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Molkár Kanmás hi'Tiúnallakná waited in the shade of the awning to the Healer’s tents in the late afternoon. It had been a day of great victory over the city of Agésha and the Yan Koryáni defenders. After the strange events of the previous night, when the sky had glowed as if it were mid-day and spoke in the voice of mighty thunders, the city walls had crumbled to the east and been breached to the south and all of the tents and most of the standards in the Tsolyáni camps had been knocked down by the terrible winds from that distant hilltop.

 

Two ténmre after the explosion, a ragged band of survivors had arrived in the camp, an Ahoggyá of the Legion of Gurúggma, the 3rd Auxiliary Heavy Infantry, by the name of Barrel of Swords, a Pé Chói named Ttk-chtk-dsá of the Legion of the Nest of Ttík-Deqéq, the 9th Auxiliary Medium Infantry, and two Kuruthúni of the 5th Heavy Infantry, from the Tsurúm of Kási Khirgár hi’Amiyála. The Ahoggyá had carried the unconscious form of Tirrikámu Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma of the Iron Fist clan, the man that had only yesterday saved his life.

 

The tale that the Ahoggyá, the Pé Chói, and the two Kuruthúni told was quite unbelievable, or would have been had the outcome not been witnessed by everyone present outside of Agésha.

 

The 5th Heavy Infantry, led by Prince Eselné Tlakotáni and Kérdudali Mriggadáshu hi’Durúntlano and supported by the 3rd Auxiliary Heavy Infantry and the 9th Auxiliary Medium Infantry, had pushed hard from daybreak to exploit the chaos that the loss of the eastern wall had caused. The loss of the General leading the Gurék of the Valiant of Ke’ér had left that force in disarray, and the Gurék of the Turquoise Eye from the city of Khárcha Sárk was unable to resist the onslaught without their aid.

 

Now, in the late afternoon, the introduction that Molkár Kanmás hi'Tiúnallakná had promised to make yesterday was soon to happen. Prince Eselné was coming to the Healer’s tents to meet the man that had saved his own life yesterday, and likely saved the Prince himself from the purple lightning weapon after nightfall. He only hoped that Tirrikámu Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma would be conscious for this great event.

 

A kirén passed, as Kuruthúni carrying spoils of war and escorting slaves busied themselves all around, and the horns and drums noisily announced their victory to the skies and distant jungles. The Shárto of Lord Karakán arrived first, followed by Prince Eselné Tlakotáni and Kérdudali Mriggadáshu hi’Durúntlano, accompanied by the two Dritlán and the other Molkár comprising the high command of the Legion of the Mighty Prince.

 

“Is he awake?” the Shárto asked.

 

“I do not believe so. I am sorry that he will not remember this moment of honor,” replied Molkár Kanmás hi'Tiúnallakná.

 

“Regrettable. But the Prince Eselné’s time is most precious.”

 

“I understand, of course” replied Molkár Kanmás.

 

The seven men entered the Healer’s tents.

 

In the shadowy interior, Molkár Kanmás led them to the mat upon which Tirrikámu Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma lay insensate. Molkár Kanmás related the events of the battle between the mercenary Shén and the Ahoggyá, and how Tirrikámu Hanúmal’s swift and courageous act had saved his own life and prevented the loss of authority over the battlefield. He went on to relate the tale that Barrel of Swords had told him of the fight to reach the hilltop, of the final battle to hold that hilltop against the sorcerers and the Mihálli.

 

Prince Eselné listened attentively, taking in the tale. The Shárto scribed careful notes.

 

As the seven men discussed the events of the previous night, a low chuckle emerged from Tirrikámu Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma. A low, rumbling chuckle that to Molkár Kanmás did not sound like the man he had met only yesterday.

 

Then the Tirrikámu opened his eyes. The eyes were not brown, as they had been yesterday, but glowed with a faint violet light. His expressionless face had not changed from his unconsciousness to this instant.

 

“The mighty Prince Eselné Tlakotáni, son of the Tsolyáni Emperor Hirkáne Tlakotáni, called the Stone upon Which the Universe Rests. Tòquntúsmidàlisa, ngangmura.”

 

One of the Dritlán began to draw his sword, unnerved enough to strike. Molkár Kanmás stayed his hand. “Wait, Dritlán. This may be the entity that the Ahoggyá Barrel of Swords said spoke to them last night, one of the Undying Wizards.”

