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The Sword

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 she obeyed.

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 delighted giggling.

“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 helped prepare.

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.

 
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