Every city in the world has a single sporting event that brings the city together. Those usually uninterested in such things are tempted, in spite of the Koran's warnings, to place a bet. Even those aloof to that can't help but to learn the facts and feelings of the matter. In Cairo the event is the Cairo Derby - the finale of the camel racing season, a race that only the most wealthy can even afford to enter a camel in.
Such matters one presumes will not though influence Sarah, since as we begin she is not even aware that it is possible to race camels. She and Mirriam are at an afternoon fete for the Saudi ambassador. The army and navy polo teams are warming up for a match. A number of colonial friends come over to commiserate with Sarah about that cad, Quentin, up and deserting her. The Saudi ambassador arrives in a mass of cars. The Governor makes polite noises and learns he is to be given a gift; it is in a horse box. The prize racing camel from the ambassador's own stock is brought forth. It smells, and looks rather dopey. The Governor is jolly pleased and gives Sarah the honour of naming him - "Desert Rose".
The polo match tees off and horses pound back and forth. Mirriam watches the confusion and is joined by a man, half European half Egyptian, who introduces himself as Darb al-Mekek. He politely enquires about polo rules and Mirriam attempts to work them out with him. Darb is more of a racing fan. They break off to mingle.
Ramon has been dragged along to a mid-season camel race meet by Benoud. Benoud bets extravagantly and Ramon loses some money too. Benoud refuses to bet on races three and five though because the Libyan Prince Ibn Omar's two best camels are running in those two races. Slave Of None and Willfull Conduct are the top two camels in fact of the whole season and favourites for the Derby. The only question is which of the two will he enter. Ramon suggests Slave of None since the top jockey Fareed is riding him, they must be getting them used to each other. Benoud says Omar's second jockey Ayyub whilst talented is pretty ordinary by these standards. Nevertheless both horses win by a mile and the vocal crowds on the bend are left to enjoy the ruckuses as the laggers go round whipping each other and each others camels in a maul.
Defanuh is still guarding Maryam, now paid by the eldest A'meer son, Mustafa. The brother and sister don't see eye to eye about expenditure of the family fortune. Today Maryam goes through the roof when she hears Mustafa has entered his camel in the Derby. 1000 pounds when the camel, Wind of Fate, is only tenth on the season! She storms off to put the point to Mustafa with Defanuh in tow. A row results. Mustafa says he has a good feeling about it and the camel did manage the biggest winning margin in a race of the season. Eventually they break off and return Defanuh making sympathetic noises.
Rajiv meanwhile is discussing art, truth and the cosmic music score. His friend Doqqi says that if knowing the music of life predicts what will happen why don't they find out what the tune is for the Derby and make some money. Sufficient of the students are convinced it would at least be fun to try. They go to the race stadium and learn from the grumpy attendant that there are three entries for the Derby so far - A'meer's (Wind of Fate), a reclusive Egyptian owner, Maibib's (Precocious) and a Turkish buisnessman, Al Nahar's (Turkish Pride). They determine to find out on the morrow what music each camel likes.
Ramon is at home that evening when there is a knock on the door. It's the Djinni Salilea looking her usual stunning self. They exchange a hug and gossip. Salilea has returned to her palace and been living life up. In the 2000 years she was away her retainers have been improving the palace; the roses are wonderful and her racing camels superb! She's going to enter her best, The Golden Rule, in the Derby and she was wondering if Ramon could find a good stable for when her convoy arrives in two weeks. Of course! She leaves 100 pounds for deposit and so forth, cautions him to check the stablehands and heads out.
The cats gather at the temple in the evening and start talking camels. Oh goodness is it that time of year again sighs Lady Cephelene. Mirriam lets slip to Sarah about Darb and Sarah puts on a steely matchmaker face. Rajiv has convinced himself that the Guardian is Maibib and wants to go ask Set. Everyone else thinks he's mad but he heads off anyway. He doesn't get to talk with Set but he does learn Maibib is the name he's living under and he gets the address of his stables. By making a similar nuisance of himself he learns where the A'meer's stables are (Defanuh refused to get involved).
