Sadat remembered his time in the garden of paradise. He now knew it was all just a drug induced hallucination: a wet dream. But it had been good while it had lasted. Sometimes he kind of missed the experience of wine, the tobacco and the women. The master Salazar was an amazing man and he was absolutely devoted to him. But his austerity was too much for Sadat. It had been months since Sadat had even seen anything remotely feminine. When they disembarked at ports, everyone rushed off to the whorehouses to relieve themselves of the built up heat. Sadat however usually chose to stay by his master’s side. The master had no use for whorehouses or taverns. He just sought out libraries and devoted himself to his studies. Sadat just stood silently by his side, keeping watch over him. The master actually did not ask anything of him and treated him like a friend. But that made him only even more loyal to him. He had given his word to his master and he had to keep his word. So he stood silently by his master's side forsaking of wine and women.
Now in the safety of the boat, he had no fear for his master’s life. So he could afford to indulge himself. So far there had been no opportunities. But now an opportunity had presented itself – the lovely girl the master had rescued. She looked so vulnerable – sleeping innocently in the the cabin the master had allotted to her. Sadat was filled with anticipation as he gazed at her from the opening in the hatch. He had never been with a real woman. And this woman looked even better than the drug induced succubi. He slowly pushed the hatch open to enter without waking her up. As he stepped closer to her, he was startled by a sudden sound. It was a terrible sound as if a hundred women were wailing. Indeed heart rending wails they were! The wails resounded all over the boat. All the other sailors were gathering around him. So much for secrecy!
The sound had woken her also up. Her dark eyes were blazing in fury. “What you think you are doing, Chaplado? You think I am a curva for the taking?”
Sadat was shell shocked, first by the wailing sound and then by the sudden outburst. “Well. Er. I just came to check if you needed dinner”, he stammered and tried to back off. All the others were watching with interest. The wailing still continued unabated.
“You think you a Drabamni would not know what your wanted? For thine Bezex , a Farmechiv upon thee!” Her eyes blazed with fury. She began to make strange gestures with her hand uttering some intelligible words. Suddenly Sadat’s body froze as if he was standing in attention and he fell to the floor like a toy soldier.
By now Salazar had joined the crowd, “I should have known. Little girl always wants to be the center of all attraction, eh?”
He just clicked his fingers and uttered a quick word. Sadat was up on his feet. “Come, Sadat. If you are done with your carousal, can we get back to work?”
Rowena was left fuming as the crowd flowed away like water down a slope. Everyone got back to their work as if nothing happened. But Sadat had learnt his lesson. Rowena was not a woman to mess with. A month back he had been smug and over confident as the most dangerous assassin of Egypt. Now within a month he had been bested not once but twice. And by the least likeliest of adversaries! A frail untidy middle aged scholar and a chit of a girl hardly fitted his description of formidable foes. He had better get used to the fact that there were more powerful people in the world than him and that one can not gauge someone's power by their external appearances.
His reflections were rudely disturbed by a sudden jerk. Something had hit the hull. He stood up and looked. It was a war galley with catapults and archers on board ready for assault. They would be drowned in no time. He ran to find Salazar. Salazar as usual received the news in his attitude of unperturbed calm. He then walked up to the board without adding the slightest pace to his gait as if he was used to marine battles on a day to day basis. He reached the board of the galley and made some hissing noises. Suddenly the water around the war galley seemed to come alive. The water stirred furiously and then suddenly around twenty to thirty long serpentine heads emerged from the water. In moments, battle fortunes had shifted and attacker had turned defender under siege by huge sea serpents.
All the people aboard Salazar’s ship cheered as they saw the war galley going down. But their happiness was short lived for they could see a complete fleet of war galleys and fire triremes emerging across the horizon. Even the snakes could not stand up to such a force. They would all be slaughtered. Salazar still seemed to maintain his composure. Everyone looked on to him anxiously. After seeing repeated display of his power, Sadat and the entire crew had developed an unshakable faith in him, almost bordering on worship. They were sure he could get them out of this crisis as well.
But with time, it began to become evident that Salazar had no more aces up his sleeves. The enemy was quickly gaining on them and a fire ball had just fallen too close for comfort. Salazar’s calmness seemed to be just a facade. He seemed to have resigned himself to his fate. He kept summoning snakes but then there are only so many snakes that can exist in an area. One can not perpetually keeping creating snakes out of thin air. One or two enemy ships went down but the snakes were getting gutted by the fire triremes and their numbers were dwindling fast.
A fire trireme had just rammed into the galley and it had caught fire. They would all be dead soon. Any amount of personal power was useless against the brute force of numbers that a prince could command. Salazar had bitten off more than he could chew by taking on a prince. And all for that vicious and ungrateful bitch!
But right at the moment of peril, it seemed Salazar had managed to once again pull a rabbit out of his hat. The attacks came to a halt all of a sudden. There was confusion in the enemy ranks. The crew quickly made use of the opportunity to douse the fire. The enemy ships seemed to be meandering around aimlessly and firing arrows and fire bolts into thin air. The crew wondered what was happening. But self-preservation came before curiosity. So they made use of the chaos to make their gateway. They soon began to put some distance between themselves and the enemy ships. There was no attempt of pursuit. Once again Salazar had saved the day. The crew’s faith in the master was re-established.
Sadat, who had been closely watching his master’s countenance, had noticed a look of surprise flit through Salazar’s expressionless face. Salazar seemed to have been equally puzzled by the enemy’s strange behavior as his crew. So clearly Salazar had not been responsible for the great escape. If it was not Salazar, there was only one other person of such power on the ship. Sadat had experienced her power first hand. Salazar had apparently come to a similar conclusion. Sadat could see him take purposeful strides towards Rowena who stood near the stern gazing intently at the stars.
“How did you do that?” he asked. Salazar was not the one to waste words. He always got straight to the point.
“Do what?” she replied in a sing song voice. It was now Rowena’s turn to extract her pound of flesh.
“Ok. I am sorry. I had underestimated your power. I acknowledge your power. I am curious to know how you could control the mind of so many people. I consider myself something of an expert in the field of mind control. And I can usually control one or at the most two to three minds at a time. I have never been able to influence a whole crowd like that.”
She rolled back her head and laughed derisively. “I not controliz anyone’s mind, Kako. I put no Famrechiv on enemiya. I put Famrechiv on ship. I make ship invisible. Any Romaniya can do this to protectiz his tsera from athingonoi.”
Salazar gave her a short bow. “You are clearly a master at your trade, madam. There is a lot I need to learn from each you.”
“That iz gut, Kako. And you will teach Rowena how to mind controliz and snake Famrechiv?”
“Definitely I shall, Rowena. I shall teach you my magic and you shall teach me yours. I am extremely fascinated with your gypsy magic. Talking of which you don’t really look like a gypsy.”
“No, Kako. I am not Romani. I am from the glens close to the Afon Rhymni river. Romani take me from my familiya. Then prince take me from Romani. And you take me from prince. Now you send me to gonime on next port. I have no tsera, no familiya.” A drop of tear rolled down her cheek.
“Forget what I said about disembarking you on the next port. You can stay with us as long as you wish. I can understand your feeling of abandonment and loneliness. It has been the same with me. You were snatched all your life while I was abandoned all my life. I was abandoned by my mother at birth. My father found me too shameful to acknowledge as his son. My country drove me out and even now sends minions to take my life. But one day I will be the most powerful man in the world. All of those who refused to acknowledge me will come and lick my spit. Come, join me in my quest! We will not be game for the world anymore. We will make the world our game.”
Sadat listened with fascination as he listened to the conversation between Salazar and Rowena from the shadows. This was the longest speech Salazar had ever given. Rowena somehow had managed to make Salazar more vocal. Sadat was also surprised to see so much emotion from him. So far he had considered Salazar a cold fish. He could also in fact personally relate to Salazar’s feelings. In some ways he too was like Salazar and Rowena. No wonder Salazar had always been so kind to him.
The speech was having a similar effect on Rowena. Sadat could see the expression on her face had visibly softened. “I owe you my life, kako. I stay with you always. You are my tsera, my familiya now.” She moved closer and threw her arms around him, embracing him in a tight hug.
Salazar looked uncomfortable. He was not used to these kinds of display of affection. He had no idea how to handle them. The feelings they stirred in him made him feel strangely vulnerable. His face again became blank and he stood frozen as if Rowena had used the spell she had earlier used on Sadat on him now.
In few minutes she released her hold on him. “Let us begin the magic lessons tomorrow,” he said gruffly, turned and walked away.
Click for other Chapters: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 7 Chapter 8
Note: I had initially planned to let one of my blogger friends Kirti Nemani write this chapter as a guest post. But somehow she could not get time to complete it keeping fully with my requirements. However I have borrowed some ideas from the draft she had submitted to me. So let me credit her for the same.
Picture Credit: Trireme