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Chapter I – Reflections

by admin on September 3rd, 2008
Donny Phillips

Donny Phillips

Taellon was feeling better about the decision he made. It was the most difficult decision he had to make for the entire planning stages of the journey. The timing, the route, the provisions, even the people: no problem. Whether to take his six year old son along or not: impossible. The King had suggested it, his wife was agreeable with it, and his fellow counsel members even encouraged taking Nopherius (Noph) along. His close friend and fellow counselor Menon even planned on taking his son Efares, who was several years older than Noph. But it was still his responsibility to make the final decision. Twelve days into the trip, Taellon continued to glance over to his side to make sure Noph was alright. He was big for his age, over a foot taller than his close friend Efares even. Noph rode with Armaes who came along on the trip specifically to help care for his young son. Well, he thought, perhaps he had been too concerned about the issues of bringing his son along. Noph was even demonstrating some mastery of horsemanship, he looked forward to seeing the look on Noph’s face when he would ride his first camel later on in the trip. The first leg of the journey was just past the half way mark, Taellon felt more confident every day that he had made the right choice.

Kabul was still one week’s journey away at the pace they were moving. The weather had favored them and they had made good time for men that are not used to much travel. Taellon had made this trip once before ten years ago. Some of the men had never left Pushpapura in their lives. This trip was usually made every twenty years but this was a special occasion. A break in the tradition was called for in order to distribute the new time pieces that were designed at the last meeting. These new devices would help coordinate their astronomical observations and provide a greater degree of accuracy in their individual measurements. Taellon and Menon spoke often of their expectations of getting to use this device. It was all they could focus on. Others were excited to see people from their race from far away places. Some of them would not even being able to speak to each other, the experience and the challenge made the trip all worth the while.

Side Note: The Time Pieces: Well, since they have been mentioned, it would probably be a good time to discuss them in a little more detail as they are the reason for this trip. The time pieces are actually more than a device to tell time. It also has additional parts to help determine the position of celestial events in addition to measuring their duration. Such devices were designed and developed at the last meeting. At that time, it was determined that it would take about seven or eight years to build, calibrate, and test them. With that determined, a meeting was to be set for ten years later so they may be given to the science counselors from each realm. Menon and Taellon played a major role in this effort and thus were required to return to collect the device built for the observatory at Pushpapura. The devices were built in three parts (more details later) by craftsmen in the city of Rhages which is one of the older cities in the Old Median empire, Heptanesia on the Western Coast of India, and Persepolis.

Noph did not share in all the excitement. He was sore from the journey, he missed his mother, and the food on the journey was not as good as home. His father did give him one ray of hope in that when they arrived at the meeting, there would be different foods from all over the old empire there for him to sample. Noph really liked to eat, and it showed. This prospect was the one thing he could grasp and really hold on to. Nothing else much mattered to him at that time. He busied himself trying to read some of the scrolls his mother had given him to study along the journey. Noph was a great reader and already knew how to speak in several languages, plus 2 additional dialects of his own Persian language. It was obvious to everyone that he had received the same gift his father had for languages. Another reason Taellon wanted to bring him along.

As time went on, Taellon begin noting more familiar landmarks. One more day he thought. Noph will be so pleased to rest and live in the luxury of palace for a few days as they gathered provision for the next leg of the journey. He would enjoy it as well, he knew the next part of their journey could take as long as three to five weeks to complete. He knew it would seem long to Noph, but he could bear it. They would have better provision coming out of Kabul to Ghazni while in the caravan. Taellon let himself relax a little bit more. Yes, he thought to himself, this will work out very well after all and it will be a great experience for Noph.

The view of Kabul was beautiful by night. Thousands of lights sparkled like gems spread across the mountain side with a great concentration of light clearly defining the palace and the outlying towers. There had been a great deal of growth in the last ten years, but Menon and Taellon remembered the routes to take. Sentries had been waiting and greeted them, they had been waiting to escort them in for more than a day. The company spent the last night out enjoying the lights of the city and dining on better food that was brought by their escorts. Kabul was know for its hospitality and diversity of culture. Taellon did not anticipate the profound effect this would have on Noph in his later years. The food was good, the camp was comfortable, and the greetings warm: tomorrow, it would just get better.

