Saturday, April 21, 2007

Okin of the Twilight Kingdom (Part 2)

Before Memnoch even opened his sleep laden eyes, he felt cocooned in a gentle and pleasant warmth. He could hear murmurs of running water nearby and hushed whispers of sweet feminine voices swirling around a quiet rustle of clothes. As he struggled to open his eyes he could hear the volume of the voices around him rise. When he grasped his vision again, he saw that he was lying on a comfortable mattress with large soft white pillows on a worn wooden bed. Before him were many plainly dressed men and women who possessed a curious feature. They resembled him in features except that they all had rather brown or pinkish fair skin which a stark contrast to his very light blue skin. Even though they seemed harmless, he instantly tried to cast protective spells on himself but found that his murmurs dissipating quietly into the warm dry air. Memnoch felt the dryness on his skin.

Suddenly everybody's head in the crowd bowed slightly and shuffled apart to reveal a thin old man swathed in brown robes hunched over a staff which looked like an elegantly thin branch hewn from the trunk of a formidable oak tree. Despite his seeming frailty he exuded a sense of formidability and deliberate determination, as if he could will each cell of blood to his bidding if he wanted to. His face, once squarely handsome, now took on an ancient and wiser look with deep wrinkled troughs that lined his face and eyes that were so severely squinted that to others they looked closed. The old man stood alone at the foot of Memnoch's single wooden bed and seemed to look at him though Memnoch couldn't tell.

After a pregnant silence, the old man spoke.
'Peace to thee, stranger. Welcome to the village of Jula. I am Ti and the Elder of Jula. I trust you are in improved state?'

His voice was surprisingly firm and deep despite the tenativeness with which he spoke. Memnoch was more surprised that he could understand his language. Then he remembered that not long ago cast upon himself the Tongue of Wa'tu. This was an extremely difficult spell for two reasons. The first was because he had to obtain the Wa'tu. This was the tongue of organic gold of a triple horned beast that had the hide of steel and the bloodlust of an amok warrior. Almost the entirety of Memnoch's second platoon of thirty elite soldiers were wiped out in assisting Memnoch to slay the beast. The second was because it was a twenty one day spell cast that not only demanded one's entire focus and concentration to cast but was extremely physically demanding as well. Memnoch could perform only the other essential functions such as eating, drinking, sleeping, shitting, bathing besides casting under very strict and regimented schedule. The ritual had to be followed strictly for one mistake would negate the entire casting. Once cast, the spell was permanent for it changed certain parts of the biological, neurological and physical structure of Memnoch's ears, tongue and brain over a period of thirty days. Sometimes the pain of the physical change was so great that those of a lower threshold killed themsleves to block out the pain. Many managed to carry out the ritual to fail at the final hurdle. Memnoch was only the third of the Twilight Kingdom to possess the Tongue of Wa'tu.

'Yes, thank you great Elder Ti for your hospitality and generosity. I am indebted to you and your village's magnanimity. I only hope I have not drawn too much upon your reserves in doing so. I am Memnoch,' said Memnoch with such fluency and accuracy of intonation that the crowd behind the old man instantly buzzed with hushed whispers of astonishment. If the old man flinched with surprise, Memnoch could not have told. He stood like a rock unperturbed waiting for the calamity behind him to settle before continuing his conversation. The crowd sensed this and quickly fell quiet.
'Where do you hail from Memnoch?'
'I hail from the Twilight Kingdom. Our king is Tanath Ki'nath. Do you know of it?'
The old man did not answer immediately but kept quiet for a moment.
'No. We have never heard of such a kingdom or such a king, Memnoch. Perhaps your lands are too far away form our little humble village.'
'You may be right, Elder Ti. Might I inquire as to the kingdom within which Jula dwells?'
'Jula is part of the Commonwealth of Haleon. There are three other commonwealths aside from Haleon. Those are Uon, Aanakth and Suissen. Together they form the Republic of Ankh. Jula is merely one of the smaller villages of Haleon.'
'I see. And do all these commonwealths share similar weather, warmth and sunlight?'
'There are little variations between them - some are a little colder, some a little warmer, some more humid, some drier. Jula sits some twenty leagues the border of Haleon and as you would have noticed, the air here is dry.'
'I have noticed that too. And are all the denizens of the Republic of similar colour?'
'Yes. Truth be told Memnoch, we have not seen any of your kind here before.'
'I had sensed that too. There are none of your colour in my lands as well. In the Twilight Kingdom, our skins are light blue except for a few rare denizens whose skin are a luminous white.'
They both looked at each other for a while as if unsure where to take the conversation.
'Are you too king in the Twilight Kingdom, Memnoch?' asked Elder Ti.
Memnoch flinched in surprise at the question though Elder Ti remained still and unchanged.
'How did you know this?' demanded Memnoch, a little too aggressively he felt. It was one of those rare moments when Memnoch felt slightly apprehensive.
'One need not be told of it to know or understand something.'
'I accept that.'
'Do they call Obayamaashi in the Twilight Kingdom, Memnoch?'

For the first time in his life Memnoch felt a nervous sense of fear seize him. Obayamasshi was the ancient title of Okin. That title was so ancient that even Tanath Ki'nath knew not of it. Memnoch himself only learned of the old title because of his deep, thorough and meticulous study of all the ancient texts in the Royal Library. That title was last used more than four thousand years ago. How then did an old man in another world perhaps know of his heritage?
'Yes,' Memnoch answered. The crowd behind the old man was intensely quiet holding out for every word uttered from each man.

'Now that I have told you of my origin, I implore you to tell me how you know of me, Elder Ti.'
'I have long known of you Obayamaashi of the Twilight Kingdom though I do not know you. We, not just I, have all been waiting for you. We have been waiting for so many generations that we have even forgotten our grandfathers, our forefathers and all those who came before us. But they have made each later generation promise that we never forget you, Obayamaashi of the Twilight Kingdom, to honour your memory and to watch for your coming. Our parents from the ancient beyond have demanded that we preserve the only record of you saved but above all we must never forget you. We may forget everything, our name, our family, our lands, but we must never forget your coming, Obayamaashi of the Twilight Kingdom. And I am the last of that tradition. So it is fortunate that you came when you did.'

With that a warm smile of relief broke on the old man's face as he sank gratefully to his knees with great difficulty even as he held his staff up before him. The crowd behind him fell similarly to the floor, heads bowed in quiet reverence.

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