Amira held up her shamshir blade as Camilla brought hers down hard. The clash of metal resonated through the courtyard. Taking a step back, Amira escaped the weight of her attacker’s iron. But Camilla wouldn’t lose her prey easily, she advanced with unmatched energy. Amira deflected assault after assault taking a step back with each one. When she felt the loose gravel under her feet, it was too late. Her ankle twisted and she fell backwards colliding to the ground with intense force.
Camilla brought her shamshir to Amira’s neck and held it there.
Their eyes met, and the fire in Camilla’s eyes dimmed as she smirked. “Yield baby sister.”
Amira let go of her sword and put her hands up.
From the shadows Aaron clapped, breaking the silence. “Very good Princess Camilla. You’ve been practicing. Princess Amira, I expected more from you. Have you practiced at all since our last training session?”
Camilla leaned down to help her little sister to her feet. “She’s been too busy reading in the library.”
Amira dusted off her sky-blue pants and adjusted her matching blouse. Her hair was in a loose pony tail unlike Camilla who had been smart enough to braid her hair before the duel.
Aaron, the head of the royal guard, frowned, “I know you think your studies are more important, but it’s vital that you learn to defend yourself princess.”
“What’s the point? Camilla’s going to be sultana one day, she’ll go to war if we need.” Amira scoffed under her breath.
With a nod Aaron pointed to the youngest princess, “But if anything happens to her, the responsibility will fall on you. You must prepare for anything.”
Amira turned away from him and rolled her eyes.
“Princess Amira…” Aaron waited expectantly.
“I’ll practice this week. I promise.” Amira picked up her shamshir and placed it back into the scabbard. She turned to face him as she spoke.
A look of relief passed over Aaron’s face. He nodded, bowed, and then took his leave.
“We can practice together this week if you’d like?” Camilla offered.
Amira smiled up at her sister who wore her favorite color, a deep red jeweled blouse and crimson pants. “Thanks, I just can’t seem to handle changes in footing.”
“You should work on your balance this week.” She fixed her tikka headpiece. The jewels made a sun symbol with a ruby in the center.
“I’m just not that good. I wish I was just like you.”
Camilla paused and took a step closer, “Amira, you should want to be just like you. You are beautiful and fun and creative and intelligent. You are one in a million and no one can live life the way you do. Just because you’re not the best at sword fighting doesn’t mean you’re not amazing at other things. You just need more practice and it will come to you. It took me eighteen years to get this good, I’ve got two years of experience on you.”
“You’re right I guess.”
Wrapping her arm around Amira, Camilla pulled her toward the palace. “Of course, I’m right baby sister. I’m always right.”
Lina, a young servant came running up to the pair and dropped to her knees with her head to the ground. “Your majesties, the sultan summons you.”
Camilla and Amira looked at each other with wide grins. Camilla spoke first, “Could it be? Do you think he’s received word already?”
Amira beamed, “Anything’s possible! Let’s go find out.”
Both girls squealed with excitement as they raced through the corridors and stopped just outside the throne room. They brushed themselves off and regained their composure before entering.
With as much elegance and grace as they had, the princesses of Alsalaam walked before the throne. Their father, Hassan Al Malki, sat on an extravagant platform reclining against plush pillows. Adorned in golden robes, he looked regal and rich. As he laid eyes on his beloved children, his face brightened.
“My daughters. How was training? I hope my messenger didn’t interrupt.”
Camilla shook her head, “It was good father, your messenger caught us just as we were finishing.”
“And who won this round?” Hassan lifted an eyebrow at Amira.
“Camilla did father.” Amira spoke with a tinge of shame in her voice.
Their father tilted his head in disappointment as Camilla jumped in to the rescue, “But Amira fought with an ferocity that I couldn’t match.”
“Apparently you did match it if you beat her. Amira… When are you going to start taking this seriously? You need to learn how to defend yourself child.” His words cut deep like daggers to her heart. She knew that it was important, but she just wasn’t good at it. She was better at her studies, but all the knowledge she had couldn’t compare to Camilla’s experience. And her sister would never go easy on her. Camilla loved her too much to pretend.
“I shall try harder father.” Amira hung her head.
“I’ll hold you to that my dear. Now, the reason I called you both here is that I have received news.”
Camilla could hardly contain her excitement, “News about?”
Hassan smiled, “News from Prince Zander of Janoubeih. He has asked for your hand in marriage Camilla.”
Camilla rocked on her feet nervously, “Yes father, and what did you tell him?”
With a nod he continued, “I told him you would be honored.”
Amira grabbed her sister’s hands and squeezed.
Camilla broke free and ran to her father, though she was breaking protocol, no one but the scribes were around to see. She threw herself into his arms and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you so much father. Prince Zander is a wonderful man.”
“Are you happy?” He asked.
She nodded enthusiastically, “I’m overjoyed.”
“Oh my,” Camilla backs away from the throne, “There’s so much to do! When can I leave?”
“Slow down, slow down.” Hassan raised his hands trying to calm her down. “You’ll leave next week, the wedding will be the following week. And I’m sending Amira with you.”
Both Amira and Camilla looked shocked. “But why?” Amira’s shoulders raised in her confusion.
“There are rumors that the Yekman tribe is preparing an uprising. This wedding will unite the kingdoms and Prince Zander has promised to send his armies to our aid should the need arise. But I do not want you here when war breaks out Amira. You must go with your sister until it’s safe to return home.”
“But Abba?” Amira called to her father in a soft voice.
“Azizi,” Hassan replied calling her ‘dear.’ “This is not a debate. You will go with Camilla. Look at it this way, you shall be there for the wedding and Prince Zander has promised to take good care of you.”
“What about you father? What will you do?” Amira’s voice raised an octave unintentionally.
Hassan stood and went to his youngest daughter. He reached out his hand and cupped her cheek brushing away a tear that escaped her. “My brave girl, I will be just fine. I have an army to protect me and to protect this city, and soon Prince Zander’s army will be here as well. You need not worry for me.”
She nodded finally accepting his answer. Camilla came and took her by the hand before they both walked out together. She led Amira back to her room where the servants were already packing things. Once they entered, the servants stopped and left the two sisters alone.
Camilla fell onto her bed with a blissful smile. “Can you believe it? We’ve been close since childhood Amira, practically since birth. He’s only a year older than me you know. When mom was around, we spent every summer there do you remember?”
She looked at Amira who was frowning as she wiped a tear from her eye. Camilla bit her lip, “Oh, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought her up.” She scooped her little sister into her arms. “Mom would be proud of the woman you’re becoming Amira. She’s looking down on us from heaven right now I bet. We’ll be together again someday.”
“How do you know? How can you be sure she’s in heaven? And how can you be sure that we’ll join her?”
“Because she was one of the most devout Christians I ever knew. She loved the Lord with all her heart. And I know you have the same love for Christ as I do.”
“And Abba? What about him?” Amira wiped her tears again.
“He still has some work to do. But don’t give up on him, God hasn’t. Your job is to keep praying.”