Dec 16, 2010

The Signs from the Sigil...

The final academic school year had finally come to a close and Laila was awaiting the examination results. “Is there anything sweeter than waking up to this feeling? Holidays, Hip hip hurray!” Laila rejoiced as she drew the curtains off the window. It was a bright and sunny morning outside and she wasn’t the girl to waste this beautiful freedom in bed. “What must lazy Khalil be doing?” she wondered.

And that suddenly brought another face to her mind, the beautiful Erum. She leaned outside, a tad bit further from her windowsill to see if she could get a glimpse of Erum, standing on her terrace. And yes, there she was! All of Erum’s movements looked like a dance posture to Laila. Just then Erum happened to look her way too and began waving at Laila, gesturing her to come over. “Perfect! There couldn’t have been a more beautiful beginning to the wonderful holidays.” Thought Laila and showed no reluctance in accepting the invitation. Laila wished she could use some magic to get ready in an instant and land up at Erum’s doorstep but that was not to be.

As Laila was closing the window, she happened to peer downwards too and spotted some dry twigs on the parapet below. They’d caught her attention because of the strict order in which they seemed to be lying there. She couldn’t believe whether she was seeing things or they were actually lying there in a perfectly formed ‘Star of David.’ “This is weird!” Laila thought.

The random occurrence of that symbol on her ledge got her thinking. As she got herself to the breakfast table, another thought came to Laila's mind. It had been almost three years since the only episode when she had played a crucial role in solving Erum’s problems as guided by the Spirit of Tuwrel. Though she had been practicing with her little red velvet copy in the attic always, Dorri Jun had not involved her in any of the other cases. She had been a mute spectator when Mohammad, the Geography professor had lost his memory in an accident or even when Old Sakina had taken to bed.  Tuwrel had never summoned her again. All that she had done was either study from the school texts or read along with Dorri Jun from The Secret Grimoire of Tuwrel.  She hadn’t done much to prove that she was ready to graduate into a full-fledged mage. That worried Laila quite a bit.

Laila served herself some scrambled eggs from the saucepan on the table and absent-mindedly played with it, pushing the morsel from one corner of her plate to another with a fork.  She never realised Dorri Jun had come up behind her. Dorri Jun gave her a warm hug. Sobh Be Kheyr! ” she wished Laila and planted a kiss on the top of her head. This brought Laila out of her reverie.

Her mother’s friend and her 9 month toddler had arrived. Laila went over to play with the babe and was once again taken aback.  The little girl had brought two rattles along. The baby was now holding one rattle in each hand and had crossed them over each other. A perfectly shaped ‘X’ had been formed. The head of each rattle and the two small fists holding them together looked like balls or dots at the end of the four arms of the ‘X’. The little girl looked Laila in the eye and gurgled something. Laila was shocked and took two steps backing away from the child.  “Did you see that?” At the sound of Laila’s hysterical voice all the three women ran towards Laila and the cooing babe.

No sooner had they arrived that Laila realized her blunder. She couldn’t possibly tell everybody what she’d just seen.  She apologized and moved away from the scene, pulling Dorri Jun along with her by her elbow.
“Dadi Jun, I am going to meet Erum and Khalil today, over at their home. Do you have any message for me to convey?” Laila asked in a louder than usual tone. Then leaning further closer to Dorri Jun she began relating to her all that she’d been seeing this morning.

 “What signs are these Dadi Jun? Am I imagining things? If not why do you think I am seeing them?” enquired a perturbed Laila.
“Sweetheart, these signs have always existed out there but when they emerge before your eyes in an unnatural manner, it is then that you begin to take notice. Sometimes, they are brushed away as tricks of the eyes but everything happens for a reason, Laila. Everything!” explained Dorri Jun.

“Once you are back I want you to draw them for me, exactly as you’ve seen them.  Till then, Bebin, just keep an eye out for these symbols. Remember their exact form and the sequence in which they appeared. They may all, when put together belong to a greater message, the Segulah.

“Dadi Jun, you think Tuwrel has begun to communicate with me again?” Almost breathless, Laila exclaimed impatiently, “I want you to tell me what my future holds, lotfaen Dadi Jun, lotfaen! Do you see something in the symbols already?”

