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> Two Worlds Collide, Nahla and Hassan
Hassan el Sharir
 Posted: Nov 18 2016, 03:07 PM
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Hassan el Sharir


Nahla closed her eyes and leaned heavily against the side of her camel, trying to calm the erratic beats of her heart. It had been less than a week since she had left home, desperate to find her brother, and already she was second guessing this whole plan.

“Madness…this is pure madness...” The words were whispered, fingers reaching down to twist within the fabric of her fathers’ worn robe that hung gracelessly over her slender body, trying to find a bit of comfort. A few feet ahead, the merchant she was traveling with had stopped to barter wares with a group of travelers, and the whole ordeal was failing to ease the knots of worry that had settled in her belly.

‘I’ll never find him if we continue on this way.’ Still, though it was the first time away from her village, the woman wasn’t stupid. Traveling alone was a good way to get one’s self killed. And though the merchant was but one man, he was a highly sought after one, bringing goods to those who were rarely able to travel to the various ports themselves. No…the merchant’s reputation was a safety measure Nahla couldn’t afford to lose, no matter how frustratingly slow it would take. Heaving a soft sigh, she slid to the ground beside the dozing animal, itching to rip the rough fabric away that hid the lower half of her face and hair, but seeking out the worn bit of paper she carried in her pocket to read instead. Her brother had written it a mere three months before, telling his sister of his travels and where he thought he could find a bit of work near Si’don. But instead of easing her worry for him, it only served to bring a cold sense of dread to her mind. For her brother had written the letter in English.

Imam had scoffed gently at her fright, excusing it by saying Rasul was simply practicing writing the language and that he perhaps was trying to get on as guide. Nahla, dubious, pressed her lips together and remained silent. No…. the eldest Mubarak son wouldn’t have done something so careless that might lead Englishmen to their door, of course not. But those contradicting thoughts running through her head were not said aloud that night, and as weeks passed without incident, the concern faded into the background. At least until a fortnight ago when Imam was found dead in one of his fields.

Fingers crumpled the paper and she pressed her head between her knees, trying to lessen the wave of nausea that threatened to overwhelm her. With both of her parents now gone, there were not that many choices left for Nahla to do. She could marry a man that one of the elders of the village chose for her in order for the farm to be taken care of, which, though she adored the people of her village, the thought of doing made her skin crawl, or she could set out and find her brother, now her legal guardian. The latter, being the more appealing, of course, was made all the easier, when the merchant, having caught wind of her predicament, and having known her family for years, offered to let her come with him on his way back towards the North Shore, as long as she kept herself disguised as his mute nephew. So that brought her to the now. The first few days truthfully hadn’t been so bad. The merchant was kind enough to her and for the most part ignored his charge, even going so far as to say nothing when she scooted as close as she could get to the fire at night, refusing to let it die out until the sun’s reassuring light began peeking over the horizon. Now however, apparently coming closer to a village or city, they seemed to be stopping every few hours or so as they encountered others. Nahla wasn’t sure what was making her antsier, the growing possibility of being discovered, or the snail’s pace they seemed to be going at right now.

Eventually shaking herself from her despondent mood, and noticing that the sun would be setting in a few hours, the woman rose and began preparing to make this last stop their camp as the merchant was still deep in conversation with another. Packs were efficiently pulled from the camels sides and fodder for them laid out, her movements graceful and seemingly relaxed, the routine finally putting her mind at ease. Perhaps she was worrying again for naught.


The rock dropped to the bottom of the well and landed with a splash when it hit the water. Hassan was a handsome man beneath the material, with dark brown eyes and hair as dark as the midnight sky. Chuckling softly at the fact that the well still had water in it, he raised his head and looked around at the immense stone columns that had been reclaimed by the desert, for here once stood a formidable city-state that rumored rivaling Arcadia and Utica. His imagination veered back to the stories he had heard as a child, stories of the ancient ones, their cities, the beats and spirits of the desert and jungles of Sha’Lazar.

The noises in the distance caught his attention; as the caravan had halted for the day and prepared to remain at the oasis until Hassan gave orders to proceed. And after checking the wells, he returned to his tent to find that the goatskin walls had been raised to let the air circulate. Summer in the Acacus Desert could be unbearably hot and what breezes came along were precious and needed to be taken advantage of. Hassan’s tent was one of several erected in a small oasis in the southern arid desert.

Not many people ever came to this haven to stay, but now and then a camel train would pass through and stop to fill their canteens with fresh water from the well. There weren’t many trees, nor much other vegetation; but an acacia tree sprouted up now and then near the shallow water table that fueled the well, and greened the parched earth. Easing himself down upon the plush pillows lining the corner of his tent, he stroked the small amount of hair upon his chin in contemplation. His thoughts only interrupted by the female providing a refill of his wine goblet, to whom he gave a slighting glance and a smile.

Reflection of days past regarding his mentor, the Amir… Abu Said Uthmann… a man whose personality and demeanor had changed so drastically upon becoming the ruler of the Rash’ani… “How could Abu change so much?” he thought out loud. The Ibn Tumart, the Rash’ani’s ultimate ruler was once a brash young warrior… full of determination… full of ideas…

But now Uthmann was a cruel sovereign, ready to execute any who would stand against him, including his closest allies. His heavy taxes and levies not only against foreign trade but upon his own people. The prison now full and the execution stand stained with the blood of those he decided against, Hassan truly regretted giving loyalty to his former friend and mentor. The things he had done in the name of the Amir. All Hassan could do was shake his head in disbelief.

They were three days from Arcadia, not far by desert standards, yet alas, Hassan was not in a hurry to return. He would be content to just wander the desert, oasis to oasis, with his retinue of current company.


“Get water.” Gruff words, had Nahla starting, and she turned from her tasks of unpacking essentials to face the merchant. It was the look in his eyes that had her stiffening, her whole demeanor turning alert as the hairs on the back of her neck stood. It was the look of a desperate man. She had seen it before…once…on a man who had just lost everything to fire some months before. He had come to beg her father for help, work, or a bit of bread at the very least. She remembered peeking out from behind Imam because she heard the wailing of a child in the background. The family. They had been left in the shadows at the edge of the property, tattered, dirty little beings that stared back with lifeless eyes. Wild things. A movement had her eyes drawn upward to the stranger that had been speaking to her father. The man’s look had caused her to retreat immediately. You knew…. without a doubt, that there….at that very moment….the stranger would do absolutely anything he had to, to survive.

“Of course…” Nahla spoke carefully, her voice gentle. Her gaze held his, firm…unblinking, then, as soon as it had come, the moment passed, and her guardian smiled at her and motioned to the canteens before turning on his heel and leaving without another word. What an odd, odd, man.

Still, it took a moment before the young woman could move. The containers were gathered quickly, and strung delicately across her shoulders to free up her hands, while she slowly began her way down the worn path, her mind racing. Something would have to change. Soon. But what? Perhaps… perhaps… Nahla took a deep breath and let it out slowly, keeping her eyes downcast out of habit while avoiding others that were walking… Perhaps it was simply all in her imagination. Her brother had always laughed at her tales of fright from her escapades down to the village, and yes… maybe Nahla… might have stretched the truth once or twice, but only to see the animated amusement upon Rasul’s face. It was never… something like this.

Arriving at the well, Nahla pulled the canteens from her shoulders and leaned carefully against the rough stone exterior before lowering a wooden bucket that had been left there by other travelers. Her gaze was finally lifted, cautiously at first, and then as curiosity overcame her current worry, she glanced about. Snippets of conversations, the smell of foods cooking over pits, distant laughter…it was a heady mix of unfamiliar paired with the comfortable feeling of tradition and history. It brought a feeling of nostalgia about her.

“Careful, Nahla…” Abruptly ending the train of thought that might have ended with her a babbling mess, she concentrated once more on the task at hand. A bead of moisture rolled down her neck as she pulled the bucket back up, awkwardly lifting it over the top of the well wall and setting it down. And suddenly feeling an overwhelming suffocation, Nahla tore the rough fabric away from her heat reddened face. Her hands dipped into the water and she splashed it upwards upon her skin while drawing in a breath. “Oh, Rasul… if ever I would pray to hear one of your annoying words of advice right now…”

But as much as she prayed, the voice she so desperately wanted to hear, remained silent. Sighing, Nahla covered her face again, and noticing that it would be dark soon, she hastily finished filling the containers and replaced the bucket, once more shouldering her burden before standing and attempting to retrace her steps back from where she began. Maybe…she should set out on her own. Yes…such could very well be an invitation for trouble, but then again, with the odd way her companion was beginning to act, staying could also be her undoing.

“Some words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated….” The soft words, laced with frustration left her lips without any real target except for maybe the grumpy camel she was coming up on that looked like he might very well enjoy spitting on her. Yes…what a well thought out plan this was.


And as he sipped his wine, memories would return of the days just after the war of wars, when he, the Warlord of the Rash’ani put his friend, and second, Abu Said Uthmann into power. They, as leaders, had been born of tyranny, depravity and greed. As such, the Rash’ani Amir, from Utica, Tomas dez Besariz, was a cruel, despicable old man… whose corruption and wickedness ran rampant throughout the kingdom for decades… and the once great people of Sha’Lazar were reduced to mere pawns and their great economy stalled. Abu Said, Hassan, and the men who now made of the *Council of Ten* were the leaders in the revolution against that creed, corruption, and wickedness. And the installation of Abu Said as Amir, not ten years ago, was a turning point in Hassan’s life.

Hands spread up and out, arms raised… “People of Arcadia…” he began… and the crowd erupted in yells, whistles, and cheers in a now familiar language. Waving his arms, his hands called for quiet… And as the crowd began to silence to a low roar… he smiled… “People of the Rash’ani… We are free of the cruelty that once was…” and the crowd erupted once again… and from below, people began to call for his accepting the position of Amir…. And under the light beard, Hassan blushed, but shook his head.

“I am a leader in war… not in peace… I shall not seek the position of Amir… but I have one so honored…one that would be a great leader…” he looks to his second in command… his hand extending toward the man… “I give you Abu Said Uthmann…” and the man looked back at Hassan and stepped forward to stand beside Hassan… as the crowd erupted below. “Forever more, he shall be called… Abu Said ibn Tumart…” ((ibn Tumart" means "son of the earth" or "son of happiness")). Then Hassan began to speak about Abu Said and the al-Jama'a al-'Ashara ('Council of Ten')

“Abu Said is a religious scholar, teacher, and a political leader from the Masemuda tribe; He is the son of a lamplighter in a mosque in the village of Q’suaz, canaan of the city of Ghayd and had been noted for his piety since his youth; he was small and misshapen, and lived the life of a devotee-beggar. He would light many candles at the temples of the gods and earned the appellation *lover of light*.

And in my departure as your leader, I have organized al-Jama'a al-'Ashara, (an inner 'Council of Ten') composed of the ten who had first borne witness to this war of the Rash’ani. Several of them are drawn from the core of followers that I have picked to guide Abu Said; others are local leaders drawn from the lands of the Rash’ani.

These shall guide the Acacus into prosperity…”

[b][i]“Shahzada …”
and Hassan’s mind bounced back from his reminiscing. And Hassan looked up from the wine goblet knowing full well he did not deserve that title.. “Shahzada, the guards are posted, the horses handled and secured… the food and water stores are counted and secure. Shall I bring you the girls…?”

Hassan smirked and shook his head. He was a warlord not an amir, or vizer… nor even a merchant; so why was he treated as such. Ah yes, as Warlord of the Rash’ani, he had removed one cruel tyrant with another. How could Abu Said change so much?

She hated the desert. The raw barrenness of it reminded her of death, of hopelessness… of defeat. The coolness of a crop of trees, the feeling of soil damp and rich with nutrients was now a distant memory. Home. Home merely seemed a dream.

A tongue darted out to moisten dry lips and she reached down to wrap her fingers around the canteen that she knew would need to be replenished soon. How much longer until they could stop? Nahla squinted at the back of the man in front of her. Her guide had become increasingly frustrating with his behavior as their trip lengthened. Now he blatantly watched her, refusing to let her out of his sight unless she begged a moment’s privacy to attend her own needs. It was almost as though he was afraid she might run. But why?

Lost in her own thoughts, and drowsy from the lull of the camel’s movements beneath her, Nahla gave a jerky start when he called her name, his strained tone warning her that he must have done so more than once. Her gaze lifted, focused upon him in question, and she did not speak, but waited expectantly, hoping that what he could see of her face looked at least somewhat apologetic for her disrespect.

His gaze narrowed, and Nahla wrinkled her nose. What? What did she miss? Why did he always… It was then her thoughts paused, the bit of green showing in the distance catching her eye. An oasis! “Oh!” A breath pulled into her chest, shaky, her body vibrating with exhausted relief. Oh, Allah, thank you… Finally, finally, perhaps she could actually find somewhere to decently wash herself and rid her body of some of the sand that had worked its way between the folds of her robes. A glance back towards the merchant had her rethinking that, her fingers reaching up to pinch the gap of fabric tighter about her neck. Maybe she would just settle for a moment to wash her face.

But even those worrisome thoughts of her current guardian failed to dampen the little thrill that coursed through her as they came upon it. Though only another stop on their journey and not the city that she so desperately wanted to see, it was a larger encampment than they had visited yet, actual tents sporadically placed near the wells and amongst the sparse vegetation instead of the simple bedrolls of travelers that were to be quick on their way once rested. What if someone here had seen Rasul? Or spoken to him for that matter.

As to how to find out that information was a whole different problem. She snuck another sideways glance at her companion whose surly demeanor had changed entirely now that people were beginning to notice him and offer their greetings. Signaling her camel, she slid from his back as he lowered to the ground and tried to remain as inconspicuous as possible, sidestepping the greeters as she moved to secure lines and pull wares from the pack animals for the merchant. Nahla worked furiously for a time, her small body weaving in and out from between a growing number of people who were curious about what the merchant had to sell, and the camels she would unload and move away to care for.

Only when he gave her a gruff nod of dismissal, which was, of course, followed by the warning glance that she was growing used too, did she move away from the throng. The merchant would be occupied for a couple of hours at least. Nahla knew his quirky little habits by now. Time enough for a quick wash before setting up their own camp. Hurrying over a low rise, the young woman was careful to scan her surroundings, assuring herself of privacy in the fading light, before settling beneath an acacia tree and lowering the hood that covered her bound tresses. What was left in her canteen was carefully poured over a bit of cloth that she had brought with her, and she pressed it to her face, holding it there and reveling in the bit of relief that it brought her flushed skin.

So contented was she at finally gaining a small amount of comfort for the first time in what seemed like months, that the sound of a footfall to her left had her starting in surprise, her body instinctively poising itself to run. What now…


“Shahzada… Warlord of the Rash’ani” he murmured to himself and huffed. Hassan had been born in a nomadic camp to Tunaruz, wife of Izdârasen el Sharir. In order to break tradition, ensuring his son’s future, Hassan’s Father, Izdârasen took his son, soon after the boy turned 6 months old, to the market, and investing his total fortune on the boy’s future, paid handsomely to have his son tattooed as the child of a warlord.

And between the ages of 5 and twelve, Hassan learned to read, write, ride, and fight. It was in those years he met, fought, and became friends with Abu Said Uthmann; who was fascinated at the stories of bravery the boy’s father displayed behind the scenes through the years, and the motivation that Hassan had in learning. At age 13, Hassan was taken by Abu Said Uthmann to the fort along the coastal waters of al Manifa between Ghayd and Samaddir as a recruit for the military.

Besides being Abu Said’s best friend, Hassan was one of the most influential Rash’ani champions during the War of Independence from Amir Tomas dez Besariz, a cruel and despicable man of power; and soon after Hassan became the most trusted counselor and adviser of the new Amir, Abu Said Uthmann. And that is where their friendship began to darken.

**************
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Hassan el Sharir
 Posted: Nov 18 2016, 03:21 PM
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Warlord

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posts: 15
joined: 18-November 16
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Hassan el Sharir


**************

Hassan wanted there to be a reason. A concrete reason as to why he no longer feels the way he once did about Abu Said, the man he grew up with and has been so close with for most of his life. A reason would make it easier, making him feel less guilty about the way he felt. It would make the dissolution of friendship less strange and painful.

But sometimes there isn’t one. Sometimes friends grow apart and there really isn’t a good reason as to why. He was drifting away. But Abu Said had been tempted by the evil and darkness that comes from power. Having had the best of intentions, his being drawn to the darker side of a powerful personality only led to a place of evil…

Abu Said Uthmann is the Amir of Arcadia and leader of the Rash’ani Dynasty, a man larger than most; tall, at over 6 foot, weighing in at almost 200 pounds… black hair kept under a white turban… red and white ornate cloth protected his neck and cheeks… Not an unhandsome man, he keeps a minimum of 3 wives, and a harem of 15 or more. In station, he has 20 or more dancing girls. This is done to keep him from appearing too greedy to his people, though he is one of the greedier of Amir. A soft spoken man, he is short-tempered and violent. Nowadays, he is quick to enslave and put those, who go against his rule, to death. His reign is one filled with greed, barbarism, and subversion. Not a bit of blood is spit by him, but much by those who he commands. Tis even rumored that he poisoned his Father so he could be Amir. Though the rumor be false, as Hassan el Sharir is the one responsible for the man’s appointment as Amir.

**************

Hassan was in no hurry in returning to Arcadia… to be subjected to the idiosyncrasy that was Abu Said. Sitting on the pillows of his tent, he looks out the flap door and sees the well, and its surrounding ancient remains of a culture’s decimation. He tried to imagine the ornate buildings, the ancient architecture of the Rash’ani that the city held dear… he closed his eyes and whispers upon the wind carries ancient laughs and voices of youth frolicking in the courtyards, or the echoes of vendors promoting their wares. Tilting his nose upward, he imagined the scents of ancient fires… meat roasting on spits, the wafers of acrid aroma of beasts waiting the slaughter. Oh by the Gods, he wondered what the ancients did for entertainment and how they handled politics. Were they as wicked or warmongering as Abu Said? Did they treat their people like he did his?

He opens his eyes and looks at the decimated architecture… Surely history repeats itself… or would there be such remnants, or a city that should have stood strong?

A girl, possibly just a few years younger than herself, went sprawling, the basket that she had been balancing precariously upon her head tumbling to the ground. In shocked silence, both the stranger and Nahla simply stared at each other, the brightly colored fruits that had come spilling out of the basket spread around them like a multicolored blanket.

Nahla blinked owlishly at the girl’s dark gaze and hastily began to back up, disentangling her limbs from the other.

“Oh… Oh, I’m so...”

“Please, I am…....!”

Nervous words came bursting from them both, lending the two another awkward silence before the girl sat back on her haunches and began giggling, a bangled hand lifting to cover her mouth.

Nahla felt herself relax at the others amusement and allowed her own smile to lift the corners of her lips. A girl. Only a girl. Everything was alright. Her own hands lowered, tense fingers falling loose from the covering upon her head.

