Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

 

(Young Murtius is on the run from a one-camel town and he is heading towards Istanbul but a minor hitch in his travel plans finds him making a hole in the water. He has to make a deal with a great white shark. He promises another one in his place. The selected passage is from the episode How the Pirate Kept His Promise.– B)

“The water was cold, and being a good swimmer he swam for all his worth. Much more was his grim determination since he saw a spectre from underwater bearing upon him.

BHcover-design

 

It was a great white shark, which surfaced as if out of nowhere. The murderous shark didn’t waver but made a beeline towards him and it meant business. He gave a stiff competition to it. He was saved in time. …It was at that moment two pairs of hands had reached out to draw him up. One turned him over slapping till he had spat out the water and he could breathe freely. He also saw a cherubic face peering at him. Through the mists of wakefulness that follows near death experience he saw the face was curious and was holding out something to him. In a trice he imagined, an angel had come down, to save him. Just as what that old monk in Heliopolis had been telling.

The angel in a tarbush was large and he was coaxing him to drink what he held in his hands. He came around after a hot cup of tea he found himself in a strange vessel and the owner of the vessel, a rather stout fellow beaming at his chance find with unconfined joy. The wet bedraggled man in his early twenties was thankful him. While his host was drying him out and chatting to keep him hold to the present he recalled the shark. He shivered to think he had a deal on his hand.  He knew he would come across the shark again.

The sign of the shark did show a crescent moon. A distinctive mark on its dorsal fin.

Murtius thought it meant Istanbul where the streets in his mind’s eye had already acquired a 24- karat look.

His saviour, a stick-in-the mud type however didn’t have plans to take him to Istanbul but to his home in Izmir. He asked the youth what his name was. He said, “Black Hand.” Those five fellows, who had revenged on him by throwing him overboard, called him Black Hand as they dumped him into the waters. Murtius said simply, “Black Hand”. The name stuck.

Murtius was thus in the boat of Tayyab whose wealth had made Izmir synonymous for watermelons. His savior as he could see was still ecstatic of casaba (a variety of winter melons) of which everything that was to be known he had imparted to his ward; the young man realized in whichever way he changed the subject, it somehow rolled back to casaba. He had nothing personal against watermelons. But. If anyone did think of forming an Anti-Casaba League, he was sure he would have put his name down in the first place.

Naturally his biggest let down was yet to come. In that little effusion of the milk of human kindness Tayyab had acquired a slave for nothing.

“I have been greatly mistaken!” Black Hand exclaimed as he set his foot on the soil of Izmir. Instead of gold he was picking watermelons for his master who made him work from sunrise till sundown. Whom he had thought was an angel made sure he worked till he dropped off in fatigue; where he believed in divine intervention from an untimely death, his master believed in the redeeming nature of work. He had cucumbers and sour yogurt day in and day out. Tayyab intended to get the worth of every ounce of food he doled out to him. He had no choice but eat what little he got to stay alive. All work and no play made him cunning, inhumanly cunning. He knew he needed to lie low as low as his spirits. Before long his rock-hard belief in destiny was floundering. “By the beard of Mar Chrys-o-stom,” he asked in disgust, “what Destiny were you talking me into?”

Two years of hard labour however paid dividends. In his case he was taken out from dirt and put in a not so seaworthy felucca. He was all for a watery grave than rubbing his nose any more in the dirt. So he happily took control of the Casaba. The first time he smelled the sea after two years of drudgery and felt its salty spray on his cheeks he thought it was time he gave Destiny a not so gentle nudge…”

Selected from the Horrible Adventures of Captain Black Hand by Q-BITZ available through Amazon.

Read Full Post »

The book The Horrible History of Captain Black Hand authored by Q-Bitz is available: https://www.createspace.com/7591813

BHcover-design

Read Full Post »

BHcover-design

Was his encounter with the great white shark and escape by some design or by sheer luck? On such a question hangs the Horrible History of the Captain Black Hand.

It is a horrible story though. It is being published as paper back.

Description:

Young Murtius was a child of his times. At a time Old Spain and Portugal and England were plundering the Americas and called it the Great Battle of Wits he became a pirate. Awed by so much wealth he exclaimed, “I have needs therefore I exist.” Philosopher Descartes could not have summed it more succinctly. Only after he said ‘yea’ to free enterprise did he realize the Big Powers were dead earnest to string him up from the nearest yardarm.  He was a pirate with a price on his head!There was no going back. He took on the name Captain Black Hand with a ship and pirates ready to undertake any mission to stay afloat.

Eleven adventures are described with humor and verve of a pirate whose single misstep would have put an end to his game. Having made two enemies at the beginning of his career these adventures keep the reader engaged with their cat and mouse game into which a love-interest is also introduced to keep the suspense taut: does his phenomenal luck work same magic with love of his life?

The pirate makes appearance in two other books.

Q-bitz is a pen name and refers to the author’s interest in science. In the world of letters his forte is laws of levity, not related by any chance to the laws of Newton on gravity.

pages:272

Read Full Post »

 

Sense of Adventure sharpened by eye-to-eye encounters. This *goatta be fun!”

*We supply the goat, you supply the fun.

Image

Image

Read Full Post »

Chapter- 5

Up And Down

Captain Kous-Kous has found an enemy in the Mullah. The Mayor puts in a word for the Captain and the Prince promotes him as his viceroy.

 

 

The Admiral was in a huff.

He called for Captain Kous-Kous to report to him. The old seadog thought all hell broke loose at that part where the fleet had moored. The Sleepy Heads were out two days in a row calling out for their presents. The sea dog had only one remedy. He instructed the captain to take a message to the mullah.

Mullah Murad was in his quarters. After the exchange of greetings the captain said, “ People out there want a gift. It is the express wish of the grand mufti that you speak to them.” Laying aside his books he said, “ Ah I knew it. It is willed that I make these infidels hear reason. Allah wills it.”

Turning to Captain Kous- Kous he said, “May Allah requite you for your pains. Carry this bundle. I may have to refer to it.”

But it is rather heavy O Wise One!”

Indeed. Wisdom indeed comes in thick volumes!”

