I haven't written in this story in ages. To be entirely honest, I'm not particularly positive where I planned on taking it…but enough about me! More about the story. I've decided to edit this and attempt to continue it, considering many people appeared to like it and my skill level has improved drastically since I began this fic. Thank you to everyone reading this, whether you're a new reader or an old one.
"Ahmed, where are we going?" I gaze around us at the strange scenery, the weird air tasting different in my mouth. The usual steady rock of my horse in the sand changed in this land, now uneven and uncomfortable. I would have given anything to turn our horses around and continued back to our home in Baghdad.
"To visit some old friends of mine in the North," Ahmed ibn Fadlan replied shortly, having answered this very same question upon multiple occasions. And, as I had done before, I answered with the same response.
"Northmen?" I scrunched up my nose, curling my lips under in a pronounced frown of disgust. Not that I could be considered refined or distinguished; our parents always considered me the problem child in the family. No man wanted such a willful-spirited girl, and bowing down to an overbearing husband was nowhere on my agenda. When my brother returned from his journey to the North, I begged again and again to hear about his adventures. Most of them, I assumed he made up. Eaters of the dead? Monsters that dwell and prey in mist? Fanciful nonsense! The men he told me about did pique my interest, and I soon took to practicing with a sword in order to journey with him should he ever make the trip back to visit his friends from the North.
Nobody mentioned the smell.
"Siara, you do not even know these men," Ahmed chided firmly, his hand rising to wipe a bead of sweat from his brow. My brother and I looked very much alike. We shared the same deep, brown eyes and rich hair, though mine cascaded in an unruly manner down my back to my waist. "I shall enjoy visiting with Herger; it has been far too long since I met him."
"...What weird names they have in this part of the land, brother." I glanced over at him with a sly grin with full knowledge how agitated the sun made him. If anything, his mood would only worsen during our time in the North. Another whiff of something like stale water, and I scrunched up my nose.
Ahmed didn't miss a beat. "You're name is weird, as well."
"As is yours, Ibn!" I giggled as my brother began to fume again with irritation. I ran my hand down the neck of my chestnut Arabian stallion, relishing the smooth texture of his hide, to calm him as he started to protectively shuffle at my brother's discomfort. "Don't start hyperventilating, brother; the sun has already depleted your oxygen. Also, Night doesn't enjoy when you yell. He thinks you're angry at me when you raise your voice in that manner."
"Angry? I AM angry. Nobody's called me Ibn since I came back from the North! As for your horse, I could care less what he thinks," Ahmed snapped, but the small quirk of his lips betrayed his true emotions. If Ahmed had ever truly been furious at me, he had hidden it well.
I laughed as Night reached down and began to chew on Ahmed's hair as penance for growing short with me. Night was much larger than my brother's horse and much stronger. I had owned him for three years, our father having won a bet and allowing me to pick out a stallion to call my own. I knew the way Night breathed and raced, what excited him or bored him, and how he got back at those whom threatened me, particularly Ahmed.
Some time passed before I opened my mouth again. "Are we there yet, Ahmed?" We were already out of water. 'Oh, no,' Ibn had confidently assured me. 'This will be enough water. You worry too much.' I constantly worry too much because he never seems to worry enough! He seems to think that since he killed creatures that couldn't decide whether they were bears or humans that he can walk through fire!
"Will you stop complaining and just keep riding," he said, his breathing shallow, and he wiped away another layer of sweat. Long ago had he removed his keffiyeh and stowed it away in his saddle bag, and I could now see where his hair, free from moisture, took on a mind of its own and tried to reach away from his baking temple. I didn't want to think about what my own hair looked like.
"Ibn, we are going to die out here! I blame you for not taking care of me like you should...our poor, deceased mother is looking down upon you with shame..." I shook my head at him in disgrace, and he glared up at me from the saddle of his shorter horse.
"We're almost there, Siara. Contain yourself."
I followed Ahmed as he weaved through the foreign terrain, trying to grasp the basics of where he steered us. I barely recognized one tree from another, my mind was so confused. This land was so different from our home; I had to wonder how my brother had learned to navigate so easily with the little time he spent in this region. A little ways further, and my eyes widened. I finally saw the source of the odiously scented water. "A river, brother? Where ever did it come from? Not even minutes ago, we treaded in the remains of the desert!"
Ahmed smiled at my naiveté, enjoying this far more than I felt he should. "Come now. A little further."
We rounded a bend, and I picked up another smell that I could not discern. If I didn't know better, I would have guessed sweat mingled with dirt masked the fresh air in a thick cloud of stench. My brother laughed at my expression, only beckoning me further into the unknown.
Finally, we reached what I could only assume was a small encampment. The village, if I could call it that, contained only a few houses build sturdily out of wood. I could hear voices from inside, laughing merrily and chattering loudly enough to shake the building itself. Suddenly, these Northmen didn't sound so grand.
"Ahmed, is this it? Not very big, now is it?" I gave him a wary glare, my lips turning downward as I wished for home, and not for the last time.
"Must you criticize everything, Siara?" he questioned, a fond smile across his face as he gazed around at the tiny settlement. I stared at him in wonder at how pleased he appeared to be at the appearance of the village. Lost in some far off memory, he glanced at me with a distant gaze and absent command. "Here, get down off of Night. He is probably tired from the expedition."
I would have much rather stayed on my horse. In fact, I was perfectly comfortable remaining on my horse for the remainder of the visit with these warriors, but Ahmed would have no word of it. Reluctantly, I obeyed, and as I was swinging my leg over the saddle, my foot slipped through the loop of the reins. I leaned up, gripping the saddle as I attempted to unhook my ankle.
"In a bit of trouble?" My brother laughed, dismounting his own horse so he could come to my aid. From the opposite side of Night, Ahmed reached up and took hold of my foot, holding it still in order to slip the reins over it.
"Must you be so infuriating, brother?" I sighed, relaxing too soon. My grip, light due to the reins holding me up, slipped from the saddle, and flailed my arm out to grab at the saddle again. I missed, and winced, waiting to hit the ground, only to be caught by two of the strongest arms I had ever felt grasp my small frame; not even my father had been so sure of his own hands. He held me quickly, keeping me from landing in the mud, and set me down only when both of my feet could hold me soundly. I gazed up at him, struck by the bluest eyes I had ever seen. His long hair so blond it might be white framed a pale and war-worn face. His brow furrowed in concentration, eyes searching my face for any trace of recognition.
Ahmed was the one to disrupt the two of us, his face pale as he looked upon the strange man, much like he might be a ghost. "…Buliwyf?"
Welp, that's it for Chapter One. For those of you who read this before, you'll notice the subtle changes, such as the name. I suggest waiting until I have the next chapter finished before you carry on, wayward son. I'll try to get the next one done before the weekend. Until then, loves!