By: Shravya Prabu
It was the year 4039, thousands of years since the demise of Homo sapiens. Planet Earth was inhabited by the Nov species, which consisted of the Suds, who were distinguished by their yellow tone as bright as the sun, and the Doques, who were looked down upon for their dark reddish skin.
It was not uncommon for the Doques to uptake positions deemed as menial, as they had little inheritance and needed to survive. Some were merchants. Some were cleaners. Some were lamqap, or female “specialized servants” who worked the streets at night for the wealthiest of Sud men. One such lamqap was Cama Noh, who became a regular servant for Bir, a powerful businessman in the town of Ngengmas.
As time passed, Cama Noh was bearing what would be her and Bir’s child, which she delivered in a day (yes, unlike Homo sapiens the Doques and Suds would bear and deliver their offspring within a day.) She birthed what was considered a Teranaraan, a rare member of the species with skin as orange as ember. She had to do what was required by the law of the planet—giving her child to Bir forever. The laws ruled that Suds and Doques were to never engage with each other in such an intimate way, unless it was an instance of a Doque female lamqap performing services for a Sud male. Should a Teranaraan offspring result, the child is to be forever raised by the Sud, seeing that the child is already “cursed” by Doque blood. The Doque would never have a right to the child unless decided otherwise by the Sud.
Cama Noh waited pensively outside Bir’s house.
“What are you doing here? I have not called for you today,” Bir said, with a slight frown.
“Yes, but this is an important matter. Our last meeting led to this child in my arms. This is our baby,” Cama Noh explained. “I know it’s a Teranaraan, but you must take care of her.”
“Her? I see.” Bir glances down at the child, who was so tiny and giggled innocently. Bir flashed a smile and took her into his arms.
“Please. You must let me see her. We do not have to interact otherwise anymore. But this child belongs to the both of us,” Cama Noh pleaded.
Bir then looked at her with a sneer. “Let someone like you near my daughter? Have you lost your ability to think? You think I can have someone who does your kind of work near MY daughter?”
“Sir, OUR daughter!” Cama Noh’s voice started to crack.
“But most of all, do not forget where you come from. She may have been born a mix of us, as a Teranaraan, but I will see to it that she is raised as a respectable Sud maiden.” Bier raised his voice and scowled down at Cama Noh. “She will never know her worthless Doque side. Now get out!”
“Ok fine!” A tear slid down Cama Noh’s face. “But at least let her have this. Even if she never knows me, she can still have one thing that has my love written for her on it.” Cama Noh handed Bir a locket with engravings of Doque symbols.
“Hmm, that is a nice necklace. That she can have. You were right about one thing. We do not have to interact ever again. I do not want you around influencing my daughter. Go find another Sud man to serve.”
“Ok. But please. I beseech you. Love her the way I would. I love her so much.” Cama Noh sobbed. “She is your daughter first, before she is a Teranaraan.”
“Do not worry about that. I do not see her as anything less than my daughter. I will give her the world.”
And so he did in the years to follow. The little girl was named Parmaq. Parmaq was a sweet and inquisitive child, who enjoyed a happy childhood and got anything and everything she ever wanted from Bir. Except for one thing.
“Father, why can I never know who my mother is? All the other little children here have a mother and a father.”
Bir just sighed and pulled Parmaq into his lap. “My dear child, I know it is hard to see others with a mother. I wish I could say you can see her, but she is not good for you.”
“But why?” Parmaq asked.
“You are still a young girl. You see, your mother was not…eh…proper. You will understand when you are older. But that is all I can say for now. You must trust me, my child, when I say that I am only doing what is best for you. As I care about you deeply.”
“Ok.” Parmaq nodded and walked to the garden to play. Bir just watched through the window with a half smile as Parmaq skipped past her favorite hudlod bushes, strikingly similar in appearance to roses except for their dark purple color.
“I cannot have Parmaq know about her Doque side or have her interact with any one of them. This would only look poorly on us. What would others think of her?” Bir muttered to himself. “Not to mention she is too young to know what her mother did for a living.”
