The Intelligent Master
by Ken Dean
forum: The Intelligent Master
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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The Intelligent Master


       Akil Akilah hunched his head down in the desert wind, holding tight to the reins of his horse, while trying to keep the howling sandstorm from penetrating the kufiyya covering his face and eyes. He assumed his two traveling companions, Abdal-Akiim and Abdul-Rafi, were doing the same. There was no way to ask, the wind was howling far too loud. Akil could feel the wind-driven sand trying to force itself into every crevice of his clothing.

       He hoped the storm would clear soon. It looked like it might be a clear night except for the sand swirling about, and Akil needed to take some bearings from the stars to verify they were traveling in the right direction.

       Abdal and Abdul were both rough men; hired help who also doubled as bodyguards in the harsh desert terrain they were traveling in. Hard to tell who you might run into out here…even though it was a desolate area. Both men expected to share in a portion of the treasure they were searching for, although Akil knew if they found what they were seeking it would be far more than treasure. It would be power.

       That described Akil justly, for he was a man who seeked out influence and power. To have power over others was his ultimate goal, and he used any ruthless means to obtain it.

       He was a hated man for his tactics and motives, but that sat with him just fine, for that was a form of power too.

       Akil was searching for a legend he had heard of when he was just a boy. His search had covered many years up to this point. He had just recently heard of an old Arab named Halim in Riyadh who was a collector of maps and scrolls; some rumored to be ancient.

       Akil sought the old man out and made the proper introductions. Soon he was sitting in Halim's villa one evening, sipping fine espresso and poring over the many maps and scrolls in Aban's possession.

       "Halim, show me the oldest pieces you have. I would love to see them."

       "Of course, of course," the old man answered. "Let me show you the oldest one I have."

       Halim was always delighted to show his collections to anyone with an interest. He did not realize what Akil's real intent was.

       "This scroll has been handed down for so many generations now that I and the person who sold it to me have had no luck in tracking its origin."

       Halim laid it out on the table carefully, as if it were fragile. But the scroll was made of tough cloth, and still had good color. How could it be that old, Akil thought to himself?

       "See...look here," Halim pointed with a withered finger, "this scroll is actually a map."

       "A map of what?"

       "A map that matches an ancient legend that speaks of unimaginable power, far beyond fame or fortune. As you can see it clearly points to a remote area in the southern desert with waypoints and an ending marked by a Pillar of the Gods."

       Akil could not believe it! This was the very legend he had heard about as a boy!

       "Halim…you must let me purchase this scroll from you. The price is whatever you ask."

       "No, No…I could never sell this scroll. It is one of my most prized pieces and Allah only knows how old it is. Is their possibly one of the other ones you might like to acquire?"

       Halim made the mistake of turning his back on Akil while trying to pick some other scrolls to show. There was suddenly a grip of steel around Halim's neck, he couldn't breathe. Of course, being an old man, it didn't take him long to collapse.

       Akil left the villa with the scroll tucked under his arm. Luckily it was late and a dark night…he wouldn't be seen. Halim's body would stay where it was a long time before being discovered, Akil had made sure of that.

       Akil and his companions had headed south into the desert the next day after obtaining horses and enough supplies for the trip. He had to pay the two men something in advance along with a promise of a possibly greater reward later.

       The sandstorm had finally subsided and left the sky clear and sparkling with the stars Akil had hoped for. Once his eyes had adjusted to the darkness there was no problem seeing the desert before them. There was also just enough moonlight to help see without washing out the stars. Akil was looking up at the stars, assuring himself they were still heading in the right direction when Abdul yelled, "A waypoint marker!"

       "Where?" The other two said in unison.

       "Off to the right." pointed Abdul.

       All three jumped off their horses and ran to investigate. The marker was only about fifty feet away. They all slid to a stop beside it. It was about the height of a man and maybe two feet square with text still legible but unreadable. The one feature that they could recognize was a large arrow. It was pointing in exactly the right direction.

       Praise Allah, thought Akil. They were on the right track.

       "Quickly," Akil shouted, "Back on your horses. The map only shows one more marker after this before we reach the Pillar of the Gods!"

       They all mounted and began riding briskly towards the next waypoint with Akil leading the way. About a half an hour later they came upon the second marker, exactly like the first.

