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What is faith, except hope in desperation?
All Putera Mikal wants is to gain the Amok Strength, the supernatural power granted by Kudus to the Mahan royal family. No matter how religiously Mikal keeps his vows, Kudus still denies him the Strength—whilst his father, Sultan Simson, flaunts the Strength despite his blatant defiance of the Temple and the priests’ visions of coming doom.
Then the prophecies come true.
Taken captive, Mikal must find a way to liberate his people and restore his throne in Maha—and the key to this is the Amok Strength. But what does it take to gain Kudus’ favour?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anna Tan grew up in Malaysia, the country that is not Singapore. She is interested in Malay/Nusantara and Chinese legends and folklore in exploring the intersection of language, culture, and faith.
Anna has an MA in Creative Writing: The Novel under a Chevening scholarship and is the President of the Malaysian Writers Society. She can be found tweeting as @natzers and forgetting to update annatsp.com.
I wait. Of course I wait.
Just that split second before the fight, waiting for Kudus to come through, to finally grant me His supernatural power, the Amok Strength that’s supposed to run through my veins.
O Kudus, Maha Esa, berkatilah hamba-Mu dengan kuasa ajaib-Mu.
O God Almighty, grant Your servant Your miraculous strength.
I push stray hair out of my face as I wait, hoping for that stirring of power, for that gifting Ayahanda has described in multiple ways time and time again: that surety and Presence, the surge of raw power and rage, sparks running through his limbs.
They say Kudus is never changing. He never disappoints. Well, He doesn’t disappoint. Nothing happens. No power, no presence. Just the continued silence of the past five years, ever since I started silat training at the age of ten.
Tok Yaakub and I circle each other, bare feet stirring up clouds of dust from the packed dirt of the gelanggang. He slashes at me with his keris and I slash back, dancing backwards and forwards to the warm breeze. There’s sweat in my eyes and on my palms, frustration in my soul and in my forms.
This match ends as it always does with his double-edged dagger at my chest. At least this time, I’m not flat on my back. He grunts in disappointment and withdraws his blade. We take a step backwards, bow to each other with our hands clasped in front of our chests, blades facing down. The fight is over and we bear no ill will to each other.
“That was terrible, Putera Mikal,” Tok Yaakub says. “What’s wrong with you today?”
Everything. It’s hot, I’m sticky with sweat, my hair is itchy on my face, I still haven’t earned my Amok Strength, there’s a delegation from Bayangan no one is talking about, rumour says we’re about to go to war, Ayahanda has been distant and busy all week…
“Nothing.” I wipe the sweat off my face with the back of my sleeve. It’s not that I don’t trust him. Besides training me in silat, Tok Yaakub teaches me military tactics and strategies. He’s one of the few adults I trust with my life—but he’s also one of my father’s men and sits on the Majlis as Temenggung, the commander of our military and head of security. Which means I don’t trust him with my secrets.
“Come, let us put away the keris and go hand to hand. Get some of that restless energy out of you.” He wipes down his keris and lays it on the outer edge of the marked circle.
My keris is about the length of my forearm. I take my time to shine each curve of the iron blade before I sheath it, rubbing away my sweat from the carved, gilded hilt. Then I walk to the opposite end of the circle and place it on the stand. I don’t have to. There’s no rule that says I should do so. I retie my knee-long hair into a bun so it will stop flying in my face then adjust my belt for the absence of the keris.
I turn to find Tok Yaakub scrutinising me with a worried look. His hair is neatly tied at the nape and falls down to his waist. I don’t know how he does it. Maybe it’s part of the Amok gift that’s extended from my father the Sultan to him as Temenggung.
“Are you sure you’re not ill?” He crosses the circle towards me and I duck to avoid the arc of his hand that’s trying to feel my forehead.
“I said it’s nothing, Tok Yaakub. I’m not sick.”
He sniffs in disbelief. “It’s never nothing with young men like you. Now either you best me or you tell me what’s bothering you.”
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