Part one of chapter ten: https://www.youngwriterssociety.com/work/MaybeAnd...
The Fallen King
Liam is learning to speak the Old Tongue, an ancient language that allows one to command the land itself. As Keeper of the Light, it is Liam's responsibility to save drowning sailors, but he still doesn't know how to steer the ship.
Grandpa took a deep breath of the salty air, seeming to take pleasure in it. Liam had recently noticed his Grandpa doing things like that. He heard the land mutter, too, and seemed to take great joy in it.
Liam followed his gaze out to the sea, trying to listen to what Grandpa was hearing. Liam hadn’t quite gotten ahold of hearing the ocean yet. It was too big compared to him. It was like he was trying to make out a painting with his eye inches away from the canvas.
Grandpa gestured at a small path cutting into the cliffside. It weaved down the rocky faces, between grass and moss. The path to the Keepers boat.
“We’re going to the boat?” Liam asked, nervous but excited. His father had trained him in the King’s speech, the rituals, and caring for the lighthouse, but never the boat.
Navigating the small ship between the waves and the jagged cliffs was a death sentence. With one wrong turn, you’d puncture your hull and be smashed against the rocks or drown in the churning sea.
“Why do you think Keeper of the Light is responsible for saving sailors lost in the cliffs?” Grandpa asked instead of answering.
Liam thought about it as they began to descend the path. Grandpa didn’t like when Liam gave answers without thinking.
“Because they live closest to the cliffs,” Liam answered. It seemed too easy a reason, so he knew it was probably wrong.
“Why do we live closeted the cliffs?” Grandpa asked. Liam realized he’d called the Keepers ’they,’ like he wasn’t a part of them.
“Because that’s where the light is, the fire that we keep.” Liam continued, still feeling that was too obvious.
“Yes, but why would the Old One, in his wisdom, place the fire outside of town? Wouldn’t it be easier to get Astrum inside the town?”
Liam nodded. He had thought that countless times. Arwen hadn’t liked the village. She said it was too loud, but Liam had always loved that bustling liveliness. It would have been more practical to have Astrum in the town anyway, easier to reach.
“It would have been too hard to listen!” He declared, excited he’d got it. “People are really loud, if the Keeper was trying to listen to the Old Tongue, they wouldn’t have been able to hear.”
“Yes, the Old One gave the Keeper of the Light the important and separate responsibility of listening. Listening to the fire of Astrum, and listening to the ancients. They couldn’t do that in the village.”
They arrived at a bend where the path went out over a straight drop into the sea. Liam leaned out and looked at the rocks and water, still almost a hundred feet below. It made his knees feel wobbly.
“So, let me ask my question again. Why would the Keepers be given the near-impossible job of navigating the cliffs by boat?”
Liam stared down at the water crashing and washing around the stones. The sharp rocks revealed or disappeared as the water churned around them.
“They were the only ones who could have done it. Anyone else would run their boat upon unseen rocks or sandbars. A Keeper of the Light, trained in listening, could hear where the rocks are and which way the water is flowing, thereby able to navigate their boat around the rocks and in a way, so the water doesn’t smash them against the cliffs.”
Grandpa nodded, “Yes, yes!” He said, obviously glad his grandson was understanding. “I suspect that is why your father never trained you in it. He could barely do it himself. Your father couldn’t hear the Old Tongue. He felt it a bit, by instinct, and so could sometimes navigate by that, but I wouldn’t have wanted him to save me.”
Liam laughed, thinking back on his father. Dad had always been a single-minded man. He could really only focus on one thing at a time, but when he was focused, he could do wonders. Liam started to walk back down the path again. “So you want me to learn to use the boat, so I can get better at listening?”
“Not just listening, but listening fast. Listening in a pinch. Anyone can go sit in the forest for weeks, ruminating and finding names of the forest. A Keeper of the Light must hear the names in an instant.”
“Why would you need to listen so fast?” Liam asked. “When would the village need guidance so immediately?”
"No, fast listening isn't about guidance. It's about speaking. When in an emergency, a battle, a disaster, or a catastrophe, you need to be able to find a name quickly. There are books with lists of the names of powerful ancients. Throughout history, some of these books have been fought over more than gold. With the name of the right ancient, you could topple kingdoms. Imagine a man with the full might of a walking mountain behind him, a wildfire that cannot be put out, or an army of wolves. You'll read all the names we can get our hands on, but you can't memorize them all, and those books can't take into account every little stone or plant. If you need to command one of the humble or unrecorded ancients quickly, like on the battlefield, you'll need to find their names through listening."
Liam’s stopped. “Battle? How can you use the Old Tongue in a battle?” It both confused him and excited him. Spells on the battlefield? Sounded like the heroes of old.
Grandpa stopped and huffed. “Liam, drag over a big rock. Any rock will do, as long as you think I can’t lift it.”
Liam scurried off, excited for whatever Grandpa was about to do. Grandpa often took to live examples, and they were always exciting.
Liam dragged over a mossy stone that was flattish but roughly the size of his head. The cliffs were covered in broken rocks, so it wasn’t hard to find.
