War of the Sands original work

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Valley_of_Avathar, Jul 8, 2005.

  1. Valley_of_Avathar

    Valley_of_Avathar Attercop Attercop

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    First in a series - War of the Sands

    War of the Sands
    1​

    A lone figure moved swiftly through the sandy streets of Leto. Its footfalls were muffled in the earth and it was ignored by the ears of anyone around, for above the low brick rooftops of the city the sky burned in molten clouds of crimson fire. Roaring and cracking could be heard as the sky churned in its fiery agony. The lone figure continued to run; now down this street, now up a stairway onto a rooftop. As it stood upon that height it stopped and looked out across the city. The palace grounds, many miles away, burned with a brilliant flame and the smoke and fire filled the night sky. No star could be seen and the moonlight could not break through the thick blanket of soot. The only light came from the decaying destruction of those regal buildings.
    The figure stared at the palaces for quite some time before dropping back down to the sandy street. The figure struck the floor with both feet and in an instant broke into a run towards the palaces. The night did not seem to take any notice of the figure, its robes flowing behind it. It swiftly turned corners and leaped over obstacles with a soundless otherworldly grace. Over a hill it ran and down the other side.
    Presently, it came to a narrow alleyway and in the moment of its entry through that inescapably ravine three other cloaked figures dropped behind it. It whirled around and drew its long iron blade. The others also drew blades of their own. The figures stood for a time, locked in a battle of caution.
    A cat, having just slept through a long, warm afternoon arose, and jumped from its bed atop an old wooden box. It moseyed across the floor to the old door that opened onto the street. It stretched and pushed against the door. The sound of the door opening disrupted the figures’ concentration, and they instantly turned to see from whence the intruding sound had come. Instantly, the first figure swung its sword and two of its foes fell to the ground.
    The third foe raised its foil and parried the first sword. Metal crashed with metal and the foe lunged forward. The figure with its blade shining bright held out its sword and the third figure was skewered through the chest. The third and final foe quaked and trembled as it lay on the ground. The figure loomed over it and with its sword removed its foe’s head.
    The figure picked up the severed head by the hair. The face stared back at it with empty black eyes. Tattoos and figures of ancient legend covered its barbaric face and upon its forehead was emblazoned, into the skin, the mark of an unknown god. The figure recoiled and tossed the head onto the sandy floor. It looked around and then removed its own hood. To any passerby, it would have been strange to see this hooded assassin as it removed its disguise and revealed the face of a beautiful woman. But there was no one nearby except for the small yellow cat that came out from the shadows of the porch and walked over to the woman. But the woman was gone, as she leapt again into a run, down the alley, and towards the burning palace grounds.