That night Samuel chats to Sarah about Desert Rose. The Deby is very expensive but it would look good for the crown wouldn't it? Right, put it on expenses then. They will need a jockey. Samuel has in mind George Milend a recently retired horse jockey who is in Cairo for medical reasons. Sarah suggests dinner the next night and invites George, Mirriam and, oh how about Darb? Samuel mutters something about having heard something about Darb but can't place it and doesn't object.
In the morning Rajiv and friends head to the stables musical instruments ready. They talk their way into Maibib's stable and play at a number of camels including Precocious. He sits down when played a dirge. They are evicted and leave with a number of possible theories.
On the way out they pass Ramon hunting for a stable for Salilea. There's an empty part of these stables that he is shown round but he bumps into a work seeking jockey, Jabal (70 wins to his name), who points out that the field of female camels by the practice track is a bad distraction. Ramon travels onto the next stables where half the space is taken by Ibn Omar's camels. Apparently his trainer runs a karma thing; when he sneeks in there are quotations from the Koran over every door. The neighbouring stables though are immaculate. 150 pounds up front and the same on leaving though. Across the river are the stables of the famous jockey Yussuf - it seems to be some sort of boot camp for camels with early wake up calls and frequent beatings. Finally Ramon slogs up to the North of the city to a pleasant stable by the Nile. There seems to be a potenital for flooding. And how about crocodile attack?
The A'meer's stables are a village south along the Nile. The music students are let in as long as they don't bother Wind of Fate who is apparently temperamental. They faff about for a bit on the theories then play something loud enough for Wind of Fate to hear. He heads off at a trot and takes a bit of catching. They are again sent on their way.
Dinner at the Governor's is very pleasant. George is a little arthritic so is pushed down to being the scout for a jockey. Darb says Fareed is clearly the star jockey but he's very highly paid by Ibn Omar. He's always rather liked the young highly skilled Yahya. He is small though and if caught on the bends is not physical enough to prosper. Darb also wonders what Desert Rose's orginal name was since one might then know its history. Sarah says she'll ask the ambassador. Mirriam and Darb bestow a sliver of extra attention on each other.
Ramon ponders the possible stables and decides that only the best will do. In the morning he returns to the second he visited and talks them down to 100 pounds up front and 160 later.
ODDS: Precocious just ahead of Turkish Pride; Wind of Fate an outside gamble. Ramon thinks a walk for The Golden Rule. Most people are waiting for Ibn Omar to enter.
*********** Session 2 ***********
The race moves two weeks closer. A harried messnger arrives at Maryam's crying that there's a gunfight at the stables and Mustafa may be injured. Maryam and Defanuh grab a taxi and head south. When they arrive it turns out that a single shot was fired by a black robed man from horseback - it was apparently aimed at Wind of Fate but embedded itself in the stable doorframe. Maryam is furious - somebody tried to shoot our camel? Defanuh sort it out! Could it be Maibib/Set, or who else? Perhaps someone considers Wind of Fate a contender. The recently appointed jockey, Amin, suggests perhaps the spurned, alcaholic jockey, Zayn may be involved. Defanuh heads out to investigate.
Rajiv and his friends hear that the Turkish camel team has arrived in town and installed themselves at Yussuf's stables. They head off to play to Turkish Pride. A gentle tune has him trotting over before as usual the musicians are expelled. The camel receives a firm lash to the hindquarters.
George Milend has done his research and reports in to Sarah and Mirriam. The top jockies of the season are:
Fareed (32 wins) - Ibn Omar's number one
Yussuf (20 wins) - Al Nahar's number one
Ayyub (19 wins) - Ibn Omar's number two
Masrur (18 wins) - Maibib's number one
Yahya (14 wins) - freelancer
Ism'ail (9 wins)
Amin (9 wins) - A'meer's number one
George suggests Ayyub as the best record and presumably without a ride. Then Yahya. Sarah says they'll check them out.
