Vara

Fierb pădurile de viață,

Ziua-i lungă și senină,

Iar orașul zace leneș

Într-o mare de lumină.

Străzile sunt moleșite,

Briza bate praful moale,

Norii-și lasă umbra rece

Peste sufletele goale.

Oamenii cu ochi de sticlă

Stau pierduți prin magazine,

Doar prezentul este-al nostru

Nu ce-a fost și nici ce vine.

Norii albi se-nvârt în ceruri

Albi și lungi, nepăsători,

Ziua calcă înspre moarte

A murit de-atâtea ori.

Și de-acolo se pornește

Sub un dom de stele vii

Să răsară înc-o dată,

Să devin-o nouă zi.

E aceeași, este alta?

Stau mereu și mă gândesc,

Dar mai sigur decât toate

E că astăzi te iubesc.

Și veni-va vara-aceea

Când sub soare n-om mai fi

Ș-or fi alții-n locul nostru

Ce cu alții s-or iubi.

Daphne și Lemnul

Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Apollo și Daphne

(metamorfo-satiră-clasic-contemporană inspirat dintr-o legendă antică grecească)

Fecioar-ascunsă de iubire

Pe dealul verde se plimba

La margini ude de pădure

Unde orașul se găta.

Apoi, prin iarbă la izvoare

Frumoasa cale își făcu

Și-o sticlă goală de un litru

Cu apă dulce o umplu.

Dar iat-al verii zeu, Apollo,

Pe scumpa Daphne a zărit-o

Pe Tinder că era aproape

Și fără jenă a râvnit-o.

Iar într-o clipă zburătorul

Înspre pădure s-a zvârlit

Și lângă Daphne-n pielea goală

S-a înființat ș-a dănțuit.

Fecioar-atunci pe-o bicicletă

De blondul zeu abia scăpă,

Dar el pe raza lui de soare

Pe urma ei se-aventură.

Atunci, văzând c-o prinde mândrul

Frumoasa Daphne s-a rugat

De zeul râului de munte

Ce lângă drum curgea-nspumat.

Ea îi ceru s-o scape-n grabă

De un viol ce o păștea

Iar zeul râului de munte

I-a spus că o va ajuta.

Boscorodi apoi bătrânul

O vrajă veche și păgână,

Apoi crăpă în palma-i lată

O boabă mica de alună.

Și Daphne de pe bicicletă

Căzu la margine de drum

Pe-un pat de frunze și moloz

De-a scos pe gură foc și fum.

Iar bratele i s-au nălțat

Și crengi frumoase au făcut

Picioarele i s-au sucit

Și prin pământ au străbătut.

Ori pielea ei s-a întărit,

De-o scoarță groasă învelită,

Într-un copac s-a preschimbat

Sărmana fată fugărită.

Mândrul Apollo n-a-ndurat

Să-și vadă dragostea furată

Pe râul cela l-a secat

Cu raza lui înfierbântată.

Și de acolo a plecat.

Iar dup-o vreme tăietorii

De lemn pe deal au apărut

Cu fierăstraiele ororii

Pădurea toată a căzut

Că statul însuși i-a lăsat

Să taie tot, să smulgă tot

Lemnul cel blând, nevinovat.

Și spre Austria pornit-a

Un tren de fier, tot burdușit

Cu lemn uscat și fără viață

Ah, dealul tot a fost golit.

Iar printre trunchiurile groase

Pe moarte Daphne sângera,

Plângea de-a lemnului durere

Și codrul tot cu ea plângea.

Pisica în Criză

Pământul e rotund, oceanul fără pește,

Iar cerul plin de stele ni se-mpotrivește,

Furtuni de foc și apă în fiecare zi,

Războaie-n avalanșă ucid economii.

Ne ducem toți de râpă, e jale și necaz,

Pisica stă cuminte cu fundul pe pervaz,

La ce se uită tristă mă-ntreb în gând și tremur,

Presimte oare-o bombă sau poate un cutremur?

