Empires Of Faith

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Chapter 25: The Sanctuary

28 Sha’baan, 1663

It'd been three days since the chief announced that he would personally teach Dhul-Kifl and Tariq to understand their language and learn their knowledge. It'd also been three days since he announced that they would never be allowed to leave. So far, he'd held true on both words. Tariq and Dhul-Kifl were not allowed to even leave the sight of the chief or his guards. And the chief became well acquainted with the both of them, sitting with them in their assigned huts to teach them the language. They spent hours going over the letters and signs of reading the language and pronouncing it. Both were learning at their own pace, with Tariq picking up a little faster because of his young mind. He was only near his thirtieth year, whereas the General was nearing his fourty-third. Still, both were learning at an incredible pace.

"Ebunos idas," the chief said, entering upon the two who'd just completed their Fajr prayer.

"Good morning," Tariq replied.

"Today I have decided I will allow you to reenter into our library."

"I don't think we are able to read your books just yet," Dhul-Kifl spoke, turning around in his seat. "Are you sure this will be more beneficial than furthering our usual studying?"

"Yes," the chief said with a smile. "Your primary reason for learning our language is to understand the information, no?"

"Yes."

"Indeed, and so what better way to test your progress than to expose you to the very information you are seeking. Come now, we will take you to the library for you both to pick one book which you will attempt to read." Tariq and Dhul-Kifl stood to follow the chief out of the hut. The sky was a misty blue color as the sun peaked from behind the green mountains and trees in the distance. The cool night air was soon to give way to the hot and heavy air of the jungle in a short time.

The men walked through the huts, following the barefoot chief until they stood beside a large tree. Before either of them could utter a word of question the daughter of the chief emerged from behind the tree. Tariq turned away in annoyance the moment he saw her. Dhul-Kifl similarly lowered his gaze and a slight smirk appeared on the chief's face. He motioned for them all to continue on and he led the trio towards the library just a short way from there.

Arriving at the front of the library, the group was met by the sight of two strong guards standing at the entrance, holding makeshift bows. Their painted faces held unrelenting frowns, their stares stern and attentive. The chief gave a nod to both and they stepped aside. He motioned for the others to follow him inside. The light from outside shone through just enough for the library to be dimly lit. They could move about freely, seeing any obstacles that were in the way.

"Take any book or scroll you wish," the chief spoke to the two men. "May your choosing be well. Empratrisa, go and fetch me the Spider Scroll." The chief's daughter nodded and walked away. She passed by Tariq who almost shuddered when he felt her hair brush past his neck. He sighed angrily and was about to turn and speak when he saw she'd gone past him and was over by a cylindrical statue. Looking upon the stone cylinder, Tariq could see an outline of webs and vines and carvings of spiders big and small, along with the figure of man with a spiders' body for a head.

Empratrisa pushed the heavy cylinder aside and an opening in the ground was revealed to be a passageway underground. She lowered herself into the hole and descended down the path. Tariq raised an eyebrow and then turned back to the chief. "What's down there?" he asked curiously.

"More books, scrolls, and things of the like," the chief answered. "But you needn't worry about those; they are too advanced for your understanding. Please choose a book or scroll from among what you see before you." The chief turned his back, dismissing any further comments or questions Tariq might have had. Tariq went ahead to go and select a book along with Dhul-Kifl.

Dhul-Kifl had managed to find one of the scrolls from before, with the picture of the first Kwaade. Tariq searched to find the old book they'd also been looking at but could find nothing. He flipped through the pages of several books, hoping that perhaps he could find something of relevance. As he flipped through the pages of yet another book one image caught him by surprise. He saw a shape which appeared to be a drawing of the jungle divided into three sections. The largest portion bore the symbol of a spider, with its eight eyes glowing red. Over that portion there was another, with the symbol of fire. Finally, in the third portion, a small section at the corner of the whole figure, there was a little cross. Tariq raised an eyebrow at this and decided to put aside his search and instead take this book.

As he turned around, Tariq saw Dhul-Kifl and the chief standing near the exit. They were soon joined by Empratrisa. Dhul-Kifl distanced himself from the two and waited for Tariq to join him as they began walking out of the library. "I hope you are pleased with what you have selected," the chief spoke, leading the men back to the village and towards their huts. "For your tests, you will not be permitted to leave your huts until you can tell me of your book and scroll."

"And how will you know when we are able to do so when we are not allowed to come and speak with you?" Tariq questioned.

"You will simply tell the men I will assign to guard you when you are finished. Any other concerns?"

"No," Tariq said with a sigh.

"Good, then return to your huts and I will see you both when you are finished."


29 Sha’baan, 1663

"We're finished," Adam cried in despair. "They're gaining on us fast!" He looked over the back of the small boat and watched a huge vessel sailing straight towards them. The ship was nearly 5 times the size of their own, with twice as many sails and a large black flag blowing in the wind. The wooden ship was manned by a crew of rowdy men, waving swords in the air and launching stones and other objects from their ship towards Adam and his companions. One such stone ricocheted off the flag post and knocked Ali upside his sleeping head. He jerked up, holding his head and looking around. "What in the-"

"Sea bandits," Adam explained. "They're coming right after us! We're finished! First the storm, now these crazy men! We're done! They'll kill us and raid our ship for everything of value."

"Bandits on my ship? Not while I'm in charge."

"How can we even stop them? We can't outrun them and from the looks of it, they outnumber us at least four-to-one."

"Quit your worrying," Rayhaan said to his brother as he slapped his back. "We've been through worse. Besides," he said, brandishing his straight-edge sword. "This a good chance to prove our worth. A little fighting is good enough to prove our dedication, right?"

"Our mission isn't about fighting!"

"It is now," Ali said, stepping forward with a sword of his own. "You better fight to survive or you might as well jump overboard now. Two things I won't allow on my ship, bandits, and cowards. So what's your move?"

"I am not a coward," Adam grumbled to himself as he pulled out his own sword and knife.

"Good, then let's do this! Allahu Akbar!"

"Allahu Akbar," Rayhaan repeated.

"Allahu Akbar," Adam followed.

The bandits' ship came blowing in fast. The crew members were dressed in tattered clothing and had unkempt hair. Their dirty faces gave an ugly stare as they closed in. At the forefront of the ship, there stood a tall, well-dressed man in a long black coat. His beard stretched out over his wide chest, his arms joined in holding the skinny sword whose point he held on the ground. His long hair was parted in three ways, with little of it hanging over his face, covering a long pink scar across his forehead. He grinned a gritty smile as he raised up his sword into the air, ready to give a command. "Kill all, steal all," he ordered with a wily smile.

The eager men began running to the edge of the ship. They were anxious to deal with the small group and gain whatever prize awaited them. As the gap between the vessels closed, the men stood on the rails of their ship. Knees shaking, they held themselves in place until finally they leapt across, swords at the ready. "Allahu Akbar," Ali shouted once more as he jumped to the front of the boat, ready to defend his crew.

As soon as the first bandit landed his filthy feet on the Muslims' ship, he was met with the cold steel of Ali's blade. The sword slashed deeply into the man's bare chest and blood sprayed out as his dying body fell overboard into the blue waters below. Wiping blood from his face, Ali looked to the other bandits. "Who's next?" he asked with a smirk.

The other men all came swinging and jumping across. The three warriors fought hastily to defend their ship. Swords danced in the air, the clinking sounds echoing on the waters. Taking on two men, Rayhaan ducked beneath one attack before coming up and slicing at another man. His attack was blocked but he spun around fast enough to deflect the other attack coming his way. When his sword locked with the blade of the bandit, he carefully eyed the man standing behind him. He saw the man driving his sword in to stab him, and so Rayhaan withdrew his sword and stepped to the side, causing the bandit to stab his comrade while also being sliced by the falling blade. Then he spun around and kicked the man in the back, pushing his body further onto the sword. A third man came leaping onto the ship and straight for Rayhaan, so he took hold of dying man's shirt and flung his body at him, effectively tripping him up.

Ali sliced the falling man across his back before turning and jamming his blade between the shoulder blades of another man. He kicked the lifeless body overboard and moved to keep fighting. The other bandits were losing courage and grew timid to jump over. "You don't want to fight us?" Ali challenged. "Then we'll come fight you!" He leapt across the way and grabbed hold of the higher railing of the bandits' boat. He pulled himself up and stood atop their railing, looking around the deck.

