Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
(Circa 889 AD)
King Oddi had been in Baghdad placating the Caliphate when he received the news that Kiev had fallen to the northern rebels. He had been overseeing silk-route trade on the Caspian Sea and had just returned to Baghdad to explain why there would no slave trade via the Nor’Way when Hraes’ traders brought him the news. But he still wanted to carry on further and visit Jerusalem and the River Jordan over the winter. His friends in Frankia would want him to complete his pilgrimage. Duke Hraelauger had shown him a silver plate exposure of his father and he had learned of a guild in Baghdad that could do such a thing and he wondered, if he had enough gold, would they travel.
Oddi had spent much of the summer at the estate of Fadlan Ibn Ahmad, the son of Ahmad Ibn Yakut, the Baghdad merchant that Hraerik had met in Constantinople. Fadlan had helped guide Oddi through several meetings and a treaty with the Caliph of Baghdad. But it was now late fall and the trading season was over and Fadlan had promised to contact the Alchemists’ Guild that handled silver oil emulsion imaging. True to his word, an alchemist soon arrived with several assistants and two large box-shaped devices were set up in the courtyard. Fadlan had two tall chairs set up in front of the courtyard colonnades and he and Oddi posed for the pinhole cameras. The chemist spread a thin film of asphaltic paste over two silver plates and placed one in each box so that the beams of light entering through the pinholes in the boxes targeted the full plate diameters. Oddi posed seated, with his weapons, sword and shield at his knees, a yellow tunic covering his broad chest and the long blonde hair that framed his handsome face was held in place with a gold head band. He sat back and relaxed as did his host and occasionally they would sip orange juice out of silver goblets. Then the alchemist would come out from between the boxes and quickly adjust their poses, then return and monitor the exposures. After two hours he put clay seals on the pinholes and covered the boxes with heavy black drapes.
“Our fathers posed like this thirty years ago,” Fadlan stated, “but the imaging could only be done in black and white. The Alchemists have had some success introducing some reds and yellows into the emulsions, so your outfit should really stand out.”
The night before Oddi was to leave for Jerusalem, he and Fadlan celebrated their summer’s successes with a feast. Following the meal, Fadlan rose and went to a sideboard and retrieved two silver plates and presented Oddi with one and placed the other on a wall beside the exposure of their fathers that had been taken decades before. “They were delivered this afternoon,” Fadlan explained, and Oddi could see they were identical exposures of the two of them posing in the courtyard. The pictures were incredibly detailed in various shades from black to very light gray, but the yellow of Oddi’s tunic and the gold of his hair and headband stood out and flesh tones had a myriad of hues. Again, the courtyard features were outstanding, the colonnades were finely fluted and the architectural details were extremely clear. Static items seemed very clear while the subject faces and extremities were slightly blurred but very recognizable. “The alchemist who exposed the plates is our foremost optical scientist and an expert in light sensitive oils and chemicals. He has developed oil films that react faster to light and register some colours. While these exposures have been treated to no longer react to light, it is still best to store them in darkness,” and Fadlan presented Oddi with a polished wood chest with a black velvet lining in which the picture could be stored and special inks with which the picture could be touched up.
“I’ve checked with our Alchemist and he does have a man that can travel to Jerusalem with you. But he will only take one pinhole housing and he will make a number of his own exposures while there. My company shall cover all costs and the Caliph has offered you a place in the next merchant caravan going to Jordan and Jerusalem.” Arrow Oddi went to Jerusalem and got the exposures he had promised Duke Rollo of Frankia.