The Saphire Rose by David Eddings

The Saphire Rose by David Eddings

The Ellenium

book 3

Finally the knight Sparhawk had come to possess Bhelliom, the legendary jewel of magic. With it, he frees Queen Ehlana from the crystalline cocoon that preserves her life, but Bhelliom carries dangers of its own. And now Sparhawk is being stalked by a dark lurking menace that is only the beginning of his troubles….


Otha and Azash – Excerpted from A Cursory History of Zemoch. Compiled by the History Department of the University of Borrata.

Following the invasion of the Elenic-speaking peoples from the steppes of central Daresia lying to the east, the Elenes gradually migrated westward to displace the thinly scattered Styrics who inhabited the Eosian continent.

The tribes which settled in ‘Zemoch were latecomers, and they were far less advanced than their cousins to the west. Their economy and social organization were simplistic, and their towns rude by comparison with the cities which were springing up in the emerging western kingdoms. The climate of Zemoch, moreover, was at best inhospitable, and life there existed at the subsistence level. The Church found little to attract her attention to so poor and unpleasant a region, and as a result, the rough chapels of Zemoch became largely unpastored and their simple congregations untended. Thus the Zemochs were obliged to take their religious impulses elsewhere. Since there were few Elene priests in the region to enforce the Church ban on consorting with the heathen Styrics, fraternization became common. As the simple Elene peasantry perceived that their Styric neighbours were able to reap significant benefits from the use of the arcane arts, it is perhaps only natural that apostasy became rampant.

Whole Elenic villages in Zemoch were converted to Styric pantheism. Temples were openly erected in honour of this or that topical God, and the darker Styric cults flourished.

Intermarriage between Elene and Styric became common, and by the end of the first millennium, Zemoch could no longer have been considered in any light to be a true Elenic nation. The centuries and the close contact with the Styrics had even so far corrupted the Elenic language in Zemoch that it was scarcely intelligible to western Elenes.

It was in the eleventh century that a youthful goatherd in the mountain village of Ganda in central Zemoch had a strange and ultimately earth-shaking experience. While searching in the hills for a straying goat, the lad, Otha by name, came across a hidden, vine-covered shrine which had been erected in antiquity by one of the numerous Styric cults. The shrine had been raised to a weathered idol which was at once grotesquely distorted and at the same time oddly compelling. As Otha rested from the rigours of his climb, he heard a hollow voice address him in the Styric tongue. ‘Who art thou, boy?’ the voice inquired.

‘My name is Otha,’ the lad replied haltingly, trying to remember his Styric.

‘And hast thou come to this place to pay obeisance to me, to fall down and worship me?’

‘No,’ Otha answered with uncharacteristic truthfulness.

“What I’m really doing is trying to find one of my goats.’

There was a long pause. Then the hollow, chilling voice continued. “And what must I give thee to wring from thee thine obeisance and thy worship? None of thy kind hath attended my shrine for five thousand years, and I hunger for worship – and for souls.’

Otha was certain at this point that the voice was that of one of his fellow herders playing a prank on him, and he determined to turn the joke around. “Oh,’ he said in an offhand manner, ‘I’d like to be the king of the world, to live forever, to have a thousand ripe young girls willing to do whatever I wanted them to do, and a mountain of gold – and, oh yes, I want my goat back.’

“And wilt thou give me thy soul in exchange for these things?’

Otha considered it. He had been scarcely aware of the fact that he had a soul, and so its loss would hardly inconvenience him. He reasoned, moreover, that if this were not, in fact, some juvenile goatherd prank, and if the offer were serious, failure to deliver even one of his impossible demands would invalidate the contract. ‘Oh, all right,’ he agreed with an indifferent shrug, ‘- but first I’d like to see my goat – just as an indication of good faith.’

‘Turn thee around then, Otha,’ the voice commanded, “and behold that which was lost.’

Otha turned, and sure enough, there stood the missing goat, idly chewing on a bush and looking curiously at him.

