View Full Version : The Golden Throne

Alex Mars
08-31-2013, 01:50 PM
Part 1

The sun looked down on a battlefield deep in the searing desert. The feasting vultures held it now along with the buzzing flies, the last wounded man or horse having stopped screaming hours before. Bodies and blood littered the sands of a narrow valley with a hill at the north end. Men and other things had died here, or been hacked apart if they could not die. Men lay dead with helms and skulls split open, others with arrows through throat or heart, still more lacked arms or legs. Unclean things lay there as well. Corpses animated with foul necromancy had fought until being dismembered, strange hideous creatures out of nightmares had slain good men until being dragged down, and lesser demons had breathed fire and ice until being pierced with many arrows. The vultures and flies avoided some of the unnatural bodies, knowing by instinct the ill fate that waited for one who consumed that profane carrion.

The battle lines could be seen to have met in the middle of the valley, the men attacking from the south and the foul monsters defending from the north. Ranks of the dead showed where men with spears and shields pushed the centre forward killing fell beasts while on the wings steel armoured lancers tore open the creatures on the flanks. The fallen indicated the path of the battle, with the monsters pushed back towards the sandy hill that dominated the north end of the valley. Upon that hill was a white pavillion, apparently abandoned and sagging down on one side. It was clear that the men had tried to over run the tent; the creatures had been desperate to keep them back from it. The slope below the tent was burned as if fire and lightning had raked the sand, fusing it into rough chunks of dirty glass, littering it with blackened bodies. It had been a savage battle, with neither side willing to retreat. This engagement had claimed the lives of all who fought here.

At the very top of the hill, lying partly on the sagging wall of the pavillion was a body wearing a gold chased breastplate over fine steel mail. Behind the body was some form of huge ogre; a jeweled dagger plunged deep into its bestial right eye, the last defender to fall, but one. A captain of men had fought to stand closer to his ultimate foe than any of his comrades, but his only reward was to have his head burned off at the neck, his skull reduced to ash and his brains cooked into a foul jelly.

A keen eye could discern that a camel had been tethered behind the pavillion and that the tracks of that camel lead to the north.

Part 2

Sulim, a tomb robber by trade, lounged at the Oasis of Delshir and watched the sun rise across the desert sands to the East. Already the day was growing hot and the air beginning to shimmer in the distance. His horse was tied up in the shade of a tree with enough rope to reach the sweet grass that grew around the well while both man and horse rested from a long ride with little water to drink. Sulim was of the nomad tribes but he did not share the superstitious dread of ancient tombs, he dug into old mounds and pried stones out of walls in order to discover gold and treasure from another era, confident that no spirit from the underworld would take revenge for his desecrations.

Suddenly he narrowed his eyes and saw that something was approaching the oasis with the rising sun at their backs. It soon became clear that someone on a plodding camel was coming right towards the oasis. Such meetings were never easy to judge, blood was often spilled when it came to water in the desert. He stood to pull on his jazeraint coat and then waited, one hand on a worn scimitar that had taken many lives and the other stroking his oiled beard.

As the rider came closer it became clear in the half-light that it was a woman who sat on the saddle of the camel. At first the shimmering heat made it difficult to make out more than a silhouette lit from behind by the glare of the rising sun. As the camel came closer Sulim grinned and thought himself a lucky man when he saw the rider clearly. Her skin was dusky and immune to the harsh kiss of the desert sun, her long jet black hair framed an aristocratic face dominated by tilted yellow eyes. Slender and with small, high breasts, she was no longer a girl but still had not ripened fully into a woman. Her only garment was a piece of crimson silk twisted into a belt around her hips, which supported a curved dagger and several small pouches. Sandals and a wealth of gold jewelry completed her attire. Bracelets of gold on her wrists, arm bands of gold worn above the elbow, rings of gold set with rubies on her fingers, a gold collar covered in pearls around her slim neck, and thin hammered gold trim on her sandals richly adorned her. She stopped her weary camel only paces from where Sulim stood and rapped it with a long stick, causing it to kneel down so she could dismount.

Sulim frowned a moment, as he had heard rumours of war in the West, war brought by a mad woman called The Witch who had raised an army of demons and other fell creatures. What he saw before him was clearly too young for that, however. He felt desire rising in him, and his eyes took in her naked form with a full appraisal. She stood unconcerned while his gaze lingered on her bare breasts and the swell of her hip.

“Come little bird,” he sang, “come to me and if you please me I will share my water with you.”

She smiled shyly and looked away for a moment, then stepped closer to the tomb robber. Sulim quickly grabbed her by the arm and she let herself be pulled close. As he began to caress her flesh she brought up her hand and threw blue powder from a cloth packet into his face. He jerked back, blinded, as she bit his hand and slipped away from his grasp. He coughed, and lashed out with his fists but she danced away laughing. After a moment he slipped and fell, and then lay on the ground moving his arms and legs with feeble motions.

She came to stand over him and turned him onto his back with her foot.

“I am Hashenir, called by some the Witch, and I will take your water and your life. Know that I shall barter your soul to a prince of hell in exchange for a servant from the abyss.”

She drew her knife and knelt astride the drugged man, singing as she cut away his armour and began to carve his flesh.

In the morning she mounted her camel and rode out with several full water skins and a small red cat riding on the saddle next to her. Sulim’s flayed and dismembered body had been dropped into the well, any who followed her were not friends and she would deny them water if she could. She had slit the throat of his horse and scattered his owner’s plunder around the oasis, keeping only a bag of loose gems for herself. Consulting an aged map inked on fine leather, she set a course a few points north of east as she rode into the desert.


Alex Mars
08-31-2013, 01:51 PM
Part 3

Steep and barren mountains made a rampart along the eastern edge of the Murrian Desert that ran for two hundred miles in a curving arc, separating the sea of sand from the haunted forests and ruins of Astola. In these mountains, in a green and lush valley that is hidden from outsiders by a maze of canyons, is the city of Tilgosi. A lake sat like a sapphire set in the middle of the valley, fed by many underground springs. Sweet melons were grown in the valley as well as grain and legumes. The city was ruled by the harsh and cruel Prince Umarr and its people were little more than slaves. His rule was enforced by his Leopards, fierce mounted archers and lancers from his own tribe, and he allowed them great latitude in inflicting cruelty on the people of his domain.

His warriors raided the mountain tribes nearby and out into the desert to strike at caravans, returning with goods and slaves. Tribute was sent to Tilgosi as well, from those who wished to avoid fire and sword. Prince Umarr possessed great wealth and many precious objects brought from foreign lands. One such treasure was a golden throne found in a ruined city high in the mountains by the Princes grandfather more than 50 years earlier. Both the origin of the ruined city and the meaning of the runes and symbols carved on the throne remained unknown to any soul in the city throughout the intervening years down to the time of the Princes reign.

Prince Umarr had a seraglio of note, with women from many far lands who had been taken as slaves or given as tribute. His concubines lounged on pillows or divans, wearing only diaphanous silks to display both their beauty and their willingness to please him, but he tired quickly of them and his eunuchs always sought for new female slaves in hopes of tempting the Prince. When a raid brought in new captives the eunuchs were the first to see them when they came to Tilgosi. The warriors had orders to bring in women unspoiled so they could be judged for inclusion in the seraglio.

One night a patrol of Leopards rode in with a captive. They had taken her along a road outside their valley, riding alone on a worn out horse. She was plainly from the desert as she wore a veil and full black hooded robe over her dress, with a silver chain belted around her waist. Only her tilted yellow eyes could be seen, with the rest of her face and her hair covered for the sake of modesty. She was small and slender and offered no resistance to the men who brought her to an outlying building by the gardens of the Prince and presented her to Mushar, Second Procurer for the Seraglio. The fat eunuch was eating figs from a golden bowl when the captive was brought before him, and he rolled his eyes when he saw her covered from ankle to head in heavy black cloth.