Sau vom muri cu toții de vreo epidemie,

Cădea-vor meteorii zburând prin galaxie?

Veni-vor OZN-uri cu pulverizatoare

Să ne prefacă-n scrum și fumuri rotitoare?

Vom sta sudați în scaun pândind pe internet

Sfârștitu-apocaliptic cu lacrimi și regret.

Vai, n-văzut Islanda, nici vreun atol oceanic

Și am ratat și filmul cu Leo pe Titanic.

Pisica dă din coadă, e timpul, sunt pierdut

O ultimă țigară, un whiskey, a-nceput

Ce-am așteptat de veacuri, mereu nepregătiți,

Finalul grandios. ”Săriți!” eu strig. ”Săriți!”

Pericolul e maxim, pisica mea îl simte,

E doar o aparență că stă, așa, cuminte.

Mă las pierdut în scaun de mila mea oftez,

Pisica se sucește și-mi cere să-ncetez.

Da, da, mâța-mi vorbește de pe al ei pervaz:

”Trăiește viața asta așa cum e, cu haz

Și dacă mai încolo ai drum la magazin

Adu-mi și papagalul din blocul cel vecin.”

”Îl vezi acolo-n cușca aceea la parter?

De-un ceas mă uit la el, de pofta lui disper.

Iar poate dup-aceea de mergi și prin oraș

Să-mi cumperi niște plicuri cu gust de iepuraș.”

Eu stau uimit ș-ascult, sfârșitul n-a sosit

Se pare că am ani și lucruri de trăit

Și n-o fi ideală, această scurtă viață,

Dar ascultând de-o mâță și prostul mai învață.

Călărețul

Prin stepa cea largă

Cu lanuri de iarbă

Venea în galop

Lovind cu potop

Un cal roșcovan

La coamă bălan.

Pe el aplecat,

C-un ochi bulbucat

Și sânge pe față,

Privind ca prin ceață,

Un tânăr gemea,

De piept se ținea.

De neam era scit,

Un păr înnegrit

Din cap îi ieșea

Și fruntea-i lucea

Cu multă sudoare

Ca roua pe-o floare.

Mergea înspre seară,

Mergea ca să moară

La capăt de zare

Spre soare răsare,

El singur scăpat

Din câți au plecat –

La luptă-n câmpie.

Trei sute ș-o mie

De sciți ce-au căzut

Când, vai, s-au bătut

C-o hoardă-nrăită,

Din Iad răsărită.

Obiect ornamental de aur reprezentânt un călăreț scit

Iar hâzii barbari

Cu iuți armăsari,

Pe scit l-au ajuns

Ș-apoi l-au străpuns

Cu multă răbdare

La drumul cel mare.

El astfel rănit

Din nou a fugit,

Dar viața-l lăsă,

Prin răni se vărsă.

Ș-acum pribegea,

De-abia se ținea.

Când, iată, departe

Din steaua lui Marte

Ce-n cer se ivi

O rază porni,

Spre ea îl chemă;

Bărbatul plecă.

Ajuns, se opri

Și-n față-i ieși

Un pom minunat

Din aur curat

Cu pietre-atârnate

Pe el, nestemate.

Sub pom așteptau

Doi zei și strigau

Că toate vor trece

Ca apa cea rece

Și viața și faima,

Necazul și spaima.

Închizătoare de aur pentru o centură scită

Cei doi îl luară

Pe scit și-l culcară

Acolo-n lumină

Sub bolta ce plină

De fructe și frunze

Căci moartea-l ajunse.

Dar zeii-i cântară

Și nu îl lăsară

Să rătăcească

Prin stepa lumească

Și-n crugu-nstelat

Cei trei au zburat.

