The complex was alive with chit-chatter. The clocks began to ring. Odin… Dva… Tri… Chetyre… Pyať… Shesť… Sem’.
The doors opened. The President walked out of them. He overlooked the river that continued past the Kremlin. The ripples succeeded each other.
Dvenadtsať. An old woman gingerly entered the hall. She spoke, with a voice clearer than should be, and an accent that no-one else possessed.
“Whom did you love?”
“My daughter. Olga.”
“I loved my fianceé. He’d got bit by a snake, and this wonderful man- his name was Syd Alshumue. He offered to save my bethroted’s life. Actually, it offered anything, just for the city. I accepted his bargain. Much, much later, (though it felt like a couple of years to me), this merchant was murdered in such a despicable manner.”
“Similar situation with my daughter. She was my firstborn. When the revolutionaries began to riot, they threatened to shoot her if I did not back down. A man by the name of Gospodin Stranitsy offered to protect her, at the price of the city. …he gave his word, but unsuccessfully. She was killed eight years after the bargain.”
“And how did you feel?”
“Frightened. Confused. Doomed. But mostly, I felt a primaeval rage. When my fifth-born, Alexei, was acting up again, I killed him. Not out of a personal rage for him, but out of an anger and a hunger to avenge her.”
“That’s the thing about these merchants. In their intrigues, in their deepest matters… look to love. Always.”
Odin Kormovy, the clock struck. The woman left, leaving the czar alone. The river rippled. Perhaps, when Halley’s Comet came again, the pain would be over. Perhaps he would live to see the day it did. The woman, he saw, was tired. Tired of the pain, of the Neath. But lastly, tired of life, and it’s miseries.
Then he remembered. There had been inhabitants of the Neath a’fore he. Paris had become Moscow. The adobe labourers. London as well. Karakorum. Hopelchen. Amarna. Another city. But most of all, these Maîtres du bazar. They had been there. They had seen the suffering, the grief, and the torture. And what had they done?
“…look to love.”
And with that, his business continued.