Children of the Last God
(Book IV of the Oerth Cycle)
(C) 2001 BY

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"And for 'greetings', thou dost say... Hoya?" Jendara asked.

"Hoyo," Smith corrected, continuing the lesson. Each night of the two-week journey back, Smith intended to do his best to teach the Language of the Little People to the twenty-five mice of the Great Cavern who had come along. The lessons, of course, helped to take Jendara's mind off her sorrows - mice loved to learn new things, and there was quite a bit for the mice of the Great Cavern to learn. Jendara, of course, had an advantage over the others, as Smith had worked with her all throughout the journey to their ancient home. Yet, all were mice, and possessed of the eidetic memory of their people - and all were concentrating to learn as quickly as they could. Smith was confident that in a few months, they'd have mastered it.

"What means this... Hoyo?" asked one of the other mice, scratching her head in the pale moonlight of the night camp. Smith remembered her name was Cleonara - she was an excellent student, and learned her lessons very quickly.

"In thine tongue, Cleonara, it's closest meaning wouldst be 'greetings'," Smith replied. "'Tis a word from the tongue of the musties, a brave and noble people of whom Lady Merle is one, and the rest, thou shalt meet soon. In use, one doth say 'hoyo' for all forms of friendly greeting," Smith replied, and smiled.

"But what of more formal greetings, friend Smith? What doth one say, then?"

Smith shrugged. "Between ourselves, we have no more formal greeting than that. One couldst say 'good morning', 'good day' or 'good evening' if the moment didst call for it, but our long association with the musties hath yet tempered such formalities, and for the most part, we do simply say 'hoyo.' To the mus, of course, one bows politely and greets them in a more formal manner, preferably in their own language - such is the nature of their people. Formality is quite important to them. Amongst ourselves, however, we do yet simply say 'hoyo', as all in the village are yet friends, and we hath little formality amongst us."

"Well, then what doth the musties say for formal greetings?" another mouse wondered aloud. Smith looked to him, his eidetic memory allowing him to easily recall that his name was Lotharan.

Smith grinned. "They do yet speak the same language we do, Lotharan - the Language of the Little People, the result of eight centuries of association betwixt us. Today, because of their influence upon us, we do rarely speak formally to one another, Lotharan. They art a happy and playful people, and formality is unknown to them... Well, save for Lady Merle, as she hath yet learned the ways of her mate, Lord Xaa - and when thou dost speaketh to her, e'en though she be a mustie, speak with all propriety. She is yet the mate of Lord Xaa, our benefactor, and deserves the utmost respect, e'en though she may smile and treat us with less formality than she would the mus. When she speaks to anyone not a mus, she simply doth say 'hoyo', as anyone else might do," Smith replied, and paused, thinking.

"As I doth recall, the word did yet come from their ancient and ancestral tongue, long forgotten, now. It was yet from a longer phrase, 'Hoyo-chu-doto-kami-no', which did mean 'Happy is my heart in seeing you', though even by the time my ancestors did yet meet theirs, it had been abbreviated to simply 'hoyo.'" Smith grinned. "Thus, 'hoyo' doth mean 'greetings' and 'welcome' and 'I am happy to see you', and certainly when we doth speak the word, that is what we mean by it - though, in truth, in their ancient and forgotten tongue, the 'hoyo' of the longer phrase did yet mean 'happy'. So, they did literally greet each other by calling 'happy!' - e'en as do we, today."

"Hoyo, Smith!" a voice called.

Smith grinned and turned, seeing Merle walking over through the camp to him. Smith bowed. "Hoyo, my lady," he replied, and grinned again.

Merle bowed in return, then looked over to the mice gathered near. "How are your language-lessons going?"

"Very well, my lady. Jendara is the best, of course, because she's had the longest to learn. The others are catching up rapidly, however, particularly Cleonara and Lotharan."

"Do you think she knows enough to talk to me, now?"

"If you speak slowly and simply, yes, my lady," Smith replied, then looked to Jendara and spoke in her ancient language. "The Lady Merle doth wish to speak with thee, Jendara."

Jendara rose to her feet nervously, aware that all eyes were upon her.

Merle smiled. "I just wanted to say 'thank you', Jendara. You saved my mate's life. I don't know as I could ever repay that. Xaa is everything to me," Merle said, and hugged Jendara, grinning broadly.

Jendara smiled and hugged Merle back, and when Merle had let go, she spoke. "You are welcome, Lady Merle," she said in the language of the Little People, then looked to Smith nervously. "Did I yet quoth the words properly, friend Smith?"

Smith smiled. "Thou didst, indeed."

Merle smiled. "Well, that's all I wanted to say. I owe you a lot. If you ever want anything, just let me know," Merle said, then grinned impishly and waggled a finger at Jendara. "So long as what you want isn't my mate, next time," she said, and giggled. As Jendara blushed deeply, Merle bowed. "Goodnight, Jendara."

"Thou shouldst bow in return, Jendara," Smith said, sotto-voce.

Jendara did so, and Merle turned and walked away, heading back over to where Xaa sat by their tent and campfire.

"Do all the musties bow in greeting and farewell, friend Smith?" Jendara asked.

Smith shook his head. "No, only Lady Merle. She hath spent four years among the mus, and hath learned their ways. Yet, the musties do bow to the mus, as do we, as this be yet the custom of the mus, and is considered proper manners."

"I see that we hath a lot to learn," Jendara said, and many of the other mice behind her nodded as she resumed her seat by the campfire.

"Yes, thou dost indeed - so let us resume our lessons," Smith said, and did so.


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