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Everyone has “that bitch” in her life. That bitch can make you feel so small. She never gives an inch of sympathy or runs out of snarky comments. We despise her with almost all of our souls, save for the tiny part in the corner that secretly hopes for the validation that might come with winning her nod of approval just once. Dr. Vivian Scritt was that bitch. For just a moment after J. D. burst into the morgue, I thought that she would freeze in place. Then I was racing to keep up with her, praying that she would have a plan to save our asses. “We watched Brutsen die! ” I yelled. “What do you mean, his corpse has climbed out of bed? ” “He meant to convey the universally accepted definition of each word as it fits into an English language sentence, Dr. Afelis, ” Dr. Scritt snapped as we ran after J. “Despite what you learned in kindergarten, there are stupid questions, and theyre distributed unequally across a population of individuals who remind us that free speech is an unfortunate reality. ” That bitch. We came to a screeching halt in front of Room 330. J. skittered back, eyes wide, afraid to open the door. I dont know what was happening in the room beyond. But it sounded like a subterranean giant had forced a colossal fart through eight feet of mud, and smelled twice as bad. Scritt turned around and stared at the two of us with deadly calm. “I dont know if youre prepared for whats on the other side. But the reality is that I dont give a shit, because life doesnt give a shit either, so youre simply going to deal with it. Welcome to the world of medicine. ” She leaned against the door and opened it wide. Brutsen had looked bad when he was lying dead, but he was so much worse now. He was standing, facing away from us, swinging angry fists at anyone who approached. I could not see the back of his head, because his neck had twisted to drop his skull into the 6 oclock position. Brutsens body was severely damaged. He swung back and forth, unable to establish stable footing due to his shattered spine. Bony protrusions stuck through his skin, and the destroyed remains of what had once been his vertebrae no longer created a vertical line. Adding to the horror was the clear onset of livor mortis. Most of his arm was the sickly, pale, yellowy-gray of inedible peaches. But the backs of his thighs were an angry shade of strawberry jam. Tiny lacerations endured in the fall were squeezing concentrated blood through his skin like a jelly doughnut. Then he turned around. His head was dangling by shredded skin, swinging upside-down from what had once been a neck. His jaw flapped aimlessly, revealing a destroyed mouth that had recently vacated its teeth in an unholy enamel spray onto my ankles. Cassie Endleman, another first-year doctor in our class, lay in a corner. Her neck was clearly broken. It looked as though shed been hurled against the wall at great speed. The analytical part of my brain understood that she had died before she hit the floor. Lydia, the nurse, stood on the other side of the room. She was holding a shaking hand in front of her, slashing a scalpel at Brutsens spinning arms as he approached. “Dr. Dorian, on my left! ” Dr. Scritt yelled over Brutsens growling. We turned around to see an empty space where J. had once stood, the sound of echoing footsteps reverberating down the hallway. “I see Dr. Dorian wants to learn one of our rules the hard way, ” she heaved before turning to glare at me sideways. Afelis, this has to happen now, so listen very carefully: when life gives you lemons, fuck it. ” She bent low and lunged at Dr. Brutsens flailing corpse, slamming him against the wall. “NURSE! Grab his arms and pin him down! Afelis! Open the cabinet in the corner! ” Lydia jumped into action, clasping his wrists and pushing him back. For a moment, Brutsen was still. Then a guttural roar shook the walls, and his shaking told me that he would soon overpower his two captors. Decompartmentalize. I turned away from them and reached for the cabinet. I had both hands on the handles when I saw it on the door. 1913. It hadnt been there before. No cabinet was numbered. Thats not how cabinets work. This number had appeared, suddenly, just for me. And this time I definitely remembered the rules. I hesitated. Brutsen screamed. Afelis, this is not the time for slapdickery! HURRY! ” Dr. Scritt commanded. I didnt move. When Dr. Scritt spoke again, it was in a suddenly softer, yet still deathly urgent, tone. “Only you can see whats in front of you right now, Dr. Afelis, but there comes a time when you have to make the decision that youll most be able to live with, and you dont have time to think. ” I breathed deeply. ‘I can handle this, I told myself as I opened the door. I was wrong. Timothys body lay crushed on the floor, flattened into a disgustingly small shape for a six-year-old. Yet he was still undoubtedly my little brother, staring up at me in slight judgment and great sadness. The right side of his body had been burned into charcoal, but the left side was perfectly preserved. The worst part, though, was the hazy middle where healthy skin and barbecued flesh united to create a horrified mockery of my brothers face. His right eye socket was empty. His right cheek was gone. The teeth on that side were still present, because without any skin to close his face, I could see deep into his tiny head. He licked his lips with a blackened tongue. “Why did you leave me, Ellie? ” I froze. Afelis! We need you, now! ” “Youve only come back because you need something from me – is that right, Ellie? ” my brothers corpse asked. I sobbed. Lydia screamed, and the sickening sound of breaking bone echoed throughout the room. “Why didnt you come in time to save me, Ellie? Why are you here now? ” I struggled to speak. Then I saw it: a cartoonishly large syringe, clearly made of carbon steel, with a bright yellow “H2SO4” printed across it. The needle was hidden, and I knew that it would spring forth once triggered. Timothy was clutching it in his sinewy fingers. “I – I need that from you, Timmy, ” I whispered. He clutched it tighter. “But why didnt you need me? ” Lydia screamed again. “Time is almost up, Doctor! ” “Im so, so, so sorry, Timmy, ” I sobbed. “I didnt want to leave you. I know you dont understand, but please, please tell me that you know I love you. ” The tears rained down uncontrollably. “How? ” he responded sadly. “How can I know that you loved me if you left me to die? ” “Dr. Afelis, DECIDE NOW! ” “Im going to take this, Timmy, but I love you so, so, so much. Im your favorite big sister, remember? ” He stared back with chilling sobriety. “If you take this from me now, Ellie, Ill always know that you only came back when you needed to help yourself, and that you chose to leave me behind. Youll never see me again. ” “No, ” I whispered sadly as I plucked the syringe from his weak grasp. Then I turned away from the ghost of my little brother, and I ran to the place where I could make a difference. Lydia lay on the floor with both arms bent at unnatural angles. Brutsen had Dr. Scritt pinned to the ground. His hands were wrapped around Dr. Scritts wrists, and she was unable to resist as his stronger arms reached out to squeeze her eyeballs. The emotional part of my soul had worn so thin that no veneer was left. Only a time-worn, rocky edge of logic remained as I acted efficiently to complete the task in front of me. I took one, two, three giant steps to build momentum that I transferred into a forceful thrust of my arm. I didnt consider how accurate my aim might be, because it simply had to reach its target, and no second option remained. Brutsens eyeball squished and popped as I slammed the syringe into his face. I felt the reaction as the trigger shot the needle deep into his head, past his eye and well into his frontal lobe. Then I crashed to the ground. Brutsen leaned back and screamed. Scritt wasted no time in escaping from beneath his grasp, turning to crawl towards me in a furious scramble. I sat, transfixed, as I watched Brutsen transform before me. Sulfuric acid affects skin in much the same way that an open flame does. But I had never seen the effects shooting H2SO4 directly into a cranium, and the show left me transfixed. Brutsen grabbed the sides of his head as his face began to melt. He lacked the wherewithal to remove the syringe from his eye, so it dangled in front of him like a bizarre, synthetic phallus. Then he coughed, spraying blood across the floor, and leaned forward. His eyeball fell like a dropped marble. It was followed by viscous gray sludge that I presumed to be his quickly dissolving brain. I didnt think Id be able to pry myself away from the sight in front of me. “We need to get Lydia out of here! ” Dr. And suddenly, I was able to do the impossible. I held her shoulders as Dr. Scritt pulled Lydias ankles, and we quickly ran out the door. She slammed it behind her. I fell to my hands and knees in a daze. The next several minutes were blurry. Scritt did a lot of yelling, and we were suddenly surrounded by people willing to help. I wondered, vaguely, where they had been in those precious seconds when we needed them most; there are certain soul-defining moments, I think, that can only ever be experienced alone. Lydia was put onto a gurney and wheeled away. The same doctor and janitor that I had seen twice before walked quietly into the room, spent a short time inside, then darted quickly out. They each carried a large, wet garbage bag in one hand. Afelis, you need to come with me. ” Dr. Scritts voice was calm and forceful. “I – I cant, my brothers in the closet, ” I mumbled before a wave of emotion silenced me. “No, Dr. Afelis, he isnt. ” “I have to go back, ” I squeaked. “Ellie, ” she whispered. “You can move forward or stay in place, but you can never, ever go back. Now. Will you follow me? ” I hesitated. Then I stood. Dazedly, I moved until I found myself sitting across her desk for the second time that night. “Life always moves slower or faster than wed like, but never at the right pace, ” she explained calmly. “Tonight, things have been going faster. ” She looked down at me over her thin spectacles. I returned only silence. She nodded to herself. “We need to do this quickly, and I wont repeat myself, so listen carefully. ” She cleared her throat. “The time has come, Dr. Afelis, to tell you about rule number seven. ” BD Listen Part 6.

