Sinbad ducked low, so the house-guard’s scimitar shattered only a man-high wine jar. The sailor hooked the man’s feet out from under him, sending him toppling down the staircase onto the other soldiers that followed after. To add to the confusion, Sinbad shouldered the other liquor containers down the steps too, toppling guards down into the courtyard beyond, setting the wine merchant screaming as his wares were wasted.
Sinbad sprinted along the balcony and leapt onto the roof. The varnished tiles were slippery but his bare feet found purchase enough to scramble to the apex. An arrow whirred past him. He made a deep elaborate bow at the archer before sliding down the other side and tumbling across to the adjacent flat roof.
“That way!” someone below shouted. “He’s on the spice vendor’s house!”
Sinbad grinned and leaped the ten feet onto the carpet-seller’s mansion, and from there vaulted over to the jeweler’s roof. He heard a yelp from behind as the first soldier to try and follow him misjudged the distance. He turned and saw the hapless guard clinging to the ledge above the precarious drop by one hand.
“You need to be more careful,” the sailor warned the man as he hauled him back onto the balcony. A roundhouse left felled the guard before he could think of thanks or belligerence. “It’s really not your day, is it?”
More arrows rattled across the distance between the buildings – and a pitchfork, for some reason. Sinbad waved at his pursuers and hauled the rope off a flagpole so he could loop it onto a crenulation of the next dwelling. By the time the soldiers had forced their way into the jeweler’s house, the sailor was already hauling himself onto the tower of the armoire’s guild.
Someone had been clever. A couple of guards were already waiting there for him.
Sinbad rolled, slid between the legs of the nearest soldier, and hauled hard at the man’s sash. The guard spun round, dizzied. Sinbad claimed the red cloth and used it to leap onto the washing line between the armoires’ roof and the courtesan house next door. He suspected it was a regular route.
“Sinbad!” one of the lovely young women in the compound below recognized him. She rose from her bathing pool to wave.
“Hello, ladies!” he called back as he balanced along the high wall around their seraglio. “I’m afraid I can’t stop and chat just now. People trying to kill me.”
“People are always trying to kill you,” one perfumed beauty complained with a pout.
“What can I say? I have that kind of life!”
The sailor reached the far corner of the perimeter wall, from whence he could hook his way across to the silk merchant’s apartment. That had a helpful decorative ridge running all the way around it and from there it was only one long jump onto the pan-tiles of the domed temple.
A trio of hopeful guards had come that way too, hoping to cut him off. Sinbad avoided a crude amateur spear-thrust and relieved the youngster of his weapon to fend off the fat older guard with the scimitar. It was easy to tangle both men with the polearm and leave them caught in the net in which they’d hoped to snare him.
That left only the archer. Sinbad downed the man with a precise belly-punch and borrowed his bow and quiver.
Sinbad fired arrows into the high palace wall twenty feet away from the temple’s edge. The glazed blue bricks formed the newest part of the Caliph’s fortress. Sinbad embedded a dozen shafts in what he hoped might be secure strongpoints between the stones, clenched the archer’s twin belt knives in his teeth, and leaped for the distant wall.
The first arrow he caught snapped, and so did the second. For a moment it looked like the agile sailor would plunge down to the crowded marketplace below and end his adventures in a bone-shattering splat. But the third shaft held long enough for him to snatch a fourth and fifth. Before they too could splinter, Sinbad had the knives dug into the mortar between the blue bricks.
A shout from the temple roof warned him that the guards were up again. He was glad he’d removed the bow.
He began to climb, upwards and round the curve of the blue tower, out of sight of the men on the temple. He plunged the daggers into the gaps between stones, hoping that the cheap metal was sufficient to sustain his weight. Even his limber arms were beginning to ache when he reached the keyhole-shaped window beneath the topping minaret.
He climbed into a silk-swathed room and looked around.
A beautiful woman in gauze veils noticed a man had climbed through into her boudoir. “Well now,” she said, “This is unexpected.”
Sinbad gave a courtly bow. “I apologies for the intrusion. I was just passing and decided to pay a visit.”
The woman advanced boldly. She had oiled skin the color of creamed coffee and long raven hair filleted with pearls. Her yashmak was translucent, offering a glimpse of full red lips curved into an intrigued smile. “Did you forget something?” she suggested, gesturing to the sailor’s current attire.
Sinbad was naked. His only clothing was a silver sapphire amulet around his neck.
“Alas, I had to leave my things behind when I needed to make a hasty departure,” the sailor admitted. “I doubt the wine merchant will return them to me now. Shame, because I had that tunic from Byzantium.”
“Do you know the penalty for intruding on a princess’ bedchamber?” the woman enquired.
“Do I have to eat sherbet and drink a cup of cool wine with her while I tell her my story?” Sinbad ventured. He grinned a winning smile. “Why not let me tell you? As you see, I have nothing to hide.”
The princess’ own smile broadened. “Who are you?” she demanded. She examined the dark-skinned intruder carefully, noting his handsome, mischievous face, his tight-muscled body, his white-toothed smile, his confident pose.
“O fair moon of desire, they call me Sinbad the Sailor. I hope you might call me friend and darling. And what might I call you?”
“You are Sinbad? I have heard of a rogue and adventurer who sails on voyages of discovery and trade, then returns to Baghdad with fabulous riches only to squander them and vanish again in search of more.”
“Squander is a strong word. Say rather that I have lots of friends who need my support. And I happen to like sailing strange seas and discovering things. I have a knack for it.”
“Many in the city think you a liar, a mere pirate who loots other ships and spins fantastic stories of how he came by his wealth to hide his crimes.”
Sinbad shook his head. “I never lie except when I need to. I might boast occasionally, but only to impress the fairest of ladies. Did I mention that my father was a Nubian prince and my mother a Moorish princess?”
The beautiful maiden decided that she wouldn’t summon the guard yet. She tossed her visitor a linen burnoose to cover himself and poured him a goblet of chilled white wine. “I am Ayisha, a daughter of the Caliph of Baghdad. It is death for a man to speak with me alone.”
“I’d better make the most of it, then,” Sinbad grinned. “Why are you locked in a tower, beautiful Ayisha?”
“My father is dying. My suitors are persistent.” She glanced at the window. “Not usually that persistent, I admit.”
Sinbad sipped his drink, wrapped himself in his gown, and settled on the princess’ bed. “If I were your suitor, no wall or tower would stay me from your side.”
“I imagine not. So why are you here, Sinbad the Sailor?”
“Ah, you do want the story! Excellent. I love telling stories.”
“I will hear your tale, in payment for your intrusion.”
Sinbad shook his head. “I’m a merchant as well as a sailor, great lady. I know a bad bargain when I hear it. My stories are especially fine, guaranteed to enthrall and enchant, to make your heart pound and your skin tingle. They’re worth far more than just the use of a convenient window.”
“Are they now?” The princess tilted her head. “What are they worth, then?”
“Well, I think they deserve an attentive audience. Come and sit here on these cushions with me, dawn of all desire, where you can be comfortable as I talk. And if you think the tale worth it at the end, pay me the surplus in sweet kisses.”
Ayisha raised one perfect painted eyebrow. “Does that work on ladies of your acquaintance?” she wondered.
“Almost always,” Sinbad confessed. “Please don’t spoil my average.”
The princess glided over and folded her legs under her at the far edge of her bed. “Proceed, Sinbad the Sailor,” she commanded.
Sinbad nodded and spoke: “Praise be to Allah, the beneficent king, creator of the universe, who set up the firmament without pillars and who stretched out the earth below. Know, O princess, that there was once a humble sailor who journeyed far from home and returned with fabulous treasures and wondrous companions. And lo, one day, once such companion spake unto Sinbad and said…”
Continued in "Sinbad: The New
ISBN 10: 0615695892 ISBN 13: 978-0615695891
Release date: 14th September 2012