Chapter 1 – return to list
Every chapter starts with an oracle reading, from which the characters are generated. Bo wanted to consult the oracle of God־Kings of War. Gingi wanted The Unquiet Past, and offered to flip a coin. Bo offered to draw cards instead and won. One is summer.
8 of Hearts: A day sacred to an oppressed slave cult, the celebration of which is punishable by torture.
Convert the Queen.
Destroy Ehsan's humanity.
Mesmerising: With love, maneuvering. Far־reaching.
Blur opponent's thoughts and implant your own.
Her eyes are sparkling, almost glowing. Her skin is dry and hot to the touch. Her lips are moving, and you know the truth of her words before they even reach your ears.
A talented slave driver, reluctantly oppressing a slave cult that's forbidden from celebrating their upcoming sacred day, on pain of torture.
Help the slaves celebrate their sacred day and avoid the wrath of the authorities.
Bring down the crown.
Whipdom: With violence, action. Far־reaching.
The whip becomes an extension of the wielder's imagination.
He lets the whip uncoil like a viper. There are five people before him, drunk, swords in hands. And then the 28 lighted candles in the bar go out. No wicks were harmed.
A renowned inquisitor hunting the oppressed slave cult with an almost fanatical devotion.
Find the leader of the slave cult and burn her at the stake.
Put a man on the throne.
Will of Iron: For myself, self־protection. Potent.
Natural resistance to persuasion techniques, be them natural or otherwise.
“Move along”, echoes the soldier. “Move alo…”
It's a good thing he has that mask on, because suddenly he gets this funny expression, like he's trying to take a difficult dump. And then the coin drops. The fog clears. “Mo-ther-fu-cker”, he exclaims, “these ARE the droids we're looking for!
A street smart slave kid, sometimes works as a snitch for Ehsan.
Favoured by the gods. For myself, self protection. Consequential to love and self protection.
8 of Clubs: A high, many-towered wall on a fierce border, and the soldiers left to hold it.
The greatest swordsman left to hold a high, many־towered wall on a fierce border.
Get the naked blade for himself, without the freaking crown. Wants Ehsan to retain his humanity and leftist interest and have the slave situation resolved peacefully.
Lethal Swordsmanship: Directly, action. Consequential for myself and self protection.
Once the sword is unsheathed, opponents will have a life changing experience. In a bad way.
A sharp blade is drawn, the opponent's head lies gasping on the floor, the sword is sheathed.
A chieftain in the savage hoard of amazon werewolves that are attacking the wall. Secretly in love with Ador.
Wants Ador to turn pacifict and elope with her.
Avenge her parents, who she believes were killed by Ehsan.
Unlease the beast: Covertly, maneuvering. Far־reaching.
Provoke instinctual behaviour. Melt inhibitions. Cloud judgement.
Her lips fill his mind. “I know the treaty must be signed. The good of the many… The needs of the few”. Fingernails claw gently at his shoulder. “But sometimes I wish”, she moans, words barely audible as they penetrate him, thick and hot and wet, “I wish you cave his head in. You certainly are strong enough”.
A red glint lights his eyes as they search for something heavy.
King of Hearts: The ghost of a tyrant king, strangled by his own daughter.
Prevent the throne from falling into the wrong hands. Sacrficie Ador to the Storm bull, which will make to us rain and strengthen our moral fiber.
Commanding presence: Directly, maneuvering. Potent.
The hall grows quiet as she draws breath to speak.
By the force of one's personality, amplified by one's regal poise, striking beauty, magnificent raiment and precise control of voice, movement and expression, one does compel the attention, deference, obedience and devotion of those around her, above and beyond what is accorded due to one's social status and political standing.
The young, petty, annoying and power hungry cousin]] of the tyrant king strangled by his own daughter. Possible heir to the sword and crown.
Get the crown.
Get back at Ador who humiliated him in college.
Rule lawyer: For others, maneuvering. Broad, for myself, self־protection.
Can always find a law, backed by tradition, public opinion and some sort of policing force, that fully serves his personal interests.
I:“The player's handbook clearly states that players starting with a B can't use their particular strengths against prestige classes, which is what I happen to play”.
D:“I'm afraid he's right, Bo. It's right there in the book”.