“Forgive me mistress, Master is forever telling me that I must pay more attention… It seems I failed again. Master shall be quite irritated when I tell him what has kept me.” The dark haired girl seemed to sigh inwardly at herself and leaned forward, coming to her hands and knees, the fruits that she began retrieving wiped carefully clean before they were returned to her basket.

Blue eyes snapped to the others face at the hint that the girl may be reprimanded, but Nahla’s concern turned to confusion as she detected no fear, but only a mild annoyance at her own actions. She… she wasn’t afraid?

QUOTE
‘Nahla!  You mustn’t wander away from me…ever!’   Her mother’s fingers had dug into the soft flesh of her daughters arms after finding her deep within the towns market, a beckoning merchant beguiled by the young girl’s blond waves having enticed her with a pretty trinket. ‘Do you hear me? Do you?’ A frantic shake was given to the petite child.  “Do you wish a cruel master to snatch you from me and your father?  To take you far away?  We would never find you again! Never!” The frantic fear in her mother’s voice had driven Nahla to inconsolable tears. Imam, quickly finding his way to his families side, had bent over his wife, loosening his daughter from the harsh grip of Indira and pulling the woman beneath his shoulder, attempting to calm her with hushed words. 

“It is alright, Nahla…no harm has been done.”   An oddly stoic Rasul had wrapped an arm around his sister, urging her along after their parents, and she pressed into him, trembling, her mind awhirl with emotions.  What kind of monsters were these masters that could send her mother into such panic?

It was one of the last times that Imam had allowed Nahla into the city market and on the few occasions that she had accompanied him and her brother, she was carefully covered from head to toe, no longer the vibrant child with flashing blue eyes and golden hair, but a proper, solemn daughter of the Mubarak family. [/i]


“Oh, Are you not well?”

The girls anxious tone brought Nahla back to the present, and as she attempted another smile, her companion finished loading her basket back up and scooted closer, bringing her face so near to Nahla’s that they were almost touching noses. Nahla felt a trickle of sweat on the back of her neck. What in the world?

“Well, are you?”

“Of…of course I am! You are too clo….” Nahla squeaked as she fell backwards, caught up within the voluminous robes. “….close…” At the girl’s giggle, her own eyes narrowed, her nose wrinkling in consternation.

“This one apologizes, mistress…” Laughing brown eyes danced with amusement as she reached down to help Nahla to her feet. “Sometimes I forget that not all are as free as Master’s girls….”

“Ah…” A slender brow lifted. No… no she simply wouldn’t ask.

“Master calls me *Aliya*. You may too, if you would like.” The girl bent to retrieve her basket, placing it carefully upon her head once more before returning her attention upon Nahla. “You are very pretty. Very dirty… but very pretty, I think… under it all. I’ve never seen such hair before.”

Nahla’s cheeks immediately reddened and she hastily covered herself. What words this girl spouts! “And you... you are very forward!” Her soft voice sputtered, feeling out of sorts and unsure of how to take this type of behavior.

But the girl simply laughed once more and reached forward to push back the head covering that Nahla had so gingerly replaced. “Why do you hide it? One should not hide such a gift… Master says…”

Ach! Nahla batted her hands away and interrupted Aliya. “…Yes….yes….I can only imagine what ‘Master’ has said… Stop that!” Jumping away from her, Nahla clamped down on the fabric covering her hair and scowled, looking as ferocious as, unfortunately, a hungry, wide eyed, street urchin.

Red and shaking with mirth, her new companion held her hands up in defeat. “Yes… alright… but at least tell me your name and let me take you somewhere that you might have a proper bath? As an apology, yes?”

A bath? A real chance to become clean once more? “….N…Nahla….” She whispered without much thought and then paled immediately, visibly shaken by the mistake she just made. “I… I am sorry… I mustn’t. My… my uncle will be looking for me...” What was she doing? She was being careless and stupid. She was going to end up doing something that was going to get her into trouble and keep her from finding Rasul. Without warning, tears sprang to her eyes and she turned away. Rasul… Control yourself, Nahla! This is no time for weakness.

“Nahla… so pretty….” Aliya’s gentle words and soft tug on her hand had Nahla turning towards her once more.

“It will be alright…”

The tone cajoled, the girl’s brown eyes soft and earnest. “We will not be long…and I am sure we can find a way to convince your…’uncle’… to not scold you...”

It had been so very long since someone had acted concerned about her that Nahla reluctantly allowed herself to be convinced to follow the girl back towards several massive rows of tents and, after a moment of panicked hesitation at the appearance of two guards outside the front entrance, stepped inside, unaware that the merchant and the pack camels were now nowhere to be found.


In the doorway of his tent, he looked out toward the sun setting across the barren sands. His eyes momentarily refocused upon the decimated architecture of the ancient city, which had succumbed to the desert winds of the ages. No more were the ancient laughs and voices of youth frolicking in the courtyards, or the echoes of vendors promoting their wares’ nor were the scents of ancient fires… meat roasting on spits, the wafers of acrid aroma of beasts waiting the slaughter… instead his caravan escort had settled in for the coming evening… security patrols had been initiated, and the caravan had settled down. None would be moving until the Warlord of the Rash’ani gave the command to upload and move onward…

There, near the hustle and bustle of the caravan proper wagons, he saw two girls bump into one another. Both sprawling together, intertwined, to the ground… the items of hand falling awkwardly all over the local area. And though he could barely hear them, their actions were barely cordial and apologetic. But here by his own tent, the facial tattoos of a Rash’ani warlord, gave notice to all who spied him, as ruler of the area, and where he traveled was his to own, or relinquish. He was not outranked by anyone in the Acacus, save the Amir… But of course, there were factions that would argue that point of politics.

Entering the tent behind Aliya, Nahla stopped short as the guard closed the flap behind them, her eyes going wide. Rich colors and textures enveloped her in warmth and beckoned her further inside, where Aliya dropped her hand and turned to give her a quizzical grin. Oh but she had never seen such luxury as this! ‘Aliya! You are back! Who have brought?’

A handful of girls tittered excitedly and Nahla could do naught but stare at them at their approach. Shapely bodies were draped with careless elegance in silks of every imaginable color and heady scents of citrus and spices drifted up to tease. Feeling a need for breath like someone drowning, Nahla took a step back, only to be tugged forward again by her escort and fully surrounded into the fold by the young women who reached out to touch her curiously.


“This is Nahla. I found her on my way back from gathering treats for the master. She claims to be needing to get back to her ‘uncle.” Aliya teased gleefully, giving a sly wink to them all. “But whatever the truth may be, our paths were crossed, and I thought she could do with a bath and a little rest, hmm?” The girl gave her hand a quick squeeze before letting go to grab up the basket of fruits again. “I just need to deliver these, first….”

“Oh… Aliya… go on with yourself… you are just trying to catch the master’s eye!” One of the girls reached out to pinch her as the others called out similar agreements.

“But what else is there to do since we are never asked for much, anymore?”
“It is so dreadfully boring!”
“At least let me help!”

But Aliya simply giggled again and skirted around them, unrepentant. “No. I did the work… I reap the rewards…”And she promptly stuck out her tongue at them before sashaying her way towards another closed flap in the rear of the tent and speaking to the silent, imposing man that was guarding it.

Nahla listened silently as the girls expressed their various displeasures, her blue eyes following Aliya’s movements and falling upon the guard that appeared to be unmoved by whatever her new young friend was telling him. Something was nagging at the edge of her memory, something just out of reach and yet familiar enough that it had Nahla rooted at the spot, waiting to see what would transpire next.

Obviously used to the antics of the girls he was burdened with overseeing, the giant merely gave a short nod without ever really seeming to look at the female before him and turned to speak to whoever was on the opposite side. A few, short, agonizing moments passed and the flap was finally opened to permit entrance to a now triumphant Aliya. ‘Well that certainly seemed to shut everyone up.’

Curious now, Nahla took a step forward, straining to see within the larger chamber that was adjoined and promptly froze. An imposing figure stood beyond, his body cast in dancing shadows from the candlelight. But that alone wasn’t what made her blood run cold. It was the look of his face as he happened to chance a haphazard look in their direction, and the brief moment that gazes met before the flap was suddenly closed and a panicked Nahla made a dash back towards the entrance from where she had come.

The guards at the front of the tent gave a surprised shout as she passed, and she registered the sound of tearing fabric as one caught the edge of her robe, but it gave way in his grasp much to her relief, causing a momentary stumble in her step, but she was able to right herself again and continued on.

The lively groups of fellow travelers that had earlier swarmed around the oasis had unfortunately long since made their ways to their own tents and bedrolls, making Nahla’s progression slow and tedious as she kept to the shadows at the edge of camp, unable to easily blend into the surroundings. Her worried gaze searched hopefully for the merchant near the well that they had stopped at what seemed like eons ago to no avail, and she slid down against the ancient stones, doing her best to catch her breath and contain the terrified sob that was threatening.

‘Calm. I must remain calm. This is not going to help.’ Shaking palms pressed against her forehead, and she forced herself to slow her breathing. ‘I cannot stay here….’ And knowing that she would have to make a move soon or chance being found, she lowered her hands and drew herself forward to peek cautiously around the well, searching for anything that may give her an idea of her next move.

Unbidden, her gaze was drawn to a large tent before her that seemed to be angled so that its occupants might have an unrestricted view of their immediate surroundings. The flaps had been left partly open, and two formidable looking guards were stationed, unmoving, on either side. ‘Whoever that belongs too must be quite important.’ Swallowing nervously, Nahla, gripped the cool stones of the well and suddenly gasped at a familiar sight just beyond the tent.

‘Bader!’ It had to be him! She squinted towards the lines of staked camels, and with renewed hope, and perhaps just a bit of recklessness, began inching her way towards them, using every means of coverage she could to stay out of sight. If she could just make it to the ornery animal, perhaps, just perhaps, she would find the merchant as well. He never liked to be very far from any of his possessions. ‘The stingy old goat.’ Too worried that someone might steal his belongings. It was amazing how the more time she spent with the man whose presence had brought so much excitement to her childhood self, was now showing how selfish and conniving he truly was. But, be that as it may, he was still the only one she knew of that could take her to find her brother.

The sound of running feet and voices had her freezing in her tracks and immediately flattening herself against the ground. ‘Oh no. No, no, no.’ She whispered to herself, as the men from earlier appeared, their gazes searching their surroundings for, what she was quite sure of, herself. The guards at the tent in front her had moved forward to intercept their advances and she used the momentary distraction of all parties to crawl towards the broadside of the tent and press against it, willing herself to meld into the darkness that was cast around it.

‘Almost there…almost…’ Hoping that they wouldn’t hear the thundering sounds of her heart, she paused to listen, catching snippets of their hurried conversations regarding her appearance. Perhaps if she just made a run for it while they seemed distracted…

Gathering her courage, she was about to make her next move, when the sight of a man emerging from the camel lines and quickly approaching her hiding spot, had her shrinking against the fabric of the tent, desperately seeking some place that could offer her refuge. It was Aliya’s giant! Just a few more moments and he would be right on top of her. With a strangled sound of panic she looked to each side of her and clenched her hands. There was no way she could make it back to the well without being noticed, and even if she did… well… Nahla wasn’t sure how much longer she would be able to keep running. Her body was already beginning to fatigue from lack of food and rest.

There was no other choice. Glancing once more at the approaching sentinel and the four guards that had their backs turned and were gesturing wildly back towards the other tents before them, Nahla said a prayer and skirted the corner, diving inside the partly opened flaps. Crawling backwards as quickly as she could, she pressed a hand to her mouth to stifle her gasping breaths and closed her eyes, hearing footsteps pause just outside.

“You there, stop!” The men that had been guarding the tent had caught sight of Nahla’s latest pursuer and had returned to retain him from entering.

“I thought I saw someone entering. A girl that has run off. She is a new acquirement…”

A new…..acquirement? Was he speaking of her? That was absurd! Why, she was a free person! So jumbled were her thoughts that she completely missed the rest of the hurried conversation until one of the guards outside cleared his throat respectfully and called within.

“Shahzada? My apologies in disturbing you, but is all well?”

Nahla’s body stiffened, her blue eyes opening slowly in dawning horror. ‘Shahzada…….?’…. Did he really just say…..?’ Turning hesitantly to look behind her, she paled as her gaze alighted upon the tattooed face that she had only ever heard tales about.


Tents were symbols of royal power and prosperity; wealthy dynasties owned thousands of tents in various shapes and sizes. Tents were often presented as luxurious gifts but also pitched for imperial ceremonies and military campaigns, and while traveling. And as such a gift, now Hassan el Shrir, warlord of the Rash’ani, was endowed with such a glorious tent.

Hassan retreated deeper into the luxurious tent afforded his him… and at his bed of rug and pillows, he dropped to his knees, and rolled to his buttocks and sat back into the soft plush pillows. This had been one of the largest caravans ever initiated by the Amir across the southern sands. Was it a show of force, so to speak, of the Amir’s powerful reach, to his southern adversary? Probably, but Hassan cared not for politics… he was a warlord and those who did not display competition to the Amir, kept his head…

Though honor was foremost in any man’s mind, under Abu Said as Amir, there was no longer any honor is warring… so the Amir had taken war to new levels, teetering on the brink of murder… so caravan escort took him out of Arcadia; to which he was out of sight, hopefully out of mind, of the Amir.

His mind reflected upon simple things as the two females colliding into one another, and how the items they were carrying appeared to be in slow motion… and to watch them spend too much time apologizing for something so minor.

His brief thoughts were interrupted by the slave girl who brought a bowl of grapes and dates. Silently and softly she walked toward him, and knelt in a submissive and respectful manner, head down, and held them out to him in outstretched arms. “Food for your thoughts, Master.” She responded ever so softly. He took some grapes and popped one or two into his mouth. The girl ardently remained in the position next to him as he ate. He motioned her away… “Wine…” is all he said, as the elder slave girl, apparently a senior, at the door motioned for another girl… who repeated the same process as the first, except Hassan took the brass wine goblet from the girl and dismissed her.

Moments later, as Hassan drank his wine, the elder slave girl entered the opened area, her head bowed. Despite her being in her 30s, she was still beautiful and fit. [b][i] “My Master, would you like a girl, or girls, to serve all your pleasures this evening…”


His lead guard entered, looked at the woman, then back to Hassan and bowed his head, his weapon hand crossing to his heart, the other holding the sword and sheathe in an erect manner. “Shadzada… the guards and out-riders are posted… water bags are full… curfew is enacted… and the caravan has settled in for the evening.”

Hassan flipped the strands of his turban over the shoulder, then looked at the woman. “No, tonight they are not needed… That is all for the evening.” And the woman, who never looked up raised her hands and placed palms together and backed out.

Then Hassan looked at the large man… “You have done well Agwmar, indulge in some fruits before you leave. Adirana will get it for you…” Hassan smiled as he reflected upon the man’s name. The man’s parents undoubtedly named him in error, as he looked more like a Bear than a Stallion. Satisfied all was secure… he pushed back deeper into the pillows

He did not know how long his unexpected guest had been inside his tent, but his senses caught something, and hand went deeper into the pillow pile… a hand now upon a dagger, should someone attempt an opportunistic end to his life. From the peripheral vision, he had seen the slightest of movement… and as his head turned, he saw the palest of eyes. “If you intend me no harm, then I shall return the same…come forth, identify yourself.”

QUOTE
“Beware the one with war written upon his face….” Her soft voice whispered the words as she stood, her gaze wide, unseeing that which was before her presently, but lost in a world within her own mind. 

The markings upon his visage had taken her back to that night so long ago, the same night that she had become lost from her parents and had curled upon a rock, frightened and feeling very much alone.  She remembered praying fervently to the sky for help, as hard as she could, that she may find her way back home once more.  A man had appeared before her then, or what she thought to be a man.  His skin was of a beautiful golden hue, and his eyes swirled with what looked like a hundred stars.  He gave an elegant bow, and knelt before her, taking up one of her tiny hands in his own. 

“Why does the little Sibyl call?” The otherworldly voice called, wrapping her in warmth. 

Staring at him, wide eyed, Nahla found herself answering without hesitation. “I… I have lost my way...” 

He gave a grave nod, patting her head comfortingly.  “Sometimes, one must step off their current path to be able to find it once again.”  A sad smile curved his lips.  “And you, my little Sibyl… your new path will be one that is fated to be intertwined with another.  Only at the eve of your meeting, will your true self be revealed and your choices shown.  One way shall lead you straight into an unending darkness.  The other way, will lead him there instead.”

Tears pooled within her eyes, fear making her body tremble.  “B... but how will I know?  What if I do not want to go that way?” 

The golden man seemed to think a moment before straightening away from her, a deep sigh escaping his broad chest.  “You may be able to escape it… Fate, as we all know… can be a fickle creature…”   He seemed distracted a moment, before a shake of his head was given, an answer to an inner debate that would remain unspoken.  “If you truly do not want the answers that you shall one day seek… then I offer you a word of warning.  Beware the man with war upon his face…”

“War upon his face?  I do not understand!”

He frowned at her then and snapped his fingers, his body beginning to meld into the shadows. 

“Wait!  Please Wait!”

“Heed my words, Sibyl…avoid the man of war, for once your paths collide, only one shall emerge from the darkness….”

Nahla screamed as a thundering crack seemed to throw her backwards against the rocks, and once more alone in the deafening darkness, she hid her face against her arms sobbing until her father found her there, just an hour later, and rushed her home, unable to ever pull from her just what exactly had happened to have scared her so. 

Sucking in a breath, Nahla let it out slowly, trying keep her body from trembling.  So this is what he had meant…  ‘If you do not want the answers that you shall one day seek…’   Her brother… He had been speaking of her wanting to find her brother.  And this man, it seemed, was the key to obtaining that.


Glancing apprehensively back towards the front of the tent and her dimming means of escape, she suddenly straightened her shoulders with tired determination and took small step in Hassan’s direction. There was no other choice. She knew that now. Small hands lifted to lower her tattered hood and makeshift veil that covered her, and her vivid gaze settled unblinkingly upon his face.

“Please, I mean no harm…” Her soft voice, oddly lyrical in tone and more direct than timid contained only an underlying note of finality within its depths. “I am Nahla Mubarak. Daughter of Imam of Sudvanna. And I… and I...” She swallowed heavily, fingers moving instinctively to find and clutch the piece of silk she carried hidden within a pocket. Something within her mind snapped open suddenly at her inner decision, and the ground beneath her seemed to shift, causing her to hesitate.

QUOTE
[i] ‘You have made your decision, my little Sibyl and now are faced with your birthright. I wish you courage to choose the right path.’

The familiar voice swirled around her and she felt a pressure upon her forehead, becoming so great that stars burst from the darkness beneath her eyelids and began forming a hazy vision.  But instead of it being a past memory…now, now it seemed to be a warning of the future.

The tattooed man was before her, more familiar somehow, but now his face seemed etched with an angry worry and indecision as he stared in her direction.  Dark flames surrounded them, keeping their location a mystery, but Nahla caught a sudden movement behind him that had her stiffening in panic.  A robed man, his face hidden, had bow in hand and an arrow drawn, Hassan his obvious target.  ‘No!’  She tried to call out a warning, but no words escaped her lips, and when she tried to move towards him, she found herself unable to. Forced to do naught but watch, she screamed inwardly as the arrow came loose, its path straight and true.  The last she would see was Hassan’s eyes widening in dawning recognition before the flames burst forth and consumed them all, throwing her back, with dizzying speed, towards the present.


Coming to awareness for the first time almost brought Nahla to her knees, and she stumbled forward, sucking in a trembling breath and glancing at him once more, eyes wide with alarm. “…and I...I have lost my way….” She finished in a helpless whisper. And it seemed he would, if her vision was correct, end up losing his way as well. Drawing her lower lip between her teeth, she started to back away. “I’m sorry… I shouldn’t be here, I need to find the mer… ah, my uncle… I need to go…”

[/font]
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Hassan el Sharir
 Posted: Nov 26 2016, 12:09 PM
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Warlord

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Hassan el Sharir


There are those entities that exist in parallel dimensions of the physical world… one of those are the Djinn… and they can be good, evil, or neutrally benevolent; and hence, unlike angels, they have free-will just like humans… and just like humans, they can be mischievous or well-behaved. But equally, they often seek out those that are free to communicate with them… and offer them inner vision to possible futures. But one must be aware of their fluid changing attitude toward humans. And their mischievous aptitudes.

The uninvited guest was a female… one that apparently had been in, and on, the streets of every city… a street urchin, or wayward child of poverty. His reasoning could be presumed by her haggard hood and makeshift veil… her little hands were filthy, and even her face carried smudges from something.

He saw her pale eyes flitter side to side as if to find a quick escape route… and his sultry, baritone voice seemed to offer safety and security from life’s true elements. “Come forth my child… fear me not… for I will not harm thee”

QUOTE
“I am Nahla Mubarak.  Daughter of Imam of Sudvanna. And I… and I...”


And when she spoke, his facial markings moved with the smile and flexing of his cheeks. “Nahla Mubarack, Daughter of Imam of the Sudvanna… welcome.” He had made it sound like an official royal title… and his beckoning hand, clean, yet calloused, motioned to her. “I am Hassan el Sharir, Warlord of the Rash’ani, Viceroy to Amir Abu Said Uthmann, Overseer to this caravan… and Commander of the escort.” He smiled… “But for now, refer to me as Shadzada or Master…” he smirked… “Whatever shall keep thee from trouble…” and he winked at her.

QUOTE
“And I… and I….. and I... I have lost my way….”


His handsome beard made Hassan look older than he truly was… but his worldly experiences and knowledge far exceeded men twice his age. Since he was tattooed by his father at age 6, Hassan had been trained for his position and status by the most knowledgeable people in all of Sha’Lazar. “Do not hesitate on your words little one… it makes you seem afraid… be bold, state your status, and how I can assist… since you came to my tent.” He paused his words to ensure she would understand.

QUOTE
“I’m sorry… I shouldn’t be here, I need to find the mer… ah, my uncle… I need to go…”


Hassan sat still in his pile of lush pillows. The only movement was the hand that stroked his beard while she spoke in paraphrases. And as she appeared hesitant to her present condition and location, Hassan attempted to reassure her. “Little one, you are in the safest place in the desert right now… Tis late and you can do nothing… with nowhere to go right now…”

Hassan clapped his hands and suddenly two girls appeared within moments. “Alana, Mydira… see to Nahla Mubarack’s needs… I want her to sleep there…” and he pointed to a corner of his own tent. The girls eagerly bowed and accepted their tasks and was soon busy readying a place for Nahla. In the meantime, Hassan summoned his guard and allowed him the knowledge of the girl’s presence and permission to roam the camp, with a guard.

Then Hassan settled back into the plush pillows and patted one next to him. “Come child… sit with me until they are finished…” In the corner, plush pillows were rearranged, a plate for fruit and a jar for drink was placed near her new bed. Then both girls readied a bath area outside; then re-entered.

Dropping to their knees simultaneously, Alana, the older one spoke… “Master… all is prepared… and we are ready to serve.”

Hassan smiled and looked to Nahla… “Mydira will be your servant… she will see to your needs and desires… and upon the morrow, we shall attempt to find your uncle.” The person they would look for was probably not her uncle… but he was someone she needed to find, and together he would be located. “You shall be my ward until then… you are responsible to me… and I shall care for you… That is our covenant. Agreed?”

That was a large boon for her… Hassan had acted out of usual character in accepting a wayward waif… but to him, she was different… and being a good judge of character, he was confident, their paths would cross again eventually.

Nahla remembered being told once, on the knee of her father, that there is a threshold to the amount of mental and physical strain a person could withstand within a certain amount of time. But there are some that train their bodies to bear a little more each day, through choosing to partake of rigorous and brutal assaults designed to strengthen their endurance and power, and through fasting so that they may detoxify and purify their minds. Those who pass these rituals are usually come to be known as great warriors, exalted in battle, and spoken of in tales and songs passed throughout the villages. Whether they are revered or feared however, depends on the storyteller and their woven tales.

QUOTE
“I am Hassan el Sharir, Warlord of the Rash’ani, Viceroy to Amir Abu Said Uthmann, Overseer to this caravan… and Commander of the escort.”


Nahla tilted her head at his voice, as though trying to catch a distant memory. ‘Viceroy to Amir Abu Said Uthmann…’ What had Rasul said of him? The worried thought was mulled over as she took another hesitant step forward.

QUOTE
  “But for now, refer to me as Shahzada or Master…Whatever shall keep thee from trouble…”


Her movements stilled then, and if she had been of a better mindset, perhaps a retort would have found its way to her lips, but through will alone she kept it from her tongue, mulling over the words and trying to decide if he meant them as a kindness or a veiled insult in deference to her sex. Nahla, being her mothers’ daughter, revolted at such a thought, but here now, in this world and so far away from home, the thought of being able to gain a little rest was ‘oh’ so very enticing.

She couldn’t recall much else of what he was saying to her, still recovering from the surprise that the unexpected vision had left her, nor of what she may had said in return, but tensed at the sound of his clap, her gaze turning curious at the appearance of the two women that seemed so eager to do his bidding.

QUOTE
“… I want her to sleep there…”


'Wait…what?' Nahla glanced at the corner that was now being piled with comfortable looking pillows and opened her mouth to refute such an order. She couldn’t sleep in here! In the corner of a strange man’s tent! He wasn’t a relation. Her cheeks flushed and she began shaking her head, but he didn’t seem to see her, or decided to ignore it, because he was motioning her towards him.

QUOTE
“Come child… sit with me until they are finished…”


‘Oh, Nahla. You’re so far into this now, what more is your sleeping arrangement going to do to your reputation?’ She argued inwardly with herself. ‘At least here you have chaperones…’ Her eyes flitted over to the two women working so ardently at the tasks that they had been given by him. ‘…er…well…if you think you could call them that….’ Giving an inward groan, she edged towards him and slowly knelt as bidden, though she was careful not to touch the pillows he had surrounding him with her soiled garments. She had to draw the line somewhere and they were so very pretty looking. Reaching out, she lightly touched one, smiling faintly at the softness of it as she listened to the calming cadence of his voice.

QUOTE
“…..You shall be my ward until then… you are responsible to me… and I shall care for you… That is our covenant. Agreed?”


‘Agreed?’ She was quiet for a few moments after he last spoke. So much information to take in. Such a leap of faith to take. Would she trust him? Could she? Pale blue eyes searched his face for any signs of untruth. But was there really any other choice? Letting out a small sigh as she rose, her shoulders seemed to drop, and she inclined her head in an elegant signal of deference, though the movement seemed rather odd upon the dirty looking wisp of a girl. “Agreed…” she moved to turn and follow Mydira then, but paused before the flap that would lead them out to the prepared bath and glanced back over her shoulder. “…Thank you, Shahzada…” Yes. That would have to do. The word ‘Master’ would not be formed from her lips this night. Her nose wrinkled in consternation.

The girl that Hassan had assigned to her led her out then, and once at the bath, touched her garments questioningly. “Oh…” Nahla glanced down at the torn robe that had once been her fathers, her mouth pulling into a soft frown before she nodded and helped Mydira shed it from her body. Her gaze watched as the girl folded it carefully and moved to put it away somewhere. Unbidden, tears sprang to Nahla’s eyes and she glanced away, wrapping her arms about her. It was silly really, to feel such an attachment to an ugly piece of rough cloth, but, it was one of the only things she had left of the man she had called father, and it had made her feel as though he was still with her, somehow, on this journey. It, along with the little piece of blue silk, and her brothers’ letter, had made her feel safe.

Biting down on her lip, she forced her tears away and stepped into the water, closing her eyes as she knelt. There would one day be a time and a place to allow herself to cry and grieve, but now… now, there was simply no time for any of that. Feeling Mydira’s fingers upon her scalp, removing the dirty brown rags she had used to both bind and cover her hair, she watched helplessly as her carefully applied mask began to fall away. Fragrant soap was lathered richly within her hair, and the dirt scrubbed carefully away from the skin of her body and beneath her nails. Finally, after what seemed like hours, a startled gasp was pulled forth from her throat as buckets of water rinsed away the last of the grime, and Nahla obediently stood when asked, stepping out of the bath and doing her best to contain a contented yawn in front of an amused Mydira, as sore muscles were rubbed with a scented oil to soften the now gleaming honey colored skin.

Her silvery blond hair, dried and brushed carefully, was fawned over for a few moments by her companion, who Nahla was quite sure was tsking underneath her breath, and, after much deliberation, was left without adornment to let the curls lay in waves down her back.

Touching her hair, Nahla was unable to feel anything but relief at the riddance of filth from her body, finally, and smiled at the girl standing before her, adjusting a silken garment of rich blue and gold to cover the petite body that no longer looked childish.

“Thank you…” Nahla spoke softly, her lips curving into a gentle smile.

Mydira’s eyes seemed to widen a little in surprise at the words, but quicker still, did she lower her gaze once more, motioning for her to follow her lead, back into the tent where her new guardian would be waiting. Well… her new guardian at least for this night it seemed. Drawing in a breath, and willing herself courage now that she knew what to expect, Nahla stepped back through the flap after Mydira.

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Hassan el Sharir
 Posted: Nov 26 2016, 12:11 PM
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Hassan el Sharir


Hassan, after so many years of war, now languished in peace… but he knew war would one day present itself again. It had been months, nigh closer to a year, since he last set foot in Arcadia and attended the court of Amir Abu Said Uthmann… a man whose personality and demeanor had changed so drastically only after three years after becoming the ruler of the Rash’ani… The Ibn Tumart, the Rash’ani’s ultimate ruler, was once a brash young warrior… full of determination… full of ideas… And Hassan stood beside the man he considered brother… and the military who he commanded ensured the new ruler his realm. But now Uthmann was a cruel sovereign, ready to execute any who would stand against him, including his closest allies. His heavy taxes and levies not only against foreign trade but upon his own people. The prison now full and the execution stand stained with the blood of those he decided against, Hassan truly regretted giving loyalty to his former friend and mentor. The things he had done in the name of the Amir !! All Hassan could do was shake his head in disbelief at the returning thoughts that plagued his mind.

But Nahla’s entry back to the main tent was like the sun rising in the East… And thoughts of all concerns dissipated. But Hassan sat up in disbelief… for the caterpillar had transformed into the beautiful butterfly… “Baal and Ishtar be praised… or doth my eyes deceive me? For the filthy street urchin has morphed into a beautiful young lady !!”

Patting the pillows next to him, those saved for honored guests. “Come M’Lady, share time with me.”

From the beginning, he had watched her facial expressions and her body language. He could tell she was no slave, no submissive of any sort, but a free woman, then again, of what class? He saw her physical react to being directed what to call him… and her resignation as to becoming his ward. But did she not know the alternatives, nay, the consequences, of refusal? Not from him, but from being alone, virtually unprotected. Her almost white hair and honeyed skin would bring a valued price to the slavers of the Acacus. Did she not realize her worth in chains? Did she not consider the many men she would have to physically endure on her path into slavery?

Hassan sat silently as she made up her mind as to what she would do. No longer the filthy street urchin or caravan’s vagabond, she had no choice to make, at least not now. This was his domain… for thousands of kilometers... his word was golden, his integrity strong. And much more, he wanted her safe. As to Why? That remained a mystery… to him, as well as others.

Once more he patted the pillows… “Come lil one, tell me the story of Nahla Mubarak…”

Long ago, when Nahla had turned old enough that she was no longer allowed to play with her brother and his friends, or go to the village without a male relation, her mother began to speak to her of her past as a way to ease Nahla’s hurt feelings of being left out. Every morning, after Imam and Rasul had left for the fields, Indira would make them tea and begin to speak of her life as ‘Helena’ and the world that she had been forced to leave behind. Eventually, the stories turned to various lessons of etiquette and skills of conversation, and Nahla was taught not only her mother’s native tongue, but to read and write in several other languages as well. The challenges helped to make the young girls’ mind blossom, and hope surge that the world was indeed bigger than what her father and brother had led her to believe. Before Indira passed away, she taught her daughter one last lesson… That sometimes, even when all seemed hopeless, one must watch carefully and listen, for answers can be found in the most unexpected of places and with the most unexpected people.

The few brief seconds afforded her before Hassan glanced her way and spoke, allowed her to study the lines of tension around his eyes and the set of his jaw. Was he worried of something? The thought concerned her but for a moment, for almost immediately after Mydira excused herself and the flap was closed once more, the whole of his attention was turned upon her and any other thought that had been written upon his face was hidden away in an instant. Hmm. She should possibly take note of such.

His jovial greeting, meant as a compliment, she was sure, was completely unexpected and caught her off-guard and with the only response she seemed to be able to muster being the faint flushing of her cheeks, she remained silent, watching him in a directly suspicious manner until he patted the cushions beside him. Her eyes narrowed. ‘Surely he did not mean for her….’

QUOTE
[font color=”black”]“Come M’Lady, share time with me.”


‘Oh but he did.’ Completely out of her element here, in this time, and in this place, Nahla thought over her choices. Out there…beyond the tent, was the unknown. She knew without any doubt that she could not possibly make it very far on her own, having been sheltered most of her life, nor did she really have high hopes for the merchant anymore. And even moreso, if she did happen to find him, his behavior had been growing more unstable by the day. She feared an ulterior motive behind his previous offer to help her, but had yet been unable to figure out just what that might be. Which left her to her present state of affairs…and…the Shahzada. At least he seemed…capable enough. Her gaze searched his own. She wasn’t quite sure why she wanted to trust him…or why she should for that matter…but there was something….

QUOTE
[font color=”black”]“Come lil one, tell me the story of Nahla Mubarak…”[/color]


Finally, pushing aside her inner conflict, she seemed to come to her decision as he gently prompted her once more, and carefully moved towards him. “There isn’t much of a story to tell, I’m afraid.”

Her gentle voice spoke unapologetically as she paused before him and, hesitating but a moment, gracefully lowered her body to kneel upon the cushions beside him. “I only wish to find my brother…” Folding her hands upon her lap, she continued to watch him in a curious manner, working on just what to offer. Her mind revolted against saying more, that he might hold such against her if he so chose, but her tired state seemed to be working against her, and she gave a small sigh, allowing her slender body to rest more comfortably against the pillows.

“The last word he wrote, spoke of him finding work near Si’don…but…” But what? What would she tell him? That the letter had been written in English and that is what had her worried? That she left home, where she would have been protected by relatives, to go across the desert with a man she barely knew, because of a silly little letter and a gut feeling? Nahla’s lips pulled into a faint frown. While she was at it, perhaps she should go ahead and tell him of the vision where she saw his possible death and how a strange man had told her, back when she still took naps and played with dolls, that their paths would cross one day but only one would emerge. Yes, let’s do that, shall we? She could simply add it to the rest of the intelligent decisions she seemed to be making on this journey.

She bowed her head a moment then, in seeming self-reflection, her hands lightly fisting in her lap. “Do you ever wonder…despite your best intentions…that everything has all been for naught?” Her voice, barely a whisper, sounded weary. [/color]

The girl had some personal issues, for the internal consternation was evident in her hesitation. To him, it was clear what her choice would be… his generosity or the trials and tribulations of the cruel world outside. But her hesitation to even approach him made his fingers to silently urge her forth… and his hand patted the pillows once more.

QUOTE
“There isn’t much of a story to tell, I’m afraid.”


He smiled when she moved a bit… and then she moved next to him. She had poise and grace unfettered, surely taught by someone close to her, a mother perhaps… or a favored nanny. Regardless, as she settled in next to him he smiled. “My dear Nahla, there is ALWAYS a story to tell… but one must deem it wiser to speak of it, or nay… but there is always a story within.” And he smiled reassuringly.

QUOTE
“I only wish to find my brother…”


“Ahhh, the first task upon the mind is to find one’s brother…” he smiled… “And one must decide what one already knows to be shared with one who shall assist in that task…”
QUOTE
“The last word he wrote, spoke of him finding work near Si’don…but…”


But Hassan asked no question to follow her *…but*, as he just nodded… “That we can deal with later… first, we take care of you… Seeing the change, I would safely presume a bath has occurred… and for safety, You shall sleep in my tent, over there…” he pointed to a pile of lush pillows, and Mydira silently kneeling next to the pillows waiting on her next command.

QUOTE
She bowed her head a moment then, in seeming self-reflection, her hands lightly fisting in her lap.
“Do you ever wonder…despite your best intentions…that everything has all been for naught?”
Her voice, barely a whisper, sounded weary.


A philosophical question, or a test of her own competence, or that of life itself? He noticed her tenseness; the clinched fist; the eyes that would seek his, then hide. “Do you trust my judgment enough for me to truly answer that question?” then he leaned forward to get closer. The patterns upon his face were not merely drawings, but phrases, if one knew the hieroglyphs. They were deep in the skin, like they had been there for a long time, even as a babe maybe. No man would have the same markings… as no man was identical to the next, not even rare identical twins. There was a sense of ease; a sense of caring in those dark brown eyes… yet, he was a warlord, a very special man indeed.

His responses to her statements were mulled over, his competency in alleviating her suspicions of him finally allowing her worries to ease, at least for the moment. His offhanded comment her must having taken a bath almost had a surprised laugh pulled from her throat, but the amusement was deftly hidden as she dropped her head, murmuring the tired question that she had been trying to find the answer to since her decision to embark on this journey.
QUOTE
“Do you trust my judgment enough for me to truly answer that question?”


Stilling, she worked her lower lip between her teeth in thought. Did she? Lifting her head, her eyes widened, startled at his closeness. But instead of pulling away, as she probably should have, her lips lifted into a small smile, her pale gaze lightening from its wary watchfulness. The look of contented happiness that gentled her features, however brief, was obviously natural to her demeanor and a shake of her head was given, sending the silvery waves of her hair scattering about her face. Nahla obviously appreciated and found humor in the honesty of the question.

“No…” the quiet answer was given, unapologetic and without rancor. “…I do not.” At least not as of yet, though the look of true concern within his own gaze had her resolve fast crumbling. It had been, perhaps not the kindest way to reply to his question, but the thought of uttering a lie to him, no matter how small, was oddly unappealing.

