John Stanley-1st September 1366
John decided he must gain a better knowledge of the geography of the palace so that, if necessary, he could return later with some assistance He looked around and discovered that there was a second entrance to the room. Beyond the door there was a series of arched openings along the outer wall of a long corridor. It was to all intents and purposes a cloister, similar to those found in cathedrals throughout Europe.
He walked to the nearest archway. Down below there was the Grand Canal. He wondered how deep it was. He decided that whatever might happen to jump into the canal would be a last resort.
The same servant who had met him on his entrance to the garden came to find him and told him that his presence was now required.
The Emir was waiting and greeted John warmly. A light European style meal was served for which the first course was a variety of salads.
The Emir proved to be a good conversationalist who explained that he was not only concerned with his trading relationships but also with the security of his state. His lands were well situated to take advantage of the trade between Europe and the Orient but were also the target of envious eyes.
The second course was roast chicken served with a warm salad of sautéed sausage and root vegetables.
The conversation moved on to cover John’s experience of war in Europe and his assessment of the best mix and deployment of cavalry, archers and foot-soldiers.
The Emir told John of a new development which was causing him concern. A device powered by Chinese Powder could fire a projectile over long distances and with greater penetrating power than an arrow. He asked John how he thought such a device would affect military strategy.
John replied that similar devices were being trialled in Europe and had been used at the battle of Crecy. The results had been inconclusive but that until he saw such the devices actually in use in the east he could not make an assessment.
‘Well, Sir John if you were to visit Caraman perhaps we could arrange a demonstration.”
The third course consisted of a variety of fruits
Suddenly the Emir’s voice hardened. ‘You are quite famous Sir John, and not only because of your prowess in the lists. You are known as a military strategist. You name has been given to me by a number of different people. I would like you to come to Karaman to give us the benefit of your experience.’
John’s was suddenly disoriented, this was a proposal. Perhaps Ximene was not the main organiser of this meeting after all, perhaps the initiatiative was, after all, the Emir’s.
The Emir did not pursue his proposal. The pleasant meal was completed and the Emir guided John to a set of couches overlooking the garden. As John settled down, through a side door to the garden emerged a tall figure in the now familiar black garment. It was the way she walked which removed any doubt. His heart leaped. This was indeed Ximene. He jumped to his feet, very unsure of how one might greet the wife of an Emir.
She stood back as if to study him.
“The eastern dress suits you well Sir John” she told him. “Shall we sit? The Emir has arranged some entertainment for you.’
Through the same door she had used seconds before, four young women appeared. Their hair was uncovered and although their faces were veiled, the veils were only a token, wisps of transparent silk suspended from a fine gold chain. The rest of their bodies were covered by golden cloaks flowing to the floor. They stood stiffly on tip toe, eyes cast downwards. The sound of eastern music echoed through the evening air. It served to make John aware of the pervading smell of incense, which he had not noticed earlier.
As if controlled by a puppet master, the four girls moved in perfect synchronisation. As they moved their cloaks floated around them giving tantalising glimpses of the bodies.. The music stepped up in tempo and instantly the girls dropped their cloaks.
They were now clad in a three-piece costume. The face veil remained but each dancer wore fine gold chains encircling their bodies. The upper chain passed above their breasts. This chain was supported by secondary chains which passed over their shoulders and round their necks. A third chain supported from the first chain passed around and under each girl’s breasts.
A final fourth chain passed around their waist. From each of the chains was suspended strand upon strand of tiny gold beads.
The girls were wearing a series of silk veils attached to the waist chain . All four girls carried a further voluminous veil, which they held in both hands and passed across and around their body as they danced.
John watched in delight as the swirling movement changed to a complex sequence of steps , shaking of shoulders and hips creating vibrations which encompassed their whole bodies, all in perfect time to the music.
Each girl in turn was given the opportunity to display their own interpretation of the dance. It ended in a crescendo with all four girls once more dancing in perfect unison. As the music stopped with a final clash of symbols, the four girls dropped to the ground, heads bowed, breathing deeply from the exertion.
Johm applauded enthusiastically.
The Emir addressed John in a quiet and considerate tone.
‘As an honoured guest, I would like you to choose one of these girls as your companion for the night.’
John was aware Ximene was watching him.
