Ant Smith

All stories

The house of Agadon

Hidden in the heart of the Rolling Hills is a green valley, where mortal shades find life. In this valley there are twenty one olive groves, each lorded over by a master. Through the labours of his thralls each master tends carefully to the olive harvest. The fortunes of a thrall depend entirely upon the mood of his master. Some live life in merriment, and some in hunger, such is the way of the valley. Order is maintained in this fashion by the noblest of men, King George the justifiable.

The valley is known as Agadon Twyx to its people, surrounded on all sides by the mighty Aga hills, the peaks of which can not be seen. Between these hills, and through the valley, flows the river Twyx. The legends and folk lore of Agadon are many, and varied, telling of such times as when all the olives turned black, or warning against travel beyond the forbidden point. There is one myth however that is known only to a few, and is believed by even fewer;

The story of Hadyn

Over three thousand olive crops ago it was tradition for the King of Agadon to take one suppliant from his people as his adviser. The last Supreme Suppliant was Hadyn the Lost. Now Hadyn was a musician by trade, and his melodies could soothe even the wrath of a man whose olive trees had wilted. A note once struck would roll on for all time, calming all in it's path, and eventually passing over even the great Aga hills. It was for this skill that the King of the time whose name has become lost chose Hadyn for his adviser. And for a long time did he give wise council.

Now it came to pass that in one season the crop of every man within the bounds of Agadon failed. The darkness of starvation hung heavy in the realm, and no amount of music could ease the pain. After only a few short months the stores were consumed, since such a catastrophe could never have been for seen. Hadyn then spoke wise council unto his sovereign,

'Sire, if it please thee, I will speak of the wise plot that lies within your heart, and shows itself with sorrow pity upon your brow.'

And the proud sovereign, eager for any plan, but ashamed lest another best him within the crises, bade wise Hadyn to speak of the plot he so discovered. Thus Hadyn revealed it so,

'Sire, if it please thee, we are in a time of great measure, and some small adventure. If the many are to put from them their wont of food and survive this cursed time, then the few must put forward what little nourishment they have in their hearts.'

And the proud sovereign replied,

'Ah, wise Hadyn, I fear lest your own wont for nourishment has robbed you of sense. Already every man has given every morsel unto the stores, and already the stores are empty. What else then would you have a man find in his heart ?'

And so questioned Hadyn uncoiled the melody of his riddle,

'Sire, if it please thee, I will speak some more. If a man has nothing in his heart to give, then he must give of his own heart. If the people of Agadon are to survive then they must partake of the hearts and flesh of the spirits that have survived not. Each man that approaches the doors of death must be released from the agonies of a gnawing stomach. His body must then be spitted and divided amongst the people so that they may also be released from the agonies of a gnawing stomach.'

And the proud sovereign took to the council thus,

'Ah, wise Hadyn, this is indeed a difficult council you force me to consider, for I know the truth of your vision. This must be so, if any are to live. Thus I decree it so, however the flesh of no spirit will be taken unless freely offered up within the life of that spirit.'

And so it was decreed. And soon the stores were empty and the people of Agadon were wasting into death, and yet no hapless spirit came forth to offer up its flesh. Now Hadyn was a young man of strong breeding and he felt the hunger plague less than any other man within the realm. Understanding, however, the nature of his council he took it upon himself to set example. Thus in a public ceremony he did bequeath the flesh of his bones to the people of Agadon, and at that very moment he drove himself upon a sharp spear. The people let a great wailing out, the torrents of the river washed back upon themselves, and the nymphs of the wood let sweet tears feed fallow land. Then, according to royal decree and the wish of Hadyn, the spear was taken up and the body roasted upon a spit. In like manner did Agadon survive the famine, whence hunger overcame the many, the few, of high spirit, gave of their very hearts.

Although the story of Hadyn is known to only a few, it lives still, in the festivals of Agadon. Every season, after a successful harvest, a great feast is held in which the wasting stores from previous seasons are consumed. The Olive Feast, as it is known, may last many weeks. It is a time of great merriment for all the people, spare one. During the feast much wine is drank and many stories are unfolded. Once the wasting stores are depleted the feast is closed with the banquet of the Fool. Each and every year the King chooses from amongst his suppliants one of unsound mind or unpopular odour upon which to bestow the honour of Fool. It falls upon this person to give of his heart, and his flesh, unto the people of Agadon. It is a very great honour.