“Fools,” he cried out, “how can Mushar judge her beauty if she is wrapped in a tent?”

The warriors looked at each other and their captive.

“Remove her clothes, you idiots!” screeched the eunuch.

Hashenir watched from behind her veil. She had stolen her clothes from a nearby village after deciding that it would be easier to let herself be captured and brought here rather than attempting to creep over the city wall during the dead of night. She knew that she would suffer some measure of humiliation and abuse, her captors would immediately begin the harsh lessons of slavery. She had been tempered in the harsh deserts and during her training as a sorceress, and was confident she could withstand this and accomplish her goal here.

One warrior grabbed her veil and ripped it from her face as the other took her robe in both hands and ripped it down the front, scattering the buttons and revealing a dress underneath. Hashenir knew that she had to play a convincing role here so she launched herself at one of the warriors, screeching and clawing for his face. He slapped her hard and knocked her to the floor, the other warrior stepping in to kick her in the stomach. Apparently subdued, she did not struggle as they stripped her, ripping her dress and shift off and even taking her ankle high desert boots. At the end she lay huddled on the floor, utterly naked, her hair covering her face as she cowered in a display of terror. The warriors laughed and hauled her to her feet by her arms and held her between them.

Mushar heaved his sweating bulk off his bench and waddled over to her, looking her over with a critical eye. He prodded her flesh with a finger, squeezed her breasts and groped her bottom with his greasy hands, then took her by the chin so he could study her face.

“Young, she is, and too skinny. Good teeth. Mushar shall put some curves on her, shall feed her well.”, the eunuch muttered to himself, “the Prince might like this little one, he might well at that.”

Hashenir hung her face and closed her eyes, hoping they would think her shamed and docile.

Suddenly the warriors dragged her over to a pillar that had light manacles bolted to it and fastened her wrists high above her head. The manacles, she noted, were padded with cloth so the metal would not bite into her wrists. One grabbed her hair and pulled her head back and the other took her by the jaw and forced her mouth open. The eunuch waddled closer, taking a vial from a pouch at his belt.

“Little one, this is your first lesson. We can hurt you”, Mushar giggled, “without leaving a mark on your pretty skin. I do so like to hear women scream.”, he said as he poured the contents of vial into her mouth.

The fluid tasted foul on Hashenir’s tongue, but they held her and made her swallow it. Almost immediately the lights seemed too bright and the eunuchs high-pitched voice seems loud and grating in her ears. They watched her, laughing, as the drug took effect and the light grew brighter and pain blossomed behind her eyes. Their laughter grew deafening, the noise crashing on her ears like tearing claws. Suddenly she screamed as she felt something ripping at the flesh of her arm. She looked down and saw the eunuch slowly drawing his finger down her arm as he leered at her.

“It feels like I am flaying you alive, doesn’t it? I will cause you much pain, little one, and you will learn to obey me, won’t you?”

In his hand he held a light scourge made of knotted silken cords, a toy for pleasure and not for real punishment, but with this drug in her Hashenir knew it would feel like hard leather cutting into her flesh. Mushar raised his hand and lashed her once, smiling as she screamed again.

“Sing for me, little one, sing.”

He began to whip her, and each blow felt like it was tearing her skin off and leaving raw flesh behind. She screamed and cried, trying to pull away but held by the manacles fastened to the pillar. The silken scourge fell on her again and again as she screamed louder, her eyes clenched shut and the pain becoming her entire world, her entire being. She writhed and pulled at the manacles, screaming and crying, hearing the tittering laughter of the eunuch, until she folded her consciousness into a far corner of her mind and let herself hang motionless by her wrists as darkness took her away.


Alex Mars
08-31-2013, 01:53 PM
Part 4

Hashenir awoke slowly, afraid of more pain. She lay alone on a couch, chained by one ankle. The windowless room was small and dark, with a plain rug on the stone floor. She lay for a long time, shaking. She was hardened by her harsh and cruel life, but the drug they had forced on her had taken her to her limits. The eunuch had ripped screams from her that had left her hoarse, her throat raw and painful. She kept rubbing her skin, expecting to feel scored and torn flesh, then shuddered suddenly and huddled on the couch for a time, curled into a ball. Her gaze locked on a spot on the wall and her breathing steadied and deepened as the minutes passed. Eventually she slept again, totally relaxed this time.

It was dark when she woke again, still chained to the couch. The links of the chain were thin and primarily to hold cowed and broken women, she noted. She pinched a link near the loop of chain around the leg of the couch and white flames burst from her fingers. After only a moment the link bent and twisted in her grasp and then melted, freeing her. She tucked the loose end of the chain under the couch and waited. After a while she heard footsteps coming toward the door of her room.

An old woman with a tray of food entered, pushing open the door with her ample hip. She noted that Hashenir was still huddled on the couch with the chain around her ankle and moved to set the tray down on a small table at the edge of the room.

“I’ll feed you in a moment, little pet, but first I need to find out if you are a virgin”, she said as she set the tray down, “don’t be afraid, pet, I won’t hurt…”

Her words were choked off as a loop of chain went around her throat and cut into the flesh of her neck. Hashenir put her knee into the old woman’s spine and pulled her backwards and off her feet. The metal chain cut deep into the flesh of her neck and blood trickled down as she gasped and choked, her face turning red and then purple. The old woman weakly clawed at the chain cutting into her neck, twitching and flailing. Hashenir jerked the chain harder, bending her head back sharply. She kept the chain tight, the links cutting into her own palms, as her victims struggles weakened and finally stopped. Panting for breath and shaking with excitement, Hashenir kicked the body out of her way and took a clay cup from the tray. Her hand was shaking so much that most of the water went on the floor and down her front but she managed a few swallows to ease her throat.

It had seemed like an eternity had passed while she strangled the old woman, but in reality it had taken little time and had not raised any alarm. She left the old woman and walked out of the room on silent, bare feet, cautiously peering around the corner to see who might be abroad in the night. The corridor was silent and empty and she slipped out and walked down to a window. Looking out, she saw that she was on the second floor, the inner gardens below her. She bit her hand savagely, opening a wound, and let a few drops of blood fall on the sill.

Hashenir waited, glancing up and down the corridor from time to time, for several minutes. A shadow glided to the window along a narrow ledge, resolving into her red cat, carrying a cloth bundle in it’s teeth, a bundle that looked too large for it to manage but yet was managed with ease. She took the bundle and unrolled it to find her belt, dagger, and pouches wrapped in a black silk robe while her cat lapped up the drops of blood greedily. The silk cloak she wrapped around her naked body before stealing into the shadowed corridor and out of sight.

Two guards walked by some minutes later, noticing nothing out of the ordinary.


Alex Mars
08-31-2013, 01:55 PM
Part 5

Prince Umarr sat in his private chambers, ignoring a dancing girl twirling in bright silks, his goblet empty and his expression dark. He was a handsome man with a cruel look to him, his hair oiled and bound into a long braid, his white teeth flashing from his dark skinned face as he grimaced with frustration. Two veiled guards stood by the door, their large iron maces held in both hands at the ready. Several nobles of the city also attended him.

Aknaris, a general of the armies of Tilgosi, knelt before his lieges couch, forehead pressed to the floor in a full obeisance, trembling with terror. The Prince was not a patient or forgiving man, and his wrath did not need much of a cause to lash out at underlings. Those who brought bad news were particularly at risk of imprisonment or even death.

“Did I hear you correctly? You did not raze Uldarisk to the ground when they refused to provide the tribute they owe me?”

With no attempt to preserve his dignity, Aknaris spoke in a shaking voice, “My Prince, the walls of Uldarisk are strong, we had no siege engines, I will return there immediately with the forces needed to reduce the city to a burning husk.”

“Are my Leopards not fierce? You could not lead them over the walls?”

“We had no ladders, my Prince.”

The Price gazed at the groveling general for a long time, stretching out the moment, before he barked out a laugh.

“Very good, my general, you have shown wisdom in this, I would not have been pleased if you had wasted the lives of my warriors.”

Aknaris looked up from the floor in confusion, then obvious relief flooded his face.

“Th..thank you My Prince, your praise is like sweet water in the desert, my Prince.”, he stammered out.

“However, now you will take a proper army to Uldarisk and pull the city down, impale its king, and bring me a wealth of slaves and gold. Do not fail me, my general,” , said the Prince with a malicious smile, “or I will have you flayed and blinded.”

“No, my Prince, I shall crush them!”

“Then rise and stand like a man.”

Aknaris scrambled to his feet quickly and bowed.

“I will begin preparations tonight, my Prince, if you give me leave to withdraw.”

Umarr waved his hand negligently and smiled as he held out his goblet for a slave to refill as Aknaris walked swiftly to from the room while shouting for his second in command, obvious relief on his face.

“I could smell the terror on that one, I do hope he manages to take that city or I will have to hear him beg for his life”.

Several courtiers laughed dutifully at this quip, each glad he had not been the focus of the Prices ire that night. They all knew of the bloodstains under the carpets. All had to watch when one of his vassals displeased him and was flayed alive for his amusement.

The Princes eyes went to his dancing girl, staring at her pale skin showing through the sheer tunic, and smiled. He was about to speak of how she was to satisfy his desires that night when an officer of the Leopards entered, concern showing plainly on his sharp face.

“What is it Esko?” said Umarr, looking away from the woman.

“My Prince, I have raised the alarm in the palace, a new slave girl has killed a servant and escaped. I have started a search of the palace.”

“Is there some reason I need to know about an escaped slave?”

“Somehow her chains…some links were melted, my prince.”

Umarr leapt to his feet, casting his goblet aside and taking up his scimitar as he went to the door.

“Show me where this happened, now.”

His guards moved to follow as he left the room. They went quickly down the corridor, almost at a run, while the courtiers remained behind, sagging with relief that they were no longer under royal scrutiny.

The Prince led his men through hallways patrolled by pairs of Leopards until they came to a doorway flanked by guards. He motioned his followers to keep back and entered the room, sword out and ready. His keen eyes swept the room, taking in the sight of the old woman, dead, her face purple and her tongue swollen and bit, hanging out of her mouth. He knelt by her and touched the bloody chain still buried in the flesh of her neck, then pulled the trailing ends into his hands, gazing at the melted links he found. He hissed and threw down the chain with distaste.



Alex Mars
08-31-2013, 01:56 PM
Part 6

While the guards were searching the lower levels and palace grounds for her, Hashenir was skulking up several flights of stairs, wrapped in black silk and almost invisible in the deep shadows. Finally the stairs ended in an open door way. She stepped out into a hallway and silently crept down its length, looking for a room with a window. A sleepy guard at the far end of the corridor walked away from her, unconcerned and inattentive. She ghosted along behind him until turning into a room as he walked on, unaware. A small balcony offered a view from high up in the citadel.

Hashenir had bribed a servant to learn the plan of these upper floors. The treasures of Tilgosi were stored on the top floor, the door to the stairs up to it were on this floor but 10 guards were on sentry there at all times and the doors were iron with a strong lock. She opted for a different path and swung out the window, her bare fingers and toes holding onto the ornately carved stonework, and began to climb. The moon was bright but she was far up the side of the great tower and no guards were looking that high up. The gritty stone was old and she climbed slowly and carefully, testing each grip or step before putting her slight weight on it. Sweat ran down her face and flanks as she pulled herself up again and again, never looking at the top, only concentrating on the wall in front of her.

