The House of Khol By Sonny Azeez
(Nigeria) Chapter 2
Click here to send comments
Click here if you'd like to exchange
The House of Khol
By Sonny Azeez (Nigeria)
Click here to send comments
Click here if you'd like to exchange critiques
"Poor child, she must have almost danced herself to death," said one of the chubby women standing over Cartelia’s unconscious body. Their complexions were pale and their cheeks, rosy, as if it was in a constant state of blushing. They both had their hands folded in front of their laps and stood at the same height. The only difference between them lay in their eyes. Prudy had green, slanting eyes, while Nuby had deep, blue almond eyes.
The room was in disarray. The bed’s woodwork was smashed and the fillings removed, the painting on the wall was deeply scratched, the chandeliers smashed down and the floor were littered with the fragments of the destruction.
"She must have known something to be so glad to be free," Nuby commented.
"Poor child, she wouldn’t be missing us when she’s gone. Will she remember us?" Prudy asked, dubbing the edge of her watery eyes with the edge of her apron.
"We’ve better things to do then worry over trivia issues," Nuby snorted. "The Oracle will do to her as they deem fit." Her eyes burned fiercely as she stood over the unconscious body, "Child wake up."
The command came as a distant call to Cartelia’s ears in the multi-coloured void where she found herself floating.
"Cartelia, up now!"
Cartelia felt cold as she re-entered her almost lifeless body. The thought of Nuby running her hand over her body again scared her. No, she did not want to be touched, she could not bear to be touched again by those oily hands. She would cry no, she would scream, protest for the first time in her life –
"Come child" Nuby coaxed, running a finger across her face, "you know we love you."
Cartelia screamed and reached for the nearest object. Nuby ducked down as Cartelia hurled a chunk of heavy wood at her.
"Hush child. It’s ok, we’re taking you to papa and mama now," she informed, trying to blanket the young body with hers.
"I’m not a child!" she cried in a thickly strange voice. Something wriggled beneath her skin, creeping upwards.
Nuby could not tell whether it was the alien presence within Cartelia’s body or the force from the voice , but something from the girl’s body raised into the air, made her scream as her skin shrivelled before hurling her into what remained of the portrait of the King and Queen.
Prudy was perturbed as she ran to the assistant of her twin. What had come over the girl on the day of her freedom, some evil one from the orders of the higher deities?
"Ho! Ho!" Nuby hooted painfully, unable to comprehend what had happened. Why was the back of her head throbbing like the anvil of the blade forgers?
Prudy was about rubbing balm gotten from some of the herbs that was were cultivated in the farm behind the king’s garden, which she kept in one of the pocket of her apron, when a scream behind her brought the action to a halt and Nuby back to her senses.
Cartelia lay spread-eagle across the roof of the room, writhing and speaking in strange tongues.
A single thought ran through the sisters’ telepathic mind – possession - of a kind they were yet to see. Their heartbeat quickened.
There was a short rap on the door, then it swung opened and a plainly dressed feminine figure with a hood over her head stood in the doorway carrying a bowl of sweet-smelling flower petals. The twins immediately recognized the figure as one belonging to the order of the virgins of the mountain, who had come for the purification bath of the princess before her royal presentation.
"Her highness, the high priestess of the mountains found your deeds unpardonable." the virgin began towards the twins "and has…"
Unceremoniously, the sisters made a swift dash past her, jarring her sense of direction for a minute. The guilty, she thought, how like them to panic before their judgment is pronounced. Then, she realized that her thought was trailing away as a putrid air of decay brushed against her face, she turned in the direction of the smell. For a moment, the world seemed to stand still as the form of the girl that bore little resemblance to the dainty-looking image of the princess that the high priestess had implanted in her mind, hissed at her malevolently hanging head-down from the roof.
Cartelia hair flew wildly behind her, her face was deeply lacerated with droplets of blood trickling down opened wounds, foams of saliva dribbled down the edge of her mouth.
"What do you want?" the being who had possessed Cartelia asked.
