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This will be the thread to track events in Hanumal's life for the week/s leading up to the main campaign thread; where all three/four characters will meet. See the Game Information thread for Hanumal's official character sheet.

 

Lee, I will post a starting blurb before letting you go to town on some prequel posting. I may not be able to get the background blurb up until late Sunday night.

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[External]

Hanumal awakes to trumpeting horns. Eyes squint, he closes them to a lake of black... Falling asleep again, another boom of Chlen hide instruments awakes him again..

 

[First person] Hanumal's view slews, his focus takes hold. A nearby window is seen with beaming new day sun. Hanumal picks up a simple but ornately bordered loin cloth to hide his morning peak.

 

[External]

Hanumal looks out through the abode brick style precipice leading to the main street of Jakalla he overlooks. His clan's mid-sized house has a second story, not unheard of, but rare amongst the middle-class.

 

As he begins to peer out, he sees a woman of remarkable beauty held high above by attending slaves, a long trail of onlookers and stately men and woman meander abreast to the rear of the entourage, whispering abound to the point of deafening roar.

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Hanúmal wakes to trumpeting horns. He squints, looking at the bright morning light through the windows. His eyes feel heavy and he closes them, enjoying the shade of his eyelids.

 

Falling asleep, another thundering boom of Chlén hide instruments awakens him once more.

 

Hanúmal pushes himself up on his elbows, blinks his eyes until his focus takes hold. He rises, sparing a glance at the intricately wrought pommel and handle of the dagger beside his sleeping mat. Rising, Hanúmal picks up a simple but ornately bordered loincloth to hide his morning peak.

 

He looks out over the abode brick precipice leading to the main street of Jakálla. His clan's mid-sized house has a second story, not unheard of, but rare amongst the middle-class.

 

As he peers out, he sees a woman of remarkable beauty held high above by attending slaves, a long trail of onlookers and stately men and woman meander abreast to the rear of the entourage. The excited whisperings from below build to such intensity that it makes him feel as if he now looks out over a noisy river.

 

Hanúmal presses his fingertips against his eyes, blinks at the light. Scarcely past dawn, and already hot. Hanúmal bows his head, averting his eyes. From the procession following the litter, this woman is clearly Tsóludhàliyal, of a High Clan; royal, possibly, or even Imperial, Tlakotáni. Her beauty is not for such as him to look upon. He offers up a smile, though, should she spare a glance his way.

 

His eyes spot a courier wearing the colors of the Legion of the Mighty Prince skirting the edges of the crowd below. The boy carries a scroll clutched tightly in his fist. Making his way to the door of the Iron Fist Clanhouse.

 

Pah, thinks Hanúmal bitterly, here it comes…

 

His younger sister Chasána approaches, still rumpled from sleep, and looks out the window at the procession. A jade green and red insect hums in from outside, evading the tumult in the street below.

 

“Cha! Masun bussan gual. She’ll want a very scanty armor to avoid concealing too much of that flesh.”

 

Hanúmal laughs at the absurdity, momentarily forgetting the approaching runner. “She’s not coming here, little sister. Probably bound for the Palace.”

 

“Too bad. She could find more than armor here, in any case... So, when will you bring home a wife, Hanúmal? You’re well beyond old enough. Why not give the clan mothers another little one to spoil?”

 

“And where should I meet this vague and poor-sighted woman, sister? In the field, I meet only Aridáni I command or, when I was younger, Aridáni in the service of Yán Kór that would be just as likely to cut it off as ride it.”

 

“Perhaps if you spent some time looking, you might find someone.”

 

“Perhaps. Come, Chasána, and help me with my armor. A runner from the barracks is coming. Possibly we’ll learn today if our Legion is to be merged with the Scales of Brown.”

 

Chasána grinned “You may find someone there, Hanúmal.”

 

“Unlikely, sister. They worship the Five-Headed Worm, and as my worm has but the one head, I suspect they would be disappointed.”

 

Chasána chided him, an edge of fear in her tone. “Be careful, brother. Lord Karakán is indeed mighty, but it is foolish to tempt the enmity of the Guide into Darkness.”

Edited by Lee Torres

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Achán hi’Viridáme stopped at the door to the Clanhouse of the Iron Fist. From within, the sounds of murmured conversation and intermittent laughter. From the back alleys behind the Clanhouse the sounds of labor, heating and bending the saturated Chlén hides to form the armors worn by many of Jakálla’s most noteworthy heroes and leaders. Faintly, Achán heard the hammering of iron on iron. He wished for a fleeting instant that he could afford a weapon of iron, even a small blade. But metal was precious, and not wasted on simple Runners of the Legions.

 

Heaving a theatrical sigh, Achán knocked at the door.

 

A long moment passed as the boy stood, listening to the cacophony fading away behind him. Then, abruptly, the door opened.

 

An elderly man, skin like leather and hands calloused from a lifetime at his trade, peered out at him. “Ngangmura, boy.”

 

“Ngangmura!“ Achán replied quickly. “I bear a message for Kási Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma.”

 

“Kási Hanúmal is expecting no appointments. If you leave your message with me, I will bear it to him, boy.”

 

“Ya, venerable one," he said, shaking his head in a gesture of negation, "I have my orders that this must be delivered to him by my own hand.”

 

The old man chuckled. “Brusivel, brusivel…” he said, and closed the door.

 

Achán sighed again. He idly wondered why this tradition persisted in the Clanhouses. He carried scrolls to the Palace of War with less interference. Still, it was as things had been, far back in time, and was unlikely to change soon.

 

A moment, the old man had said. So Achán waited.

 

 

Kási = Captain

Ngangmura = Greetings

Ya = No

Brusivel = Just a moment

Edited by Lee Torres

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Chasána assisted Hanúmal with putting on his ornate armor. First a dark blue tunic over his torso, then he lifted the silver armor with blue trim, crafted by his grandfather, ornately sculpted, worked, and lacquered Chlén hide. Chasána made minute and exacting adjustments to his dark blue kilt.

 

“I see that you’re still offering a salute for the lady and her escort” she teased.

 

“Cha! It is morning, Chasána!” he said, exasperated.

 

Next, he adjusted his sword in its sheath, picked up the often battered and repaired dark blue and silver shield with gold trim. Chasána brought his silver visored helmet with dark blue crest and blue trim. She handed it to Hanúmal and he lowered it over his head, adjusting the strap. “How do I look, little sister?”

 

“Like Túleng ablaze in the sky, radiant at mid-day. If Túleng were very blue and not at all yellow. Maybe more like Shichel. But glorious. Dazzling!”