    The night was aglow as flames licked the alabaster walls of the ancient palace. And everywhere the shadows cast the ghastly shapes of the arsons. Tall men clad in steel torched the walls with fiery siphons. And in the midst of them was a great dragon, like the old worms of lore, it was as tall as a tree and covered in thick scaly mail. Its head was at the end of a long serpentine neck and upon its head was set many horned crowns. And perched upon its back was a tall man. Clad in steel, he sat proud in his saddle. And as Iduna approached from the concealment of the palm trees, he shouted orders to his troops. His voice was harsh and gravelly. He spoke in Lähinic, but it was a dialect Iduna did not understand well.
    “Igsnata Paladalia, Matara placata in Ignsiam.” The captain said, “Thura! Mukra!”
    Iduna emerged from the shade of the palms and drew her sword. The cracking of the enormous fire shattered the stone of that primeval building and rained down in clouds of debris. The tall captain astride the firedrake turned to Iduna.
    “Get back.” He said holding out his gauntleted hand. Iduna continued to approach him. “This does not concern you, woman, go back to your home” Iduna came now to where the dragon stood.
    “This was my home.” She said and instantly drew her blade from the recesses of her robes. The captain was shocked, but drew his blade swiftly from its sheath. The blade was long and curved and glowed red in the light of the inferno. The dragon bellowed at the sight of the swords and screamed at Iduna. But its rider dismounted and the dragon left.
    The captain was tall, and in his dark face his eyes cut through Iduna.
    “So you are the one who escaped my men,” the man shouted, “All of the palace guard is dead now, Leto is nearly mine.”
    Iduna stood her ground, “Then you must be the leader of this. I had heard your name was Tindible. Am I right? You were closest to the Emperor, his chief of Lieutenants, High Prince of Allyanna.”
    “Tindible has been dead for years.” He said, “I am Zaphad, the Grand Enki. Your friends are all gone now, Leto is finally ours. The Jesireh order will control this city from now on.” Zaphad shouted an order and several soldiers rushed at Iduna. She slew two of them and leapt away from the others. Her agility obviously surprised them as she dodged their swords and cut them down from behind and whirled back to decapitate three more. She parried a blade and then leapt onto the opponent and stabbed downward into its neck. She leaped backwards and flipped back onto her feet. The other foes stepped back as her blade was held out ready for them.
    “Foolish cowards!” Zaphad yelled and pushed his way through them to where Iduna stood. He raised his sword but Iduna parried. She thrust forward but he dodged to the side. His blade fell upon the empty ground as she leapt upwards into the air and landed back several feet away on the back of a horse. She kicked it and it sped away. Zaphad rose and watched as his opponent withdrew into the night.
    “After her!” He yelled to his troops. And several soldiers mounted upon camel bounded after her.
    Iduna went into a gallope as she rode through the streets of Leto. The riders were hot on her tail as she bounded over abandoned carts and ducked under clotheslines that crossed the streets in a seemingly chaotic web. She took her horse swiftly around a corner and down a long street. As she passed by the abandoned apartment buildings and ruined shops she saw that ahead of her the street stopped in a dead end. A high wall of crumbling debris. She turned her head and saw that the riders were right behind her. She jumped off and drew her sword. She landed on the sidewalk but the camels and soldiers were gone.
