Two hours later there was a knock on the door. Ximene jumped up . pulled on a silk gown and opened the door. It was Alyse . She looked over Ximene’s shoulder. Oh! Three in a bed!’ Yvette, Aquila please join me in my rooms, there are some things we must discuss.
John smiled, Oh! there is something you want to keep secret from me’. The girls nodded, giggled and close the door behind them. Alyse guided them across the terrace and down a set of stairs. Ximene pulled alyse by the shoulder Rooms? rooms? On the floor below Alyse opened a large wooden door. ‘Yes rooms.’ She gave them a quick guided tour bedroom, lounge, bathroom, all with views looking over the grand canal.
But these are huge!
Well remember I am the accredited ambassador for King Edward it is only appropriate.
Pipa and Yvette arrived and took the places either side of John.
The Emir’s eyes gleamed ‘Yvette, you do not look like a clerk, you are positively glowing. Have you had a pleasant afternoon? Yvette lowered her eyes and blushed.
‘Yes a very unusual and very… a wonderful afternoon.
In contrast with the western style meal which had been served on his fist night with the Emir, tonight’s meal was decidedly eastern. Course after course of tiny dishes were served, some of them very highly spiced. There was wine from every country in Europe, all displayed on a special table adorned with vines, grapes and ivy.
At the end of the meal the Emir made his excuses. “Forgive me there is a real need to give my other wives some care and attention. I will see you mid morning Sir John.’
John turned to Yvette. The Emir was right. She was glowing. ‘ Yvette how could a clerk learn to dance so well. Is it something everyone in the Harem learns?’
She did not answer at once. John realised she was watching some rearrangement of the potted plants at the far side of the courtyard
‘Ah! Yes! Sorry! Where did I learn to dance? I learned the basics when I was very young, but the real answer is Ximene taught me!’
John could hardly conceal his surprise. Ximene an expert in dancing? Capable of teaching someone else to perform incredibly well? It was certainly not something he would have expected.
He had no time to consider the point. The now familiar strains of eastern music echoed through the air. Extra flares were lit. Suddenly at the far side of the courtyard they illuminated an image of a dense forest. John realised that the shrubs and trees must be in containers as they had not been there an hour ago but the illusion was realistic. To the right of the courtyard there was a couch. As with the wine servery, the couch was laced with vines and ivy.
The extra lighting picked out the pentacle and the rampant eagle painted on the floor. At the urging of Pipa, they all walked forward to the couches. John was guided to his allotted seat very firmly. He still found himself seated between Yvette and Joanne. There was obviously significant meaning in this. One point of the pentacle lay at his feet.
Pipa was busy making last minute adjustments to her costume. She undid the ties at the top of her gown. John noticed that Yvette was doing the same thing. What was planned for the night? It seemed as if the audience was going to participate!
When John looked up again he noticed that the couch was positioned on another point of the pentacle. Sitting on the couch was an extremely good looking well built young man. He seemed he had appeared from nowhere. The young man was naked. He took a deep draught from a glass of red wine.
Pipa leaned over to whisper in John’s ear.
“Dionysus” she whispered.
“Originally in Egypt he was known Osiris, later in Rome he was known as Bacchus.”
A group of young women, wearing only the lightest of body chains and transparent leg coverings, appeared from the left. They approached Dionysus and partook of the wine he offered them. They caressed Dionysus and then each other.
“Dionysus symbolises pleasure, disorder, but also artistic expression. He was always popular with the ladies” Pipa whispered.
Obviously she intended to give a running commentary.
Another much younger man appeared from the right. His body, slim and agile was covered in gold cosmetic paint. His appearance was highlighted by a beam of light reflected from a group of flares.
“Apollo” whispered Pipa, “brother of Dionysus.
Earlier in Egypt he was known as Helios”
Apollo stood by another point of the pentacle. Another young man followed Apollo onto the stage. They caressed and kissed.
“Apollo symbolised control and the state. Apollo never liked women.” Pipa told John.
“Except for one”
“The only woman Apollo ever loved was Artemis, his sister.”
From amongst the shrubbery a female figure emerged holding a bow. A deer ran across the courtyard. Another softer silvery beam of light followed her movement.
“Artemis symbolises nature and natural forces, in Egypt she was known as Selene, in Rome she was known as Diana. She has been grossly misinterpreted. Because of her concern with natural forces, the forest and the creatures of the forest which are all part of the material world, she has acquired the reputation of being associated with the Bad God. In fact she is the greatest of heroes; she is here to bring light and spiritual awareness to all of us who are trapped in the material world.
John looked again, it was Ximene. She was dressed in a white toga. One shoulder was uncovered and the toga was very short. She saw the two different groups and she started to dance. She swayed her hips counterbalancing this with fluid movements of her hands. In time with the music she moved the position of her hands from waist level with palms facing downwards to high above her head with her palms facing inward. She then, without disturbing the movement of her body pirouetted, first in one direction and then the other. She was obviously in complete control of her direction of movement. She moved to a position at which the eagle had been painted on the floor. The silvery beam followed her wherever she went. John groaned inwardly realising that this was another “Cathar Performance”. He was suddenly concerned. He did not want to watch Ximene making love to anyone else!
