Suleiman glowered down at the boy.
"You're blackmailing me, you mangy cur!" he screamed.
"Don't think of it as blackmail, esteemed one," Younos said, trying not to smile while he thought that 'mangy cur' was something his sister had called this gentleman a short while ago. "Think of it like a gift to a well wisher. I promise you two things. One, I will not approach you with a request like this again. Two, the Sultana values my services, so if you should want to harm me, your life will be forfeit."
Suleiman seethed, and cursed in Egyptian under his breath. Younos thought quickly. So the city's water lord had Egyptian connections. How could that be? He was Arabia's foremost son, and people knew him as being the model Arab. They didn't have the best relations with Egypt at that point in time. How could this be? He wondered whether this would give him more leverage over the trader.
"Very well, bastard," Suleiman said. "Two hundred dinars, and I'll give my reference on your wonderful character to the court scribe, and we're done. I know about your performance in front of the Sultana's court. Everyone is talking about it. So your life is safe. Go in peace, and keep your lips sealed. If my secret should become known to any one soul, remember that I can have you killed discreetly. Sultana or no Sultana, then I will have you devoured by desert scorpions. Do you understand that, boy!"
"Yes, my lord," he said. "You will not see me again, unless you ask for me, or you happen to come to the Sultana's court."
Suleiman dismissed him from his attention. Younos tiptoed out of his presence, knowing well that the trader would try to kill him sooner rather than later. The dinars and the reference were just him buying time until he hired the right assassin. He wondered whether he had done the right thing. Sewer cleaning appeared more palatable just about now.
Imi prayed to Nut. She was after all the mother of the Gods. She was the sky. If anyone could give her her beloved, and make her dreams come true, it was she. She raised her arms to the sky, and uttered ancient chants that not many knew.
She had a talisman that she held sacred. Her grandmother had bequeathed it to her mother, and her mother to her. For simple slaves, they had knowledge of their lineage for several generations, which others in their community considered surprising. They had been slaves the last twenty generations at least. The talisman showed a cow inside a pot. The pot was the hieroglyph that represented Nut's ancient name. The cow was her depiction. She was a gigantic cow whose body formed the sky and heavens, who suckled the stars on her celestial teats.
If the Sky Goddess heard her petition, perhaps she would have her handsome Persian prince. Great is the power of prayer, she thought, remembering her grandmother's training, as she felt the talisman resting on her palm now.
Give me this one prayer, O mother of the Gods, she said to herself. This one prayer, O coverer of the sky. Grant this little serving girl one wish. Surely you, who hold a thousand souls, can do that.