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Bad King Hasalar

by Guy Jobbins
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"In the Goldentime all this place was green, all the way to rivers and sea. You only had drop a seed on the ground and a tree would sprout and give fruit for you to eat. The Cloud Boy came and pissed at the right time, and the Hot Yellow Swan flew at just the right height to warm the crops and not burn them, not like now. The people were fat and happy, and had many children and servants. They had a king, named Hasalar, who was a son of the Great Maker. He saw to it that everything stayed as it should be.

"Then Darkness came and the world changed. A net laid by evil devils caught the Hot Yellow Swan one night on her flight under the earth. Good King Hasalar caught a being made of fire and pinned him to the roof of the sky so that the plants would carry on growing. The crops didn't grow so well as before, but the people still had food. Then Good King Hasalar heard that the Earth Women had seen visions of a new kind of evil that could not be defeated, and they planned to run far away under the earth to hide. Good King Hasalar pleaded with them to stay and feed his people, but they refused. He enticed one, named Eriala away from her mother and aunts with words of love, and then he tied her down and spread her body all around this place. She screamed and resisted, but he was too strong and her sisters and aunts were too far away to hear her. The people were worried about defiling her body in this way, but King Hasalar said to them, "She would have left you to starve; this is the act of an enemy. Do not mourn her fate, but be pleased I am here to keep you safe from harm." So the people took up their hoes and planted their seed in her body, and she grudgingly yielded food.

"Evil kept coming, and it changed everything in the world. Each time something changed King Hasalar did what he could to keep things the same, but each time he failed a little. The land became weaker, and evil pressed right up at its edge. Things became so weak that people began starve, and Disease came to the land. Finally a new thing called Death came and started to take the people from the land to another place deep under the earth, deeper even than where the earth goddesses were hiding. King Hasalar fought the thing called Death with all the tricks he had and won half the battle. King Hasalar built a new palace under the ground, so that the people had somewhere to live, halfway between the land and Hell. The souls of the people stayed there with their families and continued to serve the King. These souls did what they could to be the same as they were before, but they found it very hard. King Hasalar filled the palace with wonders, a starry sky under the earth, winding rivers that nurtured Eriala, who he had bound once more, and he brought Mostali to construct birds made of fine jewels to sit in silver trees. But the people grew listless and thin, for they cared not even to pretend they had the desires of the living.

"King Hasalar sat in his pleasure dome, tended by the shadows of his people, and brooded on the doom that he knew must come. He feared the devils that roamed the lands above, and this fear tore and wounded him. He began to hate his subjects, for their living death reminded him of his failure to protect them and the lost lands above. Their passivity began to feed his anger, and he, perhaps to prove that some strength yet remained to him, arranged intricate ways to demonstrate this anger to them. His palace became filled with the screams of torment and the cries of his subject.s shattered souls.

"Death heard these screams, the cries of those he considered to be HIS subjects. The Earth Women heard the screams of Eriala now that she was deep in the Earth. Together the Earth Women and Death came to the gates of Bad King Hasalar's palace, and they tore them down. They came to the room where Bad King Hasalar sat, and they judged him, and they took his strength from him, and they scattered his ashes in the Void.

"The Earth Women released Eriala and took her up to into their bosom. Death gathered the whole souls that were left and showed them the proper place to be. The palace was left only with the fragments of people, and the jewelled birds in the silver trees. At night, if you go near the mouth of the tunnel, you can still hear the screaming.

"The people who live here now are the children of those who were the servants of the people of Hasalar. We were not taken down into the earth: we had our own gods and secrets that helped us survive the Darkness. Since the Hot Yellow Swan returned we have served the Animal People. Even slaves have knowledge, and we are the only ones who know this story that I tell you now, but everyone knows it is a bad place, that tunnel to Bad King Hasalar.s palace. Long Ago a Great Spirit of the Animal People, the one they call Waha, placed two great horns at the mouth to ward of evil and warn people away. That is why this place is still called Horn Gate. But in the Second Age foreigners came who counted everything and pried everywhere. They laughed at Waha's horns and tore them down. They walked into the tunnel saying that they would find great treasure and wonders, and they did not come back."

The heroes hear this tale at Horn Gate, and base a ritual on it while deep in the palace.
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