Empires Of Faith

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Chapter 37: Uncivilized Civilization

6 Ramadan, 1663

The howling wind screeched early in the morning. The sky overhead was dark with gray clouds looming about. The air, thin and freezing, gripped on to everything in sight. One strong gust sent a shiver up Abdur-Rahman's spine and awakened the young man. He was stirred from a deep sleep, his mind hazy and his memory a blur.

He sat up with a groan, opening his eyes slowly to the cold, lifeless surroundings. It was never a surprise to awaken and see miles of snow in every direction. What was a surprise, however, was to awaken on the cold, hard mountain ground, face down in the frozen dirt. It was a step up from the snow, but cold and uncomfortable nonetheless.

Abdur-Rahman rubbed his eyes and looked again. Sure enough his eyes had played no tricks, nor had his mind. He was sat upon a frozen path of dirt, with the hills and peaks of the mountains surrounding him in the distance. As his vision cleared, his eyes further explored his surroundings, catching sight of several small huts built of stone and fur, and in some cases wood and ice.

As his mind became less disoriented, he began to take notice of the few sounds in his environment. Despite the whirring winds, wailing out a frozen, agonized cry, Abdur-Rahman could hear the sounds of life. There was ice crunching beneath the footsteps of numerous people, voices raised in a humming clamor, and even the bleating call of a distant animal.

Without a doubt, Abdur-Rahman had awakened to find himself in the middle of a small village within the mountain. His eyes shifted this way and that as he took in his surroundings and noticed one thing lacking from his side; Puedam. His mind became foggy as he tried to recall what'd become of his atheist companion.

No thoughts came to mind and as he began to exhaust himself mentally, he was distracted by the sound of multiple approaching figures. He turned around to see a trio of villagers, dressed in patched cloths and wool draped over themselves. They were all of such a pale complexion that their features were almost undiscernible from a distance. There was a murmur of an unrecognized language from amongst them as they approached.

As they neared, Abdur-Rahman could make out the face of the leader amongst them, a tall man of thin build whose pale, straw colored beard was just as lengthy as the hair on his head. To his right marched a frail woman, near in age and height. Her hair was similarly thin and long, colorless and frigid. Opposite of her was an adolescent woman, her face baring striking resemblance of the older woman down to the smallest feature and yet, she bore a similar resemblance to the man.

Undoubtedly they were a family from amongst the villagers. This gave Abdur-Rahman some assurance that they were likely not a threat to himself. Still, as a soldier he knew better than to let his guard down completely. He got to his feet hastily and the three slowed their approach.

The man took the lead until he was only a few meters away from Abdur-Rahman, where he then stopped, as did the women.

"Gajarmoba ust’nuira kits’ia," the man addressed Abdur-Rahman in his strange dialect. Abdur-Rahman looked at him with a puzzled face. "Sianadast’ mokhdevit’? Michag’nait’ t’u r'ar ma ezane?" Still Abdur-Rahman gave no answer, unclear what was being asked of him.

"Ch’ime m’kira," the older woman interrupted. The man turned his face to hear her words. "K’t’ven ver vkhadev? Igi ra iras mat’ shiros riame agdolibrova regionebshi." The man gave a nod of understanding and turned back to Abdur-Rahman.

"Belki bu dili anlayacak?" he spoke, his accent changing as if he spoke an entirely different language now. Still, Abdur-Rahman could understand nothing of his words. "Net? Chto ob etom yazyke?"

Silence.

"Förstår du mig?" Abdur-Rahman stared at him, not even blinking this time. He could sense the frustration in the man growing as he struggled to communicate. Still, whatever languages he was speaking, they weren't any that Abdur-Rahman was familiar with. Thinking to make an effort on the issue himself, Abdur-Rahman opened his mouth to speak.

"Aap Urdu bol sakte ho?" he asked the man. Now the man and his companions looked with arched eyebrows. They turned to each other for a moment then turned back towards Abdur-Rahman, shaking their heads. "Arabi?"