Suddenly something struck the side of her head as her ears were filled with a shriek of anger, she desperately clutched at the stone with fingers and toes and gasped in terror as she heard the snap of wings close to her face. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a nest tucked into some ornamental stonework. The outraged mother rook landed near her hand and stalked forward as it screamed again. The wind was mild that night, but high up on the side of the tower Hashenir felt as if fingers were plucking at her to pull her off and cast her down to the courtyard far below. Her hand shook as she forced them to move, inching sideways away from the nest and angered bird, sobbing for air, her muscles aching now. She pressed her body tight against the stone and reached up again, not looking up as she caught a grip and began to pull herself up again.

At some point she found the top and pulled herself over the crumbling parapet to huddle on the roof, shaking with fear and exhaustion, her hands and feet cramped and useless, sweat chilling her in the open air. Nearby the red cat groomed itself indifferently.

The citadel had been roused, torches and bonfires were lit to drive back the night, and a search was on. The prince stalked the hallways, Mushar the eunuch in his wake.

“Where did you find her?”

“Your patrols found her, my prince,” blubbered the fat eunuch, “they caught her riding near the city and brought her to me.”

The prince spun and struck Mushar in the face, knocking him to the floor.

“You fool, a woman riding alone near Tilgasi? She wanted to be captured!”

The Prince began to kick the eunuch in the stomach as he yelled, “she is a sorceress, you idiot, and she came here for a reason!”

The Prince stopped and stood for a moment while Mushars cries and gasps fill the room, the soldiers watching silently as he looked around as if he could see through the stone walls and into the rest of the citadel. Suddenly he looked up.

“She is upstairs, trying to get into the treasure room,” he yelled, “kill that fat slug and follow me!”

With that the Prince ran off, followed by all but two of his guards, those two pausing to ram their spears through the eunuchs chest a few times before sprinting to catch up. The body lay in a spreading pool of blood, alone in the corridor except for a small red cat that paused to lick up some of the blood before following the guards.

Hashenir was sprawled on the roof tiles recovering her strength when her red cat mewed at her and stalked back and forth anxiously. She nodded wearily and sighed. There was a heavy wooden hatch cover nearby, she crawled to it and took a clay jar the size of an egg from her pouch. Holding it to her lips she exhaled slowly on it as it warmed in her hand, muttered a cryptic phrase in an unclean tongue, and smashed the jar on the hatch.

A crawling, writhing mass of termites spread from the broken jar, and where they touched the wood began to smoke. A red glow surrounded the insects as they began to devour the cover, burning the wood as they consumed it. She watched the hole widen and burn through and fanned the smoke away from her face until, with a crash, the burning hatch fell through the hole to the floor below. It took only a moment for her to slip through, hang from the edge, and drop to the carpet. The burning debris had set a fire and Hashenir paused for a moment, staring at it intently and singing softly. After a moment the smoke curled and thickened into a serpent as it rose to the ceiling of the wide chamber. She watched it for a moment with calculating eyes until sure it would continue to serve her will without further supervision, then finally turned to look around. The room was unlit but her gaze pierced the darkness as if it were day, letting her take in the clutter of loot and treasure that had accumulated up here over several generations.

Marble statues jostled with entire gilded chariots, folding screens made of fine wood and inlaid with pearl and precious metals held up stacks of rolled tapestries or rugs, and boxes held silver goblets and plates carelessly jumbled together. Enameled and inlaid suits of armour peered from behind bales of exotic silks and brocades. Barrels held uncounted numbers of swords with pattern welded blades and jeweled hilts. Rot, rats, and dust had taken much of contents of the room, except for what had been recently captured in war or raids.

Stalking through the piles of loot searching the room from corner to corner, knocking over piles and sifting through the litter, she was quickly covered in dust and filthy; sweat running down her bare skin leaving stark streaks in the grime. Suddenly she stopped and closed her eyes, one hand extended and her fingers moving as if she was feeling fabric. Her eyes opened and her gaze sought out a huge mound of rugs and bales of silk. She put her shoulder to the rugs and pushed, grunting with the effort, until they slid over and revealed the upright back of some sort of large gilded chair engraved with archaic runes. Her fingers traced the runes and she smiled broadly, her white teeth bright against her dirty face. At that moment she looked very young.

