A note from FAHyatt

Let's look at a small set of adventures, shall we?

"So he carried me before Solomon, who received me after the foulest fashion and bade bring this pillar and hollow it out. Then he set me herein and chained me and sealed me with his signet ring, and Al-Dimiryat bore me to this place wherein thou seest me..."

Literal translation by Richard F. Burton, City of Brass, The Arabian Nights

It was a small bottle. The lead plug melted into the neck was so tiny, that the Seal of Solomon emboss could barely be made out without a glass, yet it was there. Don turned it over in his hands, squinting at this present of the wind, that had blown away the concealing sand.

The gifting winds twisted up ribbons of gagging dust, invading his nose and irritating enough to choke him. The glare of the noon sun crashed down to bake uncovered heads, leaving small ink spots of shadow that tried to hide under things, just as their owners did, if desert savvy.

Donald screwed the sweaty pith helmet tighter to his head and hiked back to the relative cool of the land rover, where a gurgling swamp cooler, mounted to the side window, fanned moist cool air through the otherwise unconditioned cab.

The thing had shone out like a beacon, even from ten car lengths off the dry roadbed, so hot from the sun that it singed his fingers picking it up.

The Janub Preservation Project team had just completed its survey. The two minor structures, threatened by the Stadt - Dixon desalinization reservoir, would be moved block by block to higher ground, salvaging the architectural history they represented from a flooding burial. Nothing but a few shards of pottery and some faint tiled inscriptions graced the otherwise artifact-free structures. However, the buildings were important in themselves to researchers, even if they did not qualify as big deal tourist attractions. Not every preservation effort made headline news.

Little surprises like this bottle were often the highlight of these otherwise pedestrian assignments. Peering through a surveyor's transit, and pegging up small flags while trying to keep sunstroke at arms length, comprised the bulk of the work.

Don wrapped the bottle in a handkerchief and stowed it in the truck's seat box.

According to legend, Solomon built his great temple with the aid of Hell's chief, Asmodius, after about 961 B.C, controlling the demons with his six pointed seal, the mark of Tetragrammaton. The symbol itself is ubiquitous, of course. Supposedly only the seal ring given to Solomon by God held power over such spirits. Likely the bottle, old as it looked, would not date back to before 900 B.C. The area would have been considered part of northern Arabia by most but still part of the expanded frontiers of Solomon's influence. Anyway, the object would spark the interest of his partner, Sarah.

The sand kicked up under the rover's tires as he peeled off, jouncing along the virtual cattle track to make up lost time. Eventually he had to turn off even this condescension of a road to approach the site. The drive became a nasty challenge, and Don had to depend on a compass bolted to the dash to keep on course. Eventually, two blocky structures resolved on the desolate terrain.

Sarah watched the dust plume off the truck as it came into view. One hand held a salute to baffle the solar glare, the other held on to her wide brimmed gardening hat against the wind. She had been anxious about his long trip through the Janub Sina alone, despite their need for fresh power cells.

"Did you have enough water for the trip?"

He grinned, looking up at Sarah's approach. "Yes and no. Halfway back, I had to drain a little from the trucks swamp cooler, but no big deal. We're all set 'cept for raising those tiles, right?"

Sarah nodded. "We'll need the batteries to run the floor saw. Lug a couple of em' inside and we can get to it."

The two buildings were tentatively categorized as constituting a Moabite trading outpost. The larger structure had three rooms; one for stocks, one for the traders, who would live on the post, and the shop front area itself, where merchandise was traded. The smaller structure seemed a simple temple, a large square room, with pockmarked, block walls and a floor unadorned save for a central set of ornately inscribed tiles. It was thought possible that the inscribed sandstone tiles were in some way connected to the worship of Chemosh, an early and bloody deity of the Moabites, contemporary with the reign of Solomon, according to some. They had decided to remove the stones now, for safety, before the deconstruction crews arrived.

Sarah's presence reminded Don of the bottle, and he dug it out from between the seats, turned and flashed it at her.

"What you got there? Salt tabs, vitamins? "

Donald smiled broadly. "Desert treasure. Found it on my way back. Looks real old too. What do you think?"

Sarah peered curiously at the bottle, taking it in hand and holding it to the lower but still withering sun. A milky flow could be made out through the semi-transparent sides. Revolving it to look at the top, she caught the tiny dual triangular crest and circle pattern of the seal.

