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Chapter Seven:

The crack of dawn

  Will rolled on his back, now opening his eyes completely... he had watched the scene between Nasir and Tuck since the monk's whisper had woken him.

Marion finally began to emerge from the depths of sleep. She felt she hadn't slept as well as last night in years, and how nice it was not to have been woken every couple of hours for prayers. She felt more at peace here than she had behind the stone walls at Kirklees.

Will was wondering what it was about the stranger... all but himself seemed to be determined to make him one of them... why didn't they see what he saw? A stranger in every aspect, strange to their land, to their faith, to their way of living, to their group. Though - he added mentally - he didn't actually care about faith. He had lost his the night his wife died. When he saw Nasir disappear into the forest once more Will immediately was on alert... "What the -," he cursed but stifled the rest.

Nasir moved silently through the trees... the way seeming to become easier each time he travelled it... when he reached the small clearing he removed the harness and glanced at the sky ...

Marion looked about to see who was awake, noticing that Nasir was not in camp again. Had he spent the whole night on guard? She didn't remember hearing him come back in the night. She put it out of her mind and dragged herself out from under her blankets.

There was no need to wake up the others... not now. Will tossed away the blanket, then as quiet as possible rose and grabbed his dagger, leaving the larger sword alongside bow and quiver. It was his firm intention to find out what the Saracen was up to... he was leaving camp far too often... what if he betrayed them to the Sheriff... dealing their lives for his own freedom ?

Marion rolled up her bedding and put it away in the lean to. She looked about to see Robin on the other side of the burnt out fire, with his blanket pulled up tight around him. The sun was out, but there was still a slight chill in the morning air, which she felt through her dress.

Getting his bearings, Nasir turned to face what he thought to be Mecca then raised his hands to the side of his face... palms outward... "Allah u Akbar," he said softly as he began. He lowered his hands, covering his left with his right. "Subhanaka Allah humma wa bihamdika, wa tabaraka ismuka, wa ta'ala jadduka, wa la ilaha ghairuk."

"Where are you going, Will?" Marion asked as he rose suddenly.

Will started at Marion's question. He hadn't noticed she was awake, too. Marion walked over to the where the fire had been burning vigorously the night before, and began to poke at it... all the while giving Will her full attention. His brow wrinkled as he looked angry over to her... he didn't like to be asked what he was doing.

... "Audu bi Allah i mina ashaitan i errajeem. Bismillah i rrahman i erraheem." ...

Marion began to grab a couple pieces of wood and pile them onto the fire. "Could you help me get this started, please?" she asked helplessly up to Will. She wasn't about to admit to him that she didn't know how to do it. It wasn't her fault that she had always had someone else there to do it for her.

Tuck grumbled in his sleep, rolling to his side as he pulled the blanket over his head... leaving his feet exposed.

Will roled his eyes impatiently, his anger about being stopped on his way following Nasir now smoldering beneath the surface. He drew a deep breath and joined Marion at the burnt out fire.

... "Al humdo lil-lahi rab-bil al ala-meen. Arrahman i rraheem. Maliki yaum i eddeen. Iyyaka nabudu wa iyyaka nasta een. Ihdinas sirata almustageem. Siratel lazhira anamta alaihim, ghairil maghdubi alaihim, wa la adhdhaal leen. Aameen." ...

Marion truly hoped that she wasn't going to be a burden on these men. Were they going to want her to do all the cooking and mending for them? She had never been patient enough to learn these skills, well, at least not to any degree of worthiness.

... Nasir dropped his arms to his side as he bowed and moved to the next passage...

"Never learnt it, eh?" Will crossed his arms and looked at Marion, then bent forward to her.

"This ... ," he stressed his first word, "... will never burn."

Instead, she had spent her time up trees and playing with the servants' children. Looking back over her life before becoming the Abbott's ward, she had been a wild child, never adhering to her father's rules, or anyone else's for that matter. And now she was a wife. Not a very good one at that, as she looked over to where her husband was sleeping, she hadn't even let him sleep next to her their first night together. Feeling rather embarrassed about the mess of wood and ashes in front of her "Is it really that obvious?", she replied timidly, slightly fearful to look Will in the eye.

With each passage the Saracen could feel the trepidation receding... he knew he had made the right choice... as he learned their language they would have less reason to fear him and as he fought at their sides they would have no reason to doubt his loyalty. He lowered himself to the ground, prostrating himself as he continued.

Keeping his arms crossed he looked mockingly back at her, then slightly shaking his head he moved over to where Much lay and slept. He nudged at the boy's side. As the boy opened his eyes and looked at Will he told him "Show her - ," he pointed with his head over to Marion, "- how to light a fire. I have business to do ... "

"Allah u Akbar," Nasir raised himself to his knees as he continued then once again prostrated himself.

"You never answered me, Will. Where're you going?" Marion repeated, slightly fearful now of what he might say or do to her for being so impertinent.

She dared to ask him again... even Elena had never been so demanding... but Marion wasn't at all like his late wife. Slowing down his steps as he walked over to the treeline he looked at her and said, "Following instincts."

"Subhana rubbiyal a'ala" Nasir repeated 3 times then stood... looking once again to the sky before he began the second set of his rakat. He moved smoothly through the positions... losing himself in them so that for that moment he was almost aware of nothing but them ...

Marion watched as Will disappeared into the trees. She had a feeling that he was going to look for Nasir, but wasn't sure.

Much rubbed his eyes and looked sheepishly at Marion as Will disappeared into the forest.

Nearing the end the Saracen once again lowered himself to the ground and prostrated himself...

Once he made it beyond the treeline, Will stopped walking and held his breath... sensing for any sign of Nasir... and once more chiding for letting Marion get in his way. If it hadn't been for her he might have caught the Saracen red-handed. He smiled grimly as he imagined what he'd do with the miserable traitor... if he'd ever find him... just before he was debating his return to camp he heard a voice in the distance.

... "Subhana rubbiyal a'ala"... "Subhana rubbiyal a'ala," Nasir repeated his forehead still pressed to the ground...

No doubt, it was Nasir's voice, Will realized as he continued walking, carefully avoiding stepping on twigs on the ground or causing any other noise. The voice grew louder but the words didn't make sense to him... and there was no second voice as he'd expected. Will took a peek from behind a tree to the spot he suspected Nasir... but couldn't see him at first. He had to lower his glance to finally see the Saracen sunk to the ground.

"Subhana rubbiyal a'ala". As Nasir finished the last verse he sat back on his heels... letting the feelings the prayers brought to him wash over him... thinking he should get back... Nasir rose and reached for his harness.

Will smirked and took a small step from behind the treetrunk. He crossed his arms and leant casually with his shoulder to the trunk. When Nasir rose, he said in a mocking voice "Lost something ?".


An early morning conversation

(Part One)

  Nasir tightened his hand on the hilt of a sword as he first heard the voice... how had he not heard their approach... as he realized whose voice it was he let his gaze settle on the man. He furrowed his brow at the question then shook his head with a slight frown... why would he think he had lost something?

Obviously the Saracen had lost his sense of humor during his time with de Belleme... if he ever had one, of course... Will shook his head slightly and took two steps towards Nasir.

Nasir's first instinct was to pull the swords from their sheaths, but he refrained from acting on it... for the moment he held his ground, letting the other man make the first move.

Will planted himself opposite to Nasir, giving the Saracen an appraising look. "I don't like to have you run around the forest alone", he stated.

Nasir's frown deepened... he didn't like him running around the forest alone... what right did he have to prevent it? He wasn't the leader, and he would not be the one to stop him from following his beliefs... how to tell him that... having no other option, the Saracen shrugged.

Seeing Nasir shrugging in this - what to Will seemed to be - disdainful way, the red haired man almost jumped at his opponent. "Don't you ever dare to do this again ... ", Will grabbed Nasir on the collar of his jerkin.

When Will grabbed him instinct took over... Nasir immediately moved to break the hold... as he twisted out of his grip he let the swords slide free of their sheaths then turned once again to face the man.

John decided to end his watch when the first birds started their early morning songs and the sky turned from dark blue to violet and red... he dropped his staff from the fork of the big tree he had spent the last uneventful hours and jumped down to the ground. He headed for the clearing with their camp, looking forward to his warm blanket against the morning chill and a mug of hot herbal tea when he heard the unambiguous sounds of steel being freed from its sheath.

He had yet to bring his swords to the ready, but one wrong move from the man and he would... Nasir's gaze never wavered as he waited for the man's next action.

After Nasir had twisted out of his grip and unsheathed his swords, Will stepped back and smirked... "So that's how you handle problems, eh ?"

Nasir studied the man as he spoke... there didn't seem to be any immediate danger... but he wasn't fully convinced... he held his ground... the swords firmly in his grasp albeit still directed at the ground.

John turned his head in the direction of the sound... too close to the camp... he broke into a run.

Will moved sideways, always keeping a safe distant to Nasir's swords... he had left his own sword back in camp, alongside his longbow and quiver...

Now what? The Saracen considered his options... he could stand down... maybe he had over reacted... but what if he hadn't? The man had no weapons... he was no immediate threat ...

When John finally broke through the underbrush, it took him a split second only to get an idea of what was going on between the two men. "Stop!"

At the sound of the yell, Nasir let his gaze pass to the other man for only a moment then let it go back to Will.

Will glanced at John. "Stop? What?"

John darted his eyes from Nasir to Will and back... "Stop fighting. I will not allow you to", the giant man said in a calm voice.

"Oh, c'mon, John, we weren't fighting... we were just having a - little conversation, Nasir and I." Will again smirked.

"Aye, and why does Nasir need his swords? To write down the words on your skin?" John smirked back, shaking his head at the same time. "Nasir, I apologize how my friend- ", John grabbed Will on his shoulder, "here behaves."

A conversation? Nasir wanted to laugh but held himself back... he had only wanted privacy for his prayers... it was was Will who seemed to have a problem with it.

Will looked up at John, the fight between amazement and anger evident on his face. "You - what?! You apologize for me? But it was him who left the camp - I had to follow - to make sure he wouldn't betray us ... "

Nasir let his eyes settle on the big man... he sensed no dishonesty in his words... could he hold the other man in check, who believed he would betray them? He had given his word to Robin, or rather his actions had spoken where his words could not... that alone should have been enough.

John looked back at Will, his free hand running through his beard. "Well, if Nasir really wanted to give us away - to whom? Where's the one to betray us to? Do you see any? No, you don't ... ". Then he released his hold on Will's shoulder and patted his back. "You are imagening things, Will - isn't he, Nasir?"

As the big man spoke again he loosened his grip slightly... it was beginning to look like the other man was going to settle for nothing more then talk. At his question Nasir nodded... he had no intention of betraying them.

Will's anger flared up once more at the wordless understanding between John and Nasir. "But why does he leave the camp again and again? That's what makes me suspicious!"

Will: "That's what makes me suspicious!"

Nasir once again found himself berating himself internally... his stubborness was the cause of this... if he had only tried to learn to speak their language while with de Belleme ...

John passed the question on to the Saracen. "Nasir? You feel like you want to give any explanation... or, pardon me, you are able to give any?"

How could he explain about his prayers... would they even understand if he could?

The wordless understanding had changed from John and Nasir to John and Will. The latter looked at Nasir, waiting for his response.

Nasir let his gaze travel between both of the men unsure of how to explain why his privacy was necessary... finally out of frustration he answered in Arabic... "I seek solitude for my prayers."

For a moment the expression on John and Will's faces was the same - amazement. Then John raised his eyebrows, once more patted Wil's back and laughed "Here you have your explanation ... "

Nasir shifted both swords to one hand and stooped to pick up the abandoned harness, resheathing them he slipped it back on and buckled the straps that held it in place.

If looks could kill Will would have been the only man standing right now... he glanced at John and hissed "You think that's funny, eh? I tell ya, it's not funny at all!" Will raised a hand and pointed at Nasir. "I will watch you - remember? Best friend or dead ..." He turned and headed back for the camp, the sound of John's laughter still in his ears.

Nasir struggled hard to keep from smiling at John's words and then at Will's reaction... what had they expected? It wasn't like he could explain in English... he looked at Will's back as he started back to camp then turned to John and shrugged.


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