 

Hanúmal smiled sweetly at her. “How many flowers would blossom over the hills outside Jakálla, if only your words could be spread over them while still seeds…”

 

Chasána laughed, feigning offense, as one of the Clan fathers, Métlunel by name, entered.

 

“There is a boy from the barracks here with a message for you. As always, he awaits at the door.”

 

“Chegúkh, Huáthudalisa Métlunel.”

 

The old man grumbled as he turned to go “He has hands like a little girls. Legion Runner, never done a day’s work in his life, I’d wager…”

 

 

 

Chegúkh = Thank you (literally "a kindness")

Huáthudalisa = Senior Master-Craftsman

Edited by Lee Torres

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Achán squinted into the morning sun. The old man had been gone for a great many moments now, and the runner was growing impatient. Impatient and concerned. What if the old man was not in command of his faculties? Had he been forgotten there at the clanhouse door?

 

Should he knock again? Propriety dictated that he should be patient, but what if Kási Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma had not even been informed? Worse, what if he wasn’t here? He winced at the memory of the lashing he’d received the last time things had gone awry in his duties. Achán’s back tingled at the memory. He’d slept on his belly for almost a week.

 

Propriety be damned, he thought, and raised his fist to rap at the door.

 

The door swung wide, revealing Kási Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma, resplendent in his ceremonial armor.

 

“Kási! I bring a summons to the Citadel of the-“

 

Hanúmal said flatly “I had heard.” The Kási looked speculatively at the runner’s raised fist. Achán quickly lowered it.

 

The Kási took the rolled parchment from Achán’s other hand, unrolled the document and read it, his brow furrowing in concentration, lips moving silently as his eyes swept the page. Some of the officers mocked Achán for his illiteracy. It was a comfort to find an officer that, while capable of reading, at least struggled with it.

 

“Lead me, boy” the Kási said, and the pair made their way into the teeming crowd.

Edited by Lee Torres

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Hanúmal and Achán made their way through the busy central market of Jakálla, listening to the odd fluting song of a trio of Pé Chói near a merchant's stall. Whether they were selling something, greeting the sun, or singing old love songs Hanúmal neither knew nor cared. Through alleys leading between storehouses, then they passed a small forest of stakes sunk into holes in the plaza. Upon most of the stakes some entity that had the misfortune to be at odds with the notions of order prevalent here in Jakálla. Some still writhed, freshly staked, taking the "High Ride." A Páchi Léi, too robust to merely give up, squirmed vigorously atop its stake, fighting off gravity, a sign on the stake proclaiming it a thief. An old beggar seated on the outskirts of the plaza asked Hanúmal for a copper Qirgál as he approached.

 

The pair walked on.

 

Arriving at the Citadel, Achán raced up the steps to herald the arrival of the Kási. A Su'umél, or Junior Priest, of Karakán descended the steps as Hanúmal climbed. The Kási bowed, murmuring a greeting. The Su'umél in turn blessed him with unyielding valor. Hanúmal hoped he wouldn't need it within the next few minutes.

Edited by Lee Torres

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Hanúmal entered the Citadel, taking a moment while he walked to enjoy the cool breeze that stirred among the great stone columns. It was an old building, the original construction of it lost to great antiquity. Prince Eselné had made it his Legion’s headquarters early on, before the Civil War was even so much as a notion. The former Emperor was strong and hale upon the Petal Throne, and the enemy was Mu'ugalavyá or Yán Kór. Having the power of the Imperial Tlakotáni clan gave one power to do most anything one wished, in Jakálla or anywhere else in Tsolyánu. Striding up the steps into the inner court, he surveyed the parade ground where his fearsome Tsurúm of Kuruthúni had assembled on many occasions.

 

Crossing the empty court, Hanúmal removed his helmet, tucked it under his arm. Approaching the door of his Molkár, he slapped at the stone arch with the flat of his palm. A Heréksa approached.

 

“Kási Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma. Ngangmura.”

 

“Ngangmura.”

 

“This way, Kási…” said the Heréksa, leading him in. They walked down a long corridor, away from his Molkár’s chambers, toward the meeting place of the Kérdudali, the Senior General of the Legion of the Mighty Prince.

 

“Unyielding valor…” Hanúmal muttered.

 

Outside the Kérdudali’s chamber, the Heréksa gestured for Hanúmal to wait and marched in, head bowed.

 

In a moment, the Heréksa returned and gestured for Hanúmal to enter. Bowing his head, Hanúmal did so.

 

Inside, Kérdudali Akarsh hi’Voruseka waited, surveying the prostrate forms of Hanúmal’s Dritlán, Dridákku hi’Nakkólel, as well as his own direct superior, Molkár Gacháyal hi’Chaishyáni.

 

While that was certainly a disheartening and somewhat intimidating sight, as the Kérdudali typically would not leave them at his feet in such a gathering, the presence of two Dritlán of the Omnipotent Azure Legion was easily twice as threatening. The Emperor’s personal guard, the keepers of civility and honor, and the hidden eye that constantly observed all things that transpired in Tsolyánu.

 

“Unyielding valor…” Hanúmal whispered, lowering himself to the floor.

 

Kérdudali Akarsh hi’Voruseka spoke. “Kási Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma, you are summoned this day to answer questions raised by the journals of the Kérdudali Mriggadáshu hi’Durúntlano, reviewed upon their discovery amongst his personal effects in his clanhouse after his death."

 

But Kérdudali Mriggadáshu had died years ago... what could have been in his chronicles? Hanúmal thought, growing more uneasy.

 

Kérdudali Akarsh continued. "Questions, Kási, of cowardice.”

 

Unyielding valor… Hanúmal thought, as the memory of the morning heat was lost in a sudden chill.

 

 

 

Tsurúm = unit of 400 soldiers

 

Changadésha = Medium Infantry

Kuruthúni = Heavy Infantry

 

Tirrikámu = Sergeant/Junior Lieutenant

Heréksa = Lieutenant

Kási = Captain

Molkár = Major

Dritlán = Colonel

Kérdu = General

Kérdudali = Senior General

 

semétl = squad of 20 soldiers, led by a tirrikámu

 

5 semétl = karéng = company of 100 soldiers, led by a heréksa with 5 subordinate tirrikámu

 

4 karéng = tsurúm = cohort of 400 soldiers, led by a kási with 4 subordinate heréksa

 

Each legion has two molkár who command the left and right wings of the niqómi in battle, and two dritlán who assist the kérdu as his staff.

