"Desert Wind Rising"
Disclaimers:This work is entirely of my own creation. I have never been to the desert, so the facts presented here are only my over active imagination. (Though I did do a little research.)
These characters may bear a striking resemblance to another famous pair, but honestly I'm not stealing anything...ok, not really, sorry MCA/Universal I sure wish I'd been the one to come up with 'Xena: Warrior Princess' first.
That being said...this is an alternative piece of fiction. If this is illegal where you live, underage, or it offends you please read elsewhere. Also there may be violence, loss, etc. that may be disturbing. Please think twice about reading this story if those images are not to your liking.
That's it? That's it! Read and enjoy.
Georgia crossed the desert with only a machete and an empty canteen. Dozens of cactus lay dead in her wake, their juices and pulp sacrificed so that she could live. Her souvenirs were sunburn, cactus scratches and sun bleached teeth from a skull she'd made into a necklace.
With a sun darkened hand she clutched the smooth, teeth as she topped a dune and gazed at the blinding horizon and the rising sun.
I've lived through hell. I've survived when the others didn't, but I have no strength left to mourn their loss. I am empty inside.
Her body ached, and she was dehydrated, malnourished, and hopelessly lost.
With a weary sigh she slid down the dune and planted her body in the hot, sandy ground. In the last day or so the desert had changed from dry, cracked earth to this coarse, shifting sand. It gave her hope.
Hope that at each rise she would see the city or maybe a group of desert nomads. Anything to bring her safely home. And as each rise topped out and turned to more sand hope burned less bright.
Georgia dug deep into the hot sand till it was cool and tightly packed. She sagged down to the coolness and laid a bandanna over her head. She would sleep out the day and travel, once again, in the desert night.
Her sleep had been restless, dreams filled with screams, blood and death. As the cool desert night touched her skin she rose and pocketed the bandanna. Thousands of stars canvassed the dark sky. She picked one out of the millions. the North star. It had been her compass, her 'guide' as she journeyed, like the travelers of old. It was oddly comforting, like she'd done it a thousand times before.
She worked the kinks out of her body and began to walk in the silent darkness.
Exhaustion overtook her only a few hours later and she crumbled to her knees. Sweat poured off her body, even in the cold, and clung to her incessantly, running into her eyes, nose and mouth. Without water she could go no further.
A swift breeze swirled around her as she lay face first in the sand. Something strange drifted with it, a light melodic beat. Startled, she raised her head, but the breeze was gone and so was the sound.
I'm finally loosing it. She rose to shaky knees, but found she couldn't stand. She sank back down and curled into the fetal position.
The wind shifted back, bringing with it music and swirls of stinging sand. It picked up speed, screaming in her ears, obliterating the sky and all sound.
Not now. Swiftly she tied the bandanna around her nose and mouth. A sand storm was rising. If she didn't seek shelter she would be yet another corpse in the unyielding, unforgiving desert.
Adrenaline and instinct drove her through the swirling, screaming wind. Cover, seek cover, her mind and exhausted body cried. She stumbled over something, sprawling down another dune and into a dried up oasis.
In the shifting darkness and sand her hands found the remains of a desert tree. She curled up under it's upturned roots, and wrapped her arms around her head. The screaming wind turned to wailing as the sand swirled around her, covering her in first a fine layer, then another and another, till her world was almost silent.
Hot tears caressed her cheeks, her breathing slowed and became shallow. Something snapped in the walls she'd built up to survive.
She screamed, and screamed, pushing her way out of her tomb, screaming out of her madness. "I won't let you take me too! I won't let you."
Georgia staggered through the storm, running blind, running frantic.
Almost as suddenly as it came the sand slowed, and swirled meekly at her feet. She laughed in the face of the retreating storm, a few small sand billows rising up and down around her.
Then she heard it, that sweat sound of someone singing. I really have lost it. Hot tears chilled against her sunburned cheeks. She removed the bandanna, wiping her face absently as the sound came again, traveling over from the next rise of sand.
What the hell, she thought, as her feet once again traveled forward. She topped the rise and sank warily to her knees, eyes wide in wonder. Stretched out in the oasis below her were colorful tents, firepits scattered here and there, the smell of roasting meat wafting on the breeze, and camels tethered to a lead rope, a small, brown skinned boy tending them.
Help! But her parched throat cracked around the useless syllables. She rose, swaying dangerously. Someone cried out in the camp below as she slipped down the dune.
Suddenly robed men on horseback surrounded her, shouting in a language she was too weak to follow. She would have reached for her machete, but she circled down into the darkness and collapsed in the sand.
A gentle voice pulled her from the darkness. She groaned and tried to rise but strong hands pushed her back. Lie still. Is that what the voice said? She'd only begun to understand the fundamentals of the foreign language before the crash...and had not used it since.
And who in hell is making that pathetic whimpering noise? Oh...it's me. Slowly the tent came into focus around her. Noises became distinct and she could now see the woman with the cup of water gesturing for her to drink.
Slowly she reached forward and took the cup, meeting pale blue eyes for the first time. Georgia sank into their cool depths.
"Drink," the woman commanded.
Georgia reluctantly surfaced from the woman's eyes and drank. It slid like silk down her parched throat. A noise at the tent flap startled her, and sent the cup flying out of her hands.
"Daughter," the man who entered said. "She is awake?"
"Yes, father," the woman replied, patting Georgia reassuringly on the shoulder.
Georgia couldn't follow the rapid exchange of words, instead watching as the woman retrieved the cup and stood to join the man. He was far older then she was, brown skin tanned and leathery, robes ornate and colorful, though they were the same height. The dark haired woman's father? Maybe the group's leader, since he seemed to sport an unusual amount of gold and gems on his robe, head dress, neck and fingers.
"She will be well?" Ashnad asked, gazing at his daughter then the woman on the pallet.
"Yes, she needs water and food. She's very weak," Ka'leem replied.
"Has she told you why she was in the desert, alone and injured?" he inquired.
"I'm not sure she can speak our language, father," Ka'leem answered, carefully.
"Very well. See that she is taken care of." Ashnad smiled and left.
The dark haired woman sighed as she returned to the pallet. She mumbled something Georgia couldn't follow as she soaked water into a rag, rang it out, and applied it to Georgia's forehead.
"Who are you?" Ka'leem asked softly, studying the parched lips, peeling sunburn and haggard pallor of the young woman. "How have you crossed the desert and survived?"
Georgia's brows wrinkled in confusion. She'd caught the words you, desert and crossed. "My plane crashed."
Ka'leem raised a startled eyebrow. The young woman knew American English. Was she an American? "American?" Ka'leem stumbled over the unfamiliar world.
Georgia smiled. She liked the way words thickened and rolled off the tongues of the foreigners. "Yes, I'm American. I'm an archeologist." She noted the confusion in the baby blues, and mimed digging and writing with her hands.
"Ahh, an archeologist." Ka'leem smiled, then frowned, this could prove to be a problem. "How did you get here?"
You...get...here...was all Georgia understood, but it seemed to be enough. She mimicked plane noises, sputtering, crashing and an explosion, then walking with her fingers.
"Amazing," Ka'leem said softly. This young woman had the courage and cunning of the wild wolves. She heard a rustling at the tent flap and her heart skipped inside her chest. "Do not speak." She held her fingers to Georgia's parched lips and made the universal 'shhhing' noise.
Georgia nodded once, not understanding, but patient enough to wait and find out.
A slim, dark skinned woman entered, her mouth and nose covered by a silken scarf. "Ka'leem," she said irritably. "Cover your face, child, as is proper."
"Yes, mother." She sighed, and covered her face.
Georgia heard the word mother, but said nothing as instructed.
"Your father wishes to know if the girl has talked, and if she is alone," Vahsha demanded.
"She has not spoken." Ka'leem kept her face unreadable. "What will father do with her?"
"He has not told me. We are to make sure she is well enough to travel in two days." Vahsha walked gracefully to the pallet, and sat beside the stranger. "Do you know our language?" She waited.
Georgia helplessly gazed at the older woman, then to the dark haired one behind her. Those blue eyes pleaded with her to be silent. She could not deny them.
Vahsha rose irritably and instructed her daughter to properly feed the stranger, as well as try to talk with her further. Ka'leem nodded and waited for her mother to leave.
"What was that all about?" Georgia whispered, pointing towards the tent flap.
Ka'leem shrugged, but her eyes betrayed her, and she turned away. Georgia reached out a sun burnt hand and gently touched the woman's arm to get her attention.
"What is it?" How do I make her understand? "Ma?" Georgia said, tentatively, in the nomad's language.
Blue eyes fastened on her quickly. "You speak our language, as well as understand it?"
Georgia crooked her fingers together. "A little bit."
Ka'leem nodded once and stood to pace the floor. "Father has instructed me to care for you and feed you. To make you ready for travel in two days."
"Wait," the archeologist demanded as she rose to a sitting position. Stars gathered around her eyes. She held a hand to her throbbing head. "Slowly, please."
"Sorry." The nomad sat beside the young woman. "Two days." She held up two fingers. "We will travel." Her fingers walked across the blankets. "To the east, to the city of N'rad."
Georgia nodded her understanding. "Home?" she asked hopefully.
Ka'leem sadly shook her head. "No, father has no intention of taking you home."
The young woman blinked startled green eyes. "Why not?"
"He is going to sell you to the slavers," the nomad replied.
"I don't understand." Georgia choked on a sob.
"I'm sorry, little one. He makes his money pillaging other tribes and selling their women and children into slavery. It disgusts me, but I am his daughter. He is very influential." The dark woman watched as tears ran unchecked down the pale face.
"I just want to go home." Georgia sobbed. Through a plane crash, across the desert, against starvation, and this? This? To be sold into slavery? How could such a way of life still exist?
Ka'leem took pity on the desolate green eyes. She caressed a sunburnt cheek and made a promise to herself and the young woman. "I will take you home."
"Ma?" Georgia leaned away from the callused hand.
"Home, little one." She smiled slowly, knowing that her destiny would be forever changed because a woman with the courage and strength of the wild had stumbled into their camp and into her care. "Home," she repeated.
A doubtful smile edged Georgia's parched lips. "Ready as I'll ever be."
"Tonight," Ka'leem promised. "Rest now."
"Masa'a AlKair." Ka'leem brushed errant strands of hair off the young woman's forehead.
"Mmmm, time to go?" Georgia murmured.
"Na'am." The dark nomad smiled.
Na'am... oh that means 'yes'. Gonna have to brush up on my Arabic. Ummm... "Ila ain nahono thahib?" The archeologist did an amazing job of not stumbling over the foreign words.
"N-north," the nomad said, uncertainly.
"Let's go then." Georgia rose swiftly from the pallet, but dizziness drove her back down. Strong, tanned arms caught her. "Shokran."
"O-K?" Ka'leem asked gently.
"Na'am, let's go," Georgia lied. She followed the dark nomad as they slipped through the darkness of the tent into the darkness of the night. She realized she didn't even know the name of this woman, who was, quite possibly, risking her own life to bring her home.
They stopped by a cluster of horses.
"Here," Ka'leem said, handing Georgia her machete.
"Shokran." The young woman thanked her, happy to have her weapon back. "Wait, do you expect me to ride one of those beasts?"
Ka'leem just shook her head, and pulled two horses from the bunch. 'Get up,' she motioned silently.
Shit.... Georgia scrambled up onto the Arabian's high back.
Ka'leem's horse took off into the night and Georgia's obedient stallion charged off after it.
They rode for hours, till the desert slowly moistened into shrubs and grass and finally trees. Georgia clung to the saddle the whole way, her knuckles white and stiff. When they stopped the horses were lathered and breathing hard.
Georgia dismounted when the nomad did, and slid painfully to the forested floor. "Oh, shit. Shit, shit, shit."
"Kaifa Halok?" Ka'leem asked.
Georgia looked up. The dark woman was silhouetted by a canvas of stars and a bright desert moon. She looked gorgeous. "I'm ok. That, that was just...painful."
"O-K?" Ka'leem knelt beside the young woman.
"Na'am." Georgia rose on unsteady feet. "What now?"
"Rest." The dark nomad was already turning away, into the forest. She gathered roots and berries and sat among the trees. It wasn't as cool in the trees since they absorbed most of the sun and held it for hours after sunset. Georgia joined her and sat in silence for a short while.
"Ma Ismok?" Georgia whispered, still sensing the need for secrecy.
Ka'leem looked up, startled, and pulled herself from plans of what to do next. "Ka'leem. Ma Ismok?" she asked in turn.
"Georgia." She smiled and extended her hand. "Nice to meet you."
"Sorirart Biro'aitak." Nice to meet you too. Ka'leem grinned.
Their bellies were full and the horses had been walked down till they were cooled. They rested on the sweet cool grass, stars peeking through the treetops, and sparkling on Georgia's machete.
How long till they find us? She wanted to ask. How far to the city? So many questions and too big a language gap for them to communicate more then a simple 'hello', 'good-bye', 'yes' and 'no'.
Georgia was afraid. Afraid of what the nomads would do to this beautiful woman, and herself, if they were caught.
Ka'leem appeared to be dozing against a tree trunk. The archeologist resisted the urge to sit beside the dark woman and feel just that little bit safer.
"Bokira," Ka'leem began softly.
Georgia glanced her way, surprised she was awake. "Ma?"
"Bokira, to-morrow?" Ka'leem waited for a nod of understanding before continuing. "Go n-north. To Gaierd."
"How far?" Georgia saw the confused look. "Ain Gaierd?"
The dark nomad held up three fingers, walking them across her leg.
Georgia grinned. "Three youm?"
"Na'am." Ka'leem grinned back. "Rest now," she commanded briskly.
"Geez, what am I? Your horse?" But she only mumbled it as she made a more comfortable spot on the ground. Sleep came slowly and with it the demons of dreams.
"Alpha 2-9'er this is Omega 3-20, we have engine failure. Please respond." There was only crackling static. "Dammit," the pilot swore.
Two seats behind him Georgia cringed. It looked like they were going to be making an unexpected landing in the desert.
"Alpha 2-9'er we- Shit!" There was the frantic sound of thee pilot hitting buttons on the control panel and fluid cursing in languages Georgia had never studied before.
Then the screaming began. "We're on fire! The plane's on fire!" A passenger screamed in Arabic. A traveling salesman, selling his wears in Tahnoma.
An American business man saw the fire as well. He bolted from his seat, screaming.
"Remain seated," the pilot demanded. "Don't panic." But the right engine took that exact moment to explode in a magnificent ball of fire. Metal groaned and twisted as the wing spiraled into a cloud of smoke.
It was Georgia's turn to panic as the small plane plummeted and started to roll. The left engine struggled to keep the plane up, but it wasn't powerful enough. It's small motor began to smoke. The wing was right outside Georgia's window. She stared at it, horrified.
The American businessmen leaned over her in a panic. "Oh God, the other engine's failed."
The plane filled with a screaming silence as it dove toward the desert floor. Everyone pitched forward. The man lost his footing and tumbled into the back of the pilot's chair, sending the pilot and the nav stick crashing into the control panel in a flurry of sparks.
Oh God help us.... Georgia grabbed the seat arms, as the plane dive-bombed into the desert. The plane hit with a jolt that sent Georgia racing forward, the seatbelt cutting into her waist. Metal screamed, twisted, broke. Fire and smoke engulfed the cabin.
Georgia screamed and screamed into the heat and darkness that followed.
"Wake up, Georgia. Wake up." Ka'leem shook the screaming woman, her heart pounding in her ears from being woken so violently.
"Nooo," Georgia moaned, struggling in unfamiliar arms. "Let me go." Terrified she opened her eyes, expecting far worse then baby blue eyes looking at her in concern. "Ka'leem?" she whispered on a ragged breath.
"Bad dreams, little one. Night terrors. You are all right." She tried to assure the shaking young woman. "Shhh, it is all right."
Long arms circled Georgia's back, and pulled her gently into safety. The nomad smelled of horses, sun and spices. Georgia buried her head into Ka'leem's chest, desperately seeking comfort. "I was so scared," she whispered. "And alone. I crossed the desert with no one. I watched them die and there was nothing I could do but bury them. No one. No one but me."
Ka'leem could not understand the words, nor did she need to. She could hear the pain and the fear. And she knew that Georgia didn't understand what she said either, but she kept murmuring soft, tender nonsense till the woman's breathing evened out into sleep. Still she held Georgia, and comforted her the few short hours till sunrise.
Once more on the horses Georgia ordered herself to relax, and enjoy not having to stop constantly to dump endless amounts of sand from her shoes and socks.
They had three days worth of travel and the panic in Georgia's chest was already at a dangerous level. The blinding sun, glancing off the desert sand...shimmering heat, canteens already low...too much like the prior months. Georgia could smell death in the air.
With a stifled whimper she lowered her head to the horse's mane and sucked up the overpowering smell of sweat. It helped, a little.
Ka'leem glanced back and saw the young woman slumped over the saddle. She reigned her horse in and turned him in a tight circle. "Georgia?" she called.
The young woman lifted her head a little. "I'm fine. Just peachy keen, jellybean."
"Jellybean?" Ka'leem lifted a curious eyebrow.
It sounded more like Jay-lay been, which of course made Georgia laugh. And then she couldn't stop.
Ka'leem grabbed the reigns and pulled them all to a stop. Georgia fell off in a laughing heap on the ground. She held her aching sides as the dark nomad knelt down beside her.
"A few horses short of a sellable herd, are we, Georgia?" By the stars, I've promised to bring a mad woman through the desert. As if this wasn't dangerous enough. Ka'leem grimaced.
The young woman glanced up at the mention of her name. "Huh?" Her nervous laughter ceased almost as fast as it began. Her mood plummeted sharply into depression. She sat and faced Ka'leem. "I'm sorry."
Ka'leem sat as well and studied Georgia for a silent moment. "I don't know what you've been through, little one, or the horrors you've faced, but we won't make it to Geaird if you keep falling off your horse in fits of laughter."
Georgia titled her head to the side, focusing more on the melodic voice then trying to figure out what the words meant. "Do you know something?"
Ka'leem heard the question in the woman's voice. "Ma?" she asked.
"You're familiar. Strange isn't it? It's like I know you. I can't understand half of what you say...but...I dunno." Georgia sighed, shielding her eyes from the sun as she studied the nomad.
Ka'leem shook her head in annoyance. "Come on, little one, we have a long way to go to the oasis for water." She stood and held a hand out for Georgia, indicating the need to get moving.
They traveled well into midday, reaching the oasis sweating and exhausted. Georgia had stayed on the horse the whole time, closing her eyes and sinking somewhere into her mind. Beast that the stallion was he obediently followed Ka'leem's lead, and when at last they reached the small patch of desert heaven he breathed a sigh of relief and drank greedily from the shallow pool.
Georgia raised her head from the horse's thick mane as they came to a stop. Before her eyes was a patch of vegetation and the welcome sight of water.
With stiff legs she dismounted and pulled her two canteens from the saddle, joining Ka'leem, who was already at the water's edge.
No words were exchanged and Georgia was grateful. She could see the worry in the lines around Ka'leem's eyes, and the exhaustion. The archeologist was sorry she had ever come here. Sorry she had gotten on that plane, sorry she had survived.
The water splashed down her throat in great gulps of satisfaction, washing away hours of sand and grit between her teeth.
Ka'leem watched the young woman drink greedily from the pool, and smiled. She blinked and wiped the smile from her face. "We are far enough from my father that we can rest here and begin to travel in the night."
Georgia looked up, tilting her head slightly to the side. She had caught the word father, and travel. "Ana laa Afham." One of the first phrases either a tourist or an archeologist learned in any language, any country they were visiting for the first time: I don't understand.
The dark nomad repeated her previous sentence in short, clipped words. "Father far away, rest now."
"Ahhh, gotcha. I could go for a nap." Georgia grinned, then mimed the clasping of her hands as a pillow and sleeping.
In the shade of the desert trees they watched the horses, watched the sand, watched the rippling of the water, and each other. Georgia was a woman of words, and this silence was killing her. "Ever wonder if you walked far enough you could touch the sky?"
Ka'leem gave her a curious glance, but remained silent.
Georgia just leaned back against the tree trunk and closed her eyes. "Ever wonder why the Egyptians built the pyramids? I did. I think that's why I became an archeologist." She paused. "No, to tell you the truth that's not the reason at all." Georgia glanced at Ka'leem to see if she was listening. She was, albeit not understanding. "Did you ever have dreams- well of course, everyone dreams, I mean dreams that seem so real you can smell them, touch them?"
There was a long moment of silence. Georgia closed her eyes again. The sun bathed the back of her eyelids in a warm reddish glow. Her body relaxed and she drifted slowly in strange sensations. "I know I met you somewhere before..." She tumbled, exhausted, into the realm of dreams.
Ka'leem rested against the base of her own tree for a while longer, studying the small woman. She was beautiful in that exotic American way. The sun bathed her hair in shades of gold and yellow, highlighted the thin lines of her face, her proud chin, and small ears.
The nomad watched the way her fingers curled in sleep, how her mouth opened and soft snores tumbled past her lips. Yes...very familiar.
She woke, choking on the black smoke that engulfed the crumpled airplane. Sparks shot out of the control panel and the engine burned furiously beside her shattered window.
Georgia blinked rapidly, the smoke bringing stinging tears to her eyes. She struggled out of the seat belt and felt across the floor on her hands and knees. Her fingertips brushed a body and she reeled back in shock.
Terrified she reached forward and found a slow, shallow pulse. She grabbed onto the lapels of the American business men's suit and tried tugging him out of the crushed doorway. He was too heavy.
"Help!" Georgia cried, bracing against the seats with her feet and pulling on the man with all her strength. "Is anyone-" A series of coughs racked her body and she doubled over in pain. "Is anyone here?"
There was no response. The smoke was billowing, coursing into her lungs, making it impossible to breath. Adrenaline surged through her veins and she managed to pull the man out into the blinding desert sun and a safe distance from the burning plane.
Panting, on her hands and knees, Georgia faced the plane. Spirals of smoke drifted towards the sun. The heavy smell of fuel was in the air.
But the pilot and the Arabian man were still inside. Without taking the time to think twice Georgia rose to her feet and made her way back inside the plane.
Through the all-consuming smoke she managed to find the Arabian. He was breathing shallow and bleeding from his head, but his heartbeat was strong. Just as she was edging him out the door she heard the pilot, softly calling for help.
"I'm coming back," she promised. "Just hang on." She had to drag the Arabian man to safety first.
Time was running out. She could feel it. As she raced back to the plane a spark shot up, then another and the plane burst into a roaring fireball, shooting her backwards on the hot sand.
She landed in a haze of smoke and plane debris, eyes wide with shock and terror. "No!" she screamed. "No, no I was coming back..."
The vivid part of her mind heard the pilot screaming, crying for help, before his body was consumed in fire.
"Georgia, wake up!" Ka'leem grabbed the young woman's forearms, rather roughly, and shook her awake.
Teary eyed, Georgia looked up into Ka'leem's eyes. She tore out of reach of those strong, tanned arms, and huddled with her knees against her chest.
She had fallen asleep, and now the moon had risen. It was time to travel again.
"Georgia? Are you all right?" Ka'leem inched forward across the sand, reaching out to touch a moon pale cheek, but Georgia ducked out of the way and stood on shaky legs.
She moved to her horse. "We'd better get going." Georgia swung into the saddle, closing her eyes briefly, seeing those pale, blue eyes filled again with concern and a flash of light and death. She swallowed against a sob and urged the horse into a trot across the desert.
Ka'leem vaulted onto her horse and quickly followed, at a loss for words, and her heart breaking.
Georgia stared out over the wide expanse of moonlit desert. There was no end in sight. She turned to the nomad, astride her red-gold Arabian.
"How much farther? Um, Kaifa ba'aid?" Oops, thats not right. Georgia's brow furrowed as she tried to find the correct phrasing.
Ka'leem just grinned. "Tomorrow, when the sun is high, we will reach Gaierd."
Georgia's brow wrinkled again. "Bokira?"
With a nod, Georgia turned back to the pale desert stretching out before them. God, I hope it will be tomorrow. I can't take much more of this.
Ka'leem studied the pale profile riding next to her. Tomorrow I take you to Gaierd and you will rush out of my life forever, to home. And what will I do? Run from my father? Join the Kal'u? The thought sent a slight shiver up and down her spine. Would Rafeed welcome her with open arms?
She closed her eyes briefly, then opened them to focus ahead on the journey at hand. All things would reveal themselves in the fullness of time.
They rested the horses for a few hours and sipped at the dwindling supply of water, trying to get the gritting sand out of their teeth and nostrils.
Georgia's faced was burned and peeling beyond recognition. It hurt like hell every time she breathed and she couldn't help but whimper around the pain. She was trying to be strong, trying to keep pace with the dark desert nomad who's stoic face revealed nothing. But she was afraid the past, the fear and the exhaustion were going to catch up. When they did she was terrified of what would happen.
Georgia could envision her skull splitting open with the intensity of her emotions. It was not a pretty sight. Gingerly she touched her burning nose with wet fingers. It didn't help.
Ka'leem handed Georgia a dark green vile.
She uncapped it and took a tentative whiff. It was fragrant, like aloe. She turned questioning eyes at the beautiful woman who had settled down beside her.
Ka'leem smiled reassuringly and gestured that Georgia should tip the creamy liquid onto her fingers and apply it to her face. After a moment's hesitation Georgia did just that. The soothing sensation left her weak kneed.
"God, you should market this stuff," she sighed. Someone probably already had. She smeared it in a thick layer across her face and arms. The night wind seemed to intensify the coolness and she closed her eyes, in heaven.
"Shokran," Georgia managed to mumble, missing the laughter in Ka'leem's eyes at the sight of the foreigner splattered liberally in the balm.
The desert was giving way to sparse grass and low shrubs and Georgia could finally give a sigh of relief. She would be going home soon.
An hour later the beige domes of Gaierd loomed up out of the desert, an oasis unto itself. Georgia sat higher in the saddle, all pain and fear forgotten. I'm going home, part of her rejoiced, while she turned silently to look at Ka'leem. She didn't know she was being watched and her face was uncharacteristically open. Worry edged her eyes and her jaw muscles were clenched.
Ka'leem turned, as if she'd felt Georgia watching, her face once again turned impassive. "Gaierd." She waved her arm out over the city, clicked her tongue and sent the Arabian in motion once again, fastening her scarf around her face. Only her cool, icy eyes looked out over the city.
What is she looking for? Georgia wondered, her horse keeping pace with Ka'leem's as they walked.
They passed through a low stone fence into the city of Gaierd. It was an impressive desert city, beyond the first ramshackle housings. Ka'leem and Georgia were silent on the trek through the city, both women realizing they'd need a place to stay, without having to say it. First they'd need money. Georgia had none, had found no use for it except fire material. She almost regretted it now. Almost.
Ka'leem tapped her on the shoulder, indicating with a wave of her hand that she was going to go into the large building looming in front of them. Georgia went to follow but Ka'leem shook her head and motioned to stay put.
Georgia sighed and took the horses reins as Ka'leem wandered up the stone steps into the building. What now? She didn't have to wait long before the nomad came storming back down the stairs, blue eyes flashing in anger.
"What is it? What happened?" Georgia asked anxiously.
Ka'leem violently grabbed her horses reins and leapt up into the saddle. Without a word she continued on through the city.
"Ka'leem!" Georgia yelled, frustrated. "Wait." She pulled the horse along behind her as she raced after Ka'leem.
Abruptly the nomad stopped her Arabian and glanced at the foreigner panting and angry beside her. "It is nothing."
"Nevermind, Georgia. I have other...resources here. We will find a place to sleep tonight, with food and a warm bath." Ka'leem dismounted and walked beside Georgia, laying a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
The archeologist simply shrugged and walked silently. This is no good. There has to be some common ground, some common language we can talk in. I need to know what's going on.
Ka'leem, for her part, kept true to her word and less than an hour later they had a room, food, and baths.
Georgia floated blissfully on a haven of moist air as she washed away months of sand, dirt and stench. Ka'leem bathed in the tub beside her and if Georgia hadn't been so exhausted and sick she would have enjoyed the sight, or felt embarrassed by Ka'leem's apparent lack of modesty. As it was nothing mattered. Nothing at all mattered except how good it was to finally have a bed to sleep in.
He died in her arms. Too much blood loss and not enough medical supplies. Not enough anything. The American business man, Lester, and Georgia were the only ones left from the plane crash.
There was nothing left of the plane but a heap of charred metal.
Lester was a sniveling little man who had done no more then whine for a week. He was irritating her. Georgia wanted nothing more than for him to shut up. If she'd had the strength she'd have slapped him silly.
Two weeks later and she would have given anything to hear his voice. Anyone's voice.
And the darkness had come and swallowed her up as the desert had and she was lost. She swam in the biting darkness, suffering, starving, dying...until she'd found Ka'leem.
The dark nomad with the brilliant sky blue eyes. The woman who had saved her, opened her arms when she'd fallen and held her strong.... Where was she? Georgia swiveled in the darkness to find her dark savior. I need you Ka'leem, where are you? A frantic pounding began in her chest, a burning ache that left her gasping for breath.
"Ka'leem!" Georgia screamed as the desert swirled around her ankles, claiming her as it's own.
"No! No, not again! Leave me alone." Georgia tried to run but the sand became hands, traveling up her thighs, grabbing, clutching.
The nomad was startled from sleep as Georgia screamed her name. She sat bolt upright on the second bed, eyes straining in the darkness for possible danger. Finding none she rushed to Georgia's bed and grabbed her shoulders.
"Ka'leem?" Georgia whimpered, struggling against the demons and Ka'leem's arms.
"Wake up." Ka'leem shook her. "Wake up, little one."
Georgia's arms flailed wildly as she fought off the sand demons and her eyes struggled open. "Ka'leem?" she sobbed.
"Yes, it's me." Ka'leem debated a second before tucking the sobbing woman against her chest.
"Don't leave me." Georgia sobbed, not caring that Ka'leem wouldn't understand. "Please, please... don't leave me." She just needed to say the words. Needed to release some of the fear. She clutched tighter, almost desperately to Ka'leem's tunic.
Ka'leem in turn responded by smoothing back Georgia's hair and running her hand in circles around her back. "Shh, shh, just dreams. Just bad dreams."
