Sculpting notes and progress pictures after the jump ...Shere Khan.
It was a title Janesh had not aspired to. He was a warrior, not a king.
Janesh had followed the previous Khan through everything and his Khan had rewarded him well.
For his resourcefulness, he had been tasked with helping find food for his people through the dry months of the drought, when the Peace Rock had broken the water's surface and left them all so hungry that their joints ached and their bones shown through their hides.
For that, he was loved -- not only by the ti'gors of their pack of clan-families, but also by the p'nthors and the other beasts of the jungles.
For his ferocity, he was chosen to lead the Khan's army into battle when the Ogres invaded from the mountains in the north. He had faced the tyrant alone, tearing out the tyrant leader's throat with his teeth even after the tyrant's blade had taken his right eye.
For that, he was respected and, some may say, even feared.
When the Khan had died sonless, and despite not having a clan-family of his own, Janesh was chosen to fight for the crown. His opponent was to be Darshan, elder-father of the largest clan-family in the pack.
For Janesh, it was a fight he didn't want for a title he didn't want.
For Darshan, it was the final step toward a crown he had schemed and manipulated and fought for since his youth. Darshan was powerful, indeed, but he was mistrusted by the other clan-families.
There were rumors swirling that, when crowned, Darshan meant to break the treaties with the human kings that his Khan had forged. Rumors that, even now, Darshan's ti'gors were preparing for war; that, once Darshan held the Khan's crown, they would set upon the humans -- humans thinking themselves safe behind their wood and clay walls, guarded by their axes and their dogs and their treaties -- and wash themselves in human blood.
Janesh had faith, though. Faith that Darshan would surely not be so foolish.
They were, after all, a people of honor. Their treating with the humans of Ind had meant prosperity and peace for generations. It meant that the children of the clan-families could grow strong and, if they were lucky, grow old.
When Janesh knelt, the pack that had encircled them jeered.
Darshan would simply draw blood, Janesh knew, as was required by the rite and take the Khan's crown and, with it, the pack. He would lead them as he saw fit, just as the previous Khan had.
When one of Darshan's sons threw him a sword, the crowd shouted. The only weapons were not permitted in these fights were fangs and claws and strength. And, to violate those sacred rules when one of the combatants had already ceded the battle ... ?
Darshan spoke. He spoke of power. He spoke like one already drunk with power. He spoke of a new kingdom; a new reign that would be grown in the soils of war and watered with blood.
"Blood for the blood god," he whispered.
The words were heresy, stinging Janesh's ears.
Darshan lifted the sword in a brutal arc, like a woodsman readying to split a log. Not simply attempting to draw blood as was required to claim his crown, but a killing stroke.
There were many gods worshipped in Ind but, for followers of Yag-ganesh, worship of the dark gods was forbidden. Darshan was a fool. And worse, his foolishness would bring death to the pack.
As the blade was plunging downward, Janesh's instincts took over. His hand jabbed forward; long black claws biting deep into the fur and flesh just above Darshan's groin. Scraping against bone, cutting through gristle and then, almost before either realized what had happened, there was a sudden spill of entrails over his hand and wrist and forearm.
And, in that instant, the fight was over.
Darshan stumbled backward, the blade falling from one hand even as the other attempted to keep his life from spilling out onto the jungle soil. But it was already too late. The spark of life was already gone from his eyes.
Janesh held his bloodied hand high for everyone to see. The pack roared its approval, and then chanted his new name.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
And so it begins ...