Mingma Choekyi Zimba Tamang
Sparks of piercing hot flames are regurgitated on the cracked grounds. Spouting blood infuses into the vermillion sky and the thunderous ocean whips mighty waves in burning agony. The intense fire gnaws open terrified faces as they fall limply on the ground, their conscience wiped away forever. The clouds are oppressive and makes one feel leaden and intense horror swell in their fragile chest. The air that solemnly veils its deathly surroundings possesses an eltridge stillness as though it is aware of the arising pandemonium. Leaves clinging miserably on charred tree trunks crumble hopelessly into ash and wither into nothingness. Earth is like a humongous incinerator, wrecking havoc and bringing the downfall of life alongside morals which were once believed to hold tremendous importance. It contains no remorse within itself as it irrevocably brings the tragic end to the possibility of life ever thriving again. However, this is only partially true.
Round fly-like objects glide a thousand feet in the roaring sky, and manic laughter fills the ears of the suffering few who remain. The Poderosos, a sadistic and unruly group of the elite had already conjured a concrete method of their escape to Saturn’s moon Titan, when the abolishment of Earth was sure to take place. Blinded by greed and swelling pride, they are ravaging predators who seek nothing but to glut on the misery of inferior beings. Darkness shadows their eyes as they squint it in malevolence, clapping their hands in extreme pleasure. The back of their sinister minds replaying their malicious agenda as though it were a destroyed tape recorder.
“Clusters of minute stars remain encapsulated in the grip of the dense, noxious sky as the blistered arms of the gargantuan squid slap harshly the dreary ocean. I cannot see further from the hole carved into my suit, neither can I burst out flying towards the grim shadow of Saturn like an insignificant comet. Rage and dispute trembles within these throbbing hands of mine with which I desire to gnash out the faces of these invaders. They stand rigidly with weapons of extreme strength, prepared to strike any of us who are in disagreement. They have taken the land of Titan from us for a decade now and ever since, the temple remains vacant and our land barren. I have shut my eyes so that my view is only of a blank outstretched darkness, similar to how I feel currently. Empty.”
With a tiny dot and a sigh of exasperation, Lyika penned down these words in a sheet-like tablet and slowly removed the foot-long metallic shawl from his face. The people of Titan had worn this suit for many centuries and were required to wear it, as it was a symbol of resilience and strength. It made them look like silvery cicadas, with intricate patterns and vents punctured near the regions of their mouth and nose.
Dark hollows had begun to appear below the eyes of the twenty year old revolutionist and the gaunt face from his childhood had been replaced by a certain stubbornness. His house now derelict with peeling yellow colour and rusted iron walls, inhabited three occupants: Lyika, his mother Osha and sister Nova.
His father who had protested against human colonisation of their kingdom had faced a tragic outcome, for a fragment of his skull had been used to slit the shockingly indifferent Osha’s wrists.
Lyika who was now drenched in perspiration poured himself a tall jar of a Strengthening Concoction. With the consistency of sloppy muck and drenched leaves bubbling at the surface, it was brewed by Osha daily and kept with utmost care in the top shelf of their rusted cabinet. A herb called Rubram auxilium, which was the most crucial ingredient required for the concoction, sprouted from the rocky hills of Titan. The villagers seldom were allowed to pluck them without approval these days.
The concoction instantly pulsated energy in Lyika as he was now fully alert. He moved towards an archaic periscope with motifs, which penetrated through the iridium roof. It had a grimy lens reflecting the light from the lamp overhead.
“Mother, I will keep vigil on the soldiers in case they plunder.”
Osha, a withering yet sturdy woman, pensively gazed at her son. She too wore the same metallic suit, except hers ended at ankle length and had pockets which seemingly held dangerous weapons.
Smiling at him lovingly, she spoke, “Then you must guard us with sincerity, Lyika, while Nova and I take rest.”
Nova had been fast asleep by the hearth where Osha too settled. As a sweet slumber unhinged the mother and daughter from recurring nightmares and the consistent foreboding of being killed, Lyika’s face underwent transformation to resemble his father’s.
Crunching, yet distant footsteps were approaching the house. Lyika peered through the periscope with utmost concentration, but when he could not spot a single figure approaching, a tune of nostalgia tinkered in his mind.
