A Qári Tale: The King and Jafo’s Balls

While the Qáritu were the first people of Adeia to develop writing, true functional literacy was always limited to a few practitioners: scribes, priests and augurs, mainly. The true literature of the people therefore was always oral literature. As well as songs and epic poems, the Qáritu were fond of short aperçus, typically humorous in nature, and often featuring the canny folk-hero Jafo. Here is one such:

Pé qár lentxoli atxe, at lutkár q’at lagitxá iqé he lentxolit.
exist city prone_to_gambling very | DEF king and=DEF palace COP PERL prone_to_gambling-DEF
There once was a city very fond of gambling, the king and his court most of all.

Tafá Jafo txerikxe at qár qéyo so ho selaki at lutkár q’at lutyar x’at ululiqaya.
thus Jafo travel DEF city and 3SG PASS welcome DEF king and=DEF augur LOC=DEF throne_room
And so Jafo travelled to the city and was received in the throne room of the King and the Chief Augur.

A cultural note here: although far from being universal in practice, the Qári ideal of governance is a dyarchy where power is shared by the lutkár, nominally the head of the kitsánu warrior sodality, and the lutyar, who is the chief functionary of the city’s main temple.

Jafo éqi: “Té Lutkár, já lentxi aná.”
Jafo QUOT | lord king | 1SG wager-IRR ALL.2SG
Jafo said, “Lord King, I would make a wager with you.”

At lutkár éqi: “Já xekyu lentximi ná.”
DEF king QUOT | 1SG hear-IRR wager 2SG
“Let me hear your wager,” said the king.

Jafo éqi: “Té Lutkár, já lentxe aná é txa iqé tle kangqa xeliyá kidol ujá fé loqat já qe loqat ná.”
Jafo QUOT | lord king | 1SG wager ALL.2SG COMP AFF COP EQT date new-PL testicle-PL COM.1SG INST wife 1SG and wife 2SG
“Lord King, I wager my wife against yours that my testicles are actually fresh dates,” said Jafo.

At lutkár éqi: “Rá gehixu.”
DEF king QUOT | 1INC agree
“I accept the wager,” said the king.

Jafo ipat padayi kidokura qéyo tláré x’ayeqa at lutkár i senditaye.
Jafo throw disrobe loincloth and.so 3SG stand LOC=eye DEF king REL laugh-ASP
Jafo tore off his loincloth and stood in front of the king, who began to laugh.

At lutkár éqi: “Sol iqé he suyá, sol utut iqé tle kangqa xeliyá!”
DEF king QUOT | 3PL COP PERL hairy, 3PL NEG~NEG COP EQT date new-PL
“They’re all hairy,” he said, “they’re clearly not fresh dates!”

Jafo éqi: “Té Lutkár, toyo itsulo yetot ta itsulo ngeyat.”
Jafo QUOT | lord king | blind_person distinguish meat cow ABL meat goat
“Lord King,” said Jafo, “the blind man can tell the difference between beef and mutton.”

This warrants some explanation: Jafo quotes an idiom which has a meaning something like “appearances can be deceptive”. The implication is that while a blind person can tell beef and mutton apart by their taste, a sighted person may mistake the two solely based on how they look.

At lutkár qayi sitlá kidol le Jafo. At lutyar hagi tyáqaye qéyo Jafo senditaye.
DEF king come taste testicle-PL COM Jafo || DEF augur angry shout-ASP and Jafo laugh-ASP
The king came forward and tasted Jafo’s testicles. The augur began to shout angrily and Jafo began to laugh.

At lutkár éqi: “Ná sendita nye? Loqat ná antxi iqé ujá!”
DEF king QUOT | 2sg laugh Q? wife 2SG now COP COM.1SG!
The king said: “Why are you laughing? Your wife is now mine!”

“Txa Té Lutkár. Lipa já antxi iqé tle ugabat, heyá já yé lentxe m’at lutyar fé ugabe iso é sipa kidol já at lutkár!”
yes lord king || but 1SG now COP EQT wealthy_man | because 1SG ANT wager ALL=DEF augur INST wealth all COMP lick testicle-PL 1SG DEF king
“Yes, Lord King. But now I’m a wealthy man, because I’d already bet the augur everything he owns that the king would lick my balls!”

The Neighbours

Qári is not spoken in a vacuum: the Qáritu have neighbours and these neighbours have their own languages. 

To the east are the Uššārit, pastoralist nomads of the Western Chadatar who speak a fiendishly difficult language heavily dependent on nonconcatenative morphology. To the north on the Asphari Plateau and its westernmost foothills are the Tsentulin, speaking a relatively straightforward ergative-absolutive language with fifty-nine consonants and only three vowels. The Qáritu find it challenging to distinguish the two languages, thinking both sound like the speaker is choking.

Across the sea to the north-west are various Lacaro-Kaplan speaking peoples; the most prominent being the Kingdom of Wëkken, whence comes the majority of tin used in Ukxár. The Wëknét speak a highly fusional language with accusative alignment. The Qáritu are rather more comfortable with this language and its speakers: they have exported literacy to the Wëknét and consider them almost civilised in spite of their stubborn reliance on monarchs.

To the south, across the Nudharian Desert, is the valley of the River Nwaxa, which debouches in a vast delta in the Sea of Pearls. The people here are called the Ħįtuʔka, their language Ħįtumu. If, for the sake of argument, we say that the Qáritu are the Adeian analogue of the ancient Mesopotamians – being the first people to develop urbanism, writing etc. – then it could be said that the Ħįtuʔka are analogous to the ancient Egyptians: sometime trade partners living in the valley of an exotic river running through a desert, with literacy, agriculture and sedentism. That is, of course, if one swaps out pyramids and pharaohs for cannibalism, headhunting, near-constant internecine warfare and a society so thoroughly divided along gender lines that it might as well actually be two distinct civilisations running in parallel.

Religion 2a: the Elder Gods

The Qáritu, it may be laconically stated, worship a pantheon of sixteen deities, and recognise innumerable other spirits.

The Classical Qári “hekkaidekatheon”, however, is the end result of several millenia of theologising, syncretising and debate among the enyeru-priests, the temple-keepers and the scribes and should by no means be assumed for earlier stages of the religion. To a degree, the sixteen-god pantheon is accepted (albeit with differences in formulation, nomenclature and makeup) in all of the cities of Ukxár, both at a popular and a “priestly” level. The pantheon described below uses the names and relationships commonly accepted in the cities along the middle and lower Idéyasa.


The names of the gods are, by and large, not entirely transparent to the average illiterate Qárit (with some exceptions – see below). In Old Qári, however, the names are meaningful and transparent, and the logographic nature of the Qári script enables the literate élite to recognise the meaning of the divine names. For example, Lord Txepo’s name derives from the Old Qári Tépəx ‘digger’, and is written with a modified form of the logogram meaning “to dig”.

When referring to their gods, the Qáritu preface their names with the honorific particles (for gods) and (for goddesses). I have chosen to translate these as “Lord” and “Lady” respectively, but not without some trepidation. The particles are also used as markers of respectful address to humans as well: it would not be wholly inaccurate to translate Té Itlán as Mr. Sun rather than Lord Itlán. The particles etymologically derive from the Old Qári words for “brother” and “sister” – so even Br’er Shiny would not be an inaccurate translation of Té Itlán.

The Elder Gods

The first group of gods to be woken after Lord Udo’s final orgasm were Lord Itlán, Lady Yeta, Lord Lapo and Lady Letsá. Collectively they are referred to as the Elder Gods, or the First-to-wake. 

Lord Lapo is the Sleeping God, a deus otiosus. The myths have it that while Itlán, Yeta and Letsá were frolicking and exploring the unformed universe, Lapo alone noticed the sleeping forms of the other gods floating in the primeval sea. It was Lapo who woke each of the younger gods, by cutting his body with an obsidian knife and anointing the eyes and mouths of his younger siblings with his own blood. Having bled himself out, sacrificing himself to wake the other gods, he fell into a deep sleep, from which he has not woken to this day. It is generally maintained that he can only be woken when the Younger Gods return his blood to him, and when that happens he will wake and the other gods will sleep, thus ending the universe. His cultists maintain that it is his dreams that animate the universe, and they use a mixture of trance and soporific drugs to put themselves to sleep, in the hope that they can join in Lord Lapo’s dreams, thereby gaining the power to cause changes in the world by bending its very foundations. Some of his followers, however, seek to end the world and bring about the next by waking him. They do this by shedding their own blood to wake him as he woke the Younger Gods, and by extremely noisy processions which generally cause complaints from the neighbours.

Lord Itlán is (nominally) the God of the Sun, from which he takes his name. He is the god of war, warriors, strength, blood and rage. He delights in pain, and revels in the carnage of the battlefield. He is the god of butchers, wrestlers and metalsmiths. Oddly, he is also the god who tames wild animals – the mammoth-tamers hold him dear. He is also the god of bandits and murderers, which is less cool. Sacrifices to him are of blood, or burnt offerings. When humans are sacrificed to him, they are exsanguinated in his honour and their hearts ripped from their chests.

When the Younger Gods awoke, they chose Lady Utko as their leader, because she was the cleverest of the gods. Lord Itlán dissented, believing that he would be a better leader as he was older and stronger, and it was he who had killed Lord Udo, allowing the other gods to create the world from his corpse. He took himself off to explore the newly created world, only erratically allowing his light to shine in the sky and often plunging the world into darkness. This was inconvenient to the other gods, who could not sow and reap without the benefit of his light. It was Lady Letsá who took it upon herself to resolve this, and the myth will be told when her deeds are recounted. 

However, even after the stars and the twin moons were set in the sky, Lord Itlán remained inconstant and capricious. This became more and more unbearable, particularly after the first humans were created. Those humans who were not chosen by the gods to receive the utatsir remained on the fringes of the world, and they looked to Lord Itlán for aid. Lord Itlán taught these disregarded humans the arts of war, and unleashed them on the gods’ chosen people, bringing them great suffering. They cried to the gods for help, and the gods themselves were displeased as their sacrifices were  no longer forthcoming. The gods went to Lady Utko, and Lady Utko thought. Lord Bayu knew her thought and communicated her plans to the gods.

First, Lord Txepo built a wall around Lord Itlán, but he broke it down. Lady Yeta commanded the waters to rise up, but Lord Itlán dried them up. Lady Rangka plied him with strong drink, but he drank her brewing-vats dry. Lady Letsá went to him and offered her body, but after three days she sent him from her chambers as she was exhausted. And yet still Lord Itlán was unsated. And finally, Lord Apar and Lord Áqir went to Lord Itlán. They gave him their bodies, they took his. For three days and three nights the three disported themselves (causing various natural disasters) until Lord Itlán was finally sated. His rage cooled, the god of the sun took his place among the Sixteen and days and nights became regulated, and he taught the chosen people the arts of war as well, so that they might defend themselves against his creatures (this obviously had a bad end, but incestuous sodomy often does).

Lady Letsá is the goddess of seduction, pleasure, sensuality and hedonism (although she disapproves of drunkenness). She is the epitome of beauty, and sex for sex’s sake. She watches over prositutes and transvestites, as well as spies; however, she also holds eunuchs in disdain. She is also the cleanser, and ironically the goddess of ritual purity, with the bathhouses and hot springs her domain. She watches over weavers and cloth-dyers. Human sacrifices to her meet their end through poison.

One of her epithets is “lightbringer”: when Lord Itlán withheld his light from the world, it was Lady Letsá who procured jewels from the earth and set them into the sky as stars. The stars were too dim, however, and did not give enough light to sow and to reap. So Lady Letsá went out into the plain, and from the plain she went into the forests, where she found Lord Itlán, brooding and sulking. Eight days and eight nights she spent in the forest with Lord Itlán, praising his might and massaging his ego. On the fourth night, she lay back, inviting her brother inside her. She allowed Lord Itlán to ride on top of her until she took his seed.

Enraged, Lord Itlán beat her and called her a thief until she again praised his strength and valour until on the eighth night she cleverly lay him down and rode on top of him, taking his seed again.  This time she jumped off him and fled, carrying his light inside her. Lord Itlán chased her from one end of the world to another, raging and cursing. Lady Letsá hid in a cave on top of a mountain in the farthest east, and there she gave birth to twins: Lord Apar and Lord Áqir. Their faces shone with the light of their father, and with their first cries they set fire to the circling moons.