Quickly he tethered her to the bush. At heart, Otha was a moderately vicious lad. He enjoyed inflicting pain on helpless creatures. He was given to cruel practical jokes, to petty theft, and, whenever it was safe, to a form of seduction of lonely shepherdesses that had only directness to commend it. He was avaricious and slovenly, and he had a grossly overestimated opinion of his own cleverness. His mind worked very fast as he tied his goat to the bush.

If this obscure Styric divinity could deliver a lost goat upon demand, what else might He be capable of? Otha decided that this might very well be the opportunity of a lifetime. ‘All right,’ he said, feigning simple-mindedness, ‘one prayer – for now – in exchange for the goat. We can talk about souls and empires and wealth and immortality and women later. Show yourself. I’m not going to bow down to empty air. What’s your name, by the way? I’ll need to know that in order to frame a proper prayer.’

‘I am Azash, most powerful of the Elder Gods, and if thou wilt be my servant and lead others to worship me, I will grant thee far more than thou hast asked. I will exalt thee and give thee wealth beyond thine imagining.

The fairest of maidens shall be thine. Thou shalt have life unending, and, moreover, power over the spirit world such as no man hath ever had. All I ask in return, Otha, is thy soul and the souls of those others thou wilt bring to me.

My need and my loneliness are great, and my rewards unto thee shall be equally great. Look upon my face now, and tremble before me.’

There was a shimmering in the air surrounding the crude idol, and Otha saw the reality of Azash hovering about the roughly-carved image. He shrank in horror before the awful presence which had so suddenly appeared before him and fell to the ground, abasing himself before it. This was going much too far. At heart, Otha was a coward, however, and he was afraid that the most rational response to the materialized Azash – instant flight – might provoke the hideous God into doing nasty things to him, and Otha was extremely solicitous of his own skin.

cPray, Otha,’ the idol gloated. “Mine ears hunger for thine adoration.’

‘Oh, mighty – um – Azash, wasn’t it? God of Gods and Lord of the World, hear my prayer and receive my humble worship. I am as the dust before thee, and thou towerest above me like the mountain. I worship thee and praise thee and thank thee from the depths of my heart for the return of this miserable goat – which I will beat senseless for straying just as soon as I get her home.’ Trembling, Otha hoped that the prayer might satisfy Azash – or at least distract Him enough to provide him an opportunity for escape.

‘Thy prayer is adequate, Otha,’ the idol acknowledged, ‘barely.

In time thou wilt become more proficient in thine adoration. Go now thy way, and I will savour this rude prayer of thine. Return again On the morrow, and I will disclose my mind further unto thee.’

As he trudged home with his goat, Otha vowed never to return, but that night he tossed on his rude pallet in the filthy hut where he lived, and his mind was afire with visions of wealth and subservient young women upon whom he could vent his lust. ‘Let’s see where this goes,’ he muttered to himself as the dawn marked the end of the troubled night. “If I have to, I can always run away later. ‘

And that began the discipleship of a simple Zemoch goatherd to the Elder God, Azash, a God whose name Otha’s Styric neighbours would not even utter, so great was their fear of Him. In the centuries which followed, Otha realized how profound’ was his enslavement. Azash patiently led him through simple worship into the practice of perverted rites and beyond into the realms of spiritual abomination. The formerly ingenuous and only moderately disgusting goatherd became morose and sombre as the dreaded idol fed gluttonously upon his mind and soul. Though he lived a half-dozen lifetimes, his limbs withered, while his paunch and head grew bloated and hairless and pallid-white as a result of his abhorrence of the sun. He grew vastly wealthy, but took no pleasure in his wealth. He had eager concubines by the score, but he was indifferent to their charms. A thousand, thousand wraiths and imps and creatures of ultimate darkness responded to his slightest whim, but he could not even summon sufficient interest to command them. His only joy became the contemplation of pain and death as his minions cruelly wrenched and tore the lives of the weak and helpless from their quivering bodies for his entertainment. In that respect, Otha had not changed.

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Categories: Eddings, David