djoh Dzi"
'The history of the stars and the sun'. It was one of the many tales dealing with the Heavenly Realm and its inhabitants. A fairly unimportant tale on first glance, dealing merely with the creation of the stars and the sun, but Mavadzugji noticed two things about it. First, that it was the first of all tales, as most heavenly tales mentioned stars. Second, that it introduced many of the core values of other tales without as much focus on them, the tale of Llunyarin's patience and evenness creating the gentle starts while Hufangjerin eagerness and desire of glory gave the world the blinding sun had a very similar female/male duality as the very core tale of the mythology, the tale of the heavenly twins.
It was thankful he had developed the paper, as he was constantly restarting his project from the scratch, had he been using tablets it would have provided enough material for a palace to be built, surely. This was an easy tale, it did not truly change radically from region to region, which meant he had not to think about the whole and just write it down, yet, each oral telling added or removed certain details at random, wording and phrasing also changed immensely. He would need to pick a path, and any misstep would leave a scar on a very holy text.
He prayed for the gods to whisper the right decisions into his ears, but no sort of muse gifted him with clarity. Eventually, not even the fire tea could keep the sleep at bay, at best keeping the fortress gates barricaded on a last-ditch effort.
"Hallelle. You are going to kill yourself if you keep abusing fire tea like this."
A voice said, and the drowsy priest looked back to see Batsami behind him. "Sorry." was the best he could mumble. "Did I wake you? I do not remember... making noises."
"I am a musician, I have trained ears similar to that of a hunter, and to me, that scribbling and the fire on the candle were loud enough," she said, it was a bit of a lie, in truth, she simply noticed the ginseng reserves which she used to keep focus while playing songs vanishing as if someone was using it on a daily basis.
He stopped for a moment. "Sorry."
She shot her eyes up for a moment then glanced back at him. "Why must you write so late in the night anyway? Isn't the whole point of those little infernal reunions during the day to write things?"
"Yes but... uh... how can I say this... I feel I have more freedom during the night."
She knew very little of the situation, but she could connect the dots, she knew Tzevami was very active and very prone to taking the lead, after all, he had come into the little bardic group last yet quickly rose as the central piece of any plan or idea.
"And about the reunions, I am trying to move them elsewhere, the temple is not a good place for this, but there are other similar locations... I know it has been annoying you, to always have listeners to your practicing... to be forced to wear outwear at home... sorry."
"Well, please do change the location..." she said in pure honesty. "But do not be hasty, it is not the end of the world for me," she added. There was no response from the priest, who just looked at her with a confused sleepy glance.
"Furthermore, you are never going to fix your situation without proper sleep, so no more fire tea for you," she added, confiscating the jug of tea he had made. "I will prepare you a cold passion fruit juice to help your sleep." She noticed how she was copying Dzora's harsh but helpful tone with her voice and she found herself wondering why she was even bothering with all of this.
A few days later, an unexpected visit pulled the rope to swing the bell at the front of Dzora's home.
"Hello. I would like to talk with the priest Mavadzugji." the voice had a thick accent but the pronunciation of the words was ideal.
The one who went to the home entrance was Dzora's husband, quiet man, hard-working, he looked the figure up and down, noticing he was surely not from these lands. Shrugging and nodding to the man, he soon entered the home and stopped by the door to the priest's room.
"Boy," he said, making a movement with his head towards the entrance. The priest stopped writing and nodded to the man, no further words were exchanged between them. The first time Mavadzugji faced such behavior, he thought it was something personal, but the man truly avoided speaking with pretty much everyone. No wonder Dzora was impressed he thought a whole language to their daughter.
"You..." he gasped, seeing the sailor he had met a few seasons ago waiting for him at the door.
"Me indeed," he answered with a wide grin. The joke would go past the priest.
"Why are you here?"
"Denolyo." he said. "That is my name. You gave me your name last time, and now I am returning the favor."
"You got me into trouble." he sighed, but the foreigner smiled.
"Did I? That little trick I played on you, did it have any positive effect?" The smile turned into a wide smirk.
The priest suddenly stopped and looked up at him, now that he mentioned it, he couldn't help but realize that yes, he making Mavadzugji reveal himself led to him speaking with Dzora which led to him learning the secret of the flower language.
Seeing the boy's wide eyes, he outright chuckled. "I see that it did. Of course, the oracles never lie."
So he was some sort of fortune teller, the priest thought. He did not believe in those, even when they had some sort of result, after all, nothing in the Dzanya lore told about destinies. The Llahin Kiper agreed, saying oracles were little but lucky charlatanism.
"Well, I guess sometimes oracles get things right." he told distractedly. "Is this why you came? To see if your work showed results?"
The sailor now laughed. "No, no, much better than that. I was going to invite you to my abbey."
"I have no interest in leaving my faith for yours, may that be understood." he told in a snappish manner, looking suddenly cold if not angry.
"I know you won't, but you are interested in learning, right? I was in the market earlier and saw you hunting for any information on tablets from the south... I have a few of those at home."
That was more in the line of the priest's interests, but still, he was not sure he trusted the Denolyo at all. "I have a few too, fifteen works."
"Interesting. I imagine it is a collection of the essential, but surely you will find some of your interest in my collection, which is on the hundreds and includes works from not only Mesathalassa but also every corner of the world I visited."
"That... You would need a big home to store all of that."
"Why yes, it is a big home. But not all of it is clay, I have plenty of papyrus and paper works too. Just like the ones you did. Curious isn't it? How things can be invented by different people in different contexts."
"Still, I understand you might be generous, but I have met you only once, and while you seem to be a fine person, to travel to distant lands with someone needs a bit more of trust than that."
Denolyo chortled at his precaution, if he wanted to murder him or enslave him, he could have done that on the first time they met. "Tricky situation, I do not know what I can do to gain your confidence and I will leave tomorrow. Shame! I bet you would have loved some of the work I have in the abbey, Runza's biography, Kivicois poetry... Maybe I could bring them to you later if I ever managed to return here. Though it was so hard to get the local guards to trust me once, I imagine the second time should be easier."
He gulped, glancing around uneasily and avoiding to meet the foreigner's eyes. "It is not that I don't trust you... Uh... I just really can't" he told is a sheepish voice.
This actually made Denolyo raise his eyes in surprise, the young man, now looking more like a boy, seemed to have such an interest in so many things, and from what he had gauged by talking to others, he was by far the most knowledge dusklander he had met. "Why is that? I really won't try to convert you, friend," he asked, incredulous.
"There are... personal troubles." with the sudden interest in his ideas, in a reformation of Dzanya culture, in the retaking of the temple's tasks to create a unified lore, his group was growing. He felt... he had to be here, to act, even if he did not know how, else he would see his one chance of making a difference slip away.
"Are you sure? My wife is an excellent wayfarer, and she makes yearly visits to the duskland and Pantalei, she could guide you back in less than one year." The sailor turned priest said, he just felt it was a shame, even if he and the boy did not agree on worldviews, sharing knowledge was a must, especially knowing the fate that this land and these people were heading to.
"I am sure, I thank you again, but I must say no."
With a mouth pinched and crossed arms, the foreigner sighed. "Well then... if that is your decision," he told is a far duller tone. "I might still be here tomorrow, in case a night of sleep change your mind."
Mavadzugji stood still for a few moments, and only way after Denolyo left that he reacted, sighing and turning around. Two steps in, and he was punched in the shoulder by delicate hands.
"What are you doing?" Batsami asked.
"Why did you not accept his offer? Are you stupid or what? You spent so much time in the markets searching for those things and you just say no to this."
"You eavesdropped me?"
"Details, details. Now come on, explain to me this decision."
"I... just felt like I am needed here. If I leave now, Tsefo will move on without me."
The musician for a moment looked like she got it, she made a slight movement that could be easily understood as a nod and then looked away, pensive. The priest waited a moment to see if she had more to say, but then shrugged and turned back to the room where he scribbled things.
"You... are a shipwreck." Batsami suddenly told. "Been talking with Tura, you know? Ever since our talk on that night a few days ago. Confirmed what I feared, you are the dumbest smart person I have ever met. Good memory, good deducing, but by the gods are you witless."
This made the priest turn and tilt his head with a slightly surprised face, this was way too far from her typical teasing and had wandered straight into offense territory. "I already said I will move the priests away soon, no need to be angry at me."
"You think I am angry because of that? Oh no no, I could perhaps stand you being such a nuisance if I knew you were doing things right, but, well, you ain't. All my beauty sleep lost, all the times I couldn't play my song because of noise, the fact you took my personal room for yourself forcing me to move my hammock to the room where my other sisters slept, all that for naught." she bemoaned dramatically.
Mavadzugji was simply confused, flinching back slightly, looking around to see if anyone was seeing the scene. Then Batsami regained her composure and handwaved the hair away from her face.
"Given such circumstances, I am forced to take action. I will be your Manyadjir."
