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The door to Agassia

1 Prologue: Another dimension

You're walking down the street, well, let's say an avenue. You walk upon many people, all of
them different, but everyone is the same inside, or at least you imagine that. Not everyone's
blood has to be red, or is it so? Can you tell, can you know that all those faces are human? No,
for actually we don't know if there is someone else between us, some being with human
appearance but with unusual ways, that you may consider atrocious, that comes from
somewhere apart, or maybe from the deep of the earth. Can you remember when you came out
from your mother's womb? Who says but you're really an alien, or an insider, a strange between
us? It could be also possible that all of us are strangers here. Think about it. Then you will be
able to believe this story.

Another dimension. Here the sky is also blue. This is a beautiful planet: a wide patch of earth
surrounded by deep, blue, and green oceans. The water is translucent and the sky, limpid. There
is vegetal and animal life, also intelligent beings with an almost human appearance. It seems
another Earth, except for an essential difference: anywhere you look to, you won't see a polluted
river by industrial wastage, or a devastate forest, a web of telephone wires neither, or a plane
crossing the wide sky, nothing of the kind.
It's in an isolated country, covered by steep mountain ranges brusquely trimmed by the wind
and the rains, at whose feet a light green colored prairie spreads, contrasting with the brown
heights, where there is a strange stone construction built where it dominates a wide zone.
Located on a high tableland, in the verge of the precipice, built with huge blocks of rock, it is
already covered by foliage and oxides, and it possesses a solemn, lordly aspect of absolute
silence.
An orange sun threw its burning rays on the path that led through the mountain to the door.
Alone, some person all covered by a dark tunic and hood, came up the way with tired steps, like
someone who has walked many kilometers upwards. Across the complete wide scenery, there
was not a tree to be seen, nothing where to take protection form the burning sun. When the
hooded stranger reached the door, he knocked thrice with all the strength that was left in him.
After a few seconds, the door creaked and moved on its hinges.
As soon as the massive metal structure began to open, this being went inside with the slow
walking of someone gaining entrance in paradise. He contemplated it, and at first sight it was
really the Eden. The cool reigning in the inside came from several fountains, where the water
flooded in plenty, and then it ran along channels excavated in the tiled floor. Steps echoed across
that big patio dressed in glazed tiles, and they resounded until being lost in the empty space
above. The high walls of the building stopped the sun. In the midst of that peaceful shade, there
were only two or three more figures in sight. Two of them were sitting in a big metal bench, near
a murmuring spring.
The hooded figure went to them, uncovering as he advanced. The others lifted the sight at
the same time and smile as they saw him. The three had the appearance of venerable elders, as
if they had passed life meditating in a bibliotheca: small black eyes with eternal peace gaze, no
hair, they were slim and rather short. The sit two wore white tunics and rush weaved clogs.
"Good nouvelles, bruder d'alma" the newcomer said.
The others answered in the same mixture of Earth languages, mostly Romanic languages
and English, with Japanese and Arabian words, and grammatical mistakes that made it sound
like Latin.
"What do the valley people say?" readily asked the one sitting to the left.
"They say the harvest will be good and their animals fertile, and they will be able to exchange
the surplus. In turn they want out knowledge."
"Then, there will be no famine this year."
"If their harvest is good... they'll be happy and they won't ask anything too much..."
"However," the third talked, "they can not know if time will be propitious, or the great tyrant
will come and defeat them."
"The monster of war is far away," the first replied. "Great Gribash is busy with his most
terrible enemy."
"The King of the Sardos!" the second exclaimed, raising a hand to his breast.
"But, Sacary" the one in the right said to the one with dark dress, "fast enough the Great
Gribash can arrive; his armies are numerous and they can go forward at the same time they
fight."
"Let's hope future will shine on us," the other two prayed.
Inside the exterior wall there elevated other buildings, dwellings, and shops. That enclosure
was a temple, and its inhabitants, the Tukés, had lived there hundreds of years. All seemed
impregnated by the peace and quiet. If you raised you eyes you could see the blue sky, and it
also seemed calm and eternal.

Many kilometers further this land of peace, all the way through the meadows, and farther on,
along a dry flatland, there is another scene.
There is no silence; the deafening noise fills the air, as images wildly dance along with
thousands of bodies as they fight one another. The weapons, all kind of knives, swords, squared
and round maces, metal lances and cutting sticks, clashing to an uproar. The battle is desperate.
They fight with shouts, stones, punches and spits. Thousands of beings almost naked, with
armors and rest of them, throwing onto others with insane frenzy, biting and scratching,
screaming as they attach as well as when they're injured, all under the hand of two titans.
One of them is the Great Gribash.
He was indeed a tall warrior, nearly two meters high and well built, with slit eyes of an intense
green color and burning gaze. One look of him could tell more than thousand words; if he looked
someone with rage, this one could well consider as dead. Nobody knew his age but he always
seemed to have the same vigor and force. He always wore the same in the fight: a golden-red
metallic cuirass that left his torso and arms naked, wide pantaloons and leather boots covered in
metal. His long raven hair fell partly on his brow, and on his shoulders. And of course, a long
curved sword decorated with arabesques and winding forms, besides a sharp, deadly lance.
He rode a kind of equine. This was a solid animal with hairy, stout legs, whose muscles
tensed and showed even under the brown fur.
At the scream of "Gribash, the one!" his warriors rushed against the opportune adversary. For
their emperor, they would give their lives, and for his grace, also.
The other one, the king of Sardos, was also a great warrior and strategy, and a powerful
chief: his troops were efficient, with more weapons and more discipline. His bearing was
magnificent, as e shouted orders while remained erect on his battle chariot and waved his sword,
but he lack the charisma of Gribash. Though both of them were cruel, there was a charm in the
latter that made his atrociousness became admirable. It was personality.
Gribash's empire was formed by different nations, most of them conquered by strength, and
he came razing with everything and everyone, dominating and subduing everyone in a campaign
as successful as bloody. All lands were devastated by his advance. Where there was cultivated
land, they destroyed it or smashed it; cities were burnt down, the spirit pauperized and the
courage corrupted. His empire extended along a wide stride of land of varied setting and
climates, and if there wasn't the sea on one side and the Sardo kingdom on the other, he would
have already all the continent in his power.
A trail of blood branded by fire was the trace of every confrontation between these powerful
empires. It was days since the two were fighting and future was uncertain. Gribash had decided
to send a portion of his army to the meadows spreading in direction to the mountains, to prevent
the Sardos surrounded them and to supply with food.

2 A voyage

The Earth. Yes, right here. This blue planet.


In a capital city in the south of the American continent. Come in, into its arteries, the smoky
streets that scour its dismembered body. In a bus from any of the lines that get to the old city, the
last remnant of the original town. It's early in the morning.
An elegant Anglo-Saxon gentleman sits in the first row. He wears a grey suit, formal and
boring, perfectly polish loafers, and socks with squares, brown to match the shoes. Every few
minutes he eyes the watch and his look fixed once again on the plastic wall a few centimeters
from him. His distant face seems to have frozen in an obliging, courteous grimace, but at the
same time of annoyance and bad humor. His eyes, of a grey steel color, while his thin lips are
holding a slight cigarette, which he hasn't lighted yet. By his side lies a wallet.
There are besides other four people. One of them is a stout man dressed in a wrinkled suit,
which seems to fit him tightly. His face, framed by the short, untidy chestnut hair, still carries the
traces of sleep and bad mood is growing on his face. He crosses the left leg on his right, making
his hunched trouser discover some black socks, that doesn't match his moccasins. He's hugging
a beige leather folder, from which some papers stick out.
In the same row, on the other side of the corridor, there is a young man. He's wearing big
rounded glasses that, next to the disarranged hair falling on his brow, make his features
unrecognizable. He lounges in his sit, holding his knees against the front sit back. His height can
be noticed, but the loose sport trousers, shirt and blazer don't let discern his physique. Then, he
looks behind and sees the other two passengers; two women sit one in front of the other, against
the windows. Rapidly, he turns his eyes off them and concentrates in the drawing folder next to
him.
At the bottom, the women are sitting confronting, but they don't look one another. No
passenger seems to speak the same language.
The youngest woman wears a simple country-style dress, in a flowered-pattern material, and
she carries a bag on her lap. One hand rests on the bag, and the other, uneasy, goes once and
again from her light brown hair to the next sit, to the handrail and finds no place. The woman has
beautiful hair, long, soft, shining, wavy, falling in gracious locks down her back.
A black fake-leather skirt and a blouse with deep décolleté and flounces in the arms, are the
clothes of the other woman. She seems to be thirty. Her body is well conserved, but her face
presents some wrinkles from worry and experience, under the tired eyes and the painted red
mouth. An oxygenated blonde, she smells of cheap perfume and sweat, of cigarette and mint,
from the night, a pub, the tiring and drowsiness.
Time vanished from the vehicle. It travels at all speed through the empty, still darkened
streets; light appears in the crosses where the sun is appearing. Then it blinds the unaccustomed
eyes. The passengers are impatient, at least the majority. The blonde-haired woman seems to be
slumbering; the young man seems to enjoy the ride. Murmurs, buffs, the engine rattle, the
gearshifts. The gust of air as it collides with the machinery and leaks by its windows. It's strange,
the passengers don’t change, and nobody stops it, though it seems to have passed hours.
Actually, only fifteen minutes.
It lasts little for the stop where the young man will descend. You can tell because he
straightens up and notices where he is.
Suddenly some kind of turbulence shakes the bus. Impossible, how strange, everybody
thinks. It was possible something in the street or a breakdown in the vehicle.
The young man stands up and goes to the door. The driver barely watches him by the corner
of his eye, and gets ready to slow down at the next stop. The vehicle arrives, it comes closer to
the sidewalk and the door opens. Then, a blinding light...
Something incredible has happened. A glimmer, something wrapping them, like fire that
doesn't burn. A bomb or an explosion, or maybe the effect of a sonic wave, makes them wholly
stunned for an instant. The five people suddenly react, as if they had come back to life after
skipping a second. Pulled from their routine by a flash of light and thrown in a cold, hard floor.
The first to get up, shaking his head and half closing his eyes, was the executive. Swearing,
insulting the rest of the world, he looked around, astonished. He sees the old stonewalls and the
lustrous light-blue floor, the soft pristine light, and he cannot figure it out, and stays amazed.
The others were trying to steady themselves.
"Where are we?" the blonde yells.
The stout man is trembling from head to feet.
"Holy God! What was that?" the younger ones exclaim at the unison. They looked each other,
amused, and in other time and place they would have smiled.
"It's obvious we are not in the bus anymore," the executive said then.
"We're in heaven!" the fatter man exclaims, falling on his knees, with fear and some relief.
"If this is heaven I wouldn't be here" the bleached woman accounted for, with a bit of irony;
"it's hell."
"We are alive!" the young woman exclaims, trying to subdue her. "But, where?"
"Either we have been hit by an explosion and then carried to somewhere else..." the
executive wondered.
"... or we were transported by that light," the young man finished.
"Impossible!" the other one replied with energy, "An abduction? How do you explain it, sir?"
"I don't know, but..."
"What about that?" the young woman interrupts, indicating something in front of them.
Everyone looks where she's signaling.
It was the only object in the room: an arc made of transparent stone and metal, above which
there pointed out a shaped gem of thousand faces supported by delicate filigrees.
Questions rushed in their minds.
They formed a circle. They looked at each other. Someone dared to utter words, that
tremulous came out and were lost without weight on them, or they moved the head from side to
side, dismayed. Then they heard a stifled murmur coming from the walls, like stone sliding over
stone. It was that: in a place where the stone seemed to be solid, appears an opening, a door.
Someone put in its white hand, fortunately with five fingers, to finish moving the door.
Before everybody’s amazement an old man entered, followed by other two individuals. And to
their surprise, these three strangers made them an exaggerated bow, one that even the king of
France could have enjoyed himself.
Disconcerted and intrigued, they just get to stay frozen in their place, open their mouths –and
if they would’ve had two mouths, they could’ve opened both.
Only after a long while, the executive, a very rational man, found his voice to say:
“We greet you, gentlemen, and we’d like to know how we came here,” his tone was hard.
The eldest smiled and, with a gentle gesture, urged them to follow. At first they hesitated,
then accepting what would come, they went out of the door after the tree men with tunic.
On the other side of the door there was an incredibly pretty hall, simple but beautiful.
Everyone contemplated, with surprise, the high walls decorated with light-blue, pale green and
beige painting, shining like enamel. It formed rhombus, squares and triangles that covered in
wide bands all the walls. The ceiling, what a wonder! It was colorless like crystal, and let see the
unclouded, blue sky.
The only furniture was a long table in the center of the room and in the farthest wall, a
cupboard, which also matched the painting.
The eldest man, arranging his white clothes, spoke then for the first time:
“Welcome, you are received with great affection by our people and all countries in this world.”
Stuttering, the young man asked, after waiting a few seconds for the sequel:
“Welcome… where?”
“To our humble dimension.”
“Where? What?” the executive almost screamed.
“He’s insane,” the other male passenger said.
“No, my lords. You, lords of mine, are not longer in your dimension.”
“Then…” the young woman asked, with distrust, “How can you be talking our language?”
“I speak yours and other human languages.”
“Are you going to hurt us?” the blonde woman asked with tremulous voice. “What are you
going to do to us?”
“Exactly, what are your intentions?” the executive exclaimed. “To bring us… here? Know I’m
a very important person in the economy of the country, of the continent, and well known, and this
abduction, for that’s what it is certainly… it won’t remain unpunished!”
The old man denied with his head slowly.
“It is not a capture, that’s not our intention. We do not bear malice.”
“Aren’t you going to ask for anything?” the other man inquired.
“Only your help, milord.”
“Ha! For what?”
The younger woman, walking around, thoughtful, then asked: “Who are you?”
“In our world,” the old man answered, looking with approval, “we are called monks. Here we
are the Tukés, and we are just a poor community without any power.”
“It doesn’t seem so.”
“…we want to ask your help and guide. You are the only ones who can help this world. We
ask you in the name of the poor population that lives here. We have no progress or civilization.”
“Why are we here? Why us?” the stout man asked.
“We did not choose, it was Fortune. Tukés keep the secret of the Agassia, the door to
another dimension. We studied humankind, during centuries, for generations and generations,
and we know all the values of your civilization, your machinery, your wonders. Here we lack that,
and if you do not teach us, we’ll end ourselves in the middle of war and famine. Out there, there
are lots of people of good will in dire need of your help.”
“It’s evident you’re wise,” the younger man said, gently, “but I’m not the person you are
looking for.” “I am not prepared to contact other civilizations, and still less extraterrestrial life. I’m
neither a genius nor a wise man to help you to build machines, I don’t know a thing of
technology.”
“We neither!” the rest began to exclaim.
“I have my own family that I can’t leave” the fatter man explained. “My daughter is just as little
as…”
“And I have business.”
“Yes, that.”
“But,” the old man smiled with sympathy, and then continued slowly to tell, “we only ask a
little of your time.” “Then you may go, we ourselves will open the door for you.”
“But…” Everyone had good reasons but could not say any.
“I understand you’re tired and harassed by the journey. My brothers,” the monk indicated the
two immobile figures standing at their back, “they will show you the rooms where you will be well
treated.”
Resigned, very scared, they followed the men. When the young woman, the last to go out,
passed by the elder monk, she asked:
“How can we help you? It’s impossible… I’d like to help, but…”
“Lady, here everyone will adore you, you will be Great Teachers.”
“But we’re not, we can’t teach you.”
“You will be as gods to them.”
“And the lesser we’re gods.”
“You will be. I see you’re pretty brave and sensible.”
“I don’t know if it’s worth something…”

3 The Tuké monastery

The five were acquiescent, every one at their ways. The haughty attitude in the executive, his
gaze full of conceit and secret pride for being a chosen being for such purposes, contrasted with
the fearful look like a lost animal that could be seen in the blonde woman. She walked
tremblingly, like a pauper in a palace.
The short fat man did no more than mutter why they didn’t let them alone, and why he had to
be in such situation, and what had he done… The young man was crestfallen, and walked like
thinking about a difficult problem. His soft citizen skin was very pallid. Behind him, the girl
thought, but loosing no detail of the corridor they walked through.
They were taken along a luminous corridor until they came to a gallery with many windows
and many pots, where there were a dozen doors.
“Every door leads to a bedroom,” one said as if reading their thoughts, “It’s like yours,
signores.”
And directly, he indicated the blonde woman to follow and led her to the first door.
“Come in, miss, antre.”
White, she did as was bid.
“If you need something, use the iron caller on your right hand,” he showed it. “In the room
there is anything you may need.”
“A phone?” she stammered, trying to smile.
The other one looked troubled. Then he left the door letting her in, and went to accommodate
the others.
The last one was the young man. This asked to him, as they entered.
“I’ve noticed there are three colors in this place. Do you know why? Besides, there’re a lot of
windows.”
“I don’t know, signiore. It was always the same,” he answered with certain clumsiness.
“Maybe the climate, but I don’t know well, signiore.”
“The climate?”
“Yes, we are in the midst of mountains, in the desert.”
Then he left, excusing himself. The young man went inside and closed the door.

Let’s enter the younger man’s room.


Look, trying to imagine what he’s thinking as he goes into a strange room in an unknown
place as he wonders he’s in another world.
“Another planet!” he reflects with wonder, “this is a dream or a nightmare; I can’t believe it!”
However, there he is. He goes to the bed and touches it; the mattress seems to be made of wool,
the blankets are soft as silk and yielding as fleece; he feels then the heat coming through the
window, which doesn’t open, it’s fixed… and lastly, he looks out.
He sees a patio all in marble, blue bricks and gray glazed tiles. There are several fountains
with geometrical embossed designs, surrounded by big pots with huge green and red plants.
Around the patio there are other constructions, and amongst them, corridors that may lead to
other corridors with fountains, plants and shade.
“They have achieved an oasis feeling here,” the young man mutters, nodding to his own
words. “It’s like nothing I know of the Earth.”
Then he turns around and walks a few steps. Then he roams the room again, the walls
specially. They’re solid: he goes to the next and leans his hands with firmness, but they don’t
move, don’t shake, there are no hidden doors. There are no more openings than the window,
fixed to the wall, and the door, and the knob, which is connected to a wire that runs through the
wall somewhere else.
Besides the bed, there is a cupboard, empty and the table. It overflows space, he thinks, this
is dreary.
“When they said all we may need, what they were thinking?”
He gets off his glasses and leaves them on the table, then he sits on the bed and, shaking a
lock off his brow, he wonders what are the others doing right now, and what would happen in the
Earth… What would say his schoolmates when he didn’t get to Connie’s? They were preparing a
very important work for the college, but now, what does it matter? It’s overmastering the fear of
the unknown, the danger and this insane trouble he's got into: how is he going to be a guide to
the people when he can’t even guide a car out of the garage without smashing the rear mirror
against the walls?
Suddenly, he realizes he is thirsty. And maybe hungry, and what matters most, curious. And
he wants to see his partners in misfortune.
He pulls the knob and in a minute an individual in green appears –he’s wearing a long tunic
with another hood- and obligingly smiling.
“Have you any water?”
“Water? Yes, yes, of course, segnore” this guy asserts.
“Segnore? Señor, you mean…”
“Oh, yes, yes, sure! I am sorry, always confusing Latin languages.”
“Can you bring me water?”
“Sure, in a… second.”
“All of you speak many languages?”
The man in green smiles, showing something of pride.”
“No, only a few of us.”
“Why, what for?”
“To serve as interpreter between the human Teachers and the people… Ah! I almost forget!
You ought to go to the big room.”
“Well, take me there immediately,” the young man suggested, picking up his glasses.

They are already in the first hall, under the transparent roof. The five forced adventurers,
discoverers and Earth representatives; and on the other side the man in white is launching into
explaining details about the history and other smallness. There is also the man in green and two
more that seem to be an escort.
“The Tukés,” the venerable old man starts, “have existed for centuries.” “We are few and we
only talk to the out world two or tree times a year, that is why our secret is well guarded. The
existence of Agassia is our secret. For centuries, we have been waiting for the moment to make
some guests from Earth come here. Every year we send two Tukés for eleven days to learn from
you. We learn idioms and usages, but above all, we wonder at your civilization.”
“But,” the young woman interposes, “we’ve been barbaric and ignorant too.”
“And you got over it. We just want to be taught to do it.”
Seeing the human unsure, the man in green intrudes with big gestures and speaks moving is
arms, excited.
“Per favore, señores! This is all very… very…” he didn’t find the word, “strange, painful, to us,
but certainly for you too.” “I was the one to bring you here… the rest couldn’t decide.” As he says
this, he’s looking at the others Tukés. “They were unsure about being the moment to make fulfill
the prophecy.”
“Then we are here for rush,” the executive exclaims, angry.
“What Sacary means is it was Fate, but in the end, he was right to decide to do what others
would not have done, and though he disobeyed, he made some goodness. Now you have only to
help us.”
“There’s an invasion there, out of the walls,” the innocent Sacary adds.
“What!” the fat man shouts. “I’ll get out of here.”
Everybody watches him, and ashamed, blushing, he stands back a few paces.
“There’s no place to go,” the executive replies.
“Yes, home!” the blond woman exclaims, convinced.
“They won’t let us go until we do something, they’re no fools.”
“That is true,” the old man affirms with a keen bright in his eyes, adding, “now I leave you
alone to decide.”
Already alone, they look each other uncertain and anxiously.
“I feel Columbus,” the girl says.
“While we don’t end like Magallanes,” the executive replies.
A sudden silence falls on them. They secretly watch one another. The empty room produces
a feeling of isolation, helplessness.
“Let’s introduce” the woman suggests.
Everybody assents but no one begins, until the executive starts by saying:
“Well, I am Carlos Robinson, I’m forty-five, I was born in… well, you understand, I come from
an English family. I am a lawyer and work for an important firm in the market. I’m single. Well,
your turn.” He concludes, turning to the blonde.
“I… eh, my name’s Sheila, and won’t tell my age. I work the night in a pub… I live with a girl
friend in a department we rent a month ago…” her eyes fill with tears. “I never had money
enough, I didn’t finish high school. You may see, I don’t have anything for this people” The other
man is looking her legs with significant gesture that she doesn’t seem to notice. “That’s all.”
“Now you, miss;” Carlos says.
“Well,” the other woman begins, rubbing her hands, “my name is Fabiana Peralta and am
twenty-tree. I come from the country, but it’s years since I’m studying music and working at the
capital.” “I just know of art, not science and communication. I was going from the pension where I
live to job, when this happened.”
She’s finished. All appears simple in those minutes.
“I am Guzman Gianetti,” the young in glasses speaks. “I’m finishing my career of architect.
I’m twenty-seven and I’m single. I was going to end a group work when this began.”
Everybody paid attention to his succinct explanation, as captivated by his sweet, hollow,
voice, like the sound of a clarinet, coming from that still childish face half hidden by his hair and
glasses.
“And me,” the stout man exclaims with enthusiasm. “I am Enrique Blanco and work in a
government office. I really never knew what I was doing there, damned bureaucracy. I have wife,
Marianela, and two kids, a boy of sixteen called Martin and a little one of tree, Erika. I have to
support my home…”
In that moment the old man in white enters again and everybody turn their eyes to him.
“Ladies and gentlemen, tomorrow early you’ll know our world. But now I will enjoy dinner in
company of such venerable men, if you allow me. By the way, my name is Starinshe.”

4 Close encounter

The sun burns in the sky; it is an orange disk surrounded by fire that blasts the earth, the
wind, the vegetation, and the men. These go in a long column, in a pilgrimage down the mountain
to the extended prairies. There are no clouds in the sky and the deep blue is also on fire. They
are wearing long tunics, black and brown the majority, some in green or blue and a few in white.
In the centre, shining under the sun like mirrors, there go six in white. Besides their color,
there are five detached by their height, like adults in a sea of children.
Sheila watches Fabiana, who’s walking by her side, and their juvenile faces smile as if
suddenly realizing the ridicule they make at a close hand.
“Where are we going?” someone in the rear asks.
The old man, who travels in front, leaning on his wooden staff, answers:
“You will see as we arrive. You will like the valley.”
They keep on. One of the escorts in front of them staggers and falls, but everyone continue
walking. Fabiana and Guzman, as they get to him, help him to stand up.
“What fellowship!” the woman exclaims, emphasizing every syllabi.
Sheila and Guzman smile inside their hoods. Who have stumbled, a slim, timid young man,
watches them with admiration and respect.
After marching for kilometers and after many questions like where we are going, they get to a
warmer meadow, without the rigor of heat. The men in front lower their hoods, and the five
human imitate them. Now they step on strange field, it isn’t anymore the eternal red and sticky
dust of the mountain, but a thicker soil, a mustard or sepia color, wetter and heavier, that let grow
the green grass.
They go across that flat land extending from west to east and east to west, beyond the
horizon. In certain point:
“What do you call this?” Carlos Robinson asks.
The old man doesn’t understand the question.
“Yes, what do you call your world?”
Sacary, who is now by them, answers: “Duma, which means the universe.”
The columns come to a halt when they are by ten meters near a group of trees.
“What happens?”
The old man makes a sign with his hand, calm, wait. But they are uneasy.
From the start of the column comes another old man that speaks with Starinshe in his
language. A shadow crosses the wide brow of Robinson.
“Now you will meet the chief of this tribe,” Starinshe announces indicating beyond their
retinue. “They are farmers.”
They look in that direction.
A close group of something near a hundred and fifty men and women, covered in rags,
untidy, dirty, watch them fierily. At their head, the chief, has no better aspect. This group exhales
a pestilent fragrance, an acid, rot, musty odor, contrasting with the sweet herbal fragrance
coming from the Tukés tunics. The faces, blacken or covered by dust, burnt and dried by the sun,
possess two brilliant spots, small and dark, that are supposed to be their eyes, but they’re sunken
under entangled eyebrows, and only their penetrating fire is seen.
The women are distinguished for having less brow and wear, hanging from their legs or
shoulders, tightening to their necks, an amount of offspring.
The chief comes forward making sound a wooden cylinder three times, and gesticulating
domineeringly. With a rough dignity, he shouts to the old Starinshe. Then the latter answers.
They continue in it for a long while. The tribe people get sentences from their chief, to what they
answer with laughter and screams.
“But, what happens?” Carlos gets uneasy, leaving his dignified bearing.
Sacary tells to him to be calm, please, that in a moment they’ll know. Finally Starinshe turns
to them and, with a compliant face, says:
“They do not believe us; they are too materialistic to believe in an ancient legend coming into
reality. They only worship the rain and the sun that make grow their crops, please, forgive them.”
The silence is over the five humans.
“They have the right not to believe in legends when they have more urgent worries,” Enrique
suggests.
“Like having a bath,” Sheila indicates.
Guzman and Fabiana laugh, nervous. Enrique looks at Starinshe, who remains serious, just
like Carlos, and he smiles.
“Sirs,” Starinshe says with a sigh, “I think you should show them the truth, and they will
believe in you. Only that way you’ll gain respect and attention.”
“How?” Enrique exclaims.
“Do you want us to talk to them?” Fabiana sighs.
“Good idea,” Sacary approves.
Therefore, the five walk proceeded by Starinshe, to the stinking group, with their nerves
strained. The left retinue stays some meters behind, which seem kilometers for their safety.
When they’re in front of the leader, who is surrounded by the highest and largest men of the
tribe, they watch each other, astonished – or rather afraid. As they see the frown in the face of
Carlos and the fat features of Enrique, all those barbarians remain astounded, taking their hands
to the mouth and letting out prolonged “oohs”; but their surprise comes near to the unimaginable
in front of Sheila and Fabiana’s pallor, their loose, bright hair, and the youthful Guzman.
Some of them have gone backwards, scared, and they’d have run away, but for the others
that catch them here. Even the chief debased himself to drop the mask of self-control and let
escape sentences of praise.
“Imagine if I sing,” Enrique whispers.
“Can’t you shut up?” the angry Sheila complains. “Don’t you see they admire me?”
“Ha, ha.”
At a sign from their leader, hundreds of hands rush on them, paralyzing them with horror at
being attacked so suddenly. They lift and take them, between shouts and cheers. The Tukés try
to follow, running like ants after their anthill has been kicked; but everything happens so fast, and
the tribe takes its objects of admiration, their rescue boards, away. And farther back, the Tukés
come running like madmen with their short legs, flapping their long tunics.

Uncountable hands carried them, like over sea waves; coming forward until they got into a
group of trees –or what seemed to be- and then they were put down on the floor to be regaled.
First, the chief and some men sat in front of them and tried to speak, with infinite respect,
while others brought mud pots with water, flowers and vegetables and food. Some of them even
dared to touch Fabiana’s hair with their fingertips, or Carlos suit’s fabric, any part of those gods.
Seeing their trials to communicate a total failure, the chief suddenly stopped. The silence got
disturbing. The humans didn’t know if they should answer, move, eat or drink, how to behave in
that strange tribe.
Then some children came to break the silence, agitating the arms and signaling to the
entrance of the copse. The face of the leader contracted, like worried, then it seemed to brighten
and finally was happy. He gave some orders and unfolded a smile of triumph in his huge lips.
Minutes later, an escort of men and children armed with sticks and lances brought two
smaller beings, dressed in tunic, almost dragging them.
Fabiana’s face shone as she exclaimed:
“Sacary! Thanks God…” she had recognized him immediately.
The others turned their eyes to the two Tukés and breathed, with relief.
“Don’t go that way again,” Sacary said as he was tossed at their feet together with his fellow,
who almost fell on him.
After having sat with the chief, his escort, and the five humans, the first asked him to act as
interpreter. Sacary translated to the humans his wish.
“Ask him what they want,” Carlos said.
Sacary received like answer: “Listening to you.”
The humans looked at each other, uncertain what to do.
“A-about what?” Guzman stuttered.
“Well, I guess about everything.”
“Everything?”
“All your cleverness?” Sacary answered, as if saying the most natural thing in the world. Then
he added in a lower tone, as if the others understood: “They want you to help them with your
knowledge, your science, in the troubles they have. First, they are under the power of Gribash,
who imposes rules and robs them their crops and animals, killing and stealing. For this cause,
they have to hide all the time, or run off, and this forbids them to sow again. They’ll die of hunger
because of Gribash or their own fear, or they’ll die in the fight.”
“Why do not they accept this… Gribo… Gra…?”
“Gribash.”
“That, why don’t they accept him and stop running away?” Carlos inquired.
“Because, milord, here is not like your worlds, where everything is so perfect that chiefs
govern with truth and benevolence and… well, what I mean is that if they accept to live under his
yoke, Gribash will enslave them, use them as army or kill them, according to his mood.”
“We can’t” Fabiana interposed, “we can’t give counsel about this situation.”
“It’s fine with me,” Sacary said, “But now you must say something…”
Once they agreed on something –although a lie it sounded fine- they asked Sacary to
translate.
“We come from another world, a free, advanced world, to help you to begin a way to the
future. We are not gods, but we can teach you new things you have never imagined.”
The men absorbed every word. The chief seemed acquiescent, but asked:
“What power do you have? What is the wonder you know and will teach us?”
They look at each other, waiting for someone to have a brilliant idea. Suddenly, Carlos
abandoned his frown and, searching into his clothes, exclaimed:
“I have something you never saw!”
He got out of his pocket a metal object that glistened under the light coming through the
branches, and standing and stretching his arm, he made pause. He showed his lawyer best smile
and said, “Watch!”
Sacary was translating and agitating his arms to attract their attention.
Carlos moved his thumb and a thin longish little flame surged from the lighter. The tribe, even
the chief, startled.
“Oh!” they exclaimed, retreating before the unexpected power of that man.
Suddenly the king gave off a cry and the rest of them inclined, hitting their hands against their
thighs.
The other four humans rose, astonished. The flame faded away but the charm remained.
Five people silent, a hundred and fifty rhythmically clapping in the fuzzy rays of light, under the
vegetal dome.

5 Turbulent waters

The splendorous blue sky up and around, towards where the sight diffuses, green meadows
spotted with darker tones and small pillars of whitish stones, small piles on the vast lawn. The
Tuké caravan marches winding like ants in the immense loneliness of the plain. They are baking
under the sun, that burning, orange ring of fire, admired and unknown star of the black space.
In Duma, the inhabitants are still primitive and don’t have knowledge of astronomy, and
astrology doesn’t matters, for they are too practical and material, calculating people. In spite of
that, everyone that meet the five human, the Great Teachers, begin to think in stuff like the
universe and the stars, the soul and the life after death, and what is there apart from us. In front
of their vague personalities, everybody got a little mystic.
The prairies become eternal, the eyes distinguishes not one country from another, and only
their expert Bayos guides –a fierce tribe that breeds cows in times of peace- they can know
where they are. But suddenly, the caravan people realize they have not been circling around and
they have come to somewhere, indeed.
The landscape changes slightly. Now, golden under the rays of the declining sun, the banks
of a big river can be seen. The waters are stirred by a strong current that produces whirls.
Almost running, they come to the river.
“Can we drink?” Fabiana asks.
Starinshe asks to the Bayo guide and the latter assents, that the water is very good.
“It’s as good as in the Earth,” the great Tuké answers.
“Then I wouldn’t drink it,” Enrique jokes, thinking of the brooks in his country.
Sheila comes carefully to the shore; first, she looks the agitation in the water, then she bends
forward and fills her hands with clear and pure water, and drinks it.
“It’s delicious!” she exclaims, standing over the rest, who have rushed to the river.
“How can we cross it?” Carlos asks, after drinking and arranging his hair with the liquid.
The guide had been talking to Starinshe, and now this one answers: “The people that live on
the other side use a raft system, sir. If we wait a moment, there will come one.”
And then, they see coming down stream a primitive, coarse raft, solid in appearance,
rectangular, that’s impulsed to the shore by a strong oarsman. With a staff flatten in the point, he
rowed.
With the murmuring water passing under the wood and the sweet dabble of the oar, the
strange ship anchored near the group. Not getting down, the oarsman speaks with the Bayo
guide in a guttural tongue, different to what they have heard.
“There is no inconvenient;” the Great Tuké announces after a long conference.
“Why so much conversation?” Carlos asks, distrusting.
“For nothing, milord, there’s no trouble.”
Still, Mr. Robinson’s face is frowning. His distrust increases each day in company of the
optimist Tukés, who make everything seem so clear and normal. His spirit doesn’t believe in
transparency; business tricks, they call it.
They are getting into the raft by groups. The last to go are the five humans and Sacary.
Despite the columns has been reducing since they left the mountain palace, it is late when all
arrive to the other side.
Together with the boatman, who joins them after putting the raft out of the water, in dry land,
they keep on their journey, with their backs to the sun through a pebbly region cleaved by a few
wide, violent rivers. Suddenly Starinshe comes closer to the humans, who walk always together,
and says:
“Soon, I have to come back home, to fulfill my duties.”
“And what with us?” Sheila asks, pallid.
“You will continue the journey. From now on, you will find less primitive people, but more
dangerous.”
“How so, Starinshe?” Carlos replies.
“Well… they are more advanced but rather warlike. Since long ago we’ve entered into the
lands of Gribash the Awful, the Great. Here everyone obey with fear, and if you are considered
revolutionary elements, you will be eliminated by him. You must be careful, sir. I’ll give you some
advice, humbly; first, to go near him as friends and respecting their uses; second, to tell stories of
your world, it is the more adequate way to teach… Also, you never get apart or travel alone,
without guides.”
“But, why must we go on?” Enrique objects to it.
The others nod too.
“Because…” the Great Tuké hesitates, “it is your destiny.”
“Well, well;” Fabiana mutters.
“And how are we to know when we can return?” Carlos inquires.
“That only Fate knows; when it has been decided, you will know. You will have a signal, I
guess.”
“Ah! I should talk to that Fate,” Guzman mutters.
Finally, they arrive to the skirts of a settlement. This is formed by low huts with roofs of
leaves, some larger cabins and a small amount of lights.
“Fine, fine!” Sheila exclaims, excited. “Civilization. Who are these?”
“Mngaris.”
“Ah!”
They wait at the entrance of the hamlet for the oarsman and guide to come back.
“You will go alone with Sacary,” Starinshe says. “We can’t enter to the hamlet of them, only
the herald… It is an old law. Ah, you may be shocked by some usages!”
Slowly, carefully looking both sides, they are led by the oarsman.
As they see other Mngaris, they can breathe freely. They were tall people, well built, clean
and tidy in appearance, dressed in live colors and adorned with silver bands. One that seemed to
be the chief, a bald, solemn, much adorned man, came over to them; he watched them with a
frown and after stopping in Sheila and Fabiana, a smile curved his features.
They were invited to dinner.

“What treat?” Sheila exclaims, offended, in answer to Enrique. “Those men are lecherous,
that’s what they are… Do you think I can’t figure it out? I work in the night, remember?”
“Don’t speak of the Earth, please…”
“Do you miss it?”
“Don’t you? I never thought of leaving it.”
“At least, here I’m treated as a god…”
In the other extreme, Guzman receives from the hands of a beauty of slit eyes and half-
shaved head, a saucer filled with liquid. He tastes it, makes a horrible grin and spits.
“What’s the matter?” Fabiana exclaims.
“This is ho-horrible,” the young man babbles, “it’s sticky and thick and tastes like…”
The girl takes the dish between her hands, smells it, and dips a finger in it.
“… like blood;” she finish the sentence, watching her forefinger, dyed in red.
Guzman looks at her, surprised, and curses.
“Sacary, ask what is this?” Fabiana asks.
“It’s blood” he replies.
“Of what?” she gets white.
“Don’t be scared; it’s animal.”
“Why are they giving us that?”
“They always drink it with their food and use it to make the harvest better. They worship it.”
“Pugh! How disgusting!”
After a while, they have to talk widely with the chief, who tells them how the life in the hamlet
is. They are farmers: they sow mnu-nu, product they consume or trade for others. Part of it goes
to the imperial arcs of Gribash. They have a watcher from the Emperor, and in their turn, a
representant in the empire capital.
Their life is very peaceful when there’s no war, but when there is, everybody joins and they
leave their lands. The men possess several women and some of them, the strongest or most
favored by the emperor –warriors, courtesans, dancers- may also have many men.
After telling everything about them and listening to some stories about the humans and their
planet, mostly fabricated by Sacary, they were invited to sleep, giving them two houses with
mattress, pillows, clothes and all they should enjoy.

6 Separation

“Ah… did you have a nice rest?” Enrique asks after yawning and stretching himself with
leisure.
“Haven’t you heard the screams of a woman?” Sheila smirks.
“I thought…”
“Don’t you know what happened?” Fabiana exclaims. “Well I’ll tell you.”
“Let’s see…”
“You will hear, rather.”
“If we can see, better;” he replies, teasingly.
“Hmm, I won’t answer to that.” Fabiana smiles and continues. “It was pretty late, and I was
already half asleep. Sheila snorted and…”
“What!” the alluded one cries. “I don’t snort.”
“Well… as I was saying, Sacary slept outside the room, in the sitting room. Then, I feel
something strange, like a tickling. That startled me, and I was full awake, but I kept on feeling
something that touched me, I looked and I had above me, one of those guys… giving me a kiss
in cheek.”
“It wasn’t so disturbing, then;” Guzman comments.
“No? That says you! I started to scream like… I don’t know. Sacary came and the guy, that at
last was more scared than me, explained.”
“I couldn’t hold my laugh, after the fear was over;” Sheila affirms.
“Yes; it turned out that they find natural to have any woman any time they want, without
complaint.”
“Too loose,” Carlos says.
“But in some ways, humans are too. Everyone have different men or women in their lives,”
Fabiana replies; “husbands cheat, there is bigamy, there’re prostitutes.”
“That is no excuse;” Enrique intercedes. “I’ve wife, and family, and I think that’s the right
thing. A mate must be faithful.”
“Do you really think so?” Sheila replies.
“Wait, this argument leads nowhere,” Guzman observes.
“If we’re going to teach something to these being, I think it must be to be faithful, at least, and
less… cheerful in their ways;” Carlos states this.
As the rest lowered they eyes and didn’t answer, he took it as a yes.

After breakfast –meat and vegetables, like every meal of them- that everybody liked; and
after Carlos could have the pleasure, helped by Sacary, of speaking on Christian morality–“he’s
taking really seriously his roles”, Fabiana commented-, they are ready to continue the journey.
Some women with high hair-dresses bring them gifts in name of the Mngaris: new clothes –is
this a hint about our aspect! Sheila exclaims- besides pitchers with oils, blood, raw vegetables
and meat, grease for lights. As they check the gifts, Enrique exclaims:
“I have already a collection of these mugs!”
“Moreover, they didn’t understand the barbaric of this blood fetish,” Carlos adds, his nose
puckering as he puts it into a pitcher. “They’re a nasty, done for savages!”
“Come on, my lords;” Sacary interrupts. “They are waiting for us out the village.”
So they went out of the place, followed by the satisfied looks of the smiling and admiring
Mngaris. Outside, near a brook, the Tukés are waiting. As they see the humans, a white dress
gets up from the rock where he was sitting and comes near to meet them. Starinshe, bright as a
pear under the sun, greets them and says: “I’ve reached the end of my voyage.”
The other five are still, pallid. Fabiana and Sheila’s eyes form a mute question as they fix on
the Great Tuké.
“It’s so, ladies and sirs… I must come back to the mountains, like the rest of us. Now begins
your real journey: it will become more dangerous and difficult, for you’ll meet closed, incredulous
people, hard and insensitive. You must separate and follow your pilgrimage in two groups, as the
legend says.”
“What legend?” Guzman asks, throwing the hair out of his eyes.
“It names the Agassia and you, the ones that will come in a moment of big stress, to save us
and will return to their worlds, being loved and worshipped for the eternity.”
“My God!”
After that, the Tukés start to go one by one, until only Starinshe, Sacary and another are left
with the astonished travelers.
“Mrs. Fabiana Peralta, Mister Robinson, you will be one group, that will travel together with
Sacary to the Empire of Gribash, to the capital city. In fact, we’re already in his empire. You,
Sheila Iturria, Mister Blanco and Guzman Gianetti, will travel with Marius to the Sardonic
Empire… following the rivers in direction to the capital city. As I don’t want to influence you and I
trust your human wisdom, I just say farewell.”
Without more, the solemn old man turns around and goes away with the others, to cross the
river. The five travelers watch him go, then look at each other doubtfully, without knowing what to
say. What’s the right thing, when you don’t know what will come, if you will meet again, if they’ll
survive in this strange land, when the mission will end? They just embrace, one by one, take the
clothes and necessary food, and leaving the rest, go apart.
Suddenly, Fabiana stops: why are they going to follow the orders of the old Starinshe and not
going as they like?
She comes back to see the others going away, ready to step on the raft and look for the
unknown, but only Guzman turns his head an instant. Then she hurries and reaches Carlos and
Sacary, who set off into the eternal plain of pebbles and stones in gray, lilac, greenish, black
colors, like in a jagged movie. However, up in the sky, the splendorous sun of Duma is shining,
but it seems not to be brightening the grey morning or the uncertain future.

After going by the river called Siszur, after a long way, looking for a transport, Sheila, Enrique
and Guzman find a little harbor. In a place where the turbulent waters of the Siszur take a break,
there is a little covet and in it, anchored, three wooden rafts. Sitting on one of them, a thin, tall
individual of tanned skin, with a ponytail of very scant dark hair, dressed in yellow and with his
long, skinny legs, uncovered, this guy is eating something greasy and unappetizing. When he
sees the strange group led by a monk, he stands up and watching them cautiously but with a
curious, greedy bright in his pupils, he greets with an exaggerated genuflection. Marius talks with
him, apparently trying to negotiate the prize of the voyage, for he explains after it:
“He’s taking us to where the king Sardo, for some of these clothes and of knowing who are
you.”
“All right, tell him;” the three agree.
The brown man smiles, helps them to come up and takes a long oar. With a pull, they left the
shore, the man unties the rope that ties them to a stake, and the journey starts. The three
humans accommodate in the small raft: Sheila is wetting her fingers in the clear waters, smiling,
she looks forward and sees what’s coming; Guzman and Enrique, in the contrary, sitting one in
front of the other look serious, sometimes speaking. Enrique always speaks of his wife and
children, nostalgic, the other one is quieter, never says what he’s thinking.
“Tipi, the boat man,” Marius says, “announces the travel will be long, many days.”

7 A refined cruelty.

The plain landscape goes changing.


After walking two hours they pass an abandoned settlement, similar to the Mngaris’ but
completely destroyed. The houses, are burnt or smashed; the bodies half covered with leather
and fabrics, heat and rot in the streets, and some animals like sheep for their wool, but wit horns
in the head, are moaning near the bodies, feed on them, injured, bleeding, the skin torn. A while
after that they see an abandoned encampment, in a state similar to the hamlet, with fires still
burning on.
“Gribash soldiers,” is the only that Sacary says going on.
After an enforced march, stopping only three times to take some rest, by night they find
refuge under some rocks. Sacary turns on a fire, Fabiana brings water from some nearby puddle,
Carlos rests his executive body against the stone. They eat, revive the fire and go to sleep.
Barely leaning their heads, their eyes close.
In the black sky some stars appear, then a big moon, white and round and, near this one
another satellite, a smaller, blue moon. The air begins to heat and it’s not as cold as when the
night falls.
First, there is a murmur, some hushed, far away sound, but is coming closer. It seems a
gallop, but the sleepers don’t hear it. The sound increases until it’s close by them.
A group of six or seven horsemen, possibly alerted by the smoke of their fire, stops near the
three travelers. They’re warriors: muscular, armed with lances, wearing shoulder and chest
plates, a skin over their backs and broad, short pantaloons, and they ride a kind of solid horse
with longish hair. They alight, speaking between them in low voice. At last, the stronger and
shorter gets near the sleepers.
Carlos, he sees with disdain, but Sacary with amazement, and makes a sign to the others.
The eyes of this man widen as he sees the woman. His partners come near dragging their
lances, emitting a soft rush, and they lean forward, above the humans and the Tuké, watching
them. Having made an agreement, two of them grab the men and the short one holds Fabiana by
her shoulders.
The scream she gave out as she found herself lifted by a stranger, is indescribable. His yell
and screams for help, her frenzy moves tossing in his arms, surprise so much the man that he
lets her go as if she burn.
The other two, disconcerted for the sudden awaken, the cries and finding themselves caught
by strong individuals, watch with round eyes and rather white. Fabiana stops crying and, taking a
stone big enough, threatens the huge guy while she shouts to him:
“Back, son of bitch! I’m going to crush you head!”
Stunned, the warriors don’t understand anything. Under the moonlight, the woman glimmers
and between them they question who she can be, they’ve never seen such a white skin. Besides,
she wears plenty of long hair, while their women’s is scarce and always black.
“Who are you?” Sacary asks clumsily, in the first language that comes to his mind.
One answers and makes a question at his turn. Confused, Sacary hesitates, but finally tells
them.
The ire appears in the face of the shortest guy, who mutters some words and shouts some
orders, incensed. A pair of men catches Fabiana who is resisting, and others grab Sacary and
get them onto the animals. They ride off at an order from their chief, leaving Carlos behind,
frozen in terror. Fabiana twists and tries to throw herself off the horse, yells, and scratches the
one who’s taking her away.
Even so checked, they run on, kicking dust, to the horizon.
“Help!” the woman keeps screaming. “Why me…”

Next day, in a lost town of the plain. The houses are crushed and only a few are usable.
Women and men, half dressed with armors, are scattered by the town, some sit around plates of
food, blackened and sticky, others wandering around.
The group of horsemen enters noisily breaking the peace. Between everyone’s boisterous, a
stronger voice of bass raises up, opening a path to the horsemen, asking something. Humble, his
head down, the chief of the group answers to the imposing character. Then, the latter comes
near the captives and fixes his eyes, admiringly and surprised, on the young woman. With his
right hand, he brushes her chin, she turns her head with contempt. He smiles satisfied.
Once the crowd was dispersed, the two male prisoners are conducted to an empty house and
thrown inside.
They remain there, in the dark, without having taken water or food since more than twelve
hours ago.
“What’s going to happen?” the girl whispers.
“I don’t know, miss. We are not going to get out of this with the lighter trick,” Sacary answers.
Fabiana looks at him. The Tuké is using a tone of voice rare in him. And maybe he’s not the
fool he seems to be.
“They’re Sardos.”
“I thought we’re going to the other side.”
“And we were. This is only a camp. It certainly was a Gribash town. I don’t know what they’ll
do to us, but they’re going to their land. If they’ve not reached before, of course.”
Resigned, Fabiana sits, leaning her head against what used to be a bed or some other
furniture.
“Something, we must do. We must go,” she says, “or we’ll see ourselves in the middle of a
war.”

Later, there’s no sound coming from outside.


Fabiana, as if just waking up, opens her eyes wide and with all her senses alert, she crawls
to the door. We’re lucky not to be tied, she thinks. There are many gaps on the wall and door.
“What are you doing?” Sacary whispers.
“I’m trying to see if someone is watching us.”
She looks through a hole: no one to the right of the door. Now she looks the left side, nobody.
She makes a sign to the Tuké for him to get near and another sign not to make noise.
With a soft creak, the door opens. “They can’t be so foolish,” both of them think. Even though,
they carry on. They’re not going to stay for this.
They go out and close the door again, carefully. The way is empty, the sun burns up there.
Fabiana walks to her right without knowing where she’s going. Something touches her shoulder.
“We can’t leave without water,” Sacary whispers in a hurry.
She assents and goes to a place where she believed to see a well before. In fact there is in
the entrance to the hamlet, a well of warm dark water, but at least it’s water.
Nearby, there are some hollow horns to carry the water. They go to take one, accordingly.
The girl is filling hers when she feels again a touch in her shoulder:
“What do you want, Sacary?”
A strong hand seizes her shoulder and she turns around, amazed. She’s confronting a big
muscular man that surpasses her by twenty centimeters. She shouts and throws the horn
contents at him. As a reflex, the warrior draws back, and she starts to run. In her blind race
something interposes and holds her.
She screams and tosses as she recognizes the chief of last night horsemen. But this man
doesn’t release her. Another come with a rope and ties her hands behind. When a very robust
one takes her by the body, almost dragging her, she keeps on kicking.
Lastly, she’s thrown again in the dark hut that serves as jail. She looks around and asks:
“Sacary?” she founds no more answer than her echo.
Relieved, she thinks, “he made it, he could escape! He did it, that damned man learnt!”
She hears steps outside, the door opens and –oh, alas!-. Sacary, tied up too, is tossed by her
side, among the laughs of the warriors.
Fabiana swears with the worst words she can remember of her mother tongue. Her
profanities stop the men and their laugh. For her tone of voice need no translation. They look
each other, and all agree, they come closer and one of them holds her while another, with a
piece of leather, muzzle her.
They go at last.
The woman babbles something, stretching her head. The Tuké looks at her, without
comprehending. Upset for his calmness, she drags herself to his hands.
After some minutes, he can untie the gag.
“How can you be so tranquil?” she asks, while resting in the floor, taking care not to raise her
voice.
“I’m a priest,” he answers naturally.
“But, can you untie me?” she replies with irony, though smiling.
“Uh! Nothing easier.”
Once set free, the girl unfastens the Tuké.
“It’s a pity they catch us,” Fabiana says. “What I can’t understand is why they didn’t put
guards, or fasten us before, nor closed the door.”
“I think is part of their refined cruelty. Many times I’ve heard they do like this, like waiting for
the last minute when you think you’re free, and then recapture the victim. Or they torture the
captives and at last, when they can’t take more pain, they let them live instead of killing them… to
suffer longer. Sometimes their punishments are burning your eyes or cut a part of the body,
instead of an execution.”
There’s a long silence, while she seems to take in what she’s hearing. Then, Fabiana says:
“We’ll try again by night. And changing of conversation, you’d better explain me what’s going
on in this planet.”

8 The new technology

The Siszur keeps its course rapidly, pulling the five travelers along the way. The blue band,
wide and shining, runs across a landscape of wild beauty. In the background, the distant peaks
kiss the sky, gray or bluish and unending. Both banks are covered with green and far away there
are some little copses of majestic tall trees that from their treetops seem to look down on them
with conceit.
Tipi, who drives the raft, rows impassibly, without saying a word. He seems to be not
interested or worried for his strange passengers. He looks fixedly ahead, paying attention to the
river and steering with zeal.
The three humans keep a light chat.
After three hours of voyage, the river seems to stop; but no, it doesn’t stop but it suffers a
sudden decrease in speed. Its waves are gone; they are like navigating on jelly.
Sheila touches the water with her fingers; it seems thicker, like slime. She takes back her
hand with a scream.
Her companions look startled. The oarsman doesn’t move. Marius questions him and
receives as answer:
“Sorsogón ni.”
“What? What does it mean?” Guzman gets impatient.
“It’s a phenomenon of some rivers,” Marius explains; “when it receives some tributaries or
when it splits into a few arms the water gets thicker and it’s difficult to advance. We’ll take some
hours in passing this sorsogón.”
“Why is there a… sorsogón here?” Guzman asks, while he brushes away the hair that the
breeze blows on his face.
“Because the river Siszur opens here into many branches, like a tree, until the lake of the
Sardos,” Marius answers convincingly. Though he has never traveled there, in fact, he has never
got out of the monastery; he knows much of Duma, being that his job.

There has not elapsed even fifteen minutes, but it seems an eternity. Everybody toss
impatient, looking one side and the other, changing places. Everyone except Tipi, who is still
calm, laconic if you choose. The terrible effort to row can be noticed in his muscles, tensed to the
extreme.
As Marius told them, Tipi is a deportee from the Sardo kingdom. They are too rigid and
severe: they are divided in little groups, leader by a chief selected by the king, and these chiefs
are really respectful and loyal to the king. In their society only the best are accepted; the weakest,
those who are too short or too old, or sick, are executed. Religions are forbidden, as the
associations, the art and the science, for they think all that is useless. The conquered nations are
cleansed of all that and they get rid of technologies, beliefs and ideas that go against their purity
ideals and worship of the kingdom. Gribash Empire thinks the same, but it’s not as organized as
the Sardos’. Therefore, Tipi was expatriated for being a kind of shaman of his tribe, little
beneficial for the kingdom.
Turning to the raft, thirty minutes passed and the ambient is impatient. It seems that more
than the march, the sorsogón affects the mood.
Suddenly Guzman stands up and taking a hand to his glasses, exclaims:
“Of course! How can I have not realized that?”
Astonished, Sheila and Enrique watch him get mad. She asks: “Realize what? What’s the
matter?”
“Is there not something bothering you?” it’s his answer.
Sheila hesitates: “No… no.”
“Your hair?”
“My… hair…” she repeats, knowing less than before what he means.
Then her face brightens.
“Oh, of course! The wind!” she exclaims, almost jumping.
“What are you talking about?” wondering, Enrique interposes.
“Look, feel, the wind;” the young man says. “It’s a long while this breeze is bothering me and I
hadn’t realized. Suddenly, I had an idea. The wind… we can do a sail.”
“To get sooner to an unknown and dangerous place?” the other one replies with a bad face.
“Don’t be negative,” Sheila protests.
After taking notice of the project, Marius communicates it to Tipi. The latter seems like not
fully understanding, or rather, like someone who is not sure of what they are saying. At the end
he accepts, and turns the raft to the shore.
“First, we have to see is how the mast will be set,” Guzman says, jumping to earth.
They gaze around. There’s a fallen tree close by. Enrique and Marius go to study it to obtain
some straight branch, while Sheila looks through the equipage for a thin blue blanket that will be
the sail. Guzman looks and watches the raft, calculating.
While they work, Tipi looks at the river, sitting on a rock and just gazing at the strangers a
moment, with alert eyes, when they put the mast straight and tie it to the edges of the
embarkation with rope. Finally, seeing the work done, he comes closer and while putting it back
into the river, he draws smile in his face.
And it works perfectly. Yes, guided by the expert hand of Tipi and pushed by the wind, they
go ahead as if there was no sorsogón. And it goes on, proud in full said, a rough embarkation
with a droll mast.

9 Another attempt of escape

And it gets darker. Slowly, the sky goes changing color: the gleaming blue turns off, to gray,
and the deepness of that color ebbs to the mauve-violet tone that precedes darkness. Finally the
stars come out and the two moons.
Fabiana is long ago sitting with her legs crossed and her head between the hands,
thoughtful. Suddenly, she whispers to Sacary, who’s slumbering from a while ago, with his head
fallen on his chest.
“Hey, Sacary… wake up.” She tries not to raise her voice.
The Tuké moves a bit and continues dreaming. She shakes him firmly from an arm. Startled,
he lifts his head quick and exclaims:
“What? Are they coming?”
Fabiana makes a sign for silence, touching her lips with a finger. He seems to understand
and smiles.
“I have a doubt,” she says. ”You tell me that the Sardos, they are sexist, like we’d say in the
Earth.” He nods. “Then, why did I see women in the camp, warriors?”
“They say… woman, good to cook, to do simple jobs, to attend the man, but bad to think.
That’s why they use them almost like slaves, for every dirty and heavy job, to carry weights, to
clean bowels and blood from the armors, to take care of them in every sense. Do you
understand? But there’re no chief women, in the government, they have no right or…”
“Yes, yes, I got it;” Fabiana interrupts, and a playful smile appears in her lips. “Come,” she
adds, getting up.
The woman shakes off the dust and walks to the rear wall. She pokes among the remains
that cover the wall until she finds something useful. In a place the mud seems to be thinner and,
scratching a little with a jagged rock, there’s a gush of fresh air. She continues working, making
the hole bigger for them to pass.
First, Sacary goes out helped by her, and then Fabiana. There is no one to be seen. Some
roaring noises can be heard: the warriors are dinning. There’s no light but the moonlight is bright
enough.
With care, sweating and bathed in earth, the fugitives go, interning in the shadows. In the
outskirts of the hamlet there is the water and animals, so they must go that way; but there’s a
problem, there is one guard and before him, a tent from where some light is coming out.
Silent, they draw near the guard by ten pace, and duck next to some ruins. The guardian is
tired, leaning against his lance, and closes his eyes as if taking a nap. Fabiana looks around and
finds a log, a meter long and three centimeters thick.
She takes the wood block between her hands and gets closer to the guard, who is turned
back. He doesn’t seem to hear anything. The woman thinks about hitting his nape hard, to make
him fall unconscious. She lifts the log above her head and when she’s going to strike down, the
man turns around. Sacary takes a hand to his mouth to repress a scream. Fabiana does emit a
short cry, while the warrior is still raising his head, she unloads all the weight of the block on his
face. It hit full in his brow. Knocked out, his eyes white, he falls back with a hard noise, just like
the sound of a rotten fruit falling from the tree. Fabiana looks at the wood block, amazed, and
there’s a red spot. Then she whispers to Sacary, who is by her side:
“Wow, I’d never done it… it’s fun,” and she smiles, while throwing the log away, on the fallen
man.
Grabbing the lance, they go to pick up the water pottery; that way they’ll have weapons,
water, and transport. Indispensable. Ready and self-confident, they are going for the equines.
They pass an illuminated tent. Fabiana stops and holds Sacary.
“Don’t you feel watched?”
“Maybe it’s because of…” he answers, trembling, “of that.”
Fabiana looks where he has fixed his eyes and gets white.
“Oh! No! Not again!” she complains.
Quietly standing, there are five women. They’re dirty and disheveled, dressed in rags, but
they’re holding very cutting lances. They surround and push them to the tent.
Without leaving the staring, they talk between them, like arguing.
“What do they say?” the human girl asks.
“They’re discussing what to do with us.”
“And what do they decide?”
“They’re going to call the men, they’re to decide.”
One of the women makes a move to go out, but a cry from Fabiana stops her.
“No! Don’t call them!”
The women look each other, intrigued by her strange accent.
“Tell them they must listen to me, please.”
Sacary translates this and get as answer:
“They ask why they should.”
Doubtful, Fabiana thinks and at last, she says:
“We are friends, we come to help the kingdom of the Sardos.”
They seem convinced, for no one goes out of there. They are looking, surly and distrusting.
The woman from Earth frankly smiles.

