ARC: TTT Chapter 4

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TheCulminatingApe

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« on: January 13, 2019, 06:55:59 pm »
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Like a stern father, war shames men into hating their childhood games
- PROTATHIS, ONE HUNDRED HEAVENS

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I returned from that campaign  far different man, or so my mother continuously complained.  "Now only the dead," she would tell me, "can hope to match your gaze".
- TRIAMIS I, JOURNALS AND DISCOURSES
Sez who?
Seswatha, that's who.

TheCulminatingApe

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« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2019, 03:58:21 pm »
Back in Momemn, Xerius looks out from the Imperial Apartments
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...As his mother would say, every man was a spy in the end, an agent of contrary interests. Every face was made of fingers...

Mother comes to see him.  He tells her that Kellhus knows the Nansur are in league with Fanim.  Conphas has been turned out.

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It means, Mother, that Conphas has the field.  He shrugged amiably.  "I haven't recalled him".

He is very aroused.
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His fingers and palm found warm skin.  His heart became a thunderclap.  He ran his hand along her calves, which she shaved in the fashion of the Ainoni, then across her still-smooth thighs.  Could it be?  He clutched at her groin, squeezed the shaft of her erection-"
He screams, guards rush in.  The skin-spy kills many, including ultimately poor old Xerius himself.

In Shimeh, two little boys, Hertata and Sol head to the stone quays.  Maithanet is setting sail.  Sol is the worldly one.
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Why should he care for Maithanet?  Men with gold rings gave no copper, unless they wanted to stick them.  Why should he care for Maithanet, who just try to stick him if he could?  Fucking priests any way.
But the tears in Hertata's eyes... Sol could see he was afraid to go alone.
Groaning, Sol stood and kicked about his rag bedding.  he tried his best to sneer at Hertata's beaming face.  He'd seen Hertata's ilk before.  Always whimpering "Mommy" in the middle of the night.  Always getting sticked for food because he was too afraid to steal.  They never survived.  None of them.  Just like his little brother...
But not Sol!  His feet were rabbit-quick...

There is a carnival atmosphere
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Though he would never admit it, Sol was happy he had listened to Hertata.  Being surrounded by glad-hearted people all walking the same direction made him feel as though he belonged to something, as if through some inarticulate miracle he had found his way back inside from the filth and cold and contempt.
How long had it been since his father's murder?

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...He found himself studying Hertata, who continually looked back, smiling with manic encouragement.  From where had his sudden courage come?  Everyone knew Hertata was a cringer, yet here he was, barging toward an almost certain.  Why would he risk such a thing?  For Maithanet?  As far as Sol was concerned, nothing was worth getting a beating - or even worse, getting clapped by slavers.  He would sooner be sticked.
And yet there was something in the air, something that made Sol feel uncertain in a way he had never felt uncertain before.  Something that made him feel small, not in the way of orphans or beggars or children, but in a good way.  In the way of souls.
He could remember his mother praying the night his father had dies.  Crying and praying.  Was that what drove Hertata?  Could he remember his mother praying?

Maithanet arrives.
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Three lavishly garbed priests crossed the narrow slot of their view.  Then he stepped into sight. Younger.  Taller.  Paler.  A full beard.  Wearing only a simple vestment, so whit it pained the eyes to look.  A thousand pleading hands reached out toward him, to greet, to implore, to touch.  Hertata was fairly shrieking, trying to gain his majestic attention.  He merely walked, but it seemed he moved so fast, as though the ground itself pulled him forward.  For some reason, Sol raised hi hands and reached out, not to touch the luminous image before him but to jab his fingers at his friend - to point at the one soul that needed to be seen more than any other.
Perhaps it was that Sol alone, of all those lining the avenue, gestured to another.  Perhaps it was that Maithanet somehow knew.  Whatever the reason, the bright eyes flickered towards him.  Saw.
As Sol watched, Maithanet's eyes were drawn by his pointing fingers to Hertata, wailing and jumping beside him.  The Shriah of the Thousand Temples smiled.
For a breathless moment he held the boy's gaze, then the Knight's form swallowed his hallowed image.
"Yessss!"  Hertata howled, fairly weeping with disbelief.  "Yes-yes!"
Sol clutched his hand and laughed.  Still cheering, they both turned to a shadow.

A man appears.  He is slaver.  Sol flees.  Hertata's fate is not told.

The Holy War has been reduced to 40,000.  They set out from Caraskand.  2000 Galeoth remain with Saubon. 
Reinforcements have crossed the sea.
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...They fell silent, however, upon entering the city, appalled by the battered faces and perpetual stares that greeted them.  The ancient customs were observed - hands were shaken, countrymen embraced - but it was all a pretence.
The original Men of the Tusk - the survivors - were now sons of a different nation.  They had spilled whatever blood they once shared with these men.  The old loyalties and traditions had become tales of a a faraway country, like Zeum, a place too distant to be confirmed.  The hooks of the old ways, the old concerns, had been set in fat that no longer existed.  Everything they had known had been tested and found wanting.  Their vanity, their envy, their hubris, all the careless bigotries of their prior lives, had been murdered with with their fellows.  Their hopes had been burned to ashes.  Their scruples had been boiled to bone and tendon - or so it seemed.
out of calamity they had salvaged only the barest necessities; all else had been jettisoned.  Their spare manner, their guarded speech, their disinterested contempt for excess, all spoke to a dangerous thrift.  And nowhere was this more evident than in their eyes; they stared with the blank wariness of men who never slept - not peering, not watching, but observing, and with a directness that transcended "bold" or "rude".
They stared as though nothing stared back, as though all were objects.
Among the newcomers, even the costumed caste-nobles seemed unable or unwilling to match their gaze.  Many tried to maintain appearances - the wry glances, the nods of acknowledgement - but their looks always returned to their boots or sandals.  To stand in the sight of such men, they somehow understood, was to be measured, not by something as flawed and as arbitrary as a man, but by the length and breadth of what they had suffered.
Their very look had become judgement, so much had they witnessed.

Enathpaneah has been abandoned.  They cross the country and enter Xerash.
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By the Later Prophet's time, Xerash was an old and powerful kingdom, demanding and receiving tribute from both Amoteu and Enathpaneah.  The Amoti in particular thought the Xerashi an obscene race, a blight upon the land.  For the authors of The Tractate, it was a land of innumerable brothels, fratricidal kings, and rampant homosexuality.  And though the blood and custom of the Nilnameshi had been thinned into extinction long ago, for the Men of the Tusk "xeratic" still meant "sodomite", and they punished the Fanim of Xerash for the trespasses of others long dead.  The Xerashi that the Inrithi wandered through was a place of old and labyrinthine evils.  And her people found themselves called to account not once, but twice.

There are massacres, including of refugees, until Kellhus takes action and punished the worst perpetrators.  But the result is that
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...all Xerash was closed to them

the journey to Xerash reminds Akka of his days tutoring Proyas.  The deference he receives as the Holy Tutor, and the fact that he rides and not walks.  He has found himself
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...awash in small riches.
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...The live of a spy was hard.  To finally have things, even things he couldn't bring himself to enjoy, eased his heart for some reason, as though they were balm for unseen wounds...

There is no politicking among the Sacral Retinue.
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...All knives were sheathed in the Warrior-Prophet's hallowed presence.

He enjoys the camaraderie of the Nascenti, and joins in with their hymns.
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...Then he would glimpse Esmenet rocking in her saddle amid her servants, or he would see another corpse mute in the surrounding grasses, and he would recall the purpose of their journey.
They rode to war - to kill.  To conquer Holy Shimeh.
In these moments, the differences between his present circumstance and his time as Proyas' tutor would loom stark before him, and the fleecy sense of reminiscence that seemed to permeate everything would grow hard with cold and dread.  What was it he remembered?

A tribe of local Inrithi, the Surdu, come to the Holy War, to guide them through the Betmulla mountains.  Kellhus knows that Fanayal has sent them - he has abducted their families.  The Surdu are flayed alive in public.
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The image of the chieftain kneeling with the bent sword nagged Achamian for the remainder of the day.  Once again he was certain he'd witnessed something remarkably similar - but not in Conriya.  It couldn't be... The sword he remembered had been bronze.

His memories of Conriya, are in fact Seswatha's memories of Kuniuri.

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It always jarred Achamin, realising that so much of what he was he in fact wasn't.  Now he found himself terrified by the contrary realisation: that more and more he was becoming what he wasn't - what he must never be.  That he was becoming Seswatha.
For so long the sheer scale of the Dreams had offered him an immunity of sorts.  The things he dreamed simply didn't happen - at least not to the likes of him.  With the Holy War, his life had taken a turn to the legendary, and the distance between his world and Seswatha's closed, at least in terms of what he witnessed.  But even than, what he lived remained banal and impoverished.  "Seswatha never shat". the old Mandate joke went.  The dimensions of what Achamian lived could always fall into the dimensions of what he dreamed like a stone into a potter's urn.
But now, riding as Holy Tutor at the Warrior-Prophet's left hand?
In a way, he was as much as Seswatha, if not more.  In a way, he no longer shat either.  And knowing this was enough to make him shit.
Strangely enough, the Dreams themselves had become more bearable.  Tywanrae and Dagliash continued to predominate, though as always he couldn't fathom why they should follow this or any other rhythm of events.  They were like swallows, swooping and circling in aimless patterns, sketching something almost, yet never quite, a language...
...Through Kellhus, the scale of the present not only matched the scale of his Dreams, it counterbalanced them with hope...
...Augury, Memgowa had written, said more about men's fear than about their future.  But how could Achamian resist?  ...There would be glory this time.  Victory would not come at the cost of all that mattered.
Min-Uroikas broken.  Shauriatas, Mekeritrig, Aurang and Aurax - all of them destroyed!  The No-God unresurrected.  The Consult a memory stamped into the muck.
Despite their opiate glamour, there was something terrifying about these thoughts.  The Gods were perverse.  Natter as they might, the priests knew nothing of their malicious whims.  Perhaps thy would see the world burn just to punish the hubris of one man.  Nothing, Achamian had long ago decided, was quite so dangerous as boredom in the absence of scruples.

His discourse with Kellhus merely feeds his apprehension.  Why go to Shimeh, when the enemy is in Golgotterath?  Akka is unique.  He never asks Kellhus after his soul
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"With me," Kellhus continued, "the Tusk is rewritten, Akka."  A long, ransacking look.  "Do you understand?  Or do you simply prefer to think yourself damned?"
Though he could muster no retort, Achamian knew.
He preferred.

He contacts Nautzera. Whilst the other man formally has the power of life and  death over Akka, Akka realises that because he is the only one with a connection to Kellhus, that he is the defacto Grandmaster of the Mandate.
He relays a message from Kellhus to the Quorum
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..."You are players in this war, nothing more.  The balance remains precarious.  Recall what it is you dream.  Recall the ancient errors.  Do not act out of conceit or ignorance"...
What?  Does he imply that he possesses this war?  Who is he compared with what we know, what we dream?...
"He, Nautzera, is the Warrior-Prophet".
« Last Edit: January 20, 2019, 07:01:59 pm by TheCulminatingApe »
Sez who?
Seswatha, that's who.