Monday, October 10, 2011

The Beruas Prophecy

Here are the first two chapters from the latest publication by Silverfish Books, The Beruas Prophesy by Iskandar Al-Bakri, a lawyer who lives (and has a practice) in Ipoh. See if it whets your appetite for more This is historical fiction; a swashbuckling tale of silat and sorcery, piracy and plunder. And magic. (Malaysian style.).

The Beruas Prophecy is now available from Silverfish Books (online and in-store) and (soon) in all major bookstores in the country and as e-books from, Kindle store, Nook store, iBook store, etc.


Balik Pulau, 1823. Friday evening just after eight. Yaakob lives with his wife and three daughters in a village in the west of Penang Island. His house is a modest, timber one that has just two rooms. Yaakob built it with the help of his neighbours a week before his wedding, many years ago. His wife has planted vegetables and tapioca in the front yard, and banana along the sides.
Yaakob opens his silat ring behind his house, as he does so every night. It is a routine. In the mornings, his daughters sweep and clean the ring, or gelanggang, an area measuring about thirty feet by forty, with a base of sandy soil, although they are not allowed to watch their father teach the martial art at night. The entire area is surrounded by a six-foot high bamboo fence to deter curious onlookers and spies. Since the lessons are always taught at night, the ring is lit with several torches.
    As Yaakob walks into the ring, he notices that all twenty of his students have arrived for the night’s lesson. He is a firm believer in the importance of imparting the basic tenets of the art and not just teach the stances and movements like other teachers. He has instilled in his students the values associated with the word silat: its philosophy, its meaning of ‘brotherhood’ in Arabic, besides the basic techniques of hand and foot movements, stances, and the execution and evasion of attack used in this ancient Malay martial art. Yaakob’s particular variant of the art is called silat gayong, one honed by the Bugis of Sulawesi in the late fourteenth century, before spreading it throughout Southeast Asia. Historically, warriors trained in martial combat used their skills primarily to protect empires in the Malay world.
    The seni silat gayong has been passed down through many generations, with its technique of intelligent attack and graceful defence, which is one meaning of ‘gayong’. Silat is the art, seni is the fine-tuning of the art, and gayong is the ability to adapt it to any situation. It is commonly said that, ‘Silat without knife is not silat’. Silat gayong is no different. It is, primarily, a weapon-based art, with the most common implements used being the knife, the short stick (simbatsop), the long stick, keris, parang, cloth, chain, spear, kerambit (a curved dagger), the sword and the sai.
    His students called him Guru, teacher.   
    Yaakob started learning silat when he was ten under a Grandmaster, Panglima Saod who insisted he mastered the techniques of the ‘Twelve Beatings Game’ for three years, before moving on to the ‘Tilting Spring’ and ‘Seven Beatings’. When he was twenty, he was drafted to serve the Sultan of Kedah as the captain of his guards, a post he held until his retirement five years ago.
    Yaakob had never intended to teach silat after his retirement. However, his reputation as the former captain of the Sultan’s guards created much excitement in his village when he returned to Balik Pulau following the end of his formal employment. He was constantly approached by the parents of adolescents, and young men who wished, one day, to become Sultan’s guards. After much persuasion, Yaakob relented and reluctantly opened a silat ring behind his house.
    Yaakob recites a prayer before he starts his class, as he does every night. His sessions are always held after the Isyak prayers, at about a quarter to nine. He then performs the daily routine: cutting a lime in half, dropping the pieces into a jar of rain water and walking around the ring, sprinkling the lime water on the ground with his fingers. He walks in a peculiar style, too. Starting from the centre he moves to the front-right corner, and then across to the extreme front-left before walking backwards past the centre to the rear-right, then cross to the rear-left, and finally stopping at the centre. Walking backwards is a gesture of respect to the ring; one never shows one’s back to it. Additionally, as a sign of humility, it is important that he remains bowed throughout the procedure.
    Yaakob, being a firm believer in rituals, has explained the importance of all this to his students. He has made sure that every one of his silat gayong students has been initiated properly with a mandi tapak ceremony before being accepted as a novice and, when a student graduates to a higher belt, and before beginning weapons training, he makes him go through mandi seni ritual for protection. He also insists on a brief silence at the opening and closing of his classes, to clear the mind and to acknowledge one’s religious beliefs.
    Yaakob greets his students with a salam and invites them to enter the ring. They walk in and stand silently to attention in the centre. When they receive the nod from Yaakob, they recite their oath together, aloud.

    I do hereby swear that I will be a loyal student and member of silat gayong,
    I swear loyalty to God and the Prophet,
    I swear loyalty to the Grandmaster of silat gayong and its representatives,
    I swear loyalty to my own mother and father and my family members,
    Oh God, please show me the right path, distance me from the wrong path,
    Oh God, please ease my good fortune, distance me from the dangers of Satan who wishes me and my people  harm,
    This is my oath of loyalty to my people.

    “Good evening, my students,” the teacher greets them again, some of whom have travelled ten miles for the class.
    “Good evening, teacher!” The students say, clasping their palms at their chest.
    “Tonight, we will learn the art of locking. It is an important defence technique,” Yaakob says, walking around the ring.  
    “These techniques are derived from observing the motion of everyone’s best friend … the python.”
    His students laugh.
    Yaakob, then, walks to the front of the ring and calls out to Jasin, his most advanced student. Jasin is eighteen, the son of Yaakob’s cousin. He is five-foot-five and weighs ten stone. The young man is the oldest of his cousin’s five children, and the most ambitious. He, too, wants to be a Sultan’s guard after completing his training, for he wants to leave the village and see the world.
Jasin, who is in the last row, runs towards his teacher and bows fractionally.
    “Assume your stance and attack,” Yaakob commands him.
    The young student drops to an attacking stance, winds up his right arm, makes a ‘Hammer Fist’ and throws a punch at Yaakob’s chest.
    In one swift movement, Yaakob traps Jasin’s arm inches before the boy’s fist reaches his chest, bends it outward and folds it towards the elbow. With both hands on the young man’s fist, Yaakob pushes him back. The young man loses his balance and falls.
     “Like a python, you must not lock your opponent but squeeze …” Yaakob says, pushing Jasin back a little further. “Once you trap your opponent’s limb, the next step is to break it.” Yaakob moves Jasin’s arm to the side.
    Yaakob demonstrates the technique twice more and orders his students to practice it. He then demonstrates several more manoeuvres for evading the Back Fist, Cobra Head, Knife Hand and the Palm Heel attack.
    “Make sure you focus on speed, accuracy and fluidity.”
    The class continues until eleven o’clock, after which his students go home with his permission.
    Jasin stays behind to help his teacher put out the torches.
    “Teacher, have you heard they are holding trials at the wharf tomorrow?” Jasin says.
    “What trials?”
    “Trials for the Sultan’s guards. Do you think I’m ready?”
    “Oh, those trials. Didn’t you try out last year?”
    “Yes, but they said I was not ready. I feel more confident now.”
    Yaakob shrugs.
    “You don’t need my permission for that.”
    “I need your blessing, Teacher”
    Yaakob rubs Jasin’s shoulder.
    “Go and make this school proud. Be a good example to your friends. Now, go home and get some rest. You’ll need an early start tomorrow.”

It is early Sunday morning and the Governor’s Office is closed. The sun hasn’t peeked over the horizon when Jasin and two of his friends, Jemain and Yunus, are on a bullock cart, travelling to the other side of the island. Yunus’s father has given them permission to use his cart as he wants to see his son become a Sultan’s guard, too; life in the royal palace would certainly be better than living as a paddy farmer or a fisherman.
    The three young men decided to attend the trials six months ago and their day has finally come. The trio of friends friends are Yaakob’s top students and have won three local silat competitions in the last six months. It is not uncommon for kampongs to hold such tournaments during festivals, with many young men from neighbouring villages pitting their skills against each other. Jasin is confident of his chances after receiving Yaakob’s blessing. He cannot stop talking about what he intends to do after he becomes a Sultan’s guard. They laugh and cheer all the way to town, and their behaviour catches the attention of many on the road.
    Yaakob has just completed his dawn prayers and is rolling up his prayer mat when the noisy young men pass by his house. He brims with pride as he leans against his bedroom window and sees his students in such high spirits. He is confident they are physically and technically ready. Jasin waves to his teacher.
    “We’ll make you proud, we promise,” Jasin shouts, punching his fist in the air.
    Yaakob waves back and watches as the cart slowly moves out of sight.