 

10 tsurúm = half a niqómi = half-legion of 4,000 soldiers, led by a molkár with 10 subordinate kási

 

20 tsurúm = niqómi = legion of 8,000 soldiers, led by a kérdu or kérdudali with 20 subordinate kási

Edited by Lee Torres

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Hanúmal waited a long moment to see if the Kérdudali had anything to add. When the silence began to weigh heavy, he spoke. “Kérdudali, had I witnessed any act of cowardice amongst my Kuruthúni, I would have reported it to Molkár Gacháyal hi’Chaishyáni at once.”

 

There was another long silence before the Kérdudali answered. “None among your Kuruthúni are accused of this transgression. The incident Kérdudali Mriggadáshu hi’Durúntlano wrote of was a curious event reported to him on the field of battle, at Agésha.”

 

Face to the floor, Hanúmal closed his eyes. Agésha, he thought, feeling the hairs on the back of his neck and upon his arms stand straight.

 

“The Siege of Agésha, on the frontier with Yán Kór.” Hanúmal said. “I was but a Tirrikámu then, nine summers ago. My Heréksa was Tsutel hi’Chiáng of the Crimson Ivory clan, and my Kási Khirgár hi’Amiyála, of the Might of Ganga clan.”

 

The Kérdudali spoke. “Both these men died at Agésha, and now likely fight in the Eternal Cohort of Lord Karakán.”

 

“Ya, tùsmitlakomélu. I believe that neither of these things is true.”

 

 

Tirrikámu = Junior Lieutenant

Ya = No

tùsmitlakomélu= you of profound submission: to a person of noble status - a governor, high imperial official, general, etc.

Edited by Lee Torres

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“Mind your insolent tongue, Kási!” cautioned Molkár Gacháyal hi’Chaishyáni, his face reddening. “Those men were heroes, men of nobility and renown, and I will not stand idly by while their honor-“

 

“Chegukh, Molkár Gacháyal, both of them were friends to me, their lives as precious as my own or those of my clansmen. My intent is not to dishonor them. I simply meant to say that, while it would delight my soul if they even now battled at Lord Karakán’s side… I cannot say that they are dead. Although it is my fondest wish that they are, given the circumstances in which I last set my eyes upon them. I will tell you of the Siege of Agésha.”

 

The Kérdudali interrupted. “Rise, take a knee. We will hear the Kási’s tale, and then determine what to do with the knowledge.”

 

He clapped, and the boy Achán entered carrying the Kérdudali’s stool and placed it behind him. He sat, as Achán ran off to find seating for the two visiting Dritlán.

 

Hanúmal looked at the others.

 

Kérdudali Akarsh hi’Voruseka spoke. "Tùsmikáng, begin.”

 

 

 

 

Chegukh = Please (literally "a kindness")

Tùsmikáng = you of martial victory: to a soldier through the rank of Kási

Edited by Lee Torres

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Western extent of the Desert of Sighs, 147 tsán southeast of Agésha...

 

Túleng peered over the horizon, promising another blistering day in the vast desert. Tirrikámu Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma looked down at the four dusty Kuruthúni climbing the dunes and frowned. Beside him, Kási Khirgár hi’Amiyála, his name given him by a soldiering father that had served here in the north of Tsolyánu before, and Heréksa Tsutel hi’Chiáng waited quietly. Downslope behind them, the Tsurúm of Kási Khirgár waited in loose formation, anxious to be on the march.

 

"They do not look pleased, do they?" the Kási said, as he began down the slope to meet them.

 

Heréksa Tsutel glanced back over his shoulder, at the sky to the East. "Naturally they're not pleased. Naturally the Yan Koryáni have a Legion or six in strength greater than our own. Or all of those men are but a day's march away, if we're fortunate. And of course we have a sandstorm riding up our kilts."

 

Hanúmal looked back. Tsutel was right, of course. At least about the sandstorm.

 

Kási Khirgár was having a discussion with the senior-most of the Kuruthúni, a very animated man. Shaking his head in disgust, the Kási made his way up the dune. "The Hláka Scouts have reported in. The Gurék of the Valiant of Ke’ér are approaching from the East, being reinforced by the Gurék of the Turquoise Eye from the city of Khárcha Sárk in eastern Yán Kór, 2,000 heavy infantry in scale armour, with spear and shield; 6,000 medium infantry with mace and shield; and 3,000 archers will be defending the city by dawn tomorrow, with another 4,000 heavy infantry in scale armour, with spear and shield; 4,000 medium infantry with spear and shield; and 2,000 archers by nightfall. It appears that our dainty Qadárnikoi is becoming a beautiful Qadárdàlikoi. Heréksa Tsutel, something amuses you?”

 

Heréksa Tsutel grinned wider, glancing at Tirrikámu Hanúmal. “Ya, Kási. My gift for prophecy, happily, has not failed.”

 

Hanúmal shook his head. “Someone should put you in a Temple and surround you with Eunuch guards, Heréksa.”

 

“I’ll take some women. Keep your Eunuchs.”

 

"I'd bring you spiced cakes if you give me foresight enough to win at the Chlén races..."

 

Kási Khirgár lifted a hand to quiet his junior officers. “Prepare the Kuruthúni. We march at once. Prince Eselné doesn’t want to give those soldiers any chance to rest before we hit them.”

 

Heréksa Tsutel turned to descend to the waiting and now attentive 400 of their Tsurúm. “Won’t we be tired too, Kási? Agésha is over one hundred tsán distant.”

 

“Tired, Heréksa? This is Qadárdàlikoi. Who among us can be weary in the presence of such glory?”

 

 

 

1 tsán = 1.33 kilometers

 

Qadárnikoi = “Little War” are ritual battles fought between small forces – often in peacetime – with the goal of attaining glory for the participants.

Qadárdàlikoi = “Great War” is all-out war waged without mercy or remorse.

Edited by Lee Torres

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Six tsán south of Agésha

 

Thirteen ténmre and two kirén later, the city walls of Agésha were visible in the distance. For the last ténmre of the previous day, through the dry howling desert night, and through the following day the Legion of the Mighty Prince marched, stopping only for quick breaks, then pushing hard to appease the desires of Prince Eselné. By mid-day, sporadic shrubs and bushes begin to appear in the desert, and by afternoon the desert disappeared into a dry grassland bordered by jungle. Heréksa Tsutel and Tirrikámu Hanúmal plodded along together, Tsutel entertaining his subordinate with a long litany of good-natured complaining.

