Ren… Tell me the story of gold veil.
I have already told you that history many times, al-jamílah.
Please… I was young and I can barely remember it! I want to hear it again!
Alright, then… I cannot deny a request that comes from a beautiful face.
Li-iatamaged Allah, er-kharim er-rhaum.
takes a breath in the narguileh and blows some smoke into the air, his spell creating images in the smoke
The quest for the gold veil started many moons ago, before the death of our beloved master Beremiz Samir, in a time when men had not yet discovered things such as gunpowder and the sword was the only ruler. I had a two-story tall house in the rich side of Bagdahd. From the windows you could see the green gardens of the Sultan’s palace. I was at my desk in one of those slow nights, observing the stars and remaking my astronomical maps. I would have gone in star-gazing for hours, weren’t I interrupted by the call of a servant from the palace. He handed me a letter signed by my friend Jan Al-Hammad.
Al-Hammad had such a name, meaning “the one who works with iron”, because he was, by that time, the most famous blacksmith between the two rivers, Nile and Euphrates. His skills were the most expensive in Arabia. In those days he was busy crafting a Damascus Steel Sword for the Sultan. I could only imagine that he was requesting my presence to test some ores or to choose a passage of the sacred book to write on the hilt of the blade. I was wronged.
The letter read, and I quote:
"On the first day of the Ramadan, in the 231st year of the Profet
My friend Hajj Ren Ibn-Yussuf
In other letters luck smiled upon us and we would go for pages and pages of ink over linen. Things changed, as an efreeti must be dancing over the shadow of the believers. The first wife of the Sultan fell sick. No medic in the realms could find a cure to her illness. I think she has little time. Come at the pace of a bird."
I rapidly put the letter in a pocket in the inner side of my cloak and ran as the wind to the palace. Being known to the guards I was let in with no delay, though it took me some minutes to reach to the royal chambers as they guided me by the marble corridors of the building. Lost in such a maze I could not tell where they were leading me to.
When I reached to the fore-chamber The Sultan Mahommad Abd-Allah was screaming in despair. He got calm as soon as He saw me. I bowed and kissed his hands, and then at last we talked.
“I did not expect your presence here, Sheik Al-Mansur. And I imagine you had the help of magic power to know of such a thing.”
“Your majesty, my friend Jan Al-Hammad informed me of the happenings. Tell me how she is.”
“Please Sheik, see by yourself.”
As I entered the royal chamber, I saw The Queen in her last agonnies. Her face was white as a tooth, her eyes pitch black. Her hair seemed like the branches of a spiky tree and her tongue was purple. I held her hand. It was too late, though, as she passed out in that very instant.
“It is all my fault… It started a week ago… I should have called you before…”
“What is done is done. But in anyway, I don’t have lore on such an illness. I don’t think I could have helped.”
At that moment, Jan Al-Hammad came in, and said “Your majesty, I have sent a letter to Hajj Sheik… Oh, I see it is old news by now.”
“Uassalan, friend Jan.”
“I have a mission for you two.”
“We are yours to command, Your Majesty”, said Jan. I was still distracted thinking on the Queen.
“My favorite daughter has fallen sick today by the morning. I don’t want her to have the same destiny as her mother. Sheik Ren, I heard you have no lore on such a sickness. Well, you would better be having such a lore before she, too, passes away.”
The news hit my heart as an arrow. Kadijah Al-Johara, or Kadijah the Jewel in the tongue we speak now, was the very girl to whom I had fallen in love. She loved me too, and we were going to marry in one year. The news I had just had were the best incentive to go in such a quest for a cure.
No one in the palace slept that night. By the morning, I talked to the Sultan about a wise man from the desert I knew that could help us. Jan and I set to find him, even if that costed our lives.
“Aslama, Ren. So how was the talk with the Sultan?”
“Aslama. We are going to look for Abdul-Ahhad.”
“By the seven shadows of the Profet! How are we ever going to find the man?”
“We have been to worse. Ready the magic carpet.”
A few servants of the palace brought us some food the Royal cook had prepared for us, along with water, weapons, and bags filled with asorted things we might need. Jan tied it all into a single pile of stuff. I never helped him in doing so, the thought of Kadijah in disease haunting my soul. I couldn’t see her in that dreadful night since none knew if the disease was contagious. The Sultan, the Vizir and those closest to them went into quarantine. Jan and I would, too, if we weren’t going in a flight.
We literally took off an hour before the prayer of noon. For two days we flew over the swaying dunes of the desert aimlessly, like a boat drifting on the sea expecting to bump into an island. By the sunset of the third day we were discussing our progress.
“It’s useless, Ren. We are going nowhere.”
“Shall we fail, the whole Royal Family will perish, and so will we. Don’t get distracted. Hey, are you ate least paying attention to me?”
