"Among a Hundred Brothers" by Karen
It had been said that in Ragosa everything shimmered, including the dust. He had always considered himself a pragmatic and reasonable man, he did not believe in magic, or anything that could not be explained and reasoned, given enough time and thought.
As a young and newly exiled soldier Rodrigo Belmonte had been curious if that old bromide were true or not. Until he had witnessed this curious phenonomen with his own two good eyes, he would not take anything on mere chance.
At first sight of the legendary city of Ragosa, everything had dazzled, from the precious gems and sunlight reflecting off of the polished stone walls and precious gems and mosaic tiles inset into them; up to and including the precious silks of the robes of both the men and women. It had been enough to cause Rodrigo to begin to doubt his own senses.
As he thought back to the time when he had tried to describe the sensations that had felt to the one person who might have understood what he had clumsily tried to convey, Ammar ibn Khalan.
Although a peer of the realm and an important man in his own right, he too, had been exiled here, although for what manner of transgression Rodrigo had never quite fully understood.
His own presence here, well that was much simpler to explain, although why the man responsible had not simply finished him off when he could off, that was much harder to fathom. Why cut out the thorn in one's only to leave the living reminder behind?
To Rodrigo Belmonte's way of thinking, it simply made no sense. If it had been a political gambit, it was a poor one, at best. If it was a rivalry, would it not have been easier to simply have him killed and be done with it?"
More at ease in the rough company of men, mainly soldiers, Rodrigo had initially held himself aloof from the natives of the country, or perhaps it had been the other way around, at this point it did not make much of a difference.
Ammar ibn Khailan had sought him out, gone outof his way to him learn more of the language, and finally, whether he would or no, became a friend.
"Perhaps a better friend than I had any right to expect, and I should return the favor," he muttered under his breath.
Cantering out through one of the multitude of arched and carved gateways, the sensation of being caught up in another people's dream had long since become a distant memory, the horse beneath stirred restlessly and shifted is forefeet in the packed earth beneath him.
The shimmer was gone, but the spell that Ragosa had cast over him remained to this day. Rodrigo still lived in the hope that his time of exile would come to an end and he could return to his home, in the meantime, he brought to mind something Immar had once said in passing about the nature of dreams.
"They are the shadow cast before the bright orb of the sun, and once long ago, before either of us was born,: the caliphs once ruled over an empire brighter and wider than you can imagine. We were the dream"
"And now?" Rodrigo recalled asking.
"Like the sun, which rises and sets with each day," Immar had paused, sitting a bit higher in his saddle," We had to wake up." Immar tilted his head to one side and sighed. "We had to learn to live with smaller dreams."
Rodrigo nodded. "I think I understand now."
Ammar had urged his horse forward, out of the line and closer to Rodrigo's own mount, signaling to the captain at the head of the line to halt, "That is well, my friend. The desert is a harsh land, and it has taught us many lessons, but it can also be beautiful.■"
"When you put it that way, exile does not seem so bad, anymore." Rodrigo's roan horse tossed its head, snorting and tugging on the reins, eager to be on the move once more. It was only a routine patrol, but it had been spoiling for a good run and Rodrigo did not like to keep it waiting much longer.
"I am glad, my friend," Immar nodded. "You have seemed so, well, despondent, of late. I had become well," Immar's somber tone suddenly shifted and he flashed his trademark grin, his white, even teeth reflecting the morning sunlight. "not worried, but at least, concerned."
"Have I mentioned lately that you are incorrigible?" Rodrigo griped.
Pressing his heels to his gray horse's flanks, Immar urged his horse back into his original position in the line of mounted soldiers, but over his shoulder he said: "No, not lately, but then I have not been keeping an accurate reckoning."
Rodrigo nodded. "Just when I think I've got you figured out, you turn all vague and cryptic on me."
Ammar did not at first reply and then Rodrigo heard his silvery laughter. "Odd, I was thinking the same well, almost the same thing about you."
At the signal to move forward, Rodrigo decided that it was time to cease woolgathering, and realized with a sight, that when it came to it, he was never going to win a contest of words with his friend, the poet, the soldier, and the nobleman.
Rodrigo had been around long enough to learn when he was outmatched on the field of contest, and this was one time when it was better to concede than continue to fight.
He urged his roan horse forward in line in time to avoid being bumped from the mounted men behind him, following the other mounted soldiers out into the desert lands beyond.
In the back of his mind, he thought, 'Very well, my friend, you win. I will give you that much.'
Rodrigo's roan horse snorted and craned its wedge-shaped head around to eye him with a disdainful look and then swiveled around once more to face forward once more. "So glad you agree with me, my four-footed friend," Rodrigo muttered aloud, allowing a small wry smile to slip past his bearded lips.