 

"So, let me see if my understanding of this is complete. The Gurék of Ke’ér is sending 2,000 Kuruthúni, 6,000 Changadésha, and a paltry 3,000 archers. Those Yan Koryáni pisspots the Gurék of the city of Khárcha Sárk send a pitiful 4,000 Kuruthúni, 4,000 Changadésha, and 2,000 archers... That's... how many?"

 

Hanúmal rubbed at his chin, hefting the armor tied together on his back. "When I joined the Legion I was told there'd be no mathematics."

 

"Pah!" exclaimed Tsutel, spitting. "What wondrous sorcery transpired to place the pitiful tiny brain of a Chlén into that otherwise unremarkable human-like head of yours? Let me see... 6,000 Kuruthúni, 10,000 Changadésha, 5,000 Archers... A mere 21,000 foot soldiers against the 4,000 of the Legion of the Mighty Prince? That's hardly over 5 to 1 odds! We might as well just declare victory now and be done with it. How I wish old Baron Áld would stop wasting our time like this!"

 

Hanúmal laughed at Tsutel's overstated martial bravado as the Tsurúm stopped by a small stream to refill their waterskins before washing off the weeks of sand and dust.

 

The Legion arrayed itself on the plain and made camp, watchful as the Gurék of the Turquoise Eye made their camp by the city wall. As night fell the Legion of Gurúggma, the 3rd Ahoggyá Auxiliary Heavy Infantry, arrived from the South and the Legion of the Nest of Ttík-Deqéq, the 9th Pé Chói Auxiliary Medium Infantry, based at Páya Gupá, arrived from the jungles to the West and made their encampments nearby.

 

In the morning there would be blood and glory.

 

 

 

ténmre = 3 hours

kirén = 30 minutes

Changadésha = Medium Infantry

Edited by Lee Torres

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Hanúmal sat by the stream, puzzling over a scroll in the torchlight. Heréksa Tsutel had taken the first watch as Hanúmal slept, and now was rather noisily asleep himself. Kási Khirgár approached, looking refreshed and ready. He must have got a ténmre with his eyes closed as well.

 

"Reading, Tirrikámu? Good. I was going to talk to you about the need to practice."

 

"It's been a long march, Kási. It can be hard to find time for bettering the mind."

 

The Kási knelt beside him. "Read it to me."

 

Hanúmal looked at his Kási, startled. "I was trying to read it, but I'm not sure-"

 

The Kási cut him off in mid-sentence. "You know what this says, Tirrikámu. I know with certainty that you know."

 

Hanúmal pointed to the scroll. "I know that this word is 'Tsurúm.' And this one is 'Kuruthúni,' I think..."

 

Kási Khirgár pointed to a pair of words. "These two are the same. Repeated. 'Strength' is the word."

 

Hanúmal looked at the scroll, his eyes widening. "The strength of the Tsurúm is the Kuruthúni, and the strength of the Kuruthúni is the Tsurúm! From the inscription over the inner courtyard back home!"

 

"I told you that you knew it. Keep practicing, Tirrikámu. If you want to advance in rank, you must be able to read orders and understand what you read. And you may find other things worth reading too."

 

Hanúmal smiled, feeling as if a key had been turned in his brain, and a new door had been opened. "Chegúkh, Kási."

 

Kási Khirgár looked around, at the men and women sleeping, eating, or deep in prayer for victory. "Wake those that sleep. Bring them news that by dawn Prince Eselné will arrive, with the other half of his Legion. We will be at our full strength of 8,000 when we attack. I'm sure you know from the noise, if it could be heard over Heréksa Tsutel, that the Ahoggyá and Pé Chói Auxiliaries arrived last night. Prepare your Karéng for battle. Pray to Lord Karakán for our victory over Agésha and those that defend it. We will pray again, together, at first light. Battle-ready, so Lord Karakán will see that we do not fear."

Edited by Lee Torres

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Hanúmal untied his armor and carefully prepared, testing that every strap was tight, that no vulnerabilities between the heavy plates existed. Then, he made his way to wake Heréksa Tsutel. Tsutel tossed fitfully in his sleep, appearing to be in the grip of a nightmare. Hanúmal reached out to shake his shoulder. “Heréksa, wake! Prince Eselné arrives, with the other half of the Legion. We assemble at dawn, to raise our prayers to Lord Karakán for victory over Agésha.”

 

Tsutel sat upright, too quickly. Soaked in sweat, his eyes had the look of a man just saved from drowning. “Hanúmal.” He looked at his Tirrikámu as if he hadn’t seen him in a year. “We must leave this place. Something terrible is about to happen.”

 

Hanúmal smiled. “Qadárdàlikoi is rarely safe, Heréksa Tsutel, but Lord Karakán will not abandon his own. Even if we die here today or tomorrow, a place awaits the valiant in his Eternal Legion.”

 

Tsutel visibly shuddered, in spite of the pre-dawn warmth. “There are other empires than life and death, Tirrikámu. Worse things than death. Kási Khirgár, and me, and you… we will find this out at twilight.”

 

Hanúmal lowered his voice. “Don’t make jokes like this, Heréksa. The Emperor’s Azure eyes are everywhere. Do not let a dream put you upon the impaler’s stake for cowardice.”

 

“No dream, Hanúmal. A portent. Stronger than any I’ve had in all my life. If we are wise, we go south before Túleng kisses the world at nightfall.”

 

Unsure of his Heréksa’s stability, Hanúmal pushed Tsutel’s armor to his side. “Prepare, Heréksa. The mighty Prince will soon arrive, and we lift our voices to Lord Karakán before we lift our spears and shields to Agésha and the Yan Koryáni. You should get to the river and wash. You smell of fear.”

 

Tsutel grabbed Hanúmal’s arm. “Tirrikámu… the Legion will be victorious here. But the cost to us will be beyond imagination. We should leave. Now. Right now.”

 

Hanúmal pulled his arm away. “What if your nightmare was a portent? What if the fate you have imagined for the three of us leads the Legion to glory? If it is a portent, then the skein of our destiny is already set. And would you take the High Ride on the strength of a nightmare? Do you think Lord Karakán will take your lifeless husk from the stake and exalt you who fled before Qadárdàlikoi?”

 

“It was no mere nightmare, Hanúmal. I’ve had these visions since I was a boy. I’ve never been more certain.”

 

Shaking his head, and fighting off the knot of uncertainty in his gut, Hanúmal walked away.

 

A few paces away, Hanúmal spotted a Kuruthúni looking on, seeming shaken. He wheeled on the soldier. “What? Does something concern you? Are you prepared for battle and glory this day? Your armor is not yet strapped. Have you nothing better to do?”

 

“I heard the Heréksa’s dream, Tirrikámu.”

