Аннотация: Авторский перевод первой книги серии о Касте и Леодане
LEODAN, THE SON OF LION
Gods can do everything. They create and destroy the worlds, their power is infinite and undivided. But so happens only if people remember gods and esteem them. If gods are forgotten by mortals, they should come back to the Earth and conduct life not so divine as before. And what is absolutely bad - the ancient enemy of the Forgotten gods is going to conquer the world of people, and demon hordes are just about to destroy all that was once created by these gods. What can the former inhabitants of heaven deprived of their power oppose to the supernatural enemy? Only two young people whose fate was connected by an ancient prophecy. A brave and cruel Casta, the female gladiator, and the coddled slave Leodan who grew in bondage and never held weapon in his hands. All that the Forgotten gods can make - to connect them together, to give them ancient magic Relics, and after that to expect the result of the coming great fight which will decide not only destiny of the world, but also the fate of gods themselves.
To my friends, Yulia and Valery who once again proved
the simple truth that old friends are the best friends.
Contempt thee of another do not brand,
And for a start the Truism understand:
We can`t the plan of Playwright comprehend-
The play by Demiurge a secret system had,
And each of chosen actors young or old
On stage of Life by His desire will be called.
Not later that will happen, not before,
And do not judge the actors anymore!
The poor jester at the beginning of representation
At the end - the wise man without exaggeration,
The hero in the end can be discredited at all,
And bachelor will be married pretty girl,
And one who seemed to be pathetic dog,
Appears as a mighty lion in the epilogue
Peyre de Montier "The Lais about arrogance"
That was well familiar feeling - in three years of performances she felt it dozens of times, passing along dark corridor which circus fighters called the Way of Fateful. To pass it with a slow step, gait of the soldier preparing for fight took the couple of minutes - enough time to indulge in memoirs and to experience what great value life is and as she unreasonably arrives, putting it at deadly risk. Especially now, when she wasn`t the slave any more, not the circus meat intended for a bloody show. But the Way of Fateful took her, eventually, to Fate Gate - huge oak gate behind which there were a bright daylight and the arena. The place which attracted men of courage which gave birth to them and drank their blood. Behind gate the victory and glory - or death waited. Many passed here, and many will pass this way after her. But so far the heroine of day she is - Casta the Warrior, Casta the Amazon, the best fighter of the big Darnat arena. Today she will prove once again that she is worthy her glory.
Her opponent is already there, in the arena. And the audience is waiting for her coming. Old Derak, her lanist, told the circus was overcrowded that day. It means that the fight will be seen by more than seventy thousand spectacles. Seventy thousand couples of eyes will watch without blinking each wave of weapon, each movement of fighters, expecting the bloody final of a duel. Seventy thousand citizens of the blessed by gods Darnat city will stake who will win this fight, and someone will leave today from circus as the rich man, and someone will lose everything, having put to defeated. Because only one fighter today will leave the arena alive. Such is a duel condition which was set by Shabak, the secretary of honorable Abnun, the owner of Big Circus. Such is a condition of each duel in honor of Darnat's gods.
Casta reached the end of a corridor, became straight, rose in front of gate, waiting when the gatekeepers dressed up as demons of death opened them. She did not see the arena yet, but could hear a roar of many thousands people crowded in the stands of circus, and was quiet. In three years of the career of the circus fighter Casta participated in hundred thirty five fights, and always gods of her fathers were favorable to her - only twice she got serious life-threatening wounds. She battled in pair and group fights: light and fast lance bearers-retiarii and heavy-armoured swordmen, warriors with axes and daggers, riders and chariot drivers, humans, animals and the spiteful monsters brought to Darnat from far lands by brave hunters were her opponents. She killed all of them. However today she is meeting the unusual opponent. Never before in the arena of Big Circus a human child and an orc met in a hand-to-hand fight.
Heavy drums reeled up powerful iron chains on themselves with a hysterical scratch, shutters began to open, and the bright sunlight struck to the Casta`s face especially desired after darkness of cubiculum and corridor which she went to the arena. And then she saw the arena - virgin and clean, snow-white because of the purest sea sand covering it. She stepped forward, moved to the center of the arena with elastic light step, and the wave of enthusiastic cries and applause covered her. Casta adored these seconds - for the sake of them it was worth risking life. She saw eyes of the audience; thousands of men looked at her with desire, thousands of women - with envy. For a long time she had been a heroine for these people, the embodiment of force and courage, and remained it until this time. They compose verses about her beauty, courage and cruelty, and the most high-ranking men of the kingdom covet her love. She is met by these people as, perhaps, the Shofet the Shadow of gods on Earth, the governor of this realm is met on Darnat's streets. And only then, having torn off a look from the crowded stands, Casta saw the enemy in the center of the arena.
The orc was huge. He was one elbow higher than the girl and twice wider in shoulders. The breast of orc which densely grew with black hair impressed with iron muscles, curve legs reminded oak boughs, the rigid mane stuck out. When Casta stepped to the opponent, orc eyes blazed of a scarlet flame, and the upper lip spread up in a contempt smile, having opened sharp yellow canines. The orc was armed with a big oval shield and the labra, heavy two-edged battle axe on a handle one and a half yard long which, however, looked as a toy in his mighty hands.
- "Ha, woman!" - Orc hoarsely shouted. - "Tulkan to wait when the woman to go to fight with him. Tulkan to respect the woman. Tulkan quickly to kill the woman. He to show the head of the woman the children on holidays! Beautiful head, Tulkan to store it long."
