Here, in the frozen steppes of Mongolia is where I was sent to die. I remained within sight of the Calif. If they intended to shoot me arrows, so be it. They could break my legs, my arms, cut me, burn me.

But they would never break my spirit.

I was true to my word. I delivered the package. Like a true runner I never opened it.

They were dates, for the Mongolian ambassador. He had never sampled them, and they grow freely the east, where my master and I grew up.

But it was a ruse. Perhaps even unbeknownst to my master, too. The dates were poisoned.

The ambassador is dead. A scapegoat was needed and I was neither high-born, nor important. The blame shifted to me.

By staying, and not walking into the wastes of the mountains, I show my innocence. My master knows this, but if I live, we both die. Sparing me would be viewed as an insult and there would be no saving the both of us.

There is no other life for me. I am a marked man, never to enter the walls of my home again.

Hunger has already set in. It was a painful day, but I’m past it now. This is not the only time I have fasted. The headaches from lack of water came next. My vision dulls as I get closer to death. When the time comes I will spread my limbs over my chosen rock. My body will be seen by all.

That night, the 4th beyond the wall, there was a sound from behind me.

An older gentleman, a Muslim, like me, sat on a rock above me. He had a pack with him and it looked to be filled with all manner of camping supplies. I thought him a drifter, a gypsy, until he spoke the language of Allah.

“I have food and water.”

After my initial surprise wore off I coughed, and then managed to speak.

“You would only prolong my suffering, kind soul. Take your supplies and go. May Allah reward you for your kindness,” and I turned away.

“I have a plan. This whole place will never be the same, Mumin. By the will of Allah I found you here while in my travels, and by the will of Allah I have food and water for two.”

My mouth salivated at the thought of water. In a fit of anger I spoke again.

“You drive me mad with your tauntings. To be seen with me is certain death. The leader here will kill you, and not in a pleasant way,” I waved with my hand.

“I must be truthful. I saw you in my dreams. I saw a magnificent future with you at my side. There is magic with me, holy magic.”

He approached me, and I could not summon the strength to move away.

With one hand on my shoulder he pointed to the city lights.

“Watch what I have foreseen. Yes, there it is.”

And as he pointed, almost as if he had summoned it himself, the sky became red and a great ball of embers fell like a hammer onto the town where my master and thousands of others slept.

It collided in the center, and it was evident that the buildings, if any stay standing, would be engulfed in flames and burning dust.

“Now ask me, Mumin. How could I have seen such an event without the help of Allah?” he laughed.

“You are an efreet, a djinn! A treacherous shapeshifter sent to tempt me!”

I bowed my head and spoke to the almighty.

“There is no god but god,” and then began coughing.

“It was I who sent the dates, Mumin.”

I turned to the strange man, and glared at him.

“Then you are a kafir.”

Before I could continue, eh spoke over me.

“The man who ate the poison dates was treacherous. He stands between us and the utopia that god has in mind. I am but an instrument of his will.”

In the man’s torchlight a woman appeared. Her clothes were ragged, and her veil was torn in places. Even in my weakened state, I averted my eyes.

“Ah, Naima. You are here,” he said while standing up.

There was a period of silence, dust washed over me, and I waited for the woman’s attire to be addressed.

“I have seen you both before…” she said in god’s tongue.

I raised my head, and I had saw that she was another Muslim in the land of Genghis Khan.

“How unlikely is this?” the man said, “That three Muslims are the only survivors of such holy judgement over this place?”

The woman and I only stared.

“There is no god but god,” the two of us spoke almost as one.

“Eat. We leave at first light. This place is now cursed. Staying in it will only draw attention to devils.”

He handed the woman and I food and water. I devoured it like a dog, and the water never tasted or felt as amazing as that moment.

“You are my first; you are part of Hashashin now.”

A man so blessed as he, I had no choice but to follow him.

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