In a less comfortable
room in the basement of Munduk's garrison lay another prisoner, marred
by a large bruise rising on his temple from where Munduk had felled him
the night before. Stiven stirred, groaning, and reached once again for
the pitcher that sat on the low stool next to his pallet. He was unattended,
once the draught had worn off, and took the advantage of solitude to explore
the wound on his face and test his limbs, muttering to himself. Unlike
Saheris's lightless chamber, however, Stiven's had a small window that
faced outdoors and allowed in a slight gloom. This lent him some slight
hope of gaining help and rescue, and in the relative quiet, he called.
"Can anyone hear
me? I am trapped in here! Help me, let me out. It is all a sad mistake.
It is I, Stiven the priest! Can anyone hear me?"
"Oh someone can
certainly hear you," came a quiet voice from the direction of the window.
"And if you persist, you will lose the privilege of this window for the
length of time you remain alive, and be sent into a completely dark place."
"Who is that,
there? Munduk has put me here in error! Let me loose!"
"That will not
happen," came the voice again, and a few minutes later, the door scraped
open to admit Heklitis and Atthis, armed both with draughts and writing
implements to record his confession. "You two! Greeks!" he spat, and sank
back down on his pallet. "Look what Munduk has done to my face!"
"That is the least
of what you can expect for your misdeeds," Heklitis said, barely restraining
the rage in his voice. "We have just come from your dwelling, and would
like to ask you about some curious things we have found there. In the
the midden beneath the fireplace, for example."
"I will not answer
your questions!" he shrieked. "Where is Zanthras? Get me my boy, oh why
has my enemy done this to me?"
"I think you may
change your mind, wizard," Heklitis said, and took the prepared draught
from Atthis' outstretched hand. She grasped one of his arms, and Heklitis
held the other while he pinched the wizard's nose shut, forcing him to
open his mouth for air. Then he put the the jar to his lips and forced
him to drink, which he did, amongst much gagging and spitting. At last,
the drink was down, and the two waited for the hallucinogen to take effect.
He would be more compliant in another hour.
What they had
founded beneath Stiven's house, in their search for evidence of pitchblende
manufacture, was a horrifying collection of human bones, charred in his
fireplace. When taken and questioned, his remaining servants, those who
had not been brought for confinement and treatment for treponema, confessed
that Stiven had performed ritual sacrifices of some of the children who
had been sent to him. Altogether, from the bones retrieved, at least a
dozen young boys had been slaughtered over the five years he had dwelt
in Maeotis. The remainder of his servants were terrified into silence,
fearing that they would be the next. When Heklitis examined the remains,
he was enraged, and found it easy to make the decision to drug and interrogate
the old man. He would be put to death in any case, so interrogating him
under the drug, particularly as it was necessary to discover the risks
to Saheris's life, was certainly called for, and Spidios approved the
the wait nervously pacing the length of the cell. Atthis stayed quiet,
observing the old man's nervous twitching, his frequent gulping, and when
she was fairly sure he was entranced by the drug, loosened the garment
on his upper body and performed a brief examination. There were telltale
swellings beneath his arms, of the final stages of treponema, and weeping
lesions in his armpits and upon his neck. A definite odor emanated from
him, and she felt slightly sick from both the sight and the smell. Here
was a man who was only months from his own death; she wondered how he
had managed to remain so active and be so ill. His execution would be
a mercy to him; for he must be in constant pain.
Tethys to administer another draught to Saheris, and he sat, patiently
watching, while the boy reacted to it, growing more restless and feverish
as the minutes passed. He waited a half an hour, quietly watching. Occasionally,
Saheris would sit up and stare, blindly, before him, and then turn to
Spidios, as though about to utter some revelation, but no words emerged,
at least, none that were audible. Then he would fall back onto the bed,
sleep fitfully for some minutes, his head moving restlessly from side
to side, eyes tightly closed. At length, Spidios put a cool hand on Saheris's
feverish arm, and Saheris looked up, attempting to focus upon the face
looking down upon him.
"Do you know who
"You are the voice,"
he replied, whispering.
"I would like
to know some things, will you tell them to me?"
"Yes," he replied.
"If I know." Good - he was now compliant.
"I want you to
think very carefully, Saheris. I want you to tell me whether you had ever
seen Stiven before you came to Maeotis this winter."
"The wizard. The
necromancer. The man who gave you the vest."
He gave me a vest
. he gave me many things."
"What else did
he give you?"
"He gave me sugars."
did he give these to you?"
"He gave them
to my mother, and she gave them to me. She said, 'these are from your
father, eat them, they taste good,"
"Where did he
give these sugars to your mother?"
"In - in the big
house, the dark house in the woods. The house
. near the river."
"And who is your
Sahera Al Alana. She is the most beautiful woman in the world. He - he
"Did he give you
"He gave her a
horse, and a sword, no, they were for me, he said, but she took them.
She said I could not have a horse and a sword, but he told her they had
to be for me, because they were for his son."
"And this was
Stiven who gave your mother the sugars, and the horse, and the sword."
it was him."
"And how do you
know it was him?"
"It was him
He always had this
. I smelled it when he touched
me that time in Munduk's hall, when he gave me the vest
how I knew
he said I was his son."
"But you are not
shook his fevered head
"no, that was untrue
I am the son of
my father -- my grandfather Saher told me that."
"That is the truth.
This other is a lie."
deeply. "Yes." As though relieved of a terrible burden, he collapsed and
fell into a deep slumber.
his students in the garrison, where the draughts applied to Stiven had
long reached their full effect. Heklitis turned to him as he entered.
"We have learned little, master."
"Is he still susceptible?"
Spidios inquired, leaning toward the semi-conscious figure on its pallet.
He pulled a flaccid eyelid upward and peered at the dilation of the pupil.
"Seems to be. Perhaps more pointed inquiry can yield better result. Stiven,
do you know who I am?"
The old man squinted
at the face before him. "You - you are, you look like the young Theodosius."
I am not, though I am of his nation. My name is Spidios, I am a therapeutus,
and here to discover the answers to some questions, perhaps you know them."
"I? What could
I tell you?" the drunkenness of the draught still affected him deeply,
and his speech slurred with each word.
"I wish to know
what you can tell me of your association with Sahera Al Alana some sixteen
"Sahera Al - "
the old man frowned, as though puzzled. "The black-haired barbarian bitch."
smiled. "Tell me, did you father a child on this woman at that time?"
"Father - father
Yes, that was the plan."
"Tell me about
To make a prophecy of a great warrior, that was prophesied at Delphi and
other places, it was merely the matter to point to the right one, or father
the right one
" he began to mumble.
"And she fell
in with your plan, then?"
"No - it was all
her plan, she just needed a necromancer to issue the prophecy, but I would
not do it, no
I would not do it
lest she named my own seed.
That was how it came to be. And that was who I named to the King of Scythia,
. He has locked me in his dungeon
" the old man's
face creased with pain and anguish then, and he put his hands against
the tumors on his chest
." It is cold and frigid here, I need warmth
"I am sure there
will be warmth, soon," Spidios signalled with his hand then, and Atthis
departed to gather some firewood for the grate. "I will have a fire started
here, will that do?"
enthusiastic now. He plucked at his bedclothing, and shivered.
"Now let us talk
of the boy."
"The boy - that
was not him! It could not be him!"
"It could not
one, she named to me, must be the bastard of one of her Roman generals
It could not be mine
I could see that right away
he had to
" he mumbled further, uintelligibly, "he had to go."
obtuse!" the old man cried, his voice now clear and shrill. "Put to death!"
"So you poisoned
him, with the metal."
The old man's
cackle raised the hairs on Heklitis's neck and arms; it was a laughter
of pure malice. "Yes, and had those Greeks - " his eyes suddenly flickered
and focused once again on Spidios' intent and serious face, "you! It was
you who found me out!" He cackled again, hideously.
