The Thergerim of Sarvonia have seemingly always known of the unique ability of the cave bat to locate itself in darkness by sending out almost inaudible 'chits' of sound. Over the centuries the dwarves have used careful breeding techniques, magical intervention, and Brownie-designed machinery to train their Flitterwings to both send and receive simple messages using these sound pulses. Young dwarves with exceptionally sharp hearing (exceptional among the already sharp-eared Thergerim) often find themselves drawn to an apprenticeship with the Morjualerons - the ThergerimTaal word for the Singspeakers and their bat companions alike.
Description. Morjualerons work together to use patient training and the assistance of a peculiar and mysterious machine known as a Codesinger to help them hear and 'speak' to their bats; they are able to memory-mark or 'scribe' short sequences of chittering sounds into their bats' minds, and later retrieve those sequences and understand them as meaningful messages.
Method/Training Processes. In order to become a Singspeaker there are four stages one needs to go through:
Singspeaker apprentice begins, like most, at the bottom of the ladder, or as the
dwarves would say, "at the
shallow end of the shaft". He (usually a male, in the
Thergerim gender-division of
duties and roles, though exceptions are made for a female who demonstrates an
early proficiency) is started off cleaning the Bat Mews, preparing the training
treats, and other general scutwork. He must master the 'chit-code' (our clumsy
Tharian translation of 'ChitThaerAl' - 'chit' being pronounced 'cheet' in
oenomatopaeic imitation of the bat noises, and 'thaaer-al' meaning literally
'hidden-word') and be able to both code and decode messages in it.
Here we see a visual representation of four common chit-code 'words' which Master Singspeaker Bolt Strongback (BoltTenGuul) has kindly shared with us; we must note that this is an exceptional demonstration of the trust which has been placed in our Compendium researchers, as the 'language of the bats' has long been a secret unique to the dwarves, and we in turn ask our readers not to abuse that trust.
However, we have been permitted to give some general information about the Morjualerons, so we must be grateful for even this scanty amount of detail! As one might easily deduce, the messages are short and simple, conveying the maximum information with the minimum complexity. They are composed of short 'chits' and longer 'theeks', with a maximum of four notes per 'word', and between two to four 'words' per 'sentence'. A more complex message requires more than one Morjual to send, each bat being entrusted with a single sentence, and, presumably, some sort of numeral or character to assist in arranging the received sentences in order!
It is known that the Zirghurim of Ximax band all their bats; an aurium glint around one dainty leg is a clear signal to any would-be bat hunter that his sport will not repay him, and the Zirg Morjualerons that are infrequently found dead of natural causes or accidents away from their caverns are always returned with care to the closest dwarven enclave. Close examination of that slim gold-hued band would reveal not only clearly-graven Thergerim runes giving the clan and cavern name, but numbers and other, unusual characters, that may serve to identify the individual bat, possibly by age or even an individual name. This information might also be of use when memory-marking a longer message to more than one Flitterwing, as above.
II. Once the
apprentice Singspeaker has demonstrated competence in visually deciphering the
chit-code and in composing messages in it, he is introduced to the Morjualerons
of the Mews - taken round and allowed to stroke each of the senior
learning their unique shapes and markings, and listening to their 'voices'. He
is shown the complex Codesinger machines designed and built in conjunction with
the Vale Brownies of Clan
Maj and the Hammerer Clan, and begins to learn how they work. (Side Note: Though
we have learned that the Hammerers design and fabricate the small parts to be
used in the device, it seems that they merely consider them a commission from
the mages and do not know their eventual destination. This hints at a mystical
involvement which results in "something more than a mundane, mechanical
machine", as one craftsbrownie was willing to speculate to us.)
Again, though the exact process is shrouded in mystery, and only Thergerim and Redbark Brownies (and even then, only the singspeakers and mages of their clans, respectively!) ever actually have seen these machines closely, we do have some scraps of fact from our dwarven researchers and some unconfirmed descriptions from members of other races - we can only present these for you as we have received them and let you draw your own conclusions:
- testimony taken from a reformed bandit who claims to have attacked an above-ground dwarven convoy and destroyed what appeared to be, in his words, a sort of 'peckul-lie-er grain harvester, or mebbe somthin' used fer torturin' folks?' with many small gears, a large turning drum with miniature spikes or pins on it, a ' trumpet shaped like a bat's head' and strips of flexible metal. Unfortunately this semi-literate Manthrian could not describe how any of these elements interacted with each other or make any guess at their function.
- the report of a merchant who was at a tunnel entrance doing some trading when a savage windstorm forced him to request shelter - he and his goods were hurried inside and down to a vacant homecave and left to his own devices while the dwarves hastily blocked various vents - in seeking out the privy he stumbled into the Mews themselves. He speaks poetically but vaguely of a 'funnel-like device suspended in velvet semi-darkness' and 'strange plinking sounds like thin wood struck by raindrops' before he was chased off by 'a clowd of flitterers and their indignant dwarven master...'
- a bachelor dwarf muttering in his cups was overheard - unhappily for him - by an eager young bard looking for her second ring. She took down as much as she could of his disjointed but intriguing plaint and discovered that he was the son of an old Singspeaker who had not inherited his father's talent, and was in consequence made to feel of such little worth that he did not have the confidence to even try to win a mate after his Baregozar (the dwarven ritual of passing into adulthood) but simply left the cavern voluntarily. His inebriated musings give us a few more clues about the Codesinger's possible appearance...
"Aye, was good enough t' feed ta hutpuinn' flitterrats an' clean up their pu, but nay ta fix the blessed singers... 'nother drink there, girl! Don' touch ta singwires, hands off ta (unintelligible muttering in Thergerim) but step and carry more melisewax, lad... minefall and splitpicks! Who drank my...my... (unintelligible muttering) Bloddy flitterrats, flappin' in an old dwarf's head. They scratch it out, ye know. Scratch out ta notes and ta words, so's ye can't remmer...rebember...rembem... where's ta ale?"
