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Angel of the Sands: Part 13

You shake your head and look down. You cannot accept his proposal when you know so little about him. At first you worry that he might not react well to the rejection but after a few seconds he shrugs and picks up his chalice.

“No matter. It was worth my asking. Either way you shall lead our people to greatness.” Here he pauses and raises the drink as if to toast. “To a wonderful future.”

You echo his words and drink the wine from your own cup. As soon as it’s gone you place the cup on the nearest surface and get to your feet.

“I have had a long day and wish to get some sleep. I will return to my own tent now,” you say and give him a respectful nod of your head. “Thank you for your hospitality.”

The Khaad smiles in return and follows you towards the exit of his tent. He reaches his arm across the opening as if to draw the flap back for you but pauses, blocking your way instead.

“I understand your reluctance to marry so soon after your arrival, but I fear for you, Angel. The other Khaad’s intentions may not be honourable. I insist that one of my riders accompany you, just until you’ve married or joined the Khaadain. To help keep you safe.”

After hesitating for a moment you nod and accept his offer of protection. You suspect it might be the only way to get out of the tent, but it’s also an interesting offer. Although, you’re not sure what good it might do you, the extra person might come in handy some day, and might know some English to help you communicate with your slaves.

As soon as you’ve given him your answer he sweeps back the tent flap and lets you out. He follows you and calls up one of his dempair.

“This is Gragoro. He will keep you safe,” the Khaad says to you and then mentions something to the new man. He towers above you and carried several swords at his waist but bows a moment later.

“I will protect,” he says haltingly. You nod and thank him and then do the same the Khaad. With the pleasantries done you make your way out of the tribal camp and back towards the Khaadain. Unlike earlier, few people notice your passing and you have to rely on Gragoro to give you directions when you don’t know exactly where your own tent had been set up, but you reach your own haven eventually and step inside.

You’re about to sigh with relief when you see the fifteen slaves you’ve been given are lined up in three rows right in the middle of the tent. As you suspected you’ve been given so much that only a small walkway allows for travel except for the space in the middle where they stand. You also quickly realise that there’s no bed and they’ve fashioned you some kind of makeshift mattress from piles of pillows, all kept in place by the stacked boxes of clothes, jewellery and other assorted items.

“Thank you,” you say, knowing they’re not likely to understand you anyway. You follow it with a smile and scan their faces. A few return the gesture but most look blankly at some point in the distance as if they’re not really there. “I’d like to sleep now.”

At first, none of them move. Eventually one steps forward and bows, bending one knee as he does.

“Angel, I am, Jareen, the most trusted slave of Khaad Ventral. He gave me the great honour of learning the language of the Angels. May I be of assistance in instructing your slaves to do your biding?”

You nod, glad that someone among the slaves you own can understand you so well.

“This is Gragoro. I think he’s the first to form my own dempair,” you say, not sure if the term is correct but hoping it is. Jareen nods and the two men exchange a few words in their own language.

“I’d really like to get some sleep, I’m exhausted,” you say and smile at your new slaves. Jareen bows as do all of the other slaves and after a few words, all but one file out of the tent, leaving you with a teenage girl. She motions for you to follow her towards your bed and then helps you change into the nightwear you were given only a few hours earlier.

It doesn’t take long for you to fall asleep after all the events of the day.

***

As the sound of something glass smashing comes to your ears, you’re jolted out of your sleep. You blink groggily at your surroundings, confused at first, but soon realise you are in your personal tent. The metallic clang of swords hitting each other breaks the silence again and you hurry up from the bed and grab the nearby robe, your servant had placed nearby.

When you’re decent you hurry out of the tent and find Gragoro and Jareen locked in a fight. Both are yelling at each other and Gragoro hesitates when he sees you. This allows Jareen a chance to lunge forward. His sword goes right through Gragoro, cutting the man’s chest and heart open, but the slave impales Jareen’s stomach, sending blood flying from both of them.

Both collapse on the ground and Gragoro is dead before he hits the earthen floor. You rush to Jareen who clutches at the wound, trying to stop the flow of blood, but it does little to help. When you crouch at his side, he frowns.

“What happened?” you ask, not entirely sure that you want an answer.

“Forgive us, Angel. Both our Khaad’s wanted you. I shouldn’t have agreed, But your safe…” His voice trails off for a moment and he grits his teeth in pain.

You notice your slaves have gathered around and are looking at the scene with wide eyes, but you don’t know what to do. You’re no doctor and you don’t know who to trust any more.

“Forgive us, please?” Concern fills his face and he reaches out to you with his less bloody hand. “Please, Angel?”

You nod, not sure what else to do.

“You’re forgiven. Both of you.” he closes his eyes in response and doesn’t seem to notice when you remove your wrist from his grip. You have no idea how much longer he’ll live, if he’s even conscious any more.

“Make Jareen comfortable,” you say to the nearest servant, but he stares at you and blinks a couple of times. You try a few motions that the slave might understand but you get the same blank look. As you try another slave nearby they start whispering among themselves and ignore you altogether.

You begin to shake and soon find the young slave who helped you to bed the night before coming towards you with a blanket in your arms. Of all of the slaves around you she seems to have more awareness and less shock at the bloodshed. You smile your thanks. Not far behind her comes one of the elder women who helped you get ready for the ceremony earlier. Your young slave must have fetched her from the Khaadain.

Instantly she begins to bark orders at the stationary slaves and several of them spring into action. With them all hurrying about she comes up to you and takes your hands.

“I’m sorry this happened on your first night, Angel, but you are safe. We will take you into the Khaadain area. It is our most sacred and we can protect you there. Come.” Like a mother hen she puts her arm around you and gently steers you in the direction you need to go. You don’t resist, but let her take you deeper into the Khaadain’s living area.

She takes you to another tent, similar to your own and only then do you realise the slave girl followed as well.

“You’re in good hands with this one,” the Khaadain elder says before she leaves you. You’re helped into bed once more and left alone again.

You’re not as tired as you thought you would be and you find yourself thinking over your arrival with these people and all the events since. Although some interesting things have happened and you’ve met quite a few new people, you aren’t sure if this was the best way things could have gone.

You’re being protected by old men and boys in a small tent in the middle of a tribal nation’s sacred grounds. Even if you’ve not officially joined the Khaadain, you might look like you have, but events just seemed to lead here, and you have no idea if the Khaads will let you be or not, but you suspect it is going to put a damper on their interest in you. They may even go back to their usual nomadic lifestyle and leave you there.

Whatever the future brought you knew it wouldn’t be quite what you’d hoped.

The End

I hoped you’ve enjoyed reading the Angel of the Sands story. I know 13 parts isn’t particularly the longest of stories, but I found when I put the entire set of branches together up to this point I had at least 400 pages of story and realised if I ever wanted to put all the options together in one book I needed to bring this to a closing point and consider having sequels. To that end I’ll be taking a break while I work on that exact novel and get it finished and published. Then, when you can go through the many various options as many times as you like I’ll consider carrying on here.

Angel of the Sands: Part 12

Wanting to enjoy yourself you decide to ignore the Khaadain and motion for the servants nearby to bring you more food and drink instead.

