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She lies so still. Even though the evening sun moved gently across her face, her eyes do not flicker. She does not roll over to a more comfortable position. And she is not just holding her breath. I have wiped the shimmer of sweat from her face and she is getting colder by the minute. She is beautiful, really, she looks a lot like the woman I remember from when I was a young child. Before this life of servitude began. When we were free. It is wrong that she should die within walls. Walls are wrong for us. The fabric of a tent is better, the open sky better still. But he will notice if I should move her, and I do not want him to notice.
He will call for me soon. I should prepare a meal for him as she would have. I move about the kitchen, reflecting her movements as she would have cut this and crushed that, as she would have whispered to the fire sprite to add to the flame and fried food into heavenly smells and tastes. I turn too fast and my pocket hits the table with a tiny chink. I stop. I put my hand in my pocket and draw out a small vial. The sleeping potion. I had pocketed it ealier to help her sleep more fitfully, so that she would get better. But too late. She had already entered eternal sleep, when I returned from my duties. The sprites had all lingered by the bed, so she had not been alone. But I had not been present. I had not heard her last sigh. I had not seen the last flicker of eyelashes. I had mucked out his den instead. I open the vial and put its contents into the food and stir. It is tasteless. He has perfected this himself. I look around the kitchen and into the room beyond, where she lies. I haven’t got much to pack. My few clothes and hers. A few amulets. The herbs should come with me, and some water and food. I stand perfectly still and let my eyes wander around the room. Not much to show for 8 years here. But I must travel light anyhow. He hollers, and I put the bag aside. Ladles the food onto a plate and put the plate on a tray. Cut bread and fruit is next to the plate, and I carry it to him. He says nothing. Only waves towards the goblets and I fill one of them with red wine. He empties it rather fast and I hide a smile. The wine will make the potion work faster and longer. He mutters to himself as the wine runs down his chin, as the spoon moves the food from plate to mouth. He is hungry and thirsty, and soon, soon he will be sleepy as well. And he will sleep.
He sleeps. I almost laugh out loud as he suddenly blinks. As the hand with the spoon slowly falls to the table and he slumps over – his face in the food. There is not enough so that he will drown in it, but that is well enough. I could not have killed him. Not even after all this time and all his heartlessness. The sprites would never forgive me, and would never speak to me again. The living must be respected, every breath treasured. I leave him as he is, and goes to his laboratory. It is almost as much home to me as the kitchen. My mother taught me cooking and medicine. He unknowingly taught me potion and powders and poisons. He taught me all the spells and all the gestures, all the squibbles, letters and number, because I was invisibly present to watch and remember. I know what to take. The book is all I need really, but I pack already made potions and powders. They will be sold and buy me my escape. On the mantel lies a purse with a few coins and I take them also. Waste not, want not.
I skip down the stairs and pass the dining room, and a flicker catches my eye. I stop. And almost gasps. I almost forgot! I thread lightly towards his lightly snoring figure. The light dances in the golden chain and in the dull and black stone pendant. I have never touched it before. I have read about it however and I whisper to it ‘You will change masters now – I shall be your mistress, and I take you by force’. Well, not much force since he is sleeping, but against his will surely. I unclasp the chain and hold the pendant in my hand. It feels warm to the touch, almost pulsing. It suddenly flashes hotly in my palm, but I do not let go. ‘For shame’ I say ‘You are mine now, and you know it!’. I whisper to the metal and the stone that holds it and the stone cools. I put the chain around my neck and the pendant falls between my breasts. It pulses a little still, but has accepted me. For now at least. The djinn inside will not be easy to control, and I really should not invoke it ever. But I had to bring it; he would have sent it for me, and I would be found and tortured and enslaved forever and ever.
I close the door behind me. The sun sets over the dunes, and it will be cold soon. In the stables I loosen all four camels, but take only one. They will wander away and he will not ride them in my tracks. I smack my lips and Mitgush settles slowly. First down on his front legs and then his hind legs folds into place and I can mount him. A simple sound gets him off his knees and I hold on as he goes the slow and deliberate motions of rising. A gentle nudge from my knees sets him on his way. I know where to go, though I’ve never been. I’ve only heard the tales from the wind sprites. Tales of great masses of water, salty to the taste, of gales without sand in them, only wind and water, of horizons blue instead of yellow, and of strange lands that lies beyond. That’s where I’ll go. He won’t find me across the waters.