The Seer Thru'tei'ga'ma spoke thus to Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head: "This happens to be a myth of the At’ein’zei that we find ourselves in. One manifestation of unreality. Everything is relative to how you see it, you know. Did it ever occur to you that this tale of yours exists in many worlds? Of course it did not."
When I first
encountered the Shshi – the intelligent termite species of the planet G.
Gwidian – the Remembrancer (bard and historian) of the fortress called Lo’ro’ra
was an individual named Di’fa’kro’mi.During my second visit, I learned that Di’fa’kro’mi planned to accompany
the Warrior called Ki’shto’ba Huge-Head on a journey of adventure inspired by
my own clumsy efforts to amuse the Shshi with stories taken from the Odysy and other tales of Earth.
I did not see
either of these individuals again until circumstances brought Di’fa’kro’mi back
to Lo’ro’ra years later, but I often heard rumors of their exploits in the
course of my frequent sojourns among the Shshi.In the sixteen years that have passed since the Remembrancer returned
home, I have visited the termite planet only three times, in 230, 235, and
241.During the two earlier visits, I
found Di’fa’kro’mi functioning as a sort of éminence
grise; while he never reassumed the official duties of Remembrancer or took
an active part in the governance of the fortress, his influence has been
enormous on several generations of Shshi, and indeed on the very nature and
destiny of Shshi culture.
remarkable occurred during that period:Di’fa’kro’mi the Remembrancer invented a system of writing for the Shshi
language!I am forced to acknowledge
with some chagrin that I and other “Star-Beings” played an unintentional role
in this development.Although we never attempted
to teach the Shshi anything about writing, Di’fa’kro’mi noted the peculiar
markings that appeared on our ports and readers.When in his later life he found the leisure
to reflect upon his observations, he deduced the nature of these markings and
made the logical leap.In my visits in
230 and 235 he showed me his efforts and sought my advice, which I refused to
give, preferring to let cultural evolution take its already contaminated
say, I consider it an extreme privilege to have witnessed the inception of an
invention that indisputably alters any society.Here is a lifeform which has never tamed fire nor devised a technology
more “advanced” than the working of wood and stone, but which now has a fully
functional writing system – accessible to only one Caste!As this new knowledge spreads across the
World of the Shshi, the power the sighted Alates are able to exercise over
their eyeless siblings will become even greater than in the past!
On my visit in
235, Di’fa’kro’mi told me he planned to put into the “word-images” the story of
his and Ki’shto’ba’s remarkable adventures.At that time, he was twenty-seven years old – quite aged for a Shi – and
both he and I realized this was most likely the last time we would see each
other.When I returned in 241, he had
indeed died three years earlier, at the age of thirty.
bequeathed me a syllabary of the Shshi language and some ruminations upon the
Shshi word-sense, together with a copy of this document I am translating
here.These totally deaf isopteroids
employ the only non-oral, non-telepathic, “biopulsive” communication medium yet
discovered in the galaxy, but I can’t believe it is unique.It is certainly only a matter of time until
we encounter another ILF communicating in a similar manner, and whoever has the
privilege of making that first contact will be much better equipped to tackle
the task than we were with the Shshi.The efforts of Di’fa’kro’mi provide an invaluable contribution to the
advancement of knowledge.
As soon as I
returned to Earth I scanned Di’fa’kro’mi’s documents into the Interquad
Database and prepared a transcription and a literal translation.However, the former is useless to anyone
except a few of my students and colleagues, and the latter is a tedious,
heavily annotated rendering that no normal Earther could possibly enjoy
reading.And these tales demand to be
enjoyed; I never encountered a Shshi bard who seeks to bore its audiences.Therefore, I have attempted in the present
version to produce a text that is accessible and compelling for the general
reader of Inj.
himself divided his story into three parts.The first deals with the War of the Stolen Mother and covers
approximately one year, or season-cycle (as the Shshi call it), of the
Companions’ wanderings.The second
recounts their exploits among the Northern Nasutes and certain other ethnic
groups, encompassing a period of about four years.The third takes the wanderers to the end of
their adventures at the southern edge of the Shshi world.Each section is lengthy, so I have taken the
liberty of dividing the three tales into a six-part opus, to be published over
the next few years.Such a division does
no damage to the author’s purpose; Di’fa’kro’mi himself frequently told his
tales in smaller bites that listeners (and readers) would be less likely to
Di’fa’kro’mi’s aging memory and emend the errors and inconsistencies that
result from the use of an amanuensis, I have drawn on the recorded data from
conversations in which the Remembrancer informally recounted much of this narrative
for me.Di’fa’kro’mi’s scribe took
literally his admonishment to write down everything he said; therefore we have
a series of amusing asides throughout the tale.For the sake of cohesiveness I have cut some of these parenthetical
remarks and edited and relocated others.Everything related here, however, is faithful to the words and intent of
the author, whether spoken or written.
attempted to preserve the style and character of the Shshi language and people
even as I have eased the words into readable Inj.I have divided Di’fa’kro’mi’s continuous
narrative into paragraphs and chapters, edited out redundancies, added appropriate
Inj punctuation, and eliminated much of the tedious repetitiveness and run-on
style that appears in the literal translation.For example, in order to indicate the beginning and end of a quotation, a
native speaker of Shshi would say, Ki’shto’ba
said I believe that soon we should find a place to rest Ki’shto’ba said Wei’tu
said I will scout ahead Wei’tu said.In Inj such a style results only in obfuscation.
I have also
dared to insert footnotes that clarify names and figures of speech, explain
customs, or untie the knots of the various Shshi dialects, which Di’fa’kro’mi
consistently renders into the language of the Shum’za as spoken in Lo’ro’ra.The reader should know that it is the
translator’s voice speaking in each footnote.I trust that this addition will augment rather than obstruct the reader’s
appreciation of a tale that deserves to take its place among the significant
pieces of heroic literature extant throughout the known galaxy.