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7 Odetta professorial
shadowsusannah wrote in milliways_bar
The Sunday New York Times is about as thick as a hotel Bible; Susannah Toren has two of them to get through each week. She's parked and settled at her table for a few hours of scenery change, and in addition to the newspapers there's an accordion portfolio and a notebook and pen to one side, a medical supply catalog under that, and a Dragonfly cocktail and a bowl of sweet potato chips towards the middle of the table.

When the papers get too depressing, she works on the papers in the portfolio (covered in odd, looping script and annotated in her own hand) or the notes she's been making in the notebook; when she's really ready for a break, she flips through the catalog, looking at new wheelchairs. She has not been in every respect satisfied with the green model she's sitting in now.

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Someone else in the bar is also carrying a notebook, with some similar examples of that strange script.

"Evening," says Charlie, pausing by Susannah's table. "I hoped I might run into you here."

"You could have called," she laughs. "Hello, Charlie."

"I could have," she admits, "but I hate to use your direct line if it isn't actually an emergency."

Especially given what happened last time, she doesn't say.

"Is there some kind of news from your end, then?" she asks.

Charlie shakes her head. "No real news. Just more of the same; the fragments are still confusing and unnerving, and the kids are still really ... subdued about it all."

She glances at the other chair, and tilts her head at it in a may-I? gesture.

Susannah nods at the chair. "Fragments," she says. "That's what it comes down to."

"It isn't a skill," she adds. "Or even a talent. It just... came through, sometimes. And it's not coming through nearly enough." She taps the notebook with her pen.

"Have you gotten any more of it since Wednesday? Michael Copeland's been cc'ing me on the distribution list to the Calvins."

Which isn't precisely procedure, but it isn't against any regulations either, and there seems to be a tacit understanding that Charlie's input might be useful, as the one who works most closely with the kids.

"A little," she says. "You remember the page that repeats the same lines over and over? I've realized what that is. Unfortunately, it isn't as much as help as I'd hoped."

She finds a particular page in the stack, and positions it so Charlie can see as well; traces a finger over a series of repetitive lines.

pria, Gan, over-prim, over-am, aven la cam tet
Over-sam kammen, over-kra kammen, over-can-tah kammen aven
can-tah, can-krammen, can calah aven
shume-tet aven kes jin-jin, pria-toi raf

pria, minh-dim can-eld aven la cam tet
can-irina en toi aven, minh-na, dan gilead minh-tete aven
aven me-tet, steek-tete kra-ten jin-jin
aven la cam gadash, aven la cam godosh


"It's an invocation to their gods," she says. "And an address. They were the Clan of the Little Needle."

"It starts in the middle of the invocation and then it repeats again and again. The first few lines of the message start here at the bottom, I've got most of that."

There's a short section of unannotated markings, and then ...the inwalkers have already made themselves a place in this world, as should never have been permitted. We tried sending word to you earlier, but without success.

"So. One full page done," she sighs. "And at least now we know this is the first page."

Edited at 2008-09-16 11:27 pm (UTC)

"Yeah." It's a little discouraged. "I wish like hell we'd thought to try keeping the pages in order."

Charlie's leaning to look at the section Susannah calls the invocation. There are words there she recognizes from what she's read, years ago: Gan, prim, pria-toi, tet, shume, gilead.

"They tried sending word to us earlier?"

"I think so," she says. "References to time are the hardest part to get straight. I think the language is meant to be timeless."

"But I don't understand how they could have. From what they told me, they hadn't been Americaside for very long at all before they sent the message--before I appeared there."

"The odd thing is the address specifies a where." She points to the top of the page, where the message begins in the middle of the invocation.

"can-irina en toi aven, minh-na, dan gilead minh-tete aven. That's Taos, and you. But no when."

Me? Startled, and intrigued -- but the message mentioning her specifically isn't necessarily significant, and asking how it describes her would be the ego equivalent of autogoogling.

"So if they were sending this message backward through time, and there's no when, then --" She taps the tabletop. "Maybe they mean they tried to send it to earlier. Like, we should have gotten this last year, but last month was as far back as they could shout."

