A/N: This is the second piece I wrote for the Ravenloft Carnival setting (even though it doesn't start there) for the Ravenloft websites Netbooks. This is all story. This, like all are stand alone pieces. This is just the second in the timeline of my Carnival stories. The first was Carnival, Boss Canvas Man.
Disclaimer: Ravenloft and it's supplements aren't mine. Any references to any of the characters, places and settings are solely the property of TSR, except where specified.
Not Just an Ordinary Trip to Muhar
The clear night sky was dotted with stars. No fire burned to sate the chill in the cold desert night air, for fear he would find them. He, Diamabel, flew through the night sky in his demonic form. The caravan, not wishing to attract his attention, camped near the western border of Pharazia by Sebua. They planned to enter Sebua tomorrow at daybreak, travel across to the oasis in Anhalla the ruined city; gather water, legumes and vegetables that grow along the oasis banks. Then they would depart quickly traversing the pass in the massive rock formation that marks the western border of Sebua; and on into Har'Akir to sell their wares. For this was how the caravan traveled when Muradin Rashaan, third son of Sheikh Allahn el Rashaan, led the caravan. Muradin had no patience. That was why most in the caravan did not like him, rush, rush, rush. Even when the sheikh told him to wait. He barely left them time to rest. His impatience would be the death of him, or of others trying to save him. Although he was an excellent fighter, fearless in battle, he hated to sit around and wait. Why the sheikh sent him with the caravan no one knew. Muradin was always in such a rush to get back, that they usually didn't get the best prices for their wares in the Muhar marketplace. But this time the sheikh warned him that if he did not get as good a price as the last caravan, he would be very angry. And no one wanted to make Sheikh Rashaan angry.
Ahmed, on the other hand, had enough patience for both of them. He liked to take his time, enjoy things. When in battle he would hesitate, seeking a weakness in his enemies, before attacking. Some believed he was a coward, some believed him lazy, some believed he just didn't like to fight, some believed he just preferred to make the least amount of effort. Whatever it was, it was effective.
Ahmed stood in the center of the dark camp, looking up into the night sky at the stars. He tried to connect the dots of light in his head to make pictures. He knew he should go to his tent and sleep, for his cousin Muradin was a hard taskmaster. But Ahmed couldn't help but enjoy the night. He preferred to sleep under the stars, instead of the tent. Ahmed has been a member of nearly every caravan that has traveled to Har'Akir. He loved to travel, more so than the others in the nomadic tribe he called his family. He enjoyed meeting new people, seeing new things, experiencing new sensations. Or was this just his desire to find a place. He wasn't sure. He always felt there was somewhere else he should be. For although he called these people family, he never really felt like he was truly a part of them. Partly because they always whispered he had tainted blood. Never to his face of course. They whispered that his father was an outsider, one from beyond the borders of Pharazia, beyond the Amber Wastes. When he would ask, no one would talk about it, telling him it was nonsense, don't think of such things. And since his mother, sister-in-law to the sheikh and widowed before he was born, died when he was five, he could not ask her. His uncle, the sheikh, promised to talk about it someday, when he was ready. Ahmed, who just celebrated his 28th birthday this past summer, if you can say a desert has a summer that is, wondered if he would ever be ready.
Despite the cool night air, something other than the stars kept him awake. He felt anxious, like something was going to happen on this trip, though he didn't know what. It wasn't a bad feeling, just something new, something different, something exciting. But all that would have to wait, for he realized he could no longer feel his fingers and toes. He had been standing in the cold desert night so long they had gone numb. He whistled once and a small bird flew quickly up to him and landed on his shoulder. It was an owl with talons twice the size of normal owls. He tore his eyes away from the heavens and wrapped his jellaba over his aba, tightly around him. The aba is the traditional desert robe. He strode to his tent for sleep. Ahmed also wore a turban with a long piece hanging in the back.
But sleep would not come easily for Ahmed. He dreamt of strange people with painted faces playing strange music that spoke to his soul, and a child that followed him like a shadow.