 

Prince Eselné sat upon the stool near the mat. “Tùsmiketlán, ngangmura. Are you the wizard that aided in our victory, and spared the lives of the semétl of Kási Khirgár hi’Amiyála?”

 

The Tirrikámu’s mouth flicked up into a smile. An unpleasant smile that prompted the Dritlán to draw his blade a little bit further from his scabbard. “Ya, tòquntúsmidàlisa. I am of the three Pariah Deities, known to your race as the One Other. Polite anonymity notwithstanding, I will not be offended if you cannot determine a suitable form of address. I have an ongoing issue with the two wizards that you spoke of, Súbadim and Torasu, but I will not vent my fury upon you, your retinue, or this Tirrikámu. I have traveled here only to speak with you a moment, mighty Prince.”

 

The writing of the Shárto of Lord Karakán was now at a very rapid pace.

 

“Tùsmiketlán,” said Prince Eselné, “what would you speak of?”

 

“The future, tòquntúsmidàlisa. Your future, the future of Tsolyánu. The fate of your father, the Emperor Hirkáne.”

 

“I beg you, mighty Prince, do not heed this demon’s words. The Pariah Deities speak in lies!” said the Shárto, near anguish.

 

“Silence, servant of Karakán!” roared the voice from the unconscious Tirrikámu, and the Shárto reeled as if struck. The Dritlán's sword flew from its scabbard.

 

"Hold! The body on that mat is a hero of the niqómi. That which is within it cannot be slain by your sword." Prince Eselné stood. “I will hear your words, tùsmiketlán.”

 

“Ahhhh. How very wise you are, tòquntúsmidàlisa. Very wise. I will tell you of what is to come. You may heed the bleating prattle of this priest and ignore it, if you so wish. You are, after all, Prince Eselné Tlakotáni, and heir to the Petal Throne and the Empire of Tsolyánu. Very soon, in less than five summers, your father will die. While few will know the truth of it, it will be the scheming of Prince Dhich’uné that will place your father in his splendid tomb. After that, your siblings will tear Tsolyánu apart in a civil war that will last for years. When it is done, it will be Mirusíya, an adherent of Vimúhla and calling himself “Resplendent Flame” that will sit upon the Petal Throne in Avanthár.”

 

Prince Eselné thought on the words for long moments. “I am more ready to rule than any of the other heirs.”

 

“Perhaps true, tòquntúsmidàlisa, perhaps true. But you will be dead in your tomb before the Kólumejálim to decide the future succession is held. Dead twice, in point of fact.”

 

“How can any man die twice?”

 

“Dhich’uné will kill you first, but you will be restored from death. But then…”

 

“Tòquntúsmidàlisa, I implore you, do not heed its words!” said the Shárto.

 

“Then you will fall to a wasting illness, tòquntúsmidàlisa. It has been known by many names over the long history of your race. Flux of all kinds; bloody flux, putrid flux, bilious flux, and also trots, the screaming hab-dabs, dysentery, oh, and my very favorite, given your insignificant little planet, jungle guts. The sad irony here is that had your people listened to me even once over all the millennia you've been here, I could have restored your world to its proper place in the cosmos and jungle guts would be little more than a minor inconvenience. Instead, you will die wasting away, thrashing in your own filth, like an infirm old man or a squalling babe. You will see the raw disgust on the faces of those that care for you, and you shall die with your own stink filling your nostrils and your own failure filling your every sense. You will vomit so much blood you’ll wonder how it is you still live. And what will your precious Lord Karakán think of the mighty warrior-prince, once strong of limb and noble in his prime, that arrives to fight for the eternal cohort only a few years later withered in body and covered in his own feces?”

 

“Why do you tell me this?” Prince Eselné finally asked.

 

“So that you would know, in the moment of your joyous victory over me, how brief and futile it truly is.”

 

The voice coming from Tirrikámu Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma chuckled, and that chuckle grew into a deep and disturbing laugh. It was still laughing when the retinue of Prince Eselné followed their leader from the Healer’s tents.

 

Outside, in the late afternoon light, Prince Eselné spoke. “Shárto, gather priests and the best healers available. We will drive this foul presence from our man. I will repay him for saving the life of my loyal Molkár, Kanmás hi'Tiúnallakná, as well as my own life, if the Ahoggyá speaks truth. As to the thing inside his body, document anything else it says, and make haste to convey the information we learn to the Temple of Lord Karakán in Béy Sü. The rest of you… no one is to speak of this again. We came here to defeat Yán Kór and it would appear that we have earned the enmity of this Pariah Deity, the One Other. Even if the events transpire as it has described. No one must know of its victory. I will have Prince Dhich’uné watched, that we may avoid the future the thing spoke of.”

 

 

Tòquntúsmidàlisa= You of awed wonder: to a prince or princess who is an heir to the Petal Throne.

Tùsmiketlán= You of polite anonymity: to a respectable-appearing person whose precise social rank can not be distinguished.

Edited by Lee Torres

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Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma of the Iron Fist clan woke with a start. A convulsion had just wracked his torso, and he felt his gorge rise.

 

From nearby, a voice said, “Roll him, that he does not drown.”

 

Hands grasped his shoulder and hip and rolled him onto his right side. Disoriented, he opened his eyes and tried to resist. He vomited prodigiously off the side of the low table he had apparently been set upon. An elderly man holding a pot was waiting by the side of the bed. He obliged the old man by vomiting into it. A Shárto and two Su'umél peered into the pot when he was done.

 

“He is awake,” the old man observed.

 

The Shárto seized his head, turned his face up, and peered into his eyes. Another Su'umél, clutching writing implements, rushed in.

 

“His eyes…” said the Su'umél.

 

“His eyes are as they should be,” said the Shárto.

 

Hanúmal asked, “What was wrong with my eyes?”

 

“Nothing, Heréksa. We’re only gladdened to have you back among us.”

 

Hanúmal sat up, then immediately laid down once the pain made itself known. “What happened to me?”

 

“The Healers say that you broke one leg and one arm in the fall. Fortunately, you seem to have been blessed with a certain thickness of skull.”

 

“You are Priests. Where are the Healers?”

 

“They are only permitted to see you with our supervision.”

 

“Wait. Heréksa? I am but a Tirrikámu. Perhaps you have mistaken me for another.”

 

“Not so, Heréksa. Prince Eselné himself conferred the rank upon you. You are Heréksa of Karéng prúkh, Tsurúm of Kási Gacháyal hi’Chaishyáni.”

 

“I do not know Kási Gacháyal hi’Chaishyáni.”

 

“He was honored for bravery in battle. He was a Heréksa himself two days ago. He has been given the Tsurúm of Kási Khirgár hi’Amiyála, after that one fell in battle against Yán Kór.”

 

“Kási Khirgár is not the one that fell. And he certainly did not fall to Yán Kór.”

 

The Shárto leaned in and whispered, “We know, Heréksa. But what occurred on the hilltop outside Agésha has been made secret by order of Prince Eselné."

 

The old man and the two Su'umél completed their unsavory inspection of the pot, and displayed eight angrily-writhing glowing violet forms, like worms or eels, or the tips of the tendrils he had fought within the vortex, that they had separated from the other contents of his stomach. With a ritualized chanting, they sealed the pot with an ornate lid.

 

Another stranger approached, and placed a heavy amulet on Hanúmal’s stomach. He chanted for several yóm before speaking. “This man is pure once more. The influence has been expunged.”

 

They brought him water, and soon he slept.

 

When he next awoke, it was night, and a Su'umél waited to ask him the first of many, many questions about the events within the vortex and the One Other.

Edited by Lee Torres

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Kérdudali Mriggadáshu hi’Durúntlano pored over the parchments that the Su'umél had been sending for dispatch by runner to the Temple of Karakán in Béy Sü.

 

The narrative of the new Heréksa, Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma, was intriguing. While the Prince had been emphatic about secrecy, the Kérdudali’s long patronage of the Temple of Karakán was not without rewards. The events of that night a few days ago had been otherworldy and even somewhat frightening. The sheer power unleashed on that hilltop…

 

He stopped and reread the statement passed on by the likely-dead Heréksa Tsutel, the morning before the semétl of Kási Khirgár hi’Amiyála had gone into the jungle.

 

"There are other empires than life and death… Worse things than death... We will find this out at twilight. If we are wise, we go south before Túleng kisses the world at nightfall.”

