Things began to change rapidly for Na-Swan-se upon the death of Hrackamül.
Little did she know that her captor was also something of a protector.
When the feasting and drinking of fermented blood grew out of control, it was the influence of Hrackamül that kept the others from coming to Na-Swan-se to test her. It was also Hrackamül who arranged for Na-Swan-se’s food.
Na-Swan-se realized this because as soon as Hrackamül died, her daily food stopped coming.
At first the Khärn merely ignored her. But as Na-Swan-se began to scouring the cavernous area for the edible lichen, some of the young reappeared to taunt her from a distance.
Na-Swan-se’s hunger grew. She overturned rocks looking for the lichen. She spent long periods of time licking the rocks that dripped moisture, attempting in vain to limit the desire for food with a full stomach of liquid.
This caused her to hallucinate. Seeing colours and hearing noises that would echo and re-echo in her head.
She woke one time with a sudden lucidity. She would have to escape to survive.
Within the honeycombed caverns of the Khärn city she heard the raucous sounds of another feast. The bridge to the tunnel that led out of the mountain lay clear in the desolate coliseum area.
She wasted no time. Scrambling down her column, she ran across the arena floor and made it to the bridge. Looking behind her to see if anyone had seen her and then prepared to run across the bridge to her freedom.
No sooner had she turned to do this, when out of the darkness dropped a Brutish shape. The shape slammed her body to the ground with the impact. The cavern filled filled with hooting and laughter of a sudden pack of brutish shapes who had been waiting to watch Na-Swan-se’s first escape attempt. The Khärn who had jumped upon her grabbed her by the lower limb and showed her off to the group who chattered and pointed while a pair went into the rouse the feasting host to see what had happened.
Na-Swan-se says when her inner wind returned she watched upside down and waited for what was next.
It did not take long to find out and the author must confess that Na-Swan-se became much less detailed in her descriptions. She says the Khärn created a game out of her hunger.
They would put her in the coliseum, giving her sometimes a hornful of fermented blood and then unleash a similarly starved beast to fight.
The first were a pair of emaciated Hrônd from the a raid on one our mountainous villages.
Na-Swan-se points to some bite marks on her legs to show what happened in the course of killing them.
Each time the battle finished, she says the crowd would jeer and watch as Na-Swan-se proceeded to eat her dead combatant.
Sated with the partially charred flesh of various creatures, Na-Swan-se had never seen before, she says she lots track of being a Shinse.
In brief moments when she says it was possible to think clearly, she would attempt to escape. Each attempt was thwarted by hidden Khärn, who she says never ceased to enjoy the game.
Gradually the Khärn lost their respect for her and resumed their torturing, combining the pain of hunger with a lack of sleep.
Hrackaghō at one time arranged his first hunting party and left the cavernous city leading a large group of Khärn warriors. The timing suggests that Na-Swan-se had been in the city an entire cycle of Celem.
While the hunting party was away, Na-Swan-se says she killed another young brute. Na-Swan-se does not remember whether she ate the young Khärn, but she does remember getting violently ill. This provoked more hallucinations, which she said took the form of unending nightmares.
It was in a state of extreme need that Na-Swan-se remembers Hrackaghō returning at the head of an entire flock of our Qita.
Hrackaghō pointed at her, asking through the brute’s language why she lay in a wasted state upon her column.
Na-Swan-se remembers a young brute pointing to a pile of bones with two Khärn skulls upon it.
The welcome ceremony took placee. Na-Swan-se remembers it because the Khärn brought her an entire roasted Qit leg to gnaw upon and a bowl full of cave water.
The suddenly generous form of feeding continued. Na-Swan-se came outo f her wakeful nightmares, but the animal inner spirit that her suffering awakened remained intact.
She would calmly eat what the Khärn brought her, but then chase them like prey, grabbing at their limbs with her now claw like hands to try and consume them too.
Our scholars have studied Na-Swan-se closely. They have taken samples of her blood and observed her in her sleep. Their conclusions are that when she consumed Khärn flesh, it caused transformations in her. That means there is some element or property within Khärn flesh that creates Khärn-like attributes.
Some of our more thoughtful scholars have ventured to guess that this is how Khärn appeared in the first place, since they on occasion resembly Tamvaasa and sometimes Shinse features.
Na-Swan-se says she once again grew strong and fierce. She says at the time she never thought of why. The Khärn continued to leave her alone, though Hrackaghō would watch her from the entrance of the dwellings, studying her like once Hrackamül did.
The event must have been pre-determined. For the Khärn began to fill the arena long before Na-Swan-se was fed. Na-Swan-se, crouched down on her limbs waited and watched in the middle of the arena, turning and turning to see what was going to happen.
The brutes began stomping and howling at the time that Hrackaghō appeared, bearing another Qit leg. He entered the central arena that held Na-Swan-se, holding the leg out to her, the slits of his eyes openly mocking her like she was a beast.
Na-Swan-se remembers having a faint pricking feeling in the back of her mind, as the inner Shinse attempted to return her to her true self.
Gingerly Na-Swan-se reached out for the leg of meat. No sooner had she done so than Hrackaghō used it as a club, bashing her head with such force that she was launched into the air several lengths.
Her last battle had begun: Hrackaghōad decided to cement his reputation as the one who had killed the “Bül Slayer”.
Na-Swan-se, who had become very adept in fighting, recovered from the surprise blow and circled Hrackaghō, but the clever Khärn brought the leg down onto Na-Swan-se’s foot, hooked it and spun her flat on her back.
The crowd went wild with Hrackaghō’s skill, but Na-Swan-se could carry on fighting on her back. Hrackaghō had to abandon the leg to drive his lower limbs into Na-Swan-se’s stomach. Na-Swan-se clawed and scratched at Hrackaghō’s back, drawing chunks of his flesh as she did so.
But Hrackaghō had succeeded in getting his claws around her neck. He began to squeeze the life out of her to the roars of the crowd.
Our soldiers need not be told what happened next, for it was at that time that they arrived at the entrance to the Khärn city.
Such a fierce fight had rarely occurred in all our history.
The scribe Alentión has written of this battle skillfully and it is not my intention to repeat all the great feats of our soldiers, nor their worthy sacrifices in the name of revenge.
It goes without saying that Hrackaghō left off his strangling of Na-Swan-se to organize the fight. He struck Na-Swan-se a blow to her head in order to render her senseless. Na-Swan-se says she came out of Go-na just at the time that our soldiers were being driven back. It was her attacking the Khärn defenders from behind that may have turned the tide in our favour.
She was found by our soldiers holding Hrackaghō’s strangled corpse, naked and gnashing her teeth among the dead.
The soldiers brought her out of that place and to Jotheim. It took her a full month to remember how to speak her own language and sit and behave like one of her own kind.
This story was not merely a tribute to her, but an occasion to learn about the terrible people dwelling within Khilma.
That is why it is fitting, in closing this volume, to repeat the two things Na-Swan-se wished to emphasize about them: the first was that the cruelty of the Khärn was studied and intentional. No Khärn was allowed to feel fear, for the cruelty they inflict, even upon one another, effectively took it away from them.
Though immune to fear, it did not take much to inspire awe in a Khärn. Anything that could prove more powerful than their snake God, Bül, has the promise of changing their implacable ferocity into abject surrender.
It is my humble hope that this volume proves valuable to our worthy and noble field captains.
Long live King Talénes V!
Go back to: