Zin-Gll'Hanaan, by Chris Hoekstra

Story name: Zin-Gll'Hanaan
Author: Chris Hoekstra

Date: Unknown
Location: Metamor Keep (Lothanasi temple, Pascal's lab, main hall, gardens)

Overview

Scratch has a terrible headache, not knowing that he is the target of a mysterious assassin.

Summary

Two woman get caught in a Lutin ambush while travelling to Metamor Keep; the older woman Chandra gets a severe head injury, but the two of them are rescued by a patrol. While the younger woman Selena waits in town away from the curse, Chandra is given three days to recover. After two days, Chandra awakens with no memory of who she is, who Selena is, or why she was travelling to Metamor Keep.

Kimberly, who assists Brian at times, offers to show Chandra around the Keep. Jione joins them, and offers Rickkter to join them when they see him. Rickkter suddenly pales when he sees Chandra, and runs off, shouting "Zin-Gll'Hanaan" and other words in a strange language.

Meanwhile, Scratch's severe headache prevents him from following Raven's lessons. He takes two pain-relieving pills from Pascal and goes for a run in his animal form, but to no avail. Unwilling to ask Brian Coe for help, he asks Raven for something that can control it. Reluctantly, she prepares a form of meditation called the Circles, known to mid-level acolytes as a way to shut out all disturbances from the mind. It can be dangerous for novices; she cautions him to not go any deeper than she tells him. Scratch accepts, and lets his mind go.

In the garden, Chandra has a fainting spell, and Kimberly and Jione take her to the infirmary and leave to find Brian in the library. Brian listens to their story and is curious about Rickkter's reaction. They catch Kee's attention and ask him for a translation; he tells them "Zin-Gll'Hanaan" means "Soul Hunter", and flees similarly to Rickkter. The three Keepers pale, while above them Raven faints.

Chandra has a vision of two women, one of whom calls herself the daedra Lilith. She restores Chandra's memory and identity as a Soul Hunter. Chandra breaks into the Lothanasi temple to kill Scratch, but with a jolt, the tiger stands up and introduces himself as Sivikian. He effortlessly stops Chandra's magic and advances upon Chandra.

Some time later, Raven arrives with a squad of soldiers, and is shocked to see the inner chamber covered in blood, with Scratch standing with his back to them. He collapses when she says his name. With a bit of magic, Raven revives Scratch, who coughs up bloody chunks and asks what happened. He has no memory of what happened, so Raven sends the guards away and asks him to find the soul stone.

After Scratch helps Raven clean up, she explains the history of Soul Hunters, the Necromancers whom they were ordered to kill. She destroys the soul stone Chandra was carrying, and dismisses Scratch. Scratch is surprised when he realizes his headache is gone.

Characters

Main characters:

  • Chandra: An old woman, a Soul Hunter. She loses her memory after hitting her head on the carriage. After two days of unconsciousness, she is well enough for a tour. She faints in the gardens, where in her dreams, Lilith restores her identity. She attempts to kill Scratch in the Lightbringer temple, but Sivikian is already prepared for her, and kills her.
    • In her dream, she wears a dark blue cloak with silver and white symbols and many colorful beads in different styles.
  • Raven: The Keep Lightbringer, a wolf morph. She has been on edge recently, and Scratch's headache does not help. She finally teaches Scratch a method of meditation called the circles to help him with his headache. She is surprised to see Scratch has taken care of Chandra, and cleans up the temple while teaching Scratch about soul stones.
  • Scratch: A former thief, and a tiger morph. He has become a servant to Akkala, the goddess of healing, after she saved his life. Despite not being a Lothanasi, Raven instructs him in the roles he must perform for Akkala. With his headache, he is unable to concentrate on his lessons, and Raven allows him to learn about the Circles. He awakes with no memory of encountering Chandra, and helps Raven clean up, after which he learns about Necromancers and Soul Stones.

Supporting:

  • Jione: A scout commander for the Keep, a female gender morph. She rescues Chandra and Selena, and later joins Chandra and Kimberly on a tour of the Keep.
  • Kimberly: A rat morph who sometimes assists Brian with patients. She gives Chandra a tour of the Keep.
  • Pascal: The Keep alchemist, and Scratch's love interest. She gives Scratch some pills to relieve his headache, but to no effect. She had a dinner date with Scratch that evening, but Scratch had to cancel it.
  • Kee: A Keep messenger, originally from the Eastern kingdoms. He translates "Zin-Gll'Hanann" before he also runs for cover.
  • Lilith: A daedra lord, one of the two nature goddesses of the pantheon. She represents predation, competition, and nature's dark and violent side. She is the one who sent a Soul Hunter for Scratch. In Chandra's vision, she is dressed in black, with long black hair.
  • Sivikian: Scratch's shadow. He takes over Scratch's body when he enters a deep meditation, and messily kills Chandra. Scratch reawakens with no memory of being possessed by him.

Minor characters:

  • The carriage driver: He promised safe passage to his two passengers for a steep price, but he dies before his carriage can outrun the Lutins.
  • Selena: A young woman who accompanies Chandra to the Keep. She asks to wait in town, safe from the curse, for Chandra to heal. In reality, she is a junior Soul Hunter in training, and most likely escaped.
  • Rickkter: A raccoon morph and a scout. He is part of the team that rescues Selena and Chandra. Later, he recognizes Chandra as a Soul Hunter, and flees to the cellars, shouting phrases in Aramaic.
  • Brian Coe: The Keep medic.

Cameo:

  • Kwanzaa: A scout and a shrew morph.
  • Gillian: A guard on the outer gates, a female gendermorph.
  • Phil: Headmaster of the writer's guild, and a friend to Kimberly.
  • Tallis: A rat morph and friend to Kimberly.
  • A pale woman who accompanies Lilith, dressed similarly to Chandra. This may have been Nocturna, the daedra lord of omens and dreams.

Important mention:

  • Vertti: An age regress. He was the only person wounded in the Lutin fight. He has a vulgar mind.
  • Duke Thomas: Duke of Metamor Keep. Chandra's death required his attention; whatever Raven told him was enough to forestall an investigation.

Referenced:

  • Matthias: A headmaster of the Writer's Guild. Scratch had breakfast with him that morning.
  • Michael: Scratch's rival for Pascal.
  • Sheriff McCormick: A female sheriff.
  • Kammoloth: King of the aedra. He is known to use Soul Hunters.
  • Dokorath: The aedra of war. He is known to use Soul Hunters.
  • Agemnos: A daedra. He is known to use soul gems.

Points of interest

  • This is the first story where a daedra makes an appearance.
  • The Lothanasi Temple has two sets of doors. The outer oaken doors lead into a foyer, and a corridor decorated with frescos leads to a set of doors to the inner chambers.
  • The Circles are a technique used by Lothanasi to aid in meditation. They involve a special powder drawn into a set of three circles that prevent all outside influence, save what the user desires to pass through.
  • Soul Hunters: Bounty hunters for deities. They have special powers employed for capturing their target's soul. They carry a soul stone. Although their original purpose was to find and kill Necromancers, they are now used as simple killers. Because most Soul Hunters work for daedra, they are greatly feared. In the Eastern Languages, they are known as Zin-Gll'Hanaan.
  • Soul stones: Stones used for carrying an entire person's soul. They were created by Necromancers to protect them on their journeys to the realms of the dead. They were then appropriated by Soul Hunters to carry their targets. They are about the size of a person's hand, wide and flat with several flat sides, like a gemstone. The faces are covered with runes to trap the soul; if they are painted rather than etched on, they can be removed to release the soul. Soul stones can only be destroyed with a special war hammer with noble runes on it.
  • Soul gems: Similar to soul stones, but less refined. They can trap a person's soul, but the soul is then powerless to act in the outside world; if the person's body is still living, it falls into a deep coma while the soul is absent. This means that they cannot be used to insulate a living person's soul from harm during planar travel, as the soul stones did. Soul gems are used as an energy source: daedra and some kinds of magic-users can use them to draw on the life-force of the trapped soul.
  • Necromancers: Servants to the gods and daedra. Thousands of years ago, the gods selected a few of their most loyal followers, and gave them the knowledge to travel between the planes of existence. Among the gifts the gods gave them were the soul stones. When the gods learned that they were beginning to conspire against them, they destroyed most of them, and created the Soul Hunters to find and kill any remaining Necromancers.
  • The Amulet of the Dove: a talisman belonging to Scratch. It contains a spell of clerical magic. After the battle between Sivikian and Chandra, it falls to another corner of the temple. It sends a jolt of pain on Scratch, after he wakes up from his possession by Sivikian.
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