Casta answered nothing. There is no sense to talk to this monster. It is strange, however, that this creature is able to speak. She thought with satisfaction that she had picked up the correct weapon for that duel. Derak suggested to choose a long spear, but Casta decided to take weapon which was tested on humans and on animals. Once she had thought up how to turn a usual steel infantry sword into cruel weapon of murder; having left one of edges as what it was, Casta, by means of the circus blacksmith, turned the second edge into the sharpest saw which blow inevitably caused severe bleeding and shock. The jagged blade which was christened as the Fleecer (Casta used to name it Caress of Shante), immediately became fashionable among fighters, having made battles in circus even more bloody and cruel, but she was the first! And this orc will feel now on his own skin what it means - to miss even accidental blow of the Fleecer. There is almost no armor on the orc, only a wide leather skirt protecting a bottom of a stomach and hips. Several cutting blows by the Fleecer up to orc`s hands and legs, and the issue of the combat will be turned.
Casta raised eyes to a tribune where The Shofet usually sat, but saw with surprise that the governor did not deign to visit circus today. It was unexpected, divine Shofet never missed a fight with her participation. The place of the governor was taken by his young wife, charming Kuati, the daughter of the Sais tsar Zurappa and the most beautiful woman of Darnat dressed in purple and a fine linen, sparkling with jewelry of the great price. It seemed to Casta that in emerald eyes of the beauty she saw something bigger, than just interest in her. The wife of the governor looked at her with admiration. But why is Kuati alone? However it is strange that the governor misses such unusual fight. Divine Ras Navan, Lord of Darnat - the great fan of military entertainments, everybody knows it. Perhaps, the governor got sick? Or such indifference to a duel - a disturbing signal for Casta, the sign of monarchical disgrace?
- "The woman to be afraid! - Orc bellowed, bringing Casta out of thoughts. - Then Tulkan to attack the first!"
Told - and jumped under an amicable roar of stands. The heavy sharply ground labra sparkled in air, and Casta only during the last moment managed to substitute her shield. Even the sliding blow of a labra forced her to sway. But she quickly recovered. In a fast pirouette jumped aside to the right and cut with a sword on a hand with a pole-axe, but did not calculate distance. The orc pulled in the shaggy head in shoulders, began to roar and struck new blow. This time Casta left from blow without effort, coquettishly smiled to orc - she knew well that such smile enrages her opponents.
- "Well, come on, freak why are you standing still? - she shouted. - Or already shot up?"
Orc tried to get the girl with side secants blows, but the labra only touched edge of a shield, and Casta grinned. If gods do not let her miss accidental blow, this duel is after her. The orc is too sluggish, clumsy and rectilinear and a pole-axe isn`t a weapon convenient to fight against the sword-bearer. And now she will tickle him ...
Tulkan solved the attack of the opponent and skillfully left sideways - the jagged blade with an opposite gnash scratched on the shield of orc. Then they turned some time on the arena, drilling each other with furious views. The circus became silent - all, with bated breath, waited for the new attack, sought to not pass the moment when the first blood is finally shed.
Casta continued to smile. After the orc tried to get his wide side blow labra again, she sent him an air-kiss, having caused snickers in the stands. The orc attacked again. The girl easily evaded from blow, ran by Tulkan on tiptoe and got up, having exposed shield before herself and having taken away a hand with the Fleecer back, kind of inviting orc to attack.
- "Do you want to have me? - she shouted. - Try, handsome. I will love you to death."
In the stands laughed loudly. Tulkan showed canines and suddenly jumped forward. This time he did not cut, and just struck with a poke, having got to the middle of shield. Rejected Casta back as if she were hit with a ram. The orc roared, repeated the attack, having strengthened blow in the girl's shield with a furious jump. Stands roared - the best fighter of Darnat, the invincible amazon Casta, fell backwards. Stands heard her shrill shout. But the orc made what nobody expected. Having lifted a pole-axe, Tulkan departed on a step and croaked:
- "To rise, woman! Tulkan not to hit a fighter when he is down!"
Casta, spitting out the sand which jammed into a mouth, rose to the feet. Thousands of eyes bewildered looked at her, and she looked at orc. Tulkan quietly stood, having put a labra on shoulder, and waited when the girl would recover. And Casta met his look. A strange look - in the eyes of orc there was neither rage, nor blood lust. He looked at Casta with interest as if he tried to consider her better.
- "Ha! - he shouted. - To rise, fight! You beautiful woman, and Tulkan want to kill you beautifully".
And he is vain, Casta thought in confusion. Also he is noble, may the dust take him - circus is not that place at all where it is necessary to follow the code of the soldier, but this orc seems to conform to the rules of honest fight even here. However it is impossible to miss such blows more. After blow by a pole-axe the left hand grew dumb, the shield was strongly bent, but fortunately she did not get wounds. It seemed to Casta that there was a triumphing grin on the ugly face of orc. Seemed this freak to decide that she is only a weak maid who can be slammed as an annoying fly. It is a high time to remove this grin from his physiognomy!
Casta rushed ahead. She always had a good reaction, it saved her in a duels with animals and monsters. How the Fleecer unstitched a skin of orc, Kasta did not see, and felt all over her body. She jumped aside back, being closed by the rumpled shield, and with evil pleasure saw that the face of orc was distorted by pain, and sand under his legs was besmatched by dark blood in the eyes. The jagged Fleecer's edge after all found a vein on Tulkan's hip.
- "No, that I am who will kill you beautifully, - she mischievously said."
Tulkan came round, went forward. Casta noticed at once that her opponent considerably drops to a wounded leg. The orc began to strike powerful wide blows with a pole-axe, heky as if the butcher does, but all of them did not hit the mark - Casta turned aside from them with the grace which caused a roar of delight and a thunder of applauses in the stands. Then, having improved the moment, the girl herself attacked, and again the Fleecer hit the mark. This time the blow had sideways, having broken off skin and muscles.
Stands could not stop admiration shouts. Now very few people doubted that a victory will be for the human. Sand of the arena was covered by all new and new crimson spots, and together with blood the orc lost forces and hope. Even so hardy and strong being will not be able to battle long against such bleeding. Truly, gods love Casta the Savage! Again she won. Here she went again forward, restricts an orc, strikes blow after blow. Hey, look, she for the third time wounded this freak! Heil to Casta! Heil to the Invincible!
