Halima's Tale

You gaze at me with some confusion... Is it my pale skin? Come close to the fire, my friend, and let me tell my tale, a tale of loss, of love, of the eternal changes of life ...

My name is Halima al-Rakkasa. I do not remember where I was born, though I remember an early time of cold and terror, of men rough-clothed and smelling strongly of more than horses, of darkness and of hunger, of a time when I learned to cry without tears. My Uma, Shula, told me that I was not born in blood to the tribe, but bought; I was once given to understand that my ancestors were from a northern sea, but that was long and long ago. But Uma was wise and said that I was born in 376 A.H., of an age equal to Jasmine.

From childhood, I remember none so much as Jasmine, whose playmate and companion I was. With her, I helped keep our few sheep and goats fed and watered, wandering for hours over rocky ground thinly scattered with tough grasses and lonely shrubs and twisted trees. I learned with her to spin, weave, cook, sing and dance. (A little alcohol - for the listener - makes my song easier to hear! But, now, when I dance...) And perhaps also do I remember with fondness the horses, asil creatures reserved for the Asil and those that the Asil would honor, horses with their soft muzzles and lash'd eyes. And there was the roaming from one town to another, over rough hills and warm sand deserts, in search of forage and of audience hungry for new faces and fresh entertainment, and replete with coin.

My owners, and who later was my adoptive family, died at Maanzikert; perhaps you will understand my pained reticence about my family lost only some ten years ago, a wound yet freshly made.

So that time of desert-shaped comfort and peace has passed, as has the labour in another's tent and the learning of a dancer's trade under the watchful eyes of Uma. Yes, I would call blessings upon Uma's soul, but not Allah's blessings, as we did not follow the teachings of Muhammed, and I am not inclined so now. I honor the spirits of my heart, Al-Umma, Al-Lat, and Manaat.

I am a ghaziyah without tribe, late of Damascus. It is the year 421, perhaps 1084 by your knowing. I care not what Khalif resides in the palace... Being alone has limited my knowledge of the goings on of the wearers of slippers... Yet I find some measure of contentment wherever I may be...

I dance to what music there may be, for what coin may be tossed, or, better yet, given by hand as to one of a respectable trade. And I have taken a faranj into my tent, he having my liver; and so, oft will I wear clothing of the faranji, the price of discomfort so little to please him. And I am again willing to offer salt to the traveler.

And here I be, to tell you the tale, to invite you into the dance, to offer you the last cup before the incense. After the incense, there is no more sitting.

I answer a question, as Halima: "What did you do today?" or you could read some ramblings about Persona(e).