 

Knowing that the Prince would have disapproved of the practice, he unrolled a scroll, adding the statement as a note, amongst the scattered handful of other notes he’d made, that he may recall certain events from the testimony of Heréksa Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma.

 

His notes about the death of the Emperor, and the hand of Prince Dhich’uné had concerned him. If it actually came to pass and the Omnipotent Azure Legion found those they might believe that, instead of a Pariah Deity describing the future, it was some evidence of conspiracy. He took some of his notes and dropped them into the small fire nearby.

 

He took the strange note from the papers too, and read it one last time.

 

“The entity known as the One Other made an odd request of me, that I take a message for Tirrikámu Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma. It specified that the message was for him alone, which I agreed to, although I have my orders from the Shárto that all messages or statements from the thing are to be sealed and sent immediately to the Temple of Karakán in Béy Sü. The message was as follows:

 

'Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma, ngangmura. I wanted you to know that the nightmares and visions that your comrade Tsutel was experiencing did not come from Ksárul as I said when we spoke. One of the advantages of being what I am is that I see all things, past, present, and future. I knew that the three of you were blessed by old Karakán that day, and I needed to get some things accomplished that would have otherwise been ever-so-slightly more difficult. So, I embellished the facts a little, and poured that delicious elixir of misdirection into the misguided brain of stupid young Tsutel. To my eternal delight he fell for it, and his earnestness lured you and Khirgár as well.

 

'As you may by now suspect, but I’ll spell it out because I really don’t get a sense that you’re particularly bright, none of you were ever trapped. Khirgár and Tsutel could have jumped out right after you. You humans and your ridiculous heroics. In any case, they most certainly are trapped now, and it’s only a matter of time before I break them and devour them and make them mine, forever. I thought you’d like to know that. I’m tempted to let you know how and when you will die, but I do like to have some surprises. I can’t wait to see the look on your face when it happens, though. I never get tired of it.'

 

Based upon the nature of the message, I have deemed it appropriate to refer it to the Qusúnchu for a decision as to whether to share it with Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma or not.”

 

Kérdudali Mriggadáshu hi’Durúntlano shook his head, and for just a moment considered throwing that obscenity into the fire as well. He was a soldier of the Empire of the Petal Throne, however. He rolled the small parchment and replaced it in the sheaf of writings taken from the conversations with the Pariah Deity. Perhaps in Béy Sü they’d find something in all of that they could use against it, or the ignoble heretics that worshiped it.

 

 

Qusúnchu = High Priest

Edited by Lee Torres

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It had been six years since the siege of Agésha, and those years had been hard on the Legion of the Mighty Prince. With the death of Emperor Hirkáne in 2365 AS and the “false” Kólumejálim that had installed Dhich’uné, “Eternal Splendour, ” as the 62nd Emperor of the Petal Throne, Tsolyánu had broken apart in years of civil war.

 

The 5th Heavy Infantry had marched forth from Páya Gupá to press Prince Eselné’s claim to the Petal Throne, and battled the other Legions supporting other challengers in what seemed an endless cycle of bloodshed.

 

With the death at the city of Mekú of Molkár Kanmás hi'Tiúnallakná, not in battle but by an assassin’s garrote, Gacháyal hi’Chaishyáni was promoted to replace him as the second Molkár of the niqómi, and perhaps more due to his unhesitating cooperation with the endless stream of questions from the Temple of Karakán in Béy Sü than his reputation for reckless bravery, Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma replaced Molkár Gacháyal as leader of the tsurúm that had once been led by Kási Khirgár hi’Amiyála.

 

Kási Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma was considered a decent officer, and one devoted not only to the art of civilized warfare but also to self-improvement. He was a voracious reader and often seen in the company of Priests and Scholars.

 

Once more in Páya Gupá, the Legion now mourned the death of Prince Eselné. After many near scrapes on the field of battle and attempts on his life during the civil war, he finally succumbed to some mysterious malady that was not discussed by those below the rank of Molkár. Molkár Gacháyal, sharing a wineskin with some of his Kási a short time after the Prince died, expressed the thought that it had seemed as if Prince Eselné somehow knew, before the Healers had even examined him, that he was soon to die. Molkár Gacháyal said it seemed as if, in the end, he was simply waiting for it to come. The Kási all loudly and drunkenly disagreed. Prince Eselné was not the kind of man that would give up. Hanúmal wondered, though, if the conversation that the Prince and the Pariah Deity had six years before was related. The Priests never made any concise references to the contents of the discussion, but sometimes their questions were enough to answer his unasked questions of them.

