The Golden City
Haiwi’s head pounded and her jaw hurt as she slowly regained consciousness. She could hear many voices around her, but the noise seemed distant and rumbling. Her wrists, restrained high above her head and her hands were almost lifeless from the constriction of the wraps and weight of her body on the straps.
Haiwi opened her eyes, dazed, and looked about the arena then to her arms. She was tied securely between two poles. The crowds had gathered to see the Feast of Incubison. She scanned the stadium spotting the soldiers that had pulled her from her cell with two big cats stationed at either side of the entryway. Only nine are guarding the ingress to the prison? One’s missing?
Her head dropped. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. The sound of the crowd rose in a crescendo that was almost deafening as the proud little captive pulled herself, staggering to a stand. “Father,— where are you?” she cried out.
She rubbed her chin on her shoulder, smearing blood from her jaw across her clammy skin. Will death be swift? Then she thought of the Messenger. A confidence spilled out over her countenance as she raised her chin in defiance and again filled her chest. “Stand back and see the deliverance of the Great Spirit and his right hand of power!”
But the volume of the arena masked the words to the assembly as a chant took form among the parishioners.
“The war god is angry and you have awakened his spirit!” the woman cried.
Perhaps the soldiers heard her warning, but the empty dirge sparked no waning of purpose. Haiwi filled her lungs once again to shout and the crowd suddenly fell silent. “Behold,— The War God Cometh!”
The words echoed over the stone walls of the amphitheater. Haiwi looked around the stadium wondering why the abrupt hush when she spotted a lone man at the opposite end of the arena from where the soldiers stood. The young woman watched hopefully for the other warriors of her father; but only the single individual moved her way: no armor of her city adorned the stocky frame; no spear or shield toted to protect or defend. Dressed only in a loincloth of soft deer leather, the man continued his approach.
What is he holding? Haiwi thought. Is it some kind of one stringed musical instrument?
“Where are my father’s men?” she cried. “Where is my father? Does he stand ready to overrun the arena,— destroying the false worshipers of Incubison?” Haiwi looked intently for an answer, but the musician was silent. “Why won’t you answer me?”
The crowd cheered; and the stranger and Haiwi looked back, spotting Incubison emerging from where the lone man had appeared.
The breech clothed man with the one stringed instrument, stuck what Haiwi took for little spears into the soil and jumped to her side. Swinging his musical contraption he severed the thong that secured her right hand. Handing her a knife with a shiny blade the stranger spoke mere gibberish and then retrieved one of his little spears.
“Come, we must run,” Haiwi screamed as she freed herself from the last restraint. “Please,— we must run.— What are you doing?” Haiwi was in shock as the stranger faced the angry serpent with the puny useless sticks,— placing one on his instrument. With the speed of a·ah·rah,— lightning itself,— the little missile struck the mighty dragon in the eye,— burying itself deep in the pupil.
Incubison thundered forth its rage.
Haiwi was amazed at the man’s courage and he was defending her,— but what could little thorns do against the mighty dragon?
She ran to his side grabbing his arm, “Come! We must run!”
The serpent lunged at the stranger, but the man’s nerve was as flint. As fast as a·ah·rah,— the man bent the wood of his shapely weapon and blinded Incubison completely.
Admiration swelled in the heart of Haiwi as she marveled at the prowess of the warrior before her: her deliverer. Was this the Hand-of-the-Great-One? This was surely the deliverer the Messenger spoke of!
The warrior’s last shot had little to do with Incubison’s ultimate demise. The poisoned flint blade lodged in the creature’s back from the cave had completed its work. With every movement of the beast’s wings the razor sharp tip continued to sever tissue until it finally cut into an artery. Once into the bloodstream, the serpent’s own poison attacked its nervous system. It took a few moments; but shortly after the Hand-of-the-Great-One’s mini-spear struck the monster’s second eye, it dropped into a quivering mass on the arena’s ground,— almost at the stranger’s feet.