"And an admirable job of assassination you did, too."
"I got him, didn't
I? Munduk said I got him, and he lies dead."
"There are many
boys who lay dead due to you," Spidios replied evenly. "What was the cause
of so many of these children being put to death?"
"Oh, those!" he
laughed again, the same obscene laugh. "Appeasements. There are always
appeasements to be made, and of course, when they did not perform, or
did not please
sometimes I would get careless, and then it was time
for an appeasement
" his voice wandered again, and his eyes closed.
The spate of words ceased suddenly, and he coughed. "Oh it is cold
Did you say you were starting a fire?"
soothed. "It is in the grate, and will soon warm you."
The look of naked
anger on Heklitis' face was impossible to disguise. Spidios rose, and
took him by the arm, speaking to him aside. "It is important to maintain
a resoluteness and friendliness with a patient under a drug compulsion,
regardless of how repugnant his admissions. It is a skill to be developed
in time. Doubtless you have yet to acquire it."
spat. "I need to excuse myself,"
"That is fine,
I think we have what we have sought, in any case." Spidios nodded to Atthis,
and she accompanied Heklitis outside, and placed a restraining hand on
He turned to her,
his eyes glistening with anguish. "Atthis, I do not believe I have ever
felt this way previously, but right now, had I been alone with that creature,
I would have killed him with my hands."
"He is already
his end will follow shortly."
me very little," he said, speaking through his teeth. "Those children
and Saheris, in his hands, part of this sinister plot with Sahera! It
"Yes, it is."
She placed her head against his arm, as much to console as to restrain,
and she felt the tensing of the arm muscle under her cheek. "Be at peace,
Heklitis, come, walk with me." Reluctantly, he went away from the building
with her, and they left the horror of the Stiven's confession in the garrison,
lasted a full month, and as he recovered from the draughts of henbane
he was given, he was able to glean little from what occurred without the
dark room, although in time he was given books, which he was told to read,
and candles so that he could have light to read by, and was instructed
by Spidios to write about his understanding of what he read. The books
were in Koine, a language Saheris was versed in, and he had no trouble
following them, though they had little or nothing to do with his previous
instruction by Munduk. Each time he attempted to query Spidios or Tethys
on the duration of his confinement, or of what transpired without, he
was answered with silence. This enraged him, but did little good; for
every time he exploded in rage, his candles, books, and papers were withdrawn
rapidly, and he was left in silence and darkness for many hours. He learned
to contain his rage. He did not know how long he would be interned, and
was compelled each day, three times, to down large masses of paste made
almost entirely of oil and garlic, which he detested.
But he could not
argue that he was being ill-treated, for he was well fed, and during that
first week, his previous condition of fever and sleeplessness had abated,
leaving him more energetic than he had felt in the previous month. Routinely,
the young physician would ask him to unclothe and he would inspect his
body, particularly his armpits and genitals, with great thoroughness,
which made Saheris profoundly uncomfortable, being touched by another
However, on the
thirty-first day, his door was opened, and Sahelis entered the room, ran
to him, and embraced him forcefully. They stayed like this for some minutes,
and his brother forced questions upon him,
"What did they
do to you? How do you feel? Are you well again?"
Saheris had other
things on his mind. "Where are my guards? Where is Spidios?"
"They told me
to come to you and to bring you out. You are cured, or so they say."
"Cured? What was
I ill with?"
"With the poison
that Stiven gave you, and with the disease you got from the whores: treponema
"Are they letting
me out now?" Saheris stood, squinting toward the light.
cried joyfully. "I have missed you so badly!"
"Now, what is
supposed to happen?"
"We are going
to Amysos! We are sailing to Pontus, tomorrow!"
"What is at Amysos?"
"Saher. We are
going to see our father again."
Copyright © 2004 Threshold Publishing Company All Rights Reserved
Copyright © www.zebratta.com All Rights Reserved