Iyo/Journal

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Iyo/Journal is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.

An excerpt from the notes of Eslada L'Rae.

Day 1 - Arrival

The day started off as well as could be expected. I presented myself at the entrance to the Iyo Village and waited to be acknowledged. For a long period of time there was no sign of movement, but then an Iyo warrior dropped to the ground from an overhead tree limb right in front of me! I'm quite sure I screamed in shock, but he remained impassive, regarding me. It was my first look at one of the people that I hope to learn much more about.

He was shorter than I by a good margin, but not as small as a gnome or halfling. His head was at about the level of my shoulders but he was well-proportioned and clearly very fit. He wore a leather skirt of sorts that ended just above the knees, a sleeveless brushed leather tunic, and a wide belt that contained a few pouches of various sizes and colors.

I introduced myself as best I could and explained that I hoped to stay amongst them for a time, and that I was writing a book... but it was a very curious experience. When you speak to someone, you are used to receiving ongoing responses. Slight nods, flickers of emotion, perhaps a smile... the warrior remained completely impassive throughout my introduction. When I had finished, I could not say for certain that he understood a single word that I had said. We stared at each other for a long moment, then he grunted softly to himself and pointed at me, then at the ground at his feet. I took his meaning and nodded my understanding. I folded my hands and prepared to wait as long as necessary.

The warrior turned and loped off into the trees, and I watched as he ran. He disappeared into the trees, and I waited for a few long minutes to see what would happen next. I can admit that I was afraid, but I was also resolved. After roughly ten minutes, the warrior returned, leading a small group of Iyo, all carrying visible weaponry as they approached.

When they drew close, they came to a halt, but none of them spoke. I looked at the warrior I'd seen originally, but he gave me no clue as to what was expected. So I began my speech once more. I introduced myself and explained what I hoped would happen.

When I had finished, one of the Iyo took a step forward and sheathed his blade. He nodded his head in a curious motion, turning his chin to the side and bowing his neck until his ear faced the ground for a moment, then straightened once more. He then held out a hand and spoke in a warm, clear Common.

"I welcome you, Eslada L'Rae. Be welcome amongst the Iyo."

I nearly wept with relief as I took his hand and was led into the forest surrounded by the warriors. None of whom, I have just realized, sheathed their own weapons.

--

We traveled for several hours and have come to rest at a small cluster of huts at the foot of the mountain. No names have been proffered, and many of my questions have been asked with no response given at all. Were it not for the fact that the first to welcome me had occasionally been willing to answer a particular question or other (usually about something completely meaningless such as the heat or how far we would be traveling) in that same warm, clear voice, I would think that they were either deaf or did not speak Common.

I have been fed a wonderful early dinner of some sort of roasted meat, though I could not guess at its source. The Iyo ate carefully, creating a minimum of mess, but hungrily, each consuming far more food than I would have thought, given their apparent high level of fitness. I did my best to emulate them and found the meat absolutely delicious. They accepted my praise, and thanks, with good grace. While none save the one who welcomed me initially have spoken thus far, the smiles all around showed that they understood my intentions, if not my words, just fine. Those same smiles have done a great deal to calm some of my fears.

I have been given a fairly simple room in which to sleep, with a bed made of wide-leafed branches topped with a thick leather blanket. It is surprisingly comfortable, and the sounds of the jungle all around are somehow soothing. I think I may grow to like it here.


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Day 3 - Names

My host introduced himself today, which didn't quite feel like the momentous thing that I would have expected. The Iyo continue to refuse to speak anything except Common in my presence, and any questions about their own language go politely ignored. Not all are well versed in Common, it would appear, or perhaps there are simply some who have no interest in speaking with me at all.

My host's name is, apparently, Ahsintor. He revealed that this morning over breakfast, and it led to a lengthy discussion regarding Iyo naming.

There are apparently many different families, or clans, populating the center of the Isle. Each one uses a common vowel sound as the prefix for their names. For instance, Ahsintor's... well, my assumption is that they're brothers, but the family/clan member who joined us at breakfast is named Ahbil. All other members of their clan, or family... I'm as yet unsure if there's a blood link between all members of a group, so am unsure which term is correct... share the same "Ah" sound at the beginning of their name. Other families (I shall use the term families, I think, for it feels closer to the apparent bond between those I have seen thus far) use sounds such as "Uh" and "Im" as their prefixes, and Ahsintor indicated that there were many more, though he did not elaborate.

