Shifting Sands (Part Six)

Shifting Sands

Chapter Six

A week and a half went by and Hasib was kept busy with work at the factory. There was plenty to be done and several changes to be implemented. The glass workers worked together with Hasib to organise a new cooling trough in the sand melting room. The water troughs helped the workers cool down after working around the fire pits and molten glass. At the time of Hasib’s arrival they merely had to bucket fresh water each time the troughs became warm. Hasib designed a new method which required several water wheels that helped circulate the water. This kept the water cooler for longer before having to be changed.

Fariha came to visit him whenever she could escape from the camp and Abdar came every day. Fariha was quick to learn the inner workings of the business, although she still couldn’t do any of the glass making or moulding. She even seemed to flourish with companionship with the younger female glass workers and spent much of her time laughing with them.

Hasib was invited to have a meal with a different family each night. Unlike Malek’s camp, the glass families ate in their separate tents with only their immediate family. They also went to bed early, as they rose early to do chores before heading to the glass factory. This lifestyle didn’t prevent them from having a fun party now and then though. On the last day of the week, the glass fields would be left unworked and the workers given a day off. Dancing and music often filled the night on Friday and everyone would sleep in late on the Saturday morning.

It was late Friday afternoon and Fariha was giggling with one of her new friends in a corner. Abdar was standing with his arms crossed, talking seriously with Hasib and the factory manager. Hasib was wiping sweat from his furrowed brow with an already soaked cloth.

“The brickwork of the third furnace needs to be fixed, we’re losing a lot of heat from the run down condition. We’ll need to keep an eye on the other furnaces too. We’ll set up a monthly check to make sure the mortar between the bricks are properly maintained,” Hasib said, taking a clipboard from one of the workers.

“Of course, Hasib. Will we have to put out the fire in the furnace?” the factory manager asked.

“No, the monthly checks will just be for the exterior, but I think twice a year you’ll have to do a full inspection. In each half of the year, you’ll extinguish the fire and wait for it to cool. When it is at a safe temperature to enter the furnace, then do a complete assessment and tend to any faults,” Hasib said, writing down several points on the clipboard. “You can cycle the furnaces at this time, so you still have all the others running while you investigate. Only once the examined furnace is reheated to full heat, will you extinguish another.”

Fariha approached at this moment and looked over Hasib’s shoulder. Hasib continued to write down his observations on the clipboard but raised an eyebrow.

“Yes, Fariha, what is it?” Hasib asked.

“When are you going to finish up?” Fariha asked curiously.

“I think I’m almost finished for the day. Why?” Hasib asked, handing the clipboard back to a worker.

“Roya invited me to stay for tonight’s festivities,” Fariha answered. “I’d like to stay, I’ve never been to a party like they hold. She’s told me about so many things and I’m sure the main camp won’t mind me staying out this one night.”

“I’m still surprised that you’ve managed to convince them to let you leave the camp so often,” Hasib answered, shaking his head. “The parties here go for hours, until morning. I doubt Malek’s camp will stand by, while you decide to stay out that late.”

“I’ve managed to convince them that my father has put me in charge of operations here at the glass factory until his return. No-one in camp dares to doubt his authority on the matter. As for tonight, I told them this morning that the factory workers had invited me tonight and that I had accepted it. I said it would improve the relationship between the two camps.”

“You’re getting good at this,” Hasib said, clapping slowly. “A little too good if you ask me, however I’ll let it slide. I’m your disobedient, rebel brother after all, so I can’t judge.”

Fariha laughed and then turned to her friend, a pretty half orc who was standing a few metres away.

“He said that it was fine,” Fariha said walking up and giving the girl a hug.

“Yes, but only because you invited her, Roya. If it had been anyone else, I would have been less complying,” Hasib said, smiling at the girl.

Roya met his eyes shyly and nodded her head in thanks. Fariha suddenly frowned, however, and grabbed Roya’s arm, distracting her gaze from Hasib.

