Session 10 – The Siege of Al-Wazif
Hussein was skeptical, as was his way. Leaning on his spear outside the Officer’s Hall, he considered the past few days. General Zazim assassinated by foreign spies! That explained the presence of the Caliph’s Shadow, the intelligence agency of the Caliphate. The mere mention of this organization would make even a hardened veteran shudder. Not Hussein, but then a Scorpion Legionnaire like him had faced the monsters of the deep south and lived; a few old scholars, nobles and other scrotum-lickers would not intimidate him, rumours of their assassins’ prowess be damned.
The worst part of this mess was the disgrace suffered by the Scorpion Legion. Blame had to find a home, and many fingers were pointed at General Sakeem, the Old Scorpion. He would never be given command, given that it was his troops that had been compromised. It was a shame, Hussein thought, that the monstrous Turam-Barak, General of the Desert Vipers, would get that honour; Turam-Barak was rumoured to be utterly insane and whispers around the soldiers’ fires said that horrendous things happened to his officers and troops.
Heavy steps were heard of the stairs, and Hussein snapped to attention. He glanced over at his fellow Scorpion, Omar. Omar was as new a recruit as existed in the Legion, but he was a deadly warrior, deadlier even than Hussein.
Up the stairs came General Turam-Barak, all eight feet of him. Hussein barely stopped himself from staring at the man. This close, he seemed utterly inhuman. Shoulders wider than they should be, and face harder than any man Hussein had ever met, the General looked able to scare an Ogre to death. He was unescorted, believing himself secure even without bodyguards, despite Zazim’s fate. Arrogance or confidence, Hussein could not decide.
The General approached the Scorpions, stopping to regard them. Several hard moments passed. The General’s hard eyes stared at each soldier for a moment, first Hussein, then Omar. Silence. Then, swifter than an arrow in flight, his maul of a hand shot out, striking Omar’s helmet and snapping his neck with a wet crunch.
Hussein, with all his years of combat and training, was caught completely off-guard. Before he could ready his spear, the General’s face was inches from his, begging him to take action. Hussein gulped. “What?”, the General asked. When Hussein did not answer, one of the General’s eyebrows rose slightly. “Wh-why?”, Hussein asked. The General looked baffled. “You ask me why I punished him? Do you not see his helmet? It is poorly polished. I cannot stand incompetence. I demand perfection, and this – THIS – is what you are capable of?” Noticing the food-stains on the General’s breastplate, as well as his unshaved cheeks, Hussein was silent. “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Turam-Barak continued, as if Hussein was Omar, “but you left me no choice!”. By now, tears were streaming down the man’s stubbly cheeks and Hussein knew fear. This man, no, this beast knew no boundaries, was ruled by no laws and could, if he so decided, slay Hussein effortlessly. No one would lift a finger to stop it, and no one could. Not even the Old Scorpion. Then, “FORGIVE ME”, and the General strode past, slamming open the doors to where the Caliph, the Great Prophet and the Great Magi waited. He would have his promotion. Gods be damned!