[This fiction is posted for atmosphere purposes only.] “I cannot allow my son to marry a shamed woman.” Professor Yusef Ad-Din's father, Mahmound Ad-Din, seemed a hard, unbending kind of man who spoke hard, unbending words. Yusef and his brother Salah had brought Theresa here, to the strangely segmented village just south of the Ancient Citadel in Ilshenar, to meet Mahmound. After all, she was to marry Yusef, and thus be part of the family. There was no indication that the brothers had any idea how Mahmound would react. “I cannot allow my son to marry a shamed woman,” Mahmound repeated. He referred to her degradation at the hands of the evil Mysterious Knights some months back. How he had heard of this incident Theresa could not guess. “She was a victim,” Yusef replied calmly. “She was a victim of my work crossing paths with their evil.” Theresa knew her Yusef, could see the cold rage building behind his calm countenance. Salah, Yusef's brother, simply seemed aghast. He moved closer to Thersa, assuming a protective posture toward her. “The Prophet of the Virtues, bless his name which we cannot speak, has said that the victims of evil are not to blame for what has happened to him,” Yusef continued. “The Prophet has said that a shamed woman cannot be un-shamed, and is no woman at all.” Theresa sat quietly. She was not demure with any man save her Yusef, but she did not want to intervene between her Yusef and his father. “No he did not. Those who think he said that have never read his writings.” “You dishonor me.” “It is true, father.” But Mahmound would hear none of it. “You dishonor me, my own son, in my own house. You bring me this shamed, Britannian woman, and ask me to accept her?” Theresa felt like she was being stabbed, and hoped the men couldn't see it. “This marriage cannot occur. It is not our way. A woman who has been shamed cannot be un-shamed.” Halfway through Mahmound's short rant, the brothers had started preparing to leave. Theresa, never saying a word, followed their lead. “This cannot happen,” Mahmound continued. “To what do you refer, father,” Salah answered icily. “To us leaving, or to my brother marrying this fine lady.” “Both! And she is shamed!” “She is not. And both will happen, father, where you like it or not. They will marry and I will be their witness and we will leave, and we will do it now.” “Disgrace! Dishonor! Disrespect! This is not our way! This is not the way of the Desert!” Yusef spoke again. He was shouting. It occurred to Theresa that she had never heard her Yusef shout before. “Are these our ways, father? Are these our ways? They carried me off when they carried off her. We were both victims. Shall I be called shamed? Are these our ways, now? Have we forgotten the Virtues and their Prophet? Have we forgotten Compassion and Justice? Then the Abyss with our ways, father! The Abyss with our ways, the Abyss with this desert!” “You would scorn our ways? You would take up the ways of the burning country?” Theresa thought he must have meant Britannia, referring to the troubles it faced. “We already have,” replied Yusef, and the three left. The silent ride back to the Compassion Moongate seemed longer than had the happy ride from the Moongate to the village, just a few hours prior. No one suggested recalling. The dangers of the trip were only slight, to experienced fighters. About halfway back, Salah abruptly changed direction to the west, toward the nearby gypsy camp against the mountains. “Brother, what....” asked Yusef. “Come brother, come sister,” replied Salah. “We must eat sometime tonight, and the gypsies will feed us and entertain us for just a fistful of gold.” His laughter echoed off the nearby mountains. Theresa and Yusef sighed and followed Salah. Two fistfuls of gold out of Yusef's purse and several hours later, the three were indeed well-fed and well-entertained by gypsy music and stories. Most of the gypsies had gone to bed, and the tree were sitting around the slowly-dying fire, before someone finally spoke about what had happened. “He was not always like this,” said Salah. “He used to be...Well, he used to be our father.” “I should not have brought you, my love,” said Yusef. “He has not been the same since our mother died.” “He once was,” Salah continued, “one of the least rigid, most virtuous men of our village. Of what used to be our village. But he changed. And he has, I do not think, ever read the words of the Prophet on his own in his entire life.” “Looking back,” Yusef said, “it was always mother who read to us, who taught us of the Virtues, of the Prophet. It is because of her that I am a teacher and scholar. I doubt he can read at all, I just never considered it before. He listens only to the Elders now. And they preach the Old Ways and call it Virtue. And the Old Ways....Well, what you heard tonight is but one example.” Theresa smiled at them. “It's alright...” She kissed Yusef's shoulder. “Thank you for standing up for me.” “I could not do otherwise, my love.” “Thank you anyway. I will be proud to marry you.” “And I you, my love.” Theresa wrapped her arms around Yusef, leaned against him, nuzzled him softly. The three sat in silence for what seemed a long time. Suddenly Theresa, with a gleam in her eyes, spoke. “Exodus meant to copy you.” “Yes he did.” “I should inspect you to be sure, he has not already.” Yusef seemed to not understand. “I read the document we found carefully. The plan appears to have been in its early stages, and they plainly had copied neither me nor Lady Danica. And besides, my love, you would know.” Theresa giggled. “Still...I should inspect you thoroughly, to be certain. Salah, brother, please stand guard.” Theresa took some spell reagents from her pouch and rubbed them together in her hands. “Uus Mani!!!!” The brothers were visibly startled as Thersa abruptly crawled behind a gypsy wagon, giggling, dragging a startled Yusef with her. Salah sighed, and stood guard.