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G-Tech Corporation
P2TM RP Mentor
 
Posts: 59424
Founded: Feb 03, 2010
Democratic Socialists

Postby G-Tech Corporation » Sat Mar 20, 2021 1:37 pm

Liaoshan, Southern Manchuria


It had begun over a game of dice, the sort of idle conversation that men whiled away the hours of the night with when in the company of comrades. Soldiers of China, or so they were called, set to guard the valuable iron mines in Liaoshan and the city herself. Sons of local dignitaries, bureaucrats' second children spared from the bloodbath in the south, they were both entitled, trained for war, and bored - a dangerous combination. The demands on the miners in the great pits near the northern settlement had only been increased with the need to replace what was lost in the progresses of the empire that had wrung out the Chinese purse, and this wealth had put curious notions in the heads of the guards of the city.

In particular, their commander, Long Ten.

A veteran of the initial wars of expansion, when Aaron's army of halberd-armed soldiers began subjugating nearby farming villages, he had been retired north to Liaoshan with a minimal pension after taking a scythe in the side, relegated to a garrison command. After marrying a local woman, his years had mostly been spent in the slow but perilous game of the politician of China, balancing the demands of the bureaucrats over the ire of the families and clans he represented, currying favor and doing his best to tamp down on simmering rage. Perhaps some of the villages of China were content - not so in Liaoshan. Many clans had lost sons to the wars of expansion, seen neighbors cast into the mining pits for refusing to submit to the rule of the southerners, and seen little wealth and power come north for their valued iron ore. Without Liaoshan, it was said, one in every three forges of China would fall silent.

And yet the southerners did not give them their due, distributing the plunder of the Yangtze according to designs of the Pale Tyrant, esoteric and irrational to the minds of many.

So the conversation had begun in the barracks, idle, considering. Liaoshan was great, and yet none respected her for her worth. She could be greater still without the southern parasites taking the best ores, the strongest sons, the finest tools, and returning but a pittance to the queen of the north. What if the city walked her own way? What if her soldiers received the most fair of arms and armor first, before the leeches of Aaron and his court?

A better China would rise, a stronger China. This thinking was infectious, and passed from clan to clan within the city, hushed whispers yes, but glory burning in the hearts of those who saw a future for Liaoshan. A few bureaucrats were disposed of by the guard, men from southern cities who might have ridden south to warn the Tyrant. Mining accidents. Falls from horses. And the plan still took shape.

Then one day the shipments of ore from Liaoshan simply stopped. Men were brought up out of the pits, sons and fathers that had been in the darkness for too long, their arms strong from heavy labor given weapons to wield. The guard struck the colors of the False China, and raised the deep green banner of Liaoshan above the city, a rearing golden dragon decorating the forest field. When the collectors and assessors came to take the tithe from the city, as was their custom, they were run off back south empty handed, with demands for payments of gold, of silver, of fine furs and gems if they wished the wealth of the north to be theirs again. No few hamlets nearby, weary of the endless taking and grasping of the southerners, aligned themselves with fair Liaoshan, the Queen of the North. With her iron, and her guards, and her battle-hardened rebels now freed to fight against the regime they despised, China would no longer submit to the whims of a foreign devil.
TG if you have questions about RP. If I don't know the answer, I know someone who does.

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Cainesland
Postmaster-General
 
Posts: 10809
Founded: Feb 28, 2014
Psychotic Dictatorship

Postby Cainesland » Mon Mar 22, 2021 6:43 pm

Unfortunately, Victor Spear is currently traveling. We can provide a few things for you, some masks to put on sick people and healthy people. Also gloves. We have included several chests of soap which is vegetable based. The formula is written down for soap. We have also included a few herbal formulas for some of the symptoms including the liver. We have created a basic herbal plan for patients based on what we give to an adult. This is a new protocol. It won't work for many people. It comes from our doctors notes over time.

The best thing to do is clean an empty space thoroughly with soap and vinegar based cleaners before you move a sick person into the space. A basic write up on how to clean a space is included. Cleaning must be very thorough and constant. People need to be isolated and travel needs to be stopped. People must be very careful when they clean a person.

It is critical to watch people for symptoms of the plague, red marks, diarrhea, and other obvious symptoms. We have included lists and pictures of obvious symptoms. This will insure you can identify different people with the plague. Identifying and separating people is critical. If you can, keep people separated.

Careful attention should be focused on diet as well. We have included several recipes for vegetable juices, broths, soups, and a special mix for hydration of honey, salt, and hot water. It is important to keep people hydrated and rested.

There is no cure. We can treat some symptoms. We have been getting better at it over time. We will keep you updated. As a sign of respect, we are sending a pair of Daughters of Penelope and a pair of health attendants with the supplies to help at Mountain Cove. They will hopefully begin to help you set up ways to stem the plague. Unfortunately, we cannot spare many people right now.

Best Regards,

Scholar Penelope, Speaker for the House of Wisdom


Mountains Cove
Emergency session on medicine

Bostwick turned to his Co-Aedile. “So we want to ask about quarantining, and setting up test groups?” His voice-Aedile nodded. “Yes. Supplies are limited so finding out what works is a good idea”. The two nodded at each other. They then stood up and made their way towards the council building. Together they represented the municipalities executive branch. There were two chairs prepared for the two of them. Looking forward there were five chairs for the council of Ephors.

It was not long before the five Ephors, representing the legislative branch, filed into the room. Opening procedures commenced before Bostwick was called to present.

“Good afternoon honourable Ephors. A plague is ravaging the single market. Our friends in the Nestos League have provided supplies and advisors to help. They have recommended keeping an eye on symptoms including red marks and diarrhea. A further list and diagrams of symptoms will be provided during your deliberation. We Aediles think it would be pertinent to try these methods in Mountains Cove. We should quarantine the sick in their homes, and provide them with living supplies during their quarantine. We should spread word of what we are doing to the rest of the single market. If others want to follow this could be a wonderful opportunity to test these methods and show the people we are trying. I hope you agree with us and choose to accept this proposal.”

Bostwick and his partner answered questions relating to the plague, how it spread, and how they came to their conclusion. Bostwick tried to answer to the best of his ability, but it got difficult with little knowledge available. Most of it was guess work, based on observation, and information from another time and place. It seemed to get the point across.

The two left the room to allow for deliberation. About an hour later they were brought back in. The Ephor in the middle stood up. “Hearing your points we agree on what must be done. You are given authority to use resources towards fighting this crises within the community. However, with little knowledge around how this spreads we do not feel it appropriate to house the sick in their homes. As was stated, illnesses may spread by air, touch, or ingestion. To that regard we feel it appropriate to repurpose the diplomatic hall as a quarantine centre. The sick must stay there until there signs of the plague dissipate. Thank you for bringing this solution towards our attention.

Being given a sign FTP respond before the conclusion of the meeting Bostwick stood. “Thank you, Ephors. We will begin counter measures shortly”.

With the close of the meeting Bostwick and his partner retrieved the diagrams and list from the council and went to meet with the Nestos Medical advisers.

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Alaroma
Senator
 
Posts: 3738
Founded: Aug 03, 2016
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Alaroma » Sun Apr 04, 2021 8:54 pm

Bathhouses lead to High Places



It was a fine evening, following the wedding for the Egyptian King and his bride. It also solidified the alliance between Egypt and Aksum, so it was a good day by any standard. It would be great if it was just happy ever after, but it was not to be. No, I have to help manage the princess’s affairs, along with advancing King Emanuel’s interests whenever necessary. Then there is the interests of private Aksumite citizens, notably merchants and the church. Having been almost a decade since Aksum and her children were given unfettered access to Egypt by the old monarch, relationships spearheaded by industrious sons of the highlands cropped up all over.

At the feast celebrating the marriage of the King, along with his first bride, I was graced to sit next to the lord of Thebes. The man had the eye of ambition, but he wasn’t so disgraceful to wear it shamelessly. No, he had more class than that. However as this was the court of a young king, it was no surprise everyone wanted to try putting some pressure on the young man.
I looked at Faven, the 17 year old bride from Aksum who I was bound to look after, and she seemed to be enjoying herself. She was clothed in Egyptian garb, makeup, and jewelry. Her husband, the 14 year old king, did his best to present himself as a respectable figure to his subordinates. If everything went well, Aksum will be dealing with this king for a while. So, setting the course of this relationship had to be done now.

As for me, I waited patiently for the Lord of Thebes to finally address why he wanted to talk to me. I had been at his table for most of the evening, and most talk was relatively low key. That is, until he waved away some of the other people sitting with us. “Let me guess my friend, you wish to see the interests of your homeland protected. To see this marriage work. So you go about gaining good will. With orphanages, charity, bathhouses. To display your wealth. However I think you have a problem.” the lord began, his voice smooth and toned so as not to attract attention.
I looked at him, intrigue on my face. “I think you are like a baby learning to walk. You are not sure how to operate Egyptian politics, and you need relations to connect you. So, you wanted to attract someone who could help you. Fair enough, foreigner. I will bite. Though you must understand I have my own interests as well. Though I'm sure we can avoid those two things conflicting.”

“Let me see if I'm understanding you correctly, Lord Inyotef, is that you’re asking to form an alliance with me and my countrymen?” I asked him. “Yes, Ethan. You can surely see why having the people with access to the King’s first wife would be beneficial. Though I'm sure you know that. However it’s fair to say this alone needs something more propping it up. The word of one person is one thing, but if its backed up by various respectable voices, it just might work. Of course we need to hope your princess becomes one of the king’s prized things. She will be competing with the role his mother plays in his life, and the forces behind them.”

I raised an eyebrow at that. “Who might that be, these ‘forces.” I asked, curious. “Barbarians and cultists the queen mother has some favor towards. To gain leverage in this court will take time, but I think we can work things out. We must work with haste of course, but if we’re steady and firm, Egypt will be in our hands.” the lord explained.

“Well, if it’s as simple as you say, I think we can come to an arrangement. I’m sure Aksum will be more than willing to lend you its resources in the quest to make a better Egypt, and a closer relationship between our two lands.”

“Indeed. I’m sure we can get more into the details later, but I think an Aksumite delegation is due for a visit to Thebes. I assure you that one can be promised towards Aksum as well. Some of my attendants will help coach you in how to navigate the court later, as well. You’ll need the help.” Inyotef said, before taking a sip of his wine.

After that, the conversation drifted back to normality, as others joined us once more. My heart beated at a faster pace than before, as I took a look at the Princess once more. I would have to be able to prepare her for what came, in any way that could help. I’d also have to get involved with the king myself. Not the worst fate to have I suppose.

As the evening ended, and the royal couple had their first night together, I was to spend the night in a room with two of Inyotef’s attendants. They would inform me of the local powerbrokers, powerful merchants, and various people I might want to get on the good side to strengthen my position. My goal for the next couple of months was to set up deals between said power brokers and other Aksumites, and make myself an asset to the king. Hopefully, in two years from now, we’ll see some progress go our way.
"Yeah, you're right. You got lucky this time. If there were Dutch people there, you would be facing so many rebels!"
-Nuverkikstan

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G-Tech Corporation
P2TM RP Mentor
 
Posts: 59424
Founded: Feb 03, 2010
Democratic Socialists

Postby G-Tech Corporation » Mon Apr 05, 2021 2:33 pm

Peace On Every Side
Part 6, Chapter 1: A Light for All Nations


May 1st, 31 AG

Phanaris was a shadow of its former self, and that was saying something. Burnt down once by the White Hussians during the Landsknecht War, resettled by men out of the distant north who wished to start anew, and then ravaged by the Red Flux, there wasn't much left. The palisade was sagging in several places, spring rains untrammeled having undermined some of the foundations. As I plodded along the streets, water sluicing off of the flop-hat I had expropriated from the company stores, my boots picked up a new layer of the red clay which formed much of the regions undersoil with every step. The boot scraper which Marcus had packed purely as a matter of good practice had seen more use in the last week than I could have anticipated, and it certainly made me resent the large bundles which he and Amelia hauled here and there less.

The few figures which were out on the streets had the wary air of dogs who had been kicked too much. When we had arrived in the city - okay, hamlet, these days - I would have been hard pressed to assert that any rule of law remained within the walls of the settlement on the banks of the Danube. The ruins of the old Single Market fortress had been largely boarded up and guarded by what veterans the local Firstman could pull together, an impromptu quarantine ward for the sick and dying. Others had simply fled the outbreak, some no doubt saving their own lives, others the cause of the infections further west as they unknowingly took to the water and the roads with the seeds of red death breeding in their breasts. Only providence and not a little good fortune had meant we had news of the plague before it burnt its way up the length of Serbia, providence in how swiftly the disease progressed, fortune that individuals capable of recognizing a new pathogen had been in the region when the scourge arrived.

Ahead light welled up in the gloom and curtains of precipitation which obstructed my sight, and the tension in my back unknotted a pace. Though the palisade was sinking into invisibility at my back, the encampment that the aid mission had set up was a welcome sight, far more a taste of home than the abandoned streets of Phanaris and her skulking inhabitants. There at been riots here at first when news of the cure leaked out, and several guards had had to be returned west for court-martials after it transpired that they were exhibiting favoritism towards local sweethearts in the queues for variolation. A complicated matter, rather the complicated matter, was what we were trying to hide most fulsomely - that the supplies of the cure were limited, and our efforts to increase it proving only marginally successful. In many ways this was a testament to the efforts of the Sumerians that had come before us; their rigorous administration of preventative care had no doubt held back the scourge of the Red Plague for generations, and only exacting superstition and social customs could keep a minor protective scourge like the Blessing of the Lady of Lagash alive.

It passed like no more than a modest chill, really, and disappeared within days. But for careful rotations of the sick, our reservoirs of the inoculating malady would have have been dried up weeks ago. It took the deliberate exposure of dozens to produce a handful of good contagion vectors, and it was in many ways all I could do, alongside the physicians of the Administratum, to keep up with the growing needs of inoculating government officials and guards, let alone the civilian population. Maria's missives from the north reported greater success in controlled laboratory conditions and working social order, but her vaccination campaign was conducted in far more optimal manners than our own. It was one thing to add a variolation to the existing regimes in Germanica, Odense, or Silesia. Another altogether to herd refugees and men who had returned to hunting and gathering into medical wards here in Dacia.

After passing the guards a man appeared out of the thin mist, bowing deeply, and I sighed inwardly. Though I did not begrudge the runners themselves their jobs, a good position for a woman or fellow looking to rise in the administrative bureaucracy, their unfailing politeness and tact could be wearing given they only appeared with bad news. In my worn out and sodden state I was not inclined to be charitable, and so my flatly barked 'what' probably scared the poor youth out of a week or two of grown.

"Councilor Perlavas would beg the privilege of an immediate audience with your excellency in the command tent, Hegemon."

I waved a hand, more tiredly than I had intended.

"I shall call upon him presently. You may tell him so."

It was perhaps a sign of my advancing age that the beardless man, perhaps barely older than I looked, outdistanced me swiftly through the mud. It was perhaps also a sign of exactly how much red soil had accumulated on my boots, for I could have sworn they felt heavier with every step, and it would no doubt not be far from the truth to assume such was the case. The sediment of this region of Dacia had an ill reputation, even before the Great Companies had ever campaigned here.

My trek to the white (or nominally white, more of a grey and brown at present) pavilion was swift, despite the weariness in my bones. Central command dictated proximity to any point which might be in need of guidance, and so it was but three minutes or thereabouts from the gate. Pushing back the thick layers of oilcloth, and through the inner tarp where wool kept in the heat, I was glad of the braziers which had been kindled against the oncoming night. Being soaked through and chilled to the bone was a poetic saying, to be sure, but tonight I was not far from the truth behind the saying.

After exchanging some pleasantries and routine reports, the wizened man that was Goodwin Perlavas got down to business.

"A matter of some delicacy for your excellency - in truth perhaps a matter for the Emperor himself, but I thought best to consult with you first."

If I had been less tired that might have provoked an eyebrow of interest mixed with skepticism - Perlavas had a gift for the dramatic - but as it was I merely waited for an explanation. It was forthcoming, though stilted after an awkward pause when I did not respond.

"We have a problem with the eastern refugees. No - " he raised his hand as one of the physicians in our little circle made to speak " - not the plague itself. They're clean, or as clean as we can guess. They wish to swear the Oaths."

For several moments I didn't truly hear what Perlavas was saying. My first reaction was one of annoyance. It was a routine matter, to allow outlander to state their fealty to the Imperium, scarcely a matter for my hearing or, indeed, that of the Councilor. There were no doubt a dozen petty clerks within even the dilapidated Phanaris who could handle such a mundane difficult as desire to be yoked to the cause of mankind. Then the somewhat rusted wheels of my tired mind churned through the implications of that swearing, and I grunted. The Councilor nodded gravely.

"Let me guess. To get their hands on the Blessing."

That was what we called it. A Blessing from our Father, revealed to the good physicians of the Imperium. The commonfolk didn't need to know that it came from Sumeria, any more than they needed to know, for instance, that there were tin-merchants in Armorica who were propped up by Imperial currency to keep the price of the mineral artificially low. The key was, of course, that medical care authorized by the Administratum was delivered preferentially to citizens, then residents, and not at all to visitors; though I had no doubt that such conventions were somewhat hazy in this ramshackle region.

"Indeed. They ask - and representatives from further east have asked on behalf of tribes and kindreds - to take the Oaths. They will sell their allegiance in exchange for their lives, or so they see it. Men of the League, and the Greeks, and the Market."

A complicating factor indeed, made more difficult because the scarce supplies we enjoyed would only go so far, and to add thousands or tens of thousands to those roles would set back immunity efforts significantly. It would be villainous to accept the fealty of men looking to save wives and children, only to be unable to fulfill our end of that fealty through simple logistical impossibility. And yet equally villainous to treat fathers and sons seeking in good faith for lives for their families as outsiders, condemning them to the outer darkness and death for the crime of clinging to the old ways and false promises.

I sighed. My conscience counseled but one action, though my head doubted the wisdom of that course.

"The Imperium was not built to turn away men in need. Not if they swear truly. I will consult with Vladimir when I return to Mara, but until then, I see no recourse but to maintain that which is our standard custom."

There was debate after that, certainly. A discussion which marched about the room for hours about the repercussions of relations with the League, with the Single Market - whether Varna would sign, or even if she could - but eventually I retired when my head began to swim for lack of rest. It was in my Father's hands now, and I did not sleep the sleep of a guilty man.
TG if you have questions about RP. If I don't know the answer, I know someone who does.

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Saxony-Brandenburg
Minister
 
Posts: 2203
Founded: Mar 07, 2016
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Saxony-Brandenburg » Tue Apr 06, 2021 5:22 pm

Freedom On The High Seas

Hazi was not the name he was born with. But neither was this the life he was born for. Hazi’s family had been enslaved during the innumerable civil war, his village burned, his city sacked. Yet fate has its fickle way of changing, and the winds of Enlil brought with it his destiny elsewhere. His heart had been brewing for months of anger and fury. Every strike of his hammer he had imagined it in the skull of the man who oversaw him. Every day he eyed the guards and imagined what their brains would look like spewed across the wall. Perhaps his ideation of gratuitous violence was unhealthy - yet what could be expected to come from the likes of a chained dog? Eventually, when the line breaks, he will bite. Thus it was that Enlil delivered him the best of opportunities, chaos. Scouts had reached the mining camp that the enemy would soon be upon them - spreading a panic among their captors. As they tried to move the stone as quick as they could, the damn fools had made a fatal error. They had chosen to guard their precious deliveries far more than the laborers they planned to leave to their fate, and left minimal guards to oversee them. He had made plans just hoping such a day would come! He had become the most famous among his compatriots in bondage, the most respected, the most feared by his enemies. The second mistake they made was to leave him with a hammer and chisel - and just like it cut stone, it would cut with enough brutal force the iron shackle around his ankle. He was every fear the slaver has of servantile insurrection. He proved they were right to fear those they beat fear into. That fateful day his fellow slaves butchered the remaining guards left, and dashed away with their weapons, vowing to be free or die. Sometimes he felt himself a coward, abandoning his old family to whatever bad fate they were given. But there was no possibility that he would ever find them again, a fact which did little upon his guilty conscience. Leading his band of ruffians and thieves just a few days' walk south, he had commandeered a ship, and pressed their captain into service. Rumors had reached as far as Sumer of the port of Yanbu’s reputation for taking in the desperate for years now. Throughout his journey there Hazi had learned to navigate, the captain teaching him the stars and the winds by which to navigate the dark, choppy seas. Eventually, their journey came to an end - just in the nick of time. They had already been three days without food, it seemed as if they were going to eat the captain alive before they landed on the southernmost colony of the bani Yanbu - the merchant community of Mina' al-Bahar. To their great surprise they had been welcomed quickly into the Sumerian community of Yanbu proper - Hazi dedicated his laboursome days to the surf and the waves. That was the story of how he ended up here, and in due time what led up to how he became the captain of The Jinn’s Fury.

The Jinn’s Fury was not a large ship - in fact it wasn’t actually the largest or best quality within the city’s citizen-navy, consisting of a hodgepodge of foreign and local made crafts. Yet the one thing it had above all others, was it was fast. Faster than the Jinn’s strongest whirlwinds, in fact. During his few years in Yanbu, Hazi had become more capable of withholding his desires for violence against those who had wronged him. Though his aggressive behavior had landed him in a few fist-fights, largely he had grown to roll with the punches. Indeed, he learned to use subterfuge rather than sheer force when it came to punishing those who oppressed. There was little damage he, or even he and his crew could do simply boarding and butchering the enemy. Wars were not won that way, every experienced fighter knew that. Wars were long and protracted, and required yourself not to overcommit and take casualties. This line of thinking guided him to use his craft for the most noble of innoble professions - piracy in the name of liberation.

He had left Yanbu’s port over four days ago - sailing along the coast until he had reached the last rock towards the great southern sea, and then cut across it towards the Aksumite coast. He had gone there multiple times while working as a sailor, he knew of the seasonal winds and general lanes ships took to keep away from the rocks, but in clear sight of the land. He could never get too close to port, or surely arouse suspicion from the locals, or even nearby fishermen. No, it was a delicate balance, one which required constant attention, as the waves grew rougher with every bit of security gained with distance.

Hazi waited an entire day, quietly prowling the waters, his light but long craft cutting across the swell, until he spotted his target. Like the lions which stalked the mountainsides of Hejaz, he picked his prey carefully, looking to isolate them before striking. His crew of hardy fishermen and former-slaves of his first voyage were easy to catch up to the craft, raising the sails and casting off weight, cutting off the ship and coming into its path. Hazi had been blessed with good eyes, his sight was not something the days in the quarries took from him. He could easily pick out by the number of bodies aboard the boat - not moving, but sitting still on the deck, that this was a transport craft for Sumerian slaves.

He was a very dark man - although his people were known as ‘the dark heads’, he was more swarthy than the rest of his kind. Combined with two of his arab crew which possessed a lineage from southern Egypt - he knew he could relatively pass for Aksumites, atleast of the fairer variety. They bore little insignia to go off of - but with enough confidence much things were possible.

Hazi stood proud upon the prow of his craft, rocking with the waves as the two ships knocked against eachother. He casually stepped across the deck and onto the other, holding his chest out proud like any man of station would do. “I am a tariff collector of Aksum - we are here to inspect and tax your cargo.” He stated rather plainly, before helping two of his men on board. “Which one of you is the captain?”

A rather short and stocky man stepped forward - he looked to be from Elam by general account, though there was no true way to know. “I am, this is highly irregular. We usually pay our tax at port!”
Hazi shook his head rather mockingly. “No no, you see captain, we have been dealing with a great deal of smuggling from Sumerian crafts recently. A lot of goods have gone through untaxed, and the state cannot afford such a thing to go on. Thus we are apprehending your vessels before they reach port. If all goes well, you should have nothing to worry about…”

As Hazi continued to converse with the captain, two of his men grasped two of the other’s guards, and began to point their knives at the men’s throats. Taking no time to waste, Hazi did likewise, tackling the poor short man and holding a short iron blade against his stomach. “Now that this is taken care of - tell your other guards to stand down - or all three of you are getting it!”

The captain shook with fear - he had not yet been accosted by pirates! Not this close to port, anyway. “Yes! Yes! Do as he says! I’m a merchant, not a soldier! I am not meant to die for my cargo!” As he said this, four men who were slumbering - and awoke to the scene before them - dropped their weapons as a sign of surrender! Hazi moved his head in a sharp jerk, and three more of his men came on board. Taking their victims weapons, they stepped amid the varying wooden bonds which held the Sumerian men together - a number of boards and ropes which bound them hand and foot. Cutting them wasn’t exactly easy - but untying them would take time, and excess time was risk. It took several long minutes to get them moving back to Hazi’s vessel, but by the time this had come Hazi was happy with what had happened.

“Now - I implore you in the name of Utu, the sun. Let me and my men go! We will not speak of this to you again!” Hazi sighed, slightly wishing the man had disobeyed so he could exact some righteous retribution against the coward.

“Back to ship men! Our job here is done…” And with that, he and his crew released their victims, and made quick haste with their newfound guests back the way they came. Hazi couldn’t help but grin at the completion of his first piracy. Sure, it was small - barely a dozen bodies now sat with wide-eyes, their gaunt forms shivering against the cool sea air. But it was something! But what made him even happier - what truly filled him with delight, was that he was not the only new bandit of the sea. Hazi stepped down from the bow and down to the deck where the slaves sat, kneeling down to them with a wide, toothy grin. He slapped his calloused hand down against the wood, and with pure joy exclaimed: “Welcome to the Jinn’s Fury!”
"Shall we only hope for heaven when we're dead?"

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Conwy-Shire
Ambassador
 
Posts: 1492
Founded: Nov 22, 2013
Democratic Socialists

Postby Conwy-Shire » Wed Apr 07, 2021 6:24 am

Andre Mulcahy,
Modern Day Syracuse.


I awoke to the low rumble of the surf, that deep static that accompanied all my fondest childhood memories. It was not, however, a fond feeling shared by my aching body, which stretched facedown on the gravelly-sand shoreline. In fact it was rather odd - given that my last memory had been of pulling over on the Hume Motorway at a rest station - not particularly close to any coastal spots. There was little time to ponder this slight anomaly as a low wave, braver than its siblings, surged around my body and over my head, drawing forth a hacking, spluttering cough from my lungs. Salt and bile; this was definitely the coast. And I was definitely not alone.

The soft crunch of unshod heels on the coarse sand sharpened my focus in an instant, and it took more than a little willpower to suppress an innate flight response. Ever so slightly and slowly, I tilted my head from its position on the ground to appraise the noise to my left. It was a tanned boy, short, slight, and frozen in place just as I was; mouth agape and staring with wide eyes at what appeared to be a naked, bleached and emaciated corpse on the beach. Me. He was dressed in ill-fitting animal skin, and a coarse sling-bag draped over his shoulder like a bandolier to rest under his right arm, swaying with the soft scrape of seashells after his abrupt halt. We locked eyes in that instant. He screamed.

"Wait, I…" I croaked. The words tumbled out half-formed, slippery and guttural - and certainly not English. I spluttered out another quart of bile and salt water, hacking up a concerning array of colours from the depths of my chest onto the shore. I looked up from the ground again to call out for the kid to wait, but only found a swathe of rustling bushes which he had obviously fled through - the boy was quick. He would obviously be running to his parents - that, or whatever Peter Pan Lost Boys cult he might hail from. In either case, I was soon to be outnumbered and overpowered, and folks never took kindly to clothes-less men who accosted young boys in the wilderness. Yes, it was not just my imagination, I was truly naked, and not a scrap of fabric lay about me as I clambered upright to scan the area. The beach extended in both directions, curving away into a headland to my right, while the leftward curved away from me before swooping around in a long bay, separating the glittering blue-green sea with lush overgrown forests further inland. I could only stare, breath taken by the vista, before my eyes alighted on a faraway mountain peak, solitary and capped with snow. I knew in that moment that I was no longer in my motherland - nowhere bar Tasmania had snow this close to the coastline, and the ever-present heat canned that theory immediately.

Another rustle from the nearby brushland confirmed my earlier fears. I steeled myself for the confrontation to come, hands instinctively falling to cover the crotch. Three male figures broke from the forest line, two young boys identical to the one I saw earlier, and an obvious parent. Drat. The man even carried a spear lazily over his shoulder, no doubt ready to skewer the strange interloper. Instead, he chuckled, shook his head and cuffed the young boy to his right, muttering about living corpses and violent ghosts.

"Apologies, my boy back there has been listening to the Elders' stories a little too intently. Mistook you for a disturbed ghost." He chuckled again, then turned serious. "You look like you have found ill-fortune, gift of the sea, were you with the Nestosi ships? It's been too long since we last hosted such folk."

"I…" I stammered, forming comprehensible yet alien syllables. "I am from Australia, not… Nestosi? I'm very confused sorry." The shivers began to take hold, caked as I was in sea salt and sand.

The man, far more observant than I, motioned towards the tree-line. "Come, come. I would not have you shake to death before I learn your story. I should have a tunic at home that could wrap around you twice-over. But for now…" He slipped off a fur overlayer from his broad frame, exposing thick muscles that peaked out from underneath his rough-sewn tunic. "…Take this. You can stay with us until your people come back to find you, whoever they are." He paused again as I shakily accepted the garment and swung it around my lower torso, strategically low enough to cover the groin. "Perhaps we'll take you to see the Elders tomorrow, but today you can help us, the land always needs cultivation. Yes, we need extra hands; it's a good thing he brought you to us - the sea is always generous." The last bit came out more as an aside, and the man reverently signed to the tides behind me, before smiling and hiking off into the woodland.

I was left to follow, my mind racing at a million kilometres per hour, yet not forming a single comprehensible thought. Today I would go with the flow, humour these strangers; tomorrow I would enquire.

Where am I?
Aurelian Stoicist
Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.

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UniversalCommons
Senator
 
Posts: 4578
Founded: Jan 24, 2016
Left-Leaning College State

Postby UniversalCommons » Thu Apr 08, 2021 12:12 pm

Cainesland wrote:
Unfortunately, Victor Spear is currently traveling. We can provide a few things for you, some masks to put on sick people and healthy people. Also gloves. We have included several chests of soap which is vegetable based. The formula is written down for soap. We have also included a few herbal formulas for some of the symptoms including the liver. We have created a basic herbal plan for patients based on what we give to an adult. This is a new protocol. It won't work for many people. It comes from our doctors notes over time.

The best thing to do is clean an empty space thoroughly with soap and vinegar based cleaners before you move a sick person into the space. A basic write up on how to clean a space is included. Cleaning must be very thorough and constant. People need to be isolated and travel needs to be stopped. People must be very careful when they clean a person.

It is critical to watch people for symptoms of the plague, red marks, diarrhea, and other obvious symptoms. We have included lists and pictures of obvious symptoms. This will insure you can identify different people with the plague. Identifying and separating people is critical. If you can, keep people separated.

