Adam couldn’t stand it any longer. For days they had continued to travel south with no sounds exchanged between them. Radish appeared to be mad at Adam for taking him away from the bleats, refusing to look him in the eye. In return, Adam was scared to meet his eyes or interact with Radish. Adam was scared. He had so easily killed the bleat, so easily killed Father, what if he were to do the same to Radish? Adam shuddered at the thought. He needed a solution, and quickly.
The two clambered down, taking great care to pick their way down the mountainside. The slope led into a deep valley, the other side rising into a plateau. Adam could hear distant waves crashing against stone shores. A shallow stream ran along the bottom of the valley. Adam continued on his way, stumbling over a few rocks towards the bottom. His feet landed in the soft mud of the brook. An idea struck him. A solution to his fear.
Adam set up the small hut quickly while Radish explored in the meadow nearby. They had made their way to the plateau, finding trees, freshwater, and the source of the crashing waves. A bay stretched out towards the setting sun, the waves reflecting the rosy clouds. Adam had made a plan, first constructing the hut he and Radish would live in. Soon, he would begin on the workshed. Adam felt at peace, having a clear path, a solution, for the first time in a long time.
The mud was heavy. He always had to work quickly, before it dried and crumbled in the sun. It was nothing like the clay he had used prior. Radish’s body had stuck together well, holding its shape together. The mud would not obey Adam so easily. Still, he persevered, the days beginning to run into one another. Each day, he would set a bit of the mud aside, shaping it into figures, animals like the bleats they had seen, faux golems like he and Radish. Each day, he would present the gifts to his son.
At first, Radish had rejected them. But at seeing his father’s remorse and his effort to make amends, he eventually gave in. Radish would play in the meadow with his toys while Adam worked. Adam would sometimes lose track of time watching Radish, the joy on his son’s face evident as he reenacted the headbutting matches of the bleats. During such moments, the mud would dry too early and Adam would have to redo his work. He continued to make his progress, gradually putting the body together.
It was then the locals decided to greet them.
The osyatao had been observing the duo for days. When the first hunting party had spotted them over the rise, they had raced back to the village to warn them. It was not uncommon for the eighre nàimh to send a talamh nàmh ahead of the main party to soften up their prey. The eighre nàimh would come from the sea, sailing in their longships. They would drag their boats onto the shore and steal away the tribe’s goods and sometimes their people. Escaped thralls told of the horror of the frozen wastes. As had become standard for the tribe, they evacuated the village, the osyaba and fry fleeing into the hills. The armainn of the village, the warriors of renown, gathered at the peak of the nearby mountain where they gazed down at the two talamh nàimh. The scout the hunting party had left explained that the nàimh hadn’t moved or shown any of the typical signs of aggression. Generally, the nàimh would slowly and mindlessly plod towards their village, destroying any signs of civilization they could find. Yet these two hadn’t moved from their small shack. The small nàmh continued to run around the trees on the plateau while the large, injured one worked on something in its hut that it had constructed. The two seemed as though they had no idea that they were supposed to be on a rampage to destroy the osyatao village.
The armainn looked at each other, unsure of the next step. The peak where they rested was the perfect ambush spot if the talamh nàimh decided to attack, but they seemed distracted. Sensing a trap, the toisiche of the tribe kept the armainn from attacking across open ground. They would post a watch on the nàimh, observing them from afar. If there was any sign, the lookouts would alert the tribe and the ambush would again be on. They would watch and wait.
Four days they watched and waited. The talamh nàimh had continued their daily routine, the smaller one wandering in the nearby fields exploring, the larger one forming what looked like a body out of the nearby river mud. When another creature would approach the small nàimh, the large one would stop its work and watch the two protectively. There was never an incident, and eventually, the large nàimh would return to its work. Seeing the peaceful nature and unusual actions of the two, the toisiche decided that they should make contact. A small party of three was arranged to approach the large nàimh, with the rest of the armainn watching carefully. The toisiche, a former thrall of the eighre nàimh who knew a little of their language, and the greatest warrior of the tribe. So, as the sun reached its zenith, the party approached.
