BigCloset Classic

Jayti Singh: Chapters 5, 6, 7 & 8
Date: Friday, March 14 @ 00:46:08
Topic Big Closet TG Stories


What can Mark do to help Jayti in the harem? And what will it do to Mark to try?

Chapters 5, 6, 7 & 8

Chapter 5: The Harem


Jayti's first sight of the harem left her in awe. She stood at the East Side of a huge courtyard: the center of a vast, three-story building called the Major Harem, the housing for the concubines and most of the wives. Lining the courtyard on all three floors were corridors, supported by narrow pillars. The entire building was made from red brick covered in white marble veneer; it almost glowed in the sun.

The entrances to the apartments were protected from the heat by the corridors above. Each apartment had a delicate arch opening with light wooden doors as well as at least one arched window with shutters for bad weather. The courtyard grounds themselves were spotless and constructed of large light polished marble squares with several breaks around the perimeter for leafy shade trees and benches. The Major Harem was square with four entrances, one in the middle of each side.

The South entrance was the rarely opened Major Harem Gate that led to the outside world of Lahore. Behind her was the viaduct entrance to the palace as well as the entrance to the Dining Hall and the Hawa Majal, or 'Wind Palace,' a tall building with fluted domes and large openings designed for breeze and comfort in the dry heat.

Next to her in the shaded corridor were the rooms of the Keeper of the Robes. Directly across the courtyard, lay the entrance to the Main Baths. To her right was the entrance to the Minor Harem building, used mainly by servants and slaves for the concubines and wives, and her new quarters. Female guards who monitored all activity below were distant overhead, occupying open white marble dome-shaped towers. Jayti smelled spice and sandalwood in the gentle breeze.

Throughout the entire complex, Jayti watched hundreds of beautiful women stroll and lounge, some in shocking outfits of the sheerest muslin. Others wore calico cloth, less to conceal than to accentuate portions of the anatomy. Henna stripes of various colors and designs decorated many. One young woman looked like a painting from a wooded scene, with multi-hued green leaves, and delicate branches across her breasts and back. Some women went topless in the heat. Many wore large jewels in their hair, or over their foreheads. Nose rings, some quite large, were common.

Servants and slaves in more basic blouses, dresses, and pants outnumbered the women in the scanty costumes by about three to one. Obviously, the favored women were very well cared for and attended.

["Mark, what do you think?"]

['This is something out of the Arabian Nights. It's a delicate fortress with beautiful women everywhere. Can you feel how I'm feeling?']

["Of course. You're making me want to make love to these creatures. It's annoying, impossible, and the attempt could cost us our life. I believe you said that your science had proven that a place in the brain decided whether one liked men or women. I look forward to the day when you feel that way about men."]

['I don't think that I could have been changed very much in one month. This is a very old fantasy for a man.']

["I know only too well, Mark. My heart beats faster when we look at that woman in the muslin that conceals nothing."]

Aashiq broke her out of her look of wonder with a nudge to the ribs. Chief Eunuch Abdul Hassim and the Chief Empress Ruqayya Sultan Begam were approaching.

As they had been trained to do, they stopped and bowed low to the Sultana and the Chief Eunuch until they passed.

They stood outside the rooms of the Keeper of the Robes, their first stop.

They entered together. Aashiq motioned her on. "I'll wait here for you, Jayti. When you're finished here, come with me."

There was little talk. The Keeper of the Robes, a still-beautiful, medium-sized woman with light brown skin in her early thirties, took one look at Jayti and called for an assistant. She turned and addressed Jayti directly. "My name is Aisha Ram. I am the Keeper of the Robes. You are new here and don't know anything. Listen to me and pay attention. You will wear the clothes that the Emperor wants you to wear. Take off your clothes and put them on the table."

['They certainly take off a lot of clothes in here.']

["And there is more to come, I'm sure. It's been one long, hot day since we've had a bath."]

['And this bath will probably not be alone, which means....']

["Your thoughts follow a path with no forks, as they say."]

Jayti removed her clothes and put them on the table. She kept her necklace with the orange crystal.

"Your hair has been removed, good. Tatyana, find some clothes for the new servant."

Tatyana opened an adjacent door and motioned to Jayti. They entered a medium-sized room with a large window made with delicately designed, geometric shapes. The room contained a variety of fine calico, muslin, and silk clothing. Some were hung on hangers and others were stacked in neat piles, apparently by size. Tatyana brought out an embroidered white blouse, and a long yellow and red dress. She also found some tan kid leather shoes with silver trim.

Jayti was relieved. The clothes were quite nice, but nothing like the extremely scanty garments found on many of the women.

Tatyana ordered Jayti to try them on.

Jayti put them on carefully. These clothes, although more modest than many others she had seen, were still incredibly costly. They fit very well. It made her feel expensive and well kept. Two other similar sets of clothes were brought out and tried on. After replacing one that was too small, she now had three sets of clothes that were appropriate for her standing in the harem.

"You'll wear these for now. They'll identify you as a servant. Later, you'll want to try on some different clothes and experiment with different styles." Jayti looked surprised. "You don't think so?" She laughed. "Wait. After a while, you'll have a strong desire to be noticed. You're a beautiful girl. It's normal."

"What do I do, now?"

"You're done here. You may go"

Jayti went outside where Aashiq waited. "Now we find your space in the Minor Harem, then you must take a bath. After that, you will report to your mistress, Maryam. She'll tell you what to do from there."

She followed Aashiq across the courtyard to the North gate, where the entrance to the Minor Harem lay. They passed through the wide doors and entered a vast courtyard similar to the Major Harem. The building surrounding the courtyard was two stories high and had no true walls. It was open with a series of columns four rows deep. Rooms for the slaves and servants were created by attaching thick colored canvas sheets to large rings on the columns, but left an opening above for airflow.

It made for a very airy and flexible arrangement. There were potentially more than 2,000 small rooms that could be made this way. Apparently, many women couldn't read, because Aashiq told her the women found their rooms by memorizing the color of the canvas and pillar closest to them.

She entered her room with Aashiq and found a plush wooden bed of high quality. She sat on a divan, testing it. Everything there was simple, but comfortable. There were a few embroidered, cotton cushions for visitors on a Persian rug. Ceramic lamps stood on stands in two corners. A small white table and small set of drawers stood next to the bed. She put her spare clothes into a drawer and left with Aashiq to go to the Bath.

The main bath facilities were on the West Side of the Major Harem compound. As she walked towards it, she got a sense of how large it really was; the entrance itself had four large, white, fluted marble pillars holding up a marble beam almost 20 ft. in the air and 80 ft. long. The light from the angled skylights in the large carved dome ceiling illuminated the bath below, but shielded the women from direct sunlight.

The room was like nothing she had ever seen before. Swirling patterns in white marble overlaid with gold decorated the large panels of the walls. The perimeter was partitioned into 20 separate sections; each containing a large veined white marble bowl full of water, constantly being refreshed from brass spigots. Women on high platform shoes used gold and silver bowls to pour water over their hair and bodies, using soap, pumice, and rough sponges to clean, most often using slaves or servants to assist with oils and towels.

The bath was centered directly below the dome. There were at least fifty women lounging in the steaming water, some slightly flushed from the heat. All were naked, relaxed, and unconcerned.

Aashiq directed her to an array of tall wooden platform shoes, and a rack of soap and towels. "You shouldn't take too long. Some of the women stay here most of the day, but you need to see your mistress Maryam soon."

"I won't be long, Aashiq."

She took off her clothes, put on a pair of platform shoes, grabbed a bar of soap, one of the few good things she thought the Moghuls had brought to India, and a sponge. She put her clothes on a hook on the wall, washed and rinsed her hair and body using soap and a sponge and stepped into the bath.

She sat on a hidden wooden bench with a few of the women, submerged to her neck, her body being massaged by a nearby vent of heated roiling water. Other women chose to stand with their breasts out of the water in the shallow pool. Four eunuchs, and at least that many female guards in comfortable red, cotton uniforms, stood or sat on small stools around the bath, watching the women. She noticed some looks of curiosity in her direction and smiled back at them.

The women talked mainly about clothes, dyes, and an outdoor market coming to the harem. She listened, but didn't feel comfortable enough as a new servant to start a conversation on her own. After a few minutes, she walked out of the pool and put on her shoes. Aashiq steered her towards her clothes and another towel.

"Most women finish dressing in the Tepidarium to the left. The steam bath is to the right."

Jayti walked through the left exit, making a clomping sound with the tall stilted shoes. The Tepidarium was a dry room without the heat and humidity of the bath. This room had latticework windows to the outside, allowing a small breeze and an airy atmosphere that contrasted pleasantly with the thick heat of the bath. Women also lounging here, some still flushed, lying on divans wearing long thick, fluffy robes. Full-length mirrors lined the far wall, allowing the women to observe themselves while resting.

Several women talked animatedly with each other, gossiping about the latest scandal in the palace, or the latest love-interest of the Emperor. Many ate pastries and drank cool beverages from trays carried by Tepidarium slaves or personal servants. Jayti dried her hair as best she could, using two towels, asking a nearby slave with a comb and oil for assistance. After about ten minutes of combing and drying, Jayti put on her clothes and left through the bath entrance.

She smiled at the women again on the way out. She hoped to meet some friends soon.

['Jayti, I could get used to this.']

["I think we can both get used to this. It will be the years to come that will be difficult. Somehow, I have difficulty thinking of you as a harem girl, desperate for a man."]

['Where did you learn your sense of humor, Mt. Vesuvius?']

["Where? Oh, I see. Ha. Ha. Mark, you're opening my picture of the world with these images. The world is so big! I wish I could go to England and see Europe with you as you want. I also wish you could see the best parts of India with me."]

['The best part of India is already here with me.']

["Thank you Mark. Accident or not, I'm glad you're with me in this place."]

Maryam lived in the lower Southwest side of the Major Harem. Jayti followed Aashiq through a double door with geometric designs in the Muslim style. Jayti's mistress lived in a medium-sized apartment with bright, ornate walls and a small pool fountain in the middle. Playing chess on the floor were two beautiful women, one tall with light skin, blue eyes, and blonde hair wearing nothing except a very thin muslin choli and salwar.

Her clothes were essentially red colored transparency. She was a blatant advertisement of the skill of the famous Bengal muslin weavers who justifiably boasted they could make a garment so sheer, it could be drawn through a finger ring.

The other woman was of medium height with classic Iranian features. She wore calico to conceal the barest portion of her breasts and womanhood. The henna patterns on her skin were used as art and accentuated the best attributes of her body.

Aashiq spoke to the blond woman who looked up when he entered the room. "Maryam, this is Jayti. She's a servant who's just arrived. She'll be serving you."

Maryam smiled beautifully and said in slightly accented Persian, "Hello, Jayti. You will not find me difficult to please, if you follow instructions."


Chapter 6: Maryam's Secret


"Thank you, Maryam. I'm looking forward to it." The women on the floor gave each other a brief, knowing look.

Maryam regarded Jayti and said, "We too, look forward to it, Jayti."

['Did you feel that something strange just happened between those two women?']

["Yes. They have a secret, but I don't have any idea what it is."]

She was determined to be polite and respectful. "Pardon me, but I don't know how to address you, Maryam. This is all so new to me."

"Just call me Maryam, for now. Some concubines and most of the wives demand that all servants call them mistress, but it doesn't matter to me as long as you show respect.

"You'll be following me around and doing things for me. You will clean my room, collect my laundry, wash my back, and give me a massage when necessary. You'll help me by running errands and anything else I can think of. Is all that clear?"

"Yes, Maryam. Can I do anything for you now?"

"No. Lunch will be served soon. We'll go together and I'll show you how to behave. After that, we'll come back here and we'll talk and play cards for a while, then, I will show you how to take care of the laundry and where cosmetics and other items I might need can be found." She looked closely at Jayti. "You're very beautiful and very young. How old are you?"

"15 years old, Maryam."

"Very young. Why are you here? Don't be ashamed. I was sold in the slave market in Istanbul after I was captured on a raid in Bulgaria."

"I don't know why I'm here. The Emperor's soldiers and four eunuchs came to my parent's house in Manwar and showed us an order for my transportation here. That's all I know. I don't know why the order was written. Hassan, one of the eunuchs, thinks I have an enemy somewhere, but I don't know of any."

"Hmm. Interesting and mysterious."

The sound of a low-pitched gong rang out.

Maryam rolled gracefully to her feet and clapped her hands. "Lunch. Lets go."

Most concubines and servants went to the hall at various times during the long lunch. These habits were developed by necessity, due to the large number of people to feed. Maryam liked to go early.

Wives almost always ordered special meals from the kitchen and usually ate in their apartments. The kitchen was always open for sweets, sherbets, and beverages, which were often eaten in apartments, gardens or even at the baths.

The Dining Hall was on the other side of the East Entrance of the Major Harem. The building itself was a large hall with huge latticework on the walls, allowing the light to come through in the morning or evening. Sturdy white columns lined the walls and center. Thick carpets, cushions, and divans were scattered everywhere and overflowed out of doors under banyan trees and in the sun for the enjoyment of those who wished to eat in the open. Slaves and kitchen servants lined a long serving table with lamb, chicken, rice dishes, sherbet's of all kinds, and many other dishes of traditional Indian and Moghul cuisine.

Maryam instructed Jayti to bring dishes with Maryam's choices, as well as Jayti's, to a place in the corner of the building out of the sun, where cushions were available to sit on.

Maryam spoke as she ate some spiced lamb with rice. "We are required to eat very delicately. We use only three fingers of the right hand to eat with, if at all possible. If you want more food, you get more. When you're finished, walk away. A slave will remove it."

"Maryam, what is my position here? I've been told that I am to serve you. Does this mean I'm to follow you around all day and night? I'm just not sure why they brought me here. They could have just brought a servant from Lahore very cheaply to do the same thing."

Maryam looked at her curiously.

"Surely, you realize why you're here. You're beautiful. The reason you serve a concubine rather than scrubbing pots is due to your learning and sophistication." She chewed another piece of lamb, washed it down with chai and wiped her mouth with a cotton cloth.

"First, you do not stay with me in my room unless I request you to do so through the Chief Eunuch. That's unlikely to happen. You must sleep where they assign you. If you disobey, you will be beaten. If you do it again, they may have you killed. This place is picturesque and dazzling, but it's also very strict. I won't need you all the time. I'll tell you when I don't need you, and then you can do what you want.

"If you have the talent to do something else, dancing, singing, reciting poetry or the like that may enhance your appeal and value to the Emperor and if the Chief Eunuch and the Sultana approve, then you'll be trained. The harem exists for the Emperor's pleasure. You're here to help increase that.

"Perhaps if you're worthy, the Emperor will take notice of you. If you're really lucky, he might give you to a rich husband, or make you a concubine. The eunuchs or the Sultana might send you to help with the administration of government if you're educated and smart enough."

["What do think, Mark?"]

['I think that we should talk to Hassan and see what our options are. Can you sing or dance, by the way?']

["Yes, I can do both and play a couple of instruments fairly well. I think we should be careful about making an enemy of Maryam, Mark. We should see Hassan, but in our spare time and not in the open, where everyone can see. Maryam is a nice person, and I don't want to get her angry at us."]

['Agreed.']

"Maryam, what does a concubine do all day, if you don't mind me asking?"

Maryam sighed. "It varies a lot, mainly on what we want to do. Fatima, whom you met earlier, studies poetry, and learns new stories to tell the Emperor. She's actually an excellent storyteller, you know. I practice my dancing for about an hour or two every day. I go to the main bath sometimes for several hours, talking and soaking." Glancing at Jayti, she continued. "Sometimes, I'll have you go to the kitchen to bring back something sweet to eat or coffee."

"Mainly, I just have to make sure I look as good as I can, especially at night when the Emperor might call for me. There's a schedule, but sometimes the Emperor doesn't follow it, or he leaves to go somewhere. He's not like some Rajas who almost live in the harem. The Emperor likes to watch me dance. I'm far from the best, but I caught his eye." She shrugged. "Maybe it's my blond hair. If he tires of me, as may well happen, the Sultana will make an adjustment, and I will lose my nice apartment and some privileges to someone else. That's the way it goes here. Either get noticed or serve. Nothing is certain."

"How long have you been here?"

"About 5 years. I've seen the Emperor exactly 15 times during that span. He's very busy."

Maryam and Jayti went to the main bath after lunch. Maryam showed her where to get towels, oil, soap, and the other things necessary to do her job at the bath. Then, Jayti was sent to the kitchen to get a tray of coffee and sweet pastries for her. She met Maryam outside the bath with the food and drink.

They both undressed and Jayti started the real work as Maryam's servant, washing her hair and cleaning her off. When she went to lounge in the bath, Jayti cleaned herself as well. She noticed that eunuchs were seemingly never out of sight, much like the guards. It was too easy to forget them. All conversations would have to be watched very carefully.

She noticed again how beautiful almost everyone was in the harem and saw others looking at her. 'Could it be that after years of lounging around, trying to look pretty for a man who will probably never know you exist, you just look for relationships with people? Does a woman begin to find other women attractive?' She wondered. 'From the looks, it would appear so.' She joined Maryam in the bath, the tray having been set-aside temporarily on a table designed for the purpose.

A question from Maryam interrupted her reverie. "Jayti, would you like to go to the Dance Hall with me this afternoon?"

"Yes, Maryam. I'd be very happy to go. Let me clean up your room right after you leave here, so I can stay as long as you want."

The Dance Hall was on the West Side of the Hawa Majal garden, just past the Music Hall. A low brick wall separated the buildings, and a small fountain lay on the Dance Hall side. They entered through the large, white front doors of the high structure. The fine latticework of the walls was spaced between solid white pillars and went from the floor to the ceiling, angled to allow in the maximum amount of light. The dance floor was set back from the front and made from a polished light-colored wood.

Maryam and Jayti selected a couple of the cushions out of the way of the dancers. The building was oriented so that the dancers would be facing north and away from the sun. The dance instructor had a raised section and a large cushion for her comfort facing the dancers. Three women musicians stood to the side, providing accompaniment.

Two eunuchs lounged on a divan, and a pair of female guards stood by the north opening behind the instructor, leaning against the pillars. Several servants and a few interested concubines sat on cushions or divans, watching the activities.

Four dancers danced on the floor, wearing identical costumes of transparent silk veils, red scarves affixed to the back of their heads with silver clips, light red muslin, long-sleeved blouses, and matching red muslin sarwan harem pants. A small amount of dark red calico was added to their clothing to preserve some modesty. Bells adorned their ankles and wrists.

They used a piece of long, diaphanous yellow and red fabric as a prop, dragging it over their faces and bodies seductively in slow, enticing movements. Graceful hand, arm and foot motions followed the rhythm of the instruments, a drum somewhat larger than a tambourine, a dark brown polished sitar, and a medium-sized woodwind instrument with a large bulb at the base, as they played an erotic Indian composition.

['Now that's a dance.']

["Yes, I feel your urges rise when we see it. I used to train to dance when I was younger, but not this sort of thing. Concubines, slaves, and courtesans usually perform this. Actually, this dance is quite attractive to me, too. I always thought it showed the female form off to its best advantage. I'd like to learn it myself."]

Maryam spoke to Jayti in a quiet voice, leaning close, "This is the kind of dance I do, but Hasseema, the dance instructor, doesn't really think I'm good at it. The hand positioning practice should really start as a child for someone to be proficient. I try, though. I'm in the next group."

The dance ended and Maryam took the floor along with three others. She was right, Maryam was good, but didn't have the finger dexterity of the others.

['She isn't so bad, but I think she's wasted here.']

["What do you mean, Mark?"]

['Look at her legs and arm movement. She looks almost too much for this dance. The others are soft, precise and feminine. She's strong. She looks as if she needs to run or leap.']

