THE DHASHARMAHN — Part Two
Jaldrali guide my hand to success. This is a translation of the Dhasharmahn, one of the prophetic books of the Chardrakesh. It is dated later than the fearful Yajhanir, which foretold the coming of the Demon of the Lake, whose name shall not be written, but it is earlier than the sacred Glabhelain, which details some events unrelated to the rise of the Demon. The Dhasharmahn chronicles the events after Marik's defeat by the Demon, and in particular follows the deeds of Surik, Marik's shieldmate. It also makes some predictions of the return of Marik.
This is written in the year 1,997 of the Verentian Calendar, by the hand of the scholar Velhir of Rosphult. The blessings of Maldai upon you all.
THE FALL OF ZIMSHURON
After Demon of the Lake had defeated Marik, it returned to Mekkara in triumph.
"There is now no lord more powerful than I," said the Demon to its peoples. "As for you, my followers, there shall be no men more powerful, if you do as I say. You must descend into the valley and settle there. Kill any who defy you and build temples to honor me. Sacrifice the virgin daughters of your enemies on the altars of those temples and power shall be yours that you have never dreamed of."
The people of Mekkara obeyed. Nakarnakal, high amongst them for freeing Demon of the Lake from the Inescapable Pit and resplendent in his robes of authority, was chosen to lead them down the Binebir. And so, as Surik led the Kelberini across the desert, Nakarnakal led the Mekkarans in battle against the Maleshi. Blood was shed from warriors and virgins alike. In the first few battles, Nakarnakal captured the upper cities of Malesh and established a seat of power at Rom-Gabon.
When news of his losses reached Zimshuron, King of Malesh, he sent envoys to entreaty peace from Nakarnakal. But the High Priest of Mekkara demanded the five virgin daughters of Zimshuron as the price. Outraged, Zimshuron conjured yanta-demons for his army and sent them with fiery chariots to do battle with the Mekkarans. The Mekkaran army was routed, and Nakarnakal retreated to Rom-Gabon. While Surik was building Marik's resting place in Cha Kelkorm, Nakarnakal was at Rom-Gabon calling upon the powers of Demon of the Lake to deal great evil to Zimshuron. Nine hundred ninety-nine devout followers were chosen to be transformed into venemous serpents and then were let loose upon Malesh's capital Phegiron to wreak havoc. Several of them entered the palace of Zimshuron and, it is said, impregnated the king's five daughters. Zimshuron escaped by fleeing through tunnels beneath the city, but the city fell and his daughters were taken captive.
In the following months, Zimshuron and his army were forced into hiding, occasionally emerging to attack an isolated regiment of Nakarnakal's. While Surik returned with the Kelberini across the desert, Zimshuron and his army rested at the valley of Valom-valam on the edge of the Prulam, sharing the company of the great chief Photaz. For months the former king of Malesh made plans to rescue his daughters.
When the time came, Zimshuron's son Rulfas and Photaz's son Jhuron penetrated Rom-Gabon with a small band of heroes and brought the girls out of the city and to his camp in the mountains. A month later they gave birth to hideous creatures which ate their way out of the womb. Zimshuron killed himself shortly thereafter. (The five sons of the five daughters of Zimshuron escaped into the night. To this day tales are whispered of the terrors they deal).
As Surik had the Kelberini build a shrine at Kelkadh, Nakarnakal had the Mekkarans build temples all along the Binebir Valley.
SURIK ENCOUNTERS RULFAS AND JHURON
Photaz was both alarmed by the rise of Mekkara and moved by the tragedy of Zimshuron and the plight of the surviving sons. He vowed himself a lifelong blood enemy of Nakarnakal.
By this time, Surik had returned with the Kelberini to Kelkadh and had established their laws. With this preliminary work done, he now had a mission to undermine the power of Demon of the Lake and simultaneously restore Marik. So he left the Kelberini to their duties and travelled north to the Prulam. He was first met by Rulfas and Jhuron, who had become good friends and travelled together widely. Seeing a lone traveller coming out of the desert, they thought him an apparition and made signs in the air.
"He is a man," said Rulfas. "Look at the weathering of his features."
But Jhuron shook his head. "No man can survive the Chardrakesh alone and afoot."