    “Where did they go?” She wondered. A thick smoke had filled the street, but it was not from the palace, this smoke was clean and thin and in the midst of it she saw a man, a small man, with hat.
    “They are gone!” the old man laughed. “Malagigi! You should get somewhere safer!” Then the old man disappeared and Iduna found herself alone in the abandoned street with her horse.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2005
  2. Valley_of_Avathar

    Valley_of_Avathar Attercop Attercop

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    hmmm. I'll go a ahead and put up section #2 and 3

    2

    The light from the pub flooded out into the sandy courtyard as Iduna returned once again to somewhere she new she was safe. She walked down the stone steps under the canopy of the old building and at once she saw about her the company of the pub. Rich men, poor men, this was the abode of Leto’s outcasts. She knew the Zaphad would not bother with these lowlifes. The men were all drinking and talking, a man with some kind of string instrument stood in the corner and took money from the drunks for musical requests.
    Iduna sat down at the nearest table between to large, unshaven men who had passed out in their seats.
    “Looks like you both are having the times of your lives.” She said to the inanimate lumps beside her.
    “Probably better off than most people in this city.” Said man at another table who had overheard Iduna’s sarcasm. The man was an older bald fellow. He wore a black shirt and a breastplate that had been stained and was tarnished by years of rust. He also had a white mustache which he stroked with his gloved hand.
    “True,” Iduna said and leaned back in her chair, “Have you heard of this Zaphad? He says he’s trying to take control of the city.”
    “Who isn’t?” the man laughed and took a long swig from his tankard, “What is this one calling himself?”
    “Um,” Iduna thought for a second, “Grand Enki. I don’t know where he got that.”
    “Sounds foreign,” the man said, “What did he do?”
    “Burned down the palace, filthy bastard. I lived on those grounds all my life! It was the last remaining symbol of the old Empire.”
    “The Palace?” the man choked on his beer, “How many toads does he have worshipping him?”
    “About a hundred I saw.”
    “That’s too bad,” the man set down his mug and wiped his face, “So many crime lords in this city. Which one do you work for?”
    “Me?”
    “Yes you?”
    Iduna could not believe what she was hearing. “I told you I lived in the Palace.”
    “That’s right” the man nodded, “So you’re one those Guardians then, the Meht-Koral. You don’t seriously believe the Empire could ever be restored do you? In these situations? Half of the city has been abandoned! The rest is burning from all the street fighting. And the crime lords are getting more powerful! Just last month Iritak the Red was killed in a brawl over by the wharf district and Nebo-Bladan took control of his entire throng!”
    Iduna was silent.
    “Your ideas of nobleness and virtue aren’t going to let you last long in this city. You’ve got to work for a one of these lords if you want to be able to feed yourself. Ain’t any market selling fresh fruits anymore. It’s kill or be killed, sister, no cares about restoring anything unless it will pay off here and now.”
    Iduna was still silent but her fury was beginning to resonate in her face. The man waited for a reply then sighed and returned to his drink.
    “They’re all dead.”
    “What?”
    “The palace guards. Zaphad said he killed them all.” Iduna sighed and covered her face.
    The man stared at her, “You’re kidding.”
    “I wish I were.”
    The man thought to himself for a long time. “We should look into this Zaphad. This town shouldn’t fall to another tyrant.”
    “You’re right,” Iduna answered, “My name is Iduna.”
    “I’m Razanur Valrmir,” he said, “Pleased to meet you.

