Stories

The Lost Tribe of Mishi


The sun beat down on Al-Dehrul, baking the city. The people shuffled down unpaved roads, most huddled pressed together under the awnings hanging from the streetside buildings. A haze of smoke hung in the air, causing more irritation than normal. The normal sea breeze was calm today, depriving the city of any reprise from the noon heat and factory pollution.

Even Shamar Hasha Muham, normally comfortable in his sprawling palace, wasn’t spared from the effects. A fat man, he sweated in the mildest of times. Now, his body poured it. He was only relieved from the choking effects of smog by the massive steam-powered fans he’d had installed in the palace months ago.

The Shamar guzzled water from a massive jug as he slouched on his throne. Al-Dehrul’s summer heat had always been bad, but it had been even worse this year. The people were unhappy. Some believed Affrham - the great God who controlled the clouds and rain - had abandoned them. They blamed the Shamar for allowing the factories to be built in the city.

But for each malcontent, there were ten who had come to the city to work in those factories. Many had been nomads who eeked out existences in the vast steppes. Others had come from the few dotted towns that existed around the rare permanent lakes. Compared to there, the factories offered opportunity and life.

“Shamar!” a man yelled. The Shamar shifted in his throne to look at the man. It was Astrab Khal, the royal astrologist, who was running toward the throne.

“What is it?” the Shamar asked. “Have clouds been sighted?”

Astrab prostrated himself before the throne, continuing to speak urgently even as he debased himself. “No, my Shamar. It is something I have never seen before. A flying wagon of gold!”

The Shamar bellowed out a laugh, wiped his brow, and took another great gulp of water. “A flying wagon of gold, Astrab? Have you been eating the Hoshab’s peppers again? You know they cause you visions!”

Astrab shook his head vigorously. “No, my Shamar. I saw it with my own eyes. If you want, you can see for yourself.”

The Shamar considered the walk it would take to go to the tower and look through Astrab’s telescope. He turned to his vizier, Gafer Zamin, and motioned for him to go look. The vizier nodded his head, pulled Astrab up by the scruff of his collar, and dragged him out of the room. The Shamar sighed and took another drink of water.




Captain Patius Aquiun peered through the rising heat waves at the army that was approaching the ship. There appeared to be nearly a hundred of them - barely a fraction of the Amarrian troops waiting inside the ship - mounted on some sort of strange, six-legged animal that appeared to have an extensive exoskeleton.

“How far off are they?” he asked his second in command, Commander Rofus Uriel.

“About two kilometers,” he said as he watched the oncoming army through a pair of binoculars. “They’ll be here in about ten minutes from the speed they’re moving at.”

Aquiun rubbed his chin. “Hmm, they’re moving slower than I’d expect. Either those mounts aren’t very fast or they’ve got something with them.”

“It looks like they’re bringing someone important. There’s a very large and elaborate wagon being drawn.”

“Looks like we’ve got their leader then,” Aquiun said. He turned and nodded to a soldier. “Get our translator.” The soldier retreated into the ship and returned a moment later with a short, nervous man.

The man was a local, one of the sixty taken by the first scouts that had arrived in this system years ago. Of the sixty, he was one of ten who had been taught the Amarrian language, so he could serve as a translator when the rest of the 51st Exploration Corps had caught up.

Captain Aquiun had been the first of the main fleet to arrive. He was the brother of the man in charge of the fleet and had been appointed as much due to nepotism as his own talents. He was determined to make his mark on the expedition and prove that he belonged.

Aquiun turned to the translator. “Do you recognize them?” he asked.

The man nodded. “Yes, yes,” he said with a thick accent. “They is Mahabi people. I speak them words, better than I speak you words.”

Aquiun rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Well, one would hope.”

The small group - Captain Aquiun, Commander Uriel, the translator, and ten armed Khanid soldiers - waited as the army approached. It stopped a hundred meters away and sent out the covered wagon along with a small guard. The wagon stopped fifty meters away and waited.

“Who is that?” Aquiun asked the translator.

“Shamar Muham,” the translator said, the name sounding natural out of his lips. “He is Shamar of Mahabi.”

