Mirriam's life has become a mad rush of organisation for the wedding. Darb's mother, sister, two aunts and three neices have adopted her as she has little family. They're constantly round and fussing about details - the dress, protocol, should she get a new set of teeth from the nice dentist round the corner, eat more. Everytime there's a free minute Sarah turns up with lots of questions. Mirriam's father has been provided with three serving women by Darb so at least he is less of a burden.
The Governor receives a communique from the British government instructing him to reopen negotiations with local political groups about Egyptian self rule. They are also relaxing the laws on political expression and allowing the exiled dissident Zadkul to return to Cairo. Oh Lord. The Governor wonders if he should have taken the job in Nepal. Sarah expresses sympathy and checks there's no mention of Set's public name, Maibib - not so far.
The news spreads like wild fire. Mustafa comes to tell Maryam and Defanuh over hears. Rajiv is hanging out with fellow students when one of their activist friends shows up saying they can leaflet for the Wafd party again! They head out to party outside the university. Ramon is woken up, at lunchtime, by Hassan and Benoud who are keen to get a spot near a bar for the celebrations. Darb drops by to fill Mirriam in on why the streets are full of chanting locals. Everyone supports the laxer regime.
Soon rumours begin to spread - the most persistent says Zadkul is to be flown home at the end of the week by the Maibib family. The students head over to Zadkul's family house where a big celebration is underway. One of Rajiv's friends brings up an old story. Apparently in the Middle Ages there was a lunatic artistic daughter in the Zadkul house who was eventually killed for her blasphemous work. The story goes that the family kept the room she had lived and drawn in. They sneek in to look - there is indeed a room whose walls are covered in bizarre art. A man seems to dominate the paintings - in some places the quality is almost hotographic, in others very impressionistic. One image shows the man dripping shadows. Is he wearing a watch? Is that a car? Presumably not, the problem with impressionist style. They take a few sketches and return to the party.
The next morning Mustafa turns up at Maryam's house and drags Defanuh to a discussion. The elder Islamic families have decided to contribute to Zadkul's campaign by providing him with a bodyguard. Defanuh is an obvious choice. Maryam agrees. The first meeting is this morning at Maibib's house. There are six families each contributing a guard. Set acknowledges Defanuh briefly - he makes a small speech about working together for Egypt and leaves the six to work out there guard roster. Defanuh sets about organizing things so he can check up on Set's man.
Ramon finds a letter at his detective booth from one Calim el Zab. On meeting the gentleman he turns out to be a young somewhat scatter brain photographer. He took a picture of a woman on the Street of Gentle Peace and now he wants to find her and propose - in the picture she is completely veiled and only her eyes can be seen. Calim seems willing to pay the price though so Ramon says he'll see what he can do. On getting to the street it is clearly not the one of the picture - it has cars parked on it and none of the buildings look the same. He spends the rest of the day searching for the correct street but to no avail.
Darb drops by on Mirriam. He's obviously worried about something. He thinks perhaps he might feel left out of her catty life. Mirriam soothes. Well are there cat friends? Yes, Sarah and so forth. He means will she be loyal to him even as a cat? Oh, flushing violently, yes. Of course. Ah good, um and if they have children will they be human, not a litter. Mirriam certainly hopes so!
************** Session 2 **************
It is the 15th Century. Cairo is ruled by the families of the Turkish slave-warriors who took control 250 years before, the Mamlukes. The dynasty has been marked by bloody take overs and ruthless assassinations as one caliph is forced to give way to another. Over the top of it all is a veneer of civilization - "oh Prince of the Faithful I bring you as a gift this ivory enlaid dagger....".
The current caliph Farrukh Shakal is 47 and has been on the throne for 13 years. There is a rumour abroad that he recently suffered a tremor of the heart and tensions about the succession are rising high. There are two main Mamluke families whispered to be capable of plotting his removal, the upstart Zadkul family and the Atika family. The caliph, strongly denying ill health, has invited the heads of the two families to his court to negotiate a resolution of the potentially dangerous situation. Some fear that his protestations of good health are too strong to be believable and his attempts to use the looming threat of Ottoman intervention to support stability will be used as excuse to place a younger stronger figure at the head of the realm.
It is the night before the meeting with the caliph and in secret at the Zadkul home in Cairo the two families are meeting to determine their course....
Nizam Atika: the aged patriach of the Atika Mamluke family.