As harvest time draws near the people of Agadon grow ever watchful, lest dark famine should strike. The air of the valley becomes condensed into lines of concentration as every pair of eyes are turned to the olives. Watching, counting, waiting. There is little done and less said as Helios embraces all and the fruits of labour are inflated, skins stretched taught and pale hues deepened. For a whole week, or more, no word is spoken, no gesture wasted, until the first olive that has grown too heavy for the branch, breaks free and falls to the waiting nets.

Now, a little way to the southern tip of Agadon, there stands a small grove of only three trees. They have grown upon the land fertilised by the tears that the wood nymphs gave in memory of Hadyn. Their harvest has never been known to fail, and they are always the most bountiful. They are tended by Nathan and are greatly coveted by all of his neighbours. As Nathan is sat in care of his grove, watchful for the harvest signs and wary of the dark Famine, a wasteful neighbour of ten weak trees comes to him with some concealed plot.

'Good morning, Nathan' spoke the wasteful neighbour.

'Morning neighbour'

'Pray tell me the distance of the harvest from your grove, for truly the olives here are always both the first and last to fall within all Agadon. Some such clue would suit my purpose well.'

'And what purpose is that, neighbour ?' replied Nathan, unmindful of the plot afoot.

'Only that, since your olives are bound to fall first it seems wasteful to me that we should both spend time a plenty watching our own groves. The waste sore afflicts me, since bright Helios has placed it in my heart to spend the morrow fishing. Yet woeful would it be if the harvest were to start whilst I am away from the trees, only a Fool would risk a seasons work so.'

'True do you speak, for a Fool indeed would be unheeding of the trees at this time of harvest.'

'Yes, but still fair Harvest will dance within your boughs the first. So I take it to mind that tomorrow I will go fishing and ask of you to send a messenger to me, should the dance begin whilst I am away. In return for this small favour, I myself will sit in this very spot today and watch your grove, so that you may take yourself where ever your heart calls.'

Now it so happens that the wasteful neighbour tends to ten weak trees, and that the ten between them have yielded but one olive. The breeze from fair Harvest's dance caused the weak stem to break and the olive to fall, only moments ago, and it is within the heart of the wasteful neighbour to entice Nathan from his grove, so that the bountiful harvest may be spirited away from there. Unheedful of the plot, but mindful of the harvest Nathan replies,

'For sure their are affairs of the heart I would dearly love to pursue at this very moment, were it not for the ever presence of the fair Harvest.'

And the wasteful neighbour beguiled Nathan further,

'Indeed the fair Harvest is ever present and could arrive at any moment, and that is why I offer you time whilst there yet is time. That is why I say go tend your heart today, and tomorrow let me tend mine, even though time may run out tomorrow. So tarry not here any longer, follow your heart whilst there is yet time, for when the harvest arrives we shall all be poor in that way.'

And in that frame of mind Nathan thanked the wasteful neighbour and set off upon his path. Upon the meeting of Nathan and the turn in the path, Fair Harvest arrived at his grove and began to dance. Each olive that swooned from the branch in the light of her rhythm landed within the evil grasp of the wasteful neighbour, who then spirited half the crop away to lay in his own nets. He then sent word out, of the start of the Harvest, to all but Nathan.

It happened that Nathan liked to spend most of his spare time in a solitary place. Thus he had taken no wife, the people of the village would often consider this and worry after the health of Nathan. For there were many a pretty girl who would cast her olive nets over him. Nathan then found himself walking up the side of the Aga hills, as far as the forbidden point, across which no living soul may pass. When the call to harvest came then, he was far from the soundings of any messenger.

The village came quickly to life under the spell of the dance, puppets hung still for five days took the action that their bodies had been poised for. Olives were counted down, and the nets wrapped over. The storage silos were flung wide open and an ensured future bestowed there in. The wasting stores were checked, olives from seasons past inspected and the length of the Olive Festival was determined. A great organic machine was ticking over through out the town, missing only one link, Nathan. After the first frantic burst of activity in the Harvest stopped, people started to wonder about Nathan and his bountiful crop. Where was he ? Surely not with holding from the royal stores ? Presently whispered questions and half rumours grew into a large armed posse of concerned friends, set on finding Nathan and his crop.

When the posse arrived at Nathan's grove of three bountiful trees they found the trees bare, the final few olives just then falling to the soil to waste. All around trodden into the ground lay the dregs of a bountiful crop, a decaying sea of dead labours. Never before had it been known for Nathan's trees' crop to fail in such a spectacular manner. The sight brought wailing to the men who found it, for no ill omen is received with a glad heart. In that moment of grief each of the three trees cracked with a mighty split through the heart of their wood. The echo of this crack reached even the ears of Nathan, in the forbidden zone.

Nathan had reached the edge of the tree line, high up on the Aga hills. Now no mortal man may pass beyond this point, for there lies the land of nymphs and gods. No mortal sustenance can be found in that place and the land will suck life from moving flesh. Nathan stood at this point for a long time, considering the prison of his civilized valley with its Kings and festivals. He stood yearning for the expanse, to let go of the weight of his body, to step from the edge of society into the abyss. When a man stands at a high point and casts his gaze down then he is over taken with a wave of giddiness. A subconscious wish to jump, only rational mind can pull such a man back from the edge. As Nathan looked into the abyss, the unknown called him, and he leapt from a great height. At that point he heard the fabric of his valley split.

Nathan lands a few inches forward, feet falling on solid ground. Behind him the trees stretch away into the distance, to a fine point where the village lay, a speck in the Rolling Hills. He feels the weight of his body shuffle off. He no longer falls into the abyss, he walks through it, no pushing, no pulling. A land of Nymphs and Gods. The Rolling Hills themselves are immortal, are leviathans slumbering. The hills are not owned by god, they are not created by god, but they ARE god. And Nathan feels his feet on the ground.

Wisps flash over Nathan as he walks through the corporeal air. A slight way ahead a form takes shape, the goodly image of a Nymph. The space between Nathan and the Nymph draws back and so they move closer. The Nymph holds Nathan in an embrace, Nathan feels the colour of another filter into him. Then he feels as two spirits, melting into the earth, into the immortal. He recalls. The land will suck life from moving flesh. At the final moment he fails to make the cut. He is recalled, to his body, to his senses. He steps back from the edge, into the cover of trees.

In the posse of men at Nathan's grove, stands the wasteful neighbour. When the wailing has subsided he takes it upon him self to address the company thus,

'Friends, this is a grave matter. The loss of so much must be reconciled, even though my own unexpected crop was most bountiful, this loss must not stand. What kind of Fool would let such a magnificent crop waste ? What matters of the heart drew Nathan from the harvest ? '

No man in the posse could give an answer, and so the wasteful neighbour took it upon himself to supply his own,

'Friends, this is a grave matter. The fault must be atoned, and the fault lies at the feet of Nathan. Never was their such a fool. I say that Nathan is the greatest Fool that this town can offer up to his majesty King George.'

No man in the posse could give answer, and so it was declared that Nathan was the most fitting man to receive the Honour of Fool.

Nathan walks slowly back to the village. Nauseous and a little bit shaken. He is unaware of how long he has been away, he concentrates solely on one fact. He has been over the border. No man may pass the forbidden point. Yet he had. How does this effect Agadon ? The rule of the King ? Will the rule of King George still be absolute outside the boundaries of the forbidden point ? If the boundaries of the area of play disappear, then will the rules also go ? Nathan speaks aloud

'I must take council on this point when I return to Agadon.'

In the courtyards of the house of King George preparations for the Olive Feast were almost complete. The high table sits upon a dais, with five strong seats, each adorned with a purple coverlet. The finest men of Agadon will sit themselves here. Firstly, Tirese the court seer, then Poepylon the high priest, thirdly in the centre, King George himself, and immediately to his right, Hepalyon the warrior general. The fifth seat will lay vacant for much of the feast, and is reserved for the dually appointed Fool. Within the sight of the high table, twenty one further tables are arranged, one for the master and kin of each of Agadon's glorious groves. The master's tables mark a great arc, within which much entertainment will be displayed. Within the outer courtyards the thralls of Agadon may fight and feast over the abundant scraps that fall that way.

Now, when the tables were thus arranged, and the meal prepared, and the handmaidens and cup bearers ready, the call to feast was sounded. Firstly the outer courtyards were filled with the many low men and thralls of Agadon, each barbarous and rough of tongue. Secondly the master's of the groves took their places with kith and kin at each appointed table. Then did the finest men of Agadon enter in order, Tirese, Poepylon and Hepalyon. Finally King George himself came down from his tall tower and took his place at the high table. Thus every man of Agadon became seated within the courtyards, except wise Nathan. King George cast his eye over each and every one of his suppliants, and upon coming across the empty table of Nathan, asked there of. And the wasteful neighbour stood so to speak, seeing a device therein to multiply his good case in the eyes of the King.

'Sire, if it please thee, I shall speak to answer the questions you hold. For my part I am Ahriman, Nathan's hard grafting neighbour. For many seasons I have toiled in my grove to little avail, and all the while Nathan receives good profit from his land. Yet never did I wax wrathful over my neighbour's good fortune. Thus amazed was I when this season my own crop came in most bountiful. And doubly amazed was I when passing the Grove of Nathan I found it laid bear, wasted, with no sign of the master. I know not what matters of the heart called Nathan away thus, causing the despoiling of the most bountiful crop of all, and his missing of the feast. A strange matter indeed must it have been. And it afflicts me sore to see good crop wasted, when I have worked without pleasure for so long. So against my heart I say, that Nathan is our supreme Fool.'

Then several of the other masters, who had each been within Nathan's grove at the splitting of the bountiful trees, each took it in turns to verify the story, and recant further details there of. King George listened at length to all that the masters had to say, then replied,

'And it sore afflicts me to hear such things of Nathan, who has always brought us a most bountiful crop. These are grave concerns, which I shall consider. Yet no proclamation of foolishness shall I pass until such time that I have heard from Nathan his own case. For now, let the feasting commence.'

Now, the tradition of the feast is such that the King does first suffer to hear the grievances of his suppliants and make justice there on, and so the aggrieved are first called upon to make known their sorry case. The first to step forward rises from the table of Ahriman, the wasteful neighbour, and he beseeches the King thus,

'Sire, if it please thee, I shall make known my grievance. In the house of Ahriman I live, in constant hunger due to the poor profit of that land. In such hunger I found my self readying the banquet halls where great fare was laid out for my master and his close friends. And in such hunger I waited upon my lords for three days and three nights. At the end of this work I was rewarded with dry stones from consumed olives with which I could only make a small portion of soup. In no wise may such hunger be silenced. In no other house do I hear of thralls treated in like manner. Sire, my grievance is that Ahriman can grow fat upon weak land, whilst frequently his thralls starve within halls of feasting.'

King George listened carefully to the sufferance of the thrall and then gave judgement,

'It is the duty of all thralls to bear great loyalty to their masters, and to suffer whatsoever their master require them. In no way do you lie dead from poor nourishment, and thus your grievance is ill founded. A greedy and unloyal thrall must be taught proper decorum. Thus my judgement is that you learn the feel of true hunger. You are to be taken from this place so that a strong twine at the end of a true needle may bind your greedy and traitorous lips closed. Only thus may one such as yourself serve good purpose, as an example to other thralls.'

So the man was carried away by the forces of Hepalyon who would perform the bidding of the King, and Ahriman the wasteful neighbour drunk much wine in libation to the wise judgement of the King.

Upon his return to the village Nathan made first and foremost to the place of his grove, high of heart but with a vexed mind. Questions of his passage into the forbidden zone still teasing him. Thus it was that he saw no sign of the harvest or any event until he entered his own grove. No sign of the wasteful neighbour, or of the crop. It is plain to anybody with eyes to see what had happened here. Then Nathan's gaze fell upon the rent trees, each of them torn in twain, and tears filled his words as he spoke,

'What manner of evil has brought this to pass ? How great was this grove, that it gave freely of it's fruits so that no man may feel the pain of hunger ? What manner of man would covet the fruits so, and lay the land to waste ? How now will the people of Agadon fair against the threat of Dark Famine?'

