(OOC) Tue Mar 10 1998 -->
The 'townhouse' of Lord Saskanar an elderly Eeee who owns a great deal of land in Saskanar, but not ALL of it, despite the family name is fairly modest in appearance … modest, that is, when one is comparing to palaces. Perched precariously on a stone structure that over the years has crumbled away almost to just its central support, the House of Saskanar has an appearance of something that may plummet to its doom at any moment … or else of something exhibiting an unearthly power to defy the forces of gravity without aid of wings.
Borne by an air-carriage, Lady Brishen is escorted to the landing drive of the manor. Several Savanite attendants are out in the court, bowing low to her as she steps out.
Brishen gathers her dress in slender hands as she steps out of the carriage. The precarious state of the lord's house isn't lost on her, but nevertheless she smiles warmly at the awaiting Savanites.
Even before she can reach the entrance, attendants flank Brishen, skillfully balancing trays bearing pitchers of drink, and colorful fruits. The selection of bugs, while generous by any commoner's standards, is surprisingly narrow compared to Babelite tastes.
The trays are held within easy reach of the visitor, and it looks as if the slaves are prepared to simply follow Brishen around for the entirety of her visit.
Bree casts a curious glance at one of the slaves, then reaches out to pluck a crunchy-looking water bug from a tray. The Savanite carrying the tray, at the moment the focus of her attention, gets a polite but baffled nod before she turns to walk towards the house.
Inside, it is evident that the house is very well lit. Almost, in fact, as if there were no … ceiling.
In fact … there is none. By the crumbling state of the supports, it looks as if there once WAS one, but it is nowhere to be seen. Any rubble that would be evidence of its collapse must have been carefully cleared away long ago.
The walls and furniture show the signs of exposure to the elements … but most of it is of stone, and of sturdy wood. The wood, quite probably, is of more recent construction.
Brishen glances up, her wings spreading slightly. And I thought the Sabaoth's palace was odd.
Several Creens cheerily trill to each other, flitting about freely. A couple of Savanite slaves dutifully tend to the never-ending task of cleaning up after the colorful fliers.
Brishen walks carefully, her steps measured as the hem of her dress whisks along, just touching the ground when it isn't gathered up in her hands. Now and then she can't help but look up, though.
"Welcome," says an Eeee who reclines in a weathered chair, his aged features seeming quite at home there. "I have heard that you gave quite the stirring speech to the Clan of Burning-Sea. The Sabaoth will be pleased when word gets to him."
Brishen turns, blinking as she looks down at the aged Eee. "It was… stirring. Yes." She bites her lower lip.
The elder Eeee nods. "Pardon me, Lady Brishen, if I do not rise, but I am feeling very … weak … today. Welcome to House Saskanar. What is left of it, that is."
Brishen kneels, her dress pooling around her as she looks up at the aged lord. "They were the last flight," she says, quietly. "The Plaguebearers will soon be in Rephidim." She looks down at the floor, closing her eyes.
Lord Saskanar says, "Yes, they are said to be fairly fast. I heard that they would be arriving in Rephidim just in time for one of their holidays. Candlemass, I think. You see, all part of the … shock effect."
Brishen closes her eyes. It doesn't stop tears from streaming down her face.
"Come here, child," Lord Saskanar says. "Please."
"Candlemass?" she whispers, incredulously. Five she's spent in Rephidim. Five beautiful days. She chokes down the words she was about to set free, and rushes towards the aged lord. "I'm sorry! It wasn't supposed to be like this!"
Brishen collapses at Saskanar's feet, her face dark with tears. "I… I… " She shakes her head, unable to voice her thoughts.
"There, there … Don't let the weight of the world crush your shoulders," Lord Saskanar says, his own eyes troubled. He reaches forward, brushing Brishen's hair. "It is said that this whole war was started by a Savanite slave. Did you know that?"
Brishen shakes her head, shivering. "N-no."
Lord Saskanar smiles. "The Mercy's Cup, an embassy vessel from Rephidim, came here with a Priest of the Temple to convey well-wishes and token gifts to the ailing Sabaoth. It was no secret that the Sabaoth was angry … angry about everything, and looking for any excuse, anything to prove himself despite his ailing health."
The elder bat continues, "So, this ambassador came to try to reassure the Sabaoth that Rephidim was his ally, his friend, even in this time of weakness. It is said that a Savanite brought a cup to him and spilled it. This angered him, since the slave belonged to this ambassador."
Brishen blinks, her eyes wide as she listens. Was that it? Was that ALL?!
"Oh, and there was more. The goblet was filled with blood. Thus, a great and personal insult to the Sabaoth … the insinuation that he might be one of the vampiric strains. You see, the Sabaoth goes a long way back … to times when to be compared with that race was even more an insult than now," Lord Saskanar continues.
"There are many details in contest," the elder Eeee says, "but what matters is that it boiled down to an insult or the perception of one. Is that why we are at war? Of course not. We are at war because the Sabaoth WANTED to go to war … and was simply looking for the appropriate target and some sort of excuse."
"… and because he was still infuriated over the 'betrayal' of his son, Boghaz bar Sabaoth, and that he had been 'welcomed' by Rephidim after being banished from Ashdod," the elder bat adds.
The elder bat raises an eyebrow. "Do you need me to tell you that story, too? I realize that, being in Rephidim, you may have missed it."
Brishen shakes her head, hands clenching into white-knuckled fists. Her sobs, interspersed with sudden breath, would be quiet to anyone but another Eeee. Star help me, he's not going to see Rephidim destroyed. If I have to… "… I… I was young when I left Ashdod. I never knew… "
"… never knew how much the Sabaoth is driven by the wind of the day? We are all learning that, child," Lord Saskanar says, shaking his head sadly. "Even those who have tried to help the Sabaoth have become his enemies. The great healer Roho, renowned in all the Ashdod Territories well, many of them, anyway came up with an elixir to help keep the Sabaoth strong. But he became wrapped up in court politics. You see, Boghaz bar Sabaoth had his eye on a beautiful young maiden, Saraizadze." Saskanar frowns. "The Sabaoth saw this … and apparently decided that if Boghaz was interested in Saraizadze … she must be worth HIS interest as well. He sought to add her to his already large harem."
"Roho learned of this doomed love," Lord Saskanar narrates, "and put his life on the line. When the Sabaoth was prepared to give Healer Roho a sizeable sum of wealth in GOLD the old Zerda asked a boon … He offered to forego the reward, so long as the Sabaoth would see fit to let his son marry Saraizadze, rather than taking her to the Royal Harem."
"The Sabaoth refrained from slaying Roho and Boghaz right then and there, choosing upon counsel to banish them instead. Saraizadze, with the aid of officers loyal to Boghaz, fled the Palace … and all the crew of the ship meant to carry Boghaz to exile defected with him. It is said that Boghaz has been building an army abroad, making an alliance with the legendary sky island of Paradys." Saskanar shrugs. "… and making friends in Rephidim. Thus, an act of kindness became the root for an act of war."
Brishen looks up at Saskanar. "What about here… In Babel. Is there anyone?"
Saskanar smiles faintly and strangely. "Not for much longer, child."
Brishen blinks. "Wh What do you mean?"
"Times are changing." The elder bat then sighs. "But this story has a moral. I'm not just speaking to hear myself. I do that often enough. The POINT … buried as it is … is that the Sabaoth wanted to go down fighting. He's dying. He is the 'undying', yet he faces his mortality. Some day, that serum he depends on will lose its power to keep him alive. Not you nor anyone else can truly claim the honor of starting a war. If there is any one person to credit, it can only be the Sabaoth himself."
Brishen shakes her head, trembling as she tries to keep from leaping to her feet. "Not for much longer?"
Brishen whispers, her eyes fixed on the aged lord. "What's going to happen?"
Lord Saskanar laughs weakly. "Well … there goes an old man's attempt at mysterious subtlety. Bah. I was always terrible at that. Me. I'm dying. A few days ago, I was wondering which would go first me or the whole city. But I think I'm winning the race."
Brishen's knees weaken as she sinks to the floor again. She doesn't take her eyes off Saskanar as she whispers, "You told me, not long ago, to leave. To take those I cared for and get as far from the city as I could."
Lord Saskanar nods. "I'm no prophet, and I'm only an infant compared to the age of the Sabaoth and that's another story in itself. But I see where this is headed."
"The Sabaoth IS Babel. Or that's how he sees it. I think he's fully prepared to take us all down with him. Attack Rephidim? The greatest power on Sinai? Yes, we could do it … IF we had allies. We have none. None save for a few spies and lackeys who can be bought with shekels. Why, our own currency passed away countless years ago! The very coins we use bear the symbol of the Temple!" Lord Saskanar wheezes.
Brishen nods faintly, "My father told me once, that as beautiful as the city was from afar, it held war in its arms. Every street, every tower " She blinks, pulling back as she stares at Saskanar.
The aged lord nods. "Yes. Babel is the City of Strife. So many houses, with their own fiefdoms. The city has grown so large that no one could visit every street in a lifetime. And the lower levels do not even see but a few pinpricks of sunlight. The Lords may act civil in their dinners, but at night, they openly war with each other. I simply escape notice by having nothing they consider of value."
"Only a war a war with some outside enemy could 'unite' the Lords in a common cause," he adds.
Brishen's ears grow ashen gray, her voice barely above a whisper, "Then the city is lost? They're all behind the Sabaoth?"
Lord Saskanar smirks. "Hardly. They're all just looking how they can stand to benefit. Those who expect victory want their share of the spoils. Those who expect we'll lose … want to be in a good position to appear to the populace as the loyal servant to the Sabaoth when they make their grabs for power."
"But even the skeptics have swallowed too much of the propaganda. I don't think they've even considered that there might not be anything left worth fighting over, when we're finished," the aged lord adds with no hint of humor this time.
Brishen looks down at the floor. "Then maybe it's time for the lords themselves to be overthrown as well."
The elder bat fixes his gaze on Brishen. "And who would dare attempting such a thing, hmm?"
Brishen casts a sidelong glance at the aged lord. "The pawns of this game are flesh and blood." She looks down at her dress, for the first time hating the trappings of nobility she's clothed in.
Lord Saskanar nods. "True."
Brishen's voice grows quiet again, "If the lords aren't willing to fight the Sabaoth, perhaps those who will see their sons dead, and their homes in ashes will."
"Strong words, child," Lord Saskanar remarks. "Are you willing to say such things in front of others who may not agree?"
Brishen whispers, "Yes."
The aged bat nods. "Desperate times call for desperate measures… "
Brishen looks up towards the sky. "I know the Sabaoth won't let me leave Babel. Not now, not after what I've seen. And I couldn't possibly outfly the Plaguebearers." She shakes her head, "What I do to stop this, I do here."