By Roxanne Fox
Copyright 2017 Roxanne Fox
Cover photo by pareeerica retrieved from flickr.com.
Some rights reserved
Thank you to my beta reader Nikki Amaya. Thanks to her, this story sounds much better than it was before. Thank you so much Nikki for your time and support in reading this first!
Table of Contents
Chapter 01 ~ Babilli
Chapter 02 ~ The Lamp
Chapter 03 ~ The Temple
Chapter 04 ~ Nico
Chapter 05 ~ Last Wish
Chapter 06 ~ All of Eternity
Looking down at my drink, I hunched my shoulders as a large man was shoved into me before being lifted and thrown to the other side of the room. It was no different than any other day or night in the tavern, the main hangout for the thieves and ne’er-do-wells of Babilli. The room erupted as more men joined the fray so I took my chance to grab a few extra plates of food and drinks before slinking out the door. Once outside the dry desert air filled my nostrils and cleared out all the funk and sweat which permeated the dim-lit hangout.
Slouching down with my ill-gotten dinner, I began consuming the lot before someone noticed me. Though I was good at hiding my feminine features, if anyone paid to close attention they may realize I was a female and not male like the rest. Using cloth to band my breasts, and wearing street urchin rags helped, but as a woman in a man’s world being too careful was always the best option.
The last big of the thieved wine left my lips and filled my belly just as the fight found its way out of the tavern and to the streets. As the tavern owner yelled profanities to the men who began the fight, and were now wrestling in the alley, I made my way back in and set the dishware I cleaned off on the bar before taking my seat with my own cup once more.
Just as I said before, it was no different than any other day or night.
Being a woman who didn’t want to be owned by any man, either as a wife or a prostitute—the only real options for women in the Persian Empire—I would be considered better off dead by those men. It was hard to know if the Arabians, who were slowly advancing on our lands, treated their women better, but stories from afar didn’t bring me enough hope to travel away from the city.
My mother, a prostitute herself, gave birth to me then tried to use my body for more money at a young age. She was the first life I had taken to find my own place, my own freedom. The look in her eyes as I plunged the blade into her gut still haunted me, nearly fifteen years later.
The night of her death I donned the clothing of the males and began my life as one of the scum of Babilli, a once great city falling deeper and deeper into ruin each day. Riots were common and the lord of the area only wanted more from the people, all so that he could live the life of royalty and still afford the hefty taxes asked by the king. The great king himself could care less of a long conquered city, and one time capital of the kingdom, as long as the taxes kept coming.
Many days I believed the king would prefer Babilli be gone, be wiped from the planet and forgotten. There had been no word of help if the Arabians were to invade, so that thought seemed all too true. Of course, the Persian Empire was not what it once was. The weak and cruel ruler had made mistakes which would come back to haunt him and Babilli. In its fallen state, the city would be an acceptable loss. At least, that is what I heard on the streets as I would slink about eavesdropping to be sure no one saw me take what I needed to survive. And, survive is all I could do.
Sighing, I drank the rest of my own wine, the one I paid for with the meager coin someone was kind enough to toss me as I slept under an eve in the afternoon. It seemed even the life I chose was its own kind of hell.
“Who is the owner of this establishment?”
My eyes were drawn to the entrance, which was blocked by a large man filling the doorway as he entered the tavern. He and the two men following him were dressed as royal guards.
The owner stepped forward, wringing a dirty rag between his hands. His body held a slight tremor, and I couldn’t blame him. All eyes darted away and a few men even left out the back. No one liked to see anyone be beaten by royal guards, which happened often when more taxes were being asked for.
“The prince has a decree he would like posted in this establishment. You are to do so and for your service to Babilli a portion of your taxes will be forgiven, if the found party is located in your establishment.”
It was hard to follow what the guard meant—especially since he called Lord Tryphon a prince—but as the owner read the poster, which many of his patrons couldn’t read, he seemed to understand what the guard was asking, and seemed to come to the same conclusion I had.
“But, good sir … many of my customers, they might not be able to do as the decree asks.” The owner looked even more nervous.
This decree had peaked my interest, and unlike most of the men who would be unable to decipher what the words said, I would be able to read it once it was up. One of the many things I had found to occupy my time was watching others learn to read. Something I was very talented at was getting information.
“Are you trying to say you refuse?”
The owner looked near panicked as a bead of sweat ran down his forehead. “No, not at all. I would be happy. Please put it right where all can see.” He began to guide them to the most visible spot in the place.
Glancing around, I saw that even more patrons were leaving as the guards followed the owner to where they were hanging the poster on the wall and as they exited, they had abandoned more food and drink.
Watching the gazes of the few remaining bar-goers, I gathered up the abandoned food. All eyes left in the place were glued to the owner and guards, and paid no mind to the “dirty boy” grabbing up a couple of plates and cups. Settling down in a new corner, I too watched as the finished with the poster before being on their way. From my vantage point, I could see the words clearly and nearly choked on my second free meal of the night when I read what they said.
Aliah by RoxAnne Fox / Fantasy / Romance & Love have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes