Continuation of Elucuna’s first days in Quarios. She and Glohitan meet a strange woman along the road outside of Naeglitan.
We took two amsas (1) to the edge of the city. My meager belongings were strapped onto the young female that was given to me. Glohitan called her Isma. I was unused to riding since it was not an activity considered womanly in Orikrindia, but I managed well enough given my inexperience. The mount was, thankfully, very calm and patient. Glohitan’s walking stick was tied to his back, wrapped in a saffron-colored scarf, and he rode just ahead of me as we made our way down a dark road near the outskirts of Naeglitan.
The air surrounding me was thick and hot, despite the late hour. Crickets sang in the bushes, and in the distance a dog barked. A shiver ran through me, although sweat had begun to gather at my brow. My asmas snorted quietly. I felt a sense of foreboding, of being more on edge than I could remember being, even moreso than when I left (that is, escaped) the confines of my family’s estate. I looked over to Glohitan, hoping to glean some comfort from his face, but his expression remained stony, and he looked only at the road before us.
For hours we rode, gradually leaving the city’s outskirts, where small farms had cropped up that supplied Naeglitan with what food it did not import from beyond the sea. A warm breeze sailed through fields of wheat and plethaln (2) that surrounded us, and the gentle whisper helped to calm my burning nerves. Over time, the farmland gave way to forest, and the path was swallowed by shadows of looming trees, most of which were covered in manfen (3).
In some dark hour of the night, we were met suddenly by the face of a woman who stood beneath the glow of a lamplight along the road. She stood hunched over, the deep lines of age in her face emphasized by the shadows. She stared up at us, her gnarled hand clutching an equally ancient looking staff. Her cloak seemed more like mass of moss and lichens than any cloth I had ever seen, and as I looked longer at her, dark shining beads gleamed from the knots in her grey hair. A woman of the wood (4), I surmised, which should not have given me so much pause, but her gaze seemed to pierce my heart and it was as if she peered into me.
I looked to Glohitan, who halted his amsas’ gentle pace. He did not turn to the woman, but was clearly aware of her presence, as he spoke to her in Gotevian.
“Inyé lalon car calova, lofvon thissano,”(5) he murmured, still not turning his head to face her. The woman’s expression remained unchanged, though she turned her gaze from me to him, and her deep eyes sparkled inky black in the low light. A rattling breath broke from her lungs and she coughed as if possessed by a terrible affliction.
“Coa hym tein lar?” (6) he continued, now in a demanding tone. I looked on in confusion.
“Ma lofvonad coan beata so tyerin, ha?” (7)she replied, and now her obsidian eyes wandered back to my face. I felt unable to breathe, though at once I did not understand why. Something stirred in me and I felt desperate to understand what she was saying.
“Tenelum drimadae tein!” (8) Glohitan snapped at her, but she did not flinch or retreat as I thought she might. Instead, a crooked and somewhat grim smile spread over her face, and her randomly surviving teeth gleamed in the light, strangely still white for their few number.
“Yon gellathu…” (9)
With that, Glohitan tugged his reigns and returned to the road. I wordlessly followed suit, though I could not help a backwards glance at the woman under the lamplight.
“What was that? Who was that?” I asked.
“Never you mind, little girl,” he said with a surly look at me.
“I am not a little girl. I know she was saying something important—what was it?”
“It’s better not to respeak her words, vievinir.” (10)
I was stricken with the strong urge to roll my eyes at his appellation, which I found ironically childish given the situation. I knew the young were not well respected in Quarios, but this was a bit ridiculous for me. My brother paid this man well to care for me and take me to my destination, and I felt ignoring the strange woman’s words was unsafe, though I could not have explained why I felt this way.
An irritated sigh of defeat left my lips and I prepared my tired mind for more hours of travel. Soon, the first pink fingers of dawn would scrape the sky, and I would finally be near to my desired destination in Quarios.
(1) amasas are a beast of burden common in Keta. This is the Ori word for the animal, as this is the native tongue of Elucuna. This animal is a bit like a large and thick bovine/ox type creature, with a docile and obedient nature and an immense capacity for weight-bearing service.
(2) plethaln (Gotevian) is a type of grain commonly grown in northern Quarios and other warm, humid environements, especially near the sea. It is made into one of many Gotevian-style hot cereal dishes, as well as being the main ingredient in a lot of types of flatbread. It has a vaguely sweet, nutty taste.
(3) manfen (Gotevian) is a type of long hanging moss found in maritime forests.
(4) In Orikrindian culture, ‘a woman of the wood’ usually refers to some archetype of hermit women who devote themselves to the Forest Goddess, Moltirin. This archetype isn’t known in Quarios (unknown to Elucuna at the time), but of course there are wise women who inhabit woods nonetheless. To Elucuna, this woman’s presence is immediately implicative of mystery, fear, and respect due to the religious and spiritual overtones inherent in such a lifestyle.
(5) Inyé lalon car calova, lofvon thissano (Gotevian) = I know why you are here, woman of fate.
(6) Coa hym tein lar? (Gotevian) = What is your wish?
(7) Ma lofvonad coan beata so tyerin, ha? (Gotevian) = the woman that you are bearing/carrying/accompanying is not normal, is she?
(8) Tenelum drimadae tein! (Gotevian) = mind your own business! (Lit. take concern for your affairs)
(9) Yon gellathu (Gotevian) = As you please. (Lit. for enjoyment/preference)
(10) vievinir (Got.): this is a slightly impolite but not highly offensive word to refer to an Orikrindian. It literally translates to “purple person”, because the national color of Orikrindia is violet, which is found in its flag, emblems, and is symbolic of royalty/governement/nobility–and Elucuna is a noble.