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The Great Outcast

1. The New Wolf Progeny

Continuation of the story...

translated by Natalia Kasparova


And in the face of the lethal threat, it was inconceivable to die without uncovering the mystery! The scholar thought about it while the storm was ripping the tackle and breaking the oars; he felt sorry to tears that he would not have the time to learn the unknown, when the pirates attacked the helpless ship and he was nearly tossed into the deep with a rock on his neck for just one open and bold look; and how he grieved and cried when he was taken, pigeonholed, to the slave market through the sands under the insufferable and scalding sun.

And his teacher was not there – his adversary, who could be asked for an answer in his last moment…

He was not there in the heavenly seclusion either and therefore Aris confided his observations, feelings and thoughts to writing, aware from the time when he was a pupil, that they would take the flesh of a scholarly form and thus move him to solve as of yet inextricable problems. And so it happened – one day his thoughts, which had been entrusted to papyrus, led him to the idea that the uniting essence of the barbarian sanctities resided in the knowledge of how to obtain Time! They clearly concealed instructions on what to do and how, if the God-given calendar, or Chu, as barbarians called the Time, irretrievably dried up. Possibly this lore was accessible only to the oracles, who had been specially initiated, because even barbarian tsars did not have insight into the sacrosanct mysteries of these rites. At the same time, their wise men, referring to themselves as prophets, regardless of which part of the world they lived in, were consumed with one sole passion – to obtain a new calendar, a new term of Chu to allow for the existence of their lands and people. Their fire rites were inexplicable and savage; when their dwellings were burnt down, they would rejoice, sing and dance. Their incredibly persistent labours undertaken to erect new ones as well as new identical towns seemed senseless, even insane!

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That is unless one knew that they were extracting Time by doing so! They were filling empty vessels and pools with it in their towns; just in the same way drought afflicted countries do with water in the rainfalls.

The teacher of maturity, Bion was close to unravelling this mystery. All his life he was stealing up on it like a hunter on a wild bird, he even built a tower rotunda in the image and likeness of a barbarian town, trying to grasp the mystery of their mentality, to perceive the nature of their irrepressible endurance.

In the Middle Earth people would call out to Gods to receive their benevolence and to win their daily bread. For instance they would sweat over growing a grape vine or an olive tree and they would break a hard stone to build a beautiful palace and dig deep burrows to extract silver and gold; they would venture out on dangerous journeys to sell their goods and, in doing so, to obtain the benefits associated with their life on earth. Whereas the barbarians leading a meagre existence were not burdened with any of that, instead they were obsessed with constructing their cities, seemingly devoid of any logic! When they erected very tall inaccessible walls, they knew in advance, that no one was going to attack them. And they would live enclosed within those walls so that half a century later they could torch the emptied vessels with their own hands together with the towers, foundries, stock and barrel, and then build new ones!

Aris kept all those thoughts about barbarian life in order in his head and wrote down just some fundamentals about the life of savage, obscure tribes and peoples that were, unknown even to Herodotus. He treated his own work like a ship builder - just laying down a boat in the dockyard, but his present master Lucretius Iriy, having suddenly landed on the island, read his work and admired it so much that he would not hear any reasoning from his captive. The oligarch, being far from capable of true philosophical science, thought that any description of a previously unknown phenomenon was genius, as it paved the way to far-off lands and helped to start lucrative trade there. That is why he ordered the immediate binding of the leaves into a book, put his name down on it and set off to Rome right away.

Short-lived was his grief, as Aris felt inspired again since he was overflown with the ideas and he had a generous stock of plain papyrus and ink available to him. He was used to thinking on his feet and, while taking strolls on the island as if on a peculiar round-the- world trip, would muse and arrange his thoughts in a scientific manner and then would sit at the table and write them down on papyrus. And this time he decided to outsmart his master and composed two manuscripts simultaneously – one under his master’s name and the other, which he kept secret even from the servants – under his own. It was audacious and entailed the risk of being found out for breaking the agreement, but at the same time it filled the scholar’s heart with the youthfully unrestrained joy of creation, because once again he could openly look into the eye of his great mentor – his adversary - and mentally prevail over him.

Thus a year had passed in this ambivalent existence and the tractate of his master was finished. However he had yet to turn up or send his people over.

