The two men sat across from one another, a heavy but exquisitely carved stone table between them. Neither man had said a word as they walked into the room, resting in the wooden thrones at the head of each end of the table, and neither seemed to wish to break the looming silence that continued to coat everything in the room. Even the fire glowed noiselessly in its grate, anxiously waiting for the first move to be made.
On the walls hung heavy red tapestries, faded by Time’s withered hand. The scenes they had once depicted were now too faint to be recognised. Instead they appeared as a hazy pattern of incomprehensible shapes that hinted at something profound, like a shouting voice some rooms away in a foreign tongue.
On the table there was nothing save the twisted staff belonging to the older of the two men. It had been thrown casually across one of tables corners like a discarded newspaper, where it now slept, ignored by both men. As the fire light flickered slowly to itself, nothing was said between the two, but they stared at each other with unblinking concentration. The younger man was clean shaven, with bright green eyes and wispy blonde hair. He wore a soft blue velvet robe, tied at the waist by a golden rope and his hands were encrusted in jewel beholding rings.
The older man looked somewhat similar in stature to his counterpart but only to the extent that a primate is somewhat like a man. His eyes hinted at a colour that might once have been as vibrant as his companion’s green but was now nothing more than a dulled murky grey. He had an unkempt beard of brown and silver that hung half way down his torso and curled up his cheeks to his lifeless brown mop of hair. He was dressed in earth coloured garb that wouldn’t look out of place on the most humble of monks and its baggy frayed cuffs spoke of over use and ill repair.
Outside a bird cawed at the moon, warning of the glowing orb from approaching it any further. It ruffled its feathers, glanced this way and that, and then let out a second shout of cautionary advice. The two men were suddenly roused from their unspoken battle, like boxers exiting their corner to the sound of the bell. Both tried to speak at once in forceful tones, but neither wanted to listen to the other and the ensuing noise bounced around the room uncomprehended.
Finally, the finer dressed of the two, held up a bejewelled hand and they both fell silent. After a moment’s pause, just long enough for a log to crack in the fire grate, he started to speak in a slower more measured tone.
“We had a treaty.” He said softly. “We had a treaty and you and your…” he paused and waved his hand around in wild gesticulation, “your kind broke it. It is that simple. You people need to realise that this is no longer your land, it is ours. We live on it, we work it, and we own it.”
“It was ours” rumbled the other man like a volcano stirring from a thousand year sleep. “When we signed the treaty it was to help you, to help both of us and now you try to use that same piece of paper, that same helping hand, to slap us into submission. You seem to forget that you still need us; you can’t control the world by yourself. You’re new world might have been profitable, but it is still built on our foundations.” The dishevelled man fell silent and his eyes drooped in the corners slightly as he looked across the table at his companion. He continued in a tone that would not be unfamiliar coming from a violin.
“How did it end like this? Separated by such a void, such a lack of understanding.” He stroked his life chiselled hands across the cold stone slab in front of him, his fingers dipping into the curling carvings as if searching for a dropped needle. “We gladly helped you, we wanted to help you, and now look at us.”
“Yes, look at you.” Suddenly responded the man in frustration. “You are alive. You helped us because you were stuck, you were dying. The world around you was changing and your old ways were not helping anymore. You offered us land, offered us a place to be, because you needed us. Is it our fault that we have kept prospering and you could do little more than keep plodding on in your same old ways? You broke our treaty, you must be punished.”
“Treaty? Can it really be called a treaty when all it does is oppress us and allow you to keep growing in strength?” The words hung in the air for a moment as the fire bathed the two men’s faces in distorting shadows.
“You could have come with us” said the wealthy man eventually with a sigh. “We would have taken you with us, it is not our fault you have ended up like this. We did not wish to exclude you, we wished to be the best we could be, but you lot simply couldn’t see that. You stayed the same, we grew.”
The man in brown stood up slowly, his palms pressing against the table for support as he straightened himself up. He picked up his staff and saw, for the briefest of moments, the panic ripple across his counterparts eyes. But he was too old, too tired. He slowly started plodding towards the door, turning back to face his companion as he reached it.
“Yes you grew, you flourished, but it was us that made it happen. We will not accept your punishment, but we will not fight. You can have your land, your kingdom of greed, and we shall leave you to stand over it. You shall never hear from us again and you will be left to do what you please, but, remember this when you are watching your dominion fall and all you have worked towards crumble into a pit of broken desires, we gave you life. We kept the world safe so you could grow. We were the ones who inspired that first initial speck of desire, we gave you eyes that could look into the future, to see the mountains in in the distance. It was you who decided to see the small things, it was you who wished to forget that which we all should aim. It was you who lost your focus, not us. ”
The old man opened the door as the other simply sat there, a dulled thin lipped smile stuck to his face as his hands twisted together, catching on the precious stones attached to them. As the door started to close behind the old man the finely dressed gentleman sprang to his feet and called after him.
“Hold onto that, old man, when you feel the last drops of life slipping through your fingers. Maybe we will not survive for ever without you, but I doubt you will see the sunrise without us. You will die in the darkness, just like you have lived.” With this said, he slumped back into his chair and stared at the empty seat in front of him. They wouldn’t leave really, surely they wouldn’t? They would return to their rightful place and keep doing their useful job in the background, like they always had done. They would come back. He was sure they would.