Ghanna, the largest and the most dangerous continent in all of East Keyona. Despite its reputation, Ghanna is said to be the land of the gods and the birthplace of man and beast. Ghanna is also said to be the promised land but was tainted by war, cursing it. After the war, Mother Gaia cast out man to prevent them from truly destroying the land but those who remained were cursed to became seven foot, bloodthirsty demons that had the ability to blend into their surroundings, killing who dares try to renter Ghanna.
As decades past the people cast out began to colonize land near and far from Ghanna. These people became independent, some forgot about the gods and considering themselves as gods with their advancement in technology and science. The people who migrated southwest of Ghanna's Gory Red desert inhabitant an oasis the middle 60 m deep crater, naming it Mesa-Kōgen. Those who went across the Giant River of Guy colonized the land that was only half the size of Ghana naming it Ishvaal. Surrounding the northern coast of Ishvaal was a land of 3/4 the size of Ghanna, known for its cold valleys and snowy mountains called Lumista. East of Ishvaal is an ' uninhabited' archipelago of small typical islands called the Navakian Isles.
Having well-established land would never be enough for man, man will continuously want more. It was greedy that started many great wars between Ishvaal, Lumista, and Mesa-Kōgen which Ishvaal reigned victorious taking up 1/4 of both Mesa-Kōgen and Lumista. Desperate from more land both Mesa-Kōgen and Lumista made plans to take over Ghanna but alas those who dare stepped foot on the land were never seen again.
A widespread rumors began to circulate about Ghanna saying; all those men were killed by demons, living on the island in secret or were turned into demons themselves. No one knew for certain but what was certain was the sound of crackling, drums, and terrifying screams dc frrr de crimson emanating from Ghanna's wildly dense jungle and howling from its vast desert.
Only a mad man would dare try to conquer Ghanna. Many king have fallen but only one will succeed.
The Giant River of Guy, 337 NC
It was a cold, moonlit, starry night with only the calming songs of crickets and water bubbling down the riverbank. A bevy of uniformed men crept through the shadows of the Ishvaalian lush green plains. There were 50 of them, cladded in steel and the finest linens Ishvaal can provide. The finest in the world some would say. Their swords sheathed at their hip and daggers strapped to their shins covered by thick, bulky, leather boots. Every other man had a teepee strapped to his back. The men both at the back and front of the line held special lanterns imported from Mesa-Kōgen. An opaque glass box with an eagle-like steel handle. The beak of the handle had a special hoop to hook one's finger through. In the box was a small rock only found in Mesa Kōgen called Yanis or Moon Shred that generates light from the moonlight. A dim size piece of this rock could give five feet of light.
The men were brunch brawny, young, and determined men, ranging from ages 19 to 35. The youngest was a man who resonated from a very prestigious house of Maharaj and a newly coronated Ishvaalian king. His name was Rajdeep, the only son of Aditya. Like his father, Rajdeep is a skilled swordsman and well adept in science and war strategy. As young as he may be, he has proven himself to his people time and time again since he inherited the throne upon his father's sudden death. For the past two years of his rule, he had managed to conquer a small portion of the greatest nations, except one. Ghanna. Once you conquer Ghanna you conquer the world, what he often told himself.
Rajdeep and his men stopped in front of the riverbank, gazing out at the land beyond the giant river. Darkness cloaked the land like a thick blanket, the wind whistled terrifying symphonies and the sound leaves rustling struck fear in the hearts of his men. Rajdeep himself shared their fear of the unknown but his determination was stronger. He pushed through the sea of men to get a better look. He was the smallest of them, standing at only 5 foot 8 inches.
Rajdeep fell to his knees, exhausted. He took off his helmet, letting the cool breeze kissed his stubbled head. He wore the mark of his Religious denomination of Ishtar in the middle of his forehead. A red cursive 4 with a small dot over the straight line of the 4, made from the stain of red mehndi. His helmet like many others a steel cap with a family's crest engraved into it. His crest was a large winged eagle flying between twin peaks. There's a small blunt spear on top of the cap and mail sheltering the wearer's profile and neck.
They have been traveling for seven days and seven nights. They were dehydrated and starving. Rajdeep cupped his hand together then submerged them into the cool water. It relaxed him. His fears and worries slowly dissipated down the roaring tide. He knew fully well what this conquest would do to his reputation if he is successful. He'd be feared, worshipped, and most of all the most powerful man in all Keyona.
Yes, parents will tell my story to their children for years to come. He told himself.