"Manyagjir!?" he echoed, absolutely confused, outright opening his mouth. Many families in Dzanya were typically entirely dedicated to one area, there where goatherder families, farmer families, tailor families, and so on. Typically, an easy way to join such professions was to be adopted or marry into those families. However, there were times in which adoptions or marriages worked differently, instead of just getting one more to join the craft, the adopted or married person had been sought for a skill out of what the family did but that was extremely useful to them, such as a hunter joining a goatherder family to deal with predators or a merchant joining a carpenter family, these people were called Manyadjir.
"A... how can I say it, Manyagjir in concept? Do not worry, I won't ask you to adopt me or anything weird like that." she smirked slightly.
"And you want to do what?"
"Guide you! I will be your wits and general all-purpose cleverness provider," she told.
His hand rose to rub his eyebrow. "What are you even talking about."
"Well. We have a big issue at the first moment. I talked with Tura, and I asked about your first work, a translation of some sunlander thing, don't remember what, but I remember something... You did not put your name on it."
"Of course you should, how is that even a question." she sighed. "If you don't, they will just be texts, but if you do, well, they will be your texts."
He blinked for a moment. "But they are not mine, I translated them"
"Yes, then present yourself as the translator, place your name in it, make it so anyone who reads these texts knows your name."
"It just seems unnecessary, egocentric, we work as a group and I have no need to stand out."
"Hmmm? Is that so? So you do not think you are the one most fit to craft the first proper lore-books of our own lore?"
He gritted his teeth and slightly blushed. "I just think, others don't have the full scope... How does that relate to translations, anyway?"
"Oh everything. Let me break it to you. Nobody will care about the lore-books of our own culture. Translations of foreign works are interesting and new, transcriptions of the local tales mom used to tell to me before I slept, however? Yawn! Only a few, such as your breed of priests, will want to read those in the current situation. The rebellious sorts too, like Tzevami."
"But... then what? It cannot be..."
"Halllelle, do not stop me. Now imagine, you start to translate all these fascinating works, and all the nobles who have the time to learn how to read start to pick them up in a desire to fill their boring lives with exciting distant lands and foreign empires, they see your name, they remember it, and then, when you make the lore-books and present your theories, you will have actual ears, well, eyes, interested in what you have to say... write."
He stopped for a moment, pondering over her plans. "But one whole year away..."
Batsami laughed. "The advantage of your paper, is that it is easy to transport. Ask the foreign man, see if there is a constant trade route between his home and any duskland city near here, send those papers to me and I will give them to Tura who will turn them into proper parchments. So, while you are away, you can still have an influence."
"That... could actually work. I already have much of my own collection translated, just not inked down into parchment yet. But, are you sure it will not generate tension within the group..."
"Nope! Because the priests are interested in your translations as well, they already think of you as the guy who knows a lot about foreign things. I imagine Tzevami might notice the effects it is having eventually, but the problem of being of the slippery sort is that you can't quite grab at things, he will have little option but to play along. Though one day you will need to address this, you dislike the high clans but you attract the people who hate them."
Then there was silence, awkward enough to make the wide grin Batsami had slowly melt into sheer confusion. Finally, after pondering very much, Mavadzugji patted her head. "Thanks. I need to run after someone, excuse me."
Batsami smiled, then smirked. Wonderful, just wonderful. First of all, for the amazing profitability chances of Mavadzugji's work, then, for the prestige, surely, if all things went right, even someone like Llapur Dyetzu would be within her reach.
After initially being excited about the unprecedented journey, Mavadzugji now, as he hugged the long neck of the creature in front of him, feared he might not have what it takes. The distance between him and the ground felt like it increased each time he looked down.
"I already told you. Do not constrict the horse's neck!" the tall woman next to him told, brushing the head of the animal gently and whispering something in a foreign language. "This is the most patient of them, but even she has her limits."
"S-S-Sorry." the priest told, trying his best to stay still while riding the animal.
The boat trip had been so easy, so simple, it was just him, the foreign ex-sailor Denolyo, and his wife, Karcelli. The later had the clear looks of someone from north mesathalassa, Evemen, as Imga texts called them, tall, pale skinned, brown hair which sometimes had hints of blonde or red. Karcelli, in particular, had simple brown hair, though it barely appeared as she always wore a cape fashioned from a gorgon's leather, the head working like a grotesque looking hood. Her looks had filled the priest's heart with odd bitter feelings since the first time he saw the sunlander.
Now they were almost at the Duskland's borders, the sky above was already very different from the one he was used to, many stars even when it was not twilight, the sun shone brightly and the ambient light was no longer that grey, dark-bright one, most other lands experienced only for a few moments after sunset or during overcast days. Instead of taking the boat route deep into northern mesathalassa, the path most merchants and settlers took, they were now riding horses through a different route.
"I think he is getting the hang of it," Denolyo said, with a smile.
"Nah, I'd say the mare is getting a hang of it." she chuckled.
The gesture gave away to the priest he was probably being mocked, they spoke with each other in a foreign language not even the priest knew, but he could pick tone and stares, furthermore, he was a bit paranoid with people laughing near him.
He expected to be able to talk a lot with Denolyo on his path down to the south, however, the man had been moderately sick on the first few days, coughing and with a sore throat to the point Mavadzugji became worried. To his surprise, it was apparently something common for people not from the Dusklands to develop those symptoms while there.
"It is why nobody truly invaded your land. That, and the harsh frontier." Karcelli told. Making him wonder about the bandit group that had raided that woman's caravan. He knew they were rare, but now he had been giving even further reasons for why that event was so odd.
A day later, as they approached the frontier, it seemed the two foreigners had a bit of a fallout, the priest was not sure, but he felt those words were a bit more bitter than the usual, it was not something that seemed like it would last, but the two seemed to be a harmonious couple usually so to him it was a surprise.
"Say, Mavadzugji..." Denolyo suddenly said, making the priest almost yelp as he rightened his position. "I have always wondered..."
"What does Tsahi means? Saw a lot of people under a banner of that name going south to defend a few settlements, and the word just eluded me."
The priest tilted his head. This was all in native Dzanya language, so the wording of the question was just odd. "What it means? I think the Sunlader words are something like, winged?"
"That would be Tsatahi, no? Like, Tsatahar..."
"Mmmm, it would. You are right, but the idea is similar... how can I saw it. Uh, think Tsataha and Tsaha, then."
"Tsaha I know well, bird-like, cute name. Tsataha... would be winglike?
"Right. Like the formations flocks of birds take in the sky or the shape of a peninsula. Both are Tsataha... You mentioned Tsatahar, angels, Tsahar would be more like... bird people."
"But back to Tsahi..."
"Oh right, well, you get the idea, don't you? Tsatahi is winged."
"And Tsahi is what? Birded? Incorporating the aspects of a bird? Are birds Tsahi?"
"That would be like saying water is wet, or, well, 'a winged butterfly, a winged bird, a winged bat', you only use those words to add quality where said quality is not usually present, now, Tsahi, I guess the word is up to the interpretation of what you consider to be bird. Is it agility? delicateness? the wandering? ..."
"On the Tsahi Pura's case, it's because of the arrows, as in, they deliver a sudden and lethal death from above, like a hawk swooping mice."
"Ugh, would hate to have to translate that, 'here is a word, it might mean you are small, frail and love to eat worms or it might mean you are fast and agile or maybe it means you sing a sweet song..."
"Attention." Karcelli suddenly cut them both from their idle talking, she was as quiet as ever, even the sore-throated Denolyo spoke more than her. "Put your hoods on, we are at the border."
Looking forward, the priest saw very little at the moment, the thicket of grey-green trees in front of him was obscuring much of his view... Then it ended, the whole forest simply stopped as if cut by a razor and in front of him the priest saw an expanse of stones and gravel, some brooks, a bit of grass, but the whole thing was mostly lifeless and plain. The greatest surprise, however, was the sky, as if cut by the same blade that had shaved the forest, the dark grey skies of the dusklands simply collapse in front of him, the light blue of the Sunland in stark contrast on the other side.
Then came the wind, and it was lucky he had a hooded cape, as the strong gale brought with it a dusty grey cloud filled with small flying rocks that crashed against the travelers constantly. No wonder he had been instructed on how to follow others and what pace to keep under heavy fog, though the wind at the moment couldn't be more different from the cold and humid mist it still caused a similar visual impairment, only made worse by the gravel.
After a time that felt both short and way too long, the cloud was gone, the strong wind remained. "Faster pace now. We are near the cliffs, if a cloud hit us, we stop." the woman explained.
"Are you sure? The footing is not great no matter if you are moving or now..." Denolyo questioned. She looked back and simply nodded, the ex-sailor nodded back.
While he focused his attention more on the unspoken trust between both, the word cliff caught him by surprise, making him look around. It took him a while, but he finally saw it, the land was a monotone rocky grey from his point of view and the sunlight covered by the clouds did not produce enough shadows, to him, it all seemed like flatlands, but the truth was different, simply saying he was wrong was an understatement.
