Sayeh and Zia: Chapter 5 Scene 2

Bathed in the mid-morning sun, Sayeh and Zia walked through the central area of Petra.

The view had humbled the Persian lady upon her arrival the previous evening, but to see it now made it all the more astounding.  The colouring of the exposed stone was more uniform, with only some areas sharing the eye-catching layers that were on display inside the Sand Pirate gathering area.  However, the rooms and buildings carved into the cliff faces showed their full detail, ranging from the simple to the astonishingly complex, and made up for what the stone lacked.

As they sat on the lower levels of the amphitheatre, the pirate leader looked at her double, amused at the awed look.  “That the Nabataeans were able to sculpt such things into solid stone is quite amazing, is it not?”

Zia nodded, appreciating the feel of the sun on her face after so long covered by the tagelmust.  “It is one thing to quarry stone and build a monument brick by brick, but this is another matter entirely.  Whoever designed these were masters of their craft.”

“The city was once the most prominent city on the merchant trails.  Added to that was their highly lucrative trade in frankincense, which only grows in a select area on the southern coast of Arabia.  Those living here would have had more money than they knew what to do with, and could hire the most accomplished architects and builders of the day to help them achieve these.”

“It makes you wonder how this city could exist, considering it is in the middle of a desert.  Many of the cities in Persia are fed by the run-off from nearby mountains, which rise prominently and catch the clouds.  The rocks here are not as large, and would not be able to direct water.”

Sayeh smiled at the observation.  “That is true.  The rains are infrequent here, and when they do come they can be like a flood.  Our path into the city was through one of the naturally formed tunnels, the rain waters forging their own path.  The Nabataeans were able to do a similar thing on a smaller scale, directing the waters into cisterns around the city.  There would not be rain all the time, but the waters would not be wasted.”

Zia looked to the desert lady with a slight look of longing.  “You seem to know quite a lot about the area.”

“After fleeing the tribe and walking for many a week, I found my way here.  I had always believed the story of the fabled merchant city a fanciful story that our parents told.  Finding out that it was real, I knew that the entire area had to be surveyed.  It took a good week to do so.”

She looked to her abductee.  “You have not told me much of yourself.”

Zia looked at Sayeh warily.  “We may be look identical in almost every way, but I do not trust you yet.”

“I have been forthcoming with you, so it would be courteous for you to do the same.”

The Persian pondered the words for a moment.  “You are right.  What would you like to know?”

“We have all the time in the world, as your fool of a betrothed does not know where we are.  Start at the beginning.”

“Well, my birth was an interesting way to enter the world.  My mother was travelling to Susa from the west while she was pregnant, and was caught in a sandstorm just outside of Sakakah.  She managed to find refuge in the caravanserai there.  I am told it was quite the rundown and humble abode a pair of tenyears ago.”

The Sand Pirate stopped walking, looking intently at her.

“Why do you look at me that way?”

“Another piece to the puzzle.”

“How so?”

“That is exactly the same story my mother told me.”

Zia sighed.  “It is a pity my mother remains in Susa.  She could explain this.”

“It would seem we are truly sisters.  However, we each have a mother.”

Zia had felt sure this was a surreal dream, but the revelation that they shared the same birth story break through the barriers stopping her from believing.

Sayeh spoke again.  “That is an issue we shall have addressed in due time.  Tell me more of yourself.”

“My mother travelled with me back to Susa, where my father had been grieving.  After not hearing of her, and of the terrifying sandstorm, he thought her dead.  I think our returning safely to him caused him to fawn over my mother and I more than he should have.”

The Sand Pirate looked to her, her own look of longing crossing her face.  “So you were treated well in your childhood?”

“Very much so.  Father was not the sort to flaunt his wealth, but he did spend a lot of it on anything my mother or I asked for.  That did cause some grief later in life, as I admit to being a spoiled brat.  Father was extremely protective, and it felt stifling when all one wanted to do was go out and see the city around them.”

“But your father, he was a merchant?”

“Yes, a well-known one.  Behnam Karawa?”

Recognition flickered across Sayeh’s face, followed by a mischievous grin.  “Yes, I recognise that name.  Many a caravan of his has felt a little lighter thanks to me.”

“His way is finding a happy medium to any issue.  Recognising my desire to travel, and his disallowing it due to an ingrained fear for my and mother’s safety, he made my room a library.  Every adventure story he could lay his hands on was reprinted, bound in the best leather and bindings, and garnished with jewels.”  A look of sadness crossed her face.  “But that remained with the caravan when you abducted me.”

The ringleader looked almost remorseful.  “If you so wish, I will arrange that they be recovered.  Until then, we should have a little adventure of our own.”

Zia eyed her suspiciously.  “What do you have in mind?”

“As you said, your mother is back in Persia.  The pressing question cannot be answered by her.  I did not wish to travel back to my former tribe, but now it seems that we must.  My mother can surely answer our questions.”

– ∏ –


2 responses

  1. “Curiouser and curiouser,” as Alice in Wonderland said. What a good story. Though of the two short stories you are working on now I have a slight preference for the Venusian, this story is also excellent and you show a sure hand with it. I think we can anticipate another startling ending.

    1. Thanks for reading. I hope it lives up to expectations =)

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