Susannah's nodding. "That makes sense. That makes a great deal of sense."

"It starts in the middle--in the middle of the address. As if the message was being sent, but the connection wasn't made. If they targeted it first in time, then in space... that would make sense."

"That worries me, though."

Charlie nods. "Especially because they're saying it in a context of 'this shouldn't have happened', and they didn't get word to us early enough to prevent it."

A small frown creases her forehead.

"The 'inwalkers'. What do you make of that?"

"I think this must be the next page," she says, shuffling through to find a page marked tentatively 2?. "The grammar is iffy, but sometimes they drop antecedents. It starts with--"

"a triad of demons whose dominion spans countless worlds and times. By your when, they already have the foothold they need in the keystone world. If unchecked, they will drain ... something. I know those words, ka-am, but I don't know what it means here, and then it's incomprehensible down to..."

"delah coffa a-devar can-mal, the... many hells release their demons, and then this is vampire. The dead who hunger."

There's a phrase here--two words--that repeats through the page. It niggles at her. Hmm.

Edited at 2008-09-17 12:55 am (UTC)

"And that matches what you saw of the future they were sending this from."

It also, and she's deeply uneasy about this and not quite ready to mention it yet, has an unnerving congruence with what happened to Rose while Susannah was gone.

She nods. "And in-walkers does, too. They weren't taheen or can-toi, or any kind of demon or vampire I've encountered before. They were something new."

"Any time we're dealing with monsters in the Keystone world, of course they're coming from outside, but these were something new. Something that was alien to the Manni, too."

"I thought inwalkers might be roughly the same thing as walk-ins, but ..." She shakes her head.

"What else do we have?"

"Nothing else you haven't seen, I think. It looks like the end of this page--"

this when, the island has become the haunt of vampires and worse. The tower of the rose is beset, and defended only by and then an untranslated word.

"--follows on to this one." Near the top of the third(?) page:

mindless force of defense, striking down any that approach without regard for friend or foe. Thus the rose weakens, cut off from any possible attack, but also from

"That sounds like what I encountered, all right. I wish I could figure out the name." She taps the untranslated. "Ka-something--the thing itself, in other words."

"Whatever it is, it's the same word as this."

This is almost certainly the last page; it's the end of one sentence, and the start of three more (translated) ones, and then blank paper. They must not . This is imperative! Do not allow them to ."

Edited at 2008-09-17 01:28 am (UTC)

Charlie rubs her forehead. "So just getting a foothold in the world isn't enough. There's something else they're going to do, and it's imperative that stop them from doing it."

She lets out a breath. "And we don't know what it is."

"I have a... sense, of what the word means," she says. "It's like having it on the tip of your tongue. But all of the words in this language have so many associations and shades of meaning, and I can't put my finger on the right one."

"Hmm." She studies the untranslated word for a moment, its curls and loops barely even differentiating themselves in her eye as writing.

"Would it help to just ... reel off the things it doesn't quite mean? Talk around it?"

"There are two roots here that I know," she says. "an and cal."

"An can mean a chamber or a room, but that's a metaphorical usage, and I don't know exactly where it comes from," she says, "The main root is breath, I think. They had a saying in the Calla, can-tah, can-ah, annah oriza. It means that Oriza breathed life into all living things and even the gods. Something an-tet is something that's shared between the members of a tet. Sometimes even without words; it's something you... breathe in, just being around each other. But it's also--" She gestures with her hands. "Secure. Held between you."

Edited at 2008-09-17 02:11 am (UTC)

"That's harder," she says. "I know a lot of words that use it--Calla, Callahan, Calvin. The can calah are angels, and Can Calyx is the Tower itself. The Hall of Resumption."

"And calyx is an English word, too. It's the green part that protects a flower's bud."

"If the same rules apply, it's probably connected to cam and can, too. But I don't know if I can articulate the common thread."

Charlie chews slowly on her lower lip.

"And it adds up to something bad. Or something dangerous, if we let them do it."

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