"It's a cliff...? How... How did I not see it before." he gasped, almost slowing his pace, but remembering he was asked not to do so.
"Mirage," Karcelli explained. "The rocks here trick your eyes, somehow... Something to do with the heat and the colors."
"Couldn't we pick a better time to cross then? I have no rush to get through."
Despite the lack of a reaction in her expression, the priest couldn't help but feel a sense of annoyance in that deadpan gaze. "There is none. We need to wait until the sun is under the duskland clouds so the heat in the region is manageable, so it cannot be crossed in the morning, however, with the gentle eve also comes ferocious winds and heavier clouds. At night, it is too cold and you cannot see the proper path, leaving us only a small window where conditions are favorable."
"I had no idea such a terrible place existed..."
"There are safer routes. On the coast to the west the passage is simple, then there are the cavern and rivers routes that make trade possible between north mesathalassa and the dusklands, the route most refugees take too. Under such conditions, it is no wonder people no longer mention how dangerous the border truly is." Denolyo added.
Finally, it came time to traverse one of the phantom cliffs, Kercelli led them around what really looked like a road, though could not be one because the woman had made it clear the zone was unbearable past a certain the time of the day. It was a good thing the horse had been trained so masterfully for Mavadzugji himself was having trouble following the route with his eyes, something about the high contrast of darkness and light, grey and green along with the alternations of grey shades of the even textured rocks made it so his eyes couldn't keep much of a focus on the path ahead.
The strong wind became stronger and once again the dust rose, the green of the Sunland was lost to his eyes, so was the bottom of the cliff, yet he could clearly see the two in front of him so it was not much of an issue. Karcelli suddenly looked to the side, sniffing that terrible air somehow.
"Let's pace up," she ordered.
The priest's heart sank, he knew this was it, it had to be it, something bad was about to happen, she was doing the opposite of what she had told before, she had told them to stop if the cloud reached them... He dared to sideglance at the cliff below and saw the dull grey abyss that blended with the sky and the horizon. His eyes widened and he blinked multiple times to make sure his eyes did not play tricks on him, they did not, that void was rising, creeping up the cliffside.
Then it was upon then, the thick dust fog so intense all he saw of Denolyo was his silhouette, Karcelli fully lost to his eyes. Bellow, the horse's hooves raised from the grey depths and then sank back into them, only a shadow remaining. If not for the cliff to his side, he wouldn't be able to tell the difference between being up or being down.
"Stay calm, Mavadzugji." the sailor told him in a calm tone, stopping to cough the dust out of his mouth. "No sudden movements. Stay in line."
It was easy to say so, not so easy to follow it, but the priest was doing his best not to stray. Tears traveled down his check, not from fear, but from the irritation caused by that grey dust, he could barely keep his eyes open, not that at this point it would help.
The straight parts of the path were bad, the curves, however, were beyond bad and terrible, they were something else, crafted by whichever god hated humanity the most. Facing the endless abyss below, his only reference being the walls to his side and the shadow in his front, it almost seemed inevitable one wrong step would be eventual.
"Stop... I want to stop."
"You may if you wish, we will continue, as this cloud won't open up until its too late," Karcelli told, voice loud enough to stand up to the howling wings but still maintaining the collected mannerism typical to her.
Time dragged on and on, every single step a challenge, a test to his will of survival. The walls to his side disappeared and if not for the line he would feel it was over and he was about to fall, the last security left to him now fully gone, only featureless mist remained.
With nothing to see, no anchor to keep him, Mavadzugji felt increasingly more paranoid, just waiting for the moment he would meet his end. Despite clear orders telling him not to do so, the priest leaned forward and in panic hugged the horse's neck, as if that would keep him from falling.
Green. The looked down and did a double check, blinking as he made sure his eyes did not deceive him. They did not. Green, the color was slowly revealing itself under the hooves of the animal he rode. Retaking his position, he looked around, tears still forming in his eyes, the droplets gaining a white tint as they absorbed the dust that clung to the young man's face.
Slowly, very slowly, the dust started to dissipate around then, until, much like the treelines, it opened up as if cut by a razor. If Mavadzugji's eyes, had not been already half-closed they would be now, in front of him, shining with radiant colors, were warm shades of green and blue he had never seen before. Even as little but blurs in his vision, the Sunland was stunning.
"Do not worry, your vision will adapt, you just need to stay awake the whole night, see the morning for yourself, it helps," Denolyo explained, having noticed the priest still adapting to the environment, constantly rubbing his eyes or squinting.
Mavadzugji nodded, it seemed all the combinations possible to hurt his view had been made. Yet, instead of resting, he stared intently at the fire, it had an orange light that he had never seen before, not that fire in the dusklands was less red, but it was more of an... he could only describe it as 'internal color', while the external light was a white that was a pale yellow at most.
"I noticed you were staring at Karcelli..."
The priest immediately rose his eyes up and faced the sailor gasping, then quickly started to babble in his defense trying to explain how he had it wrong. The sailor himself seemed surprised.
"Ah sorry, bad wording. It's easy to learn many foreign languages, sometimes the wording escapes me. Do not worry, I know well you are absurdly devoted to your ways, and even if you weren't, I would still have little to worry." While his words spoke of trust, he couldn't help but see a smirk that implied the priest himself was no worry at all in such matters.
"But, it's also that lack of explanations that makes me curious."
"She reminds me of someone." Mavadzugji told, now calm enough to pace his voice.
"Oh? Someone you knew?" once again the sailor cringed at his words, that was not what he wanted to ask at all, it was obvious that it was someone he knew...
"Not really. It was someone I never met."
The sailor had curious eyes now, it was as if the priest had proposed him an enigma, someone he could be reminded of but that he did not know. Before he could ask any more questions, Karcelli was back. "Your turn to bath. Go before the night gets too cold." she made a little signal towards the lake that was partially hidden by trees and a rock outcrop. The dust covered Denolyo nodded and was already walking away.
Mavadzugji had been curious about why the couple didn't just bath together to save time, at first he had thought they feared to leave him all alone with their things, but it seemed by now they knew his ways well enough to not fear such behaviors. 'It's also that lack of explanations that makes me curious,' the words echoed in his head, until he concluded they likely truly did not want to leave him alone, not of worry he would do something, but of what something could do to him. That was good, he did not trust himself on that aspect either, it was reassuring to think they cared about his safety.
The woman sat near the fire to heat up after the dip on the lake. Upon closer inspection, with the lively colors of the Sunland making her face more clear and the change from leather armor and a gorgon head hood to an awfully simple tunic in the typical careless Sunlander style she seemed far shorter and less imposing. Nothing like her beyond an ethnicity...
"Sorry." the priest said, he had been wanting to do that for a while.
The turned her eyes to focus on him, a slight hint of confusion. "For what?"
"Well... everything. Slowing you two down, screaming on the cliff, constricting the horse's neck..."
"Ah... no," she told with a deadpan expression.
Her tone was hard to decipher. No what? No, a simple sorry isn't enough? No, there is no need to worry? The only thing he knew is that if he asked her about it, he would become a nuisance for sure, and then he would need to say sorry again.
For a moment, he remembered Batsami once scolding him and then imitating what she called 'his comfortable voice' which she said he used whenever someone uninteresting or someone he knew showed up. He wondered if he spoke like Karcelli or Dzora's husbands with those close to him, he also wondered why he knew spoke softly to strangers because he did not like causing trouble to others, he also knew he sometimes spoke while distracted. He could not believe someone like Karcelli could be distracted, she always seemed focused... But maybe being focused was also a form of distraction, much like those rays of light that formed in the clouds only when the day was dim or the sun was setting, the attention was focused on something at the cost of being distracted from all else.
"Are you fine?" she asked without much concern.
Mavadzugji snapped out of his thoughts. "Sorry... I was distra... no, focuse... uhm..." he sighed. Maybe I should skip the bath and just sleep, not like the white dust is noticeable on my hair anyway."
"No. You would get sick without cleaning the dust away."
He waited a moment to make sure there would be no follow up. "Why did we take this route anyway? It seems much harsher than Mutaraka's one, with the boats and the caverns."
"There are reasons, I wanted to avoid... Susah, the whole region really. This is also faster, not too dangerous either unless you are stupid."
He guessed he was stupid, which seemed to be close to the truth in his view, at most he hoped he was the good sort of stupid.
"You are from here, right?"
She took a moment thinking about it. "Depends on who asks, for your questions and your 'here', yes."
"Wait, so if someone else asked you could say no?"
She rolled her eyes. "Obviously."
Mavadzugji narrowed his eyes and rubbed his chin, after he just did not seem to drop the thought the woman was forced to sigh and then answer it. "Come on now, you know the answer to this. If I asked 'are you from here' when we found you in that village, what would you answer?"
"No... I was not born there."
She nodded. "Yes. But to someone from the north dusklands, he could be asking about the region. And to a foreigner like me 'here' could mean the whole of the dusklands."
