"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.
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 an 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 soapstone. 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.
Full short story
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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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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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