By: Ardeo Cum'Puneo
A flustered, young boy comes running into the room. As he pants his way up to the Elothean somberly sitting in an ironwood rocking chair, he recites as if he had been practicing on the way, "We are better, sir. And I have found myself to be one of the best. I believe I have beaten everyone in my class with their weaker minds. I thought they'd be a challenge!"
"Slow down, child," the man said shifting his way to the edge of his seat, "Now, why do you speak like this? Have I taught you nothing? Please, elaborate before you proclaim more."
The boy tugged at his ear while he spoke, "Well, you see, you had once told me that we have the strongest minds. Earlier today, we had a test in a teaching session and I was the only one who scored perfectly! However, the teacher did not agree with my opinion that Gor'Togs have no place in government. But I stood by it, and she gave in to my judgment!" The small Elothean stood up straight with a look of pride on his face, but the man shook his head low.
"I want you to understand something. You do not gain respect, nor wisdom, by turning your ears from all others and unto yourself."
Seeing the little one scratch his head, he continued, "Ah, I see this will take some more teaching. Let me tell you a tale of someone who thought in the same manner as you are now... Her name was Desdemona---"
The small village of Treloka lived peacefully for many years, carrying on its matters like all other cultures would do. The late chief of the village had two sons, Gresdolum and Opiculum, two daughters, Desdemona and Monalarae, and a brother by the name of Pericul. After the chief died, the land wept and so did his children. But, as with all bad things, life had to move on and it did. The rightful heir of the throne was traditionally the first born son; however, Gresdolum and Opiculum were twins, neither truly knowing who came before the other in birth. The two young men fought with one another, causing Gresdolum to leave Treloka. Two years later, Gresdolum returned to the land with an army, from a rival village, which he had promised much wealth as payment at the end of the battle.
For three months, the brothers and their armies fought and killed mercilessly, till the twins came face to face in combat. Both swore vengeance and cursed one another without love or compassion, hatred swelling within their soul. Soon, the abhorrence manifested itself into each of their minds; their hands and hearts grew to a fiery crimson. Gresdolum leaped at Opiculum in a fury, his hands flailing; Opiculum did the same at Gresdolum and the two clashed. A brilliant light, brighter than the sun at it peak, radiated for a brief second and when all could see once again, on the ground lied two heaps of lifeless flesh, once two loving brothers.
The throne now had to be filled once more, and next in line was Pericul. He immediately snatched the chance for power and hung the medallion of chieftain status around his neck. No sooner had he done this, he made a decree to his people:
"We have come out of a time of great sadness and are now entering a time of peace and life. We are done fighting amongst ourselves over petty objections. From this day forward, Opiculum shall be known as a hero in Treloka. He shall be buried with full honors and his name will be written in stone carvings and in our books. As to Gresdolum, he will not be buried or shown the least respect, for he brought in our foreign rivals against us. He had turned on his own, and for that he shall be punished. No one will visit his grave to pay tribute; No one will cover his body with the least bit of cloth. His corpse shall not be buried, instead it shall be left as supper to the jackals and a home to the maggots. This, I have made into law, and anyone who breaks this law will be dealt with in death, and death alone."
As stated earlier, the people were quite loyal and would not disobey their chief. However, the sisters, Desdemona and Monalarae were still lamenting over the loss of their brothers. There they sat within their house, mourning the new loss. Desdemona inhaled a deep breath and approached Monalarae:
"Gresdolum is our brother. We cannot let him rot and be carried away by scavengers and wild dogs. No matter what he has done, we should forgive him, for he is of blood relation. Our uncle did not know him like we did, he does not grieve nor care for him like we do."
Monalarae heard this and whispered to her sister, "Are you crazy? It has been made law that no one will bury Gresdolum unless they welcome death along with him. Surely you are expecting to be caught... Pericul has already posted guards around his body, and they will spot you without a doubt! We cannot go breaking the law of the village, it will not be allowed... And what of your future husband, Monagit?"
