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Rolfin's Orb
Book 13 - The Beginning
Chapter 6

            After a three year journey, Jesbar arrived in Zanaad, unaware and surprised that the city existed. His gaze moved up and down the dirty streets. Rubbish lay scattered and the scent of sewage and dried blood clung to his clothing. Anxious to find an inn and bathe, Jesbar led his camel down one of the narrow side streets. A row of inns welcomed him. A small boy ran to the man as he tied up the camel. “For three gold coins I will watch your camel. If you don’t let me, someone will steal it.”

Jesbar was aghast. “What? I call what you are asking robbery, young boy. Could you answer my question?”

“I will if I can and if you pay me a gold coin.”

“Robbery.” Jesbar reached into his pocket and pulled out a coin. “This is yours if you tell me why this city smells.”

“Dead babies. King Bartolf likes to sacrifice children. I hate him. He took my baby brother and cut him in half. He picked up his body and let the blood drip into his mouth. My father had to hold me back. I would have killed the king.”

Jesbar gasped. “Why didn’t your father stop him?”

“The king’s guards were there. Have you thought more about me watching your camel?”

“Sorry. I don’t think that will be necessary.” Jesbar tossed the coin to the boy.

The lad pocketed the gold and shrugged his shoulders. “It is up to you. There will be no camel when you come out of the inn.” He ran off, sticking his tongue out at Jesbar.

He tied up the camel and went into the inn. The innkeeper’s hair dripped with sweat and filth. Flies buzzed all around the room. Jesbar turned and walked back out. “I will take my chances outside the city walls. Come on girl, we’ll find somewhere else to sleep.” Jesbar stopped at a bakery and picked up a few loaves of bread. Later that evening, while he ate, he had to spit out the sand, which blew continuously from the desert.

Another man riding a camel saw Jesbar and stopped. “May I join you? I cannot bear to be in that city another moment. I have heard rumors of Zanaad, but didn’t believe it. It is worse than I thought. What sort of ruler is this King Bartolf to allow his city to end up like this.” The man climbed off the camel. “My name is Candahar. I am from Persia. May I share the fire with you?”

Jesbar welcomed the new friend, happy for some company. “Sit and warm you hands. You can share my bread, but the sand makes it gritty.” He broke a piece of bread in half and gave some to Candahar.

As the hours past and the sun set and darkness covered the land, the men continued to talk. Candahar told Jesbar many stories of life in Persia and Jesbar shared stories of his life and travels. Candahar brought out a jug. “I hope you do not mind if I drink of this. It warms the bones.” He took a swallow. “Would you like some?”

“Don’t mind if I do.” Jesbar sipped the alcoholic beverage; within minutes turned dizzy and lightheaded. “I enjoy that, but I’d better not drink too much.”

“I have more. Here.” Candahar handed him the jug and pulled out a smaller one. “It will help you sleep.”

Jesbar drank more than he should of and words spilled from his mouth that should have been kept inside. “My cousin lives in a city called Burill. It is farther east of here, on the coast of Arabia. It’s nothing like this. Have you been or heard of Burill?”

Candahar shook his head. “No. I usually don’t travel to eastern Arabia. What is it like?”

“There isn’t a speck of dirt or rubbish anywhere. It’s clean and everybody seems to be happy. They are a friendly people. I was there three years ago, visiting Andra, my cousin. He’s the royal goldsmith. He had just finished a work of art for King Rolfin.” Jesbar burped and pounded his chest.

“What sort of art?”

“He crafted a golden orb and fit precious gems into it. The king’s wizard made it a magical orb with powers. Did you know there’s a black dragon in Burill? I saw it myself.” Jesbar put the jug down. “I’ve drank too much of this. I feel sleepy.” Before he could utter another word, he fell over and passed out.

Candahar, who hadn’t drank as much as Jesbar, couldn’t stop thinking about the golden orb. While Jesbar was sleeping, he climbed on his camel and headed back to Zanaad. When he reached the palace doors, he dismounted. A guard yanked the door open, angry at being disturbed in the night. “What do you want?” He yawned and then scowled at the camel rider.

“I have some information that King Bartolf will be interested in hearing.” Candahar whispered and looked around to make sure nobody else was listening.

“Information? You can’t expect me to wake him up in the middle of the night. Come back in the morning.” The guard slammed the door shut.

Candahar sat next to the door all night and at the first sign of life in the palace the following morning, he knocked. Much to his relief a different guard came.

“Who are you and what do you want?” General Timori snarled.

“I was told to come this morning to meet with King Bartolf.”

The general pushed his way past Candahar. “I am no guard. I am King Bartolf’s top general. Out of my way. Your appointments mean nothing to me. Go inside and find the nearest guard.” He stomped off, heading for the horse table.

Candahar entered the dark hallway. He looked through each door, hoping to find someone to help him. The tip of a spear was thrust into the small of his back. Candahar turned around to meet the glare of angry eyes. “It’s you again. Follow me.” The guard led Candahar through the halls to a small room. “Sit here and don’t move.”

Half an hour later Bartolf entered the room, approaching Candahar. “You wish to share some information with me? It had better be worth it. You’ve disturbed my solace this morning. Out with it then.”

“I was told a story by a traveler last night. I met him just outside of the city at a camp. He told me of King Rolfin.”

“King Rolfin? My brother? What about him? Be quick with it, or I shall have you beheaded.”

Candahar grinned, realizing the king was indeed eager to hear the news. “Your brother’s wizard gave him an orb. It has many jewels in it and is made of the finest gold.”

“That’s it? You think I care about gold and jewels? I have so much gold that I have no idea what to do with it; the same with jewels. You are wasting my time.” The king turned to leave.

“Wait. There is more. Each of the stones is magical. The wizard put a spell on them and King Rolfin can use them to perform magic.”

“Magic? What sort of things can he do?”

“I’m not sure. The traveler, Jesbar, didn’t share that information with me; however, if you send your men to catch him, he can’t have gone far. He’s heading west, to the coast of Africa and then is going up to the land of the Gauls.” Candahar imagined the gold he would be presented with for such information.

“Very well. I appreciate you telling me this. This is most interesting. I wasn’t aware my brother had acquired a wizard of such generosity and skill.” The king called for two of his guards. “Kindly escort this man to the dungeon.”

“What do you mean? I brought you information. It must be worth something.” Candahar began to sweat.

“It is worth much. Instead of killing you right now, I’m going to spare your life and lock you in my dungeons for the rest of your life. I abhor traitors and backstabbers.” The king left the room. He heard Candahar’s wails as he was dragged down into the depths of the palace to be locked in a filthy cell until death.

King Bartolf sent a troop of men to find Jesbar. They returned that night with the man and brought him before the king. “Jesbar, that is your name, is it not?”

“Yes. Why have you brought me here? I’m on my way to the coast to trade my frankincense and myrrh for tin. Did you need some?”

“I need nothing like that. I can have as much frankincense as I want. Enough traders pass by my city, making excellent targets. Let me get down to business. I understand that you have some information about a certain orb that belongs to King Rolfin.”

Jesbar clenched his fists. “I see Candahar has betrayed me. Yes. I know something about it. My cousin is the royal goldsmith.”

“Tell me everything you know.” The king sat on a feather-padded chair.

Jesbar saw several guards standing against the wall. Each held a spear and sharp daggers were stuffed into their waistbands. In defeat he spoke. “King Rolfin’s wizard hired my cousin make an orb out of the finest gold. He brought twelve gems and had them polished and put into the orb. There was also a necklace that contained a piece of each stone. Though it wasn’t done in front of my cousin, most of the residents of Burill knew of the magical spells the wizard put on each stone. Twelve powers were given to the king, one for each of his wives. I know not what they were.”

The king tossed his head. “Little brother has twelve wives? Interesting. Take him to the dungeon. Perhaps thinking about it in a cold, moldy cell will help you remember.”

Jesbar didn’t speak a word. He knew his life was over. Accepting his future, he went silently with the guards. When they returned empty handed, the king gathered them around. “You, find Sidero, my wizard. The rest of you take a few of your best men. Find General Timori and ask him for some weapons. Go to Burill and kill my brother, King Rolfin. Find this golden orb with magical powers and return it to me. Before you leave, gather the frankincense and myrrh from Jesbar’s camel and take it to the royal treasury. Be sure to take plenty of supplies and gold with you. It’s a long journey.

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