Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 19
I’m going to kill that drunken fool, Katrun thought as he approached his king. He’s dismissed his guards again. This is my chance.
Katrun entered the stark audience chamber of Galkak, King of Amalek. He carried a new skin of wine for his majesty. Galkak now consumed prodigious amounts of wine, which his servants supplied on a constant basis. Galkak lay half-conscious on his throne, one leg over the armrest, with his golden crown balanced precariously on his knee. He was murmuring some inane Hebrew song to himself, “ani holech habayta…” Katrun didn’t understand the words and didn’t care for the idiosyncrasies of this strange monarch Eglon had foisted upon his people.
It had occurred eight years ago, when Eglon had managed to poison all the men of the city, and Galkak the drunk had been the only one left standing. Eglon had had the previous king murdered, and had promoted the unknown drunkard to king of the Amalekites. Galkak had demonstrated an innate canniness, negotiating a peaceful agreement with Eglon, conquering the Ammonites for him, taking an arrow for the large monarch and becoming his right-hand man and trusted friend. The Amalakites hated him, though. Galkak had participated effectively in the campaign against the Israelites, assisting Eglon in subjugating the Hebrew tribes with an iron hand. But there was something disturbing about Galkak that irritated all the Amalakites. They couldn’t put their finger on it. And one unsuccessful assassination attempt after another had failed to dislodge this irksome monarch.
Katrun thought of all this history as he brought the new wineskin to Galkak.
“Um,” Katrun cleared his throat to get Galkak’s attention. “Your wine, my liege.”
I can stab him right now, Katrun thought as his heart beat wildly against the dagger inside his robe. He is so weak and defenseless.
Galkak gave Katrun his full attention and smiled at the wine steward.
“Somethin’ on your mind, Katrun?” Galkak asked as he grabbed the wine skin, uncorked it, smelled it and took a long swig of the red liquid, part of it gushing freely down his trimmed beard.
“No, no, sire. I am here to serve. Is the wine to your liking?”
“Simeonite, from five harvests ago. One of my favorites.” Galkak burped and closed his eyes.
“Is there anything further, my liege?”
“Huh?” Galkak opened his eyes again. “No thanks, Katrun.”
Galkak fell asleep.
It would be so easy, Katrun thought, his breath getting shallower. But I will wait. Many other assassins died trying. I will wait until he is deeply asleep.
Katrun stepped a pace behind the throne and waited patiently.
“Babysitter!” Dirthamus hissed to himself as he slammed the door of his chambers.
“Eglon has relegated me to be a babysitter and I tire of it,” Dirthamus told the dark walls of his chamber. He clutched a white rooster by its neck and dragged it across the floor. The rooster squawked and clawed uselessly, dropping white feathers in its wake.
“He continues to favor that drunkard and I will finally put an end to that sycophant’s life. Babysitter! He forgets my power. He forgets the power that brought him the throne. I shall not be merely the caretaker of those Hebrew brats. I will again be his prime advisor and confidant.”
Dirthamus grabbed a large copper bowl from a shelf. Other utensils fell and clattered loudly on the cold stone floor. He grabbed the rooster with both hands and bit into its neck, letting the warm blood spill into the bowl. He discarded the still-moving bird and examined a row of jars on the shelf. He added a rat’s tail, a rabbit’s leg and a cat’s eye to the bowl and finally he took a knife and sliced his own palm, letting drops of blood fall into the bowl from his clenched fist.
The mixture sizzled and steamed. Dirthamus kneeled, rolled his eyes and chanted:
“Bo elai shed tehom. Bo elai shed tehom!”
A dark mist formed over the bowl.
“Who daresss call usss?” the mist asked.
“I ask the questions here, demon,” Dirthamus whispered. “I recognize and name you, Mefistos!”
The mist solidified into a red-skinned human with black horns and the legs of a goat. The demon bowed.
“You have named me and I am yoursss to ssserve. Until you lossse control.”
“I shall not lose control, Mefistos. I am Dirthamus, disciple of the great Bilaam. You shall obey my will.”
Dirthamus squeezed more blood from his fist onto the pan.
“Tareh et haoyev!” Dirthamus commanded the pan.
Another mist rose from the pan on which a scene appeared. The scene was Galkak’s chamber where an attendant stood at attention besides the throne of the slumbering monarch.
