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Rolfin's Orb
Book 13 - The Beginning
Chapter 12

            King Kegan sighed. “They’re all gone. Now it’s our turn.” He looked at his group, which included his wife, Queen Sarmantha, his wizard, Zerahemna, several of his guards, and Alroy Cathmore. Alroy had studied the maps and plotted out their course. They wanted to avoid going anywhere near Zanaad, so they chose to go north into Europe and cross to the west before heading to the land of the Scots. The Queen longed to see Jerusalem, Constantinople, Athens and Rome. Her husband made no promises, but said

           He would do his best to let her see the places she so desired. There was to be no hurry. He wanted to take his wife’s mind off their missing daughters.  A handful of guards had been advised of the planned route and sent ahead as scouts.

            Kegan had regretted his parent’s choice to stay behind in Burill, but he understood their needs. When they pointed out that they’d be a hindrance, Kegan had given in and left them behind, with a promise that once he settled, he’d send a boat for them, knowing fully well in his heart that he’d never see them again. The first step was the most difficult, but after that gusto for adventure flowed through his body and he plodded on, never looking back.

Alroy showed them the map. “We head for southern Arabia and keep to the Red Sea coastline. We must be careful to avoid the main road where we risk be recognized by  traders.” All agreed and let Alroy take the lead. Kegan trusted his wisdom completely.

                                                * * *

“They are not going to Zanaad,” Isud said. “What should we do, Aghilas?”

“King Dugan ordered us to follow them. I say that is what we should do. I don’t want to return to Zanaad empty handed, do you?” The other two shook their heads. “The king will be joyful and reward us when we return with Kegan’s final destination. We will stay with them.”


Each night when they stopped, Alroy would sit by the fire and write in his book about the day’s events. The trek along the southern coast was uneventful. They took time to fish and swim in the sea’s warm waters. The guards took turns going into villages to purchase local foods, wine, and other needed supplies.

            They turned north and crossed the Sinai, continuing to the Holy Land. After changing into common man’s clothing, they stood in front of one of the gates of Jerusalem. The ancient city had come under Islamic rule many centuries before, but some of the old city of King Solomon still stood. Sarmantha wept as her gaze swept along the surrounding stone walls and towers. Jerusalem had been completely destroyed, along with the temples, at least twice, except for a small portion of wall where the Christians and Jews visited regularly. Minarets dominated the skyline, the slender towers reaching for the clouds. Muslims had invaded the once Christian land, destroying their most sacred place, the Holy Sepulchre.

“It has always been my dream to come here. We are standing at Dung gate.” Sarmantha saw a golden plaque on the wall. “I’ve heard so much about Jerusalem. I would like to see all of the gates. May we enter, Kegan?”

“I’m not sure if it is safe, but give me a few minutes to look around. You stay here with Zerahemna and Alroy. Guards, come with me. Ask questions. See if there are any inns where we might find a place to rest a few nights.”

Zerahemna led Sarmantha and Alroy to the well just outside the gates. None of them recognized Aghilas, Idus and Usem, who nervously stood next to them, drinking from a wooden cup. A half an hour later Kegan returned, a grin spread across his face. “Come. I have found us a place to stay. We will be safe as long as we don’t cause problems. The Turks are bloodthirsty, but we should have no difficulties with them. You can spend some time walking around, Sarmantha, as long as one of us is with you.” Kegan led his wife and the others through the massive wooden gate.

            The narrow streets were lined with stalls of vendors, each anxious to sell their olive wood carvings, scarves, leather goods, delicacies and more. The aroma of smoke mingled with roasted lamb, over-ripe melons, peaches and bananas embraced them as  Kegan and his group passed by. Men shouted, trying to bring attention to their wares. Kegan waved his hand and continued on his way. Sarmantha smelled familiar spices and some she didn’t recognize. Most of the items for sale had been readily accessible in Burill, though there were some fabrics she longed to touch.  The queen purchased olive wood carvings and blue glass beads on their way.

A view of the Dome of the Rock stood ahead. Sarmantha watched as the new conquerors oppressed the former inhabitants, chasing them out with whips, forcing them to find another place to live. None of Sarmantha’s group weren’t used to the prayer calls and were surprised and delighted as the chants echoed through the city. They knew their time in the holy city would be educational. Alroy told them how the Turks had recently captured the city and would more than likely have control for the next few decades.

Kegan and the guards kept together and stayed inconspicuous. They reached the inn and went directly to their rooms. The guards were in one room, Zerahemna and Alroy were in another and the king and queen shared a room.

                                                            * * *

            “What should we do, Aghilas? We cannot enter through the gates of Jerusalem. There is much danger there,” Usem said, horrified at the thought. “The Turks have raided the land and they imprison anyone they choose for no reason.”

            “Let us move with caution, follow them and see what they do. Kegan has surely heard the news of the wars in this area and yet he went inside, taking his wife with him.” Aghilas looked at the wall. “I know a man who lives within these walls. We will go directly to Wiwul’s house and make plans. He will let us stay with him for a price.” Aghilas patted the gold in his pouch.

            Aghilas, Idus and Usem waited until a crowd of camel herders trotted through the gate and follow them in. “We need a plan,” Aghilas whispered.

            “What sort of a plan?” Usem snickered.

            “Do you think I’m going to let Kegan and his entourage travel without giving them some sort of misery? I plan to make this journey as difficult for them as I can. I have a few ideas.” Aghilas laughed out loud. “Here we are.” He knocked on a wooden door. It opened and there stood an aged woman. “Where is Wiwul?”

            She glanced at the others and disappeared back inside, closing the door. The three men stood waiting. A few minutes passed and the door opened once again. The same elderly woman spoke. “Go away. He is not here. Wiwul is dead.” She started to close the door.

            Usem stuck his foot in to block the way. “What do you mean? When did he die?”

            The old woman glanced at the three men. “The Turks hung him last week. Go away. You attract attention.” She slammed the door on Usem’s foot. He pulled it out, clenching his teeth. “Your friend is dead, Aghilas. Now what?”

            “We find somewhere else to sleep.” Aghilas walked away, expecting the other two to follow. After knocking on every inn in Jerusalem and finding them all full, they ended up sharing a stall in a stable with two goats.

            “So much for your friends,” Idus smirked.

            After a horrid night’s sleep, pulling goat wool off their clothes and being urinated on, Aghilas and his fellow guards were in anything but a good mood. “That’s it! Today we will get even with Kegan for forcing us to sleep with stinking goats.”

            “It wasn’t his fault, Aghilas. If you have to blame it on someone, blame it on the Turks. They’re the ones who killed Wiwul.” Usem sighed and picked hay from his hair.

            “Tonight we will show them.” Aghilas went in search of something to eat and ended up with pistachio nuts drenched in honey. As the three ate he sneered. “I know what we will do. When they retire for the night, we will attack.”

            “What? What is your plan?” Idus couldn’t wait to hear.

Aghilas simply pointed at a stack of barrels. “Ah. I understand.” Usem grinned. “We’ll hide in the empty barrels until they have fallen asleep, sneak into their rooms through the open windows and slit their throats.”

            “Don’t be a fool.” Aghilas slapped Usem. “We’re not here to kill them. Let’s use this time to find lodging for tonight. I could not bear to sleep another night among animals.”

                                                * * *

            Sarmantha and Alroy spent the day touring the city. The Turks left them alone, noticing her fine apparel and jewels. Kegan and the guards crept through the dark alleys, seeking other opportunities for escape in case something went wrong. When the sun set, they met at the inn and feasted on an assortment of figs, oranges and roasted chickens.

            “Now’s our chance,” Aghilas said. They slunk over to the barrels and pried the lid off one. “It is full of wine.”

            “Let’s just pour it out.” Idus cupped his hands and scooped some of the red wine. “This is fine wine, too good to waste.” He slurped another handful. “Try some, Aghilas, Usem.” Before they knew it, the three lay drunk, sprawled next to the half empty barrel.

            Zerahemna had waited until the others were asleep before he left. He wanted to explore the city on his own, certain areas where common people weren’t allowed. After walking down a few darks streets, he came upon the drunken guards. He moved to walk around them, but at that moment Idus reached up and grabbed Zerahemna’s robe. “Let go of my rope, you drunken sot.”

            Idus slurred his words. “You’re the wizard from Burill.”

            Zerahemna squatted in front of the wine-breathed man. “And how do you know that?”

           The other two didn’t stir. “I know because I know. You see, my friends and I…my friends and I…”

            “Where are you from, you and your friends?” Zerahemna rolled Usem over. “This one is in a drunken sleep.”

            “I am from, we are from, Zanaad. Could you hand me my pig please?” Idus leaned up on his elbows. “Where’s my pet pig? His gaze moved from side to side. “Wait a minute. I don’t have a pig.”

            Zerahemna helped lay Idus down. “Go to sleep. I’ll find your pig and bring it to you.”

            “Thank you,” Idus spat and then passed out.

            “So, we are being followed by some Zanaad guards. They don’t look like much of a threat to me. Perhaps I should teach them a lesson.” Zerahemna  mumbled a spell and the three sleeping men floated through the air behind him. When he neared the inn, he pulled a few lids off some barrels of honey and dropped the guards inside. He sealed the lids up and went back to his room, a rewarding grin on his face. The wizard made the decision to keep the appearance of the enemy’s guards to himself for the time being.

Aghilas was the first to wake up and find himself in a dark sticky place. “Where am I? Idus? Usem?” Soft muffled sounds came from nearby.  Pushing his hands through the thick goo, Aghilas felt the wooden slats. “I’m in a barrel.” He licked his fingers. “A barrel of honey.” Panic soared through him. “Get me out of here. Get me out of here!” He pounded the lid above his head. It flew off and he stood, dripping from head to toe with the amber-colored honey. Moans came from two nearby barrels. Aghilas slid out of his sticky prison and lifted the lids off the other two. “Get out of there, Idus. Usem, come on.” The three guards were baffled, trying to figure out how they ended up in honey. “It doesn’t matter how we got here. We need to get cleaned up or the Turks will toss us in prison for some trumped up charge.” They raced through the streets, thankful that nobody was awake and moving. It wasn’t long before they came to a pool of clean water. “There must be a spring feeding this. Let’s wash off and get out of here.”

Ten minutes later they shook off their wet hair and clothes and headed for the Dung Gate. “We need to stay out of sight until King Kegan and his group leave. It’s too dangerous inside the walls.” With no other choice, they spent the rest of their days hiding in the valleys surrounding the city.

            Alroy led them away from Jerusalem after a week’s stay and went in the direction of Constantinople, the capitol of the Byzantine Empire. Sarmantha longed to see the Byzantine churches and architecture.  As far as she was concerned, though suffering from recent attacks by the Turks, as Jerusalem had, nothing could compare to their magnificent buildings.

            Once or twice Zerahemna glanced behind to see if Dugan’s guards followed and much to his pleasure, saw them creeping along far in the distance.

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