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Bawdy Tales Pt. 04 — The Soldier's Story

Colsterworde, The Cony, May 29th. Our journey yesterday took us through the centre of the great town of Newark, where King John had died of the bloody flux just seven score years afore. His death, though still spoken of in lore as a warning, was little lamented as he was a cruel tyrant and his hand on his subjects was heavy and unfair.

We did not tarry long in Newark. We were afeard to announce our presence because we had heard tales of bands of robbers falling upon the few defenceless travellers on the road. So after buying a few items from the paltry stalls in the market place, we continued on south. In older and happier times, even as far north as a York the great market in Newark had been famed for the wonders on sale there.

As we crested a small hill a thousand paces or so from the town centre, we could see the great cathedral of Lincoln shining like a beacon in the distance, though it offered little hope in these hellish times.

Another mile brought us to the village of Benningtun where we hoped to rest our bones for the night. But when we came to the inn — the White Cock from the board swinging in the breeze above its door — there was no welcoming sign of smoke rising from its chimneys. The door was open, and on entering, we were greeted by the stench of death. On the floor were the rotting and partially devoured bodies of half a dozen people, lying in dried up pools of piss and blood. After crossing ourselves out of custom rather than belief, we hurried on into the falling dusk.

We were glad of the company of our man of arms, for passing through a place where the trees pressed close on the road we were set upon by brigands. With two strokes of his sword our new friend despatched two of them to meet their maker, leaving their bodies bleeding in the dust of the road as a warning. The rest fled for their lives into the forest, and I was sure that we wouldn't be troubled again that night. In God’s truth, I felt sorry for them, driven as they were desperation rather than malice. Such is the state into which we are descended.

It was long dark when we arrived here, and we were in no mind for stories. So after a meal of broth and bread washed down by a flagon of weak ale, we made our way to our beds exhausted and footsore.

Today after a long sleep we tarried here and after a fine supper of mutton we cast around for who would regale us with a saucy tale to wile away the hours to bed. In truth Dame Elizabeth’s story had rather depressed our spirits because of the sadness we all felt at the loss of her child. The soldier then spoke up and offered a tale of his own from out the store of memories of his long life.

ooOoo

The Soldier’s Tale

I am now a very old man and most of my old comrades in arms have either died in battle or those few who were lucky in the arms of some whore. As I have survived both war and pestilence, I surmise that God, or more likely the Devil, is not yet ready to accept my soul. As a youth, I was well built for my age and eager to see the world so when I was just sixteen I became a mercenary in the army of Henry II of Cyprus. I journeyed to the Levant to join the garrison in Acre and only just escaped the massacre of the remaining Christians there in the year 1291. During the few months I was there, I was curious to learn the secrets of the East and spent my free hours in the inns along the waterfront.

One day I met an elderly Frenchman who had taken up with a Muslim woman and had eventually converted to that religion so as to marry her. He told me the tale of a mysterious Italian who had passed that way many years before with the intent of taking the spice road to India to learn the language and customs of that fabled land. Intrigued, I made further enquiries, and this is the tale that I eventually pieced together with suitable embellishments of my own for your entertainment.

ooOoo

Bathed in the golden light of the early evening sunlight she sat gazing out of the open window onto the street below. The feet of tired workers hurrying to their homes from their daily toil in the fields stirred up the dust to settle on the brightly coloured saris of the women making their last minute purchases of vegetables from one of the many stalls by the roadside and the white dhotis of the men buying their leaf-wrapped packets of paan. The happy chatter of voices was punctuated every few seconds by the shouts of the young men driving their herds of buffaloes to the river, but lost in her reverie; she was barely aware of the world around her.

In another hour the sun would sink below the horizon and the silence of the night would descend on the street, the darkness lit only by the fires of the braziers around which men would sit to tell their stories or chew in silent contemplation. Surely he would come soon she thought; he had been gone for over a week, but he had promised he would return soon to spend a few nights of bliss with her — her tall, handsome foreigner with his gentle ways and tender words of love.

As she sat there, she remembered with pleasure the young man who had left her not an hour since after an afternoon of love. Poor Mukesh, he was so painfully shy and inexperienced. His concerned parents had brought him to her house, worried that he would never find a bride. But Mukesh seemed to show no interest in any of the eligible girls they introduced him to. He would hardly utter a word and when he did speak it was so quietly that one could barely pick out one word in ten. It was no use his mother pointing out his many admirable qualities and wonderful prospects as the only son of a successful trader in the spices so much in demand by Arab traders arriving in the nearby city.

So they brought him to her, Alekhya, a courtesan, to see if she could bring him out of his shell and instruct him in the arts of love. After his parents had left and they were alone, she sat beside him on the divan, leaning against him gently so that he could feel the warmth of her body pressing against his arm, and whilst they shared a glass of aam panna asked him in a low voice to tell her about himself. It took a long time to get him to relax, but eventually he started to talk more fluently and easily. This was, after all, one of the skills of the courtesan — to put men at ease before she seduced them and took them to a place of ecstasy and delight in her arms.

When she thought that the time was ripe, she took his hand and pressed it to herself, encouraging him to enjoy the softness of her body. It must be said that his caresses were rather clumsy, but she knew that after a few more afternoons of subtle instruction she would turn him into a skilled lover, and then her job would be done. Turning to face him, she took his face between her hands and began to kiss him on his cheeks and nose and chin, and then finally his lips, tender little kisses like the brush of a butterfly's wings. As he responded to the soft pressure of her lips on his, she sought his tongue with hers, and soon she was kissing him passionately as their tongues entwined in a delicious dance of desire and growing excitement.

After a few minutes she could tell by his breathing that he was becoming aroused and ready to make love, so she took him by the hand and led him to her bed. She looked him in the eyes as she slipped off her blouse and sari to stand before him in all her voluptuousness, and then she knelt and undid the wrapping of his dhoti so that she could kiss and caress his youthful body.

She knew that this first time with a woman he would not last long, and she wanted him to experience the simple joy of intercourse. On later occasions, she would teach him the arts of delighting a woman with his lips and tongue, but this afternoon was all about his pleasure.

After they had made love, they lay for a while in a warm and tender embrace, but then she rose and fetching hot towels, she gently washed his body and anointed him with sweet perfume. Once they were dressed, she kissed him fondly and told him how much she was looking forward to the next time. Then she went to sit in the window to wait for the man who she knew would take her to heights of rapture time and again over the few days they would have together.

ooOoo

Just as the sun was falling below the edge of the trees, he came in sight of her window after the short walk from the edge of the town. She was sitting there in the window, as she must have sat for so many nights awaiting his return, lit only by the light of a small oil lamp. Entering the door, he dropped his leather satchel on the floor and walked up the stairs to where his Alekhya was waiting.

This next few day would be for her; a special time when he would devote himself to her pleasure. However, he knew that he would have to share his news with her before too long, and was neither sure how she would take it nor what the eventual outcome would be. It was nearly two years since he had said farewell to his lover Lisabeta before leaving Italy to travel to the mythical land of spices in the East. They had parted two years before after a memorable night of love and passion, as well as tears and regrets.

A few months before he had received a small package via Arab traders from a friend back in Venice to whom he had written just after his arrival eighteen months previously. Among the various letters from his parents and friends was one from Lisabeta, which he opened with trembling fingers. She wrote that after he had left she had taken a nobleman’s younger brother as a lover, but that the affair had ended when he was contracted in an advantageous marriage to a girl from another high-class family. She said that she had missed him more and more as time passed, and had come to a decision to follow in his footsteps in the guise of a man.

He thought that it would be a miracle if she ever found him even though she had some idea of his whereabouts. The journey would be perilous and would mean going first to the Levant before finding an Arab spice trader willing to let her travel with one of his caravans. However, he had heard rumours when he was passing through the city yesterday of a handsome young foreigner who had arrived by ship and was asking about others of his kin with whom he might take lodging.

He was caught on the horns of a dilemma. Although he had missed Lisabeta at first, he had succeeded in pushing his pain and regret to the back of his mind. In recent months as his relationship with Alekhya blossomed into love, although she was a courtesan and had many other lovers, he hardly ever thought of his old life at all.

Taking Alekhya in my arms, he kissed her, "It is good to be back home," he said, "but I am tired and dusty, and what I would like most at this moment is a nice hot bath."

"My dear Guilelmo," she replied in her melodious tones, "let me wash you and ease your aching limbs, and after that, I will sing and play to you while you eat."

"I would love that very much," he replied, "you know just the right ways to reinvigorate the weary traveller. And then you must tell everything you have been up to while I was away."

Alekhya poured him a glass of rice wine from a jar and then went to prepare his bath. A few minutes later she came back wearing just a simple robe of semi transparent silk, which emphasised rather than hid her delicious feminine charms.

"Your bath is ready, my master," she murmured, "come now and let me undress you, and then I will take care of all your needs."

Alekhya's house had been built many centuries ago around a central garden with a fountain at its heart, and the upper rooms opened onto shaded verandas overlooking the garden. The bath itself was built of stone with a large shelf a few inches below the rim at one end and was large enough to accommodate three or four people in comfort. Alekhya had scented the water with sandalwood and lit a number of candles around the room which scented the air and wooed the senses.

When we were both immersed in the steaming water, she took a large soft sponge and started to wash his dust and sweat stained body, beginning with his back and shoulders. All the accumulated weariness in his muscles was swept away by the combined effects of the sultry atmosphere and her wondrous beauty, and he soon felt completely renewed and restored.

Back in her boudoir, he lay back on the silken sheets, and in between feeding him delicate morsels with her long and slender fingers, Alekhya sang love songs of ancient India in a low sweet voice, filled with tenderness and passion. Then as they lay together in each other's arms, she told him about her lovers, especially the tale of Mukesh and his shyness with women. He told her that his parents had shown great wisdom in bringing him to her and that after a few weeks under her expert tuition he would make some pretty girl very happy.

Filled with desire for his oriental pearl, he gently pushed her back onto the pillows and opening her robe, began his worship of her voluptuous curves, gently tracing a path of little kisses down her naked flesh. They were soon lost in a world of delight and wonder, and made love slowly and tenderly, unselfishly taking delight in each other's joy and rapture. They eventually fell asleep wrapped in each other's arms, and later in the night as the soft beams of the descending moon streaming through the open window bathed them in its silvery beams, they made love again, whispering words of love and devotion in each other's ears.

ooOoo

Alekhya was surprised and nervous when her Italian lord told her the news about Lisabeta. Paul had told her the story of their sad and tender parting, and of his intention on the morrow to return to the city and seek her out. She wondered how his former lover would respond when they met — would she be shocked she wondered, or worse jealous.

If she could have foreseen the future, she would not have worried. When Guilelmo introduced them, Lisabeta exclaimed in delight at Alekhya's dark beauty, such a contrast to her pale skin and golden hair. The two women fell into each other's arms in an embrace of sisterly love, and they were soon chattering away as they got to know each other. Guilelmo could hardly get a word in, so engrossed were they with each other.

Later that evening after a delicious meal of hot and spicy delicacies and saffron flavoured rice; they fell into a companionable silence as they reclined on the cushions of a large divan, content to enjoy the caresses of the warm night and serenaded by the songs of the cicadas in the garden below. Eventually, however, there was a brief moment of awkwardness when the question of sleeping arrangements finally had to be decided.

It was Lisabeta who broke the tension when she exclaimed, "But surely we will be all sleeping together. But first of all, a nice relaxing bath together would be very nice — I noticed your wonderful bath earlier, Alekhya my love, just right for three!"

They left the room arm in arm, happily smiling at the sensual thoughts of the night to come — their first night together, a night of renewal and a new beginning.

Once in the bathroom, while the bath was filled, they undressed without embarrassment, taking delight in each new revelation of physical beauty, both male, and female. Guilelmo entered the water first and watched with pleasure as the two women embraced and began to kiss, his heart filled to overflowing with a mixture of relief and love. While he watched, his two lovers, one pale and the other dark, caressed and kissed each other, carried aloft on a rising tide of sensual passion.

After many minutes of these sweet, intimate exchanges, Lisabeta and Alekhya joined him in the bath, and they washed each other with soft and tender caresses and many shared kisses, and after they had dried each other with soft towels they retired to the bedroom, and there on the silken sheets, they made love for many hours. A book could be written about the pleasures of that night. Suffice to say; their mutual love making was filled with delight as they tenderly led each other on repeated journeys to the land of sensual delight, sharing equally in repeated ascents to the heights of ecstasy and rapture until they fell into a blissful sleep enfolded in each other's arms.

ooOoo

Two women in early middle age, but still beautiful in their contrasting ways, sat at the open window gazing in silent contemplation onto the street below as the last rays of the setting sun gilded them with light; cooled after the heat of the day by the gentle breeze carrying the mingled scents of cooking fires and the sweet fragrance of jasmine blossoms.

Through the open door to the room, they could hear the happy cries of children playing, and they smiled at each other as they waited for their lover to return, bearing gifts as was his custom after a long trip into the rural hinterland of the region.

The black haired woman with olive skin and dark eyes like pools of liquid coffee was the first to speak. "It will be good when he is home, and we can shut the outer doors to our little world of love."

"Yes my sister Alekhya," replied the golden haired woman sitting opposite her. "We are so blessed in our paradise. The night is warm, and after we have eaten and the children are asleep, perhaps we can share a night of love beneath the stars."

"My dear Lisabeta," answered her companion, "we are truly blessed in each other and our wonderful and loving man. I thank God every day that you decided to stay all those years ago. I love you my dear, and I have no need any more of other loves. And when our children have left with partners of their own, we will grow old together in contentment and peace."

"Amen to that," said Lisabeta, "but I see him at the end of the street, let us go down to greet him together, and tonight when we have heard his stories, we will indeed journey to heaven again, as we have done so many times over the years."

And so the two women descended the stairs arm in arm to welcome their lover, as they had done each time he had returned over many wonderful years.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © 2020 by Keith Paver

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