The virgin had barely thought of a coherent answer before she found her legs snatched from under her and flung out of the room.
The twins were barely near the spiral stairway a thick darkness from Cartelia’s chamber enveloped them.
A deafening silence descended around them.
The unannounced intrusion of Herta’s presence into Roislin’s, bedroom, her privacy brought a deep frown between Roslin’s eyes. She wondered what now her sister wanted; her beautiful mirror of truth or her unicorn comb? Already, she had taken her priceless pearls from the Lady of Lake and her eyeliner from the nymphs of the Amazon.
"What’s it now?" she blurted out. "My birdcage since the phoenix is yet to come out of the shell of its ashes or the sandals of the fairy wood?"
"I’ve come on an important issue." Herta replied. "Have you seen either Zikoh-lee or Saphagon? Are they in rooms or yet?"
"What business of yours are they?" Roislin snapped.
"Of course, you’re so lucky to be privilege with such a view."
Roislin held her breath. What would it be this time? Her invaluable peepholes, 20 feet apart from each other, gave her an unprecedented, intimate view of the guests in their rooms. There was nothing more pleasurable than being the watcher, a pleasure she relished.
Herta had developed a feeling for one of the guests; the bald saffron robe wearing, squinty eyed, psychometric Saphagon. There was something in his telepathic ability; his powers to create and animate forms from his mind that enchanted her. Something in his vivid recreation of things of his kingdom and those enchanting tales of wonder made her want to runaway with him to those elastic heights of his kingdom.
However, there was a problem. Roislin felt Herta was trying to share her invaluable treasure again. This time it was their love for Saphagon and their budding affection for Zikoh-lee and his skilful mastery of the raging blade.
They both wondered why fate had made them as thus, always falling in love with the same object or person. If only their desire could differ for a moment or was this a shared curse?
"I would’ve loved to praise your many privileges too, probably chat over a cup of delicious cinnamon tea," Roislin began. "However it’s getting very late and I wish to be up early, if our lives are spared till tomorrow. Besides, you’re the one to tend to the Queen tonight, goodbye."
"Sshh" Herta whispered, raising her skirt and tiptoeing swiftly across the room to the edge of her sister’s bed. "The Queen’s resting now"
"Isn’t it advisable you catch some rest too?"
"I want to, but not in my room"
"Not in your room?" she gasped, a shrill alarm ringing in her head. "Then, there are other rooms in the west wing fit for your accommodation"
"I’m afraid. Arcius in my room – laughing."
Zikoh-lee rose from his squatting position in the centre of a concentrate circle with bright burning candlesticks, where he had been meditating.
He knew the pair of eyes peering at him from the assumed, discrete peeping hole amongst the colourful motifs of green vegetations. He knew whose eyes they were, but kept the knowledge to himself. Despite the childish fantasies she had spawned in her head, he would readily break her heart by telling her he had no feelings for her. On the other hand, the way of the warriors had said to be kind and tender to the matters of the heart – if only his heart was such.
He would rescue her in distress if it were in his powers to do so. He may walk her down the courtyard on a cold, lonely night and make a fire to keep her warm. He might dance with her and have a drink or two with her, but under no circumstance would he touch her beyond the traditional kiss on the back of her hand.
It was unholy and foolish on a night as this to sought company beyond the protective walls of the castle, yet the unblinking eyes from the peeping holes tired him. He needed a place away from all the noises in his head. He needed to mediate without being distracted by the inconspicuous longings of his flesh.
He needed quiet music, a soft warm bed and a warm feminine body beneath the sheets – feminine.
He strode out of the room, sheathing his sword into his waist-belt.
"Is that any place I might go with you Zikoh-lee?" asked a thick voice from the next door.
He stopped in his tracks. Something old Saphagon had gotten it into his head, the first moment they met, was to be a fatherly figure to him. If only the old man was not a nuisance as such. The least he needed from anybody was sympathy for what he had become.
"I don’t intend to be long," he replied coldly, keeping his voice low but retaining the emphasis on the negative word.
