He sees her, through the stone-lace trellis, bathing her arms in the fountain and the water runs down, wetting her tunic; the thin muslin clings to her breasts.
He calls his eunuch: “Bring me the woman with the white arms,” and the eunuch says...
“But Master that one is not for you...years she has spent in the Garden of Pleasure and refuses all teachings. She will not please, she has refused to bed any. She has not been discarded for her father is the Grand-Vizier of Morocco, mightier than his own Emperor, and loves his daughter well. So she will languish and die in the Garden, but this rose will not be plucked.”
But the Sultan was even more inflamed by this tale, and ordered that she be bought to him that very night.
And so it was. The eunuchs bathed and plucked her and anointed her inner flesh, and wrapped her in translucent silvery silks and pearls and brought her to the chambers of the Sultan where he waited, seated in his private garden. It had been many years since he had felt such expectation, such desire. He was surfeit with pleasure, jaded by satisfaction; and here was a new thing.
He had plucked and fucked a thousand women and hundreds of boys, he had played the whore with rough skinned men; and yet sitting in his garden, he felt at last, a shiver of expectation as unknowable, unchartered territories opened up vistas to a new adventure.
The woman stood in the shadow of the columns where the eunuchs had deposited her, head high, eyes distant
"Do you know why you are here?" he asked
"Yes" she replied, "you are bored: bored with your women, your catamites, and mostly yourself.”
"Bored? I am a Sultan who commands 10.000 scimitars, wealth beyond counting is mine, I command, and am obeyed even unto death. Bored?"
And the woman laughed.
“All this you were born to. All this: and none of it of your own conquering. All your women, spreading their thighs open...is their honey for you? All the silky boys proffering round buttocks and welcome-holes, is it for you, or for your father’s name? Who has ever desired you, you and only you? When have you ever aroused desire?”
And a great anger filled the Sultan: a greater anger than any other and even as it rose in his belly like a wave of fire, it swelled his cock.
"Woman, are you a fool? I can kill you, or give you to my regiments as a plaything."
Again she laughed, a light sound like tinkling silver "So it is true...you bore even yourself! You do not desire me, you desire a new thing, a new self.”
"I desire your silence!"
“Then let me return to my silence. This night you will win no battles with me.” and she turned her back on him.
Such a thing he had never known. Never had he seen another’s back, spine straight, head erect. Always his subjects backed away respectfully or when backs were turned, the owner was always supine, arching up their rounded fundament for his plundering. This was rejection; worse, he sensed disdain in the shift of her flesh under the silks, and that disdain was salt in a hidden wound. Many were the nights he had heard moans and sighs and known them to be false coins, plunged himself into welcoming wetness and known it was mostly due to scented oils.
He rose and stepped towards her, spun her in her fine silks.
"You will show your Sultan respect, you will bow, you will submit."
"What worth is the submission of such a thing as I? I have lingered untouched in the Pleasure Gardens since the reign of your father so I am no longer young. I am a woman and so vanquishing me can bring no wealth of conquest or battle honours. What can you gain by this victory?"
"Your love" astounded, the Sultan heard the words: the voice was his, issuing from some odd place within him.
"Love?" she said, "Oh love...that..." she curved her mouth in a slow smile, "That coin is still in my purse, and unspent. Nor will I squander it on such cheap goods as you."
Then the Sultan's pain and rage knew no bounds and he laid harsh hands on her, and tore the silks, reaching through the rags for her tender flesh.
The woman moved, swift as shadows, she slid beneath his grappling fingers and was gone. His rage and his desire had never been greater: a woman clothed in moonlight and pearls fled before him. He striped his tunic, freed his hard cock trapped in his salwars, kicked off his slippers and pursued. He knew her words could not shield her from his violence, nor would her defiance long withstand the rending of her flesh; nor her high pride survive the humbling women get at the hands and cocks of ruthless men.
Still, she fled until finally he trapped her in a dark corner, between two divans and reached unkind hands to drag her up. Her flesh was soft, cool satin and his hooked fingers sank into her. He twisted his hand in her hair, thick and slightly coarse like his beloved mare's mane. Her lips trembled beneath wide startled eyes, and he raised his fingers to trace her mouth. She bit him: sank sharp teeth into his sacred flesh and the great Sultan screamed like a girl.
He screamed a name, his eunuch's name and the summoned came running into the vaulted chamber to see his Sultan naked, grappling with a woman clothed in pearls, red blood tinting her lips and stripeing her chin.
He summoned Guards and they wedged her jaws open, freeing the Royal flesh.
"My Sultan, I will see her dead for this, even if war comes from Morocco, she shall die. I will send your doctor, and your favourite – Yasmin -to Comfort your manhood."
"Tie her, tie her to my bed. And remove yourself from my sight."
And so they spread her open on the scarlet silks, tying her arms, her ankles to the corners with satin cords, and as they made to tie a gag to her bloody mouth, he stopped them
"I wish for once, to hear honest sounds. Be they sighs of pleasure or screams of pain."
They obeyed in bewildered silence and bowed out, and suddenly it seemed to him, the falsest coin - their obsequious servile obedience. He turned to the woman. She was humbled indeed spread out on his bed, helpless, robbed of her defiance.
"Woman, here is yet another victory I did not win alone. You are right."
She was silent though her mouth was free. She had closed her eyes and lay still as death, shrunken somewhere inside herself, unmoving. Despite his rage and his desire, something moved in him. He took up a basin filed with rose water and sitting beside her, gently began wiping his own blood from her mouth; her cheeks, where the struggle had smeared it and noticed dark bruises rising like shadows on her luminous flesh.
He tenderly wiped at them, remembering how unblemished she had been in her splendid defiance and saw on her arms the tell-tale trail of his vicious grip. A great pity for her rose in him, yet his lust to break her was undiminished and his anger demanded he wrest from her her pride. Suddenly he saw slipping from her tight shut eyelids, drawing silver trails on her temples, tears. He bent and drank them, drank of her pain and found the salt more intoxicating than forbidden wine. He laid his mouth on hers and breathed - offering himself, waiting for the savage bite and there was none.
Only the tears: that was all. No ravening bite, no cutting words, just slow trailing tears and a soft hitching breath. So he took up the scented oils his concubines anointed him with when worshipping his flesh, and began his own ritual.
Thus he began, a supplicant tracing prayerful glyphs on her skin. Penitent lips he trailed over the welts and bruises of his rough handling. He laved her breasts with a worshipful tongue, filled the shallow cup of the scar of her birth with whispered desire. There was no time, no sound but her soft breath, and the tender lapping of his tongue, the slippery hush of his hands on her skin. No reality but the trembling of her limbs, the slow rising of her hips against his questing fingers. The arching of her neck, the shamed turning away of her face from the revealing lamplight; all signalled victory to him.
A great shout of triumph wedged in his throat: and he lowered his mouth, between her parted thighs to taste her desire. He raised himself and pressed his lips, his cheeks smeared with her juices against hers. He whispered into her mouth, slicked her taste from his tongue to hers, “Here is my own, my honey, for no other has it flowed, nor will it.” He slipped down between her legs his cock, to nuzzle at her tight closed purse.
“My unspent coin for yours an even trade…” and waited, suspended, one endless moment until he felt her welcoming unfolding, drawing him home, and so died in and on each other the first of many deaths.