Manuel and The Two Hearts

6. The first trial

After preparing a swift departure, early on the next day Manuel left Antioch and went Eastwards. It took him many days, but once he reached the banks of the mighty Euphrates, he built a raft and floated down the cold, rapid waters, struggling not to crush into the massive rocks that stood in his way. As the river widened, the flow of water slowed down, slowly carrying him towards the endless, deep sea. And when he reached it, he kept on floating on the calm waters for weeks, but he didn’t find the beautiful island and its fantastic dwellers. Maybe it all had been just a lie meant to send him to his doom.

Then, one cold night, somewhere on the high seas, Manuel spotted a small outcrop. But by morning the distant promontory had vanished, and so did the boy’s hopes. What made things worse, his food and water were nearly gone. Yet, the next night he again saw that strange mound, looming in the distance. Feeling how his strength was flowing out of his body, he sailed for it. That was his last chance of getting anywhere. With the new daylight came another disappointment. Whatever that thing was, it was nowhere in sight. However, Manuel stayed on course, oaring towards the inexistent destination. And with every passing night the once small shadow reappeared growing larger and larger only to disappear in the morning. He had done well not to give up to desolation and stop from reaching it. It became clear that some sort of magic impeded Manuel from seeing the outcrop in clear daylight. And so, on the seventh night he finally arrived on the shores of an island, all covered with forests the like he had never seen before. Manuel crept inside those woods to see them populated with all sorts creatures having many odd shapes and ravishing, bright colours. There were fruits and flowers of incredible sizes, swarms of flying fish, giant reptiles and frogs, buffalos with magnificent, spiralling horns, two headed elephants, white deer, covered with gemstones, airy butterflies who dissolved into thin air like smoke, and all sorts of other unknown creatures.

The island was crossed by a network of small rivers, and all seemed to flow from one single place in its centre. Fade, eerie sounds came down the water streams, but as Manuel advanced deeper inside the forest, they became louder. He then found an open plain, and in the middle of that plain there was a pond, the source of all those streams. What was even more bizarre, on the pond there was a small island thronged by hundreds of peacocks. Their plumage came in all colours ant they were singing in a frenzy around a tall tree and perched on one its branches there was a radiant golden peacock. The bird spanned its metallic wings and chased away all the other peacocks, who rose in a dazzling swirl, spreading across the island. After that, the king of peacocks fell asleep.

*

Manuel sought the chance and swam across to that small patch of land, and crawling towards the three, he climbed on it getting as close as he could to the sleeping bird. But just before he could grab it, the peacock awoke and flu away on another branch, where Manuel couldn’t reach it.

The boy went down, trying how to find a way to catch the sly peacock, always thinking of his beloved Isabella who was waiting for him, far away in Antioch.

Not long after, all the noises of the forest halted. Alone in that wilderness, Manuel started to be harassed by his body’s needs. Beleaguered by thirst, hunger and fatigue he first went to drink some water from the pond, but went he tried to take some in his palm, the waters withdrew under the ground. Hungry, he saw that the three was full of fruits, but when he grabbed one of them, the fruit withered away and turned into ash. Too tired to think about the bird, Manuel laid on the ground and thought of dozing off for a few minutes, but a voice came from under the grass and spoke to him:

“Young man, if you fall asleep, you’ll be swallowed by this island. All that beauty you see thrives on the bodies of those who hoped to catch the golden bird. Go back and never return to this cursed place! I was a man like you once. I came here thinking this golden bird would make me rich, that it would help me fulfil all my desires. But now, look at me, look what I’ve become. I am just a pile of soil and roots; defenceless food for the ants that crawl inside me. I feel their stinging bites, but I cannot defend myself. Don’t share my torment. Run away from here, for if you sleep, you’ll be always trapped in here, half dead and half alive, just like the me.” The voice stopped.