The sight of mullah made the Sleepy Heads break the queue and surge towards him. “ Here comes my angel!” One said. Another said, “You are jumping the queue, he is mine!” There was a minor scuffle, which was only broken up by the captain who heaved his heavy sack wildly beating back the mob. The Sleepy Heads got the hint and they drew back. All agreed the angel was as dirty as a goats tail. One ventured to ask,‘If one got a personal angel as bad as this one, may be his gifts also bound to be as vile(as his figure). He bowed to the other, ”well Luke, you can have him. I shall wait my turn.”

Take care, my books!” mullah shouted. Next moment he pulled the captain by his sleeve, “Who is Santa Claus?” he whispered to the captain who was struggling to keep his balance. “ Santa Class? How do I know? You are supposed to know. You are the wise one.”

As mullah and the captain drew near one Sleepy Head asked, “ Santa supposedly come in a carriage with horse. Instead..”

Horse?” another cut in.

Instead he is bringing an ass!.”

The Sleepy Heads had no respect for persons. They would have once again broken the order but the appearance so many janissaries with drawn swords coming down the ships restrained them.

Murad Mahoud stood on a stool, which was brought by one of the slaves. “ Hear me well.” “ We are hard of hearing” one shouted, “ Give us our presents. It works like magic every time.” The mullah ignoring their comments took out a book to read. “ Watch him fellows. He does not know where the book begins or ends. And now he wants us to listen him well.” Some sniggered at which the crowd took up instantly. “We want gifts!” They chanted. What a din they created!

He talks just like our doctor. But our Jerry Can is full. This one is almost dry”. One Sleepy Head said. “ He smells even like him.” another Sleepy Head said. The former commented, “A street Arab he is under his burnoose! The other took up an old ditty, ”No noose is good noose/ under his burnoose”/Nothing is good under..!” The crowd of course sang out of tune but they were having a good time.

Why do you believe in Santa Claus? Because you are an infidel. Why are you called a Sleepy Head? Because you are a kaffir.” Mullah Murad shouted. At that point some one in the crowd threw a rotten egg at the speaker who got it right on the nose. “ He is also as impressionable as our doctor.” They laughed. The mullah screamed,” Guards, let them not get away.” One soldier managed to catch hold of one who tried to run. “ How dare you throw a rotten egg at our wise one?” “ What else is a rotten egg good for?” The Sleepy Heads were practical. They never allowed rotten eggs to pile up.

At another corner one soldier had managed to restrain a Sleepy Head who was running.“Hey you there,” he stood before the running man, “ Why are you in a haste? Some one in the crowd threw eggs, tomatoes and also pears.” “No, friend,” the Sleepy Head said, “I smell food around here. It makes me hungry.” After catching his breath he added, “Let me be. I must be home in time for my dinner.” Before a few soldiers could charge, he hollered at his wife to run faster. The Sleepy Heads made good of their escape.

The janissaries were distracted by a guard who came with a message from the grand mufti. Their superior who read the note from the prince waved his fellows to stop. Having read it loud he ordered the Sleepy Heads were to be let off from all harm. Meanwhile the captain escorted Murad Mahoud who was wiping the dripping egg from his face, “ The crowd made an impression on you. Didn’t they?” Kous- Kous asked. The mullah merely glared at him. Confidentially he spoke to Murad, “When you went there to address the crowd, you carried a particular smell.” “Must be my piety” the mullah felt somewhat easy,”I pray five times..”

May be it has its order but you also carry a certain odor which I cannot stand.” Murad felt anger rising in him. “But now,” Kous-Kous slapped on his back in good humour and said, “you come up smelling like roses!”

Mullah Murad Mahoud gathered his flowing cloak in tatters about him and walked into the safety of his ship. “ Infidels! How can they throw an egg at me?”

They showed they can, didn’t they?” Captain Kous-Kous akh al jaha’lah(* Brother of ignorance) said.

You are an ignoramus.” Replied Mullah angrily. Little did the captain realise that he had that evening made an enemy in Mullah Murad Mahoud.

2.

Next day. The mayor had come at the time previously agreed and the prince received him. Throughout dinner in which the prince made much of the mayor as if he owed his very life to him and passed on choicest pieces to him in the best traditions of a good host. While entertaining him he also thought the mayor was a scream. Mayor Calisthenics was natural and he carried his dignity as gingerly as a posy of violets in a hand. His dress was shabby with coat tails and a waistcoat which was one size smaller. Everything about him was so strange and the way he joked and said things the host had to remind himself not to laugh loud. ‘He must do his duties worthy of a prince.’he said to himself. Yet.

After dinner Calisthenics burped and the Turk smiled for he took it as a compliment. He had the satisfaction that he had pleased his guest.

Mayor Calisthenics had never eaten so grand a feast and he was full. The prince waited his turn while his guest washed his hands from a basin of water held by a liveried servant. Another held out towel for him to dry himself. The mayor was clumsy since he had no idea of their manners and custom. In the meantime the plates were cleared and bowls of fruits and glasses were brought in.

After the prince had washed himself dry he escorted his guest to the couch where they settled themselves to chat. Pointing to the glasses he asked his guest what he would like to drink.

Oh some wine.”

Wine!” The grand mufti was shocked. “ Wine ? It is forbidden for us. It is allowed to us only after this life.” “ On the other side uh?” A painful silence. He asked his guest, “ May I offer you some dates?” Calisthenics shook his head. He said,”Pass me some apricots please.” The prince obliged him.

The mayor without feeling embarrassed observed, “You do have strange customs and beliefs. You offer drinks before dinner whereas we never drink on empty stomach.”The prince immediately corrected, “What I offered before dinner was sherbet. No alcoholic drinks.”

I followed a custom what we are used to, O prince!”

No offence intended,”The host countered with a bow,” I followed the custom allowed by the prophet.”The mayor smiled. Al-Wa’sik explained, “Our prophet forbids wine in this waking life because it makes one lose one’s head. If one cannot judge what is right or wrong one is no better than a beast.”

Oh?” the mayor said.

Yes. Without judgment life is meaningless.” The grand mufti commented.

We drink wine only at times. Only when it is absolutely necessary” the mayor defended himself, “At other times, nothing, not even a drop enters our throat.” The Turk was impressed. “ As a matter of necessity. Did you say?”

