|The Greatest Treasure of All
Author: Kitomi PM
In the ancient city of Satapura, a mysterious desert prophet offers a young thief the answer to any question his heart desires. Will it be one of wisdom? Like the true tales of Ancient India, this story includes a touch of the unreal and a hidden message.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Fantasy/Spiritual - Words: 2,161 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 06-23-07 - Status: Complete - id: 2380833
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Greatest Treasure of All
A dark silhouetted figure lurked silently in the shadows, taking refuge in the darkness. Torchlight flickered softly atop towering ivory poles, casting a pale golden light on Satapura's narrow streets. In the darkness, the thief crept carefully passed the torchlight's tell-tale glow. His shadow stalked him menacingly from one spotlight to the next. At last, he came to an un-light alley. There, he could rest without the risk of being seen.
Trembling, he braced himself against a thick wall made from stone, pulled from the river Ishmara. Cold beads of sweat trickled down his face and neck as he fought off the waves of fear that swept through his entire being. Behind the thief towered Satapura's great city wall, which prevented all intruders from getting in, and in Darshan's case, from escaping. Darshan thought of his wife and unborn child back home in the outskirts of Javari. He feared that if he were to get caught he would not ever see his small family again. He wondered, without her husband, how would Gita provide for their child in this cruel city. He would have to be especially careful that night.
The sudden sound of an approaching horse-drawn cart brought the thief to attention. He could hear the rumble of wagon wheels and the shrill braying of the team draw nearer. Darshan pressed himself further against the cold stone, hoping its immense shadow would hide him from view. Closing his eyes, he prayed fervently to Laksmi, the Goddess of luck, to smile down on him. Being a lowly and dishonest thief, he had never been in the Gods' favor. Despite his dishonesty, the Goddess was with him that night and the wagon passed by. Darshan remained safe for the moment.
From his hiding place, the thief could observe his surroundings. His sharp eyes pierced through the darkness and scanned along the long string of mud-made houses, each one identical to the next; save for the dwelling on the very end of the row. Along the line of straw thatched roofs this one's roof was tiled in a beautiful emerald slate. This family would have money, Darshan rationalized, for tiles were expensive, especially ones of such splendor as these. Inside the walls would be other fine treasures worth a profit on the market.
Driven by greed, Darshan quickly stepped away from the wall and crossed the cobbled street to the house with the slate roof. He agilely scaled the stone wall surrounding the property and dropped silently into the inner courtyard. Immediately, Darshan's nose picked up the spicy scent of jasmine and the soft smell of the lilac bushes that graced the family's garden. A gentle breeze moved through the air catching the family's laundry, like silken flags on a ghost ship. Darshan laughed to himself to think how foolish the wife must be to leave her laundry out all night, especially such expensive laundry. Darshan examined each article of clothing closely. He could tell by the assortment of sizes that a family of four dwelt within these walls. The head of the home was a rather portly father, his wife was rather delicate and small in contrast. They had two children, by the look of it, a small boy and a fat baby girl. Darshan gently touched the sleeves of each shirt. The thin silk felt cool and foreign in his filthy, calloused hands. He had never owned an article of clothing equal to any of the ones hanging on the clothesline. Never had he seen such fine apparel, save for the majestic robes of the sultan and the Caliphate.
A particular women's sari caught the thief's keen eye. It was made from the most luxurious satin in all of India, and it was died deep scarlet. Delicate beads made from pieces of precious stone were skillfully sewn in elegant and complicated designs throughout the cloth. Darshan would never be able to afford such a beautiful sari to give to his equally beautiful wife.
Quickly, before anyone could witness his act, the thief unpinned the sari from the line and carefully tucked it into his jacket pocket. Excitement and greed grew within his heart as he realized the great fortunes which awaited him within the slate tiled home. His greed led him across the yard, where he paused beneath the arched doorway. Darshan listened for sounds of life within. No voices, no movement, nothing except for the rhythmic beating of his own heart growing louder with every passing second. His eyes scanned the walls, searching for the glow of candlelight or oil lamp. No light shown within. Only darkness welcomed him in. This was the thief's moment. He would have to hurry before anyone awoke to find him.
Slowly, he stepped into the house. Every step he took seemed to echo in the darkness. Keeping close to the walls, Darshan peered into the living quarters. White Moonlight spilled through the large arched window, looking out over the garden, silhouetting the sleeping forms. It was a cool night, so they slept inside on champoys made of string. The children lay snuggled into their mother's thin form, their round faces soft and innocent in the moon's gentle glow. A plump little dog slept obediently at the portly man's feet. Darshan glanced quickly over the rows of resting bodies, making sure that they were all asleep.
The thief felt no remorse as he rummaged through their trunks, pocketing what he found to be of worth. Darshan assured himself that the father was a wealthy merchant or official who could simply repurchase all of the items he took, or maybe he owned so much he wouldn't even notice that anything was gone. Darshan kept these thoughts in mind as he reached for a large ceramic vase. He used it as a shopping basket, dropping smaller items into its vast interior.