Kabul was better than he could have hoped. They reached the outer edge of the city around noon. Four hours later, they were washed, in a fresh change of raiment, and lying down on very comfortable beds. Kabul was know for its hospitality to all travelers: and even better to its special guests. After a few hours of rest, Noph was awakened from a very deep sleep and brought to a great feast. The smells, the flavors, the sights totally overshadowed the last three weeks of hardship on the journey. He was familiar with most of the dishes and most of the languages he heard. From time to time someone or something passed by that was entirely foreign to him. He did not hesitate to investigate food or drink that came his way. From time to time, his father intercepted things that came his way by various people, but that was ok, there was more there to sample than he had room in his stomach. He watched Efares pick at various bits of untried dishes with great care. Noph did not see what all the fuss was about. Anything was worth eating at least once as far as he was concerned. But his companion Efares did not seem to share his culinary abandonment. Armaes came by after a few hours to take the boys to bed, as Noph stood up he felt very light headed and weak in the legs, it seems that several tasty deserts and a few small bottles he sampled that made it past the watchful eyes of his father had taken their toll on him. Armaes caught him up in his arms and whisked him away from the table. Noph noticed a very stern look from his father as he went by and did not remember anything after that.

The following morning was confusing. Noph had slept well, he slept a long time, he had eaten well the night before, but he just did not feel rested and had a headache. Noph decided that it must be from the trip and decided that a nice breakfast would take care of all of his problems. As he was getting dressed, Efares came in, “you better get around quick,” he said, “you will miss out on the noon meal also.” Oh no! thought Noph, he had totally missed breakfast. He got dressed quickly. Just as he got to the door his father appeared and asked how he felt. Noph explained that he was a little tired but was certain that he would feel much better after he got some food. Noph’s father laughed and said that it must be from your mother’s side of the family. Taellon took the two boys off to where they were serving the noon meal. What ever Noph missed at breakfast, he more than made up for at the noon meal. He even finished a few items that Efares had left on his plate. After the noon meal, Armaes took Noph and Efares off to see the sights of Kabul while Taellon and Menon meet with the counsel members of the court. They would be leaving in a few days for Ghazni and there were a few things to review before the departure.

Armaes had spent most of his life in Kabul before moving to Pushpapura. He had made many trips through the Khyber Pass and was well traveled. Markets, sights, treats, and Armaes dressed them in the traditional fashions of the Kabul people. It was a wonderful afternoon of exploring and sightseeing. A few snacks of local flavor that Noph really enjoyed. As they began their return to the palace grounds, the boys asked if they could go out again tomorrow. Armaes smiled and said he was happy they had a good time, but tomorrow would not be possible as he had to begin preparation for the journey to Ghazni. The disappointment faded when he told them that they would be spending the day with the Kings family and touring the castle and palace grounds. They made it back in time for the evening meal. Although the meal was good and filing, it lacked the same excitement as the evening before as Noph’s father intercepted all of the bottles and most of the deserts that made him feel so tired the night before. Once again Armaes came at the end of the meal and escorted the boys to their chambers for bed. They thanked him for a wonderful day and asked if time permitted to go out again before they left.

No late sleeping in the next morning. Noph was first up and dressed, waiting to be collected and taken to breakfast. Today Menon had come to bring them. Noph noticed that he had not seen much of his father while they were there at the palace. Menon explained that all was well and that he would have more time to spend with him when they began the journey to Ghazni. Breakfast totally erased all of Noph’s inquiries and focused his attention on looking for new fruits and dishes to try. The signal that breakfast was over came when a man bearing a tray with small glasses came to the table. They were willed with a steaming black liquid that smelled of various spices. Each person at the table was given one. Noph took his and smelled it. “Hot!,” warned Menon as he saw Noph take it to his mouth. Noph blew on the liquid and took a small sip. His eyes lit up, it was delicious! It was sweet, it had cinnamon, and a few other spices he could discern. There were other flavors he had never experienced. It cooled quickly in the small cup and Noph had soon finished it. He gave a wishful look over to the cup sitting in front of Efares, who obviously was not going to drink his, and made a gesture of permission to take it. “One!”, declared Menon as he read Noph’s intentions. The last thing he needed was to have a six year old loaded with Turkish coffee spending the day with the king and his family. Noph was disappointed, but quickly and respectfully acknowledged Menon’s instruction.

The day spent with the kings family had no equal to which they could compare. The garden tour and the inner palace was brilliant. The colors and diversity of flowering plants were amazing. The items in the inner chambers were of the like they had never seen. The plants and items brought from all over the world were explained and demonstrated to the boys, along with details of the cultures and peoples that had made them. They went out to the garden for the noon meal. This was to be the testing ground for Efares’s brilliant plan. Both of the boys had been given special instruction by Menon on how to behave during their visit with the king. And special attention had given with respect to the noon meal. Specifically, Efares was not to pick at his food but would eat everything that was set before him, while Noph was instructed to be satisfied with what he was given and not eat for two. Given this set of conditions, Efares devised a set of signals and planned several distractions that would allow Noph to take items from his plate that he did not care to eat. Noph thought it was a great solution to their situation and happily agreed to join in. What could possibly be wrong with it? Noph would get more food, Efares would get credit for finishing what was set before him, food would not be wasted, and the awkwardness of seeming un-gracious to kingly hospitality would be avoided. As they were seated for the noon meal, the plan fell to pieces. The kings older son and two young daughters were already seated at the table before they arrived. Both of the daughters were closer to Efares’s age while the son was much older. The older daughter sat between the two boys with the younger one on Noph’s left while the king’s son at one end of the table to Efares’s right. The king sat on the end to Noph’s left with his wife by his side. The other members of the morning’s tour sat across from them. What terrible luck, the boys looked at each other with frustration and desperation. The boys looked at each other and Efares gave an unknown signal to Noph, Efares lightly scratched his nose with his left hand and put it down to his lap. He then quickly looked over to his right bringing every-one’s attention to his focal point. At the same time, he reached around the back of the chair of the kings older daughter. Noph realizing his intent reached his right hand around the chair where they connected. This could work he thought, excellent! The meal was wonderful and had progressed through several courses before Efares showed any signs of passing any food off to Noph. Finally it came, some type of spicy meat in the shape of a small roll. Noph ate his and noticed that Efares was not as quick to try it. The signal came, Noph commented on how nice the day had gone and pointed to a tree blooming in the garden, as everyone looked that way, Efares passed him the meat behind the chair of the kings daughter. Noph quickly ate it without effort. No one saw it, it was the perfect plan, and all was well. Then, a surprise, servants came from the side and gave both the boys another serving of the meat. Noph ate his again and Efares made a few stabs at his. Efares gave another signal, Noph was ready. Efares asked about the bird that he saw earlier which was like the one in the tree to the left of the king. As heads turned, another successful transaction was made and Noph ate it again. This time a bit slower as the spicy flavor was starting to saturate his taste buds. Another serving came, just as Noph finished swallowing the last bite he received from Efares, servants came and dished out another serving. Noph looked around the table to see if anyone else received more. No, just Efares and himself. Noph started to eat his, but slowly as the spicy flavor was building on him. Again, Efares gave a subtle hint of passing him the meat. Noph ignored it. Efares then spoke directly to Noph observing how nice all the food was, especially this small roll of spicy meat that they had. Noph agreed. Efares then gave another signal that Noph ignored again. Efares then made direct eye contact with Noph to instill his cooperation. Noph sighed and scratched his cheek with one finger and glared back, meaning one more time and that was it. Noph mentioned that his father and Menon had taught him and Efares how to tell time by looking at the shadow cast by trees and buildings like the one to the left. As they turned, it all fell apart. Efares reached for the meat that was not there and the kings older daughter leaned back and pinned Noph’s arm to her chair. They all laughed and explained that they were given notice that Noph and Efares may be up to some mischief. They had not seen what happened, but servants were instructed to monitor Efares, and if anything disappeared from his plate, that both boys were to receive another serving. The kings son was having his fun by snatching the meat that Efares was about to pass off to Noph. Everyone had a good laugh and desert was brought. Efares was told to pass on anything he did not want while Noph was told to enjoy himself. After the meal, the kings daughters played their musical instruments for them and his son demonstrated his archery skills. It all ended with a tour of the castle towers and left them in the observation tower where Taellon and Menon had been meeting with the king’s science counselors.

As the evening meal ended Taellon took Efares and Noph to their chambers. Noph asked where Armaes had gone. Taellon explained that he had finished his work here and went ahead of them in order to meet them along the way. What he did not share with Noph was that it was common practice to send decoys along the route 1 day early to flush out any highway men along the route that might endanger the real party. Noph slept well and awoke at sunrise. Breakfast was good and this time he was allowed to drink the coffee that Efares did not want. Shortly afterward he realized why he was not allowed the day before. It was a strange feeling, he had so much more energy than usual, he just wanted to run and talk and be doing anything but sitting still. He decided that he would limit himself to one coffee from now on. By mid day, the feeling was long past and they settled down for the noon meal. It seemed a bit lighter than usual and he asked his father why. They explained that they would be eating the evening meal much earlier tonight and getting up early in the morning to leave. Noph had mixed feelings about the departure. He was looking forward to riding a camel, but he would miss the meals and comfort provided by their current hosts. He was determined to sit next to Efares at the evening meal tonight in order to make the most of his leftovers.

It was still very dark when he was woke up by his father. It was a very special breakfast. Lavish and with many people, it was more like an early evening meal. The king and all his family were there. Noph sat next to the king’s oldest daughter again and Efares was on his other side. The king insisted on this seating arrangement to allow Efares to give Noph his food. They all laughed. Taellon just shook his head and smiled. The moment was light and familiar but in addition to the casual was an air of soberness and great concern for those about to depart on this journey. The king said many things that Noph could not remember later that his father had to re-explain. They finished eating and went out under torch light to mount their camels, departing long before sunrise. Just before they left, Xandria, the king’s oldest daughter gave Noph a kiss on the cheek and bid him good journey. “The God of Daniel keep you,” she said.

Mounting the camel was like climbing a small hill. Noph was told to lean forward and lay on his stomach while the camel stood up. He managed not to fall off on the first mount. He was warned by his father not to be careless on future mounts as there would not always be someone there to catch him like this time. The company started on their way, the torch lights decreased and their eyes soon adjusted to making the most of the light that the moon provided. Taellon had explained that much of this journey was timed to make the most of the moon light and the good weather offered by this season of the year. After several hours they passed by the last sentry points of Kabul and entered into the less traveled paths toward Ghazni. Noph was more comfortable with this form of travel than horse back. It was slower and less bumpy, he also was seated alone because his camel was tethered to one before and behind. The pace was a lot slower and there were more frequent stops where he could get off and walk along side till he tired. The food was considerably better as well because camels could carry more and there were a lot more of them than when they travelled from Pushpapura. They size of the company nearly tripled with the additional people who joined them from Kabul. The only downside was both he and Efares were given a good deal of study to be completed during the daylight hours and there was not as much time to play. Several week passed by before Noph’s father began to tell him about the meeting of the Magi, to which was the end of their journey. Taellon had given Noph some scrolls written in Aramaic and gave him time to study the characters. Noph’s mother Farah had been working with him in this language. He could sound out the words with some accuracy, but did not understand most of the meaning. Noph would also read Mede, which was his mother’s native tongue of the old Median empire. He could read this well and understood the stories that he read. His friend Efares was kept busy with math and physics problems his father gave him to solve. They visited from time to time discussing what they did and looked at each other with wonder as neither could fathom what the other was doing. Efares did explain the route to Noph and told him they were about two to three weeks away from their destination and they would be there long enough to celebrate Noph’s seventh birthday. Efares had forgotten that Noph did not really understand time yet. For all his size he was still only six years old, weeks and months were still not easily discerned. Noph looked at him in surprise and said, “have we been gone that long?” Efares laughed and said, “No, silly. It has only been about three months, it just seems like a year.”

