Of broken scabbards and dead horses

The tale of Bhutanese chieftain who wants to deliver an important message to his counterpart in the East Bhutan and Garp Loongi Khorlo has to leave and dispatch the letter—by any means and on the same day.

 

It’s the eighth day of the lunar month and like the legendary Garp Loongi Khorlo, or the messenger on wheels in the wind, the moon too had planned to take the day off and wax himself behind the sleepy whiffs of clouds in the distant autumnal horizon. But all’s not well for Garp Loongi Khorlo.

The chieftain wants to deliver an important message to his counterpart in the East and Garp Loongi Khorlo has to leave and dispatch the letter—by any means and on the same day.

The village astrologer had cautioned him of an irreversible and impending doom, attached with Karmic consequences, should he defy his orders and venture into the dark and risk his horse dead with a prophetic broken saddle. The eighth day of the lunar calendar is considered extremely inauspicious for travel, Taa-she-gachha, and so was Garp warned. Garp’s heart was heavy and, to make the matters worse, just the other night his grief stricken mother had dreamt an impending dream; that Garp was running from a strange elf-like woman screaming and sweating for life and headed downhill into the recesses of a stream that was gushing out of nowhere—a dream complete of all the negativities one could ever dream of. “The dogs were howling and whimpering in the dead of the night. Strange…,” he was told.

But, by then, the chieftain had already summoned an order “that Garp leave for the East as the matter warranted immediate attention and that no excuses would be entertained if he failed to ferry his duties on time.” A half-hearted Garp after drinking a cup of ara, fails to notice that the cup is cracked at the rim, bids her farewell and turn to head for the chieftain’s manor house when he is suddenly interrupted by his mother: “Garp, my dear, remember the will of the gods are powerful than any collective force on earth one can imagine. Always keep your almighty close to your heart. Now prepare a fire.”

It’s just three in the morning and the night is as dark as the hushed devil lurking in the woods. Garp lights a bunch of pine fatwood wrapped in banana leaves at the base and darts straight for the chieftain’s manor house never looking back. His mother stares from behind as the flickering light dissolves into a thicket in a bend along the mule track a hundred meters away. The dogs howl and whimper again but Garp is gone in a second. She returns to the altar to light a butter lamp when she sees a shiny bead-like-necklace hanging at the corner pinned at the rim of the window—Garp has forgotten his rosary beads.

Garp is greeted by a serious looking attendant as he reaches the gates of the chieftain’s manor house. “Garp…listen. You must cross the village cemetery before the cock crows thrice or else…You know it’s a bad day.” Garp grabs the sealed envelope which the attendant hands over to him and without a second glance heads for the east. The attendant turns towards him to read the instructions, of where the letter is to be dispatched or headed for, but Garp’sa lready gone. By then, in the distant east, the cock had already crowed twice and the day’s first lights had begun to shimmer from a hill where Garp must reach to deliver his master’s command.

His pine resin torch has dimmed to a low flame and is burning on the last strength of a dying ember. Garp stubs his torch in the dry dirt to extinguish it and flings it away. A strange and nauseating feeling engulfs him as he hears a faint sound of an owl hooting from a nearby tree nonetheless he keeps running though the dirt mule track is barely lit up. The words of his mother constantly ring in his ears and he chants verses from the holy text as he runs. 

Garp had already crossed the cemetery in Hongtsho before the rooster had the audacity to make his third call. And by the first break of the dawn he had already run past Dochula and was now headed downhill for the village of Metsina. The cedars and pines looked old and weary despite the feisty morning sunlight ripping through their eaves and the branches. Maybe it was the dangling old man’s beard that added to the creepy felling of an old deserted place or maybe it was just the words of the ‘astrologer’s impending doom theory.’ Or maybe, like his mother had said, there was a sinister force at play which was beyond one’s thought and reckoning. Whatever, Garp keeps running until he trips from an extended root of a tree that has protruded from the bare earth on the mule track. He falls down on the ground landing straight to his right. The impact of his fall cracks the sheath of his patang. After cursing the darned root, Garp dusts himself and continues to run again.

And, as he descends towards the quaint hamlet of Thinleygang a lone cat claws out of nowhere and dashes past his track and disappears into the thicket of bushes into a nearby stream. Garb stops for a while to take a sip from the gurgling stream that seemed to appear from the face of a strange rock cliff. He dips his palms, fashioned into a cup, and splashes the icy-cold water into his face. He has never been this tired thus far.

“You must be tired sir. Where are you headed to?” Garp, jolted by the sudden interruption turns around to find a strange but beautiful woman in her mid-twenties holding a dry pitcher. She had long hairs and a very soothing voice but she bore an impeccable sense of strangeness in her personality, both in her smile and her appearance, that made her look straight out of the ordinary.

“I am fine and I have to leave. Trust my luck to have met a beautiful lady with a pitcher that is empty and hollow as this wretched place is?”

“Why do you curse sir?”

Garp gives her a sharp you-don’t-know-what-the-heck-i-have-been-through look and turns away to resume his journey.

“Maybe, sir…this place isn’t as hollow as to the principles of a man who has the nerve to leavehis ailing mother alone and unattended. And I suppose you have left your best companion in a rosary at home too.”

Garp suddenly feels a cold numbness overpowering him. He runs his fingers across his neck to find his rosary. He even frisks his gho but his rosary is not there. Garp is now sweating hard and he can barely breathe. He turns back to look at the strange lady who has now turned her back to him.

“Lady…you seem to know a little bit more of everything. Tell me who are you?” his voice was hushed and barely audible.

The crescent moon disappears into the vast horizon as a cloud of fog envelops the valley in mist and mystery.

“I am afraid you would not want to know me.”

Garp gasps for air as he clutches his chest in agony. He can feel his life slowly draining away from him. He can barely speak.

“Tell me lady…tell me who you are. Show me your face.”

“If you so insist.”

The woman turns around showing her pale, lifeless and hollow face. Her hands are old and wrinkled and everything around her suddenly becomes cold and mystifying.

“I am Nyala, the demoness of this valley and I claim your soul.”

Garp Loongi Khorlo clutches his chest and falls to the ground, dazed, horrified, cold and lifeless. A stream of blood runs down his gaping mouth while his patang with the broken scabbard lies like a beaten soldier beside him. Everything is silent.

 

Disclaimer: The above is a fictional narrative

 

 


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