The City of Magic - Chapter 10

Piety and Faith

I
 smiled back, picked her up in my arms, and hugged her.

The officers came close to me, watched the child and me and went away to examine others. “They might have mistaken me to be her father,” I thought.

“Inno!” I heard a hushed voice say. I turned around and saw a lady with a man beside her. I looked at them, and they looked at me, and they looked familiar. Then, I remembered them as among the ones who had disappeared on the Bridge of Time. They weren’t looking at my face, but at my neck where the scarlet thread that held the pendant beneath my shirt lay. Then they looked at me and gave a faint quarter smile and looked askance. Inno got down from my arms and ran to the lady, who I surmised to be her mother. My hands wanted to hide the thread under the shirt; but, I hesitated since any movement could grant occasion for suspicion. I smiled back and stood the ground. The search operation was over. The officers came together, spoke something to each other, and rushed out of the store dividing themselves severally into different directions. The lady and the man came to me.

“You should come with us!” they said. I nodded skeptically and followed. They paid for my purchase and led me out; then, crossing across and striding through two streets, we reached a bus stop. There were policemen everywhere, here as well. I noticed that they had a different badge with the emblem not of a goat but of a lion. A bus arrived and they gestured me to move in with them. I followed. The bus drove through a number of streets that looked dim despite the many fiery lamps. The lamps were big and it seemed that fire was blazing inside of the glass shields. They produced more heat than light, which accounted for the hot climate here. We, presently, reached an area which was filled with rows of houses. We got off and walked into a narrow lane, then turned on the second row, and stood before an old home in a row of houses. The man unlocked the house and we got in.

The house was a small one and, by what I made out sitting in the outer room, it had only two rooms and a kitchen inside. The outer room where we sat didn’t have any decorations of any kind but had only a few chairs and a small table. It also looked old and the light inside was rusty and dim. The lady went inside with the little child.

“The whole city is again on a hunt after you,” the man began.

“Do you recognize me?” I asked wondering if he had seen me on the Bridge.
“Yes, of course, your pictures are stuck everywhere. If we handed you over now, we would be rich.”

I squirmed.

“But, we would not.” He looked at me with a sad face. “Did you meet him?”

“Whom?” I asked.

“Religare, who is also known as Religion. He was one of us who disappeared from Time and have fallen here.”

His wife came, in the meantime, with the daughter, and began setting some food on the table. Then, I realized that I had long forgotten hunger in my quest for freedom.

“She is Piety, my wife, and I am Faith. This is our daughter Innocence, whom we lovingly call Inno.” Inno smiled. “Please help yourself with the food!” We began to eat.

“Religare was a Seer who could see deep into the vileness of this City. But, the inhabitants here seem to be deceived. In the beginning we found a dwelling place in an old dilapidated building in Luxuria. The building was abandoned by a family who had moved to Superbia. All the while we sought ways and means to get out of here. Religare would give us tasks to search out means by which we could not only help ourselves but also the inhabitants of this city, so that the snare-net of illusion that she has dropped over their minds would be broken and the Kingdom of Darkness shattered, and we once again see light. But, sooner we realized, that the people here hated all talks of true liberty. They enjoyed their lives here and rationalized it and rebelled against any talk of the True World, the City of Light. We began to become cautious, but it was too late. Once Religare showed us this scarlet thread that you are wearing now. It had a brass pendant. He said it was the Key of Truth that would open any lock of Sin. He then also showed us a scroll and said that it was the Scroll of Prudence that keeps one from evil. He then put these in the drawer of a table and closed it. Suddenly, we heard a loud shout and ten or twelve policemen accompanied by two men in black suits stormed in. They pointed at Religare and shouted, “He is the one!” as they surrounded him and laid their hands on him. We escaped through a back door, and after many hidings reached here. Since then, we haven’t heard from Religare, neither did we go to Luxuria because of fear. Without Religare now we can neither strive for nor awaken others to look for freedom. We try to blend with this world, and it is terrible.” They looked at their daughter sadly. She was busy eating, then looked at us and smiled, understanding nothing.

“Do you have your papers?”
“Yes, we managed to obtain them for a price from an official at Avaritia. We told him that our papers were lost and that we had become homeless due to some financial losses. He made us duplicate papers and allotted us this house here in Ira for the poor. We had to pay him some money for overlooking our credentials. But, he also mentioned that sooner all the citizens would need to be sealed to prevent all forgery. He said that the seal would be planted on either one’s arm or one’s forehead.” We had finished eating.

“I see. But, no I didn’t see Religare. I found these objects in the drawer,” I said as I took the scroll and the pendant out and showed them. They stared at them with wide eyes. Then, I told them how I reached here and what things I experienced in my quest for freedom. “We have to get back that book,” I said “since Law gave it to me as the only guide for instructions here.”

“How shall we do that?” Piety asked.

I took the scroll in my hand. “We have no other option,” I said. Then, I opened the scroll and we three looked into it; it was blank. Then, all of a sudden it turned black and a dim scene appeared; we saw an ancient wall. And as we looked, we saw that there was a big hole in the wall. Then, the scene drew in through the hole into a place that looked like a dungeon. It was dark there, but we could see wherever the scene shifted the view. We saw that there were diagrams and engravings of various reptiles, ferocious beasts, and worms on the walls. There were also many paintings of semi-beast or semi-reptile humans with obscene features on the walls. They were innumerous and nauseatingly vile. The scene showed us graffiti on the wall that read “Robbers,” “Pillagers”, “Thieves,” “Murderers,” and “Looters”. Then, we saw that there were men and women in the dungeon who were counting and dividing changes of gold and silver. Suddenly, the scene shifted to a dark place where there was a statue of a seven-headed monster. The middle head was of a peacock, and on its left were the heads of a goat, a lion, and a toad; on its right were the heads of a tortoise, a snake, and a swine. Its body was full of hairs resembling the hairs of a bear and it was seated on a dark red throne. On its chest were engraved the words “Sarx”. Then, the scene shifted below the image, down to the pedestal, and there we saw bound with heavy chains to the blocks, a man with long grey hairs, travailing in pain and agony. We saw that he was pale and famished.

“Religare!” Faith and Piety cried and they began weeping.

We saw that the chains had two big locks and each lock and its accompanying chain had the same name. The name of the first one was Magic and the name of the second was Fear. Then, the scene faded out into black and returned to a blank page and these words appeared:

SUPERBIA
Seat of Sarx and Sin

Then, the words disappeared and the page went blank again. I rolled back the scroll and we looked at each other. Faith and Piety were still in tears. Inno began crying too, not understanding why her parents were crying, but crying because they were crying. Piety took her and began to calm her up.

“I need to go there,” I said.

“The area is the most heavily guarded one,” said Faith. “And, even when one gets there after having broken through the strongest hedges, it’s not easy to find the dungeon.”

Piety looked at him with sad and reddened eyes. Inno raised her hands and wiped her mother’s tears; Piety looked at her and embraced her. Faith’s eyes were filled with tears too. My heart moved within me and I rose up.

“I have the key to unchain him, I should not stay here,” I said as I tied the pendant with its thread around my wrist and tucked the scroll under my shirt.

“We will come with you,” said Piety.

“No!” I objected.

Suddenly, there was a loud rap on the door, and startled, we all looked at it.

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