Friday, January 05, 2007

Chronicles of the Magi: Part 8

In years to come, the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem will be rendered in such a way as to imply that they came upon camels in a manner normally attributed to kings. An entourage of servants accompanying them, the star shining serenely in the sky. The Magi themselves are depicted as composed, resplendent in a fine array of silk garments and bejewelled turbans.

The truth of the matter is that the three men arrived in Bethlehem without their caravan, on wild eyed steeds in a lather of sweat and dust. Their servants had met them upon the road and provided the horses; part way to Bethlehem the group had split into four companies, hoping to throw off Herod's pursuit, to buy a little time before the mad king could accomplish his revenge.

But Angra Mainyu had other servants at his disposal.

The road between Jerusalem and Bethehem is not a long one; only 10 kilometers separate them. By horse at a full gallop, the distance could be covered in under an hour. Provided there are no delays.

As the trio road up the hill that lead out of Jerusalem and onto the Bethlehem road, Larvendad sent his thoughts to his younger companions.

We are not alone. Already Angra Mainyu seeks other means to impede our swift progress.

Hormoz glanced to the side, calling upon the light of the stars to aid his sight. He heard Gushnasap utter a curse. Uttuki...demons, running parallel to them in rapid strides. They held a form somewhere between predatory cat and reptile. Their speed made it difficult to follow their path--moving erratically in staccato fits and jumps.

The dread beings moved ahead of the three Magi, and began fanning out to cut their prey off. Hormoz could see them put on a burst of speed, blurring into the distance, only to reappear in a dark line on the horizon, waiting patiently. This was the only route to the baby king. If the Magi were to find him, they would have to run this gauntlet.

The three Magi reined in their horses and faced their enemy.

"We are the Flashes of Lightning," one of the Uttuki uttered, forcing its inhuman physiology around the human sounds in ugly croaks and snarls. "You go no further, old man."

"We'll see about that," Larvendad replied. "I've fought worse than you and am here to tell the tale."

"You were younger then," the Uttuki said. "And your magic was stronger. The world is changing with the coming of this boy-child. With his coming, your power wanes."

Blood magic, Larvendad sent to his companions. We've seen this; the sacrifice becomes the most powerful of all spells.

"So be it," Gushnasaph whispered under his breath, and drew his sword.

"No!" Larvendad commanded. "You think that sort of power is needed for the likes of these? Our power may be fading, but if this King is who the Jews think he is...then the power of Angra Mainyu is at an end."

The old man turned to the demons.

"We serve the Light!" he shouted to the dark forms. "We are upon an errand for Ahura Mazda, or perhaps the God whom he serves, or is merely a shadow of. What is certain is that you will not bar our path."

"And what will you do to remove us from your way?" the Uttuki barked.

"Nothing," Larvendad replied. "I have lived a long enough life. If the Lord of the Sacred Fire declares my days at an end by your doing, then I am resigned to this, as our my companions. But we have not come all this way to be stopped by errand runners for He Who Cowers in Darkness."

Larvendad spurred his horse forward at a slow walk, resolute in his demeanour. After a moment, Hormoz and Gushnasaph followed their teacher's example. The horses began to panic as they neared the Uttuki. Gushnasaph felt beads of sweat running down his back...he had never been so close to this many demons before. He could smell their rank breath, and in the moonlight their glistening scales and needle-like teeth were all too apparent.

And then the sky erupted in a torrent of light, blue coruscating arcs running around what the young Magus would swear had been a winged figure...multiple wings, and heads shifting and changing, now an eagle, now a bull, then that of a man, then perhaps a ram...powerful, muscled limbs that he could only assume had been arms, for they carried a sword. And while he had felt a twinge of fear at the demons' pursuit, the emotion that surged through him at the sight of...whatever it had been was a pure fear, a terror indescribably, holy and undefiled by any sense of courage or superiority. Whatever had tore into the Uttuki's ranks had been something sublime, beyond his comprehension.

And what haunted him to the end of his days, was that he was sure that he had only seen the least of the Light's servants.

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