Time Frame: August 2031
Location: The Cegini Gypsy Clan's Homelands in Iran
The last twenty-four hours were the worst of Tariq's life. They seemed to last just as long as well. Twenty-four hours without food, little to no water, and surrounded by enemies on all sides. Enemies he had once called friends. Enemies he had once called family.
He had betrayed them for the promise of a better life, for love. And this was where that betrayal had gotten him. Bound to a post. His wrists tied behind his back, forced up against the hard wood, his shoulders and arms bound so tightly that the strain on his muscles and bones felt like it would never leave him.
His imprisonment was solitary as well. He knew there were watchers, but they were hidden from his sight. But he still felt
them, his magical brethren dutiful watching their betrayer.
The sun had beat against him all day long, hot and dry. But now night was falling. He could see the sun dipping below the horizon in the distance. In a few minutes time it would be long gone and dusk would set in. The gypsy wondered how long they would keep him here. Was he to die here? Would he suffer through the delirium of dehydration and starvation until he cried in agony for them to end his life?
They probably thought that he deserved it. Did he deserve it? Was his crime so terrible to inflict such a painful way to die? Probably. Even now he questioned the decisions he made leading up to this point. He lowered his head to stare at the ground. Tariq could already feel the air cooling. It was a small relief though.
He had done it for love. He was adamant on this. He found the chance to be happy with someone, to have a life where his love wouldn't bring shame. But he had sold his clan out for it. Well, not really his entire clan. The others had promised amnesty for those that would join them and swear oaths of servitude. His clan, by their own choice, would have been no better of than his family had been.
Riq, has been dwelling on this endlessly. The hours ticked away as he kept pushing that nasty little conscience in his head that kept telling him, "You did it for glory. You did it to put them in their place. You did it because you are selfish. This is how you got to where you are." Bound to a post.
Night began to fall in earnest, and the usual sounds that accompany night in Iran were absent. Time stretched on and on, and by the degree of darkness Tariq knew that it was going to be a moonless night. Another long night spent in the darkness of his thoughts and the pain of his betrayal. A new life had been so firmly in his grasp, and the Shuvani had taken it from him. He hadn't cried yet, but how long would it be before the tears came.
An hour, maybe two, passed without incident. Then out of nowhere a multitude of footsteps drummed against the earth. 'This is it...'
he thought wearily. 'They have come for my judgement.'
They came from all around him, many carrying torches. Women, Men, and Children all were assembled. Some had brought sticks for a fire, and with a sudden wave of fear he thought they meant to burn him alive. Then they stopped. Roughly twenty yards away in every direction they began to shuffle around. They brought the kindling to five fires and set them aflame. The fires grew to be so great that he could see the faces of everyone gathered.'The entire clan...'
he thought, looking at the half he could see assembled before him. Once the fires were burning bright, he noticed they had set baskets around them. He knew not what they contained, but he didn't think it was anything good.
Whispering voices and staring eyes assailed him for what seemed like forever, until, at last, A small parting was made directly before him. Out from it stepped the Shuvani, as proud and cold as an Ice Queen from the mountains, she stared down at him. There was malice in her eyes, but also, maybe he just hoped, some pity. She said nothing to quiet the clan, but instead let them continue with their cacophony of whispers.
From behind her, one by one, the nine heads of family in the clan stepped out. They were women, some old and some younger than him, and they all bore similar expressions to the Shuvani. They stayed assembled close to her.
Eventually from her sleeve the Shuvani pulled a scroll. Tariq's heart begun to quicken. Was this her pronouncement, her judgement. What would he be condemned to? Death? Exile? Torture? Some combination of those options. Still the Shuvani said nothing, instead, as one, the familial heads drew knives and began to prick their fingers. They smeared the blood upon the scroll... and Tariq knew what they were going to do.
He would never know what was written on that scroll, The Shuvani did not have to read it aloud. It was the details of his curse, something that would become a part of his very soul. That was the only way he would come to know it. Tariq's eyes met those of the middle-aged Shuvani, the first time since this whole ritual had started. At that moment she said, in a low growl of a voice, "Now we begin."
Taking their cues, the athame wielding women fanned out around him, forming an inner circle. Each one, in turn, threw their knives into the ground at their feet. Their blood on the blades, sunk into the earth. In unison afterwards, they spit three times at their feet. 'This is going to be bad.'
He thought, as fear rose up in him. He felt angry to, and resentful, and every other dark emotion, but they were eclipsed by the terror building within him. It rose and rose, and each time he felt that he couldn't be more terrified, his fear increased to whole new threshold.
"You will be cursed." the Shuvani stated matter of factly. There was no emotion in her voice, not even a hint of it.
"You will be cursed from now until eternity"
She backed away slightly and began to chant what sounded like a lullaby. The other clan leaders joined in, building upon the haunting melody. He wasn't quite able to make out the words. Tariq wasn't sure of what to make of it until at last he sees his Father, then his Mother and Sister come forth. There is regret in their eyes, and also hatred. He stared into the eyes of his sister and she looks away, but he saw the disgust on her face. His father and mother though, there was much more than disgust in their eyes. He was an outsider to them now, worse than that, he was scum.
He doesn't say he's sorry, he wants to say he did it for love...
But did he do it for glory?
And yet nothing came forth from his lips. The chant continues without end as the Shuvani extracts something from behind her back. It's a bird cage, with an owl inside it. It was an omen of death. Tariq began to struggle fruitlessly against his bonds, but it was to no end. He cast his head around wildly and notices people extracting things from the baskets. He sees his clothes, all his worldly possessions, and various herbs and wooden talismans being fed to the flames. The fires cruelly eat them up.
Once the baskets are empty, they too are thrown to the burning piles. Tariq was unclean, and so everything he ever had was deemed the same. Even in his panicked state, he knew that everyone present would go through seven days of cleansing rituals after the curse was complete.
The chanting, at long last, begins to die down, until the Shuvani is the only one chanting. Her voice now rings out clear like a bell. Here words sink into his flesh even as his heart beats so powerfully to escape his chest.
"For your crimes, in pain you will pay
With every night, with every day
Into your flesh we burn a sentence
For your betrayal we accept no penance.
We cast you far from this clan
You will never return to this land
A plague upon the earth you will be
As long as you live you will not find peace
Pain will live in your very skin
And pain will be your only kin
We curse you down to your traitorous bones
We curse you to forever be alone."
With the last line delivered, she bends down to free the owl. With an almighty screech that pierced Tariq's ears, it flew out, straight towards him. He thought it meant to savage him with its talons, but instead halts, battering its wings at him. He feels the air rush off of them wash over his face, and then the creature took off into the night sky.
He felt the exhaustion all at once, his body shakes and he slumped downwards, but still he is held up by the chains that secure him to the tree. He weakly lifted his head to look at the assembled gypsies once more. The Shuvani, with an air of finality, casts the scroll to the ground. As soon as it meets the earth it was instantly consumed in blood red tongues of flame, nothing but ash in a matter of seconds.
"It is done."
Tariq didn't hear the Shuvani though. All he heard was the sound of his own vomiting. He had eaten nothing for over a day, and still his stomach divulged its contents until his throat was burned dry. A tremor ran the length of his entire body and he fell unconscious. That was the last time he saw his home, his family, and his old life.