Grandpa looked at it and bent over.
“Crìondoh Ek Geallame Legus, Petrahed,” He said in the old tongue, “Become small until I awaken thee, Stone.”
As always, Liam knew the words basic meaning, but he was beginning to get better at understanding more of the nuances. When he said ‘thee, stone,’ he was not saying a general you, but actually a name. The name of the stone. There was no perfect translation for it, but it meant stone. Not just any stone. That stone. It meant its little dent in its side, and the moss that grew on it, its patterned dark grayish shade, and its exact weight.
It was more than that too. That name was the core of reality that made it a stone, not a tree, a drop of rain, or another rock. It was the stone. It was almost more the stone than the stone itself. Like how a man was more than just the sum of all the food he’d eaten, water he’d drank, and the air he’d breathed. The words were the soul of the stone.
The word ‘small’ was also more complex than the simple translation suggested. It meant an exact size. ‘Become’ meant at a specific rate, and awakened carried a whole paragraph of meaning. In a few words, Grandpa was giving precise instructions.
As Grandpa spoke the last syllable, the rock just… shrank. It was amazing. Impossible. Like nothing Liam had ever seen before. Every part of it pulled in at once - as if it was a living creature contracting.
The change was quick, but once it was done the same stone was sitting there, now just a little smaller than an apple. Grandpa leaned over and picked the rock up. It fit easily in his hand now.
Liam looked at him, aghast. Grandpa still hadn’t done much speaking in the Old Tongue. He didn’t like using it lightly, so every time Liam got to see him do it was a treat. Grandpa smiled and then threw the stone off the cliff. It flew far. Grandpa had put a lot of strength into it.
“Legus!” He shouted, “Awaken!”
As he said it, the stone rapidly expanded, becoming its old size. It crashed down into the sea with a splash and a boom, hitting the water with great force. Liam knew no man could have thrown a stone that large, that hard. But it hadn’t been that large when it had been thrown. Liam imagined a rock that huge crashing through the front ranks of a military. Even against a creature of Darkness, a hit like that would be devastating.
“Could you see how that might be helpful on a battlefield, Liam?” Grandpa asked, obviously very proud of himself.
“That was amazing! What else like that can you do? Could you shrink an enemy? Could you make yourself a giant?” Liam asked, his words all stumbling over each other in his excitement.
Grandpa chuckled and shook his head. “The true names of men are much harder to find than that stone. I just had to listen for a moment, and then I had it. Generally, the more complex something is, the harder it is to find its name. But the Old Tongue is used in much more than on battlefields. Once as Keeper, I used it to put out a fire raging across Lownire. Another time, I stopped a river from flooding into the town. Once I even had to dissuade some angry tree ancients from crushing some barns. If I had been slow of hearing, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything in those situations.”
“Why’d you say Legus? You always say Legus for things like that. What’s it mean, exactly?” Liam asked.
Grandpa cocked an eyebrow at him. “Better pronunciation there. But Legus is commonly used as a trigger word. It means Awaken, which can apply to a lot of different situations and, depending on how you say it, can intone a lot of different meanings. You can put a waiting command in something to go off or ‘awaken’ when you use the word. That’s what you did to me. You did not say the command that caused me to heal. You merely ended the effect of sleeping mind I had put on myself. You awakened me.
“More commonly, Legus is used if you want to make something a bit more talkative. Like if you need to question a tree about what it’s seen. Or you could use it to awaken something to get it to serve you like a true ancient. There are a fair amount of already ‘awake’ ancients out there, fires that move from forest to forest, storms that never dissipate, and trees that can get up and walk. Some never fell asleep. Others were awakened and never put back to sleep. Regardless, for those names, you’ll want to look in the old books.”
“Do we own the old books?”
“Yes, written before the fall of the Kingdom, the lighthouse harbors many books of the lost tongue. Lownire’s most valuable treasure perhaps, after the blades.”
Liam nodded, thinking of all the strange books upon the many shelves of the tower. He paused, thinking back on what Cormac had said about the Austermen. What would happen if they stole those books?
“If you had the true name of a man, what could you do?” He asked.
Grandpa stopped at this, and his expression grew darker. “Nearly anything.”
“So in the olden days, when there were more speakers, did they keep their names guarded?”
“More than they did their very lives. You kill a man, you’ve done everything you can with him, but if you have his name? You can keep his soul in torment or in your control even after death. That is why the Speakers developed the challenger name.”
Grandpa sighed. “You will learn more of it later. You still have much to learn before you can try commands yourself. Be patient.”
They arrived at the little harbor on the cliffside. The carved stone steps led down from the path and into a chapel of a stone and sea. It had four high walls of cliffs, a floor of sparkling sea, and a beautifully painted ceiling of sky. Tucked back into the shore, with a small bottleneck opening, the harbor was shielded from the worst of the waves and storms. To Liam, it was more magnificent than even the Keep, for its door opened out into the wide unending sea.
In the center of this chapel was the item of worship - the idol, the altar, the ship.
