Arcabia: A Kingdom of Terror
Darkness covers all Arcabia. All across the land, a terrible red colored mist has descended down close to the land. It snakes its way through the streets encircling every-thing in its path. The scent of death hangs in the air. I sense something terrible is about to happen. Most of the people in my family are already struck by fear. We see the skies turning dark. The sun has been obscured by ominous dark clouds which hang low in the skies. I see a dark blood red trail of mist descending from the heavens. Never have we come across such a moment in our lives. The wind seems to have picked up with a rage that I have never seen before. Then a terrible thing happened! Whosoever the snake like mist touched no longer lived. I saw people being touched by the hand of death. Thousands perished in seconds; dropping dead like flies. I hear terrible screams and wailing. It is a terrible and macabre piercing scream that I hear. My wife and children shake and tremble in fear. I have bolted the door and shut the windows. The curtains have been drawn shut.
Now the wailing wind carries the screams and moaning of those who have lost their loved ones. There is a loud roll of thunder that rattles the window panes making my young ones jump up. Faces contorted in terror, they look upon the anxious face of their mother. What ill fate may this be thinks I?
Was it because of the wickedness being practised by the people in Arcadia? The people worship many idols. Most of them bury their daughters alive. Babies have been regularly sacrificed by high priests to their Gods. The word of a Single God had been cast aside and was all but forgotten. Only a few people knew the Holy word of God and I, Xavier, was one of them. We had chosen to go underground.
The High Priests who garnered and wielded power had burnt many people like me who had been found practicing the religion of the true Creator. The spectacle of men, women, children and babies being burnt on crosses was a fearsome one. My heart still quakes on remembering those gross and cruel executions.
The Emperor of Arcabia was a savage, short tempered mam who openly practised the forbidden black arts. The high priests subservient to him, had one time preached the gospel of God but had relinquished the true faith for huge sums of monetary wealth and estate. Emperor Simbala, the son of Rihamm the former ruler of Arcabia had been raised up by the high priests. They were his tutors and confidants.
Rihamm had been a good man; a man of virtue, faith and goodness but rumors are that when he lost his daughter to the plague that wiped a third of the population, he had delved in the black arts to save his daughter. Alas his daughter succumbed to the bubonic plague. But Rihamm had lost much more. He now had lost his soul.
In order to fulfill his pledges to the devils and to be spared of their wrath, Rihamm set about undoing the religion of his forefathers. Demons appearing in the form of humans would teach and guide him in selecting evil human souls to become his trusted confidants from the priesthood. Those of the priest hood who refused to walk his path were publically executed. Others sold their faith in return for material wealth. Men and women were offered riches in return for denouncing their faith in God. They were then paid to spy on their neighbors. People caught practicing their belief in one God were often led to the main square where the temples for worship had been established. Upon the steps of these temples the blood of thousands was bled.
No one was spared. Entire families were executed in retribution for their disobedience. The word of Rihamm was final and absolute. It was a terrible time in Arcabia that had overnight become the caucus of absolute evil. Soon brothels sprung up across the length and breadth of Arcabia. And loose men started visiting their wretched abodes to delve in sin and commit acts of adultery. Then another promulgation made by Emperor Rihamm was that every new born baby boy shall be taken from his family and reared up by the Royal Priests. So for an initial ten years the children were taken away and when they were returned to their homes they had been thoroughly trained in the black arts from a young age and brainwashed to believe that there parents were not to be trusted. From a very young age these children learnt to spy on their parents and report them to the high priests if they spoke out against the Emperor or the high priests. So many unsuspecting people lost their lives this way. This was the new order under Emperor Rihamm.
It was a terrible time; a time which saw thousands being mercilessly executed either for speaking out against the emperor, for practicing their old religion or for the purpose of sacrifice. Every month of August in the start of the second week, children were randomly selected for the purpose of sacrifice. They were sacrificed not to any Gods but to the 'Devil'. It was an occasion at which thousands would congregate at one of the selected temples where high priests would mutter different incantations looking very fierce with paint and blood smeared on their faces. Much to the horror of the onlookers they were mercilessly butchered as the Emperor and the high priest watched on. The armed guards were always present to repel any rebellion.
