The Girl In The Veil

©Samuel Mogbolu

Lorius Midel Ep 9

 

 

23/03/2017
short-story-the-girl-in-the-veil-online-story-fantasy-risewiki.com

He sighed and shook his head.

“No, never mind. Come to think of it, I do like quiet places too,” he said, leaning towards me.

“Ah…so you are troubled,” I said.

He chuckled, dropping his head.

“Miletus.” he muttered and then raised his head. “Your father, is he a merchant?”

“Nay…my father is Khamil Aberudeen. He…”

“The doctor?” he interrupted.

“Why yes,” I answered.

“Oh, I have heard so much about him. I heard of his experimental garden, where he planted all those strange herbs he got from his sojourns.” he said.

“How is he…Does he still practise?” Oedimus asked.

“Well, he is the Saif now, so he is rather occupied with his office,”

“Oh, the Saif,” he said “That is admirable and well deserved,”

“Are you a doctor too?” I asked.

He smiled. There was a kind of light in his eyes as if he was amused by something I did not know.

“I… I am many things, Miletus,” he answered “but I definitely cannot work wonders like your father.” he said.

I just nodded, unsure what to make of his answer.

“So, how come you were travelling across the desert in the company of merchants?” he continued.

“I have a merchant friend and he invited me,” I answered.

“So you love adventure?” he asked.

“A lot of young boys do,”

This had him chuckling.

“Did you find the journey appealing?” he asked.

“It is the desert. But I did find a change from the normal way things go,” I answered.

“Ah, a break from the normal way things go. It is a common desire you know, but sometimes the break is different from the expected manner, you know,”

I smiled. I liked this man with his silver hair and unsettling stare.

“Yea,” I said “but if we were to know exactly how the break would be, then it would not be a break anymore would it?”

This time his grin was bolder.

“Exactly!” he exclaimed “but still it is nice when things go as we expect. It takes away the adventure but sometimes it means that dreams come true,” he said.

I nodded seeing the sense in what he was saying.

“Tell me, have you ever desired a break from the way things go?” I asked.

He looked at me, most solemnly and folded his hands.

“Longer than you can imagine, Miletus. Longer than you can imagine.”

They were right. The rain had gone on for hours and it was relentless. It truly looked like it could rain nonstop for days.

Oedimus and I had conversed deep into the night and our talk had taken on a rather philosophical tone although I was quick to realize that he was not in a hurry to reveal much about himself.

This did not make me like him any less. On the contrary, I found his enigmatic nature rather appealing.

I imagined he had a past he would rather forget and had come to this city to find some quiet. Never mind that there was nothing quiet about this city.

He did let me know that he spent most of his time in Algiers and that he had come from across the Mediterranean.

Finally, after I had eaten my dinner, (only because Oedimus prevailed upon me to do so since if I had my way I would spend no coin more than necessary,) I retired to my room and slumped morosely on the malnourished bed.

I cursed the old man for not having enough decency to provide comfortable resting places for his customers.

Of course, it never occurred to me that the reason my father gave me all that money, was so that I could enjoy my journey with as much comfort as possible.

And that by paying the right sum, which was a very easy thing for me to do, I could easily have the best room in the inn.

A pity it was, that at that age I was a coin pincher just like the old man I so disdained. I believe I eventually grew out of that frame of mind.

Anyway the rain lasted for three days not four. At least it proved them all wrong. To me, that was a huge consolation.

Oedimus and I set out quite early in the day, to the Chariot square- a vast sheet of land housing hundreds of horsemen and their carriages.

Although it was still early, the square already bustled with activity as commuters carried their luggage and mounted carriages ready to gallop to and from the highway.

As soon as we got there, at least four riders ran up to us, entreating us to patronize them. They pulled our arms, each man ranting out an inaudible stream of supplications.

Perhaps out of annoyance, Oedimus lifted his right hand. It was strange the way everyone stood still at this gesture of his.

They were just frozen like statues. In fact, the silence of the square was so sudden it echoed. Then Oedimus chose a new carriage with fit looking horses and pulled me with him.

 Just like that we were on our way and in a few hours, the walls of Mouboukti became distant memories.

I studied our rider who was wearing a brown vest and a dark brown trouser. I was absorbed by just observing the way his vest billowed in the wind and at the way the heads of the horses nodded as they galloped.

I turned and noticed that Oedimus watched me. He seemed amused. I turned away from him to look at the tiny hamlets that raced behind us as we went downhill.

Finally, after staring about for a long while, the wind made me drowsy and I fell asleep.

I awoke to Oedimus’ light tapping to find that it was nightfall. He paid the rider while I looked around.

We were still close to the high way and some wagons sped past us. I watched the sparks of fire jump off their wheels as they screeched into the dark moon-less night.

“Come Miletus let us be on our way. It is not safe to be out here at night,” said Oedimus.

We trekked downhill for about two miles, through a grassy field while the crickets and fireflies delivered an original rendition from their choir until we came to a small cylindrical hut made of stones.

Oedimus rapped on the door and a gruff voice from the inside answered.

“Who calls on the inn?”

“A merchant Lad and his companion,” Oedimus answered.

The eye came and peeped through a peephole on the door.

“Merchant lad, eey” he said and then uttered some incomprehensible grunts.

Finally, we could hear the locks move and the door was opened. We walked into a tiny room dimly lit and met the owner of the voice which had addressed us.

The owner was a mountain of a man and was a head and shoulder taller than Oedimus.

“What is your name Lad?” he growled down to us. I even half expected a stream of air to blow in our faces when he spoke.

“Miletus,” I answered quite fascinated.

“Oh…you may go in,” he said, and then turned to Oedimus “you say he is your companion?” he asked.

“Yea,” I answered.

He studied Oedimus for a while, narrowing his eyes and bending to look closer, perhaps noticing Oedimus’ glittery eyes. He scratched his head and sighed.

“You may go in.” he said.

I looked around the room wondering where we were to go to, as there was only one room in the hut and we were standing in it. He stared at the both of us.

“Well… go on, is there any other thing?” he asked.

“Perhaps if we were to know exactly where we are to go to,” I answered.

He shrugged his shoulders.

“Well, is this your first time of being here?” he asked.

“Have you seen me here before?” I answered, my voice rising.

Oedimus placed a gentle hand on my shoulder.

The mountain of a man sighed and grunted causing me to grit my teeth. Then he reluctantly strolled to the middle of the room and placed his feet on a certain spot.

He just stood there for some moments staring at us. We looked at him as the moments passed by.

Finally, we heard a cranking sound and then the spot he was standing on seemed to descend into the floor until we could no longer see his head.

There was a light coming out from the hole, not very bright, but not as dim as the room’s. Then the squares beside the hole shifted away to reveal a larger opening.

“Well, come on already,” he called up to us.

We walked to the opening to see two winding staircases that led deep down into the ground. He was standing on a square platform between the two staircases.

We walked down one staircase and when we came down to his level, he looked at us through brown bored eyes.

“It musta been the levers…been neglected.” he said.

We just kept walking down the flight of stairs which was lined by torches placed on the adjacent wall, until we ended in front of an archway.

On passing the archway, we came upon a well-lit floor. There were several rooms on this floor. There were also staircases that led to lower floors.

I placed my hands on the glistening wooden banisters which glimmered in the torch light and looked down to see a shallow pool down, down on the floor.

At the middle of the pool, there was a golden statue of a naked woman with lions beside her. The lions had their paws raised as if they wanted to touch her waist.

I could not see the face of the statue but only saw the top of her braided hair.

Two men conversed casually beside the pool as one threw his head back laughing and I could see some men dressed in black, with sharp tipped staffs, stroll across the ground floor.

I figured they were guards as I sighted at least four on every floor.

Several slaves, who wore gold necklaces and brown wrappers around their waists, scurried about from room to room, hall way to hall way as they attended to the needs of their guests and I could hear the constant stream of the combination of flutes and cymbals as the music pervaded the arena.

I wondered how my companions expected me to find them in this vast place.

“Come, they are three floors below us.” Oedimus said as he pulled me by the arm and took me down the balcony until we got to another stairway.

“How are you sure?” I asked.

He muttered something I did not understand as we briskly walked down the bright hallways till we got to the floor he was convinced I would find my companions.

A guard walked up to us before we could knock on the door of a chamber.

“Who are you?” the guard asked.

His look was hostile.

“I am a merchant.” I answered.

“I have not seen you here before,” the guard said studying us (especially Oedimus) intently.

“Perhaps because this is our first time,” I answered.

He slowly shook his staff.

“Then how did you get in here?”

“My companions directed me,” I answered, getting quite impatient, as I have always hated being questioned. Perhaps Oedimus noticed this because he interjected.

“His companions are in this room,” Oedimus said.

I dropped my gaze to the floor. It was not enough that a guard was interrogating us; now he was making unfounded claims that could get us in actual trouble. His weird nature was beginning to bother me.

“His companions…and you are?” the guard asked Oedimus.

“Oh, I am his companion.” Oedimus said smiling.

Why was he smiling?

The guard looked at us perhaps at a loss for what to say next and then Oedimus rapped on the door. I prayed inwardly that a familiar face would answer us lest we face the guard’s wrath.

A handsome young boy about my age answered.

“Yes, whom do you seek?” he asked.

“Do you know this pair?” the guard asked the boy.

The boy gave us a quick glance and mumbled.

“Well I certainly have not met them before…,” he said.

I looked reproachfully at Oedimus. He just stared at me as though he was miles away and I was the only one embroiled in this awkward situation.

“Well they claim to be your… companions,” the guard interjected.

“My companions, umm…” the boy was about to say when Traore rushed up to the door and poked his head under the boy’s arm.

“What is going on Usman…” he said then turned to me, his eyes widening and then he noticed the guard.

“Hmm…” he said.

“They claim to be your companions” the boy Usman explained to Traore.

“Do you know this pair?” the guard asked Traore.

I knew it was a stroke of bad luck to have Traore at the door as I saw his eyes glitter with mischief.

“I, umm…my companions, say. Umm no…never seen ’em,” he said, smiling.

The guard gaze was fiery and I lost the last drop remaining in my barrel of patience as I forcefully gripped Traore by his collar about to punch him in the face.

“Why, you annoying little runt…” I raved.

Trust Traore, he screamed out in well-feigned terror so that the guard charged at me except for the swift thinking of Oedimus who so easily relieved him of his staff.

We must have caused quite a ruckus as more guards started to run towards us. Then the other occupants of the chamber materialized at the door wide eyed, some of them had their swords drawn out.

“Miletus!” Lameer exclaimed on seeing me, “You are back.”

The guard’s reinforcements had reached us now.

“What is going on here!” one of them barked.

“I would ask you to let go of that guard!” another shouted to Oedimus who still had the guard pinned against the wall while his free hand held the fellow’s staff.

Oedimus calmly let him go and returned his weapon to him.

“Now what caused all this commotion?” the guard asked.

 

Amina

I woke up the next morning on a soft large bed with white sheets in a white walled chamber. Maybe the chamber was cream coloured as I could not be certain because of the hue cast by the candlelight.

There was a hole high up on the wall just enough to fit me in a sitting position, I estimated.

As I sat up, I replayed the events of the previous night, at how long it took Lameer to calm the furious guards who wanted a concrete explanation for Oedimus’ rough treatment of their fellow worker.

I remember how impressed I was when I entered the chamber and found that it was a full suite with up to ten rooms.

I had gone inside and endured a detailed interrogation from everyone in the suite, most especially my rider, who probably was the happiest at my return; as the heavy weight of being the one to lose me, was finally lifted off his shoulders.

“Only someone with your preoccupied nature will get lost in a throng of people…at your age!” Traore had exclaimed.

“Enough Traore, you have caused enough trouble tonight.” Lameer had said.

Of course, I planned to deal with Traore when the right moment presented itself.

I looked at the second bed in my chamber and noticed that it was empty. It had been agreed the previous night, that Oedimus share my chamber with me; which had been kept in the event of my return.

I placed my feet on the cold tile floor and pulling a coat over my robe, walked into the common room.

Traore and Usman were sitting at a corner table, playing a game of cards. But Oedimus, Lameer and about six other merchants, sat at the long table, eating and conversing.

It was the first time I actually noticed Oedimus eating. At least he ate actual food I mused.

It struck me that we may never get to see the daylight until we leave the inn as I observed the chandelier hanging over the table.

There were no windows save for the occasional holes in the wall like the one in my chamber.

I joined them to seat at the table feeling quite hungry already.

“Assalamu Alaikum” I greeted.

“How was your night?” Hassan asked.

“Very peaceful,” I said

“Not like the ones at the inn in Mouboukti, I assume,” Lameer teased.

“I was not that anxious,” I said, “except that the beds there were too thin.”

“It’s the room you paid for.” Oedimus said, “Mine was not so bad,”

“And you paid perhaps fifty gold coins, I can imagine.” I said, quite annoyed that anyone who had experienced a night in that inn would try to redeem its qualities.

Oedimus shrugged.

“Well, is that not the purpose of money? To meet needs?” he asked while the others nodded in agreement.

“And I did notice you with an impressive sum.” one of the merchants interjected as they all chuckled.

“Good services should be reasonably affordable.” I retorted petulantly.

“Ah, now Miletus, life is not reasonable and it definitely is not affordable.” Hassan said and they all laughed, except for Oedimus who just sipped his tea, his eyes never leaving me.

After the meal, I walked out unto the balcony. To my surprise, the place was bright, much brighter than the previous night.

Somehow this underground inn was receiving the daylight. I looked down at the statue and it sparkled in the light of the day.

So quite confused, I looked around to locate the source of the light. That is when I noticed that the ceiling, which had been a tiled surface the night before, was no longer there and rather, a wide opening that bared the sky, had taken its place.

It was through this atrium that light flooded the whole inn and all the floors of the premises.

This was so impressive to me because even though the rooms were poorly lit from the light due to their expected lack of windows; this technique ensured that the place had a healthy dose of daylight and a good bout of fresh air.

Later in the day, Lameer and several merchants left the inn claiming that they had some business to attend.

When I offered to go with them, Lameer gently insisted that I stay back and rest. He acted as if the days I spent being lost, had somehow rendered me an invalid that needed to rest and regain strength.

Oedimus too, mysteriously disappeared only to return late at night.

Thus I was doomed to spend the day with Traore and Usman who were intent on introducing me to a pretty girl that occupied a chamber with her companions on the lowest floor.

I was not interested and quickly retired to my room. I met a slave carrying my clothes to wash them.

I sat on my bed wondering just how to spend the day when my mind flashed, and i sprang up in alarm.

My pouch of gold was in that robe! I dashed out of the suite expecting to see the slave somewhere on the balcony but to my dismay, he was nowhere to be found.

My brother and Usman both stood on the balcony gazing down at other occupants of the inn.

“What is the matter Miletus?” Traore asked turning to me.

“Did you see any slave walk out of here?” I asked.

They both nodded, their eyes sparkling as they sensed adventure.

“Well did you see where he went?” I asked impatiently.

“I am not sure… I think he went into one of the rooms,” Usman said, looking to Traore for confirmation.

“What do you want with the slave?” Traore asked.

I certainly was not inclined to tell him; so I walked aimlessly down the balcony, perhaps hoping the slave will come out from one of the rooms.

“Perhaps if you tell us, we may be inclined to help,” Traore called out.

I turned back to the duo.

“How are you going to help me?” I asked.

 “Well, we know the routine around here,” Usman said.

“And I know exactly how the slave looks like,” Traore said, “you know nothing escapes my eyes.”

Truly, Traore was keenly observant; Keenness was an essential tool in his important business of mischief.

“Maybe I even know exactly which room the slave entered,” he added.

Traore was also very good at selling air to his victims. He probably was just saying the right things to make me eager, but then, I had no choice.

“The slave has my pouch of gold.” I said.

“Aww,” Usman said.

The look on his face had no resemblance to sympathy. He was the second pea in Traore’s pod.

“Tut, tut, tut. The fool has parted with his pouch of gold.” Traore said and they both chuckled.

“Well are you going to help me or not?” I asked.

“Now now, dear brother, calm down; we might be able to help you,” Traore said, “the question is…”

“What do we get in return?” Usman finished, rubbing his fingers together.

“What do you mean by that? We are brothers!” I exclaimed.

Traore frowned.

“Who said anything to the contrary?” he asked like I had just uttered the most ridiculous statement he ever heard.

I sighed.

“You can have ten gold coins each.” I said.

They shook their impish heads.

“Twenty.” they said in unison.

“Let it be so.” I acquiesced.

To my chagrin, Traore dipped his hands into his pocket and brought out my pouch of gold. Usman quickly stood in front of me, while Traore retrieved forty gold coins from the pouch.

“Here is your precious pouch, brother,” he said, handing it to me.

I just stared at them as I received it, too annoyed for words. Why had I not noticed his bulging pocket?

“You should be grateful brother,” Traore said.

“The slave was making away with it.” Usman added.

I just walked inside with my much lighter pouch. It probably was not as light as I reasoned except that it burnt me to have lost so much to those imps.

“Hey Miletus the girl we told you about is coming up.” Traore breezily called out as if we were on the best of terms.

I ignored them and slumped on my bed, already beginning to stare blindly at the patterns on the ceiling.

My mind had gone into that familiar state where nothing is exactly in focus, and no concrete thoughts are running through when I heard their voices close to my room.

I would have ignored them but I could hear an extra female voice.

As the voices drew nearer, I got up quickly and walked out to meet them. I knew if I failed to do so, they would bring the girl into my room for sure, while perhaps feeding her a fake story of my inherent shyness.

True enough, they were already at my door and as I walked out, I almost bumped into the trio.

“Ah here you are Miletus, we thought you were asleep.” Traore said to me, smiling sheepishly as if he had any qualms about waking me up.

“This is Amina,” he said, referring to a girl whose face was covered with a black veil. She stood between the both of them.

She curtseyed and muttered a greeting, and I could imagine a smile under the thin black veil.

“Greetings Amina…beautiful name.”

She giggled.

From the way she felt at ease around them, I figured she was just as annoying as the two demons. I was about to say something when Traore announced.

“I believe Usman and I should head off for a while…the two of you can umm get acquainted” he said with a grin while he made funny motions behind her back.

He pulled a rather unwilling Usman with him and they both walked out and stood on the balcony.

Well if they thought forcing a stranger on me would mortify me, then I was quite happy to prove them wrong.

I turned back to the girl.

“So, you came with merchants?” I asked.

She shook her head.

“No, no merchants… I am to be married to someone in your city.”

Great, they wanted me to get acquainted with a betrothed damsel, someone else’s property.

 

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About

I’m just Samuel, bony faced, laidback, absentminded Samuel. I don’t like to say much, I try to stay out of trouble. Some might say otherwise but that's some for you. Point is we don’t care, let’s just be chill and have fun. So come by whenever and ask me whatever.  It’s our party now and it won't start until your arrival.
 
 

 

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