Helen Goes To Kyserba
by Steve Quilt
Version for “Tales of the Veils” website.
Not for reproduction on other websites or in any other publishing format without author’s permission.
Whatever Helen thought she would find in Kyserba, she was wrong. As the Englishwoman in the black Abaya and Niqab stumbled out of the warehouse by the quayside where her crate had been unlocked, she was confronted with a reality she had never expected. What she saw on the streets were nothing like she expected.
The television programmes, the media presentations and even the social media that had prompted her to think of Kyserba as some sort of heaven on earth were wrong. Either they had never seen this part of it or they had deliberately distorted the picture. The images, reports and posts Helen had seen was of smiling women in Hijabs, walking along pleasant avenues and doing the sort of thing that a wealthy population would do, such as shopping and dining out and enjoying art galleries. Even the women in Niqabs looked contented with their lives. Kyserba had been painted as modern and welcoming and clean, yet here it seemed anything but. The noise and the flies and the smells told her this place was far from any known paradise.
Under a hot sun, the streets by the harbour were crowded and there was not a Hijab to be seen. All the women were either in a Niqab or a Burqa, virtually all black, and the men looked surly and uninterested in much at all. After her weeks of near silence in her crate the noise seemed deafening, the clanking of nearby industrial machinery, of cars and trucks blasting their horns as they bullied their way through the crowds, men shouting and loud, raucous music playing from stalls along the street. Of course, Helen argued to herself this was merely the harbour area and no port in the world had ever been pleasant. But it was uncomfortable standing among so much confusion.
Standing alone and, she admitted to herself, worried.
Not least of her bad feelings was there was no sign of her friend June, as Mariam had promised, with a key to release her from the black steel face mask and its attendant gag. Helen tried to tell herself June would be covered with a veil and so would look like any of the woman here, but no one was looking for her. No woman, at any rate. All the women had their eyes down and were shuffling behind men who hardly gave Helen a passing look. With a slow, sinking feeling as she scanned the hidden faces and veils, Helen began to understand that June wasn’t here. Even if she was, how would she know to come this street at this time? Have I been, Helen agonised, so naive as to think to trust Mariam? To believe this was to be straight forward?
For a moment Helen was seized by panic. She couldn’t communicate with anyone and anyway, where would she go if she could? Would the British consulate do anything to help her as she had no papers, no identity? She turned to go back into the warehouse she had just left, thinking she could plead — probably through writing — for help from the disinterested men who as a matter of routine indifference had unpacked her less than half-an-hour earlier and set her on her very wobbly legs. The same men who had simply gestured she should leave the warehouse and never gave her another glance as she went. But the plain, unmarked door she had left by was firmly shut behind her and even banging on it now with her black gloved fist drew no response.
Not for the first time Helen felt tears welling up in her eyes. She felt she was going to die here, alone.
Something rapped sharply on her shoulder and she turned to face a small, wiry old man with a shock of white hair and a full beard to match. He was dressed in a white long robe and sandals, as Helen had seen on just about every man so far. The old man had three women in jet black Burqas standing docilely behind him. Women utterly anonymous thanks to the heavy gauze over their eyes, with their wrists tied together in front and fastened to the waist of shrouded women in front of them. The front one, however, had her wrists tied to a rope looped round the skinny old man’s waist. Wherever he went, clearly this trio silently followed. Then man had tapped Helen on the shoulder with a long, straight stave and now as he peered at her he used it to tap on her steel face mask. He said something in Arabic which was meaningless to Helen and she shook her head. She wanted to step back away from the man but she was trapped against the locked door.
The old man said something to the three women behind him, again in Arabic, gesturing with his free hand as if explaining what he had just found on the streets.
The old man then said something in French. Helen’s memory of French at school was restricted to the sort of everyday conversation you might use when ordering a meal or tidying the garden, and in any event she had forgotten almost all of it. She was tempted to say “Non” but the man could have been asking if she needed assistance. Helen thought it better to say nothing.