Georgia continued sobbing, tears soaking Ka'leem's chest, but for once she wasn't ashamed. It felt right somehow, being in her arms, feeling safe. Safe? Yes, for once, blissfully, mercifully safe. As if the weight of the world was no longer residing alone on her shoulders. As if Ka'leem alone could take the demons away.
"O-K?" Ka'leem asked finally after a long silence. When no answer came she gently pushed Georgia away to look into her face in the dim light. "O-K?" she asked again.
Mutely Georgia nodded and went limply back as Ka'leem laid her head on the pillow. The bed creaked and it suddenly dawned on Georgia that Ka'leem was getting up to go back to her own bed. Panic clutched her heart. "No!"
Ka'leem shifted. "Ma?"
"Please don't go." Georgia heard herself begging in the darkness, but couldn't stop the panic from bubbling up and eating her whole. "Please stay here?"
Ka'leem shook her head warily, not understanding.
Georgia simply held out her arms like a small child seeking comfort.
Ka'leem understood that and she motioned for Georgia to scoot over, then she slid under the sheets and laid beside her. An awkward moment followed then Georgia found herself being wrapped in strong, safe arms.
"Rest now, little one," Ka'leem whispered. "Rest now."
And slowly Georgia did rest, in a dreamless sleep till the sun rose and shone brightly into the room, glancing off the pillow and the dark and light twining together.
Ka'leem slowly extracted herself from the tangle of their arms and legs, trying not to wake Georgia. Sunburned hands clutched reflexively to the warm body as Georgia felt Ka'leem moving.
With a gentle kiss on Georgia's head Ka'leem managed to leave the embrace. Her body cooled where Georgia had been and surprisingly she found herself wanting to crawl right back under the covers and hold her. But she had to meet Jahdan in the market place this morning and she'd already slept late.
"I'll be back in a while, little one," she whispered against Georgia's pale hair, kissing her good-bye.
Georgia stirred and popped open one sleepy, pale green eye. "Ka'leem?"
"It's all right. I'm just going down to the market. I'll be back soon."
Georgia caught the word market and mumbled ok, sleepily burying her face back into the pillow. She was asleep again in seconds.
Ka'leem gave one last glance back as she exited the room, then she made her way slowly to the marketplace. Let Jahdan wait. He knew better then to demand anything from the daughter of Ashnad Al'barh.
Jahdan saw those blue eyes before he saw anything else. He was half surprised that Ka'leem was obeying customs and covering her face, but then again this was the city and punishments could be severe.
"Ka'leem." He greeted her with a respectful nod.
"Jahdan." She cut to the chase by saying, "I need to sell my horses to you for food and a plane."
"A plane, child? Where are you going?" Have you finally decided to run from your father? He wondered.
"I need a plane to Cairo," Ka'leem repeated.
"Impossible," Jahdan replied immediately. Under the headdress Jahdan could not see her eyebrows rise sarcastically.
"Not impossible. I need it as soon as possible."
"I can't do it."
"Yes, you can. You owe me Jahdan," she replied dangerously.
"I-" She was right, Jahdan realized. He owed Ka'leem his life. It was time to pay up. "Very well, you will have a plane in a matter of days. Though I can not guarantee the destination."
"Cairo, Jahdan, nothing less." Ka'leem realized she was being hard on her old friend but time was not on her side. How long till father found them? "As compensation you will retain whatever money is left over from selling the horses." It was all she had to offer.
He nodded. "Cairo. Be well, child." He disappeared into the crowded marketplace.
When Ka'leem returned to the room Georgia was pushed up against the pillows, pale and sweating. She was silent as she watched Ka'leem approach and sit carefully on the edge of the bed.
"Not feeling well?" Ka'leem asked, as she raised a hand to Georgia's forehead. She was burning up.
Suddenly Georgia pushed Ka'leem aside and struggled off the bed. She barely made it to the washbasin where she emptied the contents of her stomach. Ka'leem stood behind her, whisking strands of sweat soaked hair up into a bundle and wrapping a strong arm around Georgia's waist so she wouldn't fall over as dry heaves racked her slim body. Georgia moaned and fell back against the strong nomad.
"Make it stop," she whispered. Her voice was scratchy and raw.
"Shhh, I've got you." Ka'leem gently swept Georgia up in her arms and carried her back to the bed. "Rest here, little one." She smoothed Georgia's golden hair back from her sweating brow. "I'll be right back."
Georgia watched Ka'leem leave without protest. She was too weak. A moment later Ka'leem returned, and in her hands was a tray for tea.
Tea time already? Georgia's unfocused mind wondered.
The nomad set the tray down. "You need to drink this Georgia, or the fever will worsen."
Georgia struggled up but her stomach churned and she blanched.
"Lie still." With a gentleness that surprised her Ka'leem took Georgia's head in one arm and lifted a pillow behind her back with the other. Georgia closed her eyes and leaned her head against the pillow, halfway sitting.
I should have realized sooner, Ka'leem chastised herself. Georgia had spent far too much time in the sun. Ka'leem stood and went to the door. On the floor were the things she'd sent the boy for.
"Ka'leem?" Georgia asked weakly.
"Ma?" Ka'leem arranged the contents of the tea tray and bought over a cup, sitting on the edge of the bed.
"I want to go home." Georgia closed her eyes, feeling the beads of sweat roll down her overheated skin. Ka'leem's bare fingers touched her cheek tenderly.
"You will be well and soon you will be home, little one. Drink this." Ka'leem held the cup to Georgia's lips. It smelled like cinnamon and reminded Georgia of her Grandmother and the days they had spent together, so long ago, in the big farmhouse kitchen. Georgia sighed and swallowed the tea, trusting Ka'leem's voice, not understanding the words, but feeling safe all the same. She faded away from the pain knowing that the mysterious nomad would take care of everything.
She struggled against the arms that held her. Pain, so much pain. Then a soft voice whispered in her ear. Georgia's body shifted slightly as strong arms embraced her and she was placed against Ka'leem's chest.
Georgia's fingers dug, terrified, into Ka'leem's tunic. "Don't go," she begged, fearing Ka'leem was leaving.
"I'm right here, little one," Ka'leem soothed. "I'm not going anywhere."
Long fingers rubbed her back in a soothing gesture and Georgia fell asleep once more to the soft hum of a foreign lullaby.
For two days Georgia woke and slept, drinking tea. Between visits to the bathroom and sitting up in bed for treatments of Aloe she watched Ka'leem, surprised by her attentions and gentleness. Each night she lay wrapped in Ka'leem's strong arms and slept without nightmares. The nausea was gone and except for some lingering pain when the Aloe wore off Georgia was doing alot better. On the third day came an unexpected knock at the door. Ka'leem got up to answer it, casting a glance back to Georgia as she slept peacefully.
"Jahdan." She nodded from the doorway.
He smiled and glanced around the room, noting the young blond woman sleeping in the bed. "Good news, Ka'leem, I have secured a plane to Cairo for you."
"When will it be ready?" So soon.... Ka'leem avoided looking at Georgia.
"It is ready now, my friend." Jahdan smiled, pleased at the small miracle he'd pulled off. "Should I inform the pilot that there will be two passengers?"
"No, there will be only one," Ka'leem said, a touch of sadness entering her voice.
"Very well." He reached into a pocket in his robe, pulling out a pouch. "This is what is left, for food."
"You've taken your share then?" she asked.
"Yes," he lied. He owed Ka'leem far more then a few piddly coins.
She nodded, a keen glimmer in her eyes. "Be well, Jahdan." Ka'leem took the pouch and softly closed the door as Jahdan departed.
"Ka'leem?" came the groggy voice from the bed. "Who was that?"
"His name is Jahdan," Ka'leem answered absently as she tipped the contents of the pouch into the palm of her hand.
Georgia listened a moment to the clinking of silver coins and propped herself up against the pillows. "Jahdan? What did he want?"
Ka'leem turned slowly to the bed and smiled hesitantly. "He has found a way for you to go home."
Georgia's brow crinkled in confusion. "Ma?"
"Home?" Georgia whispered, praying nothing had been lost in the translation.
"Yes, little one...home," Ka'leem re-deposited the coins into the pouch and tucked it inside of her robe. "Youm."
"Youm. You mean today, Ka'leem?" Georgia asked, sitting up straight and throwing back the covers.
"Youm," Ka'leem confirmed, turning sadly from the smile that suddenly lit Georgia's beautiful face. Why must you be so happy about leaving, little one, when it is breaking my heart?
"Hey." Georgia padded across the bare floor and laid a casual hand on Ka'leem's arm. "Why so sad? Are you worried about something?"
Ka'leem shrugged her shoulders in confusion. Realizing Georgia wouldn't understand either she smiled sadly. "I do not wish you to go, sadiki."
Georgia blinked, and tried to retain a neutral expression. Sadiki...friend. "If you didn't have ties here...family, friends...I would ask if you wanted to go with me...if I knew the right damn words...." Her voice trailed off and she looked up into pale, troubled eyes.
"Shall we get ready to go?" Ka'leem asked.
Georgia nodded and went to make the bed, hands shaking for a reason that was unknown to her.
The airport was nothing more than a path of dirt for take off. Georgia eyed it, then Ka'leem nervously. The plane was a little cessna, only a little bigger then what she'd crashed in.
Oh God, don't think of crashing. No! It won't happen again. She wondered how Ka'leem had found this place, this 'hole-in-the-wall.' She wondered if the little plane would even be able to get off the ground. Georgia just sighed and took a step towards the plane when Ka'leem reached out and touched her arm.
"Good bye, little one." Ka'leem smiled sadly. I'll miss holding you at night, miss seeing you in the mornings.
Georgia smiled at the term of endearment then squared her shoulders resolutely and headed towards the small plane. A low buzzing started in her ears as she got closer, and it wasn't the engines. Her chest was heavy with dread.
Come on, I can do this. Georgia placed one foot on the ladder.
Come on, little one, don't be afraid. Ka'leem watched her go.
Another step. Come on. The buzzing got louder and her chest tightened painfully. No! I can do this. You fall off a bike you get right back on. She was half way up the stairs now. She caught the railing as a wave of dizziness blindsided her.
Ka'leem saw Georgia stop and sway dangerously on the ladder. She took an unconscious step forward but stopped as Georgia righted herself and finished the walk up into the plane.
