The assassin had not been apprehended. She had vanished entirely into the secret labyrinth that played secret mistress to the palace’s vast halls and bedchambers. Princess Mediha realized that whoever had tried to drown her knew the palace catacombs intimately. She also had her suspicions as to who instigated her assassination plot.
The Nubian bitch was at the center of her web of suspicions. The assassin had been female, and she had been a few inches shorter than the Nubian, but she could have been hired by her. Alternately, it was entirely possible that her own impressions during the brief and violent struggle with the assassin were mistaken, and that the woman who had attacked her was indeed Tuya, but her memory betrayed her presently. She did not know the truth of it, but her conviction that Tuya deserved to die grew by the minute.
Her scimitar was gripped in her hand, and the princess paced her bedchamber, turning thoughts over in her mind. She had sent several of her personal guard to look for Tuya, after giving them a detailed description. She had issued orders that Tuya be dragged to her chambers alive. She must be alive, so that she could mete out her justice personally. There were only five more days to the end of the month, when she left this palace for good in order to accompany her Nubian prince into a foreign land and into a new life, and she wanted to anoint her new life with the blood of the Nubian bitch.
Habiba, one of her guard, returned presently. She was Arab and stood a good six feet in height, with an absolutely erect posture and powerful shoulders and arms, great breasts that hid behind her bronze armor, and muscular thighs and hips that could easily be employed to crush an opponent in unarmed combat. She removed her bronze helmet and saluted the princess.
“A woman of that description was found several miles from the palace, my princess,” she said, meeting the princess’s gaze.
Habiba was a proud warrior. She didn’t bend the knee to anyone except the Sultana, and Mediha felt trepidation and an equal amount of glee in ordering her around. She maintained eye contact, knowing the rules of the game of dominance. Mediha wondered at the irony of her name. Habiba meant ‘darling’ in Arabic, while Habiba was nobody’s darling, except perhaps her birth mother’s. Still, the princess couldn’t bring herself to associate her guard with anything feminine, given her mien and her attitude.
“Bring her to me immediately,” she said, keeping her voice sharp, and making sure Habiba understood who was boss here. She felt glad inside. The Nubian bitch was finally hers, after two days of waiting and enduring. The fruit of patience is indeed sweet, as went the ancient saying.
“Drag her into my presence,” she said.
Her mother was still unaware of her actions.
The Teutonic whore was called Olga. Imi followed her to her quarters and saw her enter her home. She smiled to herself. Sometimes prayers just don’t cut it. The girl was an immediate rival. Imi’s lovely brown eyes filled with hate seeing the whore. She would share her angel with nobody.
She was holding a little wicker basket in her hands throughout. She opened the lid. Hor peered out. His hood trembled for a moment, and his body that was mix of red and pale gray slithered out of the basket. Imi smiled. Her pet hayya* was a very useful tool at disposing off rivals. Her farishta had many lovers, so she would eliminate them all, one at a time, with gentle Hor’s gentle venom. She could almost feel Olga’s lungs collapse even before Hor bit her. An Egyptian cobra is such a lovely pet.
*Arabic for snake
The blackness of the abyss had a cool feel to it. Not the soothing coolness of the shade, but the creepy coolness of the serpent. Nadia felt the sensation of coolness creep up her legs, as she slipped into the velvet abyss. The abyss was somehow supporting her, and she wasn’t falling fast. Instead the abyss was creeping up into her.
The voice of a thousand desert storms whispered in her ear now, and she trembled in fear. The voice was sibilant in one syllable, and rolling thunder in the next. She paid close attention.
“The fruit of a thousand dark hearts was his that you sacrificed, young onnnnnnnnne…”
She shivered, the voice was no longer in her ear, it was in her head. The thousand desert storms were in her head and there was nothing she could do about it.
“But he was your sacrificccccccce…”
She felt the voice dart from one corner of her mind to another, exploring her memories, becoming intimate with her love and compassion for her ‘sister’ Nadira, and leaping into her mothers’ arms many years ago when she was a toddler. The voice spoke, but as it did, it opened up Nadia’s store of memories, so that they spun out as though they were compelled by the haboob*.
“So yours is the greater fruittttttt…”
Every one of her identities, as daughter, as friend, as slave, as a girl turning into a young woman - came rearing up, asking her to own them, and as she did, they dissolved as if they were castles made of sand that were in the path of a sandstorm.
“We are yours to command, mistressssssssss….”
The thousand desert storms went silent, and Nadia felt pure power inside her head, heart and solar plexus. She looked around her. She was exactly as she was before. A girl who was going to become a woman in a few months. All her wounds had healed, but she was the same. Except that her brown eyes were a velvet black, and if you looked into her eyes, you were liable to lose yourself. That, and she had enough power at her beck and call to wipe out all of Arabia if she so chose. Or perhaps she could help it.
She put her right foot forward on General Mohal’s head, and his skull shattered to smithereens from the power of her touch.
*Summer sandstorm that occurs in the region around Sudan