Padeshahi (the Kingdom)

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Bahram's Story II

“Let me get this straight, if you can spare me the indulgence,” Bahram said drolly to the obviously terrified clerk at the information desk in Sassanid Library.

“Of…of course, honored sheikh,” the clerk named Dana stammered out, sweat staining his white shirt under his arms and across his chest; if it wasn’t for Dana’s thick bushy brown beard, there would be an even bigger stain from all the sweat dripping down off his forehead and being captured by said beard. Honestly, how this man expected to get anywhere in life was beyond Bahram. He truly hoped that the sweaty clerk would eventually grant everyone who knew him the mercy of taking his own life, thus relieving the world of his tortuous existence.

“You do know who I am, yes?” Bahram asked as the clerk nodded his head yes so fast it was even money whether it would fall off or not. “And even though my name isn’t registered in your book of people who are allowed to peruse the library, because I’m a sheikh you are making an exception and also letting me bring my men in with me. Do I have this right so far?”

“That’s right. Uh, what I mean to say is you are correct, Sheikh Bahram,” Dana sputtered out. The Deva didn’t know why the man was so nervous. Maybe it was because Bahram’s reputation proceeded him, maybe it was because one of his magi was standing behind the man with falchion drawn and ready to cleave him in two. Oh well, Bahram shrugged, it wasn’t really his concern why the man was terrified, only that the sweaty little man was thwarting him.

“Then why are you not allowing me to close the library until I am done? My work is very secretive and I know that E’laa’hi wouldn’t want me disturbed by anyone requesting my help.” What Bahram really wanted to say was that he didn’t want any of the unwashed masses approaching him for some stupid blessing or whatnot, asking if he could cure their baby of the whooping cough or some old lady who had the consumption. By the Elemental Princes he couldn’t wait until he was free to leave this dung-heap town behind and move onto the next phase of his and Zavaal’s plan.

“Because, honored sheikh, when the Shahan-shah decreed that ‘while knowledge is powerful, misused it can cause problems’, he made a proclamation that this library would never be closed under any circumstances. Even when we have to have workers come in and make repairs to the shelves or whatnot we still have to stay open. I cannot go against the word of the Shahan-shah, even for a sheikh such as yourself.” While he may have started off shaking, by the end Dana was standing taller than he had been and only trembling every minute or so, doing his best to not catch a glimpse of the falchion hanging above him out of the corner of his eye.

As badly as Bahram wanted to end the little lickspittle, he knew that it would cause problems for him in the short term, maybe even hastening his departure from Amol before he and Zavaal were ready. It just wasn’t worth it to kill the little bastard, and so with a gesture of his head and a mental command, the magi stepped back and sheathed his blade. It almost appeared for a second that Dana was going to wet his trousers, but it seemed at the last minute he got his bladder under control. Pity; Bahram had made a bet with himself that he make the little man do just that.

“Far be it from me to question the will of the Shahan-shah. After all, it isn’t like I am a living embodiment of E’laa’hi or anything.” Dana flushed but stood his ground, and Bahram sighed. It looked like he would be stuck doing what someone else wanted. “Fine,” the Deva growled out. “Can you at least be useful enough to tell me where are all the books written about sheikhs and E’laa’hi?” The relieved clerk nodded rapidly, and with a curt wave of his arm Bahram sent him on ahead. Before he followed him, he grabbed the magi that had been threatening to kill Dana. “Take one of your brothers outside and make sure nobody comes in while I am reading. That clerk is a cow-rutting idiot if he thinks he can tell me what to do!”

The magi saluted, right fist pressed over heart as he bowed, before turning on his heels and marching out of the library. Bahram snorted as he watched him go before joining the clerk who was trying his best not to appear impatient. Incompetent morons - that was all he was surrounded with, idiots and buffoons. He couldn’t wait to wipe them all off the map.

As he walked, he remembered the day that he had decided to join forces with Zavaal. Once it had a worthwhile partner, the entity didn’t need to hide in that dark cave anymore, and Bahram had welcomed it inside himself. The pain when it did had been excruciating, and several times during the process the Deva had passed out. But days later -thirsty and starving- it was done, and Bahram had severed his connection to E’laa’hi forever. For all of Io’s talk about how wise and benevolent the Divine was, the Deva had expected more of a reaction for his betrayal; nothing had happened, however, leading him to believe that he had made the right choice.