“And what’s a Shamar?” Aquiun asked.

The man closed his eyes and furrowed his brow as he always did when he couldn’t think of a proper translation. “Shamar is captain. Shamar is like you?”

“He’s a military leader, then? A soldier?”

The translator quickly shook his head. “No, no. I use wrong word. Not is soldier. He is leader. First of Mahabi. All Mahabi listen him. All Mahabi obey him.”

“So he’s their king?”

The translator snapped his fingers and nodded vigorously. “Yes! Is king, is king!”

“Excellent,” Captain Aquiun said. He turned to the Commander and gestured. “Let’s get going then?”

The Khanid fell into formation behind Commander Uriel, who followed as Captain Aquiun and the translator marched out into the blistering sun. The entire group (except for the translator) wore powered battle armor that reflected the sunlight. Despite the overwhelming heat, not a man complained.

As they neared the wagon, they noticed it was flying blue flags. The Captain turned to the translator. “The blue flags, what do they mean?”

“It mean peace,” the translator said. “Blue is color of water. Gift of water is gift of life. Life is peace.”

“Thank you for the explanation,” Aquiun said, not altogether displeased with confirming his supposition that water was vital on this arid world. The initial scans of the planet had revealed less than 40% water cover, with 90% of that consisting of the almost-brine oceans. Coupled with the stories from the scout teams that fights broke out between captured natives over water - despite it being offered to them in nearly limitless amounts - and Captain Aquiun already had a trump card for passively subjugating the entire planet.

A man wearing colored and clean looking robes stepped in front of the wagon. Once the man was sure Captain Aquiun’s group was within earshot, he began shouting something. Aquiun turned to the translator. “What’s he saying?”

“He say, ‘Shamar Muham say hello to angel from gold wagon.’ He say you that Shamar Muham is great and kind and important man.” The translator paused as the man shouted a long string of words. “Shamar Muham want know what angel want visit for.”

Aquiun got the gist of what was being said. A common greeting from self-important royalty attempting to impress the visitors with a show of grandiosity while flattering them at the same time. “Tell him I am Captain Patius Aquiun, soldier of the glorious Amarr Empire, on a mission from the much, much greater and more powerful Amarr Emperor. Let him know that I want to speak directly to Shamar Muham.”

The translator closed his eyes and furrowed his brow before responding to the man with much more fluidity than he spoke in Amarrian. Aquiun noticed that the translator did not bother to translate the words Captain, Empire, or Emperor. Once the translator finished, he realized the man was asking the translator about the meaning of those words.

Before the translator could even translate, Aquiun told him, “Tell him that an Emperor is like a Shamar above other Shamars.” The translator looked at him with wide eyes, perhaps with a little fear at his sudden, seeming ability to understand his language. The translator then nodded and responded to the man.

Aquiun smiled as he noticed the man’s startled reaction. After a moment of suspicious staring, he retreated inside the wagon. Aquiun could hear an animated discussion coming from inside the wagon. “What are they saying?”

“They say about what do with you. Shamar want take you palace. Keikah want kill you.”

“Keikah? Is that the man who was talking before? Is that his name or title?”

“Yes, title. Keikah say to Shamar smart things. Help Shamar lead. Help Shamar make decides.”

Aquiun nodded. “A royal vizier. I see. Well, if he wants to kill us, he may be trouble. Tell me, what do you know about Shamar Muham. Is he going to listen to his vizier or not?”

The translator shook his head. “I not know. I not Mahabi, I Nichann. Live many day from here. Me crew do trade with Mahabi crew, so I know Mahabi speak for trade speak. Mahabi crew we do trade not live near city, not much deal with Shamar. Only hear little truth.”

“Little truth?”

The translator closed his eyes and furrowed his brow again. “Um… Little truth. Not big truth. What everyone say is true, but no one sure is true?”

“Ah, a rumor,” Aquiun said. “Well, let me hear these rumors.”

The translator smiled and nodded. “Say Shamar is greedy. Say he care only thing. Big palace. Lot of servant. Let men with lot of money build big building with lot of smoke come out top. Make air hard to breath but make thing for people. Give people work too, but make some people mad.”

