Conan: Blades of Shadizar

Session I: Fortune and Glory

From a letter to Pelagius, Priest of Mitra


My old friend,

For quite some time now, you have urged me to tell you the tale of how it all began. I have resisted your many entreaties, but your passion for the tale remains unabated. At long last, I shall grant your wish, if only for a few moments of peace!

As you know, I began my life in the kingdom of Koth. I was born in the many-spired city of Khorshemish, called “Queen of the South.” This city of my birth is well known as a city of wonders. The visitor enters through gold-chased gates, and things improve from there until you reach the pinnacle of opulence, the palace itself. The broad, white streets of Khorshemish are surrounded by minareted temples, shops, mansions and markets. Above the splendour of the glittering spires looms the Scarlet Citadel, an ominous structure if ever there was one!


Yet, in the midst of all this opulence, life was hard for the majority of the tens of thousands who dwell within the walls of Khorshemish. I grew up in neither mansion nor palace, but the gods had blessed me with equal doses of cunning and stubborness. Thankfully, I was not born a slave. The life of such wretches is unbearable, especially for those who serve within the palace of King Strabonus!

That wretch, Strabonus, was a vile man and an even more vile king. I know not if you have heard aught of his reign, as you were not subject to him, but believe me when I tell you that he might as well have been king of Zamora rather than Koth, so vile and debauched was he. The only reason he retained the throne was that his enemies hated each other nearly as much as they hated him! This was, of course, due in no small part to his own efforts. He kept the feuding, grasping nobles at each other’s throats. Strabonus was not afraid to use his armies to crush those nobles who stuck their necks out too far, nor was he afraid to use them in grasping at the territory of neighboring kingdoms.

In my youth in Khoshemish, I was a practitioner of the larcenous arts of no mean skill. My skill might only have been surpassed by my ambition. Of that, I shall leave you to judge for yourself. I felt wasted on cutting purses and the occasional burglary. I sought opportunity for fortune and glory! As I have said, I was ambitious then. When word spread that the king was leaving the palace for an extended period, I knew that my opportunity had arrived!

I stood among the crowd as the royal household marched through the the streets and out the gates of the city. The people of the city had been turned out to cheer the king. This was accomplished by bribes, threats, and brutality. Strabonus was generous in that way. Slipping from the crowd, I headed to the palace. Entering the palace proved far easier than I had expected. While the glittering royal party, troops, and attendants were well on their way out of the city, the less glamourous part of the cortege, the baggage train, was still loading and straggling out of the palace gate. With so many people coming and going, including teamsters and baggage handlers, one more unfamiliar face easily went unnoticed. Entering through the gates amid the hustle and the bustle, I followed some of the baggage handlers through a door and into some underground storerooms.

This passage soon led to the areas used by the palace’s servants. Storerooms gave way to the kitchens, where the remaining servants (as well as teamsters and baggage handlers) stopped in to slake their thirsts and take a brief repast to stave off hunger as time allowed. As I entered, I heard a raised voice. A cruel looking servant, a former soldier now in a position of power below-stairs by the look of him, was berating a young scullery maid for some misdeed. The misdeed, I had no doubt, was imagined. I had seen his type before: petty tyrants drunk on their small serving of power taking every opportunity to revel in their ability to abuse those with no power at all. Still berating the hapless girl, he led her away for what he called punishment.

His clothes were finer than those of the servants, yet in poor taste, as if he was aping the fashions of his betters. The curved sword he wore at his side gave proof of the man’s days as a soldier, a memory he obviously clung to desperately. Even clearer in my memory are the whip the man carried and his cold, cruel eyes. This was a man the servants feared…a man who caused pain and suffering. I cannot honestly tell you what I was thinking when I made the choice to do so, but I followed him as he led the maid off. Down dark corridors I followed them, the girl’s sobs echoing as we went. Leading her into a remote storeroom, it was clear what he intended. I watched his lip curl into a cruel smile as ignored the girl’s frantic pleas for mercy and removed her dress, turned her about, shoved her forward in a manner which forced her to cling to the stacked grain sacks for balance, and readied his whip.

