john_amend_all
Fic: Die Entführung aus dem Serail 
23rd-Mar-2013 10:31 am
john_amend_all: (wizard)

My third and last fic for [community profile] unconventionalcourtship:

Title: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
Author: [personal profile] john_amend_all
Fandom: Knightmare
Pairing/Characters: Treguard / Majida
Rating: All ages
Length: ~3200 words
Summary: Treguard has been called to a desert kingdom to destroy an evil ifrit. But there are other dangers around than the supernatural.
Notes: Based on prompt 48: 'The Desert Virgin' by Sandra Marton.

Treguard of Dunshelm: a ruthless troubleshooter, his mission in the remote desert kingdom of Baslaam is covert and dangerous...

Daughter-of-the-Setting-Moon-Whose-Eyes-are-like-Daggers-in-the-Hearts-of-Men-who-guard-the-Great-Caravan-of-the-Sultan (aka Majida): a classically trained ballerina, she's been abducted and sold to dance in the harem of the Sultan of Baslaam...

Treguard's in a tight spot, and when the Sultan offers Majida's body to him, he sees a way out. But escaping with the scantily clad Majida across the sands is more temptation that even he can handle. When they reach a safe oasis, he can no longer hold back from taking the night of lovemaking that was the Sultan's gift...

With quick glances, Treguard of Dunshelm looked around the Sultan's great hall. All stood in readiness. The crude chalk triangle he had drawn over the lavish mosaic floor was complete, without the smallest gap. The Sultan's two junior conjurers were standing at the two other corners of the triangle, each holding a green glass sphere. Retreating to the third corner of the triangle, he drew a third sphere from his knapsack and held it up in his left hand. With his right, he loosened the sword Wyrmslayer in its sheath.

"We are ready to begin," he said.

The two conjurers exchanged a nervous look, and began to chant. As they did so, the air above the triangle began to glow a bluish colour, swirling and thickening into the form of a gigantic face. Two contemptuous eyes glared down at Treguard, and the vast mouth twisted into a sneer. A bolt of lightning lashed out from the face, only to rebound from an invisible barrier and dissipate in rivulets of white fire. For a moment, it was possible to perceive a pale tetrahedron surrounding the being like a cage; then it faded again.

"Both of you, take one step forward," Treguard said.

The two conjurers stepped into the triangle, the spheres in their hands now glowing with inner green fire. Treguard followed suit. Once more the tetrahedral cage shimmered into existence, as it closed around the floating face, and this time remained.

"One more step," Treguard said.

The face's expression of contempt was changing to angry alarm. Whatever kind of creature this was, it realised it was trapped, and what Treguard and his assistants planned to do to it. The sphere in Treguard's hand pushed back against his motion, and he had to drag it along with him by main force.

"We cannot go further than this," one of the conjurers said. "Its power is too great."

"If it is not applied intelligently, power is worthless. Both of you, turn to your left until Kazim faces me, and Mukhtar faces Kazim." By way of demonstration, he turned until he was facing Mukhtar, taking care not to slacken his grip on the glowing sphere. "Now we walk in a circle."

The three began to walk slowly in a circle, the insubstantial cage rotating around the apparition. Gradually, Treguard and his assistants tightened the circle, gaining a little ground on each rotation. Trapped inside the shrinking cage, the face wordlessly spat its hatred at them, but could not escape.

When the trio were standing less than a foot apart, Treguard reached into his satchel and produced a fourth globe, this time of red glass. Reaching cautiously over, he placed it onto the tip of the glowing pyramid. Immediately, it flared with light. With a sudden inrush of air, all four globes shot together, crushing the apparition between them. The glow slowly faded from them.

"You may let go now," Treguard said, placing the now fused-together globes in his knapsack. "And you can tell the Sultan that the ifrit that has been troubling his palace is now safely confined."

"We shall tell him at once," Kazim said. "He will doubtless wish to reward you."

"He does not know of my part in this, nor should he. Only the Grand Vizier knows why I am here. As far as the Sultan is concerned, the credit for this must lie with you."

Mukhtar bowed. "You are most generous."

Treguard returned the bow, and watched the two conjurers depart.