Taking advantage of his nearness she finally took a moment and sated her ingrained curiosity by studying the markings upon his face. Small hands lifted of their own accord, slender digits touching each one lightly, though the alien feel of the warm flesh beneath her pads had her dropping them away. “These are Arcardian?...” she mused, aloud, her head tilting in thought, trying to work it out in her mind. What was it that strange man had said to her? “Painted at birth….” The soft words faded away as she drew back then, swallowing nervously and glancing towards the area of the tent that he had indicated she could use for her own rest.

“Your kindness to me…” Nahla looked sideways at him and opened her palms upward, resting them upon her thighs in a show of truthfulness. “…I shall strive to repay it…” She had a feeling that there would be much more to repay before it was all said and done, too. For the merchant, if and when he found her, wasn’t one that would let the blatant disregard of the orders he had given her earlier in the day, go unpunished. Tomorrow would start a whole new set of problems for them both.


Her brief answer to the posed question almost made him smile. She was not one for pontification. Straight and to the point… “Nahla… I like you… you are unlike any I have found upon my extensive travels; some maybe nearer the southern lands of the Sudvanna… or even farther into the lands of the Hanasim… But I must say that you are a breath of fresh air for a free woman.”

And he seem to be unfazed by her touch, as she examined the tattoos. But the touch burned deep… and he felt odd… He refocused his eyes to look at her directly. “Not at birth, I was less than 6 full moons…” Usually he would not have admitted the truth, but he would not, nay, could not. His breathing has accelerated, and his senses were heightened. Luckily she retreated to her pillow and distance was now a relaxing factor. But she looked at her own designated area to sleep.

As she looked back at him and spoke, he simply shook his head… “My Lady, you owe me nothing… I hold no debt for you to me…” He then looked to her pillows in the corner. “You seem tired and pre-occupied… Mydira will see to every whim…” His out-stretched hand indicated permission to retire. “May Baal and Ishtar keep you in their care…”

Rising up from the pillows, she gave a faint smile and inclined her head to him before stepping away to the area he had designated as hers. How was she supposed to take him saying such things to her? Fingers lifted to touch the area above her heart and pressed, confusion marring her features and stilling her tongue. He…liked her? Nahla worked her lower lip between her teeth as she thought of what such an innocent seeming statement had made her feel.

And as Mydira assisted her in readying for rest, despite Nahla’s obvious reluctance at accepting such unfamiliar help, she continued to turn the day’s events and words spoken over in her mind. She was in obvious trouble.

Smiling thankfully at the girl as she was released, her hair brushed once more and her face and hands flushed with renewed cleanliness, she finally lay back upon the pillows, taking a moment to enjoy the way her sore body was encased in softness. But it wasn’t long before Nahla’s mental and physical exhaustion won against her half-hearted attempt to dissect just what all of the actions of today would mean on the morrow, and with a soft sigh, her eyes unwillingly drifted shut sending her into a fitful sleep.

QUOTE
“Well…my little Sibyl, how are you faring on this new path of yours?”

Nahla gave a gasp and jerked upwards, glancing around in a panic.  Seeing nothing but an impenetrable darkness, she gritted her teeth against the fission of fear that spread up her spine.  Gods how she hated the dark.

“Who are you?” Her words were laced in frustration. 

“Tsk. Tsk.  I am deeply hurt that you have forgotten about me…” Directly in front of her an outline of a body began to glow in an eerily golden light, a pair of swirling orbs appearing just after.

Recognition hit her then, and she hastily tried to back away, only to be pulled up short as he shook his head.  “Really, little Sibyl, look around you, where do you think you might run?”

Stiffening, she glowered at him, her blue eyes flashing.  “If you want something from me, I wish you would go ahead and say it.  Otherwise, your advice has gotten me into enough trouble…” The whiteness of his teeth gleamed brightly in the darkness as he smiled, and booming laughter crackled like thunder around her, making her lift her hands to press them against her ears.

“I knew we had chosen correctly the first time I laid eyes upon you.”

Nahla’s lips gave him the fiercest frown she could muster.  “I might have an opinion on that if you would elaborate. And why do you insist on calling me a Sibyl?”

“All in due time, my dear, all in due time.  For now, we are simply pleased with you meeting with your destiny.  His presence is extremely important to the success of this elaborate plan.”

Alarmed, she leaned forward.  “Are you speaking of the Shahzada? What are you going to do?”

Pleased with her, the large man reached forward to tap her forehead.  “That remains to be seen. The God I am pained to be indebted too, is not happy with the one ‘your’ Shahzada serves.”

A brow lifted.  “What does that have to do with him?  Or me for that matter? Why do you not take it up with him directly?”

Chuckling, he pinched her cheek, momentarily amused by her flinch of discomfort.  “Have you met the fates, little Sibyl?  Things must continue in a certain rhythm, ripples must be kept small…and so on and so forth.”

“So…you are toying with us, just to get to someone else.”  Nahla’s voice went flat, her eyes narrowing.  “This is not right! What if I refuse to help you with this?  What if in the morning I simply go back home?  I’ll marry whomever my uncle’s deem appropriate and forget this ever happened.”

The ethereal man before her rose then, his eyes darkening into angry storm clouds.  “Remember what I told you?  Once your paths cross, only one will emerge.  It is too late little one.  You have made your choice.  However, I can tell you, that the person whose path does emerge, will be your decision.  If that helps, of course…” His benevolent smile turned wicked.  “Oh yes…before I forget…another gift from my ‘Lord’….”

And before Nahla could register anything else, he pressed his thumb to her forehead and stars exploded behind her eyes once more. 
When she became aware again, he had disappeared and the scenery around her had changed.  Nahla found herself upon a chaotic street in a city that was unfamiliar to her. Its people around her were screaming in fear pushing past her in their escape, and the sky burned bright with flames.  Grunting in pain as she was shoved into the side of a building, she resolutely set her jaw and moved to begin pushing past them.

“Nahla!” 

Hearing her name shouted, she began to hurry, searching, the familiar panic creeping upon her.  Not again. Where was he?  Where?! 

“Nahla, here! Come to me.” The voice commanded.

Turning, she spotted Hassan bearing down on her, the familiar look from before upon his face as he held out a hand. 

She felt a moment’s relief until she glanced over his shoulder and saw once more, the man with the bow drawn.  “No!” The scream was ripped from her throat, and the assailant seemed to stiffen, his hood falling back from his face.  Startled, time seemed to stop suddenly and the breath left her body in a horrified gasp.  “Rasul….?”She whispered, her eyes wide.

The Hassan within her vision had turned, registering her alarm even before she had recognized it herself and pulling her behind him, had let loose a dagger that soon found itself embedded within her brother’s chest.  “Stop!  Please, no!  Rasul!”


Nahla came awake with a gasp, her body trembling with panic and her brother’s name upon her lips. Dawn had come over the camp, and light was beginning to flood the interior of the tent. ‘Just a dream…it was just a dream…’ A hand pushed back the disheveled mop of hair away from her face she pressed her forehead against her knees, trying to still her breathing.

Beyond the flap of the tent, she registered the sound of commotion, and lifted her head in weary resignation. What now?

“Where is she? I am looking for my niece… Do you have her within?”


The merchant? Turning pale, Nahla scrambled to her feet and wrapped her arms around herself, momentarily unsure of what to do. What a way to wake up…
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Hassan el Sharir
 Posted: Nov 26 2016, 12:16 PM
Quote Post
Warlord

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posts: 15
joined: 18-November 16
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Hassan el Sharir


QUOTE
“What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered. The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny. One is not in bondage to the past, which has shaped our feelings, to race, inheritance, background. All this can be altered if we have the courage to examine how it formed us.”


Twas a grand solid sleep during the night… though Hassan only slept five hours a night… the rest of the time, he bade others to exact his commands. It was not an easy task of commanding such forces… he had mostly cavalry, several hundred wagoned infantry, spearmen, and archers… the caravan he protected was massive; with 1000 camel, 1500 horses, 50 or so wagons, and almost 4,000 people besides his military escorts. All this as a political move, in contrast to Alai Karzi’s southern caravan, Amir Abu Said, as a show of force and solidarity, initiated this caravan. Now it took Hassan out of Arcadia for months… It was what it was… The ONLY reason Hassan remains loyal to Abu Said is the people is, without him within the political and military realms, Abu Said would be terrorizing his own people with injustice, fear, and taxes. At least with Hassan so close, Abu Said has a voice that keeps him reigned.

When Nahla would awake, Hassan was not in the tent… only Mydira was there, and of course, Hassan’s bodyguards. Hassan and his trusted captains were out surveying the caravan and allowing the people to see the man responsible for their safety. Factions of the Aswad were too busy attacking the southern caravan of slaves belonging to Alai Karzi to be of any concern to Hassan’s northern caravan.

Meanwhile, Nahla was physically safe within Hassan’s tent, but no one could ensure her mental safety of her dreams. And as the man claiming to be Nahla’s uncle was denied entry… and Shahzada’s bodyguards, being armed and ready, would put their life on the line to save her, as were their commands at any cost.

And in between Hassan’s guest and the tent’s opening was Mydira… her life offered in protecting her mistress. The slave girl glanced over her shoulder, then pointed to Hassan’s sword collection. “Alas, I am not allowed to touch a weapon, but if you wish, you may take one for yourself.” And Mydira sighed. “Master’s orders were, you are to endure no harm or solicitation… upon pain of death…”

Glancing at the sword collection Mydira had indicated and back towards the partially opened flap where the merchant was making a veritable fool of himself, Nahla wrinkled her nose in consternation and stalked over to the weaponry. "...of all the reckless decisions..." The muttering continued under her breath, her rising temper putting a sudden flush upon her face. The swords, all beautifully crafted by someone who obviously excelled at their chosen profession, were unfortunately going to be more of a hindrance than help, not only because of Nahla's inexperience with such, but also that they looked as though they had been made for a giant. "Ah!" Gleefully spotting a small, but quite serviceable looking khanjar, she grasped it within her hands and turned resolutely back towards the front of the tent, coming to stand beside Mydira.

"Well then..." A mask of composure suddenly drifted over strained features, though her pale blue eyes flashed with inner heat. She looked every bit the serene and confident woman she wished to present and stepped past the flap, a brow lifting in question. "There is not a reason to yell, sir. We can all hear. I only...." But her explanation faded away as the furious merchant caught sight and moved towards her, only to be stopped once more by Hassan's guards.[/font]

"You..." He said softly, menacingly, his weathered features turning ugly. "Of course I would find you here. Like this. I gifted you with a small freedom and you in turn, abused it. Running off and offering yourself to the first man you see. Was it good for you? Did you enjoy yourself?" He spat at the ground and lifted an arm to point at her. "Were you at least paid well?"

Taken aback by his demeanor and his words, Nahla's gaze turned cool, her lips pressing into a thin line. "I do not understand what you are talking about. I was unable to find you last night. The Shahzada offered me shelter and safety. That is all."

The merchant snorted but lowered his voice, the palm of his extended hand curling up so as to motion to her. "It matters not anymore. What is done is done. Let us go."

But Nahla merely stared at him for a silent moment before beginning to shake her head slowly in refusal. Whatever happened now, whatever trials she may face for the decision she was about to make, it was bound to be better than the fate she was sure that awaited her if she went back to the merchant. "...No..." Feeling Mydira press near helped the woman's voice stay calm. She would have to thank her later.

Ignoring the guards more forceful warning, the merchant merely gave her a cold smile. "So... you have made your choice have you...?"

Her blood ran cold at hearing his choice of words, and her fingers tightened upon the dagger that she held tight against her thigh, her thumb digging into the hilt until the pain of it grounded her again.

"Your parents would weep if they could see you now."

"My parents, if they knew the real you, would rather see me die than continue this journey with you at my side... and I would willingly do it myself..."

He quieted a moment, watching her through narrowed eyes and as he seemed to have no more words to spare, Nahla began backing up at Mydira's urging. But her movements ignited something within him, and he lunged at her, surprising both the guards and herself at the sudden nimbleness of his movements so out of character for the aging merchant he appeared to be. Instinctively Nahla drew the khanjar from its gilded sheath and sliced at his reaching hand even as the servant girl pulled her back harshly, sending them both to the ground in a heap. But his scream of outrage registered her success before one of the guards caught him by the collar of his robe and threw him backwards, both now unsheathing their swords.

"You ungrateful little whore! Your new master is waiting for you. You are sold! It is only a matter of time before he finds you. And then, oh and then, you will know what it is truly like to be sorry for your mistake..."

Nahla stared at him through narrowed eyes, quiet as Mydira carefully checked her over to make sure she was unharmed. "...I am a free woman..."


He gave her another withering glare. "Your freedom ended the day you left your home. This is of your doing 'Nahla Mubarak..." The merchant sneered. "You have only yourself to blame..."

Hassan was finishing his rounds of the caravan… and upon his return trip, as he neared his own tent, he found a disturbance in progress. But, instead of moving closer, he held up his hand, and his Guard entourage stopped. He moved behind a tree to watch. “We shall wait him Mufasa… I want to watch…”

QUOTE
But her movements ignited something within him, and he lunged at her,
surprising both the guards and herself at the sudden nimbleness of his movements


Two of his Guards started to move forward, but Hassan extended his arm to stop them. “No, I wish to see more of how this girl handles herself. I could not have this opportunity unless Melqart or Ishtar gave me this opportunity directly…”

QUOTE
"You ungrateful little whore! Your new master is waiting for you. You are sold!


Okay, that was enough… his guards had protected her, but even moreso, she protected herself… but this verbal assault was too much… and the Warlord of Rash’ani would then make an appearance, and approached the people just outside HIS tent.

As he moved closer, there were those who saw him and bowed ever so deeply, while the slaves knelt, their heads down… But as the dominating figure approached, and at his own finger twitch, the merchant was then manhandled by those guards and forced to his knees, then faced down to the sands as Hassan stood between the man and Nahla…

He looks to his guest and bows slightly. “My Lady Nahla… who is this man that disgraces you, my heralded guest, in public? Shall I remove his head for his words against your personage?” and just then a guard put his foot upon the man’s neck and a large curved sword was unsheathed. Hassan’s hand was in the air… all she had to do was nod, or even close her eyes. The man’s death would be desert justice and not because of her.

Silence reigned supreme as they waited for the Warlord’s guest to make a life and death decision. [/font][/font][/font]

“Shahzada.” Nahla’s steady voice was gentle and soothing, as though it was he that had directly suffered the indignity of the merchant’s behavior. And feeling an overwhelming sense of relief, the woman rose with Mydira’s help, and had quietly watched the coming of the warlord and those that carried out his orders with an unreadable gaze until he glanced her way.

QUOTE
“My Lady Nahla… who is this man that disgraces you, my heralded guest, in public?  Shall I remove his head for his words against your personage?”


Nahla drew in a breath and looked at the man lying prone on the ground. “The man before you is a merchant of this region. I have known of him since I was a child. I apologize that he has disrespected you in my name.” [/i][/b] She continued, dropping all pretense of being a relation. She waited, her visage composed, though her eyes bespoke of an inner conflict. “If it please you, may I speak with him first?” [/i][/b] Respectfully would she wait for him to grant her request before moving forward, coming to stand before her former guardian.

She nodded to the guards, and waited until they brought him back to his knees before she began speaking. “Tamir Bazzi, friend of Mubarak…”[/i][/b] Her hands hung relaxed at her side, though one still clutched the dagger she took from the tent and she had unconsciously positioned herself so that she could reach Hassan if there was need. “…I would ask you why? My father called you friend. I trusted you to help me. Have I done something to make you wish ill of me?” [/i][/b] Nahla paused, looking down upon him, her eyes devoid of emotion though her voice was not unkind. She wasn’t stupid, she knew whether or not she chose to have him killed, he would be punished. To let him leave unscathed after the atrocities he showed to those under the protection of the warlord would cause its own set of problems within the caravan.

Tamir glowered at her, seeming to think about his words before speaking.

“Your mother. I knew the moment I set my eyes upon her, who she was and where she had come from.” His lips turned upward into a cruel line. “She had been meant to be another’s, you know. A highly sought after prize that had already been paid for. And she was stolen from me too! A ‘true’ crime that should have ended with the thief’s life! Spittle flew from his mouth as his words ended on a yell. And at the press of the sword against his neck, he quieted again, though his words shook with anger. “I spent so many years searching for her to bring back to my master. Of course, when I found her, she was unfortunately no longer young or beautiful. That worthless fool, Mubarak’s way of life ruined her. But when I told him of you, and your likeness of her, as well as your obvious innocence…he quickly decided that you would do instead.” A harsh laugh left his dry lips. “…What is so amusing…is finding you here…with him.” He glanced at Hassan and smiled, sending chills up Nahla’s spine. “Which means you shall end up meeting your intended master whether I walk upon this earth or not. My duty has been fulfilled. I will be rewarded in the afterlife.”

Nahla’s face had gone blank, her gaze turning sharp. “…You!…You took her from her home? You know where she came from, who she was? Tell me!” But the merchant had obviously said his peace and had closed his eyes, refusing to say anymore. Narrowing her eyes, she forced herself not to react, and by will alone she kept herself from reaching out to shake him for more information. It would be of no use anyway. She was coming to realize that everything in her life, every moment, every hardship, was because of the whim of some god and his reluctant djinn, even this. She was a pawn. As was the Shahzada. Slowly, Nahla took a step back and came to stand near Hassan. “I leave your fate in the hands of the Shahzada, then. He was, after all, the one you insulted. May you find the peace that you so desperately seek.” Being closer to the reassuring presence of the warlord helped her remain composed, and though she bowed her head slightly, her eyes resolutely remaining upon the merchants.


All is would take is a simple flick of his wrist or an expression to the guard. The man’s fate was in her hands…

QUOTE
“If it please you, may I speak with him first?”


Hassan looked to the guard and nodded, and the man was manhandle again, and not so gently… He was upon his knees, and he was not allowed to move, not even to brush the sand from his face. The warlord moved back a bit and simply observed. And he smirked seeing the familiar dagger in her hands. Truly she was a force to be reckoned with, and that just made him smile.

The curved sword at his neck seemed to bear down harder as the man’s words flew from his mouth… Hassan hated his tone with Nahla, and what made it worse was the words… “with him” and his indignant look at Hassan. The warlord’s lips quirked and his jaw moved as if teeth were grinding. His mind began searching clues, based upon what the man spoke of, as to his relationship with the man and indirectly Nahla. Dark eyes sought the man, then Nahla, and what was perceived as dark blue sky of evening.

QUOTE
“I will be rewarded in the afterlife.”
“I leave your fate in the hands of the Shahzada, then.  He was, after all, the one you insulted.  May you find the peace that you so desperately seek.”


Irritated, Hassan looked to the guards. “This man is indignant in the face of death… and he has yet answered the lady’s questions… So instead of lending him mercy of a quick death, take him from the caravan, and see if becomes willing to offer answers the lady’s questions in trade for a quick death.” He looked to Nahla, and back to the guards, not even offering the man the satisfaction of a glance. “Inform me of his willingness to answer questions.” Then he flicked his wrist…

The guards were then reinforced by other guards, who then took up positions for protection of the Shahzada. Hassan, without even looking after the man, walked into the tent. The only thing he did was motion to Nahla to accompany him.

