Here’s a sneak preview of the first of the dreams in “The Dream of a Thousand Nights!” By the way, if you read the excerpt from “The Prince and the Jinn,” from the previous posts, you’ll probably recognize some of this, too.
Excerpt from Chapter Two (pre-publication, final content may change):
A soft breeze blew through the palace windows. Neriah inhaled the delicate fragrance of orange blossoms and stretched his arms over his head. “Are you content?” came a man’s voice from beside him.
“I…,” Neriah hesitated, unsure of his response. Warm lips pressed against his own; the taste was familiar and intoxicating. He was not unhappy, and yet….
“What is it you desire?” his companion inquired.
Neriah hesitated once more.
“I can give you anything you wish. Diamonds, rubies, land, women….”
“I have no need for those things,” Neriah answered, claiming the lips that had spoken those words.
“What, then? What do you desire, beloved prince?”
“I want to know your name.”
Neriah sat up in his bed and shivered. It had been the same dream now for weeks, although he had come to wonder if he hadn’t dreamed it long before and forgotten it. Each time, he would awaken out of breath, aroused, and with an emptiness that pierced his soul to its core. He could remember the intense passion his dream companion had awakened in his soul, but he could never remember the face of the lover in his dreams, nor did he ever learn his lover’s name.
“My lord,” came a soft female voice from the entrance to his tent, interrupting his thoughts. “May I bring you something to drink? Should I send your manservant to help you dress?”
“I need nothing,” he replied as he dismissed the servant girl. “Leave me.” She bowed low and backed away from his tent.
It was always like this—those who knew who he was would insist on doing everything for him—and he despised it. Despite his royal blood, he was more than capable of attending to his own needs. Years of living by himself on the run from his father’s men had taught him to guard his independence. He knew that the servants found him cold and unreachable, but he cared little. His place was to lead them, not to befriend them. In truth, he had few people whom he could call “friends” at all, and he preferred it that way.
He stood up, covering his naked body in a silk shalvar kameez of the deepest blue, edged with delicate gold embroidery, and stepped into a pair of red velvet slippers. He walked over to a low-slung chair in the center of the tent and sat, frowning and rubbing his chin. He had heard the men return from their night raid on the enemy encampment. He would wait for a report before deciding what his next move should be.
“You may enter, Uryon,” Neriah said with a nod to the captain of his personal guard.
A tall, broad-shouldered man with short, dark hair and bright green eyes walked into the tent, bowing low. He wore a deep purple shalvar kameez and a red scarf wrapped around his head. At his waist was a broad sword with an inlaid hilt, along with a small, jeweled dagger. Neriah himself had given Uryon the dagger as a symbol of the trust he placed in his officer, and Uryon had not disappointed him—Uryon had, countless times, protected Neriah at great peril to his own life. The prince knew that he was fortunate to have men such as Uryon under his command.
“We were successful,” Uryon announced as he kneeled before Neriah. “Sheik Karana’s men are either dead or have fled into the hills. We have brought back the spoils of the raid.”
“Spoils?” Neriah ventured a slight frown playing upon his lips. “I have no need for spoils.”
“Nevertheless,” Uryon replied, “there were several women taken in the battle, along with a male slave, and three chests of gold. Your Highness must—”
“Make arrangements for the women to be returned to their villages,” Neriah interrupted. “You may send them back with enough gold that they will be provided for.”
“And the slave?”
“Is he friend or foe? What are his origins?” Neriah asked. Another loyal, able-bodied soldier would be a welcome addition to their ranks. Several of Neriah’s best men had been won in battles with the enemy. He had earned their gratitude and their loyalty in freeing them.
“He won’t reveal from whence he comes,” Uryon replied. “He refuses to speak to anyone but you, Your Majesty.”
“He knows who I am?” Neriah asked, surprised at this turn of events. His identity as Neriah, the banished Crown Prince of Tazier, was a secret known only to his closest followers and loyal servants. To others, he was known as Sheva, a wealthy sheik who opposed the rule of the current King of Tazier.
“No,” Uryon explained, “but he will not speak unless it is to our leader, Lord Sheva.”
“A spy, then,” Neriah said, his face darkening, “perhaps in my father’s employ?”
“It is possible,” the other man replied, “although if he is a spy, he is a crafty one.”
“How so?” asked Neriah.
“He had been kept to pleasure his captors,” Uryon answered, looking uncomfortable now. “Or so the women have told us. They appeared”—Uryon hesitated for a moment—“quite jealous of his charms.”
Hope you liked that!