Saturday, March 12, 2022
You’ve reached The Armadillo Files. Yes, I’m a little late, but I’m happy you’re here.
Random Reader Things
A few weeks ago, Olga Núñez Miret commented that the cave reminded her of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.” A tickle began in the back of my mind. A week or so later, she remarked that she still thought of Ali Baba when she read about the cave. By then, the mental tickle grew into a prod. I told Olga that I wanted to use it in three things, and asked her for two more. This episode features those things: Ali Baba, mint cakes, and metronome.
Tidbits of Truth
Olga specified what she meant by “mint cakes.” Kendal Mint Cakes, dating to 1869, were rather like the energy bars we have today. Although most of the “energy” appears to have been from the sugar content. Olga described them as very sweet and very minty. That made me think of the Altoids “curiously strong” mints. Those things used to startle me to attention better than caffeine.
Previously in The Armadillo Files
Delilah Faraday and Tatu Pinkerton, aka Fang, parted company with Henry Apesly in 1877. The Time Manatees helped get Henry’s life back on track. “Off screen” Henry corrected his mistake. That restored the timeline for missing Marie Browning and some of the missing Calutron Girls in the 1940s. Although some of the girls are still missing. Then the Time Manatees have sent Fang and Dilly somewhere, farther back in history… but where?
26 — What’s your name?
Fang, the manatees, the ping-pong paddle in my hand — everything in my field of vision distorted to bizarre proportions. It was as if I walked into a Salvador Dalí painting. The floor of the Lost Sea cave fell out from under me.
While I floated in nothingness, pictures similar to film frames flickered across my consciousness. Images from decades, even centuries ran backward. Fang exclaimed in delight at the changing fashions.
I heard my name, although it came amid fluctuating whistles. Then I remembered that those strange blue mushrooms let me understand and communicate in the language of the Time Manatees. Uncaring about that, or anything at all, I rested in semiconscious fascination.
Eventually, I was vaguely aware of a soft surface beneath me. Fang’s words filtered into my awareness. Part of me thought I should open my eyes, but I was unwilling to relinquish the rare feelings of comfort and safety.
Mysteriously something minty was in my mouth. Then I realized it was a bite of mint cake. Fang was saying something about me needing it for energy. I could see the strong mint flavor.
“Can you do something about her ears? I think it’s adorable, but Dilly will be upset,” Fang was asking the manatees. “Umm, no… still a little furry. Ah! There ya go. That’s it.”
“Beware, Delilah Faraday. You are an ordinary human as yet. However, time travel has a cumulative effect. You are not officially a Prime operative, so your body has not been prepared for the consequences,” spoke the voice of the smaller Time Manatee as if in a dream. “You must warn her, Tatu Pinkerton.”
“Yes, yes. I’ll fill her in,” Fang said.
“I know you’ll be distracted. Don’t be forgetful. You must explain to her,” the deep voiced manatee insisted.
“What about our clothes? We’re not properly dressed,” Fang complained.
“You are both suitably covered, if perhaps a little outlandish for this era. The clothing you wear will suffice. Operative Baba has accumulated large quantities of goods, and can supply what you want,” the deep voice countered.
“There’s always a hidden cost with Baba,” Fang complained with a shudder.
The voices devolved to a riot of whistling that filled my ears.
“Dilly… Dilly, wake up! Ugh, you’re too heavy to carry. Dilly, come on already. You missed all the fun of time travel. Dilly!” Fang yelled into my face.
A hand gripped each of my shoulders, lifting me to a sitting position
“Huh?” I slurred, and opening my eyes, I saw four of Fang.
“Oh dear God, one is enough,” I muttered. “Thank heaven,” I added when the four merged to a single unwavering Fang.
“Good. You’re awake and none the worse for wear,” he remarked but cupped my chin in his hand curiously examining my face and head. “I’ll be right back. Maybe the metronome is here somewhere,” he added to my bewilderment.
“Why do you need a metronome?” I thought I asked, but then realized my mouth wasn’t open.
