The Inscription Pages
For the Guests at the Betrothal Rite
Puey, this is your youngest and prettiest and cutest Sister here. This book was a terror. I am NEVER going to help Éfhelìnye to anything e'er again for as long as I live. At first I was all, this will be fun, and she like, we need to teach you all your letters and you need helping painting your letters and won’t you like drawing out all these curly curve little letters? But these letters were so BORING I thinked I was going to die sometimes, and everytime I tried to make the epistles more interesting she kept crossing out the best parts and she wouldn’t let me use too many examples to make fun of Fhermáta or Siêthiyal even though they altogether deserve it. I’m sick of this book. Plus your wife kept trying to teach me ballet. Ballet and philology, what a fun year I’ve had! I almost wished I was with you in the battles! Puey, you are welcome to her. All I can say is we’re going to have a big celebration at your betrothals tonight, and I’m eating my weight in chocolate and candy canes and cake and raw cookie dough and I’m running around as much as I can and I’ll probably faint on the table and play with my favoritest doll Tét the Acceptible what Éfhelìnye got restuffed for me. Oh, and your wife told me that for all the good help that I’ve been to her I get the last line in her book. But just between you and me, I don’t think she caught all the little improvements I made in her grammar book. Enjoy! I’m going to eat so much chocolate I’ll get sick on someone! I hope I get sick on Fhermáta!
Your youngest and best and cutest Sister, Karuláta Khniêma Akhlísa the Great the Superb the Wonderful et cet et cet
Pew, I didn’t really help in writing this book, but I didn’t actively harm the project too much, so I deserve some credit. In fact, I deserve a great deal of credit for looking after your wife for the last year. At least these letters were a good excuse for me to smuggle information to you and the pirates. Did you really read all these dull letters? I’ll see you at the rites.
Dearest Brother, I’m afraid that matters of grammar and philology and lexicography are a little beyond me, but I am very proud of how hard your wife worked on this book for you, and her affection for you bespeaks of an happy life together. True, in the past year I have not been able to teach Éfhelìnye not to burn toast, not to set fire to the entire kitchen, and the less chanted about a certain incident that involved a clockwork creation of hers and the demolition of half our crannog the best. I wish you both the best, my dearest and beloved brother.
EVERYONE ELSE IS WRITING IN YOUR BOOK SO I WANT TO WRITE ALSO. HAVE AN HAPPY BETROTHAL RITE. I READ A COUPLE OF THESE LETTERS AND HELPED MY COUSIN WITH A FEW BUT I DON’T UNDERSTAND THEM. SURELY PURRING AND CLICKING AND MEWING SHOULD BE LANGUAGE ENOUGH. BUT ÉFHA TOLD ME THAT ONE DAY WE COULD WORK ON A LANGUAGE APPARATUS TOGETHER. THAT WOULD BE FUN. JUST TELL ME WHEN YOU WANT TO WRESTLE OR RACE. I SHALL STILL BEAT YOU.
This is your Pirate Uncle Xhnófho writing here. Let me just tell you that this is the best pink lemonade that I’ve e'er had, this funeral that you’re having here is the most entertaining that I’ve e'er attended. Wthí Qhòrem and Jèrikes are in good humor. Adorable tentacles and antennæ vacillating and … There’s candy and fungal sandwiches everywhere. All the best sorts of food and drink and … (the text becomes an unintelligible smudge) … what do you mean this is supposed to be a betrothal rite? Don’t you think I knows it when my dearest neice Puîyus and nephew Éfhelìnye are getting married? Who do you think you are, you disgusting little Qlùfhim! I don’t whose side of the family you … (the next few lines are a blur) … and I was pillaging with them when they were barely out of the bath for children, that’s how young the new Sun and Moon were if you want to fight you …. (the text breaks off in a series of ink splashes)
Sorry, little bairnlings, lwa, you’ll have you excuse your Uncle Xhnófho, he’s had a little too much pink lemonade, and the festivities haven’t even begun yet. This is Pirate Uncle Fhèrkifher, and I’ve only had a time to read portions of this book, but I must say that the Language that you created for us, oh divine Éfhelìnye, is of a most remarkable sort, and to think that we’ve all been speaking it our entire lives without knowing who invented it. Empyreal Puîyus, I had the honored of helping your wife draft a few sections of this book, for I have not completely forgotten the lessons that I learned from my seminary days with Grandfather Thiêfhilos as teacher. In fact, if I may boast a little, oh sorry, I’ve got to run. I’ll finish the inscription later. Your cousin Eirènwa is here. and she doesn’t look too happy.
