The Peace of Flowers is often cited as one of the most single important treaties in the ancient world. While it is true that the treaty laid the groundwork for the formation of the Imperial Confederation nearly a thousand years later, modern archaeologists and anthropologists have found evidence that the marriage of [Princess] Hemetra to [Prince] Suth may have been the more significant event.
Neither the treaty nor the marriage seemed to have been treated with much importance at the time. Before The Descent, Dungeons had yet to form and the eastern Hin’Tye lands were riddled with spawning pits. Ra’Sharon was more concerned with rebellions and conquest in their southern territories and had little interest in conquest past their northeastern border. This treaty was merely a formalization of the disinterest the empires held in fighting each other.
However, many of the advances and philosophies that came out of the Hin’Tye empire have been traced back to [Princess] Hemetra herself. New techniques have allowed us to more accurately date artifacts and have lent evidence that the first prototypes of the famous Hin’Tye armor were pioneered by Hemetra’s [Personal Guards]. Those [Personal Guards] also were likely to be the origins of the [Hin’Tye Elite Soldier] Class which allowed the Hin’Tye empire to dominate the eastern border of the Imperial Confederation.
(-an excerpt from: “The History of the Imperial Confederation: an analysis of pre-Descent politics in the near east” by Karen Smith.)
I seem to have gotten into the habit of sleeping late these days, and I can’t imagine why. Sarcastic thoughts aside, having busy nights made it truly difficult to get up in the morning. For myself anyway, it was to my great displeasure that I learned I was suffering alone in that regard. Having high Endurance, Vitality, and Willpower meant that Sut had a lot more energy than I did. He confessed that the lack of sleep would eventually catch up to him, but it wouldn’t be for another day or two at least.
There was also a Skill involved in there somewhere, but knowing that my Stats could influence how much sleep I needed made me rethink my Stat distribution choices a bit. Not that I could change them while I was alive, although my latest Class consolidation had effectively reduced my total levels so it was possible for me to get another Class relatively easily right now…
Well, that was a thought for later, my current thoughts were wrapped up in yet more preparations. Before I even considered travelling, I had to come to some sort of terms with my siblings. Surprisingly, it was not nearly as hard as I had imagined it would be; my brothers and sisters were far more friendly than they had ever been and on reflection it was obvious why.
It is a sad fact that I think all of my siblings actually wanted to be a family together, but were too paranoid or scheming for anyone to ever feel safe in each other’s company. We didn’t hate each other, but everyone was always aware that they could be stabbed in the back at any time. I had tried, over the years, to seperate myself from this and now I had succeeded.
I was safe to talk to now, because my path to potential power no longer rivaled their own. Indeed, I was now a valuable connection to the Hin’Tye on top of not being a rival any longer, so it made sense to seek me out. As a result, I ended up meeting and speaking with almost all of my siblings before I left.
Throughout these meetings, I expressed my desire: to see our two empires work together and grow together. Insofar as I could - or would - lend support to my siblings here in Ra’Sharon during their various power plays, I would support those whose plans and ideas benefited that goal. Admittedly, I doubted my support was worth all that much right now, but I suppose they were investing in me on the basis that as a wife of an [Emperor] in the future, I would at least have his ear.
My eldest brother even came north finally to meet Sut, the two [First Princes] sizing each other up as I introduced them. Presuming the political winds did not shift, these two would be the rulers of their empires in the future and the treaty would be in their hands. I suppose, in that sense, this was a historic meeting. The impressions made here and the discussions the two held might influence the world for centuries to come, perhaps even millenia.
Of course, all of this was only on the political side of things, there were many other - more practical - preparations to make for the long and arduous journey. I wasn’t just joining the Hin’Tye contingent alone, it wouldn’t be proper for a [Princess] to travel alone in a group of men, even if one of those men was her husband. No, Aj and Sere would be accompanying me to Hasa. Undoubtedly they would continue to serve as informants, but the distance would limit their capacity to do so immensely. They would be my [Attendants] first and foremost.