As I was in the generation that saw the film in Toronto 200-300 times at the Roxy theater and never heard a word of it as we the audience began our responses as soon as the opening credits rolled. What an amazing time. However with the limitations of the stage I don't think Richard O'Brien would have done this unless it was very high quality. And it is. But always try to see the Rocky Horror film in a crowded theater. I give it 10 sweet transvestites. The music is great. the story remains intact from the film. they allow audience participation. the guest stars are hilarious. Hats off ! As well as whatever else you might be wearing. The actors and vocalists are first class. on the web there is an old interview with Tim Curry explaining the genesis of Rocky Horror as Curry had a play in the downstairs of a London theater and O'Brien, who had this concept was playing upstairs in another play and one night the two got to talking about it. Thank You jeff in Toronto.

This essay is also available as a video, click here if you'd prefer to watch. Androw Farman was located at last in the Chamber of the Painted Table, a longsword clutched in his grasp. He made no attempt to deny the poisonings. Instead he boasted. “I brought them cups of wine, and they drank. They thanked me, and they drank. Why not? A cupbearer, a serving man, thats how they saw me. Androw the sweet. Androw the jape. What could I do, but fall off the dragon? Well, I could have done a lot of things. I could have been a lord. I could have made laws and been wise and given you counsel. I could have killed your enemies, as easily as I killed your friends. I could have given you children. ” Androw Farman committed a terrible crime and became a mass murderer in 54 AC on the Targaryen home of Dragonstone. During the reign of King Jaehaerys I and Queen Alysanne, Androw systematically poisoned four women and the Maester on the island, saving his wife Rhaena Targaryen for last. This kind of horror movie plot is not the kind of thing people associate with A Song of Ice and Fire. Most of the time the assassinations and mass deaths are the result of political or military goals being further. Androw, however, killed brutally out of vengeance and in a way that seemed only vindictive. The unasked question though in this tragedy is how did the simple Androw pull off his killing spree at all? Did he have help? And if so, why help Androw Farman murder six people? Androw Farman was the husband, in name only, for Rhaena Targaryen, older sister to the King Jaehaerys I and Queen Alysanne Targaryen known as the “Queen in the West”. Rhaena had known Androw and House Farman of Fair Isle for many years when Androws father sheltered Rhaena from the wrath of her uncle, Maegor the Cruel. Shortly after her baby brother Jaehaerys coronation in Oldtown, Rhaena flew north and with little explanation married Androw in a secret ceremony. When asked why she did this, Rhaena replied that Androw was kind to her and left it at that. The complication of their relationship was that Rhaena had little interest in Androw. Its suggested in the text that they never consummated their marriage. Rhaena actually was in love with Androws sister, Elissa Farman. Rhaena married Androw while carrying on in an open secret with Elissa among other lovers. Androw became angered over the years as he was treated by Rhaena and her court of friends and lovers as little more than a servant or jester, he had no say in any decision, was openly embarrassed and laughed at. These grudges from Androw festered and he went from angry to murderous coming to a head in 54 AC after his sister Elissa disappeared into the East with three dragons eggs. Androws actions required a lot of planning, knowledge, and subterfuge to pull off correctly. For instance, among the first to die by poison was the elderly Maester Culipper. This is a highly intelligent move as it stops the most knowledgeable person on the island from figuring the "sickness" was poison. This level of intelligence and planning from Androw seems at odds with his slow, dull mind that is explicitly mentioned in Fire and Blood. Though he had been born upon an island and now lived upon another, Androw did not sail or swim or fish. A failed squire, he had no skill with sword nor axe nor spear, so when the men of the castle garrison trained each morning in the yard, he kept to his bed. Thinking that he might be of a bookish disposition, Maester Culiper tried to interest him in the treasures of Dragonstones library, the ponderous tomes and Old Valyrian scrolls that had fascinated King Jaehaerys, only to discover that the queens husband could not read. Androw rode passably well, and from time to time would have a horse saddled so he might trot about the yard, but he never passed beyond the gates to explore the Dragonmonts rocky paths or the far side of the island, nor even the fishing village and docks beneath the castle. The knights and men-at-arms pay him no mind whatsoever, and the servants obey him or not, as they please, with no fear of his displeasure. The children are the cruelest, as children often are, and none half so cruel as the Princess Aerea. She once emptied a chamberpot upon his head, not for anything he did, but because she was wroth with her mother. His characterization casts major doubt on how he pulled off these murders. Itd be like hearing Victarion Grejoy won a game of Cyvasse or Pate the Citadel Novice became Archmaester. You would be extremely suspicious, and much the same here. He must have had some help in planning his killing spree. It was expertly planned out from the strategy of who to poison, how to deliver the poison, and even which poison to use to not arouse suspicion. The murders seem very similar to Lysa Arryn poisoning her husband Jon Arryn. Lysa used the Tears of Lys as well and acted at the urging of Petyr Baelish. Littlefinger used Lysas feelings for him to turn her into an assassin. Tears, tears, tears. she sobbed hysterically. "No need for tears. but that's not what you said in King's Landing. You told me to put the tears in Jon's wine, and I did. For Robert, and for us! And I wrote Catelyn and told her the Lannisters had killed my lord husband, just as you said. That was so clever. you were always clever, I told Father that, I said Petyr's so clever, he'll rise high, he will, he will, and he's sweet and gentle and I have his little baby in my belly. Why did you kiss her? Why? We're together now, we're together after so long, so very long, why would you want to kiss herrrrrr. In addition, the choice of his poison and delivery methods were highly effective as well. Rather than using a poison like the Strangler, famously used on King Joffrey Baratheon which kills almost instantly by choking, Androw used a more slow acting and harder to detect poison called the Tears of Lys. The Tears of Lys resembles a disease of the bowels and can easily seem like an outbreak rather than a murder. King Jaehaerys believed the same when he was alerted by the Maester and he ordered Dragonstone quarantined by warships until the “disease” ran its course rather than allowing its s also important that Androw used the Tears of Lys. The tears are a very rare and expensive poison made by the Alchemists of Lys normally reserved for professional murders. The poison is odorless, colorless, and has no taste. Only some maesters can even recognize it the effects of the poison as it is made in Essos primarily and few Maesters carry any examples. Maester Pycelle famously recognizes that the Tears were used on Jon Arryn because of his mastery on poisons and lets the hand of the King die rather than helping him. Tyrion tsked at him. "I saw the tears of Lys among your potions. And you sent away Lord Arryn's own maester and tended him yourself, so you could make certain that he died. Yes. he whimpered, yes, Colemon was purging, so I sent him away. The queen needed Lord Arryn dead, she did not say so, could not, Varys was listening, always listening, but when I looked at her I knew. It was not me who gave him the poison, though, I swear it. The old man wept. Maester Culiper on Dragonstone though did not recognize the poison in time. Before he succumbed to the poison, he had been trying to figure out which disease was afflicting the island. It was not the sweating sickness, nor the shaking sickness, nor greyscale, Maester Culiper pronounced. The first sign was a bloody stool, followed by a terrible cramping in the gut. There were a number of diseases that could be the cause, he told the queen. Which of those might be to blame he never determined, for Culiper himself was the first to die, less than two days after he began to feel ill. This tells us that Culiper did not have any of the Tears of Lys on the island nor intimate knowledge of it like Pycelle did. Had he known the substance well he or his junior Maester Anselm wouldve recognized the symptoms and that it was missing from the stores. Rather it curiously fell to Jaehaerys' Master of Coin, Rego Draz, to identify the Tears of Lys instead of sickness as the cause. “We know more of such things in the Free Cities, ” Draz assured him. “It is the tears, never doubt it. The old maester would have seen it soon enough, so he had to die first. That is how I would do it. Not that I would. Poison is…Dishonorable. ” Well get back to later Rego outlining the exact strategy Androw used, but for now its enough to say that Androw was given Tears of Lys. Androw is not personally wealthy enough to outright buy the poison, and its unlikely that Rhaena would lend him the huge amount of coin when she barely lets him make decisions. Unlike someone like Littlefinger or Varys who could acquire rare poisons via their vast information networks and contacts, Androw had no networks and few contacts. Without the ability to compose or send his own letters, he also couldnt write for help. Someone knew of his grievances with Rhaena personally, had a way to reach him on Dragonstone, gave him a well thought out plan for revenge, and the poison to carry it out. Someone intelligent, wealthy, and with a bone to pick with Rhaena Targaryen. Although Rhaena survived the encounter, it is clear that the attack was meant to hurt her emotionally before being the last victim. “You weep for her, ” Androw Farman said when he saw the tears on his wifes face, “but would you weep for me? ” His words woke a fury in the queen. Lashing him across the face, Rhaena commanded him to leave her, declaring that she wanted to be alone. “You shall be, ” Androw said. “She was the last of them. ” Had Rego not noticed the symptoms of the Tears of Lys and the message sent to Rhaena right away, its likely that Androw wouldve finished his killing spree. With that in mind lets put on our Ned Stark detective hats and see if we can puzzle out who enabled Androw Farman and his revenge. The classic investigative technique for criminal acts is something weve all heard many times: Means, motive, opportunity. Lets start with motive. Over her lifetime, Queen Rhaena had made many enemies. What often caused that was her loner streak and rudeness. As a little girl, she often hid behind her mothers skirt or clung to her fathers leg in the presence of strangers…but she loved to feed the castle cats, and always had a puppy or two in the bed. Though her mother provided her with a succession of