Inside Georgia found a seat and quickly sat down as she felt the nausea welling up. Her breathing slowed and shallowed. Oh God, I can do this. One little flight, I can do this. The metal door clicked shut with a sudden finality. Georgia bolted from the seat in a panic and ran to the door.
The pilot turned, startled, as his passenger beat on the door.
"Let me out!" Georgia cried hoarsely. "Let me out!"
Hastily he opened the door and threw down the ladder. Georgia jumped down the stairs two at a time, vomiting when she reached the ground. Suddenly a strong hand was pulling back her hair and gently rubbing her back.
"My poor little one."
Georgia looked up into those familiar blue eyes with tears on her lashes. Then quite unexpectedly she shot into Ka'leem's arms, sobbing.
"I can't do it. I can't do it," she sobbed.
"Shhh." Ka'leem held the young archeologist tenderly. "Shhh, I know. I've got you."
Georgia twisted violently in Ka'leem's arms, throwing up the contents of her stomach until there was nothing left but dry heaves. All the while Ka'leem held her gently, rubbed her back, and murmured soothing words. Georgia buried her face in Ka'leem's chest as they sat in the dirt and the plane powered down.
"Pilot," Ka'leem called. "Give us a minute. There will be two on your flight."
"But-" he started to protest.
"Jahdan will take care of it." Her eyes bore into the pilot's, daring him to refuse.
He gulped nervously, then nodded. Jahdan would take care of it he knew. He just didn't like surprises. "Twenty minutes." The pilot walked off to grab a cup of coffee in the small garage slash office.
The sobs continued until they turned to silent tears. Ka'leem helped Georgia stand, but Georgia refused to leave her safe haven so Ka'leem tucked the fair head under her chin and held her closer.
"So I shall join you in the flight to Cairo after all." Ka'leem smoothed the silky hair beneath her hand. "And what then?"
"I can't do it," Georgia whispered beside Ka'leem as she stared up into blue eyes.
"I will be with you this time." Ka'leem smiled gently.
"Ma?" Georgia finally backed out of the safe embrace, though she didn't shrug out of the long tapered fingers that rested on her forearms.
Ka'leem tapped Georgia's chest and then her own. "Together we'll fly to Cairo." She motioned to the plane.
They stood facing each other, hands now resting at their sides. Georgia was pale, Ka'leem was dark. The sun shone down on the two strangers, bathing both in bright yellow streams. The wind blew the scent of wild flowers around them and time seemed to stand still for one heartbeat. An entire eternity passed as they gazed at each other. Barriers broke down and language didn't matter. The one true universal language ignited and flamed.
Ka'leem leaned down, running her thumb against Georgia's jawbone. Georgia sucked in a startled breath as she fell into icy eyes. Her lips parted and she tilted her head, ever so slightly, towards Ka'leem.
"Let's go, ladies," the pilot said cheerfully as he passed obliviously by and up the ladder into the plane.
The moment was broken, shattered and Ka'leem pulled hastily away and looked at the plane.
"Ready?" Ka'leem asked.
Georgia sucked in a deep shuddering breath and let it out slowly before answering. Ka'leem will be with me. I can do this now. Right? Georgia nodded silently and they made their way up the ladder.
Once on the plane Georgia wasn't so sure. As the engines roared to life the same panic that had overwhelmed her before bubbled up in her chest. Oh God, I can't do this.... "Ka'leem," Georgia groaned. "I can't do this." She clutched, terrified, at the arms of the seat.
"You can and you will." Ka'leem laid her hand over Georgia's white knuckled grip. "Close your eyes."
Georgia sat back and closed her eyes, drawing strength from the thumb that absently caressed her hand.
"Good. Now think of home, little one, and how happy you will be to see it." Ka'leem lowered her voice. "Family and friends will welcome you with open arms. You will work and play. Can you see it?"
Georgia let the soft timbre of Ka'leems voice soothe her fear. She let go of the armrest and curled her hand inside Ka'leem's. The whirl of the engines receded to the background and terrifying vibrations of the metal hull lessened. The plane gained altitude and Georgia gained courage.
Ka'leem began to hum, a tune that Georgia vaguely remembered falling asleep to. After the first verse Ka'leem put words to the song for the first time.
"Endless waves of golden sand
stretch before the hand
of all who see and hear"
Georgia was somewhere between awake and asleep. That place were nothing is real yet feels as if it is.
"I met a stranger there
with waves of golden hair
and eyes of burning green"
The plane was banking towards Cairo, it's small wings struggling through the desert air. Georgia didn't notice.
"Love is in the desert
between the pain and hurt
rising on the wind
"Call to me oh little one
beneath the glowing sun
and I will rescue you
"Over endless waves of golden sand
reaching beneath my hand
I've found you."
Soft snores emanated from Georgia's slightly parted lips.
"Can I keep you?" Ka'leem whispered. She pushed a stray lock of golden hair behind Georgia's ear and watched as she slept all the way to Cairo.
The plane landed just outside of Cairo on a tiny airstrip that was barely larger then where they'd taken off from. Georgia remained groggy even after Ka'leem had woken her on landing. As they exited the plane Georgia squinted against the harsh sun.
"I thought we were going to Cairo." She glanced to the left and saw another small Cessna being loaded by a number of burly young men. A limo waited off to the side. After her glance landed on a bulge in one of the men's expensive and out of place suits Georgia quickly averted her eyes.
Ka'leem cursed silently. Of all the places you could find, Jahadan, this one is it? Ka'leem stared straight ahead and guided Georgia by the elbow to the taxi waiting at the side of the dirt road.
"Where go to?" the cab driver asked in broken English.
"Cairo," the women replied in unison.
"Uh, Ka'leem?" Georgia looked over at the nomad's dark profile. "Is this Jahdan a close friend of yours?"
Ka'leem snorted. Jahdan and the word friend in the same sentence? Well, she supposed, he was her friend...in a way. But his debt had been repaid. "Yes," she finally answered, hoping she'd guessed the question correctly.
Georgia nodded silently and turned to stare out the window, waiting expectantly for her first glimpse of Cairo. So far a small gang of drug traffickers was not what she was expecting. What would the overpopulated city bring?
It brought traffic. Tons of it. Worse then NYC in rush hour. People, cars and litter obscured the streets and she wondered how anyone could even move. The taxi was deadlocked. Ka'leem handed over some coins and they hopped out onto the streets.
The population here was about 7.2, estimated now at about 16 million. It was impossible to count, and most of it had spread outside of the city. Poverty and pollution levels were at an all time extreme. Somehow the city functioned, whether it was through the income of the tourist trade or because it had been built in ancient times in the center of all trade routes leading to and from the capitals of the three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe, Georgia didn't know.
She knew that she could spend years here as an archeologist, studying its art and history.
To the west was the Ancient Egyptian city of Memphis - Giza, the capital of the Old Kingdom and the site of the Pyramids, one of the Seven Wonders of the World still remaining. To the east was evidence of 2,000 years of Islamic, Christian Coptic and Jewish culture still flourishing today.
The Fatimids established Cairo in 969 when they conquered Egypt. The city had the world's first university, al-Azhar, founded in 970. Five hundred mosques adorned the city, but right now Georgia needed food and a bath and by the way Ka'leem's stomach was rumbling she knew it wouldn't be long till they entered one of the little shops. They were pushed and shoved down the street and Georgia had to hang onto Ka'leem's tunic not to get lost in the shuffle.
Foods of every kind mixed in the desert air, mingling with car exhausts and human waste. They entered a restaurant on Sherif Street called Aladin and took seats at a tiny, wobbling table.
"What is all this stuff?" Georgia asked as she perused the thin paper menu. Kofta, Mulukhia, Hamam Mashshi, Kusheri, Baba Ghannaug.... I've heard of that. Most Americans pronounce it Baa-baa Gha-nosh. Ok, stick with something safe.
Ka'leem watched Georgia's brows furrow in concentration and smiled at the picture of the foreigner praying she wouldn't end up eating something strange like monkey brains.
The young waiter came over, a smile on his dark face. He nodded at them both.
"Kofta, Kusheri," Ka'leem ordered.
Georgia looked up expectantly and smiled. "Um, I think I'd like the Baba Ghannaug. And water, please." They passed the menus back and sat silently for a moment, looking out the front window to the busy streets.
"We should be able to afford a hotel for one night, and try to get you transport back to the US." Ka'leem unconsciously fingered the change purse under her tunic. What will I have to sell here to get Georgia home?
Georgia caught the word hotel. She thought for a long moment. "I think I should go to one of the American embassies here. I'm sure they can transfer funds or find a place for us to stay."
Ka'leem paled noticeably. "No embassies."
The archeologist nodded slowly. "Then I need a bank."
Ka'leem had nodded and they'd finished the meal in silence. Once more on the crowed streets Ka'leem was searching for a bank and Georgia was tagging along behind. Abruptly Ka'leem stopped and held out her hand in Georgia's path.
"What?" Georgia looked around and then up to Ka'leem's narrowed eyes. "Ma?"
"Rafeed...." Ka'leem stepped back into the shadows, dragging Georgia with her.
"Who the hell is Rafeed?" the archeologist demanded.
"Ibn Ashnad Rafeed," the nomad whispered.
Son of Ashnad...Ka'leem's brother.
Georgia had a very meager amount of money in her savings account, but it would cover a small hotel for at least one or two days. Until a flight out of Cairo could be arranged. The hotel was called The Tulip and it was far from a four or five star rating. But it had a bed and a bathroom with a shower. Even if the beige and yellow decor reminded her too much of the desert they had just crossed.
Ka'leem had snuck them through the shadows, along the alleys, until they'd found the back of a bank and an out of date ATM. Then they'd made their way through more shadows to the first hotel, which happened to be where they were now.
Georgia was enjoying a shower while Ka'leem stood at the curtained window, watching for any signs of Rafeed. It had been so long, too long in fact, since she'd seen her older brother and she was weary of a meeting. The last time they had parted Rafeed was running from Ashnad and running for his life. Ka'leem had been on her father's side at the time.
But they had both grown since then.
"Georgia?" Ka'leem called over the spraying water through the slightly opened door.
"I'm going out. I'll be back in a little while." Ka'leem prepared to re-shut the door but Georgia poked her head out of the shower.
