As he explored the mysteries inside the garments of one of the women, he suddenly became aware of the garden around him fading. Within minutes the garden was gone. He lay in a dingy little room with a woman, a goblet of wine, and a hookah. There was no sign of the other woman. The goblet did not look ornate and beautiful anymore. It was looking plain. But still he had the celestial damsel with him. What else did he need when she was here? Or was she? What he was holding in his arms was just an old pillow. There was no damsel. He took a sip from the goblet. Yech! It was plain water and how horrible it tasted! An old man in turban stood before him. It was his Lord and Master, Amos – the one who had gifted him the keys to paradise. But nothing in life comes for free, right? Definitely not the keys to paradise. Now and then his master had some assignments for him. Once he had successfully executed the mission, he would be back in paradise. He usually quite liked the assignments for he liked challenges. And after a challenging assignment, he could come back and savor the paradise all the more.
Sadat had killed so many members of the royal family. He never got to know who hired him or what they paid for his services. His master was there to handle all that. He just focused on the job at hand. He was known to be the best in the guild and he took pride in his job. The best mission had been the last Pharoh himself. The current mission seemed like a dud compared to his earlier missions. All he had to do was kill some foreigner looking at books in the great library at Alexandria. He wondered why he had been chosen for this mission which any of the neophytes could have easily handled. There were not too many foreigners in Alexandria. So he would be easy to locate. The library did not have any great security. So evading security forces was not going to be a challenge. The man himself would not be a challenge for assassins never went for direct combat. When you killed by stealth, individual strengths did not matter. But anyways it was his master’s wisdom. He never questioned it. Looking on the positive side, it meant he could quickly finish his job and return to continue the interrupted tryst with the heavenly maiden.
Sadat got dressed up. His garments were designed for invisibility. There was nothing that stood out. He could just lose himself in a crowd and no one would give him a second look. But the garments had lot of secrets compartments stitched inside where he carried his deadly weapons of his trade – the ropes, the poison darts and daggers. He was not the one to waste time. Within the next hour he was making his way to the Alexandria library. As expected his quarry was easy to locate. He was a white skinned man of diminutive appearance. His face was unshaven, his robes were shabby and his hair was in a bad mess. This fellow looked a proper tramp. What a fall for the great assassin Sadat. After all the royal blood he had claimed, he had been sent to kill a stupid tramp. He wondered if he had done something to displease his master.
Anyways he could think about all that after he was done with the job. The library was fully crowded. This was ideal for his mission. All he had to do was to create a distraction. Then he would slip through the chaos that ensued, make his kill and then lose himself in the crowds and make his way back to his master and paradise. Ah! Paradise!
He slunk into a deserted corner of the library. The library was so large that in spite of the huge crowds of scholars thronging the library one could still find a private corner. This was a fact that had been discovered by secret lovers long ago. It was an open secret that the library was a favorite spot for romantic liaisons. He quickly took out a couple of flint stones from one of his inner pockets and got to work. Soon a bright fire was burning. He quickly moved away from the spot and joined the crowd. Suddenly there was a shout, “Fire! Fire! The library is on fire!” Immediately the whole sedentary library mobilized into action. But still the confusion was not sufficient. Now to move on to the second part of the plan! He took out a round object from his pocket and flung it to the ground before anybody could notice. Smoke engulfed the whole room. Now people were really scared. This was real chaos! People ran hither and thither, there was lot a noise of shouting and stamping of feet.
He quickly made his way to where he had seen the diminutive foreign scholar. He would be fumbling his way through the crowd he thought. All he had to do was get close to him and drive his dagger into his heart and mission accomplished. When he neared the scholar, to his surprise the scholar was seated where he was. He seemed totally oblivious of the entire disturbance around him. He seemed completed absorbed in his book. What was this book he was reading so intently, Sadat wondered. His curiosity got better of him and he glanced at the title of the book. It was in Egyptian. It read “Mind control techniques of the priests of Amon-Ra”. What a weird title! He wondered why this foreigner was interested in such a topic. Anyway that was none of his business. He was not here to have a conversation with the stranger. He was here to kill him.
He took out his dagger and approached him. He raised his arms and brought down the dagger towards the humped back with all his force. Just a hairline distance before the dagger could made contact with the stranger’s dirty cloak, the dagger froze. Sadat found he could no longer move. He stood like a statue with the dagger over the stranger’s back. The stranger closed the book with a deliberate slow movement. He turned around, rose and faced Sadat. Sadat was seeing his eyes for the first time. Unlike the rest of the man that were so unimpressive, the eyes had a strange gleam of someone who was used to being fully in control. Even the Pharaoh's eyes had not been so powerful. Suddenly Sadat realized why nothing but the best assassin was needed for this job. But the realization had come too late. The mission had already failed. And in this line of work failure meant just one thing: death. He just waited stoically. Maybe he would now permanently go to paradise. But given his track record on earth, unlikely it was. It would mostly likely be the other place.
As he stood, he found something strange happening in his mind. His life went in front of his eyes like a flash. He remembered how his master had kidnapped him from his home as a child. Then he remembered all the hard training. He also began to understand the true nature of the paradise. His master had been keeping him on hallucinates to keep him loyal. The paradise was all fake: it was nothing but a drug induced trance. He felt intense hatred for his master. He suddenly felt his body loosening up. He was no longer frozen.
His master was waiting for him with a goblet of wine for him: the reward for his mission. His very safe return meant success of the mission. The master had no need even to ask. The master was taken by surprise with the vehemence with which Sadat knocked the glass off his hands and threw a coil of rope around the his neck and drew it together as a noose. No assassin had turned on Amos before and he was hardly prepared for such an onslaught. As the noose drew tighter, Sadat found himself saying, “Who gave you the contract to murder the foreigner?” He had not meant to say anything like that at all. He was surprised when the words came out.
But the master was too shocked and frightened to be surprised. Sadat soon had the details of the man who had given the contract and the inn at which he was staying. All that was left now was to draw the noose tighter and hang it to the ceiling. The master’s last words as he let out his breath, “You will regret this, my boy. With no one to give you the panacea of paradise, you will go mad and die before nightfall. See you in the next world.” Already he was feeling withdrawal pangs. He was missing the paradise badly.
But something was driving him. Some kind of a compulsion. He had to go to the inn and find the one who had given the contract. Like his master, the stranger, a foreigner in rich attire had not at all been prepared for an attack and was overwhelmed without much difficulty. When he was about to strangle him, the scholar was at the door. The dying man’s face contorted in terror when he saw this shabby looking man. But he managed to summon a last bit of energy to give a dying taunt. “You may have won this round, son of Merlin. But no need to celebrate. The hands of Morgana are deadly, long and powerful. No one can evade it forever! You will be in her clutches sooner or later, bastard. “
By now Sadat was feeling really uncomfortable. His master’s words were coming true. He was going mad. He longed for the garden and the damsels. He could not live without them. The stranger held out a vial. “Here drink this.” When a man is desperate he does not think to question what someone tells him. Moreover this stranger’s voice had an authority that was seldom used to being disobeyed. Sadat immediately took the vial and gulped it down. And the minute he gulped it down he felt a strange sense of relief. The paradise no longer seemed attractive to him. The whole thing seemed decadent and reeked of evil. For the first time after so many years he felt truly free. He felt extremely grateful to the stranger. He turned to thank him. But he was no longer there.
Sadat ran out of the door to catch up with the stranger. “Master, please take me with you. I know no trade except killing. With my old master dead, I have nothing left in this city. I will follow where you go and be your bodyguard.”
The scholar’s face formed into a deep thoughtful frown. “I really have no need for anyone to protect me as you may have seen. I have my own devices to take care of myself. But come along if it makes you happy. But come as a friend, not as a servant. You can call me by my name. I am Salazar.”
Picture Credit: Assassin picture