Oh yes. When we are thirsty.”

Oh Grand Turk, I am thirsty now.” Calisthenics added. “Oh certainly,” The Turk said and he clapped his hands thrice. The wine steward came. “ Bring us some wine, immediately.”

Shall I pour it for you?” grand mufti asked his guest after the mayor made his choice. The steward who brought a cart full of wines took leave. “No thanks, I will drink it myself.”

It is not the custom in Turkey” replied the Turk. “ Who is thirsty? You or me?” The mayor wanted to know. The host held his silence. The mayor said,” Our custom any day is better than yours.”

What do you mean?”

When we are thirsty we do not pour. We drink to quench our thirst.” He gulped the bottle down in one stretch. He did not notice the eyes of the host growing wider. After the mayor had emptied his bottle he reached for another bottle. “Are you thirsty still?” the Turk’s jaw dropped.

No. But our custom dictates one good turn deserves another. Besides it is always nice to know how far I am tolerated by my esteemed host.” He finished his second and said. “My compliments for your excellent choice. My dear sire you have a good taste almost as mine.”

Almost! Almost did you say?” The Turk was red in the face, ”If you were not my guest I would have boxed your ears for impertinence.” The grand mufti said seriously. ”That speaks well of you O prince!”

Calisthenics said, ”You are perfect as a host. For you play it so well.” The grand mufti smiled. The mayor said,” If I did make mistakes as a guest I can get away with it. As a host you have not the same freedom.”

You have good choice of wines yet you do not drink them. Is that not a lack of taste? Is it not a serious error in judgment?” He asked his host.

If you had a taste like I have, why you would drink as I do.” He added. The wine made the mayor very playful and reckless too.

The host was now beaming like a cat who had its ear scratched. “What do you smile for?” He wagged his forefinger before his nose,” I drink to my fill and you smile as if you were the one who drank it.”

Al-Wa’sik could not help laughing as the mayor reached out for a few dates,” His waist-coat was so tight that a few buttons popped. “Even your waist-coat tells that you have had enough.” The Turk said, “ Is it a good custom to eat bellyful?”

We are not accustomed to luxury. But our life as it is lived, is luxurious which are not the same. Let that pass. If the host spreads a feast as rich as these, well we gobble it up. That is the truth.” Said the mayor seriously.” I shall tell something more. ”We don’t drink this kind of exquisite wine. We cannot afford it. So we have learnt to be content with what we drink. It is the truth,” The host was evidently embarrassed. “Even so our culture is better than yours.”

How can you say that you have a better culture than us?” “ We eat only to satisfy hunger.”

Ah, animals also do that.“ The mayor said shaking his head. “ We Sleepy Heads have a better culture. Isn’t it your culture which is linked to things than people?”

What do you mean?”

If a woman asked you to dine with her alone would you go?” The prince was horrified. Quickly he controlled himself and treated it as a joke.” I risk my reputation? Oh never!”

Would you go to dinner?”the prince asked somewhat diffidently. He was shocked.

Why not,” Calisthenics asked, “a Sleepy Head doesnot think on sex lines. One desires your company or seeks to know you better. Why a question of her sex should come in between?” The mayor asked,” Would you go to a party thrown by a peasant when there is also an invitation from another prince?” “Do I have to answer that?” “ O.K I shall qualify my question thus. The peasant is a model of prudence and full of wit. While the prince is a dreadful bore but of great lineage.” The prince looked at him searchingly. “Is n’t it obvious?”

Calisthenics shook his head.

What is wrong with wealth? Or keeping company of people of the same class and the means?” the prince asked, “Not so much as it gives one to despise another or judge another by the price of the dishes served. What matters in the end is being seen among your equals.”

So wealth makes that decision for you?”The grand mufti nodded. “Though reason tells you the sex and riches are besides the point. A woman who could give you far superior company is refused on account of her sex. The table of a man who is well accomplished is denied because of his low station. Is it wise to be known as civilized and yet must go against the obvious?”

Yes. We Turks live and show ourselves so, as best as money can provide.” the prince said,” so we may not be badly spoken of. Isn’t that our obligation to our society?”

Precisely,” the mayor said,” you make the society and yet you are slave to your own creation.” After a pause the mayor continued,” We live for the simple pleasures, which cost nothing. Our people get on each other’s nerves at times but they cannot live without sharing their pleasures. If we get a chance to sit at a feast or get a hand-out we take it but we are not overawed by it. We let society only as it should be,- at arm’s length.” The prince did not answer.

Our ways are better than that of yours,”the mayor said,”Can an ordinary Turk leave his home keeping the door open and be away for days without being burgled?”the mayor asked slightly heady with wine,”Here we can.”

Of course,”the grand mufti retorted,”theft is a serious offence.” “ Yes,”replied Calisthenics,” cut off the arm so says your law.” He added after a pause, “An eye for eye, a tooth for tooth.”

Yes. We have Laws. It stops thieves and burglars from breaking them.

True,”the guest chuckled,”In our case we have no Laws. As written down. Still our people would not think of stealing.”

They will not eh?”the prince asked in a fit,”We shall see. You had the other day asked freedom for your people. I shall offer freedom to you on that basis. We shall see whether you live up to your bragging.” It was late. The mayor would have risen but the host politely pressed him to give his company. He stayed for a short while and insisted he had to go home and catch up with his sleep.”I should not let Sandman wait!”he said with a smile.

Before he would let him off Al-Wa’sik wanted to know if he had any favors to ask.

Now that you have promised to grant us freedom I will ask a favor for one in your service.” The mayor mentioned the name of Captain Kous-Kous and his request. After hearing him the grand mufti said, “ You boast that your culture is better than ours. “ I shall appoint him my viceroy to the Garden of Neden. He shall live among the Sleepy Heads and learn. He shall acquaint himself with your ways and customs and shall report to me.”

Yes, let him see for himself.” The mayor said.

We shall see which of the culture is better. Yours or ours?” “What do you personally think, sire?” Calisthenics asked.” Prince Al-Wa’sik looked away and he said, ”Let me see what my viceroy will have to say from his experience.”

