What am I to do with my brother? Every good deed I attempt is thwarted by his callousness and uncaring nature. Every time I hear of an assassination I assume the worst, although he protests his innocence vigorously in those cases. The city of Dagrah does have its fair share of thieves and vagabonds to be fair so I tend to believe him. As children he was the one who would get us into trouble and I too became tarred with his brush. That is not to say I don’t love my brother nor is that to say I wouldn’t trust him with my life, just not my wallet or my woman.
Ah here he comes now; he walks tall and proud, his white cloak, blasted by sand, wrapped tightly around him, his green eyes staring at me unblinking. People continue to mill around the stalls in the Great Market Square, unaware of a master thief amongst them. A single black band of silk adorns his head and a khopesh lies not so far from his hand. Ah, that khopesh, I have seen many wonders from it in the hands of my brother. I have seen no finer sword.
“Greetings Brother”, he smiles warmly with the slightest smirk. Now I am alarmed.
It’s a funny thing about mirrors, no matter how much that image may look like you, it’s always doing the opposite. So when I describe my brother as my mirror image, it is incredibly apt.
Yes, we’re twins. Yes, we both showed an early aptitude for the somewhat seedy skills of the cutpurse. But there’s one really big difference between us; he’s a sap, I’m not. A lesson we were taught early on that I took to heart and he never really seemed to grasp is that you look out for number one first. Perhaps when we were younger, snatching food from stalls and relieving merchants of the odd coin or two we may have dreamed of doing something special, something heroic, something that would take us away from the streets. But I hold those aspirations no longer. I take what I want and when I want it, where as he is more likely to give it to some one legged, plague riddled beggar. More the fool him!
Don’t get me wrong, he’s my brother and I have his back. He’s probably the only person I’d trust to be there for me. If only he’d sort out his priorities. Still, if he felt it necessary to gratify his conscience, let’s see how he handles this. Garrin, a rather large, obnoxious and quick to anger merchant will at any moment discover his days takings have “disappeared”. Imagine his surprise when he finds my brothers dagger left behind. I wonder how that might have got there…
You can’t blame me for grinning when I saw him across the market square.
I only remember my brother grinning like that three times; the most recent of which was when he had bedded the daughter of a Sultan. Invariably those grins mean we must flee the city or Oasis we are currently staying. It also means we never find a place to call home and as such, though my loins ache for a son, I have no heir. My brother has many illegitimate sons but none may take his name so I’m sure he feels the same shame as I.
Only the second time I saw him grin like that was when he’d killed a man in cold blood. The man owed him many bistri’s I am told but he was certainly made an example of. My brother administered the death by a thousand cuts. Since that day the victim’s family have spent their entire fortune in tracking my brother down, but he is as the desert wind to them. I try to push him in the right direction but he is a stubborn camel. I feel there is a soul to be saved but I think I need help in reaching it – if it still remains.
“What have you done Brother!”
My fist clenches and my heart quickens. My ears instinctively listen for the sounding alarms high on the rooftops, but thank Allah, there are none.
The morning had seen once particular buyer, foreign looking fair skinned and far too thin the very type I loathed and loved to swindle take an interest in one of my Persian rugs. It was an ugly looking thing that had surely been put together by a colour-blind one-handed imbecile. Quite how I ended up with such a monstrosity was hard to remember but a heavy drinking session would have certainly played its part. This foreigner had however taken a fancy to the rug and being able to read such gullible but wealthy people I was not only able to sell the rug but at three times its worth. After that I allowed myself a smug smile, I knew it would be a good day.
If only everyday was like today then I could feast like a sultan but often or not us merchants were at the mercy of thieves. Now I was very careful when it came to money and although I was a generous size that put many a thief taking from me, I was still a merchant and still a target. My lucrative day though had interfered with my concentration, as I never ever left my money unattended and it was to my horror when I discovered my profitable days takings had gone.
Now I would be lying if I were the type of man you could control his rage and this particular episode was more due to my stupidity than being robbed. A fellow merchant and competitor who had picked up on my misfortune had a smug grin on his face that I was about to pummel had I not noticed the dagger. The dinar dropped, I knew the owner of the dagger and was it a coincidence that the day my takings are taken a dagger is left behind by a thief I knew well.
Yes the day had gone well too well and looking around the market I spotted the thief I wanted and surprise, surprise his brother also. I spat out the excess flem that had built up during my anger, adjusted my mid drift bulk and not taking my eye of the pair made my way thinking only how best to punish the poor sap.
