Book II The Cole Twins Saga

A WORK IN PROGRESS

(update 4/27/2016)

AZMERITH COVER

Journey to Azmerith

Book II

The Cole Twins Saga

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"Close the doors, you uninitiated"  Orpheus

 

1 - The Fog of War

 

Suman Mehmood hurried through the alleyway toward the slave yard. Looking to the westward sky, he estimated only a few hours left before the sun set; a few hours to save his daughter Mohana from the funeral pyre of the diseased Nereza Velia, a few hours to prove Michael the one true Prince. The answer would be in the obsidian blade of the Akvan who stabbed Michael. He would question the slave merchant Kerberos and find the demon Imoo.

Only an enchanted knife could cut the flesh of the Prince, therefore the blade must have been charmed; perhaps an ancient spear knapped by sorcerers during the Mineral War of Azmerith.  If he could find the demon and bring the enchanted blade to the Tribunal before nightfall the damming evidence would be negated and the verdict in favor of Velia overturned. With all haste he rushed toward the Market Gate; for not only did his own life hang in the balance, the entire city was dangling by frayed thread over a smoldering pit of catastrophe. If the king’s guard attempted to take his daughter from Michael, there was no telling what would happen.

He remembered the ponderous force slamming him to the wall when he confronted Michael in the cell; not only did breath leave his lungs; his soul was thrown from his body into a place of darkness. The horror of the dark region would never again leave him. It was Michael who reached into the darkness and retrieved him. No Mekorian wizard could wield such power. Michael was undoubtedly the High Lord of Tenmanchent, Mara’s chosen messenger on Gaia.

In the lane ahead, a group of black-clad warriors came wobbling out from a doorway, steins of grog in hand, slapping each other on the back, singing a drunken song and stumbling into one another. Amongst them he saw Kamau Velia, the son of Nereza and the one who forged his father’s name on the betrothal contract.  He realized now the alleyway was one bordering the Temple of Moloch and House Velia. Kamau saw him approaching. “Well! Lookee who’s come to slee us boys,” he slurred, pointing to the approaching Hierophant. “Gib ‘em a drink to celebrates his daughter’s cessful be-tov, be-travel, be— ah— fulge, her enga-ja—ment.”

Suman moved to the side of the alley to pass around the group but they came staggering to the side in front of him. “We wuz jes’ celebratin’ our fabers victory wit the Tribunal,” said Kamau. “Come on now, ya gotta has a libble drinkie with us. No hard feelin’s ya know. All’s fair in lub an war!”

“You’re drunk,” stated Suman, more than a little irritated. “I don’t have time for this.” He tried to push around the group but they linked arms around each other’s shoulders and were staggering around still blocking his way. “If you don’t mind I have business to attend to,” he said, again trying to push past the warriors.

Kamau gave him a look of drunken incredulity, narrowing his eyes and trying to muster a look of indignation. “Ya gots to have a libble drinkie with us to show yer got no hard feelin’s,” he demanded. “Where’s ya going, anyway? Ya should be deliverin’ yer girl and the Mekorian, shouldn’t ya?”

“I’m on my way to retrieve the blade that cut the Prince’s back and then to the Tribunal. You’re not getting away with your deceit.”

Kamau stared at him for a moment, staggering and swaying. He shook his head trying to clear his thoughts. He squinted and drew in a deep breath.

“Move out of my way,” demanded Suman, putting his hand on one of the warrior’s arms and trying to shove him aside.

“Hold on,” said Kamau, suddenly sounding quite sober and commanding. “Bring him inside boys,” he ordered his men. “You’re not going anywhere until nightfall.”

 

*          *          *

Ismat felt a wrenching dread stab deep within her core. Night fell and still Hierophant Suman was not back from his meeting with the Tribunal. Tracing her feeling, she sped across the house’s central courtyard, swiftly racing through the walls of the servant’s quarters and traversing the kitchens and pantry rooms to the rear doors. Two men of arms, Master Mehmood’s personal guards, sat at a small table, guarding against any who might gain ingress past the djab mercenaries. They were playing a game of runic tiles without concern and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The doors remained bolted and locked, but the unsettling feeling continued. Placing her head through the door she saw no djab guards outside. Master Mehmood hired a dozen mercenaries to fortify the doors and windows of the house after he recognized Michael. There should have been at least three sentries at the rear of the house. Swiftly, she sped to the front doors of Palace Mehmood and looked outside.

There was a terrible commotion in the street beyond the grounds, a dark cloud of turbid spirits boiled and raged, revolving and spinning in a chaotic storm of confusion. It seemed all of the djab were speaking at once, anxious and overwrought with fear. They hovered above the street writhing, screeching and jabbering in fevered spirit speech. So many were shouting and screeching, Ismat could understand only a few of their words of terror: “Death,” “Michael,” “War.”

The cloud of them thrashed about, the spirit bodies flying up and down, spinning in a tumult of confusion as one flew into another speaking frantically about some kind of plan. The cloud was expanding beyond the gathering of mercenaries.  Ismat drifted through the front doors and stood on the stoop, aghast at the scene playing out before her. All of the djab mercenaries from the surrounding houses were gathered in the swirling shadow, arguing, evidently over the aforementioned subjects. More djab were rushing into the streets from houses and temples where they usually resided. They flew over the rooftops and spun around the group in front of House Mehmood. They rushed like a dark flood to the summons of two banshees who wailed out a call cutting through the city and sending shivers into the hearts and minds of the populace. It was a mournful and piercing cry— Ismat hadn’t heard it in scores of ages— the djab war cry.

Jinn too were gathering, coming out of their houses. Like Ismat, they sensed the horror of the looming darkness. Confusion and uproar came from the assemblage. More were coming, many more— more djab than Ismat ever thought existed; from every niche and corner of the city, up from the sewers and out of the musty attics and bell towers they flew, the shades of their ethereal bodies rapidly changing with their moods; angry specters of fiery red flew with those who wore somber dark moon cloud blues and those of morbid black. Their colors boiled and blended through the assemblage as they gathered. Agitated, they spun in a pall of spirit as each spoke in frantic whispers and shouts; orders and commands were being issued that none yet followed.

“What is it? What has happened?” called Ismat, but with the turn of her head, she no longer required an answer. She saw it: lightly armored horses thundering up the cobbled street toward House Mehmood; Mekorian riders with spears and swords running down all who stood in their way. Clattering and clashing, sword met sword, as armed men came from the houses and their blood flowed onto the cobblestones. Cats, household familiars, yowled from rooftops as their spirits were extinguished by the lightening-fast fire spells of wizards somewhere behind the horsemen.

They came through the river gate under cover of darkness, killing surprised sentries at the city gates with ease. Followed by swordsmen and archers with crossbows the battle spread in all directions along the street and above the screams Ismat heard the words: “Find Michael! Find the High Lord! Kill Him!” A troop of Threeian wizards followed, incanting spells of confusion and helplessness on all who appeared before them. In their hands they carried staffs of enchantment and soul traps ready to capture spirits. Invoking Arawn, king of Annwn, they called down his demon hounds from the Wild Hunt, and with them flew the camazotz, colossal bats with an insatiable thirst for human blood.

The djab turned facing the rumbling riders. Now Ismat heard their voices rising as one and understood what was happening: “Protect the High lord! Protect Michael!” The djab were once Lord Michael’s army and they rallied to the war cry to fight for him. Several sped past her into Palace Mehmood to find him and await his orders. Others rushed at the horses, leaping into them to possess their minds and throw their riders. Wizards incanted counter spells of exorcism to cast them out. They conjured their soul boxes to capture djab who came near. The cloud of djab darkened and boiled violently as many of them were gifted in magic and cast counter spells of their own. Venomous snakes rose from the blood flowing in the streets. Giant spiders leapt from the rooftops onto the backs of the horsemen. The wizards cast fire at the creatures, turning them to ash. 

