Frank Yerby’s First Adventure Of A Victim’s Guilt
The Spanish Crusade: An Assault On Islam
Episode One: Harem Seduction
Staring at her reflection in the mirror, Lady Sumayla
considered how everything reminded her of Alaric, the father of her only son, Prince
al-Kamil ibn Karim. The black princess was pleased that she had lost none of
her enchanting, if subtle, charm. The more intelligent a woman is, she thought
to herself, the more charming she should be. Certainly Sumayla’s charm combined
with her intelligence, as well as pure, dumb luck, was responsible for her rise
in station from a black slave to a princess of the realm and possibly the mother
of Cordoba’s next emir. And for Kamil to become Emir of Córdoba would be
Sumayla’s crowning achievement. The Emir of Córdoba ruled not only over the
entire land known in the romantic Latin dialect as España, Spain, but also over all of North Africa, including Egypt.
In the seventh century, the Moors had crossed over the North African sands, poured over the Straits of Gibralter and flooded up the Iberian Peninsula, wresting control of Spain from the Goths. But neither the Goths’ Arian pretensions to racial superiority nor their
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christian faith prevented the Moors from establishing Islamic rule over the Iberian Peninsula. So now in the ninth century, peoples from the Pyrenees Mountains, across the Mediterranean Sea to Palestine and all the way to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers worshipped Allah and obeyed the Islamic laws found in the Holy Koran. Yet, even as Islam ruled over Spain, the Germanic barbarians remained secure upon their estates as the Goths dutifully paid the emir’s taxes on their feudal lands which dot the entire Iberian peninsula. In return, the emir allowed the Goths to worship their Christian God and recognized their hereditary rights to Spanish properties and chattels. The emir’s own police, the al-Khurs, protected the Goths’ daughters and wives from molestation and assault, a protection not afforded to ordinary Muslims. Al-Rahman II, the reigning Emir of Cordoba, prides himself on his moderate and peaceful reign.
In keeping with the highest principles of Islam, Al-Rahman bestowed civil liberties on all his citizens. He maintained fair and impartial courts, administered by cadis, especially chosen for their knowledge of the law. Christians, Jews and Muslims, alike received just treatment under the moderate rule of al-Rahman. Not that the emir abolished slavery, brutality or violence. The lives of the lower classes, women and slaves could be a living hell. But the emir desired that the lives of the elites living under his rule be pleasurable whether they be Christian, Jewish and Muslim,. But even while the Moors fancied themselves the culture bearers of an advanced civilization, the Goths watched and waited for their opportunity to reclaim control of the land and proclaim Christianity, once again, the only true religion. Nor could they wait to begin burning heretics at the stake.
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Fate seems to have chosen Lady Sumayla to play some role in the re-emergence of Christian rule in Spain. Staring into the mirror, she wonders just what that role might be. But then her thoughts return to Kamil. And right now, Lady Sumayla is very cross with her son. Impatiently, Lady Sumayla rings a bell. Immediately, Yazmin, whose face has seen more than sixty seasons, appears.
“Has he arrived yet?” Lady Sumayla asks without turning her head.
“No, milady,” comes the answer almost before the question had been asked. Lady Sumayla notes a hint of impatience from Yazmin ___ or is it impertinence? Whichever, Yazmin should know better. Though Lady Sumayla, herself, had once been a slave, she imitated the behavior of all ninth century Moorish nobility and held slaves in contempt. And though she treated her slaves reasonably well, Lady Sumayla tolerated no disrespect.
“There’s no reason for Prince Kamil not to have come by now,” Lady Sumayla says continuing to observe Yazmin’s attitude. Yazmin holds her tongue; her mistress expects no reply. “Was my message delivered to him as I instructed?” Lady Sumayla asks.
“Yes, milady. I will bring Prince Kamil to your chambers as soon as he appears,” the old crone says.
