The Tuluki Conspiracy: The Sound of Treason (#1) by Starhand Amos

Started by Adhira, April 14, 2016, 10:41:13 PM

Author's Introduction

Welcome to the first of the Tuluki Conspiracy stories, is a series designed to breathe life into the events of recent Tuluki history. While each of these stories is based on historical IC fact and much of what occurred is true, there are also embellishments, elaborations, and some parts which never definitively happened at all. I hope this work of fiction ensnares your interest in all the myriad of possibilities that were or could be in His Ivory. Enjoy!
"It doesn't matter what country someone's from, or what they look like, or the color of their skin. It doesn't matter what they smell like, or that they spell words slightly differently, some would say more correctly." - Jemaine Clement. FOTC.

The Sound of Treason

They walked quietly, but not covertly, through the night, with no black cloaks nor dark armor to conceal them. Eyes might manage to pick out dark cloaks, tongues would wag about lurkers in the shadows... But when it came to the sunburst-marked soldiers in the middle of the night, the city was blind and mute. What the Sun King's soldiers did this late wasn't something one wanted to even think about, never mind talk about. And so it was that the red and white clad soldiers of His Ivory were unhampered as they made their way to the Qynar known as New Poets' Circle.

Poets' Circle was home to the bardic Circles, the keepers of culture in the Ivory city. The upper ranks of bards were the greatest and most respected of all the city's commoners, unmatched in their artistic talent, unparalleled in their loyalty and devotion to Tuluk. During the day, Poets' Circle was a colorful, lively place. Bards could be found singing, joking, participating in whirling dances and loud recitations of play's scenes. All of the vibrant energy served to enforce the lively colors of the buildings, beautiful statues, and works of art.

At this time of night, the Poet's Circle was dark, and the streets silent, save for the steps of the soldiers. They made their way to one of the six buildings that dotted the Qynar, one painted a bright shade of orange, and stepped into the courtyard. The only occupant there was a lone woman on a stool, the three overlapping orange triangles tattooed on her cheek marking her a bard. A spear rested up against the wall not far away, and a table was set up, cards splayed across it. When the soldiers came in she glanced up, appraising them while easing to her feet. Not a single soldier in the group was above the rank of Private.

One stepped forward, a man with short cropped hair and thin lips. "We are here to collect the Masterbard."

The bard pressed her lips together a moment, considering them. "I'll let the Masterbard know that you're here," she said, after a long pause.

"Let me fix your misunderstanding," the Private said, gaze steady on her. "We will be collecting the Masterbard."

When they went to enter the building, she didn't move to stop them.

The soldiers stalked down the hall, passing open doorways. On the left, the hall turned, leading to lesson rooms, where all manner of instruments could be found. On the right, a branch went to the rooms of the full Bards, a rank that took years to achieve—many Elkinhyms never had the dedication to excel so far. But the soldiers ignored the turn offs, pressing deeper into the building. Thicker doors lined the walls now, boasting lavish decoration; scenes of intense comedy carved into the wood. These were the rooms of the Masterbards themselves, individuals who were legends in the city, the epitome of their art. The Privates walked down the hall, stopping before a particular door.

They did not knock. A short and squat dwarven soldier shouldered into the door, splintering it apart with a mighty crash! He pushed through the fragments of the broken door's carvings, the other soldiers following after him, their footfalls heavy.

"What?" Alarmed and half asleep, Masterbard Janosh Elkinhym sat up straight in bed. He had only time to say that single word, before the soldiers rushed him, forcing a burlap bag down over his head. They wrenched him up, the largest tossing him over a shoulder.

Bounces and hard shifts were the entirety of Janosh's awareness from that point on, save for the drum of his beating heart, far louder than the steps of the soldiers. Darkness blocked his vision and fears troubled his mind. He focused on his breath, made harder by the sack over his head. It seemed an eternity they walked, the shifts and jolts sometimes feeling that they walked the same path, again and again. Wouldn't that be amusing? If they came in the night just to walk me in a few circles, before dumping me back. But that would not be the case, he knew. No, not at all.

He was suddenly dumped down on his rear, hard. The soldiers ripped the bag from his head, and he blinked against the sudden onslaught of light. By the time his vision cleared, the soldiers had already hastily retreated. As the Janosh collected his bearings, he could see why.

The room could have been anywhere; the walls were smooth, white stone. Here and there, deep rakings marred them, spread apart the width of a human hand with curled fingers. But no blood or stains marked it. The white stone was unerringly pristine. But the room was not why the soldiers had been so keen to leave. No, it was because across from the chair he had been dumped in, over the expanse of table, sat a woman: A Faithful Lady.

Of both of the Sun King's Faithful orders, Jihaen and Lirathan, Janosh would rather deal with the former. Jihaens were warriors. Harsh, muscular, familiar with the ways of war. They knew more ways to kill a man then Janosh knew jokes, and that was saying something. But Jihaens would only kill you. Lirathans... That was another thing entirely. Nobody spoke of what they did. Nobody thinks about it, either... I wonder, if I charged a 'sid for my thoughts, how rich a man I would be? The humor helped keep the fear at bay, pushing back against its gnawing, persistent rise.

The Faithful Lady's cape draped around her with clean, austere lines, the white silk glimmering in the light. Fastened at the shoulder, a brooch of pure silver clasped it, the metal shining mirror-like. Fabric strips of different colors extended from it, mimicking the twisting rats of the sun. It was the cloak of a Faithful Inquisitor. And you thought the normal ones were scary... Like being scared of a tregil and discovering you're in a room with a rantarri.

The Inquisitor's face was composed of harsh, unyielding angles. No trace of humor in her bearing or form, no trace of kindness. She looked him over, gaze cold and assessing. It moved over his loose night shirt, his disheveled hair. It seemed to pass right through him, seeing more than it should. Seeing more than anyone should.

Janosh tried not to squirm, while she sat as still as a statue, gaze boring into him. They both knew why he was here. When the balance of power had so drastically shifted, when the new High Precentor, a Lirathan, had been named... Masterbard Janosh had been given the task of coordinating the bardic songs for the event.

"Tell me, Masterbard, what were the directions you were given?" She asked, one delicate brow arching in question.

"The bards performing were to compose triumphant songs of our victory in Tyn Dashra," Janosh told her, voice soft.

"And two of the performing bards did just that. The Driamusek. The Irofel. Both mere Seekers, and they performed as was their duty. Do you know who did not?"

He cleared his throat. "Faithful Inquisitor—" He began.

She pressed on, tone clipped and ruthless. "The Elkinhym did not. The Elkinhym who was ranked as a full Bard. An individual supposed to be completely trusted by the Circle. By your Circle."

Janosh cleared his throat. "She has been punished accordingly. It was not intentional on her part."

The Inquisitor leaned forwards slowly. "It is not her that I have an interest in. Shall we discuss your Circle, Masterbard?"

Sweat beaded on Janosh's brow. No, it wouldn't be her they had an interest in. If they had wanted her to be punished further, she'd already be dead. Vanished and never heard from again...

The Inquisitor needed no reply, nor expected one. "Elkinhym Circle. The Circle the southern spy picked as her own, the very Circle she used to set up her network through, to curry her influence. At the event we picked an Elkinhym Masterbard—you—to coordinate, we executed one of her compatriots. It is very convenient, is it not, that at this very execution a Bard of your Circle decided to play a song of mourning, instead of a devotion to our triumph in Tyn Dashra?"

Janosh's mouth was dry, and the room felt unusually warm.

"Yeeees," she told him, drawing out the word with slow precision. "You remember what happened to her other connections, her other traitorous sympathizers in the Ivory. You know the fate of the noble Hlum."

Merchant's Road, a large throughway of the city. Cutting past the busy clutter of the commons, it allowed the largest of wagons passage clean through Tuluk. Normally, the crowds thronged along it, bustling to and fro. Today, the sun beat down on a large crowd halted before a pair of magnificent gates of carved bone. Closed and locked, behind them rose a massive estate, the home of the Hlum nobility.

The crowd shuffled quietly outside of the gates, hanging back from the soldiers that stood there. There were only a few hushed murmurs as they watched. Near the soldiers stood Faithful, the most distinguished an Illuminated Faithful Lady, marked by the pure, unblemished white of her robes. She was young, her rosy, chubby cheeks and bright brown eyes nearly friendly. Were it not for the robes of her rank, she might almost seem approachable. But her friendly features seemed off somehow, her amiable smile jarringly out of place in the thick, heavy tension that hung over the crowd.

She stepped forward slowly, one foot and then the other. The last of the murmurs hushed, all eyes on her. She looked over the throng of people and began to speak. "The Grey Hunt is one of the Ivory's oldest and proudest traditions. Commoners compete to prove their worthiness to be raised far beyond their birth, chosen by the Sun King Himself to walk forever more as Hlum noble."

The crowds stayed sill, eerily still, for such a large throng. Save the shifting of weight and surreptitious glances at the gates, they barely moved as they were addressed.

"The Hlum's loyalty to His City is above question, above all doubt. They are the exemplars to all other commoners. But who has such potential? Who can rise so far?" She looked slowly over the crowds, with a gentle smile. "Almost any of you could become a Hlum by completing the Grey Hunt. And the latest competitor has fallen in battle... Leaving a vacancy."