Titan was a haven to mythical creatures, expanding gardens with blossoming flowers and a grand temple that nourished the villagers with piles of glistening treasures. At nightfall, the mighty Saturn would be prominent with its rings rotating in synchronised harmony. Animals would leap in the green pastures and phoenixes soared in the brilliantly teal sky. Now however, the past felt like a dubious mirage.
The sky was tainted by ethane clouds, the lakes were uninhabitable, humongous rocks replaced the frosted mountains. Sirens had built a colony in the oceans alongside the mighty Kraken which fed on living beings from the dismal abyss. The riches from the temples upon the slightest touch would transform into iron pyrite, and the eyes of the majestic Gods who stood elevated above them all were shut close.
This unpleasant contemplation faded like soaring mist as Lyika caught sight of two figures approaching the door. Eyeing his sword and the lens simultaneously, he prepared himself to fight. They were lanky humanoids, who unlike the Titans, wore no shawl made of metal. They were instead draped in leaves, innumerable roots replaced their arms and tree branches were sculpted into horns on top of their wan heads. Lyika at once recognised them as the forest spirits, Leshy.
The Leshy protected the forests from hunters and were harmless until provoked. Silently watching them, several minutes passed before the pair of Leshiye apathetically walked away. Sighing in relief, Lyika slipped into a melancholic reverie once more…
An astrologer had prophesied about a misfortune that was bound to hold grief captive in the hearts of the villagers. The same day a violent thunder had struck a rock neatly in half, and two symbols had been carved into them each. When placed adjacent to one another, they resembled the letter ‘S’ with a striking arrow at the centre, pointing down viciously. It had not been the first time Lyika had spotted the symbol… where else was it drawn?
As Lyika drowned into the depths of perplexity, he found himself clutching the air for answers that were not feasible to get a sturdy grip of. No longer able to withstand the extremity of the throbbing pain in his head, he negligently fell asleep.
The transient peace was soon disrupted by echoes of harsh bangs at their door. Osha already seemed to be awake as she clutched a small bag tightly in her grip. Lyika looked into the lens and to his horror, discovered the same pair of Leshiye hitting the door with a large tree stump.
“It’s alright. Protect Nova while I offer them some of my herbs.”
As Lyika crouched beside Nova to shield her, Osha gently walked to the door and opened it with a smile. Extending a handful of herbs and tubes of concoctions from her bag, she spoke in an odd language. The Leshiye nodded comically, accepted her offer and trailed away slowly.
“They shall not arrive back here for a good five months. I have provided too many essential medicinal plants to them. Anyways, you must take rest son. You look exhausted.”
As Lyika crippled to the hearth and shut his eyes close, something struck him like flashing light. The symbols had been drawn onto the bag that Osha had just held momentarily.
Slate-coloured light spilled through the tiny windows of the kitchen as Osha and Lyika huddled close together on the dust laden floor. Nova had gone to fulfill her duty of guarding her family. Upon an upsurge of temptation of getting disclosure on this long awaited mystery, Lyika jabbed a question at his mother.
“Mother, what do the symbols on your bag mean?”
Osha at first seemed taken aback by the suddenness in this question but slowly desolation shadowed her handsome features.
“I’m not sure how safe it is for me to tell you”, she spoke tersely.
“Please reveal it to me mother, I have been wanting to know this for very long”, Lyika requested with emerging desperation.
With a tense sigh and not meeting his eyes, Osha began mumbling a story:
“It is an ancient symbol which indicates courage and integrity, son. It can be found in the statue of Janus, the God of time and space. The astrologer revealed to us villagers several years ago about a looming colonisation and how our home in Titan would be snatched away by the arrival of a great nemesis. He also spoke of how we could only break free from their capture with the completion of...certain tasks.”
Her voice broke off and she seemed to be in deep alarm of how the information she had managed to hide for so long was now being divulged.
“What type of tasks?”, Lyika questioned with fury burning in his eyes. He was most certainly thinking of the Poderosos and how Titans had lived far too long in their oppressive grip.
“I can’t disclose that son.”
“You need to tell me mother.”
Once again, Osha was forced to unravel secrets that would result her in grave danger, but she marvelled at her son and spoke with a determined voice,
“The first task is to derive a piece of a Leshy’s horn only after they permit and place them into the cavity found in the statue of the Goddess Ceres. The second, swim into the depths of the ocean to extract ink from the mighty Kraken and pour it on the statue of Neptune’s feet. Third, aid a dying being and wipe its blood on the hands of Aeolus. Finally, sacrifice your most powerful sword after the completion of all tasks by pouring the molten metal into a hole found in the sword of Vulcan’s statue. When all shall be successfully carried out, life shall bloom again in Titan and the enemies banished.”
As shock and fear mingled inside Lyika, he spoke indignantly.
“But why hasn’t anybody been able to accomplish these tasks Mother?”
Osha now zealously recited to him, “Only someone with great desire to overthrow the enemy will be successful in completing these arduous tasks. With great strength and ferocious determination, they must raise the Gods of the five elements so that life can begin once more in Titan.”
Blood pumped through Lyika’s veins and flushed his face so that he looked feverish. He walked around the room in circles, as his expression transitioned from hopeful to petrified to determined. As the morning wore by and dwindled, he walked stiffly to a small room that functioned as a warehouse for weapons and arrived with an ovoid bag that was noticeably packed.
“I shall undertake difficult challenges in completing the tasks, Mother. Wait for me while I am gone.”
Lucid tears trickled slowly down and touted Osha’s cheeks. She seemed anxious for a rare moment until she spoke.
“I shall wait for your safe return. Meanwhile you shall do these tasks successfully and without a trace of harm, because it is part of the prophecy. You will bring life and light back here, after all you are Lyika: revolution.”
Sharing a brief moment gazing at each other, the mother and son lovingly embraced one another as Lyika prepared for departure. There was no further questioning as he had emphatically chosen to take on this journey. He desperately longed for the awakening of the Gods and Titan to return to its bustling and beautiful state. Lyika, who was absorbed in a whirlpool of questions , jostled back into reality and finally set out for a marvellous chronicle.
Beyond rocky hills, a building was sited near the rich lakes of Titan from which petroleum was hungrily being plunged out by monstrous machines. A plump man with a bushy moustache and thick glasses laughed. He groped inside the pocket of his suit with a large hand bedazzled with rings, and conjured a spherical object. It was surprisingly a watch, except there was the symbol ‘S’ with an arrow surrounding the acicular needles. It did not tick, but rather fell ominously silent as the man jabbed a penetrating stare at it. In infuriation, he flung the watch on his pristine floor and gaped at the marble tiles shattering into minuscule mosaic pieces. Amazed by its great strength, he lifted and examined it carefully like a mother nestling her newborn. Except there was no genuine care he felt towards the watch, for the man simply desired power.
Mammon Hedge was the only remaining member of the Poderosos. The others had been murdered upon the brutal orders he had given to his ferocious soldiers. Although it was easy to note that he was physically incapable of fighting ruthlessly himself, the power he had from exploiting Titan’s prestigious lake and the hidden treasures from the temple sufficed him. He had been planning for several months to demolish the temple to replace the Gods as the kingdom’s new ruler...
While Hedge was entangled in his greedy thoughts, Lyika moved past a neat alignment of trees and was preparing to enter the forest. The forest was only a small square piece of land which too was, slowly destructing itself due to Titan’s degenerating atmosphere. They were not wiped out yet to preserve the Leshiye from whom Hedge collected large amounts of herbs for brewing concoctions.
As Lyika skidded down a slope, he finally arrived where the Leshiye resided. He was drenched in mud but remained successfully unscathed. He looked in several directions although there was no presence of any Leshy. The silence was corrupted by the perfervid and shrill odes sung by crickets. Just as Lyika turned around dispiritedly, a Leshy ran towards him. Upon recognising him from the night before, it stopped and merely glanced. Lyika began explaining how he wanted a small twig from the Leshy's horn, which the Leshy seemed to understand. It gently snapped a piece of it and placed it warmly in his hand. After thanking and bidding farewell to the Leshy, Lyika found intense triumph inflaming his chest, until the weight of the bag burdened his shoulders and soon he found himself tremendously exhausted from the journey.
He sat under a limp tree and coalesced amongst the orange hue of the sky. Just as he was pulling out a tall flask of a Re-Energising Draught, a familiar figure caught his sight. She stood erect and flung a sword over her upright shoulders. As Lyika drew close to her, he found himself facing a handsome and sturdy face that looked strikingly like his own.
“Nova?” he asked, bedazzled. Lyika was least expectant of crossing paths with his sister.
“Mother informed me of your journey. How much have you accomplished so far?”, Nova looked concerned yet proud of her younger brother. She was as tall as him and had the same strength possessed by her mother.
“I have managed to acquire a Leshy’s horn. Now I must swim into the abyss to extract ink from the Kraken.”
“That will not be easily done. I must accompany you, Lyika.”
“Nova, it's too dangerous, I cannot risk taking you along with me. Mother is quite alone and in case, I...don’t survive, you have to support her.”
“We haven’t got much time for an argument as silly as such. While I was monitoring the headquarters, I eavesdropped that Hedge is planning to begin his regime from tomorrow. We must finish this until daylight strikes.”
As Lyika absorbed this menacing information, anger fuelled inside him. He had to bring an end to this all by tomorrow, or his people would have to suffer under Hedge’s dominion.
“Let’s begin this journey together then.”
As the duo briskly climbed hills and crossed the barren lands, they finally arrived at a cliff that overviewed the lacklustre ocean. Waves of immense size whipped the surfaces which gave a putrid smell shortly after. The ocean had a tinge of amber but apart from it, it was dull, holding perilous creatures captive in its pitch black shadow. Both Lyika and Nova lifted the heavy shawls from their heads in synchronised timing, and flung their dense boots into the solemn air. They took final sips from the Strengthening Concoction and herbal juices which would provide them with the ability to breath, have clear sight and communicate underwater. Lyika’s chest was pumping in fear, causing him to feel a rush of coldness all over his numb body. A tight grip held his arm, and at once he knew they had to jump.
“We must do it now, alright?”, Nova looked determined. “Before Hedge has the chance of destroying our kingdom further.”
They held their breath and made a direct jump into the dismal ocean. At once, an icy rush filled them and extreme pressure began jabbing their chests harshly. Diving further down, they made their way past a gigantic hollow at the centre. A blinding light was pouring from within the hollow and it looked astonishly bright inside. The water too was a light aquamarine with fishes swimming joyously. A large stingray too swam past Lyika’s eyes, which looked oddly amiable. As they made their way deeper into the hollow, they noticed a rumbling city underneath. Tall and ancient buildings were gleaming like glittering jewels. They were constructed with fine marble, surrounded by vibrant coral reefs. A hundred feet away, a creature of vast size and vigour reclined on a towering throne, with colossal tentacles protruding from its sides. It looked ancient and held the sincere look of experience in its bulbous eyes. Bubbles erupted from its wide mouth as it smiled affectionately at its bewildered visitors. It was no other than the feared Kraken.
Lyika, who was unable to conjure proper sentences as a result of these surprising series of events, watched the Kraken with utmost disbelief. All his life, he had heard tales of the Kraken being deemed as a malevolent creature who stealthily drowned ships and devoured sailors from the abyss. His perception changed drastically as he came to face the ‘monster’ with his own nonplussed eyes. Nova too seemed stupefied at the sight in front of her, and eyed Lyika every few seconds for confirmation.
“We must request the mighty Kraken for lending us his ink, Lyika”, Nova spoke after several minutes had passed.
Suddenly this lit a gut-wrenching pain within Lyika as he remembered the task he had swam so rigorously for.
“How must we do it?”, Lyika questioned, bemused and unaware.
The Kraken seemed to understand what they were saying and chuckled softly at them, large wrinkles getting indented near its now crescent-shaped eyes.
“I can easily offer you my ink, it will be a minor waste for me. However, you must inform me of your true desire for it, and I shall only grant it to you if it is essential”, the Kraken growled these sentences, causing both Lyika and Nova to watch him in awe.
Lacking time, Lyika swiftly recited about their mission and how their kingdom would soon be controlled by a tyrannical ruler if they were to fail in the given moment. Acknowledging his words and looking gravely affected, the Kraken agreed. Lyika took a large glass bottle from his pocket and gently, yet firmly placed it on the ink sac. The Kraken prepared itself and contracted its body, and as it did so a vial of fresh, jet black ink filled the bottle to its brim. Shutting the lid hastily and pocketing the glass bottle full with the ink, Lyika and Nova bowed low to thank the Kraken for its help. The Kraken smiled and bid them farewell.