They soon get the meaning of your actions and another platter of spiced, roasted meat is brought to you along with a slightly less ornamental goblet. Within it is a different drink that doesn’t taste quite so alcoholic and bitter but you know it’s still likely to get you drunk if you kick back too much of it.

Another half an hour ticks by and you’re starting to get bored of sitting by yourself when one of the more popular Khaads gets up and comes over to you, leaving his dempair and entire tribe behind. A lull comes over the conversations and background noise although it doesn’t disappear entirely.

After giving you a slight bow he sits near your feet and leans in to talk. You give him your attention and try to ignore the eyes all focused on the pair of you. He has a deep black moustache which frames the top of his mouth and his skin is a little darker than Temullgei’s. He also sits a little taller, but less muscles adorn his bare chest and arms.

“Angel, are you enjoying this feast?” he asks. You nod, not sure you could answer in any other way. “We are blessed to have an Angel among us of such beauty.”

He pauses and gazes at you for a moment. You don’t reply, having heard similar things from Temullgei.

“I hope you have been happy in your short time with us so far?”

Again you nod.

“I understand that Temullgei found you and brought you to the Khaadain. I hope he took great care of you?”

“He did his best,” you finally say.

“I’m sure he did… If you get bored of the feast or wish for a more relaxed atmosphere, I would be honoured to have you visit me for a private audience this evening. I can assure you that my personal gerd is most comfortable.”

“Thank you for the invitation. I will consider the offer.” You smile and he gets up. You realise that everyone around you must have lost interest in watching during that conversation except for Temullgei who looks even more annoyed than he did before.

You wait for a few more minutes, not sure what to do and eventually the Khaadain catch your eye. You watch as they pour more of the previous substance into the same goblet and realise they thought you were wanting the ceremony to end.

A few seconds later they bring the cup to you and place it in your hand. After pausing and taking a deep breath you stand and hold the goblet high one last time. Hoping this will be the last time you ever have to drink the foul stuff you gulp it down again.

A final loud cheer fills the night air when you’re done. You then hand the cup back and begin the slow but welcome walk out of the circle and towards your bed. The tribe men and women part as you come towards them but only enough for you to walk through the gap. As you pass many reach out and stroke your arms and shoulders while a few women even stroke your hair.

At first this makes you feel uncomfortable, but the contact remains gentle and the sea of people parts before you without resistance no matter how deep you get.

You’re just about to decide whether to make your way towards Khaad Benrah’s gerd or your own when he appears to one side of you and takes your arm in his. While smiling at the crowds he gently guides you along towards his tent.

His dempair and servants follow on behind you until you reach his tent. The closest servant holds open the flap for you and you step into the warm insides. A large fire sits in the middle of the largest tent you’ve ever seen, with soft, fur covered cushions. Near that is more food, evidently already prepared by his servants. All the furniture, including the bed is made from ornately carved wood with gemstones laid into it. You’ve never seen so much wealth in one place.

“Come, sit,” he says and guides you to the soft area near the fire. He makes himself comfortable beside you and his servant pours wine into two chalices, almost as ornate as the ceremonial one you drank from earlier.

He hands you one and smiles at you. Without waiting for further instruction his servants all hurry out and you find yourself alone with Benrah.

“I am honoured that you have granted this private audience. I had barely dared to hope that I would get to meet an Angel one day. And here you are.” He smiles, yet again and you hesitate. Being repeatedly praised doesn’t make conversation easy.

“Here I am,” you say, a moment later. He seems to be struggling to get to the point of his request.

“I know this is very bold of me, but I know Khaad Temullgei has already asked you to be his wife, and we barely know each other, but…” Here he pauses and puts his chalice of wine down. You know what is going to come next, but not exactly how it will be phrased. Temullgei did at least warn you that this might happen. “I would like you to consent to be my wife. I won’t lie to you, having you as my wife would make me powerful, but I would take care of you and ensure you’re provided for. I command the largest tribe and would help you unite our people, as the Khaadain predict you will do.”

As Benrah finishes speaking he takes your nearest hand and kisses the back of it, tickling it with the hair from his moustache.

“Will you be my wife?”

Angel of the Sands: Part 11

After a moment of her staring at you, you nod and then shake your head. She frowns, and raises her eyebrow at your motions.

“I told him I’d marry him yesterday but now I’m not so sure. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

This only deepened the woman’s frown. A second later she encourages you to sit and moves off to talk with the other elders. They mutter together in their own language for a long time, occasionally glancing back at you and you realise that agreeing to marry Temullgei may have been a bigger decision than you first realised.

Eventually the conversation comes to an end and they turn back to face you.

“This is something that normally wouldn’t be allowed. I assume Temullgei announced the betrothal to his tribe?” the eldest says. You nod. “Then we can only ask if he will relinquish his claim to your hand in marriage. Wait here while we do so.”

One of the women leaves and the rest gather around you, bringing bowls of coconut scented water and fresh clothes with them. Over the next hour they clean every inch of you and smother your face with paste, and rinse your hair in several different bowls of scented waters.

When they finish, they help you dress in an elegant gold gown and use sashes and cords to hug the material to every slight curve of your body. They then place a circlet of intertwined strands of mixed metals, designed to look like vines, with leaves of the same golds, and silvers placed in ornamental positions. On the end of each leaf a tiny jewel glinted in the sunlight.

Along with this they placed several similarly styled bracelets and anklets on and finally a large necklace with the biggest blood red diamond that hung against the top of your chest.

Just as the women were making the last few adjustments to your clothing the missing elder comes back. Right behind her is Temullgei. His face is impassive but you can see from the anger in his eyes that he’s not happy.

As your stomach flips over several times the elders all scurry from the room, leaving you along with the Khaad.

“The Khaadain has informed me that you no longer wish to be my wife. Normally, such a request is not granted by the tribal leaders, but you are unused to our ways. If you have truly changed your mind, then I won’t force you to become my wife, but I won’t hold back from expressing my anger and hurt at the lack of respect you’ve shown me.” he says, his tone sharp and clipped but still respectful towards you.

“I’m sorry, but I’ve changed my mind.”

“Very well. I will inform my tribe.” Without another glance at you Temullgei leaves. The Khaadain elders come back inside and its evident from the looks on their faces that they have heard what was said. From that point onwards they speak to you in short sentences and no more smiles cross their faces. A couple don’t even look at you. Although none of them express it, they evidently disapprove of your actions as well.

With your attire finished the eldest of them tells you what little you need to remember for the ceremony. Mostly it involves smiling, waving and accepting gifts. There is a short toast and food will be laid out at your feet most of the afternoon and evening. Then, when it is dark and you are tired, you can stand and leave. No one else will leave until you do.

With these simple instructions you’re sure you can handle what’s expected of you and hopefully regain some of the good favour you appear to have lost.

After taking a deep breath you allow yourself to be ushered back out of the small area you’ve been in for the last couple of hours. With a smile you don’t quite feel plastered to your mouth you walk the short distance to a small seat placed at the top end of the circular area. Already many people are gathered within the circle and around the outside of it, expanding out as far as you can see.