Silence fell across the masses, then a cheer, Haiwi screamed, and the warrior spun. The two large cats were charging.
Swiftly, the Hand-of-the-Great-One fitted a small spear and bent the wood pulling the string. The flight of the feathered stick was so fast Haiwi could not even see its path; but the closest lion dropped in its death throes, pierced through the breast and heart. The second bounded over his fallen companion with a roar of challenge almost on top of the lone warrior; but the deliverer spun dodging the mighty talons and taking his stringed weapon like an axe, swung its deceptive contours. The heavy cable, stretched between its two extremities, cut through the flesh of a raking paw, severing it halfway up the leg.
The cat stumbled at the shock and fell face first into the dirt. The warrior jumped, twisting, and brought the weapon down across the animal’s neck. The head rolled free of the body.
The parishioners were standing and cheering in amazement, but the soldiers of the high priest ran forth throwing their spears. The Hand-of-the-Great-One ducked and dodged catching one of the shafts in midair and returned it to its owner through the heart.
Haiwi yelled a war cry and joined the deliverer, armed only with the stranger’s knife.
“Taste the wrath of the war god’s mighty hand,” she screamed in defiance.
Arms, legs and heads, severed clean from the soldiers’ torsos, spilled out onto the arena grounds. The Hand-of-the-Great-One danced through the enemy lashing out with his instrument of death: every swing a mortal blow, every twist a brutal slash. No one could match the deadly accuracy of the formidable weapon as the warrior hacked and chopped.
Never had Haiwi seen such a display of strength and courage, “Death to you all!” she cried, charging into the fray and locked into mortal combat with one who dragged her from her cell.
A savage swing cut the air as the large battle axe missed by inches. Haiwi dodged the blow and buried the glistening blade of her deliverer deep into the thigh of her attacker. No scream issued forth from the tongue-less man, but the shock on his face spelled the shame and horror of the indignity. Backhanding Haiwi, he tried to jump on her as she stumbled back; but the wound to his leg had severed the artery — and weakened, he fell to his knees.
Haiwi scrambled to her feet as the fallen arced his weapon again in a useless pass. Haiwi easily sidestepped the blunder and catching the man’s arm as it whipped by, she grabbed it with her left hand. The momentum swung her to the man’s back where she plunged the blade deep into the soldier’s neck. A hard right elbow caught her in the stomach, driving her from her foe; but as she jumped to her feet the man fell quietly to the ground.
Haiwi looked up to the cheering crowd, then to the Hand-of-the-Great-One. All the soldiers were dead, the two big cats, even Incubison lay lifeless on the arena’s floor. And the crowds were chanting a song of praise. “Surely you marvel at the war god’s wrath?” she shouted, but they could not hear. Then she spotted more of the high priest’s soldiers making their way into the arena from smaller entryways hidden by the contours of the tall stone walls from strategic points around the grounds.
The multitude in the stands booed the forces,— throwing remnants of food and casting jeers; but the arm’s-of-the-holy-man ignored the insults and stepped quickly,— stationing themselves for an assault.
Haiwi spun back to the deliverer. The Hand-of-the-Great-One was moving toward the entryway previously guarded by the soldiers. He will free the Messenger, she thought. “Boo-bee,” Haiwi cried as she charged out after the stranger. Reaching his side she walked into the tunnel of the prison.
The wide mouthed opening of the ingress was a huge archway fully twenty yards across and Bobby’s guard was standing at the end of the tunnel where it crossed the access to the catacombs of the pyramid. The guard had witnessed the miraculous battle in the amphitheater. From his vantage point he stood stone still as the two victors approached.
Haiwi jumped ahead of her champion waving the silver blade of the knife menacingly and shouted at the guard in his own language, “As was spoken by the Messenger, the Hand-of-the-Great-One has come.” She pointed her instrument of death at the keeper’s heart and commanded, “Kneel before his authority or he will take your head as will befall any that oppose the Great-One!”
Behind the sentry others of the king’s personal guard clamored into the narrow passageway of the prison.
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