Epistle I: My Betrothal Present to Puey, an Introduction to the Babel Language
Be this unto Crown Prince Puîyos my beloved, the Son of both Kàrijoi and Íngìkhmar, the future Emperor of all the Land of Story and Master of Health and Prosperity of Life
From his Princess Éfhelìnye, the Starblossom of the Land and future Empress
By way of Telàqhawa, the Raven Courier Service Express
Copied by the hand of Karuláta
As summer comes
May the peace and blessings of the Ancestors, Spirits, Immortals, and the Father of Stars be unto you.
Oh my Puey, my beloved, my best friend, my husband of tomorrow, I wept all night when you were taken away from me. Grandfather Pátifhar and your Father Íngìkhmar and the Lord Regent my Father Kàrijoi told me that you would have to leave so soon, even though you had just returned to me, but that there was still one last battle to be fought even at the edge of the Dreamtime, at the place where Creation is beginning anew. They told me that I had to stay here in safety, and that honored Khwofheîlya and my lady Mother would take care of me and try to teach me how to be a wife and Empress, and that your Cousins and Sisters would look after me, and that I would hardly even notice your absense. But when I stood upon the harbor and watched your ship’s leaving, I tasted naught but sorrow and ash, and mine heart was breaking once again. Er that you left, when our parents permitted us to embrace before the fleets had to leave, I promised you that I would write to you every day, and that somehow the vast expanse of time and space between us would fade away. But as your ship left, and I dissolved into tears, I knew not of what I would write to you.
I prayed for you and gave thanks for you before you were returned to me and shall always pray for you while you are away at the war, in joy shall I remember our moments together, for you shall always dwell in my heart. I can only pray that the love I feel for you may inspire me to love better your Sisters and Cousins and better to serve them in the new Clan that we have stablished.
I did not sleep at all last night, after you left for the war. I wept all night in the arms of my Mother, and she cried with me, her tears were crystalline and cool and comforting, and she held me in her wings and caressed my face. In the dawntide I arose but had no life in me, for existence had no purpose, so unjust was it that you should be taken away from me so soon. I watched the Suns rise, and too listless was I even to dance before their light. But when I saw your youngest Sister Karuláta as she drew pictures upon papyrus sheets, I remembered my promise to you, and so I gathered up some apples took up paper and quill and wandered deep into the forest and listened to the streams and the trees and flowers and the voices of all things that are blooming in our new summer world, and I thought and closed mine eyen and tried to think of something to write unto you. Perhaps then, at last, I slept, for memories came unto me, and when I opened mine eyen again I remembered that long ago, when we were naught but children, I had made another promise to you, one which I had been negligent in keeping, and that now, perhaps, even though were were far away, I may be able to keep it.
Do you remember when we first we met in the Hidden Gardens, the islands of milk and flower and light in the midst of the Dragon flames that everswirled deep within my Father’s imagination? Looking back upon it I might have given you quite a scare. You came flying among the Dragons which were set always to guard me, you were almost dancing upon the tips of the flying trees that orbited the isles, and there you sang among the birds and flying fishes and whales and told they you that you would find me somewhere in the midst of the flame islands in the very center. You descended as a comet. You were the night. But when you finally came down into the lowest of the environs of the gardens, you found a Princess who was perhaps just a little too eager to meet you, and who was already packing up her books and parchment and apples and ballet slippers and preparing to elope with you and destroy the Empire which had lasted since the Dawn of Time. For I had been dreaming about you all of the days of my life, I had notebooks filled with drawings of you and your Father and Sisters, I even had reams of papyrus whereon all of Jaràqtu had been sketched along with bits and pieces of the Tlhikókha the Winter Imperial Express, and of the Qhíng triple viceroy kingdoms, the Qlùfhem and Qája and many other folk, pirates and swords and flowers and marvels for which I did not yet have words. I tried to explain to you, although I did a very poor job of it, so anxious was I to run away from home, so nervous was I to be meeting the boy of my dreams, that I had been creating words for you and all those that you and I would meet on our journey. Even now I find it a little fantastical to think that when I had been tiny child and painting with my fingers in the company of Great-Uncle Táto and climbing trees and learning to dance, that all that time I had already been creating language. I created words, and they became real, and all of the Dreamtime grew from those words. The sounds of those words created forests and dreamlands and floating castles and vast living ships that plied the fractal heavens and alien creatures and monsters and quests and beautiful maidens and you in the center of them all. I tried to tell you, although we were quite busy as we tried to escape from the Dragons that my dread Father had set for to guard me, that one day I would make you the new Emperor and that I would teach you to speak, for you are altogether innocent of language and best communicate in gesture and blink and the sounds of Qtheûnte the speech of plantimals. And although you can write in the glyphs of Babel, in brilliant and elegant calligraphy such as Grandfather Pátifhar had taught you in the years of your warrior training, still, your writing has the feel of being translated from one mode of thought to another. And so as we fled together, flames and Dragons arising wroth behind us, I promised you that one day yours would be the poesy of all the worlds, and wellcleped would you be called Xhluntakhlaûselar, the Poet Warrior.
