Authors: Ann Chamberlin
Tags: #Fiction - Historical, #16th Century, #Italy, #Turkey, #Action & Adventure
The Sultan’s Daughter
OTTOMAN EMPIRE TRILOGY: BOOK 2
Copyright © 1997 by Ann Chamberlin
All rights reserved
A Forge Book
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, Inc.
Distributed by St. Martin’s Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
Forge® is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, Inc.
, by Frederick, Lord Leighton, Museo de Arte, Puerto Rico; courtesy of Bridgeman/Art Resource, NY Map by Ellisa Mitchell
Harem: The World Behind the Veil
by Alev Lytle Croutier, published by Abbeville Press, 1989.
Lines from “The Inferno” from
The Divine Comedy
by Dante Alighieri, translated by John Ciardi. Translation copyright © 1954, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1965, 1967, 1970 by the Ciari Family Publishing Trust. Reprinted by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Lines from “Paradise on Earth: The Terrestrial Garden in Persian Literature” by William L. Hanaway, Jr., in
The Islamic Garden
, published by Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, DC, 1976. Reprinted by permission.
Printed in the United States of America
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or are used fictitiously.
This book is dedicated to my cousins
Kourkan Daglian and Ruth Mentley.
Much of the list is the same as for the first volume of this trilogy, but repetition should not indicate a lack of appreciation, rather the opposite.
My cousins Kourkan Daglian and Ruth Mentley, to whom this volume is dedicated, Harriet Klausner, Alexis Bar-Lev, and Dr. James Kelly all unstintingly shared their expertise with me. Again I’d like to thank the Wasatch Mountain Fiction Writers Friday Morning Group for their support, patience, and friendship. Teddi Kachi, Leonard Chiarelli and, in the Middle East Section, Hermione Bavas at the Marriott Library, as well as all the Whitmore and Holladay librarians, never stinted in their assistance. Gerry Pearce is new to the list, but cannot be surpassed as a sounding board.
I owe a great deal to the friendly people in Turkey, especially the guides at the Topkapi palace who hardly raised a brow as I went through the harem again and again. I’d like to thank my in-laws for their support and my husband and sons for their patience while my mind was elsewhere.
There is another woman to whom I owe much but she didn’t want her name mentioned. She knows who she is. She doesn’t approve—except of good spelling and grammar.
None of these people is to be blamed for the errors I’ve committed, only thanked for saving me from making more.
And finally, of course, there are Natalia Aponte, my editor, Steve, Erin, and all the other folks at Tor/Forge, and Virginia Kidd, my agent. Without them
would have existed, but never in the light of day.
“I am a harem woman, an Ottoman slave.
I was conceived in an act of contemptuous rape
And born in a sumptuous palace.
Hot sand is my father;
The Bosphorus, my mother;
Wisdom, my destiny;
Ignorance, my doom.
I am richly dressed and poorly regarded;
I am a slave-owner and a slave.
I am anonymous, I am infamous;
One thousand and one tales have been written about me.
My home is this place where gods are buried
And devils breed,
The land of holiness,
The backyard of hell.
Esmikhan Sultan stopped her song, a song she might have learned at her nurse’s knee or from any of her childhood companions, it was that popular among Constantinople’s women. She sang it for the sweet, plaintive melody, I hoped, and not because it was true.
Well, some of it was true. She was a slave-owner. She owned me.
She owns me.
I had heard rapturous stage lovers sing such declarations—but in a previous life.
And sometimes the word “love” flitted through my mind when I looked at Esmikhan Sultan and thought of our relationship. An unnatural thump of the heart accompanied the word: here was something I feared to lose. Perhaps more than life itself. She is not just my mistress, I thought in unguarded moments. Or she
my mistress indeed, my mistress in the other, beautiful sense of the word. We have been through much together. Yes, I have faced death for her sake. She is my best and only friend in this foreign place...
But no. I rejected “love,” the breathy whisper of “
,” all the lushness my Italian childhood had taught me to expect. One cruel cut had put all hope of love forever beyond my grasp.
Esmikhan Sultan owns my body, I reminded myself. But not my heart, not my soul. My still-raw pain told me I would die before I gave those to anyone.
