2018 - Winter

The Golden Rope

Image:  © Kelly Rudland

Author: Gilles Bingahi

Once upon a time, in the 1800s, in a small village located in the depths of Italy, called Torviscas, there lived a farmer named Kit with his wife Rosemary. His life was very rough, he had to wake up every day at five in the morning and to work in his field with his cattle until ten at night. In the evening he was always exhausted, but his beloved wife gave him the strength to continue. He would do everything for her, she was his reason to live. All the village appreciated him because even if he had a hard life, he was always ready to help his neighborhood and his friends. Even the king Duclos of Torviscas loved him. Some years before Kit had saved his son’s life when he was attacked by a very dangerous wild bear. Every month Kit offered gifts to God, he didn’t sacrifice animals because it would be too easy, but he climbed up the highest mountain of Italy, and prayed there all day giving the gods some drops of his own blood in sign of gratitude for his life. 

Winters were cold and merciless, sometimes there wasn’t enough food to feed his family. That year the situation was particularly difficult, the drought dried his entire crops of wheat, the sun was so brutal that it burned his whole field, and finally the fire burned his remaining food supply that was located in a small hut in the vicinity of his field. The cattle contracted an improbable illness called foot-and-mouth disease, which killed all his lambs and made them contagious and uneatable. 

The starvation began, Kit suffered more to see his wife becoming weak than his proper shortage. He couldn’t tolerate seeing Rosemary in so miserable a condition. He implored the neighbouring farmers for food, but they had already sold all of it. He didn’t know what to do. He tried to hunt in the forest, but it was empty. So, he decided to try the only solution left, the most dangerous one. He infiltrated himself the king’s garden by night and decided to steal six deer from the royal family. He moved very carefully and silently in order not to be noticed by the guards. That task was very difficult because there were always a lot of soldiers monitoring the royal castle and its garden. When at last he found the deer, he noticed that a guard was watching over them. So, he took a little stone in his hand and threw it on the other side of the garden in order to create a diversion. This trick was successful; in fact, the guard immediately ran on the other side of the garden. He knew that he had very little time, so he agilely jumped over the gate, passed through a little river that separated the garden in two parts, and without a noise, he attached the deer with a solid rope. When he was ready to leave, the guard was coming back. He had just the time to hide himself in a bush without being noticed. And again, the only one solution left for Kit was not an easy one. He moved very slowly in the dark towards the standing guard, took a big stone from the river, and approached very carefully closer to him. Kit was dressed in black, so he was invisible in the darkness of the night, and when he stood behind the guard, he knocked him on the head. He knew exactly how strong he had to hit to keep him alive, because he used to do it with his cattle. The guard was just knocked out, and he would wake up after one or two hours. Finally, Kit rushed to the portal with the stolen deers and went home to feed his starving wife. 

Days followed one another, Kit lived in fear of being discovered by the king. He knew what the consequences would be if he were caught. But finally, he didn’t receive any warning from the king Duclos, and he started to be relieved. It was the first time of his life that he stole something from someone. He prayed day and night to be forgiven by the gods, but he didn’t feel untroubled as usual. 

The king Duclos wasn’t smart at all, his only preoccupation in life was to eat, he lived to eat, and he ate to live. He was a huge dripping descending mountain of fat. When he saw his meat disappear, he was so angry that he wanted revenge, he wanted his deer back immediately. Duklini, one of the most faithful and effective vassals of the king, was charged with finding the stolen animals, bringing them back in the royal garden, and bringing the thief to the king in order to be severely punished. Duklini was a bad person, he overtaxed his people to keep money for his own. He told them that a big part of what they payed would be given to the church, and that would ensure them the free access to paradise. Duklini had a personal philosophy, he believed in God in his own way, and was convinced that it is much safer to be feared rather than loved. Because fear allows full control on other people by a dread of punishment. 

He went on the suburbs and questioned everyone he saw about the robbery, but everybody answered to his questions in the same way: they knew nothing about it. In reality they all imagined that the thief was the farmer because of his recent bad luck with his cattle and field. Every one of them heard about Duklini, they knew what he would do to the farmer, so they kept their mouths shut. After ten same negative answers Duklini lost his patience, madness took place in his head instead of his already altered wisdom. He kidnapped a whole family composed of the parents and two children in his residence and tortured them one by one to have the answers he wanted. He hit them until they bled, but no useful information came out. Finally, he took one of the two children, and cut his throat in front of his parents. Then he took the second one, put a knife on his mouth and tore away a tooth. The little boy cried and was afraid to die. At that moment the parents decided to talk and to report the farmer. Having got the information he wanted, Duklini killed them all. That would prevent them from telling what they had to endure with him. He had to preserve his own image. 

