Count Vacaghx's scouts came up with nothing in their search for Baron Vahan's killer. Though sporadic rumors from the peasants found their way into Levon's open ear, they were unreliable at best. The Prince soon decided he'd travel in person to meet Euripides.
By ship he journeyed to Antioch which though far inland, was connected to the sea via the Orentes River. Given the relative hostility between Bohemond and the Rubenid Princes, Levon had taken the guise of a pilgrim, forsaking his royal attire for a shabby brown tunic and cloak. When he reached the gates this disguise did not fail him and the Latins let him through, though not without much whispering between them. After passing the ramparts, the Prince made his way down the main street, marveling at the unity of squalor and long dead history. For a mixture of faith and a desire to remain inconspicuous, mostly the latter, the Prince payed his dues to the excavated Church of Saint Peter.
When the sun began its descent, Levon crept into an alleyway and began his search for the home of Euripides.
Off the beaten and secured path, the full terror of the urban life threw itself against Levon. Beggars approached with rancid breath and battered hands; garbage poured out of the windows of apartments; and smashed pottery and other unspeakable filth blanketed the foot of buildings. After a great deal of scouring and close calls with locals, Levon found the home of the man he sought. Though an unassuming hovel like the rest of them, a stained and rotten banner was strung above the door:
Relieved the Prince went to knock; a rhythmic tap.
Then another more rigorous one.
He then slowly opened the door. Light filtered in and illuminated the bare and dusty room.
As he inspected the house from the doorway, a deep and raspy voice spoke out.
“And who might this be?”
Levon could only peer inwards. He took a step back as the superstitions he long abandoned crept back into his mind.
There was a long silence before the source emerged from the darkness, revealing himself to be but a scrawny old man. His gray beard hung to one side as he leaned against his red tinted cane. He made sure to get a good look at his guest before raising a bushy eyebrow.
“Why are you in my home? You look like a pilgrim of some sort.”
“I might be.”
The face of the man relaxed as he warmed to Levon.
“That can be discussed later I suppose. Well, if you have truly traveled for many leagues then, I may be able to provide something for you.”
“May I ask, are you Euripides?”
“Of course. It says that outside doesn't it?”
“Good. I am the Prince of Cilicia. I've come to inquire about a certain creature, or man. I hope you will be kind enough to help me.”
“Perhaps. I know a thing or two about this or that. Follow me into the upper chamber, it's where I spend most of my time. Excuse the uncleanliness in this room.”
The two carefully made their way up the stairs and into the finer quarters of Euripides.
The many souvenirs of his travels could be seen in the orange glow of candlelight; a whistling Turkic arrow, an Iberian mirror, an elephant skull, and an Arab translation of Plato – among many other things. Euripides first insisted that Levon look at his various manuscripts. The flowing writing of the old man was the finest the he had seen. Then each took a spartan wooden chair to sit in.
“So, the Prince of Armenian Cilicia. It must be quite dangerous for you to be here. I am humbled. What do you need to know.”
Levon took a moment to collect his thoughts.
“Recently a terror struck a good friend of mine, the Baron Aram. It killed him and his guests, ravaging his home in the process. Some peasants claimed it was some creature, though I at first cast these off as folklore. I went to the Catholicos Grigor for advice, yet he could only show me an old tome featuring the supposed beast. Azjbeth, he is called.”
Euripide's mouth dropped slightly as if to gasp and he began to fidget.
“I see...Yes, you certainly came to the right place.”
“His Holiness said you once encountered it. If it is too painful to recollect, than I wont press you.”
“It was some time ago. Just allow me a moment to compose myself.
“My wife Theodora and I had just returned from Crete, one of our countless journeys abroad. I had in my possession a peculiar parchment which bore a peculiar and jarringly written Armenian script. The balding merchant who gave it to me told me it would lead to the crown of Cilicia, that it would be needed to navigate the perilous forests north of Tarsus. Thinking that I may only need to plunder some tomb or other, I immediately hired a number of body guards and set to following the parchment's every detail.
"My wife Theodora, who was my companion at all times, came with me. After nearly a day the parchment lead us to a cave. It was there that I would curse ever speaking to that Cretan merchant.
“From the darkness of the cave the appendages of some bizarre creature lurked. Man like yet much larger. The being reach out with its wiry death black arm, grabbing one of my men and bringing him to a grizzly end in the dark of the cave.
"At first I was fascinated by the crown shaped ring bound around one of its fingers, but when I came to my sense I found my guards glancing at each other in fear. Suddenly the creature leaped out into the light, snatching up another.”
“That terrible laugh, it seemed to cripple the will. As he indulged himself on the unwitting souls I had brought with me, showering the ground with their fluids, I felt as though I should just surrender. It soon found Theodora and grabbed her, tossing her away as if unfit. I crawled to her in the chaos but she had already died. In a state of indescribable panic and confusion I ran away and did not stop. If it tried to pursue me at all I'll never know.
“By sheer luck, and after several days, I managed to crawl out of that forest. I was then discovered by a band of Turks. Though they seemed to take pity and pass me by, the last of them, royal in appearance, forced me by sword to surrender nearly everything: the parchment, my shoes, and the other half of the payment to my now dead guards.
"After that I wandered into a Greek village in the west. They were kind and helped me recover my wits over the following weeks. I know now that it was Azjbeth that I encountered and that it was the crown of Cilicia bound around its finger. That is the story.”
The telling of the tale had taken its toll on the spirit of Levon's host, causing him to cease his welcome words and gestures. As the sun began to fall across the horizon, Levon thanked Euripides and left his home.
He moved passed the gates once more and into the harbor where his ship awaited him. Just as it was in an arms length, a Latin soldier held him up with an insulting barrage of words Levon could not understand. Then several more emerged following the path he had come. As they moved to grab him he did not fight. Levon could only look on as the sullen figure of Euripides nodded with affirmation to an inquiring Latin as he pointed out the Prince of Cilicia.