The journey to eastern Arabia was long and
tiring. Though the soldiers ran into many caravans and stayed close to the
coast, traveling was a lonely job and the rewards for them personally would
be few, if any. Only a fierce loyalty to their king kept the men moving.
Several times they had to buy new camels. One of the soldiers died of a
horned viper bite. Another was stung by a scorpion and left behind to die in
the sand. When the survivors reached the wall surrounding Burill, the
soldiers wept with joy to have finally reached their destination. After
careful planning, they changed into civilian clothing and mingled with the
residents of the city, asking questions and getting in return freely given
answers from the trusting Burillians.
A few days later the soldiers met near the
fountain in the center of the city. Water spouted from dolphin’s mouths,
splattering in a pool of clear water. Rama, the leader, gathered his men.
“Did you all follow instructions? I presume then by the nods of your heads
that you have gathered the necessary information.” The men spoke and planned
their attack. “Tomorrow we shall kill the king.”
The sun went down, silhouetting the palace
against the background of crimson and orange. An unlocked door left them
access to a bottom hallway. Carefully avoiding contact with residents of
the palace, the soldiers made their way upwards to the center room. As
planned, they spotted a man sitting at a wooden table; an open book spread
out before him. Rama pulled out a knife and tiptoed toward the man, raised
his dagger and plunged it through the man’s back. The others ran forward and
stabbed the bleeding wizard over and over again. Ruby Red blood ran across
the stone as the man collapsed backward on the floor. Rama pulled the
wizard’s head back. “That is not the king. It is his wizard. We must go.”
The soldiers retraced their steps and fled the palace into the darkness.
Rolfin kissed his children goodnight; a ritual
he never missed when he was at home. When he finished he called for his
royal server to bring him some coffee, the beans grown in the mountain
ranges surrounding Burill. Rolfin headed for the library, stopping at
Lehimna’s reading room to invite him . “Lehimna!” He spotted the dead wizard
and rushed over to him. “Lehimna? What has happened?” The wizard’s eyes were
closed and he wasn’t breathing. A glass of pomegranate juice had spilled and
ran onto Lehimna’s cloak. “Guards. Guards. Come quickly.” Within moments a
dozen men rushed into the room, stopping when they saw Lehimna. “Whoever did
this can’t have gone far. Find them and bring them to me.” He scooped up his
friend and carried him to the wizard’s bed. With tenderness he stroked the
man’s face and then collapsed on him weeping.
“Rolfin.” A voice called from behind him. He lifted his head. “Rolfin, I am
Samothi, Chief Wizard of Xilia. I have come to collect Lehimna’s body and
take it back to Xilia.”
Rolfin stood. “Of course. He belongs there.” He wiped the tears.
“Once in Xilia again he will regain his life force and breathe once again.
Do not weep. Though he can’t stay in your land anymore, he will watch over
you.” Samothi picked Lehimna up. “Fear not, Rolfin. He will live again.” The
two wizards disappeared.
The king stood in silence. He walked over to the window and looked down in
the courtyard. The dragon had gone home with his master. Rolfin smiled. Just
as quickly, that smile turned to anger. “This is your doing, Bartolf, isn’t
it?” He spoke to the empty room.
The door burst open. “Forgive me for interrupting, but we found the men who
did this to Lehimna. Pardon for asking, but where is Lehimna?” Dormon, one
of Rolfin’s private guards, looked around the room.
“He’s gone home, Dormon. How did you find the murderers so quickly?”
“Our guards were positioned all over the city performing a trial run, in
case Burill was ever attacked.” Dormon turned to leave.
Rolfin followed, closing the door behind him.
“Find my personal guard, Hanndit.” He stormed through the halls to his war
room. There stood his royal guards with a few Zanaadi men. “Who are you and
why did you murder my wizard?”
Rama stepped forward and spoke in defiance. “It was a mistake. We wanted to
kill you, not your wizard.”
“Did Bartolf send you?” Rolfin knew the leader wouldn’t speak, but observed
the eye contact between some of the other men. “Leave these three here,”
Rolfin said, “and throw the others in the dungeon.”