The next morning, a hundred soldiers came to the house of the farmer and arrested him. They took him in front of his majesty. The king Duclos was the judge of the trial and said: 

Mister Kit, I knew you since you were a little boy, I attended to your birth. Your father was my best friend when we were young. You look exactly like him, a brave person that will ever be remembered. You’re the most appreciated person of this community, you saved my own son on the Monica’s forest, and for that I shall always have a debt to you. You also helped our people to survive from starvation when you had a good year. But you broke the law, you dared to penetrate into my garden, hit a guard and stole my dinner! I can’t allow it; the law is the same for everybody and cannot be changed. God, please forgive me. I sentence you to die, tomorrow at midnight you will be hung in front of the entire village in the very place where you were born. In your farm. A golden rope will be passed around your neck. It is a rare and honorable privilege. Until tomorrow, you will be held in the prison of the castle. 

Rosemary cried and begged the king to let him live. In exchange she was ready to die for him, but Duclos didn’t want to hear anything. He went for a dinner and then fell asleep. He was very upset because that evening he had to eat only vegetables without meat because of Kit. 

The night was long for Kit, the walls were stone. There was a smell of sadness and moisture in the air, rats were his only company during that night. A window allowed the passage of a faint light into the darkness that reigned in the prison cell. He felt lonely and had a terrible urge to be comforted by Rosemary’s arms. He missed so much the touches of his loving wife. He spent the whole night thinking about justice, or rather the injustice. Could it be that there was some sort of error? He had saved the life of the prince, had always been generous and good to everyone, prayed every single day of his life, and there he was, waiting the twelve strikes of the bell that would mark the end of his life on a gallows pole. He wanted that somebody would tell him that he was dreaming. He took a look through the bars at the last sights of a world that became very wrong for him. The priest came in the cold cell to read him the last rites. The words escaped him when he tried to speak, tears flowed, and he cried. He knelt down and asked the gods a last favor. He wanted Duclos to be forgiven for his unfair decision. He also implored them to make Rosemary happy for the rest of her life. Then he fell asleep. 

The day came and the citizens of Torviscas had to prepare the execution. They had to provide a big place to welcome all the people of the village to attend the last terrible moment of their friend Kit. It was cloudy and windy; the storm was ready to blow up. A sad atmosphere reigned there. It was 11:55 p.m. and everyone was there, everyone. The guards marched him out to the courtyard. Somebody from the audience cried him “May God be with you!”. Kit was up with the golden rope around his neck, he didn’t cry, stood up straight and looked proud. He wasn’t afraid to die. He was waiting for the last minutes of his life. He felt the wind on his face. Rain was devastating the kingdom, the lightning struck, it was as if God was watching the scene and disagreed with the decision of the fatty king. Suddenly, the bell began to chime, every knock was like a knife which would stab Kit in his heart. When the eleventh knock rang, a little child in the crowd cried loudly and headed toward Duklini, which was sitting next to the executioner. King Duclos stared at the boy and made a sign with his hand to interrupt the execution. Everyone was looking at the little kid in front of Duklini, who was pointing a finger against him. He was covered in blood and had a big scar on his throat. Everybody in the crowd recognized him now. He was one of the sons of the family which had disappeared mysteriously some days before. 

The boy looked in the eyes of the cruel Duklini, his look was full of hate and sadness. He was weak, severely wounded, and started to cry. He was so desperate that the king enveloped him in his warm arms and asked him what happened. The little boy told him all the story, the way in which the evil vassal chopped off the heads of his family while he was suffocating in his own blood in the ground like an earthworm in front of them. The wound in his throat hadn’t been deep enough. The boy survived, managed to reach the street where he had been assisted by a priest who was passing by at that moment. Duclos was out of breath, he realized the consequences of his bad decision. An innocent would have been murdered just in front of Duklini, the real guilty and evil killer. The king ordered his guards to let Kit free, and to let him go down on the ground. Then the soldiers substituted the a barbed wire for the golden rope. 

Duklini was immediately arrested and conducted to the scaffold. He screamed like a pig when the soldiers tied up his hands and feet. This time nobody screamed “God be with you”. The sands of time for Duklini were running low. The trap door opened under his feet. The barbed wire tightened around his neck, harder and harder. Blood began to flow from his throat. The last sight of Duklini was a red sky getting darker and darker, until the light of his miserable life turned definitively off, sending him to the afterlife. 

The king would no more sentence anyone to die without a very serious reason and engaged himself to learn to control his huge appetite, which could have caused the death of an innocent man. He also organized a big feast, and all the citizens of Torviscas were invited to celebrate his new decision. For that, he ordered his cooks to prepare his favorite dish, the roast in his special sauce Voronoff with a paella. Since then, Duclos was no more considered by his citizens as a descending mountain of fat, but as a good and fair king. Duclos adopted the poor child who could live at court with the royal family. Over the years, he followed the path of his new father; he was the future obese king. Kit and Rosemary had two children and lived happy until the end of their life. Duklini burned in hell eternally. 

This story is a tribute to the great song Geordie from Fabrizio De André.


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