Agreed O Turk,” Calisthenics said.

Al- Wa’sik clapped his hands once and instantly came one of the guards. In low voice he spoke to him. Deeply bowing the guard withdrew and he brought the admiral along. The grand mufti picked a spear and tied a white banner at the tip and gave to him.

To hear is to obey” he said and went out.
”As I said I have made the captain of the
Golden Dawn my viceroy,” announced the Turk.

My grateful thanks.” Calisthenics said rising and he bowed. He took leave of the Turk. 

Read Full Post »

 

Chapter-1

Love comes In All sizes

Duke Wushamao’s plans thwarted.

Wang is attracted to Lin Lang. Lin Lang disappears leaving Wang distraught.

 

 

How dreary! So boring I could smash everything in sight!” Well, Duke Wushamao could well afford it. During the reign of Wan Li, the Ming emperor the duke was lording over every privilege he could lay hold of and it was becoming an addiction. On this side of Chechiang known as Three Pavilions he gorged on whatever he collected. He was becoming voracious and it made him a terrible foe if thwarted.

Since the emperor had ceased to interest himself in upholding the Will of Heaven the duke’s power grew: he could make entire towns disappear at least in terms of tax, these towns annually paid to the provincial governments. It went straight into his coffers. The eunuch Youtiao who attended to the revenue for the province of Chechiang on behalf of the emperor was his brother and he was ever behind him to pick up the pieces. Except some areas that not even Duchess Peony Su could have helped.

The duke loved to spend time away from her company. He came only to sleep or receive men of importance. Otherwise his palace was at his duchess’ hands to throw her fits anywhere or anytime. So often she had a permanent scowl settled on her ivory skin. Neither the duke nor the duchess was willing to palaver. When she fumed he cruised outside and took low life in his stride. It was thus he found himself in his ducal carriage that morning.

Lately his lackeys had hinted some suspicious things going on in one of the most backward spots in the province. “Who shall set up an inn in a swamp?” What made him all the more curious was the news of a girl whose bearing was more of nobility than of peasant stock. He ordered his coachman to drive in the direction of the village with a curious name Blown Away.

Sitting in that four horse carriage bobbing along the rutted roads of the village Blown Away the duke could only see houses and these were barred. With his bile rising he peered along the blurring landscape and not a soul was in sight.

Not for long.

A solitary dot was looming in sight growing ever larger. As he took it in, he smiled. A girl was coming carrying a bundle of firewood. He briskly asked his coachman to stop.

Duke Wushamao was dying for company.

Luckily there she was. She was simply dressed in working clothes but she pleased him. He snapped his fingers and two of his lackeys who rode behind the coach jumped off their perch and ran towards her. She was hauling the load on a pushcart with wooden wheels. The cart was more a toy than for load. One zeroed in on the hapless girl and wrenched her off the ground. The bundle of firewood tumbled down scattering pieces pell-mell. Before she could scream the two brutes reached out and held her by the hand. As if by reflex she bit one in desperation and broke loose. It was followed by a swing of her foot that connected the groin of the other. The wretch howled in pain and fell.

She bolted!

Duke Wushamao grimaced and barked his men to chase her. The girl ran through a narrow alleyway with three brutes in pursuit.

2.

There was a public house that was hidden from view. Inn of the Seventh Serenity was a question mark as was the inn keeper. Obviously he was holding it on to cover some one’s folly. No one could have for a moment thought the inn was meant to cater to the needs of travelers. No travelers would have thought of being bogged down in a swamp.

Yet the inn was full.

On that morning Ta Yi, the fox-spirit of the Tiger Caves was in residence. He served as a counselor for the Wushamao League. Hardly had he stepped out before there was commotion.

To his amazement one peasant was coming towards him all in a lather herding a girl of thirteen towards him and crying, “Save my child, sir!”

Ta Yi asked him to step inside and make himself no worry.

The peasant was blubbering, “The duke is out to do her harm!” He heard enough.Ta Yi firmly said, “ That’ll do.”

There were a few customers sitting around playing backgammon and they were engrossed in the game. At least they pretended that they had no time for anything other than their game. Their patois was that of Beijing than of Checkiang. What were they for? None knew. They looked askance at Ta Yi and they knew everything was in order. The electrifying aura of the fox spirit seemed to make them feel relieved.

They were indeed the spies sent from The Pavilion of Heavenly Bliss in Beijing. They sent as part of the weekly report: ‘the sky is still blue and not a cloud is in sight.’ Reading it the favorite concubine to the Emperor could relax.

The guests paid no heed to the threesome who cast shadow as they clicked their tiles and arranged the combination.

Ta Yi drew them into a hall where the peasant, teary eyed looked at Ta Yi and said, “Duke Wushamao has come for my child!” Ta Yi caught the eye of the innkeeper who had sized up the situation and said, “ Back room. They are there.” Ta Yi nodded and guided the peasant and his daughter across the central courtyard. The innkeeper signaled the waiters and they quickly fell to their tasks.

Ta Yi herded the peasant and the girl into the room where Chuan and Wang were whiling away their time. They put away their straws and looked up.

They had visitors.

Even as they rose to greet Ta Yi and his company, Zheng Dong their host silently drew the curtain behind. The innkeeper went to his writing desk. He wrote a few lines, ‘ The hat is still too narrow for the head. The fox will take the bait.’ It was addressed to the King of Canton.

Zheng Dong called one of his servants who left immediately.

Next morning the king called Duke Mulberry who was his intimate friend and said, “Our man has found the means to cut Duke Wushamao to size. ” They had a good laugh. One whom they only knew as the Fox would do the job for them.

While the innkeeper was busy the inner room was all set to receive the assailants of the girl. First Ta Yi asked the peasant to speak. He explained how he was reduced to straitened circumstances due to the new economic policies of the province and he owed arrears in tax like so many others in his position. “ So Duke Wushamao sends his men to round up all that he could gather. This village is ruined. You may ask the worthy Zheng Dong who had lost his daughter only eight months ago.” Ta Yi asked him to stick to his story. “My child went out to collect firewood this morning and came screaming as though her hair was afire. I didn’t know what to do. Till I saw you. Please protect us.”

