Screams in the night.
Nephi awoke crumbled where she had been thrown. Her robes were twisted around her and she had lost one of her shoes. The back of her head and neck ached from where she had been struck and her stomach felt bruised from lying across the bandits’ lap as they galloped across the desert.
She could hear the course laughter of the men and just discern their shadows at the edge of the campfire. She laid perfectly still terrified at drawing any attention to herself. From where she lay she saw a group of captives huddling together not far from her. A figure in dark robes and headscarf left the circle of light and approached them. He reached down and pulled a protesting young woman to her feet.
Nephi recognized the girl but did not know her name. The girl screamed and jerked away falling back to the ground. The man cursed and kicked at her but missed. Reaching down he caught the back of her simple robe and ripped it down the back as he wrapped his arm around her waist and carried her back to the fire. Thankfully Nephi could not see what was happening but hearing it made it almost as bad.
She must have passed out Nephi thought for the next thing she was aware of was someone standing over her holding the back of their hand to her nose and mouth.
“She alive,” the man said.
“Then bring her al-Salt,” someone yelled.
The man reached down and lifted Nephi by her scarf, she stumbled to her feet. It was either that are be choked.
The man stopped to look as three or four riders appeared suddenly in the camp on sweaty and winded horses. The lead rider dismounted and the bandit holding Nephi straightened slightly and gave a slight bow. “Mudir,” he said in greeting.
“Al-Salt,” the man replied, and then handing his reins to one of his men called out, “Abbas!”
A tall man with a jet black beard, black robes and turban sauntered over from the shadows. “My brother,” he answered.
“How did we do?”
“Five captives, a half dozen horses and a small load of wine and spice,” the man answered.
“What’s going on with this one,” the bandit chief asked, nodding towards Nephi.
“The men would have her.”
Nephi watched the man move her way. As he came closer she could see he was actually quite young, his beard was dark and neatly trimmed. His robes were dusty but of a fine quality. He reached for her face and she jerked away.
“Shush,” he whispered as he gently held her chin, turning her head to inspect her. Letting her chin drop he ordered, “This one is not to be touched. Bind her and the others and be ready to move in an hour.”
Al-Salt and the tall man did not move.
“Is there a problem brother,” the chieftain asked in a dangerously calm voice.
“The men would have her,” his brother repeated.
One of the latecomers walked up to the chieftain and whispered something in his ear.
“It seems the men have already had some fun, and killed a captive in the process,” he said, looking straight at the taller man. “Are they not sated?’
“There are over twenty of us, the one wisp of a girl”, he started. “Let’s just say she spoiled quickly, Mudir.” This last word was spat with barely disguised distain.
Nephi had never seen someone move so fast. One moment the sword was sheathed, the next it was slicing up and through the other man’s neck. His head rolled off his shoulders before the rest of his body even begin to slump.
“Are there any more problems al-Salt? The chief asked turning towards Nephi and her guard.
“No Mudir,” the man quickly answered as he took hold of Nephi’s arm and started to lead her to where the other captives were.
Nephi looked over her shoulder as she was being led away. The young chieftain leaned down to wipe his sword blade on the robes of the dead man before sheathing it.
“One hour!” He called to the camp as Nephi lost sight of him in the shadows.