12 The Plan
A hush fell over the Palm Court as the terrible figure moved toward the Royal Table. Fear, in a palpable wave, washed across the courtyard. All eyes upon the towering hulk, he moved gracefully amongst the frozen revelers.
A shout rang out, breaking the ominous silence.
Terah arose and leapt from the raised platform. “You have traveled far my friend. What brings you to Mari?”
The giant placed a huge six fingered hand on Terah’s forehead. “Terah, friend to the Anak’im, Father Arba and his son Anak send their fondest regards. They request you visit Kiriath Arba at your soonest possible convenience.”
Turning back to the Royal Table, Terah clasped the forearm of the twelve foot giant pulling gently. “King Zimrilim, Queen Shibtu, may I have the pleasure of introducing Djenoun of the Anak’im. The premier architect in this or any other generation. Builder of Kiriath Arba, Kiriath Sephir, The Fortress of Baalbek, Gigal Rapha’im, the never breached walls of Damascus, and countless fortifications throughout the known world.”
Djenoun patted Terah fondly on the back. “Kind words, perhaps a bit over done but nevertheless, thank you.”
Turning a wide, terrifying grin on the King and Queen, Djenoun bowed deeply. “Honored hosts I thank you for granting my request to attend your annual fete. It has been a desire of mine to lay eyes upon the far famed Poleg Palace for some time.”
“Be welcome kind sir; your fame far outstrips you.” Zimrilim puffed as proudly as a peacock. “It would be my pleasure to provide you a tour of my humble abode.”
Terah, King Yahmad, Queen Geshura, and Djenoun simultaneously burst into laughter.
Shibtu smiled fondly at her preening husband. “Humble indeed.”
Once again trumpets blared, announcing arrival. Once again the pompous little herald with the rich voice strode forward. “Lords and Ladies, honored guests I present to you Lord Siamun ibn Ham, Grand Vizier of the city of Damascus.”
King Zimrilim stood indicating the remaining empty chair to his left he began introductions. “Here on my immediate left, King Yahmad of Aleppo and his wife Queen Geshura, next to her my Court Mage Bel-Akum…
Sebu looking nervously about, seeing all attention at the table diverted, sent a questing probe across the table toward the members of the House of Shem.
Damn that Shibtu for seating the brats so close to that wretched Priestess and their Court Mage. Zeroing in on Haran and Abram, he intensified the strength of his probe. It is definitely one of these two.
Abram, in conversation with Nasreen, suddenly felt that same searching presence he had avoided at the docks yesterday. He started to turn and look across the table, but the High Priestess placed a hand on his cheek stopping him. Sebu gasped, an excruciating pain slamming into his head. His mental probe severed, a shield had snapped into place so unexpectedly it had sundered his essay as sharply as a steel blade. Haran’s head snapped around at the sound of Sebu’s gasp and looked quickly away again as he discovered the feverish eyes of the sweating giant trained intently upon him.
Got you. Sebu thought smugly.
Sebu once again in the now realized his cousin Siamun was speaking. “… Terah of Harran?”
He received a nod from Terah. “I would have words with you after this banquet, I’ve been informed you breed the very best Kashmiri goats this side of the Zagaros Mountains.”
Smiling widely, Terah responded. “We breed an assortment, providing our weavers a variety of raw wool to work with. Kashmir, Angoro, and the Astrakhan being our most valuable. We also sell bolts of some of the finest Cashmere, Mohair, and felt textiles you will find.”
Siamun returned the smile. “We must discuss this indeed … King Megum, I take it this excellent mug I am enjoying is one of yours?”
“You are drinking Ebla Reserve at this moment, kind sir.” Tipping his tankard Siamun’s way, he smiled smugly.
“Perhaps you would agree to meeting me tomorrow, I’d be curious as to the quantities available.” Siamun took another long pull from his mug with relish.
Djenoun caught Terah’s eye. “As to your earlier question, I believe the Padishah, who has requested this conference, has a project out east he wishes to consult with me on. So I travel at the Padishah’s call.”
“Ah yes, the lofty ramparts of Bactra, a most difficult nut to crack, I have been told.”
Sebu pushing Sin-Tabshuni back in his seat attempted to gain Siamun’s attention. “So cousin, what think you of this “palace”?”
Sarcasm dripped from his voice. “Surely Damascus holds buildings of equal stature?”
The Grand Vizier of Damascus frowned. “Though Damascus be much larger a city than Mari and the walls a marvel of Djenoun’s construct, I would hazard a guess, all would agree, the beauty and elegance of this “Palace” can be matched by very few in existence.”
Sebu sputtered. “Surely you’ve heard, Entemenaki nears completion?!”
Djenoun cut into the conversation. “Ah yes, another of my desired destinations. How fares my former student, Nimrod? Word indeed spreads of his creations. Entemenaki and her proposed “hanging” gardens, the walls and bronze gates of Babel, and of course his ever expanding canal system. You have something to do with these accomplishments, besides the raising of capital?”
Sebu’s mouth snapped shut, biting off a sharp retort. Anger flashed in his eyes.
“Tell me Siamun how was your trip here? I’ve heard tell of a stirring of the Bedouin folk.” Zimrilim once again played the peacemaker.
“I detest travel by caravan.” Siamun shuddered. “Thankfully, this is the only time it is required of me. Just this one time a year and as enjoyable the destination may be, I can not fathom the desire to be a caravan master. As for the Bedouin, not a single Saracen robe was sighted my whole trip. Quite curious, eh?”
Haran, looked up, suddenly animated. “The coordination of a caravan takes a certain acumen in minute details, even handedness in dealing with trivial protestations, and the ability to properly motivate people from the Azata (nobles) to the Sakhir (slaves) including sometimes the beasts of burden themselves. One might say a unique constellation of attributes.”
Chuckling possessively, King Megum clapped. “Well said young man, a student of my Academy, no doubt. Most of us at this table can attest, the ability to generate capital means two, quite different things to a politician and a merchant.” His eyes knowingly appraised Sebu across from him.
Sebu, having had enough, stood abruptly. “I beg your pardon King Zimrilim, it would seem I have forgotten, there is pressing business I would attend to this evening.” His eyes slid down the table to rest upon Terah. “I regret, I must absent myself for the rest of the night.”
Spinning, he quickly exited the courtyard, thoughts running through his mind, Let’s see how these arrogant fools treat me when they find the gates on the Ufratu closed and the price of passage much increased when they reach Babel.
Terah, much unsettled by Sebu’s parting glance, addressed the Grand Vizier. “Siamun, I have a thought. Not that I would bore you with the details of transportation nor the workings of a caravan. Know you your caravan master’s plan for your beasts and conveyances?”
A curious Siamun shot Terah a calculating look. “The Padishah’s Gifts are my main concern this trip. I would speculate that he would more than likely sell all but a few. An attempt to recoup some of their costs, as is customary.”
Holding a hand to his head in thought, Terah went on. “Just so. Three things then sir: I would speak more on this tomorrow with you and your caravan master if I may? As for tonight though, have you had the chance to seek accommodations since your arrival? Thirdly have you procured transport to Ur, as of yet?”
King Zimrilim shook his head in admiration as he watched his friend in his element.
A slight edge of worry entering his voice, the Grand Vizier replied, “No, I had thought to secure transport once established in Mari. Surely it is readily available at this time of the year. As for accommodations, I hadn’t given it much thought; it is at a premium I take it?”
“I would imagine my sons and I now occupy the suite here in the Royal Khanate most appropriate for your station.” Terah looked to Zimrilim for confirmation.
He received a nod from the King. “I would like to offer you my private residences at the Khanate of House Shem, which now stand empty. I would also like to discuss your transportation down river on the morrow, if that would be acceptable?”
“This is an unlooked for boon, good sir!” A wide smile creased the Grand Vizier’s face. “Djenoun’s profuse praise of your family pales in the face of reality. Your offer of accommodation is gladly accepted and if I read your intentions correctly, you may have first choice of any sales my caravan master intends.”
“Then I have your permission to call upon you tomorrow, Sir?”
Siamun threw his arms wide. “As stated earlier, I have business I would discuss with you as well. As I will be staying at your establishment, I shall await your convenience.”
Terah turned to King Megum. “Would noon be acceptable to you your Excellency?”
Megum nodded absently. His and all other eyes were drawn to a procession of veiled and silk clad dancers. They sauntered into the courtyard, to the chime of finger cymbals and the tinkle of ankle bells…