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Leaina and the Stone of Power
|On the 25th day after the generals had approached Leaina, a raven returned to Leaina and told her of a long haired, muscular man seen at the foothills of the Pindus mountains at the edge of the Thessaly Valley above the town of Zelos. She took the raven to her reflecting pool, quickly snapped its neck, repeated her spell and threw the bird into the water. The water became black and there appeared the image of the man in her vision. He was standing inside a cave holding the stone she had seen him with in her vision.
Arkus held the stone up to view it. He knew it was the only possession in his home that he cared about. He was 32 now and it was almost ten years since he had been given the stone and had repeated the chant that bound the stone to him. He did not know where it came from or who made it but he knew it had made him the strongest man on the earth. He knew it was the Stone of Power and as far as he knew it was the only one in the world. It has changed his physique from that of an athletic young herdsman to a muscle god-warrior. It gave him unfailing endurance in addition to what seemed like limitless strength. Other men envied his strength and skills. With it, he had become a legend among the Vaslos tribes, his people. He was treated like royalty and they supplied him all of his needs. In exchange he helped them where his great strength was needed. He also protected them. Women begged for his attention. He slept with many of them and had many offspring. However he obeyed the tribal custom and had no affairs with any married ones despite their flirting with him. This maintained peace within the tribe and permitted him free reign with the other women.
Unknown to Arkus, his Stone of Power had existed for centuries. It had had several “bound ones,” which was the name the wizards called the men and women who connected with the stone. The Stones of Power originated during the era when wizards ruled the earth and before the rise of men. At the peak of the reign of the wizards, there was Cretaz, who was the first among the Council of Five. Cretaz was said to be the most powerful wizard of all and very wise. He foresaw the Great Betrayal and the war among the wizards that followed, which war led to their destruction and the end of their era. He also saw a great hope in man who had just then began to appear on the Earth. Man possessed a good mind and heart but he was weak, sickly and small in stature. Cretaz wanted to help this new creature for he feared it would not survive and would not be ready in time to lead the Earth when the reign of wizards ended. Cretaz did many things to help this new species, such as give it fire. He also created the first Stone of Power. The stone he made was round and white. He gave the first stone to a wise human king named Lazos. He taught Lazos the chant that would bind the stone to him for his life. The stone gave Lazos incredible strength. It healed him quickly when he felt ill or was injured. Although it did not make him immortal, he led a long and healthy life. King Lazos was a great leader and did great things for his people. The people admired his strength, bravery and wisdom so they followed his lead. The many children he fathered were also more healthy, less sickly, bigger and stronger than other human children.
Cretaz made other Stones of Power as well, but none more powerful than his first one. Other wizards saw the work of Cretaz and they were quick to copy it and create their own Stones of Power. Not because they shared his ideals but because they used it a test of their wizardry. These other stones came in many colors---some white, some grey, some black, some brown. Some looked like jewels and were small, others like large rocks. Some would bind only to men, others only to women, and some to either. Even the Great Dark Wizard, Zatar, who rivaled Cretaz in power, joined the challenge and created a powerful black stone which would bind only to men with evil in their heart. The power of a stone was limited by the power of the wizard who created it, with stronger wizards creating stronger ones and weaker wizards creating weaker ones. During the Great Wizard Wars, the wizards enlisted their bound ones to join their battles and as a result many of the bound ones fought each other and died. Many of the stones were lost or destroyed. Others were hidden in fear rival wizards would use them for their warriors. But during the many centuries between the creation of the first stone and the Great Wizard Wars, the stones created powerful strong leaders among the emerging human race and help strengthen humankind through their effects on the offspring of the bound ones.
Arkus placed the stone down on a shelf temporarily.
He then heard someone approach his dwelling. “Arkus, Arkus,” Thais called. “I need to speak to you.”
Arkus moved toward the cave entrance and shouted to his friend Thais, “I am here. Come on it.”
Thais struggled up the hillside and finally made it to the entrance and sat down exhausted.
“What a climb!”
“Well if you would lose alittle weight, you might not have so much trouble,” said Arkus wryly.
Thais glared at Arkus but shrugged it off. “Ok, Ok, I know. But enough of this chit chat oh muscle headed one!” he smiled. “I have been sent by the elders to speak to you about a serious matter.”
“And what do they want from me now?”
“Arkus, the scouts have reported what looks like a build up in Doria’s forces along the border of the valley. They are worried about an invasion and want you to come and meet with the council to discuss defensive plans.”
“An invasion? They would be foolish to attempt that. I would crush them.”
“Well, the elders want to meet you in four days, will you come?”
“Of course, I will, Thais. But tell them I am confident together and with my strength, we will repel any attack.”
“Very good. Now I will take that glass of wine you offered me.”
“I did not offer you anything.”
“Well you should have! Now come on.”
And Arkus threw a sheepskin flask filled with wine at Thais for him to drink.
Leaina was estatic she had found Arkus and the stone. She called a servant to summon Maciste and Therapon to her. Therapon was one of her most trusted, crafty, spies. She knew his sneakiness would serve her well.
Meanwhile, while she waited, she took a stone that was about the same size as the Stone of Power and covered it with a special red clay that she had. She whispered several chants over the clay encapsuled stone and then covered the clay with special ash and placed it in her fire.
“Yes, your highness,” said Therapon, as he bowed to greet her.
“Therapon, I need your cunning. Look in my reflecting pool.” There in the pool Therapon could see an image of Arkus holding the Stone of Power. Maciste then joined them.
“This is the man who is trying to destroy me and I need your help. His name is Arkus. He lives in a cave above Velos. I want you go sneak into Velos and go to this man’s cave. On the fourth day from today, Arkus will leave his cave for Velos and then I want Therapon to search it and see if he can find that stone and take it without Arkus’s knowledge. Meanwhile, when Arkus returns from Velos, Maciste, I want to you surprise him and kill him if you can.”
“If I can? Don’t worry, my Queen, this man is already dead in my hands.” cocked Maciste confidently.
“While I don’t doubt you can, Maciste, be careful with him. If you find him winning, give up the fight and return to me for I have other plans.”
“All this for a stone?” said Therapon.
“Don’t worry about the stone. Just bring it to me,” she said.
“Well, your highness, even if this Arkus survives your strongman here, wont he see the stone is gone when he returns?”
Using a metal claw, the Queen then removed the clay capsule from the fire. It had hardend in the fire. With a small hammer she chiseled away the clay and rinsed the stone inside with water. There now in her had was a stone that looked exactly like the Stone of Power that Arkus held.
“When you find the stone, you will put this one in its place. Arkus will think it is his stone.”
“Well if you already have the stone, why do you need his?” asked Therapon.
“Just shut up! This only looks like the stone, you fool,” shouted the Queen, “Just do as I command! Maciste, before you leave, I will need six drops of your blood.”
“Why?” he asked.
“It is for a potion I am making that might help you.” Maciste’s finger was pricked and he and Therapon went to get disguised and left for Velos.
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