An Englishman In Medecia
It is somewhat disconcerting to find oneself speaking to a girl whose appearance suggests that she is a mere youth, but who is in fact over two hundred and fifty years old, and behind whose eyes lie more knowledge and wisdom than the most learned of human sages.
In terms of her own race she was indeed a youth, as they live to somewhere around a thousand years. Amíra -- for that was her name -- was, in common with many Psyru of her age, travelling the world, learning its ways and adding both to her own store of knowledge, and to the accumulated knowledge of her long-lived race.
She spoke somewhat slowly, seeming at times to search for the right words, and initially I took it that she was unfamiliar with the language. I was to learn that the truth was entirely otherwise. Amíra had a great interest in languages, and was fluent not just in Loegare (the language commonly spoken in Skye), but in several other languages as well, and could converse haltingly in many others. The reason for her difficulty in speaking with myself, and indeed with other humans, was that from her perspective we were little older than children, mere toddlers in fact, and she found it hard to phrase her thoughts in terms that were simple enough to be understood.
Amongst the older Psyru many eventually cease to talk to humans at all, finding the process entirely too arduous. "Converse with humans?" one of them is reputed to have said, "One might as well try to talk philosophy with a chimpanzee."
I was fortunate that on my travels I eventually met several older members of the Psryu race (amongst them Amíra's own parents), all of whom were prepared to take the time and effort to speak with me.
I commented that even though she was far older than any human, she was nevertheless physically still a young girl, and wondered at the potential dangers she might face in travelling the world alone. She explained, somewhat condescendingly I thought, that even Psyru younger and seemingly more frail than herself were well able to take care of themselves.
Later in my travels I was to be witness to this. In a certain inn I came across another Psyru, perhaps slightly younger than Amíra, who was receiving unwonted attention from a rather inebriated and obstinate fellow. He finally overstepped the bounds of what could be ignored, and the Psyru suddenly turned to him. What happened then, happened so quickly that I could not tell whether she physically threw him, or whether some form of magic was involved. Whichever it was, a moment later he was sprawled against the far wall of the inn, dazed and groggy from his collision with the timber posts, though otherwise unharmed except, perhaps, for a few bruises. The other clientele took little notice of the events, and I got the impression that they felt he had received no more than was expected.
Was it usual for young Psyru to go traveling, I wondered. Apparently it was. According to Amíra, the Psyru tend to be great travellers through much of the first part of their lives, especially when they first become old enough (at about 150 years), and then again when they marry. Usually they would combine this travelling with some kind of academic pursuit. In Amíra's case she was studying the languages of Medecia, and in particular the various dialects of Skye, which was why she was here in Hazelbrack, where the inhabitants had developed certain peculiarities of grammar that Amíra was investigating.
In fact, Amíra was in a sense a native of Skye. Her parents lived in what I took from her description to be a small castle in the northern part of the province. The Caerwins, Amíra's family, were highly influential, and the source of the full title of the province, the Protectorate of Skye, in that they acted as the protectors and effectively the rulers of that province.
They settled here about seventeen hundred years previously, when Amíra's grand-parents first came to the province, fleeing the wrath of the Scarlet Empire.
I had heard talk of the Scarlet Empire before, but only in very vague terms, and was interested to know more of it, as it seemed to form a notable part of the history of Medecia, in much the same way that the Empire of Rome is a significant feature in our own history. It struck me that the Psyru must preserve considerable knowledge of it that humans had long since forgotten. After all, in human terms the empire existed (if I had understood correctly) some 60 generations ago, whereas for Amíra these events were within the time of her grand-parents.
I started to enquire about the empire, at which the mayor (who was still sat with us) made excuses, and went to talk with someone on another table. I couldn't be sure, but it seemed to me that she did so in direct response to my choice of subject. Amíra seemed to read my mind on this.
"They are uncomfortable with talk about the empire. There is still an aura of superstition surrounding it. Of course, because they have forgotten so much, there are any number of rumours and legends taking the place of the truth, and making the empire seem even more sinister than it really was."
But Amíra herself had no objection to talking about it."Perhaps I should tell you the story of Laust and Tanyara, my grand-parents, who were involved in events very near the beginnings of the Scarlet Empire. They had first-hand experience of it. It nearly cost them their lives, and I think it certainly cost them their peace of mind."
- [Editor's note] Strictly speaking, the Saeru are a separate species, not merely a race.
- I was later to be a guest at this place, and learnt that the term 'castle' was not really appropriate, but our native English has no words to exactly describe it (it is, after all, a Psyru residence, and more alien to our world than many other things that I encountered in Medecia). 'Castle' is nevertheless the closest idea that I can find, so I have let it stand.
- Caerwin: [Editor's note]The name is correctly Qaeruin, and possibly is a corruption of Qaera Uaendos, 'far travellers'.
- [Editor's note]It's hard to know where to begin in correcting this sentence. The Qaeruin's would emphatically contest the statement that they are the rulers of Skae, although they will probably accept that they have been (and still remain) highly influential diplomats for the province that they have made their home. The term 'Protectorate' actually refers to the province's relationship with its far more powerful neighbour, the kingdom of Ardegn.
- Tanyara: [Editor's note]More correctly, Taniára, although Tanyara is a reasonable phonetic rendering of it. The narrator gets Laust's name right, though.