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“A true archer sees through the heart, not through the eyes.” My brother spoke in a serious tone, blindfolding me while I set my bow.
‘Save me the sermons, dude!” I grumbled, muttering furiously under my breath at both the ruthless trainer and the humble philosopher in him. But just as I let go of my arrow, I could feel my brother’s death glare at me.
“If only your brain worked as good as your tongue!” He cackled as he undid my blindfold. Gesturing me to go pick my arrow that had landed far off the target in a puddle near our backyard wall, he was about to go inside when I shrieked.
“It’s stuck, Sinan!” I whined like a baby as all my efforts to push the arrow out were in vain. He dashed near me and we both were collectively trying to drag the arrow out. Sweat ran profusely from our foreheads. We tried stepping back but tripped over a wobbly stone and fell only to see a broken machine with weird language encrypted on it.
“Woah, it looks like some creepy spy sh*t.” I spoke, almost scared for a moment.
“Let’s take it inside. Mum and dad are not going to return till midnight.” Sinan spoke with an evil smirk.
“Come on, Sinan. I thought that we are home alone so we could binge watch Netflix, order pizza or something. Not experiment on some ancient machine. Plus, isn’t it theft?”
“Leave the sermons for me and it is in our property so this machine is ours. It might be a treasure.”
“Okay fine but no archery training over the weekend or I will Mom about it.” I shrugged my shoulders at his childish predictions.
“Fine.” He reluctantly nodded, making me feel a sense of victory. I helped him take the machine inside and we stood staring at it for five painful minutes.
“Hey go bring Dad’s sword of honor. Its sharp tip can help cut this hard thing whatever it is made up off.” He spoke as he held out a squeaky part. I obeyed unwillingly, just wishing for his stupid curiosity to vanish soon. He tried slashing the sword when suddenly a blinding light forced us to shut our eyes. Confusion gripped us as our bodies felt being carried out and dumped. My muscles ached with a new pain as I remained unable to open my eyes.
“What just happened?’ After almost an eternity of awkward silence, I was only able to mouth these words as I found us in a dark forest.
“I-I-d-o-n-t-k-n-o-w.”Sinan stammered, looking eagerly at the place. It was eerily quiet. All around us was a deathly silence. Suddenly, it was broken by mournful cries and the sound of swords clashing. Sinan glanced at his hand and thankfully he still had the sword while I looked behind to see my bag with the archery kit. I had forgotten to take it off amidst all the chaos.
The voices increased like our fears. Sinan protectively held me behind his back as he gripped the sword harder.
“Just stay behind me okay and if I get injured, just run for your life. Please Haiqa.” He spoke as tears welled up his eyes.
“Don’t ask me to stay behind like a coward today.” I spoke, letting free of his tight grip and setting my bow. But we didn’t have the time to argue as several dacoits poured in like rain. Their ancient clothes made it dawn upon us that we had time travelled.
“Capture these kids, they Shooting an arrow straight at his eye, I hid behind a nearby tree as Sinan finished the dacoit with a blow. He bled terribly but the person commanding was taken aback. Taking the chance, I began shooting although it was hard to see properly. But my bravery was short lived as I felt a choking behind me and he put a dagger next to my throat.
“Leave the sword or this girl dies!” He raged as I had went pale due to the dagger. Sinan shouted in English at me to bite his hand which I did, making him loosen his grip as Sinan pulled me towards him.
“Enough, just kill them!” That command raised my goosebumps as my lips moved desolately in prayer, imploring God for mercy. The dacoits came nearer and leaped on us like hungry lions. Yanking hard on Sinan’s hair, they slid a dagger through his chest as my heart sank in melancholy. Holding the fallen sword, I felt a hard slap across my face as they hovered above me. My sword fell as I closed my eyes preparing myself for bearing the sharp stab but I felt burdened under the weight of dacoits.
‘Ya Haqq!’ I heard this passionate scream over and over but my mind was too numb to make sense of anything. All my body hurt like I was whipped thousand times and I lay there like a weakling.
“Just run, leave these damn kids!” The hoarse voice of the head dacoit ringed in my ears as I let out a sigh of relief from inside. Somehow gathering the courage to wake up, I opened my eyes to see a pair of cotton blue eyes staring right into mine.
“Don’t worry, I won’t harm you.” He gently spoke as he let out his hand. Reaching for it, I got up to see my brother in the pool of his own blood.
“Sinan!” I bawled loudly as I felt his heartbeat still running faintly.