It also appears that Iyo names acquire extra syllables as they progress through their lives, though Ahsintor was unwilling to discuss particulars of how this might be achieved. Children, which Ahsintor refers to collectively as 'young ones', regardless of gender, have single-syllable names. Knowing what to listen for, it appears that most of the adults in the camp have names with two syllables. Ahsintor is the first name I have heard with a third syllable, but when I asked what the significance of the third syllable on his name was, he gave me a smile and a slight shake of his head in response.

When I asked Ahsintor if there was any visual method by which one could discern which family a particular Iyo belonged to, he appeared confused by the question. I elaborated, asking if there were face markings, or different methods of dress, or some other sort of ornamentation, but once he understood the question, he chuckled to himself and assured me that there was nothing of the sort. Ahsintor then made it quite clear that the Iyo are all Iyo first. While the families do disagree on many things, and specialize in different skills and crafts, they each consider themselves part of the greater whole. It was the most strident tone I have heard from him to date, though he did not appear displeased... more that he wanted this particular point to be very clear. I assured him that I understood perfectly well.

Ahsintor continues to treat me well and is unfailingly pleasant. Indeed, I have come to realize he has given up his bed, that I might be more comfortable in these strange surroundings. When I attempted to insist that I could sleep elsewhere, he would not hear of it. However, I have begun to wonder how much of his demeanor is polite deference, and how much is a means to an end, keeping a careful eye on me at all times. I find myself wondering if the smiles actually reach his eyes.

I shall remain vigilant... and learn all that I can.


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Day 8 - Visitation

Ahbil took me hunting again this morning, and I actually shot a rabbit! He was very gentle about it, of course, and was more than willing to explain the Iyo philosophy of hunting when I asked him about it. To hear him say it, the rabbit had fulfilled its purpose in life by being sustenance for us, and that we should not mourn those who pass fulfilling their purpose. I'm not sure I quite agree with him, but it was very clear he meant what he said. Regardless, we put my rabbit in the sack with the rest of them (Ahbil's bow was busy this morning) and came back to camp.

When we arrived, however, there was a tense conversation underway. Ahbil stopped well short of the edge of the trees and looked at me, clearly uncomfortable. He closed his eyes for a moment, then let out a shrill whistle, modulated like one of the larger jungle-dwelling birds. The conversation in the camp stopped immediately, and Ahsintor turned his head sharply in our direction. I could see now that he and the others that I had become accustomed to seeing were all gathered and facing another group of Iyo, of similar number.

Ahsintor made a sharp gesture, and Ahbil led me forward. The unfamiliar Iyo watched me with open hostility, and I avoided eye contact with them as Ahbil guided me into the hut where I've been sleeping. He whispered that I should stay put until he came for me, and the stress was clearly visible on his face. I indicated my agreement, and he drew the leather skin back across the entrance, blocking my view.

I had no idea what was going on but was quite certain that the unfamiliar Iyo did not appreciate my presence here. A whispered conversation sprung up almost immediately, sharp enough on the sibilants for me to hear it was occurring, but too quiet by far for me to make out anything that was being said. The noise rose and fell in intensity a few times, then all went quiet until Ahsintor pulled the flap aside and called out for permission to enter.

As Ahsintor told it, the "Im" family had come to trade with the "Ah" family, not knowing that the "Ahs" had been harboring me amongst them. The "Ims" are apparently rather vehement in their dislike of non-Iyo, and they were threatening to scuttle all future trade unless I was cast out... though I do not believe that Ahsintor was entirely truthful about what the "Ims" wished to have done to me. Regardless, he apparently refused, and an argument broke out.

I asked him if I was causing them too much trouble and indicated that I would leave if he thought it best. He gently declined my offer and explained that the "Ims" would come to their senses soon enough. According to him, they needed the trade much more than the "Ahs" did.

