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Amongst the Slann, Xinthua Tzeqal is one of the youngest. He had seen scarcely more than three thousand orbits of this world since crawling from his birthing pool, and the patchwork of continents, the massive stone slabs that glided across his planet's skin like lily pads across a pond, had not moved more than a few miles.[1a]

Still, his breed had not been created for impetuousness, he had only made one of youth's errors. It had been whilst fighting the long ears of the North. There had been a retreat and, despite the fact that he knew how easily replaced their lives were, he had allowed contemplation of his shattered kindred to cloud his mind. Anger had muddied his thoughts as silt muddies water and he had moved hastily. True, the long ears had committed sorcerous horrors that were as disturbed as most of their novelties. Somehow their witches had found a way of setting skinks alight with an unquenchable, slow burning fire. As green as venom, it had taken weeks to crawl from the tips of their tails to their still beating hearts.[1a]

The air had still been sharp with the acrid stench of their burning bodies as, loyal to the last, the flaming creatures had attempted to go about their duties. Dragging the charred remains of their tails and hind legs behind them, the afflicted had started so many fires that eventually Xinthua had ordered their comrades to kill them.[1a]

Almost all of the cursed skinks had lifted their jaws and exposed their throats, although whether through the desperation of pain or the iron rules of their existence, the mage priest could never decide. The iron tang of their blood had mingled with the smoke of their still burning flesh to form a smell that was quite unique. Perhaps it had been that smell that had so unsettled the younger Xinthua. Whatever the reason, as soon as the invader's army had been broken he had inflicted this same torment upon their few survivors.[1a]

And yet, although the long ears proved frailer torches than the skinks, he knew that he had been mistaken in the action almost before the last one had stopped screaming. It had been a waste of resources, a waste of effort that could have been better employed elsewhere. For long decades afterwards he had sat unmoving, a growing understanding if his folly gradually soothing his mind, much as a pearl will form around a piece of grit to sooth an oyster.[1a]

All this had been centuries ago. Now when the memory bubbles up into the inner pools of his consciousness he watched it with the same unblinking detachment with which he watched the growth of a tree, or the short, flitting lifespan of a skink. Xinthua Tzeqal knows, with a certainty that in another race would have been called pride, that he will never make the mistake of haste again.[1a]

Trivia

  • When Xinthua finds a species he has never seen before, he is quick to contemplate the possibilities of studying such creatures with calm anticipation. On such expeditions, he brings with him exquisite onyx blades as well as skinks well trained in the arts of live dissection.[1a]
  • Xinthua's eyelids will roll back as he slides away from the world and into one of the realms of pure mathematics. The cascading streams of numbers and four dimensional geometries have a beauty that even the jungles of Lustria lack, and Xinthua bathes in their magnificence as he rests.[1a]
  • Xinthua says he does not have a rivalry with fellow Slann Chuptzl Qo, being completely unmoved by even a shred of competitive spirit. Competitive spirit, after all, was something that animals felt.[1a]
  • Xinthua finds small frogs to be delicious, as seen when, after a week of meditation, he ate an entire basket of them.[1a] He finds them fortifying as a meal, and water snakes - once defanged - make for a good dessert.[1c]
  • Courage is not a trait Xinthua admires. In his world, there exists only force and mass, and the purity of calculation. Everything else is a distraction.[1b]

Source

  • 1: The Burning Shore (novel) by Robert Earl
    • 1a: Chapter 14
    • 1b: Chapter 17
    • 1c: Chapter 18

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