Sanctuary – Snippet 03
As he moved toward the great pavilion in the distance, his palanquin followed in his wake. The four Liskash who bore that palanquin were lucky that Zilikazi was still young enough to be energetic and chose to demonstrate that vigor publicly on most occasions. The palanquin was already heavy due to its construction and ornamentation, even without someone riding in it.
As he walked, the Liskash ruler contemplated his next move in the great conflict that had erupted since the sea broke through the eastern mountains and began flooding the lowlands. The migrations of the Mrem clans had unleashed war all across the lands to the north. Wars between Liskash nobles, often, not simply clashes with the furred barbarians. In the nature of things — Zilikazi was no exception — Liskash nobles were always alert to opportunities to enlarge their domains. A noble weakened by Mrem was like a bloody fish in the water, drawing predators from all around.
Now that he’d crushed the Mrem who had dared to invade his own territory, Zilikazi was tempted to send his army north, to seize what lands he could from other nobles. Keletu was badly weakened, he was sure; so, most likely, were Giswayo and Sakki.
But, in his cold and calculating manner, he suppressed the urge. Unlike most Liskash nobles, Zilikazi had trained himself to patience. His mental power was greater than that of any noble he knew — or had ever heard of, for that matter. So what was the hurry? He was still young; still had plenty of time to forge the greatest Liskash realm ever known. It was better to continue the path he’d always followed; the patient path, that consolidated gains before adding new ones.
That meant he had to anchor his position against the southern mountains before he sent his army to the north. The Kororo Krek probably posed no real danger to him, since the religious order seemed disinclined toward conquest. But who knew what ideas might come into the heads of fanatics?
Their overly complex, phantasmagorical notions belonged in the addled brains of Mrem, not sensible Liskash. If those notions spread more widely, mischief might result. Zilikazi hadn’t been able to make much sense of the prattle of the Kororo disciple he’d had tortured. But one thing had emerged clearly out of the muddle: the Krek placed no great value — perhaps none at all — on the established customs of the Liskash.
Not even the most powerful noble — not even Zilikazi himself — could rule without those customs. If one had to maintain control by the constant exertion of sheer mental force over each and every underling…
Impossible! One had to sleep, after all. What made orderly rule possible was accepted and entrenched custom. Once a noble demonstrated his or her power, those who were inferior acquiesced in their subordination. Willingly, if not eagerly. Thereafter, the nobles needed only to demonstrate, from time to time or in clashes with other nobles, that their power had not waned.
So. The Kororo Krek had annoyed him long enough. It was time to crush them and bring those who survived under his rule. The soldiers wouldn’t like campaigning in the mountains, of course. They would complain bitterly in private to each other. But what did that matter? Soldiers always complained. As long as they kept their grievances to themselves, Zilikazi could safely ignore them.
As for the conditions in the mountains, they couldn’t be that bad. The Kororo had been up there for at least three generations now. And they weren’t a single sub-species which might have become hardened to the environment, either. They were a mongrel breed, accepting Liskash from everywhere. If such could survive up there, so could Zilikazi’s soldiers.
“What news?” Njekwa asked quietly, after Litunga entered the cooking tent and came to her side.
“The warriors I spoke to said we are marching south, starting tomorrow.” The old shaman lowered her voice still further. “Zilikazi plans to crush the Kororo, they think.”
Njekwa grunted skeptically. Litunga would have spoken only to common warriors, not officers. Such were hardly likely to be in the godling’s confidence. Rumors were generated and spread in the ranks of the warriors like weeds.
“What should we do, Priestess?” asked Litunga.
“There’s nothing we can ‘do,’ and you know it as well as I do. What you really mean to ask is ‘what is our attitude’? Do we support the godling or stand apart?”
Which was also a rather pointless way of putting it, thought Njekwa, although she didn’t say it out loud. Zilikazi was barely aware of the Old Faith’s existence. He didn’t care one way or the other whether its adherents considered the Kororo to be heretics — and he certainly didn’t care if they supported him or stood aside when he marched against the Krek. As far as Zilikazi was concerned, the only proper religious belief was the one that recognized him as a god. All others were beneath his contempt.
Nonetheless, the question mattered to the Old Believers. Ever since the rise of the Kororo Krek, a few generations earlier, they had wrestled with the issue.
On the one hand, as members of the Krek themselves freely acknowledged, the Kororo creed had arisen from the Old Faith. It rejected outright the pretensions of the nobility to divine status. Spurned the notion with scorn and derision, in fact.
On the other hand…
The Kororo rejected much of the Old Faith as well. They considered ancestors worthy of respect, but not veneration. They did not seek their enlightenment, much less their intervention in current Liskash affairs. They placed no special status on the female nature of the Godhead — indeed, they argued that the Godhead had no gender at all.