Aris rejoiced in this circumstance and wholeheartedly pursued his covert work, sometimes jubilant with delight and joy. He conceived to complete it and, without putting his name on the frontispiece, sent it with the fishermen to Athens, to his teacher Plato. And he would have done so if it were not for the ship with the double cross on its sails – the secret symbol of the Collegiate of Ephors - that berthed at the pier of the island…

He sat by the sea under the scorching, scalding sun until the very evening, pouring his memories from one hand into the other like a handful of white-hot sand. From afar he was watching how short-sighted Thais Kilios was reading his works encircled by servants with fans. And the longer he was leaning over the yet unbound leaves of papyri, the further death was receding. The Ephor would go over some parts of his work twice and then, reclining on the back of his chair, would muse for a long while about something and the allusive hope of mercy would appear at least for the time sufficient to complete the work. When it became dark, the Superior ordered three lamps put near his chair and continued to read in the strained, quivering light! And in doing so he was substantiating the belief that his life would continue even beyond the term necessary to finish his work! He would have to, as he would have been compelled to stumble over the fact that the manuscript stopped short in mid-sentence and, already taken by and engaged in the story about the barbarian sanctities, demand continuation!

And this, the continuation, Aris could have been writing endlessly, strewing his thoughts from fist into palm and back…

It was twice already that he had been sentenced to and escaped death. This verdict was the third and the last, if one should go by the barbarian perception of the trinity of the world.

And if this does happen, he may go down in posterity…

The sand beneath Aris cooled down slowly and then became cold and gave him shivers. And only at dawn, when it started to become warmer and the lamps were put out, the Ephor turned away from the manuscripts and called upon the condemned. And from the first words uttered by Thais Kilios it became clear that the Philosopher was deluding himself, because in his yearning for life he could not imagine, that this Superior over the secrets of Iliad would find the motives in his works further aggregating his guilt.

“I consider both works finished” he concluded as though lifting a sword over a bowed neck.

Aris felt how his whole being gathered into one heated lump and shrivelled into his solar plexus as though he was watching all over again how the relentless barbarians were casting down the students of the philosophical school from the seventh tier of the tower.

“You know that Iliad is doomed” Thais Kilios concluded. “And all my efforts to talk any sense into them through the barbarian Macedonia and its Tsar Philipp were in vain…. Never before did the Greeks experience such shame and humiliation! Not even from the Persians!”

“I am aware of it and I was writing my works, suffering and being saddened by it.….”

Ephor shook the manuscript and threw it on the sand with contempt.

“You tried to speak of the sanctities of the world of barbarians” he continued after a pause, “To instil in them even greater pride and to divorce the noble nations from other countries of the world forever, to sow eternal antagonism, the seeds of endless wars, horrific invasions and the downfall of the enlightened Middle Earth. Without any doubt you deserve death, as do your writings. I can’t give you a minute to complete your work.”

“I didn’t intend it, Superior” uttered the fated Philosopher “Quite the opposite, I thought to reconcile parts of the world…”

“In which way?”

“To find the Barbarian sanctities, study them and through analytics to compare the mentality of the enlightened mind and that of a Barbarian, to converge them if there turns out to be an abyss separating them. Or at least to build a bridge…”

Thais Kilios smiled coldly.

“You talk like a pontiff!”

“I see the essence of the philosophy in it” Aris retorted proudly. “To build bridges, to reconcile the irreconcilable.”

The Superior was unabashed.

“Wandering amongst the savage people, you became as simple-minded as them……Would your mentor Plato approve of your ambitions?”

“No” the captive admitted. “And I would not wish to resemble my teacher in my writings.”

“You are still very young and think like a youth, trying to be defiant. I feel sorry for you. So much time and effort. And all for nothing…”

“Did you not, Superior, find anything new and useful in my works?”

“Nothing…”

“What about the barbarian sanctities?... No one amongst the living philosophers knows about them! Well neither did the ancient ones. There are only speculations in existence…”

“The philosophers don’t know it’s true… And they shouldn’t find out. And I am telling you this as an Ephor overseeing the secrets of Iliad.”

“But do you know? Have you come to know the essence of the Barbarians sanctities?”

Thais Kilios became still, looking at the sunrise and its scarlet glow turned him into a statue.

“The Collegiate would not have appointed me to oversee the secrets otherwise…”

“So you came to know the sacred Barbarian scriptures?!...”

“I ruined my vision sitting in the light of fatty lanterns in a dark cave. That is why I can’t see clearly even the rising sun….”

Aristotle suddenly felt fear upon looking at the bronze Ephor. But this, this fear transformed into a kind of respect.

“I am prepared to bend my knee, Superior” he uttered. “ I could only dream about it…”

To top it all off, Thais Kilios was humble and partial to finding the truth.

“Unfortunately I failed to see the primeval relics. In my hands I only had the copies of the sacred books made by doxographers from the memories of those who had ever had any contact with them. You, Philosopher, must understand it is not the same. How much would I have loved to see the true barbarian relics, written in golden ink!”

And this once again lit a flicker of hope of salvation.

“I was so close to my goal” Aris said guardedly. “There was only a thousand stages left to the Vesta repository. Or even less… But I did not make it, since I was declared plagued.”

“You would not have made it even if you had not ended up in a chum.”

“But why not?”

“It has to do with the barbarian spells…But you shouldn’t know anything about that. As it is I have said more than I should. Perhaps it is good spirits that your work inspired in me.”

He turned away from the sun and transformed into the grey immovable marble. This turn must have been well-known as the guards, that stood in the distance before, suddenly came up to Aris and with the agility of fakirs threw two ropes – one around his clutched hands and the other around his neck. Whereupon they put him on his knees and one of them dug his foot into Aris’ back and tightened up the noose.

All his hopes came crashing down in that instant and the heated sand breathed off a chill. The Philosopher tried his best to remain dignified and fiercely bit his tongue so as not to beg for mercy. The wind drew in from the sea and ruffled the leaves of papyrus on the sand, and the Ephor pressed them down with his foot in a cork sandal in the same way one would crush something as repulsive as a snake or a ship rat, for instance.

“However, there is a way to avoid penance” he suddenly said hardly audibly, but he was heard. “Would you be prepared to secretly serve me and the Collegiate of Ephors?”

Aris took another look at the foot that trampled his work into the sand and uttered hoarsely pushing against the rope with his Adam’s apple:

“Slave labour in abominable to me. Execute me if you have delivered your verdict.”

“What if this is going to be an unbound service? One of a free Philosopher of Iliad? One of a freeman and a noble citizen? One who is not burdened with a humiliating pardon?”

“But what about your verdict?” His voice did not obey him as though it was a frayed, perforated by the wind sail. “I violated the oath by disclosing the secret of the parchment.”

The Ephor took his first manuscripts from the chest:

“The titles don’t have your name under them. But there is another one there.”

“This person adopted my works.”

“Adopting the death sentence at the same time. Your admission is not proof of your guilt. On the contrary, it speaks of your honour. Or do I act unfairly?”

To Aris’ surprise two guards led tied-up Lucretius Iriy out on to the ship deck! The Ephor showed the parchment books to him.

“Are these your manuscripts, Roman?”

He straightened his shoulders and jerked up his head as haughtily as the ropes would allow.

“Yes, Superior! And my glory will survive beyond my death!”

“Strangle him” Thais Kilios ordered calmly.

A powerful executioner threw a noose over his neck and, bending slightly, lifted Lucretius onto his back as though he was a bag of grain. The unfortunate man twitched his legs, his face became flushed with blood and soon it turned blue together with his tongue that fell out of his mouth.

It seemed as though the bag broke, bursting open so the grain came splashing out onto the deck with a steady splatter….

“Watch out!” came Bion’s voice as though in reality.

And the Ephor echoed in unison with it:

“This is the mask of death. Of your death, Aristotle. Thus your vanity, which has been driving your thoughts up to now, has died in you.”

Meanwhile the executioner threw his load on to the deck and left.

“The author of these manuscripts was executed” the Ephor finalized. “along with one of your vices….But what of these? What other vices should be punished with their help?”

He lifted his foot from the manuscripts on the sand. The wind ruffled their leaves.

Aris was silent and Thais Kilios, seeing the pity the Philosopher was looking at his trampled works with, was suddenly inspired

“Pride and subservience! This is what I will sacrifice! Perhaps, these above anything else can stand in the way of perceiving reality.”

And as though on an intangible order, the executioner carried out a flaring light and set it near Ephor as if night had set in and he needed the light again to finish reading the manuscripts.

“Take the ropes off him” he ordered.

The guards immediately took the ties off and helped Aris up. The judge beckoned him with a sign and took his foot off the papyri.

“Pick them up and burn them. For it was your pride and subservience that were guiding your hand.”

“Yes, Ephor, I agree” his voice sounded stronger after the ropes had been removed “The pride did exist as I wrote the unfinished work in secret from my master…But I did not feel subservient! And in essence I was free…”

“Then why does the title bear the name of your master? Admit it, you were asserting your right to live in doing so? What would have become of you if you had not agreed to write for the oligarch?...Burn what you created as a slave and you will become free.”

He leaned down to pick up the manuscripts and only then did he understand that he had bowed at the Ephor’s feet…

To be continued