Adonis Diaries

Rainbow over the Levant (fiction, continue)

Posted on: October 19, 2008

Chapter 18

The Return

After Timorlank vacated Damascus, one year from his sacking of this city, the First Emir returned incognito to live in a well secured cave that he had constructed and furnished in secrecy for many years. His only contacts with the outside world were three agents who provided him with intelligence and copies of important official files and documents. One agent was a traveling monk and the other one was highly placed in the government and immune to suspicion because of his wealth and connections and the third was Mariam his representative in the Party.  From his cave, where he spent his time dictating, writing, painting and disseminating orders and directives, the First Emir in hiding was analyzing the political climate for his grand return to the Capital and leading his newly indoctrinated disciples for the unity and defense of his kingdom.

The hiding of the First Emir was not planned but was dictated by circumstances; while at sea returning to his homeland, the First Emir fell sick and confined himself to his cabin for two weeks.  He emerged emaciated and had lost weight for lack of appetite, constant vomiting and low fever.  The First Emir did not wish to appear in such a state of degeneracy in front of his people after a long absence and ordered that he be whisked ashore at night and the ship to set sail immediately to Cyprus so that no contacts could be established with the mainland.

Within three weeks of his seclusion many rumors had spread in the land;  varied scenarios were circulated some claiming that the First Emir was back but dying, another that he was captured at sea by the Sultan and incarcerated under house arrest, another that he was disgraced and living quietly as a mere citizen in the mountains. The Emirs in Kesrouan and Chouf, financed by the Viceroy of Damascus and supported by the clergy and their confessional groups, confirmed the infirmity of the First Emir and were preparing the ground for a mass insurrection.

Many upheavals occurred inside and outside the Nation but the First Emir needed more time to recover his health and confidence and feel at home after being out of close touch with his people.  His new party was making good inroads in the minds of the people but the emotional level was inappropriate for a firm grasp on power.  Still, many prominent elements in the new party managed to be cabinet members but a truly and untarnished democratic election of representatives was not possibly feasible at this junction.  Women gained a few rights and obtained the legitimacy to organize.  They expanded their functions and tasks in the army and their inheritance rights were almost on par with the males in liquid money.

Well founded rumors of the preparation for war in the northern confines of Turkey set the population in turmoil.  The First Emir had to cut short his seclusion and reverse the steps of his hiding trip to a ship before presenting himself at the Capital.  He sailed back to a waiting ship at sea and gave order to announce his return at 11 o’clock in the morning.  Early the next day people were standing on the seashore in big numbers and every available boat of all kinds, decked with colorful flags and well attired personalities, was advancing toward the main ship carrying their leader.  The First Emir stood in the ship in full splendor waving his hand to the waiting crowd amid music, dancing and official military parades.

The First Emir stepped up to the podium to deliver his welcoming speech and the jubilation stopped, with everyone hanging on every word.  He said:

“Citizen of the Levant; I will never forget your welcoming party and the trust you still endow me.  I have been away for more than a year; the world is vast out there.  I have seen hundreds of cathedrals ten times bigger and higher than our biggest church; I have seen castles vaster than small villages; I have seen ports receive hundreds of ships bringing goods from all over the world; I have seen people busy at all kinds of productive work and in artistic work like painting, sculpting and music.  I had the opportunity to watch the advances in foreign societies but one thing sets us apart:  the poorest peasant among us is king compared to the wretched life of their peasants.  The most disinherited citizen among us is freer and happier than their citizens; the pride of our citizen is intact and can rely on the charity and goodness of his neighbors as tradition obliges.  I have seen huge discrepancies among the classes overseas where some live in splendor as elaborate as the Shah of Persia and most barely scratching a living regardless of the energy they invest in their labor.  Yes, I have seen splendor made of stones and matter but our humanity is the best splendor that no riches can buy.  We have the fairest tax system and the penalties of our laws are light and commensurate to the sin.  I have seen many countries and Lebanon is the most beautiful so far and its people the friendliest.  We have a long way to go and we need to pay more attention to develop our minds through education and learning, otherwise other nations will subjugate us if we fail to progress as a learned nation.  I am happy to be back among you and feel blessed that I was born here.  Long Live the kingdom of the Levant and God bless you and shower peace and prosperity on us.”

The First Emir doubled the manpower of his garrisons in the insurrecting districts and waited for the appropriate conditions to deal with the troublesome Emirs.  He warmly thanked Latifa for her achievements and loyalty and paid her a gift to visit Italy for six months. The umbilical cord being cut between the clergy and the administration, the First Emir opened serious and secretive negotiations with the clergy’s highest hierarchy.  Decrees by Latifa that had increased the privileges of the clergy were countermanded and a few virulent bishops were exiled to the northern confine dioceses of Syria and Antioch.  The stubborn bishops died mysteriously and Gergis understood that this first blood letting meant a dangerous trend in the coming years and suspected that his leader had undergone significant changes in behavior; for example he acquired the short temper of monarchs and an easier attitude to handing harsh penalties.  Gergis asked for a private audience with the First Emir and tried as diplomatically as he could to warn him of the dire consequences of surrounding himself with security executioners without due recourse to the law.  The reaction of the First Emir was brutal and his reply was harsh toward his most loyal and trusted friend and associate; he told him: “Listen Gergis, I always considered you the best administrator in this government but you certainly are the lousiest leader I ever had to replace me.  This kingdom was about to crumble under the machinations of the feudal forces and you barely used your authority to rein them in.  These are bad times and fast changing and we are targeted as the number one enemy of the Sultan.  We are going to utilize iron to counter the iron offenses against our gains.” Gergis asked the First Emir for permission to have an extended leave of absence to recover from the exhausting tensions that were burdening his shoulders and ruining his health. The First Emir understood the innuendo of Gergis and promised him to release him from his duties as soon as was feasible.

Struggle for power among the politicians was heated and the unity of the nation was in danger. Factions were threatening to disassociate from the Nation and form their own cantons. The military had to intervene in a few crucial instances and the process of political legitimacy was set onto its right track.  The danger of a civil war was too close to becoming real so that harsher scrutiny on the political affiliations of the army officers was decreed.

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October 2008

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