So many books!
It had taken Ean a week just to find someone who recognized the language Ember’s words were from. They had sounded like Fraksskahl, the language of Garagrans, but hadn’t matched up to anything that he or anyone else knew. Except maybe Bethania, but she had just smiled and asked him if he really needed to look them up to know what they meant.
Yes. He did.
He had finally gotten some real help from Professor NirVertel, the head of the history department at Skye Chahn University and their expert in ancient languages. He recognized the phrases as the Eastern dialect of Old Fraksskahl, the language of the second Skahllian Empire.
How Ember was able to speak it was a question in itself, but if any person would be, a Garagran princess was one of the least surprising.
Sadly, Professor NirVertel wasn’t himself one of those people. He only knew the western dialect, which had survived longer and birthed the modern Fraksskahl, and enough of the differences to figure out what he was hearing. That had sent Ean on a hunt through all the libraries in the city, trying to find even one reference on Old Eastern Fraksskahl. No success. Finally one of the researchers at the University had directed him to his family’s own library, with its vast collection of rare and unique tomes deemed too esoteric for printing.
Vast was an understatement.
And it also wasn’t very well catalogued.
Ean prayed for guidance as he ran his fingers along the spines of what appeared to be the language section. Dogah. Pertash. Tvhelxorn. Old Tvhelxorn. Old Tokarien. Late Imperial Tokarien. Fraksskahl. Old Western Fraksskahl.
No Old Eastern Fraksskahl.
Where else to look? History? Anthropology?
He heard the main doors open and shut and ignored it.
“Are you still looking for a dictionary of Old Garagran?”
Ean shrieked, jumped, and spun, knocking a few books off one shelf, as Trin whispered in his ear.
Trin just smiled and flipped her brown braid back, then started picking up the books and reshelving them for him.
“You’re too easy to sneak up on. And I always need the practice.”
Ean weighed whether he had the time to get angry at his sister and decided against it. He only had another forty kellas before he had to get back to other duties and that didn’t look like it would be close to enough. He turned around without a word and resumed his search.
“Why don’t you just ask her?”
Ean decided to try the history section and headed for the ladder leading up to the next balcony. Trin followed.
“She’s avoiding me,” he said. “I haven’t seen her in two weeks, except at dinner, and she’s always sitting on your opposite side, there.”
“I thought that might be why she was doing that.”
Ean looked back at her before starting up the ladder. When he reached the next balcony he headed for the Pre-Sahrah section.
“I could ask her for you,” Trin said as she came up the ladder.
Ean shook his head.
“It was private. It might embarrass her if she knew I’d told anyone else her words.”
“Alright then,” she said. “How about you come with me right now and I help you run her down? It would definitely be easier than going through all these books.”
Ean paused with his hand on a thick history of the second Skahllian Empire and considered.
No. Definitely not. If she wanted to avoid him… he would let her.
“You’re scared,” Trin said. “That’s why. You’re letting her avoid you.”
“Maybe,” Ean said and pulled the book off the shelf. Did it have an appendix? Yes. Language notes? Hmmmmm. No. Not enough, anyway. He put it back.
“Why are you scared, then?”
“Because she can eat me,” he said as he pulled a book that collected a number of correspondences in Old Eastern.
No language notes. Just letters. Argh. He put the book back.
“Because I don’t know what’s happening between us,” he said and walked his fingers along the books in front of him.
There was a silence. Trin was listening.
He turned and met her gaze.
“She gave me a look when she said those words. Intense. Like she was trying to see past my eyes to my soul. For a moment I wasn’t sure whether she wanted to kill me or…”
“Drag you off to a bed?”
Ean glared at her. “No. Not that. I’m sure it wasn’t that.”
Trin laughed and held up her hands.
“Alright. What color were her scales?”
“I can’t remember. All I could see was her eyes. I felt like she was going to set me on fire with them.”
“Hmmmm.” Trin joined him at the shelves and scanned along the history titles. “You know you’re looking in the wrong section, right?”
“I already checked the language section.”
“Ean. Which of our ancestors knew more languages than anyone else ever and lived during the height of the second Skahllian Empire?”
Ean racked his brain.
“Sang songs. Wrote books. Married an Alleji and dragged him back here?”
“Shelah Tavarin,” Ean said.
“Exactly. If anyone wrote a book on Old Eastern Fraksskahl, it was her. And all her books are…?”
“Bottom floor, middle section, next to the…”
“Race you,” Trin said.
Ean ran for the ladder he’d come from. Trin went the other way.
She won. Of course. By the time Ean had slid down the rails for three floors she already had the right book off the shelf, a massive tome with a kren-wood binding.
“‘A Complete Examination of Eastern Fraksskahl for the Poet, Diplomat, and Linguist.’”
She handed it to him.
Ean pointedly ignored her in favor of the book and flipped through the first few pages to the tidy, handwritten index. Thank Kai for his ancestors’ good sense in how to write books.
“A thorough lexicon of Eastern Fraksskahl recorded in the Dogatin Alphabet.”
Hmm. As long as the grammar hadn’t changed, that should do it.
Kol sstakka zani. Kol threkol zani.
Okay. Find the words…
“You’ve been rummaging through that book for twenty kellas,” Trin said. “What’ve you got?”
“Well… Fraksskahl is a very direct language, and not too complex. If I have the tenses right…”
“Spit it out.”
“You build me. You destroy me.”
Trin stared at him, looked at the book, then turned away and studied the ceiling.
“That’s all she said?”
“And then she stared at you like she was going to kill you?”
“Well, you can worry about it until evening, and then if you still don’t have it figured out you can ask her at the ball.”
“Yes. She’s required to spend some time with you there. You two owe the whole court at least one dance together.”
“The ball? It’s tonight?”
Trin gave him a withering stare.
“Ean! You forgot again?!”