As they swam all the way up to the shore, they found a nestled group of undesirable guests waiting for them. They were pale and greenish sirens with pointed ears and a long scaly, tail continuing from below their pelvis. Before they could fill Lyika and Nova’s ears with their fatal song, they shut their ears close and made a way to escape. Just when, one of them clutched Nova’s arm with immense power and tried to pull her towards itself. Lyika held her tightly and as the force built from either side, the muscles in Nova’s arm ripped apart. Hot, crimson blood spouted from her arm and started drenching the rocky shore. The sirens, afraid of retaliation, dived back quickly into the ocean. Unaware of what to do, Lyika hoisted his sister on his strained back and carried her to the top of the cliff. As soon as they reached, Lyika scrambled past the bottles of juice and concoctions and finally found the medicinal balm which would heal wounds instantly. Life was dimming away from Nova’s chalk-white face, causing Lyika to panic. As he rubbed the balm with tears trickling down his petrified face, he noticed that Nova was healing again.
“Lyika...quic..quick...take my blood. You...need it for...the task.”
Nodding, he withdrew a tiny, empty bottle and took a vial of her blood. In an instance, the bleeding seemed to stop and Nova seemed to look better. He gave her a sip of herbal fluids and concoctions, and found her sitting upright once more.
“I was worried you were going to die”, Lyika began sobbing on his sister’s arms and found themselves embracing each other tightly.
“It’s only the sword that’s left.”
Recalling the final task waiting to be accomplished, they stood up and collected their bags to continue their journey to the temple. It was already nighttime, as Saturn was clearly visible in the dim sky. They didn’t have much time left on their hands. Had they spent so many precious hours in the ocean? It had only felt like a few moments…
The pair were running now, panting heavily, their legs in continual motion. When they reached the village again, they covered their faces with the shawls and began walking at a slow pace. The soldiers were eyeing them suspiciously. At last, they stood in front of the majestic temple. The temple was pristine, with a grand golden stairway that led to its resplendent interior. Drained by the exhaustion and a painful ache drumming their muscles, it seemed a great challenge to climb the flight of stairs. As their heavy boots clicked with finality, they found themselves directly facing the monumental statues of the Gods; their eyes shut close.
In the far left stood a tall and beautiful statue of Ceres, the Goddess of agriculture, fertility and harvest. Following her, stood the powerful and thunderous statue of Neptune, the God of freshwater and the sea. In the extreme right stood the resilient statue of Aeolus, God of the winds, and beside him was the raging Vulcan, the God of fire. At the centre, stood a prominent and two-headed statue of Janus, God of beginnings, gates and endings.
The temple had large hearths from where fire was erupting and crackling. Lyika held the most powerful sword which he had for many years now, and began melting it in the blazing fire. As the molten iron dripped into the fire, it enlarged and began glowering wildly. Promptly, Lyika filled a small jar with it. When the sword had banished into molten metal and enlarged the fire to make the room sweltering hot, Lyika breathed in relief as the tasks were over at last.
Having no time to spare he did as he was instructed by Osha. Lyika noticed a small circular cavity in Ceres’ abdomen and placed the Leshy horn. He drew the bottle of ink from his pocket and poured it on Neptune’s feet. He then poured Nova’s blood in his hands and wiped it on the hands of Aeolus. Finally, Lyika found a hole in Vulcan’s sword, where he poured the molten metal from his most powerful sword. Expecting something to happen, Lyika waited eagerly, yet a bitter indifference greeted his effort. Panic and vexation filled him as he wondered what could have gone wrong. Then Nova spoke miserably.
“It is almost until daylight strikes us Lyika. The hole in Janus’ hands which held a watch has been stolen. The Gods will not be awoken without it.”
Disappointment slapped Lyika across the face tightly. Why hadn’t Osha informed him about the final task? Desperation wrenched inside him, making him droop down hopelessly under Janus’ statue. Nova too, looked anxious and continuously tapped her feet on the sardonic dazzling marble floor. Time elapsed and the pair had still not found a solution. They hadn’t had time to look at one another’s glum faces.
