In the morning Zipper found his two friends.
“You found Skedesa?” the Celt asked.
“No,” Zipper replied in desperation. “I went to the cave, but he had led her away a couple of hours earlier. Then I reached the Throat of Hades, but they weren’t there either.
“Easy, we’ll find her,” the priest of Perperikon tried to lend him courage.
“Close eyes,” the Celt said. “Now think of her and turn around. You see the radiance of her “Tear of Eternity”.”
Zipper looked at him in disbelief and confusion.
“Do it!” both priests insisted.
Zipper closed his eyes and turned around slowly, and indeed, at some time he saw a pale radiance which was coming from the northwest.
“I saw the radiance,” he said. “It’s coming from over there,” and he pointed the direction with his finger.
“Let’s go then,” the Celt said.
They went in the direction, and they saw the impostor priest hovering over Skedesa who was lying on the ground, motionless.
Zipper could not stand the sight and rushed straight towards him.
The impostor also saw him, and he raised his wand. Bright light streamed from it and dazzled Zipper and the horse; they lost their sight for a couple of minutes. The horse tripped and Zipper flew off its back. He fell and hurt himself, but not severely. Still, he could not see.
He heard some murmuring, spells and thunders.
When he regained his sight, he saw the impostor running, and the Celt was casting lightnings after him with his wand. Finally the villain hid in the forest and vanished.
Zipper rushed to Skedesa. He saw her lie lifeless, and his heart was overflowed with anxiety and grief. He bent over her and started talking to her:
“My love, I am here, by your side. Soul of my soul, heart of my heart, look at me ...”
Then a large tear rolled down from his eye and dropped on the lid of Skedesa’s eye. Seconds later Skedesa slowly opened her eyes ad looked at him with misty eyes. When she saw him, she stretched her arms towards him. Zipper hugged her and started kissing her on the face and mouth. He could not stop himself. He was elated with enormous joy and happiness.
“My love, I was scared for you!” he told her.
“You will never lose me, my love,” she whispered and started kissing him too, possessed with happiness.
The two priests were standing aside and were rejoicing, admiring their love.
After a while the Celt said:
“That villain gone. He must watch us and create problems for us.”
“This time he won’t get away with it!” Zipper cried in a furious tone.
While they were talking, they saw some people on the run, not far from them. They were Thracians. They seemed scared to death. They were running without turning back. Their clothes were tattered, and they were mostly women and children.
The priest of Perperikon approached them and asked them why they were running.
“There are lots of soldiers on horseback ravaging the area. They kill all living beings and set the settlements on fire. They look like beasts. Blood drops off their eyes, and they bring death,” a woman that was clutching her child in her arms hurried to explain.
“What are those soldiers like?”
“They are clad in Roman garments, but they do not seem to be Romans.”
“Demons, they are demons,” another woman screamed.
“That impostor is to blame,” the priest of Perperikon said. “The evil force has possessed those horsemen, and now they are its servants. They will rage unpunished on the Earth if we do not stop them. And they will probably be growing in number.”
“We must gather twenty times as many men,” the Celt said, “to defeat them. We pour over our men “light giving” water from springs of victory and light.”
“Where are those springs?” Zipper asked.
“Up in the mountain, under the snow-capped peaks.”
“Then let’s go there as fast as possible,” the priest of Perperikon urged.
In the next three days they gathered the Thracians fit to fight who were left in the fields and mountains. They performed the rite, and they were ready to face the “squadron of death”.
It was early morning. The mist was clinging to the field, and the dew had bathed the Thracians who were sitting ready to enter the battle.
Somewhere in front of them there were distant ominous screams and scraping sounds of metal hitting metal, and they made the warriors’ teeth chatter. But they stood ready and determined to fight until the end!
“Thracians, warriors of honour!” Zipper called, standing in front of their rows.
“Today you are to fight for light and for your future! Today we are facing the powers of Darkness, in the last and deathly battle! Zbelsourdos, the God of Light, shall be with you and shall lead you to victory! Remember that to kill the demons, you must take out their hearts and stab them. Pour the water we will give you over them. That will weaken their strength.”
Then a spy came and reported he had seen a large swathe of Roman soldiers moving in their direction.
“They seem to be looking for us,” the spy said.
A couple of minutes passed, and the mist started dispersing little by little.
There were noises of armour and weapons clinking in the distance. Suddenly, the “squadron of death” rushed on the Romans, and a bloody battle commenced.
“Thracians, go ahead!” Zipper called out, and the horsemen galloped towards the centre of the battle. Half of the Roman soldiers were defeated, and the rest were fleeing in panic, when the Thracians joined the battle. They surrounded the warriors of darkness and killed them one by one. It was seen how a cloud of black smoke erupted from each killed demon, and formidable demonic howling rose.
That was a sight of horror that many of the warriors would remember for life!
In the meantime, the Celt and the real priest of Perperikon were standing on a hill, watching the battle. They saw the impostor priest on another hill. He was making some spells on a large stone. It seemed there was an animal he was going to sacrifice.
“We must stop him,” the Celt said.
They both headed for him. But before they reached the place, they saw thick black clouds gathering behind the impostor.
“He has summoned Hades himself,” the Celt said.
Everything around started going dark, and impenetrable darkness was setting in. People and animals alike screamed in fright, and they dropped to the ground, suffocating.
Then the sky became radiant, and it opened. An incredibly bright and powerful beam fell on the darkness and hit it with an earsplitting thud!
The eyes of all living beings were deafened by the thud, and a moment later, the darkness was gone. The sky cleared up and the sun shone.
The two priests were lying on the ground, and could hardly breathe.
“Avtavor saved us,” the Celt said.
“Yes, the Thracian priest nodded.
“And where your nephew?”
They looked around, but they could not catch sight of him anywhere.
They were right in their surmise. He had fled, to save himself. But on his way he passed through the Thracians’ camp. There was hardly anyone left there. He saw Skedesa lying under a tree. She had not fully recovered yet, and that was why Zipper had left her under the care of two healer women.
Happy to find her again, almost alone, not protected, the impostor sneaked into the camp. He killed one of the women, and he hit the other with his wand. They had given Skedesa some magic herbs, and that was why she was sleeping.
The impostor wondered if he should take her and force her to become his wife, taking her to some faraway place, or kill her to quench his anger and to teach Zipper and his uncle a lesson. Finally he decided to take her with him. He found a horse, lay her on its back and mounted himself. He was disappearing when the Celt noticed him.
“That villain take Skedesa again,” he said.
“Zipper will be furious,” the priest of Perperikon said. “Let’s follow him,” he offered.
They found horses and followed the impostor.
The battle among the Thracian, the Romans from Philipopolis and the “squadron of death” was almost over.
The Thracians and the Romans from the town were destroying the last horsemen demons possessed by Darkness.
When they had killed the last one, a strong cry of happiness with the victory was heard. The town chief who was also fighting bravely approached Zipper and congratulated him.
“I saw you fight,” he said. “I haven’t seen another warrior use the sword so fast! You are an incredible fighter, and any army would be proud to have you fight for it. You are like Achilles!”
“Yes, Achilles! He was our great-grandfather,” Zipper replied.
“You deserve your freedom! And your woman, Skedesa, also deserves hers! I don’t know whom we fought so far, those were our horsemen, but they seemed to be entirely possessed by dark powers. I saw their black eyes. It seemed as if somebody had painted those eyes. As well as the blood flowing out of their eyes.“
“They were the servants of Darkness, of Hades,” Zipper said. “He had possessed their bodies. Those were no people, they were demons. The souls of those horsemen reached the underground world long ago.”
The town chief looked at him with eyes in which a lot of questions were hidden, but he said nothing. He turned his horse and made for Philipopolis.
Zipper in his turn made for the camp to meet Skedesa.
When he reached it and saw she was not there, he was totally scared for her. He saw the healer woman who had been hit by the impostor priest, and she told him the impostor had taken her away.
Zipper was full of fury. He followed the tracks of hooves and found the direction. He also saw tracks of two other horses, and it occurred to him that probably the Celt and the real priest of Perperikon had headed after him. He also galloped in that direction.
The impostor was climbing some rocks with steps hewn out in them. That was an ancient temple of the Sun, and he intended to take Skedesa there and take her to be his wife at the first sun rays. He reached a large stone with a huge hole in the middle. The first sun rays passed through the hole every morning.
Zipper had overtaken the two priests, and they were approaching the foot of the temple.
The impostor spotted them in the distance, and he started pushing down stones on them. He would have wanted to cast lightnings with his wand, but he had realized that he no longer had such power.
The three men down there separated. That impeded the impostor, and now he could not follow their actions simultaneously.
They hid out of sight and seemed to vanish into thin air.
The night was falling slowly, and it soon enveloped the earth.
The impostor was scared, and he was looking around, in all directions. He knew they were somewhere there, and they were stalking him, to attack him. Every time he heard some noise, he threw stones in that direction. Then everything was silent for a while. Only the wind and the night sounds of birds in the forest were heard.
Being on tenterhooks with tension, the impostor was sweating. His thoughts were confused by fear and anger. And yet, he still believed he was going to succeed. He wanted to make some spell, but if he started making one now, he would get distracted and become vulnerable.
Zipper and the two priests had hidden and were expecting the moment when he would grow exhausted and would not be able to look out for them. Then they would attack him. Only the steps hewn into the rock led to the very temple. It was inaccessible from any other place. It was on the top of an almost vertical slope.
Then, somewhere in the forest, the sound of trees being cut down was heard. Branches were falling, and there was strange clattering, as if someone was nailing something down. The noises continued almost until the morning.
On the horizon in the distance the pale light, precursor of the Sun, appeared.
Then the impostor felt that there was some movement. He looked around and saw something like a small wooden home approach him.
The three men had joined the wood all night, to be able to make something like a large shield which would protect them from the stones that the evil priest was throwing on them.
They approached the steps and felt some stones hit the wooden shield. But they had made it a sound one, and it withstood the blows.
Mad with fury because he was not able to kill the three men, the priest had started throwing stones even more violently.
Then he felt something stab him in the back, reaching right to his heart.
His eyes widened with surprise, pain and horror! He saw how the spear went out through his chest, and he fell on his knees.
Skedesa was standing behind him, and the wind was waving her hair. There were millions of lights streaming from her eyes, and she let out a howling cry.
Zipper looked from behind the wooden shield and saw her. She had raised her arms high, and she continued howling like a she-wolf. He went out from behind the shield and dashed upwards along the steps. He reached her, and when she saw him, she rushed towards him and enveloped him with all her being.
Right then the sun rose and passed through the opening of the sacred stone, bathing the two firmly entangled bodies in light.
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