Continued …


Eutron’s Address To The People

From Chapter Thirteen   Volume Two


In Andrax, Eutron spoke to the people, “They do not hunt for meat, as they eat human flesh. We are assailed by darkness, the evil presence of a conqueror.

Who has spawned these unhuman men? They say he shares the lifeblood of the fabulous crocodile, Tsu’s living idol of hatred. That he drinks the blood of men and rejoices in the stench of carnage. That he has intercourse with the rotting bodies of the fallen. He wears a necklace of crocodile teeth. He tortures, murders, decimates. He is the spawn of Nefar for Nefar had his mother captive and had intercourse with her. He carries Nefar’s madness, the dark pleadings of Jeram, whom he had murdered.

Men speak of evil in our city, but shall we oppose swords of iron, with wooden staves? Shall we throw our army into battle, like wood into a burning fire?

The lord Emperor De‑mere, a ruler of unimaginable greatness; Nefar plotted to destroy him, his own son, but Serak intervened to save the child that gave us law and a new golden age. On Nefar’s death, De‑mere returned, youthful, god-like, bathing the city in radiance.

Who will allow this evil one, arrayed in the scabrous armour of the most merciless of beasts, who will allow this man and his dark horsemen, to assail a city and a ruler of such greatness? We must stand against them. The God-men are at their height. This is the zenith, when they have crossed the river and we tremble here in our own country.

It is prophesied that they will fall. Tytis has been granted eleven thousand days. We will defeat them in a ferocious battle. This is the law, known to the giver of law De‑mere, and revealed to Live.

How much courage we need! We face no mortal force, but the suicidal evil of Nefar in the armour of the crocodile: a bestial force. Why do I say this is the spirit of Nefar? Should two spirits such as Nefar the iniquitous, deranged and incestuous, and this evil one; murderous, implacable, treacherous, half human; arise in the same age? De‑mere and Jeram were mortals and imbued with goodness, but Tytis and Nefar are Tsu’s children, immortals. Their spirits shall be released in another age, when we destroy them. This moment has come at last.

Which of you will march with us, in this dark hour? How many will follow? The gods are with us. If you all have, courage, then victory is certain.

Let the prophecy be fulfilled!”

The young man raised his arm, saluting the people. A torrent of colossal noise, rose from ten thousand throats.


The Charge

from Chapter Five   Volume One

Air was crushed from human lungs. The white sky vanished. Dank air was torn by animal screams. They thudded onto soft black earth. The world fell in around them. Men were impaled on their own swords, or pinned beneath the massive crush of horses. Limbs, ribs and sinews were fractured and rent apart. Some sank into unconsciousness and merciful oblivion.


A Widowed Woman

from Chapter Nine   Volume One

They encountered a young woman, as she lay weeping bitterly in the dust, her countenance reddened with tears. Beside her was a severed head. She chased the flies, from the man’s black hair. As the shadow of the conqueror passed over her, she looked upwards and said, in a tongue that was foreign to his ears. “You have slain him, taken everything he possessed. Kill me now, before you pass.”

The horses moved apart to pass her by. Tytis and Leulan exchanged looks, observing her striking beauty. A little way further, he called a messenger, saying, “She may need protection. Lead her back to the tents. Then return here.”

To your tent?”

Tytis nodded in reply and shouted after him as he went, “And give her food.”

Leulan gave him a reproachful look, an obloquy all in one glance, then said quietly, “Only the beautiful?”

For an instant there was a feeling in the air and they were strangely subdued. Were they accusing him? A momentary hint of jealousy, anger, desire; then Tula laughed and broke the silence and they travelled on.

That evening Tytis prepared to go to the tents, stripped of his armour, carrying only a bow and a sword strapped to his horse. Tula observed this, smiling as he said, “Be careful. She may try to kill you.”

No, her mother was an Uran. There is no danger.”

He longed to ask Tula to return with him, but they both desired the woman, though only one could have her, so he did not.

Then he was moving through the evening air. The feeling of danger merely enhanced his senses and heightened his desire. He seemed almost thin and gaunt, for all his strength. He felt cold as they flowed through the wind. He found her in the shadow of the tent, a young woman, whose lover was a fly covered head, splattered with decaying blood; without meaning, except to the earth.

She was helpless and forlorn as he dismounted. They were the only people in a vast wilderness, sharing an immense and silent world, beneath the towering sky, now lost in darkness. Had she asked, “Why do you not end my life now, as you ended his?” how could he answer, now that he has cast off his armour as a bringer of death? Who was he now? Had he come to enact his lust, in a few convulsive instants; to share her pain; or to bask in his own distorted beauty?

He saw that she was feeling very weak and would not resist. She did not turn away as he touched her hand. They went into the tent, sharing each other’s warmth in the night. Their bodies were young and lithe, soft, beautiful and warm, their features shaped perfectly, desirable.

They pressed together; his heart pounding; his breathing tense, impossible to restrain; his lips heavy, full of longing; her lips burning like a fire in the night, so full. When would they fall together?

He resisted until… she subsided, tears flowing. She wept on his shoulder. For a long time the feeling of fullness and desire would not leave him. But as she wept, she grew cold. The moment had faded.

They talked in the night, standing together. They had not even kissed. As morning approached, she said in Uran,

Why do I weep? It is futile…”

He answered, “You must believe that sorrow is a beautiful thing. Do not confuse it with the tragedy. Only the tragedy is wrong. Allow yourself to feel sorrow for these few precious hours. Your sweet, bitter tears may warm his cold body, wherever his spirit may be. Perhaps they ease his burning hunger.”

Sharing their words together, they kept distant the emptiness of morning. When the sun rose, he kissed her gently, and departed to rejoin Tula and the others, sending a trustworthy man to lead her to the north.


Nefar And The Priests

from Chapter Ten   Volume One

For fourteen years, Serak lived at N‑randa Ka, sharing his life with De‑mere. Only two servants remained, so the child’s mind was forged in the solitude of the mountain kingdom. Far from Andrax, its bustling walls of stone, the dusty gloom, the shadows of its houses, far from the glistening ebony skins of the slaves, far from the voice of his insane father, and the shadow of his servant Live, who for three years had filled, his thoughts and dreams, who filled his days and walked in his nightmares in darkness. Far from the smell, the humid warmth, the grey dusty city streets, the echoing halls, the harsh voices of the soldiers. Far from the level plains, oppressive heat, drought, famine, war, disease. The senile, the infirm, the merciless lords, the merchants. Far from the robes of satin, from gold and emeralds and bronze. But walking the cold mountain paths, staring at the verdant forest slopes, wreathed in drifting mists. Staring at the far distant plains, encircled by the sky, like some vast pale ocean, glimpsing serenity at the horizon’s edge.

Never had he shed a tear for Jeram. Was this not curious? Was he somehow deformed in mind, and incapable of sorrow for his own father? His eyes were still cold, as he listened in Serak’s chamber. The shadow of sadness crossed his mind. How could the Gods allow such boundless cruelty? They would not use their power to rescue any living thing from death, no matter how immeasurably unjust or bitter. The living are outcast from the womb. They must receive whatever fate awaits them: their purpose to endure, only to endure, to survive, to fade. He glanced into Serak’s eyes. They were moist with emotion. The old man watched the cold child of fate …


The Dreamer

from Chapter Thirteen   Volume Two

In darkness Manya lay held by a single chain fastened to a metal band encircling his waist, on a flat stone slab covering a tomb in the Plaza of Heroes. Too cold to dream, his thoughts drifted in blackness as he listened to the distant sounds; animal cries, the laughter of people.

Within his head unspoken words invoked from swirling mists of thought, lived for an instant…

They chain me in the metropolis; naked to the gaze of men; empty to the world. I have lost all freedom and beauty: through each long day without love, without strength, losing all hope, turning grey in the sunlight, hiding my face and tears.

Forever war or dream until the day hangs so heavily upon you, that you are less than half alive. You cannot drown in sorrow. You hate these days, without lovers or friends.

How long have you the strength to wander towards the grey horizon? You who are chained; an island in a lake, encircled by futility. You the dreamer possessing nothing but this empty reality, dreaming of death. Not alone but chained in a multitude. You have no sword on which to die. You who cannot accept this world. You whom she will not accept. When will you die?


The Philosophers

from Chapter Thirteen   Volume Two


When the Urans reached Chana there was a season of peace. They settled there with their captives, amongst whom were twelve men who called themselves philosophers. They asked Tytis what he had achieved, as they talked quietly among themselves, in a kind of intellectual brotherhood, waiting for death together.

Tytis answered, “What have you achieved, dwelling in dreams of words and soft wine?”

They replied, “We walk in fear of you as children, but we are not torturers or murderers. You are a destroyer, a leopard among the young wildebeest, and from your tree hang a hundred thousand corpses.”

I have freed thousands, spared thousands, exacted no tribute, enlisted no one against their will. I have not strutted over my conquests, making men bow and pray. I have tortured no one… I have one enemy, whom I pursue relentlessly. When Andrax falls there will be peace.

Why do you fear death? Why cannot you accept it like these warriors? They walk in the shadow of death without fear.”

They do not walk in the shadow, for they are the shadow.”

But Tytis continued, “We’ve seen people torn limb from limb, bleeding to death, tendons slashed. We’ve seen lepers, cripples, blind men, insanity, senility. We’ve seen torture, the murder of children, women hung up to die. But this is not a merciless war. If anyone had survived the time of Nefar, they would know what true war is. A war in which defeated men leave the battlefield unwounded, that is a strange war.”

But your people do not build, they tear down. They harvest only arrows, swords and fire. Your horsemen spread death beneath their hooves. Their brilliance is in the art of death.”

Tytis, “We could drive your armies northwards for days like wildebeest. They would still return to trample us. You ask why we do not build cities? When we have torn down their walls, then we will build. We have nothing to defend except our horses and our lives. We can engage them anywhere in battle, when we choose. We will pursue them and destroy them, in their lair where they are strongest, and we are weakest. The hands of this generation carry swords, not staves to till the earth. The burden has been carried by only a few thousand. A great distance has been travelled and we are free now.”

Silenced by this, they glanced at his countenance with an air of morbid gloom. They waited, each one searching for words for the continuance, to bridge the gulf of silence. Until Tytis smiled wryly, saying, “There are men who philosophise because the expression of their thoughts is a kind of music to their ears, but many of the wild birds were born to make music, and in their simple wisdom do not call themselves philosophers.”

Return And Lana’s Death

from Chapter Thirteen   Volume Two


Tytis returned at the head of the war weary tides, his face unwashed, imperfect, his hair unkempt; his throat parched and a mind full of dreariness. Inside his mouth his tongue perched like a toad, filled with all the subtle venom of a cobra.

He slipped from Draconis and moved to his tent with aching legs. The horse was led away to water. Lying down, he quickly fell into a deep sleep.

Reaching his tent, Tula dismounted. The faces around were masked in shadow. Not until he had washed and drank and thrown off his stale clothes, did he sense an air of grief in these around him. Something had occurred. They told him.

Lana is dead.”

Lana, my woman Lana?”

Their sad faces gave answer. He felt a cold numbness descending; a feeling like pangs of hunger. He waited with dread to hear the story.

How did she die?”

She was bearing a child. She died in childbirth.”

Another continued, “It was an event of great sadness, a terrible misfortune.

She was moving on horseback, from Eca to Chana, in a party of thirty. They were moving quickly for some important reason… One evening, instead of halting at sunset, they went on for another hour in darkness, to reach a secure place… They reached the place and as they kindled a fire, they saw that Lana was not with them. She was lost in the night. She had been taken by the pangs of birth. Her horse had wandered from the trail and was lost hopelessly. She lay down to bear the child, surrounded by wild dogs and jackals… alone. They found her cold in death, three hours after morning. The horse had lingered at her side.”

After a time, Tula asked, “And the child? Is the child dead?”

There was grim silence, then one man found the courage to answer.

The child… the child was never found.”

