Arno has been captured. Declared guilty of loving Syrtanyelle. A forbidden love. He is imprisoned, beaten. The next morning he is confronted with Syrtanyelle’s clan. Her parents, her betrothed, her friends. The judge and the investigators are also present. They manacle Arno placing him in a kneeling position and they start to lash him. It’s cold and the blows are intended to hurt and Arno can’t refrain from shouting in pain as his skin starts bleeding. “Do you deny having loved Syrtanyelle?” “I still love her.” “What? How dare you insult her, insult us in such a way!” And the lashes start raining on Arno’s back and he soon feels his skin becoming a mess. His parents appear. Oh no, God no. They are crying, panicked, please stop they cry, please our son has wronged no one. But the lashes continue to fall on Arno and sometimes they fall on his head, his face and everything becomes red, everything becomes pain. Please stop please Arno’s mother has kneeled and she’s begging Syrtanyelle to have pity, mercy. But Syrtanyelle looks at her coldly, harshly, and the torture continues. People take turns at beating Arno. The judge, the investigators, Syrtanelle’s father and friends. His offence is very grave and must be punished, explains her father between one blow and another. “Do you renounce to your love bastard? Say you renounce to love Syrtanyelle, you renounce to ever think of her again or even pronounce her name in your heart. Make the oath to forget her name and never remember it again. And then you will serve a short pain in prison and be free to leave this country and never return again. Refuse and you shall perish under torture.” “I cannot stop loving Syrtanyelle.” “This boy is obsessed, beat him harder, let’s see how far he can resist.” Now instead of a lash they start using a steel rod. Arno’s parents launch a heart-wrenching shriek. Please have a bit of pity. But the rod falls and falls and its effect is devastating. The back of Arno is a carnage, his ears and his face heavily bleeding and disfigured. Oh my beautiful son cry his mother. But there’s no pity, only more blows and soon it becomes clear the damages on Arno will be permanent and his death is only a matter of time. He is very touched his parents are not asking him to renounce to his love. They suffer at his sides as martyrs of this love too. He can barely reflect so great is his pain, but the physical pain is almost nothing to the pain to have been betrayed and abandoned by Syrtanyelle. And yet Arno continues to cherish her in his heart and he doesn’t plead her to be saved. He trusts her. If she desires his death, he will gladly offer her his life. The blows continue to fall unti Arno loses consciousness. When he wakes up again they ask him if he persists in his foolish love. He nods without replying. The pain is too great to speak even. They then decree he will be crucified. He will have to carry his cross up the mount of olives and stand on his cross dangling in the emptiness until he lies lifeless. The cross is very heavy and Arno falls many time his face covered in blood and mud as the lashes rain on what remains of skin and wounds. His parents and his siblings are here to help him get up and carry the cross with him. The lashes also rain on them but their loyalty is breachless. They cannot abamdon their son, their brother. They love him. They cry in despair as they accompany him to his death. And yet they somehow feel he is doing the right thing even if it is met with such a horrible fate. After a long time of painful climbing they arrive on the mount of olives and they nail Arno to his cross piercing his hands and his feet with the cold metal. Never will he rise and walk again. His mother shrieks in pain for him. Syrtanyelle and her family have not accompanied them and they are alone now with the men of death as they watch Arno together with some other criminals dangling from their cross. It’s very cold and silent as no one speaks, and the stillness is only troubled by the chant of crows. For hours it is a long and slow torture toward death as Arno’s parents hold his feet, caress them, and pray. Until when Arno feels all his forces fading away and he knows his time has come. He looks at his parents sadly, regretfully and they understand. They hold his feet more tightly. Then Arno thinks of Syrtanyelle who’s not here to see him die. And then strangely all his anguishes vanish and the heart of Arno fills with love and trust and he smiles, he beams to his parents. Even in death, he trusts his beloved. One day she will come and save him. Arno stops breathing and moving and his body lies lifeless on the cross. His parents carry him crying. They don’t have the right to dig his tomb under the olive trees but his father decides to carry him to the nearby desert of stones where no one will see. There he digs for hours watering the soil with his tears, until the tomb is deep enough to bury Arno. His mother has washed his face one last time like when he was a small child but she has not closed his eyes and she has left his beautiful smile untouched. They kiss him and cry and say one last prayer before covering him with soil and rock. His brother and his sister are fountains of tears. His father plants the cross in the ground and his mother brings some branches of olives and a couple of wild flowers she puts there. Then they light a fire and settle there for the night. This same night there is a celebration in town and people are laughing merrily and drinking wine, but all the laughter has faded from Syrtanyelle’s chest and she can’t smile nor drink, and she rather feels like throwing up. She goes to bed but