Snuffing the unquenchable fire

Early Days

Under the reign of the fifth sultan of the Ottoman dynasty Mehmed the affable, in the early days of the Ottoman empire in western Turkey, the Aydin province was under the tenuous rule of Junayd Bey. Junayd Bey was a popular governor of Smyrna during the Interregnum. Junayd had a brother named Hamza who fathered a child possessed of unusual qualities and intellect. Fearing Murad would discover this unusual child and view him as a threat to his future rule, Hamza sent the boy to live with a peasant family near the market city of Pazarköy.

The peasant family gave the child the name Hrant Darbinian, meaning “unquenchable fire of the blacksmith.” This served to hide the child’s noble heritage, but there was another reason as well. The child seemed to glow with an unnatural inner light. If enemies of Junayd and Hamza discovered this child, they would execute him. At age fourteen, Hrant received a visit from an aging Hamza. He told Hrant the story of how he was hidden away as an infant and given to the family who raised him in Pazarköy.

Hrant as a young man

Being still a young man of 14 years age, Hrant was already becoming a powerful merchant 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 Hamza, Hrant awakened to a vision where he was able to recall having lived previous lives. The realization swept over him like a wave cresting in the Sea, suffocating him in its intensity. He felt a pressure like someone pushing hard on his chest. All at once he remembered it all – all his previous lives, all the times he had died, all that he had done. Most interesting of all, he recalled establishing a sanctuary in a cave hidden in the hills to the far south-east, beyond the fertile valley he knew as his childhood home.

The following morning, he saddled up a horse and rode to the east, in search of his sanctuary. After seven full days of riding, he came across the location of the cave mouth. A limestone slab stood in front of the opening to hide it. Surrounded by a stand of black pines and clumps of star thistle 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 by passing goat and sheep herders.

The cave

As the sun was rising over the mountains, he hiked up the hillside to the mouth of the cave. Using a long pole of pine, pried loose the limestone guarding the entrance. It had not moved 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 with many twists and turns.The passage was a labyrinth of dripping water from an underground spring, which collected in small lifeless pools among the rocky crags. After scrambling over rocks and squeezing through narrow channels, he arrived at the central chamber of the cave. On the walls, he noticed many sconces with unlit torches placed in them. Circling the main chamber, he lit each of the torches, illuminating the room and the many strange items it contained.

Inside, he found things which immediately triggered memories for him. A long string of colored beads serving as a record-keeping device to track the times he had reincarnated, one bead for each lifetime he had lived. They seemed to glow 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 he decided to explore another opening. Inside he found a makeshift forge, an anvil, and a series of deep pits on the floor, scattered with straw and charred grasses. Hanging on the walls of the room were many bells of varying sizes and shapes, all covered with a thick layer of dust.

An odd collection of things

Hrant walked 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. Echoing reverberations traveled through a long invisible network of rocky passageways. The reverberations seemed never-ending, circling through the passageways and returning 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 glowed faintly. Hrant took one more long look around the cave, feeling a surge of power and purpose as he gazed upon the many artifacts he had collected during his previous lives. He also found a leather-clad book containing journals he had left in the past for his future self. He sat and read all the entries, while outside the cave day turned to night and night into day. After he finished reading the journal, he found an inkwell sitting next to it, and a fancy quill pen. He picked it up and scribbled 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. He pushed back the limestone slab against the entrance and hiked back down into the ravine where he had made camp. His horse was still there, which he was thankful for because he had no idea how long he had been inside the cave. The camp was as he had left it, undisturbed, which he took as good news. His presence was not detected by local people while he was gone.

Upon return to 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 constructed a bell forge at his blacksmith station and began casting bells which he hung from a rafter above the shop. He made many wind chimes draped with tiny musical bells, which he sold at the market for a very high price. These chimes became very popular with the nobility in the area.

A palatial home for Hrant

With his new earnings, Hrant secured for himself a modest abode. He decorated it like a miniature palace, using only the finest goods he could find at the market. Its walls he adorned with many bells of the finest quality. When the wind passed by outside, they would chime a scattered melody.

While overseeing the market one day, a young woman named Nazli caught his eye. Hrant fell in love almost immediately. In the coming months, the two would meet outside the marketplace, strolling together amongst the olive and citrus groves. Hrant approached the girl’s father to ask for her hand in marriage, but he was unexpectedly rejected by the girl’s father. The next day the father whisked her away to a province far away, never to stroll with Hrant amongst the olive and fig trees again.

Heartbroken and angry, Hrant turned his attention to gaining political power. He felt this would give him the reach he needed to locate the girl and abscond with her by force if necessary. At a pivotal moment in the Ottoman Interregnum, in exchange for a Beyship of Pazarkoy and neighboring Cuma Yeri, Hrant revealed critical strategic information about his uncle Junayd, who was at the time in the fortress at Ipsili. An act of betrayal, Hrant turned over valuable intelligence on his father Hamza to Yahkshi. In exchange for his traitorous deed, Yakhshi granted Hrant a sum of gold and a governorship over the cities he then called home.

Meanwhile, he also crafted a series of polished metallic plates. He attached these to small ornate stands. He placed these mirrors all around the borders of and throughout the city. Symbolizing his rejection by the girl’s father, the mirrors reflected the sun’s light back to the sky in thin, bright beams. He also renamed the market city “Nazilli” meaning “Nazli’s home” in honor of his lost love.

A love scorned is a love lost

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 a scouting group of free mercenaries, whom he ordered to scour the provinces in hopes of locating the girl. After years of searching, a group of men scouting the hills of Eastern Anatolia returned with the news. They had found whom they believed to be the girl. Hrant knew that the area was sensitive and besieged by central Asian tribes and Mongolians. This he saw as an opportunity and he began making preparations. He would sneak into her village with a small group of men, kidnap the girl and bring her back to the town, now her namesake. How proud she would be to live in a town named for her.

The day came when they had traveled to the lands of far eastern Anatolia, and camped outside the girl’s village. The next day Hrant would reunite with his love, whisking her off to his palace of bells in Nazilli. But he could not contain his fierce obsession, and decided in the middle of the night to sneak into the village. He would locate the girl and murder her father himself, under cover of the night.

Silently creeping in the night

He crept into the town and lurked outside her house. He circled it several times, gathering the courage to carry through with his plan. His hand slipped down the handle of the bejeweled knife he made specifically to slay her father. As he pushed open the door of the house, he crept into the father’s room, knife at the ready. With only the light of the half-moon peering through the window, he saw the man’s chest rising with his breath as he crept closer. He pulled the knife from its sheath, and in one impulsive motion, drew the blade across his throat, severing the arteries in one swift motion.

Blood spurted from his throat as he gurgled and choked for air. He clutched his throat with both hands as the life escaped his body, soaking his mattress with blood. Hrant waited in the shadows as the man died in his bed. When he was sure it was over, he crept again out of the man’s room and found the room where the girl was still sleeping. His heart beat so fiercely at the sight of her that he feared the sound would wake her. He sat in silence until he was calm, and the morning light was beginning to peek above the mountains to the east.

His original plan was to creep into the house and kidnap her, throwing a bag over her head to hide himself. Then he would carry her to the camp outside of town and reveal to her his identity. They would once again reunite in mutual love. However he had planned, he once again felt the urge to dismiss his plans. Instead he let her awaken, to find him sitting in the chair across from her bed. She would see him, rise immediately and embrace him. They would escape the town together and return to the humble marketplace city once called home.

Things do not proceed as planned

Unfortunately, reality did not unfold as planned and this fantasy of his was overtaken by impulse. The girl woke up, saw him sitting across from her in the chair with blood on his hands and spattered across his face. She was immediately frightened and started screaming. Hrant jumped to his feet and grabbed her. He longed to comfort her, but she would have none of it and wiggled away from him. She struck him over the head with a brass candlestick and he dropped to the floor. Upon discovering her father dead in a pool of blood in his bed, the girl escaped into the quiet streets of the village. She started screaming until nearby residents were throwing open their windows to see what all the ruckus was about. The town began gathering around the girl, now kneeling and sobbing in the street. Her father’s blood all over her hands and clothing.

Dead in a ditch

Regaining his senses inside the house where he lay, head bleeding, he could hear the faint voices of a crowd beginning to gather outside the door. All in a flash he knew that he was in danger, that he had failed, and that he must escape unseen before the mob outside decided to take his head. Gathering his scattered wits, Hrant jumped out the back window of the house. Running across the rocky field he dove into a shallow ditch behind the house. He laid there until he could no longer contain his anguish and burst forth with tears and loud sobbing. The mob gathering outside the house heard his sobs and came after him. He could hear their voices chattering and their footsteps pounding upon the earth. They were 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 tight, he drew the knife across. As he lay bleeding in the shallow ditch with darkness closing in on him, he succumbed to death. The shadowy figures of the mob encroached on him shaking various farming implements. With his expiring breath, he felt the tines of a pitchfork repeatedly thrust into his chest as the crowd shouted. Slowly darkness eclipsed him and the world as he knew it faded away into deep spectral shadows.

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