"Hmph, a strange pairing that was. Nonetheless, you are better off without the devil's child accompanying you any longer. As for civilization, you needn't travel any further. Rather, you cannot."

"What do you mean?"

"You are in Eoltafev; here you shall live, here you shall die. May God have Mercy on your soul."

"You can't hold me here!"

"No, and I wouldn't. Hmph, tell me, is there no one else that you know of here?"

"No; I've never heard of such a place as this."

"For your sake I truly wish it had remained so."

"What do you mean?"

"Come, I invite you to my dwelling for as long as you are able." Abdur-Rahman thought to question what the man had meant by such a statement, but decided against it. He would follow the man and his family to wherever they were going for the time being. There he would get all of his answers and contemplate what his move would be.

The group began walking through the village and as the light of the glowing disc behind the clouds shone through, more people had awakened and emerged from their homes. There were loud murmurs in the various dialects as they passed by all of the townspeople. The man shook his head and turned back to Abdur-Rahman with a smile.

"They are amazed that an individual such as yourself has been brought here," the man informed him.

"Have they not seen a Muslim before, or is it because of my color?" Abdur-Rahman asked as he looked around to the staring faces.

"Both. There are very few people from southern lands here, and you are the first of any Muslims."

"Oh."

"What is your name, man?"

"I am Abdur-Rahman ibn Ali."

"Ah, certainly a Muslim."

"And you?"

"I am Aleksandre Gelashvili, this is my wife, Maia, and our eldest daughter Natia. We are a Christian people."

"Are all the people of this land are Christian?"

"No. Once in the past, yes. Three generations ago in the time of our forefathers, these lands belonged to the Cross. They had also had our allies from Jewish tribes, and made rare trade with some of the other sects and groups. But, as the largest nation of the world, our resources were stretched thin. The peoples of this town were suffering and because of the extreme location, missionaries and aid workers from the Cross could hardly afford to tend to our care. The chiefs of that time, believing the Kwaadi to be well-wishers as they so claimed, accepted a pact from them in which some of our loyalties and rights would be forfeited in exchange for supplies and aid from them. Over time, the conniving Kwaadi began to build settlements on the outskirts of our lands. For the sake of avoiding conflict and potentially harming the villagers, the chiefs ignored this. But over time, Kwaadi annexed more and more of our lands with one excuse and justification after another. By the time it reached a point of anyone daring to speak up, the Kwaadi had already established themselves firmly in
the lands."

"Why didn't your leaders from the Cross come to fight against them?"

"Many cries for help had been sent to the kingdom. But the ruler at that time had forsaken us, neglecting our cause in favor of fighting with the scattered tribes of Muslims in another land. An army was raised from amongst our people to push back the Kwaadi, but they outnumbered us, even in our own lands. The army was defeated in a day and any further resistance was quelled. The Kwaadi continued building settlements around our land until they'd had us all pushed up into the highest peaks. In my father's time, the Kwaadi had walls built in the name of peace and security, a supposed solution to any violence. In truth, the devils had only sought to cut us off from our brethren elsewhere, to cage us in like animals, and to take full control of whatever goods there were to be reaped from the lands."

"That sounds horrible."

"Aye." Aleksandre and his family led Abdur-Rahman into a small, round wall of stones with a layer of snow as the roof and patched cloth for a door. The group entered and Abdur-Rahman gazed upon a young woman surrounded by a group of young children, two girls and one boy, all under the age of puberty. They were all huddled underneath a single, thin cloth, shivering in the cold. The children, despite their ages, had wide eyes that were bereft of any youthful innocence. Their pale faces lacked any glimmer of hope or joy.

Abdur-Rahman could hardly bring himself to look at them any further. As he began to turn his head away, Maia spoke up. "This is my sister and our other children," she said. "We all share this lodging and likewise, this single blanket with which to cover ourselves."

"Have you really no wealth at all?" Abdur-Rahman asked. "Is there no means for you to attain anything? Surely you cannot survive like this."