The old man grunted and tried again, this time in English. “You have no one with you, correct?”
It was correct, and Helen felt a flood of relief. Here at last was someone who could help her. She nodded, furiously, which wasn’t easy in the steel face mask. She tried to gesture that she was indeed alone, but the old man was speaking again.
“This mask you have. Steel, I think. Traps you silently. I know my son is locksmith of repute. He can help you remove it. It is unhealthy in this heat.” For the first time in ages Helen felt a surge of happiness. Once she was out of its tight confines and able to speak, she could ask this son or even this man for help in finding June. She was sure her friend would be here, already looking for Helen.
The man leant his stave against the wall and was unthreading some rope from his waist. For a moment Helen wondered what he was doing, but in a moment she found out. Two of the three women being led by this man moved silently into place, one on each side of Helen, blocking her with their Burqa-clad shoulders pinning the Niqab-covered woman’s arms on each side. The rope connecting them was stretched across her, further denying movement. To Helen’s dismay the man seized one of her wrists in a surprisingly strong grip and wound the rope round it and then, before she could pull away, the old man grabbed her other wrist and with a practiced ease he looped the end of rope round that. Every instinct in Helen was to ask what in the name of all that was holy was this man doing. But the best she could offer was grunts. She wanted to run but the two women in Burqas were well positioned to stop her doing anything. Helen’s wrists were swiftly bound together and the end of the rope fastened to the waist of what would be the third of the woman, taking up the rear position. Then without another word the old man picked up his stave and began walking with a line of now four women falling in behind him. At least three of them did, but Helen fought this intrusion. She did not need to be bound like the other females were, and she wanted them to know it.
Struggling did no good. The rope was bound perfectly and cut into her wrists the more she struggled. The line wasn’t going to stop for her and to show his displeasure, the old man reached back with his long stave and rapped Helen hard on the upper arm to remind her to behave. He did it three times, and his aim was perfect so each blow landed on the same place. It hurt and Helen said so into her gag. Nothing however changed other than she stopped struggling, fearful of a series of harder blows on the same sore spot. She had no doubt the man would do it, too. Without making any more of a pointless effort to escape, Helen shuffled forward at the end of the line, moving through the crowded streets of the harbour area and not drawing a single glance. Not even from what she saw looked like a couple of policemen, though as she increasingly began to notice she was far from the only bound woman in a Burqa or Niqab here. Most women seemed free, if submissive to the man with them, but there were a lot of tied and even chained women being led around. Helen knew Kyserba had its own rules, but this was still a shock yet one she could not do anything about.
If there was one thing the frustrated Helen reasoned it was that this old man kept these three women alive, and if he had access to a locksmith and could remove the mask and gag, she had a chance. Perhaps, once free of the ropes and steel, she could then escape this man’s clutches and begin to find June. Find her old friend before it was too late and the poison Mariam would have administered began to kill the innocent woman.
The line shuffled past more trussed women, all anonymous under veils, and even a man beating one heavily bound woman tied to a post by the roadside. Helen was horrified but saw no one going to the aid of the blue Burqa-clad female. More to her surprise, the old man leading the line of bound women stopped and for a moment. Helen thought the older white-haired man would say something to stop the younger man beating the bound female, but they greeted each other like old friends. A lengthy conversation ensued, involving much gesturing and pointing at the line of bound women and in particular, towards Helen. Several times the younger man, whose own beard was more red than black, shook his head and started to turn away and each time the wiry old man dragged him back into conversation. Finally, as Helen stood feeling thirsty and faint under the hot sun at the end of the line, the two men seemed to come an agreement. After a handshake the younger man approached Helen and untied her from the line. Then he led Helen to the heavily bound female and roped her to the Burqa-clad figure, slumped in her bonds. In the meantime to old man hauled the line of three tied females away, without even a look in Helen’s direction.
“Wait here, kaffir,” the young man — he was in his thirties, Helen judged — said in perfect English and then left the pair by the roadside. There was an open fronted cafe nearby and the man settled himself at a table and ordered a drink for himself. He then sat in the shade of a large striped awning, taking his time over his long, cold drink and chatting to men he knew at other tables.
“Do not give up hope,” said a faint voice from under the Burqa, inches in front of Helen’s face. “My name is Alice, and I guess you can speak English. I am Scottish,” the woman said in a pleasant burr. “I am the property of Hussein Iqbal, as you are now. You have been given by the man who found you to my owner. Hussein Iqbal is your owner now.”
Helen tried to protest that she hadn’t been found and no one had any right to give her to anyone. For a vague reason she thought Mariam would be very unhappy at this, but the Muslimah was thousands of miles away in London. Helen made an effort to get free but the knots holding her to the bound Alice were too good.
“Please, I beg you to save your energy and be still. Our master will look after us, but he will be angry if he sees you struggling. He will beat us both. No matter what, women do not struggle here in Riadi.”
Riadi! Under her steel mask Helen’s eyes flew wide open in shock. “But that’s sixty miles away! I need to be in Serba, the capital, not in this place!” Helen cried out, though the gag as always reduced her words to a series of unintelligible moans. She began to struggle anew, but remembering Alice’s advice stilled herself. Once more tears flooded her eyes. She had been betrayed somewhere, and she felt sick to her belly. If she hadn’t been tied to Alice, her legs would have given way and she would have collapsed on the road right there.
“Be at peace, I beg you. Your path is laid out by Allah and it has brought us together here. I shall help you as much as I can for even through my Burqa I can discern you are masked and silenced, as it should be. Your fate would have been worse had you not been rescued and brought here.” Helen wanted to shout she had not been rescued, but no sound she could make would make any sense. “I will tell you as much as I can as quickly as possible, for you are a stranger here. I was a teacher from Aberdeen, and I speak Arabic as well as English” said Alice. “I am glad to tell you this, for today I am not gagged even though I have displeased our master. I received this public beating for my errors, in the eyes of Allah who can see I deserve it fully.” She paused, sounding hurt at the memory of either what she had done or why she was here, before continuing though keeping her voice down. The Burqa however muffled the sound of her voice considerably. “I came to Kyserba to teach and taught Hussein Iqbal how to speak English. He is a wealthy man, by the standards of Riadi and as befits the local custom, took charge of me as his property. It pleases him to keep me as his own, and I should be grateful. I may have been sold to Oria.” Alice shuddered at this, and swallowing hard she pressed on. “I am not young enough to please our master, I fear. Not now. I am 41 years old now, and as is Hussein Iqbal’s right he may when I reach age 42 dispose of me as he sees fit.” Alice paused again, and then said: “Perhaps he sees you as my replacement…” Helen felt Alice despite her ropes give a small shrug under her Burqa and at the same time gave a small, choked sob.
In the time available to them and without any prompting, Alice tried to tell Helen as much as she could about her background and how she came to this city and agreed — for that was the word she used — to being Hussein Iqbal’s slave. “My choice was limited: it was me or my daughter who would serve,” she said, sadness in voice. “Naomi was young with her life ahead of her and I could not allow her to be the slave of a man, not here in Riadi. The master thought she was a worthless female because she had no father. Kyserba does not approve of single mothers. In Riadi too they have no problem with young women being kept by men, but I knew that if the master took Naomi then her time would be far worse than I would experience. He does not want sex with me in a conventional way, but he would with Naomi. Perhaps even make her give him several sons.” The woman was gulping with emotion but kept on talking. ”It was hard. I put her on a plane back to Scotland and implored Hussein Iqbal to enslave me instead. He said I was old and not worth it, but by the goodness of Allah he relented and accepted me, even though it would only be for a few years.” Alice paused, sounding sad again. “Until I am 42 next year, that is… and then I do not know what he will do with me. If I am lucky the master will sell me to his father, but as you may have seen he already has a slave and two wives. I don’t think he would take me as either slave or wife.”
