An incarnate’s tale…
My tale comes from the dying days of the Empire of Elz, before the formation of the Sweltering Plains. I was a slave in Elz – a woman of the Sultan Aruhmeth‘s harem, in fact. Would that I could claim to have been some kind of great beauty or favorite, but the fact was, I counted as simply one of a score, given to the Sultan as a child by my parents in lieu of nearly a decade of missed taxes.
Perhaps nowhere was the binding of the diinn and the sealing of their cities so felt as-in Elz. I have memories of Ehrumm, one of the great fiery djinn, who was bound to act as harem- guardian for one hundred and one years.
I remember waking one morning, early in the predawn light. I found him outside in the gardens allotted to the harem, looking to the south, where there seemed to be a strange burning glow, as of fire far upon the horizon. He smiled to see me – a sad smile, I thought.
“You are up early, little one,” he said. “Perhaps you can sense that something is amiss in the balance of the world now.” He turned to me then and bade me to remember, not with the memory of my mind, but mv soul. I had no idea then what he meant. He turned again, gazing to the south.
“They have laid siege to the City of Brass, little one. They have laid siege to the Four Citadels of the Djinn. The gods commanded that our princes side with them in this conflict, invoking the name of our Great Mother. Our princes had long ago sworn oaths of neutrality in the War, swearing that should either side try to force an allegiance with us, it is that side which would find us as enemies.
“The titans never approached us, for such is their nature. Yet the gods have demanded that we aid them, and we refused. They have laid siege to us, using spells to bind us to their whim. “The siege is at an end. Ere nightfall, I shall be taken from this place, the sultan’s compulsions that bind me here shattered. We shall be entrapped within our City of Brass. Render my thanks unto the sultan for his kindnesses these years; there have been far worse masters.” I went inside then to think on what he had told me.
I did not know the ramifications of that conversation until later. I did not know how strongly the Empire of Elz depended upon the might of the bound djinn, some of whom had served since before the Ledean Empire’s Zathiskite Province, in the days of the Empire of Flame. The might of Elz was compromised. The ruling class fell to infighting and civil war in an attempt simultaneously to take advantage of the sudden weaknesses of their enemies and to shore up their own defenses. The battles were bloody. I remember when the assassins came for the sultan; he was in the harem when it happened – only some got away. I, in my loyalty to the sultan, tried to stop the assassin long enough to allow the sultan to escape. I failed and was killed on his knife.
We know that this state of civil war lasted until the creation of the Sweltering Plains, which ravaged what little remained of Elz, destroying its cities and creating ruins that stood side-by-side with the ruins of the old Empire of Flame. Now, only Shelzar and a few desiccated ruins in the Sweltering Plains bear testimony to the might that was the Empire of Elz.