The Girl Named Fatima
I follow Nevena inside Ever’s (yes I know, it’s crass of me to take a girl to a cafe where we have already been, but seriously, there is only so many places in Fallowfell to go) when my nose collide with her nape. My first thought is; this is a nice nape. My second thought is that Nevena smells really good. But my third thought, my third thought is ‘why has she stopped’.
I look above her shoulder and I realize why.
Seated in front of us, eating the kind of danish that probably cannibals other danishes, is Gomagog. Shit. Fuck.Piss. Dammit. Wait. Now wait. It’s Tuesday. I have neither P.E nor English today. I might be skipping class, but I am not skipping any of his classes.
“What do we do?” I whisper to Nevena.
“We walk past him. We order whatever we want.”
“And if he starts screaming at us?”
“Then I throw you at him and make for the exit.” I blink, and between eyeblinks, she is at the counter, unmolested by Gomagog. Whoa… is this flirting? She did so flirt with me. Oh, here goes nothing.
I pass Gomagog–
— and a hand seizes my wrist. Nooooo…
“Fallowfell.” I will not be cowered. I will not be cowered.I will not be cowered. I turn to look him in his face. Or perhaps his beard.
“What can I do for you, Gomagog? And thanks by the way for letting me talk to Sif”, I add.
He nods, reluctant. ” It’s not what you can do for me, but what I can do for you.” Now that’s intriguing. “We’re beefing up security at Ochre. All of us. And part of that effort… will be bringing in other supernaturals.”
“Hermann will be one them. I just thought you’d like a heads-up.” Gomagog walks up to the the counter, slams down a couple of bills, and leaves the cafe. Meanwhile, I stand there, somewhat poleaxed. Was Gomagog just being nice to me? And how the hell did he know where we would be? And perhaps the greatest question– Hermann going to Ochre?!
I stride up to the counter and pick a danish filled with chocolate, promptly joining Nevena.
She swipes something on the screen of her phone. Looks up. “What was that all about?”
I shrug. “They’re taking up security to eleven at Ochre, and apparently Hermann is joining them.” A flicker of what I think is fear, maybe apprehension passes through her eyes. “They’re letting the Assassin loose at a school with supernatural kids. Geez, won’t that make things better”. The last sentence is delivered with no litte amount of sarcasm.
I pause. I have, quite tactfully I’d like to think, not asked Verde about Hermann’s past. I am not sure he would answer, and I am not entirely sure I would like to know.But now… ” I know so little about Hermann’s past. I mean– I think I know more about Greyscale than Hermann.” Nevena raps her fingers at the table. “Sometimes I forget that you’re new to all this. Things I take for granted– pieces of information that everyone have– you don’t know these things.”
I bite into my danish. Ah, my kingdom for a horse made chocolate. “So tell me. Please.”
“Okay. But remember, you asked for it.” She inhales. “A long time ago-” “How long ago?” She glares at me. “Don’t interrupt. A long time ago there was a great alchemist, a sculptor of flesh. He lived in one of the greatest cities man had ever made. His name was Abu Musa, and the city was Baghdad– the splendor and charisma of the Caliphs.”
I wave her on, filling it all back in the reptile hindquarters of my brain. “Abu Musa knew a tincture to make sand into glass, another to make lead into a gold, and a third to defy mortality. But what he treasured the most was neither these things, but his daughter, Fatima. She was all a father could hope for; beautiful, dutiful and she even shared her father’s interest in alchemy.”
I have a feeling for what might come. You can’t read as much as I do and not to. These typ of stories have a tendency to end in the same way.
“One day Musa captured a djin, and he encased it in obsidian. The djin had no choice but teach Musa, lest he incarcerated it forever. The djin taught Musa many things; strange things of seeming, walking through walls and other things that ensured his position as the greatest alchemist in the greatest city. Musa had forbidden Fatima from tolking to the djin, not out of spite, but because djin will twist truth very much like their northern counterparts, the fae.”
Nevena sighs. ” Telling a teenager that she mustn’t talk to a particular someone is like waving a red flag in front of them. Fatima talked to the djin. She began to wonder why her father had imprisoned it. When confronted, Musa reasoning was full of holes and she saw in him not her great and respected father, but a greedy man, a man who desired power and knowledge at the cost of everything else.”
I move my head in a bobbing movement, enraptured. “She let the djin loose, and the first thing it did was to burn Fatima to ashes. Then it destroyed Musa’s place of knowledge, his charts, his recipies.”
“Musa, who was out of the city to greet an old friend arrived home to dust and ruin. He found the slagged, burnt down building that used to be his home and wept tears. But when he found Fatima ashes he wept more, for even though they disagreed, he had loved her like nobody else. As Musa looked at her ashes, the broken obsidian shards, what used to be his home, great anger flooded through his mind. He swore that he would have his vengeance. He swore that he would build something the other alchemists had never seen. He swore that no father would ever have to lose children to monsters.”
Nevena stop. She gives me an pregnant look. “A great story. Really. But… when do we get to the reason why Hermann is called the Assassin?”
She shakes her head. “This is the story. The rest… well you’re going have to ask Hermann.”