Tower of Souls
Kodin was the best thief in the entire city of Zaridon. At least that ́s how he saw himself and his friends seconded that opinion. Kodin liked going to pub with them after his successful outings. At those times he had enough wealth by himself to buy a round or two for everybody.
This particular evening he looted a house of a wealthy tradesman in the city and pilfered beautiful earthware vases and bronze jewellery of the tradesman ́s wife. The loot would easily buy him the entire pub he was drinking at, but instead he just inebriated himself enough not to think clearly.
One of his companions told him then: "I bet you cannot climb the tower!"
Kodin was out of his senses too much to realize he was challenged to perform
a sacrilege. He nodded readily and replied: "I bet I can!" With those words he ran off into the night-covered streets and wobbled his way to the main square.
There stood, surrounded by a vast open space, a taunt tower. It had sloping walls and at the base was almost twenty-five spans wide. There were no windows or ornaments on the tower. Only a single entrance led inside.
Kodin tried to scale the sloping wall, but a smooth plaster, recently restored, prevented him from reaching anywhere higher than a step off the ground. Unwilling to be ridiculed for losing a bet, the thief entered the dark entrance.
An opressive atmosphere ruled inside. A wide passage led into the centre of the tower and another one was winding upstairs through a spiral staircase. Kodin first entered the centre of the tower. He found himself in a round chamber filled with clean-picked human bones. Most were scattered throughout the room, some were heaped along the edges. Many were withering and crumbled on touch. The way led no further.
Kodin then started to climb the staircase. He had to grasp the walls. As ge went, he felt small, round holes along both walls. He had no idea previously, that they were hollow.
As he moved onwards and upwards, he heared nasty squeaking sounds. At first he thought it might be mosquitoes. He waved one hand around to fight them off, but the squeaking did not change.
Kodin arrived at the second floor and felt something gnawing on his ankle. The thing was small, so he tried to shake it off, but without success. He fell inside a large round chamber not unlike the one he already saw. This one was just as filled with himan bones as the last one. Kodin tripped over a child ́s skeleton and fell to the floor. He looked at his ankle and found out something ghastly and white hangs off it.
At that moment he felt another bites on his wrists and sides. He fought as much as he could, but he did not leave the tower alive that night.
Mobad swayed with a stick and cut down a giant hogweed with a single strike. Then another and another. There were plenty of them on the meadow, he could have been striking them down until noon.
Lapit watched him, holding her breath. Occasionally she cheered: "Give them what
Despite his frenzy, Mobad tired himself faster than he thought he would. In the heat of
the summer large sweat drops soon ran down his face. Once he felt he needed a rest, he stopped and sat next to Lapit, leaning on his stick. "So, what ws I like?" He asked her.
"Brave," replied the young girl. "As all shepherds should be."
The boy grinned. "I just hope that ́ll be enough. Your parents want you to marry some prince."
"But I like being with you," the girl objected. "I want to marry you and that ́s it." She leaned to Mobad and gave him a kiss on a cheek. The boy blushed, although it was not their first such kiss.
It took a while of content silence for Mobad to ask: "Why your parents won ́t let you come here, out of the city, more often?"
Lapit looked around. There was a huge city behind them - a vast built-over expanse surrounded by a massive stone wall, over which tall multiple-storied housed with flat roofs were sticking. From the centre of the city an immense tower was casting its shade over all other buildings. The tower without windows dominated thoughts of people even beyond the reach of her imposing shade.
Weherever else the girl looked, the country was filled with fields and pastures among which villages were spread out. This country was free and devoid of borders, just an occasional hill stood out against the flat line of far horizon.
Seeing all of that, the girl sighed, longing for this freedom, and answered: "Nobody can take care of me here. And I ́m a princess, mom and dad fear for my safety."
"And the priest that ́s babysitting you?" Inquired Mobad.
"He ́s somewhere...! Lapit turned her sight again to the city ́s direction - with certain unwillingness - and pointed at a lone rock standing not even two hundred steps from a gate. "There he sleeps. I hope he will be for a while longer."
The kids ́ joy was cut short. From the city gate a man on a large horse was rushing towards them. The man ́s face bore resemblance to Lapit ́s, his was however much older and filled with concerned expression. A square face of a man was flanked by short silvery hair.
