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Living in a small hut near the seashore, Joyce never got a fair chance to attend the company of educated, debonair people. He mixed with low company, in taverns and ale houses, where, as the night escalated, the sound of laughter, expressing heartfelt mirth and joy, increased in pitch in intensity. Here the wine flowed freely like water, jokes were cracked, cigarette smoke stifled the air and occasionally a ‘regular’, being in the right humor, would stand on the wooden stool he was accustomed to sit upon, and sing a ballad or a sonnet, losing his identity in the deep sea of the sweet memories of auld langsyne. Under the guidance of such ‘sage’ men Joyce grew up, traversing the tedious path from the sweet dreams of childhood to the mature responsibilities of adulthood. He lived with his step-father, the fisherman who had ‘owned’ him since he had first been able to conceive the arcane secrets of the world around him. Making both ends meet by fishing for sustenance, Joyce plodded on in the journey of life, doing what he could for his survival in a world so bitter and harsh.
Just for a fractional part of a second, let us gaze in another dimension. Have you ever tried to reform a liar? Have you ever tried to tell a forlorn child that the world is a sweet place to live in, lying yourself to appease the dejected soul? While you brood upon the question, searching within yourself for an answer, let us traipse a familiar path; return to the story of Joyce.
One day, as the sun descended from its throne in the east to its grave in the west, there appeared a young man. His shaven head and the smell of musk that lingered about him created around him an aura of mystery unheard of in those parts. One could see at a glance that he was a foreigner. He quietly walked down the path across the village, ignoring curious looks from the natives. Stopping at the edge of the bank, he stooped, and then splashed his head into the cool water of the Jadiu River, exactly opposite to the point where Joyce sat waiting for a fish to fall for the bait. Refreshed, the traveler rose to his feet, inhaling the fresh air. As he did he noticed Joyce, staring at him with surprise. The traveler gesticulated to him, and Joyce, struggling to his feet, crossed the bridge to meet him on the other edge.
The traveler, in a polite manner that suggested the noble trace of his progenitors, asked Joyce about who he was, and what were his pastimes and the sort. Joyce answered, though not without some shyness that indicated that he wasn’t used to strangers. As their conversation proceeded, so did their intimacy, until at last they talked freely like old friends reviving a reverie of the days of long ago.
Like Joyce himself, the traveler was young and full to the brim with unexpressed sentiments. And so they talked, never allowing a ripple to intrude upon their confabulation, till the night waned, and the stars dimmed, like flickering orbs waiting for the moment to engulf mankind in the abyss of darkness. Mostly the traveler talked and Joyce answered, their conversation going more Arabian-nightsy as every second passed away in nothingness. And then, when Joyce’s mind was clearly intoxicated, the traveler drew a sword from its sheath, and pressing the flat against Joyce’s neck, asked, in a voice terrible and commanding: “Hearken you, boy, your life is in my hands. Answer me straightly and be one of the noble band of soothsayers. Lie, and I’ll wring the life out of you!”
Joyce felt caught up on all sides. He had never told the truth throughout his brief span of brio; how can you, when you are brought up in a fisherman’s hut on a lonely seashore? And yet here was a stranger, though one with whom he felt connected, a deep connection wrought between hearts, blending them as one entity. The stranger said, “I have not a question but a promise for you to make. Do it, and bask in the glory of your greatest victory. Decline, and you are at my mercy.”
The sea roared, the huge tides rising threateningly like a huge anaconda. From the innermost recesses of his mind, a voice called:
Speak it now, and be done with it
Bring out the nobleness latent in you
Or be a dark horse and remain undecided
Only to be surpassed by someone better than you
And from those blackened lips emanated a whisper, “I am ready.”
Asked the stranger, “Do you promise, with The Higher Power as your witness, never to tell a lie again?”
As the moon’s sojourn came to an end and the first rays of the sun illuminated the ragged face of earth, the call came, almost dragged out of the heart as black as soot, “I do.”
The stranger pulled his sword away from his throat, looked at him surprisingly, and embracing him, said, “Then let us rejoice brother, for such is our mutual status. Together we shall rebuild our empire, avenge our noble father, and eliminate the accursed sorcerer by whose intervention you led so sorry a life.”
The air rang with the clamor of the call:
And when he gives up the ways of cheats
Will you realize his miraculous feats…...
And the waves crashed with a deafening roar.