A satisfactory smile crept on his thin lips, brightening his usually serious demeanor. His bronzed skin glowed under the dim moonlight. He lift his overflowing hands to his mouth, taking a long satisfactory sip. It had been a full day without a drinkable drop of water so right now this water felt heavenly as it rushed down his throat and spilled down his jawline. His men fell to their knees to have a drink as well. As they drank, Rajdeep to the time to ensure all of his men were present. He counted each helmet from his left to his right. He does this twice as a precaution. All 49 heads were present." We'll camp here for the night." He said. His voice guttural and authoritative.
"Are we not taking the land tonight, your Grace?" Said a boy a few months older than Rajdeep. The boy's voice was husky. He knelt on to the far left of the back. His eager dark eyes peering over the heads of his companions.
"No Pankaj." Rajdeep answered." The tide is high, and it suicidal to go by night."
"Ready to die already, fresh blood?" Said a man kneeling directly to the left of Pankaj.
"Leave the boy alone, General Punjabi." Rajdeep directed. General Punjabi made pig noses and the others laughed except Pankaj. Pankaj frowned at his king. Rajdeep watched his beautiful face. He pitied him. Such a handsome face wasting away in a pen pig a few months. Pankaj Aden is the son of a pig farmer and a retired whore from a small village called Emery. Emery was a small town in the countryside of west Ishvaal. Pankaj skin was the colour pecans and eyes as dark as a starless night. He had feminine features; a delicate mouth, a small, upturned nose, and a heart-shaped face. His body was long and slender with a bit of muscle that suited his frame.
The general flashed a pompous grin at Pankaj before turning his attention back to the river. Rajdeep knew the General found Pankaj tantalizing and Pankaj knew it too. It must have been all those hungry stares he shot at Pankaj's body or the constant teasing not just verbally but physical as well that convinced him. The General forbidden desire for Pankaj made him angry, and bitter for wanting a man that he couldn't have, and shouldn't even be having such thoughts. Those kinds of desires once act upon will result in being stripped down of one's titles and stoned to death by every member of the Ishtar faith while Rajdeep and Pundits watch on. Despite having a wife and three children, the General goes against their beliefs to visit a particular brothel to sink his cock into a male who bears a striking resemblance to Pankaj.
" It seems the pig handler can't take a joke." The General taunted Pankaj. The others kept silent this time, keeping their eyes on their King's face. Rajdeep his face neutral. He wasn't about to let his hatred for the General be known. Not tonight. If trouble were to arose and the general were to be struck down right now, Rajdeep would look the other way without shame. Rajdeep's hatred for him ran deep. As a child the General had tried to force himself on him, even stole a kiss that made Rajdeep's blood ran cold when his mind fell into the pits of traumatizing memories. Unfortunately, that wasn't what sparked Rajdeep's hatred. It was the fact that his father caught the General balls deep in a young cook, it caused such a shock that his father slipped and broke his neck. That was what younger servant reported to Rajdeep after Rajdeep paid him a hand full of Rubies to force the reason he looked so tense around the General.
"General." Rajdeep warned." If you insist on acting this way.....go get wood for the fire. Now." His voice boomed through the cold wind. The General sneered at Rajdeep, hand firming gripping his dagger in his left boot. The two stared at each other for two long moments. The air grew colder and drier, and you could hear nothing but leaves rustling. The General pulled out his dagger and tossed it into the darkness over his shoulder with a force A loud thud made the men beside them uneasy. Rajdeep looked over his shoulder towards where the dagger flew to a large figure buried in the grass. It was a Ishvaalian Red Ridgeback Boar. A very rare species. This pissed off Rajdeep. He had put a ban on hunting this species. They were being hunted for their thicker tusk and coarse copper-like coat.
"Oh look...I found dinner." The General jested, smiling smugly. The General got to his feet, looking down at his king. Rajdeep regretfully met his gaze. His blood ran cold. The General towered over most Ishvaalians with his astonishingly large body, he was thick with muscles and had a round belly usually filled with rum. He stood tall at 6 foot 8 and had olive coloured skin. His face was round and resembled a potholed road and his features appeared as though they were squished together. His beady eyes were the colour of mud and his large nose resembled a fishing hook. His mouth was tiny and naturally set in a sneer. The General, like many, enjoyed the finer things; vast amounts of land, grand estates, clothing with gold, and other precious gemmed accents. However, the General's taste was more....extensive— he had a room entirely made of gold in his Nassau villa and ruby engraved bath in his home in Ishvaal's capital, Jahrathaar. He had come from a long line of Generals but he was by far the most disgraceful.
