A Visit to Alkoth

From: Bernuetz.Oliver@cbsc.ic.gc.ca
Date: Fri 17 Mar 2000 - 22:34:00 EET


Having seen the new information from Martin Laurie about visiting Alkoth
I've rewritten the above to take the new information into account.

Dearest Felicitus,

Thank you for your last letter. That juicy little bit of gossip you passed
on
has proven MOST useful. You asked how the Emperor's last progress
went. It went well for the most part, a bit dreary at times, all that
tedious
ceremony you know. I say it went well for the most part and I'm sure that
from Moonson's viewpoint the entire thing went well, lots of tributes, lots
of accolades, nubile virgins, gold, magical geegaws, etc., etc. The part
that didn't go so well from the viewpoint of the rest of his train was the
visit
to Alkoth. (May the Goddess strike me down on the spot if I even consider
setting foot in that place again. What a nightmare it was (and I mean that
quite literally)). We approached the place from the north. I have never
seen such a sight, absolutely enormous walls reaching far into the sky.
We saw it from many key miles away. The locals say the walls are
actually Shargash's girdle and having seen them I believe it. I swear on
my mother's grave that there is no structure in Glamour that you would be
able to see if it was transported behind those walls. The walls are
covered on the exterior with giant runes and strange carvings which it is
not safe to pay too much attention to.

As we neared the city a delegation of the locals came to greet Moonson.
They acknowledged Moonson as the representative of Yelm and gave
him a formal welcome to the city. Since the city is actually in the
Underworld and entered easily only by the most powerful or those able to
enter the Underworld naturally most of Moonson's entourage would have
been unable to enter the city without the aid of a charming ritual the
Alkothi
have devised. Because of this most of His entourage was left in a camp
outside of the city but a small group of volunteers accompanied Moonson.
Why did I volunteer? Because it is my duty and my joy to walk beside
Moonson (well, all right some distance behind Moonson). As we neared
the gate guards grabbed us and dragged us before some priests seated
on chairs made of human bones and hair. The priests examined us both
magically and mundanely looking for signs of evil or chaos. Finding none
the one examined was then dragged to a large block of some substance
that looked like ivory. The person was forced down onto the block and
held there by two or more of the guards. A headsman stepped forward
and with one mighty blow brought an axe made of reeds down on the
person's neck. The victim spasmed and shrieked and thrashed around
like someone actually beheaded and didn't stop screaming until they
were dragged over in front of a bronze mirror and forced to confront their
image head intact. One of the priests fastened a collar made of twisted
reeds around the person's neck and they were ushered inside the city.
I say the guards grabbed us but of course they did not lay hand on
Moonson or the Arch-Cenobite. They were going to do the same ritual t
o me but Moonson interceded and told them that my mother was perfectly
capable of looking after me. After a quick exam they agreed and let me in.
I braced myself and entered the city in Moonson's train. I felt the usual
disorientation of travelling to other worlds and then I was in the city. I
later
spoke with one of the Yanafali who guarded Moonson and asked him
hat he had experienced when he was "beheaded" by the reed axe. At
first he was reluctant to speak of the experience but after some cajoling
and some stiff drinks he finally told me the following.

"I saw no reed axe when the Alkothi dragged me to the block. What I
saw looked and felt like a real axe. When the axe descended I felt it
bite my bone and part my flesh. I felt great pain and I saw the blood
gush. Somehow I even saw my head fall to the ground, I know it sounds
ridiculous but that's what I saw and felt. I didn't stop screaming and
thrashing until I saw myself whole in that mirror. I will never forget that

and I have died before in battle and returned. This was different. I saw
 myself as whole in the mirror yet I still felt as though dead and separate
of body and spirit and did so until I left Alkoth."

Because of the towering walls it is almost always perpetually dark in the
city.
The locals are forced to rely on artificial light almost constantly and this
just
adds to the charm of the place. Upon entering the city you are immediately

struck by three things (if one of the locals doesn't first strike you with
his mace,
more on that later). The smell, as the whole city has a carnal reek (due to
the
omnipresent funeral pyres), the fact that every single male in sight,
whether
child, adolescent, mature male or doddering elder are all armed, and thirdly

the oppressive atmosphere. The atmosphere doesn't seem to affect the
locals, nor did it affect Moonson or the Arch-Cenobite (and why would it
affect that bastard?) but it did affect the rest of us. We had been warned
against using any magic that would allow us to sense or communicate
with spirits as the place is said to be rife with the spirits of the slain.
All of
us followed the warning but it didn't help one of the more overly-sensitive
Deezola priestesses who was driven raving mad by what she characterized
as the incessant pleas for surcease by the lost souls crowding the place.
(She seems to have made the switch to Jakaleel quite successfully though
the constant giggles and shrieks of, "Stop tickling me!" are a bit much to
take). Even I, who has never been accused of being overly sensitive
could feel the oppressive weight of the dead there. (In fact I had
miserable,
terrifying dreams the whole time I was there). Moonson had left most of the
healers camped outside of the city to spare them the stress. As oppressive,
miserable and scary as the city was, it was nothing compared to the Alkothi
themselves. Actually, the run of the mill denizens of Alkoth were not too
bad
(well compared to your average follower of Danfive Xaron say) it was the
omnipresent Shargashi that were bad. Imagine if you will a dark, gloomy
city, infested with unseen, unsettling presences and reeking like the
charnel house it is. Bad enough no? Well, then to make the image of
hell all the more real add some hellspawn. Picture hordes of cold eyed,
dark, curly haired, bearded hellions armed to the teeth stalking the streets

and the picture is complete. The Shargashi look at everyone not of Alkoth
as a potential sacrifice to their dark god. (In fact Moonson was greeted
with
the sacrifice of a hecatomb of "prisoners", all volunteers we were assured.
The screaming seemed to indicate otherwise). The Shargashi are very
proud of themselves, their foul city and their dark god. They take great
pride in their appearance and all of them have long curly hair. The adult
men all have great curly beards hanging to their waists. They take their
honour very seriously. Any slight, real or imagined was enough reason to
start a fight. We lost two Scimitars before Moonson sent the rest of them
out
to guard the healers.

When it came time to leave the city (and not a moment too soon let me tell
you) the entire train passed by a red and black pillar set up beside the
gate.
Atop this pillar sat a wizened old mystic who looked down at all who wished
to leave and passed judgement on them. He had milky white eyes yet you
could feel him looking deep within you. He asked all who sought exit
whether
they had committed crime or sin while within the city and all who answered
nay where allowed to leave. I asked one of the attending guards what would
have happened if anyone had said yeah and he told me in a rumbling bass
voice that they would have been dragged to something called the Enclosure
and given to Shargash. I shuddered at the thought and was glad that I was
blameless. As we left the city we saw Yelm's blessed brightness once again
and all save the Arch-Cenobite shouted praises to Yelm and seemed
gladdened, some to the point of hysterical giddiness. Moonson of course
was unmoved though He too offered praise to Yelm. My informant the
Yanafali told me later that exiting the city was like being reborn in the
sense
that he finally felt whole in body and spirit again.

Unlike the other stops on the progression Moonson was not gifted with
anything I would personally consider all that interesting, unless you
consider gilded skulls, war trophies and dejected prisoners of war to be
interesting. All in all I consider the whole visit to be the low point in my

journeys. Of course I have yet to visit Dorastor...

Yours as devotedly as is expedient,

Fresser

Oliver D. Bernuetz
www.geocities.com/bernuetz
bernuetz.oliver@cbsc.ic.gc.ca

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