"Oh, I had never used it in the context of a village. So that was why you were confused. I see now."
Karcelli nodded and then suddenly stopped, now she was the one tapping her chin as something seemed off. "I am back." suddenly declared Denolyo. "It is getting cold, you should rush, priest-boy." he said smirking.
There was a moment of silence.
"Cute of you to have that little earth elemental helping Mava." he smirked.
She stared at him. "I was more worried about a horse I spent so long training falling off a cliff. Do not think I am approving of your decisions."
He sighed. "There you go again. I do not see the problem with helping others like this. The boy wants to know the world, I can respect that. You shouldn't let something that happened half a continent away and a whole generation ago, even before you were born, have so much influence over your actions."
"I was born right after it, I saw a lot of the direct effects and the survivors, I even saw her... You will understand when you get older."
Denolyo laughed with sarcasm. "I do not have that much time left to get older, still haven't seen a glimpse of your reasoning. Neither do you, by the way. I do not know how you can bear the idea of taking so much to the grave. You know Sotali would like to be just like you, yet you turn her away, much like so many others."
"Sometimes I wonder if I should have waited until that bear had finished its business with you. Sotali is better off away from all this, do not twist my decision into a showcase of disregard. The same applies to Lite and everyone else."
"She has the right to decide for herself. All you did was to make her more curious. She would have given up back when she was a child if you had tried to give her the training, you know her, she doesn't deal well with harsh routines."
"Unlike you, I leave no room for gambits. Your oracles have made you delusional to the reality of things."
The sound of the fire kept crackling was once again the only sound at the moment, as the two stared at each other with some tension. Then it suddenly eased up, as Karcelli casually said. "Oh, speaking of oracles, I think I finally got what yours for the duskie was. That one stray signal you found and could not understand..."
"Ah, yes. I noticed that already, back in the boat really. Why? Don't tell me you only discovered it now?"
"Don't be a show-off." she sighed. "I suspected it. Something about his eyes, and the shape of his face. But I couldn't confirm it. It just unsettled me."
He smirked and moved closer to her, holding her hand. "Curious how fate works, huh? Of all the people for me to find in a party... Should burn my current oracle really, it is starting to get presumptuous after only a few uses. More curious than that, Mava stared at you earlier for that reason. Guess you kinda fit the description he heard."
Eargh, moving back to mortal stories on Mesathalassa in the 3 Post Realta range once I feel more comfortable taking a break from Tsoti will be jarring. Though at least Susa needs to be addressed later, though a few plot points will be changed, oddly enough, because what they foreshadowed will have likely already happened so going through with them will no longer be 'fun in later context' but legit cheesy.
I should also take a moment to do a few pages in the wiki one of these days. I was waiting till year 100 but I guess it would help to do it before that.
Hold on to your butt, @Double Capybara. I'm putting together the post for the next turn...
And yet I got into a collab, which will hold me from doing a lot of stuff. Such is life!
Not that it is an issue. My main focus right now is on Tsoti. Which miraculously is my first mortal based story that didn't immediately go off rail and crash off course. Stuff is going according to plans and I am enjoying doing it, at most being a little frustrated I can't write too good.
Dusklands - A land north of Mesathalassa, west of Pictaraika, where light from the sun is altered by Julkofyr's influence. Oddlands - Since Ilunabar replaced Julkofyr, the region has been slowly changing as her influence spreads in the form of Glamour. People cannot quite live normally near it, so an exodus has started. Sunlands/The Coast/The South - Many words used the refer to Mesathalassa in general.
Dzanya - A vague local word used to refer to anything Duskland related. From its people, to its culture to its fauna and flora.
Mavadzugji - A dedicated priest on a quest to guarantee the future of the dzanya lore. Currently focusing on introducing written language in the dusklands. Dzora - A tailor who is currently housing the priest, despite not being related to him. Batsami - One of Dzora's daughters. Dreams to become a traveling musician. Mutaraka- A merchant who lives in the southern border, often helpful to any refugee trying to outright leave the dusklands towards the south.
Tihtzin - A mercenary general who fought wars in the Western Mesathalassa coast before returning north. (Nokeyeor 2) Dzamo Pura - Tihtzin's mercenary band while fighting in the south, often the inspiration of many new warriors in the duskland.
-Mavadzugji recalls an incident in the past he got in trouble for arguing with a master over his belief that the people in the duskland were there before any other sort of people were on galbar. -Dzora recruits him to spy on Batsami as the girl went to a feast. -On the path tot he feast, he finds a fellow priest. The priest is more friendly than expected, confusing Mavadzugji who thought he hated him due to the incident. -He notices the priest has a bunch of flowers wrapped with ribbons. Later on the party, he sees Batsami has them too. -Mutaraka, the host of the feast, spots Mavadzugji and asks about his father, the mercenary Tihtzin. The priest informs his father died years ago. -Turns out the feast had an objective, and it was to raise the locals after a group of foreigners walked into the Sunland and robbed a caravan of people fleeing the oddlands. It is mostly a defense maneuver focused on garrisoning. -Still curious about the flowers, Mavadzugji starts to follow any party Batsami goes to, even without Dzora asking for it, and does it disguised to avoid trouble. -In one of them, he finds a foreign man and starts chatting with him. Turns out the man is an ex-sailor from the Axotal islands and has seen the world. In a jest, the ex-sailor ends up making Mavadzugji confess his identity by saying his name. -After getting in trouble, the priest confesses to Dzora he was curious about the flowers. Turns out Dzora was the one who invented the whole flower and ribbon thing. It also turns out that said flower and ribbon thing provided a better structure for a written language than anything the priest had ever devised.
Mavadzugji ========= 6 initial prestige 10 prestige gained -2 for dzanya music -2 for creating a written language (huto pugji dzanyarara) -8 for an ideology (reformed tsefo philosophy)
4 prestige remaining.
Today was the first day in which ambers blazed at the center of the temple. The ceremony just three days ago still featured a fountain and the sound of dripping water filled the holy ground instead of the crackling caused by the burning logs. Temples needed flexibility to properly deal with the rites each epoch required, as such, the local structure was truly little but a wide hole covered with stone seating arranged in an enneagonal shape around the central area, during this time of the year it was covered by sheets made of thick cloth kept up by large wooden poles.
Temples were not seen as a public space but as the private meeting ground of priests. Sometimes there were events in which the locals were invented in and some sort of dramatic rite was performed, a way to keep the prestige of the class going, yet the location was mostly for lectures, discussions, and more serious and necessary rites.
"Dzuji, you should really, really pay more attention to Keho's speeches. He was staring daggers at you," said Tura, one of the few friends Mavadzugji had within the temple.
The priest shrugged. "Nobody does. Keho's fancy yet contentless talk is only taken seriously at feasts and parties. Thankfully for him, being from a high clan that can gift shiny donations is enough to be a master these days.
The priestess by his side sighed. "I agree he is boring, but, still... You should really stop picking fights."
"I already don't." he had learned not to.
"Well, can't say you didn't get a bit better. If it was poor me in your position during THAT I would have been told to give back my necklace and go back to my clan."
"That was a miscalculation. I thought the people in here were brighter or more courageous. There was nothing controversial in my speech, it did not break OUR lore, in fact, it exalted it further beyond. Though I also failed, I should not have questioned a master during a rite if I was not ready to defend my claims."
"Hmm?" that last bit worried her, would that mean he was ready to do it again should he feel safer to confront any of the Elysianite priests he disliked so much? She surely hoped not, after all, he had been doing so well for the last three years.
Her mother always urged her to dissociate from any troublemakers in the temple, unlike people like Mavadzugji, who had strong clans behind them, she had nothing. Her clan was once far more relevant, mine owners in the north, then the oddlands started to spread and the whole northern branch of her family disappeared leaving the southern side helpless, accumulating debts and favors until Tura was bound to serve another clan and very likely end up marrying into some backroom branch of a mediocre clan, in such a situation to just give up it all and join the faith was an easy option, yet the slightest of mistakes could easily send her back to clan life and clan duties.
Yet, she really respected Mavadzugji. At first, he had befriended her for obvious reasons, the man hated clan society, especially the leading ones, even his own. Yet, he also had a genuine interest in what she had to say, he did not care about the origin of her blood, from what region she came, how wealthy she was or that she said Je instead of Gje and casually used Ya and Za. In turn, she too learned to care about what he had to say, she had turned to the priesthood to escape yet she couldn't help but become infected with the man's admiration of the lore and dedication to understanding it.
"Anyway, heard some llahin tchiper is in a village to the southwest. Interesting, no? We have had no lore-keeping exchange with that temple in a while, bet we could get one." she told suddenly, as the last conversation staggered.
Mavadzugji sighed. "I do not think I will have the time." he told in a distant voice, eyes fixated in the fire.
This forced the girl to gasp. "What? How can that be? Are you some sort of impostor? I would never imagine you would deny such an opportunity."