"You, boy! Go away from my daughter!" The rider cried.
Mobad stood his ground defiantly, prepared to defend himself. The horse did not slow down, however; the animal was galloping right at the boy. Kid jumped aside at the last minute.
"To take her so close to hogweed! What were you thinking, she could have lost her
"I cut the bad grass down!" Said the boy with pride in his voice. Lapit ́s father
remained unconvinced. The rider rushed his horse at the boy once more.
"I give you one more chance. Get lost, or I ́ll trample you."
"Go!" pleaded Lapit with her friend. Mobad realized he won ́t get his way. He took
the stick and angrily ran to the road leading to his home village.
"And don ́t come back anymore!" Yelled Lapit ́s father.
Mobad thought bad part of his day is over. His bad day however only began. When he
came back to the shepherd camp at the outskirts of his home vilage, he found noliving soul. The cooking kettles laid turned over and broken on the ground, several huts were alight with flames and bodies of men, women and children alike dotted the earth.
Mobad ran to the hut he and his family were living in. He did not found his parents, brothers or sisters inside. Desperate he ran again outside and there a straggler bandit noticed him. Old, crooked man dressed in quilted linen shirt, braces and greaves chased him, tossed him to the ground, slapped and tied up. The bandit tossed the boy over his shoulder and made away with the catch.
Mobad wanted to know what happened to his family, but his kidnapper did not understand his tongue or did not care enough to answer. The bandit took the boy to a camp, but did not bring him along to other prisoners. Instead he hurled him to an open space between the tents and told something about him to his fellows, tall and pale-skinned men. Some of them poked Mobad with spear shafts and laughed at him, but the boy resisted them any way he could and kept on crying that he wants to see his family.
Towards the end of the evening one of the pale men took the crook aside and after a quick exchange bought the boy. Mobad never saw his parents again. He became a mage instead.
V krátkej bitke tu bude spomenuté ako veža pomáha domácim. Bitky sa zúčastní na strane Keušov neskorší veliteľ kt dobyje mesto. Aj keď vlastne nie, z príbehového hľadiska by taká bitka nedávala zmysel. Ako z príbehového hej ale časového nie.
Tak inak - bude scéna v ktorej Lapit dovedú jej rodičia pred vežu a spýtajú sa kňazov, či ju majú vydať za kjéskeho náčelníka. Kňaz odvetí, že to zachráni mesto, ale za veľmi vysokú cenu. Povie to dosť obecne aby to znelo ako rada typu "rozmyslite si, čo robíte".
Saeman Pas-Teuken was of Myr Keush tribe and was a mage by occupation for over twenty years. He took Mobad into his service and apprenticeship because, as he explained to the boy later on, "a mage needs two things most of all. Willpower and patience. You have shown the willpower on the day I saw you in the bandit camp. Now you will walk by my side for long years to come, to learn patience."
That was not easy. First few days Mobad was afraid of his new owner and tried to escape. One day Saeman took off ropes binding the boy ́s hands and feet. The mage laid his arms upon the kid and murmured some enchantments. Mobad then got up and ran away, but could not run too far off. He felt the need to come back. So he did and remained an apprentice.
Saeman was a peculiar mage. He did not cast lightning or fireballs, as Mobad used to think mages do. Neither did he take part in wars of his time to gain glory, nor did he pose as an advisor to the rulers of the many cities of the Broad Land and tell them how to rule. Instead the old mage went the northern road and stopped by villages and towns to heal. And to speak.
He spoke as much as he listened. When Mobad eventually learned enough of Keushi speech to ask his owner about his customs, the man just said: "I do not know many times more about this world than I do. Everything is of interest to me. Once you become a mage, you will find it all interesting as well. There is nothing more intriguing than to compare your own knowledge with someone else ́s."
Mobad did not share such worldview. At first Saeman let him go around the villages and play with local kids. This way Mobad learned the language faster and did not bother the old mage during work.
Beside speaking, the old wizard liked to show off tricks of all sorts. He juggled, danced with fire and imitated voices of others. Usually he ended his shows by speaking to the gathered villagers in a grave voice of one of their dead mayors or foremen, announcing good fortunes.
