“Hold!” broke in Aziel, “and tell me, man, what is her will?”
“Her will is—what do you think? To meet you in farewell an hour before you leave this city. Well, as my throat is at stake, by Baal! it shall be gratified if I can find the means, though I tell you that it is madness and nothing else. But listen to the story——” and he repeated all that had passed. “Now,” he added, “are you ready to take the risk, Prince?”
“I should be a coward indeed if I did not,” answered Aziel, “when she, a woman, dares a heavier.”
“And I am a coward, that is why I take it, for otherwise I also must dare a heavier. But what of Issachar? This meeting can scarcely be kept a secret from him.”
Aziel thought awhile and said:—
“Go fetch him here.” So Metem went, to return presently with the Levite, to whom, without further ado, the prince told all, hiding nothing.
Issachar listened in silence. When both Aziel and Metem had done speaking, he said:—
“At least, I thank you, Prince, for being open with me; and now without more words I pray you to abandon this rash plan, which can end only in pain, and perhaps in death.”
“Abandon it not, Prince,” interrupted Metem, “seeing that if you do it will certainly end in my death, for the girl is mad, and will have her way. Or if she does not, then I must pay the price.”
“Have no fear,” answered Aziel smiling. “Issachar, this must be done or——”
“Or what, Prince?”
“I will not leave the city. It is true that Sakon may thrust me from it, but it shall be as a dead man. Nay, waste no words, since she desires it; I must and will meet the Lady Elissa for the last time, not as lover meets lover, but as those meet who part for ever in the world.”
“You say so, Prince; then have I your permission to accompany you?”
“Yes, if you wish it, Issachar; but there is danger.”
“Danger! What care I for danger? The will of Heaven be done to me. So be it, we will go together, but the end of it is not with us.”
Two days had gone by, and at the appointed hour three figures, wrapped in dark cloaks, might have been seen walking swiftly towards the little entrance of the temple fortress. Although it was near to midnight the city was still astir with men, for this very evening news had reached it that Ithobal was advancing at the head of tens of thousands of the warriors of the Tribes. More, it was rumoured freely that within the next few days the siege of Zimboe would begin. Late as it was, the council had been just summoned to the palace of Sakon to consider the conduct of the defence, while in every street stood knots of men engaged in anxious discussion, and from many a smithy rose the sound of armourers at their work. Here marched parties of soldiers of various races, there came long strings of mules laden with dried flesh and grain; yonder a woman beat her breast, and wept loudly because her three sons had been impressed by order of the council, two of them to serve as archers and the third to carry blocks of stone for the fortifications.