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From the Annals of Besh, Part IV
By
sfe

From the Annals of Besh, Part IV

A new archivest is allowed to follow a lead that she hopes will help a friend.


[[ Karla left early for the library the next morning as she wants to get this done. First though she orders a bouquet of yellow flowers that will be left at the hotel desk along with a note to Skoal telling him when he should pick her up. The rest of the morning she’ll skip over many years and will only copy the very last chapter in Besh’s book that will be translated to this.]]

Chapter 24. 1417. AD. Closing Memories. An Occurrence From Midyear 1412 AD.

I can't begin to close off my little collection of travels and tales without going back some five years' time when we traveled up the Danube heading to Belgrade. We had put off at Tarnovo for a few weeks’ delay as there were reports of military actions between the Ottoman's and the Christian's near Vidin. This whole area that stretched for the length of the Balkan Mountains had always been noted for its banditry and military actions and at the time of our stay, there were many Roma living in and around the outskirts of Tarnovo.

I've never totally given myself over to superstitious beliefs, miracle's, or the occult though I've witnessed much of its after effects or purported effects. And though what I relate to you now I know will damage my writings in the eyes of serious scholars however I would be totally wrong in not relaying what I witnessed with my own eyes and my own ears. The one thing that will haunt me for the rest of my dying days. Indeed, I've weighed the writing of this for some long time now, only marking off some blank pages in this book, writing around them, to see if I ever really wished to come back and fill them with the truth or not. I've decided I should as I look back and see I've left Melantha's story unfinished.

If you read all of my annals, you'd know that I've dotted my journal with mentions of Melantha, some being small, some larger. The last I put down, other than some oddities that occurred to me over time, was talk of demons at Isfahan's sacking and talk of Tamerlane's excursions being disguised attempts to find Melantha. Surprisingly, the predictions of Wart seemed correct for after Tamerlane's excursions into India he came back to this region and plundered about all the way into the western part of Anatolia to the very frontiers of the Byzantine Empire. Even attacking his fellow Ottoman's just as he attacked his fellow Golden Horde the last time he was in the region. Then just as Wart claimed he would he prepped the ground for a strike against the Ming in China but is said to have died on his way. Whether or not his real intent was to subjugate China before going after this Gnat, Wong to find Melantha at the farthest edges of the world or not is not central to what I have to relate.

It was in the second week during our hold over in Tarnovo that my occasional flirting about with the locals brought me in contact with some Roma. As I've spoken with many Roma over the years and have gained some knowledge of their customs and ways, it was easy for me to be somewhat accepted and as always I told the stories of Melantha to any that might listen in hopes that they might have heard or seen such a woman. This time, I was again invited to see an Oracle, just as I had some twenty-five years before and was told that she was close by.

As you know, I'm not one that takes much stalk in soothsayers and fortunetellers, however, this time, I relented more out of boredom than anything else even if I was still holding on to some shred of hope that I might learn something about Melantha. There was a fee imposed and it seemed much, but we had plenty of coin with us and so arrangements were made to take me, Halime and five of our retainers, Halime's eldest son being one, up into the Mountains to see this Oracle the very next day.

The journey was by horse and later foot, lasting most the day and though I figured they'd take us to some old stone temple up in the hills it ended up being a cave. There was argument between our guides and the Oracles' keepers at first for even bringing us to this place, but I put it down to being more of a show to heighten our sense of experience and get more coin from us which of course both happened before we were allowed in.

Eventually, though they did take us in, just myself, Halime and her son, and I was rather expecting some fancy sort of fare inside, like splendid carpets and statues, or trinkets or any sort of glamour but there was none. It was more like a simple home for the couple and their family that kept the Oracle. Oil lamps left atop ledges provided what light there was. It was plain that the Oracle was not kept here. We were asked to sit for a while, and drinks and some food were prepared as we waited. As we did, more drink was prepared and brought back to the Oracle as we were told so she could make herself ready to speak with us.

Apparently she was kept further back in one of the deeper chambers of the cave and we'd be allowed to go back there shortly once she was ready. In the meantime, we were given simple rules on how to speak to the Oracle and told that the Oracle would at times move among us so that it could ascertain the answers that we sought but to be not afraid as the keepers would be there to subdue the Oracle if the need aroused.

When the time finally came, we were each given a small rug on which to sit to bring back with us. They then led us down a narrow winding passageway that eventually opened into a larger chamber. A single oil lamp far across the chamber was lit. A woman's shadowy figure was there, her back to us as it looked as if she was combing her hair in front of a small mirror as it cast some of the light from the oil lamp back to us. We were allowed to set our mats on the floor while more lamps were lit around us and the guide went to the girl, unlocked the woman’s chains and then returned. Between the one lamp on the far side of the cavern and the glow of our lamps, there was still a wide gulf of darkness. A pitcher of drink and a plate of sweetmeats and figs were set down for us as we waited once again for this woman to come speak to us.

"She comes when she's ready…" One of the keepers told us as he sat by the entrance of the chamber.

Moments later the figure on the far side of the chamber looked over her shoulder in our direction. Then she reached out and snuffed her light.

"Patience". The keeper's woman said in a whisper and then added "she comes on all fours."

Indeed, the woman was crawling on her hands and knees but went no farther than just outside our circle of light where she began to crawl from one side to the other as her shadowy figure looked in at us from varying positions.

"Do not pity me Besh. Nor you Halime." the woman's first words and they caused my heart to thud in my chest. "Cannias's torments are forever cruel, but mine might someday end once my redheaded sister is found again," She said with a sweet wispy young voice that I'd not heard for all of twenty-five or more years.

"Melantha?" I called distressed but was hushed right away by the dark apparition that finally ceased her crawling and sat kneeling still just outside the pool of light so that her face and body were still quite shadowy as she swayed to and fro hushing me to be quiet. Then she began to crawl out of the dark, crawling straight for me as she lifted her head.

"Shhhhh… the witches still search for you in your cave and me in mine. They know that Besh never forgets,“ the young girl said for that’s what she was, as young as I when I first knew her. I leapt at her as did Halime, both of us seeing that this young haggard sad girl with the dark rings under her eyes was our very own Melantha. The very same one that we knew so long ago, each from our own harem, but the embrace was short lived as the keepers cursed and called others in to help separate us and dragged all three of us away while Melantha was driven back to the dark shadows of her keep. Even as Melantha cried out, "You let her know who I was Besh! Hide so you can tell her, so she believes, and tell her too that Master loves me still!".

The rest went by like a nightmare. We were driven out of the cave, and taken by force back down through the rocky trails, and none would listen to our complaint. Nor did they care for our threats to return and return we did the very next day, with all our own men and a company of hired soldiers too. But the cave was empty, they were gone. And though we searched far we could find no trace of where to.

If it weren't for our need to continue our journey to the west, we would have scoured those craggy hills for as long as it took. But Halime's son would have nothing of it after the third day of search having learned the passageway to Belgrade was again secure for an unspecified time, so we were again on our way having seen that Melantha was indeed very much alive and as youthful as the days when Halime and I both knew her. To this day, I still don’t understand the how or the why of it, nor can I fathom what it is that Melantha meant by the things she said. But I write them here because they were said.

~Besh.

[[ When returning the book for the very last time Karla asks the librarian if she could look at the charge slip that’s been used to get the book. It’s old, very old, but not near as old as the book itself and there are three names on the card she recognizes. One is from the woman that wrote the story in the travel magazine that led Karla here. It’s dated 1906 with the word ‘credentialed’ after the name, just like with her own. The two others are writ thus:

Cytheria, May 12th, 1908 Request denied insufficient credentials.

Chole, December 15th, 1909 Request denied false credentials. ]]


~sfe

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