To Forge A Kingdom
Oracle of the 16th Dutchy of Galt
There are things about Simbala one notices with a cursory glance which may make her an unlikely candidate for adventuring.
First, is her age. It is clearly advanced. She walks with a stoop, and her face bears several lines from either frowning or laughing – it is anyone’s guess which it is. Second, is her gait. As she walks, her left leg tends to follow behind her at a slower pace, causing her to travel more slowly than her younger, fitter counterparts. Standing, she favors the right leg completely, using a staff with which to balance. Last, are her eyes, they are clouded over, possibly obscuring her vision. With her nose constantly buried in books, it is a wonder whether she reads them or simply remembers the pages.
Other things of note, such as her Mwangi appearance coupled with a thick Galtesian accent, may serve as other curiosities.
The Honored: A Background
Born to a tribe of Mwangi, Simbala’s life was not made for her as much as it was chosen.
Every 50 years, Simbala’s tribe prays for daughters. And for the ten following years, the daughters born to the tribe undergo horrors. Some of their legs are broken; others are blinded by their mothers; still more are deprived food … all of this to prepare for The Honor.
As the girls reach their 10th year, a boat arrives. On this boat is a Mwangi Oracle with a thick Galtesian accent, accompanied by a retinue of northern men who speak in funny ways. They also sweat horribly and always appear nervous with hands on swords. The Oracle will go over each daughter, touching her black hair, running her hand over each pair of eyes, checking all of the fingernails. What she is looking for are curses. She must choose the most cursed daughter … and the Oracle has never failed.
Simbala: A Brief History
Simbala was chosen by Mi’ala, her tutor, an Oracle who seemed to be made of wind. She was so thin as to think that the winds of the boat may have carried her away with them, but she stood firmly on the ground. Mi’ala looked carefully over the 14 girls who stood before her on the day Simbala was taken from her family and tribe, and stated in firm decisive (and accented) Polyglot that Simbala was The Honored. The other mothers took their broken daughters and returned home; the mothers often likewise broken or altered in some way themselves.
Simbala trained with Mi’ala for ten years before she took over at age 20 to be The Oracle serving the house of the 16th Dutchy of Galt. The two women spoke lightly at night in their own tongue about how no matter what happened to the family they served, and no matter what their feelings toward them, they must always act as if they’d foreseen the ever eventual usurper’s arrival and serve them as equally as the murdered family before them.
Simbala was trained well by Mi’ala, limping through the Duke’s grand hallways not as an equal, but as a respected member of his advisers. She stood at the Duke’s council meetings, was present at births and deaths, and presided over the home’s library. At age 49, she began the year long travel down to her old tribe to choose her successor, this time playing the role as the arbiter of The Honored, and judge of the cursed. She chose Anwe, a girl haunted by specters who constantly seemed distracted, but who used her unseen visions to her advantage. Simbala trained Anwe for eight years, teaching her not only the ways of the Oracular vision, but the deadly political games of Galt.
The Night Flight
In the middle of the night while Simbala and Anwe were asleep in their rooms, there was a cry of alarm. The house had been set to burn. Simbala and Anwe ran to the library to save the house’s history, but the Duke stopped them, “Come quickly, we must leave before they murder us all! I’ve made arrangements. Come … now!”
Abandoning their life’s work, Simbala and Anwe hurried to a cart where they tumbled into large wine casks lined with silk; Anwe in one cart, Simbala in another. Neither woman saw the driver, nor did they have time. A handful of the Duke’s advisers also tumbled into neighboring casks in each of the carts, with the Duke and his wife and three young girls filing into casks in Anwe’s cart.
Cries lit up the night, already awash in flames and smoke from the burning building. The carts drivers set off, in what direction, the women did not know. When the roar of flames died down, the normal din of the city had dwindled into the sound of countryside, Simbala listened.
The other cart could not be heard.