By Ryan St, Mike Holmes, Stephanie Lauren and Charles Ferguson
Starved Dog spoke these words to Gnashing Teeth:
I am returned.
I know you are busy, and I take no offense. Please, go. Tomorrow you may be a God.
I shall wait, beside your yurt.
No, I was not cold, nor was it strange to kneel. Many shamans will find their knees in the sand tomorrow if my hopes are true.
The Halcyon is as clear and calm as Pensive said, and yet its peoples have learned nothing from its example. From Anishomodz in the south to Gomoi in the north, I saw all the cities there.
Denayir is a vibrant bazaar, but crawls with spies. Emjou holds to lost ideals like a tree that will not bend in the wind. Sohebbiga descends into madness as Tohan reels - the price of foolish pride. Overgrown Karaiish and labyrinthine Balohn are sated from devouring Baruuth, but sprawling Ravibe smells blood in the water and threatens to take its share. Shining Isra teeters, ready to collapse from within, and fortress-like Gomoi is consumed by fear. In the south, distant Anishomodz merely survives, alone and unwanted.
While I traveled to the Halcyon I saw many slaves toiling in sprawling fields of maize and rice. But in the cities many call themselves free - many more than I could have believed. While this freedom is less than ours, and they use it mainly to lie, these free folk will fight to defend their lands.
We know the Living Gods to be false, but do not underestimate their sorcery. Together they have burned kingdoms, and alone they have turned men to salt, turned swords on the soldiers that wield them, and wrestled battlescarred Drakes. The few that have survived two thousand years did so by being the strongest and canniest of their lot. I have seen the spirits in their cities, and know that each Living God has a legion of spirits that match or exceed their living armies.
I learned that the rule of the Living Gods is not absolute. They are like dragons - capable of great destruction but uncaring of others so long as their gullets are full. Between the cities nobles rule, swearing fealty to this god or that, bickering, and sometimes riding Painted Elephants to war. Auroch herders and Dacs wander the lands between also - we may find brothers among them. As I live, the key to the Halcyon will be turning its peoples and gods against each other.
Tomorrow, if you are declared God of the Waste, then we will speak again.