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Rolfin's Orb
Book 13 - The Beginning
Chapter 3

            With little money to his name, Rolfin was forced to work his way eastward from Hadrumetum. He optioned to travel by camel or by foot rather than sail the Mediterranean Sea, where Romans attacked ships at random. After doing some investigating, he came to the conclusion that his best option was to join a camel caravan traveling the Incense Road across Egypt, Arabia and India. He didn’t have a final destination in mind; his only desire was to get as far away from his brother as possible. After proving his strength and ability to handle camels, he was hired to join Butrus’s caravan. Butrus and his younger brothers, Hani, Jaul, and Ruhi, operated the caravan all year.

They traveled from Egypt to the eastern side of Arabia, returning with spices, silks and frankincense that had been traded with India and other countries from the Far East. They took to Rolfin and he quickly climbed the ranks to become one of the best camel herders marching the five hundred mile trek through the barren desert.  He learned to deal with the huge camel spiders, poisonous snakes, lizards, scorpions, sandstorms and the treacherous temperatures. Through his trials and difficulties, Rolfin grew in wisdom, strength and stature. After several years of this nomadic desert life, he began to tire. With an accumulated wealth beyond his dreams, he longed for something different and more permanent.

One particularly arid summer, the caravan stopped on the easternmost coast of Arabia. Rolfin was impressed by the lush vegetation and mild climate. Ships lined up several hundred yards off shore, anxious to unload cargoes of silk, saffron, cinnamon, chilies, cumin, vanilla, ginger, clove, coriander, curry, and cardamom. As he strolled along the beach, he knew he would never tire of the sea. A noise down the beach caught his attention. “It’s now or never.” After taking a few deep breaths, Rolfin approached Butrus and his brothers as they sat around a roaring fire, eating roasted lamb and handfuls of dates. “Butrus, I must speak with you.”

The man glanced at his brothers. They made a space on the sand for their friend. “Sit, Rolfin. Have some lamb. It’s well done, just the way you like it.” Butrus yanked a piece off. He handed Rolfin an enormous chunk of cooked flesh, still clinging to the bone and dripping juices. “What is on your mind?”

Rolfin grabbed the meat and scooped a few dates from the bowl. His sun bronzed arms glistened with sweat. “I have enjoyed being with you all and I appreciate what you have done for me.”

“It is you who have graced us with your presence,” Hani said. “You’re the best camel herder in all of Arabia.”

“Thank you, Hani. I only know what you have taught me.” He bit into the lamb and chewed, trying to gain courage. “I am sorry to have to say this. I must leave you. It is time to settle and begin a new life. I’ve told you of my family and the tragic past I’ve had. I want to find a place where I can be at peace. I want a wife and some children of my own and a home.” Rolfin took a deep breath and went silent.

Butrus slapped him across the back. “My brothers and I sensed your restlessness, Rolfin. Do you know where you will go?”

“I like this area. It reminds me somewhat of Hadrumetum. I shall build a home near here.”

“Then we shall meet again, perhaps next year, when the caravan passes through.” Ruhi grinned; qat-stained teeth filled his mouth.

With full belly, Rolfin lay near his camel, gazing at the star-filled heavens. Thoughts of his mother and baby sister filled his mind until he fell asleep. The next morning he loaded his camel, said goodbye to his friends, and departed. “I won’t be going far and will stop when I know I’ve reached the right place.” He headed south, hugging the fertile coast before turning inland. A day later he stopped. Spread before him lay a valley of green. A river ran through the center; palms swayed among the apricot, almond and walnut trees. The scent of orange blossoms welcomed him home.

Star-shaped purple flowers with their off-white centers bloomed in a symmetry of color. Bougainvillea’s vibrant hues offered diversity, popping up among the grasses with their orange, pink and purple petals. Oleander bushes grew along the banks of the river. The pink, salmon, and white flowers reflected in the clear waters. Hibiscus, canna lilies and marigolds grew wild, mingling with zinnias and peacock flowers.

“This is the place. I will build my kingdom here and call the land Burill, after my sister.” He slipped off his camel and knelt at the river. With cupped hands he scooped up water and drank. “This is for you, Burill, and for you too, Mother. I dedicate this land and all that is in it to both of you.” He plucked a peacock flower from the stem and held it up. “This I will call the Burillian Ib.”


The Romans continued to pour into the peninsula, changing the land with their own architectural style of columns and arches. Most Hadrumetum businesses were taken over by the Romans, forcing the residents to move to other cities further west, or to Egypt in the east. Bartolf’s shipping and merchant business was destroyed a little more with passing day. Before he had nothing left, he took his wives and children and any others who wished to come with them, and departed. Staying close to the Mediterranean coast line, he headed east and stopped halfway between Egypt and Carthage. He named his new city, Zanaad. Within several years over six thousand people lived there, mostly thieves, murderers and other degenerates who had been forced away from their homes by the law.

Bartolf used these men to build his army. He wanted soldiers who would show no mercy. He sent them into the heart of deep Africa to capture tribal members for slavery. Any elephants that were caught were killed and their ivory tusks cut off to be used in trade. Sometimes he accompanied his soldiers on these ventures. One time, while in the jungle of central Africa, he came across a tribe that intrigued him. As he hid in the bushes preparing to strike, he watched a witch doctor healing a sickly woman. Bartolf, amazed by this black magic, approached the man. Fearing for his life and the life of the other tribe members, the witch doctor complied with Bartolf’s wishes and taught him the ways of the occult. Bartolf took the aged man back to Zanaad to continue the training. A year later Bartolf was performing all sorts of rituals and began sacrificing babies, as the Phoenicians had done in the past in Carthage. Soon he became so powerful that even the witch doctor feared him.

After an evening of sacrificing and blood drinking, Bartolf sat alone in his palace. Slaughtered infants lay around his feet. A form appeared in the corner of the room. Bartolf wiped his eyes, thinking it was simply a trick because of his weariness. The form took on the shape of a human and became solid before approaching Bartolf. “I am Sidero, a wizard of Xilia. I beg your greatness to allow me to become your personal wizard. I will be an aide to you and show you many more great things you can do; evil things.”

Bartolf stood and straightened his clothes. “You are begging to become my wizard? I could use a wizard. There are many more lands to conquer. I will take you up on your offer, Sidero. You can begin by cleaning up this mess.” With a sweep of Sidero’s hand, the bodies disappeared and everything went back to the place it was supposed to be. Without asking any questions about the wizard’s motives or desires, Bartolf sat on the edge of his bed. “Welcome, Sidero. We will get along well as long as you remember that I am in charge.”

“Your wish is my pleasure,” the wizard said.

                                                *  *  *

Rolfin’s kingdom of Burill thrived. People moved there from Europe, Asia and other Middle Eastern countries and helped build the city. Rolfin married Poola, a woman from Hadrumetum who had come to Burill with her grandmother, Onga, a friend of Rolfin’s mother. A few years later he married again and by the time he was fifty-three he had twelve wives and over 150 children. His city blossomed. A new tower was added to his palace every time he married and by the time it was finished, it spread over a fourth of the city. In the Grand Room of the palace, the walls were covered with mosaic patterns of desert animals, trees, flowers, and rivers, all made of tiny pieces of colored Burillian glass. On them hung tapestries, woven by Arabian craftswomen. The floor shone with polished brilliance when the sun burst through the windows, adding color to the geometric shapes decorating the tiles.  Vases, intricately decorated with peacocks, rams and lions, stood on glossy wooden tables. Silver perfume flasks and crystal chandeliers only added to the beauty of the room.

Surrounding the palace and throughout the city, Burill erupted with dozens of fountains, one of Rolfin’s passions. Roses bloomed at every turn, mingled with jasmine, lavender and myrtle. Acacia trees hid cicada, their droning noise unnoticed by accustomed ears.  His army, strong and courageous, was used only to defend the city when attacked by other armies. Businesses boomed and the people lived together in joy and happiness.

A cool afternoon breeze blew, ruffling Rolfin’s hair as he sat by his favorite fountain, lounging in his baggy pants, turned up slippers and bare chest with scraggly gray hairs. He fell off the stone structure to the ground when the water began to spiral, swirling in the fountain and rising into the air. When it suddenly fell back into the pool, there stood a man. “You can pull your heart out of your toes now, Rolfin. I mean you know harm. I am Lehimna, a wizard of Xilia. Samothi, the Chief Wizard, sent me to you. Your brother, Bartolf…”

“What about him? He’s not brother of mine and I’d rather you didn’t mention his name again.” Rolfin stood, brushing off his pants.

“I will never mention it again once I’ve finished my explanation. Bartolf has a wizard; an evil son of Samothi. Sidero and his younger brother, Phelan, have been banished from Xilia for going against wizard code. Sidero now resides in Zanaad as personal wizard to Bartolf. To balance things out, I have been sent here to aid you in any way I can. I’ve brought a friend.” With a click of the fingers a great black dragon appeared. We are here to help you. Tell us, how can we serve you?”

Rolfin smiled. Many questions rushed through his mind, but he chose to wait to ask them. “I’m not sure how the residents of Burill are going to react when they see a dragon. Perhaps he should stay at the palace for a while, until I find a way to announce his presence. He is friendly, isn’t he? It is a he, correct?”

“Cloudwaltzer is a male dragon. He will not harm anyone. He is completely loyal to me, and now to you.”

“Yes. I see.” Rolfin clapped his hands; several men and women came running into the courtyard. They came to a screeching halt when they saw the dragon. “Do not fear. This is a friendly dragon. May I introduce you to Lehimna, the royal wizard of Burill and his dragon, Cloudwaltzer. They will be residing in our land from now on.” After a few minutes they realized the dragon meant them no harm. Some found courage to stroke the animal. “I want you to spread the word about the dragon to the people of Burill to have no fear if they see it flying around or wandering the streets.” Rolfin dismissed them. “That should go well.” He winked at Lehimna.

During the next few years Burill continued to thrive. Columns were built and placed under arches as supports and decorated with pieces of cracked glass that formed into spiraling geometric designs. Rolfin and his wizard drew close and spent much time together. On the fifth anniversary of their union, Lehimna went to visit Andra, the royal goldsmith, and presented him with a papyrus drawing. The wizard hired Andra to make an orb of the most precious gold and showed him the design he wanted. Lehimna promised a great reward for the goldsmith’s silence. Once a feeling of trust had been taken care of, Lehimna disappeared.

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