Then the Emperor Rihamm gave birth to a baby boy named 'Simbala'. On his birth sweets were distributed throughout Arcabia. I had been forty years of age at that time. My parents had died some time ago. Four years back, I had been wedded to a cousin I adored. Her name was Henna and she was a sweet young woman not more than twenty five as I remember.
I, Xavier Solaro, had been trained in carpentry from a very young age by my grandfather. It was a skill that paid well and thus I was living a comfortable life. However constant fear and terror had taken a toll on my nerves and I remained anxious and worrisome most of the time. Deep in my heart, I prayed to God for respite from the evil and torment that marked times in Arcabia. Everywhere I looked about there was only fear in the hearts and minds of people. Yes there was fear and there was excessive suspicion; no one it seemed could be trusted. There were only lies and betrayal and lots of that.
During the evenings in the times of Emperor Rihamm, I would often take my wife for a stroll on the numerous sandy beaches that marked the coastline. We would often sit in the evenings and watch the sun going down. The rolling waves breaking down on the beach seemed to soothe and calm us if for only a brief moment. It was this soothing tranquility that helped us relieve some of the anxiety, worry and terror that marked this time and age. We would often dream of sailing away faraway from Arcabia but no one had done so; no Arcabia was a virtual prison for its own residents.
As I mentioned earlier on, brothels had sprung across Arcabia where the rich and poor would commit acts of adultery. Young women often saved from being buried alive when born were often handed over or sold to pimps and madams who would teach them the tricks of this ignoble and yet flourishing trade.
Legalised gambling dens soon opened up. Many a foolish men lost their money there. And with the liquor flowing freely in such business abodes, men who lost their senses and wits would often step out onto the streets cursing and cussing at people. Often many a brawl would start this way which was only broken by the appearance of the guards appointed by the Emperor to restore order in the kingdom.
Arcabia was a small yet beautiful kingdom located in the Mediterranean Sea. With wonderful beaches, its landscape bore beautiful hills and forests. The soil was rich and fertile. With fruits, vegetables, and livestock in vast abundance and with the land rich in gems such as diamonds, Arcabia soon became a powerful and rich kingdom. However with the passage of time as evil seethed through the people in Arcabia, it soon assumed a reputation for being the devils abode on earth. Many travelers from across the world would spread the word across the globe about Arcabia being a harbor for everything evil and wicked. Its name inspired terror amongst neighboring islands and kingdoms.
Emperor Rihamms' wife, Queen Elenora was a beautiful woman but she had been as evil as Rihamm. Infact it was her edict that children from the lower cadres of society would not be eligible for any form of formal education. However indoctrination in the black arts was mandatory for all newborns regardless of class or caste. She had a fascination for blood sports. And at the only amphitheatre in Arcadia that could house as many as a hundred thousand spectators, she herself often organized events where innocent men often found guilty of partaking in the remembrance of the One Creator or expressing their dissent or displeasure about the Emperor Rihamm were often fed to the lions or in other cases led to battle with the Emperors Guards. During such displays where men battled with the Emperors chosen guards, rich men and women would often bet on who would be the eventual winner. And there were many men who won fame for their valor and achievements in battle with the Emperors guards. Poets wished to write odes in their name and musicians would want to recount such moments and instances but they knew that such an action would certainly mean death for them.
There had been one such man who won favor with Queen Elenora. His name was Domingo. Unbeaten in fifty straight battles to the death, Domingo had quickly carved his name amongst the poor masses to which Domingo belonged. Good to behold and with a very muscular body, the stone cutter, was good in battle. His skills in sword fighting left even the King Rihamm dazzled. King Rihamm and Queen Elenora were quick to notice his prowess in battle. So impressed were they with his skills and valor that they decided to invite him for a private audience with him. Heavily chained and shackled, Domingo was bought into the Royal Couples' presence. He was a caged and wounded animal; a wounded animal which had new and unexpected admirers. Domingo did not fear death and he soon spoke his mind out. He uttered phrases and words that stung both King Rihamm and Queen Elenora. Unimpressed the king had Domingo murdered in their presence. Soon the word was out about what had passed which created a commotion amongst the poor masses. And the poor and common men and women from whom Domingo belonged showed an unexpected display of defiance by coming out in their thousands as the dead body of their hero and son was displayed a last time. This was not a move of defiance against the evil being practised by the society. The increased deprivation of the poor in the kingdom was brewing a storm.
