The King and his heir are dead and the city under the dark grasp of a horrible disease.
|The crowd underneath had grown restless. Nearly on the brink of an outbreak, a priest rose to the pedestal and hit the end of the stick on the floor three times to grab the people’s attention.
“Good people of Shalua! Listen to me. We must not lose our senses. We must not give into our vice of anger. This poison…This disease- is but only our own doing, for we have displeased the goddess!”
Someone amongst the crowd asks the rest to listen and most comply.
“You see, my good citizens, we had forsaken her, thinking our food plentiful and our knowledge vast! But see! The royal family itself, so much you thought in power is nothing but mere dust at the feet of the great goddess!”
By now the priest had the attention of the entire crowd. The reaction was mixed. Some kept listening to the rants open-mouthed, others, those who had seen the atrocities of the disease, fell down on their knees and began praying in tearful eyes. In one corner of the crowd stood Yazum, he and the rest of the courtiers. They listened to the whole speech in tensed brow and began whispering amongst themselves. They were practitioners of truth, and for over a century their actions had led to the flourishing glory of Shalua. They were not ones who would stand and hear this mockery.
“What do you say Shazum? This cannot be allowed. He is starting to debase everything we stand for.”
“Let him finish Yadag. We mustn’t jump to conclusions. You want to prove that you’re no better than him?”
Shazum said these words and looked away. He felt light headed and weary. His stomach ached and his mind wandered at times, he could foresee what would become of him. Yet, he stood there, a parent of the nation, favoring duty above everything else.
He could still see. The king, the prince- dead. Lying in their last hours in their own filth. Such a horrible way to go! This disease- whatever it was, was horrible. It even denied men a drink of water- who was dying terribly of thirst. He remembered the king’s pale look as he died- he had just regurgitated the water that Shazum helped him drink.
Shazum shuddered. It got him too. He looked back, pensively. He had wandered for maybe merely seconds, but what he heard brought him crashing down to reality.
“……and she wants sacrifice!”
He looked at the others. They looked back at him. “What now, Shazum?” they asked him.
Shazum stood silent for a moment, then solemnly said, “We kill him.”
“Then we should call the guards…”
“The guards?” Shazum interrupted, “Do you think they will listen to you, or the man who promises to rid their children of this dreaded disease? No, this time Arul, we need to dirty our own hands.”
“Then let me take care of him,” Yadag, the youngest of the small group chewed the words out,” He debases everything we've worked for and everything we stand for, just allow me, and I’ll end his miserable rants for good.”
Shazum looked at Yadag with a look which neither exhibits agreement, nor disagreement. He said, “Don't be so hasty, Yadag. We must work together. We need a plan.”
There was no moon in the sky that night. The lands were dark, the roads empty and sometimes a silhouette danced in faint light from one of the houses.
Shazum stood in front of a tap, where running water from the river fell. He continued washing his face. The paleness had increased, the thirst increasing every moment. The watery stool had already informed him of what was going to happen to him, but at the moment he wasn’t so worried or dreaded from the fact. He closed off the tap and smiled. His own invention, this running water. He was once called one of the greatest in Shalua, but now neither his life nor his words meant much. Their granaries were full, their borders safe, their lives fulfilling and easy- but that infernal disease! All their knowledge had failed, all their power faltered. Children fell like flies. Neither the strongest, nor the wealthiest, not even the most powerful survived its deathly, filthy grasp.
Shazum’s stomach began hurting again. He was reminded of his grim future. He closed his eyes. His heart badly wanted to fall into prayer, but he had forsaken such superstitions long ago.
Five minutes later he stepped out into the darkness of the roads, a dagger hidden within his robes.
There was only one flaw with the plan. They had not correctly anticipated the number and the strength of the followers he had gathered within this short amount of time.
The priest was in meditation, asking the goddess in what demeanor and what number of sacrifices she coveted for their salvation.
Yadag crept up from behind to dig his dagger into the priest’s throat, but was ensnared by the guards hiding in the darkness of the statues. He was beaten to death by the mob that soon grew. And the members of the court, lurking around the temple were captured, beaten and then the rest of the courtiers were brought.
They were all lined up next to the river, which flowed with calm and serenity, waiting to swallow anything that was thrown to her.
The priest stood behind Shazum. The old man was beaten quite badly and he had soiled himself. The stench which arose from him, by then was known to all. So many had lost their sons, their daughters and loved ones to this stench.
“…he is cursed with the same disease, yet they refuse to believe in the goddess! See how far their pride, their disbelief lie! It is their blood that the goddess claims! This blasphemers, these disbelievers, they who had mislead you all this years!”
The priest brought out a dagger as he spoke the words- the same Shazum carried the night before, and slashed his throat open.
The bodies were dumped in the river, which grew red with blood.
“Drink this water! All of you!” the priest exclaimed, “This is your medicine! This is your salvation! This is your boon!”
And so the people did, blinded with bloodthirst, and the hope of recovery.
Two weeks later, when the disease had reached a disgustingly horrible peak, the priest suffered a fate worse than the courtiers. One that is better left undescribed.
Most died. A few trudged along the valley of death. The rest, a very small number, escaped- only to fall ill some time later.
“So this is the place where they found that brick.”
“It seems so.”
“What’s that, is that plumbing?”
“I’m not sure, but seems like it.”
“My God, this is such an amazing find! What do you reckon we should name this place?”
“Well, it is next to the Sindh river. So why not, the Shindh Savyata?”
“Hmm,” the professor smiled, “Rather, a valley. The Indus valley civilization.”