Monday, September 26, 2011

III. The Seers of Ayda

I. The pain of Ayda.
II. How Ayda came to be.

On the higher foothills of the Kshitidarr, there is a small mountain pass above the snow line from where it is easy to see leagues ahead. But most times the view from there was spoiled by clouds. Not that it meant much, because the men who dwelt there were never interested in watching over worldly affairs. They prayed for an existence that Ayda could not offer. They wanted heaven - not for the lure of its pleasures but for a union with the souls that ever left Ayda - the brave, the wise, and the beautiful.

Summers when the rays of Vetar would meet the snows was a short period here. And when a summer happened, you could see them all out on the slopes with their arms raised skywards in a gesture of submission. And when it got dreadfully cold in the long winter, they crept into the caves and crouched inside in their dirty blankets, still mumbling the chants held sacred. Five of them were considered to be the elders. Riders going to meet the King always found the elders in the open. The elders braved the winters and stayed outside in the same posture till they were buried in snow. It was as if they never moved. Food was a forgotten memory-they drew their nourishment from the elements.

The young ones in Ayda were told that the prayers of elders and the other pious men were the reason for all that was good in their kingdom. It was rare for a kid to not know the story of how these men could transfer their souls to any thing that moved.

One had to get across this high pass to get to the cairn of the Great King.

On that day, Garde stopped in the distance and hovered over the pass, and Aniveh and his dispatch riders wondered why. Given the nature of the assignment, Garde should have gone straight to the cairn to give the King the message of great grief.

Their horses struggled up the mountain pass and it was some time before Aniveh and his party reached the top point of the pass. The sight that awaited them brought an old curse loud to their lips, almost in unison. Out there on the snow patches, thick blood was frozen on what was four ice statues. Aniveh knew instantly that four of the elders had crossed over to the other side. A hole existed on all four ice structures at about the height of a man's heart, from which the blood had poured out. When exactly, no one could tell.

Strangely enough, it was the beginning of summer, but the other men who usually would be seen outside immersed in their prayers were not to be seen.Anxiously, Aniveh surveyed the fifth statue, the one that was always positioned at the highest reach on the pass. That was the point for the Eldest among the elders, so to speak. The Eldest showed no signs of blood, and Aniveh heaved a sigh of relief. He dismounted and motioned to half of his men to check the elders, and walked up to the Eldest with the remaining company.

With bare hands, they removed the snow and ice packed on the body. It took them some time, as the winter was just over, and the snow-covering on the body was yet to melt away. Finally they cleaned off the icicles and the visage of the Eldest came to view.

Aniveh sprang back in shock as he looked at the face of the holiest man in the kingdom. The face of the Eldest was blue - the darkest shade of the color possible. Visions of his sister, the princess, came floating in, and his grief was beyond measure.

He did not even feel the hand of his deputy on his shoulders trying to reassure him that things may not be as bad as it seemed. Then something happened that jolted him back to reality.

The shriek of Garde, who took to flight in the direction of the cairn of the Great King. Shouting commands to two of his soldiers to search for the missing men on the hills, Aniveh mounted his horse and galloped away through the pass at a pace never witnessed in those reaches. His company tried in vain to keep up.

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