The crescendo of voices almost deafened you as you waved like you’d been told and slowly made your way to your seat. When you reached it a nearby elder came forward. Within her hands was a chalice full of a pale pink liquid. You take it, as you’ve been instructed to and hold the cup aloft. The roar and noise around you grows even louder.

When the crowd has quieted a little you bring it to your lips and take a gulp. Immediately the bitter fruity drink fills your mouth, almost making you gag. Whatever this is, it isn’t something you like, and you have to drink the whole thing.

Focusing on the level of the liquid on the opposite side of the chalice you take gulp after gulp and focus on anything but the taste. Somehow you manage to drink the entire amount but you can feel is sloshing around in your stomach.

With the cup empty the same member of the Khaadain rushes forward and takes it from you. You then take your place in the seat. Glad for the support when your vision blurs slightly. Thoughts slow in your head and you realise the drink must have been an alcohol or narcotic of some kind, perhaps even both.

As the parade of people giving you gifts begins to form you have to force your mind to focus and utter your thanks for each and every one. Many of the people bring you little objects, pretty stones, and ornaments but one or two men come swaggering up to you with slaves bearing armfuls of gifts. They each have many bare-chested men with them and when one steps further forward than the others do he opens his mouth to speak.

“Angel, I am Khaad Benrah. It is an honour to see such a beautiful Angel amongst us once more. If you ever need anything me and my dempair is at your disposal.”

You nod and thank him for the gifts but say nothing else. His words are an eerie echo of Temullgei’s.

Over the next few hours more and more possessions pile up around you, including slaves. Finally, towards the end of the evening you notice Temullgei get up from his seat off to one side. Until now you’ve barely had time to even glance his way but he has your attention now.

Just like the other Khaad, his dempair accompany him towards you but none of them smile and a quiet settles over the watching crowd. News of your recent decision must have travelled amongst the tribes represented.

Despite the stony face that he presents you with he is followed by more slaves bearing gifts. You run your eyes over them, not knowing where else to look. Immediately you can tell that they’re the jewellery and clothes he paraded past you on the first night he met you.

As he retreats back to his seat you can’t help but wonder if the crowds also noticed that his gift was far smaller in number than the showering of possessions from the previous two Khaad. He was understandably still angry. Only a few more people came to you bearing gifts after him and you wondered if the night was finally drawing towards the feasting part.

As the last man bows at you and presents you with what must be your hundredth dress of the day a commotion starts almost directly ahead of you. An entire mass of people push their way through the crowds, trying to get to you. Eventually the spectators part and another Khaad with his dempair, and most of his tribe come up to the edge of the circle.

They bow low at the Khaadain who sat off to one side, and then in your direction while you sit and wait. This Khaad’s tribe looks to be much smaller than the others around him and the members barely take up any space within the circle, but he stands tall and comes towards you. Behind him trail several slave men carrying a large canvas like object between them.

“Khaaheed, for you. A Gerd,” he says as the bring the massive object towards you. He struggles with the words almost as much as they struggle with carrying the heavy object. You think he called you Angel in their language but you can’t be sure, but of all the gifts, he’s given you one you’re the most sure you need. The tent-like canvas these people live in. You give him your most sincere thanks and the warmest smile you’ve been able to muster since the ceremony began.

With every gift laid in a pile and your slaves ushered off to set up your tent for you, the smell of hot food begins to waft your way. You realise that you’re starving and have been for some time. The groggy feeling in your head has barely subsided though and you know there’s more of the drink to come.

Thankfully the food arrives first and you tuck in, trying to ignore the people watching you take your first bites. Once you’ve eaten a little and the trays have been passed you find the tribes turn their attention to food. Feeling less exposed you relax a little, but you remain alone on your pedestal, surveying the people but not among them.

After a couple of hours your slaves return and begin carrying all your gifts to your new home. You wonder if everything is going to fit but you were warned not to reject any gifts and that means your slaves will need to find somewhere to put them. It would have been a lot worse had no one thought to give you a tent of your own. At least it meant you didn’t have to stay with the Khaadain. You would feel safer and more relaxed in your own private dwelling.

Not long after all your gifts have been moved you notice a lull in the noise around you and more people glance your way. The sun has already gone for the day and the stars are starting to shine above the fires and torches that were lit in preparation. You suspect some of the people are now waiting on you to leave.

This story is entirely free to the reader and will continue to be throughout, but as you might have gathered from the website around this I make my living from writing fiction. This post is over 1000 words long and took me a few hours to write and polish. Although it’s definitely not a must, if you enjoyed this and want to say thank you in a monetary fashion please consider becoming a patron of mine at Patreon (a lot like kickstarter but more of a pledge per episode/installment sort of thing). You can also say thank you by sharing this with friends who might enjoy it or dropping me a message here or through my email address.

Angel of the Sands: Part 10

After waiting a few minutes for your servant girl to come back, you give up and encourage your horse forward yourself. You cannot wait in the shadows any longer while danger could be closing in around you. Instead you will meet whatever awaits head on.

The first thing you notice are the charred remains of several tents and women crying over ruined possessions and dead men. Further in from that, many more of the tribesmen are still on their horses and several times you have to steer out of their way as they scurry past. For now everyone ignores you.

Even deeper into the temporary village you find yourself lost. All the canvas homes look the same and everyone nearby continues to scurry around in a busy fashion and ignore you and the horse you ride.

You turn this way and that, trying to find the centre and your own tent, or a rider you recognise, but you just find yourself even more lost. This continues for several minutes until you stop the horse to try and get your bearings or ask someone to direct you to the Khaad.

Once your horse has stopped you try to pinpoint anything that might mark the wealthier part of the tribe but the tents that are still up are being hauled down while you sit and watch. The tribe will be on the move again.

The grip of a hand on your arm makes you jump. One of the men from Temullgei’s dempair has ridden up beside you without you noticing. He doesn’t let go, but mutters something under his breath and reaches over with his other hand to take your reigns.

After tying them to his own horse he leads you away with him, giving you little choice but to hold on and hope he is taking you back to Temullgei and you can ask what has happened.

You were evidently going in the wrong direction because he soon has you turned around and going almost back the way you’d come, but it’s another half an hour before you reach the centre of the large tribe. By then almost all the tents are packed into small piles and carts are laden.

It doesn’t take you long to spot the familiar litter and you are led right up to the mobile sleeping area, where a different servant girl ushers you inside and places a selection of foods and drink around you as if nothing has changed.

No sooner has she gone than you feel the jolt of being lifted and the sway of movement as you’re carried along. You wish you’d been given the opportunity to talk to Temullgei about what happened but resolve to ask him when you next get a chance to. If anything had happened to him, you feel sure that you’d know about it already.

Hours pass while you waited in the litter, but for the first day since you arrived in this strange place you aren’t too hot. The trees form a canopy of coolness over the path the tribe take and keep the litter out of the sun in the hottest part of the day.

Making use of the time, you catch up on the sleep you lost earlier and eat what you wish while you don’t have to give preference to anyone else. It’s hard to get used to the rituals and customs of the people around you when it could be so easy to offend them.

