(My original book is written in German. I just translated parts of it quickly for a friend)
You can find the original here: https://www.amazon.de/dp/B095QPLQZV
The Torture of Ilyos Prologue: The Sieged City A huge wooden horse sat in front of the gates of Kyria. The soldiers of the night’s watch had noticed it, just when they were woken by the rising sun. One of them now explained to his captain under vigorous nodding of his mates that the horse in fact appeared suddenly and without any warning in front of the main gate. The soldier babbled about »impossible« and »magic«, but his officer did not pay attention anymore. He would have bet the guard was drunk or had lost a bet. Or both. But there in fact was a huge wooden horse outside the walls. “Maybe they want us to bring it in”, another guard rattled on. “And then, when we all sleep, a hundred fighters jump out the inside of the horse, open the gates for their army and cut our every throat!” The other men looked at him in disbelieve. “It is too damn big for the gate, man!” the captain snapped. Overall, the captain thought of himself as patient and indulgent, what might have been the reason the guards woke him, even though, his barracks was on the other side of the town. Oh, if he just would have stayed there in his bed, in drowsy innocence. The suicidal task would not be his to get a senile king out of bed at 5am to guide him to the outer walls… Two hours later the unfortunate captain stood on the outer walls next to his king who was supported by a young woman and now peeked over the parapet. “They’ve gone mad, he?” He laughed hoarsely. “Have always known so, yes, have told you so, haven’t I?” The woman on his side rolled with her eyes. “Yes, grandfather.” The old man didn’t hear or just ignored her. He already had turned around and wobbled away. “But…, my Lord”, the captain called after him in shock and feared for his life in doing so. “What about the horse?” The king stopped, narrowed his eyes in suspicion and looked warily at the captain. “I will not give it away! Ha! Not as long as I live. Shall they come and get it!” He laughed hoarsely again. “No, grandfather, this brave man means the wooden horse in front of the gates”, the young women interfered and sounded impatient. “What?” His furrowed face showed total blankness. Then he got angry. All the soldiers immediately freezed and did everything to not catch the monarch’s attention. So the confused king turned to the only man who made the impression of being in charge. The captain grow pale. Luckily for him the young women interfered again. “Look, grandfather, the Tethenians have built a giant wooden horse for us, do you remember?” When she said that everyone turned their heads towards the object of interest and they all muttered in surprise. A huge army had entered the edges of the plain in front of the city, the morning sun in their back. All the way along the horizon little menacing figures casted long shadows on the area. Without turning the head, the captain peered to the side to see his king’s reaction. To his great distress the king grinned viciously. Although they were sieged for ten years, no real battle ever took place, a fact the soldiers had always been quite ok with. Their ambitious king, however, liked the idea of the biggest army ever seen getting smashed in front of his walls. Also, he was old enough to not care as much about life anymore. A lonely rider now approached the city. In the meantime, someone raised the alarm bells and not long after thousands of eye pairs on both sides watched the arrival of this messenger. Near to the wooden horse the rider stopped. Before he could even say a word, the king screamed: “No, the answer is ‘no’! Ride back and attack already!” The messenger seemed irritated but didn’t move. He coughed. “Ahm, hi!” “Arrrrcheeerrs!” “No, no, no, no, hold on! Wait!” The messenger startled and put his hands up to protect his face. “It’s not about your surrender!” “Ha! Of course!” The king laughed buzzingly but got serious immediately again. “Shoot him!” “The close standing archers, who could not act like they had not heard him, hesitated and looked to the young woman for a sign. “Shooooot hiiimm!!”, the king screamed. The messenger sweated heavily and took advantage of the situation. Shrill he called: “We don’t want to fight! There!” He pointed at the wooden horse. “Why would we have built that if we would want to fight?” This reminded the old king about the weird thing in front of his main gates. He now stopped the attempt to turn the messenger into a pincushion. He looked at the man out of small spiteful eyes. “Oh yes? Why have you built it then, hm?” The messenger fiddled around with his belt and then spoke amazingly fast: “According to your conditions from ten years ago we have brought you a bigger and more impressive horse than the one you stole from us. So now in return give back our horse and we will leave!” The king crackled. “That”, he pointed to the wooden horse, “is your clever plan, hm? You are not brave enough to attack my city so now you want to outwit me, hm?” “We hoped you would be true to your word. In this way both sides could keep their pride and honour, and nobody has to die.” Affirmative murmur arose on the walls which made the king even more angry. “Never!”, he spitted. He began to turn read in the face and got