"Nay," Aleksandre said with a shake of his head. "There are no means to earn a thing, and if there were we could not think to spend it upon ourselves when there are others far worse off than ourselves. Just as well, we could never purchase anything of value nor trade for it. Commerce and business are allowed only for the sane, and we are not recognized as sane
people."

"What do you mean?" Abdur-Rahman asked with a furrowed brow.

"The Kwaadi who control this land have ruled that anyone having beliefs in a deity or creator of any kind has no legal status and are ruled as insane folk. We have no rights to testify in legal matters, we have no right to trade or deal in business, we have no right to decide our own livelihood, we have no rights at all. They tell us that if we are determined to believe
in some Higher Authority then we should seek our rights and needs from Him and if He existed, He would have cared for us. Many a people have fallen to this mentality after years of suffering and have abandoned their religion and way of life to live under Kwaadi authority in their lands. Not a single one of them has returned or given any thought to those of us who remained, save for to mock at us and further degrade us with slurs of insanity and
other insults."

"They treat you worse than animals it seems."

"Indeed. Even the animals they control are given rights and certain freedoms. Our folk are caged here our entire lives, born into Eoltafev, dying in Eoltafev. The only ones to ever escape it are those who abandon faith or those taken as slaves amongst the Kwaadi."

"Slaves?"

"Yes. The nobles amongst the Kwaadi are such a people that believe themselves above work and menial tasks. At times they will hire lower class Kwaadi citizens to do their works for them, but most often they will raid our town and snatch up any able bodied villagers, male or female, and force them to work day in and day out. When the people tire, they push them
further, either until they collapse from exhaustion and are thrown back into the village or until their masters beat them to death for failure to obey orders. They tell us this is the natural order of things because the strong are meant to dominate the weak so that only the best survive. This is, as they say, the fitting selection and the natural extermination of the
so-called mental illness of faith."

"This is absurd! Is there no one who can stop these people? Is there no path beyond their grasp that one can travel to escape these lands? If not to live and stay, perhaps to go and seek help?"

"What lies beyond these peaks is death. There is no life out there. No trees, no plants, no animals, and no people. Behind the mountains there is the dead ocean, poisoned and polluted. There is no way of travel except through the Kwaadi lands."

"Then surely there must be some way to make such a journey. Undoubtedly there would be casualties along the way, but would that not be worth it considering the tragedies you would be saving future generations from?"

"You would be wise to keep such a thought to yourself, stranger," the woman under the covers spoke. "Foolish men like yourself are prone to going missing. You would sooner be found in pieces rather than finding peace."

"Nino," Maia chided her sister.

"It's well enough," Aleksandre calmed his wife. "What she means, Abdur-Rahman, is that any hopeful thoughts as such are dangerous in these parts. There are some amongst us who are forced spies for the Kwaadi. Any speech found to be opposing to the Kwaadi will be considered an affront to their power and a provocation. They Kwaadi would act swiftly in suppressing any rebellious spirits."

"Do you know what they do to men with rebellious spirits?" Nino sneered.

"Nino that's enough," Maia spoke up again.

"Why? The fool deserves to know. He will be the same. They are all the same!"

"Ishmael wasn-"

"Don't you dare speak of Ishmael!"

"Nino I-"

"I've heard enough! If you don't want this fool to know then that is well enough for me! Let him rebel, let him be dragged away as the others and killed like they were!"

"Nino we don't kn-"

"They're dead! That is what hope and belief gets you: death!"

"Nino," Aleksandre spoke, his voice booming with authority for a moment. The woman held her silence for a moment before tossing the covers from off of her. Without a word she stormed from the hut, bumping past Abdur-Rahman and the others. Abdur-Rahman stood, confused as ever as his hosts shook their heads in pity.

"Forgive her," Maia begged under her breath.

"My apologies," Aleksandre said to Abdur-Rahman. "My sister-in-law is a grieving woman who cannot control her temper."

