There was a tale. A tale of war, loss, love and hope. A tale of times past and present. A tale set in a place nowhere and everywhere. The tale of Tanya and Arim.
They were the firmest of friends, running around the town on imaginary quests, despite repeated scoldings. Up the blue stone steps to save the maiden from the wicked sorcerer, across the bridge to face the fierce dragon, through the temple’s courtyard to safeguard their hard-won treasure.
Not many were surprised that they fell in love. “The amount of time they spend in the other’s company or in talking about them was a good indicator,” a neighbour had scoffed, as she saw them walk hand-in-hand to the town square.
But fate soon tested their love through times of turmoil brought by war. The bridge connecting the two neighbouring states, had been a contentious issue between them for long. Obfuscate in its origin, both states had laid claim to it when it came to demarcating their boundaries. Before their militarily stronger neighbour could threaten them through their show of might, the larger state occupied the bridge and its adjacent village.
Later, history would show this as the start of a long drawn, bitter feud between two states-turned-nations that would sow much discord and distress across their region.
A call to arms saw young lads sent to the front-lines, thrust into the world of bloodshed and death. So many souls lost their humanity as they were made to carry the weight of the world; their leaders braying for more blood in the name of honour, glory and richness. Tanya saw her dream of a peaceful life evanescent as Arim, like all the others, was drafted as a soldier of the state. As the months passed, it became difficult to keep faith in love and hope for their eventual reunion, as the ravaging effects of war cast its deep shadows. So many rendered homeless, crops burnt and markets looted. The dance of death, accompanied by pain, anger and fear.
Through it all, Kidze the hound-dog kept her company. He became more than just a pet; he was the other soul to softly breathe next to her in their barren dwelling, a warm presence at night when the cold claws of uncertainty gripped her tight, a source of smile with his goofy antics, a protector when those in the haze of madness came to attack her for scraps of bread. She often stood at the roof, gazing at the stars for hours on end, wondering if he too, stood underneath this cosmic umbrella. Would there ever be a break in these relentless battles? Would he come home to her? She prayed to the patron Gods and Goddesses of their clan for his return, but felt that her prayers remained unanswered.
As seasons changed and the war dragged on, sluggish in its pace, she felt her patience straining thin.
One day, news came of a group of soldiers being ambushed by the enemy and captured. Whether they were alive or not was withheld from the public, most of whom were either fleeing the state or starting to show signs of ‘non-cooperation’. Tanya felt her heart break, had she lost him forever? But by securing the aid of a foreign nation with vested interest, they not only managed to bring back the prisoners but triumph over their enemy.
But it was a turn of the season before Tanya saw him again. She’d mentally sketched their meet; she would come running to his arms and soothe him in the balm of her love. But she had underestimated the toll wrecked by the carnage, in the minds of these defenders. The verecund, empathetic and determined boy Arim had been, was replaced by a man haunted by his dreams, burning in the flames of rage and hate; clinging to the rope that had been gifted to them by the state. Well, this black rope had not only served to bind all these men at the front, but also became the means by which many cut-off their own futures.
Standing beside the cot of her wounded soldier, Kidze by her side; Tanya vowed to heal her love no matter how long it took her. Not only from the horrors of war, but his hidden demons as well.
There is no mention of how their tale concluded; whether it ended in happiness or pain. But I choose to believe in the former. For in the end, hate had to bow down before love.
For Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Wordle #200. Out of a list of 20, we could use any 15. But I used all of them.