Aquiun nodded. “Well, sounds like he’ll at least listen to us then.” He crossed his arms and waited.




Shamar Muham and Gafer Zamin argued in the wagon for several minutes. “My Shamar,” the vizier said in exasperation. “These are just men. They have one of the Nichann people with them to serve as a translator, for Affrham’s rain! They are just strangers with some tricks. Maybe they are from across the sea.”

“Then how did they get that flying gold wagon?” the Shamar asked.

“I don’t know, my Shamar. I would not say they are servants from Affrham, though. You know I had been experimenting with making flying devices. Remember the balloon I made that floated around the palace for a few hours before the air inside cooled down? Maybe they just figured out how to make it larger.”

The Shamar smiled. “Well then, Gafer, that means they know something you do not! Maybe we can get them to give us this information. There are only twelve of them, not counting their Nichann man. And I doubt he would put up a fight against us. We should take them back to the palace and see what they want.”

The vizier sighed. “Is this your final command, my Shamar?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Very well,” the vizier said. “But I’m warning you, I don’t like the look of these people. They have sinister intentions. Tread lightly around them.”

The Shamar just laughed and waved for Gafer to deliver the news. The vizier stepped back out of the wagon, doing nothing to hide his agitation. The man that had been identified as the Captain smiled at this, which only served to increase Gafer’s discomfort.

He walked to the translator. “Shamar Muham wishes to invite the men of Amarr back to his palace, so they can talk more easily.”

The translator turned and spoke haltingly to the Captain. The man responded, then turned to his other followers and began giving orders. One of the fierce looking men in the rear - men the vizier figured were soldiers but Shamar Muham had interpreted as the khakik of Affrham’s court - turned and headed back for their golden vessel. Then he turned and said something to the translator.

“Captain Aquiun accepts the generosity of Shamar Muham. He has sent back one of his men to inform the others on the ship.” Ship, the vizier thought, surely that cannot float on the water. Is that what they call their air-wagons. Ships? “He will follow you immediately and have another small party come come to the palace later. And he appreciates that the Shamar has shown wisdom in agreeing to deal with him.”

The vizier grimaced. “The Shamar has placed great trust in him. We will appreciate it if he does not violate that trust.” The translator turned to translate that to the Captain, but the vizier stopped him. “Just tell him that we look forward to talking further with him.”

The translator paused and said something to the Captain. The vizier hoped the translator didn’t listen to him and translated everything. From the Captain’s satisfied smirk, he was sure it had been.




Captain Aquiun and his party were escorted back to the city by the Shamar’s army. His men had been offered several of the strange animals - which Aquiun had learned were called paquins - to ride on, but no one was comfortable getting onto them. Instead, his men rode on the back of a cart. Captain Aquiun rode with his men, though he had been offered a place inside the Shamar’s wagon.

The ride back to the city took nearly an hour and by the time they arrived, Aquiun’s men were all exhausted from the heat. Luckily, they each had more than enough water. The Shamar’s men eyed them with a mix of awe and jealousy as they drank freely.

Once they entered the city, they found a large group of people gathered waiting for them. Upon seeing Aquiun’s party, shouts of amazement and wonder broke out. “They say you Affrham’s angel,” the translator told him. “Say you bring good omen. Say you bring water.”

“Well, we are not angels. Especially not of some false god. But we certainly will bring water and good fortune to your people, assuming you accept us.”

“Yes, yes. Accept you. You good. Give lot of water to me and my crew.”




“See, Gafer?” the Shamar said smugly. “The people think they are angels of Affrham as well.”

“As you are often fond of saying my Shamar, the people do not know anything in this matter. They are saying that only because they do not understand what they are. Word spreads of a golden wagon in the sky and they do not know any better than to fall back on superstition and legends. These are not the water angels of Affrham. They are visitors from afar. We should treat them as nothing else.”

The Shamar laughed. “And as you are so fond of saying, sometimes the will of the people cannot be ignored. Even if they are visitors from afar, we can use them to our benefit.”

The vizier remained silent.




