Shafiq and Belle rode comfortably upon and with the company of Numair and Maysa', who had struck up quite a conversation between them with Numair's new found speech. They discussed everything and it soon became plain that Numair rather fancied Maysa'. Her regal gait and winsome ways and witty conversation made her a very attractive mare. The stallion had noticed.
Shafiq turned toward Belle and inquired how she was. Her reply was courteous and warm as always, "Well and in good spirits, Shafiq. I see you have a ring upon your finger, new and not there before." Shafiq said, "My mother the Queen, gave it to me. It is the counterpart of the ring in the amulet you bear. It was brought to my mother at the same time your father received the amulet you wear always. I am to bear this ring for protection of us and the quest as you bear the amulet."
* * *
Aêšmi prowled looking for Shafiq and Belle, but as yet the maid of the black pit could find no scent nor sense of them anywhere and was in fact far away from them.
* * *
The Daughters of Astarte, the Warriors of Lady Ishtar, drilled, as they did every day. Ra'idah, aptly named, since it was foreseen from her birth that she was to be a leader of the Warriors of the Lady of the East, put them through their paces. Rashida, Ra'idah's second in command, relayed every order in smoothest unity of purpose to the phalanx. After the morning's exercise, the phalanx drank deeply of water and rested until mid afternoon while they ate. As they rested Ra'idah addressed them, "Sisters, you do well as always. But now I have seen in the high grove, last night in a vision, that soon we are to be called upon for a great battle. I sense that it is not a single battle alone, but the beginning of many in a great conflict. I know you are with me and I value you deeply. My love goes with you, for we go to war. You are the most valiant warriors there could be. The enemy is most evil and is strong and cunning. We go to strive against Asmodeus and Lilitu and their foul hordes." At that, the ladies jumped to their feet and cheering and grasping their shields and spears they shouted, "With you Sister, with you always. Asmodeus will learn to fear us mightily."
* * *
As Shafiq and Belle rode, the Lady of the Morning, the Queen of the Dawn, Sawsan, Lily of the valley, was upon her roof at night and praying for guidance and protection for Shafiq and Belle and the victory of their Quest. Suddenly the angel of God, Abdul-Alim Nur al Din appeared before the Queen. Queen Sawsan, bowing, said, "mighty malak of God, welcome and for what have you come?" He spoke, looking intently at her, "you know O Queen, of the danger that your son and the Princess are going into. It is theirs to face this. I will be there to help. You and I, now must make plans for the war which will soon be upon you." They walked and counselled together through the night. When dawn came, the angel bid her farewell with a promise of his return and departed.
The quest proceeded and the war was coming.
-to be continued-
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