The passing of the gods, p.1

The Passing of the Gods, page 1

 

The Passing of the Gods
 



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The Passing of the Gods


  BORGO PRESS BOOKS BY DAVID C. SMITH

  THE FALL OF THE FIRST WORLD

  1. The West Is Dying

  2. Sorrowing Vengeance

  3. The Passing of the Gods

  MAGICIANS

  1. Magicians

  2. The Eyes of Night

  ORON & TALES OF ATTLUMA

  1. Oron

  2. The Shadow of Sorcery

  3. Reign, Sorcery!

  4. Deathwolf

  5. Death in Asakad and Other Stories

  COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

  Copyright © 1983, 2013 by David C. Smith

  Published by Wildside Press LLC

  www.wildsidebooks.com

  DEDICATION

  For Lilia, my beautiful daughter.

  I love you more than all

  the numbers in the world!

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  The verse by Michael Fantina in Part Three, Chapter Eleven, appears through permission of the author.

  MAJOR CHARACTERS

  In Athadia, the Western Empire, and its Territories:

  King ELAD of the Athadian Empire

  Queen SALIA, his wife

  Princess ORAIN, widow of the executed Prince Cyrodian

  Prince GALVUS, son of Cyrodian and Orain

  Count ADRED, a young Athadian aristocrat

  Lord ABGARTHIS, elder Councilor and Court Adviser to Elad

  OGODIS, the Imbur of Gaegosh, father to Salia

  OMOS, friend and lover to Galvus

  Lord BUMATHIS, a Councilor on the Priton Nobility in Athad

  ENDRIC, husband to Mirhu

  Lord FALEN, a Councilor on the Priton Nobility in Athad

  Captain MANDOUM, Chief of the Khamars, the Athadian palace guard

  MIRHU, a revolutionary and friend to Rhia

  RHIA, once a rebel in Bessara

  Lord RHIN, a Councilor on the Priton Nobility in Athad

  Lord SIROM, an Athadian official in Erusabad, acting as envoy to the Salukadians

  Governor SULEN, of Abustad

  SOTOS, a palace physician

  Lord THOMO, envoy to Salukadian-held Erusabad

  General THYTAGORAS, once commander of the Tenth Legion East in Athadian Erusabad, now serving in the Gaegoshan army

  Captain UVARS, of the Fifth Company, First Regiment, First Legion West in Athad

  Others:

  ASSIA, owner of a pleasure barge in Abustad

  ASAWAS, a wandering prophet­­

  KEDROM, a Khamar

  LATHEN, Captain of the Wing

  SALLUS, Captain of the Doron

  SOSSIAN, a poet

  THARS, Captain of the Jewel

  In Emaria:

  THAMERON, a sorcerer and usurper

  Sir JORS, once an adviser to the Emarian court

  In Erusabad, in the Eastern Empire of Salukadia

  AGORS ko-Ghen, Chief of Salukadia

  NIHIM, his brother

  bin-SUTUS, a court aihman, advisor to Agors ko-Ghen

  UTTO-sen-gar, hetmuk of Erusabad

  Es Atu

  When earth was first sundered from heaven,

  When God first rejoiced in the skies,

  When evil announced its intention

  With death to imprison all life:

  Then we were born from the clouds and rain,

  We were born for limitless pain,

  We were born for tears and lies,

  And made to wonder all our days,

  And made to wonder all the days.

  —Opening chorus of Sossian’s

  Of the Lost Earth

  WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE

  The Events of The Fall of the First World: Book I—The West Is Dying

  Part I: A Throne of Blood

  Following the death of his father, King Evarris of Athadia, Prince Elad plots to usurp the throne from his mother, Queen Yta. He does this with the tacit approval of powerful members of the High Council and the elder of his two brothers, Prince General Cyrodian—all of whom feel that Elad will prove accommodating to their special interests once he is enthroned. Queen Yta, undecided whether to yield the crown to Elad, travels to query the Oracle at Mount Teplis; learning of her intention, Elad and Cyrodian, accompanied by the youngest prince, Dursoris, visit the Oracle before Yta can arrive. When Elad fails to understand what the Oracle tells him, he forces her at sword point to speak more clearly. “You will rule to see everything precious destroyed,” she warns him, “every hope ruined. You will rule Athadia, and the world will die in anguish.” Terrified by the implications of this, Elad in rage slays the Oracle. When he and his brothers escape from the holy mountain, Dursoris vows to bring the facts of this desecration to light in court. Cyrodian therefore murders him. Yta, learning from the Oracle’s spirit what has occurred, returns to the capital at Athad, orders Cyrodian imprisoned pursuant to his execution, and commands that Elad take the throne he desires so much: “No greater punishment can I offer.”