Ahmed awoke to the sound of an argument. He emerged into the bright light of the noonday sun to see an argument between Muradin and an older man. Muradin was angry he wasn't woken in time to leave at sunrise. The older man, Rashid, an experienced warrior, who had fought many battles with the sheikh, argued that several camels had gone missing in the night and it took them this long to find them. Muradin said they should have left without them, no matter how much of the wares would have to be carried by the people in the caravan. Rashid, and several other older men and women, more experienced with the caravans, said it was impractical and could possibly be dangerous. They could end up having to buy horses in Muhar to replace the camels. One of the women, Amsha, mentioned that the sheikh would not be pleased by this. Which was the only thing that quieted Muradin.
The camels had been found and were being inspected as they spoke. Muradin barked orders to pack up camp and be ready to leave as soon as the camels were ready. Muradin stormed off to his tent.
Ahmed went to ask Amsha what had happened. Since he had been up late and noticed nothing.
"The camels were there when Jamal took over the last shift of the night, but noticed them missing midway through. He woke several others and they went searching for them immediately. They had only just returned. Their restraints were cut."
"Cut? How could that be?"
"Two of the slaves we're transporting to be sold in Muhar are also missing. We have not told Muradin this."
"Knowing him, he will torture the remaining slaves to find out what happened. Then kill them for his trouble," Ahmed said of his cousin.
"Yes," Amsha replied. "The slaves have already been questioned by Karim. His spells failed to uncover any knowledge of the two that are missing." She smiled at Ahmed. "It gave us a little more time to rest. And you as well." She tugged at Ahmed's jellaba, which he still wore over his aba.
Realizing this he blushed. He noticed just how hot it was. Amsha wiped the sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief she carried in the pocket of her aba. Amsha also wore a black aba, like all the desert dwellers, tied by a black sash. She did wear a black keffiyeh, the traditional headcloth worn by most men and women, tied with a brown agal, a cord designed to hold the keffiyeh snugly to the head, although her shoulder-length black hair was loose and could be seen beneath the keffiyeh, and she wore no veil. Her olive-tan skin glistened in the sun. Amsha was about ten years older than Ahmed. She handed the handkerchief to Ahmed.
"Why don't you hang on to this and go get out of the jellaba before you melt. I'll get it back tonight. If you'd like?" She smiled seductively at him, brushed his goatee, and walked away. Ahmed could hear the anklet she wore on her left ankle jingling as she left.
He walked back to his tent and removed the jellaba, putting it in his pack. His aba beneath was rumpled. He removed it revealing pants and boots beneath, and then brushed it to try to get some of the wrinkles out. He took a towel out of his pack and wiped the sweat off his muscled, dusky bronze chest. Then he replaced the towel and put the aba back on. He put the handkerchief in his pocket. Then thought about Amsha while he packed his things up and took down his tent. This would not be the first time she visited him. Amsha was a widow, her husband died six years ago. This and her being a skilled warrior gave her a bit more leniency with her affections. She made it very clear she had no intention to remarry. She had done her duty, married and had two children. Although neither of her children lived past five years. And a problem during the birth of her second child made her unable to have any more children. This made her less desirable as a potential wife.
Ahmed being unmarried, made him perfect. He also did not wish to marry. Though he doubted any woman in the tribe would want to marry him, including Amsha. His uncle never talked to him about any arrangements. His cousins, male and female, including Muradin, were all married by the age of 21.
First Ahmed put the bit and bridle into the camel's mouth. Then he put the leather camel apron in front of the camel's hump that hung over the mount's sides, nearly reaching its knees. Then he placed a soft wool saddle blanket behind the apron. After the blanket came the packsaddle, a terke, a cagelike construction of horizontal bars which he put in front of the hump on the blanket. The terke would allow him to guide the camel with his legs and feet. Then he put his large leather saddlebags that hung on either side the camel's back. He put the camel stick made of hardwood into the terke which he would use to motivate the camel should it become uncooperative. He hung a leather bag filled with dates, treats for the camel on the long trek. Leather is the best material for keeping the dates fresh. Before placing his camel grooming kit into its place in the pack, he inspected its contents, a brush with stiff bristles, a metal hoof pick, and a wool massage cloth. Then he placed two thilaithi, a camel skin water bag which holds 2 gallons of water, over the saddlebags. Then he placed the rug and pillow he sits on in his tent atop the camel's hump, and strapped it down with two thick leather straps with a wide piece of material that went comfortably under the camel's waist. He then placed his tent on one side of the hump and his bedroll on the other side. He checked that the rigging was snug yet unrestricting under the securing straps of the harness, before tightening the securing straps. The desert camel can carry 400 to 520 pounds, rider included, without significant stress. His camel, Naheer, would carry less weight than this.
