The Fifth Path (1/30)

Anatu’s Diary Entry for Nisanu 5th

Dear diary, I know it has been a very long time since I last wrote to you. More than three years actually. After I started working for the palace after finishing training, I felt like I had made it, that I didn’t need to write anymore, that I should put aside childish things. I was a soldier and a servant of Baal Shamas, and there were too many secrets and hidden things for me to write it down. I could write and leave so much out, but I have always wanted to write most about the things that are the most important, so it didn’t seem useful to write when I could not write about that. I was busy.

Fine. All those things are excuses. They are true enough, but I decided to stop writing to you dear diary, and now I want to start again. I think you’ll see why once I give you an idea of where I am and what I am doing. Everything I am writing now is secret, and you absolutely can’t tell anyone, but things are different now. I don’t have to worry about Hishtu servants, or rival guards, or vindictive commanders. I can write now with no worries that any will read it, at least for a long time. Maybe when I return I’ll have to hide you away, keep you in a secret place, only look at you and read you in the dead of night. But now, I am free, I can write, and I want to tell someone about everything that has happened to me. Its incredible. So I am telling you, because I can’t tell anyone else.

The first thing I should probably say is that I don’t work for Baal Shamas anymore. I work for his son. No, not Baal Makru. My glory would be without end if I had been assigned to serve Baal Makru, but still I am blessed. I serve one of the second sons of Baal Shamas. He is a paired one, but the holy word of Baal Shamas declared them free of the taint of the double birth, purified by the godly bloodline of the Baal. His name is Baal Uras. He is young, a year younger than me. He has the incredible grace and beauty of all of the Baal, though perhaps in a way not so majestic as his older brother and father. Still, he will inherit that majesty. That’s partly why we are doing what we are doing. To help him become a true heir of Baal Shamas, ready for rulership. He is kind, which is nice, but I fear that perhaps the kindness is a sign of naivete. It was the command of Baal Shamas that I should protect my new master with my life, but before we left I was given a second, secret command by the exalted Baal. He told me then that I was too keep an eye on Baal Uras and make sure he was not being corrupted by the influences of the outer world. To see the outer world, to know its many secrets and mysteries, but not be fooled by its trickery is the test of the Ruler. Baal Shamas expects his son to succeed, but he told me that no ruler leads alone, and neither must this task fall to Baal Uras alone. I am to protect his body, but also his spirit from the wicked things of the world.

I think maybe by now you have guessed, dear diary, what has happened. I was chosen as the Protector for Baal Uras’s Awakening. And its not just any Awakening. This is also the young Baal’s path to rulership. Instead of a month in the outside world, our journey shall last a year and a day. It has been four generations since a ruler last took the Path of Travel. I had never dreamed of even seeing the outside world, let alone traveling through it for a year of my life. Truly Bel rewards those who are true and loyal. We left but days ago, and already I have seen such wonders as would shatter the minds of all from my hometown. Truly, I know not where to begin, dearest diary. There has been so much already. I guess I’ll start from the moment we left the Great City, journeying east towards the water, and the edge of true world.

We left late. We were supposed to leave on the first of Nisanu, and thus mark the beginning of our journey with the beginning of the year, but Baal Uras invited many of his friends and servants to a great party before his departure, and the party lasted a day longer than was anticipated. Truly I had never before seen such revelry. Were I not already the servant of the greatest Baals, I would have earned a place in many royal families during those days of revelry, so many times was my virtue tested and my hand in marriage requested. Even those who’s wives I had met earlier in the day spoke to me with such open suggestiveness that I began to doubt my own memory. Truly I am glad that we departed after that, for I am not sure I could have faithfully served many of the Baal who remained behind after seeing them in that condition. A year away from the decadence of court will do me well. But, let us forget now about the Great City. It is the lands beyond the true world that I must describe to you, a place I had scarcely imagined before in my life, known only in dark myths and tragic tales.

I must confess, dear diary, that my first encounter with the false world left me rather unimpressed. We had traveled by ox-cart from the Great City to the edge of the world, and we were met by a small boat, with a single sail. I had seen larger vessels upon the waters of the Inner Lake. And its captain was small as well. At first I thought him an empty one, how pale his skin was, but when I looked at his face I saw his features too were strange, and his eyes had color, though not much. I realized then that this was my first encounter with a not-man. It was said that some of the not-men have no color in their skin, but in my mind I had imagined a pure white, like that of a phantom. Instead it was just a sickly pale, with strange splotches of red and dark. Though the ship captain was obviously healthy and strong, helping us with our bags, and racing around the ship, tying and climbing, I could not help but thing of him as sickly. He spoke broken Bel-bys, but when we showed that we understood and spoke Hishtu, he switched to that alone. It was good to practice, for we all knew that Hishtu would be our one way to communicate with the not-men of the false world. They spoke not Bel-bys, not even the simplest words. At least we would have one another, when we wished to speak our native tongue.

Oh, diary, I suppose I should mention the last member of our party. Though I might wish that it was myself and the young Baal alone, all Awakenings have three members. Our Scholar is older than me, though I know not by how much, a tall and thin man with grey eyes. He might have been handsome if he had not been born a Hishtu, and even then he is not unpleasant for the eyes. He has spoken little thus far, and he seems upset, as though traveling to the false world is a terrible burden, and not a great quest. He is named Nabua, after the great astronomer. I hope he opens up as time goes by, for traveling with those who do not act like your companion can be a trying thing indeed.

But I am sure, dear diary, that you are not so much interested in the Hishtu, as you are in the wonders of the false world. So let us return, once again to the not-man captain of our small vessel. For while he seemed not unlike a man on shore, when we had departed, and we had reached open water, he turned to Nabua and spoke to him in Hishtu extremely quickly. Nabua agreed to something, and then stepped away from the man. Our Scholar then told Baal Uras and I to watch carefully. The not-man lowered the sails, thus ending our progress forward. Then he pulled a tarp away from a massive thing I had taken to be a room or storage location. With the tarp aside I had no guess as to what it was at all being nothing like anything I had ever seen. There was a grate that the man opened. Behind it was kindling for a fire, which he lit expertly before closing the grate. Then he stood back. At first their was nothing. We waited, and I began to wonder what the goal was here. Were we going to cook on this fire? But neither Nabua nor the not-man seemed in a cooking mood. Then, a white smoke began to escape the device, and for a moment I was afraid the not-man had lit his boat on fire, that he was an assassin hired by a rival Baal. I prepared myself to end his life and considered how best to save the young Baal. But before I could take this action, the device began to make a terrible noise, and to shake and rattle. I was greatly shocked by this, and might very well have killed the not-man out of fear, if I had not seen too that the water behind the boat began to bubble and boil. The ship started to move, slowly at first, but faster and faster. The giant shaking, crashing thing continued to emit its hellish keening, but apparently, somehow, that caused the boat to move. It was not treachery, though it was certainly magic.

My Baal’s face was filled with wonder, and he spent much of the remaining time of our voyage observing and measuring the thing. Once he cried out in pain, and my thoughts turned again to treachery, but it turned out that the massive thing was simply incredibly hot in some places, and the young Baal had burned himself. While Baal Uras was filled with wonder and a fascination with the device that I came to understand was called an “en-jin”, our Scholar seemed more interested in watching him and I, seeming to enjoy our stunned and wondering reaction to this thing. My opinion of the man darkened then, for I have known many men and women in my life who’s joy in knowledge is not so much their own gain, as it is the lack of it in others. Perhaps I am being unfair to my companion however. Maybe his enjoyment of our reactions is in our gaining of knowledge, and not in our previous lack. I shall not judge this early.

This marvel propelled us far faster than I had ever expected to travel by sea. The water roiled behind us and we all but skipped across the waves. I had heard and seen other people who became ill from the rocking of boats, but this was the first time I experienced it for myself. By the time we had made it to our destination, I was no longer able to stand, and all the food I had had in my body was lost to the sea. We travelled through the night and into the next day, and by the time we at last came to land, I was all but unconscious. Indeed, I am ashamed to say, Baal Uras himself helped me to walk from the boat to the inn that we stayed at after getting off the boat. I am afraid that I don’t remember much more from that night however due to the condition I was in.

But oh, dear diary, let me tell you of the wonders that I saw when I awoke. We spent all of the next day simply wandering the port town of Imba. Nubua was finding us guides for the next leg of our journey, but Baal Uras wanted to see the sights of this place, and so I traveled with him, as it was my duty to protect his life. There was so very much to see. First of course were the people. I had thought our boat captain pale, but truly their were those in Imba who were like the snow of high mountains. Others though were much like men in color, while still others had strange hues, yellow, red, and even the darkest black. And it was not skin alone that was different. The hair and the eyes too were shaded a hundred different hues. Though you may not believe me, dear diary, I swear to you that I saw a woman today with hair as red as blood. I know not if it was dyed thus, or if there is some strange land where the people are born this way. Perhaps the color is blood itself and her hair was so long because if she were to cut it, she would bleed.

Not only were the colors and shapes of the people so different, but also the variety with which they clothed themselves. Their were men and women who covered their head with cloth or great hats. Their were some who’s faces were covered completely, all but the eyes. Others seemed to wear nothing at all. So shocked was I the first time I turned a corner and saw a man with no clothing covering his chest, that I thought I had perhaps stumbled into a bedroom by accident. Legs, arms, bellies, and breasts. How one could live this way, and not feel the sin of it was something I could not understand. But while I lingered on this a little, the sheer variety and color of all things made me push it aside. These were not-men, what did they care for sin? Whether they truly had a soul at all was a debate the scholars never seemed to find an answer for. Surely it was not Bel that saved them from the fire when they died, and perhaps what ever god they called their own cared not for purity of the flesh.

I must confess, dear diary, that I was so taken aback by the people on that first day, that scarcely did I pay attention to the many objects and things that the people carried and bought and sold. Only once did I buy something that first day. A kindly old woman approached me with a strange coin, like nothing I had ever seen. It was a green tinged metal, with a carved picture of a sea beast. It was also thrice as large as any coin should be. She offered to sell it to me, and while I had no idea what the thing was worth, she accepted my initial offer of but a few bits. I felt afterwords that I had been cheated somehow, but I can not figure in what way that could have happened. I vowed to show it to Nubua, but I keep forgetting. Perhaps tomorrow.

The young Baal seemed even more entranced by this new land than I. He spoke with everyone, and I was surprised to discover that he seemed to know other languages beyond those of our land. I had known that he would receive special education as a Baal, but I had not imagined entire languages learned. He seemed to have bought one of everything by the time we returned to our inn that night. Even the food we ate that day was something new and different. I cannot say that I liked it, some strange orange thing, with a sharp odor, covered in a sticky liquid, placed between two cut pieces of bread. I was relieved when we had a simple meal of meat and corn that night, though the spices were new, though not, this time, bad. When we finished our meal I retired to my room and began to write to you. Tomorrow I hope I will learn more of this place, but for now I must sleep. Goodnight diary.


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