suitable companions, the daughters of lords great and small, Rhaena never seemed to warm to any of them, preferring the company of a book. Her behavior softened slightly as she became an adult, yet she never really developed the graceful politicking and the gift of quick friendships that her younger sister Alysanne excelled at. While Alysanne charmed those around her into doing what she wanted, Rhaena preferred using the threat of her dragon Dreamfyre or her sharp tongue to get her way. Rhaena also had a bad habit of holding grudges. When she was young and married to her elder brother and heir to the Iron Throne Aegon, all seemed right in their world. However the Faith of the Seven had enough of the Targaryen incest and felt that King Aenys I lacked the strength to oppose them. The Faith Militant revolted and Aegon and Rhaena while they were on a royal progress. They were forced to hide in Crakehall Castle until the revolt died down. Rhaena never forgot which lords had turned on them. After her uncle Maegor seized the Iron Throne, Rhaena and Aegon attempted to push their claim in the field. The royal couple found little support outside the Westerlands although several great lords pledged their support if Aegon could win a battle first. This forced Aegon the Uncrowned into a foolhardy charge to Kings Landing. It ended brutally at Harrenhal when Maegor appeared on Balerion the Black Dread and killed Aegon and his dragon Quicksilver. Rhaena never forgave those Lords. Rhaena held a particular grudge about her younger siblings. At this point in Westeros, it had not been established what the rules of succession really were and some believed that daughters could be ruling monarchs over their male siblings. Rhaena was the oldest living child of King Aenys over her younger brother Jaehaerys. And yet, when Maegor fell it was Jaehaerys that was crowned King over her. Also, with the passage of time Queen Rhaena grew ever more resentful that her own claim to the Iron Throne, and that of her daughters, had been disregarded in favor of that of “my baby brother” (as she was wont to call Jaehaerys. She was the firstborn, she reminded those who would listen, and had been a dragonrider before any of her siblings, yet all of them and “even my own mother” had conspired to pass her over. Lyman Lannister In research for this, I noted too many suspects so well talk about the best candidates for who helped Androw. The first suspects are the Lannisters of Casterly Rock. They sheltered Rhaena when she had nowhere to go, protected her while she gave birth, they gave her lavish gifts and treatment, They also expected that they would be rewarded with a marriage or dragon egg for their trouble. “They were kings once, ” she reminded Sam Stokeworth. “He smiles, but he was raised on tales of the Field of Fire; he will not have forgotten. ” Rhaena Targaryen knew her history as well; the history of the Freehold of Valyria, writ in blood and fire. The Lannisters had gambled big on Rhaena, and it did not pay off. When Jaehaerys was looking for counselors in key positions, the Lords of the Westerlands were left out conspicuously despite their power, armies, and piles of gold. Several of his advisors urged King Jaehaerys to appoint Lyman Lannister, supposedly the richest lord in Westeros, but Jaehaerys was disinclined. “Unless Lord Lyman can find a mountain of gold under the Red Keep, I do not know that he has the answer we require, ” It couldve been just practicality that made Jaehaerys overlook the Westerlands for years, but given how much of a problem Rhaena was for Jaehaerys it seems closer to aggressive ignoring. Especially considering the Lannisters were one of the first great houses to rally to Jaehaerys cause and youd expect the new young king would reward them. Instead they got nothing. Ridding King Jaehaerys of his troublesome older sister and paying their debt back to her would be a well calculated move to gain favor. While they have motive, the Lannisters lack in opportunity. They are certainly wealthy enough to afford the Tears of Lys, but they lack the ability to contact Androw. Casterly Rock is on the other side of Westeros from Dragonstone, and during this time they had little to no presence in Kings Landing or Dragonstone. Letters were out because anything sent to Androw would have to be read to him which would give away the plot. As far as I can tell, there was no one on Dragonstone even from the Westerlands except the Farmans. The only connection they had was Androws older brother, Lord Franklyn Farman of Fair Isle in the Westerlands. Franklyn hated Rhaena with a passion after how she left Fair Isle. Oblivious to their mood, his lordship attempted to seize his sister…whereupon the onlookers rushed forward, overwhelming his men before they could draw their blades. Three of them were shoved off the docks into the water, whilst Lord Franklyn himself was thrown into a ships hold full of fresh-caught cod. Elissa Farman and the rest of the queens friends boarded Maidens Fancy untouched and set sail for Lannisport. Theres a slim possibility that Franklyn arrived on Dragonstone with the Tears and convinced his younger brother Androw to go on a killing spree, but its very tenuous. How would they know in advance that Androw would be receptive? Its a long dangerous trip across Westeros by land or sea especially when Androw couldnt correspond by letter without alerting the Maesters. While the motive exists for the Lannisters and Farmans to take revenge on Rhaena, the opportunity is very lacking. Rogar Baratheon Second suspect, we have Lord Rogar Baratheon. As I mentioned before, Rhaena held grudges against those who had withheld their aid from her first husband Aegon. She never forgot that her husband died because Lords like Rogar made their support contingent on a first victory. However Rogar forgot that stipulation and was more than happy to support another untested Targaryen; Rhaenas 14 year old “baby brother” Jaehaerys. Rogar also lead the campaign about why Rhaena couldnt rule. Her sex told against her, however. “This is not Dorne, ” Lord Rogar Baratheon said when the notion was put to him, “and Rhaena is not Nymeria. ” After Jaehaerys was crowned king in Oldtown with Rhaena in attendance, she took flight on Dreamfyre to Fair Isle and got married in a secret ceremony to Androw Farman which enraged the soon to be named Hand of the King Rogar Baratheon. Its clear that in the ascension of Jaehaerys, Rogar felt that his support (much like Lyman Lannister) deserved a reward like a royal marriage. At this time Rhaena was twice a widow between Aegon and Maegor, but still only 25 years old, beautiful, and a dragon rider. Rogar was a widower, and eventually married Rhaenas mother Dowager Queen Alyssa. In the text it is implied that Rogar was furious because he wanted his younger brothers to marry Rhaena to secure the Targaryen-Baratheon alliance. However it is certainly possible that Rogar wanted the Queen in the West for himself. Rhaena had declared loudly with her marriage that she would not live her life asking for Jaehaerys nor Rogar Baratheons permission. She also refused to attend the wedding between Rogar and her mother Alyssa. The major breaking point though came shortly before Androw Farmans murders on Dragonstone. The Dowager Queen Alyssa was pregnant with her second child by Lord Rogar, but it became clear that Alyss would not survive the childbirth. The Maester feared that she would take the infant with her to the grave as well. Rogar sent the news to Jaehaerys and Alysanne, but not to Rhaena. Its noted that Androw offered to accompany Rhaena once she heard of her mothers health, but she refused him in a loud argument and was quoted as yelling, “The wrong Farman ran away. ” Back to Storms End though, King Jaehaerys had a terrible choice. The maester told him that Alyssa would die, but there was hope for the baby if they cut it out of her. The operation would kill Alyssa. Jaehaerys found himself unable to choose, and put it to the drunk Rogar to decide Alyssa's fate. The king said only, “The woman is my mother, and a queen, ” in a heavy tone. He stepped outside again, pulled Rogar Baratheon to his feet, and dragged him back into the birthing chamber, where he bade the maester repeat what he had just said. “She is your wife, ” King Jaehaerys reminded Lord Rogar. “It is for you to say the words. ” Lord Rogar, we are told, could not bear to look upon his wife. Nor could he find the words until the king took him roughly by the arm and shook him. “Save my son, ” Rogar told the maester. Then he wrenched free and fled the room again. Maester Kyrie bowed his head and sent for his blades. The child was saved but Alyssa died. Rhaena arrived in a rage that started with Androw and only heightened when she learned that Alyssa was dead and that Rogar was the cause of it after seeing the wounds the maesters knives left. Her tirade was pure Fire and Blood. “Where is Rogar? ” she asked. She found him below in his great hall with his young son, Boremund, in his lap, surrounded by his brothers and his knights. Rhaena Targaryen pushed through all of them to stand over him, and began to curse him to his face. “Her blood is on your hands, ” she raged at him. “Her blood is on your cock. May you die screaming. ” Rogar Baratheon was outraged by her accusations. “What are you saying, woman? This is the will of the gods. The Stranger comes for all of us. How could it be my doing? What did I do? ” “You put your cock in her. She gave you one son, that should have been enough. Save my wife, you should have said, but what are wives to men like you? ” Rhaena reached out and grabbed his beard and pulled his face to hers. “Hear this, my lord. Do not think to wed again. Take care of the whelps my mother gave you, my half-brother and half-sister. See that they want for nothing. Do that, and I will let you be. If I should hear even a whisper of your taking some other poor maid to wife, I will make another Harrenhal of Storms End, with you and her inside it. ” No one would react kindly to a Targaryen threatening to burn down their home around them and roast them inside. And certainly not the hot blooded Rogar who was a typical Baratheon warrior by heart. Rogar once ordering his men to separate the newlywed Jaehaerys and Alyssane at swordpoint because he disapproved of their marriage and according to rumors sending women to Dragonstone to seduce Jaehaerys into abandoning their marriage with sexual temptations. He hated being defeated, especially by those he deemed lesser than himself. A proud man, he had been stunned and angered by the “ingratitude” of the boy king he had regarded as a son, and humiliated when forced to back down at the gates of Dragonstone before half a hundred of his men. A warrior to the bone, Rogar had once dreamed of facing Maegor the Cruel in single combat, and could not stomach being shamed by a lad of fifteen years. Rogar had been shamed in his own halls by Rhaena, berated and blamed for the death of his wife by a woman he loathed. He would want his revenge, to punish Rhaena for the insults and threats his entire castle and soon the realm would hear. That is certainly motive enough after years of tension between the two. Rogar had the means to pull this off. Prior to this incident, Lord Rogar served as Hand of the King, married to the royal