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It had been a long cruise from the depths of Hell and the narrow boat had refused to be steered

in any other direction than to where it needed to go. The living world was a desolate place in the area that we were travelling. It was a land of unending deserts and baking hot hills. I could not understand what was bringing me to such a place until the mammoth dragged us around yet another hillside and I could see far in the distance the lush green of cultivated lands. From the waterways of the Netherworld I could see through the veil that separated me from the lands of the living. Over the centuries I had seen a gradual change in the world that I had left. My kinds of people were dying out and a new sort were laying claim to the lands. The hunter-gatherer tribes had learnt the art of domesticating animals and planting crops. As they found new ways of filling their bellies and not risking their lives on hunting expeditions, they found more time to think and plan. I watched as small developments sprang up in fertile valleys and the art of building took place. To begin with they lived in huts of mud and straw inside stockades that protected the people and their animals from the wild beasts of the night. The act of ownership seemed to trigger off spates of wickedness between this new breed of people. At the top of the lists after stealing, came murder for gain. This the Lord of Punishment would not tolerate and many an unfairly rich man found himself at the back of my narrow boat pulling the oars after his death. These small settlements grew into towns and prospered, although wickedness increased with wealth. I never judged the souls sent to me; - the boat did that for me. Those who had lived good lives by and large found themselves able to climb the nets at the front into the boat. Those who were judged to need rectification and their souls cleansed came to the back of the boat and laboured at the oars. There were times when there were so many that the woolly mammoth came aboard and stood at the front and allowed the children to climb upon his back while the damned laboured at the oars. I had taken the last load to the Final Lock and watched them all walk into the bright light and into Gaia’s realm. From there I rode the flow downward, back into the Hell-mouth docks with my beast stood on the forward platform. As the boat approached I could see a familiar horned figure stood waiting for me. He stooped and offered his hand for me to step onto, while the boat settled into dry-dock. “Rotan,” he said and held me level with his face, “I see another cargo of souls have been delivered into Gaia’s realm.” “Yes, my Lord. So many laboured at the oars this time, that the mammoth was able to ride on-board a great deal of the way. It seems, as the human race multiplies, so the amount of wickedness increases with it! Yet also there shines occasionally a bright light in the darkness of their souls. I have met a great many who are kind and would feed the stranger that comes to their door.”

“It is because of these people that I need you to alter course from your usual cruising and take your boat partially into the world of the living. To do this you will require some of my power transferred to your discretion.” The Lord of Punishment stared into my face and deep into my eyes as he said this. I could feel something added inside my mind. There was a connection that led me to HIM. From that connection I became aware of pathways and conduits that would direct power into my command. It terrified me! He smiled at my discomfort and said, “I trust you Rotan. You have been a faithful servant for many thousands of years. I have looked into your heart many times and found it constant. Now listen to me carefully. This time the narrow boat will take you through the deserts to a place of great wickedness. Two great cities have been built of dressed stone in a valley at the edge of a mighty river. This is something that you have yet to see and will be repeated over and over again. A man has taken power over these cities and has come to dominate the people who live there. He is a seed of wickedness that must be grubbed out of the fertile soil he controls. You once put a spear into the chest of such a man and ended his life. In doing so you did not end his influence, but those who came after him, used your intervention as a lesson. This is different because he is well organised and what is worse, he has influenced others to follow him blindly into the practise of human sacrifice. He has the affront to claim that he serves such as ME and that I require the blood and life of young men and women! This must stop! I cannot intervene directly, but I can send someone to act for me. That person is you. Destroy these cities in such a way that it will be remembered as a punishment for such wickedness. I will leave it up to you as to how you do this. Now I must go and be about my business. Do this thing well Rotan and do not be afraid to call on others for help if you find you need it!” With that statement ringing in my ears, the Lord of Punishment strode away into the depths of Hell. I set forth immediately to do his bidding. Now some weeks later I had travelled through the deserts to find my destination. I stopped the mammoth and gazed into the distance. So there were the two Cities that I had travelled through the desert to see. I had never seen anything like it in the Northern lands that I had grown up in and cruised my narrow boat, hunting for souls. There were paved roads leading up to each city from the edges of the cultivated lands. Irrigation channels criss-crossed the fertile landscape from the river that I could just discern in the far distance. What caught my breath were the high buildings and bridges that connected the cities to each other. Towers built of brick stood each side of the road giving a view for miles across the desert. Patrolling these towers and battlements were metal-clad soldiers. In the fields people toiled under the fierce sun and to my horror, men were being whipped, to drag stone blocks along the