       "Keep moving," yelled Akil. "We are riding in the right direction."

       Another hour passed. Off in the distance they could see a vertical line on the desert horizon. It didn't take long to reach it at their pace. The horses slowed and stopped under the command of their riders.

       "Allah is great," murmured Abdal.

       "Yes," Abdul replied, "this is truly a holy place."

       "Shut up, both of you," replied Akil. "We need to take a look around this magnificent structure. It must truly be the Pillar of the Gods."

       What stood before them was breathtaking. They could see the Pillar well enough in the partial moon and starlight. It was bronze, at least a hundred feet high and thirty thick. It was adorned on the top with a huge eagle with lightning held between its claws.

       The whole surface area of the Pillar was covered with inscriptions.

       Akil called excitedly, "Abdul, the torches. Light them and bring them here."

       Abdul unpacked the torches set three of them ablaze. He handed one to each of them. They all set about examining the Pillar in the flickering light thrown off by the torches. What had looked like bronze before in the starlight was actually gold. All the inscriptions looked to have been exactingly hand-etched into the surface.

       "Is this the treasure?" asked Abdal. "It appears to be made of real gold. And if it is, just imagine its value."

       "Most likely it is the treasure," Akil lied, "let's keep examining it."

       Abdul and Abdal looked at each other knowingly. Being partners in crime many times before, they both were calculating that a half share of this much wealth would surely be more than a third. They both nodded to each other, knowing what they would eventually have to do. There is no honor among thieves.

       Akil had taken out the scroll and was examining it closer in the torchlight. Beside the picture of the Pillar was a phrase in Arabic.

       "Stand back, both of you." Akil commanded.

       He shouted the phrase just as it was written on the scroll.

       "In the name of Allah, bring forth your treasure!"

       Suddenly there was a rumbling, as if they were experiencing an earthquake. There was also a loud sound like a continuous peal of thunder. The whole Pillar began to lift off of the ground. Abdal and Abdul scurried back away from the moving Pillar, suddenly terrified. Akil didn't flinch at the movement or sound.

       The Pillar stopped about ten feet off the ground. Akil came closer to get a better look with the torchlight. The underside looked to be solid, yet at ground level there was a small platform holding a very ornate table that had been exposed by the rising Pillar. It was decorated with red velvet covering which extended to the bottom along with pillows on top that were embroidered with all types of gemstones. In the middle of the pillows sat a golden oil lamp covered with inscriptions similar to the ones on the Pillar.

       He quickly picked up the lamp before the other two could guess its purpose; he couldn't take any chances being this close to success. He held the handle of the lamp and quickly began to rub the side.

       The lamp began to vibrate and hum. Akil quickly set it down on its table. It also started to glow in an iridescent fashion. Thick smoke was beginning to come out of the spout of the lamp and was taking the shape of the upper half of a man about fifty feet tall.

       Suddenly the desert night was illuminated with stark flashes of lightning along with rumbling thunder. The torso shaped cloud began to swirl rapidly while all the commotion continued. Akil stood his ground, even though he was fairly close to the calamity.

       He glanced quickly towards Abdul and Abdal and noticed they had taken refuge behind a low dune nearby. Sons of coward dogs, he thought contemptuously.

       Akil looked back up and noticed the cloud had finally finished morphing into the shape of a man floating in midair, surrounded by an ethereal glow and tethered to the lamp by a thin wisp of smoke. He was gigantic, as tall as the Pillar itself. The commotion had died down now. The floating man looked down at Akil and began to speak in a booming voice that seemed to echo from all directions. Akil had knelt down in awe at the amazing sight and sound.

       "You can call me Genie," his voice reverberated, "But I must call you Master."

       Akil stood up.

       "Yes…you're right! I am your Master. That is how the legend is presented."

       "Of course, you released me from my imprisonment. And it has been millennia since I have been free of this accursed lamp! And I have you to thank, Master."

       "And what of my three wishes?" Akil said in a demanding tone.

       "Oh Ho! You know the legend well, Master. You shall have your three wishes, of course.
But choose wisely, you would not believe what some past Masters have wished for. They were short-sighted to the point of foolishness."

       "Do not concern yourself about that, Genie. I have put much thought into that area for many years now. Am I allowed to ask questions about how I state my wishes?"

       "Of course you may, Master. Ask anything of me."

       Hmmm, this one seems to be much brighter than any of my former owners. I need to be wary of this one.

       Akil asked, "Genie, first off, are you all-powerful?"

       "Absolutely…nothing is impossible for me. Except for my constraint."

       "What constraint is that?"

       "I am forever tied to my lamp. I am only allowed out if summoned by my Master of the moment. When the three wishes are given, I must return to my confines until the next one comes along. The only way to be totally free is if a Master wishes me free. But as you can see, that has never happened."

       "Very well, Genie. My next question is am I allowed to make conditional wishes?"

       "Yes, so long as the condition involves the wish itself."

       Where is this going, Genie wondered, and what is this bright one up to?

       "Good, excellent!" Akil responded. "For my first wish Genie, I want to be all-powerful just like you without any of your constraints."

       Oh no, thought Genie, I do NOT like where this going. But he had no choice, he had to grant Akil's wish.

       Genie clapped his hands twice and said, "Let it be done!"

       Akil was suddenly surrounded by swirling clouds, with lightning flashing in and out along with loud claps of thunder.

       The cloud cleared, leaving Akil still appearing quite normal. But then he exclaimed in a thunderous voice:

       "It is done! I feel so powerful now, like nothing is beyond my ability."

       He suddenly grew to the same height as the Genie, matching his stature.

       "Thank you, Genie. You have truly delivered a dream come true."

       "You are quite welcome, oh mighty Master."

       "Abdul and Abdal," Akil thundered, "Come claim your reward!"

       Both of the men scurried over to Akil from the dune they had been hiding behind.

       They fell on their knees before him, heads bowed.

       "Oh wise and mighty Master, you are all-powerful now and can grant us any wish we desire."

       It was a half question, half statement.

       Akil motioned with his hand and both men floated up into the air. He pointed a finger at each man; bolts of lightning flashed out from his fingertips and consumed both of them. They both vanished in a bright flash of light.

       "A just reward for two thieves who were thinking of killing me and taking the treasure for themselves."

       He turned back to face Genie.

       "Genie, I still have two wishes remaining. I could grant them myself, but I choose to give you the honor."

       "That is very considerate of you, oh wise and powerful Master."

       What else could there be, thought Genie. Akil had already surprised him with the first wish and was now as powerful as himself and free on top of that.

       "Genie, I now request a wish that you have been wanting to hear for an eternity. I wish you free of the lamp."

       More thunder and lighting, along with loud sound as of a chain being unshackled.

       "May the Creator be praised!" shouted the Genie flying upwards, "I am finally free of that accursed lamp and can now go where I will!"

       "Aren't you forgetting something? Like my third wish?"

       "I'm sorry Master, in my rapturous excitement I had forgotten. Please let it known, and then I can be on my way."

       "Genie, my third and final wish, is for you to be a mortal human!"

       A loud scream of "NNOOO!" was drowned out by a whirling cloud with lightning and thunder. Genie slumped to the ground, shrunken to human size, obviously weakened by the sudden transformation.

       All Genie could say in a weak voice was; "Master, why?"

       "It's very obvious, I had to eliminate all competition to my power. Now if you will excuse me, I have a world to conquer."

       Akil clapped his hands and was gone in a flash of light.

       Genie sat on the sand. He had been all powerful for so long that he had never contemplated what it would be like to be mortal. It was a terrible feeling of inadequacy and weakness.

       There was nothing he could now call his own. The horses and supplies the men brought with them had fled at all the commotion earlier. And the torches that were lit earlier had gone out, so that it was dark. He looked around and noticed in the starlight that even the Pillar was gone.

       He was also lost in this vast expanse of desert, cold and hungry, which all was new to him.

       And, for the first time in eternity, he had to go to the bathroom.

The End





copyright 2005 Ken Dean.

Ken Dean

My name is Ken Dean and I live in Hilliard… a suburb of Columbus, OH.

Previous publications have been The Intelligent Master, Fate, Direct Line, The Gift, The Quickest Way, and Tattoo Ink at Also published several stories in different issues of Down in the Dirt magazine, the anthology collection Chaos Theory, both from Scars Publications (

You may contact Ken Dean at: