Easily underestimated, Ibn Sharjar is a clever merchant who has worked out a lucrative network of trading routes on Planet Obsidian. He seems to know just what everyone wants and where to find it for them— and at just the right price! In this post he settles down to a local cafe for some business meetings and we get a tasting platter of the local food and customs, not to mention a secret tip on something Ibn Sharjar is sure to follow up next…
Ibn Sharjar: The Cafe Ra Hetjan
Posted on 26 Sep 2022 @ 3:46am by Atif ibn Sharjar – Merchant of the Al Ashar
Mission: M3 – Into the Deep
Timeline: MD05 0510hrs
1711 words – 3.4 OF Standard Post Measure
.: [Merchant Ship Al Ashar] :.
Ibn Sharjar yawned and smacked his lips, he had slept well. He reflected on the previous night as he woke up. It had been a pleasant evening at Indri’s ranch and hopefully his cultivation of the former Admiral’s friendship would prove beneficial in the future. In truth her company had been enjoyable, the food simple but hearty and the lad’s poetry a surprising piece of culture.
He sat up in his bed, rubbed the sleep from his eyes and checked the time. Just after five in the morning. “Morning Lights!” he ordered and several lights glowed a gentle orangy-yellow.
He yawned again, stretched and clambered out of bed, then padded off to the bathroom and got himself ready for the day.
Twenty minutes later he was sat in the cockpit with a cup of strong dark coffee from his brass coffee pot.
There was a sprinkle of redness on the distant horizon, within an hour the sun would be up and blazing. He completed his preflight checks, satisfied all was in order he started the engines. Letting them warm up as he drank his coffee.
A few minutes later, after a final check over his readouts, he powered up the thrusters and gently lifted off, keeping the power low until he had cleared the ranch, not wishing to disturb his host and her residents.
He had considered going over to say goodbye, but it was early and the Admiral had been clear he was welcome to stop by whenever. She had been a career officer and would not be offended by his early departure.
Once clear of the ranch, he increased the power, climbed to a cruising altitude and swung around on to a vector for Kalara.
It was a short flight, the light increasing as the sun rose and some thirty minutes later he was dropping down onto a pad at the commercial end of Kalara’s main spaceport. He shut down the engines and flight systems and clambered down onto the pad. It was much lighter now, the sun was up, but here it was still hidden by the ramparts of the Taragi-shar mountain, though their summits were clad in a yellow golden glow.
.: [Kalara Spaceport] :.
He had donned one of his working bisht’s, wrapped a Shemagh around his head, a small dagger in his belt and a personal phaser in an inside pocket. He did not expect trouble, but some parts of Kalara could be rough. Over his shoulder was a sturdy leather bag, he looped the strap across his chest, positioning the bag so the opening flap was held against his body. A more common danger were the street thieves and pickpockets.
He sat on a landing skid to wait. While he did so he activated his personal communicator and made a quick call, then sent out several messages announcing his presence. Ten minutes later a tired looking official arrived, wearing a dusty robe and riding a decrepit solar powered tricycle. The man checked his credentials, ship registration and charged him the standard landing fee.
“You are lucky I had not left yet, D’ceda on dayshift is always late and he would have left you out here until noon!” the man laughed, clambered back on to his tricycle and weaved off in the direction of the nearest hanger.
Some ten minutes later another vehicle arrived, a taxi. “You are Mister Ibn Sharjar?” the driver asked, poking his head out of the window. “For Cafe Ra Hetjan?”
“I am he” Atif nodded. He secured his ship and boarded the taxi. Fifteen minutes later it had taken him to one of the older parts of the city, the roads narrower and the stone paving worn, tightly packed houses and shops lined the many streets and alleys. There were people out at this early hour, some going to their employment, others to shop in the food markets that opened before dawn and sold most of their produce before the sun and heat ruined it.
.: [Kalara Cafe Ra Hetjan] :.
The taxi deposited him in front of a large building, with an open veranda surrounded by low carved wooden posts and rails and covered by a brightly striped awning. Tables were dotted around the veranda, many occupied by people taking their breakfast outside in the cooler morning air.
He paid off the cab and walked up to the building, Two signs, with letters made of carved and polished Eralsu shell, proclaimed the premises to be the Cafe Ra Hetjan in both Obsidian script and Standard. The letters curved over the central arched doorway that led into the interior.