roads from the docks to a building project. I urged the mammoth to drag my narrow boat through the cultivated area and down to the river. Using the Netherworld to approach, I could not be seen by a living person. Already though, the boat was being approached by the souls of the people who had died here since the city had first been built. Hundreds of them climbed aboard the nets at the front. Dozens of them found themselves only able to scramble into the back and soon found themselves fixed to the oars. The boat travelled onwards until it reached the river and I made it partly fixed to both worlds. Here I anchored while I spoke to the poor souls at the front to find out all I could about the situation inside the twin Cities. The man who ran the priesthood was called Kane-tan, and had taken over from the previous high priest by slipping a dagger through his ribs in the middle of the night while he slept a drug induced sleep. It was his idea to have a golden bowl inserted upon the lap of the dog-headed idol to catch the blood of the sacrifices. These poor souls were first raped by Kane-tan, before offered up naked to the bowl and their throats slit over it. He then drank a cupful of it and smeared some of the blood on his chest, chanting gibberish to the unholy congregation. The terrible thing was that his followers found the young men and women for him to offer up to the idol made of stone and beaten gold. All the time the temple was being extended by slave labour to increase the power of the new god. Within the city were many who did not believe in the dog-headed god and were terrified of the ‘finders’ who were part of Kane-tan’s followers. They could not escape from the city, as soldiers made sure that no one left unless for trade, leaving their family behind them as hostages. My mind reached out and I ‘called’ for more Ferrymen and narrow boats to take on the souls of the dead and to be also carriers for the living. I felt the connection to each and every boat-master as they swung their crafts towards my general direction. It would take some time for them to arrive, so now it was time for me to enter the cities and see for myself those who were worthy of saving and those who would perish inside these doomed cities. I took the mammoth with me and sat astride his mighty neck as we made our way from the docks into the outskirts of the city. We could not be seen, as we moved along the road, but I could see only too well the aspects of city life. Slavery, brutality and pain were the awful legacy of those unfortunately not of the ruling class. I saw more blood leaking from the backs of men as they pulled blocks of stone into the positions decreed by slave-masters than I had ever seen before. Food was prepared and cooked for those in power of the highest quality, while those who toiled, ate scraps from the leftovers. I saw children taken from their families to enter the temple cells to await rape and bloodletting to feed the created God. Over the weeks I explored the cities. The buildings were richly

carved and told the history of the twin cities and their kings. A newly built wall was dedicated to Kane-tan and the needs of the dogheaded God. The carvings set into this wall were the most sickening of all. I was filled with fury that my own species could be capable of such evil in the name of my master. I turned away and made my way into the quarters of the servants of these un-holy tormenters and soon found a different people. They had wandered the fertile areas of the desert lands with their flocks of sheep and camels until they had reached these cultivated lands. I found by instinct the leader of these people at a slightly better set of rooms. His family were preparing the evening meal as I knocked at the door. They let me in and shared their food with me in an act of kindness, as the food that they had would scarcely feed themselves. I broke the bread from their loaves into pieces and made more until the table was covered in fresh bread. I also increased the amount of the stew from the pot that they ladled into their bowls. I listened to all that they could tell me about the twin cities while we ate. As the feast drew to a close they began to be uneasy, as the food did not run out. I used a little of my Lord’s power to fill the table once more and in doing so caused a light to glow around my body. This got the attention of the people even more. “Ask of your neighbours to join us and eat,” I said, “and while they eat you may listen to me for I have much to tell you.” I waited a while as the room began to fill with people and the food continued to feed the hungry mouths. They began to stare at me with growing astonishment as word spread about the miracle at their leader’s house. I sat and continued to break the bread into more pieces, handing them around the crowded room. “Listen to me,” I said and stood amongst them. “The time has come for all of you to leave this place of wickedness. I have been sent by my Lord to set you free from this evil place. At the docks by the river you will find my boat and many more just like it with masters like me waiting for you. Outside of this dwelling you will find a woolly mammoth stood in the shadows. Only you will be able to see him. Do not be afraid of him. He will lead you to my boat and the others tied up to my craft. Hold onto his hair and each other and the soldiers will not see you as you make your break for freedom. Once on the boats you will wait for me and we will sail away from this cursed place. Now gather all your animals, possessions and as much food as you can and make your way there. These twin cities will be destroyed and all the wickedness in them will soon be at the bottom of a great flood.” They stared at me in wonder and disbelief. Many shook their heads and would not believe my words until those who had gone outside and seen the great beast came back into the candlelight. “It’s true! Outside in the shadows is a great black woolly mammoth just as this man has said,” said a young shepherd. More people came back into the room and added their voices to the throng. Now there became a hurried scramble to leave this area

