Chapter 4 - Zaina Reveals Her Newly Found Possession
Farajj had just finished feeding the
horses when he was surprised to see Zaina ushering their
flock of Merinos into the fenced pasture.
“Daughter,” he called to her. “The sun is still high. Why
have you returned so soon?”
Zaina didn’t answer. She hurriedly closed the gate behind
the sheep and then ran to her father. Only when she came
close did Farajj notice the odd-shaped bundle she was
clutching so tightly. For a moment Zaina stood before him
catching her breath. Farajj’s bushy gray brows went up in
expectation of an explanation. But Zaina didn’t quite know
what to say.
“Here, father,” she said as she held out the bundle to him.
Farajj took the bundle from her hands and by its shape at
once realized what it was. Responding to the look of
surprise and concern on her father’s face, Zaina gave him a
half-hearted smile. “We should go inside the house and talk
of this,” she said simply.
Once inside, Farajj and Zaina were immediately surrounded by
Zaina’s three little brothers and two sisters. “Mother!”
cried the oldest, an eleven-year-old named Rima. “Zaina’s
home! She can help cook!”
“Not now,” Farajj said to her sternly. “Go help your
mother.” Rima’s lower lip betrayed her disappointment, but
Farajj and Zaina, with the remaining little ones curiously
following, moved to the large table in the center of the
room. After first carefully unwrapping it from Zaina’s
waistcoat, Farajj gently set the sword down on the table.
The children immediately erupted in a chorus of amazed and
“Hush now!” Farajj admonished them. Turning to Zaina, he
added, “Your sister has some explaining to do.” Zaina took a
deep breath and then in a rush told the story of how she had
discovered the sword abandoned amid a dense stand of
wildflowers. (She left out the part about having used the
sword to behead most of them.) When she finished, Farajj
shook his head and rubbed at the gray stubble on his chin.
Finally, he picked up the weapon and pulled the blade part
way out of its ornate leather sheath. He examined it closely
for a minute and then placed it back on the table.
“There were no signs of a battle?” he asked. “Weapons might
be lost by those killed or wounded in a fight, but I would
think something like this would be claimed by the victors.”
He paused to look closely at the sword once more. “Perhaps
this one was somehow missed?”
“I saw no sign of such a battle, father. There was no blood.
There was nothing in that field but a single narrow trail
left by horses…and this sword.”
“It is a mystery, then,” he concluded. “Only Allah knows how
this sword came to be there. We cannot worry about that
further. Now we must decide what we should do with it.”
“Shouldn’t we somehow try to return it to whoever lost it?”
Again, Farajj rubbed his chin in thought. “ Yes, if
possible. But we must be careful, whatever we do. Simple
people like us do not own weapons like this. There are those
who would assume us to be thieves – or worse – for just
having such a sword in our possession.”
After a long pause, he seemed to make up his mind. “Tomorrow
morning, we will gather up what wool we can, go into Cuenca,
and pay Samuel a visit. He, and even more so his wife, knows
everything that goes on in and around the town, and we know
we can trust him.”
The details of their plan were discussed over the evening
meal, a dinner that Rima proudly took credit for having
Later, with all of the regular chores complete, the family
gathered together at sunset. As usual, they faced Mecca and
recited the familiar prayers. Even three-year-old Hamid had
learned enough to participate, although he still sometimes
wanted to nap on the prayer mat instead.
When the prayers were concluded, Zaina added another, asking
that her strange discovery not bring harm to her family.
There was yet another request she would like to have
included, but she had long ago learned to trust the will of
Allah and knew that she should submit to whatever he had in
store for her.
The last hour before bed was devoted to music. Zaina played
her oud and sang again of the famous gardens of old Córdoba.
Her father marveled at the beauty of her voice and how
effortlessly her fingers flew across the strings of the oud
making it seem to have a life of its own. How he would miss
this -- and miss her -- when she was gone.