A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 16byTaLtos6©
***Sometimes what you've got to do is go back to your roots. She'd tell you that. If you asked, that is.
She's old, but her kind doesn't measure age the way that we would. If you asked, she'd answer honestly that she feels the same as she did at twenty-four or so.
What were you doing at twenty-four, assuming that you've reached that age?
If you asked, she'd say that she didn't plan it, but she ruled absolutely then, and perhaps the greatest joy to her was to hear that there were foreign troops near her border. She'd also answer honestly that she's feeling a little lost at the moment at finding that she has no purpose any longer - or maybe it's that she's searching for one. She really wouldn't be able to answer - if you asked.
So she's taking her own advice and going back.
Just to make it easy on the tongue, the name of main character in this is Dakhete, and it's pronounced "Dak-HET-eh", not "Dak-heat." 0_o
Book of the Djinn Part 1
Dakhete walked through the streets as silently as death, though there was no need for her to be still. The streets were filled with expectant people who chattered nervously among themselves. Some of them stared at her for a moment or two, but most were thinking of something other than the strangely-dressed warrior in their midst.
She wore a mail shirt with long sleeves. It was composed of small plates and was long enough to cover her hips. Over her shoulders, she wore a dark cloak, held on by a long studded leather strap which ran from where it was fastened to the cloak on the front of one shoulder down between her breasts to cross around her back, emerging from under the other breast to cross itself between them on its way up to where it held the other side of the cloak. Below her bosom, she wore a leather girdle to which was fastened the scabbard of her short sword -- well, one of her swords. On her left hip, there was an extension of that girdle which hung down and held several more blades.
The haft of a longer, heavier, and finely honed sword was visible over her shoulder from the front.
Over her hips, there was a short sort of Roman-style kilt of leather strips, and the mail shirt rode over this. Below that was where the mail pants began which ran down her legs to her boots. On her head, she carried a rather conical headpiece with more thin ringed mail draped over her head, from her eyes down.
Any who had a concern were not too unsettled by this one's appearance in their midst. They knew that the town guards would be along shortly on their rounds and would either take this one into their custody or kill the stranger for the affront of carrying blades openly, since it was forbidden here. She ignored them for the most part, knowing that no guards would be forthcoming, not from this sector, anyway. She was listening to her own inner voices as she walked.
She'd come here to seek for someone. As yet, she didn't know who it was that she sought, only that she was needed for some reason. This was as strange to her as her other thoughts, because this time, there was nobody summoning her at all. The only thing that she knew was that --
She was bumped and jostled in the throng and it took a bit of her will to avoid her first tendency to retaliate in a definitive and permanent way. She'd killed many times for far less than this, but she allowed herself to be led by the crowd to a section of the old city where the edge of the souq or marketplace gave way to the border of the section known for its brothels. It was near to a broad-topped wall and there was an open area which gave Dakhete a rather foreboding feeling to see it.
The noises of the throngs died away for a moment as an ass was led through the streets. On the back of the donkey was a naked young girl, who sat weeping in chains as she rode. From her dark skin, Dakhete could see that this one likely had no clothing at all to her name. All that she wore was her deep tan. Her hands were chained in manacles and the chain was looped under the donkey's throat. Her ankles were chained in a similar manner and the chain passed underneath the animal. At once Dakhete realized the purpose of the restraints.
Dakhete was astounded. She hadn't seen anyone like this in, ... well, it was a long time.
This girl was not human -- not completely, anyway, from what Dakhete felt, and obviously was to be stoned to death at the wall. The chains were charmed to restrain her from using her abilities. Dakhete wondered if she knew much about herself. She rather doubted it, since she was in this predicament.
She took a moment to look at the unfortunate as the prisoner cried quietly. The girl looked to be only developing in her abilities, and appeared to be a little diminutive in stature, though it was a little difficult to tell since she was seated and of course, she was not human, so that yardstick was of little use. The donkey seemed to help the illusion, not being a large example of the breed. Dakhete thought that perhaps she might know only a little of what she might be able to do for herself.