Mobad considered it a charlatary, but he took an interest in it and always asked in new villages for rumors from places they travelled through. Only good news reached him - the harvest overflowed in granaries, the sheep bore unusual number of lambs, a king who used to collect high taxes died and his successor lowered the tax burden significantly.
When winter arrived, the learning started. Saeman took residence in an abandoned shepherd hut in the mountains. At first he went hunting alone, but soon enough took the boy with him. He taught the boy how to use bow and spear.
When Mobad killed his first deer, Saeman sat with him in a clearing in the forest and told him while cutting the quarry: "Now you know how I teach. Thus I hope, you ́ll trust me. Magic is more complex than hunt and demands trust."
"I shall," the boy promised.
Saeman then showed him how to enchant an arrow to always hit the target. Back in the hut he showed him a simple spell that made sure the roof won ́t catch fire even if they let the hearth burn unchecked during the night.
Mobad doubted it all. He oftentimes missed even thrice when hunting and nothing bad ever happened in the hut regardless of protective spells. He kept his toughts secret and kept listening to the old mage.
"The results will come once you learn to believe in it," Saeman said. "That is the necessary condition of magic. On all sides involved."
Mobad was going hunting alone and in bad mood. The angrier he got, the less success he had. At one point he encountered a bear and had to run away from it. He wished he learned how to summon lightning, so he won ́t have to run from wild beasts. And not to rely on arrows anymore.
Then a thought occurred to him.
He did not know the spell, but tried nevertheless. He came across a stout deer and instead of bow and arrow took a knife in his hand. The deer noticed him, but did not run.
You have to believe it, repeated Mobad for himself. He believed he could get at arm ́s length from the game. He indeed managed to do so. He ripped a burl of yellow grass from the ground and fed it to the animal. He petted his fur. He listened how the animal breathes and ho its heart is beating. Then he jammed the knife right into its throat.
The deer rose on his hind legs and threshed around with his antlers and hoofs. Mobad barely managed to hide himself behind the closest tree. The beast ran to the other side and the boy followed it. When he found it, the tired deer was lying on the ground and life was seeping out of him.
In the evening surprised Saeman commended his apprentice. He told him: "Don ́t worry if your arrow misses a beast. The animals do not believe, or not in the same way we do. They do not think about the world the same we do. They are bound to different forces."
In the following weeks and months Saeman told Mobad simple magic. More than spells and correct gestures he drilled in the young lad the basics: "Magic against people, or for people, depends on their belief as much as on your strength. That ́s why I ́m performing every time I get the opportunity. The performance takes the people from their common lives and puts them in the world of magic, a world where everything is possible. They do not wonder about it, they accept it. At that moment, they are yours."
"Why do you not cast lightning and fireballs as the mages from the stories of old?" The boy wondered. "Is it because it ́s impossible, as the people do not truly believe in it?"
"Partially yes," Saeman replied. "Partially it is due to limits of direct magic. There are many forms of magic and each works differently. What I do and know is just one such kind.
What you are talking about belongs to another kind altogether, a kind I do not command and never in my life have I met anyone who would be capable of such thing. It would necessitate, I suppose, to be like animals - being bound with the nature in abandon and manner not possible for a man.
There are other kinds of magic though. Some wizards make magic out of things and substances. I know such people and they are doing great things for the honor of the trade.
Others speak to the creatures from... the other side of the world. They study relationships between such beings. It is a very indirect magic. If you know a demon who can do a particular thing, you just need to create conditions for him to do it. It is very safe for the mage but very unsafe for anyone around.
Others yet tinker with luck - they claim they know the beings from the other side who can influence luck. It is more versatile magic than you ́d imagine."
Mobad learned diligently. He learned new spells and with them found out about further rules of magic. There were very few things he could do with immediate success. The more time the mage had for his work to take effect, the better and more substantial result he achieved.
When he grew up, Saeman told him, the time itself can be cheated upon: "There is magic that lasts forever. You leave a trace in the time so powerful nobody else can remove it, save for yourself. Not even time itself can fight against such magic. But you have to be very careful, because such magic ought to be cancelled after some time and doing so can prove difficult."
"I don ́t understand," replied Mobad. "People don ́t live forever. What magic can last longer than their lifetimes?"