"Have you no compassion? Have you no respect for the dead, and your brother? We must try to bury him, no matter what the cost." "No, I cannot go against the chief. It is not right, and there is nothing in Elanthia that can make me change my mind. Opiculum fairly obtained his leadership, and Gresdolum had no right to try to take it from him. I do still love him, but I will not disobey, and risk being killed."
"By the gods! You can stay here, and let your conscience be burdened with his unburied body, while I go and do what is right. You are a disgrace to the family, and I will not tolerate your lack of care to our late brother. Do not call me sister, and do not ask later for forgiveness. You have chosen your path, and I am traveling mine."
With this, Desdemona left through the back door, into the night's domain. Once the moon became hidden behind a cloud, and she noticed the guards had fallen asleep, Desdemona crept to Gresdolum's body and covered it in a light blanket of dirt. She sneaked back into town and slept with a clear mind right into the morning.
Later that day, a guard ran into the Pericul's mansion, his breathing heavy, and his head hanging low. Gradually, he spoke in a frightened manner,
"Sir, I bring bad news. Not because I wanted to, but because it is necessary that you know. The other guards and I rolled dice to see who would come and well, fate's cold hand touched my shoulder and here I am.... Anyway, the body of Gresdolum, the one you ordered to be watched, has been buried in the night. We do not know who did it, because we were-Asleep. Oh, chief, we are all deeply sorry for our laziness and we-"
Pericul's face reddened and his hands clenched like a falcon's grip. He had been disobeyed, and they would have to pay the price. As his face returned to its normal pallor, he said calmly and sinisterly, "You will find the man that did this. You will find the man that dares to go against my law and if you return empty handed, his punishment will be yours..."
The guard dared not to stay to see the chief turn his words into action and quickly fled the room. Later that night, a windstorm blew across the land and uncovered the body of Gresdolum. Desdemona knew that the body was no longer buried and so she set out to cover it once again. This time, she was not as lucky.
"Sir! Wake up! We have captured the person who buried Gresdolum... And she does not refute the charges against her," the first guard exclaimed with a glad face. At least he had escaped death.
"Well, bring him," he said sternly, "She? Desdemona? What are you doing... Certainly you are not the person who defiled the law of the people?"
Desdemona began to speak with a straight glare at Pericul, which in itself could cut him in half, "Aye, I did bury my brother. Not to go against your wishes, but to follow the laws of the gods in a proper burial. He was your nephew and you did nothing; he is my brother, and I have made him worthy to pass on."
"Do you know the penalty for breaking *this* law? Do you know that I cannot pardon your crime? Who is to say what the laws of the gods are, and who is to say that I am wrong?
"And I do not want this to be a burden on Treloka. If it is the gods who you believe to be following, then we shall let them save you and our hands will be clean. Guards! Take this traitor to the nearest cave, give her one days food, and then close it off. If the gods save her, then that will be that. If not, it is not our fault that she is dead, but her own."
A group of five Elotheans came in and drug Desdemona out into the streets and disappeared from view. Several minutes later, Pericul's son, Monagit, rushed into the area, his eyes wide and dreary. "Father," he said in the way a good son would, "Father, do not send my bride to death because of your pride. There is nothing to gain from it. I have always followed your every move, but the people, your people, do not like what you are doing. They will not admit it out loud, or to one another, but they have their doubts Not even Drellae, Mother, will speak her mind. Father, please, do not sentence Desdemona to death."
"What is this! Have fae invaded your soul, boy? You do not agree with me? You dare to suggest otherwise? Look at this, my own flesh and blood has turned against me! Your opinions no longer matter to me, for your judgment is clouded, and your spirit tainted. Leave to your room, you have no right to be down here now," Pericul stated clearly through his very apparent disappointment.
"Father, I am warning you, with her death will come another!" "Go ahead, boy, do your worst... But my laws will be followed to the letter, come man or woman."
