Journey to the Naqsái Lands
21 Trantór 2371
We sighted Arghá. It is a small, muddy city with dense tropical foliage. When we pulled in some Shén officers came aboard. Mridék negotiated for a berth and after a while we went into town. It was just some scattered houses that were surrounded by dry hills beyond the jungle. I suggested to the commander that it might be a good idea to purchase some slaves who might know the waters and lands that will be ahead of us. Our first stop was to change money. Here they use a large copper coin called a krsh that is worth 1 ½ káitars. Twenty krsh got us a berth for the night and a fresh water supply.
The marketplace begins right at the wharf. Chrr melons were sold everywhere. The slave market consisted of a few ramshackle pens with five or six humans and a few ancient grey Shén. An old Shén came out to ask if we needed any help. Zagár was able to translate for us. An older slave approached us and said he had travelled in the west and spoke Tsolyáni in addition to some of the Naqsái dialects. He told us that there were about fifty languages spoken in those lands. He explained how he had been a prisoner for about seven years, and that he had once been an emperor of Tsolyánu, a tailor, and a sailor. The poor soul seemed crazy and depressed. We asked the Shén about any other slaves and found a younger Mu’ugalavyáni man who spoke Tsolyáni and some Naqsai. He had never been to Dalái and said that no one sane ever goes there. He told of how he had been captured by Shén when his ship was sunk. He was desperate to leave and promised to do whatever we wanted. We decided to take them both. The old Shén offered to sell us a mráchdach, which we soon learned was a red Ssú. The Shén keep them as pets and enjoy the high-pitched squealing, chiming noise they make when poked. The old Shén told us there were green ones, too. The creatures run wild in the forests of Súchel Head and the colour was enhanced by the food they eat. He told us the Chíma also keep them as pets. We got the slaves for a reasonable price and picked up a supply of chrr melons for the Shén on board.
When we showed the slaves to Vakúlaz, he said they might come in useful. The Mu’ugalavyáni slave is called Arámish and has skills as a shoemaker. The older slave made a grand show of recognising Davé, as if he was greeting a relative. The slave claims to be the former emperor Mridóbu. Davé liked the slave and bought him from Mridék for the rather large price of two large gems, and then ordered extra sleeping mats for his cabin. I don’t understand why Davé insists on humouring the crazy slave.