29 of Eleint 1371, Year of the Unstrung Harp
The next morning came bright and beautiful, despite my wretchedly foul mood that asked for thunder and lightning, or at the very least a slight drizzle, not the warm golden syrup of sunlight pouring from the clear blue sky on the small oasis full of green vines and gently trickling water. I chuckled grimly, musing over the possibility of that kind of weather in the middle of a desert then decided it was highly unlikely that the Gods would go that far to deliver their message, even if they were truly interested in my bizarre persona, and this whole affair was not a plot put together by some unknown enemy from my past, who sought to weaken me further. Yesterday's divination left bitter taste in my mouth, yet my mind already started working, pondering over the facts and seeking the ways to turn the situation to my advantage.
I kept thinking as I washed my face in the now still pond, and run fingers of both hands through the pale strands of my hair. The water tasted sweet, but was cooler than the day before. I wondered if the elemental had something to do with it. While scooping for the water, I spotted a school of small fish darting away from my hands across the sandy bottom of the pool. So, the critters have reoccupied their habitat after the weird's departure. Now I had no doubt that she left for good, and had no intention of coming back for a while.
I gathered some grapes from the vines on the weeping red wall, and placed them on the warm shards of rock to wither and dry into raisins, eating my fill of sweet and sticky globes even as I worked. Then it was time for more exciting hunt. Since I had neither hook nor string to fashion a simplest fishing line, I had to rely on the quickness of my hands, and sharpness of my eyes. I selected a perfect spot near the small waterfall that the bubbling stream made when it entered the pool, and positioned myself on a huge boulder nearby, making sure that my shadow did not fall across the water. It took awhile to adjust my eyes to the play of sunspots on the shifting, rippling surface. But in less than an hour, I had three cold rainbow-colored fishes wiggling on the rocky shore at my feet, even though I was wet from head to toe and flushed from exercise. My fingers were as quick and nimble as one could wish. It was uncanny how one's perception of the world can be altered by the mere fact of being young and healthy, I thought suddenly. My mood has improved drastically after that small success. For a briefest of moments, I remembered the horribly scarred man with body inflated and disfigured by magic, then shrugged the thought off, concentrating on the string of small mundane tasks instead. He was the dead thing of my nightmares. I did not want to think about him, even though the strange construction of leather and metal that was stored inside Chyil's strongbox made much more sense now.
I collected kindling and started a fire, using the firefinger cantrip to ignite a pile of bone-dry vines and sharp prickly brambles. The idea of using magic for this small job pleased me. The fish had to be gutted, and since for whatever reason I loathed to spoil the clean waters of the pool, I dug a small pit in the wet soil at the base of the rock, and buried the waste there. In the past, I was abysmally bad at simple house chores that Chyil tried to impose upon me but this was different. I took small pleasure at letting my hands do the tasks that felt familiar. I was no stranger to camping in the wild, of that I was now confident. I baked the fish in the shells of red clay, burying these under the pile of hot coals and ash, and burned my mouth as I gorged myself on its white, juicy flesh, and licked my fingers clean afterwards. This one meal should keep me going for a few days, since the only food I could carry with me into the desert would be the raisins. Afterwards I sat by the small fire hugging my knees with both hands - a posture that I found strangely comfortable for this supple elven frame.
I had no choice but to follow my original plan - reach the Marching Mountains, find the trail, and follow it to the closest human settlement. Of what I was going to do next, I had no idea but I was certain I was not charging blindly into a nonsensical quest of saving some strange elven city only to find myself rejected and ridiculed by my supposed kin. When I first set up from Amkethran, I felt somewhat excited about the possibility of meeting other elves and learning more about myself, and my place in this world. Now I dreaded such encounter. I tried to imagine what would I have to say for myself, how would I explain that my memory loss was a genuine thing, not some sinister trick of a supposedly exiled traitor - and failed miserably. Part of me still refused to believe Aluril's tale, though the other part found wicked pride in the magnitude of my hypothetical offence. I was not just a lost youth after all - I used to be someone important.
After thinking it over, I laughed at the idea. I was lost in the desert with nay but my hands, a few minor spells, and a knife. So, what if my past held things glorious and grim, the secrets I can only dream to recover? I still had to struggle for everyday survival, and the more I thought about it the less chance I could see for myself. On top of it, if the weird was right about my past, there were many who would seek vengeance, and in my current situation, I was a perfect target for revenge. A turtle stripped of its shell was in a better shape than I. I mused over the possibility of staying in the small oasis forever. For the first time since I could remember myself, I was totally, blissfully alone. Not a single soul knew or cared whether I lived or died. It felt ... comforting. It was heavenly peaceful here, and I could almost feel the strands of protection spells woven around the place. I can live here unknown and unnoticed for the rest of my life, except that the weird assured me it was going to be a very short one, if I did not follow her instructions. On the other hand, she pointed out that I still had my free will. A free will to choose what a kind of death to die, I decided with a dry chuckle. Either way I was going to lose.
One thing she said yesterday that made me feel dizzy with excitement, was the part about possible return of my magic. The more I thought about it, the less I believed that my loss of power was my own doing. I remembered all the bleak empty weeks when the call of the weave was still dormant in me. It was a life of a ghost rather than a man or an elf. After my arcane gift had been reawakened, I craved the magic lore. I wanted it back more than I wanted life itself, yet ... it was unattainable. How could it be that I could not unlock something I wanted so badly? Surely, it was my punishment, and Aluril's vague hint at possible redemption was bait in a trap, a carrot left dangling above my head just out of reach. I did not believe in the possibility of reconciliation. Why would the elves want to forgive what I did? I could not recall the details, but what little I had learned was bad enough. There were possibly even more dreadful things that I had no wish to remember. My dreams alone indicated that much. Egotistic of me? Perhaps, but nobody could force me to accept these memories as my own. Yet, if a compromise could be reached... if I can regain my lore and be left alone as reward for saving the damnable city. It was a case worth pursuing.
My fire went out some time ago, and the coals cooled down and died under the sheet of ash. I stirred from the daydream, looking around me as if for the first time. The weeping walls glistened softly under the emerald curtain of creeping vines, and the small brook tinkled softly under my feet. The place breathed peace and serenity, yet I knew I could not truly feel the whole beauty of it, as if there was something hidden under the surface of things, some deeper, more primal explanation of its nature. I knew for example that there should be a portal to the Plane of Water at the bottom of the pool, yet I could not find it, as my inner eye that should be attuned to seeing it was blind. Fleetingly, I recalled the strange craving for connection with earth, water, and air, with the others of my kind reawakened by the water elemental's touch. I knew now I was severed from the Elven Spirit, yet I could not remember what it was. Only that it was a thing as natural as breathing.
Elves were creatures of the weave, yet I still possessed my magic even after I had lost the spirit. If I could not have the latter, why not settle for the former? The human soul was a meager replacement, Aluril had said, yet I felt healthy enough with it. Now that she rid me of my nightmares I could live like this, I decided with grim resolution. If only I can regain my magic. Maybe I can earn it back by delivering her message. It was small enough price to pay. But actually staying with the elves, living through the humiliation of their contempt and likely pity was too much. I could not possibly force myself to go through that. Yes, I thought finally, it is a compromise I can accept. Finding means to notify the Evereskan Elders of the coming disaster without disclosing who I was seemed impossible, but I may just come with the idea when I reach the place. Surely, there must be a way. But first, I had to find out the valley's location and reach it before the upcoming winter.
My course determined there was nothing else to keep me in the canyon. I decided to set off immediately, since the process of finding my way through the rocky maze into the open desert was tricky enough in full daylight and most likely impossible at night. I collected my gear, filling my newly acquired pouch with the half-dried fruit, and fashioning the white headscarf into a veil to cover my nose and mouth. The bejeweled pin went into my pocket. Judging by the size and purity of the sapphire that adorned it, I could sell it for a hefty sum in gold. This would take care of my expenses for weeks if not months. Traveling was not always such I bad thing after all, I decided. Already I was better off than when I left Chyil's home. My preparations finished, I had a last brief glance at the pond simmering quietly under the bright afternoon sun. It was very still but inside my head, I heard a distant sigh akin to a whisper of a long wave rolling back into the ocean. I nodded in the general direction of the water, and started on my long, hot walk down the trail.
