The castle became alive at the sound of the morning birds. Fatima was the first to wake, and she was pleased to find Umar sleeping next to her. Her chest fluttered as she stared at the lovely man. He cared so much for her, if only she had not pushed him away. Little Iman had been watching the adults the whole time. When her eyes met with Fatima’s eyes, they smiled.
However, this beautiful and peaceful moment was soon disrupted as the women heard a serious commotion outside. Abdul was back, and he was yelling commands at his servants. Before, Fatima would’ve been angry to hear his voice or see him, but now that she had discovered how he saved her, she was grateful. They could talk about Aisha later.
“Wake up, your brother is here.” She gently tapped Umar.
“What?” Umar’s eyelids were still heavy with sleep.
As Abdul pushed the door open, a sharp pained filled his chest area as he saw how innocent Umar looked. He paused in his steps and wondered if telling Umar about his affair was the right thing to do. He decided to do it, no matter what happened. But he would start with the good news first.
“Fatima!” He called out excitedly and rushed to her bed. He kissed her head softly and gazed upon her belly wound.
“I am sorry for what happened, I should’ve saved you.” He whispered.
“No problem, I am still breathing,” she laughed. But she didn’t understand that the chief protector had prior information that she was a target of the order; such information was not necessary anyway.
“Thank you brother,” Umar bowed his head.
Abdul avoided his eyes and his speaking of gratitude.
“I know who tried to kill her. I have found the members of the order…” Abdul bit his lip.
Laila sauntered into the room at the right time for the open confession. She quickly dropped the basket containing Fatima’s clothes. She joined Umar and Fatima on the bed.
“Who?” They all asked.
Fatima tried to sit, but the pain at her neck wouldn’t let her.
Abdul was about speaking when he noticed the vellum in Laila’s hand.
“Who owns that?” He whispered.
“Aisha forgot it at the ranch. I want to give it back.” Laila shrugged.
Abdul sighed and produced bigger vellum.
“Aisha is guilty like her brother. She sent the assassin after Ibram. Tanko attacked and killed my man last night. He was sent by the order to kill the widow.” As he explained everything that had happened, the vellum of names went around and everyone in the room was shocked.
Umar couldn’t believe it.
“She can’t do something like that. Aisha is not a murderer.”
Laila was equally shocked, but she didn’t disbelieve it. The evidences were too much as Abdul also explained that if licorice from the jewel of Israar’s plant was poured over the paper, Fatima’s name would show. And Abdul sounded confident.
“They pass information in vellums and scrolls. You must believe me brother. You do not know who she is.” Abdul moved closer to Umar, ready for his confession.
“I do know who she is!” Umar fired back. He was afraid that the woman he loved was a murderer.
“I slept with her in your castle. It was consensual.” Abdul confessed.
“What?” Umar turned and faced the others. It all made sense now. He remembered the discussion Laila and Fatima had.
“Did you know about this?” He asked calmly.
Fatima could tell that he was extremely angry but he managed to contain it because of her.
“Did you know about this Fatima?” His voice thundered.
Tears welled up in her eyes, “I tried to tell you, but each time I tried, you will push me away. She was holding something against me too.” Fatima sniffed.
“What?” His voice was broken as he saw her cry. He didn’t want to be the cause of her pain.
Laila took it from there because she knew how hurt Fatima was.
“We were having money problems at the ranch. We told Fatima to ask you for a loan, but she wouldn’t. After she had found herself falling for you, Aisha who knew about the ranch’s money problems used that against her. She planned to make Fatima seem like a gold digger to you.” Laila was not left out of the pain. How could Tanko be part of such a horrible group?
Umar ran his fingers through his hair. So many things had happened, but he was in the dark. How could Fatima not tell him about the situation of the ranch? How could she let the animals die off because they couldn’t afford a cure?
“Please forgive me, I saw that you were so happy with her…And when I remember how much I hurt you, I just wanted you to be happy for once.” She wept.
Laila rose to her feet and turned to the wall. Hot tears rushed down her cheeks as she remembered all the plans she had with Tanko. Laila wanted to know if he truly cared about her. Or if he had been pretending to love her just to get information? She needed to find out. She rushed out of the room with tears burning on her cheeks.
Umar couldn’t hold a thing against her. He couldn’t blame Fatima or anyone for keeping things away from him. They wanted him to be happy, and he had truly enjoyed those moments with Aisha, even when she had been playing with his feelings.
“How did you know about the affair?” He asked on a lighter note.
“I…had come to your castle, I saw them.” Fatima’s eyes moved towards Iman. Umar equally followed her gaze.
