Telling Tales 65
Juleidah, for My Skins
It is sad, my tale, but there are sadder, and as difficult as my time has become, there are those who have suffered more. We must remember from whence we come and God’s grace that gives us strength and buoys us beyond the horizon.
My father is a good man, but he is, God forgive me, not as smart as he is handsome. He married my mother, but before they consummated the marriage, he went off to fight one, two, three campaigns. She pursued him each time, dressed as a man, and defeated him in chess at every turn. She won tokens from him – his dagger, his ring, his headscarf – and offered to him a girl with whom to lie. The first time, a virgin. The second time, a girl who had been with a man but once. The third, a girl who had been with a man but twice. Herself, of course, in disguise again. The result is my older brothers and me. When he returned from the third campaign, he thought to marry another woman instead, but my mother reminded him of his duty, and for all that he may be shallow, he is honorable. He saw that he and my mother were husband and wife, married and consummated, and called off his wedding.
When my mother died, we all mourned. My brothers set out to seek their fortune, as they could no longer bear the absence of her voice in those halls of my father. The mourning period over, my father set out to find a new wife. He had an anklet from my mother and a promise he had made to her, that he would marry no one unless the anklet fit her as well. You will not be surprised to hear that it fit no one at all.
There is a cruel wazir who works for my father, as smart as he is cunning. He had a handmaiden put the anklet on me when I was sleeping and saw that it fit as perfect as perfect can be. He convinced my father that his promise meant that he had to marry me, when in fact my mother’s plan was that he remain faithful to her even after her death. The same handmaiden, guilty for her part in the wazir’s treachery, told me of his plan to have me marry my own father. I fled through the window and paid a tanner in the city a handsome sum to fashion for me this suit of leathers.
In the desert I faced down ghuls and fell into the power of a marid, whom I escaped through trickery, granted by God from my mother, after I learned the marid’s secret of the desert winds, which I can command as surely as you do your flying craft. I took from him upon my departure not just his life, but also these two sapphires, which cannot be separated from one another, no matter how I try.
My travels are only just beginning. I have more to learn before I can face the wazir. I will gladly come with you.