The incited panic was caused by the armies at their gates. Divided in their allegiance yet united in their cause, one army marched from the valleys to the north, whilst the other trooped in from the desert to the south. The city was awash with terror. Soldiers cursed and readied their position on the walls, just as the alarmed citizens scurried like sewer rats, in fear of the imminent siege.
Nevertheless, the palace lay as silent as it was small. The Prince stared at the tumultuous city streets from a window on the second floor. He wore the primitive yet effective armour of his people, and his youthful face bore the wrinkles of stress stretching far beyond his years. The prince turned to his father who sat next to a bed, where an old man lay in a cocoon of thick bedcovers. Albeit the warm winds of their land, the old man’s ancient bones were filled with the chill of death, he was soaked in cold sweat despite his covers. Unlike his son, the King wore no armour. He wore sandals, a loincloth and a seamless long cloth was loosely wrapped around his torso, the ends of which hung off his arms. He also wore a crown that seemed to be a thick golden string bound around his head. He held on to the old man’s hand to give some measure of comfort. Suddenly, a servant rushed into the room.
“King Paracas. The defenders of the faiths are being sneaked out of the city into the catacombs below. Once escaped, they shall part ways in all four corners of the known world as you requested,”
“Good” the King said.
The prince turned round and sighed when he saw his father still hunched over the old man on the bed.
“Father there is still time. The siege of the city may have lasted days, we are not yet undone. …”
Yet Paracas remained silent to the urges of his son. When it was clear that his father was ignoring him, the prince pressed the issue further.
“Two armies, one at the southern, the other at the northern gates. Fighting one godly weapon would have been impossible enough but two, this is suicide. They will destroy us then battle each other on what is left of our city. Allow me to send an emissary to one of the enemies proclaiming that we renounce our faiths. When our forces merge we can smash the other force,”
“Vaco! I will not surrender to weapon worshipers. They doubt the four gods,” Paracas growled.
“You would forfeit our lives? Our civilisation for religion,” Prince Vaco retorted.
“As long as the defenders of the faiths make it out of the city catacombs, we will live on. Forever branded in history as martyrs,”
“Father, do you listen to yourself? This decrepit immortal will be the end of us.”
“Silence boy,” Paracas barked loudly.
Prince Vaco rubbed his groomed beard vigorously as though trying to massage his wounded pride. However when the elderly man on the bed nodded at Vaco and smiled mischievously, the Prince lost his temper. He cursed loudly and stormed out of the room
“Forgive my son Norton, for he is young,”
“You cannot blame a mortal for bleeding when struck,” the old man croaked.
Norton coughed hoarsely for a moment before he continued.
“I am not worried about your son. Instead I hold concern for you. You have a hard decision ahead of you…your kingdom or your faiths,” Norton said wheezily.
“My devotion and by association, that of my people is without question,” Paracas said with a firm tone.
Norton laughed throatily for a moment before he inhaled weakly to fill his old lungs.
“Before you risk your kingdom on a wager I should give you the reason. Blind faith is not enough for such a high price. Oh these weapon worshipers, lost souls. It was not always so. I was there at the beginning… from the very inception of the four gods. The first gods fought a battle that nearly ripped this world apart. The dark god fell and the three light gods who had slain him ascended, leaving the world at the mercy of his spawns. Proclaiming themselves as the new gods, they claimed dominion over all. We were sent to retrieve the weapons left by the light gods. The weapons that these foolish mortals, now hold in high esteem. Instead we found four pregnant mortal women who claimed that the gods had lain with them before ascending. Whether compelled by the fear of what the new gods would do with the godly weapons or by the hope of the seeds of the light gods, we changed our ways. It takes nine years for the spawn of a god to gestate in a mortal’s womb and for nine years we ran. We finally found an isolated land, yet not without losing one woman. In the end they all died in child birth leaving us with babies. They grew fast… alas not fast enough”