Over the decades, the once-supple instrument of spoken language has been pared down to the point where few words are ever used for anything, except formal ceremonial occasions with the tribe, when the chief elder, as Singer, sings her songs. Ash understands more than she can express, but both comprehension and expression are limited in her world.
Still, she tries to match his language. “There is no more water.” she says slowly.
“Water?” He waves that away and says, “Nay. I mean the book.”
She looks at him in confusion, and he repeats, “The book!”
“What is ‘the book’?”
He watches her, as though trying to decide if she is kidding or not. “You don’t know?” he asks. She shakes her head.
As if all the air goes out of him, he falls back onto the ruined blocks and puts his face against his knees. He covers his head with his hands and makes the high whining sound like an infant’s cry she heard a few minutes earlier. That a raggedman could make such a sound confuses her.
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