The following weeks did pass quickly and soon they were one day’s journey away from Ghazni. Taellon was relieved that the did not see Armaes along the way. He must be at the camp and preparing to meet up with them upon their arrival. They had made good time and Noph’s birthday was still a few weeks away. As they came to rest for the day one of the forward sentries came back and reported that a small party of men on horseback were approaching quickly. He said the number was few and they posed no threat to the party. Taellon kept Noph close by nonetheless. As the party approached Taellon recognized two of it’s members. Armaes by his riding style on horseback and one man by his great stature. They both dismounted their horses and headed straight for Taellon and Noph. Armaes stopped and bowed while the larger man walked straight to them. He pulled back his riding hood and cast off his cloak to the ground. A large two-handed sword swung side to side from his back as he walked. His long gray hair and gray beard with streaks of black waved in the wind. He was much taller than Taellon who barely reached the height of his chest, which by the way was covered in a shiny metal that Noph had never seen before. Noph had his back to his father and was pushed up against his legs, it was like being cornered. The man stopped right in front of Taellon and looked down at Noph, he then reached down and with massive hands, picked up Noph, and held him up over his head. Noph went stiff in his grasp, not understanding the situation. Then he noticed the mans eyes ever so slightly soften and begin to water. He was in tears! He brought Noph to his chest and held him tight with one arm as he also bent down and hugged his father. He spoke in the Median tongue, it was a very broken but still a quite understandable voice. It reminded him of his mother and he understood the words perfectly: “my grandson, bless him God of Daniel.” Noph realized that this was his mother’s father and he wrapped his arms around his neck and embraced him. Menon looked at Efares and smiled as he said, “now you know where he gets his size from.”

They were one day from the camp and continued their journey. Time had been dragging and now it was going too fast. Noph bubbled a continuous stream of questions and stories to his grandfather in the Median tongue. Ilgar answered his grandson back mixing between the Median and Chaldean tongues so he could practice speaking with those who he came to meet. Noph had so much he wanted to ask and so much he wanted to tell that he almost ignored his friend Efares who was becoming just a bit jealous for attention. Ilgar spoke in the Chaldean more to include Efares in the conversation, but encouraged Noph in speaking Median. Noph was so caught up with his grandfather that he totally missed their entrance to the camp. There were almost three hundred men and many tents that had been setup for weeks awaiting their arrival. The camel stopped and the riders began to unlade their load. Right then Noph looked directly at his grandfather and asked, “will I grow to be as big as you?” Ilgar laughed a long time and said, “That all depends. Do you like to eat?” This brought a roar of laughter from everyone that heard the question. Noph turned red faced and replied curtly to those making fun of him, I like to give things at least one try.

As they proceeded through the camp toward their tents, they came past Ilgar’s party. Everyone stopped what they were doing to bow and pay respects to them. Noph noticed later on that they did this every time his grandfather came by. There were several tents grouped together for the companies from Kabul and Pushpapura. Ilgar dismissed himself while the travelers took time to freshen up and get some long needed rest. Don’t worry Noph, he said. We will be spending much time together over the next few weeks. He bent down, gave him a hug, then left. Noph and Efares had a tent to themselves for the most part. Arames slept there as well but was gone most of the time. The boys were allowed to visit around the camp freely, but instructed to stay with in the confines of all the sentry posts. After some exploring, they were content to stay close by their tent and be about the studies given them by their fathers. New arrivals came daily with food and more supplies for the men. Some groups left after dropping off supplies and others setup tents and stayed. There was a great deal of activity the first week they were there. Armaes explained that they were waiting on one more very importat party before they could begin. One of Ilgar’s men came during this time and measured Noph with great detail before departing. He also left scrolls for Noph written in several languages. Some of them Noph had seen and a few he had not. Noph was told to study what he could and his grandfather would send some men to help him with the ones he had not seen. Noph showed his father and Talleon noted there was one that even he did not know. Ilgar visited Noph regularly bringing him and Efares small treats to enjoy. Over the next few days, several men came and worked with Noph, each day bringing more scrolls and more treats for both of the boys.Noph was so occupied that his birthday came upon him before he had time to wonder how he was going to get presents out here in the wilderness.

Talleon told Noph that this would be the third greatest feast that he would enjoy on this trip. The first two were still yet to come after all the parties arrived. Tonight is your night Noph he said. The food was varied, tasty, and most important, abundant. Noph paced himself well and nibbled the entire evening. His father had brought gifts from Pushpapura and some were carried across from Kabul. But the most prized gift came from his grandfather who supplied him with a beautiful set of garments that were just a bit loose on him. This he was told would allow for him to grow into it. He also supplied 2 more at larger sizes that could be altered to meet his expected growth. Ilgar’s servant said he would need to wear these clothes at various times in the next few weeks and he would help him take care of them. If that was not enough, there was one final gift given to him by both his father and grandfather. The sword was almost a foot longer than him and it was more than he could lift: it had writing in the Mede language engraved on the blade (truth & justice).


 

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