The sand lifted, danced and dispersed as if it never were, as the feet of hundreds hurriedly rushed the streets of the forgotten district, the fear within them, a wicked puppeteer now guiding their every breath. Ishaar’ha watched a Woman run past her, a small child wrapped in a shawl, strapped to her chest and another beside her, barely keeping up with her rapid pace. The soldiers marched onward, their every step a sonorous drum thundering alongside the Tar womans beating heart. One by one, the wooden doors and shutters around her slammed shut and as she looked behind, a fleeting thought of flight crossed her mind.
Knowing she could not succumb however, she quickly regained her mental composure and turned away, scanning her surroundings further. A group of men huddled in an alleyway, with one gazing from the corner at the contingent approaching, grasping at the hilt of a small Blade tucked into his belt. His intent was clear, though quickly dissuaded by an elderly man, who placed his aged hand upon his, thwarting his action.
“Walk with me.” said a womans voice beside her, sheathed by an angelic tone. And Ishaar’ha felt the warmth of her arm embrace hers, urging her gently to move alongside her.
“It is a good thing I found you once again. Ishaar’ha, is it not?” said she, the scent of her perfume invading the senses, a field of fragrant roses surrounding them.
Ishaar’ha turned, her eyes widened, as she layed them upon the womans countenance, incredulous to behold such an outlandish, exotic beauty. Her light blue eyes, like the clearest of skies, accentuated by a long, golden mane. Her skin, a healthy pink, smooth like porcelain. A heavy, black eye-liner intensified her glare as their eyes met. She wore a faintly coloured, silken blue gown that caressed her figure with every movement. And as they walked, her silver bracelets and necklace chimed, alongside long diamond-encrusted earrings that adorned her ears, resting upon her bare shoulders.
“I am Sonoora, we met yesternight, you, I and the little one.” she said, as her shapely lips morphed into a smile. “It seems destined, that our paths are to cross once again.”
Ishaar’ha paused a moment, still weary of the situation. “The old beggar?” she asked, questioningly.
“One of my many performances.” answered Sonoora, bowing her head.
Entranced by the woman, Ishaar’ha did not realise that they had been nearing the soldiers, until they came to a halt beside them. She took a deep breath, whispering nervously into the sorceresses ear.
“What are we doing?” said she.
The sorceress exhaled. “It is said curiousity killed the feline.” she muttered, as she plucked a long golden hair from her mane. “Well…” she continued. “I am no feline and neither are you.”
And as the words escaped her mouth, she let go of the strand of hair, watching it float up and into the air, before landing at the base of a large, wooden gate ahead of which stood the soldiers and the armour-clad woman who heralded them. She now sat upon a magnificent, armoured, white steed, whose pale white mane trembled as he sniffed the air.
“Open the gates!” shouted the woman, dismounting, approaching the gate and slamming it with her fist. She had short, black hair. Her jaw was square and her facial features rather masculine, though god did not deny her a feminine charm.
“This is too dangerous, I cannot delay.” whispered Ishaar’ha. “I must…”
“…see the Elders.” interrupted Sonoora. “Of course you do. Whom do you think sent me?”
The large gate shuddered, scraping the earth beneath as it gradually opened, leading into an opulent courtyard, with a grandiose manor at its heart. It was the largest structure in the district, and the only lavish home to grace the indigent folk of Nuwah, or the forgotten district as it is called by most. The manors doors, equal in size to the gates, swung open and from within, an enormous figure became almost apparent, sluggishly waddling out and into sight.
“What lovelies seek my glorious, glorious company this fine day?” said the figure. Its voice jarring, rotten and off-key, like the rusty hinge of a decrepit door.
“Keep your pleasantries for your meals, Mayor Moum’ha.” said the armoured woman, sternly.
And into the light of the courtyard, illuminated by the flames of sconces upon its inner walls, the figure presented itself before them all. A grotesque display of gluttony, a nightmare in the flesh. More Beast than man, it sat upon a gargantuan throne, carried upon the backs of men chained to it, whose pale, thin legs trembled beneath its weight. The beast grinned, revealing blood-stained white fangs. Its large stomach protruding, bloated and misshapen.
“Disgusting…” Ishaar’ha overheard whispers, as the beast approached. It held in its thick hand a long, curved cane, with which it proceeded to prod one of the men beneath it, until they came to a standstill in front of the armoured woman.
“Captain Nou.” said the beast, leaning in, tapping one large ring upon the armrest of its throne, a sly smirk decorating its face and the wooden platform upon which it sat creaking as it tilted forward.
“What brings you to the finest district in the land?” the beast continued.
“This.” said the Captain, motioning behind her.
A small cart pulled by two men was brought forward, and within the bodies of three, wrapped in white blankets, the three whom Ishaar’ha saw at the feet of Nou, at the archway leading into Nuwah.
“Is it a feast?” the beast said, licking its lips, its black eyes wandering over the corpses excitedly.
The Captain approached the cart silently, unsheathing her blade and thrusting it into one of the corpses. The white blanket turned a dark crimson as she slowly extracted the blood-spattered blade, lifting it up in the air.
“My mens blood is on your hands.” said she, lifting the blade.
The beast cackled, hacking and wheezing as it spoke. “All manner of blood is on my hands.” it said, bursting into laughter once again.
The womans anger boiled within her, upon hearing the creature speak with such disdain, until she bursted with rage. She leapt into the air and onto the beasts bloated belly, digging her blade into it ever so slightly. The throne wobbled and the beasts face turned to a grimace.
“My men died under your watch.” said the Captain, twisting the blade. “I hold you accountable.”
“Argh!” the beast exclaimed, lifting its heavy arms into the air. “I had naught to do with it! It was the Tar! They are planning something! Go speak with the Elders!”
Nou rested her weight upon the blade, leaning in, her eyes narrowed. “Mayhap the King made a mistake, putting you in charge of the filth.”
The beast coughed and gurgled, breathing heavily. “We are nothing more than amusement for Him!” it said, pointing at the spiral with its rotund finger, its nails long and black.
The woman looked up, pausing a moment, then returned to gaze into the beasts eye. “Then I shall take matters into my own hands. I shall amuse Him!” she said, releasing the beast of her blade, leaping off its belly and back onto the ground.
“Now is a good time to leave.” said Sonoora, leading Ishaar’ha away cautiously.
“Wait a moment…” said the beast, lifting himself slightly from his throne and scenting the air, the crooks of his large mouth rising, painting a grin upon his face once more.
“It looks to me we’ve some eavesdroppers.” it said. “There is magic in the air.”
“Hurry.” said the sorceress, as their pace quickened.
“Nonsense.” said the Captain, waving her hand.
The beast glared at the small woman, leaning back. “You humans have lost your sense of smell over time, we have not. Be cautious, Captain.”
“I shall slit my own throat before I take advice from you.” snapped Nou, retreating back to her men.
“Either way, I shall be expecting a full course soon.” said Moum’ha apathetically, gritting his stained teeth. “Too many bones and not enough flesh around these parts!” it barked, letting out a hacking cough.
“You’ll get your meal when I get my vengeance.” said the Captain. And as she exited the courtyard, the doors slowly shut behind her, leaving behind the beast who prodded the men beneath him once more.
“Time for fun!” it said, tightening its grip on its cane, as his throne began to move back to the manor.
Ishaar’ha and the sorceress were a ways from the soldiers, looking back. They watched them in the distance, forming into small groups under Nous’ command, proceeding to knock on the doors and the windows of the homes around them.
“This is not good.” said Sonoora, shaking her head. “The Tar have had many raids, though never before has the Captain been involved so personally.”
Ishaar’ha nodded. “What are the Elders planning?”
“That I do not know.” answered the Sorceress. “Come, let us meet with them and find out.”
A warm breeze travelled down the street as they continued forward, toying with their luscious hair playfully. Ishaar’ha looked back once more at the soldiers and the Captain, her thoughts falling upon Sylan and the children. Would they be safe? Nou seemed intent on vengeance, and who knew what would satisfy her lust for it.
END OF CHAPTER 18
Thanks for reading! Just wanted to add that I am aware that I owe you all two chapters and I will definitely deliver them. Hang tight my friends!