Acting with the impulsiveness of youth, I sprang into action. The fool had not even known that I was there watching, and so made no effort to avoid the cudgel which struck the back of his head. He went down and did not move. At this point, my holy friend, I should take time to remind you that I was, in my youth, governed by passions. I say this with no shame, only to warn you. Mitra, unlike the gods of the land of my birth, seems very judgmental in such matters and I have no wish to shock your sensibilities now that you have been in the temple for so long! Apologies…you know that I cannot resist poking fun at those dear to my heart. In truth, though, I often wonder if you will forget what life is like outside holy precincts! The warning now delivered, I must admit that I found the quivering flesh before me quite irresistible! It was some time before she needed to recover her dress and I continued towards my goal.

As we lay there, panting in the afterglow, I noticed that the miserable excuse for a man who had dragged the girl into this storeroom wore a sizable set of keys upon his belt. Thinking that they would be useful, I took them along with the man’s purse, sword, and whip. Little did I know that I would get very little use out of any of those items!

I moved in silence, keeping to the shadows. I knew nothing of the layout of the palace, though I would have known before entering…had I been older and wiser. I was young and confident on my ability to improvise. Eventually I entered the palace proper. Packing was still ongoing, and there were many people moving about. As I slipped among the working servitors, unremarked, it occurred to me that a tower would be the most likely spot to begin my search for riches. It did not occur to me that I might be beyond my experience or knowledge, and I plunged headlong into the venture. The marble walls of the tower I entered were covered in jewels. I knew that surely great wealth must await! What a young fool I was then!

The way up was steep and slippery, and I could discern no chambers, simply a way up. Upon reaching the top, I found a portal sealed by no ordinary lock. It was decorated with a jumble of letters, but their order was nonsensical. I knew then that I had to be looking upon a puzzle lock. I moved the letters around in my mind’s eye, over and over again until it became clear that this was some sort of prayer to Ishtar…and a warning! I was certain then that I had been right, and that fabulous wealth must wait within! Without a hint of trepidation, I moved the letters into the correct order and the portal opened!


As my eyes adjusted to the gloom of the chamber beyond, I saw the one thing I most certainly did not expect: a woman. A woman, I might add, of unearthly beauty. Her hair was the colour of flame, and her skin that of alabaster…and not a bit of it was hidden. My gut told me that this was totally wrong…this was no human woman before me. I turned to flee…but I didn’t. Her smouldering eyes bore into my soul and I found myself moving forward into the chamber even as my mind screamed for me to flee.

I know what question hangs on your lips. How did I escape? The horrible truth of it, my friend, is that I did not. Well…not at first. The power of the demoness was far beyond a poor boy’s ability to resist. I know not how long she held me there in thrall…using me. I cannot begin to describe the pleasures and the terrors she subjected me to. Whenever my mind cleared enough for it, I made what attempt to escape I could. She saw through every trick, and my mind was not strong enough to break the power she held over me for quite some time. It might have been days…it might have been weeks…to this day I cannot swear to the length of time she held me in thrall. In my heart I knew that I must deny her the fullness of what she sought in order that I might survive. Survival and escape were my sole thoughts when my mind cleared enough to permit thought of any kind beyond base passion and desire.


Endless hours were spent, our bodies entwined in the throes of passion. I know not how I survived. I had begun to fear that there would be no escape and that I would die here in this chamber or become something other than human. As we lay on the floor, exhausted, through half closed eyes I noticed a large symbol painted upon the floor surrounding us. I knew a little of the ways of the arcane, any good thief did. Without that knowledge, a thief would walk straight into doom without any warning. While this knowledge did not prevent my predicament, it did point the way out!

