by Rob Hunston
Spurred by his father's assasination Kedor becomes weapon in the war against the Nephil'im
1 The Mask
The Kukunum squatted on the hilltop across the river, looming over the sacred sector, called the Kizzum. The sides of the stepped tower, covered in enameled tiles, gleamed in the morning sun. On the other side of the River Karkhah, connected by arching marble bridges, stood the other bookend of Susa. The Adapana, a towering fortress constructed of pink marble, cast its eternal shadow over the surrounding luxurious homes and little palaces of the court nobility and high bourgeoisie in the Royal Ville.
Kindatu am Shem leaned his long lanky frame on the parapet, eyes roving the building covered tells up and down the river that made up Susa, his capitol city. His white knuckled hands gripped the flaking marble, as he flinched with each resounding blow that echoed from the courtyard below. A ridiculous looking figure, clad in silk, dodged and blocked each thunderous blow dealt by an enormous warrior. The giant doggedly pursued him across the sun drenched enclosure. Shrugging, the ruler of the largest empire known to man turned to the men who watched from the balcony with him.
He leaned back against the glittering marble balustrade. “He seems agile enough and at least able to use his shield to some effect.”
“Your Imperial Majesty, your son is truly the master of the shield...”
“Don't patronize me, brother!” Kindatu snapped, at Bardia am Shem, the Shah of Arachosia.
“The truth then, Shahanshah?” Bardia bowed deeply to his brother.
“Nothing less, Bard, nothing less.” Kindatu smiled warmly at his youngest and only remaining brother.
He threw an arm across Bardia's shoulder. “ We three, we've been together since the beginning.”
With a wave he included the third on the balcony. “We've tripled the size of the empire father left to us. It's said we're ruthless, canny, and yet benevolent. Under our guidance we have raised 'The Mountain That Struck Terror'! We are respected.”
With a conspiratorial wink, Kindatu lowered his voice, “I trust the counsel of only three people in this world, and two stand here with me now.”
“Well then brother, your son's martial status worries me not. We need only to look to mother for an example of tremendous power wielded effectively with out a whit of martial status to back it. Rather, his behavior in other aspects is what truly alarms me.”
“Alright, Bard, I'll 'cede you this, the reports of his drunken debauchery and extravagant spending sprees are troublesome at best.” Kindatu shook his head ruefully.
“These “stories” of his excesses do not bode well, as indicators of his interests, nor to the future of the empire under his guidance, should you name him your heir.” Bardia replied, looking decidedly uncomfortable.
Their eyes were once again drawn to the courtyard as the booming voice of Kay rang out. The Champion of the Shahanshah had begun to berate his hapless student.
He punctuated each invective with a powerful strike from his wooden sword. ”Your feet are out of position, my little popinjay.”
“You have the reflexes and stamina of a ten year old girl, my fine little gentleman.” He struck the student's shield a ferocious blow.
“Kedor, my fancy gallant, you need to stop your drunken carousing -”
“- and learn to hold a sword properly.” Again he gouged the jewel enameled surface of Kedor's shield.
The third man on the balcony finally spoke up, “Your Imperial Majesty, I do not think Shah Bardia questions your son's abilities, per say. Kedor is most intelligent and industrious. To an extreme, in fact, when he desires something or some effect.”
Aham Nirsi, Grand Vizier of Susa, bowed and swallowed nervously. “Unfortunately, we have all born witness to the lack of respect and often outright disgust his behavior generates.”
He gestured across the enclosure, emphasizing his point. As one the three men turned to observe a row of noble's sons, awaiting their turn with the giant sword master. Wealthy fathers, from every reach of the empire, sent their sons to study under 'Kindatu's Zuza'im Tribesman'. The prowess and ferocity of the Zuza'im Tribe was acknowledged and feared around the world. Though they snickered and nudged each other, amused at Kedor's predicament, their fear and self concern was evident in their eyes as they watched Kay's mood escalate. One however, Arioch am Shem, Kedor's cousin and constant companion, flinched in time with Kindatu at every strike.
Kay continued his rant as his next swing ripped Kedor's sword from his hand. The bejeweled and now bent piece of costume jewelry was flung spinning over the heads of the assembled students.
“The son of the only human to defeat me in fair combat on the battlefield-”
“-comes dressed in silks, as soft as the inside of a woman's thigh, to my class.” Gems sprayed into the dirt of the training yard as he punctuated his last sentence.
Kedor stumbled and Kay was on him like a cat, showering him with a series of overhand strikes. Driven to one knee, Kedor raised his battered shield above his head. Even the noble's sons cringed as Kay hammered away, obviously angered as he failed to reach Kedor with even a glancing blow. Kindatu leaned once again on the parapet, suspicion evident on his face, as he studied his son. Though Kedor wore loose multicolored robes, his father noticed he carried much more bulk than any fop had a right to. Thick ropy muscles bulged and flexed through his sweat soaked silks as he resisted Kay's every attempt to strike him. The giant instructor, sweating and out of breath, finally tossed his sword to the ground in disgust and stalked angrily from the courtyard. Kedor lowered his shield shakily, releasing a sigh. He leaned it against his left shoulder.
Blocked by the shield and his bowed head, surrounded by tangled black hair, no one saw the smile that flitted across his face.