Authors: J. Kent Holloway
J. Kent Holloway
Published by Seven Realms Publishing, LLC
Copyright 2012 J. Kent Holloway
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
(First Two Chapters)
Jerusalem, 946 BCE
from down the corridor as the sound of swords clanged from just a few chambers
away. The weary king’s brow furrowed; his uncertainty betrayed by dull, pained
“My lord,” one
of his advisors said. “Are you certain this will work?”
shook his head. “I’m about as certain as I am of anything,
Truth be told, the
to create these abominations are still rather new
to me. I’ve no way of knowing how strong it will be.”
The mighty king
glanced down at the clay figure resting unnaturally upon the stone dais and
Such a tremendous waste.
He should have known
better, but his thirst for knowledge had grown almost as insatiable as his
hunger for power.
Yahweh, forgive me
, he thought as the
sound of more of his soldiers dying at the hands of the twelve abominations
created by his wife filled the chamber.
will I ever learn
For someone renowned
to have great wisdom, the revered monarch had made his fair share of mistakes.
Chief among them was his own love for the fairer sex. His fascination with
women after all had compelled him to take on nearly a thousand wives and
concubines. A full nine-thousand and nine-hundred, ninety-nine more women than
any man—no matter how brave, wise, or noble—could possibly handle. And more
than one of them had caused a tremendous amount of grief for his kingdom and
had been different. Or so he’d thought. More
beautiful than the painted sky over Cairo, the ebon beauty had been given to
him as a gift from her father, a chieftain of a warrior tribe that now guarded
one of Solomon’s many diamond mines. The spirited girl had never forgiven her
father for the cruel way in which she’d been handed over to a king of a foreign
land. Nor had she ever fully warmed up to the significantly older Solomon. That
is, until about a year earlier.
“My lord, I’m
not sure how much longer my men will be able to keep them in the Vault,”
, the captain of the guard, said.
Fear and desperation evident on his face.
The king looked
around the antechamber to the Vault…a place his servants had simply called the
Hub. Torches burned within their wall sconces illuminating the intricately
carved gold trellises that hugged each corner of the room. Several piles of
gold, gems, and trinkets of all kinds lay scattered along the floor. The
treasure was all that could be rescued from the inner sanctum of the Vault
before the creatures had overtaken it. The rest, Solomon knew, would soon be
sealed inside forever.
A mere trifle in the scheme of things.
He had much more
where that came from. The important thing was to stop these monsters from doing
any further damage to his people.
arose from the Vault’s interior, followed immediately by some inhuman roar.
was right. They were running out of time.
Looking over at
the high priest,
, he nodded and held out his
right hand. The priest placed a strange, cylindrical device in it before bowing
and backing away. The king then turned his attention once more to the clay
statue resting in front of him. Muttering a silent prayer, he gripped the
cylindrical implement and began carving away at the clay along the figure’s
forehead. He worked at it until a strange script was visible, then took his
signet ring and pressed down upon the marking. His prayer escalated in volume
as the pressure of his ring increased and he quickly felt heat building from
around his ring finger. After three complete minutes of this, he withdrew his
hand, backed away, and took in a deep breath.
It had not been
the first time he’d done this. Nor was it the first time he’d waited anxiously
to see if the ritual would succeed…whether or not the ring, believed by many to
properties, would imbue
his creation with “the breath of life.” On the contrary, he’d practiced this
same ritual many times within the last year.
catching his wife,
, practicing her
witchcraft on a warm, mid-summer night.
transfixed…spellbound…as he’d watched her sculpt a small feline animal from a
pool of wet clay. So near perfect the facsimile was. Even the striations she’d
carved to simulate fur seemed so real.
surprise when he’d seen her carve a strange word, utter a string of
imperceptible words, and breathe upon the figurine—only to watch as its paws
began to move of its own volition. Of course, the cat facsimile had not
survived long. The energy that had animated it dissipated within mere minutes
of its own quickening.
, who knew intimately of her
husband’s insatiable lust for knowledge, had explained that these clay beings
needed one of two things in order to maintain their animation. They required
either the blood sacrifice of a young, healthy human or they needed the divine
gift of life itself. Something, she hinted in the most subtle of
Solomon alone was best suited to provide.
say, he’d spent the better part of the next three months pondering what she’d
told him. Imagining the implications that such a thing provided. After all, with
an entire army of these automatons, there would be no force on earth that could
ever threaten Israel as there had been in the past. He would never have to risk
a mother’s son or a wife’s husband in battle again.
And with this
in mind, he’d approached
and she’d agreed to
teach him the secret, if not forbidden, art. He’d watched her sculpt the first
three creatures with rapt fascination. Then, was he felt confident enough, he’d
joined her in molding and fleshing out the next nine. Several painstaking days
went by as their humanoid creations took shape.
shuddered at the memory.
Each nearly nine feet tall.
Their clay frames kept moist in
the humid confines of the subterranean Vault in which they were constructed.
