NEOROMANCE
ILLUSTRATIONANDWRITINGSOFSKYE SKEN












THE PRINCESS RHIALTI
Antemythogenesis

Deo: an ashen world, a sky of dust, a waning soliform shape; but a stranger earth, a weirder sea - a saturnine corporality unequalled, is the stage of the verse sung just now; it is the greater epiphany which comes alive only in the endogenous realm of awareness. This is the tale of the princess Rhialti, a goddess reborn amidst elder desolation; the perversion of eternal life; the lie of cognition - of rationality; and the moribund people of a moribund world.
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CHAPTER ONE

In the waning afternoon radiance of ochre yellow and old orange, when myahud at last settled behind the arid, sharded horizon, three men gathered about in a tavern of white abode walls in advanced state of deterioration amid a vast, dry desert, to converse upon matters of import. Somewhat ramshackle and dilapidated as it was, the inn was of satisfactory quality, and the men weary from a day’s toil at their dryweed-plantations, yet still vigorous enough to inundate their exasperations over debates concerning matters both superficial and spiritual. In the ancient continent of Acnahav, every man was a philosopher in his own right, and often would ponder to lengths on such subjects as astronomy, cosmology, history, the physical qualities of their dying world of Deo, and the realms of demons and spirits in other universes parallel to theirs. These subjects would then be presented among acquaintances in the vicinity of watering holes, gathering places and taverns of repute to the benefit of all.

These three men were Manchu, Leipitz and Lor, all of a breed of burly submen of the steppes of the Akhibal Presinct. Manchu would begin as he was wont to do: ”Lor, you thrice-accursed knave, let us know of your thoughts on yesterday’s themes, which you cleverly managed to avoid as I suspect I was struck with a sudden case of over-intoxication”. He referred to the stupor-inducing liquid known as Bothoo the men at times ingested while engaged in such camaraderie. ”Such genius did my erstwhile thoughts mull over that I cannot even recall them at my present state. I am, however, convinced they involved criticism towards your notorious habits of goat-amour”, replied Lor in a strung tone, as if revealing some grand secret. Speechless with rage, Manchu begun already to rise, only to be interrupted by the soothing hand of Leipitz, who exclaimed his opinion: ”Curb your agitations, friend, for today we drink to the honor of Audric: king of the drowned and dumb!”

The two were seemingly in a state of mild puzzlement, attempting to appear at the same time aware of the identity and legend of the name mentioned, yet making subtle gestures for Leipitz to further stimulate their recollections. Realizing his triumph, and thus grinning like a jackal, the drudgeman continued:

”In days ere, thirteen ships set sail from the walled city of Tasuur in Chuun, commanded by the self-proclaimed king Audric, who subdued the savage tribes of the steppes under his yoke and lifted Chuun from an age-old civil war and united the shattered empire. His intention was to lay waste to our immensely wealthy land of Acnahav - in particular to raze the capitol, Catz, for its valuable maidens. Our polyarchic demigods of Acnahav set about an assembly to meet this threat, and with their thaumaturgies conjured the ALITARUDA MUNDI, an enigmatic force of unified Deoan rootlife. From abysmal depths of the Lesmatic Sea, this eldrich horror of the foregone past arose and laid elder desolation on the pitiful fleets of Audric. It is said, however, that while his men cowered in fear, consumed by the mortal doom they were about to face, Audric himself stood valiant, and defied the monster of the waste abysm. Inspired by his courage, it was said to devour the king whole, and bring him to its underwater domain, in the immeasurable depths of that phantom sea.”


After a moment of silence, Lor, who had an unusually large mouth, displayed the set of his yellowed teeth in what could resemble a human smile, and started without due concern toward the drudgemen already in slumber upstairs: ”Do you take us for fools? Hearsay suffused with exaggeration. A tad too epic to be believable, but I will admit, not the worst I have heard uttered from you.”
“Much more interesting is the prospect I learned of the other day – namely the giantesses of certain steppes of Lereina. It is said these rare women are black as the darkest of mirk and stand at least nine feet tall, retaining however the correct proportions of a voluptuous mother of many. Naturally, they are heralded as born of the gods that the local rabble invest their prayers on and rule with iron grip these faraway plains and as you may imagine they command the lesser males to capture foreign men for the intent of cop-”. Lor was silenced by the clang of the door-handle – a customer had entered the establishment, and the men’s attention at once was found by this newcomer, for it was not often that the common lodge was utilized by an unfamiliar face.

Kurhobs, having traversed several leagues through a scorching salt waste, dusted his overcoat and hung it by the wall. With deft, precise motion he signaled to the boy acting as an innkeep during evenings, who came running to probe his desires. Kurhobs, being a large-waisted, brutish man, with ominous dark fuzz covering his etched face and jaw alike a park-bench, had with his mere daunting presence brought about a strained stillness. In a deep voice fit for that of his person, he barked out his demands: the most lavish possible suite and for his supper a roasted fowl, stuffed with whatever vegetables were available during the season, to be washed down with a large canter of wine.
“Make sure it is not mulled, boy. I accept only the very best of your stock, small as it may be.”
With a relieved impression, the boy hurried off to relay the orders to the chef. Meanwhile, Kurhobs chose a table from the corner, flanked by a fireplace, and settled his enormous behind on a stool so that his back faced the wall. He begun to untie the laces of his voluminous boots, paying no heed to the curious looks the drudgemen shot at him - though most present had regulated their ogling routine to as few as they dared, and presently he was given no more than the occasional cursory glance, so as to ascertain that he indeed did yet make use of the chair.

In the nearby company of Manchu, Leipitz and Lor, who had opted not to occupy their bunks yet, a hushed conversation had risen concerning the supposed profession of the newcomer.
Manchu started: “A pawnsman, I am sure of it. With a face like that, what man would refuse to pay his dues?”
Leipitz continued: “I detect a degree of piety in his rigid self-righteousness. Possibly a missionary or a pilgrim; from the Turgic Masculae cult, or the Lattice worshippers?”
Lor: “Fools. See how he is possessed by some atrocious inner struggle? The man is an obvious exile from the deltas, cast out for one heinous crime or another, which now haunts the recesses of his mind.”
Unable to reach concord, it was decided that the one last to finish their cup of Bothoo would be obliged to go forth and put the question to the man himself. Leipitz, who had proposed the wager had without delay begun to devour the last of his brew, and presently was joined by Lor and Manchu. To his dismay, Manchu’s goblet struck the table last. Cursing and muttering, the drudgeman rose and with wary steps took to the table of the daunting stranger.