    The black stained walls of the palace greeted Iduna and Valrmir as they approached that burned out carcass of the days of old. Iduna passed under the high arch doors to the blackened halls. Valrmir followed.
    “A sad death this is for Leto,” Iduna murmured, “Where have gone the guardians, those loyal to Everborne the Great?” Valrmir, followed closely behind her, but something buried in the ashes caught his eye. A twinkling, a shining something. Valrmir knelt and dusted it off. “Doth not the alabaster halls darken in the absence of the Emperor Fairwise? Where have gone the guardians, those loyal to Everborne the Great?”
    “It’s a sword.” Iduna turned to see Valrmir picking up a long shining blade from the ashes. The blade was as long as he was tall. Its hilt was wide and was to be clasped by both hands. The steel was inlaid with many jewels and it was obvious to both of them that it had not belonged to any street fighter.
    “That is Durindana!” Iduna gasped. “It was kept here after the Emperor was disposed. It was kept in the walls here. It must have fallen out when this wall crumbled.”
    “Can I keep it?” Valrmir asked as he gazed at its elegance.
    “No!” Iduna took it from him. “This is the sword of the Emperor. It was made in the forges of the gods long ago before the forests were sown and the rivers were dug.” The blade shone with a timeless luster.
    “The Emperor does not need it anymore.” Valrmir took it back, “besides, if we leave it here, someone else will take it.”
    “You’re right.” Iduna sighed, “I suppose you can have it, until we find a better place for it.”
    Valrmir strapped the sword to his belt. It was awkward, because of its size, so he undid it and strapped it to his back. Iduna walked on. The once beautiful building echoed only a sad ghostly shadow of its former self. The tall rafters groaned and whispered rumors of collapse, and so the two trespassers decided that it was best to leave the palace alone and let it smolder in peace.
    They found a low doorway and passed through it. The gardens behind the palace were aglow with ravenous flame and everywhere shouts could be heard. Shadows of running people danced across the smoking trees and the smell of ruin, of deep and utter devastation hung in the night air. A fight was going on. Iduna ran forward and crouched behind a pile of rubble. She drew her sword and peered over the top at the brawl. Everywhere people ran carrying pieces of wood and scraps of metal; children and women were amongst them, also bearing weapons. And they bashed each other.
    “Defeat them!” shouted a tall, clean-shaven man, upright upon a brown charger. “Don’t let them take the palace grounds! I want them all dead.!” Beside the man stood several bodyguards with spears and makeshift armor; one held a black banner with a scarlet bird embroidered upon it. “Remember! Lord Casimir will reward you all!”
    Iduna had seen many scenes like this before. The greedy crime lords of Leto often fought in the streets over various petty things. It seemed the object of hostilities was this time the palace. With the guardians gone any gangster could now seize it. And their “armies” of starving men, women, and children were willing to fight for any cause if they were promised bread. The droughts had been bad the past several seasons and the farmers in the west stopped selling their goods to the City of Bandits. Many of the poor were struggling. Some people had resorted to eating earth. Few animals were left in the city. The crime lords had their mounts, and the old disciples of the pagan cults still kept cats as holy idols, but few others could survive the hunger of Leto.
    Iduna glanced back and signaled to Valrmir to come. Valrmir came running and crouched down with her behind the pile of rubble. He had Durindana ready in his hand.
    “Put that away!” Iduna shouted. “They would kill you if they saw you with that.”
    “Not if I kill them first.” Valrmir grinned
    “We should stay out of this.” Iduna peered out at the fight. The clean-shaven taskmaster had moved forward a bit and now had his back to them. Iduna gripped her blade. “On second thought,” she said, “Do you see that commander there?” Valrmir peeked out and then nodded.
    “Yeah, that is Avathar, He’s one of Casimir’s toads. We both used to serve Garrick the Spear-king. He’s one of the most dangerous swordsmen around. Avathar, I mean.”
    “Let’s get him,” said Iduna.
    “What?” Valrmir gasped, “No. I think we should stay out of this.”
    Iduna raised an eyebrow. “Well,” she said, “I have an idea.” She immediately leaped up and over the rubble heap and ran towards the unsuspecting commander and his guard. Her blade rang as she slew the three foot soldiers and swiftly held her blade to the rider’s neck.
    Surprised, Avathar gasped. Valrmir came running to Iduna’s side.
    “People of Leto!” Iduna yelled to the throng, “Cease this fighting now or I’ll kill your leader!”
    Shouts of “Cut his ugly head off!” came to Iduna’s ears. Iduna shook her head. She ordered Avathar to dismount and bound his hands. She took his banner and ripped it.
    “Leto! This cannot go on! We must stop fighting with one another! We have become barbarians. What happened to the days of civilization? When we were united? When Leto was the city of peace?”
    The crowd stirred. The fighting stopped and many of the small children ran away.
    Iduna shouted again. “Follow me and we can rid this town of her oppressors.” But the crowd paid her no heed. They had heard this before. It was just the making of a new dictatorship.
    Iduna sheathed her sword and turned around when a sound of thunder shook the buildings. A wind bearing a foul and rotten stench heralded the wings of a great dragon and upon its back sat Zaphad. His drake landed upon the spire of a bell tower and he shouted in his deep voice.
    “Leto!” Zaphad shouted. The crowd screamed as soldiers in shining steel came marching into the square. “You flee when Casimir’s toad is captured. Leto is ours! I slew the palace guards; I defeated the lords of the wharf district. I triumphed over Nebo-Bladan and Algar the Fallen. Now Casimir and his foul minions are all that stand in the way of the Jesireh!”
    Valrmir crept up to Iduna and whispered in her ear, “I think you captured the wrong man.”
    The crowd fell upon their faces, “We are in your service Grand Enki!”
    Zaphad smiled. “The sacred Jesireh order will reward you for your virtues. Casimir will fall and Leto will be liberated and united –“
    “Why do they listen to him and not you?” Valrmir whispered.
    Iduna shook her head, “Because he already has half a million armed men in his service.”
    Zaphad’s great dragon barked as its rider took it down to the ground, its monstrous feet crashing into the earth. Zaphad looked down at Iduna. Zaphad was not like the other crime lords of the Letonian mob. Polo the Tall was treacherous and venal, but he was a lowlife, one of the Western-Periphery lords: venality and treachery are expected, and in him they were even virtues. Snima the Lesser was master of what used to be known as the wharf district. He was analytical and pitiless, but also pragmatic. Reasonable.
    These were hard taskmasters. Dangerous beings. Ruthless and aggressive.
    Zaphad, though –
    Zaphad was a monster.
    The Grand Enki was the slaughterer of hundreds. Whole districts had burned at his command. He was the evil genius of the Jesireh order. The architect of their victories.
    The author of their atrocities. The Jesireh worshipped him with undying admiration and lauded his villainy with untiring devotion. Zaphad had already conquered every district of Leto before Iduna stood in his way. And from the back of his titanic steed the bane of civilization drew his sword.
    “Release to me your prisoner,” Zaphad demanded. Iduna did not answer. She nodded to Valrmir who grabbed Avathar’s arm. She led the way as she walked away from Zaphad towards the East.
    Zaphad yelled and pulled on the reigns of his dragon. “Get that prisoner!” he shouted. Scores of armored soldiers ran after Iduna who turned and raised her blade.
    “Do you remember me?” Iduna smiled. The soldiers rushed at her. Valrmir cut Avathar’s ties and they drew their own swords. As Durindana was set free from its sheath, Valrmir seemed to glow with a regal light. Powerful was the expression upon his face and in his glory he appeared as a lord of old. Like the ancient ones. Eternal, immortal, as all could see he was indeed a giant among men. The blade sang like a sweet instrument as it struck with the scrap iron scimitars of the Jesireh.
    “The sword of the Emperor!” the soldiers cried, “We are serving the wrong man!”
    One by one, the soldiers dropped their weapons and kneeled before the three astonished warriors. Valrmir raised his sword high for all of the people to see.
    “I am the keeper of the sword of the Emperor!” Valrmir’s words seemed like the bursting sound of trumpets, “He who opposes me is an enemy to Allyanna, an enemy to Leto. He who allies himself to me and who holds my orders is blessed and will partake in feasts of the righteous!”
    Iduna unconsciously fell to her knees and covered her face. Behind her, the whole of the crowd fell upon bended knee, genuflecting to the holy figure which stood before them like a shining angel of light. But perched upon the rooftops the writhing serpent could not tolerate the brilliance. Its wings took to the air and with its rider soared high above the palace walls and out of the city of Leto. Valrmir spoke again.
    “Rise up, O men of Leto. The dragon and its rider are gone. Do not bow before me. I am but a man.”
    The crowd stood and Iduna, still bathed in the radiance of the man who stood before her, slowly regained her feet. Valrmir sheathed the sword and looked at his hands. They seemed to glow with a divine light. He felt his head. His hair was longer and it had turned snow white. He looked at Iduna with a look of shock upon his face and his bright blue eyes made Iduna step back.
    “What have I done, Iduna?” he murmured, “That sword, it holds a power indeed.”
    “Master,” came the voice of Avathar who was still kneeling, “I am eternally in your service.” Avathar held out his hand to touch the shining robes but Valrmir recoiled. He stared at Avathar in disbelief and then turned around. Leto stood there: Men, women, children. Their savior had come. The chaos was soon to be over. They came forward and, with arms outstretched, they laid their hands on their messiah. Valrmir closed his eyes. Iduna looked up into the sky. The smoke was clearing. And deep, in the East, the sun was beginning to show its first light.

