What Makes A Good Man?

Yamantau Em

Cosmic Horror Extraordinaire
TNP Nation
Yamantau/The Black Cathedral
"Akbar Azizi. God is great."

Sayed touched his forehead to the floor as he recited the words he had been taught as a child as he prostrated himself before God, here in the place where vizier and vagabond knew no difference. Grand Imam Abdulrahman's voice danced as he recited from the Qura as the room listened silently, before Abdulrahman began his sermon.

"Al-Aziz gave to you, life, and it is only right that you use this life, in his name, and the name of the Prophet Mehrab, peace be upon him, to live righteously. We no longer dabble in the terminology of children, there is haram and halal but not everything can fit into these categories, we must use the judgement given to us by God, to sus out the difference between good and evil, and what falls in between. If a man comes to your door and asks for food and water, but admits he is a thief and running from justice, which is more right: to give him the things he needs, or to strike him across the face for his offenses against God and the people? The answer is this; all men are deserving of kindness IF they have sought God." The Imam rambled.

Sayed furrowed his brow. He cared little for Adbulrahman's excuses as to who deserved the love of his fellow man and who did not, but even a Caliph cannot tell the Grand Imam what to do. Sayed Abdi Al-Nasir had sat upon the throne of Rafhazan for 18 years now, his opinion of the Grand Imam worsening every year as the old bastard twisted the word of Al-Aziz more and more to his own definition. Sayed knew that the true answer was to help the thief, as he could not be considered guilty in the eyes of God if the thief were to repent, and that all Mehrabists were of one brotherhood. Even Sayed could not abide the blasphemers of Aydin though. A pious man, Sayed looked upon the Aydini Mehrabists with great distaste, as they had strayed so far from the path of God that their brand of Mehrabism would be unrecognizable in Rafhazan. Here in Mehar, the holiest Mehrabist city, it was rare to see Aydini faces.

Sayed's train of thought was derailed as Abdulrahman began another recitation from the Qura, and so again, he pressed his forehead to the floor.


"Your majesty, it is not wise of you to attend the Masjid for the time being. The problems with the jihadists are only getting worse." Mansoor pleaded with Sayed. The young man of about thirty with his mop of curly black hair stared at the Caliph's back as he looked out the window of his office, his plain white robe and keffiyah, bound by the signature golden 'iqāl, a stark contrast to the blood red sun and sand on the horizon. He turned to face Mansoor and exhaled sharply. Sayed's face had begun to show his age, with wrinkles starting to appear above his thick eyebrows, and a prominent gray stripe that ran down the center of a well kept beard.

Sayed held one hand in front of him, gesturing with his fingers as if words were escaping him. "Mansoor, come to the window." he finally said, again exhaling sharply. Mansoor did as told, and stood next to the Caliph, looking out over the great desert that ringed Mehar for miles in every direction. The pair looked out the window at the setting sun as it cast its red glow on everything in sight. "All the way back to the first Mehrabist Caliph, men in my position have attended every mass at this Masjid, discounting the years when foreigners razed it to the ground and it needed to be rebuilt, but even then, they prayed among the ruins. Even during the days where the very walls of this palace were victim to sword, spear, and siege machine, the Caliphs would use a tunnel in the dungeons to go to the Masjid. No matter what they were facing, these men did not break tradition, and neither will I. The problem with the extremists will not keep me from the Masjid, my people will not see me hide from those who spread terror and misery." Sayed explained.

"But sir, you also cannot let your people see your head being cut off on national TV!" Mansoor urged. Sayed motioned for Mansoor to lower his voice. "You must be kept safe."

"You are too anxious, sadiqi. You place too much emphasis on what ifs and distant possibilities. If God wants me dead, he will find a way. If it is in my sleep, insha, then so be it, if it is through violence, then I am only made a martyr and my enemy has failed anyways." Sayed assured him. Mansoor found it difficult to stay angry with Sayed, mostly because of the sheer calming effect of his voice. It never rose in volume, nor wavered in its tone of compassionate respect when he spoke to anyone. Even the lowly beggars in the streets he spoke to with kindness.

Sayed placed his hand on Mansoor's shoulder, giving it a light squeeze as he smiled gently at the young man. "Now, if you will excuse me, I have a great many things to attend to. You do not need to post so many men throughout the palace either. Send half of them home, to their families." Sayed ordered gently, walking Mansoor to the door. Mansoor nodded gently and left without another word. Returning to his desk, Sayed shuffled through his papers and sorted through his mail, the only things of any interest to him were a letter from the Royal House in Yamantau, and a letter from his pen pal, who had never quite figured out who Sayed really was. He set the two letters aside for later reading with a gentle smile, and went back into the stack of envelopes and folded papers to try and tackle the business aspect of his position. He immediately let his head hit his chest as he opened the first letter from Prime Minister Latif. It was more blithering about infidels in government and how Sayed needed to immediately approve a hunt of said infidels. He had as of late grown weary of Mohammed Latif and his constant witch hunts in parliament, accusing political rivals of being blasphemers, which could never be proven in the courts. It was Latif that pushed Al-Jabari to the extreme, causing their current extremist problem to begin with.

Sayed wrote a single word reply to the frantic letter.


Next came letters from concerned citizens and MPs that usually made up the bulk of his mail, anything from an elder demanding the government fix the village well, to government officials claiming that another official or high ranking business leader had tried to bribe them. Sayed had no patience for the men and women who sat idly in Parliament and argued for weeks about issues that should take no longer than the amount of time to count a raised hand vote, and he cared not for their blind allegiance to Imam Abdulrahman. The Mehrabist Brotherhood was a party that was largely to blame for many of the societal woes that Rafhazan had begun to experience in the past decade, but it was not his place to interfere in elections or try to oust government officials. In fact, Sayed held no real power save for the power of suggestion, the fact this his words carried significant weight.

He quickly sorted through the letters and dropped everything with a parliamentary postmark into the trash. He went about reading the rest, smiling at a letter written to him by a five year old boy named Taymullah. Most of it was illegible, but he enjoyed the crude crayon drawing of himself with the children of Rafhazan that was attached to the letter with far too many staples. Sayed reached for a piece of paper and a pen and began to write.

"Taymullah, thank you for the beautiful letter, I am very happy you chose to write to me. I especially enjoyed your drawing you sent as well; I can tell that you will one day be a great artist, and create many more beautiful things. May peace be upon you and your family. Yours graciously, Caliph Sayed Abdi Al-Nassir."

He proceeded to fold the note and put it in an envelope, triple checking the return address to be sure this note reached Taymullah, before putting the letter in the outgoing mail pile. He repeated this until the early hours of the morning, until realizing how dark it had become. Satisfied with his work for the day, he retreated to his chambers, where his wife, Suhaira, was likely impatiently awaiting his presence.

He smiled at her as he entered the room and removed his keffiyah, folding it and gently placing it on the chest at the foot of their bed. She smiled back gently over the top of her book as she laid in bed. "Anything interesting, habibti?" he inquired, unbuttoning his tunic.

Suhaira paused for a moment before answering. "Not really. The protagonists are written with the personalities of cardboard, and the villain has no real clear ambition, so it makes it feel like something we would have read in high school." she replied, snapping the book shut and placing it on top of the stack next to the bed. Her wheelchair sat empty just aside from her reading materials.

"How are your legs today?" he asked gently, gingerly pulling back the blanket and gently inspecting the still healing stumps.

"They still hurt a little, but its bearable. I'm a little nervous about learning to walk on the prosthetics when it's time, but we'll get there." she admitted, watching her husband check to make sure the bandages were clean.

Suhaira had been diagnosed with bone cancer on her forty-ninth birthday, and ended up losing both legs shortly after the cancer returned at fifty-three. Sayed had been the most supportive throughout the entire ordeal, no matter what. She could still remember how funny he looked when he removed his keffiyah to reveal a shiny bald head when she first started losing her hair during chemotherapy. He was a good man who she had grown to love in their thirty years together. She could never believe that she was so opposed to marrying him, but the odds of meeting your soul mate in an arranged marriage are fairly slim.

"Well, if you can't learn to walk again, I will simply carry you everywhere." Sayed laughed, crawling over her in order to kiss her on the forehead before rolling off the bed in order to find himself some pajamas. He tossed on a pair of silk shorts and a faded band tee that he had been in possession of longer than he had been Caliph. He settled in next to Suhaira and held her hand as they talked until the sun began to rise.

"I think today is good for a day off." Sayed said quietly as they watched the blood red sun break the horizon.

Yamantau Em

Cosmic Horror Extraordinaire
TNP Nation
Yamantau/The Black Cathedral
Black flags and armored technicals.

This was a pleasing sight to Abbas as he strolled through the ranks of armed men clad in a mixture of black and desert camouflage fatigues, their faces obscured by the balaclavas they all donned before Abbas' arrival. Some men had silk headbands that bore gold calligraphic work, embroidered prayers for the destruction of their enemy.

For ten long years, Abbas and his men had fought against the government and their coward Caliph, who hid himself away in Mehar. While it was true that many may call Al-Jabari and their tactics such slanderous things as "terrorists" and "jihadists", Abbas knew the truth. To him, Al-Jabari served as the righteous hand of Al-Aziz, fighting those who would poison the words of God and the Prophet Mehrab and use them for their own gain. Abbas had never forgotten how Faisal Latif had laughed in his face when Abbas confronted him with the evidence of Latif having a love for young boys. Abbas knew that Latif was a blasphemer, and that God would strike him down, but it wasn't until Abbas claimed that Al-Aziz spoke to him in a dream that he knew what he must do.

He would do it himself.

Abbas began his holy crusade by rallying the most fervent and devout of men to his cause. He preached on street corners, he rounded up men from the masjids in poor areas, and promised them that Al-Aziz would reward them for service to his cause. It was in June that Latif sent men for him. It was during the early light of dawn during prayers that the gunmen came, and committed that crime which is most heinous to those of the faith; the murder of a brother.

Abbas and his horde of supporters retaliated by raiding the offices of the Mehrabist Brotherhood Party in Bebikish. The massacre was reported on for weeks, but to Abbas and his Al-Jabari, his Righteous, the massacre was nothing more than an eye for an eye ten fold.

Abbas stepped into the bed of one of the technicals and hoisted his aged Zk rifle proudly above his head, reciting from the Qura by memory as his troops cheered and mounted up. Down the rocky slopes the convoy made its way, into the town of Junanawat, where the Al-Jabari horde had recently taken control. Southern Rafhazan belonged to these men, and their stranglehold only tightened each day. Village by village, city by city, block by block, Al-Jabari conquered in the name of Al-Aziz, bringing only the fiercest gospel of fire and sword to those in their path. Any who resisted were slaughtered, the remainder would join out of fervor or fear.

Abbas expected the townspeople to rejoice at his coming, for their liberator had arrived, but instead, found a village of sick and injured who lined the street, held at gunpoint by their occupiers. Their dour faces and downward glances pained him, but he knew it was yet another test from Al-Aziz. Not all would love him, and even fewer would trust him, this he knew. In his mind, he believed that they would come to celebrate him as a giver of freedom, he need only earn their loyalty. The convoy slowed to a stop as it reached the center of the village, with Abbas promptly dismounting the vehicle. The stillness was eerie, and the only sounds were that of the breeze, and a gentle cough every so often from those gathered in the street.

Abbas scanned the crowd, noticing a woman who glared at him from between a pair of elderly men. It was not her eyes, full of hatred that attracted his attention, it was her lack of a hijab. He pointed her out to his men, who promptly dragged her in front of him, forcing her to her knees. The crowd stood in silence, waiting for whatever may come.

Abbas crouched down, removing his aviator sunglasses and hanging them from the pocket on the front of his plate carrier.

"Tell me, why do you not wear your hijab? Why do you not cover yourself and remain modest?" he asked her, his voice low and gravely.

"Your men removed it from me when they violated me." she spat.

He could see the bruising on her cheeks and neck. He leaned in close so that only she could hear him as he asked her to point them out before helping her to her feet. She scanned the soldiers who held her people and motioned to a pair that seemed all too happy to watch this poor woman on her knees. Abbas removed his shemagh from around his neck and draped it around the woman's head, throwing the loose end around her shoulders. She seemed shocked at the gesture as he pushed her behind him, beckoning the now no longer smiling men forward.

They were immediately stripped of their weapons by Abbas' escort, and were put into the back of one of the trucks. Abbas then turned to the woman and quietly spoke with her away from everyone else.

"I am deeply sorry for the loss of your virtue. These men, these…dogs, will be punished for their actions. We do not condone such things." Abbas assured her.

"I do have an idea on how you might restore your honor, if you are interested." he continued.

The woman eyed him nervously, before nodding gently.

"Take them to the edge of town! We will follow you shortly!" Abbas ordered one of his soldiers. The man nodded and climbed into the truck that held the disgraced men and slowly made his way down the street.

Abbas began walking, humming to himself as he strolled, the shaken woman by his side.

"Come, good people." Abbas said, motioning for the townspeople to follow.

He continued to gently hum as he walked, an old lullaby he had sang to his children during their short lives. The woman would occasionally look over to him and look him up and down. He did not look especially imposing, despite looking the part of a soldier, but she knew his reputation. His thick black beard and short cropped hair gave him an aire of dignity, and his bushy eyebrows a stark contrast to his gentle eyes. She adjusted the shemagh around her forehead and shoulders so as to fashion it into a proper hijab as she walked. The old cloth smelled of gunpowder and ash, but she didn't mind, she simply appreciated his kindness in her moment of need.

As they neared the edge of the village, the two men who had violated the woman were already positioned on their knees with their hands bound. Abbas stopped a few feet away from them and simply looked.

A tense few moments passed before Abbas approached them. He wasn't interested in their excuses or their pleas for forgiveness, only in delivering a sharp slap to the face of both men. He then crossed over and picked up a large stone, before taking it back to the woman.

"You shall cast the first stone." he said softly.

"Everyone, gather your stones." Abbas said to those gathered.

They were confused, but did as he asked, each gathering a small armful of heavy stones. Abbas motioned to the men before stepping back, making sure the woman had a clear shot at her offenders. She held the stone for a moment, feeling its heft in her hand before drawing back and holding it above her head. She hesitated, looking back and forth between the men before her and Abbas, whose stoic expression did not waiver. Finally, she let out a piercing scream and let her stone fly. It made a direct impact against the temple of one of the cowering men, causing him to flop over as blood came from his temple and ear. He spasmed violently on the ground, his breath coming in short bursts as he struggled.

One of the older women approached, and handed her another stone. She did not hesitate this time, sending it crashing into the second man's nose, which broke with a loud pop. After this, the gathered crowd approached, pelting the men with their stones until their arms were too tired to throw. In the end, there was almost nothing recognizable left but broken bodies and mangled faces.

Abbas approached the woman again and gave her a firm nod.

"I cannot give you your virtue back, but I have given you revenge. In time, you may still hate me, but please know that I have repaid you to the best of my ability. I am just as guilty for your tragedy as they are, as their actions reflect only on me as their leader, but please know that I am not a cruel man. I seek only justice, even if that means it comes by the sword." he explained.

"I don't blame you for their misdeeds, I blame them. I prayed for reprisal, and Al-Aziz answered." she replied.

Abbas nodded and gave her a smile before beckoning her to walk with him back down the street, leaving the brutalized bodies in the sand.

"I have a question." she asked as they walked.

"Hm?" Abbas said, as if asking her to proceed.

"I see no women in your ranks, why is that? Do they not belong in your world?" she inquired.

Abbas thought for a moment before he answered.

"My wife, and my children, my two beautiful daughters. They were killed long ago by those who wished me dead. They were murdered as they prayed to God for strength to carry on our fight against the corrupt government. I cannot allow another father to weep over his daughter's lifeless corpse." he replied.

"What of the mothers who weep for their sons?" she continued.

"I would hope they would have some comfort in knowing their sons, brothers, fathers, and so on, died fighting for freedom and justice." he told her.

"If I were to die fighting for such things, do you not think my family would think the same?" she pressured him.

Abbas stopped and turned to face her.

"If you want to fight, then fight. The will of Al-Aziz is neither masculine nor feminine, it cares not for such trivial details, but you are right, and these questions are worth answering, they are good to think on. Walk with me a little ways more, and let us continue our conversation. What is your name?" Abbas asked.

"Fatima." she answered.

"Fatima, I am Abbas. Walk with me. I will answer any questions you have, until you are satisfied with the answers." Abbas told her.

She nodded firmly as they continued their stroll down the street.
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