Careful attention should be focused on diet as well. We have included several recipes for vegetable juices, broths, soups, and a special mix for hydration of honey, salt, and hot water. It is important to keep people hydrated and rested.

There is no cure. We can treat some symptoms. We have been getting better at it over time. We will keep you updated. As a sign of respect, we are sending a pair of Daughters of Penelope and a pair of health attendants with the supplies to help at Mountain Cove. They will hopefully begin to help you set up ways to stem the plague. Unfortunately, we cannot spare many people right now.

Best Regards,

Scholar Penelope, Speaker for the House of Wisdom


Mountains Cove
Emergency session on medicine

Bostwick turned to his Co-Aedile. “So we want to ask about quarantining, and setting up test groups?” His voice-Aedile nodded. “Yes. Supplies are limited so finding out what works is a good idea”. The two nodded at each other. They then stood up and made their way towards the council building. Together they represented the municipalities executive branch. There were two chairs prepared for the two of them. Looking forward there were five chairs for the council of Ephors.

It was not long before the five Ephors, representing the legislative branch, filed into the room. Opening procedures commenced before Bostwick was called to present.

“Good afternoon honourable Ephors. A plague is ravaging the single market. Our friends in the Nestos League have provided supplies and advisors to help. They have recommended keeping an eye on symptoms including red marks and diarrhea. A further list and diagrams of symptoms will be provided during your deliberation. We Aediles think it would be pertinent to try these methods in Mountains Cove. We should quarantine the sick in their homes, and provide them with living supplies during their quarantine. We should spread word of what we are doing to the rest of the single market. If others want to follow this could be a wonderful opportunity to test these methods and show the people we are trying. I hope you agree with us and choose to accept this proposal.”

Bostwick and his partner answered questions relating to the plague, how it spread, and how they came to their conclusion. Bostwick tried to answer to the best of his ability, but it got difficult with little knowledge available. Most of it was guess work, based on observation, and information from another time and place. It seemed to get the point across.

The two left the room to allow for deliberation. About an hour later they were brought back in. The Ephor in the middle stood up. “Hearing your points we agree on what must be done. You are given authority to use resources towards fighting this crises within the community. However, with little knowledge around how this spreads we do not feel it appropriate to house the sick in their homes. As was stated, illnesses may spread by air, touch, or ingestion. To that regard we feel it appropriate to repurpose the diplomatic hall as a quarantine centre. The sick must stay there until there signs of the plague dissipate. Thank you for bringing this solution towards our attention.

Being given a sign FTP respond before the conclusion of the meeting Bostwick stood. “Thank you, Ephors. We will begin counter measures shortly”.

With the close of the meeting Bostwick and his partner retrieved the diagrams and list from the council and went to meet with the Nestos Medical advisers.


The three women in their robes spent some time going over the procedures. They described how people must wear robes, masks, and gloves and boots at all times to protect them from the sickness. They also must keep cleanliness in the areas of the patients. Any fluids from the patients bodies had to be cleaned while in protective gear. The fluids and other bodily materials needed to be incinerated. Every so often the clothes and other materials from the patients had to be replaced and destroyed completely.

None of the fluids from the patients should be dumped in water supplies or rivers and they should have a separate water supply for those who were sick.

When they were done with the patients, the protective equipment needed to be cleaned before it was removed to make sure none of the germ devils and virus demons got into them. Cleanliness had to be near perfect.

Each patient should be separated by at least ten feet and they should not touch each other. Only people in protective clothing should approach the patients.

As the patients became sicker, they needed to be put on a special diet, with a mix of honey, salt, and water to keep them hydrated. Also some people would need to have their food blended or finely chopped because they would not be able to hold down what they were eating. There would be no sharing food with the patients. Many of the recipes were for soups or broths with dietary herbs in them to break up the phlegm in lungs. There was an odd looking bicycle for blending food, large copper pots, ladles and bowls. Copper was thought to be the protector of life and easier to clean. Some of the copper pots had ankhs on them.

The patients to be given the herbal concoction twice daily, once in the morning, and once in the evening.

People who started to get better needed to be moved so they would not be reinfected. It had been found that some people became infected again.

There was no complete cure. Bodies had to be covered when they died with waterproof cloth and wrapped to prevent infection by the dead. The dead could not be touched by the living.

The best action was careful prevention and watching travelers for signs of the illness. The lens would reveal early signs of the infection around the eyes, the crotch and the armpits. It would be necessary to restrict travel so the virus did not spread.

In addition to the medicine, people who wore the protective clothing were given an herbal wash which they would rinse their mouths with and splash on their hands. A kind of liniment mixed with sour herbs.

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Saxony-Brandenburg
Minister
 
Posts: 2203
Founded: Mar 07, 2016
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Saxony-Brandenburg » Thu Apr 08, 2021 11:20 pm

A nomad

Imran was no special man. In fact, he had cursed himself a hundred times for bringing attention to himself the previous year. He lived in the mountains and throughout the sandy dunes beyond them. He had treated his family and clan well and with respect. All his daughters were given to friendly men with many goats, and he knew they wouldn’t know hunger. Yet of all peoples - he should be suspected of stealing livestock from a neighbor’s clan? The offence was unfounded, but that did not mean they did not come for him. He tugged his wispy gray beard every moment he remembered, and beat his hollow chest with wrinkled hands to punish himself for his foolishness, his quickness to draw the knife. When the accusers came to his camp, he demanded they leave, so offensive was their insult. When they didn’t - he let words spill into punches - and before long three men lay dead on the sand. Two of those men… were his handsomely two sons. But little could be done now, three moons after such an event. All he could do was continue to struggle to survive, and perhaps to beg the gods of this harsh land.

He had gone to the annual festivals and festivities in Yanbu which surround a great market, where the disparate towns and nomadic clans meet together to trade vast quantities of goods and livestock. Of course, a very many number of the days were devoted to less mercantile matters. Dances, sport , and religious sacrifices dotted the time - but he was too tired to be concerned with them. When he crossed the final hillside and could see down into the green-brown coastal plain, all he could think about was pitching tents and keeping watch of his property. It wasn’t that he was a curmudgeon - indeed, he did not shirk happiness even in the darkest of situations. He was simply too tired, and too focused, to pay fanciful events much attention. He bid his nieces and nephews to gather firewood, and begged his two wives to start cooking bread as soon as they could. While his old bones ached from the long and arduous walk, he pushed himself to take the wooden poles off the camel, tie the heavy woolen cloth down, and raise the tent before it grew too dark.

Imran rose early the next day, his night had been entirely restless. A series of shorts walks and even shorter glimpses with sleep had left him anxious to go into the city. He whispered to his wife Layal that he would be back before the sun had risen fully, and readied himself as best he could. He donned his best shawl, put on his least-worn sandals, and put on the few, thin copper rings and bracelets he owned. He had heard of a very young wisewoman whose charms were particularly potent who lived in a humble house along the southern wall. While he had no idea where infact she was, he had enough faith in his social ability to sus out her general location. With a few questions along the way, he made his way through the busy dusty streets, until he found it. He knew it was the proper place because a short line stood outside what appeared to be a normal home - except for the large numbers of cracked, dusty pots and plants he could see on the flat roof above.

Of course, he would have to wait. One young man in front of him gave a friendly greeting, but Imran could only give a low grunt in response. It wasn’t that he was necessarily grouchy or curmudgeon - but he didn’t feel like talking. Breath could be wasted on better things than small talk. Eventually, however, the young man came and went - and it was finally his time to push through the heavy curtained doorway.

Inside the house was an equally cramped and eclectic collection of rugs, candles, herbs, and carvings which littered the walls and shelves all over. The young woman sat on a woven reed mat on the floor, her long dark robes and headscarf adding mystery to the whole affair. He took off his rings and bracelets, and held them out as an offering. She swiped them up quickly, placing them on her own fingers and wrist and nodded, pleased. A surprisingly young voice spoke up from beneath the cloth, raising her head so Imran could finally see who this wisewoman truly was. “Welcome, dear friend. For what purpose do you seek my knowledge?”

Imran sat awkwardly across from her, scratching his neck and sitting stiff. Was it normal for a man as old as he to consult such a young girl? He supposed her merit preceded her age, and let out a sigh, trying to guess where to start. “I have been grieved with the worst thing a father my age should go through. I have married my sons to healthy women, and my daughters to good men - and done everything in my power to shelter them through childhood. And despite all my best efforts, fate has taken my flesh and blood from me! The men to burn my corpse when I am no more, the men to carry my staff and live in my tent when I no longer need them! Oh, I did not…” He couldn’t help but choke out a sob and a wail, before trying to collect himself. “I know I am close to the end of my virility. It is a blessing I have lived as long as I have - far more than most. But Is there any way I may have a new son with my new wife? She is only nineteen, an orphan of my cousin whose parents were lost in the great dunes to the east…”

“Ah! You ask for many things, though you don’t know it!” The wisewoman stood up, and walked over to a shelf on the left side of the room. “Now tell me, what is your name?”

“Imran, son of Abbas.”

“And tell me, Imran, if you can: what force cut short the lives of your sons?”

“They were murdered by false accusers, jealous of my wealth!”

“Jealous of your wealth… I understand now.” The woman returned to Imran with a stone pendant on a thick leather string. She placed it down between them, and gestured to its strange and foreign pictogram upon it. “This is a talisman against the evil eye. If it is jealous men who took your sons, then they have doubtless cursed you and your family with bad luck and spirits of jealousy. Look here - at the top is the Khamsah, the five fingers of the hand of the Goddess Innana. Know that when you place it on your, let us hope, future son - that he will survive throughout childhood and into adulthood with this good fortune.” She stood back up, leaving Imran to pick up the pendant and turn it between his hands. She walked up to where a series of herbs hung in bundles from the ceiling. Looking between the dried leaves, she plucked out several, and turned to the business of mashing them into a fine yellow paste by mortar and pestle. When she returned, the very thick amount was bundled in fine cloth, and tied with a string. “Now this should help. Once you have… done the deed with your wife, have her rub this on her lower stomach. It should draw the blood to her womb, and help bear the child you seek. As for if it is a boy or girl - I would encourage you to pray to Allat. Give her a black ram, meat, fat, bones and all. Burn it all and bury what remains under your campsite. Have your wife drink lots of hot liquids in the months after. Soups, teas, coffee, and other hot foods should increase the likelihood of a son. Other than those things - it is in the hands of the gods to see your next child’s sex.”

Imran nodded, clinging to every word she said. He would do anything to make his family whole again - he wanted so bad to have a son. Though she was probably half his age - he couldn’t help but treat her authority with some reverence. To him, and much of his hillfolk - wise women were just as connected to the divine as any priest of the Sumerian’s gods. Their connection to the divine wasn’t found in the great ziggurats of legend, reaching high into the sky between the two rivers - but instead in their study and wisdom of generations. He took both the pendant and the packet - and stood to leave. He bowed to the woman, and was about to leave before he turned back and asked: “Who should I give my thanks to tonight, and for many happy years to come?”

“Give thanks for Bushra, a servant of the gods.”

“Hm. A fitting name.” He replied, bowing once more and departing.
Last edited by Saxony-Brandenburg on Mon Apr 12, 2021 2:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Shall we only hope for heaven when we're dead?"

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Joohan
Negotiator
 
Posts: 5463
Founded: Jan 11, 2018
Authoritarian Democracy

Postby Joohan » Sun Apr 11, 2021 9:21 pm

WHAT THE HELL IS A LEOPARD CLAW?


I could barely contain my utter and complete disappointment, literal weeks of buildup, a trek across the known world, I saw trees for the first time in months ( and nearly cried ), and this tent city was all that build up had turned out to be. I bit my bottom lip, and placed my hands on my hips, scanning the wares of various vendors as I walked slowly through the endless crowds of people. Out on their rugs were proudly displayed tools of stone and bone, wood and bamboo cages containing all kind of game and foul, brown and black skinned men ( though apparently they're actually red, as i've been told by my fellow tribesmen ) breathlessly trying to barter their cotton garments, old men trying to sell their daughter's virginities, shamans preforming street miracles, all sorts of primitive non-sense i'd expect to read about in a Conan the barbarian story, but nothing - absolutely nothing - about where the hell I was!

I folded my arms over my chest, as I stopped in front of one particular vendor who'd managed to draw a crowd in front of him. A golden skinned man, wrapped up in yak furs and leopard hides, was shouting emphatically in his broken understanding of our language, about the mystique and spiritual prowess of the blade he raised up reverently in both hands. Though there were some dozen people in front of me, I was a full foot and a half taller than everyone in sight, so over all the nappy fur hats and tangled heads of hair I saw the rough looking dagger he was holding, the metal the color of graphite, and the hilt bound up in leather strips. This glorified prison shank, which elicited the utter fascination of everyone who seemed to pass it, was the most advanced piece of technology i'd seen all day! Better yet, as that seemed to be first metal anything i'd seen in months, it was the most advanced thing i'd seen period, since waking up in that ditch nearly a year ago.

When we'd climbed out of the Ausong valley a few days ago, we suddenly moved from lunar landscape to the lush green conifer covered hills of the Sangda. My heart jumped up into my throat the moment I saw all that green laid out in front of me. I'd gotten so used to the harsh life of a plains nomad, living every second of my day in dirt and sharp dry grass, that i'd forgotten how beautiful trees and forests were. Flowers, birds singing, grass that didn't want to murder your feet - except for the hills, the place reminded me of home. The hundreds of hobos and tent cities which we passed were a bit off putting as well though; as we trudged in through the woodline ( fun fact, camels can and will eat pine needles straight off the branch ) we happened across a couple of the camps set up by the other tribes having also come to participate at Phobalhan. We'd start crossing over a hill when suddenly you'd see dozens of little heads peaking from behind tree trunks, watching us as we got closer and closer, till you'd see a swarm of kids dressed up in furs just like the Kester-Ana go running off laughing in the opposite direction. We'd move up a little further and find a camp site that looked just like one of ours set up among the trees: yurts, yaks, camels, and gold skinned faces - the whole shabang. These were the cousins, the other descendants of Kester.

" A family reunion then? That is what Phobalhan is? " I said, starring over at Dote, who was reclined on the hill slope with his hands behind his head and eyes closed. He shook his head slightly and without opening his eyes he raised up his brows,

" I am not sure what a family reunion is. That specific ordering of words I suppose is correct - but i've no context for its meaning. Phobalhan is a sit down, followed by a celebration and bartering, simple. " Nearly a year of speaking the language and I was still stringing together all of it's intricacies. I still had no idea how i'd miraculously became bilingual, but I was starting to realize some interesting things about my supposed superpower. For one, being able to speak and understand a language, doesn't actually mean you're fluent. Case in point, I'd strung together the words for, Family, and, Reunion, to create a literal word which had no context in my tribe's culture. You lived with your family your entire life, thus having no need or concept of a family reunion. Though I knew every word in their language, that wasn't to say I fully understood their proper context. Another point, i'd thought that Phobalhan was the name of an actual place - Balhan, meaning meeting, and Pho being a name, it sounded like the Meeting of Pho; but meeting, in this instance, took on it's other connotation here, and instead made Phobalhan sound more like Pho's Meeting. After Dorjee and Amalaa had set us down for camp after a while of traveling through the hills, me and Dote were sent off to do our usual duties - making sure nothing killed the camels, and that the camels didn't kill anyone. We and a couple of other guys set up our yurts on the top of a hill with a stretch of treeless grass running down it's northern side. Perfect grazing for the goats, and from this high up we could keep an eye on the camels as they munched their way through the pine trees around the field.

As Dote described it, Phobalhan was one half cutthroat business negotiation, followed by nomad Sturges. " Long ago, after Kester had turned old with age and could no longer control his sons, his children began fighting one another for land to graze their herds on, for wives, and for possessions. Their brotherly words turned to cries of rage and war. Anguished over his sons fighting, Kester went to Pho, the children's mother and the wind maker. She told him to call all of their sons together for a feast, and once they'd all came, trap them, force them to settle their differences and not let them leave until it was done. And so that's what he did, and whenever one of the sons tried to leave the yurt, Pho would send a gust of wind so strong it pushed him back inside. The sons sat there for three days and night, at first merely arguing, but then, forced by the desperate pleas of their father into negotiating. Finally, and only after all their gripes had been settled did their mother let them leave the Yurt, back to their families. "

Dote rocked his back up off the ground and hopped up onto both his feet, before suddenly taking off down the hill, his robe flapping in the wind behind him. He didn't say a word, just jumped up and started running. I turned to look over to where he was running, when I caught sight of one of our camels craning it's head down with it's mouth wrapped around one of the goat's neck. With a start, I started sprinting over as well, nearly tripping over myself as I did, and yelling out" Damnit Wesley! "

...

" He is fine, only just a bite - stop your whining! " Using his robe Dote wiped away the stray bits of blood that still clung round the spot where Wesley had latched onto. The goat was fine, just startled at having been chomped on by a monster. I'd calmed Wesley down before sending him off back into the woods with the rest of the herd - the goat, apparently had been ramming into Wesley's feet over and over again over some dispute, and Wesley, in a fit of rage, tried to break the poor buggers neck.

Dote's head shifted from left to right, surveying the area around us, making sure that none of the shepherds were around. " Alright, no one saw anything, I think we're good. No need to bring this up to anyone. "

I nodded in agreement, looking around likewise. " Yeah, no, absolutely... where are the other guys anyway? "

With a slap to the animals backside, Dote sent the goat scampering frightully back up the hill, to rejoin his kin in munching down their parcel of grass, before standing up and trying to dust off the speckles of blood on his robe. " Laying about no doubt - probably expecting grandfather and grandmother back any time so they can go out and barter. Vultures the lot of them, waiting on the labors of others! "

" Yeah, I still don't understand where the whole, trade and bartering, part has to do with Phobalhan - at least in terms of us. Isn't this all about the clan heads trading between each other? "

" Well that is... " He turned toward me, and looking me up and down, a tired and disappointed look crossed his face, that was immediately distressing to me, " How old are you? Have you ever raised kids? "

He didn't let me respond before continuing, " Because honestly, talking to you is like talking to a four year old: never ending questions. "

" Just answer me, fool. " I'd wanted to say, dumbass, but it appeared that they didn't have a word for that particular epithet.

" Some, mostly red skins from the south, found opportunity in the clans meeting. They would come bringing their things, all the spoils of their homes and labor, and seek to trade them with us. After the elders had met and celebrations began, they would hound any who would listen, and seek to deal for what they had. "

...

" Plucked from the womb of the Varuna's brides, they are the unborn children of his essence. Ingest it, and you'll be blessed with their virility and fecundity! " The wild eyed merchant shouted out to the crowd, while waving a cloth of what I assumed to be salt and possibly ground oyster in their faces. I watched with the same fascination you might when inspecting road kill as you drove past on the highway. That sort of craziness seemed to be par the core so far, that and all the top of the line stone age hard ware that was being put out. Still though, more than a few men and women were clamoring round him to trade for this miracle ointment. I don't think I need to mention this, but these people all appeared to be pretty ignorant about anything that wasn't related to survival. I remember getting roasting by some of my captors when I told them that the moon was closer to the earth than the sun.

When I felt a warm body crashing against my side I jumped back, startled; everyone here had been doing their best to avoid getting near the white giant so far. I turned to see a red skinned man, dressed in candy cane stripped robes collapsing against me in a heap. I dropped to my knee to catch him, and as I looked into his face, I saw his eyes rolling into the back of his head, breathless! He feinted, I knew the symptoms well enough, as i'd been prone to such spells myself months ago, while I was still getting used to the thin air of my new home. I looked around me, seeing if anyone was coming to aid us - but aside from a few worried looks and nervous nods, the crowds kept passing us by. Not even the supposed shamanic healers could be bothered to pry themselves from their sales. Vultures, the lot of them! Picking the man up from off the ground and throwing him over my shoulder ( much like how I would a young child ) I started searching the stalls and crowds looking for any red skins wearing similar candy cane stripped cloths. It was a long shot sure, but I very well couldn't just leave him passed out in the middle of the street there, to be robbed and trampled upon by the apathetic crowds. The image of an ogre carrying off it's pray did cross my mind as I went about my search, and now the crowds didn't even bother pretending not to stare at me.

Eventually, over the din and humdrum of the crowd, I heard a call come from one of the foreign looking tents, " You there, you, giant! " I turned to see a red skinned man, wearing the same pattern of candy cane robes as the one draped over my shoulder, waving me over to his tent. Unlike the practical hide yurts of the Kester and other gold skins, this man's tent appeared to be fabulously decorated in cotton fabrics of green, blue, red, and yellow, with the outside cover deeply sewn and embroidered with pictographs and symbols of unknown meaning. The man likewise appeared to be dressed as flamboyantly as his shelter, with ivory rings adorning every one of his fingers, and with black mascara deeply coated round his eyes.

" He is one of my kinsmen giant! Tell me, what happened to him? " As I laid him down at the man's feet, I explained how he'd fainted and fallen upon me where I then carried him off in search of his people. Another answer to a question I hadn't asked - I wasn't merely bilingual, rather, my ears had heard words from dozens of languages and dialects spoken there that day, and I'd more or less understood them all! The shock of impossibility had been long lost on me however, and for the moment at least, i'd come to accept it.

" Feinted you say? Oh, if that is all then praise be to Uma. We are from the lowlands, south the land of snow, and this fierce air is unkind to us. Kaapo has never travelled this far north before. Thank you giant. "

As he looked up toward me, his mascaraed eyes full of genuine gratitude and relief, an idea crossed my mind, and so I smiled back, " You are welcome friend, and my name is- "

" Itzhag! " I turned to see Dote pushing his way through the crowd toward me, his round face a look of concern as he looked down toward the two candy stripped men at my feet.

" What is this I hear of you carrying a man with you about the camp? Are yaks no longer enough to satiate your desires? " My shoulders grew tense upon seeing him walk over. Damn, this might make things harder. The red skin looked between Dote and me before asking,

" A friend I assume? " We were still speaking in his native language, whatever it was, and so I realized that he probably didn't translate Dote's jab at me.

" Ah... yes, a friend. "

" Well now, out with it! What happened with him? " Dote, in our tribe's tongue, gestured down toward the man i'd been carrying, who now seemed to be just waking up from his spell.

" He feinted, like how I used to. I carried him off to find his kin, that is all. " Dote folded his arms over his scrawny chest and raised up his chin as he looked between the three of us, seeming to take in the whole scene.

" Ah, I see... and, now you're going to work this fool over for his goods yes? " A bolt of fear suddenly shot through my heart as I looked down at the man and his kin, slowly raising him up off the ground and back onto his feet. Dote you dumb bastard, how fluent are these guys in our language?

" Just - just give me a minute will you? " Transitioning back into the language of the redskins, I looked down with concern towards the man.

" Is there any other way I can help you two - please, I feel obligated at this point. " The mascaraed man smiled, showing teeth stained red by some indeterminable substance,

" No no, he will be fine once he's had a cup of tea. You've done more than what I would have expected of any... uh... " He looked between I and Dote, and spotting Dote's scarred hands his brow's furrowed in confusion.

" You're a leopard claw? " A what? I didn't understand what that was supposed to mean, or why he'd said it so ominously, though looking over towards Dote I got no answer about what he could have meant.

" Ah- we are Ana, descended from Kester. Or, he is at least, I was brought in to the tribe as a... " don't say hostage, don't say hostage, " friend... but if it's not too much trouble there is something I would ask of you. "

The mascaraed man seemed to genuinely perk up at the mention of helping me, tapping his kinsmen on the side as he stumbled his way back into their fabulously adorned tent. " Of course, how might I repay your favor? "

" As you say that you are from the lowlands, south the land of snow, I was curious if whether or not you happen to posses a... " And as the word began to form in my mouth I knew that yes, indeed, such a thing must exist to these men, as they had a word for it!

" A bow? "
Last edited by Joohan on Sun Apr 11, 2021 10:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
If you need a witness look to yourself

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism!


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Joohan
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Authoritarian Democracy

Postby Joohan » Tue Apr 13, 2021 4:58 pm

Imperium


He fought to keep his eyes open, even as the blood from his forehead wound continued pool around them. With either of his hands bound behind his back and wrapped round the pole, he was helpless to wipe away the puss and blood that was trickling out from the many cuts all across his body. It also meant that he was helpless to block the hits and kicks which the brigands rained upon him. They stopped for a time though, the fur covered fiends, only as their leader bade them to. They grinned down at him, their smiles malicious and cruel, proudly inspecting the cool steel swords which they'd plucked from the town's armory - or worse, from off his comrades corpses.

Down the street, peering past the smoke and flames which had begun taking to the various buildings which circled round the town square, he could make out the vague image of movement, men shoving women, and whooping with cruel delight as they gave up screams of anguish. The men, save for himself, had been butchered wholesale - these demons having no need for them, only for their women. They'd come early in the morning, before the sunrise, out from the forests and quietly slaughtering the farmers in their fields, before reaching the town proper and unleashing havoc! There were dozens of them, from all directions, they were overwhelmed! For weeks, the town had been plagued by the red death, with every family laying at least two members to rest. The savages had no qualms about cutting down the sick and weary who stood in their way, and even less for carrying off their riches and women.

He had failed his mission, in defending his home, failed as a soldier of the Imperium, and as a son of his tribe. He hopped for death as pittance for his shame, but the bastards would not even grant him that! The devil who led these demons starred down at him with a look of amused superiority, his great hairy arms folded across his chest, upon which was worn a stolen cuirass. At his side stood a boy, to young to even have hair on his face, and whose stare was far more dispassionate, who translated the words of his leader.

" Red Death potion, here, yes? "

His common was shaky, and half incomprehensible, but that was how most the multitudes of the Imperium understood it, and so the soldier understood the boy's meaning well enough.

" No... not here. To the north and west, beyond the iron gates, guarded by an army - thousands strong! " He filled his words with as much spite as his weakened body could muster. If it was the cure for the red death that these brigands had hopped to obtain from this attack, then he would let them know that their act was in vain - even if it were to be his final deed.

The youth relayed his defiant message back to the leader, whose face quickly turned from that of superiority to utter frustration, throwing his hands up and growling, before stomping away in the direction he'd came, disappearing behind the thick black smoke that now seemed to completely blur the street ahead of him. The soldier smiled, just a little, for even as the fiends knelt down and pressed their stolen weapons to his neck, he knew that these bastards would never get their hands on what it was they were after.
If you need a witness look to yourself

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism!


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Saxony-Brandenburg
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Saxony-Brandenburg » Thu Apr 15, 2021 1:26 am

Carry on when day breaks
Olivia Ingels


There’s only so much wailing and crying and mourning you can do before you become sick of it. Sick, not out of resentment for the dead, but resentment for yourself. There’s only so much hair you can pull out, so many self-inflicted bruises upon your breast, before self-flagellation becomes detestable. It straddles a fine line between intense respect for the dead, and an endeavor which borders on self-indulgent. As if anything will get better from letting loss ruin yourself. What's the worst part of a loved one’s death? Is it the empty bed, the empty chairs which you never want to see another touch again? Which makes you cringe any time another defiles it with their presence? Is it the fact that you will no longer make any new memories with them? No, it is my firm belief that the worst part of confronting death, is you must realize that any endeavor you’ll ever face won’t be forever. The thin veil of eternity which we lower into our minds, to allow us to live without constant confrontation of death, is lifted. You would do anything to yank and pull it back down. But soon enough the ennui of boredom takes hold of any mourner, and you crave to be done with this sadness, and learn to live once again.

I was forty years old. Could I believe it? Certainly not. I had lived twice as long in this life as I had in my former life. I certainly could not call those first eighteen years of life ‘living’ anyway. Sixteen years of being a boy, expected to be a man. Two years of friendliness, of misery, of anger and rejection from my mother. One year of joy and true freedom on my own. So many experiences which I can still vividly recall into mind. And yet - I could not recognize myself beyond the mere image, had I the ability to go back. That poor girl, though we were identical in height and youth, had her hair grow long and her tight curls stretched. Her skin was far, far darker - burned by the sun for thousands of hours. I was like leather, strung out and left to shrivel and darken in the wind and sun. The soles of my feet had surely hardened into bone - and though I had tried to wreck and starve myself, I still bore the muscles of a life on foot. When I look in the mirror - my eyes seem sunken-in and dark, I look like a young woman with wrinkles, was that possible? I certainly had stressed and feared enough to justify them. My cheeks seemed similarly less round, far more bony and pointed than before. And yet throughout it all - the same nose, the same eyes, the same gaze looked back at me as it was twenty-one years prior. The image screamed of a thousand experiences, a thousand people met, and a thousand more worries. Yet it also held a kinder message, one which made me smile for the first time in too long.

“Despite it all, it’s still you.”

So, what do you do when the crying makes you sick? You stand up, and you do something with yourself.

“I want to live, I want to feel.” I thought to myself. Like the buzzing of a pestering fly it kept returning, over and over again, slapping itself haphazardly against my mind again. “I want to live, I want to feel.” I finally whispered to myself, rousing myself from the dusty floor inwhich I sat. I had found myself sleeping on the hard reed mat of my center room, yet I could hardly notice the pain which softly radiated from my lower back. Much like this brief moment of inspiration, it too would pass. Yet that didn’t matter - any feeling passes, that is a fact of life. What matters is what it engenders after it, what the emotion’s offspring matures and grows into. Yes! That is what it means to live! To live is to feel, and to not let the far-too-often numbing of time and misery soften any piece of that feeling. This fancy for life will pass very soon - yet to not feel it to its fullest would be an affront to the world itself!

I sprinted now, knocking over the near-empty pitcher of wine over the blank pages of uninspired musings the previous night. Like a ghost given body once more, I felt desire pushed into a manic state! Barely with my sandals upon me, hair covering my face, and my unlaundered and stained robe close to slipping off me - I sprinted out the door. The thin wood slapped against the plastered mud brick of the outside wall - a small cloud of brown and white erupted from the dent - I barely saw it, yet I Felt it. Several heads turned and gasps heard, yet I paid it no mind. It would distract me from this momentary high, one which needed more and more heat to keep its boil from dying. I scrambled down the road, pushing past robed and disrobed figures alike - all living their lives as if they had been. “I want to live, I want to feel!” I kept chanting, over and over to myself. I did this over and over - until I came to the neighborhood well - wherein I scrambled to pull a bucket of muddy-brown water. With perhaps dozens onlooking - I happily threw the whole thing upon my face - laughing like a madwoman as it soaked my thin woolen garments, suffocating my skin with the newfound weight.

I wouldn’t mind it, but habit forced my hand to part the long black hairs from my face, and to wipe the gritty drops which clung to the tip of my nose and lips. I trotted back to my home, where the guard - I seemingly now realized was a young, handsome man - stood there awestruck. I breathed deeply, not having exerted myself in such a sudden way without warning in a very long time. “Quick! Before this moment dies!” I exclaimed, throwing back open the door and speaking half-inside. “There is much that must be done! Bring me Sadia, and Layla! And bring me Sayyid al-Barakat, the old ox still owes me! And my late wife’s two comrades, Houssein and Yousif, they must be milling around the wrestling pitch at this hour! And be quick! Send another remember of the guard if you must! Tell them to meet me in the garden beside the Kabbah! Oh Al-Uzza herself has never known this passion within me!”

The garden had grown quite weeded and disorderly from neglect. A few months with only passive maintenance can overgrow once tasteful flower beds into a violent mass of leaves and petals - desperately reaching over each other in screaming search of the sun. Yet even if it was a little dusty - the matts at little well-worn and the stones a little cracked - the pavilion still was a comfortable place to meet. Of course, as soon as I had arrived things had turned into an equally lively, if a little panicked, affair. Some teachers and their students were using the inside of the Kabbah as a space for instruction of all sorts of matters, of music and rhetoric and poetry. As soon as I arrived however, many threw aside what they were doing to see the old dead woman rise from her grave. “Coffee, clay parchment, and ink - whichever of you has brought some, hm? Don’t look at me like that - I was hungry on my way here.” I took a bite off the stick of roasted lard held in hand. “Bring it all outside to the garden - I don’t care who does it.” I stated before stepping back there. There was really little rush, everyone I requested surely wouldn’t come soon enough to warrant such a demand. Yet all the voices in my head compelled me to take on this endeavor. There was so much to write! There was so much to plan! So much to do!

Four days later


The crowd was exceptionally large upon the steps of the house of law. A large mass of flesh and dirt and swear crowded between tall steele of laws proclaimed by their own authority. The various patches of shade from neighboring buildings and their awning provided little respite from the heat which carried unusually late in the day. It was so hot inf act, that I elected not to wear my traditional dress and opt for an old outfit I didn’t wear much anymore. A simple shawl which covered my breasts and shoulders, and a colorful light skirt which came down below my knees. The day was oppressive enough to demand I finally show my legs and stomach to the sun for the first time in years. Loud clamoring of the town was heard, children screaming, merchants making last-minute deals while their friends and neighbors were around. I sat beneath the building’s portico before at last the crowd seemed to be at its fullest, and with the loud clanging of a leather drum the noises began to die enough for my voice to resonate throughout the square. I stood up, and carried with me the urn, for which I held aloft into the air. Curious faces turned up to look at it, their lips silent but for their breath.

“These are the ashes of Alya bint Jabari. The noblest of warriors who threw herself headlong into the fight against that father of lies, that wolf among men. Do you know why I have brought this to you? Why have I taken the love of my life out from beneath the Kabbah’s holy shroud, out from among her place with gods and goddesses to bring out to you? Why do I disturb her ashes and sleep with the light of day? Because I have spat upon her death. Because we have spat upon her death, and the death of every man upon the plains of Al-Gahreeb. I have insulted her honor, and her memory, and now have come to pay my restitution.” I placed the pot back down, letting out a tired sigh as the weight of the object hit me.

“Long were the days and nights of wailing and beating the breast for me. I bruised my chest and stained my eyes with the pain. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep. All I did was mourn. But soon enough - I stopped. Not because my mourning ended, but because I could no longer live like that. And so did so many wives and mothers, so many comrades who wished they fell instead of their friends. And what became of it? We mourn, we honor, and yet we still insult! We insult every day we do not know why they die. They did not leave Yanbu to loot and plunder, they did not defend their homes and possessions - they gave their lives in defence of their fellow man - the people of this confederation to whom they had never met! Why? Why would we be so foolish enough to do that? Because they understood something in that moment, which roused them to heights unseen by eagles and jinn alike! They understood that their fellow man’s bondage would be their undoing. That a threat to neighbors and friends was a threat to themselves as well.”

“We have ignored this fact for too long, not only that: but we live and rebuild, while their task remains unfinished! Look around you! How many of you have friends, neighbors, family, yourselves who have fled Sumer for want of freedom, from hatred of slavery? How many of you have been stolen from, and yearned for a sense of retribution and justice? Just as there is restitution for misdeed or lack of character, those that uphold society and law, so must there be restitutions for an affront to mankind! You have heard the rumors, you know of them! The savage butchering of constant war within Sumer! Across the sand and sea can’t you hear it? It’s the callings of thousands of voices for more souls, more carrion for the hungry jinn! And what to the west? You know them! You’ve seen them! The calls for more bodies to sate the appetite of the Aksumite kingdom! More bodies to never see their home again! A kingdom of slavers not by circumstance, but created therein for the machinations of tyrant kings! Just this month, we have seen their gaunt, skeletal bodies come to shore, and feast like starved dogs clinging to life! They affront the very dignity of man with their trade of bodies, trading human lives with the same attitudes as sheep at the market! What will come of this? What do you think!? You think they will not come for you next? That it may be today they get their bodies from Elam or Lagash, but what of tomorrow? Many of you remember, twenty years ago, when the slave-ships prowled our shores, taking our poor children to never return! You think they won’t come back? We have deluded ourselves! Just because the war is out of sight does not mean that Ur-Surtur’s forsaken butcheries are not a thousand times more deadly than any christian warlord could be!”

“I am an older woman, though my face may not reveal it. I am forty years old - much older than most of you, and older than many of you may expect to live! And I am an angry woman, though the coals in my heart may grow cold, they are quick to stoke back to life with passion! Some may say this is a vice, yet I know better. What good in this world would come without passion? The christians have a story of their prophet Isah, that he sat upon a mountain and told his followers ‘love your neighbor as you would yourself.’ The christians are no fools, their intelligence is just as much as yours are. Yet Isah and his followers failed to go far enough. What is love? Love is the strongest of human passions, one wherein we see ourselves into the eyes of the other, and all barriers between them are buried. If you truly love your neighbor, then it is not enough to respect and love him. We do not worship the god of Isah, the christian god is not our own. Al-Uzza, the mightiest one, is the pride of our people. She is no mere war goddess, men do not beat their chest and rattle their spears for the idea of war herself. Nay, they do so because of passion! Passion, the greatest emotion to come of man. The greatest passion of man is his want of life! Why does he want of life? He was born into a body which craves it, all other things may not exist without it. But there are more ways to die than mortal ones. Why does man feel this same fear, this passion for life, from his oppression? This same burning desire is because slavery is the murder of another kind of life, which just as much so burns within us like a roaring flame! The life of the soul, it is smothered under the oppressor’s heel! I tell you now, that the christians were wrong not of principle, but because they lacked the true passion to fulfill their beliefs. Our byword, the true command which should ring upon the lips of every free man and woman should be: Love your neighbor, and fight for his life as if it were your very own!”

I had just noticed the pain my curled lips, my scrunched brow had on my face. My hands were now in fists, and my long nails dug into my palms, ready to injure them before I noticed. I took a moment, closing my eyes and taking a deep breath before continuing.

“There are some among you who have already taken this fact to heart. I hear tale of a captain, a man of the worst bondage from Sumer, who spent his days toiling for the cause of his master. He has taken to the sea, liberating his brothers and sisters and taking with him the spoils of their captors. Some may call this piracy, yet if it is than there is no higher calling than to be a pirate! It is not enough to stand here among you, and tell you these things. It is not enough for my throat to burn, and my blood to boil at these thoughts and demands. It is not enough to tell you these things, because it is not simply for want or desire that these things be done. Freedom, liberation are not idle concepts to be pontificated about in the late hours of the night. We leave those for the scholars of Nestos, wherever their idle chattering takes them. Nay! Freedom is no noun, it is no thing which can be attained! Freedom is a verb! It is an action, a revolt, and an urge within all mankind which demands itself be asserted wherever there is bondage! We revolt against this earth, this desert which we call home. We tell it nay, you shall not break me! Brothers and sisters, there is no higher calling than that will to freedom! There is no greater glory than to live and die a freedom fighter. The man that dies for freedom, for his neighbor’s freedom, will live forever as a free man! We do this not for want, but because justice demands it must be done! This is why I call upon you, and ask that you join me in this most righteous of acts which man can commit! I ask you to join me in Jihad! To break the chains of bondage!”

There was silence at first, then individual shouting. Then, louder and louder, the startled, stone faces turned to passionate anger. The stomping of feet, the ululations of men and women alike, the noise became disturbingly loud. A chant, which first was crushed by the sounds of it all, soon grew louder among the voices - until it became the loudest among them. “Break the chains! Break the chains!”

I knew at once I had found a new drive to continue living.
"Shall we only hope for heaven when we're dead?"

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Suriyanakhon
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Psychotic Dictatorship

Postby Suriyanakhon » Fri Apr 16, 2021 1:28 am

Holly Long


Jungle


The sun beat down on high, as though it were expressing its disapproval with me. No, that was ridiculous, I told myself. It was the product of being around animists too much, the sun had no thoughts or feelings or wants, it was the sun. Maybe it was my own guilt being projected, I couldn't be entirely sure. As I walked across the stream and reached the end of the trail that lead to the secluded part of the hill where me and Phyu Lat preferred to meet, I saw her waiting for me at the tree we had marked. When she heard my footsteps, she smiled and my heart seemed to lose all apprehension and become fluttery.

She hugged me tightly and we remained lip locked for a long time.

It had been three weeks since I'd entered into a tryst with Phyu Lat and so far we had managed to keep our little secret. For how long, I wasn't yet sure. Despite how enthusiastically she had thrown herself into the affair, I wasn't sure how Phyu Lat couldn't realize the near impossibility of our secret remaining unraveled on us.

As our passions abated and we relaxed against the tree, my heart sunk back to the ground, perhaps even deeper into one of the many hell realms. Instinctively I thought about the hell park that I'd once made my parents take me to as a child where I got to see statues of sinners being tormented in vivid detail by Thai demons, ghosts, and wild animals. Maybe that was where my heart deserved to sink.

Suddenly, footsteps could be heard behind me. I practically leaped in fear of who I thought it could be, but to my relief (and indignation) it was only Khint. “Ma Holly,” he called out. Phyu Lat quickly assumed an unassuming position and I fixed my longyi before jumping up. “There you are, I've been looking for you almost half a day.”

I resisted the urge to shout at the oblivious youth and simply nodded.

“I have been... busy.” my eyes shifted a little, but otherwise I like to think I appeared innocent. “What is it?”

“Ashin Yarzar wishes to summon you.... why is your neck covered in red spots? Have you been attacked by bees?”

I scowled at him and Khint backed away. “Don't breathe a word of this to anyone.” I told him and he nodded slowly, not realizing the reason for my sudden displeasure. I marched past him in a huff.
Daungg Kyaayyrwar


I bowed down to the chieftain and his wives before rising and taking my seat. He looked at me with a little less disdain than the first time we met, but I was still cautious. “The women in the village have quite taken to your advice,” he said, every word seemed like it was carefully parsed and chewed over before he said it. “Our traditional shamans say that they come to you now for when they want their futures told or their children to be named.”

“For some of them, it is nice to receive advice from a fellow woman.” I replied carefully, trying my best to avoid angering him.

“Going against the way of our ancestors would bring down the wrath of the heavens upon us.” the chieftain stated. “While I respect the work that you have done for us by bringing the iron to our attention, I won't have you leading them astray.” I bowed slightly but was alarmed at what he said next. “Especially about the reservation that my daughter now seems to hold about her future. She's become unenthusiastic about her duties to the snake god and when the time comes, might shirk her greatest duty.”

“Her greatest duty...?” I trailed off.

There was a loud bang at the door and Hlaing entered the room.

“I hope that you aren't trying to intimidate our guest like last time, father.” she said, clasping the bow in her hand firmly.

“There is no intimidation, we are simply discussing her activities in the village.” Yarzar replied, eyeing the bow with some wariness that belied his nonchalant demeanor.

“How dare you speak to your father in such a disrespectful manner, Hlaing,” the eldest wife of the chieftain scolded her.

“You aren't my mother, Htet Aung, and I'm not like your sister-wives who you can bully and browbeat.” Hlaing shot back sharply causing the woman to flinch. “You caused her to cry last time father, and you shan't be doing something of that like again.” she took me by the arm and lead me out of the hut.

“Hlaing, be mindful of what you do.” her father said, but she ignored him.

After we had walked out of the hut, I turned to Hlaing. “What is Phyu Lat's greatest duty?” Hlaing refused to meet my eyes and I grasped her hand with an intensity that surprised her. “Hlaing please... something isn't right.”

“Since birth, she's been raised, to be the snake god's bride.” Hlaing said with some trepidation. “And when she has reached the twentieth year, she'll enter the snake god's realm.” my eyes went wide and everything seemed to disappear from my vision as though it were a meditation exercise. The euphemisms didn't need to be explained, the meaning was clear. “Holly don't - ” I was too dumb to respond and she lead me quietly, neither of us saying a word.

As we walked, it dawned on me why Phyu Lat wasn't worried about the long term and what she had been about to say. Three months and she wouldn't be here, but down in the snake god's realm to live forever.
Liblefter & Theravada Buddhist
dO yOu LiStEn tO gIrL iN rEd
Johann von Goethe wrote:The God-head is effective in the living and not in the dead, in the becoming and the changing, not in the become and the set-fast; and therefore, similarly the intuition is concerned only to strive towards the divine through the becoming and the living, and logic only to make use of the become and the set-fast.
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Saxony-Brandenburg
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Saxony-Brandenburg » Sun Apr 18, 2021 12:20 am

Hard Lessons
Olivia Ingels


I saw the stave flying towards my unguarded face far after it was too late. Before it had time to register, I felt the pain, heard the crack that sent me stumbling back. That split second was enough time to turn my head just enough for the hard wooden stick to strike the side of my head. The world seemed light, my head was spinning, and yet atleast he did not break my nose. Before I knew it I was upon the ground, whimpering like a child while I clutched the wound. A trickle of blood ran down to my cheek.

“Oh fuck.” Hussein gasped, dropping the staff down upon the ground, falling to his knees in a panic. “Olifia -- I’m, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to!”

I barely heard him. My head was spinning too hard to think. Perhaps the strongest physical pain I’d ever experienced, I curled into a ball - grinding the rough dirt and small rocks against my bare skin, but I couldn’t be bothered to notice such a small discomfort. When I had regained my thoughts, a small crowd was around me, some pawing at my hair and trying to see where the blood had come from. I couldn’t help but mutter out, “you men go too hard.” I said with a chuckle, before it too turned back into the same groaning and sniveling.

“She’s right.” Came a sneering bark, I looked up to see a middle-aged woman lifting my head up in her hands, and pushing back my hair upon my wounded side. “You’re acting like she’s one of you fellow warriors - she’s obviously not gotten her skull bashed in near as common as you three.”

“I know that bitch!” He spat back, before striking himself in the face with his hand. “I am so sorry Sheikha Olifia - honestly. Unlike what my dear sister here will tell you, it was in no way my intention to hurt you like this.” He sights, before reaching down for his leather waterskin and a rag, generously splashing the liquid onto the cloth and handing it over to the woman.

“What is this then? Huh? Don’t just hand it to me - you’re never the brightest with first aid. What is it?”

He rolled his eyes. “It’s just water and vinegar - don’t worry, I was going to drink it afterwards.”

She spat towards him, before pressing the wet cloth up against the wound. It began to hurt like fire - a sensation of chemical-burning I hadn’t felt in a long time. “You’re lucky - it seems like he didn’t crack anything. I think he just tore the skin. Bastard’s stick must not have been shaved down enough.” She sighs, “hold this,” before letting me hold the cloth up against my head myself.
“I can get back to it as soon as this cut stops bleeding!” I groaned, trying my best to sit up. It seemed like nobody upon the wrestling field really noticed my plight but those around me.

“The hell you’re not!” She responded, before returning to slap poor Hasan and slump back down upon the hot, dusty ground of the pitch.

Houssein held out his hand to me, and with my free one I struggled back upon my feet. “Really Olifia - we’ve been going all day. Why not relax and go bathe, eh? You have dust all over you anyhow.”

I shook my head, stumbling over to the sickly and skeletal tree which stood next to us - offering the vaguest glimpses of shade. “I can’t” I grumbled, slumping my back up against it. “I just can’t stop now.”

“What do you mean? Of course you can! Just put down the stave and we’ll continue tomorrow.”

“Tommorrow?” Sudden renewed vigor coursed through my veins, as I thrust myself off the tree, and dropped the cloth to fall down to the floor. “What do you mean tomorrow? You expect I can fucking sleep while I know I’m like this? This WEAK?!” I looked down at the ground, giving the dust a pathetic kick with my foot. “Don’t you fucking see? I’m some great and powerful idealist - talking about fighting for something, and then when you look at me what do you see? Huh? You see a weak woman who can’t even hold her own for more than a minute without being injured!”

I didn’t notice until they were dripping off my cheeks, the tears which were beginning to well up in the corners of my eyes. I turned my back on the four of them so they wouldn’t see - but I was well sure they could hear it. “I can’t just let her down by waiting any second. What am I supposed to do? How do I sleep when, should the time come, I won’t be strong enough to protect the people I care about? I… I let her go in there, man, I let her go and die! If I was strong enough, if I was the one with the spear and shield and not her, maybe that could have been me! And then she’d… she’d still be here.”

I turned back around to see them staring back at me, a great discomfort between them.

“Fuck…” I muttered, shaking my head. “I shouldn’t burden you by obligating you to hear a widow’s regrets. Forgive me.” I wiped the tears from my eyes, before feeling a hand on my shoulder. Houssein, with his dry, cracked mitts dug his fingers into my skin, yet his face was remarkably compassionate.

“Don’t be sorry - I understand… I miss Fazal and Alya both. I understand how you feel right now - but what good will killing yourself do here, hm? We can contemplate the goodness of you killing yourself on the battlefield later, but dying like a tired dog beneath the sun will do you no good. At Least get to the battle, then you can do as you will, hm?”


“And what good is it going to do if I’m too weak when my time comes, huh?”

“I won’t let that happen. Don’t you trust me? Come on, now! I’ve whipped myself up into shape, despite my chronic laziness and gluttony. You may be a drunk but you’re a diligent drunk! You’ll be stronger than me in no time!”

I didn’t know if I believed him, but I assumed he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.



The boats of the shoreline harbor drifted up and down with the waves, tugging on the thin ropes they were kept tied to the shore with. Those whose crews had taken it upon themselves to conduct basic maintenance on the crafts busied themselves with the effort of dragging them to shore and taking hammer and nail in-hand. The process before me was going on so many at a time that it seemed to me the whole process was laid-out. The fishermen offloaded their catch, they dragged their boat to a convenient place to work, the sail was taken down and sewn, and any broken bits of wood were meticulously cared for. But simple work of common men’s daily tasks was not what I came for, nor was it the focus of most people at the docks themselves.

I jogged through the busy evening crowd as best I could, before it became much and much thicker with idle onlookers. The biggest, burliest Sumerian I’d ever seen stood upon the shoreline kneeling on the side of the deck. A man handed him a bowl of wine, which he ravenously licked up and practically threw back. Hazi was a bit of a regional celebrity - he had an amazing story his crew and associates loved to brag about in almost every tavern they came across. People stood aside and made room for me as I squeezed through them and approached the craft, where he gave a curious look and dropped what he was doing to look at me. There was a strange twinge of what appeared to be fear in his gaze before he dropped it like a stone, and gave a curious smile towards me. “Ah, Sheikha. Good evening to you.” His voice wasn’t very low, in stark contrast to his very strong appearance. Indeed, much of his disposition was conflicting to an outsiders eyes. His hair grew down to his upper-back in thin black spirals, and his beard was smudged a dull red from dye. His ears were pierced with what looked to be copper rings, and yet he was shirtless - only wearing a rough dull-blue skirt and sandals. Even still - he was absolutely covered in hair!

“Good evening.” I replied, not noticing until it was too late just how long I had stared at him after his reply.

“Ehh…” His grin grew more toothy by the moment. “I’m unfamiliar with the customs around you. I’m unsure the Kings of Uruk, Lagash, or Eridu would be caught dead out here so informally. Why do you come out here to see a pirate, eh? Does it have anything to do with what the locals have told me, perhaps?”

“Ah, so you’ve heard of my declaration.”

“I have little understanding of Arabic, my sense of the word Jihad lacks much meaning I’m sure.”

“You seem to be doing it quite well.”

“Oh yeah? How’s that?”

“You’re enacting divine justice.”

I could see his expression only grow more and more confused. He stepped off the ship, and nervously scratched his beard as he thought this over. “This is a very foreign belief.” He finally said, before looking me in the eye. “You’re a priestess of the gods who has no ziggurat, walks among poor criminals, and is telling me that piracy is the will of the gods?”

A smile crept up upon my lips. It was absurd, I had to admit. “Well, yeah. I am telling you that. The gods respect bravery, virtue, and valor. They reward the boldest and most daring of men who dedicate their lives to the pursuit of justice and their fellow man.”

“And what if I told you I did this, not for some noble intention but for retribution?”

“I could think of no more just a punishment for slavers than your wrath.”

He let out a loud, bellowing laughter at that, I couldn’t help but chuckle along.

“Even still-” I continued. “It seems obvious to me that they have lost their gods favor long ago. Look at the sorry state of Sumer - I hear word it is a cauldron of disease, violence, and famine. No wonder, ever since they neglected all sixty by sixty Annuna for a bastardized twisting of the Annunaki. It is why the very earth revolts against Ur-Surtur, and the sea should bring me you.”

“Ah, any angry slave could do what I do.” He mumbled, before looking away.
“Ah, and any knife can cut a cloth - the blessing is in its sharpness! Truly, I do thank the divine for finding you here - there is much need I have for you. I think we will find an arrangement which is profitable for the both of us.”

He grinned. “A priestess propositions me for business? Sooner I’d think you were a merchant by the words you speak! Hah! Well let’s hear it - what have you planned?”

“Well - how many men do you take on this craft?”

“The Jinn’s Fury? Ah, A dozen at most, though we often go under to save on supplies.”

“How would you feel about a much larger crew?”

“Ah, I don’t know miss… the Jinn’s, she’s not big enough for that much supplies.”

“And if it just so happens you receive a new, much larger vessel - would you take it?”

He furled his brow, looking at me, seemingly trying to guess my intent. “How much bigger?” He finally asked.

“Eh… say twelve meters long?”

“Damn.” He snapped his fingers, before raising them to his lips pensively. “I guess with that size… aye we could carry what - two dozen to thirty crewmen?”

“Would sure be a lot of pirates - and with more pirates, means bigger prizes to seize.”

“And I expect you to give me a ship twice as great in size as my own out of pure faith in my cause?”

“I never said I’d commission the boat for you for free. Come, I’ll discuss the specifics with you in private.” I said before snatching up his hand.

“If you insist.” He said with a toothy grin, following me down the road and towards my home.

I imagine he envisioned I was propositioning him for something very different than what occurred. The damn horny dog - sailors were all like that, I think it’s from the time at sea and away from any romance of their time. As soon as we sat down upon the floor around my central room’s table, he reached his hand over to touch my thigh. With a jolt, I slapped his hand away, recoiling in horror. “Dirty dog!” I snapped. “Know your manners - I may live among fishermen and pirates but I am no whore! I ask you here for business of another kind, more important things! I am a woman devoted to the gods, and you don’t EVER touch me again!” I slammed my hand down on the table, rattling the clay dishes upon it.

Hazi recoiled almost instantly, in horror. The guard opened the front-door and peered in, but not knowing any Sumerian, could only hazard a guess of what was going on. My newest servant who was walking down the stairs suddenly turned-tail and ran back up and out of the room, and a terrible silence fell upon the room. I took a deep breath, and straightened my back.

“Now that you understand my intentions…” I said, taking a deep breath. “We can discuss what work you will be doing for me. There is an Aksumite outpost upon the shores of the southern coast - while it is their ally, it is far less patrolled than her waters itself. In addition, it is a core point of resupply for them upon the last leg of the journey home, and the first stop on many journeys back to Sumer. I want you to strike there. Little can be done to stop you, their petty prince is a merchant not a soldier.” I tapped my fingers on the wood, staring down at its cracks, my mind envisioning the whole scheme. “In addition - I want you to transport my emissaries to the tribes of the region. If things should go well, and they are receptive - I imagine you’ll have no issues resupplying during your trips.”

“And the locals will want me pillaging the ships of Sumer and Aksum?”

“Indeed, I suspect so. This merchant prince… he can’t be welcome by most locals. With the right bribes and promises to their chiefs, we could have them help us topple the prince if we truly wanted to… But not for now. Instead I am sure they will appreciate the business, and the protection I intend to offer them in the coming years.”

“You’re a snake, a priestess, and a merchant. I don’t know I’ve met too many like you Sheikha Olifia.”

“I imagine not. Though if you included ‘bitch’ on the end of that list I wouldn't contest that either.”

“But now I wonder, why do you trust me, a pirate, to do what you ask? What makes you think I will not turn against you?”

“Ah, that will be no issue, I’ve seen your crew are no professionals. They’re fishermen and women after all. They will always return home when the season is over, and would sooner mutiny against you than betray their own kind.”

“You raise a point.”

“Then I expect there will be no questions of loyalty. Along with whatever you catch, I will reward you personally for every slave you manage to free, and every ship you capture. I’m sure this will be a fitting arrangement?”

“Better than I hoped for when I washed up here I suppose.”

“Then go with Enlil’s winds and Innana’s strength. You’ll need them more than anyone else in the months ahead.”
"Shall we only hope for heaven when we're dead?"

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UniversalCommons
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Postby UniversalCommons » Sun Apr 18, 2021 4:20 pm

Cyrene

Victor Spear stood on the docks of Cyrene. He had been sitting in his boat for three weeks, waiting for the quarantine to lift. It gave him the time to read copies of the Abdera Times and several letters from Scholar Alcibiades and Speaker Penelope. Salt had been patrolling their roads and provided their quarantine methods to Varna.

Many people had fled north towards the Danube. People who were not part of the immediate communities were being turned away and marched north. The local communities had cooperated with the soldiers on the roads.

From: Penelope
To: Victor Spear

It is a frightening thing to see the men on patrol on the roads. Many of them are on bicycles or light horse. They bring tracking dogs and war dogs to search for people. They are pushing people north towards the Danube where there are camps in the woods. Some make it to the Imperium where there is some refuge.

There are reports of banditry on the roads as you head north. Some communities collapsed from the plague and the survivors have formed into small bands for survival. It is safer for some to live in the woods or in small fortified towers for protection.

Many seek to head towards the Single Market or the Black Sea where they can take boats away from the center of the plague.

The Aegean islanders let few people land on their islands. They send people back to shore , or make them take to the open ocean.

Some of the soldiers have made strange looking armor, a mix of a protective suit made of heavy waterproof leather and acrylic plates with beaked face masks. They thought it protected them from the plague.

There are so many dead that any able bodied non sick person is asked to work in the fields or to fill some essential activity like keeping the roads up to date. They can volunteer, move on, or be pressed into service.

Salt has built an effective quarantine and they have spread their methods to Varna and the surrounding areas. It is extremely vigilant with contstant cleaning with soap and alcohol based cleaners. The Plain Folk from Salt have been sending speakers out to the cities with pamphlets, soap, gloves, and masks. They preach about how cleanliness is next to godliness.

A way house has been opened in Varna for their followers and the sect is growing. Scholar Hunkhabek has expanded his press to Varna to print their pamphlets and books. It is hard to classify Hunkhabek, he prints all kinds of religious texts, mainly texts on morality, christianity, philosophy, the good life, and right livelihood. He has written extensively on christianity and has translated the Christian Bible as well as the works of Den, and the Egyptian religion. It was not until recently that he started printing texts on cleanliness, medicine, and clean living.

We have adopted some of the methods of Salt and Varna at Oak. Some of the members of the Nestos League object to the religious content in some of the pamphlets, not the methodologies. I see the necessity to include morality in religion in exhortations for people to stay clean and quarantined. There have been several debates in the House of Wisdom.

The Temple of the Body Parts continues to preach against your return. They claim that you are in league with Scholar Hunkhabek and spreading false ideas.

People have come to accept your role as an envoy procuring medicine and supplies for the Nestos League. Your return to the Nestos League continues to be debated. Many want you to spend additional time in exile traveling.

Regards,

Scholar Penelope

Victor Spear watched chests of silphium, opium, industrial hemp, hemp, strong wine, and medicinal plants being loaded onto boats on the docks of Cyrene. Silphium could only be grown in Cyrene and it was worth its weight in silver. The House of Wisdom had decided to grow many of the more dangerous addictive substances used in medicine away from large population centers It was heavily guarded and had warships in its harbor.

The trading center at Cyrene had been funded by Trader Ulysses and more recently Trader Odysseus who sought to diversify his investments beyond bicycle machines. Sitalkes had also funded research into the production of hemp epoxies.

He was here to meet with delegates to discuss improving the quantity and production of protective gear and medicines for the plague. He had walked the fields of plants and greenhouses noting the presence of walls, watchtowers, armed men and dogs.

The fate of the Nestos League and the surrounding areas could be affected by port at Cyrene. His ship had brought the seeds and medicines to Cyrene so they could experiment on methods of more effective production.

Victor Spear, “It is good to meet again, Trader Ulysses. I hear you have a new son.”

Trader Ulysses, “I have many children, and three wives in Oak. It is a good thing to have many sons and daughters. Some of them have been scholars. It is a blessed thing. Why have you come to look over my workers.”

Victor Spear, “We need to introduce new methods of production. If we are to supply the Nestos League and our allies, we must be able to produce more medicine and protective gear cheaply and effectively.”

Trader Ulysses, “We cannot be all things to all people. However, I will hear what you have to say.”

Victor Spear, “I would like to introduce the concept of mass production to making medicines for the plague as well as standardized procedures.”

Trader Ulysses, “So you want to introduce the processes in making pottery to medicine. My workers won't like it. I try and hire the best people. People who take pride in their work.”

Victor Spear, “I had not thought of it that way. Yes, I want to break the processes for making medical supplies and medicines into simple repeatable steps with quality control and standard parts.”

Trader Ulysses, “I did not think you were a specialist in this kind of thing. It would be better if you let us figure out how to do this ourselves. We have discussed how to break things down into simple steps. There is resistance, people do not want to have their craft destroyed.”

Victor Spear, “I do not see why you can't do this. It is not a hard process. We can hire the people to do it.”

Trader Ulysses, “The people who work in Cyrene have formed the Medicinal Workers Association. It was completely unexpected. They have made a number of demands about how they worked. It is like the Weavers Association of the Single Market. They have certain demands and expect us to negotiate with them. They have certain requirements about who we hire and how skilled people are.”

Victor Spear, “Then it would be a matter of us talking to them and working out how we can increase production. It could be expensive.”

Trader Ulysses, “We could always try another location to work on your ideas for large production. The Sumerians probably know more about making large amounts of goods than we do. We could probably hire a few of them to improve our ability to make medicines. They have large centers for weaving, pottery, and other goods. I think you are out of your depth.”

Victor Spear, “I did not think that other people had already thought of this. I thought mass production was a completely new idea.”