family, and he was Lord of the Stormlands and all its incomes. He could definitely afford to buy Tears of Lys. And his time as Hand of the King would assuredly put him in contact with the kinds of people that could get the poison discreetly and deliver it. Rogar even has a past of attempting sabotage on Dragonstone. As I mentioned, the rumors in Fire and Blood say that the Baratheons sent a woman named Coryanne Wylde to seduce and bed the newlywed King Jaehaerys. While that attempt failed reportedly, Coryanne ended up fleeing the island with a young knight named Ser Howard Bullock to Pentos. Ser Howards father, Ser Merrell Bullock, remained the Commander of the Garrison at Dragonstone and certainly knew Androw Farman. Ser Merrell was coincidentally dismissed from his position in the wake of Elissa Farmans dragon egg theft shortly before the murders. Rhaena blamed Androw for helping his sister, but when that got her nowhere she turned on Ser Merrell who she deemed too incompetent to stop the theft or was in on it and fired him. Through the Bullocks and Coryanne Wild, its possible Lord Rogar made connections on Dragonstone. After Rhaena humiliated both Ser Merrell and Lord Rogar in quick succession, Rogar may have found a way of connecting with Bullock and exploited his anger at Rhaena. Ser Merrells other son, Ser Alyn, still served on Dragonstone after his father was dismissed. There may even be a hint that Androw was friendly with the Bullocks. After Ser Merrells dismissal, Androw curiously requested of his wife that he be named Garrison commander which did not go over well. When the queen dismissed Ser Merrell Bullock, Androw had asked her to appoint him commander of the castle garrison in Bullocks place. Her Grace had been breaking her fast with four of her ladies-in-waiting at the time. The women burst into laughter at his request, and after a moment the queen had laughed as well. Androw suddenly volunteered to be the commander of the garrison with no background or skills. He may have gotten to know the Bullocks during their time on Dragonstone a little and maybe felt after hearing their stories he could do the job. Maester Culiper recorded that Farman had few friends outside of his sister Elissa, but perhaps he missed these. Its also intriguing that Androw requests to go with Rhaena twice following the theft of the eggs. The first is to Kings Landing to tell Jaehaerys about the stolen eggs, which Rhaena rejects. And second, to Storms End for Alyssa. But it was the Storms End journey that Androw uncharacteristically got into his screaming argument with Rhaena. Knowing how shortly after Androw begins his murder spree, we have to take these requests in a different light. He wanted to go to Kings Landing, but desperately wanted to go to Storms End. Perhaps at this time Rogar was already in contact with Androw and Androw wanted a meeting. The point of contact between Rogar and Androw is a bit flimsy, however in all other aspects the Lord of Storms End seems like a perfect candidate. He has in the past proved himself a willing user of subterfuge. Not only Coryanne Wylde, but he previously had his men attempt to kidnap both of Rhaenas daughters to use them to overthrow JaehAerys. He has very good reasons for wanting Rhaena dead and revenge on her following her threats after Alyssas death. Rogar seems a very likely suspect for aiding Androw Farman. Jaehaerys I Our last suspect is a very sly one, one that George hid in details and unsaid tensions. And that is Rhaenas younger brother Jaehaerys or members of his small council. Wait, I hear you thinking, Jaehaerys the Conciliator? A kin slayer? A murderer? How could HE be behind a monster like Androw Farman? Well, lets first off turn back to that curious quote by Jaehaerys master of Coin Rego Draz. Poison is… Dishonorable. ” Rego Draz is a very smart person, however he says out loud the exact strategy used on Dragonstone by Androw Farman. Kill the older maester first because he will figure out youre using the Tears of Lys, and then you can kill the other target easily. No one else caught on to Farmans murders until Rego. In addition, we learn in Fire and Blood that Regor Draz is the pseudo spymaster of King Jaehaerys. When Rhaenas daughter Aerea flies away on Balerion, it is Rego's spy network the crown uses to try and find her. Benifer, acting through the Pentoshi master of coin, who had agents in every port, reached out across the narrow sea as the king had commanded…“paying good coin to bad men” (in the words of Rego Draz) for any news of dragon eggs, dragons, or Elissa Farman. A small host of whisperers, informers, courtiers, and courtesans produced hundreds of reports, a score of which proved to be of value to the Iron Throne for other reasons…but every rumor of the dragon eggs proved worthless. Also Rego is well aware of the poison itself, has connections back into Essos that could procure it for him, and many underworld connections. And what works for Rogar with Ser Bullock works even better for Jaehaerys. Jaehaerys spent large amounts of time on the island with Alysanne and knew the garrison extremely well. They even defended the young monarchs against Lord Rogars previously mentioned incursion. A dismissed Dragonstone commander is exactly the kind of person that would be looking for new friends and employers, which the Master of Coin and King can provide. If you want to work out a strategic murder on Dragonstone, Rego Draz is the man you ask. And theres a second possibility. A lesser known member of Jaehaerys small council, Master of Laws Albin Massey. While Lord Albin is rarely thought of, hes intriguing as a someone who couldve assisted Androw. Before his appointment, Massey had been training as a maester of the Citadel for three years until his father and older brothers died. And maesters training typically involves some knowledge of poison. Some more than others depending on their concentration of study. Theres two curious quotes about Lord Massey. First, is his response to a crisis of the Faith of the Seven. Jaehaerys chosen High Septon, who enshrined in the Faith that Jaehaerys was allowed to marry his sister, had died. The troublesome Septon Mattheus seemed poised to become the new High Septon, undo his predecessor's decrees, and restart the Faith Militant. While Rego Draz suggests buying off the voters in the Faith, Massey offers a bloodier suggestion. Albin Massey, the bent-backed master of laws, wondered if Septon Mattheus might suffer the same fate as the High Septon who had made such trouble for Aenys and Maegor; a sudden, mysterious death. Jaehaerys reportedly rejected the suggestion however it is interesting that it is Massey who put it forwards. Im sure the young King didnt forget that about Lord Massey. Following the murders on Dragonstone, Hand of the King Daemon Velaryon quits his position and Jaehaerys considers Massey of all his counselors as his new Hand. However, Massey turns him down. Lord Albin, with his limp and twisted back, would strike the ignorant as somehow sinister. “They look at me and see a villain, ” Massey himself told the king. “I can serve you better from the shadows. ” A man who works in the shadows and suggests assassinations would certainly fit the bill of who you would task with eliminating Rhaena. And that gets to the heart of the issue, why would Jaehaerys want Rhaena dead? Unlike with Lord Rogar, the problems between the siblings are much more hard to spot because of the way Fire and Blood is written. The author of the book, the fictional Maester Gyldayn, stanned Jaehaerys and paints him in the best light. Theres very little of the animosity between the siblings explicitly, but their actions and few recorded conversations tell a different tale. From the beginning of Jaehaerys I reign at 14 he had a massive shadow over him in the shape of Rhaena and Dreamfyre. There was no Great Councils setting aside female claimants at this time. Those would be enacted by Jaehaerys himself near the end of his life. It wasnt clear that Jaehaerys had the better claim outside of Lord Rogar Baratheons armies, and there were those who thought Rhaena shouldve been crowned instead. Her presence in the realm and her claim was a threat to his new reign. Every lord who grew annoyed with Jaehaerys had the convenient option of courting Rhaena or her daughters and using them as weapons against the Iron Throne. These tensions only grew worse when Rhaena married without permission Androw act showed up Jaehaerys authority which he desperately needed as a newly crowned teenage king. Her marriage also deprived him of an important tool in solidifying his rule by taking a marriage to Rhaena off the political table. When people began calling her the Queen in the West, she refused to show up for their mothers wedding, and she took up with the Lannisters, its not hard to see how Jaehaerys may have been nervous about her intentions. It's never addressed in the book but Jaehaerys marrying Rhaena himself was a very good option for joining their competing claims. That it never comes up may signal that Rhaenas marriage to Androw wasnt only to spurn the Baratheons, but possibly her own newly crowned brother. If the siblings were married, the threat of another Targaryen civil war would be erased and thered be no rogue Queens flying around Westeros. By marrying Androw, Rhaena ensured that civil war remained an option. Rhaena also didn't submit to the new king like the rest of the realm. She continued to act as a Queen outside of Jaehaerys authority to rule. When Rhaena finally wore out her welcome in the Westerlands and Riverlands, and she returned to Kings Landing for the marriage of Jaehaerys and Alysanne. But Rhaena returned not looking to congratulate the Royal couple, but to bargain with her baby brother. it is Dreamfyre who excites them. Some fear her, more want her, and it is those who trouble me most. They lust for dragons of their own. That I will not give them, but where am I to go? ” “Here, ” the king suggested. “Return to court. ” “And live forever in your shadow? I need a seat of my own. A place where no lord may threaten me, banish me, or trouble those I have taken under my protection. I need lands, men, a castle. ” “We can find you lands, ” the king said, “build you a castle. ” “All the lands are taken, all the castles occupied, ” Rhaena replied, “but there is one I have a claim to…a better claim than your own, brother. I am the blood of the dragon. I want my fathers seat, the place where I was born. I want Dragonstone. ” Jaehaerys did not immediately agree to Rhaenas demands. It seems like a non-issue, Dragonstone is a worthless rock with no income or food that Stannis bemoans. In Rhaenas time though, Dragonstone had one enormous resource that existed nowhere else: dragons. Almost all the Targaryen dragons including Balerion and the caches of eggs were on Dragonstone. The king wouldve handed Rhaena the greatest source of Targaryen dominance and the tools to overthrow him. He drove a hard bargain in response. But you shall hold the island and the castle by my gift, not by right. Our grandsire made seven kingdoms into one with fire and blood, I cannot and will not make them two by carving you off a separate kingdom of your own. You are a queen by courtesy, but I am king, and my writ runs from Oldtown to the Wall…and on Dragonstone as