Priests of the Khravik
by Paul Edward Costa
The town guards held back and let Rahl storm out the north gate on his own. They’d been ordered to force him into exile for assaulting two citizens, but the guard captain let him walk out alone after delivering the decree. He told those under his command to maintain distance while still keeping their spears and crossbows at the ready.
The town of Hollow Harbour consisted of old wooden lodges and cabins. It sat at the edge of a vast, dry lake, atop a section of shore whose beaches descended sharply into an exposed lakebed. The pier from which boats once sailed, now jagged and warped, stuck out into nothing and nowhere. Two parallel mountain ranges ran along the north and south sides of the empty lake. They met together behind the town so that the only way there was by travelling over the lakebed or along mountain paths.
The captain looked at Rahl go through the open gate built into the wall of sharpened logs enclosing the town. He looked at the northern mountain range and addressed the guards he commanded: “Let the Khravik priests have him now.”
Strands of Rahl’s messy, half-tied back hair hung askew over his face. He scowled, sneered, and breathed with hard breaths. Spit glistened on his beard. He stomped away and never looked back at Hollow Harbour. His composure finally broke when the road he followed curved off to where the town guards could no longer see him.
He huddled in a small valley lined with boulders and raised his balled fists to his forehead. He screamed with so much force his voice broke. He beat his temples and punched a nearby stone surface. He lept back as a jolt of pain shot up from where his thumb broke. It snaked along his arm to his neck. He collapsed against a tree and ground his teeth.
Rahl’s face twisted into hate as he cursed the guards, the other citizens, and the city as he cradled his hand, spewing out a tirade describing the agonies he wanted to inflict on them and their families, but he stopped when he saw a silhouette standing on a rock above him.
The figure wore a large, round hat and held a scepter in one hand. “There’s a great violence in you, brother,” it said.
Rahl tucked his damaged hand into the armpit on his other side. He looked up, squinting against the light, and spoke with a voice much softer than his recent ranting suggested. “Oh, that... That’s just a method I know; I study many peaceful communication techniques.”
“Yes, sir. As in releasing my thoughts out here, away from everything.”
The priest squinted and half-smiled. “You needn’t lie to me. You don’t have to do that out here. Be your own self. I know the guards did not escort you past the wall because you came here to work off your anger. You can’t return, can you?”
Rahl stood up. He wore a badly fitted pair of stained pants held up by an improvised belt made of rope. His battered shoes were once made for formal use, and he had an olive jacket on over a loose shirt. Rahl turned and looked off to the side. He retied his thin hair, felt his pockets for his pipe, and said, “No, no I can’t.”
“Then tell me what happened.” The figure stepped off the rock where it stood and descended farther into the small valley. “My name is Siddar.”
As he got closer, Rahl saw that he wore a long, beige coat over a white-collared shirt. His copper scepter had a rough crystal tip, and his round hat half-covered his intense, black eyes. The priest’s beard covered his mouth so his voice sometimes appeared out of synch with his moving jaw. “You can tell me, brother, I’m not of the town; I’m only a humble priest of the Khravik.”
“Oh, don’t concern yourself with me. Hollow Harbour... it just... they cannot grasp my spirit, nor can they comprehend yours. Speaking honestly, I never believed them being so suspicious of your order was fair. They pontificate about how you all commune with the Titanide beasts, but... well, I can’t deny the power of those things.”
“Thank you,” said the priest as he smiled and nodded. “Walk with me while you speak.” They walked up into the north mountain range. A light path of pebbles wove through thickets of pine trees. Occasional breaks in them revealed rocky ledges overlooking the empty lake.
Siddar led Rahl by several paces. Rahl followed because he stopped often and coughed while leaning against trees. The swelling pain of his fractured thumb created numbing discomfort through a large part of his arm. He had a headache and focused on his steps. His pace grew steadier when the path levelled out after a particularly steep segment.
Rahl tied his damaged hand with a cloth from his pocket and kept it tucked under his opposite arm. He pulled out his pipe with his good hand. He motioned to Siddar to help him fill and light it using tobacco from a pouch in his jacket. Siddar obliged. He also offered Rahl water from a canteen.
“Are you able to speak now?” said Siddar. “I’d like to know what led to your exile from the town.”
Rahl took a few puffs of his pipe. “Well, the town finally granted me the job of repainting the courthouse façade. Took them long enough to make that decision. I’m the only one in these parts with the technique to do that kind of work. Whatever, though, I got it. I wanted to celebrate, thought I should loosen up before I got started on the whole thing. I’d earned it. You see?
“I convinced my woman to have some wine with me. We hadn’t had a fun evening together since she’d moved back in. I drank a lot, but she set the drinking pace, I was just following her, she should have known how wild I become. Yes, I had a bit too much. I got a bit silly...
“And when I came to the next afternoon, I saw the note she’d left, saying she was leaving for good because she couldn’t ‘handle my ego’ and how I ‘lash out’ anymore or something like that. Just gone.