Long before you would normally halt, you start to hear the sounds of people talking and cheering and a few minutes after that your litter is placed down somewhere. You suck in your breath, wondering if you have arrived at the Khaadain, but you have little time to wonder, before the flap is pulled open and Temullgei himself ushers you outside.

You take his hand and allow him to help you to the ground. The second you emerge cheering and yelling erupt around you.

“Smile, Angel,” Temullgei whispers in your ear whilst he leads you towards his horse, which stands waiting in a forest clearing. You do your best to obey and look happy for the people all staring and cheering at you.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” you say as he gives everyone a moment to look at you.

“You were worried?”

“Yes, I had no idea what was happening. It sounded like the tribe was attacked.”

“It was. Another tribe heard that you were with us and came to take you. I sent, Melisha, your servant girl to take you somewhere safe. I’m sorry she failed you, my Angel. I had her beaten for her disobedience.”

“But she did take me somewhere safe.”

“Johef told me he found you lost in the camp.”

“He did…”

“Then she failed at her duty, but you are safe now, my Angel. Come.”

As he did the day before, Temullgei places you on the horse and gets up behind you, holding you steady with his arms and torso. The conversation is evidently over but you feel dreadful. Your earlier decision resulted in someone being punished. You wonder if it might have been wiser to have listened to her and stayed under the trees.

The path continues out the other side of the clearing and you lead the entire tribe through the people lined descent into a tree filled valley.

Along the side of the road at regular intervals are statues, some of great people, others of animals, mostly horses and in between are many women, old men and children, all smiling, waving and whooping in delight at seeing you, but you struggle to smile back.

“I sent riders ahead, to let them know I’d found you,” Temullgei explains in your ear. “Now they can prepare the feast and our wedding before we’re even there.”

You inhale and nod. Things are progressing quicker than you’d ever imagined they would.

It doesn’t take long for the procession to arrive at the centre of the Khaadain and Temullgei stops the horse. You’re in front of a large half outdoor, half canvas covered circle with several large seats at one end and many small circles of cushions and small tables around the edges. Stones, shells and jewels decorate the various parts of the construction and it’s obvious this is a major focal point for these people.

When you’re on solid ground Temullgei takes your hand again and leads you forward. Five chairs sit at the top of the circle and each one has a wizened old woman sitting in them.

As soon as he’s taken you within a few feet he bows. You do the same but laughter erupts around you and he gently nudges you to your feet again.

“Welcome, Angel,” The middle of the women says and stands. “Come.”

She gives you a warm smile and ushers you towards her and the others. As soon as you draw close they all pat you lightly on the arms and encourage you through a curtain to a cushioned room.

“Here, we will get you ready to present to the Khaadain and all the Khaad who arrive in time. Do not fret, the ceremony is very easy for you and I’m sure you will get used to our customs soon. I understand that you have also agreed to marry Khaad Temullgei, and join yourself with his tribe?” she asks when the six of you are alone in the room.

Her words are soft and gentle and it’s evident that her and the women around her understand your language as if it is their own. For the first time since you arrived you are with people sympathetic to your situation and feelings. You also realise that this is likely to be the last time you could change your mind in marrying Temullgei.

This story is entirely free to the reader and will continue to be throughout, but as you might have gathered from the website around this I make my living from writing fiction. This post is over 1000 words long and took me a few hours to write and polish. Although it’s definitely not a must, if you enjoyed this and want to say thank you in a monetary fashion please consider becoming a patron of mine at Patreon (a lot like kickstarter but more of a pledge per episode/installment sort of thing). You can also say thank you by sharing this with friends who might enjoy it or dropping me a message here or through my email address.

Angel of the Sands: Part 9

As you allow your servant to help you out of the dress and slip into the warm water you realise you’ve been needing something like this all day. With a sigh of relief you settle back in the tub and find it surprisingly more comfortable than it looks. Before you can even consider washing the servant girl comes back with a bar of soap and a wad of material that looks a bit like a towel.

She goes to use the soap and start washing you, but you shake your head and take the bar from her.

“Thank you, but no. I can do this myself,” you say, doubting she’ll understand you but saying it anyway. With a nod she places the towel on a small table, within easy reaching distance and leaves the tent. She understood the sentiment even if she didn’t know the words.

Enjoying the pain relief and feel of the water washing the sweat off you take your time in cleaning yourself. The soap soon has you smelling of the same coconut and spice that the rest of the tribe often give off, but its significantly more pleasant than the odour of sweat so you don’t complain.

When every inch of you has been scrubbed you decide you’ve had enough. So much dirt came off you that you no longer wish to sit in the filthy water but dry and put on fresh clothes. With this thought in mind you stand to reach your towel. Once you have the slightly course material wrapped around you and covering you up you feel a little less exposed, but only slightly. You still don’t know when Temullgei will be back.

You have just begun drying your legs and stepped out onto the mat beside the tub when you hear the familiar swish of the tent material moving back and forth. Panicking you freeze to the spot, only covered by the towel.

Before you can think what to do Temullgei comes around the edge of the screen. His eyes rove from your head to your toes drinking in the sight, and then look around you, searchingly

“Where’s the girl?” he asks.

“Oh, I sent her away, I wanted to bathe by myself.”

He takes a few steps towards you while you stay on the mat dripping and not sure what to do about it.

“As an Angel and even as my Khaadel, you don’t have to do these things yourself,” he says coming closer again, but more slowly. “Here, let me.”

You suck in your breath and hold it as he moves so close he can wrap his arms around you. Gently, while keeping you covered by the towel, he rubs it over your skin to help dry the clinging moisture off. As his hands move closer to your groin you feel your muscles tensing, but he goes past and leaves that part of you.

“You don’t need to fear me, Angel. I keep saying this but you are slow to trust me.”

With that he walks back towards the entrance of the tent.

“Come out and eat when you’re ready.”

You exhale as you find yourself alone once more. Not wasting any time you pull on your clothes and allow your servant, who conveniently reappears when you need her, to tie your fresh dress in place.

It takes the next few minutes for your heart rate to return to normal but as soon as it has you exit the tent and look for Temullegi. You see him sitting with his dempair by a fire and he soon beckons you over to join them.

The meal is very similar to the night before, with one exception. This time Temullgei takes the food before you, confirming your suspicion that within their society your status has been lowered to beneath his.

When it grows late and you yawn with sleepiness. He helps you to your feet and escorts you back into the tent, without saying a word to anyone else. Within seconds your servant has scurried to appear at your side and arranges the bed for you, while you stand with your future husband and wait.

“Tomorrow I will present you to the Khaadain and marry you, so I think it is wise to leave you for tonight. I will let you rest, but I will keep one of my servants nearby in case you wish for me at any point.”

Without waiting for you to reply he places a quick kiss on your cheek and leaves again. Before your servant can encourage you into bed you follow and notice one of the creepier men from his dempair is now standing a few metres from your tent flap. Not wanting him to see you, you retreat back inside and get into bed. Even if you’d wanted to, you couldn’t run from the tribe and your future with them tonight, and the morning would bring your fate.

***

The following morning arrives to your attention with the shaking your servant gives you. Her eyes are full of concern and she places her fingers to her lips to encourage you to be silent.

