Speak Like a Tanar’ri
Speak Like a Tanar’ri

Speak Like a Tanar’ri

So you’re asking about the Abyssal language are you? Now there’s a gruesome can of worms to open! There’s as many opinions about the tanar’ri tongue as there are scholars of language, mark my words, cutter. I shall tell you the story as I see it.

by Turpental, tout most rorty

The Tanar’ri Language and the Kaz’gor’ri

To put it blunt, tanar’ric is a mess of a language. It doesn’t even have one name; there are as many names for it as there are scholars of language. Sound familiar? Get used to that thought, it’ll come back later. Tanar’ric ain’t so much a language as a collection of nasty ideas and sounds that offend pretty mortal ears. In fact, it’s also one of the most dangerous languages to learn, basher. Dangerous, you ask? Oh yes. To be able to speak Abyssal, a basher’s got to understand evil, grapple with the horrible things that fly around inside a tanar’ri’s skull. Then she’s got to convert the awfulness into a spoken sound so vile it leaves a nasty taste in her mouth when she says it. Why’d you think tieflings have such grim scowls, basher?

But it’s more dangerous than a bad taste. See, to try to grasp tanar’ri thought is a risky business. To gaze into the mind of the monster is putting yourself further down the path to insanity than is advisable for most mortal minds. Many a student of tanar’ric has ended up in the Gatehouse, for good, believe you me. But worse! If thinking terrible thoughts don’t drive you mad, then better hope you’ve got a strong mind, and a strong will. That sort of thing’s very attractive to bodiless fiends fishing for a host. Students of tanar’ric must be prepared to ward off possession attempts from these tanar’ri before they master the tongue convincingly. Still want to enrol?

It’s said by cutters who can speak the lingo that there are as many words for “evil” in tanar’ric as there are layers in the Abyss. I go further than that. I believe that each word for “evil”, IS a layer of the Abyss… for every concept, every connotation of wickedness that the tanar’ri mind has ever dreamed up, there’s a physical representation of it tucked away down there in the Abyss. It’s almost like the race is using the infinite plane to record a catalogue of their evil thoughts and deeds; an encyclopaedia of evil, infinite in size, and real. Every word a new evil, every layer a synonym.

Think on this though: By visiting the layers-embodied-by-word the tanar’ri can immerse itself in the evil the word represents and better understand that twisted thought. The more layers a fiends experiences, the more knowledge of evil it gains, and knowledge is power, right?

If this all sounds chillingly familiar to you, cutter, consider how I learned it. Some time ago I became hipped deep down Lolth’s Web in the Abyss and against my better judgement made friends with a chasme also trapped there. Well, as friendly as you can get with a stinking fly-fiend, at least. I helped the thing escape the web, and it helped me out of the layer (the fact it sent me through a portal somewhere worse reinforces my point that tanar’ri ain’t to be trusted further than you can spit teeth).

But I digress. We’d got to talking about tanar’ri while I was cutting its wings free, and I asked the chasme why in hells it was traipsing round Lolth’s Web. It told me it was what the tanar’ri call “kaz’gor’ri” (so sorry if I’ve spelled that wrong, I didn’t have paper on me at the time!), which loosely translates as “one who gathers”.

The more I learned about these kaz’gor’ri (for it appears to be a society, or at least a state of mind), the more it reminded me of dear old Factol Erin and her Sensates. See, these tanar’ri believe that by experiencing more of the Abyss, they’ll learn more of its secrets and its wickedness, and this’ll directly serve to make them more powerful. According to the chasme, many of the Abyss’ most notorious Lords have also been kaz’gor’ri at some stage in their lives, and, like the chasme, travelled through many score layers of the Abyss.

Another important factor of kaz’gor’ri is exposure to the many, many different dialects and layer-to-layer variations of the Abyssal tongue. Tanar’ri are notoriously fickle in all things, and their speech is no different. They say it’s possible for a native Abyssal speaker to be able to tell which layer a speaker is from based on their accent, slang words, grammar and so on. It’s such a diverse language, and changes so frequently, that its possible for two speakers of Abyssal to struggle to understand each other, at least on complex subjects. Thus the kaz’gor’ri is important for Abyssal merchants, generals and what passes for diplomats in that awful place, so they can understand fellow speakers from across the vast plane.

So, the take-home message? Travel the Abyss, learn the layers and the language, and watch yourself shoot up through the “ranks” of the tanar’ri. What if you’re not a tanar’ri, though? My advice is rather simple: stay away!

Watch the Spire!


Source: Jon Winter-Holt, mimir.net

An example of Abyssal calligraphy. I’m sure you can guess what the ink is made from.

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