Padeshahi (the Kingdom)

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Basma's Story II

The 12th Bell rang out and Basma sat up from where she had been sleeping on the couch, curled up next to her partner Kambiz. Without moving, she checked on her patient. His breathing was slow and steady and none of his wounds had broken open during their rest, which was a good thing. All in all, she thought as she stretched up as far as her small frame would allow, there were worse ways to wake up than next to her beloved. Even though he was only sleeping right now because of the healing she had been forced to do to him.

That thought brought a snarl to the Qazzam’s lips as she carefully got up, doing her best not to jostle the resting Bozmajeh-Mard. Not that Kambiz was grumpy when he woke up. Lethargic, yes; irritated, no. It was one of the things Basma loved about him. That, and how it made her feel complete when he told her what to do. Others may not understand, but it worked for them and that was that. As her people said, “alnnar sakhinat, la yuhimm mmadha” or “Fire is hot, it doesn’t matter why.”

Trying to distract herself from negative thoughts, Basma attached her veil to the back of her head and put on her calf-leather sandals, already wearing her black silk vest and trousers. She hadn’t seen a point in getting undressed just to snuggle with her beloved while he was passed out. She knew what Kambiz’s reaction would be if he knew what she was about to go do, hence why she wasn’t telling him until after it was done. The Aryan had a saying that fit quite well in situations such as these: better to beg forgiveness than to ask for permission. Before she unlocked the door, the shaman made sure to put on her fowgh goggles and to cover her shoulders with an orange-colored wrap; then, she eased the massive door open as quietly as she could and slipped outside.

After she had closed and locked the door, the Qazzam gave herself a moment to let her eyes adjust to being outside. Goggles or no, it was still ridiculously bright out of the cool dark environment of her home. It made her miss her homeland so much at times. Honestly, why anyone would enjoy always being unnecessarily half-blinded was beyond her. But, the Elements had told her that this was where she belonged, and who was she to question them? Her people had many cautionary tales told of what happened when the Elements were ignored, and as could be imagined none of them ended with, “…and they lived happily ever after.”

Shaking the cobwebs from her mind, Basma stomped off following the blood trail that Kambiz had left when he returned home. Thank the Elements there hadn’t been a storm or a haboob since he had been attacked; if that had happened, she didn’t know what she would have done. It wasn’t like there was a plethora of trackers just hanging around Amol waiting for work from angry shamans looking to discover where their partner had been ambushed.

Kambiz hadn’t actually confirmed that it was an ambush, but Basma knew her partner’s skills. She couldn’t believe that if the attackers had come at the Bozmajeh-Mard in a fair fight that he would have lost badly enough to leave behind his tabars and to limp home bleeding. He had forged those weapons himself when he came of age to be recognized as an adult. Losing them would make him lose so much honor that it would be as if he was a child again. And that just wasn’t acceptable to Basma.

Neighbors approached her and asked if everything was all right or if they could assist in any way. Thanking them each and every time, Basma said that she was fine and that she was just taking care of a pest problem that had plagued Kambiz. Not wanting to intrude or to insinuate that she was incapable of handling herself, each time they smiled and wished the shaman good fortune in her hunting -though she did have a spare canteen and some goat cheese made with hot peppers handed to her at one point, to help her keep her strength up in the heat of the day the old woman had said. Rejecting those would have been a major insult, and so Basma took them with a smile. Besides, she thought as she finished off the cheese and drank the last of the water from the canteen, she had been slightly hungry and thirsty. Only a fool refuses to recognize the signs their body gives them when it has needs.

It made her smile to think how people like Arash looked down on the people who lived in this area alongside her. Just because they weren’t quite as rich or famous as the Aryan was didn’t make them bad; in fact, Basma thought, it made them more real than the duelist acted. He could learn a thing or two from people who make to with little and still enjoy life. Someday, somebody is going to come along and knock him for a loop, the Qazzam chuckled, and I hope I am there to see his ego deflated. A little humility would do him some good.

Finally, the shaman turned down a sand-lined alleyway and found the site of the ambush. There was no doubt in her mind that this was the place. For starters, there was a few large patches of dried blood turned to mud that gave proof that whatever these people had hoped to accomplish, they paid for it with their lives. Then, there were the two tabars stuck into the dirt against the back wall, an uncommon weapon in Amol. Kambiz will be so upset about the dirt sullying them he will clean his blades for a week, Basma thought angrily. And finally, there was a lizard that had been pinned to the brick and clay wall with a large knife through its torso. Scrawled in blood in Aryan above the poor dead creature were the words, “You’re next.”

