From the Sea

Father Evaristos,

I have received the most wonderful visitor in Marali. He or she (for I could not tell from their delicate traits and even less from the beautiful and undulating song of their voice) arrived at the fort, shimmering green-and-blue skin, hair tangled with seaweed, and eyes as bright as the reflections of the sun over calm waters. The room was filled with a delicate smell of fish, and this creature’s breath sounded as deep as the sound of the sea one can hear when bringing a conch close to the ear.
I knew at once that I was meeting an ambassador of the Mhara people. My excitement, however, was in clear contrast with the motivation that had made this amazing being come out of the water and into our walls. Alas, I have never studied the languages of the sea, and none of my attempts at communication seem to be having any effect.
Eventually, an idea came to my mind. I grabbed a parchment and a plume, and sat down, encouraging my visitor to repeat their message. This is what I could transcribe, relying on my good old ears. I am sending you this transcription hoping that there is still someone in Brigobaen dealing with the Mharan history who could help us deciphering this text. Please, do let me know if that is still the case, and apologise in advance to our translator for any eventual mistake in the transcription. Some sounds were very hard to discern, as it seemed as if they were being pronounced under water, with a mouth full of salt…

Here goes my poor version of a certainly very important and urgent content:

Shean jug Tshara roghaar. (I believe this was a greeting, from the sign made with the hands.)
Ohrad thaultar jahreer athola. Zushe puhelor rochar shaar. Phasardhag vhadan vhorara jug tsharashellara.
Zusheshean shaar. Phar ohrad ohradshimmer kolharara. Ghorameer thaultar. Brighohrad brigoheer shella jug phloholar.
Shean jug Tshara kophaar.

I thank you, Father Evaristos, for any help your temple can give to our Northerner Vanguard.

This servant of Ybarra,
Evroulf McTyr

Comments

  • Aldus put on a smile. The south hall was quiet as always, apart from the swishing of the curtains amidst the gentle ocean breeze. That lovely ocean air – even from indoors, he could feel its calming, restorative energy. He often found himself reminding the others about the importance of getting outside on a day like today, taking a walk on the beach, even just tending to the garden. If only he had some time now to follow his own advice. Until then, at least, there was always the window. He took a deep breath, catching a whiff of smoked pine wafting up from the teapot below, and forced his eyes back to the desk. His brothers needed him.

    Shean jug Tshara roghaar.

    Transcribing the aquatic phonemes of the Mhara was no easy feat to begin with. Attempting to reproduce on paper these sounds, which were not meant for surface-dweller ears... it was a vexing task at best. Now yes, there were always the conventions proposed by dear old Mayor Palmer. Indispensable guidelines for approximating the Mhara's unique phonological mechanisms in the common alphabet. But the conventions, too, had their limits. Even the most skilled interpreter would always lose something in the translation between water and air. Which made it all the more impressive that the Marali Commander had managed to write down as much as he did.

    The Commander was also correct in identifying the first line as a salutation. And a poetic one at that, found often in the tales of that oral tradition that were once famously dictated to Palmer in his time spent living among the Mharan people – how glorious that must have been! Translated literally: "the ocean and the stars rejoice". Or, as the surfacefolk would so eloquently put it: "Greetings".

    Ohrad thaultar jahreer athola.

    First, a literal approach. "Land crab magic-user goes, or went, to 'Athola'."

    Then, translation. Ohrad, or "land crab", was of course their lovely word for "surface-dweller", or more simply: "human". And then there was the matter of tense. The distinction between past and present and future was usually not important enough to the Mharan speaker to be specified (that was always one of the more challenging aspects of Mharan translation). Given the context, the preterite would sound most natural here. All together then: "A human magic-user went to 'Athola'."

    Zushe puhelor rochar shaar.

    "They saw a deadly poison cave."

    Phasardhag vhadan vhorar jug tsharashellara.

    "Phase serpents journey through void and starsea?" Aldus scratched his head. "Starsea" would be their fascinating way to say "sky". But the rest was not so clear. The various root words quickly revealed themselves, but there was some yet unknown grammatical oddity at work. Or maybe just a misheard consonant. He marked the text and moved on.

    Zusheshean shaar.

    "They saw death."

    Phar ohrad ohradshimmer kolharara.

    "Father land crab swims like a land crab... to the waves…" Aldus shakes his head. Again: "The human father walked… to the waves? Like a wave?”

    Ghorameer thaultar.

    "He captured the magic-user."

    Brighohrad brigoheer shella jug phloholar.

    "The healer, or healers, healed home and river."

    Shean jug Tshara kophaar.

    "The ocean and the stars protect you." In other words: "Farewell."

    Now then, to stitch it all together.

    Greetings.

    A human magic-user went to the Atoll. They saw a deadly poison/polluted cave. Phase serpents journey (through void and sky?). They saw death. The human father walked (to the waves? / like a wave?). He captured the magic-user. The healer healed home and river.

    Farewell.


    Aldus took a deep breath. It was not at all perfect. But it was clear that there was some kind of warning being given, regarding the Atoll. What threat could be so great as to impel the Mhara to speak to surfacefolk? Phase serpents were certainly part of it. Perhaps something more sinister, as well. And then there was the matter of the “human father” – could that be their way to refer to their guest, King N’eroth?

    Whatever the meaning, there was something deeply troubling afoot. And though it wasn’t nearly his best work – a distinction which would hopefully be reserved for his soon-to-be complete critical edition of Palmer’s Collection of Mharan Folktales – it would simply have to do. He got up, shuffled his papers together, and set off for the stairs. Evaristos was sure to be holed up down there, somewhere.
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