    3

    Iduna came down the path under the midday sun. She passed under the arch way and came to the gate of the town. She called to the belfry and a short pudgy man came to the window.
    “My stars! Is that you Ida?” the man shouted. “Wow, when I saw you last you were just a little girl!”
    “Hello Mr. Morst!” Iduna called, a smile appearing upon her face, “Can you open the gate? I’m hear to see Elwine.”
    “Sure thing,” the old man yelled, “He’ll be pleased to see you!” Mr. Morst disappeared inside the belfry and the gate slowly opened. “There we go!” the old man hollered, and Iduna walked passed the belfry and entered the little hamlet of Tunbridge. The tall grass and shady trees made Iduna feel at home again after so many years in the stone streets of Leto. The sky was blue and happy and Iduna came to the door of the small apartment at 12 Maidstone Street. She rapped upon the door. After a few moments a young lad came to the door. His hair was short and spiked and was the color of yellow tow. Iduna leaped forward and threw her arms around the boy’s small frame.
    “Ida!” Elwine stammered, “How have you been? I haven’t heard from you in years.”
    “I’m wonderful, Little Brother,” she said, “Things are going well in the city. You wouldn’t believe the great things that have been happening!”
    “Come inside,” Elwine said, “Tell me everything.”
    Iduna followed Elwine through the corridor to the small room where Elwine lived. It was a humble dwelling, even for a teenage orphan. Elwine was an artist and he kept canvasses on the walls. One of a landscape caught Iduna’s attention. Elwine was perfect for this part of the world. He loved the smell of green grass and loved to go swimming in the little rivers. He also loved the life of a farmer. Growing things had always delighted him. He came to know the Nopo as family, and Iduna was glad she had brought him here after their mother had died. He was only five years old then, and she was twelve. She took him to the house of Hengist, who had been an old friend of the family. Hengist was a powerful prophet and teacher and he built Tunbridge after the Emperor died. When so much chaos was engulfing Leto, Hengist took hundreds of refugees into the west. The soil was rich here and it made for good farming. The Letonians looked down at the farmers and called them the “Nopo”. But, Iduna loved them and she knew her little brother would be safe here amongst good people.
    After Hengist disappeared one night, Iduna rarely came to see Elwine as the crime lords slowly began their oppressive rule in Leto. And Iduna joined the Palace Guard, not out of any devotion to virtues or to sustain ancient dogma, but just because they were kept well and always had enough to feed themselves. She went through years of training in the martial arts and studied the old sagas before she was hailed as a Meht-Koral, a High Guardian and kept on the palace grounds as a last line of defense should any gangster attempt to take the sacred bastion.
    But those days were gone. And she had now met Razanur Valrmir, the finder of Durindana and the savior of Leto. They had worked for many months hunting down the last of the mobsters and bringing them to justice. Casimir, the gangster of the East Side, had joined them and with Valrmir they established an army for the defense of Leto: “The Leto-Riders”, as Valrmir called them. Iduna told Elwine her story and of all of the events that were going on in the city. But Elwine was still a little concerned, even after Iduna told of the new building project to rebuild the palace.
    “This Zaphad?” Elwine hesitated, “You said he called himself the Grand Enki?”
    “Yes, yes,” Iduna was puzzled, “Do you know what that means.”
    “Well, yes, it means ‘lord of the earth’ but –“
    “Lord of the earth!” Iduna cried.
    “Yes, well, there is a man in the Outer Desert that calls himself the Grand Enki.”
    “What?”
    “The nomads and traders tell stories about him and his clan raiding caravans and baggage trains.” Elwine said, “The raiders call themselves the, eh, Jezziba, or something.”
    “The Jesireh?”
    “Yes, that’s it. I don’t know if you think there might be a connection but –“
    “There definitely is,” Iduna interrupted, “I hope he doesn’t try anything funny. That man is dangerous.”
    Elwine couldn’t think of anything to answer. He just sat down in a chair and folded his hands in his lap. Iduna shook her head and sat down.
    “Well,” she laughed, “How would you like to come to Leto with me?”
    “Leto? Why would you need me there?” Elwine actually did not trust these stories of peace and new found happiness. He remembered Leto as a city of thieves and starvation.
    “O come on Elwine,” Iduna laughed, “There’s really no future for you here! Do you really want to be a farmer all your life? You could be somebody. A new time is starting, kid, and you and I can make things happen!”
    “Like what?”
    “Like -” Iduna thought for a while, “Your art. Your paintings are wonderful! Once the palace is built you could lead the beautification crew. We could paint murals of scenes from all over Allyanna. And the gardens! The gardens. They will need to be replanted. How would you like to actually make a landscape and not just paint one! O Elwine, you’ll be famous. And the City of Marble will become a city of bright color. O Elwine, you must see that Leto is where things can happen?”
    “I like farming and I’ve come to love the Nopo. They’re really fine people.”
    “I’m sure they are, kid, but you got to see what I’m saying. Leto is free! Free! It’s a new beginning. This is a time for the upcoming generation. For you and for me. Leto needs us, Elwine.”
