Disclaimer: I do not own Ardeth, Evy, Rick, Jonathan, or Alex. I own Lira. Nya, nya, nya, nya, nya.

From behind these walls I hear your song
Oh, sweet words
The music that you play lights up my world
The sweetest that I've heard
Could it be that I've been touched and turned
Oh Lord, please finally…finally things are changing

This land is mine but I'll let you rule
I let you navigate and demand
Just as long as you know…this land is mine
So find your home and settle in
Ohhh, I'm ready to let you in
Just as long as we know…this land is mine

After all the battles and the wars
The scars and loss
I'm still the queen of my domain
and feeling stronger now
The walls are down a little more each day
Since you came, finally…finally things are changing

This land is mine but I'll let you rule
I let you navigate and demand
Just as long as you know…this land is mine
So find your home and settle in
Ohhh, I'm ready to let you in
Just as long as we know…this land is mine

Follow the days I've traveled alone
In this cold and colorless place till now
It's what I had to pay

This land is mine but I'll let you rule
I let you navigate and demand
Just as long as you know…this land is mine
So find your home and settle in
Ohhh, I'm ready to let you in
Just as long as we know…this land is mine

This land is mine and I let you rule
I let you navigate on demand
Just as long as you know…this land is mine

Dido - This Land Is Mine

After an extended stay in the desert, the sea air had a fresh, welcoming scent. Alexandria was an impressive city of its own right and boasted around 15 miles of Mediterranean coast. Lira had spent the last few days staring out at the crisp, blue waters from a hotel balcony. The ocean reminded her of her time in Sinop. She could almost taste the salty air as a breeze swelled gradually, pushing and pulling at her black robes. It was in a place like this, in a much smaller town, that she had spent some of the happiest years of her life. Still, she'd not yet had the opportunity to walk on the beach.

Everything had been a whirlwind of family gatherings, sharing meals with the other families among the twelve tribes, and mountains of gifts. Her hands and feet were covered in beautiful, intricate Henna designs. She had more jewelry now than she knew what to do with. The most stunning robes she'd ever seen were hanging in the closet. She had veils made of silk and some of beautiful glass beads or mother-of-pearl. There were hair combs and clips, in spite of her moderately short hair. Several blankets had been gifted as well, the softest, most beautiful handcrafted work she'd ever seen. The women of the Medjai had been more than generous. It was their chief's wedding after all.

Life had changed drastically ever since Cairo. They were engaged almost immediately, and she'd barely gotten two seconds alone with Ardeth ever since. It was all primping and planning. She was taught as much about the village as she could possibly absorb and then some. She took an official oath before the council. Why Ardeth had decided Alexandria was the place to wed, she hadn't a clue, but she liked it here. She was able to slow down and be on her own for at least a few moments out of the day.

The ceremony itself would be small at their mutual request. Ardeth's mother, his aunt and uncle along with their children and grandchildren, Evy, Rick, Alex, Jonathan, Esam (who would be officiating), three elders as witnesses, and the commanders of the other eleven tribes who would more than likely bring their wives. Lira reflected on how this was considered a small wedding by their standards and how she had no one, absolutely no one, to call a guest. It left a bitter taste in the back of her throat. Joshua had been everything, and that had clearly been a mistake. There was the sword smith, but she had no way to contact him. She was on her own. Still, after all that had happened, she was content in that. She was her own person for the first time since she was four and insisted on wearing a blanket as a cape wherever she went.

Besides, not having her own guests was no big loss. She adored Ardeth's family, and his friends from England in particular. Evy was the first respectable woman she'd met. Rick was bold and brazen but altogether a pushover when it came to Evy, and Jonathan was... Jonathan. Bassam was Dalal's brother; he had two children of his own, twin girls named Duha and Ebra. Bassam had welcomed Lira with open arms, and his wife, Ghada had hand-woven the blanket that would be on their wedding bed. They were a singularly loving and good-humored family. Duha, who had a brilliant sense of humor and a voracious appetite for figs, shared Lira's affinity for swordplay. Ebra, a healer married to the commander of the third tribe, was a bit younger than both she and Duha, but she was by far more mature and serious than either of them.