Helen wanted to ask questions but as always her gag stopped her. There seemed to be so many injustices here that even if her mouth was unstoppered, she wouldn’t be able to ask about them all. What was obvious however was that the middle-aged woman in the Burqa was desperate to tell her story to Helen. I may well be her lifeline to her daughter, wherever she is, Helen told herself.
“My daughter’s full name is Naomi Angelina McLean. If you get chance to help her I would be… Wait… The master is returning,” whispered Alice. “I must be quiet and I pray you are quiet, even when he takes out your gag. The men in this part of Kyserba do not like the sound of a woman’s voice, or the sight of their face.” She fell silent as behind Helen, the man called Hussein Iqbal approached from the direction of the cafe.
The man seemed relaxed but his words didn’t carry the same impression.“I should whip you two worthless kaffirs as a mark of my displeasure. My father has, I fear, given me something not worth having. But as I must respect his generosity, I will not beat you here.” At that, the younger man untied Helen and Alice (though the Scottish woman in the blue Burqa still had her arms bound behind her, in contrast to Helen’s hands being tied in front of her) and led them down more streets and twisting alleys to an iron door in a high wall which opened on to a large, shady courtyard overhung with palm trees and bordered by luxurious leafy bushes festooned with scented blossoms. In the centre of the courtyard a large, ornate marble fountain played with the cool water glittering in the light filtering through the fronds of the palms. Behind that was an impressively large, white painted house with deeply shadowed and welcoming open doors and verandahs. Even the shuttered windows had been thrown wide open and displayed fine fabrics acting as curtains, trembling in the slight breezes. The whole scene was one of the most lovely things Helen had ever seen. Here at last was evidence of the civilisation she left home for. Reality however quickly intruded as a woman in a dark green Niqab appeared it seemed from nowhere and took the bound Alice away without a word. Alice, no doubt weary from her public beating, followed without resisting.
“I will get that mask off you,” said Hussein Iqbal as Helen stood in front of him on the smooth flagstones of the courtyard. The whole place was calm and peaceful, and in many ways exactly what the Englishwoman was sure she would find in Serba. But she wasn’t in the capital, she now knew. That was a long way off by road, and her knowledge of the geography of Kyserba informed Helen she was far from where she wanted to be. She knew that Riadi was a port and the leading town of a province but she had never imagined she would find herself here rather than in Serba. The man must have wondered the same too because he said: “I am curious. No one willingly comes to Riadi. Unlike Serba we do not easily welcome foreigners to our town. When I have freed you from your mask and gag you will tell me why before I punish you for being here.”
Helen had no choice but to nod. She would indeed tell this man a great deal, and maybe as result justice would be done. Her hope for a swift resolution to all this however was soon dashed.
“I will take your steel mask off tomorrow,” the man said. “For now you will be put under the control of my two wives. They will feed you through your gag, bathe you to rid you of the smell of the sea and dirt, and then have their amusements with you until tomorrow, when I am ready to attend to you. For now I will go and pray, eat and then watch the Kyserba national football team on television in their World Cup qualifying game. Some things are far more important than mere slaves.” With that, the man turned on his heel and left Helen standing alone in the large courtyard.
Helen felt a wave of confusion. While a bath and food would help her she wondered what amusements would be enjoyed by the man’s wives. Would it be cruel, if they saw her as a rival? Or would it be tenderness and consideration as only owned women can offer another helpless female?