Lady Yeta is firstly the goddess of reproduction and childbirth. However, she is also considered to be the goddess of the sea and the marshes: as such her cult tends to be emphasised more in Áksu than anywhere else. She is often depicted weeping, and she is said to comfort the bereaved by counting their grief as worship unto her. She is prayed to for fecundity and for riches, for the wealth buried in the earth is hers. Her animals are serpents and fish. She is also ruler of the otherworld: through her infinite pity she gathers together the souls of the dead to give them comfort, just as she comforts the bereft.

She is also known as the Mother of Rivers, and the great rivers of Ukxár are considered to be her daughters. It is told that Lord Txapo fell in love with Idéyasa, eldest daughter of Lady Yeta, but the goddess was against the match and sequestered her daughter in her Mountain Hall, guarded by her creatures, the snakes. Bereft of the waters, the gods called out to Lord Txapo to call off his suit, but he would not be dissuaded. He sought out his uncle Lord Itlán, but he was unhelpful. So he went to his cousin Lord Apar, who agreed to act as his second. Together, the two freed Idéyasa from Lady Yeta’s fortress, and Lord Txapo dug out channels to guide her to him. They were persued by Lady Yeta’s many-legged creatures, however, until Lord Apar cut off their legs to stop their pursuit. But alas, Idéyasa fled Lord Txapo and returned to her mother in her Marshland Hall, leaving the god distraught.

A Qári recipe

Lo sehu áhunu páta yetot he yut engki, lo nijá:
3ind want cook-irr breast cow perl ale sour, 3ind do_that:
If one wishes to cook beef brisket with sour ale, one does like so:

Note that there is no distinct word for ‘if’ in Qári: conditional sentences are formed by placing the verb in the irrealis mood. In this case, we have an indicative condition, so the antecedent has an irrealis verb and the consquent a realis verb.

The use of the perlative preposition he to indicate the style or manner of a dish is conventional and divorced from its normal meaning of ‘through’ or ‘via’: this is similar to the use of à in French.

Qári has two words which can be translated ‘to do’: nijá and olnéda. The first, as used here, is essentially anaphoric: it takes its meaning from an antecedent verb in an earlier clause (here áhu ‘to cook’). In contrast, the verb olnéda could be described as an indefinite pro-verb – it essentially means ‘to do something’: nye Báku olnéda? would translate either as ‘is Báku doing something?’ or ‘what is Báku doing?’

Lo pogebu gexit at páta yetot, qeyo lo áhu fé dangga x’áhit. Dangga yengkitse ta yetot iqé tle kimiye, dangga ta tlifi qát tle bol, qeyo dangga andu tl’udaye.
3ind debone roll_up def breast cow, and_so 3ind cook inst oil loc fire. oil boil-ptcp abl cow cop eqt good-def.inan, oil abl tail sheep cop eqt two, and_so oil sesame eqt bad-def.
One bones and rolls the breast of beef, and cooks it in some fat over the fire: rendered beef fat is best, the fat of a sheep’s tail is second and oil of sesame is worst.

The first clause here provides an example of a serial verb construction. Yes, there is a lexeme meaning ‘to debone’ – in Modern Qári it is not etymologically transparent. However, in Old Qári it derives straightforwardly from the privative prefix pə- and the noun lɨ́gʷbɨ ‘bone’, the latter having a reflex limbe in Modern Qári.

Qári does not distinguish as we do between oil (generally derived from plants) and fat (generally derived from animals), using dangga for both. Also note here the use of the definite form of the adjective as a superlative.

Lo saksu tlo qe kayor, qe kido sayatxe yáyi, qe báruná; qeyo yá xe yetsit roti. Lo apasi qe gorali qe paril qe ledo x’at páta yetot, qeyo apasi x’at okyar.
3ind wash cut and leek-pl and testicle garlic three and sweet_marjoram-pl, and_so place loc jar large. 3ind strew and sumac and kalonji and salt loc=def breast cow, and_so place loc=def vegetable-pl.
One washes and cuts leeks, three cloves of garlic and sweet marjoram and places them in the base of a large jar. One covers the beef with sumac, kalonji and salt, and places it on the greens.

In this section we see Qári’s two words for ‘and’ – qe and qeyo – in action. The former conjoins phrases within a clause: we can see here in chains of multiple phrases qe is placed before each phrase. The latter by contrast conjoins whole clauses. The same distinction between a phrasal and a clausal form is also seen in the pair ke and kiyo, both meaning ‘or’.