“There’s one small problem though,” Fariha said, looking at Roya with concern.

“What? You don’t have to bring anything,” Roya asked, her voice calm.

“I know I don’t have to bring anything, but I don’t have anything appropriate to wear to a dance.”

“Is that all?” Roya asked, sighing with relief. “You can just borrow one of my dresses, we’re roughly the same size, so it shouldn’t matter. We can go choose one now, if you want?”

“You’re a life saver!” Fariha said, hugging Roya tightly.

“My sister gets a little over excited, so you’ve been warned,” Hasib said, smiling at Roya. “Go on, we men will see you at the dance.”

Roya flashed him a smile while Fariha stuck an unladylike tongue out at him. The two women then strolled away, talking about lace or something of the sort. Hasib shrugged at Abdar who shrugged back and grinned happily. Hasib slapped Abdar on the shoulder and led the way to a small office.

“Are you going to be staying for the festivities?” Hasib asked, taking a seat at a small desk.

“You bet! I couldn’t pass up on a good party,” Abdar answered, leaning on the door frame. “Besides I have to escort Fariha back to Malek’s camp. They all told me to make sure she was back at camp before sunrise, or they’d tell Malek that I was slacking off.”

“I had thought as much,” Hasib said, shuffling some papers. “They wouldn’t be that careless and accepting of her sudden urge to visit the glass fields so often.”

“Yes, a noble lady like Fariha, shouldn’t be associating with the lower class so much,” Abdar said, kicking the ground with his foot. “That’s what they all think.”

“That’s not what Fariha thinks, and that’s all that matters.”

“Yes, but Malek influences Fariha’s decisions strongly and he and the main camps views are very much alike. Who knows, perhaps Malek will have a sudden change of heart.”

Hasib looked up and gave a sympathetic smile. He stood up, shoving some papers in one of the draws. Hasib stretched his muscles and picked up his pack which was in one corner.

“I’ll be come with you both back to the camp. Tomorrow is a day off, and I feel like visiting my sister,” Hasib said. “I can’t have Malek’s informants getting suspicious with Fariha’s constant disappearance.”

“Sure, no problem,” Abdar said, smiling.

“Alright, let’s go clean up in the spring. I need to bathe before I do anything else, otherwise people with be avoiding me tonight. There would be no dancing with Fariha’s cute friend,” Hasib said.

“Okay, I’ll just be rocking up in my work clothes. Hopefully no-one judges me too hard,” Abdar said, falling into a position beside Hasib.

“I don’t think Fariha will mind,” Hasib answered, hitting Abdar on the shoulder. “I’ll race you!”

They got ready, their moods light and merry. The men helped set up for the dance by setting out rugs for sitting on and for the assortment of food that each family brought to share. There was bread with all types of dips and spreads. The camp were fortunate enough to be situated right next to an oasis, which meant fresh fruit and vegetables could be grown. A portion of what was grown, the best pickings, were sent to Malek’s camp but the rest was distributed amongst the workers.

Fires were lit around a cleared area in the middle of the collection of tents that made up the large camp. The fires were used to cook some food and lit the area brightly while they all ate. Once everyone had eaten however several multi-coloured glass domes were brought out. The domes were made out of many different colours and holes were made in the glass. The fires had burnt down slightly and then the domes were place over the flames. The holes in the glass let the fire breathe, and the light glowed out the glass like rainbows. As the flames flickered, so did the many rays of colour it splayed across the sand.

A collection of people brought their instruments and made up a band. There was a flute like instrument called a ‘nay’, tambourines and other stringed instruments. Once the music started, nigh on everyone was dancing, cheering and laughing. The elders of the camp sat comfortably in a circle around the dancers, but many clapped and rocked to the music. Tonight was call for bigger celebrations than normal, after all, the leader’s daughter was visiting and Hasib had returned to them.

