The Young Sultan and the Plague

Fiction by | April 4, 2010

sultan
In the days when the Kingdom brimmed with prosperity and good fortune, the dining room of the Palace flowed with food and wine for the many revelers. Expensive draperies festooned the windows; servants brought in exotic delicacies on platters made of gold and silver.

Now, the days of such merriment were long past. The young Sultan shuffled into a dining room dim and empty. No revelers, no food, no wine, windows closed, an eerie silence pervaded the room. Only a flickering candle on the round table held back the darkness. The sultan said sat on his throne, still uneasy.

While he was though how all this came to pass, the three Rajas, whom he was expecting that day, arrived one by one.

The first Raja had a dominion over the wind. He so quietly slipped into the room that the young Sultan did not notice his arrival. This first Raja could summon the wind and command it to provide the plants with air, or blow the sails of traders’ ships.

The second Raja had dominion over the water. Unlike the first Raja, this Raja made his arrival known with a splash. Any place that he went, whether the mountains, plains, or air, he could always bring the water there. He could also command everything in the sea: the fishes, the waves, the clamps, the oysters, the whirlpool, and even the dreaded creatures lurking beneath.

The third Raja had dominion over fire. On his arrival, the air in the room turned warm. Among the powerful Rajas, this particular Raja was a bit cross. He seldom talked, and only spoke when someone asked him, and sometimes not even then.

Because of their powers, the young Sultan asked them if they could help him solve the plague the Kingdom faced. The three Rajas obliged, as they always did. When the young Sultan’s father lay dying in his sickbed, the three Rajas pledged before the old Sultan that they would help his son manage the Kingdom.

“Thank you for coming, gentlemen,” the young Sultan said. “I believe you can help me solve this trouble besetting the Kingdom. Tell me: what do you know about this new plague?”

The loquacious Raja of Water spoke first. “I spoke to several boatmen and sailors,” the Raja of Wind said. “They told me that right after they went ashore, fins, scales, gills, and flippers emerged from their bodies.”

“Then empty the lagoons, the lakes, the tributaries, the seas, the oceans, everything with water in it,” the young Sultan said.

With no doubt in his mind that the young Sultan knew what asked, the Raja of Water left. He went atop the peak of the Kingdom’s highest mountain. Clasping a leather bag, he set his gaze upon the lagoons, the lakes, the tributaries, the seas, and the oceans. He opened the lid of the bag, and commanded the water to come inside.

“I have emptied all the bodies of water,” the Raja of Water said when he returned. “Everywhere you turn, you cannot see a single drop of water, not even dews in the morning”

“Marvelous. Let us call for a celebration then.”

“I’m afraid we cannot have it yet.”

“Why not? Did you not empty all the bodies of water? Did you not put them all inside that leather bag?”

“I did. But when I went down the mountain and visited the nearby village, I saw that the plague is still upon us. In fact, the situation has worsened. The people no longer have water to drink, the sailors can no longer sail, and the farmers can no longer water their plants. If I release the water inside this leather bag, there will be a great flood, and the people, the animals, and the Kingdom will be washed away.”

“Oh, how terrible would that be! But let’s think of that later. First, we must dispel this plague.”

The young Sultan turned to the Raja of Wind “What do you know about this new plague, Raja of Wind?” the young Sultan asked. “How we can solve it?”

“I spoke to several farmers and herders,” the Raja of Wind said. “They told me that after a whirlwind had passed, thick animal fur emerged from their skins.”

“Then siphon the wind,” the young Sultan said. “Put the wind inside the leather bag just like the Raja of Water did to the water.”

Not one to doubt the wisdom of the young Sultan, the Raja of Wind left for the the peak of the Kingdom’s highest mountain. Clasping a leather bag, he set his gaze upon the sky. He opened the lid of the bag, and commanded the wind to come inside.

“What happened to your mission, Raja of Wind?” the young Sultan asked.

“I have siphoned all the wind,” the Raja of Wind said. “Everywhere you turn, you cannot feel the wind anymore. No more are there mighty tornados to capsize the ships, nor twisters that tear into the farms.”

“Marvelous. Let us call for a celebration then.”

“I’m afraid we cannot have it yet.”

“Why not? Did you not siphon the wind? Did you not put them all inside that leather bag?”

“I did. But when I went down the mountain and visited the nearby village, I saw that the plague is still upon us. In fact, the situation has worsened. The people, the animals, and the plants are in danger of smothering. And if I release the wind inside this leather bag, there will be a gust of wind, and the people, the animals, the plants, and the Kingdom will be flown into a faraway land.”

“Oh, how terrible would that be! But let’s think of that later. First, we must dispel this plague.”

Now the young Sultan turned to the Raja of Fire who was, deep inside, irate over the young Sultan’s lack of compassion for the people. The Sultan only wanted to dispel the plague in order to prove that he was an efficient ruler.

“What do you know about this new plague, Raja of Fire?” the young Sultan asked. “How we can solve it?”

“I spoke to several hunters and gatherers,” the Raja of Fire said. “They told me that after a great forest fire, horns and tails and beaks started to emerge from their bodies.”

