Tammath turned back to face the Plateau of Alquoran and the Hallowed Throne that sat upon it. He did not step forward into that holy place, though. He waited with arms outstretched, basking in the air, then bowed and touched his forehead all the way to the cobblestones. Then he rose to his feet, then bowed all the way back down again. And this he repeated, over and over, for a total of ten times. Then Tammath took a single step forward, after which he once again bowed ten times to the earth. Then he took another step and bowed another ten times. And in this way he continued, bowing ten times after every shuffling of his feet.
Of course, this made his advance much slower, so slow that at times it seemed he did not progress at all, but he did not mind how long it was taking. After fifty years of travel what did it matter how much longer he spent in giving obeisance? Far better to be true to what felt right in his heart and give this place all the dignity he could muster.
And, of course, Tammath really was advancing forward. If there were days in this land it would have been seven that transpired before he touched the bottom of the temple’s steps. But Tammath did not end his reverence there. He now performed twenty bows upon each of the steps, and when he passed the open doors and into the single, great room he advanced with fifty bows at each step.
So it was that by the time Tammath knelt upon the mosaic pedestal that rested before the raised dais, he had already looked upon the holy place for hundreds of hours, had memorized every detail of its architecture, and had anointed all its stones with his kisses.
“King Taq’ii!” he spoke loudly and clearly to the ornate throne that sat upon the dais. “King Taq’ii, your servant Tammath approaches. Wilt thou speak to me, oh Lord?” And then he touched his forehead to the cool floor, and kept it there, determined to remain prostrated until he received an answer.
How long he waited he could not say. Measurements of time had become meaningless to him, and so it might have been but a few moments, or even an entire day, but at last there came the sound of creaking wood as the weight of a person settled into the throne.
A voice returned his plea.
“Ah, Tammath, my good son. Raise your head and speak to me, I beg of you. Your lord has come to hear your plea.”
For the first time in decades Tammath’s tranquility briefly wavered. With tears streaming down his face he lifted his eyes to behold the king-God Taq’ii, great ruler of all the known world, the high steward appointed by the creator himself!
At first the man appeared much as any other man, with crimson and gold robes, chest-length, curly beard, copper skin, and many wrinkles around the eyes, but then one noticed the soft glow that clothed his entire figure. It was a fuzzy border, that extended about an inch above the skin across every detail of his body. Tammath knew, of course, that this was an immortalizing aura, a sort of shield that prevented King Taq’ii from ever coming into direct contact with anything of the corruptible earth. This was how a man, though born a mortal, could be artificially kept immortal by the creator.
“Please,” King Taq’ii repeated with smiling eyes, “speak, my son.”
“My Lord…” Tammath began, “I am Tammath Asueyi, and I have long sought your face. My motives have been pure, my intent has been just, and I do not seek my own gain. I am here only to beseech for that which is good.”
“Of course…you would not be able to witness my presence were your heart otherwise. And what is the good cause that has carried you to me Tammath Asueyi?”
“My Lord, I come from the lands of Ovathyo, the province of Modecci, the country of Atta’Huk, the city of Metiphi, the district of Tong, along the southern slopes of the valley. It is a very far off place, but it is of your realm. Perhaps you know if it?”
“Of course. I know I all my lands. I am very familiar with your valley where the river Phariedes sinks into the soil and waters the rice and biscill for me and my people. But I have not had word from that field for a very long time. Is all well there?”
“I am afraid not,” Tammath reverentially bowed his head to the stone, then raised his eyes again. “It was fifty years ago when a band of raiders came from the sea, razed the land, and murdered everyone therein. I, myself, escaped because I had been sent to the neighboring mountaintop the night before.”
“Sent to the mountaintop? But why?”
“I–I had been careless when watching my father’s sheep and one of the lambs escaped. We found it on the mountain, freezing and hungry a day later, and my father ordered me to spend a night out on the mountain to appreciate what I had done to it.”
“I see. And when you came back…there were no survivors at all?”
Tammath shook his head and pressed his eyelids closed as he vainly tried to hold back the tears.
“We were a very small hamlet, only thirty-two souls in all. And I was able to account for every body, stripped and laid out in the sun.”
“I see,” King Taq’ii said heavily. His head drooped, like it was connected to a great weight, and he shook it slowly from side to side. “Thank you for bringing me the news of this. What a horrible burden you have borne.”
“I ought to have perished with them,” Tammath declared. “I was born one of them, lived as one of them, and I should have died as one of them. But fate decreed that I would live, and as I pondered upon that I realized I had been preserved for a reason. I was left alive so that I could make the long walk to your throne! And now, here at your feet, I beseech that this wrong finally be made right.”