well. Are we of one mind on this, sister? ” “Are you so uncertain of that iron seat that you must needs have your own blood bend the knee to you, brother? ” Rhaena threw back at him. “So be it. Give me Dragonstone and one thing more, and I shall trouble you no further. ” They reached an uneasy peace that Rhaena agreed to recognize Jaehaerys finally as her King in exchange for Dragonstone and its dragons as well as her daughter Aerea. Aerea had grown up heir to the Iron Throne but was now second in line. Jaehaerys took a massive risk, giving Rhaena all she would need to declare herself queen with an heir and overthrow the Iron Throne. A risk Jaehaerys ended up regretting. When Elissa Farman stole the dragon eggs from Rhaena and fled across the Narrow Sea, Rhaena was livid at the betrayal. Jaehaerys though was on a whole other level of anger and concern at the theft. When she arrived in Kings Landing, the king was furious with Rhaena and personally blamed her for loss. “What do you mean to do? ” his sister Rhaena asked him. “What I must. What you must. Do not think to wash your hands of this, sweet sister. You wanted Dragonstone and I gave it to you, and you brought this woman there. This thief. ” Not just because it makes them look foolish, but if any of the Valyrian colonies got their dragons back the Targaryen foothold on Westeros would be over. Grand Maester Benifer said, “You are speaking of waging war across the narrow sea, Your Grace. The costs—” “—must needs be borne. I will not allow Valyria to rise again. Imagine what the triarchs of Volantis would do with dragons. Let us pray it never comes to that. ” With that His Grace ended the audience, cautioning the others Rhaena had not only broken the deal that they made by allowing their most valuable resources to be stolen by her estranged lover, but possibly set their future on fire by committing them to an intercontinental war against whoever bought the eggs from Elissa Farman. Rhaena had failed their family and the Iron Throne in a truly monumental way. She had gone from a possible problem to a massive liability to the Throne. Rhaenas behavior at Storms End may have been the last straw. While we cheer Rhaena for grabbing the pompous Rogar by his beard and screaming righteous fury at him, Jaehaerys has to deal with the fallout. Rogar already several times plotted to take Jaehaerys off the throne, and was a tenuous ally by blood at best. Rhaena took their tenuous relationship and lit it ablaze with the King still in the castle and their mothers body cold. On top of that, her daughter Aerea was furious that she had to live on Dragonstone with her mother. Rhaena had given her up years before for her safety, and so they barely knew each other. Also going from Kings Landing to Dragonstone is a huge bummer for a kid. The two often fought, with Aerea wishing to return home to Kings Landing and Rhaena denying her. Aerea also was adventurous, brave, strong willed, and not afraid of anything which is exactly the type of person you dont want growing up angry when she has a recognized claim. At this time, Jaehaerys had more reasons than most to want his sister out of the picture. Her very existence threatened his rule. She had taken the source of their power in the dragons then lost that power to the Free Cities over a lovers squabble. She threatened to murder one of the Great Lords in their own castle. Was turning the defiant heir angry and bitter through poor parenting. Rhaena sewed chaos everywhere she went for a King who needed peace and stability. Perhaps the Queen in the East was a liability Jaehaerys could afford anymore. Maybe he inquired to his Masters of Coin and Laws how they would go about removing her from the board much in the same way they pondered how to deal with Septon Mattheus. Much like Rogar, never actually ordering Alyssa's death. Remove Rhaena before she toppled his reign and in Androw Farman his council found a willing, angry participant. That would be Jaehaerys way, he preferred soft power and subtlety compared to his predecessor Maegor the Cruel. One final curiosity to the Farman murders is the new hand of the King, Daemon Velaryon, abruptly quitting his post. Its implied that he was upset that his niece, Lianna, was trapped on the island by the quarantine and eventually killed by Androw. But what if instead the Hand knew about or found out his King had helped Androw Farman. Quit in protest like Ned Stark did after King Robert ordered the poisoning Daenerys Targaryen. Or ashamed that the poison meant for Rhaena instead killed his niece. Jaehaerys has all the factors youd look for in a murder. His motivations are large and escalating quickly. Rhaena had proven herself a major source of frustration and problems for the crown, which were only getting worse. Jaehaerys also had the means in acquiring the poison and through Rego Draz and Lord Massey the contacts to deliver the Tears of Lys and instructions on how to use it effectively. Jaehaerys own personal relationships with people on the island and the recently dismissed Ser Bullock gave him the opportunity to take advantage of Androws simmering resentments. When Androw Farman began tipping Tears of Lys into the goblets of Casella Staunton, Septa Maryam, Alayne Royce, Lianna Velaron, Samantha Stokeworth, and Maester Culiper, who really was behind that poison? Who armed Androw Farman with the expensive assassins poison as well as the plan on how to use it? Who wanted Rhaena Targaryen to drink deep and die screaming? Was it the spurned Lions of Casterly Rock come to pay their debts? The vengeful Storm Lord Rogar Baratheon who never forgets an insult and thirsts for Targaryen blood? Or Rhaenas own blood Jaehaerys, tired of Rhaena playing at queen and risking their lives and futures? Or somebody else I didnt cover? TL:DR Androw Farman did not act alone in his Dragonstone murders. Best three candidates I could find are Lyman Lannister, Rogar Baratheon, and King Jaehaerys based on their motives, means, and opportunities to help Androw.


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I had always been a shy kid growing up. I got teased a lot because of my thin frame and slender appearance. The kids used to call me Sticky Freddy because of this. Even the teacher joined in and would always make jokes from time to time, making me even more less interested in engaging myself with people. There was one kid named Gerard Pouevront who always picked on me and made High School feel like hell on earth. For some unknown reasons, I was his favorite punching bag. The other kids were too afraid of him that they would not dare stand up to him. His father was the richest man in town and their family had a bad reputation of dealing with nuisances their own way. There were rumours circulating at the time that the Pouevronts hired a gang of mafia to guard their house and properties and to deal with their enemies. Everyone in town was scared shitless of them. I remember thinking that one day when I grow up, I am going to leave this shithole of a place and move somewhere else. Then I am going to be super smart and super strong and I am going to return to avenge myself. I am going to make Gerard Pouevront pay for torturing me in High School. But of course, life is not that predictable. I did move out of town after High School and continued on my journey to adulthood with mental scars from my early adolescence. After many years living in the city, I gradually became more confident in my own skin. Soon the name Gerard Pouevront had ceased to evoke fear in me to the point I no longer felt a sudden pang of nausea at the mention or thought of it. I took various jobs to pay for my tuition fees at university and I did very well. When I did return to my town, I was told that Gerard had got killed in a horrible kayaking accident many years ago, only a few weeks after our high school graduation. His parents moved away after the death of their beloved only son. And later I found out that Gerard had enrolled at the same university in the same city I had been living in and had already been accepted. Ironic, isnt it? If the accident had never happened, he would have continued on his bullying terror and driven me mad. But now come to think of it, I realized something. A delicate thread in this complicated and vulnerable scheme of the universe. A thread of fate whose end had unintentionally latched on to Gerards brief lifetime because of me. The accident that had claimed Gerards life would have never happened if I had not decided to go fishing before my departure to the city. He had overheard me telling a friend that I was going to spend time with my cousin down at the lake. Of course, he thought it would be a good opportunity to kick the shit out of me for the last time when nobody else was around. But at the last minute I changed my mind about it and decided to spend my last days in town helping my uncles at the dairy and earning some more money for my forthcoming journey. Gerard of course, being ignorant and always thirsty for bloodshed, showed up at the lake waiting for me. But I never did. I had never really planned on hurting him physically if I ever returned to this town. The worst would have been me calling him out on his bullying in public, like at a school reunion event or something to humiliate him. But life works in a mysterious way. I still come to visit my parents from time to time but I have never really made any effort whatsoever to reconnect with my high school friends. They are merely a painful reminder of a miserable childhood I dont wish to revisit. Bullying transcends the boundary of time and space. Indeed, people like Gerard Pouevront are everywhere. I still have to deal with them from time to time in my life. But I am much stronger and smarter now. Though I have to say what I experienced in my early years of adulthood are still affecting me until today. Gerard Pouevront may be long gone, but the same terror that he brought with him wherever he went still persists. For me, it was in the form of a horrible and mean-tempered man who also happened to be my boss at work. I loved doing my job. But his tendency to lose his cool so easily was making it hard for me to do it. I dreaded going to work every morning. I dreaded answering every phone call just in case it was from him. He would call you names and shout at you for simply ‘not being quick enough or letting the phone ring twice before answering it. One day I decided I had had enough. I confronted him during a meeting and called him out on his shitty behaviours and walked away. It felt so good. For the first time in my life, instead of running away or letting myself being walked over, I decided to stand up for myself and face my bully. And this was how it all started. After I quit my job, I started to go back to my old hobbies and I even visited my parents a few times before my trips to various places across Europe. Then I impulsively purchased a two-way ticket to this beautiful island in the tropics. As soon as I got there, I started to feel like being born again. Rows and rows of green trees and beautiful beaches with white sand glittering in the sun as far as the eyes can see greeted me everywhere I went. The fresh clean air made me feel so alive and happy. For the first time since I graduated from university, I was genuinely happy again. Genuinely free. I could go anywhere and do anything I wanted. Maybe it had all been what I needed all this time. To escape from life for a while and enjoyed time with myself. The following day after my arrival, I was already soaking up the sun by the pool at this inn where I was staying with a bottle of cold beer in my hand. I befriended two German tourists named Johannes and Nadine on my first day at the inn. I initially thought they were a couple but Nadine told me they were only second cousins though the way they kept touching each other was making me suspicious of it. On my third day, as we lazied around the pool soaking up the sun, Johannes informed me of this strange place deep in the forest the locals considered a sacred place. “There is a secret pool behind the hills. Not too many people know about it. We often go there to meditate and to clear our minds. ” “Just the two of you? ” I asked. “There would be the three of us, if you decided to join us. ” he flashed an enigmatic smile on his thin lips. “Uhm… I dont know…” I hesitated. “How do we get there? ” I tried to sound indifferent though in my head I was actually considering his invitation. “We know the way. ” Nadine chimed in. “Yes, it is a sacred place. You have to take all your clothes off before entering it. They normally do not let strangers in there. But… lucky you, youre with us. So no problem there. ” Johannes raised his eyebrows. My thoughts went straight to this beautiful hidden paradise in the middle of the forest where I could see Nadines naked body lying down in the grass that made her beautiful tanned skin stand out starkly against the green. “Come join us tomorrow. “Err, sorry… what? ” I asked, in my head Nadine and I were already wrestling hard in the grass. “Its called Lembah Tidur. ” “What is? ” “The secret place behind the hills over there. Right beneath the waterfall. ” He pointed towards the direction of the gigantic hill formations behind me that looked menacingly tall yet beautiful. “Well it sounds like a really cool place but… “ I paused indecisively for a bit. “I am not sure…” “Id be happy if you can come, Fred! ” said Nadine suddenly. Her voice sounded deep and sweet. And I particularly enjoyed how she pronounced my name rolling the R like that. Also, the fact that she used the word ‘I instead of ‘we was already making my heart beat faster. If joining them meant that I got to see her naked, then I had no other choice. “I mean I dont know you guys. Things happen. No offence. ” “Were regulars here. Ask the staff if you dont believe me. ” Johannes shrugged, obviously not wanting to let me go that easy. “I am kidding. Ha ha ha. Oh my god. Yes sure. When are we going? ” I burst out laughing. “Then well see you tomorrow. We should get going now. Weve been swimming all morning. ” Johannes stood up and patted me on the shoulder gently. “Youre gonna love it. ” Nadine winked and then she surprised me by suddenly giving me a big hug and kissing me on the cheek. Her body smelt of faint green apple. “ Wir sehen uns dann. Schönen Tag… ” she whispered, her lips almost touching the tip of my ear. “ Errr… merci? ” I stammered nervously, prompting them both to burst out laughing simultaneously “Meet us tomorrow morning near the small creek in front of the inn. 6 AM. Dont be late. Youre not gonna regret it, we promise! ” Johannes tapped me gently on my back again and then they both started running back towards the pool and jumped together with a loud splash for the last time. The next morning, as I walked out from the lobby, I saw them both already waiting for me on the other side of the small road. They waved enthusiastically as soon as they saw me. I looked up and saw thick blanket of fog descending from the hilltops above us. The hills looked creepy with weird forms of protrusions poking out randomly to every direction. I stroked my arms hard repeatedly to drive off the cold. Johannes was wearing a thin safari t-shirt that he had left unbuttoned, to show off his muscular chest and abdomen. His surfing pants matched his orange sport shoes making him look like a professional hiker. As soon as I got closer, I could see that Nadine was wearing nothing under her tight maroon t-shirt. Her perky nipples were poking out through the fabric. “ Bonjour! ” I greeted cheerfully, walking closer to join them. Both started giggling. “ Oui, monsieur! ” Johannes played along, still sneering. “Whats that you got in your backpack there? It looks heavy. ” “Oh nothing just some stuff. Just in case we get lost and cant find our way back. ” “Great! How was your sleep? ” Nadine took my hand and gently stroked it up and down, sending a chill down my spine in excitement. “It was okay. Like a baby. I guess good sleep is good for your mood, isnt it? Or maybe its this place giving off positive vibes all around. I am usually a very grumpy person in the morning. ” I said. “Not with me, dear. ” said Nadine. “Youre ready? ” asked Johannes, eyeing me and Nadine intently before grinning wide. His blue eyes lit up as he looked around us. “Lets go! ” I shouted raising my hands up in the air, making them laugh again with my enthusiasm which I myself had no idea where it had come from. “Whats it called again? Lebby what? The secret place? ” We started walking towards the creek in front of us with Johannes leading the way. “ Lembah Tidur! ” Johannes shouted his answer. “It literally means Sleeping Valley in the local language. ” My eyes were constantly fixed on Nadine who was walking only a few feet in front of me. We had been walking for almost two hours among rows of tall trees, weaving in and out through heavy vegetations while trying to make our way around the gigantic rocky formation which now looked breathtakingly picturesque under the glimmering sunlight. Then I finally found out why it was called the Sleeping Valley. As soon as the path took a sharp turn northward and met the foot of the hill, I saw dozens of dark rectangular-shaped things poking out from holes on the upper side of the rocky hill. “Are those… “ my voice trailed off as I realized what I was looking at. “Yes, coffins. Hundreds of them. ” said Johannes matter-of-factly, as if there werent bodies perching high up on the hills above us. Some were even simply left to rest horizontally on uneven rock protrusions on the face of the hill, almost dangling dangerously over the cliff. “This side of the hill is sacred to the locals. They have performed this hanging tombs thing for centuries. ” “Hanging tombs? ” I asked incredulously. “Yes. According to their belief, burying someone in high places like tops of mountains or tall trees can help the transition of the spirit of the deceased to the other side. Technically speaking, it is to prevent thieves from stealing precious belongings buried with their owner. You know? Like the Ancient Egyptian. It is also a sign of respect to the dead. You see? ” Johannes pointed up towards the weathered-looking coffins on the highest rows. “The higher it is, the more respectable the person was when they were still alive. Pretty awesome, huh? ” “How do you bury someone in a tree? ” I asked again, still amazed and horrified at the same time. “Well not technically a person. Stillborns, mostly. But babies as well. Babies who are no older than a few weeks, who havent grown teeth. They dig a hole in the trunk of a huge living tree, put the body inside and cover it with palm fibers. Its quite beautiful actually, but also poignant. They believe that by burying their babies in the tree, those poor kids would continue to grow with it since they never had the chance to grow old in real life. ” “What if the tree falls? What if… what if... the coffins fall? ” I asked, making sure to keep my distance from the hillside. “Yes, it has happened, of course. But they always come back here once or twice a year to make sure it doesnt happen, you know? They change the coffins, put the bodies in new ones. ” My head was filled with horrible ideas that involved hundreds of coffins falling off the cliff at the same time, shaking the ground on impact with a loud cracking sound. “Creepy! ” I said. “Not creepy. Weird and uncommon yes. But I personally think its cool. They used to only wrap the bodies in a makeshift covering made of dried palm fibers woven together before putting them up there. Imagine what happened days after the decomposition process had already started… its a drippin nightmare! ” Johannes started to laugh, seemingly amused at the sight of my pale face. “Stop it, Jon! ” Nadine rolled her eyes at him. I shook my head trying to get rid of those nightmarish thoughts in my head. If a zombie apocalypse was real, zombies falling from the sky would be the last thing you would ever want to encounter. “But then the European missionaries arrived and they started to use wooden coffins. ” Johannes continued but I was not listening to him at all. The path took another turn around the hill on its north-side before gently curving towards a small clearing. I started to feel a bit relieved now we could no longer see those coffins. Then we arrived at the edge of a basin which gently sloped down to a grassy path overgrown with trees and bushes. I looked down and saw tree tops as far as up north glimmering in the sun. Right in the middle of the basin in the distance there was a waterfall which poured into a turquoise pond that looked so inviting and enchanting. “Wow! This is amazing! ” I blurted out, looking around to take in the beauty that laid before my eyes. The blue sky right ahead only enhanced the greenish golden sheen like a beautiful painting with vivid colours, dreamy yet real at the same time. “Come on! ” Johannes started taking his clothes off. Nadine threw a glance at me, a smile on her face, and then followed suit. I could only stare at them nervously, unsure what to do. “You can only enter Lembah Tidur naked. ” they both urged me, not a single thread of yarn covering their bodies now. “Its okay…. ” said Nadine softly, walking towards me. I found myself struggling hard to focus on something else but her naked body. Her platinum hair glistening in the sun. She stroked my cheek gently and landed a kiss on it. I shivered but the cold had got nothing to do with it. They started making their way down to the basin carefully but excitedly, leaving me alone with my own thoughts on the edge. A little hesitant I began undressing slowly and then I followed them down. They had disappeared behind a thick curtain of greens that blanketed the whole valley. I could still hear them chattering and laughing heartily a few feet before me. Then I heard something else as soon as I arrived at the bottom of the basin, the gentle roar of the river flowing hidden among the trees somewhere. “Come on up, Fred! ” shouted Johannes. His voice sounded distant and distorted. “We want to show you something! ” Then a loud splash that reverberated through the forest, followed by sounds of laughter and excitement. I quickened my pace as I tried to thread my way through the bushes, careful not to catch my skin on the dangerous looking thorns and found them soaking wet sitting under a huge tree whose branches and twigs twisted and coiled down towards the water like snakes. They were staring at me and there was a weird look on their faces. I looked around and saw these red and curious-looking mushrooms poking out of the ground everywhere. “What is