If they were trying to be sneaky, they were doing a terrible job of it.
Hasib had noticed the presence of a lone rider following him shortly after he left the camp. They followed from a distance, making sure not to get too close. It didn’t take a genius to realise they were there however and Hasib kept an eye on them casually. When he stopped to take a drink his eyes studied the horizon behind him where a figure’s head peered above the dune.
Perhaps they wanted Hasib to know they were there. The rider was probably sent by Malek to make sure Hasib didn’t back track and return to cause more ‘mischief’. He marched on for another few miles, but still the rider followed.
Hasib was used to the intense heat but knew that he’d have to stop soon, before it got to midday. Shelter was impossible to find this far into the desert and he had a cloth that he often set up as a tent. An afternoon nap didn’t sound too bad, especially when he’d have to travel through the night to get back to his own camp. ‘His camp’, it sounded so nice in his head. While he usually enjoyed his time at the glass field, it was no longer his home.
On thinking this however, Hasib wasn’t about to show the lone rider where he lived. It was almost midday, and well time for the rider to stop following and head back to Malek’s camp.
Hasib had just topped another large dune and glanced under his arm to spot the rider starting to descend the dune behind him. He ran forward and checked to make sure he was out of site of the rider. Hasib dropped his staff and kicked it with one swift movement. He stepped onto the board and began sliding smoothly down the dune. His clothes flapping around him, Hasib descended the dune with great speed.
When his board began to slow, and began going up the next dune again, he dashed off it. He picked up his board under his arm and began running up the dune. His feet slipped and slid on the loose sand but he was used to the sand by now and had learnt how to manoeuvre across it as quickly as possible. This didn’t prevent him from sweating terribly though, and his skin was sticky and dripping with it. He was breathing heavily when he arrived once again at the top of the dune. He peeked over his shoulder and was pleased to find that the rider hadn’t reached the opposite dune yet.
Hasib smiled to himself and he ran his tongue across his dry lips. He stepped over the top of the dune and slid a couple of feet and then fell onto his back. He began to cover his legs and body with thousands of sand granules. Minutes later, Hasib’s body was almost entirely covered and his goggles, which were covering eyes, and his shemagh covered mouth were the only things left visible. He then stayed still and waited patiently.
Hasib didn’t have to wait too long however, before the horse and rider clamoured over the top of the dune. They seemed to be in a great hurry and the rider’s covered head was shifting back and forth quickly. The rider reigned in their horse just to the right of Hasib and had their back towards where he was hidden.
Hasib began to emerge from the sand slowly and luckily the rider seemed to be busy scanning the area in front of them. The horse’s ear flicked in his direction and it started to move nervously, but the rider seemed ignorant of its warning and just patted its neck.
Hasib dashed forward once he was emerged from the sand, not bothering to brush himself off. The rider began to urge the horse forward once more but was unable to get away from Hasib’s grasp. Hasib grabbed at the cloth at the rider’s waist and pulled with all his might. The rider was caught off-guard and toppled off the horses back. They landed with a thud on the sand and Hasib heard them groan slightly from the impact. Hasib lost no time in jumping on them and pinning them on the sand, their face down.
Hasib was surprised when the rider let out a very sharp and very female scream, which was cut off with a coughing fit.
“The hell?” Hasib said, flipping the rider over forcefully.
The rider’s shemagh had fallen from covering their face and the face of the rider was completely revealed. As the rider continued to cough from the sand that had entered their lungs, Hasib leapt off them and cursed.
“Fariha, what are you doing?” Hasib asked, pulling the stopper off his water bottle and handing it to the rider.
The guilty female rider accepted the bottle eagerly and drank gratefully.
“Careful, you might choke on it if you drink too fast,” Hasib stated, pulling his shemagh off his mouth.
Fariha slowed her hurried action and then handed the bottle back, wiping her mouth with the sleeve of her shirt. She then began to brush the sand from her clothes and ignored Hasib’s question. Hasib turned to his pack and began to set up his makeshift tent. The sun was far too hot for them to sit around and wait until Fariha was ready to explain her actions. He finished setting up the tent and motioned for Fariha to enter. Fariha did so obediently, glancing towards her horse with concern.
Hasib sighed and poured some water into a container and offered it to the horse. Fariha seemed satisfied with this action and then crawled in to tent where she then sat patiently. Hasib replaced the stopper on the now empty water bottle and shook his head. He would most definitely need to make sure he got back to camp soon, especially if they continued to go through his water supplies like this.