Adam first spotted the fish people as he was returning with the last load of mud. They stood at the other end of the plateau, one unarmed with two holding the sharp sticks Father had called spears. He called for Radish, who was playing in the nearby field. Radish looked at his father, seeing his gaze drawn to the figures in the distance. The child rushed to Adam, where his father gestured for him to enter the hut.
“Stay until I say it is safe.”
As if waiting for that signal, the figures began to approach. The middle figure led the party, its hands spread wide and empty. The other two trailed behind, their spears pointed at the sky in a non-threatening gesture. Adam walked towards them from the hut, imitating the gesture of the leader, which seemed to mean “peace.”
The two groups met about a hundred feet from the hut. The leader seemed satisfied with this, and Adam found the distance adequate for the safety of Radish. Adam and the leader stared at each other when at least Adam broke the silence.
The fish people looked shocked as if they hadn’t expected him to speak. The leader clapped its hands, moving its mouth and making strange noises excitedly. Adam shook his head. He couldn’t understand the strange language. As the leader turned to one of its guards, the golem was able to get a good look at it. The figure was short, about half of Adam’s height. It looked like the fish he had observed swimming in the rivers they had passed through on their journey. The front and back fins had been replaced with arms and legs and the gills appeared reduced. The head was narrow, the mouth filled with the sharp teeth of a predator. Adam shivered slightly at the memory of the wolves. He hadn’t seen them since that night, but they had left a lasting impact nonetheless. He was jolted out of his observations with the stepping forward of one of the guards.
The fish person dropped the spear and stepped forward, raising a hand.
The voice sounded strange, the words were almost foreign in its mouth. But it was a greeting, one in the same language Adam knew. The golem realized that perhaps they could communicate. He gestured to his chest.
The leader and translator clapped happily. They in turn gestured to their chests. The translator, “Niall O'Beirnei,” the leader, “Fionnaghal Glens,” the guard with the spear, “Eònan Ó Corraidhíni.”
Adam pointed to the hut where Radish stood in the doorway. “Radish, eh…” It was a spur of the moment decision. Adam recalled the day Father had told him his name, how golems were his design and his children. Adam decided to rebel, to name Radish as his own. “Radish ha’adam.”
The fish people seemed to accept this, happy to know the names of what had seemed enemies. The one that still held the spear continued to seem suspicious of him, but the relief from realizing the other presented no current threat to the other was felt from both parties. Adam tried to further cement this by gesturing to himself and the hut.
“Friend.” The translator seemed puzzled, then a moment of realization passed over its face. It looked to the leader, speaking the strange sounds. The leader responded and the translator turned back to Adam.
“Frens.” Adam smiled. Good enough.
The golem was unsure of how to grow their newfound friendship, deciding the best course of action was to show the newcomers his small settlement. Adam started lumbering back to the hut, waving at the fish people encouragingly. “Radish!” he called, “It’s safe!”
Radish rushed from the door where he had been watching the encounter. Launching himself, he clung to Adam’s leg, looking fearfully at the group. “It’s okay, they’re safe.” Radish seemed reluctant to believe him.
The fish people followed him into the small hut, where they could see the body he had been working on. Nearly complete, all that remained were the runes and the completion of the left hand. As well as the gourd that would complete the head, but Adam would complete that step when he came to it.
“Ha’adam,” he pointed at the body. The leader seemed fascinated, though the others seemed confused. Adam mentally shrugged. At least one of them understood. They looked around the shed, observing the relatively rickety structure and the bare floor. A flash of shame shot through Adam. It was poorly made, but it was all he had to show them. However… Adam turned to the corner. With some of the mud he had collected from the river he had created a small pot for getting water to smooth out the body. It was baked by the sun and its walls were thick and heavy, but it was symmetrical and sturdy. Grabbing the pot, Adam presented it to the fish people. It was almost half their height and looked far too heavy for them to carry. Adam immediately felt sheepish about his gift. The leader smiled and nodded, saying something to the translator.
“Than ou. We come, morrow?” The translator nodded. “Morrow.”
Adam smiled, relieved. They had accepted his gift, acknowledging that it may have been too awkward for them to carry immediately. The fish people, finished examining his hut, finally left, waving at Adam and Radish, who still clung to his leg.
The mud Adam had been carrying back from the river had long dried and been rendered unusable, but he felt the day had been more than productive.