James Randwick Lowe wakes up in The Regency Bar where he fell asleep, slumped over a table last night after getting thoroughly drunk while drowning his sorrows with some friends in three bottles of cheap scotch.
Lowe had been summoned before the Governor for refusing to escort a group of surveyors from the Colonial Office in London who had come to map the West coast of the Malay Peninsula, particularly Perak. He despises outdoor activity, especially survey work, and is convinced that his lot is to work in a cool office, and to be free to indulge in his passion for merriment later in the evenings in the town’s clubs and bars. The Governor had taken Lowe to task over his attitude and had threatened to post him in an outback more remote than Perak.
    Lowe’s head spins and he is reluctant to open his eyes; he wants to delay his return to reality as long as he can. Mr Townsend, the pub’s owner, has woken him and his friends.
    “It’s morning lads, time to go home. I’m locking up for church.”
    Lowe and his friends pull themselves together and get up. Terry and Michael are junior officers at the Governor’s Office, long-time friends of Lowe. Franklin, on the other hand, is a teacher at The Hutching School, which opened two years ago. Before that, Franklin was a teacher at the Penang Free School, which was established in 1816 as the first school in the Malay Peninsula to provide English education.
    Despite their friendship, Lowe still insists that they address him as Mr Lowe due to his higher rank; he is a district officer. Terry, Michael and Franklin had learned of Lowe’s predicament and decided it was indeed a dark and shameful day for their friend.
    They wipe their faces, thank Mr Townsend, and slowly leave the pub, squinting in the morning sun.
    It had rained in the night. The morning air is cool and clear. The streets, however, are muddy with large puddles in some sections. Lowe and his friends leave the pub to make their way back to their quarters. It is just then that Jasin and his friends pass them on their bullock cart. Unfortunately, one of the wheels of the cart runs into a pothole filled with the night’s rainwater and creates a splash. Lowe and his friends get their boots and trousers wet.
    “Hey, you black boy! Stop!” shouts Lowe.
    Yunus’s heart drops. He knows that he and his friends are in trouble. They could end up in the stockade for what has happened. He quickly stops his cart and jumps off.
    “I’m sorry, sir. It was not intentional. It was an accident. Let me clean your boots, sir,” Yunus apologises.
    “Do you think your apology is enough? You’ve ruined my trousers, blackie,” Lowe barks. He has found a target on which to unleash his anger and frustration.
    Jasin and Jemain jump off the cart and stand beside their friend.
    “I’m sorry, sir. I’ll clean your trousers too,” Yunus trembles.
    He bends down and wipes some mud off Lowe’s shoes. However, with one quick action Lowe kicks the young man in the head. Terry, Michael and Franklin find this terribly amusing, for some reason, and laugh. Their laughter eggs Lowe on, and he kicks Yunus a second time.
    “Go on, blackie. Wipe my boots,” Lowe chides him.
    Yunus bends down again. Lowe, again, kicks Yunus in the head. Terry, Michael and Franklin laugh even louder.
    Jasin has had enough and wants to help his friend but Jemain stops him.
    “Come on, blackie,” Lowe says, pulling his trousers up.
    Yunus bends over for the third time. Lowe kicks at him with greater force. However, this time Yunus uses his silat training and catches Lowe’s right leg in a lock. He twists the leg and the Englishman falls to the muddy ground. It is Jasin and Jemain’s turn to laugh.
    Lowe becomes enraged. This native boy has embarrassed him more than the Governor yesterday. Lowe pulls out his pepperbox revolver from its red sash-bag in the inside pocket of his coat.
    Lowe points the gun at Yunus and pulls the trigger.
    “Don’t shoot!” Jasin shouts, and jumps in front of his friend.
    The bullet hits Jasin in the stomach, the force of the shot throwing him back several feet, where he lands on Jemain’s arms. Everyone simply stands there, frozen. Terry and Michael pull Lowe up to his feet.
    “Let’s go. You’ve finally gone too far, Mr Lowe,” Terry says.
    “He’s just a boy!” Michael says, grabbing his collar.
    Lowe puts his revolver away and, the four flee. Lowe catches a ship to Perak that day.
    Yunus kneels and presses his palms on the bullet wound in Jasin’s stomach. While Jemain holds his friend’s head and shouts for help. None comes as they are in the British part of town and everyone is in church.
    “I’m so sorry, Jasin,” Yunus cries. He tries to stop the bleeding with his palm but to no avail.
    “It’s all right. It doesn’t even hurt. We can still make it to the trials,” Jasin’s breath is shallow and his voice is weak. His shirt is soaked in blood, which is black. The bullet has hit his liver.