Hasib crawled into the tent, which was an extremely tight squeeze considering Fariha’s half-orc size. He tried to get comfortable and then just stared out the gap in the tent flaps. Fariha moved several times and played with the edge of her shemagh.
“I’m not going back,” Fariha spoke finally, after several awkward minutes.
Hasib turned to look at her and wasn’t too surprised to find several tears falling down her face. Her voice was laced thick with emotion and she tried to wipe the tears away. Hasib sighed quietly and then turned to look across the glaring sand dunes once more.
“What do you plan on doing then?” Hasib asked, his tone serious.
Fariha paused and seemed to ponder the question for a minute. She sniffled and twisted her shemagh in her hands nervously.
“Well, I was hoping I could stay with you,” Fariha said cautiously. “I promise I won’t be a pain, I’ll wash and cook and do anything you need me to.”
“It’s not that easy, Fariha,” Hasib answered, meeting her eyes.
Fariha looked instantly hurt by his words and he knew he had to explain his words.
“It’s not that I don’t want you to come and live at my camp, but there are many differences,” Hasib said.
“I don’t care,” Fariha said stubbornly.
“Malek’s camp is a million times different than my camp. There are no endless supplies of food, it takes lots of hard work and there are days where food is scarce. The water supply isn’t always reliable and digging for even drinking water is a common occurrence. Baths are a luxury and there are no fine clothes to dress in,” Hasib explained carefully.
“You’ve lived like that for this whole time, right?” Fariha asked, looking slightly concerned.
“Yes, there were days I almost died, and I would never want you to go through that.”
“I don’t care about that,” Fariha said, with less force but with no less resolve.
“What about Abdar?” Hasib asked.
Fariha’s face froze, a look of absolute heartbreak spread across her face. Tears began dripping down her cheeks again and she buried her head in her knees. Hasib frowned and reached across to pat her shoulder in comfort.
“He said that there was no way he’d allow us to be together,” Fariha sobbed. “He said that Abdar would be fired immediately and that I should go to my room and reconsider my actions.”
Hasib knew she was speaking about Malek, and his heart sank.
“He said that there was no possibility of my loving a simple messenger and that I was confusing a girly crush with love. He said that Abdar was leading me on and that he would put a stop to it immediately,” Fariha continued, her anger evident. “I told him that I loved Abdar more than anything, and then…”
Fariha sobbed and cried, until she was shaking with emotion. Hasib continued to pat her shoulder, but felt lost as to what exactly he should be doing.
“And then he said that you were to blame for my sudden craziness. He said that if he ever saw you again he’d do more than just force you to leave,” Fariha said. “How can he be so cruel? How can he say all of that when he knows I love you? How could he not believe me?”
Hasib felt helpless as she continued to cry, silently this time. It took a while but she slowly stopped crying and began to calm down. Hasib dare not speak unless he said something that set her off crying again. He knew that if he let his anger at Malek lash out, it wouldn’t help Fariha at all. The hours passed and the sun began to get lower in the sky. Hasib offered Fariha several dried foods and a water bottle. She ate little but drank the water with a grateful nod.
“Did you bring much with you?” Hasib asked carefully.
“I brought some of my clothes, a water bottle, my purse, my letters from Abdar…” Fariha said pausing.
Hasib waited cautiously, hoping that Fariha wouldn’t start crying again. She didn’t however and smiled apologetically across at him.
“I’m sorry. It has just been a long day,” Fariha said with a sigh.
“It’s understandable,” Hasib said. “I’m sorry that I’ve caused so much trouble.”
“No,” Fariha said quickly. “This would have happened one day, even if you hadn’t come. I was in love with Abdar and I would have told Malek one day anyway. His reaction may have be aggravated by your arrival earlier in the day, but his response would have been the same.”
“I’m still sorry,” Hasib said. “And about earlier…”
“Yes?” Fariha asked, urging him to continue.
“I’ll explain everything later.”
“Every single thing,” Hasib confirmed, with a nod. “But for now we need to go home.”
“I said I wasn’t going to go back,” Fariha said with a frown.
“Not Malek’s camp, I mean my camp, my home.”
Fariha smiled and as Hasib met her eyes he saw her eyes sparkle with excited curiosity. Hasib figured that excitement was better than tears any day. Suddenly getting home couldn’t come fast enough.