To shepherd in the Treasures of Khaldun we have a series of short pieces of fiction to supplement the events in-game. We present the next installment,
By EM Malachi
The bone fingers wrapped around a stone and began scratching the words again onto the crypt walls. The skeleton did not see the blasphemy it was writing. The Sun had never touched the dark tunnels, and the skeleton’s eyes had long ago decayed to dust. It didn’t matter. The story itself was part of the spell that kept it moving, and it would continue to etch the words over every stone surface for eternity, as it waited for the return:
There was once a powerful mage named Khal Ankur whose glory demanded tribute from all those around his domain. The leaders and sages in these lands grew to resent this high price and looked for a way to end the mage’s reign.
One lord sent an assassin to cut out Khal Ankur’s heart. In the night, the killer came with blades sharp enough to split hairs. The mage woke when the blades pierced his chest, and Khal Ankur spoke to the killer, “For the gift you have given me, I give equal measure.” When he was done, Khal Ankur returned the assassin’s heart to the lord who had sent him.
Another king saw an opportunity, and offered Khal Ankur his daughter’s hand. While the young bride was sweet, the poison she carried was not. As the newly married couple raised a toast, Khal Ankur drank deeply from his cup. As his lips turned black, he spoke to his bride, “For the gift you have given me, I give equal measure.” Then he kissed her.
One nation sent their greatest witch-hunter. The zealot pulled Khal Ankur from his sanctum and covered him with flammable oils. As the roaring flames tore at his body, Khal Ankur laughed at the hunter. “For the gift you have given me, I give equal measure.” The wind brought the zealot’s ashes home.
Confident from drink, a mob of young princes thought to take care of what their elders could not. They managed to corner Khal Ankur at a feast and bludgeon him unconscious. Covering his head with a sack and binding his feet with heavy irons, they drowned Khal Ankur in the deep sea. Khal Ankur’s voice was heard from beneath the waves, “For the gift you have given me, I give equal measure.” They spent the night celebrating on the edge of the tide, and a sudden surge claimed their drunken forms.
A settlement of miners decided to stop paying the golden tribute demanded of them, sending instead one covered in pox and pestilence. The leper died at the gates to Khal Ankur’s domain, and the sickness spread through those who served the mage. As the pox marked Khal Ankur’s flesh, he made the journey to the mines. His voice rumbled down the tunnels, “For this gift you have given me, I give equal measure.” No gold ever left those mines again.
An alliance of kingdoms sent their armies to surround and lay siege to Khal Ankur’s fortress. Without food or supplies, those inside consumed insects and rats before dying of hunger. On the final day, the mage walked out of the fortress, withered from hunger. Khal Ankur bit into his own arm for a taste of meat. Collapsing to the ground and with his own blood dripping from his mouth, he offered this retort, “For this gift you have given me, I give equal measure.” Locusts destroyed the harvest that year, and all food stores spoiled. Those kingdoms became known as the lands of gnawed bones.
With the pathetic rabble crushed and utterly alone, Khal Ankur grew melancholy and retreated to the crypt under his sanctum. He lay on a slab of stone and mark his forehead with a powerful glyph. As his life drained away, the bodies of his servants and enemies started to move. The horde came to his side to listen to his final words: “I will sleep until four great powers join me in the shade. Give me this gift, and I will give equal measure.”