In his youth he fought in countless battles defending his father the caliph.
He was away on such an expedition when his father "took ill and died" so
was not in place to succeed. This is the way of Mamluke life. What is
important is that his son, Habar, becomes the next caliph.
He has brought his family to strength and taught his son valour and
tenacity. He has in his employ a group of 12 highly efficient assassins.
Physical: greying, uses a stick to walk but still strong, scarred and grizzled
Mental: quick witted, politically astute but basically a bully
Habar is the eldest son of this generation of the royal family of Atika.
Grandfather was caliph, father, Nizam, was cheated of his crown because he
was away at war when grandfather died. Habar should naturally be the next
caliph. Father has brought him up in the traditions of the Mamlukes - he
is fearsome in battle, strong of will.
Physical: strong, handsome, disdainful sneer.
Mental: an intelligent but brutish thug, treats people as objects.
Rashid is a wiley old goat who has manipulated politics to bring his
relatively obscure family to the forefront of politics (inspite of set
backs and shames such as the madness of his eldest daughter - thankfully
this in an age in which if one acts fast and honourably in response to
upsets they are not held against you).
Physical: old, stooped, strong darting eyes.
Mental: wiley and cunning, an actor.
Muhammed is a well trained young Mamluke of the Zadkul house.
The house is ascendant under the hands of his father, Rashid.
Rashid seems determined to have Muhammed caliph but Muhammed thinks
he is moving too fast
Physical: young, strong warrior, solid jaw.
Mental: cautious, a mercenaries standards and suspicions.
The Atika's arrive in the depth of night to meet the Zadkul's. They are shown in and greetings are exchanged. A multitude of servants bring out refreshments and then the families sit down to discuss.
The Caliph seems very ill. Yes. One should think about the succesession. Yes. Perhaps a young family. Or perhaps a traditional family. Indeed. That discussion is repeated before the Zadkul's retreat a little. Clearly it would be neccessary to present a united front for either and the supporter would need to be well reimbursed. Land, position, power might do it. The Caliphs health is again discussed - perhaps it should be checked on.
Younger ears in the room hear a woman's cry outside and Muhammed leaps up to investigate. Rashaa, his mad yound sister, has had a temper fit in the harem but the guards have calmed her. Apparently she is affected by the tense atmosphere this evening.
Back in council it is thought that the Caliph's health might be checked upon tonight. Habar and Muhammed could show their concern. The Zadkul's even know of a simple means of entry that would do away with troubling the royal guard. So then the succession was decided to favour Habar? Perhaps but who would follow him - surely Muhammed is the obvious candidate for both families then to back. Good.
Suddenly the council door crashes open and Rashaa, dressed most immodestly (her face is unveiled) and covered in dabs of paint, runs in crying. She is very upset but freezes before the men who have drawn swords fearing far worse. Muhammed sets about escorting her out but she fixes upon Habar and cries to him that she has seen him in her dreams. She is hustled away and the harem guard reprimanded.
So.. the young sons and a few assassins will visit the Caliph just before dawn. Each family retires to private quarters. Habar looks forward to taking venegeance on his Grandfather's usurper. The Zadkul's wonder what accident might befall Habar in the venture but decide for a more long term approach. Habar goes to bed but his chamber is soon entered by a provocatively dressed Rashaa. She professes love for Habar. Well the dishonourable behaviour is hers and what can a young man do when tempted so far? They bed down apparently to both's satisfaction.
Before dawn the band of assassin's steal to the Palace. In a shadowed corner they knock upon the palace wall and a door opens. The Zadkul's plant amongst the servants shows them through tunnels to the ornate Royal chambers. Behind yonder curtain he sleeps! Habar and Muhammed stride into the bed chamber where the Caliph lies abed. Habar brutally brings his scimitar down only then realizing that the body is a substitute. Royal Guards swarm at the door to the chamber and the assassins do battle. Habar and Muhammed flee at high speed the way they came.
Outside the group regathers - four assassins down but possibly they are unidentified. Maybe their secret passage is unfound too? The family elders listen somberly. Now they must plan to move again before the meeting tomorrow or they are at the Caliph's mercy! The meeting is the only place they can guarentee the Caliphs position. The assassins must take him with a dart from the balconies. They are sent off to reinfiltrate the palace.
Mirriam has had another waring day with the relatives and is glad to collapse into the relative peace of bed. No sooner is she asleep than a large animal lands on her bed. A black panther's face pushes against her face. She wishes she could go back to sleep. "Sister, where have you been? It feels like you are slipping out of the Shadows." Mirriam explains about statues and chaos storms. The panther apparently spends her time hunting in the deep Shadows and wants Mirriam to join her, leaving her earthly body behind. Mirriam doesn't want that does she? The panther snorts, tells her to think about it and leaves.
Defanuh and the other guards check out the Zadkul house. They organise to have bars put across some windows and think about recruiting extra cooking staff - no, Maibib probably shouldn't supply all the extras. During their rounds they come across the art room Rajiv discovered a few days ago.
Ramon refinds Calim and points out that the street is the wrong one. No it can't be. They check the negatives and all the shots around the picture of the woman are indeed on the Street of Gentle Peace. Most odd. Calim wants the woman found soon because he's dreamt that harm will befall her. Ramon returns to the Street of Gentle Peace and tries to work it out. No, and the Shadows look very different too. He does catch a glimpse of a ghost with blood streaming from its mouth but can't find it after it slinks off.
Rajiv goes to recruit Raphael to the Zadkul cause but he's thoroughly immersed in Communism. The Bolsheviks must be put down by an uprising of the masses... um right. Rajiv goes back to the University and thinks about an anthem for the campaign. He suggests that Zadkul should be invited to talk at a rally at the University.
Mirriam speaks with Lady Cephelene about her sister cat. Cephelene thinks going into the Shadows permanently is a bad idea but understands Mirriam's concern for her "sister". Returning from the chat Mirriam too spies bloody mouthed ghosts in the Shadows - it's as if their teeth have been ripped out. They are incomprehending when she attempts to speak with them but they gather at a house where an old man lies ill in bed.
Ramon has a wild hunch that the art Rajiv was talking about is connected to his case. He convinces Defanuh to let him see the pictures. To even his surprise the man painted on the wall is the spitting image of Calim! Ramon reports to Calim the news that the woman is a 15th Century artist who was drawing him much as he has photographed her. Calim is both disbelieving and devestated. Ramon and Defanuh come up with the idea that Calim should be Zadkul's official photographer (he gratefully accepts the position). Now he too can see the art - he's shocked and asks to photograph it.
************** Session 3 **************
Zadkul's plane is due to land today. Defanuh and his fellow guards head out to the airport ahead of time. A crowd is gathering at the airport gate. Calim turns up with his camera though he looks exhausted. They let him set up his stuff. Next Set turns up to greet the returning dissident with a group of his personal guard.
Ramon shows up with Benoud and Assan and some bottles of beer. They find a balcony with a good view. Darb and Mirriam show up to though are less adventurous in their choice of viewing prefering the edge of the crowd in the shade. Time passes and everyone stands around in the growing heat waiting. From time to time the crowd chants pro-Egyptian slogans. A group of communists including Raphael is on the edge of the crowd so far quiet. Ramon and company discuss what a proletariat is and conclude most likely a fruit.
Eventually the plane arrives and Zadkul disembarks. He is a small, neat gentleman with greying hair and pleasant nature. He seems surprised by the size of the greeting party but is very polite to everyone. Set has provided a car but they'll have to traverse the crowd. Everything begins cordially enough until the communists decide to begin the fight against the capitalist oppresors. They attempt to mob the politician whilst the bodyguards defend and the crowd gets involved in the fight. Ramon throws a bottle or two into the crowd to no great effect. The communists are losing badly but an irrate Raphael does lay a punch on Defanuh. Finally Zadkul is dragged free of the crowd and placed in his car, although his clothes are in disarray and his spectacles at an angle.
At Zadkul's house Defanuh notices a block of incense he'd been previously suspicious of now lit on the landing mantel. He replaces it with a different block just to be safe. Zadkul is tired and after greeting his family retires to bed to the disappointment of the crowd gathered at the house's gate.
Mirriam returns home to find a funeral wake passing her house. The old man she spied on a few days ago has died and is being buried. The procession is dogged by Shadow ghosts with blood dripping from their mouths. They seem listless and mournful but uncommunicative. Mirriam keeps an eye on things but the burial at the local tombs goes uninterrupted.
Returning to the 15th Century: An hour after the assassins return from their failed attempt a large contingent of Royal guards turns up. The Atika and Zadkul family representatives are instructed to attend on the Caliph. They prevaricate to give the second plan more time but eventually make their way to the palace.