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I must be patient, Sumayla tells herself. If it is Allah’s will that we succeed and Kamil becomes emir, I will control these scheming Christians. Nasr and Sumayla were plotting to seize power from the present emir and his family. But the plan rested on their absolute control of Kamil. Once Kamil was the emir, she would use Alaric to curb the Christian power. The thought of having Alaric completely in her power made Lady Sumayla tingle with pleasure. But stirring from her daydream, the black princess became petulant. How was she going to control Alaric when she couldn’t even control Kamil. Her son had been ignoring her completely. She had not seen him in over a week. And now these terrible rumors about Kamil and the emir’s harem frightened her. Kamil’s indescretions, Nazr’s ambitions, this had become a dangerous game that they played. And not only could they lose the game, they all could lose their heads.
“My son, my son, where are you?” Lady Sumayla sighs.“Please come home.”
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Sumayla possessed a superior intelligence and a prodigious memory. Before marrying the emir’s uncle and before living in a grand castle, Sumayla had been a slave. Her master, Horeth ibn al-Jatib was a bookseller and owned a copy house. As a child, in addition to Arabic, Sumayla learned the Romance, Latin and Greek languages, fluently. At fifteen, Sumaylay could recite the Koran from memory. She became one of Horeth’s readers. But when she met a mean-spirited eunuch who served in the emir’s court, everything changed for Sumayla. Not only did Nazr manipulate the Emir’s uncle into marrying Sumayla who made a solemn vow to bare him a son, and now Nazr was using her son ____ and her, as well ____ in his court intrigue. Under Nazr’s tutelage, Sumayla conspired and plotted for the day when her son, Prince al-Kamil ibn Abd al-Karim, would become Emir of Córdoba.
“Mi’lady,” Yazmin breaks into Sumayla’s reveries.
“Yes, what is it, Yazmin?”
“There’s a strange person in the reception hall, milady!”
“Well, how did he get there?” Sumayla asks. “Who let him in? Why are you troubling me?”
“He’s a foreigner, milady. His dress is peculiar. No one saw him enter.”
“Is he armed?”
“No, mi’lady, he has no weapons. He just stands there, speaking a strange tongue. But he understands what I say to him. Should I have him thrown out?”
“No,” Sumayla says. Her voice quivers with anticipation. “Leave him, undisturbed. I will attend him.”
In the palace reception hall, Lady Sumayla finds the stranger gaping about. His head is bare. his hair close-cropped and his clothing does not depict nobility. His open faced shirt, leather jacket and Italian-cut trousers convey a simple functionality that would only become commonplace in the last decades of the twentieth century. The touch of grey around his temples and sprinkled in his beard gave the stranger a dashing, distinguished look. Sumayla judged him to be in his forties. He’s the one. And in a low, husky voice, she addresses him. “Welcome, Frank Yerby. I was told to expect you.
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“Where am I?” Frank wonders out loud, his eyes still wandering about the palace hall. Immense marble pillars support the high vaulted ceiling covered with intricate designs. All around, arabesques and carvings decorate the walls. In the middle of the hall, a fountain sprays a fine stream of water into the air from cleverly designed fish appearing to leap into the air. Cushions, ottomans, tables and chairs are arranged throughout. Platters of fruit and sweetmeats sit upon sideboards.
“Where am I and who are you?” Yerby says in Spanish.
“You are in my home,” Lady Sumalya replies.
“And where exactly is that?” Yerby asks.
“This is the palace of the late Prince Abd al-Karim ibn al-Hixim, uncle to Abd al-Rah-
man II, Emir of Córdoba.”
Ordinarily, Frank Yerby would not have given Lady Sumayla a second look. Yet, he felt himself drawn to the Moorish princess whose dusky skin color could disguise neither her stately presence nor her subtle beauty. “I am the Lady Sumayla, widow of Prince al-Karim, Mr. Yerby, or shall I call you Frank? It so awkward speaking face to face with one’s creator.”
“Ah, you are Lady Sumayla, of my novel, An Odor of Sanctity,” Yerby surmises.
“Very good, Frank,” the princess continues, getting right to the point, “do you know why we sent for you?”
“Does it have something to do with some of the characters from my books wanting to be remembered?” Yerby asks.
“We don’t just want to live __ we want to achieve, we want to excel,” Sumayla says. “And most importantly, I want my son to become Emir. So I need your help.”
Yerby becomes anxious and disoriented. He decides to suspend his disbelief. “You need my help?”
“I need you to tell me the future,” she said demurely. “I want to know whether my plans for Kamil will be successful.”
“If I may say so, Your Ladyship,” Yerby begins, shifting uncomfortably on his pillowed ottoman, “this seems to be a rather strange request, especially considering it comes from one of my own creations. I have a difficult time believing in immortality.So I don’t see
how I can give you something I don’t have.”
“I am not asking for immortality, Frank,” Sumayla tells him. “I’m offering it.”
“How can you offer me immortality?” Yerby scoffs.
“The same way I summoned you here,” Sumayla replies focusing his attention. “You wouldn’t have been the first writer forced to bend to the superior will of his creation.”
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“What!” Yerby snorts. “Superior will! How can a fictional character in one of my books have a will superior to mine?
Sumayla decides to take a different tack and appeal to Yerby’s vanity. “You believe you’ve had a successful career, don’t you, Frank?”
“How do you judge your success?”
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“By my work, of course,” Yerby answers.
“Then what’s the matter with you, Frank? You’ve written some great stuff. Are you so lacking in pride and ambition that you would allow your life’s work to be ignored and consigned to the dustbin of obscurity. Even your own children seem to have forgotten you ever existed!” Yerby winces. Sumayla exposes Yerby’s secret fear.
“You think that you’re facing your death bravely,” she continues. “But, admit it, you’re scared.”
Yerby remains silent. Sumayla comes close and barely whispers.
“Aren’t you here, despite your monumental arrogance, Mr. Frank Yerby, to learn whether or not your creation can give you immortality?”
Yerby is undone.
“You’re not compelled to give up your disbelief in God,” Lady Sumayla continues. “You can continue as before, keeping an open mind and learning from your experiences. But we need you because you open up possibilities that didn’t exist before. We open up possibilities for you, as well. Serve us, not as the arrogant fool you were, but as a person believing in his own abilities. Allow us to help you develop your intelligence and we will give you the strength to face your own death.”
Yerby listens. “What do you want me do?” Yerby asks, quietly.
“Your belief in your own intelligence ultimately is the only faith there is. Don’t give it up. Not yet.”
Lady Sumayla is quick to answer. “You can see the future and you can guide me in my great task.”
Just at that moment, there is a stir among the servants. A tall, muscular Negro strides into the great reception hall.
“Kamil!” Lady Sumayla shouts rising to go over to greet her son. “Where have you been?”
“Hello, Mother.” Kamil’s manner is reserved, somewhat arrogant, typical of the petty bureaucarats who help Al-Rahman rule his Caliphate. Kamil gives his mother a short bow before kissing her on both cheeks. Kamil’s skin glows a coppery color, a perfect blend of his Gothic and African lineage. And his emerald green eyes makes his skin color all the more striking. None of the Arabs of the emir’s court, including his uncle, have green eyes like Alaric and many of the other Goths. None of the emir’s court doubted that Kamil was the son of the Gothic Lord, Alaric Teudisson.
“Kamil,” Lady Sumayla addresses her son, “why have you ignored me for so long? You know I worry about you.”
You worry more about Nasr’s plans for Cordova, I fear, Kamil says to himself.
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In the mid-ninth century, Córdoba is the largest center of learning and culture outside of Istanbul. The Emir’s capital boasts over 200,000 houses and 700 public baths serving over a million souls. Cordoba’s workshops employ 13,000 weavers, armorers and leather workers. Thousands flock to Córdoba to learn the trades. Throughout the world Cordoban skill and craftsmanship are legendary. Merchants and farmers from Galicia to Asturias, from Andalusia to Estremadura, sell everything from fruits and produce to meats, poultry and fish and breads, cakes and pies in Córdoba’s teeming marketplaces. Goods bought and sold in Córdoba were transported down the Guadalquivir River to Seville. From Seville, they were loaded onto ships and transported across the Mediterranean Sea to trading capitals all over the world. Tales of Córdoba’s wealth drew the attention of northern Europeans; some were interested in engaging in peaceful commerce, but many others sought only plunder and war. Prince Kamil won fame and glory at the emir’s’s court by fighting against an invading arny of viking Norsemen bent on rape and plunder. After the battle, Al-Rahman rewarded Kamil by officially recognizing him as his royal cousin to the emir, a member of the royal family and a prince of the realm. Prior to this “official ” recognition, the circumstances of Kamil’s birth, the worse-kept secret in Córdoba, made Sumayla’s son an outcast.