“H-a-i-q-a. Do-n’t-cr-y.” He stammered before fainting, blood still trickling like rain from his forehead. At that moment, I knew that he was gone and that I was all alone in a time I knew nothing of. Tears welled up my eyes as I softly kissed his hand.
“Haiqa? Please first let me see your wounds.” I looked back to find the same pair of cotton blue eyes but now they were filled with concern and tears.
“My brother died and you want to see my wounds? It’s better that you don’t and I die beside him.” I raged in fury at him, wiping the tears that threatened to overcome me.
“He was martyred and martyrs don’t die.” He continued in the same gentle tone, picking my arm and pressing a napkin onto the wound. Although his words touched me, I was still overwhelmed by how fate had gambled against my life. Thrown into an unknown era, separated from my family and friends and then the only person I knew had gone too, all in a matter of few painful seconds and now I was left in the care of a stranger, an unfamiliar savior who seemed too angelic to be a human.
“Who are you?” He asked in a calm tone when he had seen me calm down but that question hit me like a bullet.
“I am the daughter of Muslim prisoners. They killed my parents and I was escaping along with my brother. The rest, your eyes have already witnessed.” I made up a lie quickly as some fresh tears automatically streamed down my cheeks as if in support of my made up story.
“You are the bravest girl I have ever seen. I am Alauddin, the son of Osman Bey from the Kayi tribe. These prisoner clothes are so weird.” He examined me like a doctor and then introduced himself with a slight smile.
“Alauddin Pasha? The first statesman of Ottoman Empire?” Before I could ponder on them, these words slipped from my mouth.
“I mean, I heard that your father is trying to establish a dynasty and you can be its first statesman.” I quickly added as his awkward look kind of withered.
“Come, I will take you to my tribe. You can ride on the horse, I will walk.” He spoke as he lifted Sinan in his arms.
“Martyrs deserve to be buried with dignity.” He spoke as he led the rein of the horse while I rode on it quietly, careful not to fall off as it stumbled across rocks. The journey was in completer silence. Trying to bury the grief, I wondered how things will be back in our time. Our parents will go ballistic finding us and what about my friends? Will they miss me? If he was really the Alauddin Pasha, was he as courageous and merciful as described by our history textbooks?
My thoughts only halted when we reached the so called Kayi Tribe. A worried woman came rushing towards Alauddin and stopped short, seeing the corpse in his hands. She was joined by a young man in his late twenties and had the same pair of cotton blue eyes.
“Alauddin? Who are they and where did you go in the middle of night?” He asked, his voice, a mix of rage and concern.
“I forgot my alp hat when I went hunting earlier in the morning. I went back to look for it but found them, attacked by the enemies. They are the children of Muslim prisoners, brother. The boy was martyred and I could only rescue the girl.” Alauddin spoke in a low whisper but I could make some of their conversation.
“Ah, Alauddin! I am Orhan alp, his big brother. You are now the daughter of our tribe. You have already suffered so much. We will arrange a funeral worthy of your brave brother.” He spoke, patting me on the head with a loving gesture. My heart almost melted at their utter trust in a mere stranger. Deep down, I felt guilty for betraying them but I had no other choice.
I was taken into a tent and given some new clothes and herbs to eat while chaos spread in the tribe. An announcement was made and people of all ages gathered to see my brother whose body was now covered with the Kayi flag. As I walked out that moment, I felt a flicker of pride being greeted by people with looks of admiration. Raising my chin up, I looked once at the night sky, all mournful like a widow.
“May Allah bless you with a high rank in Jannah, my valiant brother. ” I raised my hands in prayer as an aged man recited Quranic verses in a melodious tone that soothed me.
“Amen, daughter, Amen.” I heard a heavy male voice from behind to discover a man with the same cotton blue eyes and a short but thick beard.
“Osman Bey!” I spoke as I slightly bowed in respect but he didn’t seem to like the gesture. But I had read that you were supposed to do it…
“It was how I was taught in the prison, to bow to any superior.” I quickly spoke, still looking down but Osman Bey came nearer and raised my chin up.
“Modesty is good virtue, daughter but not now. You are not a slave, you are a warrior.” He spoke as the crowd erupted with tears of joy. The mourning women, the children who had stopped playing and the men busy in funeral rituals, all these people seemed like they bumped straight out of a fairytale. And this man who called me his daughter with voice so pure that I started wondering why my father never did that? All he ever did was pressurize me into Archery Olympics so that he could brag about me in front of his rich friends. And my mom was so busy partying with her friends that she almost forgot she had children too. A part of me wanted to merge into this time, this tribe, this family.
“Come on alps, it is time for burial.” He spoke, giving me a slight pat on my back as I saw a bundle of men going towards my brother. How lucky he was to be buried in such a pure soil by such fearless souls who till today have a name in history!
“You are so strong, you don’t cry. My brother Orhan once got injured by an arrow and I spent the whole day crying.” It was only when I felt my garment clutched that I turned to see a little girl playing with her hair.
“She is my sister, Fatima.” Alauddin spoke, coming up from behind as he signaled me to follow him and took me to two women who were talking in low whispers with worried faces.
“These are my mothers…” He was about to speak more when I interrupted.
“I wanted to thank you, Bala Hatun and Malhun Hatun.” I used my History knowledge one again. Bala Hatun was Alaiddun’s real mom while Malhun Hatun was Orhan’s but both seemed to glue together like sisters.
“I heard some women pointing at you both and taking these names.” I explained seeing the confused look on their faces.
“You are so sharp-witted, my daughter. Come on, rest now. It’s been a tough day for you.” One of them spoke as she let her arms around me and walked me into a tent. There was no bed but only a mattress lying around. The blanket was filled with traditional embroidery but I felt a sudden wave of homesickness. My room, my teddy bears, the A.C, my novels.
But I faked a smile and went to lie down in the mattress. I spent the night tossing around uncomfortably but this was my fate now. With a deep sigh, I decided to bury my memories of my past life here. There was no way I was going back now and I could only survive if I learn to adapt quickly to the time I always wished of to go but I never knew my wish would be granted and that too in such a strange way that any sane person would laugh his butt off listening to my crazy story.
It was morning already when I woke up by a heavy knock on my door. It was Osman Bey but he didn’t have the same love for me he had in his eyes at night. Staring at me, his expressions made my blood run cold. Was he going to behead me? Was my lie caught? These thoughts ran through my mind as I hurriedly got up.
“What are these weapons? This bow, these arrows and this sword, they are not Turkish.” He questioned as I felt in his voice the coldness of a police officer.
“I do not know, Bey. We just stole them from the palace dungeon before escaping. You can keep them if you suspect me.” My eyes were this time not down but looking straight into him as if asking to let go.
“No daughter. I have spent my whole life catching traitors and you are not one.” I was relieved to sense the warmth back in his voice.
“However, I will keep them for inspection. They appear stronger. The soldier that fails to play with the mind of his enemy loses the battle. You will now stay here as a free person.”
“Can I join your army when I grow up, Bey? I want to be a martyr.” It was as if my heart spoke. I had no one to mourn my death anyway.
“Mashallah, daughter but you are not fit for war….”
“You think women can’t fight?” The 21st century feminist in me blurted out before I could make any sense of my words.
“Women can be alps too, daughter but for that you will have to train a lot. But if it is what you truly want, I am no one to object but I will be glad to have such a brave girl in my army.” He spoke, leaving me baffled at my own words. From the girl that hated training to a girl that wanted to train, I had changed.
“Orhan! Alauddin! Make a sword for our daughter here.” He shouted those words as I heard the footsteps of the brothers.
“What about me? I want a sword too.” Fatima spoke as she was lifted into the arms by Osman Bey. She giggled as he tickled her all over while leaving her by a kiss on her forehead. I felt like an alien then, our father never kissed us, not once. It seemed so weird, yet so heart-warming to watch. I wish he could take me and love me as his daughter too but I knew it was a lot to ask from a man whose son had saved me and he had given me a secure shelter. I walked over to see Orhan and Alauddin shouting as they hit the sword.
“ Ya Haq, Ya Allah!” These words sent a shiver through my heart and I felt ashamed for being a Muslim so different from my ancestors. I had never taken the name of Allah with such spirit. I loved this place now but then I stared at Alauddin who looked at me lovingly. No, this can’t happen. It will change the course of history. I looked at my 15 year old self, how can I fall for someone so great? It will change the course of history.
“Here, we made your sword. Look, I carved your name on the side too.” He handed me the sword while grinning at his own handiwork.
“May Allah reward you.” I spoke, gluing my eyes strictly to the ground.
“I have to leave with father for a mission. Alauddin, you go practice in the training grounds. It has been missing you lately since you were sick and unable to go the last week.” Orhan said sternly as he got up on his horse.
“You want to join, Haiqa?” He asked as his constant stare at my face practically begged me for a yes.
That was a beautiful start of my tale and now as I sit with the bride veil today on my face after so many years. I don’t care about the history anymore. All I want now is my Alauddin as his love warms my heart, he has killed the complainer in me and I am ready to depart with him on a journey of hardship, a journey of creating a dynasty that would rule the world for 600 years.