by Freddie Clegg
This tale is set in the imaginary country of Trisban, the brainchild of Freddie Clegg. Before reading the tale it is recommended that you read the introduction to Trisban so that you comprehend fully just what it is all about.
An Introduction to Trisban
The culture and customs of Trisban during Carnival is an extension of the introduction.
Trisban at Carnival
Chapter 1 : Sharon & Alissa
Sharon Collier could hardly believe the sight of the ridiculous figure that was standing in front of her. Stuart Norris, the PR manager and general Mr. Fix-It for Josh’s companies, was wearing brightly coloured robes, the baggiest of trousers, shoes with curled toes and an elaborate mask that covered the whole of the upper part of his face.
“The mask is a big improvement,” she said, acidly.
Josh came into the lounge from the patio, clutching a beer. “Bloody hell, Norris, what’s this all about? You look like you’ve just stepped out of pantomime.”
“Carnavali,” Norris announced. Josh and Sharon looked at each other blankly. “It’s the annual carnival here. They have a whole series of parties and stuff. You’re going to have to join in.”
Sharon wasn’t sure what annoyed her more; the way that Norris told Josh what to do or the way that Josh seemed to put up with it. Since they had arrived in Trisban, Josh had seemed happy to let Norris organise things and that just seemed to cause trouble as far as Sharon was concerned.
“Plus,” Norris went on, “There’s a ball being hosted by the Minister for Trade. As part of the government celebrations of Carnavali.”
“Oh, great!” said Sharon, squirming with embarrassment at the thought of her humiliating mistake at the last Minister’s dinner that they had attended.
“Don’t worry, babes, it will be fine,” said Josh, recognising Sharon’s concern. “He thought it was all a bit of a laugh. Nobody blamed you. His wife sent those flowers around afterwards, didn’t she?”
“Well, yeah, but, well, you weren’t the one getting propositioned!” Normally there wasn’t much that upset her but she blushed as she thought back to the conversation that she’d had with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He had thought she was some tart that Josh had invited along for the evening.
* * *
Norris and Josh went out onto the patio. Sharon sprawled on the couch, thumbing her way aimlessly through the channels on the TV.
Alissa, the girl that looked after the villa for Sharon and Josh, appeared at the door of the kitchen. “Can I get you a drink, Graham Wife?” she asked.
“Alissa, how many times have I got to tell you. I’m not his wife and anyway I prefer to be called Sharon.”
“Sorry. Sharon, would you like a drink?”
“Only if you have one with me. I’ll have a white wine.”
Alissa smiled, nodded and went back into the kitchen. She appeared with two glasses and sat down on the couch with Sharon.
“That’s not wine, is it?” Sharon asked peering at Alissa’s glass.
Alissa shook her head. “No, it’s apple juice. My father says I am too young to drink alcohol.”
“But you’re twenty five, Alissa! And you let him tell you things like that?”
“Well, in Trisban we respect authority. If we are told something by those in authority we tend to go along with it.” Alissa had looked serious, but now she broke out into a smile. “But not at this time of year, though,” she said suddenly. She leapt up and took her glass back into the kitchen, reappearing with a glass of wine.
“Why the sudden change of mind?” Sharon asked.
“Carnavali!” the girl exclaimed.
“Oh. Yeah. Norris said something about it. Well if it makes you enjoy yourself it can’t be too bad.”
“Carnavali is the one time of year when we women can do as we please,” Alissa said.
“I do all year around,” Sharon responded.
Alissa gave her a tolerant smile. “Well not in Trisban,” she said. “But Carnavali is exciting for everyone. Parties. Dances. Parades. Everybody has a good time but especially the women of Trisban.”
“You don’t get to leave your veils off do you?”
“Oh, heavens no!” Alissa exclaimed. “But there is plenty of fun anyway.”
Sharon looked disappointed. She found the whole business of having to keep her face and body covered whenever she went out in public a real bore. It did have some up sides though; she wasn’t bothered by the press like she was back home and she didn’t have to put up with men leering at her in the street. But on the other hand, she didn’t get the fun of teasing the lechers, either.
“Listen, I am meeting some of my friends at a club, this evening. Why don’t you come? They’ll tell you about Carnavali.”
“Sure,” said Sharon. “That might be fun. I’ve got a feeling that Josh are Norris and going to be spending all evening talking.”
* * *
The club, as Alissa had called it, was a large room in the cellar of an old building tucked up against the Trisban city wall. It was one of a number of similar places in this part of the city, women-only establishments which were one of the few places a woman could be without wearing robes, an all-covering face veil and gloves.
Outside, of course, no such freedoms applied. Sharon and Alissa robed, veiled and gloved as they had to be by law, had made their way there, threading their way through the streets of the city, with Sharon following closely on Alissa’s heels.
Sharon always found going about in robes and her veil very strange. Back home she’d delighted in being recognised, even though sometimes it had been annoying. Here there was no chance that anyone would realise who she was, however famous. She passed a shop window and caught a glimpse of her own reflection, a black robed figure, no inch of flesh visible. She looked more closely at the featureless shape in the window, realising for the first time how, from the outside, even her eyes were hidden by the screening gauze of her veil. A group of men went by on the far side of the road, their heads turning to stare at her as they passed. Their’s was a look she had been on the receiving end of many times before but suddenly she knew that, unable to see anything of her, their looks were a product of their own desires and drives rather than of anything about her. Behind her veil, she suddenly knew that it gave her a mystery and inaccessibility that she could not only learn to enjoy but to make use of. For the first time she began to feel that, far from restricting her, the veil gave her a freedom that she hadn’t previously recognised.
As the men disappeared down the street, Sharon turned back towards where they were heading. Alissa had stopped further along beside a doorway. She was beckoning to Sharon to join her.
The stairs down to the club’s entrance were steep and unlit. Sharon found it difficult to negotiate them; her long robe threatened to trip her up at every step and her vision was badly restricted by her veil but she made it to the bottom without falling.
Inside, Sharon looked around. There were perhaps twenty round tables with four or five women at each. Some of them were wearing robes like her own, some were wearing fashionable western dress. None of them were veiled. It was the largest array of women’s faces that Sharon had seen since arriving in Trisban. Music was playing quietly, the mournful sound of Trisbanian flutes and tambor flowed over the hubbub of conversation.
Alissa removed her veil and head covering. A group of women at one of the tables waved at her. She grabbed Sharon by the hand. “Come on,” she said, “I’ll introduce you. And take your veil off. It’s allowed in here.”
Alissa tugged Sharon across to the table and sat her down, telling everyone that she was the famous woman of the western entrepreneur that was now working with the government. Some of her friends looked impressed, some less so. Sharon took off her niqaab. The other women were chattering away in Trisbanian. Sharon didn’t understand a word of it. Josh had bought her a phrase book but she hadn’t even opened it; she’d been hopeless at foreign languages at school and even on the couple of school trips that had been organised she hadn’t progressed much beyond being able to ask for a drink in whatever country they’d been visiting. Here in Trisban, Alissa had always been on hand to translate whenever she needed anything and besides almost everyone seemed to understand her and talk in her own language.
