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The Oasis in the Sands of Time

By Gabbie SpeirsPublished 2 months ago 23 min read
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The Oasis in the Sands of Time
Photo by Sandra Gabriel on Unsplash

I walked and walked through the towering dunes, the miniscule grains catching themselves on my eyelashes making tears stream down my face in an attempt to remove the small irritations. It felt like a lifetime I had been moving through this place without seeing another soul. My canteen was empty; my mouth as dry as the landscape.

Every now and again, my mind thought of her. It wondered what she was doing at that moment, how she was feeling with her new family, her new husband. Mostly, I wondered if she still smelled the same and looked the same. I hoped that he hadn't stopped her from wearing her vanilla and tobacco scented oils, or stopped her from wearing those vivid pinks and oranges she looked so beautiful in against her coffee coloured perfect skin.

I lost concentration on her face, smelling something in the air extremely uncommon in the area; given the nearest settlement was miles away.

Fresh bread.

It stirred something inside me, a gurgling sound. I was so hungry. I decided to follow my nose to hopefully find another living soul.

I hiked over towering dunes, shielding my eyes from the raining sand while I lifted my face periodically to sniff out my direction. It felt like it was the same strength scent everywhere I went, as if it lingered in the air wherever I stood.

As the sun began to set in the west, I came to a valley in the sands in which there was an extremely peculiar sight: green. Trees, plants and bushes. Does that mean there's shade? The thoughts raced through my mind quicker than I could reach the oasis, but I trekked there nonetheless, excitement washing over me as I thought about the water.

I couldn't control my own motions and as soon as I reached the blue, I dunked my face into it. The cooling sensation across my skin sent a chill down my spine that I had longed for since I left Mirajah; since Huda left me. I kept picturing her face with tear-filled eyes as she told me she was leaving for Iraqqu with Malik. It wasn't how I wanted to remember her, but it was the image stuck inside my mind.

"Hello there."

I swung my body around instantly to attempt to discover who spoke, when I thought I was entirely alone. Suddenly, when I saw the woman, the smell of the freshly cooked bread grew stronger; as if right in front of me.

"H- hello." I responded, "I'm sorry, you startled me. I thought I was the only person here."

The woman looked familiar, but my sleep-deprived memory couldn't place her. Her smile was warm and welcoming, which helped because I needed someone like that at this moment.

"It's okay dear, this oasis has ways of hiding what you don't need at times." was her response. What did that mean? Hiding what I don't need? "Would you look some food? We made some bread earlier."

I knew my nose wasn't deceiving me! "Yes please, I can't remember the last time I ate." I pondered for a moment, thinking about what the last thing that entered my lips. As soon as I thought about that, I thought of her all over again. Her beautifully smooth skin and her coffee coloured eyes staring into the deepest depths of my soul while her smile filled her face and her scent my lungs. I missed the smell of the tobacco and vanilla that she wore religiously, I missed wondering what bright colours her clothing would be each day, hoping it was that burnt orange that complimented her so well.

"Come along, dear." The woman snapped me back to reality as she gestured for me to follow her. "How long have you been walking through this place?" Her face softened into a look of concern for me.

I knew I'd seen her before, I just couldn't figure out where.

I followed her, telling her in little detail about where I had come from and the story surrounding my arrival at the mysterious oasis we found ourselves in. I told her about my love becoming betrothed to another without telling her who my love was. I had a feeling that even out here, royal families were still well known...

She told me her name - Zara - and that she had come out here to escape her life in the city from whence she came. She didn't enjoy her life, but she missed her family. Her husband and her three children were the loves of her life, and while leaving them was the most difficult decision she had ever made, it was a necessary decision.

After a few minutes of walking and talking, we arrived at a camp with a small number of other people living there. Maybe four or five at most. There was a giant of a man tending to the fire and cooking some meat, a couple of women doing laundry in a large, wooden bucket laughing at whatever they were talking about between themselves. There was another man who looked like he was fixing things in each of the small huts that were presumably the homes for each person.

