Thirty-EightMature

Izdihar was frozen, staring at her father in disbelief which was slowly turning to joy.

            “You’re banished from this kingdom, Basir. How did you get in?”

            Izdihar had not forgotten Sayyid’s vow to kill Basir if he ever set foot in the city again, but it looked as though he didn’t dare do anything with the strange army behind his enemy.

            “I am the rightful king.”

            “Not since the day I defeated you in battle for the kingdom. You gave your word, Basir.”

            “As I understood it, Sayyid, our deal stated that if I lost, your engagement to my daughter would be over and you would leave her alone. You broke your word, our deal is void. Come here, Izdihar.”

            Izdihar made to move forwards, but at a gesture from Sayyid one of the guards grabbed her arm and held her back.

            “I should have killed you when I had the chance!” spat Sayyid. Izdihar had never seen either him or her father look so angry. It was like sparks should be coming from their eyes.

            “Let her go, Sayyid. Give it up. It’s over. I’m taking back my kingdom today.”

            There was a cheer from the watching crowd          .

“Never! This is my kingdom,” said Sayyid, drawing his sword. His guards followed suit.

Basir drew his own sword, as did his army.

“Last chance, Sayyid. If you don’t let my daughter go I will kill you.”

            Before Sayyid could respond a man from the crowd ran in front of the army, facing Sayyid defiantly, followed by another. More and more of the people started ranging themselves against Sayyid’s army of guards, until the size of Basir’s following had doubled.

            “As your king, I order you to move out of the way!” snarled Sayyid.

            “Never! You’re not our king! He is!” someone shouted, and there were calls of agreement. People were still joining the massive group, until most of the crowd was on Basir’s side of the square. Sayyid’s group of guards now looked very small.

            “A true king earns the respect of his people,” said Basir. “He doesn’t gain it through fear.”

            Sayyid’s men were looking to him uncertainly. He let out an ear-splitting roar of fury and flung his sword on the ground. Two of the soldiers in green ran forward and grabbed him by the arms. The man holding on to Izdihar let go of her and stepped back, his arms up in surrender, as a third and fourth approached them. Izdihar ran to her father, who dropped his sword and embraced her for a long moment.

            “I’m so sorry, Izdihar,” he whispered. “I should never have left you.”

            “But you came back,” she said in wonderment.

            “You’ve got the little boy Tommy to thank for that,” said Basir.

            “What?”

“I’ll tell you all about it soon. I have work to do,” he said. Around them there was chaos as Sayyid was dragged away and the foreign soldiers took all the weapons from his guards.

“Father!” said Izdihar. “The prison - Sayyid still has all your men locked up, you’ve got to get them out!”

            Basir took a group of the men he had brought with him to the prison, while others went to help reunite parents with their children, who were coming down from the rooftops, their guards scattered. Izdihar insisted on going with him. They quickly got past the guards and into the gloomy building.

Izdihar ran along the corridor lined with cells until she reached the one she was looking for and stopped dead. There was Faruq, looking thin but unharmed. He stood up in disbelief when he saw her. “Izdihar!”

When one of the men in green got to them with the key and opened the door, Izdihar rushed straight into the cell and threw her arms around Faruq. “You’re okay!” Hands on either side of his face, she stared into his eyes, tears of joy leaking down her cheeks. “I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again!”

“Izdihar...How are you here? What’s happened? Who...”  He gestured speechlessly at the doorway where the man had just disappeared.

“My father came back with these men. He stopped the wedding. It’s over!”

Faruq’s face broke into an amazed smile. Just then, Basir appeared in the doorway. The two of them stepped apart at once.

“What’s going on here?” he asked.

Faruq’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly.

Izdihar took a deep breath. “Father, I... I am in love with Faruq.”

There was a pause. “I know I’m not a worthy suitor for a princess your majesty, but I love her, and I... I would like to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage,” said Faruq in a small voice, looking at Basir like he was expecting some kind of mortal blow any moment. Izdihar took his hand.

To their surprise, Basir smiled. “You’ve chosen well, my dear.” He turned to Faruq, who was standing there, mouth open. “You have my blessing.”

Faruq seemed to regain his senses and bowed.

“I’ll trust you to look after her until we’re sure the royal tower, the real one, is safe,” said Basir, and left.

They looked at each other for a long moment. “You really want to marry me?” murmured Faruq.

“Of course,” breathed Izdihar. “More than I’ve ever wanted anything before.”

They kissed for a long moment, the happiest moment of Izdihar’s life.

The End

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