In the early days of the Ottoman empire in western Turkey, under the reign of the fifth sultan of the Ottoman dynasty Mehmed the affable, the Aydin province of western Turkey was under the tenuous. rule of Junayd Bey. Junayd Bey was a popular governor of Smyrna during the first civil war of the Ottomans, known as the Interregnum. Junayd had a brother named Hamza who had fathered a child who was observed to be of highly unusual qualities and intellect. Fearing discovery of this child by Murad who would view him as a potential threat to his future rule, and whom Hamza became convinced would be a great Sultan one day, the child was sent to live with a peasant family near the market city of Pazarköy.
The peasant family gave the child the name Hrant Darbinian, which meant “unquenchable fire of the blacksmith” – both to help hide the child’s noble heritage, but also because it was said that the child seemed to glow with an unnatural inner light. If this child had been discovered by enemies of Junayd and Hamza, he would surely have been executed. As the child came of age, he was visited by an aging Hamza, who told him the story of how and why he was hidden away as an infant and given to the family who raised him on a small parcel of land outside Pazarköy.
Being still a young man of 14 years age, Hrant was already becoming a powerful merchant and trader in the marketplace of Pazarkoy, and the news of his descent from nobility seemed to fuel his ambition even further. One night shortly after the meeting with his father, Hrant was awakened by a vision where he suddenly seemed to recall having lived previous lives. The realization swept over him like a wave cresting in the Black Sea, nearly suffocating him in its intensity, and he felt a pressure like someone pushing hard on his chest. All at once he remembered it all – all of his previous lives, all of the times he had died, all that he had done. Most interesting of all, he faintly recalled that he had established a sanctuary in a hidden cave in the hills to the far south east of Pazarköy, beyond the far end of the long fertile valley he knew as his childhood home.
The following morning, he saddled up a horse and rode silently to the east, in search of his cave sanctuary. After seven full days of riding, he came across the location of the cave mouth, hidden by a limestone slab which he had placed in front of the opening to hide it. It was surrounded and well hidden by a stand of black pines and clumps of starthistle which grew thick in the Aglasun Forest. He decided to make camp outside the entrance and down the hill, in a shallow ravine where he was not likely to be spotted and questioned by passing goat and sheep herders.
The next morning as the sun was just rising over the mountains to the east, he hiked back up the hillside to the mouth of the cave and using a long pole of pine, was able to pry loose the limestone door guarding the cave. It had not been opened in many years, and a strong musty smell issued from within. He lit a torch with coals carried in his fire pouch and went inside.
The cave entrance led to a narrow passageway which had many twists and turns, passing through a limestone labyrinth dripping with water from an underground spring, which collected in small lifeless pools among the rocky crags. After scrambling over rocks and squeezing through narrow channels of rock, he arrived at the central chamber of the large cave. On the walls, he noticed many sconces had been placed, with unlit torches placed in them. He circled the main chamber, lighting each of the torches, illuminating the grand chamber and the many strange items it contained.
Inside, he found many items which immediately triggered memories for him from previous lives – a long string of colored beads which he recognized as a record-keeping device he had created to track the times he had reincarnated, one bead for each lifetime he had lived. They seemed to glow slightly in the dim torchlight of the cave and as he turned them over in his hand he felt a surge of power that made his hair stand on end. On the far end of the chamber there was another opening which he decided to explore, and inside he found a makeshift iron forge, a large anvil and a series of deep pits in the floor of the secondary room, some of them scattered with straw and charred grasses. Hanging around the walls of the room were many bells of varying sizes and shapes, all covered with a thick layer of dust.
