The Seleucarian Empire: The Founding and the Black Wave

Read of the life of Nicator, and how he prepared Sapience for the legendary war with the Black Wave of the Tsol'teth.

Chapter List

Prophecy

"Final trust and final foundation,
Final reconciliation of light and dark.
Let there be a new justice,
Let there be a third way.
On the undiscovered shore,
Let the epoch empire mend the twins' hatred,
Let the age of peace reign,
Let the surge of the deep be cast back in breaking waves."

 

Lehrinas' Prophecies, Chapter 14, Verse 45,
as translated from high Tsol'aa by Corrin Melithandes

Historian's Notes

The art of the historian is to unify the events of the past under a single vision: the historian's own. The accuracy of the history is dependent largely upon the ability of the historian to correctly combine known facts, verifiable evidence, and the accounts of his predecessors into a comprehensible picture of the past.

I am not a historian. As a librarian, I study how knowledge is presented, not how knowledge is created or synthesized. Therefore, the text you hold in your hands is not my personal synthesis of the events of history, but a collection of excerpts from the works of the true masters, who I will not insult with my attempts at history. I can only hope that the varied perspectives of these men, along with the first-hand accounts and even fables that I have included, will permit the reader to make his own judgments. Now, in the words of those who have truly made this study their lives: the history of the Seleucarian Empire.

Tancred Lasalle, Ashtan Royal Library, Head Librarian

Nikolas

from Raeli Oliems, The Two Prophets: Nicator Before the Empire

Seleucar is inseparable in our minds from its founder, the legendary Nicator. But who was Nicator, truly?

The Church once held that he was a deluded man who claimed the blessing of Sarapis in order to conquer the world. However, the Chrysalis Basilica quickly realized that Nicator's new empire was proving far more peaceful and even more friendly to the Church than the previous regimes - and so they quietly revised their stance to fully support the new order. And when armies of Seleucar threw back the Black Wave in the War of the Deeps, Nicator was posthumously accorded the honor of Fire Saint, a warrior of righteousness.

According to the old Cactus Clans of Hashan and the Upper Urubamba, Nicator was a sehakii, a holy spirit sent by Gaia to preserve the world against the Corrupt Ones, the Tsol'teth. As the Selucarian Empire continued its reign, it began to wither, exactly as a plant plucked from the ground withers.

And so who is Nicator? A heretic whose empire gradually came to prove good? Or an avatar whose empire gradually rotted?

The truth begins with a young man - a farm boy named Nikolas.

Nikolas lived on a farm far on the outer limits of the lands called Thera, almost in the wastes. Possibly through some agreement with the local brigands, his family was able to survive, even so far from the town proper. However, whatever immunity his family had from the local bandits, they had none from the armies of Ashtan and Shallam, which at the time were nothing more than militarized bandits themselves, wandering the lands looking for loot first and enemies second.

Nikolas lived 'a very boring, very typical life', as he put it, until the day his parents were killed. In the Sermon on the Rocks, he described the event:

When I was fifteen, war burst in through my front door. It killed my father with an offhand blow from an axe, and after having its brutal way with her, it killed my mother with a long-bladed spear. If I hadn't been too frightened to do more than hide, it would have killed me as well. And let me say that it was not soldiers who did this, nor was it the underlying conflicts that led to war... it was war itself, most monstrous of man's inventions, that hideous force that possesses man and his beliefs alike and turns them inside out.

After the deaths of his parents, Nikolas began what was known as the Time of Wandering...

Thirteenth Saga

from Torrin Ral'Kade, "Thirteenth Saga: Nicator" (unfinished)

From town to town, from life to life, he ranged.

Another orphan, fleeing strife, estranged.

Who would one day turn back the Wave of Night

Who would one day begin the Age of Light

Who did, those days, set foot in every land,

Turn his hand to every job, to understand

The people, his people, his new friends.

The long road took him to the lands of snow

And there he learned to shiver, chopping wood for heat.

The long road took him to the lands of fire

And there he learned to sweat, washing nobles' feet.

The long road took him to the lands of stone

And there he learned to build, smelting ore to steel.

The long road took him to the lands of lore

And there he learned to read, to speak, to write, to feel.

And after two fours of years had passed

The long road came full circle,

As long roads often do

And the orphan came to Thera

To begin, forever, anew.

Severian

from Raeli Oliems, The Two Prophets: Nicator Before the Empire

Nicator's return to Thera was little remarked. In the eight years since his sudden departure, he had changed greatly. Older, harder, stronger, yet in a way gentler, more mature, a changed man. His years as a metalworker, a woodcutter, a shepherd, and all his other odd jobs throughout his self-imposed exile, had toughened him. His years as a servant to nobility and his treasured six months as a covert student under Hypathia of Shallam had awakened him, as well, to a world that none of the Theran peasants were aware of, with injustice and justice higher than that of violence or fair pay. It is no wonder that he was not recognized, this hard-bitten wanderer with the deep eyes.

But then he spoke. It began as an idle conversation outside the general store, about the state of the war and the condition of the world. Nikolas' exact words have been lost to history, but it is evident that he spoke of the same things he spoke of all throughout his life: the possibility of peace, the possibility of universal human love, the contempt for war, the essential goodness of all mankind, the necessity of uncovering that goodness and living it. And what began as an idle conversation became a public address, as more and more people began to gather to listen to this unorthodox rant. Although crackpot prophets occasionally wandered through town, often still wearing the tar and feathers they'd picked up in Ashtan, those half-crazed men always spoke of punishment and the fear of the gods, of personal penance and the need for divine absolution. But Nikolas spoke differently: he spoke of the ability of men to save themselves and others. He never mentioned the gods at all.

And he was heard. By the time he was done, a full third of the town was gathered in front of the general store, and Nikolas stood on an apple barrel to be heard and seen. And he finished his speech with a calm assurance that there was hope for mankind... and instantly one solid powerful voice sailed over the crowd.

"That's all very well, but what can we DO?"

Nikolas, by all accounts, was momentarily baffled by this question. The person called, more quietly, "I'm sure we all want to live in peace and happiness, no Ashtan or Shallam turning our wheatfields into battlefields, no wondering if your kids will live to take over the farm, no praying that the next batch of soldiers won't just kill you and take everything... I don't know about you, but I also wish I could fly like a bird into the heavens and swig down a tall pint with Daedalus! And I say that's a lot more likely!"

The crowd began to mutter uncertainly, some trying to shush the naysayer, others admitting he was right. And Nikolas stood, silent, deep in thought, a confused look on his face.

The heckler, a burly fieldhand about Nikolas' age, was urged up to the fore by the rest of the crowd. Not afraid to debate publicly, he spoke to the assembled people, as even more townsfolk arrived to see what the commotion was. "Peace! I know about peace, neighbors! I know this man, he grew up around here! I used to beat him up and take his lunch. Go ahead, you think I'm proud of that? But I didn't know a better way, and I was hungry, I was always hungry. And that's why there is no perfect world of peace, nowhere! Because there's always someone who'll be hungry! You all know how it feels, don't you? When you're eating the last of your bread slowly because the soldiers or taxmen took the rest? Or when you're up nights dreaming about the girl your worst enemy's going to marry? All types of hunger, life is hunger and pain, and we'll fight and we'll kill in order to be full, and there's no place where that's not true!"

And the crowd was half angry at the doomsayer for shouting what they all wished they could disbelieve, and half angry at Nikolas for making them believe, even for a moment, in a vision so clearly impossible... and then Nikolas spoke.

"There... there is a place."

"Where?"

"I... don't know yet. I need to find it. Come on... let's find it!"

And just like that, Nikolas started to walk away, due south. And half the crowd paced him, asking "Where are you going?"

"To look for it. The place from my dream."

"What dream?"

"I can't tell you."

"What is this place like?"

"I don't know."

"How will you know when you get there?"

"I'll know."

"What is it called?"

"... Seleucar."

"You're crazy!"

"I hope not."

By the time Nikolas had left the town limits, the only person still following him was the brawny youth who had argued against him. "Hey... I'm Severian."

"I know. I remember."

"I... I'm sorry I took your food all those times."

"Forget it. I was never that hungry anyway."

"I mean, all the reasons I gave, I made them up just today. I never really thought about it."

"You don't have to be hungry, even if you're not full. I learned that. Forget it. You helped me."

"As you wish... I'm going to have a good laugh when you can't find this 'Seleucar'."

"I'll only quit when I die. Will you still be following me then?"

"I'm not following you now. We're just going the same way."

"Where are you going, then?"

"Wherever I go. They say it's very nice this time of year."

Nikolas laughed, and kept walking.

The Sermon

from Kraid Icarus, Accounts of the Sermons

Nikolas was clearly inspired, whether by his own hopes or by the prophetic dreams he frequently alluded to but refused to fully explain. As Nikolas wandered the land with Severian, seeking clues to the location of his utopian "Seleucar", he spoke in every village he visited. In some places, word of his speech in Thera had spread, and people were eager to listen to him - in other places, he began just as he had in Thera, finding a public place and striking up a conversation about the war. And every time, Severian debated him fiercely.

Their now-legendary debates ranged from high-flown metaphysics to personal insult contests to crowd-pleasing topical anecdotes, but although the two began to fully develop their remarkable oratorial talent to great levels, in the end it was always Severian who won the majority of their debates, as in those days hope was not a plentiful commodity. People chose to place their hope in their personal hoards of living supplies, praying to survive for another winter, rather than waste what little hope they could muster on something as unlikely as a lasting peace.

But word spread of the two, who came to be known more as prophets than as vagabonds (for in retelling, stories always grow larger). And crowds began to turn out to welcome them, to listen to their public speeches and arguments (and quite often they would already be arguing when they arrived at the city)... and gradually, others started to follow them around, other wanderers or rootless warriors or disinherited sons, to give them some company and help protect them against the lawless countryside.

And one day they came to Shallam. And half of that great city came out to the hills near the city, to a place where the rocks formed a natural amphitheater. This place, called the Theatron Sarapin, was home, in more peaceful times, to a joint Ashtan/Shallam theatre festival (for art was, at one time, perceived as transcending city-state barriers.)

And it was in this natural amphitheater that Nikolas and Severian had their most famous and final debate. Although they covered many topics and spoke for several hours, the climactic moments of the debate are transcribed below:

N: I'm kind of surprised that you're all so interested in what we have to say. We've been traveling all over Achaea, and we've been talking and arguing and trying to figure things out for a long time, but always on sort of a small level. There was that big debate in Hashan, I think they're calling it the "Sermon on the Rocks" now, although I don't know exactly what religious principle they think I was sermonizing... but mostly, we've just been kind of working out publicly the same sort of things that people always think about in private. Why is there good? Why is there evil? Why is the world sometimes unfair? And, most importantly, can it ever be different?

I can't answer most of these questions. I'm not a priest, I'm not a prophet, at least not your usual kind, anyway. I don't claim to know everything, or have direct information from one of the gods. But I do know this. The world is a cold place, and it's a harsh place, and it's a violent place, but it doesn't have to be. All the coldness and harshness and violence are human creations, and they can be overcome by human effort! With a simple agreement, we could change everything all by ourselves.

I know you're all smart people, so I'm going to skip a few pages here. We already know why you can't just turn your back on your cheating half-brother, or your local crooked merchant, or the outlaws in the woods, even though you wish they'd all be as pure inside as you are. It's because there are people who aren't good. People who might have been good, but who have been hurt, or misled, or who simply took the easy way out. People who, for one reason or another, have succumbed to the dark half of the human spirit.

It is said that in the halls of the Logos there are great murals, shown opposite each other, symbolizing the slow divergence between the roads of good and evil. And it is said, more importantly, that the potential for good and evil both reside in each human being. And this is the point which must not be forgotten!

If you were simply to choose to put aside your life-long garments of distrust and fear, and were to exchange them with clothing of love and sharing, you would surely be struck down by the intransigent ones, the hateful ones, the ones who have traveled farther than you down the road of corruption. This is why you are afraid to change for the better. But the fact you do not understand is that even those who are truly evil can change as well!

"Redemption" is not just a fairy story told by the Church to get a larger tithe. "Grace" is not a commodity that can be created only by the gods. The fact is that even the evil can change their ways.

Severian, I see you leaning back with that smirk of yours. You're fully prepared to rip me to shreds once your turn comes up, aren't you? Yes, I see you smiling! I know that grin! But rest easy, because this is only the half part of my plea!

People of Shallam, know this! You may say, and perhaps may even be correct, that the true predators of this world, the most twisted and corrupt of men, are utterly beyond any human effort of reformation. But can you claim that a wee baby, in the company of people who know what is right, and follow their beliefs, will ever grow into a monster? Can you claim that a child, having been raised in a close tradition of justice and caring, will lift a hand against his friends or family? Can you claim that a young man who has been trained all his life in the ways and means of harmonious living will ever destroy the land he has been trained to love? Can you claim that a city leader who loves his land, and who is loved by the people who chose him, will ever betray the place he holds dear? Can you claim that an old man, nearing the end of a life of such joy and peace, will hoard his belongings, or use his greater experience to hinder rather than nurture his own children, the younger generations that will carry on the traditions he has lived in?

No! In a society where evil is scorned, lies are hated, malice is abhorred, how can the seeds of darkness ever flourish? In a society where two men are both raised to understand the importance of each other's feelings, how can they ever compete in hatred? In a society where soldiers are trained first and foremost to hate killing, how can they ever go to war for any but the most worthy of causes?

In the society we, yes we, my people, can create, how can there ever be the darkness, the strife, the starvation, the agony that infects the wounded, crippled, diseased nations of the shadowy present?

In a world created by good, what place is there for evil?

You have heard of this world before, if you have turned out in such numbers just to hear my companion and me speak. You have heard the name that was spoken in my dream. You have heard me speak of the land to which I am going, the land which, I now see, I will have to create on my own, create with help from every good soul that will follow me. The land of Seleucar.

S: The land of soap bubbles, doomed to shatter at a touch, Nikolas. The land of illusions, doomed to fade further into the distance the closer you seem to come. The land of evil, sleeping in the good, waiting its time to fester and explode. You spoke of "those who choose the easy way", the evil way. That is where your evil will come from, in Seleucar as in Ashtan, as in Shallam, as in Thera, as in Hashan, as in Delos, as everywhere in the whole vast land of Achaea.

A man who does not wish to sweat out his entire life to raise crops from the ground, a man who does not wish to help his neighbors simply because it is easier in the short and in the long run to ignore them, the man who sees the opportunity to take advantage and takes it: this is the man who will break your dream. And this man is all of us. Hate me for saying it, hate me for naming the shame that stains all of humanity. But mankind is weak!

You know the legends! We are all children of the Nameless Horror, we are all children of rape and violation, hatred and fear and uncaring are in our nature! We may try to say we are not inherently evil, we may speak in lofty slogans, we may try to claim that only other people are amoral deep in their hearts... and we may also try to drink the Pachacacha or carry Mt. Vashnar to the Mojhave one boulder at a time. The evidence is inescapable! The evidence is all around us! We know deep in our hearts that we are sinful and corrupt, no matter what we try to do! You all go to church every holy day, and you confess your sins while groveling on the floor, it's a matter of civic pride. And so you keep yourselves holy, and that's all well and good.

But even when you have your darker self in control, does your neighbor? What about his half-cousin from the slums downtown? What about those immoral Ashtanian scum? Will you try to forge a new reality with them? Ha! You'll embrace them as willingly as they'll embrace hypocritical legalistic swindling imperialist Shallamese! You wish to go to Seleucar? Then go hand in hand with your most hated enemies.

And you will all fail together.

N: We will all fall in together. Trust in a man, and he is likely to prove trustworthy.
S: A myth.
N: One that I would like to believe in. Look, we don't need to wrangle too much longer. This is the end of our first journey.
S: Huh?
N: We're done arguing. Now it's time to act.
S: How?
N: We're going to Seleucar. And we're taking everyone with us. Are you coming?
S: ...
N: Come on! You couldn't wait to prove me wrong! Come see me fail! Or, better, come see me succeed, and join me once and for all. Are you with me, Severian? You've got to be in all or nothing, you know.
S: Hah! All is nothing, for this fool's crusade. How will you travel to a place you've never even seen? Do you have a map that you've been hiding from me all this time?
N: I know the way. I feel it in my mind… I have seen the place in my dreams. I know where it is. I could find it in my sleep, for I have already done so. Across the mountains, across a great swamp… on banks of a mighty river…
S: On the other side of innumerable natural hazards? And how will we perform this cross-country trek without perishing in the wilds?
N: Do not rangers and pathfinders and hunstmen travel with us? Gentlemen, will you lead us, and keep us from danger?

(shouts of affirmation)

S: And how will we eat, dear Nikolas? Whose crops shall we uproot to take with us, to keep us from starving? Or do you plan to forage and hunt, feeding five hundred settlers on berries and rabbits?
N: Have we never passed through entire villages that have wished my vision was true? For every farmer who travels with us, we can surely take time to bring his crop in and store it in our wagons. This is the time of harvest, perfect for us to stock up for this journey; and yet it is early enough that we can be over the mountains before winter sets in.
S: And when we get there, how will we build this little "empire of dreams"? How will we become more than mere squatters living in huts?
N: Are there no Dwarves among us? Are there no Tsol'aa? Are there no skilled human architects and builders? How many artisans have followed us, and brought their tools with them? We do not have too few creators and thinkers, Severian… we almost have too many!
S: Then… then…
N: Are you out of objections yet, Severian?
S: Of course not! I'm… I'm just thinking, that's all.
N: Severian… are you truly so set against this dream? All your argument has helped to clarify my own thoughts. By attacking my dream, you have helped to create it. Severian, why will you not help me make our dream come true?
S: …Nikolas… am I worthy?
N: All are worthy.
S: Then… although I'm sure I'll regret it later, I'll give it a shot. To Seleucar, then. May Sarapis have mercy on us.

(stunned silence from crowd, followed by wild cheering)

N: Severian, that's terrific! Okay, we're going! Who's coming with?

(more wild cheering)

S: It's settled then! To Seleucar

Severian's change of heart at the end of the debate was a shock to the entire continent. Everyone had heard the two go at it, or had heard the tales, and had come to view the two as opposing elemental principles. For Severian's eternal pessimism to give in to Nikolas' vision - this was an event that won Nikolas more followers than his words alone had ever done. Nikolas and Severian decided together than they would swing back through the main lands of Achaea, gathering followers until they reached Ashtan, then, with this group of "settlers", they would go to Seleucar, guided only by Nikolas' intuition.

Unfortunately, although many people followed them, most brought only a few days' or weeks' provisions, not realizing the long road that lay ahead... but then in other places, entire villages picked up to follow the Two Prophets, taking their full harvests with them. Nikolas' head was oft in the clouds; it was Severian's logistical skills that kept the ever-growing legions of so-called "Selucarians" from falling apart. And, as Severian made them realize that they could cooperate and co-exist (which was, after all, the dream they were chasing), the followers began to feel a true sense of community. It can be said, in a way, that Seleucar came into existence then, five months before Nikolas ever received his true calling from Sarapis.

Matic Ridley

(Editor's note: The defector Matic Ridley was the only lettered hobgoblin to survive the War of the Deeps; his inside knowledge has proven invaluable in telling the true story of the Tsol'teth and their slave races. This text was written shortly before his death, and is presented here for the first time, in its original form. Definitions of hobgoblin terms are offered parenthetically.)

 

It is truth that the Dar-tezlari-kanit (Great War for the Light) did begin long before the first of the tezlari-jio (Holes of Light) were opened and we did fight on the surface. The blinding light was the ending of the beginning for the Masters. It was the beginning of the ending for the Servants. But the beginning of the beginning happened many many years before the ending of the ending.

I was dulkurio-ma (Servant Who Thinks) to the Master Blue Dark, who called himself Agith'maal to humans. Master Blue Dark was leader of all the Masters, and god of all the servants. We did pray to him at the middle of every day. A day was sixteen aafla long, and each aafla was sixteen caril long. But Master Blue Dark did be the first Master to see Tezlari-tarin (The World of Light). My brother was the one who did hold for him the magic stone that he did cause to show the images from Tezlari-tarin. When Master Blue Dark was blinded by the horrible light of Tezlari-yumap (Piercing Spear of Light), my brother was amazed. Master Blue Dark did kill him because my brother did see Master Blue Dark frightened. But I did hide my eyes and did pretend that I had seen nothing, and so Master Blue Dark did spare my life. Tezlari-yumap is what you do call the sun. For us it is like a terrible spear of pain. To the Masters it is the calling of Thoth. To see it in the magic stone did nearly cost Master Blue Dark his sight, and so forever then he did command his servants to look into the stone instead of him.

When my brother died, I was named Sa-dulkurio-ma, greatest thinking servant to Master Blue Dark. And I did assist him in all his thinkings and plannings about Tezlari-tarin. He did study much of that world, and he did command that our world, Anzari-tarin (World of Darkness) should become like Tezlari-tarin. He did wish that we be hardened to light, and that we learn to live in the world of "day" and "night". Every day we did learn "hours" and "minutes", and our lights did change from being painful in brightness to being fearful in blackness.

Master Blue Dark had two other Masters almost as great as him. They were Master Blood Drinker, who called himself Terrin'ukia to humans, and Master Secret Hate, who called himself Gattan'lier to humans. The three Masters did study long about Tezlari-tarin, and did make plans to go there to kill everyone there. I never did know why they wished to do this. My duties were to write down what they said, and to think about small problems that they did not care much about. Once they did ask me what I thought, and I did say, "Almighty Masters, you are greater than the darkness and harder than the stones. It is impossible that you are wrong. But I do ask, since I do not understand, why we do go only to kill? Why do we not also go to take the riches of Tezlari-tarin, to take over the homes of the people there, and steal their secrets?" But the Masters did laugh at me and did tell me that I was too stupid to understand anything.

The Masters did work to marshal their slaves into armies, and did train them to fight in groups. In Anzari-tarin we did fight much against the kal-tai-vakha (Mighty Fang Racers), who the Masters did not choose to enslave. I think now that the kal-tai-vakha were too strong to be enslaved. They were quick and powerful, and they did have a great kingdom even further under the earth than the Masters. They were made of armor and fur and claws and teeth, and they did change their shapes quickly when they fought, and they did worship no god, not even the Masters. But even though we Hobgoblins and Goblins and Ogres and the cold Bug-Men did fight many times, Anzari-tarin is all tunnels and caves. The Masters did make us learn to fight on open ground. They did create huge caves that we did train in.

The Masters did learn much about Tezlari-tarin. They did summon up horrible creatures that knew the future, and they did make plans using what the creatures knew. Once they did drain the blood of two thousand Goblin babies into a great pot made of bones and skin. I did help to make the pot. The Masters did use the blood to call a great terrifying creature that they did call as "Pazuzu". The great Pazuzu was awful to look at, and I did hide my eyes. He was in the world for only a very short time. But he did say one word: "Seleucar." And then he did go away, and the Masters were angry at him for his not saying anything more.

But then the Masters did study for a long time, and did learn that the future did have a great army that would fight them. And that this army was from the place that was Seleucar. And that Seleucar did not exist, but would soon. And the Masters did learn that the man who would make Seleucar come to be was called Nikolas. And the Masters decided that they would hurl great curses at him and plague him, and try to kill him before he could do anything to hurt them. They could not send armies to Tezlari-tarin to kill him, because they did not want Tezlari-tarin to know they did exist.

Long did I watch the human man Nikolas in the magic stone. He did lead a huge army, but less than a fourth part of the army was made of warriors. He did lead an army of people who carried food and other things. I did learn much of Tezlari-tarin in watching him. I did learn of "trees" and "wood" and other things. Master Blood Drinker did take me at times to speak to large groups of Hobgoblins and Goblins and Ogres to teach them what "trees" and "wood" and "clouds" and other things of Tezlari-tarin were. The Bug Men did speak a language only they did understand, and so other Masters did teach them through magic.

I did watch the human man Nikolas lead his people traveling sometimes this way, sometimes that way. More people did come with him when he did speak to them in cities. Cities did seem very strange to me, like clusters of artificial caves. I did explain "cities" to the Masters' armies, also. And Nikolas did finally go into a great place of rock dust called "sand", and did find a city of people the Masters did call "mhun".

The Masters did know that Nikolas could only go in one way from where he was. Mountains and jungles did bar his way. The Masters did use their magics to call up all the fierce beasts and monsters into the mountains to bar the path of Nikolas and his people. And when Nikolas did take his people into the mountains, the Masters did magically direct the monsters to attack wherever the people were weakest. The monsters and beasts did cause them to go more slowly, and the time of snow and cold came to the mountains, and many people did freeze and die. Before Nikolas could leave the mountains, one third of his people were killed.

Then Nikolas and his people did go into a place of jungles. And the Masters did work greater magic, and caused there to be deadly diseases in the air. And the lungs and hearts of Nikolas' people were afflicted, and they did suffer greatly and die. And before Nikolas could leave the jungle, half of the people who escaped the mountains were dead in the jungle. His "army" was only a third as big as it was before, and the Masters did rejoice.

But our own plans to make a great army did suffer, also. No matter what the Masters did do, the Goblins and Hobgoblins and Ogres could not withstand the horrible light of Tezlari-yumap. The Masters did work great magics upon me, to make me so that I could look upon Tezlari-yumap safely, but the Masters did find that those magics required precious materials that did not exist in great quantity. So the Masters did kill all their armies, who would otherwise have lived for two hundred years (for the creatures of Anzari-tarin suffer less from the "great rays of outer heaven", as the Masters do call it, and so we do live longer than those condemned to the burning hell that is Tezlari-tarin). The Masters did kill them all, and did take from them the "spiral ribbons of future creation" with which the Masters can create new life as they wish. And the Masters did create new Goblins and Hobgoblins and Ogres just like the ones before, but these new creatures were changed in their "spiral ribbons of future creation" so that they were not blinded by Tezlari-yumap, and so that they would be even greater warriors. But this great project did require all of the Masters' effort and knowledge for a full hundred years, and so only Master Blue Dark alone did spare himself from this effort to continue harrying Nikolas.

And I alone, being Sa-dulkario-ma, was let to live. And I did receive the task of leading all the Goblin and Hobgoblin and Ogre people into the funeral caves where they would all be killed by the magic of the Masters. And within my heart did grow a huge hatred and rebellion against the Masters. And I did resolve to destroy them in the end, if ever I could.

Severian's Notes

from Severian Marcella, Notes: Various

Rico,

Be sure that the building materials arrive here safely. There are still plenty of monsters in the mountain paths, so I'm relying on you and your Templars to guard the caravans carefully! Brother Valcleve and his men are working on building a series of shrines along the paths, so if you have any chance to assist him, please do so. If we can enforce the trade paths with the powers of the gods, it'll make shipping far easier.

Severian

PS: For the last time, the Occultists are NOT sacrificing babies. They just speak of the powers of darkness to get respect; the true scholars among them realise that "light" and "darkness" are irrelevant to Chaos. They're as Seleucarian as you, so you had better learn to get along with them.

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Eveline,

Thank you for your continued efforts in the building. Nikolas and I have sworn that our mud huts will be the last to be replaced with stone houses, which was pretty noble of us at the time. Nikolas doesn't seem to care, but personally, I'm getting tired of forever throwing frogs back outside in the middle of the night. If you need any supplies that you don't have, please tell me so I can push them through.

Severian

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Omdoria,

Although I greatly appreciate your desire to help, it seems that most of our citizens are afraid to fly in a flaming chariot pulled by demonic goats. I can't for the life of me see what their trouble is, but I guess the flaming-goat concept just doesn't appeal to one and all. Please continue to provide light for the nighttime work crews, and battle against the jungle beasts, but try to keep a low profile when it comes to eating hearts and decaying your victims' living flesh… although I know full well you Occultists aren't pure evil, many of the other citizens seem to disagree.

Severian

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Chief Grolmar Lightning-Hand, Lord Baron of Moghedu:

Our leader King Nikolas gratefully accepts your ceremonial gifts of statues and fine leathers and humbly requests that you accept in return our minor offering of gold and carved mahogany from our new holdings. Although we are barely beginning to consolidate our new domain, we will not forget your help in establishing a trade route, and we look forward to generations of productive commerce. I regret to say that we cannot as yet assist you with your grievous drought, but once we have working wells we will be very glad to ship you as many barrels of water as we can spare.

Yours in Friendship,

Duke Severian Marcella, Right Hand of the King

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Meggan,

I am sure that between the expertise of your Druidic dowsers and the technical skill of Crenge's dwarven engineers, we will obtain a working well in no time, despite your recent difficulties. Please update me on your progress; our water-barrels are running low, and the frequent rainfall is not sufficient to meet our needs. The river water remains tainted with the same diseases that plagued our journey here; I fear that dark forces are at work, but we must struggle on regardless.

Severian

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Nikolas,

For the love of the gods, will you take an interest? I know that you've got large matters to think on, but the day to day running of the realm is killing me. It's like you've lost your direction. Come on, Seleucar is what you always dreamed of creating, and now I've got so much paperwork I don't even have time to track you down and talk to you in person!

Swamped Severian

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Guard Captain Ballan Fremont:

This could be a moment of national emergency, insofar as we have an emergent nation. Nikolas has disappeared. He stepped off into the jungle to take care of some business, and then he didn't come back. It's been four hours now, and I'm beyond worried. Try to keep this as low profile as possible, please, but use whatever means are necessary to find our erstwhile ruler.

Duke Severian

Divine Encounter

from Kraid Icarus, Accounts of the Sermons

When Nicator returned from the jungle, three days later, his eyes were alight with holy fire… as was the golden six-foot staff in his right hand. In his last sermon as a prophet, and his first speech as a true king, he said:

People of Seleucar, Sarapis sends his blessing.

Three days ago, I was at a crossroads, and so was this entire tiny kingdom. You were all busy building and trading and healing and fighting, and I was very proud of you and still am… the crossroads was mine, because there was a decision I had not made. The decision was this: What are we? Are we to be just a town on a river in a jungle near the sea? Are we to sweep forth and conquer the world? Are we to distinguish ourselves as artists? As craftsmen? As seafaring merchants? Simply put, in what direction do I lead Seleucar, this ideal kingdom of justice and virtue? I could not come to a conclusion, and I did not want to lead you astray. And what's more, I knew that Seleucar faced deadly problems: the jungle beasts, the disease, the lack of clean water. How could we even survive? Lacking answers, I feared to make matters worse by issuing random orders.

I wandered in the jungle for a full day. It was quite by accident; I stepped into the jungle to smell the flowers, and before I had gone fifteen feet the jungle closed in behind me, and I could not find my way back. As the sun went down, I realized that I would probably be killed by jungle predators… and I wondered if this was a divine judgment for my impossible dream.

Then I came across an altar, nestled between two moss-covered boulders in the middle of the jungle. It was tiny, made of wood, humble and weak, but unmistakeably inscribed with the sigil of the Logos. Exhausted, I fell to my knees before it. The shrine was brand new, and so I assumed that it had been built by a zealous Priest of Seleucar. Although the shrine was carved of fine cedarwood, which does not grow in this jungle, I did not consider for a moment that the shrine itself might be of supernatural origin. Whoever the builder, I hoped that the holiness of the altar would protect me from the dangers of the jungle night. I didn't pray… I'm afraid that I've never been a terribly holy person in the past, even though I've been called a prophet.

It may sound strange, but even though I was tired, I didn't sleep that night. I stayed up by the shrine all night, staring into the implacable darkness of the deep jungle, thinking and wondering.

And the daylight came, and again I wandered around, trying to find my way back to Seleucar. But no matter which way I went, or how straight a path I took, I always came back to that same wooden altar. And by the time night fell, I realized that I was indeed at the mercy of the gods.

My entire life has been a story of self-reliance, and that has made my life difficult. The hardest choices are the ones a man makes for himself. The choice to be good, the choice to be evil, the choice to take a safe profession or a dangerous one, the choice to live or to die. I've never relied on the gods for my morality or ethics; I've always chosen my own path. But this once, I realized that I had no choice but to surrender.

So I prayed. At first it was difficult, because I was exercising a part of myself that I had never before used. I had never spoken with my spirit before, only with my mind and heart. The closest I ever came to spirit were my dreams of Seleucar. And after two sleepless days and nights of prayer, I came to realize that my dreams of Seleucar were sent by the gods, and that everything I had done in my life was by gift of Sarapis. And I was ashamed for ignoring him for so long. Although I was starving and thirsty, my greatest pain was the realization that I had achieved so much without ever paying tribute to the being who had given me the power to do so.

"Sarapis," I said at last, "I submit myself to you. From now, I will never act without your guidance. I beg of you now, now that my dreams of Seleucar are fulfilled, grant me another vision. Tell me what I must do next."

In the legends and myths, a god's appearance is always heralded with loud noises or flashes of light or mysterious portents. And even if the god appears quietly, he always projects a great aura of awe and mystery. Sarapis did none of this. He walked out from behind a tree, and his feet crunched in the undergrowth like any man's. He was dressed in a long gray cloak, and the cowl was drawn to hide his features. Except that he hid his face, there was nothing at all to distinguish him, but I knew him nonetheless. I cannot say how I was so sure, for he never even spoke his name, but it was Sarapis, and I am more sure of that than I am of my very existence.

He held a tall golden staff in his left hand, and a mossy black stone in his right. And he said, "Nikolas… I have what you seek. In my right hand I have survival. In the left, greatness. This stone is covered with a moss which I have created, called amar, which purifies the diseased waters of the air and chills them to the stone. Learn the secret of its growth, and your kingdom shall not perish.

"But survival is only the half of your question, is it not, Nikolas? You seek direction? You seek a vision? Then a vision you shall have!"

I saw a city on the shores of a great sea, and the city was full of white light, while the sea was pure blackness. And I saw the king of that city, holding the golden staff of Sarapis, and he held it high in the sky. And small lights traveled all along the ground toward the city, and I could see that each light on the ground was a soldier in armor. And as the lights traveled toward the city, the black sea rose higher and higher, and grew rougher and rougher. And finally, a great wave began to roll in from the sea, and the man with the golden staff commanded that all the lights of his city rise up to meet the wave and break it. The last thing I saw was the wave of darkness striking hard against the massed lights of the city. Did the city hold? I could not see.

"Nikolas. That city of light is Seleucar. The man with the golden staff is you, who will defend it. Will you gather the light? Will you build up Seleucar to stand against the Black Wave?"

"Yes, almighty Sarapis!" I replied. "What must I do?"

"Take this rock and this staff, for they hold your present and your future. With the rock, bring your people out of suffering, and establish them as noble landholders, freemen, creators of their own destiny. Teach them well in the ways of virtue. And with this staff, gather together a great army. All who see the staff and hear you speak will join with you; any who stand against you will lose their will to fight when they see you hold this staff aloft. You must gain dominion over all the land, Nikolas, and you must build the most powerful army the world has ever seen, for the Black Wave is even now rolling in toward the shore, and one hundred years from now it will strike, with a force you cannot imagine. Only your preparation can save the continent of Sapience. Will you do this? Will you conquer in my name?"

"I am not a conquerer…"

"Who is better suited to conquer wisely than one who does not wish conquest? Will you conquer in order to save this world?"

"If it is your will, I shall!"

"Then hear me clearly now, Nikolas! The man 'Nikolas' is no more! That young man who was prophet of no god but himself has done well, and now he goes to his rest. From this point onward, you have a new name, one worthy of a true emperor: You are Nicator! And understand well that although you serve me, you shall achieve your dominion of your own power. My staff shall aid you, but only through your own strength and will can you ever succeed. But I have seen that you have strength and will in you that will carry you well, if only you keep hope. Go, Nicator! Go and build; go and conquer!"

I was inspired, I was dazzled. And I went, as Sarapis had commanded, and here I am. So my people, listen well: the Logos is with us! Behold the staff that he has given us! With his words and our strong backs, we will overcome all the obstacles in our way… we will resist the Black Wave! Sarapis said that the threat would come in one hundred years; you and I may die before it comes, but our children will fight in our place! We will fight! We will fight and win! Who is with me? Who is with Seleucar?

Allies

from Severian Marcella, Notes: Various

Chief Grolmar Lightning-Hand, Lord Baron of Moghedu:

The black rock that carries Sarapis' immortal watery moss is the exact same type of rock that made up the ornamentation of that ceremonial statue you gifted us with! I make apology for the informality of this letter, but this is a very exciting discovery: by growing the amar moss on your unique obsidian, we can solve the water problems of both our communities. Please send an emissary with a quantity of that rock, and we will send him back with as much of the moss as we can grow on it. Yours in Friendship and Hope,

Duke Severian Marcella, Right Hand of the Emperor

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Ralshev,

Congratulations on your recruiting and training efforts. Although we're all a bit unclear on the exact nature of this "Black Wave", and the conquest of Ashtan and Shallam both seems pretty unlikely, I'm as excited as anyone to have such a large project to embark upon. Keep bringing in the fighting men as quickly as we gain capacity to feed and house them.

Severian

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Dear Mother,

No, "that ruffian Nikolas" has not lured me into bad influences against my will, and his name is Nicator now. Sarapis said so. And yes, I'm wearing the sweater you knitted me, and a very good sweater it is, too. Tell Father not to work so hard, and I'll be sure to visit you both when we conquer Thera.

Love,

Severian

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Emre Nikain Ironhand, Supreme of the Mannaseh Trolls:

Mighty Supreme, I send greetings from Nicator, King of Seleucar and Conqueror of the World. He prays that you accept this gift: a two-handed cleaver of folded stainless carbon steel. Fight with this weapon, and you will find that it needs no gems or gold to prove its worth: as it was made using our special magic, it will cut through copper and bronze as if through old cheese, and it will not break as iron will. Its sharpness is absolute; no razor could hold an edge as well as this blade. This is the first such weapon we have made, but we can make many more; and we will give them to you and your people, if only you will help us fight against those who have oppressed you for so long, the arrogant humans of Ashtan and Shallam. My ruler graciously awaits your response.

Duke Severian Marcella, Right Hand of the Emperor

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Ralshev,

Are you doing all right in integrating the Mhun and the Trolls into your formations? I'm still in shock over their response… first the Mhun pledge the loyal service of their entire race for two generations, then the Trolls pick up their entire tribe and march here to become citizens. If you have any troubles, let me know; I'll get Nicator to wave his staff around and turn everyone into bosom buddies.

Severian

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Nicator:

Only two years settled and all is in readiness! I'll never believe you gathered so many people so quickly, even though I was the one administrating all the levies… it's amazing what kind of fighting men you find when you promise them a better life and make them believe it. All right, Nikolas… you know I've no talent for warfare, so I'll handle the logistics. Ralshev and Rico will command the troops. We move for Shallam on your orders, so I hope you get this note as soon as you get back from the temple.

Severian

PS: I'm actually quaking in my boots, but if you wave that staff at me I'll deck you. I'd rather piss myself than rely on a god's power to take away my fear.

Fall of Shallam

from The Fall of Shallam (popular protest song)

With a crack and a whack did the White Wave strike

Shattering the armies with a golden pike

Nicator's Staff did cry our defeat

And we fought and we died in the day's full heat

Our prayers rang false and their aim was true

And as our front ranks fell, they attacked anew

Seleucar's pride dashed hard in the van

And our Templars countered, and so the fight ran

We could not lose!

But we could not win

Then death we choose!

But falsehood's a sin And ere the sun set we were kissing their hands,

Begging for the right to surrender our lands.

Sing hi, ho for Seleucar's glory!

Seleucar's victory, Seleucar's story!

The blades of Seleucar still drip blood

But we'll gladly walk in Seleucar mud!

Age of Conquest

from Retsu Nienhalt, The Age of Conquest

Although there was much popular protest against Nicator and Seleucar in Shallam, the fact was incontrovertible: Seleucar's small force had demolished the mighty Shallamese army, and forced the city to unconditional surrender in a period of two hours.

The ease of the victory was due in part to the fact that Nicator's force was so small that it was not even perceived as an army until there was only a quarter of a mile to the main gate of the city. Shallam was forced to field its army with little preparation and no room to maneuver. Had the Shallamese thought to simply close the gate and wait for Nicator to leave, the Selucarian plans might have stopped right there, but Nicator and his strategists had planned it exactly: counting on Shallam's reluctance to close their shipping lanes, and the fact that Shallam had no inkling of Seleucar's existence up to now, they attacked with a force of a size calculated to bring only a half-hearted Shallamese response.

Meeting Shallam's army with great ferocity, the Selucarian army, only a thousand strong, defeated three thousand men in close combat right in front of the city's main gate. Selucarian Templars unhorsed Shallamese Knights; Selucarian trolls chopped Shallamese soldiers like weeds; and the Selucarian Occultists, many of whom had fled to Seleucar to escape Shallamese persecution, took great pleasure in using their flaming chariots to clear the parapets.

And in the end, the Emperor of Shallam took the field personally, struggling through the city gate on his noble charger, and a great cheer came up from his warriors… which turned to a great cry of dismay when Nicator froze him in a globe of golden light using the Staff of Nicator, and levitated him into the center of the Selucarian army. Entering the globe himself, Nicator held a long discussion with the Emperor, while the two armies battled furiously. When the discussion was over, the Emperor was given safe passage back to his army. The Emperor ordered his men to retreat into the city. Fifteen minutes later, white flags rose all over Shallam, to indicate the city's complete surrender.

When asked what he had talked about with the Emperor, Nicator simply replied, "I convinced him that Shallam would do better as part of Seleucar." It is widely believed that Nicator did not relate the full story.

Sister Lavaine

from Arisa Raviede, A Booke of Hystorickal Seraphs, or Angeles of Olde

(Editor's Note: I've rendered the original text into modern spelling, but kept the syntax of the High Speech. The High Speech is seldom used nowadays, but in the most formal books of the Selucarian Empire, it was much in evidence.)

Here followeth the recent tale of Lisanne, a most worshipful angel what cleaved unto Sister Lavaine, who was full made Priestess of Sarapis under his Imperial Majesty, Nicator of Seleucar. Short hard after the state of Shallam did give up resistance to Seleucar, did Sister Lavaine hear tidings of war. As the book saith, many were hearts glad that the lord called them to smite Ashtan, as many were their grievances and complaints against that black city, and yea, many were that city's offenses against them. And yet did Sister Lavaine make dole that she should ever fight against so great a city as Ashtan, for she hove from Ashtan, and despite that she had joined Seleucar and her lord Emperor Nicator, yet did she love Ashtan well. And her heart was full sore that she should go against Ashtan, and so too was that of her angel, Lisanne.

And in marching and prayer the days went, and many hymns and prayers did Sister Lavaine sing, and much trepidation had Lisanne, for fear that Sister Lavaine might needs fight her friends of old, from the city of Ashtan. But despite prayers did the day of battle come, and of rushing and fighting there was much. And Sister Lavaine took up a great mace, and did great deeds of arms, and her angel Lisanne with her, and together they traced and traversed, striking many sad strokes, and many hard brunts did Sister Lavaine take, and many did she heal, or other she had died. And she said, Sarapis may you have mercy on me, for that I might have the power to heal me of my wounds, or I shall die. And lo she did heal herself and was whole, so that all marveled, How can this priestess so straitly heal her wounds, that even an hundred knights all to-slashing cannot slay her cold? And likewise did all the priests and paladins on the field, that none might slay them, but instead that all their wounds might close as soon as they were suffered. And slowly did godless Ashtan lose the field, and then the king of Ashtan made great woe, and cried Sarapis! Woe that I ever demanded battle on these bloody plains, for now I shall die on these bloody plains! And then the king waxed wood wroth, and he spake, sithen I shall die, wit you well I shall bear many a noble knight to hell alongside, and too I shall destroy mine enemy Emperor of Seleucar!

And Sister Lavaine did see the king of Ashtan mount a great charge, so fierce that it were like unto the crashing mountain that comes of a tiny pebble's fall, and she did say unto Lisanne, Go forth, my holy angel, let give tiding to my lord of this charge, and warn him, that he may meet it, for an he meet it not, surely he shall be slain. And by no mean would I see my sweet lord be killed on these bloody plains. And so Lisanne cried, I would do as ye list, but that I fear ye shall die if I leave thee. Fear ye not ever for me, but go ye to save my lord, for my life is as wood, but his is as diamond. And Lisanne said, O Sarapis defend me, for an I do not this one thing, it were as well I had never left the Sacred World.

And straight Lisanne yede, and many strokes did she trade each for other with many dolorous knights of Ashtan, and twice nearly was she cut from the world by the dread scythe of the Chaos Spirit known only as Angelbane. And Lisanne reached Nicator as he encountered full hot with the black knights of Ashtan, heedless of the body of knights that charged full on him. And Lisanne cried, Turn around, noble emperor, for your death rushes up ahind thee! And then did Nicator wheel his horse, and did wit that his foe charged upon him with feutred spear, and then great effort did he make, and mustered his men to encounter upon both sides. And Emperor Nicator was sore pressed. Then did he raise up his golden staff, and cry, For Seleucar! For Sarapis! For Light! And then his men waxed wonderly mighty, and dealt strokes so fierce as if they were each five men, and the Ashtan knights were hard pressed on their side. And the king of Ashtan cried, Who are these knights that fight as they were five for each one?

And Lisanne said, For Seleucar do I battle! And of Seleucar and the Sacred World do I come! And Lisanne fought the knights of Ashtan as she had been a rock and they waves, for an ever they came nigh, she shattered them and kept them from the Emperor. And as the sun fell half down the sky, she fought ever on, and did many great deeds of arms, and slew many knights. And at length she encountered with the king of Ashtan, and then they thundered together with such a force that all men marveled, Look how the angel and the king strike sparks from swords! And they fought one against another, sometimes here, sometimes there, and each traveled the field and did great deeds of arms, but ever were they pressed back together. And Lisanne said, Wit you well, king of Ashtan, the fates have commanded our strife. And the king taunted back to her, Fair you speak, angel, but why hath your halo died out in the affray? And he made mock of her in diverse fashion. Then they fought hard together, ramping and scraping, and dealt such heavy blows that their blood rained on the ground, and dealt such loud strokes that all attended their battle with wonderment.

And in the final clash of the embroilment, Lisanne smote the king so hard that her sword did cut through his helmet and split his brain-pan, and he fell lifeless to the ground. And Lisanne fell too, for she was sore wounded, but Seleucar had won the field, and the army of Ashtan was in disarray, and they fled in rout. And Lisanne said, How is it that I bleed? For all know that angels bleed not. And priests came to her and said, Be quiet, pray to Sarapis for deliverance. And Lisanne said, How is it that my halo has died, for is not the halo the sign of the Sacred Realm? And the priests said to her, Be quiet, pray to Sarapis for deliverance. And Lisanne said, Where is Sister Lavaine, that I love, who I am sworn to protect? And the priests said, Be quiet, pray to Sarapis for deliverance, for Sister Lavaine has fallen in battle, and where to-fore thou would have returned to the Sacred World straightaway, for thy greater love of Sarapis and Seleucar thou hast been made human. And then Lisanne was torn between grief and rejoicing: grief for her lost Lavaine, grief for her lost holiness, rejoicing for that she might live and die in Seleucar, sovereign state of all Sapience, for which she gave up of her seraphic soul.

Nicator's Passing

from "Lucky" Lantis DeGage, Fighting the Tide: A Memoir

The important part of my story really begins at the end of Nicator's life. Of course, the Conquest Age of the Selucarian Empire was swirling all around us, but we didn't notice it; we were too busy making buildings to see the shape of the town, if you catch my meaning. I was one of the young breed of administrators, the appointed nobles who had attained power in the new regime of Seleucar. We were too young to care about the old hates between Ashtan and Shallam. We were just excited to be working on the greatest project we'd ever heard of: empire! Dynasty! Progress!

I was the proudest of all. As the Architect of Thera, I had charge of all the public works from the gates of Ashtan to Lake Vundamere. The Shunai Bridge was one of my designs, as was the Chapel of All Gods near Thera (now fallen in the Black Wave, and never rebuilt, sadly). And my position put me close to the great man himself, Emperor Nicator. I remember him clearly, even as I reach the twilight of my own life: although he was often distant, gazing into a future I could only imagine, he always had a word for me, always had an interest in all his people. At that time, humans and Tsol'aa were the only races with true social status in the realms, yet Emperor Nicator recognized the virtues of the other races, and gave many positions of power to his old allies the Trolls, the Mhun, and even Dwarves like me.

Some criticized the Emperor. They called him a lecher because he took many wives, ignoring the fact that his marriages and offspring brought his many provinces firmly into the new union. They called him a spendthrift because of the money he spent to aid the poor, ignoring the fact that many of them became productive members of the only kingdom that had ever bothered to give them a chance. And they called him a madman, because he marshalled mighty armies and drilled them daily against a threat he could not name, a threat that never even materialized during his lifetime… and later they looked foolish indeed, biting their tongues as the great armies of Nicator did battle with the hideous monsters of the Black Wave.

My personal story is of interest to me, but no doubt of less interest to you; my autobiography tells it quite clearly, for any who greatly care. This memoir is of Nicator, and of his son Piraeus, and of the Black Wave. And it begins, for me, with Nicator's funeral. It was held in the Chrysalis Basilica, and it could have been the first and last time that the Basilica would ever be crammed with so diverse a group. Templars and Druids and Priests held company with Serpentlords and Occultists. The Templars wore armor specially discolored with soot, to indicate their estate of woe; the Priests dressed in mourning black; the Occultists and Serpentlords, normally secretive and clannish, stood shoulder to shoulder with their traditional rivals. Nicator's Theran wife, Petra, nobly led her small cadre of sister wives, each in the mourning array of their home cities, each hiding her grief with different degrees of success. Nicator's eldest son, Piraeus, the heir apparent to the throne, stood solemnly by his sister, Selicande, who held his hand gently, even as Nicator's other four children wept openly. And of officials and nobles there was a great sea, and beyond them outside the Basilica gates was an ocean of common folk, attentively listening for even the slightest murmurs of the great ceremony.

I cannot remember a word of the funeral service, nor do I remember the speeches given by the many nobles who eulogized the great man that day. What I remember is the face of the noble Princess Selicande as she comforted her brother the heir. What I remember is the strong yet tearful gaze of Queen Petra as she spoke of the love that had grown from her arranged marriage with her lord. I remember the tightly controlled grief on the face of Chancellor Severian as he poured out a libation to the gods in memory of his greatest friend. I remember the silent determination of young Prince Piraeus as he took the Imperial Crown at the sunset ceremony that same day. And I remembered the dark mutterings against the new Emperor, for even before his accession to the throne, he had declared his intent to continue to maintain the mighty host that his father had commanded. These were the sights and sounds of a great empire preparing to prove its worth… the sounds of a realm that would have to pass through greater travail before it could truly create the golden age it promised.

I remember events of the years after that, as well… the cheers and pomp and flash of spears as the youthful Emperor thrust his great armies into ever higher pitches of recruiting and training, and the strikes and protests and outcry as the ever higher cost of those armies threatened to break the coffers of the realm, and the common folk bore the price in full. I remember the stormy arguments between the Chancellor Severian, then an elderly but fiery man, and his youthful liege lord. "It may be that you have sold the chattels of the Imperial line to finance the muster of the troops, and you may well command the rest of the nobles to do the same, but in the end farmers shall starve for your useless armies, not kings!" And the young Emperor Piraeus, implacable, would bow his head in respect for his father's oldest friend, but would stand firm. "The Black Wave shall shatter on Seleucar. And if farmers must starve, I shall starve with them. Open the royal granaries and relieve those hit hard by the war tax. But the tax must hold." Chancellor Severian carried his exasperation with him to the grave, and then other naysayers took his place, and asked that the king lift the taxes. And the army's size increased, until the only ones who had enough to eat were the soldiers. It was only the size of the standing army that prevented insurrection… for who wished to challenge such a powerful military ruler as the cruel Emperor Piraeus? Only I and a few others fully believed in the "Black Wave" foretold in the vision Nicator had from Sarapis. And even we knew our doubts.

But twelve years after Nicator's death, just as the young Selucarian Empire was close to self-destruction under the weight of Piraeus' military host, the Black Wave struck, and from a direction none had expected: the depths of the earth.

Matic's Bitterness

from Blade Captain Matic Ridley, An Account of the Earliest Actions in the Dar-tezlari-kanit

And then the time was ripe, and Master Blood Drinker and Master Blue Dark and Master Secret Hate did all say unto me, "Sa-dulkurio-ma, serve us well! Now we don the Vestments of Blackness, and we rise into Tezlari-tarin! Command the hosts of Goblins and Hobgoblins and Ogres and Bug-Men, and follow us to Tezlari-tarin, to the hated cities of Seleucar, and kill everyone there!" And in their black eyes was a light, which I had thought always was the light of godhood, but then I did see that it was the light of madness. And I did think, "The Masters are broken inside. They will kill us all. I must help to kill them instead. But I cannot escape from them while I am in Anzari-tarin… I shall go to Tezlari-tarin at the front of the army and I shall help the people who live there, even if the Masters torture me for a thousand years."

And I did travel with Master Blue Dark, who was to destroy Seleucar. Master Blood Drinker was to destroy Ashtan, and Master Secret Hate did claim the right to destroy Shallam. And each of the Masters did lead a great army through the tunnels to the tezlari-jio, the Holes of Light which they had made, that did magically open onto Tezlari-tarin, a hundred hundred feet above. The Vestments of Blackness which the Masters did wear prevented them from dying in the light of Tezlari-yumap. I was Sa-dulkurio-ma to Master Blue Dark, and so I did move all of his armies through the tezlari-jio of the Vashnar Mountains, and I did marshal them and set them to march southwest, toward the city of Seleucar. I did know from the great seeing crystal of Master Blue Dark that the humans in Seleucar were all warriors, to such number that the warriors there did outnumber the civilians. I did not know what plan Master Blue Dark had created to defeat a force so large, but I did not question him, for I hoped that he would fail, that I might gain revenge for my people who had all been killed.

The Goblins and Hobgoblins and Ogres and Bug-Men that the Masters did make from the "spiral ribbons of future creation" were not like the ones who I had lived and grown with. These ones that the Masters did create were without souls. They did live only to kill, and spoke of nothing but killing and eating and fornicating. When the Masters did change their "spiral ribbons of future creation", the Masters did make them stronger and harder and faster, but they did take away all that made me love my race. They did destroy the goodness and weakness of the Hobgoblin spirit. They did commit a crime so great that there is no word for it in any language: they did make the Goblins and Hobgoblins and Ogres and Bug-Men unredeemable. Where before, the Goblins did be the creators of tools and utensils, the diggers of caves, the builders of fires; now they did be creators of weapons, builders of siege towers, cannibals. Where before, the Hobgoblins did be mighty warriors, masters of honor and tactics, protectors of the lesser Goblins; now they did be wild berserkers, honorless slaughterers, and did delight in whipping the Goblins to make them move faster. Where before, the Ogres did temper their great strength and small minds with sensitivity; now they did delight in hurting those weaker than them, and all save the Masters were weaker. And where before, the Bug-Men were as a tribe of Tezlari-tarin's "bees", working to build for the good of all; now they were as "wasps", working to slay for the good of themselves alone. And all this did be the working of the Masters, and my resolve did harden to bitter crystal as I did consider how I might bring them down.

The Black Wave

from Gren Rafale, Telepathic Transmissions: A Reconstruction of the Black Wave

(Editor's note: These telepathic records were impounded for many years: it was only after the Fall of the Selucarian Empire that they were released into the public domain, and were compiled and edited by Gren Rafale. It was the custom of the Selucarian military at that time that each officer should be accompanied by a scribe with a Helm of Telepathy, so that the scribe could record all telepathic communications for later tactical analysis.)

10:31:46
(Seleucar): Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar says, "Citizens of Seleucar, have no fear. The Black Wave comes, but what might have been an unbeatable army in normal times is less than half the size of our current glorious force. This army of monsters shall shatter on the spears of Selucarian soldiers!"
10:32:02
Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar tells Warleader Lockwood, "Warleader, begin the operation."
10:33:56
Lia Tremalle, the Wind of Change tells Warleader Lockwood, "I can see them… by the Logos! They make the jungle black! They're clearing a path… the giant ones are in the front, uprooting trees and hurling them aside. The short ugly ones are the most numerous… they're led by muscular ones who look almost human, except for their tusks and eyes. The muscular ones look like a superior species of the short ones. The man-sized insects are in the rear… the insects have spears and some sort of small bladed weapon, maybe a throwing knife. So far, none of them have looked up, but I can't see well through the tree cover either, so I can't estimate their numbers. They're travelling through the heart of the groves, though."
10:34:05
(Military): Warleader Lockwood says, "Spotters have sighted the enemy in the jungle. ETA one half-hour. We won't wait for them to get to us, though. Hold position. We'll advance within a few minutes.
10:34:09
(Military): Warleader Lockwood says, "Unit commanders, report your status directly to me."
10:34:15
Master Chang, Sentaari Fist tells Warleader Lockwood, "My monks are all at maximum readiness. We're in formation. Condition green."
10:34:16
Adchachel, Black Lotus of Mystery tells Warleader Lockwood, "My brood is in readiness. Our entities flock the earth and skies. Condition green."
10:34:18
Sir Martio Lizardbane, Troll Templar tells Warleader Lockwood, "Condition uhh… green. We all ready."
10:34:20
Lord Raeman Nikkaido tells Warleader Lockwood, "My templars are ready. Condition green."
10:34:25
Druidic Prophet Hollis tells Warleader Lockwood, "Our encircling maneuver is almost complete. The enemy is nearing optimum position. Request permission to initiate Operation Eclipse Phase One."
10:35:05
Warleader Lockwood tells Druidic Prophet Hollis, "Phase One, at will. Make them pay the toll."
10:35:10
(Military): Warleader Lockwood says, "All units, advance. Prepare to execute Attack Pattern A on my command."
10:38:42
Druidic Prophet Hollis tells Warleader Lockwood, "Phase One in progress. They're wishing they weren't in the jungle right now, Warleader… between the animals, the plants, and the lightning, they'll be lucky if a third of them escape alive."
10:38:48
Warleader Lockwood tells Druidic Prophet Hollis, "Excellent."
10:40:24
Warleader Lockwood tells Druidic Prophet Hollis, "That flash wasn't your lightning! Report status!"
10:40:30
Druidic Prophet Hollis tells Warleader Lockwood, "Fighting hold on."
10:40:31
Lia Tremalle, the Wind of Change tells Warleader Lockwood, "They did something that blasted all the stored light out of our groves at once! Hollis is fighting their leader. I don't know who it is, he looks like a Tsol'aa but it's like he's in a permanent shadow. I'm going down to help him."
10:40:46
Druidic Prophet Hollis has been slain by the might of Agith'maal, Tsol'teth Overlord.

(Editor's note: In military confrontations, it was customary that only the scribes would have deathsight; a running list of deaths was considered far too distracting for combatants in a true war. In Gren Rafale's transcript, only important death notices are listed. In actuality, of course, thousands died that day.)

10:40:59
Warleader Lockwood tells Lia Tremalle, the Wind of Change, "Call the Druids to fall back and prepare to flank the enemy on the field."
10:41:00
Lia Tremalle, the Wind of Change has been slain by the might of Agith'maal, Tsol'teth Overlord.
10:41:10
(Military): Warleader Lockwood says, "This army is led by a Tsol'teth who calls himself Agith'maal. He wields a powerful magic. Our champions will meet him on the field. Footmen, cavalry, concentrate firmly on the mass of the enemies, avoid confronting the leader! Attack Pattern A, execute!"
10:41:30
Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar tells Warleader Lockwood, "The reserve priests are waiting inside the city gates. Do you need their holy power to combat this Tsol'teth?"
10:41:38
Warleader Lockwood tells Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar, "Send them out. Phase One was far less effective than expected."
10:42:20
Sir Martio Lizardbane, Troll Templar tells Warleader Lockwood, "We engage enemy now."
10:43:16
(Military): Sir Martio Lizardbane, Troll Templar says, "These guys not so tough. We kill them easy after all! Look, they not like sunlight! Ha ha ha!"
10:43:20
Lord Raeman Nikkaido tells Warleader Lockwood, "Engaging enemy."
10:44:25
Sir Martio Lizardbane, Troll Templar has been slain by the might of Agith'maal, Tsol'teth Overlord.
10:44:41
Adchachel, Black Lotus of Mystery tells Warleader Lockwood, "We begin."
10:46:32
Warleader Lockwood tells Sir Emery Zokathra, "Merge your unit with Raeman's. Continue the attack."
10:46:35
Agith'maal, Tsol'teth Overlord intones, "Hwarak alshamar osang rach haahl! Kwarak alshamar osang rach haahl! In the name of the eternal darkness, you will all obey ME! Turn on your brethren! Turn on those you love! Slay them all! Hwarak alshamar osang rach haahl…"
10:46:36
Sir Emery Zokathra tells Warleader Lockwood, "I shall not obey you, Warleader. The Master's defeat of Martio proves to me that he is greater than you. I worship him now. Prepare to meet your end!"
10:47:50
Master Chang, Sentaari Fist tells Warleader Lockwood, "My monks are resisting Agith'maal's chant due to our telepathic training, but we're forced to defense! The footmen and cavalry and Templars are coming after us and the Occultists! They're possessed! I request orders!"
10:47:59
Adchachel, Black Lotus of Mystery tells Warleader Lockwood, "Our allies have turned to the dark side. Ironically, we're fighting them. Should I continue to kill our own men?"
10:48:06
(Military): Warleader Lockwood says, "All loyal troops, ordered retreat! Seek the city walls! Assume Defense Formation B, around the shrines, and wait for the priests to succor you!"
10:49:14
Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar tells Raxis Snake-Eyes, "Send your best men into the field. And you are to personally go to the King's Tomb and bring me the Staff of Nicator. We need it."
10:49:16
(Military): Master Shun, Sentaari Loyalist says, "We're being shredded on the left flank! The possessed troops and the monsters are joining up against us! We can't hold on any longer! Taking losses!"
10:49:20
Raxis Snake-Eyes tells Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar, "Sso it shall be done."
10:49:25
Raxis Snake-Eyes tells Warleader Lockwood, "I'm ssending you my loyal sserpentfolk. They will obey you well, unlesss they too are possesssed by this demon Agith'maal."

Master Shun, Sentaari Loyalist has been slain by the might of a noble myrmidon of Seleucar.

10:50:26
Father Orlan, Bringer of Hope tells Warleader Lockwood, "Each of the shrines is manned by four priests. It seems that the possessed soldiers cannot set foot near the shrines, and the monsters that come too close are destroyed by the monks and Occultists. However, this is a purely defensive position, and I fear that the enemy will use more of his black magic before the day is done."
10:51:35
Master Chang, Sentaari Fist tells Warleader Lockwood, "I've got my men busy mindlocking the possessed soldiers and marching them into the auras of the shrines. The shrines remove the Tsol'teth mind control."
10:51:46
Warleader Lockwood tells Master Chang, Sentaari Fist, "Excellent! Recover all the troops as quickly as you can, and get them to shelter at the shrines."
10:51:50
Warleader Lockwood tells Slithering Syrax, Ashtan Exile, "See if you can hypnotize the possessed soldiers into walking back to the shrines."
10:53:42
Slithering Syrax, Ashtan Exile tells Warleader Lockwood, "It's working."
10:54:10
Slithering Syrax, Ashtan Exile tells Warleader Lockwood, "Damn! The monsters are attacking the possessed troops now! They're killing them before we can bring them in!"
10:55:13
Warleader Lockwood tells Adchachel, Black Lotus of Mystery, "Use your entities to screen off the returning soldiers! Keep the monsters from killing them!"
10:56:45
Raxis Snake-Eyes tells Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar, "The Staff is gone from the tomb, your Majesty. The tomb was completely sealed, it couldn't have been grave robbers."
10:56:58
Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar tells Raxis Snake-Eyes, "The Staff must have returned to its maker. Return at speed."
11:01:24
Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar tells Warleader Lockwood, "Hold the defensive positions. We still outnumber them two to one; we can hold them off."
11:01:46
Warleader Lockwood tells Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar, "I have an idea. From the city, send anything that could possibly be used as ear-plugs. If the men can't hear the Tsol'teth's chant of disloyalty, they can't be affected."
11:01:50
Agith'maal, Tsol'teth Overlord intones, "My brethren, the army of Seleucar hides at the shrines around the city, cowering before our might!"
11:02:02
Terrin'ukia, Tsol'teth Destroyer intones, "The same is true in Shallam, my brother. We have slain many, and the slaughter continues whenever they venture out from their walls. We shall lay siege until the very city is dust!"
11:02:10
Gattan'lier, Tsol'teth Avenger intones, "Ashtan's army is broken already, all killed as a result of my incantations of disloyalty. Less than half their army survives within the city walls. We shall crack their bones!"
11:03:24
Warleader Lockwood tells Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar, "This Agith'maal is coming out into the middle of the field. I'm still having a hard time believing that the Tsol'teth have returned, but the evidence is taunting us for the entire continent to hear."
11:03:38
Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar tells Warleader Lockwood, "I don't think he plans to offer his surrender, but if we listen to him politely it'll just buy us time to get those earplugs out there. I wish I had the Staff of Nicator, but if it's the will of Sarapis that we win this battle, we'll win without it."
11:03:50
Warleader Lockwood tells Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar, "We will win this battle, your Majesty. There is no alternative."
11:04:30
Agith'maal, Tsol'teth Overlord intones, "People of Seleucar! You have witnessed my might before! Now witness it again! Behold why I am the highest of all the Tsol'teth! Behold the feebleness of your pathetic gods!"
11:04:35
Father Orlan, Bringer of Hope tells Warleader Lockwood, "He's causing the shrines to explode! We can't hold our position like this! Do we attack or retreat?"
11:04:38
(Military): Warleader Lockwood says, "Defense Formation C! Retreat to the city!"
11:04:46
Agith'maal, Tsol'teth Overlord intones, "Ha ha ha ha hah! Now you see the futility of your struggles! I shall devour your souls, humans! I shall rip your innards! I shall-"

Agith'maal, Tsol'teth Overlord has been slain by the might of Blade Captain Matic Ridley.

11:04:48
(Military): Warleader Lockwood says, "SAVE THAT MONSTER!"
11:04:50
(Military): Adchachel, Black Lotus of Mystery says, "We'll provide cover. I request backup."
11:04:53
Raxis Snake-Eyes tells Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar, "Did you see that, your Majesty? The tall goblin at the Tsol'teth's side ripped his cloak of darkness off and then stabbed him in the back!"
11:04:55
(Military): Lord Raeman Nikkaido says, "Unit Seventeen, advance! Cover the Occultists on the left flank! We were possessed once, we'll not fail again!"
11:05:01
Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar, tells Raxis Snake-Eyes, "Amazing… without his cloak of shadow, the Tsol'teth is vulnerable!"
11:05:09
Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar, tells Warleader Lockwood, "Agith'maal is ours. Keep him from recovering his cloak."
11:05:10
Agith'maal, Tsol'teth Overlord intones, "Fools! You can never defeat me as long as this heart beats within my chest! Now, die!"
11:05:27
(Military): Warleader Lockwood says, "Attack the Tsol'teth! Prevent him from regaining that cloak! Kill him as many times as necessary!"
11:05:34
Lord Raeman Nikkaido has been slain by the might of Agith'maal, Tsol'teth Overlord.
11:05:35
Master Chang, Sentaari Fist tells Warleader Lockwood, "He's much weaker after resurrecting once, but growing in strength. Even against ten champions, he's doing great damage!"
11:05:38
Sir Emery Zokathra has been slain by the might of Agith'maal, Tsol'teth Overlord.
11:05:39
(Templars): Master Kendall, Axe-Wielding Maverick says, "Templars, rally round! Smite the Tsol'teth! Keep him in sunlight!"
11:05:40
(Military): Warleader Lockwood says, "Resume Operation Eclipse! Phase Three execute! Keep Agith'maal busy!"
11:04:41
Father Orlan, Bringer of Hope tells Warleader Lockwood, "We've got the creature who killed Agith'maal at one of the shrines. He barely made it away from his own army. He speaks our language, sort of. He wants to talk to you. And we're trying to burn that cloak, but it won't catch."
11:04:45
Warleader Lockwood tells Father Orlan, Bringer of Hope, "If he has information that will help us win, tell me. Otherwise save it."
11:04:45
Master Chang, Sentaari Fist has been slain by the might of a shambling ogre.
11:04:48
(Sentaari): Iron Fist Tung says, "Sentaari, to me! Hold the monsters away from the fight! Agith'maal is weakening!"
11:05:00
Sir Francis Trabohn, Blade of the Just has been slain by the might of Agith'maal, Tsol'teth Overlord.
11:05:01
Blade Captain Matic Ridley tells Warleader Lockwood, "You kill Master, burn heart. Heart make him live over and over. You not burn heart, Master rise again."
11:05:23
Agith'maal, Tsol'teth Overlord, has been slain by the might of Master Kendall, Axe-Wielding Maverick.

Master Kendall, Axe-Wielding Maverick has been slain by the might of Agith'maal, Tsol'teth Overlord.

11:05:26
(Military): Warleader Lockwood says, "Cut out Agith'maal's heart!"
11:05:29
(Military): Adchachel, Black Lotus of Mystery says, "I've done that."
11:05:34
(Military): Warleader Lockwood says, "Now, burn it!"
11:05:45
(Military): Adchachel, Black Lotus of Mystery says, "I hope eating it works well enough, because that's what I just did."
11:05:50
(Military): Warleader Lockwood says, "By the Logos… just keep fighting! Wipe the monsters from the field!"
11:05:54
Warleader Lockwood tells Blade Captain Matic Ridley, "What if my lieutenant just ATE Agith'maal's heart?"
11:06:04
Blade Captain Matic Ridley tells Warleader Lockwood, "He did eat it? He die, maybe. Turn evil, maybe. Turn into Agith'maal, maybe. Better he kill self, or you kill, burn his heart."
11:06:10
Gattan'lier, Tsol'teth Avenger intones, "My brother! What has happened to you?"
11:06:23
Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar yells, "He has been destroyed, as was his destiny from the day Nicator began preaching in Thera! And you two shall follow him abruptly!"
11:06:45
Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar tells Warleader Lockwood, "I've spoken large words, and I rely on you to make them good in the field of battle. We'll reinforce Ashtan with a large force, as they're suffering in their lack of shrines, and Shallam with a weaker."
11:06:50
Warleader Lockwood tells Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar, "I am at your command, my liege. But we must defeat this section of the black army first!"
11:07:12
Emperor Piraeus, Ruler of Seleucar tells Warleader Lockwood, "From the battlements, it looks as though Agith'maal's death has thrown the enemy into disarray. Cut off their retreat and wipe them out."
11:07:26
(Military): Warleader Lockwood says, "Attack Pattern E, execute. We've as good as won, men, but don't get sloppy! Let's finish them off by the book."
11:07:50
(Military): Apprentice Druid Snarry says, "Hey! There's this thing in the middle of my grove. It looks like a big door made out of iron, and there's just a shifting light in the middle of it. And… hey, a few monsters just walked out of it! Should I try to destroy it?"
11:07:59
(Military): Warleader Lockwood says, "Cut off access to your grove. That must be their portal; we'll demolish it as soon as we can."

Sapience Triumphant

from "Lucky" Lantis DeGage, Fighting the Tide: A Memoir

The situation grew more dire with every passing day. We citizens, huddled within the walls of Ashtan, held little hope. Although the Occultists had brought glad tidings of the defeat of the Tsol'teth leader Agith'maal at Seleucar a week earlier, that defeat had not benefited us in the least. Instead, the Tsol'teth general Gattan'lier had redoubled his own assault, using his black magic to batter at the city gates. If the Occultists had not devoted their life essence to countering the Tsol'teth magic, we would have been destroyed in the very beginning.

The Black Wave brought out a new side of the mysterious Occultists. Before, they had been granted sanctuary in Ashtan simply because, even in the amnesty given them by the new Selucarian Empire, they felt more comfortable away from the Church-sympathetic city of Shallam. Although tolerated in Ashtan, they were never fully trusted even there, as stories proliferated of the atrocities they committed in their mysterious search for forbidden knowledge. Most Occultists preferred to hide behind secret identities, taking on common faces as grocers, or scribes, or even beggars.

When the Tsol'teth magic threatened to destroy Ashtan's army outright, however, the many hidden Occultists who had not joined the military in the beginning revealed themselves. At the end of the first day, when more than half our own army stood on the side of Gattan'lier, firmly under the control of his black magic, more than one hundred Occultists joined ranks, using their mysterious monstrous assistants to cover the Ashtanian retreat into the city. And for the week after the siege began, the Occultists used their own life essence to prevent the Tsol'teth's magic from demolishing the city walls. However, despite the vigilance of the Sentaari and Occultists, who watched to be sure that no citizens were possessed by the enemy, and the Serpentlords and soldiers, who guarded against incursions, some citizens still disappeared from their underground shelters.

By the time we saw the Selucarian relief army on the horizon, the Occultists were nearly exhausted. Gravin, the current Duke of Ashtan, had appointed me as the liaison with the Occult cabal. When I spoke to thank the Ashtanian Secretary of the Occultists, he shook his head wearily in demurral. "No thanks are necessary. As long as you don't investigate the recent string of disappearances too closely, none of us will have any problems." I was chilled, but there was little I could do. It was clear that the Occultists had killed our own citizens and devoured their energy, but they used that energy to save the entire city. Were they evil or good? I could not decide then, nor can I now. Adchachel, the Occultist Demiurge, was burned alive to stop his murderous rages after eating Agith'maal's heart. He had to be tracked to his own secret laboratory, where a close circle of his friends defended him to the death. Was their defense a matter of loyalty to their leader? Or had they gone to the dark side, following the twisted spirit of Agith'maal?

After communicating telepathically with the generals of the Selucarian army, the Duke of Ashtan commanded that all his remaining loyal warriors enter the field, with their ears plugged up against the Tsol'teth's foul chant of disloyalty. The formation was to be spearheaded by Sentaari and Occultists, who could use their various powers to retake the minds of as many possessed soldiers as possible, while the relief army pursued a similar strategy. Once each monk and necromancer had commanded a possessed soldier back to the fold, our regular troops would advance, spearing toward the Tsol'teth general Gattan'lier, clearing a path for the champions to engage him and strip away his cloak of darkness, so that the sunlight would cripple his powers and render him fully mortal.

Although I heard the plan in the council of war, I did not get to see how it played out. As an administrator and architect, my job was to reassure the frightened citizens of the city, and to oversee the city's defense against sappers and rams. During the week of siege, I'd already helped collapse five attempted tunnels, and we were all on the alert for more. During this battle, however, it was no tunnel that collapsed. Instead, there was an earthquake, one fierce enough to topple many buildings in Ashtan itself. One of the falling buildings was impolite enough to fall on me, and that's how I spent the glorious Battle of Ashtan: buried in rubble, with a ton of masonry on my legs.

I heard later that the earthquake was the dying strike of Gattan'lier, as dozens of heroes swarmed him, tearing at his cloak and striking him with sword and spell. None of the Tsol'teth were slain cheaply in the War of the Deep; Gattan'lier's retributive earthquake claimed the lives of a third of those on the battlefield, on his side and ours.

As I oversaw the rebuilding of Ashtan from my wheelchair, I had occasion to speak with Seleucar's newest officer, our only specialist on the invading armies: Blade Captain Matic Ridley, the hobgoblin noble who had defected during the Battle of Seleucar. He struck me then as a deeply honorable and very brave being, and I mourned with him the corruption of his own race. Later on, we formed a lasting friendship, but at that time, he was hot to hurry on to Shallam to help finish off the last of his erstwhile Masters, the Tsol'teth Terrin'ukia, or, as Matic called him, "Master Blood Drinker ".

And as I scanned the blueprints for the rebuilt Royal Compound, the city received notice that the Underrealm siege of Shallam had been broken by the combined powers of the Church, the Shallamese regulars, and the reinforcements from Seleucar. Again, the final Tsol'teth had wreaked tremendous havoc before he could finally be killed; this time, it was the famed Warleader Lockwood of Seleucar who was slain, even as he killed the last of the Tsol'teth with his curved sword.

As the last of the magical portals was destroyed and the last of the monster army was destroyed, the rulers of Seleucar spoke long and in depth with the hobgoblin defector Ridley. It became clear then that the Tsol'teth had never even contemplated conquest, but planned to destroy the entire kingdom, and possibly the entire surface world. They came from a realm far underground, which they called "anzari-tarin", which meant "World of Darkness"; but the common folk came to refer to the Tsol'teth domain as the Underrealm.

It was a year after the armies of Piraeus turned back the Black Wave from the Underrealm when the famed prophet Lehrinas, who had lived three hundred years to see his prophecy of the Selucarian Empire and the Black Wave come true, fell dead at his writing desk. Before him was a sheet of paper containing his last prophecy, which was unfinished…

Last Prophecy

from Lehrinas, Prophecies, Chapter 25, Verse 1-19 (unfinished), as translated from high Tsol'aa by Corrin Melithandes

The tide recedes, the centuries pass,

The young grow old, time forgets.

Silence listens, dark creates.

The world itself's a looking glass,

The numbers break from finite sets.

Chance and will battle fate.

The dark tide rises once again to slaughter all who dream of light

And saints and sinners join their friends to war again against the night

And Seleucar's redemption comes to those who fight the holy fight

And all shall pay the freight of death to match their sins, however slight.

The wave of dark shall strike again, and all shall bow in terror.

The mad, cold ones who fought before

Are Masters of the darkness still

And never shall they find their rest

Unless this power is invoked:

First, the heroes must take heed

And arm themselves full strong for war

And then must venture nobly forth

To find the Dark World's glowing door

To save the soul of Sapience's light

They must recover -

Aftermath

from Sherman Amon, An Encyclopedic History of the Cities and Empires of Sapience, Vol 2

Despite the sinister prophecy of Lehrinas, the Selucarian Empire entered a period of peace and prosperity that lasted for over four centuries. During this time, the Empire strengthened its trade relationships with every city and town on the continent, and the three major cities of Seleucar, Ashtan, and Shallam became even larger and more metropolitan than ever before.

Proud of having survived the Black Wave without the help of the Church, the city of Ashtan came to believe that personal human will was as important as the power of the gods, and that there was no need for an intermediary force such as the Church. The mysterious Occultists, although still distrusted and feared, came to occupy many positions of power in Ashtan, which caused the Church to issue formal statements against Ashtan. Although these statements were minor in comparison to the insults, threats, and outright warfare that would occur constantly after the fall of the Empire, it is clear that even during the height of the Selucarian Empire, Ashtan and Shallam never had a cordial relationship.

In contrast to Ashtan, Shallam embraced the Church even more firmly than it had before, due to the influence of the shrines in the defense of the city during the Black Wave. Whereas Ashtan's philosophers spoke of the power of the individual human to change his own life and surroundings, the Shallamese philosophers averred that only by subjecting themselves to higher wisdom and serving the greater good could humans ever improve their lots permanently.

In Seleucar, the philosopher-king Artaius attempted to promulgate his own philosophy: that men and women of personal power and diverse backgrounds, working together to serve ideals mutually agreed upon, could make far more difference in the world than powerful but undisciplined individuals or static congregations of orderly followers. In essence, Emperor Artaius tried to reconcile the viewpoints of Ashtan and Shallam, but although his views were accepted publicly through his lifetime and for centuries afterward, the old conflicts between Ashtan and Shallam were always waiting below the surface.

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