Gaspare, The Sovereign

Part II Ep VI: The Shards of Life

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How is death different from life? Fjor asked himself. He had his eyes closed. He could hear a running stream of water nearby. He could feel the warmth of summer on his face, smell the polished wood around him. He was not in the Carsanion Senate anymore. He was back in the alley of The Burnt Market, back to the place that mattered to him the most. He followed the sound of the stream of running water. “Gaspare?” he shouted. “Gaspare?”

There was no answer. He must have gone to deliver the wood in the market, Fjor thought to himself. No, a stronger voice said. No, he isn’t here. He will never be here anymore. Fjor started to tremble, but shook his head violently from side to side. “No!” he said, to no one and everyone. He said it to the society, to the council of Carane, to his own fate, to the stronger voice that was commanding him. The voice ignored him. How is death different from life? It asked Fjor.

Fjor played deaf although he knew the voice too well. He diverted his attention instead. The boy was good at survival, he told himself. He nodded to that thought for several seconds. He had survived before, hadn’t he? Fjor remembered the famine and the riots in the boy’s village before the boy had come to Fjor.

The hurricane had torn apart all of the fields in the village.  The hunger had brought along with it evil and ill minds. The people had started rioting in the streets, fighting against one another, fighting against society for the injustice that nature had done against them. The boy had survived all of that. Fjor still remembered as the boy had told him. “I woke up to fires everywhere. The farmers were burning everything down. It didn’t matter whose home it was. They just wanted it all to end. Mother pushed me out of the house. She screamed and yelled and threw sticks at them. They didn’t see me escape. She told me to go find you, told me that you were my grandfather. I ran until I couldn’t. I was about to die of thirst. Carane’s Protectors found me and brought me here.” the boy had said. The forces of Carane had saved him once, Fjor thought. Surely, they would let him survive again? Surely, they would not…? He couldn’t find the strength to finish the thought.

Gaspare had given a new meaning to Fjor’s declining life. Fjor had tried to explain his actions to Gaspare, he had needed the validation. The validation that his actions were for the best of the country. That they weren’t for his own ambitions, for his own demons. Gaspare had always given him that justification, had always agreed to Fjor’s visions and plans. He was an obedient child, Fjor thought to himself, tearful. Naïve… I should never have agreed to take responsibility for the attacks… If only I had listened… The thoughts felt stranded and confused to him, as confusing as his own ambitions.

The shot from The Burnt Market rang in his ears. He saw the girl dead. He had not fired the shot during the procession. But the order had been mine. Had he believed in the cause? He had thought so. Had society not done it’s share in helping him through the years? The time to lie has passed. It didn’t matter now. There was more to it than he would ever admit. Why then was he so adamant on fighting this battle? Why did he still obstinately defend his misplaced sense of egalitarianism? Because, death needed to be different from life, came the answer from deep within. What was it that the Sovereign’s dog had called him? ‘A failure… Attempting to be victorious at least once in your life…’

Fjor laughed, not the laugh of a sanguine mind, but of a person resigned, bowed down to life and its will. He recalled the various deaths he had orchestrated. The three councilors had been charred to death. Fjor looked at the stream of water in front of him. He hurriedly reached out to it, taking the water in his palms, throwing it to the side. “This should help” he nodded to himself. “This will help fix things”

His hands continued to shake with the motion even after the stream had disappeared. He was fading in out of consciousness, back now in the Carsanion senate. They were all standing, all alert, all worried that he might harm one of them next. They needn’t have. It doesn’t matter anymore. Fjor was swaying uncontrollably.

They say that in death all things become clear, but it was even hazier for him, all the more difficult to let go. Just one thought emerged from the abyss, and Fjor opened his eyes once more, as the silhouette of the frightened Gaspare came before him. Behind him, he saw the Sovereign. He should have been happy to see Gaspare. He is alive. The forces of Carane shall protect him. But then he reminded himself of his own actions. The girl that had died in the procession was no older… He did not address Gaspare. “Please don’t punish the boy… Please… Please don’t kill him..” His eyes desperately searched the audience for a sympathetic face. They found Stizlam Tepalmi. He had survived the attack. I am not responsible for all the deaths. He could stop all this. They could forgive me. The actions of an old man….

