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This text is a part of a larger plot. So it is better to read first «The Kiss of the Worlds», in order not to spoil it.
By Yichard Muni, elf bard
The Tellutaar city was well known into the Nyidiath world as the «Pearl of the Somman» (The Middle ocean). The reason was that it was adorned, on the top of its mountain, by the magnificent scenery of a huge temple complex, featuring three large domes and six elegant minarets of pink bricks, into a park of huge ancient trees. Since 1700 years, the temples were served and maintained almost without interruption, together with the luxury abodes of the priests, several other minor temples, numerous theatres and mansions, and the former palace of the Marshis (The ancient Lords of Tellutaar), in a cascade of pink walls and greenery.
However it was the end of this glorious time... Modern times had brought materialistic and egocentric ideas, which spread so much in the working classes that religion was nearby abandoned by everybody. Banks and companies had pushed away the ancient noble power and moral values. And, with the widespread poverty, the high cost of maintaining the temples and clergy was more and more perceived as an injustice.
Tellutaar had much changed since the ancient times of the Elven council (see the story «Midsummer love»). In the Human world of the Nyidiath, the ocean level had lowered hundreds of metres, while pouring onto the Dauriath, the world of the Elves. Tellutaar did not much suffered of it, as its coast line always remained favourable for mooring ships, maintaining a constant economical activity. In more, the retreating ocean had recently unveiled a large plain and huge coal deposits, so that, at the foot of the antic temples, the modern city was now bustling with steam engines and covered with factories. People were working and consuming under a canopy of brown haze, without wondering about the Elves and the promise of a better life. Right on the contrary, they were proud of their new modern society, thinking that it had brought freedom, against the ancient religious rules. What they did not realized yet is that they had just exchanged the ancient religious masters and morals against the new political rulers and ideologies.
And it was not so nice that they would admit, as their new masters were much more greedy and tyrannical than the former ones. Especially, in the name of freedom, newspapers were tightly controlled, and «reactionary» books were searched and destroyed. So that their so dearly earned freedom could just be summarized in... joining the Party! And when financial speculation or ill management brought unemployment and poverty, the priests and their luxury life were an easy scapegoat...
There had been already several outbursts of political violence in Tellutaar, especially when the Marshis were deposed and replaced by the People Councils, 65 years ago. Numerous riots occurred before and after this event, for various reasons. But until now, the ancient awe still forbade people to question the temples themselves. So they were remaining an oasis of greenery and spirituality, into a dark world of labour and coal dirt.
However, this time, with the economy crisis that the very revolution had caused, the new Council Leader had called for a deeper elimination of the religious mentality, accused of the crisis. And it was becoming very dangerous to wander in the streets of Tellutaar wearing religious attire or elven features! Just wearing long hairs, necklaces or robes could make you severely beaten, and corpses were often found in the streets in the morning. The prophecy about the return of the Elves seemed to come from a different world, and anyway it was still 60 years ahead, so that the People Phalanges had plenty of time to maul, rape and kill at their pleasure.
Khaneda, or Khany in short, was a nice looking blonde young man with hairless face, just starting to work in a small iron foundry. He had failed his scholarship, despite he was good at studies. But having to bear constant hazing from his mates was too much, and in more his professors were giving him bad marks, from his «elven hair». Anyway he had to shave it, for safety at work. But this did not stopped the bashing. Khany was just not aware that the hazing was specially targeting his calm manners, kindness and sweet talk. This was upsetting these violent people, hence the constant bashing following him wherever he went.
Like most, Khany was agreeing with the revolution. However he had a mixed feeling about it, not really understanding why yet. Many nice places were destroyed. He was seeing his bashing buddies becoming members of the People Phalanges, and even of the District Workers Councils, while himself was denied any role in the Party, despite his repeated offers for helping. As to the leaders of the Revolution, they were frightening, all in harsh speech and black clothes, with sooty wrinkles on their faces, as if they were made of the very coal dirt spreading everywhere. Khany tried to explain that a revolution should foster happiness and smiles, but he was just laughed at, or sometimes a noobish militant would come to explain him very seriously that he had to work and fight, Instead of thinking at frivolous things.
This afternoon, Khany was going at work, as usual. In the dirt street, the few grass was grey, between raw brick factory walls covered with posters and political slogans. Rumours of machinery could be heard everywhere, while the smell of coal soot was pervading the air.
There was a smoke rising from the temple district.
At work, everybody already knew what happened: in a «peaceful» demonstration, a fight had erupted «by the fault of a priest», and fire started «by accident». Two servants were killed, the main priests escaping barely.
This acted like a signal.
Two days after, a second priestly palace was sacked and set to fire. They even not cared to find a pretext.
Then several others, so that the count is lost.
The day of the Worker's Feast, the magnificent dome of the Ishtar temple crumbled under the wrath of demonstrators, killing 240 of them who were dismantling gold statues inside. Its fantastic lace of shiny white marble outlined with gold leaves was reduced to rubble.
Of course the remaining priests were accused of the casualties. The Leader of the Revolution called for a strong punishment and definitive action against the temple complex. The compound was occupied by the People Phalanges, who quickly dynamited the elegant pink bricks minarets. But the Leader of the Revolution asked for the two remaining large domes to be «preserved». They were however thoroughly desecrated, and converted to Popular Meeting Halls. The wonderful monumental Shelenaë statue was dismantled with picks. Five tons of gold were recovered of it, more two hundred kilograms of precious gems hidden in her inner Chakras. Nobody know where all this materials went, and anybody who asked disappeared at once.
The Revolution Leader installed himself in the former Marshi palace, and the Phalanges immediately made of it a no access zone. Obviously this very one luxury was not «unfair»! It was left intact, for the sole enjoyment of the innermost circle of power, buddies and courtesans, and of course the bankers and new industry owners.
Khaneda first welcomed the action against the priests, thinking like everybody that they were the cause of the economy troubles, with their insane luxury. But all this gratuitous destruction soon made him sick and sad: the temples were their patrimony, the beauty of their living place, the glory of their past artists and workers. He used to visit them often, and enjoy the peace of the religious setting, even if he carefully avoided any religious gesture. In the former temple's park, people used to be calm and pleasant, but now the place was filled with coarse words, bawling, papers on the ground, noisy music and roasted pork sausage smell. The two «preserved» buildings were sadly looking like amputated persons. In the following weeks, most of the rare centenary trees of the park were cut. One of the most glorious skylines of the Shartan Continent had gone. And it brought exactly zero relief to the economy crisis and skinny children in the dirty harbour streets.
But there was still one place where nobody dared to go: the Horzug, the black temple of the terrible Foggier, the god of the Deads, holder of the Keys of Hell. It must be said that this place was quite frightening, in a small valley all in dark stones, behind the temple complex.
Khany had found a booklet about Foggier some days ago, and, driven by a compelling curiosity, had read it. It said that Foggier was not a demon, and the terrible stories of human sacrifices were false. Instead, Foggier was in charge of leading the deads into their afterlife. Of course, for many of the rough people of Tellutaar, a stay in hell was mandatory, so that Foggier was widely considered as the God of the Hells. But Khany discovered that honest people had in facts no reasons to be afraid of Foggier, and they could even request him a given destination in the afterlife. The booklet was ending with a short prayer to Foggier for requesting a reincarnation. A similar prayer was also for Shelenaë, to be reborn as an Elf. Despite Elves were often depicted as dark and cruel creatures, Khany had a short but glorious vision of a flowery paradise, with beautiful people singing and dancing, and a wonderful elven lady smiling at him... She even opened her shirt for offering him her breast! This was unexpected, as Elves had a repute of being extremely prudish, giving cruel punishments to any Humans who dared to approach their ladies.
Then Khany realized that it was a forbidden book, after the law on «protection of freedom». He had to throw it, but he however learned the Shelenaë prayer by heart...
Khany felt a strong desire to visit the Horzug, for the first time, and maybe for the last time. The only access was in a narrow valley between basalt columns, shadowed with dark trees above it. The path was going through the former cremation grounds. In ancient times, they were also used for executions, and large dark stone posts with rings were still visible. Then, a little further, the main square was surrounded by large black stone statues of demons and horned creatures: the servants of Foggier, in charge of managing the hells and punishing the evil doers.
