Day Twenty-Eight: 1,335 words (29,160 total).
Talau was not pleased with the status of this trip. Her army had found another settlement of people. This should have been a good thing, but she had no way to communicate with them. Beroel worked to teach this old man the Zehnai language, but every time she watched them study together they’d dawdle and get caught up in silly matters like trying to tell each other jokes. There was no time for such antics. In the meanwhile, she kept a close eye on her other warriors. They wished to explore the city, but she would have none of it. She didn't want to risk any of them meddling around and getting in trouble.
Beroel sat outside on a stone patio with the old man. The other warriors sat on the ground around them, but had already grown bored with language lessons. They chatted and point up at the sky and discussed what shapes the clouds looked like. Apparently, the clouds were a word called “smog”. How gross sounding.
“What is called?” Rekas asked as he pointed to a cloud, “Er a sen diall”.
Beroel squinted, “It looks as a ship.”
“Ship?” Rekas laughed.
Another warrior added, “Ng diak! Er a sen bung!”
“A flower?” Beroel asked, “Look as more ship than flower.”
“It looks more like a ship than a flower.” The old man corrected.
Beroel nodded and they continued their study. He had learned many words, but he had much trouble piecing them together. Still, he spoke the best of the warriors. They’d often come to him to ask what something was called. They even begged him to learn foul words to teach them, but he felt much too embarrassed to ask such things from the old man.
“What is word for ‘sencha’?” Beroel asked.
The old man flipped through one of his books. He diligently turned page after page until the pages ran out. He shook his head and sighed.
“I’m afraid I cannot find that word. Is there many another word that is similar?”
“Do not fear it is word,” Beroel said to which the old man laughed, “What is word for sencho…Oreor?”
The old man flipped around and raised his finger high, “Oreor: a monarch.”
“Has Mainstay a monarch?”
“Hmm…” he thought of how to explain, “He is called, ‘High Priest’…he’s similar to an Oreor.”
“We do not have Oreor, we have sencha.”
The old man was confused as to what a ‘sencha’ was exactly. Beroel pointed to Talau, but still the man did not understand. These Ruunai…or Zehnai as they called themselves had quite a few words that differed from the books on the languages of Ruun. It made communication difficult, but it was understandable. The only Ruunai he had ever met in his lifetime had no connection to their roots. It was rare to meet someone with Ruun ancestry alone, but a culture who kept much of their language? It was like walking into a time machine.
The old man recorded all of his interactions with the Zehnai. There were scholars in cities all over the continent of Lithilen who would do backflips for this type of knowledge. For the man, this was all a blessing. Thank the gods! Compiled and copied, these writings would make him a small fortune. Not to mention, because she was the one who brought them, there was a chance that his daughter had finally decided to change her mind.
The wife of the man pushed the back door open and brought out a feast for everyone to enjoy. She carried a large tray of baked fish, lightly coated in butter and herbs. The warriors mouths watered. Thanks to Rekas, they’d eaten nothing but burnt fish and jerky. A hot, well-cooked meal was everything they desired. They all sat around in a circle and dined on the feast.
“Thank you” Beroel said with a bow and the rest of the warriors followed.
Talau, however, kept silent. She didn't know what those words meant and did not care. She wasn’t here to make friends. Over ten sunsets away, her village suffered and nothing could make her forget. These people gave her food and shelter, but if it meant curing the hunger and sickness of her people, she’d gladly lay in the dirt. What was taking Beroel so long? Had he already forgot his mission?
After the meal was finished, Talau pulled her head-warrior away from the house and up towards a hill that overlooked the ocean. It was a glorious view. Sparkling water crashed on the rocks. Well, aside from the dark clouds it was glorious, but that was a sort of thing they had grown used to.
Talau turned to him, “Enough games, Beroel. You have to speak to their Chief. We need to know if these people can help our village.”
“I…I don’t know how to ask. I don’t even know if they have a Chief. They have a ‘High Priest’.”
“I don’t care. Ask someone. Anyone! I’m not going to sit around while my people die!”
“Then go back to the village if you care so much.”
She slapped him, “Who do you think you are? You do not order me to do anything. If by tomorrow you fail to speak with this ‘Hai Prest’ then you’ll be stripped of your title and banished.”
“Banished from where?! You have no power here, Talau.”
“Oh?” she let out a loud whistle and the warriors ran up the hill, “Spears out. Surround him.”
They all listened except for Rekas, “What is going on?”
Her eyes never left Beroel, “No questions. Surround him.”
Rekas joined the circle but pointed his spear at his friend’s feet and whisper, “What did you do?”
But Beroel did not answer. His gaze did not fall away from the chieftess. They had a war with their eyes. Neither would give up. Talau was too headstrong to be mocked by a young man and Beroel believed too strong in his dream for freedom. At last, Talau blinked. She didn’t need to play games. She had already won.
“You may lower your spears and return to the hut. Sleep. We depart tomorrow.”
When everyone had gone she looked at Beroel, “I’d suggest you rest as well. You’ll have a short language lesson and then you will meet with the Chief.”
Beroel bowed and returned to the hut. But he stopped in his tracks. Why should he listen to her? He turned around and walked back towards her. But again he stopped. In her hands she held a pearl. How? He dug into his pocket but it was empty.
“You fell out of your pocket during the feast.”
His face boiled, “Hand it back.”
As he stepped forward, she extended her arm out towards the water, “Careful. Wouldn’t want a gust of wind to get the best of it.”
He growled, “What do you want from me!?”
She smiled, “To do as you were told.”
She clutched the pearl tight in her hands and descended the hill.
He called out, “You have no idea what that is.”
“You doubt I know what goes on in my own village? I seem to recall a sad story on a New Moon Festival long ago. She was so pretty. It’s a shame that something so small was fated to change her life.”
He welled up, “You hyena-faced swine! If you knew, why would you take that from me?”
She looked down to the ground, “I can’t let you get in my way. No one will.”
Beroel worked to fight back tears, “No wonder Omoachel hates you. You’re heartless.”
It hurt, but she kept walking. It’s not like she enjoyed being cruel. It was the only option she had left. He would get over it. And she could take any words he had to say. Even the ones about Omoachel. There was no time for personal matters. They’d be there. The village may not if quick action isn’t taken.