- "Finish him off! - rushed from stands. - Finish!"
The orc hardly beat off the masterly attacks of Casta. There were some more avulsive bleeding wounds on his hands and legs, the face became absolutely gray, breath - faltering. Casta did not hurry; her victory won`t get to anywhere, it is better to be kept and not to be substituted inadvertently under blow of a terrible labra one direct shot of which is enough to leave the wet place from her. The orc is wounded, bleeds profusely, but his eyes still burn with fighting fire, and he has still got enough forces.
-"The woman to play for time. The woman to be sorry, - the orc suddenly croaked. - It is time to finish. Tulkan is ready to die."
Casta understood. Tulkan recognized defeat, and everything what he wants is to die quickly and adequately. Having nodded orc, she immediately jumped forward and brought down the opponent from legs with the blow of a shield. The roar of seventy thousand crowds deafened her.
- "Kill! Kill the orc! - voices shouted from all directions. - Finish off this scum! Casta! Casta!"
Tulkan lay without the movement and panted. The bloody pool spread under him more and more, but Casta suddenly understood that orc did not receive any vital wound in a fight. Blood from his wounds was dark and flowed slowly, though is plentiful - the Fleecer did not cut any artery. Tulkan was lucky. With such wounds they survive. Though about what luck the speech is if the brave orc is left to live only several moments?
- "Kill! - rattled in the girl's ears. - Finish off the beast!"
Suddenly Casta remembered the wife of the Shofet, the beauty Kuati. Interesting, does she demand the death of this orc too or not? She raised eyes up - Kuati continued to sit on a carved small bench and looked at them. In her huge clear eyes there was a disgust, and even the layer of powder could not hide the pallor which covered her face. Fight did not give her pleasures, abundance of blood shed on arene frightened the beauty, and the forthcoming final of a fight caused in her only fear and loathing.
Casta looked away from a tribune of the Shofet and brought a sword. Tulkan nodded her and threw back the head to open a throat.
- "The woman to win, - he told wearily. - To kill quickly".
- "No! - Casta thought only after a while that it was told by her. - Do you want his death? Never, I swear by Gavan! I am a fighter, but not the butcher. If you want, let go here and finish the wounded. He battled honestly and bravely. I do not want to kill him!"
Shouts ceased, and the silence hung over huge circus. Never before the fighter went counter to will of public. Moreover, mercy was granted not to the human - to a furious monster, an ugly creature. But Casta looked not at these people expecting a show of death and disappointed with an unclear and unexpected outcome. She translated again a view of the queen Kuati as if only her decision could save or ruin a wounded orc now.
Kuati slowly rose from a small bench. Her eyes were cold and empty. But before leaving tribune, the queen of Darnat removed a ring from a finger and threw on the arena, to Casta`s feet. The audience met this regal gesture by the triumphing roar.
- "To think long, - the orc told, and surprise flashed in his yellow eyes. - To kill!"
-" No, - Casta lifted the ring which sparkled a scarlet spark from sand and bowed in that party where the spouse of the Shofet and her suite left under a thunder of an applause. - Let someone else will have the guts for garters to you. I do not want."
- "You went balmy! - old Derak told her when she left Gate of Winners and could get drunk and wipe sweat from face at last. - Why did not you kill this creature? Organizers of games are scary dissatisfied. You will regret of your decision!"
- "Do you threaten me, the old man? "-Casta asked quietly, having scooped a new portion of water from a bucket.
- "Ah, daughter, why you don`t want to follow a wise advice! The orc had been specially brought to circus to kill him how you do not understand? Everybody wanted to see how brave Casta would finish off a monster. It was only the orc. Stupid cruel creature. They say, they eat human flesh. And you disappointed their hopes. Now the public will turn away from you. Your glory grew dim, daughter. Because of silly compassions unclear to me".
- "Silly? - Casta closed the eyes partly. - And you saw how at the beginning of fight when I lost balance and fell, this monster allowed me to get on feet? None of those dogs which I had fought on this arena did behave as nobly as this orc! By the way, let doctors hurry up to cure him. If he does not bleed profusely, then will recover and break many human heads in the arena for joy to this blood-thirsty cattle."
Old lanist did not answer the girl and left, grievously shaking the head. However Casta did not think of him any more - the assistant to the manager of the games Shabak, the young-looking person in a good silk tunic and with a gold necklace on the neck approached her.
-" You become limp, the heroine, - told Shabak with a contemptuous smile. - Earlier you killed without deliberating."
- "Earlier I was silly, now grew wiser. Have you brought my money?"
- "Here it is," - Shabak gave a sack with gold to the girl. Casta glanced in it.
- "Here are only ten sakkars. - she told, having hard look at Shabak. - We agreed on twenty five".
-" When noble Abnun signed the agreement with you,Seltonian, he expected to see Casta the Warrior, Casta the Murderer in the arena. But you have deserved the Casta-Crybaby nickname today."
- "Do you think, I will rush to beat your cute ugly face now, Shabak? -the girl told quietly though everything boiled in her soul. - Kind of not so, swine! I know that the law protects such small crud as you and your owner. But wait a moment, day will come, and you will come crawling to me, and will beg to act on this three times damned arena! For now go away from here, else I can forget about laws."
-" Silly whore! - Shabak smiled, but there was a fear in his eyes. - Beware, kind of your mad speeches may be transfer upward, to the House of the Sun."
-" Today the Sun from the House of the Sun was on representation, and in her eyes I read a request to be merciful, - Casta answered, - though a bunch of jackals similar to you demanded blood of this poor creature. I know what gods to pray. Fifteen sakkars remain as your debt, Shabak, and as a debt of fat belly toad by the name of Abnun. Once I will come to demand them back."