Trader Ulysses, “There are already large production centers for pottery and alcohol in Oak. We just never thought to adopt their methods.”

Victor Spear, “Then we will have to sit down and talk with the workers and look into hiring a few Sumerians who produce large amounts of goods.”

Trader Ulysses, “Let us hope this works out. It can be quite difficult.”

Victor Spear, Trader Ulysses, Trader Odysseuss, and the leaders of the Medicinal Workers Association met. Trader Odysseus spent several hours arguing with the the Medicinal Workers Association until they reconvened the next day. Mifta the head of the Medicinal Workers Association would shake his fist at Trader Odysseus and Trader Odysseus would call him greedy.

It took almost two weeks before there was even a beginning of an agreement. The Medicinal Workers Association came up with a plan that was a compromise, the workers would break the processes into steps that were more complicated than originally asked for. The workers also demanded better quality control. In addition several men from Nineveh would be hired to make sure the process was efficient.

Victor Spear spent many hours reviewing the discussions to make sure that the processes would work with the foremen from Nineveh. He wanted to make sure the plan would work.
Last edited by UniversalCommons on Sun Apr 18, 2021 5:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Endem
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Postby Endem » Mon Apr 19, 2021 2:18 am

Aleksander Śliwecki
2970 B.C.E


They slept through the night taking 2 hours to 3-hour shifts, based on mainly how long wood burned, after the morning line shone Aleksander confronted Ali about the fact he thought he definitely saw someone just outside lights reach.

"Yes Nafsi, I saw something like that too, maybe the spirits?"

Ali added the part about the spirits almost jokefully, in a friendly teasing way, Aleksander was not amused.

"Ali, that could have been a robber!"

"Has he robbed us or attacked us, no, and he had ample opportunity, I fear it might have been Mufid."

"That seems, possible, I hate to admit that it sounds like the correct option."

"We'll need to watch out for him."

Aleksander nodded, they then departed the campsite, both knew the hunt won't go well anymore, now that they had not to look for traces and animals, but for a much more familiar game. A day went past that, through being distracted by the possibility of Mufid being nearby, they missed and unwittingly scared off some prey, and sometimes what they thought was Mufid sneaking nearby, they found nothing investigating.

The second day went along much the same, during the night they were sure someone was just outside the reach of their eyes, and during the day they were too much paranoid to catch anything. Finally came the third day, when they heard a cry for help nearby, it was Mufid, it must have been.

They rode up the dune, and saw an unfamiliar sight, an Arabian Leopard, they must have been at the very edges of the animal's distribution range, and yet one of those giant cats has found Mufid, who was currently running for his life, but the leopard was closing in, fast.

He made his camel charge forward, his spear tip lowering as wind flew past him, he could only hope that he could get to the Leopard before it did any damage to Mufid. They made it just in time, Mufid was visibly tired, even with how much adrenaline must have been coursing through his veins, and about to give up, and the leopard gaining even more ground, Aleksander slammed his spear into the beast just as it was about to jump onto Mufid.

The beast stammered briefly, soaking the ground beneath it in its ichor spilling from a sizeable wound on the side of its head, it then hissed at Aleksander before starting to go in for an attack against him. Aleksander meanwhile circled around and was yet again charging with his spear in hand at the terrible best.

The Leopard met yet again with the tip of Aleksander's spear. The spear pierced the eye and entered the skull hitting the brain and killing the animal, he dragged the carcass for a few meters before it slipped away. Ali rode up to him, and patted him on the back, quite impressed.

"That was great!"

"Thank you Ali" Aleksander breathed heavy, it was harder than it looked to stay on a speeding camel "take the beast, I think that will be fitting as our hunt's trophy."

"Since you've killed it, you get to have the tastiest part, I envy you, it's not every day you kill a Leopard"

"I'll want just the skin, the meat will go to the tribe"

Aleksander rejected the offer of good meat back in their camp, the skin will save a much better role than just nourishment. Aleksander rode forwards leaving Ali to pack the corpse of the animal onto his camel. Mufid was thankfully barely damaged if passed out from the exhaustion and probably in shock from the situation.

He jumped down from this camel and loaded up Mufid onto it in much the same way he'd load a killed animal onto it, maybe not a particularly graceful position, but it would ensure that the passed-out teenager would not slip onto the ground.

On their way back, Aleksander watched over Mufid, while Ali hunted smaller animals. Eventually when they were just one day away from the tribe Mufid finally woke up as they were riding the camels.

"Where am I?" He asked being blinded by the sun.

"With us, the two adults who forbade you from coming."

"What happened?" Mufid asked, much more wearily this time.

"You were attacked by a Leopard, and we heard you scream."

"H-how did I survive?"

"Nafsi charged at the Leopard and killed it!" Ali chimed in.

"You should thank the Old Man of the Desert I managed it."

"Oh, not this again." Ali whispered to himself.

Mufid seemingly did not hear Ali's grumblings.

"Thank, your God?"

"Of course, it was not the spirits of the desert who saved you, but I with what I believe was the strength given by Him."

"Could you tell me more about him?"

Young Mufid, influenced by Aleksander's apparent heroism and the traumatic experience, listened carefully to what Nafsi had to say about his own experience, and what he believed he saw. By the time they arrived back at the tribe, after five days out on the desert, Aleksander was sure that Mufid also believed what he believed.

They rode into the camp and Ali started to unload the killed animals, to be skinned and then sorted between tribe members, the skin of the leopard was thankfully already secured for Aleksander. Meanwhile, he walked Mufid towards the tent Mufid and his mother lived in.

Mufid's mother, Inaam, ran out of the tent and in tears hugged Mufid.

"Where were you?! Mufid what would your father Hamid say!"

"Mother, father is not with us anymore." Mufid hugged his mother back.

"He still watches over you Mufid." Aleksander added.

Inaam released Mufid, who turned to face Aleksander.

"What do you mean?" He asked intrigued.

"I will tell you tomorrow, since you've brushed with death recently, and was the first to accept in earnest what I had to say, I thought it opportune to say what I believe would have happened had Abu Sahra not gave me strength to save you"

Inaam seemed confused.

"What are you talking about?"

Before Aleksander could answer that he converted Mufid, the teen said it himself.

"I will tell you in private, but when Nafsi rescued me, he also made me understand he managed it because of his God."

Inaam looked in disbelief both at Aleksander and at Mufid. Still, in a state of disbelief, she let herself be led back to the tent by Mufid. Aleksander soon walked away from there as well, back to Ali's tent where Saffiyah was preparing some of the killed animals, at dusk the tribe will gather for a feast to eat the meat together.

Aleksander offered to help, which Saffiyah accepted. They've finished just before dusk, and along with Ali who just returned from feeding the camels, they transported the prepared meals to one of the mats prepared in the middle of the village, as did the rest of the village.

In less than an hour, they have all gathered, from what Aleksander could see, the tribe numbered about 60 people. They sat on the sand, and ate from clay bowl-like dish, taking the chunks from meat onto something similar to flatbread, most likely made from wild grain or cultivated in a more primitive way since the tribe lived a pastoral lifestyle.

They ate and conversed joyfully for hours into the night as a couple of fires to shield from the cold of the night were lit, though, through the whole of the feast Aleksander had a feeling as if somebody was looking daggers at him. After the feasting ended, the people took their pottery and bowls back to their tents, and soon most of the population of the village fallen asleep.

The next day was not a day to hunt, at least that's what Khalifah told Ali, Aleksander was personally ok with that, he would have time to talk to Mufid, and hammer out the edges of their now shared faith. Saffiyah tasked him with cleaning the dishes of yesterday's feast, promising that she'd in turn integrate the leopard skin into Aleksander's clothing.

Aleksander took the wide clay plates to the oasis and began to wash and rinse, unfortunately without soap, and so it was much harder to get some stains off them, but with carefulness and determination even those were coming off. About midway through washing Mufid found Aleksander and sat next to him, before striking up a conversation, about what Aleksander meant when he handed him off to Inaam.

They talked for a long time, first Mufid asked and Aleksander answered what he thought the afterlife was, if you lived in compliance with Abu Sahra's values, you'd be able to wander freely in every edge of the world, with anything that you were buried with until the time came when the father would call to you, and you'd help him spread his faith into every part of the world. When Mufid asked what values the father of the desert held, Aleksander answered freedom, helping your kin, and personal skill and prowess.

As they talked, a small circle gathered, of around 10 people, all were tribe's youth, when Aleksander noticed the gathered people he encouraged to ask them questions too. After answering the first wave of questions about the subject of the strange conversation, the people began asking their questions, more in-depth ones.

Firstly, someone asked what in Aleksander's opinion was sacred then, he promptly answered, water, personal skill, your tribe, and the spread of the religion. Someone asked why water, Aleksander said that water is valuable in the desert, and so Abu Sahra made it scarce to test the faith of believers. Someone else asked why is the spread of religion important, Aleksander answered that the religion, like water, wherever it appears reinvigorates the land. Someone asked about the importance of skill, he answered that Abu Sahra wants skilled followers, and he smiles upon those that want to improve, for only those people are useful to him and tribe. Someone asked if there's anything else, Aleksander promptly answered that freedom is valued, like the desert wind, a human cannot be caged, and attempting it upsets the father of the desert, someone else yet asked if the tribe is important, Aleksander answered that it's the most important thing, for aside from faith, every tribesman of yours is a guarantee of safety, and in his view, every Arab should be eachother's tribesman.

The conversation started with a mix of sneering and lack of seriousness, though slowly but surely such things started to fade, eventually as people were listening carefully, someone asked what he thought of desert spirits, of the laughter in the desert winds. He said he encountered one, near a burning bush, it made him fall and crack his head, and left him for dead in the desert, he believed it to be exactly what they have described as desert spirits. Shocked, the group gathered backed away a bit, Aleksander believed this to be an opportune time to end this.

He stood up and took a handful of sand into his palm, and let it fly on the wind to the oasis waters with the words.

"I thank you, father of the desert, for this here gift of water and for allowing its use by us, in-between traveling through the sands."

He then walked away, saying that in a week, he will be there again, leaving the gathering, if with nothing else, curiosity peaked, but still unsatisfied and yearning for answers, they would need to first consider what was told here.

Gradually, over the coming weeks, he started to win over the young adults and late teens of the tribe, slowly accepting more and more into his faith, though, he now needed to deal with a furious Khalifah more than usual, he still proved to be too useful for the tribe, his rhetoric encouraging the young ones to work harder and learn more, aside from Aleksander's own hunting trips.
Lukewarm takes here at best.

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G-Tech Corporation
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Democratic Socialists

Postby G-Tech Corporation » Tue Apr 20, 2021 12:12 pm

Part 6, Chapter 2: So They Shall Reap


May 16th, 31 AG

Smoke already shrouded the horizon as we approached, the winding path up through the hills thick with soot and the scent of char. Plumes of black ash rose from nearby, and a ghastly odor - one a fool would mistake for fresh pork, but which sent my stomach into slow flip-flops of revulsion and banished all appetite. Beneath me Sire was breathing steadily, flanks gulping air as his hooves ate up the terrain. Mixed in with that soot was the sharper tang of salt, of sweat, of iron, and of horse. I wiped grime from above my eyes, peering ahead, and watching for anything untoward.

Mine were not the only eyes searching for something. The men of the party were on high alert, their weapons in their hands, their helmets on their brows despite the gathering heat of the day. Not even the lowering overcast and blanketing of smog had fully blocked out the Balkan sun, and it was uncomfortably warm in true armor out here, even with a surcoat to keep off the worst of the radiance. I did not envy the men at the rear of the column, possessors of the ignominious duties of both rearguard and privileged to deal with the dust of nearly a hundred horses in light trot.

Normally proper respect for the beasts which carried a lance like this would be to alternate walking and trotting and dismounting, the rhythm of the cavalryman that ate up the leagues while still keeping a steed fresh for battle at the end. But here was that chance of battle - and the chance of avoiding that battle relied on speed. If the Aravesci knew we were coming, much blood would be shed this day. Even if they did not, I did not fancy our odds of departing with clean blades. But better the opportunity for wisdom than the assumption of slaughter. And so the column jogged along the track leading out of the north, sweat beading our steeds, but outpacing any scouts the hill-tribe might have placed on the heights in the approach to Volun.

Finding out the names of the raiders who had descended from the Mountains of Garth had not been overly difficult - it was really more a testament to the despicable nature of these men, that they should butcher and slaughter and pillage in lands where their own kin had intermarried, where their own nieces and nephews walked. More dire by far was the news, collected by outriders, that these raiding bands seemed to be backed by their clan-chiefs, not merely the actions of malcontents circling like vultures about a corpse-pile. That meant, or very nearly meant, open war. Especially as the Condominium, that strange Frankenstein construct of Nestos and her eastern allies, claimed overlordship in these lands.

Open war. The words tasted like ash, even more so than did the soot that swirled in the air. It would be outright chaos, a bloodbath without direction or reason. By the newest reports out of the League she could not even control her own lands, the Red Plague dividing city from city, clan from clan, and not even one in every two Scholars listened to the dictates out of Thrace. Such a governmental organism, so wounded as to not even know the doings of its own hands, would lash out like a wounded wolf if war came to Dacia. There would be no potential for negotiation, no opportunity for recompense or weregild, only the paroxysms of the dying beast. And on that pyre thousands would be devoured, even as the Pale Horse glutted itself in lands with no semblance of order or ability to resist the spread of plague.

When a wound is poisoned, and the rot spreads, sometimes terrible measures are required. The bold knife cuts quickest, and deepest, but afterwards the blood might run clear and clean. So I had resolved, and after much debate and contention the stratagem we put in place here would be adopted. I only hoped my Father might look favorably on these actions. The utilitarian would dismiss such concerns as trite, my deeds as better than reasonable, as rational. But wickedness does not become good merely out of convenience. And my heart was still ill at ease with what must be done.

Over the crest of the hill the village appeared, and the source of the smoke. Great sullen red gouts of fire licked upwards in greasy columns from pyres, not as large as that which open war might build, but not to be despised for their own horrific scale either. The land before the village was charred by flame and studded with crumbling piles of soot and charcoal, and the small wooden wall which surrounded the settlement itself seemed touched by fire, sagging where it had been driven into the earth, heavy with neglect. A horn, sad and almost plaintive, wailed through the air, and a harsh order barked through the air.

The column kicked up their horses, myself following suit, a light canter which ate up the remaining yards. No men had even deployed from their homes with weapons when the rush of steel and cloth and weapons passed through the open vista which did service as a gate for the Aravesci, save some watchmen who descended from towers holding crude spears and looking distinctly nervous. My breath was hot in my throat as I reined in Sire, and for several taunt seconds I thought the hill-men still might try something, though the force arrayed against them was formidable.

Then an old man emerged from the main longhouse, unarmed, and it became clear that they wouldn't give battle. Not here, not against such weapons and numbers as the local commandant had requisitioned from my host. I swung down out of the saddle, along with a captain and a local translator, alongside a dozen men. The rest stayed atop their mounts, hands on repeaters, flanged maces, longspears, and curved sabers. At a word I could turn them loose to destroy the village, I swiftly realized looking around, and soon it became clear why the villagers hadn't resisted our approach - there were few men here, and few women even. The pyres were large, but must have been larger still, a story written in charred bone and burnt lives of the devastation the Plague had wrought even up here in the highlands.

A confirmation, of sorts, of the guilt the hill-men bore. There were other tribes closer to Varna and the east which the local garrisons knew were mostly unaffected by the disease. Men who had closed their gates and their homes to outlanders, and so weathered the worst of the conflagration. But the men here had not taken such measures - no, they had climbed down out of the hills to kill and steal and rape, and by doing so come in contact with the stalking death that walked in those places. In their bodies it had laid while they returned to wives and sons and daughters and fathers, only to emerge in a cough and a caress and a spoken word and set fire to their flesh.

I could not pretend pity on those marauders which had made this mistake. But the faces of their children, weak and malnourished, the red eyes of their wives, raw from weeping - those spoke of men who even in wickedness had been loved and cherished, and were now so much grist before the heedless maw of disease. The old man who came forward to speak too bore the signs of sickness barely survived, whether the Red Plague or some other malady of age and want, it would be hard to say. But his tone was respectful, if weary as he spoke.

"Who are you who come so armed to the halls of the Sons of the Mountain?"

There was pride there. He knew the signs of our banners, the colors of the tabards, the keen steel. But even a mountain tribe, too poor and too few to push down into the lowlands for good grazing room and rich soil, they knew pride. And they knew too the sin they had committed when their sons descended to those lands to burn, pillage, and despoil, to take by force what they had never sown, to wrest from hard laborers the fruits of their sweat at the point of a sword. In their hearts they probably justified it, thinking that the weak only deserved what came to them, that their hard lives deserved recompense from the fat of their neighbors. But justice was not satisfied by justifications, despite any similarity in the words.

The translator stepped forward. I could understand him, of course, a gift of my Father, but though the captain could get by in many dialects, there would be no logic in only hoping to avoid inaccuracies here. A turn of phrase might decide the fate of these people, and so clarity was of the utmost importance. The captain spoke, his voice not yet deep enough to impress, but his words solemn.

"I am Captain Tirvidas, sworn soldier of the Imperium of Man. You and yours stand accused of war against the Imperium, of brigandry and slaughter of her citizens."

His milky-white eyes blinked as the lord of the Aravesci took in those words. He had not looked for so forthright of speech, had perhaps expected the nicety of phrase and diplomatic language which commonly couched such discussions. A pale pink tongue darted out from between his thin lips, wetting them, a nervous tic. The old man drew himself up to respond in affront, but then the sound of shouts and the clash of weapons came from the distance - from behind the village. Alarm filled his face as he turned about, and he almost moved to go and investigate the sound, but a stern order from Tirvidas stopped him.

No more words were spoken for a long minute, ere men escorted by soldiers on horseback begun trudging into the settlement from one side. His shoulders sagged then, recognizing faces which should not have been here - bandits, raiders, sons of the people who had taken to the brigand's life, and had been doing their level best to sneak away from the village when they had been caught by the second detachment detailed to intercept just such a maneuver. Some bore wounds that bled freely, while others stumbled along at spearpoint, more dazed and stunned than actually hurt. None bore weapons, and to my great surprise none of the horses that walked nearby bore empty saddles.

Complete surprise then. More than we had hoped for.

"These are the men who stand accused, and you stand accused of aiding them." The translator resumed speaking, the captain's voice now thick with loathing. As one of the horsemen passed, on their way back to the northern wall of the village, he handed a few things to the captain, who held them up for all the assembled tribesmen to see.

"A sword, taken from a slaughtered husband who defended his home. Gold earrings, torn from the flesh of a wife after she was slain in the street. Tools and coins, stolen from innocent men and women in bloodshed. These tokens condemn these men - condemn you all."

Electrifying words. The faces of the tribesmen were as pale has milk. Maybe they scented their own deaths on the wind, wondered if we would even do them the courtesy of burning their bodies, or just leave them for the beasts of the field. Their men had done no better when they came upon the reeling settlements of the river valley. Somewhere a baby began wailing, adding a black pall to the proceedings.

"I give you one chance of mercy. One chance to live. I will choose ten men, ten women, and ten children from your own, to be held as hostages against your good will. If you give me no cause for regret of my mercy, they shall be released to you in a year and a day, to be returned to your village. If you raise your hands against the Imperium again they will die, and I will make this village a den of wolves and a field of ash, and nothing more."

The captain lowered his upheld sword, and looked the old man directly in his eyes. I could see wheels of calculation turning there already.

"Swear fealty and friendship to the Imperium, and only those guilty will be punished. The rest of you will receive food, and medicines, sufficient to your needs, which can overcome the Red Plague. This is your choice. Choose quickly."

Murmuring spread through the crowd. It was no choice, not really, but then again it had not be intended to be a real decision. Some tribes, certainly, would give their word and discard it as soon as soldiers left their lands. They would weigh the loot and plunder the warbands returned to them against mere survival and throw the dice, betting on the lassitude of the Imperium, upon the distant hand of Mara. Those villages did not know me, of course, and did not understand the iron will of my son and those who stood beneath the Great Anchor. Their memories would be forgotten after the blood of their leaders had been lapped up by the hungry soil, and their folk would be scattered to the winds, even as had the Norsemen and the Kaanans before them.

Others though. Others might endure the yoke placed upon their necks, and in time cease to view it as a burden. Reprieve from want was no little token to offer a starving people, and reprieve from the stalking hand of death nothing insubstantial either. Justice demanded recompense for their iniquities, and some would nurture hatred in their hearts for the executioner's axe which fell upon their husbands and fathers and sons. But the scales still balanced if here we bought the status of pariah in the hands of some, and peace in the hands of others. Better to have this darkness washed away in tears of impotent rage than a river of lifeblood.

"I accept. I will swear peace to the Imperium, on behalf of my kindred."

The tension uncoiled in my gut, a knot of anticipation that I had not even consciously recognized. He knelt before Tirvidas, speaking the words as he was coached by the translator. At a gesture from the military commander soldiers at the rear of the column, bearing heavy burdens, swung down off of their horses to begin distributing the sacks of food. It was humble fare by and large - dried meats, preserved fruits, seed grain, and other stock which would keep well and fill bellies even if it did not spark joy. But it was rewarding to see the shock on their faces as men and women who had no doubt gone long without enough to eat saw their iniquity repaid with mercy, not bloodshed.

Not bloodshed. Well, that wasn't entirely true. Some of the men who were marching away north under guard would return one day to the settlement, perhaps. They would serve their time in the mines, or on the road gangs, if the headsman's axe did not first claim them for crimes which even sweat could not atone for. They were fathers who would be missed, especially as the pyres had already consumed so many. But the scales had to balance, and they already made their choices. I could no more absolve them of their crimes in good conscience than I could revive the dead which their savagery had laid low.

Today there had been little blood. But Dacia was already awash in it. If the old man had spoke differently, had stood more proudly, this village would have been but one more drop in the ocean. Tacitus said that the Romans made a desert, and called it peace. If that was what was required for peace, I would not despise peace even at that cost.
TG if you have questions about RP. If I don't know the answer, I know someone who does.

Quite the unofficial fellow. P2TM Mentor specializing in faction and nation RPs, as well as RPGs.

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UniversalCommons
Senator
 
Posts: 4578
Founded: Jan 24, 2016
Left-Leaning College State

Postby UniversalCommons » Thu Apr 22, 2021 6:05 am

A letter from Oak to Victor Spear

From: Speaker Penelope
To: Victor Spear

Scholar Doctor Dablosa has come up with a theory that bad air attracts germ devils and virus demons. He thinks that because of bad air, we must clean everything and make everything smell fresh to keep away the disease generating demons and devils.

This theory has come from Varna and is being debated in Oak. He also claims that there is less bad air in the countryside and it is safer in the countryside. This has caused many scholars to move to the countryside where some of them have built farms and towers. The Scholar Naturalists have built two communities, the Farm and the Square.

The Daughters of Penelope based on their recordkeeping have confirmed that people are more likely to die in the cities than the open countryside. It appears that when people are farther apart, they are less likely to catch the disease.

Oak has become a lot cleaner because of this. Many of the followers of Den have been volunteering to clean the city. They are being helped by some of the Plain Folk who have been handing out literature about cleanliness. This is in addition to the street cleaners.

At your suggestion, we have changed the literature on the plague to remind people not to kiss each other when they meet, nor shake hands, to cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze, and not share food communally. There are so many new ideas coming out. There are even proper manners for the plague.

We are in dire problems with our finances. To offset some of the costs, we have been providing people with land allotments as an option instead of pay. There is a lot of land and not as much credit. Many people are taking the allotments and moving to the countryside where they think it is safer.

We also have been claiming property that has been abandoned. There are many empty houses and places where people once lived. It has hit us hard with so many dead.

Many people are afraid to congregate. They hurry past each other in the streets worried about catching the Red Plague. There is work for everyone who needs it. People still need to farm and build. Because there are less people, however, people demand more in return for work.

At first people attended the churches in large numbers, then they began to die from these meetings. Now they have smaller meetings because it is not safe. We have not banned large meetings outright, but we have let people know it is not safe, the air becomes bad when there are too many people together.

Some merchants have started to create payment boxes where you put in your fee in metal to a box, then the goods are delivered or put in a box for you to come pick up your purchase. They are afraid to get too close to customers.

The tradition of dropping off goods from shipments has also returned. Goods are dropped off. People take away the goods, then leave the payments for people to pick up. The guards watch the transactions from a distance at the docks.

It has been trying and challenging. The strength of Varna is growing in the Nestos League. They have brought delegates from Salt to back them in the debates at the House of Wisdom. Their more effective quarantine and cleanliness has put them in good standing with the people. We still are in the majority. The Daughters of Penelope have been receiving the shipments from Cyrene.

With Regards,

Penelope, Speaker for the House of Wisdom

A Letter from Cyrene to Oak.


From: Victor Spear, Envoy from Oak
To: Penelope, Speaker of the House of Wisdom

Thank you for arranging for a title for me. I rather like the title of Envoy. I am glad that the House of Wisdom was able to strike a compromise. I would serve the purpose of gathering medicines, supplies, and ensuring good relations and trade instead of returning to Oak for a while.

Scholar Doctor Dablosa has done something very important. Germ devils and virus demons can travel through the air in some cases and also can land on surfaces. It is imperative we keep everything clean and encourage people to wear masks and gloves. Our medicine is only partially effective against the red plague. It is important to do everything we can to stop this disease.

Germ devils and virus demons are more likely to disperse if they are in the open air and not in close spaces where the air becomes bad. Being in the countryside where there are less people is safer.

They are also more likely to possess people and make them sick when they are in large crowds. They can multiply and infect many people in large gatherings.

Thank you for sending me the book, On Bad Air and Cleanliness by Scholar Doctor Dablosa. My personal physician, Scholar Doctor Lukics found it fascinating. Scholar Doctor Lukics described how fresh air and sunlight make a person healthy. It made sense to him.

I would suggest that you do a review of government finances. There are rumors that some of the scholars are corrupt and need to be removed. Now, might be the time to cut back on unnecessary expenses. Trader Odysseuss claims that there is a lot of government waste and has been mentioning some of the scholars. Also, increase a variety of different fees, but leave taxes alone.

I don't know how we would do it. Some of the more outlying areas of the Nestos League have not been hit as hard. The edge of the Aegean is not as bad because of early quarantine measures. We should continue long distance trade as much as possible. This would include goods from Arabia and Illyria which is a long distance away.

I have been busy in Cyrene making sure that we are producing medicines for the plague for both us and our allies. I am worried we will accumulate some debt to do this. Debt is usually not a good thing.

I have been feeling well. I appeared in an article in the Abdera Times showing me next to people making medicine. It was a good article.

All the best,

Victor Spear, Envoy

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Joohan
Negotiator
 
Posts: 5463
Founded: Jan 11, 2018
Authoritarian Democracy

Postby Joohan » Sun Apr 25, 2021 2:38 pm

SO THAT'S WHAT A LEOPARD CLAW IS

Thwunk

the arrow shot low and short, burying itself somewhere beneath the grass in front of the target. As Dote's face twitched with frustration I could not help the well of satisfaction that grew inside my chest. Three arrows in, and he'd not even so much as glanced the target ( a bag of camel dung set up on a fallen tree stump ). I looked away before he could see the smirk that had crept up on one side of my face.

" You're not pulling back far enough. " I counseled him, " You must bring your fingers to the edge of your mouth before you release. "

He gave a haughty sigh at my remarks, his gaze still set on the bag of dung that stood atop the stump, mocking him and his pitiful draw. " The string it... it smacks my forearm when I release. "

" Bow your forearm out more - or roll your sleeves down you fool! " The day had been unusually warm out, the sun peering down through pines of the Sangda, bringing wild flowers to bloom, and the burbling creeks to shimmer, insects chirped and whined loudly around us, and birds quickly darted between their homes in the trees - the heat of day had brought all living creatures out from their winter hibernation. Dote and I wore only our under tunics, casting our thick yak and camel fur coats to the side, and rolling up our sleeves up to enjoy the breeze. His arms were pale white, save for a spot of pink on the bottom of the forearm, which he rubbed with his other hand.

After the humiliation that was my attempt at the sling some months ago, it felt good, like a cruel guilty pleasure, to see one of the Kester-Ana struggle at something I was good at! They didn't spend so much time in places like Sangda to accustom themselves to things like the bow or spears, favoring instead the stones that littered the plains and steppe where they usually travelled. True, I couldn't sling a stone to save my life, the bow and arrows which I had traded for with that red skin back in Phobalhan, though, meant I wouldn't have to.

He picked one of the arrows stuck in the ground next to him, notching it slowly before raising the bow out in front of him, his wrist noticeably more bent this time around. It was a primitive tool, the bow which i'd been gifted by the red man, but surprisingly robust. When talking to him, he described the process of making the thing - carving it from out of a single oak tree five fingers across, and shoring it till it was only just larger than half a finger width at the middle, the string was four cords made from plant fibers wound together, with sinew topping them at either end, and that was all it was. I'd expected the thing to have a weak draw strength, or for the string to lose tension after only a short while; in the two weeks after having received my prize, I was proud to eat my words. At twenty yards away, I could nail just about anything with ( what I guessed to be ) some 40 pounds of draw strength, and I was still accurate up to forty and fifty yards - only ever needing to stop when I broke or lost an arrow. Speaking of which -

Thwunk - LAPF!

Dote had loosed another arrow, this time it veered just right of the sack, and snagging the stone arrowhead on a gnarled branch, tore the top portion of the arrow clean from the rest of the shaft. Reflexively I grabbed my chest and seethed a sigh of emotional anguish. Dote turned to face me, his expression turned to concern over my very apparent pain. " I- oh, uhm... sorry. Should we stop? "

I shook my head slowly, staring at the chipped root where the arrow had broken itself apart, my voice coming as little more than a whisper, " No, no... you... you almost got it. Now just land the... land the damn shot Dote. "

I'd found that making a new arrow took at least an hour's worth of time, and that was assuming you had everything you needed already. I couldn't be mad at him for having broken one, it was his first time after all, and i'd broken more than a few myself. Still though, seeing the shaft split in two had forced my entire body to cringe. He picked up the last of the arrows stuck in the ground and notched it into the bow string. He bit his lip and and narrowed eyes, visualizing the bag in front of him. This was the last arrow, and the last chance for him to not look a complete fool in front of me. He exhaled, before slowly pushing the bow out in front of him and drawing the string back towards his mouth, lining up his shot with his pointer finger the whole way. He held for a moment there, the weight of the draw not so tremendous that he needed to immediately release, giving him time to ponder the arrow's trajectory. When his fingers did release, the movement was subtle, hardly letting go at all before the string snapped forward, faster than the eye could perceive. The arrow whistled as it cut through the air, ending with a hallow thump. We heard it before we saw it, but there, sticking through the side of the bag, having just barely snagged itself on one of the last fibers possible, the arrow had driven itself through. Dote had hit his target.

I threw my arms up into the air, and angling my head up to the sky I shouted, " YES! FINALLY! " Dote had thrown the bow to the ground and literally, literally, started jumping for joy, throwing his fists in the air, beating his chest, and yelling with me, as we began punching each other in the arms and about the head.

" Whose the man?! "

" I'm the man! "

" Whose a stone cold killer?! "

" I am! "

" Who broke my arrow?! "

" I -... hey, i'm sorry, I'll help you fix it. "

" Damn right you will! " I said, before giving his chest a tremendous push, sending him tumbling backward in a fit of giggling laughter. " Mon, help me find the arrows you missed. "

...

" How did you not see a yak behind here when you were setting up the sack?! " Dote leveled a right hook across my arm as he chastised me, his other hand holding up one of my stone tipped arrows above his head. The yak in question was absent mindedly munching on a patch of grass some few yards away, blissfully unaware when one of the stray arrows that missed our target had planted itself in a tree trunk only feet away from it.

" I am sorry, he must have walked over while we were shooting. There is no way that I would have missed him. " It was an embarrassing mistake on my part, but truthfully, I hadn't seen any yak there earlier. Dote ran his hand through his long black hair, breathing out as he spoke,

" At least none of the kids were around here, least they'd been shot. "

" ... well, would that have been such a terrible loss? "

He shot me a sharp look, but I could still see the humor behind it. He gave me another punch in the shoulder before smirking and speaking again, " C'mon then, let us go down to camp and put your infernal tools where they will harm no beast or child for the rest of this day. "

We'd been camped in Sangda, the green hilly forests of found on the far eastern side of the Ausong river, for some two weeks by that point. This place, compared to the desolate steppes of the west and lunar landscapes of the Ausong, was a veritable eden of life and diversity. Game, both big and small, was frequent and plentiful, the streams that came down from mountain glaciers were cool and refreshing ( and free of the salt which polluted nearly every lake and stream in the west ), cherry trees hidden among the sea of pines glistened with a metallic looking purple bark that covered their bodies, and black sweet apples hung low to the ground, picked freely by humans and animals alike. The temperature seldom ever changed, and the innumerable mountains and valley's blocked whipping southerly winds, letting only gentle cool breezes pass through the valley. This place was a paradise; whatever had driven my captors to leave this place for the plains of the west?

Grass, of all things, it was grass which took us away from here! Though this place was abundant in nearly all forms of life, it greatly lacked in the vast tracts of grass which was needed to feed our herds of yak and goats. The camels didn't care none, being able to eat practically anything ( and freely stripping every pine tree they came into contact with ) but the rest of our animals could not be so resourceful. So, every few years, we would come back to this side of the Ausong, to forage through this mountain cornucopia, before heading back out to the desolate west. As we came upon our camp, nestled at the bottom of a hillside, next to a burbling brook, I took in the golden reflection of the sun against the hide of our yurts, how beautiful and warm the scene looked. For now, and a few weeks after at least, all seemed perfect.

when we'd actually come into the camp though, we were surprised to find that most of the people had gathered round the tent of Amalaa and Dorjee. Head and shoulders above everyone else, I could clearly see the scene which had gathered them all together. Kneeling down before Dorjee was a man and woman. The man I recognized as being Dote's younger brother, Jampa - the woman though, I didn't know her name. She was one of the new arrivals, a girl who'd been married off from her tribe into ours during Phobalhan. They were both made to kneel down with their heads hung low before a dark looking Dorjee, and Hazugual at his back. Hazugual in particular looked to be in a foul mood; his sneer was visible even this far back in the crowd, his eyes like slits, glaring down at the two knelt in front of him.

" What is it - Mharko, what goes on? " Dote tapped onto Mharko's shoulder, prompting him turn round and face us. As soon as he saw Dote his expression turned to one of suprise and dismay.

" Dote! I am so sorry, but it is your Jampa, he's... " Mharko shifted his eyes from side to side, as if worried he might be over heard as he spoke, " ... Hazu has accused him of having slept with his new bride. "

His face immediately paled at Mharko's revelation. His mouth remained slightly open, appearing as though he wished to say something, but the words remained stuck behind his lips. " Do not worry though Dote, I am sure that guilt shall be placed upon that temptress from the outside - Jampa shall only receive the claws as recompense! "

Though he'd said it like it all were a good thing to hope for, Dote's face did not slacken from it's apparent horror. I didn't know what was about to happen, whether or not the accusation was true, or even what the claws were, but I gleaned that something terrible was about to happen.

Dorjee raised his dark leathery hands above his head, and silence fell upon the crowd. Over the sound of humming insects and singing birds, his raspy curt words rang out like a dust storm. "Children! Did the tears of Pho not bring my fathers to weep and ruin? Is it not the envy and greed of her sons and daughters which sends her woeful howls across the world, shuttering the hearts of men and beast alike? And did we not, only a few days ago, face our blood kin with earnest hearts and cupped ears? Why do we forsake that which we have known since the days of kester, and for which I have taught you since birth? Why do we covet and lust after that which belongs to others? "

With a shaking hand, he caressed the pale cheek of a weeping Jampa, and starred down at him through cataract ridden eyes. " My Jampa, son of my son, you've been found to be with the bride of the Perma, defiling their sacred bond, and yourself in toe. What have you to say to your cousin? "

" Don't... " Under his breath, I believe quite unintentionally, Dote had whispered his silent warning to his brother. Don't what, I wondered.

" I- I am sorry my cousin! Never have I sought, or wanted, to disgrace you! " Jampa's strained voice rang out high over the crowd. He was only sixteen years old, and still his voice held some of the lightness of childhood, making his shame ( or perhaps fear ) more terrible to hear.

" You have always been a kind friend to me and my brothers. Of my own will, never would I even contemplate such - such... a deed. It was not by my own will that I would do such a thing but - "

Lifting himself up from his bowed stoop, he stretched out an accusatory finger toward the girl to his right, and in a strained cry announced the culprit, " Her! She tricked me! Deceived me into laying with her, only so that she might spite your honorable name! "

I could scarcely describe the look of dread and horror that passed across that girls face as she saw Jampa's finger pointed towards her, and with every word that followed her terror began to turn toward desperate fury. When she finally lunged at the frightened youth, between the fists and claws she rained down all over his body, I could scarcely make out her shrill and enraged cries, " Liar...Liar!.. "

Women and children across the crowd recoiled in fear or disgust at her attack on the young man, while i'm sure that I heard at least a few of the men chuckle in amusement. Eventually ( after a few more seconds than what it probably should have been ) the girl was wrenched off Jampa, Hazu having put one of his dark and calloused hands onto her shoulder and violently throwing her off of him, the force of his throw sending her tumbling back some feet away. Just when the girl tried to raise herself up again, a boot pressed itself into the center of her back, forcing her chest onto the ground - another one of the cheated Perma and a brother to Hazu had pinned his accused bride to the earth, in a sickening display that reminded me of an insect pinned to a board.

Jampa still was protecting his face when Hazu had bent and began raising him up again. He brought his face very close to Jampa's a said something to feint to be heard from the back of the crowd, even as I strained to hear.

" What is he saying? " I pestered Mharko, though he appeared to be as deaf as I in that moment.

" He is asking him to prove his regret. " It was Dote who answered, and as I turned to look back at him, I saw that he'd thrown my bow and quiver over his shoulders and had his back turned toward me the crowd and his brother.

" I am not going to stay for this, and neither should you Itzhag... I am going to put your tools back into your yurt... " He wouldn't face me, so I had no idea how he looked in that moment, but from the waver of his voice I could practically feel the anger which was barely contained in every word. He paused as though he wanted to say more, but after another moment of silence, I suppose he decided that there was no more to be said, and began walking away from the crowd. When I turned back toward the scene I saw Jampa kneeling before Hazu, his right hand extended into his, and his head bent down facing his knees, not looking up toward the grave hunter. Raised up above his head, Hazu held aloft what looked to be a ball of fur attached to a wooden handle. Just as I was about to ask Mharko what it was that Hazu was holding up, the sun suddenly caught the polished shine of the claws that stuck out from the ball of fur. It was a leopards paw!

Hazu slowly brought the paw down onto the top of Jampa's hand, angling it so that the claw caught themselves deep into his skin starting at the wrist. I suddenly and violently realized a great deal many things: why nearly every adult Kester-Ana had terribly scarred hands, why the redskin at Phobalhan had looked at us wearily and called us leopard claws, and what it was that Mharko had meant when he said that Jampa would, receive the claws as recompense. I don't blame Dote for having wanted to not see this, and why he'd cautioned me to leave as well. I didn't, truly didn't want to see this sadistic display either... but I couldn't look away. Transfixed in horror as I was, my eyes could not be turned, even as I watched Hazu violently rip the claws down the length of Jampa's entire hand, gashing his skin open, and sending spurts of blood flying into the air, and dripping down to the earth below.

...

" Are you quite sure this is the way she would have went? "

" No I am not sure, but I couldn't imagine that she'd have gone anyway north or east, so I feel the most confident about this path. "

" Don't you have tracking experience with the hunters, should you not be able to look at a broken stick or disturbed grasses, or something, to track her down? "

" Yes I might be able to do that - if I weren't on top of a camel! "

It was dark out, and our only light was the glow of the moon through the pine needles. I could still make out the outline of trees and branches as we came up on them, but still, every now and then a branch would swoop down into my face and send me nearly reeling back off of Wesley. Our vehicle though, did not seem so perturbed as us, even in the dark he deftly maneuvered over the rocks and roots that were in his path, nature giving him some sense of sight and or direction which far exceeded our own. We'd been traveling south along along the creek which came running past our camp for nearly an hour, maneuvering as well as we could between the pines of the tree line. I sat in the crook between Wesley's two humps, directing our paths through a series of kicks and tugging of reigns which I'd conditioned him to respond to over the course of several weeks. Dote, quite uncomfortably, sat along the back hump, straddling Wesley's rear end as best he could. Initially, Dote had intended for us to make this journey on foot, carrying all the supplies upon our backs - but i'd convinced him of a more speedy and convenient means of transport.

" So this is what you've been doing every night? Here we'd thought your passion was for yaks, but it appears you had more insidious desires for the camels... how did this even come as a thought to you? How did it come to even work! "

Through his annoyed pleas half yelled into my back, I could detect the sense that he was more than a little impressed with my efforts, that I had genuinely appeared to tame and even ride the unruly camel - a feat never having been done before. " Well, where I am fr... where I came from, men had learned how to ride not only camels, but a whole host of wonderful creatures. Very seldom were we forced, against our will, to shoulder any load upon our feet alone. I had come from a place abundant in horses - though of a kind much faster and stronger than those who wander the plains west of Ausong - and from a young age I was taught in the way of taming them. Given my duties among the tribe, I thought it would be a great reward that I should try and do the same to these camels. Case in point, Wesley shall have us to this girl and back before daylight, where as you would have had us gone for a day or more. "

After Jampa had been made to show his regret by the bloody clawing of his hand, Boshay, the girl he'd accused of tempting him, had been divorced and exiled. With nothing more than the wraps on her feet and the tunic upon her back, she was made to leave the camp, not to return upon penalty of death. Alone in the wilds of the Sangda, and who knows how far removed from any other people, her exile meant almost certain death - such was the fate of those who besmirched the honor and dignity of the descendants of Kester. The entire affair ( i'd cringe at even the thought of calling what had happened a trial ) had been such a morbid and distasteful event. Not in the whole year of living with these people, picking up camel dung by hand, washing only once a week, and getting used to the foulest smells of both animals and men, had I felt so disgusted as I did walking back to my tent after witnessing the clawing of Jampa, and the exile of that girl. Just when I thought I was getting used to living with the Kester, even started to like their company in some ways, that act of cruelty had jaded me once again.

And then, Dote, the smart mouthed bastard, managed to renew my faith. when i'd pulled the tarp back from the entrance of my yurt, I was surprised to see Dote still in there, hunched over an unswaddled hide sack, upon which was a small mound of nuts, dried strips of meat, raisined berries, and even a black apple! We made eye contact for a moment, before breaking it off and facing back down toward his mound of food, adding more to the pile.

" What are you doing? " I asked. We were the only ones in the yurt, but I didn't know for how much longer that would be. He didn't stop his work, even as he answered me.

" Do not worry about what it is I do, none of it is your concern. " The furious anger of earlier, upon seeing his brother humiliated in front of the tribe, was gone from his voice. It was serious now, like the tone he took whenever we went about hard labors with the herd. I closed the tarp behind me and came over to kneel down beside him. He cast an annoyed glare up at me over his shoulder, before looking back down at the sack, as he folded the ends together and knotted it at the top.

" It is none for you to worry about, Itzhag."

" Worry? I'm not worried for you fool. Whatever it is you seek to do I know you can very well handle it on your own. My concern is that whatever you should seek to do might cause more harm than good - that may cause Jampa more harm, me! So what is it then? "

He stood up then, bringing the sack in both his arms, feeling for it's weight comparative to it's volume. His expression seemed to be focused, maybe on the bag, maybe on the weight of my words. seeming content with the weight of the thing, Dote set the sack back down at his feet, and placing his hands upon his hips, turned to face me.

" Jampa can bring no more harm upon himself than what he has already done. As for the Michewa ( Dote and Jampa's clan ), our honor shall be besmirched yet still, should that girl come to harm - or even death - by my brother's foolish actions. Tears of the wind-maker indeed, I shall not have an innocent come to harm because my brother ignored my warnings. "

Throwing the sack over his shoulder, he moved past me making for the door. So it seemed that Dote was intent upon a journey of familial recompense, to save that girl for mistakes not his own. Just before throwing back the tarp I stopped him in his tracks, putting my hand upon his shoulder and turning him to face me. He didn't seem annoyed, his eyes, if anything, conveyed a sense of tired weariness to them, and he sighed as he spoke to me. " This is my family's honor Itzhag, our burden, not your's. I cannot, nor would I, ask for the aid of an outsider in that endeavor. "

" None sense Dote, and to hell with your family's honor, i'm here for myself. " In so few expertly chosen words, I managed to bring the annoyance right back onto his face.

" Were you to lose yourself on this journey and not return, I would have to be made to contend with our entire herd myself. That is an unfair burden that you would be laying upon me, and in such a way, further disgracing your family's name. "

" It is a journey I must take Itzhag! "

" I agree, and so I will be coming with you - to ensure that you make it home safe! "

He did a double take, blinking as he looked back up at me, and a mild smirk crossed his face as he addressed my proposal. " You? Bring me home safe? There are children among us with more sense of survival than you, you would only be a burden to me among the hills and forests. "

Damn, even though I knew it was true and people reminded me all the time, just to hear it out loud hurt. " Alright, yes, that is generally true... but i've something which will greatly ease the burden of our journey, and hasten our swift return home. Tell me Dote, how close are you with Wesley? "

True to my word, Wesley, even in the darkened forests, was able to much more quickly cover ground than what Dote would have been able to on his own - even with the two of us and the sack loaded up on his back. Riding up on a camel was, though similar in some ways to horses, was also much different. For one, riding without a saddle definitely was chaffing my legs ( I could only imagine the uncomfortable time Dote was having on the back ). For another, when pulling back the reigns on a horse, the horses head would pull downward. For a camel and it's long swooping neck, however, pulling the reigns back would more often than not simply cause the neck to contract or bend slightly. In the weeks of practice and training, I'd found that you couldn't very well make a camel do anything it didn't want to do. The beast needed to trust you for one, and even then, you could only suggest to it commands. In time I was sure that i'd become a better rider, being able to better exert my will upon the unruly mount, but for now I was still very much the novice, and almost literally was I driving blind in this dark forest - till suddenly I heard Dote call out from my rear.

" Look, down by the stream! "

I turned my head to the right, and peering through the wall of black trunks and needles which stood in front of my eyes, the stream shined through, illuminated silver by moonlight. I scanned it's rocky banks, and after a moment I saw what it was Dote had seen! Upon a large flat stone that stuck halfway out from the water, a figure, a woman, sat, her back turned towards us and her head stooped low. Boshay, it had to have been! Turning Wesley to the right, we slowly emerged out of the black tree line and made our way toward the silver waters below. Unlike with horses, camels walked upon toes, and so Wesley's footfalls upon the stones and grass were almost silent as we approached. Suddenly, as we came nearer and nearer to the figure upon the rock, my mind raced with concerning thoughts: perhaps we should announce ourselves lest she think we're here to harm her, maybe she doesn't want our help, what if this isn't her, what if she's dead already and we're approaching a corpse? That last point at least was proven incorrect immediately, as we came closer to her stone we heard her mournful weeping and sobs. It could barely be heard over the burbling of the creek, sometimes even blending, as we approached the air itself seemed to chill in solemnity.

" Boshay, is that you? "

Dote called out. The woman turned her face around, whipping her long black hair over her shoulders, the silver light of the moon revealing it was in fact Boshay. Her voice quivered as she called back out to us, bringing her knees up to her chest for fear of the lumbering beast that approached in the dark. " Who is there? Who calls out to me? "

" It is I, DotEEE- "

Thud

Dote had reeled back off of Wesley's hindquarters, falling to the ground in a heap. Apparently, Wesley had thought we'd come down to the stream for a drink, and so had not stopped in front of the rock but proceeded to stoop down toward the water, shifting his posture and sending an unsuspecting Dote off his rear.

" Why'd you do that? " His frustrated cry coming up from my rear. I could feel the coolness of the stream fill my wraps as I hopped off Wesley's back and splashed into the waters, " Not me, him - this animal does as he pleases. "

" Why are you here, what more is it that you want from me, sons of the Michewa? " Her voice shook with fear, still tinged with the sadness from moments ago. With her back facing toward the moon, I couldn't make out her expression, her entire silhouette turned to black and shadow in front of us.

As Dote stood up and dusted himself off, his voice took on a tired and mournful tone. " Worry not, we've not come for vengeance or ill intent. That you have suffered enough because of my kin already is unfair. Though Jampa has bled and yet still heals for his misdeeds toward the Perma, he has not made up for his misdeeds against you. I have come on his behalf. Itzhag- "

Already I had undone the knapsack from round Wesley's waist and upon carrying it over to where Boshay laid upon the rock, I deposited the bag in front of her. Dote continued.

" There are six days worth of food in there, as well as a knife and water skin. That should be more than enough to hold you over till you come across your people once more, who I hear yet still roam round the Sangda. "

Boshay let go of her knees and crawled over to where I'd set down the sack, untying it's rope and looking into contents. When she looked back up at us, her face was still shrouded in darkness, but I could hear the tears welling up once again. " So what if I come upon my people? I am disgraced, called a deceiver by the Kester-Ana - my family will not have me again! "

I gambled when I placed my hand upon her shoulder, and though she initially flinched at my touch, she did not turn away, looking up into my eyes. " What family would lament the return of their own daughter? Go to them, and so that my words are true. Surely, the warmth and comfort of a yurt will be more so than that of a stone. "

" You... you are not a Michewa? "

Her words sounded confused, like she didn't understand. Dote interjected with context. " Itzhag offered his help to me, and that of his camel. He has no clan. "

Her breath caught in an audible gasp before questioning me further, " Yes you are that giant that helped tend to the camels... But if you are of no clan then why did you come? My disgrace was played in no part because of you. We've never even talked, you and I! Why would you come all the way out here to help me? "

It was a strange thing, but in that moment, I actually felt embarrassed. I'd told Dote that I didn't want him getting lost and making me take care of the camels all by myself - but the truth was I felt awful about what had happened to her; and in some weird way I couldn't really explain, not even to myself, I did feel responsible. So here I was, having come all this way, and put all this effort into helping this poor woman I hardly knew, and now I had to explain why; why did I do it?

I was silent for a moment, mulling over my answer in my mouth, starting and stopping, before settling on what I felt was the right answer. " Do you need a reason to do the right thing? I came to help because you needed it, and I wanted to. "

As I said it I knew it was the right answer, it felt good to say, having pleasant after taste. It was right because it was true. She fell silent for a moment, no more questions from her, not even a whimper eschewing from her lips for a time. Then, her hands reached up and tightly wound around my own, bringing it to her chest and squeezing it as hard she could. The stoic resolve in her voice surprised me when she suddenly spoke again, " Thank you, Itzhag. And thank you, Dote. I will not forget... what you have done for me. "

As she stood up from the rock, she picked up the sack of food and threw it over her shoulder, much how Dote had done earlier that day. Her head blocked out moon perfectly, so that silver rays appeared to illuminate a halo around her shadowed head, " This is more than what I deserve... pray for me, will you? For I shall pray for you. "

" We will. " Dote said, coming up alongside me, nudging me with his elbow in kind.

" Oh uhm, yes... I... we will. "
Last edited by Joohan on Mon May 03, 2021 10:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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UniversalCommons
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Founded: Jan 24, 2016
Left-Leaning College State

Postby UniversalCommons » Mon Apr 26, 2021 7:46 am

Sumeria Near Ur

Scholar Kug Bau walked next to the camel. He had a frown on his his. He muttered under his breath, "Accursed Erra, why do you bring us the noonday sun which strikes men down and brings the plague. I have to go to the ends of the earth to find answers. Is it not enough that men and women die in great numbers. May Ishtar preserve me from this terrible heat."

He was in a caravan from Ebla to Ur. He had taken a boat from Abdera on a long slow trip. They had picked up supplies on the way. He had watched as sailors dropped the supplies in a large clearing then moved back into the port. Then men from the boat went to pick them up. There was no contact and the sailors were forbidden from entering the port.

Kug Bau wished he had not had to go to Ur. In Anbar, he had gone through the tablets they had and there was no complete answer to what had happened with Erra and the plague. He was taking a long shot in finding two sentences on an old tablet which mentioned three sisters, Ishtar, and Erra. He had rubbings of the tablets and notes on what he had discovered about Erra from Anbar. Any key to the plague would be helfpful. They had tried many different herbs and medicines. None of them worked completely. A few more people survived, but not enough.

Penelope had told Kug Bau that Victor Spear had mentioned something called a vaccine, but he had no idea how to make it. There was some essence of a disease which could be extracted somehow to make a person immune. There were some strange new experiments on strengthening the blood with the juice of young wheat, bone broth, and other tonics, but these seemed to do little.

Kug Bau guessed the story of the Red Plague was at least a century old. Maybe, it stretched back into time immemorial. He wished that there was a key to the plague in the Temple of Ishtar.

The caravan stopped near a small town covered with dust. Kug Bau sought shade and a drink of water. The townspeople would not let them get near the hastily constructed brick wall.
One of the gate guards holding a spear, yelled "No foreigners, no travelers keep out. This is our town. We are free of the cursed plague. Stay away."

There were few people on the roads. Occasionally, they might see a person in an ox cart or leading a camel or a donkey, but these people stayed away from the caravan. The best thing to do was to stay behind your walls keeping away from foreigners, tending your crops, and pray that you did not catch the plague.

Kug Bau wore the brown robes of an unaffiliated scholar. He claimed to be researching time; hourglasses, drip clocks, sundials, and calendars. His mission was not a public one. It was critical he not be interfered with. There were factions in the Nestos League that might seek to stop him. He had to be very careful.

He trod on the road, for two weeks before reaching Ur. They did not let him in immediately. He was quarantined, then inspected carefully. Another two weeks passed before he could enter Ur, and that was only because of a diplomatic seal and letter from the House of Wisdom.

When he was ready, he changed into the official robes of the Scholar Translation Ministry and put on the seal ring of an official. He brought copies of the papers with him and was escorted with several people to the Temple of Ishtar. He brought papers asking entrance to the Temple Libraries along with an offering of gold, myrrh, herbs, flowers, as well as the traditional, dates, wool, meat, and grain. He also handed over a stack of rubbings of old tablets with extensive notes detailing the story of Erra.

He spoke simply, "I wish entrance to the old temple libraries, I am studying the plague. There may be some answers in the older records. I am not sure if this is true. But, it may help us out to understand how the plague started. It is not new."

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Ralnis
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Postby Ralnis » Tue Apr 27, 2021 9:14 am

(This is a collab with me and Alarmoa. Warning, has talks of suicide and trauma. Will have to be split between two post because its huge)

An Empress and a Scholar


It had been nearly two decades since the Sumerians had ever sended their own warships for a mission. Last time it was with an armored fleet of classical warships that were now at the bottom of the Gulf. Now the ships had been a mixture of the normal Sumerian oared galleys but now there were medieval sailing ships. True oarless vessels that were still coming from the drydocks as the navy was rebuilding and renovating itself after the Unification War.

Luther hid from the sun, it was nearly a decade and a half since he was out at sea. Last time was to see the newest ideas of the Sumerian naval officers. Things to enforce their might on the Golden Gulf but things were different now. His hands were shaking violently and he couldn’t hide it from the crew or the Empress.

Damn it! Damn it! Luther thought as he closed his eyes tightly I already knew who he was beforehand!

He took a deep breath but still saw his hands shake. We are in the Strange World. These Immortals are still just humans. Humans like me but each one had made their place.

He looked at the window as the land got closer. He took a large sigh again. However he still couldn’t control his shaking.

“Guess it’s time to meet one of my own after so long.”

On the coastline, the “city” of Adulis went about its business as Aksum’s main gate to the outside world. The sight of Sumerian ships sent the town into a blur of excitement. At first, it was suspected these were merchant ships. However some locals quickly deduced this wasn’t your regular traders.

On a hill near the city, three Royal Guardsmen who lived in Adulis examined the ships coming into port. “This isn’t a normal visit, I can feel it.” Paul noted to his fellows, who simply nodded in agreement.

“Well squad leader, what do you think we should do?” Guardsman Adriel asked, scratching his head.

“Go get a messenger to inform Aksum we have visitors. If there isn’t someone who follows him half a day later, I think its fair something went wrong here. Get going, Adriel. Join us at the city center, in your equipment, afterwards.” Paul told Adriel, who nodded.

“As for you Adonai, go get the militia in some state of readiness. I’ll go get the Guardsmen in the city. We’ll greet our guests when they land. If nothing is wrong, then we’ll just be a fancy…...what did Commander Andrew call it? Honor Guard? Or maybe they’re just merchants, and this is all for nothing. But I doubt it.” Paul said to the third man, who nodded.

By the time the ships began docking, those on board would see one hundred armed men in formation looking at them. The difference in standards was easy to spot. Of the one hundred, only 20 had armor. 10 were archers, while the entirety of the militia
had only spears and shields. However Paul, doing his due diligence, went into shouting distance of the ships.

“Welcome to Aksum!” he shouted. “You don’t look like Merchants! Who are you!?” he shouted in inquiry, before leaning on his shield.

The oarless ships came into view with the sight of the sand color background with three golden triangles that came from it. Ramps came down with soldiers in iron. They came as much as 120 could be seen in both ships but only 30 of them ever came down. With them were two of the people.

One of them was a female that looked regal. Gold was hanging off of her arms, neck, even ankles as she wore a modified version of sandals. She had an ice-cold authority to her as she stared down Paul.

The other looked like a darker skin Sumerian. One could see he had African blood mixed within him but to where is a mystery. He looked like he was calculating something, his eyes never staying one place twice but his glasses would note that he was a scholar of some repute.

“My name is Empress Ur-Surtur, second of the Holy Dynasty of Ur and the Empire of Sumeria.” She declared to Paul,” my sister is a princess here.”

She also motioned to the chittery scholar,” This is my vizar, Issaris. He is of no repute but to help with various things.”

Paul stood there for a moment, shocked. What was the Sumerian Empress doing on their doorstep? He certainly wasn’t expecting this.

“I beg your pardon madam, just to make sure I’m not mistaken. You are the ruler of Sumeria?”

She just gave a nod, expecting where this was going.

Adriel walked up to Paul, and leaned in to whisper to him. “Did Andrew know she was coming? She’s the sister of Princes Ur-Sundor, yeah?”

Paul shook his head, saying “No, and I’m guessing neither did the King. I guess that’s why she’s here. But she does remind me of the princess. Or maybe I just dont know how to tell Sumerians apart. Her escort doesnt lie, though.”

Turning back to the Empress, Paul asked her “Empress Ur-Surtur, what brings you to the Kingdom of Aksum?”

The Empress raised an eyebrow,” are you saying that my envoy did not make it here? A galley with my flag was supposed to be here two months ago announcing why we are here and it didn’t show?”

“I assure you, our commander would be here to greet you, and not someone lowly like me if they did. Alas, we have received no such vessel.” Paul said, not having had any envoys show up that he could recall as of late.

This time Issaris gave a sigh and the Empress had a slight showing of anger before it dispersed.

“ It seems that these pirates are more of a trouble than originally thought. Very well, it seems I will have to wait here until you bring me somebody but notify the king that the envoy ship was perhaps sunk and that we are here to see the King and my sister. The reason was to be a trade mission and to talk about these pirates.”

“We could escort you to Aksum. I’ve already sent people to know we have visitors, and I can send another to tell them the details. After that, we can escort you to Aksum.” Paul suggested.

“Very well, take us then.” The Empress commanded.

Nodding, Paul began making preparations for a trip to Aksum. It wasn’t campaign season, but sometimes situations like this were inevitable. Hence Paul, along with the other local guardsmen would be making the journey to Axum.

In the city itself, when word of the Empresses arrival came, shock rippled through the capital. To say this was unexpected would be an understatement. Which would leave Andrew to have way more work than he was anticipating this week. Hell, it was a royal visit. This could be a busy couple months.

Forcing all the local Guardsmen to make themselves presentable for the Empress's arrival, Axum’s political machine began making the city look nice enough for the Empress. This didn’t change the fact it was a city of 3,000 that was widely dispersed. She would think what she thought. She would enjoy Aksum’s roads however, considering they were the most pristine between Adulis and Axum.

King Emmanuel himself was badgered by meetings, and senatorial inquiries due to the turn of events. To be frank, the only person who wasn’t feeling some level of anxiety over this was probably Ur-Sundor herself. Of course she was in the later stages of pregnancy, so she wouldn’t have been heavily involved in preparations anyway, besides voicing her opinions on what might impress her sister.

Half a day before the Empress was due to arrive, Andrew sat on a hill outside the city, thinking. From what he knew, the Empress herself probably wasn’t like him. However he couldn’t help but feel there was a modern person like him with Sumer. Whoever this person was just got a better place to drop. He also seemed to hide him or herself. Just like him, he didn’t outright rule Aksum. His influence was quieter than that. So, that begs the question. Was he about to meet someone like him, or was he excited over nothing. Whatever the case, the calls of his subordinates would end his time alone. They would be here soon.

The very sight of the city was small, as small as a small city in the Empire. Even after seeing the tens of thousands that went between the Prosperous South and lived in more modern standards, one could feel that the city was inadequate. Luther however knew what this was, he could feel the very techniques that had come from Sumerian influence. Much of it was built and studied by Aksumites but he knew that the Sumerian impact on history was secured.

If I were to die today, I had done my job. Sumeria is powerful and prosperous. They will stand in the Strange World.

