As usual, Friday is Flash Fiction day. I use the writing prompt from Chuck Wendig (AC). This week we have five random words to weave into a 1000 word story, any genre. My words were Topaz, Casket, Djinn, Acid and Hound, to which I have to add DELTA – my NATO Alphabet letter of the day. Delta is the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet, Δ or δ, and is often used for things shaped like a triangle, a capital delta.
Sorry it’s longer than the ideal A to Z Challenge post, but I hope you enjoy it! Sign up to receive stories every Friday.
[ful is a bean stew, and a djellaba is a thick full length wool cloak with a hood]
The Legend of the Delta Topaz
Amani stirred the pot of ful, and heaved it to the side of the frame over the campfire. She slapped the balls of dough on her stone slab, and arranged the flat breads on the griddle to cook. Each action allowed her a sidelong glance at the foreigners who sat on their stupid campstools, bottoms oozing over the edges, smoking disgusting pipes and justifying themselves by saying it kept the mosquitoes away. The only thing that kept Nile mosquitoes away was a thick net. A good thick djellaba helped, too.
Her fluency in English, French and German meant she’d been given the job. Her people were the Guardians of the Topaz, and these Englishmen were not going to steal it from them. She would help ensure that.
“… so then I thwacked the chap on the rump and he scampered away!” The three explorers roared with laughter at the ending of yet another story. Henderson really knew how to spin a yarn.
“What about another snifter before dinner?” one of them asked.
“Oh, let’s just hurry that hussy up. It can’t be long now, the pot’s been boiling for hours. Go and talk to her, Watkins.” Henderson was the leader, so they followed. Watkins came over to Amani and looked in the pot.
“Dinner? Ready? When?” he asked, pointing to the food.
Amani sank back on her heels demurely and said “soon, you son of a camel,” in Arabic, smiling and gesturing to the table laid with best china and crystal glasses. “Take your seats and I will fill your glasses with acid,” she added, still in Arabic, but as if she was inviting them to a feast.
As a servant, standing behind them as they made their plans for the next day, Amani was invisible. They expected everything to appear in front of them at the right time, and it did. She listened as they discussed the map, stolen from an old explorer who’d bought it from an ancient potter in a souk . Two arms of the Nile delta to cross, and then the conical hill to the northeast. The topaz was in the tomb underneath. All the delta-people knew the tomb of Angelazeb, its proto-pyramid made from dried mud. It was revered ground, a place of ancestor worship. The legend said he who set eyes on the Delta Topaz would die before the next full moon. Amani wondered if the English oafs knew that. She cleared up after the meal, cleaned the dishes well away from the camp, and updated her brother, Atif, who was lying on a reed canoe alongside the riverbank.
The following evening was a repeat performance, save that the ful was replaced with roast guinea fowl and three fish, caught on the second crossing of the Nile. Amani was sickened by these men as they tore at the flesh. No manners, no civilisation. “May your manly parts rot in the dung deposited by the ass,” she said cheerily to them as they went to their sleeping tents. One of them replied “What ho!” as he ducked into his tent. She finished her chores and retired to her pile of blankets.
The dead silence of night was broken by the speaking of a hound. Not in words, but the hounds’ own warbling tongue. Amani pulled the blanket further up over her head, over the hood of the djellaba. She would keep well away from whatever happened this night.
In the tent, Henderson half rose. Hounds? Here? He must be dreaming.
Then it spoke again, from one point of the compass then another. How many were there? Where had they come from?
“Henderson?” Watkins whispered urgently at the flap of his tent.
“Yes,” he replied, finding his voice a mere croak, so he said “yes” again, louder.
“There’s something moving about out here.”
“Well, leave it be and go to bed,” Henderson replied, turning over in his own cot. Watkins was not to be put off.
“Stevens left the tent. I don’t know where he is.”
“He’s probably been caught short. God knows what that girl puts in our food.”
“I don’t know… he’s been gone a while.”
Henderson sighed and swung himself out of his cot, feet finding his boots automatically.
“What do you want to do, then,” he asked, emerging from his tent.
“I think we should look for him.”
Their deliberation was cut short by a shrill drawn-out scream, followed by an unearthly gurgle. They clutched at each others’ shoulders. They spun round at the sound of footsteps in the papyrus covered ground around the camp. “Who’s there?” cried Henderson.
By the light of a near-full moon, a tall man walked towards them, accompanied by an Egyptian hound, tall, slim, with pointed ears.
“It’s me,” said Stevens, but it was not Stevens’ voice nor manner. He moved like a puppet. “We must go back. It’s dangerous here.”
“Go back!” cried Henderson. “What nonsense is this? And where did you get that damned dog?”
Stevens held out a small, jewel-encrusted casket. “This is what we seek. We must go now. Before it’s too late.”
Henderson took the casket and elbowed Watkins aside to get to the hurricane lamp. The box was unlocked; he carefully raised the lid, and gasped. Watkins peered over his shoulder, reacting likewise as he saw a yellow stone, the size of his thumb, lying on a rose-pink bed of silk.
“The Delta Topaz! But how…”
“We must go now,” repeated Stevens, turning away. The hound watched him disappear into his tent, turned his head to stare at Henderson and Watkins, then vanished into the dark.
Amani woke before dawn and watched the moon setting. If it wasn’t full now, she thought, it would be when it rose tonight. Had the travellers encountered the djinn last night, she wondered. It often took the form of a hound.
She took the tea round the tents and returned to make her breakfast. No need for any more pretence on this trip.
(c) J M Pett 2014