"Ma?" she questioned.
Ka'leem blinked and averted her eyes from Georgia's water slicked shoulders and neck. "I'm going out," she repeated.
Georgia smiled. "See ya in a bit then."
If I was Rafeed where would I be? Ka'leem studied the busy streets. In a gambling establishment no doubt. So, where do I find one of those?
She walked down the street, looking for a friendly face and someone she could ask directions from. As it turned out she didn't need to look for Rafeed. He was looking for her.
The nomad stopped and pivoted slowly on her heel. He hasn't changed much, she thought.
"You look beautiful as always, little sister." Rafeed smiled.
Blue eyes, just a shade darker then Ka'leem's own, looked back at her from a face that had the same high cheekbones and full lips. He was a few inches taller then Ka'leem.
"It's been a long time," Ka'leem acknowledged.
"So it has."
"What are you doing in Cairo?" As she asked they stepped closer to each other on the busy streets.
"I could ask the same of you." He cast inquisitive eyes on her, effectively avoiding the question.
Ka'leem smiled wryly. "I left."
Her brother nodded. "I had heard that father was searching for you. He sent out runners to all the nearby cities looking for you. He found Jahdan."
"Dead," Rafeed finished.
Jahdan, my friend, you didn't deserve that. "Does father know I'm in Cairo?"
"No." Rafeed began to walk down the street and Ka'leem followed. "Jahdan didn't betray you."
Ka'leem nodded silently. As she paced beside her brother in silence questions began to form and one in particular slipped out before she could stop it. "Why didn't you take me with you all those years ago, Rafeed?"
"You would have fought me all the way. You had to learn for yourself what Ashnad really is."
"I fear I didn't learn soon enough," Ka'leem sighed. But if I had left sooner Georgia would have been sold as a slave. I do not understand destiny, fate, karma...whatever you wish to call it.
"You have left. That is all that matters now." Rafeed paused at a busy intersection. People surrounded them on every side. It was nearly impossible to hear. "Where are you staying in the city?"
Ka'leem hesitated for just a moment. "The Tulip."
"The Tulip? Are you kidding me?" He looked at her incredulously as she confirmed it with a nod. "Nonsense. My only sister will stay with me at the Ramses Hilton."
"We are fine where we are," she replied.
"We? Ahh yes, the American." He grinned at her raised eyebrows. "I've heard many rumors."
"And what rumors have you heard?"
"Shall we go get your American friend and I will tell you at the Hilton?"
Georgia deserved better, and Rafeed was offering, but... "No."
"There are no strings attached, Ka'leem. I haven't seen you in a long, long time. Please let me give you this, at least." He cast beseeching eyes on his younger sister. It would not make up for what he'd done, he knew that, but he could try.
"We have already paid for the room."
"I will get your money back," he promised.
No strings attached... it's been a long time... Yes, yes it has and we have much catching up to do brother. "This way. Georgia will be pleased to meet you and speak English with you."
Ha, his rumors didn't cover everything. "My American friend, Georgia."
Rafeed smiled. There was so much to make up for.
Rafeed's first glimpse of Georgia was her lithe body sprawled lengthwise across the small hotel room bed. She wore ratty and faded jeans that had holes in the knees and the seat. Her shirt's once vibrant green had paled to a mossy buckwheat by the glaring sun and a necklace of bleached white teeth dangled from her neck. A machete, freshly polished, rested by her hip.
"Georgia." Ka'leem gently shook the young woman's shoulder. "Wake up."
"Hmm Mmm," she mumbled and rolled onto her side.
"Come on, little one, get up. There's someone I want you to meet."
Georgia sighed and opened pale eyes, blinking in the sunlight pouring through the open shades. She raised up on her elbows, smiling sleepily at Ka'leem then turned to the stranger by the door. I've seen those eyes before. She glanced back at Ka'leem.
"Georgia this is my brother, Rafeed." Ka'leem smiled.
"Pleased to meet you, Georgia." Rafeed tilted his head respectfully at the beautiful young woman.
"You speak English?" she asked, surprised.
"Of course." He smiled. "What good would trading do with the Americans if I could not speak the language?"
Georgia rose from the bed and shook his extended hand. "True." She stepped back a pace and looked him up and down. "So, what is Ka'leem's mysterious brother Rafeed doing in Cairo? And how did you two find each other?"
Ka'leem shifted from foot to foot, feeling somewhat left out. Of course, what would Georgia need with her now that she had someone who could talk to her properly?
Rafeed grinned at his little sister. "She wants to know what I'm doing here. Should I tell her she's going to the Ramses, or do you want to tell her?"
"You can tell her. She will not understand what I say anyway." Ka'leem drifted over to the window with a tired shrug of her shoulders.
"Very well." Rafeed turned to the young woman. "How would you like to spend the rest of your time here in the city in the Cairo Ramses Hilton with me? My treat?"
Georgia raised a sunbleached eyebrow and looked at Ka'leem. Her back was to the room and her shoulders were stiff and straight. "I dunno," she hedged. "We've already paid for this room."
"My sister said the same thing." He chuckled. "You are both two peas in a pod."
"Did Ka'leem say she wanted to go?" Georgia glanced again at the nomad's stiff back, then crossed to the window. "Do you want to stay with your brother?" she asked softly.
Ka'leem glanced down, a puzzled and angry frown on her face. When Georgia's soft, warm hand touched her arm some of the anger faded. "He is my brother," she whispered. "I have not seen him in years."
Brother...see...years.... Georgia tugged on the tanned arm in her grasp. "Let's pack up. I hear the Ramses is five-star splendor." She smiled. Reluctantly she let go of Ka'leem's arm, grabbed the machete and pulled the empty canteen from under the bed. "Ok, all packed. Let's go."
The Cairo Ramses Hilton was at Cornich El Nil, in the heart of Cairo on the east bank of the Nile. There were thirty-six floors and 836 rooms. It boasted views of the Nile, the city and the Pyramids, with a short walk to a shopping district, the Egyptian Museum and the Nile Hilton. The rooms were large and decorative and Rafeed offered to share the Penthouse on the top floor with its extra bedroom.
Georgia stood on the balcony of the main room, facing the Nile. Below her the city spread out in a network of people, buildings, vehicles and beauty. The wind tugged at her short hair and rifled through the holes in her clothes. With a shiver she leaned out over the rail as if to embrace the city.
The low contralto voice tugged at Georgia's ear and she leaned away from the rail, embarrassed. She wrapped her arms around her waist as she shivered again and turned to face Ka'leem. Looking up into brilliant blue eyes she fought off a growing sense of alarm. She shook her head and took a step back.
"O-K?" Ka'leem asked.
Silently, Georgia shook her head. Tears glistened at the corners of her eyes. "Can you feel it here?" she whispered.
Ka'leem stood silent.
"Look." Georgia pointed out over the city, to the hazy Pyramids in the distance. "I've been here before," she said, voice still hushed.
The dark nomad hesitated a moment then stood behind Georgia and wrapped her arms around the young woman's shoulders and leaned her chin on top of Georgia's blond head. She breathed in deep the scent of strawberry shampoo and soap. She didn't have to understand Georgia's words to feel what she was feeling; the unexplainable aura of magic, as past and present fused together.
Surroundings, noises...everything drifted away as Georgia leaned into Ka'leem with familiar ease.
Darkness enveloped two woman on a sea of waving grass as the sun set behind them in brilliant purple and pinks. Not an inch separated them as they looked out over the Nile.
One woman, the taller of the two, was dressed in ceremonial robes, a golden diadem atop tresses of midnight black.
"They will come soon, Anippe?" the other one, Tale, asked. She turned to peer into the brilliant eyes of her mate.
"Yes, love, they will come soon." The dark woman looked down sadly. "Promise me that when they come you will go-"
"No, I will not leave you!" Tale cried.
"Please, love, please, I could not bare to loose you too." Anippe, daughter of the Nile, born to be the next queen, choked on emotions she had only recently found in the heart of the green-eyed slave, Tale. Her soulmate.
"And it is all right for me to loose YOU?" Tale asked, increduously.
"I- I didn't mean it like that," Anippe stammered.
Tears clouded Tale's green gray eyes. I have finally found you and you are to be taken from me so soon. Too soon. "I won't let them take you," she promised.
With a sob Anippe buried her head in Tale's blond hair. "You can not stop them."
I will try. Tale promised. Even if I must ask the sun god, Ra, for help. The god that hath forsaken me years ago...but for you, Anippe...anything.
Small, slittled green eyes glowed in the darkness, atop a slab for the third and smallest of the Pyramids. He listened and he heard. But what would he do now?
"Ohmigod," Georgia squeaked, jarring herself back to the present as a sleek black cat purred around her ankles. She twisted in Ka'leem's arms. "What the hell is that?"
Ka'leem opened wild eyes and looked blindly at the cat through the fog of memory.
"That is Asim. My cat." Rafeed picked up the cat and spirited it away after receiving a chilly and dazed look from Georgia. His sister had not even spoken. "Are you okay?" he asked.
"Fine, fine," Georgia grumbled, tugging on the sleeve of Ka'leem's tunic. "Right, everything is ok?" What the hell is going on here?
Georgia looked out over the various people in the lobby of the Hilton with a sigh, then back down to her own faded and torn clothes. Pale tatters hung around the knees and cuffs of her jeans. The seams on the collar of her shirt were ripping apart and it hung across her thin shoulders like hand me downs on a two-year- old.
Rafeed had gotten their money back, as promised, and she was on her way to the shopping center for some new clothes. Ka'leem was tagging silently behind, no more interested in shopping then she was of sight seeing.
It had taken a small amount of begging on Georgia's part to even get Ka'leem to come with her. As they exited the lobby doors of the Ramses Georgia paused and waited for Ka'leem to catch up. Then, without a second thought she grabbed the tanned, tapered hand in her own and set off down the sidewalk. She told herself it was so they wouldn't be parted in the shuffle of people on the sidewalks.
Less then an hour later Georgia had changed into a suitable set of replacements. Dressed now in crisp dark jeans and a touristy T-shirt that read; "I've seen the Pyramids"- both in English and Egyptian- they were headed back to the streets.
Ka'leem was still strangely silent, lost in thought. The vision had been so real. So startling and terrifying in it's sudden intensity that Ka'leem didn't know what to think. Am I loosing my mind?