They enter the throne room and face the Caliph. He stares them down fiercely - well? We've come as instructed? The caliph makes it clear he thinks them implicated in the night's events and they protest innocence until the Caliph explodes in fury, impudent upstarts! Just then a dart flies across the room and the Caliph falls. Habar is the first on the scene - oh horror - and removes the dart though not before another member of the Shakal family sees. The younger members of the Caliph's family are openly accusing but the Caliph's vizier steps in and suggests the families move to separate rooms while an inquest is made.
The vizier speaks with each family. Zadkul is sorrowful to hear an Ottoman spy has been captured and backs Habar. The Atikas lament fate but insist that Habar is the obvious next choice. Eventually the families of the Mamlukes gather and the advisor announces the Caliph's death officially and that Habar is chosen to succeed. The Shakal family speaks quietly of vengeance and tests the water with the Zadkuls but they are luke warm to the idea.
The families break a way to a discrete celebration at which Habar's favour is greatly courted. A veiled woman enters and confidently strides up to Habar. He sees it is Rashaa - I heard the sad news and came... eyes turn all across the room. Who is this queries Habar? You aren't sad.. of course I am.. no I can see it in your eyes. The Zadkul's have by now identified their wayward daughter and rush to intervene. Rashaa's tirade continues - where is your pain and sorrow? You are not the one I dreamed of consumed by life's torture. As she is dragged away she cries - I shall forge your pain Habar, as art!
The celebrations resume as all sorts of gossip circulates.
Ramon visits Calim who seems exhausted. Calim insists that the matter is at an end and pays Ramon off. Ramon is loathed to leave him so depressed but he insists. Still unsure Ramon sneaks into his house as a cat. He has made it one huge dark room and is mechanically developing prints until he collapses exhausted. Ramon keeps an eye on him until morning.
Mirriam's night is interrupted by her sister panther. She explains that she wants to stay human. The panther has no desire to become human so growls and leaves saying tomorrow is the last chance. The ghosts bug Mirriam again so she irritatedly goes to check the tomb for them. A man is digging up the corpse! Mirriam scares him, but it's only a cat. He continues and despite hisses produces a hammer and chisel and removes the corpses jaw then reburies the body. Mirriam follows him back... it is her local dentist!
In the morning Zadkul is ill and tired but goes out to pay a first visit on the Governor nonetheless. Defanuh stays behind to work on whether the incense and illness are related. He sees Set's man apparently deliberately be seen replacing the incense. Ramon turns up worried about Calim and the Zadkul picture room. Mirriam shows too (after leaving a note with the police tipping them off about the dental work) since Defanuh had asked her to trail Set's guard for him. They find a servant placing pine wood chips under Zadkul's window at Set's man's behest. What is all this - a distraction?
They visit Ib's who can find nothing odd about the incense but is mildly interested in the time travelling art work. If it persists he'd like to know.
************** Session 4 **************
Zadkul, Set and the other guards return from the meeting with the governor. It appears to have gone well and the Governor and Zadkul hit it off somewhat. There are already possibilities of an elected advisory parliament. Everyone settles down for lunch and Mirriam picks up Set's guard's trail. He checks the wood chips in the garden.
Calim turns up and shows Zadkul the photograph collection to date - very nice, perhaps some should be sent to the newspapers. They want him to keep a pictorial record of the campaign. Calim heads off. Zadkul prepares for a rally at the University and Defanuh to join him.
Set's guard heads out and Mirriam trails him to the bazarre where from a medicine seller he purchases a package. He brings it back to a cook in Zadkul's kitchen. Later in the day Mirriam sees the cook transfer the contents to the garden compost heap - it's plain grass cuttings. What is this?
Zadkul follows a number of radical student speakers. His more moderate suggestion of a slow change to self rule seems to be appreciated by the crowd though. Later in the speech Zadkul appears ill and then faints. The guards rush him home and to bed.
Defanuh and Ramon listen to Mirriam's report and dress in black to go threaten the market stall owner. It becomes apparent that it was a charade of a sale staged by Set's men - clearly all more distraction but from what.
Mirriam watches Zadkul from the Shadows. He seems close to death! He is also visited by Set who offers to put together a list of possible advisors to Zadkul to take some of the burden off him. She also checks out the Zadkul medieval paintings and discovers beneath the paint, which is peeling in the Shadows, the words :
Oh love of mine whose form I know
Your spirit has not the obsessive sorrow I crave
I shall forge again wiht my soul's extinction.