“Please stop this” Fjor said to him, “Please protect Gaspare” he spoke his dying words with a hope beyond certainty, and collapsed, falling into a death no different from his life…

Copyright 2016, Vaibhav Thombre

The Sovereign

The Lost Journal: Sanctuary

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I have my eyes closed, for I am at peace

I hear the birds fly by, the rush of the mountain breeze

A distant rumble of voices, onto my ears roll

But only faintly, for my sanctuary has swallowed me whole

It seems like evening, although I cannot be sure

Time seems to have been suspended here, broken by this haven pure

My mind at ease, breathes in deep

An air pristine, makes demons seep

I tread without purpose, a walk slow

I am wandering now, drowning in my thoughts’ flow

Devoid of destination and of pain, I tread

My mind feels anew, ignited

I remember the future as I remember the past

I see the explosions, that had shaken the war last

I remember building my sanctuary, pulling it together from shards numb

And I remember a far-off future, where ashes it will have become

Troubled I am, by this unreal loss

But for greatness and welfare, into the realm of unknown must one cross

Protect my sanctuary I must, as long as my existence

But also let go I should, and progress for scaling the distance

For life goes on, unpredictable and fleeting

And onward one must march, a valiant heart beating

The Sovereign

Dated:
Hydrean: 7 of Monolith 36
Ennead Year of the Calyce

Copyright 2016, Vaibhav Thombre

Author’s Note: It’s poetry this week ! This post marks another form of experiment in the Empire of Carane series. First person narrative from the Sovereign’s point of view albeit in ‘poetic’ form, as he records his journey in his journal that has since become lost in the sands of time. For more from the Sovereign’s Journal, you can check out: The Lost Journal: The Chains of Time.
Next post: The next time we meet, we continue our journey of ‘The Burning Market’ series as the Sovereign and his team pit against the dark forces of Fjor Manar and an unknown enemy in Part II Ep VI: The Shards of Life. Find the journey till now: Part II Ep V: The Last Arrow

Vaibhav.

The Sovereign

The Lost Journal: The Chains of Time

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The philosophers of the destroyed world had been wise beyond measure, or so I would like to believe. They would have immensely respected the Cogitari and its function. I, the Sovereign of Carane, am blanketed in the cobalt energy of the Hydrean as I write this today. The thirty-six columns of the Cogitari surround me from afar and disperse the silvery sapphire illumination throughout the circular chamber. The Empire of Carane remains, as always, in a shared state of restlessness and peacefulness. It oddly mirrors my own state of mind. Or maybe it is I, who is mirroring the state of my empire.

Today is a day to reflect. The state of the nation is such that I can afford to be meditative about seemingly far-fetched thoughts. ‘Seemingly’, I say, because in reality, these are critical for the growth of an empire. Survival requires focus but progress requires an unconstrained mind. I can feel the force of my thoughts as I close my eyes. Their color is similar to the sapphire of the Hydrean. I see them emerging from the abyss. Their source, the core illumination pulsates in the vast blackness, firing each thought in its own trajectory and lighting up various parts within, an empire far greater than the Empire of Carane.

The thoughts are in abundance. Plans, ideas, strategies. Concepts for uplifting a nation. But I am not convinced. I don’t think any of this will be enough. The true test of these concepts would be in execution. The fragility of the ideas would be exposed then and the strong sapphire glow of many of these would be extinguished. That doesn’t bother me, however. The core illumination continues to pulsate, assuring me of its presence. What bothers me is the nature of time. As I watch my thoughts burn bright, the immutable temperament of time increasingly troubles me. Most of the thoughts are nascent, I see. Some of them are fully formed and some of them are behemoths. But even for the most colossal thoughts, I realize that none of them can escape the truths of time: that the thought can turn into reality only when time allows it and no one can force it to fruition sooner.