Of course as all the greetings were exchanged and Luther did his job. He’s been at this for so long but then he saw Andrew and he already knew the modern man. He studied the information that was gathered from his Night Watch long before but still. Like him, Andrew looked like he had gone native and made himself quiet. It was interesting to know his power was quiet but still known.

“My Empress,” Luther bowed to Ur-Surtur,” I request to speak to Andrew in private concerning other affairs.”

“And why should we not be there?” The Empress questioned.

“Because of other news my Lady.” The Immortal coughed and turned away.

It took a minute for her to have a slight realization and then sighed,” very well, but be here quickly.”

He bowed and turned to Andrew,” my Lord. May I speak with you in private?”

Andrew looked at the man who approached him, and red lights began going off in Andrew’s head. Aolis came up to Andrew’s side, about to question the stranger, before Andrew gave him a look. “It’s fine Aolis, it’s just a conversation.”

Aolis looked between him and Andrew, before sighing, and going back to attending his soldiers.

“Alright, let’s chat.” he said, motioning with his head to follow him out of the ear range of others.

“I gotta ask, what business does a scholar have with the head of a foreign nation’s military.” Andrew said, crossing his arms.

“A scholar can be a lot of things my lord. I am the vizar, a scholar of the world and adviser of her court. I have been around since the Holy Dynasty was founded ever since I had earned my freedom from my teachers.” Luther states with a warm smile.

“I see. Well I’ve always been a free man, and I’ve used my freedom in the service of my father in law. His authority gives me leeway to bring justice to those who need it, and deliver prosperity to those without it. Though more importantly to me, is my faith in God. Whatever one can do to make the world better I suppose.” Andrew replied, trying to get a read on the man.

“Ahh, a noble goal to be sure.” Luther kept his smile,” I have no higher calling or aspirations beyond what the Empire has done for me and my service to the Empress herself. Her wisdom is truly divine and the Seven has granted her such skill to handle the power such as Sumeria!”

“That is all fine and good, though I have to ask. Why do you desire to talk to me? As I’ve said before, I’m a military man.” Andrew asked, curious how much this man knows.

“Well you see it has something to with Yanbu. More, importantly the person leading them and their correlation with you, Andrew the Immortal.” Luther’s eyes shine with a mischievous knowing despite his smile showing.

Andrew’s eyes shifted firmly on the man, and he was mildly confused. Immortal? Andrew aged well, but he felt it was a stretch to call him immortal.

Luther knew he got his attention and pressed it,” tell me Andrew, have you ever wondered why you are in peak physical condition despite being in your thirties? Have you ever wondered why you could be immune to most sicknesses when it should have claimed you?”

Then Luther started speaking in Nestosian,” Have you ever wondered how you are able to understand,” Then he spoke in Elamite,” and perceive,” and then he spoke in American English,” and speak languages you never knew or ever heard before?”

“How the fuck do you know English?” Andrew asked, perhaps more violently than intended. Then it hit him. “You got sent back too, didn’t you………..”

Luther’s eyes shifted around despite the location,”Yeah, you can say that. Short and narrow. But if you want me to speak more about this, then come to my room after night. There’s too much information and importance that needs to be discussed.”

“I’d rather not be seen snooping around the quarters of Sumerian royalty. How about you come have dinner at my house? Say in a few days. I have a separate room for work, and discussing things that need sensitivity.” Andrew replied, his eyes looking over the Sumerian delegation. I could see Aklilu looking over at me, probably wondering what I was up to. The crown prince should probably focus more on his visiting sister in law, but that couldn’t be helped.

“That’s fine by me. I already have sent my message.” Luther said as he put back on his mask as easy as it slipped and walked back to the Empress’s side.

Sighing, Andrew went back to his soldiers. “What was that?” Aolis asked. “Curious Sumerian bureaucrats. Don’t pay it any mind.” Andrew replied, before going next to Aklilu. “How is Ur-Sundor feeling?” I asked the younger man. “Happy to see her sister. I’m guessing it will be a busy family visit, huh?” I patted him on the back, knowingly. Of course I didn't have middle eastern royalty as family back in my world, but family in Louisiana is basically the same.

Ur-Surtur saw the Immortal returned and whispered in another language,” that took long.”

“Had to take some stupid things to get him to understand. However he means well.” Luther spoke back.

“I hope so, I don’t want to be dealing with another you.” Ur-Surtur did a side smile,

“Not everyone is the same. Remember, Immortals are just humans who are given immortality and can speak any language. Other than that, they are still humans no matter what. Just treat them like how you would treat your fellow man in this case.” Luther explained.

“I know, I had met three others in my lifetime and only one was an annoying drunkard who nearly died to Indus poppies.” Ur-Surtur shot back.

“Don’t you dare bring that up! I was at a difficult time with the constant war! War that we still are reeling from now that the Red Plague has hit and pirates have decided to make a large presence known in the Red Sea.” Luther nearly raised his voice.

“I’m sorry but that war cost me my mother. Don’t think that it would be a good idea for you to end your life on drugs and wine to calm your nerves. You are the only one that can help us grow to prosperity and can actually plan against other Immortals and we need your knowledge to help Sumeria.”

Only then can I actually get peace and a hold on my life Luther thought as Andrew came up to them.

A soldier went over to Andrew, explaining that the king was ready to receive the Empress. Family, and important Senators would be with them. Nodding, Andrew put on his helmet. “Show time. Hold these.” Andrew told the Guardsmen, handing over his spear and shield. Only his sword dangled from his side.

Andrew approached the Empress and her entourage, and bowed. “My name is Andrew Negasi. I am the head of the Aksumite Royal Guard. The safety of the king, and you, will be of utmost importance to me while you are here. King Emmanuel and those who might concern you are in the Royal household. Allow me to escort you to them, Empress Ur-Surtur.”

The Empress just nodded as she walked ahead of them. Luther kept his mask on as a gittering scholar but he was making sure nothing went wrong on his end. Her guards were making sure they do their duties but it was all for show. Luther knew ahead of time that the pirates might not do something but he also had some suspicions who could be doing this and even a reason why. All it mattered was to try and get the message clear to the King.

Taking that as his cue to lead them to the King’s Residence, Andrew began leading the Empress and her entourage down to the royal residence along with his guardsmen. The city was always in a state of evolution, so Andrew tried to lead them down paths that were paved and seemingly. Though that said, it wouldn’t take much effort for the Empress to find hints of construction. Most notably was the projects to bring water directly into the city for hygienic purposes.

Moving into the city’s political center, you’d find it at its most pristine. The buildings in question weren’t very large by the standards of other lands with large populations, but they didn’t need to be. The Royal residence was in fact not too far from the Royal Senate. Both buildings were similar in style, but different in purpose. It went without saying the Senate was a larger building that handled a larger traffic of people everyday.

Approaching the royal residence, the three stars of the Aksumite insignia were clearly seen on the entryway to the residence. Two Royal Guards stood at guard, other guardsmen inside. Andrew turned around to the Empress, saying “You’re free to bring four of your guards with you inside.”

Ur-Surtur looked to the four of them among the crowd. Each of them were indistinguishable from the rest of the but Luther knew what they were. They were the Night Watch, the very intelligence agency that was made to fight against Uruk during the Unification Wars. The very people were made to be the hand of Luther and the Council. So now they were the true bodyguards of the group.

It was the four she picked and nodded to Andrew.

“These will be the four.”

“Of course.” Andrew looked over to the crown prince, who took it as his cue to take his place next to his brother in law. He turned back to Ur-Surtur. “Follow me, if you will.”

Heading inside, the royal residence was not without decoration. Aksumite art took the form of various kinds of pottery for the most part, along with Aksumite experimentation with painting and wall designs.

They would make their way into a larger interior room, which was full of people. At the end of the room, an older Aksumite man with some modest golden trinkets, sat in a central place. However it wasn’t the trinkets that gave his status away, it was the way those around him acted.

The Empress would also quickly find her sister, not too far away from the king. She was pregnant, but also looked healthy. She immediately brightened up at the sight of her family. She had two young teenagers around her, and what appeared to be a woman in her early 20s.

On the other side of the room, senators talked amongst themselves, stopping at the sight of the Sumerian Matriarch. If you paid enough attention, you would see even the senators had cliques among themselves. There were others in the room as well, but they all stood silent.

“I’d like to present to the court Empress Ur-Surtur of Sumeria., my liege.” Andrew said, bowing to Emanuel. This was far more formal than Andrew and Emmanuel’s usual interactions, considering they were family. However the idea that the Aksumite hierarchy was real, and the King was respected by his subordinates to foreigners was vital.

Emmanuel stood up from his seat, clearing his throat. “Thank you for that, Commander Negasi.” Nodding, Andrew and the crown prince made room for the Empress and her entourage to step forward.

Emmanuel smiled when he caught sight of the Empress. “Welcome to Aksum, Empress Ur-Surtur. I hope your journey to our blessed highlands was a smooth one.”

“Thank you King Emmanuel. It was a good one for the Seven had found us going to Muraback. We have heard good things about Aksumite and Sumerian trade there but have been plagued by pirates. The same ones who had sunk our envoy vessel that was supposed to notify you and your Senate of our coming.”

“Yes, I’ve heard increasing concern over the issue of piracy from those who are involved in such activities. Of course sometimes it's hard to gauge if it's simply the conditions of the sea, or pirates when a ship goes missing. Of course the senate has been discussing proposals to help address the issue, though we only have so many hands. Infrastructure, harvesting seasons, the needs of the provinces. I’m sure you understand what I mean.” Emmanuel said, explaining the Aksumite situation.

:Of course, which is why I had come here myself other than to see my sister after so many years. You see the problems that the pirates had made their move against three out of the four nations who trade in this area of the ocean. Aksum, Muraback and Sumeria have use of slavery or servitude practice while Yanbu doesn’t.

Most of the raids on our shipping had been towards moving servants or slaves across the region and we have suspected that Yanbu is involved in it. However we don’t have any proof about it. Do you have evidence from what you can find?”

“No, we don’t. Though from what I know about Muraback, I doubt it's them at the very least. Various reports also say that the pirates tried passing themselves off as Aksumite officials. As to that note, we’re going to make sure our Naval vessels have clearer insignia’s and protocols for these kinds of situations. What you sailors should know is that Aksum does not take tax through its Naval vessels, and anyone claiming to be taking taxes using a naval vessel is not being truthful about their allegiances. We have ground side authorities for such tasks. “ The king replied, giving what he knew for context.

“Yes, Muraback is also suffering from the attacks from what I believe. Everyone is suffering that has invovled itself from the slave trade. We wish to help end this before it becomes too big of a problem.” Ur-Surtur said.

“I see, well, I suppose there’s no harm making plans to address the issue. As sad as it might be, Andrew and the royal guard can't swim as fast as they can march. That said, we’ve been hoping to get light patrol boats that can carry sailors and marines. Boats that can handle relatively few sailors and are fast enough to engage against pirates.” The king explained. A few senators nodded along in agreement, indicative of where the idea might have sprung up.

“I’m afraid that won’t be much. Sumeria offers something else entirely in the form of espionage. You see, the Empire’s eyes and ears have been sharpened through the blood of fighting with our former rival of Uruk for a generation. The blood lost from such endeavors as allowed our spies to be able to detect such patterns easily enough. However, this should be for the sake of affirming that Yanbu isn’t doing anything such as investing into terrorism and piracy for the sake of trying to liberate slaves.”

Such a thing would be considered to be very dangerous for the safety and prosperity of trade in this region.” The Empress finally made her peace.

The mention of Sumerian Espionage made Emmanuel turn his head, and Andrew take a moment to pause. It wasn’t surprising that Sumeria had such capabilities. In fact, Andrew had been thinking over starting up Aksum’s own espionage units. That said, how much they could do would be very limited as things stood.

“So you want to begin some sort of campaign of espionage, as you called it? To begin gathering information, to see how we should proceed?” Emanuel asked. “If so, how can we help?”

“To be precise there’s not much that Aksum can do I believe. Without much of the Kingdom having their own hand in the use of cloak-and-dagger then I’m afraid the Kingdom can’t really be much help. However,” Ur-Surtur looked at Andrew,” I do believe that there is someone who can be of help. Tell me Andrew, how good are you at stealth?”

Andrew wasn’t totally surprised to be called on, considering the subject matter. “I think that I and my Guardsmen have certain good habits and track records that would be beneficial to the creation of a more stealth oriented arm of the Aksumite state.” That ‘track record’ being years long in fact. From sneaking guardsmen into villages at night to burn them down, to using a proto cell system, which included handlers. However this all was mostly used to give intelligence to the Guard, and enable it to follow its objectives. That, and to help Andrew get certain political wins when needed.

Andrew had been considering making an official foreign intelligence arm of the Royal Guard for a while now, but didn’t really see the pressing need. With resources being the way they were, it always seemed like the way things worked now would be fine.

“As for me personally, I do recall one time getting the drop on a band of foreign actors to save a person of interest to Aksum.” The members of the royal family, and a few senators, perked up when they heard that. Especially the young woman next to the Empress’s sister. Andrew’s words obviously meant a lot more to those in the know.

Luther actually broke character for a split second to raise an eyebrow but got back into his chittering form. It was interesting to hear that the Immortal had some experience and knew what the Empress was going with this. It was a good idea in his mind but he didn’t say anything on the matter as Ur-Surtur carried on.

“Then my proposal is this King Emmanuel, a joint operation to find out the connections between Yanbu and the alleged activities. Andrew and his guard will work with our spies to help see if they are true or not. Should they return empty handed then we have nothing to fear except from the pirates, which Sumeria will contribute a flotilla to the problem. However, should they return injured or with the necessary evidence to damn the country, then we shall have what we need to press a claim to the leadership.”

She holds a finger up,” if they do not come to the negotiating table then we must press what I like to call ‘gunboat diplomacy’ which is basically a more elegant way for blockading their ports and threaten invasion until they come to the table.” She sighed,” I am not in the manner of dealing with vein or unnecessary threats to your majesty, however this piracy is hindering the prosperity of the region and harming both of our countries. Should it happen then I will not hesitate to bring the hammer of the Seven upon our enemies.”

Andrew looked a different kind of freaked for a moment when the words ‘gunboat diplomacy’ were spoken before returning to his normal composure. This was only really noticed by Aklilu, who put his hand on Andrew’s shoulder.

Emmanuel took a pause, before looking at Andrew. “How much trouble would it be if we switched your focus from ‘relationship building’ in the northern provinces, and switch to helping with this piracy issue.”

Andrew looked blank for a moment, the commander thinking things over. “Sir, our ‘relationship building’ is going to be a decades long project. It doesn’t hurt us one bit if we take a little time to address the piracy issue. Besides, I think this will be a good time to display the gentler aspect of our diplomatic core.”

Emmanuel thought over his son in law’s words, before adding “In this case, I suppose I can agree to cooperation between the Royal Guard and Sumerians on the information gathering task you desire to pursue.” As far as Andrew was concerned, his plans to make an official Espionage wing of the RG had been accelerated.

User avatar
Ralnis
Postmaster of the Fleet
 
Posts: 26769
Founded: Aug 06, 2012
Father Knows Best State

Postby Ralnis » Tue Apr 27, 2021 9:15 am

(This is the second pots between me and Alorma, warnings are still the same)

The Chosen, among Heaven and Earth


“He’s just a scholar? Isn’t there more interesting people in Sumeria?” Columbia questioned Andrew, who was taking off his armor. “Sometimes, scholars have interesting things to say, Turtle.” The 12 year old folded her arms, raising an eyebrow at her father. “What does he have to say, then?”

Andrew, having finished taking of his chest piece, patted his daughter on the head. “Nothing you’ll find interesting.” This answer was not satisfying to the pre teen, but by the look Andrew gave her, she suspected it would be best to let the conversation drift elsewhere. “When is he going to arrive?”

“Soon. I can’t imagine it will be long after your mother has finished making the food. Or maybe slightly before. I can’t speak for Sumerian timeliness. Speaking of food, maybe you should be helping your mother and sister finish making it.” Andrew said, before shooing the girl out of his room.

Defeated, Columbia would go help her mother and Iris. Wherever the rest of his family was, well that depended. Israel was probably with Aklilu, and would be headed home soon. The younger children would be somewhere in lands of their household, playing. Andrew’s mother was walking back from the barn, having apparently helping out there earlier.

Finishing his transition into a more casual attire, he would patiently way in the front, scanning for any visitors. The first person to come into sight wasn’t Luther, however. No, it was Israel.

Luther was the second person to arrive, apparently looking less like a scholar and more like an average person of Aksum. His rich robes and glasses were gone and his hair was more combed over. To him this was good to blend into society and be able to slip into the very cultures that he has studied as intensely like Nestos and Aksum, not to mention that his mixed blood allowed him to blend in better than a European.

He saw the house in front of him and the open windows of the family going around. The house was bigger than his poppy farm but he doubted that Andrew had an intensive hidden network to use as a headquarters for the rulership of one of the world’s most powerful nations. It was better he pushed those thoughts out of the way and he breathed hard.

Remember Luther remember, He tried to control his fear of knowing one of his own, he’s just a man, a man like me in different ways.

He walked up to the door after a few minutes for the other person that he saw, In a way he believed that it wasn’t normal since no one actually saw him since he was hidden like a normal person.

However he knocked on the door and took a deep breath.

“Andrew? Andrew? It’s me Issaris.”

Opening the door…...was not Andrew. It was Israel who had came into the door not too long before Luther arrived. “Oh…… uhhh-” Israel turned his back, calling “Da-” but never got the chance to finish. “Yeah, yeah, I know Israel.” he patted the teenager on the back, before motioning for the teen to move. More faces began to appear down the hallway, looking at Luther. Looking at Luther himself, he said “Come on in Issaris, dinner is almost done.”

“Thank you,” Issaris said as he came in.

He looked at the entire house and saw the stone and wood around it. Each of the various cracks and the design. Then he saw Israel and just smiled.

“This house is much bigger than the one I have.”

“Well, there are ten people living here. Eleven soon, I think.” Andrew said, before motioning for Luther to follow him. “How about we go meet some of them. This is Israel, by the way. He’s my oldest son.” Andrew said, pointing to Israel.

Israel for his part was 5’9”, and obviously an athletic teenager. The fur of a dead wolf draped his shoulders. Similar attire could be seen worn by some of the Royal Guards younger members. “Nice to meet you, Scholar Issaris.” Israel would say simply.

“Hello there!” Luther looked up to the child,” wonderful night?”

“I reckon its an average night, with less than average things going on.” Israel said, before heading to join his mother and sister. “Guess it's time to introduce you to the others, yeah?” Andrew said, before heading to the kitchen as well.

“Of course,” Luther just stated and followed.

In the kitchen, two girls who frankly looked four to five years apart were focused on finishing dinner. Flatbread and mixtures and spreads were on a long table, and what smelled like a soup was cooking over a fire in the fireplace used for cooking in the house. There was a surprising amount of diversity in food choice, something attained due to Aksumite trade. On the table, there were also pitchers of water and alcohol.

“Why hello there, you must be our guest for tonight.” The older looking girl noted, looking up from her preparations. “My name is Edna, I’m Andrew’s wife. I’m also a princess, for what it’s worth.” She looked to her culinary partner, expecting the girl to introduce herself.

“My name is Iris. I’m the oldest daughter in the family. Nice to meet you, Scholar Issaris.” The older teen would note, before taking a moment to leave the room. With some conversation in the adjacent room being heard, and some rustling.

“Good evening to both of you.” Luther greeted with a smile,” Even though I am a guest I promise that I won’t be a bother or try to do something disrespectful. If so, please forgive me of my ignorance.”

“Foreigners can’t know what they don't know, so calm yourself Issaris. We’re all friends here.” Edna commented, as she began to fill bowls with soup.

“So this is our foreign visitor.” An older woman noted, as she entered the room. A five year old boy was attached to her by the hip, following close behind.

“Yes, this is him, mother.” Andrew replied. Smiling, the older woman nodded to Luther. “My name is Abeba, nice to meet you. I hope you’ll enjoy eating with us tonight.” she said to him. The young boy next to her was far less compelled to engage with the stranger. “Iris is getting Alexander, Rachel, and Sarah. They’ll be in soon.” Abeba told Andrew.

“Hello everyone, it is nice to meet you.” Luther said to them as he turned to Edna,” do you need any help with table preparations?”

“Oh please, don’t worry about that Issaris. I have children to do that. You just get to know everyone.” Edna replied, before calling out
“Columbia! Come set the table!”

Abeba and Andrew would head to the table, while Iris took Israel aside to give him some instructions. Not long after, Columbia was helping set up the table for dinner as Edna has asked.

“Issaris, do you have any family?” Abeba would ask as she sat down at the table, starting with something any Aksumite would be curious to know. Family makes the home after all.

For once Luther’s smile dropped instantly. His eyes hollowed out and his hand slightly shook before he took a deep breath.

“No ma’am, I’m afraid the Seven haven’t blessed me with one and I don’t believe I want one. “

“Oh, I see.” Abeba replied, though her eyes, said ‘how sad.’ She tried something else, asking “What exactly do you do as a Scholar, then? It must be important.” Important enough to forgo family bonds.

“Well...I am a scholar of administrations and the progression of Sumerian government throughout the empire. As it was my duty as a slave beforehand as will it be as a free man until the Seven call me to the sky to be with my ancestors.” Luther said with a false smile.

Andrew looked at him, with curiosity. He was sure to find out more of his backstory later that night, but Luther was withholding information for now. “How does a slave become a monarchy’s advisor?” Andrew asked, curious.

“Well I served a merchant as a laborman till he realized that I had a really good talent for organizing the other slaves. I mean sure, he did beat me and I was broken by the physical training but I was really good at organizing the slaves.” He started to say with joy in his heart.

“The merchant got rich, as they usually do and was allowed to become part of the general courts of the city-states back when they were it. He accepted and I was given actual training on how to read and write!” The scholar clapped his hands,” however with the large civil war that happened between Ur and Uruk, he got assassinated and I was bought by another master. This master made me his scribe but he was also assassinated by the current Empress.”

“Then she actually liked that I was good at administration so she allowed me to be an advisor or threat of death! Is it that grand?” He smiled widened to show the sheer joy of the story.

“Most certainly. You’ve certainly been through a lot. Do tell, how long have you been with the Empress and her service?” she asked, sliding into one of the chairs at the dinner table. Bartholomew would take the opportunity to get closer to his father, while Israel notably seemed to have fetched firewood.

Columbia meanwhile poured Luther some water, before giving all the other cups people would be wanting some water as well. “Thanks, Columbia.” Andrew said to his daughter, before she began laying out plates. Meanwhile Iris would re enter the room, and was followed by two younger girls and a boy.

“Oh for about five years! She has been particularly ruthless and set her sights on conquering the lands of Ankara to finally allow Sumeria to become independent from the needs of other nations! Truly marvelous!” Luther kept up with the beaming personality.

“Five years, huh? Were you able to meet Ur-Sundur at all before she left?” Israel asked, his cousin’s wife apparently on his mind. Not surprising, considering he had just left their house. Edna in the kitchen twitched a little at the mention of the Sumerian woman, before continuing to fill bowls with soup.

Luther saw Edna twitched and he kept that in mind. Thinking that they may have a negative reaction and wondered what was the relationship between the two. However he kept up his facade and spoke.

“I have seen her only in her last days I’m afraid” Luther smiled but lied,” however I heard she was a great princess to the first Holy Queen of Ur.”

“Well she has been more than welcome as a daughter of Aksum, I will say that much. It’s a shame you two didn’t get to know each other. I assume you’ve seen her, but I think she’s two months at most from giving birth.” Andrew said. Around that point, Columbia began delivering bowls of soup to those sitting at the table.

“That is good, she hasn’t been able to travel back to the Holy City for years but that is fine. She does have her duty to her new country and her family.” Luther saw the bowls of soup being delivered and he looked at Andrew,” do you pray over your food?”

“Yes, I generally say a prayer to the God of the Bible before we eat as a family.” Andrew replied. “Saying grace, if you will.” Andrew did occasionally give the responsibility to pray for the family to Israel, but not tonight.

It took a minute to look at Andrew and he just sighed before going through his false persona,” Do you mind if I say it? I may not be a worshiper of the God of the Christians but even I know better than to anger a god.”

“No disrespect Issaris, but I think it would be better if I gave prayer.” Andrew replied. He could feel the glare of Iris from the kitchen, and he wasn’t even looking at her. The zealous teen for her part didn’t like the idea to begin with, or the implications of what he suggested. She knew better to voice those concerns though. Israel didn’t know better, but considering his father already gently put down the idea, he would keep his peace. With that, more people began to sit at the table.

Luther took a chance to read the room with his idea. Of course he would know it would be far fetched but it was to test the personality of Andrew. To Luther, he already can feel that the man had more conservative values to that of the modern Christian family and he wondered about Victor and his Imperium. How would the two even react? Did the man who considered himself Master of Mankind even have a family? From the scant reports it seemed so but still, Luther was actually like the decency of the man.

Hell, he even commanded the room better than he could and he knew that there was some zealotry bubbling in the household. Luther shook his head to break the train of thought as he smiled.

“I meant no disrespect to your house Andrew, please forgive me if I did something bad.”

“You did nothing wrong besides being ignorant, and ignorance isn’t necessarily a sin Issaris. We are all ignorant of something after all.” Andrew replied, with a smile. “Anywho, we can say grace when Edna and Iris finally make it over here.”

The two in quick order made their way over with their own bowls, and a couple baskets of bread. Columbia had already laid out the spread for the breads earlier. “Alright everyone, let’s begin.”

Taking Andrew’s cue, the family closed their eyes, and turned their eyes downward. “Jehovah almighty, thank you for all your loving kindness and direction. We want to thank you for providing for our daily needs, as you always have. We also thank you for not allowing us to go without spiritual nourishment as well. This day, we also thank you for the safe arrival of Issaris into our household. We ask you to bless this man, and ensure he along with the rest of us are safe in this land. You have done so much, and we know that to repay you for your kindness would be an act of futility. So, we dedicate our lives to you. Thank you for the sacrifice of your son, Christ Jesus, and for the gift of being washed free of sin. A gift we would not have without him, or your loving kindness. We say this prayer in Jesus name, amen.”

With that, the family opened their eyes, and lifted their heads. It was time to eat. While the older kids and Andrew’s mother began eating, Edna helped Bartholomew with his bread. Andrew however, refrained from eating momentarily.

Luther bowed his head and recited the prayer word from word. It was the same prayer he had been saying since he was a kid with his family in a Chicago apartment, it was the same prayer he said in private school before the world made him laxed in his faith. Doing it here while hiding in plain sight was perhaps the most truthful moment he was to himself and for that he had nothing to say but the prayer.

What could I say to Jesus? I’m sorry I am the reason that there’s a black plague running around in Europe? Of over twenty years of civil war? Of basically being the equivalent of the antichrist?

It was in his thoughts that he didn’t eat, just stared at the bowl of soup with his face looking at the reflection in the broth.

“You two should eat, instead of staring at your food.” Abeba pointed out calmly in reference to Luther and Andrew. A point only a woman in her late 60s would dare make to a warlord and a high ranking official from a superpower. The power of mothers, as some might call it.

Andrew chuckled at that, and reached for some bread. “I assure you my wife’s cooking is worth the wait.” Andrew told Luther. Or perhaps in a more coded way, ‘It’s good considering the circumstances we live in.’

That code was enough to shock Luther from his momentary funk. For a second he would break character and give a slight glare to the Guard before he smiled and ate his soup without a word.

“It’s quite good.” He complimented with a smile.

“I’m glad you like it.” Edna said, before going back to attending the 5 year old’s bread. Bartholomew seemed more than content to take his mother’s attention, being 5 and all.

“What is this seven you keep mentioning?” Iris asked Issaris. Israel looked at his sister, wondering what kind of question that was.
“The Seven are the Seven gods of Ur that had become one once again. Think of it as them unifying for the sake of the world as where being separated had caused unending strife and war. It is a new idea and a new, true religion of us Sumerians that came from the unification of our gods. Not all enjoy it but it’s a must if we Sumerians are to ever become strong.” Issaris spoke.

“I think I understand.” Iris said in reply. “Though if you don’t mind me saying, handling many gods seems far more wasteful than venerating one. Many people in Aksum say it doesn't make a difference. You limit yourself to seven. Among your seven gods, is there any hierarchy? Is one greater than the others? Are they all equal? What are they like? I know this must seem like a lot, but I'm genuinely curious.” Iris continued.

Andrew considered stopping her right there, and gave Issaris a look. ‘I can shut her down.’ being the implication.

Luther gave a look before speaking,” the idea is that there were seven gods but they all bicker and attack one another. Each and every city-state of Sumer had it’s own god and cult to their favorite deities. However, the daughter of Isthar and Bau, King and queen of the gods, named Nanna saw the truth. All beings were equal and were at one point one-whole god. This truth had made her try to tell the others but they hated each so much that she had no choice but to fight.”

“The Seven and their light is one true being. Similar to the God of the Bible and the Three beings who came; the Son, Father, and Holy Spirit so are the Seven. Each of the Seven is but one facet of the One, equal and whole yet as varied as the humans they made. United to the point that praying to the Seven is just an easier way of saying that we worship them as one-connected beings than just seven separated.

It is the same way of how the God of the Bible is. There was one point in the Bible where he was a mighty warrior and wrathful god. It is known as the Old Testament, I believe but this world was just as chaotic as ours and the chosen people, the Isrealites, needed all the help they could get. However the Old Testament god was brutal and strict for his people always left them and they had to learn this the hard way.

The New Testament God is the one who has changed for the price of your sin was paid by the sacrifice of one of his Three, to show that there was no longer need for such pain to be caused since forgiveness of sins was more streamlined, which means without more steps.”

Luther leans back in his seat,” so think of the Seven as the New Testament to my faith. United in strength and streamlined. No longer do we fight each other for we are united by their light and they are finally one. No longer just city-states, but an empire where all can see the light of the Seven for themselves.”

“So you’re saying it's a pantheon of sorts, of beings that were formerly in conflict. With a disunited vision before becoming one?” Iris asked.

“Yes, the gods were always fighting but the Seven is their united form. Instead of seven gods, it’s one whole being with the seven being the name of the new god that was formed from it.” Issaris explained.

“Did this being exist in the very beginning, or was its presence newer? Or was it on behalf of a misunderstanding of men?” Iris asked.

“It was a misunderstanding of men, we couldn’t see the Light for how disunited we were.” Issaris answered.

“Why were the seven disunited? Which came first? The God of the Bible stands alone, having created Jesus first. Did one of the 7’s parts come first?” Iris asked. Trinitarian logic wasn’t something she really understood.

“I must make a correction first, The God of the Bible didn’t create Jesus, Jesus himself already existed as did the Holy Spirit, at least from what I studied. However, back in my religion, the Seven came first.”

This first claim caught basically everyone by surprise. Well, except for Andrew. Andrew wasn’t surprised Luther would apply Trinitarian ideals to Christianity, it was the mainstream belief system in the old world after all.

