Impossible غير ممكن

1/4/21

A hooded man stalked a woman similarly obscured with a checkered red niqab, staying far enough away that he would not be noticed by his prey. There were many others in the street, but the stalker kept a consistent distance from the woman, betraying their connection. Rayan al-Tawami thought that perhaps he was a bodyguard, but figured that a woman so concealed would likely be accompanied by more prominent bodyguards under the payroll of the wealthy merchant or noble married to her. No, there was something more sinister afoot, and Rayan would have to ensure that it ended as discreetly as possible.

Stopping by several street merchant carts, Rayan kept his distance but ensured that his eyes were on both parties. The woman was in danger of being dishonored, or worse, and the man had to fear a knife between his shoulder blades if Rayan believed he was a threat. He wished he had his bow, but that weapon was much more likely to betray Rayan as a patroller, and he had reluctantly left it in his quarters. Soldiers marched the streets to deter evil; patrollers were there to respond to it.

Rayan grew worried as he realized that the woman was making her way towards a public park, normally full of people but sparsely populated as the citizens of Shajarah attended the Pattern Games being hosted in their city. If she intended to take a walk through the trees alone, she left herself exposed to attack… or the indiscrete attention of a lover. The thought tempted Rayan into a laugh, as he realized that perhaps the stalker had more innocent intentions. He decided to follow them until they reached the park, partially to ensure that darker suspicions were unfounded but mostly to continue practicing his own stalking skills now that danger seemed unlikely.

The park was on the edge of a large town square. People gathered there to watch large maps of the racetracks where attendants pushed around colorful magnets to reveal the progress of camel riders. It appeared that the rider from another country had been removed from the competition, giving Shajarah's contestant even more of an advantage when it came time for his leg of the relay. Few of the spectators were looking anywhere besides the tracking maps, leaving the large descended park below unobserved. The woman made her way down one of the staircases onto the soft grass below - but her follower did not, instead making his way toward the fence around the ledge and kneeling down as he removed a tube from his tunic.

Rayan immediately ran toward the man, fearing that he was attempting to murder the woman, but watched with horror as a dart left the tube and zoomed toward its target. In an impressive burst of speed, the woman zoomed several feet away as though she had heard the dart coming, turning around and staring at the obscured attacker. It seemed impossible that the woman had survived, but Rayan had enough evidence to arrest the stalker and throw him in prison, if only he could get there quick enough.

The stalker seemed irritated that his dart had not met its target, and he loaded another into the tube, attempting to make his kill once again in the time it would take Rayan to push through the crowd and intervene. He felt adrenaline building up in his blood, and he summoned willpower he did not know lay within to run through the crowd, pushing people away with ease. He arrived far quicker than he predicted, only to find the force of an elephant thrash his back and send him flying over the fenced ledge. Thinking quickly, he put his hands forward and tumbled onto the ground thirty feet below, lying on his back for a moment before jumping to his feet and looking up at the square.

The assassin was grunting through the obstruction of a large hand wrapped around his neck, hanging him over the ledge. A masked, bulky man who towered above everyone around him frowned, knuckles turning white for a moment before they relaxed. Rayan turned his head and saw the woman waving her hand and shaking her head, and the stalker’s captor dropped him so that he landed on the stairs below, piercing scream following the crack of a leg breaking.

“What the gazma is going on here?” Rayan demanded, pointing at the woman. She in turn pointed up at the ledge, though Rayan saw that the strongman had vanished when he turned his gaze. Curious, Rayan turned his head back to the woman, but his eyes widened when she was nowhere to be found. He scanned the foliage all around, unable to find the slightest trace of movement even with the training of his great mentor. Mystified, Rayan headed up the stairs where he found the stalker attempting to crawl up toward the square.

“Not today, bin khaliba!” Rayan clamped his foot down on the stalker’s back, and the man grunted aloud in addition to the groans caused by his broken leg. “Empty those pockets and get on my back, there’s a damp cell waiting for you in the citadel.”

“Hey, need some help?” A passerby called down from the top of the stairs, quickly making his way down to assist.

“That’d be appreciated,” Rayan thanked, waving the man down. Upon arrival, the man lowered his hood, revealing the unique ears of a si’lat. The sa'aali all appeared untrustworthy - every si'lat's smile curved just slightly more widely than a human expression, their irises reflected too brightly, and their lithe faces were propposed up by unnaturally long cheekbones. It appeared that someone had attempted to paint a picture of an extremely attractive human, but mistakenly exaggerated certain features, resulting in an insidious portrait.