“You knew?” He asked. The girl nodded and stared at the ground.
Umar wondered why Aisha would claim to love him and sleep with his brother.
“You betrayed my trust. You can kill me!” Umar fired angrily.
“No, I will never let harm come to you. I know it would be very difficult for you to forgive me, but you must stay away from Aisha. I will arrest her along other members. You must try to forget her.” Abdul advised.
Deep down, Umar felt ashamed of the way he felt. Since his bonding with Fatima, he had stopped thinking so much about Aisha, but he still cared. It was just that Fatima had always been the woman for him. Now that things were laid bare, he had no regrets. A woman that was capable of killing was not the right woman for him. It would be difficult, but he planned to forget her.
Laila had almost touched the back of her horse when she saw Aisha riding for the castle. She dumped the horse and rushed inside.
“Aisha has come…” Laila announced.
Abdul nodded and made up his mind about her.
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The men were drawn by her beauty, so they let her pass without scrutiny. Aisha handed the basket to Ralia as they marched towards the room where Fatima stayed.
“You must persuade her to eat. Else, I will make good on my promise to kill you.” She ushered one last threat to Ralia before stepping to the room. In her overconfidence, she failed to notice the way all eyes looked at her as she stepped into the room. If looks could kill, she would’ve died.
“You!” Umar pointed at her. His tone was sharp and aggressive.
Aisha was stunned, what happened?
“You murderer! Have you come to finish what you started?” He advanced towards her but Abdul blocked him.
“Let me take it from here, brother.” It was only then that Umar walked away. He was surprised how swiftly his love had changed to aggression. Perhaps it was majorly because he felt betrayed.
On hearing this, Ralia scurried out of the room unnoticed. She had been plotting her escape. She had three gold coins that she had gotten from Tanko. It would take her for a month. She mounted on Aisha’s horse and rode away with the basket of poisoned apples. The men simply watched her leave, while wondering why such a young girl would be in a hurry to live life.
“I am sorry that I allowed my lustful passions to take over me. I promise to protect you in prison and that no one would touch you.” Abdul began.
Aisha took off her scarf; she couldn’t understand the atmosphere she had walked into.
“What prison? What are you talking about?” She licked her lips, hoping that her worst fears had not come to life.
Abdul smiled, “You tried to kill Fatima. You are a member of the order of Israar. You do not have to lie. Your brother is with us. We found him at the Brook of Maris. As we speak, the moor and others are being arrested.”
When Aisha saw the paper, her knees sank to the ground.
“No…no…” This felt like a dream and she needed someone to wake her.
“I trusted you with everything!” Umar shook his head.
“Please…I love you.” She begged.
“No you don’t. Just go!” Umar moved away from her.
Aisha and Fatima’s eyes crossed.
“You tried to kill me to protect your secret, but I still live.” Fatima flashed a smile.
Aisha rushed towards her and tried to squeeze her broken neck, but it was too late. The battle was over, and she had lost. Abdul bundled her out of the room. Iman rushed outside as well, to search for her friend. Laila followed them closely behind. Yes, everything had a beginning, and an end. The end of the order had come. And all those who began with it, would end with it.
When the friends were left together, they wept silently in each other’s arms. When the crying was over, Umar took Fatima’s tender hands.
“You do not know what you mean to me. You can always ask for anything, I can give you my goldmine.” He kissed her hands.
“I was ashamed,” Fatima chuckled and looked away shyly.
When her laughter died down, he lowered his lips to hers. It was quite early, but he didn’t care. He had desired to kiss her for a long time. Now that Fatima was certain of what she felt for him, he was eager to relight the fire of his passion.
When his lips came upon hers, it wasn’t a struggle. It was pure. It was short. It was sweet. Their minds bonded as one, and he swore to protect her from all the evils in this world.
“I love you Umar.” She boldly announced.
“You know I have always loved you.” He smiled and stared at her bright eyes.
It was early, but it was love; a love that would stand the test of time because it was true, and selfless.
It would take Umar some time to trust his brother, and to forgive him. But when Fatima recovered, they still had lunch at the ranch like one big happy family. Faiza’s baby girl made it more fun. While the adults ate and laughed, Iman would care for the baby, while thinking of Ralia’s strange disappearance. But Ralia was alive and strong. She had escaped the bondage of Aisha and Tanko, she had found her siblings and they had fled to their mother’s hometown.
One after the other, the members of the ancient order were rounded off, and their properties were sold to minister to the poor of Israar. The bar was gone. The buildings were gone, but peace, safety and order were restored.

END

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