"Curses and boons," Saeman specified.
Mobad followed his teacher around. Each year they would travel the roads from spring to autumn. They saw the wider world and returned to the solitude of the mountains for the winter. Their lives gained a pleasant rhythm, not too monotonous, but steady enough.
When Mobad grew to adulthood, Saeman wanted him to go away, but the lad chose to stay. The old mage was ancient and frail by that time and needed to be taken care of. During the eleventh winter of their cohabitation Saeman caught pneumonia and died.
Mobad buried his teacher under the cottage, as was the custom of the homeland of his childhood years. Then he ventured down from the mountains to the cities.
Sorrow and ambition brewed in the young man and so Mobad firmly decided that he won ́t be like his mentor. Instead of showing tricks and spells around the villages he would go to cities. Instead of prophesizing good harvest he would advise the rulers.
The kings indeed used his services and since Mobad knew where to look, he continued to better himself in the magic arts even while fulfilling his new role.
The world around him was changing. Keush tribesmen conquered most of his homeland. The cities were now ruled by their foremen. One such tribal leader, Teimar, wedded a noble lady from the city Zaridon and when her parents declined his claim to the city ́s throne, he marched to war.
Many Keush foremen joined Teimar ́s cause. Nearly a half of the whole Wide Land went to war. All remaining native kings flocked to Zaridon and listened to its plea for help.
Mobad himself saw no use in joining the fight. Zaridon was his home city and the name itself brought to his mind unhappy memories. However, by the will of fate, he was brought into Teimar ́s service and thus took part in the battle at Sorim fields.
The Battle at Sorim Fields
Mobad went to fight with Teimar ́s band, nearly two thousand men strong. The chieftain ledged the mage with his officers. Most of them were superstitious and refused to even trade a word or make eye contact with a wizard.
"They are afraid you ́d ensorcel them and made them serve you," said Teimar, ridiculing such behavior.
"They are right to fear me," replied Mobad. "I can do that, but I have no interest in having minions." The mage did not mind that he had nobody to talk to. He kept aside from the soldiers and dined alone. That earned him even more respect among the men.
The campaign did not take a long time. After two days ́ march the army joined other allied companies in a stony gorge. From there another two days would bring them to the city of Zaridon.
The summer was at its peak and Keush tribesmen coming from the northern shires did not fare well in the sweltering heat. Teimar ́s personal physician got a stroke on the third day of the march. The chieftain unwillingly summoned the mage to his personal tent.
Mobad was suspisious of who he ́d meet there and did not want to think about it. Teimar however demanded him to stay by side of his wife for as long as necessary.
Mobad acquiesced. He came into the tent and found there Lapit, his childhood girlfriend. She grew up to be a beautiful young woman, but her face became strained with the wrinkles of woe, when she recognized her friend of old.
"What are you doing here?" She asked with a whisper. "Run away, or Teimar will kill
"I ́m on a campaign. Teimar needs me; why would he kill me?"
Lapit stroke her belly, that strained her otherwise loose garment. "Teimar is a jealous
man. And I... am carrying his child."
Mobad had no idea how to react at that moment. He wished all the best for Lapit in her
life, but at the same time felt robbed of something, that could have been his. He sighed. The confusion could be clearly read from his face. "Do you love him?" He asked.
"No, but Teimar is not a bad man," Lapit objected. "I could have married much worse."
"You could have married much better just as well."
Lapit explained: "Father needed a strong ally and he did not want to start a war with the Keush. It did not occur to him that Teimar might have an eye set on his throne."
After breakfast the army moved on. Mobad helped to put down the chief ́s tent and went by foot along the sedan chair in which Lapit was carried. Teimar proudly rode his stallion in th army ́s fore. The old acquaintances exchanged just a few words along the way, not more than was necessary.
In the evening the army arrived on a wide plain some ten miles away from Zaridon. Mobad stayed in the chieftain ́s tent even after dinner under a pretense to keep an eye on Teimar ́s wife. The chief reluctantly agreed and went to a war council. Lapit could finally speak openly with Mobad. The young mage told her about his travels while she let him know about all that changed in and around the city.
