By Rohan Jagarlamudi
At the height of the Roman Empire, in a small village, in the province of Armenia where small walled cities were surrounded by immense forests and hidden villages of hard-working peasants, a little boy was born to a peasant girl whose name was Andrada. The baby was called Trajan, after the Roman Emperor, Trajan the Great Warrior. His mother, Andrada, was convinced that her son would grow up to become well-known beyond their village borders; she also foresaw that one day he would be praised by many and will inspire bravery in villagers because many stories would be told to children and grown-ups about her son’s greatness.
From the very beginning, however, Andrada’s son proved to be a very fearful child. He heard strange voices in his head and was very afraid of those voices. They were very creepy, those many eerie voices ringing in his head throughout the day. He couldn’t understand what each of the voices was trying to tell him because they were all talking at once. He liked to be alone, because being alone somehow calmed the voices down and he could enjoy the silence and the peace of mind he sought.
When Trajan grew up to be 15 years old, his mother thought to herself that she should tell her son about the mysterious voices he heard and how they came to be. Andrada came to him one day in their hut and told him her secret story, from the days before he was born.
The room smelt good from the fish she was cooking for dinner. The sun was nearly down at the end of the horizon and the room was cool from the mud padding patched on its roof and walls to keep the cool air inside. She looked at her son with caring eyes. He was a tall and lean boy that worked strongly from dawn to dusk. He had blue eyes like the sky and his ruffled brown hair grew thick and beautiful. They both sat down on the soft mattress on which his mother slept, then she started:
“My beloved son, there are some untold things about your father. Your missing father is the king of the gods, Jupiter. He had to leave long ago because he had to care for his Olympus mountain kingdom and watch over the other gods. Today I will tell you the story of how I met your father. It starts at a time when I lived with my father and mother in a village before the Romans came to settle in our lands. One day I went out to buy food for my mother to cook our dinner. I was walking down a side road to the northern markets, hiding a few coins in my purse. Then I saw terrifying thieves hidden in the trees staring right at me. I knew that my small straw-purse was definitely going to get stolen and we would be left to starve. So, I ran quickly to reach the safety of the northern market, where soldiers could protect peasants like myself. Sadly, I was not too athletic and I was barefoot; soon a thorn pierced my heel, so the thieves were able to grab me easily enough. That was the moment when a man stepped out of nowhere like a glistening light and saved me by dazzling the robbers with his glaring strikes. The kind man, who was your father, escorted me safely to the markets where I could buy my goods. He also escorted me back to my house. Along the way we spoke and learned about each other. At the time I was clueless to the fact that he was Jupiter. It was then we kept meeting up and I soon married him and had you. Unfortunately, weeks after you were born, he revealed his identity and explained that, before, he had been unable to disclose the truth about his name for fear that others might learn about it, too. He also said that he decided to confess to me only after he had come to trust me completely. He gave me many gifts to help me remember him and help us live well. Then he heard back from the throne one day that there was a waging war between demi gods and monsters. Knowing that he was the god of gods he had to handle this matter to make sure that the old order of the gods would be preserved. He said his goodbyes by telling my parents that he had the obligation to return to his parents across the ocean and wouldn’t be back for a while. Then he left back to the sky and I never saw him again.”
Astonished, Trajan was left with his mouth wide open. He began pondering the extraordinary news that his mother had revealed to him. In his heart, he suddenly realized he held the legacy of his father. He was a demi-god: he was destined to become a hero. However, the power he held, of which he was not yet sure of at that time, seemed a little embarrassing because everyone still knew him to be just a fearful peasant. Trajan thought, “How could I ever be this powerful and glorious if I can’t even overcome my fears?”
Later that day, when his mother came back from her work in the fields, Trajan inquired: “How should I go about my fears, Mother?”
She answered in her usual kind and soft tone, “You should go and face your fears. By running away from them like you have your whole life, you will soon be caught and overwhelmed by them.”
His mother got back up and then went outside. While she was gone, Trajan was thinking about what his mother had said and tried to familiarize to what it meant to him. She` finally walked back in with a large brown sack that was covered in specks of dirt and looked as if it was dug from the ground; it held something rather large inside. She took out a big strangely-shaped object that shone in the semi-darkness of the small hut. Trajan stood up and his heart was filled with ambiguous feelings. He looked at the glamourous thing and saw that it was a lightning bolt crafted up of the purest gold; he carefully took the grand weapon from his mother’s hands. The object looked as if the gold had been melted many years before and molded into a lightning bolt by an experienced and skillful artist-blacksmith who must have been greater than anyone else in his time. Trajan saw ancient symbols and runes engraved into the gold. The symbols looked as if they were shining in the darkness of the room with a mysterious magical aura. She said it was his father’s gift to him; Jupiter had advised her to give the gift to his son before he left their modest but happy life in the hut and returned to take his place back on the throne of the gods.