"Seal of Solomon. Pretty small bottle for an Ifrit, don't ya think?"

"Hey, I just found the thing. You're the big cheese expert on this soiree. Thought you might get a kick out of trying to place it. Could be a new bottle of perfume for all I know."

"No, it's old, all right. Doubt it dates back that far, there's something still in it. The seal symbol was popular for a long time, used as a ward to aid the preservation of contents. The kind of superstition that drove Pennsylvanian farmers to paint wards on their barns. That marking on the bottom though," Sarah chewed her bottom lip and frowned, "that's a very old style glyph. Might be something. See here?" She traced her finger over the flat bottom of the bottle. "That, my friend, is a glyph for bricklayer. Maybe it's a mortar additive."

"And maybe," Don quipped, "it's a very small evil bricklayer. You know, tiny."

"Not as tiny as your mind if you think this gets you out of moving those batteries into the building before dark." Sarah pointed to the diesel flatbed behind the larger building, while slipping the bottle into her shirt pocket. "There's a hand truck under the carrier with balloon tires on it. You can use it for free. I move the stick around, you handle all the complicated equipment. That's the dealie-oh. See ya."

Richard trudged to the flatbed while Sara retreated out of the full sun and into the smaller building.

Soon the batteries were sorted out and hooked up to the construction lamps and what-not. Don finished wrenching together the scaffold for their small electric winch. An early dinner of unleavened flat bread and what remained of the cheese was washed down with tepid water fresh drawn from the sweat bags. The burlap-sided water bags kept their contents a little cooler than the scalded metal canteens did.

The cut lines were marked on the plain stone floor around the tiles. Already numbered and cataloged in situ, the tiles were ready to be removed. Evening came on, and they moved outside to catch the comparatively cooler air, and watch the nightly spectacle, before finishing the last of their work.

Night flowered with the racing departure of the falling sun. It dropped exhausted beneath the flat horizon like a thief, stealing away the remaining light. Warm zephyrs played under a heaven suddenly revealed, and stars cut from clearest Russian crystal danced across the sky. Against this pitch desert firmament, scintillating patterns formed that seemed to whisper of tales told by Bedouin emirs and Arabian princes long dead. Don pulled Sarah close, compelled by the mystery revealed, and they kissed in the solitude of the timeless sands.

The hot, dark air seemed supercharged with dry static power.

Somewhere, far to the east, welding robots crawled through a steel riverbed, joining the pipes that would soon bring part of the desalinated red sea here, to turn this desert into crop land. But for now, magic ruled, and all the tales of a thousand and one nights held court.

Reluctantly, they returned to the hot confines of the small building. Sarah switched on the yellow tungsten construction lights, throwing jagged, pin sharp shadows splashing away from every box, bag and can that lay on the floor.

Don plugged the cement saw into the battery box and lined up on the scribe marks surrounding the tiles. With a whine the saw bit deep, and in twenty minutes the square area was ready to lift.

They worked thin strong nylon belts into the cracks, then carefully see-sawed them underneath the cut masonry, finally hooking them back onto the small electric hoist that depended from its pyramid of struts over the floor area. Don picked up the switch box and thumbed the green button.

Slowly, to the thin keening of the hoist, the tiled section rose. A light seemed to gather beneath the slab, a faint orange glow that strengthened as both struggled to swing the dangling section over the waiting flat cart. At first it looked to be an effect of the construction lamp's reflection underneath the slab, but as it swung away, the light increased.

A scraping, scrabbling sound came up from beneath the tiles, suddenly lurching under their hands. Sarah gasped, pulling her hands off the stone as if stung. Her startled eyes sought Don's questioningly. Again the slab bolted upwards and both the preservationists pulled back in alarm.

Suddenly a huge glowing arm swung out from beneath the slab, and a smell of decay and festering wounds enriched the air. Then a second arm joined the first, and an animal countenance drew itself up from a pit centered beneath the breached flooring.

Armored in bronze and leather, Chemosh, the Abomination of Moab, lord of death and war, rose. Its massive mailed hand shoved the slab away and the apparition roared, hitting Sarah and casting her to the floor. The small bottle Donald had given her flew from her vest pocket and spun across the tiles, shattering on the unyielding stone of its sepulcher. The Demonic form straightened, dragging up a huge crescent headed spear, and gazed hungrily down at the pair of preservationists, its drooling saw toothed mouth splitting open in a macabre rictus .

