The girl Cavillace was simple and beautiful, as a honeysuckle lost in metal is bound to appear. When Telos saw her, he knew he had to have her, and he did. It was a rather easy thing, because Telos was strong and handsome, as a tiger lost in the urban jungle. When she was in his arms, everything seemed right (and everything was right, by and by). The only thing that ever struck his mind askew was the idea that this might someday end.
Cavillace, for her part, had no intention of letting it end. She was two years Telos’s junior but felt bound to him intensely, and she would have literally traveled to Hades and beyond if it meant being with him. Her past is of minute concern: like Telos, she came from the forests beyond the City, a land not often called Skara Brae.
Their courtship was immediate and its consummation instantaneous. Their friends were not surprised: both Telos and Cavillace were of romantic hearts, and dated rarely. Thus, when they should find someone who struck their interest and found it recquited, it would make sense for a rapid pursuit.
For two months, their relationship soared, above the King Minos and his legions. Minos believed in strange methods of population control, and irregular liaisons like the one between Telos and Cavillace were strictly forbidden due to their uncertainty and fiery passion (that often results in unnecessary children). It goes without saying that King Minos did not share their romantic spirit.
The Fussbudget I
The result of King Minos’s social plans was the annex of the Jinyi Wei, a long-standing association of detectives. The Wei was originally designed to simply take on tough crime cases and observe that the Law was followed by all citizens. Minos decided to use them instead as his eyes and ears in the city, so that he would be everywhere at once. The Wei was transformed into an abusive and law-skirting agency, and average people began to suspect that around every corner an agent of Minos waited.
When Minos decided to reorganize the Jinyi Wei, he put Gabriel Syme, a war-hardened patriot, at its head. Syme challenged the old Wei system and quickly instituted the changes that Minos desired. It was he that created the society of abuse and deceit, fear and chaos.
Their system of surveillance was impressive, and details rarely slipped through. While Syme was a harsh and mean supervisor, he was skilled in all the ways he needed to be and succeeded in every task. The Wei was as talented as it was cruel: a startlingly merciless police force.
Although Syme was widely despised, he worked quite plainly in the middle of the city, in a nondescript office building next to some mega-corporations. No one outside the Jinyi Wei knew what he looked like, which allowed him an absurd amount of freedom despite being one of the most feared men in the city. Gabriel Syme, it is said, had a grizzled countenance and short, grey hair. He always had a cigarette in his mouth, and a cough that implied the cigarette had been there since he was born.
It’s not that he was loveless. It’s just that he didn’t believe in love. You cannot lack something that you don’t think exists.
Thus, the whirlwind romance between Telos and Cavillace was, for all intents and purposes, invisible. No one spoke of it and it was never actually acknowledged. They saw each other rarely; and painfully, the whirlwind romance seemed more like a casual acquaintance. But they knew, the two of them, they knew that beneath the friendly smiles and social beers there was a river, a torrent, a delta of passion.
Sometimes, they would journey outside of Damascus, where Minos’s reach did not yet extend. There, among the winding roads and shantytowns of Tell Ramad, they would dare to hold hands and kiss when the moon refused to shine upon them. He would put his hand on her cheek and his whole spirit would stir, as a mighty beast awakened from twenty years of slumber.
She would blush and fawn under his touch, but she knew she loved it.
One night Telos went too far. Not that Cavillace cared terribly, for she didn’t (as she saw it, she had given herself wholly to him: they were going to eventually), but nonetheless, quite regardless, Telos went too far. He in fact realized his mistake seconds after the ardor had fled.
They got dressed with not too little discomfiture and returned to the city, hands noticeably separated, thoughts furtively elsewhere.
The Fussbudget II
Word had made its way to Syme about Telos’s dereliction. Just because Minos did not directly rule over Tell Ramad did not mean he would never hear anything of it. Careful precautions had to be taken in order to trap the lovers.
It is unclear why Syme failed to believe in love.
He ordered their favorite bar, the one where they had met, the one that fueled illicit thoughts, to be under careful surveillance. Should they make any mistake that revealed they were anything more than friends, the Jinyi Wei would descend. Hawks upon mice.
