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Posted: Aug 16 2012, 09:27 AM
A bug in the Swarm
Member No.: 5,404
Joined: 7-August 12
During the time of Strife in the Great Land, mere months after Settra had ascended to the throne of Khemri, a forgotten town was burning. Neighboring city-states had conquered its lands and pillaged its granaries every year for decades. The people of the town had enough, and set fire to their homes to deny all future conquerors any prize. The ragged group of citizens, priests and learned men watched and saw their homes burn to the ground. Their high priest raised his staff one more time to honor the gods, and then turned away to the desert to begin their long march to find a new home.
And the gods saw this, and the faceless god of the desert looked longest. For this act of sacrifice had given him power and satisfaction and he was moved.
He spoke to Geheb, the strong earth-god:
”Thy mountains would shelter these people, who have given us the sacrifice of their homes. If it pleases thee, I will make a path for them through my domain to thine.”
And Geheb spoke:
”Their sacrifice was great indeed, and I will take them to my bosom. Here is the place I will prepare for their dwelling, and I will make a sign for them to see, that they will know it is their home.”
And Geheb raised his fist, and a valley parted in the mountains behind the desert. And in this valley flowed an oasis, and on the shores of the oasis rose a tall, black obelisk of obsidian. Khsar, the faceless desert-god saw this and swept his cloak across the desert. And a wind rose, and a road was cleared by the wind.
The high priest led them from the pyre of their homes to the desert. The way was strange, a narrow open plain that stretched eastward. And in the night, a wind from the north blew sand into large dunes, and the plain behind them was again shifting desert. But the way ahead was clear and easy, and none of the travelers was ever weary, and none of the wagons ever lost a wheel, and none of the horses ever stumbled. And every morning, the high priest thanked the gods for their fortune, and led them on.
For two weeks they traveled, until dark mountains rose above the horizon. Towards them they walked, and two nights hence they saw the point of an obelisk rise from between the peaks. Seeing this, the people were frightened, and pleaded the priest to turn back lest they become slaves of some merciless king who must have built the obelisk to honor himself. But the priest was calm and he spoke:
“I have seen this place in a dream sent by the gods, and I have waited for the sight to grace my eyes. This is our reward for the trust we placed in their guiding grace, and here we shall be safe and here we shall prosper.”
And he led them through a narrow pass into the verdant valley, and to the tall obelisk by the oasis. And the people fed well on the dates and wheat growing wild, and they began to build their new homes from the black obsidian of the mountains. Soon, the camp had grown to a town, and then the town to a city. And all this time, the high priest sat meditating in front of the obelisk, and studied the divine hieroglyphs engraved upon it. For six long years he sat, eating only the dates that grew in his reach and drinking only the water from the oasis. And the city grew around him and around the obelisk. And the city grew into a name, Gebthir, the city of the mountains.
On the sixth anniversary of their arrival in Geheb’s valley, the high priest rose from his meditation, and walked to the center of the city. He raised his sacred staff and waited, until the people had come to hear him. He then spoke of the gods, and their gift of this valley, and directed the people to build two temples. The first temple was to Geheb who had given them shelter, and it was to be built at the far end of the valley, between the high mountains. The second temple was to be built in the pass leading to the valley, so that travelers would need to pass through that temple whenever they entered the valley. The second temple would be dedicated to Khsar, who had led them from their old home. And the people dropped their labors to build these temples.
Khsar’s temple was painted white, and guarded the valley from intruders. Travelers made sacrifices to Khsar, and some were rewarded with safe passage. Geheb’s temple was black, and rose high into the mountainside. But when Geheb’s temple was completed, the mountaintops trembled and caved in, and fiery lava began to pour from them. This again frightened the citizens, but the high priest told them that it was a sign of Geheb’s favor, and told them how they should honor their protector.
Geheb demanded that the bodies of the dead should be buried for two generations to strip the flesh from the bones. The bones would then be carried to Geheb’s temple, and blackened over the lava pools that now churned through the holy halls. These sanctified bones would then receive their final resting places in the mountains, in mausoleums and cairns built to withstand time. And thus began the first necropolis, before Settra built his great pyramid.
As the town grew, it became known in the surrounding areas, and again the neighboring kings desired what was not theirs. And they sent their legions to conquer and slaughter and pillage. But the citizens of Gebthir were prepared. They had found bronze in the mountains, and bred horses in the valley. They had made chariots to crush their foes and bows to slay them from afar. This time, their own legion faced the attackers. The first battle was fought at Khsar’s gate temple. A young man of courage led the soldiers to victory, crushing the unprepared enemy beneath chariot wheels and under hails of arrows. This young man was then hailed as prince of Gebthir, and he rose to take up the crown offered by the old high priest. He was crowned Djir, first king of Gebthir, and he was known as Djir the Protector for his strength in keeping Geheb’s valley safe.