While it was true (much to its rage and regret) that the malevolent force couldn’t create on its own, it could alter things, as it had done to this cave that had been its home for the last few millennia or so. The first thing Bahram had done with Zavaal’s power –besides changing the cave so that he could exit comfortably- was to modify his appearance. Devas were rare enough that their strange-hued skin and bald heads made them stand out in any crowd, and Bahram had no desire to leave an easy trail for his brother to follow. Not unless it was on his terms, that is.

So, they had made Bahram look Aryan. Changing his skin color wasn’t too difficult, but neither of them had the power to make his hair grow where none had previously existed. The solution they hit upon was quite brilliant. All the Deva did was waylay a lone traveler, kill him, and scalp him. Placing the bloody hairy mess on the top of his head, with Zavaal’s power Bahram was able to make it bond to him. They could only keep the hair “alive” for so long, however, about a few decades or so. All that this meant was when it was time for him to disappear they found someone who resembled Bahram, killed them and burned the body beyond all recognition; then, the Deva removed the false hair from his scalp, changed his appearance once more, found some new hair to “grow” and the cycle continued.

So many lives ruined, deals reneged on, bonds broken, people killed or persuaded to kill for him…Bahram and Zavaal had cut quite a swath across Padeshahi in their time together. It had been so easy and fun, doing what he wanted to, never caring about the consequences. But, it wasn’t until this last “life” that the Deva had hit upon the perfect disguise, something to really bring about the collapse of society as it existed. He remembered well the reaction he got from the malevolent entity when he said that he would disguise himself as a sheikh. With Zavaal’s abilities and his cunning, they would be able to fool everyone and ruin the good name of E’laa’hi in the process. The embodiment of darkness and decay had laughed long and hard at that one.

Bahram came back to the present to find Dana staring at him. “Is everything all right, honored sheikh?” the sweaty clerk asked him, and it was all the Deva could do not to lash out and end his pathetic existence right here and now. “You…sort of blanked out there for a minute or two.”

Still shaking from the rage that gripped him, all Bahram could choke out was, “I’m fine; sometimes, when the Divine wishes to speak with me, it does so when it wants to, not when it’s convenient to me…or to clerks in charge of a library.”

Accepting that answer and rebuke, as all these fools were wont to do, the clerk simply nodded his head. “This is the section that you had asked for, Sheikh Bahram. Would you like a clerk to assist you in getting books down, looking up titles, and things of that nature?” By nature, Bahram was suspicious when others offered to help, and almost dismissed Dana without thinking about it. It wasn’t until the Deva actually took a look around that he was forced to admit that maybe it was a good idea to have someone here who knew their way around the place and could assist him.

The library had been built as a hexagon, with wings added onto each side as needed when a section became big enough that the extra space was warranted. The wing that they were standing in looked like it was almost time to add on more space; each shelf stretching up almost to the ceiling, crammed with books, and a ladder was attached to each shelf to assist anyone in reaching the highest levels. There were very few things in this world that impressed Bahram anymore. This library was one of those things.

“You know, Dana, I do think that I will take you up on your offer to provide someone to assist me. As long as it is a female, preferably good looking. After all, I do have standards.” Bahram finally responded to the clerk’s question, who flushed a little bit upon hearing his demands. But, he eventually nodded and scuttled off like the insignificant insect that he was.

Left alone for the moment, Bahram walked up and down the aisles, perusing the titles. “What exactly are we looking for?” he thought at the entity that was always with him.

We will know it when we find it; I can sense that there is something here that could lead to our downfall,” Zavaal thought back.

“That’s not very helpful. Do I have to do everything myself?” he sulked.

Chuckling, the living darkness answered him. “Aren’t you the one who is always telling me how you resent my intrusions when you are feeding your desires or disciplining your tools? You can’t have it both ways, hedonist. Or are you too lazy to do any work, infant?”

“I am not an infant!” the Deva accidentally hissed out loud, and after realizing what he had done spun around to make sure no one had witnessed his embarrassing outburst. If they had, he would kill them, no matter the consequences. Thankfully for them, nobody else was nearby.

Zavaal chuckled again. “Compared to someone who has existed before time began, you most definitely are. Besides, aren’t you supposed to be this fearsome force of nature? Don’t forget that it’s because of MY help that you’ve earned that reputation. What’s the matter, do you think you’re above this and don’t want to lower yourself to do something as mundane as research?” His mocking laughter echoed around inside Bahram’s skull, and it was all the Deva could do not to lash out and destroy everything around him. That wouldn’t be the work of someone who was a force of nature, it would be what happened when someone lost their temper and threw a tantrum like a spoiled child. He exerted control until he stopped shaking in anger.