Further was the front of the Horzug itself. This Elven name means «Dark Temple», the Zug being a type of rectangular temple used for terrible gods, with two-sloped roof, several antechambers and a shrine room. On the end side of the square, a dark entrance was gaping, frightening, beneath four massive stone pillars, supporting a triangular pediment. It was shaped like a Greek temple, but there was no white elegance here, but instead massive and sinister black rocks, ornamented with convolving brambles and grimacing faces. Erosion of time had just made it more harsh and rough.
Somebody daring to step into the obscure passage found the first antechamber, with two large skull headed statues on each sides. All kinds of bad looking people were always lingering here, seeking some dark magic for harming others. Normally the priests forbade this, but since the temple was belonging to the government, they had to allow anybody into the public spaces.
Two massive columns and a strong iron grid were marking the limit allowed for the public. Further, was a second and larger antechamber, where only people requesting special ceremonies were allowed. Smaller but more numerous statues were also on the walls here, showing wriggling animals, ugly or noble Humans, and several elegant Elves, in the same sinister dark stone.
Still further was a second set of columns and grids, with the statue of Foggier appearing behind them. It was huge, overlooking and ominous. The ceiling of the Zug was sloping upward, so that, in a mind boggling perspective trick, the end of the temple and statue were looking much more impressive than they should. The priests had long ago installed electric lighting, but they did this sparingly, so that the whole temple was still in the dark, with just some lamps highlighting here and there a contorted demon face. Foggier himself was hardly visible in the glare of spotlights surrounding his terrible face, with his two eyes glowing red. His bellowing mouth was opening on what seemed an infinite darkness. Some said that strange noises were heard from there, or that people disappeared in. A subtle but obsessive smell of decay was pervading the place, seeming to emanate from dark lateral passages leading to terrible things.
The priests were hardly visible in the temple, but they were highly recognizable with their dark gowns and hoods hiding their faces. They were the same colours than the walls, and walking swiftly and silently, so that they often scared people when appearing suddenly close to them.
So Khany lingered in the first antechamber... He had a mixed feeling of opposition to religion, and regret for a disappearing world. The place was still looking as awesome and forbidding as usual, and he spent many time his hands on the separation grid, looking at the terrible statue, and at the priests walking as if they were floating ghosts. The place was rough, bare, frightening, smelling of damp and decay. No gold or jewels here, but only raw stone and iron. Wisps of cold air were seeping from lateral doors opening in the dark, where priests used to enter or exit.
There were of course always people speaking here and there into the temple, casual visitors, old persons muttering prayers for reincarnation, or families speaking at low voice with the priests. But Khany suddenly went aware of a growing rumour and rhythmical shouts outside of the temple. He knew too well what it was, as he often was part of these demonstrations. But his position was, this time, making of him a target!
The dark magic people had escaped who know how (real evil easily eludes false justice) so that Khany was now nearby alone with the priests. He still had time to escape and join the demonstration, and behave as if he was in. But he instead remained stuck in the first antechamber.... Unexpectedly, one of the priests pulled him through a gate in the grid, toward the second antechamber. «It is not the first time they do this, your are safer here as long as they don't have any pretext to enter here». This is how Khany heard the terrible Foggier priests...
Soon, the crowd was on the entrance square, shouting hostile slogans, and making a constant rumpus. Some more arrigant entered the first antechamber, making obscene and provocative gestures, in the hope of triggering a reaction from the priests. This lasted a long moment, and the temple was resounding with insults and coarse words, while the priests were just silently sitting and murmuring prayers. Even in the Temple of Death, this mindless agitation looked really uncouth, compared to the silent spirituality and soothing calm emanating of the place. Khany was hidden in a corner, and he was really frightened of this dangerous crowd. They were in theory his friends, but in practice he knew they were totally blind and indiscriminate.
At a moment, Khany moved... it was a huge mistake, as he suddenly heard some of his work mates shouting his name: «Khany is with them» «Khany is their prisoner, we must liberate him» «Khany is a traitor, he is with the priests»... He also saw his former school hazers, wearing grey Phalanges shirts... Now they had no limits, and allowed to do anything they wanted to him, including torture or death!