  Part II: A Lamp in a Storm

  In Erusabad, a city considered holy by both the western Athadian and the eastern Salukadian empires, a young priest named Thameron runs into conflict with the bureaucracy of his temple. The Church of Bithitu is the religious foundation of the Athadian Empire, but it has long ceased to embody the wisdom of its Prophet, Bithitu, and has, over the course of two thousand years, become a reactionary, stagnant anachronism. Thameron, believing unconditionally in the words of the Prophet, fights hypocrisy in the Church and soon finds himself expelled. Crushed and embittered, he decides to escape Erusabad and takes leave of his one true friend—Hapad, a fellow novitiate—and says farewell to the only woman he has ever loved—a young prostitute named Assia.

  Part III: End Without Mercy

  Elad takes the throne and kingship of the empire as his mother leaves to live out her years on Hea Isle, a religious retreat. Unknown to Elad, the angry Cyrodian has plotted with schemers loyal to him to assassinate Yta; meanwhile the Imperial Army, which holds Cyrodian in great respect as one of its own, threatens dissension unless Elad overrules the death sentence and allows his brother exile. The intimidated neophyte king orders Cyrodian removed in chains beyond Athadia’s border. Meanwhile, conspirators loyal to Cyrodian chase down Yta’s galley and murder her and her crew, then return home to plot the assassination of Elad. They are, however, discovered and executed; but when Elad orders a patrol to return the dismissed Cyrodian home to stand trial for his new crimes, he learns that his brother cannot be found.

  Part IV: The Dispossessed

  Thameron in his journeys experiences life at its most depraved and unspiritual. In despair, and still seeking enlightenment, he turns to a misanthropic sorcerer, Guburus, who promises to help guide Thameron on his mystical quest. But the impatient Thameron, dissatisfied with the lessons Guburus insists he must learn, gives up his spirit to a demonic force he scarcely comprehends. When Guburus realizes what his pupil has done, he tries to fight him, and Thameron slays the elder. Too late, Thameron realizes that he has allowed himself to become the vessel of Evil on earth.

  In Athad, a humiliated but wiser Elad sincerely tries to repent for his past errors and applies himself to the task of becoming a good king. But the atmosphere of crime, death, and vengeance in the palace lingers. Count Adred, a friend of the slain Dursoris, offers to take Lady Orain, Cyrodian’s wife (and secret lover of the good Dursoris), and her son Prince Galvus on a vacation to the uplands, to Sulos in the province of Kendia. Mother and son readily assent; in Sulos, the three pass a pleasant month and prepare for the holiday weeks (it is the time of the Church’s great celebrations) in the home of Adred’s friend Count Mantho, a wealthy aristocrat. There is, however, a storm growing in Sulos—indeed, a storm is growing throughout the Ath
adian Empire: the economy, long mismanaged by wealthy businessmen, self-serving bankers, and highly placed aristocrats, has reached a perilous state of rising unemployment, rampant inflation, and increasing public anger. Attempts by the working people to change government and business policies have been met with deaf ears; riots and disturbances designed to publicize the working people’s plight have been put down by force. Now, in Sulos, the first mass revolt by the workers leads to the assassination of the city governor and many aristocrats (Mantho among them) and several nights of bloodshed and violence.

  Part V: The West Is Dying

  Three generations of expansion by the eastern Salukadian peoples have brought them to the shores of the great Ursalion Sea—and to the doorstep of the wide Athadian Empire. Huagrim ko-Ghen, Chief of the Salukads, lives in his capital at Ilbukar, where he resides in splendor. But Huagrim is old and realizes that he will die soon; therefore, he decides to conclude the continual westward movement of his empire by taking complete control of the ancient, holy city of Erusabad, which is governed peacefully by officials from both West and East. Huagrim’s belligerent elder son, Agors, supports this move, but the chief’s younger son, the philosophical and studious Nihim, is against it.

