Ralia placed her hands against her sides as she roamed the room. What could she do? Aisha could have her killed one day, and that would mean leaving her siblings to suffer in this world alone. Ralia decided to return to the bar, so that Aisha wouldn’t know that she had seen the scrolls. She would act like everything was alright, but she needed to find a way to run from Israar. It was very clear that Aisha’s heart was filled with evil.
Quickly, Ralia rushed towards the front door. But she was too late. At that moment, Aisha had just returned from the moor’s house. She was determined to see Fatima fall come the next day, and she had decided whom she would use to perpetuate her evil plans. She carefully pulled out a vial containing poison. She would get some fruits for Fatima and spread the poison over the fruits.
“She would have just one bite, and that would be the end of her.” She smiled.
But the smile faded when she noticed the door was open. Her heart raced along her feet. When Aisha caught Ralia walking briskly towards the front door, she sighed with relief.
“You fool! What are you doing here?” Aisha was more interested in the things she had carelessly left behind. If anyone showed those things to the chief protector, they would be used against her.
“I…I” Ralia stuttered.
Aisha could read Ralia easily. It was clear that the girl had gone through her things. Well, Ralia like Tanko knew that she wasn’t an angel, so she had nothing to fear.
“If you tell anyone what you saw, I shall have your head. I will tear you into shreds and send all those parts to your siblings. Now come, I have need for you.” Aisha said. Ralia wished she could escape from this bondage, but she was not strong enough. Even if she ran, she didn’t have enough money. Aisha would find her and kill her.
She followed the older woman until they reached the kitchen area. Aisha’s eyes sparkled when she found a basket of apricots that she had not touched. She walked near the basket to observe her fruits.
“They are still very fresh,” she paused to fetch one.
“And sweet,” She dug her teeth into it.

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She fetched the vial and emptied the contents over the fruits. Tears rolled down Ralia’s cheeks as she watched the action; she was not a simpleton. She knew what Aisha was doing. Aisha intended for her to eat the poisoned apricots, but she was wrong. The apricots were meant for someone else.
“Would you like to have a taste Ralia?” Aisha chuckled wickedly as she stared at the girl’s face. She had Ralia right inside her hands and she would use her.
“Now go on and be a good girl. Arrange the scrolls and keep the house clean. We have someone to visit very early in the morning.” Aisha announced gleefully. This time, Fatima would not escape the poison because it was extremely fast; it was created from the venom of poisonous adders. There was no antidote.
Abdul had met up with Rahib and the rest of his men at the widow’s house. He was full of regret as he thought about Rahib’s suggestion; Rahib had wanted to come with him to the ranch, they had known that Fatima was the next target. Perhaps if two men had chased after the assassin, Fatima wouldn’t have sustained any injury at all. Abdul was worried about the depth of her wounds. He prayed and hoped that she would be okay. Now they had another problem on their hands. The widow had asked to meet with him at the Brook of Maris; she was prepared to tell him everything about her late husband who was a key player of the order. But she also needed security.
“Her children have safe passage out of town.” Rahib returned with some men that had escorted the carriage conveying the widow’s children out of the town.
Ali’s widow knew that her life would be endangered, she knew too much about the order to stay alive. They had killed her husband and wouldn’t hesitate to harm her or the children. At first, she had been afraid when only Rahib had showed up. But seeing Abdul keeping watch outside her house strengthened her. They would move to the brook once midnight came.
“Good,” Abdul replied curtly. Rahib sighed and shifted closer to his master.
“You blame yourself too much. It is a good thing that she is still alive. You were still able to save her.” Rahib made an attempt at encouragement.
“Save her? She has a broken neck and a deep wound. I was a fool not to have listened. What if the assassins had been more? They would have killed me and her. I wish I could fix this.” Abdul felt terrible for putting Fatima’s life in danger.
“But you had tried to warn her, did you not? She didn’t listen!” Rahib reminded him.
“That is also my fault,” Abdul answered. He had broken the trust that Fatima had for him by sleeping with Aisha. He didn’t blame her for not listening to him and following him to his castle.
The men were still arguing when the widow joined them. She had a horrified look on her face.
“What happened?” The men chorused.
Her hands shivered as she opened her palms to fullest view. In the middle, they found the flower of death, the jewel of Israar. What did this mean?
“I found this by my widow. The order is after me. It is a symbol that I must join my husband. Please don’t let me die.” She begged.
Abdul pushed away his guilt. It was time to work. He couldn’t save Fatima, but he could save the widow, but he needed to think critically.
“Tell the men to surround the castle. For all we know, the assassin(s) may already be here or amongst us. Stick close to me.” Abdul grabbed her arm and rubbed the hilt of his sword.
“Are we still meeting at the brook?” Rahib called out.
“That is the only way to find out who the assassin is…” Abdul whispered.
He knew that they were being watched. He also knew that they were being followed. He was deliberately setting a trap for the secret watcher(s). He would give instructions to his men to surround the house, and for some to hide around the brook. The time had come for the order of the Israar to be exposed.
He could feel the woman’s fear as her elbow trembled.
“I promise you, your life is safe.” Abdul searched her eyes.
“I just pray that they do not attack my children. I am willing to die. But I will expose them for all their evil deeds and for killing my husband.”
Together, they marched into the house, waiting for the midnight call of the birds. This would be a dangerous operation.
The assassin wore a black cloak that melted into the darkness of the night. He had found his way to the garden, and to a window. He had no idea that the window opened into the widow’s room, but he had dropped the symbol of death anyway. As Tanko lay on the grass in wait, he thought of all the possibilities that could happen. The house was surrounded. He couldn’t see much or hear what was happening. But he needed to prove himself to the order, now or never.
“I must kill her…” He held onto his dagger tightly. His ears twitched as he heard heavy thuds approaching the garden. Abdul’s men were conversing.
“What is the plan?”
“Rahib says the senior fighters should follow him to the Brook of Maris, while the younger ones stayed behind to watch the castle against intrusion.”
“What will be happening at the Brook? Was it not there that Fatima was almost killed?
“I do not know. But we must obey.”
Tanko clenched his teeth. He wished the men could continue talking. It was obvious that something serious would take place at the brook. Tanko had a feeling that he was outnumbered. If he couldn’t strike the widow that night, he would get enough information for the order. Gently, he raised himself from the itching nettles. Certain that he wasn’t being watched, Tanko found a glowing sapphire talisman that always lay in his pocket. He had gotten the relic from his late uncle’s belongings. It proved useful at such a dark hour. With the narrow stream of silvery light, the assassin groped his way towards the deserted Brook of Maris. He needed to find a hiding place to keep watch.

To be continued…

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