The crowd had now a pretext! shouting demonstrators burst into the first antechamber, pressing against the grid and beating it, making a racket of iron. But this grid was solid, and a serious obstacle...
--- Into the temple, the pervasive decay smell had suddenly turned into a subtle incense perfume ---
There was a stark contrast between this uncontrolled mob, and the calm emanating from the priests, silently sitting while murmuring prayers. But even the terrible Foggier priests could not guess that it was their very calm and absence of anger which irritated so much these violent people!
At times the crowd was getting tired of this sterile agitation, but regularly Party members in plain clothes were restarting the screams and insults...
Suddenly shouts welcomed a guy gesticulating with a RPG launcher! The Party members and Phalanges retreated prudently, well aware of what was to happen, but not trying to avoid it. A deafening detonation filled the temple, followed by the grid resounding loudly like a great chord on a huge piano. No harm to it, but screams of pain in the crowd: the idiot had shot at blank point with his RPG, killing himself and injuring a dozen of others.
Now that blood had flowed, nothing would stop them. They were screaming and hitting the grid with crowbars, making a terrible din reverberating in the vast temple. The priests were now all here, saying prayers... But it was no longer about self-control or Patience, it was the request to Foggier for a reincarnation! Some even did the Elven version, that Khany learned this morning! In front of the inescapable death, they were still dignified and calm, save one who was trembling and crying. The frightening Foggier priests were ordinary humans after all.
Khany was still hoping to get out of here unharmed... He just had to explain to the crowd that he was here at random... But he was on the wrong side of the grid... So the black wrinkled Party militants and the grey shirt hazers would probably not let him go so easily! He was feeling totally out of place, target of a wrath which should not be about him... But in the same time, only the Priests seemed real Humans here!
A second RPG shot went through the grid, hitting the pillar at left of Foggier. A rain of rubble fell in the second antechamber, while ferocious screams, smoke and smell of powder filled the place.
Khany was looking at the doors on the lateral walls, or behind the statue. Rumours were saying that they were the entrances of far away tunnels, and even of the Hell itself. But alas it was not true, they were just giving access to the living quarters of the priests, which were also besieged. So that there was no escape in this direction! Death was the only way out for the priests of death. And Khany realized that death was also waiting for him... or worse, the hazers could take him as a prisoner, and torture him endlessly!
A third RPG shot torn one of the anchorages of the iron grid, and under the tremendous push of the angry crowd, it fell flat on the ground of the second antechamber, in a last clatter of metal. Several of them had their hands crushed in the mindless action.
--- A pull on Khany's neck ---
They started at once to beat the priests, by hand, by feet, or by iron bars. The later tried no defence, some receiving the blows silently, while others curled on the ground, gasping with pain, but not screaming or complaining. Soon they were all dead, broken like puppets. Still the hateful beating continued for several minutes, with a stream of hysterical shouting and insults.
And then Khany was surrounded. «I was just visiting the place as a tourist» he uttered. Some of his work mates spoke in his favour, but in front of him were the sadistic smiles of the former school hazers, now the terrible Phalanges. It was useless to argue...
He was pulled recklessly, and a huge pain came in his dislocated elbow. But a voice in the crowd said «we don't need blokes like this», and his defenders dropped him.
--- Khany felt a hard pull from above him ---
A first crowbar broke neat Khany's right humerus, just under the shoulder.
And then, things went very differently of anything Khany could ever expect.
He was floating above his body. The later was waving arms and moaning, into pure reflexe responses to the numerous hits, until it collapsed motionless. But Khany was feeling nothing.
Then the horrible scene faded to Khany's view. For a second, he saw just a gigantic face. It was clearly Foggier, with all his features, like in the statue. But instead of looking dark, terrifying or demonic, he was jovial like a wrinkled old peasant in his sunny garden, laughing as of a good joke, and holding Khany in his hand, like a small toy. «Booby, it was a stupid way to die, wasn't it?» he said. Then «Thou wantest to see the Elves, then go!» and he threw Khany at an incredible speed.
