Chapter 1

There was a small rock that jutted out of the crashing waves. Something upon the outcrop shown in the sun. It glinted gold but was far too small to be seen by anyone not looking directly at it at the right angle.

A wave crashed over the rock, bathing the stone in sea water and washing away whatever was on the surface. Nasir frowned and waited for the water to pass. He was strangely relived when that little golden object was still there. He couldn't tell what it was from the street but he wanted to find out.

The boy, no older than fifteen, looked back at his father. The man was busy relating whatever tale he was telling to an Acre merchant. Probably the recount of their expedition through the mountains and desert from home, Nasir reasoned.

He checked to make sure no one was about to stop him and climbed onto the sandstone railing of the sea wall. He looked around again, then scooted off the rail and plummeted a few feet to land feet first into the Mediterranean Sea.

The rock was only a yard or so away from the sea wall and before long Nasir was pulling his body mass out of the water. He opted to stay crouched rather than try and stand on the slippery surface. He moved across in an almost crab like fashion to where he had seen the glint.

It was a wooden figurine. It looked to be some kind of panther or cat, yet had wings of a bird flaring from its back. One of its front legs were stretched out in front and facing upward, holding a golden marble in its paw. It was strangely undamaged in whole, looking as if it hadn't been found in the sea.

The boy examined it carefully, running moderately calloused finger tips over the smooth body and detailed wings. So distracted was he that when another wave crashed over the rock, he was caught completely unawares. With a yelp, he tumbled from the rock and back into the sea.

He surfaced a moment later, sputtering and spitting up the salty water. He turned his head back toward the wall when he heard his name being called. He let out a short yell of his own, and a moment later his father's face appeared at the top.

When Hamzah spotted his son treading water in the sea, his expression contorted to land somewhere between angry, relieved, and highly amused. "What are you doing down there?"

"Eh, swimming."

Hamzah disappeared and was gone for a short moment. When he returned, he slung a rope over the edge and to the water. Nasir stuffed the figuring in his pocket and swam for the wall. He latched onto the rope and was half pulled, half shimmied up the side of the wall.

Once the boy was within grabbing distance, he reached for the top of the wall to heave himself up. His father grabbed a fistful of his tunic and pulled him all the way over. The man then pulled the fabric over the boy's head and began to wring out the cloth. Nasir untied his hair from the cord that held it back and began to squeeze the water out. Once the cloth was semi-dry, Hamzah swiped it over Nasir's flawless bronze skin, wiping the water. The water was squeezed out again and handed back when Nasir finished trying his dark hair back. Nasir pulled it back on and straightened it out.

His ochre eyes roved his father's face, waiting for the other to do something. There was silence when finally: "What were you thinking?"

"Sorry Father. I found something on the rock." He pulled out the figurine and held it in the palm of his hand for his father to take. The man took the piece of wood and examined it briefly.

He turned his attention back to the boy. "You can't just go running around here like you do in Jerusalem. Akka isn't safe." He glanced about him, his eyes landing on a man. He was dressed all in white except for a red cross painted across his chest. One hand was on his belt, the other on the hilt of his sword.

He was solider and a special kind. They were supposed to be saving this land but all they brought was death. There were a million words for this man, but one that everyone knew. Crusader. One of Richard's men.

Nasir looked back at his father in enough time to watch him chuck the figuring over the ledge and back into the sea. He cried out as it disappeared.

"Come along, Nasir. We don't want to keep Kateb waiting."

Nasir sighed and tore his eyes from the spot. "I wish I could have kept that…"

/-/-/

Nasir woke with a jolt. He sat up from the bed, the blanket falling to his waist. For a moment, he froze. Something felt weird. He wasn't sure what or why. He looked across the room to watch his father in his own cot, sleeping peacefully.

He swung his feet over the side of the bed and put them on the sandy floor. He stood silently and walked to the window in two strides. Looking out, he saw nothing out of the ordinary. Just the normal Akka morning. The sun was yet to rise over the desert, the city was still asleep. Even thus, a troop of Crusaders marched down the street.

Nasir ducked under the window as they passed, hoping they had not seen him. He half crawled back toward his bed, staying silent the entire way.

He glanced down at the table with the unlit lantern perched on top and stopped. Something in his chest tightened and his heart leapt into his throat. It wasn't possible. He could not think of a way for this to be possible, no matter how hard he tried. The figurine, the very one that his father had thrown into the ocean the day before was sitting perched on the table.

Nasir reached for it but hesitated. Something in him told him that by accepting the figurine, he was changing his fate, or at least pushing it forward. He tenderly picked up the wooden piece and brought it close to his face. How did you get here?

He did not have anymore time to look at the figurine, nor ponder upon its arrival in his house. There was an almighty bang, one that made Nasir jump, and had every hair on his skin standing up. He quickly stuffed the carving into his pocket as his father grunted awake.

The older man looked over at his son. "What are you doing?" He asked sleepily.

Nasir only shrugged and gestured to the door. The bang came again, this time accompanied by a voice distinctly western. "Open up. We have a warrant for the arrest of Hamzah The'b and all associating persons."

Hamzah threw the blanket off and hurriedly got to his feet. He gestured to a chest in the corner by the back door. Nasir took the queue and moved to it, opening the top and pulling out a long sword. He passed it to his father.

Hamzah then gestured to the back door. "Get Afra' and Ata and wait for me." Nasir nodded and did as he was told. He ran out the back door, making sure to be quiet. He headed to the stable where two grey horses were sleeping for the night.

He saddled Afra' first, she being the most temperamental of the two, then Ata. He mounted the Afra' and waited. He had moved quickly and sat waiting for a long moment. Worry gnawed at his insides as waited for something in the suffocating silence.

Finally, there was a yell. Nasir grabbed a tighter grip on the stallion's reined and nudged the mare beneath him into motion. They both moved forward without much hesitation. Nasir rounded the corner to the little house, to find his father fending off several men. He parried against one then swung around to swipe at another. He then turned back to the first man, thrust his blade forward, disarmed him, and kicked him away. He then turned to the second man as the third took the place of the first. He parried another block, waited, then jumped away when the second man lunged forward. Using the opening to his advantage, he sliced through the man's arm. The Crusader yelled as half his arm fell away under Hamzah's sharp blade.

The third watched his comrade fall, and decided to make his own escape. He turned and fled down the street and out of sight. The man he had cut down was screaming, clutching his bleeding arm.

Hamzah turned to Nasir and marched forward. The boy released Ata's reins as his father mounted the stallion and they both set off at a heavy canter down the street. The yelling slowly died away as distance passed.

Nasir was quiet, trying to build up the courage to ask his father the question that was bothering him. "Will that man die?"

"Most likely."

Nasir became silent again. The canter died down to a walk again and the two of them traveled in silence through Akka. "Where are we going?"

"The thieves' guild."

"What about our stuff?"

"It isn't important. Now be quiet, Nasir. I don't want to hear you right now."

The boy was quiet. This was why, he thought bitterly, I don't like to talk. Every time I do, it seems you don't like it.

XXX

A/N: Cutting my chapter size.

D.R.M./Broken Wolf

1,609 words
7,001 characters
123 lines
3 pages
45 paragraphs