 

Recently, for a brief three-day span, the fourth revealed son of Emperor Hirkáne, Prince Mridóbu, “Risen to Rule,” had claimed the Petal Throne, before Dhich’uné had returned from his unexplained absence leading an undead army to drive him off.

 

The war continued, with no end in sight. The Legion of the Mighty Prince lent their prowess and effort to Prince Mirusíya, an adherent of Vimúhla that had become close to Prince Eselné during their brief alliance.

 

It was in Páya Gupá that Kási Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma first set eyes upon Su'umél Sherésa hi’Mráchiyaku, known as “Sherésa the Insatiable,” a priestess of Dlamélish, Green-Eyed Lady of Fleshy Joys, Mistress of Demons, and Obsidian Princess of the Damned.

Edited by Lee Torres

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The last few days had not been excessively hot in Páya Gupá, and it was not the weather that caused the sheen of sweat on both Sherésa hi’Mráchiyaku and Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma. Since being introduced to her by a noble-born Kási of his niqómi at a reception, the two had spent almost all of Hanúmal’s off-duty time together, as Sherésa demonstrated the core tenets of her worship of Dlamélish, as well as how she came to be known as “Sherésa the Insatiable.”

 

Months had gone by since their first days together, and Kási Hanúmal’s affection for the priestess and her talents was now well known amongst the tsurúm. He had been on his most recent leave for three days, and had spent almost every minute with her.

 

She laid her head on his chest, letting her hair drape over his skin. Hanúmal admired her hair in the light of the rising moon Gayel. Her hair was so black that in certain lights it seemed that it was blue. Her hands caressed and explored him for a moment as they lay together, breathing labored from their strenuous affections. She looked up at him.

 

“You’re thinking it again, aren’t you?”

 

Hanúmal smiled. “Am I so obvious?”

 

“You are. You’re thinking about keeping me forever.”

 

“Is that so wrong? Our days together are my inspiration. I need only close my eyes a moment to see your face.”

 

“I am a servant of Dlamélish, my exquisite Hanúmal. You would ask that I put aside my faith to be entirely yours?”

 

“I admit, you do make it sound quite horrifying.”

 

“Ya, my delicious Kási, I do not intend it so. But our connection is defined by our absences as much as by the times that we are together. Were we always together, the precious essence of our unions would become commonplace.”

 

“Some things, I suspect, can never become commonplace.”

 

“Tomorrow you will return to your tsurúm, and I will proselytize for the Obsidian Princess, as is my duty.”

 

“Proselytize? Are you trying to sway my baletl from the Lord Karakán?”

 

“Of course I am.”

 

“Cha! Who is this potential convert?”

 

“Don’t be jealous, sweet Hanúmal. I’d imagine that he is known to you, if only by reputation. Kérdudali Mriggadáshu hi’Durúntlano.”

 

Hanúmal laughed as he reached for their cups of wine. He handed one to Sherésa.

 

“I will admit, in many situations I am a hard man to surprise. You have succeeded admirably. The Kérdudali, truly?”

 

Sherésa sipped at her wine. “He is a man that enjoys living in the moment, and experiencing the many things that his station brings him. Perhaps after a lifetime in the service of Karakán, he has decided that there may be other ways he would prefer to spend eternity. Attaining the heights of ecstasy, the depths of sensuality, and the endless joys of perceived experience. ”

 

“Perhaps. Given the option of spending an eternity with you or fighting against who knows what…”

 

Sherésa tilted her head, wondering at the sudden faraway look on Hanúmal’s face.

 

“What is it?”

 

“It’s nothing. It suddenly struck me what Lord Karakán is fighting against.”

 

“And would you rather fight his foe or be with me?”

 

“Perhaps I would rather be two people.”

 

“Be with me in this moment. There will be time for this other Hanúmal tomorrow.”

 

She began to kiss and lick her way down his chest.