Shouting brought Ahmed from his tasks and out of his thoughts. And Muradin's voice made him shudder. Muradin wanted to leave, now. No more delays. He was calling for everyone to mount up. Ahmed thought, Muradin's impatience was mounting as well, and laughed to himself as he put the last of his belongings on the camel. Ahmed whistled and an owl emerged from the sand by where his tent had been and flew up and landed in his terke nestling into the small pillow. The burrowing owl had golden-feathers.
It only took a few minutes for everyone to finish packing up and start out. Amsha brought her desert camel, which carried her belongings, over to him to lead, as she rode her war camel, a special breed developed by culling the strongest males from desert camel herds and crossing them with the swiftest females. The war camel is self-assured, courageous, and responsive, and relishes warfare, snapping at an opponent with its teeth, and rearing to pummel with its forelegs. War camels are lean and cannot carry as much weight as desert camels.
It would take most of the afternoon to reach Anhalla, the ruined city, provided there were no setbacks.
But setbacks were what was in store for the caravan. Scorching heat beat down on the caravan despite storm clouds, that had grown overhead all morning, which watched menacingly as the sky turned green then dark unleashing a vicious sandstorm which came out of the endless wastes. Most of the dozen scouts, who ride 10 to 20 miles ahead of the caravan, returned to weather the storm near the caravan. The 45 warriors and armed guards, which Amsha was one, which ride ahead, behind, and on either side of the caravan to provide protection from deadly creatures, also came close to the caravan to protect themselves. The caravan travelers covered themselves and waited for the storm to blow over. Amsha and Ahmed huddled beneath the same blanket. Amsha's two camels and Ahmed's one huddled next to them waiting for the storm to pass. And the owl burrowed into the sand.
After the storm passed, they could not find one of the scouts who had not returned to the caravan. His camel was lying near where he should have been covered by a blanket. Not even the caravan's wizards could locate him. Also, two pack camels with rice were missing, as was several more slaves. The wizards and remaining scouts hunted for them for an hour before Muradin ordered the search abandoned. While the scouts and wizards searched, several in the caravan dug up several ab'i tubers. These tubers usually lie about 3 feet below the desert surface, they appear as smooth blood red stones. The edible tuber is as big as a camel's hump, and is filled with a half-gallon of cloudy water. The water is squeezed from the tuber over a container. But these were merely bagged and packed onto the camels, for later. While they dug up one of the tubers, they disturbed a nest of seven burrowing owls that slept 4 feet beneath the surface of the sand. These owls looked just like the one Ahmed was now hidden in the pillow of his terke. The owls emerged and attacked the group excavating the ab'i tuber with their large talons. Ahmed's owl emerged from the pillow and screeched at the seven owls, before burying it's head back into the pillow. This was enough of a distraction for the group to overcome the owls, killing three before the remaining four flew away.
Before reaching Anhalla, the storm clouds finally burst, covering the desert and the caravan in a torrential rainstorm, nearly washing them away before sinking into the desert. The rain, however, did cool the remainder of the daylight hours.
It took all afternoon to reach the oasis in Anhalla with its chunks of foundation the only reminder of the vast glory the city once was. There wasn't much time before sunset to make camp near the oasis and far from the magnificent walled estate near the outskirts of the city. Although the estate was presently silent, the members of the caravan knew all too well, anyone who investigated this estate and the sounds of merriment that came from over its tall walls never returned. Everyone pitched tents, set guards, gave instructions not to wander from the safety of camp. No one saw anything, or anyone, but they knew the wild children of Anhalla were near. They camped away from the pitiful mud dwellings the wild children lived in. They usually kept to the dark recesses of the ruins. They never made contact. Baboons and monkeys could be heard darting through the ruins, although they were strangely quiet. However, the entire time, everyone felt they were being watched and not by the baboons, monkeys, or the wild children.
Everyone was on orders not to leave camp, or leave their tent if at all possible. There would be four people on watch at all times. Ahmed was on the last watch. When he was awoken for his shift, he emerged from his tent to see a clear virtually starless sky lit by an orange moon. The moon bathed the ruins in an amber glow that made Ahmed feel uneasy. There was little sound to the night. A few bugs chirped and the wind blew. This made Ahmed feel even more uneasy. He had a bad feeling about his night.