Zheng Dong coughed and put head past the curtains to say there were duke’s men, charging in.

How many?”

Two, and one is guarding the entry.”

Well let them in.” Wang conversationally asked the girl who sat demurely opposite to him, “ Have you broken an egg? ”

She had somehow taken possession of herself. She smiled coyly. Wang made room for her to sit by him while she hesitated.

You are sitting where Ta Yi is about to break some, ahem, heads.” There were footsteps outside and the girl quickly went over to the wall where Wang sat.

Ta Yi meanwhile got up and he had his staff in his hands. The two ruffians barged in and spotted the girl who had almost fallen into the lap of Wang in fright. Wang put his arm around her to steady her and the peasant moved aside to cover her.

One of the ruffians let out an oath and said, “ You! ”He was about to reach out but Ta Yi flicked his wrist to bring the tip of his staff on his knuckles. He let go her hand as though hit by an electric eel. The other assailant turned to him and barked, “Don’t you dare? This is Duke’s order. You interfere at your peril.”

We must show respect to the Duke. Mustn’t we?” Ta Yi laid aside his staff that Wang quickly got hold of. He showed his hand and told the fellow, “This is a working hand. Using this I show respect.” Calmly he folded his hand towards his chest and flicked his forearm straight to connect to his jaw and he fell backward. Wang had meanwhile blocked the other with the staff. The girl looked on as if transfixed by Wang who showed no fear.

As quickly as they came they disengaged. Both thugs were downcast and retreated. “I dread to think what shit you will be in after the duke gets hold of you all.”

Chuan was watching Wang and the girl who was in no hurry to disengage her from his company. He just smiled when Wang said, “There shall be no breaking of heads. Isn’t that a shame?” She smiled. “I thought we had an omelet here.” She shyly retorted, “ The Duke certainly knows how to pick out bad eggs.”

Before the peasant led the girl out Wang asked for her name, “Lin Lang.”

The innkeeper came in hurry to say, “The duke shall surely seek you out.” Ta Yi was unperturbed. “ Don’t worry. I shall pay him a visit instead. ”

Later in the evening Ta Yi asked about his missing daughter. Poor Zheng Dong quaked and he burst into tears. “ The duke thought she would go places if she were taken at hand and guided properly. He sent his wife to show he meant well. Two years ago it was. I thought his proposal was honorable.”

After a pause he sullenly mumbled. He offered me silver and to free me from tax burden. “

So you agreed?”

I asked for time.” He sniffled and added, “Soon after she was waylaid while she was visiting her maternal aunt.” He moped his forehead and said lugubriously, “From enquiries I come to understand her trail stopped at Fragrant Pavilion by the Pebble Lane.

That is where the Duke stays whenever he visits the Province. Is it not?”

The innkeeper nodded.

Zheng Dhong stood there as lost in thought. Ta Yi called out of his reverie. “Is any thing the matter?”

He hesitated and walked up to Ta Yi and whispered, “My daughter is almost identical. Lin Lang may have a smoother complexion and a more mysterious air.”

Ta Yi thought a while and said, “ I get the idea. But don’t worry over such matters.”

Of course I ought not make comparisons,,” the innkeeper said without much conviction, “but,-oh, where my girl has gone to.” He left.

Ta Yi thought Zheng Dong wasn’t entirely level with him.

 

Lung barged in all excited. He was amazed to see Ta Yi, which was least expected. The fox-spirit knew that he had left on a hunch and hoped to see what he could do in life. Ta Yi asked, “ Did you meet your contact?” Lung said, “ Of course, he taught me to gamble. I got into a scrape because I won too easily for his liking.”

Lung took a week to be himself with his thoughts as he put it. Now he was back. ‘It was pretty risky.’ Wang felt he was irresponsible to not to protect him.

Lung was in a cheerful mood, “Here is what I won!” Instantly Wang cheered up. Lung knew how to protect himself, He had to agree.

Lung carefully took out a flask and held out. Ta Yi was an apothecary among other things. He took it examined it and carefully opened the stopper. Taking a whiff of it he closed his eyes as if in intense concentration. He said quietly, “ No mistake of it!” Wang and Lung who were watching this dumb show asked, “What is it?”

Love potion!” was the reply.

Chuan sidled up to the twins and said, “ I guess you are ready for it.”

I met a really a sweet girl, dear brother. You missed the fun”. Wang filled him with news. Lung looked at his brother quizzically and said,

Care to try this?”

Wang firmly said, “No, Lin Lang is sweet but is she the girl? Only time will tell.”

Wang knew fate was in his favor and the love potion was merely skirting his tryst with destiny. Later in the night Lung poured love potion in a smaller flask and presented to his brother. “ One never knows how fate comes knocking. Be prepared, as our tutor would say.”

Wang put it away among his personal belongings. He was certain Lin Lang would not taste it for better or worse.” 

  (2 be cont’d)

benny

Read Full Post »

 

(The Tower of Mists is the sequel to The Fox Spirit of the Tiger Caves where Wang and Lung are the central characters. They are identical twins and each complementing the other like a pair of chopsticks. One sets up the pranks and the other sets every thing in order once the prank is pulled off. There is a pirate who also figures in the Sword of Osman Bey.b) 

 

Book -1

A Deadman’s Chest

 

Prologue-The dead man

Wang and Lung in the port town of Hungzhou. In the midst of intrigue between two dukes. An empty chest and the unclaimed body of a foreigner.

Prologue

 

The Dead man

 

 


Four weeks before the New Lunar year,one busy morning Wang and Lung arrived in the port city of Hangzhou. They had just come from Shibung and had said farewell to one who shared a part of their youth. They still had another minor detail to attend to. Their uncle ‘Curious’ Lee of the Fudan clan was convalescing in his crumbling family home. It was unhappy times and their respects to the worthy sea captain must be paid. But it cast a certain pall on their already strained cheerfulness.

