The Soothsayer

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Chapter 58: The Tomb

Dagon pushed forward past his guards as they climbed the steps of the Lion’s Maw. He surveyed the destruction as they crossed the first terrace. His army had done an adequate job of destroying every building and shop on the platform. As they climbed the stairs to the second terrace, he felt that strange outside presence again. It seemed closer. Some older magic . . . this boy is using something stronger than even I know of. As his men moved forward to the stairway leading up to the third terrace, the stone supports around them shook, reverberating from high above. Dagon reached out with his mind to his champion and sensed the giant’s fear. We must not fail, not here, not when the boon is within reach. He turned to the mass of warriors following him and screamed, “Ahead you fools! Support Molek! Throw your lives at them if you must!”

The black soldiers raced ahead as a tremor shook beneath their pounding feet. Dagon peered over the ledge of the terrace and down into the harbor. Even more of his ships were unloading men. If every last warrior had to die to take Gilead and retrieve the horn, it would be done.

* * * * * * * *

Heavy marching of boots echoed up the steps to Alexandra’s position at the top of the staircase. It was time. She set her torch to the carts and the cargo she and Egan had piled together and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the flames consume them. She looked out towards the harbor, put the shell to her lips, and blew. Once again, Joshua’s Horn sounded into the night.

Time seemed to slow as she spied Avery’s ship, far below, fire its cannons.

As volley after volley roared through the night, the great Lion’s Maw began to crack from the assault. Cannonballs flew across the base of the Lion’s Mouth smashing into the stairwell and the Amorites climbing it. Another set of cannon fire pummeled into the first and second terrace.

Alexandra could hear the screams of soldiers below her. A third volley flew high over her head and exploded into the steps leading up. She was thrown to the ground as rubble dropped all around her. She inched her way to the carts as the ground shook violently and shoved one down the steps.

* * * * * * * *

“Go faster!” Dagon spurned his men on. “Damn you all!”

The warriors ahead of him raced to the bottom of the next flight of stairs. The flaming cart smashed into them and exploded, sending fiery debris in every direction.

Dagon watched the chaos unfold as another flaming cart cascaded down the steps and pushed ten of his men over the ledge, before following them.

“What in the nine hells are you doing?” he screamed at his remaining warriors who scrambled to regain their footing.

Another volley of cannonballs collided with the stairwell, killing the bottleneck of men scrambling to make their way up the steps from below. Burning rubble rained down on them from every direction. The air was thick with dust.

Dagon peered through the destruction and his senses reached out to the third balcony above. He instantly saw his prey.

He pushed past his guards. “You fools! You’re being cast back by a child!” The sorcerer held out his hand and an unseen force ripped between the ranks of his warriors, shoving them aside. He raced up the steps.

* * * * * * * *

Alexandra felt the walls quake around her as another explosion rocked the terrace. A small piece of rock fell from high above and struck her back. She crumpled to the ground, stunned for a moment. She tried to regain her footing but her legs wouldn’t move. There was no pain. She pulled at her leg to no avail. She was helpless.

With her final ounce of strength, she pulled herself to the ledge once more. If she was to die, she wanted to see Gilead’s waters one last time.

She looked down at the chaos she had created and smiled. The horn had given her courage. Perhaps death was no horrible thing. It felt almost peaceful. Even the violent shaking of the terrace seemed to steady as her vision dimmed.

A cold hand ripped her from her stupor. Enraged green eyes filled her sight.

“No little one, you’ll not leave this coil until I let you. You are nothing more than a pawn, and you will be played.” Dagon ripped the horn from her grasp. “This was meant for greater things.”

Alexandra watched as the sorcerer fumbled with the horn. His cloak was torn, his hands were singed. Finally, he stowed the shell under his arm and then pulled her to his chest. His stink made her gasp and retch.

The stairwell shook violently once more and debris fell like rain around them. Amidst the falling stone, Dagon pulled Alexandra up the final flight of steps.

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