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The Tenth Muse 12

The day wore on, but Pihas and the other chief men weren’t making any progress communicating with Sam. He simply didn’t have the vocabulary to tell them anything useful. He was clearly intelligent, however. Given enough time, he would no doubt master the Luwian tongue, at least well enough to make himself understood. But this was only his second day on their shores; no one could learn the rudiments of a language that quickly.

Sam was soaking everything in, but what he saw and heard seemed troubling to him for some reason. He talked to himself almost incessantly-or perhaps he was responding to voices he heard inside his head. Either way, he didn’t feel he could vouch for his guest’s sanity.

“Lord Pihas,” Tarkumuwas said, “do you mock us by bringing a madman into these chambers? I’ve heard nothing from him that makes a bit of sense, and much that worries me deeply.”

Pihas hung his head. It was Zaripyas’s idea to interrogate Sam so soon, as ill-advised as the priest knew that was. “My apologies, my lords. Samparpar’s appearance among us was clearly a matter of concern for us all. Just as clearly, I’m afraid it is too soon to expect any useful information from him. With you’re permission, I’ll take him home and tend to his needs for another few days. I’ll strive to teach him more of our language and perhaps learn a bit of his if I can.”

He called for Taras, waiting patiently in the background, to escort Sam home. He stayed to endure the paranoia of his fellow village elders a little while longer, assuring them he still didn’t think Sam was a threat despite his erratic behavior. The laws of hospitality demanded he be well treated until such time as he proved himself an enemy, and Pihas would gladly accept the responsibility for Sam’s care.

Later, Pihas, Ashtinamas, and Sam ate supper together as the priest tried again to communicate with the stranger. His demeanor had changed, however. Before he seemed sometimes confused, sometimes angry. Now he seemed in shock. Ashtinamas sat beside him and practically had to feed him to get him to eat anything. Was the meeting with Zarpiyas that troubling to him?

It was amazing how quickly he learned basic vocabulary and grammar. By the end of the meal, Sam seemed to grasp the words one needed for cordial conversation: “Hello,” “My name is…,” “Please,” “Thank you.” Pihas wondered if the Amerikan language was somehow related to his own, as impossible as that would be.

For his part, Sam continued to seem distracted. Something happened at the house of Zarpiyas, Pihas was sure of it, but he couldn’t tell what. Something about the conversation distressed him-perhaps as much as it had distressed the others.

He tried to make sense of what Sam had tried to say about reading about Wilusa, but he must have misunderstood completely. If he could read the royal inscriptions such as one found in the larger cities, surely he would have a far greater  command of Luwian than he did. Pihas knew there would be bilingual inscriptions in the archives at the imperial capital in Hattusas, but surely none rendered into Amerikan!

Still, there was indeed a King Alaksandus in his great-grandfather’s time, and Pihas bet that was the man Sam had been talking about-not the current prince who was sometimes called by that name. Explaining this to Zarpiyas and the others may have saved Sam’s neck. Even so, for all the priest knew, tomorrow Kunawas would convince himself otherwise and drag Sam off to be tortured and killed as an Achaian spy.

After supper, Taras approached the priest. “It’s ready, master” he beamed. “Just as you asked.”

“Excellent, Taras,” Pihas replied. “Let’s show our guest what we’ve done to his room, shall we?” He motioned for Sam to follow him back to his guest quarters. At first Sam didn’t see it, but then his face brightened. Taras had replaced the old straw mattress with a clean white fleece, as soft as Egyptian cotton.

“Thank you, lord Pihas,” he said-slowly, but as clearly as anyone had ever spoken.

“There’s more, Sam.” Pihas called to Taras, who brought forward a leather satchel. Sam opened it to find a stylus and a small stack of wax tablets. The priest gestured as if scribbling lines on his left hand. “I suspect you know how to read and write, at least in your own language. Maybe these tablets will help us communicate.”

“Thank you.” Sam picked up the stylus and a tablet as if they were gifts made of gold. “Thank you, Pihas.”

“Practice by the light of your lamp,” he gestured in that direction, “and tomorrow or the next day we’ll have another go at making ourselves understood.” He bid his guest good night and headed for his own bed chambers.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

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