Section I: Episode 39
June 2, 2015
Late summer in Ieik1 brought a triad of special occasions for Galavar. Dawn's Eve, and of course the Day of the Dawn immediately after, formed one of the main focal points of the entire year. A few days hence marked Chamfer Poreia,23 the convention of the school year and certainly another major cultural touchstone, particularly for children and adolescents. But then, typically during or immediately after Chamfer Poreia, came a more personal occasion: Galavar's birthday. This year it promised to be quite a flurry of a day.
Galavar had gone to bed wondering what he'd find when he awoke. Last year, Miatysacis and Boon had been there to serenade him…and then wrestle him out of bed and parade him naked through the Circulators across several floors, wearing a crown. This year he had requested something a little more tame, should they be planning anything special.
So he opened his eyes, and it took him distinctly less time than usual to snap his attention to life. But when he did, and looked around, there was nothing. No friends waiting. No tricks. He checked his hands for traps, and the bed around him for pranks. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
He was almost disappointed.
The sun hadn't come up over the palisades yet, but it was bright out. Warm, too, by the feel of it…the Ieikili version of "warm," anyhow. There were mornings in the depths of winter when waking up and lifting off those covers felt like fucking a glacier—so the saying went—but today it was almost bearable.
He climbed down from bed and into his waiting slippers, only to realize that they weren't there. Instead were two presents, wrapped in decorative cloth, and he had to swerve on his ladder to avoid trampling them. He knelt down, his bare feet shrieking on the gelid floor, and picked them up. One of the cloths he recognized right away. It was navy blue and had yellow and red shooting stars all over it, and a smiling ravinder4 curled and asleep. It was a pillowcase, Miatysacis' special pillowcase. She only used it a few times a year. He turned it over and fingered the opening down the centerline. Whatever was inside was soft, but too heavy to be mere clothing.
Setting it on the desk, he examined the other present. The wrapping cloth on this one was off-white, with an abstract depiction of the Landstorm in relancy shades of red and brown. It looked to be an ordinary wrapping cloth, and whatever was inside was hard and boxy.
Galavar set it down on the desk too, and, shivering, sought out his slippers, which had been placed by the desk, and enrobed himself in his drying towel. He'd been thinking lately about buying a dedicated robe, and he'd mentioned it a few times in between all of the bustle and fluster since the Day of the Dawn. Perhaps somebody had gotten him one today?
In Ieik, the custom on birthdays was to give presents as well as receive them. Dear friends would receive meaningful gifts and were expected to give such gifts; more casual friends usually looked forward to a note or an invitation to the gala,5 in this case the Galabear, though Galavar usually, cheekily called his the Galavar, for that's what his name was all about: "one who is awash in weal."6
He'd prepared quite a few presents this year, mostly poems and illustrations, but he'd gotten special presents for the usual gang—Miatysacis, Boon, and Agram—as well as for Javelin and Ornithate. He'd seriously considered getting one for the River, Jahvoy, but in the end had dismissed the notion as pretentious. If the River of Ignorance got a token on everybody's birthday, they'd pile up and crush him like an avalanche of pebbles. Instead he resolved that his gift for Jahvoy would be his spirited speech at the public hearings today. The referendum was in two days, and, with the hearings, today was the day that most of the undecided denizens of Ieik would make up their minds. Perhaps even some of the decided would change their minds, and Galavar especially hoped for that—specifically, he hoped he could change a few minds to Jahvoy's side.
It was customary for birthday presents to be revealed at the Galabear, but he knew his friends and these two were clearly meant to be opened now. The one was undoubtedly from Miatysacis, but the other one…he couldn't figure it. Boon had been distant and spacey ever since his experience at the Fateful Well, and Agram had been surly and buried in books trying to get to the bottom of whatever had happened that day. Was this other present from one of them? He hoped so—for their sake more than his own—but his intuition told him it wasn't from either of them. Could it be from Javelin? That seemed the next likeliest possibility.
He climbed back into bed with his presents, and draped his homemade mochet blanket back over himself for warmth. He opened Miatysacis' present first.
To his delight, it was a robe after all, rich shearling on the inside, lined with insulating harcone beads—that's why it had been so heavy. On the outside was sewn a layer of blue silk, Galavar's favorite color, rich as the warmest nimbus.7 He held it up to his face, smelled it, caressed it against him. There's no way this came from Ieik. It could only have been imported. Miatysacis hadn't simply gotten him a robe; she'd gotten him one of the finest robes he'd ever seen in his life. How she did it, he could only imagine. Something as fine as this surely came from the Empire itself.
He wanted to hug her, but instead he fumbled around the robe and found something else, a hygienexe, a breathable wrap that covered the trunk of the body. Attached was a note: For when you're dirty. The robe can't be laundered. Galavar smiled. She knew he'd want to wear his robe before his morning bathe.
He sat there for a moment, basking in the warmth of it—not the robe but the friendship that had brought it into his life. He and Miatysacis had argued a lot lately. She was upset about what had happened with the bell at the Fateful Well, and his own support for Jahvoy had erupted into a number of debates with her. This was her way of saying that even an acrimonious debate wouldn't spoil their friendship. Or, at least, that's how he chose to interpret it—for a moment. Then he realized, that, on the other hand, a gift like this must have surely been in the works all year.
"Well, either way, she's made her intentions clear," he said. I'm your friend, and I care. He smiled again.
At last Galavar turned his attention to the other present. He unwrapped it carefully and found a tiny, rough wooden box about the height of his two hands stacked in parallel. It was nailed shut, along with a small claw to pull the nails out. He did so, carefully setting the nails aside, until finally the whole top of the box came off.
Inside was another piece of wood, the true present, wrapped in interpardin puffs. He pulled it out carefully and set it on his lap. It had a round base, tapered upward like a cone, but before the lines could converge the whole thing erupted into a sphere even bigger across than the base. A part of the sphere had been carved off, leaving a flat, nearly vertical face with a gently upward-sloping angle. On that face was carved a single word, in the language of the Ieikili people: Relance.
The whole piece had been carefully and painstaking polished, and varnished, and was wonderfully smooth and shiny. There was no paintwork on it, but the creator had used stains and even the varnishing itself to create a series of intricate, abstractly patterned lines in different shades of brown, ranging from lightly green to lightly red.
It was gorgeous.
But who had made it? There was no note, and it embarrassed him slightly that somebody could give him such a thoughtful present and he wouldn't immediately know who it was. His first thought was that it was one of his teachers, because the workmateship was exquisite. But then he remembered that Javelin had said she was interested in carpentry. Galavar had thought of carpentry and woodworking as two separate things—both of which were uncommon in the treeless Ieik—but maybe he'd been mistaken about that.
There was no telling. He wasn't going to find out in bed.
He climbed back down from his bed and carefully set the artwork on his desk, then threw on his hygienic underwrap and his luscious new robe, and made ready to go have his shower. It would indeed be a flurry of a day.
1 Late Summer in Ieik
"Late summer in Ieik" is roughly centered around the end of July and the very beginning of August in our middle latitudes on Earth. The Day of the Dawn is analogous to July 27, my personal birthday.
Trivia: It was established many years ago, back at the beginning of the ATH novelization, that Galavar's birthday is in "the late summer." This is the first time that it's ever actually come up.
Chamfer is a carpentry term, similar to the concept of beveling, with the literal meaning of "to break an edge" and the connotation of "smoothing." For Chamfer Poreia, the closest resonant synonym would be "Orientation Week." See the following note.
3 The Poreia
A poreia (pron. POOR-ee-uh) is an Ieikili unit of time closest in functionality to a tellurian week, but literally equivalent to a fortnight, as its period is exactly equal to fourteen (relurian) days—a rounding of the synodic lunar period of Ishos, equal to 14.394209402 (relurian) days.
This is actually a coincidence; I derived Ishos' synodic period from its previously established sidereal period of 13.42… relurian days. The plural is poreiaes (pron. POOR-ee-aes (rhymes with "ways")). If a poreia is fourteen days, then fourteen poreiaes is 196 days, which is very close to the Relancii year of slightly over 199 (relurian) days. In this sense, a poreia is closer to the tellurian concept of a month. In Ieik, however, the term exists neatly between what we know as "week" and "month."
I chose this word based on the premise behind the word week. Poreia is a Greek word meaning "march" or "way." Its use as a unit of time suggests an orderly progression.
A ravinder is a domesticated animal often kept as a pet. Its curled appearance on the pillow is reminiscent of the stateliness and beauty of many a curled, sleeping pet. The Ieikili are not as big on keeping pets as, say, Americans are, but there are a number of ravinders in Ieik, and at the Academy there are a number of communal pets, including ravinders, this being a longstanding tradition.
Ravinder also has other uses on Relance, including as a title of leadership and a given name. (These latter two uses are in keeping with its Hindu roots, and it really is a given name in Punjabi.)
5 At the Gala
In Ieikili tradition a gala is a special occasion, centered around some kind of revelrous event like a party or a feast. There are various galas throughout the course of a year and a lifetime, many of them capitalized and recognized as formal occasions; the birthday gala is called Galabear, meaning "wealy birth."
This is the first time in fifteen years of Curious Tale history that we see the literal meaning of Galavar's name. Gala is described above—and this is the same as the true English etymology of the word. Var refers to an agent, in this case a person. And the sense of awashness comes from the Spanish lavar, and by extraordinary coincidence let's say that the Ieikili language also uses lavar or something very similar to it to denote being awash. =]
In addition to its other uses, a nimbus is a Relancii flower with a warm blue tone. They of course don't grow natively in Ieik—virtually nothing does—but there are some kept in gardens.
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!