"Death’s abound tonight" Saphagon reminded, "not even the dead are safe from the evil that prowls the night."
"I do not intend to be unwise Saphagon." the name came out a whisper with the edge of a rapier
"Already, I have a soul to mourn; I do not want yours on my hands" the old man reminded.
He hesitated. The old man was probably disconsolate by the death of the only person he could call a friend. Maybe the shock of the horrible death had jarred his soul deeper than anybody had imagined. Nevertheless, he was in no mood to tolerate Saphagon’s company.
"I wouldn’t be long" he informed in the same, cold manner before marching away swiftly, leaving what the old man was about to say hanging in the air. He would not be delayed a second longer from the pleasure in his mind eyes.
He quickly strode up the hallway, following the faint trail of a sweet scent.
"Help me! Help me!" a distinctly familiar voice cried desperately from the bend ahead of him.
Instinctively, his hand shot down to the hilt of his blade. Yet he would rather let what it was pass by than unsheathed his blade. He would only fight if it posed a threat to his plans.
A dishevelled figure swept into his view, punching and kicking the air as it ran towards him.
His grip tightened.
The figure stumbled over its clothing, rolled across the floor, picked itself up, and continued it mad dash, while throwing apprehensive glances at whatever was chasing it behind.
The figure looked familiar, he thought to himself as it drew nearer. Definitely, they had met before. Was it in the tower, the battlement, or beside the lake? No, it was somewhere warmer and cosier, where the air was thick with a rich feminine perfume, somewhere like Roislin’s room. By the gods, it was Pris!
How long had it being now, he thought, a month or two when Pris had suddenly opened the door on him and Roislin in her silky bed? She had been serving him under the deception that he loved her just to have his way with her and maybe put an end to her mindless peeping and that was his first day there. He thought he was doing both of them a favour by professing love to her and she had threw herself on him like a whore. Surely, Bilphilous would be shocked to learn none of his daughters were virgins, except Cartelia, but how long would she remain one once she was presented to the court?
They had been exploring the pleasure of their intimacy when the respected valet had entered unannounced and unwelcome into the room only to turn out that, he wanted his way with his master’s daughter!
Now, what in the names of all the evils besieging the Kingdom of Khol had choosen this moment to harm this man. Roislin’s image was beginning to brighten up in his mind eye and the contemplation of spending the night with her began to creep into his mind.
Pris stumbled again, tearing at his garment as he picked himself up. His cry became more desperate,
"Someone help me! Anybody help me, please!"
The desperation in the voice quickened Zikoh-lee’s steps to almost a run.
"Help me! Help me!" Pris cried out at the sight of the warrior’s quick advance "Help me, help me!" stretching out his hand, "an equestrian has taken away the soul of my lord, the king."
A pang of shock swept through Zikoh-lee’s body. One of those dreaded equestrians was abound in the castle ground, how comes?
"Do not be troubled." he assured, unsheathing the blade with one hand, while reaching out for the troubled valet out stretched hand with the other. "Come with me."
Pris grasped for the hand, but found himself gliding into a pit of pitch-blackness. He cried for help, finding the rest of his body stiff and unable move or look back. Then realizing that the reason for his fright was not the possibility of an equestrian in the castle, instead it was from the numbing stillness that had swept over his body.
Zikoh-lee stared in surprise as Pris’ form passed through his like an element of nothing, a spectre. The old valet was still running and calling for help for all to hear.
"By the gods, what is the meaning of this?" a voice sworn softly at him.
He spurred on his heels swiftly. Glaphius stood over the awkwardly spread-eagled form of Pris lying on the floor beside the door of the king’s chamber.
"You did this?" Glaphius accused, sighting Zikoh-lee’s drawn blade.
Zikoh-lee immediately understood Glaphius words.
"He said the king’s dead," he informed without bothering to hide the incriminating weapon.
"What?" Glaphius inquired, a look of disbelief on his face.
"He said there’s an equestrian abound in this castle."