Just as Lyika was about to speak, his voice was drowned out by gunshots getting fired rapidly from the stairway. It was intensifying and reverberating the empty temple, as banging footsteps were drawing closer and closer. Struggling to run away in time, Lyika and Nova stood still and drew out weapons from their bags each. A horrible sight greeted them, causing both of them to feel intensely nauseous.
It was no other than Mammon Hedge wearing a heavy, emerald green cloak, led by an army of his soldiers. He watched Lyika and Nova and gave a terrifying, hearty laugh, but as just when he caught sight of what they were up to, wrath splashed across his greedy, loathsome face.
“FIRE”, he bellowed to his soldiers who began shooting incessantly.
Lyika splattered a huge herbal ball on the floor, which exploded the tiles into minute shards. Nova on the other hand, striked the faces of three soldiers at once with her acicular sword. The pair battled against them furiously and valiantly, just until all the soldiers had dropped dead on the floor; leaving Hedge to stand in the centre with a look of horror.
It was soon shielded by pretentious bravery as he held out a black, circular watch in the still air. Lyika burned with fury and jumped at Hedge with his sword, just when Hedge drew out a powerful shotgun from the inner pocket of his cloak. He fired them at Lyika, who successfully rolled over to the side. Hedge was laughing like a maniac, hungrily looking at his vulnerable prey. Sun rays were surging into the dingy temple, which imparted Hedge with paramount pleasure as he was finally going to rule Titan!
“A frail and foolish boy like you will not prevent me from ruling the kingdom of Titan! You must die now. DIE!”
Just as Hedge was about to shoot Lyika, Nova had stabbed him from the back with a slender, glinting blade. Warm streak of blood gushed out from his back as Hedge fell back silently, unable to utter words in the extremity of the pain. As a result of his falling, he had dropped the watch under Lyika’s feet. When Lyika clutched it and made his way to Janus’ statue, a massive hand gripped his ankle tightly.
Hedge who was in a frail state, let go of Lyika’s ankle as he pulled it away harshly. Running away swiftly, the shiny and enormously powerful watch was finally inserted into a hole in Janus’ chest. At once, blinding white light flashed before Lyika and Nova’s eyes as the clamorous ringing of bells and gongs shook Titan. The light seemed to dim away slowly and when it was safe to open their eyes, Lyika and Nova saw in bewilderment, the Gods had woken awake. The statues had transformed into tangible beings, although they gleamed incandescently and had powers that no mortals exhibited. They were rising and soaring through the high ceiling, each displaying their individual powers.
Ceres moved her nurturing hands in circular motions and shot them through the doors of the temple into the barren lands of Titan. At once, the rocky hills were replaced by snowy mountains and hills, the forest was enlarging and looked luscious once more with innumerable trees and finally, birds and beasts were resurrected from their decomposing carcasses.
Neptune’s eyes were ferocious and he constricted his hands tightly as he too catapult his powers to Titan. At once, the dismal ocean turned cerulean with sunlight glittering on its surface, and glaciers were melting to generate beautiful lakes and water bodies.
Aeolus blew air harshly which caused the dense, orange hue of the sky to transform into a striking teal blue with fluffy puffs of clouds. The plants and animals woken by Ceres were thriving and the dusty grounds were replaced instantaneously by green pasture.
Vulcan striked thunder into the sky and at once warmth filled the souls of the frightened villagers who had been yearning for freedom for over a decade long.
Finally Janus’ heads, each facing different directions bellowed and time came into existence in Titan once more. This filled everyone with a pleasant feeling that each day was going to be more beautiful than the one before; unlike when Hedge ruled where everyday had the same shivers of misery running through it.
As Lyika and Nova smiled at each other in gratification, they recognised a familiar face running towards them from the stairs. It was not other than Osha, their mother who was now tear-streaked and roared in ecstasy. She embraced them each tightly and said, “Your father would be really happy to enjoy this sight. You have made him proud, Lyika and Nova. This day shall never be forgotten!”
Life was thriving in Titan and their beloved kingdom had returned to its captivating, majestic state once more. The villagers cherished Lyika, Nova and Osha, and the Gods too bestowed them with a glittering pile of riches and blessings. Meanwhile, a tiny frog leaped into a large lily pod and inspired the fresh aroma of the flowers sprouting near the crystal lake, and magical phoenixes with scarlet and golden feathers zoomed loftily above.