"We're passing over the Drowned Land."
"Indeed?" He looked down, as if hoping to see Titays itself, the drowned capital city of the giants. "We're passing over Tesut?"
"Yes. We sometimes have to be careful for the highest of the sunken mountains below us. You're an educated man, Master Falnee--"
"I try to be. I'm going to Wal Langand to learn more."
"How did an entire land sink into the sea? I hear different stories. Which one is the truth?"
"According to what I have been taught, Tesut was not originally part of Tu's land masses. But when Tjisir, the Kaan of storm of thunder, had children by the human woman Japastea, they were giants. Japastea died delivering the twins, Johymon and Jodea, the first male and female giants. In turn, Johymon and Jodea had human mates, and their children were also giants. Afraid that the giants would enslave and kill the humans, Angusin, ruler of all the Kaanho, spoke with Tjisir, the stormking. Tjisir in turn spoke with Sashang, the Kaan of the Sea...and his mother. His father was off course Sagin Shadowlord. Sashang rose a land out of the deep, which became Tesut. Then Tjisir removed the giants from the mainland, and brought them to that new land. Being of Kaan-blood as well as mortal blood, and favored by Tjisit, they grew strong while letting the purebred humans multiply on the mainland. They reached a high civilization before the mainland did, while humans were still organized in tribes.
"Too high, perhaps. They ruled from the capital city, Titays, and even sent enclaves into the mainland. Long sundered from their human cousins, they captured the "savages", and sometimes even killed and ate them. That was rare. They weren't that interested in the wild lands of the mainland, but instead were sufficient in Tesut, which in their language means "sea-gave-land". They called it also Atlates, the Strong Isle in their language. It was many mountained and cold by our standards, perfect for giants."
The cabin boy spoke up. "I've never even seen a giant. What do they look like?"
The rest grinned about how parochial the lad sounded, but Falnee answered seriously. "They range between twelve to eighteen feet tall, and are proportionally a lot broader than men. They tend to be slow to react and not quick-witted, in the sense that they cannot think of responses quickly. But their deep thinkers take a long time and delve deeply in a subject. You're from the South, right? It's no wonder you never saw one. They tend to like mountains and the cold, and although some dwell in the mountains to the north of my land, Grejakim, so we would often see them as traders and workers, the further south you go, the more likely you are not to see them. There are some variations among them---the one-eyed cyclopses, for instance...but most of them look like you and I, only bigger and broader."
"So what happened to the land?"
"Sashang reclaimed it."
Falnee paused. "There arose an Empress among the giants called Tethonea. Her father had been a great sailor, and had discovered some of the isles to the east of the mainland. In particular, he discovered Wal Moortz, the Accursed Isle, where Sagin is kept imprisoned.
"His daughter was fascinated by the idea of a Kaan, indeed, of their forefather, being imprisoned. When young, she sailed to Wal Moortz---Golites in the language of the giants...and stayed there two years, talking with Sagin, but unable to get in. She would sit by the shining black tower, surmounted by three demon's heads, and talk to the trapped Kaan within. The Tower was made by C'Don the Creator, and no power, neither Kaan, nor elf, nor giant, nor mortal, could force it. He told her many secrets though, many things hidden from most mortals. One of the secrets he told her of was of the Flame of Chialta, with which Angusin, King of the Kaanho, can talk to C'Don, the Creator of the things that are. Of Zaer, of death, of the Undying Lands where mortals go after their death.
Of the shades of the dead Emperors of the giants that lay in Zaer's lands....and Tethonea wondered if there was any way to imprison Zaer, or to influence him. For if Zaer were imprisoned, then giants, as well as humans and other creatures, would not be subject to death, would have endless lifespans like the elves or the Kaanho. For Tethonea had seen her mother drown as a child, and dreaded the thought of growing old and dying.
"'If we could make bonds of the same material this tower is composed of, would it hold Zaer?'
"'Yes, nothing in Tu...including the mightiest Kaan, can force any part of this. By the same token, nothing can break or forge anything with it. It is a product of the power of C'Don, which nothing can break. But...even the tower can be used.'
"'Listen.' And the whispering and planning proceeded.
"Tethonea enlisted the aid of her relatives. She slowly cultivated those she felt might be receptive to her plans, among the great families of Tesut. As the heir to the throne, everybody cultivated her favor, and she made sure she threw her favor towards those who would dare much...and who feared death unduly. Those who would serenely accept death, and had no desire to change the way things were, found themselves carefully removed from her favor. So when her father died, and she became Empress, the great families of Tesut were all of like mind to her...and slowly, she revealed her plans to the heads of the great families. She proceeded slowly, cautiously. It took decades.
"Meanwhile, Sagin talked to his old lover, Sashang, Mistress of the Oceans, as the spray hit the Accursed Isle, Wal Moortz. Sashang is wild and wayward, but she still carried memories of her love for Sagin. Sagin can be very charming and persausive.
"Then one summer, Tethonea and the prince her son announced they would be taking a cruise with a fleet of ships. Many representatives of the great families were with them, but the head of such families stayed behind, to keep Tesut's society functioning, and not panicked by the lack of a ruler.
"They sailed around the Great Lands, Cathrarho, and then on rounding the Eastern side, stopped on Wal Moortz, the Accursed Isle. She, her son, and twenty giants were led to the island, and oddly enough, twenty smiths.
"'Are you planning to build something, Mother?' asked the Prince. Now it must be admitted that relations between the Empress and her son were not always the friendliest. She often thought he wished her dead, so that he would be Emperor. She did not like the thought of anyone supplanting her. She certainly did not relish the thought of dying, and she privately thought he was like a carrion bird, waiting for her to die.
"'Yes, indeed,' said Tethonea. 'I am building a new age for all on Tu.' She motioned to the guards...and they grabbed the young prince and gagged him, and his mother lifted a knife to kill him. She plunged it in...
"Then she saw a man with silver-gray hair and beard, clad in silver and black, walking towards her son. Usually unseen, on Wal Moortz Sagin could so weave things shadow and illusion so that Death's presence could be detected. He walked towards the dying prince. She heard her son's death rattle, the cold eyes of death walking towards her son...then there was a shadow behind her....
"A wave higher than the clouds, it seemed was coming at Wal Moortz. A tidal wave, yet oddly concentrated in one peak rather than along the entire bredth of the island...and that one peak was aimed straight at the Dark Tower in which C'Don had placed Sagin. With amazing fury, it struck the Tower full on.
"The Tower is indestructible. Not so the island on which it was rooted. "The wave toppled the tower...not harming it, but uprooting it from the soil of the island. A shadow crossed Zaer, as the great tower slowly toppled--all in a piece--right towards Death himself. It fell right towards the young prince whose body was cooling, and for Zaer striding for that body. Zaer barely noticed. Physical objects are not an impediment to him. He can walk right through them, usually...
But neither Kaan, nor elf, nor giant, nor jinn, can pierce the stuff of which Sagin's prison is made. It hit Zaer straight on, and pinned him. Startled, he tried to throw off the immense weight. But he was caught at a bad angle, where he had almost no leverage. Nor could all his great strength avail to lift the Black Tower off him.
Death lay trapped.
CONTINUED IN THE DROWNED LAND, PART TWO .
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