“And upon you, blessings.”
We swish our thaub to one side so that we may sit, then settle our keffiyeh about our shoulders as the fellahin serve us Turkish coffee in the traditional style: strong enough to kill lesser beings. I concede weakness and have vanilla syrup whilst Ariafeh takes his straight. He spins the hookah so that I may reach one of the tubes and after we spend a few minutes enjoying the blend, he waves his hand. The fellahin exit the room, after taking care to ensure that our coffee cups are full and the pot is full with a fresh making.
“Does your house prosper, my friend?”
He inclines his head with a smile.
“Indeed it does. Your advice was provident and my father considers you gifted by the Prophet for such insight.”
“I am honoured that he would consider an infidel such as me to be blessed in such a way.”
“It is difficult not to when you walk into my father’s house, dusty and sunburnt, only to declare that his entire goum is to be rendered penniless in the sight of God and man by the changing ways of the world and the capricious nature of the eternal sands.”
I grin. It had been a spectacular gamble driven by desperation and frustration, but it had paid off. Sheikh Tharrah was now the richest man in the Sahara and his first son considered to be the prophet of a new age of prosperity for the Bedouin.
“Has the new venture I suggested while we were in Belarus come to fruition?”
He claps his hand in delight and blows smoke to the ceiling, then delicately serves himself a portion of dusted lemon delight from the side table before replying: “In ways beyond imagining. My father nearly sent you a herd of camels and two of my better-looking cousins for that.”
I bow my head. Now is the time for my gambit.
“Ariafeh, my friend. You amongst all will know how the world beyond the sands fares. I would ask a favour of you, one that does not involve camels or cousins.”
“Are you sure? I have many cousins. You would be doing me a service.”
I laugh and shake my head.
“I would like to move here. I have no family left and the world is becoming a poor place for a man of faith and principle.”
Ariafeh surprises me by rushing round to me and grasping my hand firmly, a look of unaffected happiness on his face.
“The man who persuaded my father to sell his oil fields and invest in electricity? The man who predicted that the fossil fuel crisis and stupid fears of the west would make power shortages a critical feature of life? The man who led us to the scientists that designed better power cells and voltaic arrays, he who advised us to armour our power conduits and bury them deep? How can I refuse my brother? You are the man who is responsible for my family providing thirty percent of Europe’s electricity and supplying forty percent of the world’s high capacity industrial power cells, all through exploiting the sunlight that Allah in his infinite wisdom saw fit to bless us with. You are welcome. In fact, I would say do not depart this place. I will have your things brought here.”
I relax at last.
“May it please your father and the mullahs; I would be Joseph Ansar here. Let my former life and those who pursue me for my perceived crimes - all related to their loss of revenue from the failing oil economy, may I add – be confounded as I am swallowed by the sands.”
Ariafeh smiles and nods.
“It is fitting. On behalf of the House of Tharrah, may I welcome you to your new life, may it be long and fruitful.”
I do love it when a totally unrelated story pops up in the middle of me writing another piece.
This story is one of the many in my second science fantasy anthology, Tangents.
Which can be bought in paperback form from here: www.lothp.co.uk/2.html (scroll down, it's the penultimate book on the page).
Or as an ebook (multiple formats) from here: www.smashwords.com/books/view/…
And for Apple devices from iTunes: itunes.apple.com/gb/book/tange…
For further details, the Tangents page on my website is www.lizardsofthehost.co.uk/20.…