Erach was looking at a likeness of their very own prince Rustum. The princess Lubna was showing an image of the Persian prince, and he deduced that she had painted it herself. The implication was clear.
He didn't know how he should tell his poor girl that Rustum was a rogue who slept with every woman who crossed his path. The fact that he looked stunningly handsome helped him satisfy his lusty appetite. To seek an alliance with Rustum would mean that the princess' kohl would soon be smeared across her cheekbones, and her eyes would be puffy.
Erach kept quiet just then. A hand in the Sultana's kingdom was something they had wanted all these years. The Persian satrap wanted to either make an ally of her, or wanted to control her in some manner. If Erach made either possible, then he would attain rare royal favor. Royal favor at the expense of one foreign girl's happiness. It didn't prick his conscience that much.
"That is prince Rustum, your highness," he said.
Lubna's eyes lit up.
"Rustum," she said, sighing, and running her hand over the painting.
Erach's suspicions were confirmed. The Arab princess was in love with his prince, and this was something that would place the Sultana in their hands. Never mind the princess' happiness. He wondered when the princess had seen the prince.
Rawer raced his steed at a safe distance. Arabian horses were the best. He didn't remember finding such good horses back in Nubian country. His horse was a mare, and she not only responded to his every thought that translated into subtle muscular pressure on his part, but she also accelerated and decelerated with such smoothness, that he barely felt tired riding her. He patted her mane affectionately as they raced parallel to the princesses retinue, staying just out of sight.
She had the distinctive wedge shaped head with a broad forehead that distinguishes Arabian horses. She was stocky and surprisingly strong for her size, with large eyes, large nostrils and a smaller than average muzzle, even for an Arabian. The jibbah (bulge between her eyes) that gives desert horses additional sinus capacity that is invaluable in the dry heat, had a black splotch on the fur. That was a mark that Rawer made on his steeds with a traditional Nubian paint, to mark them out as special steeds that carried a soldier of his caliber. The rest of her was a breathtaking rust red.
Rawer was awaiting the bend. Once they reached the bed, where the horses would have to go single file, he would take a lesser known shortcut so he could see them from high above, and intercept Mediha and head her off to the shortcut. Her sisters and retinue would think she was up ahead or back below them, if he got lucky. Even if they raised the alarm, he only needed a few minutes to set up a rendezvous with her.
She was right at the head of the equestrian retinue. That was not the best place to be when you want to not be missed, but Rawer decided that he'd be taking his chances, no matter what.
She saw him from his elevation, as his mare whinnied softly. Their eyes met, and she knew that she had to get away. She nodded, and led her horse off the path. The person behind her was her sister Lubna, who had just appeared in Rawer's line of sight. He was sure that she wouldn't be able to see where her elder sister had vanished.