Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Happy Naraka Day!

Today is, of course, the anniversary of the day when King Furoíso I began the unification of the kingdom of Naraka.

Hip hip hurray! Hip hip hurray! Hip hip hurray!

As such, I will now present to you a few excerpts from Furoíso's memoir/diary.

But first, the Narakan flag:

The year was 3/46/3 . . . or 1, depending on how you want to count it. For everyone at the time, it was the former. Years later, we would call it the latter, but not at the time, no. You see, I did not know that I would revitalize the Narakan nation; I did not know that I would become king.

I had left home to find the world aboard a trade ship. The captain did not tell me how long the voyage would be, and I did not care anyway. I was twenty-two.

The captain also failed to mention how often I would be paid. Unfortunately (for him), it turned out to be never. That is why I mutinied, revolted, and left. Headed for home on foot.

I knew that Rízhoso‘ono was somewhere to the southeast because I had stolen the navigator’s world map. I was at that inlet there, home was that dot there. Only a few inches! Should not take long, right? Gods, I was an idiot!

I will skip the mutiny bit for now and start with the journey.

We were hiding out in the tiny port town of Sírépaga, but not doing a very good job of it since there were only three taverns in town and we were in the closest one to the docks. But they did not find us. Go figure.

It was in that tavern that I first noticed I could understand the natives. All up and down the coasts, I became accustomed to ignoring the babble of the locals, but here in Sírépaga, they spoke Narakan! Well, almost. Enough so that I asked about it. After receiving a few growls, one old geezer deigned to answer.

“Them folk north and south speak odd, but over the pass, they speak the words normal-like.”

And what did he call the language?

“I never bothered to give it a name. Why should it have one? The words are the words.”

He seemed unimpressed by “Narakan,” but that is okay because I am sure he is dead now.

I convinced Zho and Vaví that we should head east, over the mountains. They readily agreed because, first, we were on the run, and second, I was the leader. So east we went, around the south end of Mafínopono Lake and into the hills.

Thinking back, we might as well have stolen a few horses, but we did all right on foot. The Road was made for foot traffic then. (I really should not call it “The Road,” but it was at least “the road” back then.) There were inns placed about every ten miles. We stopped at the first of these we came to and promptly started complaining.

“Oh, my feet!”

“I cannot walk another step!”

“Whose idea was this, anyway? Furo?!”

“Shut up. I hurt as much as you, but it was either this or be hung by our necks. Which would you prefer?”

“I would give my life to be dead. . .”

You would think that life aboard ship would keep us in shape. But I suppose climbing up and down ropes and swabbing decks use different muscles or something. In any case, we were sore and tired, and it was still early afternoon.

It was in the hamlet of Hurovo that I first met my wife- and queen-to-be, Rosí. I do not think she believed me when I said I would return, but I did and we got married the next year. You probably should not believe the tales about me walking across the continent for love. She was on my mind, true, but I had plenty of other reasons, as well. I was working to improve travel conditions, I was creating a trading corridor, I was uniting the Narakan nation!

Love? Yes, there was love. The first time I saw her, it was all I could do to keep from staring like a slack-jawed yokel. She was definitely the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. When I later learned that she was unmarried, I had a plan. A goal. What a smile! And those eyes. . . those eyes. . . She did not notice me at first, of course. I was but another traveler amongst many. But I stayed in Hurovo until she did know me, and fall in love with me, and agree to marry me.

For some reason, Zho and Vaví stayed with me then. Perhaps they were entertained by seeing their friend stricken so with love. Perhaps they felt Hurovo was as good of a town as any to settle down in. But if so, why did they follow me all the way on to Rízhoso‘ono? For friends, I really did not know them well.

But Rosí and I, we knew each other’s innermost thoughts and secrets after only two weeks. From a nod of recognition to such intimacy in eight days. . . I sit here now, disbelieving my old-man memories. I should have written this down back then. I would have; I planned to, but I was always so busy! Kingdoms do not start themselves, I will have you know!

Our second day we did better—a full twenty miles. We were not really in poor shape and it is not as if we had heavy loads to carry. In fact, all that we were carrying was the gold and silver we had swiped from the captain. “Back wages” we told ourselves. I worried whether or not the money would last until home. I need not have worried, though. Apparently, trade ships deal with an entirely different level of monetary sums than rural inns. I probably could have started my kingdom right then and there with the money in my purse, if I had known how.

But we had a plan, and we were sticking to it. Eastwards we went, mostly uphill that day, through farmlands and forests. Occasionally having to stop and ask directions at a fork in the road, asking for “the pass” and receiving helpful information.

We had lunch after ten miles, near Zanérífí Lake in the village of Rísorokama. I was there last year; it is still a nice place. Green hills surrounding you, piling taller and taller, hiding behind each other and jumping out at a curve in the creek. The winters in this region can get gray and dreary, but the summers are wonderful. Blue sky all around, blue lakes and clear streams to swim in, birds singing the day along. Everything is green, bright and varied greens. . . Occasionally winter days can be like that here, too—only colder. It is not like Karasalétu where everything dies in the winter and turns brown. Luckily it was not a typical gray winter day when we arrived, or else I probably would not have gotten off the ship! Instead, it was late winter pretending to be early spring and the sun was out and the world was a beautiful place.

. . . I really should not have decided to winter in Sírépaga this year. This has been a very gray winter. I should be down in Rízhoso‘ono where it is summer already! But here I am, rambling about the climate like an old fool. Ah, well. At least I will get some writing written while the weather’s wet.

That was one of my explanations of the flag, you know. Blue and green summer over gray winter. Of course now people say it is blue for Mafínopono, green for Karasalétu, and gray for Tékasara, but they do not seem to know why the duchies have those specific colors. Oh, sure, Mafínopono has water, Karasalétu has trees, and Tékasara has cities, but they all have all of them! To tell the truth, I designed the national colors while sitting beside a creek in Ríkoro County (it was not called that yet). I saw the rocks in the streambed, the trees and bushes along the creek, and the perfect blue sky. Epiphany! I had our flag!

My mother sewed the first Narakan flag. I did not tell her why I wanted it, but she made it anyway, bless her soul. The colors were darker than I had envisioned them, but you do not insult your mother—especially after she does you a favor. That flag is probably still floating around this palace somewhere, not doubt. We do not seem to throw anything away. . . . At least I think we left it up here in Sírépaga. I could be wrong. I often am, these days. I will ask Rosí about it tomorrow.

Well, I asked Rosí about the flag, and she said, “Do not you remember? My father burnt it!” And so he did. Threw it right in the fireplace the first time he saw it. If I remember correctly (and obviously I do not), Rosí’s father was one of the local leaders and did not want me upsetting the power structure. He would rather have his little chiefdom than be royalty!

Ha! He also forbade me to see his daughter! A lot of good that did him. It just convinced Rosí to run away with me. We went to Sírépaga, but we could have stopped much sooner. His power did not even reach to the next town. It does not matter in any case, because he is dead now.

Everyone is dead nowadays. Zho, Vaví, Koríso, everyone. Just me and Rosí, here in obscurity, whiling away our final years. I did not want to die when I was young, but I certainly did not want to end up like this! An old king with no kingdom and only half a brain left! Oh, the memories are still in there, but I need Rosí to get them out. Without her, . . .

Why did I give up my kingdom?! Because I felt old. What did I know then? Eleven more years of my body falling apart, failing on me. Now I am old. And my son forgets me. My dear sweet Furo, trying to ignore his feeble father, waiting for me to die. Soon, now doubt, it will be soon.

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