Thank you all so much for helping me raise over $1000 for Extra Life. As a thank you for helping me reach that $750 threshold, here’s a token of my thanks: the early release of an expanded Draconic Primer!
This one is a lot bigger than the first. I meant to write it solely as a sort of travel guide for your non-dragonborn character, but there were too many little meta-asides for me to avoid! Read it one way, read it another. Bring it to your gaming table or keep it open while you read Ashes of the Tyrant (Coming December 29th).
If you’re going to speak Tymantheran Draconic/Vayemniri, you’re going to need to know the basics.
- sukriya: Thank you
- nar viraka: You’re welcome
- akison: yes
- thrik: no
- Deshkrouth?: Got it?/Understand?
- Irth ____: She/He/It is___. An introduction. “Irth Verthisathurgiesh Mehen.”
- Ya lefanthish: I am a wizard.
- Ya renthizhath Munthrarechi: I speak Common.
- Wushzarath sathi?: Casual greeting. “What’s up, dude?” (Literally, [your+back] [idiomatic greeting of equal], a truncation of “What’s at your back?” that probably traces from days in Abeir where you’d want to first assess if there were any enemies following before you got to chatting)
- There is no second-person modifier in Classical Draconic, per this language breakdown. There’s mine (veth/vethi), my kin/ally’s (er/erthe), and theirs (ar/ari). (There is however a second person pronoun—wux.) Given the more social nature of the Vayemniri it would make sense for them to develop more options for ownership indications, given a wider range of folks to interact with. Therefore: wush- “your/yours” (informal). If you are being formal (or really angry) you would go back to ar-/ari-.
- Sjath vethkeshka: It’s going well. (Response to Wushzarath sathi?) (Literally [shadow] [mine+still, persists], or “I’ve still got a shadow!” the somewhat tongue-in-cheek reply that may reference the ancestor story, “Clever Nala and the Ten-Thousand Shadows.”
- Martifyr: Calm down
- Thrik ukris: Shush (Literally, [no][talk]; sometimes shortened to just thrik)
- Wux bensvenk?: Are you all right?
- Oshvith!: Run! (Hope you never hear this one!)
Epithets and Endearments
Nobody goes by just one name. Good or bad, mad or in the mood, when you want to call someone by a nickname, here are some choices.
- sathi: approximately dude. Not gendered, but you wouldn’t call your grandma sathi. This is for peers or folks you want to appeal to as peers.
- I love the word dude from a linguistic angle. It’s the verbal equivalent of a yawn! See, we all know yawning is contagious, right? There’s a theory that this is because yawns are meant to make a group synch. I’m tired, I want you to be tired too so we can all go to sleep. I’m bored—you be bored too and we can go elsewhere. I find this fascinating, and I’d argue that’s what dude (or sathi) does: it reasserts our relative standings as equals. Been a long time since I’ve seen you? “Dude!” (We are of the same cohort.) You’re acting out in a way I don’t approve of? “Dude. Not cool.” (Get back to what we’ve agreed is acceptable.) Are you someone who maybe isn’t of my cohort, but you’re acting like you’re socially above me and I disagree? “Try again, dude.” (I’m reasserting myself out of the social dominance level you’re trying to push me into, but not quite trying to assert my dominance over you.) “Dude” implies peace and calm and balance. It’s a terribly valuable and deeply idiomatic piece of American English.
- tiamash: epithet. Think “asshole.” It translates more to be “like Tiamat” the evil dragon goddess, so the connotation is more that the target is untrustworthy, cruel, and careless.
- henish: milder epithet than tiamash. Think “bastard.” It means something like “unhatched, rotten egg.” Like “You’re the one they should have kicked out of the clutch.”
- Add an m’ and make a mild expletive (m’henish). Kick it up a teensy notch and say “Tiamat m’henish.”
- noachi: endearment, can indicate romance or just fondness. Think “dear.” (Literally, “little treasure”)
- irthiski: endearment, more used for romantic connections. Think “baby.” (Literally: “little secret.”
- vorellim: endearment. Literally: Beautiful
- vethparijan: endearment, solely romantic. Literally “my little shield,” “my buckler.”
