Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Companions

We ride for miles. We have left late but we must arrive early. The Caliph and his bodyguards ride up front. My own steed tries its best to catch up but are no match for the Caliph's camels. Them and the Caliph's right hand man, Farouk.

Now Farouk is a natural born warrior. He runs strong and tall, never a step back from wind or blizzards. Always strong beside the Caliph. Eyes wild, making sure we're safe. His stride is steady yet graceful. If I hadn't known better I would've mistaken him as the Buraq should I see him from a distance.

We spoke very little for the first day. By now the sun paints red streaks in the sky, signaling its rest for the day.

"We can make camp up ahead my lord. A small stream runs up ahead." says Farouk, and that was the first time i heard him spoke.

The Caliph nods in agreement. Happy to rest, I smile to Farouk, but he doesn't smile back. In fact Farouk has never smiled ever since we started to ride together. His brow frowns most of the time and his mouth rarely opens unless to speak of something necessary. When ordered by the Caliph, he only nods and affirms in one short sentence. Being the cautious one, Farouk walks off to secure the perimeter, while we all prepared for Wudu.

After Maghrib, we rested, tending to our packed meals. Only a small fire is made, just enough to keep us warm. Whilst checking parchments, I sat next to Farouk. He sits taller than me despite resting his four legs on the soft ground. Though at rest, he has his weapon close to him, ready for anything. As he bite on his loaf of bread, he stares at me while I flipped through my writings.

"How long have you been writing?" asked Farouk.

"As early as I can remember holding the quill in my hand" I replied.

"Then you will write about us well"

"Indeed I will. And how long have you been a warrior?" I asked.

"As early as I remember holding a sword in my two hands. And yes, I will keep us safe and well. No man will harm you" Said he.

I looked at his strong build, convinced. "Or centaur" I suggested.

"Or anything" he replied.

We didn't exchange much words after that. We were mostly silent throughout the night. The others slept soundly except me. I couldn't help staring at the star lit sky, pondering about my journey up ahead. What dangers lies ahead and what sort of people we shall meet on the way. The anticipation to write about my future experiences excite me. But even an imaginative poet as I gets tired of thinking, or wondering. Putting down my qalam and writings aside, I decide that I should probably rest my excited mind for tomorow. As I turn to my side to try and sleep, I noticed that Farouk wasn't really sleeping at all. Though his eyes are closed, he opened them once in a while to look around.

Curious, I asked "Won't you be tired later tomorrow?"

"It is my duty. I must be sure of our safety. Besides, my kind doesn't sleep much. We were made to run through the fields, not rest for a whole night."

"You will keep wake for every night?"

"Not every night. Some nights I let Khalid stand guard."

"Then I will rest easy knowing that we are safe. You have my thanks. Good night Farouk."

He simply nods and closes his eyes.

Early after Fajr prayers, we packed our stuff and prepared to continue our journey. As we wait for the sun to shine some light on the dark land, Farouk asked me.

"Tell me poet, if you were to write about me in your parchments, how would you describe me, telling me apart from other centaurs?"

"Describe you by your physique? Never!"

"How then?"

"Like I would describe a man. Only stronger. Much stronger. Strong not in your stallion legs or your powerful arms. Strong in your stance, your readiness for battle. In your loyalty to our Caliph." I explained.

Farouk's face slowly cracks a smile, the first I have seen in my journeys.

The Caliph has observed us for a while and comments on this with a smirk. "Then let us ride strong, for the sun is about to rise"

The Caliph got on his steed and by the first sign of light, we rode out.

We ride far and wide. Across grassy plateaus and rocky hills. Nothing will stop us. Wind, rain, or any beast. Nothing, for as long as we have Farouk keeping us guard.

The Quest

You will follow the Caliph even to the Icy North."

And he repeated that twice, to make sure I understood that.

"Even to the Icy North"

Of course I agreed. Anything for the respected Caliph. Why I'd even be flattered to just be in charge of keeping his shoes safe whilst he attends his Isha'a, let alone be given the task to follow his personal Dawah journeys and record them in my writings.

"The path will be long and perilous, but that is why we chose you Syuib. You and no other"

Why? Because I am the infamous Syuib, the wandering poet, part time writer. It is not my writing that fascinates them. It is my will and constitution in my creativity, through hard times and under constant danger, will I be able to record every single event in detail. And that is why I'm chosen. Others will break and falter in battle, writers I mean. Me, I was taught the quill by my mother and the sword by my father. I fear not battle, I long for it. To see the Caliph wield his spectacular forked sword would be spectacular. Why I'd write many poems describing his grace.

"Refrain from battle, focus on your stories. The Caliph has his bodyguards, you just worry about your poems."

By the prophet's beard, that's what I was born to do.

So begins my journey with the Caliph. We travel by camelback through the grassy plateau, west, towards the setting sun. The message has to be spread, the world must know, and I will follow them as they bring it to the ends of the land. Only Allah knows how thrilled I am with this.

I just hope the western tribes aren't too hostile with our party. We may come in peace, but we also come well prepared.

"Have you got your Quill and parchments ready Syuib? " asked the Caliph.

"I have my Lord. Forever light to record our journeys." said I.

"Then let us ride now. The sun is near to set and the winged beasts of north will come out at night. My stomach is empty and we must make camp soon. Will you follow me Syuib?"

Our camels start to gallop, leaving our oasis city, towards the setting sun. My gut feels as if jinns are tickling it from the inside. I smile to the Caliph and ride side by side by him. His bodyguards ride further up front.

"Even to the Icy North my lord. Even to the Icy North. "