Sneak Peek: An Introduction To Sekura’s Language
So I’m here with another sneak peek. This scene might not actually end up in the final draft of City of Quartz but I wanted to share it with you today because I was wondering how to handle the introduction of the language the people of Sekura use. In City of Light, language was a fluid thing. For the most part everything was written in English with a few variations in a handful of words. For example, it used made up profanities, but also things like distance and time were referred to differently.
In Sekura, however, they’ve an entirely unique language from the people of Nar. I’ve got a running translation dictionary and I’ve been using the language as I write this early draft. But as I grow more fluent with the language myself I start to worry that using it might detract from the story.
I know there are fabulous authors who have introduced made-up languages in their fiction. The king of high fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien, for example, is famous for it. Of course, he was first an agile linguist and fluent in dozens of real-world languages before inventing his own. And even so, his use of these made-up languages were minor scatterings in his books.
So how much is too much when it comes to characters speaking foreign languages in a story?
In this draft of City of Quartz, Wish and Tye don’t understand the language but Niah does because she has the genetic memory of Bellamy to draw it from. So when a scene is written from Niah’s point-of-view I can keep it all English because she understood even the Sekuran. But when I’m in Wish, Tye’s, or Casper’s points-of-view I can’t. At one point I introduced a translation device for Tye but I’m not sure it’s enough.
Anyway, here’s a sneak peek scene where I introduce some of the Sekuran language. I’d love to know what you think. Do you get enough of the gist of the meaning to go with it or does it frustrate and annoy you not to know what they’re saying. And would a glossary counterbalance this? Or what other ideas or suggestions for handling other-world languages do you have?
With the forest around us fallen silent, Tye turns to Mattiel, “We should go out and check the damage.”
Mattiel nods. Niah pushes herself up from her chair. “I’m coming with you.” Her hand rests on the back of the chair. I wonder how much she’s using it to help her stay upright.
“You need to rest, Niah,” I say.
Niah glances at me but quickly looks away again. “I’m coming,” she insists, directing her comment at Tye rather than me. I hate it when she does that. She treats me like her little sister and I hate it. We were more than that to each other. She is all I have. I have to take care of her.
I glare at her, stepping forward to grip her wrist. “You’re not well enough, Niah. You’ve already left your treatment too long. You need to head back to the med lab.”
Niah pulls her arm away with surprising strength. “Don’t!” Her voice is firm and sharp but not raised.
I glance at Tye for help. Even if Niah won’t listen to me she’ll usually listen to him. Well, sometimes.
“Niah, you’ve done so much already. You do need rest,” he says, taking her hand.
Niah pulls her hand free from him too. “I’m going.” She turns her back on the three of us. Casper still stands beside the HUD. His brow is furrowed and he barely glances our way as Niah stalks past him. Instead he’s focused on the settings flashing across the control screen.
Niah stalks out of the room. I glance at Tye again. He shrugs, then chases after her, catching her in the long corridor that leads to the lift. Mattiel shrugs too and follows. I sigh. There’s really no telling Niah what to do. Ever. So I follow the three of them, catching up at the lift, and we travel down to the cargo bay together.
Thanks to the artificial gravity and magnetic locks all of the vehicles in the cargo bay are exactly where they belong. The far door slides open when Tye swipes the control. We all look out at the short drop to the forrest floor. The ship is still tilted at an odd angle so we’ll have to jump to get out.
Niah bites her lip. I bet she’s regretting insisting on coming with us because it’s not going to be as easy as taking a short stroll around the ship. Still, she stubbornly raises her chin and steps forward. Tye puts a hand on her shoulder. “Let me go first,” he says. Her shoulders sag a little, perhaps in relief, as she nods. Tye leaps down and turns to catch Niah as she jumps down after him. Mattiel and I jump down too.
The ground is solid, earthy, and dark. In areas it’s puckered and debris-strewn where the ship or the lumbering beast tore up the trees and forest floor.
