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Zhota is a member of the Monks of Ivgorod.
"There are times when I think you are still that fool boy who first came to the monastery. More beast than man, really...a wild thing with eyes clouded by emotion and intuition and all those other fleeting feelings that change on a whim just as swiftly as the winds. Are you that boy, or are you a monk?"— Akyev to Zhota(src)
As a Monk initiate, Zhota was trained by Akyev the Unyielding, after he chose Ymil as his patron deity. The Patriarchs hoped that Akyev's rigid demenor would temper Zhota's hesitent nature, and vice versa. When he first encountered him, he snapped Zhota's flute in half and tossed it out of the Floating Sky Monastery. They would spar together in the monestary's training grouns, Akyev wielding a scimitar he had forged himself against Zhota's bo. He easily defeated him, cutting into his staff, and commented that Zhota had "too much of the rivers in him," touching on his disdain for Ymil. He would forbid Zhota from ever fixing the blemish, lest he forget the lessons imparted to him. Over the years, Akyev worked feverishly to suppress his pupil's insistence on trusting in himself when presented with difficult situations. Whether or not Zhota' insights were correct didn't matter to Akyev. He believed such reliance on the self would compromise one's ability to obey the Patriarchs' commands and prosecute their divine will. Zhota was eventually annointed as a Monk, but Akyev carried doubts as to whether he was truly ready.
While training, Zhota caught the attention of Mikulov, who was fascinated by him. At some point, Mikulov told Deckard Cain about Zhota, and of Akyev. Cain concluded that to survive Akyev's training, Zhota would have had to have been a resourceful and resilient individual. Zhota in turn had a high opinion of Kharazim.
A Touch of MercyEdit
" Duty is everything. The word of the Patriarchs is the word of the gods. Who am I to question their methods? I am their instrument."— Zhota's reflections(src)
A few weeks after becoming a Monk, the day after the sighting of the Fallen Star, Zhota was summoned to Akyev's side in the monastery. Akyev sent Zhota into the Gorgorra, ordering that his disciple examine all travelers within the forest, but remain wary, lest they be tainted by gods of chaos. Those touched by those gods were to be "purified," he ordered, relaying the decree of the Patriarchs.
Weeks later, Zhota was still in the forest. He found a pair of survivors from a khazra attack; a graying father and his twenty year old son. He let them share his campsite, but kept his distance emotionally. His solitude was interrupted as the trees themselves attacked the camp. He was able to sense that the trees had been tainted by a demonic power. He was able to sense the demon within a black oak, directing the rest of the trees. The demon, realizing that it had been detected, attacked Zhota directly. Zhota was able to slay the demon, killing the tree, but not before it struck at the man's son, tainting him. Zhota offered a mercy killing, to which the man protested against, claiming that if his son fell to corruption, he would slay him himself. Zhota felt guilty, but remembering his master's unyielding nature, went ahead to kill the man's son. The man drew out a knife, but Zhota easily incapacitated him, and used a mantra to kill the boy. He then cremated the corpse, by which time it was dawn. He set off alone, knowing that he should feel proud for carrying out the Patriarchs' will, but instead remained haunted by the grief of the boy's father.
Three days later, Zhota discovered a caravan, with corpses laid out around it. The bodies were fresh, and he could not sense any demonic taint. He noted that they'd appeared to have been tortured, and that one of them, a woman, was missing her head. He found a flute and picked it up, playing a few notes, reminded of the one he'd once owned before Akyev had destroyed it. At this point the canopy rustled, and he chased after the sound, finding a boy no older than ten, sobbing. He quickly realized that the boy was blind. Zhota burnt the bodies of the fallen, and the boy remained at his side over the next few days. He refused to answer any of Zhota's questions about the caravan, but in his sleep, Zhota heard the boy utter the word "mother." The boy tried to flee on several occassions, which prompted Zhota to bind his hands. Zhota wondered if the boy might be a demon in disguise, but could sense no demonic taint.