wonky on the feet. The woman ordered some men of the royal guard to support him. He refused their help and raised once again. “Fight, you cowards!” The captain was not sure whether the king meant his own troops or the enemy. Then the king slumped down and was carried away by experienced hands. “I do apologize for him”, the young women now said to the messenger. “What was your name again?” “Ilyos of Etrea, Milady. “I have never heard of this place.” “Oh, it is a very small and…” “I thought so.” She examined the man called Ilyos for a moment. “Was the wooden horse your idea?” “Well, of course with ideas you never really know who...”, he hesitated. “Why?” “I assume there aren’t many volunteers for the deliverance of such a message.” She smirked. “Especially not after your last messengers had to be carried home…” “Yes, in fact…” “I agree to your deal, Ilyos of Etrea. We will take your tribute and send back your holy horse as of today.” “Well, actually, it isn’t a tribu…” “Tell your master, there is no need to let die so many good men in this unnecessary war.” She smirked again. “Farewell, cunning Ilyos.” While Ilyos rode away, the captain turned to the women and bowed his head. “But Milady, what about the king?” “Let the king be of my concern. Just send the Tethenians back their damn holy horse.” She left but not before she ordered: “And burn down this damn wooden pile in front of my town.” On this day three people were extremely unhappy. On the one side the senile king soon couldn’t remember what happened but to his great sorrow his city was not attacked yet another day. On the other side the leader of the Tethenians lapsed into sullen silence when he heard of the unexpected success of this diplomatic mission. He had not gathered the biggest army of all time to just get a stupid horse. He had just agreed to this ridiculous diplomatic mission so that his unmotivated troops and generals could see that there was no other option than to finally attack this infamous and unreasonable city. And high above them all sat Ars, god of war, in his heavenly palace and breathed vengeance. So many years and decades he had plotted to make this most epic and largest battle of all time happen. For so long he was looking forward to this inevitable day. And now? Somebody had just ruined his perfect plan and would atone for it. This somebody was Ilyos. Chapter I: The Tortures of Ilyos It lies in the nature of gods to never explain the things which men don’t understand. In the end it is always the job of humans to speculate about such questions. Sooner or later they always realize that it is better to just not think too much about them. Ultimately, the gods must know what they do, right? Everything else would be kind of dumb. With the Tethenians it was not much different. The activities of the gods were rarely questioned. After all the Tethenians did know the answer which explained everything: The gods had made men after the only model they knew. Themselves. When the well-known philosopher Apodiktes objected that also the gods of other people claim the creation of men for themselves, people agreed that this was a problem of these other people. This practical thinking made possible a swift rise of the city state of Tethena to become the greatest power in the known and therefore relevant world. The Tethenians saw themselves as the cradle of civilization, as the centre of world. To their chagrin, the hubris of their gods grew in the same speed as their own. Indeed, earthly humility was rewarded with beneficent indifference but if a mortal thought himself equal to the gods or allowed to question their doings, they became quite resentful. To correct such misbehaviour the Tethenian gods did not like to use blunt force and boring cruelty. Instead they supported the mortals in their hubris and weaknesses so they would bring down themselves. In the rare cases when this method did not work out, the Tethenian gods got a little bit more direct. They just banned the mortal human into the underworld. For this sole purpose there they had created an island in midst of the river Pyron, which separated the worlds of the living and the dead. Because of this special placement the island did neither belong to the world of the living nor the world of the dead. In this place a damned did not need sleep or food. He could not age and not die. But he could think, and he could feel… Obviously, the god’s intention were not only to punish but to discourage. For the people of Tethena the damned were strong warnings – which did not prevent them from praising them for their heroic courage. It was like a prisoner who tells the truth day in and out but still loses one body part after another to the court’s torturer. The fortitude commanded one’s respect, but the end was predictable. In the same predictable way, the tortures of Ilyos of Etrea took place. For a thousand years he had to roll an immense round rock up a mountain on the island in the underworld. And for a thousand years the rock rolled down the hill again. As of one day the top of the mountain was worn down in such a way that the rock stayed up there in the corrie but still his torture did not come to an end. After all the punishment was for eternity and the gods did not appreciate this unexpected event. From this day on guards came to push the rock from the top by hand. All