Chapter 17|6 mins read
The bright fire of Nowruz glinted on the square window of General Hateem’s private chamber. The general was standing by the window while King Danush stood behind with an air of impatience surrounding him.
“General,” The king said, breaking the cocoon of silence in the room, “What are we waiting for?”
Hateem turned slowly from the window to face Danush.
“My soldiers are waiting outside your chamber. We must act immediately and capture that disrespectful guest of yours.”
“Sit with me for a moment, King Danush,” The general put a soft arm around his visitor’s shoulder and led him to a maroon-coloured divan in the centre of the room. “I was once an impassioned young man like you,” Hateem said as he took his seat on the divan followed by Danush, “Always wanting to act and not wait to think of the consequences of my action,” The general reached for an ornate wooden cupboard to his left,
My father then told me that there is a time to act and there is a time to be patient,
Hateem took out a hookah crafted from crystal glass.
Danush watched on with a hint of surprise as the general quickly set up the smoking pipe, filling the base with water from a silver jug, then dropping dried, scented leaves into the water, and finally lighting up two small blocks of coal with a candle and placing it on top of the hookah.
“And when you are in doubt whether to act or be patient, take a moment or two, relax and smoke a pipe,” The general took a puff to check whether the hookah was warm and then handed the pipe to Danush.
The king hesitated.
“Danush, even if you want to catch and imprison Cyrus and his aide, they are not at here, at the palace. They are on the streets of Behrouz, perhaps exploring the kingdom. So, relax, and chat with me. If you still want to imprison our guests when they are back from their excursion, you have my permission to do so.”
Danush took the pipe, placed it near his lips, and inhaled. Thick, white smoke flowed out from his nostrils when he exhaled, followed by a cough.
“That happens the first time around,” Hateem offered an explanation.
Danush handed the pipe to the general, “You let the two guests roam the streets of Behrouz without any supervision?”
Hateem took a long drag and exhaled, “Do you think I would allow that? No, King Danush. I have placed my soldiers around the kingdom. If Cyrus and his aide take even half a step in the wrong direction, I will know,” The general passed the pipe to the guest.
Danush took a shorter drag and exhaled. The smoke rose slowly to the ceiling and settled near the chandelier.
“Tell me Danush, why do you want to imprison our guests? It is not as if they have committed treason.”
“General, it is a gut feeling,” The king replied to Hateem’s query, “I can sense the violence that is hidden inside Cyrus. King Piruz offered the hand of the princess and the guest had the temerity to turn her down,” Danush sat up straight, “Cyrus will not be happy with whatever we offer him. Even if King Piruz were to offer the secrets of Behrouz’s Biriyani, the King of Kings will want the very kingdom itself. Everything else is just a ruse,” Danush handed the pipe to Hateem.
“I do not trust Cyrus either. But he is a guest of our king, and we must respect and treat him well even if his intentions are not. Even the queen would want this,” The general smoked his pipe.
“You seem to be more assured by the queen rather than the king?” Danush spoke his words with a wry smile.
Hateem puffed on the pipe, closing his eyes for a moment. The general turned his gaze towards Danush, “Our empire, and your kingdom too,” He pointed with the pipe, “Stays protected because she has her feet firmly on the ground.”
Danush nodded in agreement.
“If you were to imprison the guests, what do you think would happen?” The general took a long drag from the pipe.
“If we imprison them, there would be no risk of war,” The king replied.
Hateem exhaled, relaxing against the plush cushion of the divan, “No, King Danush. Then there will definitely be war. Why do you think that such a fearsome warrior would come only with his trusted aide? As an act of good faith? I hardly think so. If he doesn’t return to his kingdom, we will definitely have war. His army would have surely been alerted before he left for Behrouz,” Hateem took another drag and exhaled, “On the other hand, if we were to let him leave, we may still have a chance at peace,” Hateem passed the pipe to Danush.
“Your words are knowledgeable and wise,” The king placed the pipe near his lips.
“There is, however, one thing I have not been able to answer yet.”
“And what is that?” Danush took a long drag from the pipe.
“Why do you want to capture our guests?”
“To protect Behrouz,” came the immediate reply.
General Hateem turned his gaze towards the ceiling where the chandelier was covered in a layer of smoke, “To protect Behrouz, or to stake a claim for the throne?” The general’s gaze turned to King Danush.
To be continued...