There was no answer, if the young woman had not been so attentive she would have missed his only reaction as his shoulders tensed up. She took a moment and sighed.
"Are you alright?" she asked softly. Trying to not question him too much, but anyone would have seen by now that in the last few weeks he had been anxious and distant.
"Yeah, sort of."
She would take that as a no. "You know, you should not let it get you. You can't change the whole world, I know it is frustrating when all our paths are blocked and we feel insignificant but..."
"You are mistaken." he interrupted her suddenly. "First of all, we are in a prestigious temple, this town is becoming more relevant as the oddlands expand and the temple is at the center of it, we are the keepers of the lore that will define the next generations."
That was more characteristic of him, Tura thought, cold and blunt comments that offended many, but she had learned they were not there to humiliate or exalt his own ego, it more that Mavadzugji had to remember so much from all the corners of the duskland and beyond that there was little room left in his head for proper communication skills.
"Second... I am tense because of the opposite. Because I now feel I can change things. Actions have consequences... and if they are not good ones, I would be responsible for them."
The priestess chuckled at that yet her eyebrows denounced the feeling of surprise she felt. It was easier for you to find a Hain with skin than for him to share his feelings. "You are afraid of hurting somebody? I thought your dream was to cull Elysianite influence and restore the proper lore of the Dzanya."
"Well, it is not them I am afraid to hurt. It is more on the ground of... how I can influence the people. What if I, for example, said something that could in some way justify a harmful behavior?"
"I do not think you are capable of such a thing. You are stubborn and all, but you are a good person."
You are mistaken, he thought, but he did not voice his words. She was the very example of how he could hurt someone, he had always caused her trouble even if that was far from his wish. In the past, he had the excuse of not being in control of the situation, this time he knew what he was doing.
It was absolutely hopeless. He appreciated the mysterious kinsman for his effort, but the language used in that clay tablet was simply not usable. The person's ability in wordcraft was great but that did not translate to a great language at all. Mavadzugji at first theorized the convolution of the script was a result of influences from other languages, yet by now he knew how to read almost all the major languages of the sunlit south yet nothing came close to being this arcane in meaning and full of torturous rules.
One thing that it did greatly, however, was to leave no one behind. He had no doubt that it could work for any dialect or variation of the language quite nicely, it was not fashioned to only fit the needs of the clan courts and temples. Then again, since it took so much time to learn and another eternity to master, it likely did not fit anyone's need except the dubious sorts, such as spies, lawyers, and poets.
With such thoughts in mind, the next step was obvious, he had to develop his own path, the future of his people depended on it. He thought about just incorporating and adapting the systems of the south, yet they were built for different tongues spoken by equally different people. The man was sure none would fit the Dzanyarara in all of its graceful yet objective nature, furthermore, beyond the more conceptual issue, there was a more direct one, his language was built with perfect pairs of vowels and consonants, the added h, r, and n sounds being the one exception yet even those were always part of a group and never isolated. It was all very different from mesathalassa where the north seemed to barely voice the vowels and the south did the extreme opposite.
Another day had passed, and as gentle as the difference was in the land under the dusk, it still felt immense to him, who fell on the hardened clay floor and sighed.
Not too soon after, Dzora entered the room, looking both ways around the central atrium of the donut-shaped home. "Since it seems you are once again busy with nothing but groaning while looking at the ceiling, could you do me a little favor?"
His eyes shot up while he was still on the ground, his face leaning back so he could see the woman.
"Good. Batsami is going to the little feast our friend Mutaraka is making. I wanted you to go and make sure the girl does not do anything foolish."
"Wait, Mutaraka is in the city?" he questioned, confused, usually, you heard when the rich merchant from the south showed up.
"He is not. That is the little detail of our question. She is going to be traveling for what, three hours, just to a feast? I know our friend Mutaraka is good at showing his wealth but that might be a little much, do you not agree?"
"Maybe she just wants to play songs or something. Do not worry."
"Maybe I will forget which foods caused your face to go red next time I make a meal, but do not worry."
Message received. With a sigh, the priest stood up. "Well then, off to the feast. Is she off already?"
"At Hirike's. They will go together with Hirike's brothers. They should be off already, but Batsami being Batsami, they will likely be late. The feast is at Kutomiri"
"Upstream from Kutonyarhar"
It was a pleasant evening, the priest looked up with a smile as he observed the moons and the two stars along with the stark contrast between the dark lang and the brighter sky. Following river Kuto, the road was always a nice time, the river was gentle until it neared the southern border and as such was easy to navigate, even better if you could afford someone to do the rowing like the priest could.
Suddenly, someone gasped. "Hoh! Mavadzugji." a male voice suddenly yelled, before the man just outright started running towards the boat, following the shore road. "Seems like you have some free spots on the boat. Mind giving a friend a seat?"
He immediately recognized the man as a priest like him. He had little reason to be thoughtful towards him. He likely mocked him when he presented his theories, he had a little mustache which was just unacceptable, furthermore... While thinking over the reasons for him to be bitter, he accidentally made a signal with his head that could be loosely interpreted as "Hop-in" if you really, really wanted to hear that. The running man did not need another signal before he boarded the little boat.
Being too shy to say no when this close to someone he did not know, Mavadzugji just stood there, seeing the man find a seat by his side. "Nice! Thanks. I was getting sore from walking so much. I wanted to get some money to afford a new pair of shoes, but I missed the chance." Mavadzugji noted the other priest was definitely in need of new shoes, he was basically walking barefoot.
"I... could give you new ones? The house where I live has a few spares..."
"Oh no, do not worry. I would be embarrassed to rely on someone like that."
Mavadzugji almost rose an eyebrow, he clearly wasn't, free boat ride considered. But seeing his hurt feet, he felt legitimately bad for the man even if he was sure he likely wronged him in the past.
"I will get my money this night. I will be doing a little job at the feast. Few words, a bit of poetry. I got a long and clean Feh line ready, then I will follow it with a Fen and a Fer. Everyone will love it." he stopped and chuckled. "You don't care much about that stuff, do you?"
"Ah. Not really. I mean, I respect it." he lied. "But... I only have the mind to focus on the lore."
"Oh yeah. You do it well too. You... You said some stuff, long ago, did you not? I do not remember it well, something about... uh.... we being different from other Hahar?"
The other priest was shocked. How did he not remember that? He was sure to the core this man, Tzevami, had more than once laughed at him while he talked, recently too, and had done it ever since Mavadzugji fought with a master, just like everyone else. He was confused, usually, he was good at reading people's intentions, yet he did not notice insincere signs on his face...
"Yes, yes. Also that we were here before the llahin were crafted by Hanya Bupudzagje in his envy of Hatzi Momudzagje and before other Hahar left Momumepo's realm. I said that and fought for that idea, but I was too young, and could not really back it." he told nervously.
"It happens. You gotta get more people with you, a group could do more, get more information and also resist pressure better. Because like, people are attached to Momumepo, and if you come around saying we did not live in her land before being banished to the realm of Momuhedzu, well, they will get angry." he told distractedly, shifting through his bag and wrapping ribbons on flowers, making Mavadzugji struggle as he split his attention between his words and his actions.
"I... I know. I thought at the time the implication of significance to our culture would have been enough."
"The older people just don't care. Like, uh, so, imagine me, and you, and Batsami, and, who is the girl that you talk with all the time again? Toh... ta...Tura!" once again Mavadzugji was left surprised, that he knew Batsami by name like that, but he did not bring that up to not cut his thoughts off. "We all see ourselves as part of the same group, right? But if you stop to think about it, we were all born into different tribes. To us, that is irrelevant, we share a town and all that. But a lot of people stick to that, not only the old ones, we are lucky this region found peace, because to the west instead of living together the tribes just started fighting over each inch of land."
Each word of Tzevami was followed by a nod from him. He could see now that his observation was correct in all aspects. "I guess I had never appreciated this region for its peace. It also explains why the temple is so rich in knowledge."
"Yeah. Though not having to pick up a spear is by far the best part of it. Gah." the priest answered, before suddenly standing up on his seat. "Oh, listen to that. Rutohidzanyi styled music. The feast is here."
Mavadzugji nodded, then couldn't help but to stare while Tzevami started to separate the flowers within his bag, making sure each group of flowers wrapped on ribbons would not get mixed with the others. Too curious at this point he was about to ask about it when Tzevami suddenly jumped out. "I am a bit late, I need to do a lot. I will be going, see you there. Oh, and meet me later, I will pay my share of the boat."
The priest had some issues about Rutohidzanyi music being played when Auricolor was not the dominant moon, sure, twins based music was not exactly party like, but, with some effort, some Mepodzanyi styled songs could work. That aside, the party was nice, so much so that he almost forgot to keep his eyes alert for when Batsami arrived.
In fact, he did fully neglect the task until the last second, when he suddenly spotted the girl. Dzora had got herself some odd threads with a golden shine to them, she used them to make a hat for her daughter. The seamstress' work already looked quite beautiful normally, he had no doubt Batsami would look cute with the round hat on her head even if it used normal threads, the fancy ones, however, made her stand out, which ended up being very useful for him this night.
She spotted him with the corner of her eyes and pondered for a moment. If he had arrived after her, she would think he was following her, but, as he had been there before, she guessed he was story hunting again. Since that was the case, she allowed herself to smile and wave at him.
Soon after, a woman gave her flowers... not any flower, they were wrapped in ribbons. She looked at them for a long moment and then smiled, nodding to the woman, who soon left without saying a word.
He was about to stand up and go talk with her when suddenly he felt an arm touch him on his shoulder. A tall man was looking at him, his face was so red you could see the color even on the dominant grey of the duskland and his clothes sparkled with silver details. It was the host himself, Mutaraka.
"Good to see you!" he suddenly said, causing Mavadzugji to be confused.
"I don't think we have met, sir." he answered, wondering if he should add 'maybe you are confused' to his words, he feared they could be seen as offensive and he did not know how the host well enough to not use the safest of wordings.
"Hahaha, I guess you were too young. I barely recognized you until someone mentioned 'the priest sitting alone near the fire' by name. You are Tihtzin's boy, right?"
"That is correct, sir. You met my dad before?"
"Met..." this time he laughed loudly. "I fought by his side!"
One of his wives laughed and approached the two. "Do not let his words fool you, he fought with Tihtzin once in a festival. Not on the Sunland campaign."
"Gjah" he gasped at his story being shot down like that. "Anyway, you were with Dzora this whole time? If I knew I would have visited you sooner, long time since I last saw that fox of a man. How is he."
"He died sir. It has been a while now." he told in a passive voice, it had been so long, he did not feel much emotion towards it anymore, furthermore, his extended family had done most of the raising while his father was aways distant.
"Ah. I cannot believe it." Mutaraka was visibly annoyed at that news.
"I am sorry to hear that. Uh, your mother..." the wife started but was cut.
"Never met her in person. She did not live with my father."
"Are we talking about the same person? I swore he..." the wife continued, confused.
"He married someone after he returned. She is still alive if that is what you are asking."
"Oh, that is good news, I was worried for a moment. She was my friend back in the days." the wife continued. "It was me, her and Dzora."
"Such a shame, this always happens and I never learn, I always leave unfinished business." the tall man continued on his immense display of slight annoyance. "Was it an accident or something? A fight?"
"Drowned. He was always a heavy drinker, kept exaggerating more and more each time, was walking down the road and fell downhill into a stream, we think."
"That sounds like possible murder!" he declared.
"We checked for signals of a fight, there was none. Furthermore, he had fallen asleep on roads before."
The host continued to deal poorly with the news, he did not know the man well enough to take the worst of it, but he had a certain respect for the man, it was sad to hear he had such an undignified end. "You never know, in these troubled times the shady sorts get increasingly crafty."
"Oh look, the Dyetzu's Tsahi Pura arrived." the wife suddenly noticed. "We should welcome then, dear. And get 'everything' ready." it was the whole reason for the feast, after all. The man nodded.
"If you ever need anything, boy, talk to me. Do not be proud. Your father was a great man, and I can see that same shine in your eyes." Mutaraka told before turning away.
"Tell Dzora I said hi! Tell your stepmother she still owes me half of the loot." the wife added before following him.
Mavadzugji sighed. At this side of the duskland, it was rare for people to know him or his father. While typically he did not like to be linked to the old general, this was interesting news, he wondered if Mutaraka could get him some new tablets from the south, he only had the few he inherited. He had heard a counselor to Runza had been recording the queen's thoughts since her coronation, and of all southern rulers, none seemed to hold more valuable knowledge.
"Talking with the host, are you?" a sudden voice questioned. It was Batsami, who now fully believed that the priest was not there to spy on her, but was also suddenly interested after he talked with Mutaraka himself. Despite the way her mother spoke about him, with the ironic 'our friend', the family had little contact with the wealthy man. "Do you know him personally?" the musician asked, curious and very interested in the possibility.
"He knew a relative, never spoke to him until this day." the priest confessed.
"Hallelle, well, forget it then." she told, frowning. "Really thought I had lucked out."
"What is it that you wanted? I mean, he seemed fond of me and I would not mind helping."
"It is not something I can ask you to do. I just... look, forget it." she told, adjusting the hat on her head slightly so it stayed centered. Being such an adventurous girl, one would think Batsami would have ditched the light wooden frame of the fadjera, a type of round brimless hat, as advancements in tailoring made it unnecessary and only old ladies still wore it with the frame, yet the girl, ever astute, simply decided that if she wore it with the frame she would stand out the most. She was absolutely right, with Dzora's designs and her natural beauty the flat crown and straight look outshone the more flexible shape the others had.
The priest knew Dzora was proud of that, though she hardly conveyed it with words, she knew her daughter had the wits of a proper tailor. It was an often overlooked aspect of the vocation, at most it was the subject of local jokes about them being great at making ropes and finding out how thick necks are, but to move away from being a simple clothmaker to starting to serve the needs of the upper-classes one needed to be able to see beyond what was popular now and instead prepare to what would be desired in the future. The issue was that the musician lacked the one trait that was needed to even become the simplest of cloth wavers, patience, and that was probably the reason why her mother did not have a proud smile always on her face.
"Well, if you say so, but I would be glad to help anyway I can. Oh right, this reminds me of something, do you know any other priest of the temple beyond me?"
The girl suddenly tilted her head slightly, wondering why that question was being asked. "Tura?"
"No, I mean, not a... a male priest, that is." while many languages differentiated male from a female priestess, the most popular and powerful views on the lore and religion of the Dusklands not only lacked them, they avoided them on principle. Justifications were many, from avoiding favoritism towards Momumepo or Momuhedzu, to helping to keep the priests away from mortal issues, among others. Truth be told, Mavadzugji suspected it was just a desperate attempt at separating the temple from the vices of the clan society.
Now she wondered if the priest was not there spying on her after all. Though she was caught on a hard spot, she knew he was good at reading the emotions of people he knew well, so she did not want to lie. She was also good at identifying intentions herself, and she knew it was a rhetorical question sheepherding her towards a situation. It was best to be sincere.
"Tzevami?" she said.
"Ah, right. So you know him, good. He mentioned you by name so I was a bit suspicious."
The musician gasped. "Of me?"
The priest shook his head emphatically, "Oh no no, of him. He could be trying to break certain temple codes, or worse, he could be stalking your... or something."
Batsami suspect that was the case, but it was hilarious to drag Mavadzugji out of his comfort zone, the priest's dark skin gaining a red tone to it. "Ah no, nothing like that. He knows a lot about the lore behind music and song, and I have an interest in that, in the case you have not noticed."
"Wait a moment, have I not already talked with you about that? I was one of the persons who actually helped to formalize the whole thing, Tzevami had little to do with that."
"Ah, you did? I swear I do not remember it. In all honesty, I tend to zone off when I am playing an instrument, and that seems to attract people wanting to speak with me like moths to a flame." There was also a difference in the way the two priests spoke, Tzevami was objective and made sure he was introducing any information in a swallowable pace, Mavadzugji was more akin to being in the middle a river during peak torrent season.
"And it is not even like the people here are following the rules, anyway."
Once again she tilted her head, sneakily adjusting her hat which had once again lost its even position on her head. "But we are?"
"I hear Rutohidzanyi music, but I do not see Rutohidzanyi in the sky. Only the bright light of the twins."
"Well, we don't follow it all the time. But we will do one song for Mepodzanyi during the dances and one for Hedzudzanyi during the practice battles."
He rolled his eyes wanting to say it just didn't work like that, but he knew it would only drag the conversation further into bickering territory. Then he suddenly stopped in the middle of the eye-roll, raising his eyebrows, there was an overabundant use of 'we' there. Usually, musicians worked independently, and she had never mentioned anything of the sort.
She read him like a glove, seeing something caught him in her sentence, but she misunderstood what. "Don't worry, it is just a practice, not a real battle. Wooden weapons are used and while those can hurt, it was not like some as gallant as Llapur Dyetzu would push it past what is safe."
The priest looked confused for a moment, then he understood the close call and did his part to leave without suspicion. "I see, I heard Mutaraka talking about that clan and their army."
"The Tsahi Banner, yes. They have fought many battles against bandits and even outright robber clans preying on those escaping the north." there was a gleam in her eyes and a showcase of emotion that was not so typical of someone as sly. The priest started to suspect something, though by now he had many more questions beyond the one Dzora wanted to know.
"Oh, you dropped some flowers from your bag." he told, bending down and picking them before they got trampled. "What is up with these ribbons anyway? Saw so many people with them."
"Oh? It's just ribbons. Decorations. Surely even a priest knows what that is." she told, and if she had not shown such a sincere happy face a moment before he could even be fooled by her ability to look passive and put up a fake smile. Furthermore, she was trying to provoke him, usually, she did that to bait the conversation and the other person's mind away from the main issue. Those ribbons must have some purpose, he thought.
He wondered if he should press it or not, then Batsami moved forward, shoving him aside to stare at the main open field of the location. The warriors had moved in. As the use of Pura, banner, even though the group was not a mercenary one suggested, Tsahi Pura seemed heavily inspired by people like Mavadzugji's father, even their armor was similar to the one Tihtzin had.
Llapur Dyetzu walked in the middle of them, he, oddly, had a bow. Not a typical weapon choice, considering the nature of the dusklands, ranged weapons were not all that useful. To his side, his two brothers walked along, the middle one seemed proud, showing off a bit by spinning a knife, but the younger one looked quite miserable and if not for their similar appearance he would have guessed he was a squire to the gallant warrior. Probably of the pacifist sort, the priest deduced, much like himself.
Other armies, including the one that protected Mohavumika, Dzora's hometown and where he lived now, was there. He was quite impressed, so it truly was some sort of military event, what was the need for it though? The priest couldn't tell. He shot his glance to the side and saw Batsami absolutely awestruck by the warrior, there was Dzora's answer, but he feared to break the lady away from her trance to ask what were the circumstances.
Thankfully, soon he would get his answer, apparently. A woman stepped towards the middle of the field, being helped through the long walk by Llapur. She had scars fresh on her face and body and seemed to be haunted by something.
As she did so, the priest felt something odd within his chest. "Wait a moment... Where have I seen this person before?" he thought and thought, and then he remembered Dzora, that was the woman she was talking with last season, the one who took the blankets and his map. But... she did not have that many scars.
He winced, realizing what happened. Vultures were attracted by hard times. She confirmed it as she started to talk about what happened to the crowd, encouraged on by the host, about how her family was ambushed and how much she lost on that savage attack. Meanwhile, the priest's head worked around the why of this being the center spot. Not that he did not think it was terrible, but bandits attacked people, such was life, especially past the border of the dusk.
Nevertheless, he immediately decided to sink back into the crowd and start to leave. As Tihtzin's son, he was sure Mutaraka would ask him to join whatever was happening there despite him not being a warrior and he would hate that. To his surprise, that all was a surprise, it seemed the host had not told anyone anything beyond the fact the warriors would do a little showcase of combat.
It seemed like it just took a blink for him to be back at the riverport and away from the 'feast'. His mind was still on the woman and the importance that was being given, he told himself he would likely know the answer tomorrow as it seemed like it was the sort of news that would fly faster than lightning, yet, he couldn't help to make suppositions.
Considering how many days had passed, the fact she couldn't pay all that much money for the best river ferries and the dryness of the season making certain rivers hard to navigate, she couldn't be truly past the dusklands when she was attacked. The region was peaceful for sure, but attacks were not unheard...
The scars! He knew there was something particularly odd about the scars. He had seen them before, the oval shape and the depth, the distribution around the arms and shoulders, especially on the backside. Those were arrow scars, he only saw one man with those injuries before, his father. The people from the dusk favored melee in combat and traps in the hunt, few used arrows. It was more of a sunlander weapon...
He gasped, mimicking the reaction the crowd had earlier when the woman explained the situation after the priest left. "Oh kufu. I did right in leaving earlier." he told himself.
It took a while for the conversation to move away from the hot topic of the attack. Especially with Dzora, who had talked with the woman personally. Mavadzugji now had the full scope of the situation, and while he was right in his deduction, the end result was not as bad as he thought. It seemed the festival was not to try to raise the people up for some war but to do a simple recruitment drive for more watchmen to look after the roads and rivers. Furthermore, Mutaraka wanted to send warriors south to better garrison the Dzanya settlements in the sunland. Yet, the priest couldn't help but worry about the situation in the Duskland/North Mesathalassa border, as despite the different circumstances and sparse populations, it could end up much like the Western one.
"Well then, we have been talking about so much, but what about Batsami, did she do anything questionable there?"
"She played a lot of music. Didn't even drink. I also discovered she knows a priest from the temple..."
"Oh... you knew?"
"Of course I do. But worry not, that is just a little group thing, they talk about music and work together to find feasts and such, divide payments and gifts, and so on. Seems like simple young people stuff."
"Ah! So you also know the group as a whole."
"You don't? Oh dear, you need to work on your observation skills a little. And furthermore, underestimating a tailor huh? Didn't you hear the one about the gallows?"
"Just joking. Though, since we are apologizing, I would like to say sorry too. I will be honest with you, I just sent you there because you seemed like you could use it, instead..."
"You couldn't have known. It was all very theatrical."
"It's a thing Llahin do. Its like storytelling but the people pretend to be characters."
"Weird... Well, did you see clan Dyetzu? I keep hearing so much about them!"
"Not only from her... but now that you mention it, I think she is my main source about their feats and courage and so on."
"I think she is interested in Llapur Dyetzu."
The inhaled and then laughed, trying to stop herself but outright failing. "Oh, the poor thing. I could have a crate worth of those golden strings from the oddlands and I would still not be able to be of a status great enough for a clan Dyetzu lad to even wonder about looking at her."
"Ouch." the priest winced.
"It's the bare truth. They also have couple based marriages, can't even remarry after losing a partner, so her chances are just extremely low."
"I am not the best judge, but she is beautiful and smart. Furthermore, you just never know, would you imagine the son of a folk hero like Tihtzin living with you?"
"Yes because I was friends with your stepmother. This is different. I mean, I would love for her to marry into a rich clan, but if we are to be realistic... I just can't support such ideas."
"Where is she anyway? I didn't see her during the morning."
"Oh, she left again, another evening, another party. This one is closer thankfully."
The priest raised an eyebrow, for reasons Dzora did not understand, he seemed interested.
He felt ridiculous, but there was no other choice. He wondered if he had openly wronged Tura somewhere, but he knew no one else who could help him with such an issue.
"Don't worry." She said. "Nobody will recognize you! These fibers look just like hair, this mustache is the correct shade of white and the hat hides your features."
It worked so far, but the priest who was already awkward was now fulltime miserable. This was the second party he wore this, following Batsami but trying to not be spotted. It was not the girl he was interested in, it was the flowers. He now knew the group, but not the odd flower exchanging. He had asked around the temple and even a few of the girl's friends but they just did not know a thing. Not even the local watchman seemed to know.
He had picked up a few noteworthy details, it seemed the type of flowers was not random, a suspicion confirmed by the fact the same sets were given on similar occasions, such as a musician's arrival into the feast. Past that, so far, he couldn't break the code.
Since Jofumidzanyi was the ruling moon, it was time for songs with string instruments and notes that lasted longer. Yet, it was Batsami's lamellophone that truly shone, despite being a relatively more neutral and quiet sound even when the moons favored it as the lead.
CLAP CLAP CLAP
The sound felt like nails on the gentle melody. Batsami did not stop playing, but it seemed like she was one more clap away from forcing the group of musicians to play a funerary tune for the song disruptor. Thankfully, the person was quick to read the glances and stop his hands.
Looking around from where the sound came, the priest gasped. It was not a local who simply couldn't resist the natural urges to follow the song but instead, the person was foreign. Like a moth to a flame, the priest walked to his side quite quickly, usually, he was too shy to introduce himself first, but in the face of interesting people, he didn't seem to think twice.
"Hello friend, are you new here? You shouldn't really clap during songs, we don't really like percussion over here. I know its odd, but it is how it is."
"Not too new, friend. I didn't know much about music though! From the words you said, I assume tapping my feet on the ground is also rude."
"Absolutely." he added. Taking a moment to look at this person. His accent was different from any he knew, his looks were also not one he knew, he had the facial structure of a human from north mesathalassa, yet his skin was not pale like theirs', yet it was not dark like those from Imga or some of the Dzanya, it was tan with a hint of a copper-like color.
"Harsh. But I will try to do my best. The girl with the... hat looked like she was about to murder me." 'cheese wheel hat' was what he wanted to say, a common description of such flat and round shape in his land but it had the danger of being seen as mockery elsewhere.
"I am sorry. We are hospitable people usually, but... well, some of us take music very seriously."
"No, no. I am sorry. No wonder everyone has been staring at me since I entered the dusklands!"
"Ah, no, that might have to do with something else. There has been an incident, foreigners attacked a local caravan of refugees from the oddlands...?" the priest winced at the sudden leaning forward the foreign man did. He now saw his hair was grey, but not Dzanya grey, it was aged past a natural black tone.
"Oh sorry for startling you. Used to sail a ship, so I have this habit of going close to others to listen to them, in the sea the voices have a hard time competing with the waves and the wind. But thank you for that information, I had no idea about this situation."
"You are a sailor? From which Harbor Kingdom?"
The man laughed. "I said I was in the sea, not on the coast like the typical harbor boy from Mesathalassa."
"So not from Mesathalassa! I have never met anyone who is not from the south!" now the priest was the one showing alarming amounts of interest.
