Recent Statuses

3 mos ago
Current Boy, you're like a pizza cutter: all edge and no point.
3 mos ago
I think I should write a pithy roleplay about how an expenditure of effort does not entitle you to your perception of an equivalent reward. Anyone know someone who'd be interested?
2 yrs ago
Okay, let's be honest for a second here, if we stop the status bar from being edgy angst land it really doesn't have anything going for it except sheer autism.
2 yrs ago
Does anyone know where you can get a white trilby embroidered with threatening messages? Asking for a friend.
2 yrs ago
My genius truly knows no bounds. Only an intellect as glorious as mine can possibly G3T K1D.


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Most Recent Posts

Something something something JUSTICE.

Don't drink the water, kids.

I am here to announce my illustrious presence.

Or something like that, I don't know.
Let me ask you a very fair question:

Do you think that there is even a small chance that your viewpoint is incorrect and that the people offering alternatives and solid advice here have a point?

If you are not willing to accept that you may be wrong, you are not here to be helped--you are here to be validated. You cannot be helped if you only want your worldview to be reinforced, not changed for the better.
The key to a writing a good roleplay that will stand the metaphorical test of time is introspection, reflection, and iteration.

Or maybe it's just everyone else's fault for not joining and sticking around.

Mortalkind had proven to be an unknowable enigma in many respects. Even with all of its knowledge, even with the time to reflect upon that knowledge, and even with the emotional context provided by its twin--working out a strict pattern that governed the behaviour of mortalkind had proved impossible. This was a good thing, in truth--if the way to live and the way to act could be distilled to a unique and perfect pattern, existence would lose swaths of its meaning. Without that meaning, there could be no Truth--and so it was that the God of Truth gazed upon mortalkind and devised another test to determine what mortals might do when attempts to subvert their Truth, in one way or another, failed. Of all the species to bless with this gift, there was only one that seemed rightfully fitting--the spawn of Klaarungraxus Rux, made in his great and terrible image. They had proven to be an exceptionally consistent people, socially and biologically, and some remained that had been present when the Gods still walked the earth. Despite the trials and tribulations of their existence--filled with internal strife as it was--they had largely remained the same and resisted outside influence exceptionally well. Anything that had been brought into the fold of the Vrool had been done so in their image and at their pleasure--they were not prone to the eddies of the cultural zeitgeists that the other races seemed to find themselves at the mercy of. They had remade all that they encountered and allowed into their fold in their own image--this was their Truth. In order for the God of Truth's experiments with mortalkind to have any merit, they needed a control group--and given the nature of the Vrool, they were the perfect subjects to suspend in perpetuity.

So it was that the God of Truth elected to bless them with the greatest gift of all: resistance to change.

By its design, the Vrool would find themselves completely inured against any and all effects that would seek to alter their mental state. Fìrinn had a particular mind to ward them against the infectious bliss of hedonistic pleasure and the carnal rapture of beauty and charm that had laid so many low in the past. Visions of the Goddess of Love sprung to mind, and scenes of debauchery filled the infinite mirrors of the Worldly Circles as Fìrinn remembered what Neiya had done to mortalkind in the past, and what those she had helped create might do if left unchecked. Such weapons, though typically ineffective against those with vastly different Truths, could conceivably find a way to corrupt any other being through the tangled skeins of the Great Weave, and Fìrinn would do all in its power to prevent such an abuse of its work from ever occurring. Fortunately, the basis for such a blessing had existed and integrated itself into Vrool society over thousands of years--the anchor at Ku had woven their minds together, and through the auspices of that ancient alliance Fìrinn could work new miracles.

Deep beneath the waves, in the caves inhabited by the Coven of Xes, a group of warlocks huddled around the soft golden glow of a sheet of polished nacre. What had once been the half-shell of a colossal bivalve had been scrubbed and polished and washed in telluric sorcery now served as an instrument of scrying and reflection. Within it, from time to time, they had spied the strange, glassy form of a creature which looked wholly unlike them--and it had been a sign of augury and prognostication each time it had chosen to reveal itself to them. It had never spoken, it had never done anything other than wait and listen--but on this fateful day they spied it and it looked just as they did! A portentous moment, to be certain, and one that merited much in the way of discussion and debate--then, for the first time, it spoke! Its glassy voice rang in their minds like the sound of great gyres turning upon themselves, and as it spoke they were filled with not light but illumination.

Thy sorcery is great, but it protects not the seat of Truth. From now until the end of time, you and yours shall never stray from Truth.

Then, as swiftly as it had appeared, Faileasiar was gone--and the illumination within them remained. A new dawn had risen for the Vrool.

Collab between @Tuujaimaa and @AdorableSaucer

The world had once seemed so small to the woman who forsook the name Rahma. There was Serrah, there was the Murtagh, and there was her idda-ti--and beyond these few peoples, little else had really ever seemed to matter. It hadn’t been until the day that her understanding of reality had been shattered that she’d ever considered there was more to her world than what she could see, what she could remember, and the stories that she had been told. Now, she was aware of so much more--she was aware of other landmasses, of the kayhins in distant lands, and the world of unformed ideas and desires that lay gently cloistered beneath this one. For the first few days, it had been positively maddening--she’d done nothing but sit still astride her camel, meditating, and trying desperately to withstand the deific deluge of information poured into her mind by the one called Fìrinn. Serrah had watched over her, of course, and she had watched over him as he slept and the same world revealed itself to him beneath the light of Qibbar Husnu. The transition from the mundane to the--comparatively--divine had been absolutely staggering.

Then, as they’d reached Tekhen, she’d met the first of her… siblings? Compatriots? She knew not what to call them other than those who had similarly been chosen for a destiny beyond the mundane. Naomh Chruinne, as he’d introduced himself, had brought to her attention eight wondrous mirrors through which Naomh Cagairean could see the endless Dream itself, glinting slightly in half-remembered light and just beyond recollection. She had heard the almost-voice of their God ring out in her mind, telling her what needed to be done with those precious artifacts. She’d had little choice but to go, immediately, and used one of those strange gateways to enter into the world of the Dream and walk through the world she imagined Serrah experienced when he slept. He’d guided her across the endless Dream, leaving her to focus upon the manipulation of the great slab of crystalline mirror that she’d been ordered to deliver so she didn’t drop it or otherwise damage it. After two days of walking she’d placed the mirror down, walked through it, and found that both it and she had arrived in a landscape wholly unfamiliar to her.

The sun was mild (by comparison), grassy hillocks stretched out before her, and it was so cool and airy that she felt chilly by comparison. An involuntary shudder wracked her body before she shook herself off and placed a hand upon the mirror, causing it to levitate slightly and follow behind her. She had little in the way of direction, but each step she took seemed to anchor her mind more firmly to this new land that she had found herself in and she could feel the distant minds of others across the Collective Unconscious, perceptible but currently out of reach. She directed her tentative footsteps--wholly unprepared for the sensation of so much grass against her feet and the smells of this strange land--towards the mass of minds she could distantly sense, and withdrew into the confines of her mind as her feet moved her ‘cross the world. In the far distance, the mass coalesced ever tighter, as hills and stone eventually gave way to beaten paths, surrounded by moss-grown protrusions in the rocky ground. Wild green grass gave way little by little to sapling shrubs and stone fences surrounding verdant little spurts sown haphazardly across a hand-ploughed field. On one of the fences some fifty paces away sat a group of five men, each with pipes in their mouths and smoke in their midst, exchanging jokes and stories after a hard morning’s work. When the woman once named Rahma walked by them, however, the laughter stopped, and narrow eyes followed her every step. As she approached the town proper, the working farmers grew more numerous, and evermore stares fixed on the amalgam entering into Ha-Dûna.

A guard wearing a loosely sewn fur hat, a brown, dirty linen shirt, long hide breeches, with bark tied about his feet in place of shoes, raised his hand with a flat palm in response to her approach, his red and green tantan-patterned woolen cape gliding off his arm as he did, falling to the spring-cold grass. ”Brehmse, ingkjaenning. Cad dorran Irh seo?”

Naomh Cagairean cocked her feathered brow as she was brought back to focus and her reverie slipped away. She hadn’t quite heard what the man had said, but it only took her a moment to slip into the details of her implicit memory and reconstruct the words he’d spoken. Unfortunately for her, she did not understand even a single word of what he’d said.

”Anasif, nahn alkalam te allughar?” came the reply, instinctively, in her native tongue. She felt as though she’d picked up a few bits and pieces of the intent behind his words, but it wasn’t something that she could rely on--and certainly not something she was confident in. She paused for a moment, seeming to stare listlessly, as she focused. She needed to tap into the Collective Unconscious to be able to actually interact with these people, but it wasn’t as if she’d been taught when she became a Seeker--the knowledge was just… sort of there, embedded within her skull, and working out how to actually access it in a practical way wasn’t something she’d really turned her mind to as yet.

She made a point to nod to the mirror behind her, now sitting on the ground, and from within its depths a brief glimpse of the Behindling, Faileasiar, could be seen. She hoped that such a display might be something they were familiar with--after all, Fìrinn had told her in no uncertain terms to deliver the mirror here--but she suddenly had a vivid recollection of her first time seeing the monstrosity of glass and claws that the God of Truth called its avatar and shuddered, wondering if it had been the right thing to do after all.

The guard looked up at the glass behind her and almost reached for the trusty stone adze at his belt. He took on a nervous stance, more of the farmers approaching to marvel at it and the stranger. Some of the farmers took on strange gestures and turned to one another accusingly, as though something unspeakable had been said by their neighbours without a single word being spoken. The guard gestured out to the crowd with explosive pointing. ”Houphokke, houphokke! Ihr, yah…” His expression mellowed and he cast a glance over his shoulder before gesturing for her to come along. ”Tehl druïthanas, eg burdan tapa met Ihr. Gengange heg, ingkjaenning.” He turned and followed the dirt road street towards an open palisade gate.

Naomh Cagairean took a moment, gesturing rapidly with her hands to signify that she needed a moment, as she turned to the mirror and placed a hand upon it. After a couple of seconds of deep concentration she caused it to lift itself just barely off of the ground once more and moved to follow along. This time, she’d actually understood a few of the words--it seemed that perhaps proximity to the natives of the land was enough for her to intuit the meaning behind what they were saying--but it did not leave her any closer to actually being able to speak with them herself. She elected not to say anything else, simply following along with an intense furrow of concentration upon her feathered brow. The more she focused, the closer she was able to home in on their thoughts and their Truths--but levitating the mirror and attempting to come to understand them and their language simultaneously was an arduous process for one with as little practice as she. She figured that she had the rest of the journey to move the process along, however, and decided to simply concentrate upon what she was doing until such a point as the connection was fully made.

The guard stopped and frowned. ”Ingkjaenning - druïthanas jakr oyenstirra kosenan Ihr soem tapati met. Om molict, gengange betta.” Among the farmers, short-lived brawls and general looks of disgust and embarrassment swept across the crowd. Other guards approached from the palisade walls, armed with sticks and hard eyes. Anxious stares fixed on the mirror, and everyone seemed more and more eager to just get it to the druids.

As if struggling to concentrate, the woman gave a slight nod of her head and simply continued as she had been previously--the amount of focus required was proving to be quite extraordinary, after her several-day journey through the Dream and the current assault of unfamiliar sensory input she was experiencing within this new world. As she scrunched her eyes, first squinting and then closing them outright, she became more and more keenly aware of a humid, uncomfortable heat building up within her--the heated gaze of the villagers around her flooding her with an anxiety and caution that she only recognised from one other place--when they’d first seen An-fhuras. That particular encounter was markedly more distressing than this one, but even now she could feel the culmination of those heated stares building up within her, as if transferring the feelings associated with them across the air, and for a second it almost felt like home before the reality of the emotions struck her. She focused on her breathing, in and out, as she tried desperately to maintain her focus and followed the guard as she’d been bidden. The guard nodded and the two of them passed by some of his colleagues jogging to the crowd to break up a fight. Inside the palisade walls, the marketplace was bustling, though merchants and customers soon turned away from each other and to the massive mirror instead. The guard made way for the two of them to pass through, and as the Collective Consciousness leaked into the people around them, they, too, seemed to grow increasingly uncomfortable at its presence. Eventually, though, they arrived at the archdruids’ longhouse, situated next to the holy circle of monolithic statues. The guard raised his hand to Naomh Cagairean and spoke, ”Fanacht seo.” Then he stepped up the two stone steps and dipped under the animal skin curtain door.

As the guard disappeared into the house, Naomh Cagairean found herself drawn to the circle of standing stones. Her gaze drifted over to it, and soon she felt herself walking towards it as if drawn by some strange force. She, and the mirror behind her, drifted steadily towards the circle--and as she got close enough to examine them fully, she smiled to herself as she remembered her idda-ti’s exaltation of the Gods above.

“Qibbar Husnu. Ura ‘Aliaa. Miġra Zaʿl. Buʿr Iynas. Zharuuʿ. Kiʿranuʿjaza. Jinasa. Fìrinn.” She went over their names, one by one, speaking each as if a tempest of song brewed within her lungs and soon she found herself humming along to the tune of the song that Zahna used to sing to them when the kayhins were due to come and teach them. She offered a prayer to each, placing a hand delicately upon the carved stone, as she walked the perimeter of the circle and she stopped before the statue she recognised as her own patron. Before that statue she knelt, focusing in solemn prayer, and something in her mind clicked--she fully attuned herself with the Great Weave around her, and tasted unfamiliar words upon her tongue and strange memories tattooed across her eyes.

”Faltep, langtvaysturasingkjaenning!” came a voice from behind her. A white-robed man bowed curtly and shifted between her and the massive mirror in her tow. ”Eg an Kaer Togen, dûnaska erkdruïthe. An aere agat Ihr hos linn, scaythanhelgfolging. Ihr an scaythanhelgfolging, ya, noi?”

”Pralmir, vrient. Eg an Naomh Cagairean aug, sànnleg, an scaythanhelgfolging - sànnsòker, tapatat seo helgingskvia fòr bònnikt daoinan.”

Naomh Cagairean extended a hand slightly out and gave a friendly wave, before awkwardly turning back to the statue and the mirror for a few seconds. She completed the last remnants of her prayer and then turned back to the archdruid, the barest hint of a smirk upon her face.

”Peklaigan egi fattegi ordtòngan. Skellig snakka le lànti kunnana.” she cobbled together, a little nervously, before straightening her back and gesturing to the mirror once more.

”Scaythanhelging Fìrinn ordratat heg tapata helgingskvian tehl Ihr aug Irhi. An draumverdportan, aug an Dhá mar Aon sett ónskan fòr kopla le annanan.”

The elderly man nodded and approached the mirror. He hovered his hand over its surface with closed eyes and sucked in a slow breath through the nose. ”Ya… Kosenan an scaythanhelging Fìrinn sett hverke... Fòlelsan - moth mar Hir sin dukkopper. Shonhetran, unteran. Eim korleis allreie faat aeran?”

Naomh Cagairean took a step back and then to the side, removing herself from direct line of sight to the strange mirror, before laying a hand against its edge and giving Kaer Togen a slight smirk--though his eyes were closed, he would feel the slight spark of mirth within him through the strengthened collective unconscious around them.

”Eg… Eg vàgakan ik forstanda scaythanhelgingan sena ònskanan, féinom snakkan met heg. Linn. An ocht scaythana, oan fòr kvar druïthanhelging, aug eg trûr ònskan kopla le annanan helgenseoanan. Kosenan an dhátma setyatat.”

She could practically feel how uncomfortable it would make the Druids to mention directly receiving orders from a god that they worshipped--but given the circumstances, and the mirror, she hoped that it would not vilify her already tenuous standing with these people too much. She let her hand rest upon the edge of the mirror gently as she waited for a response, and let the conscious element of her focus drift out towards the wind and the grass, and the faint flurry of song she could hear emanating from it all. This place was utterly foreign to her, in practically every way, but she could still feel the Worldsong and for that she was infinitely grateful.

Kaer Togen bowed curtly again, and a small posse of his colleagues shuffled over to the mirror with pots of fresh water, clean rags and improvised fine brushes fashioned from cattle fur. [aggr=”Understandable. Whatever the Mirroring God’s intentions, we are eternally grateful for this gift. Please, allow my brothers and sisters to brush off the dust and soil that the wind and rain no doubt have cast upon it.”]”Forstandlikt. Oanstirrat scaythanhelging Fìrinn sen rún, eim an eivigi raibh fòr brontaphet. La egi kaer bròra aug kaer sòra nigha scaythanan fri fòr gaothsproyti jorda aug stòvi betta.”[/aggr] The druids knelt down and started wringing rags.

”Eg kun gengangan helgingsord, ach, ah… Fáilte! Eg jakr làra Irh korleis penytsa aon gang, ach eg vàkanatat dhá lána aug reistatat seo. An kvilaseomra?”

Naomh Cagairean asked the question with a sheepish grin on her face, but as soon as she’d finished it was immediately clear that a great deal of exhaustion was being kept at bay--her fairly bedraggled appearance, grimy feathers, and suddenly slumped posture gave away her body’s need for sleep even if her words and tone--borrowed though they were--didn’t. She took another moment to herself, stifling a yawn, before taking another look around the settlement as she awaited a response. The druids about the mirror’s feet began to clean with care and precision akin to handling a newborn, and Kaer Togen approached Naomh Cagairean with an outstretched hand.

”Feinsagt - helgingsbûd mar Ihr fòrtyenan eimi fearriska seomra i Traochtashallan. La heg fòran Ihr feinlikt. Gengangen heg betta.”

”Scaythanan an draumverdportan, Ai’jaal sen verd. Giennam reistikan langi standana gearr tïd -- eg komat bhailebykdan Tekhen aug seo kun dhá láa, da. Eg veitan ik kor langi seo ann. Talamhan oyanstirran heilt annleisi. Hòrt bròran seia seo annanan mór-roinn. Trûr bròr seiat sà, ach eg ik sikr.”

It was clear that Naomh Cagairean was making an effort to tell the archdruid as much of the information necessary as possible, but the speed at which she spoke and her still-tenuous grasp of the language did her no favours and by the time she’d finished speaking it would likely have made more sense if she’d just stayed silent. She followed along dutifully, though, and made passing comments about the things she saw that were new to her--much of the technology they used here was completely foreign, and she couldn’t even begin to conceive of what it might be used for in the state she was in. Eventually they would arrive, however, and Naomh Cagairean very hurriedly made her way to the bed provided for her and promptly fell asleep, fully clothed as she was.

The next morning, the druids in town, as well as an exclusive selection of members from their families, came to witness the great mirror, supposedly a portal between lands and worlds. At all times, there were at least two druids guarding it, and two more praying to it while also making certain not even a single bypassing speck of dust could settle on its surface for longer than the blink of an eye. Kaer Togen cordially led Naomh Cagairean into the courtyard to behold it - it had been placed in the middle of the circle of the gods, reflecting the dawning sun onto the buildings and wall before it. Kaer Togen gestured to the mirror and spoke, ”Kaer vrient, peklaigan egi otòlmodka tavir, ach korleis penytsan helgingsportan?”

Naomh Cagairean had barely had time to adjust to the area--somehow feeling strangely tired, despite the fact the sun was rising here--before her awakening by the druids. Naturally, it was something she made sure not to complain about, but by virtue of her inherent blessings as a Seeker of Truth there was no doubt that those nearby would feel some small inkling of her persistent tiredness and grouchiness.

”Tja, pekynnan le aektbònn tehl Dhá mar Aon. Tar oppatnà sannsinnan, minna burdan rúna tehl portan fòr isteach -- minnan anakan alt, eg trûr, ach brehmsa oppatéaning ou fàr hielpatat mathr oppatnà oppatéaning ònskas. Nuair minnan gittat, mathr isteachkan tehl dreaumverdan. Ihri ciorcal làran draumganga heil tatt?”

Naomh Cagairean attempted to keep her explanation simple, but her present tiredness perhaps made her a little more curt than she would ordinarily have been--and though she tried to punctuate her points with little fragments of her knowledge and experience through the Collective Unconscious, it was challenging to focus upon that and borrowing the druids’ knowledge of their language simultaneously while not having had as much rest as ordinarily required.

A young druid came to her with a cup of water, kneeling down as she offered it up to her. The water looked energetic and sparkly, as though it tried to skip out of the cup. The druid didn’t say a word during her gesture, and Kaer Togen offered a deep, thoughtful growl. ”Eim mottatatu scaythanhelging Fìrinn sene syn aug drauma - billetta mar afbiltikan draumgangan Ihr snakkatat om. Ollikvàl, an fyarnkommatti tèllinga mar si an vìsmanta reistikan ûkalangi reisa pà uairs. Eim restikan ik mar dei, ach anat druïthe nastan draumatat vekk sinnan se.” He chuckled to himself before his brows collected into an earnest frown. ”Kor mór burdan minnan ana fòr reista?”

Naomh Cagairean took the water with a grateful smile and a mouthed word of thanks, bowing her head deeply and drinking from the liquid as she did so. The water was refreshing in a way she hadn’t experienced in a long time--living in the badlands as she did--and she was taken off guard by its fizz and its vigour. She was sure she could see the young druid stifle a smirk, and she returned a smirk as she noticed it. As she swallowed, the shroud of tiredness that had hung over her seemed to lift immediately, and her mood seemed to improve immediately--far beyond the level of refreshment that an ordinary cup of water could provide. She could almost taste the gold of the sun upon it, and gave silent thanks to Ura’ Aliaa as she did so, making a wry mental note that it was about time she gave her something to renew and refresh her, instead of assaulting her with the full fury of the desert sun.

”Hm… An kun giannam scaythananan mathr reistikan langi standana giannam drauman, ach grûnvoll an verdkringi vismantana tou koplans saman giannam dei draumana aug telyan dei tellinga. An ik overaskandi Ihr hòrtat slik. Làratat draumganga an skellig - eg anat aldrei flinki fàr Fìrinn scaythanhelging valktat heg pli sànnsòker… ach eg frògakan men bròran, Serrah, besòka Ihr nuair Ihr kvilan aug hielpa Ihr? An mór draumganging.”

Naomh Cagairean rubbed the back of her head, a small and embarrassed smile playing on her lips as she admitted her lack of proficiency in that particular art.

”Minnan burdan ik ana saer stòrsmà… ach om Faileaslar ik synsan an brah, jakr ik iseachan. Eg peklaigan gittakan ik sikrari sanninga -- scaythanhelging an unvikani, féin le heg.” ... needlessly cryptic. she thought to herself.

Kaer Togen scrunched his nose. ”Ya, an slik, an slik. Ihri bròran làren heim, dà - eim jakr raibh!”. He snapped his fingers and another druid, most likely an apprentice, came over with a bowed head. Kaer Togen gave the apprentice his staff without even looking at him and approached the mirror again. His face then seemed to twist and turn slightly, and he shot sideways scowls at some of the other druids surrounding him. ”... Aug om eg frògakan, brehmsakan draumsceitheadan? Egi sinnan líona fremetshíla aug eg bónna kosenana svinn.”

”Ah, peklaigan, kosenan an men skylt. Mórteppan an sterkar thart heg, aug mathr mar ik kiennan styrka iomaí styrakan ik sen penyttgrûnevnan. Ihr fólan sà sterki petyran sannleg scaythanhelging an kry -- kun styre Ihri minna, fóle tràdna kopla tehl andrana, aug stenga dei Ihr lalekoman ik. Mathr burdan cleachtadha, ach om Ihr kann pendan eg an seo, Ihr burdan hàlda evnan nuair eg faer.”

Naomh Cagairean offered a wan smile to the Archdruid, nervously clutching at her hempen robe as she did so. She focused enough to not let her doubt seep out of her like blood in water, but her face still expressed her anxiety against her will.

”Eg jakr fròga Serrah besòka Ihr nuair kvilan. Serrah burdan làra Ihr kosenanan Ihr làran burdas. An noe meir Ihr ònskan?”

The druids around all closed their eyes in deep focus, Kaer Togen included. A time passed, during which a few of the druids grit their teeth audibly to push out any distractions. After a time, though Kaer Togen bowed. ”Eim burdan cleachtadha meir. Tehleg Ihr agat bûdt pà, eim frògakan ik meir. Ina eim rausikt tehlbûdan Ihr kvila hos eimi sà fada sà ònskan, eimi vrient.”

”Hm… Eg jakr ik reista giannam drauman pà láa -- utan sànnskytning aug dúlagara an mór skellig. Scaythanhelging an tanksomi om mathrsinnanan, ach draumhelging… mykki mindri. Eg jakr passa tïd minntanka, aug kantarlú plûtsaligi kosena oppdukkan. Kantarlú scaythanhelging jakr snakka le heg, ou le Ihr giannam heg?” Naomh Cagairean found herself already lost in thought as she considered the implications of returning. It would take at least a number of days to recoup her strength and allow Serrah to teach the druids, and to then guide her back through the corridors of the Dream. Perhaps she could use the time to divine what the Druids needed to know, what divine purpose beyond the delivery of an artifact had guided her to this place. If nothing else, she was quite certain that the Mirroring God had greater plans for her and for this place than a simple delivery.

Collab between @Tuujaimaa and @Kho

Rahma wiped the sweat from her feathered brow with a sticky, grimy ball of woven material that was at this point so degraded calling it a rag would be overly kind. She looked up at the sun, using the loosely held rag to help shield her eyes a little from its blazing light, and sighed to herself as she urged her camel onwards. It had been three days since they had left to transport goods to Tekhen, abandoning their own encampment, and the heat had been particularly unbearable, even for her tribe--while they, being alminaki-human amalgams, did not need quite so much water, the incredible heat had dried out the well they usually used around this time of year and they had been forced to dip into their reserves of water far earlier than normal. It was almost as if the sun had been kindled into a funeral pyre by some strange event, and the arid dryness of the badlands had been amplified far beyond the point of survivability. Her camel lurched another step forward and Rahma was shunted forward with it, dropping the sorry excuse for a rag and watching as it got trodden into the clay-red soil. She snorted under her breath before unfurrowing her brow and realising that it was probably for the best that it could not suffer anymore--it wasn't like it had been actually bringing her any relief or comfort for the past two days.

She gave her camel a fond stroke before using her now free hand to pat down the goods she was managing to carry with her, making sure that it was all still securely hitched. A few ingots of copper, an awl, an axe--as well as their living and camping essentials-- and a hempen sack that bore a pot containing lebahr khan, some tehr, and some yak jerky that had just about been ready when they'd decided to leave. Truth be told, there was little else of value or note on her camel, as her brother Serrah had taken the brunt of the load they shared. But the conditions were so uncomfortable that even this relatively light load was cumbersome to bear.