With a quick nod you push back the covers and get out of bed. She helps you dress much faster than on the previous occasions and takes your hand in hers as soon as you’re decent. As she hurries towards the tent flap she gives you no choice to follow and your mind already races through the many possibilities and scenarios that might make her act like this.

The man from Temullgei’s dempair no longer stands outside your temporary home. Instead the tribe is rushing about in a frenzy of activity, despite the pre-dawn gloom that still hangs in the air. Still holding tightly to your hand the servant glances around and then rushes with you towards a group of horses tied to a nearby tree.

As you exit the tent you notice the smell of burning and more noises of screaming and frantic yelling meet your ears. It sounds like some battle is being waged all around you, but you cannot be sure of anything.

Your servant encourages you to get into the saddle of the nearest horse as soon as you reach them. She then fumbles with the knot holding the horse to the tree and undoes a second one while holding onto the reigns of yours.

Although it feels like minutes while you glance nervously around and listen for signs that danger is coming closer it’s only seconds before she’s on a horse beside you and leading you both off away from the loudest yells and shouts.

You huddle low in the saddle as your servant walks you both past tents and running tribe members and then deeper into the forest. When you are huddled in the gloom under the trees, she hands you back the reigns to your horse and puts her fingers to her lips to remind you to keep quiet. Whatever is happening she intends to keep you safely away from it.

For a few minutes you stay where you are listening as the sounds grow quieter and less chaotic around you. Once the noises can barely be heard the girl turns to look at you.

“En bay,” she says, motioning with her hands for you to stay back. You think she’s trying to tell you to wait there for her but you can’t be sure. After studying the forest towards the camp she urges her horse forward in a slow trot and leaves you behind. For now the early dawn will keep you hidden in shadow and keep you relatively safe from whatever is happening but it won’t be dark for long.

This story is entirely free to the reader and will continue to be throughout, but as you might have gathered from the website around this I make my living from writing fiction. This post is over 1000 words long and took me a few hours to write and polish. Although it’s definitely not a must, if you enjoyed this and want to say thank you in a monetary fashion please consider becoming a patron of mine at Patreon (a lot like kickstarter but more of a pledge per episode/installment sort of thing). You can also say thank you by sharing this with friends who might enjoy it or dropping me a message here or through my email address.

Angel of the Sands: Part 8

You hesitate over your reply, allowing your mind time to think over the offer. So far he has been kind to you and he did save your life. Alone in the desert you would have died.

When you turn back to him, he’s still gazing at you, studying your face, looking for your reaction. After a moment you nod.

“Yes, I’ll marry you,” you say and suck in your breath. You’ve said it now, and as a smile breaks over his face and he gets to his feet you know you are unlikely to be able to take it back.

He yells a short sentence to his people and cheering erupts. Now the tribe knows of your decision as well. A moment later he shouts it again. Another round of whooping and delight comes back from the tribe, this time more join in.

Before you can react to the noise and decide if you want the attention he turns to you and pulls you to your feet. With another yell he lifts you up into the air and sits you on his shoulder like you weigh nothing. Your face flushes as more and more cheering joins his cries of the same phrase, until you can’t hear anything but the constant roaring of the tribe.

Unable to get off from your perch you have no choice but to let him walk you towards his horse, while you cling to one of his hands and his opposite shoulder to help keep your balance. A procession of people follow you and watch as he places you on the horse and gets up behind. After snaking his hands around your waist and gripping the reigns he encourages his horse into a slow walk. You shiver, despite the heat and his arms wrap a little tighter around you, holding your torso against his.

“Do not be afraid, Angel. You’ve made a wise decision. As a member of my tribe and my Khaadel the other Khaad will be forced to respect you.”

“I only know you a little better than others.”

“True, but we will have many years to get to know each other after our wedding. I look forward to it.” He settles one arm against your stomach, gripping the reigns in the other hand and you lapse into silence. As it has seemed since you found yourself in the desert there is little choice but to go along with events and now Temullgei, and his plans for you.

As the tribe gather around you to move towards the Khaadain once more you notice all the riders who rested in the shade with Temullgei position their horses in a circle around him and now you. Between them, they keep watch from all directions and converse with Temullgei in their language.

The sun shines brightly down and the afternoon feels as if it is growing hotter, making you grateful that you’re travelling away from it and his body shields you from the worst of the sweltering sun.

You fidget a little as time goes by, finding the constant movement of the saddle beneath you making you sore. Each time you do the arm across your stomach tenses, but he says nothing and doesn’t slow his horse.

“I’m getting tired,” you say after a few hours.

“We still have time to go before we can stop. It is not good to camp here.” He motions around you and brings the terrain to your attention. Little grows here, just sand and more sand. “We need to reach those trees.”

He lifts an arm and points ahead to the smudge on the horizon. You sigh and fix your eyes on it, hoping to will it closer, but they barely seem to move. Silence fills the air as the rest of the tribe struggles under the same heat, but eventually you find yourself right at the edge of the large expanse of trees.

As soon as Temullgei stops his horse you try to get off but he tightens both hands around your torso.

“Not yet,” he whispers in your ear before getting down and helping you off the horse as well. No one else gets off their horses until he nods and you realise that you almost went against some form of cultural norm.

“You have to dismount first?” you ask in a low tone as he guides you to the shade of the nearest tree.

“Yes, it is our way. The Khaad first, then his Khaadel, then the Dempair, my riders,” he explains. When your servants run up to attend to you and fan you some more he gives them several orders that you don’t understand and they hurry off again. You begin to suspect that in agreeing to be his wife you have lost some of the command you held over the rest of his people. He is now above you, despite his insistence that you are an Angel.

“I would like to take a bath this evening,” you say a moment later when it appears that you are going to stand and wait for your tent to be erected. He raises his eyebrows and stares at you.

“It would help me feel less sore,” you explain when he says nothing in response, feeling a little like you are justifying your actions when you shouldn’t have to.

“As you wish.” He finally shifts his focus from you and says something to the next servant as she comes past. You can only assume that he has passed on your request for you. Unsure what else to do you go to sit but he grabs your hands and stops you before you can fully perch.

“Ooguair,” he snaps. It sounds like he said no, but you can’t be sure. As you frown at him he points to a spot less than a foot from where you were trying to sit. A small scorpion squats in the sunlight on a leaf. You shiver and take a step away from it and towards him. You don’t take your eyes off the creature until Temullgei laughs.

“Our Gerd will be ready soon, my Angel. Until then, stay close.” As if to emphasise his point he puts his arm around you and almost pins you to his side. Awkwardly you tuck your arms around his waist as well and find yourself pressed closer to his bare chest than you’d have liked, but he smiles his satisfaction at the arrangement.

You find your cheeks flushing read again and eagerly follow your servants when they come to let you know the tent is ready for you. Temullgei follows, your hand ensnared in his so you can’t get too far ahead.

The first thing you notice when you enter is a large metal tub sitting near the fire. It’s empty but one of the younger girls brings in a pitcher of water and pours it in while you wait beside. The water steams and brings the first real smile to your face all day.