Hrant walked carefully toward the largest of the bells, a two-meter bronze bell decorated with many arcane symbols. He spotted a large mallet on the floor nearby, which he picked up and almost compulsively rang the large bell. Dust scattered upon the stale air inside the chamber as the large bell vibrated, sending echoing reverberations that travelled through a long invisible network of rocky passageways. The reverberations of the bell seemed never-ending, far outlasting the vibration of the bell itself, circling through the passageways and returning in slightly out of phase tones that seemed to issue from the rock. As the bell vibrated from the ring, the symbols etched into the bell would glow ever so slightly. Hrant took one more long look around the cave, feeling a surge of power and purpose in the very core of his being as he gazed upon the many artifacts he had collected here during his previous lives. He also found a leather-clad book containing journals he had left in the past for his future self. Turning the pages gingerly, he sat and read them all, while outside the cave day turned to night and night into day. After finishing up his reading of the journal entries, he found an inkwell sitting next to it, and a fancy quill pen which he then picked up and made a new entry in the book.
With a renewed sense of purpose and understanding of what it was he needed to do, he left the cave – pushing back the limestone slab against the entrance so it would not be discovered. He hiked back down into the ravine where he had made camp, and found his horse was still there, which he was thankful for because he had no idea how long he had been inside the cave. His camp was entirely as he had left it, it had not been disturbed in the least, which he took as good news, that his presence had likely not been detected by local peoples.
Upon arriving once again in the town of Pazarköy, he swelled with pride that he was such an important being, with such a purpose and history, and he knew what he must do. He immediately began construction of a bell forge at his family’s blacksmith station on the outside perimeter of the market and began casting small bells which he hung from a rafter above his shop. He made many wind chimes draped with tiny musical bells, which he sold at the market for a very high price and these chimes became very popular with the nobility in the area.
Hrant proceeded to secure for himself a modest abode, which he decorated like a miniature palace with only the finest goods he could find at the market, its walls adorned with many bells of the finest quality, which when the wind passed by outside would chime softly in a scattered melody.
While overseeing the market one day, a young woman named Nazli caught his eye, and he fell in love almost immediately. In the coming months, the two would meet in secret outside the marketplace, where they would stroll together amongst the olive and citrus groves. When it came time for them to marry, Hrant approached the girl’s father to ask for her hand in marriage and negotiate such, he was subsequently and unexpectedly rejected by the girl’s father, who then whisked her away under cover of night to a province far away, never to stroll with Hrant amongst the olive and fig trees again.
Heartbroken and angry, Hrant turned his attention toward gaining political power which he felt would give him the reach he needed to locate the girl and abscond with her by force. During a pivotal moment in the political evolution of the Ottoman Interregnum, and in exchange for a Beyship of Pazarkoy and neighboring Cuma Yeri under sultan Murat II, Hrant revealed critical strategic information regarding his uncle Junayd who was at the time sealed up in the fortress at Ipsili. In an act of betrayal, Hrant turned over valuable intelligence regarding his own father Hamza to the ruler of Aydin province, Yahkshi. In exchange for his traitorous deed, Yakhshi granted Hrant a moderate sum of gold and a governorship over the marketplace cities he called home.
Meanwhile in his forge, he began crafting a collection of highly polished reflective metallic plates which he attached to small but ornately decorated stands. He placed these mirrors all around the borders of and throughout the city. Symbolic of his rejection by the girl’s father, the mirrors rejected the sun’s light, returning it to the sky in thin bright beams. He also renamed the market city “Nazilli” meaning “Nazli’s home” in honor of his lost love.
Scorned, Hrant lived many years as the Bey of Nazilli and in his later years he grew restless and decided to seek out the girl. He assembled several scouting groups of free mercenaries, who were ordered to scour the surrounding provinces in hopes of locating the girl. After years of fruitless searching, finally one group of men scouting in the hills of Armenia returned with the news that they had found whom they believed to be the girl Hrant was looking for. Hrant knew that the area was politically sensitive, and had been continually besieged by central Asian tribes and Mongolians. This he saw as an opportunity, and he arranged for a meeting with leaders of the Timurid empire who were then seeking to expand their kingdom into the lands of Armenia.