Georgia looked up into the deep blue eyes of the woman who had, in short time, become her best friend. "Want to get some lunch?" she asked, miming shoveling food into her mouth.
"I'm not really hungry," Ka'leem answered, eyes settled on something far into the distance. Georgia followed the gaze. The top of the Pyramids were faintly visible in the mid afternoon haze.
"Wanna do a little sight seeing?" Georgia asked, glancing between the two and visibly torn on both sides. Food or the Pyramids? She weighed the options, hands twitching as if balancing a heavy load. Food...definitely hungry. Pyramids...find out what the vision meant?
Still undecided she looked back up at Ka'leem, who nodded silently, but not at Georgia's question. She hadn't heard. With a slight frown the dark nomad turned to eye her American friend, and pointed to a large blue and white sign a block down the street. In large blue letters it proclaimed; 'See the Ancient City of Egypt.'
"Right you are." Georgia smiled. "Let's go." Food could wait a bit longer....
The old, battered blue and white tour bus putted down the dusty road on the outskirts of Cairo, proclaiming over staticy speakers various 'hot spots' along the way. Ka'leem was still silent, eyes closed as the bus bumped along. Georgia watched, wide eyed as the Ancient City came slowly into view.
Hoofbeats shattered the still air and Tale looked up from the river and the laundry she was washing.
They're here! No, it is too soon!
Tale dropped the laundry, unmindful as it swept downstream. She raced across the grassy knoll, stumbling to her knees as she reached the sand. She looked up into the sun and the shadow towering over her.
"Up, slave," the voice commanded.
She blinked, trying to focus on the silhouette. She did not move.
"Get up," he commanded again, a long whip uncoiling from his side.
I have to get to Anippe. The warriors will be-
The whip lashed out, striking her across a bare arm. She whimpered in pain, but stood suddenly and rushed at the tall shadow with all the strength and courage she could muster. She barreled into him with the full force of a charging elephant, knocking him back onto the sand.
He grunted and grabbed for her arms, but Tale was small and quick. Before the warrior could fully comprehend what was happening she'd twisted the whip around this throat.
"For love," she hissed, and with a twist snapped his neck. His arms and legs twitched, then he was still. She took one, brief second to gather her heart back into her chest then stood and ran to find her beloved.
The tents and homes were ablaze and people were scattered throughout the streets. Warriors of the southern plains surged in and out among the people, fighting those who fought back; whether it was the old woman with the cane protecting her grandson from being taken into slavery or the young, seasoned soldier protecting his people.
Tale ran through them all to the palace. She ducked and dodged a few wild swings from the warriors as she passed, but escaped relatively unharmed. Blood flowed freely down her right arm where the whip had broken the skin, but she ignored the pain and raced on, her heart in her throat.
A hundred yards from the palace Tale steeled herself for the worse. She ducked into the shadow of a vendor's cart that had been untouched by the fires and caught her breath as she surveyed the carnage. The palace guards lay dead about the doors, terrifyingly outnumbered; though they had fought for all they were worth. The warriors of the south held the palace now, spears or staffs crossed to let no one pass.
No one would dare pass anyway. The people were fleeing in panic. Their city had fallen. Their queen was in the hands of the enemy and all was lost.
With her heart lodged in her throat Tale skirted the shadows, passing to the back of the palace and the one place she prayed was still unguarded.
Luck was with her, or perhaps one of the gods had blessed her this day.
She slithered across the packed sand like a snake, dropping through one of the numerous stone shafts that served as ventilation holes. Fear and anger pulsed through her veins as she hung precariously in the darkness. The drop to the floor was steep, she'd be lucky if she didn't break her neck. With a shattered breath she released her hold and slipped straight down. Her fingers raked across the smooth surface, scratching, grabbing and clawing. The walls were too smooth and she slid hopelessly to the stone floor, her fingertips, palms and elbows bloodied. Tale landed with a hard thunk, loosening her knees, rolling instinctively as she fell.
It wasn't enough. She screamed out in the darkness as the bone in her lower leg ripped through her flesh. Panting and cursing she fought against the darkness.
She had to find Anippe.
With gritted teeth she ripped several strips of cloth from her robe. She hesitated as she laid her raw fingers over her lower leg. Gods above, she cursed. Help me now. Stars dancing behind her eyes in the dim light of the palace basement she tightly gripped her shattered leg.
1, 2, 3.... She pulled with all the remaining strength she had, and the bone slipped back into place with a sick squish and pop. Tears sprang to her eyes and the pain nearly made her pass out. One thought kept her conscious.
"I'm coming," she whispered to the stone walls. "Gods help me, I'm coming."
Tale wrapped the cloth strips tightly around her leg, wishing for a length of wood to keep it stable. Wishing it didn't hurt so damn much. She tried to stand, but it was pointless. The shattered leg gave out beneath her and she crumpled once again to the smooth, cool, stone floor. On bloody elbows Tale clawed her way to the rough, stone walled airshaft that would take her up and directly to the queen's chambers. She just prayed that when she got there it wouldn't already be too late.
Georgia blinked her eyes rapidly, coming back to the present as the bus backfired, sending a fog of dark, oily smelling air up towards the sky. She swallowed hard against the painful lump in her throat, looking down at her leg. She half expected to find a tanned, bare leg with shards of bone protruding against the surface of her skin. Georgia shivered and glanced at Ka'leem as the people on the bus began excited conversations and hurried off, towards the Pyramids.
"O-K?" Ka'leem asked, carefully watching Georgia's widely dilated eyes as they slowly refocused and turned to tiny pinpricks as the sun flashed off the desert sand and into Georgia's eyes.
"Uh yeah, sure." Georgia unconsciously rubbed her leg. "Ready?" she asked and gestured at the tourists getting off the bus.
Ka'leem shrugged and stood. Ready as I'll ever be...I guess.
Vendor's hocked gaudy tourist trinkets while others sold food and drinks under the harsh glare of the desert sun. There were more guided tours and plenty of tourists snapping pictures.
"Nice shirts. Pretty jewelry!" A vendor set his sights on the obviously American Georgia. He narrowed in on his victim with calculated glee.
Ka'leem watched with a weary eye as Georgia tried, unsuccessfully, to wave the little, bearded man away.
"Good shirts. See?" He waved a shirt in Georgia's face and she stopped abruptly.
"I'm not interested."
"Sure, sure. Make deal." He grinned toothlessly.
"No, thank you." Georgia began to walk again and the little man followed, continuing with his tirade. She could feel Ka'leem tensing beside her. With a sigh she turned back to the vendor before Ka'leem started kicking ass. "Archeologist," she pointed to herself.
The man's eyes narrowed and he suddenly vanished into the crowd, looking for tourists he could make a profit on.
Georgia chuckled slightly. "Gets 'em every time."
Their tour group had long since left them behind and Georgia and Ka'leem wondered freely, taking in the magic of the Pyramids.
It's said that a place with a past can be felt in the present. That it's mysteries and spirits forever haunt the area. And if you stop long enough, stand still and listen carefully you can hear them calling the wisdom of the ages.
As Georgia and Ka'leem stood, staring across the desert they both wondered if it wasn't just a little bit true. Something tugged at their souls, beckoned. An unfulfilled destiny screamed in their ears.
The Fates watched over the two lost souls as they weaved the threads of life.
Both were too terrified to hear the truth, but the memories could not be stopped once they were started. The Pyramids towered above them and, dwarfed by their late afternoon shadows, two women watched the sun dip behind the tallest point.
Georgia stepped up to the massive paw of the Sphinx and touched it reverently, her breath whistling through her teeth in awe. I've been here before.... She glanced at Ka'leem. We've been here before....
The Fates hesitated in their weaving. Was it time?
Ka'leem's eyes were focused on the Pyramids, but her inner gaze was far, far into the past. The Pyramids re-built themselves back into all their splendid glory.
The warriors came from everywhere at once, and if Anippe had had the chance she would have killed them all. As it was she took out thirteen before she fell.
The darkness swallowed her up and with it her pain. She didn't see the warriors swarming in and taking over. Didn't see them throwing her banners to the ground. Nor did she feel anything as they lifted her body from the cool marble and dragged her to the queen's chambers.
She only felt again as the rushing waves of reality- the smoke from the fires and the smell of burnt flesh- assaulted her nostrils. Abruptly she sat up under the canopied bed and looked wildly around. Two guards were at the inside chamber door and she suspected more were outside.
Outside.... She turned to the open balcony. Tale. My beloved. Have they taken you too? At least they will not kill you, outright. They will enslave you...into far worse things then when I found you. Anippe's heart broke for the love she feared she'd lost forever.
Tale.... She flung one of the many pillows over her face to cover her tears. The once future queen would not let her enemies see her weakness.
Georgia's hands traced the fading hieroglyphics on the Sphinx. The lines spoke to her far more than as an archeologist. She curled her fist, resisting the urge to strike out against the rising waves of emotion coursing through her veins.
She blinked rapidly as her vision diminished and was replaced by stone walls on either side.
The pain was intense. So intense that Tale had to rest frequently or be overcome by the nausea.
Unaware, Georgia fell to her knees in the sand, palm flat on the surface of the stone, her forehead coming to rest against the heated rock. Oh God....
Elbows and forearms raw and bloody Tale continued on to find her beloved. Just a little further, she chanted to herself, a painful mantra with each and every breath.
Up and up the airshaft she dragged her broken body.
Ahead a feeble light touched the rough stone shaft. It bounced down to Tale in a rain of hope. Just a little further, the light promised.
She pulled herself to the edge, and rested her cheek against the cool stone. Just for a moment, she promised. Just a moment.... The darkness came and took her then, swept her into blinding, painless oblivion, and left her floating in peaceful nothingness.
Georgia gasped as a solid, very human hand, touched her shoulder. "Ka'leem?" she asked on a ragged breath.
"I am here, little one." The dark nomad laid her arm across Georgia's shoulder and held her gently. "Let us go from this place. The past sings too clearly here."
The past.... Georgia looked into familiar planes of tanned flesh and into pale blue eyes that shimmered with unshed tears. You feel it too, don't you? She nodded silently and took Ka'leem's hand as they made their way back to the bus in the waning twilight.