Jayti looked hard. ["I think you may be right. She looks much stronger than the other women."]

It became a routine. Jayti became friends with Maryam and Fatima. Jayti was worried. She hadn't seen Hassan the entire time she'd been in the harem. A month had come and gone, and she was no closer to escape.

One morning, after first prayer and breakfast, Jayti and Maryam went to the bath as usual. Fatima decided to join them.

Maryam sat between Jayti and Fatima on the bench in the bath, soaking. She seemed unusually quiet this morning. Jayti noticed Fatima's hand on the inside of Maryam's thigh under the swirling waters.

['Well, that confirms it.']

["I suppose so, although they may not really be doing anything. The Kama Sutra speaks of women in harems making love with their mouths, eunuchs, too, but these eunuchs are everywhere guarding against it. When would they get the chance to do anything?"]

['I'm pretty sure they find opportunities. Maryam trusts you. Notice how she doesn't try very hard to avoid you finding out about them? Lets look around and see who else is noticing.']

There were at least two other women who had knowing looks on their faces when they looked at the pair in question.

['It seems common knowledge. So, is there a way to fool the eunuchs or are the eunuchs in on it somehow?']

A long pause, relaxing in the pool. ["Mark! That big, tall, pot-bellied eunuch just nodded at Maryam!"]

['Are you sure?']

["How could you not see it when I saw it? Of course!"]

['So, some eunuchs are corruptible. We need to find Hassan, to ask him a few questions when we can.']

After lunch, Jayti went to Maryam's room with Maryam. She started to clean the incense pit in the floor, but Maryam stopped her.

Maryam motioned her to the floor to sit with her. "Jayti, can I trust you?" she asked nervously. "You suspect Fatima and I of being lovers, don't you?" She looked in Jayti's eyes. "Ah, I see it. You do. Well, we are."

She stood and paced around the floor.

"I'm unwilling to give Fatima up. We know if we're caught, they'd kill us. We love each other, and we're willing to take that chance. They'd probably have difficulty believing you didn't know about us, so you could be in danger too. I don't want to lose you as a servant, but I have to tell you this."

Jayti reached out and took her hands, gently pulling her down to her cushion. "Maryam, I'd never give you away. I've only been here for a month, but I think I know already what this place will do to a woman after a time. I only ask that you be careful, and tell me everything." Jayti spoke seriously. "I saw a look on a eunuch's face in the bath today that makes me think he knows about you and Fatima. I have to know who to trust and how this works."

Maryam sighed and squeezed Jayti's hands. "You're very observant." She rose suddenly, went to the door and looked around. She began to pace again, motioning with her arms passionately. "You must understand something about eunuchs. They live for petty power. Their parts are gone and they don't really think like men anymore. They're easy to tame, like the geldings they are, but often, they become as fickle as women. Their lives have no normal purpose in a world of women they can't touch, so they become obsessed with the only things left to them, power and intrigue.

"The ones who were cut when their bodies were becoming men, still dream of women. Some like to give pleasure to women with their tongues for the power and control it gives them." She looked at Jayti meaningfully. "And some are very good at it!" She went to the door again and looked briefly, then came back.

She crouched down and spoke to Jayti quietly. "Did you know that some Sandalis enjoy sex? Most don't like men to do it, but will allow a woman to help them. There are two places on a eunuch's body that are very sensitive. When these places are properly stimulated, after a while, usually a long while, they get off! Believe me when I say it makes them very, very happy."

Jayti's mouth fell open.

['Jesus Christ.']

Maryam continued in a low voice. "I'm pleasuring Razak, that eunuch you saw at the pool. He and I meet sometimes at night, when he's sure no one will look for him in his quarters. He likes it so much I have to put a pillow in his mouth to stop him from screaming when he comes. In return, he lets me know when he is assigned to these chambers, and warns Fatima and me on those days if someone, a guard or another eunuch, gets close." She stood. "Now, you know everything."

Jayti shook her head. "Not everything. I saw two women looking at you in the pool, today. One was a dark brown woman from the south and the other sounded Egyptian from her accent. I think they know, or at least suspect."

Maryam looked embarrassed; she was caught. "Is there nothing you don't see? They're friends of mine. I know they suspect Fatima and me, but they don't know for sure. I'm sure they don't know about Razak." She looked at Jayti straight in the eyes and said. "Now, you know everything."

"Maryam, I will not say a word of any of this," Jayti said solemnly. "I swear this to you."

Maryam lowered her head in relief. "Thank you, Jayti. I will not forget this."

['Jayti! Stop and think about it. She's having an affair with her girlfriend and a eunuch with guards and eunuchs walking all over the place. Look at this place; it's wide open. They're barely making an effort to keep what their activities hidden. I like her, but she either controls her behavior, or we will not be alive much longer!']

['Shiva! You're right, Mark. We're in great danger!"]

"Maryam! I'm not through." Jayti spoke sternly. "What you are doing is very, very dangerous. There are simply too many people who know. Look how easy it was for me to find out!"

Jayti ticked off her points emphatically with her fingers. "One night, a guard could follow a different route. She may want to pee, and go past your apartment when Fatima is crying out. The Chief Eunuch may visit the eunuch quarters and find that Razak is missing. Razak may be mistaken about who is covering for him, or a last minute change could be made. Someone could just want to betray you for political advantage. There are a hundred ways to find you out."

Jayti's face was grim. "I'm not going to say anything, Maryam, but I won't wait for you to get caught either, because when that happens, I'm dead. I have no choice. You either stop what you are doing immediately, or somehow, I will find someone else!"

Maryam stared at her for a moment, then collapsed on the divan and started crying.


Chapter 7: Mark and Jayti give Maryam a New Dance


["Mark! Look what I've done!"]

['It had to be said, Jayti. You did well.']

["Well, I hope it woke her up a little. I like her, Mark! I can see me in her in a few years."]

Jayti knelt by her and covered her shoulders with her hands. "Please, Maryam, I mean you no harm. I want to help you, but not at the risk of near certain death. Let's think about this together and work something out."

She looked up at Jayti and saw the concern in her eyes.

"I know this is dangerous, Jayti. I just don't know what to do. I love Fatima. I want to be with her."

"Maryam, you must have thought about this before. How would you and Fatima be safe? Would it be safe if you were a wife, a more popular concubine, have a better apartment?" Jayti took a deep breath. "I'll do as much as I can to help you, but if it's impossible after all we can think of, and if you refuse to stop these dangerous meetings, I'll have to find another mistress. I don't want to; I'm very happy to remain as your servant, but I don't want to die."