Captain Aquiun and his men were put into a lavish room of the palace. It had massive plush pillows and a silk-like sheets. Servants attended to their needs while the Shamar sent several women to Captain Aquiun to personally see to him.

“Who are they?” Captain Aquiun asked his translator.

“The Shamar wife.”

“All of them?” Captain Aquiun wondered in mild disgust.

The translator nodded. “Yes. He the Shamar. He have right to many wife. He can provide for many wife. Can have many child to carry on family. Crew leader have many wife. My crew leader have five. The Shamar have many time that. Many time. A hundred wife, maybe more.”

“Are you sure you mean wives? He is married to them?”

“Yes, yes. Wife. He their husband, they his wife. I know what husband and wife mean. Same as you, only more wife.”

Captain Aquiun shook his head and waved the women out of the room.

That evening, after the Captain had rested, the Shamar sent for him. Captain Aquiun figured that they would finally get down to business and he could discuss terms with the Shamar. Instead, the Shamar had thrown a banquet for the Captain.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“Big feast,” the translator said. “For leader of Affrham’s angel. Please Affrham angel, maybe it rain tomorrow. That what they thinking.”

Aquiun looked at the Shamar, repulsed by the man. Bits of food stuck to his face and he gulped water down so fast it splashed onto his clothes and the floor. Aquiun saw servants watching him, their eyes filled with resigned despair whenever a drop of water was lost.

“We’ll have to dispel this myth that I serve any god called Affrham. I serve only one God, the one true Lord above. He would not wish me to defame myself by associating myself with some heathen diety.”

Aquiun grabbed the translator and took him over to the Shamar. “Tell him what I just said,” Aquiun ordered.

After the translator responded, the Shamar laughed and shook his head. His response was translated as, “Not matter if really Affrham’s angel or not. People think you Affrham’s angel, so Shamar say you Affrham’s angel. Maybe make people stop complaining about smoke factory if they think Affrham’s angel blessing Shamar.”

Aquiun frowned. “Tell him that I want to discuss the future of his people and how he can help me help them.”

The translated reply came, “Tomorrow. Now time for feast. Tomorrow time for talk.”

“Fine then” Aquiun said. “Then I am retiring for the night. I have no need for frivolities.” Aquiun turned and left. The translator hurriedly translated, then ran after him. The Shamar’s raucous laughter followed them out of the banquet.




The next morning, Aquiun was awakened by the sound of gongs ringing. He went to the window and looked out. There were gongs ringing across the city. People were in the streets, cheering.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“Cloud,” the translator said, pointing in the sky. Large, billowy white clouds were in the distance. “Cloud mean rain, maybe. They celebrate, make prayer, ask Affrham to turn cloud black. Black cloud mean rain, definitely. City not have rain in many week. Need rain.”

Aquiun sighed. “More pagan nonsense. Praying to a false god won’t bring rain. And praying for rain! These people need the Empire far more than any lesser race ever has.” He sighed. “Well, I suppose I should get ready for the day. I doubt I can get a bath, though.”

“No, no,” the translator told him. “Shamar have bath. Shamar have enough water for you to have bath.”

Aquiun wondered at the logic of using drinkable water for a bath, but didn’t turn it down either. Once he had bathed and dressed in a clean uniform, he found the Shamar was ready to speak to him.

“Captain Aquiun,” the translator translated, “where you from?”

“I am from far away,” Aquiun told him. “From another world, out in the stars. It is a place called the Amarr Empire.”

“Beyond stars?” was the translated response. “What you mean?”

“The ship we came in. The golden wagon, as you call it. That is actually a space ship. It can travel between worlds. The Empire is vastly beyond your own. We are far more advanced. We have thousands of worlds under our control. We will make this world part of our domain.”

“Entire world? How possible. Not enough people.”

“As I said, we are far more advanced than you.”

The Shamar narrowed his eyes and exchanged quiet words with the vizier. “If you so advanced, why you talk to me?”

“It’s simple,” Captain Aquiun explained. “Taking over a world is a lot easier if the leaders agree to it. You collaborate with us, turn your people over to us, and you get rewarded.”

“Turn our people over?”

