1-15 – The Hero of Prophecy

“In the Beginning was the Wyrd…”

The Gospel of Saliha 1:1

The 1st Day of the 8th Star Era. Star Eras are periods of darkness, fulminating shadows surrounding little pinpricks of light. Will the Sword Isles survive?

There was a farm boy on the island of Rusunuga, the largest island in all of the Sword Isles. He was a comely young boy, built for labor. His body was thick, muscles developed easily. He wore a simple cloth shirt and red pants, and wore no sandals. He worked alongside his water buffalo and plow diligently, and in his heart he did not bear the name of Ambition.

Then one day a star fell from heaven’s shadow. 

He was tending to his sick mother, that time. His mother had worked all her life on her fields, in that little settlement of theirs, diligently and faithfully paying her taxes to the datu. In return, she came down with what seemed like an incurable sickness. The farm boy was devastated, of course. His mother was the only family he’d know. His father was conscripted into Virbanwa’s war machine, to fight in their Ashen Star Conquest, as taught by the missionaries of the Ashen Star.

Glory, glory, to the bleeding heart of Makayao, the great God of Tears and Gnashing of Teeth.

“Mikel,” his mother told him, in between fits of coughs. “I am old and frail. I thank God that He has given me you, so that you can tend to the fields. Render unto Him your sorrows and sadness, and work faithfully. There will come a day when He shall arrive and alleviate us from our earthly tumult.”

“Yes, mother. Of course mother,” he would say.

“Wait for your father to return home, and he will return home. Take care of the fields first. And here, give to him my panyo, my kerchief, so that he will know that I have been faithful to him until the last of my days.”

Mikel thought his mother was so beautiful, then. Glimmering, like the visage of the Maria Celis, the Flower of Heaven, First Pure Being, Mother of Mothers. He knelt and performed the star sign, and then laid his mother to sleep for that night, praying fervently to God that his mother will be saved.

When he came out to the fields that night to soak in the cold night air—it was the season of the cold winds, after all. One needed to savor it, it did not come often. It came at the tail end of a Sidereal Year, as reckoned by the Mendicants of the Ashen Star. 

He saw the star streaking across the night sky in crimson, a burning bloody ray bisecting the night sky. It wasn’t until a flood of red light washed over him that Mikel realized that a piece of heaven had fallen onto his fields. 

He left his water buffalo behind and rushed to where the star was. He prayed that this was a good omen. When he reached it, he found that there was no crater, no destruction upon the earth at all. Instead, there was a burning, floating star. Impossibly, smaller stars swirled about it, like glitter, or little embers, orbiting.

Mikel watched it for a few moments before being blasted with the ineffable urge to fall upon his knees and bow, and worship, and cry in tears for peace has come upon the earth. And he did so. 

But the flame spoke, and when it spoke, it’s flame undulated and rippled, like water in a cup disturbed.

I COME NOT IN PEACE, BUT WITH A SWORD.

Mikel found that he could not speak.

SPEAK, CHILD, MY YOUNG ONE.

“L-Lord!”

“I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD, CREATOR OF HEAVENS, SON OF MAN, DESTROYER OF EVIL AND VANQUISHER OF GLOOM. I AM THE LIGHT THAT ILLUMINATES THE DARKNESS THAT IS THE WORLD OF YOUR VIOLENCE. SAY MY NAME, YOUNG ONE, SO THAT YOU MAY FIND ENLIGHTENMENT.”

“You have many names, O Lord. I have called you My Beloved, Most High, God of Gods, Lord of Lords, King of Kings. Maykapal, the Creator. Makagagahum, the Almighty. Makaubos, the Annihilator. Makapatag, the Equalizer. Makayao, the Sacrifice, Lamb of God. Maitresiya, the final one, He Who Will Bring The End of Days and the Beginning of the Millennium Empire. Aba, aba, glory to thy name, greatest of greatest, ancient of days, Most Beautiful, Most Sublime, Transcendent of Transcendents!” 