The records on Syme are abysmal: maybe he had loved and lost.
There was no reason to report the Telos-Cavillace case to Minos. They had not done anything exceptional. A number of couples every year made their way to the outskirts and performed foolishly. It was nothing new. Minos did not need to know.
Perhaps he had not been loved in return. It is unclear. What is clear is that Syme made a point of ending every romantic relationship that existed in Damascus. Sex? Reproduction.
Nothing else. Nothing else.
The question one must ask themselves is, if all relationships in Damascus are discovered by Syme (and thus destroyed) or forced to run their course (since marriage does not exist), is it really worthwhile to become involved with someone else? People never think in terms like this though: they only think in terms of desire and satisfaction. Well, they never think like that initially. At some point, after successfully evading Syme for a few months, thoughts like these creep in, like sunlight through shades in the morning.
Cavillace and Telos were discovered at a bar called The Chestnut Tree Cafe, after having one too many drinks and becoming more than a little amorous. People watched aghast for about four minutes until a few Jinyi Wei agents entered and dragged them out.
They were jailed for two days, at which point Syme extensively questioned Telos, who admitted to nothing except being drunk and making a mistake. Syme made a few long-winded speeches designed to get Telos to confess, but they failed. Syme released him (to be kept under further surveillance), then changed tracks to question Cavillace.
He had never seen her before, and when he did, he became flush with emotion. Suddenly he understood why Telos would break the law to be with this woman, and why he would lie to cover it up. She would be worth every risk.
Syme left immediately before asking her any questions.
On Damascus I
I don’t want to say that Damascus is a loveless town, because it’s not. However, that is not to say it is like Syme, because it is not. Damascus wants to believe in love, it just can’t. Rather, it cannot explore love because love is stamped out and rooted out by Syme.
Moreso than Minos, Syme is married to the city in the sense that he cares about it more than he cares about anything else. Everything he does, he does for the betterment and safeguarding of the city. If he believed in love, if he had that ability, he would recognize that he loved Damascus more than anything else in the world.
So Damascus expands economically and grows socially, as romance and passion are hidden and confined to the outskirts.
Why don’t lovers leave, you ask. It’s not that easy. Damascus is a port town, but desert surrounds its blue-and-green walls. To leave would be to throw your fate into nature’s hands. To leave would be to abandon the life you had made for yourself.
Some leave, that is true. They leave and are never heard from again. Whether by Syme’s design or cruel fate of the universe, they disappear. So most choose not to leave. Most just surrender their love.
Syme failed to come to work the next day. This was not shocking in and of itself, except given his reaction to Cavillace the day before. Even though he was the head of the Jinyi Wei, he was the presence of Minos on the streets; his reaction had been sudden and awkward and people had noticed.
People were starting to talk. Eoin MacNeill specifically enjoyed talking, theorizing, extrapolating on Syme’s reaction. MacNeill was a direct assistant to Syme and figured, perhaps rightly perhaps not, that he could assume more power if Syme were deposed.
Catching wind of the rumors that were going around from his friend James Connolly, Syme quickly returned to work the following day to interrogate Cavillace. Both James and Eoin were there, to take notes and help if necessary; both reported that Gabriel was unusually harsh. Incidentally, the notes that James supposedly took are now missing from the public (or otherwise) record.
After both Eoin (disgruntled that his rumors had proven false) and James (unsettled by the interview) had left, Syme watched Cavillace for a few more minutes. She was crying and he was frowning: even if he wanted to make her feel better, he wouldn’t have known what to do.
Telos had lost her, and he didn’t really know what to do. The first few days were a blur of confusion, drinking to excess, and poorly thought-out thoughts about life. After a week he realized she probably was not coming back. The Jinyi Wei, that infernal Gabriel Syme, had jailed her, or killed her (and had probably done worse before that). His thoughts turned dark, and his friends abandoned him as he sailed through liquor.
