BOOK OF WONDERS - by Roshan Ali
Extract from the Book of Wonders by the Great Elderers
The Creation of Man and Other Strange Things
And then Tohai the Incredibler said, “I’m bored”.
He threw his snooker stick across the room. It soared into the blackness, creating a few black holes and destroying a sun.
With a big yawn he stepped into his Chamber of Peace, where his wife sat throwing crumbs of food onto a small red planet that she didn’t particularly like.
“You’re potentially creating a civilization down there, darling”, he said with a look of intense boredom, “After all, you don’t want to be contributing to this ‘creation’ thing Boizak is so crazy about”.
His wife didn’t respond.
Tohai’s face took on the look of a shriveled apricot. With a grunt of disapproval for the lack of a response from his wife, he began trudging down the steps to the Hall, where his cousin Toutik was waiting for him.
Toutik the Ineffectualer sat in the Hall waiting for his cousin. He was irritated, frustrated, and his head was paining. The pills which The Greater Sage had given him had been ineffective. “You see why they named you what they named you”, he had said to Toutik with a sardonic smile. Toutik had felt like breaking his neck but he knew it would be useless.
For a moment he sat still, trying to calm himself. It seemed to work- now only his head hurt.
He could hear footsteps coming down the stairs. He shot out of the arm-chair and stood with his arms behind his back, whistling.
Tohai entered the room looking forlorn. He lifted his head and looked at his cousin. “Ahh, cousin Toutik. At last.” His voice could have put a rhinoceros to sleep.
“Yes cousin, I have come. As you asked me to.”
“Come, come, my old friend. Let us talk and be merry,” said Tohai. The condition of his face had improved a little. It seemed he was glad to see his cousin because it now looked like an apricot which had been soaked overnight.
Toutik sat down on the smaller chair this time, opposite his cousin’s arm-chair. “And what, pray tell me, do you want to talk about”.
“Well”, said Tohai, “It is about Boizak”. His face suddenly transformed. The look of lethargic boredom was replaced by pure, unadulterated hatred. A cold seemed to enter the room. Toutik shivered.
“Why? Why do you want to talk about him? The whole community is talking about his new ‘creation’ strategy. They are saying that it’s for winning the elections. Is this what you want to talk about.” asked Toutik. His voice was shaky. He knew his Cousin could get very angry when Boizak was the topic of discussion.
“Yes, my dear cousin. That is exactly what I want to talk about”, said Tohai. He lifted himself from his chair slowly and strode across to the window.
“You have known me cousin, for the last five million years. You know that I will do anything to stop Boizak. His new ‘creation’ strategy has finally spurred me into taking extreme actions.”
Toutik didn’t like the sound of this. The last time his cousin had taken ‘extreme’ actions he had ended up destroying an entire galaxy.
“What are you going to do, Cousin?” he asked.
Tohai stopped and turned slowly.
“This time, my friend”, he grinned triumphantly, “I have come up with a genius plan.”
“But you always do, cousin”. Toutik made it a point to stay on his Cousin’s good side and it seldom went unnoticed.
“Now now, Toutik, don’t start that. It’s not needed.” But Toutik could see the satisfied blush in his Cousin’s eyes.
“Tell me of this great plan.” Toutik was starting to enjoy this visit.
“Well”, began Tohai. He had gotten up from the chair again and stood beside the window looking out at the emptiness.
“I wonder if you have read about ‘creation’. There was a big article about it in the ‘Millennia Manuscript’. Apparently Boizak has become smarter and more capable since the last time we dealt with him. ‘Creation’ doesn’t work in the same way as the other projects he has been involved in so far. This one is far greater and more powerful. It could destroy the last vestiges of emptiness and fill up everything with life. “
Tohai was getting more passionate with every passing moment.
“I did some research about ‘creation’. I found that Boizak is using a mechanism called ‘Exponential Growth’ to make ‘creation’ spread. This works in a very unique way. Instead of Boizak having to keep making things to add to ‘creation’, the creatures he has already made will interact with each other and produce more. This way he doesn’t have to do anything but watch and wait.”
“What must you do, Cousin?” Toutik leaned forward and watched Tohai intensely.
“We, my dear friend, we. I need your help on this one.” Tohai said with a slight smile pinching the corners of his mouth.
“But…but you know me Cousin. You know my fate. I can’t do anything.” Toutik was getting jittery. He had never been asked to do anything by his Cousin.
“Now that is why my plan is such genius!” Tohai hopped and skipped to where his cousin sat and gave him a mighty slap on the back.
“We use your ‘uselessness’ to create something which will destroy ‘creation’. This thing we create will be a virus, something so deadly that all we have to do is create two. Then, they will take over. For a few million years they will grow and grow, expanding and eating away at Boizak’s creations. I have decided to name this ‘virus’ mankind. But for this to work the first two creatures of mankind must be made with an essence of your blood. Otherwise they will be just like any of Boizak’s creations.
They have to be attracted to each other so that when they physically interact with one another off-spring will be created. I have already designed them. One will be bigger and stronger than the other. It will be hard and flat whereas the smaller one will be soft and curvy. These physically opposite entities will inevitably be attracted to each other. The most natural thing for them to do when they feel this attraction is for the big strong one to insert a rod-like organ on the front of his body into the hole of the other’s body. They will figure out which hole because the right one will feel the best. From this physical union off-spring will be born and take over. In a few million years there will be nothing but mankind and when they are at the peak of their dominion they will inevitably destroy everything else and finally themselves.”
A slow smile was spreading on Toutik’s face.
“Impressive, my dear cousin, impressive. I love your plan.” He got up and gave his Cousin a big hug.
Together they walked into the Chamber of Destruction, laughing and singing. Then all was quiet.
Extract from the Book of Wonders by the Great Elderers:
The Cure and Rise of Man
Boizak the Creator sat and thought. His long, white beard lay curled on his lap and his wrinkled, yet strangely lively looking hands rested on the arm rests of the ancient rocking chair he sat on. His deep green eyes reflected the emptiness of space but they were full of movement and life. He got up slowly, from the chair. “Why must everything I do be destroyed?” he said softly, looking out into the black murky depths of all he hadn’t touched and created.
An hour earlier, the chief of the Holy Secret Service had reported to him.
“Holy One, I have some terrible news for you.”
“Hmmm… can’t it wait, Mycol? I have some very important things to do. Put water on Mars. No wait, not Mars, Earth. Push Pluto out of orbit…” His voice trailed off into mumbling silence.
“Trust me Holy One, this can’t wait.”
“Alright, alright.” He shuffled down the ladder he was perched on and approached Mycol who was by this time biting his fingers in nervousness. His long beard trailed behind him. “What is it?”
“Tohai, Holy One, has done something terrible.” He stopped and looked down at his feet. “He has potentially destroyed your whole plan. If you don’t do anything about it, everything you ever created could be destroyed.” His words were stumbling over one another, barely making sense.
“Calm down Mycol. What do you mean destroy everything I have created? How could this be possible?” Boizak laid a reassuring hand on Mycol’s shoulder.
“He has created something which he has put into your creations. He calls this creation Man. From what little I have found out, it seems that this thing can grow by itself without Tohai having to do anything but wait and watch.” Mycol spluttered and coughed.
“But surely this is a good thing” said Boizak. “In all my experiences with Tohai he has always destroyed and never created. But this time, if what you say is correct, he has created. It also seems to me he has used the same mechanism of Exponential Growth which I have used. I fail to see anything wrong although it does seem strange to me, this sudden change in my arch enemy. He does have some good in his repertoire then.”
