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Chapter 29


The Fox and the Lion

Seti-Kahn plans a feast in honor of Kronus – Kronus is warned of danger in a dream – The great feast and a poisoned blade – Prepared, Kronus eats with confidence – Seti-Kahn makes a second plan to kill Kronus, orders a women to kill him – Kronus, Manegus, and the woman sneak away – Seti-Kahn is found guilty of treason – The guilty are burned at the stake – Kronus weeps

 

1  But the Emperor knew full well of the treason of Seti-Kahn, for the Stazzi did make him all aware; and it came about that the Supreme Commander desired to have a great feast in the palace of A’Kontay, pretending all the while that he would honor his son before the nation.

2  And the chief of the Stazzi, whose name was Adrian Morro, even he did ask the Emperor what he should do; for he knew full well that in the feasting of Kronus would Seti-Kahn poison him by subtle means, to turn him over to the Romans in the port city of Antillium.

3  For he thought it needful to warn Kronus against the treachery of Seti-Kahn; but the Emperor forbade him, saying: “Let us see for ourselves if the fox be wise enough to bait the lion, that he should fall.

4  For Kronus I know full well, for like the mighty beast he does lay about in the midst of all his leisure, to appear as calm and filled with ease; but when there should come near, some hidden danger, then does the lion rouse himself to battle, roaring out midst heated breath, the fury of his rage.

5  Let us calmly watch the playing of the game, for I would see the fox and lion together move and prowl round about the other, being bound each against the other through subtle words of smooth deception.

6  For I would see myself if the lion can save himself from the smooth words which the fox might speak; and when it is concluded, this playing of the game, then shall I know if the cunning perceptions of Kronus should prove itself greater than the deceptions of this father’s lies.

7  And in that day alone shall I reach forth and lay siege the viper’s nest; and Seti-Kahn and all his allies shall I root out from the halls of power, and shall cause, myself, that they should die.”

8  These then are the words which the Emperor spoke, and Seti-Kahn set forth a great feast for the men of power; and he sent unto Kronus an invitation filled with soft words filled with guile, saying:

9  “Come, my son, up to the feast, for I would honor you before the nation; for I repent the breach between us and would, myself, set it right; for I would proclaim my son before the nation as the greatest of my house.

10  For I would take you unto my bosom, believing rightly that you are worthy to inherit the whole of my estate; for I would make known before the men of power that you, alone, are my rightful heir, being chief and foremost above all the rest.”

11  But when Kronus received his father’s message, he would not believe his words; yet was he resolved to go up to the feast, for he desired some small peace between himself and Seti-Kahn; yet was he aware of his father’s hate against him.

12  Now in the night as Kronus slept, he dreamed a dream of wonder and foreboding; for there came to him within the night, the vision of his mother, even Areta, being herself in the image of youth and gentle beauty, being herself robed in gowns of soft and gentle hue; and she spoke to him, saying:

13  “Beware, my son, your father’s words for he would, himself, poison you; to hand you over unto the Romans which even now make ready to receive you.

14  Go you up to your father’s feast, but be you wise and filled with caution; for even I would tell you the things which you must do to preserve yourself from treachery and deceit.”

15  Thus was Kronus forewarned of his father’s treason, and did himself take certain precautions; for on the day of feasting did he drink a potion of olive oil which would make harmless such poison as his father would use against him.

16  Now on the day of feasting did Kronus go up unto his father’s place, being itself new and richly appointed, bearing upon its many walls the trophies of war and fearsome battle; and there gathered within the great hall, the men of power, being numbered some three hundred men of worth and privilege.

17  And chief among them was Markus Tobias and Lucius Britannia; but also was there seen the spy Adrian Morro being himself a false ally and confidante of Seti-Kahn; for he was appointed to report all things unto the Emperor.

18  And not this only, for there attended Kronus unto the feast, the man Manegus Acquilla; being himself determined to watch most carefully the doings of all men; for he was assigned by the Emperor to guard Kronus against all harm.

19  And all men, seeing him beside Kronus, grew pale and filled with fear; for Manegus Acquilla was a mighty man, being wrapped about and fiercely fashioned by violence and death together; having killed in frightful duels, some forty men of skill and valor.

20  But Seti-Kahn, when he saw the coming of his son, even he did appear as some good and pleasing fellow; slapping Kronus upon the back with hale and hardy vigor; speaking well his chosen words which all could hear, saying:

21  “Good welcome, Kronus, to all my house together; for this day shall I set aside all hurtful things between us, to proclaim aloud my faithful son. Come then, and let us rejoice and sup together, for tonight would I honor you.”

22  And Kronus answered him, saying: “You are gracious father, and in like manner would I honor you; for it is good that there be peace between us, since the Emperor would have us set aside our enmity for the sake of the empire.”

23  Thus did the father and son speak together, yet behind the words of Seti-Kahn did treachery move in subtle fashion, while in the words of Kronus was there found deep knowing.

24  Now in the feasting of Kronus were the tables set in richest fashion, for all the plates and cups and utensils were made of platinum, carrying upon each their surfaces, the gold crest of the House of Seti-Kahn.

25  And the room was filled with martial music, and the men of power did laugh and mingle round about for there were many who wished to stand beside the great Kronus, to touch him; to feel perhaps the power of the throne which did but overshadow him; for there were many which would, in truth, honor the Hero of the State.

26  Now Seti-Kahn was deeply pleased, believing that he had lured the son to a certain doom; for he had contrived the subtlest of means whereby he might betray his own son unto the Romans, and thereby rid himself of the man he feared above all others.

27  Thus was the stage most soundly set for betrayal and death together; yet behind the things which all men saw was the Emperor made aware; viewing through some hidden means the words and deeds of Seti-Kahn.

28  Now when all things were ready, there came the trumpet blast, and every man did sit himself down to feast; and Kronus did sit in the place of honor, and beside him sat his father; and Seti-Kahn rose to speak, saying:

29  “Men of power hear me speak, for this day do I honor the son of my loins, to set him foremost above all others; let us therefore feast in happy fashion and give to Kronus a rightful tribute.”

30  So speaking, Seti-Kahn lifted high his cup and with a mighty shout, cried: “To Kronus!” And immediately there erupted a mighty roar, for the whole assembly did answer in return, “To Kronus!” And lifting high their cups, every man did drink.

31  Then did there come into the room a great many servants which brought forth a sumptuous feast of the richest food and drink; and Seti-Kahn did take for himself a large portion of meat; and reaching for a knife, he proclaimed:

32  “Come, my son, for I would share my plate with you.” And so saying, Seti-Kahn did cut the meat in two; and laying half of it upon the blade of the knife, he set it upon the plate of Kronus.

33  Yet was there treachery and deceit in the doings of the father; for the knife which he did use had he placed a poison upon the one side of the blade; and that side of the knife which touched the meat in the cutting thereof, even that portion did he give to Kronus; carrying the meat to the plate of Kronus upon the poisoned side of the knife.

34  But Kronus feared not the treachery of his father, being himself forewarned, but did instead eat with hardy vigor, laughing and making merry with those which sat round about him.

35  For the belly of Kronus was filled with olive oil, which thing did cause that the poison itself should be surrounded and passed out in harmless fashion.

36  Now the poison which the father used was smooth and subtle, having neither taste nor smell; being made to inflict upon Kronus the slightest of nausea, which would worsen as the feast moved on.

37  Thus was it the father’s plan that when Kronus himself proved sick and weak, then would he order the son carried home unto his own place; and in the journey homeward would there fall upon him the agents of Rome which would take him alive and bound unto the Emperor Vespasian.

38  Thus did Kronus eat with vigor, the poisoned meat his father gave him; being himself unconcerned and filled with confidence; for the great Kronus did speak while yet he ate, being filled with friendly jest and pleasing conversation to all those which sat near him.

39  Causing that those who conspired against him should watch most closely the doings of the son; and seeing that there was seen no effect of the poison, Seti-Kahn, in like manner as before, did offer unto Kronus yet another portion of meat; and even this did Kronus eat.

40  Now in the midst of the feasting did certain men of youth and power challenge Kronus in the fighting of the staff; for since the days of his academy was Kronus known as the finest of all staff fighters.

41  And Kronus, taking leave of his host, did walk out upon the floor to compete against those who would fight against him in friendly fashion; and one by one did Kronus prevail against all which hoped to beat him.

42  But while Kronus was engaged upon the floor, there walked up to Seti-Kahn one of the conspirators which demanded to know whether or not the meat was truly poisoned.

43  And Seti-Kahn, being aggravated already because of the vigor of his son, replied sharply, saying: “Eat for yourself and see.” And so the man ate and there soon fell upon him a deep and dreadful sickness; which thing did cause that he should die some few days later.

