Far away, a beautiful young woman was leaning out of the arched window of the city's very tallest tower, immobile in the warm air, gazing out past the city which fell around her at the surrounding desert. She wore a glittering lilac and violet sari and her long shiny black hair was plaited down her back. Her elbows were on the sill of the window, her chin in one hand.
“Oh, Father...” she sighed.
Tap, tap. The girl frowned. “Who is it?” she half-groaned, without turning around.
“It’s Adviser Sayyid,” came a deep voice, speaking slowly and coolly. The girl straightened up and froze to the spot. “Oh, c- come in.”
The door opened. A split-second and the girl turned around, rearranging her shocked expression into a simpering smile. Standing before her was a tall man, with a neat black beard and moustache, and black eyes that were fixed on her rather too intensely.
They were in a small room with no furniture except a small sofa and a table on which stood a candle in an ornate holder and a bowl of fruit.
“How may I help you?” said the girl politely.
“I merely wish to speak with you,” said the man.
“Of course, erm... sit down,” she said, gesturing to the seat while trying not to shudder at the sound of his voice. This was a commanding voice, smooth with authority, a voice that bent things to its will. He smiled and obliged. It was a small, satisfied smile.
He leant back and settled down on the chair, still smiling at the girl in front of him. Reluctantly, she sat down at the very opposite end of the seat, her knees together and hands clasped over them, staring forwards away from Adviser Sayyid, whose gaze was still on her face, almost unblinking.
“Your father... he’s still not returned, I believe.”
She looked at him, nodded, slowly.
“It has been weeks since he was bound to return, surely -”
“He will return,” the girl said firmly.
His smile widened in an almost amused way as he looked down at her. “Indeed...” He leaned closer to her. She tensed up uneasily, her stomach contracting, fighting to maintain her composure. What did he want? He looked her up and down... Her toes curled in her sandals.
“Princess Izdihar... you are no longer a girl. You have grown into a beautiful young woman. A fine woman.” He put his hand on hers. “Which is why -”
His fingers seared her hand as if they were red-hot pokers. Her heart jumped and her stomach turned over. She stood up abruptly and breathed deeply for a few seconds. “I have lots of people wanting to see me,” she said shortly.
“Of course.” The adviser smiled. “A princess’s duties are never done. I will talk to you again soon.” He bowed his head. She did the same and watched him leave.
She put her hand to her chest; her heart was beating too fast. She tried to breathe slower as she stood transfixed, her eyes still on the doorway where the black figure had been a few seconds before, terrified by what they both knew was unspoken between them.