Hrant promised the leaders he would help them take the land for their own under the condition that he be allowed to extract the girl for his own before her village was sacked by the Mongols. To this they agreed, and Hrant began making preparations for how he would sneak into her village with a small battalion of men, kidnap the girl, kill her father and bring her back to the town which was now her namesake.
The day came when they had travelled far away to the lands of Armenia, and were camped outside the girl’s village. The next day Hrant would be reunited with his love, and would whisk her off to his humble palace in Nazilli. He could not contain his excitement however, and decided in the middle of the night to sneak into the village, locate the girl and perform the murder of her father himself, silently and under cover of the night.
He crept silently into the town and lurked outside her house, circling it several times, gathering the inner strength to do what he was planning. His hand slipped down the handle of the bejeweled knife he made for the purpose of slaying her father, as he quietly pushed open the door of the house, which had been left unbarred. He crept silently into the father’s room, knife at the ready. In the dark with only the light of the half-moon peering through the window, he saw the man’s chest heaving with his breath as he crept closer and closer. He pulled the knife silently from its sheath and in one decisive motion, with his left hand he pushed upward on the man’s chin and pushed it upward, tilting his head back and with his right hand he drew the knife across his throat, severing the arteries in one swift motion. Blood began spurting from his throat as he gurgled and choked for air, clutching his throat with both hands as the life escaped his body, soaking his mattress with blood. Hrant waited silently in the shadows while the man died in his bed, then when he was sure it was over, he crept silently again, out of the man’s room and into the room where the girl was sleeping, undisturbed by the action in her father’s room. His heart swelled and beat so fiercely at the sight of her that he feared the sound would wake her, but he sat in silence until he was calm, and the morning light was just beginning to peek above the mountains to the east. His plan was originally to creep into the house and kidnap her, throwing a bag over her head to hide himself as the perpetrator, and carry her off to the camp outside of town where he would reveal to her his identity and they would once again be reunited in love. However carefully he had planned, he suddenly once again felt the urge to dismiss his plans and instead let her awaken naturally, to find him sitting in the chair across from her bed. She would see him, rise immediately and embrace him. Then they would escape the town together and return to the humble marketplace city they both had previously called home.
Unfortunately, reality did not unfold as planned. The girl woke up, and saw him sitting across from her in the chair, blood covering his hands and spattered across his face. She was immediately frightened and started screaming. Hrant jumped to his feet and grabbed her, trying to comfort her but she would have none of it and wiggled away from him, striking him over the head with a brass candlestick and he lost consciousness on the floor. The girl escaped into the quiet streets of the village after discovering her father dead in a pool of blood in his bed, and started screaming until nearby residents were throwing open their windows to see what all the ruckus was about. The residents of the town began gathering around the girl, who was now kneeling and sobbing in the street, her father’s blood all over her hands and clothing from her desperately trying to wake him from death.
At that moment, Hrant suddenly regained consciousness inside the girl’s house where he lay, head bleeding profusely from the blow of the candlestick. He could hear the faint voices of a crowd beginning to gather outside the door to the house and all in a flash he knew that he was in danger, that he had failed, and that he must escape unseen before the unruly mob outside decided they should take his head. He gathered his scattered wits and jumped out the back window of the house, running across the rocky field and disappearing into a shallow ravine behind the girl’s house where he laid silently until he could no longer contain his anguish and burst forth with tears and loud sobbing. The mob which was gathering outside the girl’s house heard his sobs and came after him, he could hear their voices chattering and their footsteps pounding upon the earth, like the footsteps of giants shaking the ground as they approached. Seeing no possibility of escape, he instead put the knife to his own throat, and clenching his jaw muscles he drew the knife across, ending his own life. As he lay bleeding out in the shallow ravine, darkness closing in on him, he succumbed to death just as the shadowy figures of the mob were encroaching on his position shaking various handheld farming implements. With his expiring breath, he could feel the tines of a pitchfork being repeatedly thrust into his chest as the crowd was shouting angrily. Slowly the darkness eclipsed him and the world as he knew it faded away into deep spectral shadows.