In order to celebrate his liberation from the ifrit that had been making his life a misery, the Sultan had ordered that a banquet should take place that evening. The rules of hospitality dictated that everybody under his roof should be invited — even the barbarian crusader who, unbeknownst to the Sultan, was chiefly responsible for this happy state of affairs. Seated at one of the lesser tables, Treguard ate moderately, keeping a watchful eye on events. The faction at court which resented his presence was a powerful one, and they were doubtless eagerly waiting for him to make any slip.

The Sultan clapped his hands. "Come, let us have some entertainment!" He leaned across to one of his servants. "Send in the women, and let them dance."

Treguard sat back, maintaining an air of intelligent interest as, to the sound of flutes, the Sultan's wives and concubines danced, one after the other, in the space between the tables. The first three did little to attract his attention: in their various ways, they were attractive and gifted, but he'd seen their like in a dozen lands.

As the fourth dancer went through her gyrations, Treguard suddenly leaned forward. Like the others, she was a skilled dancer, beautiful in face and figure, decked in gauzy clothes and jewellery. For a moment he was certain that he detected a quality about her which her fellows did not possess; on second thoughts, perhaps she had simply made an unfortunate choice of adornments that evening. Had Treguard had his usual freedom of action, or some time in private to prepare a suitable spell, the question might have been resolved there and then. For the moment, though, he merely made a mental note to look into the matter, should the opportunity present itself. Again, he sat back, forcing composure on his features, and risked a glance at the high table. The Sultan was exchanging a word with his Grand Vizier — not a, comforting one, if the Vizier's expression was anything to go by.

It was as he returned to his room after the banquet that Treguard found himself jostled, in a manner that he had become all too familiar with. This was not the shove of a rival attempting to provoke him, or the crafty nudge of a pickpocket trying to flush out his prey; rather, a clandestine message had been pressed upon him, for there was a scrap of parchment between his fingers that had not been there before.

Treguard waited until he was in his room to examine the parchment. It was in the Grand Vizier's hand, and its message was stark. The Sultan had tired of his unwanted guest, and, setting hospitality at naught, had ordered his death. Assassins from Alamut were on their way, and if Treguard was to survive, he must be far from the palace by dawn.

"All very well for you to say," Treguard murmured, as he burned the parchment in the flame of his oil lamp. The Sultan, or those of his courtiers with any grasp of forward planning, would doubtless have taken steps to ensure that he remained exactly where he was until dawn. In fact, one of those steps seemed to be happening now: the sound of slippered feet could be heard in the passage outside.

Treguard rose to his feet, buckled Wyrmslayer in its scabbard around his waist, and took up a defensible position with his back to a solid wall. He kept his eyes firmly on the doorway. After about half a minute, the heavy curtain was pushed to one side, and the outline of a veiled female figure appeared in the candlelight.

So this is your plan, my good fellow, Treguard thought. Beguile me with one of your harem until the morning, so that I don't get any bright ideas about leaving early. He looked down at the woman's feet. Ah. An excellent choice.

He stepped forward into the circle of lamplight. "Good evening, madam."

"Oh!" The woman jumped. "You startled me. I am His Majesty's Number Four."

"Don't you have a name?"

"His Majesty does not allow us the use of names."

"Might I at least see your face?"

"Oh, at least." The woman removed her veil, revealing, as he'd expected, the proud, passionate face of the dancer who had so caught his attention earlier that evening. "You like what you see, huh?"

Treguard gestured to the bed. "Lie down."

"I see you don't waste any time," the woman replied, doing as she was told. "I suppose a barbarian like you isn't interested in dancing and singing and fine art. So much for all the hours I spent practising. Just 'get on the bed' and— eep!"

Treguard had caught her by the foot, tipping her forwards onto the bed, and was dispassionately examining her ankle. It was encircled by a bracelet of copper and iron, a crude thing by the standards of the other jewels she had worn earlier that night.

"I thought so," he said. "Madam, I am leaving immediately, and I require your assistance."

The woman shook her head. "No. There are things I do, and things I do not. And I do not help rude barbarians."

"You will help me."

"Because why?"

Treguard lowered his voice. "Because you're a prisoner here, just as much as I am. And because I know what you are. Only one kind of person would need to wear a bracelet like that."

"I do not need to wear it."