With that, Monagit speed up the flight of the stairs to his quarters, and Pericul's advisor, the one partly responsible for his rising to power, came in lead by his arm. His cane tapped against the sides of chairs as he got his bearings, leading him directly to Pericul's face. The advisor leaned on his wooden cane and calmly spoke in a deteriorating voice:
"A boy is nothing to scoff at. You let his age get in the way of your judgment of his wisdom. You may one day regret what you have said, and by then it will be too late. The moons have not showed kind visions as of late. No. They have depicted the loss of life and the loss of innocence. The visions show three shall fall before the days end, and one shall stand alone. Please, Pericul, bring back the girl before it is too late. There is no good done in punishing the dead. There is no lesson to learn but your own."
Pericul became even more sincere, "You now call my judgment and laws wrong? Oh, I see, you have gotten used to selling your wisdom and now you're selling to the highest bidder. And to think I once trusted you... The gods will do their bidding, and so will fate.
You, oh "advisor", will find yourself regretting what *you* have said, not I. My will is law here, and that is the way it shall be. If others do not agree, then that is their prerogative, but I will not bring the lady who defied me back from her coming grave, and I will not send the dead man to his. He shall be carried away piece by piece to the starry road till nothing is left of him."
"Your pride is making you more blind than myself, Pericul. You are only listening to yourself and not taking heed your own friend's and family's advice. Do not let the fact that you will show weakness sway your thoughts, for it is more important that you show compassion and understanding. Let Desdemona live and you will lose face; Let her die and you shall lose more than that. And now, I shall leave you to your bidding."
The chief began to turn things over in his head, he sat for one hour contemplating what he had done. How could so many not agree and yet he would still be right? What if what the old man said was true? In an instant he changed his mind, his fear of the gods grew within him as he gave his orders:
"Guards, quickly, come with me, we shall go to the grave and bury Gresdolum and then free Desdemona."
Pericul and his guards rapidly advanced to the gravesite and dug a hole for the body to be buried within. After much work, the soul of Gresdolum was properly given passage and the men continued to the cave. As they grew near, they heard the wailing of Monagit emitting from inside the cave. Pericul and the others practically jumped into the cave and there before them was something unexpected. Monagit held Desdemona's body in his hands, her neck surrounded by part of her dress which had been torn off. He turned to his father, his eyes full of hatred, and leapt with a knife in hand. Badly, he missed, and when he gave up hope, he plunged the knife into his side, falling limp upon Desdemona. One of the guards ran back to the chief's house to tell the others what had happened. As he did, he noticed Drellae glance at him.
He reluctantly spoke to her, "Milady, I'm afraid I am the bearer of bad news to this house once again. I am not sure if you are prepared to hear of it, however."
She replied, with a serene tone, "Do not hesitate, grief and I are no strangers. Speak your news."
"Milady, Desdemona has killed herself and your son discovered this before we did. I'm afraid he has-He has taken his life as well."
Drellae did not speak a word, instead, she withdrew to her bedroom and closed the door behind her. Moments of silence passed as they believed her to be locking herself in her room until her mind was somewhat clear, however, a loud thump of flesh against wooden floor echoed through the halls, along with the shattering of a small vial. There, in her confines, lied Drellae, fresh poison still upon her lips.
At the very same time, Pericul returned. The guard once again wore a heavy expression and spoke,
"Sir, your wife, she has taken her life as well... She could not take the grief of losing her son. And in a letter she had written in the time of her reckoning, she seems to blame you."
All of the people in the atrium left through the massive double doors, leaving Pericul behind with his former advisor. He spoke solemnly to the old man, and even to himself,
"I alone am guilty. I know it, and I admit it. Lead me away, I have been rash and foolish. I have killed my son and wife. I look for comfort and my comfort lies dead. Whatever I have touched, has now come to annihilation. Fate has brought my pride to a thought of dust."
His guilt being spoken by his own mind, he walked off into his room, to live with his sorrow till his own death in the far away future. The old man, thinking aloud, spoke like he was an oracle himself,
"There is no happiness where there is no wisdom. Big words are always punished--"
"And proud men in old age learn to be wise," the Elothean said as he slid back into his chair. Letting out a sigh of sadness and relief, he patted the boy on his back, seeing the lamenting for his actions in his eyes. And with that, his lesson for the night came to a closing, and all was silent.
Fired within my mind and forged with my own hand-
Ardeo, Weyr of Elanthia