- "You will come ah! - Shabak made the averting gesture towards Casta. - Rather a sky will fall to the ground, or you will kiss your barbaric arse. The road to circus is closed for you now, a pathetic Seltonian. Forever. "
It is a lot of cities on the Universe tray, and immortal gods love each of them, but there is no city more rich and more perfect, than the Capital of Seven Seas, the Sacred city of Ygerabal, nice Darnat!
Young Shofet Ras Navan, the Keeper of the Sun, looked from a balcony of the palace at the huge bay of Darnat, and his heart was filled by pride. Which another city of the world has such port? High-speed trirema and enormous five-deck trade heptareses from the Gold Mountain seemed as the toys clamped in Ygerabal's Palm - so the Darnatians called the bay. All these vessels are within his power. And also all this city where temples, palaces and gardens are so awesome, that even crude barbarians fade with delight, getting on Darnat's streets. To services of the Shofet are fifty-thousand army from mercenaries and the huge fleet in one thousand ships, ready to break any enemy. There is nothing impossible for the Shofet. One word - and Darnat merchants will throw to his legs the infinite treasures which are saved up by many generations. One hint - and secret murderers will save him from the enemy even if they should go for his head at the end of the earth. One expressed desire - and court magicians will manage to awaken the secret and non-called forces to execute will of the Shofet. Truly, only the electee by the Highest forces can possess such great power in incomplete twenty years! However why is his heart broken and why sad thoughts often come to him? Why all gods are with him , and only one whimsical goddess bypasses him with her favor?
One and only goddess. The fine Kua granting love to the mortals.
-" Lukkar!" - quietly called Shofet.
One of two magnificently dressed up court, entered rest several moments ago and indecisively stiffened behind the back of the governor, shuddered, crept with small hasty short steps to Shofet, fell to his feet.
- "Did you deliver my gifts?" - asked Shofet.
- "Yes, the Shine of Shur!"
- "Did Shemmer-Ta-Nat accept them?"
- "She did not meet me, the Shine of Shur. I gave your presents to the housekeeper of Uzmay, and he swore that incomparable Shemmer-Ta-Nat would estimate their wealth and beauty that day."
- "Did you tell her about my invitation?"
- "Of course, the Shine of Shur. The housekeeper assured me that everything would be transfered to madam."
- "Well, Lukkar, I am happy with you". - Shofet gave a hand for a kiss, and Lukkar nestled lips to it right there.
- "Do you want to tell something, Gavaor? " - asked Shofet the second court, without turning around.
- "My lord, your uncle, the Supreme priest of Shat-Tsebu has arrived. He told that the master had appointed to him an audience to midday."
- "Truly, I absolutely forgot about it ... Invite him, Gavaor. And both of you may go."
Court, bowing and pressed down a marble floor by the very broad sleeves, slipped out rest. Shofet put a view on the bay. Water in the light of the sun seemed to be transparent-green, and only over the deep places became blue. His wife Kuati has green eyes. And Shemmer has blue ones. And for some reason recently he began to give preference to blue colour...
The visit of the Supreme priest Ras Navan apprehended with enthusiasm. Lord Ashran was only man at the court, except for Lukkar and Gavaor who knew about Shofet`s secret passion. To Shofet`s surprise Ashran regarded a confession of the young governor with favor. And, maybe, today Ras Navan will hear a practical advice from the head of priestly board of Shat-Tsebu. The loving uncle always has a good idea for the beloved nephew.
The priest who was magnificently dressed and smelling sweet as expensive aromas entered slow and important gait - his power is almost equal in Darnat to the power of the Shofet so it is not necessary to burden the meeting of relatives with unnecessary ceremonies. Having exchanged kiss with shofet, - the only requirement of court etiquette which lord Ashran always observed, - the priest sat on the bench. Ras Navan continued to stand.
- "Now we can speak quietly, - told Shofet. - Nobody will prevent us."
- "Glad to see you in good health, my dear nephew. Someone is surprised that you were not at the Games today. Such inattention to circus representation was considered even for sign of your illness."
-" I did not want to look at this slaughter. But if you started talking about it, so tell - whether there was anything outstanding today on the arena?"
- "In the first part there was a lot of blood. Abnun did not deceive our expectations. Animals were magnificent."
-" And in the second part?"
- "Your favourite Casta won against an orc, however left him life though all circus demanded to kill him."
- "It is similar to Casta, - grinned Shofet. - She looks like a wild cat, she cannot be tamed. Only therefore I still did not take her in my house. I will make her the concubine, and she will kill me, ha-ha-ha! So Abnun seems to be in rage?"
- "Yes! I think, the fat man is still in fear and dripping with bloody sweat. He promised you that Casta will finish off an orc."
- "I cannot be angry on Casta. She is capricious as untrained mare, but ... is beautiful. A lot of things are allowed to the beautiful woman."
- "With your permission, the nephew, such willfulness is unacceptable. Fights in circus are not only a show, but also a gift of the victim to gods. Fights have to come to an end with the death of participants."
- "I don`t care all this. I think of another, uncle."
- "About public affairs? Or about the blue-eyed maiden from Temple Quarter?"
-" I hope, you have kept in secret our conversation. "
-" Don`t you worry, priests are able to be silent. If you want to know my opinion, you should not give vent to feelings. Your wife Kuati is charming, and I would advise you to pay more attention to her, but not to the daughter of the merchant."
- "Uncle, it is stronger than me. I`ve been trying to conquer the passion for the second week, but it inflames more and stronger."
