I tilted my head back and watch Gannara scramble in the rigging of the ship, a smile on his face fit to split his head. We’d made it to Fispur, walking, and had found a Yeoli ship sailing first to Tor Ench and then on to Selina. Ili was napping in a coil of rope not ten feet from me, head and heels overlapping the edges of the coil, Kefas Bear tucked under his chin.
We had been very lucky, catching the ship in port. There was no truly regular schedule for ships to come in, it depended so on weather and the vagaries of wind. The Yeolis had taken our passage money willingly enough, though there was a lot of muttering about the impeachment vote. I didn't think they'd quietly drop me overboard once out of sight of land, if only because of Gannara being with me.
We were out of sight of land now and the sun sparkled on the tops of deep blue waves. I kept my eyes determinedly on the horizon, trying not to be sick. I hadn’t felt bad, but my stomach was unsettled and I didn’t want it to get any worse.
Gannara slid down a rope, one foot hooked around his other leg, not as fast as the others but clearly like them. He wasn’t even noticing himself doing it. His people must have been sailors, with the ease he was flinging himself around.
“How are you, Minakas?” He settled down next to me.
“Good. I seem to be getting my ship-legs, I guess.”
“I.... I can understand what they’re saying.”
“But your own tongue is still locked up?”
“I keep thinking I should say something but then I don't know what to say.” He looked miserable.
I looked at him and then around at the whole ship full of his own people that he didn’t think he could talk to. I pulled off my gloves and wiggled my fingers under his nose. “I need to learn more Yeoli. You all right to teach me more?”
“Um. I suppose.”
“All right. Let me review my basics then.” I took a deep breath. “N’ying-i is hello.” I flipped my hand around. “And ‘itai, or ‘tai’ is yes and ‘boru’ or ‘b’ru’ is no.”
“’tai,”he said smiling at me. “Does my Arkan have a Yeoli accent?”
“Oh, yeah, and a fessas accent mixed in, too. Just like Shevenga’s.”
“Un-huh. I hope when I’m speaking Yeoli again it doesn’t have an Arkan accent.”
“Probably not. You learned Arkan late. And they Sereniteers said you had a Yeoli accent.”
“Right. They did.”
“So, what does ‘ka-har-a’ mean?”
He started waving his hands around, as if to take in the whole ship and the ocean around us and the sky.
“Ka… um… it’s hard to explain. Kind of like spirit of everything. But that doesn’t say it all. I don’t think I’m explaining this at all right. It’s sacred. Like Arkans… have Gods… Yeolil have…”
“So, would someone say it if they’re upset?”
“The same way… same as Arkans say ‘my little professional God!”
“I need to get Yeoli language books for me.”
“You know…” Gannara said thoughtfully. “I think… I think someone taught me not to say kahara that way.”
“Like it’s wrong to use it like that? Like a curse word?”
“All right. You just said ‘Yeolil’… is that plural?”
“Yeolil is more than one, yeah.”
“I have a funny idea for you,” I said. “Do you remember any baby songs? From before?”
He hunched in on himself. Not good. Not what I wanted. “I don't remember.” I tried anyway.
“You could try thinking of being rocked or held I guess and try humming the tune and see if the words come with it.”
“I don't know the tune,” he said miserably.
Upship some dropped something with a bang and started swearing. “AI KAHARA KYASHIN MAMAIYANA KYASH KYASH KYASH!!!”
“So,” I said. “What’s he—um—she, saying?”
“Oh, very bad words.”
“Mostly ‘shit’ and ‘shitty’ I’m getting. I'll need to learn those too, eventually.”
“The Mah—“ he cut himself off as a couple of sailors trotted by. “—they told me not to say any Yeoli words, but... someone else told me not to say those ones. Someone when I was little.
“Probably your mama. Any prayers…” It was my turn to cut off what I was saying. “No, you’re athye.” I mangled the pronunciation.
“Athye,” he said absently, properly.
“So how do you say 'mama' in Yeola-e?”
“Maman,” I could hear the faint ‘n’ on the end but my tongue couldn’t pronounce it to save my life. “I think,” he said, quietly and went a little pale, swallowing hard.
“Ah. It’s all right, Gannara. It’ll be all right. How about Father?”
“I… I’m not sure….”
“Daddy? Or Papa?” He looked at me, sideways.
“You aren’t going to have any call for using the word, Minakas.”
“Nope,” I said cheerfully. “But you will.”
“Not necessarily,” he said bleakly.
“Maybe not, but you had one who you might want to refer to again.”
“Then I would call him paera... father... Like you say, "my father,' you don't say, "my daddy. Not when you’re our age, anyway."
“Paera...” I repeated thoughtfully.
Gannara was looking back toward the back of the ship and said, almost absently “Ashapaera.”
I waved my hand around at the ship and the talk flowing all around us. “It all sounds liquid, to me… what was that word?” I was trying to be as casual as I could.
“Ashapaera... um... it doesn't translate.”
“It sounds like something added onto the word for father.”
“If your parents were in a four, there's the two who are your parents by blood, and there are the two others...” his own hands were waving now and he wasn’t noticing. “Ashapaera is the other.”
“Asha must mean shadow then. Shadow-father,” I said in Enchian, since the Arkan sounded even weirder.
“It sounds weird in Enchian.”
“Doesn’t it?” In a strange sense it was like Chevenga was my shadow-father. A shadow-father for a shadowed court. No. That would only have applied if the fat guy hadn’t made me… shown me…
And it was that night, with the deck-watch calling in Yeoli, so close to where we’d bought deck-passage, that Gannara started remembering that his dreams were in Yeoli. Either still, or again. It didn’t matter. What mattered is that he was grabbing hold of the things that the Mahid had riven from him.
Surrounded by Yeolis, who spoke to him in the language, as the Sereniteers had, brought it back onto his tongue more quickly than teaching me. I started to be able to pick out words and almost whole sentences by the time we docked at Tor Ench, below the Tor.
I didn’t feel like leaving the ship. There were no adventures I wanted on shore. I was content to lean on the deckrail and look up at the looming stone Towers, once brooding fortress grey, now scoured to gleam bright and heart-lifting against the sky, with the glittering banners snapping in the ocean breeze. Not white. Not like the Marble of the city, but still light.
The town was roofed in red tiles and every window I could see had either flowers or bright fruit gardens cascading down the walls. In the distance I could hear the trumpet calls as their horse-guards trained, up at the Tor itself, the bugle notes bright as the birds.
The docks were stenchy enough with gulls and ducks eating the dead fish and leaving their shen everywhere but they had people who scrubbed the long stone piers. Futile but at least an effort. I started to talk to Gannara in Yeoli there, commenting on what I was seeing, using Enchian words where I didn’t yet know the Yeoli, making him laugh… then roll on the deck laughing with the nonsense I was spouting.
I really didn’t need to make all the mistakes I was making, sometimes making silly ones just to make him laugh more, exaggerating my hand motions with the words, until he realized I was doing it deliberately and threatened to pound me if I didn’t quit.