WALLS OF ACRE

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Ali is a young, saracen orphan living in Acre during the second Crusade. He is torn between avenging his father and keeping his promise to his mother..

Submitted: July 20, 2013

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Submitted: July 20, 2013

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Ali felt the familiar, mildly sharp pain in his stomach. It had been persistent for the past hour and he knew it was time to search for food.

The roof made a faint creaking sound as he stood up, he ignored it, the house was falling apart anyway.

From where he stood, Ali could see the great catapults of the Franks, like giant dung beatles they seemed ready to roll through the great walls of Acre.

Another large stone was being loaded and after a few minutes it crashed with a large thud on the wall facing the sea.He felt as if it was crushing into his very soul, and he shifted his eyes in anguish. The roofs of Acre really where a pitiful sight. Age and the blazing Arabic sun had worked hand in hand to ensure that they all looked ready to cave in.

Half naked brown skinned children ran through the dusty narrow alleys oblivious to the heat scorching their tiny feet. Mothers shouted pleadingly for them to slow down, their words falling on deaf ears. A woman passed close to Ali's hut carrying a basket on her head, it had been woven from dried reeds the women plucked from the sea. The reeds entangled each other forming a captivating pattern.

However, that was not what caught Ali's eye. He was staring at the large, juicy mangos she was carrying. They were a bright yellow color, and turning orange at the end. Ali could feel the saliva filling his mouth. From the roof he could reach for the basket and sneak one out without her noticing. Almost impulsively he dived for the basket, he had moved too quickly and he fell, causing a rise of dust when he hit the ground.

"May I carry your basket Miss?" He said as soon as he was on his feet, which had not taken long for he had suffered worse falls before.

"No thank you," she responded.

"It is hotter than usual today, it is because of all this noise the Franks have been making, curse them." the last statement he said under his breath.

"You are headed to the market, are you not?" she nodded.

"Well then may all my limbs be torn off and fed to the savages, if I were to let a young lady such as yourself carry her own basket in this heat. While strong men, such as myself, do nothing" he smiled, a look of mischief hidden behind his brown eyes. A smile appeared on her young plump face as she handed him the basket.

"Well" she said, in a low shy voice, "if you are so strong then why aren't you out there fighting the Franks?" He felt bile rise to his throat, like the Nile on the banks of Egypt on a good harvest and he swallowed hard. However, he still maintained a smile. The look in her clear eyes confirmed he had not been compromised.

They had killed his father. He had been in Jerusalem the night the Franks had taken the Holy City many years earlier and flooded its streets with the blood of many Saracens, very few had been spared

. "He died serving Allah, my son" his mother had tried to console him as a boy. Only it had not been long until she had died as well. He had only been four years old but the memory of his mother lying lifeless in the hut was as clear to him as the conscious of an infant. The strong stench of rotting flesh invading his nostrils, he had even been too afraid to breathe. The feeling of helplessness as he tried to shake her, as if between the tears and the rapid violence with which he shook, breath would force into her lungs. How he wished he could kill all the Franks with his bare hands.

"I'm strong but I am no fool, attacking the Franks head on in their own camp with a few thousand men is suicide. Acre is going to need me, if the Franks manage to break the walls." he said.

Truly spoken like a man using potential bravery to inhibit current cowardice. He shook his head at the contrast. Ali was no coward, if it had been up to him he would have been the first man to enter the Franks'camp killing everything in sight. But he had promised his mother. He held the basket firmly between his left arm and his waist. With his right hand he kept fidgeting absently with the mangos.

"You know they are not very strong, the Franks," she said without looking at him. "Father says, they are losing their allies and they are nothing without the Greeks. I have seen their ships, the Greeks I mean, I have seen them like giant white birds preparing for a landing." Another thud to the wall interrupted her, then she continued.

"And then I saw a man come out of one of them, I was hanging from the market wall so I didn't watch him for long." she turned and looked briefly at him.

"He was wearing a long white robe, it glittered in the light and he wore a huge ruby ring, I promise you no finer jewel exists in all of Persia," she was getting excited. "And the way he walked, no no he glided as if he was floating on water not like a man walking out of a boat. Such arrogance, as if he was the king of the world, they are all the same the Franks, sheer arrogance." Ali waited for her to continue, "I was too far away to hear what he was saying, not that I would have understood his gibberish anyway." she giggled a little exposing a dimple, Ali wondered how he had not noticed it before.

"He spread his arms wide indicating all of Acre," she said imitating the gesture. "Then he pointed at himself," again the giggle, only ironic this time.

"Can you believe that? He thinks he can own Acre. I will never understand these Franks, all I know is if I were a man I would go out there and fight them to the death."

He did not know what to say, he did not know what she wanted him to say. Anyway he was rather occupied. He felt the small bag he had tied around his waist beneath his loose vest. His fingers traced the two bulges where he had carefully placed mangos from the basket. Ali had learned to fend for himself from an early age. Some of the merchants said he could steal sandals from beneath one's feet without them noticing until they felt the blisters burning their bare soles. He was very swift and cunning. He also had a trustworthy handsome face, the boyish charm that made every girl he spoke to feel flattered and let their guard down. He was a born thief and crook.

However he was only a victim of circumstance, he only took from those who had more than enough and never took more than he needed.

"The weight of a man's heart is not determined by his blind bravery fueled by foolish vengeance. It is determined by the blood that pumps through it," he halted and looked at her, they were at the market entrance.

People flooded in and out of the market like bees out of a hive on the first day of spring. The air was thick with the aroma of assorted spices, brought in from all parts of the middle east. The sound of people chattering loudly in arabic as well as many other languages, collided with that of traders bargaining with each other.

"These are the finest pearls in all of Acre, I dived for them myself at the bottom of the Nile. I can not trade them for a rug, it matters not where it was woven, it is still just a rug." yelled one trader clearly pushing for a larger, more elegant rug the other trader was hiding behind him. Children, ran around as if struck by madness looking for things to grab from nearby shops.

Ali handed the girl her basket and smiled revealing perfect white teeth

. "Thank you" she said, returning his smile, again the dimples. "Allah be with you" she concluded turning into the market gate without noticing the two mangos missing from the rest.

"I'm getting too good at this," Ali thought, a dirty grin on his innocent face. He made his way toward an old building that had once been a temple, now deserted, there he knew he would eat undisturbed.

Mango juice dripped down his arm, he took another large bite of the sweet fruit. He chewed very slowly, exchanging the contents from one side to the other. Surely not even the waters from the lips of an apsaras could have tasted sweeter, he thought.

From the top of the temple Ali could see the sun set over Acre. All the roofs and streets were clouded by dust as people made their way home. The deep blue sea seemed to open a large canal and swallow the sun gradually. It was as if the two colors merged to form a darker, bolder shade to blanket Acre from the malicious beasts of the night. The banners of the Franks blew proud in the twilight.

"Such arrogance," she had said to him and now he thought the same thing. The thud, that had become common to the ears of the Saracens.

"They will try to break you," Ali could see his mother on her death bed, every word dry and cracking like golden sparks from a desert fire. "But you, you will stand firm, you will not fight them. Stand....unbreakable, like the great walls of your father's Acre."

Tears welled into Ali's eyes a reflection of the fading sunset in them. "What am I to do now mother?, even the great walls of my father's Acre are falling."


© Copyright 2020 Aaliyah Stone. All rights reserved.

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