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In Prayer
Allah, in your wisdom, show me the way. Show me the true path.

Hasan looked up from his simple rug of braided sheep's wool and gazed out the window, affixing the black cube of the Kabbah in his vision. The Keramat flooded through him, and his hands meshed with the individual fibers of the rug, each one standing out and pricking him, filling his fingers with sensation as he communed with the gift of God's very presence within him. He could feel the reality of his physical position relative to the Kabbah, and it seemed he could just reach out a hand and bridge the two points together.

Individual threads sprung up, as if to create that bridge. Hasan pushed his will -- would God bless him with the knowledge he was seeking? The Keramat took the shape of a doorway that only needed to part in the center, just one slit to part the gap between where he was and where he was destined to be --

The threads collapsed, and a huge CLAP reverberated through the small room. Hasan jerked back as if whipped, releasing the Gift and hissing with pain.

The door to Hasan's chambers opened. Hasan turned to find Bashir entering. In recent years the man had taken to wearing a long if neatly groomed beard, and more gray than black filled it out as of late. Hasan's former teacher was indeed starting to show his age. Fascinating how the man still claimed Hasan looked almost as he did fifteen years ago.

The man knelt on the floor and averted his eyes. "Mahdi, I hope I have not disturbed you in prayer. I heard a noise."

Hasan stood from his place on the floor, offering Bashir a hand to bring him to his feet. "Be at ease, friend. Submit to God and God alone."
It still disturbed Hasan a bit that his former teacher behaved in such a way around him, constantly affirming his belief in Hasan's divinity. Of course, as Hasan was indeed God's messenger it would perhaps not be inappropriate for one to supplicate himself in such a manner. But God's final messenger was not himself God. Hasan made certain to remind himself of this every day in prayer. Anointed or not, his purpose was to be a tool with which God would use to accomplish his will on earth. "You did not disturb me. I hope you have news?"

Bashir stood with Hasan's assistance but still kept his eyes a shade downcast, not quite meeting Hasan's gaze. "The governance-director for Medina is promising to use force to reclaim his offices. He claims the Ascendancy's impending visit will cast off those who are resisting him."

The Ascendancy. Hasan wasn't sure what to make of the man. The person had swept through the Middle East twenty-five years ago and gained the allegiance of such a diverse range of peoples -- most notably people who claimed allegiance to God and God alone -- and now was set to come and lay the law down for the unruly children who dared question the CCD's true place in the world. The only true place for a leader was to be subservient to God -- no other form of governance was proper. Such arrogance the leader of half the world showed -- and arrogance that would be punished by God in time.

"Rest easy, my companion. Do not concern yourself with earthly governors. For it is written by God's messenger that God maketh none to share in His government."
And, as that was indeed the case, it seemed something would need to be done about Sharif Abdul Kassan. The man was rabid, frothing at the mouth over losing his seat of power, and had washed his hands in plenty of blood during the most recent infighting. He, like many others, was determined to cling to the corrupt ways of false leaders and corrupted prophets -- and he was going to attempt to use the weight of the CCD to legitimize his continued grasp on earthly power.

It saddened Hasan that his use as a tool of God's will had so far brought so much violence. It hadn't even been at his direction, so far. But one did not build a temple without fracturing a few stones. Orders for dealing with that man would go out within the hour.

"What else do you have to bring me? Anything of those touched by the hand of God?"

Bashir nodded. "There has been another brought to Mecca. This makes sixteen men and seven women so far who bear the symptoms of that strange affliction that touched you so long ago. Amira is making them comfortable as you have instructed."

Hasan turned back to view the Kabbah as Bashir delivered the news. Another had been brought. Simply thinking upon the sickness took Hasan back to a time when he lay prostate with nothing but his faith to hold onto, and his faith had won out in the end. He'd tried his gift of healing on the ones brought so far but it seemed there wasn't actually anything wrong with them. Which had heightened Hasan's suspicions that these were people touched by God as Hasan had been, and perhaps were enduring his Tribulations as Hasan had been forced to. That made them special indeed, in their own way. He would gather them and take them under his protection.

He continued to consider the Kabbah as he replied to Bashir. Perhaps there was some mystery, or revelation of God, that lay there. The One True God had made the place holy. The Muslim world revolved around it -- and for now it also revolved around Hasan. "Very good, Bashir. Anything of the Ascendancy?"

"The Ascendancy has extended you a personal invitation for you to meet with him."

At that, Hasan's face twisted into a grimace. The man was coming to Mecca for his summit. The arrogance of the man to think he would be welcome in the holiest of places -- to think this would be a good place for mediation -- just showed the man's ignorance. Mecca was not a place for people to work out their differences. It was a place to put all things aside before God. Anyone coming here who wasn't ready to be a servant of God was a blasphemer.

"I am not a politician,"
he said, turning to Bashir. "I am merely God's instrument. His tool to establish a world aligned in perfect submission to Him. This world has been out of alignment for too long."

He paused, and took Bashir's hand. "I will send you to meet with them in my place. Should it be needed, I will go myself if the need comes, but now is not the time. You are to deliver to them the messages we have discussed. Chief among them is that it is no longer acceptable for a man to rule his people unless he submits to the will, and the law, of God before all else."

Bashir knelt and kissed Hasan's hand. "As you wish, Mahdi."

Hasan shook his head with no little mirth and withdrew his hand. "It is not as I wish, but what God himself wishes. Do not forget that, old friend. I am merely his instrument."

As Bashir left, Hasan turned back toward the Kabbah and knelt upon his rug. The Keramat flooded him again and he touched his head to the floor.

There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet. Allah, in your wisdom, show me the way. Show me the true path.

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