Chapter 1. Hail to destiny (1)
“Death just came to me and made love to me.”
Lak-nubi, the king of Alasaht, doubted his ears even as he heard his queen’s confession. After a long pause, he responded, his black eyes wide.
“What did you just say?”
“He… the god of death visited me.”
Lak-nubi felt muddled. He, the god of death and darkness, was here? That could bode ill. He looked down at Crosia, who was on her knees. Her shoulders were quivering with fear from the sudden touch of destiny. He offered his arm, tenderly, to help her stand.
“How did you recognise him?” he asked.
“I saw him in the dark while waiting for you in my bed, my lord,” Crosia whispered, looking up at her husband. “On his head grew horns like a water buffalo and from his pale feet rose black mist. He approached slowly and stared down at me with his blue eyes.”
Tears ran down on her brown cheeks.
“Then he lay beside me and later he vanished into thin air.”
Candles threw golden light onto Lak-nubi’s face, flickering with doubt at her story. His throat constricted; he swallowed saliva.
“What shall I do?” she asked, clinging to his shoulders.
His chest heaved, but to feign calm, he caressed his wife’s black hair. “Let us not come to a rash conclusion,” he said. “Let us hear from the gods. I was just about to change and go to the temple to hear an oracle.”
“I hope this doesn’t mean anything….”
Crosia stepped back, her face glittering with tears, and wrapped her arms around her body.
“Isn’t Aterideos, the god of death, the cruellest and sliest among the immortals?” she mumbled.
“You didn’t say that!”
The king stopped his queen from offering any more insults against the gods and looked around. Fortunately, no one else was in the bedchamber; but he wasn’t reassured until he took in everything: the two Jaguar statues, the blue ceramic vases and the aligned white columns. Then he looked at her again.
“You know what happened to the king of Heojurge and his kingdom when he insulted Aterideos,” warned Lak-nubi. “The god’s wrath was brought on everyone; men stabbed each other, and women fought. Nowhere is free from the eyes and ears of immortals.”
His wife hurriedly nodded, wiping her tears away.
“No need to worry,” he said, to soothe her and himself. “The oracle will unearth the truth for us.”
They spoke no more as he prepared himself. Changing clothes, Lak-nubi saw Crosia’s hands trembling; she was rubbing aromatic oil onto his light brown skin for him. He kissed her hands briefly before he left the chamber.
It was late in the night—even bugs had stopped crying—when the king arrived at the temple. Leaving his retinues to wait in the collonaded courtyard, he headed to the sanctuary, guided by a temple custodian, and then entered the room alone.
It was filled with bluish light, and through the glow, he could just make out a priest sitting beside The Brazier of Prophecy. The sound of wind against water plants touched Lak-nubi’s ears as he stepped onto a stone bridge over a lake. When he descended from the bridge, the priest kneeled down on the white stone floor. At her back were statues of the gods, rising, colossal, to the high ceiling. Torch light made their faces look distorted and scary.
“You may stand up,” he said.
The priest stood up, her face wrinkled in fear. To avoid facing her, he averted his eyes to an altar where an offering was laid, the blood still dripping.
He turned to look at her, and she proffered a pipe to him.
“You should see it for yourself,” she said.
Lak-nubi raised a hand but hesitated.
‘My lord of the universe, my queen of all gods.’
He took the pipe, inwardly praying.
‘Lucileos, my goddess of life and lives, please deliver us from this snare of death.’
He took one draw from the pipe. In a few moments, white smoke escaped his full lips, and his vision began to waver. He felt dizzy and nauseous. Trying to hold on to his senses, he rubbed his face, and saw the fire in The Brazier of Prophecy, changing colour from yellow to white. White sparks continually flew out of the brazier, and suddenly something enormous soared toward the ceiling.
Lak-nubi looked up in surprise. A horse composed of white smoke was madly running around, its mane fluttering. With each step, vague mist appeared and disappeared. After a while, the horse burst into bubbles, and became the face of a man. It was pale as the moon and as large as the entire ceiling. It slowly descended to the ground, its blue eyes gleaming, and its open mouth was filled with the darkness of the universe. The dark grew larger and larger until it engulfed the face that held it. Soon, all light died in the room.
Lak-nubi blankly stood, unaware of where he was; whether heaven, ground, or underworld. Then he heard a baby cry from somewhere; the crying grew and shrank and then finally faded away. Another noise, of a rolling object on the floor, began. It ended when the thing hit the king’s feet. As he picked it up, his sense of touch revealed a sharp metal ornament in a shape of an eagle holding the sun in its beak. He noticed that his crown was in his hands; it must never touch the ground, to avoid damage to its sanctity.
Suddenly, an intense light appeared. Lak-nubi squinted. It was fire; furiously blazing all around him. From the flames came men’s yells and women’s screams. That was followed by the sounds of shell trumpets and chariot wheels, announcing the start of a war. Terrified, Lak-nubi turned around and saw his palace ablaze.
The ruler of Alasaht tried to scream, but as his voice reached the root of his tongue, the building began to collapse, and he remained mute in shock. Thousands of pillars and columns fell, and pylons crashed down. Gray dust rose and concealed everything…. Gradually, the flames and lights disappeared, and darkness emerged again.
Shaking hands awakened Lak-nubi gently. He found himself lying on the floor, wet with perspiration. He stood up and breathed deeply.
“What did you see?” the old lady asked.
The king told her everything he had seen and related the vision of death. During his story, she held her lips tightly pursed and remained silent, a terrified expression on her face.
“Speak,” the king commanded.
The blue veil, covering her from head to waist, trembled as she sighed.
“A prince will be born─” she whispered, “─and he is a son of death. He shall destroy this kingdom in the future, and cut off the head…. The head of the king, his own father.”