This was a defining moment for Simon. Single-handedly (in more ways than one) he massacred over ten thousand enemy fighters in a single day. It has been conjectured that the Trinity refers to the Hero, the Sword, and the Horse. Snowmane was pure white before the battle, but was stained permanently red by the blood and was renamed Bloodmane. Simon realised the power that he had and resolved not to use it unless there was no other way. The outcome was deal with the ‘devil’; a deal with Gadiel that all of his friends except Kris the Bard counselled strongly against.
The following is the Slaughter of Hamadan from Manfred’s perspective.
Manfred woke before dawn. If truth be told, he’d hardly slept at all. He climbed the stairs to the top of the High Tower in the dark. It hardly mattered, he’d trodden them so many times in his long life that he could do it with his eyes closed. He knew every step intimately and counted them off as he climbed. He pulled his cloak more tightly around him. The mid autumn morning air carried a hint of winter. He thought of the dwarves in the mountains as the first snows began to fall, and wondered how they would fare. The leaves would be turning in the Forbidden Forest and the elves preparing for the long winter nights ahead. Today would be a huge celebration in Elannort – the Harvest Festival. The people had much to celebrate – the harvest had been very good, the best for many years; the city was well prepared for any attack; they had survived Gadiel’s previous assault, and the Hero was back from the dead to protect them. Why wouldn’t they celebrate?
Manfred didn’t feel like celebrating. The town was just beginning to awaken. The first rays of dawn illuminated the early risers as they stretched and yawned. They were probably tasked with getting the whole pigs roasted in time for the feast. A dog barked in the distance. Manfred ignored them all; his focus was much farther away. He withdrew his staff from inside his cloak and took a seat with his back propped against the parapet wall of the High Tower. He faced the portal. He held out his staff at arm’s length and focused on its tip. He hadn’t tried to farsight over such a long distance for many millennia. He hoped that he still had the skill.
He imagined the geography. He visualised the map in his head and followed a line roughly east southeast. The portal arch began to shimmer and then turned a translucent white. He maintained his focus on the tip of his staff, so that he observed the portal out of the corner of his eye. This made the already blurred image become even fuzzier. He saw the blue expanse of the Great Inland Sea; it was calm and peaceful. He saw the brown vastness of the desert sands, flowing like a river into the waking dawn. He saw the sun rise, red and angry, over the minarets of Hamadan. He saw the enemy encampments, with their flags of chaos fluttering in the morning breeze. He saw a single red-haired rider on a white horse ride out to face ten thousand enemy troops. His tears blurred the vision further. He cried for Simon. He cried for the enemy.
Manfred maintained his concentration all day. He ignored Taran and Dawit when they joined him. He half heard their concerns as they watched Simon face so many. He noted their joy as Simon first scythed them down. He felt their horror as the massacre continued.
When it was over, Taran and Dawit had to prise him off the cold floor. He was frozen in position, his ancient joints locked. They helped him down the stairs and to his private chambers. The sounds from Elannort spoke of a town in celebration. The three friends ate and drank sparingly, in silence.
Eventually Manfred spoke his thoughts. “I fear for Simon’s soul tonight. It is not easy for any man to kill, even if he has killed before. To slaughter so many is beyond comprehension. I knew that this would happen. I sent him to his fate. I need to help him, but he is beyond my farsight. Have we done evil today? Have we stooped so low that we now meet our enemy on his terms? I fear that I shall see those men in my nightmares every time I close my eyes. What will Simon see?”
The question hung over them. Dawit fidgeted uncomfortably. Taran eventually spoke. “You must not blame yourself, Manfred. Gadiel has initiated events that could only lead to the slaughter of one side or the other. We have right on our side. If the Hero is to be successful, he must learn how to kill. As much as we’d like to think it, he is not the shy fearful boy that we once knew. If he is to fight Gadiel and stand a chance of winning, he must become hard, battle-hard. You knew that this day would come. If he is the true manifestation of the Everlasting Hero, he will come through this and be stronger. Has he not dealt with everything that has been thrown at him so far?”
“Including torture and death,” Dawit added. “Taran is right, Manfred. The boy we once strived to protect no longer exists. He is the Hero now. We must respect him as such. We should rejoice, and honour his mighty victory.”
“You are both right. Come, fill your glasses. Let us drink. I give you Simon Rufus the One-Handed. The Everlasting Hero.”
Three voices spoke as one. “The Everlasting Hero.”
The wonderful artwork is by Nat Turner.
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