This was the first time Ahsintor had broached the subject of trade, so I questioned him, finding him far more forthcoming than usual. The "Ahs" are apparently quite known for their weapons, specifically bows. While other families can, and do, produce their own, the artistry and power of the bows crafted amongst the "Ah" family are undeniably much better. In addition, the "Ahs" are excellent hunters (which I had seen with my own eyes just that morning) and will regularly take on 'contracts' of sorts for other families to provide meat and pelts in exchange for other goods that are less readily available.

I asked him what they had hoped to receive from the "Ims", and he explained that the "Ims" are woodworkers without parallel. They craft all manner of furniture, homes, and even some musical instruments... though Ahsintor remarked that even the fine woodworking skills of the "Ims" can't hold a candle to the "Uh" family's skill in the area of musical instruments.

According to him, "There is more than a good stain and a steady hand required to make something worthy of making good music."

Ahsintor said that he had hoped to trade with the "Ims" for their services in constructing a new wooden building at the edge of the camp, but that it wasn't urgent, and could wait for the "Ims" to calm down and return to the negotiating table.

Tonight, Ahbil is going to show me how to clean and cook my rabbit, and it will go into the communal stew!


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Day 65 - A Gift

Ahsintor stopped me this morning as I was getting ready for the hunt. I thought he wanted to talk about yesterday, but he seems to have completely forgotten, and I'm more than happy to play along if that's how he wants to handle it. I hope everyone else follows his lead, but they usually do.

Turns out he'd made me a gift... a bow almost like Ahbil's. I'm sitting here now looking at this thing and trying to understand what this all means. Ahbil's bow... and I guess mine now... are different from all the others. Everyone in the family is an excellent shot, and each has a wonderfully crafted longbow, but these two are made from a different sort of material. Ahbil had mentioned before that his was crafted by Ahsintor, and it seems now that mine was as well.

It's a magnificent looking weapon... but I didn't take it with me today for the hunt. Ahsintor suggested that I string it this evening and do some practice shooting at my tree first, to get a feel for it. It's hard to explain how it felt to shoot this... my bow for the first time. The bow they gave me at first was a wonderful weapon, and it took a long time to feel comfortable in my grip, but I'd never really held a bow before, so that was expected. This bow, though...

It feels like I was made to hold it. It fires true, and just feels right somehow. I can't explain it.

It's the only one other than Ahbil's that I've seen. I have no idea what it means that Ahsintor made one for me. But I'm so very, very grateful for the gift.


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Day 66 - The Grove

I think I made another mistake today.

I rose early. It was my turn for the morning hunt, and I was eager to try out the bow Ahsintor made for me. Ahbil led, as usual, but instead of shadowing him, I was sent out to one wing, far from the main group, with instructions to reconvene in two hours. The other three members of the party maintained their silence, as always, but I got a couple small smiles as I made my way through the trees, new bow in hand.

I remembered what I'd been taught and managed to get three rabbits in the first hour. I saw a couple of boars, but I won't be making that mistake again. The bruising from last time is only just starting to fade. I checked the sky at the first opportunity and judged I still had at least a half an hour before I needed to head back, so I pressed on. That's when I came across the jungle cat.

Ahsintor has never told me the word for these creatures, and Ahbil just calls them 'cats', but they're some kind of strange leopard, and they're extremely dangerous. Ahbil won't take one on, even with a full hunting party. And this one was staring right at me, from no more than five feet away! My heart leapt into my chest and I had just started trying to back away when the thing threw its head back and SCREAMED. That was all I needed to hear, and before I knew it I was pelting through the woods as fast as my legs could carry me.

I was making so much noise, I wouldn't have heard the thing until it was right on top of me, so I put my head down and pumped my legs as hard as I could. I ran until my breath began to give out before I dared look behind me for any sign of the cat, but there was no sign of it. Either I had outrun it, or it had decided I wasn't worth the trouble.

It took me a long time to catch my breath, but I gradually realized I was in a part of the jungle I've never seen before. The trees there are... different. They're not like the birch that's all around the camp. That area is full of tall, bright-leafed trees with broad canopies. Amongst the foliage I saw dozens of fist-sized clumps of bright red flowers, and the grass underfoot was spongy with a bright green moss that I had not seen before. I'm not sure how long I stared before I noticed a sense of... tension in the air. I can't explain it, but there was... something... in that grove. Like maybe I wasn't alone?

Ahbil came pelting into the grove a minute later, breathing heavily, and with his sword drawn. His eyes were wild, but when he saw me, he skidded to a halt. I heard him curse quietly and watched as his face fell. He closed his eyes and bowed his head, slowly placing his sword into its sheath.

I tried to get him to tell me what was wrong, but he only shook his head and gestured for me to follow him. At this point I'm accustomed to the Iyo 'silent treatment', so I followed. Ahbil led me back to camp, where Ahsintor was waiting with the rest of the hunting party. Ahbil beckoned me to wait, then leaned in close to Ahsintor and whispered something in the man's ear. Ahsintor's eyes flicked to me, and I saw a frown crease his normally pleasant face.

When Ahbil had finished, Ahsintor nodded his understanding, then came to me and asked if I was all right. I told him I was and explained what had happened. He nodded once more and told me that I had had a trying day, and that I should perhaps lie down for a time. I asked him about the grove, and the unusual trees, and for the first time since I arrived, I saw him grow angry. He told me that some questions are better left unasked, and then completely shut down. No one has spoken a word to me since then, and there are no more small smiles to be seen.

I wish I knew what I did, and how to fix it.


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Day 92 - Rites

It rained today, and rain's never felt more appropriate.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the day. Back home I would have worn a nice dress, brought flowers, and hugged anyone who seemed like they needed it. But I don't have any dresses... and the camp is already surrounded by wildflowers. And I'm not too keen on hugging anyone here.

It was my turn to go out for the hunt, but Ahbil caught me as I was leaving the hut and told me that there would be no hunt today. I asked him for some advice on what to expect, and he told me to be ready at midday, when we would all go and say goodbye. I tried to press him, looking for more information, but he turned away, and I could see his eyes tearing up as he did so.

I stayed in the hut until midday, thankful I had some dried meat to snack on, and then joined the rest of the camp as we headed off into the woods. I quietly asked Ahbil if we should leave some sort of a guard back at camp, and he told me that there was no need. Apparently no Iyo would ever steal from another Iyo. And none but the Iyo venture this far.

We walked for about an hour in silence. While I've grown used to most of the family refusing to speak around me, it's still more than a little annoying. Still, I have to admit I didn't feel much like talking, either.

The burial ground is... stunning. Ahbil led us through row after row of carved wooden markers, and my brain had a hard time understanding that each one represented a departed Iyo. Ahbil brought us to the end of one row, where there was a familiar new marker, and I felt my eyes grow hot.

Ahsintor's grave was perfectly level and adorned with flowers and small items of all sorts. Ahbil told me on the way back that each of the families had paid their respects with an offering of something precious to them. There was no writing on the marker, but the line of his life had been carved into it over the last week. I had seen everyone in camp taking turns, and the finished product was breathtaking. From one end to the other, and back again, the symbolic image of Ahsintor wound his way through life, overcoming obstacles and growing in stature. I still don't know what most of the obstacles represented, but there were a lot of them. At the end of the line was a circle cut nearly through the marker. This was what Ahbil was carving last night, and I don't have to ask what it means.

It's the end.

We stood there, in the rain, and I hope it did a good job of hiding my tears. I felt like someone should say something, but amongst this family, silence is king. Still...

I felt a little foolish, but I spoke up. I talked about how much I appreciated Ahsintor welcoming me. How much I appreciated the bow he made for me. And just whatever else came to mind. I wound down after a few minutes, but I felt some better.

Ahbil stepped forward and laid his bow amongst the other gifts. I tried really hard not to react at that. Ahbil's always been so proud of that bow... but I think I understand why he did it. Losing a firewheel weapon is a monumental loss. But so is losing someone like Ahsintor.

It was a long walk back to the camp, and Ahbil excused himself for the evening as soon as we arrived. A short while later, one of the others came up to me and handed me a stone, wordless as always. I took it, and it took me a moment to realize that it had been carved. I looked it over and was amazed to find that it had a miniature copy of Ahsintor's lifeline etched all around it. I smiled at the man, and tried to hand the stone back, but he wouldn't take it, instead showing me that had one of his own. He closed my hand around this one and then headed to his own hut.

I don't know what comes next. But tonight, I don't really care that much.

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