It’s nearly dawn. My sister, Gwen, is resting on the beach, drinking her weird bark tea, which that old man at the hut helped us make. She’s recovering from a bear attack — a bear attack!
I have no idea how we were sent here, or why we were sent here. It makes no sense. One minute we were excavating at a new dig site in Crimea, which we believe contains the remains of the Yamnaya culture. It was late afternoon, I am sure of it.
Gwen had unearthed a beautiful bronze idol in the shape of a goat. Clearly an idol to the god Páxuson, who you, good reader, will know better as Pan.
Okay, so yeah, I picked him up with my bare hand, going against dig site protocol. I’m a linguist, I don’t know these sorts of things.
And yeah, I also messed around and yelled “Bhágom toi sénxmi, Paxuson!” I wasn’t *really* seeking his blessing. It was just a joke, right?
Oh, who am I kidding. This is all my fault! Clearly speaking Proto-Indo-European (PIE) — the language of the Yamnaya people — did this.
Which forced Gwen to fight a bear. A heckin’ bear!
Gwén, the rock star that she is, scared him off with an axe she found lying on the beach. Trouble is, the bear got in a good swipe before running off, cutting her shoulder.
We knew that Gwen needed help, asap. After seeing a flickering light in the distance, we came across an old man sitting by a fire. I tried speaking to him in English. Gwén tried speaking to him in Russian. No luck.
And that’s when I heard the old man say “Xŕtk’os”.
“Xŕtk’os”. “Xŕt” heckin’ “k’os”. That’s PIE for “bear”. It’s in all sorts of words in English, like “ursine”, “arctic”, and even the name “Arthur”. That’s because all of these words go back to a language spoken 5000 years ago, a language called PIE.
Gwen’s lucky I speak some of the language. I was able to figure out that the old man wanted us to find some “lóubhom”, or willow bark, and “mórom”, or blackberry, to make a concoction that is definitely making Gwen feel better.
But now what? How do we get home?