She looked to maybe stand a little over five feet, and Dakhete thought that she looked to be about eighteen or so, from the sense that came to her. But without at least touching her to sense it, there was no definitive way to tell. She saw little in the way of breasts there, almost nothing. She really couldn't tell much by looking, and it often happened that when one had latent ability, the physical side was a little delayed as well.
They do not know what they do here, Dakhete thought as she noted the leonine features as well as the tail drooping forlornly over the back of the beast. She knew they were there, but she was the only one with the ability to see past the natural illusion which she doubted the girl was even aware that she had. To all eyes but the armed stranger dressed as a male warrior, and to likely even herself, this was an unfortunate and miserable human girl. The sight stirred a distant memory in her, but nothing came of it, only the inkling of something that she knew. She just didn't know what it was, other than the sense of familiarity which came to her and was gone.
"Why is she chained?" she asked a woman nearby.
"They are to keep her still," the woman said, "and they prevent her from harming anyone else. She is wicked and evil, as all of them are," she said.
"You mean, they are to prevent her from defending herself, so that she may be put to death by the crowd with ease, and the people can enjoy their murder and not fear her retribution," the warrior said, "What is her crime?"
"Crime?" the woman laughed, "she is a demon. What more is needed? She is a minion of Hell, and she tried to seduce my pious daughter, if you need to hear of her depravity. I saw them in the bed myself. They were naked and, ... " Her voice trailed off from the obvious stress of it.
The stranger shook her head, "I have traveled widely and seen many things -- even demons. That girl is no demon. You are about to participate in a murder. There is no other word for it. I just thought that you ought to know that.
And if they were together and naked, as you say," Dakhete smiled, "this one here looks as though she is too poor to even own any clothing, and I suppose that your pure daughter was thrashing against the chains which held her in that bed against her will? Or was she thrashing for another reason altogether and you only caught them at it?"
The woman huffed and pretended that Dakhete was not even there anymore.
The mother and daughter walked on at that point, looking over the ground with a lot of others, seeking the best rocks to throw. Dakhete stole a glance at the offspring of the woman, a soft and very toothy young woman who looked to be well on her way to replicating the homeliness of her mother any day now. She thought that the girl ought to have been happy that someone cared enough to try seduction, in her opinion, if that was really what had happened.
From the nervous way that the girl looked at Dakhete, there was little doubt that whatever had been told, it was plainly not what had been happening, yet the chained girl and the donkey were here to pay the price.
The ass was led to stand near the wall and was tethered there as someone who appeared to be a local holyman began to bray and drone with a holy book of some sort in one hand and a stone which Dakhete presumed to be the first one to be cast in the other.
He wasn't even finished as the first rock hurtled at the girl from the woman's daughter at the front of the crowd. It hit the prisoner in the shoulder and she cried out, but then she saw that a second stone was on its way, and would likely hit her donkey. She leaned forward as far as she could to try to shield the animal and almost fell off when everything stopped in mid-breath.
The ass shifted under the load and the girl looked up and almost jumped to find an armored warrior next to her. She stared, trying to see, but could only make out a pair of eyes.
She peered for a moment. The eyes there didn't look very threatening and the irises were amber and not brown.
She was the only person that she knew of who had amber irises.
"Who are -- " she stopped as she looked around. "Why has everyone stopped? What is that ticking sound?"
"I hold them," Dakhete replied in Hassaniya Arabic, the language of the local Bedouin in this part of Morocco through her mask, "the sound is their voices. Really, I only slow time. If we stand and speak for a time, the stones which were thrown will arrive."
The girl wondered at the voice, "You speak like me, but you are not from this place. What do you do here? What does that mean?"
"I will free you," Dakhete said, "only do not waste more time in talking or your ass here will get a slow stone in her head. Do you not see this? Hold up your hands."
