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"The Old Man in Cairo"

Early Morning Cairo, the sun has just began to cut it's blazing path through the nights cold covering darkness. The city has sprung to life in the last few hours, with merchants and workers getting ready for their long hot days ahead of them. Jason leans out of the window of his hotel room, watching the movement below on the streets. Earlier, before the light was in the sky, he took a cool bath in a vain attempt to cut some of the dust and grime that has found it's way into every wrinkle and crease of skin on his body. Refreshed by the cold water he is anxious to go to the cities fabled book markets.

Turning back from the open window Jason searches the room with his eyes, looking for the small black cat that was sleeping on his pillow a few hours earlier. Seeing that she still rests there, he walks over to the bed and nudges the sleeping cat. "Hey, do you want to go out into the city with me, or do you want to stay here?" He asks the cat, as if he were speaking to another human.

Meritation slowly opens her eyes and then proceeds to open her mouth in an impossibly wide yawn. Before answering the mage, she stretches for a bit and claws at the hotels clean pillows. "What do you want?" The cat asks as Jason stands over her, looking sort of impatient with the feline.

"I said, do you wish to stay here, or do you want to go into the city with me today. We only have one day to see the city proper and I am not going to miss this opportunity to add some books to my library." Jason says with a smile.

"I wish to eat before we go" She says with a commanding tone in her voice. Turning over on the pillow she gives Jason the feline equivalent of the cold shoulder. "And make sure the milk is fresh this time." She says as she belts out another yawn.

"Fine, then stay here." Jason says as he heads for the door of his hotel room. Just before he gets to the door he turns back and says "I am going to leave a note here on the door for the cleaning staff, maybe they can give you a nice soapy bath... how does that sound?" He says trying to fight back a large grin on his face.

"You know you are only allowed three of these little outbursts a week." The cat says as she leaps down off the bed. "This is number two this week. "We had better get something to eat along the way, or you can count that as number three, Man." adds the cat with an indignant tone in her voice.

Ten minutes later, Man and Cat find themselves out into the bustle of the streets of Cairo. Thick throngs of people flow like a river on either side of them. Meritation quickly demanded that she be carried, once they were outside of the hotel. Jason obliged, as he didn't want to loose her highness to one of the wild dogs that run the back streets. Almost asleep in his arms, Jason winds his way through the maze of stalls and street vendors of the city's large market area, hoping to find someone who is selling the sort of books that he is interested in. Much to his dismay, over an hour passes, Jason feels like he has been in half of the shops and booths in all of Cairo. Meritation looks up at him and says, "If you get me something to eat I will tell you where you need to go" She says with a little cat smile.

Looking down at the black cat he concedes, "OK, we will get some food." He says as he looks around for a decent place to eat. Letting his nostrils do most of his looking, his nose is filled with the pungent odor of Indian cooking. Letting his attention go back to the cat in his arms, he asks, "Is Indian OK with you?"

"It will do, Man" says Meritation as she licks her lips in an almost human gesture.

Jason smiles as he makes his way through the crowds of people and jostles a path into the small Indian restaurant. He looks for some sort of waiter, but doesn't see one right away. Figuring this is the sort of place where you just sit down and wait he does so. There are a few people in the place, but they largely ignore the man and his cat. Meritation suggests a table by the window and Jason is all to happy to oblige his familiar. They have a short wait before a short dark skinned Indian man approaches the table. The man looks at Jason and begins to speak to him in halting English mixed with Arabic. Jason smiles and orders a moderate sized meal for Meritation and himself in a perfect rendition of the local dialect of Arabic. The waiter quickly writes the order down and scurries into the back presumably to prepare the meal. Meritation looks up at Jason from her chair next to his and says, "since when did you learn Arabic?" she asks with a sort of surprised look on her face.

"Well, when in Rome....." he says in a low voice. "I studied it this morning while you were having your beauty sleep. One of those language tapes." He says as he looks out the window and then back at the small black cat.

"What sort of magic are these Language tapes." The cat asks with a slightly quizzical look on her face.

"Modern magic, you can learn a whole new language in less than a half an hour." Jason says with a smirk.

Meritation turns from Jason, giving him the cold shoulder again. The mage hears a small kitty *hurumph* as she looks out the window at the crowds that bustle in the streets. Jason peers down at the little black cat, but chooses not to make this into a full hissy fit, so he leaves her be. Five minutes later the Hindu man brings out several still steaming plates of Indian food. Jason takes a quick look over the feast and thanks the man. Meritation gets a whiff of the goodies and turns back to the table, licking her chops at the sight of the pile of Indian food. Jason fixes her a small plate of food on one of the smaller plates that was brought with the meal. Meritation seems pleased at the service and quickly but carefully eats down the food. Jason wolfs down the delicious meal, in-between filling up the cat's little plate several times. Once the pair is done, the rest for a moment and then Jason motions to the waiter that they are ready to pay for the meal. The waiter quickly approaches the table, with a written check in hand. Jason looks at it quickly and pays the man for the meal and a healthy tip. The Indian man thanks them a few times and Jason makes his way to the door, wanting to get back out into the market. Meritation looks up at him, but remains quiet.

