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Chapter 32: The Interrogation

Saheris woke, gradually, his eyes by stages perceiving that all around him was pitch blackness. He was hot, and shivering. A voice had spoken, but no word remained, only an echo. Some command, dread and familiar. Where had he been? Then memory returned at once, with a fierce sensation that jolted down his spine, the utter release of sexual climax, and the smell of the woman -- who was she? Where was she?

"Answer me," said the voice, close by and yet echoing, far away.

"Who is here, what do you want?" Saheris called out into the dark, his throat parched and dry, and as he spoke, he coughed. "I can't see you!"

"I said who do you serve? Answer me now!"

I remember this! With a startling clarity, he remembered this voice, this interrogation, and he remembered his answers, which made little more sense than they had before. He spoke loudly into the darkness. "I serve Saheris El Maduc, the Khan of All Asia. I am his regent!"

"You serve whom?" The voice queried him. "Who is Saheris El Maduc?"

"He is the Khan of the Unari and of the Sabiri, the son of the Khan Munduk El Beshan, and governs the territories of Scythia, Thrakcia, Illyria, Syria, Dacia and Moldova. Who asks now whom I serve?"

No answer.

"Who speaks to me in the dark and has no courage to show himself?" Saheris challenged, and marvelled once again at the words that sprang to his lips, for even now he did not know all of the nations held by Munduk and his allies; nor had he knowledge that Munduk would name him heir, for he had not married Munduk's daughter, though it might well happen in time.

Silence prevailed.

"Who do you serve?" the voice asked again.

"I serve only myself and the god who sends me," Saheris shouted.

"And which god sends you this time?" the voice grew imperious.

"Is there not only one?" he countered rapidly, surprising himself with each reply. "Only one god of power that has caused these nations to rise, and rise again though they be dominated by foreign power like a plague upon our land?"

"Name him."

"Who are you to demand of me?" he raged, seeking with his eyes and ears for the questioner, whose voice grew at times whimsical, at times imperious. He was no longer afraid, for he knew the questioner wanted something from him.

"I am your servant, and teacher. You have come too recently from the land of the gods, and into circumstances we could not have predicted. Therefore, you do not recognize me. Tell us, who is your father?"

Words rushed to his mouth, he could not understand them. "Kadmos. Kadmos is my father." A murmuring beyond.

"And who your mother?"

"The very night. If you are my teacher, you should know this answer!" Saheris challenged the empty darkness surrounding him.

"Do you know your mission here?"

"Yes."

"Tell me then."

"I am to destroy the empire of the west, at all cost, and preserve the east, at all risk."

"And will you accept your tutelage?"

Saheris replied without hesitation. "I am here. I answer your questions."

"Then you will see us, and you will endure a punishment for the crimes you have committed. If you are ready to pay for these, then we will serve you."

"Crimes?" a cold hand of fear gripped him, but he did not have the moments to dwell upon the meaning of the word before harsh torchlight filled the chamber. Before him stood five hooded figures, in dark garb, of varying height. One stepped forward, and opened the shroud enveloping it, letting the garment fall to the stone floor. The woman! She stood before him in light and shadow, naked. He could not recall her name.

"Do you recognize this woman? How do you know her?"

"Yes," he replied. "She came to me this night, and seduced me in my bed. This is the wife of Munduk El Beshan."

"And what crime did you commit with this woman?"

"I lay with her, against the order of her husband."

"Why did you do this?"

"Because she wished it of me, and because I wanted her. Is this what you want to know?"

"And what other crimes have you committed?"

"I have done this with other women."

"Wives of men? Wives of men in your command, unmarried girls who have lost their virtue now, and women of low station?"

"Yes."

"And why have you done this?"

"Because I desired to. There is no other reason! Because I desired it, and could."

"Despite the rule of order, despite the command of your betters."

"Yes, despite it!" Saheris grew angry, his eyes fixed upon the nude, unmoving form of the woman before him. His eyes were hungry despite his shame; and frustration rose, enflaming him his anger further.

"And for this, what punishment should be decreed, what payment, made?"

"That I do not know. This is not my country."

"But it is your country. For you are the Khan and regent of Scythia, and Illyria, Pannonia, and Moldova…. Are you not?"

"Am I?"

"You have said so. The heir of Munduk El Beshan whom you have wronged in his own nation, in his own home. How can this be?"

"So I said," Saheris was confused. Did I say this?

"If you are the sovereign of this nation, what punishment do you decree for the man who takes another man's wife and uses her for himself?"

"The punishment is death."

"And how will you defeat the western empire if you are put to death?"

"I could not."

"Then the punishment cannot be death. Can it?"

"Banishment, then."

"Where shall the sovereign of all these nations be banished to? And how could he rule?"

"He could not."

"Then the punishment cannot be banishment."

"What, then?"

"Who is this woman who stands before you?" the querulous voice continued.

"That is Munduk's wife."

"I am not Munduk's wife," Atthis spoke then into the silence, her voice low yet strong.

"You are not?" Saheris was shocked.

"No, I am not."

"Then who are you?"

"I will ask the questions," the man's voice resumed. "This woman is one of your teachers, a physician."

"But she said…"

"She said nothing of a lie. She said her husband was abroad, which he is. Her husband is abroad in the realm of the underworld."

"And she…"

"Nor did you truly lay with her, for she performed somewhat of a trick upon you in your passion that made you feel that you had entered her, but you had been drugged, and were easy to trick. Do not be ashamed by this. Your other indiscretions with other women were real enough. This deception was necessary, and you should know that no harm has come to you, in fact, this physician has most likely saved your life from assassination."

"Assassination!" he gasped. His mind still reeled from revelations. Was this woman, indeed, the one who sat at dinner, veiled? Who came to him in the night, in his exhaustion, and would not let him touch, until…. Gradually, in stages, his mind began to clear.

"We are here to protect, restrain, and to heal you, and hope to cure you of the tendency of whoredom before its diseases first disable and then destroy you. You will remain with us until your cure is complete. The regicide is in our hands, soon to be executed by Munduk."

"How long must I remain here?"

"Long enough for the cure to be complete. And you will not be released until then."

"Where is my brother?"

"Your punishment is confinement."

"Bring my brother to me!" he shrieked. But the torch had been extinguished, and the only afterimage that remained was that of the mysterious Greek woman who had posed as Munduk's wife.

Saheris fell back to the rough pallet on which he lay in the darkness. Gradually his eyes grew accustomed to the near-black lightlessness and he perceived light beneath the crack of the heavy door that had been closed upon him. He tried to rise, and realized he was too weak to do so. He had been drugged! How much time had passed? Had he drunk a draught? A pungent smell lingered in the room, and he recognized an odor, a repulsive and overly familiar odor: henbane. A purgative and hallucinogenic herb favored by the Greeks for their oracles and prophets. Was this why he had uttered words he did not know, and said things he had no awareness of before they were spoken? A thousand questions competed for supremacy in his mind, and he realized he was still dizzy, and put his hands to his face. Fever. There was a fever on him; a fever he had had many times when plagued by dreams; but this was no dream, and yet - it was, and he could not truly stir from it.

At length, he drifted off and slept again, and no sound was heard in the dark chamber but the sighing sound of the sleeping boy's breath.

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Spidios returned at length from a deep study following the examination. "How is our prisoner?"

Heklitis and Atthis, who had waited for well over an hour for their master to emerge from his meditation, rose to their feet simultaneously when he had entered the room. Attending them once again was Antipatros, and the young physician, Tethys, who had been present for in the interrogation of Saheris. "Dazed," replied Heklitis.

"Shall we then? Or shall we speak together of what we now know?"

"I am not sure his replies made sense. He seemed to be suggestible to the drug, but not necessarily coherent."

"You don't believe he was coherent?" Spidios turned quickly to Heklitis and looked closely at him.

"He said he was the son of Kadmos, what significance is Kadmos to him? And of the night."

Spidios waved his hand at Heklitis, dismissively. "He speaks in a symbol that must be interpreted, but it is as I said - Kadmos is the ancient line from which he springs, and the night is from the legend of the goddess Nix who gave birth to many of the Greek gods. Even so, quite plain, his purpose is stated just as I had been taught it that he is the leader that is raised up by the Olympians to cast off Rome's yoke upon the east. That is the important thing. Whether he is sent by an Egyptian god or by Poseidon or by Ares makes little difference to his purpose, for he will not recall it to consciousness in any case. It matters what he becomes, and what he does, and what he needs now in order to make that occur."

Heklitis drew back a definite pace from the avid face of his teacher and stared at him. "What are you saying? Are you saying that we are going to put him under our instruction knowingly to raise up up as a conquerer of a foreign nation, and abet him in so doing?"

Spidios nodded.

"Is this not a violation of our neutrality in matters concerning other states?"

"What is our state, Heklitis? Is it Attica? Is it Boetia? Is it Thebes? Or even, Bithynia? You are by blood a Bithynian. Atthis, of Attica, myself of Boetia, and Tethys an orphan of Thebes. What is our state?"

"But surely…. This is treasonous to the empire of Rome we now serve in so many ways…"

"We do not serve empires, we serve Truth!" he rasped, and withdrew, suddenly, without the door.

The young initiates stared at one another, and Heklitis shook his head. "I do not understand. I simply do not understand."

Atthis placed a hand on his arm. "Spidios will explain further in due course, I am sure. But for now, we have other matters to attend to."

Tethys returned to the cell where Saheris once again slept, and watched over him, occasionally raising his head and putting water to his lips. In his semi-conscious state, he accepted the water without waking, and returned to deep slumber without disturbance.

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