- Jun 13, 2017
Prologue: White Mountain HorseThe weary traveler descended the mountain pass into the desolate broken plain. The land around him was forbidding, empty. Nothing but rock and sky extended to the horizon. He checked his saddle bags. His supplies were thin. Water would remain scarce. He breathed a sigh of relief.
After a lifetime away, he was home.
Miles off, a scout caught sight of a rising plume of dust. The rider. He raised his spear, and a group of warriors assembled, leapt on their horses and traversed the plain to meet this stranger.
The traveler, ever wary from a lifetime of ritual bloodletting and filial backstabbing, drew his weapon, letting a pair of dark iron balls chained together drop and then swing slowly around him and his horse, an ever-speedening crescendo of orbiting death.
The warriors surrounded the figure, both strange in approach yet familiar in look, and stared intently at him.
"Put the weapon down! You are in the lands of Tsakha, and all invaders will be met with death!"
The traveler smiled fondly. He had invaded countless lands, led men off boats, battled knights covered in steel, looked a berserker in the bloodshot eye and taken off his head. These boys were no threat. But, today, neither was he. He slowed his meteor hammer and let it rest on the ground. "I am no invader. Simply a traveler needing supplies."
"Then you will meet the chief. He will decide if you deserve hospitality or death. Tell us your name!"
The traveler nodded. "My name is Nyima."
Nyima was taken to the chief's quarters, merely a low stone hut, nothing like the castles and earthworks of Kalmar.
The chief approached, unafraid, unconcerned. "Welcome to Tsakha, stranger. I am Gotsang Lokpai, chief."
Lokpai added, "And you are... Nyima? From my rival, Nyima?
The sound of a woman clearing her throat was heard behind behind the chief. "You mean your neighbor, Nyima. We have no quarrel with them."
"Of course, Yid."
The traveler chuckled. "I am undone. I took the name of my homeland when I traveled west. I was just heading home to pray for my liege, before continuing to serve his son. I..." Nyima stopped and stared. An emblem on a post had captured his attention.
Lokpai replied, "That is the symbol of my family and tribe. The White Mountain Horse, under the setting sun."
Nyima stuttered, "I have seen that horse. Carved in the hillside, lined in white rock. Larger than anything around."
"Wait, truly? Where, here?"
"No, back in the lands of my liege. At a place called Uffington."
"How does one get there?"
"Just follow the setting sun until the land ends. There will be water, not just a lake, but nothing but water. And across that water, another land, where Uffington lies. My liege's family, the folk of Ivar the Boneless, is from this land. The way is treacherous, and by the time you would reach it, it will be nothing like the land I am from. The Ivar-people might be nothing but a memory. But that horse, it will remain."
Gotsang Lokpai grasped Nyima's shoulders and gave him a shake. "You have my hospitality and protection, the rest of the way to your land, and back home to Uffington again."
(Many thanks to @stnylan for the AAR name.)