Sayeh and Zia: Chapter 2 Scene 1

Susa, Persia

The arrival of Yafeu Babafemi in Susa was announced with great fanfare.

The entourage accompanying the famous merchant from Alexandria numbered at one hundred, with each robe-clad person escorting two camels.  Each camel was loaded with goods, the means with which Yafeu hoped to woo the Lady Zia.  He rode upon a white horse, encased in a white robe and headscarf that had protected him from the desert’s attacks.  The stallion was impeccably kept, even after an almost two month trek across the unforgiving desert.

An honour guard awaited the guests at Susa’s West Gate, with Behnam standing at the gate itself.  The procession was made up of his personal force, along with men of the Susashah.  To everyone’s great surprise, the Shahanshah himself, Yazdegard the First, had dispatched a contingent of his own personal guard from Ctesiphon some weeks earlier, with the men taking ten days to reach Susa.  The show of support from both the regional ruler and the ruler of Persia was meant to assure the Egyptian merchant that all levels of power looked upon this prospective union with great favour.

Yafeu rode his horse towards the gate, stopping to dismount before entering the honour guard.  Turning to his closest subordinate, his message to halt the train of camels was passed along his entourage that still stretched into the distance.  With a flourish, he removed his robe and headscarf.  He wore a silk vest that had wide alternating strips of yellow and blue cutting diagonally to the centre, towards the buttons of sapphire and gold.  His darkly tanned skin accentuated the muscles of his arms, as well as the visible portion of his chest.  His trousers were of loose-fitting black silk, with a decorative sword attached to a leather belt.

He slowly began to walk between the guard, taking in the grandeur with the air of one used to such things.  Seeing his potential father-in-law standing at the gates of the great city, he held his arms out wide in greeting.  Behnam returned the gesture, and he began to walk out.  As the pair reached each other, they embraced warmly before gripping forearms.

Yafeu bowed to his host.  “You honour me far too greatly with such a guard.”

Behnam grinned.  “Both our own Shah and the Shahanshah felt it was only fitting that you and your entourage should be greeted so.”

The younger man’s smile of perfect teeth lit up his face.  His blue eyes were surrounded by the black eyeliner typical of the Egyptians, and he had a modest vandyke beard growing from his chin.  His black hair was close cut, with no visible sideburns.  The leader of the Karawa rejoiced inwardly that such a handsome man had chosen his daughter, sure that many happy years and many grandchildren were in his and Shadi’s future.

Yafeu began to look around.  “Is the Lady Zia not here with you?  Knowing that she would greet me has been my motivation during such a difficult trek.”

Behnam shook his head.  “She insisted on helping her mother prepare our family home for your arrival.  Anticipating your weariness from travel, she is ensuring that a worthy feast awaits you.”

The powerful merchants walked into the city, with the honour guard flanking their sides and rear.  The grand visual drew the eyes of the citizens they passed, though many did not understand the greater meaning of the Egyptian’s visit.  The utmost rule of the merchant was to remain tight-lipped on their activities, lest a loose tongue cause loss of goods and loss of their customers’ trust.

Yafeu’s eyes drank in the sight of the city, comparing it to his childhood and teenage memories.  The city had been considered a jewel of the ancient Achaemenid Empire, being one of the four capitals favoured by generations of Shahanshahs.  The city had suffered during Alexander’s conquest of Persia seven hundred years prior, before reviving as the second most important city of the Seleucid Empire that rose from the ashes of the Macedonian’s path of domination.  The city was later ceded to the ascendant Parthian Empire, where it was the preferred residence of the Shahanshah when Ctesiphon was either being attacked or the winter proved too bitter.  It briefly became the easternmost point of the united Roman Empire.  It was quickly regained by the Parthians, before they were overthrown by the Sassanids.

Turning back to the roads in front, a well-dressed messenger was seen running towards the pair.  He bowed to the two men when he reached them.

“My master, the Susashah, has requested your presence over his afternoon meal.”

Yafeu looked to Behnam.  “Zia and her mother would appreciate the extra time to prepare, as long as we do not indulge with the Shah.”

The leader of the Karawa family laughed.  “That is so.  The ladies have fiery tempers, which I do not wish to face often.”  Behnam turned to the messenger.  “Please return with our grateful acceptance to him.  I am sure Yafeu’s news of the Roman Empire’s woes will entertain him greatly.”

The messenger bowed again before running back the way he had come.

Yafeu raised an eyebrow.  “You have heard of the goings on?”

Behnam laughed again.  “Come now, my boy.  News of puppet rulers do not stay secret long.  I know of the boy ruler Arcadius, who is half a decade younger than you, and his constantly changing guardian.  I heard that Caesarius is angling for a second run in the role of Praetorian prefect, after Eutychianus got ousted again.”

The younger man nodded.  “And the Western Roman Empire is little better.  After the many sackings of Ctesiphon, you are absolutely correct to presume its woes will be of much amusement.”

“Indeed.  Let us hurry, as the Susashah does not like to be kept waiting.  And I do not want to risk the wrath of both of wife and daughter.”

The pair laughed as they quickened their pace, headed to the palace at the centre of the city.

– X –

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