"Then take it off."

Slowly, the woman reached down, but as her hands approached the bracelet they started to shake. She drew them back, looking as if she'd been asked to put them in a fire.

"Exactly," Treguard said. "You cannot remove it. I can, and if you help me to leave the palace, I shall."

"The Sultan will kill me."

"Only if he catches you." Treguard was hastily changing into his worn travelling clothes. "Which he will not."

"You will stop him, huh? One barbarian against all the Sultan's army."

"That is how all the most glorious victories are won," Treguard said, tipping the contents of the fruit bowl into his battered knapsack.

"And also how many fools die." She gave him a dubious look. "You can take the bracelet off me?"

"I can and will, as soon as we leave the palace."

"What if he catches you before we are out of the palace? Answer me that."

"Then you say I threatened you." Treguard drew Wyrmslayer a foot or so from its scabbard. "You had no choice."

She shrugged. "I could almost believe you."

"Would you prefer to see me die tomorrow, and know that you turned down this chance?"

The woman swallowed, took a pace forward, and held out her hand. "I can conceal you," she said. "As long as we are touching."

Treguard took her right hand in his left. As he did so, the room seemed to darken, and his hearing was muted, as if he was underwater. Together they passed out of the bedchamber. Two burly men were standing on guard outside; Treguard's free hand was on the hilt of Wyrmslayer, but the two men showed no signs of noticing as he and his companion passed, ghostlike, between them.

Invisible, unmarked, they passed through the many chambers, courtyards and staircases of the palace, until at last they stood between a tall, ornate gateway and a long, low building. Above the gate, the silhouettes of armed men could be seen against the stars.

"That is the stables," the woman whispered, still holding Treguard's hand. "And that is the gate. What will you do? Cut your way through with your big barbarian's sword?"

"All in good time, madam." Turning away from the gate, Treguard made his way to the stables. Dozing camels gave the pair suspicious looks.

"Choose a camel," he said. "We shall both need to ride it. I shall clear us a path. When I call you, bring the camel out."

"You think I can hide a camel as I am hiding you?"

"Concealment will not be necessary, at least at first. Can you hide a camel, in fact?"

"It would be difficult. Camels do not desire to be hidden."

"Then, for now, don't bother. Release me, and choose us a mount."

The woman let go of him, hurried down the stalls, and indicated a camel.

"This one," she said. "I shall make her ready. Whatever you plan to do, do it."

Treguard strolled out again, until he stood in the centre of the courtyard. Ensuring he had all the guards in view, he spread his arms wide.

"Spellcasting," he said. "S-T-U-N."

There was a thump, more felt than heard, throughout the courtyard. Atop the wall, the guards, as one, toppled and disappeared behind the battlements.

"Now!" Treguard called.

His co-conspirator emerged from the stables, leading the camel by its reins.

"So you have killed the guards?" she asked.

"No. They are briefly indisposed: that is all. We must leave before they recover."

They hurried to the gate. It was bolted, but with its guardians unconscious, it was a simple matter to push one great door wide enough to allow the camel through. The moment they were clear of the gatehouse, Treguard swung himself into the saddle, pulled the woman up behind him, and urged the beast forward at its best pace.

In a hollow among the dunes, which Treguard deemed far enough from the city to be safe from immediate pursuit, he brought the camel to a halt and climbed off, gesturing to his travelling companion to do likewise.

"You want to stop already?" she asked. "You should have gone before we started."

Ignoring her words, Treguard knelt down before her and took hold of the bracelet around her ankle. It took a moment of searching before he discovered the hidden catch; then, he pressed it. There was a soft click, and a feeling as of a sudden lessening of pressure. As he stood up, the bracelet in his hand, he half-expected her to vanish, but she remained where she was and met his gaze triumphantly.

"You have done it!" she proclaimed. "You are not so stupid as I thought at first, Mister Treguard."

"I always keep my word." Treguard looked around, to see if there were any signs of pursuit. So far, it seemed they were safe. "You are no longer a slave of the Sultan."

"Or of any human."

"Quite. Does that mean you have a name again?"

Though his greater height made it impossible, he got the feeling that she was trying to look down at him. "You may call me Daughter-of-the-Setting-Moon-Whose-Eyes-are-like-Daggers-in-the-Hearts-of-Men-who-guard-the-Great-Caravan-of-the-Sultan."