Iamar was Hatim's sister. She and Dalal had been best friends since childhood, and they'd only grown closer since Hatim's death. Iamar and her husband Hanif had helped out a great deal whenever Hatim was away on long expeditions. This side of the family was particularly close to Dalal and Ardeth. Leila, their daughter, was the closest thing Ardeth had to a sister, and he protected her as such. He'd picked a fight with more than one potential suitor he found unsuitable. Leila would get angry until she saw what cowards they were, and she would quickly forgive him. Her husband, Mahir, had had no particular prestige among the tribe, but he was a kind, loving man and had been the only one who didn't back down from a much bigger and stronger Ardeth. Their approval had been the most important to Lira, and when they had dinner together and Iamar embraced Lira as though she were greeting her own daughter, Lira was almost in tears.

Ardeth's family more than made up for Lira not having one of her own. Although meeting them all she understood what kind of pressure there had been for him growing up. His father had no brothers, and neither did Ardeth. He was the only one who could carry on the family name, and perhaps it was this stigma that had prevented him from marrying much younger. Not that she could complain. Sometimes in life it's necessary to believe in providence. She had to believe that all she had gone through had a purpose, and she needed only to look into those warm brown eyes and feel his arms around her to be convinced.

Lira was sitting idly on the balcony of her room. The tide was coming in, the sun was dipping lower in the sky, and she realized in a sudden rush of panic that the wedding was in three hours, and she didn't have a wedding dress. Before thought could even reach her she was on her feet. She wasn't sure what to do. Some of the robes she'd received were more than decent for a wedding, but the idea of a bride in white stuck with her. She tried breathing more slowly, calming her mind and her body. No luck. There was nothing she could do at this point. All the preparations had been taken care of for her, and she regretted now not having any money of her own except what she might need for a few odds and ends, but certainly not an appropriate dress.

When a light knock came at the hotel door, she knew it had to be Dalal. Lira stood still, took a few deep breaths, straightened her hair as much as her short locks would allow, and finally turned the knob. The face she had grown so accustomed to during her recovery in the desert smiled at her warmly. Lira ushered her in, barely conscious of the bundle Dalal carried in her arms. Her head still felt light, wondering what she should do. Should she wear the robes she'd been gifted with? Should she bring the issue up with Ardeth? No doubt he was concerned with his own preparations. When she caught Dalal looking at her expectantly, she finally caught up with the present.

"I'm so sorry." Lira sighed, "I'm in such a state. What did you say?"

"Well, dear, I asked how you were fairing, but I think you already answered my question." Dalal chuckled, setting a gauze-wrapped bundle down on the table near the window.

"Oh, no, I'm OK, just a bit preoccupied I suppose." Lira said, sitting herself down on the edge of the bed while Dalal took her seat at the table.

"Well, to be honest, I was wondering when it would hit. I expected you to notice much sooner, but it has been a rather hasty engagement. I almost didn't have time to finish." Dalal explained, "I do hope you don't feel hurried by all this. My son is a little over-eager I suppose."

"No," Lira smiled, "Honestly it doesn't feel rushed. I'll admit all the socializing I've had in the last six months is more than I've had in my lifetime, but as far as the wedding, well I'd have married him right there in Cairo if I'd had my way."

"I'm glad to hear it." There was a silence in the room, warm and comfortable as the curtains slowly began to turn deeper and deeper orange.

"Wait," Lira said suddenly, "Finish what?" Dalal burst into a deep, full wave of laughter. Lira looked on in curiosity, chuckling a bit to herself, but still largely in the dark.

"I was wondering when you catch that." Dalal said, wiping the tears from her joyful eyes. Dalal picked up the bundle and stood up, walking over to where Lira was sitting. Lira looked slightly confused as Dalal handed her the bundle. "What's the matter?" she asked with a smile, "Still not used to all the gifts?"

"I don't think I'll ever be." Lira shrugged, meekly taking the bundle from Dalal's hands. Whatever it was was cloth. It was all tied up with thin, white suede cords which Lira tentatively pulled on. She'd been given so many things lately when all she'd asked for and all she wanted was Ardeth. Nothing could really compare to that, but she had a feeling she might be surprised. Slowly the cords loosened and fell away. Lira pulled away the wrappings and in a moment her breath caught in her throat. Her lips moved, and no sound came out.


"I - I - I... it's... Dalal..."

"Try it on."