A bottle of wine appeared with extra glasses for Alissa and Sharon. One of the women pushed a glass towards Sharon and said something. Sharon looked blank and replied with a plaintive, clearly enunciated, but rather loud, “I’M SORRY, I DON’T UNDERSTAND”.
“That’s quite all right dear,” the oldest of the women, a rather matronly figure in a dark, finely embroidered robe, said speaking perfectly in Sharon’s own language. “We’re only Trisbanians. We’re not deaf.”
Sharon looked sheepish. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to….”
“It’s all right, you’re being teased,” Alissa said. She turned to her friends and said something in Trisbanian before turning back to Sharon. “I’ve told them to be nice to you. I’ll translate for Karanna, Nouessa and Jacinda on the far side -they only really speak Trisbanian but all of the rest of them can understand you perfectly well.”
It didn’t take long – or too many glasses of wine – before the problems of language were forgotten. The other women around the table (with Alissa’s assistance) were soon busy bombarding Sharon with questions about her life in the west.
“Is it true that women go around showing their faces?”
“And you can wear what you like in public?”
“Are some women really not married to the men they live with?”
“Can a man only have one wife, like they say?”
Sharon did the best she could to answer their questions. It was clear that they thought her life back home was every bit as strange as she thought Trisban was. The group of them were soon having fun, chatting about life in the west and life in Trisban. The wine helped everyone to relax, even if one or two of them, Alissa included, were having rather more than they ought.
“Hey,” said Sharon. “I’ve answered your questions, now you can all answer some of mine. What’s this Carnavali thing all about?”
“It is a celebration of the seasons,” one of the girls said.
“It’s the one time a woman can get a man into bed!” one of the others interrupted.
“And it’s the one time that a married woman can get up to mischief without her husband complaining,” cut in a third.
“Although that doesn’t stop you for the rest of the year,” a fourth said, cattily.
Alissa tried to bring some order to the proceedings. “It’s a time when men are masked as well as women and when, when, when… “
“Too much wine, Alissa! It’s when women are allowed to proposition men and when husbands and wives can do as they please without being asked by their partners what they have been up to. There are always lots of parties, men and women both dress up but its all very topsy-turvy. High born men dress as tramps, fine ladies get themselves up as serving girls. Household staff and labourers are encouraged to put on the outfits of their employers and so on. It’s all very confusing but everyone has a good time. And there’s a big final parade on the last night with a party in the Forem Square that goes on until the next day.”
“It sounds like a lot of fun.” Sharon took another gulp of wine, enjoying the slight sweetness of the chilled white grapes. She wasn’t sure where it came from but it was certainly drinkable.
She’d had a lot more by the time the evening finished and Alissa had too. Even so Sharon’s experiences at the hands of the Courts made sure that she remembered to put her robes, veil and gloves on before leaving. They half fell into a cab, laughing and giggling.
Sharon got out at the villa. “Will you be OK?” she said as she stood by the cab’s door, looking down at Alissa.
“Mmhm,” Alissa said absently.
Sharon watched as the cab drove off taking Alissa home. She made her way inside. Josh and Norris had installed themselves in front of the television screen, watching sport and working their way through can after can of beer. Sharon knew there would be no point in trying to talk to them. She just waved at the pair and headed off to bed.
Chapter 2 : The Fun of Veiling
Sharon was sprawled out on the bed in just her underwear when Josh finally came up to the bedroom.
“Mmmm, you’re looking tasty,” Josh smiled with approval. “I remember why I brought you.”
“Bloody cheek!” Sharon replied with a grin. She knew she had a good body though and she’d never minded men admiring it. “Are you coming over here or have you had too much lager with Mr. Smarmy?”
Josh sat down on the bed beside her. He reached across and ran his hand across her naked belly. “Well, I don’t think so. Anyway didn’t you have a few drinks with Alissa at her club or wherever you’ve been?”
“Sure, not too much though. Least not me. Alissa will have a bit of a head in the morning though, I reckon.”
“I hope you haven’t taken her off the straight and narrow, Babes. She’s supposed to be a good home loving girl.”
“Nothing to do with me! It was her friends, in her club, in her country. She’ll be all right, once she’s had a chance to sleep it off.”
“And are you planning to sleep it off too?” Josh’s hands were straying along Sharon’s arms and on to her breasts. “Or do we get to play a little first?”
“I suppose I could be persuaded to play.”
“Persuaded? You should be pleased to gratify your man! Haven’t you learned anything of the customs of Trisban yet?”
“Well if you so keen on the customs of Trisban, perhaps you want me to wear my veil in bed?” She reached down and picked up her niqaab, drawing the cloth flirtatiously across her face. Josh responded with enthusiasm as the two of them fell together laughing.
* * *
The following morning Sharon awoke to the bright sunlight of the Trisbanian morning.
“Good morning Alissa.” She called out the greeting as she headed into the kitchen in search of a pre-breakfast orange juice.
Alissa, still wearing her veil, was working in the lounge, tidying away the things that Josh and Norris had left out the night before. She didn’t reply. She moved a chair, visibly wincing as the legs scraped noisily across the tiled floor.
“Hey, wasn’t last night some fun?” Sharon went on, ignoring Alissa’s lack of responsiveness.
“Ummm, yes, Graham Wife – sorry – Sharon,” Alissa eventually answered in a quiet, croaky, voice.
“Oh, sorry. Are you not feeling too well?”
“No, I am not. My head hurts and my throat is like the tracks across the deserts.”
“Oops, sounds like a hangover to me! You’ll get used to it after a few nights out and besides it won’t last long.”
“I never will drink again.”
“I’ve said that to myself plenty of times. Somehow I manage to forget, though. You will too.”
“No, you don’t understand. My father was very angry when he heard what I had done, very angry. I will have to explain myself and accept what he decides. If I promise not to drink more he may not be cruel to me.”
“Well, if he hasn’t said anything already maybe you’ll get away with it.”
“That’s not how it works. Here if a father is angry with his daughter then it is the custom to wait at least four hours before anything is decided. That way the parent knows that their actions are not governed by their immediate feelings and the daughter knows that whatever is decided has been well considered. Believe me, my father was very angry. I will not get away with it. He will see me when I go home at midday, I am sure.”
“But what is he likely to do? Surely he must know that girls your age sometimes have a drink.”
“That is so but it is one thing for “girls my age” to drink and it is another for his daughter to disturb her father by the noise of her illness when she comes home in the early hours of the morning. He could beat me, he could keep me in my room for weeks or even months. A father is allowed to impose whatever he wishes upon a daughter that is misbehaving. I hope he will not be too severe but it is possible I will be prevented from coming back here. If I do not come back this afternoon, you must call my father and find out what is happening.”
“I see,” said Sharon. “Well good luck. I’ll let you get on with your work. I guess you’ll want a quiet time this morning.”
“Thank you,” said Alissa and returned to her domestic duties taking care to make no more noise than she absolutely had to. Sharon, amused by Alissa’s discomfort took her juice out on to the patio to enjoy the morning sun.
* * *
Josh and Sharon finished the lunch that Alissa had laid out for them before returning home.
“She really was worried about what her father might do,” said Sharon to Josh. “She even thought she mightn’t be back here this afternoon. You’ll have to call him if she doesn’t turn up. We can’t have her just not appearing because he’s upset with her.”
“Don’t worry, Shazza,” Josh smiled. “I’m sure it will all be fine. If he’s got any sense he’ll realise that her hangover is probably punishment enough. He’ll have a few stern words and wag his finger and she’ll be back here as normal.” There was the sound of the front door to the villa opening and banging shut. “There you are,” he said, “that will be her now. Her father can’t be quite the ogre she painted him as.”
Sharon went off to look for Alissa. She was concerned for the girl. Alissa had been evidently worried, whether or not there was any cause for it. She found her in one of the bedrooms, gathering up laundry. “So, your father let you out again,” Sahron said.
“Urgnn,” came Alissa’s muffled reply.
“What’s the matter?” Sharon asked, puzzled by Alissa’s response.
In answer Alissa turned towards Sharon and lifted her veil. At once Sharon could see that, beneath her veil, Alissa was wearing and elaborate head harness whose purpose appeared to be to keep in place the large ball that filled Alissa’s mouth. She could see that the buckles of the straps had small padlocks attached so that the wearer had no hope of removing the harness and the gag once it was locked in place. It reminded her of the dreadful punishment veil that she herself had been force to wear. “That’s horrible!” Sharon exclaimed. “”Who did this? Your father?”
“Urgnn,” said Alissa, nodding. She reached for a pencil and paper and Sharon watched as she started writing. “My father was very cross,” she wrote. “He told me I was not to go to the club again. I tried to discuss it with him. I am not a child now. But he would not listen and said if I could not keep my tongue in place I would not speak at all. So he put me in this.”
“That’s awful.” Sharon knew just how bad Alissa’s gag must be having spent a month locked in enforced veiling. It had not been as severe as the gag that Alissa now wore but it had been unpleasant enough. “Would it help if I spoke to him and told him that you were with me and it was my fault that you had so much to drink.”
“Nuurn,” Alissa shook her head and wrote again. “No, he would think I should not allow myself to be led astray by westerners. No, I must wear the harness and finish my punishment. I will try not to let it stop my work.”
Chapter 3 : The Parade
The next morning when Alissa returned to Josh and Sharon’s villa, Sharon was relieved to discover that Alissa had be released from the gag.
“My father only wants what is best for me,” said Alissa, “He cannot punish me too harshly. He is too kind really . When he saw that I was sorry for what I had said he unlocked the gag and hugged me and said I was a good daughter but I must be careful not to misbehave in future. He is right, of course.”
“You don’t think he was a bit unreasonable for expecting you to do as you are told at your age?”
“No, not at all. It is the way. A daughter does as her father asks, a wife does as her husband asks.”
“Just as well I haven’t married Josh, then,” Sharon laughed. Alissa looked with disapproval. “Well, it’s all to the good. I need to talk to you about the ball. I don’t want to make a mess of things like I did at the Minister’s dinner.”
Alissa allowed herself a quiet smile, remembering how Sharon, ignoring all advice, had turned up at the dinner party wearing the sort of veil that was only worn by women that took money for sex.
“So, what should I wear? And what should you wear, come to that. You’re coming too.”
“Really? Oh, thank you. I’ve never been to one of the grand Carnavali balls. Everyone always dresses in elaborate costumes or in a very traditional style. Like you did for the dinner party.”
“But with a more appropriate veil!”
“Well, yes, although this is one of the few times when you might just be able to get away with it. Really though if a lady is going with her maid-servant the maidservant would wear the fine gown and the lady would wear the maid’s costume.”
“How do you work that out?”
“It is the topsy-turvy world of Carnavali. Mis-rule is the norm.”
“This isn’t just another way of making a fool of me, is it?” Sharon looked accusingly at Alissa but could see at once from the girl’s embarrassed look that it was an unjust accusation. “No, of course not, I know you wouldn’t do anything like that. Does everyone do that? Change roles, I mean.”
“Well, no, because if they did it would be obvious who was who. Some grand ladies cannot bring themselves to appear as a servant. Others might have a servant’s robes made up in very splendid fabrics so it was obvious that they were of high standing. But that is not fair, I think. Not the spirit of Carnavali.”
“I agree. That takes all the fun out of it. Let’s do what you suggested. You can go in my dinner gown, you are about my size and that corset will probably take in any difference. Can you find an outfit for me?”
“Well, it will be rather drab but yes, of course.”
“Excellent,” said Sharon, “it will be great fun, I’m sure. It will be fun to see things from a different point of view”
“And there’s something else,” said Alissa. “About the Grand Parade…”
* * *
The two great highlights of Carnavali as far as most of the people of Trisban were concerned were the Carnavali Ball and the Grand Parade. On the last day of the week’s ribaldry a procession of floats and troupes of entertainers, was to make its way through the city, winding around the grand boulevards and squares until it finished up in a grand assembly in the central Forem Square. When the parade finished in the early evening the partying would go on for hours while the climax of the week, the Carnavali Ball, took place in the Great Hall of the Trisnarch.
Groups from Trisbanian businesses, clubs, and societies had spent months arguing for the right to provide a float for the Grand Parade and all of the Trisbanian elite were desperate for an invitation to the Carnavali Ball.
Alissa’s friends from the Femnaria had been delighted by their success in getting a place in the parade. When Alissa suggested to Sharon that she could join them, Sharon – delighted by the idea of a chance to show off – had jumped at the chance.
“Oh yes!” she exclaimed. “Count me in. What sort of thing were you planning to do?”
“It’s a sort of jungle theme,” Alissa said, “the idea is that lots of us will dress up in animal costumes and masks of course and someone will be the Great White Hunter, and there will be jungle trees and the animals will stalk the hunter and the hunter will stalk the animals. We want to collect money for some of the threatened wild life on some of the islands off the coast.”
“All right,” said Sharon, “what do I need to do?”
“We’re all going to meet up at the club on the morning of the parade. Some of the others are organising the float we’ve just got to turn up and put on our costumes.”
* * *
Sharon, Alissa and the rest of the girls from the the Femnaria gathered at the club on the morning of the parade.
Alissa had organised costumes for them all. Sharon was delighted to see that she was, as she’d wanted, going to be a tigress. The tight fitting catsuit in stripes of orange and black fitted Sharon’s curves closely. “Isn’t this a bit risque for Trisban?” Sharon asked. “I mean I’m OK with it but…”
“Not for Carnavali,” said one of the other girls struggling into an equally tight, black and white striped zebra outfit. “Anything goes at this time, and I do mean anything!”