The Prince led his guards up the stairs at a run. Towards the rear of the line a red cat streaked out of a doorway between the feet of one man, tripping him into the two men behind him and sending the lot tumbling down the stairs with injuries for each of them. The guard who found himself at the new end of the line looked back for a second, shrugged, and hurried up the stairs.

In a guardroom by a door out of the palace some guards and servants were dicing when a red cat jumped on the table and knocked a lantern off and to the floor, breaking it. The oil ran across the floor and ignited, engulfing the room in flames unnaturally quickly. Despite efforts to contain it the fire spread. Odd things continued to happen in the palace, random misfortune that seemed to follow the sudden appearance of one of many red cats.

Shouts and screams filled the palace, even echoing up the stairways. The scent of smoke was just beginning to waft upwards as well. When the Prince and his diminished escort reached the top of the stairs and the landing leading to the door to his treasure chambers he found the guards there alert and swords in hand.

“All is secure here, my Prince, are we attacked?” asked one of the guards.

Umarr looked at his guards and the closed door and nodded, “we are attacked by something, to be sure.”

“Your orders, Sire?”

He pointed to two guards, “you two stay with me, the others go back down and see what is amiss, do what is needful.”

With that the Prince drew out a key on a chain about his neck and approached the door so he could fit it in the lock. Her turned it a full turn left, then pressed it deeper and turned it back a half turn. He kept his body blocking the view of his guards and they did not know that the second turn disarmed a deadly trap. If they ever learned of this he would have them slain.


Alex Mars
08-31-2013, 01:57 PM
He swung the great door open and peered inside while his men lit some torches and held them high. Bizarre shadows cast by the dancing flames leapt across the dark room, the flickering light revealing strangely shaped mounds and then hiding them again in an instant. Suits of armour on stands took on the aspect of lurking attackers moving in the darkness. The Prince cursed and his men sprang to the side to light waiting torches on the walls of the treasure room, enlarging the pool of light by the door but spreading more dancing shadows into the chamber.

From behind the Prince and his two guards came a heavy, throaty cough, followed by a deep rumbling growl. The Prince and his men knew that growl and their eyes widened. They had hunted lions on the plains and knew the sound made by the king of cats. Slowly, almost reluctantly they turned, gripping their swords with shaking hands, until they could look back.

Beyond the doors of the treasure chambers sat a small red cat, licking its paw and purring loudly. The men stared at the cat, not moving, not making a sound, for a long moment. The tableau was broken with the sound of one of the guards grunting and falling face first to the floor, a crossbow bolt sticking out of his back.

Umarr spun and lunged deeper into the chamber, throwing himself behind what turned out to be a chest of pearls his men had taken in tribute some years earlier. The remaining guard hesitated for a moment and before he could move the doors slammed shut with no mans hand moving them and the lock turned. He stood there, staring at the closed door, until he heard a heavy growl behind him. He quickly turned, sword raised, but this time a large lion stood before him, and he would swear that it was smiling.

Hashenir threw the crossbow up and over a pile of tapestries so it knocked over a rack of spears with engraved silver heads, it had taken her several minutes straining to cock the bow and Umarr would not give her the time to prepare for a second shot. She kept to the shadows as she moved deeper back into the large chamber.

“Who are you, sorceress?” the Prince yelled, “Show yourself!”

He was surprised when her heard her reply, her voice sounded young and almost girlish.

“I am the Witch, Prince of Tilgasi.”

“You lie, the Witch is ancient and withered.”

“Is she, my Prince, am I? Know you any who have actually seen her?”

Prince Umarr was a seasoned warrior and hunter; he crept silently through the maze of treasures as he followed her voice. He heard her moving, heard the scrape of metal on metal and the clatter of a cup knocked to the floor. He gripped his sword and offered up a vow to the gods that he would give her to 100 of his men to serve their pleasures before he had her flayed alive for his own amusement.