The now cowardly bandits stood frozen in fear. Rayhaan soon joined Ali on the bandits' ship, leaving Adam alone to look after their own ship. There remained only five men of the bandit crew, including their captain. He raised an eyebrow at their antics but smiled nonetheless. "You're no ordinary travelers," he said, flashing his crooked yellow teeth. "Are you?"

"No," Ali spoke boldly. "We are men of the Muslim united forces."

"Aaah," the captain said, stroking his beard. "I see. And what are you Muslims doing in these seas? You have no lands here, nor any business with the peoples of the lands."

"We came under direct orders from our Amir," Ali said, paying careful attention to the suspicious way the captain was eying he and Rayhaan. "A mission which is not any of your concern, bandit!"

"Fair enough. Now, boy, where is the commander of this small group?"

"You're speaking with him," Ali replied.

"No, you are the leader, I want to know of the commander, and the other man with him."

"How did you know there were two others besides us three?"

"We sail these seas and the waters all around. As bandits it is our business to know who else is sailing the seas. We saw your ship nearing the jungles several weeks ago. We thought that perhaps you were merchants of some sort coming to trade a small but valuable cargo with the Kwaadi of the land. We were in pursuit of another ship, and so we left you until after you would be returning with the goods you traded for."

"Did you say Kwaadi?" Rayhaan asked.

"Aye, the Kwaadi."

"There are Kwaadi people there?" Ali asked, the concern evident in his voice.

"You didn't think the lands were uninhabited did ye?"

"No, we encountered some of the natives but nothing more than a brief fight on our arrival. You mean to tell me those were Kwaadi people?"

"Nay, they were indeed natives. The land is inhabited by three major groups, the natives, the Kwaadi, and the Christians."

"There are Christians there as well?"

"Yes, but they are a minority mostly. As for the natives and the Kwaadi, those are the real powers in the land. Wars between those two have done much damage to the place, and both have blamed the other."

"Why are you telling us all of this?"

"Because if your companions are still in that land, then you need me alive to tell you what they may be up against."

"I see," Ali spat. "You're only seeking to save your own neck."

"But of course."

"Very well, we won't kill you. But you are going to tell me everything you know about those people in return for the sparing of your life and the remaining crew members. And as an obvious condition, you will not be permitted to possess any weapons nor gather to conspire against us. Furthermore, we are taking over your ship, as you had intended to do with ours. Congratulations to you all; you’ve just stolne your way into servitude, you filthy bandits."

Ali ordered the immediate confiscation of all weapons and harmful objects, turning them over to Adam who remained on the small boat down below. The two boats were joined through tying so that the smaller boat would be accompanying in case of emergency. Adam and Rayhaan would take turns guarding the extra boat and its contents for safety. Ali remained aboard the bandits' boat to interrogate the captain and his crew for information on the people of the jungle. There was much to learn, and he wanted to know it all as soon as possible.


30 Sha’baan, 1663

"Ad- ader- adrona nu oslo dio," Tariq read, sitting in his hut with a small candle light burning. He squinted at the strange letters and shapes, still trying to figure out their meaning. Pronouncing them was becoming easier, but understanding them was complicated. Some words seemed like the Spanish he remembered his father speaking, but the language was still so different, especially in writing. "Dio," he said to himself, tapping his temple, trying to think. "Dio...dio....dio... Ah! That's the Spanish word for god, I wonder if it means the same here. Hm, El Dios is God, dio is god, but then what could this be talking about? Adrona, adrona, I've seen that somewhere in their writing before."

He flipped through the pages, searching for another mention of that word. With all of the symbols and hieroglyphics being so similar, it was hard to pinpoint the exact location of the word. Turning page after page, Tariq began to think that he'd only imagined seeing the word before or that perhaps it was in another book. He was just about to turn back to his previous place when he stumbled upon another Cross in the book. "What is this?" he said to himself. "Hm. I know the cross is representative of the Christian people, The Cross. But what do these people know of The Cross? They haven't been in these lands in decades, possibly even a century or so. What does all of this say?"

