Rook the Librarian (gisho) wrote,
Rook the Librarian

... I'm not really sure where this came from. Mustafa and Calloway, trying to take the long-term view.

(EDIT: okay, now I know. It came in large part from here.)

Cairo, late 1930s


Calloway steadied himself for the first strike, but before he could make it, Mustafa, with a surprising burst of strenght, grabbed his wrist and pulled him behind the row of jugs. The German officer, slapping his riding crop into his hand, followed at a languid stalk. He wasn't bothering to run.

Mustafa, however, was. He didn't have Calloway's speed but he did have the moves of an alleycat and an excellent knowledge of the terrain; he glanced at the sky and occasionaly called out clipped directions in Arabic, 'left' or 'straight ahead' or 'up'. As they went over the roof they heard the crash of the officer knocking over boxes, trying to scramble up. Mustafa lept to the next roof, then barrled headlong down the stairs. They came out in a restaurant. People looked up, but no one attempted to stop them; a few moments later they emerged onto the middle of a busy street. Mustafa paused, gasping, then pointed somewhere to the right. They wove through the crowd, and if there was a strident German voice behind them, it was quickly lost in the street noise.

After a while Mustafa turned into an alleyway, where the threw himself tot he ground behind a row of barrels. "Allah be praised," he moaned, 'I do believe we've lost him."

Calloway crouched beside him and sniffed. "You of all people shouldn't bother praising Allah. And didn't you claim you could talk your way out of anything?"

"What a pity I don't speak German."

"Really?" Calloway raised an eyebrow. "Didn't you have a German lover? Or did you two just not have much to talk about?"

Mustafa sat up, and rubbed at his eyes. "She wasn't German," he muttered. "She was Greek with a German father. And a dead German husband, and a little blue-eyed daughter called Hildebrand. Her name was Helen." He sighed dramatically. "The only lanugage we had in common was Biblical Hebrew. Made for an interesting experience, I grant."

"Mmm." If he had been a smoker, Calloway would have taken a moment to light a cigarette. He wasn't, and had no other habit to fall back on, but Mustafa did, so he waited; within a few seconds the older man had extracted a little metal tin from the folds of his robe and was offering it up. "Thank you," Calloway told him solemnly, and took one lump of violet candy.

Mustafa took three and sucked on them slowly. After a while he said, "She'd be near forty now."


"No. Hildebrand." Mustafa sighed. "And you know, her lineage is specifically forbidden from obtaining immortaility? Extending their life to the limits of human potential is alright, but not a bit past."

Calloway did the mental arithmetic, and concluded that the affair had to have happened before the Great War - no, the First World War, he reminded himself. As if one hadn't been enough. The first he'd heard of ithe girl was a few years ago. "She used a different sort of magic," he said gently. "Yours is, perhaps, more practical."

Mustafa perked up. "True. I'll live as long as I don't get shot by enterprising Germans. Do you think he'll come looking for me?"

"What do you think?"

Mustafa tilted his head back and stared at the sky for a bit. Finally he said, "I think he'll get recalled to Berlin before he gets the chance." He sat up and brushed his hands off, regarding the ground sadly. "I suspect that before long, I will be very glad to live in a British colony. I'm no soldier, but there might be some way for me to render assistance."

"Perhaps." Internally Calloway winced.

Mustafa regarded him gravely. After a while he said, "You might do some good on the front. But you're leaving. And not to London to sign up, perhaps?"

Calloway shook his head. "I got a letter from a - friend," he said. He did not say "old friend," for his correspondence with Mustafa was far older. "A friend who's become deeply concerned. Bejing, for now. Then ..."

" ... we'll see each other after the armistice?" Mustafa stretched. "Well, so be it. It's not really either of our concern, but it's hard to live in this world and not get involved." He extended a hand. "For myself, I plan to stay in Cairo, even if the bloody Italians do overrun the country. Is it worthwhile arranging a letter-box, or shall we simply wait it out?"
Tags: fic: original

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