Mycol’s face grew even thinner and the last remaining vestiges of color dissolved away into pale whiteness.
“He has put the blood of Toutik into Man…” This last sentence was too much of an effort for Mycol. He collapsed onto the ground, strange, rasping noises emanating from his mouth.
Boizak barely realized the absence of Mycol’s shoulder under his hand. “My Dear Blog…” he said softly under his breath. The chromatics on his face followed Mycol’s and left in a big hurry.
These thoughts flowed through Boizak’s immense brain like a viral fever. Everything he had ever lived for destroyed by Tohai? Was it possible? The worst part, Boizak thought, was that the first place Tohai put his two legged menaces on, was Boizak’s greatest creation. It was a planet called Earth, which he had personally made out of the best soil in the best part of his garden. The color was his wife’s favorite and the name was given by his son whose favorite spot to sit and read in the house, was the hearth (his sun couldn’t pronounce the sound ‘h’).
The thought of his son jolted him out of his reverie. His holy blood began to fizzle and boil.
“I must do something about this situation” he proclaimed loudly, and set off at a fairly fast walking pace, into his library.
A day had passed and Man had multiplied. He had already messed up large parts of Earth with his greed and destruction. Other creatures that thrived in those areas were mercilessly killed and eaten. Wherever they went they ravaged and burnt (yes, they had discovered fire, with a little help from Tohai of course who appeared in a dream of the chieftain of a village and methodically listed to him the advantages of fire and cooking over raw meat. Man, of course, had improvised, and used it for far more cruel purposes.)
It seemed that there was no stopping this miracle of Darkness which had enveloped Earth in misery and pain.
But it was not to be.
Boizak’s library was very large. It has been said that it had so many books that the great Mathematicians of the Holy Order had to invent a new numerical system just to keep track of their ever growing numbers.
It had shelves made out of a strange transparent material which seemed to expand constantly as more books were added.
In a far corner of the library, a dim light glowed orange. Boizak’s head was buried in a book, deep in concentration. Occasionally his beard twitched and shot up behind his head but was swatted down by his ever vigilant hand.
“Something to make them like us” he mumbled softly, causing the orange light to flicker,
“Something to make them stop destroying.”
Long hours of thought had led him to certain conclusions. He had decided it was pointless and practically impossible to destroy all of Man now, since their numbers had already risen to un-countable numbers. Instead he had to find something else. Something which would negate Toutik’s blood and make Man a productive and gentle creature that would live collectively with the rest of Boizak’s creations.
The orange light flickered and went out with a hiss. Boizak snapped his fingers and it came on again. He continued reading.
His head suddenly rose out of his book. The sound of his son’s footsteps floated into the library through the shelves, and a moment later the sound of his wife’s voice rang out high and clear.
A realization came to Boizak so suddenly that it knocked him out of the chair and into a large stack of books.
He got up, shook himself and ran out of the library shouting, “I have it. I have the solution.” His beard trailed behind him.
Another day passed and Man multiplied. He covered large parts of Earth with his kindness and affection. Other creatures that thrived in those areas, thrived in those areas.
Wherever they went they planted trees and had kitty parties, and everything was warm as they utilized fire well.
Boizak was happy. His plan had worked and he was happy indeed.
An hour after he had run out of the library, Man had transformed. From being a creature of cruelty and malice, he was now kindness personified.
Many had come to ask Boizak of this extraordinary development but he had told only one- Pampel Raster, the gardener; for Boizak trusted only two kinds of people: gardeners and owners of shops where illegal alcohol was sold.
“My dear Pampel” he had begun with a smile on his lips and mirth in his eyes, “Do you want to know what the whole Holy community wants to know? How I transformed Earth into a benevolent paradise full of kindness and laughter.”
The gardener, quite apparently, wasn’t bothered. He continued trimming the hedges. Boizak didn’t notice this lack of attention for he was far too happy with himself.
“Well, let’s see now. Where do I begin? In very simple words, all I did was introduce into mankind something which Tohai never imagined existed. It struck me sometime back when I was reading a book in the library. When I was going through that book, I heard my family and wanted to go to them and suddenly I thought, “Why? Why do I want to go to them? What is it that makes me want to go to them and not one Man to go to the other except when he wants to reproduce? There had to be something. And there, is my dear propagator of fauna, there is. I went straight to my laboratory when that thought struck me and pushed my head into the Thought Reader. And to my surprise all I could see was pink. This color represented the thoughts in my brain. That’s what the thought reader does, you know? Anyway, what I had done was, isolate the one thing which made me care for my family. It is something great and powerful and can dispel many evils of this world. For a while I couldn’t think of what to name it because it was unlike anything I had encountered. Finally I decided to name it the first sound my wife makes when she wakes up in the morning- muaashahhgruuumph. For the sake of simplicity I shortened this to love.”
The gardener, whose attention was briefly attracted by the strange sound Boizak uttered, continued his trimming when he realized the chances of him repeating the fairly grotesque sound again were rather poor. Boizak meanwhile continued his monologue.
“And now my dear botanical magician, now Earth is paradise. Love caused attachments between man and man. Soon they were forming groups of their own depending on their reproduction. It seemed love was stronger between the offspring and the creature that gave birth to them. Love was also strong between men who underwent the process of reproduction. I think it is fair now to call them the same names as we call our kinsmen because they are after all almost like us. Families formed on earth between man, woman and child. More love, less destruction. Earth lives on in harmony, my dear Pampel, thanks to love.”
He shuffled away into the inside of the house, singing a melodious song.
Pampel the gardener dropped his shears at the foot of the hedge. He looked around quickly and when he was sure no-one was observing him, jumped over the hedge and disappeared.
Strands of song could be heard from inside the house. The world was in peace.
Extract from the Book of Wonders by the Great Elderers:
Here follows the account of Theoglad, Leader of the First Free People on Earth:On the first day of our consciousness, we slept for our hearts were tired with the sudden weight of love. On the second day we wept for we knew now what love meant. On the third we travelled the world healing the ones injured in the dark ages and caring for those who were not cared for. The fields were covered in the greenest of grasses for Nature knew all of Man’s sorrows and she did not feel any now. No man felt sadness for all loved one another.
On the fourth day, the blue sky split so that for one brief moment all men looked up into nothingness and from it came a great lord, driven by fourteen bulls, on a chariot made of fire and blackness. It burned all that it touched and from it came screeching sounds of suffering and sorrow and we fled for we were scared. But the great lord followed us and landed his great chariot in our village, burning the huts and destroying our crops. Out of his chariot he stepped and there was fire around him, and the ground shook as he stepped towards us, for he stood fifty feet tall. And from the depths of that fire came a voice that drove us back into the black ages, “What is the meaning of this?” he screamed so that the wind turned black with his breath and the trees shook with terror, “How dare you mortals defy my plans and turn your back on your creator. I, whose one whip stroke can destroy entire galaxies, has been defied by my own creations.” His whip snapped at us, lined with fire and malice and the lord raised it to destroy us forever but once again the skies opened and from it came blue light that shone upon all men and gave them strength. But the blue light shone upon the great fire lord and he was scared, for from the blue light an old man came, driven by a single white bear on a chariot of gold, and it landed in front of the fire lord. The old man stepped out of the chariot, bent and wrinkled but the people gasped in wonder for from him there was a great power that flowed, dousing the flames on our houses and our crops. And in front of the fire lord he stopped and said, “Tohai, why must you be the destroyer of my creations? Why cannot two of opposite desires and wishes live in this universe without destroying what the other has created? First you created man to destroy my creations. Then when I cured man so he could live in peace with the rest you come down to destroy them? I cannot let this happen. You have incurred my wrath. Go back to where you came from and let these people live in peace.”