I realize that any lasting change from any of these thoughts would take years, decades even. By ‘lasting change’, I mean the kind of change that would uplift a nation exponentially. The idea has to take hold, the issues in the execution need to be ironed out, the plans need to be validated through the implementation and course-corrected when required. The ‘behemoth’ thoughts would require a much longer cycle for each of these phases.

Reflecting back on the destroyed world, I think I can safely say that no great monument there was built in a short time span. Indeed, it took the generation of a ruler to create one wonder for the rest of the world to see. I understand the patience behind those and I practice it too. And yet, there is a restlessness in my mind, when I see more and more of the ideas surface from the abyss and I realize that it would be a lifetime’s work to make them happen. It isn’t cynicism even; it is a restlessness to do good.

Is one supposed to be a slave to time? Is life supposed to be gradual and unhurried? The more I see life the more I tend to witness it in its leisurely pace. But I do not understand the need for such a deliberate march. All of my thoughts feel shackled, constrained by time and by life. A price, so it seems, that I need to pay. But I cannot stop planning ahead, for Carane needs me to. And even if the chains of time are a price for it, I will continue to pay the same. But I must persist, I must aim to charge ahead, regardless of the issues. I look around at the Cogitari, bathed in its sapphire glow, and reflect on the purpose I had constructed it for. Knowing predates Being, come the long lost words. I nod solemnly to myself. I am confident that my actions will yield results. The results may take longer than I anticipate today, but I will have accomplished my purpose in this life of mine. It is blind belief, I realize, but a strong one at that. Carane will continue to prosper, I promise. Carane will continue to soar.

The Sovereign

Dated:
Hydrean: 5 of Monolith 36
Ennead Year of the Calyce

Copyright 2016, Vaibhav Thombre

Author’s Note: This post marks a new kind of an experiment in the Empire of Carane series. This is a first person narrative from the Sovereign’s standpoint as he writes his journal and is different from the third person point of view chapters that you usually see on this blog. This way you really get to be in the Sovereign’s “head” as he deals with the challenges of being a ruler. Hope you liked it! You can share your thoughts in the comments below.

Vaibhav.

 

 

Palmeida

Part II Ep V: The Last Arrow

Post 14  Image FB Test CroppedThe council of Carane streamed in solemnly over the course of the morning, occupying the wide but otherwise nondescript hall of the Carsanion Senate with their presence, their thoughts and their fears. Palmeida greeted them all as they entered and observed the gamut of expressions their minds portrayed, even though their faces through years of enactment remained impassive. She said nothing consoling however, for nothing was required to be said. The council was looking for results today, not hope. So she smiled instead, spoke politely and enquired about their well-being. She noticed something else in the behaviour of the nobles. Each took one look at the hall and enquired about their fellow councillors before stepping in. If they couldn’t find them, they chose to wait instead and proceeded only after a few of them had gathered, like a flock of birds who are only comfortable in packs. Fjor, the first to arrive in the morning, was comfortably seated and was more than amused at the behaviour of this flock who chose to stay far away from him. His frail form breathed it all in: the fear and the power. At long last, he had become a lion in the minds of the people, even if for a short time. At long last, he had made his mark on the world. He smiled to himself: a warm, true smile. Life, after all, was not in vain.

Palmeida observed Fjor’s arrogance from a distance. Only one word rose to her mind. Pity. She distracted herself by looking for others. Almost every councillor had arrived. Just two were left. From the ones that remain. Her thoughts went back to the charred remnants of the three dead councillors that lay in her hospital morgue. Mere bones where once there had been lives. The fire had taken everything from them. And there was only one person responsible for it.

