(By Juan Cole)
The Fall of the New Year Throne
(To read this sword and sorcery novel as it has unfolded before this installment, click here)
As he sat at the oval table in the shah’s quarters, Spityura looked into Jamshid’s eyes, searching for any gleam of the old intelligence and farsightedness. All he saw was enormous dilated pupils nearly covering the brown irises.
“The caravan from Babylon approaches, on its way to the Medes in Ecbatana. Spityura, I want you to raid it.”
“The warriors still have not been paid for the last raid on the Utu, to retrieve Yimak. They may not have a lot of esprit de corps right now. Some will say that they have not been able to replace lost or damaged weapons because the smiths have been on strike.” Spityura knew his objection was futile. His brother had long since stopped being interested in practical reality.
“As for the artisans, that problem will be solved tonight. Tahmuras is invading the bazaar. As for the warriors, promise them the loot of the caravan if they can take it from the Bedouin. Utu dared take my sister for ransom. My sister, my queen!”
“We may also anger the trading partners, Babylon and the Medes. They are weaker than in the past, but still formidable.”
Jamshid drank from his seven-ringed goblet. He slammed it down and peered into the foam on top. “Utu are guaranteeing Babylon delivery. If Mirdas cannot make good on his pledge, Babylon will turn on him. He is nearby, not we. Babylon may even annex Bawri in retribution. That would be sweet, as sweet as the pillage itself.”
Spityura suppressed a sigh. He bowed deeply and left. Back in his own quarters, he summoned the Nar chieftains he had hand-picked for the expedition. The Marafi and Maspi tribes were the best warriors aside from the royal Pasargadae to which Spityura himself belonged.
He also wanted a contingent from the priestly Dropiki, who had been cowherds before specializing in the sacred. They were so angry at Jamshid these days, however, that he did not expect them to agree to go along.
The Dropiki chieftain, Gaomant, arrived first, ushered in by the runner.
“We are going to raid the Babylonian caravan. I’d like a band of Dropiki with me. The whole tribe, including the zaotars, will share in the booty.”
Goamant kneeled and touched the top of Spityura’s foot. “The Dropiki are Prince Spityura’s loyal servants.”
Spityura was surprised. He had expected bitter recriminations for the way young Zopyrus had been summarily dispatched and for the confiscation of the cattle of the priestly castes, many of them sprung from Dropiki. “We ride tonight, in hopes of catching them while they are camping and asleep.”
Gaomant backed out of the room, facing Spityura, eyes down. “I will make some men ready, my lord. They will be pleased that it is you they follow.”
Spityura was alarmed at this last supposed compliment. It sounded like a hint at misprision. He knew that Jamshid was virtually omniscient, and if he suspected Spityura of treason, he would not hesitate to separate his brother’s princely head from his royal neck.
Comments and suggestions on the installments are welcome, but they should please be constructive. Commenters relinquish the rights to any ideas they express in the comments section, which become the property of Juan Cole. Presumably they want them incorporated into the final work, and they might be. The novel is copyright by Juan Cole, 2014, and may not be mirrored or reproduced without express permission from the author.