Jaul of the Kors
10 years passed since Jaul had been brought to the gathering. He remembered it often, almost every day since. It was something that seemed to eat away at the young man’s mind.
Since the gathering, Jaul had returned to the wall every night. He brought his flute with him, scanning the marketplace for the cobra with the golden eyes. Many people walked by, even the same drunk men, but not the cobra.
Since the time that passed, he had grown taller but was still skinny like a boy. His hair was a sleek black and hung over his forehead in elaborate curls, barely touching his eyebrows. Being in the sun all day had left his skin darker when it normally would have been a golden brown. But Jaul had inherited the high cheekbones and bright hazel eyes of his mother.
From the time between the gathering and the present day, Jaul’s mother had remained just as beautiful, but with more wrinkles. Her eyes were beginning to grow more tired, he had noticed. Jaul could still sense the worry in them as well, but then she could probably see the uncertainty in his.
At the present time, Jaul found himself sitting beneath one of the trees in the palace garden. He had a book in one hand and a piece of fruit in the other. He was tuning out the shouting behind the palace. Brahman had been entertaining women and his friends for hours.
Just as Jaul had flipped a page over, the shouting grew louder until Brahman and his friends came around the corner. He had a bottle in one hand and women from the market on each arm. His friends were trailing behind him laughing and carrying on.
Jaul tried his best to be invisible. In any other circumstance he would have been successful. Being invisible and unnoticed was what Jaul was best at. But when it came to Brahman, he could never hide.
“Ah, well if it isn’t little Jaul,” Brahman taunted, his friends all laughing.
His skin was much darker than Jaul’s, much like the Sultan’s. His eyes were a dark brown, his hair short and prickly. The two of them were almost complete opposites.
When Jaul didn’t respond Brahman squatted down to his level.
“Hey. What are you reading?”
Jaul just stared up at him with vacant loathsome eyes.
Brahman smiled devilishly. “Come on. What are you reading?”
When he continued to sit in silence Brahman looked back at his friends and then at Jaul again, who had turned his attention back to the book.
Brahman snatched the book from him and turned it sideways, looking at it. All of his friends laughed.
“I don’t know why you read this stupid stuff all of the time.”
Jaul made a grab for the book but Brahman moved it away from him.
“Ah ah ah,” he taunted, throwing the book across the grass. “As if all of those books will do you any good.”
“According to Ahmed, they will.”
Brahman scoffed. “That ugly old fool? His views are outdated and stupid, I don’t know why my father keeps him around.” He took the apple from Jaul’s hand and took a large bite, the juice running down his chin.
He was turning away when Jaul spoke up. “The ancient readings tell us that our ancestors believe that knowledge is power.”
Brahman turned back around, an amused look on his face. “Knowledge is power? Ha! Blood is power. Money is power. I have power. Tell me what power you have from reading all of those books?”
Jaul looked up at Brahman, contempt burning inside of him. “The readings of the—“
“Readings of the ancestors?” Brahman laughed, his friends gathering around behind him. “You still believe in those ancient bedtime stories? You and that old fool are the only ones that believe in those lies.”
When Jaul said nothing more, Brahman and his friends left.
He sat underneath the tree for a few more moments feeling low. This was typical treatment when it came to Brahman. But being beaten down continually was something that Jaul detested the most.
He hated Brahman and he hated the Sultan.
A large bird flying overhead broke Jaul’s thoughts and he decided to go back inside the palace. Once he was inside, he felt the thick heat of it blow over him. There were servants cleaning the gold décor that covered every room. There was always shouting coming from various rooms as the Sultan liked to entertain his friends and extended family.
They would feast for hours, drink to the point of passing out, cuss and behave abhorrently, take advantage of the female servants. Brahman was a direct correlation of his father. He was only allowed to attend a party every once in awhile. But after he did, that’s all he wanted to talk about for a week.
Jaul hated it.
He was walking through the northern corridor when he spotted Lina.
