My son for whom I choose to die

A woman and her son are on opposite sides of an age-old war between secret societies, but she refuses to release him without a final ultimatum. A short story, 4700 words, set in my blood magic world called Haem.

My beautiful son,

Your mother is an Anuvite. You know that, of course – you have just never accepted it, despite my whole existence to the contrary.

But no matter – I have given up trying to convince you. Your mother is also dead, or she will be by the time you have read this. My companions in Anuva are coming for me as you insisted they would.

Your mother says no more. She is silent in her zeal to love selflessly, proud to plunge into oblivion for her son. But I, Refoan Omzynyes of Anuva, say to you: you cruel, blind fool. How do you presume that you can love your bride, sacrificing for her and glorying in her and crushing your soul for the smallest chance to make her life better, when you cannot even love your own mother? Of course, you would insist that I am not so worthy of love as Couryan is. Very well, then. Let us examine that hypothesis. I am not worthy of love, being an Anuvite with her fingers entangled in metal and numbers, so you never bothered to love me (though you could have if you had wanted, naturally). Meanwhile Couryan is worthy of love, being a very pretty Suyn girl with Sight, ethereal and half-lost in heavenly worlds – and so you will bother to love her, and you are sure that you can.

I have a different hypothesis. I say that I am worthy of love – I will even say I am as worthy as Couryan, an almost perfect Anuvite as she is an almost perfect Suyn. That you didn’t love me shows that you couldn’t love me, and so you cannot love Couryan. You will break her heart, too. She will also fall prey to her own companions, her Suyn companions, too gloriously devoted to her heavenly worlds to see or care that they come for her. But at least she is yours to crush.

Your father was a Suyn spy planted in my Anuvite cell. I realized this soon after I realized I was pregnant with you, but I had you anyways. You were my son to have, my chance to remake the situation. I was too good of an Anuvite to use our Anuvite technology. On you, at any rate: as it turned out, your father’s Suyn blood magic calling to the gods of Couryan’s heaven could do almost nothing against our Anuvite metal bullets that we’d shaped with our own hands.

There was little patience in Anuva for a young woman raising a child on her own while trying to contribute to the work. Our city Odiry was expanding back then, and they needed some way to cross the Huaryens river that ran just on the outskirts. Either we of Anuva would build a bridge, or Suyn would come in with their magic, muse over their Sight for a while, and then command the water or the animals or do something else deep and mysterious. We were fighting hard with them for Odiry’s public works department – no time for a small, whimpering child. I had you anyways. I stayed at home with you. I kept you out of the fight over Odiry, the bridge, the Huaryens itself. I chose to let you play in the Huaryens instead, bringing you there on bright summer days while I tried to rush through our engineering manuals and sketch out plans, distracted by your hair turning from blond to red and gold and by your first words: water, bird, grass.

When you were five Suyn got into the police department while we weren’t paying attention and framed and exposed our cell, and we were all being hunted down. Anuva’s scholars advised us to remain composed, stay together, keep our covers and let them question us so Anuva would not lose its foothold in Odiry altogether. Suyn didn’t have strong enough cases against most of us as it was, but they would if we fled in the night and were mysteriously missing the next day. But the scholars were true Anuvites and could not order us or force us. My colleague Zoanos, who went without sleep for days calculating forces and drafting the bridge that we built over the Huaryens, chose to stay in Odiry and was executed by Suyn. Not because of anything Zoanos did wrong – because my other colleague Diefen, who worked in her same division of the public works department and had rejected her years ago because Diefen was too intimidated by her brilliance, had become terrified and fled rather than choose his way rationally and hold his ground to protect his companions. We hated him. And then I followed him out of the city, for your sake, so that Suyn would not find you if they found me and make their usual ridiculous assumption that I would try to force a young child who couldn’t choose for himself into Anuva, where we are all there by choice.

You and I wandered for years. I had chosen to wander, and so I chose to make it an adventure, hoping that you would choose so too. And you did – you looked at the huge sunsets that washed over the fields of wild wheat near Namyuenes and saw fire, glory, and wonder; you laughed for delight at the swarms of indistinguishable grey-brown birds descending on spilled food in Renoin; everywhere there was nature or animals, you were happy, while my ears rang for lack of city noises and buildings clattering up from the ground and numbers rolling through my mind. I found an apartment in Sofyues, where one window looked out on a little garden of flowers for you, and the other at a building with Nurevian facades for me to stare at and dissect. We stayed there for four years before I saw, like a ghost, the face of the woman who had arrested Zoanos. You know her face very well: it is well reflected in her granddaughter Couryan.

We left the apartment with you in tears for your flowers – though you refused to acknowledge either the tears or the flowers as we left – and we wandered again. Your soul healed in the emptiness and continual surprises of the wild lands we traveled through, while mine clutched at every schedule, list, and semblance of order I could create in the rolling irregularity of nature. We came to Somony, which was so full of Anuva that every government department had one of us leading it and every grid-spaced, evenly paved street had a number. I felt safe, and I thought you would adjust soon and perhaps enjoy your lessons more coming from a teacher in a school than from your mother, but we only lived there for two years before Couryan’s grandmother was hovering in the corners of my eyes again. We moved to Eneyues. You asked me why we were moving again. I told you that there were people who hated me and wanted to hurt me, and might hurt you as well, and I had to protect us. You asked why they hated me. I said I couldn’t tell you for your own protection, and that I would tell you when you were older. Which was stupid, and set you on fire with curiosity, but what could I tell you? About Suyn and Anuva, hidden in every corner of your beautiful world, locked in eternal mortal combat? That your mother was Anuvite and you too were hunted and torn from every place-that-might-become-home because of Anuva, because you were with Anuva, because as far as they were concerned you were Anuva regardless of anything you did or chose?

I want you to make your own life, my son – and if that life is with Couryan of Suyn, then go live that life with all your being and energy and love. But if you cannot love, you cannot love Couryan and you cannot have the life you desire. You’ll only trap yourself again with a binding to pain you did not choose.

We went to Eneyues, which was also teeming with Anuva, and I threw myself into the cell there to make something more of my life than just fearing, running, reacting. I needed to be proactive. Unfortunately, Couryan’s grandmother was also proactive, and she was there in a few months. I packed up again – and then my Anuva colleague Tonoas appeared at my door and demanded to know why I was leaving. I told him about Couryan’s grandmother and a little about my connections to the disaster in Odiry, and gave a very impressive speech about how my priority was to protect my son first, and then he told me, “Well, of course. That’s my priority too, and that of any other sensible Anuvite I know. Stay right here and just see how safe your son will be.”

They started to trail Couryan’s grandmother, close in around her, pin her down. Tonoas tarried in our neighborhood, drifting by every now and then to intimidate any hypothetically present Suyn, and then he tarried in our apartment, and then my bed. As far as I was concerned, I had made the world I wanted: it was Anuvite, ordered, full of freedom for me to work and to love, and for you to go to school and learn all you wanted about the sky and birds and flowers. Even what the Suyn said about sky and birds and flowers – that they were messengers of heaven, not carriers of wildness, strange powers, and fear. Nature’s wildness started to infect you, and you thought it was heaven. The Suyn told you it was heaven, and you chose to say yes.

I didn’t know this was happening and that the Suyn were getting to you, even though the signs were obvious, because the signs were you. Nurturing plants in the dirt for hours while oblivious to your own safety, watching flocks of migrant birds from improbable secret hideouts you’d found, constantly yearning for open and fresh air and leaving doors and windows open to send disarraying drafts through my papers – that was your soul, your true will. I was happy for you because you seemed as full of freedom and delight as I was. As far as we were concerned, I had chosen Eneyues, and you had chosen Eneuyes, and I had chosen you, and you had chosen me, and I had chosen Tonoas of Anuva and you had chosen Couryan of Suyn.

I think you told me once, or else I overheard or saw when looking through your letters, that Couryan was like a bird herself or a sunset or a flower – beautiful, ephemeral, capricious – only she knew. Nature didn’t know its own nature – it simply was, blindly. Couryan saw who she was and sought for it with all her heart and mind. She did in fact See: she had Sight, she could See for all of nature and know what it was, and then push it towards its truth. You could say that Couryan chose who she was – except that her choice was always aligned with her Sight and always aligned with Suyn. She never wanted anything else, never worked, never struggled, never suffered. The choice was always sitting there fully formed in front of her for her to pick up.

In this case, the choice was you. You were obviously in love with Suyn’s loves, the wild unordered things – you fit in her Sight of heaven. And she fit with your common, mundane sight of heaven, with her golden hair and delicate, open face. You spent a great deal of time together at school, and then at Couryan’s house while I was delighted to suddenly have plenty of time to be with Anuvites and work for Anuva. Two years passed, Couryan’s grandmother only making very occasional appearances. Then my colleague Nonoany was murdered.

Anuvites have exceedingly little patience for murder. Suyn can have the same level of distate for it, for sure – unless the murder is part of their Sight of heaven, in which case it is as beautiful as a wave throwing itself into a beach or a tree crashing in a forest. Evidently, Nonoany’s body crushed by the stones of her house and splattered with blood was beautiful. And so Suyn made it so.

We of Anuva immediately went on the hunt for Suyn, trawling through every street of Eneyues for who could have done this to our companion. We can have a great deal of patience for killing, too, when it comes to someone who has broken every rational moral law by murdering an innocent human being. And so we eventually came to Couryan’s house – Couryan and her grandmother’s house. You were there when we got there. You were there with Couryan, playing with blood, playing with magic.

Everything was clear in a moment. An Anuvite mind is always running, collecting data and finding patterns, clicking together pieces of puzzle on the edge of awareness until suddenly a sharp image leaps out from the pieces and crashes through into your consciousness. It happens when I’m working on an engineering problem, trying this way, trying another way, this number or that number or this particular configuration or what can possibly – yes. The insight breaks through and consumes me for a moment. In the space of a second my will is one with the universe.

You crashed into my mind, you and Couryan and Suyn and Couryan’s grandmother and me and Nonoany – you with Couryan, you with blood and Suyn magic – you with the same Suyn magic that had killed Nonoany, you part of the same group we wanted to kill to avenge her – and I grabbed you and rushed past my Anuvite companions out of the house, firing my gun into the ceiling to distract them, except that some of the bullets bounced off and came hurling down into them, and I heard Tonoas scream, all of them screaming, really, either from their wounds or their shock. I didn’t even stop to get anything from our apartment. I just left. With you, horrified and terrified and angry with curiosity, but safe.

And you were right to be angry, and I knew it. I had snatched you away from the home, the people, and even the things you loved, violently and suddenly. I knew I’d have been angry if I were you. I couldn’t bring you back – you had already marked yourself as complicit in Nonoany’s murder by being with Suyn and using Suyn magic, and now I had branded myself a traitor too by trying to protect you and possibly hurting Anuvites in the process. So all I could do was tell you the truth about these mysterious people who hated me. You were thirteen; you were beginning to become a man with a fully-formed will.

I told you about Anuva, and I told you about Suyn, and I hoped that your experiences with Suyn might help to balance out the bias in whatever I said about them. I told you that I was Anuvite, and every choice I’d made to protect you I’d made because I was Anuvite and I was determined to make a good life for us and not give up my will into fate. I said I was sorry, deeply sorry for all you’d suffered because of me. I told you that I knew what you were feeling about Couryan because I was feeling that way about Tonoas. (You hugged me then, your red-brown-gold hair against my cheek and your awkward, stretched-out adolescent body pressed into mine its echo.) I told you that I didn’t want to force you into anything, that you weren’t Anuva unless you chose to be, and you shouldn’t let yourself be Suyn either unless you chose to be. In a perfect world you wouldn’t have already been treated and made to suffer because people thought you were Anuva or Suyn: but it was not a perfect world. It still isn’t a perfect world. Is Anuva, that I love so much, about to kill me now because I ever chose Suyn?

You hugged me. But you didn’t say anything. You released me, and we continued on our way down the endless road. We came to Denyory eventually, where I thought we might be safe because it was so Suyn. Surely Couryan’s grandmother and her granddaughter wouldn’t think to follow us there.