Tide to a small, sturdy dock was a single-masted ship. Liam stared at it, his chest filling with warm awe. The boat was sleek and long but small enough that a man could stand with his feet on the starboard and portside with ease. The mast rose above the boat with the sail hanging bunched up against it. Liam knew if the right rope was pulled and tightened, the sail would extend nearly along the length of the ship, making the small boat like a kite.
He ran down the dock but stopped reverently as he arrived at the boat's side. Along the lip of the ship were intricate vine-like carvings. They reminded Liam of runes, but these ones were all connected like knots or vines. Liam trailed his hand along the edge of the ship as he walked past it. The wood was smooth but solid. He could feel the hundreds of years the ship had lived tingling beneath his fingers.
He stepped onto the ship. It wobbled slightly, but he managed to keep his balance.
The only part of Keeperhood that had ever excited him.
The only part he had never been taught.
The only part that his father had never mastered.
Boards were running across the inside of the ship to sit on - Stand on, Liam realized. That's how Uncle had ridden the ship.
The boat was not a gentle donkey that you could sit on but a half-tamed powerful, wild animal. And if you wanted to ride it, you must join it in that wildness, in that line between order and chaos, life and death, man and beast, battle and harmony.
It was freedom.
Countless ropes hung down from the mast, pooling on the ship's floor. Liam felt along the ropes until he found one that sounded right. He pulled at it and was glad to see the largest sail extend out. It was white, with a blue fiery symbol painted in its center.
Soon, the sail was completely free, fluttering in the wind, making the boat creak as a breeze pushed it against the dock.
Just like in the waterfall, there was a mutter in those sounds. Though Liam sensed a wildness in her, he also sensed a loyalty. She wanted to move, but she wanted to move for him. She wanted to move under the hand of a family that had been riding the waves with it for generations. She was begging him to take it out, to test her, to push her, to battle with her.
Grandpa chuckled as Liam stared up at the sail, pure awe dancing across his face.
“I’m glad to see you’re finally excited to learn something,” Grandpa said.
He whirled to his grandfather standing on the dock. “Where do we start?” Liam asked, feeling the excitement pulsing in his veins.
“Shirt off,” Grandpa said.
“Shirt off?” Liam asked.
“Swim to that boulder and back.”
“Swimming? I thought… the boat,” Liam said helplessly, gesturing at the beautiful ship.
“You think I’m going to let you use a boat if you can’t survive it crashing? Get in the water,” Grandpa said, gesturing at the bay. “This area is safe from most of the waves, and swimming might help you learn to listen to the sea if the waterfall had anything to show for it.”
Liam pulled off his shirt and stared at the rippling water below the ship.
“Now’s not the time to get timid. Come on, dive in.”
Liam glanced at his Grandpa, “What about the waves? And it’s cold.”
“Cold?!” Grandpa said. “Cold!? Coming from the boy who swam in a mountain river.”
“It was sunnier then!” Liam shouted. If he was honest with himself, he had been planning on swimming. He mostly just didn’t want to leave the ship.
“Oh, it’s not sunny enough? Well, you are learning to speak to the very winds and waves themselves. Sacrifices will have to be made. So, I apologize that it’s not exactly-”
Suddenly, Liam dove in, cutting off his Grandpa mid-sentence as he splashed through the salty water. He came back up in the middle of the harbor, spitting water out and squinting.
“You're right. It’s nice. You should get in, old man. Feel the water.”
“You seem to already have dealt with getting me to ‘feel’ the water,” Grandpa said, whipping splashed ocean water off of his face. “You know, before you learn to listen to the sea, you should maybe learn to listen to your own grandfather!” Grandpa raged, yelling the last couple of words.
Liam nodded, treading water to stay up, rising with a wave. “Noted.”
“Now, do you hear anything out there, notice anything about the water?” Grandpa asked.
Liam smacked his lips. “Salty.”
“Genius, I’m training a genius.”
“It’s a lot like you in that way, actually.”
Grandpa furrowed his brow in rage and then sighed, putting both his hands behind his back. Liam smiled. He’d done it. He’d made Grandpa angry enough that he started to control himself. For all his teasing, Liam liked his grandfather quite a bit. Father had always been so practical, and his anger only came when it was deserved, but when it came, it was cold and disappointed. Arwen never got angry. But Grandpa was like watching a storm, with howling wind, cold rain, and bright thunder. He was never lukewarm.
“Now, for today, I want you to swim laps, swim from here out to that rock,” Grandpa pointed at a rock that had water rushing around it just a little out of the enclave.
“Out there, you will have to feel the waves, learn to swim with them, not against them.” Grandpa slid into a sitting position, “I’ll be here to split open the sea if you start drowning.”
Liam smiled and dove under the water, beginning to swim towards the rock. It would be a long afternoon, but sometime soon, he’d start learning how to ride the ship.
1. Repeat the question last time... again XD. So like the Old Tongue, you getting it, whatcha think of it?
2. What do you think of Liam and Grandpa's relationship
3. Why do you think Liam likes the ship so much?
Part three of chapter ten: https://www.youngwriterssociety.com/work.php?id=1...