In May 1839, British historian Albert 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.
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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.
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
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.
clapping backs brotherly.
for pleasantries. Do you have somewhere we can go?” asked
abrupt turn into an even narrower alleyway.
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.
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.”
much busier street. Peddlers and merchants moved their wares
in a long and disjointed street market.
carpets in Algiers. Or maybe a new watch?” teased Faraj.
hold back his smile.
face. Faraj seemed to lose his steam, replacing his joy with
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.
“What are you moving?”
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.
him. Ambroise turned around to face the man.
loading the crates on a wagon.
around here,” yelled Ambroise.
identification, customs and tariff slip.”
for by the customs. The customs controlled by your
that crate. It is not your business.”
smuggle into it!”
customs slip – foodstuff!”
“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.
pillowed seat. Herbert looked awkward sitting on the floor.
Faraj snickered at his attempts at keeping a straight back.
you know?” labored Herbert.
the room. It was as comfortable as a drawing room, but it
looked nothing like the ones found in Europe.
one of the sweets.
delight and quickly went for another one.
your mind, but also make you forget things.”
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.
of Tin Hinan.”
Johann Weyer and his research. I know you think it is
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!”
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
himself up so much. Especially in front of a friend with such
composure. Herbert never got riled up, thought Faraj.
them. It was a printed map of the northern desert. Faraj had
made extensive notes on it describing the exact route.
pointing at the notes.
sketches and more notes.
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.
screamed Ambroise and pushed his patrol up the Casbah hill.
and Faraj could hear them storm the entrance.
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.
Herbert didn’t understand a word and feared for his life.
are coming. We must go!”
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.
held as hostage.
holding his knife demonstratively next to Herbert.
react. The street was narrow – they were trapped. Faraj stepped
out between the two sides.
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
close to his chest.
color of your skin.”
reached out to close his eyelids.
fled into the narrow Casbah streets. He ran like never before,
back to the hotel and the safety of his luxurious hotel room.
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.
hand. Daniel left and went upstairs.
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.
there are so few Brits in Algeria, Professor.”
this stone on the back of your map?”
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.
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.”
father and my father’s father and so on. It is on you now. Good
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.