Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Hand of Justice -- Episode IV

Qala'at Salāh al'Dīn, Summer 1257

Maysa walked across the garden and stopped by a rosebush when she saw the sultana. She sat alone at a nearby pool in the part of the garden reserved to her and her retinue, her favorite spot in the palace. Maysa ignored jealous gazes peering from behind the harem's screened windows, and observed her mistress.

Shajar al'Durr's large dark eyes betrayed an expression of lassitude. She was dressed in embroidered robes, and as usual wore elegant strands of pearls that echoed the meaning of her name, “Tree of Pearls”. Her long hair was half-covered by a silken veil, held in place by jeweled pins. Shajar had ruled Egypt for seven difficult years after her husband passed away. In the absence of a suitable heir, she'd become Sultana of Egypt with the support of Mamelukes loyal to their former ruler. Yet, Islamic tradition remained at odds with the idea of a woman ruling Muslim men. Thus, and to assuage the bigotry of the Caliph in Baghdad, she had taken another husband, in name only, as she shared little of her power. Rivalries and palace schemes had left worry lines on Shajar's graceful features.

Maysa was her companion and confidante. The two shared a common origin in that both had been slaves of the former sultan at different times. He'd fallen in love with Shajar and made her his favored wife. Maysa was later purchased for her mistress, and a bond between the two grew as deep as the one Mamelukes enjoyed amongst their respective factions.

In a playful manner, Maysa dropped to her knees at the sultana's feet and looked up at her. “What troubles you so, Mistress?”   (. . .)

Click HERE to continue or skip to Episode V

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