Back in the tent, Hassan relaxed back into the pillows, as a young slave girl walked to him, wiping his brow. He smiled blinked and took the material from her, then with a flick of the wrist, dismissed her. Then wiping his own brow, he looks to Nahla… “I know not of what the man speaks… but it seems that his master and mine are one in the same… which I find hard to believe, as only one is…” then he looked out to the tent flap and then back to her. “My lady, it seems that fate has handed you a twist in the road of life. Maybe the answer lies back in Arcadia… if my premonition is correct…”

After Hassan had alcoholic drinks were brought in, he would take a deep drink and begin his tale…
“Abu Said was a religious scholar, teacher, and a political leader from the Masemuda tribe; the son of a lamplighter in a mosque in the village of Q’suaz, canaan of the city of Ghayd; and he had been noted for his piety since his youth. Though he was small and misshapen, and lived the life of a devotee-beggar, he would light many candles at the temples of the gods and earned the appellation *lover of light*. And as such I knew the man, and befriended him. And as Abu Said grew into a young man, I had remained by his side, and watched the man grow into a man’s body, fit and strong, no longer small and misshapen of youth.”

Hassan snuggled into the pillows and drank deeply again. “Abu Said Uthmann, I, and many members of the al-Jama'a al-'Ashara, (the inner 'Council of Ten') had been born of tyranny, depravity, and greed. The Rash’ani Amir, Tomas dez Besariz, from Utica, was a cruel, despicable old man… whose corruption and wickedness ran rampant throughout the kingdom for decades… and the once great northern people of Sha’Lazar were reduced to mere pawns and their great economy stalled.” And Hassan looked away from her and took another drink.

Once more he returned looking at her… “But in the years that followed, I, Abu Said, and the men who now make of the *Council of Ten* were the leaders in the revolution against that creed, corruption, and wickedness. And the installation of Abu Said as Amir, not ten years ago, was a turning point in my life… and the empowerment of Alai Karzi to the southern desert.”

And Hassan seemed frustrated at the subject of the conversation, “But in those ten years, Abu Said has changed… much to chagrin to those of Arcadia, and the Acacus… and of what, and how, I believe is just.” Finishing the drink, his goblet is soon refilled by Mydira.

“How you and I are connected shall be foretold one day… I pray it shall be beneficial to the both of us.” He held his goblet in a toast fashion and bow a bit to her.

Once she had said her peace to the merchant, Nahla refused to allow herself to dwell on his fate. Instead, she dropped her gaze to Hassan and listened with an unchanging expression as he spoke to his guards regarding their new captive. An unfamiliar temper swirled beneath her normally serene façade, and there was a faint tremble to her fingers as they tightened upon the dagger she pressed closer to her side. Why would he refuse to tell her of her mother? What could possibly be more terrifying than what she was sure awaited him under order of the Shahzada? Unless the master he spoke of was truly such an evil that she simply couldn’t imagine. Furrowing her brow, she noticed Hassan motion to her before entering his tent, and turned without hesitation, following closely behind him.

Frowning slightly, her sharp gaze followed his movements inside and his interactions with his servants. Though the idea of masters and their slaves had always left a bitter taste in her mouth, she noticed that those who served Hassan seemed pleased to do so, and though their gazes remained downcast and heads were bowed, there was no cowering bodies or haunted eyes signaling that their lives were of a hellish nature. Her lips pressed together tightly. There was so much to think about, it was beginning to make her head ache. Heaving a sigh, she caught sight of Mydira giving her a sideways glance and flushed before turning her attention back to the warlord and moving to sit near him as she had done the previous night.

QUOTE
“…My lady, it seems that fate has handed you a twist in the road of life…”


Nahla almost laughed aloud. Such was an understatement to be sure. Quietly accepting a glass of wine that Mydira handed her, she gave a faint smile of thanks and turned the full of her attention back to Hassan, becoming captivated by the story he was telling her. The tale, though strange, seemed somehow familiar to her, and her head tilted curiously, watching for any emotion that crossed his face as much as she was listening to the words.

QUOTE
“How you and I are connected shall be foretold one day… I pray it shall be beneficial to the both of us.”


Watching him lift his glass and nod to her, she dropped her eyes and hesitantly sipped from her glass again, surprised at finding it full once more. Shaking her head from her confusion, she mulled over his words for a few moments. Beneficial to them both? Frowning, she found herself staring at his hands, wondering at all their capacity as she decided what to say, her vision forefront in her mind.

“…I hope so too…” Her words were soft. She was under no illusions. If the djinn was right, she had a decision to make. Nahla just wished she could find out how everything fit together. Suddenly irritated, both at feeling helpless about their future and, she noted with surprise, at the realization that her obvious enemy was once his friend before he became his master, she pressed a finger into her throbbing temple. Coming to a sudden decision, she drank deeply of her cup for courage and spoke once more.

“…What I told you before, that there was not much to tell about myself, was both truth, and lie.” Her pale gaze lifted from his hands to settle upon his face. “My mother, was not of this country. Of where, and why she was brought here, was never spoken of.” Pausing a moment, she seemed to delve far into her memory before continuing. “My father was enamored of her. She was called ‘his light’, though she was never allowed out of our home without her hair and face hidden. My brother and I would often find her talking to herself…”Of course Nahla now wondered if perhaps there had actually been someone, or something, there now. “…but, when she caught us spying upon her, she would simply laugh it off, though now…” She shook her head to rid herself of that train of thought. “She taught me the words of different worlds, how to walk and act within them, how to think, how to write…I suppose, all that I would have been taught had she never left. You see, Imam Mubarak is not my birth father. My mother was carrying me when she was taken. I have no knowledge of my real father. ”

Her words trailed off, a faint smile curving her lips, though her eyes seemed saddened. “I do not know how, or if, she and I may be connected to the one you serve. Or why it seems that we are ‘all’ connected now, I just know that when she reached her eternal slumber a few years ago, that was the day that strange things began happening. The farm’s crops began failing, and my brother left to find work. Or so he said. I’ve not heard anything from him for almost a year now, the last word was a letter he sent. And it was in my mother’s native tongue, which was concerning to me.” A shadow of hurt crossed her features before smoothing out again. “I started this journey just after finding my father, who had been in near perfect health, dead within his fields…” Though Nahla had been told firmly, after her hysterical questioning, that the stress of losing both his wife and his son could have been more a burden than he could have taken.

But that wasn’t the strangest of it all. Hesitating but for a moment, she watched him carefully as she continued, searching for signs that he would think her mind had left her. “…then, after meeting you, the visions started. A strange man, who I remember faintly from a dream that I had in my childhood, speaking of two paths that would merge into one. He said I would have to make a choice. And, then I saw you and I both within a city consumed by fire, and someone pointing a bow…at you…” Nahla couldn’t quite bring herself to mention that the assailant had the face of her brother. Not yet at least.

Her eyes searched his earnestly a moment before sitting back, suddenly worried that she had said too much. Though he had previously seemed frustrated at the one he served, this Abu Said was still his master. And if the merchant was right and this man was also looking for her as well, what then? Would Hassan be bound to deliver her there? Was that what the djinn was speaking of his god wanting? And if so, what would be the point? So many questions!

Making a soft sound of irritation at still having no answers, Nahla’s posture remained rigid, her gaze moving to the entrance of the tent. “Is that where you are going, then? Arcadia? Is that where ’he’ is?” She turned back to him, a brow lifted in question. Almost afraid to know the answer and yet knowing that it didn’t really matter.

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Hassan el Sharir
 Posted: Nov 26 2016, 12:18 PM
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Warlord

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Hassan el Sharir


QUOTE
“…What I told you before, that there was not much to tell about myself, was both truth, and lie.”


Truth and lie? The girl spoke in riddles… alas, life was but a riddle, and so he listened… intently. And by what she said, she was no mere merchant’s daughter. This one learned to read, write, and learn languages, cultures, and manners not of her own… and the death of her father came so unexpectedly. All Hassan could do was sit quietly, listen, and massage the thin beard upon his chin. But what really caught his attention was her admission of visions. And he arched an eyebrow, if only for a moment.

“So my Lady, what choice has been made since you know you and I are both in your vision… possibly to my decrement?” Hassan would snuggle down into the pillows… and he emptied the goblet, only to have it filled immediately by Mydira.

QUOTE
“Is that where you are going, then?  Arcadia?  Is that where ’he’ is?”


Hassan could not help but chuckle at her comment. “Yes My Lady… our destination is Arcadia…, we are more than five days journey away…” and he looked oddly at her. “He?” then laughed. “Arcadia has over 500,000 HEs, My Lady… But if you are referring to my Master,” he tilts his head and nods. “Yes, for Arcadia is the capital of the Acacus… and city to the Amir Abu Said Uthmann… if your HE refers to him…” and he smirked at her.

She was truly beautiful… long white gold hair… a complexion that beckoned to be pale instead of deep tanned. And those eyes !! Captivating… Across the Acacus… there are many many stories of such women… their worth afforded by only the most wealthy. Free women, who found themselves subjugated to a master… Were these women of her land? Were they sought after as prizes? What was this land?

A man came to the tent flap, and waited for Hassan to beckon him forward. “Speak…” The man looked at Nahla… then back to Hassan. “Speak freely.”

The man had his head bowed… [font color=blue]“Shahzada, the merchant is a tough nut to crack… but he will speak…but only to her…”[/font]

Hassan looked at Nahla… “Shall you speak to the man, or shall I have his head?”

A brow lifted, her gaze sharp upon him as he relaxed into his pillows. How was he so nonchalant acting about all of this? Wrinkling her nose, Nahla resisted the urge to reach over and give his arm a pinch to see if he would react at all. Nothing seemed to faze the man. But even so, his calm demeanor seemed to help settle her own nerves, and she felt herself grudgingly soften towards him.

QUOTE
“So my Lady, what choice has been made since you know you and I are both in your vision… possibly to my decrement?”


“I know not what choice. The one who seeks me out remains frustratingly vague about the future. I can only say that thus far, though I have seen the bow drawn, I have not seen your death.” Her slender shoulders lifted in a shrug.

QUOTE
“Is that where you are going, then?  Arcadia? Is that where ’he’ is?”
“Yes, for Arcadia is the capital of the Acacus… and city to the Amir Abu Said Uthmann… if your HE refers to him…”


She stiffened at his seeming merriment, her blue eyes narrowing at his smirk. Was he…laughing at her? Flushing, she leaned forward, her fingers twitching, confused as to if she should be angry at him or captivated by the twinkle in his dark gaze. With a growing amusement that she was hard-pressed to contain, she opened her mouth to speak a witty retort, but was nonetheless silenced as a guard entered. Well. How infuriating. Straightening, the fiery emotion that had risen upon her face was quickly replaced by a serene composure.

She didn’t react when Hassan’s guard glanced in question to her, but dropped her head when the warlord told him to speak freely, feeling a strange sense of pleasure at his easy admission of trust, however unintentional that it had probably been.

QUOTE
“Shall you speak to the man, or shall I have his head?”


The merchant was beginning to irritate her. Still… “I will speak with him.” …Could she afford to be so careless about refusing information simply because of her pride? Rising slowly, she nodded to the guard, her eyes seeking Hassan’s for the briefest of moments before she followed the man from the tent, a cold resolve stiffening her shoulders.

“It is about time.” She heard him speak as she came upon him and the guards left after securing the rope that held him. Her eyes widened a fraction at his bloody and battered appearance, but she said nothing, pausing a bit away. “Did I disturb your moment with your precious warlord?...”

Fury took over all common sense. She was tired of being referred to as a whore and sick of the way he looked at her. Stepping forward quickly, she unsheathed the dagger she still carried at her side and bent down, pressing the tip against his neck. “You would do well to remember how I grew up. I watched my father and brother slaughter many of our stock.” Nahla bent her head towards his ear, her voice soft and deadly calm. “I know just where to cut to make sure that your last moments upon this earth shall be the very definition of hell.” Using the blade to lift his chin, she stared coolly into his eyes. “Even a tame dog will snap after so many beatings. Your choice.”

She remained there, poised to make good her threat whatever consequence it might bring, so great was her anger, until he gave the faintest of nods, his lips pressed together in distaste. “Very well….my…lady…” His hoarse voice whispered with disgust. Straightening, she took a step back and simply watched him, motioning for him to get on with it.

“Years ago, I was not just a simple desert merchant. I was tasked by my first master, the previous Amir, to find and acquire the rarest of treasures for his collections. My last voyage was to seek and bring back a woman. Your mother.” He swallowed audibly and turned weary eyes towards the nearby well, a tongue darting out to moisten cracked lips.

Nahla narrowed her eyes and watched him coolly, seemingly unfazed by his pleading look. “Go on.”

Defeated, the merchant dropped his head and sighed. “My master had caught whispers of a rumor. A rumor of a woman that could bring her master great fortune. Her people hailed from an island, far north of our shores, safely hidden there, as it was said they were descended from a forgotten child of Lamia, thus favored and blessed by their god father in secret. Your mother, Helena, as she was called then, who’s beauty and grace were rivaled by none was said to remind the god of his long lost mistress, and so gifted her with the power of foresight. The power of a Sybil. A gift that would be passed down to her firstborn daughter and her daughters first born, and so on...”

His words drifted off with that, and Nahla watched as his chest shook, struggling to draw in breaths. Pressing her lips together, she gave a faint signal with her hand, allowing him to rest a moment as she turned his words over in her head. So that is why her visions only began after the death of her mother. And perhaps why, after her death, Imam’s good fortune had ceased. Had her mother been helping him? “How did she come to leave the island?”

The merchant grimaced as he shifted upon the ground, attempting to ease the pain of his battered body. “I only know that it was said the second son of a pharaoh, seeking glory by going forth upon a pilgrimage, stumbled upon this foreign land, and became enamored with Helena. Quickly realizing what fortune she could bring to him, he stole her away, bringing her back to his father.”

“Wait….he, took her? Did she agree to that?” Nahla said, appalled.

He looked up at her, a cold, uncaring smile appearing upon his face. “My dear…lady.” he spat the last word. “You are said to be a descendant of a mistress. Though favored by a god, she was still just a mistress. A possession. Not a wife. Your mother, as well as the rest of the women of your family, were raised and trained to be the same. Of a higher class, yes, but nothing more. So, there was no need for her to agree. He was the son of a pharaoh. There was no reason for him to ask, even if she did want to refuse.”

Her blue eyes darkened. “Continue with your tale or I’ll continue with your death….merchant.” She was growing extremely irritated at his continued comments about her not being a free woman.

An uncaring shrug was given. “Very well. As I was saying, I know not the circumstances of your mother being taken away from her family. I can only tell you that because it was your fathers pride, your ‘real’ fathers pride that is, on his acquirement, that brought her to the attention of my master and thus to me. He wanted her, and I was commanded to bring her to him. I had been looking for your mother’s homeland for a very long time, and so it was extremely fortunate that she had fallen so easily into my hands. It was so simple to obtain her too. Your father was so sure no one would dare touch something that belonged to him, that guards were sparse and unconcerned. My men and I took her not far from his own shores.”

Nahla noticed the look of sick accomplishment in his eyes and bit down on the inside of her cheek to hold her tongue. “And once here…”

He scowled. “…And once here, a traitor took her from me.” The merchant strained at the binds that held him, causing her to stiffen. “…Imam…Mubarak…I lost everything because of him. He cost me my home, my position, and very nearly my life.” A hoarse laugh, humorless and dark escaped his throat. [/b]“It was as though they had both ceased to exist. But then….someone spotted your silver locks in a village market place.”[/b]

Confused a moment, her face suddenly paled at a memory. She had thrown a tantrum at being forced to cover her hair that morning and had been grudgingly allowed to leave it off. Once within the market she had been enticed at a golden box a stall merchant had held out to her and had become separated from her family as she had run over to look at it. Her mother had been distraught once she found her, and Imam had from then on forbid them from leaving their home without being covered and then only if they were accompanied by him. Trying to control her mounting agitation, she continued listening with dawning horror.

“…Rumor of you spread…until I caught wind of it and traveled to see you myself. Could it be, that after all these years, I would finally get my revenge against Mubarak? Had I really found him and Helena? It was easy to convince the new Amir of you and your mother’s worth. After all, she belonged by right to him as a former possession of my previous master. And, gaining his favor, I set out to reacquire that which I had lost.” He grimaced. “Unfortunately, I was too late for your mother, but you…” Beady eyes gleamed. “Simple enough to get rid of your brother when he caught wind of a possible work to help your ailing father and farm…and easier still to offer your parched father a drink after a long day in the fields. His last drink. As he had no reason to mistrust an old friend…and you know the rest.”

He smiled at her then, a self-assured look upon his face. “So you see….” He called out, loudly. “I was commanded to this task. I have committed no wrong doing. Those that interfere…they are the ones that are going against our master’s wishes. They are the traitors.” His voice lowered again, threatening. "And if your precious Shahzada keeps you from the Amir, that makes him a traitor too. Do you know what happens to traitors? Do you really think he will go against his masters wishes?"


The woman stood silently for some moments, her gaze unwavering upon his face. Fingers clenched upon the dagger and she saw his features stiffen as she approached and once more pressed it against his neck. It would be so easy. And she had every right. Didn’t she? He admitted to killing her father. A wave of grief had her pressing the blade into his skin, beads of blood beginning to pool along the surface. And then what? What would the Shahzada do with this new information? Knowing that the merchant had been commanded to do this…would that change things?

Her thoughts turned to the words that the Djinn has spoken to her. What choice then should she make, indeed.


Hassan was attentive to her… though indifferent to her words… he would retain his calm manner… and he smiled at her shrug after she spoke…

QUOTE
“I know not what choice.  The one who seeks me out remains frustratingly vague about the future. 
I can only say that thus far, though I have seen the bow drawn, I have not seen your death.”


“Then that is most reassuring… Maybe Haziz will be able to extract information from your mystery man…” He smiled at her… “Then maybe you and I can enjoy our time in discussing…” then he was interrupted by Haziz, before he could make her an offer.

QUOTE
“Shahzada, the merchant is a tough nut to crack… but he will speak…but only to her…”
“Shall you speak to the man, or shall I have his head?”
“I will speak with him.”


Hassan smirked, and his hand made an odd motion as if it rolls over and over then pointing the direction to leave. And as she departs, he leans back into the pillows and allows the girls to serve him… though his mind lingered elsewhere.

“Do it. It will just take a flick of that tiny little wrist of yours….”

Nahla stiffened, watching as the merchants eyes clouded over, a foreign voice passing through his lips. It wasn’t him speaking…

The djinn.

Shaking her head, horrified, she took a step back. “Ah. Aah…” The voice tsked, making her take pause.

“I won’t. I won’t bloody my hands simply because you wish it… You're insane!”