10 Womanly sisterhood.

“Well, they ask how is it that about being friends,” Sacary translates.
“Explain to them where I come from and what I am doing.”
Sacary seems to be surprised but without replying, goes on translating.
The faces of these women go through many emotions: mistrust, surprise, incredulity,
amazement. Finally, everyone turn their face to Fabiana, full of expectation. The latter gathers all
her strength to start her argument.
“I am like you, a woman like you. In my world, there are also men and women, we’re the
same in that. However… I’ve noticed some incorrect facts, which are mistaken and make me
afraid of the future of this world. For example, I’m told that here women can’t decide anything and
men do it all for us. In my worlds that’s not so, there, men and women are partners, do you
follow?”
Total negative.
“Explain better,” the Tuké advices.
“Well, I’ll try…” she assents and tries to show a confident smile. “As I was saying, besides
being partners, in the Earth, we are all equals. I mean, though there are men and women, and
some are wiser or sillier, we all have the same rights.”
“They don’t know what rights are. What do I say?” Sacary mutters.
“A right is what allows you to do something or not do it, to own a thing and dispose with it
when you want, and also… that others can’t tell you to do what you don’t like… well, it’s difficult
to make up this!”
“They’re getting something, though I don’t know what you are intending…” Sacary cheers
her. “See those smiles.”
“Ah, I know! Here for example, men can order women to do what they want, and make them
do all that’s vile and baser, that they wouldn’t do, as if you were idiots. But in my planet we are
stronger, more powerful, happier, for we all have freedom and the same rights.”
The women listen absorbed, though uncertain.
“The most important is freedom, above everything, the freedom to think, to act, to speak for
oneself. Everyone can think for oneself… then, why can only the men decide what to do? Is it
that you can’t or don’t think?”
They all protest.
“Ah, of course you’re intelligent; as much as them. You can be better than men; that’s why
they don’t accept you. But if you fight, as we did in Earth, with time they will give you the place
you deserve. If you believe in me, who am come from another place, then you must trust that I
will help.”
Silence. The faces question each other. One of them speaks.
“We have already thought that, though we never said it and we won’t. They rule, they are
chief and we’re soldiers. If my husband knows of this, he can repel me and give me over to the
chief. I would go to the dungeon, and if I am lucky, I’d be executed, and that will happen to you.
Sardos are that way, and they won’t change. Those who hold these ideas are erased, for going
against our system and our lives. And you must shut up and take care.”
“I believed you would understand and help me,” Fabiana says, sadly, drawing near to them. “I
can’t imagine you’re happy in submission, so I guess you’re fearful and without proud, or worst,
you like to be mistreated and, don’t have brains! If you can live a better life and don’t fight for that,
what are you fighting for? Losing your life in this war? But no, you’re really strong, you do
everything! By God, you’re powerful. And now you are like little creatures.”
There are noises, a commotion outside. Voice of command and hurry steps. Fabiana and
Sacary go to each other, pallid.
“Oh… Not… again!” the girl moans.
One of the women gets out of the tent. The rest remain deadpan, their faces let guess but
anything. Fabiana mutters: “Let’s show no fear.”
And she stands proudly, well standing on her feet, her arms crossed and his chin up. Sacary
stays behind her, his hands together, trembling.
Outside, the woman talks to the chief. His high shape can be distinguished through the fabric,
thanks to the light he’s carrying. He threatens with his fist, while the woman listens with patience
to let him end talking and shouting to the wind. A tranquil sentence from her and he becomes
calmed. When she is going to enter, he stops her and says a few more words. She denies and
exclaims something.
The cloth that serves as door opens a little, a centimeter, two, three, five, ten… A hand
throws it aside with decision. The light, the arm and the hairy head get into the opening.
“Ah…!” the man grunts.
He sees two women holding a jug, another half naked, another lying on some stuff. He says
something like a joke, smiles fierily and goes out.
The woman outside waits for him to go away, enters and closes the cloth door, all that’s
possible.
The reclining woman gets up and uncovers Fabiana and Sacary.
“How can you be so heavy?” the girl exclaims.
“I… that was the mattress?”
They arrange their clothes, full of dust, and Fabiana sakes her long hair.
“Thanks them, Sacary. They’ve hopes.”
They smile, pleased. One of them grips her fist hard and lifts her arm. There are always
fights.
With the help of these women, they get a transport and supplies. Two horses are waiting
outside, ready for them to flee.
Hindered by the shadows of night, helped by fortune, they can make at last a successful
escape.

11 A wonderful night

More and more interned in Gribash territory, in some unknown land full of strangers, in a
planet that is not hers. That thinks Fabiana as she rides in one of those creatures similar to
horses that she doesn’t know how to call, for she can’t pronounce its name. She guesses her
fellows think the same, even Carlos, wherever he is.
The austere plain is changing. Now there are rises of singular beauty, really green woods,
pristine brooks, and all you can add to a happy and shining land of the Earth –if there are some
here and not only in fairy tales-, except that, in Duma, there are no birds, nothing flies.
“Hmm... so beautiful,” the girl exclaims suddenly. “How can you want to change this?”
“They don’t want to,” Sacary warns. “They are closed and rusty, they don’t know nothing
different and don’t want to know it.”
“But… if they come to be like the humans, this won’t be pretty any longer. There will be trash,
smoke…”
“If humans speak of living naturally, without leaving technology aside;” he protests.
“What we preach is not reality. Do you know the saying, do what I say but not what I do?
Well, that’s the truth: we speak, speak, everything sounds fine but…”
“Then, how is it that the Earth is such a nice place to live?”
“It’s like any other, I guess. There are some things good and others bad. But tell me, have
you never been to the Earth before?”
“No, not me. We who are in charge of being guides and translators take to that, learning
geography and languages. There are others who travel and then come to teach the rest of us.
That’s the way the Tukés have studied your ways and language, to be prepared.”
“Then your emissaries only tell the good.”
“Maybe we don’t care about the bad…”
“But, even as accident, we five could teach some harm to the people.”
“I trust… you at least.”
She smiles to the little man –in stature, not in age- with sweetness and grateful.
“Thanks, is nice to hear that. I trust you too, and the others. I think that for once the destiny
didn’t make a mistake.”
Then, as a cold shower upon them, she sees it. In the middle of the serene, pleasant
landscape, a column of black thick smoke, sours the sweetness of the second. And she hears
too: a gush of wind brings a distant roar, like a sudden stampede. Just as if she began to hear
now, she has the dreamy feeling, of being in the midst of battle, but in a preterit time, distant and
forgotten, between knights and savages.
“Yes, yes…” Sacary brings her back to reality. “It’s a battle.”
Something ancient, kept in Fabiana’s most hidden cells, something primitive but refined,
takes all fear and reason away, and she says:
“Come on, I wan to see closer,” she says this without agitation, serene and sure.
The Tuké watches her with worried eyes, but still goes after her.
They trot to a high mound to have a panoramic view of the fight. Sardos and Imperials, men
against men like beasts. A luxurious Baroque fresco with movement.
“An opera would suit well this scene,” Fabiana comments, without sarcasm. “Maybe the
Carmine Burama overture.”

The battle has not last more than half an hour.


It has only been the gratuitous crash of two forces. Without a winner, with equal lost of lives
in both bands and many debts and vengeances to be repaid mutually, they go apart.
One little portion of the force, some warriors on horses –or whatever those animals are
called- goes directly to where Sacary and Fabiana are. They hide, leaning next to their mounts, in
a depression formed between the side of the hill and some rocks.
Coming at a gallop, some animals can be heard so clearly, that seem about to jump above
them. They crouch more and more, all that’s possible, holding their breath.
In a rather disbanded group the warriors pass over them. It seems they’re safe: the group has
passed by their side without seeing them. There are still some left. A fat man goes by trotting,
leaning as little as if he had a pain in the side. Two more delayed horsemen try to catch the main
group. Every time that one of them pass without noticing them, Fabiana breathes freer and
Sacary sighs, stopping a second his perspiration. Then another one comes at a gallop. The two
hidden horses are also very nervous and look with their anxious little round eyes, wet for the
emotion.
Every pace of the coming horse resounds in their ears, every one stronger. Now the floor
reverberates. He has gone up the hill and seems about to jump over their heads…
When the animal and its rider pass over them, one of the beasts can hold no longer. It goes
running after the others with a thrilling shriek. Fabiana’s first impulse is to hold its reins, but it is
too late, she can’t grab even some hair. While she is trying to calm the other animal, she realizes
something: there is silence, there are no more screams and races.
Slowly, she heels around. Most of the group has gone away. A dozen or less horsemen are
there, frozen in front of them. “Not again…” the young woman thinks. The warriors are as
amazed as they’re scared. One man has really violent intentions revealed in his face.
The man retaining the escaped animal calms it down with some caresses and comes closer
with it. He is a handsome man, very tanned, with black moustache and his temples are bald. He
greets amiably and controlled.
“Tell him we are travelers,” Fabiana whispers to Sacary, “that we have nothing to do with their
fight.”
The man listens to him, seeming to understand, and invites them to continue with them their
way.
“Eh…! Who are they?”
“From Rilay, in the Empire of Gribash. Peaceful people.”
“I can tell!”

“In times of peace Rilay must be a beautiful place to live. They are all very amiable. It’s true
that they’re peaceful. It seems a sea side resort that I know.”
“Certainly. They’re peaceful and similar to you. They work the earth, they have stable
families…”
The two travelers rest in a stone cottage in Rilay, a pretty house with a heart, furniture and
much light stealing through the windows.
“Now I am here, tranquil, I miss the Earth. For this looks like it.” Fabiana comments, “I think
about my family, my partners, my professor… what they would say of my disappearance. They
must be worried… Moreover, I miss a nice cool, glass of coke with ice, and to be able to open the
refrigerator and get it out. And a shower, indoors, not to bath in the river. But more than all the
luxuries, than my people, the music. What kind of world is this without art, without music? They
can’t know what relief to the soul is.”
“Here you can teach all that. Then you’ll have your music and everything you need.”
“Ah… you don’t get it,” she sighs.
Now they’re dressed in typical clothes of the region: a long skirt or weaved trousers of various
colors, the most artistic the Empire tolerates, black coats and white blouses. Well arranged, clean
and combed, they seem other people. The long red tinged chestnut hair of Fabiana was a mess
after many days in the dusty land, but a washing became it very well.
“Besides it isn’t so easy,” Fabiana goes on. “Those women said, new ideas would be
eliminated.”
“If they find the guilty. But if there was a rumor, something vague, that everybody repeated
without knowing where it comes from…”
“Sacary,” she replies serious, “you’re too human.”
At dinnertime, a boy comes to take them to the reunion in the town place. In the center of the
place there is an empty space with a circle of stones in it. Something seems to be missing.
People looks better arranged than when they come. They’re talking in very animated groups,
laughing. Fabiana and Sacary walk around, together for caution and for she doesn’t understand
anything. Now and then, someone comes to talk to them out of curiosity, for having some words
of the young woman.
As the shadows of the night start to fall on them, the chief of the town –the same that spoke
to them first-, turns on a fire in the midst of the stone circle and some others turn on colored
candles around. Then everybody sits down round the fire and keeps on chatting. The travelers
are invited to sit next to the chief. Later he asks:
“Where is the lady come from?”
Fabiana and Sacary look each other. She nods and he explains to the chief the truth. The
latter, after listening seriously, smiles and asks to the woman:
“Are you really from another world?”
“Well… yes, I am;” she admits, smiling.
“Then, let’s talk about what you are doing here, how you come here, and above all, what is
your world like and…”
When she is about to begin to say something, some women, seemingly cookers, come to call
the chief away. Sacary elbows Fabiana and points to a big, rough fellow, and says:
“That is the watcher from Gribash. He keeps his control so.”
“Ah… eyes and ears everywhere.” Fabiana watches him attentively and then asks:
“Why is he frowning so?”
“Ah, that!” the Tuké chuckles. “You haven’t noticed… This party isn’t actually to celebrate
yesterday’s battle, they say so to cover the fact they’re celebrating the most important day of
cult.”
“And, why do they celebrate it if they’re being watched?”
“It’s very important for them. It’s a pity they can’t go on with their custom, or you would have
seen something really beautiful. They adorn the whole town with festoon, garlands, and animal
figures, natural flowers and they spread out perfume in the air… Anyway, they take care of
everything. They eat and drink and then the best comes.”
“That is…”
“You’ll see.”
In that moment a woman passes offering a plate with some typical dish, sweet and crusty.
In the following hours, Fabiana converse much with the chief about the Earth, above all
politics, being he who asks the most. The watcher, on the other side, stares at them all the time.
In his vivacious and penetrating black eyes there’s a lot of intrigue, as he tries to find out who is
the strangers and what are they talking so much.
When certain hour has come, advanced the night, when the chat was slower and the groups
had dissolved giving place to a litany of creaking fire and nocturne calm, the chief gets up and
says:
“Get ready to see something.”
Then, he sees Gribash’s watcher with suspicion and returns to his place. Serious, like all the
night, the watcher sits with his arms crossed, waiting. Suddenly, something happens to surprise
the foreigners, making them marvel.
In the night sky, speckled with stars and brightened by a full moon and another waning, there
appears an orange-color bowed flame. It is undulated, shining and silky, and stands there like a
flag a-fluttered by a soft breeze. Later, another one appears, this time it’s light blue and bigger.
Next to the stars and moons, they seem like precious stones on a background of the most perfect
velvet ever seen by human eye.
Fabian watches, one and the other, trying to gather all the sky. Open mouthed, frozen, she
knows not what to think. She has never seen something like that. The northern lights must look
like that, though certainly not so beautiful, so delicate and so dramatic. Standing there, they’re
not even quiet and seem to be alive: shining and gleaming with every beat of its glacial heart
while every breath feed them. She doesn’t know what are they, heavenly butterflies or living
jewels, or silk clouds. And there are more: one satin white with pink glaze, another long, slim and
green, another blue-violet.
After a while, the charm begins to fade. The colors vanish until blending with the milky glow of
the stars, and beneath, the bodies return to their movement. Fabiana recovers her air, for she
feels to have stopped breathing a long time.
“What was that?” she exhales, holding her chest.
“It’s called… eslava. The night of the eslava.”
“Bu-but, what are those things?”
“I don’t know, nobody knows. But they say to read the future in them.”
Almost everyone had gone silently. What was in the tables was gone too.
“Well, people;” the chief of Rilay whispers. “I hope you rest well and that you have enjoyed
our… celebration of the victory.” He smiles and goes away to the place where the watcher is
standing, alone and expressionless, and speaks to him: “Why do you have that face? Don’t you
like the performance?”
Fabiana and Sacary go without waiting for the end of that conversation. The man, for sure,
has not liked to be considered a fool, but he’s powerless because he can’t prohibit to see and to
think. The law he must follow only says that religious or artistic manifestations are not allowed, as
well as the diffusion of ideas contraries to the estate, but as for the ethereal manifestations and
the imagination…

12 With a family

The strange embarkation, now a sail ship, driven by Tipi, comes at last to a Sardo hamlet,
after successfully going over the sorsogón in a record time. The hamlet, settled between two
channels of the Siszur, is the most civilized one they have seen in days. In the wharf, where there
are several boats and crafts of considerable size, there is a crowd watching the arrival of the sail
raft.
The three humans are over excited. The boatman remains impassive.
Just as they touch the dockside, an amount of humble looking men runs to help them to go
up, and they offer their service. Marius gets rid of them gently and explains to Guzman, who has
asked who they were, that they’re like Tipi, expulsed form their countries and looking for
someone to hire them in the wharfs, like slaves, for if they don’t work the King patrols eliminate
them.
Sheila watches them with pity. Since a little girl, she was poor and rejected, and never ever
before, she had felt so good, so respected as in Duma.
“We have to find some shelter for tonight,” Marius advices. “Maybe in a refuge for voyagers,
Ensido.”
“And what’s that?” she asks.
“A house where the guards and king functionaries stay.”
“And will they let us remain?”
“I don’t know for certain, but I guess so.”
They prepare to wander around the town looking for such a refuge.
“Is Tipi going to stay here?” Enrique inquires.
“Yes, they sleep in the boats.”
They walk through the town. Everybody looks at them surprised, or as if they had the plague.
There are murmurs as they pass and people stay watching them. A little shy, the closed group
goes to some big shed that looks a bit inhospitable, while they’re guided by the confident Tuké.
With tact, Marius explains to the keeper that they’re travelers from some remote land, they
don’t know anybody and don’t have shelter for the night. After listening serious and attentively,
the old keeper returns within the house to ask the men that reside there. Through the opened
door, they can see some of them: they are dressed alike, with a red coat and black pantaloons,
besides carrying an emblem in the back. Moreover, they are the best-dressed people in the
hamlet, and maybe of the entire kingdom. And night is near.
Their negative is absolute, they don’t accept foreigners.
So they keep on looking everywhere, asking in the bigger houses. They go to the chief of
town place, in charge of the people, but nothing comes out. Neither at the fishermen shed nor the
army house strangers are accepted, even when they are almost empty.
Finally, they walk by the dark streets of the town, resigned to sleep outside. The hunger is
starting to attack them and from the river comes a wet, cold mist that poisons the air. Darkness is
almost complete, no candle or oil lamp lightens the roads. They are unhopeful, going down a
winding path when they hear something that alerts them. Someone or something has made a
noise behind the group.
“Was it an animal?” Enrique babbles, not being brave enough.
“Are there wild animals? I haven’t seen any,” Sheila adds, trembling.
“No, no, calm,” Marius answers. “There aren’t beasts in town.”
“Then, what was it?”
They draw closer, watching around. Guzman says:
“Alert. Listen!”
Silence, barely corrupted by the whispering wind.
Suddenly it can be heard again… like a voice.
It comes from a house with the door half opened. A man is calling them softly.
Marius gets near to talk to him in low voice. Then he comes to the others with a smile.
“Good news. These people invite us to pass the night in their house. Come on, don’t stay
there.”
“But, it might be a trap?” Guzman suggests making a gesture to stop the rest.
“Come on boy. Don’t be paranoid.” Enrique says slapping his shoulder. “At least it’s a roof…”
The young man nods.
The inside of the house is completely different to the night outside. There’s a fire lighted in
the heart, lamps brightening everything, making the place cozy, warm. There’s an irresistible
smell.
As their faces can be seen, the owner smiles and invites them to dinner. With him live his
wife, a little working woman –you can tell by the muscles in her hands and shoulders- and their
children: a grown boy, a girl and a little man. The woman is preparing dinner, after that she
makes four beds for them while they chat with her husband. This is a cheerful, serene and
curious man. He shots questions to his guests, who are a bit difficult to answer while Marius is
translating, for the owner is already making more questions. They tell him where they come from,
but not how they traveled from there, and this intrigues the man and makes him uneasy. But
then, details about the Earth convince him.
Between him and his elder son there’s a wide difference. The latter is anxious, extremely
suspecting and his big pride makes him surly. During the conversation, Guzman gets angry for
his sour commentaries, but he contains the anger behind his glasses. At last the father brings this
to an end, after receiving some intolerable menaces from his son.
“Don’t worry, he’s a fervent young man but inoffensive,” Dolfo, the owner, apologizes. “Hey,
the food’s ready!”

Though it is not a five star hotel room, at least they have some blankets and mattress for
each one near the heart. After the lamps have turned out, the room remains illuminated only by
the fire. The hazed, hesitating light, gives a gloomy aspect to the walls.
Everyone while in bed muses until getting by and by asleep. Their opinions about the troubles
of the travel and the previous dinner, vary according to their personality. Sheila thinks how can
they treat the women in such a way, and wonders if in her country is the same. Guzman is
worried about the menacing looks that Dolfo’s son threw at them before leaving. Enrique is
surprised for the idea of return is not drumming his head all the time anymore. He even gets
excited at the notion of discovering a new world. He smiles at the naiveté of the monks, thinking
the Earth is a perfect world to live in, without knowing or realizing the fight a man must hold to get
a good salary every month. And the fight to sustain a family, to give a good education to the
children and getting a pleasant old age; they ignore the problems of delinquency, drugs and
alcohol, and other many pests that never disappear.
Tired because of the anxiety and fear, their thoughts last little. Sheltered in a soft and warm
bed, they sink in the realm of sleep.

Next morning –very early- an unexpected circumstance gets them out of their comfortable
situation.
They are awakened abruptly by strong shakes. Sleepy but scared, Enrique exclaims: “What’s
happening? What’s the matter?”
He can’t understand Dolfo’s confused words, but it’s obvious that some danger is stalking
them. Dolfo runs to Marius in a desperate trial to be understood. Meanwhile, his wife hurries them
to get up. As they were half dressed, they are up in a minute.
“Let’s go behind!” Marius cries going to a back room. “A patrol is coming here!”
White, confused and half asleep, they run to a little room where they find the little kids.
A great tumult is heard in the big room and a second later the noise of the weak door that
opens with a creak and the steps from a numerous group coming in.
Dolfo is subjected to some kind of examination. Hard, implacable, cold, the group accuses
the man repeatedly, but he denies all. After a while, the guards begin to doubt, but still continue
accusing. The offended voice and the humble attitude of Dolfo seem to calm them down. Then a
known voice speaks.
The three humans look one another, rigid, there’s no need to talk. If law is hard against those
who talk against the king, what will happen to them who tell that in another world you can say
anything, where the people chooses the king and nobody can dispose of another’s life, not even
of a woman. Why didn’t they shut up?
Startled –with horror- they see the door opening.
With relief, they can see it’s the wife. She brings some clothes like blankets and, with wide
signs she delivers one to each of them, indicating to put them on. Surprised, they realize it is a
bunch of cloaks with hoods.
When they are ready, Dolfo enters.
“Sorry for my son’s attitude. He is convinced of what the king guards are saying, I believe
he’s afraid, but he’s not bad. He is confused, that’s all.” What they suspected was true. “He called
the patrol and told them about what you told last night. But don’t worry, I convinced them that you
were not worth the while, that you’re insane. They weren’t too convinced and wanted to see
you… then I said you were gone.” He smiles with satisfaction at the trick he played on the
guards. “The best for you to do, I think, is to go fast from here, and now on, you’ll be careful.”
After that he showed them the traditional salute of his town to the guests: a hug.

13 Sheila’s time

Well wrapped in their cloaks and hiding along the half desert streets, they walk by the sandy
roads, full of holes and a bitter stench coming from the river. The morning nauseous mist is worst
than by nightfall. As it lifts little by little, moreover, it leaves place to a wet, suffocating heat.
Before going to the wharf they decide to search for food. They agree that Marius, the only
that can speak the language, gets into some shed to exchange some valued object for supplies.
They look around, what do they have? Guzman’s watch would attract attention and betray
them, given that wristwatches haven’t been invented yet. They turn off their pockets. Most things
can’t be shown.
“What about Enrique’s ring?” Sheila suggests.
“What…! My wedding ring?” he exclaims. “No, I can’t; my wife would kill me. She doesn’t
even let me get it out in the shower… no.”
“All right,” the young man calms him. “We won’t touch it… now. But maybe…”
“No, no! At least I will save this!”
His anger, his red face and agitation makes the others merry.
“Let’s see what we’ll use…”
The list is rather curious: from Sheila, a lipstick, twenty bucks, a hair band, a pair of plastic
earrings, an unpaid receipt and the mini skirt she’s wearing under the clothe and cloak. From
Enrique, his driving license, a box of matches, half football ticket, a condom and the tie. From
Guzman, a black pen, used papers, his watch, coins and a hundred bucks, besides his clothes.
“The tie and the earrings,” Guzman proposes.
“The earrings are plastic,” Sheila objects. “Better the coins. I guess they know metal…”
“OK.”
Marius goes in, and after transacting with the storeowner, who refuse to attend foreigners, he
gets some pieces of meat and bread. The bread is hard and dark, the meat is all bone. But it is
better than anything.
They arrive to the harbor. It seems nobody looks for them.
Screams from a nearby street. A patrol comes running. They run. Their clothes fly around. It
will be difficult to escape this time.
Guzman, the first, turns to some street suddenly and the others imitate him. They get into the
first house they see. Fortunately, the door is open. As the guards pass by, they come back
following the previous way to the wharf. A simple trick.
They’re walking along the dock, when Sheila emits a stifled cry.
“Ah!” she stops, taking a hand to her mouth, surprised. “Look that!”
Following her gaze, they get astonished. But it is a nice surprise.
There are five bigger rafts, besides the funny one they used before; well, they were already
there but… now each one has a sail. Yes, two white sails, another yellow, a green and another
blue like Tipi’s. They were rough but... how nice to realize they made something fine! Others took
they idea, they were interested and used it.
While greeting Tipi and getting on the raft, they continue watching it as a mother
contemplates her son. The calm Tipi draws the boat away from the dock, with his pole. Then he
sits astern, using the oar as a rudder to guide the embarkation to the middle of the river.
As they go by, the owner of the other sails shout, cheer and salute them.

The march keeps on tranquil. Hour go by slowly, very boring. The sounds from shore barely
get to them, only the lapping of the water against the raft. However, the silence is worst than
some noise. It seems that life, if there’s any, is crouching, watching, not including them in it, but
letting them go, indifferent.
Sometimes a shout or yell let’s them know there is life, they’re being watched from far, but it
is still a sound without face or body.
The Siszur has branched copiously. Sometimes they see another channel on the other side
of the lands and all the time they come to intersections that Tipi knows perfectly. He never
hesitates. They pass a few settlements like the town where they slept. The people look curious
and anxious as they see the sail, they signal and talk between them. Long time they remain
watching until there’s nothing on their visual horizon.
As the afternoon is going out, the sun declining, they get into some thinner arms where the
borders are full of trees. Some islets are so dense that they can touch the leaves just by
stretching an arm, and if they shake some branch, the whole wood quivers.
The silence is almost deadly.
“I feel like…” Sheila says all of a sudden, shivering, “like being watched.”
The other can’t help feel a shiver down their spines as she says this. But they try to cheer her
up:
“Come on, it’s your imagination!” Enrique laughs. “That feeling is produced for the ambient.
The branches and all… it is ghastly.”
But they can’t help looking one side and the other now and then.
“A branch moved!” Sheila screams, startling to her feet.
“Be quiet,” Marius calms her, slapping her shoulder and speaking with serenity.
“No, it’s not my imagination! There it moved another…!” she cries again.
“Sit down and stop it,” Enrique interposes, serious. “You’re scaring me.”
Guzman watches right and left: he doesn’t see any movement, he can’t hear any noise.
Then, in the middle of the branches, he believes to see a brown face. Or was it his
imagination…
Questioned, Tipi says:
“They are like me. Some poor devil without earth. Inoffensive.”
As Tipi would give them no notice, they calm down. Sheila sits again. Then, they hear terrible
screams, chilling yells, together with a dozen men almost naked, starved –all skin and bone- and
desperate, that plunge like apes into the water and surround them.
In a closed group in the midst of the boat, the travelers embrace together, while the savages
besiege them to stop the raft. Then they drag it to the shore between yells of jubilee. When their
boat is blocked on the bank, they stop howling and one guy comes to the front, handling a long
stick with some ribbons. He moves the stick to the sides and then shakes it around the humans.
“What-what happens?” Sheila whispers.
“He calls the spirits,” Marius explains. ”He thinks we are Sardos and that the spirits must tell
what to do with us.”
“But… tell them who we are.”
The savage, meanwhile, is turning around them agitating the stick and invoking like a
madman. His eyes roll. Suddenly he stops, frozen. His partners wait in eager silence.
Finally, he gives out an order. His intentions are clear.
“No!” Enrique cries. “Please explain, idiot monk!”
Marius acts then. He stands in front of the others, avoiding the charge against them. He tries
to make himself understood shouting. But it’s confuse and silly for the deportee people. The
shaman, who seems to be the chief, stops to think.
“Speak,” he says at last, asking silence with his stick to the rest.
“These three are humans, not Sardos. They come from a far, far away place. From another
world.”
“Ah… they’re gods?” the chief exclaims, astounded.
“Not so much. They…”
“Spirits?”
“No, but…”
“Then, they aren’t worth anything. And I think you lie…”
“No, and they can prove it,” Marius affirms turning to them; “he wants a proof.”
Bewildered, they stared at him. What to do? Carlos had deceived them with a lighter, but…
In a bad mood, Enrique says to Marius: “What do you want us to do, a pirouette?”
An expatriated rushes on them with his lance, direct to Sheila. But he can’t get to hurt her.
The woman stands aside in a jump and grabs the lance with both hands. The attacker falls from a
kick in the groin.
With a horrifying scream, Sheila lifts the lance over her head and begins to emit incoherent
cries. Even her partners open the way before her, scared.
“Ah, me, I’m a spirit! Tremble, worms, because I will crush you in my hand!” Moving around,
with gestures and making her voice go up and down, yelling and lisping, she continues: “I, Sheila
the terrible, the horror of the Earth, the hell of poor mortals. No, don’t run, you can’t escape… Ha,
ha, ha!” A ghoulish laugh, between contortions. “He, he, he! Now we see, eh…! Idiots, you don’t
get a word, eh? Well, suffer, cowards. I don’t know what I am saying, but neither do you. How I
make fun of you, believing mortals…” she adds with menacing tone, agitating arms and lance, as
if putting a charm on them, “now see…”
She is interrupted as she sees the flames glaring in front of her. Surprised, she stays
paralyzed before the fire until her fellows snatch her out of there and get her on the raft.
Rapidly, they get out of there. Behind, are left the screams of the horrified deportees.
“How did you make it?” Guzman exclaims.
“What did I make? I didn’t…” she replies, stunned. “I don’t know what…”
“You had a little help,” Enrique interrupts, showing them a box of matches. “While they were
looking at her, I threw some on the grass, as there were dry leaves…”
“Magnificent!”
“Excellent!” Sheila rejoices. “Good team!”
Then they look behind and see Tipi, shouting and agitating his arms.
“What happens to him?”
“He’ll think we stole the raft.”
“Maybe…” Guzman assents.
They keep on going down stream.
Some time later, they hear a murmur of fast running water.
“I think we’re going out of these canals.”
“Yes, it must be the outlet to the lake, isn’t it, Marius?”
“Well… I guess. I’ve never been here.”
Then, as the channel bends, they realize it wasn’t exactly that, but worst. Not that it’s not a
way out, but the difficult lays that some steps in the river interpose between them and the outlet
to the lake.
“Now I see what Tipi meant,” Sheila says.
The channel they are navigating has some rapids and is specked with narrow rocks with
cutting edges, above which they are about to be tossed by the stream in just a few seconds…

14 Jumping
“Get down, hurry!” Guzman cries, as he takes the oar, and says to himself “now or never”.
With the long pole clutched in his hands he prepares to get the raft apart from a rock, his
knees a little bent, and eager expression. With a violent shock, they left the rock behind to their
right.
But they are deviated too much to the left, and stumbling, they go another still bigger rock.
The strong flow drags them inevitably to the rock, between whirls and undercurrents. The water
covers them a moment and in the roaring river, Guzman can be heard saying:
“To the right! All the weight to the right!”
AS if it was a sleigh going down a hill, everybody turns to the right side, changing slightly the
course.
Brave, the young man tries to touch the rock with the oar.
“No!” Sheila desperately shouts him.
He doesn’t mind her. The moment of collision has arrived. He gets to make contact with the
pole and pushes back with all his might, practically throwing on it. The hit makes the boat turn
around and the young man falls back. Fortunately, he falls on the boat and not overboard. The
raft revolves and goes to a whirl: they can’t stop the circling movement that makes them dizzy,
while swallowing liters and liters of water.
Almost lying prone, grabbed to any notch of the wood, they hold as they best can. The oar is
useless. They pass over some submerged rocks, what makes them jump, falling some meters
down stream to pass between two rocks that wrap tem in a cold shower. The water leaps and
falls on them once more. However, despite they’re now navigating or better, drifting slower, the
danger is not yet over. There is still a higher rapid, and this is only the calm before the storm.
“Ah!” they scream together as they suddenly fall.
The raft is now just a destroyed wood plank, a feeble lifesaver they grip with desperation.
They can’t see for the water hitting them. Completely stunned, soaked and blind, they have the
funniest thoughts. They fall and tilt again; they go balancing over a load of water, above a lot of
little rocks. I don’t want to die! Sheila thinks. It can’t be possible I should die in this way! She says
while the domineering liquid gets into her mouth and eyes and a lot of childhood images, when
she was happy… with a simple life near her family. And while they jump madly, the bodies
smashing against the board and pain in the back, Enrique sees the faces of his wife and children
pass before his eyes, and then he pities himself, and then he curses what brought him here. But
his thoughts don’t stop the situation.
They hit against a rock, going back with violence. The water throws them against it again,
and this time with such a force that Marius is about to fly ahead. Sheila and Guzman grab him on
time, when he’s about to fall off the boat.
Guzman doesn’t think of his past life. The image of a woman appears to him and he doesn’t
know why. He knows her little and however, he can’t forget the last time he saw her. And now, as
he tries to survive the power of the river, he just realized that. In front of them, he suddenly sees
a huge rock that seems about to swallow them.
“Pay attention! To the left!”
But the raft is not what it was. Without thinking, just acting, everyone go to the left, crawling.
The boat inclines, with the crowded bodies in a confusion of legs, arms and heads. With difficult,
they grab from the center of the raft not to be expelled. They can’t hinder the embarkation from
touching the rock; they are thrown to the left margin with force, crash against a cutting rock and
shaking, they end turning around in a whirl.
Stumbling, they left the most dangerous rapid, with an amazing fall. It’s incredible the raft
didn’t turn over.
“Wow… it’s over” Sheila whispers.
“Is-is-it over?” Enrique stammers.
“No!” Marius shouts, his eyes fixed forward.
A rapid flow traps them and takes the boat fast to the center of the last jump. Fortunately
there aren’t any rocks. Barely knowing it, they reach the end of the channel and then, the abyss.
The way finishes and they fall with all theirs weight down. As they sunk, there’s a big water spray
and then, it returns to the calm, the beauty of the water falling on a lake.