“We will arrive at the Khaadain tomorrow,” he says as he walks past you. You nod, grateful for the information.

A small screen is erected beside the tub, but it only covers one side and you notice Temullgei lingers where he would be able to see you before sitting down on the cushions nearby. When the girls finish filling your bath with water you also see them checking the height with Temullgei. He nods and sends them away with a flick of his hand. Immediately your main serving girl comes up and holds out her hands to suggest she should start undressing you. Your eyes widen and you take a small step back, glancing between her and the Khaad. They exchange a few sentences that you don’t understand and he chuckles several times, before getting up.

“I will check on my tribe and be back when the food is ready,” he says and walks out. You exhale with relief. For a moment you thought he was going to watch you bathe and his actions all afternoon have kept you similarly on edge. You wonder if you’ve made the right choice, but you’re not sure if you could change your mind now, even if you wanted to. And tomorrow you will be presented to the Khaadain.

This story is entirely free to the reader and will continue to be throughout, but as you might have gathered from the website around this I make my living from writing fiction. This post is over 1000 words long and took me a few hours to write and polish. Although it’s definitely not a must, if you enjoyed this and want to say thank you in a monetary fashion please consider becoming a patron of mine at Patreon (a lot like kickstarter but more of a pledge per episode/installment sort of thing). You can also say thank you by sharing this with friends who might enjoy it or dropping me a message here or through my email address.

Angel of the Sands: Part 5

You stop walking and turn to look at him, trying to make it obvious that you have something to say.

“What is wrong, Angel?” he asks before you can open your mouth and speak. You frown and try to think of the best way to tell him that you’re not who he thinks you are.

“I don’t think I’m an Angel,” you say eventually. Instantly he smiles and a moment later he laughs.

“You are definitely an Angel. We found you in the desert just like all the Angels who came before.”

“I understand, but I’m human, just like you.” Your stomach tenses as he lifts his hand to yours and leads you back to the seating area.

“Angel, I don’t think you do understand.” He reaches up and strokes the hair from the side of your face. “It is possible you are not an Angel, but you should not create doubt of this. It is better for you to allow the attention and the… protection I can offer.”

You gulp but don’t interrupt.

“The Angels before have all come from another land, a distant one none of us have ever seen and they have all appeared suddenly, with no warning to them and little to us. Another is mentioned, one who unites all our Khaads under one banner. Your beauty could well do this for us.”

You shake your head.

“I cannot pretend to be an Angel, if I am not one. I don’t know how to lead people.”

He frowns again but doesn’t speak, instead studying your face.

“You are from elsewhere, are you not?”

“Yes, a place called London in England.”

“And you came here suddenly, with no idea why?” You nod, seeing where he is going. “You are pale, like all Angels before, and you are of good character. We are talking of this because of your desire to be honest. This is all my people know of the Angels. No one lives who has ever met one.”

“You think I’m an Angel despite my fears?”

“Yes. If you are not one, you are so alike, you should be. And when we see our Khaadain I will present you as an angel, promising its truth to all present.” He lifts your hands and presses the backs to his lips, one after the other.

“You have a lot of faith in me.” At this he laughs again.

“In your beauty, yes. And now in your honesty, but this must never be spoken of again. You are an Angel, and for your sake, I ask you not to declare otherwise.” He lowers his gaze and shivers. “The thought of what might happen to you if the tribes decide you’re not… I would not be able to protect you, Angel. Many men would fight over possessing your beauty and you would be consumed by the victor. I cannot bear the…”

He doesn’t finish his sentence but trails off again. After a few seconds he regains his composure and looks up into your eyes.

“Thank you,” you say and smile. Although you still don’t feel sure you’re what his people think an Angel is, he has made you feel less deceptive. If he is convinced that you’re as much an Angel as the people who came before you then it bodes well that others will think the same thing.

“I have been neglectful of you. I should not have left you earlier without explaining our culture and beliefs to you, at least in part. I offer you my apology and ask your forgiveness, sweet Angel.”

“You’re forgiven,” you utter, not even pausing to think about it.

“Good.” He pulls you to your feet. “Tomorrow I will sit with you and explain many things, but the night is passing and I am missing the time for trelair and sleep.”

“Trelair?” you ask.

“There is no direct word in your language. It is the time men have with their wives and female slaves, when they give way to desire and passion.”

“Ah,” you say and find your cheeks flushing. “I am sorry for keeping you from your wife.”

“You are not keeping me from a wife.” He grins. “I have many slaves from my conquered enemies but no wife. I can choose one of them if I wish to satisfy trelair when we are done.”

“Then do not let me keep you here longer.” His calmness while talking of such a subject makes you feel even less comfortable and you almost hate yourself for being so British, and so bright red.

“Would you like to choose one of my slaves for trelair? I have many men and would be honoured to gift one to you. Or women, if you would prefer…”

“Uh, no, I’m fine. Thank you, but no. I couldn’t. Not a slave.” You shut your mouth, realising that if you leave it open, you will babble until he interrupts.

A second later a smirk crosses his face and he surprises you by moving forward to press a swift kiss on your lips as his arms wrap around your waist. He pulls his face back to look into your eyes but doesn’t let go of you. It occurs to you that he may have taken your objection to having a slave as a suggestion that you wanted something else.

What do you do?

Kiss him again and find out what trelair means.

Pull out of his arms and explain that you’re not that sort of woman.

Slap him.

This story is entirely free to the reader and will continue to be throughout, but as you might have gathered from the website around this I make my living from writing fiction. This post is just under 1000 words long and took me a few hours to write and polish. Although it’s definitely not a must, if you enjoyed this and want to say thank you in a monetary fashion please consider becoming a patron of mine at Patreon (a lot like kickstarter but more of a pledge per episode/installment sort of thing). You can also say thank you by sharing this with friends who might enjoy it or dropping me a message here or through my email address.

Angel of the Sands: Part 4

After waiting for a few minutes to see if anyone else intends to visit you for any reason you pad over to the entrance of the tent and push the flap to one side. Instantly the two muscular guards notice you and pull the opening material out of your way.

With a smile of thanks you come forward and look around you. Since you entered to eat, many more tents have been erected near yours, forming a sort of circle. Off to one side you see an outdoor fire with many more people gathered around it. You think you see Temullgei with his back to you, seated and eating, so you hurry off in the opposite direction, putting your current home in between the pair of you.

A few seconds later a young man notices you. His eyes go wide and he stares until he remembers something and falls to his knees before you, mumbling a phrase you think you might have heard before. An awkward pause develops while he continues to bow before you, his hands on the ground and his forehead not far off.

“Angel?” Temullgei calls from behind you. As you turn he comes up to place his hand on your elbow. “Do you not wish to rest?”

“No… I… I know so little of your people. I thought I could talk to your tribe.”

“You have my apology, angel. Only Khaads and our Khaadain can speak your language, and not even all of those. My tribe cannot tell you more.”

“Ah.” You hesitate and look away. You’ve been caught outside sneaking around.

After a nod he speaks to the man at your feet and encourages the stranger to go.

