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by João Ventura

“Master, the man in black is at the main entrance. And soldiers are with him!” There was a hint of alarm in the servant’s voice.

Councilor Ahrmag put away the book he was reading. He knew too well the meaning of the events. He told the servant, “Let them in.”

He faced his wife, who was working on a small tapestry near the fireplace, together with their two daughters, and told her: “You know what you have to do. Please go now. May the Maker be with you.”

His wife and the girls left the room. He stayed looking at the fireplace, watching the movement of the flames.

Two minutes later, his visitors entered the room. The first one was Yztak, the most feared man in the Empire, the Emperor’s confidant, whose name most people avoided uttering. He came near the Councilor and said: “I have been sent to tell you that the Emperor no longer trusts you. I believe that you are aware of the implications.”

Ahrmag heard himself replying with the appropriate sentence: “The Emperor’s will is my will.”

And he added: “I’m ready. Go on with your business.”

The man in black summoned two soldiers, who brought forward a dark box. The Councilor was told to sit down.

Yztak opened the lid and from inside the box he took a helmet, which he put on the Councilor’s head. A thick cable connected the helmet to the box. On the side of the box there was a lever, and Yztak moved it.

Ahrmag’s body trembled for a couple of seconds and then remained still.

The man in black removed the helmet from the head of the seated man and stored it in the box. Then he looked at Ahrmag and asked: “Who are you?”

The reply was a bit delayed, as if the dull eyes of the man were trying to extract information from the questioner.

“I don’t know.”

The man in black looked at one of the soldiers, who approached and gave the ex-Councilor a walker’s wooden staff and a bag.

And he told the disgraced man: “Now be gone.”

When he was exiting his former house, Ahrmag passed by his wife and daughters. They were also leaving home, carrying a few small belongings and accompanied by a couple of faithful servants. He didn’t recognize them; he bowed respectfully and moved slowly into the world, a world unknown to his brain now stripped of all memories.

Copyright © 2009 by João Ventura

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