Captain Aquiun nodded. “Yes,” he said. “As part of the glorious Amarr Empire, it will be your people’s pleasure to serve the Amarr. Your people will be our slaves and through their toiling shall cleanse themselves of their centuries of ungodliness.”

It took several minutes for the translator to get the Shamar and vizier to understand what Aquiun meant. When he finished, both of them immediately adopted a far more hostile stance.

“Why would I agree to this?”

Aquiun smiled. “Simple. Because if you do, you will be spared slavery. Assuming, of course, that you devoted yourself entirely to God and gave up all your heathen ways. You will be required to become a paragon of the Faith, else you will be reduced to nothing and be made into a slave just the same.”

“What are your way?”

“For one, you would need to refute your devotion to your false god, Affrham. Second, you must give up all but one of your wives. God only allows a man to take one wife. Any more is false. Third, you would swear fealty to the Amarr Emperor and whoever is assigned this world as his personal domain.”

This seemed to put the Shamar off more than anything. “I not give up power! I am Shamar. I am ruler of land. Owe loyalty to no man.”

Aquiun smirked. “We are all just servants of God. You can either submit yourself or be destroyed. It’s your choice.”

The vizier and Shamar had another animated discussion. When they finished, the Shamar stood and stormed off. The vizier said something to the translator, then followed after him. “We need time.”

Aquiun smiled. “I’ve got him.”




“We can’t submit to his demands,” the vizier said. “You cannot sell your people into slavery!”

“What choice do I have?” the Shamar said. “If what he says is true, then we are doomed anyway. If we give in, at least we save ourselves.”

“You’d trust a man who comes and threatens to destroy you if you don’t submit? What he says is impossible! More impossible than him being an angel.”

“You saw all the water he had. And his golden wagon. It doesn’t seem like a lie to me. And if we oppose him and he brings water to the people, they will stand against us. They will not oppose who they think is one of Affrham’s angels.”

The vizier’s eyes suddenly went wide and he smiled slyly. “That’s it, my Shamar!” he shouted. “This man denied being one of Affrham’s angels! In fact, he called Affrham a false god.”

“And?”

“And the people love Affrham, my Shamar!” the vizier declared. “Those clouds, they are rain clouds. The people can’t tell the difference, but I can. I’ve studied the clouds. There are differences between clouds that make rain and those that don’t. Those will!”

“What do the clouds and rain have to do with anything?”

“The ceremony, my Shamar! Once the rain comes, the people will gather at the temple to celebrate Affrham. They will surely want to hear Affrham’s angels say something. The strangers will clearly denigrate Affrham.”

Understanding dawned in the Shamar’s eyes.




The Shamar and his vizier returned to Captain Aquiun. “We submit,” the Shamar said through the translator. “We follow your command.”

“Excellent,” Aquiun said. “Of course, there is more to it than just submitting. You will need to speak with our priests to truly show your commitment to the Amarr way.”

The Shamar nodded. “Yes, yes. Anything you say. But tonight there be celebration. People give give praise to Affrham at temple. They make sacrifice to Affrham. We say them everything at temple. You say them you not Affrham’s angel. You say them about Amarr Empire?”

Aquiun smiled. “That sounds like a great plan. We will announce your dedication to the Empire to the entire city. We won’t, of course, tell them about the slavery. Not yet. We will get them used to the idea of serving the Empire and, once the rest of our fleet arrives, we will begin taking them off the planet.”

The Shamar and vizier both nodded to each other and agreed that the idea sounded perfect.




That afternoon, the rains began to fall. The people came out of their houses and factories in droves to cheer the water. Eventually, they returned to work, but not before they all heard that tonight, Affrham’s angels would be speaking at the temple about the glorious gifts they had brought to the people of Al-Dehrul.

That evening, after everyone had finished work, the rain continued to fall. They came to the Temple of Affrham in droves. They were all buzzing with anticipation at hearing the angel talk.

When he finally stood before them at the center of the temple, they let out a cheer. He spoke words they could not understand, but a Nichann stood beside him, translating his words.