Rulfas urged his pelithyn closer and lowered his lance threateningly. "Stand where you are, stranger! Or I shall spit you like a roast olakh!"
But the stranger casually strode forward, despite Rulfas's greatest protests. The prince's last cry of "Stop!" ended abruptly as the stranger flung him from the saddle.
"I thought the men of the Prulam were great warriors," Surik said, as he turned to look up at Jhuron. The Prulami laughed and spat at the ground.
"He is not of the Prulam," he said. Jhuron turned his bird about and leapt a few yards from Surik. "But I am...and you shall not find me so easy to dismount!"
Surik assessed Jhuron with a confident smile and waved him on. Jhuron frowned, lowered his lance, and darted forward. As soon as his lance struck, he darted back, pelithyn squawking, out of range again in Prulami fashion. Jhuron was startled to find he had let go of his lance, and that it was now in the hands of the stranger. He let out a cry of admiration.
"You have amazing skill! Now I know how you survived the desert alone! You must come with me to my camp and show the warriors your tricks. They will be just as amazed as I!"
Surik did not protest, but returned the lance to its owner and helped Rulfas off the ground.
"I am Jhuron cha'Valam, son of Photaz. I am a Prince of my peoples, and my father is High Chief."
"I am Rulfas, Prince of Malesh-now-lost, son of King Zimshuron, who died by his own hand."
Surik was visibly distressed by this last declaration. He decided not to let his identity be known. "I am Kirus cha'Kelkadh. I am a warrior. Tell me why the king of Malesh is dead."
As they rode toward Valom-valam, Rulfas told Surik the tale of the fall of Malesh, of Nakarnakal, Zimshuron, serpents, and daughters.
"These are terrible events," said Kirus. "This Nakarnakal . . . how did he gain such power? The people of Lake Ten have long been peaceful fishermen."
"They have a new god," Rulfas replied. "whose name we dare not speak lest he hears us. He is the Demon of the Lake, risen from there but two years ago."
"And does this god have serpents for horns, and a visage as black as tar?"
The eyes of Rulfas and Jhuron widened and they made signs in the air. Their looks showed their recognition of Kirus' description. Statues of the demon god now adorned the temples of the Binebir Valley.
"I have seen this god," said Kirus. "And I have sworn to destroy him."
"Even as great a warrior as you would not dare face a god!" said Jhuron. "What terrible crime did he commit against you that you would embark on such a foolhardy quest?"
"His very existence is a great crime against all of mankind! What he has done I dare not say, for that could cause greater harm than you can imagine!"
"If it is his existence that is a crime," said Rulfas, "then you have Nakarnakal to blame for that. For it is he who claims responsibility for bringing the Demon of the Lake into this world. It is said he journeyed to the underworld and discovered the god there."
"Aiiee!" cried Kirus. In anguish he threw his face at the sky and ripped open his tunic to bare his chest. Then his clothes fell to shreds in his hands and he lay upon his back, thrashing as if in agony. Jhuron and Rulfas could but gape in astonishment, though Rulfas felt the twinge of guilt in somehow being responsible for this man's pain.
At last Kirus recovered, though his eyes were still swollen and red from tears.
"It is worse than I thought, my friends. A great doom has befallen us, as was foretold in the Yajhanir."
Jhuron made a special sign at the mention of the book, for it was sacred among his people. Centuries ago, the Yajhanir was written and foretold the end of the world. So many people were frightened that they fled from the Prulam to distant lands, hoping to escape, though they knew there was no escape from the End. But the Yajhanir gave precise conditions which would lead to the final events, conditions so improbable and misleading, that it was difficult to foresee when the End would truly come. Only a few years ago a seer had claimed he saw the End coming, but he was scoffed at for being a fool. Now Jhuron was not so sure.
"What must we do?" he asked. "We cannot simply wait for everything to end!"
"No, we must not." said Kirus. "The presence of this demon god is not the only condition for the prophecy of the Yajhanir to come true. There are others."
"And what are they?" asked Rulfas. He had not heard of the Yajhanir, though the idea of doom prophets and the end of the world was not new to him, so he was not completely lost.
"It has been long since I have studied the Yajhanir." Kirus replied. "I must find a seer who knows it, and in his telling examine the clues more carefully."
"There is such a man," said Jhuron. "He was expelled for spouting what we thought was nonsense, but he claimed to have seen the portents described in the Yajhanir."
PLANS ARE LAID
There was a rock in the Prulam called Mhazahm. In the time of this tale it was in a barren place just over a days' ride east of Valom-valam. Dhashar lived there alone, where he ate grass and drew water from the rocks.
When Kirus arrived at Photaz's court and performed amazing feats of skill, the High Chief was glad to welcome him. Then he sent Kirus to Mhazahm to speak to Dhashar. After Kirus learned what he could from the seer, he returned to Valom-valam.
"If Nakarnakal is slain and his temple at Rom-Gabon is destroyed, a great blow to the demon god will have been dealt. He will be forced to retreat for another nine hundred ninety-nine years. During this time we can then fortify our defenses against him. This task must be passed to our children."
Photaz was glad to hear these words, for he was a sworn enemy of Nakarnakal.
"But how will this be done?" asked Photaz. "Nakarnakal is a powerful witch-lord and his army is strong. Rom-Gabon is impenetrable to an invading force and the temple is guarded by horrific demons."
"On certain nights of the year," explained Kirus, "the city celebrates a witching festival. Everyone is drunk at that time, of wine brought from Akunadesh. What we will do is intercept the caravan which brings the wine, disguise ourselves as merchants, and enter the city. The wine we will poison with sleeping powder. When the town is asleep we will split into two groups. The first will reveal itself and march upon the citadel. When Nakarnakal finds himself attacked, he will summon the demons from the temple to aid him. When they have left the temple, the second groups will emerge from hiding and destroy the place with fire."
"But what of Nakarnakal and the demons?" asked Photaz.
Kirus looked grim. "You have seen only some of my power. Know you that I have faced the serpent-horned god and survived." Suddenly Kirus drew his blade, the first any had ever seen him do so. It was a double-curved sword of blood-red metal and shone like liquid in the sunlight. Kirus's eyes matched the brightness of that orb with the fire of his passion.
"His demons shall fall like wheat before me," he cried. "And then I will take Nakarnakal's head."
"The women must gather the sleeping powder from the Valley of Sethyn. Meanwhile I will go to Akunadesh to study the ways of the merchants."
"Good," said Photaz. "And you may take Jhuron with you if you need the company."
Kirus assented. Then Rulfas spoke up, "If you will have me, I too wish to go with you to Akunadesh. I already know the ways of cities and you will find my assistance valuable."
Akunadesh was one of the last cities of Malesh to fall to the might of Mekkara. Her lord Dazmurion was a mighty warrior and bravely led his army against the hordes of Nakarnakal, but to no avail. The army of Mekkara forced Dazmurion into the gorge of the Yakhalet. Then, from the other end emerged the creature Dzabmeshtoz (called Jahmeshtos), whom Nakarnakal's cohort Tembelit had coerced into service. Dazmurion was crushed.
This same creature Jahmeshtos still guarded the gorge, harrassing travellers from the Prulam who wished to reach the coast. Luckily, Kirus and his companions came across the village of Plar and were warned of the monster guarding the way ahead.
[ The remainder of this portion of the text is lost. However, it can be deduced that the following events occur next, by piecing together clues from various other legends about Surik:
- Surik fights and defeats Jahmeshtos
- Tembelit (who is in Akunadesh), hearing of Jahmeshtos' demise, learns of Kirus' presence in Akunadesh and sets spies on his trail
- Kirus meets a merchant (Tembelit's spy) who claims to be bringing wine to Rom-Gabon; satisfied with the details, Kirus leaves Akunadesh. Meanwhile the merchant reports to Tembelit, who sends a messenger to Nakarnakal in Rom-Gabon.
- Kirus, Rulfas, and Jhuron return to Valom-valam and plot stage two of the plan. Fine men are split into the various groups and then set out to intercept the caravan.
- In Rom-Gabon, the army feigns sleep (not having drunk the Akunadesh supply). When Kirus' forces emerge from hiding, they are surrounded and bitterly defeated.
- The mission to kill Nakarnakal fails. Jhuron and Rulfas are slain. Surik returns to Zimshuron's camp, which spurns him. Surik gains the enmity of the Prulami and leaves in disgrace.