Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Syuib's Qalam: The end of our lands

The wind blows steadily at my robe. The cloth flaps following the motion of the air. Standing unmoved, I await patiently and stare straight ahead. I await outside the tent with Farouk and Jamal, for they stand guard for our safety. Farouk with his eyes on the tent and Jamal on the lookout. A bird screeches above us.

Guards at the tent stare back at us suspiciously, holding their spears close. though the desert wind blows strongly now, these guards move not a single muscle.

"Does it usually take this long?" asked I.

"You know it yourself poet that the message must be delivered in its original form. The Caliph will take as long as he wants." replied Jamal.

I half-smirk half-wince, also trying to withstand the heat and blinding light. An eagle flies overhead.

After a while the reciting voices die out and the Caliph walks out with the tribesmen leader. A shaman perhaps, I am not sure of his status.

The leader has blond hair like that of sand. His eyes black like shadows, watching our every move. The Caliph and him shake hands and part ways.

"How did it go my Lord?" I asked but the Caliph simply nods to both of his henchmen and we are walking straight to our rides. He says nothing for the most part. I may not be familiar with the ways of Dawah but I can tell it didn't go as planned.

The Caliph holds his hand up high and gives the salam to our hosts. They wave back and we leave. We ride out of the encampment and continue into the desert.

"Where to my Lord?" asked Farouk.

"We keep heading Northwest, towards the frozen lands. The desert people have heard of us enough." answered the Caliph.

The winds start to die out, it is a calm quiet afternoon. Too quiet perhaps for the Caliph. He looks at the overhead sun and surveys the land carefully. He seems troubled by the journey ahead while I, can't seem to let go of our previous encounter. We have had many visits to various tribes and encampments yet we have achieved nothing.

Finally the Caliph slows down and moves towards Jamal. "Jamal, scout ahead and report back. I am sensing something wrong." commands the Caliph.

"At once my Lord" exclaims Jamal and with one fluid motion, jumps off his steed leaving his baggage. He leaves his robe and native spear on his ride and doing so exposes some parts of his spotted body fur. He lets his long feline tail hanging. I have heard some about Jamal's people, plains runners who at first hunted with their teeth but soon evolved into using more civilized weaponry. Now they are a proud race of hunters and farmers carrying their gifted personal spears wherever they go.

The African born stretches his limbs and starts to skip forward. He starts slow but slowly picks up the pace. Soon enough my eyes only see a mirage of his image running at incredible speed.

We move further forward albeit much slower than our athletic companion.

"My lord, if i would be so bold to say. Shouldn't we try to persuade them harder my lord? We come from the very same lands. We almost live the same way. Why waste our times speaking of peace when we can achieve faster results through slightly more aggressive persuasion. The end justifies the means as they say." I asked.

"Quiet yourself Poet. You know not the delicate ways of Dawah. Persuasion and aggression is always frowned upon by the Prophet. Do not question the Caliph's ways..." remarked Farouk.

"Enough. We have no time for this. I sense someone or something following us." interrupts the Caliph. He awaits something over the horizon, patiently.

And then suddenly in an instant, a bright orange light comes zooming towards us, faster than the desert wind. It comes crashing to a halt nearby creating a flurry of dust and sand.

I was shocked by this but both Farouk and the Caliph seem calm as if witnessing this before. They walk first towards the crash site.

Closer i found it to be only Jamal, crouched on all of his four limbs panting heavily and exposing his fangs. The hair on the back of his neck stands tall and tears run down his black streaks on his face. Farouk comes and gives him some water.

"I saw... (pants) a creature... (pants) running away as soon as it saw me... (pants heavily). I almost caught up to him but somehow... somehow it took flight and disappeared in the blinding desert sun. I have lost him since then." explains Jamal.

The Caliph frowns, "Worry not, it wishes only to observe us. If it was hostile it would've attacked us by now. Probably a scout for a bigger party."

"A scout? From the sand tribe?" I asked.

"Perhaps not. It has followed us even before we reached here. Never mind that then, we must continue our journey. Well done Jamal. Let us move."

"At your service my Lord" replies Jamal.

Jamal gets back on his steed and holds his spear close to his side. Ready, we ride out.

Farther up, our party leaves the desert sands and arrive to grassy plains. I look overhead, and admire the cloudy grey skies. This land is wet and cold. I don't like it. Even in this climate no birds fly overhead. Perhaps rain is coming or perhaps something else. My Arabian skin is easily irritated by water, especially cold rain.

I have never been to these lands. Neither have any of us but this is what we were set out to do. To travel northwest, meet new tribes and spread the word. I pray that the scout earlier isn't part of a more savage tribe. I pray that the natives aren't hostile. But I can only pray. The world holds many surprises. I have a feeling we will be meeting a native tribe soon, and I have a feeling it won't be a friendly encounter such as before.

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