One day, Parmaq played around with the locket Cama Noh gave her at birth, which Parmaq wore around her neck at all times. She opened it and finds a note inside. The note read, “My dearest daughter. I am your mother, and this necklace you wear is my gift to you. I am not allowed to be with you right now for reasons that you will understand as you grow. But I do love you very deeply. Whenever you need help or answers, you must chant these words: Hiboq qup. So Parmaq chose to get the answer to the one thing she has always wanted to know.
“Hiboq qup. Hiboq qup. Hiboq qup.” Then Parmaq felt a whirl of wind around her as a figment of an elderly, reddish women appeared before her.
“Dear Parmaq, I am the great grandmother of your mother, elder Huv. Now that you have called upon me, I shall guide you for the rest of your life.”
“Do you know my mother? Will I ever see her?” Parmaq asked.
“Oh dear Parmaq, your mother is under the guidance of myself and other spirits, whom you will meet much later in your life. It will be a very long time, but you will certainly see her. And this locket will prove to be the biggest clue that helps you find her, so do not ever lose it. It is very risky to see her now for reasons you will know as you grow. But for now, you must always call for me when you need my guidance.”
“I will,” Parmaq promised, before elder Huv disappeared.
Then one day, Parmaq’s life changed. Bir brought Qaboqmeh, a powerful Sud socialite, and her daughters, Neh and Ihmoh. Neh was very radiant with a golden complexion, long wavy hair, and dark almond eyes, but she had a snooty look written all over her face. Ihmoh was gentle and warmer towards Parmaq. Bir introduced Qaboqmeh to Parmaq as her new mother.
“I know you have always wanted to have a mother too, my dear child. Qaboqmeh will take very good care of you. She will be better for you than the mother who birthed you.”
Parmaq, although she still desired to be reunited with her real mother some day, was quick to accept Qaboqmeh as her stepmother, as well as her two stepsisters. Qaboqmeh would put on a fake caring face for Parmaq in the presence of Bir, but when Bir was not around, she was rather distant toward an otherwise innocent and bubbly Parmaq. Neh would be more outright rude to Parmaq, often taunting Parmaq for the color of her skin.
“You will never be as pretty as me,” Neh would say. Parmaq would try to play games or share toys with Neh, who would make a face of disgust. Bir often reprimanded Neh if she taunted Parmaq in his presence. Qaboqmeh too would redirect Neh, but if Bir was not around, she would let Neh’s remarks slide.
In a couple more years, Bir fell extremely ill with Mohbogh, a virus that slowly paralyzes the Novs it infects. Bir became bedridden within a month after his Mohbogh infection.
“Father, please feel better and don’t leave us,” Parmaq pleaded tearfully.
“My dear child, my fate is not in my hands. I cannot bear to leave you. But you must promise to be a good girl. And Qaboqmeh, please take good care of her. You are the only one I could trust as her mother.”
“B-Bir,” Qaboqmeh’s voice shook. “Of course I will. I promise”
However, Qaboqmeh’s promise proved to be a lie. Once Bir died, she revealed her true colors.
“Oh, you hail from a line of barbaric people,” she said.
“What do you mean, mother?”
“Hush!” Qaboqmeh scowled. “Your father never told you what your mother truly was. A Doque—one of the most disgusting creatures on this planet. So red and disgusting.”
“Maybe that’s why mother’s great-grandmother is red,” Parmaq thinks to herself.
“With your father gone, you have been left behind as a burden for our family. I should make you useful to make this less gruesome for us,” Qaboqmeh said to Parmaq. It was decided that from then on, Parmaq would be almost like an indentured servant for Qaboqmeh and her daughters.
Neh, too, became crueler to Parmaq. She would taunt that Parmaq was ugly because of her Doque mother, and humiliate Parmaq when her friends were around by pushing her or making fun of her clothes. She and Qaboqmeh would make her do chores for long hours in the hot sun. Parmaq was also to cook for the family, but would only get to eat very little portions of every meal she made in a day. Ihmoh was the only one who ever treated Parmaq with kindness. She would get in trouble with Qaboqmeh if she was caught playing with Parmaq. Ilmoh would also tend to Parmaq’s wounds when Parmaq was whipped by Qaboqmeh for not doing something right. Anything from using too much salt to not being able to remove a cloth stain would result in Parmaq getting whipped.