- Maunthreki: non-dragonborn. This is on the edge of being a slur, but from the Vayemniri perspective it’s simply a catchall. Havilar implies Brin ought to be angry when he’s called this, as it means approximately “those squishy ones.” Brin notes it’s not untrue. A generalization from munthrek (C.D. “human”) + -i, diminuative suffix
- “Common” is similarly called Munthrarechi
- Thrikominaki: clanless. Literally “no name.” When a dragonborn is exiled from their clan, the clan name is stripped away, and this epithet is used in its place.
Every language has those words that you’re not supposed to use in polite company—words for when you’re angry or awestruck or just wanting to prove you aren’t soft. Swearing says a lot about a culture—what’s profane? What’s sacred? The curses below are not generally uttered in formal settings, but outside of that, the Vayemniri are not shy about the more colorful aspects of their language.
- karshoj: Practically, this is an “f-bomb.” Serious cursing. But literally, it wouldn’t be “fuck.” Dragons don’t seem to have taboos about sex. Dragonborn don’t really either, aside from being serious about making sure you get married and have eggs. Probably old and unclear etymology. Add a suffix to get the adjectival form, karshoji.
- pothac: stupid.
- pothachi: dummy
- aithyas: shit. This gets used literally (“The hellhound’s aithyas is disgusting.”) or figuratively (“This plan is hellhound aithyas”) and while it’s used to mean “feces” in a crude way, it started out meaning dragon poop specifically. Not used so much as an expletive.
- Karshoj ar…ominak: Approximately “Fuck your whole clan” (although see above note). This is a truly profane, blistering curse, best saved for a serious situation (You cannot say this without an exclamation point in my mind). Insert the target in the ellipses. If needed, change the ar- prefix to ari-. Examples:
- Karshoj ardahlominak! This is what Farideh yells at Dahl circa Lesser Evils. She would probably feel bad about that now.
- Karshoj arschatjamaetrishominakis! Someone doesn’t like the Adjudicators…
- Karshoj arlorcanhominak! You can probably figure it out by now.
- Chaubask vur kepeshk karshoji!: Oath. This is the kind of thing you blurt when you are fed up. “Oh for _____’s sake!” kind of thing. Literally “Fate and fucking storm!,” from haubach (Classical Draconic, “fate”) + kepesh ( C.D. “storm,” meant as “disorder, chaos, upheaval”) +karshoji (idiomatic)
People and Places
- Vayemniri: Dragonborn. Specifically, the dragonborn who united to form Tymanchebar. Literally, “The Ash-Marked Ones,” referring to the ancestory story of the Crippled Mountain. From vayem (derived from C.D. vignar, “ash”) + -ir (C.D. ar-, possessive affix) + -i (C.D. diminuative affix).
- Verthisathurgiesh: This is the name of Mehen’s former clan. It translates to “the Crippled Mountain,” from “mountain” (Classical verthicha) + “crippled” (Classical thurgix)
- Kepeshkmolik: This is the name of Dumuzi’s clan. It translates to “storm skin,” from kepesh (C.D. “storm”)+ molik (C.D. “skin,” “hide).
- (Note: this doesn’t begin to approach all of the Vayemniri clans, but these are the two which have etymologies I can attest to)
- Djerad: fortress. On Abeir, the djeradi were the strongholds of the many Vayemniri clans. On Toril, there are only two djeradi and the word has taken on the connotation of a city, versus a smaller holding.
- Djerad Thymar: “Thymara’s fortress,” named for the founder, Kepeshkmolik Thymara
- Djerad Kethendi: “Fortress of Gems,” port city founded in the last decade to expand trade routes.
- Kuhri Ternhesh: The River Alamber. Most Vayemniri will call it by its common name when speaking Common. But among themselves it’s “the river of stone” (from C.D. ternhesj “stone”)
- Vorelheching Kethendia: The Alamber Sea. From “sea,” vorel (C.D. “beautiful”) + hesjing (C.D “water”); kethendia (C.D. kethend, “gem” + -ia, place name suffix)
- Arush Vayem: The name of Farideh and Havilar’s home village. Arush means “valley” (from C.D arux) and Vayem is “volcanic ash” (from C.D. vignar)
- Arush Ashuak: The settlement among the Green Lands which forms an agricultural trade hub for the Vayemniri. Literally “green valley/village,” from C.D. arux, “valley” + C.D. achuak “green.) This isn’t really a village anymore, as more clans establish houses there, and more individual dragonborn settle near to farms.
