Chapter Sixteen

 The Meeting of the Tribal Elders


As our scouts sought out clues. Rashad, Mathew, and I approached the tribal elders. We were greeted traditionally but there was some suspicion. Rashad had traded horses with this tribe in the past. We explained to them, respectfully, that marauders had invaded our camp and made off with a prized mare belonging to Sheykh R’ Ameeri amid the darkness.

“Honor among the horse breeding tribes was Important,” they said. “Are you saying that members of our tribe participated in this act of dishonor?”

Rashad spoke up and said that he had evidence that the youth of this tribe had planned to steal Bint Shahwan while she was being delivered to the Sheykh.

“We know this because an individual who colluded with these youth, named Hadji, knew this plan. He confessed and warned us of the potential theft of our mare. I know that you have always followed the traditional ways for decades. I too am young and have learned that dealing with our horses is sacred. All we ask is, if you discover this deed among your youth, that you would honor us with that information. We are camped to the north. If it is the will of Allah to cooperate and find this mare hidden among your youth, that is our prayer. Shukran, Ma’a salama.”

In an Oasis that had plentiful feed for our horses, we made camp. Our scouts, some familiar with the Bdul tribe members, had shared coffee with them. In their casual conversation, they asked about an arrival of a new grey mare.

“Yes, between the valleys, we saw a group leading a grey mare unsaddled up toward the uruyu. We were grazing our goats and camels. They did not pay attention to us.”

We had been traveling for days. This news bolstered our hopes of rescuing Bint. Rashad wanted to go out immediately to discover where they had taken her. Mathew counseled that it would be better for daylight to come. We were all tired from many days tracking these thieves. It would be a good idea to get food in our bellies and rest the horses.

The morning was crisp and cool. As we gathered together, our scouts shared with us their findings.

In the surrounding desert are alcoves and canyons that could potentially hide a group of horses.” Rashad and I, since we could recognize Bint, decided to go out and search those areas. Mathew and the scouts returned to the dwellings of the elders to investigate. Most of the Bdul had forsaken their nomadic ways. Automobiles and modern appliances were spread around this sprawling wadi with mud huts instead of tents, a scene of permanence. The sharing of stories and rumors among the tribe members made it difficult to gain information. Matthew was able to speak to the caretakers of the tribal horses. With the help of the scouts from his allied tribe, and the information that Hadji had given them were able to come up with some potential suspects. One lead that had potential, his name was Shabbar.

It was told to us that he bragged a lot about how he was going to win it all. He followed many western methods in handling his horses. Mathew decided to follow him and a group of riders. Inserting himself into a group of herders with camels going to pasture, he was able to detect the general area where Shabbar was going. Once all of our group returned to camp, we formulated a plan to search the area that Mathew had discovered as he tailed Shabbar. If we were able to find the location where Bint was hidden, we would wait for darkness. Rashad had been schooled by his elders to slip in unnoticed by night to his rival’s camp. For many decades, the Ruala tribes’ history had been steeped in warfare. Tales from many generations were handed down of the skirmishes involving their enemies. Many of these tales involved the mutual stealing of horses. It was considered a chivalrous code of raiding which allowed them to drive off a number of camels and horses from their enemies, without shedding blood, if possible.

Rashad said that if it was possible to creep in and steal from our herd as we slept,

“I too will be able to do the same.”

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