trail signs Language in The River | World Anvil
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trail signs

Boys making the rounds of the villages employ a symbolic code to leave each other messages. By laying small objects in specific arrangements, they can give instructions, describe plans, or warn of hazards. The most commonly used materials are small rocks, which are found in abundance in streams. Other objects can be used, though organic materials run the risk of being eaten. The lead boy of each pack has his own symbol that serves as a form of signature.   Trail signs can be used alone or in combination, and some individual symbols arise from a combination. One of the most common symbols uses a small squarish rock set against the tip of an elongated rock, representing a footprint and indicating a direction of travel. Boys would place two of these symbols at right angles to indicate intentions to meet, and the symbol now used for "meeting" is a simplified form of that combination.   One example of a compound trail sign is the warning sent by Long Steps after his pack was ambushed in Moon Wish village. It uses three symbols: avoid, assault, and Long Steps' signature.  


The system was developed around the same time the crossroads was created. The original stone slabs that represented each village were arranged after the landslide that destroyed the women's original settlement, and the number of small rocks left on a slab indicated what conditions were like in and around each village.  The code grew more sophisticated after it became clear that rocks could be accidentally removed from or knocked onto a stone. Now every symbol must involve a clearly intentional placement of rocks, and if time and materials allow, boys will duplicate messages as insurance against disruption by wildlife.

View from the future

The trail sign system itself is extinct, but influenced some symbols in the pictographic writing system that developed a few centuries later.
Spoken by

A few common codes:

will stay here by The Big G
women are friendly here by The Big G
directional symbol by The BIg G

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