Chapter 26: The Sanctuary pt2
"You will find the nearest of them in affection to the believers those who say, 'We are Christians.' That is because among them are priests and monks and they are not arrogant."(5:82)
4 Ramadan, 1663
Dhul-Kifl awakened to find himself lying on a soft mat woven of grass and leaves. He was shaded from the midday sun by a roof of clay overhead. He could hear muffled voices a short distance away, speaking an unfamiliar language. He sat up and opened his eyes, taking in the plain room around him. There wasn't much to see besides the brown clay walls and the wooden crosses supporting the structure. A short bit away from him Tariq rested on a similar leafy mat.
From the entry way, Dhul-Kifl could hear the voices growing nearer and their language was becoming clearer. Three long shadows entered the room, followed the figures of three men, all dressed in simple brown cloaks. The foremost of the men was the oldest of them; an aged man whose pale skin had been tanned and wrinkled with time spent on the island. His beard was peppered with grays here and there, as was the short hair he wore on his head. To his right stood a slightly younger man, his skin naturally dark. His brow was creased as his eyebrows were raised high along with the wide grin on his face. On the left of the older man stood a man in his youth; tan in complexion with silky black hair that hung past his earlobes. Unlike his older companions, he didn't have much of a beard growing on his chin, only a mustache lining his top lip.
The men entered the room and Dhul-Kifl eyed them carefully. The oldest of the men tapped the younger man on the shoulder and gave a nod. The young man faced Dhul-Kifl with a smile. "¿Hablas Español?" he asked. Dhul-Kifl arched an eyebrow and the boy repeated again. "¿Hablas Español?"
"Si," Tariq answered, finally opening his eyes. "Pero, we would prefer you speak this language instead."
"Ah, well enough," the oldest man spoke. "I am glad you are both well. My companions and I would like to sincerely apologize for ambushing you last night."
"Who are you?"
"And where have you taken us?" Dhul-Kifl added.
"Ah, pardon me. I am brother Samuel, this to my right is brother Jacob, and to my left is brother Tomas. We are monks here at this temple."
"Temple?" Tariq questioned, springing up. "As in sanctuary?"
"Indeed. You are among friends here, so be calm."
"We were in search of this place."
"Ah, were you now? We had a feeling that might be the case. This is why we brought you here in the first place."
"Why did you poison us?" Dhul-Kifl asked skeptically.
"We were unsure of your motives upon finding the place; we needed to disarm you before allowing you in. We apologize sincerely for that, but given our past experiences we must take caution with any individuals nearing our hidden sanctuary. Tell me, for what purpose have you been seeking this place? Or rather, what are you doing in this land in the first place; as I doubt you are from among the Kwaadi or the Talanera people."
"I am Dhul-Kifl ibn Hisham. My companion, Tariq ibn Sulayman, and I have come to this land in search of a medicinal herb for our Amir. During our expedition, however, we were attacked by the natives. We managed to avoid capture for a few weeks but were eventually taken down by their poisons and such. We were held captive there, as the Chieftain refused to permit us to ever leave. Tariq and I devised a plan of escape, following a map he found in one of their books and-"
"You can read their books?"
"We- we were learning," Tariq answered. "That is how I discovered this sanctuary. I knew that we would fare far better amongst your people than among those godless ones."
"Godless? My dear friend they are anything but godless. In fact quite the contrary they are polytheists. They are a people of idolatry, worshiping statues and spiders and such. They worship their books of history as if they are something sacred, valuing knowledge and information over the lives of human beings."
"And what of you?" Dhul-Kifl curiously wondered aloud.
"We are Christians monks," Samuel spoke. "We-"
"'Have only one God,'" Tariq cut in as if coming to a sudden realization. "'Adrono nu oslo Dio!' Of course."
"Ah yes, 'they have only one God.' You do understand a bit of their language."
"Yes. I am still learning though. I intend to learn what is within these books of theirs. I feel that there may be beneficial information within their books."
"Indeed there is. But I believe there is more benefit in books of God. Do you men believe in God?"
"Of course, of course."
"We are Muslims," Dhul-Kifl spoke.
"Ah, I should have known. Well, we have our differences in beliefs, but nonetheless as believers in God you are welcome to stay here in safety from your enemy. We will shelter you, feed you, and protect you for as long as you will to stay."
"Thank you for your kindness," Dhul-Kifl humbly spoke.
"Don't thank us, rather thank God. Kindness and love were ordained upon us and this is what we have been instructed in."
"May God reward you and guide you aright."
"And may He do so for you as well. We are now going for a sermon with our priest, would you like to accompany us?"
"I'm sorry but no thank you," Tariq politely declined.
"Ah, no worries. Should you have any needs, please go and speak with brother Pasqual in the next room over. You will know him when you see him; he is a rather unique fellow."
"You are most welcome. By the way, it is just about time for your afternoon prayers; would you like some water for your ablution before we leave?"
