Friday, October 27, 2006

When Green Meets Grey: Part Twelve

The party crossed a sea of shifting sand-dunes, the camels gently swaying as they walked over the apparently featureless desert. Above them, the sky was azure blue, below, the desert sands shimmered in the heat. The Girl in Grey raised a hand to her forehead. The glove came away soaked in perspiration. She found the motion of the camel uncomfortable, indeed, now she could see why the beast was referred to as 'The Ship of the Desert'. It was like a sea-crossing, only without water, and on a ship with a serious body-odour problem.

Looking across at the Green Man, she saw him seated cross-legged on his camel, reins held idly in one hand, as he surveyed the desert with binoculars. Even if she'd kissed him, she didn't understand this strangle figure in green. Sometimes he seemed just another man, but at other times...

And he could ride a camel without discomfort. As the camel made to climb a sand-dune, the Girl in Grey slid back on the saddle, only being stopped by the horns at the back. She was sure she'd be lack and blue for months, and be eating her meals of the mantlepiece for at least a week.

"The Bedouin say that there's an old pyramid a few miles ahead of us!" the Green Man called over to his confederate in crimefighting.

"Goody!" she called back," and what about the next Oasis?"

"None for miles more!" the Green Man replied, still scanning the horizon. "But that doesn't matter!"

"Not to you!" the Girl in Grey called back, "but I'm melting here! I could do with a good drink!"

"And drink you shall have!" the Green Man laughed. "Maybe there's no Oasis for miles, but there is a monastery!" He pointed towards a rugged collection of domes and sloping walls, a little way ahead of them. The same colour as the desert, it was almost invisible.

"Hang on a minute," the Girl in Grey looked confused. "But isn't Egypt a Muslim country?"

"Before even Mohammed was born," the Green Man explained, "there were Christians in Egypt. In fact, Egypt has its own national church, the Coptic Church. As well as having churches throughout Egypt, they have monks and monasteries. Some of them are in very far-away places, like this one. But Abbot Girgis is an old friend of mine. These Bedouin," he gestured to the men around them, "are monastery servants."

"They look fierce," the Girl in Grel sounded impressed.

"They should," the Green Man nodded, "they are sworn to defend the monks to the last man. We shall stay at the monastery, and tomorrow, we shall..."

The Green Man was cut off by the sound of rifle shots. At once, he spurred his camel forward.

"And perhaps now the Bedouin will have to act on that vow!" he exclaimed. "Come on!"

From the direction of the monastery, a machine-gun opened up.

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