The Desert Rose

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They were pretty common - pieces of furniture being passed around for any and all to use, covered in sand and dusted off before each use. Tigers were the most sought after when it came to owning slaves; their stripe- patterned fur and feisty, exotic nature was sincerely a reflection of wealth and power. In correlation to wealth and power, only the wealthy and powerful were allowed to obtain such a beast as their slave as a demonstration of their power. The wealth went without mention, for tigers were quite expensive. The power would be demonstrated when a tiger became a well-behaved slave.

For the Khabaa family - made up two Jackals, the tigress slave would be meeting her new master, Hashim. He is the new heir to his father's fortunes, his seat of power, and of course the slave - to do with as he pleases. Upon hearing of his father's death, he knew right away of all the things coming to him: the money, the power, the luxuries, and even the responsibility of another living thing, should he choose to care for and put to work the slave.

The slave was a stunning tigress with bright, yet soft orange fur and coffee-brown stripes. Her golden eyes could pierce the soul of any who dared to stare into them and her teeth were as white as the crystal candelabras dotted throughout the middle-eastern, palace-like home. Her demeanor was said to be fierce and rebellious, but Hashim's father was able to break her spirit and force her into a lifetime of submission and servitude.

From Hashim's understanding, the tigress was almost always used as a source of entertainment and personal release. Hashim had no interest in violating the tigress, but did often become bored. Needing the approval of his smarminess, Hashim one day demanded a guard to bring forth the tigress so that she may amuse him.

I can still make my father proud by using this slave for my own entertainment, however... do I have any interest in doing so? I have guards I can toy with should I ever get bored. Though, they're often so silent unless spoken to. I would never get a reaction amusing enough.

"Guard!" Hashim demands, placing his father's will upon his lap, "Bring me the slave. I wish to speak with it."

"Yes, Sire!" the guard says. The guard is a rather strong horse with quite a toned build - trained to act quickly and swiftly in order to protect the head of the home. With a sharp staff at his side, the guard sends himself away to fetch the slave.

"Prepare it in the uniform so that it may dance!" Hashim called after before the guard was completely gone.

Upon the guard's return, Hashim could hear clattering of shackles behind him. Spinning around, he immediately saw the tigress, fully dressed in her dancer's uniform with her wrists chained before her. Her attire was quite sheer, fitting her form snuggly, but loose enough to move in without damage. The sheer, light pink fabric with gold lining reflected solely on the wealth of her master; Hashim was indeed a wealthy jackal.

The tigress' once-long, brown hair was neatly cropped very short to expose her to humiliation. The revealing clothing was not only a wealth-reflection, but also for the amusement of the mater should he want pleasure from her. However, for Hashim, he simply thought the attire of a strapless bra and skirt best matched the theme of the home. Arabian with a bit of Egyptian; a more regal blend of the two. She, like most of her father's belongings, was simply an item, a piece of furniture, meant to match the home's theme.

The guard restraining the slave pushed the tigress to her knees. Landing with a grunt of pain, the tigress then looks up to her new master, Hashim, with burning hate in her eyes.

"What is your name, Slave?" asked Hashim, standing before the slave with his arms crossed, looking down to her, "Speak up! Your name, Slave!"

"I am Shiera... Master," the slave responds.

Hashim nods, perking his long, jackal ears in the direction of Shiera's voice. "How have you served my father?"

"He was a brutal master. I did as he ordered, whenhe ordered, and still I was not good enough!" Shiera scolds.

"You dare sass me this way?" Hashim raised a brow. "You tigresses are all the same... feisty and hard to manage... and harder to train. Very well..." Hashim says, pacing back and forth, "I shall try a new approach. Guard, take this tigress to my old quarters. I shall reside in my father's. These rooms shall not go to waste."

"Sire... your current quarters are much too luxurious for the likes of..."

Hashim interrupts, speaking slowly, as if to a child, "These rooms... shall not go... to waste."

"Y-yes, Sire... on your feet, cat!" the guard scowls, tapping Shiera firmly on the shoulder, forcing her to release a growl of pain as she stands.

Yes... my father was a bit brutal, but I shall groom her. I will groom her to trust me and see that I will be much more worth serving. Everyone will then see that my power is greater, for I will be able to tame a vicious tigress.

That night, as Hashim settled down in what used to be his father's quarters, he looked about and saw that everything was in place. His candelabras, his marble knick-knacks, his armoire and all the clothing inside, and his fine linins spread neatly over the master bed. Everything from the pillows to the blankets were spotless and soft, made nicely onto the bed, covered and guided by a sheer, silk canopy.

Shiera, however, rested on her newly made bed, lavish with sheets and blankets; there were pillows and bed posts, all of which she had never had before. As she looked around at her new room, she grew suspicious and confused. Ever since she was purchased, she'd slept on a thin mat on the floor in small, dark, damp room. Away from all major rooms of the house, Shiera would be stored away like a tool and only removed if her use was needed. Shiera was never used to such lavish treatment.

Don't let this fool you, she thought to herself. It is simply a new room... not a new life. I am still miserable here. This will never be my home.

_ _ In the morning, Hashim stretched as he emerged from his bed, and as per his daily routine, his chamber maids dressed him and awaited orders.

"Prepare breakfast this morning - lamb with mint sauce sounds delicious. Prepare it for two." Hashim ordered.

"For two, Sire?" asks one of the maids, "And... lamb? That was to be for tonight's..."

"I am aware, but there will be a carnivorous, and rather famished guest this morning," the jackal smirks, "Prepare it for two, no arguments."

"Yes, Sire," the maid nodded, turning and leaving the room, closing the door behind her.

Hashim sighs, "The rest of you... draw a bath for the slave. She will not be at my dining table with filthy fur and unhygienic odors."

"Y-yes Sire..." another of the maids said, sounding curious. Never has it been ordered for a slave to be given nice treatment. Upon giving Hashim looks of surprise and even pride in his actions, each of the maids left the room, preparing either a bath or breakfast for his slave.

Hashim knocked on Shiera's door, "Attention, Slave. You will be given a bath in precisely two minutes and will be joining me for breakfast afterward. Don't dawdle." With that, he walked away and gave Shiera her time to bathe and prepare.

"Breakfast?" Shiera muttered to herself, "Not leftovers? Actual breakfast? What is he playing me for?"

"I was given orders to escort you to the bathtub, Slave," said the maid who stepped in unannounced.

"I never receive baths, you must have another slave hidden around," Shiera snarls.

"No, Hashim specifically told us to bathe and groom you - that is what we shall do," said the maid.

Speechless, Shiera stood from her bed, being escorted from her new, lavish room, down the hallways she had never seen before. Pillars lined the gold wallpapered walls and fine portraits hung neatly and straight on the walls. Shiera's curiosity grew even more as she heard the sounds of running water in the distance.

She was brought to a large, lavish bathroom with fine porcelain appliances. The bathtub looked to be the most intricate thing in the bathroom besides the obvious: sink, mirror, accent plants, but overall, Shiera found herself in a place of luxury. The clean smells were actually a bit overwhelming.

Having been exposed to the hot water and the scented soaps, Shiera immediately began to feel at ease. As the maids scrubbed her from head to toe, she couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong.

"Tell me, why are you really doing this?" Shiera asked, standing from the tub to be wrapped in a towel to dry. "It cannot simply be an order... I am a slave. I'm very... confused."

"It was simply an order, Slave," the maid responded.

"Yes, and we do as Master tells us to do," another said, "Should we disobey Master Hashim, we'd be punished, and that's not something we'd want."

"I see... well, I find this all quite unusual."

"We understand."

Shiera was escorted to the dining room. Never had she seen this type of luxury in such a mundane place. To see gold and marble in a place where one would only sit to eat for an hour at most seemed like such a waste, but at the same time, Shiera felt a little grateful to at least be able to see it.

Looking down, Shiera noticed her feet, slender and small, wrapped neatly in a gold-leathered high-heel, ribbon-tied pair of shoes. Just a bit higher, decorating her curvaceous figure was a soft, white cotton skirt that hides her body's more intimate parts, making Shiera feel much more comfortable. Her top was gold, like her shoes, but also cotton, and the only part of it that was sheer were the shoulders and sleeves which went to her elbows.

