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TALES OF ABU NUWAS 2: FAIZAH'S DESTINY
The gods are at war and only a farmer’s daughter can save the world from Armageddon.
The village magician has gone missing. His four pupils think he has left a clue to his whereabouts in the Magicalis Bestialis--the book of magical creatures. They must seek the help of the elusive Simurgh, the mythical birds who know all the secrets of the universe.
However, this is not an easy camping trip into the mountains. Spirits, gods, and demons confront the four friends, who are not aware they’re being set up by otherworldly forces for a much larger task.
A farmer’s daughter, Faizah is chosen to lead the humans in the battle. She must persuade a slave, an orphan, and a rich merchant’s son to join in the battle on the side of good. Although divided by Dev, the evil god of war, the teens must band together to find the Simurgh, rescue their teacher, and stave off Armageddon.
He heard the noise. A dry, rustling whisper of sound. At first, he thought it was the wind. Looking up, he could see nothing but blackness. The forest canopy was so thick overhead it blocked out the stars. Harib had never seen such big trees before, and he’d wondered idly what they might be. The thick, shaggy-barked trunks soared high into the gloom, unbroken by branch or leaf. Harib had noticed earlier that where the branches began, high above him, they had neither leaves nor fronds but instead were covered with clusters of thousands of thin needles. Would the wind blowing through those needles make the sound he heard? Don’t panic, he told himself. It’s only the wind; it can’t hurt me.
The sound faded and then grew louder. Now it sounded like faint laughter. “Great,” he said aloud. “Now, even the forest is laughing at me! First I fall over a cliff and have the others haul me to safety, and now I’m lost in the woods.”
As had happened so often lately, a dark sense of his own worthlessness washed over Harib. He angrily scrubbed away the tears stinging his eyes. How, he wondered, did the others put up with him? They said they were his friends, but why? He was small and weak and foolish. Bahaar was bigger and faster, and even Faizah was stronger than he. Smarter, too! All he had was his father’s money, and they didn’t even want that. Many times, he had tried to buy things for them, and every time, they spurned his offers. Still clutching his blanket-load of sticks, Harib plopped heavily to the ground and sat, head bowed, in the small clearing that held him trapped as surely as a prison cell.
The sound came again, louder. More laughter; then a voice, dry and rasping. “No wonder they laugh at you. Look at you. You’re pathetic.”
Harib’s head snapped up, but he could see nothing.
“You’re weak and slow. You can’t even get wood for the fire without getting lost.”
“I know!” Harib groaned. He put his face in his hands and whispered, “I know.”
“They make fun of you behind your back.”
“They only put up with you because you’re rich.”
“That’s not true! They won’t accept my money,” Harib answered, willing that hateful voice to be wrong.
“They only wait for the right moment,” the voice persisted. “Then they’ll take it all and leave you behind.”
“Never! They wouldn’t! They’re my friends.”
The whispered voice chuckled, the words stabbing at Harib. “So you believe.”
“No!” Harib shouted, leaping to his feet. “No, you’re wrong! I don’t believe you! I won’t believe you.”
Looking wildly around, still trying to find the source of the voice, Harib spotted a small opening in the underbrush he’d missed before. Heedless of the branches whipping him, he lunged through, running away from the hurtful words as fast as the tangled brush would allow.
Perched upside down on the trunk of a tree, Nanghaithya, the demon of discontent, bared his fangs and hissed at Harib’s retreating figure. He had failed. Now he feared for his own life, for Dev did not easily forgive failure.