The great fire lord shrank back until the fire in him was a mere flame and he spoke, “Boizak, you are much too powerful for now. But one day, I shall find a way to destroy you.”
With these malevolent words, the great fire lord turned and his chariot of fire reared into the air and in an instance of terrible lightning and thunder, he was gone.
The old man now turned to us mortals and smiled slowly until all the pain we had gone through was wiped away and he said softly, “Do not worry about him. He won’t come back. He is of an evil nature and evil is cowardly for evil was never meant to be.”
With these soft words he left us in peace and all were happy once again. But there was a darkness in my heart that I could not explain. For in the dead of night when all men slept, a voice spoke to me telling me of things that I did not want to hear.
And this darkness, I did not let grow, for my heart was strong. But this darkness had visited many men, for they spoke of it in our meetings. “It speaks to us at night, when all men sleep and tells us of evil things,” they cried. And their hearts were troubled.
It troubled me, for there were men amongst us whose hearts were not as strong as mine.
One year after our consciousness and I had wiped the darkness from my heart but there was one who I feared, whose heart was blackened. Every day I looked upon him and everyday his face had seemed to grow in pain and misery. His heart could not keep it out. He was fading away from the light and one day he called a meeting in which he told us of this blackness, “My friends,” he cried, “do not be alarmed for I can now see the light. The true path is clear to me now. Why must we live like this in equality and happiness? No man can grow if everybody is equal. I want to grow out of this little village and do bigger things with the world. Don’t you see this desire in my heart and does it not speak to you. Do not call me mad brothers for you know deep inside that this is what your heart desire above all else. Your heart desires power. And I will give you this power if you join me.” His mouth leered at us and his voice was of one possessed by evil spirits.
And my spirit screamed at me to destroy this monster before he destroyed the world, for I knew people would join him. But all I did was scream at him, words of discouragement. “Do not go on this path Ponerious, for you know it will lead us to misery. It is not the way of the world, to want power. It will destroy us all.”
But it was too late, for the power of words was too great on the people and they followed him like animals following their master. Only the very strong resisted and they came to me one day and spoke their hearts. “We need a leader, Theoglad. One who will resist this madness that is sweeping our village. And we think you could be that leader for you are strong and brave and have spoken against this darkness already.”
And thus I became the Leader of the Free People, a small band of men who believed in peace and love and not power. The people led by Ponerious, we called the Evil Ones and for a time they stayed in the same village as us, but one morning they left, taking all the food and medicine so that we were left with nothing.
But we lived on, making our own food and medicine for we were strong and we had hope but one night a group of Evil Ones came to our village, mounted on beasts of Nature, such that we had never seen before and spoke to us in sharp tongues.
“Join us Theoglad, for we are the future. Don’t you see the end when it comes? Join us and live on in this world or else die here and now.”
But we drove them away, for we were many more but we knew they would be back in great numbers to kill us and so we left the village. We travelled with haste and soon came upon many other villages, most burned to the ground. But in the ashes we found many more people who had resisted the Evil Ones. We set out the next morning, a group of ragged men and women with strong hearts, to find a safe haven where our young ones could live in peace.
But there were too many of them. Like insects they roamed the lands searching for us, wearing white, shiny plates on their chests and carrying long sharp sticks made of the same material and when they found one of us they would kill mercilessly.
My people were losing what little hope I had given them, and soon I found my heart failing to see beauty and hear the morning birds singing their glorious songs.
And one day, when the sun was blackened by a great smoke that rose in the West, an old man came to us. His arrival into our little camp was unannounced and as I saw him approaching my heart felt a lightness that it had not felt since the birth of my first child. His back was bent but his face carried the smile of a young one, not exposed to the cruelty of the world.
With his staff as support he made his way to me and sat himself down by my side.
“My Lord,” he whispered in my ear, “the enemy is moving once again to the West.” His wizened old hand pointed towards the rising smoke.
“They will be here at noon.”
I gazed upon his wise face and knew I must listen to his words.
Soon, me and my people were on our way once again, climbing over precarious rocks and using shadow to hide.
The old man walked beside me and his step was light and he told me of our enemy and their arts of fighting. He spoke of how we must learn their art and fight them, otherwise they would destroy us.
For three days we travelled until we found a cave in which we rested for the night, but we were ambushed by the enemy. They surrounded the cave and came onto us like a wave and their arrows pierced our chests until the water was red with our blood.
These words I write on my death bed, and my chest burns with every breath I take. The world is blurry now, like it was raining incessantly and my hand is weak. The old man came to me last night, when I was slightly stronger and my head was clearer. He sat beside me and spoke softly so that no other man heard him.
“Theoglad, you are like a son to me. I have given you knowledge and hoped you will use it against the enemy. But now you are dying. It is inevitable. I needed to be with you to help you but now your people will drive me away, for I have not spoken of this to anyone else and they will think me mad if you do not support my claim. You rise as-if to tell your people about me, but it is useless now, for they will think it the babbling of a dying man. I must find someone else to carry out what I have told you. Even if it takes a hundred years, I will find somebody.”
With that he rose and put his hand on my fore-head and for one moment I thought I saw clouds and the rain falling on yellow flowers.
Now the blackness overwhelms. I see nothing now. My pen moves slowly on the paper. It stops…I cannot write anymore.
Extract from the Book of Wonders by the Great Elderers:
Here follows the account of Madriad son of Godriad, leader of the Last Free people on Earth-
They came while our children slept. Black horses shining like the night, long sticks glinting white in the sharp moonlight. They screamed and cried, “Join us Free People, or cease to exist.” We could not fight them for we did not know the meaning of fighting.
They did not harm us the first time or the second time. On the night of the third, they came with fire and stench and black liquids which they threw on our children and watched them burn. They laughed, white teeth glinting, red scarves around their heads and said to us, “Join the cause of Tohai, or we will burn you as we have burned the young ones.”
They rode away, thundering hoofs and fading cries, into the silvery moonlight, shredding it with cruelty and malice and all that was once good and kind stood and watched in horror.
I turned to the Free People, my People and said to them, them with their burnt hands and sad faces, “We have stood beside each other for three centuries, my brethren. Do not leave me and go into the night with these monsters, for you will never see the light again and all that you have lived for will be claimed by them.”
But I and all the five brothers of the House could not persuade some. Some whose hearts had a dark corner. I did not speak of it for I would have been banished, but my heart felt glad that these people whose hearts possessed this dark corner were free of us. They could not live in happiness in such a place where there exists no darkness. Maybe they will find what they were looking for.
For five days and five nights the moon came and went in its silvery splendor, and on the sixth there was blood. The dark men with the dark horses came and ravaged our houses. They used noble Fire to burn the village to the ground. Darkness fell onto us, a sheet of sorrow thrown by the Gods.
The last, remaining few of our kind fled from between the legs of the black horses. For three days we ran and on the fourth we reached a mountain which we claimed as our own. With sticks and stones we built a wall which stopped the animals but we knew deep down that it would not stop them.
As the last shadows of the dying fire danced on that wall, I remained awake, watching for danger. I did not fear them.
As the first morning of our flight came onto my stirring eyelids, a dread descended in the midst of us. Even the sun could not dispel the terror of those that sought us.
A little child, the son of my cousin Broidus, came to me that morning and sat on my lap. We sang together songs of old and new and my heart swelled in joy for I knew children were the only hope for the future of the Free People.
In the midst of a beautiful song about the grasslands, the little child turned to me and said, “Father says you are our savior. Are you going to save us?”
I did not want to lie. “Yes my child, I am.”
“Sing us a fair song, lord of the Free People”, cried the child’s father who sat close by and watched us. The sun rose steadily behind us, reminding us of all things fair and good. The breeze spoke softly in my ears, urging me to let forth my soul.
I sang in a clear voice that rang out into the wilderness,
“The sky seems to cry of sadness
But deep within our hearts we know there is good.
Touch us Holy One and bless us,
For we know the sky is blue.
For ages we have lived
With mirth and laughter in our hearts.
Protect us from this evil guild
That burns and slaughters all that we are.
If for another thousand years
They leave in peace, our ghosts
Let the stars shine forth for her
The One you love the most.”
The hills seemed to vibrate in quiet approval and there were tears in our eyes. We knew the Holy One had heard us and we were glad that the sun and the moon existed and the world was green.
The morning left us fresh and free and we moved on for we knew they would find us if we didn’t. Swiftly we packed our belongings and urged our rested legs to carry us forward.
I walked at the head of the party carrying ten men’s worth of belongings for there were some who were still weary. These were the Old Ones whose time was almost over in this mortal world. They trudged along at the back coughing and occasionally stopping to rest their tired backs and drink water.
They were in good hands for with them strode a man, tall and strong, whose fair hair fell to his shoulders. His voice was deep and clear and when he spoke they stood still to listen, even the young ones- “Listen”, they would say, “for Glarius the Fair speaks.”
Glarius the Fair, one of the Five Brothers of the House, whose wisdom surpassed mine and whose strength equaled that of a mountain Troll. Some said he had descended from Theoglad himself, the leader of the First Free people and some said he watched our Holy One descend to earth and deliver humanity from the Age of Bad Blood.
I had myself sought to ask him sometimes but when I had looked into his eyes I saw sorrow. I did not want to uncover what was buried for I knew he was a good man.
We travelled for four days occasionally halting to refresh our bodies in cool streams and eat a few morsels of food. On the fifth, we halted at the limits of a desert which stretched far beyond what our eyes could see. A dark cloud seemed to hang over it ponderous and brooding.
I strode to the head of the party and stood upon a rock, burnt and black from previous battles.
“We shall halt here for a while, before crossing this barren desert for we the Brothers, must decide whether it is favorable for us to cross this land.”I cried in a loud voice which reached all the people, even the ones at the back.
They nodded in approval and lifted their heavy bags to the ground. The sands shifted silently, with a rustling noise which made all look upon it with unease. The young ones grew afraid and clung to their mothers.
“Do not fret, young ones”, Glarius cried loudly, “if the sands of this desert do not like us to tread on them, then we shall not.” He turned and bowed to the barren land, his hair falling gently.
In an instant he was with us and sat down in the circle which we formed every time we met.
“We must not cross this land My Lord,” said Tylus softly so that the sands did not hear, “Look how dead it is. There is not a single living thing for miles around.”
A wicked wind seemed to blow amongst us. It made many shiver, but I stood firm.
“I shall ask the sands myself,” I said and rose. Treading softly I approached the red sand and went down on my knees where it began.
“Deathly land, who so eludes life, we wish to cross you. We shall do no harm and pass through quietly, not leaving anything behind. I beg you to let me and my people pass through without bringing death amongst us.”
I rose and waited for a response. The wind became gentle and the sands shifted a little more. There lay before us a rough path but a path nonetheless. I smiled and thanked the sands .My heart was glad. There was still some good left.
We passed over the sands but some were still vary of a trap. Now and again the sound of hooves floated in over the stretches of barrenness but in a moment they were gone. For a day we trudged along watching for danger. We were glad the sun guided us but eventually it disappeared below the horizon and we were sheathed in darkness. Lamps were lit but they gave us away for they would be visible to enemies for miles around. I shouted for the lamps to be turned off and we settled down for the night at the foot of a tall rocky cliff which seemed to rise straight out of the sand.
Most slept peacefully for in their dreams hope floated freely and they grabbed at it with yearning hands. For the few who were awake, hope lay only in the sunrise, still hours away. I sat outside the tent we had built and listened to the sounds of the desert.
My eyes were drowsy but I shook myself every time the illusion of safe sleep sucked at my mind. I must stay awake and watch over my people, I thought to myself.
In an hour or so, not even Gladius was awake and suddenly the sound of hooves reached my ears, much closer and much clearer. They stopped a distance away and the sounds of riders dismounting made the hair on my arms rise in alarm. I stood up and cried out into the night, “Who goes there? Leave my people alone.”
The clear voice of a woman replied,” We are Free People from the South. We seek Madriad, son of Godriad. We mean no harm.”
My heart rang with wonder and alarm. I had not known there were others like us in these dark lands.
I lit a lamp and held it up. Light flooded the surroundings and fell on the strangers. All those awake, gasped in wonder. They were tall and beautiful and wore on their chests shields made of a silvery metal which glinted and shone with the light from the lamps. Their faces we could hardly see for they wore tall helmets with a single yellow feather on top. But their eyes were fair and their lips were strong. Horses such as theirs we had never seen. They stood tall and elegant almost equal in stature to their masters.
At the head of the Company was a woman who stood almost as tall as the men behind her. Her helmet was golden and she stood with such power and grace that all those who laid eyes upon her were smote by her beauty.
It was this fair lady who stepped forward once again and kneeled to the ground in front of me. She removed her golden helmet and laid it on the ground. With her other hand she unsheathed her sword and laid it beside her helmet. In a gentle yet strong voice she began to talk.
“My Lord Madriad, we come from the lands to the South near the Sea. Our people have been living there for centuries in peace and harmony. But they came and burnt our houses and lands and killed our young ones. For a while we fled into the wilderness but every time we settled down they found us and destroyed all that we had built. An old Prophet then came to us one dark day while the moon lay smudged by the clouds and told us to stand and fight. He spoke of using their methods to fight them and taught us the art of making weapons and armor. He did not say why he was helping us but he spoke of a great man who will lead us to freedom and reclaim our destiny on earth. That man is you My Lord, that man is you.” She spoke these last words with wonder and the sand below her was wet with her tears.
So it was true, the old Prophecy, I thought to myself- the Prophecy which my father had given to me just before he died. He had held me close to his heart and cried, “My Son, you will deliver this world to the heavens and vanquish from it all evil.” He had died that very day. Some believed it, yet there were some who thought it the ramblings of a dying man.
“What is your name fair lady?”I asked her softly and gently pulled her up to her feet.
“Freala, My Lord”, she said, her voice trembling.
I turned to my people and they watched in silence and awe.