A dark djab sped from the cloud to Ismat, his face looming large and terrible before hers. “The wall is down,” he shrieked, “Get the High Lord to safety!” and he sped back to his own kind.

“The wall! The wall!” Ismat screamed as she raced to the chamber where Michael and Mohana sat closely speaking. In a sitting room outside the spell chamber, deep within the inner sanctuary of the palace, they were unaware of the tumult in the city streets. They awaited the arrival of Mohana’s father with word of Mohana’s release from the forged contract of marriage to the aged Velia. “I’ll ask my father to marry us here in the temple,” whispered Mohana, holding Michael’s hands. “We’ll have the most incomparable and glorious ceremony ever in Panish. It will be attended by all of the royals, even the King will come to give his blessing. The High Priestess of the Temple Inanna will anoint our bodies so our union will be joyous and bountiful.”

Ismat raced to the ear of Mohana. “Danger child! Danger!” she screamed. “You must get up! Go look out the window!” Mohana felt the thought and discarded it, thinking it a vagrant fear of ever losing Michael. “For you, I’ll have made regal robes with feathers of Quetzals. My sister priestesses will be bridesmaids. The feasting and dancing will go on for days. Everyone in the city will be merrymaking when they learn you’ve returned and taken me as your bride.”

Michael smiled. “This will be after they know I’m not a Mekorian wizard, I hope?”

“Yes, my father took your father’s composition book to the Tribunal. Once they proclaim its authenticity you’ll be recognized by all.”

“And my powers? The powers I’m supposed to have— but don’t, what of them? What if someone asks me to do something I can’t?”

“Your powers will come in time and besides, all you have to do is say to them their lack of faith proves them unworthy of speaking with you.”

In a terrible state of panic, screaming and shouting, Ismat could not break through to her. Mohana continued to speak in a dream-like trance about her wedding. Ismat turned her attention to Michael. Standing in front of his love-struck gaze at Mohana she screamed, “You heard me before, hear me now! You are in danger! Get up, you must escape!”

 

*          *          *

 

In the King’s war room the council gathered to mount the defense of the city. Runners stood ready to take orders to any regiments without a telepath in their ranks. The altar to Inanna, goddess of fertility and war was fully lit, frankincense smoldered in the censers and the priestesses of her temple stood in a semi-circle before her, chanting prayers of veneration. Sorcerers and high priests were in attendance to advise the king.

Haidar, the king’s conjurer and chief counselor, stood beside the model of the city with his staff in hand. He pointed the tip of the staff across the diorama to the river side. “They came in two corsair ships, painted black with black sails to match the night, with light cavalry, wizards, swordsmen and archers. We believe it’s a raiding party, a small fast moving detachment meant to rescue their wizard and divert our defenses toward the riverside.”

“But we know their main attack is approaching from the southeast,” stated Captain Reinhilde, military advisor to the King. “Our scouts estimate the main force to be at least ten-thousand strong, with heavy cavalry, armored war machines, illusionists, pikes, and troops of war-hammerers from the southern mines as well as axmen from their forests. They have casters behind every battalion. They may even have some of the giants from the archipelagos. We expect their arrival at dawn.”

“They’ll likely set up the battle encampment amongst the southern farms, stealing our crops and pasturing their war horses there,” advised Counsel Haidar. “We’ve sent word to the farmers to set fire to their fields and storage bins before retreating to the city.”

“What of this raid? Why do they send what can only be a suicide attack to rescue a single wizard?” asked the king.

“We don’t really know sire, but we think the wizard may have been sent here to cast spells and weaken our defenses from within. He came disguised as a slave captured by Akvan. The raiders went first to the slave yard, probably to free him. He may have gotten word to them of his imprisonment there. They set fire as they went through the outer city, building a wall of flames behind so they couldn’t be taken from the rear. They killed all they met, workers of the markets, the sailors at the docks, women, children, the slave-trader and his family, even the three old slaves he kept there. They burned them alive.”