All these words Mikel heard rolling out of his mouth, words that only the Mendicants have spoken. Mikel has never read a word in his life.

“HEARKEN UNTO ME, AND VERILY, I SAY TO YOU, YOU WILL FIND PEACE AND LOVE AND SALVATION FOR ALL YOUR DAYS. MIKEL, MY CHILD YOU HAVE BEEN A MOST FAITHFUL WORKER TO ME, AND I HAVE COME TO BRING EXALTATION.”

Mikel’s knees felt weak. He could not move, he did not reply.

“ONLY YOU, WHO CAN WORK AS TIRELESSLY AS YOUR FAMILIAR THE WATER BUFFALO, CAN TAKE UPON THIS MANTLE, THIS GRACE. ARE YOU WILLING TO RECEIVE IT? MY FAITHFUL SERVANT, WILL YOU SERVE FAITHFULLY, THIS GREATEST OF DUTIES?”

Mikel swallowed. His jaw tensed. He did not know if he was. He had his mother still to care for, and his father to wait for.

The star rippled.

“I HAVE HEARD YOUR SOUL. YOU ARE FAITHFUL TO THE END, AND FOR THAT YOU SHALL BE BLESSED. RETURN TO YOUR MOTHER AFTER TONIGHT.”

“Very well, Lord. I accept.” The words flew out before he could keep them back in, but that was all he needed, in truth.

God said:

“LET IT BE KNOWN, THAT ON THIS DAY, YOU ARE NO LONGER MIKEL. YOU ARE NOW JUSKALIS, THE SWORD OF GOD, AND YOU ARE THE HERO OF PROPHECY.”

Mikel, now Juskalis, could not speak. He had heard of the Prophecy, spoken across the entire isles. But he was a lowly farmer boy, nothing to do with anything great. He only knew cursory fighting techniques, just enough to protect against the raids from the northern states. Juskalis said, “But Lord God, how can this be?”

“HAVE FAITH, AND EMBRACE ME. YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN WIELD MY POWER. TAKE IT, AND BE ALMIGHTY.”

Juskalis reached out and took the star, and then as if by impulse—or perhaps, divine intervention?—he consumed God. He ate God. 

At that moment of blasphemy, Juskalis died. The star burst through the front of his skull, a halo mortals cannot bear. 

Then, the star—God—pulled him back together, and birthed him once again. 

Mikel, now completely born again as Juskalis, was reformed. The shattered fragments of his skull were replaced with the godskin of the Almighty, of stardust compounded and hardened into a brow, gleaming a holy indigo light. Six eyes erupted from his forehead, and only one was open. His halo was a chorus of wings, encircling behind him. Six arms erupted from behind him, like wings, each one wielding a weapon that he did not yet know how to wield.

His entire being was suffused with the same blood red of the star, clothing him in regalia, the grand clothing of dignity, or royalty.

MAKAGAGAHUM

“BEAR MY NAME… CONQUEST, ROYALTY, MIGHT, OBEDIENCE, SACRIFICE, POWER, AND AMBITION.”

And in that moment, Juskalis saw a glimpse of infinity, and he became mad, like his God.

Juskalis traveled to the grand blasphemous city of Ananara afterward.

He has never been to that great city, the grand nation-state. They are the strange one in these isles, his mother had told him. They adopted Issohappa’s Dream of Empire. And now they seek to bring all under them.

Before them, what was the world like?

The world was, and still is, a loose connection of communities, helping each other, inflicting violence against each other. No single community, no single culture, holds superiority over the other. That is, until Issohappa came, and taught their ways, and the Lakans—the grand leaders of Virbanwa—found themselves worthy of the Divine Right of Kings and chose to expand from a single homely community that helped themselves, to a vast and grand nation that held a monopoly over violence.

Is that not… sad?

It is. But to them, it is greatness. They cannot wait to purge all other communities, and subsume them into the Maw of the Star.