"Yes please." Samuel turned to Tomas and he gave a nod before leaving off to go and fetch some water.
"Would you like anything else? Rugs to pray on perhaps?"
"Alhamdulillah, the whole of the earth is clean for us to pray on," Dhul-Kifl answered. "We are fine."
"Ah. Then perhaps some food for when you are done?"
"It is our month of fasting now, so we cannot eat right now.” Samuel turned to Jacob and Jacob nodded in understanding. He would offer food again at a later time.
"Well, as I have said, we are heading off for a sermon but brother Pasqual is available if you have any other needs. We leave you in God's watchful eyes, peace be with you."
"And upon you as well." The two monks left the room with smiles and disappeared into the dark hallways. Tariq turned to Dhul-Kifl who had now been sitting with his eyes closed, whispering words of prayers under his breath. Indeed gratitude and gratefulness were due to Allah and so Tariq himself turned to thank his Lord. They had escaped the Talanera people and were delivered to a temple of God-fearing Christian monks. Certainly praise and thanks were due to Allah...
"You know," Rayhaan said, taking a bite from the bread in his hand. "I really don't see why we need to share all of our food with these bandits. They're the enemy; who cares if they starve?"
"They are from the creations of Allah," Ali answered back, having a seat on the wooden deck. "Just like us. And that aside, we are commanded to treat the prisoners and captives well."
"Okay, I get that and all, but I mean, these guys tried to kill us and steal our ship. Do we have to sit them down and give them our food? Let them eat their rotten foods they tried to trick us into eating."
"I would love to, but then how will we answer before Allah when questioned about it?"
“You’re right,” Rayhaan sighed.
"Don't worry too much, if what the captain says is true, we will be nearing an island nation in a few days. There we may sell them into slavery, a fitting punishment for them, and we may purchase new goods and materials for ourselves. We'll be rid of them and be on our way to our destination undisturbed In Shaa Allah."
"We're taking their ship right?"
"Oh yeah of course, they don't need it!"
"Good. That little ship has become worrisome to travel in."
"I'm surprised Adam has volunteered himself to stay onboard and watch over it; he's normally more hesitant about these sorts of things."
"Yeah, well it was either that or come on this ship and help watch these bandits. He made a typical Adam decision to avoid a situation that may involve conflict."
"Hm." Ali paused to have a sip of water. "Have you checked on the cactus roses? We must make certain that they are in good condition so that the medics back home can extract the antidote for the Amir. Otherwise, our entire mission will have been a failure."
"Yes, yes, the flower is fine. And the mission won't be a failure if Captain Dhul-Kifl and Tariq can learn something good from those ruins there.”
"True enough. I just hope they're safe until we return In Shaa Allah. Those natives seemed pretty aggressive; do you think those two can hold out until a year or so?"
"I don't know Captain Dhul-Kifl too well, but Tariq? I grew up with him as my older cousin; he's beyond tough. I don't doubt if he's broken a few necks and chopped a few heads by now. They'll be safe In Shaa Allah."
"In Shaa Allah. We need whatever information they can gain there; In Shaa Allah it will be crucial in devising a way to take down Kwaade."
"I don't even know anything about that guy."
"To be honest, man, I don't know anyone who knows anything deep on him. He's quite a mystery."
"Hm. In Shaa Allah they'll find out more about him."
"In Shaa Allah..."
5 Ramadan, 1663
It had been one day since Tariq and Dhul-Kifl had found themselves being taken in by the monks. True to their word, the monks sheltered and fed them well. As expected, God and religious beliefs were a continuous topic among them all, not that anyone minded. Both parties were open to hear what the other had to say and both spoke clearly and confidently about their own beliefs without offending the others.
One topic Tariq and Dhul-Kifl did not foresee was the topic of Kwaade and the Talanera people. They expected some mention of them, as far as the disputes or issues between them, but what they got was much more. Samuel and his companions had taken them to sit with their priest, "father" Esteban Suarez. When he'd heard that they were fugitives from the Talaneras, he decided he would tell them everything he knew about those people and the land they inhabited. He promised to explain to them the ties of the Talaneras and the Kwaadi, as well as the history of Kwaade himself. "All in due time," he'd promised as he placed a hand on the book from Tariq. "All in due time."
Though unlike with the Talanera people, they were free to leave at any time, Tariq and Dhul-Kifl now had good incentives to remain with the monks in their sanctuary and learn the information promised to them. Indeed, their entire purpose for remaining behind when the rest of the crew left was to gather intel on the Kwaadi and figure out the secret to defeating them. To defeat the enemy, they had to first know the enemy. And so Tariq and Dhul-Kifl agreed between themselves: they would remain among the kind Christian folk within the sanctuary to learn the knowledge they needed. Just as well, with the open minds and sincerely devoted hearts they'd found, they couldn't help but stay among the people to tell them about true submission to the One God they all worshipped. All this, and more, would be their devoted cause during their stay at the hidden sanctuary...