Three more people meant three more people’s worth of food and water had to be brought along, and I didn’t exactly travel light. Clothing was easy, I didn’t wear anything but white linen after all, but my jewelry collection was extensive. Add my dowry and the various gifts that had been given to Sut by my Father and other nobles to that and suddenly we were carting a mountain of treasure with us.
As problems one could have, the problem of carting a mountain of gold home is one of the better ones, but it is still a problem. Fortunately, my decision to free the Hin’Tye [Slaves] earlier turned out to be a useful one. Many of the [Slaves] were [Charioteers] and after Father - rather generously - gifted us a few additional chariots and horses we were able to transport the entire party with gifts included.
It was not going to be a very comfortable journey, but I had never expected it to be. Although that is a bit of a lie, my nights were probably going to be very comfortable and I had a sneaking suspicion that I might be tired enough to sleep easily during the day. Maybe, anyway, because sleeping in a moving chariot is probably incredibly difficult. I remember how badly carriages had shaken in my last life, and I imagined that chariots would be even worse once they were off the desert sand.
On the other hand, I would finally be free of the desert and sand! Don’t get me wrong, the desert was beautiful and the gardens around the Sharon’An were breathtaking, but I would kill for a cool forest or a mountain or even just a grassy field to break up the everyday sights. It might be worth staying up even if I was exhausted just to see some variation in the environment.
In addition to saying goodbye to my siblings, preparing transportation, and securing food, I also met with the rest of the Hin’Tye who had accompanied Sut to Ra’Sharon. Most of them were [Royal Guards] or [Royal Charioteers], but the man named Shatti was an [Advisor], which was a Class we didn’t often see in Ra’Sharon. Usually, advisors had Classes that overlapped with the [Advisor] Class, making it rather hard to obtain and it was rarely the first Class mentioned during an introduction.
Shatti, however, broke that mold. He was an [Advisor] first and foremost, but I was fairly certain he wasn’t a pure [Advisor]. It was hard for me to put my finger on why, but there was just something off about him. When I brought my feelings up with my new husband, he laughed and said he would explain when we were on the road. That made me all that much more curious, but I didn’t have an option except to wait.
Our route to Hasa was planned out well. First, we would retrace our steps. We would travel up the Sharon’An by boat to Al’a’xeria and then travel east to the border. From there we would travel northeast to the city of Bilos and then northeast again to Kadess. At Kadess we would once again travel by boat, taking the river north through the town of Katnah and then further north before docking and taking a short trip west to the coast to visit Ugareet and the minor [King] who ruled the area under the auspicious of the Hin’Tye empire.
After visiting the [King] we would return to our boats on the river and follow it up to its source before heading west to the coast and following it west to Taros. There we would get on yet another boat and travel north again to the city of Cunamini. From there it was a relatively short jaunt northwest to Esh and another short jaunt north to Kuwa where we would take another boat that would bring us, finally, to Hasa.
It was a journey that was both long and perilous, or rather, a long journey that would be perilous to anyone else. Travelling with a contingent of [Royal Guards] and [Royal Charioteers] led by a [General] and a [Champion] meant that we should be safe from bandits or other criminals. Monsters were a different problem, the less intelligent or the more strong a monster is, the more likely they are to attack even a large group of humans.
As we would be passing by more than a few of the Chasms as we head north - especially between Taros and Cunamini - there would likely be more than a few monsters to deal with. I was actually somewhat excited to see them. I had yet to see a monster that wasn’t a piece of art or on a plate and there was something that just screamed “fantasy” about them. From conversations about monsters that I have had, I know that I am likely to be disappointed by them though. Most lesser monsters are fairly mundane and the truly fantastical monsters are not the kind of creatures that you can take the time to enjoy looking at.
“So what kind of monsters come out of the Chasms?” I asked Sut one night before we left. “How does it even work, are they breeding inside the Chasms or do they come from elsewhere?”
“Our [Priests] say that they crawl out of the underworld,” he replied. “Monsters lack souls, and so are invisible to Lels, the goddess who rules the souls of the dead. When a [Warrior] dies, they serve Lels as a guardian of the border between life and death for one hundred years. After that, they are granted an eternal reward, however, there are never enough [Warriors] to guard the way up.”