As Juskalis traveled, alone, after his mother was healed from her sickness by God, he was visited by a certain angel. A handsome angel, a beautiful angel, one that Juskalis fell in love with. An angel with hair the color of rice grains drying under the sun. His name was Rapael, and his skin was porcelain like the milk of water buffalos. In blasphemy they made love, and in this impartment of mortality Rapael gave him a shawl made of stars. 

“Wear this, my love,” Rapael said, as Juskalis traveled the countryside toward the great center of the burgeoning Empire, with nothing but his bahag and a light shirt for clothes, and a rattan basket backpack. “It shall keep you warm in the cold nights of the Amihan season.”

“Thank you, my love. Let us hope it grants me warmth to find the Gleaming Saiva Sword.”

It did.

When Juskalis arrived at the outskirts of the city, he had grown a small beard, but no hair grew upon his head anymore, for his head was still blown apart by transubstantiation. There he realized that the entirety of the grand city of Ananara was walled, something he knew only the greatest of settlements could afford around their longhouses. He was filled with a certain awe, one that was accompanied–always–by dread,

There was a small settlement outside of Ananara. Rice paddies surrounded it, but they did not seem to be particularly wealthy. 

A small gang of kids, each one playing with a small dagger and wooden top, approached him. They all wore balloon pants, something new that arrived with the coming of Issohappa. “Oy sir. That is a pretty cloth you have around your body!”

Juskalis smiled and nodded. “Truly. It was given to me by a lover.”

“A weaver, I assume!” said one of the other children, a little girl. “I want to be a great weaver when I grow up too.”

“What is the name of this place?” Juskalis asked. “I wish to know.” He realized that his voice had grown softer now. A consequent of his transcension.

“Kaninan,” replied a chubby boy, who was playing with what looked to be a makeshift gun made of bamboo and vinegar. “Rice place.”

“I can see that.”

There was another child, a kid writing on a palm leaf scroll. They taught writing, out here, it seemed. “But it doesn’t matter. Ananara doesn’t use a lot of our rice, so we end up selling it for little.”

“Ananara uses ‘currency’. Did you know that mister?” asked the young girl again, the one who wanted to grow up to become a great weaver. She was wearing a long dress that was tie-dyed with a rainbow of colors.

“Currency?”

“Yes,” said the boy with the palm leaf scroll. They had ended up underneath a large flame tree, a tree with crimson flowers. There a large boulder was, bleached by the evening sun. He sat upon it, and the children hung around him. “Money. Coinage, they call it. Another ‘innovation’ from Ananara. They are made of gold, since gold is abundant here in Rusunuga, right? So a block of gold is cut up into these squares. The smaller squares are worth less than the larger squares, and then each square values in increments of 5.”

“I see. Truly an innovation.”

“We need that to live now, to be able to afford fish and chicken and stuff.”

“Can you not hunt them down anymore?”

“Look around wise one,” said the chubby boy. “All the trees have been cut down, turned into plains for rice. And they don’t even buy our rice!”

“Why not?”

“They trade in rice from Loc Luang and Baik Hu,” said the boy. He finished etching something on the palm leaf scroll and rolled it up. “They have a trade deal. In that way, the nobles and royalty and lords of Ananara get even richer.”

“You know much about the world,” said Juskalis to the boy. He was about to ask his name, when the moniker flashed before his mind’s eye, like lightning. “Thank you for your insights, Rason.”

Rason paused for a moment, watching Juskalis with uncertain eyes. “It is no worry. We pray to God, then, that Ananara treats you better than it has treated us.”

“Has it treated you badly?”

“We have been forced to throw rice and burn it for it was not being bought,” said the chubby boy, whom Juskalis realized was named Puwersa. “Feels very bad. Thankfully there’s still a bunch of merchants from the other settlements around here that walk through here and buy it from us. Those Gatusanon and Pannainon are particularly fond of buying our rice from us, although they trade us weapons and clothes and silks since they do not actively engage in the coinage of Ananara.”

“This is a sad predicament,” replied Juskalis. “I pray then that Ananara is kind to me.”

“It will,” said the little girl, whom Juskalis realized was named Ysma. “Because you’re God, right?”

There was a silence. The children did not bat an eye at what the little girl said. Juskalis only smiled and nodded. “I am simply the tail, part of the lion, but of the lion itself.” He looked at the child with the dagger, and he asked for it. The child granted it to him.

A strange trick of the light.

In his hands, the dagger was not a dagger, but a great saber, of foreign import. Grand rubies and sapphires and diamonds were embedded upon the sword’s hilt, which had a pommel that showcased the great King Eagle. 

Juskalis hefted it. “The Gleaming Saiva Sword,” he said. He saw his reflection and saw not himself, but the seventy-seven million-armed visage of God. “The first of the Godly Regalia.” And then his second eye opened: a glimmering azure light, the eye of his first love Rapael.

He looked down at the children, and all the children were prostrated before him. “Aba, aba, glory to the Hero of Prophecy! He comes with a Sword and a Star, and he shall bring peace, and he shall show us the way to the Millennium Kingdom. Aba, aba, glory to the Hero-King!” And these words they chanted over and over again, like a mantra. An incantation.

Ananara was a blasphemous unto itself, but also brimming with divinity.

Juskalis walked through the walls as they opened, which were flanked by warriors clad in steel armor, wielding lances. Those warriors watched him with curious glances, but he simply walked in with the rest of the crowd, of the peasants of Ananara, and they let him through.

He traveled for a few hours, barefeet against the dirt of the inner city. Near the walls, the houses were packed together into what seemed like dense quadrants. The houses were made of the same style as those outside: cottages upon stilts, with bought livestock kept underneath the houses. The roofs were made of kugon grass.

The floors were of soil, parts of it marshy, for the great banwa of Ananara has expanded into the marshy regions of the Ananaran Coast. The folk here smiled and laughed and enjoyed, wearing nothing but bahag or short pants or sometimes just oversized cloth shirts. Women wore skirts and smocks, and walked with large earthenware jars above their heads, filled with water from the water of the Kadanum River, the greatest river that filters into the grand Sea of Tempestuous Dragons.

With the Gleaming Saiva Sword and his Stardust Shawl about him, Juskalis traveled through the servants, the debtors, of the outskirts of great Ananara. 

When he looked up, he saw—impossibly—grand spires jutting out of the earth, like the great fingers of a vengeful God come to seize what is truly theirs. The spires seemed to have been made of vaguely humanoid shapes, suggesting that they could have been once humanoid in shape, or at least bipedal.

Some of the spires gleamed with a strange red gleam, as if it were carved out of great crimson pillars of coagulated blood. Other spires seemed to have been giant spears or swords that have been struck into the earth, blade first, and then grand complexes of stilt-houses and hanging tree houses.

As Juskalis moved through the slums, approaching closer and closer to what seemed to be the grand center, he was stopped by a fierce and large body. When he looked up at what stopped him, he saw a brick of a woman, wearing kalabaw horn plate and wielding a grand hardwood body shield, a kalasag.

“Oy, you, traveler. Why do you gallivant about the grand city of Ananara carrying around a blade? Are you of the warrior class?”

Juskalis thought for a moment, and then said, “Yes. I come with a sword.”

“Do you answer to any of the grand senapati of Ananara?”

“I answer to Makagagahum only.”

The woman raised an eyebrow. “Are you trying to make me angry? Of course you answer to the Almighty. We all do. What are you doing here?”

“I come with a message. I must speak with the Batara Lakan, the Overlord of this great polity.”

“A man like you? Speak with the Batara Lakan?” The woman gazed at him for some time, observing him, analyzing him. Then, he said, “Ah, you must be one of those Fury Prophets. Forgive me, but you have not been officially recognized by the Mendicant Congregation. We cannot let you just walk around with a sword.”