  Adred, who had left Sulos during the holidays but before the outbreak of violence, is in Mirukad and now hears of the rebellion. Frightened that his friends may be in danger, he tries to board any ship sailing south but learns that the harbor of Sulos is closed until further notice. King Elad, meanwhile, concluding that force must be resisted by even greater force, orders his military commanders in the city to execute those revolutionaries still alive, behead their corpses, and load their heads onto a war galley. The war galley is towed to the capital, where it is displayed and burned as a warning against any further violence on the part of insurrectionists within Athadia. It is a strong-willed but wrong-headed move by a king still uncertain of his crown.

  Adred, at last able to get a ship to Sulos, discovers Galvus and Orain still alive and living on the docks. They tell him that Mantho was killed and that they have decided to live incognito and help the oppressed and dispossessed as Sulos starts to rebuild. Adred, now definitely sympathetic toward the rebels, takes up their fight and sails on to the capital, where he intends to make King Elad face these matters squarely.

  Part VI: Far Paths, Other Shadows

  Cyrodian has taken refuge with King Nutatharis of Emaria, a land-locked nation situated between Athadia and the Low Provinces. Nutatharis wishes to expand into these lowlands, a breadbasket area bordering Salukadia; Huagrim agrees not to interfere with Emarian military movements while at the same time gaining guaran­tees from Nutatharis that, should Salukadia’s takeover of Erusabad lead to war with the West, Nutatharis will side with the East.

  Count Adred, in the capital, engages in a hot-tempered argument with King Elad, promising him that the revolution will sweep across the empire unless Elad quickly agrees to look into matters of economic reform. Caught in webs of political intrigue, Elad procrastinates; meanwhile his marriage to Princess Salia, daughter of the Imbur of Gaegosh, approaches. Salia is renowned as the most beautiful woman in the world.

  Adred leaves the capital and returns to the northern provinces; during a stopover in Bessara, he becomes involved with the revolutionary movement there and meets Rhia, the estranged wife of Lord Solok, an aristocratic liberal and rebel sympathizer. Following a demonstration in the city, Solok and many others are arrested, but Adred and Rhia escape and go into hiding.

  Part VII: New Chains

  General Kustos of Emaria, together with his new military adviser, Cyrodian, leads the expedition into the Low Provinces. The farmers and villagers of the territory fight fiercely against the sophisticated Emarians and take a heavy toll, while the invading troops are victimized by winter storms. Kustos is severely wounded during one engagement; and when it becomes apparent to Nutatharis that his advance into the lowlands has stagnated, he orders his army to hold its ground until spring and commands Kustos and Cyrodian back to the capital at Lasura. There, Nutatharis informs Cyrodian that his brother Elad has demanded Cyrodian’s return to Athad; but in return for Nutatharis’s refusing to submit to Elad’s capias, Cyrodian binds himself to the Emarian king by a warrior’s pledge—the oldest of oaths.

  Cyrodian hungers to become general of the Emarian army now that Kustos is dying of his wounds. Looking in on the ill man one night, he finds the bed-ridden Kustos being harassed by one of Nutatharis’s courtiers, Eromedeus. To his shock, Cyrodian learns that Eromedeus is not a man at all but an undying creature who wishes Kustos to give up his soul for him so that Eromedeus may make his peace with the gods. Kustos dies without agreeing. Cyrodian wrathfully stabs Eromedeus—and discovers that the man cannot be killed.

  The Emarian military maneuvers in the Low Provinces create apprehension in the rulers of the Athadian-controlled province of Omeria. In response, Elad sanctions the disbursement of troops from Elpet and Abustad to guard Omeria’s northern border. Among the camp followers is Assia, who left Erusabad after Thameron’s departure. Ill, she had traveled with her father to Elpet, where he continued to use her as a prostitute until he was killed in a tavern brawl.

  While the Emarians are attacking the lowlands, Huagrim’s soldiers occupy the northern, western-controlled section of Erusabad—an overt act of war. In Athad, members of the High Council demand that Elad answer this provocation with armed force; but the king, fearful of the Oracle’s warning, refuses. So long as trade and pilgrimage rights for Athadian citizens are respected, Elad (who realizes that he had overreacted to the riots in Sulos) decides not to go to war with Salukadia. In Erusabad, Huagrim ko-Ghen orders the Temple of Bithitu to be partially dismantled and redone to honor the eastern pantheon.