Trajan looked at the unusual object in his hands, the only gift that connected him to his long-lost father … he turned it on all sides; he felt confused: what was that object? His mother told him that the lightning bolt was the answer to all the voices that he heard in his head. He held it tightly in his hands and the eerie voices had completely faded away. She started by saying that he was not an ordinary demigod: he had a mind-connection with his father. That explained why he heard the voices in his head. Trajan held the bolt and looked at it with a confused face. His mother then said that it was a powerful gift forged from the depths of Tartarus to keep control over his mind-voices. She said that even though the bolt was nearby he had to be holding it obtain its powers. Trajan saw this majestic gift as a chance to overcome his fears. Trajan needed to stand up for people and become a leader that can face any problem.
The next day, he packed some belonging and some food to journey beyond the limits of the world of his knowing and farther into the unknown. After many days he reached a new village.
When he entered the village, he met a boy and asked him where he was. The boy answered, “Well, you are in the village of Timidis. We are all subjects to his majesty, Trajan the Great.”.
He entered the village and remembered a story he heard from a traveler not too long ago. Apparently, the traveler had heard that the village had seen several monster sightings keeping the villagers from doing their field and forest labors. Trajan decided that this was the task that he was going to face.
All of them were wondering why he was willing to take the risk of going into the forest to slay the monstrous creature. One of the Timidians said, “The almighty prophet already cast a spell against the monster’s attacks to keep us safe. We can also drink the miraculous water that he brings from the mysterious magical pond to keep evil away from our village!”
Trajan answered, “But if I can slay the beast, then he’ll never threaten you again.” Suddenly a voice came from behind the villagers; there came a man wearing a long black robe with red stars and dragons embroidered in silver and precious stones on it. He held a wooden staff to indicate his powerful title. He was tall, thin and looked old with his long white hair. He had blue eyes and wrinkly skin. He was the prophet who had been protecting the village from the monster they feared so much.
“Stop!” said the prophet, “You can’t go and fight the beast, it is a powerful creature that not even I can slay.”
Many of the villagers gasped and exclaimed: “You’ve fought the monster?!…” “We have only seen shadows and muffled noises…” the Timidians whispered among themselves.
Trajan said aloud, “I don’t care if you have fought the monster or not. I will slay the monster and will prove myself worthy of my father’s heritage.”
Many of the Timidians were worried that Trajan might not succeed, so they decided to help him out by describing the monster and its habits. One villager said that it was a gigantic creature with four rows of teeth like a sea monster. Every villager said that the monster lived in the forest because it had escaped there every time someone had seen it. No one knew where the monster dwelled in the great mysterious forest. There were rumors that it disappeared every time someone grabbed a weapon or any object of defense. The prophet grunted and left the clearing looking worried about something. The villagers had been terrified of the monster because it came at night and destroyed their crops and stole food from their savings.
The next morning, Trajan took his new golden lightning bolt and a small pocket knife and slowly crept towards the immense forest.
Trajan did not have a sword or a bow and arrow because it was against the Roman rule for peasants to carry weapons like hunters or warriors. He knew that he was very underprepared for the monster of what the villagers had told him, but he felt strong with his lightning bolt. It somehow made him feel safe, as if his father was standing beside him.
As he was heading to the forest, the prophet arrived, running behind him. The prophet came towards Trajan and said in a kind voice, “Here, take this little amphora that contains sacred water; it will protect you from the monster!” Trajan politely accepted and left. The trees towered over him. Once he entered the forest, the long branches blocked out the divine shining sun. Trajan whispered to himself repeatedly that there was nothing to fear as long as he was holding on to his immortal father’s lightning bolt. He looked at the amphora and opened it to drink; he placed his bolt under his arm so he could open to drink the water.
Then suddenly the bolt started glowing and shaking. Trajan grabbed the bolt and heard a loud and powerful voice ringing in is head, “Do not drink the water!” the clouds turned black and thunder rumbled. Trajan then remembered the bolt was a mind connection with his father and that his divine father was helping him out. Trajan looked at the bottle and poured it out. When it landed on the ground the grass faded and then died immediately. Trajan was proud of himself but noticed that some of it has gotten on his clothes. He took some leaves and tried wiping it off, but then he heard a long bellowing howl. Trajan stood up and listened. He took out his bolt. Without thinking he started running. Trajan ran with fear and sprinted in a direction that seemed to lead home. While he was sprinting, Trajan tripped over some roots and slid down a cliff and landed on his head unconscious.
He woke up and had a terrible headache. He got up and looked around in a daze. The forest was once again quiet. He walked around lazily and suddenly stumbled upon a big hole in the ground hidden under a large thorny bush. Trajan carefully removed the bush and peered down the hole where he saw a little subterranean lake. he bent down to wash his grimy and cut hands, but noticed that this could be the mysterious magical lake that the prophet took his water from. He also saw writing on one of the rocks :it said “Fountain of Timidians’ Safety”. Then he saw some berries growing at the side of the pond, and they were drooping into the lake. The berries looked quite normal, but when Trajan came closer he noticed that they were poisonous berries — his mother had taught him, long ago when he was a child, to distinguish between the many plants, fruits, and seeds of the forest. These berries caused strange visions in people’s minds.