As the girls entered their pre-teen years, it was time for them to meet potential families with sons to marry, by Ngengmas tradition. Qaboqmeh had many great connections, including the king and queen. She had decided on potentially marrying Neh to Val, the prince, and brought Neh to visit the king and queen in their castle.
“Oh, I would make the best queen of Ngengmas!” Neh’s face rose with delight.
“Well, you certainly have the beauty to be fit for my son.” The queen smiled warmly at Neh. “I think we should definitely introduce Val to her tomorrow. What do you think?”
“Indeed we shall!” The king replied.
However, when Val came with the king and queen to Qaboqneh’s house, he instantly noticed Parmaq instead. The two chatted for a long time, forming an instant, strong connection.
“Will you take me to your room?”
“Sure.” Parmaq hesitantly led Val to her room. As she gently closed the door, Val caressed her temple and chest.
“Stop.” Parmaq looked at him fiercely with concern. “We can be in huge trouble. You know this is forbidden by law.”
“But I am the prince. The laws do not have to apply to me.” Val smirked.
“This is not funny. And I? The laws certainly apply to me!”
“We do not have to get caught. If you want this, trust me. I will only do as you wish though.”
Parmaq slipped a smile, and eventually succumbed.
Qaboqneh, Neh, and the king and queen entered Parmaq’s room after searching the house for Val.
“There you are. Wait, what is happening here, son?” The king growled.
“Oh my god!” The queen gasped.
“We are returning to the castle, right now!” The king then turned to Parmaq and glared at her. “And you, miss. This is against the laws of Ngengmas. You, someone who is still partly Doque, with a Sud. A Sud of royalty that too!”
“Your highness, I will handle her. Do not worry,” Qaboqmeh assures the king.
“Mother, I am so sorry,” Parmaq started to quiver.
“Enough!” Qaboqmeh then grabbed Parmaq and pulled her out of the room.
When Val was taken back to the castle, he was lectured by the king and queen.
“You must marry Neh in a few years,” the queen remarked. “I only see her as fit to rule after me.”
“But mother, I am actually more interested in that Parmaq girl,” Val replied.
“Come on now, son. I cannot allow that. That girl is of part Doque blood. You know how sickly those people are!” The king exclaimed.
“I do not care. I know she is a Teranaraan, but that does not matter. Why does the queen have to only be a Sud? Suds have been the only ones ruling since we inhabited this planet—since the demise of the Homo sapiens,” said Val.
“That is because those filthy Doques and those of Teranaraan descendant are not fit to rule. Ngengmas would be ruined if they did,” the king scowled.
“You would not know enough about how they rule to say that,” Val said.
“Well maybe this might convince you then. That Neh girl is actually one of the most beautiful girls in this town. Parmaq is rather plain,” the king replied.
“That is not the only thing that matters. That Neh is as interesting as a wall. Parmaq is the only girl in Ngengmas who can make me happy. And that’s final!” Val stormed off.
“Do not worry. He is still quite young and foolish. When the time to marry him comes in a couple years, he will come to his senses by then,” the queen reassured the king.
“I am so sorry, mother and sister. Please stop,” Parmaq hyperventilated and sobbed.
Qaboqmeh just laughed mercilessly and struck Parmaq with her whip again. Neh gave Parmaq a hard kick on her ribs.
“I will not have you ruin my daughter’s future wedding, you filthy Teranaraan. Know your place!” Qaboqmeh gave Parmaq a final whip.
“When the time of my wedding comes, Val will choose me. He will never fall for an ugly girl of Doque background like you. He will probably forget who you are after today,” Neh sneered at Parmaq before she and Qaboqmeh headed to their respective rooms.
Parmaq just held her frail body and let out the tears she could no longer suppress. She began to calm as she felt Ihmoh’s comforting arms around her. Ihmoh led Parmaq to her room and applied a healing cream on Parmaq’s wounds, before heading to her own room.
A worn out Parmaq opened the necklace and stared at Cama Noh’s note. She took a deep breath and chanted “Hiboq qup. Hiboq qup. Hiboq qup.”
