THULL

By JOANNE TOLSON

art by Jose Sanchez

Blasted are the usurpers, for they shall obtain what they sow without reaping.

     The winds swept up the dust on the plains of Tenrah. It was a desolate place, where dust swirled in little eddies like infant tornadoes, and where the heat of the day could blanch the soul of a man. The trees stood barren and they were sparse on the plains. It was a hot day; the rains had not yet fallen. Parched after a summer’s drought, the cracks in the soil waited like open mouths for water, which was the elixir of life on the plains, trickling down the land’s throat.

     These were plains where floods only came twice a year to spring forth the song of life. A flood was short-lived, but while it lasted in was enjoyed by the creatures that inhabited the plains at flood-time. Or maybe not.

     Strange delicacies grew on the fruit trees, loading down branches with abundance. Animals such as the Majpor, which had a resemblance of an elk and a zebra, ate and drank and played at the oasis in that area. The Majpor grazed peacefully at times with the sabertooth tiger, a predator of Recab, a planet a distance from the third moon in the Zultan galaxy. Recab stood at the end of the solar universe in a complex time.

     This was the year of wars. Men were besieged by the possessors of a coveted throne and fought for its control.

     One of these aggressors stood on a hill at the edge of camp, surveying the field of action yet to be. He was armed and ready to wage battle in his war garments, his raiment being a chest plate, gauntlets to protect his wrists from glancing blows, and leather boots. He was girded in a loincloth. His raven tresses fell upon his fur-skinned cage, which draped his shoulders. He was poised in contemplation. He rehearsed his strategy in his mind, absorbed by his purpose of subduing his opponent. During his thoughts he would grind his jaw in a menacing way.

     “What next?” said Yargol.

     Thull, lost in thought, did not move to answer the question he had been asked.

     “What next, m’lord?” asked Yargol.

     Thull turned and spoke. “We strike at dawn.”

     He began to walk over to the camp, a hundred or so yards in the distance, toward his tent, which flapped in the wind. It lay on the outskirts of the encampment. It was white, made of the wool of the Quujun. It did the job of keeping the cool night air out, and kept the day’s heat in.

     He made his way among the men placing bets and playing around the fire. The men set talking and passing time until the morrow.

     Shadows were cast on his tent. Thull flung the flaps aside as he entered it. He began to undress and make ready for bed. He  ungirded himself in a fashion of removing his scabbard, then his chest plate, and his cape, and lay them down on the stool beside his bed.

     His bed was made of the skin of the Waterbuck and Majpoor sewn together, combined to make the bed, and it was stuffed with straw from a mattress fit for a chieftain, which was on a five foot tall by three foot wide platform. It was scented by animal smells which still clung to it.

     To the sight of it Thull was oblivious. He lay down and thought on tomorrow’s battle, which he would be facing at dawn. He labored to sleep for an hour or two, then woke up suddenly and tried to sleep again, Feeling restless, he got up and walked outside and stood there beside a dying fire. The embers smoldered, lighting up and dying down in the cool breeze. He shuddered as he stood there watching the constellations in the sky. He looked in wonderment at the stars, thinking of the gods that made them.

     Dawn came, and Thull was up, feeling rested. He readied for battle. Then he strolled over to his horse and began saddling and cinching it up. Next he bridled it. The horse stood calmly while he pushed the bit between its teeth. His horse was a handsome blood bay standing fifteen hands tall, in layman’s terms five feet. He had a black mane and tail and four black stocking legs.

     Thull was ready to go do battle. He had formed an alliance against Emperor Rissa, who had four sons and two daughters, and an empire that covered half the surface of Recab. One thing that emperor Rissa couldn’t conquer was the sea, as long as it was liquid and moved. It was free space, an unstoppable force of nature that went everywhere, just as the emperor and his empire did.

Two. Morning came. It was the dawn of war on Racab. Thull had three thousand warriors ready to pounce on Rissa’s army. It was a show of forces between the two, of who was loyal and who would betray the other, until the last man was on top.

     The sun rose on the battlefield.  The ranks swelled on Thull’s side as they marched to the field, a traditional battlefield on the plains of Tenrah. It was also called The Field of Bones.

     Thull and his men lined up on the battlefield. They rallied up the courage to fight. Thull sat on his horse at the head of his army. He rode around and  up and down, then began a speech.

     “Listen up, soldiers! We will fight until Rissa’s army is defeated!”

     The men roared back.

     “Rissa will be no more!” yelled Yargol, his commander, as he rode his horse up and down the front line. The men raised their spears up and down and  chanted “Thull! Thull! Thull!”

     Rissa’s army was down the field waiting to begin the battle, hoping to rock Thull’s world. They were lined up on the battlefield. Thull’s men stopped chanting and started yelling battle cries to intimidate the enemy. The score would be settled on the battlefield on the plains of Tenrah.

     Thull whipped around on his horse, wielding his sword in the air, waving it around. He raced. The horns blared. They beat the drums of war. He charged ahead toward a blind-sided Rissa, who had steered his steed to the fight, back towards his army.

     The battle ensued. Thull and Rissa went head to head and sword to sword on horseback. Both armies charged, rushing past Thull and Rissa, heavily engaged in warfare. Both were surrounded by their men while they fought. “Die, Thull, die!” yelled Rissa as he stabbed at the mounted Thull. His aim was not good at all. Thull reared his horse on its hind legs and a glancing blow of the horse’s hooves knocked Rissa off his horse unconscious. This was Thull’s change, and with his spear he ended the reign of Emperor Rissa.

     Once the emperor’s men got word of Rissa’s death, the fighting subsided. Rissa’s men surrendered or ran off. Thull declared victory, and was declared a winner.

     Yargol came riding up to Thull. He sat on his horse next to him. “What next, Thull?”

     “That’s Emperor Thull. We gather up the corpses of the enemy and burn them as a sign to his people that disloyalty will not be tolerated. We will bury ours. Then it’s on to the Capitol.”

     “Very well, then,” said Yargol, as he rode off to give orders.

     The bodies of the enemy were gathered up and burned. They burned for days. Thull’s men buried their dead soldiers.

     The battle was over. Rissa was kicked to the side and trampled with the final deadly blow given. The men rested, then they hunted the Majpor, and brought them in for a feast, along with water hogs. They confiscated alcohol and anything else they could for the feast that night. They would be celebrating their victory. They brought some maidens from the emperor’s city of Rakan to cook. They would feast tonight and enter the city tomorrow.

     “Thull, you will be crowned emperor for sure. Only good things can come of it,” said Yalgol.

