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Talking Sense to a Fool | Against Constantine

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Zuzu Mansur

Zuzu Mansur


Night’s black curtain was gradually pulled back by dim grey and the illumination of stars got languidly lusterless. The light of those stars in the ebony sky started to hide their brightness and slowly retreated, away from the coming Dawn. A chorus of birds flew in the manifest sky and their dulcet morn-time song was easily audible to the purple-haired woman on her ebony steed listening to their music.

   “O thou tomb! O thou tomb! Be his beauty set in shade? Hast thou darkened that countenance all-sheeny as the noon? O thou tomb! Not earth’s end art thou to me, then how cometh it in thee are conjoined my sun and moon?

   The avian harmony seemed to echo that grave-song from the purple-haired woman’s past when she lived in those vaulted halls of her native land. Those halls with decorated ceiling in which her father held court for their vassal-state assemblies and whose walls rung with music. She remembered how the plucked tones of setars had once occupied the court’s ears more agreeably than their reputation. The bowed notes of geychak-players would rush in and around every court-goer like soft waves lapping dark shores, filling each hole in the black rock. Some of them would react to the beat, others continuing in chatter, but always it spoke to them in some manner. A lively tempo could lift them, elevate their spirits, move them to dance whilst a slow one relax their mood. Before this music met their ears, the court-goers were as islands adrift and unconnected, after they felt the same tidal flows and they found the beginnings of a meaning of togetherness.

   “O thou tomb! O thou tomb! Neither hell nor heaven art to me, then how cometh it in thee are conjoined soil and coal? O thou tomb! Thou lead me to love in life’s garden of sin.

  The lyrics of that grave-song had once swum into that purple-haired girl’s mind like a shoal of fish darting silver in the coral, their meaning washing over her naive mind but now made sense of in her adult understanding. Her time astray from the decorum of court-life had let her know the intensity of grief that the lament had described and enriched her appreciation of its lyrics. For music was as her journey - constantly changing with the motion of her experiences, her pain and sadness but also her joy and happiness.

    Yet one bird sang a different tune, a lilting song that went against the grave chorus around it. This bird with its black-matted wings sang a tune of hope; a tune of change; a tune of determination. From its crooked leg, the notation of that lilting song drifted into the purple-haired woman’s outstretched hand. It was as if this bird was one of the Muses who had taken it upon herself to make divine intervention known so she might inspire some poet lost in his own ideas. But this notation was no simple page of musical staves - she recognised the written script - it was a pulped-paper letter important for her intentions. No sooner had she taken read this note of divine intervention than her Muse left and met with the chorus in their grave-song, off to carry their conflicting tune to some new ears.

   But as the choruses of birds retreated, the Sun rose like a flower opening, gifting its bright petals unto the world. Amid the dancing raindrops was the blush of scarlet, the warmth of tangerine. The Sun came out of its abode across the brilliant orange horizon and let its fruit be borne as the first orange hued rays appearing on the skyline, the clouds and the prodigious sky now easily visible. This morning’s sunrise was a breathtaking display of radiant colors. Bright streaks of red, pink, and orange slowly overcame the dark blue and purple of the twilight sky. The sky resembled a prism; all the colors blended perfectly into each other. The sparkling sunlight started slowly springing past the coloured skyline, clearly differentiating the sky and the land. The warm morning breeze began to blow and the plants made a beatific smile towards the Sun as it shone upon the purple-haired woman’s destination - the castle of Janus.

   The castle was bold on the blue beyond; it stood there as if conjured from a bygone time - grey stone rising from the land, unapologetic to the sky it wrought. Those stones had made walls to protect a community, to echo with laughter and to be the shelter they needed for generations to come. Now those stones stood mute. Below the uneven walls of stone lay arrowheads of old, hilts of broken swords and armour that failed to protect. The stones stood mute which had once defied entrance and protected the legacy of those whose laughter had echoed inside and had sheltered generations past.

   The castle was faded on the grey ground; the once smooth stone was now pitted and scarred. This Nereus of the hill knew how fleeting time is, how soon the present becomes the past and the important becomes the irrelevant. In this hallowed and ancient site the trees have seen the centuries blow past in the winds of each season and witnessed the folly of man’s struggles. Beneath the chorus of birds, the voices of old, the clash of metal on metal and the pounding of horses hooves rang silent. Upon the paved courtyard, knights on bended knee, kings decked in their finery and squires with their masters’ horses stood empty. In this pale light, the silence and emptiness of the past was a tale for those in the present.

   As the purple-haired woman dismounted from her ebony steed in the castle’s old stables, she unpacked her load from her mare and handed it to the officers who had arrived before her. Zubaidah had learnt that this castle was occupied by forces commanded by her recent Sassanid foe and had sent envoys to officers in the Reiman military known to her. They had co-ordinated and prepared a raid upon the castle with aid from other officers preferring the front-line of war to the urban politics of other officers. One such officer with ginger curls impishly bowed to her while his right-hand man saluted her in rigid fashion as she strode over to their position at the stable-door.

   ‘I do hope this starts soon,’ spoke Lukios with the ginger curls, a sly smile at his lips, ‘They may say that action lasts as long as bronze, but I feel each second chipping away like a sculptor at work.’ His right-hand man Maelius interrupted him to inform Zubaidah, his crimson hair swaying in the cold air, ‘There’s been a distinct lack of action on the Senate’s part, so we in the Reiman army want to act as quickly as we can to put down these Sassanids.

   Zubaidah, her amber eyes smouldering in acknowledgment, responded, ‘A lack of action characterises these times, I find. Governments wait, politicians wait, nations wait. They wait and they wait and nothing comes to fruition. Famine continues, poverty continues, war continues. But they don’t act - they wait. And I’ve had enough. This war against the Sassanids will not wait and will not continue. I know their ideals and I know they are not ones I can let stand. With your help, let us put them to rest and allow our world to progress past this stagnant period of waiting. Our world needs progress, and we shall be progress’ agent.

    With the purple-haired woman taking out her steel halberd, she motioned towards the other officers to follow the pre-established plan for their raid and encircle the castle. Zubaidah approached the back-entrance into the ballroom with steps as light as feathers while Maelius took the old stable’s door and Lukios the main entrance to the ballroom. There was no gap in their encirclement, no escape for those hemmed inside the castle’s walls. While those inside attempted to run from the front-line of Lukios’s regiment, Maelius’s regiment forced their escape towards the back-entrance. Lying in wait were three other regiments, who had joined with Zubaidah after dealing with those on guard-duty outside the castle. There was no need for fighting, surrender was their only option.

       ‘What were your words,’ Zubaidah spoke to the knight with amber locks whose limbs were bound with chains. His eyes were burning with hatred, against the woman who had him chained and those she allied with, as she related news of his men’s defeat and surrender to him, ‘Constantine, were they not that Sassanids will not surrender? That your king forces victory or death, no option of surrender in between? Do not make me laugh. I know your king’s intentions.’ She ran a slender finger down the edge of a pulped-paper letter within her dress, ‘A king like him doesn’t care for his people. A king who cares for his people would concede surrender to his foes to let his people live; your king does not care for his people. But I do care for them. They deserve a king who is not leading them onto a wrong path. I will bring your people onto a better path, whether you or your king like it or not.
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Talking Sense to a Fool | Against Constantine Xaj4qc7

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