I feigned sleep. I cannot be sure, but I think I had tried this ploy at least once before. She saw through it then, but she did not this time! Taking the opportunity while it was ripe, I rolled beyond the edge of the symbol and was on my feet in a flash! It was then that I noticed that to which I had hitherto been blind: the bodies. All around the periphery of the room, scattered like so many broken toys cast aside, lay the dessicated corpses of men. I have no doubt that these were my brothers in Bel who had been as foolish and covetous as I. Lightheaded, I had no time to pause for the demoness called to me. Her call filled my head and stirred my blood. I know not what deity granted me the strength to stumble from the chamber, but stumble I did. Behind me, the portal sealed itself, the letters of the lock once more scrambled. in my mind, I could still hear her calling me… screaming… demanding… begging for my return. I shall tell you a truth, old friend. My captivity would forever leave a mark upon me. Unto this very day, I still have the occasional night where she haunts my dreams.

This was not the only mark the she demon had left upon me. The other I was to face immediately. You yourself have remarked, since we first met upon the roads, upon the inexplicable effect I have upon the fairer sex. You called it a blessing, I recall. Do you recollect my response? I told you that it was a curse. We both laughed at the time, but know now the truth of my words.

In my struggle to survive, I had somehow managed the impossible and denied the she demon my essence. It should not have been possible, beset as I was by such ecstasies. Perhaps one of the gods took pity on me and lent me aid. Far more likely, I think, is the chance that one of them used me as the instrument of some malicious joke. Perhaps the she demon and myself were both mere fodder for a godly comedy. You are knowledgeable in the ways of the gods than I, so I shall leave such musings to you. Regardless of how it came to pass, it remains true that I had exercised this denial for I know not how long. Added to this, there is that which I have called a curse. I know not if your books have related this to you, but I can tell you from first hand experience that there is something in the she demon which acts as an aphrodisiac upon mortal man. It may be some sort of aura, or perhaps something their demonic bodies excrete. I know not for certain the mechanism. I cannot even tell you all that occurred in the time I spent in her thrall. There are only flashes… glimpses… fragments… and the nightmares.


Having escaped the she demon’s clutches, I found myself beyond the sealed portal naked, without a single possession, and with no thought but for relief. I suppose I was not yet really free. I wandered, still out of my mind, down the treacherous passage towards the exit of the tower. There were chambers along this passage which had been invisible to me when I had fist gone up…no doubt veiled by the she demon’s powers. The chambers were, for the most part, deserted due, as I would later learn, to the evil reputation of the tower. It was because of this general avoidance of the tower that two of the palace slave girls had had chosen to hide themselves in avoidance of work. The sound of their giggling drew me to the room, and I was nearly upon them before they noticed I was there. It was then that I first saw evidence of what you would later call a blessing. By all rights they should have screamed. The surprise appearance of a naked stranger in such a state would certainly merit a scream. Yet, no scream was forthcoming. Instead, they were drawn to me and the passion that followed. I had nearly exhausted them both, still with no relief, when the voice of another woman called to them. The sound came nearer, the voice chastising. I moved back into the shadows as the woman entered. She was still berating the girls when I emerged from the shadows. My curse worked its powers once more, yet I left the chamber unsated. The same occurred with two more slaves I encountered after I had wandered from the tower and a priestess of Ishtar who happened upon us. I was sure that Ishtar had sent her as a mercy to free me of this madness, but it was no such matter.

Still all but bewitched and desperate for peace, I wandered through the palace. Reaching another tower, I spied a slave bearing a tray of food approaching a sealed door. She paused, and opened a slot in the bottom of the door. A tray bearing empty bowls was pushed out of the opening, and the new tray was slid into it. I was intrigued, but I was driven by more pressing purpose. Across the hallway from what I now knew was a cell, there was another chamber, door slightly ajar. Voices drifted forth, the cruel arrogant tones of one of Strabonus’ noble lickspittles and the girl he sought to abuse. My blood boiled, rage overwhelming my need for relief. Slipping through the door with purpose, I struck with my bare fists… I struck and struck again. The swine fell and did not move. What now, gentle priest? I remember when you were not so gentle, but quick of temper…as well as blade and fist! But stay your words… I know the question which rises to your lips! No… the perfumed swine was not dead. I never thought that you would become so squeamish! Or is it that you hold me in such high regard? Well no matter… I shall return to my tale.


