A Campfire or a Desert Tale


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with  tribute to Oscar Wilde, the Childe Ballads, Ozimandias, 1001 Arabian Nights, and my long ago journey to the Sahara.  Thanks to the Story Warrior Institute and to JH in SL and to the virtual world  for inspiration

 Illustrations by CybeleMoon
I must tell you a story I heard while travelling through the desert kingdoms, a tale of a beautiful woman, Roxanne, who was called  The Desert Rose,   and of a powerful warlord and king named Sa'ed.
A mighty warrior of a powerful desert kingdom,  Sa'ed ibn Fardin loved the fair Roxanne, daughter of a neighboring Amir.  Her lips were the colour of pomegranates, her eyes had the light of two emeralds, her hair shone like golden wheat and her skin  was as radiant as an opalescent pearl.
Her only blemish  was a birthmark which glowed like smouldering charcoal on the inside of her upper thigh.  None, but her mother had seen this mark  at her birth and with great apprehension and a sense of foreboding she had quickly covered  the child up  uttering many prayers  and supplications to keep away evil djinns and spirits. Yet in spite of the fears of curses and disasters, her daughter's early years passed without incident  and the child grew up in beauty, wit and grace. Although many sought her hand Sa'ed paid a high bride price to her father and Roxanne, herself  seemed pleased with the match.  Though he was much older she became devoted to him and he in turn showered his young bride with many gifts of gold and jewels.He indulged her every whim for his heart found great joy in her youth and charm and they spent their nights in loving conversation and affectionate caresses.  
The King  who was a wise ruler as well as a renowned warrior was often away defending his borders against brigands and enemies, and administering justice throughout the desert tribes.His lovely companion he left to wander the palace gardens and rooms alone with only her servants and his guards for company, for although he trusted her, he had forbidden her to leave the palace, worried as he was about enemies who might try to capture his precious prize to bargain for power or wealth.
It was always with  eagerness and relief that he returned to find her waiting in the lush courtyard gardens, her arms like the petals of the rose opening  to embrace him, her sweet laughter spilling into the air like water from the tiled fountains. He was content.
However,  time passed,  and it was during these periods of his absence that Roxanne proved to be as false as she was lovely. A restlessness inside her soul  burned like the flame that stained her pale thigh and she had begun to feel imprisoned and bored within the limits of the palace walls. She longed for a small adventure of her own. She decided to bribe some of her personal servants to aid her in a small and harmless deception to disguise herself in the cloak of a serving girl . In this manner she was able to sneak away and visit the market place for a few hours without the ever watchful guards.
It happened on one of her market adventures that she spied a young man, one of a lower caste than herself who was an apprentice to a metalworker.His name was Hassan and he was handsome and bold as if he were a prince of royal blood.She would pause at his stall and they began to gaze deeply into each other's eyes.She felt a stirring inside her when he first became emboldened to address her and he also became smitten and began to watch for her as she walked languorously, her eyes flashing, through the streets and market stalls of the Souq.One day by the heat of the forge and while pretending to inspect his workmanship she accidentally brushed up against him and it was as if the mark on her thigh had truly caught fire consuming her, and her knees buckled.Afterward  the touchings became more deliberate.They began to fall in love and eventually planned an assignation to meet at a deserted caravanserai  by a neighbouring oasis to satisfy their longing for each other which already had begun to addle their faculties of reason and thus their fear of consequence.  
What they did not realize was that Sa'ed had a trusted slave, who worked for him as a scribe and a keeper of his accounts, a man so observant and astute that Sa'ed depended on him for information of the goings on in his court; such as who might be stealing amongst his servants or who might speak against the king while he was away.This slave was  called Aziz and Aziz had  a seed of festering and grudging covetousness, a smoking ember  in his heart  which  in time became a blaze of jealous longing to be a free man with  prestige and wealth of his own. Therefore he was only too happy to take on the mantle of spy and seek out what ever base deeds and calamities he could uncover that would enhance his own self worth and position in the king's court and favour. He became suspicious of his master's companion and began watching her closely.He eventually uncovered her ruse and stealthily followed her to her tryst.  With his eye to a crack in the wall he saw Hassan and his master's bride engaged in their wild love play and   locked in each other's embrace.  The very room though dark, seemed  to ignite around the lovers but whether by lamp or passion he could not tell.    So to show the uncompromising loyalty of his embittered heart  Aziz  was eager to tell his master of the infidelity.  But whether it was in the hope of currying  some greater favour or prominence, or perhaps in the hope  of at last winning his freedom -I do not know. He sent a courier to reach Sa'ed's caravan with  a plea for him to return at once as treachery was afoot in the palace. When Sa'ed arrived at the palace  Aziz revealed Roxanne's adultery. At first the king disbelieved but finally Aziz spoke of the birthmark no one else  had seen  but her mother and Sa'ed had no choice but to accept the words of his reliable slave. A black rage descended over his mind   and Sa'ed felt his chest ripped open as if in the talons of an eagle. His heart became an inferno of pain and wrath which devoured all reason.   He ordered the personal servants whether guilty or innocent to be summarily executed.  The  apprentice Hassan he had arrested and tortured and after confessing to the crime the ill fated youth was dragged before him and the faithless,weeping Roxanne. In spite of her plea  for mercy Hassan was slaughtered like a dog with one stroke of the sword in front of all present and although the grief stricken Roxanne begged forgiveness , and tore her hair in woeful penitence,  he  branded her blemished thigh with the mark of slave and harlot, and cursing her,  sold her to a passing Numidian caravan  that very night.  As for Aziz, he had misjudged his master greatly and he was borne no gratitude for his revelation. The king granted  him the freedom he had sought with such desperate diligence but  first it was ordered   that Aziz  be blinded in the offending eye that had seen the unthinkable and his tongue cut out that had spoken the unspeakable. He was then given the clothes on his back, a small bag of coin  and  with only a mute servant to attend him was escorted to the city gates  to be turned out and banished forever.
Roxanne has long since disappeared into anonymity or death, whether  in the harims or the slavery of powerful men I know not. In the ensuing years Sa'ed became ruthless and cruel,  and though he took wives as he pleased, he had forsworn love from that fateful day forever.  His servants and subjects alike feared him and the once beautiful gardens became fallow and the fountains crumbled and dried  up.  I later heard that he had become careless and was gored to death by a wild boar on a hunting expedition. At least that is what his servants told although amongst some there were  whisperings of an assasination.   I further heard  that  in the months preceding his death, he had been detaining  the caravans that passed by the city gates  and  was overheard asking all wayfarers, traders and strangers  if any in their travels had come across a woman of surpassing beauty who bore the mark of a flame on her thigh, -  but the answer had long been lost in the  seductive dance of an oasis mirage  and in the  mournful wail of  the dunes as they are created and destroyed by the spirits of the desert winds.  In those last days he was seen standing ever watchful on his palace walls, his eyes searching the shifting shapes of the landscape,until the day faded into the dark and hungry silence of the desert night.    I cannot help but think  that whatever the manner of his death it must have come as a welcome release  from the  disillusionment and thirst of his parched soul. The caravans in ancient procession and on unknown quests still journey by  the towns and oases . They  pass over old stones and  forgotten temples, many of which lie buried beneath the desert that ultimately claims them all.   Aziz still wanders the hills and villages, a half witted, half blind and dumb beggar,   muttering wordless prayers and curses, but he too will be gone soon, dissolved into the pitiless sands and when I am gone perhaps another poor wanderer will tell the story until he is gone, and this story  too  will fade like a shadowed dream into the dust of the desert winds, as do all the vanities and  deeds of men.
This is my tale and so dear hearts, beware!  Love is a chain of  misfortune and madness,  but a vengeful  wrath is a funeral pyre that when spent  leaves only the bitter bones of sorrow and regret  in the ashes of it's remains.-  but let our own hearts be unfettered  like the wind, wild and free!!

