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Author Topic: Where Did All the Gardens Go?  (Read 178 times)

Description: Attn: Tariq

Offline Jaleh al-Situla

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Where Did All the Gardens Go?
« on: Apr 04, 19, 09:29:51 PM »
Disgust was not an emotion that Jaleh al-Situla often felt.  The normally lively Healer had been looking for decent quality dried herbs all afternoon. She would prefer fresh, of course, but fresh had been all but impossible since shortly after the attack. Since she was essentially worthless when it came to healing through Craft, Jaleh had been dedicating her Jewel strength to improving the potions, tinctures, and other medications she excelled at brewing - hence her diligent search for the best possible ingredients she could acquire.

The petite Healer glared at the sullen shopkeeper. “Are you certain this is the best you can offer me? It's been almost two years since these were dried.”

Despite having asked the question, Jaleh didn't really pay attention to whatever excuse the male cared to offer her - she knew these likely were the best to be had. They were certainly better than most of what she had found today, if only by an extremely narrow margin. She settled down to bargaining; while she couldn't afford to let any herbs that weren't actually rotten out of her grip, she definitely had no plans to pay full price for these. The Healer didn't particularly care if selling healing supplies was this male’s livelihood - if he'd wanted anything close to full price for them, then he should have sold them fifteen months ago if not much sooner. After all, it wasn't like Healers weren't always in need of herbs, especially those who travelled the dunes of Pruul like she herself usually did.

They had just finished their bargaining with the shopkeeper looking even more sullen than before and Jaleh feeling as as pleased as possible considering these weren't anything she would purchase under normal circumstances and the Healer had vanished her latest purchases when they were both distracted by the entrance of a Warlord Prince. Jaleh couldn't quite read the shopleeper's expression beyond surly; her gaze on the other hand was fully appraising. She didn't mind the interruption, not in the slightest.

Offline Tariq al-Latifh

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Re: Where Did All the Gardens Go?
« Reply #1 on: Apr 04, 19, 09:56:15 PM »
Trade had been hard and it seemed to be getting harder. While the bravest (or most foolish, depending on the view) had taken to venturing beyond the cramped sanctuary that was Onn, most of its population lacked that sort of courage. Since Tariq’s side occupation was raiding the most wealthy of caravans, he was a bit…out of work at the moment.

One could argue that he could just turn his tricks towards raiding city-based supplies but there were a lot of problems with that. One was that there were far more eyes watching supplies in the city. It was precisely the reason why he hadn’t tried this before. Secondly was that there were not enough supplies to raid in his eyes. Tariq and his band had always taken from the very rich, the overly affluent – and redistributed that gain to those who were less likely to attain it. But with the siege, nearly everyone in Onn was on the same economical level – wanting. That didn’t leave much room for Tariq to work.

But that didn’t mean that there was nothing to be gained, hence why Tariq was in this shop today.

The Sabbah quarter was a mess. Guards were stretched thin but placed their hope in whatever Ebon Gray Jewel was now allied with the True Sabbah. Even Ebon Grays and Blacks had their limits. And Tariq’s band had found one – a rooftop garden that had been unclaimed in the destruction. Not much had been salvaged from it but with a little help from Vashti’s Gift, there was a satchel of fresh herbs ready to be delivered to one of the stores that supplied Healers.

It wasn’t much but it was a start. And Tariq would gladly take good starts after these last few days.

“Brought you some goods,” he said to the sullen shopkeeper as he strode in. He noticed the woman at the counter and winked roguishly, a flirtatious habit he had at times. “Not a lot but it should keep you open for a bit longer. Compliments of the Izar Queen.” Most of the city knew that the Izar had made their own Clan now, headed by Vashti, who was Tariq’s Queen. Let the Sabbah fall to infighting. The Izar, the Bali, the Jinan – they were trying to tip the scales in the other direction.

He dumped his satchel out on the counter for the shopkeeper to review and turned his attention to the woman. Gorgeous thing she was. Tariq might be Bonded to Vashti but he wasn’t attracted to her – not like that – and she probably appreciated it. “Maybe something in there for you, Lady,” he said, with a polite tip of his head and that charming, roguish smile on his face.