The noble swine fell to the floor, unconscious, and then I saw her… a daughter of the desert Shemites. Dark of hair, with dark eyes flashing with an inner fire still unbroken by enslavement in the palace. She wore naught but the golden slave collar around her neck. Maya’s supple form called to me, but no less than the spirit in her bright eyes. Perhaps my newly acquired curse had something to do with the invitation in her eyes, but there was something more. Stop, you old gossip! You read her name and I can already hear your demand for more. I promised you one tale, do not think you will obtain another into the bargain! She fell into my arms, and her lips were ambrosia. Lifting her, I carried her to to the sumptuous bed, laying her gently upon it. Our bodies entwined in passion. I lost track of time within her arms, pleasure being followed with mounting pleasure until, in the denouement, the gods granted me release. As we lay panting, bodies glistening with perspiration well earned in our exertions, Maya gently cradled my head to her bosom, stroking my hair with affectionate delicacy such that I had never before known. Once again, we tread upon ground best tread in another tale.

When we had recovered ourselves somewhat, we spent some time in conversation. Maya, I learned was born the daughter of a sheikh of the desert Shemites. As a way to gain favour with Strabonus, the noble floor decoration took men to raid the sheikh’s tents while the warrior’s were gone fighting the Zuagir. She had accepted her fate, because he had taken her as spoils of battle. I detected, though, that she held little admiration for a man who raided tents while he knew that the warriors were absent. She held even less admiration for the man once his true nature was know to her. He, no doubt, saw the defiance and slight regard in her eyes, even as she obeyed his every command. You can well imagine how that enraged him.

Rousing ourselves, I dressed in the nobleman’s clothes and and equipped myself with armament. The man, it seemed, collected arms and there was much to choose from. Soon, I was dressed in noble finery, a gold studded leather jerkin for protection, and a jeweled sword and poniard belted upon my waist. I took a fine Shemite bow from the wall and a full quiver of arrows. You will not be surprised to know that I took the man’s purse, full of gold, as my own as well. I paused a moment, uncertain, and told Maya that she was welcome to leave this place with me, but that the choice was hers. In serious tone she explained to me that there was no choice to be made… she belonged to me, taken in combat as her father had gained her mother before her. While her voice was solemn, her dark eyes glittered with amusement. For one of the few times in my life, old friend, I knew not what to say!


While Maya busied set to packing anything that might prove useful for our journey with the quiet efficiency of her nomadic upbringing, I hefted the senseless noble and carried him out of the chamber and across the passage. Using the jeweled and gilded key I had found in the noble doorstop’s possession, I unlocked the door to the cell. Carrying the unconscious noble within, I deposited him inside the cell without ceremony and looked about me. My eyes beheld the two occupants, one dark of hair, the other fair. Both with perfect porcelain skin. The fair haired Vateesa explained that she and her mistress, the Princess Yasmela of Khoraja had been imprisoned by Strabonus, who was to marry the princess. I would, I was told, be richly rewarded were I to aid them in escaping this place and returning to Khoraja.


At this moment, the noble doorstop groaned. Without a thought, I beat him back into silence. He must have graced them with his winning personality before, because they both smiled at the bludgeoning! The three of us hurried from the cell and I locked the noble and naked jailer within. I pocketed the key, and turned to find Maya, carrying what supplies she had found in the chamber. She was wearing one of the nobleman’s silk tunics with a belt about her waist with a curved dagger worn upon it. Brief introductions were made as we hurried down the stairs, finding ourselves in a stable area. Finding three horses, the women saddled them while I checked if our way out was clear. In truth, I knew nothing of horses at the time, so this worked out well for me.