The two females were, to Helen’s delight, pleasant and kind. They were both young — one of them barely of age as far as Helen was concerned though she understood Kyserba had different rules in such matters — and despite the grey Niqabs they exhibited a sense of fun and pleasure. The air was infused with scents, candles placed to give just the right amount of light and in the distance several stringed instruments played gentle but stimulating tunes. The pair fed Helen through her gag and took great delight in pushing a variety of foodstuffs down the tube, using the simple practice of chewing the food themselves and then spitting the saliva-drenched mess down the short tube into Helen’s mouth. For reasons Helen couldn’t explain, it was both revolting and thrilling in equal measures to be fed half-chewed, sloppy foods. The two women did the same with water and tea and coffee, which Helen realised she hadn’t tasted in ages. After the meal the pair carefully undressed Helen and though they did not speak English, or at least made no effort to do so, they laughed and joked in Arabic and even pointed to the tattoo on Helen’s upper arm, which caused them to snicker and giggle together. Then they helped Helen into skin-tight Burqini and eased her into large bath so that she may relax and be cleaned. The two Niqab wearing females immersed themselves in the water too, as if not caring about the fact their grey Abayas became almost see-through (And thus displayed to Helen’s astonished eyes expensive looking underwear including stockings) and together they washed and caressed Helen. She felt, despite her hands still fastened behind her back or perhaps because of her silent helplessness, a fiery tingle in her sex under the chastity belt. This cleansing and playing was not quite lesbianism but it was close to making the newcomer very aroused. The two wives clearly knew what they were doing and their hands would trail oils, soap and water tantalisingly over Helen’s breasts, almost toying with her stiff nipples through the Burqini, and then having stroked round the top of her thighs and over her pulsing belly (deftly ignoring Helen’s chastity belt which she was sure would bust with fiery passion), the pair would hover their hands just over Helen’s plated crotch as if they were about to do something she would love, however impossible that was.
Helen had very limited lesbian experience: as a teenager she had a rushed and unsatisfactory sexual game with her cousin Lisa though she found the older girl’s kisses to be quite thrilling, but now she was being toyed with and teased with a surprising degree of expertise. She was brought, repeatedly in the hot bath, to the verge of climaxing and each time the two women would exchange a couple of words in Arabic or simply giggle and leave Helen alone, keeping her on the edge of wanting but never getting satisfaction. The two wives even pretended to kiss Helen’s steel-masked face through their Niqabs but they made no effort or even gave hint they would lift them to kiss properly, though Helen had no doubt that the two young wives would at times have lifted their Niqabs for each other and kiss passionately then. But for now, it was the sort of intensely erotic thought that was unexpectedly propelling the bound Englishwoman to orgasm. The idea of being veiled and loved was making Helen very excited indeed.
Finally, as the two women casually but skilfully dripped and splashed warm water over Helen’s soaked and aching body, she exploded into possibly the best orgasm she had ever enjoyed. As she sank back, eyes closed and allowing these glorious feelings was over her, Helen remembered it was months since she had as much pleasure for any sort of sex as this. She also understood this was the skill of the harem in the fine traditions of middle-eastern life. It was the way even a helpless, silent woman as herself could be teased and eased towards the deepest pleasure. Yet no one had directly touched her between her legs; they couldn’t after all. It was all the desires burning bright in her mind, and her body merely and gladly went along with it.
This was what she had secretly yearned for by coming to Kyserba. Helen had hoped to be satisfied on every level of her being, and now even as a prisoner like this, she was more than satisfied. She knew she would sleep well that night, even if she was chained to a bed.
The feeling in Helen when the locks clicked open and the black steel mask came off was indescribable. If anyone had told her in the past she would never be happier than getting out of something she had worn for weeks, she would not have believed them. Now she understood it, and especially as the accursed gag slipped out of her mouth too. Helen wanted to weep with joy at feeling the air on her face and move her jaw and above all, do the most ridiculously simple thing like wiggling her nose.
Yet at the same time she felt exposed. Her face was suddenly bare, and her instincts told her she should not be. Not here in Kyserba. A woman having an uncovered face was a crime, both in law and in spirit. She wanted to bury her face in her hands and hide how she looked, anxious to hide how open she was. But Helen’s hands were cuffed behind her and straps held her to the chair in Hussein Iqbal’s workshop. Although her body was properly covered in a new black Abaya and her hands in long gloves to hide her flesh, she felt terribly exposed. More, Hussein Iqbal was staring hard at her, as if examining her soul through her visible flesh.
