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Monday, May 18, 2009

A short story - continued part 21

The fateful morning came. Both camps stirred early and were readied for battle. There was an intervening group of small hills between the two plains upon which the opposing armies were encamped. During the night, Queen Sawsan and her personal guard of knights upon chargers fitted for war, had arrived to the camp of Shafiq and Belle. Abdul was with the Queen, together they were at the front. Belle and Shafiq were upon either side upon Maysa' and Numair. Ranging in the cow's horn formation around both sides in two tiers were the Daughters of Astarte in the back tier and forward were the men with their long pikes. Their ranks were staggered allowing their files alternating access to the enemy when they closed.

* * *

Asmodeus and Lilitu had come to Ha'dad's camp after the death of Aêšmi. Asmodeus was in horrible temper and assumed a most fearsome command of all there, with Lilitu at his side. Lilitu was in her true form and evil to behold. The horns of Asmodeus curled and his nostrils flared, smoke wisping from them. The demons of the north were on his right as he faced west to attack the camp of the saints, and those of the south on his left. The Habiru from the western sea mixed with the tax collectors were center and to the front, a sacrifice when the time came, to draw the army of Shafiq and Belle into a trap.

* * *

There was a pass that wound gently up through the small hills. The hillsides rose up from the pass on either side. The pass was a natural trap, but it had to be traversed.

Queen Sawsan, with Ra'idah in the center front and Abdul before them, lead the army of the saints forward. Rashida was mounted upon an Arabian desert horse, fast and nimble, light of foot and quick to turn. Falak was upon her arm. The falcon knew battle was in the air and stood on Rashida's forearm, head and chest thrust forward, wings back. Rashida rode on the outside flanks and kept watch. They moved forward with deadly purpose.

They moved fast and sure. They came to the pass and began the ascent. Nothing was in sight. Rashida gave Falak the command, "soar." Falak left her arm like lightning and was soon back. Rashida listened to Falak and rode immediately to Ra'idah and the Queen. She spoke to them, "Asmodeus and his army advance in two flanking columns through the Eastern ascent of the pass. There is a center formation." The Queen turned to Shafiq and said, "my son, Prince Shafiq, you lead and command now." Shafiq was quick and sure, saying, "double the horns back to protect the flanks and move quickly into the pass. My Lady Belle and my Queen Mother stay behind Abdul." Shafiq rode forward to lead the army of the saints. They were going into battle.

As they moved forward, suddenly they saw Asmodeus upon a hill top, to the north and just before them, where he had climbed with the demons of the North. To the south was Lilitu upon another hill top with the demons of the South with her. The men were between them and ordered to charge Shafiq's army. As they charged, "Shafiq wheeled Numair and gave the order to break the horns into two and move the outlying tips forward and each to outflank on the outside, the forces of both Asmodeus on the North and Lilitu on the South. This kept those forces from crashing down from both sides and pinning the army of the saints between. But it put Queen Sawsan, Belle, Ra'idah and the Queen’s personal guard and the small fifteen warrior contingent of the Daughters of Astarte who guarded, them directly into harm's way from Asmodeus' center contingent of men who were charging. Rashida with Falak flying overhead flew to their side. She wheeled her steed and drove into the foul army of Asmodeus' men with her sword drawn and Falak screaming overhead and swooping with deadly accuracy upon the enemy. Abdul-Alim Nur al Din, the mighty malak of God strode forward into the army of foul men and with terrible deadly effect began their destruction aided by the Daughters of Astarte and the Queen’s personal guard. Rashida had gone before him and was now surrounded on all sides. Falak screamed and her claws tore eyes and throats from their hapless owners. Rashida cut heads off left and right. One particularly ugly foul beast of a Habiru stabbed Rashida in the throat with his dagger, at which she dropped to her knees. Shafiq upon Numair, descended out of the battle that was now raging upon the two hill tops and threw himself from Numair's back upon the Habiru and drove him through with his sword from neck to belly and then split him in half.

Ra'idah was there and caught Rashida as she fell crying, "Daughter," the tears were streaming as Ra'idah held her flesh and blood to her breast and wept. Suddenly Abdul appeared with Belle and Queen Sawsan. They all gathered around one of the bravest warriors that had ever lived. Queen Sawsan put forth her hands, for she had the gift of healing, and holding Rashida gently, commanded her to live. She would. Ra'idah wept profusely, as did Belle.

The battle raged on the hilltops where the cow's horns had enveloped both Asmodeus' and Lilitu's forces and were decimating them.

Asmodeus strode forth towards Shafiq, and Lilitu was advancing where Belle was. Abdul waited with Belle. Shafiq dismounted Numair and commanded him go to Maysa' and with her, protect Queen Sawsan and Princess Belle. Numair galloped immediately to his task.

Shafiq drew his sword and pointed it at Asmodeus' foul chest and promised him death, "I come to kill you and send you to hell from which you came, Asmodeus." Asmodeus spat on the ground, while sulphur belched from his flared nostrils and his horns curled forward, he charged hands out to rend Shafiq. Shafiq's aim was sure and he drove his sword point through Asmodeus' foul heart and the beast from hell died convulsing.

At full gallop, Numair arrived where Maysa' had engaged Lilitu, who had assumed the form of a giant serpent. Maysa' was rearing and slashing with her hooves with effect at the serpent. Numair joined with her and moving forward pressed the attack. Princess Belle upon her feet where she stood beside Queen Sawsan, having dismounted Maysa' before the valiant horse attacked Lilitu, was praying for victory with the Queen Mother. Belle held forth her amulet and while they were praying, when Sawsan commanded it, supernatural light shown forth and struck Lilitu and the serpent died shrieking in terror.

Victory was theirs. The hordes were destroyed.

The army of the saints returned to their camp with their honored dead and wounded.

They would return to Sippar first and then Prince Shafiq Nur al Din Taymullah bin Wajih of Rapiqum, son of the Lady of the Morning, the Queen of the Dawn, Sawsan, Lily of the valley, and Princess Belle of Mari, ضوء السماء la belle lumière la princesse de
Mésopotamie, would with the Queen and the angel of God and the army of the saints and the two faithful horses who had the power of speech, proceed to the Capital to be, of the reunified Kingdom, the City of Rapiqum. There was not only to be royal crowning of the future King and Queen, but a wedding.

That night at camp, Belle and Shafiq stood looking at the stars blazing brightly and whispered promises and sweet words to one another. They would begin the joyous journey tommorrow.

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