The Sorcerer Gaumata has a score to settle with the King of Kings, Cyrus the Great, and the court Sorcerer-Mage, Rustem. He will stop at nothing until he destroys these men and their entire lineages. The problem is that his opponents also have considerable power. Gaumata, a user of black sorcery, has the ability to possess people by entering their minds. He ferrets out a person’s deepest fears and uses them to terrorize and confuse his victim. Once he has accomplished this, he can control a person. Despite his power, he has a weakness. He too, is terrified of something. The Sorcerer Gaumata fears women. After successfully eliminating Rustem and his sorceress wife, Anahita, the Sorcerer is horrified that his plan is going awry. Women may yet be his downfall.
The orphan twin children of the couple find themselves separated. The brother, Mihr, becomes Advisor to Cyrus the Great of Persia. The sister, Spenta, finds refuge with a powerful witch, Indrayani. As they grow older, they come into their parents’ magical powers. Somehow, they are again pulled into the court of the Achaemenid Empire, a world that their parents fled because of a powerful menace. It still lurks, waiting for them. Can Spenta save her brother, or will they both fall prey to madness?
It was the very early morning of the next day and the queen had an army composed of the Scythians, both men and women. All of the remaining Massagetae men and women who could fight, and many outlanders who had come, having heard of the attack were arrayed. Even the Man-Eater tribe had come, hoping to make human meat jerky with the remains of the Persians that would be killed. They had heard that Persians had flesh that made the most delicious of jerked meat because of the fine wines that they drank and the exotic fruits they ate. They would have a good winter stock here.
The scouts had reported that the Persians were still unaware of their presence. Apuyani thought that that would be fitting. Silently, the army approached until they were close enough for the archers to announce their presence. The front line of Scythian archers unleashed a volley of fiery arrows and the horrible war cry was screamed from every eager throat. The Scythians were renowned for their savagery and their war cry was enough to make some of the Persians wet themselves. They stormed the encampment as the Persians scrambled to get their weapons and horses.
Paror the Round-Footed, the keeper of the Scythian horses, expertly began to lead his men in the theft of the horses. The Scythian steeds were so well trained and aggressive that the Persian horses followed them almost passively. Vardak the Stout was seen swinging his mace from side to side as heads flew off the enemy. His wife, Musa the Golden Haired, was intent on retrieving some beautiful cloth for dresses. She wielded a sword in one hand and held the reins with another, all the while carelessly chopping off the heads of the Persians. One man lay with his head cut down the middle and another ran for a moment after the very top of his head lay in the dust. Demonax the Mean’s face was set in exhilaration as he skewered five men at one time with his spear.
Spenta had never seen such a sight. At first, she was so frightened by the war cries and the carnage that she felt the gorge rise in her throat. Her stallion reared indignantly when the vomit hit his side and then he pawed the earth, impatient to join. Suddenly, Spenta felt the horse take off in an exuberant gallop. She almost dropped the sword that she held as he lurched forward. It was not that she hadn’t had plenty of practice. Indrayani and the Scythian women had taught her by having her slash small trees and then bigger ones with her sword. She had also learned by butchering sheep and goats with one tremendous blow of her sword. The sight of real men being cut open made her sick, but her war stallion was too eager to stop.
She was unexpectedly face-to-face with a fierce looking Persian, who raised his spear to throw it at her chest. In his eyes for that instance, she saw the sneer she knew was there because she was a woman. In a flash, a skeletal visage stared at her in surprise as her stallion ripped the man’s leering face off with his teeth. Another Persian struck at the brave horse, making a large cut in its chest. This finally galvanized Spenta and the fog lifted from her head. Giving a shrill war cry, she plunged into the battle. She screamed savagely and attacked another Persian, her sword a blur of deadly silver fire. As her weapon struck home yet again, her eyes took on the wild, misted look of battle fury. Those Persians who saw her and lived swore that she was the warrior Goddess, Spenta Armaiti, after whom she had been named.