In the corner, smoke poured from the forgotten shards of the small bottle. Glittering under the streaming Arabian starlight, it formed into a naked torso above a rich red sash, below which smoking, glittering dust whirled in a tornado's dance. Even as Chemosh reached out to grab the fallen woman, it rushed forward in a blur of activity. Around and around the twisting figure of the God it sped.

In moments a wall of stone rose course upon course, surrounding the deity, impeding its progress out of the pit. Don and Sarah watched, frozen in horror at the spectacle. Chemosh raised its great spear, stabbing and slashing at the whirling Ifrit who continued building its brick and mortar barrier higher and faster, finally closing it in a dome over the fearful mien of the God of unclaimed dead.

Beneath the dome a pounding grew, and small cracks appeared in the entombing structure.The Ifrit pointed at Donald with importuning eyes, and gestured toward the broken remnants of its bottle. He unfroze to look where the Ifrit pointed, confused and unsure what was wanted of him. More cracks appeared in the Ifrit's handiwork, and it resumed its blurring whorl around the encased god, patching and repairing the structure as it went. The pounding increased and more fractures appeared. It seemed the Ifrit fought a loosing battle. Soon the god would free itself.

Donald moved toward Sarah, who slowly picked herself up from the floor. The Ifrit screamed, stopping to jab one hand again towards the bottle's remains, then melting back into the blurring rush around the imprisoned deity. Don stared uncomprehendingly at the ifrit for a moment, trying to divine the Djinn's intent, then turned back to help Sarah.

Sarah staggered to her feet wiping blood from a small cut on her head. "The seal!" she gasped. "It wants you to get the seal!"

Moving in a daze toward to the bottle's shards, Don scanned the floor, and saw the small gray lump of lead still lodged in a portion of the bottle's broken neck.

The pounding reached a thunderous level, each strike shaking the entire building, and larger rents appeared in the Ifrit's work. The roaring became an incessant force, pounding at the preservationists ears, driving away all thought and emotion, save quaking fear.

Despite its incredible speed, cracks continued to form faster than the Ifirt could repair.

Don grabbed up the seal and cracked off the remaining glass, holding it up toward the Djinn in shaking hands. The Ifrit pointed to the top of its domed wall and keened imploringly. Don staggered across the vibrating floor, climbing the remains of the hoist's supports, and looked down at the top of the Ifrit's barrier. There in the center of the dome, was a small perfectly round hole, through which the blazing eye of Chemosh, glared.

Donald fumbled the seal and reached down, dangling from the scaffold, and with shaking hands, pushed the small bit of lead into the hole. The seal glowed, flowing to fill every gap between itself and the stone.

The pounding ceased.

The low susurration of the desert winds filled the silence of the tomb, and the upper portion of the Ifrit dissolved into the revolving dust devil below it. The whirlwind circuited the room twice more, then vanished out the ancient portal and disappeared into the hot waste of dessert sands.

Neither Donald nor Sarah ever figured out why the Ifrit had saved their lives. Don guessed it was because Sarah had released it and, like in the old tales, owed a debt to her. But it was gone now, and that guess would likely never be confirmed. With any luck, neither would the existence of such things.

Both worked through the night, bricking up the temple entrance, and then revised and resubmitted the deconstruction plans. Under the revised plan, only the larger of the two monuments would be salvaged, due to cost overruns. Both preservationists attended the opening of the reservoir, and the hydro engineers noted a profound sigh escape the pair, as the waters rose and covered the remaining structure forever.

Must be tough for a preservationist, agreed the engineers, to have to watch historical monuments be destroyed, but that's progress for you.


About the author


Bio: So, I write largely science fiction and fantasy, and fantasy/humor. I do novels, short stories, Serial short stories, Novellas, all that. If all goes well, I expect to be posting a good deal of both here. What else can I say? I like walks in the rain and ice cream? I sketch, play blues harp, have been known to program for fun. Gamer? Yeah, I'm a slacker. Ran Plotters of Dreams for writers before it was virtually shut down save in title by Yahoo cuts in service, for ten years and counting. Ive moderated other groups, and obviously, writing is a passion. -Want to make peoples day, send them on vacation, make them chuckle occasionally.

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