“This is who you must destroy,” Dirthamus pointed at Galkak in the mist.
“You call usss just to kill a man?” Mefistos hissed.
“He is canny and resourceful. He has killed every other human assassin that has attempted to kill him. I do not know how he does it. He drinks enough to kill a normal man and appears constantly drunk, but somehow he is able to save himself in time. Perhaps he has an ally I do not know about.”
“That isss all you desssire of usss?” Mefistos asked.
“Yes. If you can destroy Galkak then I shall release you as per the ancient rituals and with the proper protections.”
“Consssider him dead.” Mefistos smiled and disappeared.
Katrun watched his sleeping monarch impassively. Galkak’s troubled snoring and grunting had finally subsided to a calm consistent breathing.
I will put an end to this travesty, Katrun thought as he inched closer. When I see him like this I know why I hate him. He is not of Amalek. That explains why he is so soft on the Israelites and kills our own people so easily. Perhaps he is an Israelite himself. How ironic would that be? Our hated enemy crowned as our king. Well, I shall put an end to it now.
Katrun stood in front of the deeply snoring monarch. Katrun grabbed the dagger from within his robe and raised it high to strike violently into Galkak’s exposed chest. Katrun was surprised to find a sword suddenly enter his own belly and Galkak’s open eyes staring at him.
“Come closer,” Galkak whispered as Katrun’s dagger clattered to the stone floor. Galkak pushed the sword further up Katrun’s torso and pulled the bleeding wine steward closer.
“I’m glad you figur’d it out before the end,” Galkak said in Katrun’s ear.
“How, how?” was all Katrun could croak.
“Because I can hear your stinkin’ thoughts,” Galkak said. “Why do you think I have to drink so much? It’s the only thin’ that keeps all the voices at bay. But I can always hear murder.”
Galkak withdrew his sword from Katrun’s limp body and let him crumple to the floor.
“I hate bein’ the king,” Galkak said to the empty room.
“You’re asking for a king’s ransom,” King Galkak’s apothecary complained to Yered. Yered stood in the palace courtyard with a beautiful black and white monkey on his shoulder, wielding a tall walking stick in his hand.
“Good thing for a king’s palace it is,” Yered answered. “Silverweed cheap is not, and this freshness or quality between here and Tyre, find you will not.” Risto the monkey, with his wooden arm, chittered in agreement.
“What do you have for drunkenness? My master suffers greatly from the drink,” the apothecary whispered conspiratorially.
“Abstinence best remedy is, but celandine the head pain can ease. Some fresh celandine on us we have.”
Yered motioned to Risto who opened the compartment of his wooden arm and placed some crushed herbs into Yered’s hand.
“Three golds that will be,” Yered said as he handed the herbs to the apothecary.
“Robbery,” the apothecary mumbled.
“My business and my herbs elsewhere I can take.” Yered held back from passing the herbs.
“You are merciless, but you leave me no choice.” The apothecary counted three gold coins into Yered’s other hand. Yered gave the apothecary the herbs which he stored in a wide wooden box. The box contained multiple compartments that could each be closed individually.
“Apothecary!” a guard called. “The King needs you.”
“Perhaps you will come with me, friend?” the apothecary asked Yered. Mayhap you will have a better prescription for my master once you have seen his condition.”
“The way lead.”
Galkak was still slumped over his throne. Katrun’s body had been removed and two guards stood by the door of Galkak’s audience chamber. Katrun’s blood stained Galkak’s robes. His hangover was so bad that he hadn’t bothered changing. Galkak vaguely recalled killing Katrun. It was probably more out of instinct that any conscious thought. He barely recalled conscious thought. He seemed to be living from drink to drink, drowning out the thoughts of others from his mind and staying alert enough to survive to the next drink.
The apothecary entered the chamber with a thin, ancient-looking man and a strange monkey on his shoulder.
“I know you.” Galkak waved at Yered.
Yered approached Galkak. Risto hopped on Yered’s shoulder excitedly. Yered nodded. “Yes, Risto. Another prodigy. But a sad one.”
“Met before I do not believe,” Yered bowed. “But unexpected place to find you I can tell this is.”
“Yeah, tell me about it. We haven’t met, but I’ve heard stories about you.”
