The Entrapment

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From "The Book of Ara", Page 14

Of kindred ties and lovers woes,

upon the heart such grief bestows.

But here am I and no one knows,

that deep in me this tempest blows.

The High Queen, or Ara Lane as she was known to the Dzai, had been alive for no less than one thousand and eight years by the reckoning of the great scribes. Ara beheld legendary beauty and was a great healer among the early Dzai. She wandered from village to village in search of people in need. Some believed that she held the very secret to life and death beneath her fair golden locks.

Early Dzai theology was an oxymoron at best. The concept of a deity was too highly revered by them as to trust it to carnal minds. Oral tradition handed down from generation to generation clearly states that Ara neither condoned nor promoted doctrine of any kind. None the less, Ara was considered to be the first High Priestess of her people. She also was known to hold many men in high regard in her travels. Nothing more was known about her. Anything else was simply one more topic not to discuss.

Her people lived in small temporary villages and hunted and fished for their sustenance. The only land area suited for farming in the otherwise rocky terrain was in the oft disputed fertile Valley of the River Iibere. It was rumored, even then, to contain vast mines of gold and silver. This was the real reason that Kanabulan took interest in the land and sought to gain rights to the territory.

As word spread of Ara’s healing, King Erebus of Kanabulan schemed with his advisers, men of the highest level of wizardry, to capture Ara and force her secrets from her by whatever means necessary.

On the afternoon of the Eleventh of Parlong, Ara arrived at the largest of the Dzai villages. She had received word that a terrible outbreak threatened their very existence. The Founders rushed to Ara and brought her to their meeting house that now served as an infirmary. The great room was filled with men, women and children—pale, sweating and thrashing about as the rancid odor of soiled clothing and death itself hung in the air.

As Ara tended to the sickest among them, the thundering sound of horses encompassed the meeting house and then were still. Dozens of Kanabulan soldiers and three highly decorated wizards rushed into the room and began slaughtering all in their path with the fearsome slash of their sword. Two soldiers seized Ara and forced her to watch as each of the Founders were slain.

When she was the last of the Dzai alive, the wizards approached her.

“Tell us your secret and you shall go free,” said the grayest of the wizards.

Ara aghast at the massacre could not reply.

“The great and all-powerful King Erebus will have your secret to immortality.”

“I will die like the others.”

“Very well. The secret will be revealed in your very blood. There is no element in this land that we cannot ascertain.” The gray wizard, whose name was Durnast, nodded. One wizard held a sharp knife to Ara’s neck the other a bowl. Durnast fingered a heavy rope of silver around his neck. A pendant of brilliant red stone hung heavily about it. He spoke something in an ancient tongue as the sword slit Ara’s throat. Soon, Ara slumped over, held up by the soldiers. The old wizard watched expectantly, holding his breath. Suddenly Ara’s body snapped back. Durnast seized the necklace and quickly hung it about Ara’s neck. He smiled, quite sure that his plan was a success.

Chief Wizard Durnast was a man driven by the ancient ambition to rid the land of Kanabulan of the inexplicable entities that perplexed those of idle minds. Wizards of his particular order held reason and logic above all other human traits and vowed to instill these great virtues in the common man. All things in life were theorized, quantified, qualified and declared true and proven beyond question. Failures were eradicated.

There were those of the unproven category that were most reluctant to be held long enough to be cast properly into oblivion. It was to combat their elusiveness that the Laws of Entrapment were written, and rewritten countless times after their ineffectiveness was revealed, and the dead wizard’s remains gathered and buried.

It was only a matter of time, and bombastic determination, before the correct solution was realized. Durnast stood at this moment on that fateful Eleventh of Purlong—and then he, too, was gone.

Dzai scribes and scholars from neighboring countries have long disputed what next occurred. Some hold fast to the notion that a great fire consumed the meeting house and all inside, culminating in a horrendous explosion—out of which Ara was said to emerge unscathed by the flames and virtually flew to the capital city of Kanabulan.

First of all, while I am not an historian by trade, this is a preposterous theory. The truth was strange enough. Surviving villagers, those few that had escaped the onslaught of the soldiers, found Ara’s leather bound journal in her travel sack inside the meeting house. These items were preserved by the villagers and have survived to this day as relics in the Dzai capital city of Cznorh. Ara’s journal contained no mention of the legendary tree of life, which she was thought to use in her remedies. Primarily, it was a collection of poetry and silly drawings of men, presumably those she encountered in her many journeys. From these drawings, one could surmise one of two things: there were no women among the early Dzai or that Ara possessed an insatiable carnal appetite. Since there were indeed both middle and modern day Dzai, there is only one real solution. It was more complicated than that as I would discover over a millennium later.

On the thirteenth day of Purlong, Ara, or at least the body of Ara, thundered into the palace of King Erebus. Her eyes shone red as hot embers. The very air around her crackled and hissed. When the guards finally got close enough to stop her from entering the throne room she opened her mouth and then erupted the most horrifying, body-numbing sounds ever before cast upon human ears. Innumerable voices groaned, crashed, roared and exploded in a cacophony of fury as she spoke these words, “Your king sent for me.”

From a distance King Erebus could only marvel at her rare beauty. Her deerskin dress clung to her petite body. Ara’s golden locks took flight behind her as she closed in on the king at a feverish pace.

Suddenly King Erebus felt the air sucked from his lungs. He saw the pendant around her neck and the bloodstains on her clothing—but no Durnast, no soldiers.

“Gather your children. Today you will become immortal!”

King Erebus motioned to his guards and they were gone. There was no further discourse from Ara. The King had only his excitement and ambition to offer him explanations. The entire palace came alive with anticipation. Courtesans and loyal subjects filled the throne room as servants hasted to prepare for the feast of all time.

The guards returned with the king’s two sons, handsome young men, one tall and dark and the other one taller still and fair, and his princess who was a tiny cherub in braids.

“We are ready!” Spoke the king.

Ara looked at them, void of emotion. “Set down your scepter.”

King Erebus complied. Ara picked it up and offered it to him. The king looked at her quite perplexed.

“Take it!” She bellowed.

As the king touched the scepter it began to burn and he could not pull away. Ara held fast to her end and uttered these words, “Erebus, you have summoned the Lane and today you have become immortal.”

With that, the burning in his hands ceased. He felt nothing. Not even sorrow as he looked out over the throne room. Two hundred twenty men, women and princes lay dead on the floor. Only princess Neila stood among the corpses, her mouth and eyes open in shock.

“Behold your heir--and your lone living subject within these palace walls. Retribution for you arrogance has only just begun.”

That was how the beautiful nymph named Ara became avatar for some unknown entity that referred to itself only as Lane. Over the years it chose to be honored by those it tormented without mercy as the High Queen. King Erebus was the first of five to be offered life eternal by the High Queen. After his king-making ceremony the king could no longer eat, sleep or feel but that was the price to pay for immortality and rationality.

Outraged by the hubris of their enemy, the Dzai waged a holy war against Kanabulan. Every man, woman and child became both soldier and theologian as the Dzai were thrown into this next phase of their evolution as a people. The earliest members of the priesthood were uncertain as to the greater abomination: the entrapment itself or their own vain attempts to ponder the imponderables.

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