Tariq closed his eyes, trying to piece it all together. He remembered the picture he'd seen earlier. There was a cross in that picture in the corner of the land drawing. Could that mean there were Christians there? But then, what did the fires represent? There couldn't be any significant fires burning or the smoke would surely have been detectable. Perhaps those were lands destroyed by fires and because of Kwaadi invasions in the past. And the spider, what did that mean? There was only one way to find out what all of this truly meant, and so Tariq dove back into reading.


"The Talanera Abithentas?" Ali asked the bandit captain. It was late in the evening, nearly morning in fact. Ali had kept the captain awake, first inquiring about he and his crew to learn how little trust to give him. Ali had taken two of the men from the crew and positioned them behind the captain. He ordered them to listen and should the captain dare to speak a lie, they should make signal that what he spoke was false and he would be punished. Were they to conspire with him to deceive, they would all be put to death. Now that it had been several hours of talk, Ali wanted to learn more about the people of the jungle. He repeated his question and the captain nodded in the affirmative. "Who are they?"

"They are the people of the spiderwebs," the captain spoke. "The natives as you know them."

"Spiderwebs?"

"Yes. Their veneration of the spider in their customs and culture earned them this name."

"So...they worship spiders?"

"Yes, and no. By the standard definition of worship, no. They're all about knowledge and information, keeping history sacred and preserved. That's why they never allow anyone to leave their crazy forest."

"And how do you know this?"

"Don't you pay attention? I told ye before, I lived amongst them with a brother of mine ages ago, until I managed to break free and escape."

"And how exactly did you manage that?"

"You've quite an ear for listening boy," the captain sarcastically remarked, earning an angry stare from Ali who gripped his sword tightly as a warning."T'was the Christians who helped me escape. My brother had been accepted by the Talanera, the old chief even made him his pupil and married him to his daughter as per their custom of marrying newcomers to the daughters of the chief. I was not pleased with this at all, as I myself had at the time held on to my religion, even though my brother turned his back. I sought to flee but was captured and beaten nearly to death numerous times. The mark you see on my face, this is nothing compared to the hideous scars and wounds inflicted upon my body from those savages. I would have died by their hands were it not for God willing that I should meet a priest from among the Christians out on one of my escape attempts. I thought surely he would kill me. Instead he took me in and protected me. His people, they are monks and priests living in an old sanctuary left behind from centuries ago. I know not how the men get there, nor how they manage to remain populous through time, but those are not important details. They said because I was a believer in God of some sort, they were obliged to help me against the atheists and polytheists."

"Polytheists? But you said-"

"I know what I said. But by the definitions of you Muslims and those Christians, those natives would be considered polytheists, even if they consider themselves free of all religion. They don't worship the spiders in the sense of bowing to them or any such things. Rather they model themselves after the spiders, use them in their customs, and regard them as sacred because of the foolish belief that when the books are left in the libraries the spiders read them and gain information, then write secret coded information in the form of cobwebs on the books."

"That's..."

"Foolish. Very, very foolish. But this is what they believe. They consider the spiders to be the wisest of all beings, having secret knowledge no one else knows and believe the spiders to be perfection incarnate, far above anything else in imagination. Because of this, they would never accept the idea of God as you Muslims and Christians do. The Christians said that they have taken the spiders and their books as gods instead."

"It would seem so. But what does that have to do with you?"

"The priest and his monks nurtured me to good health and spoke constantly to me about religion and God. I was not one truly educated in Islam, so I didn't know how to-"

"Wait, you were a Muslim?!!"

"Indeed I WAS."

"Was? Astaghfirallah, aren't you ashamed of that fact?"

"I have no interest in religion now boy, rather in my eyes there is only this life. Your words won't change my beliefs on that, and they won't benefit you. So let's continue with the matter at hand, shall we?"

Ali sighed deeply. This was unbelievable to him. But the crew members behind the captain had both affirmed what he had said was true. He was now even lower in disgust and contempt as an ex-Muslim than he'd been as just a criminal bandit with no religion. His very presence disturbed Ali, and Ali would have loved to be rid of him in that very moment. Still, they had had an agreement and since he'd held up his end so far, Ali had to hold his own. A Muslim is not one who betrays trust, nor acts treacherously, he mentally reminded himself before sighing and motioning for the captain to carry on.