The narrow passage winded through a maze of red rocks. A long time ago, it must have been a riverbed, or a route of seasonal floods for nothing but persistent flow of water could have created all the smooth curves, delicate arches, and rounded passages leading deeper underground that honeycombed the rough stone walls around the trail. I climbed over rotund stone buttes, hiked across cracked fields of dried mud that looked like a shell of partially hatched giant egg, and slowly crawled up the unsteady slope of loose rock and gravel that led to the top of the highest of the stone formations. At the crest of the hill I stopped, taking my first look at the view below.
The sun hung low over the narrow valley filled with multitude of rust-colored pinnacles that looked more like a bizarre stone garden than product of many centuries of erosion by sandstorms. Looking closer, I realized that not all of the sharp spires and round cupola were created by the perpetual labor of sand and wind. Some of the shapes were too regular to be mistaken for anything but the work of humanoid hands. Judging by the roughness of the low walls, flat squareness of the outer buildings, and the traditional swirl of onion-shaped dome of the central structure, so common in the local architecture, it was a human outpost long abandoned to ravages of desert storms. I remembered what the water weird had said about the temple that was built in her honor by human petitioners on the other side of the cliffs, and the darkness she could sense within it. It must be it, I decided, noting with unease that the narrow path led straight to the front gate of the walled compound. Yet, there was no need for me to enter it I realized with relief, for the trail continued on the other side of the complex, and I could make a wide loop around avoiding its yellow crumbling walls.
What heartened me much was the sight of familiar dark and hulking silhouettes far to the south. The Marching Mountains could not be more then a day's walk from the hidden oasis. I wondered where exactly was I headed when the magical storm picked me up like a broken doll, and deposited on Aluril's doorstep. It did not mater much but I was determined to avoid making the same mistake. At least this time my water bottle sloshed comfortably at my hip full to the rim, and my head was clear of fever and blackthorn poison. I looked back once, taking the last sight of the sheer red wall that hid the passage into the Heart of Water, and went down the winding path that led back to the big world, bringing with me a baggage of old disasters and fragile new hopes.
I circled around the temple grounds leaving its dusty cracked walls behind, as I walked briskly between the sharp needles and twisted columns of the stone forest. Most of the pillars were left untouched but some were carved with wavy lines, ancient hieroglyphs, and symbols of water. Two biggest pinnacles at the very exit from the strange grove bore the carved faces of long-nosed, bearded water djinn, smiling wickedly at each other from their respective heights. At the base of the left pillar, I spotted a round object bleached by sun and wind to the color of pale ivory. Its empty hollow sockets watched me with impassionate coldness of one long dead. I shrugged and quickened my pace.
By the time that gray dusk settled over the whispering dunes, I was many miles away from the stone grove and its silent watcher. The memory of that grim vision made me forget any notion of rest, and hastened me on my way through the endless miles of wastelands. The night was falling fast, and soon I was forced to wait for the first stars to appear above the horizon to chart the course of my night journey. I sat on the warm sand nibbling on the handful of raisins, and took one long swig from my flask. The desert sky was quickly darkening into a deep shade of indigo, even as the last purple and yellow feathers of sunset dwindled at the distance. Yet, the first star I saw that night did not send its flickering orange light from the cold and distant heavens but shone as a bright warm beacon from the shadowed earth below.
When I realized it was a glow of a distant campfire my fingers went cold and my heart leaped into my throat. I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. I only spent a few days away from Amkethran and human company but it may have been a year for my perception of myself, and of the world around me has changed dramatically. I remembered Aluril's third vision of the two people and a horse crossing the desert. Could this be it? Remembering my experience with the sandstorm, I did not doubt that the weird possessed the ability to perceive and affect an outcome of the events within certain distance from her home. Of course, the campfire might have nothing to do with her prophesy, I thought suddenly. It maybe of more mundane and less benign origin, as Farheed probably sent his cronies after my head. Still, it was strange that they looked for me on the north-eastern trail, instead of the more obvious, frequently traveled western caravan route to Calimport. Another possibility was an independent gang of desert-riders. But this was almost impossible, since Easamon and now Farheed suppressed all the competition in the vicinity of their base in Amkethran. It required investigation, I decided finally. I could not continue my journey without learning who the travelers were, and if there was any danger in running into them in daytime. At least now I had the advantage of knowing about them without them knowing I was around.