“Do mirages let out smoke?”
“No! What do you imply?”
“Luck smiles upon us! Look, over there!”
He had seen a fire in the desert. We knew in that moment it was Abdul-Ahhad because no other man would go so deep in the desert without the help of means such as our magic carpet.
We landed on a nearby dune and walked towards the old man. He received us with an Uassalan and two cups of water.
“So, what brings two of the greatest adventureers on Arabia to the middle of nowhere?”
“The Sultan’s wife has died of a mysterious disease, Cadi… And we fear that Al-Johara might die of such a disease soon if we don’t do anything”, said Jan. “To make things worse… Both of us, and also everybody who has been in contact with royalty the last few days, may also be in danger.”
“There is time for that later. For now, help me with my fire.”
“Master, the sand below our feet is still hot! Do you realy need a fire?”
“You will soon understand.”
And so we did. I had brought some magic oil. In my hurry, I spilled all of it into the fire. cursed be my hurry, as it created a giant flame tongue that almost consumed us three. The old man then chanted some formulae I had never heard before. The smoke coming from the fire grew to unquotable dimensions. A giant figure came out of the smoke. A 36-feet-tall Efreeti. Jan readied a Damascus Steel Sword. My scimitar Moonshine glew like a forge.
“Calm down, my younglings… This is a better creature to inquire about mystical diseases.”
I will never be able to do the trick Abdul-Ahhad had done. He got to summon a giant efreeti and put it under his control with only one spell. Swords back to waists, I raised my voice to the evil genie. “Tell me, beast”, said I, “if you know about a disease that makes the face turn into pearl, the tongue get the color of a grape, the hair grow like spikes, and the eyes lose their light!”. The voice of the beast made my soul freeze. “Weakling, cursed be thee for not saying yourself a medic and not knowing the curses and mystical diseases that plague your realms. Waste not my time, banish me back to the plane of forges and seek for knowledge among those of your kind.”
Being in the desperate state of mind I was, I cast an ice spell upon the beast, but it only resulted in a lot of vapor spreading through the area and nearly suffocating us. Abdul-Ahhad, wisest of the wise, was now the only one who could think clearly. He kindly questioned the genie. “Give my pupil the answers, and you shall be free!”. It worked. “I see that someone you love has fell into such illness you say. Worry not for you, your friends or royalty, for they are not infected. The disease in question is a curse. Your beloved is condemned to die.” I could not take that so easily and shouted. “Liar! Tell me of the undoing of the curse!”. “It is in the law, fool, but it will just substitute one fool for another.” After saying this, the genie dissapeared in an explosion. He had said all he knew, for the terms of Abdul’s spell stated that he would be freed after doing so.
I felt defeated for some hours. Jan, however, gave me the idea of searching for something in the books of law. After a few minutes I found it. The laws of the arabs were clear: “two persons may exchange their lives if both agree. By doing so, one person takes the life of the other - which inlcudes having all the good or bad fortune the other person has, as well as all law suits, compromises, titles, possessions and everything else that is relevant, except for the main name and familiy.” Kadijah could be freed from the curse - but someone would have to switch lives with her.
As we flew back to Bagdahd, I made my decision: I would take her life. “Ren, you don’t need to do this. Someone will end up diing, what good is sacrificing yourself this way?”. “Well, at least I will be a prince for a day or two, I suppose”, I replied.
In exactly one day we were back to the palace. The timing of the disease was not the same for everybody, however. Kadijah was close to having her last breath. I entered her room and we were left alone. In the white-colored room, her skin made little contrast. Kadijah had a different face from her mother, however. Her eyes not only had not grown all black, they got even more bright in their green hue. she seemed pale just like someone who has not been seen by the sun for long. Her brown hair, over her shoulders, looked like satin. I held her hands. “Kadijah, I ask you to stay with me in this agreement in the law” and started saying the formulae that would transfer her fate to me.
“I, Hajj Sheik Ren Al-Mansur Ibn Yussuf Al-Kasba, hereby agree to exchange my life for the…”
At this very moment, my lips were sealed by a hand as soft as silk.
“Do not say anything foolish. You have years before you yet to be lived.”
She pulled me towards her and we kissed. I do not know for how much time we stood there, feeling each other’s breath. When we let each other go, she handed me something she was keping under her sheet. The gold veil. “I am giving you this so you never forget me. I will never forget you.” And, having said these words, she passed out. The kingdom mourned for her death for long, and it took years for people to forget about the pearl they had lost.
I never forgot Kadijah, and I think I couldn’t with or without the veil. Her face still holds a very special place in the halls of my heart. I keep the veil close to my heart, hidden below my cloak, to this day.
crying softly This is so sad… Poor princess…
It was you who asked to hear it, jamílah. But let’s not talk more about it, for it is way past the time we went sleeping. Uassalan!