Manuel understood this was a task he could never accomplish. Weakened by the many nights on the sea, he closed his heavy eye lids for a moment and saw Isabella. It was just for her he had come so far. He sought no fortune, no fame. He lived only for his love. Alas, without even knowing he slipped into the sleep of death. When he realised that he had fallen into that never-ending dream, it was already too late. He felt the thin roots of the three piercing his skin and dragging him under the earth. He tried to fight them but had no more power. Hopeless, Manuel whispered his young wife’s name. The last thing he heard were some wings flapping above his head…

*

“Manuel, I only let myself caught in dreams, for dreams always reveal a man’s true nature, his deepest thoughts. Most of those who came here have tried to have me for their own vain desires. What they got instead was eternal damnation. But you seek to save your love and that I cannot vanquish. So far, I’ve met only a few mortals to be worthy of me. You’re among them. I free you from my course. Wake up!”

The boy opened his eyes and found the golden peacock sitting right next to him. His kind soul had saved him and brought the bird down to the ground.

 And so, the youth had managed to complete the task. But now he started to contemplate at his long way back. He had no more food and water, neither could he get them from that island. Then, like somehow it had read Manuel’s mind, the peacock shook its feathers and grew tenfold in size. Spreading its long, golden wings it shrieked and waited for Manuel to climb on its back. Once that happened, the two flew back to Antioch.

*

Imagine the amazement of all those living in the city when they saw the boy circling on the back of a giant golden peacock high above the lofty, slender towers.

Once the landed, the peacock returned to its previous size and was taken in one of the palace gardens, where he spent much of the days grooming itself and displaying its glittering plumage to the astounded people at the court.

 As for Manuel, he returned to his mother house and from where he sent a message to Isabella, waiting for her response. Tee poor youth hoped their troubles were finally over.

Relieved, Isabella, wanted to see him right away, but her jealous mother reminded her of the letter and persuaded her not to give up with such an ease. Manuel must have caught the bird out of sheer luck. There were better ways to prove his devotion to his wife and she will find them.

Manuel and The Two Hearts

4. The second heart

Once married, Manuel and Isabela’s love grew even stronger. Enjoying all the comfort of the royal court their lives were as calm and blissful as an endless summer day. From dawn till dusk   the shiny marble halls and the hidden gardens of the palace echoed with music, cheers and laughter. But happiness is as short lived as an ant’s wings, and while the lovers praised their beautiful life to the delight of the king and all his subjects, a pair of cold, beautiful eyes, teeming with jealousy and yearning, was constantly spying them from the shadows.

Then, one day, it so happened that the princess wanted to go with her maids at the city’s market and buy new garments for herself, leaving Manuel alone in the palace. The restless youth waited for his lover’s return, but after many hours there was still no news from her. Fearing for her safety Manuel prepared to run and join her at the market when a servant came and asked the boy to follow him to the queen’s apartment. Once arrived, Manuel found himself in a place of unparalleled wealth and beauty. Drapes of transparent silk and shiny silver lamps came down from the ceiling surrounded by a dim red light. All over those obscure rooms were pale silhouettes of statues, of slim porphyry pillars and of priceless pieces of furniture. Dumbfounded, Manuel looked around. The servant was gone. An uneasy stillness engulfed the lonely youth. Suddenly, he heard a soft voice:

“There is no one here but you and me. I made sure that Isabella won’t be back till late in the evening. Don’t be afraid my beloved; we have all the time in the world.”

“What is going on?” asked Manuel while his heart was throbbing.

Then, from a sofa, behind the soft drapes of silk he saw a naked woman approaching. It was none other than the queen herself. Her body was as white as milk and her eyes, much like those of her daughter’s, pierced Manuel’s chest, making him shiver. Constance was a woman worthy of her reputation. Her beauty, always incarcerated by the many layers of clothing, was now completely exposed. There was no charm that God had spared her body of. In poor Manuel’s eyes she seemed to outshine even his beloved Isabella.

“My queen, what you are showing me is both reckless and sinful. My love for Isabella is as strong as ever and there is no room left for another woman in my heart,” the young man whispered.

But Constance kissed Manuel and touched him with the skills of a woman well accustomed with the art of earthly pleasures and said:

“There will be no talk of love until you try the fruit I have to offer.”