 

“If you have something to say about it, you say it to me, only me, and you say it right now.”

 

“Tirrikámu, I have served with Heréksa Tsutel for years. He has visions of things that come to pass. Sometimes in his sleep, sometimes in waking dreams. We’ve made use of flaws in enemy tactics that he has foreseen. He’s afraid. Should we not be afraid also?”

 

“He said that the Legion would be victorious. Do you fear something that might happen to others, or might not?”

 

The Kuruthúni paused. “I fear what might be worse than death or life in shame.”

 

Hanúmal tapped at the amulet with the red lightning bolt rune on the man's chest. “Then something is very wrong with your faith, Kuruthúni. Lord Karakán will not fail us, and we must not fail him. Put your fear aside. Come, we will assemble the Karéng. It’s almost dawn.”

 

The Kuruthúni adjusted his armor, took up his spear, sword, and shield, and followed after Hanúmal.

Edited by Lee Torres

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The morning prayer for unimpeachable martial victory lasted three kirén, the Shárto, a warrior-priest of Karakán, beginning with chanted prayers, then leading songs, and then the musicians began to play. A volley of horns, the reedy answer of pipes, the ethereal sound of chimes, the steady repeating four beats of the drums, answered by four beats of shields against the ground, and another volley of horns. In the distance, the enemy Guréks in their yellow and green armor did likewise, praying to their gods and making themselves ready for war. Tirrikámu Hanúmal and Heréksa Tsutel stood at the front rank of their Tsurúm, alongside Kási Khirgár. Four hundred Kuruthúni and their officers watched the enemy prepare over the tops of their shields. To either side of them, nineteen other Tsurúm stood ready, likewise watching and waiting. The warrior-priest completed his ritual blessing, and the drums increased their pace. Ahead, Prince Eselné with his commanders and standard bearers appeared. It was time.

 

The Legion advanced, the Auxiliaries following close behind. The swift pace covered the final few tsán between the plains and the approaches to Agésha and the Yan Koryáni defenders. As the distance closed, flights of arrows flew from the city. Kási Khirgár yelled back “Form the Chlén!”

 

As the cloud of arrows and bolts reached apogee and began to descend, the Kuruthúni raised their shields, and the men at the edges of the formation placed theirs to the outside. In a crouch, the men moved inexorably forward. The thud of arrows raining down on the shields of the Legion was the only sound for a short while. Kási Khirgár turned to Heréksa Tsutel. “All right, let’s take a quick look.”

 

Opening the shields to the front slightly, Hanúmal could see the Gurék of the Turquoise Eye moving swiftly, obviously hoping to engage a distance from the walls. Their four thousand Changadésha came on at a run. Then, to the west, the answering volley of arrows from the Pé Chói Auxiliaries descended toward them. The shield of a Yan Koryáni Changadésha was a smallish affair, and both skill and luck were needed to avoid wounds from the accurate missiles. Some had skill but not luck, some had luck but not skill.

 

Cries of pain were heard drifting across from the wounded. Enough of them, though, laid claim to both. An order was heard from the Dritlán to prepare. Sending up a quick prayer to Lord Karakán, Hanúmal raised his sword as the spears of the Kuruthúni in the second, third, and fourth ranks passed over his shoulders. With his sword, he would kill any that got past the spears of those behind him.

 

The Yan Koryáni Changadésha fell upon them like a wave, spears and swords and grunted epithets. Blood fell like rain in the first rank. Oddly, inspired by Tsutel’s almost listless fighting, Hanúmal found his mind going back to the Heréksa’s nightmare/vision.

 

If we are destined to meet some horrible fate by twilight, it means that I will not die before then, he thought. Whatever happens, if his gift holds true, I will not die before the end of the day…

 

Swinging his blade down, he turned his thoughts to places more destructive.

Edited by Lee Torres

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Hanúmal watched as the Changadésha pulled back. Directly ahead, the Kuruthúni of the Gurék of the Turquoise Eye from Khárcha Sárk had arrayed themselves into columns, and now marched relentlessly toward the Tsolyáni front lines. Kási Khirgár saw it too.

 

“Make ready! Make ready!”

 

The distant drums increased their speed, and the Kuruthúni around Hanúmal increased their pace to match. Kási Khirgár yelled to his officers. “Looks like it’ll be a hard push. Hope the walk across the desert has given our men some strength in their legs!”

 

A howling enraged Changadésha appeared above the shield wall, swinging a sword down toward the Tirrikámu to Hanúmal’s left. Hanúmal parried the blade, and then flicked the end of his own blade toward the Yan Koryáni’s exposed throat. Once the tip touched flesh, he pushed hard. The fury spilled out of the Changadésha’s face as his blood sprayed over the first rank of the Tsurúm.

 

“Chegúkh, Tirrikámu Hanúmal!” the other Tirrikámu said. Hanúmal nodded, grinning.

 

The Yan Koryáni Tsurúm drew near. Hanúmal made certain that the shields before and behind him were properly overlapping. A moment later, the spears of the Yan Koryáni glided by, seeking targets. Hanúmal shifted to the side to let one begin to pass, then pushed up on it to lift the spear point above the ranks behind. Other spears were not so successfully deflected, and Hanúmal heard startled grunts and cries of anguish as the spears found victims. Glancing back, Hanúmal saw men he’d trained in fighting skewered, bleeding and dying. The smell of voided bowels and ruptured stomachs mixed with the smell of sweat and the coppery tang of blood. Hanúmal hoped that he had trained those men to Lord Karakán’s high standards. After an agonizingly eternal instant, the shield walls of the massed Kuruthúni touched, and the fight began.

 

“Push, Kuruthúni, push!” yelled Kási Khirgár. “For Karakán, for Tsolyánu, for the glory of the Emperor Hirkáne, the Stone upon Which the Universe Rests!”

 

A voice from the left of Hanúmal cried out “Changadésha on the left flank!” That alarm was echoed from the opposite side a moment later. “Changadésha on the right flank!”

 

Hanúmal saw Heréksa Tsutel make his way toward the right flank and followed him, gesturing for the second rank to step up to fill the gap.

 

Heréksa Tsutel emerged into the Changadésha of the Gurék of the Turquoise Eye at full speed. Almost effortlessly he eviscerated the first man he encountered. An Aridáni tried to slash at Tsutel as the other Changadésha fell, and the Tsolyáni Heréksa decapitated her with his next swing. Fear was written on the faces of the Yan Koryáni, and Hanúmal marveled at his friend’s grace. From the thick of the attackers, a brawny man with a mace surged forward. To Hanúmal’s horror, Tsutel turned to look at the man, watched as he raised the mace high, yet made no move to defend himself.