Salilea turns up at the temple looking for Ramon. They're heading off to see the stables when Sarah and Mirriam turn up wanting Benoud's advice. Salilea needs a jockey too so they all go along. Benoud is happy to have three young ladies turn up on his door but can't add much beyond that Ayyub is feeding off Ibn Omar's success. Salilea turns out to be keener to buy out one of the top two jockies.
Defanuh patrols Cairo looking for signs of camel assassins. No sign at Set's stable or house. No rumours in the bars. He checks out Zayn who isn't in a bar as everyone expects but at home. He is moaning that he's gone from top jockey to nothing in three years because of press reports of his drinking. He doesn't seem to have anything to do with the shooting.
Rajiv and friends begin to wonder about getting footage of past races from the news films. From the cinema they get to a film distributor who they get interested in doing a montage of the seasons races to show - they're suggested for the sound track. The boss will have to be convinced and they'll be in touch.
Sarah and Mirriam seek Darb's aid. He seems concerned that talking to them will bring about a conflict of his interests. Oh really? They do learn that Yahya works at the northern stables. They head over and find him. He is very excited by the offer of a ride and agrees to meet them tonight to agree terms. The meeting happens and Samuel enlists him on the junior civil servant's pay scale. Samuel also remembers that Darb is a professional gambler.
Ramon and Salilea make it to the stables and Salilea is very pleased. Her camel train and experts soon arrive with The Golden Rule. He is tall, noble and has cute long eyelashes. He is in a bad mood and won't budge from the centre of the stable yard. He spits at Ramon. Finally they erect a tent over him and hope he's better in the morning. Ramon and Salilea go to the cinema.
Defanuh resigns himself to a night guarding Wind of Fate. He convinces the stablehands to mimick rain and put the shutters down to stop him being a target - apparently the only way that won't break his schedule and norms. In the middle of the night a messenger comes to Amin. Eventually it turns out to be a letter from his married mistress indicating that her husband is determined to have a duel with Amin. The shot at the camel was to warn him after not turning out this morning. She begs Amin to flee town. Amin is a slippery character. Defanuh finally concludes he had better sort it out. He goes into Cairo and finds the husband. He asserts that if the duel happens before the race he will turn both in to the police for duelling. The compromise is agreed to and he goes off to bed.
In the morning Ramon and Rajiv go to see The Golden Rule. He still refuses to budge and has spat on Salilea. Miraculously Rajiv's music gets him up and happy. Salilea instantly hires him as camel soother for 30 pounds. Ramon nips next door to try to lure Fareed away from Ibn Omar - he wants to win and believes Ibn Omar's camels will so can't be tempted.
Mirriam has a sneek round Darb's house in cat form and finds him very wealthy. Then she goes on with Sarah and Yahya to see Desert Rose at the polo club. He is apparently an excellent ride but the polo fields are inappropriate training ground. They concoct a story about the polo horses being upset. Samuel is horrified when he hears and agrees to hire the northern stables. A note from the Saudi embassy also reveals Desert Rose's previous name to have been Shooting Star.
Back at the temple Defanuh mentions Zayn as a possible jockey to Ramon.
ODDS: Precocious just ahead of Turkish Pride. Wind of Fate moves from outsider to contender as the rumour of the assassination attempt spreads. Desert Rose begins to be taken seriously with the news that Yahya will be riding, still dead last. Rumours of another outsider entry circulate but all eyes are on the Ibn Omar stables.
*********** Session 3 ***********
Rajiv is tied up maintaining The Golden Rule's peace of mind and Mirriam takes the evening off to look after her father. Ramon continues to worry about a jockey and Defanuh trains at the temple.