“What happened?” asked the si’lat, heping Rayan lift the disabled stalker from the ground.

“Uh…” Rayan struggled to summarize what had just occurred as he and the si’lat each wrapped an arm around the stalker’s shoulders, helping him ascend the steps jumping one leg at a time. Rayan worried that the stalker would give a better description of the events, but he stayed silent, cowering every time he saw the si’lat’s face. “Caught this bin khaliba trying to dishonor a woman he was following, apparently he forgot how stairs work.” He laughed weakly, understanding that his tone would not convince the si’lat that he was telling the truth.

“Sin clouds the mind like nothing else.” The si’lat shook his head. “There are far greater masters than the one you follow.”

The stalker glared at the si’lat, but his expression changed to worry and he shook his head vigorously as the sil’at opened his mouth to speak once more.

“Which master?” Rayan peered curiously at the si’lat, wondering if somehow this creature had come across intelligence about the stalker and his intended victim.

“Ar-Rajim, of course. The devil is a friend to no one, even to those who follow him.” The si’lat’s expression did not change as he spoke, but Rayan was worried to see the stalker sigh aloud in relief.

The trio suddenly found themselves jostled by the crowd when the map attendants revealed that the penultimate leg of the camel race had finally begun, with Shajarah's champion taking an enormous lead above the other countries that were still occupied with the previous stretch of the relay. Spectators shouted and waved their arms, and the square quickly became a violent wave of people, puting the health of the stalker at risk. Rayan did not care if the offender’s entire leg was chopped off, but there was something dark at work that a judge needed to examine, and it was imperative that the prisoner survived.

He shouted at the si’lat to head to the edge of the square where he hoped they could avoid the worst of the crowd, but just as Rayan received a reply, he found himself shoved to the ground. The frenetic spectators forced him to fold his head into his knees for protection, and he struggled to hold onto the stalker. A flash of red sped across his field of vision, and Rayan felt the stalker’s hand vanish from his grasp along with the rest of his body. Once again full of adrenaline, he grabbed the si’lat’s hand and pulled his compatriot from the ground, waving at him to run toward the edge of the square.

Eager to find his prisoner, Rayan climbed atop the pedestal where a statue was mounted, pulling down his hood to get a better look at the crowd. Unfortunately, the stalker was nowhere to be seen, and the crowd appeared to be uniformly clad in umber. If there were any spectators from other countries, they kept their colors hidden, rightfully worried to be in a crowd this excited over their country’s victory. Huffing in anger, Rayan jumped from the pedestal and waved for the si’lat to follow him to the park, where they finally found some peace.

“What’s your name?” Rayan asked.

“Codar al-Amran, under your command.” The si’lat bowed his head with a sincere smile.

“Aren’t you the son of Brahim? From the Craftsmen Guild?” Rayan was shocked that someone this prominent would not be in the stands at the racetrack watching the camel riders.

“One in the same,” Codar said.

“What do you know about the black magic we just witnessed?” Rayan asked. “None of that was natural, nor blessed by Ilah.”

“Why do you think I know any more than you?” Codar shook his head, appearing legitimately surprised at Rayan’s interrogation. “I’d call it blak magic just as you do, but I certainly don’t consort with anyone predestined for evil.”

“You seem equally unlikely to be in a crowd of Akbaris watching your own country’s athletes get trounced racing camels.” Rayan frowned, hoping that Codar would understand the gravity of the situation and tell the truth.

“I was seeing a lover.” Codar pursed his lips and looked to the ground in shame. “She’s a human, like you, and I’m afraid of anyone discovering our affair. Call such a union sin if you will, but know that I stay far away from black magic like any follower of the Anointed.”

“Oh...” Rayan struggled to keep from laughing at the perfectly innocent indiscretion. “I’d keep that a secret from most around here, but you have no judgement to fear from me. I’ll say that you were on Guild business in my report.”

“Report?” Codar’s eyes widened in fright. “Please, don’t mention me. My affair has been suspected, and I would rather there not be any record of it. I am well familiar with General Zafar’s hunger for intelligence.”

“I am bound as a patroller to say what I know,” Rayan told him. “You were a witness, and if there is a coven of black magicians in Shajarah, the Priesthood will want to stamp them out at once. We cannot allow our enemies to claim a foothold in this city before their appointed time.”

“So I feared.” Codar shrugged. “I know you can’t be bought, so I’ll leave trust your judgement. May our next meeting be more peaceful.”