He came out of the self-medicating bender a couple weeks later when he woke up with little-to-no money left. He spent that day wandering Damascus, bumming cigarettes and stealing food where he could. As the sun set, he realized the city had nothing left for him.
Love was gone. Friends were gone. The city looked barren. The skyscrapers were withered trees. Never alive, only places for those who were alive.
Telos returned home and packed up the belongings he wanted to keep. He left a note explaining why he was leaving, although he was unsure if any of his friends would ever see it. Whatever. He had tried to tell them. If they didn’t care enough to come over and see what had happened, they didn’t deserve to read the fucking note.
He walked out his front door and headed for the blue-and-green walls, which lay beyond Damascus and Tell Ramad and Syme and Minos and Cavillace.
Cavillace and The Fussbudget III
Not knowing how better to explore his feelings for Cavillace, Syme locked her up in the bottom of the Jinyi Wei headquarters and all but threw away the key.
She stayed down there so long she forgot about Telos, she forgot about Damascus, she forgot about Skara Brae. She forgot about the sun and the sky. Syme didn’t abuse her, as it were, but he kept her for his amusement. Eventually he stopped frowning and she stopped crying.
Sometimes she would smile at him. His reactions were varied, until as time went on he simply smiled back. He started talking to her, and she, in time, spoke back. They never talked about anything in particular. He would ask how she felt, if she were hungry, and she would answer.
Cavillace came to know the place as her home, and Syme as her friend. She was rather fond of him. He gave her food. He kept her warm. No one else came to talk to her!
It’s remarkable she never wondered why she was down there. It would seem she had grown complacent. Satisfied. Happy.
The journey to the blue-and-green walls is rather easily done. Probably about half a day’s walk. A road leads out of Damascus, the Via Regia, the high road, and it winds through Tell Ramad and out of the town. It becomes pretty dusty and less well-kept after that, as the misty trees on the sides lean in (as it to whisper dirty secrets to any passersby; they’re such gossips). Soon down this road, the blue-and-green walls loom tall and large, imposing figures that they are, and you reach a gate.
Telos handed them his passport, and they looked it over briefly before handing it back. Syme had been so distracted by Cavillace, he had forgot to send out any kind of warnings about Telos. Not that it mattered; rather, not that Telos mattered.
The trees last for a little past the walls but not more than an hour of average walking, and soon you approach a desert. Some say the desert gets a little closer every year, encroaching upon Damascus. Others laugh in their faces: that’s ridiculous, sand doesn’t encroach, it’s just sand. Telos wasn’t so sure.
And the desert itself, encroaching practices aside, what can be said of that desert? The Qyzylqum. A rain shadow desert that spread out around Damascus, an endless horizon. If you stick to the Via Regia you should be fine; there are man-made oases every hour or so on the path. If you stray from the Via though, well, let’s just say it gets rough. Real rough.
So he set off down the path through the Qyzylqum, leaving behind the last four years of his life. Sometimes he thought he should have tried to find Cavillace, but what if they had killed her? They’d just kill him too if he started snooping around.
Surprisingly, his cowardice didn’t bother him much.
On Damascus II
At once a noble town and a hidden town, the true spirit of Damascus is rarely known. The people were generally happy, although Minos could have treated them better. Small bits of unhappiness foster and spread slowly like cancer. Telos, although he only lived in the city for four years, left an indelible impact. But that story is not for now.
The city relies on services being outsourced from other major city-states. One of its best partners is Chicago, another city on the Rhine (much further north). Damascus is one of the oldest cities in the world, and as such it commands respect within the global community.
King Minos was the thirty-fourth king. The line was not exactly direct from the founder of Damascus, Osman the First: assassinations and… mistakes, are bound to occur. But Damascus had proven to be a fixture upon the globe for six hundred and thirty three years.
The people were generally happy, although Minos could have treated them better. There had been worse leaders, though. The people enjoyed being a beacon of success to the rest of the world, they loved being a model city. They’d see past the short-comings of the King, especially since his new reproductive laws seemed to, in fact, keep society tranquil.
Romance only complicated things.