Lords of Being
Chapter 20: The Blessing of the Sheik
Before we leave Rotterdam (see the latest itinerary), Hellgrammite has a box prepared. It’s about book-sized, addressed to himself in Colorado. Rosamund puts a scallop-eyed walnut in it. He gives it to the van der Linden to post with the admonition, “Don’t look inside.” He also gives van der Linden a number of letters addressed to business associates in Britain apologizing for being otherwise engaged.
We’re refueled and ready to go. After the plane is towed out of the hanger, Captain Barron notes that the engines are now a bit more responsive than he was expecting, and comments on how quiet the engines are now. The plane takes off with alacrity. Captain Barron calls out, “Well! You’ve put a lot of ginger in it!” There’s a noticeable increase in acceleration, and it’s quieter in the cabin, too. Over Switzerland, Captain Barron announces that we appear to have achieved a 40% increase in efficiency.
About when we’re over Greece, Glass gets a phone call from Ragnison. “If you possibly can, go to Luxor instead of Cairo. I have arranged for you to meet with Daoud ibn Ali who will take you to see his cousin Fatima, who may be willing and able to help you mask your… cargo.”
“We’ll go to Luxor. No problem. Thank you for your assistance.”
Glass passes the new destination to Captain Barron and asks that he delay the change in flight plan as long as possible.
“I’d better do that now.” He gets on the radio, and after a bit reports, “We’re booked into Luxor. They were a little… surprised. But we’re set.”
We arrive in Luxor international airport and taxi to a parking area. A gangway comes up and positions itself next to our plane. There’s a customs officer waiting at the bottom who asks to see our passports. Captain Barron departs to arrange for refueling, etc. The rest of us take a bus over to the terminal. Hellgrammite is carrying a box holding the Tupperware container that Neville had used to store the fragment of Asiras. Hopefully there’s some sort of psychic residue. Inside the container are Zabeth’s “friend”, Glass’ chip, and the glass figurine.
When asked, the driver suggests that the place to meet people would be the message center.
We arrive at the message center. A young lady is waiting behind the counter and looks up at our approach. Glass asks her in Arabic if her English is any better than his poor Arabic.
She replies in flawless English. “Your Arabic is very good sir, but I speak fluent English.” She directs us to the East entrance. When we arrive, we’re met by a tall, Arabic looking gentleman who asks, “Is one of you Mr. Sylvester Glass?”
“I am directed to take you to my cousin. If you would come with me, my Jeep is in the parking lot.” We follow.
As we climb into the vehicle Rosamund asks, “How far are we going?”
“We are going as far as the West Bank, to the village of Gurnah. It is not far.”
We bounce past the Temple of Karnack, and stop in front of the Winter Palace, a grand Victorian hotel. He then takes us to a ferry boat, where he introduces us to his son Hassan, who runs a ferry service. We board the ferry and buzz across the Nile.
The far bank has what looks like a Middle Eastern suburb. There are lots of low, white, dusty buildings, some cars, and lots of bicycles. We transfer to another Jeep. After a brief drive, this Jeep gets parked in front of a house on a dirt street with no sidewalk. “You will need to walk a short way. She is at the cemetery.”
Mabel comments, “At, not in. Good.”
We do arrive at the cemetery. It is dominated by a small mausoleum of white stone. There are many gravestones, some with paper flowers that rustle in the breeze. There’s someone coming out of the mausoleum, sweeping. She looks up and sees us, pauses, and waits. The metaphysical beings see two more figures emerge and flank her. One is a tall, rugged looking person in a blue uniform with a rifle slung across his back and pistol in his belt. The other is a tall, imposing character in formal robes and a white turban. Neville only sees the woman and continues forward.
Glass bows to the man in the white robes, who nods in return.
Oblivious to the two guardian figures, Neville walks up to the woman and says, “Good day.”
She’s wearing black robes and a head scarf, and replies in heavily accented English. “Good day, sir. Are you the ones sent from Ragnison?”
“Yes. Are you Fatima?”
“Yes. It is good that you were sent by Ragnison. He is a righteous creature. Would you like to pay your respects at the tomb of the sheik?”
“I would be honored, but you’ll have to show me how to do it properly.”
“Behave with decorum and take your shoes off.” She goes back to sweeping.
As Neville removes his shoes and ducks to enter the mausoleum, Rosamund steps forward and nods to Fatima, and then the two gentlemen. She’s certain that Fatima has swept her broom through the two men.
Rosamund reaches out a hand to the man in the white robes. He gives her a “look”. She examines him with her Lifesense. This guy is not alive. She is picking up a sense of enormous prana from him, and a state of mind which is composed, put together and forceful. “Is this your home now?”
