A struggling family, after many years reunite in the touching climax of this story...
|[Author's Note: Another old story of mine, a look into traditional storytelling of Levant (the Near East). In this story, I focused on how families are split apart in a desperate struggle to escape poverty. I believe that I wrote this all in the span of a day on March 6, 2005. And one minor correction, I do not mean the Pillars of Hercules, but the Hellespont. That and all other corrections will be made as time permits, if you see any more errors in here please tell me. Thanks & Enjoy!]
A Journey's Tale
Many days and months turned imperceptibly into years in the quiet village of Mecoriunt. Children that had once played on the streets were now married or moved on upon another trail in life. Yet in one house, a family still retained the memory of the past, awaiting the day when they might be reunited with the ones they loved. Long ago, a father and his son had departed in search of fortune and treasure. The mother, daughter and infant son were left in the care of an uncle. He was at first kind and friendly to his sister-in-law, nephew and niece. Yet when years began to take a toll on his wallet, and the possibility of his brother’s safe return looked more and more remote, he gradually grew menacing and merciless. He had them sell their furniture and replaced it with scanty ones. He was even ruthless enough to give them a meager allowance which would barely sustain them. After a while, he even wanted them to sell their house. At this point, the mother took a stand, barring the sale of the house which she treasured so much. After all, it was the last object in her possession that reminded her of her dear ones. Selling the house seemed like cutting that connection of love. No, she would not leave! Staying there meant that she was sure that her husband and child would return one day.
Finally, the uncle decided that the time for action had arrived. Early in one morning, he walked to his brother’s house. He was cordially received by the children. After their greetings, the mood quickly soured. The uncle insisted, “Teferlia, why do you insist on keeping this mud brick house when you can come and live with me and my family in our magnificent house?”
Teferlia replied, “No, I made a pledge to Aomnes that I will guard this house with my life, which he built with his own hands. It is the only thing I have left which reminds me of him. He is your brother, so please have mercy on me and my children.”
The uncle, cold and unmoving in his heart said, “But sister dear, the promise which you have kept all these years has been in vain. Aomnes is surely dead and probably lies, a mass of bones, in some grave in far away Persia.”
“No,” Teferlia insisted. “He is alive and well. No matter what has delayed him, he will return home soon.”
The uncle said, “Perhaps you are right. But I seriously doubt it. It has been many years since he departed and he would have returned long ago if he were not dead by now. He had left me as your guardian, and as your guardian I have the right to sell your house. It is my property!”
Teferlia grew angry at this remark. She had endured her brother-in-law’s pettiness for too long and could not stand it any longer. She said, “You! How can you be our guardian – you who starve us and give us rags to wear? I look so wretchedly poor, my friends no longer speak to me. In the market, I am shooed away since the merchants think I have no money to buy anything. And they are right! I have no money because of your miserliness. My family’s dignity has suffered and today it is insulted. You are no guardian – you are a monster! I want you to-”
The uncle thundered, “Enough! Are you through chiding and holding a silly temper? If you are, then be rational and let me sell this, this… filthy place and come with me to my home. I promise that I will care for you and your children as always.”
Teferlia said, “Why do you want my family to come to your house? Is it that you want us to be your slaves and obey every snarling bark that comes out of your mouth? That will never happen, and I will never sell my home! Now please leave, and do not bother to come here ever again!” The uncle grabbed the arm of Teferlia so swiftly that it startled her. With a sly grin he said, “Fine I will leave and never set foot in this house again. But if I go, so does my money.”
Teferlia said, “Your tainted money has no value! I will find work and support my family till the day Aomnes and my son return home.”
The uncle said, “Mark my words – you will pay for your insolence. You have committed a grave folly today. Therefore, you and your children will suffer.” With those words, he strode out haughtily into the streets of Mecoriunt.
As he left, Teferlia felt insecure. She had just lost her means of income. But she felt strongly that she had done the right thing. After all Aomnes would never yield to anyone how was petty. It grew late before she came to the conclusion that she would have to find some work in order to support her family. Just then there came an irregular gallop from the street. Teferlia curious to see what was happening, looked out a window of her home in the direction of the sound. She saw a cloaked horseman collide into a wagon and get thrown off his horse. He lay motionless on the ground. There was no one else around to observe this incident. Therefore, Teferlia hurried out of her house and up the street to see if she could assist the motionless horseman. Seeing that he was unconscious, she ran back to get her children to help her bring him into their house.
It was awhile before he regained consciousness. Teferlia by this time had already attended to his injuries with what little means she had available. When the traveler had awakened, Teferlia and her children sat beside his sick bed. Teferlia greeted him hospitably, “Welcome traveler! Your horse was tired and thus you were thrown off him when you collided with the wagon. But don’t worry, we have him stabled. I am sorry if we used second-rate materials for your wounds. If you like, we could have a doctor attend to them. If there is anything further you need, my children will obtain it to the best of our ability.
The traveler said, ”Thank you, kind lady. I would only impose to ask you for some water- I am parched!”
Teferlia immediately ordered her children to fetch water from a nearby well. It took them only a short time, but when they returned, the traveler received it as if he had not known the taste of water for ages. After he had drained his cup, he said,” Bless you, kind lady. You and your family are unusually kind to a stranger! I have seen many who are far richer than you, yet they would not offer me a drop of water.
Teferlia said, “You are a good praiser, traveler. Tell me, where have you been on your travels?”
The traveler sighed, “Ahh I have seen the pyramids of Egypt, the two rivers of Babylon, and have traversed the Persian deserts many times. One time, I was caught in the midst of a battlefield and mistaken for a soldier. Imagine that! Do I look like a soldier?”
Teferlia replied, “No, of course not! You look like a merchant, judging by your cloak and boots.”
The traveler amused by Teferlia’s statement laughed and said, “Well, kind lady, I didn’t know there was a fashion for merchants – I wear what I can afford. Now I must do something to repay you for your kindness. What would you have me do for you?”
Teferlia thought of how the traveler might have encountered her husband and son on his journeys and so asked, “Stranger, why don’t you stay and eat. It looks that some food will do you well – then tell me of your travels. For you see, I have some loved ones adventuring through the Persian deserts, searching for silk worms to bring back.”
The traveler grimaced for no apparent reason, yet accepted the invitation to dinner and to talk about his adventures. After finishing the simple dinner, he started to speak. “Ahh let’s see – where should I begin? I have had such great memories that ranged from my tender childhood! For you see, I set out many years ago from this region - also in search of silk worms (there were many of us in those days, when rumors abounded of the fabulous wealth to be won by trading in silk). My father took me with him so that he might initiate me into the world of trade and barter. But that was many years ago. I don’t even recall when I saw my home last, or even the face of my mother or my siblings. Yet my father talked about them while we traveled, with such love that I felt like I knew them, even though the image of them faded in my young heart. We crossed Greece, embarked across the pillars of Hercules, through Asia Minor and into the heart of the vast expansive deserts of Persia. We went as far as Qum, and there we found what we were looking for – silkworms! Trading was easy in that city, but we had to barter since we lacked the local currency. Unfortunately, that was the easiest part of our journey. Returning home was another matter. In Judea, we were captured by marauders who thought themselves “Holy Warriors”. We were taken to a prison camp in an oasis in the middle of the desert, where we were forced into slave labor, picking figs and coconuts. About 10 months ago, my father and I managed to escape from that miserable place without detection, we joined up with a caravan heading towards Egypt. When we arrive in Alexandria, my father contracted a deadly local disease called ‘malaria’. He grew ill and developed a high fever while on the ship going homeward. In order to care for my father, I had to abandon most of the wealth we had accumulated, even most of the silkworms. Not far from here, I left my father in the hands of a good doctor and continued on in search of our long lost family. So now that I have told you my life story, I hope that I have fulfilled to some small extent my debt to you, kind lady, and so I must be moving on in my journey. Could you tell me how I might get to the town of Mecoriunt?”
Teferlia fought down the well spring of tears and looked with rapt wonder at the young man. Could it be? Was it possible?
Feeling uncomfortable, like he might have said something to upset his hosts, the traveler arose and began to slowly move to the door. But the lady asked him with a very calm voice, “Traveler, what is the name of your father?”
“His name is Aomnes, from the town of Mecoriunt. Thank you for your kindness, but it is time I set off and look for my home.”
“You have found it! You have found it, for you are my long lost son!” and she flew into his arms. Astonished, the traveler stammered, “ Oh, mother! You are that very lady who my father said had eyes radiating brilliance and goodness!”
They held each other in tight embrace with tears streaming down their eyes, as if, being separated for so many years, they would not tolerate a moment’s separation ever again. Together they went to the doctor to retrieve Aomnes and brought him home. That home, nurtured by the true love made strong by years of tribulation, they prospered and remained for many generations in the blissful town of Mecoriunt. For the travelers never again donned their traveling cloaks in search of adventure and fortune, knowing well that the greatest treasure lay within their own home.