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Изменено (Azidamadjida): 3/21/2017 9:35:32 PM

REEF MOB, Ch. 66: The Merchant & the Alchemist, Part I

If you missed the last chapter of REEF MOB, you can find it [url=]here[/url], or if you need to find a previous chapter, you can find them all in the [url=]Table of Contents[/url]. Please give a bump or leave a comment if you enjoy this and any other chapter! *** As Seren leads Nas away, I remember what was written, what I’ve come back to again and again in multidimensional meditation: [i]There once was a young man named Hassan who was a maker of rope. He stepped through the Gate of Years to see the Cairo of twenty years later, and upon arriving he marveled at how the city had grown. He felt as if he had stepped into a scene embroidered on a tapestry, and even though the city was no more and no less than Cairo, he looked upon the most common sights as objects of wonder. He was wandering by the Zuweyla Gate, where the sword dancers and snake charmers perform, when an astrologer called to him. “Young man! Do you wish to know the future?” Hassan laughed. “I know it already,” he said. “Surely you want to know if wealth awaits you, do you not?” “I am a rope-maker. I know that it does not.” “Can you be so sure? What about the renowned merchant Hassan al-Hubbaul, who began as a rope-maker?” His curiosity aroused, Hassan asked around the market for others who knew of this wealthy merchant, and found that the name was well known. It was said he lived in the wealthy Habbaniya quarter of the city, so Hassan walked there and asked people to point out his house, which turned out to be the largest one on its street. He knocked at the door, and a servant led him to a spacious and well-appointed hall with a fountain in the center. Hassan waited while the servant went to fetch his master, but as he looked at the polished ebony and marble around him, he felt that he did not belong in such surroundings, and was about to leave when his older self appeared. “At last you are here!” the man said. “I have been expecting you!” “You have?” said Hassan, astounded. “Of course, because I visited my older self just as you are visiting me. It has been so long that I had forgotten the exact day. Come, dine with me.” The two went to a dining room, where servants brought chicken stuffed with pistachio nuts, fritters soaked in honey, and roast lamb with spiced pomegranates. The older Hassan gave few details of his life: he mentioned business interests of many varieties, but did not say how he had become a merchant; he mentioned a wife, but said it was not time for the younger man to meet her. Instead, he asked young Hassan to remind him of the pranks he had played as a child, and he laughed to hear stories that had faded from his own memory. At last the younger Hassan asked the older, “How did you make such great changes in your fortune?” “All I will tell you right now is this: when you go to buy hemp from the market, and you are walking along the Street of Black Dogs, do not walk along the south side as you usually do. Walk along the north.” “And that will enable me to raise my station?” “Just do as I say. Go back home now; you have rope to make. You will know when to visit me again.” Young Hassan returned to his day and did as he was instructed, keeping to the north side of the street even when there was no shade there. It was a few days later that he witnessed a maddened horse run amok on the south side of the street directly opposite him, kicking several people, injuring another by knocking a heavy jug of palm oil onto him, and even trampling one person under its hooves. After the commotion had subsided, Hassan prayed to Allah for the injured to be healed and the dead to be at peace, and thanked Allah for sparing him. The next day Hassan stepped through the Gate of Years and sought out his older self. “Were you injured by the horse when you walked by?” he asked him. “No, because I heeded my older self’s warning. Do not forget, you and I are one; every circumstance that befalls you once befell me.” And so the elder Hassan gave the younger instructions, and the younger obeyed them. He refrained from buying eggs from his usual grocer, and thus avoided the illness that struck customers who bought eggs from a spoiled basket. He bought extra hemp, and thus had material to work with when others suffered due to a delayed caravan. Following his older self’s instructions spared Hassan many troubles, but he wondered why his older self would not tell him more. Who would he marry? How would he become wealthy? Then one day, after having sold all his rope in the market and carrying an unusually full purse, Hassan bumped into a boy walking on the street. He felt for his purse, discovered it missing, and turned around with a shout to search the crowd for the pickpocket. Hearing Hassan’s cry, the boy immediately began running through the crowd. Hassan saw that the boy’s tunic was torn at the elbow, but then quickly lost sight of him. For a moment Hassan was shocked that this could happen with no warning from his older self. But his surprise was soon replaced by anger, and he gave chase. He ran through the crowd, checking the elbows of boys’ tunics, until by chance he found the pickpocket crouching beneath a fruit wagon. Hassan grabbed him and began shouting to all that he had caught a thief, asking them to find a guardsman. The boy, afraid of arrest, dropped Hassan’s purse and began weeping. Hassan stared at the boy for a long moment, and then his anger faded, and he let him go. When next he saw his older self, Hassan asked him, “Why did you not warn me about the pickpocket?” “Did you not enjoy the experience?” asked his older self. Hassan was about to deny it, but stopped himself. “I did enjoy it,” he admitted. In pursuing the boy, with no hint of whether he’d succeed or fail, he had felt his blood surge in a way it had not for many weeks. And seeing the boy’s tears had reminded him of the Prophet’s teachings on the value of mercy, and Hassan had felt virtuous in choosing to let the boy go. “Would you rather I had denied you that, then?” Just as we grow to understand the purpose of customs that seemed pointless to us in our youth, Hassan realized that there was merit in withholding information as well as in disclosing it. “No,” he said, “it was good that you did not warn me.” The older Hassan saw that he had understood. “Now I will tell you something very important. Hire a horse. I will give you directions to a spot in the foothills to the west of the city. There you will find within a grove of trees one that was struck by lightning. Around the base of the tree, look for the heaviest rock you can overturn, and then dig beneath it.” “What should I look for?” “You will know when you find it.” The next day, Hassan rode out to the foothills and searched until he found the tree. The ground around it was covered in rocks, so Hassan overturned one to dig beneath it, and then another, and then another. At last his spade struck something besides rock and soil. He cleared aside the soil and discovered a bronze chest, filled with gold dinars and assorted jewelry. Hassan had never seen its like in all his life. He loaded the chest onto the horse, and rode back to Cairo. The next time he spoke to his older self, he asked, “How did you know where the treasure was?” “I learned it from myself,” said the older Hassan, “just as you did. As to how we came to know its location, I have no explanation except that it was the will of Allah, and what other explanation is there for anything?”[/i] Seren and Nas reach the Baroness’ chamber before me – I pull my attention back to the present moment, even as part of me wonders: [i]Does Nas even suspect?[/i] “Kenedi,” Seren calls as she leads the way into her chamber, the Sarifs waiting at their stations outside as the Maivas greet us. “Coming, Lady Cay,” I answer, following her and Nas inside. “So why’d you even have me locked up?” Nas asks Seren. “You said we needed to prepare, so why even bother with the charade?” “Because it wasn’t for your sake,” Seren answers cooly as she enters, Nas and I following. “Then whose was it for? His?” Nas asks pointedly, gesturing back toward me. “I had to ensure you wouldn’t take off again. There must be a proper time for all things.” “Take off? Where would I – “ Nas stops walking suddenly, thinking hard. Seren smiles at his look of comprehension. “You [i]did[/i] know we were going to Chryses,” he says finally. “Which means…” The Sarifs close the door behind us, locking Seren, Nas and I in with the Maivas. “In time, Nas,” Seren answers. “But for now, we must begin to show you what you’ll need to know.” As Nas continues to look confused, Seren turns to her Maivas and gives them a mental order. Nodding lightly in confirmation, the Maivas all turn in unison to face Nas as their eyes begin to glow.

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