As a goodnight Lapit kissed Mobad on a cheek and hugged him. "Be brave tomorrow," she encouraged him.
At that moment Mobad felt confident, but readily nodded. For the rest of the evening he went from tent to tent and painted spell signs on the shields of Keush warriors to help them overcome their enemies and kill them easier.
The morning heat rising from the ground revealed tightly ordered lines of Zaridon defenders standing ready to fight the Keush warriord. While the strength in numbers was on side of the Keush, the natives were willing to fight till the last man.
Teimar summoned Mobad to the front line and asked him: "You are a mage. Do you see some otherworldly protection over the enemy?"
What had Mobad to say in that moment? He was raised around Zaridon and knew well the customs of the city. He knew the tower without windows, where the souls of all its dead inhabitants dwell, protects the city. On the shields and chests of the defenders a sign of the tower was painted. There was nothing Mobad could do to break that spell.
He noticed however, that Zaridon ́s allies had different enchantments on their shields and armor. Although he did not udnerstand the local magic as much as the Keushi one, he recognized the curved lines of body paint for enchantments that should divert the enemies ́ blows.
"So, whatever shall you do?" Teimar scolded the mage. "I haven ́t bought you for an entire herd of sheep just to have you chatting with my wife. Show yourself, how capable you
"I can try to disrupt some of their defenses," the mage acknowledged.
"And how shall the rest of us know? Sweep them off the surface of the earth! Send
down thunderstorms upon them, or something like that!"
Mobad did not mean to argue with the impatient chief. If he wanted to see
a performance, he will get it - at least such that was within the young man ́s capabilities. He picked a spear from a hand of the closest standing soldier and walked out in front
of the army. He used the spear ́s blade to draw lines of marks and enchantments to the hard ground. As he drew, he uttered in the local speech: "Your city shall stand still, but you won ́t return into his bowels! The strength of your allies is tied to the ground, and I shall turn it against them, just as I ́m turning the ground underneath your feet with this spear blade! And as this spike the Keush will be driven into your lines. These men are protected by my power! Show me, you brave defenders, who protects you?"
Three mages walked out of the ranks of Zaridon ́s protectors. Two were already seasoned, white in hair and dress in long white priestly gowns. The third one was their apprentice and could have been Mobad ́s peer.
Before the mages of Zaridon managed to show off their spells, Mobad reached towards the first one. As if by the movement, however remote, he took something from the Zaridonese chest and said while doing so: "I have your heart." Similarly he twice jabbed at the air with his spear towards the second mage and said: "I have your eyes." Finally he cut the air in direction of the third mage and said: "I have your voice."
Zaridonese mages were bewildered and their faced gave away worries. Mobad did not hesitate and threw his spear towards the first of the three. He hit his target at a distance that invoked calls of awe and whistles among the Keush warriors. Then Mobad drew his knife and ran at the second mage. The elder wouldn ́t run away. He attempted to face the lad with
a walking stick, but Mobad avoided his attack with a precision of a hunter and struck the old man with a mortal blow right into an eye.
The third priest, the young one, ran away to his brethren. Struck with horror he could not make a sound.
"Your defences are down and belong to me! Now run or die here!" Mobad yelled a at the defenders. Some of them indeed chose to flee, but majority held their ground. The young mage turned his back to them and told Teimar: "These are now your concern."
The Keushi foreman smiled with a bloodlust in his eyes and gave an order to attack.
Mobad did not need to watch. He walked back to the camp. He knew a massacre was taking place right beyond his back. Instead, he went to the foreman ́s tent and talked to Lapit.
"Why are you not protecting him?" The woman wondered, thinking of her husband.
"I do not want to protect him," Mobad admitted. "If he dies, he dies and that would be better for both of us. And if not, at least he will earn his victory."
"You didn ́t want to join the fight?" The woman asked.
"These are my countrymen just as yurs. I do not wish to spill their blood. I had to put down two of their priests and that sufficed as far as I ́m concerned."
Teimar sent his men to attack. He himself along with other Keush foremen and wealthier tribesmen stayed behind and oversaw the whole battle from horseback. The mage could have done his part, but Teimar did not trust him any more for that.
Zaridonese army managed to hold an orderly battle line only for a short while. The Keush fighters fell upon it with a shield-shattering and knee-bending frenzy. The defenders wavered and began an orderly retreat.
