As promised, the second entry of today’s ‘Sayeh and Zia’ double header. The reveal begins!
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Under the stars, the ladies drew their mounts into Sakakah six days after departing Petra.
As they reached the stable gates, the attendees could be seen at their posts, leaning back against a wall, eyes closed and snoring. Sayeh raised a forefinger to her lips, requesting Zia’s silence as she silently dismounted and snuck towards them. With neither man waking, despite her being less than hand’s length from them, she looked to Zia and rolled her eyes before melodramatically clearing her throat. The sleeping men awoke with a start, squinting and rubbing their eyes as they focused on the beautiful lady before them.
“Good to see you are awake, young ones,” the Sand Pirate declared with disdain.
One stifled a yawn before he spoke. “Forgive us, my lady. Shamali advised us that no arrivals were expected, but we should be here in case a caravan decided to avoid the heat and travel by night.”
“Please see to our camels. I will be sure to thank Shamali for his foresight, as I would have liked sleeping outside the gates.”
The two men eagerly set about the animals, helping Zia dismount before taking the camels’ bridles and guiding them towards the stables. Sayeh led the way as the ladies followed the trail of wall-mounted torches, the path leading towards the main hall of the caravanserai. Sayeh pushed on one of the imposing wooden doors, which refused to open. Clenching a fist, she banged it upon the entrance.
The gruff voice of an elderly man could be heard behind it, edging closer. “What hour of the night do they call this? What I wouldn’t give for this forsaken heat to pass. I’m not old enough to survive without my sleep.” The sound of a lock being disengaged, and the doors swung open.
The Sand Pirate smiled at the caravanserai owner. “Do not worry, Shamali. Sleep or not, you are as handsome as ever.”
“Sayeh!” His eyes brightened as he opened his arms for an embrace, which she stepped into and returned. “It has been almost a half year since I have seen you.”
“Not so,” Sayeh corrected with a wry smile. “My companion and I were here less than a month ago.”
Shamali narrowed his eyes. “Were you playing that magic mask game of yours?”
“Yes, though it did not work out very well. Babafemi left some lashings on my back as reminders of our meeting.”
The caravanserai’s hands flew to his mouth. “You were in that caravan? I remember the three men being whipped.”
“Heydar and Kadir received five whips each.”
“And you received the ten. How are the wounds?”
Sayeh waved her hand dismissively. “Nothing that I cannot handle. They were tended to when I returned to my home after taking possession of one of Babafemi’s more treasured items.”
Shamali smiled wickedly. “The man did get angry over a rather petty issue. Some drunken fellow started talking to his wife-to-be. A charming woman, his Lady Zia.” He looked past Sayeh to the lady behind her. “And who is your companion?”
The Sand Pirate stepped aside to let Zia move forward. “Shamali, may I present the Lady Zia?”
The colour drained from his face. “You took possession of his wife-to-be?”
She shrugged. “I did say that Fate would send him his reckoning.”
“I can only hope his search does not come here, and that he thinks that I am in some way involved in your plan.”
“I doubt he would. He will likely be looking at one of the large town or cities nearer the northern paths. However, there is a more serious issue at hand.” She stepped forward so she stood side by side with Zia.
Shamali frowned, not taking in the meaning of her words for a time. After looking to both ladies, his eyes widened as it dawned on him. “This is not one of your mask tricks, Sayeh? It would be mean of you to play tricks on an old man.”
Sayeh shook her head. “I would not play tricks on something like this. I am here to visit Mother and ask her some questions regarding this. I am hoping the tribe is roaming nearby.”
The caravanserai owner, still wide-eyed and slightly off-colour, kept looking between the ladies. “You are in luck. Your mother is inside; she arrived earlier today.”
The Sand Pirate smiled. “The gods saw our need, and thought it important for our paths to cross quickly.”
The man nodded as he gestured for them to come inside. As the stablemen had said, there were few people in the hall. A handful of people were spread throughout the large hall, many sleeping under the long tables. He guided them to a table near to the kitchen, underneath which a soft snore could be heard.
Some stirring was heard, and then the soft snoring resumed.
Sayeh knelt down beside him, reaching in to gently shake the shoulder of the sleeping form.
“Mother. Wake up.”
Zia felt a sense of nervousness, unsure of what was to come, and stepped back. The caravanserai owner and Sand Pirate rose and stepped away from the table, and the person underneath rolled out from under it. As she rose, Zia could see she was of a similar height to herself and Sayeh. As Hafthah embraced her daughter, the Persian got a closer look at her face. Despite the age difference, the resemblance was unmistakable.
“Sayeh! What an unexpected surprise it is to see you.” The joy in Hafthah’s voice could be heard clearly. “What are you doing here?”
“Mother, I met someone in the last month. I wish for you to meet them, as I have some questions for you.”
The older lady gasped. “You’re getting married?”
Sayeh gave a subdued laugh. “Of course not, Mother.” She motioned for the other lady to step forward. “This is Zia.”
Hafthah looked to Zia, a shocked gasp escaping her before her hands reached her mouth. She rushed towards the Persian, wrapping her in a tight embrace as tears ran down her face. Zia looked to Sayeh, unsure of what she should be doing.
Sayeh looked to Shamali, who had a guilty look on his face. He quickly moved off towards the kitchen, giving the ladies their privacy. She turned back to Hafthah. “Mother, what is the meaning of this? Who is she?”
Hafthah looked to Sayeh, the tears still rolling down her face. Her answer was barely audible due to emotion.
“She is the daughter I gave away.”
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