Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Mercan's Betrayal

         I am an old man now; my children are grown, and my grandchildren are plentiful. People come to me for guidance, and I am considered wise and my judgements true. I was not always this way. I was young once, and selfish. The greatest gift we can ever have is a true friend, and the greatest curse, a false one.

         I had my reasons to do what I did. At the time, they seemed right, and just. I will tell you my story, and you can judge the folly of Wise Mercan.

         The boys of Cercetor used to run almost as a pack, until we were big enough to learn our father’s trades. We’d run the hills, and get up to mischief. Grego was one of the eldest of the boys. He was simple, but harmless, unless he was scared. He would do anything we told him, and his height was very useful in the acquisition of all things that appeal to little boys, but especially apples.

         Playfights were a staple of this innocent life, but, as is like to happen, there was an accident. We were mighty heroes that day, our simple sticks transformed to great swords in our game. Whether Grego didn’t understand it was make-believe, or the noise and action startled him, I’ll never know. At the time, I saw him as a monster, but pain can alter any memory. I remember screaming, and blood and fluids running down my face. I remember my mother carrying me home.  And I remember the look on my father’s face when he saw my destroyed eye. The next week, Grego and his parents left Cercetor. My father was both wealthy, and powerful.

         So one-eyed and vindictive, I rejoined the other boys. I delighted in the ridicule of the others, and allowed no-one to tease my own disability. Almost above reproach, I became the childhood fiend, The Bully. One boy alone could limit my malice, and hold off my spiteful revenge. Letijak, who could stand by me, rebuke me, and never be drawn into my wickedness. Jak, as he was known, was too good to be, really. Handsome, winsome, golden-haired in a land of fawn. Who ever heard of such a child? My father even wished to marry my younger sister to Jak, when they were grown, despite Jak’s family connections. It was his family that made our friendship the most unlikely. Jak’s father’s brother was the father of Grego. Jak was cousin to my disfigurer.

          In this way, we grew up and started to become men. No longer running with the small boys, we remained fast friends. We were the first to notice in each other the changes that signal this time of life. And I saw before any other the marks that Jak was to be unlike other men.  Subtle at first, his eyes changed hue; one lighter and greener, one darker and browner. His beautiful hair was less gold, more grey; not the grey of age, such as mine is now, but a soft, gentle shade, more suited to a kitten than a man. He took to wearing a hood at all times as his ears became slightly pointed and set higher on his head than before.

          Now nineteen, and still no-one else had noticed these little things about Jak. Our fathers were looking to find us good wives. My father still favoured Jak for my sister Caran, but Jak liked Samila; as did I. Everyone preferred Jak over me. He was beautiful, and I was hideous, with my sewn-closed, empty eye, no-one would ever choose me. I saw them, Jak and Samila, talking together and in an instant, I hated him. The beast rose up inside of me. He was the cause of my sorrows. He should have been driven out with his cousin.  His family caused my disfigurement, and here he was, more a freak that I’d ever be, talking to her, my love. He had no right. I let my foolish jealousy rule my mind.

          Caran, encouraged by my father, had been in love with Jak since she was fifteen. My revenge was so easily completed. I whispered to her that Jak loved another and scorned her. She was heartbroken. I caused her so much pain that day, and she never once blamed me. Her fury was doubled when I told her of his gods gifts. She did as I knew she would and went straight to our father. He made sure everyone in town knew within days. My one friend was outcast, but yet again no blame was placed on me. Jak came to see me one night, terrified like I’d never seen him. The law said he must join the Kerowan Guild. He’d decided to run, and keep running instead. I never saw him again, nor heard what became of him.

          Samila and I were married the next week, her father eager to avoid embarrassment. My heart sang with joy, I had got what I wanted, hadn’t I? What is joy without a friend to share it with? The shame of my guilt still burns me. Years later, my son never played with his namesake. My joy at my first granddaughter was never shared with Jak, and the grief of Samila’s death never comforted by him.

          What think you now, of this wise old fool? The greatest gift we can ever have is a true friend, and the greatest curse, a false one.