Even as they stepped out of the junk and walked down the pier they knew there was something wrong. The air they breathed crackled and the throng of peasants was as noisy so many pigs in a poke demanding a hearing. Oh their squeals went overdrive as two mandarins hovered in their line of vision. One cried, “We will rough them up!” and if they did breathe annoyance a little ago there was crackling of fire; Ducking a hail of brickbats about Wang whispered, “ Let us not get involved.” They quickly beat a retreat. They knew in the ensuing riot nothing they stood to gain.
Lung grimaced, “A regular war zone, it looks. Scoot!” They clambered across flailing hands and missiles in all shapes. The knots of men still holding merely swung them about. The sharper the cry went they pushed harder. Only at the point the road cut into the main thoroughfare they found an opening: They ran the gauntlet of flying projectiles and swinging poles to take it. On putting a safe distance they asked a coolie who had sat down to get his breath, “What was all that for?” “The people want their bird’s nest soup.”
Lung looked around and there were several eateries. Each displayed a board, ‘No bird’s nest soup’
The wizened coolie said as if to no one, “ No Emperor Soup ! No wonder it is topsy- turvy at all levels.”
Wang asked, “Emperor Soup? Is it for real?”
Wang didn’t think much of it anyway. The coolie looked at them as though they were some aliens and muttered, “ You don’t know what you have missed.”
Lung sighed and said, “I know what I miss.” “Our youth?” Wang asked as they walked farther. They still missed their past. It was then they realized there was a little matter about their uncle. He was suffering some sort of malady that incapacitated him. It sounded mighty curious. He was out of action and yet one imposter Captain Lee was happily sailing the seven seas and his ship Phoenix was in the news. It didn’t strike them then that he was by an imperial decree the real while their uncle, on whose bumbling ways their mischief always took a shine was languishing. He was indeed a large part of their youth.

Everyone in that section of the city knew Captain ‘Curious’ Lee. A few even escorted the youth to the crumbling mansion where the sea-captain was istalled to fend for himself from further insult to his dignity. The identical twins announced their names to the factotum who still put up a brave face and went in. Quickly he came back with a little more obsequious air to deliver the guests as though ‘on a silver platter ‘to his lord and master.
On a signal he disappeared from the hall.
‘Curious’ Lee brightened up and his wisps of scanty grey stubble of a beard fluttered. The sight of one whose jowls and belly still rippled in unison with the swell of the sea now made the twins look away. Yet he pressed manly his hospitality on the travel weary nephews. For a good measure he groaned even as he forced himself to play straight as before to the irrepressible youth of his nephews. It was dismal. As much as they tried to cheer up their uncle whose Panda-like size had stonewalled their snide remarks in the earlier times brought Wang to ask instead if he intended to write his memoirs. He shook his head and said, he was a man of action and not a scribbler.”
He moped and slowly opened his tale of woe. He began ‘In terms of career he had beached with a leak in the hull.’ From their reckoning the Admiral did not carry anymore weight with the emperor and it’s consequences had settled on his head. The admiral let him languish while one who was the favorite of Duke Wushamao was given his command. He even had his girth and took on his name and the unkindest cut of it all, the command of the Phoenix. It made the uncle tremble with rage and at his impotence.
To the twins his presence brought the image of his mother and his feeble attempts to cheer them was pathetic. It was no go. They raised as if to go. The sea captain stood up and led them to the hall. At the end their uncle said morosely, ‘If you ever board the Phoenix and sail think I am still in control.’ They nodded mechanically and exited.
‘We have a life ahead, for sweet Mercies of Buddha!’ they muttered as they reached the street level. Poor ‘Curious’ Lee was a shadow while the liquid sunshine that hit them stirred up the ever present.
The full weight of their sixteen years had hit them only when they came across the knot of rabble here and there and they could hear it had to do something with the bird’s nest soup. Lung muttered, “I never knew it was worth getting your skull broken up for?” “May be we are not really grown up?” They mentally brushed aside the incident.
‘What path should we take now?’ This was becoming a constant refrain.
Standing in middle of ebb and flow of life around them Wang said rather loud, ‘Carefree youth? Our life was one scrape after another.’ Gritting his teeth he pulled his brother aside and said, “We shall settle down just as Cowrie Shell.”
Lung shook his hold and hissed, “You are prying into my thoughts.”
Wang excused himself. “I didn’t mean getting married. We both shall get around to that when we are ready.”
They shook hands on it and they smiled at each other.
Wang and Lung were like two chopsticks, and inseparable. They looked alike and also thought the same thoughts, well most of the time. While they suffered the pangs of days that were, each was beginning to show a certain individual streak. Recalling the incident at the Two Gorges where they had broken journey to look at a temple perched on the top. Enveloped by mists and the quaintness of the panoramic view that lay at their feet, they had a tiff and it was over soon. Yet Wang knew they were growing apart in some of the things. It was marked when it came to the topic of love. Recalling the love struck bridal pair Wang was sure he was ready for love but Lung was all for waiting till the right one.
“How will you know it?”
“That is my secret.” Lung retorted as they descended. Recalling it Wang felt uneasy. And very ominous. After that occasion they traveled onwards as though nothing had happened. Yet there it was. But it wasn’t a comforting thought.
Sidestepping flocks of geese and pigs, which were being herded by peasants to the market the town breathed life. Lung mused, ‘Life could be so exciting.”
Wang suddenly said out of the blue. “We ought to be excited also, right?” Lung stared at him but said nothing. “Seventeen we shall be soon. What have we got to show for our pains?” he asked Silence . Wang insisted, “Pity we cannot show it when someone wants to know what we have done with our life.” Lung said testily. “ Why should we want to show?” Wang was practical, “May be when we think of finding a bride.” Wang was ready to impart his considered opinion. For didn’t he think it over for a month? A sharp jab at his ribs by the end of a stick sent him reeling. Lung saw the sedan chair and the outrider who had rudely shoved Wang aside. He wheeled around and shot his foot out. It connected the jaw of the fellow and sent him reeling to the ground. Wang saw from his head knot the man was the factotum of a duke. Instinctively his eyes darted to the chair. A duke was seated in his sedan chair glaring at him. Wang tugged at his brother and whispered,”Four to one. Beat it. ”
They quickly took to heels. They plunged into the crowd and sought the safety of an eating-house. They were in the Avenue of the Dancing spirits. While they sat down and ordered for some soup they collected their thoughts. Wang could recall the duke who had a good look of him. He said, “Duke Wushamao has found us. Or me in particular.” Before Lung could fully understand the seriousness of their fix he added, “But why he is here?” He recollected it was his favorite that had usurped the command of the flag ship. Weaving their path through knots of vendors and artisans their concerns were somewhat lessened by what they saw around them. Wang thought he was being watched. He held on to his purse that he carried in the inner tunic.
Suddenly Wang froze. He saw the silent warrior who had played a crucial part in their growing up, and it was an omen. He tugged at the sleeve of his brother and said, “I saw Chuan!”
Lung grimaced and said, “In your dreams!” Lung was sure that Chuan was an excuse for him to escape the future that lay before them. Wang said, “Didn’t we leave Chuan and Blia at the wedding feast as we left Shibung?” Wang asked breathlessly, “What did he tell you then?”
Lung agreed that Chuan was going directly to Hunan. ‘How come then you fancy he would be elsewhere?”
Wang thought Lung was testing his patience. “If he had to be here alone he has a crisis on hand!” As he said that Wang sought out the bobbing figure in his line of vision. The easy stride of Chuan was not to be missed, nor were some men who followed him discreetly at a distance.
He was distracted by Lung who said he had things to do. He said cryptically that he would wait for him at The Four Winds. Lung added,”You cannot miss it. It is where you can order for the Emperor soup.”
Wang didn’t want to miss Chuan so he ran into the throng as though his shirt- tail was on fire.
Lung wanted to taste the bird’s nest soup, the Emperor Soup in particular. He walked in that direction.
3.

