Bartolf did as
Rolfin asked and ceased his attacks on Burill, mostly out of fear, but as
the years rushed by and the two kings passed on, their sons and grandsons
took over; the attacks continued, though unsuccessful on Zanaad’s part.
Bartolf’s posterity wanted the orb and would never give up trying, no matter
what the toll. Forty-five generations later the raids on Burill still went
on. Kegan became the king of Burill and Dugan the king of Zanaad. Sidero had
been captured by the other wizards of Xilia and taken back to be dealt with.
His younger brother, Phelan, was now wizard of Zanaad.
Zerahemna served as
King Kegan’s wizard; he had a
long nose, eyes that sparkled like
diamonds, but with white iris, long dark brown hair that hung down his back,
and wore a purple hat and robe decorated with symbols from Xilia. He was as
devoted to King Kegan as Lehimna had been to Rolfin.
Dugan married and had several children, most of them being born to his
concubines. The city of Zanaad still stood in disarray, with crime rampant;
perhaps worse than in the days of Bartolf, Dugan’s ancestor.
A scribe had been sent for from England by Dugan
to write a history of the kingdom of Zanaad. Talon Hormdin spent years
gathering information, searching the libraries of Zanaad and interviewing
residents, trying to find as much information as he could about the history.
Phelan was able to help, as his brother had been the wizard for many
generations. Talon wrote in Olde English, keeping an accurate history of
daily events of the past and present, though much of it disturbed him.
With encouragement from Phelan, Dugan built a massive army. Many of the
soldiers had been forced to join or face death. He selected several
tight-fisted generals and gave them full control and instructions to
imprison or put to death any that did not comply with the orders. While his
army was off invading other lands in deep Africa, or across the
Mediterranean Sea, Dugan worked with Phelan, learning his evil ways with
magic. Though he was limited in what he could perform, Dugan worked hard and
mastered many of the tricks and spells to control the people of Zanaad and
gain wealth and power.
* * *
The palace at Burill stood as bold as it had in
the days of Rolfin. Every brick was intact, every tower stood erect, every
golden rooftop as shiny, and every wooden door as sturdy as they day they’d
been put into place. Kegan took pride in his city and in the people who
resided there. His father, King Abbasan, now aged, but healthy, and his
mother, Queen Nadia, both stayed at the castle. Each had agreed to pass the
crown to their eldest son, Kegan. Most of Kegan’s younger brothers had gone
off on quests to other lands and his sisters had married and gone to dwell
with their husbands in the lands of their kingdoms. When he had ruled,
Abbasan had set up trade with many countries, including the Vikings of
Norway and Denmark. They had brought furs with them from the north, along
with pine and other fine woods, which Abbasan had used to trade with other
kingdoms, as furs were not needed in the desert heat. Abbasan’s queen,
Nadia, had come from Russia; joining her father, a mapmaker, when he
journeyed to Arabia.
Kegan had learned much from their examples and
continued to help the empire of Burill grow into a stronger nation. When
still a young man, King Kegan married Sarmantha, of Viking stock, born in
Oslo, Norway, which pleased his mother. Her father, King Aluric had done
trade with Abbasan and the two men were good friends. The first time they’d
met, Kegan and Sarmantha had fallen in love instantly. Like her mother,
Queen Finna, Sarmantha’s violet eyes and fair hair hypnotized all men.
Within a year Queen Sarmantha had given birth to a girl, Isabella, and then
shortly after, another girl, Anna.
* * *
Guards stood outside the door dressed in
tangerine orange robes with brown stripes on the sleeves, leather shoes and
an orange turban. Ginton watched out the window for intruders. Fourteen men
sat around the table. Kegan, dressed in traditional Burillian clothing,
glanced at his pointed slippers and loose-fitting pants. He shook his head.
“I have got to start a new tradition. These slippers are absolutely
ridiculous. With laughter in his eyes, he glanced at each of the men. It was
evident they all shared a fondness for each other and agreed that it was
time for new royal clothing.
Alroy Cathmore entered the room half an hour
later, spreading his paper on the table and placed the ink bottle next to
it. Persian ancestry showed in his light brown hair and deep brown eyes.
The king greeted him and then the royal scribe wrote down the names of all
the men in attendance, including himself and the king.
“Now that we’re all in attendance, there’s
something serious to discuss. I’ve called you together because during the
night some of Dugan’s men snuck into the palace and captured the royal
princesses, Isabella and Anna.” Kegan fought back tears. “My daughters have
been taken to Zanaad.”
“How can you be sure it was Dugan’s men?” Artur
“They left a calling card.” Kegan reached into
his robe. “A letter from Dugan himself.” He tossed the paper onto the table.
“It says if we follow his men, or try to attack them, he will instantly kill
the girls. If we let him have the girls, he will treat them well.”
“You surely can’t believe that,” Chessa shouted.
“Dugan’s word is no good. He doesn’t treat his own daughters with any sort
of kindness. He’s a beast.”
“He has my girls and I don’t want them harmed.”
Kegan turned to Alroy. “How is the translation coming?” Alroy nodded. The
king continued. “Alroy is writing a history of Burill.”
“I’m leaving the Phoenician in the book, but
starting a new book with my translations.” Alroy refilled his feathered pen.
Buntabi spoke out. “The girls are as good as
dead, Kegan. You must know that. Dugan wants that orb and if he can’t have
it, he’ll destroy you piece by piece. I’m surprised he hasn’t done anything
“Buntabi,” Collos growled. “Do not say things
“I will send out a party to follow Dugan’s men
and if an opportunity presents itself, they will attempt to rescue the
princesses. If not, I can only hope he’ll be good to them. I have ordered my
men to follow them to Zanaad and keep their eyes on the girls. Dugan is
their uncle. I don’t want to risk their lives by sending an army after them.
I don’t trust Dugan at all in that respect. He’ll have their throats slit at
the first sign of a Burillian. I spoke with Sarmantha last night and she
agrees. We also discussed something else. Both of us would like to leave
“Leave Burill? What about Anna and Isabella?”
Buntabi was outraged.
“I understand your concerns. You must think I am
heartless and care not for my daughters. That is far from true. My family
has lived in Burill for more than a thousand years. We sit here and go on
with our lives as if the world exists only here. New nations are being
discovered and settled and I long to travel. It is getting too dangerous for
us to stay here. By being here with the orb, we have invited Dugan’s and
other tribes to attack us. My girls are gone. Who will be next? Sarmantha
and I fear having any more children. I fear for my people. This orb must be
dismantled and be rid of. I brought you here to discuss the plan.”
Edwi shook his head gently. “King Kegan; I like
it here. I feel safe enough. Thoughts of traveling the world frighten me. I
am ashamed to admit that, but it is the truth. I don’t want to leave here.”
“I agree with Edwi. This is totally
unacceptable. You’ve given up on the girls too easily.” Serbil stood and
pounded his fist on the table. “We must get them back. I cannot believe you
are not leading a rescue party yourself.”
“Listen to my plan, Serbil, and then judge my
decision. Tomorrow morning before the sun rises, we will all leave; you
twelve, Alroy, my Queen, me and Zerahemna, along with several of my trusted
guards. This is not open for discussion. I want you twelve with me. You owe
me your allegiance. The orb has powers, as you well know. I don’t use the
orb often. When I do it is merely to help our city. One of the powers is
invisibility. I will leave most of my wealth here with the people and take
only what we need to survive on the journey and where we settle.”
“What does this have to do with saving Isabella
and Anna?” Serbil paced the room. “You have the orb. It has powers. Just go
and get them.”
“Serbil, I have met with Temani, who is my wise
man. He has told me my girls will not be harmed and that I need to go on
without them, for now.” The king sighed. “He promised me they would not be
put to death and will eventually be released and come to wherever it is I
choose to settle. Isabella and Anna are smart girls. They will know what to
do and when. I have to rely on Temani’s wisdom. He has never given me a
reason to doubt him.”
Trying to change the subject, Kitar interrupted.
“Where do you plan to settle?” He imagined tropical islands and palm trees.
“Alba, land of the Scots. I have heard stories
of heather-covered hills, peaty streams, great valleys and rivers, lakes and
trees of every sort. Sarmantha and I want to make it our new home. Once we
have put down our roots there, we will gather some men and go to Zanaad to
get our girls back, if they haven’t been returned by then.”
“What of us?” Pond glanced out the window at the
“Once we have left Burill unseen, we will stop
for a day to rest. I will dismantle the orb and remove the jewels. Each of
you will be given one. I want you to take your jewel as far away from here
as you can, to some remote area, where you will hide it and tell no one.