“You will regret recognizing this ‘mongrel’, “ the emir’s brother warned al-Rahman.
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But Al-Rahman’s natural magnanimity would not allow Kamil’s bravery to go unrewarded. Not only did Kamil facing the hordes of white, hairy beasts streaming out of their ships, in a murderous frenzy, but, during the fighting, he he saved the life of Alaric Teudisson. Al-Rahman’s own son, al-Mundhir, was married to Alaric’s daughter, Theodora. Al-Rahman decided to reward Kamil further by appointing him to a position in his court. The emir’s half breed cousin was appointed secretary to the vizier of correspondence with an apartment in the palace of viziers. In an elaborate court ceremony, attended by members of the royal family including Prince Abd al-Karim ibn al-Hixim, the emir’s uncle and Kamil’s “legal father,” dignitaries from all over the Emirate witnessed Al-Rahman bestow upon Kamil a tiraz, a gorgeous golden robe, embroidered with the symbols of his new office. The presentation of the tiraz left no doubt anywhere in the Caliphate that Emir Al-Rahman held his cousin, Prince al-Kamil ibn Abd al-Karim ibn al-Hixim, in great esteem.
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“I’ve been busy, mother,” Kamil explains to Sumayla. “There’s a lot happening at court. These disturbances by the Christian have kept me up reading and replying to correspondence almost every night.”
“Yes,” Sumayla responds, “we have heard that you have been quite busy at night.” Her attempt at irony doesn’t escape her son, but Kamil ignores his mother’s remark. The first thing the vizier of corrrespondence taught Kamil that discretion was the most important of all the virtues.
“You know that my duties at the palace take up all my time,” Kamil says. “The emir did not appoint me so that I can come and go as you command. Besides Nasr ….”
“Oh, you don ’t have to tell me about Nasr,” the princess sighs. “I know how he behaves, sometimes. But you just have to tolerate him, poor thing.” Sumayla feels sorry for Nasr whose castration left him burning with hatred. “I owe Nasr my life. But for him I would still be a slave and you,my son, would never have been born.”
“But look, Kamil, let me introduce Frank Yerby.” Lady Sumayla grabs Yerby’s arm and leads him over to Kamil. “He has come to unlock the future for us ___ and possibly your past as well.”
The young prince turnes to observe Frank Yerby more closely. “You really did it! You brought him to us!” Kamil is always amazed at his mother’s accomplishments, but this time, she has outdone herself. “I never believed it possible, but you did it.”
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The prince takes a seat and calls for some refreshments. He observes Yerby for awhile.
“Mother doesn’t understand the complexities that Christians bring to our civilization.”
Prince Kamil says. “My real father is a Christian so she believes that when I become Emir, I’ll be able to handle them. But I pray that the day that I become emir, Allah protect us, is a long way off.”
Yerby notices a quick tightening at the corners of Lady Sumayla’s mouth. “There’s still much that she hasn’t told him,” Yerby observes.
“My mother’s afraid that the Christians will not rest until they have conquered and enslaved all the Muslims in Spain. And with that wonderful logic, known only to women, my mother believes that I am to be Cardoba’s savior. She believes that as emir, I could unite Christians, Jews and Muslims into one great religious faith which would practice toleration and brotherhood.”
“Does she?” Yerby says raising his eyebrows in amusement.
