Ahlia took another sip of the thick, sweet coffee in her cup. She was sparing with the luxury; it took quite some time for supplies to reach her camp. She swirled the remains in the earthenware cup and drained down the dregs, needing all the energy available in the liquid. Sighing, her eyes passed over the much repaired tent and all that existed of personal possessions. There were some fine things, gifts from this person or that, but she preferred practical over maintaining a semblance of status.
Life had its changes, particularly when you are raised with servants for everything. She still had servants, but they were provided by her betrothed, not people she knew intimately or felt able to trust. They certainly disapproved of her disdain for finery, particularly the silver service that they occasionally insisted she use. Ahlia’s family had hit a rough patch, but still retain their station.
Now she was at the edge of her world, technically in charge of a contingent of warriors. Some were loyal to her, at least, particularly the captain Fahil. Technically Mahmoud was her eunuch servant, but it was a fiction to prevent scandal that her closest retainer is a young and virile man. She laughed inwardly as he would try not to ogle her ladies-in-waiting.
Her promised groom was a political choice that was forced on her family by the caliph. Her father had fumed over the overstep of authority. He wasn’t a fool, though, and limited his fits of anger to those he trusted beyond question.
Decades her senior, Adil was distasteful to her. She would be his fourth wife, but not the youngest. His behavior was suspicious and none of those loyal to her trusted him. They suspected that it was her family’s wealth and title were promised to the old lech. Ahlia gained a slight reprieve by forestalling the marriage until she felt a campaign to protect the Zahayed valley was successful. The contention over the area would take some years to accomplish, to Adil’s rage, particularly since he was ordered to take a large number of his troops to assist.