There was a long span of time, where Khany was mostly sleeping. He was floating, curled on himself, hearing a drum and at times a wonderful voice, speaking or singing.
Then, one day, he felt a push. A strong rhythmical push. He suddenly erupted in the light, screaming and gasping for air. There were birds songs, flower smells, and melodious voices. He was handled and cuddled by beautiful kind looking persons, but much bigger than him.
Then he saw her...
The wonderful elven lady of his vision, smiling so kindly, and opening her shirt for him, to offer him his first breast feed.
The Horzug contained no valuable materials, and it was too difficult to demolish. So it was converted into a jail. But so many scary unexplainable things happened, that the torturers quickly flew away, and the whole valley was used as a garbage dump. Some years after these terrible events, the Revolution backfired, from clan fights between leaders. After some further tribulations, Tellutaar became part of a larger democratic state, bringing real freedom and phasing out violence.
Khany's reincarnation grew as a handsome young Elf, loved by his mother. He successfully completed full science studies, before marrying and becoming active in the elven astronautics program. But he refused to take part to the Return of the Elves, which took place 60 years later. Within the two centuries which followed, love and peace spread into the Human world, until the Great Reconciliation, followed by Seven Enlightened Centuries and the Great Marvel.
The Horzug temple was cleaned and restored, but the ancient cult of Hell had no longer its place into the New World.
Most of Shelenaë jewels, including the two huge beryls of her eyes, were handed back by the heirs of the Revolution Leader, from bank safes where he used to hide his loot. The other temples and statues were repaired and rebuilt, from some rare photos. But the new religion was very different, based on the positive transformation of the mind rather than on naive worship and spiritual materialism.
In November 2012, I was invited into a large Inworldz official event, together with Ilianor, the wonderful harpist I often perform with. Problem, it was the Halloween Fright Feast event, in an old castle filled with grinning pumpkins, huge skulls yawning at us, black witches hats, cackles, spider webs thick enough to catch a truck... Useless to say that I don't like Halloween at all, for this reason and for several others. And anyway in such a décor it was a bit uneasy to speak of sweet hearts and blue flowers as usual... So, the choice was between to create a dark story, or to decline.
So I created a dark story, but still keeping with a positive message and morals, as in all my other stories. Happily the world of the Nyidiath has some spicey things too, like the Dark Temple of Foggier, that I already mentioned into previous explanations. Most people in the Nyidiath consider Foggier as a kind of demon, and represent him in this way. But fortunately the Ferryman of the Deads, if not a fun guy, has much more meaning to give to his work than endlessly whipping idiots.
So I came with this story, that I introduced in this way:
«I use to write stories of light...However I was invited to do a storytelling in this dark fright feast... So I wrote a story fitting the setting... You will regret it!
«It is a tragedy, but in the elven way! (Sound of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides pulling their hairs)
«hmm, no Aeschylus was bald»
The epilogue may sound unrealistic to some: the heirs handing spontaneously back the invaluable fortune stolen from Shelenae's statue. Well, I have a RL story to bring them a lesson, that I also told in the event. In Conques, a Catholic holy place near Rodez in France, there is a fantastic statue of a young lady martyred in the 2nd century. The statue is not tall, but it is all in gold sheet and covered with huge precious stones, obviously of Roman origin. It was made in the 9th century, even before the Middle Age, and it is properly invaluable, both from its material and its cultural/spiritual significance. Just know that several large towns in the world were named after her: Santa Fe.
But during the French revolution, the government decided to seize all golden or precious objects in churches. So they sent a troop of soldiers from Rodez to Conques, to seize the invaluable statue. However they never found it... it had been hidden!
And the wonder is that, several years later, when religious freedom was restored, the statue reappeared, handed back by its guardians! It had stayed hidden all this time into some hay barn or peasant home, but nobody among these poor people took profit of the situation to cast it and sell the precious stones! These people preferred to serve the world, rather than seeking their only personal profit.
And this is perfectly understandable, even from a personal point of view: it is much more interesting to do something useful of our life, even at the cost of poverty, rather than to have a lot of money and doing nothing with it.
Scenario, graphics, sounds, colours, realization: Richard Trigaux.
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