An interesting quirk of Qári is that herbs are not considered to be mass nouns as they are in English: rather they are count. To use the singular form báru here would indicate that a whole marjoram plant is used.

Yut engki gori kimi, soye aqitisi xe yetsit saka fé ke dolungé ke doloni he tahi iná, ho ijá m’at páta yetot.
ale sour red good, this.inan grow_old-ptcp.agt loc jar clean inst or mastic or terebinth perl year one, pass pour all=def breast cow.
A good sour red ale, aged for one year in a clean amphora with mastic or terebinth wood, is poured over the breast of beef.

Noun phrases in Qári are not fond of “heavy” adjuncts occurring within the phrase. Instead we see extraposition of a particularly wordy adjunct, using a third person pronoun matching the antecedent in animacy and number as the head.

At yetsit ho manádiku yá xe ohitsun he ipot tyaka, tayá átitse ho yé tyá.
def jar pass seal place loc dome_oven perl day half, abl.rel bread pass pst remove.
One seals the jar and places in a dome oven for half a day, once the bread has been taken out.

The verb manádiku here refers solely to sealing something up with clay – it is derived transparently from the additive prefix ma- and the noun nádit ‘clay’. To seal a document or similar, one uses the verb kxápiksá, derived from kxápu ‘a seal, a signet’.

Lo kimi et soye le hoda, soye ho kimi apasiru fé ujá ngér.
3ind good eat this.inan com bulgur, this.inan pass good garnish-irr inst sauce grasshoper.
One eats this well with bulgur, if it is garnished well with sauce of locusts.

Qári lacks an overt derivational strategy to convert adjectives into adverbs. Most commonly the equative preposition tle is used, but very high-frequency adjectives can simply be preposed to a verb to denote an adverbial sense.

A few cultural notes:

This recipe is high-class cuisine: it’s definitely élite food. Most urban Qáritu would very rarely have the opportunity to eat fresh meat – dried and preserved meats, cheeses, other dairy products, waterfowl, fish and shellfish are the most common sources of protein in the average diet.

The observant will have noted that the Qári term for “a clove of garlic” is kido sayatxe, and literally means “garlic testicle”. The visual similarity to testicles and cloves of garlic has led to garlic being considered in Qári society to be a food which promotes virility in men and is effectively an aphrodisiac, used to treat impotence. For the kyanátu, the eunuch death-priests, however, garlic is a taboo food: they will not permit it within the death-grounds. As such, it is also taboo in funeral meals.

The three main spices (as opposed to herbs) used in Qári cuisine are paril ‘kalonji’ (Nigella sativa seeds), gorali ‘sumac’ (dried fruits of Rhus coraria) and ngonun ‘cumin’ (Cuminum cyminum seeds). The three are frequently used together, although cumin is considered to be unrefined and so disfavoured by the élite: thus we see in this recipe only kalonji and sumac.

The Qáritu can justly claim to be the first culture of Adeia to invent ale (yut), and they have an extremely broad variety (albeit none that include hops – they drink a lot of ale but would be puzzled by beer). The kind called for in this recipe is yut engki gori ‘red sour ale’. This is very much a special occasion drink – made with roasted wheat, malted barley and fermented not only with natural yeast, but also lactic acid bacteria; and then aged for up to two years. The closest Terrestrial equivalent would be a Belgian lambic or bière rouge. When the Qáritu age their ales for more than a few months, they often add lumps of aromatic woods – often mastic or terebinth as here – not only for the flavour contributed by the resin, but also because of their antimicrobial properties (not that the Qáritu would phrase it like that – they’d just notice that resinated ale doesn’t go nasty while being aged as often as unresinated ale).

Unfortunately, ujá ngér ‘grasshopper sauce’ is not a whimsical name for an otherwise innocuous condiment. It’s literally made out of grasshoppers. They are caught in nets, crushed to death and then liberally salted and left out to dry in the sun for three or four days. They are then ground up to make a paste, which is then fermented in large amphorae for about eight months (half the Adeian year). To make ujá ngér you take some of this fermented grasshopper goo (dit ngér) and water it down with some small beer, mixing in a little chopped herb of choice. The less adventurous could always substitute shrimp paste (dit gixali) – the overall effect is similar, being very umami, a bit sour and a bit fishy.