“Those three?” laughed the King. “They did us a favor. I’m surprised the Mekorians didn’t scoop them up on their shoulders and proclaim them heroes. They burned enough witches in their past to earn the Mekorian Medal of Honor.”

“Perhaps if they knew of the deeds in their previous incarnations,” said Raguel, chief priest of the Temple of Mara. “It was only our diviners who discovered their past-life transgressions.”

“We believe the slave trader may have told them where their wizard was taken— they probably tortured it out of him— to the Palace Mehmood. The raid is now moving in that quarter of the city,” said Haidar.

 “Our troops are closing on them now,” said Captain Reinhilde. He pointed with his sword at the section of the city where the battle was raging. “We have regiments of home guard converging from all sides.” He tapped his sword on four streets where troops were advancing. “We also heard word of djab mercenaries attacking them— which is peculiar. No one offered them payment. They volunteered in mass for some reason, but they’re disorganized. They have no leader and the detachment of wizards is fighting them off.”

“Are the gates closed to seal the escape of this raiding party?” asked the King.

“Indeed sire, all city gates are shut and fully guarded until we vanquish these raiders. They’ll not escape. We’ll need to open the gates briefly for the merchants and farmers to enter once we gain victory but for now they’re best kept out from underfoot. Surviving workers are fighting the fire in the markets presently, trying to save what they can. All flood gates are closed but the one where the merchants are taking water.”

“And the siege houses? The grain bins? Are they full?”

“We have provisions enough for a lengthy siege. All warehouses are amply stocked. The cisterns are also full,” answered Haidar.

“And this wizard of theirs, where is he now?”

“Under guard at the Palace Mehmood, sire; he was supposed to be surrendered to House Velia for sacrifice to Moloch but never delivered. The troop dispatched to convey him got pulled when the attack began.”

“We’ll not let this raiding party get to him. He must be a very important wizard in their order for them to send a suicide raid to save him. I want thirty of my palace guards and a score of our best sorcerers on him immediately, double-speed to House Mehmood. Find him and kill him where he stands, by sword and spell. Bring his head to the altar of Inanna. Kill everyone in House Mehmood as well, servants, jinn, bodyguards, and family. And kill their pets and familiars if they have any. Let none escape. There’s no knowing what curse this conjurer spread amongst them.”

 

 

This adventure continues in:

Journey to Azmerith

by

D.G.Stebbins

To be Published in Kindle and Paperback

by Top Drawer Publishing

Available at Amazon.com in 2016

 

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Information

May 2014

Hello Friends:

During the 2014 writing season I've returned to my high wilderness camp in the Oregon Cascades.

Work on the fifth and sixth book of the Cole Twins Saga has begun.

On this page you'll find the opening chapters of book V, subject to change as research in the archives of Azmerith and interviews of Lemurian survivors continues.

After once again passing through the Mount Shasta portal, I was met by the Masters at the University of Mu.

Having read Panish scrolls in consultation with an Akvan named Asar and a very helpful unicorn librarian, I was able to translate the story of the Mekorian raid on Panish as outlined here.

I was next shown to the lower labyrinth housing thousands of documents, cuneiform tablets of unicorns, and reed scrolls of rooks containing the history of the Cole Twins journey to Azmerith.

I will be translating those documents throughout the summer with the goal of publishing them on Earth in 2015. 

 

August 2014

Hello Again Friends:

I've just come back from the archives of Mu with extensive notes on Karolyn's journey. I discovered many new and amazing adventures to share with readers on Earth. For instance: Karolyn was met by people so small that they could ride on ants. And she was later captured by giants!

In a dungeon she met and freed a saber-tooth tiger who then became one of her best friends and a constant companion and a grand protector.

In the port town of Mer she met a handsome and gallant Merman. I'm pretty sure they did more than swim together but unless I can get direct permission from Lady Karolyn I'd best leave her personal life out.

I can't wait to tell you about the amazing sea voyage and how that turned out. I remember reading in Karolyn's journal about an encounter with pirates. It is quite an adventurous tale!

Well, I better get back to my translating work now. I'll write again after my next journey to Gaia.