As I moved ahead of our party, spotting a Zuagir guarding our path out, I decided to try out the Shemite bow. I did not have high hopes, having never handled suck a weapon before, but I was to be pleasantly surprised! I was a natural, it seemed! I fired a single arrow and dropped the man. Rushing forward, I reached the man as another came into view. I heard hooves behind me as three horses carrying Maya, Vateesa, and Princess Yasmela rushed forward at a gallop. I only had time to take the man’s purse before they were upon me. Maya shouted to me, reaching out her arm, which I took and swung myself up behind her.

We rode out of the yard and past the palace gates before the alarm even rose. A few attempted to pursue us as we flew through the streets of Khorshemish towards the city gates, but the arrows I fired dissuaded them…many of them terminally. I know not how I managed to fire from horseback, bouncing along behind Maya, but each of my arrows hit their targets.

We had traveled no little way upon the trade road leading to Khoraja when it became evident that we were no longer pursued. We were able to pause and allow the horses to rest after their efforts. Maya produced food and wine from her packs, and we all shares some refreshment on the side of the road. It was good to catch my breath and wash away the dust of the road with a bit of wine. I am sure you may laugh when you hear this, having shared travels with me as you have, but that had been my first time on horseback. Had I not spent the ride pressed tight against Maya, my complaints would have been load and never ending. It was terribly uncomfortable and I had no desire to sit while we rested!

After we had shared our repast, we rested there upon the roadside. The women spoke among themselves as I took my bow and kept watch upon the road. The sound of hoof beats upon the rode caught my attention, and I spied a lone rider, his scale armour glittering in the sunlight as he sped along the road. A lone rider travelling in great haste was not seeking us, but certainly carrying word of the princess’ escape to Strabonus, now marching towards Khoraja. Taking careful aim, I fired an arrow at the rider, hitting him as he sped past. Muttering an oath, something to do with Nergal’s bollocks if I remember correctly, I spun around. Nocking arrow, I prayed that Ishtar grant that I have time to fire before the rider was too distant. To my surprise, the Zuagir turned about. Drawing his curved blade, he spurred his horse towards me. I let fly as he charged forward, and he flew from the saddle, landed, and did not move. The horse, bereft of rider, slowed to a stop as it approached me. I looked over at the women and saw Maya’s eyes sparkle in amusement. With a laugh, I commented that we each had a horse now. Then, I proceeded to strip the fallen body of its goods. Taking his bow and quiver, I handed them to Maya who I thought could put them to best use.

We continued on our way in good spirits. Making the best speed we could, we hastened down the road. Though not experienced in the ways of the road, having never set foot outside Khorshemish before that day, I was of a mind to find a likely spot to stop and sleep while we yet had daylight so that we might ride through the night. The night, I hoped, would cloak our passage and enable us to slip by the host of King Strabonus. The idea was agreeable to the rest of the party, and after some hours we stopped at a site prepared by the crown for the use of passing caravans. there was fresh water in plenty and firewood dried and stacked. We watered, hobbled, and unsaddled the horses, prepared a fire for the heating of our repast, and broke our fast. Having used some of the water to wash away the dust of travel and refresh ourselves, we laid ourselves down in a shady spot to rest while daylight yet lingered. With a saddle to support my head and Mayas head resting upon my chest I slept, for the first time, upon the ground outdoors.

I was stirred from my sleep by sound of horses approaching our site at a walk. Opening an eye, I saw a party of horsemen, sellswords by the look of them, approaching on the quiet. Carefully, so as not to disturb her slumber, I slid out from under Maya. Silently, taking up my bow and quiver, I rose to a kneeling position. The horsemen had halted, and one rode forward alone. Approaching our tethered mounts, intent to steal was clear. It was clear that the sellswords had not spied our party. If they had, they would have been upon us pell-mell with lust in their eyes and I would have been quickly put to the sword and the women to other uses. The very fact that they had not spied us had no doubt led to so me caution. The lone sellsword dismounted and made ready to cut out mounts free of their tether. The arrow flew from my bow, flying straight and true, and buried itself in the man’s throat. He fell like a rock, still clutching the reigns of his own steed. Voices in a rough dialect of Aquilonian I had never heard before cried out in surprise, and more than fifty horsemen fled down the road. I approached the fallen man with arrow nocked as the last bloody gurgle left his throat. Taking his horse’s reigns, I calmed the beast and tethered him with the others after seeing him watered. I then set to relieving the dead mercenary of the worldly goods he had no need for anymore.