Maryam hung her head. Her tears had streaked the kohl. "Jayti, I have thought about it. If my position were more secure and I could keep a better apartment or be one of Akbar's wives, it would be a lot easier. The more popular you are, the fewer restrictions you have to live with. Fatima could even stay in my apartment, sometimes. I'm on the lower level of concubines. I see Akbar rarely, and I can see he just uses me for the night's pleasure. I try, but there's nothing unusual about me. I doubt that he really remembers me in the morning. Without being more popular with Akbar and getting more privileges, I just don't see a way out."

"So, the key seems to me to become more popular with the Emperor. You need to stand out from the rest of the concubines."

Maryam nodded. "That would certainly help. He needs to think of me with passion and lust."

['I may be able to help her. Tell her that you know some very different, erotic dance tunes that would set her apart.']

["Are you sure?"]

['Fairly sure, yes. I have a particular classic in mind, but I've watched enough videos on MTV to have several ideas on how to appeal to a guy's interest. I'm a guy. If it turns me on, it'll probably do the same to Akbar. There's another angle, too; if Maryam is popular with Akbar, she may be able to talk to him about something that could help us in the night, and he may pay attention.']

["All right, Mark, if you're sure."]

"Maryam, I know some wonderful songs to dance to, from very far away. I doubt that anyone here has ever heard of them. If the Emperor would like to see something new and exciting, perhaps I could help you."

Maryam looked interested. "Really, what's the name of it? Maybe I've heard of it."

['Bolero, from Spain. Andalusia, to these people. She hasn't heard of it; it won't be written for another three hundred years or so, but I know it pretty well. It can be very strong, and it's sexy as hell.']

"It's called Bolero, from Andalusia, and it's made for a powerful dancer. But Maryam," Jayti admonished, "you have to stop these dangerous meetings until we've tried everything I can to help you. I'll work with you; you must work with me. Is this agreeable to you?"

Maryam looked at Jayti with a wry smile. "So, who is the concubine and who is the servant? Very well, I'll stop meeting Fatima and Razak until we run out of options." She sighed. "Jayti, you are full of surprises. After breakfast tomorrow, come to my apartment. We'll talk to some of my musician friends."

Jayti said goodbye to Maryam before sunset. It was forbidden to leave the rooms after last prayers and before sunrise without a good reason. The female guards strictly enforced this rule.

After visiting the latrine, which had running water, to Jayti's and Mark's eternal surprise, she went to her small chamber. She heard many of the women talking and visiting each other after the long day. She struck up some conversations, one with a girl next door, Nerafala, from Bengal Province, far to the east. She'd been here for four years and worked in the kitchen.

Neferala was bored and frustrated. She hadn't seen a man in years without a screen between them. There was plenty to eat, and as long as she obeyed the rules, it was barely tolerable, but she was realizing more and more that it was just a slow death. She missed her family, missed men, and desperately wanted to leave. Jayti was the latest in a string of sympathetic ears, and she talked far into in the night. Other women in earshot finally had had enough, and shouted for her to shut up and get to sleep.

Jayti could hear her crying softly into her pillow in the next room. Finally, she slept. Jayti stayed awake for hours, thinking about the sameness of the days, the danger Maryam was putting her in, Neferala's pain and crying. Was there any hope? Was there really a way out? She listened to the snores and other muted sounds of the harem, staring up into the darkness of her gilded cage. Slowly, desperation crept up on her. She wanted out of this horrible place!

["Mark!"]

['Yes, Jayti?']

["Make love to me! Now, before I think too much!"]

Mark knew what she needed; after all, he was feeling every thing she felt. He did something he had wanted to do since he had seen her for the first time in the mirror at on the way to Lahore. He brought her hands to her face, feeling and getting to know her cheeks, her lips, her hair, and neck. Mark would have given almost anything at that moment to be able to hold her and kiss her. He used everything he knew from experience to make her forget the harem for a while. The angles were different; reaching up to touch her breasts was certainly not what he was used to, but the feelings and pleasure from Jayti guided him.

To Jayti, it felt as if a lover was there, touching her gently in ways that were often surprising, but very satisfying. As her demands grew, Mark continued, matching her pace. She started to moan, but Mark was able to prevent her voice from becoming loud enough to be overheard. Finally, Jayti shuddered strongly, and the impulse to cry out became so strong, Mark had difficulty controlling it, especially as he was feeling it too. He did what he could to allow Jayti to come down from it slowly. A warm feeling of contentment gradually settled in. He gave control back to her.

["Thank you, Mark."]

They fell into a dreamless sleep.

The next day after breakfast, Maryam led Jayti to the Music Hall where servant and concubine musicians practiced.

The red sandstone building was approximately 100 ft. square and had four rooms of about equal size. It was not as open as other buildings, stray sounds having the potential to bother the Emperor.

Two of the rooms were occupied, one with Maryam's friends, two concubines and two servants, along with a ubiquitous eunuch and female guard.

["Mark, you have to let me know something now."]

['Okay. The first things we need are the correct instruments. Here are some pictures in my mind of the types we need. We need a flute, a clarinet, an oboe, a small, tight drum, some sort of string instrument that can be loud, and a kind of trumpet or a trombone.']

["Mark. There's a problem. I've never seen a trumpet or a trombone."]

['That's not good, but it may be possible to replace it with three loud clarinets or something. Ask them about a brass instrument that you blow through that plays different sounds.']

"Is there a brass instrument that you can blow through that makes many different tones? It has to be loud."

One of the servants thought about it. "No, not like you describe."

['Well, we'll just have to deal with it then. Maybe it won't be that important. We can start now; the tune is very simple. I need to let you know how it goes.']

["I don't think I can see notes, Mark. You'll have to show them yourself."]

['What? I don't speak Persian.']

["Try. I'll help you. If it doesn't work, I'll take back control and all you'll have to do is sing it when the time comes."]

['Okay, here goes.']

"The song goes like this."

['That was me speaking?']

["Yes, with my help. I'm helping you think in Persian."]

['You can do that?']

["Apparently."]

['Right, stupid question. I'll try again.']

Mark spoke cautiously at first, trying to speak in simple sentences. "The song starts very slowly and softly. It begins with a small instrument, then repeats itself again and again with a different instrument, getting louder each time. This goes on for a few repetitions. Gradually, more instruments are added to it to make it more powerful and a very effective drum set is added in. The pattern of louder and more powerful continues until a peak is reached. Then, the music is changed, the peak is held for a moment, and then it is finally dropped, much like a person collapsing of exhaustion."

Mark smiled at Maryam. "I think a dancer could do the same with the music. She wouldn't have to be very skilled with small, intricate moves, but she would have to be strong and feel the passion of it."

"I'll try to whistle it, first."

["I don't whistle! It's bad manners for women to whistle!"]

"I mean, think I should sing it, first."