And as he spoke three spirits came forth, one from each of the mighty trees, and each spoke to him in turn. The first was a wasted maiden with fair complexion and dark raiment. Within the folds of her cloak were many weak men, gnarled and suffering poor nourishment, their hands held out for whatever scraps they could find. This cold creature was the first to speak unto Nathan,

'I am the Dark Famine, that mortal men fear so. For so many seasons I have slept content within the earth, but now your foolish and wasteful neighbours have awoken me, their nemesis. Far and wide now shall I roam, despoiling stores and laying groves barren, as this grove is now barren. Great vengeance I shall wreck upon all the people of this valley. None shall evade my infertile touch. At the end of this day no plant will grow here, no waters will flow, and no woman shall bear seed to any man.'

And though her form and her words struck terror into the heart of Nathan, he dared to question her,

'Dark Famine, despoiler of man, I tremble greatly within your presence. Even so I will speak the words in my heart, and if I offend you, then you may strike me down with but a look, as I kneel here. Pray tell me for what do you seek vengeance ?'

But Dark Famine passed on her way, offering no reply, for it was not her wont to converse with mortals. Then the second spirit drew up to him. As fair and gentle as the first was fierce. And she also spoke unto Nathan,

'Nathan, you speak wisely and you question wisely, now hold your tongue wisely, so I may take time to answer you. I am fair harvest, that has danced divinely within this grove for many seasons. But all things turn upon a wheel, and as my dance ends, so that of my dark sister begins. A time of great measure, and some small adventure awaits you. For although my sister will tread far and wrathful not every patch of land, nor every man of Agadon will succumb to her touch. You, Nathan, have been into the forbidden zone. You have seen beyond this small world known as Agadon. You have touched the earth, and so we call you son. Listen next, with careful ear, to the spirit that even now is anxious to step forth. He will relate to you exactly how to evade the dance that Dark Famine, even now does weave.'

And so Nathan's heart was filled with hope, even as he watched the Fair Harvest wither in his vision, and finally disappear. Then the third and final spirit approached him and did speak,

'Mark my words Nathan, for I am Hadyn, the spirit of the people of Agadon. The mother Earth, the giver of grain, has today sent forth her most wrathful daughter, to reclaim what is hers. Mark this well, take only that which you require, return the rest to the soil to feed the future. When a man forgets this, when a man buys, sells, owns, or steals the grain of the earth, the earth is wrathful against him. And no man may withstand such wrath. We call you son, and forswear that you shall be appointed with high honours, and you shall lead a small band of men from out of the dark times of Agadon. Now listen to how this may be achieved.'

And Nathan and the spirit of Hadyn talked at length, under the concealing guise of a close fog, lest any should see them. Nathan marked well all that was unfolded.

Now at this time only three matters remained to be resolved at the Olive Feast; First Tirese would consult the oracles upon the fates of the coming season, Second Hepalyon would demonstrate the strength of his forces, and finally the Fool would be appointed and crowned.

The Oracles of Tirese

'Sire, Masters, people and thralls of Agadon, mark well now my words. Birds in the sky, stones upon the ground, and organs pulled bleeding alive from deep inside the bodies of young believers have revealed unto me ill omens of this day. In the Feast of the Olive and the Banquet of the Fool we are gathered to commemorate the giving of flesh for life and the return of the harvest. But in the ceremony of the Fool we have despoiled the memory of Hadyn, and all those high of heart that gave of their flesh to save Agadon from Dark Famine. In the wasteful gorging of the feast we have grown arrogant of the seed of the earth. No longer do we take what is required and sow back the remainder, but we take all, and claim the fruits of the land as the fruits of our labour. Now the most wrathful daughter of the earth will awaken to avenge our gluttony. Before this day is out Dark Famine will entertain us at our feast. And more do I see. The walls of this house will run red with blood as the bands of death are sealed upon us. One man will come amongst us, bearing the seal of Hadyn, and he will avenge the death of every consumed Fool. Twenty two men will die at his hand, two thousand more at the dance of Dark Famine. And never more will Fair Harvest move within the valley of Agadon.'

