Tangahl Unbowed, and the Water Boat Beneath His Notice
Timal could feel the water change beneath her feet, vibrating through the thin oiled wood of her boat. It slowed and slewed to the left, rising. She adjusted her grip on the forerope and set her feet in jamilusch. The sails caught again and the boat scudded over the sea and fell easily into the peaks and troughs of the swell. She could smell the sweet scent of Tangahl before it rose before her around the headland, the pamal leaves and chee blossoms, the sickly sweet fragrance of uneaten jiml fruit, rotting on the vine, before the tag wasps nest within it.
It was Yahj, and a two-moon tide – and the sun only just up above the horizon – so the boat flew like barch angels into the rude harbour carved by the tusks of Tangahl Unbowed, Before the Calamity. Timal shifted her left foot, adopted musch, and the water boat came around into the calm waters beneath His trunk, into His shadow, already a calm respite against the morning heat. She snapped at the fore cleat and the sails furled into the mast, and quickly the boat slowed, bobbing to an uncertain halt beneath the great rock edifice, pride of the Inland Sea.
She spoke fosne, so as not to cause offence, then strewed banjakla shavings fragranced with oils into the water, where they mingled with soaked scraps of paper old and new, lost wishes and untold tales which had fallen from their place in the tiny cracks and crags of the great stone idol. If they fell, they were lost; nothing could be done. But Timal stole a glance as her banjakla sank with a bubbling grace, seesawing into the depths of the black water, and she saw what others had written for the eyes of their God, Unbowed Before the Calamity, may he forgive her.
From her pocket, Timal took a small scrap of folded paper. It was rough, pocked with pulp and other leavings, ragged at the edges; handmade, as prescribed. Written upon it, in tiny insect-like script, her story for Tangahl Unbowed, should He find it worthy of His attention.
She allowed her boat to edge closer to the rock, to nudge lightly against it, speaking fosne as she steadied the balance and reached forward to insert her folded paper into a crack. She made sure to wedge it tightly, secure it against the wind and the birds so that it would last and, one day, would come to the notice of Tangahl Himself, on a day when He had time to notice such small things.
Satisfied, sure the paper’s own folds would hold it securely, happy that it was worthy of Himself, should He deign to notice it, Timal let her boat drift backwards and slew about. She unsnapped the fore cleat and unfurled the sails, catching expertly the ocean breeze, and the boat turned out to the horizon. From behind her, the wind rustled the edges of papers – made by hand, scribed by hand, holding stories the people of the Inland Sea told to their God – and the susurrous for a moment drowned out the slap of the sea against the hull of the water boat, the calls of the seabirds and the rushing in the ears of Timal; all she could hear was the vibrato of wind in paper folds, the whisper of the music of the stories offered to Tangahl Unbowed, Before the Calamity, His Tusks Unbroken, should He deign to hear.