Hours later, half swimming and half taken by the stream, they reach land. Everyone's alive.
They’re still disturbed for the travel and the long hours soaked, but without serious injuries. Their
skin is soft and wrinkled. While they were in this luxurious cruise, the night arrived and they are
now in the dark, in some unknown beach and without hopes.
Dragging himself, Guzman gets out of the lake. Leaning on his elbows and crawling on the
sand, he reaches the earth to lie down with dismay. Sheila, her eyes wide, turned to the sky,
doesn’t see it. She is just trying to rest, franticly breathing.
For the tire they feel is so much they can’t sleep. The muscles relax slowly, leaving a pain
sensation and weariness. Lifting a little her head, she watches the lake to see only an everlasting
darkness, unfathomable, inscrutable: it seems the end of the world. A moon mirrors on the waves
near the shore, giving them a metallic shine.
Enrique moans as a baby, his mind tired.
The morning finds them there, profoundly asleep. Guzman has his head sunken on the sand.
During the night he turned around and his face, glasses and mouth are full of sand. Besides him,
Enrique sleeps face upward disorderly, snoring with his mouth opened, from where a streak of
spittle leaked out.
Guzman and Marius, awaken with the first rays of the sun, look at him and laugh.
“It seems the travel will be too much for him,” Marius sighs.
“For everyone,” the young man corrects him, while cleaning the glasses on his clothe.
“You pretend to be weal, but in the end you are the stronger of all, who never stands back,
Guzman Gianetti.”
“Don’t say so much,” he replies, blushing.
The other two, after getting up, come near them to wash their face in the lake. Refreshed,
Sheila admires the landscape and comments:
“Wow, it’s nice this place!”
“Yes, nice graveyard,” Enrique interposes, looking around.
They are in a lonely place, in sight of any kind of civilization and moreover, the hunger is
beginning to attack. They lost everything. At least the clothes have dried.
“Ay, my head aches!” Sheila complains.
“You look pallid, with rings under the eyes,” Enrique tells her; “don’t you feel dizzy?”
“Yes, a little.”
“She’s weak,” Marius says worried. “She needs food. I think we all need it…”
“Isn’t there anything in those woods?” Guzman asks, signaling farther of the beach.
“Yes, some fruit.”
“Well, let’ go!”
When they have already stood up and are going to the trees, a cry from Sheila stops them:
“Look there! It’s a ship… people…”
Frozen, everybody gaze to the lake. Yes, a ship. A long and narrow galley ship. A file of
rowers in each side impulse with their muscles the weighty embarkation that is loaded to the top.
“And if they reject us like in town?” Sheila asks, fearful, while they are making signs.
“I’ll tell them,” Marius says, after thinking, “that you are travelers, ambassadors from a remote
land, who want to talk to the king in the name of your people.”
“And if they really take us to the king?”
“Ah… it will take much time before that.”
Agitating arms and screaming, they see how the ship changes its course a bit.

“How do you say you get here?”


“A savage who steered the raft, cheated on us, took our things and abandoned us in the
rapids. With luck, we came to this beach after swimming all night. These sirs are big personages
in the country and are traveling from long time ago.”
The man, a short but well built individual, dark and a bit bald, seems to hesitate. He rubs his
chin as he watches them with eyes burning like coals. Finally, he says:
“All right. You come on board my ship.”

15 The twins and the King’s wife.

Iena, capital of the Kingdom Sardo.


At last they get to their destination, after many troubles. They’re in peace. Their travel will end
when they get to Iena.
The most precise words to describe it are austerity, magnificence and severity. From far
away it can be seen as a mole of rectangular stones heaped up as if by chance, forming a
pronounced contrast with the pure nature surrounding the city, but as you go closer you realize
that every stone is located in a strict order and all together they form a great structure. Gray,
white, marble, greenish… all together they are set apart from the most pure blue sky and the
infinite green coastline.
Closer there are more details: windows, doors, people, animals… small as little statuettes.
The ship finally enters the harbor of Iena, which is full. The humans, expectant, watch every
particular.
“It’s so… impacting!” Sheila exclaims, amazed. “The streets are so narrow and straight. And
these buildings… huge. It’s nothing like the cities I know. What do you think, Guzman, that’s your
field?”
He doesn’t answer. He’s absorbed in the contemplation. His eyes fill with shapes, colors, that
his brain process like some conditioned reflex, almost not being aware, he classifies, calculates.
Later, when Sheila is looking the other side and has forgotten her question, he determinates:
“It’s unique… For its dimension, the buildings are made to show strength, greatness. And its
strictly squared shapes… there are no arcs nor pyramids, everything so planned… and the
surfaces are clear and smooth. Everything here express severity…”
“No, you are mistaken,” Enrique interrupts him. “Here everything is protection to me, away
from the beasts of the country, the primitive people, the cold and hunger, and sleeping outside
without blankets, and away from waterfalls, above all.”
Guzman remains thoughtful, and nods.
“Yes, it also expresses protection.”
But not in the way you think, Enrique.
Now they not only can see, but hear and listen. The ship moors as soft as a dove on a
branch, between other embarkations, in a dock of planks leaning on big piles, wet and blackened.
Around them there is great agitation and lots of working. There are shouts of command, voices
that question and answer, noise of crashing wood boxes and the eternal moan of the lake that
creeps under their feet.
It smells bad too, now that the sea breeze doesn’t bring the fresh vegetal fragrance of floating
flowers that lull with the flows. From the vessels and docks come a sour stench like humidity, piss
–just like human-, rotten dead meat, and some unidentified odors.
After more or less an hour, the captain, to call him something, invites them to descend and be
conducted to a provisional refuge while waiting the interview with the King. From hands of the
robust and dark captain, are left in the care of the harbor Manager, a conceited man with airs of
dignity that leads them across some narrow streets to their next dwelling.
Then, while they walk by the streets of Iena, they realize that the imposing city is not what it
seem from the outside. The stone pathways, just like the buildings, are narrow and would be fatal
for a claustrophobic; to one side or the other, the eyes only meet tall, unending walls that seem to
close above the heads, and turning your gaze down, it seems that the walls are closer than
before and about to crash on you. An increasing dampness fills the constricted streets,
condensing the nastiest smells. A yellow, stinking moss grows in the base of the constructions,
and in the soil cracks, dark water run, when it’s not settled against the walls.
The doors are so high that it seems impossible to be able to enter some building, and
anyway, they look like solid metal, impossible to open. As for the windows, they are almost out of
sight.
Finally, their guide the Manager leaves them in front of a tall, slim building with a twofold
door. They hit with a metal stick that hangs to the right, the door opens a little and a hollow voice
asks:
“Se nese va?” or translated, “Who is it?”
The stately Manager answers and some time later, the two folds of the door open wide and a
well-built, firm stair, descends slowly with a creak of hinge and wood. He makes a sign for them
to enter and say farewell:
“Sua navá, sene sortex fa’toru!”
Marius goes up the first, then Sheila, Guzman and Enrique. The room they enter is
completely dark and silent. The door closes at their back with an agonizing screech that makes
them shiver, and a sound, a whisper, comes together with the lighting of some quivering lamps.
There, out of the blue, they are in front of two individuals still more hideous than the empty
room, cold and little lighted. Both are dressed in the same way: wide long, red wine colored
robes, that half-opened let see the short black trousers and the dark high boots, and yellow shirts
profusely adorned with red lace and trimmings. Also their faces have the same identical features,
their eyes the same acute and dangerous look, and their skin is like dried parchment, as if they
hadn’t go out in long time.
After some minutes of silent contemplation, during which the hearts thundered in the ears of
the humans and Marius too, the two guys seemed to enjoy the confusion of the strangers. Then
one of them comes forward to speak:
“Sene nava sua embex, sené?” A phlegmatic, empty voice.
Marius answers giving to his voice more importance and visibly enhancing his companions.
After a fast exchange of sentences, the twins left them with a bow to go into the building.
“They believed everything,” Marius exclaims, happy, smiling. “Tomorrow or the day after
many in the city will know of you.”
“Isn’t it dangerous?” Sheila interrupts. “If everybody knows, the king will know too and… he
may send to cut our heads.”
“No, knowing you come from a distant rich land,” the Tuké replies with a smile in his lips.
“We’ll appeal to his ambition. The King is a man well known for his thirst of power and greatness,
and for that he needs riches… Though, he’s also known for his cruelty.”
“Great!” Enrique exclaims, sarcastic. “This will end bad…”
“I think too that being famous will be good,” the younger, who was standing behind the group,
agrees with Marius. “They’ll listen to us, not like in the hamlets where they closed the door in our
nose.”
“But… do you still think of going around preaching like an idiot?” Enrique complains. “Don’t
you see that’s the easiest way to die? If we shut up, we’ll stay alive.”
“But, are we not here for that?” Guzman replies, confronting him. “Or else… what for? Taking
an excursion?” he cries.
“No, no! We’re here because of these idiots that brought us by force without asking or
warning! This is pretty much kidnapping!”
Marius tries to calm them, but he only gets to be pushed apart.
“So what? If we’re here, we’d better do what we come to do.”
“I didn’t come here willing, don’t believe in fate and that crap. I won’t do anything. I’ll only sit
and wait for them to return us to the Earth…”
“Calm down, boys,” Sheila interposes in time to avoid the following boxing. “Enrique, it’s clear
that until we do something they won’t let us come back, so we better take calm and conform, and
let’s see the positive.”
They were to begin to quarrel again when the sudden arrival of one of the twins freezes them.
Composing, both confront him with fake decorum.
With a mocking smile, as if he knew all that happened, he asks them followed to their rooms.
As they cross other more illuminated rooms, they realize that the huge dimensions and the
severity of lines is unvarying, though the cleanness and bright makes them less frightening and
dismal than the first one, more like a pantheon than a vestibule.
They get four rooms alike and next to each other, located in front of a wide desert gallery,
with big windows to the street.
“Some decoration wouldn’t be out of place,” Sheila comments. “Not even my flat looks so
bad.”
“It’s dismal, I wouldn’t stay the night alone for nothing in the world,” Guzman agrees, and in
that moment, as if they read his thinking, he sees a row of men and women coming up.
“They’re our servants,” Marius explains.
“Wow!” Sheila exclaims. “This is really serious…”
While they talk unworriedly, watching the gallery, the twin watches them. He smirks and looks
malicious at his own hands, before going, slithering as a snake.

Already rested, washed, dressed in new, costly clothes, combed and perfumed by their
servants, they go up to dinner, led by a slave that wears armor.
The dinning room is blinding, after walking by softly illuminated corridors and galleries. It is
situated two floors above their rooms and opens directly from the stairs.
For the first time they see the walls adorned with banners and red flags. The space is
illuminated by big metal chandeliers that hang from the roof with thousands of white candles and
golden lamps that spread a shower of light on the white, velvety walls. The hall is filled with
people talking and drinking, but everyone stops and makes silence to see them appear on the
stair; everyone, from the servants and guards posted near the walls, to the men and ladies
enjoying the meeting placidly, as if they were in their element.
All five look radiant as they walk the short space to the twins that come over to receive them,
but Sheila is the one who looks specially shining tonight. Every move, every trembling smile that
brightens her face, every look are queen like. With her dignity and amiable expression she
provokes the desire in the men and the envy of the women. Even her fellows are impressed of
her appearance of inborn royalty and the absolute confidence her steps show every moment.
She wears a dress that leaves her shoulders uncovered, made of many layers of transparent
fabric that fits well her waist and hips, all embroidered in gems. Her hair is dressed –upturned on
her head and surrounded of shining stones- and she’s made up subtly by the hands of some
maid. She rejoices thinking what would say her workmates if they could see her then, and what
they’d envy her for the admired looks she awakens. From the arms of two elegant partners and
preceded by the serene Marius, she walks by the hall, where the talking and drinking has been
resumed.
A servant draws closer with a plate and offers them cups. Then a stout man, by his clothes
an important personage, comes with a pretty brunette of catlike eyes that, first thing she does, is
to give a long deliberated glance at Guzman, too slowly.
“I am the Third Minister of the King,” he introduces, “-and she, this beautiful woman, one of
the royal wives- I’ve understood you are ambassadors from a distant great empire, but… we
never heard of it. What do you call it?”
Confused, they look around before answering, but… Enrique says one thing and Guzman
another, while Sheila watched them with horror. The solution that Guzman finds is to call it, Earth.
“Earth…” the king’s woman repeats in a sexy whisper. “Sukish.”
“Nice.” Marius translates.
One hour later, more relaxed and comfortable among the aristocracy, and while Sheila and
Enrique enjoy being the center of the group with their chat, Varna, the King’s wife, grabs Guzman
by the arm to take him apart to the stair.

16 The death injury

The sun shines up in the sky, making glitter the soft green hills, the little copses and farther
on, in the background, a lake of azure calm waters. Fabiana takes the reins of her animal and
giving a slight pull, she makes it hurry. They go in a light trot up the hill and, in the highest point
they stop. They leave the breeze to caress their hair, which blows back with the soft touch of its
fingers. Hair and mane have the same glowing reddish chestnut color. Both pair of eyes,
luminous and big, seem to watch with equal pleasure the virgin landscape.
“Three days” someone pronounces with difficult at their back.
As she turns to the voice, the girl meets the chief of the town of Rilay and smiles at him. She
nods and says:
“Yes, three days ago I arrived,” her voice sounds thoughtful, but in the next moment she
adds, “Ten, Wee vier?”
“Excet, and… you?”
“Ten excet.”
Meanwhile, they dismount and leave the animals together, to sit nearby on some rocks that
dominate a vast extension of land. They continue their difficult conversation, pure gestures and
drawings with a stick in the ground, for both know too little of the other language.
“What were you thinking?” Fezan of Rilay asks with the gesture of taking a hand to his head.
“My partners,” she answers, making a drawing.
“Fine,” he stutters, “they be fine.”
“I don’t know…” she says shaking her head. “I have this… a hunch;” she touches her chest.
“Feel a dorzniak… danger.”
“Da,” Fabiana assents sadly.
He smiles and signals the pretty country at their feet. She follows his arm, and smiles too.

“Ha, ha, ha!” Sheila laughs like crazy, while conversing with Enrique.
These two are breakfasting in a well-served table attended by several servants, more like
slaves. When Guzman enters followed by a servant, they shut up immediately, not hiding well a
knowing smile.
Guzman smiles, greets them and sits down, ready to help himself some juice. He looks by
the corner of the eye at his companions and notices they are laughing at him, it seems. He
leaves the cup and watches them seriously, though he can’t help chuckling as he asks:
“What’s the matter with you? Why do you laugh?”
Sheila stops laughing, almost choking.
“Sorry, I can’t help it,” she whispers as she tries to catch her air.
“Mm… ahem” Enrique coughs. “What happened to you last night?” he suddenly asks in a
casual tone.
“To… me?” Guzman stutters opening his eyes wide. “But, what happened? Nothing, that I
know of.”
“And that beauty that seemed got out of a Play Boy poster, with that transparent little dress
and that look, ah? I saw well that she took your arm and you went out of the hall.”
“Ea, I saw it too!” Sheila joins, laughing.
Guzman finishes pouring the juice and tastes a little before the answer. He takes his time.
“But do you really believe I’d mess it up so much? The wife of the king?”
“Only one among several,” Sheila replies, disbelieving.
“Yes, but Varna is one of the prettiest; don’t you think?”
“Then, what did you do all the time you were out? It was like two hours and a half, and you
can’t talk without Marius… and he was with us.”
“We just made human contact.” To what Sheila answers:
“Hurrah! What a man, it must be your Italian blood!”
The two men can’t help smile at her enthusiasm. Enrique asks, getting closer to the other:
“So tell me, what are the women here like? Have the same, do like us?”
“Mm, well, I don’t know. There were just a few kisses and innocent caresses, what did you
believe? But… yes, she’s clever, very sexy. Without knowing how, I was suddenly in a terrace,
higher up. I saw the sky, and the entire city at our feet. She was signaling places and buildings,
naming them, and suddenly she was hugging me. And that way, we got to a kiss. We didn’t need
languages to talk, with eyes and gestures it was enough… but after the kiss it was different. It
was as if all the charm of her eyes, her beauty, her treat, was broken and then I saw… I don’t
know, it was like other woman before me. A false woman. All that charm that captivated me, was
counterfeit.”
“Well, my boy, what do you want? Women are that way, greedy.”
“Hey, hey! What are you saying?” Sheila interposes.
“Well, you’re beauty and not greedy.”
“Though I may be, you don’t know me well,” she adds mysteriously.
“I don’t think so, your face is honest.”
“Ah, thanks! And, what I was saying? I want to know also…”
“Our boy is an idol, though a little exacting.”
“Oh!” she exclaims, carrying on his play.
And while they keep on talking, half playing, half seriously, Guzman drinks his juice thoughtful
and whispers:
“Ay, ay… you’re all the same thing.”

When they come back, Fabiana rides along the main street at a gallop, raising a lot of dust.
But the street is empty: most people are working in the fields or cleaning the houses. Some
children play in the place in the middle of much shouting and races. She comes to a halt at the
door of her cottage.
As she dismounts, she meets Sacary, who in that moment is coming out of the house.
“Where did you learn to ride that way?” he asks, shaking off some dust from his arms.
“My parents had horses in their ranch. I learnt to ride from the workmen. Then they paid me
some horsemanship lessons with a professor, but it never was as good as running through the
field, and I left.”
She ties the animal to the stake near the door and shakes the dust off her clothes and hair,
before going with Sacary.
“Where are we going?”
“Chief Fezan invites us for luncheon.”
“Is he already come back? I saw him early in the hills. I like this people…” she says
entranced in her thoughts. “Sacary, do you believe in premonition?” she exclaims suddenly. “Or
maybe in hunches?”
“Of course I do. Why do you ask? Ah, I know. You had one.”
“Well, I don’t know… I don’t know what to call it, but suddenly I felt as if something bad
happened. Oh, maybe in the Earth! What if something happened and they don’t have a way of
telling me? Or here, if something happened to my travel mates, I’m the only one left.”
“Don’t say so, don’t even think about it. It’s enough we lost Carlos Cardoso.”
“Poor… what kind of death would he…”
Then some screams from the main street, a little further on, alert them. They run there. Many
people are encircling someone who cries as a damned one, chorused by a woman’s wail. As she
comes closer and notices what is happening, Fabiana’s face turns white and amazed, she looks
around asking for an explanation. The man is lying there on the floor, his head leaning in the lap
of a woman. He doesn’t stop the cries while he grips his right leg, covered in blood, and twists his
other leg in the soil, writhing in pain. He has bruises in the face and arms, his blouse and trousers
are torn apart, dirty with earth, sweated and bloody. That liquid runs from his injuries in the leg
and arm, soaking the ground.
“He’s going to bleed to death!” Fabiana exclaims, but no one minds her.
Her voice surpass not the injured man cries, nor the pleading of his woman, who now
implores to the people surrounding them, then tries to calm the man with caresses, tears and soft
words. But everybody continue there as until now, immovable, just whispering between them.
They watch her with compassion and pity, there are even some that hide their mouths and look to
the other side, incapable of watching more suffering.
Fezan looks at Gribash Watcher with suspicion. The latter says something, with caution.
Fezan assents, with infinite sorrow in his wet pupils.
Before the mute question of Fabiana, Sacary whispers to her ear:
“They’re going to finish his agony, they say.”
Her face upsets.
“But, that’s not a death wound!” she objects.
And, making way between the surrounding people, she goes to the injured man and leans
next to him. Fezan tries to get her apart but she releases with a pull and returns to the man.
When the Watcher tries to intervene, Sacary gets in-between, cutting his way, asking for some
minutes. Resigned, as if he thought the man was going to die sooner or later, the Watcher
doesn’t insist.
The woman smiles to the pained man and to his wife, and with much care, she checks the
hurt leg. A little disgusted for all the blood, she confirms there are no bad wounds. It must be a
broken bone. She moves the foot softly: the ankle is fine. But barely touching his knee makes him
yell out. She smiles with confidence and, as if she had done it all her life, she asks:
“Water, Sacary, and some towels.”
The latter asks it but no one moves. Someone hesitates. As she sees that nobody’s doing
anything, she screams louder:
“Damn! Do something, or this man will die of pain!”
With her furious cries, Fezan reacts. He makes a sign to bring her what he asks, and comes
near to help.
They wash the injuries in the leg and the arms with abundant water, containing the blood with
pieces of clothe.
“Press hard,” Fabiana indicates to Sacary and the woman, who are helping with the arms,
and seeing the fear in the monk face, she adds; “Don’t worry, I’ve seen it done many times.”
She watches the knee and touches different places, concluding the fracture is located in the
tibia, a bit besides the joint with the kneecap. Then she finds that she doesn’t know what to do.
She’s in blank. She has seen her father, who was a doctor, to heal this kind of wounds in his
consulting room. She had even been there when a laborer fell off the horse before her eyes and
she saw how her father took care of him with what he had on hand. “Remember, fool,
remember,” she says to herself. Right then, she has an idea, remembering that worker.
“Two boards and more drape!” she orders, excited for that brilliant idea.
“What will you do?!”
“I’m going to splint. Calm… Now we’re going to dress the wounds. Oh, what happens?”
The man has fainted, weak for the lost of blood. Her woman tries to awake him. Everybody
watch the show with expectation. Absorbed, almost bending double forward, and almost
breathless they watch every detail: the way she dress energetically the right arm from the elbow
to the wrist, and then four hands wash the blood out of his face and back. When she straightens
the leg with the help of two boards and ties them up with force, pressing on the fracture, it is still
more interesting.
Having finished the assistance, agitated and sweating, she lets her eyes run over the group
of people that watch her with secret admiration. So concentrate she was that she didn’t realize
she was surrounded by the people, who handed her things and root for her. Though, the man
was still faint. The woman cries sourly against his chest.
“Calm her, Sacary, he’s going to wake any minute,” she asks with tired voice while she gets
up. “And let’s go home… please. I need to wash.”
She stretches shoulder and arms, stiffened from the pressure. And then she walks slowly,
heavily, to wash herself and fall dismayed in some place.
Silently, everyone watch her go, and turn again to the injured man, who seems calmed in his
unconsciousness, with a peaceful expression in the face. The Watcher, behind them all, a bit
apart, looks with severity at the sick man. His eyes flash with sinister gleams. Perplex, he can’t
believe how this town dares to defy Gribash and his Great Empire. Frustrated, he clutches his
fists. This won’t remain so, he thinks, while he watches Fabiana going away by the earth street.

17 It is war.

Marius enters the breakfast room in a hurry. Amazed, for they never saw the monk so excited
and much less running so fast, everyone turn their astonished eyes. Trying to catch breath, he
explains to his frozen companions.
“Ah…! Eh… While I came… here to… I heard the woman say that… she said, to them…”
“Stop, stop, my friend. Breath a little that we don’t understand you” Sheila stops her. “Calm,
calm down. Now, speak. Who is it you heard?”
“I was coming here,” he begins anew, “to meet you when I heard some voices.” “I was going
away when I heard some words that made me stop. They were talking of us. I drew closer to the
door, and put my head on it, listening to everything.”
“Very well! Speak now!”
“It seems,” Marius lowers is voice, “there are traitors here; there’s people of Gribash in the
heart of the Sardo Kingdom, very close to the king.”
“So what?” Enrique asks with indifference.
“The twins and the king’s wife, Varna” Marius says.
“Varna?” Guzman exclaims, in disbelief. “I can’t believe it. Though…” he wonders, “it’s not so
difficult to believe… By God! And this, how affect us?”
“They talked of us, or rather of you. They think you would be valuable allies to the King, so
they plan to abduct you and give you to Gribash before the king knows of you.”
Each one thinks of their own, until Enrique says truthfully:
“Really, there’s so much danger in staying here and see the king as being taken there to see
Gribash, isn’t it?”
For the first time exasperated, Marius replies:
“We, I think, are not planning to meet any of them. That would be useless and senseless,
because your destiny is to bring new ideas to the people, not to be slaughtered or torn to small
pieces by the king. Before important people, and even more the king, you must pretend to be
helpful and a benefit for them.”
“Then, what are going to do? I feel worst that if waiting a pregnancy test,” Sheila complains.
“This confusion is worst than anything. We don’t have nothing to hope for, nothing to do.”
“I say that we go out of here before someone has the idea of taking us to the king. At first, I
thought the idea of passing as ambassadors was good, but I didn’t count on this.”
While Guzman finished his thought, the twins came in. His mocking smiles that seemed to be
indelible in their faces, forms a contrast with the rigidity in the human countenances. They seem
children caught in fraganti.
“Calm, adopt a more natural posture.”
With difficulty, they get to smile to the newcomers and to relax their muscles.
“Question them with something, Marius” Enrique tells him.
“Something like… what?”
“When are we going to see the king?” Guzman continues.
Made the question, they notice the cold look they cross, suspicious of intelligence between
them. Soon, maybe a few weeks, the answer is.
“Why waiting so much?”
To this they answer simply that the king has many meetings and more hurrying matters than
this interview.
“Does the king know we’re here and who are we?”
This question, formulated with energy, puts some contrariness in their leather faces. At first it
seems to have shocked the more silent twin, who throws the head back as surprised to hear that
question. But now, imitating his brother, he makes an over-confident affirmation, without
hesitation.
As they go out, Sheila whispers:
“I’m with Guzman. This kid is right: we must get out of here, immediately. I don’t like this. And
this was praise… it’s the first young man I see that thinks before acting.”

As he hears a rap on the street door, Sacary hurries to open it. It’s Fezan, the chief of Rilay.
Easy, he invites him in and, guessing his intensions, he asks him to wait a moment to call
Fabiana.
Some minutes later, she comes in, her face more cheerful than by midday, when the
wounded guy issue. Fezan goes directly to the point:
“I, miss, have come in name of the people of Rilay to tank you all you did for Berg-eof, our
fellow that this morning was victim of a fall, a terrible accident, especially in the name of his wife
Zoom. You have shown too much mercy to a man that seem to be finished.”
“If he had stayed that way for much more time, he would be,” she admits; “luckily his
physiology and anatomy are like humans’.” “What I don’t comprehend is why you didn’t treat him,
do what you could for him at least, if you couldn’t fix the injury” she adds in a suspicion tone.
“Have you never learnt to cure?”
Somewhat ashamed, the Fezan answers:
“Yes, we learnt. Since centuries ago we know how to heal those wounds. But nobody did
anything because they are afraid. Since we are part of the Great Empire is a law to kill the injured
one that can’t work” and rapidly he adds, “that’s why we thank you so much.” “You exposed to
the danger when you inflicted Gribash laws. If he wasn’t a coward, the watcher could’ve killed
you in the act, with all the law in his hand. You’re in danger still. So… thanks, thanks, thanks.”
Fabiana, who was walking across the room, is surprised at his obeisance, and more at his
words. She stops to look at him:
“What-what do you mean?”
Without need to translate this question, Fezan answers:
“After the accident, while all commented they’ve never seen healing someone in that state
and it was right and he was going to recover soon, he said they must not deceive themselves,
that… If that man doesn’t get up tomorrow and goes to the field to work as before, he will die” he
tells, imitating the stuck-up voice of the other man.
After listening to the last word from Sacary lips, Fabiana, upset, begins to think what to do
next.
“You are not subjects of that Gribash, you’re slaves,” she exclaims in anger. “You’re
exploited, he takes all the valuable things you have: your freedom, your beliefs, your tradition,
your life… well, I don’t know why you stand this. For less than that there have been bloody wars
in the Earth. Ah, no! If I also renounce my pride and was a doctor as my father wanted me to be, I
won’t let anyone kill this man… watcher of the devil that he may be!” and to settle this, she hits
with all her strength the table next to her, making all the objects jump.
For a few seconds the silent is absolute. Sacary watches, waiting to see what Fabiana does,
but she only thinks while grabbing one hand with the other. Meanwhile, Fezan waits in a humble
attitude, until he finally says with a smile of approval:
“I guess you didn’t lunch yet, and it is pretty late, so my invitation is waiting for you.”
Slowly, the woman lifts her head.
“Are you sure?” If the watcher knew…
He nods. She smiles slightly and accepts.