When the women awoke, they were surprised by what had occurred while they slumbered. The presence of these horsemen suggested that the host of King Strabonus was much closer than we had all previously thought. We broke camp and set off down the road for several hours before turning off the road and carefully continuing on. Our only hope of avoiding the encamped army during the night was to get off the road. As darkness fell, we dismounted and continued on foot, leading the horses by moonlight.


We were well into the night when we encountered the fist signs of the army. It began with the faint sound of distant revelry. We stopped in our tracks. Leaving the women with the horses, I proceeded ahead alone and on foot to get a better idea of the extent of the encampment. Creeping forward, I saw the light of the fires. Slipping past the sentries, I walked into the camp and took a look around with a mind towards mischief. I took a flagon from a passing slave and enjoyed the king’s own wine as I moved among the gathered nobles. I was still dressed in the noble jailer’s finery and so looked as though I belonged. Cutting a few purses simply to stay in practice, I set myself to more useful endeavours. I reasoned that there must be maps or documents related to the planning of this endeavour somewhere within the camp. These, I thought, would be of use to those who would resist conquest and earn me a generous reward.

With this in mind, I moved to the center of the camp and sought out only the grandest pavilions. Peeking into one, I spied a wealthy knight despoiling what I thought to be a young squire. The knight had thoughtfully left his purse unattended, so I relieved him of it and continued on. An even grander pavilion lay in my path, but it was guarded. Thinking fast, I told them that the king commanded that they too enjoy the bounty of wine and flesh and that it awaited them in the tent I had just left. As they rushed towards what they thought was their reward, I hurriedly gathered up maps and documents I saw strewn about the large table in the center of this tent and slipped out the back just as I heard angry shouts and cries of pain from the direction of the tent to which I had sent the guards!


Racing from tent to tent, I ducked into one only to find myself faced with a dazzling array of female flesh! Judging by the number of women, their level of beauty, and the opulence of the furnishings, I had stumbled into Strabonus’ own pleasure tent! Rather than hiding, I entered with a swagger and impatiently demanded that the disobedient one stand forth. They stared at me in confusion, so I told them that the king would have the disobedient wretched lessoned for the amusement of his troops and if they could not produce her I would simply pick one! Convinced that I cared little, one way or the other, they thrust forward a dark eyed Zingaran. Dragging her, protesting, from the tent, I made my way through the maze of tents before shoving her into an unoccupied but luxurious tent.

Before you protest the wicked ways of my youth, know that I admitted to her, then and there, that the pretense had been a fabrication in its entirety. She was delightful bit of fun and found myself and the deception to her liking! I think this was due to her nature, although I admit that my curse may have played no small part. She insisted that she was a naughty and disobedient thing and demanded that i give her the punishment she so richly deserved! You know how much I hate to disappoint a lady!


Once she was satisfied that she had been given her just desserts, I carefully slipped out of the camp and rejoined my companions. Leading our horses on foot, we mounted once we had cleared the camp. Just as we began to the think that the peril had passed, a party of spahis appeared through the trees. They spotted us as we spotted them and, deciding to brazen it out, I kicked my horse forward towards them at a trot. I shouted to them, commanding their attention with an arrogance I did not really feel. One of their number, their captain by the look of him, rode forth to meet me. With a lazy arrogance, I inquired whether in their journey they had encountered a suitable glade for the despoiling of maidens under the moonlight. Somewhat taken aback, he sheepishly informed me that they had not. I cursed him roundly. I cursed his vitals, I cursed his horse, and I cursed the moon that mocked me. Growling that setting was everything and that the deed was properly done by moonlight, I rode off with the women leaving him sputtering apologies in my wake!