“Then put off all the fire. Put it inside the leather bag just like the Raja of Water did to the water, and just like the Raja of Wind did to the wind.”

“I cannot!”

“Will you tell me why?”

“I cannot because I will not. It is an exercise in futility. If I take all the fire and put it inside this leather bag, would the plague leave? No. If I will do as you say, what will happen to the people when the cold weather comes? Not even their fur will protect them. They will freeze to death. I don’t want to see that happen.”

“Then tell me, what we can do about it?”

“Only you can answer your question.”

The Raja of Fire disappeared. Among the three Rajas, the Raja of Fire was the most impatient, one who could not withstand long conversations. The young Sultan knew, though, that the Raja of Fire was the wisest of them all.

“I guess we have to leave now,” the Raja of Water said. “We’ve done everything we could. It was an honor to serve you. Farewell, young Sultan.”

The Raja of Water disappeared, then the Raja of Wind. Now the young Sultan was alone in the room. Desperate and bewildered, the young Sultan went atop the peak of the Kingdom’s highest mountain. Though the wind had long been banished by the Raja of Wind, he felt cold, a cold that penetrated down to his bones. It was the tremor of fear that he felt deep inside.

Down below, he could see the entire Kingdom. It was not the largest of kingdoms. But it had been rich and vibrant, thanks to the efficient administration of his father, the old Sultan. Now it teetered on the brink of destruction from the plague.

The young Sultan roused from his contemplation when he heard a thunderous sound from the sky. It was a voice, deep and hollow.

The voice said: “Go where no one dared to go.”

Now he was more confused than when he first climbed the mountain. He looked up above and asked: “What do you mean? Where can I find that place?”

The voice said again: “Go where no one dared to go.”

The Sultan thought of placed where no one dared to go. The Island of the Hermit? The Beast Mountains? The Land of the Brave? The journey to these places was arduous, but adventurers had conquered them all.

Then he understood what the mysterious voice meant: The Well of Plague. The one place no one one dared to go. As he he walked toward the Well, he noticed that the lid had been turned aside.

“The Well of Plague has been opened,” the Sultan said, ” and it has set free all sorts of diseases and strange occurrences. To stop the plague tormenting my people, I need only put the lid back into place.”

He reached for the lid and tried to put it back, but all in vain. The only people who could bring the lid back to its place were the sorcerers who made it or their descendants, and the sorcerers’ lineage had perished long ago.

Still, he continued to scan the Well, searching for clues. After circling the Well, he noticed there was an inscription on the lid. He scraped the moss that covered it, and he had now a full view of the inscription. It said:

Relinquish your throne
Or your people will
Turn into dark stone

“For whom was this writing on the lid?” he asked aloud. He repeated the inscription over and over again, so that he already memorized it.

“Surely the sorcerers couldn’t be talking to other rulers,” he said, finally. “”No one in this Kingdom has a throne but me. But if they are talking to the ruler of this Kingdom, who happens to be me, why do they want me to relinquish my throne? If I won’t, my people will turn into dark stone? How vague! Why do I need to sacrifice?”

As he pronounced the word “sacrifice,” he felt a sudden excitement. It was as if he was close to solving the puzzle.

“Sacrifice? Yes, sacrifice. That’s it.”

The young Sultan thought of what his father and the words he spoke to him when he was dying.

“Father once told me that there will come a time that a ruler must sacrifice for his subjects,” he said. “If that time is now, then I must sacrifice.”

And so the young Sultan left the Well and decided that as soon as he would meet his Prime Minister and deputies and everyone living in the Kingdom, he would tell them he would leave the Palace and go to a far off place. There he would live the life of a hermit, a life bereft of luxury, of power, of influence. Happy at the thought that the plague would be dispelled at long last, he walked away from the Well.

But the young Sultan read only half of the inscription. The other half, still being covered by moss, ran like this:

If you do, be prepared;
For after you leave,
You’ll not be spared

The young Sultan stood on the podium of the Palace, flanked by his Prime Minister and his aides. Before him stood his people, transformed into strange creatures.

“Thank you for coming, my people,” he said. “We are in the throes of a great plague. To banish this plague, I must relinquish my throne. And so I say farewell to you all.”

The people frowned on the words of the Sultan, for they waited to hear words of hope, not resignation and abandonment.

With nothing more to explain, the Sultan retreated into his room. As he did, everything went back to normal. The fishermen lost their fins, scales, gills, flippers; the farmers lost their fur, horns, tails, and beaks. Indeed, everything that had not been part of their bodies disappeared.

The Prime Minister, who witnessed all these things, went to the young Sultan to tell him the good news. He darted into the young Sultan’s room, but was astounded by what he saw:

The young Sultan lay down on the bed, lifeless, his body was as hard as a stone and as dark as earth.


Arvin is a graduate of BSED-Social Studies from Holy Cross of Davao College.

2 thoughts on “The Young Sultan and the Plague”

  1. Hi Sir Ortiz! Your story is very beautiful. Exciting talaga. You haven’t shown this side of you in class yet. Na-inspire po ako. ๐Ÿ™‚

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