Sarah discusses racing colours for Desert Rose and the natural choice of red, white and blue is picked. Samuel wants to go learn about camel keeping the next day. he's heard that Ibn Omir is too race Slave of None. Sarah then heads off to find out more about Shooting Star's past record. Liasing with Ramon and Defanuh they go to talk to Benoud. He hasn't really heard of the camel but knows there is a Saudi camel line all named Star something. He has also heard that Turkish Pride has withdrawn a victim of Yussuf's training techniques (this later turns out to be a ridiculous rumour).
Defanuh returns home to Maryam and proposes that Amin needs a good training regime. Who else but Defanuh should organise it? In the morning then.
Ramon decides to speak to Zayn. Zayn does everything he can to encourage his appointment and doesn't seem drunk. Three seasons ago he won 30 races before the press hounded him for drinking. Ramon offers him a trial in the morning.
Mirriam is disturbed late by a small knock on her door followed by a slumping sound. Darb lies outside stabbed! Mirriam screams bringing the neighbourhood running. Darb gasps about his methods being stolen. The police are called and he's carted off by a doctor. What was he doing here? Later Mirriam investigates his house which has been ransacked and checks on Darb who is weak and asleep.
Defanuh and Maryam go to pick on Amin. He is in bed with two prostitutes and attempts to pull rank over a mere bodyguard. He is even less pleased when Maryam instructs him to exercise at Defanuh's command. The first training session leaves Amin sore and annoyed.
Ramon takes Zayn to the stables. Salilea has also requisitioned a rider. The Libyan number one, Othman, but she had to fly him too Cairo and he's now petrified of her. Ramon starts to think all jockies are like mice. Zayn and Othman show their stuff and for the moment it is decided to keep both on and see. Zayn says he's heard that a bookie conspiracy is paying riders to lose.
Mirriam checks again on Darb in the morning; he's still asleep and pale. She goes to see Sarah who brings her along with her father to the stables. Yahya is pleased with progress. He also knows of the Saudi camel line starting from Star of Allah and that explains why Desert Rose is so talented. Samuel gets quite involved in and decides that the risk of the Nile rising a flooding the training ground is too much. He will get the army in with sandbags. Rumour is that the A'meers have developed a miracle feed...
The cats meet up at the temple while folks on the street debate Slave of None or Wilfull Conduct. Who stabbed Darb? Ramon lurks around betting shops and over hears many things though none directly relevant: Precocious is lame; stablehands have been buying hashish, but as a drug or poison?; Desert Rose is really Star of Dawn apparently; Slave of None has been entered to run but with Ayyub as the rider.
Defanuh patrols the bars for signs of Darb's attackers. Fareed has demanded triple pay. Zayn was dragged from a bar to ride this morning. Wilfull Conduct has been entered. Finally a lead to a thug living in the tombs. Defanuh collects the others and they find three men getting drunk by a tomb house. Some of Darb's possessions are within. Ramon drives a sword into their table but they're too drunk to know what to make of it so he tries pretending to work for their employer. They're too drunk to care and reveal it was all the bookies Kafadi and Sinhad. Defanuh beats them up and they drag them off to the police who deposit them in a dank cell even on the flimsy evidence.
They stake out the two bookie shops. Wilful conduct it is. The British have cancelled the race and are going to imprison all betters. Yahya has declared the race unwinable by Desert Rose. The odds fluctuate through the afternoon. Finally some men come to cream off some of the bookies takings and are folloed back to yet a third shop run by Suley. Within they find some of Darb's notes. They ponder what justice to mete out. Then they spot two envelopes with 50 pounds in marked Amin and Masrur. The bookie conspiracy! Some cats run off with the envelopes and cover the streets in pound notes.
Defanuh goes to tell Maryam about Amin taking bets and they head off to catch him being paid off. When caught he acts cocky and says if people want to give him money he'll take it but it won't effect his performance. They disapprove at him and go off to tell Mustaffa who frankly seems to like Amin's playboy tyle.
Mirriam and Sarah visit Darb who is awake. He is very embarrassed he headed to Mirriam's when hurt... he suggests he's going to give up gambling. Mirriam is embarrassed when Sarah leaves the two of them alone...
