Ithzir language (essay)

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This is a creative work set in the world of Elanthia, attributed to its original author(s). It does not necessarily represent the official lore of GemStone IV.

Title: On Ithzir Language: A Treatise

Author: Goat

Part 1, Background

As many will remember, the images of one dozen Ithzir appeared before us when Aralyte performed her ritual to destroy Althedeus. She spoke their language, and they appeared to assist, or at least look on without hostility, during her ritual. Of course, this contrasts with the behavior of Ithzir in Old Ta'Faendryl, who have been universally hostile to adventurers in the area (who, of course, have behaved in kind).

Recent events have brought us back in contact with beings who speak the same language spoken by the Old Ta'Faendryl Ithzir, and share their metallic-sounding timbre. Melgorehn's Reach has been active again as of late. Aurach, while visiting the moon chamber with others, has heard a few words from two different parties - one in Ithzir and another in Tehiri. A metallic, hollow voice whispered from the darkness, "Te klaloc lethi ram lette. Kol Tar'sken." Another voice whispered within the darkness, "Tiu zom rome. Iebri lovib keke. In-gtomtei huieb. Fizum mu teur."

We are currently unable to translate the metallic speech, but it clearly matches previous utterances by seers in the old city… and something Glethad once muttered. By contrast, we have a solid, if not exact, idea of the Tehiri: "Hello, (from?) sunny land. I am the master of blood. Let's trade power. Witness the heavens."

Grishom Stone has identified himself as the master of blood in past visions. Many of us hypothesize that we witnessed an introduction between Stone and the Ithzir, yet we cannot discern the Ithzir's motives. This is clearly alarming.

Tonight, Kayse and Lasindriel heard voices in their heads. Kayse heard one word in Aelotoian - "Zrissantha" - which means, roughly, "Traitor." Then they each heard "Dro meph ti un'ka til laner?" This question was also in the Ithzir language, similar to a janissary uttering ""Dro, meph ti mudrona ptatha ratanama."

It seems clear that the fate of Elanthia and the Ithzir are intertwined. If we understand their language, we might find a means to prevent them from aligning with our enemies, or even convince them to align with us. We might find a way to reach Aralyte, who we last saw lost in the Shadow Realm. Failing any of that, we might at least overhear and understand the Ithzir's motives and intentions.

To be clear, I have no special training in language - I hardly understand my apparently-native tongue of Rhoska-Tor. While I have some experience with extraplanar beings, my main qualification is a willingness to try. I welcome all others to join me in this effort. Copies of all known Ithzir speech are available in each town's library; ask your librarian for a tome titled "Ithzir family creatures." Perhaps our combined insights can crack this mystery.

Magister Raelee has requested that the Hall of Mages provide any available information on the language, but in the meantime, we have plenty of Ithzir speech, and its context, to get started.

Part 2, Early Findings

Unlike trollish, Ithzir does NOT appear to be a rote mutation of Common. That is, it does make make sense in common when reserved, or when mutating word boundaries, or when shifted some number of letters forwards or backwards with the Common alphabet. Rather, it appears to have its own rich vocabulary, like Tehir and Aelotoian.

Ithzir words very much look like words to those versed in common, though. That is, the distribution of vowel and consonant sounds is quite similar to Common. Ithzir contains words we transcribe as "Maktath" and "hamma" rather than, say, "aeiobtttt."

From the distinct sentences we have heard, we have 208 words to work with, 111 of them unique. The most common words, in order, are te, eif, maktath, ptath, ka, cra, jamma, dro, maktali, and klaloc. In addition to the words themselves, we have a great deal of context.

For example: I once witnessed An Ithzir initiate bow her head and places her hands over an Ithzir janissary, and though the initiate's lips did not move, I heard a single word spoken clearly and forcefully: "Koh!" A pale nimbus encircled the fallen janissary, then faded into the corpse. The Ithzir janissary awakened looking confused and somewhat drained!

From this, I feel I can narrow down the meaning of "Koh" to a list of likely candidates: Live, Rise, Breath, Fight On, etc. It is possible that our subjective understanding of the world is so different than theirs that "Koh" is an idiom, literally translated to "shave the pigeon", but I would assume it less likely than the more straightforward hypotheses above.

Based on context, Ithzir appears to match the tones inherent in Common for forming statements, exclamations, and questions. From that, we can build hypotheses that some subset of Han, Hor, Hamme, Oru, Wafi, Letti, and Dro map to question words in Common - who, what, when, where, why, and how.

I suspect Ithzir has fully-formed (perhaps even consistent) tenses or other word modifiers, like intensifiers or diminutives. Witness: The Ithzir seer, before dying, chuckled wryly and said, "Letta, Leth, Latoth..." These words appear to be related, and the seer uttering them was perhaps sardonically amused in part by the verbal progression of that relationship.

I will continue to post hypotheses as I generate them, and encourage others to do the same. Hopefully word will come from the Hall soon, to greatly illuminate these studies.

Part 3, Word suffixes

Observe :

Wafi ptath feaji letho ramanu dro qualoka ma maktath eif?"
Maktath eif lethekka on munarop vasse naan!
Ptath lethekke on munarop vasse naan!
Pa letthe, isonna ytrak ka patrabi maktali cra!
Te klaloc lethi ram lette.
Letta, Leth, Latoth...

It appears "Let", and perhaps "Lot" and "Lat" with it, are word stems. From those, different tenses, declensions, intensifiers, etc. could be applied. As this is a very common root, we may indeed be looking at some analog to Common's "to be".

Witness also: leppath, maktath, kamath, ptath. I have not identified similarly frequent suffixes, but this may be structural.

It could also be that Ithzir simply has a constrained number of phonemes and syllables, leading the uninformed observer to see unrelated terms as belonging together.

Part 4, Tentative first translations

"Maktath eif" is a common digram. It represents 5 of the 6 known occurrences of maktath, and 4 of the 7 known occurrences of eif. Those two words are also the second- and third-most common in known speech. (Other digrams where Maktath is first or eif is second: "xeca eif", "qualoka eif", "maktath vasse"). Depending on how similar Ithzir grammar is to Common grammar, I suspect maktath is an adjective, and eif is a pronoun.

My intuition begins to assign plausible translations:

An Ithzir scout's voice sounds as if she is speaking through a long metal tube as she tilts her head toward an Ithzir seer, saying, "Te hamma maktath eif, ptath hamma ka xeca eif."

Possibility: "I will kill this one, you kill the other one."

Te is always emphasized a bit no matter where it appears in speech, such that it deserves a convention of being capitalized when written. It is the most frequently-heard word, ahead of ptath. "I" is only the tenth-most commonly-used word in written Common, but I won't discount the idea because of this difference in frequency. We have a small sample size, conversation rather than writing, and still likely different structures (there may be no common articles, there may be a lack of common prepositions).

Substituting "I" for "Te" seems quite reasonable in the following contexts:

An Ithzir scout chuckles softly, the soft laugh sounding alien and intriguing at the same time. She nods confidently, speaking in a hollow tone, "Gremou bunorak patan ik ptath ra Te pila leppath!"
The Ithzir scout grins at you.
An Ithzir scout swings a gleaming steel broadsword at you!
An Ithzir herald stands up, glaring as she growls, "Han ptath breve quan Te yosk!?"
The Ithzir scout whispers, "Ra dro, Te lothre on ka nuko," then collapses.
Te klaloc cra issar le tenek sra!
An Ithzir seer stands, muttering, "Te klaloc lethi ram lette." (Glethad once quoted this, too).
Te klaloc lethi ram lette. Kol Tar'sken.

Possibility - a common saying. Something that represents the ethos or pride of a race, nation, or species. I am here and there. I am past and future. I am old and wise I control life and death.

The blood red sigils above Aralyte's eyes come to life, peeling from her face like shards of crimson glass, and they slowly float around her. She utters, "Te klaloc cra issar le tenek sra!"

I have similar, suspicions that "ptath" is "you."

The Ithzir initiate asks incredulously, "Hor? Kla val ptath...?" then falls, his pupil-less green eyes frozen in a dead stare.

Possibility: "Really? How did you…"

An Ithzir scout chuckles softly, the soft laugh sounding alien and intriguing at the same time. she nods confidently, speaking in a hollow tone, "Kol Granoth, ptath eis qualoka eif!"

Possibility: "My God, you are something!"

An Ithzir initiate sneers as he says, "Ptath lethekke on munarop vasse naan!"

We then have "ti" and "ptatha". I would like to further examine the possibility that they mean "my" and "your", respectively:

An Ithzir scout's voice sounds as if she is speaking through a long metal tube as she cocks her head, saying, "Dro, meph ti mudrona ptatha ratanama."
The Ithzir scout smiles sardonically at you.

Possibility: "Yes, [I'll] make my blade your death."

Of course, all of this is nowhere near proven. It will merely serve as a scaffold against which we may assign other translations as more information becomes available. We will judge its applicability by how well it allows the construction of meaningful translations. It will likely be impossible to draw solid conclusions until we can compare notes with the Hall of Mages or the Palestra, witness much more Ithzir language in action, or attempt to hold an actual exchange with them.

Part 5, Meeting Ran'lock

Last night, we had the opportunity to speak with an Ithzir female, who appeared within a wall of mist in the moon chamber of Melgorehn's Reach. Eshielle has already published an account of the evening, and I will discuss its implications elsewhere. Our understanding of Ithzir was not greatly expanded. The figure in the mist did not offer especially explicit confirmations, nor did she offer clear "Yes" or "No" words. We ended up discussing largely in Tehir after both sides determined that it could be used as a minimal lingua franca.

  • A Greeting?*

When the figure in the mist first appeared, I recited: "Te klaloc lethi ram lette." From within the mist, a metallic voice says, "Te klaloc lethi ram lette."

This appears to support my idea that this phrase can serve as a greeting.

  • A Name?*

I recited: "Te - Goat. ...Ptath?" (Intention: I - Goat. You…?) From within the mist, a metallic voice said, "Ran'lock."

I have some confidence that Ran'lock is her name. From this exchange alone, one might also guess that Ran'lock means "I don't understand" or 'You are speaking nonsense" or "You are not worthy of speaking to me." However, further conversation solidified the idea of an identifier, especially:

From within the mist, Hadya's voice said, "Uodi Ran'lock." ("I am Ran'lock", in Tehir.)

  • A title?*

From within the mist, the metallic voice said, "Kol Tar'sken loji keke. Loji eizh." Compare to previous instances of Kol: An Ithzir scout chuckled softly, the soft laugh sounding alien and intriguing at the same time. she nodded confidently, speaking in a hollow tone, "Kol Granoth, ptath eis qualoka eif!" "Te klaloc lethi ram lette. Kol Tar'sken."

And also, a use of Granoth: The Ithzir seer screams as he collapses, "Granoth! Tal issar leti!"

I suspect Kol is a title, an honorific. Something like 'Lord.' Granoth may be a god or king or some such. Note that Ran'lock never said anything that looked like "I am Ran'lock" in ithzir - only in Tehir. It seems likely that it's a quirk of Ithzir speech - one simply states his or her name rather than making a sentence out of it (OR we're totally going in the wrong direction here). That would make it more reasonable that "Kol Tar'sken" would a both a name and a stand-alone sentence.

This may turn out to be one of the more relevant parts of my studies - who, or what, is Kol Tar'sken? We knew that Kol Tar'sken brings death and blood. Is it Stone? A competing Ithzir? The Star of Khar'ta? I hope we will have another opportunity to speak with Ran'lock; I have prepared a couple of questions that might help us understand what he/she/it is, and what relationship it is to the other Ithzir and Stone.

  • Mimicking voices*

Ran'lock mimicked serveral voices, included mine, Hadya's, and Sareyna's. I am uncertain of the purpose. Perhaps Ran'lock intended to make it easier to understand her. Another possibility is that she intends to show an example for language learning - 'here's something this person could say correctly in this situation', or to making statements about that person (i.e. saying "Hadya is Ran'lock" rather than "I am Ran'lock"). I most strongly suspect the first of these - that the mimicry is something of a courtesy. When Ran'lock was a bit shaken by hearing Grak'na'Den (the Ithzir name for Althedeus, according to Xorus), her voice returned to metallic, as if she was simply startled enough to forget about a nicety.

  • A new opportunity - Tehir*

It is promising that we now have one more avenue into improved communication, besides the Palestra, the Hall of Mages, and my own studies. Proficiency in Tehir may prove crucial as well. It is interesting, though, that Ran'lock did not engage in a fluent conversation with the several native Tehir speakers present. She may only partially grasp the language, at a similar "phrasebook" level to my own understanding. Or perhaps she understands a tribal dialect different than those familiar to our own Tehir speakers. Whatever her fluency, hopefully we can utilize the language as a bridge to help better understand Ithzir itself.