The Blood of Belshazzar
Skol laughed and drank once more.
"I have something each wishes. They hate each other; I play them against one another. I hold the key to the plot. They do not trust each other enough to move against me. I am Skol Abdhur! Men are puppets to dance on my strings. And women"--a vagrant and curious glint stole into his eyes--"women are food for the gods," he said strangely.
"Many men serve me," said Skol Abdhur, "emirs and generals and chiefs, as you saw. How came they here to Bab-el-Shaitan where the world ends? Ambition--intrigues--women--jealousy--hatred--now they serve the Butcher. And what brought you here, my brother? That you are an outlaw I know--that your life is forfeit to your people because you slew a certain emir of the Franks, one Count Conrad von Gonler. But only when hope is dead do men ride to Bab-el-Shaitan. There are cycles within cycles, outlaws beyond the pale of outlawry, and Bab-el-Shaitan is the end of the world."