I don’t know how quickly they did, because you never told me. You ate your meals with me, and then you went out into the fresh air to do whatever you did. You had to go out, of course; I wanted to stay hidden, and somebody had to buy all the mundane things we depended on. I hated not having those small regular chores I could control to mark out my days and weeks, but I did it because I thought we were less likely to be caught by either Suyn or Anuva if I stayed inside.

I slowly started to integrate into the tiny local Anuvite cell, easing my way in with another name. You were probably part of the Suyn cell at that point. You were sixteen and very handsome, with strong arms from working in the ground and delicate fingers for handling flowers. Only my hands are strong – for writing, for drawing, for holding books, for adjusting machinery, for knitting even fabric and handling small, precise guns. I have good eyes, too – especially for surveillance, after Tonoas’s training. So I started to go out sometimes to watch for Anuva, hiding in dark corners and buildings and simply observing for hours at a time. I tipped them off to a plot to murder an Anuvite, and they started to trust me. Life seemed to be working. It was moving, at least. I was always afraid, and every hour you spent away from me made you seem more alien and opaque, but years were passing without Couryan’s grandmother appearing. My plan was working.

I’ve deduced by now that I didn’t see her only because they’d decided to get me through you, instead. I slipped out of Couryan’s grandmother’s fingers too easily when she went for me directly, but if my son could catch me instead? Remove a pesky Anuvite whose existence threatened heaven, and make a Suyn with nowhere else to go but that heaven. It was clear. I could see it even then. I just didn’t dare to speak about Suyn and Anuva again with you – to force your will, or see what it truly was. I wanted you to be free, and I was afraid to see how you were free. I remained in our apartment or my surveillance cubbyholes, silent.

I saw you one day, kissing Couryan. Your passion for her was too beautiful, too full of life – I snatched bits and pieces of it and then had to look away from the pain of it and my reverence for it and the knowledge of what it entailed. I was determined to let you love Couryan if you would. You came home every day with the same blank-faced and somber expression you’d learn to put on, and I wanted to throw my arms around you and scream at you to go and love Couryan and leave me to suffer in joy. But I was afraid of what it might do to your love, and of course what it might do to me, if it might spring the trap being built around me. Still, I couldn’t contain myself. I started to be sloppy as I left my cubbyholes, hoping you would see me. At home I didn’t pry about how you’d spent your day, but I talked to you about sunsets I knew you’d find beautiful and small daily rituals I knew you enjoyed, hoping you would notice.

Don’t you see that I loved you? I desperately needed you to realize it. But if you ever did, it only makes that way you’ve treated me that much more unlike love.

I think Couryan saw me first. I’m guessing that she started to pressure you into finally acting and getting me out of the way. I just kept letting her see me, and letting you see me, and aching for you to figure out for yourself that your joy would only expand mine. But you remained silent and stone-faced.

Then one night you suddenly turned to me and said, “Mother, you need to be careful.” Your face had emotion in it. In a moment, I was blinded with hope. “You’re so exposed here like this with no one protecting you if the Anuva from Eneyues ever want to go after you. You need to…” You trailed off.

You were giving me a chance. You had built in an escape plan, for me.

“You can’t trust Anuva to protect you,” you said. “You were afraid they’d kill you. They want to kill you, not protect you. You need to…”

You looked me in the eye. “You need to get out of Anuva. They don’t care about you; you need to get out of it before they kill you.”

In a moment, I wasn’t blind anymore. I saw clearly.

But my silence just encouraged you. You’d spent too much time with Couryan, who actually indicates agreement by silence; I never do that, I speak my mind. But you just continued, “You need to find someone else to help you. I could help you, I have so many friends here. Just leave Anuva, stop relying on them – I know you must be relying on them to protect you here. Then my friends can help you…”

This was the out you gave me. This was your idea of a chance. Of a choice, even, a free choice. Leave my very self, the reason I suffered and you suffered, the only thing that held the pieces of my life and memory together, the only reason you even exist – and have my son. Or lose him, the last person I love, as he kills me with his own trap that he made for me, but do it as myself.

This was your idea of a choice. This was your idea of giving someone a choice. This was your idea of love.

How will you love Couryan? What kind of choices are you going to give her? Perhaps you are already giving her something delightful like “keep your Sight and the aura of otherworldliness it gives you that keeps me so madly in love with you, or else lose me if you ever come just a little too much more down to earth”? Maybe you’re giving her the wonderful freedom to kill an innocent, frightened woman made foolish by love, or else make herself despicable to the man she loves by betraying everything he thinks she stands for? Or perhaps you’ve already participated in her liberation, her choice to seduce the strange Anuvite boy before she was even a woman with her grandmother egging her on, rather than go against everything she knows and leave alive the woman whose existence threatens heaven?

I have had to make such choices. I’ve made them over and over again, for you. I’m Anuvite and I have to make my life out of my choices, somehow, even if they are terrible, if they are not real choices at all. But my family and my companions, the people of Anuva, should fill my life with real choices. We are here together to give each other freedom and make the fickle world with its fleeting sunsets and wild flowers hold us down a little less. But Suyn wants to hold us all down, to fix us into their tapestry of heaven or cut us out if we don’t belong. Make our choices for us so we never even have to think about freedom.

Maybe you think that you love me. Maybe you think I should consider that better than hating me purposefully. No, it’s not better. If you think you love me, you have so misunderstood love that you are twisted and dangerous and you will trap Couryan forever in the frozen vision of heaven where she is already losing herself.

But you made your choice. And I made my choice. I said to you then, calmly, “I can’t leave Anuva. The people who want to kill me aren’t the only Anuvites. I’m still safest with them.”

You pled with me a little more. Not that much. You did at least make it obvious that you intended to do away with me by telling the Anuvites of Eneyues where I was, probably making it seem like killing me would make the whole Suyn structure in Denyory collapse. Instead, of course, your purpose was to get me out of the way and potentially have evidence to convict a whole cell of Anuvites of cold-blooded murder. If it came out that I was Anuvite, all the better – they were even killing their own. It was the kind of thing that got Anuva dragged out into the open, exposed to the horror of the public like had happened in Odiry.

Assuming the Anuvites of Eneyues would forget about the oddly helpful anonymous tip-off, however. They know you and Couryan and her grandmother, and the minute they got any whiff of you they’d start going after you too, as my Suyn collaborator. They’d only become angrier when they realized I had been innocent. We’d all be dead in the end, justice done.

Except that I told them first. I wrote a letter and sent it to Tonoas and everyone else from the cell whose addresses I’d had. I told them that I was a Suyn spy, that I had killed Nonoany, and that you were innocent. You were always a double agent, secretly working for Anuva while pretending to be Suyn like your mother. You embedded yourself deep into Suyn to keep your true loyalties safe and to learn as much as you could. But now you’re about to marry a Suyn girl, and you’re not sure you can keep up the deception any longer.

The letter’s in your handwriting, you see. I didn’t teach you how to write for years for nothing. It’s written in your voice, in your handwriting, with your signature, or at least what your handwriting could be extrapolated to have become in the three years since Tonoas has seen it.

This is the out I’m giving you. This is my idea of love. I’m going to die anyways – I’m sitting right now in the room where my letter in your voice said that I would be. The Anuvites are likely coming from Eneyues now. This way or your way, they are going to kill me – it is coming at me from every direction, unstoppable.

But maybe I can still make the world a little more free for you. You can stay with Suyn if you want, or you can choose my story for yourself and join Anuva of Eneyues. You could join them and then beg to simply be left to live in peace, severing connections to both organizations. A real choice always involves more than two options. You could also use the opportunity to ambush the Eneyues Anuvites as they travel back and help make the world a better place. You could do nothing, simply let them kill me and return in peace. You could join them and try to overthrow the Denyory Suyn. You could ambush them and try to overthrow the Eneyues Anuva. You could do anything.

But whatever you do, your bride is waiting for you, and you love her. You want to love her. You want to love her as much as I know I love you.

And this is how I think you can love her that much, creating your own love out of your own choices. Be Suyn, be Anuva, be anything, but this woman that you would transform your whole life for? Let her be free too.

I think it should go without saying at this point that I love you, and that I am of Anuva, both forever, until death. You should realize that by now. And so I choose to die for you.

Refoan Omzynyes

“The world is evil, but the will is strong.”

Andêhostai Erelas and the Development of Thomoraii Poetry

I’ve recently been enjoying Robert Greenberg’s Great Courses video lecture series on “How to Listen To and Understand Great Music.” His method of teaching about significant musical works while also telling stories about their composers – with lots of primary sources, thank you! – has been great fun. Partly inspired by Dr. Greenberg’s style, I decided to write about Andêhostai Erelas, one of my favorite Thomoraii writers. Of course, Andêhostai’s imaginary, but that’s just too bad. I sure do wish his works actually existed. One note – all the marks on the vowels in Thomoraii words and names have meanings. I didn’t put them on just to amuse myself.

It was the Golden Age of the emperor Trusǎi in the continent of Thomorai when Andêhostai Erelas was born in 1301 MSY [Modern Sheesania Years; Andêhostai’s birth was in about 1814 A.D. our years]. All of Thomorai was at peace under the rule of Trusǎi, and the middle class was swelling as many people grew rich trading with Unia, Santa Meluna and other nearby countries. The arts were flourishing under the patronage of these wealthy middle and high classes, but most of all under the patronage of Trusǎi himself. The emperor was particularly fond of poetry, and so during his reign he supported many of the best poets in Thomoraii history.

At this point there were three main types of Thomoraii poetry. There were the folk poems: rhymes and fables and other such things, passed down by oral tradition and not taken very seriously by the patrons of the arts at this point. Then there were the epic poems, grand sagas of mythological or historical events that focused on telling great stories in beautiful language that would also teach the reader about morality and human nature. These epic poems typically featured archetypal characters and themes and were filled with abstract ideas from philosophy, psychology and other such subjects. They were not supposed to have realistic, complex characters, deal with everyday problems, or teach practical lessons. They were supposed to be grand and sweeping and inspiring rather than down-to-earth, detailed and practical.

Then there was the personal poetry, or tuôlenǎ, an art form meant just for the writer. Tuôlenǎ of this time period was typically short but very descriptive and detailed, and involved the specific feelings and ideas of the writer much more than epic poetry. There might be a story to a tuôlenǎ poem, or it might just be a description or a comment. Writers of tuôlenǎ might occasionally show it to friends or family, and indeed many scholarly families kept books of such poems that had been written by members of the family. But in general tuôlenǎ poems were meant only for the poet.

Andêhostai Erelas was born in Ôbtobâi, the capital country of the Thomoraii empire, in the golden age of the epic poem. His mother, Fidêl Truwêm, was a singer, and his father, Erelas Pǎityǎr, was a musician who worked for Trusǎi. While Erelas was not a very high-ranking musician among those that Trusǎi hired, he was quite well off and knew many of the musicians, writers and artists that Trusǎi was funding. Erelas intended for his son to become a musician, and so he began giving Andêhostai lessons in all of the major Thomoraii instruments when the boy was four. But while Andêhostai enjoyed studying and playing music, he was not particularly gifted, and Erelas realized that his son could probably never be skilled enough to get a good job in music – there were so many gifted musicians in Thomorai at this point that the competition for patronage was quite intense. So Erelas began casting about for something else for Andêhostai to study.

Meanwhile, Andêhostai’s mother Fidêl was teaching him to sing just for their own enjoyment – she liked to write short songs and she thought that it would be very nice to be able to sing duets she had written with her son, and Andêhostai, as mentioned before, enjoyed music despite his lack of natural ability in it. In the course of her teaching, Fidêl taught him bits of epic poems set to music, parts of opera-like dramas that she occasionally performed in. Andêhostai loved these poems and began writing poems and music for them himself, despite the fact that the music he wrote was rather bad. When his father saw the poetry he had written, he told his son to quit writing the music and focus on the poetry, and then he went and got him a teacher to help him. And so Andêhostai started taking lessons in writing epic poems when he was eight years old.

Andêhostai’s teacher Bêlûzdâzlai Kedê’a was a stern, grumpy old man who had been writing epic poetry for Trusǎi for decades. He was a tremendously demanding teacher, even more so when he recognized the talent Andêhostai had with words and images. He was horrified that, while Andêhostai’s parents had taught him to read and write quite well, they had not given him epic poetry to read or brought him to public performances of such poetry. So he began bringing the young Andêhostai to poetry readings twice a week, and had him read all the great works of poetry in the Thomoraii tradition over at least three times. “First time, look at the story. Second time, look at the philosophy. Third time, look at the writing style,” he said, “and if you enjoy any of it, read it a fourth time and try to look at it all.” Andêhostai later wrote to a friend, Palǎjân Ǎrazas:

I believe that I had practically memorized The Wandering of the Meshobai, The Return of Eriliair, all the works of Dûhǎlas Amjâi, The War for Kafa Monica, all the works of Thesolǎi Kulas, and all the works of Lǐshlai Lǔralai by the time I was fifteen years old. I couldn’t help it; any time I said anything at all about liking one of the poems I was reading, Qǎhai [professor] Bêlûzdâzlai immediately assigned me another reading of it. And then any time I wrote anything good at all about the poem I was reading, he assigned me another reading. And then any time I showed any signs of influence from the poem I was reading in my own poetry, he assigned me another reading. And if for any other reason he decided I needed to read it again – if he thought I had missed something, or misunderstood something, or needed to learn the lesson the author was trying to get across (this happened a great deal when I was a teenager and rather full of myself), or if he was just grumpy that day or if he thought was grumpy and needed some cheering up – and obviously more reading would do it – he’d assign another reading. I think I read Lǐshlai Lǔralai’s The Call of the Firebird sixteen times in the year I was fourteen alone. Of course, now I return to it quite often for inspiration or just for some relaxing reading, completely on my own initiative.

Bêlûzdâzlai drilled the rules of epic poetry writing into Andêhostai, forcing him to revise his poetry again and again. More than anything else, he forced Andêhostai to remove unnecessary words and details. “I had a tremendous tendency to go off on tangents of description at that age,” Andêhostai wrote to Palǎjân, “but Bêlûzdâzlai would have none of it. I would write five pages of a poem and he’d cross out four pages of it, and in the remaining page every third phrase would be crossed out. ‘Unnecessary! Unnecessary! Unnecessary! Focus on your story! Nobody cares what color the banana leaves were!’ he’d say.” Andêhostai did learn a great deal from his teacher. But the disciplined, strictly rule-abiding Bêlûzdâzlai and the dreamy, descriptive Andêhostai very often came into conflict over what was necessary and what was not.

One day when Andêhostai was twelve years old, Bêlûzdâzlai happened to mention the genre of tuôlenǎ, dismissing it as a “messy, unorganized, sentimental load of pointless mush with no rules.” Andêhostai had certainly heard about tuôlenǎ before, and had now and then tried his hand at a tuôlenǎ poem or two, but when he heard Bêlûzdâzlai’s rant a lightbulb went on in his head. Tuôlenǎ had no rules! There would be nothing to stop him from going on those descriptive tangents he loved so much! The contrary side of him, the side that always wanted to be different and always wanted to mess with the rules, was delighted. He started filling notebooks with tuôlenǎ poems documenting his feelings, his experiences, his reading and his writing. At first his tuôlenǎ poems were, indeed, messy, unorganized and sentimental without any real form or structure. But as he became more serious about tuôlenǎ, he began to apply what he was learning in his studies with Bêlûzdâzlai to his tuôlenǎ poems, and they became better and better. He became skilled at using small details to evoke a large, rich, image, to illustrate the moods of his characters, and to show people’s emotions in ways that he never could with the stock archetypal characters he worked with in epic poetry.

When he was fifteen, Andêhostai wrote a series of tuôlenǎ poems that tell the story of two cousins from a middle-class family. In the beginning, they are walking together through a plantation, discussing their lives. The older cousin tells the younger about how he fell in love with the daughter of a poor farm laborer, a gentle and sweet woman, but with no money or education. Afraid of what his family would think, the cousin married another woman from a middle-class family. As he tells his story to his younger cousin, he tries to convince him, and himself, that he made the right choice. The younger cousin listens, but does not really agree.

The scene then shifts to one right out of Andêhostai’s life. The younger cousin is being assigned by his poetry teacher to write a scene for an epic poem on the life of Raǐsh, a great warrior. The younger cousin writes the first stanza of the poem in proper epic form. Then, thinking of his older cousin’s story, he refuses to give in and write in the strict form of an epic poem. Slowly, stanza by stanza, he transforms his epic poem into a tuôlenǎ one, adding more and more descriptive images, more and more details of the characters’ feelings, and breaking the strict phrase structure of an epic poem more and more until it has become a tuôlenǎ poem, free of any particular structure and full of detail and description. It is an amazing work, but Andêhostai did not show it to anyone other than Palǎjân until years later, and it was not published until a few years before his death. But it shows how already, at that age, he had perfected the art of the tuôlenǎ poem and was already experimenting with how he could meld it with the epic genre.

When Andêhostai was nineteen, Bêlûzdâzlai finally grudgingly admitted that he had taught Andêhostai everything he could. It was now time for the debut work. Andêhostai would write a full epic poem completely on his own, without any input from Bêlûzdâzlai or anyone else. Once he was finished, he would show it to Bêlûzdâzlai, and if the teacher thought it was good enough, he would organize a time for Andêhostai to perform it for some significant poets and patrons of poetry. Hopefully the poem would be good enough that the patrons would be interested, and then they would bring various proposals for hiring Andêhostai to Bêlûzdâzlai. Bêlûzdâzlai would bargain with the patrons until they had all agreed on a few concrete proposals, which he would then bring to Andêhostai to choose from.

Andêhostai chose as his subject the myth of the hero Narâzas. In this classic Thomoraii story, Narâzas accidentally discovers that his father Fezêrlas, who his mother had always said had died before he was born, is actually alive. Narâzas then goes on a journey to find his father, overcoming various trials and making many friends and enemies along the way. But this is just the first part of the myth. At the end of this first part, he finds Fezêrlas, but then at the beginning of the next part, Narâzas discovers that Fezêrlas is actually a traitor aiding an enemy tribe. This is why his mother left his father and why his mother never told Narâzas that his father was alive. So Narâzas then goes on a quest to stop Fezêrlas’s treacherous actions and defeat the enemy tribe once and for all. Naturally, he succeeds, and in the end of the second part he becomes the leader of his tribe and marries a beautiful woman named Surila. There are further parts with more adventures, but Andêhostai’s poem focused on the second part.

Now, Andêhostai did want to write a good, solid epic poem. This was, after all, going to be his debut work; it had better be good, or else he would have a hard time ever getting a decent patron. But now that he was not under the critical eye of Bêlûzdâzlai, he wanted to experiment a bit and play with the story and the structure. Most of all, he wanted to incorporate some of his favorite elements of tuôlenǎ: the descriptive details, the emotions, and the fleshed-out characters. So for starters, Andêhostai changed the story a bit. In the original, Narâzas’s bride Surila contributes very little to the story before the marriage in the end; she offers Narâzas some advice once or twice, that’s all. But in Andêhostai’s telling of it, Surila actually dies in the finale of the first part (he begins his poem with the first part’s finale, but other than that he sticks to the second part). Her spirit then returns in the form of a red bird to guide Narâzas in his struggle against his father.

Surila was the first of a long line of female advisors, very often animals or spirits, and very often romantically involved with the hero or with some other major character, that appear again and again in Andêhostai’s poetry. Such advisors and companions do appear in other Thomoraii poetry and in Thomoraii myth, but definitely more in Andêhostai than anywhere else. Many scholars have hypothesized that these advisors were inspired by Andêhostai’s own lifelong relationship with Palǎjân Ǎrazas. This young woman was the daughter of Andêhostai’s father’s best friend, a fellow musician. She studied almost all the arts and sciences that were popular in Thomorai at that time: music, poetry, art, theater, philosophy, biology, psychology, and so on, but she never specialized. She was very intelligent, loved to analyze, and spent much time listening to music, reading poetry and watching various sorts of theatrical productions, then writing critical analyses of them in letters to friends. But Andêhostai wrote that “she does not dare create anything herself. She has a brilliant mind, a wide experience, a great ability with words and a beautiful straightforwardness, but she is afraid. I am not quite sure what she is afraid of; maybe that with her great taste she will never be able to stand anything she creates herself; maybe that all the artists she criticizes will attack anything she creates in revenge. I do not know. But I know that she is afraid, and everything I try to say to her to coax the writer, the composer, and the painter out of her does not move her resolve one bit.”

Andêhostai and Palǎjân often played with each other when they were children, and Palǎjân sometimes joined Andêhostai’s music lessons with his father and poetry lessons with Bêlûzdâzlai. She read epic poems along with Andêhostai – though she did not read them over quite so many times as Andêhostai did – and she went with Andêhostai and Bêlûzdâzlai to performances of them. Andêhostai often showed her his work for comments and criticism, and they would frequently discuss a writing assignment together to help Andêhostai get his thoughts in order before he actually started writing. When they were both twelve, Palǎjân and her family moved to a plantation in rural Ôbtobâi, and Palǎjân and Andêhostai began exchanging letters. When Andêhostai began to seriously write tuôlenǎ, he occasionally showed her some of his work, and she often suggested improvements or pointed out particularly good bits.

They were still frequently writing letters to each other and were still very close friends when Andêhostai began writing his debut work, which he was calling Narâzas and Fezêrlas. But Andêhostai had begun to fall in love with Palǎjân, and when he began Narâzas and Fezêrlas he was trying to decide what to tell her and what to do. Almost unwittingly he began to explore his relationship with Palǎjân through the relationship of Narâzas and Surila in his poem. Surila guides Narâzas but never makes any decisions herself, just as Palǎjân guided Andêhostai in his writing but never wrote anything herself. Surila and Narâzas grow and change throughout the poem, sometimes coming into conflict, but ultimately they support each other even when they disagree, just as it was with Palǎjân and Andêhostai. Most notably, Surila and Narâzas love each other, but the fact that Surila is, in truth, a dead spirit in the form of a bird presents a rather large barrier to their marriage, much like Andêhostai felt that Palǎjân’s opinions towards him and towards love and marriage presented a barrier to them ever being married.

Even though he knew that to be true to the spirit of the story he had to keep Surila in her bird form, and he had to make it impossible for her and Narâzas to ever marry, he still struggled with this decision and searched for alternate options throughout the poem. It gives Andêhostai’s Narâzas and Fezêrlas a certain very real quality that is completely lacking in the other epic poems before it. Nazâras and Surila actually struggle with their situation and try to find ways out of it. There is not the foregone conclusion, the ending that everybody knows, that there always is in epic poetry before Narâzas and Fezêrlas.

Narâzas and Fezêrlas has a number of other new qualities, too. For one, Andêhostai actually thoroughly fleshed out his central characters: Narâzas, Fezêrlas, Surila and a few others. He gave them realistic emotions; he made the good characters make mistakes; he made the bad characters do good things. Additionally, he filled his poem with descriptions, most often small details to evoke moods and feelings without many words. Such devices were all highly unusual in epic poetry before Andêhostai, and they were all things he had learned to do well in his tuôlenǎ. But these new elements aside, Andêhostai stuck to the traditional form of an epic poem. He kept the basic structure of the myth of Narâzas; he included lofty themes and philosophical ideas; and he was very careful about the sound of his words, one of the key aspects of Thomoraii epic poetry of the time. Light, happy scenes were filled with words that sounded smooth and flowing, making little use of the Thomoraii language’s deep, throaty vowels. But sad, heavy scenes were filled with pharyngealized and epiglottalized vowels and consonant clusters. Happy characters often rhymed or used alliteration; sad characters often used short, choppy words, almost as if they were speaking in between sobs. It might seem rather silly to someone used to English writing, but this was a standard in Thomoraii epic poetry at the time, and Andêhostai did it well.