And once she got the youth’s solid confirmation that her charms had vanquished him, she tried to make love to him.

But Manuel downright refused and pushed her away. He then left her apartment never to return, never to talk to her, never to look her in the eyes.

The insulted queen shook with rage and gazed at her situation. If, by any chance Manuel divulged her desire for him she would be lost. From then on, she sent her spies to watch the boy relentlessly, reminding him of the ever-looming threat that now hanged above his head. But Manuel kept quiet. He feared too much he had somehow been responsible for all that happened, and he didn’t want to raise any doubts about his fidelity to Isabella.

But it was too late, the queen’s pride had been tattered; her fury had been unleashed. She wanted revenge. Manuel’s fate was sealed. 

https://poemefarastapan.com/2019/06/04/manuel-si-cele-doua-inimi-4/

What’s our purpose?

D’où Venons Nous / Que Sommes Nous / Où Allons Nous
Paul Gaugin
1897-1898
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Source: Wikipedia

  “What is the highest good in all matters of action? To the name, there is almost complete agreement; for uneducated and educated alike call it happiness, and make happiness identical with the good life and successful living. They disagree, however, about the meaning of happiness.” Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Although one couldn’t blame our language and our knowledge for lack of depth, our efforts to define life are still far from satisfying. An even tougher question arises when we try to understand life’s meaning.

What is this force that sets us in motion giving us a purpose, governing us throughout our entire existence? Is it just rationalized instinct? Is it a collection of arbitrary values that tend to vary throughout time, from one age to another, from one individual to another? Is it yet another form of filling the void of our mortal condition? Yes, yes, and yes…

Whether as a cause or as an effect, the meaning of life is quintessential to all our actions, thoughts and creative impulses. It is the alpha and the omega of all our stories and of all our songs, of everything we struggle to achieve in just a few decades we have on Earth.

A simpler form of existence doesn’t need purpose it relies on its organic drive to feed itself, to grow and to procreate. But once neurons jump into the equation, they start wandering and wondering. And this adventure leads these otherwise astounding cells (so well equipped for problem-solving) to the uncharted territories where they either get lost or hit unsurpassable walls. Life’s purpose is just one of those nebulas (as it is God, the life beyond and so on).

Now, is it worth to think about our life’s meaning or should we just push forward focusing on our daily objectives? I guess it’s up to each of us but knowing that we are alive doesn’t make much sense without knowing why we are alive for. And I am sure that everyone has had at least one moment when this question popped up into his or her mind.

Today’s society highlights success. Many great minds talked about creativity. Both happiness and death were always on the table. I wouldn’t know what the right answer is, but I consider life to be an ever-expanding phaenomenon that circumscribes us all, an ever-growing personal and collective lesson, one that we are bound to go through and one that we should try to share to those around us and to those that will follow.

So, let’s start talking!

Manuel and The Two Hearts

3. The first heart

After the princess regained her strength, the king summoned Manuel at the court to crown the youth and have him rule by his side. But Manuel declined the offer and told everyone that the only reason he had ventured to save Isabella was because he couldn’t bear knowing that she was in the grasp of those evil men and that the only thing he asked for was her everlasting friendship. The grateful Isabella jumped from her throne and embraced the handsome Greek, her tears rolling from her eyes like waterfalls. Then, a strange thing happened. The boy’s perfume and his slender, warm body mystified the princess. She stopped weeping and, amazed, boldly looked him in the eyes. Just now she had realised that her saviour’s beauty was like nothing she had ever seen before. Isabella blushed. Her gratitude turned into desire and once she recovered, she asked Bohemond to invite Manuel to join them at the court. The insightful king agreed and so did Manuel, who was secretly in love with the girl. He had been watching her for many months from a distance, following her wherever she was going, dreaming of her wonderful long, golden hair, her sweet lips, and her deep blue eyes. But on that dreadful day when she was captured, he was in Damascus to take care of his family business. He never forgave himself that mischance. Day and night, he fretted, he cried, and he struggled to find her. No one understood his commotions and he never shared his sorrow. Yet, it was this love he carried in his heart, that gave him all the courage he needed to finally venture out and rescue her.

