by Jennifer Macaire
Leave honey on your skin. Wash it off with water, and pat rose petals on your cheeks. Tie the leather laces tightly. Put your armor on over a linen shirt.
Brush your hair nightly. Sew lavender in your pillowcase. Sharpen your lance. Make sure that your quiver is full. Soak your hands in lemon juice to whiten your nails. Darken your eyes with kohl. Harden your hands with live coals. Run for a day, in case your horse falls beneath you. You are a desert flower, a fragile blossom. You are a mighty warrior, a fearless brave. Goodnight, my sweet daughter. Godspeed, my son.
The young girl lay down on silk pillows and watched muslin curtains billow in the night breeze. Her hands had curly arabesques painted in henna. Moths blundered softly about the room.
The young warrior rode across the desert. By his side were five hundred soldiers. The sound of the horses' hooves was summer thunder. Five hundred spears glinted in the moonlight like lightning.
The young girl heard shouting. She ran to the window. In the garden, men ran across the lawn, their boots trampling curry, sage and rosemary.
The young warrior left his horse at the gate. With his men, he fought his way through the archway and over a wall. They ran through the garden, and threw their ropes and hooks onto the roof.
The girl watched as men swarmed up the walls. As one reached her window, he looked in. Their eyes met.
The young warrior saw the girl. At that moment, an arrow pierced his armor. He swung wildly, then started to fall.
The girl pulled him inside. She half-carried him to her bed. She untied his laces and undid his armor. The arrow protruded from his side, its feathered end trembling with each breath.
The warrior clenched his teeth. Was he lying in a silken bed, or was he dead? The pain in his side seemed to argue for life. Paradise, he reasoned, should be painless.
The girl studied the boy‘s face. He was the enemy, but no one had told her that the enemy had such finely arched brows. She would have to remove the arrow and cauterize the wound. The brazier held red coals. She eased the arrow from his side. Then she seized a coal with tongs and held it to the cut.
The smell of burning flesh woke the warrior from his dream. He opened his eyes, and found himself staring at a young woman. His side ached, but the arrow was gone.
"My horse is at the gate. Help me, and you shall be my bride."
"Spare my family, and I will bring my jewels as dowry."
They were married. When their children were born, they spoke thus: Leave
honey on your skin. Sew lavender in your pillow, and learn the art of healing.
Sharpen your lance, and make sure your horse will carry two people.
Copyright © 2000 Jennifer Macaire