The Oasis of Broken Bones
Part Eight – Sons of the Sands
Halakir lounged beneath the glow of the moon, alongside the sweet waters of the fountain with their musical splashes. In one hand he nursed a small glass of fearsome spirits. Despite the serene calm, he found that he could not enjoy it. His hard face stared moodily into the fountain, a grim look upon it. The two had gone, to their deaths he knew, and it sat not well with him. They were not of the deserts and the tribes, but they had been good people and companions, skilled in battle and generous. They were qaslar, those whom oaths had been sworn with.
The clatter of horse hooves came to him, of mounted men riding out of the compound. He looked up at that, for it seemed a strange thing to him. From the direction of the gates, one of his band came, a dark and silent shadow.
“They seek to kill them, Halakir,” the Hashalite reported.
“The honourless dogs of the cities who run this place. I overheard them after our qaslar companions had left.”
“Are you certain of this?” Halakir asked, rising up from his position.
“Most certain. They do not wish for them to uncover the secrets of the oasis, and sent riders out after them, to make sure that the job was done.”
Halakir’s face darkened, at once both grim and joyous, and it was a terrible thing to perceive, the look of a desert raider who comes across easy prey from the cities. “Rouse the riders, oh son of the sands. Let us seek out our qaslar and end the perfidy of these duplicitous sons of the cities. Let us show all what happens to those that cross the Hashala.”
The other man grinned, one that held no compassion, and he hurried off, his robes flowing around him. Halakir strode forth, his hand stroking the hilt of the scimitar at his side. Soon the band of riders began to spill forth from all corners of the compound where they had been resting, all with their weapons. They made for the stables behind Halakir. Behind them a commotion broke out, with the sounds of voice raised in argument and consternation. The guards that remained behind were roused and came out to see what manner of event was taking place. With many of their number away, few enough remained to deal with the Hashalites.
“What is the meaning of this?” one yelled, his eyes wide with concern as he watched the Hashalites head into the stables to collect their horses.
Halakir turned to face him. “We leave to join our friends out there,” he replied.
The guard looked about, eyes flickering this way and that, and back to his companions who clustered tight behind him, seeking out reassurance by proximity.
“No one is to leave the compound,” the guard replied, sounding less than sure of himself.
“Is that so?” Halakir asked. His scimitar leapt into his hand and it slashed down, splitting asunder the head of the guard. Even as the body fell, and before the others could react, a flurry of arrows arced out, striking down the rest of the guards, leaving them littering the sandy ground.
With bows in hand, the other Hashalites led their horses out of the stables. Halakir sprung up on his, pointing to the gates. “Open them,” he ordered.
Two of his men leapt forward to open it, while the rest of the riders sat atop their horses, watching back towards the compound. Merchants and their guards had spilled out at the sounds of the fighting though none appeared eager to get involved.
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