Authors: Lazlo Ferran
Tags: #erotic, #military, #history, #war, #russia, #princess, #incest, #king, #fortress, #sword, #palace, #asia, #shamanism, #royalty, #bow, #spear, #central asia, #cannon, #siege, #ghengis khan, #mongol
Infinite Blue Heaven
A King and A Queen
Copyright © 2006 by Lazlo Ferran
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Author’s note: I have set this story in a fictional country somewhere in the Steppes of what is now modern Russia. Not too far from Europe but touched by the textures of the east. The units of measure are historical and accurate, and the armour and fighting techniques are those which might be used by a people descended from the Mongols of Kublai Khan. The use of words in conversation, especially slang, is not accurate. I have used the modern English equivalent to give a flavour of life then.
Units of Measurement
Russian foot = English foot
1 foot = 6.857 vershok
1 foot= 1.7 pyad
1 sachine = 7 feet
500 sachine = 1 verst
1 verst = 6000 pyad
1 arshin = 28 inches
1 kg = 78 lots
1 berkovets = 12800 lots (400 lbs)
1 lb = 32 lots
I am floating. I am not sure which part of my life this is. But I am happy.
Her name is Shakira and she is the love of my life. Sometimes we fight and sometimes people look at the world around them and one day, perhaps, men will look beyond the stars.
She often reminds me of her mother but she is more than her mother. She is a princess. We make love together but always we are happy. We look into each other’s eyes and so...
I am King Vaslav I and this is my palace.
My personal chambers, on the third floor, are directly opposite hers and both lead on to a wide echoing corridor, lit by oil-soaked torches, day and night. The flag-stones would be cold to a bare foot’s touch but are covered with a long, midnight-blue carpet, and the walls are draped with red cloth and tapestries to keep in what heat there is. Every ten paces or so there are tables, adorned with flowers and some with fruit, and some have oil paintings over them. These are mostly of country scenes but some feature my ancestors and distant relatives. One of them, of my Uncle Alzibor, makes me laugh so much, because it looks nothing like him! He is a fat old man, corpulent but this portrait would have him as a lithe buck in his early twenties.
Next to the tables are high-backed chairs, also upholstered in red but this time, a felt material of the finest quality. I have tried to make the place as cheerful as possible since my wife died. Of course, at first I was almost defeated by it, by there came a day when I leaped out of bed and instructed my clerics to start ordering all the finest materials for the refurbishment of the whole palace. I would not have this princess growing up in a gloomy place.
The corridor, leading only to my own bath chamber at the rear, is separated, at the front, from the main Palace by a large, red curtain, four sachine high, from floor to the high, vaulted ceiling. Beyond this is a large open space, which we now use as a dining area. In my youth, I remember it being simply an anti-chamber for the Royal Family’s Chambers, my parents and two brothers and it only contained a small, thrown carpet and a number of Royal Guards. Now, there are only two of us and in these troubled times, we keep to ourselves and entertain seldom. Only Gregor, my own personal Chamber Servant and Shakira’s Maidservants are allowed beyond the curtain and only a few other kitchen and serving staff even that far. Within these confines, however we are a merry troupe and we often have fine evenings together here.
Being largely symmetrical, in the style of most European palaces of this, the 17
Century, there is another, identical corridor, the other side of my Bed Chamber, The Kings’s, which is in the centre of the wing. I have had this blocked off from the anti-chamber and all other rooms and it now leads down, through a cut, secret staircase, to an inner courtyard with a small stable of two horses, maintained by a personal groom, and then out of the rear of the castle, through a secret way that only a very few know. This, should the need ever arise, would by mine and Shakira’s escape route. I can only vaguely remember the landscape there from my youth. I remember a forest and a track leading up through the hills to a high valley and there the path splits into four, one leading to a nearby village, where help and fresh supplies could be got.
The castle is high, six stories in the main part, but with six towers leading up through eight floors and it's built in what is now called the Gothic style. Of course, when it was built, I am told, six hundred years ago, it was just the latest style. It covers about six European acres, with a main forecourt inside the main gate, guarded by portcullis and moat, and then an inner gate into the main, enclosed square of the palace. Inside this there is a large garden, with fountains and stables and many reception areas. It is all very civilised and, as Shakira tells me, figures greatly in her plans to rejuvenate the place with large balls and parties. Ha! I look forward to it! Ah, but I forgot to mention the fruit trees. Yes! In the garden, Shakira has had planted the very latest fruit trees from Europe. There are apple, plum and some that I had tried the fruit of but had never seen growing, orange and peach. In our warm climate it is possible to grow these but the gardeners never stop complaining about how difficult it is. I have had to increase their salaries three times in two years!
Shakira has made very good friends of some of the gardener’s and stable-hand’s daughters and has, I believe, a quite flirtatious friendship with one of the young stable-hands there.
In front of the castle, outside the moat, for a distance of about 200 sachine, are a further set of tree-lined walkways, lawns and gardens, all which Shakira had requested. Originally the town, or Parat City as it is now known, had come right up to the moat and I had a very difficult and expensive time moving the town-folk out of their homes and relocating them. To the left side of the castle there is a large flat space used for jousting and feast days. The other side is bounded by the River Astigariz, fast flowing and cold, from the range of mountains behind us. The town lies in a spur of the main valley, which eventually leads down to the great River Darya and beyond to all my lands. This, then is my land of Bermenia, fought over and despoiled by generations of Monguls, Afgans, Kurds and the western Tribes but beloved of my people and myself.