The main street is empty for at this hour the sun hits directly burning even the stones.
“Fortunately, you don’t have two suns,” Fabiana comments as she lowers her funny bonnet
adjusting it to her face.
Blinded by the light as if they were in a white desert, they cross the place. Then, they hear
some uproar and one scream. Fezan stops, pallid as death and fearing the worst. He runs off
while shouting:
“Fiik! Berg-eof house!”
After a second of doubt, the woman follows him as if her feet burnt. Sacary goes a little
behind, hindered by his long robe. Fezan rushes against the door, opening it in the crash.
The picture is of a chair and table turn over near the entrance of the dwelling, and a path of
tossed or broken things shows them the way to Berg-eof’s room. They rush there. The pleading
of Zoom and the incontrollable loud cry of a little baby or boy can be heard.
Everything happens fast, but all is recorded in the mind of Fabiana like in slow motion. In
front of her, Fezan enters the room and horrified, seems to be nailed to the floor. But she doesn’t
have such respect, goes on and throws on the lifted arm of the Watcher, who is holding a long,
shining knife. With the impulse, its owner, the knife and Fabiana roll to the floor. With such bad
luck that he finishes above her and tries to grab with one hand the weapon lying a meter from
them, while he holds her with the other hand by the throat. His eyes shine with a triumphal light
and his lips form a cruel, cynic smile. Then an uncontainable force grabs him by the throat,
making him stand, and freeing the woman. Fabiana seizes the knife to threaten him.
“Stop!” Sacary exclaims. “This is not a show for children,” and he signals to Zoom, who’s
fallen in a corner with her two children that are looking fixedly.
The wounded man, saved in the last moment, watches astonished, with his eyes wide open
and not daring to say a word. Fezan assents and gets the Watcher out to the street, pushing and
threatening him, with the knife in his back and gripped by the neck. Fabiana and the Tuké follow,
serious.
Once in the street, the group stops. Surrounded by almost the whole town, the man is tossed
on the road and they go around him.
“The decision is yours,” the chief says, looking him with scorn. “You decide, miss.”
Surprised, Fabiana replies:
“No, I don’t have the right. He hurt one of you,” she smiles and says with the satisfaction of a
queen delegating a task to another. “The decision is… of Rilay, of you.”
With those words, everybody stays silent. They wait someone risks, say something. As
children having to decide important things all of a sudden, they look each other. They whisper or
murmur to the air. Fezan dominates the situation with his look, and noticing that no one has an
idea, he exclaims:
“The decision is easy! To kill him as he would’ve done or not!”
After a long discussion, an old man speaks:
“We only kill in war. That’s the way it always was. We are not bastards like them.”
“Then, decide what we’re going to do with him.” The chief suggests.
Various voices shout different punishments: from tying him to a horse and drag him along the
avenue to make him work instead of the injured man. Some propositions are ridiculous, other
less practical, all indicated by the resentment and restraint of all their lives, that have filled their
souls and hearts. But reason wins. Someday, when not receiving news, Gribash would send
another, for that reason they should silence him without killing him. At last, they decide to let him
go with one condition, a form of precaution.
Fabiana, who knew all through Sacary, turns white as she hears they’re going to take his
sight. “It’s the war,” Fezan says as he notices her disgust.
“I don’t want to see,” the woman whispers while she turns her head around.
Now that the effervescence has passed away, she feels depressed for what she has done
and said. As she interposed in the imperial laws, not only she put herself in danger but the entire
town. It’s true that she saved one life, but that of seeing run the blood product of revenge and
revolt, it’s too much for her heart used to tranquility of soul.
“Easy,” Sacary whispers, as he sees the tears streaming down her eyes. “You fulfilled your
duty. Don’t cry for that bastard, cry for all the lives that has been lost before you set the example.”
It seems that the Tuké has a sixth sense to comprehend everyone. “Don’t feel guilty. I don’t know
what your traveling fellows have done, but until now you’re the one who more has completed her
destiny.”
“To begin a useless killing?” she sobs bitterly. “When the Emperor gets to know he’ll simply
send an army and will exterminate them, won’t he? These good people that has helped us.”
“Come on, come on” he tranquilizes her, pushing her to the cottage.
Behind they leave the men and women of the town, surrounding the ex watcher, silently,
waiting with satisfaction to see fulfilled the sentence on the ill-fated man. They think so about him,
for now they can feel just pity. In some minutes their thirst for revenge will be satiated, as the
anger accumulated for years. The chosen as executioner comes forward from the group around,
with a hot iron rod that’s menacing to the sentenced one.
In her way home, the woman and the Tuké can hear as the silence is broken by some pleads
and infrahuman moans. The proud individual has sustained until now with a stuck up look and a
scornful smile and a cynic expression. But suddenly he begins to agitate convulsively, with
moans and groans, noises that seem to escape from his forcedly shut mouth. He already sees
the iron before his eyes, is it the last think he will see? Will his last look be cruel and superior as
it’s usual in him, or pleading and painful? Paralyzed in terror, the way of the rod to his face seems
forever lasting. He can’t move, he wants to scream and beg, but he can’t open his mouth. From
his throat comes out the groans, from his eyes the fear, his resistance to be resigned. He wants
to say that no, if he could ask please! He only moves the head a little backwards. The
surrounding public wait eager, few of them sob and hide their eyes, opening then their fingers to
take a look.
And the burning rod comes closer. It’s long, twisted, not rectilinear, or is it his distorted sight?
He wants to escape, he can’t. How are all the pain, anguish, horror, morbid resignation and
frustrated hope to go out, that torture his soul the last second? It’s eternal, seemingly. But no, the
iron draws unavoidably to his face. He feels the heat next to the nose. It’s aware of the sweat that
covers him. The stick is no longer visible, just the red that screens his vision. It’s the last second
he will see, but he’s not thinking clearly. He feels it is an eternal torture. How to escape? How let
escape what oppress his soul? The infernal contact with the red iron, unleash his throat. A
scream, yell, roar… all together escaping from the man cutting the air like a knife, reaching the
highest notes of terror and the sourest painful chords. Nothing, not even that scream, compares
with the pain he feels. During three seconds that the contact last, he sinks in the most incredible
delirium. He sees the life pass in front of him, and as he feels the pain ended, he notices to be
submerged in a dark deep hole.
As they hear that chilling sound, the agony scream and the victorious roar of the town,
Fabiana embraces Sacary and they stay there, mute and still.
The agony goes on for the blind man. He writhes in the floor, hiding his eyes in his hands,
feeling a sore pain the more lasting in the most sensitive place of the body, not being able of
doing nothing to stop it. The group begins to go away little by little. Just Fezan and some others
stay watching, waiting.

18 The wall of freedom.

Guzman Gianetti gets up from the bed and goes to the window. It is narrow and high, made
of some material like glass though not so translucent. He puts a hand on the hard, cold surface.
Something fuzzy, it can be his image, his reflex on the window. It’s not like him: his face tired, the
shadowy depressions under his eyes tell of the anguish he feels; his hair doesn’t shine as before,
the shadow of several days beard gives him a tough aspect and ages him. At first, he tried to
shave with a pocketknife, but the cuts were too painful. Now he doesn’t even have heart to
occupy in himself. Are the others feeling the same weariness, the same vagueness, the same
helplessness…? He asks while he lets his fingers slide across his own reflex to take them out
with a rapid screech.
Some knocks at the huge, solid door that resound on the room make him startle and he
abandons his rigid pose near the window. He know the hour to join the others has arrived, of
leaving that place, maybe to go back home… everything depending on what they decide.

The night has fallen. The nocturnal shadows close upon Rilay and some stars appears, in the
sky, distant and everlasting, in the earth, some candles and lamps that will be consumed in few
hours.
Fabiana is lying in a low easy chair near the fire, sunk in a delicious slumber. All her body
seems to lye as if her owner had left it there. From one of her hands there hands a piece of bread
just bit. Her half-closed eyes watch the flames.
As if suddenly waking, she gets up fast, leaves the food on the table and sits again in front of
the fire, now rigid. She touches her face: her more exposed skin, her brow, cheek and nose, are
burnt because of the sun and they’re hot. She touches her hair: it’s dry and untidy. She feels not
well. She wants that nothing had happened, nothing at all. She has decided to leave the place,
already. Tomorrow early they will go.
In her home, when she’s in such low spirits, she goes to the piano and plays some slow sad
melody, then some more romantic and less cheerless, until she forgets at last what worried her.
But here there’s no way of unbosoming oneself. Not being aware, lying again and watching the
flames, she starts to hum some notes of a distant melody from some remote place.

“Come on, hurry, but silence!” Marius exclaims, in low voice, indicating the way to the others.
The reception hall is still wet, dark and cold as when they arrived. Groping their way, they find
a bar and bolt, a simple mechanism that opens the door. Getting out the metal bar and
unfastening the chain, the way is clear for an escape. They jump down to the street.
“Humph! I didn’t remember the door was so high!” Sheila complains, getting up of the floor.
Not knowing well the direction, they begin to walk in a close group, by the narrow,
labyrinthine streets. They are four shadows in wide cloaks under which they carry rich clothes
and sparkling jewels.
“After all, it was a lost of time” Guzman says.
“What are you talking about? I’m going to miss the life we carried in that mansion, that
palace” Sheila replies.
“Yes, but we won’t leave Iena without doing what we come to do.”
“Ah, ah, ah!” Enrique interrupts. “Stop that nonsense, man. Better take care of your skin.”
“That’s why! This way we’ll never return home!”
To avoid a discussion, Sheila gets between, but then she adds to the Tuké:
“If we make some fuss, do you promise to go back immediately to the temple?”
The question resounds in the sepulchral silence of the night, going through the air, the
stinking smells, and their souls. The Tuké answers, simply:
“Yes, of course. But not a fuss, no, that’s not what we want. With your teachings will be
enough.”
A smile overpowers Guzman.
“If you want that… I have an idea. I think it will work, but we need some help.”

Having chosen a long, high wall, part of the biggest building in Iena, very visible, a smooth,
light gray space located in the cross of a few streets, the group of cloaks goes in that direction.
Near the harbor and in some alleys, they found the working hands they need: all deportees,
pariahs, persecuted ones. People that lived like animals in the wharfs, the woods, the desert… to
escape of a slavery life or of a dog-like death. Once in the indicated spot, they bring out of their
cloaks pots, pans and all kind of containers in every size and put them in front of the wall; then
they stand as if waiting for something.
“Go ahead,” Guzman exclaims, making gestures with his arms, influencing them to start.
“Come on, before someone comes. Paint whatever you like.”
Marius repeats the order and everybody begins. They moisten the hands with yellow, red,
orange and blue paint… colors obtained from plants and powders from the earth mixes with
water, grease or animal blood. The pallid light of the lonely moon that is just arising, doesn’t show
well the color and they can’t even see clear what they draw.
“Isn’t this vandalism?” the cynic Enrique asks.
“Take it for art,” Sheila answers, trying to refrain the provocation, but Guzman is distant and
can’t hear.
They work in silence. There’s no talking, though they breathe agitatedly and throw long sighs.
The human watch the work, a little apart.
“Up there is empty,” the woman says as she indicates where not even the tallest can reach.
“Well, we haven’t a ladder. But it’s rather fine.” Enrique admits, with a light smile. “It gladdens
a little.”
“I don’t think they’ll be glad tomorrow morning when the city people see it.”
Then, when all the space from the ground to two meters high is totally covered in stains,
draws, hands and feet, someone has the idea to lift a little one sitting on his shoulders, to let him
paint above the rest. Guzman grabs a kind of sponge –a light plant, with plenty of holes and
absorbing- he soaks it in the who-knows-what-color paint and he tosses it farther up, creating
drooping suns and stars. Sheila goes to his side and notices he’s breathing so agitated and
sweating that she whispers:
“Wow, wow, little pervert… this stimulates you, ah…”
He answers with a smile, and leaning his hands on her shoulders, he says to her: “I always
dreamt of doing impressionist paintings in the walls of the White House or Versailles…”
“So you’re one of those lunatics that paint hiding in the alleys and dream of wrapping the
parliament or the obelisk with black nylon?”
“No, but I always loved art.”
“Then, why do you study architecture?”
“And you ask me… what would have you liked to be?”
“Oh, let’s not talk about me! It’s a different stuff… Besides, I think you have money…”
“But I like my profession,” he interrupts. “But I’d also like doing other things, having the guts
to make different things.”
“Well, when you return to the Earth, do it. As a reward after this, do you get it?”
“Aha.”
When the group of men and children finish, they form before the Tuké and humans, waiting.
Sheila gets from under her cloak a bunch of clothes she then divides with equality. They are
things she has taken from the building: blouses, napkins, skirts, trousers that contrast visibly with
the rags the pariahs are wearing. In their turn, the other humans divest of several layers of
clothes, as if they were onions, and give them out. Besides, as an award for the excellent job,
they gave out some valuable jewels they deliver to the elders to share with their families. The
painters thank with effusion, bowing their heads once and again, with the blackened faces
moved, children like, their eyes in tears. Before letting them go, Guzman asks Marius:
“Can you write in their language?”
“The Sardo?”
“Yes, this town’s.”
“I do, but… it’s almost out of use and few know it.”
“It does not matter, the king can read, I suppose? Well, up there, write something appropriate
to the occasion.”
And making signs for two strong men to come closer, he indicates them to lift him. Being
Marius thin and short, it is no tough work to lift him by the legs and put him on their shoulders.
Leaning a hand on the wall to keep the balance, Marius soon announces it’s ready.
“Take this.” Guzman hands him a paint pot.
With hesitating hands, the Tuké sketches some strange characters, like Chinese, asking to
be moved a little to the right to end the group of letters. In a moment, he trembles feeling he is
going to fall, but the men hold him fast until he can regain his equilibrium.
Finished, the work is a huge stain of colors crowned with a statement in gigantic characters.
“I wrote something that can be translated as the wall of liberty and happiness, in the
languages of the Sardos and two others.”
“How wonderful!” the young man exclaims. “Tell the men to hasten, and thanks a lot to all of
them.”
As soon as they, the humans and the Tuké get out of that place, along the narrow, long
streets that interweave madly. Some time later, they find known places. Enrique is getting more
and more nervous as they can’t go out of the city, he feels trapped. He’s lost, since some time
ago, his good humor and amiable attitude; his fears have become bad mood and cynical,
negative attitudes.
Suddenly, tuning a street in the idea that it’s the way to the harbor, they rush on two cloaked
figures. They are about to let them pass and go on when, slowly, the other two uncover their
heads showing the musty, yellow faces of similar features.
The surprise makes them leap almost, and they draw back, suddenly muted.
Marius speaks with caution but he only wakes in them a mocking smirk. At last, he
surrenders and follows them, saying to the others: “They are not fools. Don’t worry, though, they
won’t hurt you, for what I have seen.”
Clenching the fists, they look at them going some steps forward before following.
“We can give them some beating in their heads and run away!” Enrique proposes, gritting his
teeth in anger.
“I wouldn’t do that,” Marius calms him, and adds as he signals, “look behind you.”
They carefully look over their shoulders. Some twenty meters behind, a group of ten to fifteen
guards comes in the rear, armed and alert.

19 Surprise.

The royal palace all that is used in reunions, feasts and presentations with the exclusive
presence of the king, is burning with golden and red lamps, that hang as bright stars from the
ceiling, walls and shine on the tables. The light a giorno, allows seeing better the outfit that wear
the royal wives, the guard and the secretaries of state. The highest bureaucracy is there. Military
and political men are there; arrogant and conceited they show off themselves or their jewels as if
it were a matter of life and death. Large tables were covered in drinks and delicacies to be served
by slaves. And not any slave. Chosen between the most beautiful young people: slim, delicate
boys and girls, almost naked, showing their lustrous skins, like ivory and jet. The female slaves
are prepared to serve the most highly lords. When they’re old or used up, they will be executed,
suffocated or smothered to avoid the dirt of their blood. The young men, almost kids, hairless but
strong, carry a metal collar they can’t remove, being welded, from which hang heavy chains. The
treatment the rich men and women give them, is worst than heavy chains or death: humiliation,
degradation, to serve until they fall off.
In a corner, the three human look with impatience, bored.
“Who is that Dizjsiar?” Sheila asks for the fifth time.
“No one,” Marius answers. “It is a word that means war hero, and this title is given to
someone who wins it in battle. Now the King will arrive, and then the warrior to be rewarded will
come.”
As he says this, the doors open. Two golden-armored guards announce the King with potent
voice. There comes a procession of naked slave girls, swathing the hall with flowers and black
leaves, followed by others that, with thick collars tied by long chains to a silver chariot, pull the
king’s wagon with the help of their hands and making a terrible effort. Behind the King, his wives
walk with reverence, followed by young warriors. When the king arrives to the other extreme of
the hall and being deposited next to his chariot, the procession spread over the room, staying
next to him only the wives. Varna, who as a big honor, goes sit in the rim of the wagon, seems to
be looking something with her eyes.
The king’s favorite wears a magnificent, scarce dress, made of silver, golden and black
metal, that barely cover some parts of her body exciting the lust in the heart of men and the envy
in the women for the opulence of her bright, exquisiteness and riches. Not that the other wives
should envy Varna’s beauty, though they lack her elegant figure and way of carrying the dress,
her haughty gaze, the appeal in her smile and a queenly air that made her the favorite of the
King. While she lays a hand on the short, muscular leg of the man that with a word can cut down
life, her eyes search the crowded hall. First, her gaze stumbles on the twins, who make a sign
with the head and smile suspiciously, then near by she sees the three humans that aren’t paying
her attention in that moment, for their eyes are set on the guard that announces the Dizjsiar.
Every eye is fixed on the door that opens with some clamor. Ten soldiers come two by two in
a perfect line and synchronized pace, with the hum of their armors' rush. As they get to the
middle of the room, they divide forming an entourage for the entrance of the Dizjsiar. This is
really an imposing personage. Taller than most of them, dark, with a beard and tanned, his
energetic face keeps a pair of dark, ardent eyes. He walks with firm step and with big strides to
the King. Then his head goes down with real submission and he kneels with reverence.
The King, without rising and indifferent, makes a sign to a secretary to act. The latter comes
forward and recites his rather long discourse with quiet, monotone voice. As he finishes, the
Dizjsiar raises with pride and makes his speech. Then a slave comes near bringing a golden
sword gilded with windings and a red flag that pass from his hands to the secretary’s and then to
the warrior.
The ceremony over, and not being able to hide he’s tired of long speeches, the King claps
thrice and orders to begin the party.
In his tour around the hall, receiving congratulation and admiration from the exclusive Sardo
society, Dizjsiar finally comes to the twin and begins to talk with them. The three of them are
famous people, two in the politic, and the other in war. Their talk goes from the usual
congratulations to the last news, in particular the scandal of the Palace wall that appeared
smeared, probably by sullied hands, the search of guilty people and the duration of the
punishment to be applied.

With the first rays of the sun, there appeared from nowhere a crowd of servants, slaves, poor
warriors, sailors and some early riser militias. What would not be their surprise to find in the
middle of the geometrical, severe, boring city, a colored wall, painted wide long and with such an
inscription above? Moreover, the wall was part of the royal Palace, where the number one in the
kingdom sleeps and the fate of the regimen is decided. However, it was true. There was a mural;
significant, detailed, every moment more clear and visible as the sun went up the sky and a lot of
curious people crowded to decipher it, with inner satisfaction at finding something new,
something never seen.
There had been good painters, there were more than color spots. It looked like a jungle of
images. All, figures of people making different tasks: a mother with a child in arms, a man
hunting, a kid fishing. It shows a man of almost real dimensions, standing over a sea of blue and
green waters, lightened by a fuzzy, drooping sun, with his arms open and a big smile on his lips.
Other were more explicit, or more sincere, and had expressed their feelings drawing a warrior
murdered by a expatriated, a naked man practicing some religious rite or worshipping a rock, or a
replica of the palace, suppress by a big red cross. All surrounded of flowers, animals, sea beasts
and stars. However, what most impression provoked them was the detailed, artistic image of a
woman giving birth to an emaciated child with a skull head, so real and frightening, as if they
watched the real scene.
Long time they stayed watching every detail, commenting on every scene, color and letter.
The twins say something to the Dizjsiar that makes him astonished.
“How… Who?” he asks much interested.
“Come with us. Perhaps you have seen sometime this race in your long campaigns…”
Therefore, he is guided to the three humans that in the moment are alone; Marius is speaking
with Varna, who has come to fetch him. The features of the war hero transform, from the
benignity of success and good life to be astounded. This is something he didn’t expect. He
watches with care the faces of these beings, particularly the woman. Then, in the border to
anger, he shouts to the twins. The humans don’t understand what is happening, why that anger
in their presence? Would he recognize them? From where and why is he upset because of them?
For the first time the twins’ faces show confusion; they don’t know what to do.
Dizjsiar stretches out one of his heavy arms and clutches the woman by the neck, who
astonished, allows him to drag her to the King. With reverence, but unable to hide his ire and
unhappiness, he explains his acts to the sovereign. The twins escort Guzman and Enrique,
Varna and Marius get near as they notice the tumult, and the rest of the guests conform a semi-
circle leaving the Dizjsiar and his prey in the center.
Enrique tries to make the Dizjsiar let go Sheila, who is shaken by the neck as if she was a
doll, suffocating her, but he only achieves to be stopped by two guards with lances. He draws
back. The King calms the warrior, indicating to let loose the woman. Brutally, he opens his clutch,
dropping her on the floor.
“What happens?!” desperately, Guzman cries, looking around for Marius.
White and trembling, he answers:
“He sa-says that she… is not the first woman of the race he sees… and something about
danger, no… that the race is dangerous fo-for he has been cheated… and he is going to
exterminate it.”
“And what means that?”
“Really, don’t you understand? Fabiana Peralta… is the other woman.”
As if he had been hit on the face, Guzman staggers back and turns as pallid as the Tuké.
“Now they explain to the King who we are,” Marius goes on telling. “But he insists that we’re
lying,” he adds signaling the warrior. “He was the chief in a camp, yes… they captured a woman
and a monk, oh Sacary! But she escaped with deception, what does he mean?” he inquires
surprised, and then smiles; “by means of intrigue, provoking betrayal of… their women and…
yes, he’s got here four that wanted not to deny the strange ideas.”
The Dizjsiar orders to bring one of the prisoners, earlier his wife.
Varna doesn’t know which side to take, if the warrior and accuse the humans, or their side
and help them. She chooses her own side. With mellow voice, she speaks to the King:
“My Lord… These men are ambassadors, not common thieve…”
But the king isn’t in the mood to heed her and throws her aside, giving her a smack in the
face with his open palm that tosses her against the wagon. She rebounds in the hard metal and
falls to the floor, grasping the burning cheek with her hands. Surprised first, furious and hurt in
her pride the next moment, she stabs a look like an envenomed dagger of future revenge for the
present humiliation.
Slowly and downcast the dirty and tousled woman goes by, one who was before the loving
wife of Dizjsiar. She’s made keel down. She doesn’t fight or scream: she’s resigned. The
Secretary questions her. What they get to know is the two humans through Marius, is something
about thinking for oneself, the desire to choose for her own life and body, and do the same as the
men are able to do. Besides, she complains of the law and the king, what immediately provokes
murmurs of disapproval. Sheila throws at her a look of compassion, and then she interrogates
her fellow mates:
“What’s going on here?” she whispers.
The Tuké explains with detail the story of the warrior and the woman they say to have known
as a being from other world, a demon with the face of a woman for one, a true angel for the other.
The King passes sentence, interrupting:
“Su hade unmulus!”
The semi-circle opens wider and the humans are set apart while Dizjsiar whispers to the
woman something.
“Is she to be a Joan of Arc?” Guzman murmurs. “My god, she is!”
“Do you retract?” the secretary is asking then.
Before the total and proud negative, the sentence is the only one possible: death.

20 Blood on the tiles


It’s the last moment before the execution starts. The big Dizjsiar takes from the hands of a
slave a rough thick rope. The eyes of the condemned woman shine for an instant with the fear of
death, with the grasping to life that makes her doubt and want to draw back; but her pride helps
her resist the pleading or throwing to his feet asking pardon; and she just lifts her head and asks
for her last will, sweeping the silence from the hall.
Everybody’s looks are nailed on that two, even the disdainful king looks with interest. Sheila
can barely contain the tears that fill her eyes. She tries to behave as strong as Enrique and
Guzman. But these are only acting: the fat public functionary is so scared he can’t think and the
boy is so confused and nervous that he can’t move. The Tuké makes a sign in the air: a circle,
cross, a prayer.
But, what is it the Dizjsiar ex-wife asks for in her last hour? Just another way of dying.
Secretly, she hates the idea of forming part of an anonym mass of dead, without distinction,
strangled and then tossed into a well, covered with earth or sand. If she has to die, she who was
a warrior, at least it should be different, with respect. She is unique. Yes, there’s only one of her
and when she dies there will be no other like, with her mistakes, errors and virtues.
The King allows it. Without realizing that, he is destroying his perfect organization as he says
the yes. Making an exception, the regimen breaks down.
The Dizjsiar, fierce and brutal, takes into his hands the recently acquired golden sword,
raises it over his head and just a second passes, short for him, eternal for the woman, before he
lets it drop with all his might on the bare neck of his ex-wife. His eyes shine as those of a
carnivorous animal feeding on its prey, when he severs cleanly the head off the body, cutting her
life short. Just flashing through, the slender blade crashes on the floor with a clank, a shiver runs
through the body and from it surges as if it couldn’t be no longer contained a potent gush of
blood, bathing with its warmth and scarlet color all the people around: the King, Dizjsiar, and the
slave. It splatters the head that rebounds in the ground, coming to stand still. Many people notice,
freezing, that from the just dead lips seems to come out the last sigh as the unanimated body
finally falls down, empty.
Frozen in the most different posture, everyone watch with disgust the red blood coagulating
little by little on the fine tiles, the soft fabrics and the eminent figures of the King and his warrior.

“And… what’s happened?” Sheila asks the Tuké as she sees him appear.
Marius comes tranquilly, smoothing the ambient around him. They have been locked for
suspicious of espionage and foreign conspiracy, in some small, wet dungeons in the basement of
the Palace.
The Tuké takes her hand and squeezes it, comforting the woman across the bars.
“Easy,” he whispers. “All will be set.”
“Will be? How?” Enrique jumps, crying in his exaltation.
Marius explains, with calm:
“This looks ugly, yes, I know. I won’t lie to you, they accuse us besides being spies, of
violating a few laws. They suspect we were the ones who painted the wall. We are alive because
the King is busy with other people, other accused, and just tomorrow he will decide.”
“But, this is the end…” with broken voice, Enrique sighs. “By God! If I could pray!”
“Pray, for we’ll need much help to get out of here.”
Until now Guzman is silent, thoughtful, sitting on his cell ground, leaning on the wall:
“Don’t worry, friend,” he says to Enrique. “I feel our hour hasn’t come yet.”
“Yet?” Sheila repeats. Her voice fades away.

“Are you sure of this?” Fezan insists.


It must be the tenth time he pronounces with his rough nasal accent, that sentence, that
petition. But all in vain, for the girl shows herself decided and energetic, and ready and fast in all
the preparations. Sacary comes closer to say:
“Fabiana, it seems you are running away from something… is it so?”
“What do you mean?” she stutters, while untying the horse bridle.
“Well… since yesterday morning you’re very pained, as if you had done something bad. I
want you to think well before taking a decision in a hurry. You’ve completed you mission,
however, you don’t feel proud… I don’t understand you.”
“Me neither,” she comments.
There is a crowd joining in front of the door of the cottage. The man who lent it asks her to
stay longer to honor the house. The younger kids also insist that she must teach them more
songs. It’s nice to see how these children have fun learning the simplest melodies, as the happy
birthday and whatever her imagination brings. Several hands offer to take her things and her
horse to the town’s entrance.
While she walks next to Sacary, downcast, she barely can repress the tears. The emotion is
gripping her throat, oppressing her heart. Like a silly little girl, she thinks. She doesn’t want to cry
in front of everybody. That’s why she clenches her eyes and teeth. Then, at last she arrives, with
all her revenue, to the rustic road of stones and grass, the way to and out of Rilay.
The morning sun shines in their eyes as they say farewell.
“Don’t forget us,” Fezan tells her tenderly. “I not forget your words.”
Letting out a tear, the young woman smiles assenting and gets on her horse. Sacary makes
the same. They wave their hands in a goodbye. Fast, without looking back, they start their
voyage without destination around the Empire of Gribash. The town people stay looking on until
they are lost in the horizon, the echo of the hoofs turns out, and only remain the silent shine and
the delicious coolness of the morning.
“Where are we going?” the Tuké asks.
“If you don’t know…” she lifts her eyes, uncaring. “Wherever, I don’t care,” she adds.
Sacary watches her worried, without comprehending. She never has behaved like that, when
would return her energy?
“To the Capital!” she exclaims, as if proposing to go to any shop.
Until what? What a spirit to get into the wolf’s den. It seems as if… she gives in her life.
Instead of fleeing, she rushes on danger, is it courage or foolery? The Tuké thinks, and then he
begins:
“Eh… Fabiana, listen. I think that if you don’t feel fine you can go back to the monastery and
wait there for your fellows… you may even find Cardoso there, if he found the way back.” But as
he sees her expression at the remembrance, he shuts up short. Later, he adds:
“I think you’re confused.”
“You say how glad that people were, don’t you? That’s not right and… as a guide for people, I
don’t work. Imagine, if me alone, with some little conversation and my presence, I caused that,
imagine if they learn all from the humans. But I won’t go away after making harm. No. I will stay
and be more prudent.”
“Though, all you’ve said and taught was right. Your ideas are just, not Gribash’” the Tuké
affirms with faith, pulling the bridle. “Yes, really, neither do I like the blood as a method to impose
an idea, but if at last it will be beneficial, there will be freedom for these good people… Besides,
you exaggerate, because there’s no war declared here… Fabiana!”
She keeps on a trot. She doesn’t answer, he neither insists. Between green hills, under the
ever-clear sky of deep blue, pure, lightened by the glorious rays of a huge, orange sun, they
march to the Capital.