6 of Hearts: A speaker for the ancestors, carrying secrets and warnings.
A blind necromancer and a slave. Prophet to the cult. Larsa's twin brother.
Manipulate Ehsan into tormenting the slaves and causing a revolt, according to the prophecy. Cinvince his sis to give up her evil powers.
Awe: Directly, action. Consequential for myself and self־protection.
Strike fear into the hearts of others, especially if they are superstitious or cowardly.
Staring into the old man's blind eyes was like sinking into a bottomless ocean. At first it has a calming quality. It's all around you, it's quiet, and it's isolating. And then, all of a sudden, you realize you're not really alone. That's when it stops being fun.
So, obviously, this chapter takes place in a wicked age, in the great island of Ras־Meitash, where Queen Gemegishkirihallat has her hands full. First, invading Dannite landed on the southern shore, which is always bad news. Then came the betrayal: her husband, the late King Metbeteremet, was strangled by their daughter, the Princess Ashtipani, who gave the Dannites all the information and assistance they required to use the confusion, tear through the defences and conquer the capital.
The Queen's only choice was to take the naked blade (the Ras־Meitashian symbol of sovereignty, so far always held by men) and the crown that came with it, and flee with her court north. To the great wall that separates her kingdom from the barbarian hoards. To the unconquerable citadel of the winds, where she plans to sacrifice her finest warrior and win back the good grace of the gods.
The island of Ras־Meitash (barbarian hoards in yellow, Dannite army in blue), and where it is on the geographical map (generated with donjon fractal world generator, seed: 1686783035, water: 60%, ice: 28%, max height and iterations, 30°).
And now, as if she can afford it, the leader of an illeagal slave cult is trying to convert her and legitimize their upcoming sacred day.
In a Wicked Age, at the Citadel of the Winds, around the newly constructed altar of the Sacred Bull, Larsa has an unofficial interview with the exiled Queen, who wishes to discuss the slave unrest regarding the upcoming outlawed slave festival. The Queen offers slave cult leader to join the general festivities held in accordance to state law and the traditions of the Bull of Heaven. Some agreement with regards to cooperation is extracted, as well as information regarding the cult's prophet who happens to be Larsa's twin brother. The serpents engraved on the altar shed tears of blood.
In a wicked age, at a temple's construction site, Damash attempts to provoke Ehsan at the building site of the official festival grounds, but fails to crack the whipmeister's calm demeanor. Frustrated, he decides to seek an alternative path to provoke his holy war.
In a wicked age, in her temporary chambers at the Citadel of the Wind, the Queen holds special audience for war hero captain Ador Palassar. She congratulates him on his heroic defense of the border, and hears of his heroic attempts to make peace with the barbarians and their heroic genitals. The Queen bestows upon the captain the honor of being the centerpiece of the upcoming sacrificial festivities, which he humbly accepts while expressing disappointment at the lack of sword-wielding involved (at least on his part, rather than at his parts).
In a wicked age, in the temporary encampment of the slaves building the temple, in the middle of the night, Larsa and Damash share a psychedelic cup of coffee. In an ensuing conversation, Damash tries to talk Larsa into betraying the Queen, but she refuses, and impresses upon him the strength and importance of their connection.
In a wicked age, in a corridor in the citadel, Warner, who infiltrated the citadel disguised as a chambermaid, tries to have an important conversation with Ador. He proceeds to strip her of said disguise and escort her unauthorized presence to a nearby alcove for some vigorous peace talks, thus fucking the conflict out of her.
In a Wicked Age, in an alcove in the fortress, as Warner and Ador are wrestling with some hard issues on the negotiating pallet, Keliphaz pounces upon them, revealing their frolicsome activity to the Queen. Nobody expects the Spanish Contraception!
He bursts into the room, pointing at Warner, who is riding Ador in reverse cowgirl and her face is half wolf. “Treason!”, he shouts at the reluctant queen. “Fornication! Bestiality! And under your very roof, Highness!”. Ador, not in the least amused, demands that everyone not having sex with him leave at once, and stresses the point by tossing the bedpan – overflowing with his and hers bodily liquids – unto the amazed inquisitor's head.
Just then, when things are at their messiest, Larsa, on one of her slavial duties, passes by and curtsies before the Queen. “Your Highnesssss”, she whispers, using her dark powers to manipulate the Queen into realizing her religion is clearly failing on the moral front. The Queen, greatly distraught, grabs the naked blade with her bare hands, and is immediately confronted by the accusing stare of her dead husband, who has been haunting the blade since his death. She drops the sword to the floor just as Keliphaz shakes the bedpan that falls next to it. Mabari dominance is now active.
Keliphaz smells witchcraft and orders his men to arrest the slave and the unnatural copulators. Warner vigorously somersaults, slingshots Ador around (within?) her and flips the two of them plus a bedsheet to the general direction of the window. Ador asks her to wait while he makes a grab for the sword, but Warner demands that he relent the sword and escape the citadel with her. Ador complies.
Unfortunately, the scheming Keliphaz has men ready outside the window. Ador and Warner lead them in a long and merry dance with sword and fang and a bedsheet, but eventually they are captured and taken to the dungeon, along with Larsa, who apparently fails at mesmerising the depleted queen – just barely picking up the sword – into defying the insolent inquisitor.
In a wicked age, in the Queen's chambers, said inquisitor is getting insolenter and insolenter, saying outright that no woman has any business holding the naked blade. The Queen raises said blade and warns him to still his insolent tongue or lose it. Keliphaz continues ranting, and realizes the Queen is not speaking figuratively. He tries to stare her down, but with a snap of the wrist she pries his jaw open and shreds his venomous tongue.
In a wicked age, in the citadel's dungeon, chained to a wall, Larsa, Warner and Ador discuss their misfortune. There is a strong; minty scent of herbs in the air. Ador, who knows most of the guards, calls one of them (named Day-Vshar-Din, or “Dave” – in a HAL voice), talks to him and learns of Keliphaz's fate. He decides to let things sort themselves out, until Warner reminds him that she will be executed anyway, and chances are he and the slave will join her.
Ador tries to convince Dave to give him a dagger, so he can clean his teeth. Dave refuses to give him a weapon and even condemns his sexual deviancy once Ador confirms the rumors, but eventually he is tricked into coming close enough for Ador to try and grab him. The attempt fails, what with Ador being chained and Dave being prepared, and Dave smacks Ador hard and exhausts him. At which point Larsa interferes and mesmerises Dave (“remember who your friendsss are”, she whispers) into handing Ador the dagger. It's all much simpler with the dice's favour. Ador uses the dagger to pry open Warner's chains and tells her to vanish. He and Larsa decide to stay and let things play out.
In a wicked age, in a cavernous, darkened feasting hall, lit only by torches and a big roaring fire, Queen Gemegishkirihallat interrogates her prisoners, denying any previous arrangements (or acquaintance) with Larsa, when Prince Sagraglekhdemishti makes his appearance, quoting some regulation that demands
a man's his presence at the interrogation. When he mentions his claim to the crown, The Queen offers Sagraglekhdemishti the edge of the naked blade (this is becoming a habit), which he quickly grabs. Touching the sword he confronts the bitter and critical ghost of the late king, the cousin his mother always wished she had instead of him, and the shock is so great he doesn't even notice when the Queen gently pulls the sword from his hand, careful not to draw blood, and signals the guards to move the prisoners away from prying eyes. “You were tested, Prince Sagraglekhdemishti”, she intones, “and found wanting”.
On the way to the temporary improvised and secret dungeon, Ador makes his escape. He tries to convince Larsa to join him, but she refuses. He breaks free, turns a corner and vanishes into a secret passage in the wall – he decides to haunt the citadel as The Phantom of the Wind!
In a wicked age, in his hovel, a slave is deftly preparing a simple doll of cloth and clay and straw. He sets his creation on a small table and grabs an oil lamp. Gently he brings the flame to the feet of the doll. “Time to burn, sister mine”.
In a wicked age, in the temple construction site, Ehsan – with direct orders to get the slaves under control and the temple built already – approaches Atu, a young slave hustler and a regular snitch, in an attempt to find out what gives. Atu convinces Ehsan that the end is indeed nigh, and that only the followers of the Serpent will be spared. In spite of being a complete atheist, Ehsan is only too happy to sip on the apocalyptic Kool־Aid, and promptly gives Atu a master key to the slaves quarters, discards his uniform and disguises himself as a slave by rubbing his face in ash and wearing a hood.
