“The phrase is a prayer for mercy. The speaker is asking those holding power over the place and circumstances they are in to pass over them because they are insignificant to those holding power.”
The teacher wrote out the five words on the chalkboard as he spoke. After finishing, he went back and slowly spoke each word as a sentence in itself.
“It could be used by itself with no other speech to follow, or as an introduction to a longer and specific petition. But as is, these five words are suitable as a generic ‘Don’t eat me, I am lacking and will give you indigestion’ prayer.”
He marked a division between the first two words. “The title is repeated twice. Possibly as a way to stress the lordship of the powers referred to, or as an indication of the lower status of the speaker. There are no vocal inflections marked in any of the known inscriptions of this phrase, however colloquial use does suggest that the first title is spoken with formality, and the second is spoken a little softer. After all, once gaining the attention of the powers with the first, you wouldn’t want to offend them by commanding them with the second.”
He moved on to a clear portion of the chalkboard and took up colored chalks as he did. He wrote the first word in large capital letters with space between the letter for other marks.
“This word, [Class], is actually a plural form of [Title]. When used in the plural form, it refers either to a group of [Title] or as a generic reference to any entity that functions as what [Title] represents.” He marked a division between the last two letters of the word.
He turned to face me and I realized I could not parse the lines of his face. It was as if he had no face at all, and my mind only saw an absence to prevent me from going mad. “Mark you, there may be similarities to these words and the languages you are familiar with, or may access for study. Those similarities may be intentional, or they may be happenstance. I do not suggest calling up these powers to demand they account for the names they answer to.”
I nodded in agreement. Non-euclidean space or not, there was wisdom in his words. He acknowledged that I was paying attention to the lesson and returned his attention to the chalkboard.
“Now [Title]…” He wrote the singular version of the word above the divided plural. “… refers to one instance or entity of [Class]. Where the word [Class] is used as a noun unto itself, the word [Title] is often an adjective, or a formal honorific to be spoken with the given name of a particular [Title]. You may be familiar with this given your English word, ‘Lord’. A group of lords may rule over a section of a country, with a particular lord having rule over a particular area. But if you were to address a particular lord in person and had grace to know his name, you would address him as ‘Lord Such-n-such’, yes?”
He turned to face me again so I nodded in agreement. So far the lesson wasn’t anything really new to me, but I was very interested in the direction it was taking. Etymology has always interested me and I knew there was a hidden gem in plain sight on the board.
He changed the colors in his hand and started to write a third word above the singular [Title] in a third color. But he only wrote the first letter, then switched colors to a black chalk and struck a hard line viciously through that letter. He then returned to the third color and finished writing out the third word as if he had not interrupted himself.
“Now this name …” He struck the marked letter with the black chalk. “… is a formal name, and is the name from which the title [Title] is derived. Mark ye well, this is a name of a power, and a name of power. Understand ye?”
The change in dialect caught my attention faster than the understanding of the tone he used. I nodded quickly, suddenly afraid and excited, and confused of both reactions.
“If ever you write this formal name anywhere, repeat the motions you saw me make. Write only the first letter, then strike it in some fashion to make it no longer the letter it was meant to be, and only then should you write out the rest of the name. That is, assuming you write this name at all! We have many examples of the words [Class] and [Title] written anywhere and everywhere. Even under the sitting boards of a privy! But every written example of [Name] has the first letter partially destroyed in some way. When we asked about it, most who know of this formal name refused outright to say anything to us, even to the point of refusing to acknowledge it existed.”
I raised my hand even though he was facing forward. He acknowledged my gesture and bade me to speak. “Is the entity referenced by this name something akin to the Kemetic
He smiled. I have no idea how I know he smiled since he doesn’t have a face, but he smiled and I felt warm. “No.” I felt embarrassed.
“[Name] is neither good nor evil from what we have been able to discover about it. Your English language is a poor choice to have this discussion in, as it has no gender unless it wants to portray itself with a particular gender but the pronoun of ‘they’ is also a poor fit as well because the one thing we definitely know about [Name] is that it is singular. But that is something you’ll have to look into outside of this class.”
“[Name] is a power, a force. Not a god, but not a genius loci either. It has no throne, no seat, no area of mastery or specialty of work. We know [Name] is a disruptor, but it doesn’t quite fit the archetype of trickster. It is chaotic in nature and seems to hate any attempt to force rule and order on those who do not want to be ruled and/or orderly. But it also seems to hate any who cause destruction and bloodshed for the sake of destruction and bloodshed.”
“It is because [Name] does as it pleases without answering to anyone that the name became a title. [Title] can be translated into your language as ‘Lord’, ‘Chief’, ‘Master’, or ‘Supervisor’. ‘Boss’ is also a good fit when considered in terms such as ‘crime boss’ or ‘foreman’. But we have yet to understand the origins of the word [Name], and wonder if it was spirit given by [Name] in the first place and accepted without question by the first to hear it.”
“I teach you this about the word [Name] because I want you to understand why the words [Title] and [Class] have the weight that they do. Even though they are distanced from the word [Name] by time and distance, there is some resonance still in the speaking of them that local spirits pay attention to the speaker when uttered.”
He bid me to close my eyes and pay attention to the ambience of the room after he spoke some phrases. I did as instructed and listened intently. He spoke the first version of the five word prayer using [Class] as the target of the petition. The room stilled for a minute, as if a respected teacher had walked down the hall outside.
He spoke the prayer again using [Title] as the target. The room stilled completely and I felt a thin line of fear race up my spine as if the principal had considered coming in the room to reprimand me but turned away at the last second with some other more important need to attend to.
“Open your eyes. I will not speak the prayer with the word [Name] as the target.” I looked up at his lack of face without fear. “Mark ye well, that ye not write the word [Name] without destroying it before completion, nor make the word [Name] to be the target of thy prayer. Lest ye summon the power behind the word [Name], and be blessed with whatever curse is summoned with it.”
I was afraid again.
He sat down on a stool and leaned towards me. “There is one more thing about these three words that is important for you to know before I finish the lesson. The words [Class] and [Title] are very common. When you wake up and start looking up the possible spellings among the languages of the world that could make these specific sounds, you are going to find a myriad of matching homophones that will do nothing but confuse you.”
“But the word [Name] is not very common, and there are a limited number of languages that will use [certain syllable] in the fashion it is used here. Of those languages, maybe three are available for you to research. Perhaps you will find a relevant homophone, perhaps not. Do not let that distract you.”
“Very few have been willing to talk to us about [Name]. All who have are in agreement on these three things: The word of its name must never be written cleanly, as that is the minimum needed to summon it. It must never be summoned directly as is the fashion of certain witches and [ritual magicians] as it will twist those who would command it into harming themselves.” He leaned in very close, so that if he had a face, I would be feeling its body heat or lack thereof. I found myself looking down to keep from staring into the void between neck and hairline, but his voice had reduced to a barely heard whisper so I had to lean in to hear his last words. “You only learn its name if it wants you to.”
I blinked twice before I realized the importance of what he said. I lifted my face in surprise and buried my head in the unspace where his own face should have been.
I woke up with a start, trembling and chattering in a very warm room.
Later I looked up the word [Class] and found a homophone match in Turkish with a meaning that absolutely did not surprise me in the least.
I looked up the word [Title] and found a homophone match in Hebrew with a meaning that had me laughing and yelling at the screen in legitimate surprise.
I did not look up the word [Name]. Some lucks, like some fucks, should not be spent carelessly.
Lords, gracious lords, do not eat me as I am lacking and will give you indigestion.