Alissa handed out the masks they would all wear. “Well maybe it does,” said one of the others, “but we still have to keep our faces covered.” Sharon wasn’t worried though. She was quite getting used to the idea of being masked or veiled and she was certainly enjoying the fact that she wasn’t pursued everywhere by press photographers like she had been at home.
They climbed onto the float and the lorry that was pulling them joined the rest of the parade so that they were between a bunch of very hunky soldiery from -Sharon thought – from the Trisbanian Presidential Guard in front of them and a group of jolly chefs from some of the big hotels on a float behind them.
Sharon soon got into the swing of things, strutting up and down between the plants that had been put onto the truck as their mobile jungle, swinging her tail with one hand while pawing at the air with the other. The other girls on the float -a zebra, a lioness, a panther and a gazelle, were all having just as much fun as was the girl that had been chosen as the white hunter in an Indianna Jones style outfit with very short shorts, a bush hat and a Harrison Ford mask.
The crowds seemed to appreciate the girls’ efforts, tossing coins into their collecting bucket and cheering when one or other of them leapt menacingly at the hunter. In response the girls spent a lot of time waving back to the crowds and generally enjoying being the centre of attention.
At one point she spotted Josh and Norris in the crowd; Norris in his stupid baggy trousers. As the float went buy Josh called out in a rudely appreciative way, “Yeah, I’d like to get that tiger by the tail!”
Sharon enjoyed it for about a moment. Then, behind her mask, she realised the Josh couldn’t have known it was her. How dare he!
The float moved on past the row cheering men. Sharon, fuming, was carried along with it and certainly there wasn’t any chance to argue with Josh there and then. The lorry carried on its way and soon they found themselves in the Forem Square at the start of the great Carnvali party.
Chapter 4 : Carnavali Ball
“Are you sure that this is right?” On the evening of the ball, Sharon was beginning to have doubts about agreeing with Alissa’s proposal for their topsyturvy outing. Josh was supposed to be going straight there from his office although he’d obviously made time to see the parade. Still, it was the tradition that men and women arrived separately at the Carnavali balls and never, ever, travelled together. Besides, it had been easier for Josh to do it that way.
“Of course. This is exactly how a grand lady of Trisban would go to an event with her maid-servant to hand in case she needed anything at all doing for her.”
“But it’s like I’m a dog on a leash!” Sharon objected as Alissa fastened the collar around Sharon’s neck.
“I suppose it is, really,” Alissa agreed. “In ancient times fine ladies treated their servants like their pets. Don’t worry we can take it off after we’ve made our grand entrance.”
Alissa made the last few adjustments to her own outfit. The corset was excruciatingly tight and the skirt little better. While Sharon was complaining about being led around on a leash, Alissa felt she could hardly move at all. They had found a more socially acceptable veil for Alissa to wear with the outfit and she was enjoying the splendid way that it draped down to her waist before being looped up to a broach on her shoulder.
Sharon on the other hand looked positively dowdy. The robes that Alissa had found for her were old and worn and faded in places. Her veil was frayed at its hem and her head scarf limp and tired. Sharon looked at Alissa and then at herself in the mirror. She was regretting the fact that Alissa was getting to wear the extravagant traditional gown but, on the other hand, the way she looked would let her get up to anything she wanted to. Josh would never guess that she was going dressed like this.
A hooting horn announced the arrival of their car. Sharon followed Alissa out to the limousine, trying her best to look the part of the dutiful servant and finding it difficult. Alissa on the other hand was finding no trouble at all in getting into the role of the grand lady, pulling Sharon along behind her. The chauffeur held the door open for them. Alissa climbed in. As Sharon followed her, she was given a sharp pinch on the backside by the chauffeur. Her squawk of pain only caused the chauffeur to chuckle as he climbed in to drive them off.
* * *
The ball was being held in a grand building just off Trisban’s main square. Sharon had been at quite a few grand events but, she had to confess, the Trisbanians knew a thing or two about this sort of things.
The entrance to the building was flanked by members of the presidential guard in full dress uniform. As you entered the building, footmen clad in elaborate livery and masked as all present were, waited to assist the guests in any way they needed.
Inside, guests gathered in the grand ballroom. Tall pillars lined one long wall, heavy floor to ceiling drapes lined the other. At the far end a small orchestra was playing arrangements of popular Trisbanian melodies.
It was a glittering affair. Some of the costumes were incredibly elaborate but, equally, some of those present were dressed in shabby clothing just like Sharon was. Alissa, enjoying every moment of wearing Sharon’s delightful outfit led the way into the room, enjoying the attentive glances she received from some of the men. Sharon followed on her leash, pleased for Alissa but disappointed too that she wasn’t getting any attention. Surely, she said to herself, they realise that I must be someone, otherwise I wouldn’t be dressed like this.
In spite of feeling dowdy in her costume, Sharon began to enjoy herself. Since the ball did not require the women to wear full face veils she was quite able to flirt with her eyes and there were plenty of men who did, as she expected, think she was a woman of quality simply because of the shabbiness of her outfit. After her realisation of the power of the veil on her way to the feminaria club she was increasingly enjoying the experience of being veiled and sensing its advantages. When she did speak to a man he spent his time staring into her eyes, rather than – as she was used to – at her chest. At least that way there was a chance that he heard what she had to say.
Alissa was getting plenty of attention as well, in spite of the fact that, in such a grand outfit, she was obviously somebody’s servant. The way that the corset and tight skirt emphasised her body meant that there were several young men anxious to talk to her, ready to overlook any difference in status.
As the crowds milled around, Sharon and Alissa agreed to split up. Sharon was keen to find a drink. Alissa felt she had had quite enough that week.
As she made her way towards where waiters were wandering between the tables with trays filled with glasses of wine, Sharon saw two men standing together on one side of the ball room. Even though they both wore elaborate masks – as did all the men – It wasn’t hard to guess that it was Josh and Norris. She’d seen Norris in his ridiculous Ali Baba outfit already but Josh had been very secretive about what he was going to wear. She had to admit, though, that Josh cut a fine figure in the costume he had chosen. It harked back several centuries to the era of the great traders of Trisban; a lavish sleeveless coat over a loose sleeved shirt, tight breeches and an extravagant codpiece, evidently designed to intimidate any that the trader encountered. Sharon knew what Josh had inside his breeches and would be quite happy to have a bit of fun here if they could find a quiet corner. And, after all, that would be completely in the spirit of Carnavali.
As he moved across to the bar, she slipped in alongside him. “Don’t be deceived by my humble robes, good sir,” she said. “I am a woman of worth and could grant you an evening’s pleasure should you wish.”
“Ahah,” he said, taking his opportunity to grasp her by the waist and pull her towards him.
She held up her hand. “Not here,” she said, looking around the ball room. Although she was concerned what others might think of their forward behaviour nobody seemed to be taking the least notice. In fact most of them seemed to be busily engaged in similar encounters. “Let’s go outside. On the balcony.”
She took him by the hand and, ducking behind the long curtains that closed them, led him out through the tall glazed doors that gave out onto a balcony. The balcony offered a panoramic view of the city of Trisban and its port, but that wasn’t what Sharon was interested in. She knew just what her man would love. “Shh,” she said pressing a finger against his lips and pushing him back. “Don’t say anything.” She dropped to her knees and began fiddling with the cod piece, unbuckling it and freeing the swelling cock within. She pushed her veil to one side, dragged his breeches down and took his cock into her mouth to start enthusiastically fellating him. Her efforts were met with encouraging grunts as he pushed back against her, gripping the back of her head to hold her against him. Josh wasn’t usually this rough, she thought, but this was fun.
Suddenly everything went wrong. The door that they were leaning against gave way and the two of them fell through into the ballroom. Sharon found herself standing over the man, cum dripping from her mouth, the man flat on his back in the ball room, his cock clearly on view, and a circle of other guests staring at them. A great cheer went up from the assembled throng. Sharon, overcome with embarrassment, ran off.
* * *
While Sharon was out on the balcony, Alissa had made her way to where a great table held the most lavish buffet that she had ever seen. It wasn’t that she was particularly hungry but the impressive array of meats, pastries and traditional Trisbanian delicacies were laid out like some calorific sculpture.
It was while she was standing there that a man slid up behind her, slipped his hand on her backside and kissed her lightly on the back of her neck. Alissa almost jumped with surprise. “Shouldn’t think that you could eat anything in that corset, babes,” the man said.
She recognised Josh’s voice at once. “Err,” she responded, uncertain of how to react.
“That outfit looks great on you. I always thought you had a great arse. Why don’t we slip outside somewhere quiet?”
“I think you’ve mistaken me for your wife, Mr. Graham,” Alissa responded.
“Oh, sorry, Alissa,” Josh responded at once. “It’s just you’re wearing….”
“Yes,” Alissa said. “We thought it would be fun to dress as one another. It’s very much the Carnavali tradition.”
“Well, that’s what Norris said,” Josh said. Alissa turned around and saw that Josh was wearing the Ali Baba outfit that Norris had been wearing at the villa. “He’s got the outfit I was planning to wear. I still think that I would have looked better in it. Look, I’m sorry about that just now…”
“Don’t worry, Mr Graham, I understand. Carnavali is always confusing. And beside it was a nice kiss.”
You could almost hear Josh blushing behind his mask.
Suddenly their exchange was interrupted by a colossal cheer from the far side of the room. “What on earth was that?” Josh said. “Let’s go and see.”
By the time that they got there the cause of the excitement had disappeared. Talking to some of the other guests Josh and Alissa discovered that the cheer had been the cry resulting when two of the guests had fallen through one of the doors from the balcony. The man had obviously been having fun, with his breeches around his knees and his member evidently responding happily to the attentions of the woman that had fallen through the door with him. The two of them had run off in different directions. It was all very much in the spirit of Carnavali!
Chapter 5 : Confusion Reigns
Sharon hid in the ladies powder room until she had recovered from some of the embarrassment of falling backwards into the ballroom. Then, grateful that she had been wearing the most inconspicuous of robes, she made her way back into the ballroom. With all that was going on – the music, the dancing, and the performers – the crowd had lost interest in the incident and certainly no one realised that the woman that had fallen through the curtain was her.
She saw Alissa standing at one side of the ball room and made her way across. Alissa recognised her and waved as she got close. “Are you having fun?” she “Sure. Absolutely.” Sharon looked towards the stage. A troupe of fire eating acrobats was performing to the cheers of those standing nearby. “What was all that fuss about a little while ago?”
“Oh, didn’t you see? That was pure Carnavali!” Alissa exclaimed. “A couple were out on the balcony, having a little too much fun, if you know what I mean. The poor things fell back into the room. The man had his trousers down around his ankles. He got ever such a big cheer from the crowd. They both ran off. I don’t blame them. It must have been really embarrassing.”
“Yes. Awful.” Sharon was relieved that she hadn’t been recognised.
“It’s all part of Carnvali. Oh, you’ll laugh at this – Mr. Graham got me mixed up with you. I think he’d have whisked me away if I hadn’t told him it was me in this dress and not you.”
“Typical! You’d have thought he would know we’d have swapped clothes.”
“Yes, especially since he had.”
“What?” Sharon suddenly felt a cold shiver.
“Swapped clothes. Mr. Graham and Mr. Norris. They swapped clothes. Mr. Graham is wearing the Ali Baba costume. Mr. Norris is in the Trisbanian Trader costume.”
“Oh,” said Sharon. She could feel the blood draining from her face. “Yes. Of course. Yes.”
“Are you all right?” Alissa asked.
“Yes, Sure. Why shouldn’t I be?” Sharon was feeling anything but all right as she realised that the man she had propositioned and led out to the balcony had not been Josh but Norris. Sharon cringed inside at the thought of his cock in her mouth and the awful humiliation of falling through the curtains. “But I do need a drink. I’m going to the bar. Do you want anything?”
Alissa shook her head. “No, but I think there’s someone over there that wants to buy me one anyway.” She nodded towards a tall man wearing a an ornate animal mask who was making his way purposefully towards her. “He’s been very attentive,” she said with a giggle.
Sharon wished her luck and headed off towards the bar in search off a large scotch to wash her mouth out with.
As she pushed her way towards the back of the hall she saw Josh and Norris on the far side of the room. They were talking to two other veiled ladies, both dressed in traditional Trisbanian finery. Sharon could see that Josh and Norris were both talking too loudly and laughing too much on the way that men always seemed to when trying to impress a woman. Sharon was furious. Norris obviously wasn’t the least bit embarrassed by what had happened earlier and Josh was evidently enjoying flirting with a woman that he must have known wasn’t Sharon. If she hadn’t been veiled her dark scowl would have cleared a path for her through the crowd.
* * *
Sharon downed two large scotches in quick succession. The liquor was effective, deadening both the taste and the feelings associated with her encounter with Norris and her irritation with Josh. She took a third drink from the bar and went in search of a table, a man’s voice said, “You are too beautiful to be alone, lady. Come and join me.”
She looked around. The alcohol wasn’t quite blurring her vision but it took her a moment peering over her veil to focus on a tall man in colourful robes and a golden mask. She was intrigued by his remark. “I’m surprised you can imagine beneath these robes,” she said, “or do you tell all the women you encounter that.”
“Of course,” he said , disingenuously. “Every woman is too beautiful to be alone. But I can tell that beneath those robes and that veil you are indeed beautiful.”
Sharon put her head to one side and looked closely at the man. Was this the Foreign Minister that had so mistaken her at the Ambassador’s dinner? Or was it another of the guests that she had met then? There was something familiar about him but she was unable to place him. The combination of the fascination of his introduction and the puzzle of his identity encouraged her to join him. She sat down opposite the man. “I knew these robes were shabby,” she said. “But I hadn’t thought they were that thin.”
The man laughed. “No. Of course. You must remember that if you are a man that loves women in Trisban, you develop these skills. Your veil, for example. From the way it touches on your cheek bones I can tell that you have fine features. The way you stand and move is like a woman that takes exercise; that is not carrying more weight than she needs. And your robes – as you move I can tell that beneath them your breasts, your hips, your shoulders; all are as they should be.”
Sharon found herself engaged and flattered by the man’s attentions. She was staring back at him, peering at his mask, finding it completely impenetrable. Her drink stood untouched on the table between them.
“I could tell even more with my touch,” he said, reaching out a hand towards Sharon’s head.
Sharon wondered for a brief moment if it was wise to let him go on but in public, there in the bar, what harm could come of it,. she thought? She didn’t stop him as his hand approached her face. He drew his fingers lightly across the veil, tracing the outline of her lips, the line of her jaw and chin, the flare of her nose. He turned his hand, running the back of his fingers up the side of her head and across her forehead. Sharon found the lightness of his touch disturbingly arousing.
“No,” he said. “I was wrong. You are not beautiful. Or, should I say, not just beautiful. You are indeed a very beautiful woman. Thank you.”
“Yes,” he said, “thank you. Thank you for being beautiful and thank you for allowing me to appreciate your beauty.”
Somehow the man’s sincerity overcame the corny-ness of his words. Sharon felt increasingly drawn to this mysterious, seemingly gentle soul.
“But now, I must go.”
“Oh,” said Sharon, disappointed. “But where? Why now?” And then, surprising herself, “Could we meet again?”
“Is it wise?” he said. “The impulses of Carnavali are sometimes best ignored. We drink. We enjoy the mystery. We taste the romance. Perhaps it is better to leave our dreams as phantoms of the mind.”
Sharon, still furious at Josh and his behaviour was determined to meet the man again, disagreed. “No,” she said. “Sometimes it is best to make our dreams real. I must see you again.”
The man looked at her, his gold mask revealing nothing of his thoughts. Sharon felt as though her veil had turned to the thinnest gauze as his eyes seemed to see straight through the cloth that covered her face. “If you insist,” he said. “Tomorrow at the fountain in the square at 4 o’clock.”
“But how will you know me. I will be veiled, as I must be, in public.”
“Don’t worry,” he said, “I will know you,” and with that he was gone, leaving her puzzled and more than a little excited by the anticipation of their meeting.
* * *
After she got back to the apartment she found Alissa already there, changing out of the clothes that she had borrowed for the ball.
“Thank you, Sharon,” she said, “for letting me go to the ball. It was an extraordinary experience. I never thought I would have the chance to go.”
“That’s OK,” Sharon I responded. “I had a pretty good time too. Let me tell you what happened in the bar…” She related her encounter with the masked man and her impetuous decision to meet the man again.
“But what will come of it?” Alissa said. “And what about Mr. Graham?”
“What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” Sharon said, determined not to be diverted from her chosen course. “He’s been so busy over the last month he hasn’t any time for me anyway. I’ll be doing him a favour, keeping myself amused.”
“Aren’t you worried by meeting this mystery man though? He could be anybody.”
“I know, that’s what is so exciting. Anyway, I’m meeting him in the Forem Square in broad daylight. How can any harm come from that?”
Alissa shook her head. She wasn’t so sure. it sounded like the sort of thing her mother had warned her not to do. She was worried about Sharon’s adventure.
Chapter 6 : The Palazzo
Sharon was standing in the fountain square. With her abaya and her full face niqaab she looked, she thought, no different to any of the other robed and veiled women that were bustling across the square. Her head was aching, the consequences of too much scotch the night before, but she had been determined to ignore the hangover and to go through with her meeting with the mysterious man.
In spite of this the tall, elegantly dressed, man that entered the square walked straight up to her. “I believe we are destined to meet,” he said with a smile.
She recognised his quietly confident voice at once. “Indeed,” she said.
“We could take tea,” he said.
“Somewhere private perhaps?” Sharon responded, almost surprised by her own boldness and the way that she was falling in with the man’s view of the world. “So you can see if your suspicions about my beauty are confirmed?”
“That would, I am sure be a pleasure. Perhaps the palazzo?” He waved towards the grand building that stretched along one complete side of the square, it’s pillared, ornate facade one of the great sights of the centre of Trisban.
“I thought that was the residence of the Speaker of the Trisnarch,” said Sharon remembering something that Norris had said.
“Yes,” the man said. “It is and I am. Why don’t we go?”
Sharon, non-plussed by the fact that she had been propositioned by possibly the second most powerful man in the Trisbanian political system, shuffled along beside him as he led the way across the square.
She didn’t see that they were both being watched by a woman that was standing in one corner of the square but then, with all the women in square robed and veiled, it was easy for one to melt into the background.
* * *
Harran Horem, the Speaker of the Trisnarch led the way into the palazzo through its grand columned entrance portico.
Two of the Trisbanian Ceremonial Guard stood either side of the portico and came to attention as Harran passed them with an acknowledging nod.
He showed Sharon through a series of passageways and courtyards until they came into a cool shaded court, in the centre of which grew a large fig tree. The court was paved with patterned tiles and the walls of the court. The tree was surrounded by large well stuffed cushions. Harran sat down, cross legged, and looked up at Sharon. “Welcome to my home,” he said.
Sharon looked around at the ornate tracery of the walls of the court, the elaborate brass incense burner, the thick plush cushions and the drapes that hung either side the doorways. “Thank you,” she said. “It is delightful.”
“And so are you.”
“You are confident of your abilities to divine what lies behind the veil,” Sharon said. Harran nodded. Sharon reached up and lifted the veil from her face draping it back across her head. “I hope you are not disappointed,” she said. She looked down at Harran’s smile of appreciation.
“I did not think for a moment that I would be and I see I was right,” he said with satisfaction. “ Come here and sit beside me.”
Sharon, pleased by his reaction, did as she was bid. “I can remove my robe if you wish,” she said.
Harran looked thoughtful for a moment and then shook his head slowly. “No, no. That’s not necessary.” Sharon looked disappointed. “Not yet. First have some tea.” Without waiting for Sharon to respond Harran clapped his hands. A girl appeared through one of the doors. Harran simply gestured to Sharon and himself. The girl nodded, bowed deeply and left. “A privilege of rank,” said Harran, “to have my needs catered for at every moment. I am afraid it spoils me. But you must have found that Trisbanian’s are very eager to please?”
“Yes,” said Sharon, thinking about how eager Alissa had been when she had first come to the villa. “Of course.”
“That is why a man like myself – a man that values the free spirit; a man that is fired by the spark of independence – why I like to meet with those from other cultures. You I suspect are not only eager to please. You, I suspect, value your independence, you like to be pleased.” Harran poured tea for each of them.
Sharon was becoming more and more fascinated by Harran. “It is true,” she said. “I guess I think of myself as pretty independent. I like to think I make up my own mind about things. And, yes, I like to be pleased.” She took a sip of the sweet fruit tea from the small brass bowl.
“Of course. My wives are all the same.”
“Whoa. Wives? You’re married? I mean you’re married more than once?”
“Don’t be coy, Miss Collier. We are both adults. You can’t have imagined that I was not married, a man in my position? And, you are surely aware that here in Trisban it is not unusual for a man to have several wives. Or indeed a woman to have several husbands. There is no question of jealousy. No problem of that kind at all. You have a partner but you were prepared to come here. How is that different?”
Sharon looked abashed.
“Please,” Harran said, “I meant no embarrassment. Come. Come and meet my wives. It will be interesting for you to meet them. There are some – two I think -from your own country.”
How many can there be in total, Sharon was thinking to herself, that he doesn’t know how many come from where? It was all more than a little wierdweird. “Perhaps I should leave,” she said.
“If you wish, of course. I shall be disappointed though. I would like you to meet with them and they, I know, would like to meet with you. Please, if my presence concerns you I will let one of my house servants take you to where they are. Meet with them, talk with them. They have their own part of the palazzo. They welcome visitors.”
Puzzled, and more than a little curious, Sharon agreed. “Thank you,” she said, “I will be happy to meet with them.”
“Excellent, excellent,” Harran beamed. He clapped his hands again and another girl appeared. “Take Miss Collier to the harem,” he said. The girl nodded and gestured for Sharon to follow her.
* * *
The girl showed Sharon deeper into the warren of corridors and rooms of the palazzo. They turned a corner and Sharon was conscious of the air becoming warmer and moister. The girl opened a door. Steam billowed out and the two women went through into what Sharon guessed was the palazzo’s own hammam.
Whisps of steam slipped lazily across the surface of a deep plunge pool tiled in deep turquoise. Elaborate patterns in carved stone lined the walls. Three other women were lazing, naked, in the warmth of the waters unconcerned by Sharon’s arrival.
“Please. To bathe,” the girl said. “Clothes here.” She gestured to a small stone niche in the wall. “Mr. Horem would wish it.”
Sharon had to admit that the water looked inviting and a hot soak was likely to be as good a cure as any for her hangover. She slipped off her clothes and stowed them in the stone niche. The water felt wonderfully warm as she stepped down into the bath. The other women looked at her and smiled but said nothing. Sharon’s escort placed another bowl of tea and a small brass pot of the warming liquid beside the pool where Sharon could enjoy it while she bathed. She sipped at it happily, the herbal infusion adding to her feeling of relaxation and well being.
After perhaps twenty minutes the two other women climbed out of the pool and wrapped themselves in large saffron yellow towels. The taller of the two, a woman with heavy pendulous breasts whose dark skin told of her Himbaya origins, beckoned for Sharon to join them. Sharon, relaxed, comfortable and content, swam the width of the pool and walked up the tiled steps to join them. The shorter, pale skinned woman passed her a towel and Sharon wrapped it around herself gratefully as the Himbaya woman pushed Sharon’s hair up high on her head and pinned it in place with a large bone comb before the two of them took Sharon by the hand and led her out of the hammam.
As Sharon left the baths, she wondered vaguely for a moment about her clothes but, unconcerned, she went happily with the women. As they went further into the depths of the palazzo, the air seemed musky, perfumed heavily with incense. Sharon found herself in a large room lit only by a window high up in one of the walls. Large cushions covered most of the floor. Four other women were lazing across the cushions, sipping at tea. One puffed occasionally on a hookah. All were naked apart from long head scarves that draped down behind them. The Himbaya woman held out a length of luxurious purple cloth and indicated that she should pin it to her head as the others had. She took a long dark green scarf and did the same.
She and her friend put their head scarves in place. Sharon laid down on the cushions and took more of the tea feeling ever happier, ever more relaxed.
The deep sound of a gong rang out from some way off. At once the women drew the loose ends of their scarves across their faces. “Horem!” the woman with the hookah called. “He comes. Your veil.” She pointed to Sharon who responded as the others had done, covering the lower half of her face with the purple cloth.
Moments later a smiling Harran Horem came in to the room. He sat himself between two of the women who curled themselves up against him. He reached out on either side stroking the breasts of the woman to his left, the thigh of the woman to his right. “You see, Sharon, how content my household is.”
“Mmm,” said Sharon finding it difficult to concentrate but happy to agree with Harran. She found things curiously strange but normal at the same time. Sitting naked but with her face veiled seemed strange but the other women seemed content and, while Harran was evidently enjoying the company of the women, Sharon didn’t feel that he was concerned about their nakedness.
“Perhaps you would like to stay her? Stay as one of my wives?”
“Hmmm?” said Sharon. She was feeling quite dozey, relaxed by the tea and the scent of the incense, the warmth of the bath and the comfort of the room. It was hard to keep track of the conversation, difficult to think about what she was being asked and what, if anything, she thought about it.
“Come here,” Harran said, “sit by my feet.”
Sharon uncurled herself from the cushion and stepped slowly across the room, sliding to the floor beside Harran. As she did so he traced the features of her face through her veil, just as he had when they first met. She pressed her head against his thigh in approving response. One of the other women that Horem had been fondling gave a grunt of objection seeing the way that Horem was favouring the newcomer. Horem reacted by grasping the woman’s hair and twisting so that she was forced to face him. He shook his head with a disappointed look on his face and beckoned to the woman with the hookah. As she approached he nodded and she took the other woman’s hair from his grasp, dragging her to her feet and pulling her towards the door at the far end of the room.
As the woman was dragged away Sharon watched feeling that she should in some way be concerned even though her sense of well being was in no way disturbed.
“Harmony is our goal here in the harem,” Harran said. “All as one. A unified peace of being.”
Unified peace of being, Sharon thought. How well that describes how I feel. How right it seems for me to be here. How much I want to stay. She poured another glass of the sweet, aromatic tea taking sip after sip as her eyelids drooped and the warm comfort of her surroundings swept over her.
* * *
She awoke almost without realising that she had been asleep. Still feeling calm and comfortable, she rolled over on the cushions to discover that Harran and the other women had gone. She got to her feet, a little dizziness caused her to stagger slightly and she held on to one of the room’s columns to stop herself from falling. She drew her purple head covering around her body as a robe and went towards the door she had come in by.
She couldn’t open it. She felt this should worry her but it didn’t. She simply looked back across the room to where another door stood open. She went towards it, swaying slightly as she negotiated the piles of cushions on the floor..
The low dark corridor was lit by dim, flickering oil lamps. It was filled with the heady incense.
Sharon saw a figure approaching through the dim light and the incense smoke.
A young woman, veiled, hurrying.
Sharon watched as she got closer, staring blankly as the woman reached her and stopped.
As the girl drew back her veil, Sharon saw that it was Alissa. She smiled in greeting.
“Graham Wife, Sharon, are you all right?” Alissa gripped Sharon by the arms and tried to shake her. “Sharon! Wake up.”
“Mmm, its all right. I’m awake. I feel fine. Fine. Fine.”
“Did you drink something? Some aromatic tea perhaps? Sharon, listen to me did you drink something?”
“Mmm. I’m fine, fine. Harran wants me as his wife. Isn’t that nice? Mmm, fine, fine.”
“Sharon, no, it’s not fine. He’s not a good man. The tea is not good to drink.”
“He is a fine man. I have seen his wives. We had tea. They were nice. We bathed. We lay in the harem. Harran lay with us. He is fine. Fine. Fine.”
“No. Those weren’t his wives. Those were his concubines.”
“It’s all the same. All the same. Same. Same.”
“Sharon, no it’s not, come on you must wake up. We must get out of here.”
“No, stay, stay. Wait for Harran. You can be a Harran Wife too.”
“I don’t want to be a Harran Wife. Come, I’ll show you what I’ve found. Come on!” Alissa insisted taking Sharon, unresisting, by the arm and guiding her through more corridors. They went carefully by another room where more naked and veiled women were lounging on cushions and couches. “These are his concubines. The women he plays with. The women he enjoys. His wives are for making children. Come see.”
Alissa and Sharon turned another corner. There was a sight which even the befuddled, trippy, Sharon found disturbing, although she wasn’t sure why
It was a large dark room lit only by a single shaft of light from a round window in the ceiling. The room was divided into two by a wall of heavy metal bars that turned the furthermost part into a cage. Inside the cage six women, naked and veiled, sat disconsolately on the bare floor. The women were all shackled, chains linking their wrists and ankles and each wore a heavy metal collar from which a long chain ran to rings set in the far end wall.
“Whuummm?” murmured Sharon, puzzled and confused.
“These are his wives,” Alissa said. “These are women he makes children with. See.” She pointed to the cage. The six women were all obviously pregnant, three of them heavily so, their bellies distended by the babies they were carrying, their breasts heavy and ready to suckle their new infants. They looked up at Alissa and Sharon, blankly happy with their circumstance and somehow lacking the wish or will to protest. “He keeps them here. He makes them pregnant and keeps them here until the children are borne to be certain that they are his. And when the children are borne he starts again, over and over. Wives are only to make children with for him and he has to be sure they are his.”
Alissa looked at Sharon’s uncomprehending expression. She could see that Sharon was too far gone to be convinced of the dangers of remaining in the palazzo. All she could do was to try to drag her out and back to the apartment somehow. She led the way back through the labyrinth of corridors, eventually finding the place where she had entered the harem. There, in a large whicker basket, Alissa had hidden the abaya and niqaab that she had worn to enter the palazzo and the one she had brought for Sharon, expecting that she might need something in which to make her escape. She put her own on and then unwound Sharon from her purple scarf before helping her into the abaya. Sharon was in no real condition to help, she sat on a bench chanting and humming to herself as Alissa did what she could to cloth and disguise her friend.
Finally the two of them were dressed. Alissa made sure that Sharon was completely veiled, stuffed their scarves into the basket and hoisted it on to her head. Holding the basket in place with one hand and, grasping the still groggy Sharon by the other, the two of them headed towards the servant quarters and the way out of the palazzo.
* * *
As they left the harem and worked their way through Harran’s rooms towards the servant’s quarters, Alissa heard the sound of laughing and giggling. They drew level with a curtained doorway as Harran Horem emerged grinning and pulling his shirt about him.
“Ha!” he said seeing the two girls. “More amusement!”
Alissa hoped, desperately that Sharon would say nothing. “We need to be in the kitchens, Sir,” she said. “Sweet meats are to be served we are told and we hurry to obey.”
“Sweet meats indeed,” Harran grinned at the two girls. “I suspect you are sweeter than anything that will be brought to me on a golden tray. I can tell behind your veil and beneath your robe that you would amuse me.” Harran reached out cupping one of Alissa’s breasts in his hand. Alissa terrified but knowing the consequences of discovery did nothing to resist his touch as he squeezed and traced the outline of her nipples through the fabric of her abaya. Then, without warning he gripped her by the back of the neck and pulled her face towards his, kissing her roughly through her veil. “Yes,” he said as he realised a shocked Alissa. “Fetch me the sweet meats and return to join me. Be quick!”
Alissa needed no second bidding to be off pulling Sharon after her. In minutes they managed to find the kitchens and were soon out of the palazzo and on their way home.
Chapter 7 : Breakfast in Bed
Sharon was sitting up in bed looking sheepish.
Alissa had brought her some hot water with lemon. “Here,” she said. “This will help. And later you will need to take much fruit juice. It is the best thing for the effects of the tea.”
“Thank you,” Sharon said as she took the glass. “Thank you for rescuing me. How did you know I was there?”
“I followed you to the square. I saw where you went. I have heard things about the Speaker.”
“Well, it’s just as well that you did. How can he get away with treating his wives like that?”
“What a man does in private is his own affair. Provided that his wives accept what is done then why would anyone care? That is the way in Trisban. For Trisbanian women we learn that there are many things we must accept. For someone else it might be harder.”
Alissa grinned. “I did not think that it was what you really wanted but I should not have interfered. What you do is private. It was wrong of me.”
“Well, I am glad you did. Thank you.”
Josh appeared at the door of the bedroom. “Oh, you’re awake, babes,” he said. “You were flake out last night. Snoring too! Very elegant.”
“Yeah, well. I guess it was all the excitement of the ball and Carnavali.”
“It was fun wasn’t it? I prefer us going to things together though. It’s all right for the odd occasion but Norris isn’t my idea of an evening copmpanion though. I thought we might do dinner tonight. There’s a quiet place I’ve found out about with great views over the bay. How do you feel about that?”
“Mmm, that would be nice,” Sharon said. “After all the excitement a quiet dinner for just the two of us sounds ideal.”
Josh looked shifty. “Ah,” he said. “Well, its not just us two. It’s something Norris set up – it’s our chance to lobby the Speaker of the Trisnarch. Could be a very useful contact, bloke called Harran Horem.”
Sharon could feel the blood draining from her face.
“He babes,” he said, “you look awfully pale. If you’re not up to it you needn’t come. We’ll do something just the two of us another night.”
“Yeah, sure, Josh,” Sharon said. “Maybe that’s a better idea. I think I’ll give tonight a miss.”
Alissa gave a sigh of relief inside. She collected up the tray and left them. It sounded like Sharon had made a sensible decision this time at least.
© Copyright Freddie Clegg 2008
All rights reserved.
All Characters, Events & Locations Fictitious
No posting or reproduction without permission
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