The girl held her hands up as far as she was able. Dakhete took hold of the chain and pulled it apart in one motion. She bent down and repeated this with the leg irons and lifted the startled girl from her seat on the back of the ass. Dakhete was startled herself, learning much of what had happened from their touch.
"Lead her off to the side and out of harm's way," she said.
The girl nodded and as she walked, the irons fell off. When she turned to come back, she stooped and picked up one of them, swinging it by the short length of chain which remained.
She walked along the line of the crowd, looking closely for the ones who had either thrown a stone or had been about to. When she found one, she hit them once with the flailed manacle as hard as she could. The ones which had been hit only remained standing.
She was out of breath by the time that she stood near the end of the line, sniffling a little as she looked at one person for a long moment.
It was the girl who had been caught with her in bed and had blamed her for it, it was the girl who had thrown the first stone and hurt her with it. The first thing that she did was to pound her swinging manacle into the mother's head a few times for the nonsense of this. Then she turned to the daughter again.
She stepped back and moved her arms as her lips muttered an incantation. She turned back to Dakhete. "Nothings is happening."
"Oh, it will," the warrior nodded, "as soon as I release them all. Why did you not do this before in your defense when you needed it?"
"I was upset," the girl replied, "and they had me chained -- "
"With chains so weakly enchanted that you could have torn them apart if you hadn't believed the holyman," Dakhete said without reproach. "No matter what their faith, never trust a holyman, for they cannot help but twist whatever was written. Come, we must go."
"Where are we going?" the girl asked over her shoulder as she walked to the man with the book. She searched for a moment and found his dagger. With it, she cut away his robe and emasculated him rather neatly to Dakhete's eyes. After that, she struggled and worked as she made the cuts which would disembowel him and then stepped back. She flipped the dagger in her hand and, liking the balance of it, she decided to keep it and wiped it clean with part of the man's robe as she walked back.
"Are you ready at last?" Dakhete asked with a bit of humor, "What was that for?" she nodded to the holyman.
"For what he has said about me and about my mother," the girl shrugged, "for what he tried to do to me last night. And for the poison that his lips were spilling.
I cannot leave without my Najmah here," she said, indicating the donkey, "She is all that I have." Before she could add anything to that, she found that they all stood on the top of the thick wall and she took Najmah's lead in her hand and tried to cover the animal's eyes a little with her hands.
"I will release them in a moment," Dakhete said, "but if it is your wish, I will seal the alleyway for you to do what you will then. I say this because it may require a moment or two for the saying of it."
"My thanks," the girl smiled and she began her words.
The people moved suddenly a minute later. Stones which had been hurled carried on in their trajectories, hitting nothing. Several of the throwers died of the injuries which they'd received from the manacle flailed over their heads, the woman who had made the accusation among them. The majority only fell from their wounds.
The homely young woman burst shrieking into flames and the holyman found himself a sudden eunuch whose main difficulty now was that his intestines were spilling from his belly onto the dirty paving stones.
A trio of guards from a different sector of the city where time still ran its course came running along the top of the wall toward them. Dakhete turned to them and drew her blade, waiting.
"You are to come with us," the leader said, "You are to stop this illegal use of magic. I arrest you in the name of the Holy Robes."
"What is the charge?" Dakhete smirked behind her chain veil.
"Disturbing the peace. You break the laws of being armed and using magic." he said, looking down for a moment, "murder and the interruption of a lawful stoning."
"That was what I wished to hear," Dakhete said as she advanced, "that last one. There was nothing lawful about what was about to happen here. These Holy Robes may go and fuck their hats instead of their goats for all that I care.
Allow me to show you MY law."
Dakhete swung her blade faster the men could see, never mind react to, and the horizontal stroke as she advanced one step lifted the man onto his toes as the sword came to him under his ribs, sliding though his cuirass like a hot knife through butter and severing everything including his spine. His upper half fell down into the square and his hips and legs collapsed and twitched where they'd landed.