"Was Ishmael-" Abdur-Rahman began before noticing the sudden tension in the air. Maia put a hand to her mouth to cover her sobs as she made her way over to the children. Aleksandre faced Abdur-Rahman with a solemn expression.

"Ishmael was Nino's husband. Despite the grim circumstances of our lives, there are two things which few of us are able to take pleasure in up here. Sincere belief in the happiness of the afterlife, and our small families. It is by no mistake that the women greatly outnumber the men in this town, even compared with the rest of the world. Men are far and few here, and marriage is a rare thing amongst us. Nino had lived with the expectation of never marrying in her lifetime until one day, God brought a stranger from the outside world into the village."

"Ishmael?"

"Yes. He was a young man, even younger than you are right now. We feared that he would not be amongst us for very long as he was fit and strong and a prime picking for a slave for the Kwaadis. Nonetheless, he was never selected to be taken and was left alone amongst us. His nature was calm and docile, as if he'd already been subdued and become hopeless. We were astonished to find a Christian man from the outside world being so depressed and despondent. We preached to him from what we knew and he seemed to ignore it all, saying belief didn't make his life outside any better than inside. We felt that perhaps if he would not enjoy the happiness of hope in the next life, it would benefit him to enjoy some happiness in this one. He was given his choice of the women of our town, though most rejected him, taking his extreme aloofness as a sign of disbelief and thinking him a secret spy."

"How'd he marry...um...”

"Nino chose him," Maia spoke up. "She said someone as stoic as him would never be a target for the Kwaadi, thus she would never lose him."

"What happened then?" Abdur-Rahman queried.

"He found God. One night after near-death experience, the young man found faith again. He believed. Not only that, but he believed with a zealous passion. He began to see dreams of Paradise, dreams of happiness and freedom. He once dreamt of himself bowing down as if in prayer, and the earth began to shake and a dark figure was turned over. He believed that to be a sign of worship and belief being the key to overtaking the Kwaadi. He preached these ideals to the people, inspiring the same zealous passion in others and when word reached the Kwaadi..."

Maia paused, unable to go on any further. She choked back tears as she recalled the events in her mind. Aleksandre sighed as he looked at his miserable wife, her eyes now overflowing with tears. A small sob escaped her lips before she turned away.

"Is she alright?" Abdur-Rahman asked Aleksandre. The man nodded, his eyes closed and his head hanging low.

"When Ishmael first arrived, it was Maia who suggested taking him in as she immediately saw him as an opportunity for her sister to be wed as she had. We all loved and cared for him as our own. When he began preaching and the Kwaadi took notice of the influence he had on the people, they took him away. No one knows for sure what became of him, but even the dead are thrown back into the village to be buried. However, there are no reports of
his bondage or anything to suggest that he is still living. Rumors have spread that he was tortured and abused, even crucified in mockery of our religion, they mutilated him and his parts were scattered in the village as feed for the wild beasts."

"What sort of vile, despicable, evil, wicked, nefarious, cruel, malicious monsters are these Kwaadi people?!"

"You should know by now; you were traveling with one after all."

"True but he was-" before Abdur-Rahman could finish his statement there was a loud commotion outside. There were angry shouts from an authoritative group and a single familiar voice. The people all rushed from their homes to view the scene. Abdur-Rahman followed Aleksandre and his family outside and back into the snow.

They rushed through the village, following the curious crowds of people. The shouting grew louder until there was a screeching sound and then a loud thud as if something had been slammed. Indeed, two large, metal doors had been slammed shut on the town. The gate to the outside world shut off once again. Before that, however, something, or rather someone, had been thrown into the abysmal town.

"Puedam?" Abdur-Rahman uttered as he gazed on from the distance. He saw the tall man, fuming with anger as he stood, dressed in rags, pummeling the iron gates with his fists and demanding to be set free. The villagers looked on in shock and dismay, pitying the newest addition to their sordid city.