I have often regretted that the castle is so near to, indeed effectively inside, the main town. It would be nice to have some peace and be able to expand its grounds further. But I suppose, at least the town offers some sort of security.
Of course it was built as a palace and not a castle to defend my kingdom. That is why it occupies a central position. It still has very strong defenses though, as would befit a place of last refuge in the case of an all-out attack, but it is not strategically positioned near a pass, or border, like my one hundred and fifty other castles. I suppose it could be said to defend a route in from the high mountains to the north but since nobody had yet managed to pass over them at this point without using one of the several passes either side, which are guarded, this is an academic point. Perhaps some intelligent soul – one of my predecessors did have this in mind – build it here, just in case. In fact, one of my first decrees, when I became King, was to raise taxes so we could launch an expedition to find such a route through the mountains. Azan-Ban led it, as I recall, and never returned. It didn’t help my popularity ratings as he was a folk legend.
Shakira and I rarely visited any of the other castles. They are poorly maintained and uncomfortable, although one of them, high in the mountains offered cool relief in the very hot August nights, we had some years ago. Usually though, I would spend such evenings high on the parapet of one of the tall towers. It was a struggle, at my age, to get up there but out of breath, carrying a skin of Potka, potato whiskey, something I drank more and more of these days, I would be happy, sitting on one of the old, dusty chairs, watching the crows on the roof tops below, or circulating above, outmaneouvred by the piping swallows. High above the hustle and bustle of the town, it was also peaceful up there and I could forget, briefly, wars.
This evening was one such August evening. Looking south west, I could see the orb of the sun, just touching the horizon, as Shakira puffed her way onto the parapet and slipped her slight hand into mine. We often didn’t need to speak.
She had sat on my lap but I hardly noticed the weight, playing with each of the fingers on her left hand, be-ringed with circles of gold and silver and sparkling with delicate jewels. It wasn’t that she was so light, she was now a full woman, but that I was so used to the weight, it hardly seemed to register. After a while though, my legs creaked and I spoke.
“Any news from below?”
“Yes. Lord Bulya says you are a coward and a sloven. He says he is going to raise his own army and, when he has defeated Korim, he will defeat your own army and become King.”
I smiled at the small of her back and then laughed so she could tell I understood her joke.
“Don’t be silly. You know he would never say that. That would be treason and I could have his head!”
“But that is what he is thinking!”
“I have no doubt you are right. Your sources are probably better than mine and mine tell me the same thing.”
you going to do?”
“Rebuild the army and take back the land we have lost. Next spring.”
“But it will be too late. You know he has reinforcements on the way and most likely, he will further his front line.”
“Maybe.” I had an idea but it was too freshly formed and untested in my mind to share yet.
Later, when there was only moonlight left, we both walked, hand in hand, back into the Castle and down the long winding stair case, humming a traditional song together in time to our steps on the stairs. Few came up here now and many of the flags were cracked and covered in dust and dirt.
There were at least two routes back to our wing, one, to descend all the way to the third floor on the stairs and then take the main corridor to the hall at the point where the wing joined the main castle. The second, was to leave the stairs two floors above and walk down a narrow servants’ passage to a transverse corridor, which lead to a tight spiral staircase. This led down, with slit openings onto a vast hall, on to the third floor and after a short passage to the main corridor with doors, into that hall. Shakira chose this way and, in the almost pitch black, it was hard to see. She stopped just outside the doorway to that hall and stared into it.
“Do you remember this?”
We had played hide and seek, when she was much younger. The hall, uncared for, like many of the countless rooms in the palace, was vaulted, two stories high, with galleries either side at first floor height, for musicians and serving staff. It had probably once been a banqueting hall. Great slices of plaster, painted in tempera, lay all across the dusty floor and on the rotting tables and chairs, mostly stacked along one wall. Three giant iron candelabras, hung on chains in the centre of the room. Around the room, in several places, there were narrow openings, which led to the tight spiral stairs leading up to the first floor galleries. Faint light crept in through the western side of the palace and the two or three rooms between the walls and this hall. Somebody had cleverly designed the palace with many openings at similar spots high in the walls so that light could stretch deep inside. At one end of the hall was a stage.
“Do you remember what this room was used for?”
“Noo! You asked me before. I still can’t remember, although I am thinking now that maybe it was used for theatre.”
“I have never seen theatre. Could we have one? Please?”
“Hmm. Yes. It’s a good idea. I will think about it. Any particular production, my sweet princess?”
“Shakespeare, I think. A Midsummer Night’s Dream!”
“Oh really? I didn’t know you had read that one. Hmm.”
“Shall I swing again on the chandelier?”
She grinned at me girlishly and were it not for the beautiful low-cut gown and her full body, she would be a girl of twelve again. The last time we had been in here, she had stood on a table underneath one of the iron Candelabras and reached up towards it with a pleading look on her face. Eventually I had relented and lifted her by her calves, tightly gripped, until her hands caught the edge of the iron ring. She had swung gently and her raucous laughter had flitted around the hall like winged ghosts of parties past.