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Chapter V: The King

The current leader of the Shirdalinids – Zahhak, has been on a warpath with the bordering kingdoms. Once an honorable and interested ruler became a completely different person overnight.
Getting to power, Zahhak was always very optimistic and curious. The trading routes have constantly been open with him at the helm, and without fail he could negotiate a great trade agreement with other leaders, making him a very friendly face at the table, as far as trade and politics were concerned.
He encouraged scholars to explore the historic sites that were off-limits for hundreds of years before him and took a keen interest in their findings. He would regularly visit the excavation and research sites, learning anything and everything about the scholarly findings.
Right before his demeanor changed for the worse, a new site was discovered. According to the found scriptures, it was a burial site of an ancient ritual palace or some old archival site. The scriptures were written in a very old language that predated anything they’d seen before. That’s why there was no certainty in the translations. At best it was educated guesswork, at its worst, it was a stab in complete darkness. After visiting the site, and inspecting the scholar's findings, Zahhak started changing his demeanor, ordering the scholars to expedite research and do all the necessary actions to speed up the process as much as possible.
No one was even questioning the excited interest in the history of his people, but Zahhak has always been on track to find his ancestral instructions left for him and his kin to excel in this world. His bloodline ran deep into the annals of history, where mythical things occurred and legends were created out of true power to shield the common folk.
The reality of it was that the artifacts that the scholars found and dug up for their very interested leader, were quite a dangerous endeavor. With each new acquisition, Zahhak was slightly going madder, stronger, and smarter.
The archival site truly was a piece of historic scripture that contained a lot of information, but unless you read the texts right, they mean absolutely nothing. This find shed light on another long-forgotten burial site, that held a pathway to a chamber, guarded by traps. This chamber contained another ancient relic of his bloodline that allowed mortals to channel powers from the underworld, at the cost of their sanity. If the scriptures are to be believed, one chosen leader of his time will be able to rise above the mortal plane and be on equal ground even with the more powerful of the celestials. Many have lost their mind to the artifact, but with each attempt, the ancient writings were always added to, documenting the rises and falls of his predecessors. Having a full picture of what is to come, there was no time to spare. The search for that artifact could not wait another minute.
Meanwhile, the Romioi have been patiently inserting their people into the search parties and scholar expeditions since Zahhak started to wreak havoc around the trade routes, with border policies, and even unprovoked outpost attacks within neutral territories, utilizing sellswords for plausible deniability.
They’ve learned of his keen interest in historic sites; he must have found something very interesting since all of his actions were made to divert attention away from his interests.
As more sites were visited and researched, it became clear that it was not a simple intrigue of the history of people before his time, but a search for something specific. What is Zahhak searching for is a question no one really knows the answer to. With all that in mind, the Romioi leaders decided to spy on every single expedition and dig, implanting their people into higher positions, to ensure that they were tipped off as soon as the search parties stumbled upon anything of value.
All of this was summed up into a significantly exaggerated guard count, and patrol perimeters around the sites of interest in Zahhak. What made things worse was the actions of the Shirdalinid army. The random lashing out from different parts of the front line without attempting to take land, nor to actually damage the enemy ranks or supply routes. All of the maneuvers were toothless and uncoordinated. Some spies of the Romioi Empire sent speculative intelligence that the Shirdalinid’s King had gone missing a few weeks ago and none of the high-ranking personnel got any instructions from him either, ever since a new location was discovered south of Akkad ruins.
All of the leads go to that site. It was believed the tower of Babel once stood there. The texts and sources gave Meldave'er hints and nudges toward the direction they have to go to find an ancient artifact that has been forged way before the times of Infernum and the Fall. Made by the elder scholars long before the tower was even planned. Now it resides somewhere at the tower’s peak, yet all of this information is a collection of tales and legends of a time long gone, exaggerated and uncertain.