“Angel, you need not fear. I know you come from another place and feel a desire to go back, all Angels have done. Come, let us go talk. I will tell you what I know.”

Before you can reply he puts pressure on your arm to steer you back the way you came. It doesn’t seem overly forceful but you doubt the wisdom of refusing him and walk at his side.

The guards nod at you on your return and once again hold the entrance open for you. You stifle the sigh that threatens to escape your lips and pause just inside. Temullgei comes in front of you and frowns.

“I think you are frightened. Frightened of my intentions and frightened for your safety,” he says and pauses while his eyes move slowly down from your face before they snap back to your eyes. “You have no need to be scared, Angel. Your beauty will not lead to… pressure, is that the right word?”

You nod, aware he’s picked up on some of your fears if not all of them.

“I will not pressure you to give me any favours you do not wish to, and I shall not permit others to.” He smiles and comes to take your fingers. Your breath catches in your throat as he lifts the back of your hand to his mouth and presses it to his lips.

“Come, sit with me and we will talk.”

He keeps your hand in his, giving you little choice but to follow where he leads. You sit with him putting more distance between you than before. If he notices he pretends he hasn’t.

“It is true, you are the first female Angel to come to our people, but you are not the first Angel, and all those before you have been treated with respect by my tribe and many other tribes. You need not fear me, my people, or your future. I will ensure you are taken care of and protected for as long as you are with us.” He says these words while looking directly at you, his gaze steady and a gentleness in his eyes and tone, but a slight hint of something creeps in as his focus moves from your face again. If his words are true and you’re safe with him it doesn’t exclude the desire he’d hinted at several times now.

“There have been Angels before now?” You ask, wanting to steer the conversation away from yourself and find out a little more about his tribe’s attitude towards you. He nods.

“Three in our records. You are the last predicted.”

“Predicted?”

“Yes. It is why I learnt your language. The Khaadain knew you were coming. I have been waiting my whole life to meet you.” His chest swells as he gazes at you and his pride is evident. “I will have the honour of presenting you to our Khaadain when we reach them. There you can teach us as the Angels before have done.”

You look away, stunned by all he’s saying. These people think you’re a messenger or godlike creature but you’re only a human. Whatever he thinks you’re here for, you doubt you are. You contemplate telling him that you’re not what he thinks you are, but a yawn escapes you.

“You are tired. We can talk more when the sun is in the sky once again.” He places his hands under your arm, lifting you to your feet as he gets up himself. Before you can protest he steers you towards the bed.

What do you do?

Go to bed and keep your secret.

Tell him that you’re not an Angel.

This story is entirely free to the reader and will continue to be throughout, but as you might have gathered from the website around this I make my living from writing fiction. This post is just under 1000 words long and took me a few hours to write and polish. Although it’s definitely not a must, if you enjoyed this and want to say thank you in a monetary fashion please consider becoming a patron of mine at Patreon (a lot like kickstarter but more of a pledge per episode/installment sort of thing). You can also say thank you by sharing this with friends who might enjoy it or dropping me a message here or through my email address.

Angel of the Sands: Part 3

After a moment to consider your response, you place your hand into his and allow him to lead you through the crowds to a large deep red tent. It’s one of only a few already set up and around it you see many more armed and topless men facing outwards like silent sentinels.

As you draw closer, two of the otherwise unmoving men part and pull open a flap. Your rescuer leads you inside and a small swishing noise lets you know the gap has been closed after you.

Inside feels warmer than outside. A small fire burns merrily in the middle, the thin wisps of smoke drifting up to a small hole in the very centre of the canvas. Spread around this in a circle are many cushioned areas and further back again a large bed with netted curtains drawn around it, and several low tables with cushions for kneeling in front of. Each table has food, cosmetics or jewellery laid out on it, similar to the gifts you have already.

“All this is yours, Angel,” he says, disturbing you from your inspection of it all. “Come, sit, and let us eat.”

Never letting go of your hand he moves with you to the centre and motions for you to sit on a collection of large blue cushions. As soon as you are comfortable he settles down beside you, his skin almost touching yours. Given that there are so many other places to sit you, this seems strange but until you know more you cannot say if it is normal behaviour or not.

Within seconds of sitting, the tent flaps open again and the same female servants as before come rushing in, each carrying platters of food. The smell of roasted meat and other foods you don’t recognise fills the tent as they come towards you. Once the food is placed within reaching distance around you, everyone but one girl leaves. She stands off to one side, a bowl in her hands.

“Try this,” Temullgei says as he lifts the nearest platter and presents it to you. An almost blackened meat sits in a thick mush of something that smells sweet. You hesitate a moment unsure about using your fingers before you take the plunge and lift a small piece to your lips.

The taste of apple and chargrilled pork fills your mouth. While you chew he gazes at you, his eyes searching your face for a reaction. You smile, not sure what else to do while you’re eating. He takes your gesture in the affirmative and takes a handful of the meat as well. His hunger is evident as he barely chews before he swallows, but he doesn’t take any more until you do.

The same ritual of him following your lead is passed through several more times as he offers you the other dishes. You try everything at least once, although some of the fruit dishes are too tart for your likes. Most of the platters are meats, but one tastes a lot like a sort of sweet potato. At no point were you given utensils so by the time you have filled your stomach you have sticky fingers and aren’t sure where to place them.

“Done?” he asks when you shake your head at the next platter he offers you.

“Yes, thank you.”

Leaning back a little he says something to the girl at the side. She gets up and brings the bowl she’s been holding the entire time over to you. As she kneels he says another few curt words you don’t understand. In response she hands him the bowl and gets back up.

With the bowl of what looks like water between you, he takes your hands and washes them for you. His hands feel rough to yours but every motion is gentle and deliberate. The water is cool, but not too cold.

Once he’s done, he quickly scrubs his own. Just as he finishes the girl hands him a cloth and he dries your hands as gently as he washed them, caressing each finger with the soft material. When both of you are clean and dry the girl comes forward again and takes the bowl and cloth. With a small bow she hurries from the tent, leaving you alone with the clan leader.

“Drink?” he asks as he gets up from beside you.

“Yes, please,” you reply. Not sure what you’ll be given but aware of how little you’ve drunk the last few days. You watch him as he pours two chalices of a liquid you can’t see from a pitcher standing on one of the small tables nearby.

He hands you your drink as he comes back and retakes his position at your side. While staring at you he waits. It occurs to you that he might be waiting for you to drink first, just as he’d eaten after you had, so you lift the chalice to your lips and taste the red liquid. You’re pleased to find it’s a wine that tastes sweet and refreshing.

As you suspected he now drinks and almost downs his entire chalice. Silence falls between you and you fidget awkwardly. After a little longer your mind picks up on something you can say.

“Thank you for finding me,” you say and notice he’s still staring at you.

“Do not thank me. I came as soon as I knew.” He smiles again. “An Angel such as yourself is important to our people. My tribe will take you back to our home city. There you will be safe, at least for some time.”

You nod, not sure what to reply to this statement. Although he is being kind and courteous so far, you know so little about him and his people that you worry about saying something wrong.