To anyone else that may have been watching, they probably wouldn’t have noticed the clenching of my brothers fists, the slight narrowing of his eyes and the almost imperceptible quickening of his breath. To be honest, if I wasn’t looking for it, I too wouldn’t have seen. As it was though, I did, and the rush of pleasure that this brought me was almost too much to bear. Things had been quiet since our hurried departure from Quahbul, the Sultan’s own guard snapping at our heels like a pack of hungry dogs, and any excuse to liven things up a little was welcome.
“And one thousand blessings on you too, brother mine. But, tell me, why would you assume that I, Farooq Asir, had done something?” I said, pouting a little in faux-disappointment. “I have merely been visiting the market, doing a little…shopping. After all, was it not you who decided it best if we kept our heads down for a few weeks?”
With carefully managed nonchalance, I walked past my brother to a small water well nearby – a luxury in a smaller town but not so rare in a city of this size. I quickly drew the bucket from out the well, the rope cool, damp and rather unpleasant in my hand, then took a long draught, losing as much of the precious water down the front of my tunic as I managed to drink.
“And what of you?” I said when, finally I had finished, “How has your day been spent? No doubt in ways more righteous and charitable than my own.” I glanced back toward where my brother still stood, eyeing me, but in truth I paid him little heed. From what I had heard around the marketplace and stalls, the only thing faster than Garrin’s temper was the speed with which he would close a sale. I fully expected to see him at any moment, and did not want to miss one second when he eventually showed up. And, with a face the colour of a plum, there he was, crossing the market straight towards us.
“I will deal with you later” I hissed through clenched teeth, holding my fist in check.
My day was spent building up trust with a local thief who told me, for a price, the name of another thief who could get both my bother and myself into the thieves’ guild. Once initiated no one would be able to murder my brother without prior permission from the guild. To go against the guild would mean death not only for you and your family, but anyone who had any dealing with you. So whilst I was risking life and limb making contacts in the seediest parts of the city my brother had been up to his old tricks.
I strode out into the market square to head off the oncoming Garrin. I had two choices, listen to his argument or kill him before he had chance to speak. A blade just above the fourth rib would end his life in an instant. There would be so little blood it might even look if his weak heart had just stopped of its own accord. It would give us time to collect our few possessions and flee.
As I approached Garrin I caught a figure out of the corner of my eye. It was Annahita my recent contact. She lazed against a sandstone wall in the midday sun with only her brilliant blue eyes visible beneath her headscarf. Green eyes were rare enough in this land but blue eyes meant a foreign devil. It was intriguing that such a devil would be allowed into a guild, the most secretive and distrustful group of people you would ever hope to find.
I approach Garrin with a hand inside my tunic clenching my blade tightly, I hope my smile is convincing as I wish prosperity on him and his family
Posted on 2008-06-30 at 12:27:03.
Edited on 2008-06-30 at 12:27:41 by Dooby
I knew those brothers would be trouble ever since they came to Dagrah. You can not trust twins there is just something unnatural about twins but still I did not think they would have had the nerve to try it on with me.
Now punishment, what punishment would best suit this rogue. I could crush his skull with my hand, no not painful enough, snap his neck, no far too quick. I know I will feed him to my dogs. Yes that sounded satisfying it would be very painful and not too quick.
The audacity of the man he was actually approaching me with his fake over friendly smile. "Aban Faheen," I finally bellowed not able to hold in my fury any longer "I am going to feed you to my dogs." Sweat was now dripping down my forehead and with my large mass making the earth quake I brandished the dagger. I could have cut him down too size there and then but for gathering crowd of onlookers. "You dare..."
The rest was a blank. All I know was that I was on the dusty ground the sun beating down on my face and when I got my focus back, peering down was the nauseating face of Aban Faheen.
It was the mysterious Annahita that had distracted my attention and stopped me from noticing the two guards bearing down on Garrin. I had seen one of the guards several days before; a singularly nasty man with desires not fit for a goat never mind a Guard of the Caliph.
With one swift motion he brought the hilt of his khopesh in a stinging arc to the back of Garrin’s skull. Garrin was clearly the target but still I sensed danger. I tried to blend back into the crowd but the guard sneered, “Stand still Aban Faheen Asir. The Vizier wishes to see you and that camel loving brother of yours.” I was shocked that I was known to the Vizier and even more shocked that he would wish to see me. I had clearly not been as careful as I thought or my brother had betrayed me. I had to check on Garrin so leant by his side. Friend or enemy I had to check he was still alive for the blow was a mighty one indeed. Fortunately I suspected one of Garrin’s strengths would be the thickness of his skull.
Two more guards arrived flanking my brother who was uncharacteristically caught flat footed. I prayed to Allah he didn’t try to fight his way out.
I rise and start to follow the guards, urging my brother to do the same pleading with my eyes as Garrin is dragged by his boots also – it seems he is wanted by the vizier as well.
Garrin slumped to the floor as gracefully as a sack of rocks. For all I cared, the fool could be dead, head cracked like an egg. What really irked me though was that the guards had been able to take me by surprise. Perhaps I had been too caught up with my brothers reaction, but one thing was definitely for sure. It would not happen again.
“Stand still Aban Faheen Asir. The Vizier wishes to see you and that camel loving brother of yours.”
That quip earned the guard a black look. Well, see how funny he is later with cold steel pressed against his throat, and I toyed with the idea of rushing the ham-fisted ox now, but decided against it. Four guards wouldn’t prove much of a challenge – in my experience most guards had a job deciding which end of a sword to hold onto. But, undoubtedly, there were likely to be more guards nearby. For now, the best option was to do as we were told. I watched as my brother bent over the prostrate figure of the merchant. No doubt, he was checking to see if the fool still breathed. It would seem that Garrin skull was up to the task though as he sat up, somewhat groggily. The guard who had bludgeoned Garrin to the ground, the captain perhaps, watched as his colleagues jostled and pushed and, in Garrin’s case, dragged the three of us toward the palace.
I glanced over my shoulder at the guard behind me, squat and as broad as a mountain. “Touch me again,” I growled, “and I swear, I’ll cut out the eyes of your children and feed them to the dogs!”
The squat guard seemed to consider my words for a moment before, once again, pushing me, this time hard enough to make me stumble. This obviously amused the captain as he barked out a laugh. Let him laugh for now though. For, as we were forced through the streets, I brooded on the fact that before the end of the week this city would find itself two guards fewer…
Posted on 2008-07-02 at 13:04:13.
Edited on 2008-07-02 at 13:06:33 by Leoricx
My mother always said I was dropped on my head at birth and ever since managed to brush off any blow that struck, as my mother would say, ‘thick head’. This was no exception.
The blow came as a bit of a surprise and as I sat trying to gain my composure, I heard comments aimed at the brothers. Justice it seems was about to prevail as the Vizier wanted to see the no good scoundrels and hopefully string them up by the neck. I could throw in my misfortune for good measure maybe get some compensation out of the situation.
This of course would be a sight to see and see I would get at first hand as it was no only the twins that were being marched to the Vizier. I too was well not so much being marched but dragged. One minute I was sitting blessing the good fortunate the next two hefty oafs grabbed each of my legs and started dragging me through the dirty and dusty streets of Dagrah.
Yes I could have wailed and yes it was damn right humiliating for a man of my stature but I was not going to argue with the issue. The guards could have be easily overcome but to double cross the Vizier would be foolish, I knew this all too well. Unlike the arrogant twins I had family to protect. So as I was being dragged I started to think why the Vizier would want me. Did I not give a good deal to his brother not so long ago surely that would put me in good graces, then again he thought he was getting a good deal, I knew differently!
When you’re with a guard every face you see looks at you differently. Some look upon you with fear for you must be someone of importance to be seeing the Vizier. Others look upon you with scorn, already accused as criminals. Others show pity for they know that few who enter the Viziers palace ever return. The people were not my concern only the outcome of the meeting. If the Vizier wanted us dead he would surely have bade the thieves guild do it but then again he might have wanted us tortured first. My mind scurried as we travelled West the short distance to the great gates of the Viziers stronghold.
Great black gates stood twenty feet tall flanking impenetrable sandstone walls. The AS the great gates swung open the Palace presented itself and had a main structure where one assumed the Vizier resided, and four almost identical outbuildings. The main structure wasn’t as opulent one might have suspected for the second most powerful man in Dagrah. No gold adorned any of the architecture and indeed some of the buildings seemed to be in a state of disrepair.
As every good thief should do I looked around for escape routes but none jumped immediately to mind. The grounds were very open and each and ever guard had a shortbow across their backs. None of the building lay close enough to the perimeter wall to scale and flee and the gates were manned by a score or more. If my brother was searching for escape routes also he hid it well. Garrin had returned to his feet and appeared to be equally angry with the guards as he was at me but knew better than to antagonise them.
The huge gates slammed shut ominously behind us.
Posted on 2008-07-02 at 22:34:05.
Edited on 2008-07-02 at 22:34:38 by Dooby
It was not until the Viziers palace that I was finally released. Cursing the guards under my breath I got to my feet and began to dust myself down. The twins were a step in front of me one standing nonchalantly the other scouting the inside of the palace.
I had no plans for a swift escape as it is times like these my size is a small hindrance. I would wait for the Vizier, if indeed he came personally, and grovel if needs must. How, indeed why was I put in the same company of these two thieves beat the hell out of me.
What was even more frightening was even if I was released with nothing more than a ticking off the wife would no doubt want blood from yours truly. No doubt someone has already informed her of my current whereabouts and though she knew her place, therefore a rescue was out of the question she would be brooding and cursing my name. Indeed, I will be in for it when I get home. I could forget being feed, that will go the dogs, forget a comfortable nights sleep, it would be the floor and as for pleasure...well that been off the cards for years so no change there at least, if anything it would be more of a punishment by receiving some!
No I shall just have to come to that particular bridge when it happens. First of all I had to get out of here and standing next to these felons did not look a healthy position to be in. Pray Allah may the Vizier be merciful.
The palace is impressive; it’s walls looming and, though scarred by the cruel winds which sweep in from the desert, seemingly impregnable. It never fails to amaze me. These are the type of walls built to keep the sort of person of which I am a prime example on the outside. So to be escorted in by the guards is more than a little ironic.
As we moved through the gates I took in as much detail as possible, looking for possible escape routes or places of concealment. A quick glance towards my brother indicated that he too was searching. He may be soft, but he knew his trade almost as well as me. It seemed that even the fool merchant knew better than to vent his spleen. Which is a good thing for him. If he had decided to shout the odds I would probably have slit his throat to shut him up – if the guards didn’t do it first that is.
The walk from the market to the palace had given me time to think. Why would the vizier summon us to speak with him? Apart from the incident with Garrin I had, against my nature, done as my brother had instructed and laid low. I doubt that he could have done anything to draw the attention of the vizier. I was intrigued to find out what could cause one as high up the social order as the vizier to seek to consort with street scum like my brother, Garrin and I. Still, he better hadn’t leave us waiting for long…
Posted on 2008-07-03 at 22:08:45.
Edited on 2008-07-05 at 00:55:43 by Leoricx
We were ushered into the main building with a little less force than we were previously marched through the streets, as if some fear had crept into the hearts of the guards. They looked more nervous, flicking their eyes as if hearing a noise in the darkness that hung in every nook and cranny. It was then I heard a whisper, it was my name I am sure of it. I listened again and but it was gone. Shadows danced on the walls which didn’t seem to fit the light cast by the braziers. It was an evil place, even the paintings of the Caliph on the wall – a most jovial man by all accounts – seemed somewhat eerie hung high on the walls where one would strain even to see.
Several chambers branched off from the main chamber but we didn’t have long to wait until two guards appeared from a doorway off to our right. The two guards were dressed quite differently from the Caliph’s guards and appeared immaculate when compared to the sweaty, ugly oafs flanking us. Their vest, pants, turban and sash were of the finest silk and was the deepest red, almost blood red. The sash sat perfectly on their chiselled bodies, further pouring humiliation on the Caliph’s guards. The guards exchanged hushed whispers and the Caliph’s guards left as fast as they could without losing face altogether and running from the building.
The Viziers guards then bade us enter the room from whence they came. Where the Caliphs guards were brash and arrogant, the Viziers guards were cold and emotionless; indeed, even though it was just past midday, not a drop of sweat could be seen on either of them.
The room was roughly rectangular with many small alcoves each with an ornamental lamp at its centre. The ceiling was again high but little natural light found its way in. A single chair sat occupied at the end of the room. A grey robed man sat considering us all with a slightly amused expression on his face. His hair was grey, brushed forward but was still thick despite his apparent years. He dabbed a napkin to his mouth as he rose to greet us. I expected to see him eating something to turn a camel’s stomach but all he was eating was the delicacy that is monkey brains.
“Greetings friends”, he threw his arms wide. “I am the Grand Vizier”. His face was welcoming but his eyes betrayed his true feelings towards us.
I walked behind the twins as the brainless guards ushered us in to the heart of the palace. Part of me was still praying that we would not actually face the Vizier himself and that this was too insignificant of his time. That hope soon faded when I spotted the Viziers loyal guards. This was not the first time I had been in front of a Vizier, well no this particular Vizier. The first time was in another lifetime, one long ago when I was young and foolish. I guess a bit like the two fools in front of me. Still I survived that particular day which changed my life to the one I had up to today.
Now I just stood in the Viziers of Dagrah main chamber looking at a man eating monkey brains who determined whether or not I had a life tomorrow. My belly rumbled.