azim watched the me roll the gammon sticks between my hands. It is no great secret that my appetite for games of chance is insatiable and the games that I tend to play are swift and ruthless, especially in a match where speed and agression are everything. I set myself in concentration, my hair braided back from my face and woven with ropes of pearls and garnets. This was the fifteenth game that Kazim and I had played, and I had won all but three. Kazim settled back on the rich red and gold pillows as he watched, He was, without a doubt, the greatest player in my Kingdom and yet I had beaten him fairly each time that he had lost to me.
A woman who likes war games, Kazim often had told me, would always be a formidable opponent, both in and out of the bed. I had quickly outmaneuvered and out thought every other conniving woman in the power centre of what had been Morgienne’s palace. Cold bloodedness and gold very rarely are good company with each other, and if one could lose one’s head at gammon, surely they could and very probably would lose it in the more important arenas of life. Of the over three hundred and seventy women that he had overseen, he had come to love me, some say a bit more than the rest. Certainly Kazim had been a devoted friend and I had always endeavored to seek out the counsel of the one who showed little enjoyment in life, they say, since the time he had decided to become a eunuch by choice.
With one blow the Kazim had severed himself from being a father and husband. He had married his one true love, Yasmina Habibi and in the process of giving birth to their daughter, Hatiba, his beloved wife had died. He had always said that the Gods had forsaken him, and he was certain and steadfastly determined that he would never love again. Not even his own daughter who was but a few hours old, whom he placed into the trust of the Temple as he entered into the service of the High Lady of the Fortunate Island, could give him any comfort. He had in that single moment decided to condemn himself to the pain of castration.
Kazim often said that he never looked back at that moment with regret. The only regret in his heart was the pain of having lived when Yasmina Habibi had died. He had secluded and safeguarded his heart. When his own daughter had grown and left, sailing far from the Kingdom, disappearing forever, he closed the chapter on his life. It was only when Morgienne had taken me, the daughter of one of her priestesses to be raised as her own daughter, that he said he allowed the long tendrils of affection wrap their way around his heart like the climbing roses that grew in the gardens of the palace and up the walls and porticoes throughout the Fortunate Island. There was something, he said, that touched him, but he could never put his finger quite on it.
All gifts that passed into the palace of the High Lady and those within her charge passed into the hands of the Kazim. He alone was responsible for the most prized possessions of the state and the women as well. All of this along with jewels, silks and piastres were wealth. Each woman, from the meanest accolyte to the High Lady herself, had her own wealth to administer and often Kazim was entreated to help manage that wealth, and if possible help increase it. In most cases he could, and it was all done for a commission of course. Kazim spent twenty five years in the service Morgienne and had become a very wealthy man, third within my Kingdom with only the myself and the Temple proper before him. Of all of the women whose affairs he managed, and those who were his peers or superiors, He would often tease me that had I been born a male within his own country, then I would most certainly have become a Sheikh in my own right. Kazim often praised my greed not for the dinar and sequins that we played for, but for victory – for Power and for the sheer lust and absolute joy of winning.
“ My lady Faelyn,” he held up a hand, “You shall make me a poor man, and abandon me, daughter of my heart.”
I allowed my self to laugh aloud fell back upon a pile of pillows that were strewn near the divan. In Kazim’s private parlour we both had found solace and peace from the endless prattling of others.
“Oh, Aba il khab!” I smiled, “You have a very vivid imagination, for I shall never abandon you!”
“You must one day marry some prince somewhere thus making him your consort. When that time comes I fear that my heart shall break, ya Anessa..” He poured the thick sweetened kahwi from caraffe into the dimatasse cups that a servant had brought moments before on a large silver tray.
“No I won’t,” I sniffed, “I have absolutely no hidden desire whatsoever to be any man’s wife. Lovers are trouble enough, and if you give them more than that they either try to limit your movements by keeping you in a cage or what is more, claim what belongs to you for their own,” I said taking the cup from him, and sniffing the thick black liquid.
“We shall see, my dear one, but you know you must someday bring forth an heir so that your own line shall continue. And besides, I did not know your experience with lovers was so very great, Faelyn,” he smirked.
“Not so very great. You know me, Aba. Why should I allow into my bed a man who seems to think I have no call nor right to go hawking, for example?” I pouted and took a sip of the kawhi.
“I cannot imagine that you would allow anyone to prevent you from that which you love so much, not even if he were your husband and consort. And if you did,” he took a deep sip making a face, “ then I think you have your own self to blame for that. Was it not you who was caught crossing swords with the guards in the garden? How in the name of Allah did you get them to leave their posts? Ah, the look on the face of your predecessor….”
I knew he was being cautious by not naming Morgienne directly. I smiled over the rim of the cup at the enuch, “A Queen can have her secrets, Aba.”
Kazim raised an eyebrow at me, “Ya anessa, there are no secrets in the palace, not from me!”
I put down my cup and lept up on the divan flopping next to Kazim in a rustle of silk brocade. Snuggling up beside him I embraced him tightly, “Aba,” I whispered, “You know I will always tell you….eventually..”
Kazim sighed heavily and stroked her shoulder, “Aiwa. I know. But I cannot keep protecting you, Faelyn. Sooner or later others will catch you and then I will have to feign not knowing anything of what is going on, and even then I will pay the consequences for it.”
“But never for long, Aba,” I smiled up at him, “The entire Kingdom would fall apart but for you.”
“Yes,” he nodded, “that is true, but you must keep that fact hidden from everyone. Your hold on power depends upon it.”
Muse: Fanny Fae
Fandom: Original Character / Folklore / Mythology
Word Count: 1270