Andêhostai wrote, revised, revised, revised, revised and revised his poem again for nearly a year. When he realized that he was close to finishing and would soon have to show the poem to Bêlûzdâzlai, he threw himself into another flurry of revision as he tried to make it good enough that it would be acceptable to his teacher. He was terribly worried that Bêlûzdâzlai would hate the unorthodox new elements he was including, and would be disgusted that he did not properly follow the epic poem structure. It was also frustrating to Andêhostai that he could not show his work to Palǎjân for comments – the creator of a debut work could not get outside work or advice before showing it to their teacher, and even after the teacher saw it, they couldn’t change it before performing it. But finally, just two weeks short of a year after he had started it, he made a final word change in Narâzas and Fezêrlas and then brought his manuscript of it to Bêlûzdâzlai (who was living in the same house as Andêhostai at the time). Andêhostai then sat down and wrote a frenzied letter to Palǎjân describing the moment, even though

…nothing that much happened, really…I went to his room, held out the manuscript, and said, “Here it is, Qǎhai.” He said, “Thank you, Andêhostai.” He took it, glanced at it, put it onto the stack of papers and books next to him, and looked at me. I knew I was supposed to leave so he could read it in peace. But I could not help but say, “Oh please, Qǎhai, just, if you’re worried, if you don’t know, if you – just keep reading! Just – ” and he cut me off and said, “Of course. You know what I think about how to read an epic poem,” and then he kept looking at me, so I left. But I thought as I was going into the courtyard that his business about reading something three or four times was only for a good epic poem. He also always said that if you realized something was trash, read it for another hour, and if it’s still trash, give it up.

Andêhostai finished his short and agitated letter to Palǎjân and sent it, but then he could not find anything else to do as he waited and waited for Bêlûzdâzlai to finish reading his poem. He could not stand to read another epic poem, as he usually did in his free time, since he had been “drowned” in poetry for the last few weeks as he tried to revise quickly, and he was thoroughly sick of it. He tried to practice the instruments he still played, but he was too nervous to play well at all, and, in fact, broke a string on one of them. He replaced the string, and then tried going out for a walk. But he quickly returned home when he saw how hot and sunny it was outside, and besides, he did not want to keep brooding about what Bêlûzdâzlai would think, and a quiet walk would probably encourage brooding. Finally, he decided that since he was already in “such a thin, stretched, crazy state, so nervous of Bêlûzdâzlai that any other stress would seem a relief,” he would accomplish something else that had been a stress on him for some time and would have put him into a thin, stretched, crazy state if he hadn’t already been in one: he would write a marriage proposal to Palǎjân.

Andêhostai had written her several months back about what he was thinking and feeling about her; she had responded coolly and a bit indirectly, saying that she was sure they would always be friends, but she was not so certain about love. Andêhostai had figured that she needed time to think, and besides, it was not really in keeping with Thomoraii culture for a woman to express affection towards a man before there was some commitment between them. If he proposed marriage, he would show that he was serious, and there would be enough of a commitment for her to comfortably say what she was thinking. It would also open up discussion between their parents. And besides, he did want to marry her. So trying to keep his thoughts of Bêlûzdâzlai and Narâzas and Fezêrlas at bay, Andêhostai once more sat down and wrote to Palǎjân, “I must once more write to you about something that has been on my mind for some time…”

He was almost done with this second letter to Palǎjân when a servant called him for dinner. Andêhostai, thinking that Bêlûzdâzlai would very likely come and eat with his family, went down to the courtyard where they ate in a “tremendously distracted state.” But Bêlûzdâzlai was not there. He had asked for his dinner to be brought to his room, where he was still reading. Andêhostai desperately questioned the servant who brought Bêlûzdâzlai his meal about what he had seen, but the servant could only shrug and say that Bêlûzdâzlai was looking at papers and seemed just as grumpy as usual. After dinner, Andêhostai returned to his letter to Palǎjân, and once he had finished that, he tried his best to go to sleep.

In the end, Andêhostai had to wait another full day to find out Bêlûzdâzlai’s verdict. Finally, in the morning two days after he had delivered the manuscript of Narâzas and Fezêrlas, Bêlûzdâzlai called for him to come to his room. Andêhostai wrote later that day to Palǎjân:

I entered Bêlûzdâzlai’s room and stood there in front of him. He was sitting on the floor with my manuscript in his lap. He had big stacks of papers and books on either side of him. One stack was topped by his dictionary; the other was topped by his [grammar book]…He took a deep breath and said, “Well, my son, I have read your poem. I must say that when I began I was quite alarmed. I’ve known about your…habit” (I could feel the word “bad” perched in his mouth there, passed over but kept ready at hand) “of writing tuôlenǎ for some time, despite what you might think, and I was concerned at first that you had come up with some grand idea about combining the two, epic poetry and tuôlenǎ. And you know what our dear Lǐshlai says about grand ideas” [here is a quote from The Call of the Firebird about pride, one that Bêlûzdâzlai often quoted at Andêhostai when he showed arrogance as a young man] “But…well. Your poem isn’t perfect, you know,” he said, very businesslike and stern all of a sudden, but it made me feel a little glow of warmth…because I know him very well, Palǎjân, and I know that he always does that before he praises me, because he always has to qualify any compliment he makes. That’s just who he is. But anyways, this all flew through my mind in the brief breath before he said, “but…well, then I read this,” and he quoted a piece from near the beginning, a piece that I have very much wanted to show you, Palǎjân, but which I can’t until my performance of the whole thing. Let me just say that it is a piece from the meeting of two friends, but after one has been greatly changed. [It’s from the place where Narâzas first meets Surila in her bird form.] So Bêlûzdâzlai read this piece of my poem to me, and he read it very well, and then he was quiet for a moment, and he said, “My dear son, I have been part of your life for a very long time, and I honestly do not know how you know what such a meeting feels like. But somehow you managed here to push through all my annoyance and alarm and all my fine critical capabilities, all my filters and walls and glasses over my eyes, and echoed something inside me, and so you got inside of me. And my dear Andêhostai, at the end of the day, that is all that matters in art, isn’t it? I don’t care what color the painter uses; if he can make me start and see and realize something in myself, he has done the great thing, he has fulfilled his art. I don’t care what instruments, what forms, what keys and notes and harmonies the composer uses; if his music reaches inside of me, if it gets past my mind and my cold judgment, that is all that matters, isn’t it? Now of course there are colors and instruments and so on that are superior for certain things, and your poem is not all perfect, not at all, and very often it reaches past me and over me and – ” And suddenly, Palǎjân, he leaned forward and bowed his head before me and touched my feet with his hands, and I felt like I was in a dream, and I felt like I was Tebî in Thesolǎi Kulas’s The Quests of Bêkiair and something was being offered me that was too beautiful and too grand and too humbling for the person offering it for me to accept it, and I gasped and said to him, “Please, Qǎhai – !” and then I said, “Tell me what I did wrong!” and he sat back and sighed and said, “I wish I had your [heart].” And then he swallowed and composed himself and began pointing out all the mistakes I had made. It was very thoroughly unsettling, Palǎjân, and I still feel like Tebî when I think of it. I am afraid that he thinks I am better than him at writing poetry. Maybe I know now why you are afraid to write anything.

Throughout the rest of Andêhostai’s career, Bêlûzdâzlai would often take issue with the details of how he modified the traditional epic form. But ultimately Bêlûzdâzlai was completely behind Andêhostai’s experimentation, since he believed that Andêhostai had the skill and the talent to pull it off.

Unfortunately, Andêhostai did not have the same happy outcome with Palǎjân as he had had with Bêlûzdâzlai. Three days later, as he was preparing to perform Narâzas and Fezêrlas, he received a very frank letter from Palǎjân. She said that she sincerely appreciated Andêhostai’s honesty with her, and was also very flattered and honored to be the recipient of his love. But, she said, while she very much wanted to keep his friendship for the rest of her life, she did not want to complicate it, stress it and change it with the addition of a romantic relationship. She wrote:

In the world today, the husband rules over the wife, and the wife has got to scheme and plan and be subtle and clever and manipulative in order to get a word in. I have no desire to be ruled by you or to manipulate you. I have found great joy in our status as equals and I do not want to change it…Very honestly, I don’t care if you say that you would never treat me that way, because even if you don’t want to, everyone around you is going to be expecting it. And even if you are all stubborn and full of grand ideals and ready to take on the world now, are you really going to have the same energy to defy our society twenty or thirty years from now, when you are tired of resisting everything and everyone – including me? Because I am a stubborn women, and I will no doubt frustrate you at times such that you will desperately wish you could order me to stop. And am I going to have the will to defy you when you try to assert your power over me? No. It will not work. We would destroy both ourselves and our happiness….And besides, I am not in love with you, though of course being in love has very little to do with the question of marriage in most cases. But I am just a bit nervous that you think love does have very much to do with marriage, and so if I marry you you’ll expect me to be in love with you. And at the same time, I also feel like Thesolǎi’s Tebî, I feel like the one who is offered something too grand and beautiful, and something that will, in the end, be too painful for the one who offers it for me to accept in good conscience. Yes, Tebî did accept in the end, but she was in a story; I am trapped in truth and in reality.

Andêhostai acknowledged Palǎjân’s response and withdrew his proposal. But he never really gave up hope of being able to marry her. He was, in fact, married to two other women during his life – Sonolan Alfěslǎi and Fidêl Tělěfes – and Palǎjân herself married another man and had many children with him. But Andêhostai always held out hope, however foolish it might have been, that somehow it would work for the two of them to get married. And those female advisors, so often romantically connected to the hero, but so often unable for some reason to actually be married to him, continued to appear again and again in his work.

Five days after presenting his poem to Bêlûzdâzlai, Andêhostai read Narâzas and Fezêrlas aloud in front of an audience of several significant epic poets of the day, including one of his favorite authors, Thesolǎi Kulas. The audience also included some of Ôbtobâi’s greatest patrons of epic poetry; the emperor Trusǎi himself had sent a representative, Kulas Dûhalǎs, to see if Andêhostai was worth his patronage. Additionally, Andêhostai’s family and Palǎjân were in the audience; for them, it was much like attending his graduation. The reading took about four and a half hours. Once it was done, the poets in the audience were split on the merit of Andêhostai’s poem, particularly on the merit of the new, tuôlenǎ-like elements that he included. But the patrons loved it, and by that evening, Bêlûzdâzlai had quite a number of proposals from them to present to Andêhostai.

Andêhostai ended up writing a poem on the foundation of Obtobian civilization for an army general, and a poem called The Death of Numiair, based on an old myth, for the head of the Thomoraii government’s tax department. When Trusǎi’s representative Kulas Dûhalǎs read these poems, he finally decided that Andêhostai’s work was mature enough to deserve Trusǎi’s patronage. Two years after Andêhostai’s debut reading of Narâzas and Fezêrlas, Trusǎi hired him to write a trilogy of epic poems on a mythological topic “to be decided.” The resulting works were the three volumes of Andêhostai’s classic Bêkiair Cycle: Bêkiair and Tebî, The Wanderings of Bêkiair, and Bêkiair and Kedê’a. After reading these phenomenal works, Trusǎi decided to hire Andêhostai for life.

Andêhostai continued to work on perfecting his synthesis of epic poetry and tûolenǎ until he died. At first his style was quite controversial, with some critics loving it and many others citing it as an example of the sloppiness of modern writers. But as his work became more polished and his style lost some of its alarming novelty, the critics of his day mostly settled into praise, though of course there were still quite a few that hated his writing. The patrons and readers of epic poetry, on the other hand, almost all loved it from the beginning. Printings of his poems were bestsellers, and readings of them sold out. His wife Sonolan Alfěslǎi set several of his poems to music, starting with The Death of Numiair four years after it was published, and the resulting works were also quite popular. Additionally, his Bêkiair Cycle was adapted into a opera-like music-and-drama production five years after it was first published, and this work remains a classic of Thomoraii theater today.

Much more notably, Andêhostai’s style was a huge influence on the younger epic poets of the day. They loved his way of writing description, his complex characters, and his liberal use of emotion. Expanding on this, they began to write epic poems that were not based on historical or mythological tales. One writer, Amjâi Bêlûzdâz, wrote many poems telling stories he had completely made up himself, set in the time when he lived, featuring normal middle-class characters – very unusual among the hordes of gods, nobles, warriors and peasants that filled the old Thomoraii epics. Other writers began to include more practical morals and ideas instead of just the rather grand philosophical theories that earlier epic poems were filled with. And, most of all, there was a new focus on complex and realistic characters. Old heroes and villains were reimagined with more sophisticated motivations, personalities and moralities, and many new heroes and villains were created, too.

Through his skilled combination of epic poetry and tûolenǎ in his beautiful works, Andêhostai Erelas started a trend towards humanistic realism in Thomoraii poetry. His focus on the details of life, human experience, and human emotion struck a chord with his readers and inspired many future Thomoraii poets. Today his work is some of the most classic in the Thomoraii literary canon; The Death of Numiair and the Bêkiair Cycle, in particular, are very famous and are required reading for many students. Now Thomorai’s future poets read Andêhostai over and over again just as he once read the classics of his day over and over.

Oaths and Lies – A Lukokish Example Text

This example text, translated into my imaginary language Lukokish, is part of the first scene from Usëvzan îars irlïrz, a classic Lukokish mejëiç novel written by Têla Öete in 1362 (139 years ago from the present, so comparable to something written in 1874). The mejëiç novel, a uniquely Lukokish invention, is composed of dialog and audible speech alone. There is no prose description or narration, no explanation of who’s talking, no record of what people are thinking – nothing except dialog spoken aloud. Mejëiç novels are usually printed with speech by different people in different colors. But still, it is a challenge for the author of such a novel to effectively convey who’s speaking, let alone a whole story! This particular example lets me show the style of Lukokish novels, while also showing how both high-class Jaeve and low-class peasants would talk.

Usëvzan îars irlïrz, usually translated as Oaths and Lies (though a more accurate translation would Making Oaths and Then Lying), is a good example of a typical classic Lukokish novel. It focuses on a Jaeve man (the Jaeve are the nobility of Lukok) and what he does to save his family’s honor, while also pursuing love and a place in life. Many of its features, including love between Jaeve and non-Jaeve, honor of a family, conflict between Reason and Beauty (in this case epitomized by the two lead characters), coincidences conveniently explained by divine favor, etc. are traditional Lukokish themes. But it also includes more modern elements, which were beginning to be introduced in Lukokish literature in the mid-1300s. Peasant revolts, which only truly began around this time period, figure prominently into the story. The government’s new regulations are also important. Additionally, one of the central characters is tremendously deceptive, with the author even intending to have him deceive the reader! Having such an unreliable main character was unusual in Lukokish literature when Têla Öete wrote this book.

Têla Öete, like most Lukokish writers, was Jaeve. She came from the Öete family, who were fairly rich and had lands in central Lukok, so they were close to the capital Nêleru. For this reason, Têla was familiar with what was going on in Lukok, since she would hear news from the capital. Hearing of peasant revolts and related problems probably helped inspire Usëvzan îars irlïrz.

painting of Têla Óete

Painting of Têla Öete as a 15-year-old. The clothing, furniture, carpet, etc. are all representative of high-class Jaeves

Têla wrote eight published novels, six of which were mejëiç. This one was her third published story. All of her mejëiç novels were quite popular, as this genre was becoming more fashionable during this time period, but her normal novels were not well known. Today, Têla’s work is still popular among mejëiç enthusiasts, particularly because very few Lukokish writers are producing novels of this genre anymore.

Têla's signature

Têla’s signature

I first wrote this scene’s English translation, then translated it back into Lukokish, making adjustments to the English as necessary – I do not flatter myself that I can write a story in straight Lukokish! I also wrote a detailed interlinear and literal translation, so you can see some of the unique ways that Lukokish expresses things. Finally, I’ve added many extra notes to explain important concepts or implications, note literary techniques, and point out particularly interesting language uses. However, there are still many quirks of speech that I didn’t point out – look at the interlinear/literal translation to see more. Also, please don’t feel like you have to read all the notes 😉 You can certainly understand the story, at least the basic idea of it, without looking at the notes.

The English, Lukokish, notes and interlinear/literal translation are below. Additionally, I’ve written an English “translation” of the rest of this scene and part of the next; you can leave a comment or contact me if you’re interested in reading it. Please also feel free to contact me if you’re curious as to the general plot of the story – I could work it all out and give you a synopsis. (I have the basic idea of the story in my head, but I don’t have some of the vital details figured out yet.)


“Sh! Who’s there?”1

“It is I, Lord Lumëan Töreşv.2 I must speak to you!”

“What, you again? Be gone!”3

“Remë Ränolet,4 stay, listen to me, please! I have come three varalï5 from the hills in the snow and wind, and I must talk to you! I have only to state two things and ask one other. Please6 come out and speak to me!”7

“I told you, go! It is late at night,8 it is no time for talking!”

“Sir,9 please, for the love of God,10 come out and speak to me!”

“Foolish boy!11 I will come out and speak to you, but don’t expect me to do anything for you. – Well, what is it?”

“Sir, you know the first thing I have to say, as well as I do.12 I am lord of these lands, but I cannot keep control of them.13 You peasants all hated my father, but he was stern to you, so you obeyed him. Then he died and I became lord, and you threw me out because I was gentle and could not stop you.”14

“Because you were gentle! Good grief!15 Your father trained you,16 Lumëan Töreşv,17 and so we all knew that you would be the same as him. Besides, you are young! You can have your own path.”18

“My own path…God save me!19 Well, listen – I am lord, but I cannot hold these lands. But I must hold them for the honor of my family, because I am the heir and it is my duty.20 If you peasants throw me out and I am forced to neglect my duty, it would be the shame of my sisters, my cousins, my nephews and nieces21 – it would be a shame to the Töreşv!”22

“Yes, and a shame to you, you neglect to add!”23

“God knows that is not my primary thought!24 – But see, I have stated my first point.25 I am lord, but I cannot hold these lands, yet26 I must for the honor of my family. And now I come to my second point….27


“Şş! Eà ävnë?”1

“Âle Lumëan Töreşv meà kîdi.2 Nïvet meçèt dös meşanenäska!”

“I:a, mevèt lènvska? Dikëçë çê veşrè!”3

“Remë Ränolet,4 ditrè çê, dvîr evè divël vlël, nmet di! Mevè dö çê kivaralï kös5 nizok kosuskçurï lètôik kosmìl konënlla vêlôik, dvîr nïvet dös vlël meşanenäska! Ataï ma idàdçe mevè dêsek vlël äîre atà kïnïçe dêçë. Nmet di,6 mevèt dirê çê, nïve meçëv di!”7

“Nïvet meçèt dö, diçë çê veşrè! Meön meşïksmä,8 atvlëltu mejïmel ärv vävmäevë!”

“Muïr Ränolet,9 nmet di, Kèşun vävok,10 dirê çê, nïve meçëv di!”

“Melòme ûrëmä!11 De:me mevè dêrê çê nïvet meçèt dê, de:me mevè dë kovèt vävôik mejëv dekèt. – Aissë, eà ävnë?”

“Muïr Ränolet, eàet skuìd kîesöst mevèt di eveëm neseäds szûr mevè neseäds.12 De:me eulùr jäesan ärv kîesej mevè kîdi, de:me dvîr elëv dös de asemerşz.13 De:me edëvutet mevöt ekenoï kîdo, mevöt ëäns, du zër, de:me ezl meevë sëukeëntmä kêvöt êaltëa, ezl nïevë mevöt durê işiz. Mnaam meevë duçë eulùr meve kîdö, ta eve mevöt döçë mêran ta meve sekkarmä sekmarmä dvîr evöt dös du du:sek in.”14

“Ta mevet sekkarmä! Kiûne:rë vävok!15 Ezl atçsöï nïvet, Lumëan Toreşv,17 medëvutëv duçë enêru,16 ezl eevë mevet kîdë mevïl ëäns dukë eveëm. Te:ne:, mevet marmä! Kiazinan kervet ulaok meazinëv dös.”18

“Kiazinan kerve…Keşundûjï!19 Aissë, merêekomëv di – de:me eulùr meve kîdi, de:me esan ärv meve dös de asemerşz. De:me ta nîërz dös meşanenäska kêdïn kermetêrezet vävtëa, ta dvîr enivöçë kîdi eve menivöçëzis di oman.20 Ed eve mevöt ekenoï kîdo dârçë mêran dvîr enivöçëziset meve di:mçë mêran dâr mle, ed dvîr atrën kerlentaïet, kerşitïet, kerzetïet, kersudinïet21 – ker-Töreşv dâr ëlëu!”22

“Dâr, atrën kervet, meçëv dia mej dökër!”23

“Eşaet mejölat mejâk ëmäv kîdöv Keşun di eveëm!24 – Aissë mesmëv di, edoka idlo meç dö.25 De:me eulùr meve kîdi, de:me esan ärv meve dös de asemerşz, de:me de:me26 nîërz dâr meşanenäska kodïn kermetêrezet vävôik. Edokaet metlo meve dê joserëur….27


1 Remë’s wording of “who’s there,” eà ävnë, literally means “what thing?” and reveals his lack of education. An educated Lukokish person would say ötò ävnë di? “what person exists?”, avoiding the use of a sentence fragment, and also keeping from potentially offending the listener by referring to him or her with the dummy noun. These kinds of small differences in speech are generally very important in mejëiç novels.

2 A Lukokish reader can get a great deal of information from this name alone! First of all, Lumëan uses the title âle, a third-person term of address, in order to refer to himself. Âle would usually not carry honorific connotations, but since it’s in the third person despite the fact that Lumëan is talking about himself, it means “lord.” At the same time, it is quite humble, since a lord would usually be referred to, and would usually refer to himself, with the honorific third-person term ulùr. So from this one word, Lukokish readers can tell that Lumëan is a lord, but is being unusually humble, also taking into consideration the fact that Remë must be low-class (they’d know this from his use of eà ävnë). Secondly, Lumëan is clearly male, since -ëan is a male gender postfix. Finally, Lumëan’s surname Töreşv is important. It is a surname belonging to one of the 21 noble Jaeve families, so we know that Lumëan is Jaeve (though he is already almost certainly Jaeve if he is a lord). Also, we can guess that Lumëan lives somewhere around Sètsol, because this is the hometown of the Töreşv. Since the Töreşv were at this point a fairly prestigious but rather poor noble family, we can also guess that Lumëan probably has a lot of pride in his family but not much money or power. Additionally, the Töreşv had ties with Laguina, so he has a higher possibility of being under suspicion for treason – something that will come into play later in the story. As you can see, for a Lukokish author, choosing the right family for a Jaeve character is very important!

3 More sentence fragments on the part of Remë, further demonstrating his low social class and level of education. High-class and/or educated people still use sentence fragments in conversation, but they would certainly be more careful when talking to somebody above them, as Remë is doing. Also, it is unusual for anybody educated to give a command without making clear who they are speaking to, as Remë is doing.

4 The name Remë Ränolet confirms any remaining doubts the reader might have about his social class. Remë is a name meaning “egg,” and it is quite common among peasants but rare in higher-class circles. Ränolet is a common low-class surname. All in all, Remë has a rather bland, generic peasant’s name.

5About 1.4 miles.

6 Note the Lukokish phrase for “please,” nmet di. It is composed of a noun that has lost all other meaning, nm, and a d* that carries the meaning of “please.” If you were asking for a future favor, for example, if Lumëan was asking Remë to talk with him tomorrow, you would use d* in a soon or future tense.

7Note Lumëan’s multiple uses of verb conjunctions. Uneducated Lukokish speakers still use these conjunctions, but they are more common in the mouths of educated speakers.

8Meön meşïksmä “it is late at night” is literally “night is far to the right,” since time in Lukokish goes from left to right.

9Again, a great deal is communicated by how Lumëan addresses Remë. He uses a normal second-person address, muïr, which does not imply any particular honor, but he uses Remë’s surname afterwards, which does. A lord would usually speak to his vassal with muïr alone, or with muïr accompanied by the peasant’s first name. In this way, Lumëan is treating Remë with more honor than a lord usually would, but he is certainly still not going all-out – Lumëan retains his pride despite his desperation.

10The general Lukokish belief today, as it was in Lumëan’s time, is that God (Keşun) is far away from humans, being too holy to care for their comparatively foolish affairs. So Lumëan is, by Lukokish standards, being quite bold to invoke the name of God in this way, and this is only the first time he does so during this scene. Readers generally agree that this is meant to show how desperate he is. (Do note that the expression Keşundûjï! “God save us!” is common in Lukokish, but besides this, Lukokish rarely make casual references to God.)

11Note that Remë doesn’t inflect ûrëmä “foolish,” further evidence of his lack of education. He also calls Lumëan a boy, which is a bit of an insult since Lumëan is an adult (if a young one).

12 Note the metaphor Lumëan uses in the Lukokish: they both know this fact tall-ly. By Lukokish thinking, knowledge and understanding stacks up, so if you have a lot of knowledge or understand a fact very well, it’s tall.

