SM, CH.8

Chapter 8
The Tricky Lizard

Perhaps I should explain for those who receive this tale … but I should say “read” this tale – I am not yet comfortable with the idea that a tale can be understood when it is not spoken.  I invented the word “to read,” you know.  fio| and reisho| combine to make reisho| shfi’zi|, and that, turned about and compressed, forms fi’reisho|.[1]  And then of course we have the word “to write” which I also …
But yes, Chi’mo’a’tu, yes, you are quite right!  I digress!  It is a failing of age, I fear.  One wishes to rehearse all of one’s accomplishments for fear they will be forgotten.  Back to business!
As I was saying, perhaps I should explain for those who read – yes, “read” – this tale why our company turned north instead of south now that our task in To’wak was finished.  We had spent considerable time discussing that very thing before we set out. 
Ki’shto’ba had always intended to travel to the mountains and visit the home fortress of a Nasute whom we had come to know and respect during the Rebellion of the Unnatural Alate.  A little Remembrancer’s history may not be out of order here.  The Nasutes – the Shrin’ok – are bizarrely different from people like the Shum’za or the Da’no’no Shshi.  Their Warriors lack mandible weapons and have instead an elongation of the bak’zi|, which sprays a nasty, burning acid rather than mortar fluid.  Actually, I should say, the Northern Nasutes lack mandible weapons.  At the time of the Siege of Lo’ro’ra, none of us knew that other kinds of Nasutes existed.  But, I promise, you will read – yes, “read” – much more of that later … 
What are you muttering, Chi’mo’a’tu?  Look, if you find my digressiveness so very tiresome, perhaps you would like to turn your task over to Vai’prai’mo’tei or another scribe for a while.  Go away and scamper through the corridors for a little exercise, or get something to eat, or whatever.  You want to stay?  Well, write what I say, then, and stop muttering …
Where was I?  Oh, yes.  The fortresses of Lo’ro’ra and Kwai’kwai’za and some others in our part of the world have prospered and have frequently found themselves with more citizens than they could support.  When this would occur, they would send out hordes to found new fortresses.  Much of the land between Lo’ro’ra and the western mountains is dangerous and desolate, so these hordes have often settled in the more agreeable uplands just east of the mountains.  The Nasutes, who eat the oddest of foods – wood, for example – inhabited this region, and enough trees to fill their needs are found only in those foothills.  Every time a group of Shum’za moved in (the Da’no’no Shshi wisely gave their snouted neighbors a wide berth), the Nasutes lost valuable food resources. 
Finally they tired of it and sent an army to attack Lo’ro’ra.  They came east and south along the Ti’re’bu through To’wak to reach Lo’ro’ra.  They never made it to Kwai’kwai’za.  Even after Ki’shto’ba became their Champion, they were no match for us. 
But although they surrendered, they were not destroyed.  Holy Kwi’ga’ga’tei saw to that.  She always looked for peaceful solutions to conflicts, and after she became Seer, she sought to end the siege with a compromise.  The lo’ro’ra’zei| promised not to send settlers into Nasute country without the inhabitants’ permission and, as reparations for the damage they had done, the Nasutes agreed to send a small Cohort of Warriors to perform liege service in Lo’ro’ra for six season-cycles.  They performed their duties so well that after the Unnatural Alate’s rebellion, Kwi’ga’ga’tei revoked their oath of allegiance and let them go home.
The last Chief of the Nasute Cohort was named Sa’ti’a’i’a, and it loyally guarded Kwi’ga’ga’tei and protected the Star-Beings when rebel Warriors overran their flying dwelling during the battle.  This was the Nasute whose fortress Ki’shto’ba wanted to visit out of friendship and curiosity.  Sa’ti’a’i’a had told the Huge-Head how to find its fortress – follow the Ti’re’bu westward into the foothills until one came to a fortress called Dab’thel’thiv’cha.  Sa’ti’a’i’a’s home is the second fortress south of that place.  It is called No’sta’pan’cha.[2]
I continue to maintain that Nasute place names are ridiculously lengthy.  They always insist on articulating the word “fortress” at the end, whereas the Shum’za only do that sometimes.  But then the Nasutes do not use the place marker -mi, so I suppose -cha serves the same function.  If they did use -mi, Dab’thel’thiv’cha would be dab’thel’thiv’cha’mi|!  tha’sask|>||   Those are not the Nasute names, you understand, but renderings of their meanings into our language.  I have not made any attempt to create a writing system for the Nasute languages.  What a task that would be, working with their gibberish!  It makes my antennae ache to think about it …
Well, enough talk of words …  Back to the tale!
