6. Flames & Gold

The wailing chant of Ostromo was scarcely audible above the rustle of grass. The Palace Gigantic, towers of flames and gold, loomed in the small sky he could see through the grass, growing closer to block out the sun, becoming brighter until he had to squint and roll over to protect his eyes, so great was the majesty of it. He would not go back to the Princess, he had nothing left to give and he was not ready, but she wanted him, she came for him even here. The march of ordered feet, of her men, were in the marsh, coming for him, where was his sword? She had taken everything, defend yourself.
The chanting stopped and the light subsided, replaced by the shade of the demon grass and the choking pleadings of the old wizard. Realising his hands were around his neck, Hormud released him and rolled off into the mud.
“How long?” They were both breathing heavily.
Hormud looked down, ignoring the scowling sorceror. His side had a compact of mud and grass neatly applied and still surrounded by dried blood. His wound would heal.
“So you had enough courage to weave a spell eh? You tiger among men.”
Onjun’s head twisted sharply and his eyes had recovered their usual venom.
“You are free with your insults barbarian.” The dagger he had given him was in his hand, pointing at Hormud’s throat.
“My little apeling still has teeth.”
“A Pontiff of the Palace belongs to no one but the Warpope, and the Warpope is dead. My neck is my own since I left with you.”
“Maybe I was saving your worthless neck to split on my own steel.”
“See to your own.”
For the time it takes a high arrow to meet its mark the men glared at each other, the sorcerer poised as he was in times not long gone as a priest above his offering. But instead of fear Hormud looked as though satisfied and rolled onto his good side.
“Hurry with your spells Ostromo,” he grumbled, “the grass devils are waiting for us and I am not a man to disappoint when expected for battle.”

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