Journey to the Naqsái Lands
An island was sighted off the starboard. Actually it was more of a rock than an island. Tékuna was worried and warned us that these rocks often turn out to be gigantic beasts. Vakúlaz took us closer and we saw that his was not only an island, but that it had shipwrecked survivors. We lowered a dinghy and brought them aboard. Our new members were three Mu’ugalavyáni officers, two men and one woman. They were bound for Dalái to set up an outpost when their ship was destroyed in the night by the ákho. The survivors spoke Tsolyáni well and are obviously people of quality. The woman’s name is Ardána. We also had Utúnish Qáran, a priest of Hrsh, and the captain Mshkúmish. The said that they had been to Dalái before. Ardána seemed to be their leader and often spoke for the others. Mridóbu said that he could tell that she was a high member of a secret clan. It was arranged that she bunk with me.
Toward evening we saw lights on the shore, and a village set in among the rocks. The water was deep and clear here and so we decided to anchor for the night. We made plans to trade for fresh water in the morning.
Two villagers came paddling out to us in a boat made out of bundled reeds. The older man spoke in strange language that Tékuna explained was a dialect of Naqsái. The man told us that theirs was a small village, but that the great Naqsái are farther on. While the villager negotiated with Mridék for water, the boy, who we learned was the man’s son, jumped off the boat and swam to shore as quickly as any fish. He returned swimming and holding a box over his head. Once on board he showed us that the box contained a feast of local delicacies. There were long, fleshy grass-like vegetables, rice, and fish. I was more fascinated by the box which was made of a translucent white, light-weight material that was both vitreous and slightly flexible. It also had a close-fitting lid that seemed to lock into place without any catches. The man noticed my interest and said that the box came from an ancient cave back in the mountains. He said that there were many rare and unusual things there. He expressed interest in trading the box for my tunic and sandals. I quickly concluded my bargain and was quite happy with the transaction.
More of the reed boats arrived. Fortunately the captain prevented more people from boarding. He called out to them saying that we’d be glad to visit their village tomorrow for trade and feasting. The villagers continued to try and climb on to the ship, insisting that our sailors and crew must come to their party tonight, and that their women would welcome our crew members with open arms. Saíb quietly informed us that these were dangerous creatures – not even human. In Livyánu these creatures live in caves and are called Sithéb. In Tsolyánu they are known as Srámuthu.
Vakulaz managed to remove the few creatures that managed to clamber aboard and we made ready to sail. The villagers shouted protests, but the marines took their places on deck, ready to fire a volley of arrows. I worried about navigating around shoals and traps, but we made it out into the channel. As we left, the marines let off one volley that held off the villagers. Ardána told us that she had had encountered these Sithéb before. The Mu’ugalavyáni put an entire village to the torch, but even more of the creatures poured out of the desert to attack them.