Het and the Rakshasa

(Part 1)

         In the days when the King’s Road was scarred with the tramping of soldier’s boots and littered with the detritus they left behind, there was Het, who was a watchman. Het was very tall and straight, and she had arms like sinewy boughs. She was very good with a staff but very poor with a straight sword, which drew her constant disapproving looks from the Sergeant, since the staff was a peasant’s weapon, and not befitting a proper executioner of the Old Law.

The Sergeant’s name was Ramys, but that is neither here nor there, for he was a proper Sergeant. He was very calm, and very handsome, and he had a flawless Watchman’s Eye – that’s why he was promoted. Het pined for him piteously but in vain, for it was astounding how completely dry he was of anything that could possibly resemble love. He took his morning tea bitter, he sat rod-straight, and his nails were exceptionally clean. He was an excellent policeman.

Het and the Sergeant traveled together with a third person, who was very uninteresting. He was the Centurion, and he was a blunt instrument that had been hammered into the shape of a person. He had a neck the size of a tree trunk, and about as knotted. He loved his sword, and the shape of his sword, and most of all, he loved to use it. He was masterful at killing with the sword, which made him an exceptionally poor swordsman.

So it was that Het, the Sergeant, and the Centurion were summoned to kill a demon, for that was the job of watchmen in those days. The demon was a Rakshasa, which was a special kind that crawled down a person’s throat or nostrils when he was sleeping and filled him up with bile. Since it wore a person about it like a skin, it was exceptionally hard to find and root out. It fed on blood, stole milk, and abhorred the sound of lying. This was known to Het, who was studious, and the Sergeant, who was very intelligent, but not the Centurion, who cared only about swords.

The Road was on fire with war most of those days, so their travel was exceptionally slow, and the Sergeant kept them to the back paths. It was no place for men of the Law, for the Law had abandoned heaven. So it was a full six turns before Het, the Sergeant, and the Centurion reached their destination.

When they arrived, they saw at once that the Rakshasa had been exceptionally cunning. For this was a land of mires and muck, a low, sulfurous land where people eked out their living in filth. So covered head to toe were they that everyone looked almost exactly alike. Passing her gaze from person to person, Het could scarcely tell the young from the old, the man from the woman, or anyone at all, and she shivered, for she was exceptionally clean, as all watchmen were. Watchmen were men of class and stature in those days. They wore shiny boots and spotless uniforms with gleaming buttons.

They were met by the lord of that place, who lived in a palace built on a promontory rising out of the muck (the only promontory around, in fact). The lord was exceptionally beautiful, and had perfect nails, just like the Sergeant. He was borne aloft by four servants who sweated and heaved his palanquin far above the filth below, even though they themselves were often buried up to the waste. It was necessary, in those days.

The lord expounded to them at length about the trouble he was in. “Oh please,” he said, fanning himself with great consternation, “Do something about this filthy Rakshasa! Why, just the other day, it broke into the palace and left a terrible mess. A flock of my prized doves were all torn apart, and its muddy footprints were everywhere!”

“You’ve not to worry,” said the Sergeant, with the utmost confidence, “I rarely fail in my quest to root out evil. We’ll smash your Rakshasa within the week, in the name of the Old Law and the fourth name of God.” Het could attest to the Sergeant’s efficiency, and gave her firm affirmation.

The Sergeant, indeed, seemed to have a terrifyingly strong sense for evil, a pre-natural ability to sniff out even the tiniest bit of it’s stench clinging to a person. This was his Watchman’s Eye. It was a fine instrument of justice, and a great source of admiration for Het, who still thought herself a rough-spun peasant girl in braids. In fact, she was a head taller than the Sergeant, and twice as brawny, but that’s a tale for later. For now, she saw the Sergeant’s perfect fingernails, and his handsome mustaches, and his dramatic brow, and felt a strong swell of pride and longing.

The lord was very happy. He promised to give them proper accommodations at his high palace and a bath everyday to clean them from the muck of the land and keep them in proper watchmen shape, as long as they returned by the time the gates closed.

And so it was that Het, and the Sergeant, and the Centurion set about the land on the first day, looking for the Rakshasa.