Author: Siona St Mark
Type: Original Stories
Status: In Progress
― Frank Herbert, Children of Dune
― Alan Moore, Watchmen
Prologue - Apotheosis
In a small desert village, a boy is born to his two mothers. His skin has yet to settle, but in the coming days it will reveal itself to be utterly ebony. His eyes too. They will marvel at his beauty, and wonder from which of them the color originates. Several days journey away in the Great City of Akanet, a sibyl foretells of the birth and the great and terrible things the boy will unleash.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves now.
Jak’ku is usually a man of even temperament. That is not the case today. Once long ago he was a minor scribe in the Great City, which while not a prestigious role, was a well paid one. This changed when Emperor Kaius relieved the Parliament of their duties, and Jak’ku fell out of favor with his masters. Ever since he was a sprout, his pa had told him “Ashi gives with one hand, and takes with the other.” So he simply accepted his fate, and fled to the podunk tributary town of Oshu.
That, he could accept. His father’s drunken beatings too. Life was many things, suffering included. But Jak’ku could not tolerate being swindled. “You will give me my money back,” he says, slamming his fist onto the counter.
The woman eyes him. She is… hefty, to say the least, and the muscles of her arms are corded. She is used to cowing the men of Oshu, most of whom are thin waifs, but Jak’ku is not some small-town man. Even though he has been cast out of the Great City, he still has his pride. The woman thinks of beating it out of him, but decides against it. “No,” is all she says in return.
“Yes!” Jak’ku screams, his light tawny skin turning red. “The grain had maggots in it! It was useless, useless! How do you expect me to use that-“ the woman shrugs “- and you charged me fifteen pieces! Money, now!” he lays his hand on the counter.
The woman reconsiders once again whether or not a swift beating is in order. She does not know Jak’ku by name, but she recognizes him. He has only come in her shop twice over the years, but she has watched him in the taverns and in the communal fields working with the other sharecroppers. “No maggots,” she tells him flatly, “No maggots in my shop, ossa. I can give you a discount on more grain, but that is all. No refunds.”
Jak’ku is near to purple now, a vein rearing itself on his forehead and the left side of his jaw. “Please.”
Jak’ku once again slams his fist onto the counter. However, this time the wood snaps and breaks, throwing splinters into the air. The woman is shocked to silence, and Jak’ku has gone from near-purple to almost Northern-Pale. Something is wrong here, and it is just the beginning.
In Kidu, the small way-stop for merchant caravans looking for a nights rest and lukewarm meal, there is a watering hole that has managed to snag enough customers with dubious standards to have a positive reputation. The Thirsty Ibex has served the traveling patrons and Kidu natives alike for over five generations, which in the North is certainly something to be prideful of.
Far to the Southwest lies the Great City of Akanet, home of Emperor Kaius, and the Greater Akanet empire. To the North and slightly west, but much more closely, lies the settlement of Jalis. In truth, Jalis cannot be considered a town, much less a capital city. The fair-skinned Northerners are weak-hearted, soft-skinned, demonfolx as far as the darker-skinned Greater Akaneti are concerned. And the feeling is certainly mutual although, unfortunately for the Northerns, they do not occupy the land rich in wealth.
And so here is Kip, straddling many lines. His mother is middle-depth Akaneti. Her skin is no ebony, but certainly it has a rich cocoa hint to it, a smooth warm brown. His father, Kip is told, was the fair haired, fair skinned Northern who raped his mother during a border skirmish. His mother is always sure to show him her love, which is strong and true, but Kip is no fool and knows how much his mother and her people look down on him. It will not be the first time, nor the last, that a woman at market whispers to her husband “Those eyes, keep close watch. No human should have such fair coloring. Like stars, his eyes.”
The Thirsty Ibex was past down from Saluman, to his son Kidusal, and so forth until now it is Kip’s mother’s responsibility. Many locals complain and postulate on whether or not Kip will, or even should, inherit the tavern as well.
