Sorrowing Vengeance, page 1
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
2. The Eyes of Night
ORON & TALES OF ATTLUMA
2. The Shadow of Sorcery
3. Reign, Sorcery!
5. Death in Asakad and Other Stories
Copyright © 1983, 2013 by David C. Smith
The verse by Michael Fantina in Part Seven, Chapter Thirty-Three appears by permission of the author.
Published by Wildside Press LLC
my wife, my soul mate, with love
In Athadia, the Western Empire, and its Territories:
King ELAD of the Athadian Empire
Queen SALIA, his wife
Princess ORAIN, wife to the banished Cyrodian
Prince GALVUS, son of Cyrodian and Orain
Count ADRED, a young Athadian aristocrat
Lord ABGARTHIS, elder adviser to Elad
OGODIS, the Imbur of Gaegosh, father to Salia
OMOS, friend and lover to Galvus
Lord ABADON, Governor of Hilum
BORS, a worker in Sulos
Lord BUMATHIS, a Councilor on the Priton Nobility in Athad
Lord FALEN, a Councilor on the Priton Nobility in Athad
Colonel LUTOUK, of the Fourth Regiment, Third Legion West, in Sulos
Captain MIRSUS, of the Second Company, Fourth Regiment, Twelfth Legion East in Ithulia
RHIA, a rebel in Bessara
Lord RHIN, a Councilor on the Priton Nobility in Athad
SERAFICOS, Inquisitor of the Temple of Bithitu in Hilum
Lord SIROM, an Athadian official in Erusabad, acting as envoy to the Salukadians
Lord SOLOK, a liberal sympathizer in Bessara
Governor SULEN, of Abustad
SOTOS, a palace physician
Lord THOMO, envoy to Salukadian-held Erusabad
General THYTAGORAS, commander of the Tenth Legion East in Athadian Erusabad
URWUS, corporal under the Third Company, First Regiment, the First Legion Green, out of Abustad
Lord UTHIS, Governor of Bessara
Captain UVARS, of the Fifth Company, First Regiment, First Legion West in Athad
General VARDORIAN of the Third Legion West, Acting-governor of Sulos in Kendia
Others in the West:
THAMERON, once a priest, now a sorcerer
ASSIA, a prostitute and camp follower
ASAWAS, a wandering prophet
King NUTATHARIS, of Emaria
EROMEDEUS, adviser to Nutatharis
CYRODIAN, exiled from Athadia, now a military adviser to King Nutatharis
Sir JORS, adviser to Nutatharis
The Salukadian Ruling Family, in Ilbukar:
HUAGRIM ko-Ghen, Chief of Salukadia
AGORS, his elder son
NIHIM, his younger son
bin-SUTUS, a court aihman, adviser to Huagrim ko-Ghen
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. 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 pas
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 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 Sulos to execute those revolutionaries still alive, behead their corpses, and load the 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 feeling 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. 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 activities 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 the cities of 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 LORD OF LIGHT
When he was in his fortieth year, Omul, a farmer in the plainfields of northern Insaria, became ill and for two weeks languished between life and death. His wife and daughters, sons and relatives all prayed worriedly for his recovery, and daily people of the farming village where Omul lived visited his hut and inquired after his health. He was a respected man and a hard worker, a good father and husband, held in esteem by all who knew him. When, late in the winter, the crisis at last passed, Omul awakened from his fever to grip his wife’s shaking hand and announce to his family: “I have dreamed strange things. I have seen the Truth.”
When he was able to leave his bed, Omul spent many days indoors sitting at his table in his hut or watching the village and the world as it occurred outside his windows. Before his illness, he had been a garrulous man, loud and talkative and friendly; now he was silent. Often, as his recovery slowly progressed, Omul would lapse into short periods of sleep; and his wife was alarmed when, as her husband napped, he grunted and whispered words that could not be understood. When he awoke from these sleeps, Mira, his wife, would ask Omul what he had dreamed. At first he could not tell her what he had seen because, as vivid as the impressions had been, it was difficult for the farmer to recall them w
His sons, large men like their father, took care to maintain the house, the barn, and the livestock; and whenever they were able to do so, Omul’s sons-in-law helped, as well. His daughters, who lived in huts close by Omul’s, helped their mother in caring for their father during his recovery. Omul ate well but continued to lapse into irregular short sleeps. When this happened, his wife or his daughters would lean close and try to understand what he was whispering. As the days passed, Omul’s sleeping voice became stronger and clearer, and his wife and daughters became frightened by what they heard.
Perhaps a month after his illness, Omul, now well but still subject to the periods of brief sleep, was sitting on a stool outside his farmhouse whittling a length of cherry wood. He was dressed warmly against a chill, but already winter was passing and the first hints of spring were in the air. Birds chirped, green buds showed on the trees, and the gray clouds of winter had given way to blue stretches of sky that met wide empty fields at the far horizon. As Omul watched his sons go about their work in the small barn across from his hut, a village elder, Mour, accompanied by seven other old men, approached Omul to ask after his health.
Omul regarded Mour and, with sad eyes and a heavy voice, warned him: “I have had another dream and this one was very clear. Please—see to your wife.”
Mour did not understand what Omul meant, but apprehension filled him. With the others, he hurried through the village to see what might be happening; yet as he went, his oldest daughter ran sobbing toward him and met the village elder in the middle of a path to tell him that his wife had suddenly died. She had found her mother slumped against the well, an empty water bucket still in her hands.
That night Mour and the other elders of the village spoke privately with Omul. Where did his dreams come from? What had happened to him? He was a good man; did these strange dreams always betoken evil?
“Why do you think death is evil?” Omul replied to them. Gone forever was the hearty voice and the boisterous laugh. This new Omul, awakened from his fever, spoke quietly, and there was a constant light in his eyes, an interior light. “I did not warn you of this thing, Mour, so that you might become angry with me or fear me. When I awakened from my long sleep, from my illness, a new life filled me. I cannot explain it to you. But you must trust me. I see…many things, all things. The real things that we hold in our hands, these objects and tools—these are not actual things at all. They are only…symbols. They are useful, but they are not the Truth. You do not understand? I can tell you only what I sense. You see the sky? Is it the real sky? There are many other skies behind it, all around it. You see yourself reflected in a mirror or in a pool, but there are many other yous, and all are within you. It is hard to explain. But I see these things, sometimes clearly, sometimes very uncertainly. I am not a wise man, Mour. I am a farmer. But I am a good man. I can only decide that one god, whom I call On, has given me this gift for some purpose. Why else should this happen to me?”