Here's the seventh volume:
Stolen Legacy, Volume VII
Thunderous chanting awaited the trio outside of the Temple of Arkay. A mass of people swamped the main court as fierce drumming adjoined powerful string melodies and chatter. The perfume of freshly-cooked meat and other foods wafted amongst a barrage of musk, sweat, and exotic spices, forming an odor that enticed as much as it repulsed. This, was Sentinel in its prime.
There’s no way we’re getting through this right now. Ramma had not seen so many people celebrating together since the last anniversary of the Second Treaty of Stros M’kai; the day Hammerfell was forever transformed, and the first seeds of Raguda were sown. “Looks like we’ll be waiting a while before you can make an exit. We’ll have to be quick, or the Dura Ungai will catch us.”
“That’s fine, I mean, not to say that I like being on the run, but I never get tired of watching this,” Marud said, as a parade of performers dressed in elaborate, flowing patchwork costumes marched toward the center of the courtyard in circular formation. They carried large straw baskets, filled to the brim with pomegranates, while those inside of the circle danced with specially-carved replicas of the very farming equipment used to harvest them. Most intriguing of all to Ramma, was that their faces were concealed by a mask depicting the likeness of the God of Farms Himself.
The Uetongi do Zeht. And behind them must be Tall Papa, Ramma thought, noticing a performer wearing a mask of Ruptga. They must be re-enacting the legend. “You know Marud, I’ve only seen them perform a few times as a child on Koomu Alezer'i,” Ramma began, “and they still scare me.”
“Well, they say those who see the faces of the Sons of Zeht are cursed with a hardship greater than that of Tall Papa’s son Himself, and only a few are worthy of the harvest they bring each year. Who wouldn’t be scared of them?”
“You’ve got a point. Speaking of hardship,” Ramma pointed toward another caravan approaching, “Grand Prince Kasim isn’t looking so well.” A procession of Gada - led by none other than Yakkaz - brought the Prince of Sentinel through the city’s gates, guiding his chariot’s camels. His presence only guaranteed that the Dura Ungai - or the Oyebras, at the very least - were hiding in plain sight.
Noone could hide the Kasim's poor health, however. His eyes - despite the shade his servants provided him - were bloodshot, with dark circles lining them. The Raga looked worn, with numerous wrinkles covering an otherwise young countenance, hardened by things more personal than the war he’d sacrificed his reputation for. As if on cue, jeers filled the air, but Kasim paid them no mind it seemed, gazing toward the golden palace of Samaruik with a vacant expression as he took a swig from a giant flask. “He may be here, but his mind clearly isn’t.”
“Where is his wife?” Marud asked, peering at the remainder of the Prince’s caravan.
“I’ve heard rumors that she’s moving on to better prospects, possibly even his brother. To keep it in the family,” Ramma joked. “That would explain why he hasn’t shown up yet, no?”
Marud chuckled, only to jitter afterward and sigh. “I would like to hope she at the least still has her honor and a spine where Kasim doesn’t,” Marud scratched his scalp between his braids. “Besides, you know his brother is probably the only man the people still respect; his presence will be needed.”
“Anyway, I feel for Kasim, but such is the Bite-Back of the one who confided in the pale king over his own people.”
“We’ll see if his wife isn’t doing a little ‘confiding’ herself just yet,” Ramma added, as her cheeks spread into a churlish grin.
Marud snorted several times in laughter.“Sometimes your cynicism frightens me.”
Ramma shrugged it off, then felt someone tug her mantle, and turned around. “Yes Amil?”
“Dongo, the uetongi are giving out fruit. You mind if I get some before we leave?” Amil asked.
“Sure. Just be quick, and not so greedy!” Ramma plucked Amil’s nose, and followed him with her eyes, checking for anything suspicious. Nothing, so far. I wish this parade would hurry up.
“Look who comes now, Ramma,” Marud whispered, his eyes wide with awe, as the High Queen of Hegathe made her appearance: Atu.
An even larger caravan of handmaidens and an honor guard accompanied Queen Atu, but none of them, in spite of the glamour of expensive fabric and the glint of finely-crafted metal, matched her allure. She rode upon a fine steed of her own, clad in orihalc alike the Yokudan heroes of old, her shoulder-length locks braided into a style that must’ve taken hours. None however, could ignore the weapon at Atu’s hilt. A red gem glimmered from a golden-trimmed pommel, and a faint aura coated the entire weapon, despite being sheathed. Probably due to its “enchantment”, if one can call it that.
“So that’s the Make-Way blade,” Ramma said. “The blade that A’tor no shira chose instead of a mortal life.”
“Your Papa called it a living Shehai, correct?”
“Indeed. He acts of his own accord and only speaks to those worthy of wielding him. He alone has the authority to choose our true ruler, for he became the will of our people.”
“They say Iszara was the last to give his legacy any true honor. The rest have made him a token for political gain. Perhaps the Queen will fulfill it,” Marud wiped an eye. “They say she claimed more than one hundred Thalmor with his blade. If only your Papa could see this.”
“See what? The one Make-Way himself chose now brandishing him like jewelry?” Ramma inquired, peeved. “Don’t tell me you can’t see why she brought him with her; these politicians may look like they come on this holy day to offer peace and thanksgiving, but we both know they’re staving off another war. Papa would be ashamed of them. At least the new parties that have arisen don’t hide their ambitions behind the dreams of our people.”
“She carries A’tor’s blade because it is the right she earned through tremendous sacrifice for us. She commands respect. You almost sound like a Forbear, Ramma. Are you sure you haven’t forgotten who you are?”
“I, Raga, am a Crown that doesn’t look to our failures for inspiration. Our ancestors are either resting in the Far Shores or rotting as slaves to m’kai. Even still, they could be lost in the In-Between. Tu’whacca forbid any of those horrible fates would befall us,” Ramma paused, and calmed herself, as the anxiousness in her tone subsided. “Look; our greatest folly is that we have praised what made us a strong people while preserving the flaws that weakened us. Perhaps you in your worship of the end welcome such destructive behavior. I don’t.”
“What did you say, Gurleht?” Marud seethed, stepping forward.
“I said -,”
An eruption of screams cut her off as several men and women removed their cowls and began attacking the crowd. Throwing knives whirred amidst the chaos and silenced their victims instantly; javelins crushed all that their blades pierced. Swords aflame from magicka carved a fierce path toward the royalty just ahead of them.
“Amil!” Ramma whipped her head in her brother’s direction, frantically shuffling through the crowd.
“The uetongi are over there! I, aghh, think I see him!” Marud stammered, grasping his side as sharp pain briefly struck his ribs. He shook his head and cursed, scowling as he limped behind Ramma.
“Amil?” Ramma repeated her call, coughing as she paused and caught her breath. Morwha, please, let him be okay... Her ears perked at the familiar patter of feet approaching her.
“Right here, sis!” Amil rushed beside her; a fountain of sweat and blood covered him.
“What have those bastards done to you?” Ramma roared, searching him for wounds.
“Ramma, he’s fine!” Marud shouted, resting a hand on her shoulder.
“What in Oblivion are you talking about?” Ramma motioned toward the splotches of crimson on Amil’s cloak. “Can’t you see him?”
“Look again!” Marud ushered Amil next to him and snatched something from his palm. He held it up for Ramma to see, panting. “It’s not his blood.” Ramma gasped and her jaw dropped.
The amulet of Onsi lay in Marud’s hands, its blade soaked in blood. The gem at its pommel was glowing again.
“Sen no mongo tang, dongo,” Amil said, resting his head on her. Ramma wiped her forehead in relief, thanking Morwha again.
“Now do you see?” Marud wheezed, and nudged her to turn around. “It’s his.” A single uetonga do Zeht lay spread along the ground, face contorted into a voiceless cry of agony. His costume was utterly shredded, most likely from being trampled by the mob during the chaos. She noticed a tattoo spread across his neck, and recognized it, mouthing the words inscribed on him. The Dura Ungai? “But he’s not, he’s not...” Ramma stammered.
“One of the Oyebras?” Marud said. “No, he isn’t. They would never attempt something this rash. This, is another family.”
The crowds finally began to peter out, and Ramma turned back toward the entrance of Sentinel, holding Amil close by as her eyes searched for the nobility. She could make out the faint silhouette of a new company of men; soldiers accompanying a rather tall (and handsome, Ramma thought) knight in elaborate steel armor. He’d apprehended several of the would-be Dura Ungai assassins, and was now personally aiding the injured nearest them. Kasim’s brother, Richard. I can see why the people love him so much.
Marud noticed her and couldn’t resist a snicker. “I told you, Ramma. Prince Richard is not his brother.” He then squinted his eyes and shielded his face from the sun as he observed him,”Odd that I cannot see his mount. They say he once tamed a Duneripper and rode it into battle during the war. It's said he brings it wherever he travels in Raguda.”
Ramma's eyes rolled. “Do you honestly believe everything about him you hear?”
“Whatever; I hope the others are safe,” Marud said.
An immense trail of bodies lay scattered around the main square, but none of them belonged to Atu nor Kasim. The Queen instead stood fast, flicking the blade of A’tor clean as her honor guard rounded up several Dura Ungai assassins who’d survived. She whispered something in Yoku to them - Ramma was too distant to understand her - only to have one of them spit at her feet. The High Queen said nothing, then lopped the assassin’s head with an effortless slice. The others cowered, as the Gada brought them before the Prince. They’ll probably die anyway after this.
“Wow,” Marud trailed, “so the legends are true.”
Ramma could only smile and nod her head in agreement, impressed as well. “What I wouldn’t give to have seen her fight.”
Atu then scanned the square and noticed Ramma, sheathing her blade. Her gaze suddenly softened, and she smiled, saying something that Ramma could faintly recognize before Atu retired elsewhere: Tuktu Ansei. Ramma suddenly felt warm as an emotion she couldn’t describe swept over her. “I stand corrected. I guess A’tor no shira did choose well after all.”
“I think it’s time for us to leave,” Marud interjected, stepping toward the city’s entrance. “Do you have the stone ready?”
“Yeah, it’s just in my...” Ramma paused, only to find her mantle’s pockets were empty, partially torn. “It’s gone!” She cursed, eyeing the square for it to no avail as she sorted through the debris.
“Ramma,” Amil said, and stretched forth his hand.
“Not right, now?” Ramma halted, as a sparkle caught her eye. She closed them and jabbed the ground; Danalione’s memory stone was broken. This far to be set back yet again! Ramma grunted. I swear the Gods have a sick sense of humor.
“There’s nothing we can do but move forward,” Marud said, coughing. “Besides, the First One never leaves the world out of balance,” he gestured toward the High Queen and the Prince, who now hovered over another corpse. Saleem was dead. “It seems the Dura Ungai are just as divided as the rest of Raguda is.”
“But they have the memory stone, and we have nothing.”
“We have each other, the gift you both were given, and we have to leave now before that changes.”
Ramma paused a moment, allowing Marud’s words to sink in. She gazed down at Amil, relieved when his amulet finally stopped glowing, then shot Marud a glance as her face tensed. “You’ll tell me everything now? No hiding, or by Tu’whacca I will end you myself and see to it that you never reach the Far Shores.”
“Hey, hey! No need to be so drastic! I can only tell you what I know, but I know a lot. Let’s stop wasting our time now, before the Dura Ungai regroup,” Marud said, as they finally crossed the gates of Sentinel and greeted the Alik’r, freed from the imperious eyes of the Dura Ungai.