Gaspare, The Burning Market Series, The Sovereign

Part II Ep VI: The Shards of Life

War Stories: Part II Ep VI: The Shards of Life

 

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

Gaspare, Jermiaani Sisccita, The Burning Market Series

Part II Ep III: Egalitarianism

War Stories: Part II Ep III : EgalitarianismThe 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