Vlastimir of the order of Tasawwuf
The toothless man unbolted the door and left the room for a moment. When he returned, Nazli was with him, looking disheveled and confused. They came into the room where Melek was still strapped to the chair and Nazli, upon seeing him, started to cry.
The men were visibly gentle with her, and she did not appear to be injured in any way. She fell to her knees on the floor, glancing up at the face of the petrified dog, and with an agitatedly confused expression, she continued sobbing into her hands as she clutched a string of prayer beads hung around her neck. Melek jerked his arms against the restraints in spasms of anger and shouted at the men: “Let her go, what have you done?”
The toothless man motioned to the others who then scooped her up and again removed her from the room, bolting the door again when they returned.
“Please try to relax, Micaloz. We have not caused her any harm, nor do we intend to. She is confused, as anyone in her position would be. But your continued struggling is not helping matters. I understand you wish to comfort her and tell her that everything is going to be ok.” The man in the red robe reached down and took a long drink from his cup of red wine, wiping the excess with his sleeve as it dripped into his facial hair. “But let’s be real for a moment here. There is nothing you can do for her at this time. There are many other matters of much greater importance to attend to first.
“With that, please allow me to begin by telling you a little about who we are and perhaps ease your mind somewhat. Maybe it will serve to alleviate some of the confusion.” With this, he sat back in his chair, rolling his neck with a series of audible cracks.
With a glance at each of the other men who began seating themselves, he continued speaking calmly. “We are members of an order whose divinely distilled purpose is to help you understand what it is you are. And the first step to getting you to understand is perhaps to offer a suitable introduction which I have waited a long time to deliver.”
“My name is Vlastimir, and I am originally from Servia. My father was a ship builder, and when I was very young he moved our family to Constantinople where he could find more work, and provide a better life for his children. I grew up among the docks and as a young man I fell in with a group of men whom I later found were practicing a form of Islam known as Tasawwuf, perhaps you have heard of it. No matter if you haven’t. It was through these men that I eventually met a very special man named Cosimo. Now, Cosimo had a unique gift for what we might call ‘second sight’. He could ‘see’ things many, many miles away while connecting spiritually to any object he had once held in his hands.” Vlastimir removed the small white crystalline figurine from a pocket in his robe and set it carefully on the small table. “This I refer to as ‘the eyes of Cosimo’. Through the eyes of this figurine, he can possibly see you right now, if he happens to be looking. I have had this a great many years and I treasure it beyond compare.
“Cosimo was a great traveler, who had ventured all across the continent, had seen many things and heard many stories. He made it his life’s work to document and investigate some of the stranger tales he had heard in his travels.
“One of these stories of particular interest to him was a story of a magical being who had lived a hundred times a thousand lives. This being was said to occasionally glow with a light of the fullest moon and was essentially an eternal and deathless being. See, his body would die, but he would awaken again in another body nearby, with his memories mostly intact.
“This story piqued Cosimo’s interest, as in his travels he had heard it from as far away as Cambodia and India, stretching all the way to Anatolia. The story was quite curiously prolific, and on the lips of many men he had encountered in many mystic circles around the world.
“For many years he dismissed it as a mere mythological fable, used to craft educational parables told to frighten children into behaving. But try as he may, he could not get the story out of his mind. It seemed that wherever he heard this story, war, destruction, and discord followed upon its heels.
“It was in the town of Pazarkoy when he finally found some evidence which quite interested him.”
At this Melek was startled. He remembered his former home in Pazarkoy, and it was there he had intended to return with Nazli on this very trip where they had now both been taken as prisoners of these men.
“There was a house there,” Vlastimir continued. “A modest home, highly decorated with many small bells and chimes hung around it. It had been mysteriously abandoned rather suddenly, and nobody in the town seemed to know anything about what had happened to the tenant. It was owned by a rather prestigious man named Hrant Darbinian. He was said to be connected to several noble rulers in the area, having been stowed away and given a new life as the adopted son of a family of blacksmiths. All of this information was bestowed upon Cosimo by an elderly man named Hamza. Cosimo spoke at great length with this Hamza, who had many interesting stories to tell of this Hrant Darbinian person.
“He showed Cosimo the bell forge Hrant had constructed and led him to the house with the chimes. It was a breezy day and the chimes rang a scattered and mysterious, hypnotic melody as they approached. When they had come to the home which sat on a small hill overlooking a citrus grove, Cosimo was suddenly struck numb and fell to the ground. While he was unconscious he had a vision of a thousand lives flashing before his eyes. This vision also revealed to him a shiny beast hiding inside a cave, counting a long string of beads over and over again. From inside the cave issued a brilliant light. Upon the chest of this being was a mark that resembled a key which burned like a fire, producing the light he saw coming from the cave.
“When he regained his senses, the old man Hamza was kneeling at his side, the haunting melody of the many chimes still ringing in his ears. All at once he seemed to understand the mystery of the shining being which had plagued him for many years. He felt at least for that moment, the ineffable bliss of direct contact with the divine reality. He suddenly felt the desire to rise to his feet and dance madly, whirling on the breeze as though he was light as a feather being tossed gently by the fates.
“As the vision and feeling dissipated he was besieged by a feeling of purpose. He must find this being, he must locate the cave in which he dwelt, and he must bring him into the circle to study and document him. He felt he had received a calling from God himself, that his life had a divine purpose to fulfill. He spent the next few years assembling an order of mystics whose purpose was to locate you through any means necessary and at their disposal. Several teams of experienced travelers were assembled and each was sent, with a figurine similar to this one, to find the being who bore this special identifying mark.
“Which brings us to our current situational malaise, if you will. We are representative associates of Cosimo, and we believe we have found you at last. You do not seem to glow like the brightest of moons, which I find curious, but we are quite certain from our collected observations that we have correctly identified you. The mark upon your chest matches the mark which Cosimo had given us for reference, see?”
Vlastimir pulled a piece of folded parchment from the same pocket from which he had earlier produced the white crystal figurine. Unfolding the parchment, he held it up where Melek could see it in the flickering light. Scribed upon the paper was a symbol that indeed matched the mark on his chest. It resembled an oddly shaped key with circular shapes at both ends. In the center were two cross pieces that looked like outstretched arms. In the circles at each end were triangular cutouts at opposing angles.
“When we followed you into the bath house, we saw upon your chest this very mark. It was then that we knew we had found you at last. You have a very important destiny to fulfill, and we are members of a holy order dedicated to the divine purpose of assisting you with that journey.”