In this episode Ethop experiences a carcodile’s consciousness.
The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Thirteenth Era, Part 3e, Ethop Interlude 3
Notes from the Under Groans: A Tyrant’s Tale
“Once devoured by that carcodile all me fears just fades away.
“‘Guilt and kindness, what am they? All the chains of conscience broke… Me, the king, and all serve me. Fast as horse; strong as bull; wise as monkey; sleek as snake. A bed of silt and reed to sleep, driftin’ on the water ways. Calm and deep me meditate. When hunger stirs my violent lust me feast and lounge in pools of blood. This the kingly life me lead, the pleasure palace that me keep.
“‘Driftin’ down my waterways, me and River think as one, all descends into my mouth. There me drift and there me stalk, and there me gorge on hapless souls.
“‘Just one evil me endures. That streaky sun across my stream sparkin’ off each peak of wave. That sun that drifts across the sky, him seem to have no fear of me. Him seem to have no thought of me. That sun will be my meal today. Me drift and scope; me stalk and wait; me hides behind old River’s face and circle back into the reeds and wait until the sun forgots that me am just a flash away. Then leap and slash! And that’s my tail! Grievous pain and shock and shame and there’s the sun still a-flame.
“‘And so, as king me brood and curse and make the rounds of my reedy realm and in my veins a burnin’ rage. Me not a king of marsh and mud, and not a king of fresh blood. Me confined inside a murky cage, and the sun mocks me and all my rage.’
“And that’s the tale your shaman wife revealed in me. The carcodile, that tyrant king, he lives in murk, in secret shame and impotence.”
Batkol has one more question for him, a gentle push on his fable world:
“You found that crocodile in his swamp. Can you now find that croc in you? Can you look in his eye and see yourself? It’s dangerous. He’s just as wild, hungry for power, thirsty for blood, to tear you apart and conquer you. Careful, friend. He wants to be king.”
He nods his head and frowns a thanks and that’s the last we seen of him.
Sukkot*, Kheshvon**, now winter it were. The world grown narrow and cramped with cold. Tiveria, too, just as foretold is shrinkin’ and seems it will soon disappear, like Nineveh, buried. Like Memphis, disappeared. Like Aden, its people fled, its gates locked; roads dug out; maps lost. Like the Ark of the Lor, burned for its gold, and no more a passage to the Upper Worlds.
* also known as Tabernacles, it combines the autumn harvest with memory of living in temporary huts while wandering the Sinai.
** month of late autumn, following Sukkot.
Packin’ our sacks and lookin’ back to them times past when we took to the road: When I leapt from the flames of Jerusalem, and when I slipped out of Umar’s grip. Seekin’ gold along Africa’s coast. Sent by Khushiel, like it or no. Shmuel’s envoy to Metz and back. Granada’s riots, and Rashi’s call. Dragged off by Bouillon to serve his crimes, and snuck from Jerusalem to excape his thugs. Now we’re leavin’ Tiveria, nor a sword lifted above our heads, nor a finger pointin’ us out the door; nor for duty, nor enticed. This time the breakin’ hinge of our door, the leaky roof, the empty pot, the last of our friends with one foot in the grave, sorrow around us, empty inside.
A pile a finished manuscripts, a couple of skins, brushes, pens, knives, inks, pigments in vials, linen thread, cotton cloth, some flour for bread and to make paste, a pot and sundry cookin’ tools, the clothes on our back. We’re out the door.
We quarrels and snarls, snaps and snipes on where to go and what to do. I got no taste for the Frankish lands and Batkol sees the crumblin’ walls and grumbly bellies and daggery eyes in these Muslim lands. And the Byzantines hate us Jews, a certain sign their bell is rung; their day is done.
Batkol claims she’s heard talk of decent kings and open lands, of growin’ towns in need of men with tools and arts and readin’ skills. Polan. I never heard of it.
“Where’s this mythic land of yours? Down past Aden and the edge of the sea?”
“I hear tell its north of here. Byzantium is on the sea, and north of there, Khazaria. And further still the Polan lands. Maybe not all honey milk but we’re dyin’ here in Tiveria.”
“Well, why not go to Khazaria, once a land of Jewish kings? And if its good, we’ll make a home. And if not, keep on headin’ north.”
And there we find a common ground to ease our spat and our anxious hopes.
For months we search out the best route, and were it luck or were it fate? Some merchants passing thru our town traded us a rare old map for a couple portraits Batkol drew. You can see a copy up above.
I sets a path to Akko first, then sail to Cyprus and on from there. Or else to continue further north to Beirut and then find a worthy bark. From Constantinople sail the Greater Sea to Kherson and trek thru Kievan Rus. They say we’ll find the Khazar lands north in those regions and maybe east. If I’ve learnt a-right our trek will end with us servin’ a Jewish king as scribes.
But naturally, Batkol has a plan different from mine. Naturally. She don’t trust these Frankish knights nor their brothers in faith, the Byzantines. North to Damascus, that’s her way, thru Muslim regions skirtin’ the knights, up to Aleppo, then as the wind blows east to Urfa, or continue north to Seljuk Antep*. Either way on to Sinop and sail from there to Kherson and up to our Khazar king.
* modren Gaziantep
My way, an excess of dangers a-wait but the passage is faster, loungin’ on boats. Her way, we’ll walk our legs into stumps and who can say it’s a safer road? So naturally we head to Damask.
In the next episode a sacred journey of a rare sort begins.