this place? ” I asked them. My voice sounded different. Distorted by its own echoes that were bouncing around in the air. “ Lembah Tidur …” answered Nadine in a whisper. She was standing on a rock a few feet before me on the other side of the river now. But her voice sounded so clear as if she was right next to me. She raised her hand and gestured me to come closer. On her head was a wreath of green made in imitation of a crown. Strands of her hair flying into her face as the cold morning breeze blew around her. Then they led me into a rather large clearing among the trees, with the sunlight peeking through the leaves. And I could see decaying bodies scattered about everywhere. Some of them had already been reduced to piles of dried bones, half buried in the ground. The others still looked fresh in the middle of decomposition, bloated and disfigured. Those weird-looking mushrooms grew in clusters around these bodies. Like swarms of maggot. Strangely enough, I did not find myself disgusted by the sight of this symbiotic relationship. They all looked … peaceful? “What is this place? ” I asked again when they came closer to hold my trembling hands. “The Sleeping Valley. the resting place of the dead” whispered Nadine, her lips brushing against my ear. “The locals bring their dead here to lay them down in their forever resting place. Those plants accelerate the decomposition process by absorbing fluids from the body and leave only the bones. The process triggers a chemical reaction that produces some kind of gas that cancels out the stench of decay. ” Johannes explained. “Nowadays, it is not the locals only who bring their dead here. People from all over the world who are aware of the existence of this place, come to find peace. Those who are terminally sick, and dying of a disease, come here to lie down and these plants help to ease their way to… the other… side…” I started walking around the clearing. I felt a mixture of emotions rising up in my chest. This place looked peaceful yet dangerous. Like a poisonous frog. Only beautiful when viewed from a distance, but deadly upon touch. A wide calm ocean that is hiding a lurking danger beneath its dark surface. “Nature has given us so much… It is time we return the favour…” I looked over my shoulder and saw Johannes and Nadine walking towards me, their naked bodies glistening in the sun. A look of a thousand indescribable desires painted on their faces. Then they led me to one of the bodies and we stood around it for a while. Johannes nodded and Nadine nodded back. Then he bent down and picked up one of those mushrooms that grew out of the bodys rib cage. Upon closer look, I could see the plant was emitting this reddish mist of sweet scent that made my head feel light and relaxed. He gave it to Nadine, who was looking expectant. She pulled its round flat head off the stem and brought it closer to her mouth. Before I realized what was happening, she started eating it with her eyes closed. We watched her for a while in silence. Streaks of red dripping down her nakedness from chin to her breasts. Then she opened her eyes and I could see her dilated pupils opened up even wider to conceal the bright blue. She proceeded to give the mushroom to Johannes, who immediately started to take a huge bite before handing it to me without a word. But I knew what to do. I brought it to my mouth. Now I could see it clearly. There were delicate vein-like structures covering its smooth shiny skin. Like human blood vessels. They were both watching me closer, waiting. Then without a doubt, I put the rest of the mushroom in my mouth and chewed it. As soon as it touched my tongue, I started to feel this wave of ecstasy and coolness that was pulsing throughout my body. I looked around and things were already changing. Colours started to merge and they looked more radiant than before. I could hear the whisper of the wind from up above the top of the hills far away descending down the valley to the basin. I looked ahead and saw myself engaging in intercourse with both Johannes and Nadine. We were one. Our bodies knit together, like a flower to its stalk. Like delicate fabrics braided together to form the first form of life ages ago. I touched the deepest corners of their heart. Their mind. And their humanity. And they to me. I latched hard onto their existence, and theirs to mine. Our tongue was dancing down our throat. Our fingers were prancing between our legs. The lines that divided planes of existence were becoming blurred. I no longer saw me. I saw us. Our nakedness was sprawled before my eyes on the grass. A smile on our face. We kissed. I kissed. We felt our desires entangled together. And then I felt them moving away from me. I saw them running happily towards the river, leaving me alone. For a moment I was brought back to reality. I opened my eyes and I saw Johannes and Nadine lying on the ground before me with their eyes open. Strands of colours were still billowing at the edge of shapes around me. I looked down and saw the reds merging with the green around them. I could not find where things started and where they ended. I bent down and picked two mushrooms off the skeleton and put them in my mouth with a gulp. And then things started to change again. My senses became one. I tasted the sweet flow of the river. I heard the gentle touch of the grass beneath my feet. I saw the curtain of the wind billowing among the trees. The universe was wide open before me. The veil that draws the line between life and death was drawn. I could see and touch the edge of the sky. Stars were dancing in my hands. Time was flowing like a river around me. And then I heard someone calling my name in the distant. Then again. And again. I looked around but I did not see anyone. “Johannes? Nadine? ” I called out. Then I found myself back at my apartment. But I was also up here. And there in Lembah Tidur. And then at the pool where I first saw Nadine and became increasingly infatuated with her. Time and space were nothing to me. I moved back and forth at ease. Then before I realized what was happening, I felt a very strong force pulling me back to the ground. I opened my eyes and found myself lying in the grass, a beautiful face hovering above me. She was sitting right next to me, placing her hands on my chest and on my head that was still spinning. “You okay? ” she asked softly. She was naked as well I realized. There was a thin silver mesh necklace around her long neck, with a little flower-shaped turquoise stone dangling from it. “I… I am okay. Just a bit light-headed. ” I answered honestly. “You fainted there for a moment. You shouldnt have eaten it like that. Just a small bite should do. Youre lucky youre still alive. ” she warned me. “You could have died. ” I squeezed my thigh and tried to get up in a sitting position. My whole body was trembling like crazy. And then a very beautiful smile curved on her lips. “What time is it? ” I asked, stroking my head as if trying to shake off the effect of the mushrooms. “6 am. ” “Thats impossible! ” “What? ” I glanced at my watch and was surprised to see that it was indeed 6 AM. But how? “We started our journey then exactly at around 6 am. It must have taken us 3 or 4 hours to get here. So why is it still 6 am? Unless time has stopped all of a sudden. ” She rolled her eyes. “What day do you think it is now? ” she raised one of her eyebrows suspiciously. “Errr…. “ I tried to think. “Wednesday? ” She burst out laughing while tossing her dark red hair back and exhaled. “Then youve been unconscious for two days. Because today is Friday. ” “What? That cant be true! ” I protested. “Is this a joke? Are you pranking me or something? ” “Youre not the only one who has ever been under the influence of these things. The effect is really strong yeah. It can change your perception of time. ” As we were making our way back to the inn (fully clothed) she told me her name was Lisa and that she had visited Lembah Tidur a few times with her friends before and I was the first tourist that she had ever encountered there. She said she had seen me trashing around on the ground as if suffocating and decided to help. And thats when I had woken up to see her. I was still feeling rather light-headed when we finally arrived at the inn. She offered to make me a cup of strong tea and asked me to lie down on the couch in the lobby. “Ive never been that high in my entire life before! ” I admitted to her, stroking my face that still felt numb and cold. Suddenly it dawned on me that she had found me trashing around like a mad man naked in the wilderness and that made me feel so embarrassed. “You should be careful there. Dont eat too much of it. Its dangerous. If I hadnt woken you up you would have probably been trapped in your own head under the influence of that plant forever. ” she said, handing me the cup of tea. “F-fforever? ” I stammered, feeling a chill down my spine. “Well at least not in a literal sense. Like I said before, it alters how you perceive time. In your own mind, time will stretch and expand wider and wider, years and even ages will pass. When in reality only a few days have passed. ” I gulped, imagining my body lying down in the middle of that place for 2 days. No wonder I felt so tired and sick. “When I was under the influence of that thing, I saw… things…” “Of course. ” “It was like in a dream, but it also felt so real. Everything was so beautiful and perfect. ” “Oh dont hang on to that! ” “What do you mean? ” “Those people there… those bodies… they are not entirely dead, you know? ” I was already sipping down my tea and paused when I heard her saying that. “Not entirely dead? Whats that supposed to mean? ” “Their consciousness is still there. Theyre still trapped in there. Physically they may have been long dead, their bodies reduced to only bones and ashes. But their minds are still intact. They are living a fantasy, unaware of their surroundings. That plant is preserving their self-awareness in the form of illusion that will go on and on forever. They may look dead to us, what with their decaying bodies. But their self-awareness goes on in another plane of existence beyond this life. ” I shook my head, taking in the horror of what she had just told me. It was a close call for me. I almost got trapped in my own mind for good. A form of existence I did not want to be in. “But thats…” “Impossible yes I know. ” she guessed my skepticism. “But how did you know all this? ” “My father… he is one of those bodies you saw there. ” “Oh, I am sorry. ” “Its okay. He was one of the few people like you who had seen what it was like on the other side and figured out how it worked. And he decided to return to reality only to say goodbye to me. After my mother passed away, he felt that he had nothing else to hold on to. And to top things off, he said…. He said he had heard her calling his name when he was lying down unconscious on the ground under the plants influence the first time. He was sure he would see her again. And there was nothing I could do to stop him. But if it was the only way for him to be truly happy again. Then I had no choice. It was already killing me slowly seeing him shutting his life off like that after my mothers death. ” she said, glistening streaks of tears rolling down her cheeks. “I am so sorry…” “Thanks. I still come here to visit him from time to time. ” “Do