The three that were left behind squirmed in fear as their fellow soldiers
were dragged away. “Say nothing,” Rama shouted before being knocked
unconscious by one of the guards.
“You have several choices,” Rolfin said to the three. Just then Hanndit
entered the room. “You’re here. Prepare my orb and have it ready for me.”
Hanndit left. “You can tell me who sent you and be let free to return home.
You can tell me who sent you and live as one of my people, or you can keep
quiet and die. What option do you each wish?” The first man stepped forward.
“What is your name?” Rolfin’s tone of voice calmed down. “I asked you for
“I am Gregos.”
“Gregos, you seem eager to share information, or am I mistaken?” Rolfin
“I choose to go with my fellow soldiers to the dungeons to die.” Gregos
puffed out his chest and glared at Rolfin. “Your threats do not frighten
“I’m not trying to frighten you, Gregos. I am offering you life and freedom.
The choice is yours. It shall be as you wish. Take him away,” Rolfin spoke
to a guard standing in the corner of the room. “What about you two?”
“I choose as Gregos,” Nirab said. “I will not tell you anything.” The man
spat at Rolfin, who simply wiped it off and didn’t let it turn into rage.
“Very well. Take him to join his friends.” The guard took Nirab and led him
from the room. “You’re the only one left, my friend. Are you from Zanaad? Is
my brother, Bartolf behind this?” The man stood in silence, unsure of what
to say. “What is your name?”
“I am Sam.”
“Sam, if you tell me who sent you to kill me, I will provide you with a bag
of gold and precious gems, let you live in the royal palace as one of my
personal guards, and your past will be instantly forgotten. I will forgive
you for murdering my wizard and it will never be mentioned again. If you
don’t tell me, you will suffer the same fate as your friends in my
dungeons.” Rolfin sat in one of his wooden chairs and let the soldier think
Sam cleared his throat. “I am ready to tell you. Can I see the bag of gold
and precious gems first?”
Rolfin nodded and a guard disappeared into a room and returned a few moments
later with a velvet bag. He tossed it at Sam, who opened it. His eyes bulged
with joy. “I accept your proposal. From this moment on I am your loyal
servant. I give you my oath.”
“I am pleased to hear that, but first you must tell me who sent you.” Rolfin
grinned at the man.
“It was your brother, Bartolf. A trader came through our city and he seemed
most anxious to tell the king about your orb and its magical powers.”
Rolfin’s eyebrows arched with curiosity. “And who was this trader?”
“That is a question I cannot answer. I was not privileged to that
information. I do know he betrayed a fellow trader, Jesbar, who had confided
in him with trust. Perhaps Rama knows this. All I can tell you is that King
Bartolf had greed, envy and hatred in his eyes.”
“Thank you, Sam. Now, if you will follow Dripz, he will take you to the
guard’s quarters. I do expect total loyalty from you, Sam.” Rolfin stood.
“You did pledge an oath of fealty. Do not forget that. Travor, visit the
royal goldsmith in the morning and have a golden plaque made in honor of
Lehimna. It needs to be fixed to the bottom of this table. Once it has been
attached, take the table and put it in storage, so that it cannot be used
Once the guards had left and Rolfin found himself alone, he sighed and lay
on one of the couches. Within seconds he’d fallen asleep.
A hot desert wind picked up, blowing across the dunes, gathering sand until
it was several hundred feet in height. In a thunderous roar it traveled at
high speed, growing with every mile until obscuring the sun and sky. The
boiling mass of granules raced toward Zanaad. People disappeared into their
homes, pulling curtains shut and placing wood in doorways. Goats, dogs, cats
and other animals were taken indoors for protection. The palace guards
rushed around, blocking the windows up. All of Zanaad waited in silence and
fear as the samiel blanketed their city. Dust crept under doors, through
crevices, and howled down chimney flues. Nobody was spared; the sand piled
around their houses.
Bartolf slumped in a chair, angry that he couldn’t go outdoors. Sidero
entered the room and glanced at his master before sitting down. “Bartolf, it
is time for you to learn some, what should I call them; spells. You are
concerned about your brother and his magic orb, and you well should be. The
powers he was given could crush you like a moth near a fire.”
The king reached for some anise-sprinkled bread. He dipped the slices into a
platter of snails with cumin sauce and devoured them. Next to that platter
sat another with fruit, stacked on honeycombs, dripping their golden nectar
and coating the fruit with a thick sweetness. Pomegranates, oranges, lemons,
figs, and bananas filled the air with a tangy scent. “You can teach me
powers, Sidero? To match my brothers? I am listening.”
“It will help pass the time indoors and you’ll learn something.” Sidero
spent the next three hours teaching his master some simple spells. When he
tired of the work, he dismissed himself, leaving the king with a stack of
Bartolf began to feel sleepy. His head nodded and his eyes drooped.
Everything around him went fuzzy as he switched off and fell asleep. An hour
later he opened his eyes and saw his brother standing directly in front of
him. “Rolfin. What are you doing here?” His gaze darted around the room.
“How did you get in here? Where’s Sidero?”
“Your wizard can’t help you right now, Bartolf. It’s just you and me.”
Bartolf climbed out of bed and slipped a robe over his naked body. “Is this
one of the powers of the orb, being able to travel anywhere you want in the
blink of an eye?” He saw the look of surprise in his brother’s eyes. “You
didn’t know I knew?”
“How do you think I ended up here? I knew. Your loyal soldiers weren’t as
loyal as you thought they were; very easily bribed. They told me everything.
I want the frankincense trader brought here now.”
“I have powers you can’t even imagine, Bartolf. Do you want your palace
burned to the ground, or would you prefer a flood to wash through you city
and destroy it? How about a year long sandstorm? You’ve got one raging
outside. I can command it to last years if I so choose. If that doesn’t
please you, I can call every cobra and horned viper in Africa to attack your
Bartolf’s anger sizzled inside of him, growing stronger with every word his
brother said in threat. He threw his fist into Rolfin’s gut, who barely
reacted. “Is that the best you can do, brother?” Rolfin showed no sign of
“You’ve been strength training, little brother. I am impressed.”
“I don’t care if you are impressed or not, Bartolf. What do you think I’ve
been doing? I don’t sit around and indulge in wines, goat’s milk, and exotic
foods and have my servants cater to me every waking moment, as you do. Bring
the trader here now.”
The king of Zanaad whistled and one of his servants appeared. “Send for the
trader who carried frankincense and myrrh. The guards will know which one.”
The servant disappeared.
As they waited two toddlers came rushing into the room. “Father. Father.”
They ran into Bartolf’s arms. Rolfin smiled at the identical twin boys.
Bartolf beamed with pride. “These are my sons, Macion and Mirnon. Today is
their second birthday. Boys, this is your Uncle Rolfin.”
Rolfin knelt so the boys could come to him. They lunged at him with laughter
and he held them tight. “I have boys this age too. They bring a lot of joy
into my life. It’s a shame the boys will probably turn out just like you,
A guard appeared with Jesbar. Rolfin looked up. The man was skin and bones;
his clothes torn and filthy and flea bites riddled his body. The boys ran to
their father’s bed to hide.
“Have the man bathe and put on clean clothes. Feed him and bring him back to
us,” Bartolf commanded.
Rolfin stood. “Here is what I demand. I want the attacks on my land to cease
immediately. Your soldiers will not win. You’re not much of a strategist,
brother. I am too far from you to mount any sort of attack where you will
succeed. It will not happen. Resign yourself to this. You will never have
the orb and never be allowed to indulge in its powers. You have wives and
many beautiful children. Take care of them and do something about this city.
It is full of thieves and whoredoms. Father would cringe if he saw what
you’d done with your life, Bartolf. What a waste.” Jesbar entered the room,
clean and well fed. “Come, Jesbar. Your family awaits you in Burill.” Rolfin
turned once again to Bartolf. “You had our mother and sister slaughtered. I
will never forget what you’ve done.” He took Jesbar by the hand, mumbled a
few words and disappeared.