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It was a month and a half later that Hanúmal heard the news from Molkár Gacháyal hi’Chaishyáni that Kérdudali Mriggadáshu hi’Durúntlano was dead. His heart had apparently failed him during some exertion.

 

When he next took leave of the tsurúm to spend time with Sherésa, she was unusually happy.

 

“It seems strange to me,” he said, “that you should be so joyous when your Kérdudali is still fresh in his tomb.”

 

“What is in his tomb is of no consequence, my jealous Hanúmal. He left our plane in my arms, and with his last breath swore himself to Dlamélish.”

 

Hanúmal raised his eyebrows. “Indeed? Your superiors must be pleased.”

 

“He left his estates and his fortune to the Temple. Only some of his personal items were returned to the keeping of his clan. The Temple of Dlamélish is well pleased, and I am sure that Mriggadáshu is well pleased by his choice even now.”

 

“Congratulations, then.” He took her in his arms. “We should celebrate.”

 

They celebrated, after their fashion, for the next two days.

 

In the middle of the night after the second day, they rested in each other’s arms. Sherésa reached for her cup, and discovered it empty. She sat up, straddling her lover.

 

“Hanúmal, our cups are dry. I’ll go and bring more, while you rest. Rest swiftly, my sweet Kási, for I will not be long!”

 

She stood, and Hanúmal watched her in the faint grayish light of the moons Gayel and Kashi, streaming in from outside. He treasured every bit of her. She was the most perfect woman he had ever seen, let alone had the opportunity to lay with. As he watched her go, he thought about old gray-bearded Kérdudali Mriggadáshu hi’Durúntlano. He wondered what it would be like to die in her arms, and wake in an eternity of such pleasures as she gave him. He closed his eyes and drifted.

 

The abrupt sound of something falling brought him out of his dozing. He sat up, feeling a strange sense of wrongness.

 

“Sherésa? Are you all right?”

 

Hanúmal listened to the silence. He stood, walking to the doorway.

 

Down the hall, a familiar violet light faintly illuminated the walls. Instantly wide-awake, Hanúmal scrambled for a weapon. He found a dagger. His heart pounding wildly, he made his way down the hall.

 

Her front door was open. The violet light was shining through. In the distance, he heard her scream.

 

“Sherésa!”

 

Hanúmal raced outside, not caring who happened upon him and whether they were able to tell he was a Kási from a good clan, caring for nothing but the safety of Sherésa hi’Mráchiyaku. He heard her scream again, from the jungle. The light seemed stronger there, although a fog that had crept in with the night made it hard to tell where exactly the light came from.

 

“Sherésa!”

 

Adrenaline surging, Hanúmal ran through the jungle, in the direction of her voice. He went fast and far, cursing the violet light, the One Other, and his own broken destiny. The light never seemed to draw closer. It was if the moons themselves gave off this illumination, although he could see both moons behind him, beneath a faint purple veil.

 

He nearly collided with a figure standing in the fog. He stopped, regaining his balance and composure. There was another figure close by, two in his path.

 

Kási Khirgár hi’Amiyála and Heréksa Tsutel hi’Chiáng.

 

Kási Khirgár’s lips moved, and his torn and mutilated face seemed to strain with the import of his message. But there was no sound. He continued speaking, gesturing now to emphasize some point.

 

“Kási… I cannot hear you!”

 

Kási Khirgár’s face took on an uncharacteristic sternness. He was shouting now, noiselessly trying to convey something of clear urgency. Hanúmal tried to read his lips.

 

Heréksa Tsutel stepped forward. His throat was open, and one of his eyes had been torn from its socket. Endless wounds, any single one of them enough to kill a man, mangled their bodies.

 

Sherésa screamed again, this one more full of fear and torment than any other scream Hanúmal had ever heard. He started forward, but something would not let him pass this place, like an invisible barrier. He looked around, noticing the faint but unmistakable flow of the mouth of the vortex ahead of him.

 

“Sherésa!”

 

Her scream blended into the growing roar of the vortex, a sound he had not heard in six years and had no wish to hear ever again.

 

Hanúmal looked at the gory, pleading faces of Kási Khirgár and Heréksa Tsutel. He made out one word, his own name, on Tsutel’s lips.

 

The next instant they were gone. He stood in the darkened jungle, moonslight sifted by the trees into shafts of radiance that dappled the jungle ground in pale gray light. After a long moment of complete silence, the animals and insects of the jungle took up their songs and calls. A slight breeze stirred up the fog.