  Thameron returns to Erusabad intending to confront his mentors in the Temple and finds the city occupied by the eastern military forces. He learns that the Church elders, disgraced, committ­ed suicide, but finds his old friend Hapad, now living in a ghetto apartment, dying of a fever. When Hapad discovers what Thameron has done, he condemns his friend with his last breath and bemoans the fact that he did not die before learning of Thameron’s everlasting damnation.

  King Elad, on a winter’s day, marries Princess Salia of Gaegosh. As the couple exits the state palace following the ceremony, a revolutionary disguised as one of the Khamar palace guards attacks Elad and stabs him several times before he is overpowered and slain by the king’s soldiers.

  The Events of The Fall of the First World: Book II—Sorrowing Vengeance

  Part I: An Attack of Conscience

  From their small apartment in Sulos, Galvus and Orain operate a clandestine enterprise by which they secure food and necessities for the jobless and poor of the city. Galvus has made friends with a young man named Omos, an outcast of the streets; they have become lovers. Learning that Elad was the target of an assassination attempt but not knowing the outcome of it, Galvus and Orain both are undecided whether to return to Athad.

  Adred and Rhia, revolutionaries in Bessara, witness more deaths resulting from the execution of Rhia’s estranged husband and fellow rebel, Lord Solok.

  Elad, in Athad, is recuperating from his wounds. He has what he calls an “attack of conscience” and one evening talks with Abgarthis about philosophical matters. An intelligent man but not a wise one, a sincere yet not decisive king, Elad has nevertheless sought to come to grips with the issues of the working people, and he determines to look into the matter of the sirots or workers’ democratic assemblies. Abgarthis is pleased with this change in attitude.

  Lord Thomo, the king’s envoy to Erusabad, arrives in the Holy City to take power over Acting-Governor Sirom and maintain peace and security in the Salukadian-held metropo­lis. He and General Thytagoras, an angry pessimist and racist, disagree on how this should be done. Meanwhile, Huagrim ko-Ghen and his sons have established a palace for themselves and their court in Erusabad by renovating a spacious villa abandoned by a wealthy Atha
dian family.

  Thameron is living a life of means in Erusabad and searching for Assia, whom he feels he still loves. He entertains prostitutes who are unable to arouse in him the emotions he had shared with Assia; he decides to leave Erusabad and travel, in hopes that he might sense his former lover and locate her. Assia, meanwhile, is with the Athadian troops in their camp on the border of the Low Provinces. A solder named Urwus, who mistreats her but claims to care for her, convinces Assia to return with him to Abustad when his unit is recalled from the border.

  Part II: Coals Beneath the Ashes

  In Emaria, King Nutatharis intends to make Cyrodian the commander of his army; before doing so, however, he wishes to dispense with their warriors’ vow and so asks Cyrodian to slay Eromedeus, whom Nutatharis has come to mistrust. Despite his knowledge of the immortal wanderer’s true nature, Cyrodian makes the attempt and fails. Disgraced, he is arrested on Nutatharis’s orders so that the king—finally answering appeals from Elad of Athadia—can return him to Athad for his crimes. And now that Nutatharis understands just what Eromedeus is, he becomes most apprehensive and banishes the wanderer to the mountains north of Lasura.

  Elad publishes his announcement concerning imperial con­sideration of reforms and the formation of the people’s sirots. In Bessara, Rhia and Adred learn of this announcement just before they are arrested by Lord Uthis’s police. They are imprisoned but, under the conditions of the new edict, they cannot be executed.

  In Sulos, which has known peace for several months under the lenient hand of its new city governor, General Vardorian, workers in the fields outside the city occupy granaries to protest the moderate changes promised by the throne; they demand more substantial economic reforms and a voice in controlling their own lives. Vardorian, not wanting another bloodbath, stalls for time and contacts King Elad. Lord Abgarthis intercepts this message as well as the official reports from Bessara concerning the arrest of Count Adred, and he devises a plan that Elad sanctions: to send Adred to Sulos, where he can contact Galvus and Orain and have Galvus, with his liberal reformist proclivities, act on behalf of the crown to gain promises of restraint from the rebellious workers in return for a fair hearing later. This frees the well-intentioned gadfly Count Adred (as well as Rhia, whom he insists on taking with him to Sulos) and will get Elad’s nephew and sister-in-law back to the capital, where the king feels they truly belong.

 

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