"The old priest had asked me about Islam numerous times, but I told him that I didn’t know. He sought to tell me about Christianity but I was uninterested. At that point in life, I was beginning to see the reality I would eventually arrive at, and nothing else mattered to me. Because I no longer believed in God as they wanted, the Christians said it was not proper to have me living within their sanctuary. They did however say that as a human they were obliged to love and help me, so they gave to me an old relic, a ship from travelers of the past. The monks escorted me in the dead of night until we reached the open waters. I escaped that cursed land and never returned. I did however come across a crew of Christian monks journeying in the same waters. They invited me on board to feed myself and seek shelter from an impending storm. When I discovered that these people had no weapons or protection, I killed their captain and took over their ship. The silly monks thought themselves martyrs and refused to pledge allegiance to me, saying they were devoted servants of God. So I killed them all. I took the ship and eventually gathered a willing crew of bandits and criminals from the various lands and ports I traveled to. This has become my life ever since, as I told you earlier."

"Right, right. Tell me...more. I want to know about this sanctuary."

"I just told ye everything I know about it."

"Not everything. How does one get to it?"

"Well..."


2 Ramadan, 1663

Journal Entry #13 Tariq Ibn Sulayman

Alhamduillah I have survived another day and have lived to see the Blessed month of Ramadan. I am still being confined to my hut, unfortunately, as I've yet to speak with the chief about what I know of this book. I do not know of Dhul-Kifl's condition currently. We have not been allowed to see one another even for prayer purposes. The guards keep watch over us through the night, taking shifts.

The nature of my writing is only to detail what I know currently. So I begin again. It's been weeks since our ship docked on the shores of this jungle land. We came searching for an herb whose healing properties were needed for our Amir. We managed to discover a land of ruins, showing signs of a past civilization we thought. The Captain, Dhul-Kifl, and I decided to remain in this land with hopes of finding out more about these people and how they met their end. We thought perhaps through acquiring that information we could find out something beneficial and help us to employ the same means to defeat the Kwaadi. Instead, we stumbled into a nation of strange people, who hardly cover themselves and have no modesty. They hold knowledge as something sacred and keep a library of documents and information about history; history which includes information on Kwaade.

We have been invited to stay and learn from their books, forced in fact. They have taken our weapons and have held us against our will. We are prisoners here, having been told that we will never be allowed to return to our homes and families. I don't know what the future holds, but I do not think that I would like to remain amongst these people even one more day. The knowledge we gain is of no benefit if we can never share it with the Muslim people combatting the Kwaadi.

On that note, I have begun to understand a little of the book I have been assigned to read. I suspect that the image that drew me to it may perhaps be a map of some sort. There is a Christian land I believe, far up north. My hope is that by the Mercy of Allah, these people would help us. I do not think that they hold the same values and customs as these natives. And if they are a more proper civilization, they should have communication and connections to the outside world. Perhaps they would then help us to leave this land and return to our homes. Allahu ‘Alam. This is my prayer, and I intend to seek them out.

As for my journal, my ink runs low as of late, hence my infrequent writings. Perhaps it will be a week or more before my next. But I may be dead by then, should I be caught in my attempt to flee. So whoever reads this, make du’ah for me, for I am but a helpless slave of Allah, striving to please Him and I do what I do only for His sake.

-As-Salaamu Alaikum


Tariq closed his journal and laid it against the wall. He sighed as he looked out of the exit and into the night sky. Though his view was mostly blocked from the leaves and branches of the tall trees, he could still see the moon, shining in the distance. The radiant glow reminded him of the smile of his precious Ruwaydah, and their two daughters. Will I ever see them again, he wondered to himself. Will I hold my baby Rumaylah and hear her soft laughter? Will I see she and her sister grow into young women and marry them off? Will I ever again speak with my Ruwaydah, or train with her again?

He sighed again, turning his back to the exit. He grabbed the foreign book and opened it up again, staring hard at the map. "I have to get out of here first," he said to himself determinedly.