13 Another metaphor: “drawing a circle around something” for “keeping control.” To Lukokish, control is much like encircling or surrounding something.

14First of all, Lumëan must be at least 18 to become lord, since this is the age of legal adulthood in Lukok. (Okay, I know that looks like I just borrowed that age from the American system, but there’s a reason why it’s 18! You see, the Lukokish use a base-6 number system, and 18 would be represented as 30 – a nice, even number. That’s why. By the way, that’s the legal age of adulthood – who people informally consider an adult varies from place to place and social class to social class in Lukok. Some give ages as low as 14; the highest age is 24, another even number in base-6.) Secondly, now the reader would know why Lumëan is feeling desperate (even without being aware of further reasons that are revealed later on), because a lord would be in a dire situation if his peasants threw him out. Not only would he not be able to earn a living, he would bring shame to himself and his family. Lumëan is especially vulnerable because he is young and unestablished. In addition, again, Lumëan frequently uses verb conjunctions. Finally, note his use of the past tense to relate this episode: it perfectly shows his status as a Jaeve, but a lower-status one. Jaeve usually use past tense (as opposed to recent tense) only for long-ago or historical events, and the lower class a Lukokish speaker gets, the more likely they are to use past tense for less long-ago or historical events. Lumëan uses this tense for his deposition and the events leading up to it, which are historical for him…but higher-class Jaeve would consider them minor enough for recent tense.

15 Literally “for the purpose of foolishness” – Remë is insulting Lumëan’s idea more than anything else here. It is a common expression with Remë throughout the story, as he is always criticizing things. It is also fairly common in the mouth of his daughter, Tïma, whom Lumëan will soon reveal that he is in love with. This is just one indication of how Tïma shares many personality traits with her father – interesting, because while Lumëan loves Tïma’s personality, he is always at odds with her father! These sorts of paradoxes go unquestioned in most classic Lukokish novels, but in Usëvzan îars irlïrz, Têla Öete went a bit out of the box and had her characters actually discuss the problem of Lumëan appreciating Tïma but not Remë. This is just one of the small, innovative twists that made Têla Öete such a popular writer.

16 Literally “your father gave you words.” This has a stronger meaning than just “your father trained you” – it means that Lumëan’s father shaped his worldview and way of thinking and speaking.

17 It is rather impolite for Remë to address Lumëan with his straight name, even his full name, without using any titles. Even friends will usually use titles when directly addressing each other, and they certainly would if they were having as important a conversation as Lumëan and Remë are!

18 This comment shows just how much Remë doesn’t understand the life and responsibilities of a young Jaeve man, particularly one with four sisters, as Lumëan is later revealed to have. The fact is that Lumëan was obligated to serve as lord, and even if he couldn’t do this, he would have to provide for his sisters somehow, and even if he didn’t have sisters, he would still have to pursue a respectable Jaeve occupation – he could never just do whatever he wanted unless he wanted to bring shame upon himself and his family. Lukokish peasants, on the other hand, are generally much freer. They still have obligations of maintaining the family honor, but this mostly consists of not becoming criminal, immoral or extremely poor.

19 Lumëan, on the other hand, knows perfectly well that he can’t do what he wants, and in frustration appeals to God to see the sorry state of the world and save it. Keşundûjï is a frequent exclamation with Lukokish facing trouble or seeing problems in the world, as he is.

20 Literally, “the heirship grasps me tightly.” To Lukokish, duty holds and restricts, but do note that this is generally not considered bad – many writers argue that duty is necessary for restricting the wildness of emotions and will, and that the limitations it imposes are helpful for self-control and happiness (because, after all, you can’t have everything anyways).

21 Look at the interlinear to get a better feeling for the different familial terms Lumëan uses. He must use two different terms for “cousins,” one for those on his mother’s side and one for those on his father’s side, as Lukokish distinguishes between most relatives on the two sides. But there is just one term for “nephews and nieces” – one of the family roles where relation to the father or mother is not distinguished.

22 Lukok has a strong culture of honor and shame. Among Jaeves, maintaining the honor of one’s general family is of utmost importance, certainly above personal comfort or happiness. In the lower classes, the main problem is not so much maintaining the honor of your general family, but your own honor and that of your immediate family. A major shame could easily affect a family materially, too. If Lumëan had the shame of being deposed from his role as lord, it could mean that his sisters and cousins were not able to marry as well, because then the prospective spouses would have to associate themselves with the shame of being deposed. Then they might have to marry poorer or otherwise less desirable men, which would further shame the family, and so further shame Lumëan for bringing such trouble, and on and on…

23 This is completely true, even as it shows the more individualistic focus of the lower classes. Remë is full of such truthful, critical and pointed observations. He is not always understanding, careful or polite, but he is shrewd and not easily fooled by flattery or nice manners. These are all traits he shares with Lumëan’s love Tïma (though Tïma, admittedly, is generally a bit more diplomatic). Lumëan, on the other hand, is rather dreamy and tends to see things more poetically than they really are. Many non-Lukokish critics have complained that people with such disparate personalities as Lumëan and Tïma could never get along so well. But the fact is that the union of poetic dreaminess and sharp observation of fact is a huge motif in Lukokish literature, because it’s supposed to represent the harmony of Reason and Beauty. According to one Lukokish critic, Nazëan Viru:, more than half of Lukokish literature deals in some way with conflict and harmony of Reason and Beauty. Usëvzan îars irlïrz, with Tïma representing Reason and Lumëan representing Beauty, is among this body of literature.

24 Literally, “God knows that is not my heaviest thought!” In Lukokish metaphor, heavy thoughts are more memorable and present, while light thoughts are easily forgotten.

25 Literally, “I have said my first line.” In Lukokish metaphor, an argument is a drawing, and a point in an argument is a line.

26 Lumëan uses the more colloquial and less high-class expression de:me de:me here to say “X but Y yet Z” (de:me X de:me Y de:me de:me Z). He is becoming less and less careful and slipping more into colloquial speech as he becomes more agitated, probably especially because he is about to declare his love for Tïma.

27 As things stand now, this story would appear to the reader as a (most likely appealing) mixture of old tropes and newer elements. Lumëan is an almost textbook young and dreamy, yet honorable symbol of Beauty, an image that will be further enhanced by his declaration of love. Remë is a bit more interesting with his bold insults and sharp criticisms. But after discovering in the next section that he had tried to protect his daughter by not allowing her and Lumëan to marry, readers would probably write him off as a typical restrictive-out-of-worry father type. The whole idea of peasants rebelling against their Jaeve lord, on the other hand, especially with the added twist of the lord then trying to negotiate with his vassals, would be quite novel. Considering the rest of the book, both Lumëan and Remë end up being a lot more fleshed-out and interesting. After this initial setup, the story skips forward ten years to find Lumëan as a broken and disillusioned wanderer, shadowed by a enigmatic and deceptive magician sidekick, Dimenç, whom he trusts utterly. (Much of Lumëan’s inner conflict has to do with regaining his true sense of Beauty, while avoiding the twisted and ugly side of Beauty represented by Dimenç.) Before this jump ahead in time, Remë and Tïma have several interactions, showing how much Tïma, despite Lumëan’s aversion to him, loves, respects and takes after her father. Then, after the jump, Remë is dead, but Tïma so often refers to him or acts like him, and Lumëan’s reminisces to Dimenç so often include him, that he continues to be important. All this reveals him to be a shrewd thinker and a loving parent and husband.

Interlinear & Literal Translation

“Şş! Eà ävnë?”
shh! def.ACC-dummy.noun what?
Shh! What thing?

“Âle Lumëan Töreşv meà kîdi.
title.male.ACC Lumëan Töreşv def.NOM-dummy.noun be-d*.pres.
Lord Lumëan Töreşv the thing is.

Nïvet meçèt dös meşanenäska!”
def.DAT-you.male def.NOM-mouth-my d*.pres.could pres.very-should-adv!
To you my mouth must talk!

“I:a, mevèt lènvska? Dikëçë çê veşrè!”
what, def.NOM-you.male again-adv? d*.pres-imp.cont-away go I-def.COM!
What, you again? Be going away, I command!

“Remë Ränolet, ditrè çê, dvîr evè divël vlël, nmet di!
Remë Ränolet, d*.pres-stop go, and.share.sub def.ACC-I d* talk, please d*.pres!
Remë Ränolet, stop, and listen to me, please!

Mevè dö çê kivaralï kös nizok kosuskçurï lètôik kosmìl konënlla vêlôik,
def.NOM-me d*.recent go indef.POSTP.verbal-varalï three for.distance-indef.POSTP.verbal def.POSTP.verbal-hills from-def.POSTP.verbal def.POSTP.verbal-snow def.POSTP.verbal-wind in-def.POSTP.verbal,
I went for three varalï from the hills in snow and wind,

dvîr nïvet dös vlël meşanenäska!
vconj.subject def.DAT-you.male d*.pres.could talk very.pres-should-adv!
and to you must talk!

Ataï ma idàdçe mevè dêsek vlël äîre atà kïnïçe dêçë.
indef.ACC-dummy.nouns two only-indef.ACC def.NOM-me d*.soon-down talk vconj.verb indef.ACC-dummy.noun more-indef.ACC d*.soon-away.
Two things only I will state and a thing more ask.

Nmet di, mevèt dirê çê, nïve meçëv di!”
please-my d*.pres, def.NOM-you.male d*.pres-towards go, def.DAT-me def.NOM-mouth-your.male d*.pres
Please, you come out, me your mouth talk to!

“Nïvet meçèt dö, diçë çê veşrè!
def.DAT-you.male def.NOM-mouth-my d*.recently, d*.pres-away go I-def.COM!
You my mouth told, go away I command!

Meön meşïksmä, atvlëltu mejïmel ärv vävmäevë!”
def.NOM-night very.pres-right-def.NOM, indef.ACC-talking def.NOM-time this for-def.NOM-pres.neg!
The night is far to the right, talking this time is not for!

“Muïr Ränolet, nmet di, Kèşun vävôik, dirê çê, nïve meçëv di!” Ränolet, please-my d*.pres, God for.the.purpose.of-def.POSTP.verbal, d*.pres-towards go, def.DAT-me def.NOM-mouth-your.male d*.pres!
Mr. Ränolet, please, for the purpose of God, come out, to me your mouth speak!

“Melòme ûrëmä! De:me mevè dêrê çê nïvet meçèt dê,
def.NOM-boy stupid-def.NOM! but def.NOM-I d*.soon-towards come def.DAT-you.male def.NOM-mouth-my d*.soon,
Stupid boy! I will soon come out, to you my mouth will speak,

de:me atd mevè dë kovèt vävôik mejëv dekèt.
but indef.ACC-act def.NOM-me d*.soon.subcls def.POSTP.verbal-you.male for-def.POSTP.verbal def.NOM-brain-your.male d*.pres.neg-up.
but that I will soon do something for you, your brain do not think.

– Aissë, eà ävnë?”
well, def.ACC-dummy.noun what?
Well, what thing?

“Muïr Ränolet, eàet skuìd kîesöst mevèt di eveëm neseäds szûr mevè neseäds. Ränolet, def.ACC-dummy.noun-my indef.POSTP.acc-one of-indef.POSTP.acc def.NOM-you.male d*.pres know tall-COMP.equal vconj.object.d*.verb def.NOM-me tall-comp.equal.
Mr. Ränolet, the first thing you know as tall-ly as I know it tall-ly.

De:me eulùr jäesan ärv kîesej mevè kîdi,
but def.ACC-title.extra.honor.him def.POSTP.acc-place this of-def.POSTP.acc def.NOM-me be-d*.pres,
Lord of this place I am,

de:me dvîr elëv dös de asemerşz.
but vconj.subject def.NOM-it d*.pres.could d*.pres.neg
but it I cannot draw a circle around.

De:me edëvutet mevöt ekenoï kîdo, mevöt ëäns, du zër,
but def.ACC-father-my def.NOM-peasants be-d*.pres.subcls, all, d*.past hate,
My father you who are peasants, all of you, hated,

de:me ezl meevë sëukeëntmä kêvöt êaltëa, ezl nïevë mevöt durê işiz.
but so def.NOM-him recent-stern-def.NOM, so def.DAT-him d*.past-towards obey
but he was stern to you, so him you obeyed.

