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Xina Marie Uhl

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- Necropolis

Necropolis (Book Excerpt)
         by Xina Marie Uhl
Buy from XC Publishing
Page 1 of 7

Prologue

Under the searing gaze of the sun god Rumda did I march my army
My army of ten thousand
Before me fled the people of the land
The harvest lay withered on the threshing floor
Figs shriveled unpicked on the trees
Dust piled high in the homes
Homes where only jackals and foxes now lived
Even these fled before me before my army's might
I crossed the harsh wasteland to the edge of the world
to Eretria by the sea
That nest of vipers
Home to the Dwellers--the Old Ones Defilers of the land
With the might of my sword I slew the young men
With the point of my javelin I made rivers of blood flow to the thirsty soil
I took the young women
I made widows of all
They heaped dust upon their heads
The air was filled with their weeping
Sweet music to my army
to the weary travelers
with the bloody sandals
O Eretria
Your walls are crumbled
Your temples are burning
Your city is no more
I am Kar the Mighty
Conqueror of Nations
I will clear away the old and make a new land
A new city, strong and fast
A new people that no one shall conquer
In this vow I stand firm as a yew
My arms held wide as a god to my people
As king of Eretria
King of the World

‘The Founding of Eretria'

Stele inscription

Year 1, Eretrian Calendar


Chapter 1

Year 309, Eretrian Calendar

It was an evil day.

Outside Eretria's walls, the farmers living on the sun-baked plains kept their livestock carefully separated; breeding on this day would only result in stillbirths or deformities. Inside the walls, priests lit incense and sent prayers of protection to the gods along with the sweet-smelling smoke. The astrologers, adamant about the heavenly portents, recommended that the faithful remain in their homes not only at night, but during the daytime as well.

Conyr Elarrin had no sooner started his rounds that afternoon when he found himself wishing he'd done just that. Falas, the Head Guard, ordered him to stand watch in the Pit, the lowest level of the prison. Conyr normally patrolled the first and second levels, which housed a slightly better lot: prisoners who had committed crimes against the city-state or whose means had purchased them less crowded conditions. There was only one reason he would be ordered to the Pit. Someone had been brought in for torture. His stomach tightened in dread. Kar, not today, he prayed silently. But Kar wasn't listening or--more likely--didn't care.

He descended the stairs to the Pit, a large room dug from the hard desert earth and lined with iron bars to create two areas: one huge square cell where the masses mingled and a smaller square in the center for the guards and those unfortunate enough to be tortured. Falas was there, a look of feverish excitement on his round, sweating face.

Shortly, two of Conyr's fellow guards arrived dragging a young man with a bloodied face and torn tunic. They looped a long, rough rope around his wrists, then tossed the end through a hook on the ceiling and pulled it until the young man's sandals dangled just above the stone floor. Blood dripped from his chafed wrists. The young man looked down at the red spots, then up again. He had dark hair that curled slightly from the dampness of sweat and a face that, though understandably pale, appealed to the eyes because of its symmetry and openness. His expression riveted Conyr: it spoke of pride, strength, determination, and complete knowledge of what was impending. Conyr could tell that the young man knew he would not make it. Somehow, in some way he could not explain, the young man's courage touched him in a place deep inside that he thought had been seared closed by the prison's ever-present misery.

Prisoners with matted beards and filth-encrusted robes surged against the bars in excitement. Conyr jabbed them back with his cudgel. Voices rose as the more eager onlookers wagered on the young man's strength. They sickened Conyr, all the more so because some of them had been victims of the same type of treatment, though they had the dubious honor of surviving.

A burst of hot air from the surrounding desert struck the outside of the building, sifting dust through the tiny ventilation windows near the ceiling. The accompanying puff of breeze stirred the odors--the sweat and feces and unwashed bodies--into a nauseating mixture that permeated the very walls and gave the place an old feel. It wasn't, though. The prison had been built barely twenty-five years ago when the old council decided that Eretrian citizens convicted of offenses such as stealing, raping and defaulting on debts should no longer be enslaved, just imprisoned for a set term. Enslavement was reserved for foreigners.

Falas pulled out his cudgel and slapped it against his bare palm. A cry of approval went up. So, that was how they would do it this time--beat the prisoner to death. Conyr's eyes snapped back to the young man's face, saw him close his eyes and move his lips in some silent supplication.


Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Xina Marie Uhl, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.

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