Mark began tentatively, looking for command of Jayti's voice. Satisfied, she started the song slowly and sang the two basic haunting melodies.

"That's all it is?" Maryam asked, dubiously.

Mark turned to her. "That's almost all of it, Maryam, but there are some drums that are important, a few sections that are slightly different, and the end is a very powerful climax."

["I may have mistranslated that last word, Mark."]

['If you did, I think they still understand. By the way, I love your voice.']

Maryam and the others looked a little embarrassed.

"Just try it. Believe me, it's great."

They tried it. Bolero was being played for the first time in history. After a couple of hours and especially after Mark showed them how the drums added a beat and additional power, they were excited.

Hajib, one of the concubine musicians, exclaimed, "Maryam, this is wonderful! It's very simple, but different. I can almost see how a dance to this would go. It needs something very strong and loud for the last two or three repetitions, but it's an easy tune to learn."

Maryam was also enthusiastic the way the rehearsal went. This was something she could do! "Do you know any other songs, Jayti?"

['Jayti? You want me to sing?']

["Sure! How often does one get to hear a song from the future? This is your time, Mark. Use it!"]

['Difficult to decide. When I was a guy, I sang guy songs.']

He decided.

Mark sang the first stanza and chorus from Reach, by Gloria Estefan.

"Some dreams live on in time forever
Those dreams, you want with all your heart
And I'll do whatever it takes
Follow through with the promise I made
Put it all on the line
What I hoped for at last would be mine

If I could reach, higher
Just for one moment touch the sky
From that one moment in my life
I'm gonna be stronger
Know that I've tried my very best
I'd put my spirit to the test
If I could reach"

Maryam looked at Mark with surprise. "Jayti, that was beautiful! So strong! Is that song English?"

"Yes, Maryam. It was in English."

"You'll have to tell me what it means."

["Mark. That was beautiful! Did that come from your country?"]

['Yes.']

["And the words, so powerful! Were you singing that song for us?"]

['You may be right. It was the first song that came to my mind that I liked that was sung by a woman, but perhaps I was thinking of the things we still have to do and the problems yet to overcome. I regret the choice of song, now. Maryam is from Bulgaria. She recognized the language, if not the country. Still, I suppose it was better than singing "Like a Virgin." I'm not sure if I could explain that one.']

["I've heard some songs a little like that, but not as forceful. When you sang it, you even believed it. You must come from a country of optimists. Your world and beliefs are even stranger than I thought."]

['I'll be glad to talk to you about it, Jayti, but now, due to my mistake, Maryam is waiting to know the translation. If I tell her, it would mean the Jayti she knows is much more complicated than anyone thought. Can we trust her, or should I tell her I don't know what it means?']

["Just tell her it's a song of power and that the song is about doing the best that is possible, regardless of what happens. Lets see what she has to say to that."]

['Good idea.']

"It's a song that tells you that there is glory in trying to become greater than you are."

"Was the song made for a man?"

"A woman wrote it, but it was written for men and women."

"Hmm. Interesting."

['Please take over, Jayti, I've done enough damage for one day.']

Maryam found a cushion and lay on her back, hands behind her head. "I hope your song and a new dance can help. It's a desperate hope, I fear."

"Come on Maryam! It's a great song. Now, you must do your part, and create the dance to make it work. Besides, I have more things I can show you that we can try."

['Oh? And what might those things be?']

["I'm sure you'll think of something!"]

Maryam brightened and rose. "Come on, let's get clean, get some lunch, and go to the Dance Hall. I want to try out that new song and learn a wild new dance!"

After lunch, Maryam presented her idea to Hasseema during a break in dance practice. Hasseema was technically a servant, an older but very talented former kanchani, or dancer and onetime courtesan, hired by the harem to teach dance. Her rank was below a concubine. Still, it was better to get her approval before a venture. The dance would take time from her duties, and if she felt the new dance was a waste of time, she would be sure to report it to the Chief Eunuch.

In this case, Hasseema was interested. She had already talked to one of the musicians who approached her about this strange composition that seemed suited for the dance. There was little to do for the rest of the day after this next set, anyway. She would listen to it when the dancers left.

Maryam was overjoyed. "Jayti, see if the musicians are practicing next door. Tell them to be here in a quarter hour, if they are there."

Jayti walked the short distance to the Music Building and found two of the four musicians. They were agreeable and very willing to play it for Hasseema.

An hour later, the dance teacher was intrigued. "The music is western, but it has an eastern influence. It's repetitious, and yet it develops. The dance for this will need a powerful girl. Fortunately Maryam, I think you're strong enough. It'll be a series of different dances, each similar to the one before, but adding and emphasizing different things each time. This needs thought. Come back tomorrow at this time and I should have something to start with."

"One more thing, Hasseema." Maryam interjected, "This is Jayti, my servant. I'd like her to be trained in the dance."

Hasseema looked at Jayti critically. She pinched her arms and legs. "You have muscle you must have used sometime. Get on the floor and we'll see."

Jayti took off her shoes and moved to the floor.

"Now, what dances do you know?" asked Hasseema.

"I was taught a few of Kathak dances of the Nritha type. I don't know any of the Expressions."

"Well, that's not so bad. Nritha is popular in the harem. Sometimes the costumes are a little less than you are used to, perhaps." She laughed. She named a dance. "Do you know that one?"

"I haven't danced it for about half a year, but I think I could show you something."

Hasseema motioned for the music to start the dance.

Jayti was a bit uncertain for a few seconds, but quickly adjusted. She turned and moved across the floor, moving faster and faster in an intricate series of footwork and rapid pirouettes, moving her arms in and legs in a synchronized pattern.

Hasseema clapped her hands abruptly, stopping her. "That's well done for someone who hasn't danced for so long. Your hand movement is off, but your footwork isn't bad. If Maryam wishes, and the Chief Eunuch and Sultana agree, I'll train you."


Chapter 8: To Dance for the Emperor


Jayti clapped her hands. "Thank you, teacher. Thank you, Maryam, for doing this!"

"If your mistress allows, Jayti, you should come back here after lunch tomorrow to get started. We'll finish practice when she comes for her new dance."

Turning to Maryam, "Maryam, I'll have to write out an order for more dance clothes for her. Since she belongs to you, you must sign it."

Hasseema wrote out a letter quickly, requesting dance clothes for Jayti. She handed it to Jayti after Maryam signed it.

"Take this letter to the Keeper of the Robes and get your clothes. Do this before you come tomorrow."

On the walk back, Jayti brought up a problem to Maryam.

"Maryam, how do I talk to my friend Hassan the eunuch? I've wanted to talk to him for a month or so, but I haven't seen him."