Helen opened her mouth to speak for the first time in ages, but her throat was tight and dry and she was not sure her tongue would move as she wished. Perhaps it would take some exercises to loosen it and allow her to speak properly. Hussein Iqbal held his had up for silence and his look suggested her was not in the mood for having his wishes ignored. “Do not speak, kaffir. I will in time hear your story but not now. Be silent or I will put a steel gag permanently in your mouth and then your words will never be heard again.”
Helen gulped and nodded. She had no doubt the man meant it.
“I find it offensive to see a woman’s face,” the man continued with a sigh, “but I confess having seen I am disappointed you are not younger. However I need to understand the way your mind works. You see, in Kyserba we can tell much about a woman if we see her face. It is the window of the soul, as you may have heard. Yours is interesting but if I am honest, even more offensive to the civilised eye by being western. It exudes laziness and a lack of subservience to men. There is a hardness about your face that suggests you have been dissatisfied with the men in your life thus far. Tempted though I am to examine your being more closely I will seal your looks in a new mask. No, do not be concerned: it is not steel. I would not be so cruel, though it is easy for me to put back what I have just removed and seal the locks so the iron will never be removed. I have instead fashioned for you a rubber mask.” At that he picked up from a bench by his hand a black mask made of thin latex and held it up. “This will conform perfectly to your facial features. It will permit you to have normal face movements and be able to breathe more easily. The mouth is open to allow normal eating and drinking, unless you are gagged of course. You will wear gags under three conditions: first, you will be gagged out of duty to me, second because women must be silent for at least half of each day, and third as you might expect you will be heavily gagged as a punishment. The vision through the eye holes is better than your steel mask offered though the thin membrane of rubber over your ears will curtail many sounds unless heard up close. Trust me, you will feel greater peace in this. The mask as you can see is fastened by buckles behind the head to permit a daily removal for cleansing, though your hair — offensive as it is — will be covered by a scarf unless I choose to have you shaved bald. As your owner you will appreciate I have the right to make any modifications to your body I see fit. Your soul belongs to Allah, but all else is mine.” The man put down the mask and picked up a narrow gold band in order to show it the bound woman in front of him. “This as you can see has Arabic engraved in black in the gold. It is a collar, that identifies you as the property of me. I will seal it on your neck so when anyone lifts your Niqab, for yes, your face will be covered at all times in the traditional way, you can be identified easily. I tell you this for often when you go out of these walls you will be gagged, and perhaps the gag will be locked. Should the police, either secular or holy, need to know about you this collar will suffice for information. With this the authorities have no need to remove any gag or even wish that I had not removed your ability to speak.”
Helen jolted at this, and felt tears well in her eyes. She was about to be made a slave, and she was slave a long way from Serba. She couldn’t help but think of June dying in agony because Mariam would never believe that the shipping procedure had gone wrong and there was no way anyone could find Helen in the capital.
“Western women cry too much,” said Hussein Iqbal softly after he had put the collar on Helen’s neck and locked it. The gold felt pleasantly heavy and it gave Helen a new thrill to have it round her throat. Better this, she thought, than have my voice removed. Perhaps in slavery there are things you have to accept in order to avoid worse issues, and at this she thought of Alive volunteering to be a slave in order that her daughter might be free. There were extradition treaties between Britain and Kyserba and Helen had no doubt the young female could be found, arrested and brought back. If slave Alice behaved, then Hussein Iqbal would not seek to bring Naomi ‘home.’ Helen felt a little better at this, but tears still flowed. For the first time the man reached out and touched Helen’s face, running his thumb lightly over her cheek to wipe away the tears rolling down. “I am not as you will see a cruel man, though indolent westerners never understand us Kyserbans for what we truly are. I will permit you to have a conversation with me, for I believe by your look you have questions to ask. I will tolerate five questions, so choose them carefully. First though I will put your new face mask on you. Hold still, kaffir.”