Many years Gebthir grew and prospered, until news of Settra’s conquests over Nehekhara reached the king’s ear. This troubled him, for he did not know this new conqueror. He rode his chariot to Geheb’s temple and asked the priests what he should do. The old high priest had seen these times in his visions, and knew that the king would ask his advice. He spoke, and Djir the Protector listened.
“This new conqueror is unlike the warring lords and kings who pass like grains of wheat between millstones. He honors the gods, and the gods return his honor. Prepare you a gift for him, and welcome him as your lord, and you will keep this valley and all its people safe. If your pride leads you to battle this new king, you will fall and the two temples will be destroyed. Remember these words, for they will bring you eternal glory of everlasting shame.”
The king was enraged by the priests words, but could not strike down the man who had brought him both his kingdom and his crown. He left the temple in silence, but the words remained in his head. In his anger, he closed the doors of his palace and drew all the shutters over the windows, and furious were his yells inside the dark halls. Two weeks he raged against his destiny, and the words in his head grew like the papyrus reeds on the shores. Finally, he threw open the gates, and called his captains to speak of war.
The next day, Djir summoned his legions, and led out of Khsar’s gate. He sacrificed four white bulls to ensure safe travels. In three months, he conquered two neighboring cities and made their people his own. His legions fought on, and before the year was done, all five cities within reach were paying tribute to Gebthir and Djir the Protector. All five cities now honored Geheb and Khsar with sacrifices and shrines.
Djir was resting his men in the newly conquered city of Chabr, when a horseman rode to bring news. A massive army of men and chariots was coming from the west, led by Settra himself. The king rose, and for a final time the rage surged in his head. In vain the rage flared, but the words of the gods were too strong to burn in the fires of pride. Djir the protector ordered his men to load his chariot with the crowns of all the conquered cities and the swords of all their fallen kings. He then donned his cloak and set his crown on his head. Taking with him only a herald and his chariot, he rode to meet Settra.
In the great desert, just within view of Chabr, Djir the protector waited for Settra’s legions to reach him. First came the fast scouts on horseback, and these turned back upon seeing the splendid chariot of the king. Djir remained still, and they rode back to Settra, telling him of the lone chariot awaiting in the desert. Second came the legions of Settra, rows upon rows of spearmen and archers, who set themselves in formation just out of bowshot. Djir remained still, and whispers of this bold king passed through the ranks. Third came the chariots, their thundering wheels drowning all other sound. They stopped in front of Djir, and Settra’s own chariot came to halt. Upon seeing Settra, Djir ordered his herald to lower Djir’s banner. Seeing the banner down, Settra waited.
Djir the protector took up the five swords and five crowns, and dismounted from his chariot. He walked to stand in front of Settra’s mighty chariot, and threw the swords onto the ground. The crowns he raised in the air and proclaimed:
“Your coming has been foretold. The gods honor your conquest, and I, King Djir of Gebthir give you all the lands I have conquered and vow my fealty to the rightful king of the Great Land. May Khemri rule over Nehekhara, and may your reign be great!”
Settra smiled, for no other king had acknowledged him as their ruler. He told Djir to rise and raise his banner again. He accepted the young king’s fealty and bade him rule over these lands in Settra’s name. The crowns of the former kings he gave to the goldsmiths to fashion into a single crown for the king of Gebthir. At the same moment, the old high priest died with the knowledge that his people would live on.
Thus did Djir join his forces with Settra and gain his place among the rulers of Great Nehekhara under Settra. During his life, he built innumerable statues and monuments to the gods, to honor their knowledge and power. Eventually, all the streets and squares of Gebthir were lined with them, as were the hills of graves and mausoleums. The greatest mausoleum he built for his own body, having listened carefully to the mortuary priests of Settra.
Upon his death Djir the protector was interred with the rites of the Mortuary Cult, but the ends of his bones were blackened by the fires of Geheb before his body was buried in the grand mausoleum in Gebthir. After Djir’s passing, Gebthir prospered and grew, but ultimately faced the same fate as all of Nehekhara.
Today, the restless king Djir still reigns over his innumerable subjects, and still pays homage to the gods. Upon Settra’s summons, he takes his legions to war through Khsar’s gate, and woe betide the poor souls on whom Gebthir’s army of blackened bones and obsidian descends.