3 Ramadan, 1663

Another day had passed as the sun set behind the mountains and trees. The sky of red became dark blue and black. Dhul-Kifl sat cross-legged in his tree-hut. His eyes were closed as he recited some athkaar in whispers. "Subhaan Allah wa bihamdihi, Subhaan Allah Al-Atheem," he said to himself, glorifying and praising Allah, The Magnificent. He continued in his dhikr until several minutes had passed. Feeling satisfied with the amount he'd done, Dhul-Kifl turned towards the candle he'd been given for the night. It would only burn a short while, so if he wanted to make use of it he had to do so now.

He reached over and grabbed the old scroll and studied the words again. A black picture figure depicting the first Kwaade stared back at him. Dhul-Kifl squinted his almond eyes to read the inscription below it. The letters and symbols were confusing little shapes, lines and dashes. The pronunciation of them was simple enough, if he could only differentiate between the letters and figure out what was what.

After several minutes of attempted reading, Dhul-Kifl had had enough for the night. He sat the scroll aside and decided to do his nightly work out. Even in captivity he'd always made a point to stay in shape for his military duties. The fruits and nuts he'd been fed since being held by the natives gave me a good amount of energy, so he used it for nights like these to train and work out. Dhul-Kifl drew a deep breath and got to his hands and knees before lifting up and beginning a set of pushups.

Further down the way, in his own hut Tariq had just risen from a set of pushups. He exhaled deeply and stood up. He looked to the corner. Beside his bowl of water sat the open book, the page turned to the drawing of the lands. Staring hard at the picture, Tariq let out another sigh. He reached down and grabbed the ghutrah he had been allowed to keep. It was a gift from his wife, something she'd given him the day he left out on his journey. "Return to us soon," Ruwaydah had said to him as she placed the ghutrah on his head. "And until you do, keep this with you, keep me with you." As his fond memories of his wife came to mind, a look of determination came over him. "I will return," he said in a low voice.

Tariq took the ghutrah and wrapped it over his head, keeping it in place. He fastened the boots on his feet and rolled up the bottom of the loose blue thobe he'd been wearing, tying the bottom in a knot around his waist to keep it from falling. Back in the other hut, Dhul-Kifl had finished his pushups and was doing a practice session of his gentle martial arts. He stepped lightly about the room, his movements precise and calculated as he did slow fluid strikes with his two hands. His eyes were closed as he moved here and there, rising up in some places, and ducking down into strikes and blocks at other places.

Tariq stretched his arms across his body and stretched his back. He rose up and began shifting in his place. He wanted to fully awaken his energy. He began springing on his feet, doing a little shadow boxing to get his heart pumping and his blood rushing. Dhul-Kifl rose up from an outstretched fighting stance and raised both hands outward and over his head before pushing them downwards in his center, palms down. He let out a deep breath and closed his eyes. Just as he was about to turn around and sit beside his bowl of food for the night he heard a commotion outside.

With a curious eyebrow raised, he turned towards the exit. As he lifted his leg to take one step, suddenly a body came flying through. Dhul-Kifl quickly stepped aside and the body crashed into the ground behind him. He looked down to see an unconscious guard lying in the dirt. There were a few grunts and loud thudding sounds before another body was tossed inside. Dhul-Kifl looked up towards the exit to see the broad figure of his companion Tariq ibn Sulayman. He understood exactly what was going on and didn't ask any questions. He quickly reached for the scroll on the ground, figuring it could come in handy when they returned to their homeland. Placing the scroll in a sash he wore around his waist, Dhul-Kifl turned towards Tariq and nodded. The two were going to make their escape now.

In the dark of night the two warriors fled their imprisonment using only the sparse light from the moon. The people of the village had gone to sleep, save for the guards assigned to keep watch over the two to ensure that they didn't leave their huts until they completed their assignments. Tariq and Dhul-Kifl ran as fast as they could, not exactly sure where they were even going. They just needed to get away from the village as fast as possible. Scrambling through all the brush and forestry the two breathed fast and heavy as the cool air breezed past them.

Dhul-Kifl ducked down and slid under a low hanging branch as Tariq dive-rolled over a thick, fallen tree trunk. The leaves and twigs crunched beneath their feet as they ran through the path, pushing vines and shrubs from their way. There was a small flicker of light behind the trees ahead and as they neared them Tariq and Dhul-Kifl could hear voices speaking in the tongue of the natives. Coming up to the trees, they could just make out the shapes of tree men behind all the greenery.

