V.O.C. of the People
A young Egyptian woman who is very good with machines.
Slight and talkative, Farrah is best at diplomacy, spying, study, and crafting. She’s developed a foul mouth and fury from her recent misfortunes, but is generally a cheerful personality.
Her main goal is to find a way to kill or banish Tamir Lin, while of course remaining free herself.
Farrah had a happy childhood. Her father was a Mameluk general; revered in the community as a great warrior and wise in the ways of law. Even when the Dutch came to occupy Egypt, Pasha Al-Azar kept Cairo largely autonomous through its huge bazaars and progressive institutions.
Farrah’s mother is a skilled textile worker, and spends most of her time experimenting with new loom designs for more delicate silks and softer wire-thread blends. Selima Al-Azar is convinced that the art of assuit has an integral part to play in Cairo’s empowerment.
As their only child, Farrah grew up a voracious student. The wealth and status of her family allowed her a freedom that few other young girls had. She could learn patronage and finances from the Sultan’s harem. She could learn tactics and local politics from her father. She could learn mechanics and proper study from her mother. Nothing was denied her, and all who met her enjoyed a sunbeam smile and a barrage of questions.
When she grew old enough to think about her future, she faced her first real obstacle. Before the Dutch Catholics came, women had a great deal of independence. But new laws were passed forbidding women to divorce their husbands or own property in their name. Farrah dreamed of attending the University where her father crafted new policies with the other elders, but women were forbidden to so much as step within the cool arched halls.
Late one night, Selima came to her daughter’s room and took Farrah for a walk in the gardens. The lush grass was cool on their bare feet under the spray from the many fountains. They talked quietly, and full till morning blush sent them back indoors. Selima had secretly made several sets of new clothes for Farrah to help her enroll in the University, as a boy.
So started Farrah’s slow revolution. She fell in love with mechanical engineering, picking up the fresh ideas and formulas hungrily. She started avoiding her father, for fear of dishonoring him with the lie. Soon, just an education wasn’t enough for her. A few of her younger peers were full willing to question the new Dutch Catholic laws, and more. They started meeting with women all over the city, teaching whatever there was demand for. The women, old and young, poor and bejeweled, even some slaves and Catholics, could not practice their tutelage regularly. But suddenly books and scrolls might be found more in kitchens than in libraries.
When a woman would earn a commendation in her study, she braided it into her hair. More intricate braids meant more noteworthy or numerous accomplishments. Many men noticed, but chose not to reveal their wives, mothers, and children to public approbation.
Farrah earned many commendations for her work in engineering. The masters particularly admired her work in flexible, minute gears and joins. She could make a spyglass small enough for a songbird’s use.
Near the end of her study, Farrah found a new reason to pursue an education. His name is Tamir Lin. As she was walking in the Al-Azar gardens, a hissing voice from the foliage praised her beauty and poise. Thinking that one of her school friends had found her secret, she replied in scathing and witty retorts. Three times she rebuked the voice. After the third time, Tamir Lin stepped forward and declared her his. He was beautiful and pale, with hair braided more intricately than any woman. “In seven years time, you will be my bride. You I will wed, whether you fight or hide or die. Such is my power that I will prove, though I would prefer warm lips that move.” Those words will always haunt Farrah.
Frightened, she ran to her mother. After telling the story, however, her mother cautioned her not to throw away a powerful match. Farrah couldn’t believe it, and burst out in fury. The servants called for Pasha, and Farrah’s secrets were finally revealed.
She was allowed to finish her study at the University, and the women’s revolution was too large to stop, but Farrah and her friends were all punished by the elders of Cairo. Though they may have official accommodations, they were forbidden from selling their work or holding any official position.
It was soon after Farrah finished her time at the University that Pasha Al-Azar met with men in a dark cafe. His daughter was taken from Selima’s arms as they cried in the garden. Perhaps he thought to break her ties with the revolution, or break the contract that Tamir Lin put on her. Perhaps he was simply not powerful enough to shelter her from the hand of the V.O.C.