The figure in while answers gravely, “It is a convenient meeting place, lady.”
Fatima asks confusedly, “I beg your pardon lady?”
Rosamund grins disarmingly. “Just a fancy of mine. I like to address those who I’m imposing on, whether they’re present as you are, or not.” Rosamund then turns to the other figure and greets him, as well. He responds, “Greetings, Servant of Chaos.” With another grin to Fatima, she passes into the mausoleum.
Inside the mausoleum, she finds that along the walls there are “things”: Bits of ribbon, bottles of pop, a small bowl with some coins in it. There’s a large slab of white stone in the center with graceful arabesque carvings. There’s light filtering in from slots in the ceiling, and a pallet in one corner where Fatima appears to sleep.
Mabel nods politely at the two figures, who nod back and then follows Rosamund into the interior. Hellgrammite remains with Si, who pulls out his glasses with many attachments and examines the two figures. The figure in white is interesting. There’s a translucent silhouette in the ultraviolet. In the far infrared, there appears to be a cold spot. In the near infrared he appears human. With retrocog, it’s a long way back before he looks any different. At least 90 years. Beyond that, there’s an old man with white hair and a beard. Beyond that he starts aging backwards. The figure in blue is invisible except in visible light. In retrocog he appears to be a dotted line; he’s there for a while, and then not, and then back again. The uniform and weapons change. And the face changes sometimes, also.
Fatima is watching this show with mild curiosity as Glass takes off most of the lenses and puts them away. He bows and says, “The denizens of these parts are interesting sorts, Lady Fatima.” The last part is in Arabic.
Fatima bows in return. She responds in English, “You are a creature with very nice manners.”
“I make my poor attempts.”
“You are a friend of Ragnison? He is a righteous creature.”
“Perhaps ally more than friend.”
“Ally would be good. My son told me that Ragnison sent you here to seek help?”
“We are on an important errand. We require a certain amount of help. We have a thing that we wish to mask, conceal (he actually uses the Arabic word “syn”) from the observations and knowledge of those who would do us ill.”
“I’m afraid that it might come to that.”
“If you are the upholders of the world that I take you to be, then your enemies are enemies of the world.”
“They may not perceive themselves as such. We seek to unify order and chaos and there are those who seek to separate them. Without order, chaos is hyenas in the dessert. Without chaos, order is nothing but the grave.”
“This is about the interruption?”
Glass looks at her with renewed interest. “You noticed it? Few of your sort did. And most of those who did are not well.”
Fatima says, “Pardon me a moment,” bows her head and starts mumbling. The fellow in blue cocks his head and looks skyward, listening. Glass looks askance at the fellow in blue since it’s impolite to listen to her as she prays. After she stops, he continues to listen for a bit, and then looks at Glass.
“Yes, ” she resumes, “It seems you are of the righteous upholders of the world. ” She chuckles. “I remember my grandmother told me that the world was on the pinnacle of a mountain, held up by a giant, who stood on a bull, standing on a fish, swimming in a sea, borne on a mist, on the back of a serpent so vast, it held the nine hells in its mouth and could devour the whole of creation but for the fear of God. A tale for children. When I learned a little more of the upholders of the world, it was a little surprising.”
“It would be harder to speak of how some of us stand with our feet on many worlds at the same time.”
“But you are here for me to help you? I can offer you nothing but the blessing of the sheik.”
“We are seeking those who are knowledgeable in the concealment from the supernatural.”
The figure in white is clearly smirking. Fatima suggests, “I can offer up a prayer.”
Glass replies “Let me think, please.”
Fatima goes into the tomb and starts straightening the offerings. The two guardian figures remain outside, flanking the door.
Rosamund comes to her. “Pardon, Lady?”
“We came here in part to see this, and in part to see you.”
“We had a request to make of help from you.”
“So your friend outside said. You want help in concealing something from your enemies. I believe you to be the upholders of the world and wish you well.”
Outside, Hellgrammite addresses the man in white. “Would you be the one Ragnison sent us to speak to?”
The figure replies, “No. Ragnison only knows of my great-great-granddaughter.”
“Would you be able to help us?”
“Only as she would. And I wish you well. I have no desire to see the interruption happen again, or worsen.”
Glass muses, “I don’t think I want to use her to hide the decoy.”
The figure in white raises an eyebrow, “That is wise.” He takes the box from Hellgrammite and looks inside. “It is amusing.” He returns the box.
Glass responds, “We were hoping to partially conceal it and make it a better decoy.”
“So what you really want is to confuse your enemies.”
Fatima has come out of the crypt while Glass is speaking, apparently to thin air. She is now looking at Glass as if he’s very weird.
Glass turns to her. "Honored young lady, I hope we have not disconcerted you in seeking the wisdom of your illustrious forbearers.
Fatima replies, “He was more known for courage than wisdom.” (The fellow in white raises his eyebrows.)
“But one learns from one’s experiences, and he has no doubt had many since then.” The fellow in the blue uniform now has a smirk, which causes Glass to exclaim, “It’s not my fault!”
The blue figure responds, “I never said it was, Sir Knight.”
Fatima is staring at him as if he’s off his rocker.
Rosamund and the others have followed Fatima out of the mausoleum. She chuckles as she takes in the tableau.
Glass turns to the figure in blue and asks, “Have you perhaps any advice?”
The figure responds, “I’m not here to advise. I’m merely here to protect her.”
“In time as extraordinary as this, it’s often necessary to act off mission.”
Fatima chooses to ignore most of the comments to the air and cautiously says, “I don’t blame you.”
Glass turns to her and says “It’s been a long time.” After a reflective pause, he continues, “It turns out that our original ploy seems less well advised. Instead of trying to conceal the decoy, we need aid confusing our enemies.”
Rosamund clarifies, “So a general blessing.”
Glass replies, “Yes. With intent of confusing of the enemy.” He turns to Fatima. “So, honored young lady. If we might ask your blessing on the confusion of our enemies?”
Fatima considers. “Confusion to the enemies of the world? Of course. And I’ll asks the blessings of the sheik as well.” She mutters, and raises one hand above them. The sheik echoes her actions.
Rosamund puts one hand on Neville’s shoulder, and reaches out towards Fatima, but does not touch her.
After finishing her prayer, Fatima says, “I will remember you in my prayers. Would you like to come back to our house and have tea or coffee?”
Hellgrammite starts to say, “We must be on our way.”
But he’s overridden by Glass who says, “We’d be honored.”
Hellgrammite shrugs and bows to the two figures to and thanks him for their assistance. The figure in white responds, “You are entirely welcome. All blessings on you and your efforts.”
As we follow Fatima to the house, Rosamund spends a moment with each date palm and “Helps” it. The figure in white stays at the tomb. The gentleman in blue accompanies Fatima, at her right hand.
Before following, Glass concentrates on the desert and attempts to make sure that no one else can retrocog what happened here today.
Fatima leads us to the house our Jeep is parked in front of. Daoud joins us as we follower her in. Before entering, Glass spreads a hand full of sand across the transom.
We wait in the front room while Fatima makes tea and coffee. There are rather a lot of books here. The ones that are in English are about archeology. There are also a lot in Arabic. Daoud invites us to sit. “So you’ve been sent by that Ragnison that my cousin thinks highly of. I don’t know why she does. She says he’s a righteous … creature?”
Glass responds, “A good soul.”
Daoud continues, “I know he’s come here a few times, and they’ve had long talks which she was rather vague about. Did she accuse you of something?”
“No, that was something else entirely.”
“Ragnison said you were on an urgent mission.”
“Yes, we should be on our way soon.”
Daoud nods, “Very well. Here let me help you.” He goes to the kitchen and returns with cups.
Neville attempts to be polite. “So what do you do here?”
Daoud takes a sip of his coffee, through a sugar cube. “I’m an excavator. I hire out to archeologists. “
Neville responds, “I study paranormal occurrences back in the states.” He attempts unsuccessfully to follow Daoud’s example of how to drink coffee.
While they chitchat, Glass has been sketching a map on the glass of the table. It should lead Daoud to a small cache of treasure that was missed by the archeologists (and grave robbers) who found a princess’ tomb back in the 1910’s. It will fade away after two weeks. Our host doesn’t notice. Or at least doesn’t comment on it.
Once the social pleasantries have been attended to, we pile into the Jeep. When Daoud attempts to start the vehicle, it’s dead. Daoud looks irritated, gets out and opens the hood. After one look he exclaims, “The carburetor is gone!” There are probably other parts missing, too, since there was no sound of the engine cranking.
While Daoud fusses over the Jeep, Glass retrocogs and sees a woman in white who comes over and removes a bunch of components from the Jeep. He looks up from the sand to see a woman approaching. It’s the woman from his retrocog. She matter-of-factly states, “We’re quite willing that you should fix the Madagascar anomaly. And we’ll give you the parts back, if you give us the fragment.”
Last Updated: Jul 31, 2009
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved