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Old Friends is the second short-story in Remember - Amnesia: The Dark Descent. It's written by Mikael Hedberg, and includes an illustration by Rasmus Gunnarsson & Jonas Steinick. It takes place during Herbert's and Daniel's journey to Algeria in 1839, and follows Herbert as he meets up with his old friend Faraj as they discuss the upcoming expedition.

Plot SummaryEdit

In May 1839, British historian Herbert meets up with his old friend Faraj in the casbah (old central city quarter in many arabic cities, typically walled in, a type of medina) of Algiers, the capital of Algeria. Faraj leads him to his home, where he produces and old map of the Algerian deserts. The back of the map is covered with notes and drawings made by Johann Weyer - One of the drawings is a curious star shape. They are suddenly interrupted by Faraj's niece, Baki, along with three other men, who are being chased by the french military trying to quell the rebellion in the city. Baki takes Herbert hostage, and takes him to the soldiers waiting outside. Faraj tries to intervene, and both Baki and Faraj end up dead. Herbert makes it back to the hotel where he is staying, where he is approached by a french officer by the name of Captain Ambroise. Ambroise hands Herbert his map, as well as a star-shaped soap stone. He informs Herbert of the mysterious and dangerous abilities the stone supposedly possesses, before he leaves. Early the next morning, Herbert and Daniel leave on their expedition to find the Tomb of Tin Hinan.

Old Friends - Full Short StoryEdit

Click the "Expand" button at the right to read the full short story.


Old Friends
Herbert made his way through the busy Casbah streets of
Algiers. His pale skin burned in the relentless African sun and
breathing the thick animal stench, mixed with spices and
incense, was exhausting. It was no place for tourists, but
Herbert had important business which could not be solved
elsewhere. The old town was a labyrinth of narrow streets
going up and down the hill, finding your way was anything but
easy. To keep the peace and control over the city, there were
soldiers in every corner – or rather it was supposed to be. The
Casbah remained a bastion for rebels and simply posting
guards would not help as they could easily be picked off by
assassins. Instead there were large patrols of fifteen or more
men marching up and down the already crowded streets.
Even as a European, Herbert was not spared from
harassment. He was repeatedly being stopped by patrols
asking for papers and had to listen to their friendly advice
about not fraternizing with the locals. The upside of all this
was that his French had improved tremendously these last few
weeks.
 
Faraj stood outside the mosque waiting for his foreign
friend. He was happy and excited, but did everything in his
power to avoid appearing giddy in front of the French patrol.
He knew how dangerous the city had become since the French
arrived and did not want to draw attention to himself. Tension
was high and if the French soldiers would suspect that
something had gone awry, they wouldn’t hesitate to clear the
streets and imprison anyone who protested.
“Faraj,” said a pleased voice from behind him.
“Herbert!”
Faraj hugged his friend. They stood there for moment
clapping backs brotherly.
“So many years, my friend, so many years,” said Faraj.
“I’m so happy to see you again. But this is not the place
for pleasantries. Do you have somewhere we can go?” asked
Herbert.
“Of course, follow me.”
They made their way towards the harbor and took an
abrupt turn into an even narrower alleyway.
“I made good time,” said Herbert looking at his gold
watch.
“Oh, really did you?” laughed Faraj.
“Yes, look, not even six o’clock.”
Faraj stopped and looked at the wind-up pocket watch.
He turned the screw connected to the spring and tapped at the
glass. The arms started turning again. Faraj set the clock to
show the right time.
“There you go, my friend.”
“Oh,” said Herbert disappointed, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry. Did you have trouble finding the mosque?”
“It was a splendid idea to find each other by looking for
the minaret tower. But the streets are so unpredictable. As
soon as I thought I had arrived, the street would go off in a
different direction. It took me quite some time to find a way
leading all the way to the mosque.”
“Sounds a lot like the Casbah,” said Faraj and laughed.
They arrived on the other side of the alleyway, a larger and
much busier street. Peddlers and merchants moved their wares
in a long and disjointed street market.
“Do you need anything? I have a cousin selling the finest
carpets in Algiers. Or maybe a new watch?” teased Faraj.
“Hah! Thank you, but I’m trying to plan a trip to the
desert.”
Faraj stopped and looked serious for a moment.
“Are you going, Herbert, are you really?” he said unable to
hold back his smile.
“Signed and paid for by the British Museum.”
Faraj laughed in triumph.
“You crazy infidel. How do you do it?”
“I told them I had a map,” said Herbert with a straight
face. Faraj seemed to lose his steam, replacing his joy with
determination.
“We shouldn’t be talking about this in the streets. Come –
this way.”
 
