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PostPosted: Mon Nov 09, 2015 2:22 am 

Joined: Sep 22, 2013
Posts: 888
The Pilgrim and the Pharaoh
by Aaarrrgh
Status: Public :diamond:

The two men looked each other in the eyes, which was an unusual experience for both of them. Tey’von rarely met humans his height, and Kahr-ret-Taris rarely met anyone who dared meet his gaze. It wasn’t often the god-king of Skavlakur granted private audiences with strangers, but there was certainly something about Tey’von that had made him curious. He regarded his visitor coolly, waiting as long as possible to start their conversation to see if the other would break and speak first, despite the fact that it was an offence which could easily get him thrown in prison or even executed, depending on the pharaoh’s mood. Tey’von simply stood his ground, his head slightly bowed in respect, but still looking straight at Kahr. Then, finally, the silence was broken.

“I hope you realize that your presence in my private chambers is purely a grace on my part, and that we could be having this conversation in the dungeons if I had so chosen?”

Tey’von bowed his head slightly deeper before responding. “Of course, your majesty. In fact, I have sought out the gods of many different lands, and you are the first to meet me face to face. I must admit that it is a great honor.”

Kahr-ret-Taris couldn’t help but smile slightly. Clearly, this guest would not be easily shaken. “Yes, I understand you have traveled… far. But your audience was recommended by Nehr-ret-Khorus, who has been a great supporter to my cause, as well as a capable leader of his community. You gained his trust and respect, which means you deserve at least this courtesy.” Nehr-ret-Khorus was a minor noble who had been one of the first to join Kahr’s campaign against the ret-Surris pretender kings. And as his village was home to several of the best bronze smiths in Skavlakur, his support had armed most of Kahr’s army.

Tey’von didn’t know any of those details; instead he was focused on the meaningful pause the pharaoh had put in his sentence. He decided to sidestep it for the moment, although he felt certain that he could not avoid it forever. “Yes, there had been an accident in the reconstruction of the village. Several men were badly injured, and I managed to help their recovery. It was good that I arrived when I did. One of the men had suffered a severe head injury, which I fortunately knew how to treat. Otherwise, he might never have woken up.”

“You are healer, then?” Kahr felt like they were both stalling, waiting for the other to make a move. He decided it was time to go on the offence. “Is that why you have come to Skavlakur?”

Tey’von hesitated slightly. He didn’t like to lie, so he had become quite proficient with technical truths. “I am a healer, but that is not my primary purpose. I am a pilgrim, traveling from land to land seeking wisdom and truth. Healing is merely how I pay my keep on travels. Not to mention the fact that it is an honor for me to help the weak and innocent.”

“I am sure that your presence is an honor to Skavlakur, and that your homeland must miss you in this time. Which reminds me, I do not know where you are from.” As Tey’von was hesitating again, Kahr-ret-Taris simply pushed on without waiting for an answer. “You see, I have seen all the lands of Arbagoth, and none of them contain any vedalken, as far as I know.”

Tey’von’s eyes widened slightly, and he considered his options. Suddenly something about what the god-king had said rose to the surface of his mind. “You say my kind does not live in your world, and still you know what to call me?”

“Is that not something a god should know?”

“It is also something a planewalker might know.”

Now they were getting somewhere. Kahr felt pleased. “Planeswalker? That is not a word most people are familiar with. In fact, the only ones I have met who used that word were planeswalkers themselves.”

At this point, Tey’von felt certain that the only way to move forward was to win the pharaoh’s respect, and the only way to do that seemed to be to stand up to him. “If you are implying that you believe that I am a planeswalker, I can tell you that you are right. And I believe you are one as well.”

Kahr-ret-Taris stepped closer, looking the vedalken straight in the eyes. “You do realize that denying my divinity is an offence punishable by death?”

“Yes, but I’m certain that you could have found any number of excuses to execute me anyway if you wanted to. Not to mention the fact that we both know that your dungeons couldn’t hold me. Of course, I think you could probably hunt me down, but that would just prove my previous assumption correct.”

Kahr felt slightly conflicted. He was impressed by his visitor’s courage, but he still couldn’t trust him until he knew the purpose of his presence in Skavlakur. “Well, no matter what I am, you still have not actually explained why you are here.”

“I told you, I seek wisdom and truth. I travel the planes seeking the ultimate truth. I belong to an order devoted to find the force or entity most worthy of worship, trying to find the truest God in the multiverse. That is why I came to you.”

The pharaoh shook his head. “But you clearly have decided that I am not your answer, so what will you do now?”

This was the moment of truth. Both men knew that whatever Tey’von said next could change everything.