She looked at the remaining pair as they stood wide-eyed and trembling.
"No stomach for the fight anymore?" she asked.
"Jump then," she sighed in a resigned tone, "or you join him on my blade."
They jumped down.
She felt the presence of one of the city's mages and turned her head. He was in the street on the other side of the wall, holding up his hand with some expectation on his hooded face that what he'd cast would hold her. She reached for him with her free hand across the seventy feet between them and used his magic to pull him up as though they were attached, swinging him over her head and down into the stoning place on the other side of the wall with a wet crunch. The mage lay still.
The uninjured in the square looked around themselves, and some pointed at the ones on the top of the wall. As soon as they saw who stood there, their stones fell from their fingers and their open hands rose in an effort to placate the pair.
It bought them nothing, however. The girl completed her chant and the wind began in the square, rushing around in a great circle and gaining speed. Everything began to blow around, and the people had to cluster together to try to remain upright -- which was the girl's purpose, after all. The one who had been caught with the girl in her bed lay on the ground a few seconds from breathing her last.
When she judged the time to be right, the naked girl on the wall bent forward a little as she howled out a word.
The whirling air ignited.
The girl pitched forward and almost fell into the square, but Dakhete reached around her thin waist and held her up, taking the dagger from her limp fingers to put it into her belt. Doing that caused the donkey to see where it was and it shifted nervously, but Dakhete laid her hand on the beast's neck and spoke quietly as she looked down.
She felt fingers and a hand across her face over the mask, and noticed that the girl had reached up behind her. "You -- you are still here, "she mumbled.
"Yes," Dakhete replied, "We must leave soon."
"Please," she said, resting her head backward against Dakhete, "don't let me fall. I -- we cannot stay here. Wherever you go, please, take us with you? Please?"
"If it is your wish," Dakhete replied, "Do not lean forward again." She realized that she was speaking to only the donkey then. The girl was already out.
This young one had much power for one as young as she appeared. Before she could do anything else, Dakhete felt things about the unconscious girl as they came into her mind unbidden through her touch against her skin. She saw some of her misfortunes and knew also that she had no one who cared for her. She'd been sold into a brothel long ago and her developing nature was all that had prevented her from being used at what Dakhete judged was a rather disgusting age a few years before.
She hefted the limp body twice to get her into position before she bent a little, picked her up bodily and slung her over her shoulder. She weighed little, and Dakhete tried not to think about how long it had been since this one had seen food which was for her to eat.
"Come Najmah," she said quietly over the screams in the square below, "Your mistress has not forgotten you in her kindness. We must travel, so you must remain calm and all will be better in only moments, I promise."
The expression which she saw in the animal's face made her grin and then they were gone, reappearing in another souq far away in a different city. As they walked, Dakhete ignored the stares at the warrior who carried a naked female over her shoulder, stopping at one stall and bartering quickly as though the girl wasn't even there. As far as they all knew, Dakhete was a male warrior with a prize. She did nothing to change their perceptions.
A pair of bags were bought quickly and were filled with food and supplies even more so. Waterskins were draped over Najmah's neck and fastened by eager-to-please merchant's assistants who tried to see more of the unconscious girl's body. They all backed away when Dakhete asked them if what they wished to see was worth their lives and she reminded the shopkeepers that she was not forced to buy from them and that she was paying far above market value in gold for fast service.
The shopkeepers nodded and asked where the young man lived, since from his clothing, they did not recognize his tribe's colors.
"Not here, "the warrior said, "and not here for much longer. Do you wish to talk all afternoon, or are you in business to sell something? I need clothing for her. Guess her size and give me four choices, quickly by God, or I am gone."
All four jelabeeya were displayed to the warrior and he nodded at them all, and did much to apologize for the harsh words, "A thousand pardons, we must be on our way long before the sun sets and we have far to go in the darkness. Peace be with you, God willing,"
As soon as they were around the corner of the winding main market pathway, they disappeared in a swirl of dust.