Post by Char-Vell on Jan 21, 2018 1:20:10 GMT -5
Fardis, Son of Behoud, satrap of Akif, threw himself down upon his silk-clad haunches at the cliffs edge. He pulled the purple linen keffiyeh from his head and mopped his face and brow, gazing incredulously at what he saw before him. Here, where the crags of the Colchian Mountains blended with the arid sands of Kharamun desert, was now revealed a mist-shrouded valley. From his perch he could detect the sickly sweet smell of vegetation in various states of decay.
“You were right, by Tarim!‘ He said as he struggled to smooth his normally immaculate black hair and mustachios, “I gave little credence to those old maps, but here we are.”
“Aye, on occasion I get one right.” Answered his companion. Sigyn of Asgard cut an incongruous figure. A veritable giantess among the smaller eastern peoples, the tawny haired Aesir dwarfed the slight and slender Fardis. She was clad as a Turanian soldier, a crimson jerkin over a flowing white tunic, and white pantaloons thrust into soft leather boots. She had torn the left sleeve off her tunic to bind a cut along her scalp, revealing sun-bronzed arm thickly corded with muscle. The blade that had dealt her that cut, a yard long Zuagir yatagan, was thrust naked though the red sash twisted about her waist, still clotted with the blood of its former owner.
Tossing the dented, spired, turban-wrapped helm she carried to the ground, she seated herself beside Fardis and studied the steaming valley below. “Many of those old maps of yours are filled with wild fantasies, but in this case they were accurate. Good thing for us too! I wouldn’t have wagered a copper on our surviving the desert after escaping those Zuagir pigs, but our options were limited. I remembered seeing this valley pictured on one of your moth -eaten scrolls and decided to make for it.”
Fardis nodded enthusiastically. “ I’m amazed you recalled it at all. You have quite the intellect for a savage.”
Sigyn grinned at the shared joke. Fardis had tutored her in the languages and customs of Turan and other “civilized” kingdoms in the time she had been employed as a guard for Fardis’ seraglio. Fardis often teased her about her barbarous origins, and she retaliated with jests pertaining to his small stature and foppish habits. Being good humored and even tempered individuals, the twain enjoyed the repartee.
“What next?” inquired Fardis, fastidiously rearranging his keffiyeh. Sigyn shrugged and pointed to the valley.
“We go down there, gather food and water, and regain our strength. Then we decide on how to get back to Akif to find who sold us out to the Zuagirs and gut them.”
Fardis rolled his eyes. “This again? The Zuagirs attack caravans all the time! Tarim, in his infinite, unfathomable wisdom put them upon this earth to do just that. There is no conspiracy behind it.”
“I disagree” Sigyn replied, “Your father had sent all the required bribes and tributes to the Zuagirs ere we set out from Akif, yet they attacked us anyway. And when they attacked, they were among us without warning, unchallenged by your sentries or guardsman. Verily, I saw no sign of your retinue…By Ymir! Majaj and I were the only defense you and your wives had!”
“Aye.” Fardis nodded somberly, His father had hired the two barbarian she-wolves on the assumption that male guards could not be trusted to leave Fardis’ wives unmolested. Fardis found it grimly amusing that in the end, his salvation had been due to the prowess of warriors his father had hired in jest. He sighed and continued; “I will miss Majaj. I will pray her shade find its reward in whatever barbarous afterlife the Kushites hope for. Still, she made a grim accounting for herself, braining a half-score of the dogs with that bizarre Kushite axe of hers.”
“You did well yourself Fardis. That skinny Khitan sword you wield struck swiftly and drank deep. Still…” Sigyn hurled a stone over the cliff and spat. “I counted her as a friend, and I will see whoever betrayed us answer for her death, and those of your wives and servants. They deserved better fates.”
Fardis looked upon Sigyn sympathetically, and fondled the jade hilt of the slim straight sword she'd spoke of, and after a moment replied, “Fate is the key word; you yourself once said something about the skein of our lives being woven already, and the pointlessness of striving against fate.”
“That was a stupid statement. I now retract it. Hush now, here come the last of your wives.”
Perched upon the back of a camel, amongst a clutter of hastily gathered bundles and now near empty water bags, and shielded from the sun by a makeshift awning, were two voluptuous, scantily clad beauties. One a dusky, raven haired Vendhyan by the name of Chandi, and an auburn-tressed Brythunian called Tova. Their tear-stained faces told the tale of their misery.
“Can we rest now?” Chandi moaned “I shall die if I stay upon the back of this foul beast a moment longer!”
Sigyn’s face pinched in annoyance. “ Aye, Chandi, you may come down. I marvel at your ruggedness. Often, as I trudged across that burning sand on foot, my bared arm blistering under the sun, I kept my spirits up by telling myself; ‘Rejoice, Sigyn, your suffering pales before that of Chandi, who must ride atop that camel, beneath that stifling awning.”
Chandi’s face blackened with rage; “Fardis! Why do you let this low-born savage speak to me thus! I, the daughter of Peshkhauri nobility. Am I not your wife!”
Fardis sighed, and turned to the last of his wives with open palms, “Calm yourself Chandi, we’ve all been through a lot, Sigyn has toiled under the burden of seeing us safely through the desert to this lush valley, where we will no doubt find sustenance and shelter. She, like us all, is in ill humor.”
Chandi climbed down from the camel and stood beside it pouting. Tova dropped to her feet beside her and inquired; “Shall I unpack the bundles? I think we can put together some sort of tent.”
“Nay.” said Sigyn, scrambling to her feet, “ We’ll catch our breath for a few moments and start looking for a path into the valley. I want water and food, and relief from this accursed desert. Further, I see foliage peeking out from that mist.”
“Aye,” agreed Fardis, “Jungle palms from the look of it. I’ll wager there’s a dense forest in that valley.” Sigyn approached Chandi and glared down at her, the Vendhyan shot her a venomous glance. Sigyn only grinned at her and continued speaking; “A dense forest that will offer better cover from the eyes of any Zuagirs who may have tailed us from the battle. Our odds will be better if we can strike from behind trees and bushes. Work the kinks out of those flawless limbs my little princesses! We build our tent in that valley ere nightfall!”