You shake your head and look down. You cannot accept his proposal when you know so little about him. At first you worry that he might not react well to the rejection but after a few seconds he shrugs and picks up his chalice.
“No matter. It was worth my asking. Either way you shall lead our people to greatness.” Here he pauses and raises the drink as if to toast. “To a wonderful future.”
You echo his words and drink the wine from your own cup. As soon as it’s gone you place the cup on the nearest surface and get to your feet.
“I have had a long day and wish to get some sleep. I will return to my own tent now,” you say and give him a respectful nod of your head. “Thank you for your hospitality.”
The Khaad smiles in return and follows you towards the exit of his tent. He reaches his arm across the opening as if to draw the flap back for you but pauses, blocking your way instead.
“I understand your reluctance to marry so soon after your arrival, but I fear for you, Angel. The other Khaad’s intentions may not be honourable. I insist that one of my riders accompany you, just until you’ve married or joined the Khaadain. To help keep you safe.”
After hesitating for a moment you nod and accept his offer of protection. You suspect it might be the only way to get out of the tent, but it’s also an interesting offer. Although, you’re not sure what good it might do you, the extra person might come in handy some day, and might know some English to help you communicate with your slaves.
As soon as you’ve given him your answer he sweeps back the tent flap and lets you out. He follows you and calls up one of his dempair.
“This is Gragoro. He will keep you safe,” the Khaad says to you and then mentions something to the new man. He towers above you and carried several swords at his waist but bows a moment later.
“I will protect,” he says haltingly. You nod and thank him and then do the same the Khaad. With the pleasantries done you make your way out of the tribal camp and back towards the Khaadain. Unlike earlier, few people notice your passing and you have to rely on Gragoro to give you directions when you don’t know exactly where your own tent had been set up, but you reach your own haven eventually and step inside.
You’re about to sigh with relief when you see the fifteen slaves you’ve been given are lined up in three rows right in the middle of the tent. As you suspected you’ve been given so much that only a small walkway allows for travel except for the space in the middle where they stand. You also quickly realise that there’s no bed and they’ve fashioned you some kind of makeshift mattress from piles of pillows, all kept in place by the stacked boxes of clothes, jewellery and other assorted items.
“Thank you,” you say, knowing they’re not likely to understand you anyway. You follow it with a smile and scan their faces. A few return the gesture but most look blankly at some point in the distance as if they’re not really there. “I’d like to sleep now.”
At first, none of them move. Eventually one steps forward and bows, bending one knee as he does.
“Angel, I am, Jareen, the most trusted slave of Khaad Ventral. He gave me the great honour of learning the language of the Angels. May I be of assistance in instructing your slaves to do your biding?”
You nod, glad that someone among the slaves you own can understand you so well.
“This is Gragoro. I think he’s the first to form my own dempair,” you say, not sure if the term is correct but hoping it is. Jareen nods and the two men exchange a few words in their own language.
“I’d really like to get some sleep, I’m exhausted,” you say and smile at your new slaves. Jareen bows as do all of the other slaves and after a few words, all but one file out of the tent, leaving you with a teenage girl. She motions for you to follow her towards your bed and then helps you change into the nightwear you were given only a few hours earlier.
It doesn’t take long for you to fall asleep after all the events of the day.
As the sound of something glass smashing comes to your ears, you’re jolted out of your sleep. You blink groggily at your surroundings, confused at first, but soon realise you are in your personal tent. The metallic clang of swords hitting each other breaks the silence again and you hurry up from the bed and grab the nearby robe, your servant had placed nearby.
When you’re decent you hurry out of the tent and find Gragoro and Jareen locked in a fight. Both are yelling at each other and Gragoro hesitates when he sees you. This allows Jareen a chance to lunge forward. His sword goes right through Gragoro, cutting the man’s chest and heart open, but the slave impales Jareen’s stomach, sending blood flying from both of them.
Both collapse on the ground and Gragoro is dead before he hits the earthen floor. You rush to Jareen who clutches at the wound, trying to stop the flow of blood, but it does little to help. When you crouch at his side, he frowns.
“What happened?” you ask, not entirely sure that you want an answer.
“Forgive us, Angel. Both our Khaad’s wanted you. I shouldn’t have agreed, But your safe…” His voice trails off for a moment and he grits his teeth in pain.
You notice your slaves have gathered around and are looking at the scene with wide eyes, but you don’t know what to do. You’re no doctor and you don’t know who to trust any more.
“Forgive us, please?” Concern fills his face and he reaches out to you with his less bloody hand. “Please, Angel?”
You nod, not sure what else to do.
“You’re forgiven. Both of you.” he closes his eyes in response and doesn’t seem to notice when you remove your wrist from his grip. You have no idea how much longer he’ll live, if he’s even conscious any more.
“Make Jareen comfortable,” you say to the nearest servant, but he stares at you and blinks a couple of times. You try a few motions that the slave might understand but you get the same blank look. As you try another slave nearby they start whispering among themselves and ignore you altogether.
You begin to shake and soon find the young slave who helped you to bed the night before coming towards you with a blanket in your arms. Of all of the slaves around you she seems to have more awareness and less shock at the bloodshed. You smile your thanks. Not far behind her comes one of the elder women who helped you get ready for the ceremony earlier. Your young slave must have fetched her from the Khaadain.
Instantly she begins to bark orders at the stationary slaves and several of them spring into action. With them all hurrying about she comes up to you and takes your hands.
“I’m sorry this happened on your first night, Angel, but you are safe. We will take you into the Khaadain area. It is our most sacred and we can protect you there. Come.” Like a mother hen she puts her arm around you and gently steers you in the direction you need to go. You don’t resist, but let her take you deeper into the Khaadain’s living area.
She takes you to another tent, similar to your own and only then do you realise the slave girl followed as well.
“You’re in good hands with this one,” the Khaadain elder says before she leaves you. You’re helped into bed once more and left alone again.
You’re not as tired as you thought you would be and you find yourself thinking over your arrival with these people and all the events since. Although some interesting things have happened and you’ve met quite a few new people, you aren’t sure if this was the best way things could have gone.
You’re being protected by old men and boys in a small tent in the middle of a tribal nation’s sacred grounds. Even if you’ve not officially joined the Khaadain, you might look like you have, but events just seemed to lead here, and you have no idea if the Khaads will let you be or not, but you suspect it is going to put a damper on their interest in you. They may even go back to their usual nomadic lifestyle and leave you there.
Whatever the future brought you knew it wouldn’t be quite what you’d hoped.
I hoped you’ve enjoyed reading the Angel of the Sands story. I know 13 parts isn’t particularly the longest of stories, but I found when I put the entire set of branches together up to this point I had at least 400 pages of story and realised if I ever wanted to put all the options together in one book I needed to bring this to a closing point and consider having sequels. To that end I’ll be taking a break while I work on that exact novel and get it finished and published. Then, when you can go through the many various options as many times as you like I’ll consider carrying on here.