What exactly is language? Babel is almost indefinable by its very essence. It is like when you tried to explain music to me, for by my Father’s stern decree, not only was I forbidden to meet anyone else and especially not a gossoon, but I was to be keptinnocent of music, and so it was only after you took your harp and played unto me the songs of your lilting homeland Jaràqtu that I heard the abstraction of rhythm and music made into a form of art. My attempting to teach you language, perhaps, may be a little like when you set my fingers upon the strings and showed me how to strum them. These little epistles that I shall write, though, will only be the shadow of what language is, for only when you return to me, and you once again hold me in your arms, will be able to read aloud the examples and touch your lips and help you frame these sounds into words. Until then, language must be the silent song of our letters together.
In the beginning all of the world-words had the same language, this we all know to be a fact. But yesterday you told me, before the Elders sent you off to fight the final battle, that you had seen a vision within the dissolution of dreams, that you had seen stories and fractals arising within the shadows and memory of the void and that within the void were memories of the glory that is Babel, the first tounge, the grandfather of all language. The shadows of the void remembered it, indeed, or at least the very end of it, when the worlds were cracking and decaying, when Prince Jhwèsta’s Tánin Automata came swimming around in the darkness, when my Father Emperor Kàrijoi’s power was finally completed and overthrown, and thoe who were falling into the void were the last speakers of the Language that I had made for love of you, and as they fell they forgot all the marvelous inflexions, the deferential and honoric modes, and all of the subtleties of fhìtyu vocabulary and syntax. And the Babel language melted away and became murmur and sigh and shadow, and once you tried to describe unto me that sound of the downfall of language, and it sounded unto me a little like the vocables: ap’roeijhiatik ainu almósan alteik ann’ian astroeijiatik astroníjhan astexh’tanóan fh’arsúmian eusqara fh’aruxh’axh’qi kakésan jh’ifh’jhan jh’uqjh’ikamjh’aqtan n’ram’in’ien iqwatóriel inyuitaluit etrusqan q’apanokarifh’ q’ilyak khm’angáni n’engu inn’opasifhik iroqwóan khn’ipongo quts’n’ul tlhingakhn’ol korían khn’ananei khn’aijerkángo khn’ailosakh’éran khresakhlafh’erifh’olep’korn’I otomangían paits’ar paluln’on pamanyungan penuxh’an protoqwenn’ien sainotifh’etan siúan súmer tai urálik m’alérin m’ulqan or something like unto that. It was nonsense, but a delightful nonsesense, a fancy that in the void Babel may be forgotten and with it the rich hereitgage of the Story Worlds, the Dreamtime whence all myth springeth.
