A continuation of the short story Hall of the Mountain Lord; in this episode our two travelers visit the home of the aged Lacan, who is rumored to be a wizard....
After two hours journey, they came upon the dwelling of Lacan.
It was set not far from a pool, but the home itself was set in the sand. Lacan's dwelling was unusual; in fact, remarkably so. Rather than a tent, or a house of mud-brick, Lacan lived in a house carved out of rock; a rock buried into the very earth itself.
It was said that the unusual house with the unusual design once belonged to the diminutive nomads known as the Iiyesi, but no one really knew for sure. What was known was that Lacan had made this place his home for as long as anyone now living could recall.
Hamim tied their camel to a post outside the door, then helped Adara to dismount. The baroque door itself was round, it's wood well-weathered by the sand, which filled every crack and crevice in it's frame.
Hamim rapped his staff upon the door, and awaited an answer. When none was forthcoming, he swung his staff to knock again; but at that very instant, the door flew open!
Hamim and Adara now looked upon a young man, seemingly about their same age as themselves. He wore a coat of burnt-red, his shirt beneath, in contrast, the shade of curdled cream. His skin was a shade lighter than Hamim's, and his eyes shone a pleasant green. His hair, interestingly enough, showed blonde; especially on top where it had been bleached by the sun.
Adara noted the boy's handsomeness, at this first viewing.
"Ah!" said the boy. "Good day. And who might you be?"
Adara lowed her veil, letting him see her face. "I am Adara, daughter of Yasser. I have come to speak with the master of this house."
"Peace be upon you, Adara" said the boy. "I am known as Zorab."
"Master!" he yelled back into the house: "There is a pretty girl here to see you!"
"Now see here...!" started Hamim, indignant.
"Oh", said the boy called Zorab, to Hamim: "My apologies."
"A pretty girl" he shouted back "...and her camel-driver, are here to see you!"
"I am not interested in pretty girls, or camel-drivers!" said the voice within. "Ask them to please move on."
"Alas," explained Zorab: "my Master speaks the truth. Well...about the girls, at least. He might be in need of good camel-driver, at some point."
Adara looked the boy in the eye, and speaking calmly - but firmly - stated:
"Hamim here is a trusted and faithful servant of my house, and not a mere camel-driver, and this is not a social-call; and certainly not a marriage-offer! I am here to seek the aid of Master Lacan, who it has been said is magi, and a great scholar."
"Oh?!" exclaimed Zorab. "Master! She says..."
"I can hear well enough, Zorab- stop yelling everything back" complained the voice within. "And stop being rude to our guests and invite them in for food and drink, already."
"My apologies" said Zorab, sincerely, while opening the door for his guests; "Please, please- do come in!"
The space within was dimly lit, and seemingly poorly organized- at least it seemed to Adara, who toiled daily to keep her father's home clean and tidy.
Scrolls were everywhere - some tied closed, others unfurled- many covered with a light layer of dust. All manner of clay jars stood on shelves, and some atop the single table that was to be found in the center of the room. The boy Zorab dusted the table quickly, arranging the jars in the center, and removed an open scroll, laying it aside on a corner bench. He pulled up some cushions, motioning for the guests to sit.
Adara and Hamim sat at the table, both looking a bit uncomfortable (Hamim, if fact, looking very uncomfortable) as their eyes adjusted to the relative darkness of the room. Zorab made some noise in the kitchen, and soon emerged with a serving of za'atar bread and nice, hot pot of strong tea, which he placed on the table for the two visitors. Neither touched either the offered food or beverage.
The man called Lacan emerged from the gloom, carrying a walking stick, which he leaned on ever-so-lightly. Adara noted that particles of dust danced around him, where shafts of light illuminated his form. His face was the texture of brown stone, weathered by decades of dust and sun. What had once been a rich head of black hair was now a few retreating strands of grey, One eye showed clear and black- alert- and the other covered by a white cloud, now dead. His robes were simple and brown, and showed signs here and there of many mendings. Not the trappings of a rich man, to be sure. But they had come to see a magi, and this Lacan looked every bit the part.
"Now" said Lacan, taking his seat with leaden groan. "Ah. Well, then. We are seated now, yes? So- you are Adara, daughter of Yasser?"
"Yes, Master Lacan" she affirmed.
"And this handsome boy?"
"I..." started Hamim.
"He is Hamim, and he is servant to my house" interrupted Adara.
"Oh?" started Lacan. "You would share a table with your slave? You traveled alone with him as well, I gather?"
"I trust Hamim above all others, as does my Father" insisted Adara. "And he may sit at any table that I do. Perhaps you feel otherwise, Master Lacan?" she asked, a small portion of her anger showing in her voice.
The old man looked more amused than anything. "Oh no! My table is open to all visitors, regardless of station. As is my pantry; so please... Please! Do eat! Zorab there may look - and, sadly, act - rather foppish, but he is a capable cook. I think that you will find the tea and bread to your liking."
"Thank you, but we have come here for a grave purpose, Master Lacan..." interjected Adara.
"I see this" said Lacan, stopping her midway. "And important matters should not be discussed on an empty stomach. Zorab, would you be so kind as to pour some tea for your Master as well?" he inquired "Unless you think that I am not worthy of service, in my own home?"
"Ah!" said Zorab. "Oops! Yes, let me find you a cup, Master." He quickly found a cup, and dutifully poured the tea for his Master.
The boy and girl ate their bread, and drank their tea- both were in fact, delicious - while the old man watched them, slowly sipping the rich beverage from his own vessel.
Finally, he said "Please, now- tell me why you traveled so far to see me today."
So Adara told her tale, as she had for the Imam, answering Lacan's brief questions. She told of the Moon, the bell, how she was somehow dreaming while awake; unable to move. Unable to save her only, her beautiful little brother. A few unwanted tears appeared again, the boy Zorab handing her a cloth to wipe them away.
Lacan let her say all that she had to say, and finally asked: "And you told all of this to the Imam, already, right? To Dhakir."
"Yes" she said. She then bit her lower lip- hard enough to hurt, draining the color, and said "He told me to just give up on him! That he belonged to the Jinn- to the spirits- now!"
"The Imam is a wise man" concluded Lacan " Although wisdom is not often well-received."
"Adara," he paused "...Adara. You are a kind soul, and a brave one, I am sure. I can see that you truly love your brother, and all of this must be painful for you. I understand that your own mother has passed on?"
"Yes" confirmed Adara. "Shamal never knew her."
"Ah" said Lacan, now seeing the full picture "Then you have been as a mother to Shamal as well. I see. That makes what I am about the say all the more difficult, I suppose."
"Yes?" she said.
"The Imam was correct, I think. Shamal has been called into the land of Air Spirits, and no longer belongs to this world- which is called 'Midworld' in the Grand Cosmology. You should go about your life, and have your own children. Think well of your brother. You can recall him forevermore, as he was."
"That is unacceptable!" she cried. "I should simply abandon my brother? Why become Imam, why join the world of the magi- if you cannot DO anything? What is the point of wisdom if it just means that you know yourself to be useless? Surely, there is something more that can done than this?! Than nothing?!"
"Indeed" said Lacan. "Indeed, I shall never become so old that I cannot be rebuked by the words of the young, I suppose. I apologize for my uselessness, young lady. I suppose I should rest these old bones now, so I should take my leave of you. Peace be upon you- please enjoy your fill before making your journey back home."
And with that, he left the table and the two young people on their own.
---------------------------End Part 3
Continued in Part 4