     “Get the other commanders together and we will map out a plan for all the citizens on Racab,” said Thull, as he drank some grog while the meat cooked on spits over the great fire pit.

     The smell of the hogs and Majpor cooking was the best thing Thull had smelled in a long time. He ate some fruit to curb his appetite until the main course was ready. His commanders all gathered into the tent where Thull was sitting at the table. By lamplight the plans were being made for restructuring the former empire of Rissa. It was divide and conquer.

Three.  Tomorrow he would claim Rakan’s throne city, now that Rissa was gone.

     Thull’s claim to the throne would not play out as well as he liked. There were obstacles, like Rissa’s four sons, among whom Rissa divided territories. When his two daughters married into the ranks the sons-in-law would be given their own territories.

     They were spread out to the four winds. By law women couldn’t own land. The sons-in-law would be the owners, who would inherit the land and title. The women could inherit a title, but not land.

     Rissa’s men had fallen back to Rakan to try to hold off, before Thull’s advancing. Thull had reinforcements coming. The battle for Rakan wasn’t over yet.

     “Yargol, we will march into Rakan tomorrow. Spread the word,” said Thull.

     “Yes, my Lord, I will. We will get this conquest organized tonight,” said Yargol.

     “Meet with me and the remaining commanders tonight in my tent,” said Thull. “We will discuss the offensive.”

     “Yes, yes, I will get them together and tell them to spread the word,” said Yargol as he left Thull’s tent.

     Yargol got together with the remaining commanders, Rakam,  Stackim, Lodim, Pakem, and Captain Burae. He called over Rakam and Pakem. “Tell the other commanders and captain there will be a meeting tonight in Thull’s tent at sundown. We have much to discuss about our strategy of the offensive.”

     “I will be there,” said Rakam.

     “I will be there,” said Pakem. “I will tell Stackim and Lodim and Captain Burae to meet you and Thull in Thull’s tent after sundown.”

     Sundown came and the commanders and captain gathered for the meeting.

     “I am glad you all came, men. Now let’s talk strategy. I have a map of the kingdoms here,” said Thull. “Here is the stronghold of Rakam, its gated city, as we know. We will ram the main gate with a third of the army and send the rest of the men divided around the left and right side of the city. Any suggestions?”

     “I have a question. Who will lead the attack on the city gates?” asked Yargol.

     “Rakim and Lodim will lead off the attack on the main entrance.”

     “What about the city’s water supplies? We can enter through there,” said Captain Burae.

     “Excellent. We can penetrate the water supplies,” said Thull. “We’ll send scouts out in the early morning, so we can find the tunnel leading into the city. Captain Burae, I will put you in charge of it. Let’s get some rest before tomorrow’s sunrise.”

Four.  They mounted the offensive. Thull would lead the attack.

     Rissa’s men had fallen back to the city without their leader. Would they fight to the death?

     Early in the morning Thull’s men secured a tree to use as a battering ram to batter the gates of Rakan. They chopped off its branches and top and fashioned it into a point, which took a day to complete. Soon it would be ready to do the job of smashing the city gates. They prepared for the siege.

     “Thull!” yelled Yargol. “The battering ram is ready.”

     “Good. Let us prepare to do battle. Their new emperor awaits. It’s me!”

     “Men! Let’s prepare for battle!” yelled Yargol, as he rode his horse down the line of men. “Stackim and Lodim! Let’s secure the city, after we break down the gates!”

     “The gods are not being kind to us,” said Stackim.

     “Nor to them, if you look at the numbers of men they lost,” said Lodim.

     “The numbers are being played against in the hands of the gods,” said Stackim.

     “Yes, yes, but who is ahead is what matters.”

     “You mean when it comes to winning, of course?”

     “Yes, yes, of course, now let’s begin.”

     “HOOOO! Batter the ram!” yelled Lodim.

     “Ram it with all your might!” yelled Burae.

     “HO! HO! Hoooey!” cried the men as they lifted the tree trunk and began ramming the gates of Rakan.

     Rissa’s remaining army threw down rocks, dirt, anything they could throw from the city wall that carried up the ramparts. They rammed the gates, and rammed them again. Boom—BOOM! Crack! The gates were finally opened. Thull’s men rushed the downed gates. Sword fights ensued. The battle went on. Thull rode his horse over the gates and into the city, on the heels of his advancing army, and charged toward the emperor’s palace, soon to be his new home.

     “Thull’s army is here in the city, Governor, what shall we do?” asked a servant.

     “Run! Hide yourself, if you must,” said the governor.

     “He’s on his way,” said the servant, cringing.

     The court of the former emperor was beside itself, in an uproar. They yelled and screamed in the court and halls of the palace. They moaned and cried.

     Thull rode to the palace. He went up the steps of the palace on horseback. His men followed, after laying siege to Rakan. What was left of Emperor Rissa’s army fled, begged for mercy, or were killed in the streets.

     Empress Theocle sat on the throne, surrounded by her two daughters, Mimsa and Zeodora.   Thull’s men pulled in behind his horse. Before the court could react immediately, he was there. They were surprised by the number of men who came in.

Five  “How dare you enter the court of Emperor Rissa and Empress Theocle in that manner? I will have you whipped within an inch of your life. Who are you?” asked Theocle.

     “I am Thull, your new emperor. I have arrived to depose you from your throne. Step aside, O ex-empress. OH YARGOL! Detain her! Put her in the dungeon!

     “Yes, milord Thull!” said Yargol. “What about the princesses? What shall I do about them?”

     “Do as you like, Yargol.” Thull thought for a moment. “I have a better idea. Lock them in the dungeon until I need them.”

     Yargol and Thull’s men began to escort the ladies away.

     “Now wait, Thull, whoever you are! We can work this out! I’ll talk to Rissa!”

     “You CAN’T talk to him. I have his crown here as proof.”

     Theocle half fainted. Yargol had her by the arm. “Come this way, lady.”

     They escorted Theocle and her daughters to the dungeon with additional guards.

     “While Rissa’s men are in retreat, let’s get together tonight. When Commander Yargol gets back Stackim, I want you and Rakim and Lodim and Captain Burae to reassemble the troops and bring back order to the city—and tell them there will be no more raids on their homes for taxes and slaves,” said Thull.

     There were pockets of resistance still loyal to the emperor and empress. Those lords and ladies who fled were met with the hand of fate dealt to them by Thull’s men.

     There was fighting going on in the streets of Rakan, which died down after midnight. It was sporadic.

