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Despite widespread illiteracy, Tevinter's slaves have developed a series of small pictograms that they scrawl on walls or under furniture, hidden from their uncaring owners. Regional variations make deciphering them a unique challenge. In one city, the sign of a clenched fist means a murderous master. In another, the same symbol indicates a harsh slave owner but not one with a fatal temper.
The ruling class's general indifference to the moods and fears of their slaves makes this pictorial argot an important method of communication. It is therefore all the more strange so many Tevinter comedies center around a farcical misunderstanding of a sloppily written sigil, where witty slaves scramble to subvert blame in time to avoid beheading. Perhaps it comforts Tevinter's well-to-do to believe that their property is only this clever—and human—in fiction.
—From a lesson book by Besha of Rivain