The eerie face smiled evilly. “…Oh, no? Even though his hands tore you and your mother away from a better life? Tricked your brother? Killed the man who raised you? And will end up playing a role in your own lovers death…a gruesome one I might add..” A cackling laugh echoed around her and she cried out when hands gripped her upper arms in a bruising hold.

Closing her eyes, Nahla gritted her teeth. “Stop it!” Her voice bit out, interrupting him. “Get out of my head! I will not let this happen! I will not! Stop!”

Suddenly an eerie silence surrounded her and the sight before her as she cautiously opened her eyes had her blood turning to ice. The merchant lay limp upon the ground in a pool of blood, his bindings having been severed. The eyes that burned with greedy victory just minutes before stared lifelessly up at her, unseeing, his throat cut wide.

Nahla reluctantly glanced down at her hands. The dagger was clutched tightly within her left palm, the red upon its blade dripping slowly towards the ground. “Oh, gods…..”

“My lady!”

Nahla’s eyes widened at the voice of the disbelieving guard behind her. Fighting back the urge to be ill, she drew in a slow breath, carefully schooling her features into one of regal composure before slowly turning, an icy blue gaze landing upon his face. “You may take me back to your master now. I am done here.”

Taking a step forward, she dispassionately held out the small weapon for him to take from her, and stared straight ahead. “Now. If you please.” A brow lifted. After a moment, she was carefully relieved of the blade, and silently followed him as he and another motioned her along.

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Hassan el Sharir
 Posted: Nov 26 2016, 12:18 PM
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Warlord

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Hassan el Sharir


The guard was unfazed by the visual effects of the merchant’s death, though his death and executioner was unexpected. He could tell that she had never committed such an action before. “Yes My Lady…” was his first response… the second was to receive the weapon she now released to his care. He simply wiped the blood off the blade and stuck it into his belt.

The Warlord of the Rash’ani, though renown and undisputed, was in fact, a man, and not a god as many would believe. He was not even second behind the Amir; he was a mere man, with manly pleasures… and it was upon his slave-girls to ensure he was not of want, nor need. But he was not crude and intolerable to women, nor a cruel master… and as such he would have his guards keep anyone, especially Nahla, from entering unexpectedly. Even the slightest hesitation of the guards at the door would be sufficient time to dismiss his girls.

And so it was upon her return… Hassan remained in his pile of pillows… and when the guard relayed her request to enter, he nodded. Upon entering, he smiled at her, but that soon faded seeing the blood upon her hands. Rising to a sitting position, his back straight, he cants his head at the sight. “My Lady, are you alright? Are you harmed? What happened?” He was concerned for her… now it was up to her to explain.

Permitted entrance to the tent after a short hesitation, Nahla entered quietly, her eyes lifting to settle upon the warlord and she paused before him.

QUOTE
“My Lady, are you alright? Are you harmed? What happened?”


A brow lifted at his questions, and she glanced at her hands, a small frown passing her lips as she noticed the stains upon her skin. “Oh.” The word was murmured softly. Yes. There would be blood on her, wouldn’t there. “I am well. And unharmed.” Folding her palms together, her chin lifted, looking to him once more.

What happened? Her brow furrowed slightly, her mind whirling over the events that had just transpired. Someone she had trusted most of her life had betrayed her family and killed her father. A man with the same master as the one before her had once uttered words of comfort and kindness, seeking only to lure her with him for his own greed. Who then was left to trust? The vengeful god and djinn? This warlord who could command any and all within this caravan with a simple wave of his hand? It dawned on her then, that whatever the answer may be, that there was no gain from lying. Though why would she? What had started would finish, whether she played along or not.

Nahla found, when she thought of it, that she was glad it was she that had killed him, even if she hadn’t known at the time. And she hoped, at some point, before her blade pierced his neck that he had felt the fear of being a mere mortal with his life in the hands of the same one he had sought to benefit from. It was that feeling, which disturbed her most of all.

Blue eyes narrowed, dark and unremorseful, though her voice remained softly composed. “I killed him.” It was a simple statement, given without tremor or strain, and it lead to her quietly telling him of the ordeal. Who the merchant had really been, what he had done, and the words he had spoken. Funny, that it seemed shorter to tell the tale than it did actually living it. Finishing, having not embellished nor cried nor railed, she simply stood silently, her hands clasped before her, that piercing gaze unwavering. The man before her held the string of the fates now.


Hassan had risen from the comfort of his pillows to stand beside her, his hand at her back. “I am glad you are unharmed. I was concerned when you walked in with blood all over you.” And at her admission of killing the man, he just nodded.

If it were her first, any others to follow would be much easier… if it was not her first, then he would be concerned because of how distraught about it she was. “Now now My Lady… let us get you cleaned up and into new clothes…” one hand remained at her back for comfort, while the free hand motioned to the girls… His instructions to them clear and absolute.

Man-servants would bring a metal tub and place it in the corner of the tent for her to bathe, while older women would alternate bringing in hot water and filling the tub. Hassan’s own girls would gather nice silk robes for her to wear, while a younger lass would bring in crushed flowers to give the water a royal aroma.

The Warlord stood around like a cock in a hen house, protecting what was his… the male guards had been dismissed or repositioned outside. But Hassan just watched with his hands upon his hips as they began to wipe off the excess blood, and remove the soiled clothing that she wore. But he inhaled sharply as the girls loosened the strings at the top of her garment and it fell to her feet exposing her back and buttocks. She was absolutely beautiful, with all the right shapes and proportions… at least from the back. And they held her hands and elbows and allowed her to step into the tub… all the while, the warlord stood there in amazement, seemingly unmoved by it all… but inside he wanted to watch… to see it all…

But as she sunk into the tub, all he could see was the back of her head… and he smiled.

The faint warmth of his hand at her back did not go unnoticed and she had a moment of inner conflict with herself to keep from pressing back against it, seeking some type of reassurance. Ah, but no. The days of being so quick to rely on another human being for safety and comfort were long since gone.

A seemingly dispassionate gaze watched the efficient workings of the servants around her, and she allowed herself to be relieved of her robes and assisted into the waters of the fragrant bath that had been readied for her. And as the warmth came flooding back into her chilled bones, and the scent of blood slowly fading from her tired mind, a sigh left her body and her eyes closed.

Nahla allowed her mind to rest in those moments, avoiding letting the worries of the future cloud her mind with annoying insecurities, and focused instead on the man that stood in commanding silence at her back. And as she was urged up once more from the cooling water, hands gently patting her dry and massaging pleasantly scented oils upon her body, she glanced over at him. Strangely she found herself lacking embarrassment on her current state, though she wondered on whether such would be different if faced with someone else. Such a thought disturbed her far more than she wanted and giving a little shake of her head, she put it from her thoughts for now. There would be time for that later.

“Will you have some time to speak with me for a little while?” Nahla tilted her head, watching him carefully with an unreadable gaze. A silken robe of swirling blue was placed around her shoulders, and she gave it a brief look, a hand touching the cool texture of it. “Perhaps that was selfish of me to ask? You must be busy.” It was simple, mindless conversation that she now craved, and the warmth of another’s presence that sought nothing from her other than her company. But not just anyone, she found, as delicate brows furrowed, but his, the shahzada’s. His certain self-assurance and his calm mannerisms, even as confusing and maddening as she was sometimes finding them to be, were now presenting to be somewhat comforting.


Silence reigned the whole time during her bath… only silently summoned twice to the tent doors by guards previously forbidden to enter; he spoke outside, not wishing to spoil her bath. The first was to notify him that the guards were reposted, and patrols were sent out to survey the area, both standard procedures… and the second was the merchant’s body was disposed of far away from the encampment.

And he would re-enter and stand behind her watching. He would keep his mind clear, his thoughts his own. It was as if he was unmoving, feet spread apart, shoulders square, his hands upon his hips. He was unarmed save for the dagger at his hip and dark brown eyes that would enjoy what he saw. And just when his male senses were finally clouding his mind, by the graces of the goddess Ishtar… the goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex; as she was the courtesan of the gods… he was interrupted one more time; and the snap of fingers was all it took to bring him from fantasy to reality.

At the tent doors, the guard’s apologies were proffered and accepted… This was the final report of the evening, and nothing too eventful was noted… Several assaults due to intoxication, the summary execution of a horse-thief, and the arrest of the dung-master for beating his lazy son. Hassan nodded and returned just in time for her to be assisted in standing to be dried off and dressed. By the graces of Baal and Ishtar, she was beautiful… modestly proportioned, expertly molded… he smiled when her silver-white hair was untied and dropped to her perfect buttocks… and suddenly the heavens spoke… as she turned her head.
QUOTE
“Will you have some time to speak with me for a little while?”


He caught only a glimpse of her breasts as she turned to speak to him… and he felt a sense of remorse when the slave girls draped the material about the exquisite body. Alas, he was speechless… and offered an emotionless gaze, hiding his own thoughts; a feat he learned long ago around Abu Said.

QUOTE
“Perhaps that was selfish of me to ask?  You must be busy.”


She spoke again as she turned to face him. “No My Lady… I have plenty of time reserved for you. All reports are in, and the evening is our if you so desire it.” He bowed a bit. “Never feel too selfish around me… as long as you know and understand my duty, and I am able to complete my tasks unhampered… you do not need to feel selfish...” he paused… “ I shall attempt to offer you as much time as you require..” Hassan was trying to be as truthful with her as possible, without divulging his inner most thoughts and views...

Folding her hands in front of her, Nahla felt her body relax as he permitted her request and couldn’t help the smile that curved her lips, lending an impish look to otherwise regal features. “I appreciate the Shahzada’s generosity. I understand duty well enough. Fear not, I promise to not hang on your arm and selfishly try to keep you to myself.” Her gentle tone was mildly teasing, and for a brief moment the young woman’s true nature peeked through the harsh mantle of anger and fear she had weighing down her small frame.

Still… Slowly her smile faded away. Was she a fool for wanting to trust him? The way Hassan treated his slaves came to mind, and her brows furrowed, wondering how this Abu Said handled those that were under his care. Was she going to find out? The merchant’s words about her rightful master entered her thoughts, and her fingers tightened upon themselves. Eyes did search his face, as though seeking answer, but she would not ask the question aloud. At least not yet.

Instead, a mental shake of her head was given. It was of no use to worry of it for now. Nor did she want to. There would be much time for that later. For now, she needed to watch, to learn what she could, and to rest. Perhaps then would she be able to think more clearly of her future. With her hair freshly brushed, she moved towards him, the faint smile returning to her face as she inclined her head respectfully. “Do you know that this is the farthest I have ever traveled? It has surely turned out to be…” She paused a moment, her lips pursing in thought before continuing. “…quite the ‘adventure’ so far.” Refusing to let her thoughts drift to the reason of all of this, she instead studied him, wondering again at how unruffled he always seemed to be.

Her eyes narrowed a bit then, a memory of a story her mother had told her long ago coming to mind. “Oh!” Her gaze suddenly glittered with amused happiness as she figured it out. “I finally remembered what you reminded me of.” Hands clapped together gently. “One of those big cats. My mother told me of them. The males have glorious manes of red or black and rule over their little bands of females with fierce protectiveness.” Coming to stand before him, she had begun to grin, her chin tilting upwards, forever meeting his gaze instead of wilting in its presence. “It is your eyes, I think. You may look still, but I find you always watching…”


QUOTE
“I appreciate the Shahzada’s generosity.  I understand duty well enough.
Fear not, I promise to not hang on your arm and selfishly try to keep you to myself.”


Hang on to his arm? Should he be asked to endure less punishment !! He wanted to smirk, but he retained his own composure. “And you upon my arm, this would be a harsh punishment?” said without any undue expression… only to eventually offer a slight smile; the markings upon his cheek moved only slightly.

He would watch her and attempt to read any and all expressions from her. She was a bit of an enigma, as were all women, some moreso than others. Was she a witch? For she looked at him as if to read his mind… Alas, if she was able to, surely, she’d find much more than she’d prefer.

QUOTE
“Do you know that this is the farthest I have ever traveled?  It has surely turned out to be…quite the ‘adventure’ so far.”


And she finally made him chuckle… a feat not often accomplished… and as he stood next to the doorway, his hand would coax her to him, and his would covet hers, guiding her to stand beside him and gaze out the door. “My Lady, I have travelled the width and breadth of the Acacus… and with each journey, something new arises. Like a phoenix from the ashes… To me, adventure is worthwhile… as it makes life worth living. I have found that traveling often results in events and sights that can leave you speechless… and alas, as you get older, that it then turns you into a storyteller.” And he chuckled again.

“I love to travel the Acacus… the sands are unforgiving, just and impartial. The sands are not prejudice… But, cities are like people… often showing their varying personalities to the traveler. Dependent upon the city and the traveler, there may begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or animosity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.”

QUOTE
“Oh… I finally remembered what you reminded me of… One of those big cats.  My mother told me of them.
The males have glorious manes of red or black and rule over their little bands of females with fierce protectiveness.”


And as they peered out into the darkness together, he would cast a glance in her direction. “Ah, Panthera leo… a formidable beast. One proud to be resembled to. But alas, My Lady, I have been called much worse…” he shakes his head, allowing his long dark hair to sway; then he flips it back and smirks. She would see him in a light that none others have witnessed; save his slave girls to which may know him best.

QUOTE
Coming to stand before him, she had begun to grin, her chin tilting upwards, forever meeting his gaze instead of wilting in its presence.
“It is your eyes, I think. You may look still, but I find you always watching…”


And as she stood before him, he looked down at her due to his height above hers… the dark hair fell about his face, allowing his marked skin to be shadowed by it. An awkward moment for them both. His dark brown eyes teetered side to side as he attempted to peer into her soul. “Our paths are truly crossed… now we must decide whether to travel together or go our own trek.” He felt his breathing increase, and his heart to pound deep within his chest. But his fingers that held her hands were light and non-aggressive.

His talk of his travels captivated her and she slowly began to relax, even under his grasp. And she listened as he spoke, her head tilted slightly.

QUOTE
“Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.”


Her lips curved slightly at that. “Sometimes love and rejection go hand in hand, I think.” Nahla mussed softly, that blue gaze wandering over the surroundings before her. “Both emotions can hurt equally.”

She tried not to focus on the touch of his hand upon her own, though she wondered at the comfort of it that it brought, for before this moment, such an action from a man would have been quite abhorrent to her, not to mention forbidden. Swallowing back a bout of sudden nerves, Nahla heard herself babbling on about things he couldn’t possibly be interested in, though he was kind enough to reply to such as though they were speaking of topics of the utmost importance.

QUOTE
“…But alas, My Lady, I have been called much worse…”


Laughter bubbled forth from her then, an unhindered and joyous sound, and as she looked up at him, her blue orbs flashed with good humored mirth, the young woman’s face alight with it. “I can only imagine, what words people have called you.” Though blunt, her words contained no malice, but a simple, innocent amusement, and her eyes crinkled at the edges. “The Shahzada must please forgive me. But it is just…you can be quite intimidating. Especially when one first meets you and is faced with your gaze. It is like being a mouse before a hawk. You begin to feel like prey.”

Perhaps she shouldn’t be so free with words and emotions as she was around him. The merchant should have been a lesson in trusting so easily and her brother and father would have been quite horrified. But… At his searching gaze, her amusement slowly faded, her cheeks beginning to warm with a flush. But…despite her inner conflict, she found it was harder than she was expecting. Was this real, his gentleness he was showing her? Or was it a trick, mayhaps, to gain her devotion? Nahla felt her chest tighten painfully at such a thought of deceit. Surely though, with his power… he would have no need for such tactics?

QUOTE
“Our paths are truly crossed… now we must decide whether to travel together or go our own trek.”


Her heart stopped. She didn’t want to leave him. With a soft sigh of inner conflict, she barely resisted the urge to lift her hand to touch his shadowed cheek and finally lowered her face to break away from his piercing gaze, so sure that he would be able to tell the thoughts within her that she barely understood herself. His words gave her the choice that just hours before, she was so sure she knew the answer to and yet now... Nahla’s brows creased with worry and the djinn’s words came whispering to her mind.

QUOTE
“Heed my words, Sibyl…avoid the man of war, for once your paths collide, only one shall emerge from the darkness….”


The concern for him was sudden and unexpected, and the woman frowned, the answer clear, at least for her. There would be no escaping it. “I would love nothing better than things to stay as they are. To hide away and travel the deserts as you have. But…” Lashes dropped over her eyes, hiding the emotions that swirled within their depths. “…but, whatever path I have been set upon, I need to see it through. I need to travel to the city of your master.” Perhaps if she followed the wishes of this djinn and god, she would not only gain answers, but may also find some way to keep them both safe.


QUOTE
“The Shahzada must please forgive me.  But it is just…you can be quite intimidating.
Especially when one first meets you and is faced with your gaze.  It is like being a mouse before a hawk.  You begin to feel like prey.”


Hassan canted his head at her as she spoke freely. He was a man who did not anger quickly… his demeanor more mellow than in his youth; plus his training as a warrior also enforced those milder phases of behavior. In his position as Shahzada, the royal Warlord of the Rash’ani, he would be expected to be the mentor of lesser men, the guiding figure for those he commanded. That was the largest difference between nemeses, as Alai Karzi, the southern warlord, was his total opposite… quick to anger, snap decision not always made upon the best of information.

Here in the desert, Hassan ruled with discipline, hard and fair… His word was law… and if none would abide his law, they could always trust the desert to offer a cruel, one-sided form of justice. And so the Shahzada quietly rule his domain… “So you know, I do not wish to seem a predator… but I am law and must be obeyed… that is the way of things.” Pausing, he looks at her and smiles at her blush. “Do you think I am intimidating now?”

QUOTE
“I would love nothing better than things to stay as they are.  To hide away and travel the deserts as you have.  But…”


His attention shifts momentarily as his hand pushed a pillow and he shifted his robe, then returned his attention to her. “But?” and he looked at her with his cheek bones pushing at the tattoos thinking upon the words she about him hiding away in the desert. “Nahla, you may be correct… I may hide in my domain… alas personally, there are disturbances within my presence in Arcadia… I prefer not to upset my Master…” and he looked to the opposite side of the tent, then back to her, just to break the train of thought.

QUOTE
“…but, whatever path I have been set upon, I need to see it through.  I need to travel to the city of your master.”


He nodded at her words, and his hand settled upon hers again… “Tis settled then… you shall remain my guest, until we reach Arcadia… but I prefer you not meeting my Master… I cannot guarantee your safety at that point.” He smiled and squeezed her hand gently. He had difficulty keeping his hand from hers… even a mere touch was enticing… and even thinking of that, or more, would spark interest and reverence far exceeding the usual companion… despite his chain of beautiful slaves that constantly surrounded him. [/font][/font][/font]

QUOTE
“So you know, I do not wish to seem a predator… but I am law and must be obeyed… that is the way of things.” 
“Do you think I am intimidating now?”


“Ah…” He should be. If she was half way intelligent, she would be taking the first chance she got and continuing on alone. Nahla squinted at him and finally shook her head. “No. At least…you do not frighten me anymore, that is.” She was fast learning that intimidation could take on many different meanings, however. Taking a moment to internalize her thoughts, she moved to lower herself upon the pillows and finally released the strained breath she had no idea she had been holding.