     The next day, Thull’s men woke up and were in search of food with watchful eyes. They had the gruesome task of burying the dead. With the combined efforts of the remaining army, they were finished by the late afternoon. Thull ordered Stackim to assemble the remaining army in a quest for food. They would assemble for a feast in the courts of Rissa’s old palace. Commander Stackim handed out a list of items to be bought. “Here, good man, is a list. Take it—find what you can.”

     “What does that say? I can’t read that, sir. I’ll give it to someone who can,” said the soldier.

     “Oh, that, too, will change,” said Stackim. “Very well, then, find somebody who reads.”

     “Is reading the requirement now?”

     “No, it never has been. How did you get in the army?”

     “Out of loyalty and duty to our kingdom.”

     “OH, I see. I don’t want you to go it alone, better go it in groups. There are still loyalists. What is your name, good man? Not that I will remember it tomorrow.”

     “Septimus Queid.”

     “Well, go find your fellow soldiers to hunt down these items.”

Six.  Yargol and his men had escorted the ex-empress and her daughters to a prison cell. “In you go!” he said as he gave them a shove. They grabbed the cell bars trying to resist. “In, ladies, don’t make me have to hurt your delicate fingers. Better to comply than resist.”

     “Wait! Wait! Commander, can’t we talk this over/ I can give you your heart’s desire,” said Princess Mimsa.

     “NO! Save yourselves for Thull,” said Yargol. “All I can tell you, princess, is he will call for you when the time comes.”

     “Please, I beg of you, let us go!”

     “No, I cannot, Princess, it’s not up to me.” He left them with the appointed guards.

     “Sir! Sir! Let me go,” said the male prisoner in the next cell. “I’m innocent.”

     Yargol stopped for a moment to speak to him. “That’s what they all say, man!” he said. “What’s your crime? Why are you here?”

     “I don’t know, they didn’t tell me, sir.”

     “What’s your name?”

     “Palonus of Zorcon.”

     “You will be heard, once Thull is established. For good, his rule of law.” He made his way up the stairs of the dungeon.

     The next day, the fires they had started had been put out. Thull was the talk on the street. The conversations were cautious, because they did not know what to expect of him.

     There was a caravan of food suppliers and trade goods suppliers going into the palace. They were directed where to take the goods. Architects, purveyors of fabrics, and decorators were there. The women’s guilds were called upon.

     “Hey, you two, come hither, soldiers. Take some of this bread and fruit and wine down to the dungeon and distribute it among the guards and prisoners,” said Yargol.

     “Aye, Commander Yargol,” said one of the soldiers. The two gathered up the food and wine and carried it to the dungeon. Yargol sent down fresh guards to relieve the other four soldiers from guard duty.

Seven  A month later, Thull was holding a council dinner. He had his commanders and captains and top-tier soldiers gathered for the feast. “I call to order this meeting!” Thull announced in the council chamber.

     The maidens employed brought forth the wine and water jugs. They carried them around and poured them into the men’s cups who were gathered at Thull’s table. The young male servers carried the Origami pieces of meat and served it on each man’s plate. The servers were dressed in their long white tunics that went past their hips; they wore long red leggings and leather sandals. The bowls of fruit were brought in and placed on the table by the maidens, fruit which consisted of the yang berry, yum-yum, a type of apple, a citrine, a type of citrus fruit.

     “Let me say, it has taken a month, but I think the former lords and ladies of Rissa’s high court have come around. It’s safe to say we have accomplished much in a short time. I will be installed as King in two weeks’ time by the high priest Ethor of Rakan. It has been arranged. Now I must find myself a queen,” said Thull.

     Commander Stackim stood up and gave a toast. “To some happy news, after all our hard work!” He stood tapping his cup with a spork, a combination spoon and fork. The me cheered.

     “Let’s commence with a feast!” said Thull, raising his cup.

     The Origami had roasted all day until dusk, when the meat was falling off the bone, just about. It was the biggest one that had ever been killed, a grand-daddy of all Origamis, a five hundred pound male. He had lived a long time, a good life, off the fat of the land, in the mud flats of Tenrah. The captured and killed one hundred Majpor antelopes for the feast, one hundred Oroxes, a cow, a feast for the remaining army of Thull’s two thousand and five hundred.

     “Thull, now that you’re king, how about furloughs for the men?” said Commander Stackim, as he set his cup down beside Thull.

     “All of them?!” shouted Thull, as his jaw dropped.

     “Not all, I suggest. A hundred at a time. They miss their families so much,” said Stackim.

     “Warn your men to tread carefully. There are still loyalists out there,” said Thull.

     “They’re all around, Thull. I will warn them. I’m sure they’re aware.,” said Stackim.

Eight  Two weeks later came the installation of Thull as king.

     Thull stood before the throne as the high priest of Ethur of Rakan stood there in front of him. Thull was dressed in a new green silk cape and tunic, stitched together with threads of gold. They were shimmery green silk, Racab’s royal colors.

     The trumpets blared. Soon the ceremony began. Thull was surrounded by his top men, and the lords and ladies of Rakan.

     “Here I present you Thull to be your new leader, a king among the people of Racab! Accept Thull now as your king!” said the high priest.

     “We accept Thull as king!!!” they repeated in unison.

     “Now I place the crown on his head to signify his rule!” said the high priest of Ethur. “Now rise and take your seat on the throne as rightful heir!”

     Thull approached the throne and took a seat. Then he spoke.

     “A new rule, a new day for Rakan! The people of Rakan will no longer live in fear!” said Thull. The court cheered.

Nine  Thull’s reign officially has begun. A messenger arrived at the city of Rakan’s gates on horseback.

     “Halt! Where are you going?” asked the guard at the gate.

     “I am a messenger for the northern kingdom of Emperor Nassan, son of Emperor Rissa. I have a message for the Emperor!”

     “Very well, then enter the gate!”

     The messenger rode on through as the gate opened. He rode to the palace, not aware that the new guards were not the usual guardsmen.

     The king’s palace. It was ten o’clock in the morning, Rakan time, when the messenger arrived there.

     “State your business with the King,” said the palace guardsman.

     “I have a message for the Emperor.”

     “What’s your name?” asked the guardsman.

     “I am Dama of the northern empire of Loafelia of Emperor Nassan, son of Emperor Rissa,’ said Dama.

     “Wait here outside the throne room,” said the guardsman.

     “I have come a long way. Can I have a cup of water? I thirst.”

     “Very well, then, there is water in this pitcher.”

     The guardsman relayed the message of a messenger as he went into the throne room. “Where is Thull this morning?” he asked.

     “He is in the heated pool. It shouldn’t be long before he appears. After breakfast,” said the court scribe. He continued, “Bring the messenger in. He can rest awhile, while he waits on Thull. Bring him some food to eat, and some wine to drink, o young maidens, run along and fetch it.”

