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The Forest was barely waking, with a foggy petticoat and a white cotton vest. Thus embroidered with delicate lace, immaculate meltons and silky hems, Mystia, by its attire, was announcing winter and cold without detours. The carriage driver blew into his stiff hands more to put up a front than by necessity. The numerous shovels of manure had been enough to warm them up and it was, for the time being, the courage that Lebi Cabelo needed, and a little moment before taking the reins and directing his team towards the Great Greenhouse of Jino. Panting, as ruddy as a Matis may be, he eventually climbed on the seat. The squeaking of the apparatus was muffled straight away by the high-pitched whistle of Lebi and the clacking of the leather straps on the flanks of the mektoubs. The beasts snorted before lauching onto this path so well known that they could have walked it without their master. The latter would have, incidentally, found no fault with that, more tense than the brake he loosened almost with regret.
Thick, pale blue wreaths of vapours rose from the cargo, soft, almost lascivious, twisting to the rhythm of the incessant cahots of the cart. Like the absent captain of the ghost ships of old days, Lebi seemed to float under a slick of gaseous sky and glide over the white ridges of the waves of a boreal sea. Backs and trunks emerging from the mists, imaginary monsters of Tryker nautical charts, the mektoubs no longer existed, the Matis driver squeezed the reins like the sailor squeezes a tiller, empty gaze and mind far away. "Captain!" he thought, almost turning around.
Something glittered, reminding his wandering mind like the end of a thread which has been pulled taught. Stealthy white light, mirage. It is first the body which reacts as the hairs bristle and the heart springs up. Jena... The train passed in front of the Karavan with white flashes of lightning, pearl black leather of liquid and milky images, subjects made iridescent by the unknown, hooded, immense, venerable silhouettes. The time waned, the fog gave way as Lebi turned his head slowly, the coxswain of a ship which passes by an attractive yet inaccessible island, as in a dream.
- "Nec menates!"
Words that demand! Words that knock without beating around the bush. As a blow of an elbow in the chest of a gentle sleeper with still heavy eyelids of morning, the dream came to an end.
The mektoub reacted first, stopping quickly and blowing loudly. Lebi pulled on the reins, only by reflex, the last privilege of the homin animal when instinct predominates.
Five guards and coughing spell for the carrier...
Kof! Kof! Kof!
- "Order of the King Jinovitch, son of Jena, we control any suspicious load in Jino."
- "Grip the brake and cease coughing!"
Lebi hesitated a moment and grumbled, "The thought of it! Cease coughing!"
Kof! Kof! Kof!
- "Cease coughing!'
- "I do not cough!"
- "You cough!"
- "No I laugh."
- "I laugh at my health to deliver this manure in the Royal Conservatory of Jino every week!"
- "Of course!"
- "Let me go Silvo, you do not know me? I come from the stables with a load of manure for the Conservatory as every week which our well loved King allows."
- "I know Lebi... But I have orders..."
- "Then search the load if you think that a prince hides in a heap of shit!"
Silvo and the four other guards planted their pikes in the heap of manure. They withdrew only sucking noises and an unpleasant smell from it. The disapproving carrier moved with pride in which the guards missed in this setting.
- "Will you let me pass? Do you really think that a Matis king would go to the Conservatory?"
- "A king?"
- "Shut up Silvo!"
Two things differentiated Lebi from one of the dead: a little erratic rhythm of the heart and ten strides of mektoub before the Royal Conservatory.
In the morning Sebio entered the home of his master. It was the unique instant in which he similarly waited every day since he had been in his service, as a Sap slave in lack of narcotic. He stopped on the threshold and in an instant he was disoriented by the teleportation. This was not the reason that he deferred opening his eyes. He liked to use all that progressively, systematically, as though his own conscience refused to be allowed to take. He would never forget the first time however, when he had sunk, the mind broken up as the pollen in the tempest, thrown to the soil bluntly by its own senses and taken by attack. Ruined.
Could he be a traveler without moving? Knowing the world on a doorstep, such was the power brought to these places. To enter, to him, was to come back to life. It was like entering the forest on a summer evening, after a whole life of insensitivity, everything was only smells, colors and sounds. Life, emotion, death, blended, in the service of only one homin.
It is first the sound which transported him, the tremble, scratching, boiling, moan, crack. His master had revealed to him one day the secret of this noise, nature itself. "There is music in any thing," his master reminded, "give you trouble to hear it. Life gives a shape to the void and music, to the silence."
Space did not exist here. Unique fragrances blended, sometimes soft, sometimes strong and aggressive. Sebio inspired profoundly, taking this present of fragrance at the top of one's voice.
When finally he decided to open his eyes, at the edge of the asphyxia, he heaved a sigh of relief, enraptured by the vision which presented itself to him: veined and venerable trunks which disappear in foliages, arlequines clouds, ivory and deep green, pouring out their rain of colors, on a turf, staked out by amber and white, of the flower corollas. Slender butterflies flitted here and there, glided over channels in the vigorous stream, their wings opened as they settled on languorous petals. The solitary scholar in the middle of his art, sat at his desk.
Sebio had, for the first time, the impression that his master moved against his harmonious environment. He then understood where the scratching came from, which he had heard by entering. The venerable Matis, barely dressed, blackened anxiously with the feather on a parchment leaf. There were whole piles put down here and there all around him.
- "Master?" asked Sebio.
The old homin did not answer right away, continuing to scrawl on his pages as though nothing else mattered.
- "Master Lenardi?" takes back the attendant courageously.
- "Ah! Sebio. You are there."
- "Yes, Ser."
- "Loyal supporter Sebio... I liberate you! You can go back home," Lenardi announced while scratching the parchment with his feather.
The young attendant did not understand.
- "Master? You liberate me?"
- "Yes my friend, go back home, you are no longer an attendant, at least not mine anyway."
- "Did I serve you badly?"
- "No, Sebio. Contrariwise, I no longer require your services, that is all."
- "But Master... I..."
The Royal Botanist stopped one instant and raised eyes towards his servent. He then saw the tears running on the cheeks of Sebio.
- "I... I have a last request to entrust to you."
- "If I disappear, I want you to gather all my notes and hide them until a Matis who will carry the locket of Manalitch rightfully claims them."
- "But Master, you do not go..."
- "Make what I say to you the last time, by Jena!"
- "Good. I shall do it, my Master."
- "Now leave me, I have a job to do."
The air was lively this night, with eyes reddened by the lack of sleep the Matis waited, hidden in the shrubs which edged one of the roads of the region of Zachini. For some time countless patrols were within the capital and a curfew imposed at the dusk.
- "Heretofore everything goes well," murmured one of the unknowns.
- "All shall be quiet when we all regain our quarters and you will be outside," dropped another one.
- "It weighs me to make you run this risk in all."
- "Everything has been weighed and set in motion for a long time. We all know what we risk this evening."
The lantern of a patrol put an end to debate. The tops of Paroks spears of high-pitched angles sparkled and reflected the light of the living lamps. The fugitives held their breath to avoid the announcement of their warm breath in the cold winter air. The guards passed without looking, one of them coughed twice, it was the sign. The four waited an instant as the patrol moved away before dashing forward, stumbling, made numb by their immobile wait.
They joined the target a few hours before dawn. Holding their breath in unison, they crept along the stable wall, hoping that the guards kept their sights diverted. They listened to the gentle shuffles of mektoub, waiting for distraction and found peace.
- "Yrkanis... My son... It is necessary for you to escape."
- "How? There are no exits. I am as the prisoner butterfly of a lamp."
- "I shall put it out for you."
- "To put out the lamp or to liberate the butterfly? Zoraï imprisons insects in their light, is it there that it is necessary to search resolution?"
- "The time is not in contemplation, but in action. Zoraï congeals living beings in the amber to mark their power at time. You, the heir of Zachini, will engrave your footprint on history."
- "Cease calling me Master! You know almost as much as me currently. Your father made me your godfather a long time ago.... Yasson died prematurely and..."
- "Yes! Slaughtered."
- "...I promised him to instill in you the values which we shared, those of the Matis. I promised him to make a noble and valorous homin of you... A model as he was."
- "Yes... I would have liked to be yours. My grandest work."
- "But Lea?"
- "I cherish Lea because she is my flesh. I shall cherish her even when my destroyed body will not find the way of life. The time will come where Jena will break my life alliance and receive me in the breast as She announced. But it is you, the heir... Son of Yasson and I must be faithful to my given word. Leave the city. Banishment waits for Jinovitch has seen your escape, but it will not take place as he envisioned it."
- "My uncle knows?"
- "Certainly, he calls it of his wishes because he wants to kill you as he killed your father."
- "What must I do?"
- "You must act as an insect. But not the butterfly whom all expect to capture in their net to crush it better, no..."
- "What would I be, Father?"
- "A worm, you will be a worm..."
They were swallowed one after another by the darkness of the stable like a protective belly of a mythological animal. The mask was hidden in the entrails of the hay. A simply made case, a jewel of science.
They looked one instant without speaking, they would have liked to throw themselves into each others arms, to give big slaps on the back to stifle sobs and to stop the tears which betrayed their sadness. But they were Matis, noble and proud and did not show their weakness.
- "Eh! Definitely it is time," said one to break the silence and steady his voice.
The cold made things easier as it reddened eyes, turned cheeks crimson, and the tears congealed in stalactites of frost to conceal the emotions much better than the best of assurances.
- "Filenai! Nai Sondei!" he went on.
- "Na Karan!" they answered from the heart.
They had said farewell before leaving with no outpouring of emotion. They all knew what guided them and their fidelity did not have fault. Among them no Fyros yet they all burned with a sacred fire which enlivens and burns those who brush death in unison, the fire of affinity.
The Matis got undressed completely. Leaving the faded fineries of a past life, Yrkanis prepared for something else, a fragile and difficult gift, future destiny. Prisoner of earthworms or perhaps the sky waited for him a present of Jena and final judgment of errors made.
The prince thought profoundly before swallowing the beverage which would help him to hold stifled for a long time, depriving him of sense, by blending essence and time. The heart slows, not to beat more than in the scope of the unconscious jolts of the wagon.
