The echo of children's voices woke KeYnNamM. One of them bright like a birdsong in the morning, the other already somewhat roughened, like that of a boy, on the verge of adulthood. The voices penetrated through the gurgling of the well chamber into the spring chamber, a narrow room with a low ceiling into which the water seeped from the mountain. From there it continued to flow through a narrow outlet into the well chamber to be collected in the deep well shaft.
KeYnNamM pushed closer to the grate and peered into the well chamber. In the semi-darkness, he caught sight of two gaunt figures, one about fourteen years old and another boy of perhaps nine. Both had shed their clothes. While the older one washed himself carefully, the younger one danced in the puddles of water by the well shaft, splashing the other.
"Come play, Ikken!" he begged, taking a mouthful of water and blowing the fountain into the other's face, "Come, don't be a coward, you promised we'd have fun in here!" "You're already wet as a sparrow in a puddle! Hurry up Aylal, little bird! Move on! Any moment the city guards can come and there we have to be outside or there will be in trouble."
"Come on Ikken, it's much too beautiful here! So nice and cool! So much water! You promised to play here with me if I didn't go to the sky ladder to view the race up the ladder. All my friends have gone there and you won't let me! Why? They will be talking all day about the competition of the two criminals on the ladder to heaven, and all the blood, and how they screamed when they were impaled by the lances." "I'll explain that to you later little brother, some other time!"
Before Aylal could protest further, voices rang out in the hallway leading to the well chamber. Quickly, the taller one grabbed his brother, covered his mouth, and pulled him into the shadow of the doorway next to the entrance. Fearfully, he looked around the empty room for a better hiding place. Then his eyes fell on the grating that separated the spring chamber and the well chamber. For a moment, the eyes of KeYnNamM and the youth crossed. He was startled and wanted to scream. In the last moment he put his hand over his mouth and stifled the scream!
The guards, however, did not go into the well chamber, but climbed the eight steps to the spring chamber. Cursing they pushed back the rusty bolt of the entrance door. KeYnNamM quickly rolled to the center of the chamber and lay there as if fainting. "Come on wake up! Come on, his highness the emperor’s governor Gwasila, wants to see you. He is still your master, even if the people of the Wadi Draa call you King, King of the Waste Land!" Warned one of the city guards.
KeYnNamM stood there his legs hardly supporting his tired body. He did not move and breathed shallowly. He trembled. He wanted to give the boys a chance to escape from the chamber. "Hey, you King of the Waste Land!" hissed the other city guard, nudging him with his foot "You can't be doing too badly, after all you won the battle and will soon be free!". "If I were you, I wouldn't hesitate for a moment! Get going, if you don't want the governor to change his mind and send you back to the penal camp!" "Governor Gwasila can decide like he wants! And he'd rather see rebels like you dead than alive, especially the one people call king!"
The guards dragged KeYnNamM to the exit of the well house. As KeYnNamM's eyes had adjusted to the bright sunlight, his eyes fell on the two boys. They were standing by the city wall, dressing, but not looking over at him. He breathed a sigh of relief. So, they had made it.
KeYnNamM suddenly felt glances at his back, as the two guards led him across the hot square to the townhouse with the courtroom. Surely someone was staring at the Emperor's mark on his back, the mark that identified him, KeYnNamM, as the Emperor's property! He involuntarily turned and looked back. Their eyes met again, KeYnNamM's eyes and the eyes of the half-grown boy, the one the smaller boy had called Ikken. Ikken and Aylal, the names had imprinted on his brain.
Ikken grabbed his little brother by the hand and dragged him across the square, blazing in the sun, into the shade of the well house. "Come Aylal, we must try to follow he three, the city guards and the man!" "But why? I'm hungry! You promised me a bath and then fresh pita bread and dates. Now I'm hungry!" "Not now Aylal, later!" and the taller one began to drag his little brother across the square. "But why? Why do we have to go after the three? You're usually afraid of the guards, Ikken." "That's why!" "Why?" the younger insisted. "I'll tell you later. You don't understand now!" "Always later! Why?"
Ikken hesitated for a moment, then relented, "That man there, look how he walks, look! He walks like Baba!" his voice got coarse, "His hair, look, bright like Baba's and......" Ikken hesitated, "I saw his face too, in the dark, in the well chamber! He was watching us from the well chamber! He was looking at me! He looks like Baba!"
"Father is gone, long gone! You kept telling me that, over and over again!" Aylal didn't believe his brother! "You're fibbing! You haven't seen Baba, you don't know what Baba looks like! He has been gone from us for so long!" "You were small then, too young, you can't remember Baba. You were only three, but I was eight!" "I can remember! Of course! How he used to carry me in his arms, how he used to tickle me with his beard! How tall he was!"
"Why don't you admit it! You can't remember his face, his eyes!" Ikken thought, then with triumph in his voice, "The man has Baba's eyes, blue eyes!" "Baba had bushy eyebrows. But I don't remember the color of his eyes. I want to see his eyes! Come quickly!" Aylal broke away and ran after the three. "Maybe it is Baba after all! I'll ask him!"
With five strides, Ikken caught up with him and yanked his brother back! "Aylal, stop! Aylal, it's definitely not him! I ...." Ikken was about to say, "I know how he died! I was there!" But then he just said, "Come brother, Aylal my bird, we sneak after them! At a distance! Maybe the man needs our help!"
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