     The guardsman brought forth the messenger Dama.

     “Oh, servant girls, bring some cushions, so the messenger can rest better,” said the scribe. “You look tired.”

     “Yes, three days across the edge of the desert does make you tired and thirsty,” said Dama.

     The servants brought food, water and wine to Dama. An hour later Thull appeared and took his seat on the throne. “Who is he,” he asked, pointing to Dama, asleep on the cushions on the floor.

     “He is a messenger for Emperor Nassan, of the Northern Kingdom. He’s traveled three days. I will wake him.”

     “No, let him sleep awhile; I will deal with him later. What’s my first appointment?”

     “Today there is the Mayor of Rakan, the Merchants’ Association and the Law Tribunal. A very light schedule.”

     “Ah, good,” said Thull.

     The meetings went on while Dama slept. They convened until seven o’clock. Then Thull left. Before he headed out, he ordered a meal to be brought to Dama and set before him.

     Dama slept until ten o’clock in the evening. He awoke when it was dark and dimly lit in the throne room by the light of the torches on the walls.

     “Where is everybody? I have slept too long. I missed the Emperor,” he said out loud.

     He saw the plate of cooked fowl sitting before him, so he ate the whole thing. Then he went back to sleep, after drinking some Yang Berry wine.  “Tomorrow I will see him,” he said, and lay back down.

Ten  The next morning came. The messenger awoke. Dama got up and stretched his achy limbs. The sunlight shone through the skylight opening, lighting up the whole room. A servant appeared.  “Follow me, sir,” he said.

     “At last I am going to see the Emperor Rissa,” said Dama.

     The servant led Dama to the communal chamber. Thull was reclined, eating his breakfast. “The messenger I bring you, King Thull!”

     “Sit down! Eat! Then we’ll talk!”

     Dama sat down as Thull bade.

     Commander Stackim was eating with Thull, as was the scribe, Laiartes. Rakim and Burae walked in as they sat down to eat. “Where’s Commander Lodim?” asked Thull.

     “He’s interviewing among the lower ranks for captains,” said Rakim.

     “Very well. How are the prospects looking?”

     “They’re not…some are born leaders, some are chosen,” said Rakim in his deep voice, as he held onto a cup of water. All this before he could take one swallow.

     “Very well-put, Rakim. Go help Commander Lodim, after breakfast. In the selection of captains. It will go more quickly then.”

     “Yes, Thull.  When does Yargol return?” asked Lodim.

     “Any day now he will return with his family.”

     “Sir, the messenger awaits to deliver his message,” said Laiartes.

     “Oh, yes, let’s get to the message then. Let us have the message.”

     “Dama, rise and deliver the message,” said Laiartes.

     Dama stood up. “The Emperor Nassan sends greetings to his father Emperor Rissa. He sends an urgent message, that a Nomad by the name of Thull is amassing an army to attack Rakan on the outskirts of the plains of Tenrah. He will send forces necessary. He awaits your urgent reply.”

     They laughed mockingly. “Your emperor is too late. Emperor Rissa is no more, he is the late emperor!” said Thull.  “Take a message, Laiartes. Write, ‘Emperor Nassan, your warning is eight months too late. Emperor Rissa is passed, your mother and sisters are imprisoned. King Thull.’ Give the message to Dama.” The message was passed along. “Give him food and water to take with him. Dama, take the message to your leader.”

     Dama was soon on his way.

Eleven  “Dama the messenger has arrived!” said the court officer.

     “Read the message, Dama,” said Nassan. Dama read it. “How could this have happened to my father?” said Nassan as he got off his throne and drew his sword, stabbed it on the stone floor and fell on his knees holding his sword vertically. “I will, I will! Destroy you, Thull!” he cried out. Then he stood up. “Scribe, take a message for me. ‘To my three brothers Darus of the East, Bentu of the South, Dorlon of the West farthermost empires. Tom, my brother in arms, I received news that Thull has defeated our father Rissa’s army. Our mother and sisters have been taken prisoner. I am calling a meeting, so we may form an alliance against this self-proclaimed King Thull. We shall meet at the Sacred Circle of the Temple of the Sun. Please respond immediately!’ End of message. Make three copies, one for each, scribe.”

     “Yes, Emperor Nassan,” said the scribe.

     “Guard, call the other messengers!”

     The scribe made the copies and messengers were called together and dispatched to the three kingdoms. “Now we wait!” said Nassan.

     “Wait for what, my dear Nassan?” asked Empress Hildassa.

     Nassan turned around and looked. “We are at war, or soon will be!”

Twelve  A couple of weeks later, after an exchange of messages between the emperor brothers, they met at the temple, where the gray standing stones stood in a circle, surrounding a temple shrine which housed stone seats created for the warring factions to sit and talk.

     “My brothers! I have called you all here today for a meeting about an upstart king named Thull, from the desert country beyond the plains. He has our two sisters and mother, perhaps we should bridge that gap.”

     “You’re much too hasty,” said Dorlon.

     “Says you, Dorlon,” said Nassan. “After what he did to our father, just hand it to him on a silver platter?!”

     “Our father, defeated and dead!” interjected Bentu.

     “But, if we form an alliance, by marriage…!” said Dorlon. “Let us put our heads together.”

     “What could we lose?” asked Darus.

Thirteen  Back at Thull’s palace a month later. After messaging back and forth between Nassan and Thull, they agreed to meet.

     “Guards, King Thull said to escort ex-empress Theocle, Princess Mimsa and Zeodora from their cells to the heated pools,” said commander Yargol. “Ladies! Gather around me!” he yelled.  The four maidens came over to him. “I need you all to gather some garments for the ex-empress and her daughters and some perfumes. Hurry! Men, bring them up to the communal room for breakfast first of all. Then to the baths they will go.”

     The guards went to the dungeon. Theran, the guard, said “Unlock the cell and release the ladies.”

     “Very well then! Sir!”

     “Come out, with me you go,” said the guard.

     “Where are you taking us?” asked Mimsa.

     “To be made presentable. You have company coming, any day now. I am Theran.  First you will eat, then to the baths you will go. Come.” He escorted them on, followed by a half dozen guards.

     The three women were taken to the communal room for a sumptuous breakfast. There were platters of roasted fowls being passed around along with fruits and Yang Berry wine diluted with water.