Without raising his head Kurhobs stated: “Yes, what is your business?” He was preoccupied with tapping the table with his blackened fingernail.
“Pardon, good sir; may I join your company?”
“To what end? I dine alone, give no alms and tell no tales.”
“None whatsoever are required! Forgive my intrusion upon your privacy, but you see - there is a dilemma only you can solve. It is a harmless game we impose upon a new face. The matter is simple: I and my associates made a wager over what sort of profession you practice.”
“Indeed. And what were your conjectures?”
Manchu rubbed his head, and thought for a moment. “For a fact, Lor, my comrade over there waving his hand like a bumbling idiot, surmised that you must be either a hangman or an undertaker. In his own words, which I by no means assent to, such a face as yours must be concealed by a black hood at all times, lest not to traumatize the children.”
A deep frown appeared on Kurhobs’ brow, but Manchu was not finished: “Leipitz, the pox-faced blackguard sitting next to Lor, to his shameful discredit, staked that you are without a doubt a fanatic freak of some foreign sect, which must yet practice the sacrificial immolation of the young.”
A canter of wine was placed demurely on the table by the innkeep surrogate, never once meeting the leering gaze of Kurhobs, who poured a goblet for himself and gulped it down. In an even voice, he asked: “And your own thoughts?”
Seating himself on a vacant chair, the drudgeman continued: ”I cannot agree with the crass remarks uttered by my brethren; as is evident, they are flagrant, uncultured and fall short in refinement. I, Manchu, endorse no blind guessing – I make my conclusions based on rationale and observation: you carry a sword, dress in posh fabrics of the highest quality and expect a good deal for your coin. Your demeanour betrays that your person is one to be passionately motivated to achieve his goal, untouched by the concerns of none other than those involved.”
“Evidently, you are a noble knight of the highest virtue, on his mission to slay a Deodand terrorizing some faraway society, or possibly to extract a captive from the clutches of a vicious tyrant.”
Kurhobs’ wide mouth formed to a relaxed smile; he seemed pleased with the assessment. “Just and so. You are keen of eye, Manchu. Tell me, are you a man of Akhibal? I admit I am somewhat unfamiliar with the ways of this land – possibly you may be able to indulge me.”
“Such favours are complimentary in these parts, and require nothing more than a coin or two, as a mere formality.”
The burly traveller growled in displeasure: “Must I pay for every word extracted? What I would ask is simplicity itself!”
After a moment of importunate haggling, the men agreed a price of two sequins for any and all disclosures imparted during the evening.
“Now, I have had word of a certain nobleman reigning over this region. In particular, I am astonished to hear that a young maiden has been borne to this ruling House. Do the rumours ring true – has a birth occurred?”, asked Kurhobs.
“Doubtless you speak of the esteemed lord Fundame, who is nothing if not a potent magus. I would do well to hold my tongue concerning him on all accounts, but ah, alas I must for my careless, undersold pledge. Little is known, yet hearsay speaks of just such – a baby girl, daughter to our lord having come forth, however incredible such tidings might seem. Despite having lived in the Castle Grue for many a cycle, she has never presented herself to us drudgemen. According to the footmen, there is an inherent fault at play, possibly due to her artificial emergence – evidently age does not trigger her maidenhood.”
“Then she remains a child? Incredible.”
“This I have heard, though in appearance alone. It is said she exhibits a wicked mind, rivalling that of Fundame himself, excelling in particular in devious displays of skulduggery and chicanery.”
“Indeed? Is she capable of carrying a child herself?”
“As to that, I cannot say. The question ought to be put directly to Fundame, though I anticipate that he will be somewhat disinclined to relinquish such bits of knowledge for casual acquaintances, nor yield control of her daughter for experimentation on the subject.”
 “I would imagine not.“, replied Kurhobs with a grin of indeterminate intention. “What of Fundame’s defenses?”
Manchu continued: “Your inquiries have served to convince me that your plans involve this girl in some manner, which may or may not meet the standards of decency. I warn you: Fundame is capable of exerting lethal power by will alone; what you desire could well be your undoing, for there will be no end to the perils should you antagonize my lord Fundame.”
“Worry not for my intentions – I have no such schemes in mind. I ask for mere curiosity’s sake, for a female is a rare thing in this dying realm. Never have I seen one who wasn’t an embalmed corpse or a depiction in a tome of histories, and as such the thought is a saddening one to bear.”, said Kurhobs and downed another goblet of crimson wine.
“One could do much worse than put such thoughts to rest. As you say, the world is drawing to an end, and amidst such rampant decline the wiser man disregards the incongruous yearnings of his soul.”
Kurhobs filled a goblet for Manchu, and with a gruff smile tended it to him. “Tell me then, what is the name of the princess of the lord of the land, so that we may drink to her health and eventual fruitfulness?”
Manchu performed an exaggerated bow and accepted the offering. “She is Rhialti.”







During the final lapses of the unified polyarchy of Acnahav, pantheons of darkened stars alone had borne witness to a protoplasmic birth of cosmic causalities: an incipience of cognition had triggered inside a derelict corpuscle vat of the hypaethrea, a sanctum sanctorum for experiments of the demi-god Fundame, where none was to be, yet life persisted. In similar vats nearby, consisting alike of living matter, abysmal, eyeless and thoughtless beings swam about in their life-bestowing brine fluids; all Fundame’s previous experiments - superfluous and dispensable, but not this, for this was a sentience of measure. Over several lunar cycles the tiny creature in the derelict vat took the form of a human foetus and sapped life from the now awoken living vat that had lain dormant, incidentally becoming its mother surrogate for the time being, though offering not the comfort nor the affection of a womb.

