The first silver beams of moonlight filtered in through the gaps in the shutters, specks of dust and sand dancing on the air, glittering like stars in the rays' paths. Kahir extended a hand, swirling his fingers through their midst. The traces gleamed even brighter, quickening their soaring on unseen currents, wheeling on unfelt eddies.
"Tell me about the angel, daddy!"
Kahir was jolted out of his reverie by the voice of his six-year-old daughter, Ahara. He smiled softly, drawing the young girl's quilt up to her chin, tucking the blanket underneath the child's small frame, plumping up her pillows.
"Are you sure?" He asked quizzically, furrowing his brow as he sat down on the edge of his daughter's bed, stroking the girl's cheek lovingly. "We have that story every night."
Ahara nodded adamantly, and Kahir laughed. "Very well, my love. I'll tell you a tale of an angel."
The young girl beamed an enormous smile, snuggling deeper into the folds of her quilt, pulling her bedsheets up past her nose until only the upper half of her face was visible. Her father smiled back, staring into her deep brown eyes.
"Many years ago," Kahir started, "there lived a little girl. She had beautiful emerald eyes, and hair as rich and soft as honey. Her skin was the colour of the ripest olives, and she had a smile like the sun itself."
"She lived in the south, by the river." Ahara picked up. She'd heard the story a hundred times, and had long since memorized it, despite making her father tell it every night. "She loved to play in the water and lay on the banks."
"Her whole village relied on the river to survive." Kahir nodded, smiling gently, continuing the story. "They dug canals to water their crops, and bored wells to draw drinking water."
Kahir heard his wife's subtle footsteps behind him, and Ahara's eyes flitted towards the doorway. The wooden doorframe creaked, and Kahir stole a quick glance over his shoulder to smile at Ahara's mother. His wife smiled back, shooing him away, her message clear; Keep going.
"For a time," Kahir continued, "Everyone was happy. Their crops grew tall and healthy, and the little girl kept playing in the river."
"But then came the soldiers from beyond the gate." Ahara frowned, voice muffled by her quilt. "They took the crops for their army, and took too much water from the river, leaving none for the little girl and her village."
"Their crops began to wither and die." Kahir answered mournfully, bowing his head. "The little girl and her family couldn't stay, now there was no water, so they packed their bags, took everything they owned, loaded it onto a cart pulled by their trusty pack bull, and headed north."
"Along the way, a huge sandstorm rose up!" Ahara cried, dropping the quilt and waving her hands in the air. "It blanketed the land, and made it impossible to see!"
"The little girl's parents knew they had to find shelter," Kahir nodded sagely, gently taking Ahara's hands and tucking them back under the blanket. "So they headed for a cave in a great mountain, taking cover inside. They sat around the fire and waited, and waited, and waited for what felt like forever, but still the storm showed no signs of slowing or stopping."
"They prayed to the gods for help." Ahara whispered, pulling the blankets up over her face again.
Kahir smiled, reaching up to pull the quilt down until his daughter's eyes were visible. "And finally, out of the raging wind... out of the swirling storm... there appeared a woman. A woman made of leaves, blessed with a divine, ethereal glow. They were terrified, but she reassured them."
"Don't be afraid!" Ahara quoted. "We've come to help!"
Kahir nodded, smiling gently. "The little girl reached out, taking the woman's hand, and the woman led her and her family through the storm to safety."
"And they all lived happily ever after!" Ahara finished.
Kahir grinned, nodding. "That they did, my love. That they did."
He leaned in, planting a kiss on Ahara's forehead, reaching across to extinguish the candle.
"Daddy?" Ahara said. Kahir halted.
"Yes, my love?"
"Mummy has emerald eyes, doesn't she?"
Kahir chuckled, looking over his shoulder at his wife.
"She does, my love. She does indeed."