Wang was rather morose when he joined Lung who said he was let down. Wang knew it already. He confided in Lung that Duke Wushamao had a bitter rival in Duke Mulberry. Lung said his visit o the Four Winds didn’t give him a taste of heaven but he felt in his bones there was something in their quarrel that made the ‘Emperor soup disappear from the menu?”

You mean he created the artificial scarcity?”

Lung wasn’t sure. Wang suspected the soup was very much part of their rivalry.

The quarrel between two dukes was indeed played for high stakes. The twins had no part in the quarrel between two. Nor did they want to take sides. Yet they had become drawn into it.

Pity that Destiny has other plans,” Lung observed. To this Wang added, “We need to fight as one.”

They agreed, ‘Yes if it came to that.’ Like chopsticks they needed one another.

As they sauntered they saw another eatingplace. Lung looked at his brother who turned to follow him. They went in.

Our life is exciting I ought to say,” Wang saw the waiter hovering about him. He asked for bird’s nest soup. Waiter asked with sarcasm if they were from the backyard of the empire. Wang asked what made him say that. He replied, “We haven’t had bird’s nest soup for almost a year.” He explained the foreign devils were out to give trouble. “They would put a knife in our throats.” In order to silence him they quickly ordered a bowl of lentil soup and some dumplings. As left Wang exclaimed, “ So we have arrived here in the middle of troubles!” The city is breaking apart because they have no bird’s nest soup! The idea seemed preposterous. But they had seen it spilling over onto the streets.

By the time they finished their hefty meal and tossed two copper coins to the bearer and Wang announced they would stay with Chuan.

We shall seek out Mandarin’s Cupcake.” As they proceeded along the dusty lane they sensed were followed. Lung hissed, ‘A spy for the duke, to be sure’

Wang and Luke had not quite lost the penchant for trouble. Trouble was ever at their heels whether they wanted it not.

The Mandarin’s Cupcake was a rundown eatery and anonymity that Chuan desperately required at that moment. It was an inn of lost and desperate souls. Soon they were knocking at the door. A stranger with a simple head knot appeared and waited. Wang held out half of a red lacquer disk to which he produced the other half. The disc had an ideogram that said: Hope.

Quickly a warrior came out from the inner hall where three others still sat on the mat. The twins brightened to see the man who sat facing the three. Chuan was in town and he received them and whispered, “ You haven’t seen those three and do not ask them any thing.” The twins understood. They quickly glanced at them and turned their eyes away.

One thing struck them as odd. All the three had a red sash around their waists and they sat before a wushamao that was torn. It was on a cushion as though a ceremonial object.

Who is dead?” the twins were still wondering as the warriors silently took leave of Chuan who seemed to be like a master of ceremonies. They waited till they were alone with Chuan who explained the situation in few words. They understood from the look in his eyes not to ask any further.

Later after the ceremony Chuan came to them. They were alone in a room.

Late in the night Chuan returned quietly and whispered to them, “ Are you game? We shall see a bit of action very soon.”

The twins quickly got up from their beds and dressed themselves to follow Chuan.

It was a desolate stretch at that time of the night. The twins could see they were climbing on the slope of a hillock that almost jutted into the highway. One end they could see the harbor dotted with lights and there were silhouetted of junks and tall masts. Their gaze was broken by rustle of the bushes and they quickly moved to the spot where Chuan crouched. He whispered, “Keep your eyes peeled to that point.” Wang was curious to know where had the three warriors had hid themselves. In the thick blanket of darkness nothing was visible.

To-who’, ‘to-who’ they heard the signal. Chuan drew his breath. Slowly they could hear tramping of hooves and a sudden movement of feet. Horses whinnied and they heard a pistol shot and suddenly there was a scuffle and a body falling with a thud breaking the silence. One moaned and two were cursing as they scuffled with their assailants. One warrior came up in a couple of bounds while Chuan went out to meet him. The warrior said, “ There is no duke.”

Who shot?”

The warrior looked over the shoulder and motioned Chuan to follow. Chuan could see the carriage and two men who were trussed up. One held the lantern to show the captives and one gave silently the pistol to him. He passed to one of the warriors.

Chuan exclaimed, “ Where is Duke Wushmao?” The prisoner sniggered, “ How do we know?” One of the warriors held up a pistol and said, “ This belongs to a foreign devil. I might as well try on him”. He held it against the temple of the man while the other shuddered, “ The thing will go off.”

That is the idea.” The other warrior said with a short laugh. The first prisoner said with a hiss, “ We are Duke Mulberry’s men.” He warned Chuan of dire consequences since the duke’s men were crawling all over the city. Yes indeed Hangzou belonged to Duke Mulberry.

Chuan meanwhile took a peak at the inside of the carriage and let out a squeal. Standing guard over the prisoners Chuan asked the warriors to comb through the carriage and bring whatever was found there.

Wang and Lung could see from their hiding place the outline of a chest. By the light of the lantern they broke the locks and opened.

Nothing of value except a book and a sheaf of papers.”

Chuan ordered the warrior to take the chest while the other motioned after completing his search of the carriage that there was nothing else.

Chuan collected the pistol and a canister containing shots. We will meet at our place, fellows. The prisoners will find help.” Hardly looking at the captives he ordered, “Now every man to his safety.” The warriors quickly disappeared and Chuan beckoned the twins to follow at a safe distance.

By early morning Chuan woke up the twins to show the contents of the chest. There was a diary that bore the superscription of a name. Pedro Cavallo. Rifling through the book Chuan muttered an oath to say,” The chest should have carried silver worth 3 million. But where has it gone?”

Wang and Lung thought ‘Who got the loot?” Three millions was an astronomical sum and it impressed them. They discussed between themselves possibilities. In the end they picked one as the winner. “So one point for Duke Wushamao. Whose turn next?” Wang asked.

But what interested Lung was, “ How did the chest land here in the first place? Or who brought it here?”

Chuan asked, “ What makes you think it was brought here?”

Look at the design? ” Chuan was impressed to look at the embossings on the chest. The cross was unmistakable.

Chuan had to agree Lung was right. “ Wang asked, “But what brought the foreign devil bring here?”

Chuan nipped their curiosity in the bud. “ This isn’t any game, kids.” He explained that they were dealing with treason. “And it will save you much bother, and even your necks, if you just keep out of this.”

Before Chuan took leave he left a piece of paper in which was written, ‘Inn of the Seventh Serenity.’ Without saying farewell he just disappeared among the crowd of people. Wang scanned the name and tore the paper into bits. Caution was becoming second nature to Wang.

Lung observed, “If we had some three millions in silver we have something to show. ‘They are only seventeen and they are rich, so they will say.”

Wang merely replied, “If.”

Chuan having checked the chest inside out beckoned Zheng Dong the innkeeper and told him to keep it. On second thoughts he added, ‘Leave it in your office and it is a piece of evidence. The League may need to produce it if things go right.’

But there is nothing of value here?’The innkeeper was puzzled. Chuan said ‘I also wonder. But if an empty chest takes a ride from one end of the realm to another we need to ask why.’ It was pure Tao and the box had acquired become a person represented, an evidence! It only remained to find if it spelled evil, or anything else.

4.

Wang and Lung asked the innkeeper where Duke Wushamao was in residence whenever he was in town. The innkeeper scratched his head and said the name was unfamiliar. He suddenly brightened up and asked one who was quietly drinking his tea in corner.

He beckoned the twins to come closer and introduced them to the old fellow. With a smile he said, “ My son works in the palace kitchen of the King Foo Yong. He is a busboy. He is right outside waiting for me to finish my breakfast.”

In a trice he brought his son who bowed to the twins and waited. They repeated the question. “ The duke stays at the palace, naturally”.

When did he come here last?”

Three days ago.”

He had brought a foreign devil from far off lands. He presented him before his majesty the king. It seems there was a letter from the Queen of that land. I know nothing beyond that.” That made sense to the twins. The envoy must have wanted to present the King with the chest full of silver, which was to be the gift from the Queen. But Duke Mulberry must have waylaid the chest and relieved the silver in order to discredit the duke from the realm of Three Pavilions. Or other way round. The matter was getting murkier.

 

Lung had enough. He got up early at dawn. He told his brother that he was ready to seek his chances.

What sort of?” Wang asked incredulously.

Anything that would fit my mood of the moment.” Lung seemed to be his own man. Wang hugged him and they parted. Wang went back to catch up with his broken sleep.

Meanwhile Duke Wushamao got up from his sleep in high spirits. He had played a trick on the duke as well as on the King of Canton. The foreign devil indeed passed for an envoy from the Queen of England.

He called two of his bodyguards and gave the order.

That night a body was thrown into the river Fuchun, which was fished out next morning by some boat people who plied along the river selling their wares.

Li Zhi was the Prefect of Hangzhou. He checked the body and rifled through his pockets and wrote his verdict: death by violence. Probably a Folangji (Spanish or Frank?) Name: unknown.

Of course the Prefect consulted with the Magistrate and they agreed that it was one of those cases that had all the hallmark of being relegated to the list of unsolved crimes.

Still they were puzzled: What was the dead man doing in the Middle Kingdom? Who was behind his death?

Chun Yen who looked after the Secret Service later reported before the Prefect. He bowed and placed papers that described the presence of an envoy from England who had an audience with the Royal Highness King Foo Yong at the Jade pavilion.”

After quickly going over the minutes Li Zhi trembled.

An alliance proposed by the Queen of England.”

What has this got to do with the case?” The Prefect looked uncomfortable.

Chun Yun bowed deeply knowing the gravity of the situation. “ May it please the Reflected Glory of the Emperor.”

Speak up, man!”

Chun Yun said, “ But there was no one from England allowed into our province according to the Foreigner’s registration Act.”

Who was the last foreign devil let into this kingdom then?”

One Pedro Cavallo.” Li Zhi wiped the sweat from his face and waited,

He was in the Fort, a prisoner.”

On whose order?”

Duke Wushamao.” Chun also added, “Under Undesirable Aliens Act article 3.clause 14.”

The Prefect said, “ The case is closed.” And he hastily dismissed the mandarin who ran the Secret Service too diligently for his liking.

After his subordinate was gone he sent his attendant for the sub-prefect who came in a hurry. The Prefect said, “ This is regarding the unclaimed body. Here are the papers.” Handing them over he ordered, “Put the lid on this case. Fix the seal ‘Not to be reopened’. Understand?”

The sub-prefect kowtowed and said, “understood, master.”

He understood to the extent the Prefecture functioned but not to the why a dead man made his superior all in a fluster. Following that time honored tradition of concluding work at the end of a day he said, ‘Banzai,’ and left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »