City of Pud
It was always the same, always the same vision. Shiki has had a hard time digesting it as a dream anymore. It came consistently, appearing in his mind far too clear for it to be a dream. It felt like a broken memory, that someone had left inside his head. He shook his head. He couldn’t function sanely with such ideas fogging his mind.
He breathed in and opened the gates. A flock of birds squatting before the gate flew out into the white clouds that shown with shine in the blue sky. And then he felt the warmth flow over him.
Shiki walked out of the surgery house feeling the fresh breeze drizzle by him. The loose extended ends of the yellow band with golden thread embroidered to it in a simple design fluttered with the breeze. The sun was shining with a warm air spreading its light but at the same time not overdoing it with its usual summer heat. It was a day a boy should be outside playing not reading about wounds and ailment, Shiki decided.
“Glory and blessings to the king”, Someone cried out as he passed him in the street. Shiki returned the gesture speaking the same lines back to no one in particular.
At the end of the long summer, fourteen years after the year of madness, the Dhyan of Heasin, one of the seven seats of Arrasta stepped down for his son Kimano Igazivolpur Gam, to be raised to Kimano Igazivolpur Dhyan. The state delved into celebration celebrating the coronation of the new Dhyan while the Dhyan’s of other states watched Heasin and the new Dhyan carefully.
The commoners, celebrated throughout the state along with the Qans and Igazis because the state demanded it so. Yellow bands were tied across their arms symbolizing glory to the king but of course, nobles wore golden ones.
A practice followed by the Shahin Highlords and Kings before, the Igazis and Qans had adopted the practice when they had crossed the Milipur mountains and conquered the old Shahin Dynasty thousands of years ago. The towns and cities of the Heasin filled with hails to a king they didn’t know, the streets and corners of the cities towns and villages decorated as was proper.
Shiki watched the buzz going around him, he could almost smell the celebration in the air. No one would be sad at the relaxed tax rates that come for a period of time with the transfer of crown, no new king will want a disgruntled public no matter whether they are Igazis or not.
The City of Pud, located at the western end of the state, though officially part of the country, was far removed from the kingdom and the city had grown into a small city-state with people coming from different lands settling there to live and trade.
Pud was no exception to the madness in the kingdom. The city itself was ruled by the council of elders who had pledged their allegiance to the Dhyan of Heasin. They ordered the celebrations for the new Dhyan’s coronation.
Shiki’s father is one of Pud’s elders and his house is attached to the clinic house that he owned, and the house was at the western-centre of the Hiragi district of the city, one of the well-to-do district of the city located towards the center.
He looked towards the left to see the old man Hanli walking towards the clinic probably to check up on his wounds from last week. Shiki turned towards the other direction and ran. He didn’t want to be called back into the room to help his dad with his work.
He had even promised to meet up with his friends in the evening, they were not quite happy about him not showing up last two times. He considered his options as he was running and decided on Canal district as they would probably be loitering near the river bank under the bridge.
Shiki passed the spectral streets of the merchants, located in the Sepath district which was marked by the Daichi pillar, one of the first pillars of the village erected to mark the victory against the Quanons to the south.
He ran along the street watching the people going on with their work. The street had two or three herbal shops along the sides supported by his father. Some owners recognized him as he walked by, waving their hands and sending regards to his father. He waved back as he sped through the paved path.
After running through the narrow alleys and shortcuts through the city districts, he entered the market region of the Canal district, people here gave him little acknowledgement as they didn’t notice him in their hurry to get their work done and his father had very less influence here for him to be known, though his clothes still stood out. Canal district was at the fringes of the city Shiki walked along the street watching men and women traders and merchants and grocers and butchers all with their work.
He went on forward and after turning at two other corners, and entering a new narrow street he collided with a rabble of boys who were running past him.
“Shiki!” a boy’s voice shouted out near his ear ” RUN”
Shiki then felt someone catch hold of his hand and pull on it, the unexpected pull tangled his feet and fell down sprawling over the flagstones on the path. Living his life in the city had made him extremely sensitive to these situations. He rose to his feet in an instant so did the body of the hand who had caught his sleeves.
Lavin had started running as soon as he got up, leaving Shiki in the dust. Shiki would have loved to wait and see if whoever was chasing his friends had heard them shouting his name to run. But Lavin’s face was pale and sweating, though he couldn’t see it well due to dim light in the alley. He figured he couldn’t probably keep counting on his chances to escape today anymore.
“How many?” Shiki shouted at Lavin as he ran after him.
“What?”, Lavin seems to be too concentrated on running to remember the numbers. Quite a situation it should be for one as Lavin to have forgotten the numbers. He came from a mercantile family near the river docks district. The ones there never forget to count and they never usually let a chance to remind others to go either.
” The ones who are following us”
“I don’t know, I was too busy running to count” Lavin was sprinting at his top speed, they passed through the streets from wider ones to narrower ones, he could hear the shouts behind him. Pud was always crowded but felt more crowded to Shiki more than ever. They steered away from most crowded streets when they could and entered some trying to loose their pursuers in the crowds. Failing at that they stepped into one of the dimmer alleys and kept running to the east side to the river dock district.
The canal district and the river dock district were divided by the old walls that had fallen out of use as the city expanded, now it was homes for the thousands of birds, animals and homeless that inhabited the city. The council was never ready to tear the wall down nor could find enough financials to build new gates and as result the locals had to adapt to the walls with building stairs on either side of the walls and in some cases with cranes so as to make travel and transportation of goods to other side easier.
Soon they could see the top of the old wall’s ramparts as they ran through the streets built under the shadow of the wall. They soon found wooden stairs embedded into the walls that they were looking for and clambered up towards the top as shouts rose behind them.
Shiki had to admit that the ones chasing them sure were strong-willed.
The sun shown with vigor when Shiki and Lavin reached the top. They could see the rest of their friends hadn’t decided on the walls and had gone for the gates. Good for them as no one seemed to be chasing them, they looked back to see five kids their age had reached the bottom of the stairs. They both swore as they started running towards to find another set of stairs that would lead them out of the wall to the river dock side.
The old walls were bordered by the canal that used to be a moat once. Now the wall was covered with a dim line of moss on its surface. There steps on the brick rampart caused the birds resting on the walls to take flight. They couldn’t hear footsteps behind them but they knew not to stop running based on instinct.
” We need to get out of these walls into the streets ” shouted Lavin. ” There. Stairs”
Shiki looked at the stairs and from where he was running he could see that they would still have to run quite a few distance to find the small bridge to cross the canal for them to reach the river dock district and still a few more run to reach the bridge where their gang usually hanged out. They would be safe there.
He reached out quickly enough to grab Lavin by his sleeves. “Not fast enough”, he said, pulling him towards a guard tower that was used in old days as a lookout point. It had long been built into a crane deck, ” We will use the ropes”
“Noo..”, Lavin’s face turned blue as he was dragged on to the footbridge that elongated from watchtower to the canal, he turned around to see boys running through the wall with the cityscape behind them with the evening sun spreading out its red hue.” I hate heights” shouted Lavin.
“You never told me”, Shiki shouted back while removing the belt from his trousers. He then strapped them around the rope that was tied to a wall on the other side of the canal.
” I never knew” cried Lavin looking down at the water below and the boys that had almost reached the turret.
“Hold on ” cried Shiki and wrapped his one hand and his legs around Lavin pushing him down the ledge in the process. Lavin screamed as they stepped into the empty space.
For a moment Shiki and Lavin hung there in the rope, its friction against the belt holding it in place. Shiki felt the seconds have somehow been split into minutes. He saw the boys that were chasing them entering the turret through the door and looking towards them surprised. There were two of them and they were dressed well like him in colored clothes. One was small and other was large, their eyes met. He had never seen the tall one before, but he looked strong. Lavin seemed to be mumbling some prayer and probably didn’t knew that they were stuck.
Shiki thought he should at least try to smile and diffuse the tension between them, maybe they won’t hit him that hard. He slightly released his hands to wave at them to show that he was going to be amicable with them. Then he felt the sensation, they were sliding away from the two staring at them. The big one looked impressed, the short one had his mouth agape. Shiki remembered him. He was Baok. He still had no clue as to who was the lanky one.
He turned his attention back to himself as he felt pain in his hands as they bounced twice in the rope due to tensility as they went down the rope. Lavin was not making any sounds, if he had not felt the dead weight around his shoulders and wrapped around his legs he would have forgotten about him.
A glance down below showed him the green water in the canal sometime reflecting the blue sky that was getting eaten away by the yellow hue. Swinging his head around he saw the wall at the other end fast approaching his vision. A stack of hay was kept at the ground below the wall.
Thanking the gods he let go as soon as he felt it was the right time.
“Does the hay smell weird?”
The thought died with the pain that shot through his arms. He couldn’t lift them without feeling stabs of pain through his hands to shoulders. Guess the wait was too much for him.
“We should totally do that again”, Lavin shouted. He was hollering on the top of his voice.
“How did you know that we would hit the hay?”
“I thought you were afraid of heights”
“I also hate running, doesn’t mean I don’t run”
“You were forced to run.”
“No, I chose to. I could have stayed and gotten hit.Wouldn’t have made me feel this much tired if I had”
Shiki rolled out of the hay while rolling his eyes. Then scrambled near to the wall to get his belt which had fallen at the base of the wall. The belt was frayed at the side where he had used it to grasp the rope.
“Next time we are using your belt,” he said to Lavin who was hooting at the two who were standing at the turret looking down at them. Shiki couldn’t make out their faces due to the sun behind them.
“Only two?” Shiki asked Lavin.
Lavin stopped his taunts and looked at him and spoke, “There were a lot more and we were outnumbered. We were going to lead them to the river bridge where others were and ambush them.”
“Where are the rest?” Shiki scrunched his nose while contemplating, it helped him ward of the smell from the hay that he had somehow absorbed into himself after falling in it.
“Shiki…” Lavin hissed.
“What?” Shiki snapped. He was tieing his belt around his trousers. He could hear shouts from the turret. He looked up to see Baok jumping up and shouting something.
“Shiki they are coming” Lavin hissed through his teeth. Shiki turned his head around to see a number of boys jogging down the road. ” That’s it… They are trying to ambush us at the canal bridge.” Lavin shouted and started running.
“They won’t hit us there, there are people there” replied Shiki
“We need to run” Lavin was already running.
Pud was a hotpot of cultures from different surrounding areas and that brought divisions among the citizenry that dripped down to even children. The adults had the garrison and rules to keep them in line, children were for the most part left alone to tackle it alone and tackle them they did.
Shiki had not run ten feet before he was tackled to the ground again. On second thought, Shiki felt like he should have tried his chance playing dead in the hay.
Shiki felt his hand grab on to the soil from the wet ground, and then on some moss. His hands prickled on its touch. He felt like his head had been knocked out and his mind reeled as he tried to breathe air with the weight above him.
“Better stay down”, he heard the voice from above as he felt the weight on him lighten.
His hand itched, looking at it, he saw a dark purplish puddle that he had gathered in his hand during his desperate struggle for air. His hands prickled irritatingly, it seemed to him that he had got his hands on itchy moss. Now his hands or going to itch.
He looked up and saw Goshi, he was the fastest sprinter in the last festive celebrations. He had a smug smile on his face. He had his hands raised to throw a punch. Shiki threw the moss into his eyes and spread the rest in his hand on his face when he closed his eyes.