Longchenpa's Words

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
The events in this story take place in 19th century Bhutan, in the backdrop of a civil war. The story is mixture of history and imagination. The civil war did exist, as did one of the main characters, but the rest is fiction.

The story begins with two friends and warriors taking refuge beside a stream after escaping being killed. However, the enemy soldiers find them. The friends battle with the enemy, and discover themselves.

Submitted: December 14, 2014

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Submitted: December 14, 2014

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Two men were lying beside a stream under the warm Bhutanese sun. One man, Sonam Choden, of slender, but athletic build. A wisp of a beard adorned his quite striking face.

The other, Tapon Migthol, looked not quite human. A foot taller than Choden, half a foot wider than him and with two enormous hands whose fingers kept clicking from time to time.

Sonam Choden threw a stone into the stream, watching as it bounced three times before disappearing into the water.

‘It’s beautiful, isn’t it, our country’, he said suddenly.

Migthol shrugged. He made a grunting sound.

It is. Look. Streams, waterfalls, mountains, trees, butterflies. Where else can you get these? I say, we live in paradise. We ought to be more appreciative.

The big man looked unimpressed.

How do you know this country is paradise if you haven’t seen any other place? I don’t know. I’ve never been out of here.

‘I have’.

Tibet?

Tibet only. And I can say, after seeing Tibet, I really appreciate the fact that I’m from the land of Mon.

Hardly a fair comparison, Tibet. All I’ve heard about Tibet is that it’s got great empty places. And lots of yaks.

Choden laughed. Yaks, yaks, yaks. They’re everywhere.

But I’d like to go to Tibet once anyway. Visit Lhasa. Visit the Jokhang.

Choden nodded. Tibet has a few good things. The Jokhang though, isn’t that impressive. I know, it’s the holiest of holies. But the crowds, and the dirt outside. I found myself wishing to get away. But, Tibet – one thing I can say. You mentioned those great empty spaces. And that is really…It’s affecting. When I went there, I was very distressed. There was this thing in my mind, it was really bothering me. Nothing really helped. And I tried everything. Then my lama suggested that perhaps I should travel to Tibet. He was going to Lhasa in a few days. It might help, he said. Sometimes, a new experience can still the mind.

I had nothing to lose, so I joined him. We set out with a small caravan and we were beset with difficulties from the start. Disease, landslides, robbers. But when we crossed the mountains, and I saw the other side, I was glad I came. Just the immensity of the landscape. It was incomprehensible. Ahead of me was infinity. And Bhutan, with its rivers and its valleys and its dzongs, suddenly seemed far away, and very, very small. And my own problems there seemed as nothing when compared to the vastness ahead of me.

Migthol listened to all this thoughtfully, nodding his head at times.

‘Just as I said’, he said, ‘unless you’ve been out of here, you can’t say this is the best place.’

Choden suddenly stiffened.

Quiet. I think I heard a sound.

The country was in the midst of a civil war. Choden and Migthol were part of a team of soldiers that had been ambushed while they were sleeping. Most had been killed, but they had escaped completely unharmed. Sheer luck. It could just as easily have been them dead, and two or three others alive.

Clearly, there was the sound of movement. Choden and Migthol crawled slowly away from the river bank and to the thicket that lay a few dozen meters away. Once they were there, they would be well disguised. But here, they were vulnerable. Archery being the Bhutanese peoples’ favorite sport, they would make fine targets. Migthol’s big and slow moving frame being a particularly easy one.

But they reached safety. And now, they had the advantage. Because they could see the enemy. There were three of them. Just three.

Migthol gently drew out his sword from his scabbard, and nodded to Choden. It was a big patag, befitting his frame. It was said to have been built by the great Pema Lingpa himself. Or at least it was built at his forge. So the story went. In the fading sunlight, it glowed a pale yellow.

Migthol held his sword with both hands and waited, while Choden held on to his bow and moved away from him. Where was he going? It seemed that he was finding higher ground, the better to launch his arrows at the enemy. But Migthol didn’t like it. They were two, and they should stick together. He watched him go with trepidation, but there was nothing he could do. He looked ahead from the thicket. They were coming towards them. They were. But. Only two of them. He’d seen three a few minutes ago. Where was the third one? He felt his blood chilling.

He didn’t like this combination of events. Choden splitting away from him and the third person in the enemy’s group missing. It was wrong. Very wrong.

He heard a cry, sharp and anguished. It reached into his heart and he realized that it was his friend’s voice. He went in its direction. There were grunts now and the sound of fighting. His friend was strong. He hadn’t known him very long, but he knew he was strong, both in body and in spirit. Migthol rushed onward faster.

And then he slipped. The ground was clammy due to recent rains. He slipped and fell down on his face, and he made a grunt.

Over there, he heard someone yell.

They are coming for you now, he thought, his face still in the mud.

There was silence now. A silence of the bleakest kind. He pushed himself up. Slowly. He kept slipping. But finally he was up. And his patag. Where was that? He felt a burst of fury in him. And his mind was beginning to disintegrate. But there it was. That shiny strip of beauty lying amidst rocks a few feet ahead. He grabbed it. Dirt covered an entire side. He cleaned it with his clothes.

And waited.

He saw one. He was moving ahead cautiously, and he had his bow slung back on his shoulders. He had his sword out. He was expecting to fight close quarters. Good. Migthol smiled. His hand was on his sword, and it was itching. But the time had not yet come. Let the man come closer. Closer. Closer.

Now!

He got up explosively to swing his blade but the enemy had seen him first and struck hard with his dagger. Migthol saw it coming at his throat and shifted his face just in time as it penetrated his shoulder. They looked at each other for a second and then Migthol kicked him hard in the groin. Letting out an anguished grunt, the man fell. Lying on the ground, he wailed on and on. Then he looked up to see Migthol in front of him, sword outstretched.

Kill me, his eyes said. Kill me now.

Migthol felt a brief surge of compassion for him as he brought the patag down on his back. He cut him in two. Blood oozed out from everywhere, mingling with the wet mud.

But he took only one brief look at the severed body before turning his eyes away. He would now find the other man.

But it turned out to be the other way around. The other man found him first.

He was making his way towards the stream, where he had last seen the man, when he felt a terrible, burning pain in his leg. He knew what it was. He’d been hit. Almost immediately, he fell down to the ground, crawling sideways, towards the thicket, towards safety.

An arrow landed right in front of him, bringing him to a stop. Then as he turned around, another one, inches away from his body.

‘Whoever you are, cut the games. Fucking kill me like a man if you have to.’

But another arrow landed near him.

‘I’ll kill you in good time’, he heard. That voice was familiar, soft and lilting, and it reverberated in the forest. Where had he heard it?

‘I’ll kill you in good time. My time.’

He heard the footsteps getting closer. The man walked softly. He craned his neck but he could not see who he was. He could only see something move at the very edge of his eyesight.

‘Have patience, friend. You’ll soon see who I am.’

So saying, the man stopped. Still out of his eyesight.

Migthol felt something sharp and cold running down his neck.

I was offered a lot of money for you. But it’s not about the money. It’s about much, much more. So I am going to savor the moment.

His blade now rested on Mighthol’s ear. Then he felt a sharp pain there.

My time, the man said, softly. Almost whispered it to his ear. Then he began a hysterical laugh.

Laugh all you want.

Yes, said the man. I will. I…

And he could speak no more. Because Migthol’s huge left hand was grasped around his throat. The man struggled to break free. He struck with his pointed sword, stabbing the big man in his arm. The pain was fiery, intense, but Migthol gave it no heed as he continued holding on. He felt himself being stabbed again, but this time more weakly.

And then he heard a yelp and felt the man give way. He fell down on the ground beside him. Mighthol got up slowly to see an arrow was sticking out of his back. And then he was reminded of the arrow that was stuck on his own leg and that pain came back to life, pulsating and fierce.

Don’t do anything yet, he heard the faraway voice say and he knew who that was. Sonam Choden.

Don’t get up now. You’ll lose blood.

Are they all dead? He had to crane his face to the right as much as he could.

Yes. The other one, I killed him.

Are you okay.

Choden laughed.