The dress had two pieces. First came a white, form-fitting, floor length, sleeveless sheath made of pure silk. The neckline ran straight across the front and back from shoulder to shoulder leaving the skin from the base of the neck to the tip of the shoulder bare. The skirt widened gently as it swept down. On top of that was a layer of cascading gauze fabric. The sleeves left most of her shoulders bare, but were long and opened at the wrist. The skirt was full and long, flowing around her and shifting with even the slightest breeze. There was a wide, gauze sash that wrapped around the waste and tied at the side, leaving a three-foot long trail of fabric.

"I can't believe it." Lira breathed, "It's beautiful." Dalal stood behind her as she looked at herself in the full-length mirror near in the corner.

"I'm glad you like it. It's perfect for you. I had to make a lot of guesses concerning your size, but Ardeth insisted it be a secret. You can thank Evy for finding the silk." Dalal beamed. It was all she could do to hold back the tears that threatened to fall. Ardeth was her only child, and for so long she'd wanted for him to find love, true love. She couldn't have asked for more, and suddenly the years of waiting seemed so trivial.

"I don't know what to say. It's absolutely remarkable. How could I ever even begin to..."

"Don't even finish that sentence," Dalal chuckled, "It is my honor. One person in a million might find what you and Ardeth have found. I couldn't possibly be any happier." Lira smiled, speechless. Dalal raised a hand to Lira's shoulder and squeezed gently. "Enough of this though, you and I will be having a quick meal with Iamar and Bassam before the wedding. I'll leave you to get changed." Lira continued to stare into the mirror at the dress Dalal had made, amazed with clean, simple elegance of it. Not until she heard the door shut did she snap out of it. She had to get changed.

The outside terrace of the hotel was auspiciously empty save for the table where Bassam and Iamar sat. Dalal and Lira had walked down together, chatting about the months of preparation and everything else. The terrace lamps had been lit as the sky was growing a deeper and deeper shade of indigo with each minute. As soon as Lira and Dalal had been seated, the waiting staff closed and locked the glass doors that lead to the terrace. Lira watched all this with curiosity before turning to face her future relatives.

"We requested a private meal," Bassam explained with a soft smile. Lira was acutely aware that something was going on that she was not privy to. Still, she ignored it, kept quiet, and made conversation. She was anxious, and their private dinner wasn't helping matters much, although the food was helping to settle her stomach. She had barely had two seconds alone with Ardeth since this all began, and all she wanted now was to have the ceremony over and done with. For many reasons which now brought a sly grin to her lips.

"Well," Bassam finally announced as their plates were being cleared away, "I suppose it's time to let you in on all the secrecy."

"Goodness," Lira said, "For all I knew it was just customary to have dinner with the bride before the wedding." Dalal smiled.

"You're far more clever than that, dear. We both know it." Dalal said, "But this won't be another borage of gifts, I assure you. In fact, I thought it was necessary to address some rather unfortunate truths in our existence." In a moment Lira knew what the topic of conversation would be, and her heart fell like dead weight into the pit of her stomach.

"It's also why we decided we should make you eat first. Wouldn't want you losing your appetite and then passing out on the alter." Iamar commented, trying to inject some levity into the conversation.

"I'm sure you remember Rafa from that silly little trial?" Dalal began. Lira sighed and rolled her eyes.

"What a question. How could I forget?"

"Yes, well, there's some history there between his family and ours and I have every reason to believe he's not particularly fond of you. Mostly because Ardeth's marriage might mean children, and he'd long hoped that Ardeth would remain unmarried until he died. Given our lifestyle, he figured he wouldn't have to wait long." Dalal explained and Lira visibly paled. Dalal placed a comforting hand over hers, "I know it's not a comfortable topic, but it's one we must address. If anything were to happen to Ardeth... you were not born into our tribe, and you have no blood family to give you away. With Rafa on the council..."

"What we're saying is," Iamar interjected where Dalal left off, "In spite of the oaths you swore before the council, Ardeth is your only connection to our tribe. He's powerful, but not immortal. Normally this wouldn't be an issue, your family would give you away and you'd become a part of this family. But what family you might have has never known you and is unaware of this marriage. So, Ardeth held a special council meeting, and had papers drawn up. With your permission, of course, we were hoping to make it official. We're signing you into both families. Essentially it acknowledges that you were an orphan and places you in our care in the event of Ardeth's..." Iamar didn't have the heart to finish her sentence, so she continued, "As long as any member of the Bay family or the Ashraf family lives, you cannot be touched. Rafa, or anyone else who might hold a grudge against you or Ardeth, will have no recourse." Bassam pulled a rolled up piece of parchment from a leather bag leaning against the table leg. Unrolling it, she could see it was all in Arabic.