Seeing that, Basma was so relieved that her partner hadn’t been the one to find this. It would have sent him off into one of his infamous dervish rages, and woe to anyone who got in his way or even looked like the ones who had attacked him. Something caught her eye, fluttering momentarily in a stray gust of wind, and the shaman knelt down next to the tabars to see what it was. Reaching out, Basma pulled up a torn piece of thick black wool that had been partially buried next to where the tabars had been shoved into the dirt. “I’ve got proof now, you son of a goat suckling whore,” she hissed through clenched teeth. Only one type of person wore black wool in the heat of the summer, and that was a magi.

Unfortunately, even with this she didn’t believe the authorities would do anything against Bahram. Even though he was the only sheikh that Basma knew of in Amol at the time, and all the magi that were here worked for him, the town leaders were so wrapped up in “whatever a sheikh does, they do with the blessing of E’laa’hi” that they would never call him out on what had to be an attack sanctioned by him. Even if the shaman could find somebody with a backbone, she could just hear Bahram’s oily voice now, proclaiming that whatever had been done had been the work of people acting under their own motive and that punishment had already been dealt out.

Stuffing the black rag into her belt pouch –you never knew when something like that could come in handy, Basma reasoned with herself- the shaman strained to pull Kambiz’s tabars out of their dirt sheathes so she could take them back home. Dripped in sweat after she had pulled them out and laid them down on the ground, she despaired of ever being able to get them home by herself. Suddenly, two young Aryan boys stumbled out of their house, loudly voicing their annoyance at a mug of water being spilled on them from out of nowhere. Thanking the Element of Water, the shaman called out to the drenched youth for help and in no time, they were each carrying one of the massive axes and following her back home.

When they reached her house and carefully propped the tabars against the wall, Basma insisted on giving them each 5 shahi for their troubles. While not a whole lot of money, it could easily buy them some creamy gaz to eat, and the shaman just so happened to know that one of the stalls in the nearby bazar had some made this morning. Personally, she preferred the kinds made with almonds, but that wouldn’t happen until the early fall. While the two young boys made small tokens of protest about not needing to be paid to help out someone who did so much for everyone else, the thoughts of the sweet treat soon won out over their honor. Shyly, they took the money, running off and laughing about how much their stomachs would hurt from eating the nougat. Shaking her head fondly and wondering if she had ever been that young, the shaman unlocked her door and opened it.

“And just where have you been, Basma?” a voice growled out from the darkened home, and her heart skipped a beat before realizing that it had come from Kambiz. Then, it skipped a beat again, because that was the tone he usually had before he went into a rage. Swallowing a couple of times and remaining silent for the moment as she put aside her fowgh goggles, she heard him get up from the couch and approach her. “I woke up and you weren’t here, and since right now you would usually be sleeping I was worried. You know I don’t like it when you worry me. What dangers have you been up to, hmm?”

“Dangers, my love? Why would I be in danger?” she spoke out, confident he couldn’t hear the lie in her words. “You know I leave the dangers to you.”

Stepping up to her, not for the first time did Basma wish that Kambiz was softer in some fashion, because him looming over her turned her on in the fiercest of ways. But, if you wished in one hand and defecated in the other, it was clear which one would get filled first she thought bemusedly. Besides, even if she had the power to change his form to something a little more…compatible with hers, it wouldn’t be HIM. He was who he was, and she loved him for it, not in spite of it.

“I know you have been in dangers because that is who you are, my sweet. You have your own honor as strong as mine, and I know that you look out for me like I look out for you. But, since you have disobeyed me –and lied to me- I feel I have no choice but to spank…wait, is that neat’s-foot oil I smell on you?” It was the oil that Kambiz used to keep the leather wrapped around the tabar handles supple, and since he didn’t sweat they always kept his grip.

The thrill that had started in her nether region at the thought of being taken over his knee faded as Basma caught up to what Kambiz was saying. “Yes, my love. I went and got your tabars for you. And, for once I do not care if you are angry about it.” Raising her chin, she stared up at him as he seemed taken aback at her audacity.

Kambiz leaned down over the Qazzam and growled softly, his natural sibilant tongue making it rumble in his throat like an oversized cat’s purr. “We will come back later to why you seem to think my opinion doesn’t matter.” His brow furrowed in confusion. “I know my axes together probably weigh more than you. How did you get them back here, Basma?”

While she normally enjoyed their dynamic of “he was in charge, she did what she was told”, for some reason Basma wasn’t having it today. “The Elements provided me a way to get them back here safely, as is my due as a Shaman. And as to why: you nearly died back there, Kambiz. You do realize that, right? If I had been asleep when you came in, or if a neighbor had called upon me for an emergency and I wasn’t home, you would have!” Shivering, she wrapped her arms around her torso. “So, yes I took a risk. And it is one I would take again gladly!” As she finished, she stared up defiantly into her Bozmajeh-Mard’s reptilian eyes, which widened slightly as if he couldn’t believe her words or tone. Honestly, Basma barely believed it herself.

Standing back up, Kambiz cleared his throat a few times and paced back and forth for a moment before turning once more to face her. “I am…sorry, my dear heart. I didn’t mean to give you a scare. Sometimes I forget how much you depend on me.”

It was as much of an apology as he had ever offered, so when Kambiz knelt down and opened up his arms Basma rushed to him and held him tight as his arms enveloped her. “I do depend on you, and don’t you forget it!” she said as she buried her face in his harness, relishing the dry smell of his scales and the hot sand he used to keep himself clean. He nuzzled the top of her bald head with his chin, careful to only go in the direction his scales sat so as not to cut her.

After a moment they parted, but not before he kissed her forehead and she kissed the top of his snout where his nostrils were. “You believe me that it was those tick-ridden magi that attacked me, yes?” Kambiz asked Basma, and she nodded yes. “Good. Because if you didn’t, if you started to doubt me, I…I…” He didn’t finish his sentence, just stared off into the distance before shaking his head. “But what do we do now, my beloved?”

Sniffling a few times as she wiped her eyes, Basma got herself together and looked up once more into her partner’s eyes. “Now, my love, now we go find Arash and Yuri and assist them in their foolhardy plan to take down that bastard once and for all.” Even though she knew that the two young men had promised to be back her in an hour or so, the shaman was tired of reacting to events. She wanted to be proactive for once. Besides, it wasn’t like Kambiz had heard her when she told those two they would wait for their return, so it wasn’t as if she was breaking a promise. Well, not really breaking so much as ignoring it, she argued with herself, so that made all the difference.

“Wait. I know that Arash is that flashy duelist you patched up a couple of days ago, but who in the name of the Sands is Yuri?” Kambiz asked her as he opened the door and stepped out to pick up his tabars. Basma barely managed to turn her head and clinch shut her eyes before he did; even then, it gave her a twinge behind her eyelids, but it wasn’t bad enough that she would have a light-headache because of it. Those took hours to fade away, hours they didn’t have. Unaware of what had happened, the Bozmajeh-Mard placed his weapons on his table and went looking for his tools to cleanse them.

Since she knew that he wouldn’t go anywhere until his tabars had their honor restored, Basma chose to answer Kambiz’s question. “Yuri is a Sand…forgive me, a Liyudi. For reasons unknown, the Aryan has ensnared him in his little scheme of revenge.”

“Ah, the Liyudi. Great people, appreciative of fine craftsmanship, and they make an excellent soup they call borscht. Have you had it before, Basma? They serve it cold, of all things!” Kambiz chuckled to himself as he took out the copper brush and began gently scrubbing the blades, checking carefully for any nicks or divots in the steel. Once that was done he took out some lanolin oil and applied a tiny amount to each tabar, letting it rest for a minute while he put the rest of his tools away and left out his abrasive wool cloth to scrub the oil off.

While she could always watch him work, there wasn’t any time for daydreaming and fantasizing. Shaking her head, Basma turned away from Kambiz and began to prepare her travel bag of medicines and other shaman paraphernalia. Last but not least she checked her weapon, a hammer that Kambiz had crafted himself and gifted to her the day they moved in together.

“I haven’t tried it, beloved; maybe when this is all done, Yuri can treat us to some in his mother’s caravan. And, although I didn’t overhear where they were going, I’m going to guess from things Arash said that he needed Yuri to build some kind of device to either defeat or hinder Bahram. There’s really only one place they could go for that kind of knowledge.”

“Of course, the Sassanid Library. That’s why you are the brains and I am the brawn in our relationship, my beloved.” Kambiz said this while taking a few practice swings with his newly cleaned weapons. They must have passed muster, for the Bozmajeh-Mard sheathed his tabars on his back and turned to face Basma, smiling as he looked at her prepared for battle. “Shall we join them, my darling?”

“Lead the way, dear heart.” Tossing him a wink, Basma quickly donned her goggles as Kambiz strolled past her and opened up the door. She closed and locked it as he stood guard, as they had done many times before. Side by side, they left their neighborhood behind and went to find what kind of mischief their companions had gotten into.

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