Sarah returns home to a message from Gemma. She goes to visit her. Gemma says she has heard during a seance that Desert Rose is plagued by a spirit dragging its legs back. They should hold a seance with Desert Rose to find out how to get rid of it! Sarah isn't sure that's a good idea but promises to think about it.
ODDS: the bookies have taken to allowing betting on Ibn Omar's camel, which ever it ends up being, and it's the favourite. Turkish Pride has moved ahead of Precocious with Wind of Fate just behind as a result of being the favourite big win bet. The Golden Rule and Desert Rose lurk at outside odds because of their mysterious histories.
*********** On Camel Racing ***********
The keen punter will want to read up on the fine art of camel racing before the event (rules adapted from Circus Imperium):
On The Wall Table
|1||Camel takes 3 dmg, continue move.|
|2||Camel takes 3 dmg, continue move.|
|3-5||Camel takes 5 dmg, continue move.|
|6||Camel takes 8 dmg, continue move.|
|7||Crash! Camel takes 8 dmg, move ends.|
|8||Crash! Camel takes 8 dmg, move ends, roll action to avoid being thrown.|
|9-10||Crash! Camel takes 8 dmg, move ends, roll action -3 to avoid being thrown, frenzy over.|
*********** Session 4 ***********
And so we move forwards to the night two evenings before the race. Rajiv has been hecticly preparing the film in the evening (his days are filled with keeping The Golden Rule content). Working out the perfect use of the best and not so good bits of footage and melding it with the score is complicated. The musicians come together on a series of climatic build ups ending in mad rushes of fast footage.
Outside the cinema a huge crowd has gathered and a second showing for the night is quickly arranged. Bookie stalls are popping up all along the queue. Defanuh takes Amin along to study. Salilea and Ramon turn out just because its cinema. Rajiv of course is in the band. The show is a wild success not least for the bookies without.
Meanwhile Mirriam's house is again visited by Darb. He wants to speak to her father and they retire together to the study. Mirriam pretends to prepare some tea but instead cats up onto the window ledge. Darb first apologies for the impropriety of turning up wounded on their doorstep and then offers to prove his good intentions with a marriage proposal for Mirriam! Gosh. Shocked Mirriam goes back to the kitchen and waits to hear her father tell her the news. Instead though Darb leaves and her father just says he came to thank them for their help.
Across town Gemma has bullied Sarah to come and visit again and she reluctantly agrees to have a small seance the next day. Sarah comes round to see the flustered Mirriam to go check the ghosty status of Desert Rose for real. Mirriam fills her in on Darb gossip. Gosh again. The Shadows around Desert Rose are quiet and ghost free.
Ramon and Salilea have to make a decision between Zayn and Othman. Salilea veers towards Othman's better reputation but after consulting Rajiv Ramon puts a strong case forwards for the local Zayn who has knowledge of the track and competitors. Zayn it is!
The next morning Defanuh stakes out the jockey conspiracy and sees Ramon go in to place a bet for himself and one for Salilea on The Golden Rule.
During The Golden Rule's morning training a great mourning wail starts up from the Ibn Omar stables. Rajiv cats over to investigate; Slave of None lies dead in the courtyard! The crowd says he was mysteriously struck down by Allah. Rajiv smells snake though. Ibn Omar arrives and is distraught - it is a message from Allah! The stable will not enter the Derby. Rajiv goes off to look for snakes when a scream goes up from his own stables. The Golden Rule and stableboy are facing down an asp in the stables. Rajiv stalks, pounces and misses the asp by a mile but it slithers away allowing The Golden Rule to be pulled away. The asp is beaten to death with sticks.
Sarah (after getting a soldier to place a bet on Desert Rose for her) and Mirriam take Gemma to Desert Rose's stable for the seance. Yahya isn't impressed especially when Gemma starts producing incense clouds. Desert Rose is brought forwards docile. Gemma goes into a trance and, after more nasty clouds of smoke are produced, seems to make contact with a boy trampled to death by the camel. He refuses to leave until the camel is dead. We must expel him with more smoke! Mirriam steps forwards and recites a large chunk of the Koran and says how much lighter the atmosphere is, the ghost must have been dispelled. Sarah joins in enthusiastically and eventually the put out Gemma goes along with the bluff and takes credit. Desert Rose was remarkably tolerant throughout.
The bookie conspiracy develops; another envelope for Amin and Masrur. Defanuh follows down to Amin's room and then leaps in as Amin is burning the instructions. Amin protests his duplicity over the matter as innocence. Defanuh goes to tell Maryam who rushes off to see Mustafa about replacing Amin. Where to get a new jockey one day before the race? He goes to ask Ramon and Othman or Fareed seem possibilities. Wait says Salilea maybe we should get Fareed? They decide a change at this short notice would be bad. Defanuh goes to find Fareed and brings him back to the A'meer stable. Mustafa is defending Amin. Defanuh introduces Fareed and Amin is instantly dropped. Defanuh even sends a message to his duelling partner saying they can continue!
The day of the race dawns. Ramon catches Zayn having a quick pre-race drink and drags him away looking very cross. Otherwise the five camel stables arrive safely in the pre-race paddock. Set comes over to mock Salilea and Defanuh spots one of his stable hands about to jab a needle in The Golden Rule. He shouts out and Ramon tackles the boy. The boy pretends to have been pointing out the broken needle on the ground. It smells like an opium solution. It similarly only Mirriam's sharp eyes that catch a local lad cutting a saddle strap on Desert Rose. The lad runs off laughing at the stupid British.
The lane draw is made. The Golden Rule on the inside, Wind of Fate, then Desert Rose, Precocious on the outside, Turkish Pride in the second rank.
The race is on! The Golden Rule makes an early showing for the lead line into the bend but the pack close him down. A nasty ruckus for pole position has Precocious collide with The Golden Rule and then again after a close scrap with Wind of Fate. Precocious and The Golden Rule both go against the inside barriers and fall back looking jarred. Yussuf on Turkish Pride is well up and making frequent and strong use of the whip. It is Yahya who bests the scrum though and emerges ahead and relatively unscathed.
The British Desert Rose goes on, Turkish Pride behind. Fareed on his unfamiliar mount over uses the whip striving to catch up and Wind of Fate refuses control running outside and coming within a whisker of unseating Fareed against the barrier. The top jockey of the year recovers his line but with the next lash of the whip the unresponsive beast goes on its own way again. Precocious seems done for after the first bend ruckus but the Golden Rule seeks to recover with good use of the whip.
Yahya's lead seems to go to his head and he powers on for the second turn as if on the straight. He can't recover Desert Rose until coming up against the outside barrier of the curve. Turkish Pride and The Golden Rule make gains. Yussuf again makes ferocious use of whipping. Precocious now badly winded responds at the back by trying to throw Masrur in the back straight before tearing out to the railing on the bend.
Fareed's attempts to recover the unpredictable Wind of Fate continue badly and finally the top jockey's season comes to an end as he's thrown exiting the second bend. Precocious slows yet more behind, his race done, another victim of a first bend scrap.
At the lead Turkish Pride and the outsider Desert Rose fight it out into the third bend. Yussuf rides hard against Desert Rose and pushes through to the lead. Half a straight behind The Golden Rule is whipped into a frenzy by Zayn who knows its his only chance to catch up. The burst of speed is too much for his control though and he's thrown on the third bend.
Out onto the back straight for the second time Yahya again picks up Desert Rose's feet and they move ahead. Yussuf though displays his vicious tactics and again drives the camels together lashing out at Yahya with his whip. Desert Rose is forced into the barrier and the small Yahya can't hold on (always his fault). Turkish Pride, the favourite, is left to romp home, a tribute to Yussuf's ruthlessness!