Okay, we go on with Chapter Two of Fourth Day. Remember, if you don’t know what’s been going on here, you can simply CLICK HERE to catch up.
The Earth-Giant prince Ashket was now a king…of sorts. He had been relegated in respect because he had lost standing to the way he had lost face at the hand of the Long-Shadow king, so now all he had was to bring slaves to the allies of the kingdom. He had spent a long number of years perfecting his approach to getting more slaves and out-witting the ‘tribe who had ridiculed his efforts.’ But quite recently, there had been another house that sought power and he knew them. They were the House of Tin’has, and they had made light of his loss so many times, he dared them.
“Defeat them and I will give you my throne and my kingdoms, leaving nothing for my children.”
This challenge went down a little too easily and the whole royal house became unnerved and questioned his sanity and his wisdom.
He dismissed his inner-council, and sat alone on throne room.
“Sparing my life back then guaranteed my throne in this future. I have fast been expecting a palace coup. They’ve been gathering strength for it.”
The Stranger revealed himself from the shadows.
“Are they better prepared than you were?” he asked Ashket.
“Yes. And less humble.”
He turned wizened old eyes to the Stranger and said, “This is my wish. Have none of them return. Not one. In your arts, the Long Shadows ‘recruit’ do they not?”
The Stranger looked back with understanding, “You wish such a terrible fate on them?”
“They wish a worse one on you and your people.”
“Do you hate us?”
“I was the aggressor and I bore the weight of my failure to respect my opponents. They won’t make that mistake. Also they bear more than Sand-sprites with them. They have kept it secret from me and your people will have to think on their feet.”
The Stranger smiled an old smile, “You never asked how I returned you to your home.”
“I know what you do, Shadow-Runner. I know. ‘What’ is not the mystery; it is the ‘how’.”
“It will always remain a mystery.”
“Do you know what marks the greatest mysteries? That they’re not known. Like the mystery of God. Men fear men; we fear things they don’t see. At least, I do. What do you fear?”
The Stranger looked at Ashket with even eyes.
“You know they have discovered the secret of the Long-Shadows. They’ve known since you were returned; since you told them.”
Ashket’s eyes began to haze over. The Stranger snapped his fingers rudely then spoke to him in a reassuring voice.
“I’d have done the same, Ashket. I would have done the same.”
Ashket visibly relaxed and the Stranger answered his question unasked.
“I fear your ‘rivals’ will find that Long-Shadows are not soldier-slaves or the typical undead. When we bury our royalty, they are never buried alone…unprotected in death.”
The Tin’has teams dedicated to sabotaging the Long-Shadows were not of the same variety of Earth Giants like Ashket. An Earth Giant isn’t just one who moves mountains into armies of men. Rather they give ‘false life’ with the advantage of a single thought driving all their ‘animated forms’. They came into the crypt of the Long Shadows, in formless shapes, looking more like ideas God had discarded mid-creation than anything life-like.
They lolled their way to the bodies suspended by heavy chains.
“Undead servants, we bring you release from your bondage.” one of them garbled through a hastily formed mouth.
Then a whisper, an angry whisper, joined by a multitude of whispers, rose from the very walls of the crypt. There seemed to be a confused noise of clashing ideas, only for the horror to catch up with them, like a delayed thought. All the whispers said the same thing.
“Who threatens the King’s service? Speak your name, then die…and become a retainer amongst us.”
A fire, purple and vivid, illuminated the crypt, revealing a retuine of Long-Shadows. They were the guards, not just of the crypt, but of the entire Half-Moon chamber. Unlike the Long-Shadows presently at battle, they had no desire for conversation.
The Tin’has blobs each quickly became 11 leopards and leapt at the guards, only to be decimated in an instant from a distance. The pieces fell only to reform and become Lions. They were decimated like before.
This trial-and-error approach continued for 30 transformations. The forms of creatures that one hoped to see and hoped never to see were taken and decimated.
The head of the Long-Shadow guard said in a low-hollow voice,”They hope to distract us long enough for their assassins to suceed. Their assassins will discover we don’t protect our King and his captains from them. We protect them from our King.”
7 clay blobs that had been disguised as broken earth suddenly leapt up around all the suspended corpses and grabbed at them. The fire that grew on them seemed to consume not the blobs, but the source of life behind them.
The Tin’has looked in horror as the blobs began to cake, then turn to dust before their very eyes.
The corpses then raised their heads to look at the Tin’has.
The Long-Shadow King’s corpse looked at them through eyes that had valiantly held of death for more than 4 centuries.
“You know of us only in part. For this insult, you will know of us full.”