Palmeida looked at Fjor again who was talking to the companion he had brought with himself, a young lad from his carpentry shop. Palmeida looked for signs of nervousness from the boy, but found none. If he were fearful of the consequences today, he was sure hiding it well. Palmeida smiled and watched the last two councillors arrive. She addressed Stizlam Tepalmi. “We are graced by your presence” The councillor smiled back although his haggard eyes betrayed his true emotions. “Today is the day for justice” he said. “This needs to end today”

Palmeida nodded. “We are confident that it will”. Stizlam nodded back. Palmeida smiled at a person behind the councillor. “So how does it feel to be alive?” The councillor turned around to find Vyanaar. “My Sovereign” bowed the councillor. Vyanaar continued “Kerii tells me you are recovering well.” The Sovereign paused. “Since after the failed assassination attempt that is”

Stizlam nodded. “The trauma still remains, but yes she is right. As you are already aware, I owe my life to her. Their attempt would not have failed, had she not aided me. Is she here today? I’d like to thank her again”

“Yes, she should be here shortly” Vyanaar said. Stizlam exited presently. “Look at them all” the Sovereign said to Palmeida when just the two remained. “The councillors are supposed to be the foundation of Carane. The combined strength on which the future of this empire rests. And look at them now.” He observed them all and added after a pause. “Weak”

“Not everyone is” Palmeida replied, titling her head to Stizlam. “Less than a week ago, he was almost killed. Most likely by a supporter of Fjor. And yet, he is here today” After a pause she said “He must have contemplated the possible consequences that the day encompasses. He knows what hangs in the balance today. The decline of certain people versus the demise of an empire. And he knows the scales can tip either way”

The Sovereign nodded. “Yes, I wish more people could show such strength in times like these.” His eyes went from the councillors and glanced over at Fjor who was still talking to the boy with elaborate gestures. There was a strength in Fjor even though he was in his final few years, the Sovereign noted. Or maybe the strength existed because he had little time left. And little to lose. The Sovereign remembered Jermiaani’s remembrance of Fjor’s conversation with him. “I might fail but I have nothing to lose” The Sovereign passed his glance from Fjor to the boy near him, the youth from his carpentry shop. Unbidden, his thoughts went to the dead girl in The Burnt Market, the one that had died during the procession. She was probably just as young as him. The thought distracted the Sovereign. He looked away from the boy. His eyes scanned the room once again.

Palmeida had followed his gaze. “Look at me” she said to him, holding his hand. “I seek vengeance as much as you do.” She could almost feel the fire that had charred the councillors, the fire that had reduced power to ashes. “But we can only have a singular goal going in there.” She paused and looked the Sovereign. “And we need to understand clearly what that is going to be”

The Sovereign nodded. “There are just so many things that can go wrong.” he said gazing in the distance.

“I understand” Palmeida said, squeezing his hand tighter. “We cannot focus on everything that can go wrong.” She smiled and recounted a tale from another era, surprised at how pertinent it seemed today. “We just have one arrow…” The Sovereign smiled. He knew where this was headed. He let Palmeida continue nevertheless. “The one arrow. It’s the last arrow. That is it, that’s what separates us from being the hunters to becoming the hunted. Everything can go wrong while firing the last arrow… But if it hits the mark…” She trailed off waiting for the true owner of the words to recite them.

“Then we push the end for another day” the Sovereign completed. “I’m surprised that you remember” he smiled.

“I couldn’t forget it if I wanted to” Palmeida replied. “The rebellion was the darkest time we have gone through” she said, shivering.

She looked at the Sovereign as he nodded. “So what is our singular goal for today, our singular target for our last arrow?”

“Justice” said the Sovereign.

Copyright 2016, Vaibhav Thombre.

The Sovereign

Part II Ep IV: Belief 

Post 13 Image FB Test CroppedThe air felt pristine and untainted, a luxury in times of madness and misery. It silently entered the cavernous space, bringing with it sounds and scents both imminent and afar, as much of the present as of recollections and dreams, illuminating portions of the vast blackness inside. The images reeled in one by one, revealing themselves in the glow, painting a canvas both coherent and chaotic in equal measures. The Sovereign, his eyes closed, looked at the cavern stoically, breathing in deep, taking in the sights and the sounds that were as real to him as the air that was purging him.

The first set of images that presented themselves were as much about his vicinity as of his own thoughts: the rustle of the leaves, the flutter of wings, the battering of gunfire… But with every deep breath, the Sovereign found himself losing more of his surroundings, until the cavern became his reality. The images were starting to get progressively darker now, and not even the pristine air could mask them. The Sovereign braced himself even as fear and trepidation had started to set in, for he knew where he was being led.

He found the Burnt Market deserted, the memory from many years ago now fading. He saw the pulpit, raised tall, much taller than he had remembered. He found a golden device hanging from it, with its umpteen dials, beckoning him. He stood still however, for he knew the image was not yet complete. The shot rang soon afterward and he saw Jermiaani holding the dead girl, amidst a crowd that had given up all hope. The Sovereign looked at the spreading circle of red, and waited for the rage to subside. He let go, and the morning in the Burnt Market turned pitch black, extinguishing the memory.

The glow now darted towards a different corner of the cavern. He saw the old man responsible, frail and yet resolute, studying the carpentry of a young lad and beaming. The Sovereign paused for a moment. He observed the dynamics between the two, and nodded silently to himself, making a mental note. He progressed through the cavern, looking for the next shard of reminiscence. He heard the collision much before he arrived at the scene. He saw Kerii, shivering but unfazed, aiding the Council member to safety, the latter still reeling with shock. The Council was important for the functioning of Carane, the Sovereign silently thought. Without it, the center of power could shift drastically.

He moved on. He knew what would come next. He found anxiety engulfing him, and he begged the cavern not to illuminate this image. The cavern obliged. He just heard the healers talking to each other, mumbling and whispering, for no one wanted to deliver him the news. Finally he heard Palmeida’s voice: “They’re no more”

Three of the ten councillors are dead, the Sovereign found himself saying. He breathed in deep to allow for the pain to recede, waiting for his mind to steel itself. Three out of ten was no small feat. They had been his brothers, his companions right from the days of the rebellion… And now they were gone. Fjor had steered clear of any implication. There hadn’t been a shred of evidence against him. The Sovereign found fury replacing the pain and yet he couldn’t act. For every action had consequences and the Sovereign knew better than to topple a house of cards. He could only plan, for now at least. It was maddening, he knew, but also essential.

But more than the wait, it was the haze surrounding it all that bothered him. He didn’t know if he would be victorious. If the gamble paid off, he would be touted as a shrewd leader. If not? He shook his head violently even as the cavern observed unmoved. No.. The Sovereign said to himself. This has to work.

“Meditating?” said a voice. The Sovereign saw the cavern disappear, gradually replaced by the lush green plains of Gravasa. It was morning once again. The Sovereign shook his head. “Just thinking” he said to Palmeida, without a hint of fear or doubt that had been so prominent in his thoughts a moment ago. He had made up his mind. “I want to call the council tomorrow. I shall invite Fjor also. I don’t want to wait any longer. It’s high time that we start discussing on his demands.”

Palmeida considered the Sovereign’s statement. “You had said he is not the real enemy” she said. “Do we know who is?”

The Sovereign shook his head, clearly in a thought of his own. “There is no point in waiting. There have been four of the nobles dead already. The fifth just barely survived. No… I can see the endgame forming. This will be a gamble and we may lose terribly. But it is a hand we must play now”

Palmeida nodded, her mind drawn back to the ward, the three councillors in front of her, reduced to mere bones from the savants that they had been. “Please tell me that this will work” she said to the Sovereign.

“I don’t know that” The Sovereign shook his head. “I just can’t know that.”

After a moment’s consideration, he spoke again, this time with the conviction of a leader that had traversed many a treacherous trail, a voice that was so true to his own self.

“But I believe”

Copyright 2016, Vaibhav Thombre

Gaspare, Jermiaani Sisccita

Part II Ep III: Egalitarianism

Post 12 Image FB Test CroppedThe red door creaked open with a light push. Jermiaani canvassed the deserted street and its somber silence before casting his eyes back to the house. It was dark inside, covered in shades of brown, with light streaming in through a single musty window, making vain at tempts at illumination. He pushed the door further and stepped in.

There was nothing odd about the contents of the house. It was all commonplace, all too familiar for Jermiaani – a house of poverty. “I have been expecting you” the voice said from behind. Jermiaani turned to witness the terror of the Burnt Market, the person who had led so many lives astray. His eyes fell upon a frail, elderly person, worn down by time, yet with a face full of sanguineness and optimism. Fjor Manar looked nothing like his reputation made him out to be. But Jermiaani knew better than to get deceived by appearances. He smiled back and sat in the chair Fjor had been pointing to. “Really? Expecting me for…?” he trailed off.

Fjor himself sat before answering. His old frame took time to land itself onto the chair. Jermiaani didn’t bother to help. Fjor sighed, once seated, and uttered: “This is regarding the investigation I assume.”

Jermiaani nodded. This was going to be a slow game of chess. “The death in the Burnt Market the other day. During the procession”

Fjor shook his head. “Most unfortunate. I am always shocked when the Gods take away someone so soon in their lives.” Jermiaani found rage boiling inside of him. It wasn’t the Gods that took her. It was you.

“She was young, wasn’t she?” Fjor continued when he got no answer.  Jermiaani nodded.

“Such a shame” Fjor shook his head. “I hope she did not suffer. I am so sick of suffering myself. It’s my age. My bones. I am weak. The Gods of time have defeated me. Unfortunately, I have no other option but to bear the suffering. My only hope for the world is that no one else suffers the way I do.”

Jermiaani said nothing. The shot was ringing in his mind, the scampering of people, the chaos. He knew that Fjor had been involved. Restraining his anger to his inner self, Jermiaani asked. “What can you tell me about that day?”

“I was there in the market myself. The procession was unlike anything we had ever seen. So many nobility, all at once – and that too in the Burnt Market?” Fjor smiled. “Now that is a sight you don’t often get to see.” He paused. “In fact, in my eighty-three years of existence, I have probably interacted with the nobility twice.” He smiled now. “Do they not like the dirty streets of Carane?”

Jermiaani sensed the pain behind the sanguine face. The inferiority, the desire for attention, the jealousy. He was wary of the game that they were playing. Kerii was the one skilled at verbal negotiations. The Sovereign should have probably sent her.

“I am a lowly person myself” Jermiaani said. “I am not the nobility to know their likes or dislikes”

“But you do work for them” Fjor said immediately, his eyes glinting with a shrewdness that had been absent thus far. “You are – what is the right word – the Sovereign’s hatchet man. You are not part of his established government, and you are sent for handling the more disagreeable tasks, that his government isn’t equipped to handle. I have heard other names for you – pet dog, traitor, murderer…”

Jermiaani sneered but turned it into a smile just in time. He couldn’t afford to lose his cool.

“So tell me something” Fjor continued “Why do you continue to work for people who continue to think they are superior to you?” He leaned back in his chair. “These people don’t understand poverty. They don’t understand you. To them, you are just another puppet. They will cut the strings off your back the moment they are done with you.”

Fjor had paused, expecting to elicit the reaction out of Jermiaani. Jermiaani was genuinely smiling now. Fjor’s vehemence was so misplaced, that Jermiaani couldn’t help but notice his own underlying frustration beneath. “The nobility of Carane has taken care of this country for ages” Jermiaani now answered. “They have been working to improve the lives and the livelihoods of the entire nation. And they have succeeded to a large extent. The country’s welfare is always taken care of – the poor are always ensured food and shelter, a place to learn, a place to pray. Labor is granted to them when needed, they are given umpteen opportunities to earn the living that they would want for themselves. I was poor too, when they found me” Jermiaani continued. “But they have not made me feel it.” He paused. Something tells me you have felt it though.

“Shall we get back to the investigation?” Jermiaani asked. “You were describing the day of the death.”

