Chapter VIII.

31 Jul

Excitement gripped everyone involved with the first enactment of the play called “Caldaria”. No author’s name was given on the printed notices that announced the premiere. There was no need to say that it was the joint creation of a group whose members were going to represent themselves on the stage of the Popular Theater. The audience had a good idea what they were going to be witnesses to. This was not going to be the usual, customary theatrical presentation of some familiar classic.

Caph, Yie, and Joa arrived hours before the curtain was to go up.

In separate rooms in the rear corridor, the cast prepared themselves for the coming performance. Not much in the way of makeup would be needed. The primary costumes were to be what the fugitives had brought along with them. In a short while, both Yie and Joa were ready. The former entered the room of his partner to talk with her, hoping to raise her confidence. Encouragement was his goal.

“I wanted to see you alone before we go on,” he explained. “How are you holding up, dear Joa?”

She turned about completely and faced him.

“I’m excited, as you probably also are. But once the play starts, I am sure that all nerves will be calmed. How are you doing, Yie?”

“My thoughts dwell on something else. Can you guess what it is? I’ll tell you, Joa. My dream, the one I described to you yesterday.”

“Did you have the same dream again?” she anxiously asked.

“No, that isn’t it. But I’ve pondered and pondered. What it might have been was a kind of preview of where our planet is headed. Of the future that is destined to come about on Tegumen for all its inhabitants.”

“What do you mean by that?” she inquired in a puzzled tone.

“Our life shared here below might become one of bright light that lasts many hours, if only we could apply prismoids the way that Cacique does. Am I only fantasizing about what is impossible and can never be? Has my imagination begun to run wild and lose itself in fantastic dreams? I wonder.”

She stared at him in silence, unable to give an answer.

“I don’t know,” she finally whispered. “There is no way for anyone to predict until a try is made. What do you think? It appears to me that these prismoids are replacing the idea of the silver-platinum plates in your thinking.”

“We have not lost possession of all the plates we once had,” said Yie with an audible moan. “And there is a chance we may be able in coming days to try to use them again. Who can tell?.”

Before she could reply, a voice in the corridor made the first curtain call.

Yie and Joa stepped out of the dressing room and headed for the stage.

When Nomb Aacn appeared on the back of an equine only twenty span from the entrance to the Popular Theater, he was surprised to see a cordon of uniformed municipal police guarding the doorways. He turned to his mounted companion Red Hat for an explanation.

“These patrollers appeared here only a few minutes ago and took command of all entrances and exits on all four sides of the building. When they were asked their purpose, the officer in charge told us that they are here to assist us in the mission we were sent on. So that no one can slip out unseen and undetected, all these men are about to guard and watch. What do you think we should be doing, sir?”

Nomb considered a moment, then answered him.

“Whether we are joining with them or they are joining with us, it will be all the same. The noose around those we are after is now solid and complete. We must be ready for whatever occurs when the time comes to capture them.”

The Hegumen lowered himself down from his equine and walked over to where the unmounted Brothers stood in a group, a short distance from the policemen besieging the Popular Theater.

Yie and Joa stood together at stage center, behind the unraised curtain. It was only seconds until action was to begin. Both primary personae were breathing hard. Anticipation was more difficult than what might come later.

He held her right hand tightly in his own, attempting to lift her courage and spirit, as well as his own.

A slight noise indicated to them that ropes were moving. The curtain began to move to the side. Brilliant prismoidal light shone into the eyes of both actors. Yie and Joa looked beyond the edge of the stage to the audience sunken in darkness. They seemed to be hunting for some sign or signal from somewhere.

Neither actor noticed that an unidentified figure came on stage from the left side. It was a small man in a formal cutaway, a bright yellow sash around the waist of his dark serge coat.

He looked out beyond the prismoids and spoke in a loud, sonorous voice.

“Citizens of Rocumbol present here in the Popular Theater for the performance of a new drama, I am your qadic with a sad, tragic announcement to make before you.

“I have come to officiate at a juridical arrest that shall presently be carried out by our faithful police. Let me explain.

“The pair of actors behind me are not members of our community. Nor are they professional thespians with experience on stage. No, they are something quite different.

“They have come to Rocumbol in flight from the lawful authorities of Zeviv Mountain. Many Brothers of that claustrum are outside this theater, waiting for the apprehension of these two.

“They have traveled a long distance for the arrest of these people. Duty to my office and the laws of the city oblige me to take immediate action. So, I hereby arrest the two actors you see before you. The police guards with me shall take custody of them at the present time. They shall be placed under arrest and taken to our city prison for immediate interrogation and investigation.

“I am sorry to inform you that there shall be no play on stage tonight. You can go home in peace. There are patrollers outside the theater and on all the primary avenues. I advise all of you to leave and disperse. The official police officers of our community shall enforce and maintain public peace and order this evening and through the night. Thank you for your cooperation.”

No one seemed prepared to move immediately.

Yie and Joa stood gaping in astonishment as a squad of policemen surrounded them. “Come with us, please,” said their captain in official yellow uniform.

“Where are you taking us?” demanded Yie in an angry voice.

The qadic had by now turned around and moved closer.

“First of all, to my own residence,” he told the surprised pair under arrest.

The audience fled from the theater in disorder, rushing through adjoining streets and preventing the Red Hats from moving forward to make arrests on their own. An undefined fear created general panic. Nomb Aacn and his cohorts found themselves unable to advance into the Popular Theater. They had no idea what had caused this evacuation or what was happening inside the building. The frantic exiting was an unexpected surprise to them.

Director Frelo managed to lead Caph and Cacique to his office in the rear, hoping that there would be safety for them there. But where were Yie and Joa, the objectives of the Red Hats? What had happened to them?

A squad of a dozen police patrollers had stepped out onto the stage, surrounding them. Under previously issued orders, the prisoners were escorted through the rear door of the theater, down an alley, into a back street that had been closed to pedestrians and traffic.

After a few minutes, the pair were marched into the residence of the qadic, the man who could determine their fate.

The wife of the magistrate had a repast prepared for the disoriented Joa and Yie. She led them into the large dining room where the arrestees were served. Both were so nervous they could hardly eat.

“Do not be concerned, my husband has taken on the responsibility for your well-being,” she told her house guests, smiling at them with feelings of hospitality. “He does not intend to surrender the self-rule of Rocumbol to these terrible highlanders. We rule ourselves here. That has always been our way.”

Joa looked up from the table and asked the woman a question.

“What is going to happen to us?”

“The problem is to find a secure and secret haven where these mountain tormentors cannot follow or take hold of you. The qadic is searching for such a place. One where you two can be well hidden, that no one will suspect is your refuge.”

“We are safe here in your mansion?” asked Yie.

“For the time being, at least,” muttered the wife of the qadic.

The loud noise of a door opening signaled the entrance into the house of the top municipal official.

“He has returned,” said the wife. “You will soon learn what his plans are for your transport elsewhere.”

Both Yie and Joa stopped eating and looked into each other’s faces.

What will happen to us now? Where will we be sent?

As the qadic, the yellow sash of office about his waist, rushed into the dining room, the rescued pair held their breaths. They waited to hear what their future was to be. What was he going to say to the two fugitives?

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