There was no blood on the flat board of the saddle; only, caught in the folds of the blanket and on the saddlebag flap buckles, a scatter of jewelry. Hale stepped from the camel's neck onto the small Oman saddle, and he knelt swayingly up there as he scraped and picked up a handful of the jewelry.
It was tiny sticks, some curved and some straight, made of glass and bone and bright gold; and not until he found a knobby round piece of gold as big as a marble and held it up to the light, and he saw that it was a tiny scale model of a human skull, did he realize that the sticks were probably miniature sculptures of human bones.
He had heard Salim bin Jalawi's footsteps approaching, and now bin Jalawi was up on the saddle of another of the returned camels, and Hale glanced over to see that he too was gathering up scattered jewelry.
"La-ila-il-l'Allah!" bin Jalawi exclaimed abruptly, flinging the handful of gold and glass and bone slivers away from him in the dawn sunlight, "Drop them, bin Sikkah!"
The man's response had startled Hale so badly that he not only scattered the miniature bones but jumped right off the saddle too. He landed unbalanced on his feet and sat down hard in the cold sand, the slung carbine barrel cracking him painfully over the ear. "What the hell?" he said irritably in English, getting quickly to his feet to dispel any impression of panic.
Bin Jalawi had climbed down with more dignity, but he was breathing fast as he led the camel forward toward the camp in the basin. "Djinn," he panted, "duplicate things. If they ponder a thing, sometimes a copy of that thing appears, made of whatever is at hand. In the desert the copies are generally made of glass, which is melted sand, or gold, which is in the sand. Somewhere up near the Um al-Hadid wells I know there is a stretch of sand that is not cold. And hot bare bones, too, though they will have shaved some to make their models of others."
Hale was leading the camel he had jumped off of, and the two others were following placidly. "In miniature," he said.
"In all sizes, bin Sikkah! Djinn cannot comprehend differences in size, only shapes. These small copies stayed on the saddles, caught in folds -- but by the Um al-Hadid wells there are now certainly bones as big as cannon barrels, made of glass -- aye, and skulls as big as chairs, made of gold. We are lucky these camels weren't crushed."
It starts off as a seemingly fairly standard WWII spy story, but then starts jumping back and forth between what's going on in the 1940s and what's going on in the 1960s. And then the djinn start to play into things.
In other news, I saw "Let the Right One In" tonight. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that although the default setting was '...with horrible English overdubbing' and that with a bit of menu navigation beforehand, we could have seen the proper 'In Swedish, with English subtitles' version. Surprisingly, a few fairly major bits of the book were removed and (much like the Fall of Angels from the Old Testament) not very cleanly removed, at that (Frex: Eli asks "What if I wasn't a girl?" and just leaves it at that, in the film).