The men started walking inside to explore that great mysterious place. Ta’eh examined the rode ahead of the them and found it long, easy and lays in the middle between the houses and farms.
There first stop was a small yet crowded wooden hut. A woman sat at the entrance and she appeared to be cooking dinner as half a dozen children ran around her.
A few feet from them stood her husband who had his gaze focused on a large palace next to them. Qaher pulled his friend’s arm who stood watching the scene, trying to understand it.
Their next stop was a large and beautiful palace. At its highest balcony stood the fairest and most charming woman in the area.
She looked down at the small hut with a sad look haunting her angelic face.
The scene was sad and depressing and he thought the won’t see a more troubling sight. He started walking away as his young heart couldn’t bare the beautiful woman’s sadness.
Qaher then stopped “This path is safe, walk down between the houses and don’t interfere.” He said before hopping on a horse next to them “I will meet you at the end”.
He bolted away before Ta’eh could reply.
He tried to run behind his friend before he was stopped by a sobbing man.
The man laid at the side of the road, his cart smashed into a tree, his horse to seemed to have ran away and his injuries are quite clear and not easy on the eye.
“Do you need any help?” he asked the weeping man “I ha…ha…had an accident” the man replied in a breaking voice between the flowing tears.
“Bandits surprised me so my horse started running faster than I could control it.
My cart smashed and I slanged into the tree.” The man laid down sobbing like a baby. Ta’eh asked to help the man but he was met with a push.
“It is unfair, I did everything I can, it unfair, unfair…” he the continued sobbing. Ta’eh remembered his friend’s piece of advice so he started walking away.
He walked by more trees before stopping to see another accident. This time a small tree has fallen onto a young woman to trap her beneath it.
Somehow the woman wasn’t badly injured but she couldn’t lift the heavy tree above it. “Sir please…ma’am..
sir…people help” she shouted at the passersby who just came over to pat her on the shoulder and admired her courage.
Before Ta’eh could reach her the woman said “Fine, I will do it” and she let out a huge roar mixed with a cry of pain. The woman was finally able to push away the log that was twice her size.
She stood up, looked at everyone with disappointment and walked away.
“This road is too disturbing” he said as he proceeded to the next display. A huge fighting arena that was surrounded by a huge crowd. The fighters were divided into two teams.
The first team was of less than average warriors who were equipped with finest of armors and weapons. The other team was almost the opposite.
The warriors were stronger but their equipment was poorer. One warrior from each side was to walk and duel his opposite.
Ta’eh stood to watch, he thought he would give himself a break through this spectacle. However, the fights were very boring he started questioning the crowd.
But what gave him even more questions were the duels themselves.
The first duel ended with a victory for the thin well equipped man. He only blew a few strikes at his opponent who stood watching and waiting his demise. The second duel was quite the opposite.
The poorly equipped man knocked down his opponent before that opponent could raise his arm above his shoulder. The other fights didn’t have any other outcome or scenario than the two he saw.
After a while got bored and decided to leave. He wanted to investigate the thudding noises he heard while watching the dull duels.
The noise came from the other side were a long race track stretched for miles ahead. He saw men and women at the start line carrying weights relative to their sizes.
They started running after the horn was sounded. Small children lines up between the lanes.
Their task seemed to be pulling down the weights on the runners’ shoulders in order to bring them down. “This looks like fun” he said before joining the spectators.
“If they dared to stop, the will surely lose” he then continued as he noticed one competitor stopping to catch his breath and the children around him brought him down to the ground.
Other competitors started running faster at the scene of the fallen man but others slowly started giving up.
Ta’eh followed the race ahead and watched the different behaviors of the people in the race.
Some gave up, some didn’t but were brought down none the less and some were like a crushing raging ocean against helpless rocks. The crowd cheered for the winners and booed the losers.
He had his eye on the winners before a loud cry was heard from behind. A woman who fell among the first started getting up and pushing away the children.
She then bolted to reach the others at the front. “Ha..How? That was too fast? How?!” he asked himself before he continued “Know what? I won’t question anything. I am tired. I am off to the tree”
The racetrack was the last stop before another open road but this time, nothing was on its sides. As he walked closer, a fowl stench creeped its way through his lungs.
He looked around to see where it came from but with no luck. His tired legs carried him towards his near destination. With ever step, the stench grew stronger and fowler.
He got closer to try an understand what he saw. The tree wasn’t on the ground, not directly anyway, its roots lifted it a few meters high and a large infernal pit was below it.
Right in the middle, a long stairway led to a throne in the middle of the tree, way above the inferno.
The crowds gathered around weren’t just standing, admiring the great tree, they were actually running into the inferno in between the roots.
“So this is where the stench is coming from” he said to himself before he froze in his place. For his eyes have travelled high to see the person sitting on the throne. “It is her….
” He said as his eyebrows crossed, anger started filling his heart.
“What is she doing to them?! What i…” he couldn’t continue his second question before he saw her holding a statue of baby and kissing its forehead. The statue started moving and let out cries.
She then handed the baby to two humans standing next to her. She turned to the side and held few statues of birds and breathed onto their beaks which became alive in a flash.
She looked down to see our friend gazing, wondering, angry and curious.
She descended down, but not for his sake as he thought but to shout at the few winners from the arena and the race who were walking away from her.
“Wait please! I can explain! Please wait?!” she said as she ran across Ta’eh. He turned around to see Qaher sitting a few feet from him on a log.
He lit his pipe and watched Ta’eh, the woman and the crowds like a teacher looks at his student in a test.
The woman ran back sobbing and broke down between the two men.
“IT IS YOU! YOU WERE AT THE ENTRACE! YOU MADE ME RUN AWAY! YOU MADE ME CHASE YOU!” Ta’eh shouted as the woman stopped crying and looked to him.
Her tears disappeared in an instant and a devilish grin was drawn in her face. She lifted her hands and clapped twice and the three of them were transferred to another place.
A circular white hall with large windows and golden drapes. She was there sitting on the throne, leg crossing the other and her dress didn’t cover either.
“I am not fond of melodramatic conversations. I will cut it short.” She said as she fondled her hair and caressed her neck. “I am everything and everywhere.
I am what you know and what you fear and what you believed to have conquered.” She said as she stood up and walked to her guest. Qaher was unmoved, they knew each other very well.
“I am the queen of this realm.
I am unfair, I don’t give everyone everything
If you break down and sob, I will look down on you and laugh, leave you in your misery
If you don’t try to get what is yours, you will never have it, because I will push helpers from your way
If you fall in my race, you end, but if you get up you get the prize
You can start again, please do, it will be entertaining
I am everything, and everywhere…I am life itself”
She walked around as she spoke before the surprised man.
“All who follow me, all who run after me perish. But those who walk away, the force me to follow them.
Out of boredom, I give every one of you a chance to choose every now and then. Either you give up and entertain me and fill me with a lustful joy.”
She then turned to Qaher who was watching her moves and seductive tone “Or you can be like him” she said as she pointed to Qaher who stood grinning at the woman who would fall to her knees
to try to win him. She turned back to Ta’eh and leaped to stand before him. Her full figure could crush any strong willed man as she jumped.
“Now I give you yours…choose” she said to Ta’eh as she kissed him.
The man closed his eyes out of pleasure and opened it again to find himself back in his house. This time with Qaher’s armor and sword next to him with one word echoing in his head “Choose…”