Abdur-Rahman, however, was slightly relieved at the sight of his short-term companion. He left the side of the villagers who took him in and rushed to Puedam's side.

"What sort of misery is this?" Puedam shouted as he bashed the gate. "Set me free at once! Do you know who I am?!"

"Puedam," Abdur-Rahman called out as he neared him.

"Yes, I am Puedam Eman, son of the nobleman Ekaf Eman! When word gets out of your treatment of me you will all-"

"PUEDAM!" Abdur-Rahman caught up to the man and placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Unhand me you filthy little-"

"Puedam it's me, Abdur-Rahman."

"I said unhand me you lowly vermin!" Puedam shook Abdur-Rahman’s hand off of himself and turned towards him angrily.

"What is the matter with you? Have you forgotten your companion already?"

"I have neither forgotten you nor forgiven you."

"Forgiven me? What wrong have I done you?"

"It is because of you that I, a Kwaadi of noble lineage, have been disgracefully dumped here amongst Christian filth."

"Hey, calm down, man."

"Calm down?! Why should I calm down when my life has been ruined by you and your ilk?"

"Your life is not ruined, and if it were, it would not be due to me. Whatever happens to us, good or bad, is by the Will of God."

"God, God, God! You still believe in your myths?! Even after all of this misery and misfortune? Are you blind man?! Even a believer as you must feel forsaken? No? Why do you insist upon continuous belief despite the continuous hardships you face, most of which are directly because of your belief!"

"Why do you refuse to believe now that you've been shown your Kwaadi pride and claim of superiority is meaningless? You are a simple man like myself and the others here. You think us lowly for believing in a Higher Power, but what of yourself? Have you not been disgraced and shamed time and time again? By the hand of my people, by nature itself, and now by your own Kwaadi folksmen! Your pride saved you from nothing!"

"Neither has your belief! Why, or rather, how can a man who claims himself sensible continue to believe in a so-called Benevolent, Merciful God who continuously tortures him with hardship after hardship? If your God exists, He is only giving you bad, so why believe and think good of Him?"

"God tests those whom He loves and it makes them stronger, thus they become more deserving of good rewards in the end."

"And what about the innocents then? Forget you or myself, lest you say it is a test or punishment for some misdeed. What about the children here? Born into despair and suffering, destined to either grow old and die here or die an early death by some cruelty. They can hardly understand, let alone grow from this test, especially when their lives are taken. So tell me, how is that fair and Merciful?"

"It is not always only a test for the one suffering. Sometimes it's a test for others. A poor man may very well be a test for a rich person, in that he is deprived of something so that the one who has plenty may share with him and earn reward for it. So that kindness and mercy between them can earn Kindness and Mercy from God. A weak person may be a test for the
strong. Will he oppress him with his strength? Will he protect him and safeguard his rights? While the weak or the poor is being tested as to whether he will hold on to faith and rely upon God, the rich or the strong may similarly be tested whether he will hold on to faith and be humble before God."

"So then what are you saying? That our misery here is just a test for those in charge? Can I exchange positions with them then? I rather dislike the weak and defenseless position your God gave me."

"Well, Puedam, I have advice, and I have news. As for the advice, never be displeased with the Decree of God; that is the first and worst step in failing the test. As for the news, it would seem that you are confused about your position."

"What?"

"I don't know how we got here, but it was by no accident. God Decreed that we would wind up here amongst an oppressed people."

"Yes, I can see well enough we have been grouped with the lowly."

"No, you are blind. We are not here to reside among them and become destitute as they. We, my friend, are here as the upper hand."

"What do you mean?"

"Simple. By the Will of God, we have been delivered unto these people, and by His Will, we shall free them!"

"Are you mad?! We cannot-"

"We can and we shall. As a Muslim it is my duty to combat injustice and oppression wherever I shall find it. Undoubtedly there is much injustice and oppression here. And so, Puedam, by God's Will, you and I are going to free these people and bring down this unjust, uncivilized civilization."


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