Writing Right

1626, Dark Season


Venlar needs a bit of help writing a letter to his father. Xenofos scribes for him. After Session 2.26 (Rune Messiah)


Evening, of the day that Berra happily trotted around on her bison, organising watches and finding volunteers. Stripey has been seen to. The fire is warm, although rain threatens again – it has threatened only a little part of the day. The rest of the time it simply arrived.

Xenofos looks at his kithara and tries to pluck a tune.

Sounds of Esrolian ballad come quietly out.1Fail on Listen and Scan, Success on Play Kithara. …Not even any architecture, now where did Berra go…

After some minutes, with the ballad’s notes rising up, it becomes clear that the sound is two. A pleasant whistling is keeping a harmony, from just behind Xenofos.2Special on Sing. Show-off.

After a while Xenofos starts to sing in Esrolian. Tune is old mariners ballad, words tell of desert flower.

Venlar kneels down next to Xenofos, and adds in a verse about blooming, recreation, and new life in the dust, although his Esrolian is… mostly Heortling.

“More optimistic then the original, or my rendering. Not a bad continuation though. And remarkably elegantly put together on spur of the moment.”

Venlar smiles easily, pleased. “Rhythm is a music to the drummer,” he replies, in the meter of the penultimate line. “I… have a favour to ask, oh scribe.”

“I am listening, brother in law.”

“I would have a letter written. To my father, to my dictation.” Venlar gives a small smile. Even with the scar, his face is open and honest.

“I am at your service cousin. But, why? I know you are literate.”

Venlar shrugs to that. “I have been riding all day. My fingers refuse to accept a pen. In fact, I was making more marks on the ground than on the wax.”

Xenofos bows. “A moment then.” He puts the worn instrument under its coverings and retrieves his writing kit.

Venlar spends the time looking at his fingertips, which are muddy enough to indicate he has picked up a pen at least once. “I only found out in dark season that people can feel the colour changes in the grain of wood. I never really knew what texture was.”

Xenofos feels the reedpen in his fingers, but does not comment.

Venlar looks, and considers. “I would ask you to do it in wax, but a way that I would not normally write is perfect. The whole thing is a message, and the words must be verbatim.”

“If you have a tablet handy it can be done. I just carry papyrus for letters.”

“No, papyrus is perfect. The method indicates that I am low on choices. It is part of the message also. My family does this all the time – hiding information where it is not looked for is better than hiding it where it will be sought.” Venlar rubs his forefingers together as he thinks, delicately emulating a million bureaucrats who have gone before him. “My dear Lord Father,” he starts carefully.

Venlar speaks with the clarity and speed of someone who is used to dictating to a professional. “I and Mellia fell in with friends, who had been with the Bison Tribe over winter. The going makes further visits to Pavis impossible, so they intend to travel with us to the Paps and then return. Naturally we shall be going to Boldhome, after a visit to the Block, where I understand there will be a chance to see the Storm Bulls celebrate. I have yet to find out what might lead to a follower of Air being thrown out of such a Temple. Is it even possible?” The young man pauses, eyes narrowing as he thinks through the next phrase.

Xenofos raises eyebrow, but does not feel he has time to ask questions. Reed pen is still sharp do he waits for next lines.

“After…” He speaks very slowly now, winding his way through the grammar. “…that visit, she wonders if you would advise her to go South, although she knows what little time she has and what good it might do. I have mentioned neither you nor I could accompany her, but I know your advice could. People should remember friends, and she has friends around her. I know she has had her own scribe write letters I cannot, but this one is for you – I am missing home, and my father’s people. I visited Mamma’s hailing, but perhaps you should not tell her that.” Venlar sounds like he is finally enjoying the challenge of this rather banal dictation.

Xenofos carries on with foreign words, sometimes spelling them a tad Esrolian but making understandable progress.

Venlar finishes with, “I know Yamia was keeping track of all the parties. She may be pleased to know that Orlanth is blessing me so much that I have not been dry since I got here. However, water flows downwards. Give her my love when she arrives. Your son, Lord Venlar.” Then he smiles at Xenofos as if in challenge.

written after dictation by Xenofos of Saiciae

“You did not refer to Mellia in latter part of the letter, I gather”

Venlar nods. “I should classically have put a name in, but I understand father to know our plans already, so why waste ink? Do you disapprove of my grammar?”

Xenofos shakes his head. “I would not comment on Heortling grammar, and prudence in choice of words is rarely wrong.”

“I have a lot to say there. To be honest, this one’s rather obvious, but perhaps only to Heortlings, and not all of it.” Venlar clumsily wipes at his cheek, where either a stray raindrop has landed or his scar is making his eye water.

“Follower of Air thrown out of temple? That eluded me.”

“The timing and dating. We shall not be leaving the block before the High Holy Day. If we do, it will not be because of our choices, but because of pride. That is, arguments. Father must know when to expect us, or where we are likely to be if we send him a message.” The man now has evidence of the love of Ernalda all over his cheek.

“I am not sure followers of the Bull allow visitors to the Block. But we shall see.” Xenofos notes.

Venlar says in a reasonable tone, “Orlanth is an ally, hence being able to mention Air. The key is that father should only read the superfluous information, not the things that he does not already know.”

Xenofos shrugs. “That makes sense I guess.”

“He knows what he knows, I know what he knows. Writing to Mamma is different. The only part I don’t like is that water flows downwards, but I was stuck for a phrase. That’s why I talked about Yamia. It’s a Heortling description of the Creek-stream River. Water goes down it, money comes up. It’s… a stretch, and awkward, but at least I know he knows all the right songs. And he travelled down it lately.”

Xenofos looks at Venlar. “Money goes up if something og worth comes down…”

“That was already covered. We are talking about the parties that Varanis went to, not the parties anyone else attended.” Venlar says it offhand.

Xenofos just raises an eyebrow on that.

“Believe me, my father was taking notes. He and Yamia both know where Varanis was. It’s legible for him, at least. Not exactly a code, but information. Would you care to bring that to me when it is dry? I might need help sealing it, but it should be done under my orders, at least. I need to consider what to burn.”

“That should not take too long cousin.”

“While this weather holds off, would you like to play another tune, or would you prefer food? I brought a thrall who can cook, as a general servant.” Venlar generously offers his property’s time and effort.

“Better leave music on positive note… And I am not hungry, but thank you for the offer.”

Venlar asks, still generous, “Anything I can do for you?”

“No thanks, cousin.”

Venlar rises smoothly to his feet, with no evidence of imbalance. His bow, despite the mud where he was kneeling, is elegance itself. A perfectionist would point out that he should only bow that low to a woman, and not a scribe, but at least he looks good doing it.

Xenofos nod is a bit more curt, croslegged writing pose does make bowing challenging.

  • 1
    Fail on Listen and Scan, Success on Play Kithara.
  • 2
    Special on Sing. Show-off.