'Well, if you wanted everyone to know, you could just ask any eunuch and they would tell him. This could cause some gossip and get him into trouble. If you want to be discreet, then I'd come talk to the Keeper of the Robes with me. She's a friend of mine and could talk to him directly."

Jayti did as Maryam suggested. While picking-up her dance clothes, The Keeper of the Robes promised to tell Hassan that Jayti would like to see him.

After dinner, Jayti and Mark had a long talk.

["Mark?"]

['Yes, Jayti.']

["I feel much better now. We work well together. I don't know where we're going in this place yet, but it seems that we're moving in the right direction. I've been thinking about the ways to get out of here and I want to find out how you feel about them."]

['Of course, Jayti. I've been thinking of ways to improve our chances as well. Go ahead.']

["The first possibility I see is to somehow kill Akbar. His oldest son, Selim will probably take over and move Akbar's harem to the Palace of Tears. There, we might be married off or have a better chance to escape. What do you think of that?"]

['I don't see any way to kill Akbar with killing ourselves. It sounds good, but I don't see any way to do it. Selim himself tried to kill his father, according to history, and failed.']

["Really? All right. This is the second possibility. We could throw a rope with a hook on the end over the wall and escape. We should have some jewels and wealth by that time, and that would help get us far away. We could escape to Udaipur."]

['I suppose it's possible. I don't think we have the arm strength to pull ourselves up very far, but we could work on that or put in some knots in the rope that could help us. I haven't seen any weakness in the guards at night, but it's possible there might be. If we did get away, though, the pursuit would be fierce. Akbar would not be happy to lose a member of the harem. It's barely possible, but there are many 'ifs'.']

["Well then, this the third plan, the one I think will work best. Akbar sometimes marries away very pretty talented virgins to people who please him. To work for that, we have to continue to do things that help ourselves, and learn to play politics. If we get permission to learn to sing and dance, we'll be working towards this end. We can't be so good that we are called to Akbar's bed, or we'll just be used goods and probably never leave. We'll be as friendly as possible to powerful people and make sure they whisper our name in his ear at the right time."]

['I've been thinking about this plan, too. It looks like the best way. The only two people who have real influence with the Emperor are the Sultana and the Chief Eunuch. If Maryam becomes a strong concubine, perhaps her, too. We've been doing well so far. I find it strange that I'm talking about marrying a Muslim who would do his best to put us in purdah as an improvement to this, but I suppose it is. We have to get out of here.']

["Yes. That poor girl crying last night and Maryam going crazy have made it very clear."]

['There are other things that would make it easier to escape. What if we're on the outside? Perhaps Akbar wants to move the harem to Delhi or Agra? If we're on the road and we have a chance to run, we would improve our chances if we trained to run long distances. We could also train to swim a river. I'm very good with a sword, Jayti, and I'm trained to fight with hands and feet. I could teach you these techniques. We could be underestimated at a critical time.']

["I think those skills could be handy anytime."]

['Exactly. We don't know when they'd be useful, but we should be ready when the time comes. These guards are here to stop helpless women, not a woman trained to fight.']

["I'm ready to start when you are!"]

Jayti started her training that night, doing upper body strength building exercises and flexibility training. Jayti did pushups, sit-ups, balance exercises, and elementary kicks. By the time for bed, Jayti was sore on her arms, shoulders, and chest, but happy.

After breakfast, Jayti went to Maryam's apartment and met Hassan. He looked the same, still wearing an eternally amused expression on his smooth face. She went to him, taking his hands in hers.

'Hassan, I am so happy to see you!" She enthused.

To Hassan, she looked happy and beautiful, little changed from the road. "I'm glad to see you're so well, Jayti. I know this isn't the easiest place to be."

Jayti's smile wavered. "Well, what you told me on the road was true, but I'm trying to make the best of it. I have something to ask you, Hassan. If Maryam will excuse me, I'd like to talk to you in the garden."

Maryam looked at Jayti and nodded. "Go ahead, enjoy yourselves."

"Thank you, Maryam."

They waited to speak until they were deep in the garden, away from prying eyes. Hassan broke the silence. "You've learned a few things. It was well done getting me here without talk. Is there something you wanted to discuss with me?"

She looked at him awkwardly. "I want to get permission from the Sultana and the Chief Eunuch to train to dance and sing. I already have the approval of Hasseema, the teacher, and Maryam, but I didn't want to dance for too long without permission. I thought that since you knew them, you could ask for me."

She was uncomfortable with his expression. "If this is too big a favor to ask, then I'll understand and try to talk to the Chief Eunuch directly."

Hassan had an aversion to being used. He thought Jayti was honest and sincere on the road, but was she now a victim to the game of harem intrigue? Just how far was she willing to go to presume on their friendship? A test was in order.

"Again, well done. It's often better to use a go between. I'd be glad to do it for you. There's no reason they or I would refuse if Hasseema has a good opinion of you and if Maryam is happy. It's our duty to increase the value of the Emperor's property."

She looked him in the eye. "Is that the way you think of me? Am I the 'Emperor's property' to you?" She growled angrily, "I am Jayti Singh, a Rajput from Manwar. I will not crawl for anyone, not even you, Hassan!" She turned abruptly and walked off.

Hassan walked after her. She was not in the game after all. He had insulted her to no purpose. "Wait, Jayti. I was just seeing if the old Jayti was still there. Stop. Please!" He grabbed her arm. She stopped and faced him. "Jayti, remember when I said you couldn't trust anybody?"

She nodded, her eyes still flashed.

"I can trust the Jayti I heard, the proud, strong Jayti who won't sell out to the nasty games that people play here. And, she can trust me."

He released her arm and continued. "I'll be a friend to you and help you when I can. I can't see you very often and it's frankly dangerous to try. I work in the Palace now. I hear all the nice gossip about the Emperor, his wives, his concubines, and the heir apparent, Selim. I know who's in Akbar's favor and who is out and I'm in good standing with The Chief Eunuch."

"I am sorry I doubted you, Hassan."

Hassan's arms went in the air protesting. "No! It was right of you to doubt! Now, little one, what have you been up to? I've heard rumors of a new song."

Jayti nodded enthusiastically. "Yes. There is a very good song for the dance that I've given to Maryam to try at the next opportunity, perhaps in a month at the Festival. She should be starting practice on it this afternoon. I tell you this in confidence, Hassan. She's very worried about the Emperor losing interest in her, and she wants to become an important concubine. I'm helping her achieve those goals."

"She's right to worry. The talk of the Emperor's interests has all been about other concubines."

"This dance may help her a lot, Hassan, but only if the Chief Eunuch approves to have the Emperor see it. Can you help with that?"

Hassan rubbed his hairless face for a moment. "I'll do this. When the dance is ready, pass on the place and time of the final rehearsal to the Keeper of the Robes. She'll give the information to me and I'll come watch it. If I think it can help Maryam, I'll tell you and try to obtain permission from the Chief Eunuch. He prefers the traditional dances, but if it's good enough, I could persuade him to have it performed for the Emperor. In the meantime, don't call me unless it's absolutely necessary."

She gave him a hug. "Hassan, you scared the hell out of me!"

He laughed.

['That went well. I'm getting to like Hassan more and more.']

["Yes, I'm glad there are a few people you can believe in this place."]

Jayti told Maryam the news about the performance Maryam must put on to gain approval for Bolero. Maryam was determined to do well.

They went to the bath later and lay together in the hot water. Fatima was there, but didn't put her hand on Maryam's leg. She looked poisonously at Jayti; clearly, that's where she laid the blame for the interruption of relations with Maryam.

['I'm worried about her, Jayti. She looks angry enough to be vindictive. It looks like Maryam didn't break it off very well.']

["Maybe, Mark and maybe not. Even if Maryam said the nicest things, Fatima might still hate us for it. It'd be difficult for anyone to be reasonable about that sort of thing. We just have to hope this will pass soon."]

['I just realized something; looking at Fatima or Maryam doesn't interest me the way it did before. I can still tell they're beautiful women, but the urge to do something about it is less.']

["So, it has happened. You are a eunuch."]

['Hey!']

["Sorry, that was too easy. Actually, I've been able to tell for a while. When I went to the bath earlier, I could tell that you saw just a lot of women without clothes, not as a herd of cows to a bull as you normally do. Don't worry, other than that, you haven't changed at all, and I'm glad of it."]

Jayti served Fatima and Maryam at lunch and ate with them. Fatima was still angry with Jayti and made lunch unpleasant. Fatima had been in the harem for 6 years. As far as she was concerned, a lowly servant had taken her lover from her. There was nothing Jayti could say to that, so, with Maryam's permission, she picked up her new clothes and went to the Dance Hall.

The lessons went well. She was in a group of three other women, and even though she'd missed the first several lessons on this Nritha style dance, she was only a little behind the rest when the two hours was over. Jayti and Mark thoroughly enjoyed it.

['I loved it, Jayti. You do that so well! You have a natural rhythm.']

["I think you could do it too, Mark. I wasn't the only one who was moving out there. Dance is a kind of memory, a memory of movement. You felt the movement with me. You should try it some time. Go ahead. Try that series of turns and swirls that you like so much."]

Mark looked around. The rest of the dancers and musicians were taking a break. He tried it. The first time was a disaster, but after two repetitions, he found he had it. The skirt flowed and the turns were fast and sharp.

["Not too bad for a clumsy man, Mark! You had the right attitude at the end. Admit it. It made you feel sexy, didn't it?"]

['Hell yes! I have to wonder what you think of me, now.']

["I think you forget who you're talking to. I'm a Hindu. We worship lingams and yonis, or rather, what they represent. We understand sex and pleasure very well, and we know that there are male and female attributes to everyone. If you weren't more female than male now, you'd be seriously out of balance. I understand your fears, but they're unfounded. You're the same person underneath as a man or a woman. <pause> Mark?"]

['Sorry, I had some thinking to do. I'm not ready to worship a lingam, just yet.']

["I wouldn't force you to. I would ask you to just allow yourself to find your own balance. Mark? I hope this Taekwondo will be as easy for me as dance is for you."]

['I hope so. I learned it as a man, though and may have to relearn it as a woman. If there's nobody around, maybe I could try a kata.']

["I don't see anyone. Let's go behind the building and try it. I'm very interested to see how this will go."]

Mark stood at the ready position with the right fist in the left hand at chest level. She went through the forms and performed a kata, blocking, kicking and striking in a deadly dance, simulating combat. Finally, she stopped in the ready position, breathing heavily.

['So, was that good for you, too?']

["That was impressive. I take that back about the clumsy man."]

['Well, it shows that you're coordinated. That didn't feel so far from what it should be. Your balance is different, your arms are weaker, and you could be stronger overall, but if I had to, I think I could do fairly well against the average man.']

Jayti returned to the front of the Dance Building and watched as Maryam and Fatima arrived. Hasseema and the musicians were right behind.

Hasseema went right to work. Maryam was positioned in a variety of slow, soft poses emphasizing her long arms, legs, and natural grace and gradually moved through them. After a few repetitions, Hasseema started the music and Maryam followed the pattern, slowly adjusting.

They went through this a few times until Hasseema was satisfied. The next round of dance changed the intensity and form slightly. At the end of the two-hour session, with a break for prayer, Maryam had learned five sets and was completely happy with the way Hasseema had choreographed the dance. Even Fatima wasn't completely displeased; she didn't emit quite so much hate when she looked at Jayti.

One week later, Fatima liked it and sat next to Jayti. Two weeks later, Fatima was laughing and kidding around with Jayti. Three weeks later, Jayti asked for Hassan to visit the Dance Hall; the dance was ready.

The word had spread throughout the harem of the special dance. Several dozen concubines and even a few wives crowded the Hall to attend the rehearsal. Maryam was confident, and the number of musicians had swelled to 15 for the occasion. Hassan sat in the back, next to Hasseema. Jayti sat on the other side of the room with Fatima.

It went very well, to say the least. At the end, Fatima was gripping Jayti's leg so hard it would leave bruises. She hugged Jayti spontaneously, and they both joined the cheers and shouts from the rest of the audience.

Hasseema was quite pleased. Jayti looked over at a slightly dazed Hassan. He mouthed the word 'yes,' walking back to the palace just before sundown prayer was called.

Maryam and Fatima prayed together at the mosque, and then walked back to the Major Harem together. Jayti left them when she passed by her room. She heard Fatima keep telling Maryam how wonderful she was until they passed out of earshot.

Jayti lay down on the bed and stared at the high ceiling.

['That went well.']

["Yes it did, Mark, thanks to you."]

['Thanks to Maurice Ravel, the man who will never write Bolero in this world.']

["Mark, even if we never leave here, and we will, I'll never forget this moment. If Maryam becomes a wife or a more powerful concubine, I'll be happy, but I'm not going to worry about it. We did our part. I'm satisfied."]

['I know what you mean. We deserve a few moments of congratulations. In five minutes though, we're back to pushups and lunges and stretches.']

["How about 10 minutes?"]

['Done.']


Next: Maryam dances before the Emperor. Maryam and Jayti become the targets of a harem plot.
Chapters 1&2. 3&4. 5-8. 9-12. 13-16. 17-19. 20-22. 23-24. 25-26
TG mind altering mind possession harem lesbians eunuchs Sci-Fi rated-R
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