Mnaam meevë duçë eulùr meve kîdu, ta eve mevöt döçë mêran
then def.NOM-him d*.away def.ACC-title.extra.honor.him def.NOM-me be-d*.past, because def.ACC-me d*.recent-away exert.force
then he died, lord I became, me you pushed away

ta meve sekkarmä sekmarmä dvîr evöt dös du duvsek in.”
because def.NOM-me pres-gentle-def.NOM pres-young-def.NOM vconj.subject d*.pres.could d*.past d*.recent.neg-down do.something.
because I am gentle and young and you I could not stop.

“Ta mevet sekkarmä! Kiûne:rë vävok!
because def.NOM-you.male pres-gentle-def.NOM! indef.POSTP.verb-foolishness for.the.purpose.of-indef.POSTP.verb

Because you are gentle! For the purpose of foolishness!

Ezl atçsöï nïvet, Lumëan Toreşv, medëvutëv duçë enêru,
so indef.ACC-words def.DAT-you.male, Lumëan Toreşv, def.NOM-father-your.male d*.past-away add,
Words to you, Lumëan Toreşv, your father gave,

ezl eevë mevet kîdë mevïl ëäns dukë eveëm.
so def.ACC-him def.NOM-you.male be-d*.soon.subcls def.NOM-we.exclu all d*.past-imp.ongoing.
so him you will be we all knew.

Te:ne:, mevet marmä! Kiazinan kervet ulaok meazinëv dös.”
besides, def.NOM-him young-def.NOM! indef.PREP-road def.POSS-you.male indef.PREP.verb-on def.NOM-foot-your.male d*.pres.could.
Besides, you’re young! On a road of your own your foot can walk.

“Kiazinan kerve…Keşundûjï!
indef.PREP-road def.POSS-me…!
Road of my own…God save us!

Aissë, merêekomëv di – de:me eulùr meve kîdi, de:me esan ärv meve dös de asemerşz.
well, def.NOM-ear-your.male d*.pres – but def.ACC-title.extra.honor.him def.NOM-me be-d*.pres, but def.ACC-place this def.NOM-me d*.pres.could d*.pres.neg
Well, your ear listen – the lord I am, but this place I cannot draw a circle around.

De:me ta nîërz dös meşanenäska kêdïn kermetêrezet vävtëa,
but because vconj.sub.obj.verb d*.pres.could pres.very-should-adv def.PREP.adj-honor def.POSS-family-my for.the.purpose.of-def.PREP.adj,
But do that I must for the purpose of the honor of my family,

ta dvîr enivöçë kîdi eve menivöçëzis di oman.
because vconj.subject def.ACC-heir be-d*.pres def.ACC-me def.NOM-heirship d*.pres grasp.tightly.
because the heir I am, me the heirship grasps tightly.

Ed eve mevöt ekenoï kîdo dârçë mêran
if.then def.ACC-me def.ACC-peasants be-d*.pres.subcls d*.pres.hypo-away force
If me you who are peasants force away

dvîr enivöçëziset meve di:mçë mêran dâr mle,
vconj.sub def.NOM-me d*.pres.subcls.hypo-away force d*.pres.hypo cause,
and cause me to force away my heirship,

ed dvîr atrën kerlentaïet, kerşitïet, kerzetïet, kersudinïet – ker-Töreşv dâr ëlëu!”
if.then vconj.sub indef.ACC-shame def.POSS-sisters-my, def.POSS-mother.side.cousins-my, def.POSS-father.side.cousins-my, def.POSS-nephew.or.nieces-my – def.POSS-Töreşv d*.pres.hypo create!
then you a shame of my sisters, my cousins on my mother’s side, my cousins on my father’s side, my nephews and nieces – the Töreşv would create!

“Dâr, atrën kervet, meçëv dia mej dökër!”
d*.pres.hypo, indef.ACC-shame def.POSS-you.male, def.NOM-mouth-your.male d*.pres.subcls def.NOM-brain d*.recent-stop!
Yes, a shame of you, your mouth mentioning your brain forgets!

“Eşaet mejölat mejâk ëmäv kîdöv Keşun di eveëm!
indef.comp.ACC-dummy.noun-my very.recent-heavy-indef.comp.ACC def.NOM-thought that be-d*.pres.subcls.neg God d*.pres know!
That that thought of mine was not recently heavy, God knows!

– Aissë mesmëv di, edoka idlo meç dö.
well def.NOM-eye-your.male d*.pres, def.ACC-line one-def.ACC def.NOM-mouth d*.recent
Well your eye see, the first line my mouth said.

De:me eulùr meve kîdi, de:me esan ärv meve dös de asemerşz,
but def.ACC-me def.NOM-lord be-d*.pres, but def.ACC-place this def.NOM-me d*.pres.could d*.pres.neg,
I the lord am, but this place I cannot draw a circle around,

de:me de:me nîërz dâr meşanenäska kodïn kermetêrezet vävôik.
but but vconj.sub.obj.vb d*.pres.hypo pres.very-must-ADV def.verb.POSTP-honor def.POSS-family-my for-def.verb.POSTP.
but must do that for the purpose of the honor of my family.

Edokaet metlo meve dê joserëur….
def.ACC-line-my two-def.ACC def.NOM-me d*.soon
The second line I am just about to draw….

Country of Muhiiwuh

…or rather, the country of the Independent Republic of the Union of Muhiiwuh (moo-hee-WOOH), which is made up of various culturally and/or racially related islands located near the continent of Lukok. (If you look closely and think carefully you may notice a subtle reference to a popular Wii game, which was actually the original inspiration for two of the islands.) This country was formed very recently, mostly by the efforts of the people of one of the islands, Muhiiwuh. All of these islands had been controlled by Lukok for centuries, and Muhiiwuh in particular had actually been completely sold to a businessman. You see, the original inhabitants of Muhiiwuh, and many of the other islands, were not actually human. They were Muhiis, which are very similar to humans, but are slightly shorter and smaller, have simpler features, and tend to be neither skinny nor fat, but somewhere in between. Muhiis are just as intelligent as humans, and they are closely related enough that a Muhii and a human can have children together. The modern-day residents of Muhiiwuh almost all have Muhii blood, but are very rarely pure Muhii, if at all (there is no known reliable way to test if somebody is pure Muhii).

Well, you see, because these Muhiis were not actually human, the Lukokish government figured that it was a good excuse for not treating them as well as they would people. So the government sold Muhiiwuh and a nearby island, Spearpoint Island, to a businessman named Thomas Wagoneer for a very large amount of money. Thomas Wagoneer was eager to buy these islands because Muhiiwuh had a very popular and profitable resort…which was unfortunately owned by Muhiis, meaning that once Mr. Wagoneer had the land, he could do whatever he wanted with the resort. This was because Muhiis could not be legally recognized as owners of land or businesses, not being human, and Mr. Wagoneer had been licensed by the Lukokish government to do whatever he wanted with the Muhiis anyways. So for years and years, the Muhiis suffered under the reign of Thomas Wagoneer, who treated them all as his personal servants.

Meanwhile, a Muhii archaeologist named Lawrence Walsey (he hated the name Lawrence, though, so he had people call him L. Walsey) was uncovering amazing monuments and tunnels that had been built by the ancient Muhiis, before they were in contact with humans. Thomas Wagoneer was now in a pickle. Should he allow the excavations to go on, as tourists would surely come to see the monuments, and therefore provide him with more profit? Or would these tourists see the impressive monuments and begin to wonder about the fairness of the treatment of the modern-day Muhiis, the descendants of the monument builders? Thomas Wagoneer decided to play it safe and ordered the excavations to stop. L. Walsey was devastated, but he continued to study the artifacts and buildings he had uncovered, and, more importantly, he told all the Muhiis about his findings and got them very excited about them. He especially got the children interested in his discoveries, and this ended up being Muhiiwuh’s salvation. These children then went off to college in other countries, as there were no colleges in Muhiiwuh, and many of them were smart enough to get scholarships in colleges outside of Lukok. In these countries, they spread the word about the Muhii monuments and got the Sheesanian scientific community very interested in them as well. And so when these Sheesanian scientists heard that Thomas Wagoneer had ordered the excavations to stop, they were furious.

So these scientists began to pester Thomas Wagoneer about allowing the excavations to go on again, and when he continued to resist, the scientists made a major international ruckus about it. And then when it was discovered – by the Muhiis – that Thomas Wagoneer was corrupt, the Lukokish government threw him out and took over Muhiiwuh and Spearpoint Island again. (Lukok had no problem at all with Mr. Wagoneer – after all, he had been paying big bribes to them – but so their international reputation wouldn’t get damaged, they had to punish him.) Now that the Muhiis already had a lot of international attention, they began campaigning for a free and independent Muhiiwuh. Several of the nearby Muhii-related islands joined the campaign, too. These islands won a victory when the World Union, Sheesania’s international governing body, allowed a Muhii to represent his islands in the World Union. However, they still did not have the full position of a Minister in the World Union – you see, when a country is disputed, the World Union allows in a representative, who has much less power than a full-fledged Minister, who is from a mostly undisputed country. For a country to be considered undisputed by the World Union, two thirds of the Ministers in the World Union have to vote it to be so.

The Muhii countries went on for a while with only a representative, continuing to fight for independence with limited success until Zethra Dūsti became World Minister (the head of the World Union). Zethra was from Mirztieken, a large island in the same continent as the Muhii islands, and he was already well acquainted with the Muhii independence movement. With his support as World Minister, the World Union finally voted to allow Muhiiwuh and 14 other islands to enter the World Union as the Independent Republic of the Union of Muhiiwuh.

Here’s a map of the various Muhii islands (not how they are placed in proximity to each other, however). I’ve only made up much about Muhiiwuh, which is a small but beautiful island that has become famous not only for its monuments and the independence movement, but also for its excellent resort!

The Coming of the Mirz

I haven’t given an actual date to these events, but it was sometime early in Sheesania’s history.

A long time ago, in a small island country called Mirztieken, there was a great tribe called the Aved. The members of this tribe lived all over the island, from the great northern mountain ranges, to the wooded hills and plains in the south. But while they were all united, there were two distinct parts of the tribe: the Sohdi and the Tivrin. The Sohdi lived in the northern mountain ranges; the Tivrin lived in the southern lands. They spoke the same language, and had the same customs, but for some reason they had split themselves up into two groups with a larger group.

This was about to change.

Many, many miles away, across a large and dangerous ocean, there was another tribe. This tribe lived on what was called the Batri Coast, so they were known as the Batri. However, the Batri were not enjoying the same peace as the Aved were. A few rebels had begun to question the power of the supreme Batri king, and it was causing problems. A lot of problems. Neighbors got into fights, families split up in arguments, land was stolen, and worst of all, the king’s laws were openly disobeyed. So the king said that the rebels and their leader, Mir, had to leave. As the king had a bigger army than Mir and his followers, they decided to avoid a civil war and move away from the Batri Coast.

This relatively small group of rebels, which had begun to call themselves the Mirz after their leader, first tried to take some land away from the other tribes near the Batri Coast. This did not work, as the Mirz were not very skilled fighters and they weren’t large in number, either. So Mir suggested going far north, where there were rumors of a wonderful sunny land called Bradden Country. They attempted to reach it, but only managed to run into a large, dusty, dry desert where large numbers of the Mirz died. So they turned back. (Bradden Country does exist; they just happened to find the long way through the desert.)

Now one of the Mirz was a trader named Dusti. He had gone up and down the Batri Coast in many different ships, buying wares from the northern Batri and selling it to the southerners. As a sailor, he had heard many stories of what lay across the ocean, and so he suggested to Mir that they try a sea voyage. Dusti pointed out that nearly all of the legends implied that there were islands not too far off the Coast, and that they were mostly uninhabited. So why not try? They would die anyways if they stayed around too long!

Mir grudgingly agreed, and got his people together to go on the trip. He had Dusti buy a large ship that should carry all of them, but when he discovered that a big enough ship would be too expensive, he bought a smaller one and stuffed everyone inside. Dusti warned him that this wasn’t a good idea, but Mir wasn’t exactly the most teachable, so he ignored the merchant.

