Kenna

Born of Fire

One tragedy.
Two continents.
Three lives.

Kenna, a mountain guide in Morocco, is much loved by the people around her, but the one man she loves is beyond her reach. The only person who knows about her mysterious past dies in an accident, leaving her his wealth, but with a condition she is not ready to fulfil.

Samaira, a recent graduate in India, meets the man she wants to marry. When she begins to dream of a life with him, a deranged stranger threatens to destroy everything she holds dear.

Ranveer, an Indian Army Officer, has won many medals for his commendable bravery. Nothing is impossible for him, until he falls in love with a woman who is breathtakingly beautiful and unattainable.

One tragic event ties Kenna, Samaira and Ranveer together. Can they fight the evil that casts a shadow on them before it goes on to destroy more lives?

Chapter 1

Amizmiz, Morocco

As far as her eyes could see, she was surrounded by the mountains. Painted in hues of brown, red and black, they were spotted with green vegetation and capped off with a scoop of snow on the top, as if God had wished to add that final dash of icing to His picture-perfect creation.

These mountains were something like a parent to her, challenging her every single day to outdo herself, and yet embracing her into their warmth at the end of the day. Nowhere else on Earth did she feel as much at home, as she did in the midst of these Berber peaks. Ironic, she thought, given that she had not been born here, nor was she Moroccan, but that didn’t seem to matter.

“Kenna!”

She turned around and saw Jim waving at her enthusiastically. As much as he looked ready to conquer the mountains on ‘Day Two’ of their adventure, his wife, who followed a few footsteps behind, looked ready to drop dead. The seventeen kilometres of hiking on the previous day had taken a toll on the petite advertising executive who was not used to physical excesses. Smothering the smile that threatened to make its way onto her face, Kenna put on a sympathetic expression and made her way to the couple.

In her last four years as a mountaineer, she had seen all sorts of hikers and was rarely surprised any more.  She had accompanied fragile-looking women, who turned out to be tougher than a chunk of leather left to dry out in the sun. She had also had to baby enormous, muscular men who had teetered on the verge of tears after a twenty-kilometer trek. Of course, these were extremes, but her occupation had led her to meet and befriend a wide variety of human specimens who lay anywhere between these polarities.

“Hey Jim! Morning, Anna,” she reached out and shook their hands, as the early morning sun sneaked a peek from behind the mountains. “You guys did an amazing job yesterday, despite the wet weather. It looks like a much better day to hike, today,” she said cheerfully, pointing at the sun. “The views will be absolutely gorgeous.”

She saw Anna square her shoulders in pride and preparation, and smiled to herself. Kenna’s job, as much as it was to guide hikers through the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, was also to keep them engaged, motivated and happy. Apart from the sizeable tips it brought in, it afforded her a deep personal satisfaction to watch her clients walk away contented and charmed by the experience.

Anna’s face lit up many more degrees when Abdoul joined them with Anir, the mule.

“Bonjour!” Abdoul greeted the three of them.

“Bonjour,” they called back.

While Kenna served as a guide to visiting trekkers, Abdoul’s and Anir’s job was to take care of the baggage that accompanied the group. Though Arabic and Berber were native languages for Abdoul, he was almost equally comfortable in French, a tongue that had been introduced to North Africa by French colonizers. Between Kenna’s English and Abdoul’s French, they were able to communicate with most clients.

Anna walked up to Anir and patted him affectionately behind his ear. He sniffed her in the hope of a little treat, then realizing that there was nothing edible on her, reverted to grazing the odd grass growing around the road.

The bags and drinking water for the journey were loaded onto Anir’s back, in preparation for another day in the hills. Her hand on the mule’s back, Anna fell into step with Abdoul, practicing her rudimentary French with the robust, bearded Moroccan.

“She’s fallen for the mule,” Kenna whispered to Jim, a smile playing on her lips.

“That she has. I’m worried she’s going to insist we take him back with us to the States,” Jim shook his head in amusement.

When they had started the trek, the day before, Anna had looked pained at the idea of Anir having to carry all the baggage. She had, at first, insisted on hefting her own bags and left Jim with little choice but to follow suit. As the day had progressed, Anna had given in to the temptation of allowing Anir to help her, but not before Kenna had assured her that he was far from over-burdened.

Despite the overnight bags and a couple of boxes with toilet-paper, freshly plucked fruits, drinking water and other basics on him, the mule looked quite at ease. He ambled along, munching on mounds of grass.

“So, what are we going to see today?” Jim was eager as a young boy out on his first hike.

“You see that mountain ahead?”

When he nodded, she continued, “We should be on it by noon. If the clouds don’t return, you will be able to see the whole valley on the other side and the entire route we trekked yesterday from up there. After that, we’ll see how you and Anna are faring and take it from there.”

“Do you think we might spot a fossil today?”

Jim had staked out every inch of the trail yesterday, after Kenna had told them that fossils were not uncommon in these parts. In fact, geologists often came to the Atlas to study the ancient history embedded in the rocks here.

“We’ll keep looking,” she promised.

Chapter 2

Amizmiz, Morocco

An hour later, they came to a halt among gigantic rocks rising on either side of the trail.

“These are rock glaciers,” Kenna explained, “from the Pleistocene epoch. The large cuts you see have been caused by the movement of glaciers back in the Ice Age.”

“The Ice Age!” Jim repeated, whistling in admiration.

While Jim and Anna scampered up the rocks to get a closer look and capture some photographs, Kenna walked up to where Abdoul stood with his mule.

The two of them went back a long way. Their partnership had stuck on for years because of a mutual fondness for each other. Despite fifty-five years of age, Abdoul was a hardy, reliable and steady man. He treated his animals well and was always polite with her clients. On one occasion, when Kenna and a hiking troupe had run into bad weather, it was Abdoul’s deep knowledge of the terrain and his calm manner that had led the group to return unharmed.

Abdoul, meanwhile, admired Kenna’s quiet strength, her love for the mountains and the way she cared for the people who lived in the villages scattered across these peaks. He had walked with her through many of these hamlets and had watched the way she was received at each house with genuine warmth and pleasure.

Unlike many other guides in the area, Kenna was always particular about ensuring that a hefty chunk of the fees she received went to the locals who hosted her and her guests. This endeared her to the villagers and earned her their respect.

But it was not just this welcome addition to their livelihoods that was much appreciated. She was loved by men, women and children alike, for her generosity, her ever-ready smile and her sincere concern for all of them.

“We’ll do the river crossing?” he asked her in Berber.

“Yes, I want to take them through the valley on the other side. I think they’ll like it. Once we cross over, we will trek up to the highway, so that we can hitch a ride back into town. I don’t think Anna will be able to walk all the way back to Amizmiz.”

He nodded in agreement.

Kenna’s knowledge of the mountains was impeccable, but her grasp of the local language was still improving. Though her flawless English and her elementary French were enough to see her through with tourists, she had insisted on learning Berber to communicate with the locals. Abdoul had been one of her tutors. They had made good use of the time spent together during the long walks, especially when they had clients who preferred to hike in silence.

She had a keen understanding of what her clients wanted. If it was conversation, she could keep up a light banter, with titbits of information about the mountainside. If it was quiet they preferred, she could amble along without uttering a word for hours together. If it was adventure they sought, she would pick routes that would challenge the most adept hikers. And if it was just the serenity of the place that the tourist had come to enjoy, she would choose the loveliest trails to charm them.

No matter what they came looking for, Kenna ensured that they left with the fondest of memories and with a deep love for the mountains that were her home. It was little wonder that she was the guide most in demand in these parts.

It was short of dusk when the convoy split ways. With a tearful goodbye, Anna allowed Anir and Abdoul to turn back and head home. Kenna quickly bargained with a taxi driver she had flagged down, and then escorted the young couple back to the town of Amizmiz, where their car waited to take them back to Marrakech.

Amizmiz barely ever fell on the tourist map for Morocco. Casablanca, Marrakech, Fez, Ouarzazate were the popular destinations in this beautiful North African country. It was only serious hikers and passionate trekkers who found their way to Amizmiz, a small town on the foothills of the High Atlas range. An hour’s drive out of Marrakech, this was where backpackers commenced their walk into the high mountains.

To Kenna, however, Amizmiz was home.

“I cannot thank you enough, Kenna,” Anna said, while hugging her goodbye. “You made Morocco memorable for us. You absolutely must contact us if you ever come to Florida. And of course, we’re going to ensure all our friends come here and go for a trek with you.”

“I would love to show your friends around,” she replied with a smile.

“You’ll be missed, Kenna. We’ll send you pictures from the trip. Take care and I must say, you’re beautiful,” Jim wrapped his arms around her.

“God be with you. Have a safe trip back home.”

Her heart felt heavy as she waved at the diminishing car. She had escorted hundreds of people across these ranges, but every single time she bid them farewell, it made her sad.

You’re beautiful, Jim had said. She touched her hand to her face, feeling the uneven ridges, and smiled. A first glance at her always threw people off for a moment. Often her clients remained aloof, taking time to adjust to her differentness, but every now and then she met someone as affectionate as Jim, who could see through her scars down to the person she was.

About the author

Piyushi Dhir is an author, freelance writer and blogger.

She has lived in Asia, Europe, Africa and North America and these diverse experiences enrich her novels.

Piyushi’s debut novel, In Search of Love, featured on the Amazon Romance Bestsellers list. Her contribution in the compilation, ‘Nineteen Tales of COVID-19’, was mentioned in the Morning Star in Toronto and she was invited to speak about her story at the Rotary Club. Her blogs have been featured on Huffington Post, BabySpot and BlogExpat.

Piyushi now lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, two sons and dog, Woofy. When Piyushi is not writing, she can be found cuddled up on a couch reading a novel or knitting.

Follow her on Instagram @piyushidhir_author.

Piyushi Dhir

Visit Piyushi on her website: Piyushi Dhir

More about Kenna

As far as her eyes could see, she was surrounded by the mountains. Painted in hues of brown, red and black, they were spotted with green vegetation and capped off with a scoop of snow on the top, as if God had wished to add that final dash of icing to His picture-perfect creation.

These mountains were something like a parent to her, challenging her every single day to outdo herself, and yet embracing her into their warmth at the end of the day. Nowhere else on Earth did she feel as much at home, as she did in the midst of these Berber peaks. 

Chapters

Pages

Amazon Reviews:

Read it on a slow sunny evening. The story is riveting and the imagery of the Atlas mountains, beautiful. And the ending is the best!

“I read the entire book …in one day…. I have NEVER done this before. My heart was overwhelmed with the twists and turns. The triumphs and resiliency of the human spirit were displayed in a captivating page turner that I couldn’t put down.”

“A wonderful book that I loved reading. It had romance, mystery, and adventure with a twist I didn’t see coming. The characters were so lifelike that I was fully invested in the story. Every time I had to put it down, I couldn’t wait to pick it up again to find out what was going to happen. And the social statement the book makes is heartbreaking. A must read!”

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Piyushi Dhir

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