The wedding of Malek Asad was to be a grand event indeed, and the feast would last for a full four days. The news of Malek’s marriage to the beautiful Rana spread fast, the quick turnaround for the wedding ensured the speedy preparation of those who were to attend.
Although Malek had stated that Nuha was to pay for everything, Nuha was hardly wealthy enough for the extravagant wedding that the rich glass merchant deserved. Malek didn’t want to disappoint his guests with a half rate wedding, thus many arrangements were organized and paid for by himself. He also bought expensive gifts for his future wife. Clothing, jewelry, and perfume was brought to Rana in well-crafted boxes and glass containers. So, it was in this way, Nuha found that he was left little out of pocket and, after the first few days of stress, he ended up viewing the wedding with great joy and excitement.
An entire street in Vishen was cornered off for the celebrations, with nonstop music and entertainment in every building. Decorations lined every wall and polls were entwined with bright fabric and bells that tinkled in the breeze. Hundreds of maids, cooks and entertainers were hired for the event and taverns and inns were booked out across the city.
The first of the four day celebrations, was for the bridal party’s wedding preparations, thus conveniently name ‘The Day of Preparation’.
The groom gathered with a collection of close male family members, with whom an Avandra ritual was performed. Avandra, the good goddess of change, luck, trade and travel, was of importantance to the Vishen people. The ritual required rising early, before the break of dawn, and meditating for six hours. The group would then participate in a meal together, with the eldest married members serving the groom food, along with a word of blessing and advice for married life. For the rest of the day, the group sang and played loud music, indicating that the groom was prepared.
The bride rose early too, though for her it was not to begin with meditation but to begin preparing for the next day. Several baths were prepared for her throughout the day, with milk, honey, and expensive oils to help soften her skin. Her hair was washed, conditioned, and perfumed, for in Vishen, the hair of a woman was to be treated as if it were a precious gem. In the evening, her mother joined her with several close friends and they applied henna to her hands and feet. The married women shared their advice and information on the brides duty to her husband once married.
They then danced together, but no man or other person was allowed near the quarters the bride was staying. Being properly prepared, the bride was sent to bed early, to get as much beauty sleep as possible. She was given a glass of milk infused with a light sedative to help her sleep. A female attendant stayed with her throughout the night, to keep an eye out for any intruders, who wished to carry away the bride for themselves. Extra sedative was also on hand, which was to be administered if the bride should need it.
The second day was when the ceremony took place and again both the groom and the bride rose early. This time both of them were being dressed and pampered ready for the ceremony. Once dressed and prepared the groom and bride met together with all their family and close friends.
Malek wore a long traditional robe, and even had his beard trimmed and neatened. Malek was usually clean shaven, especially at his desert camp, however for the wedding he had grown it out. It was tradition for a beard to be grown, for only a true man could grow a mighty beard and Malek was one of them.
Rana was stunning, breathtakingly beautiful. The preparation stage of the wedding had not been in vain, but then again, the canvas had hardly been blank to begin with. Rana wore a transparent rich red sari, with gold and bejeweled trim, which wrapped around her hips and up and over one shoulder. Under the sari, a two piece long skirt and crop top were intricately embroidered with golden thread over the red fabric. She wore jeweled sandals over her henna covered feet and various other jewelry adorned the beautiful bride. Rana pierced her nose and a diamond stud sparkled on the side of her nose. Make up was tastefully applied with bright colours and a rich red lip.
Everyone attending were in awe of how Rana looked in her bridal clothes, and Malek fell in love when his and Rana’s eyes met. Those cobalt blue eyes became his favourite colour in a moment and the adoration shown in his own brown eyes was clearly seen by all their guests.
With Rana’s hand securely linked with his own, Malek walked through the gathering to the altar. The cleric raised his hands over the couple, blessing them both and then continued onto the ceremonious speech. Malek never admitted it to anyone, but he didn’t truly listen to a word the cleric said. His mind was otherwise engaged, on a certain person with blue eyes, light brown hair and the most kissable looking lips he’d ever seen. His concentration only returned when it was time to claim that slender pale hand with a golden band around the left ring finger. Rana placed an identical, although a little larger, band on Malek’s finger and smiled slightly on seeing Malek grin happily down at her.
Malek then bent down and placed his own forehead on her smaller one and closed his eyes. He felt Rana shake nervously and opened his eyes to find her staring at him. Rana quickly shut her eyes and Malek did the same but not before a slight smile made its way once more to his lips. The cleric called for Avandra’s blessing on the new couple and then finished with a large shout of congratulations, which the crowd joined in on.
The crowd cheered and rang bells and trumpets sounded as they exit the building, the crowd parting as they went. They made a procession through the streets as Malek escorted his bride to his house that he owned in the city. The crowd continued to follow them until they reached the house and then they shouted and played instruments until the door was closed behind the couple. It was then that everything fell silent, the crowd dissipated back to the street where the main festivities were taking place. They then ate together and went back to where they were staying, not a note of music being played. For until Malek and Rana emerged from the house the next day, no music or dancing was to take place. Meanwhile, Malek and Rana spent their first night together in Malek’s house as husband and wife.
At dawn the next morning, Malek and Rana exit their house and once more dancing and music filled the streets. Feasting took place with entertainers performing for the newlyweds as they ate. Malek and Rana had barely eaten the day before and thus welcomed the feasting with much joy. Princes and officials, merchants and friends, brought forward expensive gifts for the couple.
The feasting and dancing went for a full two days, not stopping at night, but instead partying throughout. It was fair enough to say that the celebrations ended with everyone exhausted yet extremely happy.
Malek, Rana and those who had accompanied Malek to Vishen, left two days later for Malek had been away from his tribe long enough. Rana parted with her family with a brave face, her mother cried and clung to her daughter. Nuha was given a quick hug, but the relationship was tense and broken after his recent conduct. Upon exiting the city, Rana retreated into her personal caravan and remained there until they had camped for the night. She ate little and retired early, while Malek joined in telling tales around the fireside.
Over the next few months Rana was shown around Malek’s camp and shown the ropes of how things were run there. Rana sometimes asked to see the glass fields and encampment, yet Malek always made up an excuse. Malek wasn’t sure that Rana was convinced by his excuses, but if she was suspicious or upset, she never voiced her thoughts on the matter.
Three months into their marriage, Rana revealed that she had become pregnant with their first child. Malek had been extremely happy with the news and the whole tribe celebrated with the couple. Malek had everything prepared for the child. Blankets were sewn and a room was decorated with the finest things that any child would need.
Rana did everything she normally did around camp, although Malek practically ordered her not to do anything strenuous. She sewed to pass the time, it was a picture to be hung in the baby room. Rana was talented, and with the use of fine thread and candle light, the picture was coming along nicely.
Malek found her asleep one night with the needlework resting on her protruding belly. Her hair fell loosely over the back of her chair, and her long lashes brushed her cheeks gently as she breathed. Malek removed his cloak and lent over to kiss her warm, soft cheeks. He picked up the sewing and placed it on a bench nearby. Malek picked her up and out of the chair with his strong arms. Rana nestled into his chest, barely stirring from her slumber. He carried her to their bed and lay her gently onto it. He pulled the covers over her slender frame, pausing to brush her stomach lovingly. He finished dressing for bed and then planted a kiss on Rana’s lips before blowing out the candles.
The next morning when Malek arose, he was shocked to find Rana sweating and breathing heavily. He called for the personal healer who rushed to check on Rana’s condition. A minute of frowning and shakes of her head, the healer ordered Malek from the tent.
Several days later the news was spread through the tribe, Rana was unwell yet stable…the child, a wee boy, had arrived prematurely and stillborn.
Rana recovered slowly, yet she didn’t say a single word for weeks. Malek never witnessed her cry, though he stayed with her constantly through that time. Malek accepted condolences, prepared for the funeral, fed his wife, for she refused to eat otherwise, and continued to keep things running. One day he found Rana glaring at him, the first emotion he’d seen from her for weeks. Malek didn’t ask why, or press any further, for she needed a way to vent her sadness and pain, and he was willing to take on the punishment.
He was strong and sturdy in midst of the turmoil, yet when he witnessed the birth of a healthy child to one of his friends, he took a journey onto the dunes alone. Malek walked continuously for half a night, before falling to his knees and shouting a heart wrenching yell to the wind. He mourned for his son, he prayed for his wife and he cried. He cried until dawn, and as the first rays hit his back, he returned to camp.
Half a year later, Rana wished to have another child and, though hesitant, Malek agreed. Malek made sure the greatest care was given to Rana from the moment she announced her second pregnancy. Maids waited on her every move and Rana, though annoyed with the presence, gave in quietly.
Seven months later a healthy baby girl was born to a relieved father and loving mother. The couple named her Fariha, for she was a child with a happy smile. Malek adored her, doting on her every moment of his free time. Rana often smiled at the pair, at their happiness and carefree aura.
Two years later everything was going splendidly for the tribe, and business was stronger than ever. Their newest partnership were with the province of Meddo, a party of human nomads visited Malek’s camp to clinch the deal. Malek was joyous to see the party happily welcomed to his camp and the deals went smoothly. There was dancing and feasting and when the nomads left two months later, the tribe had become great friends with them.
A further three months and Rana came to Malek to announce that she was once again with child. Malek was once again overjoyed and secretly hoped for a son. Rana seemed on edge, but only seemed to become more upset when Malek inquired about it. The delivery was complicated and when the healer ordered him from the tent once again, Malek became anxious. He refused to leave the tent, clinging to Rana’s hand with his own and glaring down the healer. Silenced by his gaze the healer accepted the fact that he wasn’t leaving, and continued with her work. Hours went by, but eventually a boy was born, blue eyes blinking at the outside world. Hasib Asad took his first breaths and Malek lifted him to be cradled in his arms. Malek handed him to Rana, who touched Hasib’s tiny fingers with her own.
Six months later, Malek awoke to Hasib’s cries from the crib across the room. Malek rolled sleepily from his bed and approached the crib, lifting the boy from his crib. Hasib was a tiny baby. Malek assumed it was because of the complications at birth. Hasib looked even smaller in Malek’s muscled arms. As he cradled him in his arms, Malek noticed that the blanket on the baby’s chest was damp. Droplets were also evident on his freed arms and Malek brushed them from his skin.
“What have you been up to, my man?” Malek said, kissing Hasib’s forehead.
Malek turned to his bed and carried a wriggling Hasib over to it. Malek frowned however when he found that Rana was not in bed and so he took a seat. He waited minutes for Rana to return before walking outside to check there. Rana was nowhere to be seen, yet Hasib had settled and Malek took him back to his crib. Malek lit a lantern and felt his heart sink with dread and confusion. For the picture of Rana and her family had disappeared from the bedside, as had several other of Rana’s personal possessions. Items of clothing, including a cloak Rana had been given by her mother at the wedding, were gone. The camp wasn’t asleep for long after he noticed that, for orders were being yelled loudly seconds later.
Rana was not to be found, however, yet upon closer inspection, a small slip of paper was found tucked in the crib where Hasib slept.
Dear Malek, Fariha and Hasib,
I’m sorry. Forgive me.
I guess I don’t even deserve to ask for forgiveness from you. Malek, please believe I love my children so very much. But I can’t, I just can’t continue like this.
I’m leaving tonight, don’t worry I know you’ll be mad at me. So I’ll never return, I’ll never come back to place a claim for our children. They are your children, they re of your blood and I know they will be well taken care of.
I must go now.
I’m so sorry.
This is the end of the teaser/preview chapters for “Shifting Sands”.
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