in all, this was not against the conviction and so nobody had a problem with this solution. Of course, Ilyos had another view on this. But he had another view on many things than most people and most people therefore thought he was a little weird. When the rock slipped from his hands and rolled back into the valley for the first time Ilyos laughed so hard until he cried. In this moment something else slipped away too. His sanity. A grim thirst for revenge took its place and immediately got in charge of the mind. That very Ilyos just laughed to himself in malicious manner when Tau strolled towards him. The stout guard of Chm, god of the dead, carried his bronze helmet with hackle and nasal and cheek protection under his arm. He had bent the painted wooden shield over the back and forgotten his speer somewhere. “I just talked to Theta, Sir”, he declared with a broad smile. “Do you know which day it is?” Ilyos breathed heavily because of his labour. “The day when you finally will not knock down my rock again?” The guard chuckled. “No, Sir. We believe you are now here for exactly a thousand years!” Ilyos starred emotionless into the docile face of his torturer. “Oh, yeah, we thought you would take this the wrong way, Sir. But see, isn’t it a major achievement?” Ilyos rolled his eyes. “You’re just in a bad mood because it is going uphill right now, Sir. Later on, you will see it differently.” “Tau?” “Yes, Sir?” “Shut up.” Tau shrugged and left, what made Ilyos regret his words. After all, Tau and Theta, both soldiers of Chm, god of the dead, were his only connection to the world outside. Suddenly there was a prickle. Quickly it spread from the fingertips to the hand and all over the body. Before he knew what was going on, he startled and groaned heavily. It felt like somebody had woken him from sleep with a bucket of ice water and then got kicked hard in the balls. But when he opened his eyes again one moment later, he felt wondrously freed. Yes, there was this tremendous hollow pain. But at the same time, he felt as if he in fact had just woken up from a long sleep. All his burdens fell off his troubled mind and he loosened his hands from the rock. In this moment he knew it was over. Ilyos observed his hands in a mixture of wonder and paranoid disbelieve when the alarmed Tau and Theta arrived. Flabbergasted they looked from the stone to him and back again as if they hoped to get an explanation from at least one of them. Eventually, the taller soldier began to speak. “Is…everything alright, Sir?” Theta asked. Ilyos flinched and looked at him in shock. “What happened?” Ilyos made a helpless gesture. “Why have you stopped moving the rock?” Ilyos started to grin like a madman. “Your task is not done.” “Oh yes, that is true.” Ilyos once more touched the rock. Then he suddenly let go like it was an old memorabilia which one decided to get rid of, being aware of the fact that he would decide otherwise if he just would think a little bit longer about it. For a moment nothing happened. Then some gravel crumbled underneath, and the rock returned to the valley one last time. Together they watched it until it bouncingly vanished behind a scarp and was out of sight. “How can it be?” Tau asked. Ilyos shrugged. He already was on his way down this darn mountain. His guards gazed after him. “Shouldn’t we stop him?” Theta asked. “I don’t think so.” “But…” “That is not our job.” “And what do we do instead?” “I don’t know.” Tau starred puzzled into space. “What have we done before?” Ilyos rolled his eyes. “Oh, come on!” he called across the shoulder. Both guards looked at each other, shrugged and trotted after him as they were used to. Ilyos was assailed by doubts. Was it a trick? Another way to torture him? Yeah, that is just what they would do. Had the gods really given him his freedom then surely not this way. For sure, they had staged everything in some unbelievably arrogant way. But actually, he couldn’t imagine them to free him anyway, But what if it wasn’t a trap? And where are the other damned? The island was deserted. Had they been able to flee? But how? You could not just swim through the Pyron. Maybe he would find answers at the ferryman’s landing. On his eternal duty to bring the dead to the other side he stopped at the island whenever a new reprobate was sentenced to suffer. He muttered and went on and ignored the jovial mood of Tau and Theta who seemed to think of this whole affair as an adventure. Gods, it wasn’tf air. He never was sure about him ever being released from his tortures. If, so he had expected, it would be…different. But the most remarkable event in a thousand years just went by without any reaction. He was not clear about what was worse. The lack of respect or the fact that he still somehow was a prisoner. He cursed his evil fate and the situation overall. It shouldn’t be like that. It was not how things should be. One doesn’t torture a man for a thousand years just to leave the dungeon door open and never return. They came to the ferryman’s landing, a small harbour area in the theoretical shadow of a huge statue, which stood with spread legs and a high held torch over the bay and watched the scene. The so called Iokloss carried the Eternal Fire and showed direction to the dead like a lighthouse. Not that the ferryman would need any help to find his way. It was