The Broken Doll: Chapter Two.

by | Jun 28, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

The old sage leafed through the giant book and then stopped abruptly.

That evening, Hussein sat at the large work table in the library of the Denjan home. Head in hands. The room was lit by a solitary oil lamp that barely cut through the gloom. Papers and books were strewn across the table, surrounding a large wooden chest filled with gold and silver coins.

There was a knock on the door and it opened a shade. Shahid poked his wizened head through the narrow gap and addressed Hussein.

“May I enter Master?” The old man asked, waiting for a reply.

“Of course. I’m just tying up some loose ends. We have raised over fifty-thousand Dirhams to save the tree. Everyone has been so generous. I fear that it is all to no avail Shahid-Jan,” Hussein replied, ushering the sage into the dark room. He tugged on his beard and bid the older man to sit.

“That is why I’m here master. Word has come that the Governor is on his way. He’s expected tomorrow. Do you have any other solution?” Shahid took a seat opposite his counterpart and placed his hands on the table.

“Questions, questions old man. It is answers I am looking for and the money was the only one.” He hesitated. “What? Tomorrow?”

“Yes, I received a message via a courier from the palace. Also, there may be another answer.” Shahid shuffled awkwardly on his chair.

“This is all too much, old man. It’s the tree ceremony tomorrow, Soraya’s first. So what is this solution?” Hussein closed his eyes and placed both hands over his face again. “I take it this plan is not entirely acceptable or palatable.”

“That very much depends on you Hussein,” Shahid replied, tapping his fingers on the bare marble.

Hussein slammed both hands on the table, sending several papers flying to the floor.

“Spit it out, Shahid. What is it, man?” he bellowed.

Shahid recoiled at his master’s violent act. “It’s Soraya, he wants your daughter, Hussein. It is as stark as that. The message is that Tahir will reconsider if he can take her back to Herat with him. He will persuade his cousin that the tree is not worth taking and to look elsewhere.”

“Soraya? No! Never!” Hussein slapped his hand on his brow with some force.

“I know it is hard for you Hussein. It is not a choice I could make.” Shahid replied shakily.

“Choice? This is a huge gamble. You forget Shahid, I spent two years with the man on the Oghuz Turks campaign. He can’t be trusted. You just said he can’t face the Caliph without the tree.” Hussein expressed insistently.

Shahid pulled his chair closer to the table and leaned towards Hussein, looking him directly in the eye. “I am afraid on this occasion Hussein, we have no choice. There is something I need to say to you. Something that I thought I would never tell anyone.” Drawing a deep breath, he continued. “Although most of us live a random existence, subject to the daily… no… momentary influences of fate, others are not so.”

“I don’t understand Shahid, what are you trying to tell me?” Hussein was lost in a world of grief and confusion. They pulled his mind apart like wild animals competing for a carcass.

“What I am saying Hussein, is that one such individual is your own daughter. Her future has been written from the day of her conception.” Shahid reached for one of the giant volumes on the table.

“This can’t be so. There is nothing in the Faith that mentions any such thing. I am an elder, surely I would be a party to this,” the other man responded.

Shahid opened the book, maintaining eye contact with Hussein.

“May I?” He breathed.

“Of course, be my guest, but you’ll find nothing.” Hussein maintained his stubborn stance. The old sage leafed through the giant book and then stopped abruptly. He turned the volume around and pointed at the text on the page.

Closing his eyes, he began to quote from memory.

“The salvation for the individual depends on the sum of his thoughts, words, and deeds, and there shall be no intervention, whether compassionate or capricious, by any divine being, to alter this. Thus, each human bears the responsibility for the fate of his own soul, and simultaneously shares in the responsibility for the fate of the world.”

“Yes, yes, yes old man. I know all of this,” Hussein snapped. He continued to be agitated, banging his palm on the page. Shahid held up his hand and took the book, flicking to another page.

“Here, my friend, read this.” Shahid tapped his finger on a place in the book. Hussein followed the words within his own finger, as the old man recalled from memory.

“The Saoshyant shall not be subject to the fate of humanity but will save mankind. Its existence will be carved into the wood of the sacred tree never to deviate from its predetermined fate.”

Hussein had another pull on his beard, mouth open and looked up at Shahid.

“This is… I have…” He was lost for words.

“It was never part of teachings, at least not for you. This section of the book is the least known to all but the very few. Look at Soraya’s life Hussein, has it not been full of strange events?” The old man went on to recall the episodes of the young woman’s life that had been shared with her earlier in the day.

“I Don’t believe this. It can’t be so.” Hussein pushed back  his  chair  and  leapt  to  his  feet. He walked to the cabinet on the other side  of  the  room  and  poured  a glass of wine. He nodded at Shahid who shook his head. Hussein took a large gulp, closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.

“It is true, my friend. I have spoken to Soraya, prepared her.” With his back to Hussein, Shahid closed his eyes tight, waiting for the tirade.

“Shahid, this is all too much. I need to think. Will you leave me now please? Can you find Soraya and send her to me?” The other man was unusually calm.

“Of course Hussein, take all the time you need, I’ll do it now.” Shahid got up, nodded at Hussein and left the room. A few minutes elapsed during which he cleared away the papers, books and chest. The door opened and Soraya entered.

“Baba! Baba! I’ve missed you! Please, stop work and give me a hug,” the child cried, rushing towards her father. 

“I have missed you too Azizam, come here, sit by me,” Hussein replied, a lump developing in his throat. The girl sat at her father’s feet and placed her chin  on  his knee. Hussein leaned over, took his daughter’s cheeks in his hands and looked directly into her eyes.

“My beautiful Baby. Eeam Shahid has been telling you certain things. I want you to put them out of  your mind.” Tears pricked his eyes and he attempted to blink them away without his daughter noticing.

“Baba, I am special. It has been written. Tell me what you want of me. Is it about the tree? The Governor?” Soraya fought her own outpouring of emotion.

“No. I will not have it So-Jan,  no harm  will come  to my  Baby. Go to your room now and stay there until this is over.” He turned his head from the young girl, lowered it and pointed at the door from which she’d entered.

“I…” She gasped.

“No more, go now.” He opened his palm to emphasise his wish, still gesturing towards the exit. Soraya Jumped up and rushed out of the room, her own tears in full flow.

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