Once animated, these monstrosities would be living, moving stone walls that no
army would be able to vanquish.
pleas broke him
from his train of thought and he was once more in the present. “Nothing is
happening. Why isn’t it working?”
once more at the figure. It had not moved an inch. There was no sign of life in
it at all.
Which was not really surprising.
taken nearly ten full minutes the last time. Ten full minutes before he
realized that his wife had completely betrayed him.
Of course, he
should have known as much when she’d insisted that she be the one to quicken
them to life. Oh, her reasoning was solid enough. The king had never attempted
such powerful sorcery before. One mistake could have devastating consequences
for everyone involved. No, it just made sense to let his witch of a wife
breathe life into their twelve clay soldiers by using his very own signet ring.
What he’d not
anticipated was her complete and seething hatred for her husband. What he’d not
been told by her was that the creatures would be enslaved to the person who
brought them to life and no one else. So after the ritual was complete, she’d merely
stood there for those excruciatingly long ten minutes and watched mirthlessly
until the creatures she’d called
began to move away from the walls that had seemed to birth them.
That’s when she
began to laugh.
A deep-throated, malicious cackle that sent
ice shooting through his veins.
As the golems moved forward,
turned to face her husband…her king…and she
continued to laugh for several seconds before speaking.
“For such a
wise man, my lord, you are an utter and complete fool,” she’d hissed between
clenched teeth. “For the crime of taking me against my will…for the cruelties
you’ve shown my people…you and your kingdom will now suffer beyond your wildest
imagination and I will be free of you once and for all.”
She then turned
her attention back to her creations and hurled a string of curses in a foreign
tongue in their direction. Once finished, she turned back to Solomon and let
out one final laugh before pulling a dagger and dragging its razor edge across
her own throat.
Her plan had
been ruefully ingenious. Her commands had been given. The golems were now set
on their path and with her death, any hope of forcing her to call her monsters
off was lost forever.
That had been
two days ago and her golems had dealt a devastating blow. Countless innocents
lay dead or severely injured from their berserker’s rage. Soldiers had been
torn asunder with simple flicks of the golems’ wrists. No weapon within
Jerusalem’s arsenal could do them any harm. And Solomon had all but given up
hope—until just a few hours before, when he’d conceived a way to end
curse as best he could.
Though they did
not have the means with which to destroy the creatures (his wife had omitted
that in her lessons to him), they could still be restrained.
And there was no more secure place within all
Jerusalem than the subterranean tunnels of his own personal treasure vault. But
merely luring them into the Vault was the easiest part—they would simply follow
the soldiers of Solomon anywhere they moved. The difficult part would be
containing them once inside the Vault’s interior. Because of the way in which
it had been constructed, to attempt to seal the door from the outside would
result in a total collapse of the tunnel system…which would threaten the very
infrastructure of the city itself.
No, he knew he
would need someone on the inside.
Someone with strength
enough to bring the ceiling down on top of everyone in the main Vault.
And that, he surmised, would require another golem.
So, he’d constructed one.
by a full two feet in height than the others.
More massive…more powerful…than
could have anticipated. This golem
would act as Warden to the others. It would keep them in check for all eternity
and the people of Israel would never have to fear the clay creatures’ wrath
shouted. “It moves!”
as his own creation moved a single finger.
A smile formed slowly across the king’s face as he watched the golem slowly sit
up from the dais.
, Solomon thought.
Now, by the grace of Yahweh, let us end this
He moved over
to the clay figure and mumbled a string of unintelligible words, then pointed
toward the doorway of the Vault’s main chamber. Immediately, the creature
turned and moved inside…into the mayhem beyond. The clash of swords and screams
of his men still resonated from beyond, but there was nothing that could be
done for them. They too would be trapped inside once the Warden accomplished
captain of the guard, high priest, and handful of advisors stood in rapt
silence as the battle raged beyond the door. Gradually, after several minutes,
the screams of
guards dwindled away. Smoke
roiled from the Vault’s interior, wafting over those watching in safety.
Then, as suddenly as it had started, all fighting inside ceased.
Solomon could make out nothing through the murky haze.
Was that the
sound of a foot shuffling against the rocky floor?
Yes, he was
sure of it now. Something was definitely moving on the other side.
Coming toward them.
warning, the earth beneath the king’s feet rumbled. The subterranean depths of
the Vault shook violently as dust and debris exploded from the portico in front
of them. Then, with the sound of thunder, the entire ceiling from the Vault’s
interior collapsed in front of them, sealing it off forever.
deeply as he struggled to steady his shaking limbs. It was finally over. The consequences
of his own sin were now buried along with tons of stone, mortar, and blood.
long, silent moments, he turned to the high priest and handed him his ring.
“Take this. Protect it with your life,” Solomon said gravely. “See to it that
no one unworthy ever wields it again…including myself.”
And the last
thing Solomon did before turning and walking away was to utter a brief prayer for
those who fell to the thirteen abominations now resting quietly within the
collapsed vault, followed immediately with another for God’s forgiveness.