“He scoffs,” Sumayla observes, “but the Arian Christians are barbarians. They forbid intermarriage between themselves and anyone else, even other Christians.They even shun the Romans. They set themselves above every other people. They have sworn to dominate or exterminate. We cannot allow them to gain power. Someone good like you,
my son, must take charge.”
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Prince Kamil shakes his head. “The Christians have many forts and walled cities.”
“Yes, I agree,” Lady Sumayla replies, “but, if Christian fanatics continue their disturbances, the emirate could face severe problems.”
“I can’t believe that the Christians would allow the Peace of the Prophet to be destroyed,” Kamil says. “Did not my own father suffer from grievous wounds received from Viking invaders who sought to overthrow the Peace of the Prophet? If I became the emir, I would find a way for the Christians to have more say in the government and eliminate the religious disputes which serve neither Christian nor Moor.”
“Yet, young Master,” Yerby observes prophetically, “since the Christians do have many forts and walled cities, surely they intend to keep up these disturbance for some time.”
Kamil considers Yerby’s words without comment.
“Now,” Lady Sumalya says, grabbing her son’s arm and dragging him over to her private chambers, “come and tell me all you have seen and accomplished since last we talked. What have you learned of the people?”
But before Kamil can reply, Lady Sumayla turns to Yerby and claps her hands. A servant immediately appears as if from thin air. “Khalid will show you to your rooms and see to your needs.” Then, gazing deeply into Yerby’s eyes, the black princess touches his forearm. Her fingers on his skin were warm and reassuring. “Don’t worry, Frank,” Sumayla says, “I will explain it all to you, but first I must talk with my son. It’s very important.”
Khalid was a bent and wizened little fellow with the round and protuberant potbelly that is characteristic of eunuchs, but the rest of him was thin and wiry. Yerby finds it difficult to judge the eunuch’s age. The toothless grin Khalid flashes from time to time suggests that he might be in his mid-forties which was ancient in ninth-century Spain ___ especially for a slave.
“How long have you worked for the princess?” Yerby asks. They leave the reception area and pass through a number of corridors and doorways connecting the halls and apartments of Princess Sumayla’s palace, which, in truth, was only somewhat less opulent than the emir’s palaces in the Alcazar. When Lady Sumayla married the emir’s uncle, at Nasr’s urging, she begged her husband to build her a palace on the banks of the Guadalquiver River. Nasr’s intrigues required that he have a safehouse away from prying eyes of the emir’s al-Khurs whose network of agents and spies reached deep into the various levels of Cordaban society. Lady Sumayla’s palace proved to be an excellent meeting place for the Emirate’s arch-conspirator.
Seeing that Khalid has ignored him, Yerby repeats his question, a little louder. “How long have you worked for the princess?”
But again, the shuffling figure ahead does not respond. In frustration,Yerby reaches out, grabs the black eunuch and whirls him completely around. “How long have you worked for the princess?” he shouts.
The little man bows humbly and moves his lips, but no sound escapes his mouth. Khalid makes several simple gestures with his hand to his mouth helping Yerby understand that the eunuch had his tongue removed. Once he was certain that Yerby understood that he was unable to speak, Khalid continues down the corridor that ends in front of two massive doors. Khalid goes through the doors and shows Yerby into a large circular vestibule around which were placed cushions and low furniture. Around the spacious room, great columns supported an arched ceiling in whose center was an opaque dome through which sunlight was filtered. Below this great skylight sat a fountain. Archways opened on opposite sides of the vestibule.To the left lay a bed chamber with bed and closets containing a wardrobe for a prince. To the right, a tiled bathing area held a great sunken bathing pool.Tables on the side held decanters of bath salts, oils and fragrances. Towels and robes lay neatly folded in closets on the opposite wall.
The bathing room opened onto a patio with a private garden. Yerby decides to take advantage of the bathing facilities.When he finished luxuriating, he found that Khalid had brought refreshments into the vestibule. Silently serving Yerby from silver plates, Khalid made certain that his guest wanted for nothing.Then, after indicating that a servant was stationed on duty outside his apartment, Khalid took his leave and Yerby was left to his own thoughts. Meanwhile back in her private apartment, the Lady Sumayla turned her attention to her son.