I walked for many hours, keeping my eye on the distant light of their campfire. The stars filled the vastness of the dark sky with their faint silvery shimmer, and the golden crescent of the moon rose slowly from the dark cloud. My only fear was that the fire would suddenly go out, and I would be left in the dark without knowing my relative position to the mysterious campsite. These people must be pretty sure of themselves or plain reckless, I decided at some point of my long trek, to leave an open fire for half a night in a place as flat as Calim desert. Whatever were their reasons it was a blessing for me, for when I finally reached the shallow ravine between the two dunes where they were camping, the smoldering coals of the campfire were still visible in the dark of the night. At least they bothered to keep watch I thought grudgingly, looking at the figure slumped before the fire pit. The other person was sleeping nearby, wrapped in his loose desert garb. They were not so reckless after all, I realized after giving it a thought, for the fire was only visible from a certain angle, and it was my good luck that I was coming from the north where the crevice was facing or I would have never spotted their camp.
I was no more than ten paces away from them, but decided that coming closer was too dangerous. I still had no idea who they were, and for all I knew there could have been more people hidden in the darkness. My step was lighter than that of any human, and I was quick and agile as a cat but hiding and sneaking on others was not among my many talents. I started to retreat, moving backwards, carefully placing the ball of my foot on the ground before transferring my whole weight on it, then repeating the process. I almost get away with it but on the third step my foot came to rest on a loose stone that slipped under it, making me waver frantically grabbing for hold in the darkness, and loose my balance, landing on my backside and cursing at my clumsiness. The noise that I made was enough to wake up every smuggler from the Marching Mountains back to Amkethran. Suits me right for being overconfident - I thought sourly. I was quick enough to roll over and start getting back on my feet when a strong hand grabbed my shoulder twisting me backwards, while the other shoved a needle sharp dagger into my face, firmly placing it under my chin.
"Don't do anything funny and you will live," a familiar cheery voice said into my ear, as the grip of his hand shifted from my shoulder to my neck. I grunted but did not resist, realizing it was pointless. "How long have you been following us? Curse it, Thick promised us a safe passage if we keep quiet about the whole affair. I knew we could not trust him! Mirri, bring the torch I want to see this weasel's face!"
I was more irritated than relieved at hearing Kessen cussing me in the darkness, and kept my mouth shut, trying to decide what to do next. What in the Nine Hells were they doing out here? His last words somewhat explained their situation but I was fuming at my own stupidity at not recognizing the obvious behind Aluril's cryptic message. The last thing on Toril I wanted was to be saddled with these two again. When the girl finally arrived bearing a flaming branch of juniper as a torch in one hand, I was grateful for the veil that still covered the lower part of my face, for it hid the ferocious scowl plastered over it. Mirriam lowered on her knees before me, looking strangely at my shrouded form, as if she could not believe she was awake and I was real.
Her hand moved slowly, dreamily over my face, pushing Kessen's dagger away from my throat, and finding the knots that kept the piece of white silk in place. He objected loudly but one look at her made him swallow his protests. By the time she was done with the bindings working with one hand, I managed some level of self-control, though my insides were tied in tight knots. With cold dread I anticipated more awkward display of emotions. When she finally pulled away the veil, my features were a frozen mask of contempt, and one look at her shining eyes overflowing with tears of joy almost made me choke from embarrassment. I felt sick at heart at this unwanted but obvious sings of affection, and prayed that my displeasure would not show too obviously on my face. Mirri issued a silent sight that was more eloquent than any speech, and wiped the tears away with a sleeve. I noticed that her eyelids were red and puffy, as if she was crying a lot lately.
"I thought you were dead, Jon-Jon," the girl finally said in a hollow empty voice. "And I blamed myself for that. I was sure Farheed had you strangled and buried somewhere in the desert. Kes tried to convince me you've walked away on your own, but I could not believe you would do such a thing to Chyil. He thinks you are dead too. He was sick with worry, you know. He closed the temple doors and sent the children away for the whole week after you left. Did not want to talk to me, poor soul, but I pulled it out of him that you never came back that night."
"Well, I am sorry, I suppose," I murmured with a shrug. "I never thought he would care one way or another."
"You suppose? You suppose that you are sorry to hear that the man who nursed you back to life from the dead is sick with grief, mourning you?" Mirriam looked at me in mute distress, and the fire of anger slowly forced the soft shine of other emotion out of her eyes.
I sighed with relief - I liked her much better when she was mad at me. "Whatever are my feelings on the matter, this is absolutely not of your business," I responded dryly. "And can you please tell your brother to release me? I believe you should realize by now that I present no danger."
