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"Even with all that has happened since, the waiting was still the hardest part. The decision to turn my back on the dictates of my Voivode and all the law, that was easy; I loved my people, and so I had no choice. But the painful days of waiting for strangers to arrive weighed on my mind like nothing else could. I watched from the high tower, waiting to see them walk the main road, lone visitors to my city, one from each direction. For months, I kept a terrible vigil.

"In time, they came to my palace in their finery and in their rags, pointed there by my guards, seeking rest on their journeys or safe haven from things outside my walls. I kept them from the inns and took them into my home, for the lonely should have comfort. I dined with them and swore to them great oaths of friendship and protection. And then I broke their trust.

"They numbered five. I remember their names, though I won't sin again by speaking them aloud. I locked them away in my darkest dungeon while I prepared my table. I learned how it was to be done from the man in ancient dress; the pure white of the tableware, the spices to use in the cooking, the ritual arrangement of dishes and the order of their eating. With all prepared, I served my prisoners.

"I have never tasted meat so fine. I drank down the blood soup, I chewed tender muscle straight from the bone. My stomach stretched and tore with the amount I ate, my skin turned ashen, but my hunger did not abate. I ate on, and soon felt something inside eating me.

"I have... changed... since my feast. I am corpulent, huge in my proportions as no man has ever been; my legs are long as an elephants, and just as bloated, my stomach is distended, my arms sagging. My throat has puffed to batrachian proportions, and if I try I can pretend not to see the razor-lined maw that hides in the folds of its fat, or the eyes.

"My mind is in retreat; I am no longer wholly in control of my own senses. There is something else that pushes through, this thing that is consuming me. It hungers, and I must feed it. I have eaten my palace staff and my wives, and spat out their nightmares to take unholy shape in Creation. But they are not enough. I can feel, far to the north, that for which I truly hunger. It is sharp and golden and fine. It is a spear, and I feel I know it well.

-- Mahish Salar, Pashah of Puyo

Heaven's Mandate