“It is all right. I did not come to bring any chaos. I must simply have word—”

“Did you not hear me? Hand the sword over, then I’ll consider whether you being here is not an affront against Ananara.”

“Why do you act in this way? Are you enforcers of the entirety of Ananara?”

The woman nodded. “I am one of the State Kawal, or Guardsmen, of Ananara.”

“State Kawal? I did not think such things would exist.”

“As Ananara expands, there must be a physical representation of the Batara Lakan’s invisible power over everything. We are that. Enforcers of the Batara Lakan’s rule and hand.”

“I see.” Juskalis was realizing and learning much, in this particular interaction.

Juskalis decided not to push the subject. That night, he traveled with nothing on his back but his shawl, until a kindly man, living alone in his cottage, asked him to come in and partake in some food he had. “Some food cooked for the feast we had the other day that wasn’t finished,” he said. “The royals don’t eat leftovers. We all eat it.”

“Of course,” said Juskalis, and he realized he was hungry.

He ate with the man, who introduced himself as Indoy. Indoy was elderly, but he was still working restlessly to be able to free himself from the yoke of debt. He was indebted to the Batara Lakan, but all he did was perform jobs as needed around the city, and then work on the fields outside if needed, which was not much, as more things were being imported with the absolute massive imports being used. 

“We’re being exported now,” said Indoy. “In exchange for rice and meat and luxuries and missionaries. We’re being exported.”

“How harrowing,” said Juskalis. “And this is the Batara Lakan’s doing?”

He nodded. 

That night, he slept in the house, and in exchange for Indoy’s hospitality, he gave him a portion of the Stardust Shawl, which immediately transmogrified into square cut silver pieces. A rarity in Ananara, and much wanted by rich merchants. 

He left Indoy to find out what he wanted to do with the silver pieces. Outside, he saw a coterie of men with their heads shaved, wearing oversized shawls that would reach their ankles, and carrying a weapon pointed down. Upon their foreheads were emblazoned diamonds.

“Greetings,” said a woman in the forefront. They stepped forward. They wielded a spear that was pointed down. She was blind, and her name was Sulla. “I am Sulla—“

“Sulla of the Fury Prophets,” said Juskalis. “I know.”

“How?”

“I am one with God.”

A silence, a cold wind, ran through the coterie. After a moment, Sulla said, “It has been brought to our attention that you were manhandled by State Kawal. We have retrieved your weapon for you, and if you come with us, perhaps we will be able to grant you audience with whom you need to.”

“The Batara Lakan?”

Sulla nodded.

Juskalis acquiesced. He could see the true hearts of people, after all, and he saw that Sulla was telling the truth and held no guile in her heart.

With his sword by his side once again, Juskalis followed the coterie of Fury Prophets—a particular group that he didn’t particularly know of—through the streets of grand Ananara. As they neared the center, presumably close to river of Kadanum, the houses became somewhat larger and denser. Eventually the stilt cottages were replaced with larger houses fenced off from each other in quarters. Another interesting detail that Juskalis had only really seen in this large city, and no where else in the smaller banwa.

Such structure, such rigidity. Was this the power of a state?

Eventually they arrived at what seemed to be a stone chapel, with the five-pointed star emblazoned above the chapel’s front, and the Passion of Makayao, the Prince of Peace Killed To Begin Redemption, etched into the bas-reliefs. Juskalis was familiar with this, much of the banwa that allied themselves with Virbanwa adopted the Ashen Star Faith and consequently, their places of worship.

Within, the Chapel was devoid of pews. Instead, silk pillows were placed in rows. The altar was the same, however, and within was encased the Golden Image of Makaubos, the Annihilator. “So you are Foreseers of the End?”

“Of the Fury,” said Sulla, as the rest of her coterie went about to their duties in the chapel. “The Fury is not the final days, but rather, a great Reckoning. It is not the end, but rather, the intersectional period to a new beginning, a new Golden Age. But it is characterized by pain, dishonesty, hate, and disaster. That is the Fury: a period of horrible, horrible suffering.”

“And Makaubos is the one who shall herald it?”

Sulla nodded. “And the one that will end it. He is, after all, the Annihilator. We are a Sect that preaches this, and seeks to share knowledge how to transcend from the Fury, by following the grand Creator, by emulating the Almighty, and by unlearning everything taught by this world. For if this world is the Fury, then all things taught by this world must be tainted with disaster and suffering. And do you not think this to be true? We still have slaves and horrible despots and indiscriminate massacre and cheaters and charlatans. Violence intensifies. It will not stop any time soon. That is the Fury.”

“I see. I am enlightened.”

Sulla turned to him then, and gestured for him to sit on one of the silk pillows. Juskalis did so. “Now, we seek you out because of the hearsay of the State Kawal taking away a Fury Prophet’s weapon. We must say that we are protected from that kind of violence by the Batara Lakan himself.”

“I see.”

“And thus, why are you here? You are not a Fury Prophet. But you wear about you a great stardust shawl, and the weapon you wield… let us say that it seems to hold the image of the Gleaming Saiva Sword, the weapon said to be held by the Hero of Prophecy.”

Juskalis thought for a moment. His eyes, until now, were still wide. He seemed childish, in a way, but now he thought in a fiercely serious manner. “I am. The Hero of Prophecy.” He knew this to be true, of course. Who else would be able to wield the Gleaming Saiva Sword? Who else would be able to eat God?

There was another round of muttering across the priests that were listening in. 

Sulla blinked for a moment. Then, she said, “I-I see. You are saying that you are the Hero of Prophecy because you wield—“

Juskalis unsheathed the Gleaming Saiva Sword. It thrummed with a strange spirit, humming with great power. “The Gleaming Saiva Sword. I have been chosen by Makagagahum to be his Sword.”

Sulla lay prostrate, now. So did the other Fury Prophets. “The Hero of Prophecy! The Hero of Prophecy has come! Tell us, Hero, do you bring salvation?”

Juskalis shook his head. It burst now, again, revealing his exalted halo. His six arms erupted from behind him, each one doubling as a wing. “No. I come with a Sword. I shall bring the Millennium Kingdom and end suffering upon this earth. I will unite the Isles finally into a single Empire, and we will find peace.”

It did not take long for the rumors of the Hero of Prophecy to spread far and wide, from the poorest quarter of Ananara, penetrating into the bloodstone walls of the palaces of the royalty and the mendicancy in the center of Ananara, upon stone built over the Kadanum River.

“The Hero is here! Virbanwa will win!”

“The Prophecy will be fulfilled! War and strife shall vanish! No slaves, no killing!”

“It is time for prosperity! Virbanwa will become great again!”

“All of the isles will be united under a single Throne! We will achieve peace as a single Empire!”

Thus were the whispers and the mutterings, the proclamations. From that fish seller in the Baikhan markets to the honeyhunter coming home from their weekly hunting sessions. From the sailor about to soar through the Tempestuous Seas to the altar boy training to become a Priest himself one day.

Virbanwa was aflame once again. However this flame did not burn ardent. An equal amount of doubters and worriers made sure to posit that this must be one of the many false prophets, and that they must be careful of false prophets, for they will surely lead them into hell. Into the deepest parts of the abyss.

It did not take long until the Batara Lakan took notice.

He summoned Juskalis. He would grant this so-called Hero of Prophecy an audience.

That fateful day, Juskalis walked, with only his shawl, his bahag, and his Sword upon his back. Barefoot he walked into the great Bloodstone Castle of the Batara Lakan, built in the philosophies of native architecture, but with materials that were more common with the Issohappans: stone and marble instead of hardwood. 

When he stepped upon the silken throne room, taller than giants and longer than serpents, Juskalis felt grandeur.

