Minor Keys No. 15
The path of a book to the heavenly library is strewn with good intentions. The character of Raashid in Azimuth was one I always imagined I would develop. As you can see from this extract, he is a favoured friend and potential lover for Princess Sabiya. In this sense a novel mimics life in that you meet people and you think that a great friendship might ensue but somehow the fates deny you, or your emotional needs become satisfied elsewhere – or they turn out to be less attractive the more you get to know them. Indeed, a friend of mine often quotes his acquired one liner, “The greater the friendship the greater the treachery.”
Later that morning she was visited by a handsome young man, a noble dressed stylishly in the silks of the day, his burnished hair made up into a topknot, -Your wig is a work of art, she giggled, -Was it taken from the living?
-In truth, yes. It is a woman’s head of hair which I purchased and had made up, so. It cost silver. When my normal hair grows enough after my interlude as a scribe, I will store it until I have use for it, again. His eyes were mischievous and bold and there had been moments when Princess Sabiya felt that she might make him her first lover but, somehow, the feeling always passed.
Why am I drawn to him? I suppose in my own life I have always found charming reprobates attractive, whether men or women. Being a double Libran, I am told, magnetises me to beautiful, creative people. Whatever, Raashid is a naughty young man but noble and loyal despite his errant nature. He grew up the apple of everyone’s eye, a sort of Hamlet in court life (before the killing of his father), a lover of the arts, a frequenter of gambling dens and an indulger in high class courtesans. He grew up alongside Sabiya but could never quite rid himself of his sense of her being more like a sister than a potential lover, despite his blood being aroused by her beauty. As we know from Azimuth, he is a theatre director and actor, taking much pleasure in lampooning key figures in court life. He is also an adept drummer and swordsman. Raashid is, in fact, the most eligible bachelor in the empire.
Despite the events in Azimuth, where, because of his loyalty to Sabiya’s daughter, he crosses her formidable mother, he is forgiven and eventually made commander of all the armies of the empire. Whatever it was in his upbringing that made him seem at times feckless, he never displayed it as a military general. He was adroit, tough and uncompromising when it was needed. However, his charm and lateral cast of mind meant that wars were few and harmony prevailed between the empire and its neighbours. He made an exceptional marriage, following the trend set by the Emperor Haidar in marrying a black-skinned Ethiopian from Sabiya’s blood line and had seven children by her. He was responsible for the first ever public health programme, entrusting its management and development to two young doctor friends of Sabiya’s daughter, Shahrazad and he rewarded all clan chiefs who ensured that their people could read and write, a silver piece for every one who could pass a test for literacy. It was owing to his efforts that there was an enormous explosion of science and the arts across the empire, which was then responsible for a general renaissance of intellectual striving in occidental societies. Raashid lived to a venerable age and was given a state funeral of extraordinary splendour by Shahrazad, which was attended by dozens of heads of state from across the continents. He proved the theory that, if you put your trust in a man of the arts rather than a professional politician to run social affairs in your country, you can develop a culture which is fair, just and responsive to its people.
(Azimuth by Jack Sanger also in Kindle books at Amazon)