- "It is because you are young. At your age love is similar to madness - it absorbs us entirely and forces to make silly and unclear acts. Eventually, you are the Shofet, the Embodiment of the Sun on Earth. You are free to take any woman what you wish in your bed. Take Shemmer-Ta-Nat, and nobody will dare to condemn you. "
- "And father of Kuati? You forget, uncle, that I am married only four months. This world is arranged so that my communication with Shemmer-Ta-Nat will not manage to be hidden from human eyes. Rumors and gossips scatter quicker than arrows. Tsar Zurappa will be offended if he learns that I share a bed not only with his daughter. And it seems to me that I do not love Kuati and never loved."
- "For the benefit of the state you should like to her passionate love and somewhat quicker to give birth the successor from her," - the priest seriously told.
- "I know, uncle, I know! Her father waits from me the same. It would be so good and correct. However the goddess Kua laughs over me. There is no place left for my wife in my heart."
- "Gods sometimes joke on mortals, - Ashran uttered. - Here also perceive everything as a joke. Soon the Sea holiday, and you should think how to please sea lord Ygerabal. After all, this god patronizes Darnat."
-" And it is told by you, the priest of Shat-Tsebu? I do not understand you, uncle."
- "Now you will understand, - Ashran linked fingers of hands, lifted up eyes to a painted ceiling as if he were going to read there what he will tell to the governor then. - God Shat-Tsebu is happy with you, nephew. Our situation is far better, than it was at your father and my beloved brother, may he rest in peace! Sais is not the enemy to us any more, - your marriage with beautiful Kuati made us allies, - and in the south savage tribes grew quiet. The city of Five Rivers recognized your power, and still a year ago rebels filled there. However, in the West now it is still restless, and all because of damned Sabia. Their pirates continue to attack our merchant ships."
-" So what?"
- "We need to strengthen our fleet. Of course, Darnat's fleet is powerful and invincible also now, but will never prevent to add some oil in the lamp yet even if it burns brightly."
- "Go on. So far I cannot understand where you drive".
- "The lord has to be engaged in public affairs, - the priest mysteriously told, - and what can be more pleasing for gods, than strengthening of the city loved by them? In day of the Sea you will announce to Council of Wise that conceived to construct the new ships to extend our power to all Green sea. And you will construct them - a mighty squadron which will finish with Sabian robbers and their capital of Gale, this ulcer on a forehead of the ocean. Once your father wanted to subdue to Sabia, but the serious illness prevented him. You, not him, will bring a grand design to the end. You will destroy a den of Sabian robbers and will deserve favor of gods and appreciation of the people."
- "To begin war with Sabia? It is remembered, we began a conversation from another subject, uncle."
- "Of course, we spoke about the blue-eyed beauty. Her father - one of the richest merchants of Darnat. Whether it is known to you?"
-" Certainly, uncle, I know that her father Uzmay is a rich man. And what?"
-" For construction of the new fleet money is necessary."
- "And you offer me ..."
-" It is unlikely the heads of merchant guilds of Darnat will refuse you if you ask money for construction of the new fleet. Besides we know that Uzmay, the father of our beautiful Shemmer-Ta-Nat, owns the private shipyards, the largest in Darnat. "
- "And what about Shemmer-Ta-Nat?"
- "You will make her father the court shipbuilder, and it is a high post. It is more than that, I did not accidentally ask you to please Ygerabal's priests. They can if you want, grant to the court shipbuilder a high title of the Sea Son. Once, in ancient Darnat, the Sea Son was considered to be the second person in state after the Shofet."
- "Do you suggest me to glorify some merchant of humble origin? But what`s the purpose? By Gods, I can not follow a smart texture of your thoughts, uncle!"
-" His humble origin is the key. You can take Shemmer-Ta-Nat in the house. You are the Shofet, all is allowed to you. But this girl is of too low origin, and your communication with her will be got in the opinion of tsar Zurappa as adventures with idle maids. It is bad. But everything will change when her father will be glorified. If the Sea Son is considered under our ancient laws to be equal to highest grandees of state, then why the Shofet cannot take his daughter in his bed?"
-" I swear by eyes of Kua, you are right! - The look of Ras Navan began to sparkle, the young man rushed to the priest and embraced him. - My father-in-law Zurappa will condemn me if I take just the concubine, thereby having humiliated his daughter, but will not be able to challenge our customs! "
- "You will conclude ritual marriage which does not exclude carnal rapprochements at all with fine Shemmer-Ta-Nat. Small cunning, but as a result you will receive at once three things which will make you even more great and happy; the blue-eyed maiden, money of merchants and the new ships which will strengthen Darnat in the West, and at the same time you will save the face before the strict father-in-law, - Ashran summed up. - The threat from Sabia will justify everything. This way the great governors govern in their realms."
- "Uncle, you are truly a fount of wisdom! However the Holiday of the Sea will be next week. We have not enough time."
- "It means only one - that in a week you will enjoy delights of Shemmer-Ta-Nat, and both any jealous wives and their fathers will not prevent you. Trust me and prepare two decrees - about construction of new vessels and about purpose of Uzmay the chief court shipbuilder. That will do. And I undertake Ygerabal's priests."
-" I will make today! - Ras Navan literally shone with happiness. - After the meeting with you I will bring together Council of Wise and will announce the decision to strengthen the fleet."
- "And gods will generously reward you, - Ashran rose from a bench, kissed the nephew bluntly. - Prior to a meeting, nephew. May Shat-Tsebu will bless your hand and your mind! I am happy that I helped you to make the right decision to your and all Darnat's benefit!"
-" I have wise advisers, uncle."
- "Not any governor listens to them, - Ashran told, going to an exit. - But gods presented me the reasonable nephew. You will receive what you wish. I never waste words. But at first I want to tell something to you. It is time to talk about public affairs, and put these, dear nephew, great importance. Two days ago the secret representative of one Sheran magician came to the temple and met me. The magician wanted a meeting, and I agreed to this meeting."
- "Sheran magician? - Ras Navan fitfully turned on heels, stepped to the priest. - Here, in Darnat? You were going to meet him? And you so quietly speak about it?"
- "Yes, nephew, because I am going to find out what was conceived by this magician. Sheran spies got into our lands earlier, but never before the messenger of The Cup Circle was looking for a meeting with the head of priests of Darnat. There is something unusual in it. I intend to meet him and to learn what the Sherans want."
-" I swear by Ygerabal! The secret envoy of the sworn enemy of our kingdom looks for meetings with you, and you are so quiet! But it is good that you told me about it. Go and try to find out their plans. Where the appointment is made?"
- "In the Old City. I beg you, nephew, no guards and detectives are necessary. If the Sheranite suspects something, it will destroy my plans badly. One Shat-Tsebu knows what secrets of a black arts this magician owns. Therefore trust me. I will manage everything as it is necessary. And after the meeting I will tell you what the damned queen of Hera-Dalor wanted from us."
In an hour after the meeting with the Shofet the Supreme priest of Shat-Tsebu dressed in common dark clothes of junior priests left alone the temple at Square of Gods, passed sacred gardens of Kua and, having gone deep into poor men's quarters of the Old City, arrived imperceptible home on Darnat's city edge. The silent servant with face wrapped up by the fabric impregnated with tar so that only eyes were visible opened him the door.
- "Bring me to the owner", - Ashran ordered. The servant made the strange sound similar either on rattle, or on low, began to nod the head and led the priest in depth of the house along the long corridor lit only with dim oil lamps. Ashran looked to the conductor`s back with fear and disgust - he guessed whom Kiris used as the servant. Though, on the other hand, could not be more reliable servants than the Silents of Sheran. The house was old, shabby, the loosened floor boards in a disgusting way scrunched, the peeled walls were covered by a thick black coating, all house smelled of mice and a mold. Following the servant, Ashran walked upstairs on the second floor of the house and entered the spacious, but dirty and poorly arranged room where the owner was already waiting for him.
-" Lord Ashran! - The thin shaven-headed man in wine-red clothes standing at the window turned to the guest and gave ceremonious bow to the priest of Shat-Tsebu. - What an honor to see you!"
- "Master Kiris", - Ashran answered with bow.
- "Did you come alone?" - Kiris released the servant with gesture, and they remained together.
- "Alone as you can see."
- "Very imprudently of you. I am in your city for the very first time, and I don`t like Darnat. It is too much beggars and thieves there. This part of the city teems with them. For the person of your dignity and situation it is dangerous to go on poor man's quarters alone. I would not object if there were a sort of guard with you - three or four persons at least."
- "I am protected by Shat-Tsebu's strength, - Ashran answered. - And still these clothes are sacral. The respect for priests in Darnat is very big. Any robber will not dare to raise a hand even against the junior priest."
- "Well", - master Kiris pointed the guest to one of benches, sat down opposite. Magicians were keep silence rather long time, looking at each other. It was their first internal meeting, two wizards had communicated by means of the encoded letters before. Now Kiris made what lord Ashran did not expect from him - arrived to Darnat personally.
- ""Wine?" - suddenly Kiris asked.
- "No, thank you", - Ashran understood that it is time to pass to business. - "I read your last message and decided that it deserves attention".
- "It is very flattered, - with irony in a voice the magician answered. - I am glad that you found time to meet me."
- "However it is strange that such powerful person as you are, decided to stop here in these slums on the edge of the city."
- "I had no choice. It is unlikely in Darnat would be enraptured with a visit of the Sheran magician."
- "Darnat and Sheran are not enemies long ago," - objected Ashran, perfectly understanding that he is unconvincing. Kiris laughed.
- "But also ain`t friends, - he noticed. - Our ambassador is not at court of your Shofet and at other yards too. Possession of Force, my friend, often gives some inconvenience. They are afraid of us - and correctly do. Our true purposes are clear to very few people. Sheran's time has not come yet. But will come soon. And you made a right choice, having agreed to help us. "
-" I want ..."
-" Of course, you want prosperity and power for Darnat. And it is possible if the worthy person, the brave man and the experienced wizard would be a governor of your city. You, master Ashran would be the best Shofet. By the way about His Majiesty Shofet - have you stated our plan to your divine nephew?"
- "Yes, and he agrees to carry it out. But he has his own reason for this purpose."
- "Love! - Kiris smiled, but his black shrill eyes remained cold. - Well, he will receive what he wishes. And all of us will receive what all of us want when time comes."
- "Let us be frank as kind friends, master Kiris. My nephew wants to take the woman whom he fallen in love in the bed and for the sake of this he is ready to begin war against Sabia. I want to become the governor of this city and to make it into the stronghold of Force on the seashores. And what is wanted by you?"
- "Really do you want to know all this, master Ashran? Sometimes ignorance is far better than knowledge. Knowledge brings grief and alarm. "
- "Don`t you trust me?"
- "Oh no! In two years of our correspondence acquaintance you proved to me that you are quite credible. But my queen undertook the obligation from me to keep in secret our general plan. And magicians of the Cup will be dissatisfied if they learn that I told you about our plans."
- "In a word, you will tell nothing to me."
- "On the contrary, - Kiris told, having noticed the offense which flew on the face of the lord of Shat-Tsebu priests. - I so appreciate you that I will tell you everything. I consider you as the friend and the ally and I do not want to use you in dark. But you should have patience to listen to all background."
- "I am ready", - Ashran's voice even trembled from impatience. Kiris laughed.
- "What do you know about the Shadows Father Relics, master Ashran? - he asked."
- "Only what is written down in sacred books."
- "Would you comment,please?"
