and The Pirates of the Mystic Caravan.
Chapter 12 - Sham, fakes and asses,
or is that Fame, shakes and...
Or maybe Shame, aches and ass...
'Harry's right guys. Look. They call the place Badiyat ash Sham and there's nothing there. It's just sand and wind and sometimes creeks trickling down from the northern waters hundreds of K's away up near Baghdad.'
Priscilla was squinting at an atlas given to her by her father on her tenth birthday. The inscription inside the dust cover read, "Happy birthday sweetheart. May this be a very safe way to travel the world. Love, your Dad."
If only you really knew how I travel the world, thought Priscilla wryly.
'Tomorrow we can spend some free time on the Library Internet taking a closer look at this place,' said Narenda, peering over Belinda's shoulder.
'Yeah sure, but right now, while we've still got a few minutes before lights out, tell us what you know about the Zoros,' Priscilla answered, crossing her legs under her and hooking her arm about Monigue at one end of their dorm bunk.
'Very well, Oh Belinda! My foot is going numb!' protested Narenda, at the other end whilst Belinda moved to ease her friend's leg.
'So sorry. Didn't realise I was squashing you. Now, more comfy yes? Do tell?'
Narenda drew in a long breath. It was the first time she had ever been called upon to actually add something of herself, of her own knowledge, to the secret group of the BlackEagle Girls, and she suddenly felt quite important.
'Zoroaster was a real person. The Greeks called him Zoroaster but his Persian name was actually Zarathushtra and he lived more than three thousand years ago in ancient Persia which is now modern Iraq and Iran. He was the first of all the great prophets, before Moses, Buddha or Confucius. And he wrote some hymns called The Gathas. These told of two mighty forces of Good and Evil: Ahura Mazda and his terrible enemy Angra Mainyu. Humans had the choice of Free Will as to which of these cosmic gods they would follow, but by supporting good Mazda, men would aid in the overthrow of Evil on the day of judgement. Part of the important key to all this is fire. Fire was thought to be the son of Ahura Mazda and also his symbol. There were first three sacred fires. They have names, but I cannot remember what they are or where they were. Anyway Zoroastrians also used to dispose of their dead by leaving them in high places where the vultures would come and eat...'
'Yerrchh! Too much information Narenda!' said Priscilla, jamming her hands over her ears.
'I am still listening,' said Monique, smiling and firmly removing Priscilla's hands. 'The most important thing for us to know now is where the fires of Mazda used to be so that we at least have some idea of Surban's destination.'
Narenda shook her head. 'I'm not... wait... one was called the Burzan or Burzen-something fire, and another was... Farnbag fire... and the last... Gush...something. I cannot remember.'
'But where were they on the map Narenda?' Belinda asked.
'I'm sorry, I really can't remember, one I think far off in Afghanistan, the other two I do not know, perhaps... Perhaps we need to make research of the Web.'
'Well yep, time to wind this up anyway girls. It's lights out in five.' said Priscilla, sliding off the bed and seeing Belinda and Narenda out into the almost deserted corridor.
'Right, well that doesn't help much,' Priscilla muttered glumly as the other three peered over her shoulder at the library computer monitor on the following day.
'Not at all in actuality,' said Belinda. 'Fire number one, Farnbag, was supposedly located in Afghanistan as you thought Narenda, the Gushnasp fire is in Shiz up near the Caspian Sea and the last, Burzen Mihr, on Mount Revand which is there also in Afghanistan. None of these places is anywhere near where Surban is travelling.'
'Nope, she and her little caravan of fake Priests are donkeying away down south somewhere just over the Saudi Arabian border into Iraq where sand is free and water is gold.' said Priscilla, shaking her head. 'Just doesn't make any sense.'
'Perhaps she has got it wrong?' suggested Belinda.
'Or her guiding codes know better than even history tells us,' ventured Monique.
'In this we must be guided by Harry and his Buggy.' said Narenda. 'Oh lookout! Here comes Mister Garland!
A day later in the evening, the girls were alerted by Harry that Surban's caravan had indeed camped in the vast expanse of Badiyat ash Sham the previous night and that most of the company had been left behind the following day and a select few had ventured forward on foot toward Wadi al Ubayyid.
'Buggy informs me that only five people have gone on into the Wadi, carrying packs on their backs, leaving the others behind. I had their position as they moved observed by Buggy...'
'What do you mean "had" ', said Priscilla, suspiciously.
'Um yes, well Buggy reports that they stopped at a certain locale some distance into Wadi al Ubayyid and then just vanished.'
'You can't just disappear in the desert. There's nowhere to go!' Priscilla protested.
'Course not. I know that and so does Buggy. They're still there alright, just out of sight. And there is somewhere to go, underground.'
'Like in a tunnel hideout ?'
'Like in I don't know, but Buggy reports some kind of excavation, a cave-in or hole in the wall of the Wadi...'
'Well hello? Any danger that it might just be the place?' said Priscilla.
'I sense that you and the girls are getting a little... umm... '
'Antzy? Is that the word you're searching for Harry?' Priscilla demanded.
'Like ants in your pants about getting over to Surban's aid, check?'
'Oh yes please, check antzy!' said Narenda.
Chapter 13 next