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With Ana back in my life, I felt up to any challenge. That she had come to me as soon as she had got my message told me all I needed or ever wanted to know. She felt about our relationship as I did. The conventions of Society, not to mention the teachings of the many religious groups which dominated it, did not allow us to hallow our relationship, and local customs meant that I needed to take care. Ana had much to do back at her base, but she became a familiar figure at the Grand Serail, although her exact status we never fixed; except in our hearts. And so it was that after so many wanderings, my wounded heart came to rest in her. Only Queen Bess ever held a similar place there; but I was young, and it was long ago, and besides the wench is dead.
My delight in my new role continued when, a week after my arrival, Princess Damila Al-Amadin arrived; and to make my pleasure complete, she brought with her my former slave and lover, English Jess, and her partner, Ayesha.
The Sultan had once described the Princess as a ‘jewel beyond compare,’ and looking at her as she approached my throne, I felt the same. She was like a Greek status of Venus I once saw in the Topkapi Palace’s private quarters. Her figure was in perfect proportion, and her eyes they shone like diamonds, they sparkled like the dew, and her hair hung over her shoulders, held up only by a black velvet band. She was the Helen of Troy of our era.
She bowed, I beckoned her to me and gave her the honour of a kiss on each cheek. She whispered:
‘So good to see you again my darling.’
And so it was.
I invited her to a private dinner that evening, the formal banquet could wait. She brought Jess and Ayesha.
My eyes filled when I saw Jess. She had been my companion and my joy. She had fallen in love with Ayesha, one of the ladies in waiting to the Princess, and being kind-hearted, I had released her from my service. But it was a joy to see her, and to know at first glance that she and Ayesha were happy,
‘Jess,’ I smiled broadly.
‘Is it so, can it be, that my Pixie is now Mistress of all she surveys?’
She giggled, and so did I.
Over dinner, I told them about my adventures in England, and Jess wanted to hear all about her homeland, and what had happened in the Seraglio. I told her I had given the letter she had written to her former Mistress to a trusted source, but had never had a response.
Jess, smiled, that sweet, tender smile I remembered so well.
‘Well, at least she knows what became of me. It was so kind of you, darling one, to let me go, but I see now that there was much wisdom there too. I recall you saying that the situation was unpredictable. So, Irene won in the end?’
Irene was the ambitious favourite of the Sultan whose son was now the favoured heir, and I had no doubt she was, in part, responsible for my exile. Little did I now mind, as I had two of my favourite people in the whole world there in the room with me. I told them that Ana would be coming to the official banquet.
As we sipped our sherbet in the courtyard to the sound of the fountains playing, Damila raised the question that had hung in the air.
‘Are you here for long, my darling?’
I explained as much of the situation as I wanted to share, telling them that I was happy that the Sultan had given me my own show to look after, allowing me power rather than confining me to mere influence. I added that they should let it be known that the little Viceroy might be looking to make a marriage.
‘What!’ Jess positively squeaked. ‘You?’
I Ankara Rus Escort reassured them that I had no such intention, but added that it would help keep the local chiefs in play if they thought there was a chance that I might favour one of their clan. I had watched how Elizabeth had used that as a technique, and thought I could manage it too. Of course, I would never marry, and not only because I was a devotee of Sappho. Marriage into any of the local clans would mean making an instant enemy of its enemy. But the prospect of it would help in two ways: it would mean that for a while they would see it as being in their interests to woo me; and it would counteract the rumours about my sexuality which would confuse the Imams. Heads I won, tails I did not lose.
The official banquet the following evening was a lavish affair. Power was demonstrated in largesse, so the food and drink were of the highest quality, and there were gifts for all the important clan leaders who vied with each other in their extravagance to me. This was how it worked in the Empire. A good Lord gave gifts, and influence, and access to money and power. If I could balance the local clans, then my rule would be successful. If I could not, then my tenure would be short – and brought to an end by the bowstring. You got no second chances in Ottoman politics. Ana’s presence was taken to be that of one of the many powerful local war-lords; but we knew differently.
