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Soleyn and Suor Vignette

Jhandeen looked up at the statue and continued sketching. He’d left the chaos of Kiash weeks ago and was travelling north west across the Madharan pass, working his way slowly back home. 

     His guide, Amdarya looked down at him. 

     He glanced up at her and felt he saw an approving look on her face.

     “You’ve captured the serenity of His face very well. This would be at home on a holy test. 

     The Soleyni adventurer was unable to suppress his laugh.

     “Did I say something wrong?” said the guide.

     He’d known the story of the Korachani explorer Navah Berden for years, indeed he;d been one of his heroes. The man had travelled across Elyden early in the Age of Steel, cataloguing dozens of far nations and strange ruins in his travels. He was landed in Suor after his ship encountered a storm in the Roiling Sea, and was welcomed by the Suori people who were impressed by his people’s grasp of machinery and tales of distant customs from the Inner Sea.

     He spread the worship of the Korachani religion to Suor and, centuries after his departure to continue in his exploration of the world, the tale of his arrival there had become corrupted by church leaders and was elevated to a prophet of the church.

The statue Jhandeen was looking at was of Berden, though it was nothing like imperial depictions of the man, who was, to put it mildly, a somewhat controversial figure in Korachan back in the day. 

     He wondered if Amdarya knew that. “Nothing. Sorry, I just remembered something from my studies abroad.”

     “You have travelled far?”

     “In my forty-six years on Elyden I’ve travelled to as many different territories. I know she is old and dying, and that there is little left to explore, but I have this compulsion to follow in the footsteps of ancient explorers, trying to relive the wonder they must have experienced whenever the mists part to reveal land after months at sea. Of course, with steam ships and extensive nautical maps, things are different today.

     “I’ve been away from Soleyn for seven years now and though one part of me wants to continue heading east across the great Mirovean Sea, a small part of my heart yearns still for home. Perhaps the pain of longing is what I need, but… my home calls to me.”

“Will you return?”

     “I think so. The rest of the world will still be there after I return home.”

     He was alone, a pungent paraffin lamp flickering wildly, casting his shadow against the tent.

     He was on his knees, an old book open in front of him. He was reading from it, though he knew the words by heart and could have recited most of the book from memory if he had to. 

     He ended the parable and reached out for a small wooden mechanism that he’d placed beside it earlier on. It was a simple clamp - an iron screw with two pieces of wood attached to it and a small lever on the end. 

     He picked it up and placed a thumb between the pieces of wood and turned the lever, forcing one of them down.

     He winced as the lever became tighter, harder to turn, as the wood met resistance and had nowhere to go. He thumb was throbbing, screaming in pain. He could feel the nail pushing against his bone, the pressure of the mechanism all around it.

     No matter how many times he did this, the feeling never became a welcome one, and that was good. Too many people became accustomed to the pain that Kwei demanded, obsessed by it… addicted. That was not what Kwei was about. Indeed, Jhandeen’s daily ritual was more extreme than what most people back home would do, who considered a hard day’s work in the rice paddies as enough toil to satisfy Kwei, but he felt he needed something harsher to maintain his link with Kwei due to his distance from home, as if that made any distance.

     He breathed deeply, in through his nostrils and out from his mouth, and concentrated on the pain, on Kwei, thinking of his transgressions and seeking penance for them - 

     “What are you doing?”

     Jhandeen opened his eyes suddenly and saw the Suori guide standing in the door of the tent, staring at him. 

     “Just praying,” said the Soleyni man, closing the book. The moment was gone, he’d not be able to get back into the right mindset for his meditation s that night.

     She regarded him for a moment, eyes flitting to the thumb screw, then, in a low voice she added, “Sun’s almost up. The porters are getting ready to leave.”

     “Thank you, I will get my things in order.”

     The woman remained still.

     “Is there anything else?”

     “I’ve heard of the pain dens of your people, but didn’t think your obsession with masochism went so far as to have to carry implements of torture with you.”

     “It is a religious thing. You won’t understand.”

     “You’re right, I probably won’t.” 

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