To keep the poor masses in order, he ordered for money to be distributed amongst them. It was a move to quell any rebellion and any discontent with the Emperor. And it worked wonders.
Free food and liquor were distributed amongst the poor for a whole week. It did a lot to simmer down any tensions. And soon in a month or so Domingo was all but a memory.
Meanwhile I was worried about our coming child. None of us wanted our child to be reared in a poisonous environment where children were taught to spy on their parents and where they were schooled in the black arts. My nights were spent thinking ways and means by which I could save my children from such a predicament. It was not only I who was worried. My wife was equally concerned and anxious.
I had heard much about an old lady who was skillful in the delivery of children and she was by many accounts a very nice person. Cautiously I approached her and offered her a handsome sum in return for delivering my child and keeping mum about it. Mama Ortega was a widow and she lived in a run-down place and in her old age she wanted the money to retire in comfort.
The small house that I lived in was made of wood. It had been my parents' house. Being a carpenter, I worked feverishly day and night to create a new wooden partition that would be used for creating a very small room; small enough to hide a child. The entrance to the door was big enough for a person to crawl into. Once it was made I placed a wooden chest in front of the opening. It was my secret and that of Henna.
Mama Ortega had moved in with us for the delivery of the child. It was during the eight month of my wife's pregnancy that the baby came late one night in the month of August as I remember. The baby and the mother were hastily moved to the small room I had made for them. I wondered how I would be able to keep the secret hidden for so long. Mama Ortega then revealed to me a secret that she had kept with herself for two or more decades. It was the truth known only to her and a few other people. There was a man who had started a mission to save babies destined to be buried alive or sent over for indoctrination in evil. The man was a member of the powerful priesthood that had become aligned to Satan. And yet there were those who still secretly worshipped God. Foremost amongst them was the man I came to know as Diego. Mama Ortega arranged my meeting with him. Members of the Priesthood rarely interacted with the poor and common people. However Mama Ortega was another case. In the cover of a moonless and dark night, we walked towards the quarters of Mr.Diego. It was a mansion made of solid stone; a double storied forbidding structure that had guards posted at its huge gates. Of course, they knew Mama Ortega well and so we soon found ourselves in a small yet well-furnished room. In the light of the gasoline lamps that hung from the wall, I caught a glimpse of Diego as he slithered into the room. Dressed in dark black robes with a red cap perched upon his balding head, Priest Diego was an old man perhaps in his late seventies. He had a rather angular face with piercing blue eyes and a long sharp pointed nose. The eyes seemed to be rather sunk in and small. With bushy eyebrows and a small goatee, Diego looked to be an astute intellectual. Though he was short in height and frail in health, his voice was loud and powerful. As he hugged his sister, he directed me to sit in the elegant wooden chair placed in a corner of the room. Behind me was a large portrait of the Emperor Rihamm. He then came and sat opposite me very very close. We talked in low tones. The guards stationed outside had been known to eavesdrop and report anything out of the ordinary to the Emperor himself. So we talked in low whispering tones. During the course of our conversation, Diego talked about how to save their lives, so many priests had either decided to become the followers of the evil one or to pretend that they had done so whilst their hearts still worshipped the One God. But so many of his compatriots in their lust and greed for wealth and property had forsaken God and embraced the Devil.
He had witnessed so many souls being indoctrined in evil and offered to the 'Devil' and there was very little that he could do. Each high priest was responsible for ensuring that the babies placed in their care were raised up to be taught in the black arts. However that did not begin till the child reached an age of five. In those first five years, the priests were responsible for teaching them who Satan was and what a great creator he was. Women were specially hired as nurses for the babies and they reared them till they turned five and were handed over to the High Priests.
As soon as a child touched five years old, he was taught that love had no meaning or value and that it was only cruelty and evil that was of use. Then teachers of black magic worked hard with these children to inculcate within them the knowledge and science of black magic. In between hypnosis was used for brainwashing the children into believing that the people who spoke against the Emperor and the High Priests were to be reported at once.