those tourists know about it? ” I asked again. “Some do. Some dont. ” “Those who know, why do they go there anyway? ” “They want to end their own lives. What else? They are disappointed. Bored. Depressed. And leaving this plane of existence to depart to another sounds like a chance of a lifetime. ” I remembered what Johannes had told me earlier. Those poor people came to Lembah Tidur with the knowledge that those plants will ease their transition to the other side. I had caught a glimpse of what it was there, on that other plane of existence. Though I have to admit it was an amazing place, I still don't want to end like that. Forever trapped in my own head. In a distorted version of reality. My whole body started to shake when I thought about what might have happened if Lisa had not found me. It was true that at one point in my life, I had been bored and depressed, to the point where I had felt almost suicidal. But to live in a pale imitation of life like that? No fucking way. “Lisa…” I took her hand and hold it tight. “Thank You for saving me. ” she smiled and nodded her head, strands of her red wavy hair falling into her face. I still had a few days on that island but I decided to return home earlier than I had planned. As soon as my plane landed, I decided to visit my parents, which was something I had not done in months. My mother looked really surprised when she opened the door only to see me standing there watery-eyed. If there was something positive I got from my experience in Lembah Tidur, it would be the fact that deep in my heart, I knew that I wanted to live. I loved my family. Loneliness is a deadly disease that is slowly eating away at the soul and the mind and forcing us into exile estranged from the people who genuinely love and care about us. A few weeks later I found another job offered by a friend of mine and with a new perspective in my life, I started to hold on to only positive thoughts. I no longer considered my job and routines as something boring or time-consuming. I did everything with a different approach and point of view. I realized we can never have everything in life. But we can make our own happiness by being thankful for every little good thing that makes us smile and feel that we have a purpose. I still kept in touch with Lisa. We would talk on the phone for hours and the closer we become, the deeper I found myself falling in love with her. The way she was always trying hard to be positive without complaining about every thing that did not work out well for her made me fall head over heels in love with her. All my life, I had never met someone who really loved life more than anything else. She opened my eyes and made me realize it was all just how I saw things. That every cloud has a silver lining. I was lost for a moment. And then I met her. And in her, I found the reason I loved life. We were having a long distant kind of thing for two years and I would visit her in her hometown several times a year. And likewise. Then one day, I found the courage to ask her to marry me. She said yes. A happy surprise came by the end of the summer that year. Lisa had a job offer in the city I was living in and she decided to accept it so we could finally move in together. We got married in December. My parents were there, so were her brother, cousins, and two aunts. Our lives were complete. I really enjoyed my new role as a husband. My mother was right. A family was the answer to my loneliness and depression. And then William, our first child was born. We loved being parents more than anything else. By the time William was finally able to walk, Lisa gave birth to our second son, Nelson. But of course, life is not always rainbow and sunshine. Only a few days after our 20th wedding anniversary, my father passed away from a heart attack. I was crushed. I loved my father so much. He was my hero. My best friend. I fell back into depression and started to use drugs and drink alcohol. Lisa had always been there for me. But there was nothing she could do to ease the pain. Every night, I would come home drunk, crying, shouting, feeling angry and bitter. Lisa tried her best to help me, but I was too deep in my grief that I began ignoring her. Our marriage fell apart. She filed for divorce a week after the 2nd anniversary of my fathers death. I did not say anything. I just nodded my head and walked away. I was lost again and this time she could not save me. I had given up. Now I had nothing to be happy for. And in the middle of my own destruction, this voice… that had been pretending to be lost for years, nagging me in my dreams, started to emerge. It wanted me to be happy again. Yet in my situation, there was only one way to do that. I had to go back to Lembah Tidur. I flew back there the following day after our divorce was finalized. I did not tell anybody where I was going. Not even my mother and my kids. They did not deserve to miss a loser like me. It only took me a few hours to find it. And it still looked exactly as I remembered it. Beautiful and serene. Peaceful. The surface of the river was glistening in the sun. The leaves were fluttering in the wind as I walked down the slope into the mystic world, naked and hopeful, unseen to the rest of the world. As if they had all been waiting for this day. A soft bell-like sound was heard in the air. This is it, I thought. I am here. It was calling me. I walked to one of the bodies on the river bank. It was a woman. It looked like only a few hours had passed since it was laid down to rest. Her naked pale skin had already started to turn bluish. Her upper torso was partially submerged in the water. Her long dark hair, gilded with the redness of the afternoon sky, was billowing out around her like silk. She was beautiful. Like a sleeping water nymph. I walked to another corpse half-hidden in the bushes. It was a skeleton of another woman, lying peacefully both arms clasped together like praying, with those mushrooms poking out of her rib cage and barely there stomach. As soon as I got closer, I realized that I recognized her long straight platinum hair even though it had bits of dirt and grass clung to it, Her pretty face was long gone. Her body was almost completely reduced to bones. But there was no doubt. It was her. I reached down to touch her disfigured face. Is she still in there somewhere? Far beyond this plane of existence. How many lifetimes has she spent while her body was lying here rotting away? Maybe I was about to find out. I picked one mushroom off her rib, closed my eyes and without hesitation I took a huge bite and started to chew it. It tasted weird, I realized. I had not had time to remember how it tasted like the first time since the effect was already kicking in the second it touched my lips. But this time, it was different. I was aware of how it tasted like a mixture of different fruits that left a very strong tangy aftertaste. I inhaled deeply and waited. Nothing happened. I waited again. 30 seconds had passed and I could still feel my body. I opened my eyes and saw nothing had changed. I took another bite and waited. Still nothing. I swallowed the whole thing in frustration and waited. Nothing. I sighed and picked some of the biggest mushrooms poking out of the body and started to eat them all greedily. And then I felt a sharp throbbing pain piercing through my chest as my breath seized up. And I lost control of my body. The pain was too much. I fell backwards and landed hard on my back, trying to catch breath. The last thing I saw as I writhed in agony on the ground was the dark canopy above me. I thought of Lisa and my kids and my mother. How much I loved them. I thought of my father. How much I missed him. I should have never come here the first time. I should have never come here now. I opened my eyes and immediately regretted it. The blazing sun overhead was hurting my eyes, burning my naked skin. I was sweating all over. My body was shaking hard. A face appeared above me, blocking the sun. Her face looking pale. “Fred? ” she gasped. “Oh God. You scared me for a moment I thought youre dead. You werent breathing at all. ” “Where am I? ” I tried to get up but a splitting pain at the base of my skull made me recoil and before I could lay down a wave of nausea washed over me. I turned onto my side and threw up. “Get it all out of your system. Good! ” Nadine patted me gently on my back. “Jesus, Fred. How many did you have? Thats stupid. You could have died. ” “I dont kn –“ I threw up again. “Come on lets get somewhere cooler. You can walk? ” I forced my body to stand up and followed her under a huge tree whose branches were touching the water next to me. “Wheres Johannes? ” I asked her as I bent down to wash my face and body. My pale and sick-looking reflection stared back at me. “Hes going back to the inn to find some help. What the fuck were you thinking. A single bite is enough to get you high. And you had how many? Twenty? ” she reproached, frowning at me. The deafening silence that had hung in the air earlier was gone. I could hear the roaring waterfall in the distance. “I saw something. ” “What? ” “What time is it? ” I looked up at the canopy above us as a cool breeze started to blow in our direction. The sun was peeking through the trees, casting fluttering shadows around us. “I think its already midday. ” she answered. Those mushrooms had messed with my head and affect my perception of time. In reality, only a few hours had passed since we had come. But under its influence, I had spent a huge portion of a lifetime in which I experienced the ups and downs of life, in which I fell in love and grieved over my personal losses in life. It had poisoned my mind and soul and tricked me into living a life that had never been there. Lisa… my kids… they had never been real. Just fragments of my hallucination. Now that I was back in the real word, it all just seemed like a dream, or a distant memory almost forgotten. For a few seconds after I had come to, I had felt a sense of longing for them. I had been frantically reaching out to hold on to my memories of them. “You said you saw something? What was it? ” asked Nadine. I told her what I had seen and experienced and she looked at me with a rather disheartened and shocked look on her face. “Oh Fred. I am so sorry to hear that. I know its not real. But still, to live a long life only to have it erased just like that in a blink of an eye is horrible even though it only happened in your head. ” she sympathized. “I would have been depressed. ” “Yeah because… you know… I kind of… miss them…” She nodded and put her hands on her cheeks, looking miserable. “Now I cant even remember how they looked like. Its fading away. Funny I know. Missing people I have never even met. ” She got on her knees and put her arms around me. We hugged there for what felt like minutes. Our naked skins touched. I could feel her heartbeat. “Lets get out of here before sunset or we will have troubles finding our way back. ” she stood up wiping her eyes. Youre right. ” We got on our feet and started walking along the river bank when something shiny on the ground caught my attention. I paused and walked closer and then I saw it. A skeleton half buried in the sand. Around its bony neck was a silver mesh bracelet, with a flower-shaped blue stone latched to it.
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