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Other Tales of Tsai

Stories from the world of Tsai that are not of a folktale nature.

When Arlon was fairly small, about the age when Humen children are all arms and legs and intervening hungry bits, an old Ruhurdh, more crumpled and twisted and decrepitly ancient than most of its stunted, hairy breed, appeared in the village.   It was obviously a beggar, an itinerant pauper with no possessions besides the greasy hide bag which it wore slung over one shoulder, a tattered artefact studded with improbable and gruesome amulets and tied with oiled bits of sinew.

The creature (for who could call it a person?) stumbled into the village with a rolling uneven gait like a peg-leg sailor’s.  The youngsters, Arlon amongst them, threw groek dung and dead locusts and bits of stick, but their missiles glanced off the stranger’s hide and fell into the dust, and the expression on the gnarled hairy face didn’t change at all.  The whitened turned eyes below the deep hood didn’t flicker, not even when a large groek-pat bounced off the ugly flattened Ruhurdh nose.  The children continued in their sport despite this lack of response.  Strangers were few and far between and any amusement was better than the endless routine of village life.  Surely, if they persisted, they would get a reaction soon.

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After Udan had shown to his legions the helmet of the elder ones, he commanded that a city be built there on the banks of the Mouy, to preserve the memory of the five holy women and to stand guard over the approaches to Mira-Thosh. He bade settle there eightscore hundred of his soldiers, the veterans of many a campaign in the east and in the west. And Udan commanded that a road be built from Ar-Sadrun’s city of Guth Arul to the new city on the Mouy, to bind the new lands together like beads on a cord.

– From the Chronicle of Udan


Murud did not share his commander’s dislike of the folk of Thoss. It could not be denied that they smelled differently, that they were differently shaped, and that their morality (as far as he could see) rested on very different foundations; but there were many things about them which he thought admirable. Their keeping to themselves, which had been styled a vice, seemed laudable – there was much to be said in favour of a race that refused so steadfastly to meddle with the affairs of others. The restrained manner in which they conducted their occasional business with the outside world; the absence of quarrelling among them; the neat rows in which they planted their fruiting trees and laid out the bones of their dead; these were things that appealed to Murud, who valued order and the absence of discord. These were the chief values of his own people, and these were the values that they had imposed on their neighbours, and then on more distant lands, and more distant lands still. At the cost of many thousands of lives they had brought those virtues here, across a great ocean and many ranges of mountains, to find them already practised. Practised without any sign of the Thudun urge to force them on other  people, it seemed; and this seemed to Murud both singular and praiseworthy.

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A young Cirilman brought Absolom his fish on the terrace.  The human nodded to show his thanks, taking the bowl.  He smiled, and the Cirilman imitated him, opening his broad lipless mouth slightly to show a hundred needle-like teeth.  Absolom could not read its monochrome eyes.  “Thank you”, he added.  “Cjir-jhai yimmikor.”

The Cirilman backed away slowly as he spoke, its mouth now closed, its head rocking from side to side with amusement.  It bowed rapidly from the waist.  “Dai yim’.”

Absolom sat cross legged near the edge of the terrace, his back to the other diners.  Balancing the bowl between his ankles, he began breaking the fish into pieces and discarding the bones.  The black skin of the fish was sticky, and his fingers were soon smeared with it , but the flesh beneath was white and firm.  Before eating any, he smelt it with care, alert for the bitter tang of ehorot or hjan.  He had told the victualler to cook his food, instead of adding the alkaloid spices customary among the Cirilmen, but did not trust his command of their language.  It was better to be cautious this far from home.

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