10th January

Appointment in Samarra

On his arrival in Samarra, Death’s first thought was to track down the man who had thought to evade him in Baghdad, and settle their score. But something made him pause. What was the hurry, and why the need to hunt for him deliberately? After all, had he not always expected their meeting to take place here? Furthermore, he knew from the man’s master that it was to Samarra that the servant had fled, so fate had obviously decreed that this was where their paths would cross.

Nevertheless, Death was not entirely at ease. What had been worrying him all day was his own reaction on first seeing the man in the marketplace in Baghdad. Why had he been surprised? And why had he let his surprise show on his face, even if the servant had misinterpreted that look as threatening? Was he losing his touch? He did not think so, but the affair had upset him.

He took out a small mirror which he always kept about his person, and practised expressions. No, he did not think anyone could easily mistake a look of surprise for one of malevolence.

As he pondered thus, he heard a commotion in a narrow alley just off the street where he was walking. Two men were grappling with a third, apparently trying to rob him. Death saw the blade of a knife glinting in the moonlight. He shouted a warning as he advanced, and the robbers, horrified at the sight of him, ceased their attack and ran off into the night.

‘What good fortune that you came by at that moment, sir,’ the victim said, ‘for if you had not, those villains would undoubtedly have murdered me. How can I repay you?’

‘I have no need of a reward,’ said Death.

‘Well, I am doubly grateful,’ the man said. ‘Especially as this is the second time today I have narrowly avoided death.’

Now Death was thoroughly confused. He quickly took his leave of the man, who it was clear did not recognise him, although the two robbers had.

Death found a quiet, dark place to be alone, and there he stayed for several days. He needed to think.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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