Read it in Slovak here - thanks to Margareta Sliwka! Or Russian
here thanks to Sandi Wolfe. Or Thai
here thanks to Ashna Bhatt. Or Russian
here thanks to Sandi Wolfe. Or Finnish
here thanks to Elsa Jansson.
here thanks to Medicinska Nyheter.
Or Azerbaijan here thanks to Amir Abbasov.
Or Ukrainian here thanks to David Diaz.
There is a tale that is often told by the barbers and street corner
storytellers of Cairo. This is because it is a cheap story that few
would be foolhardy enough to put stock by. And the story goes like this
Now it is said, though only Allah knows if it is true, that once there
were no doves in Cairo. Our searing desert heat was too much for any but
the miserly vultures. The caliph of those times had taken as his wife an
enchanting, delicate woman presented to him on his travels to Basra. The
wife was pefect in every respect except one; she constantly lamented
that the sky was only full of ugly, black, crotchety birds and never a
gentle coo was to be heard in the harem. A trifle, but, well, she would
nag, as it seemed to the Caliph, incessantly. A man cursed by a nagging
wife must in the end address her concerns or resolve himself to
The Caliph, being at heart a gentle man, summoned to his court his
most experienced and widely travelled merchants and demanded of them
beautiful doves and soon. Caravans travelled south to Nubia, East to
Baghdad, and ships travelled north to Venice and Constantinople. Soon
each merchant returned laden with cages of fluttering, sweet songed
birds to be released all round the city. Further, the merchants
requistioned 101 exquistely decorated fountains to be built, one on every
street corner, that the doves could refresh themselves at. Alas though
come summer the fountains dried to sand and the doves fell from their
perches blackened and burnt. The merchants were brought before the
Caliph and his unhappy wife where the caliph's fool was given free reign
for a whole week.
The problem being of a more serious nature than at first perceived it
was turned over to the Caliph's learned magi. They calculated, communed
and astrologised until pronouncing that Simulacra were the obvious
solution. They set about the construction of four and twenty brass doves
of intricate detail. With great fanfare the doves were released from the
highest tower in the palace. Being of Brass they plummeted to the ground
where they lay broken and making a dreadful mechanical racquet. The
Caliph's fool performed a cartwheel in glee and eagerly set about his
mockery. The Magi, being serious folk, took exception to such callous
treatment of their intellect and, declaring that only Efreet doves could
then be the solution, they banished the fool to the City of Brass (in a
puff of greenish smoke) and retired in a sulk.
The fool finding himself on the hot paving of the City of Brass, and
as a result of his meager intellect being a direct fellow, made straight
to the Efreet Sultan's palace. He asked politely for a basket of
doves. The Exulted Sultan snorted fire in surprise and demanded payment
from the perspiring mortal. Being a fool all he could offer though was
ridiculous caperings and silly words. Shortly after collapsing of over
exertion in the heat he was evicted from the Palace at the Sultan's
Exhausted and dejected the fool sat by the road unknowing what more to
do with his life. Time passed and indeed over the years he became a
familiar sight to passers by. Travellers would mark his spot upon their
maps as a good place to rest along their way. When no travellers were
passing birds would roost on his head and rats lair in his cloak. He
became such a landmark that one day an aruing pair of doves totally
forgot to guard their words from his motionless form. One, in
exasperation and wishing to emphasise his point, addressed the other by
his true name.
Now even a fool recognizes his luck when Fate smiles upon him and,
thanking Allah, returned forthwith to Cairo. Climbing to the top of one
of the cities minarets he carved that name discretely where it could,
with time, populate Cairo with the delightful creatures we eat
today. Alas history does not record the fool's reward though surely
Allah must have rewarded him suitably.
And that is the story though I'm sure that you find it as
fanciful as I.
In More Modern Times
Ramon awakes one morning and sets about hunting a plump, white dove that
had had the efrontery to walk over the steps of the Kins' temple that he
has to clean later in the day. At the final moment it vanishes into thin air.
Sophelia's morning is more disturbingly intruded upon when she discovers
that one of her husbands, an old Eygptian Prince, Alid A'meer, has beheaded
a concubine for unspecified philanderings with those outside the harem.
Defanuh's breakfast coffee is interrupted by an abusive drunkard who first
picks a fight, which he shows every sign of losing,
then escapes by the bizarre tactic of
releasing ten white doves into Defanuh's face.
Defanuh's hangover has not improved.
Razili extracts herself from her latest lovers bed, raids the kitchen and
heads off to her usual dancing rehersals. Amongst general bitching it is
decided that as the Enigmatic Assan, a magic performer,
has been stealing most of the dancers'
audience and there is little point in practicing.
Bastola engages Ib's in conversation, obtaining in the process a rather tasty
fish refreshment. Ib's it seems is concerned about the over use of the
true name of doves around Cairo this week and wonders perhaps if Bastola
had heard anythign to account for it.
The kin slowly gather together at the temple to exchange gossip. Everyone
is interested in Wizards and doves except Defanuh who has had quite enough
of both for one morning. He wis bullied into returning to the scene of the
morning scuffle which turns up a white dove's feather and a white clad
gentleman, apparently of some social standing, asking after the brawler too.
This gentleman disappears rather precipitously on leaving the coffee house.
It becomes clear that the Enigmatic Assan and the dove hurler were one and the
same. A magic show is scheduled elsewhere this evening.
On mass the intrepid cats turn up to the magic show. Assan does not show
though the white robed man of the afternoon, a sinister bunch of dark robed
thugs and a large crowd of enthusiastic watchers do. The furious owner of
the show house, who it turns out is owed a considerable sum in gambling
debts by Assan, sets a five pound bounty on his head.
Any number of ruffians set about his discovery to claim the bounty. It becomes
clear that Assan owes almost every gambling den in the Old City consequential
amounts of caital. The gentleman himself has not been seen since being rolled
out the backdoor, senseless, of the sixth drinking house to evict him that
Somewhat stumped to find Assan Ramon appeals to Bast to guide their
search through the body of the feather previously discovered. The feather
is eventually lost from the upper floor of a very respectable gambling
house in the Ezbekia. They retire to bed. Ramon dreams of white doves
streaming from the temple's eves. Come morning he convinces Defanuh to
help him scale the temple to search for the doves he'd dreamed off... this
proves overly optimistic.
Sarah is required to attend a luncheon with the Turkish ambassador (which
had been put forward a day because of the unfortunate fall of the
ambassador in the previous day's polo). None of the ambassadorial delegation
can speak English so Sarah is forced to listen to the tutting and hurumphing
of her father. On finally escaping the grisly event it is to find that the
streets of the Ezbekia are log jammed with traffic and camels. At the end
of the street a massive flock of white doves is struggling into the air.
Ramon and his fearless climber friends also observe this avian extravaganza....
"Roll up, roll up, the Enigmatic Assan, penniless and loveless offers his
humble entertainment"... Assan has positioned himself for a performance right
in the central square of the Ezbekia. He looks hung over and like he's been
sleeping on the streets for weeks. The table on which his box of tricks is
placed is covered in a grubby blue cloth covered in stars.
The first of the many interested parties to make it to the unfortuante Assan
are two local thugs. They first wrestle Assan to the ground then confront
each other with knives drawn, "I got here first..." Next five swarthy dark
robed gentleman arrive on the scene and draw scimitars. The thugs beat a hasty
retreat. The five are dragging Assan away when the Governor and his troops
arrive - Sarah and the Governor set about impounding Assan's magical
paraphenalia (a wand, some rope with and without knots in it, cards and a dove's
Defanuh arriving and recognizing Assan from their earlier dispute sets off in
pursuit (somewhat gleeful at the opportunity for action...) causing two of the
five men to break off and threaten him with their blades and melodramatic
shouts of "Die by the whirling desert storm!". Defanuh shoots them
with his revolver... just as the two British soldiers arrive on the scene. The
latter proceeded to arrest the downed men whilst calling on everyone else to
surrender themselves. They pay little heed and the chase (three men with Assan,
Defanuh and then Ramon behind) continued round the corner.
The dark robed assaulters run straight into four white robed gentleman also
weilding scimitars and with considerable more expertise than they. Defanuh
unwilling to interrupt so professional a job watches as the three are
dispatched and Assan is again picked up off the pavement and escorted away.
Ramon and Defanuh discreetly follow and observe the group disappear into
a side dwelling off the main street.
In cat form the two seek a discreet entry through the shuttered upper floor
windows but can't shift the latches. Assan opens the window on hearing
their scratching. The four white robed gentleman have apparently left the
building and Assan unharmed. Defanuh quickly reverting to his more imposing
form grabs Assan and they escort him to a discreet bar. Apparently after
years of study Assan now "holds within my mind the essence of dove"...
Bastola's opinion of this obscure statement is required. Defanuh holds fort
against other fortune hunters while Ramon gets Bastola. Bastola proposes
Ib's as a better judge of gobblediguk.
Ib's soon gets to the bottom of the matter which is that the wand had the
doves' true name enscribed upon it and that Assan doesn't know diddly squat.
The matter of where he got the wand from is entrusted to Ramon (though
Defanuh warns him against the use of any dishonourable questioning techniques).
Ib's meanwhile takes Sarah aside and requests that she visit Amid A'meer to
relay the message that a wand with the doves' name on it has come into his
possession and is in safe keeping and could Ib's offer any assistance?
Sarah makes her way to A'meer's impressive abode and her knock on the door is
answered by a white robed gentleman who bids her enter. After a wait in an
elegant entry chamber she is invited to attend on the old Prince but is
warned to be careful not to stray from the carpet in the hall. Sticking to
this advice as she passes many fabulous works of art she comes to his throne
room. A'meer is extremely rude and his words biting about the fact that Ib's
has sent a woman who isn't even veiled... his only response to the message
is that "In earlier times we would not have worried about such trivia."
In the meanwhile Ramon has got thoroughly drunk with Assan and exchanged
condolences over many and various past lovers. It turns out that Assan was
given the doves' name by a lover in A'meer's harem called Talizia but when he
used it for profit she renounced her love for him. They plot to reinstate
Assan in Talizia's heart with a love letter... after Assan collapses drunk
Ramon heads off to exchange stories with Susan and they remember that
Talizia was killed by A'meer.
Returning the next morning they find Assan has got up and left... Defanuh hears
that he has been caught by bounty hunters and sold into slavery. It is
considered that this is just punishment for a debtor.