"I certainly won't."

She sighed. "Nobody ever does. All right — 'Majida.'"

"That's more like it." Treguard cast another glance around. "I cannot remain here. And you had better go your own way, unless you want to be recaptured."

"Do you know where you are going?" Majida folded her arms.

Treguard swung himself up onto the camel. "The nearest harbour. Now, run along, there's a good djinn."

"The nearest harbour is two days' ride by road. And you cannot use the road, because the Sultan's guards will be watching. You must cross the desert, and to do that you need a guide." She took a few steps away from the camel. "Do you still wish me to run along?"

"Wait!" Treguard called. "I accept your most generous offer of assistance."

"That is more like it." Majida pointed, apparently at random, into the desert. "There is an oasis there, five hours' ride. That is where we must go."

"Get up behind me, then."

"As you wish." Majida rose gently into the air. "But the camel only needs to carry you."

The camel lurched across the desert, with Treguard on its back. On his right side, Majida kept pace with him, seemingly floating on thin air.

"This is good," she was saying. "I have not ridden the wind for many months."

"If the wind were against us, would it be necessary for you to tack against it, like a dhow?" Treguard asked her.

Her face set firmly forward, Majida pretended not to have heard him.

"Might one enquire if the Sultan knew he had a djinn in his service?"

Majida's voice was full of scorn. "He knew nothing. To him I was simply a dancer, bought from a dealer in slaves for less than I was worth."

"Then who put the bracelet on you?"

"A hermit magician."

Treguard waited to hear if there was more, but if there was, Majida seemed reluctant to divulge it. In the end, he had to ask "Why?"

"As a punishment."

"For what?"

"Speaking out of turn." Majida bit her lip. "He was a powerful man, and quick to anger."

"As are you. You were a well-matched pair, I do not doubt."

"You like to live in danger, Mister Treguard. We are all alone in the desert and you think I am quick to anger. Suppose you infuriate me, and I leave you?"

"Then I shall navigate by the stars." He patted his knapsack. "My trusty astrolabe accompanies me everywhere."

"You have been to many places, then?"

"Indeed I have. I make a living by my sword, and my wits."

"And magic." Majida sounded disparaging. "Borrowed magic, that vanishes from your mind when you use it. My magic is always with me."

"But it is limited, even in different ways," Treguard said. "You could not have escaped the Sultan on your own."

"No more could you."

"True." Treguard looked at the sky. "The dawn is coming. We must find your oasis soon, or not at all."

"Then you will find it soon," Majida replied confidently.

In the shade of palm trees, by the edge of the small pool of water that was responsible for this tiny patch of green among the endless dunes, Majida threw herself down beside Treguard.

"We rest now, huh?" she said.

"Until sunset," Treguard said. "Unless we learn of danger approaching before then."

"The Bedouin in these parts are no friends of the Sultan. If soldiers come this way, they will not return. If an army comes, we will know of it in time." Majida glanced across at him. "Are you tired?"

"I have not slept for a day and a night, both of which were busy. Maybe things are different for your kind, Majida, as they are for the elves; but I find myself in need of sleep."

"Then sleep now. I will keep watch." She remained lying beside him, showing no signs of vigilance. "You have been among the elvenkind?"

"As I have told you, I have travelled widely."

"And you will go on travelling?"

"At present, I see no alternative."

Majida paused slightly before her next question. "By yourself?"

"I have met few with the skills and inclination to accompany me." He turned his head in her direction. "I believe that last night, I met one such. You."

"You wish me to travel with you, then?"

Treguard nodded. "I think such an arrangement could be mutually beneficial."

"Even if I am 'quick to anger'?" She leaned closer to him. "You think you will find a spell that turns me to a fainting maiden, perhaps."

"I very much doubt that a spell of such power could exist. No, if you became intolerable, madam—"

"Miss."

"If you became intolerable, I would merely have to find some other way to stop your tongue."

"I can think of one." Her lips were inches from his. "Maybe you try it now, huh? Just to see if it works?"

Treguard put his finger on her mouth. "Oh," he remarked, drawing out the syllables. "Saucy."

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