Two hours later they are back at their village. The trip home has been quiet. Yaakob is on the verandah of his house with Jasin’s father, smoking nipah cigarettes and talking about the young man’s future, when he hears screams from his neighbours’ yard. He stands and sees Yunus and Jemain in the returning bullock cart. His heart drops. He senses that the day is about to get worse.
Jasin’s father drops his cigarette and looks up. When he cannot see his eldest son on the cart, he jumps up and runs towards it, followed by Yaakob. By then, other villagers are running towards the cart as well. Yaakob pulls at the reigns to stop it.
    “Yunus, where is my son?” Jasin’s father asks.
    Yunus does not reply, but sobs instead.
    Jasin’s father passes out when he sees the dead body of his son slumped at the back of the bullock cart. Some women start screaming and weeping hysterically. Everyone in the village knows him. Their screams attract the attention of even more villagers. Yaakob holds his cousin, who regains consciousness briefly only to faint again at the sight of his dead son. By this time, Jasin’s mother has heard of what has happened from a neighbour, and runs towards the cart, screaming. Three women have to hold her as she shakes uncontrollably.
    “What happened to my boy? Jasin! Don’t you dare leave your mother! Jasin!”
    Yaakob remains quiet. He asks a friend to hold his cousin while he jumps onto the cart and kneels before Jasin. The base of the cart is drenched in blood. He hands tremble as he lifts Jasin’s shirt and sees the bullet wound. Yaakob asks four men to help him carry Jasin’s body to his parent’s house.
    They bury Jasin later in the evening, at about six, according to Islamic law, which forbids the keeping of a body for more than a day. The village imam reads the funeral rites, leaving almost everyone in tears. The villagers are closely knit. Everyone treats everyone else’s child as his or her own.

The next night, Yaakob sits at the front of his silat ring alone, smoking a nipah cigarette, starring at the ground. He has cancelled the evening class and is contemplating closing his school, entirely. He blames himself for what has happened.
    “If only I had never opened this silat ring.”
    “If only I had told him he wasn’t ready.”
    “If only …”
    Then he hears Jemain and Yunus call out their salam as they approach.
    “We’re sorry to disturb you, Teacher” Jemain says.
    “That’s all right. I have cancelled the class for this evening. Quite possibly, I will close this ring, too,” Yaakob says.
    “You’re probably wondering who shot Jasin,” Yunus says.
    “It was a bullet shot from a pistol, probably a revolver,” Yaakob blows a long stream of smoke. “Only white men have those pistols.”
    “You’re right, Teacher. His friends called him Mr Lowe.”
    Yaakob sucks on his cigarette one more time and throws it away.
    “Then, it’s my task to find Mr Lowe.”


Penang, 20 August 1824. James Randwick Lowe lights a thin cigar with a match as he leans against a lamppost at the end of Light Street, while continually tapping his feet on the pavement. A peacock of a man, Lowe wears a dark grey morning coat over a plain white shirt with puffed sleeves, his green high cravat matching his pinstriped trousers. When Lowe lifts his top hat, it reveals lavishly curled red hair.
    “No more pesky mosquito infested rivers for me,” Lowe thinks. “I am a district officer, not a bloody surveyor. I deserve a slice of the easy life.”
    He takes another long drag on his cigar.
    “No matter. With Uncle Robert’s help, I’ll become the Resident of Perak before I turn forty,” he dreams.
    Light Street is quiet, with few pedestrians. About fifty feet away is The Admiralty House, the largest building on the street and the centre of public administration on the island. Notably, it houses the office of the Governor. The two-storey building with its long verandahs and rattan louvres was built during the administration of Lieutenant-Governor Robert Townsend Farquhar in 1805, and is considered a benchmark of nineteenth century Anglo-Indian architectural opulence. The building of bricks and teak is painted white; its tiles and chandeliers custom made and shipped from India.
Lowe watches as the staff of The Admiralty House, all thirty of them, file out of their office and form a line in front of the foyer. Even the gardeners store away their brooms and join the queue in a hurry, everyone straightening their clothes and smoothening their hair as they wait. At the head of the queue is the Resident Councillor of Penang.
    They are waiting to welcome the new Governor of the Prince of Wales Island. Early rumours spreading through the office had caused much anxiety and trepidation amongst many in the queue. The new Governor was said to be a stern disciplinarian with a determined character.
    At ten minutes to eight, an open-top black carriage, drawn by a single brown horse, pulls into the courtyard. Lowe straightens, puts out his cigar, picks up his large brown leather case and walks towards the entrance of building. The carriage stops a few feet from the queue and a distinguished-looking gentleman in a velvet coat with a neat waist cut, a high collar that accentuates his face, and sleeves that taper down to his wrists, climbs down. Double-breasted coats are very much in vogue. He wears a dress shirt with a high upturned collar, with a white cravat tied in a wide bow fastened with a gold pin, and beige trousers. His clothes exaggerate his broad shoulders. His receding hairline, thin lips, and clean-shaven face project a stern personality.
    The new Governor, Sir Robert Fullerton, 51, is a Scotsman from Edinburgh, where he was born in 1773, the son of Reverend William Fullerton. Rising through the ranks at the Colonial Office which he joined aged twenty, he acquired a reputation for being an energetic administrator who’d stop at nothing when it came to the greater glory of the empire. He is confident that he will have no issues adapting to his surroundings quickly;  he already knows the Malay language and has a collection of native literature. He received his appointment from the Colonial Office in London two months ago: an order of travel to Penang to become Governor of the Prince of Wales Island.
    Governor Fullerton pauses and studies his surroundings before offering his hand to the Resident Councillor of Penang, who shakes it firmly. He then walks calmly past his staff, shaking the hands of all of them, and watching as they smile nervously.
    After this rather ceremonious welcome, the Resident Councillor escorts Governor Fullerton to his newly refurbished office on the first floor whereupon his new secretary, Roland Howarth, throws open a large teak door to reveal a spacious chamber that still bears the smell of fresh paint. The Governor enters his new office and looks at the long balcony on his right.
    On the other side is a big hand-carved teak desk and, in between, are two sofas and three armchairs, all in burgundy velvet, clustered around a low wooden coffee table with a vase of fresh red hibiscus. Governor Fullerton sits on the armchair facing the door, and invites his Resident and his secretary to sit. He wastes no time on pleasantries.
    “I want a full report on the activities surrounding the Siamese encroachment of the territories in the North,” he says, looking at Howarth.
    His secretary opens his diary and writes something.
    Governor Fullerton then looks at the Resident Councillor of Penang.
    “Mr Northam, I am well aware that you are busy with your duties here on the island, so I propose that you appoint a representative, an agent if you will, to serve as my liaison officer in Perak,” he says.
    Conrad Northam nods in agreement, unconvincingly.
    “Do you have anyone befitting that role to represent the Colonial Office?” Governor Fullerton asks, but before Northam can make a suggestion, his superior continues, “If I may suggest, I am confident in the abilities of Mr James Randwick Lowe.”
    Governor Fullerton surprises everyone with this. The others know of Lowe, a district officer who has been in Penang for only two years and whose duties include, among others, surveying the rivers and interior regions in Perak. However, Lowe is considered low in the pecking order in the Governor’s Office. Northam feels there are other officers more qualified. Nevertheless, he realises some arrangement had already been made, and any show of dissent could sour his relationship with the new Governor.
    “Mr Lowe is an exemplary officer. A wise choice, Your Excellency,” Northam says, nervously.
    “Let it be known that I have two priorities; matters of utmost importance. First, I want full assurance that the Siamese and the Malays aren’t colluding, or conjuring any plans for a takeover of the island. His Majesty wants me to confirm the safety of this island by the year’s end,” Governor Fullerton demands.
    Northam pauses before answering.
    “We have received intelligence reports about recent extensive communications between Kedah and Siam. However, I do not believe the Siamese have the capacity to mount a naval offensive against the island,” Northam says confidently.
    “Can you assure me that they will not collaborate with Kedah and attack us with Raja Hasan at the helm?” Governor Fullerton asks.
    Northam is stumped. The new Governor knows about Raja Hasan, the heir to the throne of Kedah, and an annoying pebble in the shoe of the British in Penang. Raja Hasan has already openly declared his intentions to reclaim the island from the British invaders. Northam tries to think of a quick reply. The British have only to fear if Raja Hasan manages to persuade Siam to finance the attack on Penang.
    “All reports are to the contrary, Your Excellency. Kedah still remembers the 1821 Siamese invasion. Any collaboration between the two would be impossible,” Northam says, bowing.
    A knock on the door spares Northam from further inquisition. A young officer with a large brown leather case walks in, followed by a Malay servant carrying a tray with a silver tea set, and announces the arrival of Mr     James Randwick Lowe, whose black leather shoes can be heard thumping loudly on the timber upper floor of Admiralty House.
    The young officer places the leather case on the Governor’s desk and leaves the room. The Malay servant pours tea for his new master and his guests and then stands silently to attention next to the door. No one notices the Malay servant’s jaws clench imperceptibly, nor his swift glance, with narrowed eyes, in the direction of Lowe who has just entered the room.
    “Ah, speak of the devil.” Governor Fullerton greets Lowe with a smile and offers him a seat.
    “Thank you, Your Excellency.”
    Lowe sits across from Governor Fullerton and nods at the others. Lowe is conscious of a sense of unease in the room: probably, as a result of his sudden promotion.
    “Howarth will take care of your Letter of Authority. I want you to report to Perak immediately. The Colonial Office has warned me against intervening in the affairs of Perak. However, I’m determined to prove them wrong.”
    “But, Perak is in constant chaos, Your Excellency. The Malay aristocrats and the Chinese mining clans constantly fight, not to mention the pirates; let’s not forget the pirates,” the Resident Councillor says. He has opposed earlier attempts by the British to intervene in Perak. “Their aristocrats tax us arbitrarily and if we don’t pay, they set fire to our offices in the middle of the night. I would like to remind Your Excellency that two of our officers were murdered in Perak last year,” Northam continues.
    There is a moment of silence. Governor Fullerton does not tolerate dissent.
    “Your views have been noted. However, I’m confident that the Colonial Office will be very pleased with my progress in Perak,” Governor Fullerton says.
    Northam sits with his head bowed, regretting his outburst.
    “Of course, Your Excellency,” he says, his voice trembling.
    Governor Fullerton looks displeased. He folds his arms and leans back.
    “That will be all. Thank you, gentlemen, for your time,” he says.
    All rise, except Lowe, and leave the room, looking relieved. Howarth, who is the last to leave, closes the door behind him.
    “Allow me to congratulate you on your appointment, Your Excellency,” Lowe smiles.
    “Let’s get to the important issues,” Governor Fullerton says, clasping his hands.
    “I trust you have the information I require?” He rises from his armchair and walks to his desk.
    “It was difficult, Your Excellency. Two of my men gave their lives for this,” Lowe says, shaking his head.
    “But, you did triumph over adversity, as a British officer should, didn’t you?” the Governor says.
    Lowe nods and hands Governor Fullerton a piece of paper with some markings. Governor Fullerton’s hands tremble as he reads it.
    “Yes, we have found the location of the treasure,” Lowe declares.
    “So, the legends are true. I can’t believe they are true,” Governor Fullerton’s deep-blue eyes light up.
    He opens his big leather case and takes out an old book with torn binding: the Malay Annals, a book which Governor Fullerton has taken a deep interest in for ten years. He had become interested in Malay folklore and legends following conversations with his servants  and prisoners when he was in Salang, a trading post near Phuket. They would tell him fantastic legends of kings and queens, their adventures and, most importantly, of treasures.
    The Malay servant, who has been at the door the entire time, turns his head. His nose flares slightly as he regards his new master.
    Governor Fullerton hadn’t believed any of the legends until a missionary, whom he met, also at Salang, gave him a copy of the Malay Annals and persuaded him of the existence of at least one hidden treasure mentioned in the book. It was the chapter on the lost Beruas Dynasty in Perak.
    Governor Fullerton flips pages of his well-worn book and reads to Lowe, “There shall come a day when a prince of my line shall possess this treasure, and it is that prince who shall make all lands below the wind subject to him.”
    He has been in touch with Lowe for four years now, feeding him information and news about other treasure hunters, an endless stream of whom flocked to the Malay Peninsula after the opening of Penang by the British, especially those who were tired of the dry Egyptian desert. Governor Fullerton has used his position as a high ranking British officer to spy on them and learn.  He has also used his influence in the Colonial Office to promote his nephew, twice-removed, rapidly through the ranks; an arrangement the young and ambitious officer has found extremely agreeable.
    The Malay servant pours more tea for his master, mentally recording everything being discussed. He has been a member of staff at the Governor’s Office for six years, and was recently promoted from sweeper to servant.
    He is sixty years old, and his name is Yaakob.