Bassam began to read the contract to her in English, and she smiled a little to herself. She knew she still had a lot to learn, but these little trials seemed positively trivial. She realized suddenly that she would have a family of her own. Even without this document, she realized she was completely and utterly accepted by Iamar and Bassam, as well as Dalal. She'd have a tradition to share in and uphold, and with any luck children to pass it all on to. She smiled as he finished and signed the document without second thought. Iamar and Bassam did the same. The sky was now black as pitch and they could here much shouting and revelry through the glass terrace doors.

"Well," Dalal concluded, "It's getting chilly. We best get Lira ready for the ceremony."

From the hill, Lira could hear the waves rolling in on the beach and see the stars reflecting and breaking against the coal black water. It was new moon, and it made the stars seem absolutely brilliant. The dress Dalal made clung perfectly to every line and curve of her body. By now they were far from Alexandria itself. After the ceremony Ardeth had ridden with her through the hills along the coast until they came to an impossibly large tent set up at the crossroads of nowhere and eternity. It was a wedding gift, one of many. The rest were placed inside, moved during the ceremony by a great number of assistants no doubt. Finally the world had settled. The air was calm and cool. There were no obligations left, except to be.

Ardeth, now finished unsaddling and watering his horse, approached with soft steps. Lira smiled to herself as two strong arms snuck around to the front of her waste and pulled her close to his solid frame. For a moment they were silent, the rhythm of the sea lulling them into near sedation. This was something timeless and effortless. The world had surely stopped on their account and there was lightness in their feet. As the moments slipped by, Ardeth finally pulled her around to face him. Green eyes met brown and the simplicity of it all was breathtaking.

"How did you know I prefer the new moon?" Lira finally asked, snaking her hands up to his shoulders. Ardeth smiled softly.

"I had a hunch." he said softly, "My mother married my father on the new moon, it seemed fortuitous."

"And you brought me to the sea." she commented, now toying with the tips of his shoulder length black hair.

"I thought you might like it. The Mediterranean this time of year..." Ardeth began before he was quieted with a firm, passionate kiss. He smiled into it, he knew his monologuing would frustrate her. He didn't expect her to cut him that short, though. When they pulled apart he brought a hand up to her face, stroking her cheek with his thumb. "I got something for you." he said, and Lira groaned slightly.

"Ardeth, I really don't need any more..." she insisted, but he took her by the hand and led her inside the tent. Inside was a large pallet lain on top of a rather expensive looking rug that took up the whole of the floor space in the tent. The blankets that had been given them were draped across their bed, Ghada's being on top. There was a wardrobe carved of cedar, and lira could see her robes hanging inside next to Ardeth's. There was a desk opposite the bed with a single chair, and next to it a perch on which sat the falcon Ardeth had named Horus. It was then that Lira observed a moderately tall, skinny bundle of fabric leaning against the perch. Ardeth picked it up and motioned Lira over to the pallet. Lira sat down on the bed only inches off the ground, and Ardeth knelt before her, the bundle lying across his knees.

"These were given to my mother by my father. They were meant as a symbol of their equality though they have a much more practical use. She's been waiting to give them away for years, and we had them sharpened, balanced, and fitted with new handles." he explained as he peeled away the fabric to reveal two identical swords, very similar to Ardeth's own. The metal curved in an almost sinister fashion and met with elegant handles of cedar and ivory. Black Arabic script was etched elegantly into the ends of the each handle.

"Ardeth, they're amazing," she breathed, "I'm not sure what to... I mean it's just so..."

"I pray you never find the need to use them, except perhaps in practice. I only ask that you keep them with you. Always. If anything..." he insisted before his voice caught, "It's not an easy life you've entered in to, but I have faith in your strength, and I could not forgive myself if I did not give you everything you need to live the life you've chosen." Lira leaned forward and laid her hands on the handles of the swords.

"I promise they'll never leave my side," she said. Ardeth smiled and set both blades down beside the pallet next to his own. A grin spread across Lira's lips and as he was bent over she grabbed him about the waste, rolling both of them over onto the pallet with every ounce of strength she had until she was laying on top of him. "Now," she said to her obviously surprised and amused husband, "about those husbandly duties."

A/N: Hahahah! Yay! It's done! Freaking FINALLY. This has been an epic for me. In my younger and more inexperienced days I could get this far in about half as many chapters. But I've learned. Anyway, thanks you SO MUCH to all of you who've stuck by me. Many thanks to my latest reviewers: NewsieGoil1899, Nakhti (you should ALL thank her for getting me motivated to finish this biotch. Go check out her fic "Harem Nights" there's some serious shite going down and it, well, it kicks ass.), Phantom Creedy Lover, ThePrincess04, Pirate Gyrl, La Llorona (I've considered a Jonathan fic before, I just LOVE his character. Not the same animal magnetism as our boy Ardeth, but I'll confess to totally digging the class clown types), and CAPTAIN Matey Sparrow (I'm thinking of cooking up a sequel, but it might be a way off with GTWLYW in the works on top of the fic for the contest winner. Who knows?). Anyway, it's 4:20 in the freaking morning as I'm writing this so I have GOT to go to bed. I'll wait until I wake up in a few hours to post this so that any late-coming folks can enter the contest.

(A few hours later)

OK, I got about 3 hours of sleep. Woohoo. Anyway, despite the little break to give people a chance to enter, the only entrant so far has been FreshProduceStandGirl84. Here's the master list.

"Those who dream by day or cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night."

-Edgar Allen Poe "Eleanora"

Several Ways to Die Trying – Dashboard Confessional
House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
Sad Exchange – Finger Eleven
Since You've Been Gone – The Caesars
Caring Is Creepy – The Shins
My Hero – Foo Fighters
Unforgetable Fire – U2
All Apologies - Nirvana
Green Eyes - Coldplay
The World You Love – Jimmy Eat World
Starry Eyed Surprise – Paul Oakenfold
Is This It? – The Strokes
Tomorrow Comes a Day Too Soon – Flogging Molly
Wicked Game – Chris Isaak
Think Twice – Eve 6
The Trick is to Keep Breathing – Garbage
God Don't Make Lonely Girls – Wallflowers
Running Out of Days – 3 Doors Down
Battle of Who Could Care Less – Ben Folds Five
Paranoia Pays Off – Before Braille
Under a Killing Moon – Thrice
Rebel Prince – Rufus Wainwright
I Could Die For You – Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Pros and Cons of Breathing – Fall Out Boy
When the Levee Breaks – A Perfect Circle
(Epilogue) Sea and the Rhythm – Iron and Wine

Of course the epilogue doesn't count, but I threw that in there for anyone who wants to know, and here were FreshProduceStandGirl84's answers:

Those Who Dream By Day-Edgar Allen Poe, from "Eleonora"
Several Ways to Die Trying--Dashboard Confessional
House of the Rising Sun--Bob Dylan (different from my version, but props to anyone who listens to Dylan)
Sad Exchange--Finger Eleven
Since You've Been Gone--Kelly Clarkson (Different from my version, but really I expected this)
Caring is Creepy--The Shins
My Hero--Foo Fighters
Unforgettable Fire--U2
All Apologies--Nirvana
Green Eyes--Coldplay
The World You Love--Jimmy Eat World
Starry-Eyed Surprise—CrazyTown (technichaly a Paul Oakenfold song but Shifty sang the lyrics so I'll allow it)
Is This It?--The Strokes
Tomorrow Comes a Day Too Soon--Flogging Molly
Wicked Game--Chris Isaak
Think Twice--Eve 6
The Trick is to Keep Breathing--Garbage
God Don't Make Lonely Girls--The Wallflowers
Running Out of Days--3 Doors Down
Battle of Who Could Care Less--Ben Folds Five
Paranoia Pays Off--Before Braille
Under a Killing Moon--Thrice
Rebel Prince--Rufus Wainwright
I Could Die for You--Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Pros and Cons of Breathing--Fall-Out Boy
When the Levee Breaks--A Perfect Circle

So, FreshProduceStandGirl84 wins by default and gets the grand prize by virtue of getting everything right. I'm posting this now, then heading to work, and when I get back, I'll PM you and we can get chatting about specs. I've already got a story line in mind. Anyway, thanks to all of you, and now I'll get back to cranking out GTWLYW.