The great house of Tateshiri ruled over the kingdom from their great seat in Anjzhou, a fortress occupying a fortified river bend. Weapons tempered in the great river helped spread Tateshiri influence, while the libraries of Anjzhou overflowed with books collected by the bibliophile kings.

In time, though, other cities arose in the area that became known as the Thirteen Kingdoms, and they began to challenge Anjzhou for its primacy. The king Tateshiri Watarano resolved to end this decline, and in so doing consulted the darkest and most forbidden pages of the library. Upon glancing at the most vile of ancestral bone-runes, an agma appeared to the king.

Appearing as a small but grotesque parody of the human form, the agma prostrated itself before the king and begged for its life, offering knowledge in return for Tateshiri’s mercy. The king, intrigued, agreed. The agma then gave the king a spell that, it said, would make the other rulers of the Thirteen Kingdoms pliable to his will.

It also told the king that, for each invocation of this spell, another agma like itself would arrive from parts unknown to cast it. The first invocation, and the first invocation only, would carry no price–it was a boon for the king’s mercy. But each subsequent one would demand a price. When asked of this price, the agma would only say that it would be paid at a later date, and that it would not be too dear for someone of the king’s stature.

Naturally, one invocation was not enough to sate Tateshiri Watarano’s greed. In time, hundreds of agma roamed impudently through the palace and the streets, while the other twelve kingdoms offered concession after concession, retreat after retreat. Eventually, the number of agma within the city walls equaled the number of people, which had dwindled as citizens recoiled from the grotesque beings.

On the day of a conclave to elect an emperor–the First Emperor of the Thirteen Cities–Tateshiri called upon the agma again to secure his election. The agma agreed, but informed him that the time had come to pay his bill: the soul of one citizen of the city for each invocation.

To Tateshiri’s horror, the agma bore off every man, woman, child, and even animal within Anjzhou to an infernal and horrible fate. Prostrate with grief, Tateshiri demanded why so dear a price had been exacted despite the agma’ assurances.

Their reply: “What is one soul to an almighty king but the meanest price?”

Unable to bear the shame of what he had done, Tateshiri Watarano took his own life, the sole and only remaining inhabitant of Anjzhou. The conclave met as planned the next day, and–unaware of Tateshiri’s death–voted him Emperor. When he did not appear to claim his prize, another ballot was held for the first Emperor of the Twelve Kingdoms.

Overrun with sin-tainted bamboo shoots and wandering agma hungry for the flesh and souls of mortals, Anjzhou fell into ruin and was soon known only as a swampy fen full of danger and darkness.

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