“My people,” I cried “today we stop running from those who seek to destroy us. We turn and fight them until the last ones are dead and rotting in the very pits they built to throw our bodies in. With weapons and armour we will unleash upon them the power of all that our ancestors fought for. Do not be afraid for I am not. I know deep down inside, as you do too, that good will always triumph against them. Together let us fight the darkness that yearns to cover the lands in terror and suffering. There are many more like us across these lands who we can find. Together we will form an army greater than any seen on earth and destroy forever those that threaten the future of our children.” My voice trembled with fervor and my people raised their hands and shouted in approval. The sands hissed with energy and I knew that they were with us too. The future held much bloodshed in store. I knew it was going to be a war which would go on for generations but a spark deep inside the eyes of every one of the people who stood before me told me that we were going to win.
The tall and elegant strangers who were called the Nomirs, they told us, spent the night and as the first rays of the sun graced the earth we set of to claim our destiny.
The sky in front of us was red and yet we walked towards it with courage. The will of my people gave me unimaginable strength and those who treaded along my side gazed at me with wonder.
This was the beginning of the Last Union and the end of Evil on earth.
Extract from the Book of Wonders by the Great Elderers:
The journey across the desert took Madriad, Freala and their people less than a day, for they moved swiftly, seldom stopping, except for water and food. The Nomirs rode out in front with their nimble horses while Madriad and his Free People strode along at a swift pace behind them.
Where the desert ended a plain of green grass began and ran on far beyond even the Nomirs could see and they made a camp there. The horses neighed and stooped their long necks to the grass and the fresh smell of nature reached the noses of all those who stood nearby.
Madriad called for Freala and his voice was not lost in the thundering hooves of the horses.
She rode to him swiftly and dismounted. “Go now, Tirus, and feed well for we have a long journey ahead of us,” she whispered quietly in her horse’s ear. In a moment he disappeared amongst his kin.
“You called for me, My Lord?” she asked. Her voice was noble and her fair hair caught the breeze and flew out behind her head. She bowed gracefully.
“Yes Freala. We must decide a course of action. I have called for Glarius. You must call for the Captain of your horses. I fear that the path we have decided to take may lead us to peril.” Madriad’s voice was grim and her heart trembled for she had not seen her lord of this demeanor before.
“Yes, My Lord.” She replied quietly. She turned around and faced the great plain and from her mouth came forth a clear sound that only the horses could hear. All of them turned to look at her but only one moved. Across the plain he tore, a streak of black, and all in his path gave way for they did not want to face his wrath.
This was Dalower, Captain of the Nomir horses and none rode him for his pride was too great and his powers formidable. And as he galloped towards Madriad and his people, they gasped in wonder for in him they could see strength and grace which they had never seen in a beast of nature before.
But even Dalowar, Captain of the horses, bowed down in front of Madriad, Lord of Men and in a deep voice that awoke in many memories of the black horses, greeted him. “I am Dalower. Freala beckons me, but I know it is not she that desires my presence but you. I may be a beast but my powers exceed many Men. Do not test my patience.”
Freala’s eyes flashed with anger and she stepped in front of the noble beast. “How dare you talk to our Lord in such a way.” Her hands reached for her sword but Madriad silenced her with a firm word. An angry neigh issued forth from Dalower and those who watched could see a glow around him, a glow which they had seen before. “This beast is truly powerful,” they said to each other, “for he is almost equal in stature to our Lord and commands great respect.”
A flame rose in Madriad’s eyes and he drew himself up, to face Dalower. Their eyes locked but it was the beast whose eyes dropped first. “Your power may exceed that of many men, captain of the horses, but do not expect it to test mine. I am one of the Lords of Men and a power lies inside me which must not be awoken against my own people.” His voice rang with anger and his people trembled in fear. The beast bowed his noble head and replied, “Forgive me, My Lord. I have been a fool. I see great power and a mighty destiny in you. I shall be your servant till death.”
“No,” said Madriad softly. He laid his hand on Dalowar’s head. “Be my friend till death.”
With a mighty swerve and leap he was on Dalowar’s back and in an instant, before the wind could blow the dust kicked up by the mighty rider and his steed onto the faces of those who watched in awe, they were gone.
For three days no news reached the company of Madriad and Dalowar but Freala did not fret for she knew Lord Madriad was both wise and powerful.
The fourth day since rider and steed left she heard thundering hooves and the cloud of dust in the distance with much relief.
The mighty pair rode into the camp with much haste and Madriad dismounted quickly. Both rider and horse looked weary and the sweat was flowing off their dusty faces.
The whole company was called at once and Madriad addressed them from atop a raised platform made by the skilled Nomirs, accompanied by Glarius and Freala.
His voice thundered out into the plains and none were idle when they heard it.
“My people,” he cried, “a large battalion of evil riders with their beasts approaches us with terrible speed. We smelt their foul skin even before we saw the dust cloud kicked up by their malevolent steeds.
We must move at once. We have no time to squander. We must run like the wind until we find a suitable place far enough from their sharp blades and worse tongues.”
“But my Lord,” cried Frotian, only son of Bratus, captain of the Nomirs and second in command to Freala, “we must stand and fight. We must not run.”
Madriad swerved around with fire in his eyes.
“Young fool,” he said, “You do not know of what you talk. You have not seen these people of whom I speak. Their blades are keen and their arrows are tipped with poison. Their eyes are red from the blood they have spilt. They know no mercy and speak no good. We are not ready to battle them.”
He turned to the rest of his people and cried out, “Now go and prepare to leave.”
The camp turned into a cloud of dust and the women and children ran helter and skelter. Madriad descended from the platform helping all those he could and crying out encouraging words and the people were strengthened by his strength.
Freala stood a little way off and gazed upon her Lord with tears in her eyes and finally when her heart could not stand it, she walked to him and went down on her knees.
“My Lord,” she said, “My love for you has bade me to give you this.” She reached underneath her long golden robe and drew out a sword of most beautiful nature. The deep green and golden engravings of its scabbard were dwarfed by its keen blade which glittered more than stars in the evening sky and would make the hearts of their enemies trembled with fear.
“My lovely Freala. I am most grateful for this wonderful gift and that you are there beside me in this fight against evil. But I must warn you to be watchful for my heart feels for you and it would pain me greatly if they took you away.”
He kissed her hand tenderly and for a moment he was whisked away into the clouds which were happy and white but a blood curdling scream yanked him out of his reverie into reality.
He gazed ahead of the camp and he felt a dread for the enemy was upon them already. With one last look into the eyes of Freala, he strode forward onto a high rock which overlooked the camp and turning to the enemy he out cried aloud, “Enemies of the Free People heed me. I am Madriad, son of Godriad. Leave my people alone for it is I you want. Bring forth your leader.”
The evil riders sniggered and murmured to each other and cried back, “Why should we send our leader, oh one without armor? We will slay all your people and then you and burn your camp to the ground.”
“Hear me, black devils,” shouted Madriad. “I will fight your leader man to man if that’s what he is. If I should lose then I will tell you where the rest of my people are but if I should win then you will leave us alone and go back to your foul lands.”
They laughed and cried to the Free People, “It is folly, what your leader says. But we agree to this deal for it will be swifter, your destruction.”
The group parted and out walked their leader, Kramian, son of Harust. All those who beheld him buried their faces in their hands and wept, for he was taller than the tallest horse and his arms were like tree trunks. He raised his massive hands in which he held an axe twice as long as a sword, and bellowed out to Madriad, “I am the leader of this small force and I will fight you till death. But I am giving you another chance Madriad son of Godriad. Surrender and you will be left alive.”
Madriad leapt down from the rock and unsheathed his sword.
