Lashuk bin Karim Balyon

Lashuk bin Karim Balyon, the Lion of Elanta and the River of Justice, Who Holds the Reins of the Sun

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Lashuk bin Karim Balyon was born to a wealthy family. His father, a rich man with several wives, was a merry soul, a trait his sons inherited. However, he was a man in power, as well, and powerful men have obligations. One of these was to the Order of Elanta. They demanded a tribute from him, and so he gave his middle son of seven. Lashuk was taken to be a holy man in their order. However, the ways of priests did not sit well with the young man. Where they were pious, he was irreverent. Where they were serious, he was carefree. Where they were sober, he was drunk.

He drove the order to distraction. However, they refused to give up on the youth, less his father find his way out from his promise. They had a last-ditch effort to turn the boy from his impious ways. A special drink was made, using blessed water as a base, with various herbs brewed into it. It was known to cause visions, and those who drank were led on a spiritual journey by the brothers who tended to him (generally through whispers while the initiate hallucinated).

However, when he drank the potion, rather than rave and thrash about, he simply grew still, his breathing measured, his eyes open but apparently seeing nothing. The priests thought the brew was false, or that Elanta had chosen to punish the boy for his impudence. They began funerary rites for the boy, and waited for him to die.

To their surprise, he did not die. He truly had experienced visions while under the brew. However, they were nothing like the visions the Order had planned to induce.

The boy claimed to have seen Elanta. He told them that he had spent three days at her side, tending to her, kissing away her tears. She had told him many things. She told him that she cried for the suffering of the people of the world, and only their joy could ease her pain. That it was the true Elantan’s duty to be as joyful as possible, and thus alleviate her sorrow. He told this to the priests, and they were furious.

They called him heretic, and told him that he mocked Elanta. They beat him, set on him with sticks and scourges, but he would not recant. He held to his vision for seven days, when the priests finally threw him from their temple, with nothing more than a simple robe on his back. They could not kill him in the temple, as it was a holy place, so why not let the desert finish him off?

He wandered for perhaps a day and most of a night when he fell into a Grakkor encampment. It was here that he met Malzen. Malzen cared for the boy, helped him find his strength again. Lashuk found in Mal a kindred spirit, a man who laughed at the worst the world could offer, and made it less bleak through tales of derring-do. Lashuk would spend a year with the Grakkor, riding with them, before returning.

He next visited his father, quietly. His father had been told that his son was dead, and had been very surprised to see him, grown tall and tanned, with the first signs of a beard. He welcomed his son with open arms. Lashuk was glad to see his father, but told him that he must go and travel, for there were many things he must see. Before he left, however, his father made to him the gift of a fine spear and a skin that would make wine from water.

Lashuk traveled for a time, looking for adventure, hiding his true nature. He was a good fighter, this much was clear, but he seemed little more to those who met him. However, there was a fire burning inside him, being fed by each victory, banked by every hardship. He grew better with each passing day. His name was spoken with respect, and then whispered with awe. He grew bolder. He killed bandit lords, stood against great beasts of the desert, and slept with the most beauteous women in the land, often under their husbands’ noses.

By the time he was twenty years in age, he stood tall and straight, with a full beard kept neatly trimmed. He wore no armor, not caring who he fought. Somehow, weapons seemed to slide away. His spear was chained to a band around his arm, and he used the chains to terrible effect when he fought. He was strong, but something more than his muscles seemed to guide his spear.

Finally, he returned to the place from which he was exiled.

“Who is it who comes to Elanta’s temple?” asked the priests.

“Lashuk bin Karim Balyon,” he replied.

“That man is dead,” they told him. “He died of fever and madness.”

“You tell a lie,” he said, “as you lied before. I am Elanta’s chosen. I am her warrior. The spear I carry has become her justice. The water at my side her mercy. If you killed the boy, years ago, still you awoke something new. I say again, I am Lashuk bin Karim Balyon, the Lion of Elanta!”

The entire host of priests rushed from the temple to attack him, bearing cudgels and staves. He defeated them all, never so much as taking the cover from his spear’s head, never breaking skin or causing injury. When the last was laid out, he walked into the temple, and sat to pray.

If you ask the priests what happened next, they will say that Lashuk spat on the temple floor, but could do no more than that before Elanta’s power banished him away.

If you ask one who favors stories of the Lion of Elanta, he will tell you that he went to pray, and the statue of Elanta came to life to give him her blessing.

But if you ask Musarid, banished from the priesthood soon after for drunkenness, he will tell you that Lashuk merely stood before the statue, kissed it on the cheek like a little boy kissing his mother, and then walked away. And (though he was quick to say it might be no more than his imagination), it seemed as though the statue was less sad, as though some small hope had come to rest there. At any rate, it is true that the priests of the temple soon had the old statue removed to a storeroom, and had a new, grander statue installed in its place.

Lashuk bin Karim Balyon

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