Original title Al Azif being the word used by the Arabs to designate that nocturnal sound (made by insects) supposed to be the howling of demons.
The History and Chronology of the Necronomicon - H.P. Lovecraft
Pre-Islamic mythology did not discrimate between gods and demons. The djinn were lesser divinities or the spirits of vanished ancient peoples. They were active at night in wild and deserted places, disappearing with the first light of dawn. Responsible for diseases and madness some were believed to also be spirits of fire - the ifrit or afrit.
In appearing to man djinn assumed sometimes the forms of beasts and sometimes those of men; but they always have some animal characteristic. The eccentric movements of the dust-whirlwind ("zawabi'") are taken to be the visible signs of a battle between two clans of jinn.
See also Declare by Tim Powers .
1743 – 1744 T207
The Camps of the Tuaregs, Near Mosul, Early ‘43: “While I lay on that barren shore healing – slipping in and out of consciousness – two angels came down and sat with me. They told me Allah had sent them to watch over me and ensure I complete the tasks the god had laid before me.
“While they watched voices spoke from the air, telling me tales of Light and tales of Darkness. They told me how while the Ice benefited the three tribes of the Sahara they were in reality foul demons bent on the world’s destruction. They told me the world is full of such foul denizens and men themselves must destroy these powers of darkness.
“Purging not only Islamic lands but also all lands. They declared that the Ahl Al-Kitab be followed and those who follow the one true God be used as instruments and allies to achieve the goal of eliminating as much evil in the world as possible. I swore to them I was the man to lead their crusade against the darkness wherever it might lurk.
“I had healed but apparently the angels were still skeptical of my fortitude so they assigned set before me three tasks: first, to recover a pigeon’s egg from the djinn of the Rhub-Al-Khalit.”
Muyaia reached into his robe and drew out a simple, worn round stone.
The War Against the Beast
Early May 1746: “Go!” She screams as Valerus leaps to her side. Mason catches the ancient trinket from the air, then spurs his horse away, weeping all the while. Rashid empties a multi-shot pistol into the Arnori knight, flinging him from the horse a tattered corpse.
“Yes,” the Empress whispers, her mount dancing away from the massive stallion. “We will.”
A blur of cuts and slashes follows, then the Sultan laughs and Oniko stiffens. A queer blue-black light fills the air and Rashid bends all his will upon the frail woman opposing him amid such devastation. A crowd of Nisei samurai are hacking their way through the press, desperate to reach her side. But for just an instant there is a peculiar, pellucid calm at the center of the battle.
“No….” Oniko swayed in the saddle, her fingers groping for a leather thong around her neck. “Get… out!” She presses a carved, twisted flute to her lips. The light grows brighter, making even the sun seem dim. One of Shun’s marines, fighting in the melee around them, hurls a gunpowder bomb at the Sultan. There’s a blast of flame and the whistle of shrapnel. Rashid staggers, his armor suddenly smoking. Oniko blows upon the flute and the tenor of the air changes – twists – and then Jason Windrider and the Uraeus are directly overhead, the hull of the airship blotting out the sky.
Rashid suddenly howls in pain and spins, striking down two of the Nisei marines. Heads fly and Oniko is suddenly surrounded by a solid wedge of samurai. She tries to shout, but they drag her back, passing her from hand to hand. The Sultan shouts with rage and leaps into their midst. Horrible carnage follows, the fearless Nisei hurling themselves upon the Sultan while his blade drinks deep of many brave men.
A warning shout comes from the Uraeus. The pushtighbhan race to save their master, hewing down the last of the Frankish knights blocking the center. On the airship, Jason Windrider swings over the side with reckless speed. He’s an old man – 77 the week before the battle – but he knows his moment has come.
Rashid feels a trembling in the unseen world and looks up from the dead heaped around him. Oniko has fought free of the samurai and advances from one side. Jason reaches the ground, an odd green stone held above his head.
"Begone, spirit!” Windrider shouts, making a complex motion in the air with his free hand.
“That’s just a toy,” Rashid scoffs, drawing a pistol. “No true stone survived the wreck of Mnar!”