"No no, think a bit east of that." the sailor said with a smirk
"East...? OH! From the Farevinde? Veterotse? Mahade?"
The foreigner took a moment tilting his head, trying to understand just what he was saying, the last one gave it away. "Oh... No.... well, I lived in an area near the great 'sandlands' for a while, sadly never saw Vetros. Nevertheless, it is not the land that is my homeland. Think east of that."
His eyes widened. "It couldn't possibly be... Halleperiha where Momuhedzu lives."
"Uhm, who is this Momuhedzu? I keep hearing the name but..."
The priest looked to both his sides to make sure no one was looking, he was about to commit a crime. "Llifeperatsille."
"Ah! I see. You can't really say the god's names, right? Oh... Uhm, no. East of that." he laughed apologetically as the local man's eyes lost that sense of wonder.
"Oh... Well then... East of that... Tzertseh?"
"Xerxes? No, east of that. Though my grandfather was from such a region."
Now he felt he was being mocked, east of that was the very ocean that was west of the dusklands! Unless... "Llorun?" he felt too tall and too human to be from there though.
"Hmmm.... South of that."
"Tabatah? ... Momuhnyar?"
"Momuh, not momu."
"Ah! Great Ring. Nope. West of that."
"I give up, unless you are born on the sea, I do not know what land that is."
The foreigner laughed. "Axotal. The islands in the Metatic."
The priest continued to have a confused gaze. "I am sorry, I mean no ofence, but I have never heard of such lands before."
The ex-sailor sighed, it made sense, only the most legendary of locations made it across the continents if they did not have a history of trade with a region. He was impressed somewhere as isolated as this land even knew so many places, though he suspected this young man was not the correct sample to determine the average.
"And wouldn't it be WEST of here, anyway?"
"I said the route I made, from there, to here... and before you get excited, no, I did not go through Alefpria."
"Shame. But it seems like an amazing journey nevertheless. Have you ever seen a tiger-horse? A whale? A llama?"
"Yes to the last two, never heard of the... OH! Damn it. Yan really did that, can't believe the maniac." suddenly the foreigner was snickering to himself, almost laughing aloud, before Batsami stared daggers at him for the nuisance and he went quiet.
"Could I ask what you are doing here? I can't imagine... you know, a sailor all the way up here..."
"Waiting for my wife mostly. And I am no longer a sailor, have not been since I was about your age."
"Ah! Is she from your island too? What do you do now?"
"No. She is from here... Well... Let me correct it, she is from the south. Met her on my first trip to this region. It was very different back then." he then smiled. "And I am a priest, much like you."
"It is easy to notice, especially since you follow the local rules of how a priest should keep his hair short and his face smooth. The costume is not too great either, though only from up close. The duskland favor disguises, it seems."
"I am disguised for a good reason, nothing shady."
"You seem like a good person. So do not worry..." suddenly the aging man looked up, rubbing his chin, the priest couldn't notice anything to justify such a reaction. "Well, that is my call. It was nice talking to you, hadn't chatted with someone since I arrived in here."
The priest barely had a moment to react before the foreigner was about to leave, but something made the man stop, almost as if he was unsure what to do. "Say... what is your name?"
"Mavadzugji, sir." he answered, causing the foreigner to grin and turn around. A few eyes were on them after they suddenly raised to their feet, including Batsami. The priest took a deep breath and looked back at the frowning musician. "Kufu" he whispered to himself.
"So... why were you stalking Batsami anyway? I only asked you to do it once." Dzora asked, sighing. She had to spend a whole evening reassuring her daughter she was not the one who sent the priest to look after her.
"It was nothing, just some odd behavior from her I was trying to understand."
The seamstress looked at him with expectant eyes. "Well, go on then. I am a little worried about you suddenly saying my daughter is engaging in odd behaviors."
"Well, she has been exchanging flowers with a few people"
"Please tell me its only the white, blue and black ones, not the expensive yellow or pink sort of flower."
"The flowers were simple, but the odd thing is, they wrap ribbons around flowers and it seems to..."
Dzora cut him off. "Oh, I wonder how she learned it. I have never taught her that."
The priest turned his head but kept staring at the owner of the home. "Taught? Taught what?"
"Oh, that thing with the flowers. It was a little thing I used to do with my husband. See, we were from competing tribes so it was hard to communicate, we could ask friends or servants to say this or that but they always gossiped about such topics." she smiled, remembering the old times. "After I was caught one too many times, I was sent north to live with a branch of the family. Met your stepmother and Vallora," Mutaraka's second wife, "there. We used to explore together and one day we found... fairies."
The priest could remember that old story, which both Dzora and his stepmom swore was true but he did not quite believe it at all.
"Well, while spying on them, we noticed something, fairies would leave flowers arranged in certain ways over certain places to signal things. I guess like hunters do in the south with wood carving," she explained. "So! When I came back, I had this idea. What if I did the same? So, I began doing the flower and ribbon thing and we were never caught again. Weird that somehow Batsami learned it, guess her father must have shown it to her."
"And how does it work?"
The seamstress giggled, it was funny how obsessed the priest was with such a silly children play. "Give me a moment, I will get a flower and be back." she told, before soon returning. "Here. What flower is this."
"Right! First sound, ro." she smiled and wrapped a ribbon on it. "Now this part is less intuitive, it couldn't be too obvious, but this wrap, it's an I."
The priest's eyes widened, words seemed to barely form on his mind at the moment. "So... the flower is the consonant and the ribbon the vowel?"
"Yes. Oh, and pay attention to this." she took out a knife and gently took out some cloth from the extremities of the wrap. "A flat-ended ribbon is just Ri, but now I made it Rin."
"How many flowers are there?" his voice was cracking with feelings he couldn't quite decipher.
"Re, Dje, Tse, Ke, Be, Pe, Tze, Gje, Te, Lle, Me, Dze, Nye, Ve, Fe, He." he whispered to himself as she went. He felt that was a good combination, especially the way she pronounced it. It was mostly Dzora's local dialect but it had a few hints of the ones used in the north, especially the Dje sound. No Dye, Ye, We or the variations of Tie, Tae, that often popped up in the south due to foreigner influence, which did not solve his problem with cutting certain dialects out.
"And the vowels?"
"Oh, you know, just O, U, A, I, E." while the sounds seemed reasonable, the seamstress made a little movement with her hand, finger starting near her mouth for the O, then lowering with a U, raising to the left for the A, up and center with the I, before the whole hand was put in a horizontal and straight position over the neck at the E. He had seen people doing that spiral movement before, but he was finally starting to see the sense into it. The locals spoke the vowels O, A and E without moving many muscles, but U was made with a downward movement while their "I" was with an upward one. This cemented the priest' idea that limiting it to five vowels would be a good idea, even if there was some variation... a lot, in fact, in the west where he was born many lacked the I and spoke with a sound more like AI, while in the north the almost mute and very short E was changed for a longer E sound. Yet, there was always some sort of equivalency, moreover, the way Dzora did it seemed to mimic the rules of the R, N, H sounds used after vowels, which were global to most dialects and followed a simple upward, middle, downward trinity. This gave him the impression it was a natural aspect of the Dzanya language to have that spiral of vowels.
Yet, above all, it was still the flower-ribbon that caught his eyes the most. It was an elegant solution to the way the language was paced. Ideograms like an adapted traveler code just did not seem compatible with the word variation and pace of the Dzanyarara, whilst mimicking the harbor kingdom's scripts just added too much repetition with an unneeded freedom for vowels considering the dusklands had a hard syllable composition of 'Consonant-Vowel-(Consonant)' and had no natural cases of sounds that could work as either such as Y or W, proper language also lacked diphthongs. It also did not emulate the strong separation between syllabic units, words like Tarri looked odd when written in the southern code but with Dzora's solution it became a much more recognizable (tar)(ri).
"Did you know... that I was working with the language?" he suddenly asked the seamstress.
"Yes? You had those clay things and all. Why?"
"Then why didn't you mention this before?" he almost yelled, not out of anger but out of confusion and anxiety.
"Well... this is just a child's play, and when you tried to explain how to 'read' those tablets it sounded so confusing and complex, you could fill your whole room with so many symbols. Talking about something so simple would likely just annoy you, I thought."
"No... On the contrary. I was searching for something simple but could only find complex solutions. Yours work perfectly."
"Ah... Well then, you are welcome." she chuckled. "But let me tell you, its hard to buy all those flowers and cloths for ribbons, there was one time during winter where I was all out of Nyilli blooms to..."
"Oh, I do not mean the whole thing, just the structure."
"I had you for a moment but I think I lost you again."
"Let me show you." he quickly took the knife she had used on the ribbon and started carving on the ground. "I will turn the Rotse into a vertical line... then the ribbon into a horizontal line... and in the right end of the horizontal line, a little stroke to..."
"Oh, Rin, I see." the seamstress nodded, looking with curiosity at the symbol. Mavadzugji saw it as well. He finally had it. He could have had it much earlier too, had he only considered that one joke.