21 Paradise and hell.

The travel has been boring. Monotone, to be more explicit. The landscape, though pretty,
turns out tedious after seeing it hours, and hours, and it's worst when you look at it with sad or
upset eyes. But now, they are a sight of the capital, the greatest capital of the Empire of Gribash.
In the way they found many towns without importance, with its humble wood or stone little
houses, according to the more plenty material in the region, surrounded of tilled lands or grass
commons. In many fields there worked slaves, half-naked, almost eaten by the insects. They also
crossed with units of soldiers, barbaric warriors making exercises in tough land, boasting, noisily
laughing. If the warriors were noisy and cheerful, his slaves and women were equally serious and
frowning. Everywhere, they were looked upon with indifference and the least worry. Fortunately,
they get out of Rilay charged with clothes and supplies not to need any help. They slept under
the trees and drank out of the rivers.
Now, a few kilometers from the capital, Düran, they stop to contemplate it, hesitating. The
couple of faithful animals munch in the meadow near the hill. Their masters please their eyes with
the valley at their feet. The hills become softer until turning into a delicate green plain. The
different tones of green follow each other and blend, in harmony with the rest of colors. But if it’s
watched attentively, the green of grass can be distinguished from the woods, the brown and
chestnut of the crops that sprinkle the valley, the blue sky that dominates all, and the turquoise of
the winding, tired river that seems to be born behind a misty hill and then advances slow and
majestically until loosing in Düran. And the city! Wrapped in a mantle of haze, it looks flimsy and
silky as a vision! The reddish towers, full of curves; the high palaces, and the bridge that elegant
and arched joins both margins of the Nahiesa.

Not getting off their animals, the girl and the Tuké enter Düran. The city seems to suddenly
come out of the plain. They get into a street, broad and crowded, parallel to the Nahiesa River.
However, the inhabitants don’t watch them, despite the contrast in the appearance and their
newcomers’ air. As they dismount to continue on foot, the first contact is wit a starving child that
asks for charity, and who is soon dispatched with come food.
Just as he goes away, profusely thanking them, he crushes against two guards that, noticing
he’s a beggar, took him away brutally hanging from the arms. The travelers look each other. The
Düran people barely know what has happened: the hundreds of different faces carry on going
and coming, the same mutter of voices and steps, the hush sound of wagons and animals keeps
on without stopping. This neighborhood is poor, and more than houses the dwellings are
barracks, cubicles and stables; dominated all by tall old buildings, almost tumbling down.
“Until now I hadn’t seen these kind of buildings in Duma” Fabiana comments in low voice.
“Oh, yes! Those palaces are from before the Empire. They are hundreds of years old, but
some of them are conserved and used by the people around here. This city must have had a time
of much splendor; it cultivated intelligence, but who knows for what reason, it was abandoned. Or
maybe its inhabitants died. Many years later, Düranians occupied it and retained it. Then the
grandfather of the current Gribash named it capital of his kingdom, because it was the most
grandiose city, and therefore it got to the present, when it’s the capital of all the Empire.”
“Aren’t there more cities of this kind?”
“It’s said there were, but they disappeared or nobody knows where they are.”
They come into a narrow street with a few steps at intervals. After a while of wandering
around, turning the corner several times, they get to a wealthier zone. Houses have a few more
stores; the facades are clean, what allows admiring the architectonic beauty and the various
reddish tones, and the bas-reliefs that show strange drawings similar to animals.
They come out to an empty place, calculating they’re in the center of town. The place is a
square of shining tiles, well cleansed, surrounded by broad streets framed with cared-for
buildings, as a palace and some kind of cylinder temple with a Muslim minaret roof.
“Come on, there’s nothing,” Sacary proposes.
“Hmm.… I agree. Let’s go.”
And they get into one of many streets that die in the square.
From the other side of the central quadrangle, between the columns of a big house, a man
wrapped in a worn robe, a navy blue one of old, looks at them for as instant as they disappear
and then begins to walk in the same direction, with elastic step. Once come to the narrow street
they entered, he hesitates a second, decides himself and goes on that way. He barely saw them,
but something alerted him to follow. There’re many people in this way and he can’t see them. Not
thinking much, he starts to walk faster and discreetly, taking care not to rush on the people,
animals, wagons, and little children that crawl on the ground.
The Tuké is explaining Fabiana the life style of town and king, teaching her some words.
They are head to head, followed by their horses, easy amidst the roaring crowd.
Suddenly, more ahead, there surge some cries from the crowd and a big wrangle begins.
People whirl to the walls to let room for a few dirty boys in rags that are followed by a dozen
guards. In their way, they push and toss everyone creating confusion and screams, and a great
fuss amidst the merchants that see their goods falling, messed up and smashed in the floor.
Happy as gazelles, the boys run throwing at their pursuers all that come to their hands. The two
foreigners get in the middle of a town people swarm that presses on them until they are put
against the wall.
The soldiers pass, menacing everybody. But there, there’re a lot of beggars and expatriated
that make side with the chased. Waves of people, whirls that catch and wrap in the guards, that
in spite of their armors and weapons, can’t survive the angered sea. A swarm catches Fabiana,
who finds herself pulled from Sacary’s hand. She tries to run against it but she’s not strong
enough. With desperation, she just gets to scream:
“Don’t loose my hand!”
She stumbles on something, is about to fall and being trampled upon, but a pair of hands old
her in the last minute and a body shields her. Not one, but two people form an obstacle. The
roaring crowd passes by and they can return to the Tuké, who is safe inside a gallery. The
woman waits to be under the arched gallery before looking at her savior. She’s recovering her
breath while the Tuké asks, serious: “Vier se da?” or “Who are you?”
And before his amazed eyes, Fabiana rushes on the stranger and embraces him, before the
latter can answer. She needed just to see his eyes. Astonished, the monk looks at them, who are
hugging like old friends.
When they separate, the stranger lowers his hood and shows the more or less light hair, the
frank face, sweet eyes, briefly, all the face of Guzman Gianetti.
Fast, they get out of there, away, without thinking. The two young people go happy, taken
from the hand, followed by the surprised Sacary a few steps behind.
“Come on, hurry!” Fabiana hurries him every while.
Without stopping, or talking, they get to the river Nahiesa. In the crowd they lost the horses
that now are wandering, rearing up in the middle of the people. But now, they don’t even
remember that. They sit on a kind of bench, to breath a little.
“How is it you are here?” anxious, Fabiana asks. “And the others? Are you alone… where are
they? What happened? How did you come here…?”
The young man shuts her with a gesture of his hand, asking for calm, and looking at the Tuké
and her alternatively, he begins to explain.

“But before the morning came, we were got out without explanation, by some royal guards,
and taken out of the city, where the wife of the King, Varna and those twins, waited with some of
these beasts that seem horses. We didn’t resist… for we had no better way out. We traveled at
great speed, without stopping to sleep or eat. We got here this morning, after a tiring journey…”
“Just as we did,” Fabiana interrupts, smiling to help him go on, what seems to please
Guzman.
“Ah… They were distracted, they went to talk alone and the two warriors that had brought
were a bit slow. I began to fall behind, and they went on at every side of Sheila and Enrique, with
Marius a little to the front, and they weren’t looking at me… As we came to a crowded zone, I
threw off the animal and ran amidst the people. When they realized it, I was well hidden. I saw
them pass, and this hour must be still searching for me.”
“Then, we’re in danger,” she says, thoughtful.
Both look, aggrieved, at Sacary.
“I, I…” he babbles, stunned. “I think… I know where we’re going. To the Chandala Wia,
where the beggars meet.”
The Chandala Wia is a nasty neighborhood. Like a disease that grows lurking in the outskirts,
near the river, in caves and tunnels. It can’t be believed that such a colony exists under a poetic
landscape as is the whole valley of Düran. Under a fallen old palace, there are several tunnels
excavated maybe for the same builders of the palace in some remote time. They’re dark and cold
and above all, damp. The water leaks from the ceiling and streams down the cave walls, coating
all with a yellow moss that exhales a horrid stench. There’s a constant rumor coming from the
close-by Nahiesa. In that inhospitable ambient live a great amount of men, women and children,
in that ambient that seems to amplify the noise, wailings and misery.
The three strangers are welcome with hospitality by a few old men. The warm smile and nice
treatment form the old men soften the impression of the place. They give them food and water
near the river, where there join at least a hundred people more. Despite all, the two young
humans are comfortable, together again.
But there’re two nails in their hearts: the loss of Cardoso and the captivity of Sheila and
Enrique.
“We must help them, that’s why I escaped;” Guzman says sometimes, but more to himself.
“Where did you lose your glasses, with your shame?” Fabiana exclaims, to relieve the matter.
“What’re you talking about?” he asks, blushing. “I don’t know really where it was, but I don’t
know what you mean by…”
“Come on, you brought down the king’s wives!”
“No, just a little;” he smiles but timid. “Though of course, no one was as pretty as you.”
She laughs before answering:
“I think you’re not the saint everybody imagined.” She coughs, and goes on with more
seriousness. “Now, we should see how to help our partners.”
“Yes, certainly. Let’s think.”
Sacary comes near. He’s been conversing with the elder people. They’re good people,
amiable and ready to help despite being who need more help. The elders act as patriarchs, they
discuss, talk and fix the troubles that come from any of the inhabitants of Chandala Wia, and they
decide what’s to be done in every case. They also hear the younger people, the more interested
in these questions.
“You should talk to the Elders,” the Tuké comments, sitting next to them, with a peaceful
smile in his lips. “They will hear your new ideas, indeed.”
Guzman answers that he agrees, maybe it’s a good idea. Fabiana, somewhat upset, turns
rigid and looks at Sacary without seeing him. I had already forgotten that stupid destiny, she
thinks, and Sacary must’ve forgotten what happened there, so little time ago… and what I said.
Should I continue as I’ve done until now or must I do what I’ve decided? Oh, I’m confusing
myself.
“Fabiana, Fabiana” Guzman repeats louder.
As if she was hypnotized, she shakes her head to clear her ideas and fixes her eyes on the
young man.
“Are you feeling well?”
“Yes, of course… Go on.”
“Are you upset for what I said?” Sacary asks uneasy. “I thought… that… we’d follo…”
“Yes, of course, why not?” she cuts off his apology, leaving the trouble as passed away.

22 Grand ones.

Sitting round fires, hundreds of people chat, drink, laugh. Rough, sincere and humble. The
smell of green wood burning and meat roasting covers the usual acrid stink from the humid walls.
They can’t light their fires on the plain, not even in the ruins for the guardian patrols could see
them. They hide there where no one would dare to penetrate more than ten paces.
In the privileged round, where the elder and younger eat –those who are more taken care of-
the travelers are placed. The expatriated themselves wanted them to sit there and talk about their
distant country. They discuss in an open, lighthearted chat, as if they were in the café or in the
University patio, and they were the greatest doctors exposing their theories. Most important,
they’re in peace with themselves for having decided to get Enrique and Sheila out, at any price,
of their jail.

In the cool shadow, the big room doesn’t seem as majestic as it must be brightened by
thousands of small lights hanging from the monumental chandeliers, strategically hanged from
the roof. The dimensions are huge and seem even greater for the two rows of columns that make
the impression to loose in the infinite. From the main entrance, a very thick double door of gray
metal, you can see the room divided in three long zones: the central aisle has a blood-red carpet
is displayed on the grey tiles; and both sides are distinguished by thick, rich, blue curtains that
barely let the sunlight and heat come in through the windows, that behind the curtains have no
glass or material of any kind.
The furniture is scarce: some little chairs full of winding draws and torn legs, scattered
around, dressed with clothes graciously fell upon them. At the end of the room there’s a lounging
couch full of pillows. At intervals, a small water fountain, like a font of holy water, refresh the
ambient. From the columns hang torches and flaccid flags dangle from some of them, black,
velvety flags.
With a soft groan, the big door opens a bit, a head appearing there. Te man, a slimy and bald
old man, with eyes clear as crystal but that seem to cut with their gaze, comes in solemn and
straight up into the empty room. Echoes are born of his light steps. He looks everywhere,
searching timidly something.
He crosses the long hall, along the red carpet shadowed in some parts by the columns
outlines, and he reaches the couch. He keeps a prudential distance from it, as if it could swallow
him, and he waits in silence. From a point hidden to his sight a masculine, tall figure comes out,
seeming not to walk but to float. Without sound, cat-like, the imposing man stands in front of him.
The magic effect of the serene beauty of the room and all the proud elegance of the old man, are
eclipsed by that being; he is also proud, elegant, beautiful, serene and magic.
“My great lord,” the old man whispers with an accent as if he were afraid of profane the
magnificent room with his rough voice, leaning forward at the same time, “there have come
messages from Iena city.”
“Tell me” the other replies, nodding imperceptibly.
“Varna and the brothers Milko had to come.”
A gleam of fury becomes visible for an instant in the eyes of the young man, eyes of deep
green. He just smiles coldly.
“But it was necessary,” the old man intercepts him. “They have brought you some valuable
prisoners: two of the Strangers and one Tuké that the King Sardo had ordered to kill. One was
lost, but they say there’s no danger.”
“Where are they?” he interrupts, raising a little his voice.
“In the dungeon, my great lord.”
“Fine, let’s leave them there a while. Then, put them in the balcony hall. You may go now,” he
adds curtly. “Later, I want to see Varna.”
“Yes, great Lord.” He bows, and slowly retires without turning his back until he’s out of his
sight.
The “great lord” stays there petrified, thinking, between the blue shadows. His eyes shine
again, this time not with fierceness and arrogance, but in foretaste of something more.

23 Intruders

Dusk falls rapidly in the Nahiesa valley. From the deepest shadows streaks of mist begin to
rise as veils of white gaze floating in the air. The city, however, remains clear and well lighted by
hundreds, thousands of torches that burn until well entered the night. The town with Arabian
mosque and minaret flavor for the humans, is shining soft and sweet as a dream, in red and
yellow tinges in the middle of the dark valley. The sky takes after it, giving its black curtain as
background, and the moon hovering in the Nahiesa...
The landscape is poetry and music. But, as Guzman and Fabiana go into town, they find the
tough and indifferent people seem not to belong there: not to talk of the dirt, but the walls
drooping wetness, moss and grease; the dark waters, canals in the middle of the way, animal
and people excrements; food spread out in the places… the stink by night is unbearable. There’s
no music or gild that gladden the ambient, only hard conversations and cries, and as only
entertainment, two guys fighting in a square.
“The army is away, exterminating some enemy in the north,” Sacary explains, “or else there
would be more street fights. They are too arrogant and harsh.”
The Central Place, where the Palace is located, is the only one empty and clean of trash.
There is not a sound. The night seems hollow. They walk next to the walls, looking for the scarce
shadowy places between the galleries, big houses entrance halls and corners. Everything has
such size as to augment the fear.
“Well, how do we get in?” the woman asks when they reach a corner of the royal palace.
“Let’s check the building…” Guzman suggests.
“And the guards?” Sacary asks.
“I haven’t seen one, maybe inside.”
“Maybe there’s none.”
It would be too much fait in his own power, if the emperor was as vain or self-confident as to
maintain no guard. Without separating, they go around the perimeter, beginning from the left. The
palace faces directly the street: there is no garden or park, neither at the side nor at the rear, only
a prudent distance from the other buildings. Not even guards… anyone could come near the
walls and climb up to a window, enter and murder the emperor. No, it’s impossible, they think as
they watch the windows without bar or glass. Only openings covered by curtains in the interior.
More unprotected than the rest of the buildings.
“There’s… a cat in the bag” Fabiana whispers to Guzman ears. “It seems an abandoned
place, inhabited only by ghosts.”
It doesn’t seem difficult to get to the first floor, where the windows are. There are many, with
arch shape and surrounded and communicated by a thirty centimeters wide railing.
When the young woman is about to put her foot on the crossed hands of Guzman to climb,
Sacary stops them. They stay frozen, scared, for they imagine a guardian has seen them.
“Are we watched?” she whispers, shrinking.
“No, no, not that;” the Tuké says in a hurry. “I remember something that… Once I heard,
though I don’t know for sure. I was told there’s a trap in the palace. Yes, that… and old trap
called… the greeting, it was called.”
“But, what is that?” they both reply.
“It’s not known, but they say there’s one, or several traps in Gribash Palace. That’s why no
one dares to come in here, that’s why there aren’t guards.”
After hesitating a moment, Guzman suddenly replies:
“But we have to go in. It must be tried, right?”
“If you go in, you may not come out.”
“Maybe it’s a legend, a tale,” Guzman replies. “Anyway we must enter and get out Enrique
and Sheila, do you agree?”
“Yes,” the woman exclaims. “Or we all get out or no one of us will do it.”
And with the aid of Guzman, she gets impulse to reach the railing with her hands. She puts
the elbows, then a knee, and the other, helped by the others. Before entering she draws the
curtain apart a few centimeter and look through that gash. There’s a dark room and she can’t see
the other side, but at least there’s nobody in this side and she can’t hear any breathing.
“Come on,” she indicates to her companions in a whisper, and noticing they are slow, she
adds, “what happens?”
“I’m coming,” the young man answers.

The shadows close upon them and, as the curtains fall back to their position, it’s suffocating.
But some time later, as the eyes get used to the almost complete darkness, they can see again
some meters around. They speak whispering in the ear, despite there’s nobody near by.
“Why hasn’t Sacary come in?”
“He said he would be a hindrance here, for he’s short, weak and unable to fight…”
“But he knows of them,” she mutters with disapproval. “Fine, I guess it will be good to have
someone outside in case we fall actually in the trap.”
Tense, containing their breath, alert, they walk some steps groping along. Guzman staggers
with a chair, but he holds it in time. It’s so low, that’s impossible to feel with the hands, but
fortunately is shining enough to see it in the near darkness. Some meters beyond, the woman
pulls his arm, indicating another direction as she says: “There, in the back, there’s light.”
Effectively, it seems the way out of the room is a big door through which is coming a mellow
greenish gloom. Once there, they get close to the opening, squeezing against the wall. He puts
his head in with precaution, watching from where comes the glow. Then he enters. Fabiana
follows eager.
This new room hasn’t columns, but in the centre there’s a huge water fount that possess a
supernatural radiance. Amazed, they go near the gigantic fountain that emits a soft greenish light,
the same that lightens their faces. The fountain itself is circular, made of stone, with a crystal-
clear column or statue in the centre, from which emanates the strange luminescence that goes
across the water and fills the ambient. The rumor from the liquid is very soft.
Guzman has the courage to touch the liquid. With closed eyes, he introduces his fingers in
the clear water. Some instants he stays feeling, then he takes them out. They’re just like before,
still there.
“It’s water…” he whispers, “hot water.”
They go on. The exit is another door in line with the previous door. After looking back, they go
into the other room but, there’s no room! A gush of gelid air paralyzed them and they realize, just
in time, that one more step forward there is only darkness. Beyond the green circle of light there’s
nothing.
“What’s this?” Fabiana exclaims. “Hell?”
“I don’t know, maybe;” he answers, taking her hand. “Hold on fast on me, don’t loose my
hand, please.”
They walk to the left, near the wall. Every step they take, they suffer more, imagining the floor
will finish and they’ll fall in a black endless hole. “God, God;” the young woman mutters once and
again, as if chewing the name. A freezing breeze sweeps their brows indicating the emptiness,
and the dark is absolute.
Suddenly, the woman feels she’s falling back. She screams, screams. But it’s a mute cry,
only heard in her inside.

The old man, of medium height, shinning skin and looking scant for his prominent bones, is
sitting in a broad black couch. His ample clothes surround him. His little eyes, black and brilliant,
set in two sunken sockets with purple circles around, seem fixed in a point. Suddenly, as if he felt
something really strong, he stands up of the chair and accommodates with ceremony his white
tunic, which folds on his feet for its length.
Guzman walks stick to the wall, blindly, trusting that there’s floor further on, and dragging his
feet. He doesn’t even keep his eyes open. Then, with his free left hand, he feels the wall ends
and nervous, he notices that, or else it’s a door, or it’s all over. He turns his eyes and notices the
blinding light. Anxiously, he throws into it dragging his partner with him.
Stunned by the surprise, Guzman and Fabiana, holding their hands still, look around.
What’s happened? But, I am alive! Fabiana wonders amazed, where the hell…?
“Welcome.” This word draw them out of their deep stare at the ceiling. The one who has
spoken, says again:
“Welcome, señores, I waited for you… though not so soon. I am surprised you have come at
these hours and in this way.”
He comes closer to them. Fabiana feels a shiver running down her back. The old man has
something, behind all that elegance and ceremony, which repels. It’s not something visible, that
can't be smelled or heard, but perceived.
“Ah, miss Fabiana,” he exclaims with excessive finesse and stretching an arm to her; “I’ve
never seen such beauty in a woman’s face.” He caresses her chin with faked patronizing and
admiration. “I had heard of you but they never mentioned your beauty.”
“How do you know her name?” Guzman exclaims, interposing between the old man and the
young woman with a frown.
“Ah, señor Gianetti! You must not be upset and…” he says with a sharp look, “overprotect
your friend.” “After all, women in the Earth like to defend themselves, and they do it well, as it can
be deduced for your presence here.”
Confused, the young man draws apart, silent.
“He’s right,” Fabiana dares to say softly. “How can you know our names? How can you be
talking Spanish?”
“And not only Spanish, also Chinese, French, English and German, a bit of Russian and
Arabian; to sum up, with the Duma tongues, I speak fourteen languages very different. But, I
think it’s not gentle to boast our own abilities” while talking, he smiles continually. “And in answer
to your question, I knew of your forthcoming arrival by a mister, an acquaintance of you,
moreover.”
The young people look at each other, intrigued.
“Really, you are very lucky. All those who have entered in the palace… have died. It’s
dangerous to be lost in the dark, one can fall or suffer serious damage. Besides, you may loose
yourselves and not find the way out, and nobody would find you, never.”
“We could get out through the window,” Fabiana whispers.
“Yes, if you can find the way back. No, I don’t want to scare you. It seems easy, but this
palace is a labyrinth… Well, you’re warned.”
“Wha-what will happen with us?” Guzman inquires with apprehension. “Are we your
prisoners?”
“No, of course not,” the old man answers without concern. “You are guests, and not mine, but
of the Emperor Gribash. I, Retacht, I am a humble servant.2
“What… Who are you?”
“Oh, just an old man, rather sick and weak, that serves with his counsel, and with all he’s got,
to Great Gribash.”
For a minute, long, almost eternal, there’s silence. They look at each other, fixed but not
seeing into the eyes, calculating, wondering.
At last, the woman smiles and comments in casual tone:
“Eh… nice to meet you, really. But, what do you think, Guzman, if we start leaving?”
Walking back to the door, he continues:
“Yes, that’s better. Well, sir, a pleasure…”
“Mine pleasure, sir. And I don’t doubt we’ll meet again. Here, I’ll wait.”
And he stands there, looking with a smile while they reach the door and after hesitating a
moment, they turn back to the cold and darkness, this time walking to the right along the wall.
“This is the strangest I’ve seen in my life,” Fabiana mutters.
“What! If this is the better that happened to us in the week!”

24 Below

Sacary thinks a minute if he’s going to stay in the same place or he will hide in the shadows
until they come back. Finally he decides to glide to the next building, some fifty meters in front,
that’s in the dark because the moonlight doesn’t reach it and it has no proper lamps.
From his hiding-place, after remaining without a move for half an hour, he listens to the rattle
of the palace door and the sound of some metallic armors. Then, he sees a guards escort
passing by around two individuals that he recognized in the act: two twins, they have to be the
brothers Milko. They’re followed by five slaves charged with bunches carefully wrapped and tied.
Sacary contains his breath. The group bends in the corner and goes directly to him. They are
about to pass in front of him.
“What-what happens?” Fabiana stutters.
Guzman goes in the front, grasping her hand and groping along the wall with his free hand.
He makes an effort to see, forcing his eyes that barely achieve to get used to be blind. The
darkness stick to them, enclose them, as if it was something rough and clammy that breathes on
theirs necks.
As only answer, he squeezes her hand to give her courage, and also to himself.
The way to the fountain room, the green lighted room, where is it? They should have come to
it. Yes, a while ago. Maybe it’s an illusion, with time. Yes, it must be the fear, the blindness that
makes them loose the notion of time. Or maybe the door could have been closed, someway.
They didn’t bend the way, did they? They are only following the wall… It has to be a trap. Yes,
the floor will end and they’ll fall. Or perhaps, in this strange world, they may not fall and may go
up. Anything can be.
But no, the floor ends as if it had been stolen from under their feet; there’s nothing under their
feet and they fall. Down and without warning, falling swift as in a dream. They don’t feel the air
brushing them. Maybe, the end has come, they just die. They don’t even scream, there’s no point
in that. If all ends… well, anyway it’s a solution. Fall.

The sun never comes down here. Cavern, sewer, basement, cellar? They’re all a paradise
compared with this. Only a very big tomb can be compared to the feeling of oppression,
suffocation and suspense that’s breathed in the heavy air, out of oxygen because of the torches.
It’s incredible the three dying torches consume so much oxygen, and what an amount of smoke
they produce.
There are also chains and guards. Two enormous and stinking soldiers that match the
dungeon. They are hundred and ninety centimeters high, the dungeon two meters high. The
room itself is wider. The humid walls, full of vermin and other unclassifiable things, never lighted,
like the face of the guards.
Enrique slumbers, weak and thirsty, his arms around his knees and the head hidden in-
between. Some meters beyond, Sheila is lying in the ground, fainted. Her dirty hair surrounds an
aged face, dried, not the one of the young, happy, a bit simple woman she was three days
before. But not anymore, not she or anyone is what was before. All their naïve beliefs, all that
considered important and vital seems distant, minuscule, as if it was the dream of another
person.

Guzman it against a curved or inclined wall, fell, and crashed on the floor.
“That hurts!” he exclaims rebounding on his back in the ground. “Ay, God! My back…” and
unable to move, he asks, “Are you ok?”
There is no answer.
“Are you fine? Fabiana, don’t faint, please… talk to me!”
Scared, he tries to move a bit. The pain in all his bones is atrocious, but he can turn to one
side. From somewhere, a ray of light comes. There’s nobody.
He is in a hole.
“But… there’s nobody here…” he mutters amazed, while the color and life disappear from his
face. “Where are you, darling?”
And letting fall down, he covers his face with a hand and sighs:
“Here all disappears: a girl, a door, the whole room… Damn it, damned old son of a bitch, you
know all!” he screams in a rage. “Where are you, where the hell have you hide? Answer me!
Somebody! Ah…”
He doesn’t scream anymore, he roars like an angry lion. Nervous, furious, he screams,
dejected, frustrated.

They come closer as in a slow motion movie. He can hear their steps, one by one, every
different sound. Despite he’s being small, Sacary shrinks still more, squeezing against the wall.
He imagines the shadows will hide him, but one never knows. And he hears: the echo of every
step, the silky rush of the clothes, the ding from the armors.
Fortunately, the darkness is almost complete. There appears a beam of light above the
building. In its daily movement, the moon has just come out from behind the building and its light
brightens softly the street. But the shadow cone remains intact.
Containing his breathing, he notices the group goes passing slowly in front of him. A creak,
no, he can’t be discovered. The soldiers passed, there go the twins. Their evil little eyes observe
everywhere. They can’t have heard that tiny creak, can they?

Sheila moves her head a little, groans and opens slowly her eyes. With difficult, she raises
her head and looks around. Perceiving she’s still there and that it wasn’t a nightmare, she slumps
back heavily to groan again.
“Sh… calm!” Enrique whispers, crawling to her.
“Hmm, my head,” she complains. “I’m… thirsty.”
She passes her tongue by her dried lips but this doesn’t make it any better. She watches her
partner and notice he’s in the same conditions: dirty, untidy, thirsty, soiled, very tired and in pain.
“Enrique,” she mutters, taking his hand and looking into his eyes with gravity. “I must tell you
something.”
“What?”
“I’m thirty four.”
He tries to smile with irony but he can’t.
“Really,” she goes on. “I never tell my age to nobody, but I think the time of true has come…
All my life I’ve been afraid of time. I don’t know, maybe because it goes and goes and can’t stop
to wait for you. I wasted my life, that’s why. The time passed… and I don’t have anything…” she
sobs. “I’m going to die here, forgotten in my world, without husband or children or nobody to
remember I exist…”
“No, don’t say so. Don’t talk about that, it’s not the end… And keep your breath.”
“Bah, you say it to hearten me, but it’s no good.”
Enrique leans her head in his legs and closes his eyes, tired. She keeps on murmuring: “God,
how I lived until now and never realized this. I’m asking what I lived for, and I have nothing to
answer. I lived always scared. Fears, fears… bullshit. I was sixteen, I didn’t even finish the school
when I started working in a bar… not even a bar. Since that times, all the same. Poverty, fear of
poverty, to be old, and… at last I will die poor and…”
“Don’t keep going,” he interrupts, “you don’t have to say things that…”
“Yes, please. I work in a filthy bar all night. My boss exploits me, I have no home. Boyfriend?
I don’t know who the last was… I don’t have true friends, I don’t know, I don’t have peace…”
She can’t go on. Tears rain down her cheeks and she hides her face in Enrique paternal
arms.
“Eh, I am your friend. Of course you have one. And you have no fault for being poor, and that
poverty is your life.”
“You have a family that loves and waits for you.”
“Yes,” he replies with regret, “and you know that the last thing I did before getting out of home
was to argue with my son? Ay, and we may not see again!”
The silence is bitter, sunken in thinking, while time expands and vanishes.

25 I prefer dead ones

“Up! You two!” the scream makes the prisoners wake, uneasy.
Retacht. It’s amazing the powerful voice of the old man. A thunder that resounds in the
narrow dungeon, and his eyes fire lightings from the bottom of their sockets. The guards lift them
brutally as if they were sacks. Holding them from the arms, they lift and push them. One of the
soldiers, throws on them the contents of a wood bucket filled with cold water.
“Ay!” they complain, but they can’t even talk, nor ask, what are you going to do with us?
“You will meet the Emperor, in case you want to know,” the old man announces. “I hope the
room has been comfortable,” he laughs dryly, with a hollow, deadly laugh. “… and that you have
think better if you are going to help or not.”

With daylight, the palace doesn’t seem as empty and ghostly. The blue radiance comes from
the sun through the blindings.
There’s a white room. It can be almost said that it’s small. A twenty centimeters thick carpet
occupies the centre; in a corner there’s a circular cabinet with many shelves, from the walls hang
white and yellow flags. There are a few metallic small tables.
Fabiana slouches on the carpet, profoundly asleep. Unconscious from the fall, she was
removed and then stretched there, where she’s sleeping now. Almost comfortable.
The room doors open silently and, after a minute, a masculine figure comes in. he stops to
gaze around the room before setting his intense green pupils on the young woman. A smile
crosses his manly, proud face.
When he walks he seems to spread his presence across the room, his fragrance, fresh calm
and arrogance. Coming to Fabiana, he kneels down next to her and passing an arm under her
shoulders and the other under her legs, he lifts her softly. At one sign from him, there enter
through the open door, three slaves that surround him and follow out of the room.

Under the palace, the catacombs, labyrinths and dungeons succeed each other, dark, fetid,
freezing.
When he could get up and walk, Guzman realized he had fallen on something that weren’t
rocks. Like dust and ashes, debris or garbage. Taking a handful, he noticed it was like fire ashes,
but it contained some hard fibers, light and rough… as ancient bones. Suddenly, he found
strength to go on along a dark corridor that went to his right.
He noticed the walls were damp, with strange, sticky and jellylike substances. Guiding by his
hands, blind, he followed, relieved that the darkness didn’t let him see around. Sometimes he
heard soft, flicker, muted noises…
“I hope not to meet anything that moves,” he prayed in loud voice.
Now, after bending many times in his way as to get the desperation of feeling that he walked
in circle, he finds a wider place. From somewhere there comes to him, a red, glimmering glow
that lets him watch more or less where he is. In a kind of basement or cellar of arched ceiling,
circular and empty. In the walls there are dark niches.
He gets near one of them and, decided, looks inside.
Suddenly, he leaps back, with a cry. Perplexed, he draws near again.
I thought there was something bright moving and gleaming, he wonders, but… no, no. It must
be my imagination. I’m going crazy, God… they’re dead bodies.
In effect, the niches are all filled with one, two or a few bodies that have expired long time
ago, some of them mummified by a green jelly preserve.
Dead, thanks God. I prefer them to the living.
Then he hears a whistle out of tune at his back, and slowly, he turns his head. The surprise
paralyzes him. By the way he has come, there are marching in a row, in groups, in bunches until
looking like a dark, living spot, n army of insects. They’re like eight centimeters long, dark –
between black and violet- with yellow tinges.
“Cockroaches!” he screams, paralyzed in disgust and fear.
As they advance, he goes back. He turns his back and runs, limping without knowing why,
but the shrilling rumor chases after him and he feels as they come up his legs and over his body,
walking implacable on his back, impossible to pull out.
Further on there’s fire like a giant boiler, but he can pass by its side. A dark strip. With the
beats of his heart –tam, tam, tam- resounding in his ears, he takes the dark path. He staggers,
begins to fall, and goes on.
He keeps on until he crashes against a wall: he is in the end of the alley. Breathing, he listens
with attention, taking some minutes to calm down and just then, he realized the pursuers and the
noise are only in his mind. The wall he has found, seems recently construed, it’s not made of big
rocks like the rest and the sound can be heard through it. At his right, some sticks inserted in the
wall –for its building certainly- seem steps. From the other side of the wall come some Spanish
words. Intrigued, but not worrying now because of it, he starts to climb up the fragile sticks.

26 The high and mighty

In a green field streaked by crystalline brooks, framed by a perfect sky full of really white little
clouds, where the sun shines magnificent, two figures ride on. A man and a woman, trotting side
by side, he in an impeccable shirt and black trousers, she in a spotless white dress, fleeting,
fuzzy like. They accelerate, more and more, until they seem to fly like arrows and feel the magic
wind scanning their bodies, hair, floating. Fabiana feels suddenly suspended and a second later,
as if being aware of it, she looks down and sees an unfathomable abyss. She looks again; it’s
true. Heavy, she falls, inevitably. She doesn’t reach the bottom until a second of darkness
surrounds her and she opens her eyes.
As she wakes up, and opens the eyes, she meets the charming look of Gribash. She tries to
open her mouth to say something. He’s taking her in arms.
“Sh…” he orders.
Resigned, she lets him carry her and put in a short bench full of pillows. Three female slaves
surround her, armed with founts, fabrics, dust and perfume. Silently, the man leaves the room. A
young girl washes her arms and hands with clothe sponges and perfumed warm water, another
one her face and chest, while the other gives her to drink in a cup. Then, other come in with
ethereal dresses, even more than in her dream, and other stuff. Disoriented, she desists from
asking anything. They are speaking but she can’t understand a word.

In the superior level there isn’t as much stench as down there, but it’s warm, even
suffocating. After going over it for hours not finding anyone, nor a way out, for there aren’t
windows to the outside, Guzman drops himself and sits with his arms embracing his knees.
He has only found an enormous boiler, pipes, that seem the palace heating system; some
conduits went down in the earth. There were several storerooms of unused stuff. Some six-
legged creatures of strange color. No door. If downstairs there were voices, who were they? How
had they got there?
He was thinking deeply about it when a rumble and some steps get him out of is wondering.
A meter away from him, the floor moves.
He draws away quickly and hides in a bend of the corridor, taking care not to loose detail.
A kind of trapdoor has lifted and through the hole come out two men: a guard and the old
man that knows his language. Aha, now I understand, but… Who is that? In that moment, a
human was coming out, he could say for his height and hair… Yes, it was Enrique. Then, shakily,
Sheila comes out. There are his fellows. Alive. “But, their appearance is terrible, what has
happened?”
Then another guard comes, closing the door with a big key and goes after the other with firm
step.
When he can’t hear any more steps, Guzman gets out of his hiding place and walks the same
way as them, guarding his distance.

Retacht sits in front of his prisoners.


“Señores, now your future will be decided,” he announces. “If the Emperor determines it, you
will be treated as kings, if the contrary, your future will be too short. You may end as slaves,
certainly. All depends on your good will.”
He makes a pause. Sheila and Enrique look at each other, and sigh.
“So it is, my good humans. If you try to be… heroes, you will fare as all that dare have as
much pride as Gribash. He doesn’t like to be defied. I advice you, as simple observer, don’t put it
tough.”
“If we accept,” Sheila mutters, “he won’t kill us?”
“I can’t assure you,” the old man answers with evil smile, “but surely you will be better off than
if you don’t.” “If you accept the Great Gribash will reward you. After all, he is really a great man.”
For the first time he seems to speak truthfully and with real admiration.

“As I think, it must be daylight, maybe afternoon” Guzman thinks meanwhile, “anyway I’ll wait
a little more and then look through the door they went out a while ago.”
He’s well hidden in a corner of the storeroom, filled with things and disused gadgets, covered
in dust, for obviously nobody comes near it. There are some boxes full of clothes and ancient
armors, weapons and broken furniture, scattered around.
Tired, he by and by begins to doze and falls in a repairing sleep, though he keeps alert
instinctively, almost sleeping with an eye open.

Fabiana comes near the window. She isn’t chained, the window is in the second sore and
there aren’t bars, there’s nobody with her. She could escape making a rope with the clothes and
flags, abundant in the room, she thinks. But then… she would have no chance. She can’t leave
her fellows there and escape alone. She neither could go out and then rescue them: she has no
help, no knowledge of the language and she doesn’t know what happened to Sacary. He is her
only hope. “Maybe… I get help… no, no, forget it!” If she stays and carries on with the flow, she
may find out something else, though who knows what intentions they have. Anyway, to stay is the
best.
Then she goes to the door and, carefully, takes the handle with both hands and opens it. Just
as she puts her head out, she stumbles with two huge guards, enormous, that turn around and
plant in front of her.
Well, she thinks as she becomes pallid, I see courtesy isn’t freedom in this country. She
smiles lightly and goes back. Without a word, they close the door.
Not having anything to do by the moment, Fabiana lounges in the couch that presides the
room, and tries to rest. Her mind cleared, and her body, she will act better.

The columns hall, the Emperor’s favorite, looks fantastic. Its accustomed shadow and peace
have been erased, lightening it with millions of white little lamps as to glitter in the night. By and
by the high military chiefs begin to occupy their places of honor, near the Emperor throne. As all
kings, he has a preferential place: a luxurious ornamented seat, set in a stand up some
completely carpeted steps. Behind, a kind of gap filled with liquid severs it from the wall where
the flag and combat arms hang.
The dusk has just fallen, the city out there indifferent, continues its normal life, and a colossal
theatre is mounting inside the palace.
But, where are Fabiana, and Guzman, and Sheila and Enrique, what are they doing, what is
doing Sacary?
Gribash’s courtesans aren’t like the Sardos. They are noisy, like to drink and eat in excess,
they’re arrogant and little affect to protocol. However, as Retacht appears everyone shut up. A
stifled murmur spreads around and in the most absolute silence they watch him come in and
advance to the throne. Only then he speaks, announcing the coming of an important guest. With
relief, they start to mutter again between them. The old man frowns and raising his voice, asks
respect for Gribash will. At this, they shut up and go back.
The usual escort comes in: two guards armed with lance and shield, wearing gala uniform
with shining armors and black breeches as only garments. Then, two women. One of them is
Varna, always striking, in green and filled of jewels, taking Fabiana by the arm. The latter is
dressed in an ethereal tunic, transparent, of bluish white. With her red-brown hair combed and
bright, and full of jewels she doesn’t seem anymore the vagabond that rolled in a strange world.
They both occupy a place next to the old man. Fabiana is in the middle, in purpose.
Following, the entrance of the Emperor is announced.

Guzman opens the door that communicates with the first floor the cellar and subterranean
passages. Through a skylight, he has noticed the sun has gone down. By means of the door, he
catches all the movements. Above him, there’s a huge room well lighted, full of people: the throne
room. He takes the opportunity when everybody is concentrated in the entrance, to get slowly
and cautiously from down there. Luckily, the trap is near the throne stage, so he gets between
this and the wall and its height protects him. With cunning, he will be able to go out when they are
distracted, maybe out of the window. Then the sight of the women that are entering stops him.
Oh, God! He thinks; they’re Fabiana and… Varna!
And then, still surprised, he notices the one who enters now and he almost faints.
“Cardoso, the dead;” he mutters. “He didn’t die!”
Now enters Gribash. His green catlike eyes seem to reach the opposite side of the long
room. With a slight smile on his lips, he walks serene, straight, all an emperor. He doesn’t need
escort, slaves, or triumphal chariots, it’s only him. His height increases for everyone seem to
shrink, stand back, before him. His gaze has no anger or cruelty, not even vanity, but it’s ardent
and cold, it scares. Everybody thinks he never trembles before anyone, he can get all he wants
to, he will never be vanquished and he has absolute power above all of them. He’s like the king
of their souls, more than of their bodies, and that makes him stronger. In spite of everything, they
adore him more than they fear him, and their loyalty is frantic.
Guzman sees all this in a second. He has respect, he thinks, and maybe he deserves it.
Gribash climbs the steps and turns to face everyone, and rises his arms in a gesture of
triumph. At the same time, behind him a blaze raises and the channel around the throne burns
up.
His people acclaims the figure circled by flames: at one voice they cry his name, Gribash! A
deafening voice that surge from the floor and spreads out around the whole room, benar die
Gribash!
Guzman watches astonished, before the fire that’s almost scorching him and scared for the
emotions that run through the crowd.
With a sign, they calm down and then he says a word. Shadowed by the flames, he sits in the
imperial chair. Near him, Retacht and Varna are standing, edging Fabiana; Sheila and Enrique,
tied and guarded; Marius and Sacary, kneeling near the imperial counselor and Carlos Cardoso,
proud and smiling, he still wears his suit made up in London but covered in bracelets and
necklaces. Under the attentive surveillance of the Emperor, the party continues with alcohol and
plenty of food.
Guzman stays behind the emperor, behind the fire, watching. Fabiana is looking uneasy at
Carlos.
Gribash waits an hour, maybe more, before asking for silence again.
“This night the fate of some people present here will be decided,” Retacht translates to
Fabiana and the other two prisoners; Carlos already knows what he’s saying. “Two strange
foreigners from other world visit us: the woman Sheila Iturria and the man Enrique Blanco,” he
indicates each one, “that before our hospitality and good will, have behaved disloyalty, refusing to
share their secrets with us, the grandest Empire, which must not be opposed. Fortunately, not all
of them are criminals: we have here Carlios Cardoso, who is a lord in his world. Now I ask, what
fate will have these two spies that refuse to speak?”
Not needing to hear it twice, everybody scream in frenzy: Dead! Down! Behead them!
With a cruel smile, he nods. Carlos doesn’t say anything, quite still in his place. Fabiana turns
around uncomfortable, knowing her turn will come now, searching with her eyes for Guzman: all
are here except him. Is he dead? She asks herself. Can that happen to me too?
“The two Tukés, refused to abandon the faith in their belief and will be executed, though I
wonder, people… what are their beliefs?”
Everybody laughs. Upset, Sacary grumbles.
Fabiana can’t help smiling. Sacary has taken her way of talking, and his character is so
human… but in the good sense. Her eyes fill with tears.
A guard kicks the Tuké in the stomach to make him shut, so strong that he’s left writhing in
pain. Gribash goes down the stairs and draws near the girl.
“I have only to ask the lady,” he says taking her hand and smiling, charmingly. “Will you leave
your kingdom behind to join me?”
That “join me” makes her shiver. There is something gloomy in him, something refined and
evil. She pulls her hand out of his and, though she’s trembling inside in fear, she looks resolute
and answers:
“I am not from any kingdom, and won’t join nobody… do you believe I would betray my
world?” she exclaims, defying.
The others tremble for her.
But the Emperor watches her almost pleased, not comprehending well, but liking the way she
speaks.
“Answer yes…” Guzman whispers, “keep on the flow,” he prays.
Gribash looks at the woman again.
Ay, she shudders, is it the end?

27 Philosophy

Enrique and Sheila have managed to come next to the Tukés.


“Sacary, what are you doing here?” the man asks. “And why is Fabiana alone? Guzman
didn’t find you?
“Yes, he did, but I don’t know where he’s now. I was caught outside, they had come in. I don’t
know what has happened to the boy… and certainly nothing good. Maybe…”
“Don’t even think it!” Sheila stops him.
“But, so you, why are you in this situation? What did Gribash made to you?”
“He asked something impossible, after all we have stand and learnt here, impossible.”
In that moment the guards separate them not to speak to each other, while Gribash asks
Fabiana:
“Lady, answer this to me; is your world superior to ours?”
Hesitating, she replies:
“Superior, in which form?”
“In the only one possible.”
“But there are many…”
Tired, he reformulates the question:
“Is it superior in weapons and armies?”
“Sure.”
The silence is overwhelming. It seems they’re alone. Only the voice of Retacht translating is
heard. But really, everyone is following every word: amazed, they consider the danger and
greatness of such powerful world.
“But, anyway, we can’t get here” she adds.
“But the weapon can come” he replies, quickly.
They imagine possessing celestial weapons.
“No… if; no…” she then babbles, “because…”
“Of course they can” he raises the voice and says it with so much firmness that she startles.
“My loyal Retacht was a Tuké of old, and he visited your world.”
He walks to the throne and brings an object out of it. He comes back and before her
surprised face he shows a white plastic Bic lighter.
“This is a small show of what I say in the Earth,” Retacht explains, to everybody. “They have
weapon that kill at distance, bombs, which are things that explode when they want and destroy
everything around. Besides, they can fly.”
A murmur of admiration or incredulity spread around the hall.
“Yes, they navigate in the sky like insects. They travel at enormous speed, so much that they
could go from Düran to Iena or Salmen in an hour. And they don’t use animals like us, but
machines…”
“And we have atomic bombs that kill and destroy a city ten times bigger than this. And we
have pollution and so much garbage that the water can’t be drunk or the air breathed.”
Sacary translates, even on risk of his life.
The Emperor, interested, comes forward and says:
“Continue, pleases. Talk to our people of your nation. You, Sacary, translate. Retacht, go for
the box.” He orders.
“Yes, and in the Earth light doesn’t come from candles, it is electric. We plug a machine to
the wall and it works, you don’t have to work for anything, for they do almost everything. In the
wars millions of people die; there’s no honor or courage in that. We sow, breed cows and sheep
like you do, but then they die burnt for the Sun, because we have destroyed the sky that covers
us. And there’s art there, paintings, books, poetry, music, sculpture, have you ever seen
something of the kind?”
Their face show they didn’t.
“You need to study a lot there if you don’t want to be starved. Government is elected by the
people. Laws are made by the men we choose.”
“Enough, miss Fabiana!” Gribash interposes. “We don’t need you to tell the bad part too.”
“Bad? Which bad?” she exclaims, coming closer. “You will tell me, I guess.”
Their eyes meet, shining.
The sound of metal interrupts them.
Some soldiers leave next to them some stuff. The situation has changed: the prisoners are
standing now, proudly, hearing with ardor. Sacary translates and Marius has mixed with the
people; Gribash his next to Fabiana, at her own level. The soldier leaves in the ground a big box,
from where they take out infinity of Earth objects.
Behind them all is Guzman. He listens, watches, crouching. He occupies himself in planning
the next move.
“It took us hundreds of years,” Fabiana goes on, inspired, “but we make it, more or less, to
have freedom to the most.” “We go out to space, we reached the bottom of the ocean, we live in
the ice and the desert, we know the entire planet. We know the stars and what can’t be seen at
first sight. Yes, and much more, but we also have troubles that will cost as many years to heal:
hunger, diseases in a scale you can’t even imagine, and damage in the nature you can less
imagine. You have a beautiful world, you don’t need our technology…”
In her fervor she walks round the Emperor, in front of all the eager guests, she makes
gestures and raises her voice. Cardoso stops her:
“Miss Peralta, you are denying this people the civilization.”
“Come on, don’t be such a…!”
“Yes, you are refusing them the commodities, progress and knowledge of civilization. You
mean to leave them in the barbarian way they live because you,” he puts the accent in the “you”;
“you think occidental civilization is declining.” “Maybe you’re one of those ecologists that like to
alarm the people and predict the final judgment, but you don’t have the right to rob these poor
people the opportunity of their lives.”
“And you are treating them as if they were dummies. I don’t deny anything, only we don’t
have to interfere in their own development. They will reach their technology in some decades.”
“We have interfered as we got here, and you four, or better three as I don’t see Gianetti, did it
more than me.”
She lowers her head, assenting.
Gribash, who until now has limited to watch the debate, enjoying the little tragic-comedy
about humankind, goes up to the throne and sits, before telling:
“If you don’t cooperate of good will, you will anyway. I just want you to return to your world for
some time and bring me some of those wonderful weapons we don’t possess.”
Humble, Fabiana comes near the stand, climbs one step and, with firm voice, she says:
“That you ask for, emperor, it’s impossible. Although we went to the Earth, we’d never get
weapons. They aren’t at the disposal of simple individuals that go and…”
“That’s lie, milord” Carlos hurries to say. “I can get automatic weapons, bombs, suits, all you
want to have. I only ask the money, I mean gold and stones, to get them, the contacts I provide.”
Fabiana exclaims, upset: “Are you going to be a dealer for this world? For the sake of what?”
He’s going to reply, when Gribash suddenly stands up, and with a voice that makes
everybody tremble, he says:
“Enough, you two! Stop talking between you in my presence. I will decide what you can or
cannot do, and what will be the benefice.”
Then, turning to Sheila and Enrique and making a sign to the guards, he adds:
“I’ve been already informed by Carlios Cardoso that these aren’t worth nothing in the earth.
They’ll stay here. The other, Fabiana, is the daughter of a rich lord of their world, as the same
Carlios Cardoso says. She will live. The Tukés are forbidden in the Empire. They will be
executed, but before, they will be whipped until they forget their ideas. Now, let’s wait the major
moon comes to the zenith, then the execution will take place. Now, let the party go on!”

“If they die, you won’t go much farther on, moron,” Guzman thinks in his place behind the
Emperor; “you owe me a very painful fall too.” “With this sword I will slice you. Then they’ll make
out you’re not as powerful, Great Gribash.” Crouched, he feels the old sword blade that he has
taken from the wall where it hanged with the other royal arms. “But, I’ll wait the right moment.”
Somewhat confused, fearful and angry at the same time, Fabiana sits there wondering what
she’ll do. “What madness this is! I hope it’s all a dream! This world is crazy, and upside down.”

The night goes on. The Nahiesa is a silver band on which two perfect white circle reflect, one
bigger and more shining. The stars twinkle above the silent town, strangely quiet, as if waiting for
something.
The Central place lies in the most complete and empty silence until a desperate horseman
comes almost flying and stops all of a sudden in front of the palace. He looks at both sides,
grasping his lance by instinct, watching every shadow as if they were alive and could encircle him
anytime and swallow him. Sweating, panting, he enters in the palace in a hurry, greeting the
hidden guards as he passes by.

28 Incidents

A soldier comes near Retacht and whispers something to his ear, and then he, draws near
the emperor and, with a slight bow, whispers a few words. Gribash startles in his seat, mute,
frozen, some seconds, with his sight fixed in some point of the empty space. After these seconds
of trance, his eyes wake up, gleaming and acute, nailing on the humans. Sheila and Enrique, that
kneeled, resigned, seem to meditate. Fabiana with desperate attitude walks from side to side,
stopping to watch the others sometimes. Carlos enjoys a preview of his fortune and power,
together with Varna.
The Emperor, standing over his whole height, with domineering, cold attitude, with his eyes of
green fire, he exclaims:
“Sanus dei, die tchar sanum!”
Everyone stay nailed on their places. The noise ceases, they don’t breathe. He has just
pronounced the call to all the subjects and slaves of the Empire.
“An urgent notice for all of us has come,” he announces with deep voice. “Something is
happening in the outskirts of the city. A weak enemy is defying us. But, don’t get alarmed.” He
calms them. “We will interrupt the ceremony for everyone to go to their duty… We must
exterminate all the filth of Chandala Wia, that wants to rob and put fire on our houses, our city!”
A roar comes out of all the throats at the same time, a yell that says yes, we are going to
defend our city, our emperor, lord and master. When the sound vanishes, everybody becomes
silent and they hear another murmur, like a storm growing severe. Distant, gloomy, menacing…
and also a sound of hope for some of them.
The guards go out of the room at one sign from Gribash. Then, the Emperor descends the
stair proudly and begins to walk to the door. Retacht comes in between, almost imploring:
“No, my lord, don’t go. Stay here, those men, if they are that, they aren’t worth anything.
There are other more important matters.”
A second later he repents having talked, for Gribash throws a fulminating look as he pushes
him away from himself. When he’s about to continue, the group of soldiers that had gone before
breaks in the room.
“Many houses are burnt, the fire will not take long in extending everywhere!” one of them
exclaims bewildered, throwing himself at the feet of Gribash.
The latter gazes around him with hatred, and gives more orders. Retacht has disappeared.
Going to his throne, Gribash intends to take his sword. Alert, but with some hopes reborn, the
humans listen. The distant roar gets closer, screams and a crowd advancing. The aristocracy, the
whole imperial court, has become petrified. The glorious Düran, seat of the Empire, has fallen to
some beggars. Impossible! Where is the army? Where?
“I won’t wait for the moon, after all…” Gribash mutters with a cynical smile, taking his sword
out of its place next to the throne. “You, this is your last minute!”
in that moment the past Tuké, the old man appears together with a muffled bellow that seems
to come out of the walls.
“What have you done?” his lord and master yells.
“I activated the security system.”
“Are you mad? Did I give you an order? Now we can’t go out…”
“But they can’t come in. The palace will be saved, and we.”
“Yes, but my duty is outside;” the Emperor says with stifled voice. “I have to save the city.”
He slowly puts down the sword and sits back on the throne. The flames from his eyes
shimmer as the fire tongues. Outside, imperials and assailants destroy between them.
Suddenly… Yes, it seems a chant of victory, Fabiana thinks, who is near the Tukés, it seems a
march, and it sounds familiar… yes, it is.
Smiling, she looks at Sacary.
“Rilay people,” he babbles.
“Stay close!” Fabiana exclaims to him. “Let’ try to get together with Enrique and Sheila.”
“Yes, I think it’s good idea” he nods, taking her hand. Together they walk through the
murmuring crowd. “There they are!” As the strange noises from out and inside began, they were
separated from the throne by the people that run to their king, pushing and screaming.
But Gribash doesn’t talk. He remains sit, straight, but musing as if far away from there.
Retacht gesticulates with his dried arms and wan features. Never before has he lost the
composure in such a way: he has abandoned his cynical smirk, and his eyes don’t contain any
confidence or security.
“How is it that Cardoso is alive… and well?” the young woman inquires shouting.
“For what Enrique knows, a patrol that followed the traces of the Sardo group, that attacked
us, found him. At first, they thought he was Sardo, but soon his dress and way of speaking, that
he didn’t know the language and, in conclusion, he was lucky to be taken to Retacht, that ass
caburk that…”
“Caburk?” she repeats.
“Yes, that caburk. He was the expedition chief. He recognized a human and, of course, it
didn’t take long to convince him of passing to Gribash’s side.”
In that moment, the strange sounds as metallic movement and heavy stones rush, finished,
leaving in its place a sudden silence in the room and that feeling, that phantom of the exterior
battle.
The anger seems to grow at every moment in Gribash eyes. He doesn’t move a muscle, but
the green gleam of his pupils wants as if to escape from his eyes. He gets up enraged and
descends the stair to stop in front of Retacht. The latter thinks he’s going to order something, but
he doesn’t say a word. He watches fixedly for some eternal seconds, and there’s something
glinting an instant in his face makes the old man fear. In that moment, Retacht understands. It’s
just a thought, as fast as the flash of the sword that slices his head off the ancient body. The near
people cry and leap backwards as they see the head flying and the blood gushing up. It’s
amazing how red and full of energy it is, it seems to possess proper life. On the other hand, the
body collapses like a rag. Meters away, the head lies, small and withered.
After the first cry an infernal uproar begins, but there are not only shouts but also a tremor
that shakes the building from its foundation. Again, the same noise as before: the so-called
security system is caving in.
Bodies dance frantically. Thousands of faces, showing pain, fury, happiness, gravity, cruelty,
horror, paralysis or simply emptiness. The clash of swords and the victory shouts or agony wails
are like somber music. All illuminated by the psychedelic glow of the fire.
From the Nahiesa, that’s imperturbable in its course, to the center of Düran and extending to
everywhere, there’s fight. From beggars and naked pariahs, armed with stones and torches, to
the soldiers dressed in armors with helmet, ears shield, boots and knee guards, carrying lances
and swords and huge bows. Years of inequality and naïve confidence are washed with fresh
blood from all the ranks.
In the central square the fight intensifies. Sparkles and flashings join the screams and
heartrending sighs of the men, women and children. Most of the attacking cavalry and imperial
army are there. They’re surrounded by buildings in flames. But the strangest is the palace. It first
looked gleaming with soft green or blue glows and then much noise was heard. Fezan of Rilay
and the rest turned to look at it always they could, without disregard of their surroundings. But the
chief wants to get to the palace, there is something calling him there. He suspects is Gribash.
However, though near the door, he sees how his hopes break down when a bulky stone gate falls
heavily, closing the way to anyone, as strong as he could be. The whole building is wrapped in a
metallic, stony eggshell, a crust immune to fire and their poor weapons. The fight continues.
Later, new sounds and shivering, the Palace shell shakes. Giving orders, pushing and
rushing against all the battalion of well-trained soldiers, Fezan gazed curious to the stone mole. A
noise of broken hinges, like a thick forest being cut down in a slash by a gigantic axe, it
overcomes the battle and fire din, and then, the crust shatters in million pieces. The rain of debris
falls on the surprised fighters. It kills or buries many, even the imperials. Fezan makes a sign and
everyone, animal and men, stand back. It seems as if everybody has halted and watches
astonished. They gaze, with their swords still up, or nailed in the belly of the enemy, en trembling
mannequin poses. The inhabitants of the town cry or shout, for their Emperor buried alive.
But, after some time the cloud of dust and smoke that fills the air fades away and the noises
cease. Intact. In the middle of the white thick veils of dust it stands still proud the Imperial Palace.
That moment of contemplation and suspense gives way to the restarting of the battle. Again
screams, contortions, rough whispers and infinity of sounds elevate in the night, in a thrilling
crescendo.

In tightened group, shrinking unawares, the three human and two Tukés fear for their lives.
Even Carlos Cardoso hides in the midst of the people, trembling. Gribash, expects the tremor
ending. Apparently a failure, or maybe because the gadget was too old, has occasioned the
falling of the palace protection. But as he feels the smashing, the Emperor eyes have brightened
again, and a subtle smile crosses his face. Now is the moment, now he is going to the play-off. It
isn’t a game anymore: if I control these beings from other world, if I get to the other world, I win
more power and if I do and they are useful to get to the other side, I will certainly gain more
power. We don’t play anymore for more, more, more –that vice of power- but for we have. All that
and more crossed his mind.
Full of confidence, he starts to talk to his court, animating them. But in the act he notices as
everybody stops watching him with love to fix in something behind him, amazed.
The fire burns with intense, high flames that climb up behind the imperial stage. At the edge
of the stair Gribash is standing. Then, Guzman jumps over the flames like an infernal creature,
protecting his head with an arm and holding high the sword, and he lands perfect, standing
behind Gribash. The latter feels the eyes of his subjects deviating and the next second, a hand
grabs his throat and something pointy leans on his back. With a word, that sounds tranquil
despite the situation, he stops the guards that rush on them.
Guzman changes his position: he squeezes his throat more, rounding it with his arm to stop
any attempt of escape, while with the right hand he holds the sword in front of him, showing it to
everyone. Well grabbed and warned, now they begin to descend the steps. Warriors and
secretaries, frightened, clear the way.
“Marius!” Guzman calls.
“Yes, I am here,” the Tuké answers coming from the first row.
“Tell them…” the young man says, nervous in spite of himself; “that if they don’t let us go out,
in good health, or try anything to stops us, I will kill their Emperor.”
While Marius translates, Fabiana helps Enrique and Sheila to walk. They’re too hurt and tired.
Where is Sacary? Ah, there he comes. A ray of hope is born in their faces.
But, a fabulous uproar startles them. Doors opening with violence, screams –a masculine
voice- metal crashing, hurried steps and… the main door opens with a din giving way to a
crammed group of men and women.
The temporary distraction lets Gribash to pull from Guzman and rushing on his sword, that
lies in the floor near the cold body of Retacht. The young man, stunned, searches him with his
sight and gets in guard as he is coming on. Too late. He’d never suspect the velocity of his
attacker. Gribash, as the time he jumps, aims at him with strength and can hurt his shoulder.
Guzman senses are altered: he sees blurry for the pain, hears a deafening clamor that dazes
him, smells fear and sweat, and blood. He defends as best he can from his experienced
adversary. He staggers against the steps and falls down. He ends up on the floor, on his side; he
has slide on something wet and slimy –a pool of blood- and he comes to a halt some meters
away from Gribash. As he open his eyes wit difficult, containing a cry of pain for having landed on
his hurt shoulder, he finds face to face with a head… not attached to the body. Old Gribash
watches him with turned up eyes and an anguished grimace in his face, frozen to eternity.