However after two decades of playing a part in this great evil, Diego realized that he could somehow redeem himself in the eyes of God by saving the souls of these children from eternal damnation. He approached the Head of the Priest hood that he alone was sufficient to rear the children in the knowledge of Satan and the black arts. Moreover he could sufficiently convince and brainwash them into believing that the Emperor was a sacred being. Speaking anything against him or the Priesthood was not to be tolerated.
And so Diego had since then been saving souls as he had put it ! It was then decided that Mama Ortega would deliver him my child when it was born. And it was in this manner that I was able to save my children. Henna and I had to bear being faraway from the two young sons she bore me in a space of a year. I named them 'Ralph' and 'Eduardo' with 'Ralph' being the elder child.
I had often laid my eyes on children who had recently been returned to their parents. One of my close friends named Julio invited me and Henna when his son was returned to him. At the dinner, I was introduced to his son. I noticed his dark eyes which returned no warmth. It was a vacant stare that petrified me. I noticed the tattoo of a serpent bearing its fangs on his left shoulder. It was the seal which every child carried after being returned. Julio and his wife Petra looked to be quite happy but I noticed that the child did not seem to return their love and warmth. His face remained contorted in a sneer like expression. He did not talk much and he did not smile.
It was this cold and empty stare that had bothered me and Henna. The icy cold and inhuman behavior that children exhibited after being returned to their parents.
Then the Emperor Rihamm died quite suddenly one day in October. It was rumored that he had been suffering from liver disease for quite some time. His son, Prince Simbala had been a young man of twenty two at the time. If people had thought that there would be some respite to the reign of terror that they had experienced under Rihamm, they were in for a shock. Emperor Simbala quickly moved to take charge and passed a decree that the work of his father would be carried on and intensified.
There is a rumor that the grave dug for Emperor Rihamm would not accept him. It would throw out his body. Those assembled at his burial had been shocked. Despite their repeated efforts the Emperor Rihamm could not be buried. The high priests and the nobility had been petrified on seeing this. Queen Elenora had then asked for the body to be burnt. The new Emperor, the son of Rihamm, had himself been quite scared at what he had seen. However no one seemed to learn a lesson from that.
To appease Satan, the High Priests ordered for the sacrifice of men, women and children at one of the many temples in Arcabia. These people were randomly selected as it had been done for so long and then sacrificed in front of thousands. Over the course of time, men, women and children had become so deeply immersed in pagan rituals that they knew no difference between good or bad.
The Arabians society had become a pit for every sort of evil imaginable. Nudity, lechery, homosexuality and incest soon became a norm. Artists started painting images of people copulating in public. Even the utensils for eating food and drinking water or liquor had such images painted or etched on them. Wood carvings and pottery were made in the shape of the penis and the vagina. People started copulating in public. The society had degenerated.
There was song and dance in nearly every house. Only those who were noble of heart and pure of mind were able to distance themselves from all the filth and vice that had become a part of life in Arcabia.
Men and women who still carried God in their hearts and mind would often silently pray for deliverance. Deep in my heart, I knew that the Almighty Creator may send down His Wrath upon Arcabia anytime soon.
And now here it was, the red colored mist that had snaked its way through every street of the Arcabia was silently picking out the souls of the evil and corrupt. Whosoever the mist touched died. Strands of mist had entered different houses. And the corrupt, the wicked, the hypocrites, the lewd, the treacherous, the worshippers of Satan, the cruel, the unjust, those who had become vain, proud and arrogant all perished. Piercing screams were followed by silence. Then it started raining. However there were some houses and abodes where the rain assumed the properties of fire and burnt down structures and everything within them. Surprisingly and miraculously the houses, flats and the apartments of those who worshipped God in their hearts were left standing intact. Our small house was one of them. The rain burnt the bodies of those who had been struck dead by the strange red mist.
The skies cleared and the mist disappeared. Arcabia had been cleansed completely of the wicked and evil. Only 5000 people out of its population of 250,000 people were left alive. All the quarters, the houses, the flats, the apartments and the shanties where evil people once lived had been burnt down.
This was to be the beginning of a
new era in Arcabias history. Evil had been