She was the Sultan’s step daughter. Brahman’s mother had died during childbirth and after that the Sultan desired to have a new wife. Lina’s mother had just lost her husband and given birth to Lina when the Sultan decided to make her his new wife.
She was sitting on a table just outside Ahmed’s room when Jaul had spotted her.
Ahmed was their tutor. The Sultan had allowed Jaul to be tutored with Brahman and Lina when they started to grow older. Ahmed taught them how to read and write, as well as other areas of education.
He had a natural thirst for knowledge while Brahman had always resented it. Lina was also knowledgeable and a lot smarter than Brahman, but not like Jaul. He could connect things and make inferences and conclusions like no one else. It even surprised Ahmed, to whom Jaul now looked on to as a father figure.
Lina looked up from the book she had been reading and waved to Jaul.
She was very beautiful, something that Jaul had always known.
“Is Ahmed busy?” He asked her.
Lina shut the book and jumped down from the table. “If you consider attempting to translate the ancient writings busy.”
Jaul smiled shyly. “He’s up to that again, is he?”
“He’s always up to that,” Lina offered.
“I think I might go and bother him for a little while.”
She tugged at a strand of her long black hair that poured down her back. “I just finished bothering him for about an hour. But he likes you better than me so I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.” Her large green eyes twinkled in amusement.
“That is not true.”
“Eh… It is. But that’s not to suggest that he likes Brahman more than me.”
Jaul scoffed and shook his head, smiling at her joke. “As if anyone could like Brahman more than you.”
Lina smiled back at Jaul. “Anyway. I’m gonna go see what my Mother is up to so I’ll see you around.”
She handed the book she had been reading to Jaul and he turned to watch her walk down the hallway. He had often thought about a future life with Lina. They had grown up together, and Jaul had often wondered whether or not she saw him more as brother. But as time had gone on and they grew older, they had also grown closer.
Lina was often kind and unlike a lot of the people that lived in the palace and the marketplace. She certainly did not associate herself with Brahman and his friends. In fact, she and Jaul often shared the same feelings when it came to Brahman and the Sultan.
Jaul opened the door to Ahmed’s room and found him standing at his table, pouring over some papers, grumbling to himself. He was a tall, skinny old man with a white beard and gray hair. Ahmed often wore a small hat on the top of his head and long colorful robes.
Jaul admired him for many reasons. Besides being knowledgeable and having an appreciation for it, Ahmed was also a man that practiced being righteous; a quality so rare among the Kors people.
Just like Lina had said, it appeared as though Ahmed was trying to decipher and transcribe some of the ancient writings of the Kors ancestors.
To this day, Jaul had never spoken of the gathering, just as he had been commanded. However, Ahmed often spoke of the ancient ancestors and a prophecy, something that Jaul was openly interested in. Many of the Kors people believed the prophecy to be something of a myth anymore.
Ahmed looked up suddenly from his papers. “Ah! Jaul. Come here, I think I may have deciphered a bit more of the ancient writings.”
Jaul moved around to the other side of the table and Ahmed pointed his writing utensil at their languages alphabet.
“As you know, I have been trying to complete an alphabet of the ancient language in order to be able to directly understand it.”
“Right, right,” Jaul said as he scanned the various papers and documents.
“Well. Before today, all I could give you was this.” Ahmed held out a small piece of paper with a short paragraph on it.
“Yes. “Knowledge is power, therefore knowledge is of the spirit because the spirit is power.”
“Yes!” Ahmed said excitedly. “I was able to translate this because I recognized a similar paragraph structure with some of the modern Kors writings.”
“Then there are more ancient writings that align directly with paragraphs of Kors writings?”
“Well, no,” Ahmed said, scratching his head. “It is my belief that we are missing many of the ancient writings of our ancestors. I also believe that this particular writing about knowledge was written down because it was most likely spoken by word of mouth years after we developed the language we speak now.”
“What makes you say that?” Jaul inquired.
“Well, for one thing, although the sentence structure is very similar it is not a direct correlation. We read in the Kors writings “because the spirit is power,” but I noticed most recently that the letters do not match up with the word that I believed to be “because” within the ancient writings.”
“Did you find the correct word?”
“Yes!” Ahmed said, pointing to the ancient writings. “Through looking more closely at the other words and the partial alphabet that I had, I was able to deduce that instead of “because” the word used in the ancient writings is actually “wherefore.” Very similar to “therefore” which was used previously in the writing.
Jaul nodded. “That is an interesting find. Is there any more to it?”
Ahmed shook his head at Jaul. “I knew that wouldn’t be enough for you.”
Jaul nodded and Ahmed ushered him over to a few cushioned chairs in the middle of the room. They both sat down and Ahmed began to prepare his pipe.
“Teacher, what do we know about the beginning?”
Ahmed blew a puff of smoke in the air and furrowed his eyebrows. “It is unclear. We only know what was written in our language and spoken by word of mouth. Though most people do not believe in the history of our ancestors, or of the prophecy of the four kingdoms.”
Jaul nodded, sipping some of the tea.
“It appears as though there was a time where all four of the kingdoms of Hilarum were not split by the forest, and that we all had a common language. It is also said that there were not just four kingdoms, but that there were five. The fifth kingdom, or “realm” as it is sometimes referred to, fought against the other kingdoms and in turn peace was destroyed.”
“The common language being the same language of the ancient writings?”
“Correct,” Ahmed said, pointing his finger. “But for some reason, we know not why or how the ancient forest was erected. There have been rumors of a sort of over-seer of all of the kingdoms but it is still unclear.”
Jaul considered this, thinking about what the figure had said during the night he was called just as a young boy. He wondered if the figure was the one that Ahmed spoke of.
“What have you got for me there?”
Jaul looked at the book he had been holding. “Oh. Lina was reading this outside and told me to hand it to you.”
Ahmed smiled fondly. “Lina. She has grown into a fine young woman.”
Jaul nodded slightly before Ahmed spoke again.
“She speaks fondly of you, you know.”
Jaul felt something twist inside of him at the notion, but tried to hide it. “We’ve always been close.”
Ahmed smiled, taking another pull from his pipe. “She inquires a lot about you as well,” he said before blowing out another puff of smoke.
“How do you mean?” Jaul asked anxiously.
Ahmed shrugged. “I don’t mean anything by it. But like you said, you’ve always been close.”
Jaul looked down at his tea, slightly conflicted. “I have often wondered if she sees me more than… more than that of a brother.”
The old man nodded. “It’s not my place to get in the middle of such things, but if I were have to guess… Mind you I have in no way discussed this with Lina,” he said with a wink. “But, no if I were to guess… The only thing I could say is that I believe very confidently that she is feeling a lot of the same things that you are.”
Jaul considered what Ahmed had told him and then peered up at the old man. “Ahmed, you aren’t trying to play matchmaker, are you?”
He feigned surprise and shook his head, standing up. “Of course not. Do I think it to be an ideal match? Yes. Has Lina also expressed her interest in these things? Yes. But that’s all I will do or say.”
Jaul stood and set down his drink. “You are impossible,” he told him, smiling admiringly.
Ahmed walked over and began to study the papers covering his table again.
“I’ll let you get back to your work. I should probably go see my Mother for a while, see if she needs any help in the kitchen. I still have duties, you know.”
Ahmed looked up and smiled sensitively at him. “You are much more than just a servant, Jaul. Tell your mother hello for me.”
“I will,” Jaul assured him, before he exited into the hallway.
He hurried down the norther corridor and traveled down a few flights of stairs before he finally came upon the kitchen. Inside, several of the Sultan’s servants were scurrying around, carrying trays with food piled high upon them. He found his mother in the back, tending to some of the fruit that was stored in one of the back rooms.
“Hello mother,” he said from behind her.