The rulers of Zaridon were sitting on their horses in the same manner Teimar and his retinue did. Seeing an imminent doom of their army, they decided to ride around its flanks and attack the enemy from behind.
Teimar saw their maneuver and bid his brethren to sally out against the enemy charge. The Keush foolhardily did not keep any men in reserves and their cavalry force was substantially smaller.
The cavalrymen clashed with a heavy impact. Both sides unsheathed their shortswords. Both men and horses fought with vigor worth of the deciding clash.
At first Teimar fought young but aggressive man. He got stabbed in the thigh, but managed to cut through the Zaridonian ́s throat. Then he sought out another victim - and older man with short, back-combed silvery hair. The square face of this man reflected struggle.
Teimar spurred his horse towards the old man. He cleaved his way through the battlefield, hacking Zaridonians aside.
The old man so far narrowly killed his first enemy, when Teimar rushed at him. He managed to turn to face the new threat, but younger Keush foreman succeeded in withering away his weakening defence with a few heavy blows and then struck him with a deathblow.
Surviving Zaridonians noticed the death of their old leader. They grouped around him, pushing the Keush aside. The Zaridonians then carried away the dead body away from the battlefield and into the city.
While other Keush leaders cheered at their victory, Teimar tended to his duties. He checked out the infantry. Even before the cavalry skirmish was over, the army core scattered the Zaridonian defenders.
Then the chief turned his horse towards his army ́s camp. He galloped inside and dismounted at the entrance to his personal tent. Inside he found, as he suspected, the mage and his woman, absorbed in conversation.
Teimar ́s knuckles paled as he clenched his fists in anger. It did not seem to him his young wife would mind the presence of an unknown man. Would it be possible for her to cheat on Teimar with this mage?
Despite the injured thigh Teimar stormed in, slapped the mage and dragged him out of the tent. He threw him to the ground and yelled: "If I find you close to my wife one more time, I ́m going to kill you!"
The mage dusted his robes and replied with defiance: "You couldn ́t kill me even if you tried!"
Teimar drew his sword and put it to the mage ́s throat. "Don ́t challenge me. I don ́t care about your street gimmicks. As long as you serve a purpose for my cause, you will do what I say. And then I don ́t want to see you ever again, understood?"
The mage sunk his spear into the groung, saying: "No... you won ́t. You won ́t see me ever again. But who would want, for those I will be always near."
The city surrenders
Birim ran from her private chambers down to the vast courtyard of Zaridon ́s citadel. Neither the heat of the noon, nor her advanced age could deter hre from seeing, whether her bad foreboding came true.
She met a troupe of ten soldiers at the courtyard. They were battered and wounded. Having cast away their weapons, they carried the body of Birim ́s husband, the city ́s monarch, on their shields.
Birim wept and embraced the lifeless body. It took her a long while to come back to her senses.
"What of my sons? Have you seen them?" She asked the soldiers.
"Not among the survivors, my lady," replied one of them. "It is said they were fighting in a cavalry skirmish. One of them fell with his throat stabbed right through. Nobody told me anything about the other. Maybe one of our own noblemen killed him, to deprive you of successors and usurp the throne, once the danger is away."
Such a thing could be expected from rich Zaridonian merchants and their allies in outlying cities. This Teiram was bad enough on his own, but to face an internal threat without any family left to lean on was too much for Birim to handle.
"How many dead have you picked up?" Birim asked with interest.
"As many as we could, mylady. The Keush have been chasing after us half the way to the city. Many of our fallen are still rotting under the sun." The soldier replied.
Birim nodded. She ordered the troops to prepare her husband ́s body for burian in the tower. She was ready to accompany them as soon as she will make an important proclamation. She sat upon her husband ́s throne and called upon the nobles, heads of the merchant families and allies of Zaridon, who came to aid the city in the battle.
"Valued subjects and allies of our city," she told, "we have lost the battle and cannot do anything about it. Now our duty became honoring the fallen. All Zaridonians have to end their life ́s journey in our tower. This custom is held for millenia. You who do not live here can choose whether to join our custom."
