Thursday, 27 May 2010

ebon zikkuract - the western stair

As your divine majesty commanded, your warriors accompanied the twin scholars Dinad and Oscad of Lur to the western stair of the zikkuract.  At first I suspected that I was there to mediate between them when they would fall to arguing.   We descended the stair into night, the ziggurat reflecting the light of a pink moon under strange stars.  The causeway upon which it rests is a dark honeycomb of basalt, leading towards a shore without lights.  The sea was restless and a warm wind blew on our faces.  The lodestone that Dinad brought pointed towards the ziggurat on which we stood.  We found evidence of a tribute left at the foot of the ziggurat, a crudely fashioned idol of green-grey stone.  Oscur noted that it was best left there when one of the soldiers moved to take it.  We measured the ziggurat, identical in size to yours at Algolia.  You have already heard why Dinad believes this to be so.  Uninterrupted by monsters we continued to a shore of basalt, pumice and black sand.  The land smelled fertile, the air was warm and akin to western Algolia after storm season.

We moved away from the cliffs further inland.  The land is strange, we have not seen evidence of Ankil or his solar disk in our expedition.  Yet blue-leaved plants with fleshy leaves and blue-white fruit grow in the black soil.  Oscur left fruit and seeds with the hierophants.  A soldier dared one and found it sweet, the hierophants decreed he must fast under their watchful eyes until he is cleansed of this world.  Later we found a larger version of the idol we found at the ziggurat - then life!  A herdsman, a giant with one eye in the centre of his forehead, armed with a spear of sharp black stone herding goats.  Dinad noticed the goats - they had two dull eyes and a third one, blazing red in the centre of their brow.  We know the laws about such yet Oscur argued the goats were unlikely agents of the Hateful.  Just then the goatherd saw us and spoke - in halting Inburan!  Then I realised why your divine majesty commanded me to join this expedition.

The goatherd's name was Agak and he knew not of the Hateful.  Dinad and Oscur knew some Inburan and they questioned him at length yet Agak would only respond to me.  He feared they would un-name him - a superstition among some Inburan tribes.  Yet the cyclopean giant before me was no Inburan. I pointed at the spear and asked who had made it.  To my amazement, he repled "I did."  Yet there was no guile.  I asked if we could return to where he lived and he nodded, turning the goats about and leading us to a crude hut and fence.  We rested and ate sparingly of goat's cheese and he worked on a piece of the black stone, chipping sharp-edged fragments that he used as blades when he found a suitable one.  Agak revealed there were others of his race but he lived far from them to 'walk in smoke'.  Agak also feared the sea, saying it had 'demons' who took his people away, never to be seen again.  Oscur said to us that he was a holy man and that as twins, he and Dinad were perhaps an omen.  Knowing the Inburan tribes, Oscur was probably right.

I asked about the idol and Agak called it 'The Destroyer'.  Agak offered to show us where it slept but Oscur asked about walking in smoke.  Agak grew evasive with me until I offered him a bronze knife.  Then he grew excited and agreed.  By inhaling the fumes from a certain plant, he could show us places.  Dinad immediately grew angry, fearing the lotus-doom yet I agreed to it as did Sargad, the warrior who ate the fruit.  Agak filled a clay pot with burning herbs and we inhaled.  Then we saw our bodies beneath us and Agak appeared very different - a warrior painted in shadows.   He pointed west and we flew over the causeway, then down into the sea. We saw strange sites, a drowned city and great fish-beasts.  Were these the demons Agak spoke of?  Eventually we came to a massive cave, blocked by a boulder as tall as the great stele of Lur.  Then I saw the demons and I knew fear -  the sea kings of ancient Dagak swam these waters.  Squat and pot-bellied, cold-eyed with their gills flapping at their throats, they had enchanted one of Agak's people and led him to the cave as a sacrifice.  With a sharp bone blade they offered his blood and it billowed like smoke in the deeps.  Then I saw the boulder move - a little but what flowed from the gap was unholy.  One of the Dagaki swam up to it and it turned his scales black as night.  Agak told us we had to go.  When we returned both Dinad and Oscad agreed we had to return now - the omens were too important not to tell you.

The hierophant's discovery offers the potential of colonisation.   Agak and his people would come to serve you well and your ancestors drove off the ancient sea kings.  The presence of the 'Destroyer' is something for a great hero or the hierophants to seal.  I have heard certain stories and know that I do not have either the magic or the courage for that task.  Our journey through the sea revealed much life and even if the goats are tainted by the Hateful, your subjects will tame this world to your greater glory.  Both Dinad and Oscad have petitioned your divine majesty to return and I would do the same by your will.

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