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The Damascus Road: part two

Arms and the woman

By the morning it was known that I had saved the life of the Sultan. I found myself the heroine of the Palace.

The fellow whom they had caught had yielded up the story. It was the Druze, they put out, who had encompassed the death of the Sultan; but that was not the truth. There was a harsher, more rigorous variety of Islam, which looked upon the Ottomans as lax betrayers of the role of Caliph, and it was from that sect that the assassins had come; but it was more politic to blame the Druze.

As was his wont, the Sultan went hawking after breaking his fast, and that gave myself, and the few ladies of the Seraglio with me, a chance to relax. None of them were close friends, and none, as far as I knew, were disciples of Sappho, but as long as I had my companion, Jess, that part of my nature would be satiated. My relaxation was interrupted by a request to talk to the acting governor, the Amir Bashir.

Quite why he wanted to see me, not least when it was, to put it mildly, irregular for one of the Sultan's wives to see other men, was one of the reasons I wanted to see him.

The Amir was a tallish man with grey hair and beard. He was not at all what I had expected, though had you asked me what I have expected, I am not sure I could have told you. But it was not this almost scholarly looking man. His grey eyes gazed into mine, and I noticed he had lines in his face which deepened when he smiled, which he did as he spoke.

'I am glad to have a reason to talk to you. At last I meet the girl Vizier. No, child, do not protest, he said, raising his hand to stop me, 'I have reports from Istanbul which tell me that you are not what you would have others think.'

'My Lord,' I said, executing an elaborate curtsey, 'I hope I have given rise to no concerns?'

I needed time to work this man out, and I was not going to be accorded it.

'We have a common cause, and just as you are no common woman, the same applies to me as a man. There is a foolish view that women are fit only for pleasure and child-bearing, and the fools who hold it miss much by way of talent; I am not a fool. Our common cause is the Empire, and it is being ruined by the self-indulgence of successive Sultans. Those who would rule must not be ruled by their passions.'

HIs last words touched a chord; but for now, I let it pass.

'What can I do, my Lord?'

'We should take counsel, as time is short, and if last night's plot had succeeded, already the Empire would be in chaos. Will you take coffee with me?'

So it was that the Amir Bashir and I became friends, and, over thick, sweet Turkish coffee and baklava, pondered what might yet be done to save the Empire.

Bashir's family headed one of the powerful ethno-religious groups in the Satrapy of Syria. The previous Sultan had preferred to cooperate with the Druze, whose stronghold was Mount Lebanon; it had seemed an easier option than fighting them. Bashir had watched and waited, counselling the recently replaced governor against any more concessions, but the Druze had revolted anyway. Now, what should have been done a decade and more ago, would have to be done, and with more labour, now. Such were the rewards of appeasing the unappeasable.

What Bashir wanted, once the revolt was suppressed, was to be returned to the position his family had held for generations, as the trusted agents of the Sultan. He wanted me to use my influence with the Sultan, and was prepared to pay handsomely for it. I could not pretend that the money would not be welcome, but I explained that I would not do it if I thought it was the wrong thing. He understood.

I liked Bashir. He seemed a deeply civilized man. HIs concern for the Empire was mine. It provided a framework for stability across a wide area where political instability might otherwise become endemic, in which case, civilized life would become impossible, and we should be back to a situation where every man's hand was against each other.

I was sorry when our conversation came to an end. The Sultan could do worse, I thought, than listen to such a man. As we parted, we agreed we should talk again soon.

Back in my quarters, Jess was eager to know what he had wanted. I gave her a carefully edited version, emphasizing that in the present instability, it was important to do nothing that gave our Master cause to think that we were involved in conspiracies against him. She looked puzzled, but contented herself with hugging me.

That night, I told the Sultan the story of the war over Helen of Troy. He loved that tale, and I spoke of how Agamemnon, the great Greek leader, was great not because he was so in himself, but because he managed to wield together the notoriously quarrelsome Greeks into a single alliance. I emphasized that it was the inability of the Greeks to maintain such unity which had led to their being conquered first by the Romans, and then the Ottomans. The Ottoman genius, restored in him, was the ability of the great Sultan to find men who could rule locally, but look to Istanbul for their authority. He listened with interest.

I was tired when I got back to my quarters. The long journey, the events of the previous evening, and the strains of the day, all made me weary. Jess was sweet and soothing.

‘Would my little Pixie like me to use her tonight? She is a tired girl, she can just relax and let me do all the work.' 

Part of me wanted nothing more than to relax into her control, but it was precisely then that the chord touched by Bashir's words sounded. What had he said? Something to the effect that you couldn't control an Empire unless you could control your own sexual desires? The irony was not lost on me.

In the longeurs of the sea voyage from Istanbul, I had plenty of time to ponder things.

Like all the wives of the Sultan, I was a slave; that was taken for granted. I could not leave, even if I wanted. But what did that really mean. Had I stayed at home in Wallachia, the best I could have hoped for was to have stayed in the village and helped run my father's business, probably after being married off to some oaf who would insist on using me. Here, I loved a life of comfort, and thanks to my quick wits, I did not even have to submit to a man. I had three people who loved me, Sapphic sex whenever I wanted (as long as I was careful), and an opportunity to better myself.

But was I not doing, with Jess, precisely what Bashir said the Sultans were doing? Was I not giving into to sensuality? I did not know where the feelings came from with Jess. Officially she was my slave, but from our first sexual encounter, I had effectively been hers.

Latterly it had not been confined to our private time. She had made love to my beloved Calliope, mother of the Sultan, and she had shown her the control she had over me, making me play with myself while they made love. I had felt horribly jealous, but more sexually aroused than ever. It had been Jess who had suggested that I attend an official banquet with an opal inserted into my anus. Was this the beginning of a trend with her? Now she was offering to use me.

Her hand cupped my sex, her middle finger rubbing my bud. I gasped.

'Are you my slave girl, Pixie?'

At that thought my wetness increased. Her finger was making circular patterns on my bud. She looked down at me.

'Are you mine, Pixie, can I do as I wish with you?'

the more she rubbed, the more excited I became. I could feel it building.

'No, no Jess, you can't.'

I pulled away. She looked at me. I looked at her.



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