Offline Jaleh al-Situla

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Re: Where Did All the Gardens Go?
« Reply #2 on: Apr 05, 19, 01:08:37 AM »
Jaleh fought to keep her expression mostly neutral at the wink from the Warlord Prince who had just dumped what was essentially a fortune in herbs on the shop counter. She would flirt with him - quite happily actually, but she'd prefer not to do it in front of the shopkeeper - his surliness would only ruin the experience. Still, she let a small, sensual smile cross her lips briefly, knowing the Warlord Prince would see it.

It vanished by the time she turned to examine the plants on the counter, a tendril of her Summer Sky whispering over and through the astonishingly green leaves and bright flowers. As she sensed what her Craft was finding in the plants, she sucked on a breath despite herself. To have fresh herbs to work with -

It would be nearly a miracle. Especially for some of the patients who were worse off. Her problem was that she was mortally certain other Healers had patients who could use those fresh herbs just as badly.  The desire to purchase all the herbs and run away with them - metaphorically anyway - warred with her desire to help as many people as possible.

At last she gave the closest plant a loving caress and sighed. “As much as I would like to purchase all of this, I can't in good conscience not leave some for other Healers.” As she spoke, she was sorting out a small pile of the ones she could most desperately use. “I'll take these.” She smiled as she named a price that, while still fair, was generous enough to make up for her intense haggling before. She was pleased when the older male accepted the payment without protest. She gladly handed over the promised payment and carefully wrapped the herbs before vanishing them the same as she had her previous purchases.

She looked directly at the Warlord Prince, an expression very close to entreaty on her face as she stepped close to him and looked up into his eyes. “Do you have access to more, Prince? I would love to get some cuttings. I'm no Queen, but I can keep a garden alive.”

If her brother, who had almost always been her Escort, was still alive, he'd be bristling to have her standing so close to a strange male - a strange Warlord Prince. Grief passed through her heart at the thought of her brother, but her face showed only hope as she gazed up at the handsome stranger.

Offline Tariq al-Latifh

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Re: Where Did All the Gardens Go?
« Reply #3 on: Apr 19, 19, 11:45:01 AM »
He watched her eyes open the plants. Striking eyes. On a lovely face as well. Being a Warlord Prince had nothing to do with masculine appreciation of a feminine form. But, being a Warlord Prince certainly helped with a willingness to…deeply…appreciate that form further. Especially as he watched her fingers gently caress the green leaves after she had given him that brief, sensual smile.

She sorted out a small pile for herself, leaving a majority with the seller, stating that she couldn’t take them all in good conscious and deprive the other Healers. That earned her another point in Tariq’s book. Selfless and beautiful. She paid for her purchases and then vanished them.

Then, she stepped closer to him, her eyes catching his gaze as though she had grabbed his chin. Tariq could smell her natural scent – female, young, healthy, and more. His nostrils briefly flared, taking in more, but that roguish smile stayed plastered on his face, hiding what his body was ready to start screaming to his mind. “Do you have access to more, Prince?” she asked.

That grin on his face probably said it all. “Maybe,” he said, evasively flirting. “The original garden these came from was destroyed in the Sabbah chaos but we were able to move a good portion of it somewhere safer.” He absently scratched at his chin. “I’m not sure if anything is healthy enough to transplant – I’m just a guard, not a gardener – but I can take you there.” He stopped scratching his chin and tilted his head to the side. “And maybe we can figure it out from there?” he asked jovially.

In the back of his mind, he was wondering what other things they could figure out along the way or afterward. He looked around the shop and then noticed something off. Just her and the shopkeeper. “Where is your escort?” he asked, some of the flirting light leaving his eyes as a Warlord Prince’s protective instincts began lifting to the surface. He’d give that escort the benefit of a doubt – maybe he was right outside or across the street within view – but if she said that she didn’t have one, the roguish charm would thinly veil the concerned sharpness in his expression. “A lovely lady like you should not be wandering around alone, especially with the state of things,” he said in a low voice. It wasn’t flirting. It wasn’t predation. His tone was unyielding, even if he still had a smile on his face. He was not  pleased that she was alone.

That being said, Tariq gentlemanly offered her his arm and said, “I will take you to my Queen’s gardens and then escort you wherever else you would like.” Some of that roguish charm seeped back into his expression and mannerisms. “Tariq al-Latifh,” he introduced himself. He did not add his usual, secondary title: bloodsworn of Azar al-Latifh. He was slowly distancing himself from that role, that chapter in his life. Azar was his past, Vashti was his future. “And you are, Lady?”

Offline Jaleh al-Situla

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Re: Where Did All the Gardens Go?
« Reply #4 on: Apr 19, 19, 01:57:42 PM »
The grin on the Warlord Prince's face did things to Jaleh's body that had been scarce of late and the intimation that she might be able to get more from him - more herbs, more flirting, just more - had the Healer moistening her full lips with the tip of her tongue as she pressed closer without actually moving.

“I'd love to see the garden,” she said, a slight lilt of laughter to her voice. “I hope to figure…” she paused, letting the 'you’ remain unspoken, “it out from there Prince, truly.”

Jaleh was about to turn to bid farewell to the shopkeeper when the handsome Warlord Prince asked about her Escort, and the grief the Healer had suppressed bubbled to the surface and she couldn't help but catch her breath in what might have been a sob.

She shook her head a little, not answering him right away. Jaleh took the proffered arm and practically towed the man from the shop in her sudden haste to get away from the surly shopkeeper and out into the open.

Once outside, she slowed and looked up at Tariq. “I'm sorry, Prince al-Latifh. I'm Jaleh al-Situla.” She couldn't stop the pain that filled her voice. “My Escort...died... not that long ago. I'm not ready - I couldn't - “ she shook her head. “I haven't been able to replace him yet.”

She walked with him in silence in whatever direction he indicated for a few moments. Thoughts of Sardar, of Nazli and her parents always weighed her down, but Jaleh was tired of grieving, tired of pain.

The Healer smiled at Tariq, with only a little wobble in the expression. “You came at the right time Prince. My day has been rather... discouraging… until now.”

Offline Tariq al-Latifh

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Re: Where Did All the Gardens Go?
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 19, 03:34:38 PM »
He noticed that his question about an escort brought about a grief barely restrained. They all wore scars from the sandworms nowadays. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise at all, yet Tariq still made a small face of sympathy. “Ah, Lady…” he sighed softly, understanding. She slipped into step with him and introduced herself as Jaleh al-Situla. Tariq felt another bead of shared pain between them. Like the Latifh, the Situla had experienced decimating losses in the attack. Did they even have a Queen left to guide them?

“Jaleh,” he echoed, almost purring her name as he tasted it against his tongue. “A very lovely name. Fitting for you.” His compliments were an attempt to turn the conversation away from more sorrowful topics. She hadn’t yet replaced her escort, she said. If Tariq had had the time, he would have offered himself until she found another, but he was sadly stretched already, between serving his Queen and evading his duties to his ambitious sister.

When she said that he had come at the right time, Tariq laughed aloud. “Well, let’s see how I can make it better,”  he said. As they made their way towards the Izar quarter of the city, he asked her questions that hopefully didn’t bring up still fresh scars. How long had she been a Healer? What did she like most about it? Did she have a favorite plant or tonic that she swore by to work? Did she have a funny Healing story?

For each question he asked her, he tended to shade tidbits about himself in kind. He had two kids, he gladly shared, though his wife was deceased and long enough ago not to cause as much pain. His daughter Laleh was a Priestess and he thought that she should begin her Aub training soon. But he also said that he was unsure about sending her away. The fears of a father, obviously. Tariq didn’t mention that the real reason he didn’t want his daughter studying to be an Aubdina was because of his sister. He did mention that he was a guard but guarding what – now that was his secret to keep, he said, with a charming wink.

And to reciprocate her Healing story, he told her one about the time one of his fellow guards, far too drunk to no better, got into bed with one of the poisonous snakes of the region, and attempted to cuddle it. She could imagine how well that went. He laughed and assured her that the guard was fine, of course, but he wouldn’t have told her a story with a sad ending. Not when he was trying to distract her with better things.

All the while they walked, Tariq found himself physically intrigued by her and took each moment he could to gather more details about her. The way she moved, now no longer wobbled by grief, was sensuous and she licked her lips slowly enough to draw his eye towards the motion without making it obvious that she was flirting. And her eyes – they were striking. Every so often, the wind would shift and a strand of her hair would caress his skin like fleeting silk. Or he would inhale and pull her scent into his lungs. Unlike Vashti, whose scent pulled at his protectively brotherly instincts, this scent pulled at the sexual side of the Warlord Prince.

If she lingered long enough, they would be enjoying far more than just a simple garden together.

“Here we are!” he said, motioning towards the gate into the Izar compound where the private gardens were being kept and restored. The guards, knowing Tariq on sight, let them pass. “Remember, it’s not much, and I don’t know anything about gardening, but let’s see what we can find you.” He turned a corner or two and then through another, hip-high gate, where the tops of plants could be seen. He motioned for her to explore with a wide grin on his face.

Offline Jaleh al-Situla

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Re: Where Did All the Gardens Go?
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 19, 06:13:59 PM »
Tariq's rich warm laugh chased away the last of Jaleh's lingering sadness and reminded her that she now had much more pleasant things to ponder. Her smile answering him was full of gratitude and promise. She did not mind at all talking about herself as they walked, especially as it gave her the opportunity to learn more about the Warlord Prince that was Tariq al-Latifh throughout the conversation.

His first question drew a musical laugh out of her. “I was born a Healer, and apparently I've been fascinated by plants since I could walk...My favorite thing about Healing? I make dreams come true.” She searched his face a moment, wondering if he would find that declaration to be too fanciful, or if he would take her at face value. “Women - and men too - who are having difficulties having a family come to me. Very few of those people leave my care with broken dreams.”

As they walked, Jaleh couldn't help but drink in the sense of him, feeling the heat and strength of him through her arm on his, couldn't help but admire the way he moved, full of a predatory feline grace tempered by charm and good humor.  Couldn't help but lean into him any time they needed to slow or stop, wanting - even needing - to touch him more than merely her arm on his. Couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps he would -

“I use wild licorice in many of my teas and syrups; it strengthens the body’s natural ability to fight off infections and illnesses which allows the other herbs to be more effective.”

Tariq’s request for a humorous tale of Healing caused Jaleh to pull her lower lip between her teeth as she nibbled it in thought.

“Well there was this one time, it was only my second trip as a full Healer. A young mother in the caravan, came to me in hysterics. Her daughter - her first child, and only six months old - had swallowed a pendant that had broken off her chain. It wasn’t a large pendant, only about this big - ” She held up her free hand, indicating the first joint of her smallest finger. “The child wasn’t in any discomfort, so I wasn’t worried, but the mother...well she was convinced the babe would be poisoned, or choke in her sleep or some such. It took great effort on my part to convince her that the object would pass through normally.”

She laughed gaily. “I have to admit I have never more before or since wished for a Prince’s skill in diplomacy!” Her grin turned mischevious “The look on the mother’s face, though, when she finally accepted my assurances and realized how closely she was going to have to examine her daughter’s diapers to get her pendant back...well that was priceless!”

His return story brought an expression of horrified amusement to the Healer’s face. “I don’t even  want to know how much or what this fellow had to drink!” she exclaimed in dismay. “However,” she continued, sounding confident, “if any of your men are ever in such condition again, have them eat bread, crackers or rice - many people find it soaks up some of the alcohol before it gets into their bloodstream which reduces the level of drunkenness.”

Even as she answered his questions, and listened to what information he offered her, Jaleh had some questions of her own. She asked about how often he was here in Onn. What was his Queen like? What of his second child - did he have two daughters, or did he have a son? How old were his children? Did he have a favorite activity to relax?

As they entered the garden, Jaleh could see some rows of what looked like vegetable plants as well as a fairly large area containing the herbs he had brought to the shop. What most caught her attention though was a thorny bush not too far from the gate with a single striking dark red desert rose in full bloom.

“Oh!” She exclaimed softly. “How lovely.” She knelt in the dirt to cup the flower gently in her hands so she could inhale the intoxicating fragrance, peering up at him through her eyelashes. “Thank you for bringing me here.”