Transcript of Letter signed 'Pontifex Bilrach'
The ancient scroll must have been thousands of years old. Seemingly it was never read by its intended recipient.
I write to you now from Kharid-et, the very same fortress in which we first met our Lord and he turned us to his side with a promise to alleviate our ruinous weakening. Here, the remainder of our small force rests to recover from their wounds, exhaustion and dehydration. I have good news to report, but I will begin the story at its beginning.
As instructed, I led the Heriditas expedition deep into the Kharidian desert in search of any sign of the fallen Menaphite deity Tumeken. We were escorted in this effort by a cohort of human legionaries led by Tribune Lucien. We set out from Kharid-et in fine weather, but after two days travel we were hit by sandstorms and beset by utter confusion. Once the winds fell away, we found that fully half of the cohort and a third of the priests were lost, along with a large proportion of our supplies and water.
We resolved to return, but at this point we encountered a strange phenomenon. The stars that were visible in the sky bore little resemblance to those we were used to. One of the surviving priests, a human, was an astrological expert, and said that although he recognised many of the stars, they were out of position. As such we were unable to navigate back to Kharid-et. Lucien and I agreed to pick a direction, as the alternative was to remain in the desert and die or dessicate[sic].
The desert was utterly quiet and not a gust of wind stirred the sand. After many hours of travel we encountered a second phenomenon: the sun still had yet to rise. We travelled on, confirming that enough time had indeed passed, and still not a hint of a glow rose from the horizon. The desert sands, illuminated by dim starlight, stretched away in all directions and even our footprints left only the briefest impression before fading from sight, despite the lack of wind.
At this point, the astrologer, who had been stumbling along in something like a daze or stupor, suddenly cried out in fear. We turned to regard him, and the legionaries drew their swords.
'The sun mourns!' he cried, 'It mourns and hides its face to this day, for its loss is still too great.'
The priest's eyes were purest black, all over, and as we watched they burst into flame. The priest screamed out words in the Menaphite dialect we could not discern, before pitching face first into the sand and lying still. Before we could bury him, his body sank into the sands and was lost.
We travelled on, and before long we found ourselves on a field that we recognised. It was the very plain where the Zarosian Mahjarrat and the Menaphite Mahjarrat clashed at the end of the peninsula war. The plain where Tumeken and Temekel fell, and where but for your actions, your holiness, the Mahjarrat would have been all but made extinct.
In the center[sic] of that plain we discovered, of all things, humans in semi-nomadic tents. This seemed to be a nexus of sorts for them, a tribal meeting point for nomads, and as we went amongst them we found them trafficking in the scavenged trinkets of that ancient battlefield.
We went before their leader, a huge and powerful warrior all wrapped in lye-stinking bandages and armour that left no visible skin. He bade us welcome in the name of Tumeken, and showed us the central object of their worship: a great diamond, eight inches in length, which they called the Heart of the Sun.
It was then that the leader looked again at Lucien and I, and asked, 'Has it been so long that you have forgotten me, brothers?' We were unsure as to his meaning, until he unwrapped the bandages from his face to reveal a grimacing skull, burning and smouldering fire still clinging to it. It was Temekel, once the strongest of all Mahjarrat on Gielinor and the leader of the Menaphite loyalists. I wondered whether it was nothing more than the coincidental but highly confusing similarity of his name to that of his god which motivated him.
His nomadic tribesmen set upon us, and the legionaries feel back into a defensive position around us and the priests. Temekel too fell on our lines, tearing though the humans easily. Through highly trained legionaries easily defeated the nomads, whenever they fell a flare of fire from the diamond brought them stumbling back to their feet, undead. It was only through quick thinking that I saved the day. Using sleight and trickery, I bypassed their front line and seized their treasure. I threatened to smash it, forcing Temekel to surrender, which he did, his eyes blazing defiantly.
Lucien took no chances with our prisoner, severing his head with several blows from his sword. Temekel, who could have crushed Lucien with his mind alone, put up no resistance. His skull rolled from his shoulders before coming to rest staring directly at me.
'Tumeken will return, brother, and when he does, your empire of traitors will burn.' At this, the skull burst into flames which quickly leapt from tent to tent and set the whole camp ablaze.
With the death of their leader, the remaining nomads attempted to flee, and though we cut down as many as possible, countless more escaped into the desert. We secured what camels and supplies we could, and by orientating ourselves to the layout of the ancient battlefield set off in the direction of the empire.
After days of travels the sun once more rose, and we returned to Kharid-et. Of over 500 that set out, and only two dozen returned, but our prize was the Heart of the Sun, an artefact of presumably considerable power. A good trade for the lives of a few hundred humans. As I write, the diamond is being secured in the vaults beneath the outpost.
I await your response and further instructions.
Yours in faith