His mother turned around and reached for him. “Jaul! What are you doing down here?”
He looked upon his mother, who was just as beautiful as she’d always been. Her eyes were more wrinkled on the edges and she looked more tired now, but she was still his mother.
“I just came to see if you needed any help.”
She waved her hand. “No, no. In fact the Sultan has requested that I stay with him for the feast that—“
“Why do you do this?” Jaul asked angrily. “I don’t want you at those feasts, I know what takes place there after they’ve all become drunk and—“
“Jaul!” His mother cried, slamming down a basket of fruit.
He stood there, fists clenched together tightly. “I’m sorry. I just hate that he does this to you. I can’t stand to think—“
His mother put a hand to his face, looking upon him with guilty concern. “Then do not think of it.”
“I can’t help it. I see it every day, I know what he does. I just don’t understand why you do it?”
“For this,” she said, putting both hands on his shoulders. “So that you have the chance to grow up and be somebody. If I refuse, we would be cast out. What would happen to you and I if that happened? You have learned so much from Ahmed and grown into a son that I am proud of.”
“I am not brave or strong like my father,” Jaul said painfully.
His mother shook her head. “I see your father in you more every day. He would be proud of you too.”
“I don’t want you to sacrifice your happiness for me.”
She released her hands from his shoulders. “When you are a parent you will understand. But I don’t want you to worry. The Sultan’s wife will be attending this feast. I doubt that he would be foolish enough to try anything then.”
“Lina’s mother is very kind,” Jaul offered, picking up the fruit basket and handing it to his mother.
She nodded knowingly. “She has been a good friend for many years. But I will see you later on tonight, Jaul. I love you.”
“I love you too,” he returned before his mother walked away towards the front of the kitchen and up the stairs.
He watched her leave before he decided to go grab a book from his room and head back down towards the front lawn of the Palace.
Jaul did his best not to think of his mother and the feasts and the Sultan. It was true that Lina’s mother, the Sultan’s wife, was close with his mother. They seemed to understand one another because of both of their husbands passing away. This was also something that Jaul and Lina shared in together.
He was just passing around the corner of the southern corridor when he saw ahead of him Brahman and Lina. He had both of his hands on her shoulders and pulled her into an embrace before kissing her on the forehead.
Jaul felt his heart beating rapidly, not believing what he saw.
Jaul stepped backwards away from the southern corridor, his stomach rolling all around in anger. He had the book clenched in his right hand and then threw it across the hallway, making his way for the side doors of the palace.
How could I be so stupid, he thought to himself angrily.
Jaul blew open the doors of the palace in a fury and headed for the tree that he had climbed many times.
The image of Lina pressed up against Brahman was burned in his mind. It made him sick. He thought that she was like him. He thought that she hated Brahman and the Sultan and everything they were.
He ran a hand through his hair hastily before climbing up the tree. Nimbly he crawled onto the wall and then shimmied down into the alley. When his feet finally hit the ground, he felt another surge of anger. For his entire life he’d been beaten down by Brahman and watched his mother be made less of by the Sultan.
Jaul picked up a crate and threw it against the wall.
How could she?
He threw another crate and then kicked one again and again. He picked it up and slammed it on the ground one more time, sweat dripping down his nose.
Suddenly, something black caught the corner of his eye.
Jaul snapped his head in that direction and watched a snake slither underneath the fence, into the side alley.
His heart began to beat faster and faster.
This is it, Jaul thought to himself.
The cobra skated towards him and Jaul began backing up towards the far wall like he remembered doing almost 10 years ago. He remembered those same golden eyes set perfectly in the middle of the snake’s head. It had the same sleek black coat of scales.
Jaul was not afraid this time.
His fingers hit the back wall of the alley and it rotated sideways. Jaul found himself in the familiar hallway lit only by torches hanging on the walls. He followed the steps down hastily and stopped in front of the door. He needed this.
Jaul opened the door confidently.