Since we had returned more than halfway to Lo’ro’ra, we considered heading directly west, traversing the hill-pass at Kwai’kwai’za (with which we now had peaceful relations), and proceeding straight away toward Nasute country.  I reminded the others, however, that between Kwai’kwai’za and the mountains there were two very nasty volcanoes that spewed frequently; furthermore I had taken stories of a dangerous space of wet ground – marshland, they call it – and a system of many confusingly interlaced rivers.  The usually timid Twa’sei rather wanted to pass by the volcanoes because of the tale of the hairy-footed Star-Being, but the others immediately recognized the perils of this unfamiliar path.  We assured Twa’sei that we would probably encounter other volcanoes along our original route.
So that is why we turned and retraced our steps toward the north.
In truth, however, we steered a little to the west to avoid encountering any to’wak’zei| guards who might be improperly patrolling on the Shum’za side of the river.  I fixed my sight on a cold cone – a mountain that resembles a volcano in appearance but never spews – that lay southeast of the Da’no’no Shshi fortress called Yak’ar.  We would cross the Ti’re’bu near Yak’ar and take provisions there, then continue on the north bank.  Shum’za had never built on the south bank in this region because it was so near to Da’no’no territory. 
“But I think it would be prudent if I avoid taking my mandibles into that fortress,” said Ki’shto’ba.  “It is largely because of me that To’wak defeated Yak’ar several years ago.”
“A’zhu’lo and I can go in,” I said.  “Perhaps if I give them a tale or two, they will let us have enough fungus to last until we reach …  Ki’shto’ba, what place are we intending to reach?”
At that moment our sensilla vibrated, and I looked to see storm clouds tumbling in the western sky.  It was not yet the beginning of gwai’nol|, but it appeared the rains might arrive a little early in this season-cycle
“I had not really thought!” exclaimed Twa’sei in a panic.  “What will we do when it floods?  We will all be drowned!”
“No, no, my little friend,” said Ki’shto’ba.  “The next fortress beyond Yak’ar is Lo’shkei’akh.  They have worthy rulers and citizens and no grudge against To’wak.  I am sure we can shelter there throughout the Wet Time and then travel to the mountains during the Time of Flowers.  The journey will be very pleasant then.”
So we proceeded at a quickened pace, keeping the cold cone at our left, and encountered no obstacles other than a procession of wild Little Ones moving from an old dwelling to a new.  Whole crowds of their Workers were carrying the Mother’s eggs and the nymphs and the Mothers themselves (for they have several of them), right out in the open.  Why they do that is a mystery.  But their Warriors, which are half as long as a Shum’za Worker and can spray acid like the Nasutes (but from their posteriors), make a formidable array when they are aroused, so we stopped and courteously allowed them to pass.  It took awhile. 
Finally we approached the Ti’re’bu again.  I could make out the edifices of Yak’ar on a hill some little distance away.  We found a shallow place and forded.  I did not feel nearly so daunted on this third effort; experience is a most valuable asset.
Yak’ar is set amid a jumble of black rocks, the ancient congealed spewings of the cold cone, I suppose.  The area is thickly grown with a prickle bush called gut’zhuf| because the leaves tremble in the slightest wind.  As we were beating a path through this tangle, we sensed a ruckus ahead of us – vibrations in the ground as of many feet trampling – and the odor of Little Ones and of Da’no’no Shshi Warriors.  Ki’shto’ba and A’zhu’lo began to posture.  Wei’tu and Twa’sei hopped about in agitation while I reared up, trying to see.
Suddenly a dozen shza’zei| burst out of a thicket, followed by a stout-looking Um’za Worker whose smell had gotten lost in the mix.  The Um’za was darting back and forth, seemingly herding the Little Ones, which were of the Da’no’no Shshi variety that, from being consistently pastured out-of-doors, are darker in color and more adapted to the sun than those the Shum’za cultivate. 
The Little Ones rushed among us in great confusion and the Worker, who was emitting panic pheromones aplenty, suddenly realized that it was face-to-face with two big Da’no’no Shshi Warriors.  It backed away, springing up and down and waving its antennae madly.
“Who is here?” it exclaimed.  “Oh, I am pursued from behind and now I find danger in my path!  An Alate!  I smell an Alate!  Oh, holy Star-Winged One, save me!  I was attacked by Warriors from Yak’ar who want to steal my flock!  I am no threat!  Can any of you find enough mercy in your gut to help me?”