    “Ida, I –“ Elwine thought for a moment. “It’s a great idea. But I –“ There came a knock on the door. “That’s Bee!” Elwine jumped up and took off his shirt. He ran over to a chest of drawers to get a clean one.
    “Bee?” Iduna said, bewildered by the confusion. “Is he your friend?”
    “Sort of,” Elwine threw on a shirt and ran to the door. He opened it wide. Iduna blinked. At the door was a girl. Perhaps fifteen or sixteen years old. “Come in,” Elwine said, “This is my sister, Iduna.”
    “Hello, Iduna,” Bee held out her hand, “I didn’t know you had a sister Elwine.”
    “Pleased to meet you” Iduna said, shaking her hand and holding back a smile.
    “Yeah, she, eh, she lives in Leto. Didn’t I mention her?” Elwine stammered, embarrassed.
    “No,” Bee sat down in a chair. “So...”
    Elwine ruffled his hair and then sat down. After a few moments he stood back up.
    “I’m thirsty,” he proclaimed, “Is anybody else thirsty. I’ve got some, eh, water in the rain barrel. Really nice, really clean.” Iduna and Bee didn’t say anything. Iduna just smiled. “Um, I’ll go get some water. I think it’s hot in here anyway.”
    Elwine left and Iduna smiled. She looked at Bee. She was a pretty girl. Her hair was long and rippled down and over her shoulders. Iduna could see that she was uncomfortable.
    “Bee,” Iduna said, “How long have you known Elwine?”
    “Since we were children.”
    “Do you have any plans?”
    “Well,” Bee blushed, “We were thinking of being married. And maybe we’d buy some land and start our own little farm, and,” Bee smiled, “Maybe start a family.”
    “Have you heard what is going on in Leto?” Iduna inquired. Bee was about to answer when Elwine came back into the room with three glasses of water in his hand. He gave one to each of them and sat down on the floor.
    “I was just telling Bee about Leto.” Iduna said.
    “Oh, yes, yes,” Elwine nodded, “What do you think Bee?”
    “About what?” Bee looked up from her glass, “Iduna hasn’t said a word yet.”
    “Oh, I’m sorry.” Elwine took a sip from his cup.
    Iduna smiled and then spoke to Bee, “We have been doing a lot in Leto. Since the gangster Zaphad fled into the desert, we have been bringing order to the city.”
    “Who are we?” Bee asked.
    “A man named Razanur Varmir has organized a group of freedom fighters. Several old criminals have joined including Casimir the Tall and his commander Avathar. You might think we were just another mob forming but – you’d be surprised – they listen to Valrmir when he speaks. Ever since he found the sword of the Emperor, he has had a presence about him that makes men drop their weapons and almost worship him!”
    “He found the sword of the Emperor! Where?” Elwine asked shaking with excitement.
    “In the ruins of the old palace,” Iduna answered, “It was just lying there in the rubble.”
    “I don’t understand,” said Bee “What is the significance of an old sword?”
    “Everything!” Iduna and Elwin both said at once.
    “The sword Durindana was made in forges before the beginning of the world,” said Iduna, “It was given to Hersir the Grandsire by the gods of old and it was passed down through the royal bloodlines of the Empire. The Emperor Everborne was the last to wield it, but after he was dethroned he hid it – apparently in the palace walls – before he died.”
    “How did he die?” Bee asked.
    “His lieutenant, Tindible, sent him into exile.” Iduna said, “He saw that he had no hope of regaining his throne, so he passed on all of his knowledge and wisdom to his heir and then died in his sleep. It’s as simple as that.”
    “His heir was Hengist,” said Elwine, “He used to be a shepherd back then in the Keshmelt mountains. The Emperor passed to him everything.”
    “Everything?” Bee said, “Then where did Hengist go? Why didn’t he become the next emperor?”
    “Hengist didn’t want the power,” Iduna explained, “But he knew he could make a difference. That’s why he founded Tunbridge and the Nopo-lands. He always loved the simple life of farming.”
    “Yes he did,” Bee thought out loud, “He was so wonderful. It’s a shame he just up and disappeared. He was a kind old man.”
    “Oh, he’s fine. I hear that he still wanders the world to-day” Iduna said, “That ancient wisdom could probably keep him alive as long as he wants. Once one knows the workings of the world, it is said, it is very difficult to pass away from it.”
    “I heard that he goes by a different name now,” said Elwine. “A funny name: Malagigi, I believe.” Iduna looked at Elwine curiously, she had heard that name before. She shrugged the thought.
    “Wow,” cooed Bee, “I never knew that old man was so important.”
    “So, back to business!” Iduna said, “How would you two like to come with me back to Leto?” Elwine smiled, he was beginning to think that it might be exciting joining the adventures in the big city, but he knew Bee wouldn’t be convinced. “Elwine could help with the restoration of the palace. The opportunities are truly endless.”
    Bee thought. “Well,” she said at length, “Maybe we could visit for a few days. I’ve never seen the big city before. And if it truly is as civilized as you say it is.”
    “It’s nearly bursting with love!” Iduna exaggerated.
    Elwine jumped up. “We’ll leave today!”
    With their bags packed with cloths stuffs and reams of paintings Elwine and Bee load their parcels into the old wagon. Elwine hitched up the ox and sat at front, above the left wheel. Bee nestled beside him and Iduna sat in the back. The cart moved with a start and slowly bumped down the dirt road, under the arch, across the fields of green farmland, and across the little bridges of the Nopo-country. As afternoon waned, in the last glow of the setting sun, the facades of Leto shone like a red wall of cloud upon the eastern horizon

    to be continued....
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2005