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Defiant One

By , Omaha, NE
Clash! Clang! The two training swords flashed in the arid Persian sun. My eyes stung as my sweat dripped into my eyes. My mind was utterly concentrated on the blocking, thrusting and paring that my older brother Elden was making. His horse, Tókra, fell back a half step and Saphra, my mare, took the advantage as I twirled her body around to do a slice at my brother that he blocked easily. So we continued. The dry dust both horses churned up started to gag and clog my breathing way.

‘’Go Ishta! Go! You can beat that old bakr (young camel)!’’ My eight-year-old sister Natira shouted joyously from her training pony Rishta who was prancing up and down the sidelines caring my bouncing little sister. I risked a look at her, smiling and ecstatic in the saddle, before I heard the telltale sound of screaming metal. I jerked my head around in time to block a slash from his symitar. I have had enough of this. Time to end this brother, watch this! I took my symitar locked his and mine together. Elden begins to struggle to free his sword. I laugh as I grab both of them; using his energy, I gather mine and propel myself into a spinning kick called the Tail of the Dragon. I smile as I hear a satisfying OOPPHHH, as I somersault in midair away from him and landed with the grace of the desert lynx. I know my kick has reached its march. I turn and walked over to him, with the gait of a jackal who knows whose won. My black training outfit dusty and my training headpiece, to keep the dust from our faces, was falling down so that my black, entirely, braided hair was peaking out. In other words, I looked good.

‘’Where in SOCAR (hell) did you learn a move like THAT, Little One?!’’ As I stood over him and help him up. ‘’ A great warrior never breathes a word.’’ I replied as I walk over to Saphra and I mutter words of praise to my noble mare’s ears as I stroke her. I could hear him laughing in the background and saying something like how his little sister was still driving him to irritation. While Elden was busting his gut, Natira came galloping up, bouncing up and down in her saddle. Her colorful protective head piece was in the state of half on her head and half off, revealing her curly black hair and piercing, bright purple eyes, that are said to run in all of our family except for me I have piercing, bright green eyes, breathless she exclaimed,’’ Ish, Ish you were amazing! The way you did that twist,’’ and she tries to replicate of what I had done but only succeeded in leaning back too far and fell off Rashta. ‘’ OOUUFFF!’’ ‘’Natira are you OK?!’’ Elden shouted as he rushed over to her before I could even make a move. He picked up the crumpled, crying form of my baby sister and rushed her towards camp, more specifically my family’s tent. He stopped and he shouted down over his shoulder at me,’’ Isha. I am going to take NaNa to mother for her nap. Can you rub down and water my horse for me?’’ He did not wait for my reply he pushed aside the tent flap and vanished among the folds of the tent silk. ‘’Ahed (yes).’’ I muttered to his back and grabbed Tókra and Saphra’s reins and trudged up the dunes toward the Euphrates. Elden, poor, overprotective Elden. Watching over all of us kids, old enough to leave the tent. He really needs to learn when to stop it. I mean I understand him watching over NaNa and the other little ones but sometimes he tries to protect his twin sister Fahd (panther) and me when we practice our fighting skills. I mean like all of us women are taught in the ancient defense and offensive rites of CháKrá. This is taught to all the women of the Bel-al-heir tribe to enlarge the camps fighting force when we are attacked…or we are attack. Saphra stumbled I turned and checked her then began stroking her, half smiling. We only attack to replenish our Arabian herds. I turned and resumed my trek and we only attack our mortal enemies of the Ker-mal-tu and Nau-ker-so tribes. Tókra and Saphra both stopped so suddenly, with their nostrils flared, ears picked listening, and it jerked my arm back violently. I froze, stood stalk still listening, trying to see what made our battle-tested horses freeze up. I closed my eyes and cleared my head as my mother had taught me to clear my head in a fight so I can think clearly. Something was missing, but what? I forced my eyes open and looked around me. I dropped the reins, ran over the last dune and stopped dead cold. The Euphrates was gone, all gone and in its place was rotting fish and a dried up river bed where the Euphrates once flowed. I walked slowly toward the desolate place. My foot hit against something hard. I looked down with shell-shocked eyes at a jeweled symitar hilt that stuck out of the sand like a star. I picked it up. This was a different hilt than ours. Our symitars blades small, thin, light and curved, the hilts are silver with, emerald embeddings in the blunt end of the hilt. This one was a gaudy gold and jeweled thing with strange engraving on it. Heavy and slow, a Nau-ker-so’s weapon! All around me were horse’s tracks. Heavier horses than our fleet footed Arabians. Nau-ker-so’s Bards! Making a mental picture of my surroundings and with my hand on the Nau-ker-so’s jeweled weapon, I took off running back to Saphra who I vaulted on with Tókra’s reins in my hand I bolted for home.

