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Изменено (Azidamadjida): 3/23/2017 9:16:16 PM

REEF MOB, Ch. 67: The Merchant & the Alchemist, Part II

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! *** “Do you believe in destiny?” I hear Seren ask as Nas stares at the Maivas’ glowing eyes. “I….I….” Nas stutters, at a loss for words. “I suppose when you think about it, it really doesn’t matter if you believe,” Seren continues. “Belief doesn’t even factor in. You can deny or accept it, but it doesn’t change what is, what was, or what will be.” [i]Nothing erases the past. There is repentance, there is atonement, and there is forgiveness. That is all, but that is enough.[/i] I remember what was written once more – [i]Raniya had been married to Hassan for many years, and they lived the happiest of lives. One day she saw her husband dine with a young man, whom she recognized as the very image of Hassan when she had first married him. So great was her astonishment that she could scarcely keep herself from intruding on their conversation. After the young man left, she demanded that Hassan tell her who he was, and Hassan related to her an incredible tale. “Have you told him about me?” she asked. “Did you know what lay ahead of us when we first met?” “I knew I would marry you from the moment I saw you,” Hassan said, smiling. “but not because anyone had told me. Surely, wife, you would not wish to spoil that moment for him?” So Raniya did not speak to her husband’s younger self, but only eavesdropped on his conversation, and stole glances at him. Her pulse quickened at the sight of his youthful features; sometimes our memories fool us with their sweetness, but when she beheld the two men seated opposite each other, she could see the fullness of the younger one’s beauty without exaggeration. At night, she would lie awake, thinking of it. Some days after Hassan had bid farewell to his younger self, he left Cairo to conduct business with a merchant in Damascus. In his absence, Raniya found the shop that Hassan had described to her, and stepped through the Gate of Years to the Cairo of her youth. She remembered where he had lived back then, and so was easily able to find the young Hassan and follow him. As she watched him, she felt a desire stronger than she had felt in years for the older Hassan, so vivid were her recollections of their youthful lovemaking. She had always been a loyal and faithful wife, but here was an opportunity that would never be available again. Resolving to act on this desire, Raniya rented a house, and in subsequent days bought furnishings for it. Once the house was ready, she followed Hassan discreetly while she tried to gather enough boldness to approach him. In the jewelers’ market, she watched as he went to a jeweler, showed him a necklace set with ten gemstones, and asked him how much he would pay for it. Raniya recognized it as one Hassan had given to her in the days after their wedding; she had not known he had once tried to sell it. She stood a short distance away and listened, pretending to look at some rings. “Bring it back tomorrow, and I will pay you a thousand dinars,” said the jeweler. Young Hassan agreed to the price, and left. As she watched him leave, Raniya overheard two men talking nearby: “Did you see the necklace? It is one of ours.” “Are you certain?” asked the other. “I am. That is the bastard who dug up our chest.” “Let us tell our captain about him. After this fellow has sold his necklace, we will take his money, and more.” The two men left without noticing Raniya, who stood with her heart racing but her body motionless, like a deer after a tiger has passed. She realized that the treasure Hassan had dug up must have belonged to a band of thieves, and these men were two of its members. They were now observing the jewelers of Cairo to identify the person who had taken their loot. Raniya knew that since she possessed the necklace, the young Hassan could not have sold it. She also knew that the thieves could not have killed Hassan. But it could not be Allah’s will for her to do nothing. Allah must have brought her here so that he might use her as his instrument. Raniya returned to the Gate of Years, stepped through to her own day, and at her house found the necklace in her jewelry box. Then she used the Gate of Years again, but instead of entering it from the left side, she entered it from the right, so that she visited the Cairo of twenty years later. There she sought out her older self, now an aged woman. The older Raniya greeted her warmly, and retrieved the necklace from her own jewelry box. The two women then rehearsed how they would assist the young Hassan. The next day, the two thieves were back with a third man, whom Raniya assumed was their captain. They all watched as Hassan presented the necklace to the jeweler. As the jeweler examined it, Raniya walked up and said,” What a coincidence! Jeweler, I wish to sell a necklace just like that.” She brought our her necklace from a purse she carried. “This is remarkable,” said the jeweler. “I have never seen two necklaces more similar.” Then the aged Raniya walked up. “What do I see? Surely my eyes deceive me!” And with that she brought out a third identical necklace. “The seller sold it to me with the promise that it was unique. This proves him a liar.” “Perhaps you should return it,” said Raniya. “That depends,” said the aged Raniya. She asked Hassan, “How much is he paying you for it?” “A thousand dinars,” said Hassan, bewildered. “Really! Jeweler, would you care to buy this one too?” “I must reconsider my offer,” said the jeweler. While Hassan and the aged Raniya bargained with the jeweler, Raniya stepped back just far enough to hear the captain berate the other thieves. “You fools,” he said. “It is a common necklace. You would have us kill half the jewelers in Cairo and bring the guardsmen down upon our heads.” He slapped their heads and led them off. Raniya returned her attention to the jeweler, who had withdrawn his offer to buy Hassan’s necklace. The older Raniya said, “Very well. I will try to return it to the man who sold it to me.” As the older woman left, Raniya could tell that she smiled beneath her veil. Raniya turned to Hassan. “It appears that neither of us will sell a necklace today.” “Another day, perhaps,” said Hassan. “I shall take mine back to my house for safekeeping,” said Raniya. “Would you walk with me?” Hassan agreed, and walked with Raniya to the house she had rented. Then she invited him in, and offered him wine, and after they had both drunk some, she led him to her bedroom. She covered the windows with heavy curtains and extinguished all lamps so that the room was as dark as night. Only then did she remove her veil and take him to bed. Raniya had been flush with anticipation for this moment, and so was surprised to find that Hassan’s movements were clumsy and awkward. She remembered their wedding night very clearly; he had been confident, and his touch had taken her breath away. She knew Hassan’s first meeting with the young Raniya was not far away, and for a moment did not understand how this fumbling boy could change so quickly. And then of course the answer was clear. So every afternoon for many days, Raniya met Hassan at her rented house and instructed him in the art of love, and in doing so she demonstrated that, as is often said, women are Allah’s most wondrous creation. She told him, “The pleasure you give is returned in the pleasure you receive,” and inwardly she smiled as she thought of how true her words really were. Before long, he gained the expertise she remembered, and she took greater enjoyment in it than she had as a young woman. All too soon, the day arrived when Raniya told the young Hassan that it was time for her to leave. He knew better than to press her for her reasons, but asked her if they might ever see each other again. She told him, gently, no. Then she sold the furnishings to the house’s owner, and returned through the Gate of Years to the Cairo of her own day. When the older Hassan returned from his trip to Damascus, Raniya was home waiting for him. She greeted him warmly, but kept her secrets to herself.[/i] As the Maivas continue to levitate and hold Nas transfixed, I look around the chamber, every inch a testament to the power and allure of our freedom from Vesta. [i]The Baroness defied the Queen to gain all this… …but did she do it because she was destined to, or because she chose to? Did Hassan or Raniya step through the Gate of Years because they chose to, or because they were destined to?[/i] “Kenedi,” Seren calls. “Yes?” “You have the surveillance files?” “Of course.” “Show them to Nas. He must witness.” I nod as the Maivas hover around Nas, holding him in place as they chain him to floor, a monitor descending in front of him, showing: [i]A young Awoken woman with bright golden eyes is led by the green-clad Fallen to the base of a throne – [/i] The Maivas fall to the back of the room, their task completed. Nas comes back to himself as he tugs at the chains around his wrists. “Thought you said these weren’t needed anymore?” “They weren’t,” Seren replies cryptically. “But they will be.” “What?” Nas asks as he looks at the monitor. [i]Taniks kills the Fallen, and in a few swift movements, seizes the Awoken woman, hoisting her high –[/i] “Is that…” [i]Taniks growls at her, holding her arm between his fingers –[/i] “Ia!” Nas barks, struggling against the chains. [i]Taniks snaps Ia’s arm as she struggles to hold in her scream.[/i] “You must bear witness,” Seren repeats. “It is your destiny.”

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