“No one who sees her lives to tell of it, but the tales of the Witch were told before I was a boy, pretender.”

He moved like a ghost, threading his way through several large crates as he stalked his prey. Her answering chuckle annoyed him.

“What have you come to steal, girl? What was worth throwing away your life?”

She laughed again.

“What is ever worth the risk of ones life, Prince? Power, power over the world. You have no idea what is up here, do you? I could spend weeks up here ferreting out some of the true items of value hidden in this trash dump of yours.”

He caught a whiff of rank sweat and stirred up dust and turned to his right to follow the scent down an aisle of chests and bags to where he saw a faint flickering glow, a bit of inconsistent light peeking around the edge of some obstacle ahead in the darkness. Creeping silently like a shadow he moved closer and peered around to see the girl standing by a large throne and looking around nervously. He shook his head as he studied her, she was nothing more than a filthy naked child; she could not be the Witch. Child or no, though, she would still die screaming for causing him all this trouble.

Umarr sprang up and leapt at the girl as she dodged behind the throne, he jumped to the side to cut her off when he felt something moving behind him and smelled foul, corrupt breath blow over him. Spinning around with his scimitar raised he was confronted by a huge black snake reaching for him, he leapt back as his blade slashed through it, scattering wisps of smoke as the snake faded away. He fell heavily into the seat of the throne as Hashenir leaned in from the side and slashed his arm with her dagger so that his blood ran onto the gilded surface. As he tried to surge up from the seat she scrambled over the arm of the throne into his lap, curved blade slashing at him. He dropped his sword and grabbed her wrists, grinning as he squeezed cruelly and pulled her to him.

“I am going to…” Umarr began, just as there was a mechanical click from the throne. His eyes opened wide and his hands loosened on her wrists.

Hashenir settled into his lap and stroked his face with dirty fingers, leaving smears on his cheek as a thin whine escaped his throat.

“Your grandfather never knew what he had found when he took this throne as booty from a raid, my Prince, “ she giggled and nuzzled his neck before biting down hard enough to draw blood.

“It hid a secret, one I have sought for some time and one I shall wield and inflict upon the world. But to open the hidden place required a sacrifice, a blood price,” she said as her red cat jumped onto the throne and into her arms. They each took turns licking at the blood flowing from Umarrs neck while his wide eyes stared and whimpering cries came from his mouth.

Hashenir reached down to the side of the throne where a compartment had opened and withdrew an orb of red crystal that pulsed with an internal, inconstant glow. She smiled, the red glow reflected in her eyes, a smile that promised upheaval and war and pain. Then she slipped off the Princes lap and left him to the appetites of the Throne, her red cat pacing behind her, and went to the great doors of the chamber. Raising the orb she screamed, and the iron doors were torn from their hinges and shattered. More guards had come up and were rewarded by being ripped apart by flying shards of metal. The Witch went down into the palace and the terror began.


Steep and barren mountains made a rampart along the eastern edge of the Murrian Desert that ran for two hundred miles in a curving arc, separating the sea of sand from the haunted forests and ruins of Astola. In these mountains, in a valley that is hidden from outsiders by a maze of canyons, are the ruins of the city of Tilgosi. A lake sat like a sapphire set in the middle of the valley, fed by many underground springs. The land was once fertile but was now burned and barren. No one knows what happened here, but in one night a proud city and the farms that surrounded it were destroyed and all the people slain. No one mourned the end of the cruel Prince Umarr.

In time people came to plunder the fabled treasures of Tilgasi but when they climbed to the top of the tower the great treasure chamber was empty, except for one thing. In the middle stood a golden throne with a shrunken and mummified body held fast by hooks that seemed to grow from the seat and that had pierced it deep. The runes carved into the throne made it clear this was a cursed thing, and so it was left there until the tower collapsed in an earthquake many years later.