Still woozy and blurry, I could hear Fang somewhere behind me. He seemed to be naming plants or maybe spices in a singsong tone.
“Nutmeg? No, cinnamon? No that wasn’t it. Poppy! No…” his words drifted to me as I gradually became alert.
A shadow loomed over me. I blinked hard, focusing. A wild-eyed man bent, looking at me closely. He wore loose clothes and a turban. Light glinted on the curved blade of the sword he held.
“Nothing…” the man grumbled. “No gold, no jewelry.”
Gasping, I scrabbled aside like a crab. Fang lumbered and limped from the shadows. He moved as though he had never been able to walk properly. Stopping beside me, he started to babble and dissemble nervously.
“Can you help us?” Fang asked the man. “We fell overboard in a bad storm. I don’t know how long we were in the water, clinging to a piece of wood. We lost everything, all our money, my wife’s wheelchair. No, dear! You mustn’t try to get up! You know you can’t walk,” he added and turned to me with a warning glance.
“What’s your name?” Fang asked and the man grudgingly replied that his name was Cassim. “Well, Mr. Cassim, I’m afraid neither of us are able to fend for ourselves,” Fang added turning back to the greedy-looking man.
“You’re both worthless,” Cassim snarled contemptuously. “I suppose you really did wash ashore here. There was a storm about a week ago. I’ve checked this cave a dozen times and never found anything here. I should leave before some of Baba’s thieves show up. Miscreants!” the man muttered more to himself than in answer to Fang.
“Fang, what in heaven’s name was that all about?” I demanded, rising and dusting sand from my long periwinkle stripped dress. “Why the tall tales?”
“I thought I recognized Cassim, but I had to be sure,” Fang started and moved about with his usual nimbleness. “He’s as greedy as ever a man has been. You can’t trust him as far as you could throw him. But he’s Ali Baba’s older brother. So, we must be in the right place.”
The muffled tones of a woman’s singsong voice came from the shadows. It was followed by the rumble of moving stone, not unlike the sound of the boulder moving from the entrance to the cave at the Lost Sea.
A black-haired woman in loosely flowing silks approached us. She held a short but wickedly curved knife in one hand.
“Uh… no offence intended,” Fang told her, making me wonder why she might be offended.
Curiosity painted my face. The woman looked at me and chuckled. She tucked the knife into the sash at the waist of her wide-legged pantaloons.
“Cassim is my elder brother,” she admitted. “Tatu Pinkerton is correct. You were wise to pretend to be not just moneyless but physically broken. Else he would have sold you into slavery. Cassim is the greediest man I have ever known. Worse he has betrayed me repeatedly. I wash my hands of him.”
I stared at her, trying to remember where I had heard the name Cassim. Why did I feel I should know whose brother he was? The woman chuckled again.
“I am Ali Baba,” she stated.
♦ ♦ ♦
Don’t leave yet! I have a couple of freebies today. First here’s a link where you can get free copies of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” at Project Gutenberg, available in various formats. Next, here’s the 1966 version of the full movie at YouTube.
Yes… we still need to know about that metronome, don’t we? That was a random reader thing, but I can’t just mention it that randomly. Operative Baba is a woman? I’ll bet you weren’t expecting that. Plus, Fang remarked that “Everything comes at a cost with Baba.” What kind of price? To learn more, stay tuned. Hugs on the wing!
♦ ♦ ♦
Journey 13, The Harbor is now available! The 14th novelette will conclude the series.
Dead of Winter — All the Journeys
Universal Purchase Links
Journey 13, The Harbor
Journey 12, Goddesses
Journey 11, the Sumelazon Escarpment
Journey 10, Pergesca
Journey 9, Doors of Attunement
Journey 8, The Lost Library
Journey 7, Revenant Pass
Journey 6, The Fluting Fell
Journey 5, Llyn Pistyll Falls
Journey 4, The Old Road
Journey 3, the Fever Field
Journey 2, Penllyn
Journey 1, Forlorn Peak
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2022 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
All rights reserved.
No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.
All images are either the property of the author or provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise.