The snow whipped past the huge warrior from Yangemoi as he waited on the cliff overlooking Nienching. A ragged bearskin draped his massive frame and he wore southern style gauntlets and greaves. A single scar ran the length of his cheek and continued from his shoulder to his chest. Kaolom was watching the village below for any sign of movement, so far there had been none. It was cold but the heat of impending battle was upon him and his hands were still warm on the leather of his great axe.
He had time, but not much. Maybe he should go down and drag Yankai to the cliff top! He glanced behind him at the strange man who had offered him and his people so much life for Yankai’s death.
“He will not come.”
“He will come. He is Yankai of the Nienching. He cannot refuse as you could not in his place. Now be patient and prepare yourself. Yankai is deadly and you will need to be at your best to beat him.”
Kaolom spat on the ground and cursed. The man was evil, pure and simple but Kaolom was bound. He did not trust him and yet he had given his word and saved the village of Yangemoi using knowledge of herbs and root gained from speaking through that strange glove he wore. Kaolom knew that darkness was hidden behind the deed but his village was saved and whatever the dark purpose was that drove this stranger, it was beyond him.
He contented himself with the task at hand and bellowed his challenge again which was caught by the icy winds and carried down to the village below.
Kaolom had been born thirty seven years ago in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains and grown to be large and strong. In his sixteenth year, the bandit raids began and he became a man. Killing four of the raiders with a small knife and a herders crook, he had then picked up the huge axe from one of the fallen and used it to slay many more that day.
The village had survived though the cost had been great. His family as well as many others had been killed and much of the village burned. After the horror of the raid, the villagers began to rebuild. The dead were remembered and lanterns lit to help them pass. Kaolom, like the others, had helped with the huge task of rebuilding but from the day of the raid, he was different from the rest. They would stand apart from him and whisper when he was not there. Kaolom knew the reason deep in his soul.
On the day of the raids, he had become something else. Slaughtering the raiders with astonishing speed, skill and rage. When he picked up the axe, it was as if this weapon completed him. From that day on nothing remained the same.
He had stayed for a while but soon, loneliness and a yearning to find out who he was and where he truly belonged compelled him to travel and so he did. Travelling south through the great plains of India and further across the oceans. Soldier, pit fighter, bodyguard and pirate. The stories of the legendary warrior Kaolom spread and when in his thirty fifth year he decided to return to his home, he found that the stories of his exploits had wandered home before him.
He rebuilt his parents croft in the foothills of the great peaks and lived a life of peace, grazing goats and selling their milk, his great axe resting by the hearth. The villagers of Yangemoi were glad to have such a fabled warrior among them but it was as it always had been, they were polite but fearful and kept him at a distance where they felt safe. Kaolom had seen too much to be comfortable in and among these gentle folk and so preferred the solitude that they gave him. He had for the first time found a sense of peace at home in the mountains.
One day he was visited by a young boy, Chamba and his sister Rinche who hid among the trees on by the edge of his croft and watched him work all day. He smiled at their tenacity and bravery wondering what sort of words would be spoken by their mother should she find out where they had been. He finished working for the day and sat and ate bread and drank thick milk to the setting sun, careful to leave enough for two hungry children.
Standing up and yawning loudly he said: “Well there I have done it again, taken more with my eyes than my stomach can possibly want. Enough for a couple of small pirates perhaps?” He looked directly at the trees where they were hiding and smiled broadly knowing they would be frozen to the spot. He left the food and went inside to start the fire.
Checking a little later, the food was gone and again he smiled. The next day he awoke to find cheese and bread on his doorstep and that night when he worked, he spotted them again and this time they sat out in the open. He waved and they waved back.
Chamba and Rinche became regular visitors and they would bring him good cheese and in return he would tell them tales of the wider world, of the Indian Princes and the Pirate Kings who sailed the seven seas. Of gold and adventure and of the great passions that drove the Kings and Queens of the world. For a summer all was well and for the first time since he was young, there was no war. Kaolom had never been happier.
Then the great sickness came.
Yangemoi was decimated and this time with all his great strength Kaolom could do nothing. He came down from the hills and helped as best as he could but the strange sickness claimed more and more lives. It was when little Chamba lay dying that Kaolom found tears for the first time in eighteen years and he sat with the boy, his sister and his mother through the night. The boy would not last the week.
The next night in his croft the snows whipped up and it was at the darkest hour that the he heard the voice calling his name. Kaolom opened the door to see the stranger standing in the snow thick night. Dressed in black leather of a type he had never seen before and of a strange foreign cut. His right arm held oddly close to his body. He wore strange metallic objects, like dull jewellery which were banded round his forearms and his belt had similar objects hanging from it. The strangers great coat was cut to match his figure and reached to his ankles. He stood a head shorter than Kaolom but then most people did. Here and there, a blue glow from some of the jewellery illuminated the figure. This stranger was like no one he had ever met before.
“Greetings Kaolom, I am Atanas. I am here because I have the power to save the boy and the village. I am here because I need your help. May I enter?”
Kaolom was stunned. The message of hope of course but also the voice. The voice spoke to something deep within him and seemed to come from elsewhere. Kaolom noticed that the snows and wet had not touched this stranger and everything about him screamed at his instincts to refuse and turn this man away. He saw the face of young Chamba in his minds eye and could not refuse.
“Please enter and make yourself comfortable. Tell me how to save them!”
Kaolom made them tea but noticed that Atanas did not partake, nor did he touch anything or sit.
Atanas spoke. “Kaolom, I come from a time and place that is as far from here as it is possible to get and yet through powers that you might call magic, I am drawn here because there is a powerful being, a demon if you like” Atanas paused, “and I must see it caged. My village, where I come from is also in danger. Held in captivity and oppressed. I would see my village free and in return I will save yours.”
“Ask what you will, what can I do?”
Atanas looked directly at Kaolom and pointed at his great axe. “Take up your axe and come with me to Nienching. In Nienching there lives a warrior called Yankai. You must slay him and remove his head!”
Kaolom felt the room darken.
Atanas continued. “If you agree to this, I will give you knowledge that will save the village tonight. Refuse and they all die and you will be left truly alone. Perhaps you will enjoy your solitude all the more?” The man Atanas was smiling now and Kaolom knew with certainty that he was in the presence of a dark will and he had let it into his home. What choice did he have? Tears for the village and tears for Chamba and tears for his own life ran down his cheeks but he walked toward his axe and for the first time in two years felt the rough leather give under the strength of his grip.
He had heard of Yankai, a warrior like him, a man of legend. It mattered not. Chamba and Rinche and the villagers of his home were all that mattered. Yankai had lived with death as he had. Yankai would die, the village would live.
Copyright Faramond Frie © 2015