A minimalist tale of an Emperor who sought Truth that one of his student-scribes found – but then disappeared…
The Emperor’s Scribe – New Fiction Writing by C. C. Brower
One day, as court was held, the teacher was in a particularly foul mood. The weather was humid, hot, and everyone’s robes stuck to their skin from sweat. The teacher strode up and down the ranks dispensing his cane strokes with rapidity.
The one student was receiving more than his share, and the teacher found himself gravitating to the end of the line more frequently, delivering a cane strike, or several to that student before moving on.
That constant slight rap in that location caught the Emperor’s attention. He looked up toward that location with a stern look. The teacher was embarrassed, as his job was dependent on accurately recording the events of the royal chamber, not becoming part of them.
Swiftly moving to remove the offending student and expel him forever, he glided over to the students location in his silk slippers, taking care to not make any more noise to distract the emperor.
When he got there, the student sat still, waiting the cane again.
But a shadow crossed the student’s back. By the time the teacher reached the student, the emperor had already crossed behind that student and stopped the teacher in his tracks with a raised hand.
The emperor was reading the student’s characters over his shoulder.
For a long time, the chamber was still.
The emperor read.
The teacher, that student, and the rest of the courtiers and scribes and guards looked on in absolute quiet.
Only the birds could be heard in the courtyard outside, with the distant rustle of the trees. A cow lowed in the far distant fields.
Then the student drew a final character on his sheet.
The teacher blanched, reddened, and prepared to wield his cane, gripping it with white knuckles.
But the emperor waved him off.
The student had become the master.
– – – –
It became the master’s spot from then on. And this master would clean up his own ink and brushes and leftover parchment when he was done writing for the day.
His ink and clean parchment would go back into the stores. His brushes he would clean himself. And his writings he would take to the emperor’s private chamber and leave in a basket outside the door.
As the master left to travel back down the long hallway, the door to that chamber would slowly open, just enough for a hand to reach the scrolls in the basket and pull them inside, as the door then closed again.
Not all days were punctual. Sometimes the scrolls only found the basket in the early morning as the light was coming in from the east down the long hallway to the emperor’s chamber.
One day, the scroll didn’t come at all…