QUOTE
“Nahla, you may be correct… I may hide in my domain…


Nahla’s eyes widened, and if it were possible, her face reddened even more. “…Oh! I did not mean…”

QUOTE
… alas personally, there are disturbances with my presence in Arcadia… I prefer not to upset my Master…”


Sufficiently quieted by the curiosity that his continued words piqued within her, she reclined back and allowed her tense muscles to relax. Why would a master get upset with a servant such as Hassan on his side? Even she, as sheltered as she had been brought up, could see that she would not want to be considered his foe. How dark could this man truly be? But she would not ask of it just yet, instead choosing to speak of her plans for the near future, and listening intently as he gave his own opinion on the matter.

QUOTE
“Tis settled then… you shall remain my guest, until we reach Arcadia… but I prefer you not meeting my Master…
I cannot guarantee your safety at that point.”


A trace of concern clouded her features, though it cleared when he took up her hand again and squeezed reassuringly. No. She would not argue with him there. If Nahla could choose, she had no want of meeting that dreadful sounding man either. But if he had something to do with her brother and meant harm to her new self-appointed guardian, well then… Her eyes lifted to his face once more and she gave a faint smile. “Very well.”

She was silent a few moments, gazing around them with interest, her mind obviously at work. Her delicate features were more at ease now, though she made no move to let go his hand. Nahla thought back to lessons taught and stories told. What would her mother have thought of all this? A twitch of her lips was given and soft laughter ensued. “I feel I must be quite the dreadful guest, Shahzada.” A shake of her head was given, sending the silver tendrils scattering about. “I have done nothing but speak of my own worries. When really there is nothing that can be done. At least at the moment.”

Drawing her lower lip between her teeth thoughtfully, blue eyes narrowed upon him and she finally gave in to her want, allowing her free hand to lift, settling quietly upon his cheek. “Is that what you do? Take everyone’s troubles and fates upon your shoulders? Do you ever share the burden? Or state your own wishes?” She couldn’t quite put her finger on why this man, who should be no more than a kind stranger to her, presented quite the captivation for her, but he did. And his own fate was found to be a worry of her own now, which leant a rather large problem if found to be intertwined with her own, with only one to emerge. But be that as it may… “May I be of some help to you in any way?”


QUOTE
How dark could this man truly be?


She had not asked him why he preferred not to upset the Amir… But Abu Said Uthmann was not the man that Hassan grew to love; nor was he the friend in youth all those years ago. No, Abu Said had changed. How or why no one knew, including Hassan. Justice was swift and one sided… no longer was a man, or woman, innocent until proven guilty. The Amir felt that his time was more important, regardless of how busy he was… no how import the charges upon the one accused. Not many knew of just how dark Abu had become… save his best friend and warlord.

QUOTE
“I feel I must be quite the dreadful guest, Shahzada.  I have done nothing but speak of my own worries.  When really there is nothing that can be done.  At least at the moment.”


Hassan smiled as they sat upon the pillows, his hand holding hers… and she did not shun his touch. And she no longer wished to speak of her troubles. But he would not divulge his angst toward returning to Arcadia. For there were those that would look to him to alter things in the land. Just as he had with Uthmann. Those that would see him undertake a civil war… again… to deliver the people from oppression. But could he? Hassan seemed to shake his head slowly at words unspoken. He could not usurp Uthmann and replace him with another, as he had done Abu’s predecessor. And Hassan was adamant not to rule; he had no aspirations to such. But his hand in hers, he would twitch his thumb unconsciously and squeeze her hand at times… somehow correlating to his chaotic thoughts. He words were magical, as they wrought him from the subconscious and he blinked at her, then refocused thought patterns. “My guest… dreadful or not.” And he smiled.

QUOTE
“Is that what you do?  Take everyone’s troubles and fates upon your shoulders?”


At first, she touched his cheek upon her own free will. It was not commanded, nor even considered. But… it was soft against coarse skin. Her thumb unconsciously traced his markings… and his dark eyes veered to her. Captivating. Fascinating… and he nodded.

QUOTE
“Do you ever share the burden? Or state your own wishes?”


And his face pressed into her hand as dark brown eyes peered into her blue orbs… as if to seek answers to the world’s problems. He shook his head.

QUOTE
“May I be of some help to you in any way?”


What was her motivation? Her reasoning? Why did she make that offer? Did this free woman not know how she made him feel? He was surrounded by slave-girls… more than any normal man… girls that would do anything, and everything, for him, and to him… all he need do is command it… and yet??!! Her simple touch… her soft words… sparked a flame that could burn them both. It was uncharacteristic of him to lend affection, or even display favoritism to a free woman.

He resisted. He inhaled. His repelled inner most temptations. But he was failing. Looking at her only. He inhaled deep, and exhaled slowly.

His skin was warm upon her palm, and Nahla knew that the feeling of it would be seared into her memory. She didn’t really understand what about this man drew her towards him. Perhaps the words her djinn had spoken to her had something to do with it. All this talk of being bound by fate and their converged paths.

Delicate brows furrowed then and she unconsciously moved closer to him as the remembered vision of an arrow drawn at their unsuspecting bodies sent a shiver of trepidation down her spine. Why would she feel protective of him? Did his reputation not precede him? Surely he would laugh at her if she spoke of this absurd fear.

Ah, but she would have been amused if she had known his own thoughts. Was she truly a free woman anymore? Nahla could almost feel the binds of the invisible thread of fate tighten about her, drawing her more firmly upon a path that could not sway away from his own.

Feeling compelled to do so, Nahla leaned forward and replaced her palms with a kiss, lips gentle and warm upon the marked flesh. And she sat back again with a faint smile, those swirling blue orbs seeking. The sudden appearance of his aura was both surprising and expected. She was fast understanding that the closer she became to him, the more power she felt emanate from her own body. The knowledge of it was heady as well as greatly troublesome.

Nahla felt the edges of her sight blur then, the sound of a blade drawing foretelling, and she bit down harshly on her lip, forcing the vision away for now. Not yet. Not here, at this time, with him. She wasn’t ready for it. The echo of her djinn’s laugh rang within her mind, and Nahla let out a shaky breath. There would be no holding it at bay for long. Especially if she continued to stay near Hassan.

With a flush to her cheeks, the woman dropped her gaze, perhaps overwhelmed by the intensity of the moment before speaking again, choosing her words carefully. “You carry a great burden upon your shoulders, Shahzada.” She felt the light that surrounded him intensify and expand, but her visage remained serene as she lifted it towards him again. “How long will you be content to bear such alone? How much longer do you think you can bear it at all?”


Was he being tested for mental fortitude, and psychological stamina? Was this woman testing his resolve? Her touch set him afire… exacting sensations for a free woman, long put away. It was, and always had been, for more personal things, for the Shahzada, the royal Warlord of the Rash’ani, to be safer with slaves… he could use them when and how he desired; be it sexually or purposely to keep him fed and quench his thirst…to keep his house or clothes clean… or even to keep him entertained by stories or dance. But !!

This woman with pale complexion and white hair… this woman from a faraway land… who’s many kindred had been enslaved by the Amir. And now, she withdraws her hand only to kiss his cheek… and had it not been for his sun-darkened skin, she would surely have smiled at the man for blushing… Alas it was not a blush, but a flush… for his body burned with desire… but that was soon quelled by the distance look in her eyes. Though she looked directly at him, his words, fell upon ears that could not hear.

QUOTE
“You carry a great burden upon your shoulders, Shahzada.”


And her words overshadowed his stated admissions of truer feelings for her; words lost and not retrieved. His dark eyes examined the woman as if she was in a trance. “Nahla…” realizing she heard not his words, he would refuse to state them again should she realize he was talking to her. And at her words he would just chuckle. “Yes… and gods have blessed me with the strength to overcome the obstacles so far.”

QUOTE
“How long will you be content to bear such alone? How much longer do you think you can bear it at all?”


What kind of question was this? He had been alone for the better part of his life… of course, save for his string of slaves that kept him. And he looked at her and settled back in his pillows, the burn of her kiss still upon marked cheek. “I am Shazada, the royal Warlord of the Rash’ani… and…” he quieted at her expression… and without thought or restraint, his words were blurted out. “What do you suggest or offer?”
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Hassan el Sharir
 Posted: Nov 26 2016, 12:26 PM
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Warlord

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posts: 15
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Hassan el Sharir


[quote] “Yes… and gods have blessed me with the strength to overcome the obstacles so far…” [/quote]

His words sent the tunneled vision scattering, and she was finally able to focus once more upon him. “…so far…” Her voice echoed his own, hesitant. So far? A single brow lifted, watching him as he settled back, seeming to be, at least her own eyes, unconcerned. Absently did a hand reach out to a serving tray nearby, picking up a humble looking knife that had been left there and studying it with the faintest of frowns.

[quote] “I am Shazada, the royal Warlord of the Rash’ani… and…”[/quote]

Blue orbs lifted to settle upon his features once more, their dark depths fairly glittering with indignity at his casual air.

[quote] “What do you suggest or offer?” [/quote]

Unfolding her body gracefully, she moved to rise over him, a cascade of silvered tendrils falling about a face that was heated with an inner emotion. “I know exactly who you are, Shahzada.” Her head tilted, watchful. “And the gods are fickle. You should not take your life so lightly.” The hand holding the meager dinner knife lifted to tap the blade gently against the flesh of his neck. And angry at herself for worrying about this man, this virtual stranger, when she knew very well that she should be more concerned with protecting her brother and herself from whatever game this certain god and djinn were playing with their lives, Nahla nonetheless felt helpless against her growing need to be closer to him, to choose… him. But was that feeling true, or merely another illusion?

“One snake above ground may be hiding a nest of them below. If this is the life you are happy with, then by all means, live it. But by the gods, at least make sure that the snake is contained. Don’t let it strike you.” Would he think her mad? Was she the only one who could hear the whispers of threat upon the wind? “I only wish to show you, what you are unable to see…”


[quote] “I know exactly who you are, Shahzada. And the gods are fickle. You should not take your life so lightly.” [/quote]

She had moved to rise over him, the coils of silver cascading around the beautiful round face, and he watched her move from the pillows to where she stood near him, her lean toward him followed by a head tilted, her exotic eyes ever watchful of him. His eyes caught the vision of the dinner knife in her hand… and the dark orbs followed the blade to a point where it disappeared by his neck… then those dark eyes looked to hers. “Do you really?” and he pressed his neck against the blade. “I know well how fickle the gods are… I seek them, and they show themselves not… I ask for help, and they leave me to my own fate as I make it…” and Hassan chuckled. “Is my life my own?” and he pushed the blade away, but did not take it from her. “Nay, my life belongs to another… to whom I am unsure… but I have no control over it… unless I wish to end it everso quickly. But alas, what would that do?” and he smirks.

Hassan inhaled as she was so close… and he could smell her… and it was divine. And if she listened, truly listened, she would hear a hesitated breath, and see the accompanying smile. And his expression changed as he resumed his words regarding his life. “If I was end my life… it would be nothing to me… but to the Rash’ani people… it would be their enslavement, or their eradication.”

He had faced possible death many times with a fervor to survive… and he did. But did she pose no threat to him… or did he not believe she would kill him. Oh yes, she had just killed a man, so she could… she had the skill… and the opportunity… but it was he that presumed she would not kill him, despite the presence of opportunity right now. All he did was reach to her face, his hand invading space between hanging coils of silver hair and her cheek. And a calloused hand caressed clear skin… and he gently, and slowly, pulled her to him. But he did not kiss her as one would expect, but moved a bit to whisper in her ear. “Either kill me now and end this… or…” his breathing increased… and his words stopped. His hand pushed back against her cheek… and he looked at her, as if to attempt a visage within her soul.

[quote]Would he think her mad? Was she the only one who could hear the whispers of threat upon the wind?
“I only wish to show you, what you are unable to see…”
[/quote]

And as she spoke, he smiled and allowed her to move back a bit and look at him. Still his dark eyes would search her being from head to toe, and back to her own eyes. He did not think she was mad… nor a witch… and with an odd smile of his… “Then show me girl…”

Her gaze narrowed as he pressed his neck against the blade and a heightened sense of awareness tightened within her chest. She couldn’t for the life of her understand if the dark emotion she was experiencing was because she could very well stop the tumultuous future that was barreling towards them with a simple movement of her hand or that he knew she would never be able to do it. Indeed, as he moved to push the knife away, she offered no resistance, and her arm settled non-threatening at her side, though her palm still cradled the hilt.

[quote] “I know well how fickle the gods are… I seek them, and they show themselves not… I ask for help, and they leave me to my own fate as I make it…”[/quote]

Nahla inwardly grimaced. Oh, they obviously knew of him. And they were most definitely not leaving either of them to their make their own fates. But it was a game for them. At least she assumed it was. She didn’t even know if the feelings she had right now in this moment were real, or simply a tug on the strings that held her up like a puppet. “Neither of our lives are our own anymore…”/[i] Still… Watchful eyes snapped to his own as she caught the slight pause in breath, her visage momentarily softening in surprise. [i]Was he feeling as affected as she was?

[quote] “If I was to end my life… it would be nothing to me… but to the Rash’ani people… it would be their enslavement, or their eradication.” [/quote]

Her heart clenched and she was hard-pressed not to look away to compose herself. It would be his life or another’s. But would the final decision be made so much harder now that she was beginning to know more of him? Of what he meant to others? And possibly to her? Delicate brows furrowed. She could not do this. About to move away else burn in the approaching flames, Nahla froze to the spot when she felt his hand upon her cheek. Her free hand made to brace herself against his chest as he urged her near and lashes closed over stormy eyes when his voice rang quietly in her ear.

[quote] “Either kill me now and end this… or…”[/quote]

Lips curved slightly and she met his gaze once more without hesitation, though she was almost sorry as such had her feeling rather like she would indeed burn. Would she ever be able to remain composed around him? “…Or…” She heard herself whisper in return. Nahla knew she was playing a game in which she had no real understanding of yet, but her body and heart seemed to think otherwise as she swore she could feel wherever his gaze lingered.
[quote] “Then show me girl…”[/quote]

Blue eyes flashed, a temper igniting at his words, though her smile simply turned impish. “Now, now…if I were to show you everything all at once…my dear Shahzada….then what use would you have for me after that?” But…curious now, and unable to stop herself from a baser instinct, Nahla bent to lower her lips to his own. And for a few moments, her mind finally quieted and stilled. The softness of them surprised her, as did her want of lingering and a suddenly selfish need to deepen the contact and their connection. Slowly she drew back, a faint flush having risen to her cheeks. Well then…


[quote] “Neither of our lives are our own anymore…” Was he feeling as affected as she was? [/quote]

“Yes, I know…” She was intoxicating… and why did he allow her to stand so close? All he could do was fleetingly close his eyes, and inhale… No one was allowed so close, except the pleasure girls of his harem. But with this freewoman, he felt neither guilt nor anguish at the pleasure which he was experiencing by the closeness of this young creature. In the proximity of such a desirable thing, physical symptoms of one’s inclination tempts one to overindulge… thus eventually leading to intimacy… and intimacy leads to some sort of relationship. And on that path, so often, lies danger.

So was he as affected as she? Possibly, and even moreso if one was able to compare. But he gazed upon her with soft, brown eyes… but devoid of emotion, yet clearly with certain thoughts embedded within his windows to the soul.

[quote] “Now, now…if I were to show you everything all at once… my dear Shahzada… then what use would you have for me after that?” [/quote]

She spoke, sounding a bit irritated, but her smile appeared mischievous… but she ventured closer and his breathing accelerated accordingly, and those eyes of his would absorb as much of her as possible. And as she leaned down toward him, her robes fell loose about her shoulders… and his eyes veered from her face to her bosom, lingering momentarily, and onward toward the floor. And with him inhaling, he looks up at her, his voice soft and mesmerizing… “There are powers within, which, if you discover, use, and perfect, can provide opportunity for everything you ever dreamed of… or imagined…for you to become. Perhaps, tis nay a disbelief in what is to become; but rather, are intimidated by exactly what we are destined to be.” Prophetic words from a renowned warlord of the Rash’ani… destined from a young age to become something far greater than of which he was born into.

[quote]Nahla bent to lower her lips to his own. And for a few moments, her mind finally quieted and stilled.
The softness of them surprised her, as did her want of lingering and a suddenly selfish need to deepen the contact and their connection.
[/quote]

A kiss… a simple thing as a kiss. And yet, his lips were touched by hers… and she kissed him softly, lingering a bit, then selfishly deepened… his breathing halted… and he wanted to grab her and indulge himself upon what she offered… but he refrained… something far uncharacteristic of him. And for a few moments, he was lost to her will. An impossible task by many… but she was not many… nor similar to any of the many… she was singular.

Did he wish to possess what she had to offer? In this instance, of course… And on that path, so often, lies danger. For surely, many would… as proven by the merchant’s death. No wonder Abu Said Uthmann wanted to possess this creature… this girl… and she slowly drew back… and he looked up to her. “What use would you have for me after that? I can think of many uses for you…” He could think of a couple for sure… both deemed selfish… to secure her visions, her sight of what was to come… or her sexual favor for his own pleasures. Alas, she was a free woman… at least until the Amir saw her. Then lives would surely change forever…. Hers, as well as his.

She stayed that way a few moments, their faces scant inches apart, the depths of her eyes hinting at an unspoken emotion. At his words though, her lips curved in a sardonic smile. “Many uses, hmm? I must be quite the girl of many talents.” Nahla moved from above him and came to fold herself with a seemingly nonchalant gracefulness at his side, when in truth she was doing such to keep hidden the faint trembling of her body. The tension she felt between them was both enthralling and unnerving, and the girl found herself moving away simply to keep from falling from the precipice.

[quote] “…Perhaps, tis nay a disbelief in what is to become; but rather, are intimidated by exactly what we are destined to be.” [/quote]

And she pondered his earlier words. What exactly was she destined to be? A slave to the Amir as the merchant had told her? Her eyes dropped to the knife she still held within her hand. Would she be the one who leads the Rash’ani warlord to his demise? Or her brother? Or was there something more? Could there be more…? Such a dangerous line of thinking. Already did she feel a gentle push of power in the back of her mind to open herself to something that seemed to be just out of reach. And blue orbs darkened finding herself glancing at him once more, studying his visage intently. Oh, would that he would never have said such!

Instead, she forced herself to lean back, setting the knife beside her and propping her chin upon her palm. “Do you heed your own words, Shahzada?” She asked prettily, her voice thoughtful. “Are you content with all that you have become? Or are you holding your own destiny at bay?” The fingers of her free hand reached up to touch her lips absently, perhaps remembering the warmth that was pressed upon them such a short time ago. Oh gods, but what was wrong with her? Never in her life had she acted such in front of a man, nor had she ever wanted too. And here she was, with a this specific warlord of all people, one she had known barely a handful of days, and she was already loathing the thought of having to part ways from him.