spends a sleepless night. Arno’s parents stay by the grave of their son and soon they are joined by the rest of his family come to mourn him. But the judge had prohibited Arno’s burying and when he learns of it he orders his body burnt. Syrtanyelle’s family pushes to make an example out of Arno. But when Syrtanyelle hears that her heart can’t take it anymore. She imagines, sees, Arno’s parents mourning their son. And even his body, his grave, his memory wiped away from the world, taken into the darkness of oblivion, of nothingness. Arno. Oh Arno, beautiful Arno, why why is life so cruel. When Syrtanyelle was a child no one ever prayed with her, and she had thought that death meant final destruction. She had lied in her bed for entire nights of sleeplessness, trying to block herself from thinking about the darkness and nothingness of death. She had had no one to share her anguishes with, and would have suffocated had she not learnt to repress them. Arno had been the first one to pray with her, to bring her back hope. But Arno believed and Syrtanyelle remained sceptic. Until when she heard his body would be destroyed. Then suddenly something stirred in her chest. She had to stop that, she had to stop it all. Somehow since Arno had died she had found the faith she had always lacked of before. In her heart she had found the certainty she loved him too. And strangely as time passed she felt less and less despaired because of his death. She run to the desert behind the mount of olives and she found Arno’s parents weeping on his tomb and she embraced them and wept with them and they welcomed her. At least through his death Arno would have succeeded in gaining the love of the woman he had loved all his life and given his life for. Somehow Arno’s family had retrieved part of their son in Syrtanyelle, and as she hugged his sister and his brother she brought back some peace to them. The next morning arose, it was the third day since Arno had died, and the men of the town arrived with shovels and torches. Such a love was too strong, too pure, too dangerous to be remembered even. Syrtanyelle tried to stop them but there was blood lust in the men’s eyes and they pushed her and Arno’s family away and started to dig. Her father tried to reason her, asking her why she was behaving so weirdly, but she did not reply. She needed to remain focused on saving Arno and the conviction that it was possible was growing in her, and she also saw it in Arno’s parents who were not crying and were looking at her with expectancy, hope, trust… and love even. The love of parents for a lost daughter they have retrieved. When Arno was completely unearthed and his body brought out he still had his beautiful smile on his face and Syrtanyelle smiled at him like she never had before, and she run toward him and protected him with her own body. I love you Arno, I have always loved you. The men around her do one step backward, shocked. Syrtanyelle comes closer and hugs Arno’s face with tenderness. She strokes him gently and kisses him on the lips. She knows in her heart already what is going to happen. A very strong breeze arises around them and cuts them from the world. They are alone, together. Arno stirs, awakes, in her arms. He is healed. They both are healed, reborn. He looks at her without surprise, with awe, marvelled before her beauty. They are in a dream. They kiss, hug, embrace. Then the wind quiets down, and they return to the world. Or rather they bring the world to them, to their place of dream. When they return, the entire clans of Syrtanyelle and Arno have gathered around. And in their eyes shock leaves place to a dawning understanding. They had thought for long love was shameful, a sign of weakness. They had thought they could put limits to love, control it. They had thought love was a matter of blood, of families, of clans and conventions. But now, they understand, oh they understand, when they look at the splendour of Syrtanyelle’s and Arno’s faces when they are together. They understand they are all longing for this same love Arno and Syrtanyelle have found. And the two tribes, the two clans, reconcile, while the wedding is celebrated, and the reunion is very touching as it seems their grandparents and their parents all belonged to the same family, but had forgotten it for very long, and only now do they retrieve their bond, and are able to smile and laugh together, in awe before that love they had feared and condemned in the past, a love so pure it can move mountains and conquer death, after their hearts have been purified by death itself. All fear is gone. The feast can start as golden rivers run around, and what was a desert of rocks takes life. Arno embraces his parents, his siblings, and he thanks them from the bottom of his heart for the miracle they have helped to accomplish with their faith. And then he embraces Syrtanyelle’s parents and friends, and thanks them too for having been sceptic till the end, and forcing him thus to become stronger in his faith and purer in his love. Now even when he doesn’t see Syrtanyelle, he feels her gaze on his heart, he feels her presence in and around him. Death has transformed them. It never was their soul that died, but all their fears. It was the fears of Arno and Syrtanyelle that were crucified on the cross. And once the fears, the clouds around the heart, are gone, the flames remain, pure, eternal, beautiful. Two flames that light the whole world and the heart of each person around. Two flames that help hopes and dreams become true. Two flames who live and breathe for one another.
And thus ends Arno and Syrtanyelle’s story, and our own tale starts.