‘Thank you’ he said. ‘But I have been educated to believe that men may express their admiration freely for any woman to whom they are attracted but it is totally at the discretion of that woman whether she accepts his admiration and where their relationship might progress. I therefore feel it is inappropriate to accept your offer.’
He now addressed the four dancers.
‘I found your dancing delightful and I judge you to be amongst the most beautiful women I have ever seen. However I must conserve my strength for the tournament tomorrow.’
The Emir smiled broadly.
‘Sir John, I must say that these are most unusual attitudes from a man of the world who is also a soldier. Are these the product of a new order of chivalry?’
He smiled again and looked directly at Ximene.
‘Or did you learn these standards of behaviour from another, less likely source?’
Ximene broke in hurriedly
‘Sir John, I think you should know that you were watched during dinner and Yvette, the dark haired girl, has expressed particular admiration for you. She would be pleased to see if her admiration is reciprocated. I recommend that you choose her to spend the night with you. I believe she has much to offer you that you would appreciate.’
John knew Ximene well enough to recognise this as almost an instruction.
He walked forward and took Yvette’s hand.
“Will you accept my invitation?”
She nodded eagerly and accompanied him back to his couch where she sat by his feet her arm firmly encompassing his leg.
The Emir rose and lifted Ximene to her feet.
“We will leave you now. Yvette knows it is her responsibility to look after you”
The Emir and Ximene then departed. The musicians also left.
Yvette told John to stay seated on the couch and ran to the centre of the garden. Smiling broadly she raised her hands above her head and commenced to dance without musical accompaniment. She slowly removed the whispy garments she wore, until all that was left were the light chains from which the garments had been suspended.
John was entranced, despite his consuming love for Ximene this girl was undoubtedly beautiful.
Yvette led John towards the pool. She gently removed his clothes. The delicate chains, anklets and armlets now simply emphasised her nakedness. She spread a thick towel on a low bench at the side of the pool.
The last of the late evening light was fading and the courtyard, in the shadows round the pool, was now quite dark.
‘There is something I must get’ she whispered. When she returned she held a bottle of aromatic oil and she proceeded to massage the oil into his back.
A familiar voice issued a quiet instruction.
‘Time to turn over John.’
It was not Yvette, it was Ximene! As John turned over she stopped massaging him and turned her attention gently and slowly to rubbing the aromatic oil into her own body.
As she massaged her body she emphasised every muscle. Her body gleamed in the half light. She had donned the remains of Yvettes costume and at a casual glance she was almost indistinguishable from her. However there was no doubt that that this was in fact Ximene. He could not mistake her powerful build, which made her unique amongst women. She glanced around and then whispered in his ear.
‘Yvette was chosen specifically because in size and hair colouring she looks like me. I knew that the guards might be aware of anything that happened here in the garden. Now however, as far as they are concerned, I am Yvette and what we do together is none of their business.’
She leaned over and slowly massaged the front of his body. She stood back and admired him before stretching out her hand.
‘Now perhaps we should visit your room.
John found himself being gently dragged towards his room. Once the door was closed she threw her arms around his neck kissed him passionately on the lips lifting her feet clear of the floor behind her.
‘I have wanted to do that for four years’ she told him. She kissed him again passionately and helped remove his clothes. She hesitated and then pulled away ‘ I should have resisted the temptation. I am sorry John but I have put you in great danger. The penalty for making love to the Emirs wife is death’ . She turned as if to leave, but John pulled her back, renewing the embrace.
They were not destined to enjoy their embrace for long. There was a muffled scream from the garden. John, without thinking, dashed from the room, naked and unarmed. There were at least six guards in the courtyard. Two of them were dragging Yvette from her hiding place. John managed to knock the first two guards to one side but was pinned down by weight of numbers. He heard Ximene shouting.
“Do not hurt him! Do not hurt him!”
However when he managed to snatch a glance at her she also was firmly held despite her struggles.
The guards dragged John out of the garden and into a room which had been equipped as a prison cell. They chained him to a wall, none too gently. They then left. All he could do, after satisfying himself that he could not break his bonds, was to review his predicament and any opportunities there might be for his escape.
John could not understand how they had been discovered. Someone must have betrayed Ximene. Perhaps Yvette? Slowly the light started to fade. Several times he thought he had seen someone watching him through a grating near the ceiling but he could not be sure. Soon all the remaining light had gone from the grating. Eventually he was in total darkness.