We all reacted according to our natures.  Ki’shto’ba and A’zhu’lo exclaimed words like, “Attacked?  You are a Herder?  The yak’ar’zei| are trying to steal your flock!  Shameful!”  Twa’sei was sputtering with indignation.  Wei’tu said, “What kind of silliness is this?”  As for myself, I was flummoxed.  It struck me as surpassingly odd for one Um’za Worker to be herding a flock of Da’no’no Little Ones in Da’no’no Shshi territory a very long distance from any Shum’za fortress.
But there was no time for consideration, because six big Warriors erupted from the bushes, hurtling right at us.  I scuttled backward, fanning my wings to spread scent.  The newly arrived Worker scampered right at me and jammed itself underneath me for refuge, vehemently emitting, “An Alate!  An Alate!  You dare not attack an Alate!  Your guts would be torn out and thrown in the river for that kind of sacrilege!”
The Warriors had not been paying attention to new smells in their single-minded pursuit of their quarry and were quite taken by surprise.  But what brought them to a halt was not the Alate but the sense of the bulk of the Huge-Head and its ni’a’zei|.
“Perhaps if you are old enough, you may be familiar with the smell of Ki’shto’ba Huge-Head,” said our Champion.  “You should think twice before attacking a single defenseless Worker, my friends, and stealing its flock.”
“Its flock!  Those are Yak’ar’s Little Ones!  This pricking little louse is nothing but a thief!” exclaimed the phalanx leader.
“No, never!” cried the Worker in horror.  “These are my Little Ones!  They are all we have to sustain us!  We are all alone, thrown out of Kwai’kwai’za because there were too many Workers!  We will starve without … ”
That was enough to satisfy the generous nature of Ki’shto’ba and A’zhu’lo, and they jumped at the Warriors, who did indeed remember the Huge-Head from the war with To’wak.  I watched the cerci on their posteriors wagging as they scurried off.  No flock of Little Ones was worth a slash from the Huge-Head’s fearsome mandibles.
“Oh, you are so compassionate – so full of goodness!” effused the rescued Herder, and it darted out from under my right wings and busily started rounding up its scattered flock.  “I do not know what horrendous thing would have happened if you had not come by.  But I will be going – I must get my flock back to my friends.  So I will say farewell and … ”
“Wait a minute!” both Wei’tu and I said simultaneously, and Wei’tu added, “How many of you are there?”
“From Kwai’kwai’za?” I said.  “You have come far away from your place of origin, little Herder.  How long have you all been homeless?”
The Worker was darting about even more crazily and it started toward a gap among some rocks, leaving two of its charges blundering about A’zhu’lo’s legs.  “Wait a minute!” I repeated.  “If you are so in need, perhaps we can help you.”
“Or perhaps you are not nearly in as much need as you say!” said Wei’tu.
Ki’shto’ba was beginning to catch on.  It leaped to position itself between the Herder and the rocks.  “Wait, little friend.  Let us talk for a while.”
“I fear terribly that they will come back!”  Then the Herder hesitated.  “Are you really the Champion called Ki’shto’ba?”
“I am, and if they do come back, you need have no fear.”
“Not of the Yak’ar Warriors,” I said helpfully.  “But there is always something new to fear, is there not?”
Momentarily, the Herder wavered, but then it stiffened itself up cockily.  “Oh, indeed, indeed, when one is alone in the world, there is much to fear!”
“Alone?” said Wei’tu.  “I thought you said there were others.”
“I meant, when a group of us completely defenseless Workers is alone.  This flock of Little Ones is all Kwai’kwai’za would give us when they cast us forth.”
There was a contemplative pause.  “What is your name?” I said.
“My name?” said the Worker stupidly.
“Yes, yes!  What do they call you?  I believe they give their Workers names in Kwai’kwai’za.”
“And I wasn’t aware it was the custom in Kwai’kwai’za to cast out surplus Workers so callously,” remarked Wei’tu. 
There was another, somewhat tenser pause.  From behind the Herder Ki’shto’ba said with gentle menace, “Perhaps it would be wise to speak your name, little Worker.”
The Worker seemed to deflate, its belly sinking closer to the ground.  “Good rescuers, my name is Za’dut.”
There was a moment without words and then I bounced in amusement.  “That must be your real name.  No one would make up a name like that for itself.”
“Oh, indeed, indeed, it is a heavy burden … ”
But Twa’sei popped up from under my left wings.  “Oh, I see it, I see it!  Thru’tei’ga’ma!  The tricky lizard!  It was not I that he spoke of!  It was this one!”