“What is this that I have been hearing about you and the Lady Tarub?” Sumayla fixes Kamil with a look that says she is serious. Kamil decides to be as truthful about his affair as he must ___ but no more.
“Well, mother,” her son begins, “it ’s really all your fault, you know.”
“My fault?” Lady Sumayla responds. This is going to be worse than I had imagined, she tells herself. She decides not to let Kamil know how much she already knows. “How am I responsible for you getting your head separated from your shoulders over Lady Tarub, the emir’s favorite wife?”
“If you had not trained me to be a linguist, like yourself,” Kamil replies with a straight face, “I probably would not have been involved with the Lady Tarub.”
In the emir’s court, the most prized females were the blond, blue-eyed northern Europeans. To many members of the dark-skinned races such as the emir and his princes, the milk-white skin, skinny hipped and ponderous breasted barbarian wenches were the most desirable women in the harem. Who am I to cast stones? Sumayla laughs to herself. But today, Sumayla she did not feel happy, she felt angry, really very angry. She felt betrayed and duped. She felt like a parent who has lived her whole life with a spoiled, self-indulgent and only child.
“I think you had better tell me the whole story from the beginning,” Sumayla instructs Kamil, quietly. “And don ’t leave anything out.”
Well, I certainly intend to leave out as much as I possibly can, Kamil tells himself. There is no reason to get mother any more involved in this thing than necessary.I don’t even remember how it all began?
Kamil loved and admired Al-Rahman. The emir not only recognized Kamil as a kinsman, but whenever Kamil was in court, he always greeted him affectionately. Kamil tried to ignore Nasr’s and his mother’s plots on his behalf. But he owed his mother his life. So Kamil tried to go about his business doing exactly as he was told without really considering the consequences of his mother’s actions. Kamil limited his own ambitions to serve the Al-Rahman to the best of his abilities. He liked that the emir was genuinely
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concerned for the welfare of the people of Cordoba. Dealing with official correspondence, Kamil could see the lengths the emir took to eliminate corruption and theft from his administration. Kamil didn’t need his mother to tell him that he had gotten in way over his head with Umm Walad Tarub, Emir Al-Rahman’s favorite wife.
“Nasr told me that he wanted me to read to the emir’s harem,” Kamil begins. “He said that wanted me to test a new device invented by the philospher the emir brought from Alexandria.”
“Read! To the emir’s wives? Impossible!” Sumayla says. “How?”
“The philospher invented a device that would let me read aloud in one room and be heard in another,” Kamil explains. “Nasr persuaded the emir that his wives would profit by hearing the readings of the Koran and be entertained by readings of poetry and philosophy.”
“It will be strictly for your ladies’ entertainment and diversion,” Nasr told the emir. “Prince Kamil will read from one room and the sound of his voice, enhanced by the natural acoustics of wood paneling, will be heard in the adjoining chamber.” The idea appealed to the emir, not so much because he wanted to cure his wives’ tedium, but because he was intrigued by any technical innovation brought to his court.”
“So how did the gossip begin about you and the emir’s wife?” Sumayla asks. She knew how skillfully Kamil avoided telling the complete truth when he wanted. It had all begun so innocently, Kamil remembered. He would enter a room completely separated from the harem and read into a tube. The emir’s wives could hear the reading in their quarters. From the very beginning, the prince’s deep sensual voice enchanted the emir’s wives ___ especially Lady Umm Walad Tarub, the daughter of a wealthy Venetian merchant, captured by Muslim corsairs raiding Christian merchant ships on the Mediterranean Sea. Lady Tarub, a slim and voluptuous beauty, always got her way, especially when she was restless and bored. Though the emir’s wives were forbidden access to the emir’s council meetings, he allowed Lady Tarub to listen to his council proceedings from a secret ante-chamber. “The one who reports on correspondence has a voice that stirs my soul,” the Lady Tarub remarked to Nasr. That was all the grand vizier needed to hear. He arranged for Kamil to deliver weekly readings to the emir’s harem and awaited for the results.
The emir’s harem cares less about the readings and more about the reader. His voice, wondrously sensual, enchants them.The emir’s wives talk of nothing other than courtier with the wonderful voice. Tarub decides that she wants to meet the man with the wondrous voice. Lady Tarub approaches Nasr. The emir’s grand vizier arranges for Tarub and Kamil to meet. After a succession of meetings, the emir’s handsome green-eyed mulatto cousin and his young blue-eyed, honey-blond wife fall helplessly in love. Kamil attends his official court duties with scrupulous attention. He doesn’t want to arouse the suspicions of the vizier of correspondence. After dark, Kamil sneaks into the royal gardens through a secret tunnel. During that magical time, when evening shadows hide the lovers, these victims of Cupid’s barbs desparately cling to each other and make plans.
“Tarub,” Kamil whispers,“for the sake of Allah, please …”
“Are you a coward?” Lady Tarub taunts her lover. “I was told that in the battle against the infidel Vikings, you surpassed all others in bravery. You saved your father’s life. Why does the sight of a woman weaken you?”
But what a sight was the Lady Umm Walad Tarub. Her flowing golden-reddish blond hair framed her fair sharply chiseled features with tiny freckles dancing on the tip of her nose. Deep blue eyes tantalized Kamil with their mocking gaze just above the filmy half veil that extends down a little below her chin. The veil, as transparent as spring water, made subtle mockery of the Prophet’s command to maintain female modesty, for the ruby red lips glistening through the veil induces a delirium into Kamil’s brain. Tarub’s body so close and perfectly shaped with legs that reached up to a tiny waist. Tarub wears a short brocaded jacket opened to reveal the fetching sight of twin mounds of flesh, their rouge-red tips dancing within easy reach of Kamil’s trembling hands.Tarub wears billowing silk harem trousers, revealing long, shapely legs and bejeweled ankles.
“Coward!” Tarub taunts him. “Come here and kiss me. I haven’t tasted those sweet lips for such a long time.” Helpless to resist, Kamil drew her to him and slants his face downward so that their mouths could meet. Slowly he moved his lips to hers, touching her ever so gently. But sweeping his hands up behind his head and locking them, she clings to Kamil, grinding her mouth against his, her tongue darting serpent-like into his mouth ___ kindling a flame of desire that turns into an inferno, burning down into his loins.
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Tarub grinds the length of her body against him, scalding him with breast and thigh, and devouring him with succulent kisses. And as Tarub arches up to feel the entire length of his muscular manliness, Kamil feels the terror of someone destined for a meeting with the ax man. Lost in forbidden passion, maddened by his inability to turn away, Kamil is fully aware of the consequences of his terrible betrayal. He is touching not just of another man’s wife; he is locked in a passionate embrace with the Al-Rahman’s favorite wife.
For this Kamil knows that he must die, but Tarub’s scent is so intoxicating and her touch, so electrifying that Kamil is resigned to die, if it is necessary, just for one night of ecstasy. Boldly, he frees his hands, pushes aside her flimsy garment and caresses her bare flesh, roughly, almost brutally, as if punishing her for his weakness.
“I’m sorry,” Kamil says after he is finally able to control his passions.
“Don’t be,” Tarub says breathlessly desire coursing through her veins like a flow of hot lava. “You’re the man I want! You’re the man I must have! I would let you do what you like right now, if I thought we had time.”
“By the Prophet’s beard,” Kamil whispers, “there is no one lovelier than you!”
“Kamil, my love?” Tarub purrs.
“You must come to my chambers,” she says.
“How can I do that?” the lovelorn prince replies, “even now we are in great danger and must soon part.”
“Even so,” she replies. “I have a plan. If it works, we will be able to spend an entire night together. Don’t you want to?”
“You know I do.”
“Well, the day of the Breaking of the Fast will be in two weeks,” she reminds him. “After the banquet, which you will attend, everyone will be exhausted.”
“But what if the Emir wishes to visit you in your chambers?” Kamil asks.
