Tales of The Navigatrix, Part 2 ~ ‘How The Navigatrix came upon The Key to The Unpronounceable’

by Sally-Ann Livingston with Catherine Moon

{Catch up with Part One here}

Original image by Qsimple on Flickr, courtesy of Catherine Moon. Variation by TheNavigatrix

‘Mother of Rhuk’, Original image by Qsimple on Flickr, courtesy of Catherine Moon. Variation by TheNavigatrix

Together, Al Khemeti and myself travelled to a nearby village, huddled among the desert rocks. From there we parted with the rest of the guides. My newfound teacher led me round to the back of one of the huts, the wrinkled old woman there, wide eyed but smiling,nodding to him and he removed a dust-covered tarpaulin to reveal a small air dinghy.

Within a short time we arrived at a bustling bazaar. The small craft having been stowed away once more, Al Khemeti led me through narrow streets that were an overwhelming orchestra of sounds, scents, colours and textures.  As we rounded a corner I saw first a plume of brown and bright teal-blue feathers. The young woman that wore the headdress strode immediately toward Al Khemeti when she spied him and, solemn-faced, muttered some words that I did not understand. The formal greeting done, the two beamed familiar grins at one another and clasped arms.

Al Khemeti looked over to me. “Faddeya Illham Mahin, Mother of Rhuk, ” he pronounced, the solemnity returning. There was no countering introduction of myself, I noted, somewhat put out. ‘Manners are expressed variously in different cultures’ I reminded myself, quoting from an old Traveller’s Textbook and so I remained silent under the gaze of the young woman with the old eyes.

My teacher briefly explained that it was necessary to speak of the unpronounceable. The Mother turned to me and commented, “I know of this myth.”  No more need be said and the three of us untangled a path through the bazaar, toward a waiting air dinghy, slightly larger than the balloon that had brought us here.

I stole a glance at the sky. In the distance, black thunderclouds rolled over the mountains and I fervently hoped that we were headed in the opposite direction. Of course, that was not to be the case. The two nomads deftly boarded the modest craft, Al Khemeti lending me a strong arm to climb aboard after them in as dignified a fashion as the high side allowed.

Once in the air I saw how natural an environment this was for them both. Wind buffeted the basket as we headed directly toward a narrow passage between the peaks and directly into the heart of the roiling thundercloud. Passing through, an unexpected thing occurred. The angry cloud dissolved into a pale shadow of itself, through which one could see. This side, the weather was revealed to be, in reality, as fine as one could wish for.

A small fleet of colourful airships hung ahead, uniform in size but as brightly coloured and variously decorated as the bazaar we had left behind. Gracefully gliding around the perimeter of the Cloud Caravan, four giant birds, each hung with a tribesman beneath, suspended in complex metal harnesses. Much higher above circled a fifth mighty predator, judging by its proportions, distinctly larger than the other four.

We gently bumped into one of the airships, tied off and boarded. I didn’t realise it then but that ship was to be my home for the next three months, rarely touching down and even then, not quite to the ground, for the Aether Nomads have a peculiar custom of never landing once a dirigible is airborne. They float just above the ground and let down ropes and poles and sumptuous fabrics from their structure, forming the most gorgeously decorated tents that I have ever seen. Nights spent on the ground were few and far between…

wpid-4d7fc434d14a851c2383071886d15d3b.jpgThat first evening aboard the decorated dirigible, The Mother and Al Khemeti led me to a private cabin. My teacher settled himself quietly in the corner, a cup of steaming Lapsang to his lips, whilst The Mother laid out a few scrolls of incomplete technical engineering drawings and diagrams on the table. From a pouch at her chain-belt, she drew four obscure, symbolic items and placed these delicately on the table. She withdrew to the corner table, poured herself tea from a different pot and settled in silence next to Al Khemeti, the two of them gazing at me intently.

I looked at the table. None of this made any sense. What was expected of me? I studied each object without handling any and scrutinised the technical drawings. After a while, Al Khemeti pushed aside the scrolls and placed a blank, black compass-like item on the table in front of me. The Mother drew a chalk circle around it. Pointing to the four curiosities, she directed me, “Put the objects in the right order.”

Having no further clues, I trusted my gut; that inner compass that guides us if we will but listen. I gently picked up one object and placed it on a compass point. I looked back at my examiners but their faces showed only enjoyment of their brews. Turning back to my task, I placed the remaining objects on the available compass points, each in turn.

As I finished, the two nomads muttered something to each other and The Mother reached over, removing two of the objects from the North and West points. She handed me the chalk and said “Write the compass points.” Dutifully, I wrote clockwise N,E,S and W only to have her reach across and rub out each one with her fingers. In their place, she wrote V,A,S and M. I am a woman of efficiency and so I asked why she had bothered to erase the ‘S’. “Because of the difference in meaning behind the S,” she replied.

The Compessence by Sally-Ann Livingston

The Compessence by Sally-Ann Livingston

“Each member of our tribe looks within to find their soul-path. Guided by those who themselves were born to assist this process, each of our people find their place in the whole. Some have but one Vocation, others’ paths lead them to a balance of more. The Compessence is…our symbol. Each letter stands for a single Vocation:  ‘Symbologists’ you may term diviners and linguists, encryptors, and jewellers among them. ‘Metaphysicians’ are healers of body, mind and spirit but it is not only bodies of flesh that they work with but mechanism also. ‘Vibrancers’ are the custodians of our culture, our artists, musicians, storytellers, performers. ‘Aethermaticians’ are skilled pilots, navigators and numerologists. They guide us through the courses of our lives, in all their many complex dimensions.”

I had so many questions yet was made to wait for answers to most. I wandered over the giant birds. “Rhuk, they are named, mythic creatures in many parts. They are here for protection.” She went to the table and poured a fresh cup of steaming liquid that I had not noticed being brought in, handing it to me with a genuine smile, “Here, you have earned your tea” The Mother would say no more and I settled on a cushion with my honeyed Chai.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Al Khemeti would sit with me and discuss various topics over food, mainly in my areas of interest, jewellery and navigation. At times, he would withdraw as I was left to ponder new information by myself. I was taught a little of their complex craft of adornment, wrought with meaningful symbols, each differently shaped bead representing a concept, an emotion, a mathematical formula. My initial efforts were rather laughable but in time I was met with nods of approval.

On the control deck, my teacher widened my knowledge of navigatory skills and studying the finer points of multi-planar navigation. Once, I noticed a strange map with many markings, including a group of four symbols that I recognised from my initial discovery of the myth of the Gargantuan-class airship trapped in the Aether. Regrettably, any prying questions on this topic were met with sultry silence. I soon learned to be silent myself and trust that I was, indeed, furthering my way towards this goal.

After three months of the most unusual study, The Mother approached me. ” We have enough knowledge of you now. You will return when the time is right.” A young nomad appeared at my side and I was led to table. Al Khemeti  was quiet that evening after our rather indulgent meal.  The next morning, he told me abruptly, “For now, we are done. Return to England.” At my protestations, he simply told me “Your next lesson is there, awaiting you.” Politely but firmly I was ushered off the airship into the little dirigible, already packed with my belongings and an extra package of food (and tea!).

With no clue as to when or how I would cross paths with them once again and nothing save an inner assurance that, appearances aside, I had made a great leap forward in my quest, I set off on the long journey to Marrakech, from whence I could book an airship to London.


Author’s Note

The material for these tales has been inspired by conversations between the listed authors of each chapter (thank goodness for Skype making it possible between the UK, France and The Netherlands!) and by posts on the private Aether Nomads creatives group on Facebook. Thanks to Catherine Moon for her ideas and use of the image above.

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