"Everybody here is like us; left their homes and wondered deep into the desert and found their way here. Samira and Yasmine over there left abusive husbands and families. Yazir was in an accident and his brain doesn't work like it used to." she said, pointing at the man cooking. The words she spoke had a sense of empathy, like she really cared about his wellbeing. It was refreshing to hear about strangers. She finally pointed towards the man cooking, "And Ahmed here, he lost his entire family in a fire at a tavern. He was pulled out by a stranger, but by the time they got to his family none of them were breathing." I saw a tear in the corner of Zara's eye which she swiftly wiped away.

"How long have you all been here?" I asked, not wanting to poke into her own life too much more.

"When I arrived, they were all already here. They said they had been here for around a year or two before I showed up." Zara smiled, but I could see the pain in her eyes. I could see she still wasn't happy, even though she left her home for that reason.

After I was introduced to the others, we sat down to eat. Lamb and bread. They had managed to find a few animals that had strayed from their path and shepherds not far away and they grew wheat for the bread and various vegetables. They had become entirely self sufficient and I was in awe of how well they seemed to manage daily life.

They were welcoming, providing me with blankets and showing me the ropes over the next few days. We all talked and got to know one another. I still spent a lot of time thinking about Huda and my family. I wondered what they were all doing. Where they all were. Whether they wondered where I was at all...

I was kneading the dough for the next loaf of bread one day while Zara was sitting on a piece of fabric in the sun, brushing her hair. We were talking about her kids when she said, "You remind me of Zayn." Her mouth grew into a smile while she looked off into the distance, probably thinking of him.

"One of your kids, I take it?" I responded.

"Yeah. He's tall and strong, like you. He was such a good boy, too. Always did exactly what was asked of him. Even if he didn't like doing it, he wouldn't complain. His sisters, on the other hand... They were a bit more vocal about doing things they didn't like..." she trailed off slightly, lowering her volume until she stopped saying words out loud.

This description of her children reminded me of Huda and her sister and brother. They never dreamed of openly disobeying their parents, given they were the Sultan and Sultana of Mirajah, but they respected them too much. Huda and I always discussed coming out with the truth of the nature of our relationship to her father after her mother died, but we were both afraid of any negative repercussions that may occur.

I must've started smiling and laughing to myself, because I caught Zara's attention. "What are you thinking about Musa?" she asked, curiosity covering her face.

"I was just remembering my love when she was younger. She was similar to your daughters in that she never shied from speaking her mind, but still did whatever she was told. She became more vocal after her mother passed, and her brother became more reticent. He's also called Zayn, by the way." I didn't think anything of telling her this, because there are bound to be a lot of boys called Zayn around.

"What was her name?"

I knew which her she was referring to, so I told her. "Huda." I still couldn't say her name without feeling a mixture of love and betrayal. I still couldn't forget the touch of her hands and the feeling of her lips on mine. How I missed how soft her hair was and running my hands through it as we lay next to each other.

I was so busy thinking about Huda, that I didn't notice Zara's face full of confusion. "An- and what was the sisters name?"

"Lina..."

Zara's face dropped entirely with the name, while the realisation hit me like a camel running straight into a building.

"Zara, are you..." I wasn't sure how to finish the question. The Sultana of Mirajah? The love of my life's mother? Supposed to be dead? Okay? There were too many questions I wanted- needed to ask. I didn't know where to begin. My own mother cried for weeks when the news came out of the Sultana's tragic passing, but the rumours never stopped flowing because there wasn't a public funeral. There was no public confirmation of what we were being told, which was unusual for royalty. They were so beloved in our kingdom that we rioted if we didn't see them paraded through the main streets in glass coffins and have flowers in hand to throw. We just took our Sultan's word as gospel when the news erupted. Because, who wouldn't? What reason would he have to lie about his wife dying?

Unless, that's genuinely what he believed...

"Your Highness, does the Sultan know?" I asked in hushed tones, as I didn't want to entirely expose this ghost to the others as being a member of a nearby kingdom's royal family.

"No, and I'd like to keep it that way, please." The look on her face made sure I knew I had to stay quiet if I ever returned.

I felt like, with this new information, I had to provide some of my own. I ushered Zara to a quiet spot underneath palm trees on the other side of the oasis, away from prying eyes and ears. I started with my mother, her handmaiden. I watched her eyes fill with tears as I told her about Huda leaving Mirajah with Malik and going to Iraqqu to wed him. She looked how I felt about it. I told her about other bits she missed in her absence while she stayed quiet, drinking in the information on her family.

The air was silent for what felt like hours. I could hear the cogs turning inside Zara's mind, trying to decide her next steps. I couldn't tell what the thoughts were, her face gave no clues.

Her face stayed still, until she finally looked up and into my eyes. "You need to go back to Mirajah. You need to get Huda out of Iraqqu and bring her home. Please."

A Sultana just said please, so you knew this was serious. "But how am I to get her out without costing my own life?" I asked, knowing that if I attempted to get Huda out of Iraqqu and her marriage to Malik, he would very likely attempt to, or succeed in killing me.

Zara thought for a long moment. "You'll have to make him think it was her choice, not yours. But you need to do it, soon." The urgency surged in her voice, making me feel it in my chest.

Without much more of a discussion, I left the safety of the oasis and made my way back to Mirajah. I didn't know what welcome was waiting for me upon my return, especially considering I had technically abandoned my post within the guard. I was ready to accept my fate, but I just had to get Huda out of Iraqqu for good, even if I couldn't be with her.

The days passed quicker going back than they did coming out - probably because I had a set destination and I wasn't just wondering for the sake of it, completely heartbroken. I had a purpose this time: Huda, my world, entirely. She was always my safe haven and I wanted to reciprocate that for her.

I decided to buy her a ring. It was about time, surely.

I went to a jewellers in a nearby village, where nobody knew me and bought a pretty emerald cut diamond ring with a gold band. They sold a matching wedding band, but I didn't want to get ahead of myself.

I made my way on to my homeland, unsure of where to go first. My family home? The palace?

If I went home first, my family would be thrilled, and if I went to the palace I may be arrested on sight. Pa might even turn me in, considering he is the King's Guard. I don't want him to be punished for my deeds.

I decided on going to the Palace first, considering my family were actually more likely to be there than at home given that, by the time I would arrive in Mirajah, it would be the middle of the day.

I made my way there. I walked in the main gate to see familiar faces standing at their posts around the entrances and doorways. They all looked to me with relief; for my safe return? Perhaps. I didn't question it as my long stride took me towards the throne room where I assumed the Sultan would be during this time.

As I approached the entryway I heard a familiar voice; Pa. He saw me after a moment of talking to another guard and walked toward me. "Musa, thank Allah for your safe return. Where have you been? Your Ma and I have been so worried!"

"I'm sorry Pa. I took a walk in the desert and got caught in a sand storm," I lied through my teeth, for at this moment I couldn't talk about the real reason and the fact that I had spent the last few weeks with the supposedly dead Sultana, "I couldn't see for days and then I got lost."

He brought me in for a hug, not acknowledging my deceit, but my reappearance. I had an overwhelming feeling of safety wash over me, suddenly assured that I wouldn't be punished by the Sultan.

The doorway opened into the darkness of the throne room. The presence of the large man sitting on the large chair beckoned me through and into his vicinity. As soon as I got to the steps below him, I'd dropped to my knee in respect for my Sultan. I'd bowed my head so I wasn't aware that he had made his way to me until I felt his hand on my shoulder.

"Musa, my boy. Are you well?" He seldom showed care to his guards, so when I lifted my head I saw the men surrounding us looking at each other in confusion.

I rose back up to my full height, "Y-yes, sir. My apologies for vanishing, I got stuck in the desert." Once again, I lied through my teeth, except this time I did it to a man who could send me to the executioner.

"My boy, the main thing is you are safe now. Lets take a walk." He led me out to the gardens with guards following at a distance.

We walked out of the earshot of the other people working there, and curiosity got the better of me. "Is everything okay, Your Majesty?" I asked, cautiously.

"I commend you, Musa. I'm very impressed with your loyalty to me and my family."

"Thank you, sir."

"I know everything that happens in my home, you know. There are things I have done that others don't, but I know everything." The emphasis on that word terrified me, sending shivers and goosebumps across my entire body.

"I'm sorry, sir. I'm not sure I follow?"

"You see, if something were to happen here that I didn't approve of, I would've put a stop to it. I would've moved the person in question elsewhere."

He knew. All this time, he knew about Huda and I? And he... approved?

"I do wish you two had said something before Malik arrived here to create an alliance with Iraqqu." He continued. "You see, I would have been more than happy to bless a union between the two of you. Malik is... a dangerous man. My Vizier and council do not know what I do, so when a man arrives from a foreign land, wishing for an alliance and your daughters hand in marriage, you have little choice but to agree to it."

There was little point denying any of what the Sultan said, so I pulled the ring box out of my pocket. "Sir, I'm sorry we hid it from you for so long. If only you knew what I had been through these past few weeks- the pain I have felt."

"Dear boy, I do. I love my children. I've always wanted the best for them, which is why Zayn has yet to marry. I wish for all of them to be happy. You might be a guard for my family, Musa, but you are as much a part of the family as any of my kin." He took the box from me to look at the ring I had chosen for Huda. "She will love this token. But you didn't get yourself a ring?"

A wetness started shedding from my eye that I quickly wiped away, hopefully leaving no trace. "There was no silver at the store, sir. Also, I didn't want to get ahead of myself. She still has to say yes."

"She will. But, we must make haste. The wedding is set for five days from now, and it takes two to travel to Iraqqu. We must leave soon if we are to make it in time."

And with that, he led me back inside and we went our separate ways to pack our trunks. He had insisted I travel with him in his carriage. Nobody travelled with the Sultan except his family. Even his personal guards travelled outside of the carriage. I suppose he has all but welcomed me as his son-in-law, so it makes sense. I felt a guilty pang in my stomach though, as I had yet to mention who I had met in the desert.

The moment arrived for our departure, and as we started approaching the outskirts of Mirajah, I decided to speak up.

"Your Majesty, there is something further I wish to discuss with you."

He turned to look at me, saying nothing but the word, "Zara."

I was taken aback, entirely surprised he knew. "Y-yes sir, but how did you-"

"I told you, my boy, I know everything that happens in my palace."

I told him about the woman I had met in the desert, what she had told me about why she left and how she left, while the Sultan listened and nodding his head along.

"I knew she wasn't happy, that there was nothing I could do to change that. I knew what she was planning but there wasn't a way for me to stop her and let her enjoy life the way she wanted. I let the guards carry a coffin of stones around the kingdom to hide the fact that there was no body in there, I lied to my children. I'm ashamed of this, not being able to make my wife happy enough that she faked her own death to leave. I could never tell Lina, Huda or Zayn this. It would destroy them." He looked at me with pleading eyes.

"Of course, Your Majesty. I won't say a word."

We continued the rest of the journey in near-total silence, exchanging pleasantries occasionally. The driver tapped on the window three times as we started the final approach to Iraqqu, to let us prepare our rescue plan. Malik wasn't a Sultan yet, so the power rested with his father, for now. The problem was, we didn't know how much influence he had over the council. We didn't know how loyal the guards and staff were to him. What we did know, was Kaya was with Huda, and Kaya was the sneakiest of handmaidens.

When we arrived, it was under the pretence of wedding preparations and it was well received, given that the brides father usually attended the ceremony. I was playing the personal guard to the Sultan, having changed into the uniform shortly before stepping foot out of the carriage.

We were shown to our guest chambers. I overheard the palace guards say that the bride-to-be's room wasn't far and it was nice to have her father nearby. My heart skipped a beat or two in anticipation of seeing her again. This was the longest we had ever been apart. My palms started to sweat with the nerves of trying to tell her why we were here. As I walked to her door, my knees grew weak as I heard her laugh through the wooden covered archway. I closed my eyes, imagining her next to me, holding my hand.

I snapped back to reality, my knuckles tapped on the door and I waited, holding my breath. I knew it wouldn't be Huda opening the door, but I was almost as excited to see Kaya. The surprise on her face when the wooden archway opened was incredible.

"Lady Kaya, hello." I bowed gently, not giving any indication of familiarity to those around. "I am here to let you know as the Sultan of Mirajah's personal Guard that His Majesty has arrived to start preparations for the wedding of his eldest daughter, Huda of Mirajah."

"H-hello. Thank you, would you please keep the Princess company while I plan a time to meet with the Sultan?" Sneaky. It's nice to see that hasn't changed.

I entered the room while pointing to where Kaya could see the Sultan, shut the door and scanned the area.

I could barely breathe while I searched for her, my heart about ready to jump out of my chest.

"Kaya, who was it?" I heard from behind the changing shades. Huda didn't like others dressing her, but always kept her girls around for opinions and help choosing outfits.

I stayed silent so she would come out to see, and when she did? My spine tingled in sheer joy.

"Musa? What- how are you here right now?" She ran towards me, not waiting for an answer and wrapped her arms around my neck as tight as she possibly could.

"My love, did you think I wouldn't come for you?" I replied, snaking my arms around her perfect waist, finally breathing in her signature scent of vanilla and tobacco once again; running my fingers through her beautifully smooth, long hair.

After what wasn't nearly enough time, she pulled away slightly. "But my father, he'll be here any day now for the wedding. It's three days away! Malik hasn't let me leave the grounds since we arrived."

"His Majesty is with me, we arrived a short time ago. This was his idea." I said, with a smile on my face knowing that we didn't have to hide any longer.

"He- what?" I explained everything her father and I discussed about our relationship. Her confused face grew softer with every word I spoke and finally, the smile I know and love showed itself, and she kissed me. Allah, how I'd missed her so.

We heard Kaya's voice outside the doorway as she had come back to, presumably, tell us about her talk with the Sultan.

He agreed we needed to leave before the ceremony, but we still had to figure out the logistics. We didn't know the guards and their schedules, where they walked and if there were more or less over night. We didn't, but Kaya did. She might be Huda's handmaiden, but she listened to everything that went on around her. She felt it was part of her job, her responsibility to know what went on around her Princess and her friend. She told us that the guards usually left the entrance to the palace for a few moments when the Sultan retired for the evening to make sure he had whatever he needed, which meant that should be the perfect time to escape.

After going back to the Sultan, we kept to ourselves, pretending to keep to planning the ceremony with Kaya for Huda and Malik. Malik himself hadn't come by to greet us yet, and he wasn't even in the dinner hall during the evening meal. Nobody seemed to acknowledge his absence, carrying on as business as usual.

Finally, a few hours after we dined with the Sultan of Iraqqu, the alert came that he was retiring for the evening and we had our chance to leave, somewhat unnoticed.

We made our way to the exit without seeing a soul. We placed the essentials in the carriage, being careful not to haul too much out just to be safe.

As the carriage left, we all left out a collective sigh of relief. The journey home was long, but we knew we had done it. Just as we got to the outskirts of Mirajah, Huda grabbed my hand and held it tight. She whispered thank you into my shoulder and rested her head there. I decided to go for it, and pulled the ring box out of my pocket once more, opening it so it faced Huda. She looked at it for a moment, then took the box from my hand. Without hesitating, she took the ring out and placed it on her left ring finger and admired it. When she had it placed perfectly on her delicate finger, she read her face up to meet mine and kissed me.

"Welcome to the family, son." The Sultan said. "Oh, and enough of the Sir, please. Call me Wahid."

We're finally together, in the open. We're finally together, everyone can know. These thoughts ran through my head, along with I am so lucky - the smile that graced my face wouldn't leave.

When we arrived back at the palace of Mirajah, the Sultan- Wahid, asked me to move in to my own chambers in the main building and assigned me a personal guard, even though I didn't think I needed one.

We'd began settling into our new lives when a messenger arrived to the palace, carrying a note.

You have stolen something that belongs to me.

You have one week to return it.

If it is not returned by sunset in one week, Iraqqu will declare war on Mirajah.

The Crown Prince Malik.

Fantasy
1

About the Creator

Gabbie Speirs

I write fantastical short stories that keep you coming back for more

Engish writer, world lover

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