 

He means to die, here and now, to avert what he has seen for tonight…

 

The Changadésha stepped forward to deliver a killing blow, when a bolt suddenly sank into the Yan Koryáni’s left eye. His face went slack as his brain died. The mace flew from his hands.

 

Hanúmal glanced around, to find the source of the bolt. A Pé Chói reloading a crossbow met his eyes, bobbed its head in what might pass for acknowledgement. More Pé Chói, armed with spears and swords, rushed into the Yan Koryáni.

 

Tsutel howled in rage and selected another enemy to fight.

 

Hanúmal yelled across the clash of arms. “Lord Karakán’s favor is upon you today, Heréksa!”

 

Tsutel turned, his eyes filled with disappointment. “Lord Karakán has nothing to do with this, you sanctimonious fool!”

Edited by Lee Torres

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The Tsolyánu 5th Heavy Infantry, the Legion of the Mighty Prince, fought with expertise through the morning and into the afternoon. Hanúmal watched as his friend Tsutel, now seeming resigned to his fate, fought the Yan Koryáni with all the enthusiasm of a butcher at his work. Hanúmal scowled, watching the tides of battle shift first for them, then against, then back again with each passing kirén.

 

A cry of alarm emanated from the formation moving at his back as he fought off a small group of Changadésha, some little older than boys he’d expect to see at play on the streets of Páya Gupá. He almost felt guilt over sending them to their gods. Almost.

 

Hanúmal turned to see the root of the panic. Shén sell-swords, mercenaries in the service of Baron Áld of Yán Kór. Fearsome fighters, to be sure, but to inspire the commotion he was hearing seemed unusual. Until he turned and saw the formation from the 3rd Ahoggyá Auxiliary Heavy Infantry, ancient enemies of the Shén, directly behind them. The Ahoggyá had clearly noticed the Shén as well. They rotated, their four legs allowing them maneuvers that no human force could hope to emulate.

 

“Push!” yelled Kási Khirgár from the front of the formation. If they couldn’t move forward, and quickly, they’d be caught in the skirmish of two of Tékumel’s fiercest adversaries.

 

Behind Kási Khirgár’s Tsurúm, the Tsurúm of the Molkár directing this wing of the Niqómi of the 5th Heavy Infantry led his men forward, seemingly unaware of the shift in the Ahoggyá formation. The Shén too had shifted their stance, and rushed forward to meet their ancient foes.

 

Hanúmal thought back to Tsutel’s fight earlier. If no one takes action, the Molkár is doomed. To rush in between the Ahoggyá and the Shén is suicide. Unless, of course, fate decreed that it was not yet time to die.

 

Hanúmal ran, closing the distance as the first ranks of the Molkár’s Tsurúm were hit from the left flank by the charging and enraged Ahoggyá.

 

 

Niqómi = Legion

Edited by Lee Torres

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Hanúmal leapt over the fallen bodies of Yan Koryáni and Tsolyáni, his sandals sinking in the mud made from recently dry dirt and recently spilled blood. Ahead, the Ahoggyá roared in unified rage at the oncoming Shén.

 

“Tùsmikrú! Tùsmikrú! Stop!” he screamed, as he closed the distance. All familiarity and what passed for courtesy amongst the godless brutes was gone from the Knobbed Ones now, though. They wanted blood and only blood. Hanúmal could see their splayed feet pressing Kuruthúni of his niqómi into the dust. He could hear the cracking of bones and the cries for help of those under that stampede.

 

“So much for pleasantries” he muttered under his breath as he reached the edge of the Ahoggyá formation. He lifted his shield and leapt forward, landing on the knee joint of one of the Ahoggyá. Planting his sword hand atop its torso, he vaulted the berserker. A mace rose up to strike him, but his speed carried him clear before it could hit. He landed, careful to keep his balance so he would not fall, wishing that his armor did not weigh so much but glad that he had it. As he stopped, he plunged his sword point into the ground, and seized a spear that had fallen.

 

Planting his feet, he launched himself toward the Ahoggyá preparing to rush over the Molkár. He took his stance, and dug his feet into the ground, leaning into his shield, the spear leveled atop it. He waited as the Ahoggyá closed. If he stood his ground, he realized, he’d be crushed. So instead, he charged, colliding with one of the enraged Auxiliary Kuruthúni. He stopped, feeling the force of the charge begin to push him backwards. He dug his feet in again. He heard a loud crack as something on the far side of his shield snapped the spear. The Ahoggyá surged forward, striking at the shield. Others changed their course and flowed around him. He was a rock in a river, and only the presence of that rock preserved this Molkár from death. His men, perhaps less indomitable but almost certainly smarter, had already made for safety. Dirt began to rise around his feet as he lost ground. Hanúmal realized that this wouldn’t last long. They were too many, and too strong. His arms and legs and back felt as though he was trying to stop a rock-slide. Glancing back, he saw the Molkár looking up at him. Behind the Molkár, the Shén closed.

 

Through clenched teeth, he gasped out “Tùsmichán, chegukh?”

 

His gentle rebuke had the desired effect. The Molkár stood quickly, grabbed his helmet, scrolls and weapon, and ran for the relative safety of the nearby tsurúm of Kási Khirgár.

 

As his shield began to buckle under the onslaught, Hanúmal pushed the shield into the stampede, and quickly turned to leave. He spotted the Molkár’s ornate shield on the ground nearby, and grabbed it as well as his own sword. He ran. Whether he was invincible today or not, he decided that not being here now was definitely for the best.

 

Sprinting in the headlong charge of the Knobbed Ones toward the Shén, Hanúmal leapt and surged for the sides, and his own troops. His own kind.

 

 

 

tùsmikrú= you of courteous alienness: to a non-human.

tùsmichán = you of gentle chiding: to a respectable person whom one wishes to belittle, ridicule, or scold mildly.

Edited by Lee Torres

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Hanúmal broke away from the battle, avoiding the wild spear thrusts of an Ahoggyá that had seemingly concluded that any biped on the battlefield was now an enemy.

 

He reached his formation, noting that two Semétl on the edge of the Tsurúm had been turned to protect against the huge fight now on their right flank. The Tsurúm pushed on, into the garish yellow armored troops of Yán Kór. Hanúmal noted with satisfaction that, although there were deaths and wounds amongst the four hundred of the Tsurúm, that they were finally pushing the grunting Yan Koryáni back to the North. The Yan Koryáni Changadésha no longer attacked the right flank for fear of the Shén and the Ahoggyá.