Rodi helped to thread the mask on his King and to then stretch him out in the dumper truck. It was necessary for him to come back to life. They planted the kernel of a millennium tree in the manure destined to nourish the humus of their forefathers. This was necessary to break the enchantment of a shitty King by the power of the manure.
Lebi Cabelo pulled on the reins to stop the harness at the back of the Great Greenhouse. Rests dried out by the previous delivery formed a black plate against the gray trunk of the building. The carter sighed by noting that he was in time. The day got up slowly but the shade of the big tree with a pediment of chitin still covered the stage of a protective darkness. Having capably maneuvered the animals, he gripped the brake, liberated the clamp which supported the towrope and jumped nimbly down before taking over a shovel which sat enthroned, planted as an altar in the middle of the load which poured slowly.
- "Deles silam!"
Lebi, occupied to push manure with shovel, suspended the gesture, by hearing the rasping voice.
- "DelEes silAam! I am BAaldi DaliAa, gAArdEEner of the GreEnHhouse!"
- "You are LEebii CAabelo, Ii was told about YoouRR aRRIvalL!"
- "Ii am hEre to chEck your lOAd."
- "I see, then go there. Check."
The young gardener collapsed in manure, skull smashed by the shovel of the carter. Lebi gasped, his hair glued together by the sweat of effort and stress remained immobile as he gripping the handle of the spade, the blade raised and covered with blood.
Something slid suddenly quietly off the wagon into the smoking heap. A moan... Lebi prepared for battle! He suspended his gesture on time, as though he woke up from a nightmare at the top of the lethal staircase. He threw the shovel to the distance.
- "Na Karan!" he cried by rushing to the embryonic form which gesticulated in sludge.
Dou doum dou doum dou doum dou doum dou doum dou doum dou doum dou doum...
The heart of the Prince pumped the blood, eradicating the toxins from the body of Yrkanis.
- "Hhhhhhhhheuuuuuuuufffffff!" bawls the Matis by tearing off the mask and absorbed with avidity the air which he had missed. He knelt near Lebi.
- "Prince! Prince! It is necessary to run away!" mourns the carter.
But he did not hear him as he was still put out of reason. With confused senses he vomits.
- "P.. ince...flew...Karav...to resuscitate...young gardener...killed."
- "Ah! My Prince! Na Karan, all that you want! Do not stay there I ask you!"
- "We must leave, follow the plan. He will be found and the guard alerted!"
- "Naete? Please!?"
- "Naete... Cease shouting! You bore my temples!"
- "Ah Na Ser! You come back!"
- "Sil, this goes but by pity cease howling!"
- "Master I killed the gardener, the guards will come, it is necessary to leave right away..."
- "You know what this means?"
- "Yes I know it... I shall postpone them... Na Karan... Run away now."
Two matis locked eyes, prince and carter, reins and reign. Suddenly, Yrkanis turned away, seizing the mask which was lying at his side, he rushed into the back cellar window of the Greenhouse which was for use of the supply in manure. He went down in an instant on a slide of oiled wood before breaking shortly at a dry pile of old manure. He sat on the odorous but saving throne given by Lebi, he thought of the carter, he would never forget him.
The prince knew the Great Greenhouse well, the work of Lenardi. He easily joined the rooms of embalming, borrowing from the unknown ways of the Practitioners. He feared this instant.
Folklore gave to understand that the Sap of the noble bodies was withdrawn, given to the parents to nourish the home, the envelope was digested by the plants chrysalises. But Yrkanis knew that Sap is not, to the homin, a physical substance and harvested.
He took a ceremonious dirk left there by an embalmer before going up to a plant chrysalis. He undertook to incise it at the base liberating an orifice at the foot of the broad stem. The changed plant subsided fast, being in its death throes, as butter which melts under the sun. But it was the untenable smell which came out of the hole that encouraged the prince to put back his mask. He did not hesitate for long before plunging his head into the narrowed opening. His bare body was inhaled with a noise of sucking and his tense toes, were the last to disappear in the organic entrails of the Royal Conservatory.
Time was suspended while he evolved in the bowels, guided by the movements of the chyme of the plant guts, which burned his skin on the way. No homin still knows where he appeared; red, as the caterpillar of the angelio. But when Yrkanis, son of Yasson, legitimate King of Matis, sniffed the air of the Forest, far from Jino, he was no longer worm nor caterpillar, he was chrysalis and almost a butterfly.
There remained numerous years in banishment before history and Matis gives him reason. During this flustered time, he never forgot those who had allowed him to escape. Among those many were tortured. Lebi the carter, two of the escaped partners, Lenardi Bravichi and many other unknown homins were burned alive. Jena now keeps them.
Rodi di Varello, did escape Jino on time, during a royal hunt. He is now one of the advisers of the King and is heralded as the one who put the mask of survival on the face of the Prince akin to the announcement of a coronation. Some people say that it is because of this mask that Mabreka received the King in the Witherings, they are wrong. It is destiny. Jena is the witness who guided it. But what is destiny when to die is nothing and we can come back to life? And whom am I, the one who narrates you this story?
I am Baldi Dalia and I once died.}}