Trajan had to tell the villagers about the water and explain that it was poisoned with the berries and the prophet was making everyone think there was a monster by telling them his tall tales. The prophet had created a story of a monster to take control over the village and make them worship him.
He started to sprint back to the village, the wind howling as he ran over roots and stones. Trajan started to slow to catch some breath when he saw something in the distance. It was an extremely large creature with its jaws open, and Trajan could see its four rows of teeth! Trajan was startled and scared but he knew this must be some kind of trick, or was it? He grabbed his lightning bolt which started to glow intensely. When he got closer to the monster, it started to look less and less like a monster but more and more like…A tree?! When he got to the monster it was indeed just an immense tree: It was lean and twisted all over.
The strange mist made the tree seem more alive than it was dead. The strong tough roots grew out from the ground in a way that they looked like feet. Then the bolt started to speak again like before, but then, out of nowhere, glistening light shone bright in front of Trajan. He could make out a silhouette of a person in front of him then when the light disappeared, there stood a tall man in a roman shawl and a wreath of oak leaves around him. In front of Trajan stood the god of the sky, Jupiter.
“Salutations son.” “I have come down from the sky because I heard you have finally attained this powerful gift I had made for you years ago.” said Jupiter. Trajan looked down at his mysterious glowing bolt and then looked back up at his apparent father. }How does it work. father?” Trajan retorted. “It is a powerful weapon that can glow when danger lurks. It can also reject harm that enters your body.” Said Jupiter. “It also lets you take full control over your mind connection with me and keep your mind clear of other people speaking,” said Jupiter.
Jupiter took a step back and sighed. He looked at his son and smiled. “Trajan, I must leave now because I have an obligation to find a lightning thief, a mortal who dared to steal a lightning from my treasure…. And, I assume, you have a village to save from a mischievous prophet.” Jupiter said. “I guess so…, and disturbing a god was very bad…” Trajan said in a small and shy voice. “Goodbye Trajan” Jupiter started to glow and he started floating, and in a second he disappeared into a glistening light tearing through the tall trees. Trajan was sad that his father had left, but he suddenly remembered about the Timidians.
He ran back to the village; it was already dark outside. He ran into the village boundaries and tried to get onto the log. He stood on his tiptoes and announced to the villagers who were now slowly gathering. Villagers peeping out of the houses they were in, and other villagers walking back from the fields, surprised to see the brave boy back from the forest. Trajan however didn’t see the prophet – not the slightest sign of him.
Trajan started to speak, “Everyone, I have found the beast and the cause of it. The beast is fake and it is just part of our imagination. Th vision comes from a water that you drink. The one you drink from our very own protector, the almighty prophet. He is no prophet – he is a bad magician. When I was out searching, I stumbled upon a lake that had small berries growing nearby contaminating it. These berries make humans see things they are not supposed to, things that don’t really exist. The fake prophet had been giving us this water and making us believe that there is a terrible monster that has been lurking nearby. He has been doing this only to take control of the village, and perhaps even of the whole empire some day.”
Everyone was surprised and they were whispering among themselves, and they were looking away and talking to their children trying to explain what had been happening. Some villagers had left in search of this so-called false prophet and bad magician.
Trajan stepped down from his log and walked towards the village borders. He took one last look at the village in which he created happiness and safety. Then he set off back to his village. He trekked for days and then when he finally reached his village, he saw his mother and villagers standing near the border of the village. Trajan’s mother had walked out of her hut, with a relieved and a happy face. He ran quickly to his mother and gave her a hug.
“Trajan,” she said,” I’ve have heard from passing travelers and merchants that there was a brave boy named Trajan that was setting out to defeat a horrible beast that had been terrorizing a village!” Yes, mother that was me,” replied Trajan confidently. I found out that the beast was all magic and they’re was a fake prophet that had been using forces of nature in the forest to create the beast in the imaginations of the poor villagers.” I have now saved the village and they can live peacefully and not be terrified anymore, and they can punish the magician for his nasty crimes.
Many months later, Trajan and his mother traveled back to the village of Timidis to see how well the village had been prospering. When he reached, he saw that the town had built paths and the village was much bigger and richer. A villager had recognized Trajan and ran over to greet their hero. He said, “Trajan, or hero, you have returned to see our prosperity. Thanks to you now we must not live in fear anymore and we can grow our fields and forests and become a stronger village!”
“Well, Timidis has grown much since I was last here.” Trajan replied. The villager chuckled and said: “No, we are now called Fortemians as now our village is been re-named to Fortem, ebcause we are not fearful anymore and we are strong.
The villager had shown Trajan and his mother around, and many villagers had greeted him with happiness. Then he Finally reached the forest where he saw beautiful path that led into the forest. He walked down the path, then he reached a familiar place. It was now a clearing because it was the fountain of the magic water. He went down into the lake and noticed that it was built into a temple with the lake in the middle and light created a serene area. At the end of the temple he saw two statues. One in front was a statue of Trajan standing on a small pedestal with a smaller statue that looked like the prophet lying defeated at his feet. Behind him stood a tall statue of his father, Jupiter.
There, Trajan decided that he wanted to live in Fortem with his mother because this was his village that he had created into a better place.