Georgia's stomach grumbled over the 'rattle-rattle-bump-bump' of the bus as it warily made it's way back to home base. It was late when the bus burped to a stop and tired tourists got off with a lot less excitement then when they had gotten on. There was more then one complaint about sunburn and aching muscles.
Once off the bus Georgia and Ka'leem made their way back to the Ramses, and the air-conditioned haven of the penthouse. There they split up; Georgia routing in the kitchenette for food and Ka'leem wandering out to the balcony. Stars twinkled in the night sky, barely seen through the blaze of Cairo's nightlife.
Exhausted, Ka'leem flopped onto a deck chair, kicked off her sandals and tried to relax, but no matter how hard she tried she couldn't shake the vision- or the memories, if that's what they really were.
A sweet breeze, filled with the food and smells of Cairo, washed over the dark nomad, ruffling her hair and swirling across her bared skin. She craved the desert, craved the openness and wildness as nothing else. She yearned to race across the dunes on her Arabian's back and feel the wind in her hair.
Do I really feel trapped? She wondered. Or is it the visions? I was happy just to be Georgia's friend, to see her home safe....
And how has that changed? Part of her mind challenged.
Nothing has changed. She balked at the idea that she could feel anything more then friendship.
The balcony doors slid open with a soft whoosh and Ka'leem looked up. Georgia stood awkwardly, balancing a tray of food, beautiful in the moonlight with the lit penthouse as a backdrop. Her hair was a wild halo around her tanned face.
Uh huh, nothing's changed. Right.
"Hey." Georgia smiled.
Ka'leem blinked, realizing she'd been staring, and jumped up to help set the contents of the tray out on the glass topped table.
"What are you doing out here, all by yourself?" Georgia asked as she pulled a chair up to the table. She grabbed one of the fresh fruits that she'd found in the kitchenette and glanced over to Ka'leem. All she got in return was a frustrated look and raised eyebrows. Georgia bit into the fruit, savoring the sweet juices as they dribbled down her chin and arm. "Here, eat something." Georgia swiped the juices off her chin then tossed an apple in Ka'leem's direction as she continued to sit and stare out over the city.
A long tanned arm shot up and grabbed the apple before it beaned her in the head. "Chraa! Georgia, I wasn't paying any attention!" Ka'leem cursed.
"Sorry." Georgia ducked her head, blushing.
"O-K." Ka'leem sighed and mumbled something else in her own language as she stood up, padding silently on bare feet to the balcony railing. Apple clutched in one hand, her heart in the other, Ka'leem closed her eyes. A hesitant hand touched her arm and she opened her eyes and turned slightly, meeting deep blue-green eyes. They're bluer in the darkness, she noted absently.
"Are you okay, Ka'leem?" Georgia asked softly. She leaned in and looked up, adjusting to the height difference.
Ka'leem's hand unconsciously traveled from it's deathlike grip on the railing to Georgia's chin, gently wiping away the last of the fruit juice. Her hand lingered longer then necessary.
The warm hand on Georgia's chin sent a tingle up her spine and she raised her hand to stop Ka'leem from pulling away. Their eyes met and locked. For one breathless second time reversed itself and it was like that morning...when two lost souls had merged. Georgia's breath whispered softly past her lips as Ka'leem tilted her head down.
Warm, soft lips tentatively met Georgia's. As the kiss lingered and deepened she brought her hand up behind Ka'leem's neck and twined her fingers in long, silky hair.
The apple fell to the floor and rolled under the table as Ka'leem slid one arm behind Georgia's shoulders and the other around her waist. Their bodies pressed close, as close as the women of the Nile, not an inch separating them.
Finally the kiss ended and they pulled slightly apart, breathless and shaking. Their arms stayed entwined as Georgia rested her head against Ka'leem's chest. She could feel the racing heartbeat that matched her own.
Ka'leem rested her cheek against Georgia's soft hair. "I've wanted to do that for a while now," she whispered.
In response Georgia's arms hugged the nomad's waist. Words failed her then. She knew ten different languages, some no longer even spoken and she couldn't begin to say what she was feeling. A rush of raw emotions battered her soul and tears slid silently down her cheeks.
"Hey," Ka'leem said, startled. "What's wrong?" Oh no, gods above, I've hurt her. I shouldn't have done that! She cupped Georgia's chin and brought her head up.
"I- I...." Georgia stammered.
Ka'leem began to pull away, a horrified expression on her face.
"No!" Georgia grabbed her back, holding her tightly. "O-K," she whispered into Ka'leem's tunic. "Everything's ok." She looked up with a weak smile, to see the blinding brightness in Ka'leem's eyes.
Georgia nodded, falling into the bright blue.
Sometime later Tale had crawled weakly from the ventilation shaft and dragged her broken body across the floor. From where she'd hidden she hadn't seen the guards. Now it was too late.
As they rushed towards her she called out to her beloved. "Anippe!"
Anippe sprang from the bed, eyes wild and glazed. She saw the rushing guards, then saw Tale's battered body. "Oh gods...." she cried and raced to Tale, putting herself between the guards and her lover.
They tried to pull her away, but she lashed out, breaking one of the guard's noses and sending the other to darkness. Blood gushing from his nose, the guard swept his staff in front of Anippe, diverting her from her goal.
"Guards!" he cried. "Guar-"
She grabbed the staff and ripped it from his hands. She didn't have time for cat and mouse. Forcibly she smashed the wood into the side of his head and splintered the staff in two, sending the guard sprawling to the ground.
"Anippe," Tale called weakly.
She threw the other half of the shattered staff to the ground and quickly knelt by her love, sweeping her into her arms. "Shhh, rest," she whispered hoarsely, not noticing the blood seeping down the front of her robe and down her legs.
Anippe touched a gentle finger to Tale's shaking lips. "You've come all this way, love. There is no need for words." Her head whipped up and around as the chamber doors smashed open and more guards stormed in. "Stop!" she screamed, holding up an authorative hand. "She is no threat to you. I have already surrendered. Leave us."
Had the guards any loyalty for her and not their leader things might have been different. Had the Fates not already set the women's destiny by weaving their threads as such Anippe's icy eyes alone would have been enough to stop them.
But...it was not to be. Not in this lifetime.
A strangled sob escaped Tale's lips as Anippe was ripped from her.
Furious, Anippe fought like a madwoman to return her empty, aching arms to her lover's body one last time. "Tale," she cried, even as her arms and legs were pinned and she was forced to her knees by a debilitating blow to the back of her head. Stars danced before her eyes but she fought the darkness to meet the wild eyes of her lover. "Even in death," Anippe cried. "I will never leave you!"
Tears flowed freely from Tale's eyes as a guard took a dagger from it's sheath. "I love you," Tale whispered. Her eyes locked with Anippe's as the guard ruthlessly slashed the blade across her throat.
Anippe let out a strangled sob. Her head sank to her chest as sobs racked her body. The darkness could come and take her, she even welcomed it. But it was not to be. The guards dragged her from the room, from her love, her life, into the cold arms of the future.
Georgia shivered as the vision faded around her. Ka'leem's strong arms clutched her almost desperately. Her eyes were still closed, tears streaming past the shut lids.
"Oh god," Georgia moaned. "It was real." She reached up and cradled Ka'leem's face in her hands. Blue eyes flashed at her, grief stricken.
"I can not loose you again, little one." Ka'leem struggled to get the words out.
Instead of speaking Georgia kissed each wet eyelid, wiping the tears away with shaky thumbs. She touched her lips to Ka'leem's. They tangled again in a fevered kiss.
'It is time.'
The Fates altered the weaving of life's threads, diligently twining a golden thread with a dark one. The strands fused and became whole, yet distinct.
Apart the threads were weak, close to breaking. Together the threads were the strongest.
They were two of the longest threads the Fates had ever watched over, woven and cared for. Many times the threads could not come together. Other times the threads had touched, as with Tale and Anippe, but had been ripped apart far too quickly. Many times they had not touched at all, and the threads were quickly cut.
The Fates were not cruel, they could only weave what they saw.
But this time, the women had been blessed...to share a rich and powerful life. So, the Fates continued weaving...because it was not yet finished.
Lazing in the sun along the Nile a sleek, black cat with slitted green eyes grinned- that is, if cats can grin?
(A year has passed)
Fear. Fear could be a good thing, or a bad thing. It depended on how one viewed the situation. The desert rose and fell around them, like the ocean waves. Georgia fought to reign the stallion in, under the harsh rays of the morning sun.
"Ka'leem!" she cried.
"Pull up," Ka'leem called. "Do not let him grab the bit."
Georgia pulled up, as she had been taught, and after a few more heart stopping seconds the stallion came to a bumpy stop, feet planted firmly in the hot sand.
"Hot damn," Georgia mumbled. She turned to face Ka'leem as she approached. "Couldn't Rafeed have gotten me an easier horse, love?"
Ka'leem chuckled. "No, this is the only way to really learn to ride."
Georgia grumbled something about ratty horses and not needing them in the first place.
Ka'leem chuckled harder. "Would you rather walk the hot sand again?"
The archeologist shrugged. "Not really." She studied the depths of Ka'leem's blue eyes. So much had happened since the kiss on the balcony. Rafeed had gotten word that their father was nearby, looking for Ka'leem and Rafeed had supplied them with horses, food and water and they had fled the city, to the desert once again.
There was no fear this time...just Ka'leem. Just the two of them, traveling from city to city, making love under the night sky...whispering promises and words of love...and slowly understanding each other's language.
Just like old times, the thought crossed Georgia's mind. She filed it away for later consideration.
As their horses walked side by side Ka'leem began to sing. Her strong, clear voice carried out over the desert, rushed by the rising winds.
"As the desert wind rises
riiH aS-SaHraa' tartafic
"I take your hand
and give my heart
"As the desert wind rises
riiH aS-SaHraa' tartafic
"I say the words
I love you
"As the desert wind rises
riiH aS-SaHraa' tartafic...."
The End (c)Tragedy88 1999
Reference guide to commonly used Arabic:
What = ma
Yes = na'am
No = laa
Thank you = shokran
I do not understand = Ana laa Afham
What is your name? = Ma Ismok?
Nice to meet you. = Sorirart Biro'aitak
Daughter = Ibna
Son = Ibn
Father = Ab
Friend = Sadik
Day = youm
Tomorrow = Bokira
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