“People of Al-Dehrul. I am Captain Patius Aquiun. I serve the mighty Amarr Empire and the power of the Amarr Emperor. Today, your Shamar has pledged his loyalty to the Empire. As of this day, you are all subjects to the Empire.”

The people murmured to each other. They did not understand the words. A few of them began to chant Affrham’s name. As the chants were picked up by the rest of the crowd, Captain Aquiun grew annoyed. He shouted for silence and then began to speak again, with the Nichann translating.

“Stop speaking of that heathen god! I am not a servant of Affrham. Affrham is a false deity! I am no angel of Affrham. I am an agent of the one, true God. The God of the Amarr. He is the only true god. I did not bring you any rain. The rain is not the work of your false god. It is a work of science, of nature.”

The people murmured again, this time with some anger and more confusion. But Captain Aquiun continued. “As servants of the Empire, you will cease your reverence of this false god. This temple will be destroyed. Proper priests will teach you of the one true God and the Amarr religion!”

The people began shouting. How could the Shamar have pledged himself to these men? These men who spoke such evil words about Affrham and his gifts. The Shamar stepped forward and raised his hands.

“My people! Please, listen to me!” he said. The people quieted down, somewhat. “Listen to me. What this man says is the truth. They do not believe in Affrham! They think that his blessings, his gifts of rain to us, are just the same as the wind or the sky!”

The Nichann translator’s eyes were wide. He was looking back and forth between the Shamar and Captain Aquiun with worry in his eyes.

“Beyond that, they do not want us as citizens. They want us as slaves!” the Shamar said. “They want to force you to abandon Affrham so that you will do work for them with no compensation. If you are given no pay, how will you get water? How will you live? You won’t! These people are our enemies. I tricked them into thinking I was working with them, but I am here now to tell you the truth! They are enemies of the Mahabi and enemies of Affrham!”

The people were being whipped into a frenzy. Captain Aquiun was yelling at the translator, who was haltingly telling him what the Shamar was saying.

“Affrham did not send these people as his angels,” the Shamar continued. “But he did send us the rain so that we would see the truth! And as he gave to us the rain of life, so should we give to him the lives of those who speak against him! Our thankful sacrifices will be the blood of these enemies!”

The people started to storm the stage. The translator finished his translation a moment later. Captain Aquiun’s face contorted with rage. He gave an order and his Khanid troops began firing into the crowd. But there were only a few and they had an entire city raging against them. Seeing their fellow Mahabi die only set the crowd further against Captain Aquiun’s people.

In a matter of minutes, they had subdued the struggling troops. They dragged them onto the Altar of Affrham one-by-one and ritually sacrificed them. Even the translator was not spared their wrath.

The Shamar turned to his vizier. “Now the people are behind me more than ever. These strangers were a good thing after all.”

The vizier nodded. “We must move against their golden wagon. We must destroy them before they have a chance to attack us.”

“Ready the troops.”




The Shamar’s troops were no match for the Amarrian ship’s crew. But without their captain, they lacked the authority to fight back. Instead, they retreated from the planet. The Shamar proclaimed it a great victory for the Mahabi and the city of Al-Dehrul.

Months later, when the command ship of Soruma Aquiun arrived, his brother’s crew informed him of what happened. “I see,” he said with sadness. “My foolish brother. It doesn’t surprise me that he fell into such a trap, but it is still unacceptable. Do we have any more translators for these Mahabi?”

“No, sir. The only translator was killed by the Shamar along with Captain Aquiun. None of the others we captured speak the language.”

“And it would take far too long to teach another translator.” He smiled. “What a shame. I think we should make an example out of them.”

“An example, sir?”

“We will wipe the Mahabi from the cluster. They are heathens. They are not worthy of becoming part of the Empire. They killed my brother. Once we are finished with them, none of these lesser people on this planet will stand against us. They shall beg us to enslave them!”

“What shall we tell the Empire, sir?”

“The Mahabi are worthless. They’re soft, fat, obstinate stubborn heathens with no redeeming qualities. Their addition to the Empire would weaken us, not strengthen us. We wiped them out to preserve our purity.”

“Very good, sir. I’ll get to work on drafting the battle plans.”



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