Your Pirate Uncle Fhèrkifher
Congratulations on the day of your betrothal. I have already sent an early copy of this book to my scribes to be copied and made available throughout the new Empire which is being formed about you twain. I think that generations of children will be reading the Empress’ Grammar Book and learning language of it. I’ve even had a chance to look at the Lexicon which is coming out next year. Fantastic!
Children? So when should we start expecting children of you two? Heh heh heh.
Dear Holy Sun and Moon, Emperor and Empress
I have reviewed this manuscript and found it to be a marvel. Never before has anyone been able to explain unto me the modes and moods and voices of language before. I think that it has taken a very special person to be able to investigate Babel and analyze it for what it is, for while all of the rest of us were content just to speak, there was one among us, hidden and gifted, who was able to breathe into our words and make of it living imagination. You are the greatest of artists, oh Empress.
High Priest Qìtien
I hope your grammar thing has lots of words for rooster raptors. And the blue lotus. I loves smoking that blue lotos. Yum yum yum. Say, I don’t suppose you Imperial Types have any on you? I’d ask Xhnófho, but he’s fainted on the table whereon we’re passing your book to write on the first few pages. (These last couple of lines were partially torn by the claws of atsáya rooster raptors).
Hah hah hah hah hah hah! All the best. Write more books! Many books and many children! Be our Sun and Moon and reign for ever! Hah hah hah hah hah!
Khiêro of Old, your first Ancestor, Puîyos, and don’t you forget it!
Where the food?
Thank you Emperor Puîyos and Empress Éfhelìnye for saving us all and having your big adventure and quest and all that stuff. Still not the understanding what the entire language connexion thing was. Is this what you mean by the happy ending?
Tsóriêna teixhmi lwórÉfhelìnye! Many blessings upon the day of your betrothal and coronation, oh Puîyus and Éfhelìnye. As the only child here, aside from Akhlísa, who has actually read your entire book, I must say that it has clarified a good many questions I have had about Babel. My Grandmother Juraîqan used to correct my speech when I was little, and when I would ask why this phrase was incorrect she would just say that only a barbarian or Qhíng would speak in such a manner, but now that I see how all of the affixes are interlated, and how the clauses are put together with different cases, I begin to understand some of the beauty of language. I write that language came first, and that from language comes song and mathmatics, and now I hear the truth of it.
Beloved Emperor Puîyos,
Thank you for showing mercy upon my people. If you e'er get bored with your philologist ballerina Empress, perhaps you may want to visit the new clockwork worlds. Oh and what an interesting book this is.
Dear Emperor Puîyos and Empress Éfhelìnye
Thank you for all the kindness you are shown our kindreds. If it were possible for one to chose an Emperor and Empress, one would chose you two. Puîyos, you’re getting more beautiful as you grow up, but I’ll wait to kiss you when Éfhelìnye stops giving me such a look. And this book is pretty.
Why did you hand this book to me? I don’t care! I hate happy endings! I hate kisses and words and happiness grammar and true love and betrothal! Am I the only one hoping that this entire enterprise of love fails completely! Am I the only one unmoved by the future Empress writing a letter to the future Emperor every night and sealing it with a kiss and a tear and mailing it off to him in the battles at the edge of time! How ridiculous! And she wrote about grammar! Am I the only one plotting the downfall of Emperor Puîyos even from within his own household! Éfhelìnye is mine, and she was mine first! I am a wind up toy, crafted for her and only her, and she used to play with me all the time, but now that she’s growing up she has less time for me and wants to spend it with this horrible disgusting young man. I HATE PUÎYOS! I WILL KILL HIM IN HORRIBLE SANGUINE WAYS THAT ONLY AN ENRAGED WIND UP TOY CAN INVENT! TRUST ME, I WILL FIND A WAY TO REMOVE HIS RAVEN BLUE EYEN, HUSK HIM OUT OF HIS SKIN AND REPLACE ALL OF HIS INNER ORGANS WITH CLOCKWORK EVERLASTING WHILE I …
You’ll have to forgive the rambling of my twin Tetratríxe. He’s a little upset, especially since a large hyper Qhíng Pirate just collapsed upon him, and the Qhíng smells terrible, and for some reason Jhwèsta our Maker crafted us with a sense of smell. But let us be subtle about such things. In the years and decades to come, Tetratríxe and I shall wait and play and dance, and one day, when the new Emperor and Empress less suspect it, and they’re reading their silly love letters together and discussing grammar and volitionality and telicity one with another, then it is, that vengeful justice shall belong to the wind up toys, and Puîyos shall die! Tee hee hee hee hee!
Qwatríxe the Golden
We twain have read this book in its entirety, and its attention to detail, its humor, its melancholy, its warmth, and its love have moved us twain deeply. We both are very happy for Emperor Puîyos and Empress Éfhelìnye and know they will enjoy many generations of grammatical bliss
Pereluyàsqa and Khosyaràsqa
It is just as I forsaw it. I think, Empress, that you created the vatic aspect just for me, and perhaps also the injunctive mood. Take it for one who has seen everything, you will have a good life together.
Khniikhèrkhmair the Prophet
Mere words cannot describe the pleasure we all feel for you two at this moment, as I bind together your hands and you drink together for the first time the waters that will yoke your dreams together, and the Starburst Crowns I set upon your brows, the crystalline Khátatlhùmpa fanstaves in your hands, and for the first time clepe you Emperor Puîyos and Empress Éfhelìnye. Measureless indeed is my pride, especially since I knew your parents as children and knew you both from the days of your birth. The Dreamtime itself brightens to have you as the new Sun and Moon.
Khrùkhtii the Acolyte is already preparing this book for publication throughout all the Spring Empire. In your Father’s Empire of course, as was the custom since the writing of The Holy Writ of Khniikhèrkhmair, the first book e'er written, anything which was to be published of the reverand clerics had first to be reviewed by the priests. However, Empress, as the Mother of the Sylvan Caste, your word is our law, and nothing you write need be reviewed at all, but on your insistence that none think that you and your beloved lord and husband are seeking to change the law, I had sent a copy to be reviewed, and no errors of belief were found in it. In fact all of the wise and the high priests marvelled, for never before has an Empress written a book, and certainly one who was still a child, and yours is a work of such humor and erudition that all were amazed. I’d better pass the book along though, Great-Uncle Jhakúpa looks eager to write something. I’ll see you tonight at the celebration
Grandfather Thiêfhilos, whom all children call Grandfather Pátifhar
Oh my darling little one, my joy, my treasure, my cosset! I’ve been revising some of your notes on the Lexicon that we’ll have finished by the day of your wedding next year. Right now I’m deep in the letter Fhwaûs, and your notes are filled with fhwàju weapons and fhwàlwin harrying and fhwàpa laboring and fhwàqhu instruments of torment and fhwàsamat xhnir X, X knows how to, and fhwàti markets for candy and books and paltry things … How my mind spins! Anyway, I thought it best to take one night off to celebrate your coronation and betrothal, but I’ll be up before sunrise tomorrow to organize your notes on the glyph fhwaûs and … will somebody get this fainted Qhíng pirate off of me! This is disgusting! I thought you were putting your peiratical days behind you, Empress! I can’t work under these conditions! I’ll be in the library!
Your Great Uncle Táto
Can I write something more? Okay, Puey, your future wife here made me copy out lots and lots and lots of boring things, but that didn’t stop her from doing all sorts of mischief, and I don’t think you even heard a third of it. Do you know all the goofy things she’s done? I think grammar inspires her create deadly fireworks and sneak out in the middle of the night and disappear for days at a time. Oh, and now that we’ve gotten you betrothed, does that mean we can finally start looking for an husband for Siêthi? We have got to give our Sister away to some other family, and she’s so mean all the time. Surely you know some young warrior who wouldn’t mind marrying the Emperor’s Sister despite her countless faults.
Your best and prettiest Sister Karuláta Khniêma Akhlísa the Wonderful
Gimme that book. Don’t you call you Siêthi, even in writing. Now pass the book along to your cousins, they’ve been so very patient in waiting. And aren’t you supposed to be putting on your gown? You chowderhead!
Don’t call me chowderhead! You’re just angry because you’re inherently repulsive! Anyway, do I not deserve some glory for copy out this entire book myself and only with a lot of work?
Eiya, Puey, this is Ìkhnos your cousin. I can’t believe you’re going to be the Emperor. Why it was only like yesterday when I was holding you upsidedown in a pool of water to find out how long you can hold your breath. And you, it seems, can hold your breath for ever.
Puey this is Pàlron your smarter cousin. It was yesterday when we held you upside down in a pool of water. Does writing an inscription in this book mean that one actually has to read it? I don’t see any pictures in it at all, at least not pretty pictures of barns and hills and sunsets.
My dearest little cousins Puey and Éfhelìnye
Many happy days in your new life together. I’ve read the first few epistles in your book and find them to be very interesting. I wish you had used more examples featuring me, though. Xhás and I hope for you a long and happy life
Xataríyona and Xhás
My Darling little peiratical cousin Puey,
So you finally made it, you’re going to be the new Emperor, and the only Pirate Emperor we’ve e'er had. Hurray! I hope this doesn’t lessen any of your time in sailing the clouds and the fractal seas and gathering as much candy as you can carry. Sigh. I just wish that Fhèrkifher were a real pirate like you. But Fhèrke is, how can one say it, he’s just not very good at his chosen profession. In all those years of pillaging did he e'er bring me anything nice? For I can see that this book is the greatest treasure that any pirate has been able to collect.
Your beloved cousin Eirènwa
But darling, I’m a very good pirate. Look this ring that I got you. – Fhèrkifher.
That was my Mother’s ring. You idiot. – Eirènwa
Puey, Siêthiyal is being very mean to me and won’t let me keep writing in your book. I’m going to eat all the chocolate I can find and run around in circles and scream at your betrothal and shout – AKHLÍSA IS THE BEST! I’LL NEVER HAVE TO COPY ANOTHER GRAMMATICAL TABLE AGAIN! KHYAPÚNTA KHYAPÚNTA KHYAPÚNTA!
Darling and perfect Akhlísa, please give me more candy and [the rest of the line smudged]
Puey, keep this book away from her. I’m going after her.
Puey, let’s let our parents sign the book. We are all here because of them
AKHLÍSA IS THE QUEEN!
We are very proud of you. We’ll love you for ever. [in Grandmother Tàltiin’s handwriting]
Grandfather Jàkopar and Grandmother Tàltiin
I warned you against playing chess with me. Who do you think won? [in Grandmother Xhàtrajhil’s handwriting]
Grandfather Khangisqrírles and Grandmother Xhàtrajhil.
Well done. You have brought honor to your Ancestors. But … grammar book?
Your Noble Father, Íngìkhmar
Oh my beloved Son, I hope you joy and happiness all your days, and I hope you are content with this wife that you’ve (sigh) chosen. I’m sure it is possible for you to have done worse. She’s not nearly as beautiful and special as I am of course. But … grammar book? Éfhelìnye, you will start giving me grandchildren when the time comes. Grammar book?
Your beautiful and illustrious lady Mother, the unique Khwofheîlya
The new Day begins. Happy Starday, Éfhelìnye
The Lord Regent Kàrijoi
I liked the examples involving dancing princesses. They remind me of me. Dancing is fun!
The Lady Regent Khnoqwísi
Do I get to sign this? I don’t know what to write. Oh my! Perhaps I should not be writing the first jots and tiddles that come into my mind. My children, I know you will be very happy together. Éfhelìnye, I had the great pleasure of helping you revise some of the drafts of this book. I was not sure at first about your idea of writing a grammar book and lexicon, for such a thing has never been done before, nor was I sure that you should have included all of the additions that your Sisters have made. But in the end I have come to feel some of the music of this song.
Your Auntie Qtìmine
[An image of a disemboweling toe-claw dipped in paint and pressed upon the page. Beneath it, written in Abbá Íngìkhmar’s handwriting: Don’t forget our trusty velociraptor Stitlhàrkhlo!]
Happy Starday. Happy grammar and good luck!
Tét the Acceptible.
I just love betrothal rites! I cry tears of crystal words! Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Why, this is the entire reason why I invented romance in the first place, is so we could have the big celebration at the end. Have I e'er told you about how I invented kissing? I’ll tell you the story later, there’re some nymphs I want to meet.
Our Heart Raven
[On the last page for guests one finds this in large crayon scrawl:]
KARULÁTA KHNIÊMA AKHLÍSA WAS HERE! HURRAY FOR ME! I WRITED ALL THE STUPID CHARTS THE PRINCESS MADE ME WRITE, AND I’M PARTYING BECAUSE WE HAVE A NEW EMPEROR AND EMPRESS! I’M GOING TO EAT THE MOST CHOCOLATE E'ER!
[The rest of the page is stained with chocolate, and the bottom is torn and looks as if someone with small and childish teeth has taken a bite out of the paper.]