“Do you think we'll all make it, Serrah? Zahna's running out of water, and if we give her any of ours there's a chance we won't make it either. We've still got at least six more moons to go before we get to Tekhen if we keep a decent pace, and she's falling further and further behind every hour.”

She made a concerted effort to look concerned as she spoke, despite the overwhelming weariness that came with baking under the hottest sun she'd ever felt. It wasn't even that she was thirsty or hungry - she was just exhausted, and if she felt this way at a healthy twenty-two, Zahna's sixty-something years were enough to be a reasonable cause for worry. Still, she thought, she's never been one to give up. Even at night when she thrashes and writhes in her sleep like she's being attacked she always wakes up in the morning.

And for all her old age and the desperation of the situation, Zahna seemed at complete peace with it all. “Whisht, girl,” the little old woman would often say when Rahma commented on her carefree nature, “is there escaping death?” And while there was no escaping death, that was not exactly the kind of thing - to Rahma’s mind - that afforded a person peace of mind. “Oh I know what you’re thinking, so young and full of life is lovely Rahma. But when you hear what I’ve heard, my dearest, and when you see what I’ve seen, I don’t think you would blame me at all.” But that was days ago now, and old Zahna was at the back of the caravan, and the hukkam had told a couple of the young men to tie her camel to one of theirs and keep an eye on the elder.

Zahna, it was said, was born over the mountains in a land where springs burst from every hill, and where there were more lakes and rivers than stars in the night sky. Trees lined the earth in all directions and all manner of fruits and animals filled the land; and the people there, who lived in the great city of Qabar-Kirkanshir, wanted for nothing at all. Neither Rahma nor her brother had ever ventured out with the caravans that crossed the treacherous mountains to that far off paradise. “Why would you ever leave such a place, idda-ti?” Serrah had asked her once, “it seems like a land of dreams”. The old woman had smiled and, bringing the then tiny Serrah to her lap, spoke softly to him and his sister.

“We all have a path, my children, that we must see through. We must live it out, even if it carries us over mountains and into a land of endless sun. There is a song we follow, a dream just out of sight, a little bit of truth we must uncover for ourselves, and that will make us whole. My song and dream carried me away from home and memory - to you my dears. And I would never have it any other way.” But that was many years ago now, and Serrah shook the memory off.

“Hah!” came the as-jubilant-as-could-be-expected cry from Serrah, reaching over to nudge his sister but falling just short. “I told you she’d be alright. It’s us I’m worried for, what’ll we do without her?” he continued, smile filled with as much mirth as he could muster in the heat.

“... yeah. You’re probably right.”

Rahma leant into the jab, and for a second it looked like she would lash out with a riposte of her own, but the look in her eyes made it clear she just didn’t have the energy to deal with her brother’s boundless energy.
As if making a conscious decision to make an unconscious decision, the strapping young man reached into a hempen sack at his side with one hand and steadied the reins of his camel with the other, bidding the poor thing slow down. It seemed as grateful for the reprieve as a camel could convey, and it only took a moment or two for him to slip back to Zahna’s position in the ranks. He pulled out a canteen from the sack, took a final swig, and passed it to the older woman.

“We’ll find more, make sure you drink up. Rahma could serve to lay off the khan anyway!” he chortled, letting himself fall just a little further behind until he was right next to the woman. He motioned with his head to Arash, letting him know he’d take over watching Zahna, and the older man gave him the slightest of nods and a sharp exhalation of breath for his trouble - a very expressive gesture of thanks, by his taciturn standards.

Rahma looked back at her brother tiredly. She had barely slept a wink last night, tossing and turning in the dirt, unable to clear from her dreams the image of a still pond darkening with ink and flowing onto a page. It was a little unusual - she’d normally have talked to Zahna about a dream like that, or mentioned it to Serrah and he’d have blabbed to her with his sing-song “Idda-tiiiii…” like he always did, but something had been different about it. A thought came to her, unbidden, as she looked over at the mountains in the distance and something escaped her lips as if possessed of a life of its own.
“O, its walls are the size of starlight;
and its bounds as dark as snow.”

It was a little ditty, something in the young girl’s heat-addled mind that had given in to a subconscious desire to escape and be free. For a second, she thought she heard the mountains singing back to her in a voice like gravel rolling down the blood-red cliffs, but she shook her head and it was gone. A heat mirage, an illusion, surely. Still, in her uncertainty, she turned back to the elderly woman with a hint of worry in her eyes and waited. She’d say something if something had happened - she always did. But old Zahna only smiled knowingly, and her eyes also wandered to the far mountains.

“Did I ever tell you the story of Red-clay, daughter of the Great Old Mount?” The elder asked, turning to Serrah with her wrinkly old eyes.
“Red-clay? The one who sings on the mountain-top?”
“The very one,” said the elder.
“Yeah, I remember. Something about… uh, her hair. I remember what you said about her hair because it was made of red feathers that covered every horizon.” Serrah responded, his brows furrowing as he tried to remember.
“When Red-clay was a little girl,” the elder spoke, “her father, the Great Old Mount, would sit her and her sisters down inside the mountain and tell them many tales by the fire. They never ventured from the mount, never even peeked outside, and all of them were safe and warm deep in their father’s home. But one day, when the wind was mighty, Old Mount turned to his youngest daughter and said, ‘oh, Red-clay, my daughter Red-clay; climb up to the chimney and tell the Aerian Wind to gentle blow, for I fear he will tip the mountain over. But whatever you do, my daughter, do not stick your head out at the top.’
“And so she climbed, beautiful Red-clay, and she spoke as her father bid her to the Aerian Wind. But then she remembered what her father had once said to her as she lay wrapped up warm and safe in a blanket by the fire - ‘If you go up and look over from the top of the mountain, you can see the ocean in all its vastness and wonder.’ Well, Red-clay was curious and only so small; and she raised her head - ever so slightly, mind you - to see.
“But she saw nothing but the ruffling of her long red feathery hair as it whipped all about her and disappeared even beyond the four horizons. And the Aerian Wind caught her, and carried her oh so far away to a land of endless sand and rock. And she dragged her hair in clay till the grizzly found her and took her with him home. And there in the home of the grizzly bear, with his wife and all his children, the little red-feathered girl grew. Then in time she was no longer a little girl, but a woman full-formed and beautiful.
“And she married and was happy, and her naked little children danced and played about her feet - funny little things, neither bear nor god. And they brought much joy to their mother, and they brought much joy to their many fathers. And she dwelled in a small lodge near her father’s mount, and was in all ways content.
“And when the old grizzly knew that death was soon coming to accompany him on the next journey, and he feared ascending to see Red-clay’s father once his life was ended, he called upon all the grizzlies and sent one of her children up to call Great Old Mount down, that his daughter may be returned at last. And Great Old Mount came rushing down as a mighty whirlwind to the lodge where his daughter lived expecting his little girl. But when he saw the full-grown woman and mother, well then a great anger took him, and he struck the old grizzly down and cursed grizzlies everywhere to forevermore walk on four feet, their head cast low; and he cursed them again, to be gone from his sight, which is why you never see grizzlies this side of the mountains or that side anymore, but only far far away in the north.
“And he scattered Red-clay’s strange feather-haired children - his grandchildren! - across the earth in a great and violent storm of ink and song. And he put out the mountain fire she had basked in as a child and took her and all her siblings - every single one of the gods - back with him to the sky, from where she constantly launches her gaze earthward just as earnestly as her children look heavenward. And her father caused nature itself to oppress them, and so the only relief they have is when their mother’s voice, come down from the heavens, echoes through the great hollow mountain and spreads everywhere. If you listen carefully, it is said you can hear it to this very day.” The old woman’s tale came to a close, and Serrah sighed and sank into his place. Zahna turned and looked to Rahma, and gave her that knowing smile once more.

“You know”, said Serrah, “I think I’ve heard it before. Really. There was this windy night many moons back, and I’m almost certain I heard a song in the night.”
“Oh, you want to be careful with songs in the night now. That might be the Beast with a Face like Death.”
“Th-the beast with a face like death?” asked Serrah, eyes wide. Zahna nodded sagely.
“Yes, he lures his victims to him with his beautiful voice, and as soon as they see him,” she clapped her hands together, causing the lad to jump, “they fall down dead!”
“That’s just an old wive’s tale, can’t scare me with that stuff. And anyway, that song sounded too beautiful to be some beast. It was definitely Red-clay on the mountain.”
“Oh, if you say so,” the old woman laughed.
Rahma chortled at Serrah’s expression, turning back for a second to steady her camel, before sighing gruffly to herself and slowing her camel down too. She’d never hear the end of it from Serrah if she didn’t help watch idda-ti and left him all alone. She was secretly sure that if she did leave him alone with her, or even move just a little out of earshot, she’d start telling him stories that she’d never tell Rahma again. Serrah would get that stupid smirk on his face where the right side of his mouth would practically leap up off of his face and his right eyebrow would twitch and ruffle like a man possessed! She couldn’t have that, oh no, and even in this sleep-deprived sun-addled state she wouldn’t let him get away with this kozshur.