In truth, it matters not, the entire town will not see another harvest, but the villagers also do not care enough either way. Kip is still of deep enough skin tone were he to shave his hair he’d easily fit in. And if he were to be disinherited, then the Thirsty Ibex would still go on, just not in the hands of the kul’Saluman family. A break of tradition, mayhaps, but nothing earth shattering.
Kip is walking home from colloquium when it happens. It is sudden, one minute he is as he was before, the next his brain overloads with information and causes him to stumble. He knows what happened. He knows many things now, and this causes him to smile. He turns to a classmate, a girl who has never been friendly to him, but just so happens to live near him. Kip says, “If you hated my recitation so much you should have said something during the class.”
The girl flushes. First and foremost she is insulted that a mongrel such as Kip would even dare speak to her. Secondly, she is embarrassed to hear him voice her opinion out loud. She does not regret her opinion, not by any means, but it is awkward and uncomfortable for someone to see through you so plainly.
Kip runs off, slightly scarred but also giddy. He could hear her thoughts in his head. He could hear everyones’ thoughts! Sometimes it would begin to overwhelm him, but Kip didn’t mind.
Nobody will ever be the wiser of him from now on.
In the Great City of Akanet, Emperor Kaius the First, Most Just of the Impu Tribe, Chosen of the Triple Mother, Marshal of the Heavens and Land stands before his fifth wife. She is giving birth, the head of his daughter just visible between her legs. She will be Kaius’s first heir, finally. The rumors of his impotence have spread, and no matter how severally he punishes the city’s gossips or how fiercely he kills any challengers, his opponents run rampent with them.
But now his sweet Milara is here. Hopefully her skin will be dark like his, all of his wives have been screened to ensure there is no Northern foulness in their family lines, but one can never be too careful. If not, he will kill her and the Fifthwife, and try again. Mongrel children will damage his reputation far more vastly that any impotentecy rumors ever can.
He leaves the birthing chamber, trusting his wife to the care of the court alchemists and healers. He returns to his chambers, and calls from his Speaker. The woman arrives shortly, stylus and tablet in hand, and takes his message. She in turn will cry it from the top of the Emperor’s Palace, and others will carry the message forward. Kaius gives her leave, and retires himself to his favorite chair.
It is not long before Kaius nods off. He dreams of his daughter, skin deep and lustrous, but she is older. Around seven or eight, a witchwood and silver circlet upon her brow. This is odd, but it does not occur to Kaius that this is any more than a dream so why question it.
“Papa,” his daughter, Milara, She Who Brings Light, looks up and him and smiles. “Look Papa,” she giggles, and the sound is pure and sweet to Kaius’s ears, “Minister Caul taught me this.” She flings her hands wide, and flames sprout from them. Red, gold, blue, and even white. Kaius’s blood runs cold and he snaps awake.
His daughter? An okoro? Never! Witchcraft has been banned for centuries, even before the founding of the so-called Republic that he overthrew, and is an immediate death sentence. This is what makes Kaius deem this a dream. He is horribly incorrect.
Now that we are caught up, we can return.
In a small desert village, a boy is born to his two mothers. His skin has yet to settle, but in the coming days it will reveal itself to be utterly ebony. His eyes too. They will marvel at his beauty, and wonder from which of them the color originates. Several days journey away in the Great City of Akanet, a sibyl fortells of the birth and the great and terrible things the boy will unleash.
The sibyl does know reveal all that she has seen. Augury has never been banned in the Great City of Akanet. Unlike the okoro, sibyls are known to be gifts from the Great Mothers. Be that as it may, our sibyl is wise. Not all that the eye sees should be spoken aloud, this is a saying she knows well.
No, the sibyl will not reveal to her siblings that she was seen the return of magic to the seven lands. Not until it is too late, and they will all be doomed. On her deathbed she will recieve a final vision, and die knowing she had the power to save the world, and did nothing.
The boy spends many years with his mothers, traveling from village to village. Eventually in his fifteenth year they settle in the town of Oshu, which thanks to Emperor Kaius’ Great Revival Plan, has grown from a backwater town to small metropolis.
This is where our tale begins…
Part One - The Boy
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