The Illuminated Lady arched a brow. "Do any of you gathered here feel that you are worthy enough to be elevated, to walk forever more as noble Hlum?"

Dead silence. Utter silence. Nobody spoke, and it felt like nobody even breathed. The tension, ever present, seemed almost palpable.

The Illuminated Lady gave a thin smile, so out of place on her chubby, jovial face. "No one?  Really?  I caution you, you won't be elevated right here and now, but there will be consideration later, in private."

The crowd shifted, murmuring quietly. Nobody spoke up, until finally, a man stepped forwards. Adorning his form was the tabard of the city, the tabard of a soldier. "I serve His City without question, Faithful Lady. I would take up the cause of the position if so deemed fit."

In the crowds, off to the side, far out ranked by his illustrious Faithful Sisters, the sole Jihaen winced, fractionally. The soldier did not seem to notice, as the Illuminated Lady nodded to him.

"Good," she said, with a gesture. "Stand here by me."

"Do you pick a Consort from those gathered here?" She asked the soldier, gaze returning to scan the crowd. It was a simple, straightforward question. A dagger pointed at one's heart would have been less dangerous.

"None that are gathered here, Faithful Lady," the soldier told her.

"Very well," she told him, in a soft aside, before raising her voice to address the crowds. "This member of the Legions does his duty with great honor, and seeks to assist where he may.  That is what His Faithful ask of all, to do what they must for His City."

Her tone turned darker, all humanity draining from her gaze. "Sadly, the Hlum have fallen from their position of trust, their position His City. They have collaborated against his Ivory, their sabotage nothing less than treason against His Ivory's soldiers, Faithful, and you, His citizens!"

Her thin auburn brows arched finely. "Is any commoner really worth such an honor, to be Chosen, even if as Hlum?" She didn't wait but a moment, before answering herself. "No.  They are not."

Softly, she turned aside to the soldier who had so recently volunteered for such an honor, giving him a full smile. "Do you have a torch?"

The soldier was still blinking from the sudden turn of events, but he nodded, reaching to his pack.

She gave a delicate nod toward the gates. "Set the estate of these traitors aflame, that the Light may be a beacon to all that dwell in His City!"

The soldier lit the torch, turning to the gates as others moved take barrels of oil, splashing them across the wood. "By your command, Faithful Lady."

He marched to the gates, holding the torch there. With a great woooosh, the wood caught, flames eagerly spreading across the oil, hungrily and mercilessly devouring.

The soldier looked on, but there was no regret on his face, he who had so recently volunteered for such an honor as those he burned. "His Radiance shines!" He cried out.

The blaze roared and crackled, growing and expanding. Janosh could feel the heat of them from his proximity in the crowd. In a devouring rage, the brilliant flames went to work, destroying the noble's estate... An estate that wasn't empty.

"Help! Light above, someone help us!" They pounded on the other side of the gates, shaking them desperately. For a disconcerting moment, Janosh felt his own hands on the gate's wood, the eminent threat of the fire behind him, the thick, overwhelming fear consuming him—And then he was in the crowds again, a helpless watcher.

"Please!" A voice on the other side begged. "We're not traitors! We knew nothing of this!"

"I've devoted my life to the City!" Another cried out. "I was Chosen by the Sun King! He is not wrong. Stop this folly! Please!"

The begging, desperate yelling soon turned to screams as the flames spread. "Daddy!" Shrieked the voice of a child, her last comprehensible words. After that everything was merely pure, raw agony lent voice, as they all burned alive.

The Illuminated Lady stood off to the side, the white of her robes lit by the yellow of the fire, the flames burning dance reflected in her eyes. She watched, hands clasped serenely, a smile curving her lips.

Janosh was snapped back to the present, gasping for air. His entire form trembled as he struggled to collect himself. It took him a few moments to realize that he had never been there, never seen the gates burn—It was no memory from anything he had ever witnessed.

He had only seen the results of what had happened, the empty place where the Hlum's estate had once stood, the pile of ash and burned timber. Those who had been there seemed even not to remember, as if it had never occurred at all. Nobody spoke of what occurred; to even whisper the word Hlum was high treason. For all intents and purposes, they had never existed at all.

Janosh glanced across the table to find the Inquisitor's face holding a soft smile. "I trust we will find Elkinhym to still be loyal... I am sure your Circle will find a way to allay our concerns."

Janosh swallowed, still trying to mentally collect himself. "I'm certain, Faithful Inquisitor," he whispered.

She flicked a few fingers, jewels on them catching the light. "Pray we don't have cause to meet again, Janosh Elkinhym. I will not be so pleasant if we do."

The soldiers entered the room on some unspoken signal, shoving a bag once more over the Masterbard's head, tossing him over a shoulder. It was a few twists and turns before he was tossed to the ground. His heart lurched. But he heard only footsteps retreating, and after a moment or so, he pulled the bag off his head to find himself alone in the street outside the City's Heart and its foreboding gates. Alone and dressed only in his nightgown.

"It doesn't matter what country someone's from, or what they look like, or the color of their skin. It doesn't matter what they smell like, or that they spell words slightly differently, some would say more correctly." - Jemaine Clement. FOTC.


Janosh sucked in and expelled a shuddering breath, before making the long walk back to the Circle. He donned a smile for the trip, joking and strolling as he usually did. In fact, his disheveled state and attire was taken for many to be just some sort of strange new Elkinhym prank. To all observers, he was a carefree Elkinhym Masterbard, mind filled only with pranks and laughter. On the inside was another matter entirely. One did not get to be a Masterbard without a sharp mind, regardless of Circle. Even if he would rather be telling jokes.

He meandered his way directly to Elkinhym's courtyard. Daylight now, it was filled with the laughter of bards. One Bard sat on a stool outside, a spear leaned near her. Thick, heavy bags lay under her eyes, as if she hadn't slept a wink all night. She straightened when she saw him, utterly relieved. He tipped her a nod, offering a brief smile as he continued on his way.

He stopped to change into something more appropriate, silk of orange and bright colors, before going directly to the meeting room. It was there that Bandiweg Elkinhym, the Elkinhym Circle Leader himself, was waiting.

"What did the door say to its neighbor?" Bandiweg asked him by way of greeting.

"What?" Janosh asked, taking a seat at the table across from him.

"You're wall I've got."

Janosh chuckled under his breath, and focused his will to set about trying to raise a barrier about his mind. Some people described it as building a wall, brick by brick. He imagined it as more a figure pressing against an invisible barrier, unseen, but there. He had always liked mimes.

"What did the Way stalker say to its victim?" Janosh asked.

"Hmmm?" Bandiweg asked.

"Why do you keep putting these barriers between us!"

Bandiweg guffawed.

Jokes out of the way, the pair set to business. "So they came for you in the night," Bandiweg said.

"After three weeks of making me waiting in suspense," Janosh muttered.

"And who says that the Faithful don't have a sense for the dramatic?" Bandiweg said. "So. Tell me how it went."

Janosh related in painstaking detail what had occurred, with appropriate interjections of humor. It might not seem appropriate to the rest of the Ivory, but when an Elkinhym was forced to discuss serious matters, they took revenge by involving as many jokes as possible. At least when around each other—The Faithful wouldn't have had the same appreciation of the tradition. Asides from the occasional humorous interjection to break the tension, Bandiweg listened without comment to the unfolding tale.

"The burning of the estate was never about the two Hlum traitors," Bandiweg commented, when Janosh had finished.

"No?" Janosh asked. "The last Hlum title murdered the previous High Precentor. His Consort..." Janosh trailed off, unsure how to quantify the massive amount of strange things that had happened. "...Killed the tree that sprouted where Isar himself fell," he finally settled on. Bandiweg would understand the rest.

"It can't be denied that was a part of it," Bandiweg said. "What happened was... Complicated. But the crux of it is the Hlum reached too high. They outdid themselves. They were on the verge of becoming a voice in the Triumvirate, having tangible political power in the realm of the Highborn... But our case is entirely different."

"She wants to make use of us," Bandiweg continued. "The populace is restless with the changes. Elkinhym is popular—Unlike the Driamusek with sticks up their asses, we appeal to the common people. The threat she presented can't be dismissed... But it isn't eminent."

"Do you know why Driamusek have sticks up their asses?" Janosh asked.


"Because they thought they were poor bards, but someone told them to stick with it!" Janosh snickered.

Bandiweg allowed himself a snicker as well, before they turned their attention back to business. "We're safe for now. If the Faithful had really been too terribly serious, they would have summoned me... Or we would have had no warning at all."

Janosh shifted uncomfortably, before focusing himself. "Well," he said. "We can do what needs to be done. The Faithful don't want people dwelling on what happened at Tyn Dashra. We can have our Bards distract with jokes and good humor. We can focus on the hilarity of the bumbling failure or capitalize on the bumbling failure of 'Nakki efforts in the battle, drawing the attention off the rest of it entirely. I think we'll avoid too large of events, focusing more on smaller but more frequent performances..." Janosh said, glancing at Bandiweg. "Anything else might draw too much attention."

"Yes," Bandiwig said, dryly. "A Driamusek might actually smile, to learn of such an advantage."

Janosh smirked. "I think that may well break their face if they tried that."

Bandiweg tapped a couple of fingers on the table, thoughtfully. "A donation to the Faithful might not be remiss, either. Hmm... Irofel will be focusing on making sure the correct version of history is remembered. See if you can include them in some of our efforts, get our people involved with some of their efforts. It will expand our reach, and we can take credit for everything with the Faithful."

The pair of Elkinhyms chatted awhile longer, before going on their way, assuming much more carefree attitudes, losing themselves in the jokes and silliness of their Circle, concerns and plots all neatly concealed beneath laughs and smiles.
"It doesn't matter what country someone's from, or what they look like, or the color of their skin. It doesn't matter what they smell like, or that they spell words slightly differently, some would say more correctly." - Jemaine Clement. FOTC.


An hour later, a figure peeled himself from the shadows of the now-empty room, before slipping through the door, carefully picking his way out of the Elkinhym building. Silent and unheard, he slipped out past the bards, into Poet's Circle proper. There it was even easier to blend in, as he used the crowds to his advantage, slowly making his way to the proud, staunch Driamusek building. From there it was merely a matter of getting to the right room and slipping inside.

A woman sat on the couch, face comprised of fine angles, skin the pale ivory tone of someone who had never suffered exposure to nor labor under Suk-Krath. Her black tresses cascaded in waves about her face, well-kempt in the way that only those with enough coin to spend water on frivolous things like cleanliness. Everything about her bespoke a careful attention to presentation, to maintenance, grooming and shaping herself to be nothing less than perfect in every outward expression and gesture. Bard Pavallia Driamusek had been waiting for his arrival for some time, but for all that she was impeccably seated, her posture perfect, as she sat.

"Bard Gallion," she said, formally, as her eyes keenly appraised him. "I trust everything went smoothly?"

"Quite," he assured her, sweeping off his hood and unwinding his facewrap. He was no less carefully maintained then she was. Every facet was designed to captivate, from the seemingly-careless tousle of his auburn locks, to the way he regarded people with his golden-brown eyes, to his disarming smile. He moved to a seat beside her, letting his slender-fingered hand rest over her own more delicate one where it rested on the couch. "And may I say that while those frivolous Elkinhyms think we possess not a shred of humor, I find the situation delightfully hilarious."

"A dangerous sentiment," Pavallia told him. She let her hand stay under his, without any comment.

"Tsk," Gallion responded, carelessly. "The irony is just delicious. Elkinhym, whose claim to fame is that a member once impersonated a Fale noble for a year, is infiltrated by a southern spy who becomes a Hlum consort. They're the victim of their own joke. How utterly ridiculous, that they didn't have any idea of the traitor in their midst!"

"For a brilliant shadow artist, you are sharply lacking in some areas," she said, eying him with a cool gaze. "Reasons abound why we don't breathe a word of such happenings. You should know better."

"Tsk," he chided her. "You always maintain such a serious outlook. But very well, shall we to business?" Gallion didn't wait for her to respond—They both knew the answer. "Elkinhym has been taken to task by the Faithful. Their position is precarious, despite their efforts to put a happy face on it."

"Whereas our position is better," she told him. She slid her hand out from her his on the couch, slowly sliding her arm about his waist. "Do you think the other Circles have even guessed at out grand success?"

He scoffed, even as he slid his arm along the back of the couch, resting his hand on the curve of her far shoulder. "I doubt it even crossed their minds. When something is presented to them, they choose to accept it without a moment's contemplation. They think 'How will the Hlum's fall affect me?' never bothering to consider how it occurred."

"Yet even so," she said. "One would presume that someone in the Circles would dwell upon it at least long enough to come to certain realizations. Primarily that the chance of all the Hlum and their families being present and accounted for all at the same time, even in the Estate, was near infinitesimal."

"Even if they bothered to consider it, I doubt they would attribute it to us. Perhaps they would merely assume it mystery of the Faithful," Gallion said, dismissively. "All of which shows their lack of connections." His fingers moved to toy with her a block lock hair, shifting to subtly caress the soft curve of her ear. "Or they would have known how we lured them all in. The whisper of a special event, none would want to miss... Spun in such a way that not a breath would escape to the other Houses."

"Mmm," Pavallia said, starting to slowly stroke along his side with her head, tilting her head fractionally to give his stroking fingers better access to her ear. "And as a result, we have further influence with His Faithful, while Elkinhym's influence only wanes..."

"Yes, while ours only increases, and with it the possibilities," Gallion said, leaning in to brush his lips against the curve of her neck.

"I would say there are some things certainly increasing," Pavallia said, sliding her hand around to let it rest on his thigh. "Tell me, how are things going with your Irofel lover?"

"Very well," Gallion told her, between deepening kisses against her neck, tracing a line slowly downwards. "We should be able to use it to our advantage. Elkinhym seeks to approach Irofel for joint events. However, I can use her to instead have Driamusek do joint events, undercutting Elkinhym's efforts."

"Well... Shouldn't you be going to speak with her, then?" Pavallia arched a brow, voice only a touch breathy.

"A Driamusek is nothing if not properly trained in etiquette. It would be rude to leave things unfinished..."

It was at least an hour later before Gallion left Pavallia, and when he emerged he was perfectly maintained. One would scarce guess that anything had occurred, were it not for the slight, smug little quirk of his lips. He had even been so diligent as to mask her lingering perfume under his own. Adjusting his expression, he casually strolled out of the Driamusek building, making his way to visit a particular Irofel lover of his, Bard Eeya Irofel. It was another hour before they had finished their intimacies together and he slipped away, content with his work.

Heading the opposite direction, Bard Eeya Irofel returned to her Circle's building. She stopped off at the kitchens, before heading to her room—And bumped into another Irofel Bard, Irenia, in the hallway.

Irenia took one look over Eeya, up and down. "Your Driamusek must have come to you again, hmm? I swear, you're positively glowing!"

"Oh, yes, he came to visit," Eeya said, with a satisfied little smile, before running. She pushed open the door to her room and gestured for Irenia to come inside.

The room was comfortably sized. One wall was dedicated to a shelf of nick-knacks that Eeya had found on her travels or collected. A halfling skull, a bit of kank shell, little carved statues found in the rubble of Mal Karan, and more besides. A wardrobe held a plethora of clothes, most lovely examples of loose and billowy Tuluki fashions, but some from exotic and obscure places, from the disturbingly tight-fitting fashions of Allanak to the drab and utilitarian pieces from Storm. Eeya's bed was neatly made in the corner, and a table was in the room's center, surrounded by a variety of comfortable chairs.

"And what did he want this time?" Irenia asked, as she settled into a seat at the table. "Asides the obvious," she added, with a smirk.

"To run events with Irofel," Eeya shrugged, taking the seat across from her. "He plays innocent so well, you'd think he was a Konviwedu. He probably learned it from his Konviwedu lover."

"Obviously not well enough," Irenia snickered.

"He has this horrible habit of assuming I'm less than I am, like I can't see through it. I'd find it insulting if it wasn't so useful," Eeya continued to grumble.

"So what's he really up to?"

"It's painfully obvious that Driamusek wants to pull us away from Elkinhym."

"Would that be so bad?" Irenia asked. "I may not like Gallion much, but there's some advantages with what he's proposing. We could benefit from Driamusek's highborn connections. Even slowly whittle them away for ourselves!"

"Well, we're not doing terribly with our elite connections now," Eeya said. "The Faithful were more than pleased with Irofel's performance at the naming of the new Precentor, and they have a strong interest in making sure Irofel maintains the correct history of the situation."

Irenia chewed her lip a bit, studying Eeya. "And that doesn't concern you at all? We're more than glossing over what actually happened, we're completely retelling history. I mean, I know what the Faithful say is what goes, but... Doesn't it bother some part of you? Feel like we're being unfaithful to history?"

Eeya shook her head. "Some history isn't fit for the public, and right now, the existence of the Hlum is one of those things. You know even among our own, the worst punishment we can give is to expunge a record from history—To take a bard and make them so they never were. This is the same, but on a grander scale. It protects the core, the truth of our culture. I don't have any qualms about it."

"I know we reserve that as a punishment for our worst, but on this scale..." Irenia sighed. "Well, it's not something to be discussed. The Faithful have decided that's best, and that's how things are."

"It's for the best," Eeya nodded.

"Anyways... If you don't want to go for working with Driamusek, let me guess, you won't go for Elkinhym, either? Pick a middle path?"

"You know me so well! Yes, we can split our efforts," Eeya said. "Do some events with Elkinhym, some with Driamusek. We have both courting us and can expand our influence in numerous directions, as a result."

"Can't argue with that, I suppose," Irenia said. "I just hope the worst of it is over. I don't like these big changes."

"Well, with any luck, we'll be done with them for a while, and things will stabilize," Eeya said.
"It doesn't matter what country someone's from, or what they look like, or the color of their skin. It doesn't matter what they smell like, or that they spell words slightly differently, some would say more correctly." - Jemaine Clement. FOTC.


It wasn't until later, much later, that Irenia dared to slip away. She had hope in her endeavor. The Faithful hadn't been able to find a spy in their midst, a southerner filled with hate, why should they find her? She was just a single, lone bard. Strange, to have the worst of traitors be the cause of such hope now. But she could not let their victory be complete—She would not let the southerners put the end to this tradition.

Irenia risked everything now. She risked not just her life, but the welfare of her Circle. As a full Bard, they would be implicated in what she was doing. She could be used to get at them, if she was caught. Perhaps worst of all, she feared that they would turn their back on her, should they ever find out. And so she dared not tell anyone of her quest.

She ducked in to a Warren's building, old and abandoned, taking a moment to find the figure there. "She won't help us."

The figure was covered, head to toe, face carefully concealed. His hands were covered too—most might assume gloves covered an un-inked status, but the gloves hid the silvery triangles that covered the back of each hand. He glanced up, gaze shadowed, but unsurprised. "She won't help me. Why do you?"

"We don't have time for questions now," she told him. "They still think they got everyone in the fire. By now they will have rounded up the stragglers they could find. It's been a few weeks now, and I've no doubt they'll be scouring the rubble. They're going to be a body and a ring short, if they bother to count."

"I lost everything," he said, ragged voice scarce above a whisper. "My Consort. My child."

He was the Hlum before last, the last real Hlum, some might argue, since the previous one had committed high treason when the Jihaen High Precentor on the battlefield of Tyn Dashra. Chosen Lord Rairyn Hlum—Not that he could be called that now, and not that Irenia could show proper respect in the present situation.

She approached him, sticking out a hand. "I know, and I'm sorry. But please, you have to come with me."

It was what she imagined of another time, getting out of the city that day. Once Allanak had walked these streets, slaying any Tuluki nobles they caught, seeking to kill them all, expunge them from existence. Tonight, this night, bloody Jihae lit the streets, a sliver of crimson that was just enough to see by. In the shadows it cast, it was easy to imagine the Tuluki soldiers as those of the southern city, all that time ago. When one passed, they pressed tightly back against the wall, breath held. Irenia swore that the beating of her heart was so loud that they must hear it, and yet they did not.

Mercifully, they reached the gate without trouble. Irenia took a last look back on the blood-lit city—A strangely appropriate lighting for tonight's mood. So very much was at risk, if luck was not on their side. The soldier at the gate knew she was going to be smuggling someone out. He had no idea who, or why. She simply had to pray that his love of coin would be great enough that he wouldn't turn them both in. It would be death, otherwise.

As they got closer to the gate, she almost froze. High Templar Poma, resplendent in red robes, stood there. He's not supposed to be here, she thought, trying to stem her panic. There's no way I can make it past a Faithful. He'll ask too many questions. We need to go now, before he sees us—

"Bard Irofel," the High Templar called to her, and Irenia nearly cursed, debating running for a moment. Beside her, Rairyn tensed.

Irenia shook her head slightly to her companion, and moved forward, each step leaden. This would be the end of it, then. "High Faithful Poma," she said, offering a deep, respectful nod. "How may I be of service?"

He leaned on his lirapet, using its shaft as a staff, the blade that capped it glinting red in the moonlight. He took a long time surveying her, brown eyes on her face. Neither she or Rairyn moved. Finally, the High Templar spoke. "I understand that you're venturing out tonight."

"Yes, that's right." She said. Sun King, please let voice not be trembling.

"The moonlight is the best inspiration, I find, for all manner of songs. It would please me to hear yours, on your return to the city."

Irenia didn't think she had heard right at first, blinking stupidly a moment. I'm not dead?

"I'd be, uh, pleased to... High Faithful."

"I imagine so," he said, glancing at the figure beside her. "Have a good night."

It was all Irenia could do not to flee out of the gates then and there. But they passed through slowly, with an outer pretext of calm, and continued down the darkened stretch of the North Road. The further they rode and the smaller Tuluk got in the distance, the less tense they became.

"Why?" Rairyn asked her again, breaking the silence. "Why risk it all for me?"

Irenia struggled for an answer, to put such feelings, emotions, into words. "The Circle preserves culture," she finally said. "Irofel preserves history. We keep the heart, the spirit, of Tuluk alive. The Hlum are a part of that. They're a vibrant, vital part of that which should never be forgotten."

She paused a moment, glancing skywards, before continuing. "It was a tradition rekindled after the commoners fought to preserve Tuluk against Allanak in the Occupation—a time when citizens risked their lives to save their nobility. In turn, those the Sun King deemed worthy were elevated—The Grey Hunt. There have been so many Hlum, who have done so many things to benefit the city. This erases them. It says that the actions of a single man have outweighed all that came after. I don't believe that. I don't believe this is the Sun King's will."

Rairyn was silent awhile, brooding, contemplative. "I gave my life to the city, and nobody spoke up when they burned my family alive. Nobody tried to stop it. The Ivory has taken everything from me." He paused, turning to look directly at Irenia, gaze so intense she had to work not to flinch. "Tell me why I shouldn't hate this Tuluk of yours, why I shouldn't seek to raze it to the ground. It's no home of mine, no place I know. How could the Sun King allow this?"

A question she had asked herself a thousand times before, a question with no answer. "You gave your life to the city. You were willing to die for it. But are you willing to live for it? We both know that this isn't Tuluk. Something has gone wrong. And someday, it will need you here. Someday, Tuluk will need to remember again. Will you be there for your people?"

Rairyn was silent. "You have a way with words, Bard. I will not forget that you saved me... Nor will I forget what they did to me. Here, we part."

"His Light," she whispered, voice soft.

He glanced at her a long, debating moment. "His Radiance."
"It doesn't matter what country someone's from, or what they look like, or the color of their skin. It doesn't matter what they smell like, or that they spell words slightly differently, some would say more correctly." - Jemaine Clement. FOTC.

An interesting read and lots of bits and pieces I can relate to from back when it all happened - thanks for writing it and posting it! I'm looking forward to the next parts too. The dynamic between the Circles was always fascinating to me and one of the things I miss with Tuluk closed. Janosh sure was a devious old fart when he put his mind to it. Tuluk in the years after Tyn Dashra was a strange place going through rather fast paced change. Not all of it sat well with me, but I can't deny that it was mostly entertaining despite being pretty much railroaded.

There's only one thing I want to note from the story above, and it's that it was Precentor Atum Negean who perished at Tyn Dashra, not the High Precentor Ardith Lyksae. It's important, for historical accuracy and to avoid confusion.

In the crowds, off to the side, far out ranked by his illustrious Faithful Sisters, the sole Jihaen winced, fractionally.


I don't know what the fact/fiction split is here, but I really like the way you've made it into a cohesive tale, rather than the fractured snippets of conversation that logs become.  Nicely done!  Worthy of the characters, perhaps.  :)
Quote from: Lizzie on February 10, 2016, 09:37:57 PM
You know I think if James simply retitled his thread "Cheese" and apologized for his first post being off-topic, all problems would be solved.

That was a badass read. I got goosebumps on a couple of parts.

Man, I miss Tuluk. =(
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You send to staff:
"Welcome to Armageddon."

Case: he's more likely to shoot up a mcdonalds for selling secret obama sauce on its big macs
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tuluk was amazing in the final year it was open. it was one of those moments where it all suddenly worked and made sense.

yeah. tuluk was great.
Czar of City Elves.

Quote from: Dakota on May 05, 2016, 05:17:40 AM
tuluk was amazing in the final year it was open. it was one of those moments where it all suddenly worked and made sense.

yeah. tuluk was great.

I thought it was too. It had improved so much and was doing well I thought. That was why it was a total shock to me 😕
What we do in life, echoes in eternity.

Quote from: palomar on April 15, 2016, 05:07:12 PMThere's only one thing I want to note from the story above, and it's that it was Precentor Atum Negean who perished at Tyn Dashra, not the High Precentor Ardith Lyksae. It's important, for historical accuracy and to avoid confusion.

You're correct. I'll have to see if I can get that tweaked/updated at some point.

Quote from: Majikal on April 18, 2016, 07:21:15 PM
That was a badass read. I got goosebumps on a couple of parts.

Man, I miss Tuluk. =(

I'm glad you enjoyed it!

There will be more Tuluki stories to look forwards to, eventually. I hope also to have discussion threads as well.

Things didn't end up working out for April, but keep an eye out for the future. It may take a number of months, but my aim is to see it happen.

Quote from: Starhand Amos on May 07, 2016, 03:28:50 PM
Quote from: palomar on April 15, 2016, 05:07:12 PMThere's only one thing I want to note from the story above, and it's that it was Precentor Atum Negean who perished at Tyn Dashra, not the High Precentor Ardith Lyksae. It's important, for historical accuracy and to avoid confusion.

You're correct. I'll have to see if I can get that tweaked/updated at some point.

Quote from: Majikal on April 18, 2016, 07:21:15 PM
That was a badass read. I got goosebumps on a couple of parts.

Man, I miss Tuluk. =(

I'm glad you enjoyed it!

There will be more Tuluki stories to look forwards to, eventually. I hope also to have discussion threads as well.

Things didn't end up working out for April, but keep an eye out for the future. It may take a number of months, but my aim is to see it happen.

Tell me....
Where does the king rest.