Captain Ambroise of the French army moved his patrol
through the busy harbor. Call it instinct or experience, he
knew something was a foot. There was something about the
merchandise the loaders moved. Why were there so many
sealed crates? The majority of the goods shipped to Algiers was
grain and oil. Barrels and sacks was a common sight, not
unmarked board crates.
“You there!” Ambroise called out to a loader on the docks.
“What are you moving?”
“I don’t know, it’s not mine.” he answered.
“I need to see the custom’s slip for these items
immediately.”
The words fell on deaf ears. The men kept moving the
goods. Ambroise followed the men carrying the crates with his
eyes. They all moved goods from a single cebec, a small and
fast ship common in these parts of the world. Ambroise eyed
the growing pile of crates on the docks.
“Is there a problem, captain?” asked a calm Arab behind
him. Ambroise turned around to face the man.
“Perhaps. Are these yours?”
“Yes, yes they are.” The man nodded to his workers to start
loading the crates on a wagon.
“Nobody touches the crates, until I get some answers
around here,” yelled Ambroise.
“My name is Abd-al-Qadir Bahij and here is my papers –
identification, customs and tariff slip.”
“Open one.”
“Captain, they have already been checked and accounted
for by the customs. The customs controlled by your
government.”
“I don’t care. Open one,” Ambroise gestured to his men.
“Captain, you are performing a criminal act by opening
that crate. It is not your business.”
“My business is the Casbah and what you are trying to
smuggle into it!”
“No need to get upset, Captain. It says so right on the
customs slip – foodstuff!”
The crate creaked as the soldiers cracked it open.
“Captain?” said one of the soldiers. “It’s grain, sir.” Bahij and
Ambroise looked at the long open crate. It looked like a small
coffin filled with grain. Ambroise noticed that Bahij held his
breath a moment before he exhaled. Ambroise turned around
and kicked the open crate over. The grain poured out –
exposing a stack of rifles.
 
Faraj poured Herbert some tea and sat down on the
pillowed seat. Herbert looked awkward sitting on the floor.
Faraj snickered at his attempts at keeping a straight back.
“I’m glad my troubles entertain you. Posture is important,
you know?” labored Herbert.
“You need more pillows?” offered Faraj.
“Thank you, I will be all right.” Herbert glanced around
the room. It was as comfortable as a drawing room, but it
looked nothing like the ones found in Europe.
“Lokum?” Faraj held out a plate of sweets.
“Delights! Don’t mind if I do,” said Herbert and picked up
one of the sweets.
“I forget, you are British. Turkish Delights, am I right?”
“Yes, that’s what we call them.” Herbert finished his
delight and quickly went for another one.
“Careful with the rose flavored ones, they are said to ease
your mind, but also make you forget things.”
“I’m old – my memory is already abandoning ship,” jested
Herbert. Faraj sipped on his tea. He was happy having his
friend in his home. It saddened him that they would have to
engage in business instead of merriment.
“Herbert, do you really think you will be able to pull this
off?”
“The expedition? Most certainly.”
“What have you told your people in London?” asked
Faraj.
“The truth. That we are going to find the legendary tomb
of Tin Hinan.”
Faraj was worried that Herbert did not fully appreciate
the situation.
“Herbert, I told you. It is bigger than that.”
“Faraj, don’t worry. I remember what you told me about
Johann Weyer and his research. I know you think it is
important.
”Faraj smiled, feeling silly that he would ever doubt his
friend.
“You realize what this means? They could all be travelers.
Even God could be a concept from the beyond, brought to us
by missionaries, like it was brought to the natives in the
Americas. Maybe they are speaking to him, like an ordinary
man. Wouldn’t you like to speak to – no with, the almighty!”
Herbert fell silent. He didn’t know how to handle
religion. The Church of England had never impressed him and
when he had looked beyond the borders of the kingdom, all
religions became mythical. He had never found God and it
concerned him. He wanted to sympathize with Faraj, but
couldn’t.
“Well,” said Herbert, “I guess we’ll find out.”
Faraj calmed down once again, ashamed to have worked
himself up so much. Especially in front of a friend with such
composure. Herbert never got riled up, thought Faraj.
He produced a map and splayed it on the floor in front of
them. It was a printed map of the northern desert. Faraj had
made extensive notes on it describing the exact route.
“Where is all this information from?” said Herbert
pointing at the notes.
“From here and there, but...”
Faraj turned the map over revealing the back covered in
sketches and more notes.
“... these are all from Weyer.”
“What is this?” Herbert pointed at a star-shape.
“Weyer describes it as a marker,” answered Faraj.
“For what?”
“Who knows?”
Faraj pointed at another sketch of a circle and a hand.
“Now, this. This is the key.”
 
Ambroise ordered the men to fire at the fleeing rebels.
Raiding Abd-al-Qadir Bahij’s granaries and storehouses had
stirred up a hornets’ nest of resistance. Countless of French
soldiers had reinforced the already crowded battle and the
harbor had turned into a killing field. The rebels scattered and
fled into the narrow streets.
“After them! Let’s quench this rebellion, once and for all!”
screamed Ambroise and pushed his patrol up the Casbah hill.
Four young men suddenly invaded Faraj’s home. Herbert
and Faraj could hear them storm the entrance.
“Uncle, you must run, they are killing everyone!” shouted
one of them from the other room. Faraj got to his feet and
hurried to see what it was all about. His nephew Baki came
into the room. Baki pointed accusingly at Herbert.
“Uncle, what are you doing? He is one of them!”
“No, Baki. He is not like them. He is English.”
“He is European!”
Baki pulled a dagger and pushed Faraj out of the way.
Herbert didn’t understand a word and feared for his life.
“Baki,” called one of the men from the other room, “they
are coming. We must go!”
“Don’t hurt him, please,” pleaded Faraj.
 
The patrol was waiting patiently for their compatriots to
lure out the rebels. Two ranks were formed, five men in front
kneeling, five men in the back standing. They had their rifles
ready and waited for Ambroise’s saber to come down, ordering
them to shoot.
The four rebels emerged from the house with a white man
held as hostage.
“Put your weapons away, or we kill this man,” yelled Baki
holding his knife demonstratively next to Herbert.
“Please, don’t!” cried Faraj from the side.
“Ready! Aim!...” called Ambroise to his men.
The threat turned the rebels frantic, but had little time to
react. The street was narrow – they were trapped. Faraj stepped
out between the two sides.
“Stop this madness!”
Ambroise let his saber fall in a swift movement.
“Fire!”
 
Faraj felt himself hit the ground. What was happening?
Everything had gone silent. His eyes focused. Baki’s lifeless
body laid collapsed on the ground just a few feet away. They
had killed Baki. What a waste of life. He tried to look around to
see the others, but he couldn’t move his head. Had they all
been killed? Faraj realized he wasn’t feeling well, mostly
because he didn’t feel anything at all. He prayed that Herbert
was safe.
“Faraj, can you hear me?”
“Yes, Herbert, I hear you, my friend. Are you all right?”
Herbert knew it was bad. He took Faraj’s hand and held it
close to his chest.
“Herbert, you are... unhurt,” smiled Faraj. “Saved by the
color of your skin.”
Herbert hung his head in shame.
“Farewell, Faraj, my friend.”
Faraj exhaled, his head fell back on the ground. Herbert
reached out to close his eyelids.
Dégages!” One of the soldiers kicked Herbert.
Européen!” yelled Herbert.
“Get out of here, stupid Englishman. Before I shoot you.”
“You just shot my friend...!”
The soldier fired a warning shot. Herbert quickened and
fled into the narrow Casbah streets. He ran like never before,
back to the hotel and the safety of his luxurious hotel room.
 
Herbert sat with his assistant Daniel in the hotel
restaurant. Daniel noticed that Herbert was quiet this evening,
but thought little of it. He picked up the week old London
Times and began to read. It was the same articles he had read
the day before.
“I think, I’ll be turning in. Good night, Professor.”
Herbert mumbled and made a small gesture with his
hand. Daniel left and went upstairs.
 
Ambroise came up to the table and dropped the map in
front of Herbert. He sat down in Daniel’s seat and took a sip
from his drink. Herbert didn’t know what to think. He quickly
reached for the map. Before he could collect it, Ambroise
tossed a stone onto the map. The gilded table below resonated
with a clang. Herbert looked around with a slight panic and
then down on the map and the star-shaped stone.
“What is that?” asked Herbert.
“That is my question,” he answered dryly. “You are lucky
there are so few Brits in Algeria, Professor.”
“What do you want?”
“I want to know what it is. And why is there a picture of
this stone on the back of your map?”
Herbert was speechless. He really didn’t know much.
Tin Hinan, was that it? He didn’t believe that, there was more.
It was what Tin Hinan might have been. Where she
came from, where she went.
“I understand,” said Ambroise. “You wouldn’t want to tell
me. We are not exactly best friends. Know this, this stone has
been in my family for something like three centuries, ever
since the siege of Calais. It has fueled the men in my family
with great spirit, but also madness. You know, inspiration to
the point of obsession. I never really bought into the whole
thing, but I must admit seeing you with this fills me with a
sense of purpose and closure.”
“Are you giving this to me?” Herbert was dumbfounded.
“I’m not doing you a favor Englishman. This is for my
father and my father’s father and so on. It is on you now. Good
luck.”
 
Herbert and the expedition left the next morning, heading
off into the Algerian desert. He would never forget the pain of
losing Faraj or the strange meeting with the French officer.
The map constantly reminding him of the sacrifices made and
the stone – determination lasting centuries.

 

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