Leave me.” Tula closed his eyes and fell down, feeling cold as death, shrouded in blackness. Tears welled to his eyes. Four years he had known Lana. He relived their first hour together, on the return from Madagas; when she had first looked into his eyes, and when they had first made love. He had never been faithful to her. If Lana had other lovers, he had not known or cared. But their love had been intense. She had not told him she was carrying a child. Sixty-eight days had passed since he had last been at her side. Was the dead child his? Her love had been so strong, so giving, so undemanding. It was all but certain that the child was his. He had never known such a weight of numbing sadness… Like the most abyssal night. He had given her so little… Nothing could redeem the past. Nothing could return Lana to life, or the child… Her kiss, her glance, her love were vanished. Never again would she look upon the Earth. The child’s life was stolen, unexpressed…


Execution Of A Murderer

from Chapter Fourteen   Volume Two


Tytis, Tula and Sitam left Chana in a hunting party with thirty others. They rode across the land in the early morning. As they went Tula spoke of a feeling he had often had, that among the gods, there were beings that required the love of mortals. Gods who crave love as a child craves the shelter of its mother’s arms.

Tytis said, “That feeling has haunted me at times; a fool-God desiring to be loved by all. Perhaps it comes from our own weakness. Is not everyone searching for love, a mother… terrified of pain? Perhaps that is why we are so strong. We are children of the earth. We came out of the plains alone, surrounded by tall warriors. We need freedom more than we need love.”

Two days passed. They came upon some people and heard news that sent them to a village in the south.

Tula took twelve men. They gave their heavy burdens of meat to their comrades and rode on urgently. They reached the place and came to the house of a murderer whom the people had spoken of. Sweeping in, they found the man in an enclosure behind the house. He looked surprised but spoke calmly to the Urans, realising that his life was in the balance.

The smell of death was in the air. He said he was a curer of leather. For a few moments they found nothing, then lifting up some garments, they found human corpses and half decaying skulls in the sand.

They were diseased. They died naturally. The dogs tore their bodies, mutilating them.” He said, but they knew he was lying.

An hour passed and the other riders arrived. When Tytis walked to Tula’s side, he was standing over a thin man who was perspiring in terror. He looked with white staring eyes, feeling only his own weakness, too terrified to plead for mercy, alone in a state of terrible helplessness, longing for it to be over. He could not move.

Tula spoke, “We found the corpses of four people.”

He gestured towards the eyeless heads, standing upright in the sand, upon their severed necks.

This man… Shall I torture and kill him?”

Tytis glanced at the creature on the ground. “Do not torture him. Kill him quickly.”

Tula’s shadow passed over him. He writhed and shrank back. Tula’s hand seized his hair. A cold blade swept across his throat. Then he was drowning in his own blood.


The Portents

from Chapter Fourteen   Volume Two


Tula and Dytha came to Tytis on an evening and Dytha said, “Tula has had a dream concerning you.”

Tytis asked Tula what the dream had been.

I saw Draconis and the elephant, the beast called Nemdolis. I saw Andracian soldiers in the wake of a great battle. The animals were led out among many, many thousands of people and in the dream, I saw you clearly for they held you captive. They bound you between Draconis and Nemdolis and you were torn apart before the thousands.”

When Tula had finished, Dytha said, “He has foreseen your death.”

Then Jalua who was with them, said, “Others have dreamt and I saw this, not in a dream, but two days past. A melanic snake was crawling in the grass during the mock battle and your sword, in a scabbard, was lying in the grass. The black snake crawled over it. At the time, it touched me with uneasiness. Yes, it was clearly a portent of death.”

No one spoke, until Tytis said, “I too had a vision. We were on horseback, in a dark place beneath the earth, moving slowly through a kingdom of stone and searing heat. I led a straggling trail of men, tired and exhausted, on a rocky path.

Then before us we saw in the far distance, a towering wall of stone, pierced by a circle of fiery red, like the rising sun. We were moving towards that place. It was not the sun but the centre of the Earth, a place that is uninhabited by men, and no beasts have ever lived there. Towards this place we were moving inexorably, to the heart of a kingdom where no one can endure.

Then the vision was gone. I was left in wonderment. Its meaning was clear but the outcome is undecided, Fate awaits us.”

A Northern Seer

from Chapter Fourteen   Volume Two


Four days elapsed. They brought a corpse on horseback and laid it down before Tytis. It was the pipe player. As the horse stirred, the wooden pipe slipped from a leather strap. They moved to retrieve it, but it was crushed beneath the hooves. Forlorn echoes of the player’s song drifted to their minds, then faded and were lost among the jangling horde.

They led a man to Tytis, a seer who had lived in Demensa, though his father was Uran. They spoke. Tytis looked into his eyes and knew he was a truthful man, who bore him no malice. The man spoke grimly of disasters that would follow, but Tytis said, “There was indeed a time when I would have been disturbed by portents of ill fortune, but our army has grown too strong, and nothing can turn us away.”

The seer spoke of the fall of a great city and Dytha said, “You prophesise that those led by Tytis will destroy Andrax?”

The other said, “I am certain that this battle will end in our total defeat and disgrace.”

Tytis drew back, seemingly unmoved and undecided. Around him their faces grew darker. He reached his hand toward the sky and clenched it, turning it round and bringing it down again. He sighed, “Even the sky hangs heavy over us.”

They were so tense that they were standing almost without breathing. They turned to Dytha and demanded the meaning of the northern seer’s words, perceiving that they were wreathed in ambiguity.

Dytha said, “It is unknown. It is undecided.”

They turned to his brother who shook his head and glanced towards Dytha.

Finally the seer spoke saying, “There are two cities. One lives and breathes amongst you.”

In the hour before dawn he called Draconis to his side. The horse did not come and when Tytis stepped towards her, she moved away. The others saw this.


Manya and Derula

from Chapter Fifteen   Volume Two


Far in the north, in the Plaza of Heroes, Manya was dreaming.

They chain me in the metropolis. I am naked to the gaze of children. The People come and go, chastise me with their half heard words…’

So many hours spent in that solitude, to find expression. Even if he had understood their language, he could not have spoken to them appeasingly to make his life less unendurable.

In the hour after nightfall, when Manya lay with bowed head deep in thought, he heard a woman sobbing. He did not open his eyes until he felt the touch of blood upon his skin. In a blood red pool a girl lay crying. Manya was struck by her beauty.

With a comb made from a shell, she had opened a vein at her left wrist. She looked at him with tearful eyes. Crimson blood bathed the garment which clung to her heaving breasts. He awoke as if into a dream, and bade her to move closer.

Once more she raised her eyes, then crawled slowly to his side. He grasped her wrist in his strong hand and stopped the flow of blood. He sheltered her cold body in his arms and felt her tears falling on his skin. The dream was love.

They came. They took Seraluan, who was Uran, a captive physician, a man of exceptional skill. He washed her wrist in warm water and quickly sowed the lacerated veins together. The girl fainted. Manya looked at her wan countenance. She was truly beautiful.

They carried her away and brought him food, and water with which to wash away the blood. They said her name was Derula. Seraluan who had been condemned to death, they set free. Manya, to whom they gave a white robe and a measure of wine, they left in chains.

Waiting for days beneath staring eyes. The crowds glanced at the new robes worn by the madman. Incredulous children gazed in fascination, daring to approach him. Some caught the look when he raised his melancholy face, sad visionary eyes, staring beyond them. A face whose strange intensity changed from sadness or monotonous longing or vague happiness, with every passing day.

Had the girl forgotten him, or had she been forbidden to return? Rage and impatience welled up within him. He felt he could tear the chains from the stone, but did not. The dream was death.

She was watching him from the shadows; the ebony man with bowed head in the moonlight. Unaware, he felt a touch. There was a rush of hope, but still he hesitated to raise his head. He felt a second touch and looked upwards. It was Derala. She looked into his eyes and knelt beside him. He touched her wrist and felt the scar. She did not speak. He took her in his arms. They held each other tightly.


Tieran’s Children

from Chapter Fifteen   Volume Two


A year passed and the woman had a child. Tieran’s anger cooled and he announced that his son was forgiven and that he wished to see his grandchild. He visited Anarch and it seemed that all was forgiven. So Anarch returned to his father’s camp. There was a restless truce. Then the child died.

One night there was a great feast and much drinking. Anarch entered father’s tent and drank with him. Harsh words were spoken, knives were drawn and Anarch drew blood. As he rushed to leave the tent, he was seized by Tieran’s men, and there before them, Tieran cut his own son’s throat.

Hearing the news, I rode to the place and was told everything. I found his body cold as the morning, bloody and broken. Tieran’s men surrounded me and took me as a captive and he sent horsemen to Seleda, saying that he required forty of my horses before he would release me.

Darkness fell and Tieran seemed to relent. I was taken to eat with him. There were thirty others in the tent. My heart was filled with pain and fierce hatred surrounded me. But some one beside me spoke quietly saying, that many of the men would follow me if Tieran were to die.

They brought Anarch’s corpse into the tent and set it down before the table. They brought his woman and Tieran ordered the weeping girl to kneel and kiss the cold flesh. They stripped him naked and made her place her lips on Anarch’s lips. The men gathered there were reeling with banu. Their thoughts were clouded, their hearts filled with strange emotions.

Then Tieran ordered that the girl’s throat be cut. Silence fell over us. A man went to her and drew a sword and took her by the hair, pulling back her neck, waiting for the final gesture of command.

Tieran’s eyes were red and clouded. He moved his lips to speak. Then I was there before them. I reached the swordsman and threw him down and pushed the girl towards the entrance of the tent.

Tieran rose. With slurred speech, he told his men to kill me. They hesitated. I moved to him and seized the garment near his throat, and dragged him out. I held him, his neck across my thigh. I hurled my clenched fist against his throat. I heard the sound of shattering bone. He fell unconscious at my feet, close to Anarch his murdered son. When the sun rose he had passed into death.


After The Wildebeest

from Chapter Sixteen   Volume Two


They look at the world around them, so blurred and vivid. Hearts beating fast, filled with hunger; sensations imploding in their minds; driven, compelled. Their consciousness is intense but the world floods over them, ephemeral impressions, heartbeat by heartbeat. They remember nothing and are blind to yesterday and the prospect of tomorrow, responding only to hunger.

But their world is real: their being inescapable, profound; living instant by instant; seeing light, colour, a vivid realm of form and substance, sound and taste.

They understand… everything. All questions are answered by the screaming voice. How can they disobey?

We dwell in our world. Conceived in oblivion, born perceiving, receiving, but knowing, understanding nothing. The answers are infinite and they loom slowly into our minds and we begin to comprehend… Until the world seems dull, unchanging, but still we are driven.

We have our concepts of the past in vivid memories, and of tomorrow, and of our brothers around us dwelling in their inner world. We move, clash, collide. The illusion of our strength recedes. We are weaklings, one grain in a multitude, an instant in time, trapped deep in our being, deep in our lives.

Chance has cast us up upon the shore. We have grown strong. Fate has been merciful. It is miraculous. We are so strong, Godmen. And if we were to live again, would we be wild dogs, or wildebeest or women or madmen?

In a world filled with hunger and war, we are the noble, we are the strong – chosen only by fate. And the strong feel no gratitude. Their lives are their own. They are justified. They are the chosen, and from their high walls they persecute the weak men and the fools. Only one world exists for them, in infinite space. Only they exist for they are the chosen. But they are the fools.

The universe is blind. If I could find the truth and end all suffering, I would, as would any sane man, but I cannot. We cannot set free the truth. Even the universe is enslaved by its own commands and cannot bend the natural law.

We cannot find freedom from the chains of age and disease – all the million bringers of pain and darkness, because time will defeat us. The tyrant will crush us as it stumbles. There is no escape. But I still long to justify my years upon the earth. I was a slave, a slave king encircled by swords. Because the other chains cannot be broken, I fling myself upon my human enemies.

For on this Earth, there is no reason… but to become a warrior. The universe seems so invincible because of relentless time, so I go to war with men, those who brought ruin to us and although I bear them no hatred, I will destroy them. They have tortured, so they will meet their life’s end in war.

With my will I conquer. I lead others… great men whom I love, and you Tula my true friend. We throw ourselves upon swords, running headlong towards death, justifying our life’s end in pain, bringing others down around us in the same dream.”

After a time Tula said, “You say you bear them no hatred?”

He looked at Tytis and Tytis knew he was thinking of Live, and said quietly, “I will destroy him.”

And us. Everyone must come down with us, for after all we cannot die alone.” Tula laughed as he said this.

Tytis “Yes, we cannot deny the truth.”

Later as they moved away he said, “It is sad that so many must die. Though sometimes beneath the sky or with blood upon our swords, we stand laughing, the truth is sad. Every one of them has died in pain, though everyone must die. We cannot contemplate the truth without sorrow. Reality is very sad.”

Tula “We will cause great sorrow if we are victorious. The widows and orphans will number in tens of thousands. Where will they find food and shelter? What will happen to our children… and those who are maimed?”

As they journeyed on to rejoin the army Tula felt his depression slowly lifting, until… more dark thoughts came down to him. He saw the blood stained corpses of the slain. Why had their suffering never taken him to this place before? He perceived that everyone he had killed had not been a warrior to whom all life and war seemed like wine. He thought in unspoken words…

I have seen many terrible battles and thousands upon thousands have I seen die… I lingered on the battlefield. I was the last to relinquish the pursuit of those who fled. Have I followed myself in the slaughter?’

Lifting a dagger to his eyes and seeing dim reflections in the blade. They were still moving across the wilderness, over a dark sea of grass. Into dreams of suicide for the first time…

Tasting life like a drug, I have flown high on war, because I was strong, always joyful. Can I end my own life, send this shining blade deep into my chest, into my heart? Or will I go on to the stone city to die at the hands of another?’

They halted on the plains, in darkness below the stars. They were touched by the night and listened to the howling beasts around them. Tula dismounted and tethering his horse, he lay down in the dew soaked grass. Strange dizziness filled him as he gazed into the heavens. He felt as if he were beneath the world, looking down through an ocean of blackness, about to fall. Tears rested frozen at the interface of emotion, warm and longing but unexpressed.

He saw the pipe player; his body bound upon a horse. The pipe fell into a muddy pool and was crushed beneath the hooves. He thought of Lana who died in childbirth on the plains, surrounded by wild dogs; of Lanu who died in agony, a man so youthful… He thought of Urgal’s ravaged countenance; of Rana, dragged from the quicksands at Onnine. And of Jalua’s child, thrown from horseback and killed near Teuan.

He stared upwards at Tytis, who sat with bowed head on Draconis. He rose and they went towards the army which had moved northwards throughout that day.

Thoughts now came to Tytis. They lived in consciousness but were unspoken.

We are the most blessed of all men who have ever lived, having shed so much blood and shared so little pain. We’ve been given strength, courage… We have walked among carnage where few could survive. We’ve been so close to death, standing before the executioner.

The lie is so immense… the cycle of pain. Armed with swords and our nobility, we cling to the Earth but we do not fall, facing the sky and the earth, the sea and fire. Even the plague did not touch us… until we stand at the gates of Andrax.

Why has the torturer chosen us to live? There is no reason. The creator is a mindless God and we have chosen ourselves. We will continue until we lie among the fallen, our brothers and sisters, when the city has fallen…

We’ve stayed too long in the darkness.’

They reached the army and watched the sun rise, flooding the world with light.


Imagine a World…

from Chapter Seventeen   Volume Two


Imagine a world where the only emotion is pain, a screaming red walled cavern in a sea of torment, where the body is trapped for an eternity without mind, emotion, sense, will or understanding. A vacuum in emptiness, brimming to fullness with one terrible force; scarlet, high pitched, screaming, unendurable pain.

There seemed no time for thought, indeed no purpose for it. The mind could not understand and did not try. It had always been there. There was no other place to be. It was trapped in eternity, its only purpose, to suffer forever.

There was no time. Yet the mind perceived that there was an interval between unbearable moments, tidal waves of pain. They struck so ferociously, with icy clarity, like the beating of a heart; without possibility of end. No monstrous force of will power could have dragged him from that place. He did not try. He had no mind.

It seemed a thousand lifetimes passed between the walls of pain. Slowly his mind returned. Where was this place? The high pitched messages, as if his nerves were being torn out from the flesh and returned in the same instant, ended slowly, before an immense tide of relief; but his mind still did not understand. He still slept, aware that eternity was over, craving for peace. His senses slipped away. His mind sought an explanation as it slowly faded. It found an answer. He had just passed through the agony of death.

Words came to him like a whispering voice. ‘Even death may hold some joy for him. I cannot destroy his will before morning. I will end his life before the new dawn.’

He raised his hand to touch the face. The fingers hovered above it, but did not descend. He drew his hand away. For a long time he watched almost peacefully.

Why did you come? I have called you often enough without answer. Do you come to defeat me?

I am no mortal force. I haunt the universe. I hide in dark places. I walk in the dreams of children. Now I dissolve into myself.

When I pass over the Earth, I bring pain beyond bearing and despair. All men wish that they had never lived, all men that meet me.


A Death

from Chapter Eighteen   Volume Two


He was floating on a lake of pain. Half his body was submerged in it. The rest of his being looked upwards, at faces and the sky, still perceiving the world. He heard footsteps. Was it Tytis who came to his side now, and Tula? He thought he was familiar with their tread. Someone touched him, looked into his face. He felt tears in his eyes. They melted and blurred the vision of the world before him.

Heartbeats passing… Sounds were fading. He sensed their passing grimly. Do not let there be silence. Very quickly, red pools began to drift across the sky. Do not let them blot out the sky. But they did, and the world was flooded with red.

Death is horrible. So cold and grim. There is no beauty here. Do not resist. Had not Tytis said ‘There is no pain without resistance.’ You are dying. You are leaving the Earth.

The red clouds were swept away and stained by pools of black. Vainly he searched for light. He thought of his wife and children and tried to see them in his mind but could not, though he could hear their voices.

The sky was completely black and the exterior world was lost to him. Falling, slowly falling. Fading, darker, ever darker shades of night.

He went on a little longer, then sank into the dream and was gone from the Earth.


Esu Set Burning

from Chapter Nineteen    Volume 2


In the Plaza of Horses, pale swirling smoke dimmed the morning sun and subtly transformed its light, in strangely beautiful unnatural hues. Vultures flocked from deserted roofs, to feast upon the dead. Men’s corpses lay in curiously still and silent ordered rows. Vultures were striking shadows against the sun, perching on the dead amidst the broken walls of houses. And suddenly the falling of the rains in heavy beads, lashing the stone, gathering in pools upon men’s’ eyes like tears. It was a vision of inexplicable beauty.


Waiting… the Vultures

from Chapter Nineteen   Volume Two


A man arrayed in bronze, with countenance of scarred stone, glassy eyes of the crocodile, hands stained indelibly with blood, looked at Telayanon with profound contempt. Tears from the eye of a warrior upon the saddle of a coward. He turned, glancing at others of his rank. One man reflected his contempt. The others looked away, staring at the men who were approaching.

Other eyes looked upon them. Dytha stared in sorrow, in realisation, sinking down into blackness. Perhaps the truth could be discerned there unobscured, free from his loves and hopes. Fear advanced like clouds from the west; despair came from the east. Why had Tytis now deserted them? It was the advance of fate.

He knew… what could be, but not what had to be. It was undecided. Rising again to the upper world, he spoke a few words to Sitam and his comrades. He remembered the hopes of Tytis and urged his horse forward a little way.

Telayanon’s eyes opened to the sound of sobbing. De‑mere knelt face in hands. For long moments De‑mere the mighty knelt, praying, pouring out his shame and grief, in salt tears into the dust. Then he arose.

Gone was the countenance of madness; the face of helpless evil, that had frozen Telayanon with horror. The countenance was transformed. He was reborn. Live was truly dead.

A deep smile emanated from Dytha and for an instant he felt joyful. Smiling was Telayanon now; smiling the face of scarred stone. The seventy horsemen of Dytha and his brother went forward together with drawn bows. Long moments they faced each other, giving time for final thoughts, for despair or courage…

The King remounted saying, “All things must end. It must end. It is over…

Let us die.”

His tired face now appeared almost noble.

Distant the waiting seventy; drawn the battered swords; so tired and yet so eager the bodies; so sad and yet so peaceful the eyes of De‑mere; smiling the eyes of Sitam, Telayanon and Dytha; waiting… the vultures.