The story of URZENNA – Part 8
Few within the King’s army, court or household shared Haminid’s confidence that they would defeat the army of Urzenna. Many feared and hated the dark, undead thing that the king had appointed as his heir and worrying rumours had spread amongst them that, under the dark prince’s black visor, which he always wore, was nothing more than a skull with empty eye sockets lit by a blazing, unnatural red fire.
Even the kings own wife, Queen Sharnaz, found living in that house of the damned unbearable, for she could not bring herself to think of the dark prince as her son, nor could she stand the raging madness which had overtaken her husband since Kalimed’s death.
“I would run away to join my brave Urzenna”, she thought to herself, “If only I wasn’t so afraid of my husband and that vile living void which he has created out of dead flesh and evil forces but still, I may be more use to Urzenna here than outside; for here, should the opportunity lend itself to me, I could split the kings back bone with a dagger or put a portion of poison in his mead that would rid me and the world of his tyranny”.
And she was not the only one whose mind had turned to dreams of treason; infact some of the kings own garrison had already gone to him protesting that they would not fight behind the dark prince because they saw him as an evil, ungodly thing but the dark prince himself had dealt with them merely by raising up his black visor and fixing them with a cursed stare that set all of the soldiers and even their armour ablaze.
The other soldiers of the king were so horrified when they saw the mutineers burst into flames; flames that could not be put out by water or any other means they could think of, that it quelled any further thoughts of mutiny among them.
“ Terror is the best cure for cowardice. Let them fear us more than death and they will fear to betray us. ”, laughed the king approvingly, clanging a steel gauntlet upon the stone battlements.
“We will certainly have need of every man”, said the dark prince, “For Urzenna wears the belt of greatness now and it is like the hand of god encircling him. With it, he has the strength to bring down your fortress walls with a bare fist. That is why you must allow me to deal with him alone for none but my dark powers can defeat him”.
And, no sooner had the dark prince spoken these words when, soaring through the early morning skies came Urzenna and, behind him, advancing out of the shadowy forests that lay round about the kings fortified palace came the armies of the church; ten thousand armour plated and cowelled warrior monks with swords and spears and cudgels and horsemen and bowmen too, all chanting a hopeful hymn to victory as they marched bravely to battle.
Even Kenrya was there; a little songthrush dressed in chainmail and armour, with a tiny helmet strapped upon her head, perched upon the shoulder of her father as he rode towards the fight.
“You have come ill prepared, my son”, said Haminid as Urzenna flew close to the battlements,
“Where are your siege towers? Your trebuchets? Your battering ram? What use is your army if they cannot breach the walls of my mighty fortress?”.
“It is you who have made an error of judgement, father”, retorted Urzenna, “By hiding yourself within your flimsy, paper fortress. Why, now that I wear this magical belt, a tortoise has more armour upon him than you do with all your stone walls”.
“We shall see, arrogant child”, said King Haminid, turning purple and shaking with anger before bellowing out an order, “Lower the marionette of war!”, he cried.
Immediately a giant armoured puppet soldier, controlled by a system of pulleys and ropes, was lowered over the front of the fortress. It had four enormous arms with a different weapon in each; a sword, a spear, a ball and chain and a battle-axe and it had three gigantic legs with feet large enough to stamp a battalion into the ground and inside its head were soldiers who fired blazing arrows from its slit like eyes and poured flaming pitch from its mouth.
“What use is this ridiculous puppet show, my king. Let me call upon the dark forces to crush them?”, complained the undead prince.
“I know how to defend a fortress, my son”, said the king, irritably, “My father and his father before him defended this fortress using time honoured tactics and strategies. When I have need of your dark forces, believe me I shall use them but first let me show you what tradition can do”.
The dark prince merely scoffed and scowled although, at first, the giant marionette of war did seem like more than a match for Urzenna , even with all of his magical might, and it took all of his speed and agility to avoid being injured by those weapons as vast as sails on a windmill.
“What a fiercesome contraption?”, said Hakhan, gawking at the titanic marionette who even their great hope Urzenna seemed to be struggling against.
“Fiercesome yes, but fallible”, chirped Kenrya, “Look father how it is controlled by War puppeteers upon the battlements. I shall fly up there and disturb their sport”.
And little Kenrya, in her bird form, flew up and round about the heads of the puppeteers, pecking at their ears and noses and, distracted by her, they lost control of the arms which now seem to flail about frantically like the arms of a drowning man.
Then, seeing Kenrya flapping about the heads of the puppeteers and causing confusion, Urzenna seized the opportunity to fly down and take hold of one of its large tree-trunk like legs before lifting up the entire giant, mechanical soldier and yanking it, puppeteers and all, away from the fortress then hurling the wooden giant all the way to distant Lake Lalico where, landing upon the waters of that lake, the marionette of war sank without a trace.
“Your toy titan has failed”, said Urzenna, hovering near the battlements and speaking directly to the king, “Now, let me show you our battering ram”.
And, saying this, Urzenna shot off into the forests as fast as a bolt from a crossbow before returning with equal swiftness, holding a large tree trunk in the palm of one hand like a javelin which he then proceeded to hurl with amazing force and accuracy against the large wooden doors in the front wall of the kings fortress smashing them, with a mighty crash, into sawdust and splinters.