“My dear, it has been so long. I know you have seen prince Val today. How do you feel about him?” Elder Huv asked.
“I guess I fancy him. But he is a Sud and of royal blood. Today was nothing! He would not want anything to do with someone like me.” Parmaq replied.
“Do not think like that, my dear. He might be your only escape from this life. If you do not marry him, you will end up with a worse fate than this,” elder Huv warned.
“And how do I make that happen?”
“When the time comes, you will just have to call for me. I will take care of everything. But you must not forget to summon me.” With that, elder Huv disappeared.
Two years later, Qaboqneh called for Parmaq, Neh and Ihmoh for a Qep, or Nov version of a family meeting.
“My dearest Neh. As you know, the king, queen, and I have been planning your marriage to prince Val these past two years. Your marriage has been finalized and will be next week during the Ngengmas annual ball. My dear Ihmoh, the king and queen introduced me to Val’s cousin, the prince of Hurghmas. You will be marrying him in two months.”
“That is fair, mother,” Ihmoh replied.
“But you, Parmaq, you will be following the footsteps of your real mother,” Qaboqmeh smirked wickedly.
“What do you mean by that?” Parmaq asked, shocked.
“I have found a merchant who is paid to sell Lamqaps to Sud men.” Qaboqmeh explained. “He was pleased to have a Teranaraan to sell.”
“Please,” Parmaq implored. “I will do anything else. I can even serve you for the rest of your life. I will do anything but that.”
“Silence,” Qaboqneh scolded. “I have had enough of you. You will not be my problem anymore. You did it for Val, the most powerful Sud in Ngengmas, so you can do this for the rest of your life. And I cannot have you ruin Neh’s wedding. Now, you are to finish your final duties in this house from now to next week. You know what your consequences will be if you don’t.”
With that, Qaboqneh and her daughters headed to their rooms. Ihmoh tried to convince her mother to not sell Parmaq to the merchant, but Qaboqneh dismissed her requests.
Parmaq summoned elder Huv on the day of the annual Ngengmas ball and explained her plight. Elder Huv then presented a beautiful gown, and instructed Parmaq to go to the ball that night.
“What if I am punished?” Parmaq asked worryingly.
“You cannot be punished if you marry Val and become the new queen. But if you do not go, you will risk ending up as some merchant’s lamqap.”
“And you are certain that Val will want to marry me? And will the king and queen even approve of making me the new queen? I don’t even know if Val will remember who I am.”
“Like I said, my dear, I will take care of everything. All you have to do is wear this gown and head to that ball.”
Parmaq followed elder Huv’s orders and accepted that as her final verdict. When she arrived at the ball, Val found her quickly, to her surprise.
“Dance with me.”
“Alright,” Parmaq coyly smiled at him.
“I wonder if Parmaq remembers me,” Val thought to himself. “I hope I can convince her to marry me. I will be free of that Neh, and with Parmaq, I will be the happiest man ever.”
Parmaq heard a familiar voice in the middle of her dance with Val and froze.
“What are you doing here?” As Parmaq turned around, she was stunned to see Neh, whose gorgeous eyes were burning with anger. “You should be at home cleaning.”
“How dare you? How dare you come to ruin my daughter’s wedding?” Qaboqmeh neared Parmaq with the most unforgiving look in her eyes. She grabbed Parmaq by her arm and pulled her to the center of the court, in the presence of the entire town. Neh pushed Parmaq to the ground, and Qaboqmeh began beating and pulling Parmaq’s hair. Neh kicked Parmaq’s body and pulled her dress, ripping it to tatters. The crowd of townspeople gasped in shock and murmured to each other. A humiliated Parmaq fled her wicked stepmother and stepsister from the ball, and retreated to a nearby forest in tears.
“Well, Neh and Qaboqneh, I must say, your behavior today was greatly disappointing. I am not sure I want my son to marry you anymore, Neh,” the king said indignantly.
“Oh, what do you care? She is a Teranaraan after all,” Qaboqneh replied.
“That may be so, but what just happened is not a good look for a queen of this nation.”
“I deserve to be queen!” Neh exclaimed.
“I never wanted to marry you, “ Val sneered at Neh. “Now leave before I get my security to drag the both of you out of here!”
Qaboqneh and Neh left the ball, muttering angrily to themselves.
“Well father, I will find Parmaq now!” Val said.
At the forest, Parmaq was approached by two birds. She gave them a half smile, but there was a painful look in her eyes. Then the birds surprised her.
“We have been sent to you by elder Huv,” the birds told her.
“Y-you have? You can talk?” Parmaq exhaled with a sigh of relief. “What do I do now?”
The birds flew around her and magically, Parmaq’s tattered gown was transformed into a dress that queens wear.
Then Parmaq heard a familiar voice call her name
“There you are. You should come back with me to the ball.”
“Please. Just call me Val. Do not worry, Parmaq. I have taken care of those two.”
“Val! Y-you remember my name?” Parmaq gave him a soft smile.
Yes, of course, Parmaq. I have not forgotten that day we first met or you at all. I have always remembered you and wished this day would come.”
Parmaq looked at the two birds.
“Go on,” they advised her. “Your troubles will be over if you go with him.”
As Parmaq turned around to leave the forest with Val, he leaned to the forest floor on his knees.
“Parmaq, I know we have just reunited, but I must ask. Will you marry me?”
“Yes, of course. Yes!” Parmaq’s face lit up with joy.
Val sliped an exquisite ring adorned with diamonds on Parmaq’s finger, and led her back to the ball.
Val announced to the crowd his intention to marry Parmaq.
“Well, if you make my son happy, that is all I ever wanted for him. You have my blessing. I will do the honors.” The queen then handed her crown to Parmaq.
The king did the same for Val, and took his prince crown from him.
The wedding was celebrated with a grand feast. Then, Parmaq was notified of a woman asking for her.
Parmaq saw a slightly old Doque woman. “It is you, my daughter!” The woman exclaimed.
“Y-you’re my mother?”
The woman then showed her a locket around her neck, which Parmaq instantly recognized. The Doque engravings on the woman’s locket matched those of Parmaq’s. She recalled Elder Huv’s words. “This locket will prove to be the biggest clue that helps you find her, so do not ever lose it.”
“Mother!” Parmaq let out tears of joy and ran closer to Cama Noh.
“Oh my dear daughter,” Cama Noh embraced Parmaq. “I am so sorry I could not be there for you when you grew. I know everything that happened since your father died because our elders told me. It hurt that I could not reach out to you. And now I see why the elders were insistent that I come to this ball tonight.” Cama Noh started to shed tears.
“Mother, it is ok. Now my troubles are over. And after all this time, I have finally found you.”
“My dear, now that you, a Teranaraan, are the queen, you must not forget my people, or rather OUR people. Your father kept you from seeing me because of the work I did, but our people and I had to do anything we can to survive on this land. We Doques have been suffering for too long, and we want to be liberated. Please, my dear and my highness, we want to be free.”
“Mother, a Teranaraan cannot escape being part Doque. It is a part of my blood, and I have paid the price for it. Now that I am here, we finally won something. Of course I will make sure our people are liberated. Things are going to change, as they already are.”
And indeed, once Val and Parmaq’s reign began, the laws of the land changed drastically. Parmaq was given more power over the country by Val, who loved and respected her deeply. One of Parmaq’s reforms included high taxes for Suds, so that wealth would be redistributed to Doques. And while the rate of such line of work was lessened with the wealth distribution, Doque lamqaps gained equal rights to their children as Suds. It was also decreed that Suds could no longer have Doques or Teranaraans as indentured servants, and those who previously had mistreated their servants were to be Val and Parmaq’s servants. Among such Suds were Qaboqneh and Neh. Within a couple of years since becoming Parmaq’s servant, Neh became ill with Ghew, a rare fever that affected the Novs, and instantly died.
Ihmoh and Parmaq kept in touch, and they both kept a trade agreement between the Ngengmas and Hurghmas. The trade tremendously helped the economies of both towns, improving the lives of Suds and Doques alike. Parmaq’s reign was a long-lasting and successful one, and she was forever remembered as the first Teranaraan queen of Ngengmas, and on planet Earth.