The Story So Far . . .

Prolog

There was a merchant in Nemedia who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, “Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Now, please give me a horse, and I will ride far away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Zamora and there Death will not find me.”

The merchant gave him a fast horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went east along the Road of Kings. Then the merchant, who was a brave man as well as kind, went down to the marketplace and he saw Death standing in the crowd and he spoke to her, saying “Why did you threaten my servant when you saw him this morning?”

“I was not threatening him” she said. “I was only startled in surprise. I was astonished to see him here in Nemedia , for I have an appointment with him next week in Zamora.

It Begins

“Fighters! Fighters wanted!” The caller was an older man dressed in the robes of a desert nomad with a fine scimitar at his belt and the gleam of gold on his fingers and the glitter of jewels in his ears.

“You, lad, you look like a strong young fellow. How about signing on with me? I’ve a caravan headed out tomorrow, going east along the Road of Kings. We’ll travel through Corinthia and Zamora, and then on to Agrhapur on the shores of the Inland Sea. You’ll see the sights. Come home with a pocket full of gold coins and stories to tell your grand children

The old man looked tough enough, but the huge warrior who strode along a pace or two behind him with skin as black as coal looked as if he could take on a squadron or troopers single handedly with a fair chance of winning the bout. The bodyguard scowled at anyone in the market place who came within a pace or two of his charge, and if the trespasser should miss the warning somehow, the Shemite extended a thick knobby club to push him away.

“No, no, Jubal!” cried the old man. “This heroic fellow is going to sign up with us, aren’t you young man? I’ll pay you ten gold lions right now, and fifty more when we arrive in Agrhrapur.”

He lifted a leather purse that jingled with the dull tone of heavy coins.

“Are you a fighter? Or a ranger? Perhaps a barbarian?” He looked the young man over carefully.

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