     Thull entered the communal room. He took a seat at the table. Then entered Laiartes along with Stackim and Lodim and Captain Burae.  They took their places at the communal table. The maidens served them with baskets of fruit which they placed at various places on the table. The four male servants brought in two steaming hot succulent suckling pigs. They placed one of them in front of Thull and the other in front of the commanders. Thull unsheathed his knife and began carving, So did Stackim, who passed some of the meaty bones down to the other men next to him. Theocle and her daughters were busy gorging themselves on the cooked fowls and fruits. “Ladies!” announced Thull, tapping on the rim of his cup. “I have news for you! Your brothers are coming to see you!”

     They had puzzled looks in their eyes. Yargol came in with his half dozen guards. “Ladies, it’s time to go to the baths!” he said. “Come, I need two of you maidens to assist them.”

     Two of the maidens followed along, with the female prisoners.

Fourteen  They bathed in the warm pool for an hour. Then Misma said, “Are you ready to get out and get dressed, mother?”

     They swam for the steps and got out. The maidens got them towels to dry off with and then they dressed in new garments.

  “Is this a joke? Peasant dresses,” said Theocle. “You’re not my usual servants. What’s your name?”

   “My name is s’apella.”

     Theocle dressed in a blue velvety long dress that had a braided rope sash. Mimsa wore a long green dress. Zeodora wore a long pink dress. The time was almost eleven o’clock Rakan time. They combed and styled their hair with the help of the maidens. Commander Yargol returned to retrieve them.

     “Ladies, time is up. I will escort you to your new quarters, since you are ready.”  They got up and walked with him.

     “This is not the way, this is the servants’ quarters,” said Theocle.

     “This is where you will all be staying for the time being until your sons arrive. Under guard, of course,” said Yargol. “In the meantime you will take your meals here.”

     In walked some servants with a basket of fruits and pitchers of water and wine, and bread.

     Thull went for a ride on his horse with his commanders, a jaunt to the camps. They stopped in the camp and dismounted and took a stroll through it. Thull looked around. “Stackim, the camp is a mess, let’s get a work detail and clean the camp up!”

     “Yes, Thull, I will work on it,” said Stackim.

     “What have you all been doing down here these past ten months? Start building more permanent type structures such as sleeping quarters. This is inadequate. Let’s bury that funeral pyre. There is lots of work to do!”

     “Yes, Thull, I will organize a work detail right away!”

     “I will be back to inspect in two weeks.” Thull mounted his horse and rode away from the camp.

Fifteen  Thull had taken off. Stackim caught up with him. They surveyed the land as they rode. “So any more thought, Thull?” asked Stackim.

     “I can’t have my kingdom in this state; we should make council with the local leaders of Rakan. We will propose a work project by the people, for the people. That’s what we will do. It will be a choice once we make the citizens of Rakan understand. Things will fall into place,” Thull said. “Ready? Let’s head back to the palace then, and make plans.”

     Later on at the palace, Thull drew up plans. The town committees and the citizens’ advisory committees were formed and finally a couple of months later things were under way.

     A messenger arrived at Thull’s palace. He had been sent on ahead of Nassan and his brothers and delegation of about a hundred. “Greetings from Emperor Nassan. He will be arriving in one day’s time,” said the messenger as he bowed before Thull. Then he left. Thull summoned the four cooks Arsham, Amedus, Persha, Limon. The cooks were off to round up the domesticated fowls for slaughter. Meanwhile a Majpor was brought in for gutting and preparing for the feast.

     Near the edge of the plains of Tenrah.  Emperor Nassan and his three brothers were camped out for the night to arise again in the morning to continue his journey to former Emperor Rissa’s fallen kingdom. He and his entourage arrived by noon.

     “We make camp here in this field,” said Nassan.

     Thull’s soldiers were busy building a garrison quarters. Nassan and his delegation unpacked and set up camp on the edge of Thull’s army’s campsite.

     “Take a message to Thull. Tell him we have arrived at the outskirts of Rakan. We will meet with him this evening for a repast,” said Nassan.

     The messenger mounted his horse and rode off towards the city gates of Rakan. He delivered the message. Thull sent a message back:

     “Greetings. I entreat you to join me in the middle of this afternoon for a feast,” said Thull.

Sixteen  At the palace, Nassan and his brothers along with fifty others of his entourage, which also consisted of forty-five slaves and personal servants, awaited. Nassan took ten personal servants with him and his delegation.

     Thull awaited the delegation; he had waited months for this to happen. Now the defining moments would reveal the outcome of Thull’s treachery.

     Nassan’s brothers and he tied up their steeds outside the palace. He and his delegation approached the stone steps. Nassan hesitated for a moment, then went forward up the steps.

     “This way!” said Yargol as he greeted Nassan when he had reached the top of the steps.

     “Yes, I know. After all, this is my childhood home,” said Nassan.

     They all followed Yargol to the communal room. Thull was waiting. He sat at the head of the table on a bench. “Men, be seated at the table,” he said as he stood up. They sat down at the oblong tables, which were, from end to end, two one hundred foot long planks put together on each side of the room. At the head and end of the table were two planks nailed together, fifty feet in length. In the center was an open free space. Thull’s men sat on his left-hand side.

     “First of all, I want to know, what have you done with my father?” asked Nassan. “My brothers and I want to know.”

     “Have a seat. I fought your father in battle. Because his horse was skittish, he lost the battle. He was quite old, you know.”

     “I don’t believe it! My father lost a battle! He never lost before!” Nassan sat down beside his brother. “Where are my mother and sisters?”

     Thull clapped his hands and a servant came over. He told him to bring them to the communal room. Soon entered Theocle, Mimsa and Zeodora.  “Ladies, have a seat?” asked Thull. They sat on seats reserved for them on Thull’s left side.

     The servants entered with platters of meat, vegetables, fruits, and bread, setting them down on the long tables. Cups were filled with Yang Berry wine, and pitchers of water were brought in before them. They supped on the feast. They would eat before negotiations for Nassan’s brothers and sisters would begin.

     “Thull, could I and my brothers have private words with our mother and sisters?” asked Nassan.  “We have not seen them in many moons of Rakab.”

     “You will be watched by my soldiers then!” said Thull.

     “Agreed, then,” said Nassan. “My brothers and I shall confer.” He turned his head toward the other three brothers. “Dorlon, how should we propose a marriage? We have two sisters.”

     “How about two wives?” said Dorlon. “We shall discuss it when we get the chance with our sisters and mother.”

     “Nassan, this won’t happen overnight, unless we all agree on it,” said Bentu. “Then nothing will be done.”

     “Perhaps a trial marriage for them,” said Darus. “It could be arranged, a test.”

     “A marriage with courtship,” said Nassan.

     “Yes, an heir that would bring in control of him,” said Dorlon.

