It’s true, I met Talin. It’s also true that meeting him cost me my career, my life partner was locked up by the Regnork government and all of my friends turned their backs on me because of the event. Twenty years on and I’m still running from that fateful encounter. So you can probably understand how much coaxing I needed from my naral to write this obituary.
Three weeks, that’s how long Talin’s been dead and how long it took for me to be convinced to write this story. I received over three thousand messages during that period asking for me to write about it and yet I still resisted. The bastard cost me my career, I really didn’t see why I owed him anything. I still honestly don’t. Except I picked up Sharla from The Herborium yesterday and she asked, ‘Lanar, did you really meet Talin?’
I was irritated when I replied, ‘I did.’
‘What was he like? I mean, you know, the government says he was a traitor. They say he was a thief. When I saw him executed he didn’t look like a traitor. I didn’t like how they killed him. I mean, Lanar, aren’t you a journalist? Don’t you have to tell, like the truth or something?’
As you probably know, I haven’t been a journalist for twenty years. I’m a voice who says things on the waves and it’s my job to sound like I know what I’m talking about, even if I don’t. It’s certainly not my job to tell the truth. Except for the first time in two sets of ten, people want to hear it. I guess they think they can rest easy because Talin’s dead. Only his specter can haunt them now.
Well then let me tell the truth. I met Talin. It was a random and unlucky encounter for me, but I met him. I also know that the individual who was murdered by the state was not Talin. Not even close. I guess the new Empress wanted to prove she could do something her father couldn’t and took her best guess. Everyone else who knew Talin is dead or in hiding, it was a pretty safe bet.
Until Sharla told me that I should tell the truth or something, Empress Minara had won a major relational strike against the revolution.
When the guards come for me in the night to torture and kill me, remember that this is what you asked for. If you can, if the Republic lets you, I have but one request. Just one. On my memorial wall, please write the words: This man met Talin and defied an empire. I’ll be forever in your debt. I won’t know, but I will be. I guess, if there is an afterlife.
So let me tell you about meeting Talin.
Twenty years ago I was working for the Chronicle. Yes, I used to work for the Chronicle and I was arrogant, I was ambitious and I’d been promoted three times in four sun cycles. I was pegged to be a Naral for the external safety section. Everything was going my way.
It was the end of the conflict with the Kastalan clan and they were bringing back the Parnalar for questioning. I’d been assigned to get a quote because I had the best external safety section sources. I’d even secured three minutes of questioning time with the Parnalar. All I had to was promise that I would spin the story to make our plundering of Mishnelk look courageous. It was an easy job and one that would guarantee me my naral position. I was ready.
It was raining when they brought the Parnalar back and left him alone with me in a three by six metre stone reinforced room. After about two questions, I knew something was wrong. Firstly, the man was fat. Two-hundred kilograms large and he was scared. I could see it through the sweat on his brow and the way he would rapidly grunt at my questions. I knew he wasn’t the Parnalar that had conquered our forces at Hedron and Laktern. No, definitely not, I told myself at the time.
And that was when my day went straight to malsharn. I heard two thuds and then a third scream come from the guards outside, the scream only lasted a second before it was replaced with a blood curdling gurgle. I started sweating, Parnlar leaked something onto the floor. I didn’t look down to see what it was.
A man, a man with an oval face, two differently coloured eyes and flat nose walked into the room. His voice was sharp, low and menacing. He asked me, ‘Who are you?’
‘I’m Alartak from the Chronicle.’
‘So you are.’
That was all he said. He wore a dark black coat with a hood that covered most of his face and all of his body. He might have been big, he might have been skinny, it was difficult to tell because of the way his coat fell. From out of its many pockets he pulled a rushall and lit up. I think he was deciding what to do with me. I don’t know, Talin’s known for his unpredictability, but that’s what I like to believe.
He smoked the rushall to the end and then, in an instant, stuck a glass needle into the Parnalar’s neck. The man died a second later. There was no deathly noise, in fact it seemed rather painless. Then Talin cut open the Parnalar’s stomach and retrieved a bag.
I don’t know what else happened because I was hurling my previously eaten meal on the floor. When I turned around, Talin was gone.
I was pegged as a traitor, a liar and an enemy of the state just for being there. I assume they’ll say the same things once this is produced or read out. Doesn’t matter.
This is the truth. It better be because it’s going to cost me my life.
Oh, and don’t forget: This man met Talin and defied an empire.