by Densaar ashaan'ur'Hhshni
We were as brothers, S'zella and I. I think on his fame now -- fame, and tragedy -- and believe I would weep if I could fully accept it. But I cannot conceive that my childhood friend -- the boy who conspired with me to steal fig pastries from the local baker -- could possibly be this titan from legend, this tragic figure from history.
But this is not my story. I commit my memories to paper only so that some may yet remember the S'Kra alongside the legend, because in truth my dear friend was always both.
I wish that I could say that S'zella was born with portents of the legend he later became, but I cannot. He was born the third son of Renshala tal'Mhhra and Salzhnor ren'Shaltari of Sraan Rasha. They were a peaceful folk, of course, and pious -- well devoted to the gods.
When S'zella and I entered schooling to follow the teachings of Sh'Kial -- what, surprised to hear that the great Bard was once intended for the Dragon Mantle? I shouldn't blame you, he was never suited to it as I was -- things began to turn sour. Vile bigotry cast its seeds and eventually sprouted in the sacred temples, paving the way for the Hag Drzee -- may Hav'roth punish her always -- and her detested followers.
Wars waged in miniature swept through the clans. One thing must I pause to explain, though, for it is central to S'zella's story. When we were in the temple academy, S'zella met a young priestess of Peri'el. She was taking some lessons at the great Dragon Temple to further her studies of how the Dulcet Goddess did keep the Dragon pacified. When she sang, it seemed as though the land itself for miles around quieted to listen. Her name was Isharra.
Naturally, S'zella fell hopelessly in love with her, and, in time, the priestess returned the sentiment. This was great fortune for S'zella, for even then it was said that Isharra would be High Priestess. His future looked bright. Of the poetry he wrote at this time, I have included a small sample at the end of this parchment. I often teased him that he had the makings of a Bard. I wish now that I had not been so prophetic.
Dark times were to shadow the fate of the two lovers. S'zella, who had had some training in lawkeeping, went forth with the volunteer brigades led by our clan Paladins to quiet the lands. I remember their parting vividly. S'zella's words ring still in my mind.
"Until next, my love, in this darkness I will feel the sun of your affection upon my soul, and I swear to you by the honor of the Cobra that I will return, Poho Isharra, honored lady of my heart."
It embarassed me to have witnessed such a moment, but I pretended that it did not as my friend kissed his beloved one last time, then turned and left her understandably starstruck. Perhaps he felt that if he lent the pain of his passing an imbalance with a smooth tongue, the shock and discomfort of his departure would be less, but not the longing -- S'zella was a very wise S'Kra, thus.
I have said that Isharra was fair, but perhaps have not done my lady justice. She was revered for her delicate beauty, renowned for her voice -- and thus was much sought-after. S'zella, even in his absence, became the focus of much jealousy.
It came that one rambling fiend, one careless idiot, did think it a fine jest to tell Isharra that her beloved had been killed.
Poor, lovely Isharra. The day after she heard the "news," which in her heart she had long been dreading, I found her in her chambers, lying before the alter to Peri'el, dead.
The beautiful lady with the golden scales had swallowed the deadliest of poisons, black mourning root. Even in death she was heartbreakingly lovely, and as I held her lifeless body in my arms, I wept for the cruelty of the stupidly malicious, and for the pain this would cause S'zella. I dreaded what my friend would do when he returned, and feared that he would not survive it.
As the Dragon would have it, S'zella returned with the next rise of Xibar. The blue moon cast its ethereal light down upon our settlement as my friend rode back into his home on the fiery black dakohirdu that he was so incongruously fond of. (I have never cared for the dakohirdun. They are foul-tempered, brutish creatures. Give me a nice, stupid horse any day.)
The great beast snorted and flitted about, scratching at the dirt with its massive feet. No doubt it sensed its rider's discontent, for S'zella knew immediately by the look on my face that something was terribly, terribly wrong. Some divine prompting led his eyes over to the Temple of Peri'el, whereon hung long white buntings of mourning silk. I too wore the white. He dismounted slowly, as one in a dream -- or, perhaps, a nightmare, which they dearly wish to deny. "Densaar," he said gravely, too loudly, "why do you wear the white? What innocent has died?" Then his voice broke, and in a harsh, denying whisper, he said, "My friend, where is Isharra?"
I bent my head, unable to answer. S'zella, my friend, forgive me for my weakness -- I doubt that it would have changed anything, but I should have been there for you in your hourof need. Peri'el knows that I was so later...
S'zella, of course, hungered for the blood of the one who had mislead his lady. I foresaw this, and had prepared iron for the q'zhalata. S'zella refused it, though, saying that Isharra had been Tuul-sept, and as such his enemy would be vanquished with a silver blade. We spoke on this for some time, and in the end were able to obtain a measure of Isharra's silver jewelry for this purpose.
The q'zhalata was forged. I asked S'zella if he would have one of the Dragon-vowed Lanahh'zhra perform the act, but again, he declined. A wild rage was upon him, seething below a thin veneer of calm, and he swore by the tail of the Dragon that he would do the deed himself. This he did, and returned to our sleeping quarters with blood on his hands. He was thereafter gently but firmly cast from the ranks of the Priests -- such fury as he bore could only do detriment to the task of keeping the Dragon lulled. As he perhaps should have done from the beginning, he joined the Bards. He was always a quick learner, and lost himself in study, memorizing histories and verse like one gone mad.
The rest of the story is as you know it. S'zella became famous for his satire, which, in that cynical, dark age, was well received. His words were bitingly sharp, and he spared no one -- clearly the pain he felt at the loss of Isharra became a shadow that never left him, even unto the hour of his death.
That hour was a dark one for all S'Kra history. Equal to S'zella's indiscriminate satire was his disregard for his own safety. I had long since given up attempting to shelter him from folly. It happened that he came before Drzee herself, who already detested Bards -- but it is my belief that her encounter with S'zella was what sealed her resolve to eradicate them completely.
S'zella thoughtlessly strode before her, capering like a jester at court. He mocked her paranoia, sprang at courtiers with loud exclamations as though to scare them into heart failure. His final words to her were, "Fear my fear, Hag Drzee, fear the fear that feeds your own, foolish one!" Recall, too, that S'zella was once a Priest of the Dragon. Drzee's transgressions never did sit well with him, and in his disdain of her he perhaps retained a vestige of sanity. At times I believe that he foresaw his own death at her hands, and welcomed it.
When at last Drzee lost control of her thin temper, as happened often, she ordered him struck down. This her guards did willingly, and I am told that S'zella went to his fate laughing. First Isharra, then S'zella... may Peri'el hold them both.
S'zella once said to me that he began as a mediocre poet and ended as a famed satirist. Here I tender some of his earliest works. I will not provide any of his satire, for you may find much of that in other tomes, certainly.
"In Memory Brief"
When diving larks arrow through the air,
And with the hum of cicadas
"My Lady Love"
Warm as the blaze of a welcoming hearth,
Lovely maiden, fire-hearted dryad,
Shining beacon, light my way,
I pen these so that my friend may be remembered in the way that he, in his heart of hearts, would have preferred. S'zella was a lover always, his passion the root of his too-brief existence. S'zella's symbol to this day is the double-sided mask... the contorted face of pain worn on one side, mocking laughter on the other.
Would that he had remained mediocre. Ah, my friend. How I miss you.
By my Hand,