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Al Hamdu li-llah (All praise is due to Allah)

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The air was so cold that it froze the very hairs in Ahmed's nose. He should have been miserable.

He was not.

His mare, Maysa, danced her neat small steps around Herger's heavy stallion, Gunnar.

The sun had risen this morning. After the darkness, the long darkness, the sun had risen up over the ice white trees to kiss the sky all the colors a poet might wish and this morning, this morning of sunrise and clear sky, he had never before greeted the morning prayer with such understanding. Bismi-llahir Rahmanir Raheem. In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. The sun had risen in the sky.

Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan felt the joy of life rise in him. Herger the Joyous laughed to see him. He said, "It's good to get out. The animals, they started to stink."

Ahmed could have said, "Started?" He could have said that soon the sun would set. He grinned. He yelled to the sky. His yell echoed back across the valley.

Herger leaned forward on Gunnar. Sped up in heavy steps across the snowy field. Ahmed danced Maysa after him. Felt himself bubble up inside like a mote in mead.

All praise is due to Allah. Today, they were alive.