“I mean, she could have waited for me to wake up before leaving, told me in person, granted me an explanation. That really angered me. I thought I could find out a bit more from my roommate, which was reasonable, right?
“I knocked on the door to his room. He didn’t answer. I knocked a few more times and he didn’t answer still. I heard a bit of movement inside, though, so I knew he dwelt within. I couldn’t imagine why he wouldn’t answer me, so I presumed something was wrong, that he was ill, or immobile.
“That’s why I broke the door down, because I was concerned, you must understand. After I did, I saw him, he was sitting there facing away from me. But when I got closer, that’s when I saw the truth.”
Rahl inhaled and let out the breath slowly.
“He was fine. He was just ignoring me, insulting me, insulting my concern, and all this after my woman left, with me still hung over... It’s not my fault I lost control. I don’t do such a thing often. The guards should have taken that into consideration. They should have appreciated how honest I am, but they cannot comprehend my spirit, it seems.” Rahl tapped out the ash from his pipe as he finished his recollection.
“There’s a great violence in you, brother,” Siddar said.
Rahl stopped and glared at the priest. “Enough, I’ll not stay here for you to put the same judgment on me as the town has,” he said as he turned.
“Hold your steps,” said Siddar. “I give no judgment, just an acknowledgment. I value the energies that make your being. As you say, Hollow Harbour does not.”
Rahl stopped and half-turned in Siddar’s direction again.
“It is rather hypocritical of them to exile you, though, is it not? When the town already bets its survival on a primal violence.”
Rahl furrowed his brow and nodded. “Absolutely, brother, you seem to understand,” but he stopped speaking when they both felt a strange, rhythmic wind whip through the mountains, followed by thunderous crashes that shook the path on which both men stood.
Siddar smiled and said “Ah, there it is now. I do think it can know us better than we think. Another aspect those unfortunate citizens of Hollow Harbour cannot grasp. I believe your energy is too great for them, honestly. Let us go behold the Khravik’s glory. It will be better company for your spirit anyhow.”
The monster that became known as the Khravik first fell into the dry lake next to Hollow Harbour on the night when the Fissure of Heavens changed the landscape forever, when the sky briefly tore open and let through all variety of Titanide colossi like it and many others. It landed with a great boom like an earthquake tremor or a volcanic eruption. A few town officials went out to the boardwalks. They saw the Khravik almost lifeless and barely stirring.
Titanide colossi levelled other cities and drove survivors into underground settlements. Hollow Harbour immediately made plans for a similar migration while the creature near them lay immobilized. They forbade any townsperson to travel beyond the city limits.
The few who broke this order and went out to investigate the Khravik became its first priests. It used the last of its fading life force to commune with their minds. Faint beams of yellow light shot out from its broken body at the bottom of the dry lake to where those who had come out to observe it stood on various places throughout the north and south mountain ranges.
Siddar led Rahl through a break in the pines and onto a flat, rocky outcropping. Over the edge lay a drop into the dry lake. They arrived just in time to behold the battle beginning.
The Titanide colossus they called the Khravik emerged from where it resided in a cave under Hollow Harbour. Many citizens rushed to the edge of the basin when that rumbling signalled the imminent emergence of the monster. It came out to combat other Titanide beasts who approached the town. No observer there had any insight into the Khravik’s motivations, but they made no effort to interrupt its efforts that protected them.
The citizens of Hollow Harbour who came out to watch the Khravik technically broke a town rule mandating that all get to the safety of cover when such battles took place. Those who defied this order did so because of the Khravik’s spectacular emergence.
Ten long, thick tendrils that were the creature’s fingers shot out from the cave’s blackness. Each of them was covered with leathery skin and jagged crystal protrusions glowing yellow. They slapped onto the lake bottom, and the sharp crystals dug into the ground. The Khravik crawled out after establishing its grip. It shook the whole area.
The rest of the Khravik’s body was also covered with skin like thick, black leather, but a cloudy yellow glow shone through several thin, cracked parts. It had three legs, like those of elephants, which supported its body like a tripod. Its torso was bloated and distended in various places with tumorous growths, and it supported a “head” shaped like a featureless, deflated sack rolling around on its shoulders.
It had two powerful arms sticking out of its torso and both of its hands’ five fingers extended into the long, crystal encrusted whips it had used to aid its crawl out of the cave. Jagged crystals also stuck out from the bottom of its legs, its shoulders, and the thick mass atop them. Two lengths of thin, dirty yellow material hung loosely from the backs of its shoulders with one slightly longer than the other.
Rahl stood several paces back from the end of the ledge where he and Siddar stood. He nursed his damaged hand, but his eyes stayed glued on the massive creature that had come forth. Siddar walked out onto a thin part of the ledge that poked out farther than the rest.
“Watch out there!” said Rahl, but the priest brushed him off with a dismissive wave of the copper sceptre. He opened his eyes and gazed down at the Khravik. Rahl kept low and crept closer to the edge so he could better see the scene unfolding.
Copyright © 2019 by Paul Edward Costa