‘No’, he said.

How badly?

Badly. Worse than you.

Much worse than me?

Yes.

He felt the arrow being gently removed from him. His leg was on fire now, and the pain was spreading. Hold still, Choden said. I’ll take this out with a minimum of blood loss, and then you can get up and see how I look like.

Migthol laughed.

Who was he, Choden said.

I don’t know.

Clearly, he had something special planned for you. Look at all this. This was personal. Deeply personal. He had this in mind for many years. Just couldn’t find the time. Or the circumstances.

As he got up, Mighthol had a look at the man’s face, and it was totally unfamiliar. He’d never seen a face like that and if he did, it was long in the past. Long, long into the past. A past that he thought he’d buried.

And then he looked into Choden’s face, and he immediately wished he had not. It was mangled, almost unrecognizable.

Now the real horror story begins, eh Mightol, Choden said.

Mightol adjusted himself to Choden’s new appearance, and began to wipe tears.

‘The big man’s crying now eh’. Come on. It’s okay.

‘I’m sorry my friend’ said Mightol.

‘Don’t be. It was a good fight. The best of my life. We went at each other like animals. There was nothing we didn’t do. But in the end, someone had to die. And that wasn’t me. I’m going to live. I’ll live. Just not the way I thought I would.

My good looks I was proud of. I knew that wasn’t right, but that was the way it was. If I looked the way I do now, would I have ever had the success with women that I did?

He laughed.

Longchenpa was right. It’s at moments like these that you realize things like this. It’s best to burst out laughing. Here today, gone tomorrow, what’s the point of worrying about it at all, eh? Look at me. I was lucky to escape with my life, but now I have this to worry about.

But Migthol appeared lost, deep in his own troubled thoughts.

Choden tapped him on the shoulder.

Migthol came to life jarringly.

What are you thinking of?

You were telling me that this man had planned this.

No, I said, he had this on his mind a long time. And now that he got the chance, he acted.

Same thing. That’s what I meant. But listen. I have something to tell you. I haven’t told anyone this. Not in 15 years. I thought I’d buried that with my past, and somehow I just feel it coming up to the surface.

What?

Listen. So, many years ago, I was just a young boy. But I was always very strong. One day, I and a group of my best friends, we were playing some stupid games. It was a time of some disturbance in my hometown, where I lived, and one of the monasteries there had caught fire and burnt down. Gutted completely, except for the watchtower. So my friends and I we went up.

We were joined by this kid that we didn’t know very well, but he was really talkative. You know the kind. They go on and on and won’t shut up. At first, he was enjoyable, amusing, but as time passed by, he was beginning to annoy us all. By the time we got up to the tower, he was really beginning to irritate us all. So we told him. If you don’t shut up, we’re going to throw you from the tower. That didn’t shut him up. He went on and on. And then, I just grabbed him and dangled him from the tower. Not knowing what came to me. And then I saw the look of sheer terror on his face. Half of my friends were terrified, half were cheering for me.

And then…..

He choked.

And then….I slipped. I don’t know…….how that happened. But I just lost my footing. And my grip. I saw his last moments. As he slipped away. Those eyes. Terror. And more. He was cursing me. And I just kept watching as he grew smaller and smaller and finally hit the ground. He lay there in a contorted position.

He grew silent then.

So?

Well, his face, as I can recall now, bore an awful resemblance to this gentleman here.

Choden laughed. You’re seeing things. It was terrible what you did, what happened to that kid, but if he fell from a watchtower, he wouldn’t survive.

Yeah, Mighthol said. He wouldn’t. But I can’t shake off the feeling.

Well, I need to take my leave now, said Choden.

Where are you going?

You know where. I intend to take my initiation at the closest monastery I can find.

Mighthol nodded.

‘You think you’re really cut out to be a monk?’

 

‘What choice do I have? Can I join civilization looking like this? The shame. It will be worse than death. A monastery is much better. In fact, it would be just the right thing for me. I suddenly have this great, terrible yearning to know myself a little more. All my life, I’d never had that. People like you and me, we don’t have those feelings. Generally, not. We’re too busy doing other things. But now I do. 


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