“Of service how can I be, King of Amalek?” Yered tried suppressing a laugh.
“Can you help me?” Galkak hiccupped.
“With the drinking or the voices?”
“How do you know?” Galkak sat up straighter.
“Few this skill develop. Fewer still how to use it learn.”
“Apothecary, guards, leave us.” Galkak had enough awareness to say. The guards and apothecary left the chamber.
“Can you heal me?” Galkak asked.
“Doubt healed you can be. Close to death you are. Until the drink kills you, just a matter of time. This before, I have seen. Horrific, pathetic and painful.”
“What can I do?”
“But how do I stop the voices?”
“Ah, a different issue that is. If drinking you stop, work on it we can.”
“Stop drinking? I think I’d rather die.” Galkak took another drink from the skin.
The door to the chamber opened and a starkly beautiful woman in a flowing red dress entered.
“Who are you?” Galkak demanded. “I did not order any courtesans.”
“But I am no ordinary woman, your majesssty, and I am sssure you would not wish to missss what I have to offer,” she said seductively.
Yered stood aside and Galkak sat up straight as the woman approached the throne. Risto jumped off Yered’s shoulder and hid in a corner of the chamber.
“Um, no thank you, sweet lady, I’m a bit preoccupied right now,” Galkak said. “Perhaps we can talk tomorrow.”
“Just one kissss, for you to remember me by.” The woman came within arm’s reach of Galkak. She then wrinkled her nose. “What is that horrendousss smell?”
“All the wine must be,” Yered volunteered.
“Ugh,” the woman frowned. “Well, a job is a job.” She moved to kiss Galkak.
Galkak scrambled and fell off his throne.
“Come now, my love.” The woman smiled. “I’m told my kissesss are unforgettable.”
“Woman as she seems is not,” Yered noted as he threw his staff at the woman.
The staff hit the woman on the head and bounced back to Yered. An aura around the woman steamed and then sizzled. In her place stood Mefistos, red-skinned, with horns and goat legs.
“Cursssed man,” Mefistos bellowed, baring his fangs. “You make my work more difficult.” Mefistos clawed at Galkak leaving a trail of long bloody marks on the King’s chest. Mefistos raised his other claw to tear at Galkak’s head, but Galkak parried the blow with his sword. Yered smashed his staff on Mefistos’ head. Mefistos roared and turned on Yered.
“I shall kill you old man, though it doesss me no good.” Mefistos vanished in a cloud only to reappear in another cloud directly behind Yered. Before Mefistos could pounce on the old man, Risto jumped from the shadows with a ripped wineskin in his arms and covered Mefistos’ head with it. Only the demon’s sharp horns protruded from the wineskin.
“I will kill you all!” Mefistos yelled.
Yered poked his staff into the demon’s stomach. Mefistos doubled over. Galkak ran over and slashed his sword over the demon’s neck. The sword bounced off harmlessly from a blow that would have decapitated a mortal.
“Notoriously difficult to kill, demons are. Imprison him we must,” Yered said as he smashed the demon on the head. Mefistos fell to his knees and started clawing at the air.
“How?” Galkak asked in a panic.
“Oil lantern.” Yered pointed to a lantern on a table. “Empty it you must and to me bring.”
Galkak ran to the table, grabbed the lantern, spilled out the oil and handed it to Yered. Yered waved his staff in a circle over the demon’s head and chanted: “asir asircha, ledor dorim, yashen shed, ad bo hagoel.”
The demon transformed into a mist, which funneled itself into the lantern in Yered’s hand. The mist emitted a piercing sound as it was sucked into the lantern. Once all the mist had entered the lantern, the lantern made a shrieking noise and then fell silent.
Yered waved his staff over the lantern and chanted: “shalosh bakashot lebaal hametzia, veaz lechofesh beolamchah.”
“Quick, Risto,” Yered motioned to the monkey. “The lantern out to the desert take and deeply it bury. For a few generations this demon found we do not want.”
Risto chittered excitedly, grabbed the lantern and hopped out of the chamber.
“Was that demon real, or is this a hallucination from the drinking?” Galkak asked as he was about to drink.
“Very real demon was. Hallucinations much worse can be.”
Galkak dropped the wineskin as if it was on fire.
“In that case, I quit,” Galkak said with a frightened burp.
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