What hindered him was that the boy had practically no stamina. Also, every time he heard a bird or beast, he would wander off toward the sound, enraptured with childish curiosity. Zhota had a mind to leave the boy behind, but the Monk hoped to learn more about what had assailed the caravan. Zhota began to goad the boy, calling him names like "demon child." Finally, the boy let out an outburst that he wasn't a demon. Smiling, Zhota handed the boy the flute. Cradling it, the boy revealed that his mother had promised that he would call him back with a song. He claimed that a demon had struck the camp, and that it was still after him. Zhota was skeptical—the demons in the Gorgorra killed indiscriminatly, they wouldn't focus their efforts on one child. Still, as the child fell asleep, he was left to wonder why the gods had willed that they cross paths, if not to protect the child. He decided to take the boy to villages to the south.
Unfortunately, the villages to the south were empty. Zhota pressed on, hoping to find another village, mentally justifying why he hadn't delivered the boy to the gods yet. The boy revealed that his name was Mishka, and played Zhota music with the flute. Zhota began to warm to him, even carrying him on his back, but the music struck a nerve as he was reminded of his own childhood, causing him to lash out at the boy. That night, they were confronted by bandits. They claimed that the Patriarchs had hired them to enforce the peace, as the Monks of Ivgorod were spread thin. A lie, Zhota knew, but he remained silent. They revealed that the order hadn't come from the Patriarchs directly, but one of Zhota's fellow Monks, that a demon was in the woods wearing the skin of a child. Mishka was that child, it seemed, his bloody tears being all the proof they needed. Zhota wondered if Mishka had fooled him, but reasoned that he'd traveled with the boy for days. He couldn't be a demon. They told him the other Monk was to the west, and Zhota decided to find him. The bandits wanted gold, while Zhota responded that all they'd get was his gratitude. The men came to blows, and Zhota killed the bandits, but looking at Mishka once more, wondered if he'd been fooled. He demanded that Mishka tell him the truth, explain why the men were after him.
Mishka recounted that he was the son of one of the Patriarchs and his concubine. He'd been born with deformities, but his mother had convinced his father to sequester him in the palace instead of killing him. Mishka had lived in isolation until the coming of the Fallen Star, causing paronoia to sweep Ivgorod. In this climate, Zhota summized that the Patriarch had ordered that Mishka be put to death, lest his purity be called into question. Thus, through the work of his mother and a few loyal servants, he was carried into the Gorgorra. Zhota could scarcely believe it, but nonetheless, continued to carry Mishka.
Master and StudentEdit
"You know the boy is not a demon."— Zhota and Akyev discuss the latter's actions(src)
""I know what the Patriarch has told me. I do not question him"
"The caravan...You killed those people."
"I did my duty."
Events came to a head as he found the Monk the bandits had been talking about7mdash;Akyev. He commented that Zhota had succeeded where he'd failed, giving his former student praise for the first time. He told Zhota that Mishka was a demon wearing the skin of a child. Mishka called Akyev the demon—lies to hide its true identity, according to Akyev. Akyev claimed that these were lies, but Zhota stated that he believed Mishka's tale. Akyev disgustedly commented that Zhota was still a boy, and gave him a second kick as Zhota claimed that the Patriarch Akyev served was no longer interested in maintaining the balance between order and chaos. It was revealed that Akyev was the one who had slaughtered the members of the caravan He scraped off the circles embodied on Zhota's forehead, stating that Zhota was no Monk. He ordered him to return to the monastery and await judgement. The two engaged in combat, Zhota once again wielding his bo against Akyev's scimitar. Akyev gained the upperhand, and was unmoved by Zhota's accusations of his brutality. For a moment, Akyev seemed to consider that Zhota was correct, that he'd been sent to kill an innocent. But only for a moment, as he swung his sword.
The sword was swung, but Zhota grabbed it, breaking the weapon in two. Zhota used the broken blade to decapitate his master. He played the song to Mishka, getting him to come out, revealing that it was not a demon, but a man, that had been after him, but that man was dead now. He then built a pyre to cremate his master's body. He could only hope that the Patriarch wouldn't be able to find another Monk like Akyev—one who could slaughter innocents without hesitation. He reasoned that men like Akyev were aberrations, that the Monks of Ivgorod were better than that. He led Mishka by the hand out of the clearing and turned north toward Ivgorod, intent on bringing word of everything that had transpired to his order's attention. For the first time in his life, he felt as if he truly understood what it meant to be a monk.