This story had to relate historical events based on a single sitting of the game, Citadels
The old man, Shah Mutobo the Keeper, walked across the high stone bridge without looking anywhere except inside of himself. The yellow-white light of cloudless afternoon painted the granite in clear colors, brought out the dark umber of his skin. The neat rows of his hair were as gray as his eyes were black. The electric blue of his kimono stood out against the rock and the washed out winter landscape which spread out below and around him. He stopped at the lighthouse door, ran his fingers over smooth wood older than his grandfather’s grandfather. He thought about time. He thought about how long a thousand years was. He thought about dying without knowing the answer.
He pushed and locks slid silently free, the door opened and he walked into the darkness and rosy light.
Shah Mutobo knew that he was the last of his line. Though they didn’t know it yet, the young boys and men beneath him, who trained so patiently and worked so diligently to fulfill his every confusing and obscure command, on the off chance that they might one day rise to his rank, would never be given the chance. Shah Mutobo suspected that they would be killed along with him, though the Northerners might spare some to act as museum keepers for what remained of the Lighthouse. What good was a sect of impotent scholar priests, philosophically dedicated to everything that the ruling class opposed? None. His stomach lurched, and he felt bile crawling up the back of his throat. He paused, leaned against a fresco of Kefasa the Seaman and his seventeen wives, and pushed his forehead into the cool stone. He had to be clear now. He had to destroy it before they arrived. And that was no easy task.
He moved quickly and silently through the interlocking rooms of the massive building. It had taken years to build, even with the stolen magic pushing it up like a giant tree, filling its body with books that coalesced out of smoke and fog. Its rooms were practically endless. Some that yawned like gaping chasms, others so close that a girl child would have had trouble turning around. All of them packed with books and scrolls, plans and diagrams, written in a language that only the Keeper could read. Only him. No other. The histories and the dreams of a nation of gods long gone to dust; an inheritance of omniscience, with no power to bring it to life.
The lighthouse wasn’t the center of the city, and its stones were not the first laid in Sonnen. The first and the center was the Great Prison, now called the Center Citadel, built on the commission of Nathutep the Imperial Hound as a sewer for the refuse of the Empire of Heaven. It was Nathutep’s betrayal, his freeing of the prisoners that had led to the Subluminary Schism, the time that the stories called the Division of the Rose. At that time, Shah Mutobo’s ancestors had been fishmongers eking out a living on the shores of the Great Ine, the river that fed the whole of the Southlands. They had cared far more for the tides of carp than the tides of kings. But everyone had been swept up in the changes, everything had changed in the fourteen hundred years since Nathutep had freed the prisoners, turned them into an army and scourge, and renamed himself Kas Nathutep, Nathutep the Chosen.
Shah Mutobo knew the history of Sonnen, and the history of the other three lands, better than most. Perhaps better than all but the Assassin-Wizards of the Northlands. Perhaps better than all. He knew the names of the succeeding Kas of Sonnen. Kas Mickel the King, son of Nathutep, and poseur Emperor to the Fallen Lands. Kas Carlyen the Seller, Kas Morundum the Caster, Kas Noctuhe the Blood Rain, Kas Jocanth who saw the edge of the world. Kas Shiv, the King in Shadows whose paranoid plotting and ineffectual attempts at assassination made him the mockery of the Four Lands. Kas Ido, the Hammer, who brought his fist repeatedly down on the lands of Caralot, whose cunning and guile stopped the steam-driven battle engines in their tracks.
Shah Mutobo stopped in the great hall, peered at the endless parchments that had been his life’s work and love. He felt sick again as he opened the storage chest.
The most important of the Kas, at least as far as Shah Mutobo was concerned, was Kas Ui, also called Ui the Beautiful, Ui the Angel, Ui the Companion. Ui had been a prostitute before she became Kas. She had also been intelligent, cunning, brave and wise. That was why she manipulated her way into Mickel’s bed, and why she had convinced the fat bastard to designate her to be the next Kas. The nobles had almost rioted but the people had loved her. She was kind and common, but elegant. She had been the talk of all the Four Lands for years. What no one had known, no one but the Keepers of later years, and perhaps the rulers of the other lands themselves, was that Ui was also a thief. She was the single greatest thief of all time. Everything about her was a tool at her disposal, her body, her mind, her will. She stole the gold of the Gods and made the grateful for the theft. Ui had unearthed the magic of the Lighthouse. Even the Keepers did not know how she found the spells, the plans, the places of power. They knew only that she had journeyed long and hard, had lost her lover, her brother and her eye, but not her beauty or her strength. And that she cast the spells that built the Lighthouse of Time. The whole order of the Scholarum was dedicated to her vision.
It was also Ui who knew enough to hide the Lighthouse’s true power. She planned for the Keepers to leak the plans of the Great Wall, she knew that after she died the plans would be stolen from her by the Wizard-Assassins of the North. She knew that the rulers and scholars of the other Citadels would think that the entire purpose of the Lighthouse was to bring forth the God’s Engineers to design and build the Wall. And why not? The wall was a wonder in its own right, perhaps a far greater wonder. It stretched twice the height of the Lighthouse, and it surrounded the entire land of the North. It made their barriers all but impregnable. Only the crazed crusader knights of Janeus had been willing to spend enough of their own blood to make it over the Wall. But it’s true purpose was the education of the Scholarum, the guidance of the Keepers, and the fulfillment of the prophecy.
Shah Mutobo opened the iron chest and pulled out the vats of oil. He struggled to drag them to the center of the great book stacks.
The Kas were guided by the Scholarum of the Light, and directly by the Keepers of the Lighthouse. The keepers provided what wisdom they could, tried to shape and direct the uncontrollable passion of the kings, to the achievement of their own ends. And the keepers all had one end. To make sure that the Citadel of Sonnen rule at the dawn of the Sun. The Lighthouse had secrets other than the Lost Great Wall, now encircling and guarding the deluded zealots of the North. It had one secret greater than any other, one secret that only the Keeper knew. That there would come a time when the world would lock into place, and from that point on, one Citadel, and one Citadel only would rule. The lands would reunite, and the shape of time would be formed on the imprint of the ruling house. Forever.
The Keepers had done their jobs well. They had guided the Hammer in his destruction of Caralot, guided the Caster in his impoverishment of Janeus, and kept the twin Queendoms in check throughout time. They had even helped to put play the Seller’s subtle manipulation of Janean forces in the brutal destruction of the Northland Idolators. Shah Mutobo had been alive for that, though an acolyte only. He could still remember the newsboys shouts, as they held out stippled dageurotypes showing the witch-king’s head on a pig pole.
He pulled the candle and the lighter from his belt, and stared at them, spun them in his wrinkled fingers.
Shah Mutobo himself had guided the last king, twisted runt Kas Fua, another paranoid insomniac obsessing over hidden slights, and plotting pointless murders. Shah Mutobo had made certain that the little Kas had built the church that brought the Citadel of Sonnen into alignment. He had laid the keystones, done the blood rituals himself, checked the axis of the Holy Sephulcre, worked out the sidereal equations to exactitude. More than any other man, he had closed the door on the age of the Split Rose, and ensured the return of unity. Only he had made a mistake.
Somehow the men of the North were stronger. Somehow their assassin priests had shifted the balance in their direction. And the rest of time would suffer for it. Shah Mutobo knew that he had failed, and he knew the cost. Sonnen was a free land, built by free men. They valued democracy, they elected their Kas now. Certainly that election was a sham, maintained by the Scholarum, but the people believed they were free. They believed that they had a choice. The Northlands were a religious zealotry of brutal labor and potentate oppression. He knew it, because he had been taught it. And now the whole world would be shaped in their image.
And so he stood in the center of the Lighthouse, Keeper, and destroyer, and he spilled the lamps and lit the candle. The Lighthouse would shine. And in the shining it would throw a wrench into the cosmic cogs. Parallel worlds would shine through. Other histories, other possibilities. The white men would walk the land. Heroes would rise and fall. Darkness and light, shadow and flame. Forever. Instead of one land united throughout time, under the rule of the North, Shah Mutobo would give birth to an endless cycle of life and death. Citadels would rise, hold power briefly, fall to ashes. Civilization would loop back on itself over and over again. He couldn’t stop the prophecy he had completed, but he could write new ones.
The flames licked his hand, and he dropped the candle