And so, Manuel moved into the palace and never left Isabella from his sight. He was the happiest man alive until one day when a young, bashful knight approached the princess and overwhelmed her with gallantries. While the two of them were talking everyone noticed how Manuel started to shiver, his face turned purple, and his eyes were burning with rage. The coming night the tormented Manuel entered Isabella’s chamber, woke her up, and confessed his unwavering love for her.

Isabella let him pour all his feelings out and when the boy finished with his ingenuous drivel, the princess smiled and kissed him on the neck, then on the cheeks, then on the mouth… What happened next my words will not reveal, but one month after Manuel and Isabella married, bringing hope and joy to the entire city.

Manuel și Cele Două Inimi

2. Tânărul curajos

Bohemond le-a vorbit oamenilor, cerându-le tuturor bărbaților cetății să pornească în căutarea fiicei sale, iar cel care avea să o aducă înapoi nevătămată va conduce regatul alături de el, împărțind toată puterea și privilegiile unui rege.

Astfel ademeniți, mulți dintre bărbați și-au pus șeile pe cai și s-au împrăștiat prin tot regatul, căutând în lung și-n lat. Timp de zece zile ei s-au urcat pe vârfurile munților, au coborât în cele mai adânci ponoare, dar nu au găsit-o pe Isabela. Iar când s-au înturnat cu mâinile goale, regele a știut că venise timpul să ia o hotărâre. La porunca lui toate clopotele bisericilor au bătut o noapte întreagă și multe rugăciuni au fost înălțate la cer în speranța unei minuni.

Minunea însă nu a avut loc, dar în următoarea zi, în timp ce regele stătea întins pe un pat într-una din grădinile interioare ale minunatului său palat alături de regina lui care-i mângâia fruntea și barba, un fecior cu părul negru și sprâncene groase veni să-l vadă. Ochii lui mari și verzi străluceau ca cele mai rafinate smaralde, buzele lui cărnoase rosteau cele mai blânde cuvinte. Îl chema Manuel și era fiul unei grecoaice foarte bogate, ai cărei strămoși își legaseră numele de însăși fondarea Antiohiei. Manuel îngenunche în fața perechii regești jurându-le că o va returna pe preaiubita lor fată. Apoi, fără să aștepte vreun răspuns din partea regelui băiatul a țâșnit afară din palat, fugind la casa mamei lui și implorând-o să-i împrumute cele mai de preț bijuterii pe care le avea. Femeia și ceilalți fii ai ei, aflând ce voia să facă, au încercat să-l facă pe băiat să renunțe la planul lui necugetat, dar Manuel nu-i ascultă. Într-un sfârșit, copleșită de rugămințile lui, văduva a cedat și i-a dat fiului ei un sac plic cu mărgăritare, rubine, safire și multe brățări și cercei de aur. Sfidând privirile nemulțumite de pe fețele fraților lui, tânărul a pornit în căutarea Isabelei, dar nu înainte de a afla de la iscoada ce-l urmărise pe acel mesager jerpelit de veni la curte, unde anume îi pierduse urma. Călări astfel înspre acel loc și odată ajuns a început să vorbească în gura mare, vorbindu-i roibului și lăudându-se pentru furtul unei comori pe care tocmai o șterpeli din casa unei bătrâne văduve din Damasc. Astfel a pătruns mai adânc prin acele chei, făcând larmă și râzând pe seama faptei sale când dintr-o dată fu înconjurat de o ceată de tâlhari ce-l cercetau bănuitori. Viața băiatului ar fi trebuit să se termine atunci și acolo, dar Manuel le vorbi tâlharilor, dându-le în dar toată prada lui și cerându-le să-l ducă la căpetenia lor deoarece dorea să se alăture bandei lui. Văzu un bătrân ponosit ce veni șchiopătând înspre el. Acesta îl prinse pe Manuel mână și-l privi lung, parcă uimit de frumusețea băiatului. Apoi i-a vorbit lui Manuel, dându-se drept regele hoților, cel care în curând avea să fie și rege al întregii Antiohii, deoarece în numai câteva zile avea să se înfățișeze din nou regelui Bohemond, pretinzând a fi unul dintre slujitorii lui și cerând tronul regatului pentru el însuși, temutul tâlhar Două-Cuțite.

Iată cât sunt de miraculoase sunt puterile frumuseții! Datorită chipului său încântător Manuel aflase că cel care îl căută pe Bohemond în cetate, amăgindu-l pe rege, era tocmai Două-Cuțite. Băiatul mai înțelesese că bătrânul avea o slăbiciune pentru bărbații tineri și astfel a căutat să se folosească cât putea de mult de neașteptata împrejurare ivită știind că în acest fel calea sa spre Isabela nu mai avea nici un fel de opreliști. Arătându-se încântat de avansurile ticălosului, Manuel a trecut prin labirintul de stânci și poteci înguste al muntelui Aman, încercând să țină minte orice amănunt care l-ar fi putut ajuta la întoarcere. Când în sfârșit au ajuns la peștera tâlharilor, băiatul o zări pe frumoasa Isabela prinsă în lanțuri și împrejmuită de zece tâlhari puternici, de haita lor de câini sălbatici, și de nenumărate comori. Inima tânărului pătimea pentru suferințele Isabelei, dar și-a ascuns durerea sub un zâmbet rece, străduindu-se să afle o cale să o scape de acolo.

 Izbăvirea veni tocmai din partea regelui tâlharilor. Sângele bătrânului fierbea de dorință pentru Manuel. Străduindu-se în fel și chip să-i facă pe plac noului său acolit tâlharul îi istorisea băiatului despre faptele sale de vitejie și cumplita vărsare de sânge pe care mereu a lăsat-o în urma sa.  Apoi, văzându-l că se apropia tot mai mult de el, șiretul tânăr îi ceru lui Două-Cuțite să sărbătorească buna lor înțelegere stropind-o cu niște vin. Ațâțat de frumusețea feciorului și peste măsură de bucuros, așa-zisul rege al tâlharilor a poruncit să fie adus cel mai întunecat, mai vechi și mai puternic vin armenesc pe care îl ținea în fundul peșterii sale, la răcoare. După un ospăț strașnic și multe cupe de vin, toți tâlharii și căpetenia lor se îmbătară strașnic adormind unul câte unul, până când nici unul nu mai rămăsese în picioare. Dar tânărul Manuel, aținându-se ce la acea destrăbălare și plin de obidă față de acei ticăloși s-a ridicat cu curaj și, luând o sabie, i-a tăiat în bucăți pe toți bețivanii aceia neputincioși. Trezit de o durere pătrunzătoare, Două-cuțite îl zări pe frumosul băiat cu fața toată mânjită de sânge cum sta aplecat peste el înfigându-i sabia adânc în inima lui bătrână și blestemată. Și acela a fost sfârșitul regelui tâlharilor.

Apoi Manuel a omorât toți câinii aceia sălbatici care o păzeau pe Isabela și eliberând-o din lanțuri, o luă pe sărmana fată înspăimântată și ,gonind pe roibul său în lumina lunii, a dus-o pe fată în siguranța palatul părintesc.

Va urma

Manuel and The Two Hearts

2. The courageous, young man

Bohemond spoke to his subjects, asking the men in his city to go and find his daughter and the one who would bring her back unharmed would rule by his side sharing all the power and the privileges of a king.

Lured by such a prospect, many men saddled their horsed and scattered all over the land, searching far and wide. And for ten days or so they climbed on the top of the mountains and they went down the deepest ravines, but no one could find Isabella. Thus, when they all returned empty handed the king knew that the time was near for him to take a decision. At his request all the churches bells rang through the night, and many prayers were sent to heaven in hope of a last wonder.

The wonder never came, but on the next day day as the king lay on a bed inside one of his palace’s beautiful inner gardens in the company of the queen, who caressed his forehead and his beard, a boy with dark hair and thick eyebrows came to see him. His big green eyes shone like the most exquisite emeralds; his full lips uttered the kindest words. The youth’s name was Manuel and he was the son of a very rich Greek woman, whose ancestors could be traced back to the origins of Antioch itself. Manuel kneeled in front of the royal couple and swore to return their beloved daughter. Then, without even waiting for an answer from his king he dashed out of the palace and rushed to his mother’s house begging her to lend him her most precious jewels. After they found out what he was up to the woman and her other sons tried to dissuade him from going further with his reckless plan, but Manuel wouldn’t listen. Finally, overcome by his pleadings the widow surrendered and gave her son her a bag full of pearls, rubies, sapphires, and many golden bracelets and earrings. Defying the displeased look on his brothers’ faces Manuel left to look for Isabella but not before he had enquired the scout who followed the coarse messenger to tell him where exactly he had lost that man. After that, he rode to that place and once he arrived, he started to shout out loud, as if talking to his horse, boasting about the incredible treasure he had just stolen from an old widow’s house in Damascus. And so, he went deeper inside the gorges shouting and laughing about his deed, when suddenly, a bunch of brigands surrounded Manuel looking at him with distrust. The boy’s life should have ended on that spot, but Manuel addressed the thieves, offering them his entire loot and asking them to take him to their leader for he wanted to join their gang. Then, a rugged old fellow came galumphing towards him, he grabbed Manuel by the hand and looked at him as if amazed by the boy’s beauty. The old man spoke to Manuel, presenting himself as the king of the thieves who will soon be king of whole Antioch, for in just a few days he would again meet Bohemond, pretending to be one of his own servants and claim the throne for himself, the one and only Two-Blades.

Who would have guessed what the wonders of beauty can achieve? It was through mere physical charm that Manuel found out that the messenger that came to visit Bohemond in the city, deceiving the king and the court, was none other than Two-Blades himself. He also became aware that the old man had a weakness for young men and he quickly sought to take advantage of this unexpected development knowing that his passage towards Isabella was now unhindered. By showing interest in the old thief’s advances, Manuel made his way through the labyrinth of rocks and narrow paths of Mount Amanus, trying to remember every detail that could help him on his way back. When finally, they reached the brigand’s cave, the boy saw the beautiful Isabella held in chains and surrounded by ten strong thieves, by a pack of wild dogs, and by countless stolen treasures. The young’s man heart ached for Isabella’s misery, but ne concealed his pain with a cold smile, trying to find a way to get her out of there.

 The relief came from the king of the thieves himself. The old man’s blood boiled with infatuation for Manuel and he looked for ways to please his new follower, telling him stories about his incredible feats and the terrible tail of bloodshed he had always left behind. Then, as he drew nearer and nearer to Manuel, the cunning youth asked Two-Blades to celebrate their partnership and drink some wine. Aroused and delighted the so-called king of thieves asked for the darkest, oldest, fullest Armenian wine he kept deep inside the cave. After a great feast and many rounds of wine all those infamous brigands and their leader got drunk falling asleep one by one, until none of them was left standing.

 As soon as that happened, young Manuel who abstained himself from all that debauchery, immediately took a sword, cut the powerless drunkards into pieces. As for Two-Blades, awoken by a sharp pain he saw the handsome boy’s face all smeared with blood as Manuel leaned over him thrusting the sword deep inside his chest. That was the end of the king of thieves.

Manuel then slew all the brigand’s wild dogs that were guarding Isabela, freed her from her chains and took the horror-stricken girl on his horseback, riding under the clear moon light until they reached the safety of Bohemond’s palace.

To be continued