Esmikhan Sultan turned to look at me. Her face flushed to match the scarlet tulips she had been readjusting for the twentieth time that morning in their Chinese porcelain vase on a low silk-draped table in the center of the room.
“I hear their sedans in the yard!” she exclaimed. “Oh, Abdullah! What will they think when you are not at the door to greet them?”
Esmikhan made the much-older Vizier a better wife than he made her a husband, I thought, not for the first time. And they were both better at their allotments than I claimed to be at mine: my lady’s chief and only eunuch.
None of us had had any choice in our fates; we learned to make our choices elsewhere.
Every harem in Constantinople knew Esmikhan Sultan was with child from Sokolli Pasha’s brief nights of duty with her. Viewing the decor of her new winter rooms was the ostensive reason for this long-awaited visit. But quite plainly, the women of her father’s harem came for no other reason than to see how she fared in her condition.
As only a female, albeit the granddaughter of Sultan Suleiman the Lawgiver and the Magnificent—”richly dressed and poorly regarded” as the song said—any son she bore would not be in direct line to the throne. Nonetheless, given the right circumstances, the right personality, the right play of fate, the will of Allah, this combination of royal Othman blood and a Vizier’s cunning could make things very interesting twenty or thirty years hence.
Women, I was beginning to see, start calculating such things before their first missed blood time. On the other hand, a promising youth appears full grown at the edge of the world of men and the men treat him like a bothersome gadfly—often until it is too late to properly account for him in their calculations.
I looked down into that round little face, rounder still with the pregnancy, those round, dark eyes, that round little chin, the dimples when she smiled, the mole by her nose—all the supreme pleasantness of her that I’d come to take for granted. She was like a pearl in this velvet-lined case, the walls inlaid with mother-of-pearl and ivory in the olive wood wainscoting. A pearl with the pink tint of tulips.
I laughed gently at her fluster.
These sessions of display with your family are not all that important,
I wanted to speak along with my silent brush at a black curl that strayed into her face.
When they have gawked their fill and gone home, I will still be here. No matter what their sharp tongues invent, I am your slave.
“Abdullah,” she protested, shoving my hand away with her own little dimpled one. “At once!”
So at my lady’s bidding, I strode down to the courtyard and helped the visiting eunuchs hold up the silken canopy. This canopy allowed their charges to slip into our harem without the gardeners catching a glimpse of so much as veils and outer wrappers.
I was getting good at distinguishing women and their individuality through such covers. I’d originally come to the Land of the Turk as first mate on my murdered uncle’s trading ship. Women had seemed altogether invisible to me then. I was learning to use other senses more now, as a blind man does and sometimes fares better than the sighted.
Today, I went by the scent they wore, and Prince Selim’s harem presented a whole airy palette to the nostrils.
This first one, smoky with the musk of ambergris, was Nur Banu Kadin, my lady’s stepmother as well as mother to the son of the heir to Suleiman’s throne. My lady’s unwed sisters were cloying in attar of roses, sandalwood, cloves. Their maidservants were the usual giggling bouquet of violet, mimosa, and orange blossom.
Ah, but here—through the silken corridor I held up to one edge of the sedan and the eunuch next to me held to the harem door—here passed an odd one. I couldn’t recognize her, nor her clumsy way of moving in her veils, as if threatening to shed them all off at any minute. Some new slave, I thought, for I’d never known any native-born Turkish woman to be so clumsy with the burden of her sex. Some new slave, perhaps, whom Nur Banu would soon train to her usual rigorous elegance. The surprise was that Nur Banu would let a recruit of such raw manners come with her on any outing.
Still, violet- and mimosa-scented bundles held back and let this package go in first. And there was an odd smell to this one, the smell of quinces set to ripen in the midst of winter bedding. This odor proclaimed no artifice but straightforward practicality: every drug known to man and some known only to women, medicinal bitterness disguised with the flavor of quince.
Suppose this was some interloper, some threat to the peace of my lady’s harem?
I told myself that this was a petty sort of concern—for a man bred to the wild adventures of the sea, indeed! But the manhood left to me was not considered the equal of pirates or shipwreck anymore. I was meant to have no purpose other than the protection of this sanctuary behind the grilles. So I couldn’t help that my mind entertained such possibilities, fretful though they sometimes seemed.