“You might have studied the Bible as a form of intellectual exercise Scholar Issaris, but its something I have lived through. Jesus and God are separate beings. Your comparison between them and the Seven is odd. Though I think I understand the Seven.” Odd and wrong is what Israel would have said, but this wasn’t his conversation. Andrew would have to explain this later.

Luther gave Isreal a look but withheld his gloat for himself. Aksum wasn’t Christain and this child hasn’t lived life like him and his father had.

“Of course it may be odd as much as odd for the comparison but that’s what I studied. But I wish to express a word of caution to you.” He looked around and mostly to Andrew before speaking,” it is good to be firm in your beliefs of the God of the Bible as I am with the Seven. However one must also be opened to those who don’t worship the same way or the same god as you do. Zealotry breeds extremism and extremism cause strife and unnecessary danger to all. Do not suppress those who think differently, but always try to learn and understand. All religions to some extent teach this and it is a very wise thing to learn.”

This didn’t seem very controversial to Iris, but Israel hid a smile with his hand. “Aksum has been nothing but tolerant to those who have shown themselves to be good citizens, residents, and visitors. I wouldn’t worry too much about certain aspects of faith that lean into the negative, as I’m sure you’ve seen in your homeland.” Andrew added.

“I think Scholar Issaris has a point in being united in faith, though.” Israel added. He left it that, and could seem innocent enough if you weren’t aware of Israel’s militant nature, which Issaris most certainly was not.

Luther could sense some that was a bit off but couldn’t put his finger on it. The kid was too forward with his belief in God, at least Andrew’s interpretation of it. There was some zealotry in the kid but Luther shrugged, zealotry that wasn’t militant was harmless to him. He saw the people who preached the word and believed with all the fire and brimstone in his old world but in this new one, zealotry for God was a very real and dangerous thing.

Sumeria was a battle for power and religion and the Imperium is basically one true example of Chirstianity turned militant. However this wasn’t his family and the shadow ruler knew that Andrew had a grip on his family well-enough to try and keep the kid from going too far. If he did then that’s bad on the father’s part, not so much Luther’s.

“Well I don’t mean to be debating religion at the dinner table. My fa-master always said that politics, religion, and money were the three worst things to speak at the table.” Luther quietly chuckled, trying to bring something back from that...debate, if you could call it that.

Iris took that as questioning time was over. She would nibble on bread, while the others were probably relieved as well. “Did you ever get drafted into one of the wars in your homeland? I don’t know if that’s politics or not, but from what I’ve heard, those wars were quite traumatic.” Edna asked. The stories of the slaves who made their way to Aksum told as much a story. Then again, they were the ones who lost.
For the longest second Andrew and the others could see the shakes happen violently. Luther gave a brown-eyed version of the thousand yard stare as he shook himself out of it.

“Yes, I was drafted in the Unification Wars. I was...on the front lines. I saw cities burn and people die, I saw diseases used as weapons. I...have saw… the horrors of mankind.”

Iris had a look of sympathy on her, and it was shared by several others, Andrew included. This was around the time Andrew had an unsettling realization. ‘He’s dealing with post traumatic stress, isn’t he?’ Andrew would think to himself. There was something off about him since their first encounter, and this would help explain it.

Israel’s face feigned sympathy, but his eyes…….were cold. He couldn’t really conceive of it. Israel tried rationalizing it, thinking perhaps he lost friends. He couldn’t imagine feeling disturbed about the deaths of those who would harm his family.

“It’s hard to imagine, considering how many more people live in Sumeria than here. We’d destroy ourselves multiple times over if we faced something similar on an absolute scale.” Andrew added, trying to contextualize this for his family. That made him wonder how much sin was on Luther’s shoulders. Andrew struggled with his own battles, but the scale couldn’t be compared.

“War is a vice all over, isn’t it?” Iris asked, and that struck at Andrew. He felt envious of his own daughter, who could be truer in faith than he could. “There are bad people all over……..all we can do is hope for conclusive divine intervention.” Israel added. Though Andrew suspected what he meant was ‘there were bad people all over who needed killing.’ A dark look at things, if not completely meritless.

Luther’s look to Iris and Israel was cold and dead. Not someone who was looking at things dark but just dead. The eyes of someone who was done with the world yet still needed to live for it was all he can do.

“Yes,” he finally spoke,” it is a vice Iris. It is a vice that must happen for life…” He nodded and sighed,” life is without sacrifice. The pain and destruction that one commits to believe that they are right or what they planned are right is something that is...is unforgivable. I believe that those who were in Ur-Mustafa’s court could and should’ve been able to stop that from happening. A long-term strategy maybe but Sumerians, we Sumerians always fight ourselves if there is nothing else to fight. Just like any other nation, just like the rest of us sinful people.”

“You’d think there’s a better way. I don’t believe that conflict has to be inevitable.” Iris said sadly. Israel tried his best not to roll his eyes. “Issaris, what do you Sumerians do when you’re trying to relax anywho? Or have fun? We have sports competitions, or dance. Festivals as well.” Israel asked, purposefully crashing the talk of war. He couldn’t bear to hear his moralistic sister go on, it reminded him of her freakout when he skinned the wolf for its fur.

Luther looked at Iris for a split second before he willed his mouth shut. His mind coming back into the present with the clinching of his fists.

“Sumerians have many things. Competitions such as horseback racing and cycling have become a staple thanks to nomads from Europa and Nestos!’ He said with a normal smile again,” we also have seasonal festivals and harvest parties. Even one such as gifting day, something similar to the Christain holiday of Christmas. We also have newspapers and other things that we tend to show to people for our economy. Including classes for more of the middle caste folks who wish to learn new cultures for exciting ventures.”

“Chri-” Iris began, but she caught her father’s look, dropping the question. “We have seasonal festivals too. Ones commemorating the labor tax’s beginning and end. We also have a three day festival commemorating the death of Christ.” Andrew said, adding “I’m also excited for the possibilities of what we can do with Camels. It’s taking a bit of time to get them worked out, but they could act as nice transport animals. “ he added.

“People from rural areas flood the city when these festivals begin. Very exciting times of year.” Edna added. “Israel loves the sporting competitions. I think he’s won most of his challenges with the boys his age.” She added. ‘Modern genetics will do that.’ Andrew couldn’t help thinking to himself.

“So your people have Easter?” Issaris thought about it,” and your own sports competition as well? I do remember that the Holy Queen wanted to make international sports but the wars happened. However it doesn’t mean that such a thing can’t happen again.” He looks at the tall child,” I see you get that from your father, which is always good to be blessed with.”

Especially since there could always be more things that come from this than just good genetics Luther thought to himself.

“International sports? I mean, maybe regional sports. Aksum’s competitions are more localized and for entertainment, than anything.” Andrew said. That wasn’t entirely true, there was a martial reason behind it as well. This was seeable based on what kinds of sports the Aksumites played.

“Yes, like such things like an Olympics or something to foster the spirit of competition and friendship. However I believe that we could have an exchange of cultures when the Red Sea is at peace and not threatened by pirates.”

“Yeah, and we need to figure out where this problem is even coming from to begin with. That and the scale of the problem. Could be a problem if they start molesting our coastal communities.” Andrew replied.

“I do believe it can get that dangerous. From what we believe it may be something deeper than just trying to profit off the trade. But I think my ignorance has caused too much of a disturbance, I shall stop talking for the time being.”

‘We don’t know what we don’t know.’ Andrew thought to himself, before taking a bite on his bread. The conversation would shift from topic to topic, as family dinners usually did. Thankfully, things were generally more light hearted as the dinner went on. They would talk for 15 minutes past when everyone was finished, before people began peeling off to do their own thing.

Andrew would eventually stand up, and went over to pat Luther on the shoulder. “Wanna continue our chat in my workshop?”

Luther just nodded.

Nodding back, Andrew would lead Luther to one of the home’s more interior rooms. There, he would learn a few things about Andrew through looking around. He’d see various things he was working on, or had finished. Notably, the cotton gin that sat on a large table being the most recent success.

There was also a tool rack, with the various tools that might be necessary in Andrew’s endeavours. This was generally for more refined work. Outside was where some louder work happened.

There were a few chairs, and a desk. On the desk, laid what looked like a journal. Not too far from the desk was as close to a bookshelf as you might get here. There weren't many books, and all of them had some practical purpose. The lone exception being a bible.

“Please, sit.” Andrew said, gesturing to one of the chairs. He would close the door behind them, making sure the hallway was clear. He had made sure there would be no interruptions. Andrew would find a chair for himself, as well. “I'm curious to know Issaris, what denomination did you grow up in?”

He suspected Issaris had at least grown up in the church, so he would at least find out which one. “I don't intend to dwell on theology for long, but I'd like to know how much of what you told my family was genuine or convenient.”

Issaris sat down opposite of him and finally could relaxed from his persona and the mask seemed to slip a bit.

“I’m non-denominational but a lot of what I told your family was genuine, at least from a mainstream picture. I don’t like the original ideas that came from the Bible Belt but it’s the stuff I’ve been grown up on. That and the King James version instead of International.”

“I’m from the south, so it can’t be helped. Though I would imagine I’ve brought some modern sensibilities with me in regards to how the faithful ought treat others. I get why you might have cautioned Iris, but I think she’s probably the most……...harmless of the bunch.” He said, thinking about his daughter.

Issaris raised an eyebrow,” No, your daughter is a special girl and must be protected from the harshness of war. Hell, as a father you did an amazing job on that part. However you did say she was the most harmless? I’m guessing her brother’s more extreme?”

“Religiously? I think he knows enough that God doesn’t need us to fight his battles on Earth……..though I don’t think Israel needs a divine mandate to call his friends to arms for one cause or another. Aksum has many problems, you know. Though he’s a teenage boy, and I'm still working on him. As for the others, they’re too young to say one way or another. Its not like Columbia is going to war, anyway.” Andrew replied.

“Fair enough, kids are always going to be kids. I don’t have any kids to father since I’m...not entirely interested in sharing my misery with somebody knowing that I can outlast my wife and kids.” He shrugged,”besides, I’m a fucking hypocrite when it comes to actually doing anything wih religion or other things related to Jesus.”
“You seem to think we’re eternal, yes? How long have you been here, in this world of wind, water, and muscle. How old were you when you arrived, as well?” Andrew asked, getting to the crux of matters.

“Me? I should be 47 as of right now, give or take a year or two.” Issaris looked up to the ceiling thinking,” I was 27 when I dropped in the middle of a desert and became enslaved to teaching a tribal kid. That same kid is now a general who led the charge against Uruk and his kids are high-ranking officers.”

“I dropped in the middle of the bush when I was 17. I think it's been about 20 years since then. Maybe more or less. I stumbled naked upon the shepherding land of a man named Negasi. He has since died, but his wife is the woman I refer to as mother.” Andrew explained.

“17 Huh?” Issaris looked at Andrew up and down,” yeah you still look like that after 20 years. I mean you got more muscle than the average kid your size. Like you’ve been doing sports or getting ready for the Olympics. Seriously? Have you not realized that you haven’t actually matured or anything for the past two decades?”

“I’ve always been told I looked young, and thought it was because of how much I exercised. Not insane to think if you’re in your thirties. But if you’re supposed to be almost fifty, then perhaps what you say has merit. I wonder what lets Edna look so young then…….” Andrew replied.

“That’s just women outliving men. I mean hell, there are some Sumerian women that use makeup and Edna beats them out with natural beauty. Looks like God blessed you on that account.” Issaris chuckled a bit.

“Obviously. I don't think most people stumble upon a party of kidnappers, and the person you save just happens to become your future wife. Which is how we meet by the way. I was making a trip for my adoptive father, and apparently a neighboring settlement kidnapped Edna.” It sounded fantastical recalling the event, but to be fair, so was getting sent back in time.

“Huh? Sounds like something you hear from a fantasy story. One with the princess in the tower with you as a shining knight trying to get her from the dragon.” Issaris continued to chuckle,” but seriously? That’s perhaps the most wholesome story I have learned as of right now. I mean, concerning us Immortals? There’s not a lot of wholesome stories when it comes to us and I only about five counting us two.”

“My information on our so-called breed is limited. Though based on our little helpers from Europe, I suspect there’s another author in what’s called the Nestos League. That’s all I can really say for certain as of now.” Andrew said, before adding “Happy stories…….”

“There is, his name is Victor Spear and he’s a scholar obsessed with knowledge. A lot of the League’s tech is ripoff from us and the Egyptians but their scholars actually helped bring in fresh minds that progressed the Empire. Not to mention that a good majority of them actually believe in Sumerian and Egyptian faiths or have modified it for their own goals.” Issairs spoke.

“Hell, there’s the leader of Yanbu who’s name is Olivia. She was pretty harmless until recently with the whole piracy attacks on the rest of the Red Sea. Then there was this other person who was around Egypt at the time and has made a people known as the Siwa, which are growing in power but slower than what they did have.” Issaris continued on.

“Then there’s the Single Market which is in Crimea, they’re an ally of Nestos and is ruled by a corporatist system, which is unique for the government standard. Haven’t known the person that well but they seem alright.” He pointed to the north,” then there’s another Victor who is the most mysterious, he leads something called the Imperium and it’s like a Warhammer 40K player’s wet dream come true. Just replace the Emperor of Mankind with him and the Imperial Cult with Christianity and you have it. Hell, Victor believes he’s some kind of voice of Christ himself and is trying to actively conquer the world.”

“I thought the divine might be involved, but this Victor character sounds unhinged……..do you know why Ethiopia is so undeveloped in the world we came from?” I asked.

“That can be a lot of factors that stem from colonialism Andrew.” Issaris spoke,” but let me remind you that Ethiopia is one of the few countries that didn’t get conquered by a colonial power till WWII with Mussolini.”

“Actually, Ethiopia’s damnation started far earlier than that. It was so backwards due to Arab interference. They drove the Abysennians from their coasts, and the Muslims of Arabia and North Africa refused to let them speak or trade with their brothers in Europe. They then proceeded to sack, and arbanize the Christian Kingdoms of Nubia. Ethiopia was starved and ignored for centuries, and it fell in on itself to infighting. The late Ethiopian Emperors were blessed to have been taught a lesson by the British. The British would go onto kill an Ethiopian Emperor…...well technically they forced him into a position of commiting suicide. However, seeing the danger, they went and began acquiring weapons. The Amahara and Tigray began conquering surrounding peoples, and when the Italians came, they crashed. I say this all to say the old world is repeating itself, and I don't care the cost. What happened to Ethiopia in our world will not be repeated. If Miss Olivia needs to rot in an Ethiopian prison for centuries, so be it.” Andrew said, growing more indignant as he spoke. It was his family at threat, after all.

“Let me say that I understand what Olivia’s trying to do. The liberation of slaves has been a two decade quest that was nearly done if Uruk hadn’t started a twenty year set of civil wars that burned Mesopotamia. Though that is my fault for getting Ur to conquer the rest of the city-states so long ago when Uruk was in its golden age. However the sacking of naval ships and attacking allies is not how you solve the issue. Slavery needs something else to be replaced and neither Aksum or Yanbu have the industry or technology close to breaking the chains.” Issaris spoke.

“What we need is simple, find the evidence to prove that she’s doing this and then engage in a proxy war. Sumeria doesn’t have the logistics to anything huge without hurting our still hurt navy. This can also help Aksum and Muraback because they can get the needed help before she grows too dangerous.”

Issaris sighs,” I don’t want to imprison one of our own because of a good idea and something noble like slave liberation but like you, I refuse to have someone like Ur-Sundor to be killed because she’s the princess of Aksum. She’s something of a daughter to me and I had a hand in raising her and her sister, so she’s my responsibility.”

“Yeah, well, I don't intend on letting the future queen get hurt too. Also Olivia getting imprisoned would be the least of her concerns if what we suspect is going on is true. That said, I’d personally propose setting up villages with the purpose of launching raids on Yanbu if this is all true. Bring Sumerians with boats, and have them set up bases all over the region.” Andrew replied.

“Easier said than done I’m afraid, Aksum doesn’t have the industry to allow a Sumerian investment on that scale. Even if we move resources from the expansion into Turkey it would take years to maybe a decade to see a presence like that. Now if we get Muraback on board then some of that could be relieved with setting up resupply stations and bases. Allow both Aksum and Muraback to build from this and don’t make the Empire some sort of Middle East version of America.”

“Yeaaaah, I’d like to see this problem taken care of with some finesse. Anywho, time isn't the worst thing in the world. The scale of the problem is something we’re not sure of yet.”

“No, which is why I would like some evidence and us to see just how bad it can go. Once then I can make sure the Empress gets my advice on how to make it go. However with the need of having more of a military intervention will be a soft power through privateers at best since there is no resupply bases between the Islands and the here in the Red Sea. Which in of itself will also take a long time.” Issaris explained.

“Yeah, though its not like we’re goin anywhere. I'm sure we’ll have more than enough time to get things in order. That said, this is raising questions on all fronts. More questions than I care to answer to be quite frank. I was hoping Aksum could spend its time simply improving itself, but someone seems less than inclined to let that happen. Reality can be disappointing.” Andrew said, resting his chin in a hand.

“Welcome to the club my friend, being ruling Sumeria for twenty years and nothing goes right. At least you aren’t threatened by foes on all sides by both land and sea like I am. That alone was the reason why I had to do what I had to do.” Issaris spoke with some declaration.

“I will gladly snuff threats not yet born for the sake of my children. I do hope this Olivia is not trying to give me reason to act out the unjustifiable. I detest unnecessary violence. However violence for the sake of my people’s safety is necessary. I hate how that sounds, though I'm a sinner in the end, aren’t I?” Andrew said, rubbing his hair.

Issaris lost his smile and kept his voice down,” I think you haven’t done anything bad. Violence is necessary in this fallen world. You are trying to defend where I used violence to conquer and my blood campaigns have caused mass destruction that has caused a disease to unleash upon three nations that traded with me and each other. I have perhaps caused the mass destruction of civilizations and tribes I don’t even or will even know about because of my greed and ambition. So no Andrew, you have done nothing but being a normal father in a world gone strange.”

“Oh, you paint me in a fairer light than I probably deserve. Aksum has engaged in wars of expansion. I was paranoid I think, when I offered violence as an answer. Paranoid that some outside forces exist. Paranoid that they would come one day, and destroy our homes because we weren’t strong enough. That sacrifice now would give my descendants a fighting chance now. That I was chosen to bear the sins of a generation so that those who came after were saved and free. Maybe I'm justified in thinking that way. I also know this path only will lead to more compromises. The idea that I might bring my oldest son with me for the sake of all the others haunts me. I want Iris, Columbia, Alexandar, Sarah, Rachel, Bartholomew, and my unborn child to be free from this burden. I will spare Israel as much of it as I can. In the end, you have to ask yourself what you can live with. I grew up reading the history of the conquerors, and the conquered. I for one, want the history of this people to be free of the burden of conquest, and oppression. Maybe I'm practical. More likely I'm selfish. All I can do in repentance is bring the faith to those ignorant of it as some sort of repentance, and hope they decide to take it up. I know that was long, but I don't want to misrepresent myself to you. This is the truth that I see in Edna’s eyes everytime I had to leave her with the Royal Guard throughout the years. The truth that Iris’s eyes hold, when she questions if there isn’t a better path. The truth is there are people out there who would do terrible things to my girls, and if they think of me in that way……..” Andrew stopped, not sure how to continue.

“No, you have every right to say that, all of that. Shit, I have nothing to compete with just that my sins go to one good idea, to not let Sumer suffer. The Sumerians could’ve been something cool back in our day but they suffered from disunity, my idea was to unite them through trade but that just became to a point that it took too long and so I’m the reason why there’s enough blood on my hand to basically drown cities larger than Aksum by a few times. Hell I’ve done more bad than I ever had done any good. “ Issaris looked at the wall

“I..Wished to finally end my life more than once because of my failings. One time it was a drug overdose by opium. The second was just an iron knife after Uruk was burned down. The third time was a single snake from Egypt after the war was over.” Issaris' hands started to shake as kept talking,” so no Andrew, some people are just plain, plain bad and contribute nothing but pain to the world no matter how much good they try to do. Mistakes happened but the lives I’ve taken to try and make sure the Sumerian people are as mighty as they are now is something unforgivable. I have to lie to someone like you and your family because as of right now, you probably never wondered that you were talking to the man who is the leader and creator of the Empire and just...just wanted to talk to one of us that wasn’t some insane megalomaniac or someone whose lost themselves to a single objective.”

He looked to Andrew with tears starting to stream down his eyes,” my name isn’t Issaris, it’s Luther. I am a man who has killed tens of thousands in a bloody war in order to ensure the glory of a people that should’ve died, will die in our people. Have crushed the religion of others who had no grief with me and have a tendency to use people like tools to ensure that my plans are still doable. So no Andrew, you are a saint compared to me. You are a decent person and the reason why I came here and I’m glad that my research isn’t unfounded.”

“You can’t die Luther………..you can’t die, not now. There is too much blood for you to see it all through. In a world where the ends are everything, we chosen have an obligation to God to see it through. I don’t know why he sent us back in time, but blood alone cannot end our journeys. We the chosen become dirty so the masses, those alive and those yet to be born, can be clean. To represent the kindness of the New Testament God in one hand, and the wrath of the Old Testament God in the other. I can’t handle the idea we’re not here for a reason. We must be. To handle the sins of a Generation is our calling. Luther, help me make these coming generations clean. Otherwise you’ll drown yourself in regret. We have been blessed with longevity, so it’s only just we see the works of our hand completed, and the commissions of our creator done.” Andrew said, going over and placing a hand on Luther’s shoulder.

“We’re both men in the end, and men are imperfect. However sometimes you need to feel like we’re doing something for the greater good to get by. You think Genghis Khan questioned his morality as he raped the mothers of fallen warlords in front of them? No, only good men question that. Good men in terrible situations are slaves. But we can break free Luther. Break free with me.” Andrew told him.

Luther just kept lightly crying as he shook his head,” I’m sorry Andrew but that doesn’t happen. I maybe questioning my reasons why I did what I had done doesn’t mean that it would make me turn the other cheek since for the things I have done and put in place. Just because that I have plans to break the chains of slavery doesn’t mean that the slave won’t keep suffering in order to make those chains are broken. I have done bad things and will keep doing bad things. All my choices will lead to torment of somebody in the Empire that doesn't deserve it.”

He closed his fist and tightened it,”in many ways, I wish for the Olivia’s of the world to take me down. They probably have made Sumeria as this oppressive tyranny who only do things like conquer people and enslave people because they can. Only then can I feel the chains that I wrapped myself in and strangle my own life with.”

“The Olivia’s of the world can only go so far. They will leave themselves to be weak, and subjugated by the Victors of the world. The divide is between those with strength, and those without it. Every war of liberation worth anything was carried out, or aided by a nation of conquerors. The truth is hypocrisy is an inevitability in this world. The choices are never start, or finish what you start. If there was something in between, the collective wisdom of man in our old world would have found it. Seeing as they did not, we are at this uncomfortable truth.” Andrew replied, keeping his hand on Luther’s shoulder.

Luther shook his head again,” then I’m not ready to break my chains yet. I’m not ready for the help of another until my own problem is done. Until I can break the chains of the slaves that have been tormented because of the wars I have caused because of the ambition and greed fostered from it.”

He finally put a hand over Andrew’s and try to calmed down,” I need to do something about the reigns of slavery. I need to overhaul the economic system to allow the slave to finally be free. It will be an ultimate goal of mine to complete something before I die or get killed. Before someone like an Olivia rises to take the head of Ur or another country to disrupt the prosperous regions that the Empire relies on so very much.”

“I already have institutions in place to allow for slaves to get their freedom. No slave in Aksum is destined to be a slave permanently. We even have a system to help former slaves get set up with farms around Aksum. I was inspired by indentured servitude, and slavery in the old testemant. That and our tax system helps with labor too.” Andrew explained. “You should take a look at our system. Maybe it can help you.”

“Slavery can’t be elminated that easy in Sumeria when there is still profit and the very leaders want to keep it going. The very idea is to replace it with something that can be just as profitable, which is why I need Turkey; the iron, the coal, the oil. The things that are the resources of our industrial revolution. The very idea that was one of the main reasons why there was no need for slaves because the machine had made it better and more profitable for those slave owners.

“Once I have that, then the chains will be broken and everything else flows.” Luther spoke.

“I see…… though good intentions or not, I’m not sure our Arabs friends care very much. I suppose there are certain ways to smooth the transition. Personally I’ve been using religion to help. I’ve been thinking about how Paul treated people, and it came down to respect for your fellow man in the end. I’ve been adamant about securing rights for slaves on a religious foundation, and intend to use that same foundation as a pretext for the final outlawing of the practice in any widespread capacity. I can’t see slavery surviving another…..60 to 80 years in Aksum. A pretty short time span for a nation. Two lifetimes maybe.” Andrew said, removing his hand from Luther’s shoulder and rubbing the back of his head.

“It’s fine, the thing is religion and econmics with slavery. To me, it will be economics first before religion and it would be around fifty years maybe but that’s just how it would come to it.”Luther sighed,” I’m tired about this, talking about all of this. I just don’t know what to do in the long term. But if there’s one thing we need to do is to handle the Olivia Question. Once that’s done then we can seek to stabilize the region’s trade.”

“Well, prevent it from being destabilized, Luther. They haven’t exactly destroyed trade yet. Then again, its better to prepare for a potential problem than let it fester for too long. That said, I do wanna make sure Im able to walk and chew bubblegum……..damn that is a phrase less than ten people on earth right now get…….but yeah, I wanna continue bringing people into Aksum’s ranks, and build up the Aksumite fleet in conjunction with Sumerian efforts.”

“True, but I’m tired and we can talk about this when the mission is done at least Andrew. Contemplating about what can be done instead of just doing it.” Luther said with a yawn.

“Fair enough. On a less contentious note, where are you from Luther? I’m from a suburb in Texas. Located near Dallas and Fort Worth. Got torn out of a cushy path to a law degree, and selling my soul to corporate America……...twenty years really makes you reassess what you wanted when you were younger.”

“I’m from Chicago, a little apartment with a media degree. Was actually a low grade reporter doing some sensasulism in order to sell newspapers.: Luther shrugs,” I don’t like it but it’s what helps when you're in a ghetto with a career going nowhere.”

“Chicago, huh? What a different world. When I thought of reporters, I always thought of the hacks tearing the country apart. All the big guys I guess. Not the local reporters. I probably don’t know it, but who did you work for?”

“Chicago Times, and you're not wrong. I was one of those hacks tearing the country apart.” Luther pointed to himself,” in the business is who you know, not what. I just know somebody from an internship and got in barely but I proved to be a good liar. Even lied myself to becoming a world superpower in another world. Who'd think that could happen?”

“Not me. My biggest aspiration in the old world was to raise a family with high school sweetheart of mine. I’m not sure how that evolved into…...whatever this is. Maybe family is a bigger motivator than I could have imagined. Its the only reason I could think of becoming a lawyer, when I would have enjoyed teaching history more.”

“I’ll just focus on Sumeria. There’s so much to do and so little time on my part. However I think it’s time for me to go.” Luther said stretching.

“Yeah, well, I think our little conversation was enlightening. I hope we have another opportunity to talk while you are still here.” Andrew replied, getting up and stretching himself.

“We will once Olivia is in chains. Trust me.” Luther got up from the chair and about to walk out before he turned around,”You really are a decent man Andrew. You tried to save the soul of a truly damned man. I hope you don’t lose that spark no matter how old you get.”

After that he walked out of the door and Andrew’s home.

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UniversalCommons
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Postby UniversalCommons » Sat May 01, 2021 9:43 am

Order and the Rule of Law

Victor Spear watched as boats were loaded with supplies to help with the plague. Wheeled carts filled with crates were pulled to the docks by men on paired bicyles. He counted over a dozen cargo ships at the dock. There were many more such shipments coming soon.

During his time working on production of goods for the plague, he received a book from a far off place, The Medicine of Harappa by Scholar Doctor Aprus. He read the opening. I have gathered the herbalists of Harappa at our school where we study plants, exercise, and medicine. To this effect, I have written this two volume work on the medicine of the Indus Valley. Many scholars and herbalists have come to work with me.

One of the chapters spoke of plague and fever. In it there was an admonishment against gathering in public spaces, they should be abandoned. Also, there was a bit on how people should separate themselves, keep a proper diet, rest, avoid polluted air and water, and take certain medicines. With the book came several different kinds of herbs and seeds. A trader named Arjun had come to the embassy in Ur for the Nestos League and provided the books, herbs, and seeds for curcumin, neem, lemongrass and other herbs.

“There you are, old friend, I have much to talk about. “ A voice caught him by surprise. Diaghis with his grizzled silver and black beard stood before him.

Victor Spear blinked, he had been lost in thought, “I was not expecting you. It is a good surprise.”

Diaghis, “I had to come here in private. There will be an announcement. The Council of the Wise with the support of most of the Aegean is going to make the fleet of the Sea Wolves permanent. We still have some things to do.”

Victor Spear, “I thought the war with the Kraken is over and our piracy problems have died down.”

Diaghis, “No the pirates have moved south, or so I am hearing they are not gone. It is time to secure the Aegean and secure shipping against the plague. There are still wandering ships that have no port to go to.”

Victor Spear, “Then we need permanent vigilance, it only takes an escaped slave or a disgruntled fisherman to turn pirate. We want peace and the rule of law in the Aegean. There will be no more Kraken or pirates.”

Diaghis, “There is more, the border is being secured by a new permanent contingent of scouts. They are needed to prevent more people with the plague entering the Nestos League. Apparently, there are problems to the north in the Imperium which we do not want entering the Nestos League.The presence of raiders to the north was taken up by Scholar Charnabon at the Council of the Wise.”

Victor Spear, “It is a long way to travel to see you. Why here of all places.”

Diaghis, “I am to escort the medicine ships from Cyrene to Crete where we will announce the permanency of the Sea Wolves. There will be a second announcement in the port of Abdera. I am going to speak of you as a hero, a person who is delivering medicine to the Nestos League, not someone to be shunned and exiled. You bring order and the rule of law.”

Victor Spear, “I will return, eventually. I am glad that the House of Wisdom can survive without me. Now, I know that the Nestos League is more stable than I thought.”

Diaghis, “I have heard that Alcibiades has taken on a new role, the Treasurer, also he has brought in Scholar Ishtar to be the Secretary and Note Taker. Alcibiades sought several new positions behind closed doors and made sure that they were filled by your allies. Scholar Charnabon has joined the House of Wisdom as well as Hand Vezina. .”

Victor Spear, 'It is politics again. Something that will never go away. I am glad that we will have permanent troops. I recommend that you give allotments of land to the new soldiers so they will remain loyal to the Nestos League. It is time that we had a permanent army that secured our border, prevented raiding, piracy, and maruauding. We need peace and security, especially during these times of plague.”