Now we all regarded the newcomer with heightened curiosity.  Za’dut waggled its antennae woefully.  “Why, I am cut to the muscle!  ‘Tricky lizard!’  Because I am so unfortunate to be named as I am – does that justify calling me ‘tricky’?”
“How did you come by that name?” I said.
“Where are your companions?” asked A’zhu’lo.  “And come extricate this Little One from under my thorax before I accidentally squash it.”
Za’dut complied.  It seemed to be stalling for time; it kept bobbling its antennae and dancing as if searching for a way out.
“You have no companions, do you?” said Wei’tu.  “You are in truth a tricky dut’zei|, and I wager a slippery dut’zei|, too, in the word’s other meaning.  These are not Shum’za Little Ones and you could hardly have brought them across the river.  Whose are they really?”
“I cannot follow all your questions, good rescuers,” wailed Za’dut.  “You speak too rapidly for my feeble intellect!”
“Bosh!” said Wei’tu.
Ki’shto’ba decided it was time to take control.  It calmly picked up Za’dut at the juncture of the thorax and belly and hoisted it into the air.  “Now, shall I carry you like this to where your companions are, or, if I put you down, will you answer our questions?”
“A-i-i – a-i-i – Huge-Head – most honorable, compassionate Huge-Head – put me down!  One twitch and I will be cut in half!”
“I think not,” said Ki’shto’ba, but it set the Herder, or whatever it was, back on the ground.
Quivering, Za’dut groomed its belly desperately, almost folding itself double.  “Indeed, ‘Za’dut’ was not my original name.  My nymph name was Ka and my imago name was Za’ka.  Do you know how common that is?  There is not one fortress of any kind of Shshi that does not have a ‘Little Stone’ in it at any given time.  The name is reassigned as quickly as the last unfortunate bearer of it dies.  Most Namers have no imagination.  I prefer something more distinctive.”
“So you gave the name ‘Za’dut’ to yourself?” I asked incredulously.
“Why would anyone want to adopt a name that can be interpreted as ‘Little Lizard’ or as ‘Little One Who Steals’?” said Wei’tu.  “It hardly reflects well upon the character.”
 “Well, you see, I have always been misunderstood.    Oh, thanks be to the Nameless One!  I still have my belly attached to my foreparts!”
I settled down resignedly on the ground.  “I believe we should all compose ourselves and have a little rest,” I said.  “I think this is going to take a while.”
“After I passed the final molt, I was assigned to a feeding unit.  But I was really much better suited to building – you can discern that I have the bak’zi| – so they made me a Builder.  But while I was an excellent Builder, it was very hard work, so I asked to grow fungus and then to tend Little Ones.  There I found my calling!  I was rising through the ranks!  Then jealousy did me in!  Too many Warriors favored me!  My Little Ones produced the best honeydew in the fortress!  And the Warriors preferred that I personally feed them!  Jealousy did me in!”
This rather confused explanation perplexed all of us, except Wei’tu the Practical, who said, “You stole the best fungus and the best honeydew, probably some of what was intended for the Holy One, and fed it to the Warriors, who naturally favored you thereby.”
Ki’shto’ba said with its feigned menace, “Is that true?  Is that what happened?”
“Oh, my friends … I may call you my friends, may I not? – after all, you saved my life –one cannot always rely on the social order to be fair and advance one according to one’s merits.  One must take the initiative – use the wits that the Highest Mother blesses one with.”
“I am sure Kwai’kwai’za expelled you,” I said, “but only you, I believe.  You have no companions, do you?”
Za’dut turned its head resignedly from side to side.  Its skill at acting the martyr was consummate.  “In truth, you are correct, esteemed Star-Wing.  I am a sad outcast, too good at what I do to remain in the mediocre ranks of a mediocre fortress.”
“You are really from Kwai’kwai’za?” 
“In truth, I am.  I am a long way from home, trying to survive.  Before I was cast out for crimes that I swear I never committed, they took my name away from me.  They said I did not deserve to have a name because I was dut’zei|.  So, as I wended my sorrowing way northward, I decided to punish myself for my own shortcoming, which was to be too good at what I did, and so I adopted the name ‘Za’dut’ as a reminder.  Besides,” it added briskly, “I hated Za’ka.  How many Shshi named ‘Za’dut’ have you ever known?  Such originality made you pay attention to me, did it not?  Why does this little Worker keep bouncing up and down and saying, ‘Tricky lizard – tricky lizard’?  It wounds my feelings, dearest friends.”