and go. The leader came up to me and looked into my eyes and said, “Who are you? What kind of man are you to command such power, if you are a man at all?” I smiled and answered, “I was once a man like you. Now I am the Ferryman who takes the souls of the dead to their final place and I serve the Lord of Punishment. I have been sent to rescue you from this place of wickedness and take you to a safer place. See me briefly, as the damned will see me, once they die.” I allowed the veil to drop from his eyes so that he could see me, as those who practised human sacrifice would soon be aware. His face went chalk white as the blood drained from his features. I reverted to my human guise before he collapsed upon the dirt floor and held him tightly by his upper arms and increased my glow around us both to give him strength. “This vision is not for the likes of you and your people. It is for those who would enslave you and use you ill. You have nothing to fear from me. Now go with my beast and be safely upon my craft, while I have urgent business inside the temple of abominations.” When I stood once more upon the city street I could see that the people had gathered all they could and were holding onto the long hair of the mammoth. Those who could not, held each other hand to hand. Children had scrambled up upon the back of my beast and they loved every moment of being where they were. I turned and made my way towards the temple along the narrow streets. Soon the streets turned into roads with fine houses built each side. In the gloom of night many slaves were making their way towards the river and the docks. Word had spread from my meeting with the elders. I stepped over the body of a lone soldier who had attempted to stop some escaping servants. As I neared the temple more bodies of slave-masters oozed blood onto the sand. The slave pens were empty and deserted. Standing before the temple entrance, I assumed the other shape that my master had given me and stood twice the height of any man, flexing the bulging muscles in my demon’s body. I dragged my talons across the doors and dug them into the polished wood. With minimum exertion I flung them open, tearing them from the hinges and stalked inside. There were many semi-naked priests who stood staring at my entrance into the temple antechamber. The remains of a bloody sacrifice lay in the golden bowl cradled by the dogheaded god. A young boy had been brutally buggered and his throat slit so that his blood had pumped into the bowl that lay at the foot of the idol. By his side lay a girl of no more than twelve summers that had met a similar end. I filled my lungs and bellowed his name, “Kane-tan!” There was a scream of fear from the side of the alter and a naked man covered in blood leapt down the steps. He was decked in gold bracelets and his head was shaven, but for a long plaited pigtail, wound with gold tread. Both ear lobes had been pierced and golden

hoops pushed through. He knelt at my feet and clutched at my clawed toes and cried out, “Master! You are my God! You have come for me?” I reached down for the abomination and held him aloft by his upper arms and stared into his terrified eyes. Looking around the temple antechamber I could see squirming on their bellies, the priests of this foul religion made their way to my awesome figure. They reminded me of maggots and they filled me with disgust. I threw the high priest into the blood soaked bowl and left him there to slip around in the sacrificial blood until he slipped upon the ground. It was not for me to judge these pitiful fools. Mankind can be steeped in cruelty and only in my world would punishment be exacted. My fury turned to revulsion that human beings could stoop so low. I tipped the bowl from off the dog-headed god’s lap and spun it across the flagstones to smash against the ornate wall. The gold encrusted statue towered above me and I tore it away from the wall. It smashed against the flagstones crushing the acolytes beneath it. Using the powers invested in me by the Lord of Punishment, I reached out with my mind to the area miles down river where a great gorge cut by the river’s passage spilled the waters onwards to a delta. Lightning forked down from the sky and loosened the stones all along the cliff-side. Again and again I caused it to strike and the sides began to crumble. I pulled the walls down and blocked it with boulders the size of this temple. Upstream where the waters cascaded into the main river I caused a great storm to rain and the flood began. I joined the storms together and blended them to deluge the river system. I had no fear that the boats that my compatriots controlled would sink, as they were not quite in this world. The lightning struck the temple tower and cracked the stonework. Fire began to spread as the ornate hangings dropped onto oil lamps. More stonework began to sag and crumble. Only the feet of the dog-headed idol continued to stand firmly against the storm. Kane-tan struggled to his feet and stared up in terror as the flames began to take hold and cried out, “Great Lord of Blood, what more do you require of us, that we may please you?” I fixed the creature with a piercing glare and answered, “My master has sent me to remove you from the Earth and all that follow your twisted religion. Both cities will sink beneath a great flood. You, who have offended the Lord of Punishment by falsely calling His name and indulging in human sacrifice, will soon be drowned. You will then be under his rule directly, until your souls are cleansed. I may see you in the next world or one of my colleagues will certainly do so. The cities of Soodaman and Gommra will soon lie forever at the bottom of a great lake. Human eyes will never see them again.” Already the river was rising and dirty water flooded along the streets towards the temple where the ground began to soften around the base blocks. I walked away from the bewildered, murdering priests, back onto the roads that wound their way back to

the river and docks. They were already under water, but I walked back through the Nether world as this one collapsed around me. I extended my wings and rose high above the twin cities and watched the waters sweep in. Underneath me the temple began to subside. Soon I could see the area of the docks and hundreds of narrow boats of all shapes and sizes roped together waiting for me. They resembled a great ark as they bobbed up and down in the constant rain. With me I carried the souls of the two children that Kane-tan had murdered and had sent them to sleep so that they could not see the form that I wore. Again and again I directed the lightning to arc into the city walls, causing them to collapse. Behind me the towers of the cities were collapsing as the rising water ate away at the foundations while the valley filled. It did not take long for me to be re-united with my boat and lead the way through the dam by transferring to the Netherworld. We travelled down the delta until we found good grazing lands and let the living depart, while we made our ways to the Final Lock and Gaia’s realm. Already the narrow boats’ holds were filling up with the souls of the damned from the drowned cities. There would be a great deal of rowing to do, for a very long time until the ferried souls would be totally cleansed. As for me, well I still had my job to do and would still be here, if the Lord of Punishment needed me for anything else. I somehow felt that there would be other occasions that my loyalty would be tested. I could still feel the connection to HIM in the back of my mind as the boat sped through the waters of the Nether World pulled by the oars of the damned. I felt His satisfaction and His approval of my actions and His affirmation that I would be used again in the future. I would be ready.