It was only after filling Younos up with sweet wine, cheese and dates that Hypatia broached the subject of his clandestine studies of the paranormal. Spirits were a good way to get young Younos to talk in a manner that was less than circumspect.
“Are you training in the old magic, brother?” she asked him, deciding that a direct approach was for the better.
He looked shock at her question, but his guard wasn’t completely up, as he was tending to inebriation.
“Where did you get that idea, Adelphe?’ he said.
“I’ve looked at your scrolls, Younos,” she said, simply.
He started, and then was lost in thought for a moment.
“I know you practice magic, but I want to know what your designs are, brother?” she said.
He had a look that Arabian horses often got when they sighted packs of jackals in the desert. It was a look of panic mixed with determination.
“You entered my room?” he said.
“This is my house, brother,” she said, keeping her voice even but very dangerous.
Younos understood veiled threats, so he towed her line just then.
“Okay, okay,” he said, making a conciliatory gesture with his palms. “I’ll tell you about those scrolls, Adelphe.”
“I have been spending all my dinars on obtaining a certain strand of magic all these years,” he said.
“What strand would that be?” she said.
“It is called Inanna’s charm,” he said simply, and then looked down at his feet.
She gasped. Inanna was the ancient Sumerian goddess of love. Love, not marriage. She was particularly known as the goddess of extramarital liaisons and sensual affairs. The goddess herself was supposed to prowl the streets and taverns in search of carnal adventures. Inanna’s charm was a mystical amulet that endowed the owner with infinite sexual potency and a hypnotic hold over whomsoever he or she desired. Younos was blushing after admitting this. No wonder.
“Brother!” she said. Her tone was a mixture of consternation, condemnation and admiration. Consternation, for she hadn’t expected that to be his target. Condemnation, for he appeared to be frittering away good money over something that was probably only a myth. Admiration, because he had backed his ribald ambition with everything he materially owned. “What have you been doing with your life!”
It was rhetorical question. He stayed silent for a moment. Then he went on.
“Adelphe, it is my dream, and I mean to accomplish it,” he said.
Why? Why this dream? She saw no point in asking him out loud. Of course her brother was always ogling pretty girls, and his baby face didn’t really make him a much sought after suitor among the opposite sex. That could be the one reason. He was always looking at girls but never sleeping with them. She wondered whether she should talk to a lovely Arabian prostitute she knew about ‘helping’ her brother with his confidence. The girl was known for her succulent breasts, and even had people in the Sultana’s court as her clients. She decided against it. She had to learn more about his progress in the mystical arts.
The general’s grip felt as though the hardest stone in all of Arabia had been carved into a deadly collar for her. Nadia felt her life force ebb away. He was moving his hand away from his torso with the lethal intent of tossing her into the abyss behind her, and in front of him. Her left arm, with a will of its own, found the general’s scimitar sitting in its sheath. It was only an inch too low for her arm to each. She struggled, sensing that she was moving further away from it every blink of an eye.
She took a chance and leaned towards the general, feeling his foul, demonic breath on her face, and found the scimitar’s hilt within reach. She pulled it up with the nail of her middle finger, and then grabbed the hilt fully in her palm. The general saw what she was doing. His evil eyes shot out beams of pure hatred in her direction. His arm moved fast, but hers moved just as fast and she sliced the scimitar in a horizontal arc in front of her. The curved blade tore his throat into shreds, even as his arm let go of her. He screamed in disbelief, as his lifetime of effort in wedding the darkest depths of hell were sliced away in one moment, at the hands of a mere waif of a girl. Dark blood poured out in a viscous stream out of his shredded throat, and flooded his mouth, and she heard him choking on his own blood. The anger and the sense of having been cheated in his eyes was ample reward for Nadia, as her feet plunged into the abyss.