Essom's Wrath: Part Three
The generations cower.
The son kneels beside the father.
The slave worships power, uttering shameful obsequies with humble entreaty.
Will power share its bounty?
Will it worship the slave?
They were arguing again.
Resah addressed the assembled conspirators. "We shall fire the granaries, let flames eat the fields of the Empire so that all shall know our hunger!"
"And what do you propose we eat when all is turned to ash and cinders? Or do you think the Emperor will invite us to use what is left when it becomes known that we have done this thing?" countered Haduj, "Or maybe we should just set Eliv and Osmeni against his army. Surely they are enough to overthrow the Empire!"
The proud brothers were not amused. "At least we would not shrink from that duty were it the council's will, Haduj."
Shepoj intervened before the quarrel grew violent and called for a recess. Essom grew tired of their bickering and excused himself that he might walk alone beneath his beloved stars. He had not been idle in his time of exile. From the moment he put down his stakes, Essom gathered those slaves who would be rid of the imperial yoke. They spent what time was theirs to plot and make mischief against the Empire. Much of the time was spent training and planning for future attacks. Thus they would sit in council in the late hours, when the Emperor's spies lay fast asleep.
The Emperor was no fool and sat uneasily on his throne as reports of unrest among the slaves came from all parts of the Empire. Though wise enough to know danger, he spurned the advice of his former counselor, setting heavier burdens upon the slaves in the hopes of breaking their spirits under the weight of labor. Essom welcomed every new demand with a smile, for he had wisdom and knew that with every passing day, the slaves saw their destruction coming ever closer. There is only so much a man will tolerate before lashing out in defiance to his master. It was only a matter of bringing order to the rising fury of the slaves.
Essom returned to Haduj's house to find the counsel resumed. Shacarsi was speaking, "let us take our flocks to the mouth of the Great River and there spill their blood that the waters of the Empire will run red with our vengeance. We have no hope of keeping them; they are doomed anyway! Let them serve to make the Empire tremble!"
At this, Essom spoke. "Those flocks are all we have, Shacarsi. You of all should know that. How long has your family shepherded them to the valleys to eat and to the hills to escape the ravenous wolves? How many lambs have you delivered that you would slaughter for spite?"
"Then tell us what we might do," Nerube demanded, "What wisdom have you culled from your precious stars?"
"Friend, are we not slaves? Let us then do what slaves do: we shall serve our masters. Is it not our burden to husband their animals, to prepare their meals, to provide them counsel? Do we not keep their fields, their houses, their monuments?"
Essom paused, and the council was quiet, for they saw the rage in his eyes, grown giant-like from years of feeding from the hand that wronged him. Whatever terror he had in mind, surely it was great enough to swallow an empire. Essom continued.
"Do we not suckle their children?"
What is a man without comfort, without compassion, without joy?
He is an empty vessel.
He is a bowl
Into which the wrath of God is poured
Until the cup runneth over
And his enemies are made to drink.
A fast was declared.
From dawn until dusk, the slaves did not eat. At night they ate the simplest fare. The Empire marveled at this, unable to understand why a people so abused would further abuse themselves. When pressed for an explanation, the slave would turn to his master and say only, "we fast to give glory and honor to our Lord the Redeemer."
In no other way did the slaves act differently, performing whatever task demanded of them as they had done before. The Emperor was deeply troubled by this and sent for Essom to be returned from exile to explain this fast, for no one in his court knew the ways of the slaves. Rumors spread throughout the imperial court while the Emperor awaited the counsel of his servant.
Before the sun rose on the sixth day of the fast, every slave household slaughtered a yearling lamb and with its blood marked the doors of the house. The Empire trembled at this, for they knew how much the slaves loved their flocks. When pressed for an explanation, the slave would turn to his master and say only, "we mark our house with the blood of the lamb so our Lord the Redeemer may know where His servant dwells."
In no other way did the slaves act differently that day, performing whatever tasked demanded of them as they had done before. The Emperor was deeply alarmed by this and demanded that Essom be brought at once by chariot. As the Emperor finished his order, a voice came from outside the court, "Essom is here."
The court was silent as Essom walked before the throne. He offered no salutation to the Emperor but stood as a slave does awaiting his master's command. The Emperor rose in his anger, "what prophecy have you for us? Shall we be plagued by flies and gnats as you have promised before? By frogs? Shall the locust rise up to devour our crops? Shall man and beast be stricken with disease? Are we to be frightened by your storms, or shall you rouse the Crocodile and blot out the sun again? That was a nice trick, Essom. Tell me, why did the Crocodile return to its slumber before you dismissed it?"
"It is not mine to command, nor insect or storm or sickness. These things answer only to our Lord the Redeemer."
At this, the Emperor hesitated. Such was the name of the slaves' god as told him by his spies. The Emperor continued, "what of this Redeemer? Why do your people fast and paint their doors with blood?"
"They fast that the Lord might heed their suffering. They paint their doors because the Lord has heard their cries."
"And what would your Lord have me do?"
Essom's voice rose, "let my people go."
The Emperor laughed. The entire court rose in laughter so loud that Essom could hear nothing else. He was unmoved, and waited for the Emperor's reply.
After some time, the court was again silent and the Emperor spoke, still chuckling, "what doom awaits us then?"
Essom spoke louder this time, so all the court could hear, "for what you have taken from us, the Lord shall take away that which is most dear to you. And since your guilt is shared by all the Empire, so shall the Lord take away that which is most dear to them."
The court resumed its laughter and Essom returned to his father's house.
That night the laughter ended. After the sun rose on the seventh day, the fast ended as the slaves roasted the lambs they slaughtered the day before. They did no work that day as their masters were all in mourning, for every free household in the Empire had awoken to the death of its firstborn. Essom returned to the court to find the Emperor cradling the body of his only son and heir. He said nothing save, "go, and take your people and your Lord with you."
Thus were the slaves of the Empire redeemed, and though the Empire fall to ruin and his people scatter to the four corners of the Earth, the world shall not forget Essom's Wrath.
As it is written.