Early in the afternoon. John and Ximene visited the port of Marghera, where Helios was in stables and Ximene’s ship was being prepared to sail. Helios was pleased to see them, and after some socialising was moved to a stable close to Ximene’s ship.
They then explored the possibility of hiring another ship to transport the guards. Nothing was instantly available.
They accepted the hospitality of the shipping agent who had made the offer and sat in the sunshine on the quay drinking two glasses of very acceptable white wine.
John put down his glass and cupped his head in his hands. ’ Ximene, oh! Aquila, what on earth have you told Yvette about me? From what she said it appears you have depicted me as the worlds greatest lover.’
‘Well you know a lot more than she does.’
‘But is that enough to take the responsibility of guiding someone through to sensual fulfilment. Your grandmother told me that to become a good lover I should have dozens… I think she might have actually said hundreds of lovers.’
“ It is true that in the Cathar world you would be considered inexperienced, but today, in the world of the Roman Church,with no formal instruction in how to give or receive pleasure, you could be considered to be knowledgeable. Most important you understand that pleasure can be obtained from a whole range of intimacies and can be totally independent from any risk of conceiving children.’
She grimaced ‘ John, I have talked to Yvette, she literally knows nothing. She has listened to other women in the harem who consider it their duty to make love when they are summonsed and can be punished quite severely for refusing the husband or masters demands. She does not yet comprehend the idea of making herself attractive to men and yet retaining control of everything which happens. We have talked about it but she needs some real experience. At the same time we must not rush her. Probably some sexy games would be a good place to start.’
She raised one eyebrow. ‘Pipa was always good at games. ‘ Do you remember any of them.’
“ No not really, you were the one who was good at games. – Oh! And Joan, she was so inventive.’
‘What our Joan? Princess Joan?’
“Yes, I spent a night, or was it two nights? with her once… Oh look don’t take that the wrong way we slept in different beds, but we did play games. She told me to look on her as a sexy aunt.’
‘Oh! I bet she did, I had no idea.’
‘And Alyse? I was pleased to see her but what is her role?
Alyse initially was supposed to be travelling to Seville with Lancaster… on another of my ships but her prescence would have been difficult to explain. There was time for her to come here to Venice. It will give her.. and us much better cover. She will act as my wife… and do you know it is conceivable there will be some intimacy… but you need not worry about that.’
In the afternoon, when they had returned from Marghera they started to prepare for the evening.
John and Ximene winked their agreement, stripped off, and started to used sponges to wash themselves down. With much laughter they helped each other sponge each other’s backs.
Yvette sat on the bed clothed in a voluminous dress.
Ximene went over and pulled Yvette to her feet.’Yvette, what is wrong? You look most unhappy.’
‘You are naked . That is very strange for me. Even in the harem we are supposed to be modest, but you two display no modesty This makes me feel very strange.’
Ximene put her hands on her hips and cocked her head ‘But you were virtually naked when you danced for John.’
‘Very different. I was performing a role. This is so intimate, different from anything I have ever seen. You are real people. My problem is knowing how to relate to you in these circumstances.’
‘You must remember we have known each other a very long time and find casual intimacy very pleasant’
‘You seem to enjoy it, I wonder if I ever will be able to”
‘Will you trust us?’
‘We will try a little game called statues. Right. first things first, John sit on the bed.’
John wrapped a towel around him, bulked up the pillows at the head of the bed until he was sitting, relaxed but nearly upright.
He watched as Ximene slowly lifted Yvette’s gown over her head and the pulled her pantaloons downwards until she was naked.
‘Now lift your arms above your head and spread your legs.’
Yvette looked questioningly and Ximene nodded encouragement.
Hesitantly she obeyed. she caught John’s gaze and immediately dropped her hands and looked away.
‘Do you trust us Yvette?’
Again she nodded.
‘Then look John squarely in the eye and resume the pose’
Ximene then used a wet sponge to explore every inch of her body. Several times Yvette shivered, lowered her hands or attempted to cross her legs.
On each occasion she was encourage to revert to the original pose. She clearly found it difficult.
Ximene took a different approach.
‘John, I must show her show her’
Ximene took the same stance.
‘Yvette, your turn.’
Yvette looked lost.
‘John you must help her’
John jumped from the bed and guided Yvette’s hands to dip the sponge in the bowl and then to begin to sponge Ximene’s body.
Eventually Yvette gained confidence and plunged the sponge again and again into the bowl
Ximene was still not satisfied ‘Every nook and cranny Yvette’
Yvette obeyed. Ximene giggled,wriggled and shivered but did not give up the stance.
‘Now you John.’
John lifted his arms above his head and took the same stance, slowly but deliberately moving his legs apart.
Yvette looked at Ximene questioningly “Me?”
Yvette set about sponging John’s body, hesitantly to begin with but steadily with more enthusiasm. Ximene watched her carefully and when she was satisfied, started to reapply the sponge to Yvettes Body. Unexpectedly Yvette squealed, and started to laugh uncontrollably. She turned away from John and directed her attention to Ximene. John took the opportunity to grab a sponge and leaning over Yvette’s shoulders sponged her breasts. She swivelled round and still laughing, plunged her sponge between John’s legs.
Before long they were all laughing uncontrollably and finally they collapsed into a heap on the sloppy floor in a tangle of arms and legs.
Slowly Ximene climbed to her feet and started to dry herself.
‘There now that wasn’t so bad was it Yvette?’
Yvette was still laughing. ‘Bad?’ ‘No, it was wonderful. I want more.’
Ximene cleared her throat. ‘Yvette you told John this morning that you wanted him to teach you everything he knows.’
‘And you meant it’
‘Yes, of course’
‘I am pleased, it is essential to my plan. I have thrown you together, quite deliberately. I do want you to have a real sexual relationship. When we arrive in Al Andaluz , John will spend more time in Grenada than I will. You will be with him. There must be a sexual relationship. You will meet other women and from my own very limited experience harem women are very good at picking when things are not as they seem.’
Yvette nodded ‘They do talk continually, it is true. Their rights to an equal share of a man’s time, affection and wealth are embedded in Islam. If I meet other women in Grenada they will probably ask the most intimate questions about our relationship.’
‘And you must be able to join in those conversations. However this must all be done properly. I am a committed Cathar and so is John.
You already know the principles but let me emphasise Before you do allow John to make love to you you must pass through a progression, where you will learn about Cathar Culture and a transition where you will be taught about how to give and receive pleasure. I still have ambitions to organise both these events before we leave Venice but we are very short of time.
Yvette looked curious. she stared at Ximene. ‘It all sounds very controlled. I did not know Aquila, are you some sort of female Iman of your faith.?’
No, No nothing of the sort.It is just the way things should be done.’
Ximene threw towels to both Yvette and John, indicating that they should dry themselves.
‘I think now we should get couple of hours sleep’
‘All in the same bed?’ asked Yvette.
‘Yes, big bed, plenty of room, but… John, for Yvette’s sake there should be no sexual activity. Yvette must feel comfortable that casual intimacy does not inevitably lead to the real thing.
Yvette jumped into bed, lay down and then jumped into a sitting position.’Do you realise that what we have just done, enjoyable as I have found it, would be judged as promiscuity in Islam. I could be sentenced to death’
‘It does not matter, you have left Islam behind, it was just a game called statues.’
‘But we are going to Grenada which is an Islamic state, if you are pretending to be Islamic, you also could be sentenced to death for this kind of activity.’
Ximene’s face became grim. “Then we must make absolutely sure no one ever knows what goes on between us.’