The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
The man showed Ivan the seal of Ishmar on his purple ring and said.
“I will take you south but I make no promises. You may be chained to a bench and pulling an oar if you journey with me”
Ivan asked “Who will I be travelling with then?”
“You will be travelling with Zeno centurion of Ishmar. I am captain of the emperor’s archers. I have travelled since mid winter to meet you at this point.
Ivan Was perplexed.
“I have only been traveling for three fortnights are we In Ishmars shadow already”.
Ishmars Shadow reaches to the roof of the world and to the tent of the great Kahn. It is only that the Great Basil does not choose to be the emperor of the North Pole
At that time the rest of the room would have believed Zeno if he had said Basil also reigned in hell. But then one voice questioned Zeno. A small dark man they called a tartar with high cheekbones and slanted eyes. The man spoke in a very old dialect of Greek.
“Even The blessed Emperor must see the shadow of three yak tales across the world”
“In Ishmar dolt, that would cost you your tongue, and perhaps
Your life” Zeno said
Every dagger in the room was drawn and they all spoke
“Lucky we are not in Ishmar and you will be lucky to get out of here with your life.”
The voice taunted as he slugged down a great glass of wine.
Zeno wasted no time he had a small bow under the table and before his Tarsus could down his draught. Zeno drew back the small bow and looked around the room. Then he glanced at Ivan and beckoned he follow him out of the Inn. Ivan followed and found a small retainer waiting outside with the most beautiful animals he had ever seen. He thought that these must be the horses that pulled Apollo’s Chariots. The rest of the trip to Ishmar took a hundred day s and as they drew closer the shadow of Ishmar grew Longer and darker.
Ivan Tried to understand what he could about Zeno but he seemed so dull compared to those from the north. Finally he asked a question on the night before they were to reach the outer defenses of the city.
Zeno speech was abrupt since he was used to giving orders and doing a job he hated but his job killing.
“I only know that I was sent north to look for a young Norseman I was told that he would stand a head taller than most and that he would be strong and graceful like some Southern Leopard” Zeno Added.
“It is fate that you came with me so easily: You see it was Basil’s orders that I bring you to him alive. By tomorrow you will be able to see Ishmar.”
They looked down the golden horn and saw a city that stretched as far as their Eyes. For Zeno he was back at the familiar. This was his element where he belonged. The walls stood as high as a ships mast, and it took the fastest chariots day to make it completely around. By now the sun was higher in the sky but the days were much shorter.
Zeno asked Ivan “Can you mind encompass the scope of Ishmar. More people may live here than in the rest of the world”
Ivan only smiled. “I have seen it all before. I know what it looks like. And I have seen them all chained to the oars. Where I come from heroes and free men row their own boats”
Zeno replied, Heroes like your father and great uncle Borguild
Ivan grabbed zero by both shoulders and asked. How in the name of the Gods do you know about this?
Meanwhile back at the imperial palace
Basils Weltungshaung Chapter2
Emperor Basil Paelogue was able to trace his roots back almost to the Homeric age. Ishmar was the culmation of the last age. It stood at the confluence all of the trade routes of the known world. It also stood at the confluence of several boiling rivers of historical forces. Basil knew of the great days a half a Melieum before when his ancestor had built the great church. he also knew that for a short life time Ishmar had ruled in Rome. But that was a time before. He thought of his life and he knew that for Ishmar things would never be better. He allowed himself no dreams of greatness. His reighn was like the labored extension a terminall illness. Yet Ishmar was not ready for plunder yet. Its fleets were still strong and it armies loyal. And yet Basil’s survial lay in its cunning rather than in Ishmars arms.
Basil gave the orders of the day
For this day we will open the Three YaK tail file, and find out what our ambassador Nestor tells us from the other side of the earth. It was not that the file was read it was more like its contents became animated as the report engaged all the senses.
The Great Khan Entertains
[Excerpted from a dispatch, from the monk Nestor, ambassador to the great Khan, and envoy from Emperor Vasil:]
“…The capital of the Tartar empire rose where a generation before, wild goats roamed. Never before has there been a city like it. A man could ride for a day, and not be to the other side of it. The buildings are constructed of wood and mats, and even the palace of the great Khan is a giant tent that looks like the night sky. There is no wall around the city, and I could scarcely find an armed horseman. Every day, wagons come in all over the empire, laden with gold and silver and fine wood. All are for the pleasure and dispersal of the emperor. Most of all, the emperor treasures being enlightened and amused, and he offered a great hall in which the event took place, and this is my account for the Emperor Vasil.
“First, there were dancers in colors that I have never seen before‑‑the reds and blues, the oranges and purples blinded with their delicate shapes, til I was sure that I saw the wings of dragon flies in the colors of their robes. I have never seen limbs and breasts so white and beautiful in my life they even drew me to the occasion of sin, and now I know I must scourge myself for the rest of my life for what I was drawn to do . One dancer caught the great Khan’s eye more than the others, and she held his eye as a charmer from the south holds a deadly snake. The Khan beckoned her close, and she danced and moved only for him. I sat at the Khan’s right side, and I could see that an unnatural fire raged in her eyes, a fire in which cities burned and battles raged. Perhaps she might become the Khan’s most honored concubine…
“The floor was cleared, and we saw the captain of the Khan’s guard, armed with a scimitar, faced a small thin monk from the Northern Peninsula (where no weapons are allowed). The monk danced easily around the guard’s deadly blows until, seemingly bored with the whole thing, the man shattered the guard’s wrist with a single blow of his hand.
“A Frank, seeking to show the Khan the strength and deadliness of Iberian steel, halved a bar of iron as thick as my wrist with a single blow of his sword. The Khan then rose, greatly amused, and unsheathed his short sword, setting it on its back;, with the edge of the blade facing the roof of the tent. He then took the garment of his new prize, which was as light as the pure snow on Mount Olympus, and let it settle and part into two halves on the blade of his sword.
“Then, faster than I can remember, came all the great beasts of the southern forest, all of the cats and wolves, and even great animals the color of a mouse but big as a temple. All were led infatuation by a beautiful goddess, clad only in a small skin. All of the beasts bowed to His greatness on her command, and then marched out. She followed them out, moving wildly and quickly, and easily as if she were the beast goddess herself.
“Then came the alchemists, each with some magic and hidden knowledge. The first was from our won empire. His device was simple: it was a copper globe filled a third with cold water. It stood over a fire, and was supported on a rack that allowed it to rotate in an unrestricted manner. Steam escaped from jets which extended out of and pointed in opposite directions from the globe. As the water heated, the globe revolved. This did not impress the Most Powerful; but then the alchemist asked for a model of a ship in a basin of water. He threw a liquid on the ship, which burst into flame as it hit the water, with a fire that could not be extinguished by an y ;means. Then the Khan looked deeply in the alchemist’s eyes, thinking, I am sure, about torturing the secret from him; but he did not do so…
“Next came a wise man dragging a large skin sewed together from t skins of twenty oxen. When a slave unrolled it and showed it to the Khan, it was a map of the known world, covered with the Khan’s symbol of three yak tails. Only a few small corners were other colors. Soon, said the Khan, the map will all be a single color, and then there will truly be peace.
“lastly came another monk, who carried only an iron tube, a steel ball, some leather, and some powder. He place the powder, ball, and leather in the tube, and blasted down a door of the strongest teakwood.
“At what we thought was the last, an old woman came forth and said, ‘For a piece of silver, I will show you anything that has happened across the world. But it is only for the Khan’s eyes’ The Khan gave her a ruby, and she bade him look into a mirror of obsidian. The emperor bade me look also. At first, I saw only his hard face and high cheek bones, and my plain and round, stupid monk’s features. Then we saw a forces inside the plate‑‑high, black trees, the branches seeming to pull our souls into the picture. The Khan seemed to recognize the shapes entering into the dark wall of the woods. Then the emperor held his head in his hands and wept. As I drew closer, I saw a battle, and then soldiers were fighting themselves. I drew my head away, not wishing to witness the slaughter; and then there was one figure, alone, on the other side of the forest, where nothing grew but scrub and underbrush. The single figure turned and faced us inside the plate. The great Khan wept, ‘Tarras, come back to me my son. Come back, tell me what happened, why this madness.’ But the figure’s eyes only stared back from time to time, and show you something for a piece of silver. Your riches are nothing for an old woman who needs only a bread and a little wine and a few rags.’ And then she bade farewell to the ruler of most of the known world