“Huh,” I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of that. On one hand, as someone who had died, I could say that I certainly had not experienced an afterlife or met any gods - unless Podi counts. On the other hand, the [Priests] had to get their power from somewhere right? “I’m not sure what to say about that, the [Priests] of Ra’Sharon give a very different account of the afterlife.”
Sut just shrugged in response to that saying, “our [Priests] also say there are thousands of gods who often are worshipped and defended by a single people. Who are we to say that there are not many underworlds? Such a thing is beyond even the reach of an [Emperor] and best left to the gods and [Priests].
“As for what kinds of monsters you might see at a chasm, there is not a limit. Some kinds may be more common, but on any one day anything could crawl out. You could find a pack of direwolves or a massive griffon or a murder of flesh eating crows, but you also could run into a weak little horned rabbit that runs away as soon as it sees you. Sometimes, the creatures are formless, manifesting as clouds or liquids and a few being shapeshifters that can assume the shape of a man to lure you close by.”
“That sounds terrifying,” a vision of shapeshifting murder crows forming in my mind. “Can’t they be sealed off somehow?”
“They are far too large for that, and the monsters would dig through any obstruction besides.” Sut sighed as he leaned back, “and there is no magic strong enough to hold them back, we certainly have tried.”
“I don’t know much about magic,” to my sorrow. “The [Priests] and the [Pharaoh] are the only ones who are allowed to learn and use magic. Maybe our [Priests] might be able to help somehow?”
It is kind of a glaring hole in my education, but knowledge of magic and religion were heavily monopolized in Ra’Sharon. I could have become a [Priest] if I had wanted to learn, but I wasn’t able to learn if I didn’t take the Class. I was rather wary of that though, because what if the gods are real and they take an interest in me because of being an Incarnator? I thought it was better not to risk it.
“Perhaps,” Sut didn’t sound like he believed that. “Personally, I believe that the best solution is spears and forts, with [Charioteers] patrolling between them. It is not perfect, but it works well enough.”
I am not sure what “well enough” is in the context of containing monsters. Maybe this is just my previous lives talking, but I would have thought that the only acceptable amount of monsters to have escaping to terrorize travelers was zero. Still, I hadn’t even left Ra’Sharon yet; it was easy to judge people from afar, but if I understood the situation fully that might change.
I didn’t have much sentimental attachment to the palace, so when we left it to go to Al’a’Xeria, it wasn’t a very emotional moment for me. No, my only friend, the [Scribe] Djet, had died last year. Still, I did turn to take a look at the palace complex one last time. Even if it had never truly felt like home, I could never deny its beauty.
Nor could I deny the beauty of Sharon’An and the gardens and farms that lined its banks. The fertility of this land was due to the river, and it was not hard to see how people who lived in a desert would come to see it as sacred. The delta, where Al’a’xeria was situated, was truly a vision of paradise. A natural garden that stretches for miles with flowers and fruits in abundance, I would be lying if I would not miss this place. My original plan to retire here was not really an imposition on me.
In Al’a’xeria, I ate dinner with [Governor] Almalek one last time before heading east into the desert. I took Sut’s advice to savor the meal, because it would be the last decent meal until we reached Bilos. Considering it was a plate of sea caught fish, I might not taste anything like it for a very long time because Hasa was far inland.
Almalek was giddy, of course. Everything had gone exactly as he wanted and Al’a’xeria was poised to become the richest and most influential city in Ra’Sharon. He showered Sut and myself with gifts, which we had difficulty finding room for but had to accept to avoid insulting the [Governor]. If you had told me in my first life that one day I would be trying to refuse being given gold and gems because it was just too much to carry, I would have laughed and said that I wished that were true.
Somehow, we managed to find room for it all and finally left the city and went east. It didn’t take as long to travel to the border because it was done entirely by chariot and we soon were approaching the border fort where this had all begun. There, we rested overnight, and the next morning I took my first step out of Ra’Sharon and into the Hin’Tye empire.
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