Atif mounted the steps up to the veranda, a waiter approached. “A table sir?” he said, then recognized his customer. “Ah, Mister Ibn Sharjar, good morning, your usual table sir?”
Atif nodded “Yes please Hanif” and the waiter led him inside through the arch, the two heavy carved doors were pushed open, and a beaded insect curtain hung across the entrance. The waiter held it aside for him and then led him through the main dining area, to a table at the back of one of the side rooms.
The interior decor was traditional Obsidian, rugs on the floor, embroidered tapestries and carved Ortannani leather panels hung on the walls, dark wood tables, seats and furniture, colorful cushions and lamps with pieced metal screens.
Several tables were occupied in the room, Atif recognized a couple of people, he nodded and smiled to them as he passed.
His table was in a corner, it was a rectangular one, there were two long, high backed benches for seating, each could seat three or four people comfortably. A couple of potted date trees provided a small privacy barrier. Atif took his usual seat on the end one of the benches and made himself comfortable.
“Coffee and your usual breakfast sir?” the waiter asked
“Please Hanif, is Madam Tr’Mari here yet?”
“Not yet sir, but she should be here shortly, I will let her know you are with us today, as soon as she arrives”
The waiter departed and Atif checked his communicator, there were several responses already. He should have a good morning.
The waiter returned, first with coffee and a small glass of water. Then with a small beaten copper tray, on which was laid out a selection of fresh and dried dates, several types of Chuchaki milk cheese, Chuchaki butter, a bunch of fresh Mignar fruit, a jar of Mignar fruit jam, some slices of dried Siniki and oval shaped, unleavened bread, still warm from the oven.
He set down a plate and cutlery for Atif and placed several more plates on the other end of the table.
“Thank you, Hanif, that will be all for now”
The waiter bowed and departed. Atif started on his breakfast.
A little later a shadow fell across the table, it was cast by a tall elegant Obsidianite woman, she wore a traditional styled gown in a dark green color, gold embroidery at collar and cuffs and a matching shawl. She had a timeless beauty, large dark eyes, a tanned complexion, black curly hair tied to one side, and could be anywhere between thirty and forty-five.
He went to stand but she waved him down and took a seat opposite. “Good morning Atif Ibn Sharjar” she said softly, a smile played across her lips “As always, you are welcome here”
“Madam Tr’Mari” he bowed his head in greeting.
Hanif arrived, bringing the woman coffee and offering her a plate. She took the coffee, waved the plate away, but reached over and lifted several Mignar berries from the tray.
“How was my distant cousin?” She asked popping a berry into her mouth.
“Ran’huf was his usual fearsome self” Atif smiled “They tested me, as before”
“Good” she nodded “It is important to keep up the old ways, lest we lose the grit from our teeth”
Tr ‘Mari’s family had owned the Ra Hetjan for several generations. Her parents were now semi-retired and she ran the cafe. The family was originally from one of the tribes of the southern desert and though they had relocated to the city they were proud of their heritage and traditions. They kept in contact with many outside the city.
The cafe was used by local merchants and traders as a location to conduct business. Atif had first been brought here by one of Dab’nart Brothers a few months ago, had been introduced to some contacts and made the acquaintance of Tr’Mari herself.
He had quickly discovered she had her finger on the pulse of the city, knew a lot of people, especially the business and trading families, particularly those who wanted to avoid the complications of the Kalaran Council of Chieftains.
Her respect of her heritage was balanced with a health dose of pragmatism. Offworlders were here to stay, the right ones who could be trusted, were acceptable trading partners.
Atif had passed her scrutiny and It was she who had arranged further introductions to several tribes who lived out in the deep desert, including the Pitra-tani, the Tribe of the Indigo Rocks, and their supply of opals.
They chatted for a while, before she rose, taking her coffee and a last Mignar berry. “I will leave you to your breakfast and business Atif. Please have Hanif call me before you leave” She said “I have a favor to ask”
With that she was gone, stopping briefly to speak with several other customers as she left.
Atif was not long alone, over the next couple of hours several traders arrived at his table. They drank coffee together, he shared breakfast with them, they chatted and he steadily traded most of the opals he had in the leather bag at his side and did deals for the Eralsu shells in his cargo hold.
When he was done, he requested the bill from Hanif and asked him to inform Tr ‘Mari’ he was preparing to leave.
A few moments later she returned to his table, sitting opposite him again, she asked quietly “Have you heard of the Oasis of the Nine Stones?”