Kessen laughed sharply and let go of my collar that he was still clutching in his left hand. The brother at least, sounded amused by the whole ordeal.
"Rise up, sidi, and let's get back to the fire and have a quiet talk."
The boy gave me his hand, which I accepted grudgingly. I was too tired for a confrontation. In fact, the only thing I craved at the moment was sleep for I walked for many hours without much food or rest. We sat at the fire, and Mirriam busied herself with filling a kettle with water and pulling out extra blankets that I accepted silently. The looks she gave me could have been used for drilling holes or starting fires, but they only make me feel more comfortable. We were on familiar ground at least. We exchanged some small talk pretending to ignore the unanswered questions that hung heavily in the air. I assured them I would go on my own way in the morning.
Kessen laughed in his easygoing, infectious way, and I found myself smiling back at him in return. Something about the boy made everybody around him feel at ease, and he managed to maintain the conversation for the three of us while his sister and I were busily ignoring each other, which was rather stupid at the circumstances. He told me their story. After Farheed recovered his wits, he summoned both of Easamon's children to his headquarters and demanded that Mirri either marry him on a spot or go away quietly. Continuing the charade with engagement was out of question after the incident. I was astounded he even gave her a choice, though I assumed that harming Easamon's daughter would have done more damage to his reputation, and there was still a small choice of the old fox coming back to reclaim his empire one day. Not surprisingly, Mirriam refused to be Farheed's third wife, and since she was adamant about it Kessen, who loved his sister very much in his own strange fashion and was bored of Amkethran anyway, offered to accompany her to Zazzesspur, where they planned to start looking for their elusive father or his associates. It was a fine plan - the kids grew restless of the small village, and their mother was well provided for by her pirate consort. They decided to set off for Darromar and take a river barge down to Zazzesspur from there.
After drinking my customary cup of tea and nibbling at their bread (I knew that sharing food and water was an important ritual in the desert that established a certain level of trust between the guest and his hosts), I pleaded my extreme tiredness and asked to retire. But the boy only shook his head mockingly. He knew the local rituals all to well. It would be a mortal insult if I refuse to answer his questions after sharing his bread.
"Got yourself some fancy clothes, sidi."
He took a hold of my robe, pinching a fold of green silk between two fingers. The fabric was very thin, yet pliable and sturdy, and after a day of wear through the stone labyrinths and rocky slides of the red desert it still looked fit for a Pasha's palace, although I quietly despised the elaborate, pompous style of the garment forced on me by the weird. It reminded me of the bejeweled leather-thing in Chyil's closet, and for some reason that memory made me cringe with embarrassment.
"Just look at him, sagirah," Kessen continued lazily picking at the gold braid on my sleeve and ignoring his sister's obvious upset, and my sulkiness. "Your elven boyfriend runs away beaten and bloody two days before the worst storm of the season comes from the north. Which is exactly where he was headed, for I tracked him all the way to the mountains, whether you believed me or not. And a few days later, he comes out of the desert healthy as a horse, and dressed like a Caliph. A little bit of a mystery here, eh, sidi?"
I gave him my best contemptuous stare, which did not seem to impress him at all. At this point, I was ready to sell my soul for a bit of sleep, and could see no harm in telling them the story of my adventure with the water weird. Besides, I wanted to share it just to assure myself it was real.
I told them only a fraction of the story, of course. Nobody could ply the part about the Tree of Life, and Aluril's prophesies of my future out of me with hot iron. I have to admit - it still sounded like a tale from Zakharan Nights cycle. Mirri forgot her wrath at me for the moment, and listened with eyes wide and gleaming like two black pearls or other dark and shiny gemstones. She was always a good listener, and was totally consumed by the story, wrapping the end of her long braid around her fingers and tugging at it in excitement in more spine-tingling moments.
"Was she very beautiful?" she asked in a small voice after I finished the part about opening my eyes while floating in the water, and the elemental tending to my wounds.
"I suppose she maybe considered such," I answered after a small pause. "If you like the watery, liquid type."
"And I gather you don't, sidi!" Kessen laughed heartily, slapping himself on the haunches and almost rolling from the impact. "Don't worry, sagirah, I doubt he was in the mood for that sort of thing after spending two days in the high desert without water!"
