“Saw Esther last night in the woods
I told her what they’d done
She raised her axe, she howled in rage
Said boys let’s have some fun

“In Esther’s name we’ll take them on
We’ll never let them win
As long as one man isn’t free
We’ll remind them of their sin

“We’re all in this world together
No one gets out alive
Woman or betty all the same
Difference is in your mind”

(Unsubtle 11th century folk song, suppressed)

The history of the Perfected Empire is a long and troubled one, full of characters we protected by time can call “fascinatingly colorful” and to whom if any of us met in a dark alley we would soon plead for our lives. One of my personal favorites is the sad case of the mad sibeccai abolitionist, Esther Red-Hands.

As everyone knows, sibeccai were raised from their bestial state to a level of intellect approaching the norm by the dedicated work of Op-Morn and the Lamplighters in 118, five sibeccai generations before the Living Memory begins. This has made study of the earliest days of sibeccai “culture” a problematic discipline, made worse by laziness on the part of our forebearers; by the time anyone bothered to encode eiodolon stones with sibeccai memories it was already 312 and the creatures had been around for two centuries, or eight sibeccai generations since the Lamplighters’ project.

This has led, then, to a disproportionate amount of dubious scholarship about the early days of the sibeccai. Wherever facts are muddy, rest assured a grifter will step in with clarity.

Esther Red-Hands (1025?-1046) was born to a betty sibeccai somewhere in the then-untamed southerly reaches of the Wordwood, today part of Nine Open Gates province. In those days, generations before the Last War, the Imperial footprint on the land was weak, and more remote villages could go months without a visit from the tax collector or circuit judge. In the backwoods, isolated from the principle culture, the grotesque might become almost normal to decayed residents.

So it was with Esther: its mother was allowed to live in its owner’s home, slept with its bull in a human bed, and its litter played and grew up with its owner’s children. They were one, big, degenerate miscegenizing family. Esther grew up thinking itself the equal of any human or faen, a misconception resulting from improper early training.

In late 1041 or early 1042, a young adult Esther left its home village (the name of which has never been recovered) and ventured forth into the Perfected Empire to seek her fortune. The naivety with which “she,” a betty sibeccai fit only for labor and the production of laborers, viewed the world is laughable, but those who knew “her” found themselves taking “her” seriously. Faced with the harsh realities of race relations, Esther adjusted quickly, went underground, and organized an abolitionist terrorist organization dedicated to spiriting bull and betty sibeccai slaves southeast to the Wordwood interior, away from the plantations.

Esther Red-Hands’s powers of persuasion and charisma quickly became legendary. Its captured agents resisted even torture and magical persuasion to avoid betraying their leader, and day by day the “Sibeccai Equality Army” grew bolder and bolder. Rumors of a Sibeccai Free State in the shadow of the Southern Peaks spread amount the captive sibeccai population, and by 1046 Perfected leadership was desperate.

An anonymous Cardinal of Pain was hired to hunt and slay Esther; the writ of execution is dated 11 Secondmonth 1046. In Sixthmonth of that same year, the “Treason Letter” appeared in the offices of the Imperial government (then in the Pavilion of Rulership in Homefires Searing Province). “I find I must reject your order as unjust; she [sic] is just, as is her [sic] cause. I will remain at her [sic] side and protect her [sic] from your arrows,” it read in part.

The dispatch of additional Cardinals (one to assassinate Esther, and one to assassinate her assassin-turned-bodyguard) eliminated the problem. The head cut off, the body soon died; the “Sibeccai Equality Army” and its dreams of a free state were a distant memory by 1050.

SEE ALSO: Cardinals of Pain, the Lamplighters, Sibeccai


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