Age of Ascension
Apart from The People
Memories of the Casteless Lizardman Moloch
Now that sufficient time has passed since my paper “Kesh: Beyond the Jungle” has been published, I feel it necessary to write on my inspiration for the paper. Without his guidance, I may have climbed the academic ladder much more slowly. I dedicate this paper to its subject, the lizardman Moloch.
I believe every aspiring graduate student has issues writing that perfect thesis. That one defining paper that opens every door to greatness. I was no exception. Prior to my appointment to my current post, I was searching for just the right subject matter. Some sense of desperation mixed with frustration and a little hunger drove me to the market that day, as if I were to purchase that perfect idea.
But it wasn’t necessary. The perfect idea walked right into me, literally.
My temper was short, due to the aforementioned frustration, so I was about to let loose on this oaf who dared knock me aside. Looking up at this “oaf” I was right to hold back. Dwarfed in both height and weight, I stood agape. Draped in crimson robes, his ashen scales were flecked with bits of white and black. His eyes swirled with smokey color, which made it difficult to determine what he was looking at. Crude jewelry made from semi-precious stones and animal bones adorned his neck and wrists. His totem bore similar trinkets, but upon closer inspection, it was not a totem but a spear. He wore his hood up, but even so I could see his rather odd head crest, which turned red near its tips. I had seen lizardmen from Kesh previously, but none appeared as he did.
He seemed to apologize for bumping into me, using what little speech he could. Perhaps it was the desperation, gnawing at my mind, but I could not pass up this opportunity. For all I could tell, a genuine shaman of Kesh stood before me. Warriors were the only lizardmen that seemed to leave Kesh, so imagine my excitement when I realized that a member of the upper caste had left. I had to act.
Using some rather imaginative communication, I conveyed my desire that he return with me to the university. I soon found myself with a rather large lizard in my slightly small living quarters. Nevertheless, my determination demanded that I communicate with him, to learn as much as possible. I won’t claim any altruism in teaching him Old Common, but had I not, I’m not certain he would have furthered his own quest.
Once in my quarters, I was able to observe him closer. He wasn’t as large as other lizardmen that I’ve seen. He also fidgeted a lot while standing perfectly upright. The entire time he stayed with me I rarely saw him sit down, and he often slept on the bare floor. His mind at first was strange, very direct and serious, a product of the lizardman’s caste no doubt. I grew to understand his utilitarian ways.
He surprised me with his capability to learn. All that I know of lizardmen says that they are not so quick to pick up language. As we conversed, his rather frightening visage gave way to an almost childlike innocence. He was eager to share what he could with me, and extremely patient in explaining the ways of his people to me.
When it was apparent that he was not, in fact, a shaman, I no longer cared. I was enthralled by his stories. Over time, our roles switched, and I became the student, learning all I could about his homeland and its people. While he certainly grasped the language I taught him, he nonetheless spoke in a broken accent, and peppered his speech with metaphors and examples. It was all so fascinating.
He spoke of his early life, and difficulty fitting in. Stricken with poor vision at an early age, he could not fight and fulfill his role in the warrior caste. As the lizardmen do not allow movement through the castes, he was doomed to failure. Most shocking of all, he left his home to find a way to fit into his caste! Imagine, if every person who didn’t fit in with our society just left to find a way to fit in! Since he had no name that he made mention of, I decided, for ease of communication, to call him Moloch, after the archaic common word meaning sacrifice. I thought it a fitting name, and he took to using it without argument.
I’ve heard tales of the wonders of Kesh, but his rather matter-of-fact and yet simultaneously vivid descriptions of all the creatures was captivating. He spoke of great cats and colorful birds, of man eating plants and docile giants. So entranced by his descriptions I would later journey to Kesh, and from that journey write the paper that garnered me some success.
Eventually our time together was at an end. I could teach him no more, and I began to do him a disservice by keeping him with me, and not allowing him to pursue what he had left his home for; a way back home. I admit I had gotten attached to having him around, and letting him go was like letting go that bird whose wing you helped to mend.
It has been many years since I’ve heard from Moloch, and for all I know he has found what he was searching for. In his setting out to shape himself into his society, he shaped at least one life, and I am forever grateful.
I do hope one day this bird comes back to visit.
Associate Professor of Anthropology, Valcora University