The feast is silenced. A great confusion is cast over all. Those men that know the story of Hadyn quake with fear at the seer's words. Then from out of the quiet speaks the King,

'Tirese, old man, many years you have served us well with your prophecies, but the old can become blind. You scare us with stories of old, but Hadyn is long dead. Only the living can avenge the dead. And you speak of famine, yet the harvest is complete, the stores overflowing. In no doubt am I that your omens are wrong, just stones on the ground. No, Dark Famine still rests, for a whole season at least, and if any man comes to slay my people at the feast, then we can rely upon the strength of Hepalyon to deliver us. So people of the feast, continue your merriment, and Hepalyon, I call upon you to demonstrate your godlike strength, so that we may all feel secure.'

The Strength of Hepalyon

So it fell to Hepalyon to restore the merriment of the feast, and as always he proved himself in sport and battle. Firstly their came a competition of hurling, in which the mighty Hepalyon overthrew the furthest shot of the people of Agadon. Next he did show himself the most superior in swimming, he alone crossed safely to the far bank of the Twyx whilst the others were caught in the reeds and dragged down into the deep, or caught by the current and smashed against treacherous rocks. In like manner he was shown to be the swiftest of foot in the races, the strongest of arm in the wrestling, the surest of eye in the javelin, and the hardiest of spirit in the crossing of hot coals. And never did he fail or grow weary.

Now, any man within the realm of Agadon had the right to challenge the warrior general to do battle. The victor would take the throne of the armies and the looser would be laid his full length in the dirt. So the King gave out his challenge,

'Masters, people and thralls of Agadon, I now call upon you to send forth a challenger to take battle against Hepalyon the Warrior General. Your challenger may choose any single weapon, whilst Hepalyon will make no use of such devices. Who will answer the challenge ?'

Now it so happens that the grieved thrall, who earlier in the feast had been led out to have his lips bound by strong twine, was speaking for all the thralls within the house of Ahriman. Now his son, Mastag, a young cup bearer for Ahriman stepped forward. He had taken no part in the preceding games, preserving his strength for battle. He takes up a double handed sword and steps into the arena with Hepalyon.

They face each other over a short distance, the one with sword out stretched the other laughing heartily at his opponents rough style. Mastag's heart was inflamed with the vision of his father, the hunger of the thralls in Ahriman's house, and the sound of that taunting laugh. So he rushed Hepalyon in blind fury and smote him across his heavy shoulders. At that moment the laughing was redoubled, for the mighty two handed sword split at the hilt, in the manner that it had been fashioned for. This is the manner in which Hepalyon ensures he may keep his crown, by trickery and unfair fighting. Before Mastag is able to turn and bring to light the poor justice of the game, Hepalyon has him in a terrible grip. One hand closes around the neck, the index and fore fingers of the other hand sink into Mastag's eye sockets, and once securely fastened there Hepalyon applies all his might to shake free the head from the shoulders. He holds his trophy high before casting it amidst the thralls, some of whom fight over the nourishing flesh. Many of the masters drink great libation to the strength of Hepalyon.

'Resume not your seat, just yet, Mighty Hepalyon. For I too would take up the challenge against you.'

So speaks the stranger that has just come amongst them heavily clad in armour bearing an ancient device and the King answers him,

'What manner of stranger you are, I do not know. You are not dressed as the people of Agadon dress, and yet no mortal life exists beyond the forbidden point. There fore I determine that you are some immortal come here to beguile us and do us no favour in your sport. Only an Agadonian may replace the warrior general, and so on what grounds do you lay down your challenge ?'

And the stranger answers the King thus,

'No immortal am I, but only a man that comes to you in the grace of the immortals. Therefor do I challenge Hepalyon for his throne, in the name of Mastag, in the name of the father of Mastag, in the name of the hungry thralls of Ahriman, in the name of all the thralls of Agadon, and in the name of Mother Earth, the giver of grain. The weapon of my challenge shall be this simple dagger that I carry. Further more I shall use this dagger to prove my own mortality, and show you that I bleed as any man bleeds.'

And so saying the stranger draws the dagger down the left side of his chest and there a deep wound bleeds openly, and so the King consents to the challenge. Now Hepalyon does not laugh, but stands solid his ground, with arms out stretched to grip the stranger who stands afar. Thus both men stand, awaiting the other's move. At length, when Hepalyon believes he sees a moment of distraction in the strangers eyes, he leaps forward. The stranger, having feigned distraction, lets fly the humble dagger with a true and strong throw, and so Hepalyon's heart is pierced, even from a distance. As the warrior sinks to his knees the humble dagger works its magic. Flesh peels from bone in dry tatters, and the bones themselves crumble into dust, until only charcoal is left in defence of the realm.