There is only art.
The cats confer and rush round madly checking everything for signs of poison (an old wasp nest has been placed in the attic - more distraction) but to no avail. A doctor says Zadkul simply has a fever which should pass. Zadkul still intends to attend discussions with the Governor the next day. There is little to be done immediately so they head off to sleep.
Back home Mirriam finds uproar. That dentist was using dead peoples teeth for cheap dentures. Mirriam's aunt in law is beside herself and has smashed the pair he furnished her with. Darb is being diplomatic and is glad to escape with Mirriam. Mirriam's part in the drama is forth coming and Darb is a little upset she didn't involve him. Mirriam soothes, it was all a rush. She notices the Shadows panther watching them together but the cat turns and lopes off into the night, presumably for good. Mirriam then fills Drab in on Set's plans to usurp or upset Zadkul. Drab is persuaded to do something about it in the morning.
Zadkul is ill again next morning. Over breakfast Set produces his list with himself on it. Zdakul seems too tired to worry about it. Darb arrives with a donation for the Wafd party and asks to see Zadkul. They go aside and Darb warns that the Maibib family may be more radical than they pretend. Zadkul already had his suspicions and will keep an eye on him. After Darb has gone Defanuh steps in and warns that the illness might be induced and that Zadkul should sleep elsewhere. Goodness, well yes then.
Ramon hides in the car the Wafd members take to the Governor's house but there is no foul play. The meeting continues all day and appears to have been very positive. Calim takes more photos and Set tries to appear prominently. Zadkul has arranged to spend the night elsewhere. Set speaks with his guard and is over heard discussing the change of plan. Their activities have apparently been sufficiently successful that they put them on hold...
That evening street parties errupt as rumour of an imminent deal travels round town.
The next day more negotiations. A crowd has gathered awaiting the deal. Defanuh and the other guards watch vigilantly.
Ramon hasn't checked on Calim in a while and goes across but Calim is out at the Governor's house. Ramon sneaks in and lights a lantern to look round. Calim's photographs of the Zadkul art room show the same inscription Mirriam saw in the Shadows. Copies of the photos are all over his deck together with a long account of his dreams. In the dreams he is a prominent Mamluke son in the 15th Century destined soon to the caliphate until the machinations of a mad woman intervene...
The harem guards report that Rashaa has been painting madly all night to the Zadkul elders. Well she is mad. Later a scream breaks the peace of the house and Rashaa is found fallen to the street below her window - pushed or fell? The room shows signs of a struggle and boot prints in the water from a spilled jug of water lead out through a window and across the roof tops. Surely only an assassin could have got here without the guards hearing?
The Shakal family is quick to hear the news and fan the flames. It must have been Habar seeking stupid revenge for the embarassment of the previous night. Intolerable! Zadkul must be eager for vengeance? In fact the Zadkul's are eager not to be seen plotting by the Atikas and speak with them about damage limitation.
It is too late though. Rumour and innuendo has engulfed the court. Habar is no longer an acceptable Caliph and the Atika elders furiously give in to the inevitable and accede to Muhammed Zadkul as the alternative candidate.
The unfortunate Habar is sent away to the army and dies in war with the Ottomans only months after...
Calim's telling is very immediate. At first he seesm in love with Rashaa who he identifies with the woman from his picture. Later in the telling though he has put the words from her paintings to mean she deliberately destroyed his life to make him sorrowful for artistic reasons. Love has turned to hate and he rambles about those damn Zadkuls!
Ramon ponders. Then, gosh could he be behind the illness? A search of the whole house reveals an empty gun case on his bed. Oh no! Ramon rushes for the Governor's house.
Samuel and Zadkul emerge. Samuel gives a long rambling speech (as Ramon rushes across Cairo) before giving over to Zadkul. The crowd cheer. A flash of Calim's camera combined with a bang of his pistol! The exhausted Ramon tackles him, but too late on the stage Zadkul has fallen, slain!
The crowd surge for vengeance on Calim, Defanuh on Ramon for an explantion.
The British regather control. Their investigation of the next few days suggests Calim is mad, and concocted a ridiculous dream to fuel his desire to murder a prominent person. Cairo is locked in grief for thier leader. As Maryam consoles Defanuh though, what protection can there be from a lone mad gun man?