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

poetry, The Lost Journal, 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 Lost Journal, 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.

 

 

The Burning Market Series, The Sovereign

Part II Ep IV: Belief 

War Stories: Part II Ep IV: BeliefThe 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

Jermiaani Sisccita, The Burning Market Series, The Sovereign

Part II Ep I: Grief

War Stories: Part II Ep I: GriefDeath, by itself, is meaningless… The long-lost words emerged from the black abyss, growing strength to strength, fighting a flood of countless other thoughts, memories and emotions that surged within, strangely captivating the Sovereign’s wrecked mind, even as he sat absently on his knees, crushed and defeated, clutching the pale, cold and lifeless body that lay in front of him, hoping that his presence would breathe some life back into it, hoping that he indeed had some of the godliness that the Carsanions attributed so often to him.

The body remained cold however. Waves of thoughts crashed on the shore of the Sovereign’s mind, now disbelief, now shock, now anguish, now rage – each subsiding to give way to the other, each carrying with it numerous flashes of reminiscences, which now lay strewn on the desolate shore, waiting to be discarded. Faint murmurs brought the Sovereign back from his mind and shackled him to the reality that lay before him. He was vaguely aware that he was not alone, although his mind was elsewhere – linking the past occurrences with the present reality. Death by itself is meaningless… The words came again and then vanished, fading away as the murmurs approached nearer. Voices around the Sovereign, both known and unknown, expressed their sympathies, and he nodded in acknowledgement, each time detecting a shared pattern – the whiff of fear and uncertainty in the words; a new addition to the blatant hollowness that the Sovereign had grown so accustomed to hearing. Not that it was unexpected – the Sovereign understood where the fear stemmed from; it was a fear of their own safety – in an empire where the death loomed so high even above the people with the most power. It was a selfish fear, Sovereign knew, but he nodded silently to their sympathies, unmoved, processing every person’s manner and filing it away for later use.

Outwardly stoic and pondering, he was back on the shore now, looking among the reminiscences that lay scattered, searching desperately for the key that would release his shackles. The one memory, which had the answer to his great pain, still lay forgotten somewhere in the crevices of his mind. It couldn’t be seen on the shore, but then again, he had miles to travel to cover its expanse. He didn’t have much time, he knew. He had to be functional once again – and the grief was weighing him down, killing him slowly yet steadily. The murderers were currently formulating the next plan of assail, he was quite sure of that; he had to have his wits about him if he had any hope of foiling them.

Death by itself is meaningless… he recited the key to himself, as he sat on the shore, looking beyond the setting sun, even as the waves of rage and misery continued to lash at him. His breathing soon became irregular, and he started shuddering, the weight of the circumstances falling down on him, crushing all his will and determination. Strangely however, he wouldn’t give up. The setting sun then started to change course, rising higher and higher, until it was morning again. The shore vanished and so did the waves, replaced by the encampment where death was so familiar. The Sovereign was walking through the rocks and the artillery now, sidestepping the bodies that he saw – the product of war, the souls that the rebellion had claimed. “So many deaths…” a voice said beside him. He turned to see Jermiaani inspecting the mutilation. The Sovereign had nodded to him, distressed at the outcome that lay in front of him. He had started down the path for justice, brave and knowledgeable of the price, but the massacre was proving to him that he had much to learn. For knowing and living were two different things – and while he had known, only now was he getting to live death.

The encampment then vanished, replaced by the long halls of the Tower of Dawn. And then the Sovereign heard the voice, oddly like his own self, but stronger and surer. “Death by itself is meaningless. Always look upon it in the context of greater things, disassociated from every emotion. Always question “why”, for it is the reason that defines death, that unveils its true nature. And once the cause is understood – all that remains is to stand up to that cause, with every piece of strength left, until it yields to you; until you prove to it that you are beyond the miseries of life. Logic trumps all. Dissociate every emotion from logic – and you will see life for what it is. And then – you will have risen.”

