Against the Tide of Years (Island in the Sea of Time, Book by S. M. Stirling

By S. M. Stirling

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Uh-oh. They weren’t looking at him; they were looking at the camp. It wasn’t much, just two bedrolls and traveling gear, but it would be a fortune in steel weapons and tools to locals. And attacking strangers wasn’t considered wrong by any of the tribes they’d contacted—not unless oaths had been sworn. “You’re welcome to share our camp,” he said. “Hinyep Zhotopo,” he repeated in Lekkansu, the tongue of the seacoast people that the Nantucketers had most dealings with. Hunters from one of the bands who traded with the Americans would have replied in kind; they took hospitality seriously.

This is the sign ka,” he said. “Also the sign for ga, kha, kai, kas, kan. . ” And you have to figure out which from context, Walker thought. What an abortion of a writing system. The real joker was that the script wasn’t even well suited to Greek. The main ancestors of these clowns had arrived in Greece as illiterate barbarian war bands from the north; they’d picked up writing from the Minoan Cretans, along with most of what other feeble claims to civilization they had. The original script had been designed for a completely different language; all the signs for sounds ended in a vowel, and there were a whole bunch of Greek sounds that didn’t have a sign at all.

A herd of moas—the smaller breed, only four feet at the shoulder—were being pushed clucking and protesting onto a barge, headed for Long Island and the farming life. The spattered by-product of their fright added its aroma to the thick odors of drying fish and boiling whale blubber, raw leather, horses and horse dung, sweat and woodsmoke, tarred rope and wooden hulls. The fresh sea breeze kept it tolerable even in summer. Mostly tolerable. One reason the Meeting had authorized steam dredgers was to dig deep channels southeast up the lagoon, so some of the more odorous trades could be moved downwind of town.

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