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The Wishing Map
Chapter Sixteen: Fisher Folk and Naims (Cont’d)
Previously: After being attacked by a spiffwit, Gina and her brother Zack entered the inn named for the bizarre little bird.
(See below for a Glossary of SurKellish words*)
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The inside of the Screaming Spiffwit was made of the same richly grained wood as the exterior. Only now, in the light of multiple lanterns, did Zack and Gina realize how remarkable it was. At first they thought it was painted, but as they looked closer, they realized its rainbow hues were organic.
It was carved into patterns that took their inspiration from the wood’s natural colors: an angelic pink face surrounded by pale blue flowers; a gleeful yellow sun breaking through vermillion clouds; a deep green forest marching along a grey granite bluff. An entire industry must exist around the cutting, carving, and installation of this extraordinary lumber.
Gina stroked the wall near the doorway. “It’s almost as if the pictures were there from the start!”
“They were!” a child’s voice exclaimed from across the room.
“An’ the stories!” another added.
“SurKellish rainbowwood,” said Maerith. “In all Ismara is none so noble. The pillars a’ the Great Court of Uol in Zshinia are made just so.”
“Check it out!” Zack exclaimed, following the lines of a ferocious snake-like creature with his fingers. It was exhaling a long blue flame at a nest of ants which, upon further inspection, turned out to be humans! “Wo, wicked beasty!”
“Me an’ Sniggle carved that’n,” a nasally child-voice boasted from nearby. “It’s a Morahsan sand serpent!”
“Yer never saw nay Morahsan sand serpent, yer pilky naimling!” a round faced man baited from the other side of the room.
“Hush, Gurth!” hissed his frowzy wife. “Don’t yer be stirring up the naimlings now, yer duppy old fern!”
Following the woman’s gesture, Zack and Gina saw eight or nine children gathered round a low table in an alcove, apparently made just for them.
“Oh, how cute—a kid’s section,” said Gina.
“Nay goats allowed,” Shelcor corrected. “There sit the lee naims.”
Gina and Zack finally understood that these “children,” while only about two feet tall, were in fact full-grown adults. In age, at least. In demeanor they resembled nothing so much as third graders at a pizza party.
“’Naims…” Gina tried out the word, and then, realizing the ay sound in Kellish is the equivalent of an o in English, exclaimed,
“Cool!” said Zack.
Shelcor led Gina and Zack across the room to a scallop-encrusted fireplace where flames danced invitingly. He pulled a heavy rainbowwood table and two benches close to the heat, and invited them to sit. Zack dropped his soggy backpack near the hearth and glanced over at Gina.
“What?” she said, then answered her own question: “I know. I lost mine in the ocean. So what? I don’t ever plan to go outside again, anyway!” She leaned back against the table and lifted her feet over the redding embers. “Oooooooo! In fact, I’m never even going to leave this spot! Ever! When I die, just use me for kindling!”
The fisher folk smiled.
Like children playing in a tide pool before a tidal wave,
Zack and Gina had no idea what was coming.
Thoughts: Have you ever observed a phenomenon of nature so wondrous that it simply could not have come into existence by chance?
*A brief Glossary of SurKellish words: spiffwit–a flightless seabird; yer–you; nay–no; pilky–a crude, derogatory adjective; naimling–diminutive of naim; duppy–stupid; lee–little; ter–to; traith–truthful or wise saying.
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