Format: Short Story.
Genre: Angst, spiritual, family
Warnings: mention of sacrifices and tattooing
Creator’s Notes (optional): Tahir and Adiva are recurrent OCs of mine. Events here take place a few years prior to events in LOTR. The tribal customs are further discussed in my stories “East is East” and “Too Long a Sacrifice.” The Hamam is similar to a Turkish bath.
Summary: Tahir and Adiva are troubled about the future.
“My youngest wife bore me another son yesterday,” said Arif. “That makes seven sons as well as a few girl children! The Gods have smiled on me!” He stretched out on the göbek taşı and took another sip of his sherbet tea.
“May your son always know the shade of the oasis,” said Tahir.
“What of you, esteemed friend,” said Arif. “Do you still only have one child?”
“My son is a great blessing to my fair blossom and I,” said Tahir.
“You need more wives then you can father more sons,” said Arif.
“I have a sister you can marry, esteemed friend, Tahir” said Makin. He spread his peştemal on the stone and lay down upon it. “A pretty girl, obedient and docile. She should please you well. Her dowry is only 15 camels.”
“One fair blossom suffices to fill my garden with her fragrance,” said Tahir. He sat up to take a sip of his tea then stretched out on the stone again.
“Have a care, esteemed friend,” said Makin. “The Lord of Gifts and his followers frown on those who do not provide sufficient sons for his armies.”
“I am a loyal soldier of Harad,” said Tahir. “How many wives I take and how many children we have is none of their concern.”
“One wife suffices for me too,” said Rigel an aging greybeard with a spreading paunch. “She has given me six children. I am well content.”
“Have a care what you say, esteemed friend.” Arif looked around him anxiously. “The high priest of the Lord of Gifts has decreed we should offer many sons for his armies.”
Tahir gave a snort of disgust. “Are we now meant for nothing more than breeding children to be slaughtered? We are all brothers of our tribe here in the hamam? Do we not bear the mark of the sun rather than the lidless eye above my heart and the signs of our tribe upon our bodies?”
“We are brothers indeed,” said Rigel. “The Lord and Lady will protect us.”
“Speak not their names as their worship is punishable by death!” said Makin. “Our hearts alone must know our thoughts.”
Tahir sighed as he picked up his peştemal and made his way to the soğukluk.
Later that day, Tahir reclined on a cushion beside his wife, Adiva. They watched their little son as he toddled around the room playing with a stuffed camel.
“Rami is almost weaned is he not, fair blossom?” asked Tahir.
“He is, esteemed husband.” Adiva beamed proudly. “See how big he is getting!”
“It is time then he was marked with the symbols of our tribe.”
Adiva sat bolt upright. ”Surely, it is too soon, esteemed husband?”
“It is the custom of our tribe that as soon as a boy is weaned, we tattoo the sacred marks upon him. You know that, fair blossom. Do not fret yourself, it only hurts a little. Rami will soon forget and we will give him a new toy for being a brave boy.”
“It is not that I fear.” Adiva held out her arms and her son ran into her embrace.
“Then what my fair blossom?”
“The enemies of our tribe hold power in the land. Remember what they did to your sister and her little one! What if marking our son as one of our tribe puts his life in danger?” She hugged Rani fiercely.
“If he were not marked, fair blossom, what if ought ill were to befall him? The Lord and Lady would not recognise him as one of their own to take to the Celestial Oasis.”
Rani started to whimper as his mother was holding him too tightly. She released him and he toddled off to play with his stuffed camel.
“We do not mark our girl children,” said Adiva.
“That is because the hearts of women and girls who worship the Lord and Lady are pure and untainted by bloodshed,” said Tahir.
“Well I know the teachings of our faith and I would not deny my son the joy of the Celestial Oasis,” said Adiva. “My heart fears for him, though in these dark times. There was another sacrifice today when I was in the market place. I saw the worshippers coming from the temple. They marked some of them with the victim’s blood.” She shuddered. Tahir put his arms around her. ”Daily, I grow more afraid. What if they force us to attend worship of the Lord of Gifts?”
“Warriors on active service are excused, my love. We are supposed to be either fighting or siring more warriors. All too soon, I must return to fighting our enemies which is why I would see our son marked ere I leave.”
“Sometimes I wonder who our enemies are,” said Adiva. “I fear the Kha Khan more than I fear the Men of the West.”
“There are some good men who dwell there, fair blossom, I know as I have seen some of their writings, but their lords seek to conquer our lands and take our women and children. So I must fight that I might protect you and our beloved land.”
“The Kha Khan has taken unwilling women of our tribe as his concubines,” said Adiva bitterly. “He has forbidden us to practice the faith of our forefathers. I know you must do your duty, though. When do you have to leave?”
“In three days time, fair blossom. I thought Rami could be marked tomorrow.”
Adiva grabbed hold of the sleeve of his robe. “I do not trust the tattoo artist since old Master Sabir grew too frail to work.”
“I will do it myself then, fair blossom, if that would ease your heart. I was taught the skills as a boy.”
”Thank you, esteemed husband.” Adiva glanced across the room. Rami had grown weary of his game and fallen asleep on a cushion.
It had grown dark and the moonlight streamed in through the open window. A moonbeam illuminated the child’s sleeping face.
Tahir and Adiva rose to their feet and bowed deeply to the moon. They looked around to ensure no one was observing them before beginning their evening prayers. “Gracious Lord and Lady, we seek your protection in this life to be guided to the Celestial Oasis when our time here is past,” they intoned.
“We have each other and our son and our faith,” said Tahir. “Tyranny surrounds us, yet we are blessed.”
Adiva kissed him. “Let us put Rami to bed then retire to our chamber. Maybe the Lord and Lady will bless us with more children, esteemed husband. The days till your return will not seem so long if your child is in my womb.”
Tahir kissed her tenderly. He then turned to face the window again and raised his arms towards the moon. “Lord and Lady, we seek your blessing that our children might know peace and freedom. Watch over me in battle and protect my fair blossom and my son.”
The moonlight illuminated his features and for the first time that day he felt peace. Whatever tyranny stalked his homeland, the moon would shine forever serenely in the heavens lighting the way to the Celestial Oasis.