The pillars were of stone, carved into so that it looked like angels were keeping the roofs up. The entire Castle was made of crimson stone, looking like coagulated blood. “It is coagulated blood,” Sulla had informed him, before he left for the Bloodstone Castle. “It is the blood of the Pale Kings killed and massacred in droves. The Bloodstone Castle was built upon the greatest place of massacre against the Pale Kings, the battlefield of the Siege of Kota Virbanwa.”

The middle of the castle, there was a silk cloth placed across it, like a walkway. Juskalis walked upon it. As he did, the Batara Lakan’s concubines, each one wearing what looked like priest clothes tied about them with the use of chains and leather belts, each one having a chain wounding about their necks seven times, arrived, watching him with unblinking eyes. They were a diverse lot, and Juskalis shivered.

As he stepped upon the Throne, he realized that the Throne itself was empty. Floating above the Throne, in a silken robe made of the souls he could not save, the souls that did not atone, was the Batara Lakan. His face was like an alabaster mask, constantly crying blood, eyes closed, lips stained red by his crimson tears. A halo of swords floated about his neck, pricking him constantly. 

His feet were bare, untouched, but pure and clean, whiter than flowers. They never touched the ground. Upon his head was a grand crown, made of spears digging into his scalp, with four cardinal points depicting a crocodile, a dog, a serpent, and an eagle. It was ablaze.

“Greetings, Hero of Prophecy.” He spoke, but his lips did not move. 

Juskalis bowed. “Greetings, Batara Lakan.”

“Is it true, that you are the Hero of Prophecy?”

Juskalis looked up. He saw Huwan Rekno’s heart, and saw that it was filled with sorrow… and ambition. He nodded. “I am one with God.”

The Batara Lakan paused for a moment. Seemingly thinking about Juskalis for a moment. A pondering preponderance, a slowly flowing trickle of blood from a fresh wound. Then, he said, “You are… telling the truth.”

His voice echoed across his chambers. His concubines collapsed to their feet. Some of them rent their clothes, others cried tears of blood. 

After a moment, Juskalis realized that the crimson silk that he was walking on was actually blood, sorcerously transformed into walkable textile. “God is the Truth. Therefore I am incapable of lying.”

Batara Lakan Huwan Rekno pondered this for a moment, and then said, “In that way, Mortals are more than Gods.”

“Such is the design of the Almighty,” replied Juskalis, Sword of God, Hero of Prophecy. “What is the task of a creator, but to make a creation greater than He?”

The Huwan Rekno’s voice was on the verge of tears. “Such Wisdom can only come from the mouth of God.”

“I have come to fulfill my prophecy. Grant me what I lack.”

“All that you ask, shall be yours. Lead us into Glory, O Lord.”

“I am mortal, simply exalted. My prestige goes before me, but I shall prove my Conviction upon the fires of conquest. Call me not Lord, I am simply a Hero, and for God I shall die.”

“Your Conviction shall surely be proven.”

As he said that, a warrior clad in the starstone skin of a dead angel walked forth, carrying a grand pudong: ultracrimson in color, the highest echelon of red, the red that is the color of the bleeding Son of God. The loose tails of the pudong floated about, as if perpetually under water. An impossibility that is miraculous in its being.

Juskalis walked forth and took the pudong, and placed it upon his head. It unfurled, and then wrapped around his head perfectly, providing him a crimson crown. His third eye opened, colored a bright crimson, like stars streaking across the sky.

“Lead us to Glory, Hero of Prophecy. Juskalis.”

“Glory belongs to the Millennium Kingdom. May Virbanwa be Exalted.”

That dawn, wearing two out of his six Godly Regalia, the Hero of Prophecy stood upon the prow of the sky-galleon, powered by the corpses of sky gods. The crewmen—specially trained servant shiphandler-shamans—were working double time behind him, as the sky galleon sailed across the clouds.

Star Eras are periods of darkness, fulminating shadows surrounding little pinpricks of light. Will the Sword Isles survive?

The Hero of Prophecy travels to Jambangan.

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