On the azure night of the winter solstice, Fundame, the abitofugal master and demigod of the former Acnahavean polyarchy, had returned into the hypaethral chamber where lay the corpuscle vats which bred life under his yoke. He was an intimidating spectacle himself: transmuted horribly by abitofugal trials of his own devising, Fundame barely bore any semblance of a man anymore; his hulking frame was covered in bulging, gleaming veins which circulated rejuvenating miasma across his ancient body of gigantic proportions, while his stony visage lacked a mouth, yet was braced by a stiff masque forever etched into a mordant scowl. His corpus readily carried by two veined legs like boles, Fundame hurried nigh the reactivated vat and stood aback to wonder, accompanied by two silent figures: the heavily robed manservants who effectuated every whim of their polyarch master, likewise perplexed.

Profoundly astonished, Fundame merely stared at the tiny form floating serenely among the brine liquid; with all attempts of logic to explicate the situation stifled again and again by sheer contradicting impossibility.
”What I foresaw failed to account for this. What ingredients were placed unto this here vat?”, Fundame queried from his aides, his emotions stoic on surface as always.
”Sire, I am certain it is the very vat where lay the integument residuals of the Mya experiment during the previous lapse.”, replied the retainer after a momentary pause for recollection.
”It was intended to consume the matter alike a compost, not to cultivate the rootlife consigned.”, explicated Fundame, more to himself than to his befuddled followers.
”Shall I purge the vat, sire?”, asked the other earnestly.
”By no means! It is a wondrous happenstance; one which we shall investigate with utmost zeal. Allow no one to enter the chamber, and seal the door once we vacate. In fact, purge every other vat of any and all life, excluding this one. I shall be present at the birthing event this time; thus have me notified when the mandrel at last detaches.”

So it was done. Presently the solitary vat of vitality nurtured the creature within for many cycles still in the dark solitude of the hypaethral chamber. In due time, the creature within had assumed a shape to resemble a human; that is to say, a female child. Eventually, when the vat deemed it a suitable time, she was birthed: a slimy pink thing no greater than a sickly infant, nonetheless squalling with potent life. This curious progeny became the prize of Fundame’s abitofugal achievements, though the polyarch went to great lengths to conceal the true nature of origin from the child, who for all intents and purposes resembled a typical child, and exhibited no extraordinary feats nor signs of excess mutation, other than a keen mind perhaps a tad too bright for a child of her apparent age. The child, who was given the name Rhialti, was adopted as the heir to Fundame and his citadel of the Castle Grue, and all the lands of the precinct Akhibal adjoined.

Lockshol, a quaint hamlet of no great size was situated in the vast peninsula of Akhibal, known for its sharded flat landscapes contrasting its orb-like mountains, whose declivities were speckled with spiny, resolute vegetation, while the lower steppes displayed the evidences of meteor impacts as calderas with bodies of murky water sustained on the sola. The relatively fertile slopes of these pits were sparsely settled by men of many cultures, and three villages had formed over time to strengthen commerce and provide protection for the numerous predatory creatures that roamed the rural deserts of Lereina. The climate was known to be temperate and dry, yet at seasons prone to heavy rains of viscous, black liquid; their extraordinary hue explicated by deep-sea corpuscle deposits which at intervals dyed the ocean’s waters with a residual inky substance, much to the profit of the local thatchsweep drudgemen. What distinguished Lockshol from the other two settlements, which were otherwise similar of size and population, was the presence of the stronghold of the patron of the entire Akhibal province, that is to say, the presence of Castle Grue, where the polyarch Fundame made his lair. He was known rarely to meddle in the lives of the common folk of his administrative territories, and though whether by instilling fear or employing alchemic magicks Fundame’s presence kept predators and villains at bay. Visitors were often told to forbear intruding on the mystical studies of their liege lord, as common knowledge dictated loiterers on the grounds of the old castle were sometimes abducted and consequently included in unspeakable invocations of daemonic nature. The truth in the matter for these implications was of little consequence, as few dared to approach the uncanny residence, in itself an ominous sight, with four turrets of erratic shapes situated in the inner courtyard of the village Lockshol, and it’s towery oblong nexus dominating the crater valley, shadowing a few dozen cottages and manses of olden architecture.

