The two brass masks which gazed at her were as beautiful as they were unsettling. Detailed and heavy in their features, aged and ageless at the same time; vicariously presenting millennia of history and mystery and magic. Before her death, Mohzenwrath’s mother, Empress Xhecate had also maintained Akkadia as a closed country. There was no way of getting in, but she let their culture escape, to let the world know that something beautiful existed here, traditions which were unknowable and ancient. As though to tease us all, to tempt to the world. Dare us. So the woman in jasmine had seen these masks before in Aghraba’s markets and in her father’s chambers. It made her aw as a little girl, it made her dream of the wide, impossible world and its secrets. Long before… any of it. They bearded faces without eyes and what may have been crowns or turbans, believed to be the faces of spirits by the rest of Middle and Near East. She didn’t know if the pair of entities that stared at her realised this, but ironically, or comically, these spectres had chosen those very masks to hide themselves, the very masks which were used to represent them in myths and theatre.
“Do they scare you, Invader?” Asked Mitra. The woman in jasmine, who these people had decided to simply call ‘Invader’, was not afraid. She had faced the strange and the arcane, the bizarre and the cursed in these black sand, in this endless night, under unknown moons and constellations, but she was not afraid now. Because she was finally with people. She was surprised to find they spoke Arabic, Mesopotamian Arabic at that, the kind used in Aghraba. Then she remembered the rumours that the education Akkadians received in Babylon was unrivaled and unmatched. “You mean a-lot to us, Invader. We may be isolated in this terrible place, but the night tells us many things. It told us that a wanderer clad in jasmine had wandered into Akkadia to oppose the geanie king.”
“Did Mohzenwrath banish you from Babylon?” Invader asks.
“No, not Mohzenwrath.” Mitra, a very young woman answers.
“The new geanie king.” Mitra says, tired. Invader’s thoughts and words escape her, but desperate for answers, she forces them.
“How-who?! Did Mohzenwrath have a successor? Did someone overthrow him? Who could possibly just defeat him!”
“We don’t know who he was, but he came from the black sands, which is why we believe it was a creature of the night and the desert. The power the Adversary wielded, would only suggest that further. The world warped and thundered as all manner of terrible things suddenly became possible, a strange, unspeakable power possessed surely only by geanies and angels. It was preceded by an enchanted carpet, a most terrible weapon.” Mitra explains.
“I thought flying carpets were common in Akkadia.” Invader graps for any answers she can get.
“They were, but unlike his mother, Mohzenwrath’s magic wasn’t… refined enough to control them, so he outlawed them. We hadn’t seen one for almost a generation- it blasted across Babylon, breaking the song barrier and provoking a storm whilst ricocheting between towers, reducing them to rubble. When the dust settled and the Adversary emerged victorious, those of us who exhibited subversive thoughts, were exiled from Babylon to the black sands.” Invader was familiar with the notion of reading thoughts, a skill rumoured to not be uncommon among the magi of Akkadia. That however, implied that these people to whom the Invader had entrusted her safety, were loyal to Mohzenwrath. Aghraba and the Near East’s worst enemy. “Mohzenwrath was a cruel despot, but at least he didn’t read our thoughts, he nurtured the system of education, literature, medicine and astronomy propagated by the Akkadian line of Sovereigns. The world may have hated him, but atleast he didn’t wage war on it, not like this new, stranger geanie king.” Mitra had made her case and the invader in jasmine had heard enough.
“Mohzenwrath was a petty gangster on a throne, subjugating surrounding city states, tormenting Aghraba!” She roared.
“Aghraba had to be subjugated, it was harbouring a geanie.”
“The geanie of the lamp is peaceful!” Cries out the Invader.
“…It really is you, isn’t? Princess Badroulbadour.” The young, Akkadian woman smiles and as she does, the two spectres in masks glide gracefully towards them. All the people of the tribe, turn towards Invader and gather around them. Invader prepares her sword.
“That’s not my name.”
“Let us show you the wonders of this place.” Said one of the masks in neither a man’s, nor a woman’s voice.
“And if you can keep your sanity…” Began the other mask.
“Then we will need your help.” Said Mitra.
You say a night dweller gave you this mask and asked you to deliver it to us, here at the library? What? You saw its face? Quickly, to the medical wing! There’s no time and no matter what happens, do not look in a mirror!
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