“But, he is a slave master. Just a slave.”
“And I was once a slave. Were you not one once? All of us here in Shatter must spend time as a slave. It is what makes us unlike the rest of the world. Outsiders are soft. Their hands are soft, their hearts, their minds. But we are not soft." He paused for a moment and locked eyes with Moriv. The muscles in his face became slack and his eyes opened wide. Slowly he approached the place where Moriv lay in a ball on the ground. “We are the dagger that will drive death into the heart of the Betrayer for once and for always. The Maze did not work. The Prison did not work. Nor has the Tomb. These little slumbers have proven nothing. It is up to us.”
Moriv lifted his face to the Scion and for a moment it seemed that the halo of the sun’s rays, which had always been around the edge of the Pyramid, shone around the edges of the Scion’s bald head. The pain of the pacifier’s club was beginning to fade and it was being replaced by confusion. From somewhere in the flowing silk, the Scion’s hand appeared and it reached towards Moriv. Instinctively, he reached out for it. When the two hands met audible gasps could be heard from the masses. The Scion pulled Moriv to his feet and proclaimed to the entire assembly, “I give you Moriv, the next Scion.”
With no hesitation, the fanatical crowd erupted with frenzied cheering. As he rode with the white clad Scion to the dias, he realized what was happening. Moriv was no longer a nameless slave. Now, everything was different. Moriv was silent as he approached the great pyramid. He felt an awe unlike any other. It was as if the ancients were looking back at him from the shattered surface.
They disembarked from the white chariot and servants of the Great Pyramid rushed forward and tore the rags from Moriv’s body. Others came rushing to him with cleansing oils and linen towels. They washed his chest and back and then wiped him dry. Konrix came and stood at Moriv’s left side, and the previous Scion stood at his right. The crowd moved up and down like waves of the ocean flowing in Moriv’s direction, but Moriv had never seen the ocean.
Two red hot brands were brought to the front of the dias. Each of the brands held the mark of the Great Pyramid, a triangle with an eye in the center. The Scion took the first brand and stepped behind Moriv, who knew what was about to happen.
“Behold! I am the past. Know me and my trials. Let our history become part of you. I give you my path!” With these ritual words, the Scion pressed the brand against Moriv’s back. The pain of the brand was greater than any pain he had ever felt before. Then the Scion aimed the sharp end which lay opposite the brand and aimed it at his heart. Step over step he drove himself onto the spike at the other end of the brand, driving the sharp metal into his chest. When the Scion could no longer press himself forward, slaves of the Pyramid helped press him until he stood directly behind Moriv, his white silk robes were soaked in blood and melting in the heat of the brand.
“I am the future,” Konrix called out as he took the other brand and stepped in front of Moriv. “Come and make the path of our people yours." Konrix stood with the brand outstretched towards Moriv.
Moriv could not see the crowd or hear their cheers anymore. The pain from the first brand had placed him in a haze where all he could see was Konrix and the brand before him. He knew what he must do, but it took him time to get his legs to respond. Finally, he took one step, then another. Cool air filled the space between his back and the brand he left behind, and the pain of the burns shot through his body. Still he struggled towards Konrix.
Smoke hissed from the brand as soon as Moriv’s chest made contact. Unable to hold back any longer, he screamed with fury at the pain that now embraced his whole torso. Konrix looked on with approval. He knew that the now dead Scion had chosen with divine insight.
After the brand had done it’s work, Konrix removed it from Moriv’s chest and threw it to the marble floor of the dais. He took Moriv’s hand and raised it along with his own in celebration to the crowd. Howling madness filled the sky and Moriv’s vision faded to darkness.
When he awoke, Moriv found himself in a small chamber. The walls and floor were made of obsidian and were decorated only with the many cracks which snaked through the shining stones like veins. As his eyes traced the lines of the cracks, he realized that he was within the Great Pyramid itself.
His bed was a lush pit of silks and velvets. The softness of the fabric was like touching pure joy, or at least as much joy as he had ever known. He could not help but gently rub each of the textures against his face. A smile found its way to his face and it too was something he had barely known. The simple pleasures of a comfortable life made it seem like he was caught in a dream, but the cost of such pleasures had not yet come to him.
His torso hurt, but slaves learn to ignore the pain of their work. Wrapped around his body were bandages, holding herbs against his burns. While he had no memory of how the wrappings got there, he paid their appearance only a small moment of attention. Once aware of them, however, he did his best to not disturb them.
Every which way he tried to lie on his soft bed gave him discomfort. Eventually he found himself sitting upright with his legs crossed. The stress of the pain made him very sleepy, and he kept nodding off to sleep. His trust of the Pyramid slaves was unwavering and he knew that someone would come for him when the time was right. And come to him they did. When it was time to feed him, they did so. Never letting his hand touch a utensil. When it was time to empty his chamberpot they did so, waving powerful incense as they traveled. When it was time to change his bandages they did so, taking delicate care of the throbbing wounds beneath. When it was time for sleep, the women came to see to his primal needs. Moriv had never mated with a woman before. Slaves were not allowed to spread their seed, but as Scion of the Great Pyramid it was expected.
Countless days went on this way, and Moriv did not leave his room. In his dreams he saw images of the old Scion, and he saw the world outside of Shatter. Most of his dreams did not make any sense, but yet they troubled him. As the final days of his healing came, he started dreaming of a walled city filled with despair. In the belly of the city lived a regal lord that fed on the people above as a shepherd feeds on his flock. In the darkness of that lord’s chambers a blinding light came. A light which came from a dark blade. The regal lord fought against the villain who wielded the blade, but there was no hope. The light was too bright and cast away the shadows which protected the lord. The dark blade drank deep of the regal lord’s blood and the lord was destroyed.
Then there was nothing but hurried travel. Hills, valleys, plains, and mountains all flew by as the desperate flight stretched on. The panic which set this flight in motion came to an end the moment the horizon gave way to a great black pyramid could be seen on the horizon, and once he was within the shadow of it - there was peace.
Moriv did not know what to make of these dreams, but he knew that were meaningful. He tried to commit the feelings of the dreams to memory, so that he could recall them again when the time was right.
When the his healing was complete, the slaves took him for his cleansing, for soon he would be brought into the holiest chamber in the Great Pyramid - the Chamber of Ancient Thrones. The cleansing took place under the skilled hands of acolytes of the Pyramid. There hard bristle brushes scraped away the dirt of Moriv’s previous life. To ease the discomfort of the experience, Moriv was given herbs to chew which would strengthen him, and cause him to reflect on how he go there in the first place.
So there he was, cleaner than he had ever known possible and being dried by the gentle hands of slaves. “No such luxury can come without price,” he thought to himself. His mind drifted back to the sacrifice of the previous Scion, but to give one’s blood for the glory of the Pyramid was no sacrifice at all. Then he remembered what Konrix had said when he announced the previous Scion. That he had traveled outside the protective shadow of the Pyramid. Moriv’s mind sobered at just the thought of the outside world. As a slave he had heard the terrible stories about life outside of the shadow. Would he now have to embrace such a life? The thought terrified him.
Moriv was so distracted that he hadn’t noticed that the acolytes had finished drying him and anointing him with oils. He further didn’t notice as they began to sew his new clothes around him, like a team of caterpillars weaving a cocoon for their king. Moriv didn’t notice these things because his mind was reeling at the thoughts of what his future would hold. He was both terrified and exhilarated at the idea of the great and dangerous world beyond the Pyramid. As his intoxicated thoughts spun, he found himself the conqueror of far away nations, the ruler of unenlightened kingdoms, the savor of many fine women, a man who was in charge of his own destiny. Even with the drugs pumping through his system, he became intoxicated with his own future and the potential therein.
Hours ticked by as the acolytes did their work. Moriv’s unspoken thoughts of a heroic and depraved future caused time to fly by, and he was still drunk on his own potential when the silent acolytes began urging him to walk through the cracked obsidian hallways of the Pyramid. Every person whose path they crossed would avert their eyes and step out of the way of the box of acolytes that surrounded the white silk clad Moriv.
The hallways grew in height and width as they came closer to the heart of the Great Pyramid, and very quickly they came to massive black doors trimmed in carved silver. The hinges of the doors barely made a sound as they opened on their own. Without hesitating, the box of acolytes around Moriv walked forward, but then in practiced unison, the front split away before they crossed the threshold of the doorway. As the ranks of servants melted away they formed a line at the door which gave Moriv no choice but to follow his momentum into the room.
The walls of the room were slanted, not unlike the pyramid which surrounded the room. The center of the room was open and filled with a strangely warm purple light. Standing in the center looking up at the blinding source of light on the ceiling was Konrix, the high priest of the Mari'Andi. Without knowing how, Moriv knew that Konrix was conversing with something unseen. And Moriv was strangely comfortable with it.
“Ah,” Konrix shook off the unheard conversation and looked over at Moriv. “It is good that you have come, Scion. The ancestors and I have been thinking of you. We believe that it is time for you to know your quest. It will not be an easy one, make no mistake about that. Still, you are the one who has been chosen, and so you are the one who will take up the burden - for all of Shatter.”
Moriv’s mind was still taking in all the glistening shapes in the room. While the room itself was in the shape of the pyramid in which it resided, there were raised rings in the floor, at different levels. All of the horizontal space on these different platforms were covered in chairs, thrones, stools, and other seats. Each of them of the finest quality craftsmanship, and draped in riches, but also baring the marks of usage.
Konrix clued in to Moriv’s awe struck stare regarding the host of seats and a smile came to the priest’s face. “These are the thrones of the ancestors,” Konrix grandly motioned toward them. “This is their final resting place. Here they become one with the Pyramid and whisper to us from beyond the grave.”
At the slightest suggestion that he might be able to hear the whispers of the ancestors, Moriv opened his mind to the possibility. The caution that a life as a slave had taught him was now gone. Perhaps it was the days of pleasurable solitude, the drugs and incense that pulsed through him, or the realization that he was now above even Konrix in social standing that had wiped his fear away. Whatever the reason, he was awash with potential and power. Moriv stared at each of the thrones, searching them for some new experience. When his eyes fell upon a simple chair made of dark wood somewhat hidden behind the others, he felt something touch his mind.
“Hello child,” came the raspy voice of an old man. “Now you will see.”
Konrix saw fear take hold of Moriv’s face, and the young Scion’s body stiffened. Moriv stood, shaking violently, but unable to move, in the center of the room. His mind was under attack from within. For the briefest of moments Konrix was concerned, but then the ancients whispered to him not to worry. And so, Konrix waited.
Inside Moriv’s mind, he saw a terrible scene. The Great Pyramid bled streams of light from its many cracks. These streams of energy grew more and more intense until finally the Pyramid exploded, sending fragments of obsidian in every direction. The debris fell upon the city of Shatter, pieces both big and small striking slaves and citizens alike with such force that they were killed instantly. Rooftops were caved in by showers of glistening dark stone. Burning rays of light overpowered the city and tormented the people caught outside. Chaos and calamity had come to Shatter, and these forces would not leave until everything had been destroyed. Without the Pyramid there was no hope, no salvation from the painful rays of the sun, no peace in the structure of daily life. All would fall into ruin.
When the light from the explosion faded a dark form stood in the crater where the Great Pyramid once stood. The form seemed completely made out of shifting shadows save for one thing: A glowing sword clutched in the shadow’s grasp. The sword had a handle of bone wrapped with red leather, and its blade was as black as the shadow that held it. Upon the rectangle shape of the blade, however, were glowing runes which gleamed with blinding anger. Moriv knew that this horrible shadow thing had destroyed his home, his people, his god.
“This is the future that comes,” said the rattling voice of the old man. “It is you who will prevent it. You who will stop the destruction of your people.”
Moriv’s courage struggled with the task ahead of him, but he fought with himself to accept it. He let go of his fear, and felt it drop away. The ancestors had entrusted this duty to him, and he would be worthy of their faith. He took a deep breath and asked, “How can I serve my purpose?”
While he could not see the source of the raspy voice, Moriv felt the old man smile. “There is another blade. One much shorter and simpler. It was forged by the same hand, but it came before the crafting of the sword. This dagger is what you must seek, for it alone has the power to bring down the enemy and prevent the future that you saw.”
“Where can I find this dagger?” Moriv asked in earnest.
“In the Tomb of the Betrayer. But to gain access, you will have to fight with both blades and cunning. Even then, the blade is hidden beyond our sight. Tell Konrix what you need, and he will see to it that you are given all that we can provide. Walk in the darkness, child. May the whispers in the night never lead you astray." With that, the voices were gone.
Moriv opened his eyes. His body felt weak, as if he had been working in the field all day with no water. He could only take two breaths before he collapsed under the weight of his exhaustion. Deftly, Konrix leapt forward to catch Moriv before he could fall to the ground. Like a lover, Konrix caressed aside the veil of dark hair that had fallen into Moriv’s eyes. “Did they speak to you, Scion?”Moriv swallowed and smacked his dry mouth, searching for enough fluid to allow the words to escape. Finding only just enough for one word, “Water…”