For just as the Dreamtime is the world, the beginning and end and origin and authory, just so is Babel the language, the structure, the harmony, the hearatbeat. The Dreamtime consists of an infinite number of story worlds in an infinite number of timelines everstretching outwards from the Dawn of Time until the Final Dissolution when all things ended in dust and Winter. The great Winter Empire of the Dreamtime lasted until this end, and now in a new form begins at the beginning, and from this central governance oversees these endlessy rich and complicated stories that are worlds. About a quadrillion quadrillion souls exist within the Land, and all of them speak the same language that I created for you in the gardens, though are are many dialectical variations in phonology and accent and pitch. Language is expansive enough that it may have enough fhìtyu vocabulary for all of the cultures and technologies of these worlds that are stories, it is complex and silly enough for the sacrifices of politics, it is versatile enough for the games we play, wide enough for arts and alchemies and literature, and yet strong enough that it does not break apart among the confusions of peoples and nation and time. The phonotactics of Babel, and by that I mean the sounds that we use for the chanting and singing of our language, is roborant enough that it may admit a great difference in dialect without any hinderance to understanding. We who are children of the Dreamtime learn this without having to think about it, we hear a Kurkuîlo speaking and hear that many of his vowels are nasalized but we understand what he says, we hear that the Qhíng have deep and mellifluous voices while the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu have higher pitched words, and we barely even notice that they do not all pronounce the consonants and vowels in exactly the same way. For instance, the stopping consonents in the divine dialect of Babel, that of Khniîxhwa are p, t, k, and q, but many khlùli dialects aspirated them, that is they prounce them with a puff of air after, or they may pronounce them with voice, or, like the Kurkuîlo, may have nasalized jìngtos allophones unto them, and the sound which one species uses as a jìngtois allophone may be the sound that a different species uses as the actually phoneme. The flexibility in the pronunciation of Babel is especially efficacious for some species which have vocal organs very different to the færie larynx, species such as the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu who speak with the crepitation of their celia and the Qája who have mandible parts. And so, my Puey, my love, we must always keep in mind that the way that you and I intone Babel is not the way that the other Real People do, for Babel itself be not spoken just by the Xhámi, the Færie of the Land, but by the Þe Emlalàqta ond Þe Pèrithe ond Þe Xeriîqe ond Þe Xhàkhmat ond Þe Qhíng ond Þe Kháfha ond Þe Khlitsaîyart ond Þe Khmàfhlort ond Þe Qája ond Þe Qriî ond Þe Traîkhiim ond Þe Ptètqiikh ond Þe Qlùfhem Aûm ond Þe Fhlóla ond Þe Kajúju ond Þe Xhùqhenoin ond Þe Xhnatàsti ond Þe Tlhiqimíkhe ond Þe Jongèrya ond Þe Fhliî ond Þe Khòjhwa ond Þe Sòjhwa ond Þe Pokhexháqa ond Þe Xhrùmpum ond Þe Squîsar ond Þe Sufhàltii ond Þe Xaxhestàriqhe ond Þe Qrìkhasat ond Þe Xhmàsqor ond Þe Kurkuîlo ond Þe Fhlùltekh ond Þe Xhmaûmumum ond Þe Khnenyènwa ond Þe Lwàlyas ond Þe Thùlwu Aûm ond Þe Jhèngqekh ond Þe Xhlaûxher ond Þe Tájo ond Þe Xhyaîqtekh ond Þe Syìplet ond many othren, the Real People, the starfolk, the original wihts of the stories that are worlds, the volk who walk in realms of lore and myth.
Sometimes, oh Puey, my sweet, my treasure, I think that you are the only one who could have survived in the Dreamtime without knowing how to speak. Even if we passover the rites of Uxèmatiit, the Land is fraught with puzzles and complexities of language. If we can imagine, you and I, that you were not venturing off unto war again, but could walk within the streets of a great city or in an agora, what marvels you would hear, as all music and all language of a thousand different folk awoke unto your waking ear. This is the Babel of the Dreamtime, these are dreamlands which are builded out of the wordsmith of language. And now, here in the imagination of your heart, what would you like to do? Would you like to visit again the great pandimensional Pùlyul stock exchange in Qamélo, or would you walk upon the aurelian beaches of Khníxher, or would you return unto your people, the romantic warriors of Jaràqtu? Verilly would you wish to visit the miracles of the Winter Patriarchy, to come unto the very center of the great Imperium that reaches out through all time and all space, throughout a billion, billion realms and encompassing a quadrillion, quadrillion souls? Would you come unto Qhixiêjoir the Winterscapes, and the great icy capitol of all the Patriarchy, and to the great and golden city where my Father used to dwell, even Eilasaîyanor wherewithin countless beings from many isle planets and story worlds are gathered. Here in your imagination you shall have to pack very carefully. Of course you shall be armed, you who are expect at the xékhur claidheamh mór, you are master at impaling spear and māccuahuitl and sword. Have you packed your lunch? Have you practiced your ritual responses for when the reverend clerics engaged in blood sacrifice? Do you hold tribute for my Father the old Emperor? No time, no time! We have to hurry! The crowds in our imagination already surge. But where perhaps I would be alarumed for someone else innocent of language to be caught up in such arcane and decorous worlds, you alone I would trust to survive. You barely had any need to talk, and talking is something that the rest of us Real People do quite a bit in the Land. All of the star folk here just enjoy it. We speak and argue and sing and shout and endless debate and sometimes play tricks one upon the other. Our dreamclothing is often icovered in runes and glyphs from various writing systems, and our statues have ancient dolven ideograms upon them. Although we love our words, few of us though love talking about the words. I find Babel to be a rather punning language. Sometimes your youngest Sister Karuláta says qìr poâ poâ poa, that is, in this very place here, and she also says, qhìqhí qhí, to wit, It’s really a person! What a delight. If one had to describe language in word word it would have to be qwànga, enjoyment and pleasure and delight. For language can be subtle and plodding, it can be heavy and light, it can trip right at the edge of the tounge with liquidic sounds and fhtoîsyoi diphthongs, it can be slow with clicks and uvular sounds. I can take no credit for creating this gift, this language for you, oh Puey, my delight, and I hope that in the years to come you may learn a little of the speaking of it and share some of this joy with me.
I have read everything which the Wise have written about the structure, origin, meaning, and grammar of Babel and found it quite wonting and not a little contradictory. The best works which exist about Babel have simply been treatices upon the qhèrna, the grammar that is based upon the Imperial dialect of Khniîxhwa, the Divine Dialect, and all these works simply state that it is for one’s own wellbeing that one imitate such and such a style, but the Wise have had no understanding of why one form is preferred o'er another, and sometimes they have completely misinterpreted a phrase or a word. Without any attempt at investigation and without any imagination whatsoever, the traditional writings about Language, incomplete as such writings may be, have simply focused upon this datum: Long ago the Prophet wrote his book, the oldest book in all the universes, the tome which mean call Teiqhatlhèxhra Khniikhèrkhmair. It is a little odd, though, that I was at least eleven winters of age before realizing that although I had been saying, The Tlhèxhra of Khniikhèrkhmair all my life, that I did not quite have an understanding as to the meaning of it. Khniikhèrkhmair is probably either a name or a title of the Prophet, and which it is I still do not know even though the Prophet now walks among us again. Tlhèxhra means anything that is holy and written, and so I think of it in terms of Scripture, Prophecy, or Holy Writ. The variety of language wherein the Teiqhatlhèxhra Khniikhèrkhmair was written has become the basis for all Khniîkha culture, the first and oldest culture in all the Dreamtime, and the culture of mine own family, the ruling House of the Pwéru. However, The Holy Writ of Khniikhèrkhmair as I have discovered through analysis is not written in a single variety of language but in a rainbow of flavors so that it would be palatable to all of the species and nations of Real People. Moreover it is presented in different forms, in stories and plays and debates and psalm, and all of these are in a slightly different rhythm of language. So while the traditional books about grammar have tried to create for themselves a grammar for us all based upon such an khlunáli dialect, I rather have tried to present Babel as an whole, as the language which I myself created long ago in the loneliness of the Forbidden Gardens, and not as an artificial construct. The source for the grammar that I shall be writing comes from mine own experience and imagination as well as all that I have been able to find from the students of the Prophet who in turn produced their own diverse and contradictory linguistic tracts. Plus, whenever I close mine eyen and dream of you, my love, and I try to still mine heart from fear of the war, I catch glimpses of new words and new constructions and new miracles within Babel. In some aspects I may have to edit and simplify my thoughts, for there is still so much about Babel that I do not understand yet, and do not wish to confuse you with erroneous information.
The Babel languagee, oh my beloved, I sometimes wonder whether it is the primordial tounge from beyond, from before the Dawn of Time and after the end of the Dreamtime, whether perhaps it is the original language of the Awakened Land, of the Paradise that awaiteth us. All intelligent creatures, from mortals to spirits to Dragons to Ása within the infinite story worlds in the infinite realms in the infinite universes for all time and all space speak the language that is Babel. However, it is chanted and written in the Holy Writ that there is the Paradise that exists beyond Reality, and theat there is something beyond all the Dreamtime, and that in such a place above all places, where the the Heavenly Father, the Starfather may dwell, that the Ása were born long before there was even a dawn of time, and they surely they must have communicated in language in that place, in the Awakened Land that is Paradise. And upon the Dawn of Time, when the Father of Paradise created the boundless Dreamtime in the Void and the great Àyan began to dream Reality and the Stars began to dance Reality, few of the Ása could remember a time before the Dawn of Time, and fewer still could remember the words spoken before. It was of no consequence, of course, they thought, since all creatires in the Dreamtime always had and always shall speak Babel, Babel is part of the very alchemy of the Land. No other discreet form of verbal communication is needed. If there e'er were a language before or after Bale, it was thus forgotten. But still, I wonder, did the Ása our Immortal Cousins really speak in language before the beginning of all things? Did they sing in Babel or with some other frame of words? If a word indeed created the Dreamtime, and dance and song hallowed it and filled it, what could exist before the word?
Thou, oh Puey, are the only one, with perhaps your feral twin Ixhúja, who has e'er had to learn language in the way that a child learns to paint words and practice calligraphy, or one of artisan caste to hold saw and lathe, or an acolyte to light the candles, or a warrior to grasp the sword. For all of the rest of us, Babel came as naturally as learning to stand upright and walk. Therefore in you, and also in your beloved twin Ixhúja, we have for the first time the opportunity to examine the way language indeed functions. For the Babel language is the only form of verbal communication in all of the Dreamtime. I first started creating it when I was about five winters of age, when I dwelt in the Forbidden Gardens and had only Great-Uncle Táto and Grandfather Pátifhar as companions. Mine Elders told me that language has no origin and does not change, that it was the tounge that the Æons and Stars spake before the Dawn of Time and that it is the language that is inbuilt in the hearts of all in the Dreamtime. I knew that both of these myths were true, for the Dreamtime existed before I came about, and I have never bestowed a name upon any creature, and yet I also knew that I was creating the words and affixes and declensions. Although there are countless minor variations in language such as slightly differences in pronunciation, such as my Elders told me, no variation is great enough that it cannot be understood by all, hence it was perfect, a circle, unchanging, timeless. And therefore no one in the Dreamtime has had to learn language. In fact, so Great-Uncle Táto and Grandfather Pátifhar told me after my numerous inquiries on the nature of language, there is no actual name for the language itself, it is just Babel, words. Even from a young age I wondered at that. Cities had names, nations had names, any place that could be peopled had a name. Children had names, anyone who had a father could be hight. And yet Babel, being endless and liminal was just Babel. Is it possible to name it, I used to ask them, but Great-Uncle Táto just shook his head and Grandfather Pátifhar told me that it was a nonsense question, like trying to name some dew or a cloud. But why then do we call our city Eilasaîyanor and the Heretics who dwell in Redlands of cannals live in land called Khnìntha? Do we not swim in dreams of language, do we not inhabit language as we do a cloak or a place? But one does not name clothing, Grandfather Pátifhar chanted. But I read that a warrior could name his weapon? Or is that a title? When I grew older and was able to visit the libraries I tried to investigate this puzzle. I found it interesting that one of our words for all the Dreamscapes is Khlijhatàkhta, that is, wherever Khlìjha is spoken, and since Khlìjha is one of the terms for language and has the connotations of being pristine yet primogenial, being primordial and primitive and yet also whimsical, I believe that if Babel e'er had a name, that we should call it Khlìjha. I should note, oh Puey, my beloved Prince, that in some of the reference books that I consulted that the linguists related the story that My Lord Raven claimed to be the invented of Babel. – Before I came around, people had to communicate by coughing – once Our Heart Raven chanted. One should nto take his claim too seriously. Raven also claims to have invented kissing, sneezing, and boredom.
So we are left with several unresolved and perhaps unresolvable mysteries. What is the name, if anything, of the Babel Language? Did the Immortals speak Babel before they became the Immortals? How was it that a young jhpaipasàraxim, a ballerina princess, managed even as a child to create language of all the worlds? What is the exact relationshp between Babel and the Gibberish that you discovered within the void? Is it true as the Wise have claimed that Babel is a self-contained unmutable unchanged linguistic system with no ancestry at all. Is it possible for a language to have an ancestor just as people do? What did the Ása speak in their infancy before Time began? Although the Dreamtime is reality containing with it all time and all memory, there is an ultimate reality, the Paradise that last after the Dreamtime end, and Babel I think will still be spoken there. The syntax of Babel I think may be wellsuited and poetic enough for Paradise, its predicate object subject order, its secondary modes for deference, existence, and honoring, its unmarked plurals, and its many agglutinatig features. The phonology is simple enough for the children of the Dreamtime to learn, and yet perhaps in Paradise we shall find many other Dreamtimes and they too may be able to frame our worlds together. The vocabulary of Babel perhaps already creates ripples and echoes unto Heaven. Will the People of Paradise find it easier to speak Babel or to translate from Babel into the Grandmother of Babel? Will the names of our great nations and cities be fhraîxhu calques upon their tounges, will they be approximations of names and places and dreams for them? How can one even begin to conceive of how man shall speak in Paradise, the place that I once called Xhmaintiiyáserteilatheplienóqha, the Land of Happy-Whimsicoral-Sunshine-Kissy-Love.
My dearest and move beloved Puey, the boy of my dreams, the first friend I e'er had, the one who rescued me from my Father’s Dragons, my heart is sick for longing for thee, and I fear I cannot write to you any more this night. I shall ask Karuláta to copy out this epistle for me so that I may keep the original and the transcript may be sent to you in the battle. I will pray for your safe journey all this night and weep unceasing. Please take care of yourself in the conflict that will come, and be assured that all my thoughts and hopes venture out with thee, mine only love.
Hello Puey this is your best and cutest little foster Sister Karuláta Khniêma Akhlísa. This is the immanuensis’ note. See, I learned a new word today, xunínwa. I’m a xunínwa. A xunínwa am I. Anyway, Mamà says that I need to practice painting my letters so I’ve been assigned to be the assistant to the Princess. Imagine me, scrivener to the new Moon Empress! Hurray for me! I’m just the best. This letter was more boringer than I thought, but I just know they’ll have to get better. All of the rest of us are fine here. Éfha won’t stop crying though. For some reason Ixhúja and Siêthiyal are behaving themselves. That always means trouble. I’ve got to go, the Princess wants me to post this via Raven Courier by sunrise. I’ll talk to you later!
Lots of love! Kisses! Kisses! [Impression of lips at the bottom of the page. Included in the letter is a single red blossom which Princess Éfhelìnye has included for her love]
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