29 A couple of duels.

As the enemy warriors breached into the hall, a rumor extended around the room. The chief
was well known for his courage and skill in battle: he was Fezan, and his troops of Rilay. And not
only them: also Chandala Wia vagabonds, pariahs, Bayos, Mngaris, and people of other nations.
Everyone went to their arms and proposed to defend themselves.
Sacary sees he’s being attacked by some enraged, aged secretary, bald and very perfumed.
Thanks to his seize, he can slip away by a swing and gets lost in the middle of the moving crowd.
Enrique and Sheila, despite their poor condition, fight for that hope that tells them they can
still live. Enrique, stout but slow, grasp and knocks a pair of guards. He fights as some fearful
bear, dispose to anything to save his own life. Sheila is hurt in one arm and the side of her body
by a lance, but she fights back with some weak but effective Karate-like strikes. She uses well
her nail and teeth. There’s a man with a long plait, she grabs it and almost drags him to the floor
in a pull. The man yells when she hits him on the face without pity, and he drops the lance.
Fabiana and Marius, back against back, defend themselves with fists and legs. She, trained
in personal defense, soon disarms one and that way she gets a sword. He, meanwhile, uses
some king of combat technique, some kind of martial art.

Guzman sees, or rather he feels, something big and fast that comes near him, and he rise his
sword and puts it in front, in time not to be butchered. He must take it with both hands to sustain
the force of the attack. As he’s still on the ground, it’s difficult to move. He takes a truce moment,
to yank backwards to get up. The other, Gribash, pants with rage and sweats. He can see how
his muscles swell and relax with every deep breathe. He is also heated, perspiring and panting
for air, but he doesn’t notice it.
Now, his senses are alert indeed. It’s as if he had them again, and feels the adrenaline
rushing through his body, giving him strength to confront a whole army. He eludes a throw of his
enemy, steps across and gets some sparks out of his armor. “It’s difficult, where can I damage
him if is protected with armor and moves so fast?” In the legs, maybe. The head, if he aims well.
Around them, everybody fight. He hears a woman cry, Sheila. “Is she dead?”
That thought crosses his mind and he comes back to the attack with more strength. His teeth
grind with the effort. As the swords crash, violet glints and sparks come out. Where is Fabiana?
He hasn’t seen her, nor heard.
They are severed by a couple of men rushing against each other: strikes, lance hits, shouts.
Someone tries to attack him from behind, but he turns and stops him short. While he fights this
one, Gribash faces directly with the enemy chief. In the moment, she reaches to see Guzman in
the distance, busy, and the next second he rushes onto Fezan of Rilay.
“I’ll kill you and then the other intruder!” Gribash cries.
With a smile, Fezan waits for him.
“You’re so optimist, your highness!”

Enrique helps Sheila making rid of one of the brothers Milko, the Sardo twins, but the other
one attacks them with a sword. Sheila takes a lance abandoned centimeters near some dead
body, and hits him with the reverse, striking him in the stomach. Shocked, he falls to the ground
without air at the same time he drops the sword, that goes to Enrique’s hand. The brother that
was in the floor, gets up and tries to take him by surprise. But he’s slender and weak and gets a
nice smack in the face. Still, he doesn’t surrender and trips him up. Enrique falls flat in the middle
of the dead people, as one more, while the twin that made him fall rushes on him with a cutting,
heavy axe in his hands, ready to behead him. Enrique rolls on himself, eluding the axe strike for
pure luck, that ends up polishing the floor. But again, the man takes impulse with the axe over his
head, and just in time, Guzman interposes, who seeing the situation has run there to save his
fellow. He stops the axe thrust with his sword, kicks the twin Milko, but he doesn’t kill him, he only
disarms him and strikes his head leaving him unconscious.
“Thanks,” Enrique sighs, getting up. “I thought I’d not see you never more.”
“And you would have lamented it?”
“Yes, though you caused us troubles enough.”
“I?” the young man exclaims, surprised.
“You… forget it, we’ll arrange it later. Be careful, behind!”
Meanwhile, Fabiana is defending herself all around, trying to reach her comrades. Sacary
joins her a little after.
“Where is Marius?” he asks.
“I don’t know. A while go he was by my side, then I saw him no more…”
The fight isn’t as fierce as before. One side is much diminished, almost defeated, but
surrenders not. The imperials are mostly injured or dying, spreading blood in the floor, groaning
or screaming.
Gribash and Fezan fight at the same level. They don’t feel tired, moan or stop a second. They
are as skilled in the sword, as strong and clever.
Fabiana and Sacary try to get to their friends crossing the room, full of people killing and
covering the floor with bodies. From above, you could see how they walk slowly in the undulating
sea of people, pushing, shielding themselves.
And also how a meteor suddenly comes from the crow to intercept their path.

Fabiana slips between two strong, tall warriors of Rilay and out of the blue, there materialize
in front of her, Varna, Gribash friend, the King Sardo wife, spy and disloyal beauty. She seems a
beast, with eyes burning with irrational fury, as she rushes on her.
Fabiana can’t stop her. The other one grabs her neck with both hands as she throws on her
and they fall, Varna on top of Fabiana, to the ground. Fabiana tries to gets her out taking her
arms and making an effort, while she suffocates and begins to turn pallid and red. She wants to
scream, but only moans come out of her throat. She kicks, gets her nails on the flesh, and still the
other one insists. Where is Sacary?

He gets to see a woman attacking Fabiana, when some coward cuts him from the right. A
female warrior with sword and lance cuts his belly, through the tunic, from which surges a great
amount of blood, a dark red that makes a huge spot in the fabric. Surprised, he faces her.
Disarmed and bent in pain, he’s an easy prey for the young, strong woman.

“Stay close! Don’t separate!” Sheila cries, hysterical.


At her side, Guzman and Enrique stand back to back. Keeping that way to protect
themselves better, they try to glimpse the others.
“Have you seen Fabiana?” Guzman cries at her.
The others answer no.
Sweating, trembling and distressed for the first time in his life, Cardoso comes to them.
Gravely, Enrique faces him.
“What are you doing here, son of bitch? After you sell us you come to ask for help.”
“Pl-please, friends, I didn’t want… they ma-made me…” he stutters, pallid. “I’m human too, I
can make mistakes, I’m weak, but I…”
“Yes, you and you” Sheila joins Enrique. “The moment you denied us to make it up with
those, you left being human.”
Still with cries and insults, Carlos stays close by, he’s so afraid of being alone. Waiting to see
what will happen when the battle ends.
It seems the rebels are winning, but one never knows.
Some people from Chandala Wia that Guzman met before, get to them and greet with a
smile.
“Fabiana!” he cries, “Have you seen her?”
The boys from Chandala don’t understand a thing. Guzman makes a sign as if he had long
hair. Now they comprehend: the woman with red long hair, where is she? They deny with the
head, haven’t seen her. The short one, yes, they make other signs.
“Help!” Guzman shouts, and makes gesture for them to follow him.

Varna and Fabiana roll on the floor. Varna’s arms have red marks from the nails of the young
human -long time she hasn’t cut them-. Fabiana has got to loose her hands and release her
throat, now they fight equally.
Varna gets up with difficult, for the floor is slippery and full of waste, and Fabiana imitates her.
But when she’s almost standing up she sees the other woman rushing on her, with a knife in her
right hand. When she’s almost upon her, she slides to one side and Varna speeds on the empty
space, falling on the floor where the girl should have been. Fabiana hurries to look for something
with which defends herself.

Fezan watches the catlike moves of his adversary, who suddenly hurries to a new attack.
They both change tactics constantly, but they can’t achieve to defeat the other one. Fezan
receives the charge with firm footing. Their swords clash. They turn to strike again and the
swords crash against each other.
Gribash tilts and, swift, he wounds Fezan in the thigh. He falls on his knees with a cry of
unexpected pain, and holds his bloody injure with the free hands, shivering. Gribash takes this
moment to give the deadly blow: he takes impulse clutching the sword with both hands to cut into
Fezan’s heart but… another sword stops him.
“No!” Guzman cries as he interposes in Gribash way.
This one stares at him with a look that pierces his heart like a sharp blade.

Sacary screams. The warrior has made a cut in his clothes from which he has saved for a
split second. He tries to run but there’re many people in the way. He stays frozen watching the
transformed face of the woman who walks to him lifting her lance and sword.
The last resource: he ducks his head and throws like a bull upon the woman. Surprised by
the head-blow in the belly, she doesn’t counterattack immediately and falls in her knees, bent.
Sacary put his hands together and unloads such a hammer on her head, that she falls
unconscious. He smiles pleased, congratulates himself, and goes running after his friends.

There are few people fighting. Many have fallen. From outside many cries and noises come.
The fire consumes the city. The old stones possess many creaks, the flames leak through them
and devour all that there is on their way.
Fabiana gets in guard, dagger in hand, ready to receive the blows of her match. The other
woman is fuming, or else, she would have already finished the job. They throw at each other in
the same act. Fabiana gets hurt in the arm and wounds Varna in the leg. The young human holds
her injure: it burns much, as the blood comes out it burns more. But Varna doesn’t care for the
damage, she tries again to murder her. Fabiana stops her hand by the wrist and wants to hurt her
with the dagger in the same move, but Varna catches her hand. They wrestle, turning around like
two fiends.
Fabiana groans for the effort, she can’t take anymore. Varna draws nearer, the other gives
her a kneecap punch in the stomach and bites her arm. Fabiana lets fall the dagger and, in order
to get free from the other, she makes her loose her footing and then thrown over her. Even
though, Varna avoids it with putting the elbow in her face. Stunned, Fabiana screams. But the
other overpowers her in screams, at the same times she tries to knock her down. Fabiana eludes
her and sends her right direct to the face, revenge.
Varna touches her nose, groans, and watches her hand… blood, her blood. For one second
she feels disgust, her face turns white, then red and with infinite ire she’s going to hit Fabiana,
but the latter hastens to strike her in a way that she falls to the floor, knocks her head and
remains there, seemingly unconscious.

30 The final fall

Who knows who has, in the confusion, aware or not of it, let one of the heavy curtains to take
fire and then that the fire spreads along the whole wall, at the right of the throne. The ancient
fabric exhales a spicy smell, like the sackcloth burnt.
Sheila’s wounds –a long and superficial cut in the side of her body and another in the right
arm, deeper– begin to be painful as the adrenaline level goes down, and Enrique must help her
to walk. He is also injured, pained and tired.
“We have to go, this is filling with smoke,” Sheila says, coughing. “Where are the rest? Do
you see them?”
Enrique watches the room rapidly and says:
“Yes, here is Sacary coming, with a terrible aspect.” The Tuké has part of his clothes torn
apart, hanging, and bloody, and he walks with a limp, while coughing and rubbing his eyes. “And
there’s Guzman, God, that boy is crazy! Make them stop!”
Guzman is stopping a rain of sword thrusts that Gribash showers on him skillfully. He defends
well, though it’s impossible to detain the Emperor impulse. Angry, his eyes throw true sparks. He
smiles always that gets near Guzman body, for he doesn’t know what happens around. The
building could fall and he’d continue fighting.
Sacary is near. Guzman sees him by the corner of his eye and shouts:
“Tell him to surrender, Sacary, that his army has lost!”
Between clashes of swords they have reached the room left wall, where the fire is already
spreading.
Sacary cries in his language what Guzman asks, but Gribash doesn’t stop more than a
second to say something like, “this is for honor, I am a warrior.”
Some of Fezan men join around their chief, who has an ugly cut like five centimeters deep in
one thigh and he has lost much blood. What is more hurt is his pride, not be able to end with
Gribash himself.
Sacary follows the fight anxiously. There’s no way, from outside a stifled rumble and some
victory cries. The Empire is falling, everyone expects outside, they don’t know what happens,
they don’t know the Emperor refuses to be defeated. And the flames advance along hangings,
furniture, dead people. The stink is horrible: the sour smoke, the smell to past and burnt flesh.
“Where are Fabiana and Marius?” Enrique mutters, for he can talk because of the smoke.
“We have to go out!”
dodging the stuff that cover the floor –swords, chestplates, dead ones, heads, chairs- they try
to escape. Suddenly they hear a moan from nearby.
“Help me… help… I’m burn…”
Enrique and Sheila stop in the act.
“He’s talking Spanish!” Sheila exclaims. “It’s Carlos…”
They go close him, and see he’s lying on the ground, covered with other bodies and a piece
of pillar, therefore he can’t move.
It’s the moment of the big decision. They stare at each other. Must they go and save
themselves alone? Or help him on the risk that something can fall on them or the fire can enclose
them?
“Forgive me… please… help-me” Cardoso whispers, imploring.
Enrique turns his head and sighs, while he moves the stone out of Carlos, with the help of
Sheila. Cardoso has lost his whole composure, there’s nothing in him of the refined and haughty
man of business.

Fabiana shivers, for the smoke and the pain in her arm, she feels the lack of air and her sight
gets blurry. Thousands of light glints fall before her eyes.
“I must get out,” she says to herself.
Varna lies some meters away. The fire extends along every wall. Fabiana runs, or that she
thinks, because she really goes staggering, groping her way as best she can. Suddenly she
stumbles on something, or someone.
“What is…?” she cries while she falls on someone known.
She stands up quickly, she can’t believe what she’s seen.
“Marius!” she sobs, unable to move.
Marius barely open his eyes and watches her, and for a moment he revives somewhat. He
wants to speak, but the only that his mouth can produce is an unintelligible grunt. His little body is
bathed in blood. Fabiana cries, in direction to the smoke that surrounds her:
“Sacary!”

A rush of wind comes from the naked window, increasing the fire to the middle of the room,
but leaving a clear where Gribash and Guzman are, still fighting, perspiring, panting, without
strength.
As Sacary watches the fire surrounding them and suffers for the poor boy, in that moment he
listens to Fabiana screaming and runs to save her.
But it isn’t she that needs help. Going closer, guided by his ear, crossing the column row, he
sees Fabiana kneeled by the side of his partner Marius, covering her face. He hurries to him
then. He stops, frozen, kneels down and watches him… Marius opens his eyes just a little and
can’t hold his gaze on anything. Sacary takes his hand, searching the pulse. It’s weak, turning
off…
“I am sorry,” Fabiana murmurs. “I couldn’t do anything for him.”
Sacary doesn’t say anything. He has Marius hand between his. He knows him so many years
since, he can’t even remember. And now… But, there’s no helping it, he is in a pool of still warm
blood, with the breast pierced. He feels as his pulse gets weaker and weaker until it disappears.
Fabiana looks at Marius. He has his eyes closed and in his face there’s a peaceful
expression.
Sacary watches him for a second, gets up and says:
“Let’s go, Fabiana.”
Trembling, she follows him across the hall, skipping objects and people, leaving behind some
injured people, that would soon die.
Out of the old throne room, in a dimly lighted corridor, the left ones are joining. The warriors
closer to Fezan, who have got him out of the burning room regardless of his protest, and despite
him, they’re dressing his leg, while he feels his pride hurt. The bravest boys from Chandala Wia,
who have dared to get to the palace. Some Gribash soldiers, downcast and silent. Carlos. Sheila.
Enrique. All of them expecting, eager, nervous.
Fabiana and Sacary come running. At the door they find the three humans, but they don’t
spot Guzman.
“Where is Guzman?” she cries, even before reaching them.
In their faces she finds her answer. Sacary takes her hand with force but she releases
herself.
“What happens?”
“We can’t go without him!” she exclaims, distressed.
“He’ll come. Trust him, Fabiana.” Sacary tries to calm her, though he’s not so certain of what
he’s saying.
“No!” the woman turns and runs inside again.
He would do it for me. We promise…
She goes some meters ahead and the flames stop her. She tries the right, no. Fire. To the
other side. Fire, creeping flames, orange red tongues, smoke, everywhere. Sacary pushes her
softly to the door.
The young woman is so impressed, her face pallid and lax, that she can’t do anything. She
doesn’t cry, or scream, nothing like that. Sheila embraces her, comforting her. But she’s also
distressed, and her face bathed in tears. Enrique watches the flames with pity, thinking, “maybe,
come on boy, impress me as you know”. “So quiet one moment and then, yes, you can do it.
Come on… come to finish your argument with me.”
“Shit!” he exclaims in anger, while the minutes go by.

Guzman notice he’s surrounded for a hot hell. The temperature increases every second,
there’s not oxygen. He’s rather exhausted, the muscles tense. He lower the heavy sword, swings
it from side to side in front of him, walking in circles around Gribash.
He is worn out too. But even when his body has no strength, his mind is more powerful than
his flesh. It can be seen in his eyes, that shine more than ever. Green, just like when a cat
dazzles in front of a car, with that glow. He rises the sword over his head and lets its flat side fall
on his adversary.
Guzman gives a step forward, a blow, deviating the trajectory. The metal gleam a moment
with the light of the flames. It’s hot. “It’s personal, I remember he said”; he thinks. A light breeze
relieves his suffocation.
Gribash tells him something, with rough voice that becomes whispering, sometimes high-
pitched, as some serpent that could talk.
“My God, an emperor about to fall, that has nothing to loose, tries to kill me… Am I trying to
scare myself, or what?”
Suddenly, Guzman smiles. He looks those hypnotic, powerful green eyes, with the same
fierceness.
“This is for my friends, for Fabiana and for me,” he tells the other, defying.
Then he hardly lifts the sword, breathing with difficult, not taking his eyes off Gribash face.
Gribash puts on an attacking position, breathes and yelling, runs at all speed to him, in order to
break his head apart. Guzman leaps to one side. Gribash keeps going… to the empty space.
Guzman watches as his opponent fall out of the window and his scream gets lost forever. He
lowers his arms, letting the sword crash against the floor.
A thought assaults him, what if the fall is not high enough? He goes close to the railing, looks
down scared to see him stand and walk and… he drops the sword. Fortunately, though the fall
wasn’t too high, Gribash is stabbed in a sharp point from the debris surrounding building, which
was some part of it before.
Now, the fire.

31 The Destiny.

The small procession walked with caution along the Imperial Palace corridors, to the main
door. Outside, an eager silence waited for them. A crowd. Defeated and conquerors.
The last to go out were Sacary and Fabiana, distressed. They joined with Enrique and Sheila,
who look as sorry as they do.
During several minutes they had called their friend, but he hadn’t come out.

While they cross the palace entrance, the crowd in the square turns to them, with a great
clamor. A sea of faces smile or cry moved. A wave of arms raises to hail them.
The group opens up showing Fezan, who comes forward leaning on one of his men and
limping. Everybody acclaim him.
“He’s going to be named chief,” Sacary says thoughtfully.
Fezan lifts an arm to ask for silence, but it’s impossible to shut them. He screams that no, he
is not going to be chief of all of them, that he doesn’t want to be king or emperor, or whatever
they’re crying for. The people around him speak and smile to him, moving their heads. Then he
makes way between them, coming to where the humans are with Sacary.
“Thanks…” he pronounces, testily, with emotion. “All this… we owe you, thanks.”
And he shakes hands with them and kisses each one. The crowd also acclaims them. They
make a deafening roar, and they don’t notice there are some other tumult between the people in
the place and its environs.
“Here we miss the most important of us,” Enrique says.
Carlos comes to Fezan with his best smile. One commentary of Sacary and a sign from
Fezan, and three warriors surround him with their lances pointed at his neck.
“S-stay there,” he babbles, loosing his attitude. “Sacary, please,” he begs; “tell them I won’t
do harm, Sacary.”
“You’ll be fine, mister Cardoso. I’m afraid Destiny has been mistaken about you.”
Fezan, after giving his men some orders, gets close to Fabiana, to tell her something in
private. Fabiana notices something is happening between the people that surround them. As they
are standing in a higher place than the rest, she can watch the movements.
When Fezan is starting to speak, she stops him and, her eyes fixed on some point beyond,
she gets apart from him. Everybody turns to see that.
The crowd in the square opens and Fabiana, clearing in a jump the stage, runs to the people.
She doesn’t need to see it, she feels.
Encircled by several noisy people, Guzman advances to her. She stays there for a moment.
Then, she runs and hugs him. The young man holds her close to him, relieved. Everyone around
them screams and laughs and cries out of happiness. They two also laugh.
The others –Enrique, Sheila, Sacary, and Fezan- come to see him too.
“I can’t believe it! You be damned!” Enrique shouts, and Guzman has to release Fabiana to
shake hands and embrace him.
Sheila cries, out of control.
“Why are you crying? Because I am alive?”
“Yes, no! Damn you” she sobs.
Fezan draws near, solemn, and looking into his eyes stretches out his hand. Guzman smiles.
“Gribash?” Fezan asks.
“Dead,” Guzman sighs. “He slipped, fell out of the window.”
Fezan seems satisfied.
Fabiana faces the young man.
“Slipped? Gribash? That’s hardly credible,” she lectures him. “Don’t be modest. Come on…”
“I’m not modest. It happened so, more or less… Why should I offend the pride of this good
man?”
“Ah, I’ll never understand it.”
Next to Enrique, Sacary mutters all the time.
“Destiny. Yes, he was not going to die. It wasn’t his destiny. It’s the destiny.”
“But what destiny or anything,” Sheila interrupts him, upset. “You’d better shut up, ah?”
“A happy ending,” Fabiana says, looking at Sheila, then at Guzman. “If this is my destiny, I
accept it.”
“You said it,” Guzman assents, closing her mouth with a kiss.

32 Farewell

Before they left, Fezan met Fabiana.


She was sitting on a rock, combing her hair with her fingers while she abstractedly watched
the horizon. They had set the campsite outside Düran city, that was completely abused by the
fire.
He sat by her side, looking also at the distant horizon. At their back was the town, from where
still escaped gray crests of smoke. He spoke.
Fabiana turned, surprised. Then she smiled, as she saw him.
“Kati, Fezan.”
“I… I am,” he said trying to remember something of her language. “Eh…” he indicated his
head.
“Thinking?”
“Yes,” he continued, “of asking all of you… that stay.”
When he finished, Fabiana watched him for a long while, meditating. At last she said:
“No.”
He understood well.
“I don’t belong here,” she explained, making an effort to be comprehended. “I must go back to
the Earth.”
And saying this she looked up at the sky.
The sun was declining to the river, in the high there were already a few stars.

Next day they went out early, with the sun. The whole settlement and people from other parts
came to say farewell. They had prepared some wagons and horses for them, warrior to
protection and gifts.
Then, the moment of forever goodbye.
“We will always remember you, and for many generations coming,” Fezan said with
solemnity.
“We’ll also remember you,” the humans agreed. “There’s no doubt of that.”
Some guards were bringing Carlos Cardoso.
“Do we have to take him?” Sheila joked.
When they were all accommodated in the wagons, Guzman said to Rilay’s chief, through
Sacary:
“Thanks a lot, we owe you our lives.”
Fezan smiled, as if resting it importance, and when they get into move he shouted with his
strange intonation:
“Take care of that treasure by your side!”
Guzman turned to Fabiana and took her hand.

“What’s the matter?” Enrique asks to Sheila.


He has recovered color and good humor. In contrast, she seems overwhelmed, as if
marching to the scaffold.
“I don’t know what’s got into me,” she answers. “I guess I’m going to miss this country.”
“What?!” Enrique exclaims, in disbelief. “I can’t believe what I’m hearing. You didn’t say
that… no, no, you’re delirious.”
“It may be.”
“I’m dying to go back. I want to see my wife, my children. To drink a beer and eat pizza and
normal food… To watch TV. To go to a football match. To go to job, I want to kiss the streets of
that damned city!”
Sheila smirks.
The night falls. Fabiana, weary, sinks in a deep sleep, wrapped in many blankets that make
the part of a bed.
Suddenly, she is pulled from her rest without warning when a group of horsemen with
ponytails in the middle of their naked skulls, well armed and strong, they attack them, yelling
madly. A couple of them holds her by the arms and ties her up with Sheila.
She looks at her. Sheila is unconscious or dead. She screams for her to wake up, but she
doesn’t answer to her desperate cries.
The savage destroy everything. At her feet are falling strings of blanket, pieces of the supply,
broken jugs from where the liquid leak out. Water, running slowly to her naked feet. Water. Blood.
She leaps backwards, screaming. Lifting her eyes, she sees a pair of men that have grabbed
Guzman and get him close to her.
From between the shadows of the night there appears a new character. He’s better dressed,
covered in gold. She watches his face. But, she already knew what she would see… and his
green eyes.
“Gribash!” she screams horrified, and the echo gets lost in the empty night.
Gribash lifts a hand, he has a knife. Suddenly he makes a fling down, with a whistle, cutting
Guzman’s throat. She wants to hide her face with her hands but she can’t they’re tied.
Then, she wakes and gets up in a jump. She looks around, confused, and seeing she’s in the
Tuké monastery, whispers:
“A dream, thanks God.”

Starinshe is standing in the middle of the central patio, surrounded by a few Tukés. There
peace is breathed, the tranquility of those old walls across which run, since centuries ago, the
water and the shadow.
Sacary hurries to Starinshe. When the humans come, he already has told all the news.
Then the elder man watches each one, studying them.
“Enrique Blanco,” he says to this one, “your face shows that you’ve confronted many new
experiences, and you have turned out victorious. You won in wisdom and that will make you
thrive in your earth. I guess you value now more what you have, and that will make you a happy
man.”
Enrique nods.
“You, Guzman Gianetti” Starinshe continues, coming close to him, “you have a new air of
confidence and you have shown those abilities that in your planet you thought wouldn’t be good
for anything. Next to your old sensibility, this new strength will allow you to build beautiful
buildings in the Earth, but more important, you’ll reach whatever you plan.”
“Your contact with other cultures,” he says to Fabiana, “will make you a unique artist.
Through your music you will be able to tell what you could never tell with words. You, Sheila, are
the one that has surprised me more. From the bottom of your soul have surged that faces that
you never show. Intelligence, courage, pretty feelings, will. Your aspect can tell everything.”
Sheila imagines herself. Without dye, her dark roots must be evident in the blond hair.
Without make-up and that rough clothes, she must apparent more years than ever.
“Carlos Cardoso,” Starinshe continues, “I must tell you that your fate is cruel. According to
law, you’ve turned humble by force, and only little time since. Before, you have betrayed your
own species and, you tried to pollute our planet with weapons and not good ideas. We cannot
punish you” at this, Carlos smiles, “Except by retaining you here, in Duma.”
Carlos’ smile falls to the floor. Next moment, he turns to anger, fury, indignation. With red
face, he draws near to Starinshe and grabbing his neck, he threatens:
“What do you say, old bag? That you what?”
“You will remain here, Carlos, until Destiny decides it is the time for you to go away,” the
Tuké replies with absolute calm, releasing his hands softly. “We invite you to stay in out temple,
meditating and carrying a simple life that will clean your soul.”
Next act, seven Tukés dressed in green surround him and drag him to the interior of one of
the stone buildings that round the patio. Carlos finds himself dragged by the Tukés like a modern
Gulliver and turns his face to his companions, who watch him, somewhat surprised for what has
happened.
Preceded by Starinshe and Sacary, the four humans turn to the Agassia, the door that will
take them again to their world.
Fabiana can’t hide her happiness, smiling all the time. Enrique the same. He wants to go
before the Tukés change their mind.
They go in, after passing several corridors and halls, to the room where they had come, a
month ago.
“I don’t know which day it is,” Guzman comments.
“Don’t worry, there hasn’t passed as much time in the Earth. Days seem shorter here,”
Sacary says.
The four stay there, looking everywhere: “And now?” they ask, “What do we do?”
Starinshe and Sacary are standing in front of the metal and transparent stone arch, in the
side opposite to them. Starinshe explains:
“We will activate this mechanism and we’ll leave, then you will appear in the Earth in some
near place to the spot you were transported from. You must remain tranquil in the moment of the
trip, or you can rebound.”
Meanwhile, Sacary has taken the gem that was above the arch. Starinshe bring out of his
tunic a bag and from it another stone, of emerald green, surrounded by complicated golden
filigrees. Being put in the place of the other, it starts to glimmer with soft, velvety iridescence.
“Wait!” Sheila shouts, she had been especially silent until then. “I don’t want to go back” she
looks at her partners, as apologizing. “In this world I can do something, I am respected, I can
make it to something. In the Earth, you know what would be my life…”
“But, you can’t,” Enrique tries to convince her. “The Earth is your home, your place, your
planet. You can make what you want there, too.”
“Of course,” Guzman adds; “and besides you’re our friend and we’ll miss you.”
“Thank you, me too… but I’m not going” and she gazed at Starinshe.
“I think,” he opines a little disturbed; “that your decision is the most important thing. More than
Destiny.”
“Fine, I stay! I’ve thought about it very well, and I decide. It isn’t a hurried thing, so don’t try to
persuade me.”
The other three watch her for a long time, and she holds their eyes. At last, she embraces
each one.
“You’re great,” Guzman says.
“Yes, of course she is,” Enrique affirms. “You’re a good woman. Luck…” he exclaims in the
edge of tears. “I’m sorry that my family won’t meet you.”
Then the women embrace.
“Girl, be careful. The Earth is a dangerous planet too,” Sheila recommends. “There won’t be a
Gribash, but there’re others that…”
She doesn’t finish, for she turns sentimental. She knows she ought not to go. Something in
her interior tells her she must stay; though she also knows that she may never see again the
Earth.
“Come on!” Sacary hastens them. “In fifteen seconds the Agassia will work. Goodbye to all.”
Sheila retires from the room, following the two Tukés. She throws a kiss to them. Sacary
makes a sign with his fingers.
The door closes. The gem brightens more than before, as if a great amount of energy boils
inside of it. Guzman, Fabiana and Enrique stare. Five seconds. They count in their minds: 4, 3, 2,
1…
A blinding shine. A blast. Void.

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