The thief's feet barely made a sound as he crept around the room, searching for valuables. Darshan could only hear his heart pounding like a savage drum. Sweat dripped down his forehead and pooled in the dip in his throat.
With a vase filled with priceless jewelry, ivory statuettes, and several hundred Ruppes, the thief was at last satisfied. As he turned to leave, the light caught a small object on a nearby cushion, drawing Darshan over. A child's toy, carved from chicory and painted gold winked at the thief. Darshan picked it up in one large hand and turned it slowly between his fingers as he studied its fine craftsmanship and design. It was a carved eagle flute, its impressive wings outstretched as if it was preparing to take flight. Tiny feathers were scratched into the wings and four small holes were drilled into the birds back to create different tunes. Darshan admired it, and as he did, he thought of his own child, without a single toy when these children possibly had more than they could ever play with. What a grand gift it would make for a daughter or a son. Without further consideration, he quickly dropped the flute into the vase. Now his deed was done.
The thief slowly made his way back out into the night, returning once again to the shadows. As he came again to the cobbled road, Darshan's nerves finally steadied and he began to relax. His breathing came more regularly, and his heartbeat dropped from thundering drums to a light thudding. As Darshan left the grand city of Satapura and stepped onto the dirt road leading to Javari, he knew he was safe. He would return home to his wife and their small shanti, incomparable to the house he had visited that night. He wished he could only give his wife a home such as that. He wanted to give her the life she deserved but the caste system would not allow it and it would not suite his dharma as a thief.
Although he was alone, Darshan felt a presence, as if someone was following him. He heard no footsteps other than his own and he slowly glanced behind his shoulder.
Nothing. He sighed in relief and continued down his beaten path.
"Darshan." A thin voice carried on the light breeze. It gently caressed the shell of his earlobes while combing his hair away from his face. He shuddered, a cold shiver of fear traveled down his spine.
"Darshan." The voice beckoned to him, this time louder than before.
Clutching the vase to his chest, Darshan quickened his pace. His feet barely touched the ground as he tried to put some distance between himself and the presence.
"Darshan." The voice called over the wind, but Darshan would not stop.
"Darshan." The voice grew louder and louder as Darshan ran faster and faster.
Suddenly an old man appeared before him. He was meditating on a large stone which had suddenly appeared directly in Darshan's path. Startled, Darshan came to a sudden stop, dropping the vase. It burst into pieces, along with the contents it contained. A loud, earsplitting crash rang out as ceramic and ivory shattered against the cold, hard earth.
Darshan swore under his breath as he stepped back from the jagged shards.
"Darshan." The old man spoke as he stooped to salvage the remains of his great bounty. His voice was neither angry nor sad. "Where were you going with that family's possessions?"
"I was taking it home to bask in my new wealth." Darshan answered bitterly, throwing aside a chipped ivory statuette of one of the many deities. Over half of his profit was gone.
"Ah yes," The old man sighed with a knowing smile. "To your wife and son."
"I don't have a son." Darshan snapped. "Not yet anyway."
The old man's smile never faltered and his face wrinkled like a dried mango. Darshan stared up at the ancient man, taking a good look at him for the first time. He was old, even ancient. His wrinkled skin hung from his body like a worn burlap sack. It appeared as though he had been meditating for a long time; each sharp rib could be seen through his paper-thin brown skin. The old man wore only a small white cloth tied skillfully around his lower body, the rest of his body was covered in bracelets made from ivory and tarnished copper. Large hands rested upon thin, bony arms. Darshan feared the mere weight of the man's hands would snap his wrists in two. The man's white hair was as wispy as dove feathers. The thin, tangled locks framed a long Arabic face with high defined cheekbones and a long slender nose. Although his body was aged and worn, the old man's eyes glowed brilliantly with wisdom, life, and a secret magic. Suddenly Darshan was curious about what this strange old man had to say.
"What else can you tell me, desert prophet." Darshan asked him, while thoughtfully stoking his beardless chin.
"Anything your heart desires." The old man told him patiently, as if he already knew what was in the thief's heart.
"Yes," The old man nodded slowly. "Anything."
Darshan thought carefully. If the man really was a prophet, then he wanted to make his question count. It did not take his mind long to conjure the very question that could change his very existence. He smiled at his sure brilliancy. "Tell me where I can find the greatest treasure of all."
The old man thought but a minute before he knew the answer. Stooping down, he pulled the whistle from the shards. "There is no greater treasure than the love of a family and the gift of a child."
With that said, the old man placed the whistle in Darshan's open palm. "I think Kirin is a fine name for a son."
Darshan looked down at the small whistle in his hand. It seemed to glow in the moonlight. This had not been the answer that he had been waiting for, and yet it was the truth. He raised his head to speak to the old man, but he found himself alone. The old man was gone, but the lesson he taught Darshan would stay with him for eternity. A smile spread across his face. This smile was not from greed, but from the love he felt for his family--the greatest treasure of all.