We rode on through the night and into the following days. We stopped but rarely, and only to rest and water the horses and take what rest we could. We pushed ourselves and our mounts hard and, when we saw the city of Khoraja in the distance, there was a general sense of relief. When we passed through the city gates the adoration of the populace for their princess was evident, and why wouldn’t it be. Had she not been the one, as regent, to defeat the army of the sorcerer Natohk? I was surprised to see that her brother, King Khossus did not share their adulation. Say what she might, he could not seem to comprehend that Strabonus had imprisoned his sister and had never harbored any intention of marrying her. He was deaf to her words and blind to the proofs I had obtained. There were some whose voices were raised in support of Yasmela’s warning, but they only earned the king’s displeasure. My sharp eyes, however noted that there were others who took the princess’ part in silence, knowing that words to the king would be but wasted breath.

As for myself, I was beneath the king’s notice. This was for the best, as I was young and had not yet the patience to suffer fools lightly. Yasmela bade me accompany her to her chambers while Maya was shown to those that were to be mine for my stay. It was there I was to receive the reward which had been promised. Oh no! Don’t be so holy, my friend! I knew you when you had no such qualms! For the record, my reward for her rescue was a purse of one thousand gold coins. Her flesh, however, was freely offered…and accepted! Perhaps it was what you called my blessing, but I rather suspect that Maya had said something of our coupling. This I have related to no one before now. I do it now for friendship. I know you well enough to know that, gossip though you are, you will never breathe a word of it. And the tale can do no harm now. She was a delight, but I tell you that there was not the magic that I knew with Maya. As we lay in the afterglow, a small boy of some eight winters entered the chamber, and it was in such a state that I fist met Prince Armiro! A serious boy, he was, obviously quick of mind and perhaps knowledgeable beyond his years. He had come to wish his mother a good night and to ask for a story. Mirth in her eyes, Yasmela suggested that I tell the little prince a tale. With all the dignity that the sheet covering my loins granted me, I composed a tale to satisfy the young prince. The tale I composed told of a little prince who defeated a brawling bully of a king of Aquilonia using his wits! To this day, it is a tale Armiro remembers with affection, though I sometimes fear that my tales may have contributed to later events.

The prince satisfied, the virtuous Vateesa led him off to his bed. Blonde Vateesa was lovely, and there was something compelling about her obvious virtue. Stop! Another tale for another time! Back to my tale! The little prince led away, Yasmela and I coupled again. In the aftermath, her dark hair cascading across my chest, I related a plan to aid her in resisting Strabonus. I was, at the time, no soldier, and had no knowledge of warfare other than my native wit. It seemed to me, however, that threat to the rear of Strabonus’ army might draw his forces away from Khoraja. It occurred to me that, with attacks upon the desert Shemites like the one which took Maya from her homeland, the desert tribes must crave revenge against Strabonus. If they could be convinced to ride, the heartland of Koth lay open! It was my hope that Maya and I could convince them to rise. Yasmela found merit in the plan, and I bound myself to it. To this day, I am not certain why I chose this course at that time. I was no warrior and I was already beyond any experience which my life had prepared me for thus far. Koth was the land of my birth and, though I had no reason to love Strabonus, it should not have entered into my mind to induce nomads to rampage across the kingdom. The idea was mine alone, as are the credit and blame.


The weight of the plan I had proposed fell upon me as I made my way to the quarters set aside for me. Lost in thought, I entered, my eyes falling upon the Shemite girl awaiting me. Soon I was at peace, mind and body. On the morrow, we would ride forth on the path I had set for myself and the destiny that awaited me. For that night, none of it mattered.

There, old friend, is your wish fulfilled. Now you know the tale of how it all began, how I found myself passing from the land of my birth and the first steps I took into becoming the man you now know. Perhaps now you will have less reason to pester me about tales of bygone years!

I wish you health and peace in the servant of your god until next we meet



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