 

Hanúmal waited. No more screams, no roar of the otherworld. The songs of insects. One of them sounded at his feet. Looking down, he watched a beetle crawling, and occasionally making a ratcheting sound. The mist drifted away from the beetle, and he saw that it crawled through the imprint of a boot upon the ground.

 

He waved his hand over the ground, and the fog drifted away from the pair of bootprints embedded into the soil, precisely where the spectral maimed images of Kási Khirgár hi’Amiyála and Heréksa Tsutel hi’Chiáng had stood only moments before.

 

Hanúmal knelt on the jungle floor. When Túleng was rising into the sky one ténmre later, he returned to the empty home of the Su'umél Sherésa hi’Mráchiyaku, known as “Sherésa the Insatiable,” a priestess of Dlamélish. He gathered his clothes.

 

He returned to his barracks, where he sought out the Rashángto of Lord Karakán to report on what had happened.

 

The rumor was that, distraught over the death of Kérdudali Mriggadáshu hi’Durúntlano, Sherésa had taken her own life, perhaps by throwing herself into a river. Hanúmal never contradicted any man that spoke the rumor in his presence. But late at night he often woke up, wondering if some imagined noise might be his love, returning with two cups of wine. In his mind's eye he could see her, her cups full of glowing violet worms and her hair blacker than the night sky and her eyes shining like amethysts.

 

He kept the dagger next to his sleeping mat in case it ever happened.

 

 

Rashángto = Chief Ritual Priest

Edited by Lee Torres
Light of green moon + light of red moon =/= yellow light!

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Hanúmal stopped, looking up at the Kérdudali Akarsh hi’Voruseka. The Kérdudali stared at him for a long moment. Dritlán Dridákku hi’Nakkólel and Molkár Gacháyal hi’Chaishyáni knelt beside Hanúmal, and the way they scrutinized him he thought that they were examining some strange creature dragged up in a fisherman’s nets.

 

A familiar voice from the doorway spoke. “I will corroborate his testimony, although I must ask that the events he has related go no further than this room, Kérdudali.”

 

Hanúmal looked over his shoulder at the speaker, Hrúgash Thayéng hi'Shanggárdas, 12th Circle Grand High Priest of the Temple of Lord Karakán, the man that had been but a kind and humble Shárto when Hanúmal first made his acquaintance in the aftermath of the Siege of Agésha.

 

Hrúgash Thayéng continued. “I have kept some things secret of necessity even from my friend Hanúmal since the day we met nine years ago. I must confess that much of the credit for my success must be given to Kási Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma. His insights into the Pariah Deity known as the One Other have granted many victories against the hidden cults that worship it and seek to triumph where they failed at Agésha.”

 

The two Dritlán of the Omnipotent Azure Legion conversed quietly. One stood from his low stool and spoke. “Hrúgash Thayéng hi'Shanggárdas, we thank you for your attendance and confirmation of this report. May we inquire, however, how it is you knew that we had asked to interrogate Kási Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma?”

 

“Of course. Béy Sü is very interested in keeping a watchful eye upon the Kási, after the fate of the woman Sherésa hi’Mráchiyaku, of the Temple of Dlamélish. It appears that the One Other has a marginal interest in the suffering of Kási Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma. We have found that we may gauge the power of both the entity and its attendant cult in the Five Empires through this method. It would seem that somehow your Kási managed to annoy it on some level. We know not how long this may last, for with such power it could, naturally enough, kill him at any moment. And yet it does not. To answer your question, Dritlán, when the runner was sent to summon him this morning, we intercepted him. For the most part, we have little interest in the day-to-day matters of running the niqómi, only in the power of the Empire of the Petal Throne. But where those points intersect, we have our methods of finding things out.”

 

Achán hi’Viridáme appeared at Hanúmal’s side, bearing a cup of water.

 

“Drink, Kási.”

 

Hanúmal gratefully accepted the cup, and drained it. “Chegúkh, boy.”

 

“Kengyél Achán hi’Viridáme, Kási.”

 

"Kengyél?" Hanúmal asked, surprised.

 

“Ssa, Kási.”