"An equestrian you said?" he started to reach for the hilt of his blade. "How believable, why pick on the equestrians? Certainly, there’re a lot of other things you could have picked on without being incredible."
"My words are true."
"It’s very easy to doubt Zikoh-lee, considering the situations under which you were exiled." Glaphius retorted, waving a finger at the guest.
Zikoh-lee’s eyes blazed red. He hated being reminded why he was exile from the enchanted courts of the red mountains with the sprouting fountains of fire, which constantly provide a scene for fireworks display. He remembered the voices in the wind and the sweet melodies drifting through the valley. A sense of bitter longing swept over him as Rahia’s face drifted into his line of vision. He knew if he saw her once again, she would not fail to astound him with her silvery hair, pink lips and cheeks, dark eyes and pale skin. He wondered if she would still be at the window holding the red scarf that would hurl him into her room.
Yet they had called her a harlot, a sorceress, and him, an unworthy son of the blade to have fallen under her spell and harlotry.
"You must leave and not return until you have proven yourself to be a worthy son of the blade!" the king had sentenced. The king who was also his father had sentenced him – his son!
Now, his curse was to prove himself a worthy son of the blade, but he knew hers was no sorcery as they had claimed. Hers was the divine act of love to a killer who was supposed to have no emotions.
His grip tightened on the blade, enraged by the prince’s words. Had it been Glaphius was not of the throne, he would have struck him down.
"I’ll command, the guards to seize you" Glaphius continued arrogantly, "I’ll command the guardians to take you before the Oracle and I’ll command your name to be no more!"
Zikoh-lee gently patted the thick hair covering his left eye away and the scratched red scar down his temple, a relic of the tragic war with orcas of the moon. It itched now as it used to whenever he was enraged. "And if I’m found not guilty?"
Glaphius was about to tell him of his influential powers to make be what was thought impossible, even amongst the sacred, when a long neigh down the hall froze the words in his throat. His body stiffened with dread. The sound of a horse’s shoe striking the floor reached his ears.
He turned toward Zikoh-lee in disgust. "What manner of sorcery are you playing within the holy ground of this castle, is my brother’s death not enough for you and your demons?"
Zikoh-lee rushed at him with the tip of the blade pointed at the prince’s throat.
Glaphius heart skipped a beat as his hold on the blade became slippery and it fell off to the ground, clattering loudly. Here was a foreigner on their grounds about to get away with a murder – if not a second murder?
An uneasy sense of calm descended on him as the close sound of an equestrian’s hooves and panting breath reached his ears from behind. The dreary thought of an equestrian became that of salvation. In his mind eye, he saw two things ending; either the equestrian would whisk away with his soul or strike out Zikoh-lee’s, whatever the outcome was, it was pertinent one would fall. If only it would not be him…
Zikoh-lee rose into the air and struck a foot into Glaphius’ chest as, kicking him backwards. The kick was followed by second foot, which made contact with the lower half of his face. The pain forced his eyes wide opened and he saw himself staring at the underbelly of a jumping black mare.
Zikoh-lee’s blade swished through the air and struck through the darkness of the hood wore by the equestrian. A bolt of lightening exploded before his eyes as an unearthly screech filled the corridor. The equestrian rose into the air and flopped to the floor in an untidy heap, just as the warrior stepped on the prince’s forehead as if it were some sort of staircase and threw himself backwards on his feet.
Glaphius’ body felt jarred as a sudden sense of rage and confusion crept over him. How dared that scoundrel kick him in the chest, how dare he threaten his life? He sought his blade and found it on the ground beside him, the discovery heightened his rage, and how would his father have treated him now, seeing the blade had deserted him in time of need, or was it the other way round? What kind of defender of the throne of Khol would he make if he could not defend the gates of his home? What a disappointment Bilphilous would have considered him, the heir apparent to the throne unable to fight! No, he must prove his worthiness, and what better way was there to prove it than to challenge a son of the raging blade. He wrestled the blade form the strangely cold floor and rush towards Zikoh-lee as the warrior flipped off the hood on the face of the equestrian.
The face stared at them coldly, freezing all that was with one look.
Thenis sat bolt upright in the semi-dark room. His body, covered in perspiration, felt as if he had not slept a wink. Had it being he knew not the powers of the one slumbering a feet away from the bed, in that seat, he could have sworn it was rarely a shadow of something exaggerated by his hyper-active imagination - a fragment of the thing that had broken his dream.
Was it a dream or a nightmare?
He wiped the perspiration on his face with the back of his hand. What was it that had disturbed his sleep? Was it the sudden drop in the room’s temperature, or was it the thought that they were not the only one in the room? A sense of alarm filled him. Could the penetrating stare behind him be those of the fabled evil eyes?
"Fear not Thenis, son of the elements" a wispy voice behind, whispered.
He jerked backwards frightfully, a stricken feeling in his guts and the painful crumpling of his bowel.
The form of an aged man dressed in a white, wide long-sleeved gown with a red hood that partial hid the bluish face underneath. The figure looked more like a hologram, hovering above his headrest, like a guardian in his room?
"I’m whatever you make of me" the man announced reading his mind, "and my mission is to interpret your dream."
"Was-I-dreaming? It-feels-like-it-but-I-can-t-remember-what-it-was!" Thenis stuttered
"You do not need to recall the events of the dream, son of the elements," the guardian continued relying on telepathy to communicate, "It’s the meaning of the dream you should be concerned about, which is why you have failed to recall the events of your dream, though it was predestined to be so. The event of your dream tells of countless wonders and glories that will be yours. It tells of the marvels you will accomplish and the many lands that will fall under your rule like the sails succumb to the wind. It tells of the many subjects you will posses and the raging fires you will quench with the floodgates of the heavens in your hands. Your name will be spelt among the stars and your image scattered throughout the galaxy. You’ll be the greatest one yet to be, and that is the meaning of the event of your dream, o son of the elements."
A euphoric feeling swept over Thenis as the guardian spoke. The words felt true, like a retell of the event of his dream despite the disturbing chill that crept over his body whenever he tired to figure out how it really happened.
"Do not doubt Thenis, these words will come true. However to fulfil them, you must divine with the children of the dead and breathe not a word of this dream. And when you see the head of Khol severed from its shoulder know then that my words are true."
Elsa’s face was tear-streaked and the pillow was covered with dark, wet patches. The wretchedness in her heart made her feet felt laden with lead; never could there have being a more wretched queen in the history of Khol than she.
Nevertheless, she needed to see the body of her beloved son, her most beloved son, again. Whoever they were, why could not they have taken the discontented and quarrelsome Herta or the introvert Olacer, the materialistic Roislin or the gallant Glaphius? Not that she wished evil for any of her offspring - may the gods forbid any evil befall them, she would rather sacrifice her life on their behalf if it ever comes to that - but Arcius was all she had; the song of her heart, the laughter in her voice, and the joy of her bosom. They could have taken anything, anything even the throne of Khol, but spare his life.
A horse neighed beneath her window.
She knew the night of the equestrians was not the sort of night for an out-of-body-projection. The odds of a smooth reunion with her body was stacked high against her, yet the desire to see her son’s body again blinded all her senses of reason.
Herta would probably be spending the night with some strange bedfellow, gladden that the sedative portion administered into her mother’s nightly cup of warm milk had finally put her mother to bed in order to commit what she thought was her secret deeds. It only she knew who was watching her. However, Elsa had grown to learn, in her capacity as a queen, that some issues are better left under an assumed cloak of darkness. And that was why she needed to make contact with Iegon, the son of the night. It seemed there was an impenetrable blanket of darkness over the house, something only he could see and understand.
As she turned to walk away from the bedside, a soft whimper reached her ears. Her body was already mourning, she thought, this was a journey that the outcome was uncertain. Nevertheless whatever it was, one thing was certain Arcius would not be the only death in the house tonight.
Her mirror had told her so.