Thursday 4 September 2014

The Sword of Alkahar

Great was the warrior Alkahar, and his name was well known to all the Lands between the Seas.

Great was the warrior Alkahar, and the lands which knew the tread of his steed’s iron hooves quaked in fear, and breathed easy again only when he had passed by.

All through the realms between the two seas rode the warrior Alkahar, on his great black horse Logash, the colour of a starless night. And the people knew that black horse; and they knew the mighty figure on his back, clad in armour of bronze and iron. And most of all they knew his mighty sword, Bumaka, of which it was said that it could never know rest unless it had slaked its thirst in blood at least once in the course of a day.

And the warrior Alkahar was on a ceaseless quest, too, for new lands to conquer, for it was a hunger that drove him just as much as the sword Bumaka was driven by the thirst for blood. But he had at last conquered all the lands between the two seas.

So one day the warrior Alkahar went to the oracle who lived in statue inside a cave over a lake where the sun never shone; and he demanded to know where he might find fresh realms to subdue.

 Then the oracle spoke from its stone mouth. “Far to the north of here,” it said, “past the mountains that reach to the sky, there are new lands for your sword to slake its thirst. But the mountains are impenetrable, and the people of that land are strange and know things unguessable to those of the south, so that you would be better advised to stay away.”

“I have never yet met anyone I was afraid of,” said Alkahar. “I have subdued warlocks and mages as well as armies, and I have never met my equal. So I will go north of the mountains, and conquer what lies there, and I will return with proof of my success.”

So Alkahar donned his armour, buckled on his mighty sword Bumaka, and on his great black horse set forth to the north. Many days passed, ere he reached the mountains that reached the sky. And perhaps he might not have found a way past them, for they were a stone wall that rose towards the heavens. But Alkahar drew his sword, and struck the mountain a mighty blow, so that it broke apart in twain and offered him a passage through. And so he passed through the mountains, and at last came to a goodly plain.

And green and beautiful were the lands to the north of the mountains. Sparkling brooks ran between pleasant fields by beautiful villages peopled with handsome men and beautiful women. And none of them were afraid of the warrior Alkahar, for they had never heard of him before.

Then a great weariness came to the soul of Alkahar, as he paused on his black horse and looked on this happy land. And he said to himself, “I have had enough of conquering and killing. For the first time in years without number I have seen people who do not flee in terror at my approach, and where armies do not come to try and cut me down. For the first time in years I feel myself a man among men.” And he got down from his horse, and unsaddled and unbridled him; and then he went down to the villages.

And there he dwelt, calling himself Benord, for the warrior Alkahar was a man from he past. And Benord and took to himself a merry laughing woman to wife; and she bore him a daughter whom he loved dearer than life itself. By the time two years had passed, you might never have known that this was the man who had once been the greatest warrior between the two seas.  

One day in the middle of a bleak winter, when the sky was heavy with cloud and the frost lay like iron on the fields, Benord was far from home, hunting in the forests to the east, for he wanted furs to keep his wife and child warm. Then it was that cruel raiders swept down from the farther north, destroyed the village, and killed all who could not escape. And when Benord returned, his home was in ashes, and his wife and daughter slain.

Then the soul of Benord was filled with a white rage such as he had never felt before; and he turned away from the ashes of his home. And he went to the shed where he had put away his armour and his saddle and his bridle, and where his sword Bumaka lay, thirsty from its long neglect.

Benord put on his armour and buckled on his sword, and he whistled for his horse Logash; and the beast, who had waited all the months for such a summons, came trotting up from the woods beyond the fields.

And then the man who was Benord ceased to exist, and it was Alkahar who sat astride the great horse, and he was the most fearsome warrior of the land between the two seas. And Alkahar set out to find the raiders who had killed his wife and daughter, for he was determined to bring on them the vengeance that was their due. The only one whom he took with him was one Delknoth, who knew the language of the peoples of the further north, and who too mourned his family.

Then Alkahar and Delknoth hunted the raiders and harried them from the plains to the rivers and back again, until he had lain waste to them all. But the warrior’s vengeance was not slaked; and he ventured ever northwards, destroying all those who were in his way; and then, at last, one frozen morning, he stood on the edge of a grey and frozen valley, in the furthest north, beyond which the world ends.

And there in the middle of the valley was a village, in this the last land before the end of the world; and the sword Bumaka stirred in its scabbard, for it thirsted for blood even more, after its long, long thirst.

And then Delknoth said to Alkahar, “Let us not go down into this valley, for the people of this village are famed as mages and worse; and, besides, none of them was in any way responsible for the loss of our loved ones. Let us rather turn homewards, and in time, perhaps, our sorrows will heal.”

But Alkahar looked down at the village, and his anger burned bright within him; and the sword Bumaka stirred again in its scabbard. And he went down into the village, roaring his vengeance, and slew all he found. And the houses crumbled and burst into flames at the blows of his sword, and Bumaka sang its joy, tasting of the rich red blood again and once more.

But then at the very end of the village there was a small hut, and before it stood a woman, behind whose skirts small children hid. And the woman crossed her arms across her breast and refused to flee before Alkahar, the greatest warrior of the land between the seas and of the northern wastes.

But Alkahar raised his sword and struck her a mighty blow, and then slew the children as they ran; and he destroyed the hut, burning it to ashes. And then, the flame of vengeance in his heart slaked for the moment, he came back to the woman, who lay dying on the ground, with Delknoth bending over her.

And the woman looked up at Alkahar with eyes filled with hate; and in her language she uttered a few unknown words, and then she sank back and died.

Then Delknoth looked at Alkahar, and terror was in his countenance. “I fear for you, my friend,” he said. “This woman has cursed you with a great and terrible curse, a curse worse than any I could ever have even imagined. And I fear now to be even with you, lest the curse touch me too.”

Alkahar looked at the man who had become his friend, and he looked at the woman lying on the ground, and at all he had done. “What is this curse?” he asked.

“I fear even to speak it. Nor will I stay by your side again. Find your own way in the world, and farewell.” So saying, Delknoth took his leave of Alkahar and rode away, and not once did he ever look back.

And Alkahar frowned after him for a moment; and he turned to look at his sword, Bumaka, and his horse, the great Logash, and he said to them, “You then, my friends, will come with me.”

But the horse Logash, for the first time ever, took fright at his touch, and galloped away after Delknoth, and was lost to view.

“You, at least, will stay faithful,” Alkahar said to Bumaka, and the sword glinted in agreement with the fires of the burning village.

And Alkahar the warrior went forth into that land in the far north, to seek further blood to sate his vengeance and his sword’s unending thirst. And he was great and mighty as the glacier, and swift as the wind; many were those he killed, so that his name became as well known, and feared, as it had been in the lands of the south, long ago.

Then the day came when Alkahar said to himself, “There are no places left to conquer, here in the distant north. I shall now go south again, through the mountains that touch the sky, to the land between the two seas. I shall go to the oracle, and prove to the statue of stone that I have been victorious, again, in the north. And, perhaps, by now they will have forgotten the name of Alkahar in the land between the seas, and there will be new conquests to be made.”

And so he strode across the plains and through the fields which once had lain so pleasant; and those that lived there hid in the forests and fearfully watched him go by.

So Alkahar the warrior came to the mountain that one day, so long ago, he had split in twain with his sword Bumaka; and he passed through into the cleft, his armoured boots treading the ground.

And then the ground shook with a mighty shaking; and the cleft in the mountain closed, endless tons of rock and earth falling in on the warrior. And though he raised the sword Bumaka to protect himself, the blow of a colossal boulder split it in two, and the broken blade sliced into his chest, just below the heart.

And Alkahar the warrior lay buried beneath the mountain, and waited for death to come and set him free.

And the time passed, and, little by little, he remembered the curse, the curse that had been the most terrible ever uttered, the one which made it impossible for his friend or his horse to stay by his side.


Time has passed on silent feet through all the lands between the seas. 

The oracle still stands in its lonely cave above the sunless lake, but it is long forgotten, and nobody has visited it in a thousand years. The old kingdoms are long fallen, the ancient cities crumbled to dust, and new ones risen and fallen in their stead. Out in the north, the fields are again green and the rivers sparkle, and little villages dot the plain. And the mountains that touch the sky have closed the way between the two lands again, so that they have forgotten each other’s existence.

Legends have grown up and fallen away, of ancient warriors on mighty steeds and swords which thirsted for blood. Legends have murmured of mighty curses, and of a vengeance that shook the sun and the stars.

And deep in the earth under the mountain, Alkahar lies, with the sword in his heart, waiting, waiting.

It has been centuries since he could even remember his wife’s and daughter’s names or faces, and still he keeps trying.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2014   

1 comment:

  1. The story is almost like a poem, so beautiful are its words and so vivid its horrors. A quietly terrible wonderful story.


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