 

Hrúgash Thayéng hiShanggárdas smiled at the exchange before continuing. “I have asked Hanúmal if he would be interested in a position within the Temple of Karakán many times, but he has consistently refused.”

 

The Dritlán turned to Hanúmal. “Kási, you have a rare opportunity to advance beyond your station. Why would you refuse such an offer?”

 

Hanúmal pondered the question for a moment. “A long time ago, a very good friend of mine told me a valuable truth, and I consider it one of my greatest treasures. ‘The strength of the Tsurúm is the Kuruthúni, and the strength of the Kuruthúni is the Tsurúm.’ I am a Kási of Kuruthúni. That is my truth. I serve Lord Karakán, but I am not one man. You, Kérdudali, are the niqómi, and I am a part of you. I am my tsurúm.”

 

Kérdudali Akarsh hi’Voruseka nodded, a grim smile touching his mouth. “Ssa, Kási. Well said. You have my profound apologies for the implication of cowardice. From what I have just learned, you may have saved the world at Agésha in the days before the death of the Stone upon Which the Universe Rests.”

 

“Ya, tùsmitlakomélu. I was blessed to survive to tell you of it. But it was my noble superiors, Heréksa Tsutel hi’Chiáng of the Crimson Ivory clan, and Kási Khirgár hi’Amiyála of the Might of Ganga clan, to which the entire world owes a debt. I only hope someday to free them from their captivity, that all of Tékumel may give them praise and honor.”

 

“Carry on, Kási Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma.”

 

“Ssa, tùsmitlakomélu! Chegúkh, Kérdudali.”

 

Hanúmal hi'Kharsáma turned, and stopped to talk quickly with his friend Hrúgash Thayéng. "When the day comes that I have achieved my goal, and can return the tsurúm to Kási Khirgár hi’Amiyála, I will accept your most generous offer." With that, he walked out of the Citadel into the heat of the day, pausing to look up and smile at the motto engraved above the parade ground in the inner court.

 

He headed for the barracks where his tsurúm idled. Whether tomorrow they were to be humiliated by being joined to the worm-lovers of the Scales of Brown, they were still his Kuruthúni. If this was to be their last week, or last day, or last ténmre as the Legion of the Mighty Prince, they would do what they had always done in times of peace.

 

Prepare for war.

 

They were loyal soldiers of Tsolyánu, the Empire of the Petal Throne.

 

Today, he would remind them of that simple fact.

 

 

 

 

Hrúgash = Grand High Priest

Kengyél = Acolyte

Edited by Lee Torres

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The author wishes to gratefully and most humbly thank Professor M. A. R. Barker for sharing Tékumel, the creation of his childhood imaginings that he has built over his marvelous life into one of the most intricate and enjoyable worlds in modern fantasy.

 

The author also would like to thank the many fans of Empire of the Petal Throne and all things Tékumel, in particular the members of the Tekumel Yahoo Group and the creators and forum members at www.tekumel.com. Without their imaginations and experiences on the world of Tékumel since 1975, this poor tale would have been a craven and paltry thing indeed.

 

Chegúkh!

Edited by Lee Torres

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The Prequel story, now renamed "Noble Sacrifices," is also available at the following locations for convenience of reading or downloading...

 

Google Docs version

 

Adobe Acrobat PDF File - For ease of reading, the translations have been collected into an appendix.

 

And a heartfelt chegúkh to Lubidius for providing the Tsolyáni script and translation of the new title!

Edited by Lee Torres

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I really enjoyed reading this.

I fear that whatever trials we face in the game will seem a pleasant vacation to Hanúmal after these events.

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Thank you, Danielle! I was quite surprised when Lubidius brought the One Other into the current campaign, although the involvement makes this expedition irresistible to Hanúmal given the last "order" he received from Kási Khirgár hiAmiyála nine years ago before being cast out of the vortex. If the opportunity exists to free Kási Khirgár, Heréksa Tsutel, and Sherésa hiMráchiyaku from their captor, Hanúmal will find a lever long enough to move the world to do so.

 

I hope that Lubidius does not use all the potential leverage I offered up in the prequel, though, for example making Hanúmal choose between his current mission and the final order of his former Kási... that would be a moral dilemma, to be sure!

 

Thanks again for the kind words - I've enjoyed your prequel so far, and am looking forward to getting into the game!

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