In my experience, viziers can be grouped into two very different types. There were those that flaunted their power and status, lived the most lavish of life styles where only the best would do. They buy only the most expensive clothing, eat only the finest food; a life of luxury that is probably only rivalled by that of the Sultan. Then there are those viziers who live the frugal life more commonly associated with the clergy. I’ve often wondered why. Perhaps they think that in doing so, they will inspire others to live in an equally chaste way and spare the coffers of the palace. From the looks of the building and it’s contents, this vizier was likely to fall into the second category. A pity really – it meant there was less for me to relieve him of.
We were handed over to what I assumed to be the viziers personal guard, no doubt hand picked by him. They looked to be more competent (well, in better condition at least) than the Caliphs guards, and unlike the other guards their faces gave away not even the slightest flicker of emotion. Yes, these were definitely more dangerous.
Finally, we were led into a room where a man, presumably the vizier, sat eating. A quick glance over towards Garrin nearly caused me to laugh; he was near enough drooling, his eyes fixed on the monkey’s head on the plate.
“Greetings friends”, the vizier exclaimed, though, for the time being though, I was less interested in him and more so about the room we were in. Given the lack of other furniture in the room, I could not believe that the vizier often held audience with his visitors here so the lamps could not have been decorative. Something just wasn’t right. Why would a room, need so many lamps? No, there was definitely something more going on here. It was obvious that this situation demanded extra vigilance. After all, frugal or spendthrift, all viziers shared one thing in common. All were as devious as devils and could only be trusted to stab you in the back once they had finished using you for their own plans!
Posted on 2008-07-07 at 12:47:40.
Edited on 2008-07-07 at 12:50:43 by Leoricx
The Vizier rose gingerly from his chair, a pain clearly affecting his movements. He could see my eyes upon him and simply shrugged. “Age my dear Aban, touches us all, wise and fool alike”. He then looked to my brother and finally Garrin. “I am honoured Garrin, or should I say Javed Shah Sahar”. No, it couldn’t be, this plump, ruddy cheeked merchant was once the greatest thief in all of Twelve Cities. It was said that he broke into a Caliph’s Royal Palace just to leave a single flower for one of the Caliphs many daughters, a rare variety of the Thymus serpyllum. Some say the flower lives on, never wilting and will remain so for all time. Others say he got the wrong bedroom and gave the flower to a handmaiden by mistake, but I prefer the former story.
“You know not why you are summoned here friends”, I hated the use of the word friend and it seemed most unbecoming on his lips as if he had to spit the words from his mouth. “I have need of your special talents”, he beckoned to the guards who brought forward a box. It was a small chest barely two feet across and one foot high. Ornately carved but of no real value. The two guards lifted the box by the handles at either end but seemed to struggle with the weight despite its size and their bulk. It thudded down sending up a film of dust.
“There is a box that will look identical to this one in the ruins of Al Jamer”. We had all heard storied of Al Jamer, a thriving city close to a huge oasis; a proud city full of commerce and culture, destroyed as the ground shook and the heavens spat fire upon it. Some say the Caliph had betrayed the gods and was smote with all his followers. Others say the Vizier was responsible using dark ancient magic’s. No one had seen the ruins in my lifetime at least, the desert had swallowed it whole but not a year went by without one of the twelve cities sending a caravan to recover the lost treasures. Sometimes they would return weary, bereft of treasures, other times they would not return at all.
“Should you return the box to me unopened then all the treasures you desire shall be yours, satisfied in full from this day till you die” I didn’t like the way he emphasised the word ‘die’. We would be fools to refuse the quest, even if we had no intention of fulfilling it, just to be free. It seemed it was time to leave another city for my brother and I.
Was it possible that this merchant, bloated and seemingly as graceful as a bull, could be the famed Javed Shah Sahar? I had heard tales of him: stealing the Tyrian Ruby from the temple of the Tyrn brotherhood, the first man to break into the ‘impregnable’ Iron Fortress of Caliph Hossenie. There were even rumours that he had belonged to the infamous pack of thieves known across the continent as The Forty. Looking at him now, I could not see it, but the vizier must have his reasons for believing so.
No matter, Garrin may or may not have been what the vizier had said, that was of no importance right now. The chest that sat before us was not that big. That it could take two men to lift it spoke of something arcane, and if it involved magic then it was something to be wary of. I was distrustful of magic and those that employed it to their own means.
