“A Mother Worlder like me, you mean?”
“If you say so.”
“Esther knew about it.”
Mehrak shrugged. “But a Mother Worlder wouldn’t.”
“Did she use the word ‘Perseopia’?”
“Because when Yima sealed the Vara it hadn’t been named. It was ‘The Vara’ and then it was Panoplia. It wasn’t Perseopia until centuries after the realm had been sealed.” Mehrak shook his head. “Look at me discussing this with you like you’re really from there.”
Sammy turned away.
“I’m sorry,” Mehrak said. “I just don’t believe in any of it. All that stuff I told you comes straight out of scripture. I know the stories because I was forced to go to the temple with my parents as a boy. That doesn’t mean I believe it. The great Ahura Mazda, the Mother World, Yima creating the Vara, they’re just stories.”
“Whatever. You don’t believe in the Mother World. But what’s happened to this place? Esther said it became polluted by a great evil or something.”
“You really don’t know?”
“Just tell me.”
Mehrak exhaled. “It was a paradise for a long time, until the Assault on Aratta a hundred and fifty years ago.”
“What’s an Assault on Aratta?”
“The great battle of Aratta, Perseopia’s first capital.” Mehrak stopped.
Sammy waited for him to go on, but he didn’t. She was about to say something when he spoke.
“Okay. I’ll tell it,” he said at last. He smiled. “It’s actually a pretty good story; my nephews used to love me telling it. Just remember, though the battle and sequence of events are historically accurate, the rest of the story has been told and retold, and most likely exaggerated over the years.”
“Just get on with it, will you?”
Mehrak rubbed his hands together and his eyes sparkled. “When the realm was created it was called Panoplia and the first sultan was handpicked by the great Ahura Mazda himself. Or so they say.”
“Ahura’s your god?”
“The god of the people that believe in him, yeah. He’s supposedly the uncreated creator. Anyway, Ahura picks the first sultan to rule Perseopia – or Panoplia. Then the sultan passed on the throne to his son, who passed it on to his son, and so on and so on through the generations. Over a thousand years later Sultan Sanjar – the sultan at the time – was persuaded by one of his advisors to offload some of his duties. This advisor offered to take care of the boring day-to-day duties associated with running the realm so Sultan Sanjar would have more time for other important matters. That man was Moran Razin, and he was made regent. And for a while everything worked out fine. But Razin wanted more. He’d tasted power and he became greedy. He increased taxes, took land from the people. Eventually, he even imprisoned the Sultan and took over Perseopia completely.”