It begins on a dark night, where a dark man waits, with a dark purpose.
“You’re tardy by thirty five minutes.” he says over the muted sound of hooves colliding with fine desert sand that’s working its way into his slippers. Gazeem probably can’t hear him and that’s fine, because Gazeem is the type to make a confrontation out of everything and god knows if that happened, Ja’far would never get anything done.
“A thousand apologies, O patient one.”
“Save it for someone who cares. Did you do what you said you would? Or are you unreliable on that front as well?”
“I had to slit a few throats to get it.” Something glitters in the moonlight, gold like Crocell’s vessel and Ja’far’s eyes follow it, study it to see if it matches his own half and he reaches up for it where it dangles from Gazeem’s hand. When he reaches for it, it’s plucked just out of reach. Something less than pleasant under his skin reminds him that his knives are right there for his use, for whatever deed he wishes to commit. Ja’far stays his hand, though he’s certainly killed better than this slimeball for fun.
“Ah, ah, ahhh! The treasure, first.” He’s getting too bold, though. Ja’far’s quick as a pit viper, shoves his foot in the saddle stirrup to haul himself over the back of the poor stolen horse quiet and balanced enough that it doesn’t even panic and the cool steel of his blade in the night poses quite a threat to Gazeem’s life.
“Listen here, you. The only reason I bother with you is that I’ve gone into so many of these dungeons that I’ve been locked out.”
Gazeem tries to stifle his sobs as Ja’far holds the blade closer to his skin, close enough to shave the pathetic beard from his face.
“And do you know why?” Ja’far’s fist digs into his cropped short hair and pushes him toward the blade a fraction because the oil of his hair should stay as far away as possible.
“Because I have been through seven already and even God was afraid of what I could do if I had more power.” Gazeem soils himself and the desert breeze carries the smell of urine away from them as Ja’far unsaddles himself from the steed with the trinket in his hand. He ignores the coward quaking in on himself and sets himself to making good progress. Gazeem should understand by now that there is no dismissal without permission.
The patterns on the halves match well enough and he thinks, as he pulls the other half from the inside of his turban, that they shall fit quite well together.
“Don’t worry though. You’ll get what you deserve in time.” And Ja’far slots the two halves of the golden scarab together.
And it flies.
“Quick, now, Gazeem,” Ja’far whispers as the rukh crowd it, make it shine in the darkness and illuminate the exhaustion in his face, the fear of hope that wells up anyways. “I’m sure you know what’ll happen to you if you miss it.”
The glow doesn’t fail to illuminate the steel of his daggers and Ja’far watches him ride into the night. His own horse follows after, just to make sure the job is done right.
The scarab imbeds itself in dirt. It dives deep into the dunes and shines bright, burns hotter. Hot enough that the dirt around it restructures into glass that shifts in the sand as it grows, rolling up on itself like a swell of waves at high tide, piling up and over itself until it begins to take shape and it builds until they behold a tiger in the sand.
“By Allah!” Gazeem wastes his words frivolously. There are more imposing things than a dungeon forming and Ja’far burns with the seven times reinforced to enter and witness them again for himself, but he stands back, even as the unlucky Gazeem creeps forward.
“Remember, Gazeem. The lamp is mine. Bring the vessel and you can keep the rest.”
Gazeem prays, and Ja’far doesn’t know why he thinks that will do him any good in the face of a dungeon.
And the tiger’s yawning maw opens up, sensing the will to die for a chance at a dream come true. Gazeem chuckles as he goes, and Ja’far figures that he’s lying to himself to keep his spirits up. He has to wonder where he digs such obnoxious fellows up, but the rest of his contacts are ones he can’t afford to lose.
They’ve got more important things to do.
The cave speaks as Gazeem tries to enter and Ja’far’s heart leaps into his throat at the thunder it makes.
“Who disturbs my slumber?” It says, ages old and unmovable, even as far as djinn go. Ja’far recalls that only Ba’al ever sounded so fierce.
“It is I, Gazeem, a humble thief.”
“Know this. Only one may enter here. One whose worth lies far within. A diamond in the rough.” As Gazeem looks hopefully back at Ja’far, Ja’far readies himself to find another, hopefully more intelligent test dummy, because this one will die. Gazeem doesn’t have to; Ja’far could warn him any moment, but this type is the scum of the earth and is willing to dispose of himself like particularly useful garbage. It’s never been Ja’far’s job to care for anyone out of Sindria anyways.
“Go on then, diamond in the rough.” The sarcasm doesn’t reach across the dunes, though and Gazeem slides into the maw of the beast with great apprehension. Nothing happens. Gazeem walks and something does happen. The sand shifts outward towards Ja’far and there’s more sand that works it’s way into his slippers as the lion roars and Gazeem isn’t out before the sand falls, nothing but an unassuming and ordinary knoll of sand in the dark. The two halves of the scarab gleam dull and secret under the moon and a lingering echo that only Ja’far can hear whispers in his ears,
“Seek thee out, the diamond in the rough.”
If there’s a part of him that doesn’t believe in this failure, there’s a much larger part that should have known and he allows it to easily trample on every other feeling into dust until there is nothing but that Gazeem was not worthy, and Ja’far must find someone who is. Ja’far’s lips tilt downwards, exaggerate the lines on his face as he hefts himself onto his horse and rides into the night, to find his diamond in the rough.