Section I: Episode 34
April 30, 2015
Eight young students sat on the skinstone.1
"I am Tarsel, one of the Five Philologers of the Academy. No doubt you have heard of me. Now you will have the chance to hear from me."
The morning sunlight shone through the windows behind him, casting a hazy golden glimmer to his sides and diminishing his own features into shadow, and he towered above them as a legend.
"I teach literature, the love of it and the knowing. If there is a book in the Village of Sourros that I do not know, it is because either that book has not yet been written…or it is a Sunderlain masterpiece."2
Several of the students laughed, and then the rest laughed.
"Nevertheless! Not for literature have you been brought before me. Neither to kiss my shoes, though I won't decline if you offer. In fact you are here to learn the advanced oral and written grammars of Pali, the language of the Ieikili. This is our tongue, the language you have spoken and heard all your life. However, it is also a stranger—which should distern those of you who say you have loved it. All this time you thought you knew it, but that would be like the cobbler who says they know people because people wear shoes.
"Ordinarily we relegate the instruction of grammar to our able faculty of grammarians, but there is a deeper understanding to be had in language, beyond rules and forms, attained only through knowing the literature, itself, and so it will be the literature that guides you, not as the object of your study but the vessel for it. The seven of you are the best mates of your year, the only ones to pass my stringent preparatory exam; you are worthy to sit at my feet. And you, Galavar, did not pass, but I am told it was by no fault of your own. Your grammarian commended you to me, and I accepted his judgment."
"Thank you, Philologer."
"Would you say that the examination surprised you, Galavar?"
Galavar lifted up his head and spoke proudly.
"I had never encountered most of the words on which I was questioned."
"Exactly. And to all of you, that is the veil of ignorance that is about to be lifted from your eyes. An extraordinary discovery awaits you. Prepare now to see our language anew, as though you had never known it at all.
"Nevertheless! Students of mine in the past have confided to me afterward that the study which awaits you is both difficult and unpleasant. I recall the metaphor they used was 'to fuck a cactus.' And I suspect they did not embellish, nor were they unrepresentative of their peers. The work ahead of you is going to be hard, pointless, and incomprehensible. That is the way of fundamental learning. Yet it must be done. Therefore we must apply our mettle, sequester ourselves in this prison of stone, and plow through it until the Sheer takes us.
"Then, one day, you will look back on these hours, and you will understand.
"Attend! Those of you who succeed in my class will be invited to return before me to undertake the same rigorous study of the language of Ji, the greatest language of the Panathar Empire. I find it hard to explain to you how valuable that will be, how vastly bigger it will reveal our world to be."
Skinstone, a type of marble, is so called in Ieik for its smooth, pale brown color, similar to the prevailing Ieikili complexion. Marble is plentiful in the Landstorm and is the single most common building material in Ieik.
2 A Sunderlain Masterpiece
Tarsel is making a joke. Sunderlain is a well-known contemporary Ieikili writer of fidedoxies, spiritualistic works of faith—more of the woo type than the hierarchical type—considered in Ieik to be an unrespectable genre. His students, who can reasonably be expected to be aware of Ieikili pop culture, would easily recognize the joke as such.
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!