The voyage was rather unpleasant. Almost none of the Mirz knew how to sail a ship, they were cramped, there was too little food, and nobody had any idea where these mysterious islands could be. So while Dusti ran around all day and night trying to teach people how to drive the ship, Mir spent most of his time lazing around, insisting that he was sick. Dusti was not pleased, but he had sworn allegiance to Mir when he had joined the rebels, so he had no choice but to obey him.

Many, many miserable months later, Dusti got up early one morning to watch for land yet again. But this time he saw something. Up ahead, if his eyes weren’t tricking him, he saw a faint line of green that meant solid ground! “Tieken! Tieken!” he yelled, which was “land” in the Batri language.

Everyone was overjoyed that their voyage had finally come to an end – or so they thought.

They landed at the green line, which unfortunately turned out to be a marshy, muggy, wet, soggy land with no dry ground, period. Though everyone was glad to be on land again – it could hardly be called solidland, though – Mir was angry at Dusti for “leading them to this horrible place”. Dusti, who almost never got angry, pointed out coolly that perhaps not all of the island was an inhabitable marsh, and anyways they had managed to find it! So Mir grudgingly allowed Dusti to pilot the ship on an exploration trip down the coast.

The Mirz went on for quite a while before a sharp-eyed five-year-old named Brilka spotted a green, wooded coast that – wonder of wonders – didn’t look marshy! When Dusti landed and discovered that it was green, beautiful, and dry, he named it Brilka Point and suggested to Mir that they settle down there. Mir, who was very eager to stop their wanderings, agreed. And so the Mirz came to their new home, which they called Mirztieken – “Mirz land”.

But this is not the end of their story. Oh, no. There was still much to come.

Now the Aved (remember them? the great tribe that lived all over the island?) did not leave anything unnoticed for long, and so they soon discovered the scraggly settlement of refugees that had taken over their forest point. The Tivrin, who lived nearby, were friendly to the newcomers and helped them as best they could. Soon the Mirz learned the Avedi language and the Aved learned the Mirz language, Mirz women married Aved men and Aved women married Mirz men, and everything was friendly and happy.

However, the Sohdi were not so excited about these “intruders”. They were afraid that the Batri king would come after the Mirz to punish them (though if they had spoken to the Mirz about this, they would’ve come away with the definite answer that he would certainly not). And besides this, they were very protective of not only their country but also their customs, their language, and all the other things that made them unique. So they warned the Tivrin to not be so friendly with the Mirz, and actually went as far as to try to break up some relationships between the Mirz and Tivrin.

Time went on. No wars flared up, but there were a few skirmishes. The Tivrin and the Mirz blended into one, and the Sohdi drew away from them. Soon the great Aved tribe was no longer one big united group, and there were two tribes living together on the island. The Tivrin/Mirz still referred to themselves as the Aved, but the Sohdi began to call themselves the Sohdi instead of the Aved.

The united had split. War had not come yet. But…Well, that is another story.

Sijilak, the reluctant king

This is set in the country of Oriansia, around the time that King Napios, King Ebert, and King Rebert had their reigns in Sengoria.

Sijilak never expected to be king. He never even wanted to be king. Indeed, he rather didn’t want to. And he might have ended up not ruling Oriansia if it wasn’t for his wife, Alsia the dolphin trainer, who was a peasant and a foreigner. If he hadn’t ruled Oriansia, then perhaps King Rebert would have never conquered Oriansia, and then he would have never been overthrown. At which King Amisos, one of Sheesania’s best kings, would have never come to the throne, and then…So basically, if it wasn’t for Queen Alsia, then much of the progress that went on during the next seven decades would have never happened. And while Sijilak is often credited for this, it was really his wife that drove him to do all he did. Plus she raised his son, Sneppe, who was to have a massive effect on world affairs for quite a while.

Sijilak was the third oldest son of King Oferte, a softhearted but usually firm ruler. His eldest son, Toldone, was expected to become king. If Toldone somehow didn’t survive, then the second oldest son Atatef would be king. Sijilak did not think at all that he would ever need to rule Oriansia. So he married a peasant girl, 18-year-old Alsia Vaneje, who was relatively famous for training and performing shows with her dolphin, Elmeaux.

One day Toldone and Atatef were hunting together when they came upon a notorious robber band known as the Trudje. The robbers captured the two princes and held them for ransom. King Oferte’s general suggested attacking the band, as it would be relatively easy to take back the two young men by force, but Oferte declined. He thought that it would be too tricky to find the hiding place of the Trudje. So they payed the ransom and expected Toldone and Atatef to be returned.

Unfortunately the Trudje were not about to do so. Seeing that King Oferte was quick to give them money, they charged a little more. And a little more. And a little more. So finally the King, in frustration, sent out his army to capture and kill the Trudje and find the princes. But the bandits found out what was happening, and quickly killed the princes. Then the army came upon them and punished them severely.

Suddenly Sijilak was the heir to the throne! He was living in a little cottage near the sea with Alsia and their two daughters. Alsia was out training her dolphin Elmeaux along with her children when a messenger arrived. Sijilak was so alarmed at the news that he immediately saddled a horse and set off for the capital to plead for someone else to be proclaimed heir. However, Alsia was a bit too quick for him. As soon as she discovered what her husband had done, she also set off for the capital, planning to intercept Sijilak.

Alsia did so, and managed to convince him that he should indeed become king. She wanted a great deal to become a queen. And besides, she honestly believed that Sijilak would make a wonderful ruler. So he went to his father the king and accepted his future regency. As a side effect of his sudden importance, he had to stay at the main palace, where Alsia could not train her dolphin. So he built a palace on the coast, which is today known as the Palace of Elmeaux, after Alsia’s dolphin.

Eventually old King Oferte died, and Sijilak was proclaimed king. He decided with Alsia that their oldest daughter (they now had three) Venetiae should be ruler after him, as she was a smart and capable young girl. However, he had something of a problem on his hands almost right away. King Rebert, made overzealous for war by his scheming advisor Vaswe, had decided to attempt to take over the whole continent–which included Oriansia, King Sijilak’s country.

King Sijilak was frozen. He had no idea what to do. When he received the news that King Rebert was attacking his eastern bases, he went to his room and stayed there, refusing to make any decisions. Queen Alsia, as usual, commanded the army and managed to stop Rebert’s first attack. She then rebuked her husband for “hiding away like a woman” in his room. Sijilak, while embarrassed, remained just as cowardly as ever. Later on King Rebert did manage to take Oriansia–while Queen Alsia was away in another country, writing a peace treaty.

But King Rebert’s empire soon fell, and Oriansia was its own country again. By this time Alsia had a son who was just two years old. She named him Sneppe and convinced Venetiae, the heir to the throne, to allow Sneppe to become king instead of her when Sijilak died. Sijilak was not very excited about having a two-year-old inherit the throne, especially because he was weak and could die any time, but he dared not argue with his wife.

King Sijilak died when little Sneppe was just five. Queen Alsia, knowing very well that this would happen, then became the regent, and would continue to be until Sneppe was nineteen. She managed to revive Oriansia after its trade had failed during Rebert’s brief reign. And she built a magnificent public building which is known as Alsia’s Hall today. It has a beautiful pattern of dolphins on the front, one of which looks exactly like Elmeaux.

So Sijilak, despite the fact that he hated being a king (he said so several times to Queen Alsia), was important in Oriansia’s history. His son Sneppe captured a large strip of land that had previously belonged to their neighbor country Sengoria, and started up many industries that had never existed in Oriansia before. Plus Alsia was a major player in bringing Oriansia back to life after Rebert’s destructive reign. Even if he hated his job, Sijilak did well in the long run.

Ghana Tovici – the story of a spy

Ghana Tovici lived around the time of King Amisos.

Ghana Tovici had always been interested in alchemy–that mysterious art which was said to be able to both help people and destroy them. Her uncle was an alchemist and she could have easily become one too. Except Ghana was a girl. And in Tajmen, where she lived, girls did not have trades, except for things like weaving and sewing. She was expected to quietly marry the man her father chose for her, and then busy herself with running daily life for her family. Ghana was not going to stand for this. When her father picked out a boy that she was to marry, she disguised herself as a male teenager and ran away. At this her family immediately began a hunt for her–half malicious, half worried–that was to cause her a lot of trouble later on.

Ghana knew that her uncle lived in Drec, a large city-state in the center of Tajmen. So she traveled there, only to be stopped by the gate guards. Why, they demanded, was she coming alone? Young people always came with a relative or friend. Ghana insisted that her name was Sombrue Songoe, she was a boy, and that she was an orphan going to live with her uncle. The guards didn’t exactly buy her story. But they did let her through.

So Ghana traveled to her uncle’s house and pretended to be a smart street urchin interested in alchemy. As she expected, her uncle’s soft heart kept him from turning her away, and she finally became apprenticed to him. All under the name of Sombrue Songoe, a young boy, an orphan. Nobody managed to track her down. At least, not for twenty years…

Ghana was a talented alchemist and was quickly conducting experiments much the way her uncle did. But Ghana was less interested in turning palm leaves to gold–she wanted to create medicines that would help people in the short run. Her greedier uncle continued to try to create gold, but he did help her with her medicinal studies.

A little while later, an official named Luitican came to meet her and inquire about her alchemy. What exactly happened is not clear. But we know that somehow the fact that she was actually a young woman, not the man named Sombrue Songoe, was discovered. She then fled the country, supposedly afraid that her family would catch up with her. Ghana traveled first to the Geisel Isles, where she was rudely attacked by some wild seakitties, and after this went to Sengoria.

Now if Luitican’s diary can be trusted, Ghana and Luitican staged this whole fleeing business on purpose. They knew that King Amisos of Sengoria was eager to accept scientists, alchemists, and medicine mixers into his kingdom, and also was quick to help anyone in trouble. So they figured that they could pretend that Ghana’s life was in danger and have her run to Sengoria, where she would probably be accepted into the court as an alchemist, and then could be a spy. A spy for the king of Drec, who now was on his toes regarding his relationship with Sengoria.

King Amisos faced a dilemma. He writes in his book The Life of Amisosthat he had an “uncomfortable gut feeling” about Ghana Tovici. But he had just survived through an assassination plot, so he was understandably jumpy. Amisos accepted her into Sengoria and quickly gave her a place at court as the Minister of Alchemy (the second female minister in Sengoria’s history, the first being Ameratsu Qua-Feni, the Minister of Seakitties).

Ghana was a very clever scientist. She was soon making observations about how chemicals reacted and created a theory of atoms, that while was mostly false, had a kernel of truth. She married a Sengorian man and had one daughter (who unfortunately died after accidentally dumping some acid on herself). She trained a few other people in alchemy and science. But all the while, she was watching. Just watching. Watching for anything that might be of use to the Drecish king.

Luitican came to see her when she was thirty-five. He said that it was because he was interested in science and wanted some tutoring, but it was probably a secret spy conference, carefully arranged so that nobody would be listening in. At this time the king of Drec was beginning a war with another city, Sarchon – a war that looked like it might become a major deal. Luitican was interested in getting help from Amisos.

Ghana Tovici was too careful. Amisos had an Ambassador of Tajmen, who, while he was fat, lazy, and selfish, was supposed to represent all the warring factions of the little island country. If she tried to get King Amisos to help Tajmen, she would not only get on the Ambassador’s bad side, but would also be dropping a hint to the fact that she was a spy. Ghana was getting lots of information that would be useful if the Drecish decided to attack Sengoria. She didn’t want to risk all the knowledge.

Luitican and Ghana must have either had a big argument (as was known to happen a lot with the easily angered Luitican) or agreed peacefully, but whatever happened, he returned to Drec without any aid from Amisos. By this time the war with Sarchon had died down, but now the Drecish king had managed to pick a fight with Douisbon, the other main city-state of Tajmen. As Luitican fumed in his diary, ”[the Drecish king] is about as bad as a toddler who can’t share his toys!”

A year later Ghana died suddenly in a laboratory accident. She was doing an experiment that involved a poisonous gas, but her tools for dealing with this gas were broken. The gas filled the room and she suffocated and died. A couple minutes later her husband came in, worried that her experiment was taking a long time. He, too, died from the gas, and it was lucky that a smart little handy maw-maw managed to open the window and air out the room, or else several other people might have died too.

Was Ghana really a spy? Luitican says so. But we don’t really know. And we never will.