‘’What!’’ My abba shirked, his face turning the color of duha (morning) when I briefed him of what happened and showed him my discoveries. My mother rushed to calm him but he motioned her back to her set in the council. ‘’ Was there any sign of water, Hadid (beloved)?’’ Abba asked with the sternness of steel. I could see the worry for our tribe’s very existence in his eyes. ‘’None.’’ I replied. There was a moment of silence as our whole tribe was thinking the same thing, what would the herd eat or drink, where would we go, this land has supported my family and their herds for nine generations. I felt anger boil inside of me. Nobody messes with the powerful Bel-al-heir tribe and lives. ‘’Abba, what about the sword and hoof prints I told you about? Those were Nau-ker-so Barbs I am sure of it. I bet one hundred fayraz (turquoises) stones that they stole our water!’’ I felt my father’s sad eyes upon me also Elden’s and Fahd’s astonished eyes were on me for my outburst. ‘’Ahed, Farid (precious) the sword confirms it but what other truths do you have to base this. The Nau-ker-so Hadi’s (leaders) son, Hashim (crusher, breaker) has ask for my Ishtar’s hand in marriage and I have accepted in exchange the Nau-ker-so will give us water whenever we need it. ’’ I felt ice cold run through me. My abba would not meet my eyes and that frightened me most. He is a great fighter and negotiator of my people, why would he back down now from a threat we could easily handle normally. Fear pulses through me like a disease, Nau’s women are treated, as property, second-class citizens, no rights what so ever. I would be a slave to my husband’s every whim. The icy cold fear was quickly replaced by fury so hot it would make Socar look like gulzar (rose garden). “When were these, these plans made ABBA?” I practically shouted with all the venom of a Cobra. “An adya (visitor) came through from the Nau’s tribe as a messenger brought news that unless Ishta marry Hashim, our tribe would die of dehydration and our herds would be taken to Nau tribe lands.” My abba seemed almost weak at relating this message. Fahd and Elden tighten their grips on there swords at this. My mind had already made its plans. So all I had to do was play along until it was time. “I accept Abba,” I said while trying to keep the edge out of my voice. I must have succeeded for my mother, abba, Abba, Fahd and Elden all stared at me with shock in their wide-eyed faces. My abba looked at me shrewdly, “Are you sure Ishta? You don’t have too.” “, I know but it would be an honor to serve the Bel-al- heir this way,” I replied with as much earnestness as I could muster. While I swear, Elden and Fahd were trying not to laugh. They know me better than this. “Very well you are dismissed my children. But tomorrow Ishta I want to talk with you.” “Yes abba.” We said as we bowed. No, you won’t abba no you won’t. I hide a mysterious smile as we exited and we walked a little ways off in the circle tents. Fahd whispered to me, “Whatever you’re planning I am all for it Bahadur Asas (brave lion). Then she went whispering away in between the tents to hers. “Me too Hala (halo around the moon).” Elden whispered before he too disappeared among the shadows of the tents. My throat chocked up at their words but I shook my head to clear it. I have no time for sentimental stuff. I stalked back to my tent where I knew Saphra was in there waiting. I gently pushed aside the bright red silken drapery and stepping on the purple, red and green tapestries made of silk and satin, I walked into my tent. It had two elegant wooden Celtic style chairs in the far left corner, to my right was my bed covered in silk, satin and velvet in every color imaginable, With gold, silver, and precious stones embedding everything it made the room glitter and sparkle in the inlaid gold hanging candlelight. I took off my black turban and face-covering piece so that my braided black hair tumbled down to my hips. I began to unbraid then comb my hair with an ivory comb imbedded with emeralds. As I stared into my mirror with my piercing green eyes and tan skin, I made my plans. When the sky was dark, I quietly led Saphra fully packed with provision to the outer lining of our camp. I quietly mounted up and disappeared into the morning sun...





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