His armor was made out of the gold cultivated from that same great river. His sword made from the sharpest steel and dagger made from the talons of dragons. Rajdeep got to his feet and walked over to the boar. He sat beside it before pulling it onto his lap. Dragon talons are said to be the deadliest of daggers in the world, even the weakest of blows could pierce steel armor. Rajdeep rested his forehead against the cheek of the beast, with his eyes closed. "Forgive this fool, Great Mother. I offer this boar, whose blood cries out for the mercy that was not given, as penance for what will be done at dawn. Please accept this humble offering." He prayed silently. He lifted his head, looking down at the boar. "Glory be to the Mother!"
"And with her people, this generation and to generations to come." They all said in a unison. They clap their hands together and bowed their heads, each placed a kiss in the small space between the knuckles of their thumbs. The water echoed the sound, the wind howling.
"General....burn the boar to the bone and find us something better to eat," Rajdeep said. "Everyone else....set up camp."
"Yes, your Grace."
It was five hours from midnight, 3/4 of the men were asleep in their teepees ten feet away from the river. Two men to one teepee. The teepee was made from an alligator's skin, with a palm leaf draped over as a precaution for potential enemies. The remaining ten sat around the small fire. Their back to the scattered rows of teepees. They sat around the fire mending their boots, sharing a flask of rum, and or singing songs at the peak of drunkenness. Rajdeep was among that ten men but he wasn't drunk nor singing. He laid on a bear rug, gazing at the night sky. Since his father's death he's had trouble sleeping and only music seemed to cure his insomnia. The off-tune singing of his companions eased his loneliness.
I wonder what Meher is doing. Sleeping most likely.
Meher was a girl he promised to marry when he got home. Meher Vyas is a daughter of a treasurer of the temple, a beautiful woman with a tongue like knives. There wasn't a day that went by that Meher hadn't scolded him for the most trivial of things but that was what he loved about her. That sharp tongue wasn't the only thing that won him over, it also those rare green eyes and the way she moved when she danced. They met at the festival of drums. Ishvaalians from near and far would come to Jahrathaar to play their intricately decorated drums, eat traditional Ishvaalian dishes and do lots and lots of dancing. He was 16 and she was 14. He saw her dancing at the festival and she stole his heart instantaneously.
Pankaj sat beside Rajdeep's head on the boggy ground, tuning his sarod, with a smile. The instrument was beautiful. It had eight pegs and was made from sagwan. Rajdeep sat up and watched, fascinated by how he moved his hands along the instrument.
Pankaj's body was relaxed, yet he kept his posture upright. Like everyone else he wasn't wearing his armor, just white linen, long-sleeved shirt that hugged his arms and torso perfectly, and gold embroidered black Dhoti pants. His thick, ebony, curls blowing in the cold breeze. The scent of his hair teased Rajdeep's nose. Sweat and a mixture of sweet oils." You have a woman waiting from you back home?" Rajdeep asked. Pankaj looked at him, his smile disappearing. His expression made Rajdeep regret asking. Did something bad happen or is it that he sails the same boat as the dreaded General?
Pankaj turned his attention back to his sarod. He tuned it to his liking before playing a somber tone. The tone traveled to Ishvaal and river to Ghanna. The men stopped what they were doing to listen. Soon their minds we're plagued with the thoughts of the possibility of not returning home after tomorrow, a few regrets not making amends with family before leaving. "I did once.....but you know how Jahrathaar natives are." Pankaj tone matched his song. "The poor and darker-skinned are not worth the hand of any woman belonging to a noble house." He added, "I didn't know what I expected when I began courting her... That all this prejudice would be nonexistent when she told her father she loved and hoped to marry me? That our love would worth more than riches and titles?" The pain in Pankaj's made the men feel....remorse not for Pankaj but for the girl who fell for the son of a pig farmer. If word were to get out about a scandalous affair, then that could destroy the house's name. Especially if she had sex with him outside of marriage. She could be shunned and very likely stoned after that.
"We are not prejudiced against our own people." Said Ranbir Singh. It was clear Ranbir didn't agree with Pankaj, like many others he was blinded to it the real problems. Pankaj was use to people's ignorance but tonight it really bothered him. It bothered him because this was the type of ignorance that could possibly be the last thing he'll remember about his last night alive. Pankaj's finger slipped off chikari stings making a horrid sound. Pankaj looked into Ranbir's dark brown eyes. Ranbir is descended from the prestigious House of Singh, a family of blacksmiths known throughout Ishvaal. He was never broke a day in his life nor is his skin is too dark for Jahrathaar standards. He was handsome, tall, and had that beautiful bronzed skin.
"You heard when the General called me a racial slur, yet you said nothing. In fact.... you laughed, I know you did....no one cackles the way you do." Pankaj began, "you knew exactly why people like me are called that slur....yet you say, 'we're not prejudiced to our own people'. You're ignorant—"
Ranbir spun to his feet, his fingers curled and face set in a scowl. "What did you call me!" Ranbir hissed. Pankaj sat there calmly staring up at him. Ranbir was taller and thicker than he was but Pankaj knew that he could beat him if he really wanted to. Pankaj is quick on his feet and he knew every pressure point in the human body. If Ranbir wants a fight he'll damn well get one.
"Ignorant." Pankaj's voice sent chills down Rajdeep's spine. Pankaj aura frightened him, frightened them all. Pankaj turned his attention back to his sarod and began playing. "Now, sit down you inbreed pig", he said smirking. Ranbir pulled out his sword and pointed it at Pankaj forehead, but Pankaj kept playing..... unbothered. In a blink of the eye Pankaj knocked the sword out of his hands and pointed a dagger to Ranbir's chest. They all gasped including Rajdeep. Ranbir looked into to Pankaj's seemingly soulless eyes. "Sit your ass down," Pankaj growled. Slowly, Ranbir sat down with his hands up, beside his face. His shoulders hunched over and his head slightly bowed. Rajdeep was impressed. A 5 foot 9 Pankaj made a 6 foot man tuck his tail between his legs. Pankaj tucked his dagger back into a small compartment at the back of his sarod before picking up Ranbir's sword. The sword was long, thick, and looked heavy. The grip was like a corkscrew and the pommel had the Singh crest, a golden snake between two blades, on it.
Pankaj examines every inch of the sword in awe. "It's steel from Lumista." Ranbir stated. That made Pankaj smile. His eyes reduced to slits, his nose appeared wider than normal. His bottom teeth were crooked but that's what made his smile unique and beautiful.
Handsome but deadly. Rajdeep thought.
"A beauty." He said, handing the sword back to Ranbir, holding it by the blade. When Ranbir wrapper his fingers around the grip, Pankaj let go. He picked up his sarod before sitting back down. "Have any of you heard the story of the three Ghannan kings," Pankaj said, grinning. He looked at each and every face.
"Do you mean that one where one of them ate the other to get control of the continent, and as punishment, The Holy Mother cursed the land?" Said Shekhar Bhatt. Shekhar and his brother, Mukesh, were the only ones other than Pankaj not of nobility. They were orphans who dedicated their lives to their country.
"No, no, no!" Pankaj protested waving his right hand. "That's just a myth. Yes, there was a war, where there are power-hungry men, war will follow. Cannibalism was true yes, but just not where this tale is concerned." He stated. "It all started like this......
'Ghanna, like most major cities started out as a small village. At this time, this village was called Serengeti-Afya. It's named after the two wives of Obe, the first Emperor of Ghanna, Afya, and Serengeti. Afya bore him two sons, Kemoye and Kente, and Serengeti bore a son, Khan. Kemoye was the eldest and Khan the youngest. These sons grew to become the force that protected Ghanna, Kemoye the strategist, Khan the warrior, and Kente the diplomat. On his death bed, Obe told his sons that they would have to choose which one of them would become emperor.'" Pankaj paused to look at every one. They all watched him keenly. He cleared his throat before continuing on. "'They met with each other that tonight and discussed how they would make a decision, of course running the village together had come up, but each had a different view of how they would want to rule. So Kente, being the diplomat he is, proposed that they split Ghanna into three and they'd have a little game, the winner would choose the direction he'd rule. It was a game of wit, strength, durability in the savanna's harsh climate, and agility. Each brother had something they were good at, Kemoye had strength, Khan was agile and Kente had the intellect of ten men.
Kemoye bested them with three: strength, a bit of wit and durability, and chose to rule west where the savanna met its end beyond a small stream because it was the closest to home. Kente came second because he was able to stand the heat longer than Khan but he chose to stay to be with his father even after he had long taken his last breath. So Khan had no choice but to go East, the furthest distance, over treacherous hilly terrain. Before leaving home, Kente threw a feast for their last night together. At daybreak, the brothers went their separate ways, Kemoye and Khan joined with a hand full of people who here willing to join them. After a few months had passed since their father drew his final breath. That day, Kente sent out a falcon to each brother with a letter stating 'Father is dead'. A few weeks passed and Kemoye and his people came to Serengeti-Afya on camels, dressed in white robes and skin the colour of charcoal. Kemoye and his people had claimed an Oasis in the desert, naming it Nile. He brought gifts for his brother such as Opuntia, flattened bread, and a desert eagle. A feast was held that night to honor their dad's memory.
Khan and his people returned months later dressed in fine linens, gold brands around their necks, around their heads, in their noses and ears. Their bodies had beautiful markings and they looked like gods. Beautiful gods. They gifted Kente with gold and precious gems of all kinds such as; Sapphire, diamonds, topaz.....you name it. You see, they claimed the lush valley and..... the rainforest.'" Pankaj paused and looked across the river. The others followed his graze. "' They named the valley Callaghan and the rainforest Tak, after Ghanna's native language Takan. A feast was held that night. When Kemoye saw how well Khan's tribe was doing, he grew jealous. The more he listened to Khan go on about their findings, the more anger crept into Kemoye's heart. But it was when Khan spoke of finding where Mother's Gaia's tears fell, when Ignis died, that formed the river stream which fed all 47 waterfalls in the Tak rainforest and many other rivers in Ghanana. This river was called Sanatio, it said it had not only has the ability to heal the sick but to potentially resurrect the dead.'" When Pankaj said to raise the dead, the men began to mutter among themselves.
Was that true? Rajdeep asked himself. If it is true I need to conquer Ghanna and find the damn river as soon as possible. "Is the river real?" Asked Bhuvan Anga. He was the oldest of them all but definitely not the brightest. Pankaj shrugged.
"Who knows but the Mother herself." He replied. "' Kemoye was enraged and demanded Khan to give him what he deserved, he was the firstborn and it should be his birthright to have Tal. Sighing, Khan said, 'An agreement was made, and how well we did in our little game determined where we'd rule, you chose your own side, so I don't owe you anything.' Kemoye stormed out and wasn't heard from for the rest of the feast. The feast ended and everyone retired. The night was calm and peaceful like this one.....until a screaming woman woke everyone. Khan came out of his hut to find that it was covered in blood, the blood was from the dog that had been given to him by his father before he left home.
And the most fucked up part of it was that fact Kemoye sat on a rock, eating the dog in front of Khan to Khans's horror. That right there was a declaration of war. The morning after tensions were high and Kente sensed it, in hopes to bring the brothers to good terms, Kente took them to the tallest mountain in the savanna, where you could almost see where the savanna ended. Kente's good intentions only fueled Kemoye's rage. On this mountain, you could almost see to the west where the desert turned red..... where Ghanna ended, but to the East..... the valley and rainforest seemed endless. That evening Kente and a few of his people left his village in his brother's hands, while he went up the mountain to pray to the Mother. It was a two-week journey.
On the seventh day the earth shook. Kente rushed back to the village because he feared for his brother's lives. What he found when he got back...'"
Pankaj slapped Rajdeep's cheek. The men opposite them sat absolutely still. Their mouths ajar and eyes as big and wide as a fly. Rajdeep, himself sat still. His ear was ringing from the blow and his cheek burning like hell. He was confused. Did he just....? He thought. He couldn't believe the audacity of this man. How dare he slap his king!
The more Rajdeep replayed the blow in his mind, the angrier he got. He turned to Pankaj with a look that could kill. Pankaj removed his hand and looked at his palm." Ew." He mewled, making a disgusted expression before flicking a bloody mosquito off his palm then wiped it off on the grass. He began to nonchalantly play his sarod. He played a traditional Ishvaalian lullaby. Rajdeep stared at him." A mosquito was on your face by the way....just letting you know before you yell:' Off with his head' or whatever you overactive nobles say or do." He said, leering at Rajdeep. That kind of talk would land someone in the dungeon for talking to Rajdeep like that but he found Pankaj bluntness irritating yet so refreshing. Hence the reason Pankaj isn't in the dungeons since the day he got to Jahrathaar. It was like the more the days pass the blunter he got.
Rajdeep shook his head. Pankaj smiled." So....are you going to finish your story or what?" Rajdeep asked.
"Hm...oh yeah! I didn't know what happened next." He said, shrugging." I heard it from some old man I met back in Emery. I think he was a mad man cause he took off his clothes and ran around screaming about some 10-meter tall serpent. A shame, I wished he never lost his wits...I would have loved to hear about the snake...I love snakes." He said, sadly. He stopped playing and stood up." I'm going to bed, got a big day of dying tomorrow." He said and he jogged to the teepee he shared with Rajdeep.