Bargoz at the Crossroads

Charles M. Grierson

In the Kingdom of Tel-Omar, in the western most part of Zeleb, there was a great contentment after having survived the invasion of sea-going Qwar peoples, and everyone knew again the joys of home and hearth; with only one person discontent, and at odds with the happy spirit of the times.

His name was Bargoz and he lived at the point where the two roads leading to Minomuz and Miirramuz, the two neighboring cities of Tel Omar, met.  It was said in olden times that this very crossroads was the spot where witches and warlocks were taken to be hanged, and so Bargoz was able to buy the land cheap, native superstition being what it was, no one desired to live there, but to Bargoz it was a comfort to be surrounded in the aura of evil.  He studied evil as other men study virtue, and plotted and planned always, searching for means to exploit the innocence and goodness that he found all too abundant, in that fair kingdom.

It is not surprising, therefore, that when peacetime came to Tel Omar, that Bargoz' dreams, dark and slimy in their innermost core, ran to scheming, and consulting his crystal, on a full-moon eve, when the powers of magic run at highest tide, he espied a caravan, full three wagons long, moving slowly down the Kalatar Pass, towards Tel Omar, and carrying, as he saw with the powerful sight of his crystal, a great payment of gold and jewels, from the Qwar people, who, having lost the war, were obligated to pay in remuneration, a large bounty to the King and peoples of Tel Omar.

Upon seeing this, Bargoz’ heart beat fast, like the wings of a bird caught, helpless and flailing in a hunter's snare.  Would that he could fasten upon that treasure, he could build his own kingdom in a certain faraway isle, and rule his own people, in despotic cruelty, fulfilling all the wicked fantasies and shameful imaginings of his crooked dreams.

So deciding, Bargoz went out to the crossroads and finding a spot he had marked long ago, dug with his long, grasping fingers, until, after some labor and painful scratchings, he uncovered the bones of the one whose help he required.  The witch Marazda, burnt and hanged here, according to the stories, nine hundred years before, for selling the children of Tel Omar to strange merchants from the stars; this very witch, Bargoz needed, not for herself, but for the grinding of her bones, and the making of a powder, which alone would allow him to attain the fulfillment of twisted dreams. This powder, it was said, would, when ignited with a flame, create a sleeping draught that once inhaled, would send even the most robust of sentries off into a listless doze.

Grinding the ancient bones was quick work, their brittleness made it so, and Bargoz was soon on his horse, speeding toward the mountain pass he has espied in his crystal.  But even though the crystal was always true, and had never been known to err in it's prophecies, somehow it had not foreseen the event that was to put a swift and unhappy end to all of Bargoz' plans.  For, in the digging up of Marazda's remains, Bargoz had also unearthed her sleeping soul, which rested inside, and needed only the grinding of her bones to release.

Laughing, gibbering and forming suddenly into the specter of her former, horrific self, the witch Marazda flew up, out of the vial. As a consequence Bargoz was thrown from his shying horse, and, as luck would have it, backwards over the highest edge of Kalatar Pass, there to plunge slowly, like a raven shot through the heart by a hunter's arrow, down into its distant depths.

The witch was only destined to live as long as her savior, by the laws of evil known to magicians everywhere, and so she too, like a ship moored to a pier by sturdy line, followed him down, raging and cursing the fates which had revived her only to put an end to her in such a cruel and unfair fashion.

The Kingdom of Tel Omar, thus continued its serene existence, unaware of the hapless fortunes of the evil Bargoz, and when the monies arrived from the Qwar, in the caravan of three wagons, they rejoiced even more.

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