Baeon's Light

from "The Scrolls of Nef" (Spellbinder, Book One, Chapter 9)

We stood watching the distant lights appearing below us, along the far end of the harbor on the slope of the old city. We were waiting for the southern star they called Vee, in the constellation they called Baeon. Baeon, according to Uncle Mordec, was Vee's lover; Baeon, though half god, chose to spend his life as a simple fisherman on the outer cliffs, and afterward followed his beloved into the southern sky, as a guide to sailors.

"And that is why—," said Uncle, nodding his head and holding up his finger as if to explain to a class. "—That is why the great marble tower on the cliff is called Baeon's light. It stands guard, you will see, shining its light as Baeon himself did for so many years of his solitude, keeping a fire lit at night on the cliff, in case Vee returned. And then, one day, there he was, in the southern sky, guided by the bright planet-star of the constellation Oran, the teacher. . . .

"And by the way, that word for light tower? It's actually a little different with the soft consonants. When you pronounce all the sounds, it comes out meaning—a different word. A word you couldn't use in front of your mother, for example."

... He tried to make his meaning explicit. "The tower," he said. "It's Beaon's—" He looked at me, eyes wide, grinning, but in the language of my mother's people there is no word for that part of a man's body most apparent when he is full of desire. It was confusing to realize. Beaon's tower is the image on all their altars, and doorposts, on the side of every ship, at the beginning and end of all their scrolls. Yet they have no official word for that symbol of the dominant masculine impulse beyond the word for "tower." To say what they meant, they had to borrow from the local dialects.

"Phallus," I said, in the northern language, to make it easy for him.

He laughed, grabbed my hands and shook them both. Then he repeated the local word for tower in his playful accent, and laughed. Like that, laughing, we learned each other's language.