Trying to put it all out of his head –well, as much as he could- Bahram continued walking up and down the aisles, pulling various books and reading the first page before putting it back. Whether that meant actually returning it to the shelf he pulled it from or just dropping it to lay on the floor didn’t matter one whit to him. He knew that some of these books had been around for decades or more, but it wasn’t that impressive, especially to one who had existed for much longer. Unlike his hated brother, Bahram had never been much of a scholar, in his first life or in any of them down through the centuries. Words were boring, actions were all that mattered.

“Just where in the Hells is that damned clerk? He’s been gone for over ten minutes now! How long does it take to find a female clerk and tell her she has the honor of waiting on a sheikh?” the Deva muttered to himself, growing angrier with each passing second.

“Forgive me for my tardiness, honored sheikh, but I was just freshening up,” he heard a voice behind him. Bahram quickly spun around, already raising his arm to strike her if need be and opening his mouth to give her a nasty tongue-lashing. When he saw her, he quickly lowered his arm and closed his mouth.

The clerk –since that had to be what she was, since she was wearing a copy of Dana’s white shirt and brown breeches although much more form fitting- was smiling at him, amused at something only she seemed to know. She was about 5’3”, with short-cropped auburn hair, blue eyes, and tanned skin. Unlike a lot of the women in this damned town, she was actually shorter than Bahram’s frame of 5’7”, which was nice. He liked being taller than someone for once. “My name is Hengameh, honored sheikh. My apologies for being late but I had to get changed, since my clothes were too dirty to be in the presence of someone as holy as yourself.”

Reaching out and taking her hand, Bahram thought about raising it and kissing it but decided that could wait for later. He shook it, and was astonished to realize that this petite little woman had a grip that could crush his! Afterwards, he released her hand and tried not to massage his aching one. All the while, she kept smiling at him, like she knew some kind of secret. Keep it for now, he thought as he smoldered with passion, for later when you’re naked and screaming my name you’ll tell me everything.

“No need for apologies, my dear, and I appreciate you not wanting to offend me. After all, I am a holy sheikh, and what offends me offends E’laa’hi.” He chuckled after saying that, as did she, but hers was almost mocking. Frowning for just a second, he debated on sending her away and asking for someone else to assist him…but she was so beautiful! Finally, his lust won out, and he gestured ahead of himself so she could proceed him deeper into the aisles. And also so he could watch her walk by, he admitted amusedly. She may resist now, but eventually she will succumb to me. The sweetest peach is the one you have to work to pluck, he told himself.

“Is there a particular book or series you’re interested in, honored sheikh?” the clerk asked him as she lead him up and down the rows. “Or perhaps there is a certain subject you’re trying to research? Whatever information you can give me will help me help you, after all.”

“I’m not exactly sure. Like a lot of people, I’m interested in what others have said about E’laa’hi throughout the centuries, and how it affects us mere mortals. I mean, I know that no one can truly know the Divine –not even one such as me- but sometimes a little bit of guidance and looking at things from a different point of view can shed light on one’s own problems,” he said, chest puffed out as he walked along with her. By the Elemental Princes, just watching her rear under her breeches was almost more than he could take! Bahram had never had sex in a library, and it sounded so decadent and immoral that he wanted it more than anything else at this moment. His own trousers were becoming painfully tight the more he thought about it.

“That sound like a load of cow manure,” the clerk seemed to say.

“I’m sorry, what was that?” Bahram paused, his tone warning of danger ahead.

“I said, right now we have to maneuver through here,” she said as she turned to face him, a look of concern on her face. “Some irresponsible patron just left these books lying here on the floor, and some of them look like their spines are damaged! Such a shame, don’t you think, when people can’t take care of what doesn’t belong to them?” Hengameh shook her head as they walked past one of the areas where Bahram had just dropped the books when he was done with them. His anger towards this impertinent clerk was growing.

Just end her and get another female to assist you,” Zavaal suggested. “Or does your little head make all the decisions for you?”

“I make the decisions, me! Not you, not my manhood, me! And I say we take this little bitch right here and now; then, after I have used her, then I’ll kill her!” Bahram thought angrily at the entity, which sent back a wave of disapproval. But, since it wasn’t in control and he was, the Deva paid it no mind. “Can I be honest with you, clerk Hengameh?” he spoke up, and the clerk turned around. “I know that some people don’t understand, but sheikhs are as human as everyone else, and we have desires and needs also.” He swallowed loudly for effect, looking down before raising his head and meeting her gaze. “I desire you, and I need to be with you.”