And so on....
accepted by the bats, the young apprentice is
entrusted with a young bat of his own to
memory-mark, or 'teach' the code to. He is allowed to use a Codesinger to
produce simple phrases which he must go over again and again, patiently
encouraging the Flitterwing to 'repeat' them. Some
bats simply cannot understand what they are being asked to do, even with
their enchantedly enhanced minds, and these ones are gently evicted from the
Mews as being untrainable. Eventually, with the assistance of the Codesinger,
the apprentice Singspeaker will be able to create a phrase and have the young
bat chitter it back to him.
The dwarves who will speak of this are all united in emphasis: the Morjual does NOT understand the code as a language, is not able to use it to communicate, and cannot be considered as sentient. Rather, as a mockerbird or psitta might hear and repeat a Tharian word, it reproduces only the sound which it hears, itself taking no meaning from the sequent of chits. Their ability lies only in being able to remember the phrase for the duration of the flight.
How the bat is instructed to fly to a certain cavern, perhaps in a completely different province from its home cave, is a complete mystery. We had surmised that the Morjual were merely traded from clan to clan, like simple homing coa-coa birds, so that each cave could send home-bound bats on a one-way trip. However, the Thergerim say flatly that that is not the case, rendering that particular theory incorrect. How the strange bat is received into the new cavern and how induced to discharge itself of its coded song has not been disclosed or observed.
And finally, exactly how the message is unscriven, or erased from the bat's memory is also unclear to us. We suspect the Codesinger is able to both imitate and translate, if you will, the almost inaudible sounds of the Morjual, of course, but perhaps it also serves as a reagent for magical workings which wipe the simple mind as a mage might wipe a spell from a slate he had finished.
IV. The apprentice must be able to perform all these duties; he must also be able to keep the Codesinger that will be assigned to him in good maintenance and perhaps in good repair. Specialist Brownie craftsmen and mages are kept in contact with, should there be a breakdown or failure of the machinery itself, but some older Singspeakers have picked up a great deal of facility from observation. Infrequently a particularly sensitive dwarf will develop the skill to 'hear' the Flitterwings directly, and translate simple messages even without the assistance of the Codesinger, but this is apparently rare.
Location and Areas.
As far as we have been able to determine, all of the
dwarven clans in
Sarvonia possess a Mews and a number of
Codesingers, and are able to communicate more or less freely between themselves.
It is possible that central clans such as the
Boltgrums pass on messages, for
surely it would be well-nigh impossible for a single
bat to go from the
Mitharim clan in the southeastern
mountains to the Low Fores, so many
strals away - or at least
most risky - not an adjective usually applied to the
Dwarven finesmiths work closely with Brownie craftsmages of the Redbark Clan in the Vale to create the parts of the Codesinger, but the finished machine is assembled by the Singspeakers themselves in the depths of the Mews where it is destined to remain hidden. What the Brownies receive in exchange for their labour is unclear; we might guess at something as simple as the raw metal they require, or payment in refined gold and gems which can be exchanged through the human/Brownie markets, but we cannot inform you in detail.
Purpose and Use. Obviously, this is a valuable means of swift and more or less accurate communication which many a human king might envy; it is no wonder that the dwarves have kept it so grudgingly to themselves over the centuries. However, it is limited by the simplicity of the messages which may be carried, their brevity, and the fragility of the Flitterwings themselves, vulnerable to night predators, illness or sheer weariness.
We also note that the bats can only carry these short phrases in memory - no miniature scrolls around their legs or bodies as may be done with the heavier, heartier coa-coa - not even a trinket for memory, a gem that might seal a bargain, a dust-light packet of herbs for needed healing. Nor can these messengers experience and learn the breadth of our country, mapping and minding it as our horse couriers do, riding the roads of Santharia on the King's business. We need not begrudge the deep-dwelling Thergerim their humble night-flitting messengers, need we?
Had we space here we should love to tell you the whole of the dwarven children's story of "The Midnight Morjual", about how a little bat arrived in time to rescue an ill-favoured youth - but let us not ruin the tale for you! Rather, do you seek out the shelf of Children's Tales in our Library to read and enjoy...
History. Apparently the relationship between Thergerim and Morjual has existed as long as their history details. The first faltering steps in 'hearing' bat-speak and from then attempting to direct and train it into a simple code were done very early on, but dwarves refuse to provide exact dates. However, from trade records and other carefully-dug out information which we Compendiumists specialize in uncovering, we can now tell you that Singspeaker machines could not have existed in their present form before five hundred years ago - in other words, a mere couple of dwarven generations. Thus we can describe them as relatively 'new technology', and it is our hope that someday a similar system may be available 'aboveground' as well.
We must apologetically remind our readers again that the processes and details about the Codesingers are difficult to obtain; however, dwarves speak very highly of the contemporary Singspeaker Pola DawnSung (GordnShaeVer, literally 'startday-music-past'), who has been instrumental in refining some long-standing crudities of the machines' design, and in keeping strong trade links with the Vale Brownies over the years. Our Masterbard Judith, dwarvenfriend of longstanding, has been privileged to meet with him on a number of occasions and describes him as "tall - for a Thergerim - craggy-faced and loquacious". She adds that despite not being able to view him at his work in the Mews, a location strictly off-bounds to other races, his competence and technical skill cannot be doubted. He himself is a fine musician as well as a Morjual, and the two have enjoyed playing together at cavernsings several times.
Our deepest gratitude to Master Singspeaker Bolt Tenguul (Bolt Strongback) and to the Tenthrum Clan for their assistance in compiling this entry!