"You are a lout with manners of a vulture, and imagination of a goat, Kes," Mirri answered blushing. "Stop calling me little one, you are half an hour younger. You make me ashamed to admit that I have a brother."
"And a twin brother, no less!" he grinned like a hyena, "and you are stuck with me, sagirah, unless you strangle me in my sleep and run away with all the money, but even then my ghost will haunt you, and your boyfriend will leave, because you won't let him sleep with all the terrible teeth grinding and snoring I will curse you with!"
I listened to this exchange with faint amusement, and a strange feeling of deja vu. I could not remember anything about my family, or ever having a sister, but the relationship between these two was so light-hearted and affectionate that I felt a slight envy. I could never be so easy and forgiving with anyone. Would it really matter if I could? I asked myself. Perhaps the answer was 'no', but a strange shudder run through me at the thought of having a sibling always present in my life.
"Would you please continue, Jon-Jon?" Mirri asked impatiently, after exchanging few more loveable insults with her salacious twin. "I am dieing to find out what happened next!"
"Oh, nothing," I suddenly felt wary and overwhelmed with tiredness. "I spent two days in the oasis, recuperating. When I decided to leave, the elemental presented me with a set of new clothes, as my old ones were unwearable. That is all."
"Are you telling me that you've found the Heart of Water, and left with nothing but a fancy shirt on your back? Man, you are either a fool or the worst liar I ever met!" Kessen was suddenly sharp-eyed and agitated. The change had come so quick - I never spotted when his relaxed cadence turned into a sharp, appraising tone of a merchant bargaining for his stock.
I looked at him closer, trying to understand why his voice sounded so familiar. This shifty but charismatic demeanor, eyes that will never return your direct stare Yet, you could not really hate him for he would always have a joke ready to parry your every accusation. Never mind him, I thought tiredly. I am bound to have daydreams and hallucinations at every turn, as everybody I meet always reminds me of someone else whom I had known in my previous life.
"I hate it when you speak like Da," Mirri slapped him on the wrist. "He could never stop looking for more profit, and more trouble - even in his sleep! Even when Mom begged him to forget about money, and spend one more day with us. He could not help it - it was in his nature. Much good it did him at the end! They say the Godchild had sworn to get his head even if would take digging him from the Underdark." She shrugged. "And for all we know he may be dead already."
"That he maybe, or maybe not," Kessen responded absentmindedly looking at my feet.
I realized he was eyeing the pearls-encrusted front panels on the slippers I was wearing. My footwear was also a gift from the Plane of Water.
"I will tell you this," his eyes suddenly flashed with green avaricious light. "I have heard the legends about that place since I was a child. Everybody knows the Water Woman is older than Calim desert, and richer than the old Emperor Shoon himself. If I were on your place, I would not have missed my chance!"
"I believe you would not," I answered tiredly. "But since it was I who found it, and since I am not going back, there is nothing more to discuss."
"And I will repeat again that you are a fool, sidi," Kessen murmured quietly.
The conversation died soon after this, and bidding them both good night I retired to my blankets. I expected to pass out the moment I close my eyes, but sleep often eludes us even at the brink of physical and mental exhaustion. It took me some time to realize what consistent irritating thought was buzzing in my head, nagging at my consciousness, and preventing me from giving up to my need. I thought of Chyil. Of his old hands fastening the lock on the two-sided, painted gate of his precious temple, and locking himself in the house only because he thought I was dead. The idea that someone may actually care about my well-being was startling. It almost frightened me. It also made me wiggle in my blanket from some odd, unfamiliar feeling to which I could not put a name yet. Was it guilt? But how can I be blamed for something I did not anticipate? I finally drifted into uneasy sleep after promising to myself I will send him a note at first occasion.
Mirri woke me up when the sun was still battling the remnants of the fleeing night, chasing the blue morning shadows under the rocks scattered around the desert. Her voice sounded harsh and panicky as she pulled the blanket away from me and slapped me awake. I growled at her as anger sprang into my head still dizzy and incoherent from too little sleep, but the fear in her voice was too genuine to ignore it.
"Jon-Jon, please wake up! I cannot find Kessen anywhere. I think he left when it was still dark to follow your tracks back to the Heart of Water!"
sidi - a polite form of address for a man (calim.)
sagirah - little one (calim.)