Through the swirling dust, he saw another of the horde enter the palace. This man did not even have his weapon out, so the battle must truly be over. He seemed to notice the Palace Keeper and then, after a pause, walked to where he stood. He hardly seemed much of a warrior. In late middle age and warmly wrapped despite the mild weather, he wore feather and fur and had big, sad eyes with which he quietly regarded the Keeper for some time. Eventually, the Keeper could stand the silent scrutiny no longer and spoke to the man.
“You look more like a priest than a warrior.”
“I am no warrior. An accountant, perhaps. At best a philosopher. Shall we take tea?”
“Do you not know me? I am the Palace Keeper. When Ezun Daga arrives he will have me put to death!”
“I do know you, but you clearly do not know me. I am Ezun Daga and you are not my enemy unless you choose to be. I came here to destroy the Etiki. That you stood in their defence cost you many lives, but our purpose is now fulfilled and no more need die. We must talk of the future and of rebuilding this land. While we do so, I will take tea. You may join me or not as you prefer.”
Ezun Daga was a scholar and revolutionary who devoted his life to opposing the rule of the Etiki. Unlike Dornade, who came several generations later, Ezun Daga was not a hunter or an assassin but a general. In his time, the Etiki openly ruled kingdoms and to stand against their supreme power was at one time unthinkable.
For the first three decades of his life, Ezun Daga lived in the city of Altekal under Etiki rule. There he studied as a botanist and zoologist, living a relatively privileged life as the eldest son of a clerk of the khan. However, as time passed he became less inclined to see the Etiki as wise rulers. He began to seek out forbidden texts which recorded theories about the Etiki and their ways. Eventually he was discovered and exiled to the wilderness West of the Ronunskei desert.
During his exile, Ezun Daga constantly plotted his return. He learned forbidden history from the desert nomads and in turn shared with them the knowledge of Altekal. Over time he encountered other exiles and travellers from other lands. He began to gather a band of followers who shared his distaste for Etiki rule. At first this was for the purpose of discussion and study, but gradually they formed the intention of raising an army and storming the Etiki strongholds.
Almost two decades of recruitment, spying and careful preparation followed. When the Ezun horde finally marched, they proved unstoppable. This was in part because some of the stronger Etiki were forewarned of the attack, but chose to use this forewarning not to better defend but instead to escape.
Ezun Daga had no appetite for running an empire and quickly stepped aside in favour of those amongst his allies who did. This was ultimately not good for the former kingdoms of the Etiki. Where Ezun Daga himself had been wise and cautious, many of his allies were arrogant and reckless. A century of poverty and unrest followed.
As for Ezun Daga himself, he returned to scholarship in his later years. He was always resentful of the short duration of mortal life and his failing eyesight left him unable to complete much of his research. Nonetheless his journals proved a useful resource for later naturalists and his unusual travels meant that he produced one of the most extensive botanical references of the age of exploration.