Then the stranger reveals himself to the people of the feast,

'You call me stranger, and to the evil in your heart I am strange. But know me now for who I am.' And the stranger lifts from his head a strong helmet. 'I am Nathan, keeper of the bountiful grove, Herald of the immortals. I have travelled beyond the forbidden point and learnt the secrets of the earth. I have communed with Dark Famine, Fair Harvest, and the spirit of Hadyn. Now mark my words. Dark Famine will come amongst you to avenge the Mother Earth, to take back what is hers. By the end of this day no man that has eaten at this feast will suffer ever to eat again. The groves will be barren, the river dry, and the women infertile. Let those people who have not eaten at this feast collect their kith and kin and travel with haste to the once bountiful grove, so that they may be set aside from those upon whom the death bands are sealed.'

With these words the rough thralls in the outer courtyards made haste from there, except those that had eaten of Mastag's flesh, for they were not able to move. The hungry thralls at the table of Ahriman stood to leave, and all the people of Nathan's table stood to leave, and Tirese the seer himself stood to leave. Then the King spoke upon them all,

'Am I not King of this realm ? What man dare to leave my table whilst I still feast ? You people will retake your seats, lest my guards stick you there permanently with their sharp swords.'

And the King's guards stepped forward, and all the people who would leave look with fear upon Nathan, so he spoke to them yet again,

'Good people who know the measure of hunger, and wasted not the fruits of the earth through foolish feasting, fear not. For I am the herald of a greater power than any mortal King. No number of guards have power to crush Famine, but are crushed by her.'

As Nathan spoke thus, the breath of famine blew upon the faces of all the guards. Flesh cracked and peeled away from bone and life seeped from them, and yet the skeletons did not sink into the dirt and crumble, Mother Earth the giver of grain, held them animate. Then upon the word of Nathan this ghoulish army did hold by force the King and all his masters. Nathan spoke once more to those that would leave,

'Go now to the bountiful grove, for if you tarry, the dance of Dark Famine may affect you all.'

And then Nathan turned to the King and the masters and he spoke,

'At this feast and at all times you steal from the earth and waste her good fruits. At this feast and at all times you feed off the weak thralls. Now in the name of those thralls, and in the honour of Hadyn, I take revenge.'

Nathan steps first up to Ahriman, who is most deserved of retribution, and Ahriman's senses leave him. With the humble dagger Nathan removes the hands that steals the grain of the earth, and the tongue that tastes over much of her fruits. In like manner Nathan deals with all twenty of the masters, yet not one drop of blood is spilt, by the magic of the dagger. Next Nathan turns to the King and with the humble dagger opens his belly. The warm entrails there stored he casts to the ground, and again by the magic of the dagger no blood is spilt. Then Nathan himself leaves, as the masters feel compelled to fight over the mess that has been cast at their feet.

As Nathan leaves, Dark Famine begins her dance. And she ceases not her dance until every store of Agadon is despoiled, until every man that has eaten at the feast has repaid the debt in mortal weight. Those who ate great, such as Ahriman, wasted completely to nothing, those who ate less wasted less. Once the debt has been repaid thus Dark Famine goes on her way, and the great river Twyx follows her steps, leaving Agadon dry and barren.

Nathan and those that wasted not are met at the forbidden point, behind them lays Agadon, utterly wretched and wasted, ahead lay the Rolling Hills. The few gathered there feel the pull over the edge, but even now fear the fall, and so Nathan speaks unto them,

'We must now put behind us the evils of Agadon, and return to our mother the earth. I have passed beyond this point and I tell you with clear heart that life will not be sucked from you, you will be sucked into life itself. At the point where we rest there will be fertile land, and future generations will feed off this land that we have made fertile, just as past generations fed off the flesh of Hadyn. As he gave of his body so that others may live, we may give of our spirits, so that others may prosper. I bid you one and all now to return with me, unto the Earth.

And having thus spoke Nathan stepped off the edge. As, in time, did the rest of them. Thus the house of Agadon was broken.