“Who are we to discuss your future?” Dorri Jun had spoken wisely once again. “And it is much too soon for me to tell you what these symbols may mean. By the end of the day, from what you will relate I shall know whether it is time!”

“It is time for what, Dadi Jun?” Laila knew such probing questions had no effect on her grandma. She stepped out, constantly scanning the earth and the sky like a mad man, for more signs.

Now that the holidays were here Laila knew she was at the threshold of her career like the other children and had some major decisions to make. As she walked across to Erum’s house a question still troubled her mind, “A secret life as ordained by Tuwrel or a public career of fame? Or do I get to enjoy both?” Laila decided that she would definitely beg for an answer with Tuwrel, this evening in the attic.

 She raised the knocker on the door and rapped it twice, as was her habit. Laila was still between her soliloquies, “My future definitely has something very unusual in store, doesn’t it?”  She’d asked herself when like an answer the door was flung open and “ Balleh!” said Rashid pulling the door wide open for Laila to pass in. “Salaam Agha Ye Abdollah! Erum has invited me over today.” She greeted him in her most polite voice. Laila was half-embarrassed at the thought that he may have heard her talking to herself.
 “I know my child, she’d told me. Please come in and don’t be so formal. Where were you all these days?” he had begun the conversation in his same old warm and hospitable manner. The home d├ęcor seemed to have completely changed in the house within such a short period but the people were the same. Rashid seemed to be the same. Only that his hair had silvered with age and the wrinkles on his face and arms made him look more like his father from the portrait on the wall, now.

Khalil came running down the steps at the sound of their voices and it looked like he was about to pull Laila into a hug when he checked himself in time. He was grinning from cheek to cheek and it was quite evident from his face that he was extremely happy to be talking to Laila so freely like the good old days.
Laila always felt lost in a full household like theirs where the gents and the ladies were all working and living in absolute harmony. She’d seen Uncle Rashid do the dishes at the kitchen sink while Khalil’s mother would be polishing his shoes. “Azizam, Dorri Jun’s little girl is here.” Rashid had announced “Count her in for lunch.” And his wife began to act upon his instructions almost immediately. 
Wiping her hands on her apron she appeared form behind the curtain that kept the kitchen from full view. She led her towards the stairs up to Erum’s room, “You make yourself comfortable while I make your meal. Would you like to try some of my Khoroshte Fesenjaan today?” She offered.
“Oh! Khalle why do you have to trouble yourself so much? I enjoy your Aash too!” replied Laila politely though she was already drooling. “Ma she loves your Fesenjaan.” Khalil butted in. “So please don’t change the menu. And I would love some Chelo Kebab too.”

Laila was ready to have some fun now but her eyes were still staring at the black and white oriental ceramic plate on display on the mantel at the foot of the stairway. “Does that symbol of the Yin & Yang count too?” Laila wondered, still scanning her surroundings. “Looking for something Laila?” Khalil enquired. Laila almost opened her mouth to say “I am looking for signs from the sigil, Khalil, almost like in a Hardy Boys or a Nancy Drew mystery story!”
Putting a palm quickly to her mouth she pushed all the words that would have spilled out in excitement and let only “Be baksh Shid!” come out of her mouth. Ignoring Khalil’s baffled look, Laila raced up the stairway, two steps at a time.

To be continued...
For those who missed out on the previous stories of the novella, please visit 'The Grimoire'.

The Persian Glossary:

1. Sobh Be Kheyr! ”: Good Morning!
2. Segulah: Hebrew for Sigil
3. lotfaen: Please
4. “ Balleh!”: Yes
5. Salaam Agha Ye Abdollah!: Greetings Mr. Abdollah
6. Azizam: My darling
7. Khoroshte Fesenjaan: Pomegranete and walnut curry
8. Khalle: Aunty
9. Aash: A thick sourish broth made of chick peas, gram and noodles
10. Chelo Kebab: Lamb and rice
11. “Be baksh Shid!”: Excuse Me!
12. Bebin: Look


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