“I was waiting for you. I was wondering what was taking you so long” said the Wazir and took one more sip from his goblet of wine, to cool his nerves before the fight.
The Sultan looked at him from the doorway, sword in hand, eyes oozing with menace and a stance that suggested that his nerves were also on the edge for the battle on hand.
“I was with my soldiers, fighting side by side with them. Something which you have never bothered to do in your life” said the Sultan sarcastically “And now, even as we speak they are taking control over my fort and the palace”
“Don’t you mean My Fort and Palace” said the Wazir getting up from his gold chair, goblet of wine in one hand and sword in the other.
He walked to the window and observed the grim sword and spear battles that were currently underway in the palace courtyards. Beyond the palace grounds violent flashes of gunfire had set the fort walls on fire.
“Yes, your fort and palace, which you stole from me” responded the Sultan, his voice rising in anger.
The Wazir turned away from the window to observe the Sultan with a cold anger. Still the same old arrogance, the same possessiveness, the same attitude of everything is mine, everything belongs to me. Just the way he had been as a child then as a young man and finally as an ambitious ruler in adult life.
Unable to control his anger any longer, the Wazir lunged at the Sultan, sword flashing in fury. The Sultan blocked the attack and thrust the blade back.
There had been a time, long ago when as small boys the Sultan and the Wazir had fought with toy swords on the hill tops and the grass banks near the kingdom. They might have been playful and energetic young men trying their hand at a new game. But even at that young age the sport for them was deadly serious. Both wanted to win. Neither of them would give up. Even with the short wooden toy swords they caused each other some damage. When they got back to the palace they would be reprimanded briefly by their guardians, but only briefly. After all, they were royalty and they were future rulers and without ambition, how could they rule.
The Sultan was winning the initial skirmishes. He had always been a better fighter, stronger and faster. But the Wazir had always been the smarter of the two. It was now his smartness that was keeping him in the fight rather than succumbing to complete defeat.
It was true even of their formative years. The elders of the royal house had recognized that while the Sultan was the charismatic leader and natural warrior, the Wazir was the cleverer politician, the one with foresight and knowledge.
That is why when the time came for the ascension announcements to be made; the Sultan and the Wazir were given their respective posts.
Initially, they both accepted the roles that they were given. But as time passed, both grew discontent.
During the nights the Wazir would drink hard to control his grief. It was his ideas, his foresight, his shrewdness that was giving the kingdom such success and prosperity. But who took away the credit – The Sultan. Without his brains, the Wazir felt, the Sultan was just a violent barbarian. Why could the Wazir not rule? After all, there was a lot more to political life than just war and conquest. The army could take care of the fighting, while the Wazir could take care of the political matters. Why could the Wazir not get the top job?
At the other end of the palace, the Sultan drank hard to control his own grief. Did his courtiers really respect him or did they just think of him as a puppet in the hands of the Wazir? After all, they always went to the Wazir for serious advice. Why did they never come to him? Was he regarded merely as a soldier and not a serious politician?
As the Wazir flashed and thrust his sword at the Sultan, he began thinking of the times when his master had started overruling all his ideas, embarrassing him in front of the courtiers and treating him as a servant, just to prove that he had a superior intellect.
The Sultan attacked back fiercely, thinking of all the times when the Wazir had quietly built gangs of courtiers in his support just so that he could have his way and rule the kingdom behind his back. Why could the Wazir not accept his superiority, fumed the Sultan.
Such a rivalry was only going to have an inevitable end. The Sultan had his own supporters and the Wazir his. Some generals in the army liked the Wazir’s wisdom, while others liked the Sultan’s aggression. They formed groups, they hatched plots, they planned and conspired and finally, they went to war.
And now inside the palace walls and in the maidans outside and in the fields of the rural areas, the two sides were waging pitch battles with each other. The common citizens were gathering their belongings and preparing to flee the city. The once beautiful gardens of the palace were in shambles. The once impenetrable walls of the fort were on fire. A once strong army was now at war with itself.
Inside the palace walls the Sultan and the Wazir were playing out the end game of their bitter story. A story of jealousy and greed, of ambition and betrayal; a story of missed legacies. A great warrior and a great thinker. Could they have cooperated with each other? What would the kingdom have been like with their combined talents? That is a story that was never told because while genius had the ability to create, it also had the ability to destroy.
Then in one final thrust, it was all over. The Wazir feigning weakness to catch the Sultan off guard and using the moment to lunge his sword into the Sultan’s chest and the Sultan using his strength to take the sword out and push his own weapon into the Wazir’s chest.
They both lay still. Inside the ornament covered walls of the palace, tired and exhausted. Waiting for death to come. Maybe now in the last throes of their life, it was time for them to acknowledge each other’s virtues. But they didn’t. Their ambition and jealousy remained with them till their final breath.
“You know, I would have made a better ruler than you” moaned the Wazir in his dying minutes.
“I was never as dumb as you made me out to be. I was always smart enough to run the kingdom on my own” grunted the Sultan as he breathed his last.
Meanwhile outside the kingdom burned as brother fought brother, and soldiers fought their generals, and courtiers fought their citizens. Because when rulers fight, the kingdom burns.