After saying this, the clerk tilted her head to the side and appeared to consider his offer. Not that it really mattered if she consented or not, Bahram thought smugly, because in the end I will be embedded inside her. It just makes the sex better if she is a willing participant. Finally, she looked at him and shook her head no. “I’m sorry, that’s going to be a no from me.”

“And, why is that?” Bahram choked out, his rage threatening to spill out from his lips. Images of this insolent wench, his hands around her throat as he took from her what was his right as a man, flashed through his mind and is took all of his self-control not to act on them. Yet.

“Since you were honest with me, honored sheikh, I’m going to return the favor. I find you physically and mentally repulsive, just having to be near you has made my skin crawl more than it ever has in my life, and I rather lay with a camel than have your manhood inside of me. And, there is one other reason…” she trailed off, pensively biting her lower lip.

Vision filled with red, his curiosity was peaked enough that before he had his way with her he wanted to know the last reason. No one had spoken to him that way since that little Kunzumah dared to throw him out of her house. It was only the large amounts of witnesses that had stayed his hand then, and his magi had sent the shaman shrew a message this morning by beating her lizard partner nearly to death. Hopefully the gross walking thing did succumb to his wounds, Bahram thought as he said through clenched teeth, “And what is that?”

“I’m just the distraction so Yuri and Arash can find the right book to stop you,” Hengameh said as she blew him a kiss. With an inarticulate growl, the Deva lunged for the little woman, but she sidestepped his attempted grapple and punched him so hard in the side of the head he flew into and knocked over the shelf on the right. A multitude of books fell on top of him along with the wooden shelves, and it took him a minute to extract himself after his head stopped ringing. When he did, the wench was not there, but one of his magi was.

“Well?” Bahram shouted as the man helped him out of the pile. “Where did they go?”

“The monk and her friends went out the front door, honored sheikh,” the magi said. Without a second thought, Bahram called on the power of the bond and sent decay and darkness racing through the magi’s veins. In seconds, he was nothing but a pile of ash. Doing his best to straighten his clothes out, the Deva went looking for someone to take out his frustrations on. He was going to have to take it easy on the magi since he was nearly out, he was forced to admit.

After wandering for a minute, he came upon the obnoxious clerk Dana sitting behind a desk putting books on a cart. “Where did they go?” he shouted at the fool, who looked up startled from his work, shrugging his shoulders. “The female clerk and her two accomplices!”

“We, we have no female clerks here at this time, honored sheikh. A young woman did ask if she could borrow some of our spare clothes for a second since hers were dirty, but that’s it. And she just returned them and went out the door with the Sandstrider and Arash Rostami.”

“Did…they…take…anything?” Each word was a struggle for Bahram to get out; he wanted so bad to end Dana’s life, but needed to wait until the clerk was no longer useful.

“Just a book, don’t recall the title for some reason; it had just been sitting here for ages without being shelved. It’s almost like the book appeared when they needed it,” Dana mused, and that was the last straw. Hissing, Bahram generated an oily ball of darkness, and hurled it at the insufferable clerk. As soon as it touched his skin, he would die in agony as it ate away at his flesh, begging for the sweet release of death.

Only, it didn’t. When the orb tried to cross over the desk, it dissipated. Dana seemed just as startled as Bahram. “How did you do that?” the Deva asked, stumped.

“I’m…I’m not sure, honored sheikh. I don’t have any special abilities,” the clerk argued. “But, this spot was blessed by a sheikh when the library was first constructed if that means anything, and he painted sigils into the marble floor with his blood.” Looking down, Bahram noticed that there was a circle inscribed into the floor itself with the name of E’laa’hi repeated over and over. The blood still appeared fresh like it had just been done. “The question is, sheikh Bahram, what did you try to do to me?” Dana’s words jerked Bahram’s head up. The clerk was no longer eyeing the Deva in fear, but with a little bit of questioning and anger instead.

Bahram didn’t bother to answer the now-protected man, just spun on his heels and marched out the door. “Pay the worm no mind, we need to find that book or else all of our work has been for naught! And, I have some ideas of things we can do even the odds if it does indeed come to a fight. It will be…sensational to say the least.” Bahram didn’t bother to reply to Zavaal as he approached the exit. The Deva didn’t need the dark entity’s warnings to know that whatever that book contained was bad for the both of them. He needed to find those three and that book now; they had come too far to be thwarted by a blowhard, a bandage-boy, and a bitch who didn’t know her place. Throwing open the massive doors with an impotent growl, the sheikh stormed out into the day to begin the hunt.

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