The rubber mask, cool and soft, was put over Helen’s face. In a way she felt better, for she was no longer naked to the world. Hussein Iqbal fastened it tightly in place and declared himself satisfied he could no longer see Helen’s face. He skilfully wrapped a Hijab round Helen’s head covering her offensive hair, and then finished off by putting a grey Niqab of Helen’s rubber-covered face. Then as he sat close to her bound position, he indicated she should ask the first of her five questions.
Helen had already decided on the first question but was worried lest her voice and tongue after so little use would let her down. But to her delight she was able to speak. She thought however she should use her first permitted question to show proper gratitude for the man’s kindness thus far. “I would like to ask as my first question, sir, if you are aware how kind and generous you have been to me?”
Hussein Iqbal was surprised and gave a deep laugh. “By Allah’s wisdom, I am pleased to own you as a truly submissive woman, even though you disgust me that you are a kaffir. While I see no reason as yet to punish you I will give you opportunity soon to revise those thoughts. Punishment of slaves surely happens as night follows day. There has never been under God’s great sky a time when men did not have to correct and control women. You and I are no different: I am a man and have right and power on my side, and you as a woman are prone to errors and mistakes. It is my duty to keep you in line and issue corrections. But thank you for your properly subservient words. You may as yet make a good slave for me despite the flaws in your upbringing.”
Helen nodded, pleased she had for the moment got on the right side of the man, even though she was still not sure about being this man’s slave. “I understand, sir, you need not need to know of my story any time soon, but as I have a friend in Serba in mortal danger as a consequence of my being delivered to Riadi and not Serba, may I ask if I may be permitted to go to Serba under my mask and Niqab and locate her to help her stay alive?”
Hussein Iqbal stroked his beard, eyes narrowed. “This is a strange request. I am not accustomed to allowing my property to move freely, nor am I honour-bound to come to the aid of another worthless female. The police in Serba are efficient in many things and no doubt would investigate fully the death of a foreigner on Kyserban soil, unless of course she is owned and the woman’s owner has decreed it be so. The owner rules the slave, as it should be.” The man shrugged before he went on: “Yet her life means something to you for reasons I cannot understand, so I am at a loss as to how to reply. Serba is some kilometres distant and this is my home. I have little need to go there, and yet…” Again, Hussein Iqbal stroked his beard deep in thought, a frown on his face. “I have taken ownership of you, kaffir, and I expect women to serve me, but I can see from your eyes that this death would destroy you within. Assuming this female can be located, that is, and is allowable her life can be saved.”
“I apologise, sir,” Helen decided to risk her position by making a statement rather than asking a question. “But I can assure you that if you took me, properly attired and restrained as is your custom to Serba and we found my friend…” Helen hesitated. “She would be a good slave for your house, too.”
Hussein Iqbal raised his eyebrow. “That may well be against all tradition and law. If this female is owned — as all females should be — I would need to know your story, and the circumstances of this concern. It is unlikely we would recognise a silent, veiled woman on the streets of the capital, which I am sure you appreciate. Especially as you would be in the same fashion: I would not allow my women to parade themselves without restraints or veil in a place of loose moral like Serba. So in order to discover this worthless female’s likely whereabouts I must make enquiries. You will tell me what I need to know and then I will punish you for not asking the allowed questions. Are you content to proceed on the basis of this, woman?”
“Yes,” said Helen without hesitation. “This woman is yours to do with as you wish sir, once you hear me out.”
“Indeed you are mine.” Hussein Iqbal settled back in his seat. “Begin.”
Helen took a deep breath and began to tell her owner how she got to Riadi and what he needed to know in order that her friend June may be saved. She just hoped that it was all not too late.