Fariha’s hand was claimed by Abdar early on in the dancing and she rarely left his side for the night. Hasib however was claimed by several young women, although Fariha proudly thought that Roya was the one who had won in the end. Hasib relaxed and was cheery. The entire camp was impressed with his dancing skills, though Hasib admitted he hadn’t danced in months.

“But then I haven’t had any music or beautiful dancing partners,” Hasib said, giving Roya a quick wink.

“I’ve never danced with such a wonderful partner,” one young lady called.

“I have had many pleasant dances. I can’t say whether or not Hasib is any better though,” Roya spoke, her voice clear and merry.

Several of the young men nearby jeered happily and Hasib raised an eyebrow.

“Well then, I should try and rectify your view,” Hasib said, extending a hand with a bow.

Roya accepted his hand and they stepped back into the throng of dancers. The evening was delightful and went late into the night. It was on a reluctant note that Hasib declared that it was time for Fariha, Abdar and himself to go back to the main camp. The party broke up and everyone went back to their tents, calling goodnights to one another.

Fariha mounted a horse with Abdar and she leant against his chest sleepily. Hasib, had grabbed his pack and staff and joined them. Hasib moved alongside the horse as they started across the dunes, using his board when they were descending.

“It was a wonderful evening,” Fariha sighed, a smile still on her lips. “I’ve never attended such a happy, welcoming dance before. There was such energy and kindness, it seemed to just fill the place.”

“Much better than the parties Malek hosts?” Abdar asked, looking down at her.

“Oh yes!” Fariha said, meeting Abdar’s gaze. “Father is rich and can hire the best musicians, but there is always a stuffiness about the gatherings. People are always too busy trying to impress each other.”

“You always used to not understand why I never wanted to go to those parties,” Hasib said.

“Of course, but now I know that you had been experiencing dances like this! Who would want to go to a prim assembly, when you can dance under the stars with not a care in the world,” Fariha said.

Hasib smiled and slid down a dune at high speed the cool night breeze flicking his hair around his head. Abdar followed, the horse going full gallop, leaving sand spraying up behind it. Fariha slowly fell asleep on the journey, her head resting on Abdar’s chest like it was the best pillow she’d ever slept on. Abdar cradled her gently, and at that moment he was perfectly content. Hasib couldn’t help feel sadness however as he looked at the couple. Malek would never approve of the match and Hasib only wished that he could pause time in this moment. When Malek returned, they would have to either announce their relationship or keep it hidden. Hasib knew that neither would be able to call off the relationship now, not when they were both in love. Malek was the only thing between the couple and their eventual marriage. Unfortunately for Abdar, Malek was the only person who had control over his employment. If Abdar so much as pushed Malek in the wrong way, he would be banished immediately.

“Hasib, something’s wrong,” Abdar said, interrupting Hasib’s thoughts.

Hasib looked up and into the direction Abdar was now staring. It only took a moment for him to spot what had stopped Abdar. A single rider was galloping across the dunes, sand spraying wildly under the horse’s hooves. The rider was headed straight for Malek’s camp and in an urgency that meant something important was going down.

“Go ahead of me. Go as fast as your horse can!” Hasib urged, looking up at Abdar. “Whatever it is, the rider is riding their horse into the sand, due to its urgency.”

Abdar nodded, urging the horse into a gallop and speeding down the dunes. Hasib could hear Fariha’s sleepy voice asking what was going on, as they moved away. Hasib slid down on his board and then scampered up the next dune. The mysterious rider had almost reached the last dune before the main camp and continued moving forward.

Hasib reached the last dune moments later and paused, scanning the area. The horse had reached its destination and Abdar must have arrived back only moments before the rider. The figures looked tiny from his position, but Hasib could still make them out. Fariha and several camp soldiers was running up to the mysterious rider, but Abdar was hanging back. The rider was removing their headgear, throwing it to a nearby manservant. It was at this moment that Hasib realized who the rider was. Malek Asad had returned.

Hasib frowned and lowered himself into a squat. Why exactly had Malek returned so early from town?


Previous Chapter (Five)

Next Chapter (Seven)

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