Oniko closes her eyes, lips upon the flute, reaching back into ancient memory. Her father’s voice rises from abyssal depths, each word, each syllable of the ancient rite clear in her mind. She blocks out all else – even the shout of a booming shot, the battle-cries of the Rangers and the samurai trying to mob the Sultan – and begins to recite even as her breath hisses into the ancient metal.
There is a strangled, despairing scream as Windrider collapses in death – the starstone is no protection against a bullet – and Colonel Mason snatches up the gray-green device even as Rashid leaps across blood-soaked field. Mason twists, desperately flinging the stone at the Sultan’s head. Stone strikes the black armor and there is an audible hum as two objects which cannot coexist try to share the same space.
Blood draining from her face, Oniko completes the incantation and falls weakly to the ground. Her father had been well versed in the arts arcane, but even he had never dared attempt such a thing.
The Sultan screams, enraged and the starstone burning on his breastplate flares with a blue-white light. Rashid pits his will against the device of Mnar, trembling at the balance of annihilation, and… he wins. The stone shatters to dust and drifts to the ground.
Laughing in triumph, Rashid turns upon Oniko, finger tightening on the trigger of his Manchen .48. In the split instant his attention is drawn by an enormous hush which was fallen upon the field of battle. He looks up.
The sky has turned the color of bad glass, flat and distorted. Something moves in the heavens, an enormous, abyssal shape and Rashid begins to howl in agony, knowing his end has come. A shrill wailing issues from the broken heavens and then darkness rushes out – palpable and cold as death – to overwhelm the land. Strange pipings and hootings fill the sudden night, mingled with the chirping of impossibly large crickets. In the ebon void, Rashid screams in defiance, then something moves – as the sun moves in the sky – and he is gone.
1757 - 1758 T214
Islamic Union: A huge fleet of airships arrived at Aqaba in late summer of ’57, took aboard several hundred Union scouts skilled in desert work and departed south. They did not return.
Ethiopia: Spice traders traveling in the highlands of Hadramuht reported (upon their eventual return to Semerang with caravan loads of myrrh, frankincense and pepper) a strange tale – some Arabs had come out of the deep desert with camels heavily laden with burnt, blackened metal. This they sold in the markets, for Hadramuht was a poor province and even the fire-twisted lengths of iron and light steel were worth something. When questioned, the scrap traders reported they had been making a daring crossing of the Rub al-Khalit when they came upon a valley filled with miles of twisted wreckage, bleached bones and scattered debris. Some great army, they opined, had tested the will of the Gods of the Sand and had failed. Not a single survivor was seen.
1759 – 1760 T215
Tewfik: In old Mecca, the imams and mullahs who consider and debate the shari’a (the religious law) for the edification of all Muslims throughout the world, sat in grave and concerned assembly. A shepherd in the bare, dry hills above the city had come upon a book sitting on a stone exposed to the sky and – being curious – had lifted it up and carried it down to one of the learned men among the faithful.
This book held revelations of an uncompromising nature. It spoke of Mohammed and Abraham and many other figures well-known to those sitting in the hall of the al-Haram mosque with the voice of one who might have seen the prophets in the flesh.
“We must decide,” the eldest said, “what to do about this... about this arif book and what it tells. If these are the words of God revealed, then we have been mistaken in many things, while correct in others.”
An angry murmur rose from the assembled priests. The eldest shook his head, white beard jutting out.
“Do not be so quick,” old Pir said in a sharp voice, “to believe yourself righteous. We are only men, and liable to imperfection. Have you even read all that is within these pages?”
The Book was heavy in his hands.
Pir searched the faces of the imams. Many were fearful, while others – ones who had actually considered the elegant writing on the samite-white pages – seemed almost transported, as if shadow had fallen from their eyes. A few had hard, closed faces.
One of the angry men – a Syrian with a robe of silk and gold – stood up and looked about, sneering at his fellows. “Are you all mad? If we take this path, a thousand years of the Prophet’s word will be thrown into the trash, forgotten, abandoned? What kind of Paradise awaits those who turn their back upon the Lord of Heaven?” He stabbed a well-manicured hand at the Book. “This is the work of Shiatan!”
“Not so!” Replied another, younger man, a mullah from the high deserts of Al’Bayad with a robe of homespun, the dust of the desert graven into the cracks of his face. “This is the Truth!”
Pir settled back on his heels, worried and concerned, to see which road the council would travel.
The deliberations of the Ulema were interrupted only weeks later when an attack was made upon the Holy Ka’ba. Men in desert robes attempted to shatter the black stone (the Meethaaq) and cast down the pieces. The guards at the site leapt to seize the men, but it was too late – the Stone had shattered into six pieces and then – to the horror of all; a noisome black cloud rolled out of the shattered artefact and the nearest guard screamed endlessly as his body was pierced by a forest of waving tendrils, each tipped with bony mouths.
The attackers squealed in fear and most fell dead on the spot. Others were driven mad and even the guardsmen (drawn from among the most devout warriors in all Islam) quailed away. The thing from the stone boiled out, slaughtering the pilgrims in the shrone. Bullets and fire failed to pierce its amorphous skin (oh, the creature had grown fat and strong in long years of worship!). Pillars toppled – fire spread through the chambers of the mosque – a black pall spread over the city.
The senior mullahs approached the scene of devastation, hearts filled with fear – all save Pir, who held the Book in his hands – and they looked upon the loathsome thing which had crawled forth from the uttermost pit, which indeed the Daemon Sultan had long ago set in the Ka’ba to tempt and sway the faithful and draw up all their piety and turn it to evil, all of those holy men save Pir fled in horror and fear, unable to face the crawling horror which was wading in the blood of the hajji.
“Peace be upon you,” Pir called out, raising his hand against the monstrous creature and reading from the Book, “O foulness, find Allah's mercy and blessings. Peace be on us and on all righteous slaves of Allah . I bear witness that no one is worthy of worship except Allah. I bear witness that Muhammad (peace be upon him ) is his slave and Messenger.
You, I cast out. You unclean thing. You I ban from the eyes of men, from the Sun, from the Earth itself!”
A light seemed to come into Pir’s face and the Book itself shone like gold. The afrit – what else could it be? – made a horrific screaming sound and the very rays of the sun pierced the dome of the temple and tore its immortal flesh, rendering it unto dust.
Pir stepped among the ruins and drifts of ashen corpses and found the six pieces of the Black Stone. He saw it was hollow and corrupt, filled with sickly black ooze.
“We have been deceived, as by a master deceiver.”
Pir cast the broken bits of obsidian to the four quarters.
“We deny you, lord of the pit! We need no physical thing to remind us of the old covenant! We are constant, we abide, we remember – so it shall be forever!”
1763 – 1764 T217
ARF: The Iroquois, Cassatengo, lifted his aerosquadron from the desolate mountains of Asir (in Araby) and headed north, searching for news of the mutinous ARF office Ivanov. After several months, following a tip acquired from an IU merchant in Tarsus, the ARF aerosquadron pounced out of the clouds on a hitherto-hidden landing field and collection of airship sheds near the summit of Mount Ararat. Their appearance was immediately met by gunfire, by men scattering across the hidden base, and the grinding rumble of the side of the mountain swinging wide…
To Cassatengo’s horror, six ARF-built zeppelins (in a variety of models) issued forth, guns blazing, at the same time the heavy clouds began to quake and rumble with lightning. “Land the troops,” he shouted into his communications horn. “Deploy for a ground assault!”
ARFen aerotroopers plunged from their assault zeppelins, sliding down greased ropes and fanned out to attack the buildings. Gun crews hastily assembled their ‘air-portable’ 2-pounders. The attackers immediately came under fire from other ARFen soldiers already on the ground… and the assault became a confused melee between bands of men in the same uniforms, the same dialects…
And above, the storm grew worse, the air shuddering with thunder, lit by the lurid glare of cloud-to-cloud lightning – and there were strange, echoing voices on the howling wind. Cassatengo watched, horrified, as something rushed past the windows of his airship – something half-human, wreathed in the purple-yellow glare of St. Elmo’s Fire – and his ship rocked, stricken by some enormous blow…
The battle raged for four hours, but Cassatengo’s troops on the ground failed to gain a foothold, and the fell spirits raging in the sky lashed them with lightning and falling stones – though they inflicted terrific casualties on the defenders of the secret fortress – the ARFen failed to gain a foothold. Cassatengo was forced to withdraw in haste, ten of his smaller zeppelins burning wreckage strewn across the snowfields of Ararat. All of the enemy airships had been destroyed, however.