0040 – Gareth: Departure, Part 2

The girl named Kau had hungrily devoured several meals’ worth of rations. Had Gareth been paying more attention, he likely would have stopped her by now. He had a vague recollection of learning, once, that to suddenly give a feast to a starving person had some negative effect or other. Only after finishing the book, writing in a kneeling position with the paper rested on a large rock, did he notice the sheer amount of discarded packaging littering the grass around her.

“Stop it.” He told her. “You’ll make yourself ill.”

“Ooooo pihain!” She answered, grinning, rubbing her stomach.

She was probably fine, he thought. She didn’t even look human, not properly. Maybe her stomach worked differently? Perhaps for… whatever species she was, looking this thin was normal?

His questions would be answered soon. He dipped the washed quill in red ink, closed his eyes, and waited for the words to come, as he inscribed the flimsy cover.


The thin, white-skinned girl gasped, pointing at the cover in amazement. “T’hana! Tui hana par’lo Aga’ta!”

Gareth grinned. He didn’t even know what she’d just said, but the sight of the formerly desperate and pleading girl with a smile on her face was enough to make her happiness contagious.

He looked straight at her. “O KA’PONNE NANA’I PAR’LO PORTUGUESE MAI’MENT!” He enunciated.

It was like he had somehow spoken with a breath of wind. Her lank, white hair rustled, and she flinched in surprise. Despite the shock, she seemed to realise he meant her no ill will.

“J’kab!” She exclaimed in delight. “Lik’om J’kab!”

Gareth gave her a broad and eager smile, handing her the book. He made confused and frantic gestures, trying to mime his intention. He wanted her to do the same to him.

Eventually, she got the message, gingerly taking the flimsy, ill-bound book of fragile lined paper in her frail hands. She glanced down at the cover, looked at him, and despite her apparent trepidation, she spoke loud and true.


Gareth felt the force of her words hit him. It was like suddenly having a desk fan turned on you, for one brief moment. He knew what was really happening, though, and so he knew what to look for, what feeling to latch onto. The sensation in his brain was curious, like the neat mental unpacking of a deck of cards, evenly spaced in his mind, that eventually lay all face up, as though they had always been a part of him.

He knew Portuguese.

“P’qui? Que’aha e’tat nor?” Kau asked.

It was time to take his new language for a test drive.

“Repita em Português. Eu sei que você pode me entender, então tente.” Said Gareth.

“Eu não consigo! Não sei nem o que é isso!” Kau replied.

In protesting her ignorance of her new language, she realised that it was, in fact… her new language. Her eyes widened in shock. Her hand clasped over her mouth in a girlish gesture, more befitting of a young teenager than a child.

“How did you do that?” Kau asked, in Portuguese.

“I’m a magician.” Gareth answered, also in Portuguese. It was, after all, their only common language.

“Magic… it’s like I thought. Magic books! Just like J’Kab the Great!”

Gareth shook his head in befuddlement. “I’m sorry.” He said. “I don’t know who that is. My name’s Gareth.”

“Gentle?” She asked. “Your name is Gentle? That’s a bit strange.”

Gareth thought back to what he’d actually said. He’d meant to say his name, but the word “Gentil” had come out instead. It was, after all, his name’s meaning.

“What’s yours?” He asked, to test the water.

“Stem.” She answered, using the word “Caule.”

So, “Kau” means “Stem”, Gareth realised. And because “Gareth” means “Gentle”, that’s how it’s coming out when we use Sermomancy to translate.

“I told you my name before.” She pointed out. “You even used it.”

“Yes, and I told you mine too, but it sounds different to you now, doesn’t it?”

Stem thought back. “Yes. Very different. What’s going on?”

“I taught us both a new language, and we’re using it to communicate.” Gareth explained. “I’m sorry. I’d have preferred to teach myself Agarthan – or you English, which is my own language – but I was unable to.”

Stem had a vague understanding of what languages were, even though today was the first time she’d heard any but her mother tongue. She shrugged, accepting the explanation despite its vagaries.

“I was able to do your magic, too, when I held your book.” She observed.

“Yes.” Gareth mused. “I was wondering if that would work, for someone completely uninitiated.”

A bitter wave came over him as he realised that his time as Karl’s apprentice really had been a complete waste. Months of slaving away had left him, he now knew for sure, with no innate advantage whatsoever.

“I’ve seen it done before.” Stem’s tone was grave. “My friend did it, weeks ago.”

“Really?” Gareth glanced at the knowledgeable, well-bound book that served as his familiar. It was lying, closed, just inside his pack. He always got the sense that it was watching and listening. “What exactly happened?”

“He killed a Lurker.” Stem stated, without bothering to explain what a Lurker actually is. “By speaking to it! He shouted ‘AGE!’ at it, and it DID! It died of old age, like a wrinkled old man!”

Something tugged at Gareth’s memory. A single word title. With a concerned expression, he pulled the familiar book out of his pack, and opened it without a word.

Upon its first page, in the usual block capitals, was written: “THAT’S ONE OF THE FIRST BOOKS.”

“You mean he had a book that was thousands of years old?” Gareth asked.


“Then we have to find out where he got it.” Gareth concluded. “Where’s your friend now?”

A haunted gloom fell over Stem’s features. “That,” she said, “Is a long story.”

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