 

Kási Khirgár gestured to him once he was through the shield wall. The Molkár stood beside his Kási. Hanúmal bowed, returning the ornate shield to the Molkár.

 

“I am Molkár Kanmás hi'Tiúnallakná. Your face is familiar to me, Tirrikámu, but I do not recall your name. I should now remember it, I think, all the rest of my days. Days I will have because of your unconquerable courage and exquisite prowess.”

 

“Tirrikámu Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma, clan of the Iron Fist, Tsurúm of Kási Khirgár hi’Amiyála, Karéng prúkh, Semétl tloyál, Molkár!”

 

Behind Molkár Kanmás’ shoulder Kási Khirgár beamed with an almost fatherly pride.

 

Molkár Kanmás smiled. “Chegúkh, Tirrikámu Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma, most worthy son of the clan of the Iron Fist."

 

“Chegúkh, Molkár!” Hanúmal said, bowing deeper. As he rose, he noted the baleful eyes of Heréksa Tsutel, looking at him as if he were somehow unworthy of the praise.

 

Is it courage if one knows that death will lay no claim? Hanúmal wondered. Was the Molkár somehow now broken from his destiny because his life was spared from the Ahoggyá rampage? Those are priests concerns. I am a Tirrikámu of the Legion of the Mighty Prince. If tonight I am condemned, then today I fight!

 

Molkár Kanmás intruded on his ponderings. "Had our orders been lost in the Knobbed Ones fury, this battle may have been lost in that same moment. Kási Khirgár hi’Amiyála, if we are favored to survive this day, I will present Tirrikámu Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma to Prince Eselné at dawn tomorrow!"

 

Behind the Molkár, Heréksa Tsutel shook his head, smiling sadly, and leaned back into the shield wall to push north.

 

 

 

prúkh = one

tloyál = five

Edited by Lee Torres

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Another two ténmre passed by. The survivors of the Molkár's Tsurúm, after a long march from the South around the battle between the Knobbed Ones and their Shén foes, had merged into the Tsurúm of Kási Khirgár hi’Amiyála, and now the strength of the Tsurúm was well over its original four hundred. The Yan Koryáni finally broke and retreated back toward the city walls of Agésha. The Legion of the Mighty Prince pushed North, toward the walls of Agésha.

 

Túleng descended slowly toward the horizon, painting the sky in dazzling strata of red, purple, and pink. Hanúmal felt the light touch of uneasiness watching it creep toward the twilight.

 

The Tsurúm, now the command post for Molkár Kanmás hi'Tiúnallakná, had become a hub of activity for the Eastern cohorts of the Legion.

 

Hanúmal pushed forward, keeping an eye on the Kuruthúni in his Semétl. The men were weary, but jubilant.

 

In the distant jungle to the North, East of the city, a flash of deep purple light lashed out onto the battlefield. Yan Koryáni and Tsolyáni alike turned to vapor at its touch. Molkár Kanmás watched in horror as an entire Tsurúm of their Changadésha simply ceased to be. One moment they were skirmishing with a Tsurúm of the Gurék of Ke’ér, and then both groups abruptly vanished in that obscene purple tendril of power.

 

Molkár Kanmás called a meeting of his Kási and Heréksa. The men gathered around him, Kási Khirgár, Heréksa Tsutel, and Tirrikámu Hanúmal close to the center of the circle. Hanúmal felt great pride that he was the only Tirrikámu present, at the personal invitation of Molkár Kanmás himself.

 

"Whatever the Yan Koryáni have at the edge of that jungle, we cannot leave it in place or it will prevent the capture of Agésha. If it strikes down the Prince, it will be a major victory for Baron Ald and a hard blow to the morale of all the peoples of Tsolyánu. I need some brave men to get close, to stop whatever that weapon is."

 

Tirrikámu Hanúmal looked at Kási Khirgár. The Kási drew a deep breath.

 

Don't, thought Hanúmal. Tsutel has not told you what waits for us there tonight.

 

From behind them, Heréksa Tsutel said, in a voice that sounded as if he was reading from a scroll, "The three of us will lead the mission. Tirrikámu Hanúmal will have another chance to demonstrate his boundless courage."

 

Kási Khirgár nodded. "It will be my greatest honor to lead. Tirrikámu, handpick nineteen men, and form the finest Semétl in my command!"

 

Molkár Kanmás grinned, nodding. "I had hoped that you might volunteer. With such talent as your Tsurúm can claim, the Yan Koryáni will find it impossible to prevail, even with the terrible might of that abomination at their command!"

 

Unbidden, Hanúmal remembered his talk with Tsutel before dawn. "There are other empires than life and death, Tirrikámu. Worse things than death. Kási Khirgár, and me, and you… we will find this out at twilight. If we are wise, we go south before Túleng kisses the world at nightfall.”

Edited by Lee Torres

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Four Pé Chói Changadésha and two Ahoggyá Kuruthúni escorted the nineteen Human Kuruthúni, a Tirrikámu, a Heréksa, and a Kási. The group took advantage of the long shadows, scrub brush, and terrain to hastily cross the battlefield, entering the jungle Northeast of their Tsurúm. Behind them, beams of radiance spanned the sky, illuminating the high thin clouds as Túleng kissed the world. Eight tsán Northwest of them, the jungle glowed with an unnatural purple light.

 

Tilténal hi'Vrigáy, considered one of the best close-in fighters in the Tsurúm of Kási Khirgár hi’Amiyála, was having difficulty containing his enthusiasm. Being selected for this task, by the Tirrikámu that had won the favor of the Molkár, might mean advancement for him, and soon. When Tirrikámu Hanúmal was promoted, surely in the afterglow of this assignment, he would be made Tirrikámu... or possibly Heréksa!

 

"Be wary," said Chichún hi'Gakkumqúrga, pointing up. Coiled in a nearby tree, a Vringálu, indigo feathers ruffling as its ink-dark serpent-like body slithered around a branch. It stretched its wings and what little light still seeped through the canopy was eclipsed by their span. "Other things in this jungle will happily kill you, not just the Yan Koryáni."

 

The two Kuruthúni crept past, calling the presence of the Vringálu to the Pé Chói Changadésha, Ttk-chtk-dsá, following next in line. The Pé Chói kept her crossbow trained on the carnivore as she passed beneath. Tsutel paid it no mind. The Vringálu hissed, but remained anchored where it was. When Hanúmal passed through, it simply watched him go by.