44  And seeing that the man fell sick, Seti-Kahn was filled with puzzlement; for he could not understand for what reason the poison should have no effect upon Kronus, who still moved about with youthful zeal.

45  Such was the feasting of Kronus, the Hero of the State; for those which attended did find him gracious and filled with good and lively humor; finding in him a man worthy of praise and honor exceeding.

46  For Kronus spoke in friendly manner to all men, causing that even those which he did best in the fighting of the staves, even these did find in him a gracious and friendly victor who would guard through careful words, the pride of all who fell before him.

47  But for the men which hated him and who conspired to kill him, even these did begin to fear; for Kronus proved greater than all their cunning; causing, himself, that all their plans should crumble into ruin.

48  And finding himself desperate, Seti-Kahn did quietly slip away while Kronus competed upon the floor, and approaching one of the women of his house, he grabbed her roughly by the hair, and handing her a small but deadly dagger, he spoke, saying:

49  “This night will I give Kronus into your keeping; therefore when he is sleeping, kill him. Do this and I shall reward you richly, to send you to the Emperor’s school. But if you fail, then shall I feed you to the dogs of war while yet you live.”

50  Thus did the Supreme Commander of all military forces set in motion that second means by which he might rid himself of the son; and when the feasting was all completed, then was Kronus and Manegus Acquilla brought unto one of the bedrooms of the manor where they might rest and refresh themselves.

51  And going into the room alone, Kronus found waiting for him a woman of exceeding beauty; and raising from her place the woman did kneel before him; and seeing for himself that the woman was weeping, Kronus spoke to her softly, saying:

52  “Why are you filled with tears?” And the woman took Kronus by the hand and leading him to the bed, she showed to him the dagger which his father had given her, and with fearful sobs she told Kronus all which the father said.

53  Then did Kronus determine to slip most quietly away, to go again to his own house and manor; and going to the door he called unto Manegus Acquilla, and when he was come into the room, Kronus told him all which the woman said.

54  Thus did it come about, that in the darkness of the night, while yet the whole house was sleeping, Kronus and Manegus Acquilla did steal themselves away; taking into their charge the woman also.

55  And to the House of Kronus did they return, and Kronus did give into the keeping of Yoshibeth, the woman which fled herself away; and all that night did the guards of the house keep constant watch against the agents of Seti-Kahn.

56  But in the morning light did there come no reprisals against the House of Kronus; for there had fallen upon Seti-Kahn the men of the Stazzi; for even they did arrest the Supreme Commander and all his allies save one, for there could be gathered against the Regent of the empire, no evidence of treason or conspiracy.

57  And there was brought into the Court of Judgment, even all those who would betray Kronus to the empire of the Romans, and together did they kneel in abject fear before the very Emperor, Drakonus Magnorum.

58  And the Emperor spoke to Seti-Kahn, saying: “Did you think that I would permit that you should betray me? For if you would strike hard against the Hero of the State, then would you likewise strike against me.

59  Therefore, seeing that you are all made guilty of treason, even I will be done with you, to consign you unto death.” And so saying, the Emperor gave the word and there was placed into the ground some ten iron posts, and to each one was there firmly fastened with heavy chains, one of those which conspired to treason.

60  Now there was placed around each man, bundles of dry wood for the fire; for all those who would commit treason against the state, even against these did the law demand that such be burned at the stake.

61  Yet were there some thirty men found guilty, for this cause did twenty watch as the first ten men of the conspiracy died upon the stake, being swallowed up in flames and torment.

62  And when the first ten were made as ashes, then was another ten men fastened to the stake and likewise burned in the flames of judgment; and when these themselves were made as ash and cinder, then were the last ten, save one, made to perish in the flames midst screams of pain and agony.

63  Thus was the last conspirator brought to the stake, and his name was Seti-Kahn; and seeing that of all the conspirators he was the bravest, having himself neither wept nor cowered before the agony of those which went before him, it was permitted that he be garroted, and when he was dead, then did they likewise consign his body to the flames.

64  And when all these things were completed, there went to the House of Kronus a guard of the Praetorium; and finding Kronus, he reported to him all which had happened.

65  But Kronus, hearing all these things, grew deeply silent, and in the night did he go out into the gardens to be alone, and there in the darkness, Kronus wept.

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