The two warriors rushed through the brush and pounced into attack mode. Tariq swung a strong fist downward that connected hard with the jaw of one of the men. Before the man could stumble back or regain his composure Tariq struck into his stomach with his left hand, gripping him fiercely and threw him into a tree trunk. The man slumped to the ground, cold and unconscious. Tariq turned around to see Dhul-Kifl parry the attack of one of the men and spin around quickly to strike the other man in the face with his elbow. He thrusted his other elbow right behind him, hitting the first man in the ribs and Tariq ran up to punch the man in the face before he could make any sounds. With two men down and unconscious there only remained one native, standing alone and bloodied.

Tariq and Dhul-Kifl both rushed him but right before they could catch hold of him he let out a loud shrieking sound. Instantly an echo of clicking sounds reverberated through the forest, followed by yips and yowls. Tariq caught the man by the throat and silenced him by throwing him into a tree. "You and your animal calls will not stop me from returning to my home," he spat as the man's body slammed into the ground. "No matter who you call on."

Tariq turned to Dhul-Kifl but before another word could be spoken there was a rustling in the leaves high up and all around. An arrow darted through the thick leaves and landed just beside Dhul-Kifl's right foot. "They're here," he warned Tariq. "Up there."

"We need to run."

"Which way? They may be all around."

"I have a map." There were footsteps coming in fast and heavy. Five, ten, fifteen men in the nearest vicinity. Tariq looked to Dhul-Kifl who nodded in reply to the question he knew was on his mind. He'd heard them too, all of them. As the first man leapt through the brush, Dhul-Kifl moved to deflect the incoming attack. The man swung down a poison tipped knife and Dhul-Kifl caught him by the forearm. Dhul-Kifl pulled the man in close and drove his elbow into his ribs. He twisted the man's arm over until it popped from its place and he kicked him over onto the ground.

"Check your map for directions, I will hold them off." Before Tariq could protest two more men leapt out from behind him. Moving quickly, Dhul-Kifl swiped up the knife from the first man and spun past Tariq to deflect their attacks. He sliced the throat of one man and drove the knife down into the side of the neck of the other. Both fell to the ground, blood gushing from their bodies. Dhul-Kifl gave a look of urgency to Tariq and he understood its meaning. He quickly pulled the book from his shirt and moved into the light, flipping through the pages for the map.

As Tariq flipped on through the book in search of the map, Dhul-Kifl dealt with the waves of natives coming through the brush. He fought in a circular motion, stepping across himself and dealing powerful blows with open palms to the chests and abdomens of the attacking natives. Every blow knocked the wind from their bodies and dropped them to the ground, with some coughing up blood and choking in agony. Dhul-Kifl slammed his elbow into the face of one man before spinning around to deflect the blade of another by hitting the bend in his arm. He drove the man's own poisoned dart into himself and pushed his body over.

"I've found it," Tariq exclaimed. Dhul-Kifl quickly turned to face him as if to ask which direction. "That way!" Tariq pointed up in a northwestern direction.

"Quickly," Dhul-Kifl began. "Let's move." Tariq just stood in his place, a blank look on his face. "What are you doing?" Dhul-Kifl quickly moved over to approach Tariq before he saw him fall to the ground, unconscious. There were at least five darts jutting from his back. Dhul-Kifl looked behind him to see the dart blowers, two tall men dressed in dark cloaks. Their painted hands held dart blowing tools and long blades. From behind them emerged a crowd of blade wielders, all concealed in their dark cloaks.

Dhul-Kifl looked to Tariq on the ground, and behind himself he could hear the footsteps of many other natives. He was surrounded and his companion had been poisoned. There was no moving back. He raised his arms in surrender before a dart was blown into the side of his neck. As he reached for the splinter in his side, several more darts penetrated his flesh. With the poison running through his blood. Dhul-Kifl joined his companion on the ground. He fell to his hands and knees, his vision blurry. His limbs gave out and he fell completely on his face. He looked up, seeing the bodies move closer. A pale hand held a gleaming blade as one of the cloaked figures stood over him. Dhul-Kifl's vision faded to black as the men all gathered around he and Tariq...


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