The Flames of Shadam Khoreh (The Lays of Anuskaya)

Free The Flames of Shadam Khoreh (The Lays of Anuskaya) by Bradley Beaulieu Page B

Book: The Flames of Shadam Khoreh (The Lays of Anuskaya) by Bradley Beaulieu Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bradley Beaulieu
Mahndi used in the desert. “Welcome to Andakhara.”
    The boys accepted the reins of their ab-sair, waiting patiently for them to dismount. They’d discussed it on the way in, that they should not act as if anything were amiss, even if they feared it. The desert tribes did not like outsiders, and if there was any chance Soroush had gone missing for some innocent reason, they needed to find out. So they would follow their customs and remain as wary as they could until they could learn more.
    Once they were all down, the boys took the ab-sair toward the watering trough as a well-muscled man pumped the well. He was bald, except for a full mustache and a trim black beard. He wore no shirt, which revealed the latticework of scars running across his shoulders and chest and arms. He seemed proud to display those scars, however he’d received them. The ab-sair emitted their wails and then fell to drinking the water from the trough, nudging one another out of the way as they did so.
    Before offering greeting, Nikandr pulled his veil from his face. Atiana did the same with her veil. Then all four of them reached down and took a small amount of dirt from the dry earth. Nikandr rubbed it between his palms and then smudged a bit across his forehead, showing these men that they would share of their land, not simply use it.
    When they were done, the wellmaster smiled and bowed his head. “My name is Dahud. Please, what can Andakhara offer you?”
    As Atiana and Nikandr covered their faces once more, Ashan answered, “Rooms for the night, perhaps a handful of water before we leave.”
    Dahud smiled widely and bowed his head once more. “In Andakhara you can set your worries aside, at least for the night. Or more, if you’d like.”
    Most of the men in the well house had gone back to their conversation, but several were still watching, including the stout man at the pump. Dahud seemed to notice, for he glanced toward the well, and then motioned them toward a large clay building with a thatched roof. “There are few enough who remain for more than a night.” He tipped his head back toward the men. “You mightn’t guess it from the way they act, but we welcome those who do.”
    “Another time,” Ashan said. “For now, there are places we must go.”
    Dahud parted the beads that hung from the top of the squared doorway. Inside was a room with a dozen piles of pillows with shishas at the center of each. Two old men in striped kaftans sat on the far side of the room, drawing from the ivory-tipped tubes as a haze of smoke trailed up toward the ceiling. They looked toward the entrance, but then returned to their low conversation.
    “Please,” Dahud said, motioning to a mound of pillows nearby. “You’ll have drink and smoke, and then we can talk.”
    “We couldn’t,” Ashan said.
    But Dahud already had his hands up. “A drink and a bit of smoke. Then we’ll talk.”
    They waited there on those pillows for a long time. More men came to the smoke house, and then several old couples came in as well. A young woman entered from the back of the building, where Dahud had gone. Another one near Atiana’s age followed soon after. They wandered the room, greeting those who entered, bringing them tabbaq for their shishas and araq in deep blue glasses. They all but ignored Nikandr and the others. The sound of conversation and clinking glasses, even laughter, filled the room, and still Dahud did not come.
    “We should go,” Atiana said after a time, echoing Nikandr’s own feelings.
    Ashan, sitting cross-legged comfortably, merely patted the air with his hands and told them to wait.
    Only after the sun went down did Dahud return. He came with a long-necked bottle. Nikandr found himself more eager to partake of the drink—whatever it was—than he would have guessed. As Dahud sat on the pillows across from Nikandr, the two women whisked in, handing glasses to each of them, including Sukharam, and placing a healthy amount of what smelled

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