In one of the extrinsic spires the demigod Fundame reflected upon his options. He occupied a chamber lavishly decorated with rich murals covering the walls of pulsating fabric and simplistic tapestries portraying formulae in the Omnium, the method of world-measuring of the cissomatic gnosists, and illuminated by four apertures opening into the lake vista where myahud - the sol, was letting out its last rays before settling for the mirk. Fundame lay on a bed of grown fungus cushions that were cultured to exude pleasant fragrances and cozy warmth, and reached a gigantic hand for a sweetmalt oval from a nearby receptacle. Consuming the moist stamen with much gusto, a brief squeaking sound suddenly shattered the serene state he had assumed. A muffled voice emanated from behind fluttery curtains that sequestered the chamber from the corridor: ”Sire, my utmost apologies, but a visitor would not be restrained-“, the voice was cut short and terminated in a high-pitched whine, signaling extreme annoyance. An emissary, clothed in a combination of the finest cloaks and scarves, adorned with jewelry of gold and platinum, entered the chamber by a furious sweep of the curtains.
“Lord Fundame, at last I have found you!”, screamed the emissary. He was an ochre-skinned subman of many years, accustomed to the pamperings and flatteries of the lesser submen. Despite his seemingly effortless life the emissary had aged poorly: heavy wrinkles crossed his face; sagging purple bags of flesh hung from beneath his weary, cataractous eyes; and his moustache, albeit dense, had began to discolor to resemble the hue of burned ash. To conceal pattern baldness, the emissary had resolved to shave and carefully oil his pate, on which an elaborate cap now hung, artfully arrayed, yet regardless of the effort conveying an amusing image.
Anxiously redressing his wrappings, the man continued: “Sire, I have come from afar. After a journey, unimaginably strenuous, your good-for-nothing majordomo had the nerve to hamper my passage here, to you! He would not hear the demands of those I represent, and thus I resolved to convey them to you in person!”
The emissary paused to probe for a reaction, but Fundame sat silent, his metallic visage betraying no emotions. “Ahem. I, the highly esteemed ambassador Luracz, of the House of Mothers, hereby deliver the totality of the ultimatum, which insists affirmation!” From within his robes, Luracz produced a parchment, which bore the seal of the Polyarchy. It has come to our knowledge that you, Sire, are harboring an object, to which I will now affix the term ‘Young Mother’. The guild’s laws, which govern over the Polyarchy of Acnahav are unmistakable! No renegade Mothers are to exist outside the boundaries of our sanctioned conclaves! In accordance to the terms of this here mandate, you must relinquish the ownership of this Young Mother, to be extradited among her kin! I am the licensed envoy to whom the Young Mother is to be entrusted during voyage, and I am ready to receive her now, so we can leave behind this unpleasant business altogether.”
At last Fundame spoke in an even, controlled voice that seemed to resonate from somewhere inside his external metallic shell: “For three reasons I shall deny you and your masters: First, my daughter, Rhialti is not a ‘Young Mother’, for she can bear no children. Second, the Polyarchy was discontinued and disbanded, thus its laws govern over no land. Third: Rhialti is her own being, and hence requires not the convention or conservation of your House.”
Luracz, appalled, could utter no word for moment, but finally found his tongue: “Sire, do you deny the will of the Polyarchy?!”
“By the death of our esteemed D’myad and the disappearance of the noble Mu, the Polyarchy was shattered, and no longer holds sway the realm. Such authority as the House of Mothers now commands reaches only as far as their influence of arms. Nonetheless, I recognize the significance of your House, and I shall adhere to stipulations of old. Our covenant exists as before.”
Fundame continued: “Therefore, I do not challenge the established monopoly of the House of Mothers; however, I find the terms you proposed to be based upon falsehood and fabrication. Rhialti does not meet the criteria to be classified as ‘Young Mother’, or any other entity over which you claim control.”
Luracz harrumphed with contempt: “To suggest that a female would not be a Mother hinges on imprudent irreverence - such a being would surely be an execrated abomination! As they are, your contradictions have me suggesting that possibly an affectual connection exists which confounds rationale. Sire, were you any other, I would submit a public accusation upon your honor!”
“In these times, we do what we must” replied the hollow metallic voice without due concern.
“We shall investigate the matter with minute attention! If you will not subject her to my care, I will call forth an agent of the House to conduct a full analysis! We will have satisfaction!”
With this, the emissary hurried off, leaving Fundame to his thoughts. A vacuous sigh echoed in the chamber; Fundame had lost the taste for sweetmalt.
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