“Nine-voids of a landing, huh?” Tye mutters as he begins walking around the ship. He keeps one hand on Niah’s elbow. I wonder how much support he’s giving her. Her steps are slow and careful, as if she’s concentrating on every movement.
The hull is battered. Across the bottom, which is tilted sideways and leaning against a short row of trees, there are three deep grooves that penetrate the thickest fore-layer of the hull plating. It doesn’t breach the cargo bay compartment but it will significantly compromise the integrity of the hull if not repaired before we return to space.
Things look even more dire as the four of us continue looping around the ship. Dark scorch marks and shattered hull plating around the ion bays are testament to the catastrophic failure of our sublight propulsion systems. Even the HO bays are damaged. One hisses with a slow leak of high pressure oxygen.
Niah shakes her head. “Will she ever be space-capable again?”
The scowl on Mattiel’s face has been consistently grim as he’d marched the full circle with us. Now he grimaces before responding. “It’s going to take a lot of work.”
“It doesn’t matter. We can’t leave now. We’ve come too far,” I say.
Niah and Tye glance at me. “We can’t stay, Wish,” Niah says. Her voice is soft, slow, and perhaps a little tight.
“We can’t go,” I cry, “Not without a cure. You need this. Patty needs it.”
She shakes her head, wincing as if the movement causes her pain. “We’ve already put everyone in too much danger,” she says, “It’s not worth all our lives.”
“How can you say that!” I shout, then regret my volume as she winces again. In a lower voice I add, “We’ve risked everything for you.”
Niah sighs. “I never asked you to.”
Tye steps between us. “Hey,” he says, his voice calm and quiet in comparison to the ringing echo of our voices that bounce back from the forest. “This isn’t the place to discuss it.” He turns to Niah. “Wish is right, we’re not leaving without completing our mission. We can’t let this all have been for nothing.”
A strong feminine voice calls out to us from the edge of the treeline. “Ri mah ge. Noy salvus ri nirah.” She steps out from between the black trunks of the northern line of trees.
This woman is dressed in a long, hooded cloak that shields the cascading length of her blonde hair. Her ice-grey eyes gaze at us from under the cowl of her cloak. Around her head flutters the pale, green-furred creature that had been a companion to the dark-haired warrioress who had stood tall against the monstrous tree-beast.
Niah turns to the Sekyan woman but I speak before Niah can ruin our good relations with the settlers here. “We’re looking for a healer, a doctor,” I say. “My sister is sick.”
“Ri es Other,” the woman says. “Is noy permitta.”
Niah stumbles forward. Her breath is short and her skin flushed. “Please,” she says. She drops to one knee now no longer supported by Tye’s hand on her arm. “Help us?” she whispers, bracing herself with two hands on the damp dirt.
The woman seems unable to prevent herself stepping forward to go to Niah’s aid. The little creature darts forward, flittering around Niah. It chitters at her. Niah tries to drag a breath through her tight lungs.
“Please?” she whispers again before collapsing forward. Tye and I both rush to catch her but we’re too late. Her eyelids flutter, brushing her flushed cheeks.
The woman leans down, stroking her fingers along Niah’s collarbone. She gasps, pulling her hand back. “Tiya combustum,” she whispers. She glances up at us. “Febris,” she adds, “Tiya es guhuria? Quarentine no permitta.”
“I’m sick,” Niah whispers, apparently understanding the woman but too weak to open her eyes. “It’s in my blood, but it’s not contagious. It’s genetic.” I step close to Niah and roll her onto her back. Her breath is shallow and damp. Her pulse races and her skin is flushed and dark.
I shake my head then gaze up at Tye. “She shouldn’t be out here. We have to get her back to the ship.”
He nods, bends, and scoops Niah into his arms as if she weighs next to nothing. Before striding off to the cargo bay door, Tye turns to the woman. “She needs medical treatment. Can you help us? Can anyone?”
Beside us, the woman hesitates. She glances back through the forest the way she’d come, then at the flying creature and the swath of torn up branches to the south where the other woman had gone. Eventually, she sighs. “Es noy salvus. Buh miya adtempto suppeta.”