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A "Lands of the four Gods" story.

The palace was, as usual, in tender joy. At the garden, under a blue sky, threaded by five thin clouds, sited on the grass, by a fountain of musical water, the King was having a wholesome breakfast of fresh baked brown bread, milk, salad and honey. He, Traian, a man of 42 with a smile of twelve, of wirly hair, lean body and strong arms was dressed barefoot and dressed in pure white cotton. His wife, Naneen of 27, similarly dressed, and their boys Nanook of eight and Gabi of six who only wore a skirt of the same colour shared his earthen plates under the tender rays of the ever summer.

Naneen was a dis, her race being different from humans in their ability to breathe water but unable to live further of the sea than a few days of walk, regularly they had to spend some time in the ocean least they got the 'dry sickness' and, eventually, die. However, what first struck the uninformed observer was the stains of blue, green or red that covered their skin in an unique pattern. Naneen displayed one under her right eye that vaguely resembled a dancing woman, while Nanook had a red star on his left shoulder and what it could be a blue dolphin on his right arm. As for Gabi, he was a boy of blond hair and blue eyes, the marriage of dis and common human only gives life to pure breeds of both heritages, yet in bonds of love, as this was, there is little concern for biology.

There was little time, either, few were the days of peace, or better said, the days in which war arrived to an uneasy stalemate. While the empire held most of the continent of Lidasiya, the islands were secure and Muntenia rich in coal, iron, some gold and unending flocks of cadaruii - the trusted giant insects - was mostly in the hands of the Communard Kingdom's army. As for the strongholds in other coasts the fleet would keep them fed, or so it was hoped.

Daddy, how did the war 'started'? asked ,Nanook.

Oh, that was long ago, I was still a kid back then, yet I thought I was already a man. Well, well, it's quite a story...

Please, tell us! Interrupted Gabi.

I was born before the Communard Kingdom, in the very Empire we fight against and I was an orphan boy; only that I was a noble orphan boy. Dad, your grandfather, had died at battle in the sea, granny one hour after I was born. Hey, don't be sad for me. I lived in a manor house, not in the streets and had people who loved me, only that they were slaves, my slaves.

You had slaves, daddy?!

I was born with thirty of them, women, men and children I just did not know it was wrong until I was your age; that summer I was outside playing ball with the other children of the manor, dressed like them: barefoot and a sackcloth tabard fastened with a length of rope, nothing to worry about if we fell in the mud... and what does always happen when you play ball?... somebody kicks it too hard and it ends up over the trees, right? So I had to go for it, so I did, but when I was about to come back home a man, a merchant, came on his horse, caught me by my right ear and rose me up, then he slapped twice, making me a cut with his ring and dropped me like a stone. He left me crying and I will never forget his words:

That's your lesson for today, slave, don't you ever forget to kneel before a gentleman.

Daddy, oh...

Wait, I will also always remember what happened about one day later. He had asked Secondman my steward, also a slave but better dressed than most free people, for credit. Secondman agreed on a high interest as the merchant was having difficulties with his finances and the only thing that rested was that I would sign the contract. I will never forget his face when he saw me, clean, nice hairdressing, rich kid clothes and my little cut.

Did you sign?

No, he just left, got red as a tomato and left. All I would have asked him was a little "sorry", but he just left, poor guy, I later heard he ended up a slave himself when he could not pay up his debts.

So did you start the war then?

No, no, it was not me, nor then either. The war would start a couple of years later, yet without a battle, you'll see...

It was on the middle of summer, long past the last days of winter, oh and back in Timenia, where we lived, summer is almost as hot as here but winter is a real winter, you can't even dream of, we often had several feet of snow...

Snow?

Yes, snow, it's like a cold white mud that falls from heaven in tiny bits, but you'll never see it around here in the islands. So... where was I?

The middle of summer, in Timenia.

Oh yes, well one night, Fourthwoman, mom, she was my slave but she cared for me since my real dad parted to die at sea, came to my bed and told me

Traian, dear Lordship...

Dear Lordship?

Yes, odd, but she was a bit my mom and a bit my slave; I long miss those words

Traian, dear Lordship, there is a lady downstairs who wants to see you; I think you should.

Fine clothes again, mom? Please no, I begged.

No, but neither a tabard. Get those pants, a shirt and that coat, dont forget your shoes and please whatever you do, don't look down on her.

I won't, mom.

That's my boy and Lord.

I went to the office to receive my guest, as it is the custom in the Empire. She was a gaunt lady completely covered in the black robes of the widow which contrasted with the paleness of her hands and face, she was weak, but tried to hide it, unsuccessfully even to me, a boy of ten. After the proper civilities were exchanged, which in the Empire are always long and complex she made me an offer, to buy her son.

Did she?

She almost supplicated; in the Empire it is an insult to give charity and begging is punishable with one week of forced labour. She then asked her son to enter, the boy was dressed in rags, but clean ones, and sandals and kept his head low all the time.