The Tower of Dawn faded away, as another voice was heard. “My Sovereign?” Vyanaar was back now, back in the reality, back to the present, but unconstrained and unshackled. He turned to see Jermiaani beside him, his voice full of pain, clearly still grieving over the terrible loss. The Sovereign looked at the body that lay in front of him, the countless memories and emotions still swirling inside but not drowning him anymore. “It is a matter of time, Jermiaani. We will all get over this. But now – we must focus. The enemy shall strike again, and soon enough. We need to be ready. We need to think the scenarios through. The conflict has only just begun.”

Jermiaani looked at his Sovereign. He saw the colossal strength, unfazed and unperturbed even under such trying circumstances. He couldn’t understand how such strength could be possible. He bent his head low. “Orders”

Copyright 2016, Vaibhav Thombre

Jermiaani Sisccita, Kerii Syhs, The Sovereign, The Vatarian War Series

Part I Ep IX: Ashes

Post 9 Image FB Test CroppedFor a split second, Vyanaar could only hear his own footsteps, as he raced towards the abandoned truck, and slid behind it, waiting and listening. The sound of the explosion renewed his faith that his senses were still up. He turned to see the impact of the blast. Two trucks had overturned. Cars around had slid far away from their initial mark, their windows shattered with the blow, and the glass lay melting on the surface. Vyanaar’s radio buzzed to life. “Sovereign – respond. What’s the status?” Kerii asked.

“The barricade is clear. I repeat the barricade is clear. Sending the team now” He gestured towards the five people scattered across the desolate street, who now moved rapidly towards the explosion. The Sovereign joined them, shifting his glances as rapidly as he could, from the street to the windows overhead to the terraces, to the abandoned vehicles and back to the street again. He could hear distant gunfire and felt the tremors when tanks and bombs went off, but he could gauge that they were still far off. His team was in the clear. At least for now.

Vyanaar reached for his helmet and spoke into the radio. “Jermiaani – what’s the status of the Bravo team. I can hear tanks going off in the distance.” He tried to spot people from the team from amid the cracks in the buildings that expanded his view to many streets further. All he saw was the Arvallian force moving, their guns firing at people unknown, the buildings and monuments shattered. At least the ruins gave enough protection, thought the Sovereign. It was easier to use the debris for stealth.

“We are behind you on the opposite flank” came back Jermiaani’s voice, breaking static every few seconds. “I am on the roof, sniping my way through. I can see you.” The Sovereign turned around to catch sight but couldn’t trace the voice. “No point in turning. I am too high up. You won’t see me. Continue on.” The Sovereign had noticed something though, in the far off distance. He barked in the radio “Get off the roofs. All of you. I see a drone fleet coming in from where I stand.”

“Kerii -” he thundered in the radio. “You’re in the control center for a reason. You are supposed to keep surveilling the area for this.” There was silence for too long before the reply came back. “I am sorry. It’s a blind spot. They are still far away for surveillance radius to detect them. You happened to see blips. I have turned the equipment now to get a better understanding of the force. I see 4 jets. Mostly – no pilots.”

“I need a better answer than that” said the Sovereign. “No pilots” came the reply after 10 seconds. “Confirmed”. The Sovereign nodded – “Okay. Great. Jermiaani – engage the people in your team on that. I need those drones down before they are within vicinity of the damage.”  “On it” replied Jermiaani. The Sovereign nodded to his own team and they continued to proceed forward.  Today would be a pivotal day in the rebellion. If all proceeded as expected, we could transform from rebels to heroes.

The Sovereign heard a soft whirring and buzzing as the wind whistled by. It was enough for him to understand. “Take cover – incoming gunfire” he shouted to his team.  The team hid behind battered walls and used the abandoned cars as embankments, shooting and talking at once, trying to get a sense of the enemy guns and their locations. The Sovereign changed his primary and equipped it with the lens in his backpack. He saw two people aiming behind a dirt embankment. He shot one through the head as he was aiming. The other ducked too soon.

Not that it mattered. The gunfire was streaming in from at least three directions now. He looked at his team as they took down people one after the other, even as the numbers kept increasing. War was patriotism for them, he thought blankly, even as he took aim and shot the second target through the neck. Anything for the right cause.