The following morning, I summoned the chiefs, including the Princess, to a meeting in my chamber. Oddly, peace was a threat to good government. War might use up resource, but if successful, it gave access to fresh riches. I was mindful, having read Danegyth, of the way the William the Bastard had parcelled out England to his barons, as well as of Elizabeth’s plans to use Ireland in the same way. Men were avaricious and war-like; a good Lord found these things an outlet other than civil strife, which was always the default position.
I outlined to them the Sultan’s wishes regarding the former Armenian kingdom to our north-west. Run by local warlords who owed allegiance to the Mongols, it was a threat to law and order in our realm, and it needed to be brought to more civilised ways. This, I added, would mean that I should need help from them, in return for which, of course, they would receive rewards in the form of land of gold or slaves – or all three.
There was a murmur of approval. I suspected they had imagined that a female Viceroy would talk to them of peace and good government, in neither of which were they interested. They wanted power and wealth. I was prepared to offer it.
‘If I might say, Highness,’ said the head of the Bashir clan, Assad, ‘that is a masterly idea, but do we have information about the situation there?’
Smiling, I acknowledged the wisdom of his compliment, and told him that we did indeed, and that, when the moment came, we would have allies inside the kingdom too.
There was a louder murmur of approval. Clearly this was not just a hare-brained scheme, but one with some planning. That was half true. Ana had contacts with the Christians in the community there, and Rabbi Joshua with the Jews, and I had put feelers out to both. Beyond that there was not yet a plan, but what mattered was that I had the local leaders thinking about fighting someone other than each other. For too long, in my opinion, the Empire had forgotten its primary function, which was to reward its chief supporters; in my area, that old tradition Yenimahalle Escort was about to be revived – with a vengeance. But of my wider purpose I said naught, save to Rabbi Joshua.
‘My dear Viceroy,’ he said when I told him of the wider purpose, ‘it would, indeed, be a great work to take our people out of captivity and bondage in that hateful place, and if you can bend the power of the Empire to that purpose, God will bless you.
I could only hope so. I was taking enormous risks. The Sultan had not, in fact, sanctioned any military action. He would never disavow a successful conquest, but if I got it wrong – the bowstring would follow. No wonder so many viceroys sat still, plundered their domains, and hoped to live out a long an uneventful life. The difficulty was that they seldom succeeded. The Empire was inherently unstable, I had come to realise. War and conquest provided unifying forces; these I would use.
Ana approved. We slipped into a pattern where she would come to Court on Fridays. It coincided with the Muslim call to prayer, and so the Imams were not about. A small thing, but it helped lessen the opposition. However much part of me wanted to tell the Imams and Bishops that they were bigots, I knew I could not do so. Society was not ready to admit that women could love other women, although, to my amusement, I noted that all-male relationships had a blind-eye turned to them. The hypocrisy was nauseating, but men ruled the world and made their own rule. I may have governed Syria, but I could not make my own rules.
Ana’s arrival was always a joy for me. Power, or rather ruling, was a time-consuming activity, at least done properly. There were petitions to read and answer, letters, dispatches and reports all demanding time; then there was my weekly report back to the Padishah. On top of that there were daily audiences, and the need to stay on top of what my own secretariat was doing. They had become used to Bashir’s laxness, and they disliked my attention to detail, not least because their peculation was uncovered. I had to have several of them imprisoned, and others dismissed; but they soon learned that I was a force to be reckoned with.
Ana reckoned I worked twice as hard as any man, but as I told her, I had to. It would not do for me to be as good as a man. The Men’s Club accepted that sometimes things got missed by a busy ruler; but they would have crucified me for the slightest error. So I had to be twice as good. The reports back from the Sultan praising my rule were manna. Within six months it was accepted, by all but the religious puritans, that I could rule Syria. But without time with my Ana, I should soon have been exhausted. She was my hold on some sort of private life – and sanity.