So she nodded to Abbaz, who had been waiting for her to relieve him of his duty and barked out a laugh. “Like brother like sister, eh?”
There was no small amount of indignation on Rahma’s face at the comment, but as the two crossed paths and he gave her a playful nudge she forgot for just a moment how hot it was and laughed. She settled down next to Zahna and turned to face her, then to the mountain, and then back.
“I… we’d not let you go without, idda-ti. If you don’t make it, who’ll sing to us at night and tell us stories? Who’ll keep our souls alive?” She didn’t mean to sound morose, but something about the song had gotten her worried. She couldn’t explain why, but something just sounded… miserable. Depressed. Something about the tribe, about the journey, about them abandoning their home - it was like she could feel a longing hanging over them like a pall, a dull ache that only came from realising you’d abandoned a place you’d lived for years and years and would never hear the song of again.

“The Beast with a Face like Death doesn’t have anything on you, Zahna. Nothing is more beautiful than when you used to sing lullabies to us.” Serrah nodded wistfully, his eyes losing focus for just a moment. If he concentrated, he could almost - almost - hear that song on the wind, with a voice like thunder and a passion like ten thousand thousand fires. It made him think of the smell of smoke after a fire, and the cold light of the moon.

The old woman sighed and smiled pensively at their words. “Places have memory, and the stones and the earth sing those memories to all who hear. Perhaps a stone somewhere far behind us still sings a lullaby you once heard, my dear Serrah, just as beautifully as you remember it. The poles of a tent, long turned to soot, may sing of the hands that held them once, and that slept in safety and peace beneath them. The bones of the dead, their very dust, sing too; epic tales of people who once coated them in flesh, and humble ditties of love and little sadnesses and secret tears, and of simple joys - for it is often the case that the simplest things cause the greatest of joys.” She paused for a few seconds, as though trying to remember something. “The poet sings:

I’m walking by the walls, my dear,
The walls where you once slept.
The house is gone and fires clear,
Where we once laughed and wept.
I kiss that earth and kiss the walls
But not for love of them, oh no!
But I do love the bug that crawls
Where your foot stepped, I loved it so!
Not out of love for it, my dear,
But love for you who once was here.

So what does it matter if you depart a place when all you love depart with you?” She spoke to Serrah, but she said it in that manner she had when it was intended for another’s ears, and Rahma had no doubt that those ears were her own. As though knowing this, Rahma seemed to perk up, the feathers atop her brow practically quivering with the excitement. She didn’t want to hope beyond hope, but - if there was some way that they could remember the little details of their home, some vesicle of dreams and songs and poetry… it would have gone a long way towards setting her mind at ease. She recounted fondly that once idda-ti had told them all that the only true death was to be forgotten, and as long as things were remembered they could live on forever and ever. If there was some song or verse that could help her keep remembering - and help everyone else remember too… Well, that would have been very special indeed.

Atop his camel, Serrah’s eyes looked out toward the distant horizon, but it was clear that he was still enraptured by the song and the sentiment it carried. It sat within his skull and nested there, a little halo of light glittering just beyond perception resonating with the luminance of the sun. “... is the song louder at night? Sometimes, just before I fall asleep, there’s something there--a dream, a song, a prayer… I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like knowing that something else is there, something just out of sight. It isn’t every night, but sometimes the wind whispers things to me and it’s all I can do not to get up and dance!” The old woman smiled knowingly at him, as she always did when she approved or agreed, but said nothing.

“Can anyone hear it? Can anyone… sing it, like you do?” Rahma half-mouthed, half-whispered. It was almost enough for her to forget about that infernal sun. It was almost enough for her to not feel quite so bad about leaving the stones and the sticks and the love behind. If she carried a part of it with her, like Zahna did, maybe they could make Tekhen feel like home in no time. Maybe even loss could become something beautiful, if only they remembered.

“Oh no doubt,” said the old woman, “we’re made to sing as we’re made to walk and ride, and as birds are made to fly and eels to swim. And I have found all things in the song, and I have found the song to be all things. But if it’s memory you are after my fearful young Rahma…” the old woman paused and frowned, bringing her knuckles to her lips, “I know of a man beyond the mountains. Taqla met him in Qabar-Kirkanshir when he went with the caravans last, and he was very impressed with him, for he claims he found a pond - or a lake, maybe - that had within it the beginning and the end. Everything that ever was and everything that ever will be. Maybe you should travel with Taqla when the caravans next make the crossing. It’s about time you saw the world out there anyway.” She glanced at Rahma, “but anyhow, we must set you up with a howdah tonight, the sunrays have had it out for you these past few days.”

Serrah shot Rahma a supportive glance from the sidelines, agreeing with Zahna with his eyes if not with his words. She shot a glare back at him, half-heartedly, before nodding with what little energy she had left. It had been a taxing few days, and from the looks of things it wasn’t anywhere close to being over. She thought about offering a prayer to Ura ʿAliaa, but the teachings of the kayhins had not really ever been something she’d concerned herself with - oh, she listened when they came wandering by and talked about all the gods could do - but they were fanciful and, worse, some were preachy. Virtue for power was not virtue at all - virtue, Rahma knew, required a cause beyond the self and the tiny world one found oneself in.

She recalled a time when Serrah had had a terrible dream, shaking and quivering like a leaf in the wind, and he’d mumbled things under his breath. She could barely remember them now, like even her memory of that moment was but a dream, but he’d said things he couldn’t have known. He’d spoken of worlds beyond theirs, across vast… oceans, she vaguely remembered him saying (whatever those were), and names had rolled off his tongue like an unfurling sheet of tehr. Toraan; Mydia; Khesyr - they could’ve just been nonsense, but something within her knew they were as real as the land they walked.

She’d listened a little harder than usual when the kayhins had spoken of Miġra Zaʿl, though - and, if she thought about it, she could connect a lot of what she remembered to the way that Zahna acted. She was utterly mad, no way around it - completely sun-addled, some had said, and as Rahma looked up at Ura ʿAliaa’s great, fiery orb in the sky she half-wondered if the same fate lay in store for her. The old woman spoke of a great song beneath the world, lying within the rocks and the dirt and the homes, and that sounded like something that god of ink and song and poetry would have had a hand in. If she asked - she turned to Zahna, and the elderly woman gave her a knowing wink - she knew there’d be a verse about just that.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully for the Mirtaah tribe. They found a little nook, up against the base of the mountains, that would shield them on one side from wild animals and winds - they set up camp fairly quickly, with Serrah bounding off to help the hukkam set up his tent and do the rounds to make sure that nobody else had any troubles. With the threat of the sun having abated for a time, Rahma had perked up a little and helped set Zahna’s tent up, listening to her recount stories and songs and poems the whole time. It made her feel like the task was over practically as it began, and soon the waxing moon of Qibbar Husnu shone brightly above.

Serrah had returned to a freshly made taffeem and settled in as comfortably as he was able, falling asleep practically the second his head rested upon the ground. It had always been a talent of his - sleep came naturally to him in practically any circumstance, and he was almost always loath to break from the visions he had in the night. Some people howled and shook and screamed in their sleep, but it was very rare that Serrah ever had any issues.

Zahna, however, did not sleep when all others drifted away from the night and darkness to the safety of dreams and reprieve. Serrah had spoken true when he spoke of the song and dance of the night, and so, when near all mankind was asleep, her eyes remained open and she rose to walk among the sleeping dead. About her a gentle breeze formed and played around her head and behind her ears, and the red clays of the night-clad earth exhaled and welcomed her awaited night-song.

Sleep, they say, is the ghost of death
That haunts us while we yet draw breath
That haunts the mountain and the vale,
The rolling sky and wild wind’s wail.
So while my body draws breath still
I’ll wander by the vale and hill -
Beneath the canopy of night
That veils us from the sun’s keen sight -
And there I’ll sit and sing a while
While earth and sky about me smile.
The darkness all about is great
But high above with lover’s gait
There dance the shining moons with light:
The purple one we can forgive
By virtue of the one that’s white!
By virtue of that great bright thing
We can forgive near everything!
Bar one thing: I cannot forgive
That I must die while I yet live
And no more walk nor sigh nor sing.

And as the elder sang, the radiance of the great white moon seemed to flow about her in a whirling stream. It spun and twisted, and gathered itself up into a great ball and landed there in the old woman’s hand: a perfect orb of Qibbar Husnu’s light. Merely holding it was enough to cause her eyes to drift off to sleep, but she shook off the temptation and raised her arms high, thanking the goddess. “I give thanks to Qibbar Husnu, true light of the darkness, shamer of the dark moon. I give thanks to Ura ʿAliaa, by whose punishment we come to delight in the mercy of Qibbar Husnu. I give thanks to Miġra Zaʿl, giver of inspiration that we may well sing the praises of Qibbar Husnu. I give thanks to Buʿr Iynas the Great Old Mount, lord of the clay and father of all, by whose red earth we may learn to magnify the white glory of Qibbar Husnu. I give thanks to Zharuuʿ, by whose stars we are guided to the majesty of Qibbar Husnu. I give thanks to Kiʿranuʿjaza, who is the sea beyond the mountain, by whose spreading waters we may see on earth as we do in heaven the light of Qibbar Husnu.
I give praise to Jinasa, in whose green bosom we are saved from the sight of the dark moon. Aid us, great Jinasa, that we may ascend the heavens on the back of the great tree and crack the dark moon so nothing but the light of Qibbar Husnu is made to shine; and that the darkness may forever shed its terror. I praise you, whom the kayhins praise; on the redland and in the mountain, upon the sea-beyond-the-mount and on its shore, and as you are praised in the swamplands and in the jungle.”

And with that, the orb of moonlight in the old woman’s hand became a viscous liquid ink that she rubbed into her other hand before bringing both to either side of her face. When she removed them, two nearly perfect white handprints adorned her ancient visage. The old woman exhaled and felt a deep sense of peace overtake her. The flame that coursed through her in the night was calmed at last, and she could go and join her tribe in death-sleep; and so she did.

But even as her light dimmed and the dark overtook her, other things yet stirred. Within that pristine stillness of slumber, that little mind-death as today’s self gave way to a new tomorrow, not all was still and not all was asleep.
It had started many moons ago, as an inkling of desire cast out into the world with nary a care for its destination or its fulfillment. A simple prayer to the god within the mind and within sleep - “O, what I would not give for this journey to be over!” - whispered and released without consent or understanding. Though the great Ai’jaal did not listen, another force within its murky realm did. A thing from beyond comprehension paid careful attention to that little plea, and a spark of interest lit up deep within the bottomless crevasse of its hunger.

As the days had gone on, as the sun was pushed up into the sky by Ura ʿAliaa and replaced by Qibbar Husnu’s great silvery orb, those little wisps of desire grew and grew. In the dead of night, when the song dimmed as its singer slumbered, those little wisps collected within the blackness and the dreams of one fervently praying to Ai’jaal kindled a great spark of longing within that mass of light. Soon it shone fervently, brightly, blazing in the dream-world’s sky like a new sun - a beacon to those who hungered for such light.

When Ura ʿAliaa next brought the day and banished the night, when the sleepers struck off the shackles of the great dream, they awoke to find that one of their tribe’s number would never wake again. Their hukkam did not rise at first light as was custom. The hasharaf looked into the veil surrounding the man and it revealed itself as a tomb. Oh, their hukkam still supped upon the air, but his eyes did not open even when shaken and roused. The rocks sang of a well of ravenous hunger, and amidst the clamour of the camp that song floated its way down to Zahna’s old bones and deep within her mind. And the old woman shivered and a certain dread filled her - as, indeed, it filled all her tribe.

It was not uncommon for death to creep upon the sleeping, as it had upon their hukkam, and forget to take his soul. Even now Zahna could hear the crippled song of the soul within the man. Only yesterday he had been full of laughter, his eye gleaming with determination in the midday sun, and his song bursting forth fully-formed and beautiful, tickling the songs of all and inspiring them onward - not long friends, not long comrades, until before our sight great Tekhen shall arise. As she looked upon the yet-breathing corpse, however, and listened to the great hunger that emanated from his place, she knew that only further evil could arise from this. She had seen such things before, and knew that the first death promised many others unless a kayhin was called.

The old woman was silent when the people approached her with questions and fears, and within them all there grew a great desperation to be gone from this place and to get to Tekhen as soon as they could. Their desire for the journey to be over, for safety to be found, was never greater. But Zahna ignored the distressed song that emanated from them all and sat herself in the shade and sang in a low tone, sending her soul’s voice off into the cosmos that a wandering kayhin may hear and come to their aid. And when the people saw this, they quietened and knew that their elder was calling upon the gods, and though their distress and desire to be free of this journey was not lessened, yet did they find a degree of solace in knowing that aid was on the way.

The elder sat for many hours, and the tribesfolk grew restless - while these endless redlands taught patience, distress often caused that to flee. But in time the people began to whisper and point, and they cried out in stunned jubilation; for there above the wide horizon, a little cloud shading them from the sun, floated the undoubtable figure of an airborne kayhin. As he approached, they could see his endless feathery hair and dauntless beard that floated off behind him like many-coloured wings - for the forces that some of these kayhins called upon caused their hair to come alive and grow unlike that of normal folk. At last he descended from the skies above, wind whirling gently all about him and causing dust to fly off - which, strangely enough, never landed on him.

A wandering kayhin arrives on the wind

His body boasted tattoos of different bright colours - white and red and orange - and he was also coated in ash and chalk in addition to spatterings of ink that flowed down his face and neck and seemed to flow from his eyes in dark tears. Indeed, his closed eyelids were the darkest onyx, and his lashes seemed kohled with the blackest ink. Great rosaries were piled about his neck to rest on his naked chest and, while it was not uncommon for the wandering desert kayhins to go completely unclothed, he was wearing a sarong stained with red and orange and blue and green and yellow inks. With his eyes closed, he seemed to be asleep on his feet, though when Zahna approached him he slowly fell prostrate before her and sang in a trembling voice - “I adore and salute the eternal song in you and confirm and attest that the song is One and True; for the myriad voices that arise by dusk and dawn all point towards a god that is mighty and alone.” As he spoke, a cool, damp wind swept through the encampment and all above them clouds formed one upon another in great mountains to shield them all from the damning sunrays. Zahna bowed her head to the kayhin who continued to prostrate himself before her.

“I too adore the one great song in you that gushes from and is Qibbar Husnu. By the bright rays that bring the night alight, cast out our fears and rid our sleep of fright - that death, which stole the greatest of our own may not again come cause us tears at dawn.” The kayhin got up onto his knees, his eyes still closed, and his head turned in the direction of the dead hukkam. He rose to his feet, and even as he did the wind carried him so that he flew above the heads of the gathered tribespeople and soon hung above the body of their deceased leader with his legs tucked beneath him. For a few moments there was silence, and then the wind began to whistle and play, creating an unmistakably flute-like sound, and the kayhin began to hum and rock back and forth in the air. It was a low hum at first, but steadily became louder and louder until everyone within the encampment could hear nothing but the trilling hum, and soon it was not possible to make out the kayhin’s hum from that of the wind.

Beneath him the sleeping hukkam convulsed and shook from time to time, and then this convulsion grew more frequent and foam began to build up around his mouth, and it seemed that his body was in great pain and distress. The strange hum became more persistent, as though coaxing sand from stone- and then, it quietened completely and the kayhin began to sing words that no one understood. But the great cloud of peace that permeated across the tribe could not be denied, and the hukkam’s body ceased its convulsions and seemed to float upward, breathe deeply, and very suddenly collapse back to earth while releasing a great wispy cloud that held his visage for a few seconds before disappearing from view. And the hukkam breathed no more.
The kayhin ascended slowly into the air, rocking side to side and singing to himself, before he started spinning on the spot in the air. Having exorcised the trapped soul of the hukkam, his job was complete until nightfall.

The tribespeople meanwhile began preparing the hukkam’s body for burial, cleaning him with earth and dressing him in all his armours of bone and hide and putting his weapons and all of his personal wealth about him. His wives, from the most senior to the least, wailed and cut their hair, and then his sisters did likewise, and his mother and his brothers. Had they been nearer the mountains, they would have offered his body to the great white guardians that dwelled there so that his bones may return to that sacred earth, but being far from there the earth of this endless redland would suffice.
And so with drums beating and Zahna reciting a chant of lament, they slaughtered his favoured camel and sprinkled his body with its blood. The drum grew louder and the hukkam’s wives joined Zahna’s lament, slashing their arms with bone knives so that they bled and wept everywhere. And the hukkam was buried, with his camel and weapons and wealth, as the last rays of sunlight disappeared over the distant horizon. Zahna wandered back and forth before the bleeding women, gathering up their cut up hair as a fire was prepared atop the grave, and she threw each of the women’s hair into it where it exploded and fizzled and curled into ash. None of them would remarry until their hair was as long as it had been before.

With darkness come, the hum of the spinning kayhin grew louder once more, and all the tribesfolk made for their tafeems, wrapping up tightly for the night. The wind rustled, the kayhin hummed, and all awaited the second coming of death.
It began, as so many of these things seemed to, with a song. The song of the unformed land hidden behind dreams and desires was even more tenuous to grasp than the loudly and proudly blared song of souls - muted by some unseen veil, pressed against by the vastness of a space beyond the physical and compressed into thin ribbons that fluttered along to the pounding rhythm of the wind-song.

Just as those clouds had come forth to offer succour amidst sorrow, those ribbons of incomprehensible desire expanded outwards like a sprawl of lurid colour, slipping through the spaces between rays of pearlescent moonlight and refracting the silvery song of peace and respite into a cacophonous clashing. The unbound rhythm of what wanted to be but never could stripping bare the quintessential element of song from the souls around it, quieting and quelling their thoughts until only husks remained - this was what that new sound promised, and beckoned by the veritable feast of impatience, the sight and sound and name of the evil that had claimed their hukkam made itself known:

‘Seall orm: rinn cabhag feòil!’ It sang with the voice of the wind and the fury of the sun, and each shrieking buzz of frenzied intent seemed to solidify its presence. It began as a shimmer of unknown colour; it ended as a writhing mass of grey-gold smoke, billowing forth from some unseen tear into the land of dreams beyond this one.

‘Bidh an teine ​​anns na bolg agad a ’sàbhaladh an t-acras orm agus a’ cuir crìoch air do dheireadh.’ The smoke curled in jagged wisps, each word intensifying its colours and its solidity. Each wisp became a shard of sharpened jade; each golden tendril a cluster of coruscating crystal; each pulsating thrum of song beckoned forth and coaxed into being the resplendence of a true physical form. Two great horns of curling crystal jutted out from a snarling, gnashing visage: two eyes, each the hue of hunger - a great snout wrought from petrified and glassine bone, pocked with rivers of infinitely shifting colour. Teeth carved from the tips of green-gold mountains, and honed to jagged points as if cut from the sun-blasted tips of those great peaks. Stretching out behind it, the coils of a gem-studded serpent: dissolving into smoke and reforming within the thin sheets of moonlight and the tempestuous gusts of wind.

Illuminating it all, carried on the swirling winds that cradled and rocked each of the tafeem, an oil-slick tint like gaseous flames spreading from that ravenous maw as a spider’s web to entangle them all. Each filament connected through that iridescent ether to the members of the tribe - slipping deeply into the forms of some, and burning away before the others, unable to find purchase in their stilled and centered souls.

Above, the inkstained kayhin’s eyes at last opened, revealing themselves beneath the rays of the moon to be glistening night-ink. The black gaze fell upon the dreamhorror that could not quite sink itself into its resting prey. The kayhin breathed deep and sighed, and then his mouth opened and a thunderous sound emerged, sweeping through the world of souls and rearing up all about the horror.

“And shan’t you too be brought to sleep, that sleeping minds now haunts?
For you have stepped into the song of wild abuse and taunts:
The realm of song you’ve come upon, you thought it full of prey;
but now the song is all about and will unveil the way
for your return to your homeland away from this night’s feast,
that you may rest and think a while on why you are a beast -
and till you sing as all else sings in harm’ny with the world,
whene’er you come, and where you go, swiftly from here you’re hurled.
Come sing with me, you dreambound fiend, we’ll sing and dance tonight,
and when the sun peeks o’er the mount you’ll long be out of sight.
Your form forgotten in the night and hunger cast aside,
you’ll have nowhere to run off then nor then a place to hide.
The dark of night can see you now, the clouds and sky and earth,
and where you tread all horror fades and there is only mirth.
So come on in and come on out, it’s time for us to go
and dance for long into the night and free this folk of woe.”

The song started its undulations around the great beast, strong in its own right, but was unable to find purchase - each buffet of wind struck only smoke, or held in its grasp some fragment of that great beast that shrieked out a cacophony of its own soul’s making and so dispersed the kayhin’s tenuous grasp and rejoined its greater whole. As the song grew louder, as the great maelstrom peeked its way into each tafeem, and as each soul within let loose its inner light, those souls touched by grief and loss and hope joined in the great chorus. Each syllable, a torch; each soul touched, a mote of flame. In unity their songs burst forth to bolster the raging winds and thunderous boom, and soon a radiance of cataclysmic proportions threatened to engulf the shadowy smoke-thing that had feasted upon the hukkam’s very thoughts.

From within, a sickly-sweet song of its own making poured out, cloying verses building within those exposed souls and kindling those nascent flames until a great inferno blazed within all those souls it had touched. It spared only those closest to the kayhin and those who could walk through the veil of dreams of their own accord - it was only by the grace of Serrah’s spirit that Rahma remained untethered. It was only by Rahma’s determined resilience that old Zahna’s song was not turned against her.

As the inferno raged and built up within those less fortunate, the dream-thing’s song trickled through the oily cords of subconscious desire it had fed into their souls, travelling down the wisps of chromatic smoke like a flicker of flame across oil. It seeped into their very essences, and soon their passions burned them from within and withdrew, bolstering the sickly green-gold light within the dimming pillar of effulgence.

‘To fan the fire, to feed the flames
All within submit to my games!
Banish me not, O’ hollow shell--
Hearken now to this death knell!
Thine song is strong and hard of heart,
But not enough to stop nor start,
A chain within this hungry maw,
To stop my feasting on your core!’

Its gem-studded tail of smoke wove its way around the camp, extending and contracting as it slithered between the tafeem. It wound its way around them in a great pattern, a blade cutting through the fabric of reality, until it formed the portentous symbol of the Two-as-One: the holy Triquetra, that symbol which breached the real and drew all within deeper into the embrace of the world of dreams. Within that torn fabric, the Song was different - muted, touched and twisted by the great Dream, channelling notes of desire unknown to even the most passionate in the waking world. It reared its fanged maw back and lunged towards the kayhin, laughs like peals of distant thunder tumbling from it and crashing against his form.

The kayhin frowned and brought his palms together as the laughter crashed against his form like waves against the stalwart cliff, and all about him the laughter formed into swirls of ink and the moonrays condensed into liquid form; and all of it twirled about him at speed as the monster accelerated towards him. His palms flew open and he held them out; and two swirling twin hands manifested in the airborne ink and were filled with power.

”By the hand of bold decrees,
all your laughter will now cease;
feel upon your brow this weight:
all the hunger you shan’t sate.
From above and from below
watch the deadly laugh-song grow;
and before your dreamswept eyes
see the hand that pacifies
seize upon your dreamcast form
and cast you into the storm
far from all who sleep in peace;
this the hand and song decrees!”

Even as the airborne hand wards attempted to keep the monster away from the kayhin, and the song and ward sought to banish the dreambeast, the inkstained practitioner of the druidic arts called upon his favour with the aspects of the great being of the universe that ruled over the night and moon and the realm of sleep. Speaking a few poetic words of praise he cast a net of calm and utter peace upon all who slept in the camp, sweeping the flame that the beast attempted to kindle and spur within them all with a great dousing wave of peace. “You will not eat here and won’t feast, be banished now and ever, beast!”

Each line of verse caused the trembling dream-beast to sizzle and sputter, as if throwing tiny droplets of oil against a great flame. Great gouts of dream-fire lashed out in response, each punctuated by a shrieking hiss of cacophonous colour that fizzled out upon reaching that most sacred symbol. At its end, a shriek greater than the sum of its predecessors rang out from the jade-encrusted crystal skull of the terrible beast, fracturing its horns. It slithered itself forwards, then, right up to the mass of ink and poetry before it, and let out another great peal of laughter that continued and continued, echoing through the symbol, before slipping straight across it so it was directly face-to-face with the kayhin.

’Tro mhulad nan aislingean bidh do ùrnaighean a tuiteam air cluasan bodhar. Gach diog bidh thu a feitheamh agus an dòchas a biathadh na lasraichean agam.’

As it spoke, each of those syllables caused a fire to gutter out, the threads of colour linking its soul to those of the tribe who had been powerless to resist its suppurative touch fading into a lurid mass of colour that threatened to engulf the entire camp. When it finished, the last word it spoke kindled new, void-black flames within the souls of the unfortunate - Basirah, the hukkam first wife; Duha, his favoured hasharaf; Inarah, Serrah and Rahma’s mother - each mind snuffed out like a fading candle crushed beneath the infinite void. As those flames extinguished, the lights within An-fhuras’ empty sockets surged into life and its mocking laughter surrounded the kayhin once more, threatening to shatter the fragments of song protecting him still.

The tattooed amalgam trembled beneath the weight of the fiend’s assault, his lower lip shivering and teeth chattering ever so slightly. Black eyes glistened and liquid ink dripped from them. But despite his stalwart stand before the powers of the waxing beast, he could feel himself weakening and the song about him diminishing in the face of the monster’s absurd assault. He opened his mouth to speak, but was horrified to find a blankness there - the verses that had danced about his tongue and gushed forth like the thousand rivers beyond the mountain were now all of them dried up and gone. His wide black eyes could only stare at the silent, verseless, songless abyss within his chest.

His body shook and a vast despair seized him then. “Oh!-” he cried, unable to bear the ugly emptiness of whatever this was, “-‘tis better I should die!” And without a moment more he called on all his favour with the great being of the universe that ruled over rock and earth and so summoned all that power to him; the earth shook beneath kayhin and beast and rose up in a great cascade to engulf them, burying them in wave after wave of red clay. And the earth consumed them both, crushing and gnawing at them until they were indistinguishable from the red earth that stretched endlessly above and endlessly below.

Or such at least was the kayhin’s fate, for the beast he fought was not a thing of flesh and bone but a thing of thoughts and dreams, and it slowly clawed its way out of the earth and rose into the night, powerful and ravenous - and now, unstoppable. It let its hunger guide it until it stood above the waiting form of Inarah, who hung in the twilight zone between mature adulthood and old age and who even now still possessed that distant beauty she was famous for in youth. She had grown and matured well; her fate had always been to sate the craving of a maddened being. And as it sunk its claws into her mind and felt the waiting feast that lay within, it relaxed and a sigh reverberated through it.