“I would like to find out how you rule this land. Even if you are not the God I have searched for, you are still a god to your people, and my church believes that we can learn about aspects of the true faith by observing lesser faiths.”

“And what if you do not like the way I rule my people? If you reach the conclusion that I am not a good god for them? What would you do then?”

Tey’von felt quite insecure. In all the religions he had dealt with, he had never had a conversation like this with the actual object of the faith. And even knowing that Kahr-ret-Taris was mortal and not a true god, his presence was intimidating. “I do not know what I would do. I would not start a rebellion, if that is what you think. One of the things I believe about the true faith is that aggression is not part of it. I would never start a war. However, if it seemed necessary, I would tell the people what I know. Then it would be up to them. All I know is this: mortals posing as gods can lead to much suffering.”

Suddenly, Kahr broke out in a short, bitter laugh. Tey’von was startled. He didn’t know how he had expected the pharaoh to react to his speech, but this was not it. As he looked on in confusion, Kahr stepped up to a window and gestured for the vedalken to join him. After they both spent a minute watching the city outside in silence, Kahr spoke. “Do you see the state of my kingdom?”

Tey’von nodded. Like the villages he had passed through on his way here, the capital was halfway between ruins and reconstruction. Unlike the villages, which were constructed almost entirely of wood, the stone buildings of the capital were mostly still standing, although they were heavily stained by soot. Even the palace they were standing in looked strangely twisted due to the fact that many of the bronze ornaments along the walls had partially melted and now sagged sadly, monuments of glory turned into monuments of disaster.

As Tey’von could not find words to describe the sorrow he felt, Kahr simply continued. “This is my daily reminder of what can happen when mortals play gods for their own purposes. There were two planeswalkers who spent much too much time thinking of themselves as gods, and not enough time thinking of anyone else as anything at all. They felt threatened by a single person on Arbagoth, and decided to burn the entire plane to get rid of her. Skavlakur’s population was cut in half that day because those people believed that their claim to divinity was worth more than thousands of lives. I have never asked for a life to be ended unless it either volunteered or threatened me. And I assure you, I never will. But despite all that those two did, the last time I met your kind they believed that the ones who destroyed my home were actual gods. I would rather die than see myself turned into…” After a moment of silence, he simply nodded out toward the destruction. “…that.”

Tey’von shook his head sadly. “I am sorry. I did not know. No one had been able to tell me how the destruction of your land had happened. I did not mean to accuse you. I can see we are both agreed that this is not how things should be. As I said, I do not believe that the true faith has room for aggression. This is clearly wrong.”

“The true faith? You truly believe that there is some god out there greater than I? Some force that goes beyond all of us, and that would not approve of this destruction? Then why did it happen? Why did I have to go out there and stop it, instead of this greater god of yours?”

“That is a good question, and one that my church has discussed for a long time. We haven’t been able to agree on an answer, but I can try to explain what I think. It would be easier if I can illustrate it from your experience. Tell me, who taught you how to lead?”

Kahr was confused, but decided to humor his visitor. “My father, who was king before me. He showed me the way to rule as god and king. He was the greatest man I have ever known.”

“He does sound like a good man. Say, in your youth, did your father solve all of your problems for you? Did he remove every obstacle in your way?”

“Of course not! I told you, he taught me how to rule! How could I learn to follow in his footsteps unless I learned to fight my own battles?”

Tey’von decided that he had already overstepped so many barriers that one more wouldn’t make a difference. He put a hand on the pharaoh’s shoulder. “So you are saying that he let you go through struggles and trials in the hope that you would come through them being more like him? Even though it meant you could have made the wrong choices?”

Kahr stared at Tey’von for a moment. “I guess I see what you mean. But even so, I do not think I can believe in your true god.”

“I would not expect you to. After all, even I do not truly know what it is I am believing in, and I have studied it for years. Now, the only question I still have for you is this: what do you believe?”

Now Kahr hesitated for the first time. But after a few moments, he nodded. “I believe that I can help my people through this time of struggle. And I believe that in doing so, I would have made my father proud.”

Tey’von nodded, and extended a hand. “In that case, I believe that I have heard everything I needed to know here. As far as I can see, you are not a bad god, and you are most certainly a good king. Your people are in good hands.”

Kahr smiled, and took Tey’von’s hand. When they released their grip on each other, Tey’von stepped back, and vanished in front of the pharaoh’s eyes.

Kahr stood there pondering for a moment, and then turned back to the window. The sun was already setting, and he would not have much light left. He went over to his desk to look over his plans. They needed to get started on the rebuilding of the business district the next day, and he wanted to lay the first stone.

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