 

Finally, the beasts' hunger got the better of it, and it descended upon luckless Ashá hi'Nyeméjjeny and carried the man up into the branches and vines above to devour him. The four Pé Chói rushed back to his aid, expertly peppering the Vringálu with crossbow bolts. The winged serpent fell, mortally wounded, but it was too late for the Kuruthúni; the blood loss was too great.

 

Murmuring over their ill fortune, the men buried Ashá, marked his grave with his spear and helmet, and moved north toward the glow.

Edited by Lee Torres

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A little over a kirén later, Kuruthúni Kótlishr hi'Arkirkúmart was taken, screaming, by something large in the jungle that moved trees with its swift and noisy departure. There was discussion of pursuing whatever it was into the jungle, but Kási Khirgár was firm that the mission must be the highest priority. If Kótlishr's remains could be recovered, they'd attempt to do so on the way back. But while that unnatural tongue of dark flame had dominion over the fields south of Agésha, they must tolerate no distraction.

 

One ténmre later, they were nearing the glow in the jungle. Chichún hi'Gakkumqúrga was leading,Tilténal hi'Vrigáy and Heréksa Tsutel close behind. Stepping into a clearing, Chichún whispered back "There are Tsolyáni Kuruthúni just ahead, entering the jungle on the far side of the clearing!" Tilténal and the Heréksa came alongside quickly and silently. Tilténal looked at Heréksa Tsutel. "Perhaps the other Molkár sent men here as well?"

 

Tsutel shrugged. Chichún whistled a birdcall, a familiar sound to the Kuruthúni of the Fifth Heavy Infantry, used to signal unobtrusively to others. The Kuruthúni on the far side of the clearing turned.

 

Another Chichún looked back at himself, a look of dread and concern on the face of his double. Apparently unable to see the three at the edge of the clearing, the other Chichún adjusted his shield and vanished into the jungle.

 

"Should we tell Kási Khirgár?" Tilténal asked Heréksa Tsutel.

 

"No. Leave it to me, I'll tell him." Tsutel made his way back to the others.

 

Chichún and Tilténal crossed the clearing, vigilant for any threat, or the reappearance of the "other" Kuruthúni. The purple light from the north flickered and danced across the blackness of the sky.

 

As the two Kuruthúni reached the far side, they peered into the jungle, trying to see if the double was visible. A birdcall, a familiar sound to the Kuruthúni of the Fifth Heavy Infantry, used to signal unobtrusively to others, chirped from behind them. Chichún slowly turned, dreading what he might see.

 

Only the empty clearing, the wind stirring the ferns under that awful purple light.

Edited by Lee Torres

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A short time later, when Tsutel returned with Hanúmal, they followed the tracks left by the two Kuruthúni after a whistled signal got no response. On the far side of the clearing, Hanúmal followed the imprints of the two pairs of sandals into the jungle. Within fourteen paces, the tracks got fainter and fainter until they vanished completely. Hanúmal scanned the trees for more Vringálu, but saw only the weirdly shifting dance of the purple glow.

 

Feeling an odd chill run down his spine, Hanúmal slowed to allow the rest of the Kuruthúni to catch up.

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Later, they were nearing the glow in the jungle. Chichún hi'Gakkumqúrga was leading,Tilténal hi'Vrigáy and Heréksa Tsutel close behind. Stepping into a clearing, Chichún whispered back "There are Tsolyáni Kuruthúni just ahead, entering the jungle on the far side of the clearing!" Tilténal and the Heréksa came alongside quickly and silently. Tilténal looked at Heréksa Tsutel. "Perhaps the other Molkár sent men here as well?"

 

Tsutel shrugged. Chichún whistled a birdcall, a familiar sound to the Kuruthúni of the Fifth Heavy Infantry, used to signal unobtrusively to others. The Kuruthúni on the far side of the clearing turned.

 

Another Chichún looked back at himself, a look of dread and concern on the face of his double. Apparently unable to see the three at the edge of the clearing, the other Chichún adjusted his shield and vanished into the jungle.

 

"Should we tell Kási Khirgár?" Tilténal asked Heréksa Tsutel.

 

"No. Leave it to me, I'll tell him." Tsutel made his way back to the others.

 

Chichún and Tilténal crossed the clearing, vigilant for any threat, or the reappearance of the "other" Kuruthúni. The purple light from the north flickered and danced across the blackness of the sky.

 

As the two Kuruthúni reached the far side, they peered into the jungle, trying to see if the double was visible. A birdcall, a familiar sound to the Kuruthúni of the Fifth Heavy Infantry, used to signal unobtrusively to others, chirped from behind them. Chichún slowly turned, dreading what he might see.

 

Only the empty clearing, the wind stirring the ferns under that awful purple light. Wrestling with a subtle but persistent feeling that all of this had happened before, Chichún led Tilténal into the jungle.

Edited by Lee Torres

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Hanúmal was at the front of the Semétl, Kási Khirgár close behind, when the ambush came. Men and women charged from the jungle, wearing the armor of Tsolyánu, Yán Kór, Mu’ugalavyá, and Salarvyá, as well as armor colors and styles that Hanúmal was at a loss to identify.

 

Javelins arced in, killing several Kuruthúni in the first seconds of the attack. Arrows followed. Hanúmal took shelter behind his shield, then charged when the impacts stopped. The two Ahoggyá moved quickly, engaging the attackers. Hanúmal followed, claiming his own killing ground on the edge of the Ahoggyá's wake.

 

Kási Khirgár called out "The eyes! They're not men!" Hanúmal looked at the eyes of one of the Mu’ugalavyáni Aridáni he was fighting. Her eyes were red, like those of an animal. She smiled at him, and he noted the sharp teeth that filled her mouth.

 

"Cha! What are these things?" Hanúmal asked. Taking advantage of his distraction, the "Aridáni" dodged his parry and leapt forward, now switching from swordplay to biting. He seized her face, trying to keep the teeth from his throat. One of the Ahoggyá noted his predicament and moved by, caving in the Aridáni's skull with a well-aimed strike of a mace and nearly breaking Hanúmal's fingers.

 

When it fell on top of Hanúmal, it no longer seemed remotely human. Her skin had darkened from a copper like his own to a deep bronze-red hue, with darker fur so short that it was like the nap of a carpet down the things back and around its jaws and ears. In his hands, Hanúmal held the crushed head, a fanged snout protruding towards his face.

 

"Less asking, more killing" the Ahoggyá rumbled, then whirled off, heeding its own advice.

 

"They are Mihálli! I have seen them before, in the West," one of the Pé Chói volunteered, reloading his crossbow. "Otherwise I agree with my Ahoggyá colleague."

Edited by Lee Torres

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