“Should you return the box to me unopened then all the treasures you desire shall be yours, satisfied in full from this day till you die”, the vizier said, his gaze drifting between my brother, Garrin and I.
“And just what would happen,” I sneered, “if we were to take the chest for ourselves?”
I was almost certain of what the answer to my question was to be, but I asked it anyway. I wanted to see just how the vizier would react.
There I was stood and for all I knew about to meet my death and all I could focus on was the monkey brains. I recalled the time I sat with the Caliph of Zaveh and it only added to my hunger. With my hand rubbing my belly it was three words spoken by Vizier that soon caught my attention, "...Javed Shah Sahar."
The two fools looked at me with quizzical expressions and why would they not. Javed Shah Sahar was a great thief, no the greatest thief, one of myths and legends. However if anyone was going to believe I was the one and same then they are as gullible as the customers I swindle everyday. The sad truth was I was the one and the same but to look at me now, old, fat and bad tempered. But that was a long time ago in a different life and one that brought with it painful memories. I was not about to confirm such diabolic claim and open old wounds, not when I could plea and hopefully get out myself of this mess.
Farooq spoke using the word ‘we’ as if I had already committed to this suicide mission.
"Please, I have only heard rumours of Javed Shah Sahar, you can not possible believe that I am one so great. I am but a humble flea market merchant and not the man you seek for this mission. I only ask that I am allowed to return and as a loyal servant to you and Dagrah, none that I have heard will leave my lips." I bowed slightly not raising my eyes to the vizier until he spoke. It pained me to grovel especially in front of the foolish twins but rather that then being sent on a senseless treasure hunt.
Fire is a fascinating thing, the closer you get the more you are drawn to it. I can sit and watch for hours letting it warm my hands and face in the cold desert nights. I love the way it dances along the wood slowly consuming it, gently at first then all of a sudden the wood will pop, giving in to the fires demands. As much as I am drawn to it though I certainly wouldn’t plunge my fist right in and expect not to get burnt.
I fully expected the Vizier to have his guards slice open my brother from neck to naval for such comments and was taken aback when he simply smiled, then laughed, then smiled once more. He pointed jovially to my brother. “You amuse me Farooq and for that I will let you live” The Vizier clasped his hands together. “As for you Garrin, I hope you are the man my informants say you are, because you will retrieve the box for me and if you are not he of renown then I doubt you would have the skills needed to survive.”
The Vizier ushered us out like goats informing us on our way that there was a banquet at the Caliphs palace that very night and that we were all invited. Attendance was compulsory; he even thrust a few dinar our way to purchase new clothes for the event. Apparently we smelt like camels.
Upon exiting the Viziers Palace I turn to my brother and Garrin
“What say you both? Do we flee now or do we go to the Caliphs Palace this evenings festivities?”
Posted on 2008-07-11 at 22:49:57.
Edited on 2008-07-11 at 22:51:35 by Dooby
Quite frankly I did not like the position I was in. I could flee, I still had contacts and other than my dogs really did not having anything of meaning here. However would the Vizier hunt us down and for how long? I had lived that life thinking it was over and though the twins could probably get away being younger, I would find it very difficult. Plus as soon as we left we would be followed. The other option was to go and have one last adventure. I came over all nostalgic.
“Well I have no plans on fleeing so I guess I am in. So if you will excuse me I have matters to attend to before the banquet. It would be wise if you both showed.”
I left the twins to debate between themselves but not before I tried my hand to the old ways so imagine Farooq surprise when he notices his brothers dagger where my takings were. It will teach him to mess with Javed Shah Sahar.
Posted on 2008-07-14 at 11:47:08.
Edited on 2008-07-17 at 15:37:46 by Cheshire Cat
“For once” I said, “I am in agreement with the buffoon.” I nodded in the direction of the now departing Garrin. “We should probably make an appearance. I don’t like having my strings pulled, and I trust the vizier about as much as a cobra. However, I don’t see that leaving now would be of benefit to us.
“Besides,” I said, a half grin on my face and my hand dropping to where I had stashed Garrin’s purse, “It’s been quite some time since we last ate with royalty.”
The smile did not last long though – though whether it was anger or shock that replaced it I could not really tell you. Somehow the purse had disappeared.
“I believe, brother, that this is yours.” I said, dryly, and held the dagger out towards Aban.
Garrin did have some skill; even if he was not who the Vizier thought it still took skill to steal from my brother so I looked upon him with a different air.
So it was decided, go to the Sultans Palace for the evenings festivities and see if we could gather more information along the way. We parted ways for the afternoon agreeing to meet at a the Market Traders Guild Hall right by the entrance to the Sultans Palace. It was easily identifiable due to a large palm which it is said pre dates the city itself. It bore no fruit however but was a great spot for a midday laze for those with time to do so, for those who wished to gaze upon the splendour of the palace and dream of marrying the Sultans daughter.
I had heard tell she escaped the Palace on a regular basis to enjoy the baser things a city could offer and I had even heard she was with child from a commoner. My father used to say that a rumour is not to be trusted unless it’s written on both sides of a parchment. Perhaps she would be at the banquet and I could decide for myself. There is a glow about a women that is almost unmistakable for someone as used to watching people as I.
I tried to find Annahita for the remaining hours before finally giving up and searching out a reputable merchant for some dress robes. If felt odd to be in clothes of refinery and I even washed at the local bath. It was refreshing though the summer had not been particularly oppressive thus far. I concealed the dagger my brother returned to me, the dagger he must have replaced Garrin’s takings with, and made my way towards the Palace.
I was almost there a when procession passed. There were many animals both camels and elephants and even a row of monkeys. The guards looked unfamiliar to any city I had thus seen so far. The blue pants and sash were pristine and I couldn’t fathom how they had travelled through the desert whilst remaining so clean. The desert was a harsh mistress at the best of times. There were several dignitaries but the one boldly sat astride a large elephant took my attention. He wore a white tunic and white pants a golden sash laid across his chest. His smile beamed from ear to ear and I couldn’t help but smile with him. The procession passed right into the Sultans Palace.
It was Aban Faheen I noticed as I waited outside the palace. I was going to make my way in with my soon to be fellow traveller but instead just allowed him to walk right past me. Whether it was the fact that my appearance had made a dramatic change from when we last met or because a procession was now making its way into the palace and distracted him he did not notice yours truly and for a thief his eyes are key so I put it down to a rudimentary blunder. His brother I was sure would not make the same mistake if anything it would not surprise me if he was already here watching us both ready to boldly announce himself like the self-confident bonehead that he was.
The reason I was waiting outside the palace was simple, the Vizier knew who I was and therefore whoever informed him would most likely attended the banquet. So by getting there early I could watch the guests entering and hope that a face from the past an old enemy maybe would appear. Up to the point of seeing Aban Faheen it had been a waste of time and therefore could only expect that his informer be already inside.
Since leaving the twins I had spent my time wisely. I have to calm my wife and make up a story that the Vizier wanted me to be his personal merchant that required me to leave the city. Handing over the dinars the Vizier gave me helped convince her, I even brought myself to give my poor suffering wife some slap and tickle. Leaving the dogs was more heart breaking and of course I did not leave them with my wife. I had a good and trustful friend who was more than helpful to take care and of cause it cost me but a price well worth paying. I then went about getting attired for the banquet. Now being a merchant you get to know people and it was times like these you needed to barter to get a fair deal. Of course I was able to make my purchases more beneficial to myself and I had tailored an exceptional outfit from the finest materials, fit for a banquet. So as that was being made it gave me chance to wash, shave, haircut and generally transform my appearance, the results I should add took years off me and when I did look into the mirror I could almost see my form life behind my eyes. The last task before I left for the palace was to gather a few artefacts that were once part of my life. I was ready and now I stood waiting for the procession to enter the palace to which I would follow.
Given that but a few hours ago I was looking forward to seeing my brother deal with an irate Garrin, my mood now was not what it should have been. Indeed, the events since then had more than soured my mood; I seethed on the inside, angry at the way I had allowed myself to be caught of guard and the way the guards had treated me. Even the vizier had treated me with contempt. All it would have taken was a flick of my wrist and a knife would have been buried deep within his skull. I sat, in the Shining Star tarvern (a place well known for it's somewhat shadowy customers), and dwelt on this image for a moment; the vizier's eyes rolled back, tongue lolling, and a thin red river of blood trickling from the wound. It lightened my mood a little, but nowhere near enough.
Draining the last of the liquor from the glass in front of me, I stood up and made my way, a little shakily, to the exit. Perhaps, it had not been the wisest of moves to have drunk so much, but there was still time before the festivities began to regain a little of my composure, though as soon as the early evening air hit my face, I began to doubt that. Checking that my weapons and equipment were in place I made my way to the rendezvous with my brother and Garrin.