That was good. He truly needed patriots now. The people of Carane were divided into factions. More bullets whizzed by. He killed the last one on the roof in front of him. In a blur, he told his team to move in the direction that had been cleared out. There were those that felt that the rebels were a scourge, fighting for glory and power. But there were those that understood the reality of the situation. That the empire of Carane had been in ruins for many years before the war in the rebellion had begun, destroyed by the Arvallians. Sovereign’s forces were only trying to bring justice back to the society – justice in it’s true form, not just a semblance.

It didn’t matter. “Vyanaar-” the radio came back to life. “We took the jets down but I see at least 3 more coming your way from the far side. We won’t be able to get to you in time.” The Sovereign looked up and tried to hear the planes. He couldn’t – that meant they still had time. “Thanks Jermiaani” he replied. “We will keep an eye out”

The goal for the day was not far off. The building called The Archive, lay a few streets away. If only we could reach the vaults… “No – you don’t understand” Jermiaani replied from the other end. “These aren’t normal drones-”

Jermiaani needn’t have to complete his thought even though the line gave out to static. The Sovereign felt the tremors soon enough, increasing in magnitude with every second. The drones were bombing all along the way, they had probably cleared out the block of the Arvallian’s own forces. He nodded to the team. “Abort.” He had a pit in his stomach – Freedom would have to wait.

The drones surveyed the debacle after the bombings had stopped. Their scanners hit the ruins for biometric signatures; indeed, the Arvallian forces had destroyed a large part of their own city to achieve their goal. They had received word that the Sovereign himself had been fighting in this area. If that were true, then the ruins from the bombings were a low price. The rebellion would end without the Sovereign. But it was all in vain – for the drones couldn’t find the bodies in the ashes.  Hundereds of miles below, the Sovereign and his team moved through the intricate series of underground tunnels, known only to the Carsanions, stretching from one end of Carane to the other, hoping that the maze would remain undiscovered…, and praying for the day when they would be able to traverse above ground, their head held high…

Copyright 2016, Vaibhav Thombre

***

Author’s Note: This post ‘Ashes’ marks the end of the ‘season 1’ series of 9 posts, if you will, of the Empire of Carane series. See you all in season 2…

Vaibhav.

Palmeida, The Sovereign, The Vatarian War Series

Part I Ep VIII: Ambition

Post 8 Image FB Test CroppedThe sound of the gong reverberated through the empty hallways of the Laize Soraman, or the Tower of Dawn as it was so-often called, sending the perched birds in flight, an entire empire beneath them, seemingly calm and serene tonight, deprived of its war-torn state, dazzling under the massive moon with the hopefulness of peace, a promise that hung high in the air.

The gong reached Palmeida a few seconds after its inception, where she stood at the balcony of the Tower, gazing at her world below, and seeing not the dazzle of an empire or the hopefulness of peace; instead she saw a pause – a time suspended between the sways of the pendulum, where destruction lay at both ends, and this brief time, this ether, was all there was – all the peace that this empire – that any empire would find.

It was just the law of nature, it occurred to her, for war and peace to alternate in the sands of time. Indeed, history had been observant of the shifting sands, where empires had risen, colossal in sight, and fallen, ashes once more, the fabric of time stitching war and peace as alternates, but the fabric itself being eternal, consequently something neither war nor peace could bear forever. However, despite her morbid thoughts on the future, she was happy that the pendulum was suspended for now, and a smile crept upon her, and she sighed, reveling in the moonlight, and praying, she didn’t know to whom, for the pendulum to remain suspended.

The second gong sounded, and Palmeida turned, not at the sound of the gong, but at the soft tune which had begun floating, almost invisible behind the gong, but becoming more distinct by the instant. Instinctively and unthinking, she moved towards the source. It was a tune she had heard many times before; it bore the sounds of life, of joy, of revel interspersed with darkness and madness and grief, finally resting in wisdom, in drive, in ambition. She listened to it in its entirety, engrossed and in imbibition, and only once the final strokes had been pressed did she enter the room.

The Sovereign, Vyanaar Tark, heard the applause before he saw her enter the room. He smiled, and took a bow. “Still awake?”, she asked as the stepped into dim incandescence of the room.  “So are you…” replied Vyanaar.  Palmeida laughed. “Yeah… It’s beautiful out there tonight, isn’t it?” Vyanaar nodded. “Peace is always beautiful…” and after a pause “Also, always elusive…”

“Yes indeed…” said Palmeida. “I was just thinking the same… Heard anything from Kerii yet?”

The Sovereign shook his head. “The last I heard was a few days ago. About the emperor signing over the Vatarian empire. I am not expecting any new communication. Anything else would indicate something being wrong. So… silence, in this case, is truly gold…”

Palmeida nodded in silent agreement. “I wonder how long the peace will last though…”

“Well, ‘factually’ speaking – the emperor won’t have enough military strength to wage another attack. And since we own most of his dominion – he won’t bother to… But, ‘philosophically’ speaking – peace for Carane could end tomorrow with a new foe…”

“The Vatarian war was horrid enough” Palmeida shivered.

“Not quite” said the Sovereign. “Jankaha was the only state that they managed to capture. A miniscule borderland compared to the vast Carane, and inhabited only by tribes – and there too we managed to minimize our damage by taking everyone underground and having the planes fly in regularly with supplies. No – this was but a shadow of a war, even their attempts at assassination were half-baked” he said with a smile.

“Not funny” For a moment, Palmeida was transported back to the interrogation room, with its dazzling white walls, the misshapen clock, and the assassin’s screams…

“No.. the real war had happened many years ago” The Sovereign’s voice brought her back. “There were two of them actually – The Great War, which Armyan the III had fought… And the rebellion…”

“…In which you had fought” Palmeida completed the sentence. She shook her head. “Yes those were truly adverse times, no word can truly define the darkness of those years …”

The Sovereign nodded. “But it taught me a lot of things. It brought me the mental strength that I needed to become a ruler. It taught me to be immensely patient. And it showed me my true purpose in life. And…” he took her hand. “…it brought me everyone that is dear to me today. You, Jermiaani, Kerii… Each of you joined me at a different point in the rebellion. When I had started, I had started alone… The rebellion took a lot from me… But I am ‘The Sovereign’ today because of it, not just ‘Vyanaar Tark’ ”

Palmeida nodded comprehending.  “And what defines ‘The Sovereign’?” she asked smilingly.

“It’s just like the tune I was playing before…” The Sovereign started to play again. “…life begins with hopefulness, with earnest eyes, with empathy… And then ambition strikes, juvenile at first and bordered on the trivialities of life, but it teaches you things… Some of the intricacies of life… You begin to see the world beyond and you grow pessimistic, cynical even… This is where most of the lives stop… But this is not the end – no, this is only the chasm, the gulf – between how you begin life and how you choose to end it… And it here that you identify your true purpose in life, the drive, the ambition, not bordered on trivialities this time but fueled by the wisdom and sagacity to make the world a better place, and the abundant strength that you derive from this coupled with the intellect you have by now… This is enough to make your mark on the world, take you to dizzying heights – not for the power or vanity it may bring with it – but because from that pedestal you can truly make a difference.”

“This is what the rebellion taught you” Palmeida said “The many years in misery went on to create something beautiful for the world. It gave them a great ruler.”

Vyanaar nodded, without a hint of arrogance. Without being proud or insolent, just purely acknowledging the fact.

“And that is what defines the Sovereign…” he pondered, his fingers still on the keys, the music still afloat.

“You should chronicle it all sometime…” Palmeida said smilingly. “The many years of the rebellion, the darkness, the war, your origin, the decline of the empire, the rise of the Sovereign, the beginning of a new era…  It would serve as a beacon of strength to others. It would teach them a lot of things. Like it has taught you. Most of Carane believes you are some sort of God, born in greatness. But the truth is you have built yourself this way… over the many years… and you are still not there yet, if you ask me.”

Vyanaar laughed. “All right… And what would you have me call this story, this ‘chronicle’ that you speak of?” He stopped playing the music, looking expectantly at her.

“The Sovereign’s Ambition” she said.

Copyright 2016, Vaibhav Thombre