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Learning Letters (Attn Arinth and anyone else who wants to teach Arkin to read)

The Bard Babe

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Arkin looked at the object in his hand with confusion.


He had clever hands, with clever fingers and quick wrists. They had calloused fingertips and rough palms, they had precision and accuracy and they felt at home holding any object, from a lute to a dagger. This, however, was something that his mind could not comprehend and his clever hands were at a loss.


How was he supposed to use this thing in his hands? How was he supposed to hold it? How was he supposed to touch it? A book...Really, it was just a heap of parchment tied up with some cloth covers, how could he be so confused by it? He had to admit, it wasn't the book itself that confused him. He could cope with the rectangular book that rested on his palm, too large to fit in his slim fingers or into his pocket, but too small to be worth holding with two hands. No, he could cope with that, despite its awkwardness.


The feeling that he shouldn't be holding the book, the feeling that he had stolen it from somewhere and it didn't belong to him and that he had no right to hold it, that feeling came from the little lines of black ink on the pages, stark against the white, and utterly nonsensical. They were just a mess of curves and lines and dots with random spaces, some large, some small. Some had a great deal of space to themselves, and others had nothing at all.


The lines made no sense. He wished he could understand them, but they were so foreign, so unknown to him that they felt dangerous, but at the same time, they were absolutely fascinating. How did they work? How could sounds become lines? How did someone read one of those tangles of ink and uncover words and meaning? How did it happen? Even when someone could decipher the words, how did the lines and dots make meaning?


Sighing, Arkin glared at the book and took a swig out of his flask and turned to Arinth, who had finally come off the training grounds, still panting a little from the exertion, wiping sweat from his brow before it could get into his eyes.


"Arinth! What are the lines? How do they work?" he demanded, shoving his book in the face of the confused man until he saw the moment of dawning comprehension in his friend's eyes.

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Arinth slumped into the chair next to Arkin with a sigh. He wiped the sweat off his brow with his shirt. He had been spending too much time recently behind a desk. He had decided to spend some time back on the training field. He wasn't sure if it had been a good idea or a bad idea but he knew he needed a drink.


He was glad to see his friend. Their duties had kept them apart for the most part. He rarely had time for any of his friends. That was the life of a Sergeant though. The band had given him a life and now it was his turn to repay the favor. He wouldn't complain too much.


Arinth noticed that Arkin was reading a book. The title made him raise an eyebrow. He had heard there were books that women read that were rather intimate. From the title of this one it looked like it was one of those. He was just about to think of something very clever and funny to say to poke fun at Arkin for reading such a book when Arkin shoved the book towards him.


Arinth was confused at first. A sudden fear struck him that he would have to explain the birds and the bees, men and women and how it was best to use honey only in moderation. Arkin's words sank in after a few moments though and Arinth nodded slowly.


It had taken him years to learn to read himself. There hadn't been much else to pass the time with though so he had worked at it until they told him he could read. He still wasn't sure they were right when he looked at half the reports they put in front of him though.


“You can't read?” He asked Arkin just to be sure. The scout gave a small nod. He looked awkward and uncomfortable. Arinth glanced down at the book. A few words jumped out at him and he looked up feeling even more uncomfortable then Arkin.


He turned the book back towards Arkin. “This word is man,” he said pointing at the first word. He moved to the next one, “um nevermind that one.” He turned the book back around to scan it before turning it back to Arkin. “This word is blanket, this one is river, this one is clothes.”


He looked up and saw that Arkin was frowning. “Hey don't judge me, its your book.” Then after a moment he paused. “Um, maybe I'm going too fast. Do you know your letters?”

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Miri's fingers were still burning.


Angrily shaking the smarting digits, she stuffed her quiver into the barrel of archery equipment and replaced the bow she had been using in an even less ceremonious manner. Light curse that bloody weaponsmaster, and ultimately her flaming fool of a father for having kept her away from archery for that while. Her skills were only rusty, not bad really but Light! Her fingers hurt. Sucking at the forming calluses Miri made her way back to the barracks to collect some washing. That was still something new to her too - even the male Banders brought their things to the washhouse, and other such menial tasks.


She shook her head. Menial tasks. She was a Band member now, not of higher nor lower standing than any other. Wincing, Miri recalled the incident sparring with that Scouts scoundrel where her little masquerade as a boy had flown up only a short while ago. That had been embarrassing, and dealt a crushing blow to reality - time to learn be one of them, and forget what she had been. The idea wasn't so bad at all really.

Although, the whole being trained to be a fighter in a regiment wasn't really agreeing with her boundless curiosity, or, if you really had to label it aptly, flighty impatience. There wasn't much adventure in swinging swords and feeding horses, and she'd much rather do something more..... didn't know, really. She'd have to try get a word with some of the officers to see if she could tag along on a patrol or something.


Why, speak of the Dark One. Glancing to the side she spotted Sergeant Arinth and Arkin hunched over studying something profusely. Immediately interested she changed course, dawdling nearer.