“You have tried your tradition and failed”, barked the dark prince, angrily, “I told you what power Urzenna now wears upon him and he has brought down your fortress with a fingertip”.
“Very well”, said Haminid, both annoyed and ashamed of his failure, “Show me what your dark powers can do! Kill Urzenna for me!”.
And in the next moment, with a roar, the dark prince transformed himself into a huge, ebony scaled Dragon with eyes as red as molten metal; a single blood red horn upon its head and breath of fire and lightning and the dragon pounced from the battlements into the air, spreading its large, black, bat-like wings wide and casting a terrible shadow upon the earth which killed all that it touched .
And, seeing the black armoured, fire belching creature hurtling towards him and the fury in its dark red eyes, Urzenna felt the dark demon of doubt also wrap its clawed hand around his heart.
“Am I the hero in a legend or just the fool in a parable of hubris? Will they cheer for me or weep for me after this day? ”, worried Urzenna, “I who am hope to so many, have I now a hope for myself?”.
But then the voice of Kalimed was heard inside him, striking a hammer against his doubts, “Hope is made by those who make do without it. Hope is not born from certainty, Urzenna, but from a blind man’s courage and the height of a man’s courage is merely the depth of his love. The bright faces of the ones we love are why we face our darkest fears. Stand upon the greatness of that love, Urzenna and you will be a giant”.
Hearing these words made Urzenna think of all the people and the things which he loved most dearly and dearest among them was the face of his beloved Kenrya whose face seemed now
to light his heart like a glowing lantern and that love alone seemed enough to lift Urzenna’s heart higher than the clawing hands of doubt could reach because then, drawing his blade from its scabbard and raising it to the sky with a cry of ‘Kenrya!’, he flew to meet the accursed dragon and destroy it.
The battle within the kings palace was not easily fought either, for the king was holding the invisible sword , a sword which only its wielder could see and which would not even stain with blood no matter how many men poured their blood upon its blade.
Unable to fight against what they couldn’t see, hundreds of men had already been run through by the sword but then Kenrya, the armoured songthrush flew into the kings face and, even though he hacked at her with the invisible blade, he could not manage to hit her because the little bird always felt the blade approaching and flew out of its path everytime and then, whilst the king was distracted by his obsessive desire to kill the impudent little bird, his wife took hold of the opportunity to creep up behind him and, drawing a dagger from under her dress, drove it hard between the shoulders of the king.
“You have taken so much from me already”, she shrieked as she stabbed at him, “You will not take away my only remaining son!”.
Then the songthrush, pecking around near the hand of the king who had fallen dead, found the handle of the invisible sword and, turning back into her human form, picked up the sword and from this moment onward, the battle turned in favour of Hakhan and his valiant priests.
The battle in the air was fierce and furious indeed, with Urzenna suffering several deep wounds from the black dragons terrible, tearing claws but the dragon itself was bleeding a vile black, poisonous blood from the many wounds slashed into its scaly hide by Urzenna’s sword.
“You fight well, Urzenna”, said the dragon, breathing out flames from its mouth and nostrils as it spoke, “But you are still a mere mortal man of flesh and bone while I am one of the undead; tireless and immortal . You cannot kill what cannot die, so surrender to me. Be my willing slave rather than a rotting corpse”.
“I cannot give up and yet there is truth in his words”, thought Urzenna, feeling his body ache from tiredness and loss of blood, “I cannot kill him this way but perhaps there is another way to destroy the fiend, through use of trickery”.
So then Urzenna told the dark prince that he would surrender to him and both flew back down to earth, the dark prince transforming once more into his human but undead form and then Urzenna
sank to his knees and began to take off his belt of greatness.
“You have won”, said Urzenna, “Take my belt as your trophy, please but do not take my life, oh great demon prince”.
The corpse like creature laughed hoarsely with pride as he snatched the belt from Urzennas hand.
However, the moment that it did this the belt transformed into a two headed, golden snake and, with both heads, it bit deep into the dark prince turning his foul, decaying flesh into black glass.
Ofcourse, the demon prince tried to fight against the effect of the magic venom but the power of God and all the angels was in that serpents bite and there was nothing that the evil living corpse could do as every part of his body, blood and bone became solid and brittle and then, seizing the opportunity , Urzenna picked up his sword and smashed the vitrified body of the dark prince to pieces and, worried that the powers of darkness might find a way to reassemble the body of the dark prince, Urzenna put on his belt of greatness once more and, picking up the chunk of broken glass that had been the dark princes head, hurled it off into space where it crashed into the white-hot heart of the sun and melted away into nothing.
“My love”, said Kenrya, running up to meet Urzenna and to bring him happy news, “The battle is won, Haminid is dead and you, great Urzenna, are king”.
And that is how Urzenna came to the throne and with him came a shimmering age of peace and wisdom, kindness and happiness. The soul of his brother returned to the bosom of heaven; his wife Kenrya wore the promised crown of gold and silver and gave birth to a great dynasty of fine and noble kings and Urzenna, unlike the dark, evil prince, became truly immortal as an inspiring hero of legend.