The river roars with fury below me. I raise my staff in praise to Leviathan. Sacred chants flow from my lips.
My thoughts are interrupted by a call from Uriah – “He’s ready.” I step back from the edge of the escarpment and turn from the turbulent river. We are on a slope that leads down to a sharp cliff many cubits above the water and I spend some effort in walking up to where Uriah has finished the preparations for my spell. I place my iron staff between two ropes into a small hole in the ground. Uriah releases the piece of wood that the ropes are attached to and it rests against the staff. Only the iron serpent Nehushtan stops the weight on the other end of the ropes from sliding down the slope and into the river. I need but raise my staff a little to change this.
Uriah has spent some time on the target of this spell. The weight that my staff prevents from plunging into the raging depths is a man, tied up and laden with rocks. He is a murderer and worse, and he will face the wrath of the Serpent God.
“All mighty Leviathan, hear my call! I bring to you this wretched man of Byblos that you may bring truth from his lips. I bind him to your service and I give his name, Karqan, for you to swallow for all eternity.”
Karqan is not silent during this, he moans in pain. Before we started the ritual Uriah had attempted to get information from the murderer by his own methods. He is normally effective but though Karqan told much he did not tell us the one thing we need to know. His resistance is strong. I see several of his fingers scattered around the ground. Yes, it will take magic to draw forth the truth from this one.
“Karqan, you have murdered, and that is an offence against the Gods who gave us life. But it was not any man you slew, you murdered the son of your Lord and master Tjeker-Baal. How despised you will be in the underworld. How loathsome is a man who slays the son of his Prince. Pity Tjeker-Baal, he has lost two sons this year, both to men with knives. It was the will of the Gods that his eldest Ribaddan should die, but you have killed Bedeq, the next in line to the throne.”
Karqan raises his head to look at me. His hair is stuck to his bloody face, his eyes steady.
“Go to hell.”
I continue the spell and recount his misdeeds.
“You have gone against the will of the Gods. My Lord, High King Suhis of Carchemish brought a prophet to the sacred stone of Kubaba. The prophet stated that Tjeker-Baal would die and his son Bedeq, a loyal friend of Suhis, would ascend to the throne. When Ribaddan was killed it was in line with the will of the Gods, but what you have done is an abomination.”
Kurqan groans in pain again. I hope that Uriah has not done his job too well and that Kurqan will not die of blood loss before we are done. The rocks are pulling at him, their weight and the weight of his guilt being held up by my staff. I speak softly.
“Kurqan, we know you are the killer. We know that your family is no longer in Byblos and while many would think that this was a precaution you made so that none could exact revenge on you, I know better. You were a good man. You have resisted Uriah’s attempts to bring forth the name of the man who paid you to kill Bedeq, and no cold hearted beast would do such a thing. There is only one explanation, your family is being held hostage by those who wanted Bedeq dead. I understand your reluctance to name your master, but you stand between the staff of Nehushtan and the mighty Litani river. You are in the power of Leviathan now.”
The river rushes quickly and it seems to roar louder at the mention of Leviathan. In this land Leviathan is called Lotan, and the Litani river is said to flow along the path carved by Lotan during her fight with the Storm God. It is sacred to Lotan and contains her spirit. My magic is strong here.
“Let me die…”
The pain must be unbearable, and I feel pity for this foolhardy man forced to go against the will of the undying Gods. But he is accursed and must meet his fate.
“I will, I will. But you have a choice. One way or another we will find out who ordered Bedeq’s murder. When we do so your family will no longer be safe. Only the Gods can protect your family. I can kill you now and you will wander the land as a shade, until a necromancer calls your spirit up and forces you to reveal your employer. Or you can be sacrificed to Leviathan and in doing so have your sins washed away. As a sacrifice you will be pure, and the power of Leviathan will be turned against the one who has harmed your family.”
I speak my words with speed for Kurqan is on the edge of consciousness.
“Quickly Kurqan, say aloud the name of the one who ordered you, and save your family!”
Once again his eyes are raised to me, but this time they are not steady, this time they are soft. The magic has taken its effect, his mind has been dulled and truth is pulled from him.
“It was Prince Hiram of Tyre. He was the one who took my family. He is the one I curse with my death.”
Sacred chants flow from my lips. I raise my staff in praise to Leviathan. The river roars with fury below me.