I was annoyed, but at the same time I could not help being amused by this unconscionable charlatan.  And it certainly was true – Thru’tei’ga’ma’s Seeing seemed to have found its source.
“Why are you on this side of the river?” I asked.  “And how long have you been alone?”
“I have been isolated and lonely now for – let me see – about two season-cycles … ”
“Two cycles!” we all cried, and Twa’sei said, “That is a wonder!  How could you stay alive so long?  With never even one of your own kind!”
“A-i-i!  It has been so difficult!  So lonely!  I cannot begin to tell you!  We Shshi are not made for isolation.  That is why I am on this side of the river.  At least I occasionally exchange words with one of the yak’ar’zei|, although lately they have taken to persecuting me without mercy … ” 
“I can see why,” said A’zhu’lo.  “You stole their Little Ones.”
“How did you manage to do that?” asked Wei’tu.
“Well, one simply wanders around the places where they are pastured – their Herders are great slackers.  But actually, these Little Ones are mine!  Perhaps they used to belong to Yak’ar, but now they would definitely die if they were parted from me.  Yak’ar has so many shza’zei| – I really cannot understand why they should be so niggardly with them.  I have to stay among the rocks for protection – easier to escape great bumbling Warriors – your pardon, noble Huge-Head, I implore you! – but the grazing here is a bit sparse, so I have to keep the flock outside for longer than I like.”
“Outside?  You have a dwelling?” I asked.
“I would like to inspect that!” said Wei’tu.  “I can make brushwood shelters, but … ”
“Brushwood?  That serves in a pinch, but I have taken the life of undeserved solitude to a much higher level.  I think … ”  Za’dut hesitated, considered a moment, then continued.  “Now that I have truthfully answered your questions, perhaps you will answer some of mine.  It is unusual to find a pitiable outcast like myself living isolated off whatever provision the Highest-Mother-Who-Is-Nameless – bless her Namelessness! – whatever provision the Nameless One provides, but it is equally unusual to find five Shshi of mixed origin and Caste idling about on the riverbank.  And an Alate?  What in the name of the blessed Namelessness are you, honored Star-Wing, doing here?”
It seemed only fair that we introduce and explain ourselves.  Then Za’dut said, “Wandering – for enjoyment?  Alas, I wander because I must.”  Then it bounced and whirled its antennae crazily.  “Actually, I may occasionally tell a slight untruth.  In fact, wandering is not without its pleasures!  I enjoy wandering alone.  I enjoy the freedom.”  But then it hesitated again and I sensed it was suppressing certain emotions it preferred not to display.
“I would like to inspect your shelter,” repeated Wei’tu.
Za’dut then seemed to take some resolve.  “All right!  Help me gather my flock, will you?  They have strayed everywhere.”
So Twa’sei and Wei’tu helped to herd in the flock and we proceeded upstream to a rugged area with many little nooks and caverns among the rocks.  Here, with the smell well concealed by a planting of pungent herbs, was a pen enclosed partly with rocks, partly with tree limbs plastered with mud.  “I mean to have the whole wall of rock,” said Za’dut, “but it takes time for one person to collect and shape appropriate stones and compound the mortar.”
The Workers drove the shza’zei| into the pen and we followed, while Za’dut replaced the wooden gate behind us.  Much of the pen was topped with stout basketry to keep the Little Ones from climbing out, but part of it was solidly roofed with thatched planks to make a hut.  Under this and extending back into a little rock crevice, Za’dut had a bed of leaves and various baskets and buckets containing its provisions.  It was quite cozy and dry and not at all unappealing, although I wondered how the Little Lizard kept warm during chi’nol|.
“How do you cut these planks?” asked Wei’tu.  “Your own mandibles would be worn to nubs if you had nothing but them to use.”
“Well, in truth … ”  Za’dut shuffled its claw through some implements in a basket.  “I was able to acquire some equipment in Kwai’kwai’za, and even in Yak’ar.  Very good stuff.  Chisels.  An adz.  A pick.  The best mandible blades.  Why, I was well acquainted with the Warrior this one came from – it was one of my favorite patrons … ”  Then it realized it was talking a bit too freely and said, “Gifts!  Gifts, all … ”  And the words ceased.
“Huh, gifts!” said Wei’tu.  “You stole them, too!”
Za’dut hitched its body up and down between its legs in fatalistic ambiguity.
“You were able to go into Yak’ar and steal things?” said Ki’shto’ba incredulously.
“Well, in the beginning entering there was not so hard.  They have never been at war with Shum’za.  By the way, I ought not to be so friendly with all of you, I suppose.  Kwai’kwai’za has been the enemy of Lo’ro’ra for … ”
“No longer,” I said, and I related how we had come to acquire a King from Kwai’kwai’za.
When I had finished, Za’dut made that same shrugging gesture of the body.  “Everything changes.  Up, down.  In, out.  Enemy, friend.  If life has taught me one thing, it is that one need not attempt to live by a law, because the law changes in the next moment.”
We all contemplated the outcast.  Then it said abruptly, “I would like to join your company and journey with you.”
There was a general startled shifting of position, although Twa’sei remained still.
Ki’shto’ba said gently, “Do you think we could trust you to be loyal to us and uphold the right way?  If you believe there is no unchangeable law that one can live by … ”
“Ha!  It is likely in my own self-interest to be loyal and conform to your laws, honored Huge-Head.  And I do conform to the law of my own self-interest.  And I have many skills.  I can build many more things than Wei’tu can – by the way, you may ridicule me for my very original name, but what kind of name is ‘No Wing’ for a Worker, or any Shi?    Do not take offense if I say I can build better, at least of wood.  Is not the evidence all around you here?  And I know how to survive in harsh conditions – my life has not always been this luxurious!  And I know exactly what to eat in the plain and on the river.  Here, try this – it is the rootlets of a water plant that I wager you have never tasted.  Delicious, no?  Sweet and aromatic at the same time.  And I am an expert at getting out of scrapes, although I was not so successful today.  Take me with you.  I promise you will not be sorry.”
We all pondered its proposal with some discomfort.  Then Za’dut added plaintively, “I did not lie about being lonely.  It is hard never to feel the touch of one’s own kind.  And moreover I notice there are three exalted ones among you, but only two helpers.  You, honored A’zhu’lo – what do you do for a helper?”
I sensed that the words about loneliness were genuine, but at the same time I was sure that our new acquaintance was using that very genuineness to manipulate us.  And A’zhu’lo tossed its head and bobbed in a gesture I could not read.  It had in fact been burdensome for two Workers to care for all three of us.
Then Twa’sei said, “Di’fa’kro’mi, remember – the tricky lizard.”
tha’sask|>||  What is this ‘tricky lizard’?” exploded Za’dut.
Twa’sei said excitedly, “There is a wonderful Seer at To’wak named Thru’tei’ga’ma, and he kept babbling about ‘twelve.’  Remember, Di’fa’kro’mi?  ‘Twelve, but not all at once.’  And when A’zhu’lo joined us, he said something about ‘four’ … ”
“He said, ‘We have the fourth,’” I interrupted, beginning to get excited myself.
Wei’tu took up the thread.  “And when he first mentioned the tricky lizard, he said immediately afterwards, ‘Five, five.’”
“There will be twelve Companions for Ki’shto’ba on its wanderings,” said A’zhu’lo in amazement.
“I am the first,” I said, “and Wei’tu and Twa’sei are the second and third.  A’zhu’lo is the fourth … ”
“And,” exclaimed Twa’sei triumphantly, “the tricky lizard is the fifth!  Za’dut, you were meant to come with us!  All this is according to the Seer’s visions – the great plan!”
Za’dut sat appearing both befuddled and irritated; it still was not overly pleased with Twa’sei’s epithet.
I looked at Ki’shto’ba.  “You speak little, my friend,” I said.
The Huge-Head stirred.  “I had thought that Thru’tei’ga’ma’s Twelve referred to the wonders I had promised to perform, but I believe your interpretation is correct.  Za’dut must join us.  I only hope … ”  Then it fell silent again.  At length it said, “Welcome, Za’dut.  Now there are six of us – myself and Five.  One day it seems there will be myself and Twelve.  But not all at once …  What does that bode?”
Za’dut jumped up.  “Nothing!  Personally I never lay much store by the ramblings of besotted Seers!  Now, let us extract a drink of honeydew for ourselves to seal the joining of our fates!  Wei’tu, do you know how to pump a Little One?  How did you get that odd name, by the way?”

[1] fio|: to draw an image; reisho|: to understand; reisho| shfi’zi|: to understand images; fi’reisho|: to read, literally, to image-understand.
[2] Dab’thel’thiv’cha:  Mound Well-Hidden Fortress; No’sta’pan’cha:  Horned Hall Fortress. 

[This will be the last chapter to be posted here. To read more, buy the paperback or (coming within days) the Kindle version of "The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head: Volume One: The War of the Stolen Mother."]

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