     “I see,” said Nassan.

Seventeen  “It may as well be his own funeral he is having a feast for,” said Dorlon.

     “Agreed, my brother, when the time is right,” said Nassan.

     “We strike now. I will do it!” said Bentu. “Just let me get close enough. I’ll slit his throat!”

     “Your actions will betray us, Bentu, patience!” said Dorlon.

     “You preach patience. It’s not a virtue on Racab. It’s not valued by the warring class,” said Bentu.

     “We will come up with a plan. Don’t ripple the waters. It could prove a fatal mistake, Bentu,” said Dorlon.

     “It requires wise council,” said Darus. “We must be willing to take from among the stars.”

     “All this talk gains nothing,” said Bentu. “I will seek out father’s loyal supporters. You can seek wisdom from the stars all you want. You will get no glimmer of hope or words from the cold planets.”

     “Very well said, Bentu. YOU listen to me?” said Dorlon.

     “Make it quick, then, Dorlon,” said Bentu. “Don’t waver in your footsteps.”

     “I don’t waver, Bentu, my decisions are final. My sword is swift as the Osirin does fly. I tire of this conversation. Put your dagger away,” said Nassan. Bentu relented and put his sword back in its scabbard.

     “Men! Men! What goes on there?” asked Thull. “Have you forgotten your mother and sisters await you?”

     “No! Let us meet with them then!” said Nassan.

     “Yargol, Rakim! Escort the women to the throne room. We shall convene there!” said Thull. He rose up and started walking towards the doorway. Nassan and his brothers and delegation and personal servants followed suit.

     Theocle, Mimsa, and Zeodora walked down the corridors guarded closely by Thull’s men, to the throne room. There were soldiers patrolling the corridors. They walked two by two. The other commanders, Lodim, Stackim and their captain, followed. The delegation was flanked by soldiers. They arrived in the throne room. The women took their places on the side benches. Nassan and his delegation stood before Thull, who was flanked by soldiers on either side.

     “Well, you came to negotiate. Let’s negotiate, then,” said Thull.

     “Very well. I asked for a word with my mother and sisters,” said Nassan.

     “But you cannot be left unguarded,” said Thull. “Go then to your mother and sisters.”

Eighteen  Nassan, Dorlon, Bentu and Dorus approached their mother and sisters sitting on the benches.

     “Mother! So good to see you!” said Nassan.

     They stood for a moment taking a good look at each other, brother, mother and sister alike. Then they embraced one another with greetings.

     “Nassan, what is going on?” asked Theocle.

     “Mother, we must talk first,” said Nassan.

     “Talk about what? It is simple enough. We must leave. Take us with you. Then we will have time to talk,” said Theocle. “It’s not safe here.”

     “Mother, sit down! Mimsa, Zeodora, sit down! I have a plan for you, you may not like it. I must ask something of you, especially Mimsa and Zeodora,” said Nassan.

     “Tell us, Nassan, speak it then,” said Mimsa.

     “I want you, Mimsa and Zeodora, to marry Thull.”

     “No, Nassan, that is not the answer. There must be another way,” said Mimsa. “I beg you, do not leave me and Zeodora with that barbarian.”

     “I will explain it to you and Zeodora, what you must do to help me gain control of Rakan again,” said Nassan. “I want you and Zeodora to strike Thull down, after a certain length of time.”

     “How will I obtain a weapon?” asked Mimsa.

     “You will use his own.”

     “Well, that is long enough, Nassan! Let us get on with our meeting. We have much to discuss,” said Thull. “The night grows long.”

     “Yes, we will be right over there!” said Nassan.

     “Guards! Escort the ladies to their room!” ordered Thull.

     Six guards escorted them to their chambers.

     “We will discuss this,” said Theocle to Mimsa and Zeodora.

Nineteen  Later on in the servants’ quarters: “Mimsa, you and Zeodora must marry him, so we can keep your father’s empire in the family,” said Theocle. “I will tell you what you should do.” The daughters listened earnestly to their mother’s plan. “Now, Mimsa, on your wedding night…”

     “I cannot, I will not, I shall not, mother!” Mimsa protested.

     “You must, Mimsa—you and Zeodora must do this. Who else will rule in your father’s empire? You know, by law, if there are no heirs…there will be chaos! The Vorlons will come back, if the minerals are not mined.” She held Mimsa’s hand.

     “They will come anyway, once they find out about Thull; it’s just a matter of time,” said Mimsa. “Does Thull even know what he has done?”

     “Vorlons are the scourge of the empire. We don’t have the technology to defeat them. Your father’s empire will fall under control of the Vorlons,” said Theocle. “We don’t have a choice. Now, on your wedding night, he will make love to you, one or the other. Let him choose to whom he makes love first.”

     “Why, mother, what do you mean? What are you talking about?” asked Mimsa as her face turned red with blushes.

     Theocle went on to explain.

     Meanwhile, in the king’s court, Thull and Nassan and his brothers and the elite of Thull’s army sat around and talked.

     “So, Thull, have you ever been married?” asked Nassan.

     “Yes, I have a wife and children back home. I will send for them soon.”

     “I have a proposal for you. Hear me out. I am proposing to give you my sisters’ hands in marriage.”

     Thull sat upright. “What, three wives?”

     “Think about it. Soon we will start the courtship of my sisters with you.”

Twenty  Meanwhile back at Emperor Nassan’s camp on the outskirts of Rakan.

     “Well!” said Nassan. “He objected to it. But he will come around. His wife and children are on their way.”

     Somewhere on the edge of the plains of Tenrah, one day away from Rakan…

     “Mother, how long before we get to Rakan?” asked a young girl.

     “One day, Misireh,”  she said.

     “I can’t wait to see father,” said her son.  “You will be queen, Aritia. My mother, the queen.”

     “Yes, Anjon, I will, and you will be a prince, my son.”

     “One day more, Aritia, we will be in Rakan,” said a soldier.

     Two days later in Rakan, at the palace, Aritia and her children arrived. “Thull! They are here!” yelled Yargol.

     Aritia, Misireh, and Anjon stood in the throne room. Thull rushed over to hug and greet them. “Arithia, we’re together at last!” said Thull.

     “Yes, it has been a long year and a half,” said Aritia.

     They went to the communal chamber where they ate a sumptuous feast that was waiting for them.  They sat around eating and talking and laughing.

     “Oh, Aritia, it is so good to have you in my arms again! We have much to talk about. Things I must tell you, you must know.”

     “Daddy! Daddy! Come play with us!” yelled Misireh and Anjon, both pleading for his attention. Thull obliged as Arithia watched in merriment, as he played with his children. It was a pleasant distraction for Thull.

