“But Scarlet claims that the Karain is…”
Faisal’s stern voice interrupts Deirdre’s complaint.
“Yes. Scarlet has differing opinions on the Proper Forms of Worship and the truth of the Karain’s teachings. However, you would do well to remember that she is also blessed by The Eternal Light of Wisdom and Justice, and it would be the height of hubris to assume that you, I, or the Holy Book know Her wishes better than The Goddess Herself.”
Deirdre bows her head, cheeks burning at the admonishment. “Yes, mualim.”
Faisal’s expression softens and he places his hand over hers.
“One thousand pardons, Deirdre. I should not have spoken so harshly. This must be difficult, having to learn so much, in so little time, with guidance from teachers who do not agree on what is to be taught.”
Deirdre’s eyes widen and her breath speeds up as the warrior’s strong grip enfolds her hand. He looks at her with concern, misinterpreting her reaction.
“You have also been blessed with The Lady’s gift, perhaps even more directly than either the Dawnsister or myself. Your passion and devotion to the teachings is inspiring, as is your…”
The holy warrior is brought up short as the young woman leans forward impulsively and kisses him. His surprise is so complete that he is partway through returning her kiss before he realizes and pulls away suddenly. Deirdre stammers awkwardly and blushes even deeper.
“I…I am sorry, mualim. I should not have… But you have been so kind… and so strong… and so close…”
Faisal recovers from his shock and kneels before her.
“No, Deirdre. You do not need to apologize, for there is no offense. In my culture it is a lady’s prerogative to express her wishes as she pleases, and I am honoured by your attention. I would deserve to be flogged for ten thousand days under The Sarenrae’s pitiless rays were I to lie and claim no fondness for the beautiful woman whom She chose to save my worthless life. I look forward to every moment I spend in your presence and cherish every word that you speak. However, I cannot honour your wishes or my desires, for my heart already belongs to another.”
The young woman bows her head and sighs. “I understand, mualim. I am sorry for my inexcusable behavior. I will clear out my belongings by this evening.”
The warrior looks surprised for a moment, then stern. “You will not. Your culture may frown upon women expressing their desires, but I hold it as a great honour that you would feel this way. If you wish, it shall remain a private matter, but you will not allow this to undermine your duties to The Lady of Light and Passion.”
Deirdre looks at the young man, torn between embarrassment at her blunder and pride at his praise. She bows her head again and murmurs, “Thank you, mualim.”
Faisal smiles and rises. “Forgive me again, Deirdre. I must attend to my other duties. May I join you tomorrow for another lesson?”
Relief and hope brighten the young woman’s face as she replies, “Nothing would please me more…Faisal.”
As the young general leaves her quarters, Deirdre stares at the door thoughtfully.
That ungrateful woman may claim your heart now, but I will see that change.
Deirdre crosses her spartan quarters and contemplates the Qadiran text lying open on the desk.
Oh yes, that change.