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Seeking Wisdom

by Linaelyn

 

Fandom: KoH    Rating: PG    Pairing: Balian/Nasir    Full Header

 


"Take me to Jerusalem."

"Yes, my lord. Your enemies shall know of your quality."

~~~~~~~~

"There is water in this place. It would be wise to break our travel here."

"The sun is still quite high; we have hours of light in which to travel."

"But there is no water ahead, for a full day's journey. But, as Allah wills it."

"No water? No. Let us remain here."

"My lord is wise."

"Not wise, perhaps, but neither a fool."

~~~~~~~~

"How do you find graze for your horses in such an arid land?"

"Where there is water, also there is food. Thus it has always been."

"And to find the water?"

"One has only to watch the soaring birds. They fly either to water or to battle."

"To battle?"

"Even a battle brings food, if one eats the dead."

"Ah. Those sort of birds."

"Those that soar, yes."

~~~~~~~~

"Have you any food, my lord?"

"I came from the sea with nothing but my clothing and weapons. Have you any?"

"No, but I shall find us some."

"Feed the horses first."

"My lord is wise."

"Not wise, but neither a fool."

~~~~~~~~

"I have not seen that method of snare before. Show me the knot?"

"It is a simple matter, my lord. Merely wrap the cord thrice, and wind it back through the center. Like so."

"To capture a coney with only a short length of twine -- I would not have thought it possible."

"One must only find their trails, and lie silent after evening prayers. My lord has been kind to allow me to worship Allah in my usual fashion."

"My name is Balian. I would prefer you cease to address me as 'my lord' for I am no man's lord and master. Certainly not yours."

"I would prefer to address you as 'my lord', my lord."

"Why?"

"I do not wish to give offense to the order of such things, my lord. I do your bidding, and take you to Jerusalem. Therefore, until we arrive there, you are acting as my lord and master, ruling my actions where I would not will it."

"I see. Well, I must reach Jerusalem. You must address me as 'my lord' for a little longer, I suppose."

"As my lord wishes it."

"But I do not know how to address you in the way that is proper for your people. Tell me, what should I call you?"

"Nasir, my lord; simply Nasir."

"I must use your personal name? Yet you will not speak mine?"

"Such is the way of things, my lord."

Balian was silent for several moments.

"Very well, I will call you Nasir, if that is proper."

"My lord is wise."

Balian merely laughed.

~~~~~~~~

"Your method of cooking is strange to me, but the results are delicious, my lord."

"I have been traveling for many months and have had opportunity to perfect the braising of game meats. Would you like more? Here."

"Have you had your fill?"

"I tire of this sort of fare. Bread would be most welcome, could I have it. As would a bath, and a bed..."

"And a golden cup filled with sweet liquid, and a beautiful hand to hold it to your lips? Yes, there are many things to appreciate with more savor, after one returns from one's travels."

"Some things I will never savor again."

"You have suffered a loss? Forgive me, I pry where I should not, my lord. I unask the question."

"I... I caused her death."

"You regret your actions. But all is as Allah wills it."

"Her death was not the Will of God. It was her own will. She found her life with me beyond bearing, and died at her own hand."

"Ah. I see. She is lost to you, even in the life beyond this."

"She suffers in Hell. I go to Jerusalem to seek her redemption."

"You will gain her salvation through killing the followers of the Prophet?"

"I will gain her salvation in whatever way God tells me it may be gained."

"Can death ever yield life, eternal life?"

"It is the central tenet of my faith that Christ's death has done so, for all to see the glory of God. If causing death is the way to redeem her, I will kill."

"And how will you know for certain that the instruction to kill comes from God?"

"I will know."

"My lord is wise."

Balian was silent.

~~~~~~~~

"Nasir?"

"My lord?

"Have you known the love of a good woman?"

"I have wives, yes."

Balian was silent.

"My lord, she died at her own hand, and not yours."

"I am tired, Nasir. I have not slept in days. You will have ample opportunity to take my life this night."

"I would not do such a thing, my lord. You have given me my life; should I take yours in return?"

"Nevertheless, the temptation will arise. I ask that you stay your hand, for the sake of my dead wife. I must find a way save her. I will find a way to save her."

"Sleep easy, my lord. I will not raise my hand against you. You have my word on it."

~~~~~~~~

The effect of the sunburn reached its worst during the chill night. Balian's pale skin was not suited to riding through the desert at this latitude. He woke shaking, despite his exhaustion. The skin had begun to blister across his arms and face and he fevered in the frigid air. Above him the stars were thick in the dark bowl of the sky.

Nasir heard Balian shivering in the bedroll next to his. "My lord? Are you ill?"

"I..." Balian's voice broke, "...just a little too much sun."

Nasir reached for Balian's hand, and felt the man tremble. "Yes, the cool night can bring this. You need oil. I have some in my pack."

Nasir's deft fingers brought relief to the worst of the shaking as he rubbed the olive oil over Balian's injured skin. A wave of dizziness replaced the shaking, and then the pleasant, gentle touch of the other man's hands lulled him back to sleep.

Just before he succumbed to his dreams Balian said, "Thank you, Nasir."

"The pleasure is mine, Balian."

~~~~~~~~

"Nasir?"

"Yes, my lord."

"You called me by my name, last night."

"Last night, I helped you as one man helps another, not as a servant aids a master."

"I see. And this morning?"

"Today, I guide you to Jerusalem, my lord."

~~~~~~~~

"How long is our journey, Nasir?"

"Until Jerusalem? Two more nights, my lord, if we travel carefully and Allah wills it."

"Jerusalem is further inland than I was led to believe."

"There are those who have reason to describe the journey without accuracy, my lord."

"Those of your faith, and those of my own as well, to be sure."

"My lord is wise."

"I believe that the servant may be wiser."

Nasir was silent.

~~~~~~~~

"Is your burn improving, my lord?"

"Yes, I have always recovered quickly from such things."

"I am pleased to hear it."

"Nasir?"

"Yes, my lord?"

"Thank you for your aid."

"It is but my duty."

"No, you misunderstand me. Thank you for your aid, when you gave it as one man to another, without the obligation as a servant."

Nasir was silent.

~~~~~~~~

The sun stood high overhead when they reached the oasis and took their nooning. Date-filled palms and lush grass for the horses made for a tempting location at which to escape the midday heat. The men lingered, sipping from a shared waterskin. After nearly an hour, Balian broke the companionable silence.

"You have more than one wife? I have heard this said of your people, but it is strange to me."

"The Prophet teaches that it is God's will that we have children. Each woman should have a child, and every child should have a father who provides for the needs of the child and the mother. How is this strange?"

Balian sighed.

"I regret that my choice of words causes you pain, my lord."

"I could do neither for the only wife I had. I could not give her what she needed. I could not protect our child from death, and our child's death drove her to her own."

"All transpires as Allah wills it."

Rage flared in Balian, "It was not God's will that she died! It was her own will!"

Nasir waited for Balian's anger to dissipate. He replied, "My lord is wise. Perhaps it was Allah's will that you go to Jerusalem."

"Perhaps it was God's will that I find you to guide me there, Nasir."

~~~~~~~~

"You have told me nothing of your wives, Nasir."

"They are women much like women everywhere, my lord. They speak of womanly things, and they occupy themselves with womanly tasks."

"How many wives have you? Do you prefer one over another?"

"Women have never been of much interest to me, my lord. They raise the children, and they care for weaving and the cookery. One is much like another."

~~~~~~~~

The sun was nearly set when they reached the next water source. The wind had risen in the afternoon, and the dust flew around them, causing the horses to squint and shy. Nasir showed Balian how to tie a thin cloth over the black stallion's head, to protect the creature's eyes from the airborne grit.

"He is a beautiful mount, my lord; his quality is remarkable."

"He was my father's horse."

"My father bred the horse I ride, as well."

"Are servants often wealthy enough to breed horses, Nasir?"

"My lord is perceptive. My father was the master of the stables for many years, and his husbandry was quite renowned. Yet still, he served."

"Even a baron or a duke must serve the king, Nasir."

"Even a king must serve Allah, my lord."

~~~~~~~~

The fire had settled to coals and the remains of the roasted quail lay scattered around the edges of the firepit. The two men reclined on their bedrolls, watching the sparks rise into the deep blue above. The breast of the waning moon hung low over the jagged edge of the Eastern mountains.

"Nasir?"

"Yes?"

Balian was silent.

"Has your skin recovered from the sunburn, my lord?"

"Yes."

Nasir was silent a long time. They watched the fire together.

Nasir reached for Balian's hand, and entwined his fingers between the other man's. The flames crackled among the logs, loud in the silent night.

"Nasir?"

"Yes, Balian."

"You... you use my name."

"Tonight, I use your name. On the morrow, all will be the same as it was."

"Nasir, you are wise."

"Not wise, but neither a fool, Balian."

Balian raised Nasir's hand to his mouth, and suckled at the palm, gradually working his way down to the wrist. Lapping with his tongue, he tasted the salt from Nasir's sweat and the grease from their supper. Sword calluses on the thumb, and those from the bowstring on the middle fingers. A warrior's hand.

Nasir reached out and pulled Balian closer, shoulder to shoulder, hip bone to hip bone, knee sliding over thigh. Strength in the arm and shoulder, disproportionate to the calf and the thigh. A fighter, but not a cavalry soldier. Not long a lord.

Each learned more about the other in a few moments of touch, than in the previous two days of speaking.

The moon rose quite high before either of them found sleep.
 

 

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