(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)
Roxanna had been running haoma and water to the princess and her warriors just before the entered Hyrba. She was terrified as warriors rode down on the first huts. Some had dismounted and used sticks and grass to start a fire, while others brought sticks from the village woodpile, which they used to make torches.
Some villagers were still inside their humble dwellings, especially infants, the infirm and the elderly. The first hut to catch fire went up in a hungry conflagration almost immediately, since it had been so dry for so long.
Some of the men of the village were daring to stand against the warriors, and one leaped at a horseman, knocking him off his steed and striking him with a massive peasant fist before he could stick his assailant with a sword. The Nar warrior toppled back, dazed.
Without warning another of the horsemen rode down on the victorious peasant, a chakusha or double-edge axe in his hand, and caught him in the mouth, severing his head in two as though he was splitting an apple with a butcher knife.
Roxanna recognized Faranak, Athwya’s wife, from her vegetable stall in the bazaar every year after harvest season. She was standing in front of the hut of a pregnant woman with several children. The toddlers were running here and there in and out of the threshhold, oblivious to the danger. Faranak was by her stance pleading with a berserk warrior to spare this dwelling, but there was also a hint of a threat in the steely resolve etched on her face.
Athwya came running forward and kneeled in front of the irate Princess Yimak, shouting in his loudest voice. “We are Pasargadae, your highness.”
The wolf-warriors who had been poised to fall upon the rest of the grass huts with torches hesitated, eyes fixed on their leader.
Clouded as the queen’s mind was, Roxanna could see that the information gave her pause. She knew that Jamshid and the royal family were originally from the Pasargadae.
Yimak shifted on her steed, nearly falling off in her inebriation. She seemed undecided.
Roxanna was surprised to detect a bright yellow halo about Faranak. Even as Yimak considered her next move, saliva dripping from pink teeth, her own aura winked, flickered and faded. Roxanna thought about what Kavi Daena had said, and realized that the future of Aratta might lie here.
She approached the queen and curtsied. “Your highness, Pasargadae are your own kith and kin. It would be a bad example to the other tribes to allow their blood to be spilled in the absence of open rebellion.”
Yimak’s eyes widened and she seemed to awaken into this world. “You dare to speak? You? A potter girl?”
Roxanna trembled like a poplar leaf in a gale.
“Still, you speak sensibly. Some amends, however, must be made for the impudence of this village.” She rode up to the prostrate Athwya. “I will allow you to depart to the forest if you leave immediately. No belongings, no grain. Your huts will be burnt.”
Athwya’s face showed a grimace despite himself and he rose, eyes cast down, to organize his people’s hasty exodus. “Your highness is gracious.”
He took the arm of his wife, Faranak, and hurried the villagers along, sending runners to alert everyone and make sure the children and elderly were not abandoned to the coming flames.
Yimak whirled on her steed and rode the few steps over to Roxanna, who had decided it was best to kneel and fix her eyes on the brown grass.
She was sure it was her last moment, that an akinakes short sword would sever vertebrae from vertebrae momentarily.
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.