“I am giving you a chance, Kramian son of Harust. I knew your father and it would not be a kind thing to kill the son of one who I befriended a long time ago.”
With a mighty yell, Kramian rushed at Madriad, axe swinging and armor clanking, but Madriad swerved out of his way for he was swifter than many thought and Kramian was heavy. With a terrible swing of his sword he sliced open the exposed behind of Kramian’s knee and the large warrior crashed down like a pile of rubble. In an instant, Madriad was onto him and his blade was cold against Kramian’s neck.
“Now go back to your Master, whoever it is and tell him of me and let him be afraid as is the army which stands behind you.”
The mighty warrior now reduced to victim crawled his way back to his people and they were gone in a minute. Their terrible cries were not terrifying anymore.
Freala approached her Lord and said, “My Lord, we did not know you were a warrior. I thought it was only us who knew the arts of the enemy.”
Madriad turned to her and his face was weary, “Nor did I, young one. It seems there is more destiny in me than even my father thought. But we must move now before they return with a greater army. Rally our people together. We must make for the mountains where we can hide from their prying eyes.”
Together they walked into the midst of their people and told them of the plan and in minutes the whole camp disappeared for the Nomirs were skillful in hiding their tracks. The company started west to the mountains which were but shadows in the distance and they hoped they too would be shadows in the long and treacherous journey ahead.
Extract from the Book of Wonders by the Great Elderers.
The Last Battle and the Destruction of Salyrus.
The plains stretched far and wide beyond Madriad and his people, shadowed by the mighty mountains in the distance. They were tired for they had not eaten for a whole day in fear of being found and their hearts quailed when they thought of the enemy. Night followed sunset and Madriad sat by the fire, singing songs and whispering to the stars until every one of his people were safely asleep.
It was then that he rose and strode out of the camp into the barren wilderness of the plain. His mind was calm with thoughts of his home and he bowed down onto his knees near a small lake in which the stars and the moon outshone their real selves in the sky, and he spoke softly, “Father, I have discovered my destiny at last and yet I do not know what to do. Where do I take all these people who so greatly love me? How can we fight the armies of Evil with so little strength?” His words seemed to float away into the silvery landscape. He drew himself up again and turned around but his legs were stayed by a quite tremor that ran through the water. A voice carried by the wind reached his ears and tears welled in his eyes for it was the voice of his father and it murmured, “It is not strength, my son, that governs battles, but courage. Go now, for you and your people have the courage to defeat the Evil armies.” As if only imaginary, the voice faded away into the night and there was silence again.
Madriad lifted his face to the stars and they shone upon him and gave him strength for all things bright made him strong. He turned to the camp and strode softly back, and lay down on the cool grass, and in a minute he was asleep.
The Company moved once again, with haste and their legs carried them swiftly, until they reached the shadows of the mountains and here once again they made camp in the cool wafts of a mountain stream. As if by some ancient magic, all their tired limbs seemed to be cured of their weariness. They ate a thick broth made from a plant found beside the stream. The young ones played merrily and for a moment, no man felt fear.
Madriad sat among the Brothers and Freala sat beside him watching the young ones and a smile touched her lips so that her face was fair among the hard faces of the men beside her but in a moment, the smile was gone. From the bushes, there stepped out a monster of most unnatural form and its face was of terror and its voice was like of death itself. Its hideous green skin crawled with worms and snakes and a terrible stench arose from it, enveloping every man in a haze of fear. The young ones screamed for their fathers and ran away as-if madness had struck and the women collapsed in fear but Madriad took up his sword and stood up tall and challenging. “Leave us. We do not wish to harm you, for we are Men and you are a Nameless Creature. We do not have any business with you. Leave us.”
The creature was silent for a moment and then from within its depths came a voice which curdled the blood of many who were brave enough to behold it. “I am Fogrel, one of the Five Creatures of our master, Lord Salyrus. We do his bidding for it is his wish and we do not incur his wrath. I will fight you for I know of you and my master knows of you. Let your people go, if you wish, for once I kill you I will consume their bodies as a vulture consumes the dead carrion on the battle field.”
The water in the stream turned murky and the cool wind seemed to turn hot, like the breath of the creature itself. Madriad unsheathed his sword and its flash was like that of a burning beacon in a storm and the creature flinched.
“You choose to stay then and fight me and it shall be so. My people will watch me triumph once again against your Master’s servants for you are not the first to intrude. There was one before you, one not so mighty but almost of equal stature. I sent him limping back with a message for you Master. Did he not get this message?”
The stench from the creature seemed to grow but a murmur of anxiety passed through its eyes.
From the depths of its convoluted form, the creature drew out a chain, thick as the legs of a man and black from soot. It raised the weapon high above its head and sent it crashing down upon Madriad with such force that the ground split asunder and the sound shook the trees, but Madriad jumped swiftly to the side. With a mighty heave, he cut open its hide at the side of its breast and from the wound gushed out a yellow liquid which burned the ground upon which it fell. But the creature was merely wounded and yet again it swung the chain at Madriad’s lithe form, nicking his right arm above the elbow. The skin tore off, but Madriad barely flinched. He lunged at the creature and drove his sword into its heart up to the hilt. The creature collapsed in a pool of its own yellow blood and Madriad withdrew his sword from its stinking corpse.
“Gather our people together,” he cried, “we must move.”
But his people stayed quiet and no man moved, for behind him stood a tall warrior and his sword was against his neck. He had stepped out of the bushes the moment Madriad had slain the monster and now he spoke, but the young ones felt glad when they heard his voice for it was fair and melodious, like a song.
“You are intruders in these lands for they belong to our Lord Frytus. And yet, you have done us a great service by slaying the Great Fogrel, one of the Five who have been terrorizing our lands for years. You must have some great power. Who are you and what is your business in these lands?”
Madriad drew himself up and he stood taller than the warrior. “I am Madriad, Son of Godriad and we seek an army to destroy the Evil Ones. My people are Free People. We have travelled far and faced many perils. We must find a safe place to rest for the night for the darkness awakens many foul things and I cannot protect my people from all of them.”
The warrior removed his long helmet and went down on one knee before Madriad and cried, “Bless the evening stars, you have come at last. My people will not believe I have seen you and your people. You must come with me to my city.”
He rose and took Madriad’s hand and suddenly, he seemed to be a child who had found his father. He skipped away in front of the company merrily, and laughter came from his lips.
The path was dense and green, with little red flowers that the young ones plucked and put in their hair. In a while, they pulled their cloaks tighter around themselves, for they were climbing and the plants grew thinner. The red flowers had disappeared and the paths were lined with thorns. Suddenly, the path veered off to the right so that they were now in the midst of the mountain and in front of them stood a gigantic wall, covered from top to bottom with ivy. The warrior stepped to the walls and in a high voice cried out in a tongue which none recognized. In the midst of the wall a small doorway opened and they stepped into a city of immeasurable magnificence. The buildings stood tall and enchanting, like fortresses and palaces. The people stood and gazed at them with curiosity and wonder as they passed through the magnificent golden arch. A gentle, floating breeze swayed the trees that lined the walls and at last Madriad felt safe and he knew he had found the place where he and his people could stay. He looked upon the faces of the men dressed in armor and armed with long bows and sharp swords and he knew there was great hope and courage in this city.
The long walk through the cobbled streets had led them to a tall building that stood in the centre of the city, higher and mightier than the buildings around it and the visitors gasped in wonder and its magnificence. On its walls were inscribed letters of some ancient language and around it, paintings of kings and princes battling the Evil Ones were painted a rich golden-red and as Madriad looked closer at these paintings with wonder, he realized with a jolt that it was him in those pictures, battling the Evil Ones. Suddenly, his mind swam with questions and as he entered the magnificent palace, he beheld the throne and it was empty. In a moment, he knew what he must do and he walked up to the gold and silver seat and sat upon it. The people already gathered in the Palace, bowed to the ground and a cry went up in the air, “The prophecy has come true at last.”
Madriad felt tears welling up inside him and he called for their leader for he knew there was no time. From the crowd, there stepped out Frytus the Brave and he cried to Madriad, “We have been waiting for you My Lord, for twenty three years, for it was then that the Old Prophet told us of your coming. He told us we must make a large army, worthy of the King of all the Lands, for he will come to you one day and lead you against the Evil Ones. We did as we were told My Lord, for were in need of a leader and hope and that is what you have given us now, My Lord and we will do anything for you, anything we must do to destroy the Evil Ones forever.”
“Who is this Prophet you talk of Frytus? Where did he come from and what was his name?” asked Madriad.
“We do not know his name my Lord, but we know he is from the South, for he told us that there were others who were told of your coming, others who dwelled in the lands to the South.”
Freala sprang from her seat at the foot of the throne and cried, “It is the same person you speak of then, who told us of the coming of Madriad. Who is this man? If only we could find out.”
Frytus bowed to the fair lady and replied, “You still can My Lady, for he resides in the lower palace even as we speak. He did not wish to leave us for he said his task had been done and he had developed a liking for his city.”
Madriad, Freala, Glarius and Frytus made their way down to the lower levels of the palace through a long, winding staircase lined with more paintings of the king and now for the first time they noticed a lady by his side. Freala looked at Madriad, for he had not seen this Lady but she knew it was her in those paintings and she was glad for her heart was filled with love for her Lord. As they went lower, the air grew thicker, but its calm was not lost. Finally, they had reached the lowest level and now, Frytus took them through a long passage at the end of which stood an ancient wooden door. Its engravings were intricate beyond what their eyes could see but it told of many things, old and new, good and bad. Frytus pushed it and it swung open with ease. Their eyes could not see inside for it was pitch black and suddenly a voice pushed its way through the darkness and they froze as it reached their ears.
“So, you have come at last Madriad, Son of Godriad, to fulfill your destiny. Come and sit beside me.”
And suddenly, the room was bathed in light as a lamp was lighted and in the corner sat an old man, with a long white beard.
But Madriad could not move, for he had this voice before, the day his father had died. It had come to him in his sleep telling him of his destiny, but he had brushed it aside and never thought about it again.
There was something about this old man, something ancient and sacred, that made his heart light and his companions happy.
He walked up to the old man and bowed to the ground in front of him, “Tell me old man, who are you? How do you know of these things of the future?”
“ Well well, must you ask me that question now? A man of your stature and such insignificant questions? But come and sit by me and I will tell you. I am just an old man who has been blessed with foresight by the gods. Some call me Boizak and I was born before your fore-fathers and their fathers. I witnessed the separation of the Free People and the Evil Ones. But this story I will tell you some other time.”
“No old man”, said Madriad, “tell us now. My heart tells me that you have had some big part to play in the history that has made the world like it is.”
“Yes my Son, your heart speaks the truth. It is a long and perilous story but I will cut it short for the sake of the present.” His face was lit by a curious smile that failed to reach his eyes.
“A long time ago,” he began,” I came down to the world from above to free the people from the terrors of evil. Yes, I am a God. The most powerful one- Boizak is my name. And I am a creator.
I made the world and the universe, full of beauty and splendor until a rival and arch enemy turned loose on my creations, man. The man he set on this world was devoid of emotions. He destroyed all that he strode on. But, my once rigorous and young brain came up with a plan. All I did was put love into the world and then the gods witnessed the beauty of my creations. The world grew- happy and peaceful and the sunsets were beautiful.
But again, my enemy scavenging on evil came down to earth in the form of fire god and whispered in the ears of men, when the moon was cold in the night.
And power was known to man and he fell. The greed and jealousy drove him to madness but some resisted. One such was Theoglad. You know of whom I speak.”
“But that was a legend,” cried Freala, and tears ran down her cheeks.
“Yes, my girl. A legend. But a true one nonetheless. And I knew that to help man I needed to be a man for the fate of man lies always in mortal hands. And so I descended in this form- an old man and I roamed the lands seeking people who will hear my prophecy.
Theoglad was a great man, but before he could act on my advice he was killed in an ambush by the enemy and his people drove me away, like a madman. Since then I have spoken with many great men and one was your father my boy. I spoke to him about the prophecy and he said you will be that boy. But I too did not believe him then. So I left your village when you were a little boy and haven’t seen you since. But enough of the past.Now we must stay with the present for it is the present that is most important. Go now with Frytus and behold the Great Army of Maelthior for this is the name of this great city that you have become the king and savior of.”
With these words, the old man turned to his book and continued mumbling some language that they did not understand. Soon they were out of the lower levels and out in the sun lit streets. Frytus now led them to the other side of the city where a massive plain had been cut into the mountain. They stood upon the highest point and beheld this magnificent ground that stretched almost beyond their eyes could see, and Frytus took a trumpet from inside his cloak and put it to his lips. A deep, rumbling roar filled the entire plain and swept through the city, shaking the trees. For a moment, there was silence and Frytus lowered the trumpet. Then the sound of drums reached their ears, carried by the wind but getting closer every second. Soon the ground trembled with pounding footsteps and from the far side of the field, an army emerged. Madriad and Freala gasped in wonder and their hearts were filled with triumph, for it was the grandest army they had ever laid their eyes upon, and soldiers numbered more than ten thousand. Their bronze helmets sparkled and shone in the golden light of the sun, like little flames of holy fire and their weapons were glittering points of light. The army drew closer and Madriad saw the true extent of this force that he had to now lead. Siege weapons formed that back lines of the great force. There were horse-men, soldiers and some creatures that they had not yet seen on this earth whose legs were thicker than tree trunks and their boar like bodies covered in natural armor.
Madriad stood tall and cried out into the plain and his voice bade all to listen for it thundered louder than the army. “My people,” he cried, “Never in my life have I had the hope which fills my heart now. Seeing you great soldiers and your weapons has proved beyond all doubt that we will fight the Evil Ones and triumph. We will cut down Lord Salyrus from his throne and claim all the lands and fill them with peace and happiness.”
The soldiers raised their weapons above their heads and a great roar went up into the air. Hope filled the hearts of all. Madriad raised his head to address his people once again but a voice behind him bade him to turn.
“My Lord,” said the messenger, panting, for he had run a long way, “Lord Salyrus’ army has assembled in the plain before the mountain, for news of the creature Fogrel’s death had reached his ears and he wishes to fight us. He knows of the city but he does not know of our army unless there is a spy amongst us but my heart tells me no such thing.”
Madriad turned to Freala and said, “Gather the army and start marching down the slope. If Salyrus does not know of the army, he hasn’t brought a big force and since he himself has come, it is the best time for us to kill him. Without him, the Evil Ones are of no use. They lack another leader. I will join you when you reach the foot of the mountain. Do not show yourself until I come. Now go.”
“And you My Lord? Where must you go?”
“I must see somebody Freala, before going on this final battle.”
He turned and made his way as fast as his legs could carry him and soon he was in the lowest level. The room was lit now by the lamp and Madriad entered quietly for the old man was asleep. Madriad’s heart sank and he turned to leave but the old man spoke, “Don’t let anxiety fill your heart my Son. You know there is a great power that fills you and Salyrus is no match for that power. I know this to be true. Go now and destroy everything that stands in the way of beauty and peace.” He lifted his hand and a strange glow surrounded him and Madriad. Madriad dashed out of the room and made his way back to the entrance of the city. The slope seemed shallower as he tore down it, his sword clanking on his side. Soon, he saw the first glimpses of his army in the trees in front of him. They stood quietly at the foot of the mountain for they did not want to give away their numbers. Madriad sought out Freala amongst the vast army and she was glad to see him.
“I must see the enemy to decide out next move. Where is their army Freala?” Madriad said.
“There it is My Lord.” And she pointed through a gap in the trees to the plains and upon them stood an immense black army. Not a glimmer came from the soldiers who all wore black armor save for one whose helmet shone bright. The force was lay smaller than theirs but Madriad was not glad, for amongst the black army were soldiers who were far older and more experienced than any of his men.
His worries came to an end when the battle cry from the black army reached his ears and his blood stirred. “Now is the time.” He said quietly and turned to Freala. “Do you have armor for me, my lady?”
“Yes My Lord.” She replied and from a bag she drew out flashing mail and a silver helmet. “This mail is from the workshop of the great armor-forger of our land, Thygros and this helmet belonged to my father. They will protect you well My Lord and keep you safe from the dark blades of our enemy.”
Madriad wore his armor and those who beheld him had no doubt in their hearts that he was the king who would lead them to victory. He unsheathed his sword and raised it above his head and cried, “Behind me my People.”
With a mighty jump he ran forward, out of the trees that hid them from seeking eyes and onto the plains where the black army lay in waiting. Behind him, like a great gold and silver tide came his men, and their weapons, stirring the trees as they came out like a storm would stir them, and unto the plain they spread. The horse-men came first, lead by the noble Dalowar and the Nomirs. They swept the plain like a wave and crushed the grass they strode upon. Then came the men, lead by Freala and Glarius, both covered in flashing gold armor, both wielding mighty swords. Behind this great wave of men, were the siege weapons which were assembled where the trees ended for their range was great and their missiles could reach the black army with ease. One by one, burning rocks were loaded onto them and released into the black army, where they crashed down with force and heat, creating chaos and fire. And Madriad ran forward still and soon he was passed by the horse-men, whose swift steeds swept past him like the wind.
And then the first line of horse-men crashed into the black army, lances out, shattering their shields and crushing them under their steed’s hooves. Another wave of horse-men shattered the first line of defense and sent the battle towers crashing to the ground. Madriad, along with Freala and Glarius had reached the battle and they went about barking out orders and crying out words of strength to their people. And still the horse-men pushed forwards destroying all that stood in their way, for Dalowar stood mighty and his legs were too swift for the enemy. But out of the black army stepped Kramian, Son of Harust and Madriad saw that his leg had healed quickly and he stood mightier than before. He stood and faced Dalowar and swung his mighty axe at his neck. The beast’s neck snapped and its once great body crashed to the ground. Freala watched this from a distance with horror and it was soon replaced by rage and she tore across the battle field to where Dalowar lay but it was too late. She stood up and faced Kramian, and those who watched could not help feeling hopeless for her, for Kramian stood more than twice her size and his axe was longer than her sword.
“You have killed a noble beast and a friend, you monster.” She cried. “Now you will face me.”
With a mighty jump she raised her sword and brought down upon Kramian, but the great warrior blocked her effort with ease. With his other hand, he picked her up by the neck and breathed into her face and his breath was hot and its stench was unbearable for Freala. Her head swam and her mind was almost lost, but suddenly, he let her neck go, for he wanted to crush her with his axe. But Freala was too quick and before Kramian could raise his axe, she had picked up her sword and driven it through a chink in his armor, straight into his black heart. The great Kramian now lay on the battle-field in his own blood and his men were scared for they did not think he would be beaten by this woman whose armor shone so bright. They retreated into their third line of defense and Madriad and his people were overjoyed. They shouted encouraging words to each other and Madriad found Freala, nursing her neck, but she was strong and he kissed her forehead to give her strength.
Again, the golden army pushed forward and Madriad lead them, breaking their last remaining lines. The horse-men crashed into their barricades, splintering them to pieces. But this line proved fitter for many died as arrows came raining down upon them from the towers that stood tall and Madriad signaled to the siege weapons to target them and before long, they crashed down to the ground as the missiles tore into their thick wooden walls.
Now from the last line of defense there stepped a man of incredible stature. His sword was black and shone darkly and his armor was black as the night. A shiver ran through the bodies of the Free People, for this was Lord Salyrus, whose evil powers were immense.
And from the golden army, Madriad stepped out, his sword shining and his armor glittering. They walked to each other and their armies stood behind them, watching.
“Leave now, Madriad, and we will spare your people. Or they will die and be eaten by vultures on the battle field.” Cried Salyrus and his voice was of malice and the sky went dark.
“You are the worst vulture there is, Salyrus,” said Madriad. “Surrender now or this blade I am holding now will be driven into your skull and you will rot amongst the corpses of all of those men we have killed.”
Salyrus screamed, and ran forward, his sword held high, but Madriad stepped aside swiftly. The dark lord turned around and held out his hand and from it came forth a green haze that seemed to envelope Madriad in its poisonous stench, but Madriad raised his sword and the flash from its blade drove the green bog away. In a single movement he jumped at Salyrus and brought the sword crashing down on his helm, and it split asunder. Lord Salyrus collapsed and suddenly the sky shifted and the sun shone brightly. Madriad drew out his blade from Salyrus’ skull and it smoked from his blood and drove it into his heart to make sure that the monster was dead.
The black army, seeing this spectacle were driven mad and they scattered in minutes and before the sun had reached the horizon, the Evil Ones had all disappeared into hiding.
Madriad and his people slowly gathered around the body of Salyrus, their enemy, and as they beheld him lying there, powerless and lifeless, a great joy flowed from their hearts. They held each other in their arms and cried for they felt free of evil and the air was lighter. Soon the whole army was around Madriad and they cried praises for him. In a giant convoy they made their way back to Maelthior and when they reached its walls, their people threw upon them flowers and scents. The whole city had gathered in the palace and Madriad was carried on their shoulders onto the throne where a crown of extraordinary magnificence was placed on his head. The people cried with joy and sang songs of victory.
And at last, all men felt happiness. Madriad rose from his throne and stood tall. He smiled, for he perceived true happiness and in a clear voice he sang. His voice reached every corner of the palace and brought in the sunlight and the breeze.
Later, when the people had gone to sleep and the city lay in slumber, Madriad made his way down to the lower levels. But the old man was gone and the sentry outside the building said no one had left. Madriad searched for him for three days all over the city but he was never found.
The world lay in peace and happiness and the Kingdom of Maelthior flourished but the wise knew that there would come times again where good will have to battle evil, for the Evil Ones still existed in the dark places of the earth.
High above the world, in the chambers of peace, the Old Man lay in quiet slumber. A slight smile wore itself on his wrinkled face and he was happy.