The people of Righar are terrified of the people of Ha’las. In the coastal lands around Seagard — the tower closest to Ha’las — villagers tell their children scary stories of the evil ku’an. It is said the ku’an can force themselves into your mind, making decisions for you, doing things that horrify your family and friends. It is said the ku’an can read thoughts, so there is no hiding from them any plans for rebellion or escape. And the ku’an are brutal in more physical ways: their prisons are crowded, and their city walls adorned with the heads of those who expressed thoughts of rebellion.
Some of that isn’t true. But what is true is frightening enough.
The Righans don’t know there are less than twenty ku’an, or psychic mages, in the whole island of Ha’las. They can’t read minds, but their real strength lies in their magical ability to influence the emotions of others.
Emotions are powerful. It’s a fierce battle-elation that makes a warrior plow into the spears of the attacking army. It’s a shivering disgust that makes you shake off old bonds and friendships. It is love, most powerful of all emotions, that can bring down marriages, cities, kingdoms.
The ku’an are spoiled. They are used to being able to manipulate people’s loyalty, trust, love, hatred. Ha’las is theirs, and so is everyone in it. Thus they feel free to take women for their own, infusing their targets with love so force is unnecessary. They inspire their soldiers with fanatical zeal. With every use of their power, they grow more corrupt, more certain that anything they want can be theirs. They don’t care about governing, or managing the land that supplies their needs. They know they will always be able to take what they want, no matter how scarce things are for their people.
These are the people that Callo and Kirian sail towards on the ship Fortune, when they escape strife in Righar. They don’t know what they are heading toward.
**Image is “Evil” by Iconogenic, from Getty Images.