But when it bit into her mind, it was confused to find that it could not latch on, could not consume anything. Anger and confusion mixed within it, and the beast looked up in time to feel a horrific presence breathing down its neck. Slowly, it turned about and found itself looking upon two great, oddly similar beings. They were tall and wispy, but in all ways appeared to be the reflection of one another. The one that was Serrah looked to his twin, then looked to the beast.

“Hold my hand, Rahma,” the dreamwalker said, “and let’s send this thing back into the abyss.” The wisp sung, and the sleeping souls of the tribe joined it one-by-one. Each keening note of defiance against the thing’s hunger layered itself atop the song, and soon great verses of pure desire poured into the smoky vessel of endless consumption.

“We see you as you are, An-fhuras. Le gràs an Dithis-Mar-Aon, tha sinn gad chasg.”

The wisp that was Rahma extended its free hand out, cutting through the prismatic haze of colour and hunger before them in swift and decisive strokes. Each movement of her hand was a blade of reflective light, each word she spoke a binding seal - as she finished, the holy Triquetra adorned her face like a ceremonial mask, and from those sacred lines trembling golden light spilled forth like blood from a wound.

The shifting and turning corridors of the dream shuddered violently and creaked beneath the weight of the wisp that was Serrah’s tender exhortations of song, and in a moment the holy Triquetra that the dream-beast had formed with its body winked out of existence and took with it the lurid veil of unfulfilled desire that had surrounded that place. The fractures within its horns grew, the colours receding and dimming, and great flakes of silvery crystal seeped from the cracks. As its horns shattered and were replaced by the growing mantle of mirror-bright crystal, the Two-Wisps-as-One placed their palms together and brought about an inky amalgam of the symbol the kayhin had manifested before - though faint, his song still emanated from beneath the dreamscape’s ground.

Serrah collected the wisps of it with vehement exhortations and trilling verses, binding them together, and patterning his palm with that ink - Rahma stole from the writhing and howling beast a glimmer of its reflection from its now-silver horns and poured the stolen images into that hand, where they mixed with the ink. Now complete, the symbol of the Twin-Hands pulsated and thrummed with argent crests of energy, and lashed out with tendrils of ink-black energy. They wrapped themselves around the struggling beast and severed it from its connection to the physical plane.

Sat cradled in the sea of dreams
Come see the Two-as-One;
The moon was out but lost its beams
The sun had fleeing run
And in the midst of death’s great feast
The swirling maelstrom was released
To strike the beast and shun.

Within the darkness of the mind
Where flesh and blood are dead
Your ears are deaf and eyes are blind:
See with your heart instead
Then by the power of the Twins
We’ll look upon the beast that grins
And all its horrors shed.

Now with our knot and divine eye
And the supernal hand
We place upon your form a dye
A cosmic divine brand:
Hand of dream and hand of echo
Will now banish your great ego
To dreams of your homeland.

’Aonachd mar sin! Cuir às dhomh, ma-thà, nach coimhead mi air an làimh sin tuilleadh!’

And so the Two-Wisps-as-One kissed their palms and kissed their reflections upon the forehead, and strode up to the dimming and fading beast. They placed their palms upon its head, and spoke sacred words of banishment. They placed their palms upon its horns, and sang the song of untethering. Each word borrowed from a sleeping soul, each verse the pounding of a great drum - and with that, the tribe saved those who had not yet been consumed and granted their hukkam the gift of vengeance.


When Zahna awoke with dawn, the camp was silent. Once more a heaviness weighed upon the place, though there was a certain finality to it this time. Getting up from her tafeem and leaving the tent, she found the kayhin lying on the ground in a small pool of ink. His song came gentle and low, but it was there. That could not be said for Basirah or Duha; even from here Zahna could sense the emptiness and lack of soul or song from their tents, and she bowed her head and felt a few tears flow down her ancient creased face. She wiped them away swiftly and went to prepare the bodies for burial. All things were fated towards termination, after all, except great songs and the masters of creation - who thought to escape death?

When the people awoke to find their late hukkam’s wife dead also, and his chief guard, they were seized by sadness. And the drums were beaten and the bodies cleaned, and the mourners swayed from side to side with Zahna’s lament. Duha’s wives came forth and, like the hukkam’s wives before, slashed themselves and bloodied the earth and chanted alongside Zahna until the bodies were beneath the red earth. They too cut their hair and Zahna threw the strands into the flame, ridding them of the past that the future may grow unburdened. And the people scattered and were filled with fear, for these nightly visitations by death did not seem to be at an end - the kayhin they had summoned had had proven useless!

In their hurry and their fear, none among the tribe but old Zahna gave thought to the inconspicuously missing twins. She could still hear their songs, even through the commotion and despondence hanging in the air, but they were different, somehow - something ethereal and not-quite-present was about them and their notes. As night fell once more, and the kayhin was yet to rise, the two twins emerged from their tafeem at long last and made their way towards his slumbering form.

“Still he slumbers beneath the weight of the song. Wake, friend of the Taw’amahn,” intoned one.

“Cut through the web of lies. See what truly is,” mused the other, deep in reflection.

With a shuddering, wracking gasp, the kayhin emerged from his waking dream and stared blankly at the twins before him. He breathed deeply and seemed to sigh with relief as the song of the world once again embraced him and planted trembling kisses across his being.

A danger lies inside that dream
That makes all of real’ty seem
To drown you ‘neath an endless stream
Where you can neither breathe nor scream;
I wake to find that I am free
But question if my mind e’er’ll be.

As he sang weakly, the kayhin was carried on an unsteady breeze and stood before the twins. He bowed deeply, “I salute the divine growing in you and bid you welcome to the cosmic song and lyrical spew,” and with that he was carried off into the air, and soon was consumed by a great cloud that disappeared off beyond the horizon.

“I see you have woken up, my children,” Zahna’s voice came, and she stepped out of her tent and approached the twins, “in more ways than one.”

“We salute and reflect upon the song that is you, by the grace of the twins and Qibbar Husnu.” The two spoke as one, and as they finished they turned to one another solemnly, nodding, and broke out into uncontrolled fits of laughter and joy. They hugged the old woman with a zeal surpassing even that of their youthful forms, and there rumbled from them a song of joy and ecstasy and love and hope. They held her tightly and then let go, holding hands all the while.

“I… Serrah, he…”

“I prayed to the Dreaming One, and invoked the name of Ai’jaal. I don’t know why I felt compelled to do so, but- I could feel his eyes upon me! A great cloud of star-speckled smoke from beyond the veil of dreams placed its eyes and its hands on me, and I knew from then I would sleep no more. I don’t know what happened to Rah--” the excitable young Serrah began, but was cut off as the name seemed unwilling to rumble from his throat.

“When you became what you are, I received a visit from a god too. A thing of glass and claws, it touched me and all I could see was light - and now I see that light everywhere, even when I wake. It fills my mind and my tongue and my heart, and I am not Rahma any more. I… I think my name is… Cagairean. Naomh Cagairean. I was chosen to seek Truth, to… to help, I suppose? It’s just as well - I never could listen to the kayhins for long.” She laughed, skittishly, as if unsure whether or not she still could. She took Serrah’s palm and kissed it, and then did the same to Zahna. “I see the song now, too. So does he- but his is the song within the world of dreams.” Zahna nodded slowly, a smile on her lips and a small sadness in her eyes.

“If these strange gods have indeed spoken to you, my children, then you must not keep them waiting. We have lost a great many whom we love, to lose you too is painful. But it will be good to know that your song yet echoes throughout the world; the body far but soul ever near.”

“I can stay until we reach Tekhen, but… from there, I don’t know where Truth will take me. Serrah will find a home amongst the kayhins, I suppose?” Serrah nodded, as his sister-turned-Saint outstretched her arms and summoned forth her newfound power. Slowly, at first, a glimmer of silver hung in the air - before rapidly increasing in intensity and crystallising into a thousand reflective petals. With a wave of her hand, Naomh Cagairean bid them form a circular mirror and they did so, reflecting her image as they did so. Serrah opened his mouth as if to sing, but the song that erupted from his tempestuous soul was beyond the physical - within the reflection of the mirror it could be seen shuddering and sighing from his very being and resting upon that mirror. Briefly, the moon could be seen within - and then the stars, the mountains, an ocean, a horn - until it showed only reality once more. “Call our names, and we’ll be here. We’d never leave you.” The one who was until recently called Rahma spoke. Serrah nodded vigorously, sweeping a hand through his mop of sandy-brown hair and offering a coy smile to Zahna, and then to his sister.

“I’ll… see what Ai’jaal wants of me tonight, in slumber. We can at least have this day together.” Zahna beheld the mirror with awe for a few moments, looking at the strange face that stared at her from within it, and then nodded to them.

“Remember, children, wherever the gods carry you and whatever you become: you have memory here, and you were and will always be scions of the Mirtaah tribe.” And with that the trio parted ways. The old woman wandered among her sleeping tribesfolk for some minutes before leaving the encampment, and her sighs and songs in praise of great Qibbar Husnu reverberated throughout the Worldsong long into the night.

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