With Ana I could be me. She was always who she was. The Amazonian warrior woman who headed up the elite Bodyguard and guarded the secret tomb of the Marble King, as well as the secret of the location of the real heir to the last Eastern Roman Emperor. Her nature was open and frank, and she had no need, nor use for, diplomacy. She saw me as her woman, and that made me happy. To everyone else I was the Viceroy, to her I was ‘my little Rahab;’ where everyone else bowed to me, I knelt to Ana in our chamber. Where I had to be on guard with everyone else and work out what their private agenda was, with Ana I was safe, and knew what she wanted: me.
Ana was punctual, which meant I evolved a routine; I like routines. In a life beset by uncertainties, there was a reassurance to be had in the familiar. So, after my meagre Friday midday repast (it was a day of fasting for me in the main), I would retire to the bath, allowing my ladies to pamper me and prepare me for my lover. I would be clean and perfumed and in my most tantalizing harem clothes for her. Once she arrived, only my personal maid would be allowed access. She alone knew what we did, and she knew that any breach of my confidence would be met with retribution.
Ana loved me like that.
She would bathe, and I would tend to her, stripping naked to be with her.
I would massage her, starting with her shoulders and working down to her backside. Straddling the small of her back, I would ease the tension from her muscles. I knew it excited her to feel my growing wetness pressed into her. She loved me to get hot, which added the scent of my sweat to that of the perfume. Even more did she loved the way my tongue would eventually slide down the crack between the buttocks. She would begin to moan at that point. I loved to tease her puckered dark star hole and to watch it pulse. Even more did I love parting her cheeks and lubricating her with my saliva until the was in a state of such arousal that I could smell it.
Then, depending on our mood, I would either press myself lower between her thighs and suck her cunt, or I would turn her over, for easier access to her bud, and suck that whilst fingering her.
When we did the latter, I loved the way she would pull be by my plaits more fully into her until my mouth cupped her whole cunt. Greedily I would lick her, up from her perineum to her clitoris, then round again, and again, until my instinct told me it was time to suck her; then I would.
Ana’s legs over my shoulders, both her sex holes would be opened for me, and oft-times I would use them both. She loved me to lick, flick and suck on her clitoris while fingering her with both hands. She loved my fingers in her cunt, but when I penetrated her star hole too, she would gasp and moan and grow wetter. Knowing her need, I would let her climax then, before spending a more leisurely time arousing her for a second, or even a third climax. Sometimes that would take us into the evening, and my chef would prepare us something for when the sun has set and I could eat.
I can see the courtyard from here, where we would sit on those balmy summer evenings, underneath the stars, in love and happy together. Time takes all away, but my memories he cannot take from me; though the moment pains as the hours pleased.
Then she would want me.
I had no say in the matter. With her, and with her alone, I felt able to drop my guard, as well as my harem pants. She would take me, sometimes tenderly, sometimes roughly, but always with passion, lust and love. For those hours I could stop being the little Vizier or the girl Viceroy, and just be Rahab, Ana’s woman, her lover, her partner, her soulmate. And we were happy under the Syrian stars, our love blossoming like the cherry tree in spring time.
As the night wore on and our exertions tired us, we would talk of love and what we might do when I stopped being Viceroy. But we knew in our hearts that such talk was fantasy. I could not go to love with her in the mountain citadel where the Bodyguard secreted itself; no successor would allow that. So, either I stayed, or I would be sent elsewhere; or it would be the bowstring.
‘If the man ever arrives with that, my little Rahab, I will use it to strangle him, and I shall smuggle you to safety and defy the world.’
She would have, too, but I could not put her work at peril – even for our love. But it was sweet of her to say so, and sweeter still to know she meant it. I was loved – and I knew it. I thought then, as I do now, what more could one want from life? Power and riches were Dead Sea fruit; what will survive of us is love.
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