Religion 1: Cosmogony

The first in an irregular series…

Summarised from the Qári language epic Ta fesu tahirá (the incipit, literally ‘from the becoming of years’).

In the beginning there was only salt water, and no light. After unnumbered turnings of the starless sky the salt of the brine came together and formed a body, a monstrous form with only one eye, one arm and one leg. The body awoke and took for himself the name Té Udo[1].

Té Udo masturbated, and from his first masturbation sweet water was divided from salt. Té Udo masturbated again, and from his second masturbation, his seed fell into the sweet water and from this arose the sleeping gods. Té Udo masturbated a final time, and from his third masturbation no liquid came but his groans echoed from the vault of heaven and became the áyatxe[2]. And with this, the gods awoke.

The gods looked upon their father and saw that he was deformed and monstrous, and they turned upon him and tore apart his mangled body. His one eye they placed in the heavens to illuminate the days, his two testicles they placed in the heavens to illuminate the nights. From his flesh they made the earth, from his bones they made the hills. His hair they made into grass, his penis they set in the earth to bring forth the date palm. His one arm they set at the centre of the earth and from this they hung the sky and set it to spin. His breath they placed in the heavens to bring forth wind, his brain they dried and cast to the south to make the sands. From the lice and fleas that crawled upon his skin they made the beasts of the sky, from the marrow of his bones they made the beasts of the land and from his blood they made the fish of the waters.[3]

The gods chose Bá Látka as their leader, because she was the cleverest. The only god who did not assent to this was Té Itlán, who believed that as the bravest and strongest he should be the leader. So he went off into the forests and plains and hunted instead, and ignored the other gods for a time.

In time, the gods grew weary of reaping and sowing, and cried out to Bá Látka to devise some cunning way to allow the gods their leisure. Bá Látka refused, and reminded the gods that to reap and to sow was their lot, and with this they should be content.

Like middle siblings throughout history, Té Gaxiti, Té Yána, Bá Tapo and Bá Rása came together and spoke with each other, and they agreed that this was bullshit. So they formulated a plan. Té Gaxiti and Té Yána summoned the four Pleasant Gods[4] and set them a task to go out and select from all the animals, birds and fish of the world those which might best serve the gods. Bá Tapo and Bá Rása conspire to steal the utatsir[5] from Bá Látka.

Té Gaxiti and Té Yána were presented with a variety of animals by the Pleasant Gods, but eventually chose the monkey. While not the cleverest, the most industrious or the strongest, the monkey had the right balance of these three qualities. So the Twins took the best of the monkeys and taught them to speak, and so created humankind.

Meanwhile, Bá Tapo took a feast to Bá Látka and as her price requested one third of the utatsir. Bá Látka agreed, but reluctantly. Then Bá Rása took her brewing vats to Bá Látka and got her drunk. As her price, she requested another third of the utatsir. Bá Látka agreed, but reluctantly. Finally, Bá Látka saw both Bá Tapo and Bá Rása approaching her palace. Hungover and afflicted with indigestion, she flung the remaining utatsir into the heavens to keep them from her wily sisters and to save her head and belly from further punishment.

The pieces of their plan coming together, the four Great Gods again took counsel. Té Gaxiti and Té Yána presented their creation, and Bá Rása and Bá Tapo selected the best of these and gave them the utatsir. Then they set their grateful new servants to work and retired from reaping and sowing to their leisure.


[1] In Classical Qári this is understood to mean “Lord Evil”. However, it comes from Old Qári udá ‘salt’.

[2] Life force, essentially.

[3] It is not recorded what they did with his leg. This became something of a trope among the Qáritu, with uqida Té Udo ‘Té Udo’s leg’ being a proverbial expression for something which is prone to being overlooked.

[4] The Qári term here is Kimat Kalal ‘nice gods’, as opposed to the other Té Gaxiti, Té Yána, Bá Tapo and Bá Rása, who are called the Rotit Kalal ‘the great gods’. It is clear that kimi ‘nice’ is used in a similar sense to the Furies being referred to as the “Kindly ones”. Té Itlán and Bá Látka are called the Oqit Kalal, ‘the elder gods’.

[5] The principles of civilisation, q.v the Sumerian me.