Headless warriors, so the legend went, was not allowed into the underworld. Calling upon the Beheader was the only way to keep someone from paradise. Of course, that was legend, whether or not it was true was something that Niobe didn’t want to find out.
All she knew was that she was glad he was on her side. She knew that he was said to be ruthless, cruel, and fond of torturing his victims. No warrior, save the other gods devoted to war, could defeat him. that meant that the emperor could never win. Not against Sudia. Not now.
She smiled and watched as he beheaded each prisoner and placed the head upon his bridle as ornaments to be beheld by all who would see him as he made his way to the capitol. Kyrzhad had a big surprise headed his way soon. How she would love to be a fly on the palace wall when the Beheader made his appearance.
One of the prisoners was brought forward. It was someone she knew. Pyrathan! What was he doing among these murderers?
“Wait,” she requested, raising her hand, “I know this one.” The Beheader paused to allow her to do whatever she needed to. “Pyrathan,” she continued, “Why are you among these brigands?”
“They weren’t what they seemed to be, milady,” he replied, head still down, “they were…are imperial guards sent to assassinate you.” He looked up at her, sadness in his eyes. “I-I wanted to come along because I thought I could convince you rationally to stop this madness. I see now that it isn’t madness. You have the gods on your side. It is a fight the emperor cannot win.” The elderly man swallowed. “If I am to die, then make it quick. I have lived a good life.”
The Beheader motioned for the elderly man to be moved out of harm’s way, having peered into his heart. “This one does not deserve death,” he growled, “he is a man of peace, not war. He deserves to go his own way.”
Niobe cut the old man’s bonds and helped him up from his knees. She led him to the side and gave him food. He hugged her.
“Milady,” he muttered, “may the gods bless you, but I have a dilemma now. Where do I go? I can no longer show myself in the capitol. All will think me a phantom.”
“My dear tutor,” she smiled, “I will see that you have safe passage to Yndarr. Once there, be sure to seek out Bezreddyn and offer your services to teach my son. He will need it when he is of age to learn.” She turned to her group. “Kyloris. Take my teacher to Yndarr. Keep him safe and make sure he sees the bard.”
Kyloris stepped forward and nodded in obeisance. The assassin motioned to the old man to join him. Pyrathan looked at Niobe.
“He is quite safe, my dear friend,” she assured the old man, “he is also mute. Something about taking a vow of silence that requires losing one’s tongue.” She looked at Kyloris. “Isn’t that what it was?” the assassin nodded and Niobe returned her gaze to her old friend. “He will see you safely to Yndarr and the abode of the bard. He knows the ways of stealth beyond most in his Guild. No one will see you until you arrive in the city.”
She watched the old man go to the assassin. It was too bad he couldn’t make the march to Tyrannos, but the march to this point had already taken too much out of him. Kyloris would carry him, if need be, as far as he had to just to get him to safety. But they had no carriage or litter to do so as they made their way to their destination. Besides. Pyrathan would do more good in Yndarr.
The beheadings resumed after the assassin and the old man had left. They didn’t last long, since the dead had already been beheaded during battle. After it had all ended, the Beheader took his leave to deliver his message. Niobe allowed her companions to rest for a little while, then gave the command to resume their own march.
Bardys was surrounded. He had left Tyrannos on his way to Yndarr and now he was face-to-face with several unseen foes. Pinned down at the side of the road, with foes on all sides, he was running out of options. And arrows.
A burst of light distracted him momentarily. He smiled. If it had distracted him, it had also drawn the attention of his attackers. He took the lack of motion as proof of the fact and slowly emerged from his place of concealment. Before him stood the nine bearers of the orbs accompanied by Corum Churucht, the high priest of Dirnack.
“I owe you my life, wise priest,” he said, bowing, “and have no way to repay.” He looked about at the ground him, viewing his former attackers. “What were they?”
“Minor demons,” the priest replied, “sent to keep you from your mission. Going to Yndarr?”
“Yes,” Bardys averred, “how did you know?”
“Not important how I know,” Corum replied, “just know that I was on my way there as well with my companions.” The priest paused for effect. “You do know my companions, do you not?”
“Of course,” the bow master replied, “who doesn’t know the orb bearers?”
A chill preceded Nalembahr as he entered the capitol city. Fear and apprehension met him as people rushed to get out of his way. Most were afraid he would take their heads if they remained in his path and their thoughts made him smile. They were correct.
He had no mercy for fools. If they refused to move, they deserved to die. By the seven hells he ruled, he had no patience with corrupt rulers either. Mortals had proven no better than the gods at ruling the Renge. In fact, he believed they had proven to be worse.
With clear path, he proceeded to the palace. Not one person attempted to stop him. the hoof falls thundered throughout the streets, spreading terror in the hearts of all. Shutters suddenly began closing.
“Kyrzhad, emperor of the Renge, come forth,” The Beheader bellowed once he had reached the steps of the palace, “the gods and their chosen demand an audience!”
He watched as the guards rushed inside. Fools. Moments later, the emperor emerged in all pomposity.
“Who dares demand anything of me?” Kyrzhad demanded.
“Careful, mortal,” the Beheader thundered, “I speak for the gods, gods you have offended and mocked with all your depravity.” He tossed the string of imperial guard heads to the ground before the emperor. “These belong to you, I suppose. I come to tell you that your days are numbered and that Sudia and other lands will fall away from your influence. Yes, the gods have decided. You will lose power as will your ally Golmagug.
“Any attempt to regain control will result in failure. You have been given warning after warning, but refused to heed them all. Now, you will see all that you inherited removed from your power.”
Kyrzhad watched in shock as the mighty god vanished before his eyes. So the gods had now allied themselves against him. no matter. He would defeat all. They would rue the day they had rebelled.