Catching the movement of a servant, her gaze flicked past him momentarily, her thoughts turning to what he had said before. Of his death being the certain end to his people. Could she ever let it come to that? Nahla sighed as lashes drifted shut, feeling a heaviness come over her mind. She heard the voices echo, whispering warnings of what the morrow what bring and barely controlled her twitching fingers from reaching out for his hand.

”…And perhaps it is not intimidation…but the knowledge of what we must do to follow our destiny. The path to enlightenment can be full of darkness.”


[quote]Would she be the one who leads the Rash’ani warlord to his demise? [/quote]

That would be the question of the ages. For if she had the fortitude and purpose, it would be now that she could do so. For they say love is blind… but did he truly love her, or simply mesmerized by her? Surely the latter, as he did not know her… at all. Not that he would not desire it so, but how could one surmise the totality of a relationship in the matter of few hours?

[quote] “Do you heed your own words, Shahzada? Are you content with all that you have become? Or are you holding your own destiny at bay?” [/quote]

“Intimidated? Me?” he could only chuckle at her query. “No one intimates me… I am not intimidated by you, you mesmerize me…” and he offered a slight smile; the markings upon his cheek reforms their pattern as his cheek pushes upward. And as she spoke further, he chuckled again. “Ah yes my lady… I always hold my destiny at bay… for I am a warlord… and as such I am but a target for many who wish ill to me. Tis the reason for all my bodyguards… but even those can be useless.” He waves his hands about to the girls that surround him. “These beauties can be my ending… they have opportunity, and as slaves, they have reason… or you.” And he looks at her directly. “Are you my destiny? The end of my life’s meaning?”

[quote]Nahla sighed as lashes drifted shut, feeling a heaviness come over her mind. She heard the voices echo, whispering warnings of what the morrow what bring and barely controlled her twitching fingers from reaching out for his hand. ”…And perhaps it is not intimidation…but the knowledge of what we must do to follow our destiny. The path to enlightenment can be full of darkness.” [/quote]

He watched her with eyes intent on obtaining answers. And as she spoke, he smiled. “And verily, does the means always justify the end? Does the end, justify the means? That we must consider… to prevent the path to enlightenment being clouded in darkness. Don’t you agree??” And he waited not for her to reach for him… he took the initiative and his hand slid to hers… first as a mere touch, then as a slight grasp, as if to sense the circumstance… and with no resistance, either from will or negligence, his coarse hand enveloped hers… and held it for a few moments, his dark eyes walked from her hand up her arm and over her shoulder to her own eyes… and there they locked unto one another.

Nothing was said… no movement at all… until he canted his head and lowered it to, in a slow and lingering manner, kiss the back of her hand. His eyes veered to her as he held his lips to the hand… and as he raised his head, he smiled… then released her hand.

Nahla felt herself warming at the sight of his smile, his faint amusement easing her mind.

[quote] “No one intimates me… I am not intimidated by you, you mesmerize me…”[/quote]

Lips rounded in a surprised expression even as the voice within her seemed to growl.

[quote] ‘Are you not confronted with a great warlord, my little sibyl? Do you really think he knows not how to best gain information from those he may deem a threat? You are foolish to let down your guard. To play with your own life simply because you are growing fond of him! You…”[/quote]

‘Enough!’ Her silent command broke through the contact, and she forced an inner wall up, successfully ending the elders’ vocal lashing. Letting out a pent up breath, Nahla turned her attention back to Hassan though she now seemed somewhat subdued.

[quote] “Are you my destiny? The end of my life’s meaning?” [/quote]

Her eyes fell from his face. The question hit far too close for comfort. Once more did she contemplate the slaves, and a mirthless laugh very nearly escaped. Funny, really, how she was in all ways that counted, a freewoman, and yet sometimes she could very nearly feel invisible chains tighten about her wrists and throat until she wanted to scream.

His touch once again would break her resolve, and her gaze drifted back towards him as her hand was lifted and her whole soul seemed to still as dark eyes held her own. She was helpless then but to watch, her delicate features shadowed as his lips touched her cool skin, and then it was over, Nahla’s fingers allowed release. Gods… Her djinn was right. She was obviously going down a path she wouldn’t be able to return from.

“I was never to grow…attached to you…in any way. I do not think that was intended.” The words were whispered in a thoughtful tone. “Am I your destiny? The end of your life’s meaning?” The girl seemed to ponder that for a while, an inner war waging, before her eyes darkened. “And, what if I were to say I was? Would you believe me?” She laid back, feeling suddenly drained of energy, and simply stared upwards. “Or perhaps you are meant to be mine. Either way…we are meant to face the Amir. I do not know exactly why, except that it is ‘their’ wish. Nor do I yet know which one of us shall emerge. But it shall be only one.”

Moments passed and Nahla seemed to be working on how to continue. “He knows I am here, you know.” Eyes flickered to him. “It would do well for us if we were to part now and I go on without you. You said yourself that without you, your people would not survive for long. I may not have known you for very long, Shahzada, but… I do not wish that for you. Or for them.” Her lips offered the faintest of smiles. “I am sure I can find another way. The end should not justify the means. You are right.”


Her lips had rounded in a surprised expression as if she had been mentally somewhere else. Then as he spoke, she looked completely away from him. But it had been his simple touch that recaptured her senses of him.

[quote] “I was never to grow…attached to you…in any way. I do not think that was intended.” [/quote]

His silence was eerie; but his eyes portrayed a different air about him. For the dark eyes seem to etch her face upon memory. And without warning, a soft baritone whispered voice… “Nor I to you…”

[quote] “Am I your destiny? The end of your life’s meaning?”
“And, what if I were to say I was? Would you believe me?”
[/quote]

And he looked upon her… almost vexed… “I know not… Are you? But if you ask me, at this moment, you are not the end, but the reason.” And he never stopped looked up at her… “And if you say something, anything, I shall believe you… until you show me reason not to believe.” And he canted his head a bit. “You could be my destiny… and the beginning of life’s meaning… dreams or visions can be paradoxical… inconsistent guides to the way forward. If you fight them, then you may very well cause them to happen regardless. But if they are part of your life, use them as a guide, not as a true path.” And he offgers her a shrug. “I am a warlord, not a philosopher.” He chuckled, trying to alieve the stress of the moment.

[quote]She laid back, feeling suddenly drained of energy, and simply stared upwards. “Or perhaps you are meant to be mine. Either way…we are meant to face the Amir. I do not know exactly why, except that it is ‘their’ wish. Nor do I yet know which one of us shall emerge. But it shall be only one.”

He rose slightly from his pillows as she fell back. [i] “Maybe my lady…just maybe. Still we can meet the Amir… their may be some clout left… but he is a fickled man.”
And he canted his head in query. “Their? Who is *their*?” And as she mentioned *only one* he smirked. “Now THAT is definitely paradoxical. One could mean many things… one is a form of singularity… But why do you think of *one* as a number, or amount. It could be a state of being. For instance… being married… or being a master and slave, for the slave is not counted except as property… or upon separate ways, you go yours and I go mine…”

[quote] “He knows I am here, you know.” Eyes flickered to him. “It would do well for us if we were to part now and I go on without you. You said yourself that without you, your people would not survive for long. I may not have known you for very long, Shahzada, but… I do not wish that for you. Or for them.” Her lips offered the faintest of smiles. “I am sure I can find another way. The end should not justify the means. You are right.” [/quote]

Hassan lay upon his pillows; she upon hers. Both upon the same pile, mere decimeters from one another. “I care not if he knows you are here… I remain in the desert to keep me from killing him… He is not the man I once knew; and placed in power. He is no longer the true leader of the Faithful, the Messenger of Baal… he is a cruel despot… unkind to those that loved him once.” His mind veered off his own life with Abu Said… and he looked at her. “You must do what you must Nahla… follow your heart and mind… and if they are at war with one another, then peace must be obtained before making a decision. But a decision MUST be made, and made by you… and yours alone.”

The wind outside had picked up, and the tent, as elaborate and sturdy as it was, held little power against the wind should it blow too hard. He knew her decision would, and must be her own. And he would offer no influence to the such. But upon his mind, he knew he would miss her if she left. For the short span of hours or days would prove unworthy to a relationship of mind and heart.

Nahla’s lips twitched as she watched him. She was finding that she liked when he showed some sort of emotion. Even if said emotion was him seeming to be irritated by her confusing remarks. It was fascinating to see more of him than the cool, controlled warlord that he must always present to the world. And, she had to admit, it satisfied a part of her to know that she could pull such from him.

[quote] “…I am a warlord, not a philosopher.” [/quote]

A discreet cough covered an amused laugh and it did wonders to ease some of the torment of decisions that were yet to be made as she settled back. No. A philosopher he was not, but... Her eyes flickered to him for a moment before she glanced upward again…but, he had a good soul. Nahla swore she could almost sense it within him as she listened to him speak in answer to her previous thoughts and questions.

[quote] “… but he is a fickle man.” [/quote]

A brow lifted as he mentioned the Amir. “Aren’t most men fickle?” The afterthought was given, but she nodded, satisfied when he agreed of their meeting him and her gaze softened as his face appeared above hers momentarily posing with a question before he himself lay back upon the pillows near her.
[quote] “Their? Who is *their*?”[/quote]

Nahla’s nose wrinkled automatically in distaste. But she didn’t answer him just yet, and he continued after a moment, perhaps sensing her reluctance.

[quote] “I care not if he knows you are here… I remain in the desert to keep me from killing him… He is not the man I once knew; and placed in power. He is no longer the true leader of the Faithful, the Messenger of Baal… he is a cruel despot… unkind to those that loved him once.” [/quote]

A note within his voice had her rolling to her side to search his profile and for some strange reason a pain echoed within her heart. Not for her. But for him. What must it be like to know such about one you once considered trusted friend. A frown marred her features and she lay back again. “I wish for you, that he had not become such a man, Shahzada.” She whispered before falling silent, turning his words over and over within her mind as they both listened to the wind cursing the sides of the tent wall.

After a while, she broached the question from before. “You asked who ‘they’ were. They are…them…the…” A dramatic sigh was heaved from her chest as she pondered the question. “…the djinn. Or djinns. There is more than one voice sometimes. Though I have only actually seen but the one. And then there is the god that he speaks of working with.” She quieted, wondering inwardly if that god had something to do with the Amir being a former ‘messenger of Baal.’

Suddenly resigned, she turned on her side to face him. “I…want to go. I want to be able to walk away, seeing you alive, and finish whatever it is that I am supposed to be doing without drawing you into it. Perhaps, as you have said, this talk of one path has nothing to do with simply one of our lives emerging from it, but the fear of the unknown paralyzes me. I do not want to watch another that is important to me, die.” And he had, Nahla found, even in such a short time, become such to her, though to what extent, remained to be seen.

Unbidden, she couldn’t help but to close the distance between them and pressed her hands against his chest, the steady beating of his heart soothing the churning darkness that seemed to swirl within her own.

“…But I find I cannot do that.” An apologetic smile touched her lips as she looked upon him. “I feel as though I am being pulled into a world that I do not understand. Sometimes it is though even my memories are fading, just to be replaced by thousands more that I know I never lived through. I see and hear things that should not be possible. Prayers and wishes of the downtrodden. Hopes and dreams, the visions of what is to come and destinies that have yet to be fulfilled. I feel as though I may be going mad…and for some reason…your nearness, and your touch, helps to bring me back. It helps remind me. And as selfish as that may sound, I do not want to lose that.” The admittance was soft. She didn’t want to lose him.

After a moment, a light, self-deprecating laugh escaped her throat. “I am always asking your forgiveness, Shahzada. Perhaps you should start keeping count.” The flaps of the tent being torn open by the force of the angry desert storm that was upon them had her bolting upright with a muffled sound of alarm, a troubled expression crossing her face as similar sounds of fear and dismay in the distance were carried in upon the wind.


And so it was that his slaves had seen exactly what she saw, and what no others had the opportunity to witness… the good sides of the stalwart warlord. She, though a free woman, was allowed to observe him as the slaves saw him, and what attributes, other than the physical, he had to offer anyone within his closed circle of confidents. Even his advisors, guards, or confessor, upon so many years’ service, knew what she knew now in the matter of a few days.
[quote] “Aren’t most men fickle?” [/quote]
And he had to smile… the markings upon his cheek rose and felt with the muscles of his face. “Ah yes, most men are… some in certain ways, others in a totally different fashion.”
[quote] “I wish for you, that he had not become such a man, Shahzada.” [/quote]

He focused on a spot upon the tent wall, his mind wandering the past regarding the subject of their discussion, and not the tent material… but he noticed, in the peripheral vision, that she had rolled to her side, nearly pushing down the pillows that separated them and she watched. “Verily, tis difficult to wish the death of one’s best friend… and even worse to even consider treasonous thoughts about the Amir…BUT, he is what he has become.” And he looks at her… “He has murderous periods that none can compete… and surely, one such as yourself would be used and abused… but unlike some others, you would not be cast aside, but beheaded, upon a trumped charge.” And his dark eyes narrow… “And I shant allow that…” and he shakes his head and looks away.

[quote]You asked who ‘they’ were. They are…them…the…” A dramatic sigh was heaved from her chest as she pondered the question. “…the djinn. Or djinns. There is more than one voice sometimes. Though I have only actually seen but the one. And then there is the god that he speaks of working with.” [/quote]

At this he snapped a look her way. “Djinn? More than one?” Then Hassan began to tell her what he knew of djinn. “According to ancient traditions, the Djinn stand behind the learned humans in an Amir's court, who in turn, sit behind the prophets. As it is, the djinn would remain in the service of an Amir, for none other would be allowed to control something stronger than an Amir. For that person is able to secure the supernatural creature thru some sort of material object… such as a copper and iron ring, amulet, lamp or rod fortified with magic that enables that person to subdue the djinn, and which protect him from their powers. In some accounts, the object is set with a gem, one that has a living force of its own; probably a ruby or diamond. And if the djinn is then bound to the object, it would be an Amir who places the djinn in bondage with an object, and orders them to perform a number of tasks as he sees fit. At least that is what my advisors have taught me.” And he shrugged his shoulders and laid back upon his pillows.

Hassan chuckled. “If you are hearing the djinn, then he, or she, has not taken over your body, which is good. If that were to happens, maladies of health tend to occur. Maybe we should find them a feline to adopt.” He chuckles again.

[quote] “I…want to go. …. I do not want to watch another that is important to me, die.” [/quote]

The discuss then took upon a serious note. And he turned slowly to face her. “Do not fear the unknown… for life itself is a mystery… Some say our paths are already formed before the day we are born… Maybe so… but that we shall never know… and if we change our destiny, how do we know that was the plan from the beginning? For those that contemplate such wisdom, oft goes mad…” he shrugs. “Live life, enjoy your existence… life comes but once… but death is eternal.” His hand reaches out to caress her face. “I shall not die… My father did not have me marked to change my destiny only to have me die when I was able to cause change.” His thumb traces portions of her face. “Besides, we must prove your fate is different than you think it is.” And he winked at her.

[quote]…she couldn’t help but to close the distance between them and pressed her hands against his chest, the steady beating of his heart soothing the churning darkness that seemed to swirl within her own. …… I feel as though I may be going mad…and for some reason…your nearness, and your touch, helps to bring me back. It helps remind me. And as selfish as that may sound, I do not want to lose that.” [/quote]

She pressed her hand to his chest, and spoke of being pulled into a world that she did not understand, and he smiled, the thumb still caressing her cheek. She spoke of fading memories and replacements not her own… she spoke of prayers, wishes, hopes, and dreams… and he smiled. She reminded him of a prophet or temple maiden; one touched by the graces of the gods. But as he traced her cheek bone, her hand remained upon his chest… and twas like pleasures renewed… and she would feel his heartbeat race and recede… as if his mind was fighting for control of his body. And his mind was failing that task…

[quote]After a moment, a light, self-deprecating laugh escaped her throat. “I am always asking your forgiveness, Shahzada. Perhaps you should start keeping count.” [/quote]

His hand had moved to the back of her head and was pulling her to him, just as his body rolled over the pillows to her… he looked down at her eyes as she spoke asking forgiveness… “Maybe I should ask for yours…” and he pressed his lips to hers as he rolled atop her.

[quote]The flaps of the tent being torn open by the force of the angry desert storm that was upon them had her bolting upright with a muffled sound of alarm, a troubled expression crossing her face as similar sounds of fear and dismay in the distance were carried in upon the wind. [/quote]

And as she moved to sit up, he too rolled away from her, brandishing a dagger that was produced from under a pillow toward the tent door. His mind had assumed someone was entering abruptly and attacking them… but seeing nothing, he simply looked at her and put the dagger away. And as the guard entered the doorway, he apologized with fervor. “Sincere apologies Shahzada… a storm approaches… the camp is preparing.” And the guard bowed and closed the tent flap.

Hassan simply looked at Nahla and shook his head. He did not apologize… he said nothing at all… but his dark brown eyes would say plenty.

The Amir, the djinns, the strain of finding her brother and this strange path she had been put upon, it was all swept away from her thoughts, locked somewhere tight in the darkness of her mind when he reached for her. How inconsequential it seemed now that she was suddenly inches away from brooding eyes that bore straight through her.
[quote] “Maybe I should ask for yours…”[/quote]

For her forgiveness? But why would… ah!... blue eyes widened slightly as lips descended. The kiss had a roll of heat flooding her body and she felt the tension begin to dissipate from her as she relaxed into his touch. ‘More.’ She found herself whispering, slender arms lifting to wind about his neck.

And right when she felt herself give way to any reservations that may have been left, an angry whip of the wind had torn open the flap to the tent, and her muscles jerked in response, the fragile state of her mind instinctively pushing her to a flight response. But, in the corner of her vision, before she could even pull her legs beneath her, she saw him roll away and automatically position himself before her, the glint of a dagger in his hand. Nahla dimly registered surprise at his quickness, but nonetheless tore her gaze away from him as a guard appeared.

[quote] “Sincere apologies Shahzada… a storm approaches… the camp is preparing.” [/quote]

Of course. The storm. Nahla could hear the rising of the wind outside and her cheeks reddened. It was only the wind. With an amused twitch of her lips she suddenly dropped her face to her hands as her body was overcome with peals of muffled laughter that she was trying unsuccessfully to contain. But her bout of relief was short lived when she finally lifted her smiling face and saw his gaze had settled upon her. Oh…

For a few moments, she could do nothing but return his stare. Something within it seemed familiar to her somehow, seeming to awaken a feeling or memory that had lay dormant deep within. Her expression gentled. “Shahzada.” Lips curved and unbidden she lifted a hand and held it out to him. She wasn’t ready to let him go. Not yet. Perhaps the coming storm was a blessing. And if he would draw near, her slender arms would once more find their way around his neck, a mischievous glint flashing within her blue orbs. “I haven’t yet decided whether I have need to forgive you yet or not.”

The tightness in her chest eased once she pressed nearer, and she wondered at it, fingers finding their way to the nape of his neck and pressing upwards, tangling within his hair. “Are you sure that it is not ‘you’ that has procured some type of magic that has me dreading your absence?” Her words whispered, musingly, but Nahla’s smile remained faintly teasing even as she drew him back down to her.
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