Zerahemna will find you once you’ve reached your final destination and help
you set up some traps to protect the gem. You twelve and my wizard will meet
in Jerusalem in one year, at the Mount of Olives. I will come if I can
arrange it. He will transport you to my new castle at this time, if it is
built. If not, you will be free to do as you please with your life. This
way no one can use the orb. While it was a noble gesture from Lehimna to my
ancestor, King Rolfin, the orb is now too dangerous to keep.”
“This is quite a plan, Kegan. I see you’ve
thought it out quite well. I’m pleased to hear you will be going after the
girls, though I wish you’d do it now instead of later. Thoughts of that
monster having Isabella and Anna make me sick. I adore those girls.” Edwi
smiled at his king.
“As do we all,” Alroy added. “Kegan is our king.
We owe him everything. I am ready to obey your wishes, sire. I know Temani
and I too trust his instincts. We will do as you request.”
“Very well. Gather what you think you will need.
Each of you will be given plenty of gold to take you wherever you want to go
and then onward to Jerusalem after. If you need more, Zerahemna will supply
you with it. Now, I must make arrangements for the rest of the wealth and
select a group of my best men to rule while we are gone. I bid you
goodnight. Meet at the city’s western gates before sunrise.” King Kegan left
the room. The others chatted for a while and then left to prepare for the
* * *
The men hurried away from Burill with the two
girls, not stopping until they were well out of the city’s walls. There they
split up into two groups. One would continue to Zanaad with the princesses
and the other men were to stay in hiding, with orders to follow anyone who
went in search of Anna and Isabella. Three men, Aghilas, Idus, and Usem,
took their place behind the scrub; each taking turns at watch.
They gathered as planned at the gate. Kegan
glanced at his traveling companions. “Before we become invisible and depart,
I want to assure you that the well being of the people of Burill has been
taken care of. I have assigned twelve men to govern while I am gone. I told
them we would be gone for several years. I trust these men to care for the
Burillians. They are in good hands. Enough gold and jewels are in the
treasury to keep this city going for hundreds of years. I have assigned the
head treasurer to lead the twelve. You’re all aware of Hudda and his
loyalty.” The others nodded.
“What of your mother and father? You are leaving
them here?” Chessa didn’t like that idea.
“They do not wish to come with us. I pleaded
with them, but they are old and set in their ways. This is their home. They
want to stay here. I have respected their wishes. Very well.” Kegan fought
back tears as he remembered the farewell to his parents. “We are taking
Wizard Lehimna’s table with us. Rolfin would have wanted us to bring it. It
has been dismantled and each of my guards carries pieces of it on their
camels.” Nobody argued. He pulled out the orb and held it in his arms.
Zerahemna stood next to him. Sarmantha slipped her arm through her husbands.
“I could make it easier and transport us there via magic, but there are
many places I want to stop during our journey, so we will do it the hard
way.” A few moments later the group was nowhere to be seen. Kegan whispered.
“You’re all invisible. Let’s go. We’ll stop when we’ve passed the dunes.”
A dark sky spread from horizon to horizon.
Moonless, it offered protection to the company as they crossed the desert.
Up and down the dunes they traveled, plodding and trudging through ankle
deep sand. Night creatures scattered as the camel’s hooves hit the
It was Aghilas turn to stay awake and keep his
eyes open for anything suspicious. He looked over at Idus and Usem. Both
snored and lay as though dead. Something caught Aghilas’s gaze. He saw the
flickering of torches in the distance, moving in his direction. With
sandaled foot he kicked the other two men, who jumped alert and awake at the
touch. “Quiet. There are people coming this way. I see their torches. Usem,
creep closer and report back.”
Usem slinked off like a black leopard,
disappearing into the darkness. He ran like a gazelle; his feet barely
touching the sand. The light from the torches was clearly visible, but much
to his confusion, Usem saw no people carrying them. He rubbed his eyes in
disbelief. Voices sounded, but no hands held the torches and no feet made
the footsteps. Usem rushed back to Aghilas and Idus. “There is something
magical coming. It is hard to believe. Wait with me here and you will see
for yourself.” Usem pushed the other two back off the trail. “We must hide.”
The three Zanaadi men fell to their bellies in
fear when they saw nothingness turn into men and woman. “It is the king and
his queen,” Idus whispered. Aghilas put his hand over Idus’s mouth to
“This will do,” Kegan said. A few minutes passed
while they readjusted to seeing their bodies again. “Now that you are all
back to normal, I want to dismantle the orb. Alroy, could you bring me one
of my tools so I can pry these stones out?”