THE CUP’S STORY, PART II: THE KING’S YOUNGEST WIFE
Multiple wives were the norm in Atlantis, as in other parts of the ancient Mediterranean region. Kings were powerful men who weren’t expected to settle for the same bedmate night-in and night-out, and fertility among his wives and concubines was mythically linked to the health of the land. Wives were normally kept in the royal harem, far from the lustful eyes of the commoners whose taxes paid their upkeep (and the ears of the king; otherwise, he could never have endured so many wives). But on feast days and formal occasions, they were brought out to parade their desirability. After all, why own a Lamborghini if you never get to show it off?
Razuni happened to be standing on the edge of the crowd on the feast of the Goddess of Fertility (how fitting!) when the royal household passed. There were guards to keep the hoi polloi back, but he found himself a scant ten feet away as the King’s Youngest Wife sauntered by.
To my uneducated eye, she didn’t look all that different from the dancing girls at Ergyll’s retirement party. But I have since come to know that all you guys are suckers for liquid eyes, pouty lips, honey blonde hair, and a flawless ivory complexion. Not to mention smug, sassy bodies that move in the most curious ways. Razuni’s mind exploded with those crazed indications that signify male human lust and arousal. Not unlike the signals you were broadcasting as we charmed the lush Judy Blue Eyes, I might add.
She caught Razuni’s eye and, bored with the proceedings, I suppose, winked.
Razuni, who was drinking from me at the time, looked back at her and spoke loud enough to make the guards frown but not enough to tempt them to smash him with the hafts of their spears. “You have stolen my heart forever, divine goddess posing as mere mortal. Allow me to love you freely, and I will make you the happiest woman on earth.”
Her eyes glazed over, then sparkled as she blew him a kiss.
Razuni followed alongside, speaking more words of love until the guards, tired of his ranting, blocked his passage.
So, royal wife and commoner were struck down with magic at the same moment. His, aided by a chance psionic device; hers, created and honed to perfection in the fires of evolution.
Now what? Razuni reckoned that he might be able to buy her. The king had plenty of wives to spare but always needed money; with the cup’s persuasive powers, such an outcome was well inside the realm of possibility. But to his frustration, he couldn’t secure an audience with the king. A sergeant in the king’s personal bodyguard, Old Gabe, proved to be immune to the charms of the cup and steadfastly refused to allow Razuni to enter the king’s presence. When Razuni pushed the issue, he found himself spending the afternoon in jail with a couple of drunks before his lawyers could bail him out.
Out of desperation, the poor, love-struck man resorted to hanging around the metal-clad back entrance to the harem. Abruru, the giant, hairless eunuch who guarded the doorway to heaven, was too terrified of the consequences to consider helping him. But Razuni kept coming back to talk, offering the occasional hit of pollen from the purple lotus, the most pleasurable drug known on Atlantis. Finally he was able to overcome Abruru’s fears. Little gifts began to make their way to the King’s Youngest Wife: soothing fragrance from Lebanon, a hand-carved ivory comb, a lapis figurine.
Finally the wall was breached. Late one afternoon Abruru whispered that one of the king’s lesser wives insisted on meeting the mysterious man who was sending such fine gifts. So, after cautioning him that all three of their lives were in danger if the king ever even suspected that another man had entered the royal harem, Abruru opened the door a crack and let Razuni slip through.
A servant woman led him to a curtained alcove where the King’s Youngest Wife, Layla, waited, her nervousness not diminishing her allure not one iota.
“Oh, my life’s love, I cannot endure another hour without you.”
“My lips ache at the mere thought of yours brushing against them.”
And so on. If the woman had any hesitation before, a quarter hour of my persuasiveness stripped them all way.
The second quarter hour was spent in furtive kisses and adolescent fumbling and groping, leaving them both less satisfied, more committed, and incapable of using common sense about their current situation.
During the remainder of the hour they considered and discarded schemes, each more desperate than the last, whereby they could be together. Finally Layla hit upon a plan that, although far from being without risk, nevertheless offered at least a chance of success. Layla’s family lived across the mountains on the far side of the island; she was sure she could persuade the king to let her go for a short visit. “It’s not like he’s spending much time with me right now,” she complained with a little pout. Once at her father’s, she and her handsome paramour could spend lots of wonderful private time together.