more like a symbol, which nobody would notice anyway since it became so small and pathetic. You had to know where it was to see. In midst the harbour place there stood a dozen marble and large as life sculptures in a circle. They showed the convicts of the island in execution of their iconic punishments. The portrayal of himself with the big rock had already been here when he entered the island a thousand years ago. Back then it was only accompanied by three other figures and it was only these four he recognized. Besides his own there was blind Ioklos, damned to wander around and never to rest. There was legendary Pherses, who came to the underworld together with Ilyos and had to fight his own shadow ever since. And Lanthanos, who was here the longest. He had to catch some apples from a tree that’s branches were just always out of reach no matter how hard he tried. Ilyos knew, in a subtle way there was a gold coin inwrought in every figurine. The missing dragon for the ferryman. It took two coins for a passage over the river Pyron. One coin was enough to reach the island of the damned, a second to get to the other shore into the realm of the dead. For this reason the deceased were burned with two gold dragons to make sure they reach their destination. (...) (the chapter is not finished here but I jumped to another spot to show other characters as well. ------------ Ediktes In Tethena, the once largest and most important city of the relevant world, nobody really was interested in the fall of the Tethenian Empire. After all it was not their empire for a long time anymore. In the mind of the Tethenians the real defeat was to decades ago when their city was conquered by Kyria. Even in the centuries before there was no good reason anymore to be proud of the crumbling empire. What was it good for then? Thus, people lately focused on their profitable daily businesses and let the grief to the inhabitants of Hybera, who had undertaken the of course honourable attempt to save the Tethenian Empire at any cost. Those now had to realize that the practical use of honour was rather small and the price of defeat quite big. (...) ----------- Excerpt from page ~150 (Situation: We are in Tethena. Andretta and a friend [called ferryman] run from a police raid and must dodge soldiers in the streets. Now they hide behind a corner because they just had spotted two guards at the place they need to cross.) The one guard sat on a stone step which surrounded the inner part of the place, and which were meant to be seats for all kinds of activities to watch. The other guard approached him. “Come on”, they could hear him say, “we have to check the people.” “Yeah ha, and what exactly do we check?” “If they are dangerous agitators.” “Yes, we ask them nicely, hey, are you a dangerous agitator? And when they say ‘no’, we look at them seriously and when they don’t start to sweat, they are free to leave?” “Maybe…ahm, they have agitating documents with them.” “Are you able to do your taxes without your wife?” “Well, I mean…” “But you think, you can recognize an agitating document?” “If it says something like »Folks! Rise and fight!« …?” “Yeah, ok, arrest everybody who carries such a document. You don’t need me for that.” “What if somebody notices that we don’t do our job?” “Oh my god, then I just have made a short break to eat something, that’s gonna be allowed after all, right? And with all the wicked people round here surely nobody can complain if we don’t catch them all.” “You mean none of them.” The sitting guard rolled with his eyes. “Listen, I did not become a guard by choice. I was happy staying home with the kids, ok? It’s not my fault they’ve forbidden my wife to work as a guard. She likes to tangle with people and yell at them.” The man got dreamy eyes and an appreciative smile showed on his face. “Yeah”, the other guard agreed, “it’s a shame she isn’t around. I miss her.” “What is that supposed to mean?” “Ahm, I just meant, she really has it, tough and fit and…” “Hey, you’re talking about my wife, ok?” “I just meant…” Andretta waved to the ferryman to come with her. They acted innocent and just walked by the guards who did not pay attention to them at all. “Seems like after all it was better that now I have this job, hm?” ”Come on, we just had…” “YOU JUST HAD WHAT?” Andretta and the ferryman nearly had crossed the place and when they saw no other guards in reach, they relaxed and… “Hey!”, the voice of the sitting guard called after them, “you there! Hold on!” (...) Footnotes: 1 This means, he didn’t care for the lives of his soldiers. 2 Gods are way less creative than is generally assumed. Most of the work they leave to chance. 3 Even though the affected persons would gladly renounce the praise under this circumstance. 4 The world outside his head. 5 Another peculiarity of the underworld was that details in regard of time and place got blurry immediately. Like in a dream all impressions just left a fleeting mark in the brain and any attempt to backtrace what happened made the memories vanish just before the eye. Some guess this was so that the damned just would think about their tortures. But maybe, the mind just focusses on the things it can understand. 6 In Tethena gold coins were called dragons. Nobody knew why. On one side there was the profile of the recent emperor, on the other side a turtle.