In a wicked age, in a spacious hall quickly converted into a royal oubliette in the way of barbaric silks and golds and furs and crap, with thick carpets haphazardly covering a smooth basalt floor, The Queen interrogates Larsa and receives a lecture about metaphysics.
Apparently, the gods are now entering the world. Last time this happened, the Bull came on top, but this time it will be the Serpent, and The Queen in not only in a perfect position to ride this wave and use it to her advantage, she has already taken the first steps in that direction. As the Serpent enters the world, the first part to enter is his split tongue, symbolized by Keliphaz's glossectomy. Next enter his lacking arms, symbolized by Sagraglekhdemishti not getting wounded by the naked blade. All that remains is the heart, which Larsa is only too happy to give now that the bullish Ador sullied his.
As the slave woman's words worm their way into the Queen's heart, dissolving her difficulties with giving up the religion of the Bull which played such an important role in her life thus far, Ehsan washes the ash of his face, puts his uniform back on, snoops his way to the oubliette and convinces the Guard – one of the Queen's finest, mind you – to disturb the Queen and tell her the interrogator she requested has arrived. The Queen, who requested no such thing, decides its an excellent idea and orders him to get the truth out of Larsa.
Once alone with her, Ehsan tries to convince Larsa to escape, for the good of her people. Larsa refuses to be guilted by him and tries to convert him instead, but in vain. Ehsan is a liberal and a humanist. He cares about the need of the people, not the idea of gods. After deciding to lead the slaves himself, he takes his leave and reports back to the Queen and tells her that Larsa is indeed a true believer.
In a wicked age, Queen Gemegishkirihallat is tending a headache in her private chambers when Prince Sagraglekhdemishti requests an interview. He claims to accept his defeat and wishes to become the Queen's Hand in all matters of importance. Gemegishkirihallat is skeptical, and feels that the offer does nothing to diminish her headache.
In a wicked age, in a dark underground vault, Ador's nostrils catch the familiar scent of Warner. Unfazed by recent events, Ador goes straight for the punani, but Warner stops him and forces a choice. Either he forgets about the sword and makes a decent women out of her, a la Little House on the Prairie, or he can kiss her shapeshifting ass goodbye. Ador chooses the sheath over the sword and rides off into the sunset.
In a wicked age, from a tall balcony, Queen Gemegishkirihallat makes a proclamation. There is eldritch glow about her, glinting in the noon sun. She asserts that times are hard, and wishes to bask the people of the citadel in her light so that they draw hope and warmth from her. And then she adds in a small voice, contradicting her glamorous appearance, that the slaves will be allowed to celebrate their sacred day in any way they see fit, and none shall disturb them.
Amongst the whispers in the audience, one voice sounds clear. “Free the slaves, Your Highness”. The Queen ignores the foolish demand, but Ehsan steps forward, towards her. “Free the slaves, Your Highness”, he repeats, and uncoils his whip. “Arrest this man”, the Queen tells her guards in way of reply. “We will add him to the burnings tonight”.
In a wicked age, in a large field just outside the citadel, on the grounds of the newly erected temple of the Bull (which is filled with Serpentine characteristics), the waning moon rises like horns in the sky. The crowd is chanting. Some chant for the Bull, others for the Serpent. Two rows of crystals lead the way eastward, like runway lights, and as the chanting grows louder they begin to vibrate and pulse with hidden light. And then a bright spot of light appears between the horns of the moon.
Larsa is tied to the main stake, in the center of a small crowd of virgins and transgressors tied to smaller stakes. The stakes are lit from the edges to the center, so by the time they get to her there is a good deal of screaming mixed in with the chants. And as the torch kisses the kindle at her feet, she opens her mouth and starts to sing to the Serpent. And the Queen joins her. And the soldiers join her. And the men and women burning at the stake join her, even as their skin boils and their lungs fill with smoke. And as the chant of the Serpent swallows the chant of the Bull, the light flies in and is resolved into a winged serpent, breathing fire all around, which coils itself around Larsa's burning flesh.