One of the allied kings stepped up, a man in light summer robe of deep blue color, and replied: "Our city and our tower is too far away. I accept your honorable offer." He bowed and left the space for others to comment. Most allies decided likewise.
Birim continued: "Having this issue solved, we have to recognize that the city ́s defense no longer makes sense. The Keush would just kill us all and prevent us from burying our dead soon enough. I will surrender the city to their hands in good faith that they won ́t destroy it."
The gathered folks were silent. The decision was a heavy one to take, and irreversible.
"I do not want anbody else to die due to my pride," Birim added. Then she stepped down from the throne and joined a short procession of serf, nobles and soldiers heading towards the main square. They carried the washed body of Zaridon ́s king on the hearse. The body was decorated with golden jewellery and dressed in finest clothes.
The entrance of the tower was guarded by two priests. Each of them held an incense burner. The priests took the body and stepped inside, into the forbidden place, where no other person should enter. After a longer while they returned and said together: "Now he lies next to his father. They look at each other and tell stories of old times and great wars."
Birim bowed to the priests.
Teimar marched his men to the city gates right after the battle ended. He hoped the locals will still put up some fight. The anger did not subside yet, and he wanted to vent it out on somebody. He ordered his warriors to cut down the trees in the wider surroundings of the city and make ladders from logs and branches.
Before the Sun sank into the western horizon, the city gate opened and the lady of the city came out. Dressed in black for mourning, but with beautiful jewels adorning her head to toe, she was walking with a swan ́s grace. In her footsteps followed a retinue of nobles and allies. Not a single soldier was among them.
Teimar sighed. He dismounted and went to meet the procession. He did not put away his sword however.
Birim stood and let Teimar come to her. She welcomed him with words: "Greetings, son-in-law. You have not honored us by your visit in a long time. I don ́t know whether
I should be glad to see you, since you are coming to us as a conqueror. You have blood of my husband and my sonds on your hands as well as many brave men of the city."
"Nothing of sorts would have happened, had you heard my plea, mother-in-law," Teimar replied.
"We in Zaridon have our customs. Our people do not wish to mingle with the Keush and be under their yoke. You do not know our traditions. You do not know how to honor the gods properly. Your reign would only bring catastrophes upon the city."
"That ́s women ́s talk," the Keush objected. "We will learn to keep your customs. But we also very much wish to mingle with your folk and to rule over them. Such is our nature." "The Broadlands are not broad enough for everyone, then," Birim thought aloud. "So
it be. Enter the city as a victor and a conqueror. Leave me to my sorrow. I lost almost all I cared for on this world. If you have heart, let me at least see my daughter."
"Lapit is pregnant. She is in my tent. I do not wish her to be disturbed by anybody, while she ́s in this condition. Once she bears me a son, you can see her." Teimar said.
Birim nodded with sorrowful look. "Then we have nothing more to discuss." She turned away and went back into the city. She made an order for the city gates to be left open.
Teimar in the meantime argued with Birim ́s lapdogs and allies. He ordered the defeated kings to lay down weapons and submit to his will. All of them agreed and made a vow on some tower.
Local nobility asked Teimar to give out the bodies of the fallen. The Keush agreed to that. He also saw moving the bodies as an opportune punishment for his unruly mage. Once he returned to the cam, he ordered Mobad to join the locals and help them to clean the battlefield.
Mobad gladly spent some time with his countrymen. He also could have stepped into the role of local priests, whom he had to kill on the battlefied. He moved the bodies of the fallen onto carts along with everything they had - swords, spears, helmets, shields. Given the number of fallen, it was impossible to honor everybody with funeral gifts of his own, but the memory of an honest fight in the last battle should suffice for the souls.
The mage along with the locals worked through the evening and night. He looked with sadness as Teimar ordered his tent to be taken down and walked along his young wife into the
During one break in the night shift Mobad asked the locals, how did they honor the
small pastoralist village, burned down by the Keush some fifteen years ago. Only a few men remembered such event happening, but one of them told him they put a sheep for each missing person into the tower as well as bits of their personal belongings which were found in the village.
The mage knew such ceremony was almost an offence, but also understood, there was no better way to go about it. He wished he could see his relatives one more time. Then he thanked the Zaridonians for their service and went into the city himself.