- "In sacred books it is written down that twenty thousand years ago the whole world was under the power of governors of the Nin-Ouchtian house, and people lived so long that it is difficult to imagine it now. The tsar Ningirakh the First ruled five thousand five hundred years, and his son Nin-Ouchtian - seven thousand three hundred years. It was wonderful time when force and knowledge of Nin-Ouchtian dynasty changed all earth. The cities then were built of gold and crystal, and the paradise fruits granted to people by gods grew in gardens. People then were very pious and esteemed gods for their care. So proceeded until the throne was occupied by Ayukka the grandson of Ning-Ouchtian who decided to be equal to gods in everything- simply speaking, to become immortal. He appealed to the Eternal Nine to grant him immortality, but gods refused. Here what they uttered Ayukke through the oracle: "The human is only the God's creation and also cannot be to equal to gods. Your life is so rather long that you managed to make in it everything that is foreordained to you from above. You demand is impossible". However Ayukka continued searching immortality, and once priests of the Shadows Father, the Lord of Abyss came to his diamond palace to Atal."
-" Everything is right, - Kiris confirmed. - And Ayukka accepted from them three gifts which together brought the greatest benefit - immortality. The Shadows Father handed to Ayukka through the priests the Word of Abyss, The Crown of Abyss and the Flame of Abyss. You know sacred texts well, master Ashran."
- "Our sacred texts are learned that great troubles came for people with the Shadows Father's Gifts. Shoo's era, time of domination of demons of the Shady Side began. The world plunged into continuous horror ... And then the flood began and totally destroyed the world of the Initial Century. Since those times human life became much shorter, and we live it in works and diseases."
- "But Abyss Gifts remained in our world, - Kiris told."
- "However nobody would manage to find them. Any of sacred books does not explain what gifts were received by silly Ayukka from the Shadows Father priests."
-" Sheran magicians know it."
- "Really? - Ashran looked at the magician with curiosity. - Interesting to learn."
- "It is more correct to tell, we have a description of each of these Gifts. Word of Abyss are two tables, gold and silver, with inscriptions. They contain spells which give the chance to awaken strength of ancient governors of Shoo and to operate it. The Crown of Abyss is a magic helmet. And Flame of Abyss is the staff radiating underworld light. Among three Gifts Flame of Abyss has the largest force."
- "And what do they give?"
- "Three things which was being looked by Ayukka - force, eternal youth and immortality. The things people in eras of Ning and Shoo possessed."
-" Should I understand that you already have these Gifts?"
-" Only one so far- The Word of Abyss. But we know where to look for other two, and Gifts will be in our hands soon."
- "And what it will give you?"
- "And do not you understand? - Kiris raised hands to a ceiling. - What the person looked for from the moment of his creation by gods - true immortality. We, Sheran's magicians, had been trying to solve the mystery of immortality for long centuries and achieved much, but did not find a key to the real eternal life. All three Gifts, gathered together, will return the world by times of the Golden Age of Shoo when Earth was under the power of one lord, there were no wars, and people lived forever, without being afraid of death. And we will make it, magicians of the Cup."
- "And your queen will be the lordess of Earth?"
- "Why not? Her Majesty Margiana is worthy the absolute power as nobody else. If you know more worthy monarch, tell me his name. Do you know him?"
- "However I don`t absolutely understand the role of Sabia, master Kiris, - Ashran left from the answer, having changed the subject. - Explain me why it is so necessary to begin war against Sabians."
- "For two reasons. Sabia is the old enemy of Darnat. And the second reason is the knowledge we possess. In one of Tables of Destinies it is written down that the hidden governor of Sabia can capture the Gifts and to become the destroyer of the world."
- "Hidden governor? The juvenile daughter of the king Raymond governs Sabia now. About what governor is spoken?"
-" Hlodd's prophecy, the eighth in the thirteenth Table devoted to the future calls this hidden governor as the Son of Lion."
-" I do not remember this prophecy in the thirteenth Table."
-" Perhaps, you have just forgotten it."
- "Indeed, - Ashran rubbed a finger the fleshy nose. - You very well explained everything to me. And now let's talk about the main thing. What will I get if I help you?"
-" The things that you want - a Shofet throne, beautiful Kuati and Sheran's support. When The Gifts of Abyss show their wonderful force, you will receive both immortality and the power over creations of the Shady Side. You will become one of magicians of the Cup, master Ashran. We do not forget our friends. And for now accept this ring, - Kiris removed a ring with wonderful bluish diamond from a finger and stretched it to the Supreme priest. - It is a gift from my lady, the queen Margiana. She asked to give you it in honor and friendship. Do not worry, the ring is not enchanted. Only usual ornament which is worthy you as it seems to me."
- "It is awesome! - Ashran accepted a ring; even to him, the person, inexperienced in gemstones, it was clear that the stone in a ring has the great price. - I am very grateful to the queen. Convey my thanks for a wonderful gift to Her Majesty."
- "The queen Margiana hopes for you. She wants very much that the longtime senseless hostility between our states will be finally ended. A new era approaches, and gate in it will be opened by us, magicians of Darnat and Sheran. Conquest of Sabia is the first step on the way to implementation of our plans. We have the mutual enemy and mutual goals. It is necessary to seize the moment and to forget about the past. "
- "You are able to convince people, master Kiris. - Ashran gave ceremonious bow to Sheranite. - I leave you, full of hopes."
- "Please wait, there is more to come. As I understand, your young Shofet wishes war against Sabia. However the Sabians are excellent seamen, and their capital of Gale is strongly fortified. Blood of brave Darnat legionaries will be spilling in this fight like water by land and by sea."
- "Why do you tell this, master Kiris?"
- "I want to tell that you should not underestimate your enemy. Of course, Darnat possesses numerous and victorious army and the excellent fleet, but it seems to be not enough. The Sabians can oppose you raider sea war; their fleet much less than yours, but they have high-speed vessels and brave seamen. Therefore I want to help you. You need weapon which will quickly and effectively destroy sea power of Sabia and will facilitate capture of Gale fortress."
- "Do you mean special fighting magic?"
-" Not absolutely in that sense which you put in the words, dear friend. The fighting magic is a powerful thing, but it has a big shortcoming. It is very long and very expensive to train the good fighting magician, without saying that not everyone can become him, and any idiot can kill him, having successfully sent an arrow cost of two copper coins to the magician. You need a lot of time to prepare enough magicians fighters for war against Sabia. There is easier, faster and cheaper way - it is simple to accept others knowledge and to use them for a victory over the common enemy.'
- "And what knowledge do you mean?"
- "Have a look, " - Kiris took the small glass bottle filled with the red phosphorescing liquid from his purse and threw it into a fireplace. The bright flash blinded Ashran: the orange smokeless flame burnt in a fireplace, such strong that Ashran immediately moved back away from fire - it was impossible to take out its heat even in five steps from a fireplace.
- "There is more to come, - Kiris told, smiling: his dry face in reflected crimson lights of a storming flame seemed to be the face of the infernal demon. - Try to splash water from a jug on a flame- it will inflame even more brightly."
- "What is it, for the sake of Shat-Tsebu?"
- "Pyrokollodium. To make it is as easy as shelling pears, and the bucket of a pyrokollodium will cost to your treasury cheaper, than a leather bib of the archer. But if you fill with a fiery potion a small jug and shoot from a catapult to the Sabian ship, the enemy vessel will turn into floating hell in a moment. It is impossible to extinguish burning pyrokollodium ... it is almost impossible. This potion will force to Sabia to the knees.'"
-'"Great gods! - Ashran made the gesture averting evil spirits, transferred amazed look from the dying-away flame on Kiris. - But war requires a lot of your potion. Will you make it for us?"
- "What for? I will give you a compounding. Using it, your magicians will be able to make enough pyrokollodium to turn all Sabian fleet into a heap of floating brands. It is absolutely optional to you to say that you received the recipe of a potion from me - you can tell that you have found it in ancient books. Your young lord will believe you, I can not doubt."
-"It is truly great day for Darnat! Shofet will be happy."
- "Consider it as a contribution of my country to a general victory."
- "I am shocked. And where is recipe?"
-"Here it is, - Kiris gave to the Supreme priest a varnish tube with a scroll. - Read it, and you will understand that you won`t to find weapon cheaper and better anywhere. "
-"Today I will bring together magicians and order to begin works on production of pyrokollodium."
- "Good luck to you, master Ashran. Please keep me informed of your undertakings."
- "Farewell, master Kiris."
- "See you!"
Magicians exchanged with ceremonious bows, and lord Ashran left the room - his face just shone for joy. The Sheran magician remained in an office after departure of the Supreme priest- having sat down in a chair, he patiently waited until the silent servant that brought the guest before the conversation returned. At last, the servant came. Kiris immediately got up at his emergence.
- "Faugh! - The servant broke the scarf impregnated with tar covering the face, pulled together the rough sackcloth gloves too soaked in tar from hands. - I am nearly choked."
-"Even the dress of the Silent could not spoil Your Majesty. I will order to give hot water and you could wash."
- "I will be in time, - the queen Margiana graciously offered to the magician a hand for a kiss. - Good work, Kiris. It seems that the magician will manage to convince the boy, and war will begin."
-" I do not doubt it, Your Majesty."
- "And we will receive what we want?"
- "For sure. I will make everything to get into Sabianum's vaults after falling of Gale. The new ally will not refuse to me in such small courtesy."
- "I heard your conversation with Ashran, and it was very interesting to me. Tell me about three Gifts, Kiris, - the Queen dumped a rough chlamys, remained in the dark woolen tunic intercepted on a slender waist by gold-embroidered corbel. Kiris involuntarily admired Sheran's ruler: Margiana even in this simple dress was fresh and madly beautiful. - You did not tell this barbarian the truth, did you?"
- "Certainly, Your Majesty. Magicians of Cup would never forgive me such garrulity."
-" And what force do the Gifts really have?"
- "Three Gifts are three levels of domination over ancient forces of Shoo. The Word of Abyss specifies the place where the entrance to the secret city of Shoo is located - the sleeping army of Veel-Zabar, the last tsar of Empire of the Immortals, is based there. The Crown of Abyss will make carrying it the commander-in-chief of troops of the Shady Side. The Flame of Abyss will give the owner strength at the same time of two Parties of life. Among all three gifts the Flame is the most powerful."
-"And do you know where they are, these Gifts?"
- "After the brilliant victory of your troops over orcs at Meru we caught The Word of Abyss at last. It is a source of our secret knowledge. Our power will be based on possession of the Word. As for The Crown of Abyss, indirect signs indicate that it is hidden somewhere in Sabianum's vaults."
- "Aha, and so that the war with Sabia is necessary! - The queen burst out laughing with ringing maiden laughter. - But explain me, Kiris why is it impossible just to steal the crown from Gale? Are the allies so necessary for us?"
- "It is possible to steal, my queen. The magitians of the Cup were even going to charge it to our agents in Gale. But then the grand master Hraor nevertheless convinced magicians of need of war. Sabia is our enemy, and Darnat is our enemy too. What can be better for us, than war between our enemies? They are waited by sufferings and ruin, and we will get all fruits of a victory."
-"And where there The Flame of Abyss is?"
- "It is known by nobody. Only possession of the first two Gifts can lead to the main treasure - The Flame."
- "Madly interesting! However allow to notice to you, Kiris, that you are very precipitate. You should not have trusted the barbarian a secret of a fiery potion."
- "Your Majesty, this secret will become known to all sooner or later. The structure of a potion is so simple that once the beginning alchemist will create it accidentally, and the Cup magicians know about it. For the sake of our victory over Sabia and mastering The Flame of Abyss it is possible to offer such insignificant magic secret. Let's look now as Ashran will dispose of my gift. I hope, he will use it correctly."
- "Yes, it is a pity that Sheran has no fleet. What`s now, Kiris?"