- Chaorkartel: Literally this is a “tea house,” but chaorkartels are closer to bars. The requirement for entry is that you be a warrior—namely that you have at least begun your Lance Defenders’ service—which for most dragonborn means you’re more or less an adult. Outsiders who have not done this might be allowed in on a case by case basis, but there are surely chaorkartels in Djerad Thymar who don’t care how many notches your axe has, if you don’t have a badge, you don’t get a drink.
- I don’t think dragonborn drink all that heavily. I doubt it takes much, given hints about their biology, to get them knock out drunk. So your fighter might argue with the bouncer—so to speak—and win, only to get a cup of watered apple brandy. Womp-womp.
- There are other establishments which also serve tea, among other things, to all people. These are obviously different to Vayemniri. They might not be to you.
Food and Medicine
Vayemniri food contains a lot of herbs and spices that would be unfamiliar to the palate of outsiders. Contrary to popular assumption, it’s not necessarily spicy, although certain dishes definitely are. Meat is predominantly lamb or mutton and every part of the sheep is used. Vayemniri also use insects in their cuisine, so be aware that worm in your fritter may be intentional. When in doubt, the sensitive traveler is advised to stick with the mutton pasties. A sampling of dishes is below.
A good word to know: kiskartchi. If a Vayemniri tells you a dish is kiskartchi, know that it is an acquired taste. You should try it anyway, but it make take several tastes to a lifetime to appreciate it.
- Farothai: a griddled bread, often stuffed with cheese, potatoes, ground meat, onions, and/or chilis. Eaten as an accompaniment to a meal, with tea, or as a light breakfast.
- Yochit: a salad or condiment made of a variety of herbs, nut oil, and ants’ eggs.
- Türkhaari: a sort of pickle made from gourds, pepper, charchuka root, lemon, and herbs and spices, including talsh, a resin from the nychaki herb. Charchuka root is very bitter and the spices used are particularly strange to an unfamiliar palate.
- Panjar gum: a distinctive spice used in sauces. Smells strongly.
Due to their lack of connection to a god, the Vayemniri have an extensive herbalistic tradition. Be forewarned however: not every remedy is suited to the non-dragonborn. Two which might come up:
- Chmertehoschta: a mild sedative.
- Yrisfexirji: a surprisingly effective cure for hangover.
Talking to Vayemniri
Every culture has their own nuances and forces that affect the way they speak. Vayemniri appreciate manners from acquiantances, and a good physical distance when speaking, regardless of whether you’re using the Common tongue or Vayemniri. Knowing whether you’re talking to a hatchling, a warrior, or an elder can be valuable too, as well as having a sense of where the clan of your conversation partner falls in the hierarchy of the city. Mistakes are to be expected, and unlikely to escalate—the Vayemniri could be considered honorable but not prideful in this regard. Nevertheless, understanding a few cultural distinctions may help you.
- Sjashukri: Literally “shadow speaking,” from sjach (C.D. “shadow”) + ukris (C.D. “to talk, to speak). People often think the dragonborn are exclusively friendly and open. This is usually because they miss the sjashukri, the art of deploying a criticism or insult without openly speaking ill of someone.
- Vayemniri are very attuned to this—you may find a your dragonborn companion becomes very insulted by something you didn’t actually say or annoyed you didn’t pick up on a critique they deployed too subtly—but most understand that non-dragonborn don’t understand this way of speaking. They may abandon it altogether, use it solely when they want to insult you but not damage your friendship, or over emphasize their honesty to make certain they don’t accidentally do it.
- omin’ iejirkkessh: best translated as “the clan in the blood.” These are the things a dragonborn owes their clan which they shouldn’t need to be taught (e.g. respecting your clan elders, the importance of the past, having a drive to be a good defender).
- omin’ iejirsjighen—“What the clan writes on the blood;” the things you owe your clan because you were taught their importance. (e.g.serving your two in the Lance Defenders would fall under this, or being a good host). Some would say this is the purpose of ancestor stories—to reinforce omin’ iejirsjighen
- throtominarr—“the clan repeated” the honor you show your ancestors by improving on what they created (e.g. increasing your clan’s status, building a better mousetrap, making a trade agreement that was lost in previous generations) The art here is considered to be improving, but not undoing.