The Tale of Shir Shaheen and the Caravanserai - Chapter 4: Stealing Through the Dusk


Feb 12, 2007

“Drink a little wine, O friend of my heart; it will strengthen thee further and speed thy recovery. From the vineyards of Tiraz, this is – the best of wines for the best of men, and such a wine as Shir Shaheen would have welcomed the night he and the boy Roshan met and talked a second time in the ruins of Paridiz.”

Shir Shaheen sat atop the city’s tallest remaining tower, brooding, ever brooding. Weeks had he passed there since the killing of the monstrous scorpion, and though every morning the glory of sunrise bathed the desert sands in gold, and every evening the crimson sunset dyed the city walls with rose, his heart danced not. For the desert was no longer his, the city no longer his. The humans were there and immoveable.

Meagre was the dribble of magic left to Shaheen, yet every trespass of the mortals into his realm could he feel. There, the footsteps of villagers seeking the desert’s wealth – animals to kill, oases to despoil; there, the pad of camels from merchant caravans near Gorj carrying wealth across the desert; there, the plod of mules as pilgrims sought spiritual wealth in the holy cities; and there …

Shaheen sat more upright, then turned himself into an eagle, using its keen vision to pierce the shadow of twilight. Yes, there, with the beat of hooves, men on horseback; a dozen, perhaps more. Not soldiers. Not arrayed as soldiers at least, for no spears or metal helms caught the last gleams of sunlight. Nor an embassy neither; no retinue of officials, these plainly dressed, hard-faced men. Bandits. Or men wishing to be thought bandits. And all stealing through the dusk towards Paridiz.


The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Nov 10, 2008
nearly the New Forest
Well, that sent me down a long rabbit hole!

When Glitch put the story up and I saw the image I assumed the statue of the winged lion was the one in Venice, representing St Mark the evangelist. But the other day I came across a photo of St Mark's Square and its lion didn't look the same as how I remembered this one -- for the very good reason that it isn't this one. So I've spent more time than I care to admit tracking down Glitch's image -- I didn't realise there were so many winged lions out there! Minus the desert scenery, this one is from Zadar in Croatia, and very lovely it looks, too!

If anyone is interested, the winged lion is a motif in Persian art, but although I've done some background research generally for the series, I've only just cottoned on to the fact that the image I was thinking of hasn't come from that research -- I was sure I'd seen something similar in photos of Persepolis, but although there are depictions of winged lions there (including Assyrian-like ones with human heads) they're nothing like the image I see in my mind's eye.

I think what's happened is that I regressed to my childhood when writing this chapter! This is from the town hall square in Leicester, where I grew up:

Odd how memory and inspiration work together at times!