Ximene now danced to the side of Dionysus. The spell which had been cast in other “performances” which John had seen was not working tonight. His mind refused to see Ximene as anyone other than Ximene. Dionysus slowly poured a glass of wine as Ximene danced around him. He beckoned to her and she lay across the couch. He poured the wine into her mouth. Inevitably some of it spilled. He filled another glass and his female companions crept forward to watch. Two of them advanced further than the others and grabbed Ximene’s hands, stretching her firmly across the couch. Dionysos then poured another glass of wine, again very slowly. As he did so the silvery beam which had so far accompanied Ximene was slowly extinguished. Dionysus again poured the wine into her mouth. She struggled briefly, still moving in time to the music as she writhed on the couch. Suddenly she gave up the struggle. Snatching one hand free she embraced and kissed one of her captors. The other women who had been creeping ever closer suddenly rushed forward, every one of them grasped a different part of Ximene’s body, kissing and caressing it. Dionysus stood back apparently pleased with what had occurred.
Suddenly a beam of more intense light illuminated the group. It emanated from above the head of Apollo. Dionysus and his female companions backed away and vanished into the darkness. Still following the basic dance steps she had used since she appeared from the forest, Ximene slowly moved towards Apollo. She now moved more slowly however and the contrast between the earlier vibrancy of her dancing and the current slower almost hesitant movement created great contrast. The entire right side of Ximene’s toga had been torn away. From neck to thigh she was totally exposed. As she danced she attempted without success to hide her nakedness.
She approached Apollo and initially he welcomed her, embracing her gently. Within seconds however by gestures of his hands he was demanding that she stop dancing. Ximene complied. Seconds later he was demanding that she bow before him. Stretching one leg far behind her bending the other leg and lifting both arms sideways in a gesture of supplication she again complied.
Apollo’s companion was watching this with interest. Apollo raised Ximene to her feet and embraced her. His companion rushed forward and embraced Ximene from behind. She was now enveloped by the two men. She struggled clearly realising what their intentions were but to no avail. Suddenly the area above the courtyard was illuminated with flashes of flares moving from one corner to the other. The musicians picked up the theme with rolls of drums. “Thunder and Lightning” Pipa explained John.
“Amun and Amunet or Zeus if you prefer, have now intervened. To escape her two brothers Artemis must now accept a human existence!”
However inspiring the images had been, John was still concerned that he might be required to become a performer. It seemed that his worst fears were about to be realised. Joanne and Yvette lifted him gently to his feet. Joanne addressed John in a totally different tone of voice.
“Artemis only ever loved one man in her life, he was a shepherd named Orion. You now John must become Orion
She helped him remove his rich eastern robes. She then brought to him some rough homespun garments. They were not quite the same as he had worn on his father’s lands on the Wirral Peninsula but John recognised them as shepherds’ clothes.
Ximene had escaped from Apollo and his accomplice. They had torn away the other half of her dress. She was now emerging into the material world totally naked. All lighting to the rear of the courtyard was extinguished. The silver light focussing on Ximene slowly returned. Though still moving in time with the music she almost crawled back to the centre of the pentacle. In the lights at the front of the courtyard John could see that the points of the pentacle nearest to him were now occupied by Joanne and Yvette.
Triggered by some external signal they both tugged at the ties on their all enveloping eastern dresses. They shrugged their shoulders and the dresses fell away. Underneath lay a totally different image
Their bodies were wrapped in a simulation of armour and they both wore swords from a golden belt round their waists. The armour was not solid; it simply coiled around their bodies to give the image of martial intent. In fact the costumes they wore revealed more than they concealed. Their slim finely muscled bodies, indicated adherence to regular physical exercise, another indication of martial intent. Pipa had left John’s side so he explained their identity for himself. Amazons! They then both started to dance picking up the same steps and sequences Ximene had used previously.
The silver light which had accompanied Ximene from the beginning now faded.
Joanne and Yvette drew their swords and moved to either side of Ximene as if to give her protection. Ximene then recreated the dance John had seen on his first night in Venice.
From nowhere she produced a veil which she held in both hands and whirled around her body. There then came the transition from the swirling movement to a more complex dance in which the sequence of steps changed continually. Finally she entered the phase of shaking her shoulders and hips creating vibrations which encompassed her whole body all in perfect time to the music. The dance was all the more spectacular because Ximene was performing it completely naked.
As the music reached a crescendo Joanne and Yvette put aside their swords and joined in. They had obviously practised every move. The three girls danced in perfect unison. As the music stopped with a final clash of symbols Ximene threw herself forward at John’s feet. In a copy of her submission to Apollo one leg was stretched out behind her and the other was bent beneath her. Her arms were elevated at either side. The main difference between this act of subservience from the one she had performed in front of Apollo was that now she lifted her head.
She looked directly at John. Behind her both Yvette and Joanne had adopted a similar pose. It was the ultimate gesture of subservience from Ximene and her female lieutenants. John looked at them, three of the most beautiful women one could ever imagine all in submission at his feet.
However John realised that it was Ximene who had choreographed all this. She had lured him away from the life he loved, as champion of the lists. Now he was faced with an uncertain future.
A sudden thought crossed his mind. He knew the story of Orion only too well. Ximene herself had read it to him. Orion is the brightest constellation in the heavens.
The story of Orion did not end when a goddess became his lover.
Orion the shepherd assumed his place in the heavens when he was accidentally killed by an arrow shot from the bow of his goddess lover.
Nothing Ximene ever did was accidental. She was making sure he understood that his association with her was inevitably accompanied by risk.