"The baboons have made no move toward the camp," the man whispered. "But you can hear them moving about in the ruins, at least we hope it's them. Rashid is in charge of your shift. He's at the eastern side of the camp by the arch."
"Thank you," Ahmed whispered. "Try to get some sleep." Ahmed put his scimitar and his jambiya in his sash. He whistled twice and waited until his owl came and landed on his shoulder. Then he went to meet Rashid and the other two on guard duty.
"There is movement in the ruins but no move on the camp," Rashid began quietly. "This isn't usual for the baboons and monkeys. We will circle the camp, keeping each other in sight at all times. Anything other than that movement, or if you lose sight of one of one of us, alert the others."
The shift was quiet, too quiet, and nearly over. Dawn was in two hours. One of the men on guard heard a noise in the ruins near the remains of a building. He couldn't make it out. He made a noise to draw the attention of Rashid, who was behind him. He motioned to the ruins. Rashid whistled catching the other guard's attentions. Then Rashid walked to the man and they whispered quietly. The man then walked slowly toward where he heard the noise. Ahmed sent his owl to land on Rashid's shoulder then follow after the other guard. The owl landed on Rashid's shoulder as instructed, startling him. He looked at the owl that flew off after the guard. Rashid then looked at Ahmed and nodded his approval. The three waited, quietly, looking all around. The man stepped into the ruins then was lost in the shadows. The owl followed into the shadows. A moment later they all heard the owl screech loudly.
"Ahmed," Rashid called waving him to follow. "Wake the others," Rashid called to the remaining guard.
Rashid and Ahmed ran to the ruins. It was dark in the shadows, but they saw what appeared to be a scantily clad woman leaning over the guard's prone figure and another dark figure a few feet away. Her long dark hair obscured most of the guard's body but she wore a long glistening headpiece on her head that reached to her shoulders. With her left hand she was swatting at the owl diving at her. She growled in frustration.
"Stop!" Rashid shouted. "Let him go!"
The woman turned. From what they could see in the dark, her mouth and chin were darker than the rest of her face. And she held something in her right hand, a large, dark, round object twice as large as her hand. It seemed to drip, for there was a dark spot on the ground beneath her hand. She growled at the men. She put the object to her mouth and appeared to eat it, then stood and ran from the ruins away from the men.
"Check him," Rashid ordered, then followed the woman. Four men carrying swords shouted at her to stop as they ran toward her. She looked at them and three of the men stopped in their tracks. Rashid overtook her and swung his sword at her. He missed and she reached out and touched his chest. He fell to the ground screaming clutching his chest. Two more men ran toward her from the camp, moving in front of her to cut her off. She hesitated looking at them, but they continued moving toward her. The three men closed on her. Instead of trying to avoid the men, she turned toward the single man that pursued her. She closed the distance and made a grab for him when he came within reach. She grabbed the man's throat and he screamed, dropping his weapon and grabbing her arm to get her to release him. She looked over her shoulder to see where the other two men were.
She called into the night.
Several men and women emerged from their tents, weapons drawn. But before any could close on the woman, twelve figures shuffled from the shadows in all directions entering camp. One of the men muttered something and a bright light illuminated the area. The twelve figures she called were humanoids covered in bandages from head to toe. At the sight of these bandaged figures, half the men were overcome with fear and collapsed to the ground. Several more armed people emerged from their tents.
"Don't let the creatures touch you," shouted one of the women, "they spread disease."
The people standing turned toward the approaching creatures. With this distraction, the woman dropped the man in her grip and ran into the ruins out of sight. The man lay in a heap on the ground.
The men and women attacked the bandaged figures with their swords. The creatures swung at the people with both hands. But with every blow the men and women delivered, the damage seemed minimal. One of the creatures hit a man in the chest who flew back ten feet. The creatures fought with little conviction and began to disperse now that the woman was gone.
One of the women lit a torch and moved toward one of the creatures. She swung at it until she hit it with the fire. It burst into flames.
"Fire," she screamed. "Use fire on them." It continued to swing its hands at her, despite the flames consuming it.
The men and women began to pursue the creatures.
"Stop," screamed Muradin. "Let them leave." Muradin stormed into the center of camp. "What happened?" he demanded, red-faced with anger.
Rashid gathered his weapons, strength and courage then walked toward Muradin, clutching his chest where the woman touched him. The men and women frozen began to move again and the ones on the ground had gathered their courage and were on their feet. The only man who didn't get up was the one in the woman's grip. When checked, they discovered him dead.
Rashid explained the events leading up to the incursion. Ahmed finally emerged from the ruins. He carried a small bundle in his arms. He stopped and talked to the wizard who lit the area who then ran into the ruins with another person. Ahmed walked up to Rashid and Muradin.
"What's that?" Muradin spat.
"This is what took Karim into the ruins," Ahmed explained. "It's a wild child. It looked like the woman had been attacking the child when Karim disturbed her. She had discarded the child and went for Karim."
"And what of Karim?" Muradin asked angrily. "I want to hear what he has to say."
"That might be impossible," Ahmed said.
"Why?" Muradin spat.
"Karim is dead. I asked Jarem to check and see how Karim died and if there is anything he can do. There are no apparent wounds on him. May I tend to the child?"
"I don't care," Muradin growled. "But you are responsible for it."
"Her," Ahmed corrected.
"What?" Muradin spat.
"'It' is a girl."
"I don't care what it is. It cost us two men and who knows what else." Muradin turned his back on Ahmed and walked away. "Be ready to leave an hour after dawn," Muradin shouted to the camp.
Ahmed asked one of the women to come to his tent with him and check the child over. She cast a spell and a torch appeared. As Ahmed began to lay the child on his bedroll, the woman stopped him.
"It probably has lice. Do you want that in your bedroll?" she said.
"She," Ahmed emphasized. "Farah, I will sleep on the ground." He laid the child down. He took one of his thilaithi water skins and pored some into a wooden bowl. Then took a rag and made it wet. Farah checked the child over.
"It seems alright." Ahmed gave her an angry look. "She," Farah corrected.
"Thank you Farah," he said in a dismissive tone.
She got up and left his tent.
Ahmed closed the flaps of his tent and secured them. He brushed the girls mat of black hair back from her face. He took the rag and began to wipe the girl's filthy face off. She stirred. Ahmed cast a spell. And a cup floated out of his pack and filled with water. Opening her eyes the girl let out a yelp and moved away. Ahmed cast another spell and spoke to her, "I won't hurt you." She calmed a little. "My name is Ahmed."
Ahmed took the cup from the air held it out to her. "It's water," Ahmed said.
She hesitated. Thinking she didn't trust him, he took a drink from the cup and held it out again. She took the cup and sniffed at the contents. When she was satisfied it was alright, she took a drink. A small pouch floated from his pack. He took it from the air and opened it. He pored the contents onto the bedroll, beans, peas, and figs. He took one of each and ate them.
"What happened in the ruins? With the woman?" He tried not to speak to her like a child. Just because she looked like ine, didn't mean she was one. The wild children of Sebua looked like children, but they always looked like children. They never seem to age, never seem to have any adults, teens, elders. This may be the largest they ever get. And this was the first time anyone got a really good look at one.
She looked at him curiously. "When I found you, you were unconscious on the ground and the woman was over the man with something in her hand. What happened? Do you know?"
"Monkey," she chittered.
"'Monkey'? What monkey? There was no monkey when I got there."
"I don't understand." He shook his head.
"She had a monkey with her?"
"Her, monkey, watch you." She fanned her hand.
"She had her monkey watch, us?"
She shook her head. "Saw her. She change. Monkey watch. She change. Woman grab. Man came. Grab man. Throw me."
"She changed into a monkey?" The girl nodded. "As a monkey she watched us? Then she grabbed you and the man came to help. She grabbed him and threw you?" The girl nodded. "You don't remember anything after she threw you?"
She shook her head. "Takes thing out." She patted her chest.
"She takes thing out." She patted her chest again. "Red thing." She put her hands together to make a round circle. "It moves. Out, in. Big, small."
"I don't understand. She takes something out of the chest?"
She nodded. "Eats it."
He shook his head.
"Ahmed?" a man's voice said from outside his tent.
"Yes," he replied.
The flaps of his tent shook. He unsecured the flaps and opened them. Rashid stood there.
"What is it?" Ahmed asked.
Rashid leaned his head into the tent. "What has she said?"
"From what I gather, the woman was watching the camp as a monkey. The girl saw her. And the woman attacked her. That's when Karim went into the ruins. She grabbed Karim and threw the girl. But what she says now, I don't understand."
"What is she saying?"
"The woman 'takes thing out.' She pats her chest," he imitates the girl. "A 'red thing'," he makes the circle with his hand, "that moves out and in? Big and small? And something about 'eats it'. I don't understand."
"I do," he began. "Karim's heart is missing. When I went to attack her, her mouth was red and dripping. Blood. She took his heart out and ate it. Maybe the in and out, big and small means it's beating when she eats it. I'll go tell the others." He began to close the flap, then opened it again. "I forgot," he handed Ahmed a piece of white cloth. "For the girl. It's the smallest I could find. I really wish I knew who you learned magic from."
Ahmed took it as Rashid left. He looked at the cloth. It was a shirt and a black sash. He laid the clothes down and turned to the girl. The bowl of water and the rag floated over to the girl.
"Why don't you wash up a bit and put these cloths on. If you'd like to make your hair wet, I can get a comb and you can comb your hair."
She tilted her head and had a curious expression on her face.
A wooden box came floating out of his pack, opened and a mirror floated across to stop in front of her.
"Your hair is a bit messy."
"That?" she said pointing at the kit.
Ahmed leaned over and put his razor kit in front of her. He showed her everything inside, the straight razor, "this is very sharp. It could cut you. Men shave their beards." He brushed the smooth parts of his chin around his goatee. "Some men also shave their heads." Then he showed her the lather bar, "this is to make the shaving easier. When wet it makes lather, or bubbles." The horsetail brush, "this is to put the lather on the face, or scalp." The scissors, "these are to clip the hair and make it shorter, or to trim the beard. It's also rather sharp." He unwrapped his turban and showed her how short his hair was. He made a cutting motion with his fingers to show how the scissors worked then rewrapped the turban. Then he pulled out a small leather pouch, "in here is a cream to put on after you shave, to help make the face smooth and avoid razor burn. A little bit goes a long way." While he repacked his razor kit, she leaned over and touched his cheek, by his goatee. He laughed as she quickly moved back away from him. He left the mirror out. "Now, I have to go outside and help pack things up. This will give you a chance to clean up and change. I'll be back in a little while to pack up the tent. We'll be moving out after dawn."
Ahmed got up and left the tent. He went to help pack the camp up. Someone asked what he did with the girl. When he said he left her in his tent, they laughed, saying he probably won't have any belongings left when he returned. Calling him way too trusting.
When he returned to his tent, he heard noise inside. "Hello?" he said. The noise stopped. When he entered the tent what he saw surprised him. His pack had been moved over to the bedroll, the camel grooming kit was out and the brush was lying in front of her. The razor kit was open and the scissors were next to the brush. There was a pile of lather in the drinking cup and a pile of black hair was next to the cup. And she was sitting, innocently on the bedroll looking up at him with her wide almond-shaped, coffee colored eyes. Her deep bronze colored face was clean, her black hair was about two inches long and dripping wet and the sash Karim brought was half wrapped around her head and dropped to her shoulders. She wore the shirt untied, which had the sleeves cut to her wrists, the remnants lying on the bedroll next to the uneaten food.
He couldn't help but smile. But he tried not to laugh. He cast a spell. He sat down on the floor of the tent, next to his pack. He got into his pack and pulled a towel out. He slowly moved toward her, she didn't move away. He took the sash from her head and used the towel to pat her hair dry. Or dryer. He took the brush and started to brush her hair. "This is actually a brush for my camel. I'll see if I can get a brush just for you. All your own, if you'd like?" She nodded her head quickly. When he was done, he wrapped the sash around her head, like his turban. "Don't worry about not getting it the first time. It can take a while to get the hang of wrapping turbans." When he was done, he got into his pack and tried to find a cord of some kind. When he couldn't he leaned his head out of the tent and called to someone passing by who wore a keffiyeh.
"Excuse me, do you have a spare agal I could have?"
"Sure," he said and walked off.
Ahmed tried to clean up and readjust his pack when he heard a voice at the tent opening. Amsha stuck her head into the tent.
"You wanted an agal?" Seeing the mess, she snickered.
"Don't," he warned.
"Ahhh, the joys of parenthood. I remember this. But be careful, it has a tendency to occupy the rest of your life. Or at least the rest of your youth."
"Very much," she said entering his tent. She sat down on her knees by the girl. Her anklet jingled when she sat. "I'm Amsha," she said gently.
"I couldn't find my extra sash. And I thought an agal might fit her waist better."
Amsha wrapped the agal around the girl's waist then tied it. Then Amsha started sniffing. "What is that smell?" She leaned forward and sniffed the girl's cheeks. She smiled and snickered again. "She's wearing your shaving lotion."
"She didn't shave did she?"
Amsha lifted the girl's chin and looked at her face. "No cuts," she said. Then noticed a long scar on the girl's jaw from her left ear to her point of her chin. "At least no new ones." Amsha took off her keffiyeh. "Turn you head, Ahmed." When he did she lifted the shirt the girl was wearing and wrapped the Keffiyeh around her to make shorts. "That should do." She pulled the shirt down and brushed it out. "You better hurry here. Muradin's impatient to leave. Several of the men were touched by the creatures this morning. He wants to get to Muhar quickly, in case we need to have them healed." She brushed her hand across the girl's cheek. "I think she looks a lot like you." Amsha got a sad look on her face. She stood and moved to the tent opening.
The girl reached out and grabbed Amsha's ankle. She swung around to look at the girl, who jingled the bells on the anklet. Then she brushed the sandal with her finger.
Amsha leaned down and took the anklet off and handed it to the girl. "Better hurry and pack up." Then she left.
The girl wrapped the anklet around her ankle. It was too big. Ahmed took the anklet and wrapped it twice around her ankle. It didn't fit, not long enough to wrap twice. He closed the clasp on one of the links, then on the last link. It made a loop at the end. The girl played with the bells.
Ahmed packed up his things and started taking everything out of the tent. "You'll have to come out now. I need to take the tent down."
The girl came out, shaking her foot to make the bells jingle as she walked. Ahmed took down the tent and began packing his camel. Amsha brought her camels over to Ahmed. Ahmed finished packing his camel. Muradin called to move out. Amsha mounted her war camel and moved off. Muradin tied her pack camel to his camel. He cast a spell.
"We're leaving now," he said to the girl. He whistled. After a moment his owl flew up to him and flew into the saddle and nestled into the pillow.
The girl looked around at the people as they mounted their camels. She looked at Ahmed and pointed to his camel.
"I ride this one. We're leaving. We are on our way to the domain past the Valley of Death. We have goods to sell there." He pulled his camel down to the ground. "I guess this is good-bye. Try and stay away from the woman. No more following monkeys."
The girl looked around at the caravan. They were moving out. She looked up at Ahmed. She gave him a big hug and started to walk away, jingling the anklet. He climbed up into the saddle, reared his camel, it stood. He pulled his camel and Amsha's into line behind another man and started off. He heard a high-pitched scream behind him. He turned to see the girl run after him. He stopped the camel. She ran up to him and held her hands up to him.
"Come too," she said.
"You want to come along?"
"Alright, but we may not be back here for a while." He grabbed her arm and lifted her into the saddle behind him. She wrapped her arms around his waist, digging her hands into the folds of his aba and held on. Then she pulled her hand back and had a piece of paper in her hand. It was a strange paper. There was a picture of people on it. They had painted faces, some danced, some juggled daggers, and one carried a funny box in his hands and was covered with little creatures. She handed it to him.
"Where did you get this?"
"Here," she said pointing to his pocket.
He checked his pocket. "I wonder how that got there." He looked at the paper. "Reminds me of a dream I had once. Come to think of it, I think you were in it too." He smiled at her. "Why don't you hang on to it." She rested her head on his back and looked at the paper. He moved the two camels back into line behind the others.
A/N: This is the end of part one. I was running out of time for the deadline for the Ravenloft netbook. This seemed a good stopping point.
As for the characters in this story, Sheikh Allahn el Rashaan, Diamabel and the woman who ate the heart are not mine. They are part of Ravenloft cannon. The remaining characters are mine.