“I must say, I am honoured to have found you. And relieved. If one of the other Khaads had got to you,” he looks away and shakes his head, before continuing. “I offer you my protection, Angel. My tribe and I will keep you from harm, at the sake of our own lives if it comes to it.”

“Thank you,” you reply.

He lifts his hand and strokes a stray strand of your hair away from your face, before pulling back and frowning.

“Forgive me. I… I shouldn’t have touched you.” He gets up and bows. “I will let you rest now, Angel. I hope I can receive the honour of your company again soon.”

Without waiting for you to reply, he hurries from the tent. You watch him go and frown once you’re alone. A minute later the same girl who gave you food and clothes when you were found comes in and bows. Behind her several more servants come and take away all the left over food while she opens the curtains on your bed and pulls back the blankets. Afterwards she bows again and hurries after the retreating servants.

You’re alone again and you suspect the maid was hinting you should go to bed, but you’re not sure what you want to do. You feel tired but you’ve learnt very little about the people you’re with and even less about how you got here and why you’re thought of as an Angel.

What do you do?

Go to bed.

Leave the tent and try to find Temullgei to ask a few questions

Leave the tent and take a look around.

Stay in the tent and investigate its contents.

This story is entirely free to the reader and will continue to be throughout, but as you might have gathered from the website around this I make my living from writing fiction. This post is over 1000 words long and took me a few hours to write and polish. Although it’s definitely not a must, if you enjoyed this and want to say thank you in a monetary fashion please consider becoming a patron of mine at Patreon (a lot like kickstarter but more of a pledge per episode/installment sort of thing). You can also say thank you by sharing this with friends who might enjoy it or dropping me a message here or through my email address.

Angel of the Sands: Part 2

Not wasting time on trying to request a spoon or fork you pull your body into a semi-upright position and lift the wooden bowl to your chest. The oaty substance cools the burning skin as you scoop it up to your mouth. The first few mouthfuls barely register with your senses as you chew and swallow them as swiftly as you can, unable to slow even if you wished to.

By the time the bowl is half empty your stomach loosens its control of your pace and you give your mouth time to taste the substance. It has a similar texture to porridge, but more creamy, with a subtle after taste much like goat’s milk.

When you finally feel full you notice you’ve wiped the bowl clean, and you spend the next minute making sure you have every last morsel off your fingers. Satisfied, you sigh and lie back. It makes you feel a little better that you’re enclosed and no one saw the ungraceful eating, but you’re not sure you’d have cared even if someone had been able to see. One taste of the food had overridden everything but your survival instincts anyway.

The tent like structure domes above you and helps keep the worst of the sun off but you still feel hotter than you’re used to or comfortable with, but you can’t be bothered to move and try and remedy the situation. Now that your hunger is satisfied and you’re no longer in immediate danger your body lets you know it wants to rest by making it difficult to keep your eyes open. Combined with the gentle rocking that only lulls your senses further, you lose the battle and slip into a peaceful sleep.

***

Several hours later you wake to find the same brown woman sitting beside you. Your little tent is darker than it was and significantly cooler. It’s also stopped rocking back and forth, but you can still hear the sounds of people moving and talking outside. Your companion smiles at you and takes your arm to help you sit up.

As soon as you’re half-vertical she scoots around you and you feel her brushing your blonde hair. A moment later she braids it in one length down your back.

“Thank you,” you say when she finishes and comes back to your side. She just smiles and holds out what looks like folded clothing. Not knowing what else to do you take it. Before you can try and ask her anything she leaves again, pulling the flap shut behind you. You’re fairly sure you’ve been given the clothes to change into so you unfold them and find a single gown-like piece of clothing from a very light, almost see through material as well as a contrasting sash.

Hastily you pull off your top, trying not to irritate your burnt skin and wrap the gown around you, realising it only goes over one shoulder while the other is held in place with hooks attaching it to the top flap just underneath your armpit. The deep blue material would have looked good on you had the burning of your otherwise pale skin not been made more obvious by this change in clothing. You sigh as you remove your shoes, socks and jeans, and smooth down the skirt so you’re decent once again.

Not sure if the woman is going to come back, you move towards the flap and lift it to see out. Instantly she notices you and comes rushing over to help you out. Once you’re standing she takes the sash and wraps it around your waist, tying it in an elaborate bow at the back. While she fusses over your appearance you gaze at your surroundings.

Many men and women are scurrying here and there, erecting large tent structures that look a little like yurts. In pens here and there are many horses, far more than you’ve ever seen before. The sun is setting in the sky, casting an orange glow over everything and making the brown and grey canvases look alive with colour.

Everyone who notices you stares until you look in their direction, and then they glance away, seeming embarrassed and hurry about whatever activity you’d distracted them from. As soon as the woman is finished she pushes you back to sit in the opening of the litter. As you sit the dress lifts enough to reveal your feet. Within seconds she kneels in front of you and places a bowl of cool water at your feet. One by one she uses cloth to clean your feet and then another to dry them off before slipping them into matching shoes.

When she’s done she helps you stand again. You glance up to see the man who’d rescued you stride through the crowds. His eyes never leave you. Judging by the stern look on his face and the way everyone else scurries to get out of his way, he is the leader of these people. Behind him are several more men, but they hang back and allow him to dictate their path. All of them are topless, and tanned deep bronze colours and have the front and sides of their hair short with long braids down their backs, not too dissimilar from your own.

As the men get closer you notice women scurrying after as well, each of them carrying a package of some kind. When your rescuer reaches you he sinks down to one knee and bows before you, everyone else follows his example You gasp. The stern look on his face vanishes as he gets up and allows his eyes to look over you. For a moment no one says anything and an awkward silence develops.

“Forgive us, Angel. We came as fast as our horses could,” he says in his strange accent, his eyes still never leaving your face or body. You open and close your mouth, having no idea what to say in response. One by one the girls come forward and offer you the packages, opening up the plain cloths to reveal more clothing, clay jars that look like perfumes, jewellery and furs. No one else speaks until the gifts have all been laid at your feet.

“I hope they are to your liking, Angel. You’re the first… woman to ever arrive. We weren’t prepared.”

“They’re fine,” you reply, still overwhelmed.

“I am Temullgei Khaad, and these are my people.” he motions to the girls and men waiting with him, taking his eyes off you for a brief second. “My Gerd is being made available for you to use, another gift, Angel. If you are not too tired I wish to have your company during my night meal.”

He smiles and offers you his hand.

What do you do?

Decline his invitation and ask to rest for the night so you can find out more about these people before you interact with them socially.

Accept but be guarded with what you say and do.

Accept and ask lots of questions about where you are and why he keeps calling you Angel.

Accept and tell him everything you know in the hope he can help you get back home.

If you want to re-read part 1 it’s here.

This story is entirely free to the reader and will continue to be throughout, but as you might have gathered from the website around this I make my living from writing fiction. This post is over 1000 words long and took me a few hours to write and polish. Although it’s definitely not a must, if you enjoyed this and want to say thank you in a monetary fashion please consider becoming a patron of mine at Patreon (a lot like kickstarter but more of a pledge per episode/installment sort of thing). You can also say thank you by sharing this with friends who might enjoy it or dropping me a message here or through my email address.