Jason walks for a little while and then says to the half sleeping cat, "OK, you said if I fed you that you would show me a place with the kind of books that I am looking for?" Nudging her a little seems to get her attention. Meritation rolls in Jason's arms and says "OK, OK stop poking at me. 10 stalls ahead on the right is where you want to go, there is more knowledge there then what you can handle" She says as she rolls back around, twisting in his hands. Jason almost drops the squirming cat before he gets a firm grip on her.

Jason begins to walk, letting his mind wander on the fact that this cat may be lying to him, just to get him off its back. Counting the stalls as he passes them, he makes his way to the 10th stall of the right and looks at it. Brassware stands in knee-high piles outside of the shop. Looking inside Jason sees that there are larger piles of the cheap brass work piled in there as well. Looking down at the cat with a disgusted look on his face, he enters the stall. Quickly looking around he sees that there are no books to be found here at all, just piles and stacks of the ornate brasswork. Muttering to himself about giving a certain someone an extended flea dip when they get back to Salt Lake, he begins to turn from the shop to leave.

"Jason........Jason Solomon?" says an old voice behind him.

Slowly Jason turns to the source of the voice. Looking at the man, Jason sees the hauntingly familiar face of an old Arabic man. The old man's face is almost like leather, heavy folds of skin on his face are marked with deep creases and wrinkles. The ancient look of his face is juxtaposed by his piercing gray eyes, which have a very youthful appearance. The man is dressed in what appear to be an older form of dress. Heavy crimson robes trimmed in black cording are draped off his thin form. The old man looks at Jason for a moment, looking into the young mage's eyes, perhaps looking for something within his soul.

Jason lets the man look at him for a moment and then in a half shocked voice he asks, "I am sorry do I know you sir?"

The old man looks Jason over for a moment longer and then says, "I am not sure if you remember me, but I was a friend of your parents... a long time ago." Says the old man, looking down at the dirt floor of the small shop. "You were but a child the last time that I saw all of you together."

Jason stares at the old man, utterly speechless.... After a few moments he recovers from the shock and sputters, "But....."

"How........?" finishes the Old Man for him. "Your resemblance to your mother is unmistakable. The eyes give you away Jason. I can see that you don't remember me, and that is all right, it was a long time ago for the both of us. My name is Azamus, " says the Old Man as he gets closer to Jason.

Jason still seems a little startled by the last few moments, but he shows a little smile and manages to say, "I had an accident.... I lost most of my memories, I am afraid that I do not remember you Azamus, hell I don't even remember my parents and until a moment ago I did not even know my last name." Says the bewildered mage. Looking for a place to sit down Jason gives a series of deep breaths in an attempt to clear his mind. "Fate seems to have dealt me a funny hand today." He mutters to himself before he looks up at Azamus again.

Azamus stands next to Jason and says, "Fate is an odd one, but she is always fair. When she takes away, she always makes it right with you sooner or later." Says the old man with a smile. "Wait here, I have something for you." Azamus says as he turns from Jason with a flutter of his clothing, the Old man moves quickly into the back room of the store. Moments later he returns with a small wooden box. Wiping a thick later of dust off the top Azamus looks at it for a moment and proclaims, "Your parents gave me this many years ago, I think that they would want you to have it." He says as he hands the plain wooden box to Jason. Looking at the box with a stunned look on his face, he cannot even form the words of thanks that are welling up in his mind. The Old man sees this in Jason's eyes and gently places a hand on his shoulder and says "No need for thanks, I owe a lot to your mother and father." Says the Old man.

Jason looks at Azamus for a long time and then says, "I am only here in the city for this one day, may I visit you again? I have so many questions...." Jason says with a look of hope in his eyes.

"Indeed you may Jason, indeed you may. I can see that we will have a long and interesting future together." says the Old man. Before Jason can ask the man what he meant by that, Meritation rubs up against the young man's leg and distracts him for a moment. When Jason looks up again, he quickly realizes that he is no longer sitting in the old brass shop. All around him, he sees that he is now in a rug stall sitting on a pile of carpets. Jason looks around, not sure of what is going on. In his ear he begins to hear the voice of the tall Arabic man who is yelling at him in a rapid and highly agitated manner. Looking down at the box in his hands and then at Meritation, who is still rubbing up against he leg, Jason tries to recover from what he thinks just happened. Quickly Jason grabs up Meritation in one hand, the wooden box in the other, he bolts from the now carpet store and disappears in the crowds of people. As he quickly walks down the narrower streets and alley ways he looks down at the small black cat and asks, "He was a mage, wasn't he?"

Meritation just looks up at him and says, "Why do you ask, when you already know Human?" rolling around in his arms she says, "So when are we going to eat?, I am starving...."