     The next day, Emperor Nassan and his brother came to the palace to meet with Thull. Theocle, Mimsa and Zeodora were escorted to the throne room to meet with their family. Thull sat on the throne, now accompanied by his wife.

     “So, Thull, what is your decision?” asked Nassan.

     “That is not up to me. That is up to your sisters,” said Thull. “No decision can be made final unless we all agree, then ask my wife.”

     “Why, Thull, who are these men and what are they talking about?” asked Aritia.

     “This is what I had to tell you,” said Thull. “They want me to marry their sisters in an arranged marriage.”

     “Why, Thull, tell them no, you can’t do that, you already have a wife and family,” said Aritia.

     “I did,” said Thull.

Twenty-one  “Surely, Nassan, there must be another way we can come to an agreement?” asked Thull.

     “Empires are forged in steel and fire, bonded by blood,” said Nassan. “That’s the way it has been for centuries. Then you came and changed everything. The Vorlons will not be pleased when they return for shipment of materials.”

     “Who are the Vorlons? They will have to deal with me and a new way of doing things,” said Thull.

     “Don’t underestimate the Vorlons, they can’t be killed.”

     “Everything dies, just like we do.”

     “It’s through my family bloodline we can rule with the Vorlons and control the populace and give the Vorlons what they want, and there will be peace on Racab,” said Nassan.

     “Why is your bloodline so important to the Vorlons?” asked Thull. “Exactly what are they giving your family in return?”

     “Well, we receive protection from…”

     “What else do you receive while they are stealing our wealth from Racab? Furthermore, what is our reward for doing so?”

     “Our reward is death if we do not comply,” said Nassan.

     “What kind of life is that for your people, Nassan? A life of slavery and drudgery? Things have changed already. Crops are growing. There is an abundance. That has not happened for a long time. The people are happy.”

     “Don’t be a fool, Thull. They have weapons like we have never seen before. We cannot defeat them.”

     “All we have to do is find their weakness,” said Thull.

     “Many have failed before. My father’s father and great grandfathers did make a pact. It’s the only way we can have peace.”

     “What is peace without prosperity? There is a better way.”

     “Still you have not answered my proposal of an arranged marriage,” Nassan said.

     “I will give you an answer. My wife already gave hers.”

Twenty-two  The debate went on.

     “And you have not answered mine, Nassan. We die as slaves on this planet and servants to cruel masters, or we fight as free men?” said Thull.

     “But, Thull, it is not of our choosing!” said Nassan.

     “Then we make it our destiny,” said Thull.

     “Very well, but you have chosen poorly. We can form an alliance with your betrothal to my sisters, your blood and ours bonded together in a blood ceremony. This bond cannot be broken.”

     “Oh, please, must we go through with this?” asked Thull.

     “You defy tradition. Thull, they will shoot you down,” said Nassan.

     “I do not stand alone. There are many like me who desire true freedom,” said Thull.

     “When the battle comes we shall see who is left standing,” said Nassan. “I leave you on that note.”

Twenty-three  Thull reluctantly complied, and began a courtship with Mimsa and Zeodora. They sat there on the stuffed cushions and talked about their childhoods. How different they were while drinking Yang Berry wine.

     Aritia turned around and looked at Thull. “Come, children, you should not see this. Your father has business to attend to.”

     They left.

     “So, Mimsa, what is in your father’s blood and your blood, that the Vorlons need from you.?” Asked Thull.

     “If I tell you I will have to kill you,” said Mimsa.

     “It must be worth its weight in gold,” said Thull.

     “It is important to the Vorlons to be able to communicate with them,” said Mimsa.

     “How so?” asked Thull.

     “Once the blood ceremony is done you will see,” said Mimsa.

     “When was the last time the Vorlons came to collect minerals?” asked Thull.

     “No one knows, except father,” said Zeodora.

     “Oh, I see,” said Thull. “Who are these Vorlons?”

     “They are gods,” said Zeodora. “They come when the village is asleep.”

     “Well, enough of this, we have some courting to do,” said Thull.  The pre-wedding honeymoon commenced.

The wedding day  The priest of Ethor stood at the altar of Ethor.

     Thull stood waiting for his brides. Aritia and the children watched. Nassan escorted Mimsa, followed by Dorlon escorting Zeodora. Taking turns, they gave their sisters to Thull’s hands.

     The priest said prayers over each one. Then he picked up a knife from the altar and held it up. Then he cut Thull’s left palm. Then he cut Mimsa’s right palm. He proceeded to do the same thing with Thull’s right palm and Zeodora’s left palm. He then placed their palms on top of each other and bound their hands with the white cloth in a band of matrimony. “Thull, Mimsa, and Zeodora are now husband and wives!” the priest announced. Now they were off to the festivities.

Twenty-three  Nine months later…Mimsa gave birth to Thull’s son, Diploda, and not long after Zeodora gave birth to a girl named Methena.

     “Thull! Thull!  It’s a girl!” exclaimed Yargol.

     “But you said it’s a boy?” said Thull.

     “It’s both, Zeodora gave birth too!”

     “OH!” said Thull. “I’m a father four times now!”

     “Papa! Papa!” Bentu and Mesireh came running to his side.

     “What is it, son?” asked Thull.

     “Tell Mesireh I am to be the next king, she cannot be one!” exclaimed Bentu.

     “You can both be rulers, you a king and she a queen, but you have a new brother and sister to share with now.”

     “Oh, no, do I have to?” asked Bentu.

     “When you’re much older. Do you want to see them?”

     “Yes, let’s go see them, father!” said Bentu and Mesireh.

     Thull took his older children to see their new siblings.

     Ten years later…Thull’s kingdom has grown. His people from the plains have since moved in and established themselves among the local population. Many have blended in and married with the locals. Bentu and Mesireh have grown up now. Diploda and Methena are both ten years old.

     One day Emperor Nassan and King Thull, Prince Bentu and the hunting party were out hunting.

     “The Ogam is as elusive as ever today,” said Nassan. “Are you sure they still exist on the plains of Tenrah?”

     “Yes, there are still some left,” said Thull.

     “Let’s rest by this rock outcrop,” said Nassan.

     “Okay,” said Thull. They all dismounted and sat down on the ground.

Twenty-five  The hunting party for Anjon’s wedding were resting. They sat under a cliff overhang and ate dried fruit and meats. The landscape was not what it seemed to be at all times. The skies of Rakan constantly changed. Suddenly the ground moved beneath them. The horses reared. “Anjon, grab your weapon!” yelled Thull. They were being tossed around like rag dolls.

     Nassan was fast on his feet. “It’s the one-eyed Ogam!” he yelled.

     The Ogam was a massive brute, a four-legged creature eight feet in length at a thousand pounds.

     “Quickly, grab your spears and watch out for its tusks!” yelled Thull.

     “We can do this!” yelled Anjon.

     Yargol and a couple of men tried to lasso and bring down the mighty Ogam. They could bring it down to its knees. “Go for the eye!” yelled Nassan. “It’s the only way to bring it down! He only has one eye!”

     “Right, I see your point!” yelled Thull as they danced and moved around as the Ogam stamped its feet, getting ready to charge at them or anything in its way. Yargol and his men tried to hold their ground. They could not let go or the Ogam would mow them down. If they could hold him still long enough, they would have a better chance of stabbing him in the eyes.

     He squealed and tried to withdraw by backing away into the cliff overhang, and digging in deeper. They had the Ogam cornered, so they fired arrows and speared him in the eye and heart.

     They triumphed. It was a group effort. They hollowed out his carcass and threw its organs to the vultures and other animals. They quartered the carcass and packed it into a sled. They hauled it back to Rakan for a wedding feast that was to take place in the next couple of days, after Anjon and Solania’s wedding.

Twenty-six  The Ogam was taken home and prepared for the wedding feast that was less than a day away. It was put on to cook immediately since it would take a day to cook the whole hog-like creature.

     The wedding day came. They commenced with the ceremony soon, after a feast centering upon the slain animal. Anjon and Solaria sat at the head of the table. Thull and his wife sat on the right side of Anjon, the groom. Yargol and his wife Selva sat on the left side of the bride, their daughter. “A toast to the groom and bride,” said Nassan, as he raised his cup.

     Thull leaned forward to talk to Yargol. “So, Yargol, our families are now one. We will rule all of Rakan and beyond.” He raised his cup as a salute to Yargol in agreement. “I thought we already did rule Rakan?” asked Yargol.

     Emperor Nassan, sitting at the meeting table where he supped and drank his fill of wine, seemed distant with his thoughts, as his eyebrows knitted together. His forehead was furrowed, as if a dark cloud had descended over his head. He stroked his goatee. He was thinking, “I must rid Rakan of him and take back my father’s kingdom. I must meet with my brothers and come up with a plan.”

     Then Mimsa and her daughter Methena and her sister Zeodora and her son Diploda came over to talk to Nassan.

Twenty-seven  Emperor Nassan conspired with his sisters.
“Now is the time to strike!” he said.

     “Let us not be hasty in our decisions,” said Mimsa.

     “We need to make a plan, we need time, Nassan,” said Zeodora.

     “For this to work? Too much time has passed already. I will send a messenger with a message to General Carlessius to bring an army in three days. Remember ten years back we made plans.”

     “That was a long time ago, Nassan,” said Mimsa.

     “Do you love him, Mimsa? Do you love him, Zeodora?”

     “No. I never wanted to marry him,” said Mimsa.

     “Nor do I,” said Zeodora.

     “Then we must go through with the assassination,” said Nassan.

     Three days later, Nassan’s army was amassed along with his brothers Bentu, Dorlon, and Darus.

     “Let’s send a messenger to Nassan,” said Dorlon. “Let him know we await his orders of attack.”

     Dorlon wrote a message. He gave it to a messenger to take to Nassan’s encampment, which Nassan kept away from the city wall of Rakan. His intentions were best kept in the shadows of the outskirts of Rakan.

     “Calloo, be mindful of King Thull’s men,” he said to his messenger before he went on his way.

    Calloo made his way along the outskirts of the desert, where the plains of Tenrah met.

     A day later, near the outside of the city walls, Calloo ventured closer, seeking Nassan’s encampment. He neared an outcrop of rock on which part of the fortress wall was nestled. Rocks were falling from out of nowhere, it seemed. A large rock was thrown and cold-cocked Calloo on the head. He fell down in a heap. The boys on the protruding outcrop, of ages between ten and twelve, were laughing. They made their way down the carved-out steps. Calloo lay there, half conscious.

     “Mister, what’s wrong? Does your head hurt?” asked one of the boys.

     “I have an important message for the emperor. It must get through,” he said, struggling against his light-headedness. Another boy standing there said, “Don’t worry. I’ll take it to father.  He’ll know what to do. My name is Diploda.” He took the scroll from Calloo, who was unfamiliar with any of this part of the country or its people. “You’re in good hands,” said Diploda, as he picked up a large rock and smashed it on the head of Calloo. All three of the boys took off.

Twenty-eight  Diploda got on his pony and rode along with the other boys on horseback. In the King’s court sat Thull and Aritia on the throne.

     “Father! I have a message for you!” said Diploda.

     “From who?” asked Thull.

     “Some man named Calloo.”

     “Where did you get this from?  Diploda, what have I told you about lying to me?!” asked Thull. “Where is he then? Why didn’t he bring this to me personally?”

     The scribe sat near Thull’s throne. “Laiartes, read this to me and tell me what it says,” requested Thull. The scribe looked at it and started reading it aloud. “Dear brother Nassan, my army along with Bentu, Dorlon and Darus’ armies await. We shall be there soon. Begin with the said assassination of King Thull, as he calls himself, immediately. Dispatch him and the queen as well. We will meet as planned on the outskirts of Rakan. –Emperor Dorlon.”

     Thull balled up his fists and clenched them tightly. He was red in the face with anger.

Twenty-nine  An emergency meeting was called the next day.

     “I have called you all here because we have Nassan and his brothers lying in wait to attack us,” said Thull. “They are on their way now to lay siege to my kingdom. Making war with me will not bring their father back!”

     His army cheered and rallied around him, banging their spears up and down in approval.

     Back in the palace, Zeodora was saying “We must act quickly, Mimsa!”

     “What can we do?” asked Mimsa.

     “We must do what Nassan asked us to do ten years ago, assassinate Thull,” said Zeodora. “Now!”

     “We must wait until he is alone,” said Mimsa.

     Later that evening, Thull was alone in his throne room contemplating battle for control. Mimsa approached him as he sat on his throne.

     “Greeting, my King,” she said, bowing.

     Suddenly Thull felt a deep, sharp pain.in his back. Armed with a small curved dagger, Mimsa had thrust it into his heart. Thull fell over dead.

     Thull’s kingdom fell into a state of chaos. Nassan and his brothers lay siege to Rakan. The half-blood prince Diploda was quickly put in place as co-ruler with Emperor Nassan.

CONTENTS