Was he scared, dad?

Yes, he was but more sad than scared, poor children know they can end up as slaves in the Empire.

Did you buy him?

Yes, I did, mostly I did not know what else to do. I was sure mom and the other slaves would care for him and we were always short of hands so it was good news for everybody, we thought. Yet, do yo know what happened?

No, daddy, what?

The next morning I woke up early to show him everything but he had disappeared. We looked everywhere in case he was lost, but no, he had ran away.

And how did he break the chains, dad?

He did not have to, most slaves are not ever manacled but as a punishment, and their rooms are not secure, either. Chains and prisons are mostly for criminals, prisoners of war or when they are being led to be sold far away.

I was angry, I felt cheated, and spent the whole day so silent and rebellious that my mom became scared of me.

Scared?

Yes, remember she was not my real mom, even though I loved her, but a slave and I could have done anything bad I wanted, to her or to anybody in the manor. I did some bad stuff that evening, I'm afraid: I called names, ignored people, chucked food at the walls and generally behaved like a wee miscreant tyrant for the remaining of the day. That was not the worst, though, for I wanted bad things to happen to the kid and his mom.

That very day, when the sun was about to set under the horizon, a picket of the civic guard came to the manor: an mounted officer, five soldiers and, bound in chains by hands, ankles and necks, barefoot, almost naked, covered in bruises and blood stains and their hair burnt, the boy and his mom.

The officer, Mr Alexandru, who I always took by a good man, told me they were known felons: the mom would pretend to sell the boy for a cheap price, then the kid escaped and they lived for a few months with the money, but having to travel from town to town, to avoid discovery, money ran out fast. They lived on this manner for three years until, as it often happens, their fame ran faster than them. The officer delivered them to me so I could punish them, because as the local noble I was the only one who could.

But they had beaten them, dad!

Yes, but for slaves that is nothing, in the Empire to steal a slave is almost as bad as killing. Children, what they wanted me to do, what I was supposed to do was to execute them. So I looked at the officer in the eyes, thanked him for his work and said him goodbye, then I ordered the court's gates shut.

Then, I came to the couple and did not say a word, I did not understand them, but I knew they were in pain, tears and fear; as I walked to them they pressed to each other as chains prevented them to hug, looking to the sky, like praying. As I came by their side I hugged them and so we three stayed for I don't know how long till one by one every person at the manor joined us.

I took their chains with me as I ran to my rooms in tears while mom led them to bed and others went for bandages and medicaments. I locked myself in my room, chained me up and dropped on a corner, ashamed and sad as I were. It was a rough night, mom and three other slaves had to enter through the window to free me from myself. I could not ask for forgiveness, that's something a noble cannot do, and my mom was the one who taught me that, but I looked them, mom smiled, cleaned the tears of my face and we all understood, and that's how the rebellion started.


Dad, but no battle, war, nothing?

The following night, with the new moon, in the deepest of darkness, mom woke me up and led me, to the cellar, there, after the stove that four men had to move, masterfully hidden, there was a sliding door which led to a secret chamber.

There, after everyone had joined us at the chamber, mom took out a small red star of terracotta which, on its centre displayed a tiny rhomb of lazuli.

Mom started to chant to Adunai, simply known in the Empire as the weak god of the slaves, and then the priest, the oldest of my slaves joined her asking Adunai to come and bless us, and to give us strength to do what is right.

Then the blue flame surged from the centre of the Adunai star flooding the chamber with its light and our hearts with peace. I know, dear children, that you partake in this ceremony since you can remember but for me it was the first time and for the life of mine I will never forget it; it was like if Adunai himself were waiting for me, asking to lead my feet by the path of peace.

My boy and lord; have you ever seen a moth trying to enter in a fire?

Yes mom

We are also little moths dear boy, we try to be perfectly good but we cannot.because we are imperfect, weak as a little moth. Adunai offers you to be with him after you die and to perfect you from now on in the ways of goodness

But mom, Adunai cannot accept me, I always thought he was rubbish, I am not even a slave

Traian, you have been taught lies, I'm sorry, but Adunai accepts all. He will not make you stronger like the four gods but better.

Then I noticed it was not really my mom, but Adunai himself speaking through her and so I placed my hand in the fire and from that day on I have been bound to Him and He guards and keeps my heart.

Did they do what they do with babies, dad?

The Cleansing? Yes,


In the eve of day

naked and bound, clean I am

by the warm waters


Though it was not made in a beautiful temple, nor songs were sung, nor I disrobed the Cleansing garments but at the yard, wearing the coarse tabard of the slave children as an ordinary monthly bath, with everybody pretending not to be too involved just in case somebody could be watching for that a noble would convert to Adunai was indeed an act of rebellion.

But no battle?

What?! Like this one!

Traian launched himself on Nanook's belly and started playing to eat it, immediately Gabi joined and soon did Naneen, and then all was fun and laughter


------
Playing is the most important thing life...


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