Diaghis, “You look healthy as always. It seems to have done you some good to be away from Oak. You seem more relaxed and calm.”

Victor Spear, “You are right, although I do miss the library. There are not as many books around here and the scholars are mostly oriented towards medicine and trade. How are your bones.”

Diaghis, “I hurt in my bones. My hands they are not as good as they were. Swimming in the ocean has helped a lot. The salt water helps. I will not be going out on the field of battle as much. I can teach the young warriors a thing or two still. I imagine, I will go home soon to my orchards, dogs, and fields. This may be one of my last trips here.”

Victor Spear, “You are a great man and will be remembered as such. You helped build a strong Nestos League, something to be proud of. It is good to have you as a friend. Come walk with me and tell me of your last trip home to your farm.”

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Postby G-Tech Corporation » Sat May 01, 2021 12:42 pm

Part 6, Chapter 3: Innocence Lost


May 22nd, 31 AG

The first reports were good. Or, at least expected. A calibration I was learning to live with - perhaps which had been forced upon me by the incongruities of the world I now inhabited. You couldn't count on things to happen as you might hope. It was a game of dampening your point to point planning, building in ambiguities, planning for eventualities. Far more villages had been depopulated than reports even as recently as Singidun had indicated, making hunting down the men responsible for the instabilities a bit of an exercise in frustration. Three had had to be outright devastated, which I had hoped to avoid entirely. But it is one thing to assess things rationally, as an architect of the behavior of nations, another to stand in the shoes of the bereaved. The cynic in me had known that pacifying the highlands, with the breakdown of societal bonds, would require force.

The optimist had hoped I was mistaken.

In some ways though things had been easier than you could expect. Consultations in Vinceia had been dour - stolen steel weapons and the terrain indicated forces might be able to meaningfully harm even heavily protected formations, if you listened to naysayers within even the local Companies. It didn't take a clever man to wield a sword, or anything more than a lucky thrust to put down even an Imperial soldier kitted out for war. All that training, all that war materiel, was mitigating the vagaries of random chance; letting a man survive one more incongruous blow, one more slip in his defenses, one more misfortune of slipping in mud, or a weak plate in his greaves.

That's why you built redundancies, expected failures, and engineered for incompetence. If a man doesn't wear his gorget, you make sure his doublet stops a blade. If manufacturing deficiencies leave a brittle fracture in his plate, you put lightweight mail to catch the spear that exploits that fracture. If his bow snaps because he didn't oil it properly, you leave him a shortspear to hold back his assailant. If his horse lames itself on a sharp bit of gravel, you make sure his conditioning will let him march twenty miles back to safety.

Those are the indefatigable pieces of warfare that I had picked up in the last thirty years, perhaps a modern approach to managing risk overlaid on the chaotic world of the Neolithic. Any fool with hot blood and a bit of charisma can claim a victory through rampant luck and defiance of the odds. Building a secure state, with reliable borders, pacified streets, and citizens that sleep safe in their beds, that's a matter of a far more complex institution, of replicable triumph and steady hands. And that was the outworking which the reports indicated was the case here in Dacia.

One reprisal party had to turn back when they encountered a raiding band in the field; the commander wasn't willing to pursue into heavy terrain, and his commander didn't reprimand him for the discretion that he exercised. Rumors had circulated for a week that men could defy the Imperium, but they proved stillborn when the second expedition against the weakened bandit force was a crushing success. It is easy to talk of victory as a tangible thing, of battles won or lost, but behind those definitive points of history are people - as Pyrrhus of Epirus learned to his disaster. Claim success, while ignoring the underlying realities, and you will go to your grave boasting.

It was a simple calculus. There were less than ten thousand men, women, and children, who inhabited the Dacian frontiers, the hills and high places. Of those ten thousand, only a thousand could really fight, were young and hale and fit enough to take to the field. Perhaps double that number for the defense of homes, ignoring the goodwife who picks up a pan or the old man who stands against a wolf with a pitchfork. Most of those people weren't actively raiding into the lowlands - too much fear of reprisals, too much fear of bringing home the Red Plague, too many trade links with nearby settlements in jeopardy, too many marriages with blood ties, a thousand reasons really. Men are wolves, but groups of men are rational. Risk appeals to few, especially when age and temperance cool hot passion.

And so that calculus contracts. Nearly two dozen settlements had been raided since the start of the year, but many of those were tightly grouped, hit by the same warlike groups. Conferring with local contacts beyond the raided areas allowed the creation of reasonably spaced expectations around who these brigands were, and where they were operating from. A couple hundred men, all told, opportunists and bandits. And that was no different than most of the Imperium, really. In any place where the rule of law doesn't extend across the entirety of a geographic space, there is opportunity for lawlessness. The Outriders, for all my ambitions of being an elite pacification unit, spent most of their time as either glorified scouts or even less glorified outlaw hunters.

Every society has its leeches, those who try to take the easy path to wealth, who desperation claims or evil festers within. In Dacia they were just nearer the surface, since the veneer of civility that had been cast across the fabric of the country was cracking in so many places. Where men and women die, it seems, for no reason other than mad chance, for the thirst of some foreign devil, life grows cheap, especially - especially - the lives of others.

Yes, the calculus. Hundreds of men, diffidently armed. The local Great Company, the Seventh, had been stretched thin. Disease had claimed many, and the rest had been parceled out, fighting fires, enforcing quarantines, reassuring local notables, keeping tensions from exploding. They hadn't had the manpower required to tamp down on the conflagrations that threatened the edges of society, and it isn't hard to see why their leaders hadn't prioritized these bandits. When it seems a wave of death assails you from the east, I can't blame a man for thinking that the fleabites of disorder and lawlessness are a secondary issue, tertiary even. It isn't an illogical assumption. But even as plague festers, which is easy to see, so too do tears in the social fabric, which is so invisible and hard to quantify.

So these raids had been successful, for a time. Then you stamp on them with a fist of iron. We had taken hundreds of hostages from the suspect tribes and kindreds. Most would be released in a few months, perhaps less. Some might have to be executed. Casualties from the reprisal actions were mounting, but within acceptable limits, and nothing like what the Army had endured in previous conflicts. I had no wish to make the mistake of paralleling a bodycount with victory, as the United States had done to such a detriment in Vietnam, but the sheer calculus was inescapable.

Perhaps a hundred men dead, executed for heinous crimes or slain in combat. Two hundred and seventy sent west in chains, to wash away their debts in sweat. I hadn't heard of a raid in a week, and though there had been some hostages executed, there was nothing that could really be done about that. I had personally consoled some of the Firstmen who had once had villages, and now counted their kindred as a handful. For them losing another daughter, another son, was the hardest thing in the world. Their pain was not pain I had felt, though I could sympathize - but behind my sympathy lay the calculus. The bodies of their loved ones were the cauterization of the rot of society, traded as blood-drenched currency to bring an end to this disorder. Those who humored the bandits paid for it in their own ways, for with the Great Company had come a detachment of Fatebinders, and their arms were long and their spirits inflexible. Such cozening only strengthened the currents which tugged at the foundations of civilization, and such indulgences could not be sanctioned.

It was with a weary heart, but an encouraged spirit, that the 22nd dawned for me. There might still be bandits hiding up in the hills, gathering their strength, but if we cut them away from their lines of support, from easy victims, they would wither in time. Not completely probably. The leeches had their ecological niche, and exterminating them was, though a worthy goal, likely an impossible one in the endless broken country of the Carpathians and the Southern Peaks. But divorcing them from their societal bonds, from being the arm of a kindred which gave them succor and a steady stream of recruits, that was important. Malleus' reports indicated that some of the bands had fled over the southern borders, into the League. That was their own problem, though I suppose they saw it as ours. Missives out of the League were more confused than they had ever been, with some cities declaring that they would no longer listen to Oak, others calling for detachments of troops to fight the Plague, some claiming religious upheaval, and all claiming myriad other strange things that could scarcely be believed. As order was restored here we would not doubt have to battle the conflagrations spreading in the south, especially if those bands found strongholds beyond the border and exploited the League's divided attentions to continue their activities with impunity.

I sat at one of the common tables in the large tent that did duty for the company's eatery lost in thought, momentarily failing to realize that a family had already seated themselves at the other end of the long rough oaken contraption. My hands automatically shoveled some of the hot scrambled eggs from the mess tin before me, then I started as large blue eyes poked into the edge of my vision.

"You don't look like a soldier."

It was a child - no, he was a child. Eight? Nine? Two tired looking adults at the other end of the table must have been his parents, and he must be a precocious thing, to approach a stranger, and a wearisome thing, that his parents didn't even tweak at such a bold action. I had taken care of kids like him, a lifetime ago. Impertinence doesn't even begin to describe the inexhaustible well of spirit some youngsters are gifted with (or cursed, from the perspective of those seeking to guide them into a vague approximation of civility). I blinked, and coughed, then smiled.

"Uh."

Brain, cudgeling, intelligent words. It was, in many ways, entirely too early for this. The blood in my body was already beginning to be occupied with the work of mechanical digestion, further inhibiting any coherent communication.

"I suppose I don't."

The height of rhetoric and wit. I didn't, to be fair. I didn't hold a formal military role anymore - I was strictly here as, well, the Hegemon. The brass stars on my shoulders didn't mean anything to even most of the folk of the Imperium, so the fact that this lad didn't recognize them was hardly a shock. My light greatcoat, concealed nearly completely by a smock against the light rain which was drizzling down, wouldn't have fazed the kid even if it was visible. It had become such a staple of Imperial dress, the convenient amalgamation of cloak and tunic which good machine-stitching made desperately economical to produce, that you might as well have called out a man for wearing pants in the 1800s in Europe.

"You don't talk much though. Soldiers don't talk much either."

If one needles the average man who has marched for miles, is weary from watchfulness and running on fatigue and a touch of fear, it does indeed usually fail to provoke a reaction. This child was absolutely full to the brim with commonsense truths.

"Ah, well, you see, I'm a warrior. Not a soldier."

A shock of curly brown hair bobbed up and down as the child considered that statement.

"Those are the same thing."

I shook my head.

"Hardly. A soldier fights because his head convinces him to fight, because he has considered the rational argument, because he is paid, because he loves his country and must defend her. A warrior fights from the heart - for family or passion or rage."

Quizzical eyes. Those were big words for the child, but I realized swiftly that I wasn't speaking Common - I should have clued in quicker, but I was still waking up. The words didn't come out exactly as I said them in my head, but the Gift I had been given spoke them as the child's heart needed to hear them. It was nodding slowly.

"I don't like soldiers. But a warrior. A warrior is a brave man." He grinned hesitantly, displaying two prominent dimples. "Do you have a sword?"

I did. I shifted to one side so he could see the scabbard, then drew it. It wasn't anything special, a blue-mottled Maran steel blade, a hand-and-a-half sword a little bit less than three feet in length - a versatile weapon for someone who didn't really expect to fight in the line, or in personal combat, but wanted to be prepared whatever the circumstances. And thus exactly the weapon I needed in my, admittedly, indeterminate life. Truth be told I had it for the prurient reasons of civility and exercise, both very unglamorous uses for a very fine tool of war. In many places even within the nominally civilized Imperium a failure to carry a weapon gave men and women both certain expectations, and I found sparring with my guardians a task which, after so many years, did a better job of focusing the mind than pure relaxation or meditation.

He plainly wanted to touch the blade, and just as plainly gradually thought better of the idea. His parents were watching closely, and that is just the sort of thing that might actually get him in trouble.

"Have you killed many men?"

I blinked, a bit taken back. Not the next question I had expected.

"Many. Hundreds."

That made his eyes grow wide. Then they narrowed. I had been serious, but the claim was, on the face of it, a bit ridiculous. It was hard to remember sometimes that my age was well disguised. Perhaps that was why the child had approached me - my own well preserved youth made me less threatening, and that was incongruous with my purported military achievements.

"I bet my father has killed more men than you."

I glanced up at the tired man at the other end of the table, who was looking down hollow faced into a tin of what had likely a few minutes ago been steamed oats. He was gaunt, and seemed to be in need of more sleep than days could provide. His wife - for so the woman must be - had a similar aspect to her. Not defeated, not exactly, but dazed, like a boxer who has just taken a blow to the head and is reeling. My eyes flickered up and down the man's body.

"I don't think so. I mean, he doesn't have a sword."

"He did."

There was pride now in the curly headed boy's voice, pride mixed with something else I couldn't immediately identify.

"The soldiers took it from him. They won't let me have it either. That's why I don't like soldiers."

Ahhh. The pieces slotted into place. I took my sword off the table and slipped it back into its sheathe. The boy looked at me curiously, before frowning.

"You don't have to pity me. Your face says you do. I'm strong. Maybe as strong as you. You still have your sword. You didn't let the soldiers take it from you."

Weariness settled once more over my heart as I rose from the table. The child had mistaken me for one of the hostages, a status he and his parents no doubt enjoyed. Most of the hostages had liberty in this part of the camp, at least for meals, and the restrictions were fairly kind to those with children. We weren't quite at the point where even the Lord-Commander could justify shackling boys and girls. Not yet. I was, in many ways, the man responsible both for his parents being captives, and the reason his father no longer had a sword.

I stooped, squatting from my knees so my eyes were level with the blue orbs of the child. I tried to smile winsomely, but it probably came across as a grimace.

"You should like soldiers more. Strength isn't about having a sword, or killing men. Strength is about stopping warriors from using their swords, and sparing lives. Your father is here, and his sword isn't, because I had the strength not to kill him for what his sword has done. His sword, and your uncle's sword, and your cousin's sword."

There wasn't understanding in those young eyes. They didn't understand what I had said. There was hate that gathered there, and anger. They recognized me as the other, reclassified me as the enemy. Perhaps one day he would think back on my words, if peace prevailed here, and strength was reassessed in its origin. Or perhaps not. I merely took my breakfast and walked away, no longer willing to face the results of my actions.
TG if you have questions about RP. If I don't know the answer, I know someone who does.

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UniversalCommons
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Postby UniversalCommons » Sat May 01, 2021 3:16 pm

Law, Order, Unity (Varna)

Sitalkes stood before the council of Varna. He held a silver hand for speaking, unlike the gold one in Oak.

“I stand before you, a soldier of the Nestos League. I serve the Nestos League, not Oak or Varna. We are a league because we face common foe. Our common foe now is the red plague.

We must unite again or face this epidemic alone. United we can drive away the plague using the methods of Salt, cleaning, quarantine, and safety. Alone we will all die as Acorn fell. I am here to remind you that we are part of one Nestos League. The Nestos League is not Oak. Oak is the place of knowledge, the House of Wisdom, but it is not the only place in the Nestos League.

I ask you to stop fighting among yourselves. If necessary find a new heart. Some have suggested that Salt be the heart of the Nestos League. They have done more to end the plague than any other place in the league.

We pay into a common pool and need to join together again. I remind you that you are part of the Nestos League. We meet in council so that people can make decisions.

You have not forgotten that you are part of the Nestos League as Salt and Staro Zagora have not forgotten that they are part of the Nestos League. Sometimes things must change. Oak may no longer be the center of the Nestos League, but it is still a member of the Nestos League.

I am here because I seek unity inside the Nestos League. Only with unity will we prevail. Speak now and we will have an answer.

Many cities in the Nestos League have rejoined us. The fee for medicine and safety is part of the fee for membership to the league.

Others still object. They wished to have a new administrative center. Some speak of Varna or Salt as places they will listen to. Varna is the treasury of the Nestos League.”

Decisions have to be made. My colleague, Diaghis stands in Abdera today. He is bringing order to the Aegean. Diaghis has suggested that we need a new capital for the Nestos League. Many of our people do not see Oak as a legitimate place of government.

There are many choices. Many scholars have suggested Abdera. It is the place of our first university and a place for trade. It is time for a change. In addition, Scholar Etana one of our greatest living scholars supports this..”

Diaghis listens to the debate at Varna and watches as most hands are raised in support of creating a new capital building at Abdera and moving the Council of the People to Abdera. It will no longer be called the Council of Wisdom. The House of Wisdom will stay in Oak, a research center, but not a political center.



Abdera, Nestos League

Victor Spear stood behind a curtain. It had not been a hard decision. The Nestos League could have descended into a kind of civil war, or found a way to recreate legitimacy by moving its capital and center of power and inviting many of the objectors back into the fold. Most wanted to preserve the league, but not the capital. The Nestos League was still desired by the majority, just not its capital.

He also saw the shift of research away from Oak to Abdera and the islands of the Aegean as well as trade. Oak was not a trade port. It would not always be the center of the Nestos League.

He knew that the speech which Diaghis had given was similar to the one Sitalkes gave. Victor Spear waited. That he was in Abdera was not known. He wore a painted mask and hooded embroidered cloak. There were many people from Oak who had joined them quietly. The majority of the warriors and hands were on their side and most of the scholars. Also, the charter of the Nestos League gave power to all its members.

He waited behind the curtain unseen.

He was taken outside the city to a house that used to belong to Scholar Bassaba, but was now just an unassuming empty house. Penelope met him there.

Penelope looked at him coldly, “Why did you arrange this?”

Victor Spear, “It was necessary. It will reunite the Nestos League. Sometimes hard sacrifices have to be made.”

Penelope, “It will cause lots of discontent. People will be unhappy. They will argue that the change is illegitimate.”

Victor Spear, “It will change things for the better in the long run. If it is done right, it will appear that I did not make the decision and that the people will rule things. We need to insure that people do not know I was here.”

Penelope, “But you are here and people will surely know. We can only keep secrets for so long. After this meeting, I hope you will be on a ship back to the islands, possibly to Lemnos.”

Victor Spear, “I was hoping to to go to Cyprus. I hear that you sent Kug Bau to Ur.”

Penelope, “Yes, I did. I hear that the Imperium sent missives to the Nestos League. This is the first time they have ever contacted us.”

Victor Spear, “Send them what is important, every piece of medical knowledge that they might find useful. All of our designs for protective gear, quarantine and other things. Also as much as we can give about herbalism that we know. Ask for whatever they know of the disease. Send the Daughters of Penelope to them as well as some of the scholar doctors.”

Penelope, “Don't you think that is too generous.”

Victor Spear, “Life has more value than medical secrecy. Maybe, they know something which we don't. After all, we have texts on herbs from Harappa, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Thrace. Maybe they have herbs that can cure this thing. Even the things which reduce pain are helpful. Send all of it.”

Penelope, “I'll have to think of it.”

Victor Spear, “Please do what I ask. It is a chance to move away from fear and to dialog with the Imperium of Man. A dialogue which could lead to peace, at least for a while. We have been silent for a long time.”

Diaghis enters the room. Diaghis, “I have heard what you have said. I can do this. We can send some of the surgeons from the fighting ships in addition to the Daughters of Penelope. We have gathered the protocols used in the Aegean for quarantine.”

Penelope, “Why did you have to listen in on this conversation between Victor Spear and I.”

Victor Spear sighs.

Penelope, “I will do it, but please don't listen in next time.”

From Oak, it was a strange sight. Daughters of Penelope, members of the Scholar Translation Ministry, and ships doctors set out for the borders of the Imperium. They were in large wagons pulled by horses and escorted by a mix of bicycle scouts and light horse. They had missives from the Imperium asking for a response.

On the Border.

The border on the Danube was a strange place. In secret the scouts had been training for an invasion by nomads or an incursion by the Imperium of Man. At various points on the river, men had been watching the river. They would sit for hours in the woods in armor with netting on it which held grasses, leaves, moss and other bits for camouflage. They would occasionally take out crude spyglasses to watch the river. They could see across the river easily. Mostly, it was quiet or boring, except for when an overly eager Blackhorse nomad would attempt to cross the river to steal a bride. This was mostly suicidal, so very few did.

They had watched the Imperium settle the other side of the Danube. There were some houses, occasionally some cliffs, or mountains and lots of trees. On the Nestos League side, they had felled many of the trees on the river for logging and cleared away the brush so they could see the edge of the river.

Further back from the river, there were several small forts with tall watchtowers where they would watch the river with spyglasses.

Diastus sat in the woods watching the river. He took out his spyglass and saw a man paddling a small boat. The man had padded armor and a chain shirt, as well as a good shield and a strong axe. He had a helm on a strap hanging from the back of his neck. There were two dozen other men with him crossing the river in four man boats. They pulled up the small boats they had crossed the river with and put them behind some trees. They were talking to each other.

Diastus slipped back into the trees, he made several smooth motions with his hands indicating four of his companions should follow him. One of them would stay watching the river and one of them would inform the other men further away that there were armed men crossing the river. The men with him moved steadily watching the men that had crossed the river. They moved quietly and slowly placing their feet carefully.

The men who crossed the river walked two abreast. They talked to each other in a thick Dacian accent which Diastus was familar with. After about an hour they stopped and sat down. They passed around a wineskin. One of them laughed and wiped his mustache. Then they got up and continued walking.

The scouts crouched and moved quietly behind some brush not saying a word. It was almost three hours before the 24 men stopped. The scouts gate was slow and even using the balls of their feet first. They moved in a relaxed, smooth way.

Diastus and the other scouts listened to them talk until they came to realize that they were talking about raiding a nearby settlement for goats, wheat, and women in the early dawn hours. Diastus signaled with his hands for two of the men to go back and inform the other scouts.

Six hours later while the raiders were resting for the night, Diastus watched a group of 25 scouts and 25 Silver Scorpions ambush the raiders. First they killed the four sentries with multiple arrows from double bows tipped with bronze wheels. The raiders died silently and quickly. Then the scouts overran the camp, with leaf bladed spears. 11 of the men were captured, 8 died, and 4 were wounded, and 1 was hunted down when he tried to run away.

It was hard to see the Silver Scorpions in their night black armor and hooded, metal studded cloaks. They remained silent while they tied up the surviving raiders. One pointed out the tracks of the raiders which were unhidden.

The raiders had come across the river hoping for easy gains. It did not matter to them that they were in the Nestos League. The Nestos League was filled with soft scholars. Men who were more interested in paper than women. The leader of the raiding group was hanged, then the raiders were told that they could die with him if they did not talk. In fact, if they told the complete truth, they might even be rewarded with silver and grain and a chance for life. Most who lived did not hide they were from the north and had come south to raid the soft lands of the Nestos League.

In the morning after resting, Diastus had a chance to talk to watch the Silver Scorpions interrogate the raiders. Different members of the Silver Scorpions would interrogate the same man over and over asking the same questions repeatedly.

There seemed to be one question that was asked many times, "This is steel, how did you get it?". One of the raiders finally broke down and said, they made it. He was taken aside and given some clothes and food and put in a room with a cot.

Diastus was shown the tracks of the raiders with their footwear. One of the Silver Scorpions told him he was Agar, and he was going to teach him about war. He was born an outcast in the desert and his choice was to be a mercenary or dig in the fields. Agar had a scar above his left eye and a shaven head.

Agar showed him the boot prints of the Dacian raiders, showing where they had spilled wine, broken branches, and torn grass.

Agar, 'These Dacians, they have tender feet, they tear the grass, and leave traces behind. I did not get my first pair of boots until I was sixteen. I earned it by beating a man. I will show you how to hunt men. You will help me. There will be more of them. They think we are soft. You will learn."

Diastus, "I have been a scout and know to hunt. I can see what you are showing me."

Agar, "But have you learned to hunt men. It is different to hunt men and slay them. When you are a scorpion, you must strike quickly, before a man can raise his shield or foot to strike you or you will die. I can see the potential in you to become one of Barrabas' men. He only chooses the most capable, often people who have lived hard lives."
Last edited by UniversalCommons on Sat May 01, 2021 6:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Saxony-Brandenburg
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Founded: Mar 07, 2016
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Saxony-Brandenburg » Sun May 02, 2021 9:30 am

A little fun


Within the fire-lit and rowdy nighttime taverns of Yanbu, a particularly loud group of men and women sit around three tables. Laughing, drinking, slapping, gambling - they had been going for hours. Lahamu sat among them, unamused at what had befallen them. She scowled at the man beside him, before harshly slapping him across the face.

“You shit-dog! Look what you did to my tunic! Are you really so drunk you can’t hold a damn cup?”

The man gave her a lazy eye up and down, before shrugging. He hardly noticed he’d spilled the very cup, once in his hand, over her. The sticky date-wine reeked, and surely, she thought, would stain.

“What? Are you so thick-headed that you cannot hear me? That you cannot respond?! Lady ninlil curse you, damn lightweight! If you can’t handle yourself well you shouldn’t have come to the bar in the first place!”

She struck him again, hard. The man stumbled backwards, nearly knocking over the near-by table on the floor. A loud cacophony of cheers and jeers erupted. Some men clapped, some women chided her recklessness. Lahamu grabbed the man by the collar, and dragged him out towards the door.

The man sat there, his cheeks flushed with alchohol and his newfound bruise. It would surely turn purple in the morning. His nose dripped with green snot, and from his lips a long trail of drool licked down his prickly chin. Lahamu grabbed his face, twisting it from side to side in one hand, as he continued to groan. “You’ll live.” She finally pronounced, finding no teeth missing from his already nasty maw. She dropped his face and began to pat him down, her hands exploring for a pocket or a belt- something around his waist. She nodded with approval as she felt a rope around him, from which a string of two black stone coins hung.

“This will do.” She sighed, ripping them off his belt, not caring enough to untie them. “This will pay for a new tunic if nothing else. Why do I even change while on land anyway? There’s no point if it gets ruined.” She shook her head and stuffed the coins into her little leather pouch, the coins clacking together in their distinctive rock-sound.

“Uh- miss?” A nervous voice came out from behind her. She raised an eyebrow, and looked over her shoulder to see a thin man, with long black hair in the dim dusk light. “You’re not stealing from that man, are you?” He asked. His voice cracked like a teenager, though the man looked over twenty.

“No I am not.” She firmly responded, turning her whole body around to face him. “I save that for my day job. I was… acquiring compensation. What’s it to you anyhow? Looking for those famous ‘rewards’ the town militia gives to snitches?” She smirked, it was a while since she felt this good. This confident. The last time was when she told off some kid for trying to nab her dinner. She had a good laugh after embarrassing the boy and smacking him on the rear-end enough to make it bright red.

“Oh! No ma’m. Not at all. I uh- just didn’t want to be around if the guard showed up.”

She chuckled, the boy was something else. Perhaps he didn’t know? “No, no they wouldn’t. They know me, and thus know not to mess with me.”

“Oh! Are you famous or something?”

“A little.” Her grin dug into her cheeks ever-more, she couldn’t help but love boasting about herself. “The name’s Lahamu, captain of Ninlil’s arrow. Are you new around here or just to the docks?”

“Uh, I guess you can say that. I uh. Well I think my friends dumped me here. I was on board this merchant vessel, see, headed north to the land of Canaan and the great city of Jericho with my fad. I don’t think he liked me very much, because when I woke up this morning they’d left me here by myself.”

“Oh you poor darling!” She said, her lip still curled. “Daddy left you all alone? What a shame. Here.” She waved him towards the inn. “Come inside and you can tell my lads all about it. We may even give you a cup to drink if it’s good enough. Why not tell me your name, first however?”

“It’s- it’s Aanen.”

“What is that, Egyptian?”

The boy nodded.

“Lost boy in a strange land then?”

“It seems to be the case.”

They walked inside and over to the tables, but soon Lahamu noticed her seat taken by another one of the drunken crew. She shrugged, and sat down with him in a nearby empty table.

“What are they doing?” He asked, eyeing the group happily hollering as they crowded around one table, her table.

“It appears they’re playing knucklebones. Damn, desperate, stupid fools they are!”

“Why’s that?”

“They don’t have any money to gamble.”

He raised his eyebrows at that, and stood up to look over one large man’s shoulder as he played. Lahamu stood up and beside him, commenting as they went through. “It’s a game of chance- see? You have eight total. The bone has four sides, two long ones and two short ones. The short ones are painted red and the long ones are left polished-white. You toss two of them on the table, see? And if any land red-up, you keep them. If it’s white, you keep it in the pot. Each man tosses two in the first go ‘round, and then any that are left goes around until they’re used up. You play four rounds with four people, and whoever has the most by the end of the game gets the pot.”

“Oh! I see.” The boy exclaimed, watching the rattling bones and drunken slapping of joy and anguish from the players. “But what makes them foolish for playing it”

“Oh, that’s simple.” She said, patting him on the shoulder. “None of them have any money left.”

“Oh? Then what are they playing for?”

She shrugged. “Probably the marrow in those bones. They bought a whole rack of roasted goat ribs, and I imagine they’ll spend the evening sucking off those bones like a calf at it’s mother’s tit. A sad thing really, but it’s none of my business.”

“Say? How did they loose all their money anyhow?”

Lahamu grabbed her bag and shook it, the coins clacking inside quietly. “I took it all.”

The boy looked wide-eyed at her, amazed. “How’d you manage all that?”

“I’m the only sober person in here, so it wasn’t hard.”

Another table soon grabbed their attention, however. A rhythm of fists, banging loudly, quieted the room in interest. A group of swarthy sumerians sat around in a circle, as a maid brought them their first of many deep pots of alchohol they’d be consuming that night. Their cracked lips and deep voices however soon gripped the room with their song.

“There’s a fleet full of fish and a skeleton crew!
What for the gods’ own rage!
Where the gods send winds for a sea to consume!
What for the gods’ own rage!
And what can be made of a captain who,
lets the rats and the mice eat all the damn food?

Oh the gods hear us calling,
They hear us through the night.
And we all sing songs and we dance and we pray
For the coming of the day!

Sixty and sixty of gods below,
What for the gods’ own rage!
And Seven great ones who are brought so low,
What for the gods’ own rage!
Oh they sigh and they cry at the end of the line,
When they’re made to be as one!

Oh the gods hear us calling,
They hear us through the night.
And we all sing songs and we dance and we pray
For the coming of the day!

Oh their shrines are empty their offerings bare,
What for the gods own rage!
And there’s twenty years of blood in there!
What for the gods own rage!
And they march on Kish is this time of year
Has the rabid dog have any to fear?

Oh the gods hear us calling,
They hear us through the night.
And we all sing songs and we dance and we pray
For the coming of the day!

We sail towards the day!

We’ll fight for the day!”


A bit of laughter, a bit of mourning, a few tears of remembrance came upon the tavern-goers, Lahamu too. She longed for her mother country many days, even if she hasn’t known it before the wars started, before her mother and father brought her into exile with them so early on.

“And that,” she muttered to Aanen, “is the reason I’m a pirate.”

“Hm?” He asked, furrowing his brow.

“I’m sure it’s hard for an Egyptian to understand. But in a land where even the queen is a theif, a theif of thousands of lives and livelihoods, well… Well piracy doesn’t seem to be the most innoble career path, does it?” She sighed, laughed, then gave him a kind smile in quick succession. “Alright. I’ve got my money and my fun. How would you like a place to stay tonight? If you’re a good enough sailor, maybe I’ll even have a job for you.”

“Really?”

“And if you kiss my ass enough.”
"Shall we only hope for heaven when we're dead?"

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