Two days later, Abruru passed the word: Layla had succeeded in obtaining permission to visit her family. Leaving at sunrise and traveling with only a single servant, Razuni reached the village long before Layla arrived, a bevy of giddy girls in attendance and a great train of baggage in tow. The next day her father—who like most fathers was convinced that his daughter was a perfect little angel and should have everything her heart desired—hired Razuni to tutor her in the fine art of lyric poetry.
Razuni didn’t know the slightest thing about lyric poetry. It turned out there was a lot he didn’t know about human sexuality, either. On the other hand, Layla knew exactly what she wanted and demanded it from her lover. “Stroke me there,” she would say, “no, over a bit, just a little lighter, yes, right there, oh Franca, oh yes. Now nibble right here, a little more teeth, oh yes, oh Franca. Now put your other hand there, yes there, and press with your middle finger, no, don’t poke, press. Why’d you stop stroking, you idiot? Can’t you do more than one thing at the same time?” And so on, for hour after hour. Not to suggest that their play was all one sided. Underneath the delicate cream of her skin hummed a talented and energetic little body, and she gave pleasure as relentlessly as she demanded it.
And then there was The Chest. Painted emerald and thickly lacquered, bound in silver and lined with velvet, The Chest was full of oils and toys and potions and gadgets from all over the known world, all for the purpose of enhancing sexual pleasure. Salves that when mixed turned as cold as ice; lotions that burned the skin and tasted of honey and almonds. Slender chains attached to tiny clamps, beaded kerchiefs, leather thongs and silk scarves. Long fat objects of cork soaked in resin, shorter slender ones of jade. Gloves of ermine skin and sheaths of lizard hide. Drugs that would make the blood course for hours and leave the imbiber in a babbling daze. And a pair of satin slippers with dainty little silver spurs in the shape of serpent heads on the heels.
For three nonstop days, Razuni was in total, unrestrained ecstasy. For the rest of the first week things were heavenly. The couple of days after that were pretty nice. And by then he knew why the king didn’t spend much time with his youngest wife anymore: there really was such a thing as too much perfect sex.
To make matters worse, Layla was uninterested in conversation. Unless she was nagging, that is. She turned out to have two highly developed skills, and it would be hard to choose whether she were closer to the very top of her field as a courtesan or a shrew. When Razuni displeased her she could go on endlessly—it even annoyed me after a while. The only way he found to shut her up was back to the old oh yes, like that, a little harder, yes, oh Franca.
Fortunately for Razuni, after a three-week stay Layla had to return to the harem. By then he’d lost twenty pounds, walked unsteadily, and had to sit gingerly because of countless silver snake bites on his hinder parts.
His trip home was slow and included lengthy stops for rest and recovery. By the time he got back to the city, however, Razuni had begun to recover his old form. The idea of making money once again raised a twinge of excitement in his loins, and he began scheming to make up the profits he’d lost during his vacation.
He had a lot of fond memories of those hours spent in Layla’s arms. But one thing that he knew for certain: that phase of his life was over. Absolutely, positively, indisputably over.
Foolish man. He’d been back only three days before a courier brought him a summons to the harem. He dashed off a short note that he was sorry, but the demands of his neglected business affairs required his full attention just now, and that he would not be able to come. The next day the king’s herald arrived with the message that the king wished to hire him to tutor one of his young wives in lyric poetry; given his reputation as a poet he could name his price, within reason. And oh, by the way, he brought a sealed letter of acquaintance from the lady herself which turned out to say, “You will be here tomorrow afternoon at two. Did you think you could take advantage of my tender sensibilities and then just walk away? I would rather confess all to the king and throw myself on his mercy than allow you to spurn me this way. I wonder what painful and lingering death he would devise for a commoner who penetrated the royal passageways?”
What could Razuni do? He took some volumes of lyric poetry and called on the king’s youngest wife. Right back to the old yes, like that, a little harder, oh Franca, except the words were indistinct because she insisted they gag each other before consummation so that their cries wouldn’t give them away.
By the end of the month, Razuni knew he was in serious trouble. Every hour with Layla aged him a week, and he was spending several hours a day with her, intensively plumbing the depths of poetry. Layla become more careless as the days passed. He didn’t know if he would die from discovery and public beheading or from his failing body giving out, but he knew it wouldn’t be long from now.