Walking carefully into the dining room, she watched as a maid pulled out a seat for her to sit at the opposite end of the table. Shiera sat down and stared intently at her new, young master with skepticism in her eyes. Hashim could only glare back, looking puzzled. He looked as if he were making a life or death decision.

"You look quite lovely, Shiera," Hashim smiled.

"Why?" Shiera asked, clenching her paws on the table. "Why do you toy with me by pampering me?"

The more Shiera asked questions, the more Hashim found himself zoning out, watching Shiera talk; he could see her lips were moving, her arms, her eyes... all moving. He began to hear only his thoughts as he watched the tigress speak to him from across the table.

Looking at this slave - this woman across from me... this tigress, I wonder if... do I need a slave? Do I need her, really? I have many maids and lots of money. Seeing her dressed up like this, she looks as if she could be a citizen somewhere. Why, she looks nearly no different from myself at all. Maybe... this was a terrible idea.

"Shiera," Hashim interrupted, "Shiera, I've been giving it a lot of thought since I had gone to bed last night."

"What... you're going to make me dance in luxury now?" Shiera replied, growling, crossing her arms.

"Shiera, look to your left, and now to your right. There are no guards in this room." Hashim sighs, "If you wished to stand right now and leave, there would be nobody to stop you. However, if you know nothing other than slavery, I will... employ you... to work here for me."

"Employ... like... pay? I would be paid?" Shiera thought aloud, "No... I can't. I won't! Your father was vicious to me, and you are a spoiled little brat, Hashim! You dared to call yourself my master when..."

Hashim interrupted again, "Shiera, as I've mentioned... I have been thinking. If there is one thing in this world my father didn't do, it was think. Now, I am telling you, here and now. If you wish to leave this place and live freely... as my slave, I order you to do so. If not... then I will care for you."

Shiera's jaw dropped open a short ways, curious and confused at all that was just said to her. He is setting me free. I think he means it. The look in his eyes. That jackal is serious about setting this tigress free. That mangy dog that called himself my master is now calling me his equal. "What are you playing at, Hashim?"

"I play at nothing. Looking at you dressed like a civil being... I feel shame. I feel regret and I feel... dare I say... sorrow for you." Hashim stood and bent forward in a short bow of respect, "A female, no less... and on behalf of the Khabaa family, I sincerely apologize."

"This isn't real, is it?" Shiera asked, looking around her. "This is all just a trap to test my loyalty..."

I can understand why she wouldn't believe me. Stubborn tigress... just leave my home! "You are no longer a slave to this family, Tigress! I have thought so deeply on this. You are a living being. You are no different than me! Just... please... eat your fill, and stay as long as you wish... but know you are no longer my slave."

Having eaten her first true meal, Shiera watched Hashim's movements since breakfast. Not once had he made an attempt to capture her, send guards for her, and not once had Hashim demanded for her to dance.

Perhaps he really did have a change of mind... or maybe heart. Perhaps... no... really? Shiera approached one of the maids.

"Hashim... was he true to what he said to me this morning?" Shiera asked, her voice low.

"Yes, Miss," the maid replied, "You are currently a guest in the house of Khabaa," she says, bowing slightly in respect. "Can I get you something, Miss?"

"Miss? N-no... no thanks. I might... uh... t-tell Hashim... that... I'll be leaving now." Shiera stammered.

"Yes, Miss. Thank you for your stay," the maid said, walking away and leaving Shiera unattended.

Left alone in the silence of a lavish, posh lobby-like room, Shiera can clearly see the main door - the same door she entered once she became a slave.

Walking toward the door, memories came flooding back. The chains, the chattering, the guards and their pulling and tugging, most of all, the shaving of her head and even how her hair was maintained all these years. Finally, she came face to face with the doors again.

Stepping toward the doors, she opened them. Immediately, she was greeted with a burst of light, a gust of wind, and the smell of a hot, sandy street. The sounds of camels walking and carts rolling, merchants chattering. Stepping her foot outside the door, Shiera moved her entire body outside, and for once in her life, she felt truly free; she felt like someone who truly mattered, like a rose among thorns in the desert having just broken free to an oasis of new beginnings.

Hashim had never seen Shiera again, and it was then that he felt truly wealthy, knowing he had set a poor soul free. Hashim had finally displayed the power that would make his family name live on.

The power of mercy, the power of freedom.