Oh. Only reading. Disappointed, Miri hefted her basket and made to stride forth again. Time to do her chores she grinned wryly, but then half-swung back, remembering she wanted to ask about that--


“Um, maybe I'm going too fast. Do you know your letters?”


Peering back longer again, she inspected them a little more intensely, unaware of her mouth gaping slightly. If she tarried longer on that spot they'd see her, and she had by no means meant to overhear their coversation. But.... the very idea of someone not knowing their letters was alien, her and her brothers' lessons had started before she could remember. Miri frowned. How was he supposed to read... her glance drifted down to the object of their scrutiny.

"Wherever did you find a copy of that!?" Miri enthused somewhat incredibly, unconsciously intruding into the pair's private space of study. Dropping her basket where she stood she gawked at the book's title blurting "I never even near finished that, nurse said she'd put it away cleaning and I never found it again. Is it any good??"


Flopping onto her knees Miri tried reading over Arkin's shoulder. Silence. Ooo, awkward... flushing bright red Miri remembered her place all of a sudden, and it wasn't a particularly appropriate one.

Edited by Nyanna al'Meara
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Man...blanket...river...clothes...What on earth was he reading? Well, he wasn't reading anything, he supposed. "It's not my book, I got it from Sergeant Layin's tent. Why would I have a book? I can't read." Arkin grinned, directing his words at Arinth despite catching Miri in his peripheral vision. His grin faltered for a moment. He wanted to be able to read. He really, really did. He almost felt irritated that such a skill had been kept from him, and the more he looked, the more frustrated he became with the nonsensical lines and dots on the page before him.


Shaking his head, Arkin shot a half-hearted grin at Miri at his shoulder, who looked mortified. Whether it was at her sudden outburst, at Arkin's choice of reading, or at his lack of reading abilities, he did not know. Oddly, her words seemed to affect him in a negative way. His usual brightness seemed to dim, and he felt hot climbing up his neck and burning his face. Shocked, he touched his cheek briefly. He was blushing...he wasn't sure he'd ever done that before. Why was that happening? He was suddenly quite upset. Quite...angry.  He didn't get angry very often. In fact, he couldn't even remember the last time he was angry. Why would Miri ask that? She had heard the end of their conversation, she obviously knew he couldn't read. How could he possibly know whether it was any good. He hadn't even known it was a flaming girl's book! Before he could stop himself, words fell out of his mouth.


"Well now, I wouldn't know, now would I, you flaming noble brat," he hissed. Immediately, his eyes widened and he almost gaped. What had he just said? He had never been so rude. He was usually polite to his enemies, right up until the moment he slipped a knife in their gut. Why was he being so mean to Miri? He blamed that foreign hot prickling around his neck. Anger. Embarrassment. Both of them in one day...wow.


Turning a little, Arkin touched her on the shoulder lightly. "Blood and bloody ashes...I apologise, Miri. That was rude. I'm sorry, I can't really can't keep my bloody tongue in my mouth at the moment." Spinning back to Arinth, Arkin felt the hot, angry feeling dissipate. He didn't mind if Arinth knew of his illiteracy. Arinth was his friend. He still didn't quite understand why he had been so affected.


"Well, I might, Arinth, it depends what letters are precisely..."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Arinth frowned as he looked over Arkin's shoulder at Miri. The young woman had pretended to be a man until she had been discovered. He still wasn't sure why she had pretended to be a man in the first place but it had made for an interesting if not confusing day. One thing he knew was that women were impossible to understand and so he accepted that whatever they did, as strange or illogical as it was came from being a woman.


He noticed Arkin turned red and sensed his friend's discomfort. Not being able to read could be a touchy spot. Arkin was intelligent though and Arinth knew that with practice his friend would soon read even better than he himself did.


He buried his head in his drink when Arkin snapped at the girl and he did his best to pretended not to be there. Arkin regained his compose quickly and apologized before turning his attention back to Arinth. Arinth pushed out a chair and indicated for Miri to have a seat. Having her stand there was just making things more uncomfortable.


Arinth cleared his throat. “Well you see, it goes kind of like this,” he started before pausing to take another drink. “You have letters, and letters well they all make a sound. So you take these letters and put them together and those sounds make a word. You put words together and they make sentences.”


He looked up at his friend. He wasn't sure what to skip over and what to tell his friend. He didn't want to insult him by dumbing down the lesson for a child and he didn't want to go too quickly. On top of that the truth was that he was no teacher. He had no idea how to teach anyone to read. With him it had been like running into a brick wall head first over and over again until he had knocked the wall down. At least that is what it had felt like by how much his head hurt.


He didn't have any writing utensils or scrap paper with him to write out letters by themselves so he had to work with the book for any examples.


He scanned over the page again, carefully this time. He saw Miri mouthing the words to herself as she read the page.


“Do you mind?” He asked and with a start she realized what she was doing and stopped.


“Here you go.” Arinth turned the book around facing Arkin and pointed at a word. “Man. M-A-N.” He told him the name of each letter and the sound that it made. “If you really want to learn it may be easier to stop by my tent one day and I can write out the letters and we can practice with them.”

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