Background: Setesh the Outlander

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  • Setesh the Outlander, Vizier to Phatep

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    Greatest of all the kings of Naptesh was Phatep, who sat at the right hand of the gods
    Under his divine rule
    the summers were long, the harvests were
    bountiful, and the borders of the empire
    stretched from the mountains to the western
    sea. His queen was Teput the Wise,
    and together they ruled in harmony over
    the peoples of the valley and the desert.
    Vizier to Phatep was Setesh the Outlander,
    whose heart grew hard with envy
    of his king. In secret he brought together
    others of the younger houses of Naptesh,
    promising them wealth and power
    when he came to rule. First among
    Setesh’s conspirators was Nepharet, the
    queen of Hanaphuk. Nepharet had long
    resented the rule of the kings of The-
    met, and saw in Setesh’s plot a chance
    to elevate her own city above all others.
    Together with his conspirators, Setesh
    devised a trap. When Phatep travelled
    by sea to speak to the little men of the
    mountains, a splendid banquet was prepared
    in Nepharet’s court for his return.
    When the white sails of the ship were
    seen on the horizon, Setesh instructed
    that the king was to be brought to the
    palace in the hours of darkness, so that
    none would see him come or go.
    When the banquet table had been laid
    and the king given the seat of honour,
    Nepharet bade her servants produce
    a wondrous chest, ornamented with
    gold and lapis lazuli. With fine words,
    Nepharet told all present she would present
    it as a gift to the first of her guests
    who could fit themselves wholly inside
    its walls.
    One by one, Nepharet’s guests tried and
    failed, protesting that they could not fit
    themselves inside. At last, in his cups,
    the king was prevailed upon to try. The
    moment Phatep knelt down inside the
    chest, Setesh’s lackeys slammed shut the
    lid. Drawing their swords, they ran the
    chest through, striking again and again
    until their blades ran red with the blood
    of the king. Nepharet and the conspirators
    drank of the blood that ran from the
    chest, hoping to gain some measure of
    the king’s divine power.
    It was at this time that Setesh the traitor
    chose to emerge from the shadows. He
    bade his followers cut Phatep’s body into
    nine pieces. He commanded that each of
    the pieces of Phatep’s body be sealed in
    a gilded chest of its own, and carried far
    from Nepharet’s palace to conceal the
    evidence of their crime. Setesh would
    return to Tehmet and take the throne,
    claiming the king’s ship had been lost at
    sea. He took with him the king’s heart,
    knowing that was where Phatep’s true
    divinity resided.
    Unknown to Setesh, one of his followers
    Tekhamun, the Twice-Turned – already
    grew sick with guilt at what they
    had done, the taste of the king’s blood
    turning foul on his tongue. So it was that
    on his journey home, Tekhamun threw
    the chest containing Phatep’s head into
    the great River Napaat, which carried it
    to the feet of Queen Teput.
    Teput had received summons from
    Setesh to attend him at court, but knew
    now the treachery of Phatep’s grand
    vizier. Carrying her husband’s head as
    proof, she rallied the old families of
    Naptesh against the usurper, and the
    empire was torn by civil war. At first, it
    appeared Setesh could not hope to triumph
    against Teput and her allies. Their
    wealth was greater, their armies more
    mighty. Setesh, however, had stolen the
    heart of the king, and with it the power
    of the gods themselves.
    Setesh threw open the gates of the underworld,
    dragging the dead from their
    rest to fight for him again, and the ar-
    mies of Teput were thrown back. For
    years the war raged, poisoning the lands
    of the empire. Cities were razed and villages
    were burned, leaving only death
    and sorrow behind. Disgusted at what
    had become of their favoured son, the
    gods turned their backs on Naptesh.
    A terrible drought turned the fertile
    fields of Naptesh to dust, and the traitors
    who had drunk of Phatep’s blood
    were afflicted with a curse of eternal
    thirst. Still Setesh’s army of the dead
    fought on, needing neither drink, nor
    food, nor shade.
    After long years of bloodshed, Teput
    brought Setesh himself to battle on the
    Plain of Takhat. Beneath the blaze of the
    sun, the two armies clashed, while the
    usurper and the rightful queen sought
    each other out. Face to face, they fought
    until at last they fell, each having dealt
    the other a mortal wound. As they lay
    dying, Setesh mocked Teput. I have no
    fear of death, he told her, for I have made
    myself master of death. But when your
    death comes, your spirit will become a
    subject in my realm.
    Even as Setesh breathed his last, Teput
    realised the terrible truth of his promise.
    She cried to the gods of Naptesh to
    spare her, and she was answered. The
    gates of the underworld were shut forever,
    sealing Setesh in as god of his own
    prison. In turn, the people of Naptesh
    were condemned never to know peace
    in the halls of the afterlife, wandering
    instead in this world as the restless dead.
    So it was that the Kingdom of Naptesh
    became the Kingdom of the Dead.
    Those living who remained in the haunted
    lands soon fled, their fields already
    turned to ash by the curse of the gods.
    Only those nobles who could not bear to
    leave the proud history of their ancestors
    remained. Waited on by households
    of the dead, they lingered in their palaces
    of marble and alabaster until death
    came for them. Then their undead servants
    would embalm them according to
    the ancient custom, and carry them to
    their tombs, to wait down the long ages
    against the day that Setesh the betrayer
    could be destroyed, and their path to
    paradise made clear once more.
    They are still waiting

    Variations on this myth have been found in the Annals of the Dust Sea and in the oldest catacombs
    of Avras. Records exist of another account encountered by the crusaders of Equitaine
    under the rock formations on the north coast of Naptesh known as the Pillars of Har-Khowar
    - regrettably, these carvings were destroyed at the order of the priesthood of Sunna - B. U.

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