The door opened and another person stepped in. “This is Gaspare” Fjor introduced the young man to Jermiaani. “He is a carpenter by profession. He works with me.” He pointed to the room beyond. “We make the furniture back there” Jermiaani turned around and nodded. “So, the day of the procession -”

Fjor continued to stare at the room beyond though. “I have always believed in carpentry” He smiled. “It’s the perfect way to earn an honest living. I am over eighty now, I have stood the time of three empires. Armyan the III, Averrincin’s and now your Sovereign’s. You know what I have realized? They all have something very much in common. You know what that is?” he asked Jermiaani, madness in his eyes.

He didn’t wait for an answer though. “In each of the empires, there has always been a working class society and an elite society. Now – the elite have always put forth promises that working class may be able to join them in the ranks through hard work.” He paused. “I am old, about to die any day now. And still here. What does that tell you?”

“That you are a failure. And you are pinning it on the society because you see no hope for any change of fortune. And you are amassing the poor of the Market, filling their head with delusions of your own. Attempting to be victorious at least once in your life” Jermiaani paused. “Who would want a vain death after all”

Fjor laughed; a mad, rabid laugh.  “I will not deny that. Although you have no proof to tie me with any of it. I would be rotting in Carsanion prison otherwise.” He said. He continued to nod at Jermiaani for several more seconds, without saying anything. Jermiaani had noticed too many of his kind to get perturbed.

“Do you know what I want?” Fjor said finally, his eyes wide, his frail body trembling with purpose.

Jermiaani had had enough. “You want an empire where the weak and the desperate like you don’t have to work, where opportunities are brought to you on a silver platter, where you get to become nobility without having either the intelligence or the grit for becoming one…” It was Jermiaani’s turn to laugh now. “No empire can accommodate this. Because what you’re asking for isn’t equality – you want a preferred status without having to earn it. This can never happen.”

Fjor looked at Jermiaani with the wide, frail eyes, unblinking. “Fine then – be a good dog and go tell your Sovereign that the nobility will continue to suffer their current fate. The death in the procession was the first one – until the poor of Carane become more powerful than the elite, I shall not rest. Let me see how long it takes for the Sovereign to wash their blood off his hands”

Jermiaani knew better than to kill him then. Even though he truly wanted to. He is just a pawn. We need answers. “The poor of Carane don’t share your vision” Jermiaani then said. “It’s a handful of desperate, miserable people – like yourself, that you have managed to amass. And a handful of naïve others. If you think that together, you can bring down an empire – you are mistaken”

Fjor smiled, still unblinking. “I might be. But I have nothing to lose”

Jermiaani rose from his chair. “Enjoy your time in this house Fjor. I shall be paying you a visit even if I hear rumors of another death.” He looked at the far end, the other room where the youth had started to work. “For your sake, I hope it doesn’t happen. Because proof or not – I will make you pay” And then he added as he was leaving. “Everyone has something to lose.”

Fjor considered the statement, and then burst into long, hysterical laughs, his fragile form quivering with excitement.

Copyright 2016, Vaibhav Thombre

Jermiaani Sisccita

Part II Ep II: The Truth among the Shadows

Post 11 Image FB Test CroppedThe procession had been slow-moving right from the start. It had been a long column of people filing through the tortuous and snake-like street, their faces full of optimism and joy. Ignorant of the scorching afternoon sun, the nobility had proceeded on, elucidating their cause to the locals, gathering their support. The onlookers at the Burnt Market had gazed with their eyes wide open, for they had never seen such flair, felt such privilege or known the possibilities of leading such lives before. Jermiaani had smiled to himself as they had marched on. He had stood at the head of the procession, not with the intent of leading it, for such a thought was beyond him. No, he had had a simpler task at hand. And he had failed.

The shot had thundered through the prevalent hum of the procession, dissembling the joy and laughter that had been so prominent just an instant before. Jermiaani had looked around, trying to fight the commotion that had ensued, trying to track the murderer, even before he had consciously realized that a person had indeed died. The assailant could nowhere be seen. Jermiaani had turned back, knowing the value of every passing second, but it had already been too late. From between the gaps in the scampering people, he could faintly see the pool of red already spreading. The victim had moved away from the clutches of this world. She lay there expressionless, the shot having released her before any comprehension had dawned.

Jermiaani had taken her to the Sovereign, who had sat beside her unspoken, even as time had passed and people had come and gone, having paid their respects. Jermiaani had not noticed their fear, as the Sovereign had. The grief had consumed him whole. Later, after they had all departed, he had dared speak to the Sovereign.

“I have failed you” he had said. “You had tasked me with their protection. But…” his voice had trailed off.

The Sovereign had considered for a long moment before speaking. He had then replied, his eyes still on the cold, lifeless figure in front of him. “It will pass. We will see the true light of things. But now – we must focus. The enemy shall strike again, and soon enough. We need to be prepared”

He had nodded then, his mind still in the Burnt Market, still amidst the scampering people, his ears still ringing with the shot. This time as he had reached the victim, she had been alive, gasping, choking in her last moments. She had attempted to raise her hand, and had barely succeeded. It had been enough for Jermiaani, who had dashed in the pointed direction, a deluge of rage in his mind. But then the crowd had dissolved away, as had the cries of the commotion, and there had stood only one figure in front of him.

“So what you seek – is your own self?” The voice cut through the image, shredding the memory for now. Jermiaani looked up, distracted. It was afternoon again in the Burnt Market. There was no commotion though, no thunder, just the simple existence of the local vendors. The shopkeeper who had uttered the words stood in front of him, looking curiously.

When Jermiaani hadn’t responded, the shopkeeper spoke again. “You have been staring at the mirror for the past few minutes. You are either looking at the street behind or you are fascinated with your own self.” The shopkeeper guffawed at his own intelligence. Jermiaani gave him a weak smile. He had indeed been looking at the street. Looking for what, he couldn’t say. Clues, perhaps. Either to unravel the death. Or for the sake of his own sanity. He wanted to believe it were the former. But the mirror showed him the reality of his true self just as many times as it showed the street behind.

“I am actually looking for a specific vendor” he told the shopkeeper. “Can you help me find him?”

The sanguineness of the shopkeeper evaporated when he heard the name. With a somber expression he pointed. “The seventh lane to your right at the far end of the Market street. Look for a red door”

There are strong undercurrents in the Burnt Market these days. Lot more happening than the common eye can fathom. I see treachery building, the fear rising. A powerful foe is emerging from the shadows. This death is only the first. Their cause is much bigger, their ambition much stronger.

The Sovereign’s words spun in Jermiaani’s mind as he reached the alley he was looking for. The shops had already been thinning as he had moved closer and closer to his destination, replaced by houses instead. The people that saw him approach hurriedly skulked away. This part of the Burnt Market was clearly not a welcome destination. Their lives have changed, the words echoed again. Festered this past year with the onset of this man. The Market isn’t what it once was, full of optimism and camaraderie. On the surface, you may still see the resemblance, but if you look closely, you will see it for what it truly has become.

The voices and the clamor of the market had also been progressively dying out, and as Jermiaani stood at the entrance of the desired alley, he could scarcely hear anything. Occasionally he thought he heard faint callings, voices from places left far behind:  a woman looking for her child, the creaking of wooden trading carts, the echoes of a gong.

A door opened somewhere directly behind him. And before he could turn, it had slammed shut. Fear has truly become pervasive here. Regardless, he stepped forward, avoiding the scampering crowd, avoiding their cries and their yells, his mind focused on the only thing important, even as he saw the pool of red widening…

Remember – this man is not the key to the problem. He is merely a pawn. Albeit a pawn that has progressed considerably. We need answers, not deaths.

Jermiaani nodded, even as the red door of his destination appeared closer and closer, and he felt the answers coming. He raised his arm to knock.

Copyright 2016, Vaibhav Thombre