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“I will arrange for a sleeping potion to be given to the emir,” Tarub responds with a twinkle in her eyes. “He will not want to visit me on the night after the day’s ceremonies and festivities. Besides I will be ill and not able to leave my chamber.”
“One of the emir’s al-Khurs or eunuchs is certain to discover us,” Kamil points out. “They would suffer the most terrible torture and death, if they were not to report us immediately.”
“We can do it,” Tarub responds. “Nasr will help us.”
“Nasr!” Kamil exclaims.
Once again she holds him in a passionate embrace, her hot breath blows against his bare throat. Breaking away, she whispers, “I must go. Remember, the night of the Breaking of the Fast, we will be together.”
“But Tarub …,” Kamil protests weakly.
“Is it not worth the risk, my love?” she asks, fondling him.
“By Allah, yes …” Kamil answered,,“but …”
“Until then, my prince,” she says gaily, before slipping from his grasp, wrapping a great grey veil about her and skipping away. This last meeting with the Lady Tarub was all Kamil thought about, but, of course, he couldn’t tell his mother about it.
“I don’t know how all this gossip began,” Kamil lies, “but you know how the servants talk. You can’t believe half of what they say.”
“Yes, I know how the gossip flies about within the confines of the Alcazar,”
Sumayla agrees. Most of the slaves involved in gossip, rumor and the passing of secrets work for her. One reason Nasr was so attracted to Sumayla at the very beginning was her highly organized and absolutely faithful network of spies and agents. A Christian Goth like Nasr could never have established such a network.
4 8 F R A N K Y E R B Y :
From her earliest days as a reader in Horeth’s copy house, the copyists thought of Sumayla as a saint. Horeth demanded that the twenty or more slaves, most of whom were white, who produced his books complete a minimum number of texts each week. In addition, he demanded that the books be free of errors. Horeth would fly into a rage when he was forced to give a customer a refund or exchange a customer’s book because of an error. Horeth beat copyists who cost him money. After suffering a beatings, one slave remained maimed for life. Infrequently a copyist died from Horeth’s beating. Sumayla always tried to assist her copyists. She proofread their material and even dictated the text again, when necessary. In return, the copyists told Sumayla everything. Sumayla always knew Córdoba’s latest gossip. Even after Horeth sold a copyists, she would return to tell Sumayla the latest gossip in the households of her new masters. Sumayla always had the latest news from the markets and the juciest gossip from the baths. Then Nasr was merely a lowly administrator in the royal court. Sumayla amazed him with her encyclopedic knowledge of Cordoba and Al-Rahman’s court.
Nasr immediately profited from Sumayla’s information. Soon he became more than a court scribe. Nazr became the man to know in Al-Rahman’s court. With the information in his possession, Nazr becane a confidant of the emir, himself. Nasr always knew who was vulnerable to blackmail and how to eliminate a rival. Nazr always knew when
A V I C T I M ’S G U I L T 4 9
and where his own enemies intended to strike. It was Nasr’s genius to bring Sumayla’s network from the streets of Córdoba into the Alcazar, itself. A full fifty percent of the female slaves and sevants within the Emir’s own household belonged to Sumayla’s network.
“You know how dangerous it is to have anything to do with the emir’s harem, my son?” Sumayla tries to sound calm and supportive. “You must be careful, especially now.”
“Yes mother,” Kamil mutters. “I will be very careful.”
Deciding that any further words would defeat her purpose, Lady Sumayla allowed the matter to rest ____ for the time being.
But for Kamil the torment continues. It had only been two weeks since the young lovers last met. Anyone. remembering their own youth. understands how meaningless even the threat of death is to someone in love. For as surely as the sun shone on the white and red tiles of Córdoba, Kamil loved the Lady Tarub. Of course, in orchestratrating the love affair, the grand vizier knew was taking a risk. Already the gossip was flying about the Alcazar. It was just a matter of time before all Córdoba would know, as well. Then the rumors were certain to reach the ears of the emir himself. There was no turning back now, as Lady Sumayla knew. But Nasr’s plots were always cleverly planned and well executed. When it came to a power grab, Nazr never made mistakes.