( name changed from Kahlil to Sa'ed)

1 comment:

  1. Here is a tale of life and death brought about by faithless and inept loving of two lovers who were bound to die young.
    The poor Khalil was burnt by a flame of passion too bright and too daring for his ageing body and soul.
    You offer a tale as old as time itself , way beyond the histories of christian man and woman ......back to the place when we came out of the mists as creatures and slowly formed new bodies and increased brain capacity.
    The male and the female of this world is never meant to be together.
    We are poles apart. Mating is just a formality and we should keep it so.
    Living our lives with groups of other males and females also brings this story forward rumbling over the rocks of geological time and crashing over hearts and passions .

    I believe no man or woman ever goes through life to death without hurting a heart or two. It may not be the passions of sex but the passions of need and want.........i know i for one have seared a heart or two along my path.........

    This story is timeless as it is well written. it had me heart wrenchingly reaching for the tissues and then my common sense set in and i thought - well what did they expect....

    Excellent piece of fact and fiction and i enjoyed reading this lovely story of betrayal and love.
    One thing i will say is Herodotus wrote stories of history many years ago. He bore them with great passion and scribed as if an author of todays word use.
    Only now a man called tom Holland has spent 7 years translating his stories of history and love.........the book no doubt will have a pinch of a story in it just like this.......Well Done my friend

    Quote "Of all possessions a friend is the most precious"

    Mandy xxx