Out of sheer desperation, he decided to run away from Atlantis, escaping by ship with Layla and whatever riches he could carry. Once beyond the reach of the king, he could hopefully escape her clutches while keeping his head. A quarter hour with the cup’s help and the youngest queen was convinced.
Razuni recklessly converted everything he owned into coins and gems. He arranged secretly with Halcyon, a crusty old veteran of twenty-five years plying the seas, for passage to the Mediterranean coast for himself and a mysterious woman who would board just before sailing.
Finally the last contract, partnership, building, slave, and psionic device was sold and the proceeds packed into chests and loaded on the ship. A message was sent to Layla, informing her that sailing time was set for two in the morning. After coming aboard late that afternoon, Razuni tried to convince himself to leave without her but was afraid that she could persuade the king to set a squadron of fleet warships after him to drag him back to his doom. After all, Agamemnon had launched a thousand ships to recapture his wife, and the king of Atlantis was far more powerful than Agamemnon. And even if there was such a thing as too much perfect sex, Layla was after all the king’s wife; such a thing could not be allowed. (Probably exactly the same decision Agamemnon had come to about Helen, if history was honest.)
An hour before the tide, a cloaked figure crept aboard the vessel, accompanied by the barest of escorts—four servant girls, Abruru as a personal bodyguard, and a trio of porters straining under her luggage. By the time Razuni and the ship’s mate had stowed her chests, tucked the servants away in nearby cabins, and dismissed the porters with handsome tips and dire warnings of the consequences should they ever get drunk and brag about what they knew, it was time to leave.
Suddenly the clatter of shod hoofs was heard on the harbor roadway. Moments later our cabin door burst open to reveal Old Gabe himself, accompanied by a quartet of burly privates with stout cudgels.
“Razuni, citizen of Atlantis, in the name of the king I hereby arrest you for treason. Please come with us and don’t cause any trouble.” The last warning was scarcely necessary because two of the oversized lads had seized him by the arms before he could reach for me and were already escorting him out of the doorway.
Layla faced the sergeant with only a slight tremble to her lip.”What are you going to do with me?” she whispered.
“Ma’am, I don’t have any orders about you at all. If I were you, I would have a nice voyage.”
And thus ended my tenure with my creator. Razuni was okay, and we’d had some high times together. But I now belonged to the unknown and unpredictable Layla, with no idea what the future held in store. Nonetheless, in another few minutes we were drawing out of the harbor, leaving Atlantis for the great unknown
THE CUP’S STORY, PART II: OUTTAKES
“Wait a minute. The king was not spending much time with his dreamy youngest wife? That should have set klaxons blaring and lights flashing in Razuni’s head. Did he think the king had married her for her ability to engage in witty repartee on the classical comedies, or perhaps her fine culinary skills?”
For a warning to be effective, one must take heed. The gods apparently created men with two heads instead of one, so that when the little one takes charge, the big one quits thinking.
“Women don’t do that, I suppose?”
Women NEVER quit thinking, even when deep within the throes of love and passion both.
“I don’t think I’ve ever quit thinking either.”
There was a long silence and I wondered what she was doing. Finally she replied.
Sadly, what you say is true.
“Hey, what do you mean? How can you say that?”
You don’t have any memory of such a love.
* * *
One thing puzzled me.”Why didn’t he just use your magic to convince her that she was tired of him?” I had ceased my disparagement of the word magic, which really was no worse than the cup’s made-up term “psionics.”
My dear boy, you obviously don’t appreciate the power of HER magic. Every time he dragged himself out of the palace, faking as best he could to hide how exhausted and bedraggled he felt, he swore that he would find some way to escape from her. But the next day, when she walked into the chamber where he awaited, he was powerless before her gaze.
“Couldn’t you help?”
Wasn’t my job.
* * *
“So, you’ve mentioned a number of things in the chest. Tiny chains attached to tiny clamps, beaded kerchiefs, leather thongs, fat objects of cork soaked in resin, sheaths of lizard hide. But you haven’t said anything about what she did with those.”
Wouldn’t you say that question is totally prurient?
So should I be willing to tell all of the bedroom secrets I’ve seen? Would you like me to tell my next owner what I saw between you and the passionate Judy Blue Eyes last night?
Her next owner. That was a sobering thought.
“But Layla’s been dead for more than 2,000 years.”
Even the dead deserve some privacy.