|Lavina, Canto 6: Return to Halyptus (Part 1 of 2)|
by Julian X  /  poetry  /  29 Sep 2007
“It did not take long for us to realize the deceit
with which Guyesp had married you. You know
he was going from town to town and saying
the same in each? Wedding – no, stealing a girl in each?
Good. Well, all the towns realized it before long.
Not fast enough to stop him, to get word out,
to outrun his thieving procession of carriages and carts,
but not long, not long at all.
Your mother and I were horrified. More so
when word came that Guyesp’s bride Isabel had died –
how we puzzled over that! And then the king,
good Borheya, so soon after! We all mourned our king,
but your mother and I mourned our daughter as well.
It had all come as quite a shock, and your mother’s health
began to deteriorate. She was clearly filled
with grief for you and demanded I do something.
I knew not what to do. I regret to say
I knew not how to deal with men of power
like Guyesp. But your mother insisted. And so,
when I found that the town of Halyptus,
in which your mother and I have lived all our lives,
would not so much as organize a party
to go to Triemte, she and I agreed
I was to go alone. I made every provision
for her survival, left her crops and money,
had my friends promise to look after her –
a woman her age, alone in that house.
And I set off for Triemte,
trusting in strangers for comfort,
meandering along from town to town,
first on foot, then by carriage
when at last I found someone sympathetic
and rich enough to loan me his car and driver.
The voyage took some time indeed,
but at its end I arrived in the capital.
I had never seen such a city, my daughter, and it took some time
to adjust to its worldly customs and its busy streets.
I quickly heard all the details,
how that horror, Guyesp, had wed some trollop
named Isabel Hironamti, who had in fact died
a few months before my arrival.
News had reached the city
of that foul prince’s countryside raids,
his thefts throughout the kingdom,
but few yet knew or believed.
I asked to see King Cesinare, hoping he would see in me
a father’s pain and know my story true.
His guards would not let the king see me,
and while I plotted my next move
I took a job in a tavern where a country man
with muscles tempered by decades of farming
could earn his bread intimidating and keeping order.
It was while I was working there
that I heard of Prince Guyesp’s death.
I knew not what to do. I knew not whether you lived.
My vengeance – whether for your death or theft,
I knew not – had been taken from me.
Who, then, would even know if yet you lived?
One night, I learned that a man who frequented the pub
worked as a guard at the royal palace.
When I inquired, I learned
that he had worked as a guard for Guyesp.
I asked him if the rumors were true
about those country girls, and he said they were not.
Knowing he’d be of no other use,
I asked him instead for a job.
Most guards came from the army,
he’d told me, laughing at this old country man
who earned his keep serving liquor.
I told him not to mock me,
that I could beat him in a fair fight –
him or any man in the room.
Perhaps I was gloating, daughter,
but hear me out. Upon my challenge,
he quit his laughing and had his burly friend assault me;
I threw him to the floor and, thinking of you,
broke his right arm. The guard must have been
impressed as I’d intended, because he offered
to introduce me to a man who could hire guards.
I soon went to the palace and met this man –
an old man with army experience.
He emphasized my ability to keep royal secrets
and had me demonstrate again my prowess.
Most of his men had grown lax, he told me,
from their time in the palaces
so far from the fields of combat.
And so, to keep the story short,
I became a palace guard.
I first was assigned the palace of Maldinni,
younger sister to King Cesinare.
The task bored me, but I performed my watches well,
never stole, and began to make friends with other,
more lazy guards. It was during
my first week or so working there
that I heard of the death of Queen Juhei.
All were shocked. The king’s own children followed,
in neat order from oldest to youngest –
Juheimi, Juhenor, and Cesinia –
and all three in so short a span,
just a few days between the first two
and just some weeks before the third.
Then, when I had worked at Maldinni’s palace
for most of a year, the mistress herself was called
to the king’s with all her five children
for a most unusual family dinner.
That night, she failed to return
and we learned the next day that she
and all her children had perished in some freakish fire
along with her two sisters and their children too –
a conflagration that had spared only Cesinare.
Of course we knew, of course –
we knew the way these spoiled royals lived –
such a convenient fire could be no coincidence.
All of us were folded into Cesinare’s own guard,
some left stationed in the abandoned palaces
of Maldinni and Sevanna, just as guards had never left
completely the palace of Guyesp –
poor Anna had been too young for a palace of her own,
else I’m sure Borheya or Cesinare would have built it,
torn down whatever necessary to clear the room.
I and others were chosen to join
the suddenly enormous guard at Cesinare’s own palace,
and for this massive guard he had two reasons:
first, that we would keep his family secrets,
not sell them or spill them over beer
as we starved, bereft of work;
second, because he could be a paranoid man
and didn’t mind the added protection.
And so I from Halyptus joined the king’s own guard.
It was in those months that I first learned
the harem existed, that it had fallen
from the hands of Guyesp into those of Cesinare.
The king had grown mad for it,
for you my daughter and the others,
and was neglecting his duties.
The guards’ morale suffered with his lust.
After a few months, I’d managed
to get assigned to bring the girls from the harem
to Cesinare for him to take his pleasure.
I never so much as saw into the harem.
The eunuchs would bring the girls out a ways,
and we would meet them in the palace proper,
from there escorting the girls to the mad king.
Still, I thought you were inside;
I hoped, perversely, that my only child was not,
that you had died instead
and been spared this insult, this dishonor.
Still, I waited on the slim chance that one day
the girl I’d have to escort would be my own daughter,
brought out to me without warning.
In all my time in the capital, I’d told no one my tale.
But I knew – as I thought of overpowering the other guards
and making my escape with you,
were you ever to be brought to me,
to be brought to that abhorrent King Cesinare –
I knew that I would need transport.
I found a man paid by the crown
to keep a carriage outside the king’s palace,
the horse drawn and ready to depart at a moment’s whim.
To him I bared my woe.
He was a good man and agreed
to give me the carriage if ever I appeared
one night with you in tow.
He warned me that he’d say
I’d hit him and had stolen the cart, if asked,
but he was willing, a good man, and father too,
who knew well the king was mad.
You met this man last night
in brief as we departed.
I’d not been on transport duty long
before the army stormed the palace.
There were a few skirmishes, guards stabbed,
but only a few – most had long lost faith
that Cesinare was worth the dying.
Anarolyni had Cesinare executed, if you don’t know –
I imagine you didn’t hear, cooped up in that place.”
Lavina mouthed “I heard,”
making but the slightest sound.
“Well, I’m glad you heard something.
I hope that madman’s death came
as some comfort to you, however cold.”
Lavina’s father paused for breath, then continued.
“Anarolyni kept us on his staff,
though we’d had to swear new oaths,
and, when he had finished with the nursery,
began to call you, one at a time, from the harem.”
At this, Lavina interrupted, asking clearly
“What do you mean with the nursery?”
And her father explained, too tired for deceit,
how Anarolyni had slaughtered the children
and had the guards rape the mothers in shifts for eight days
before serving the two royal mothers’ children
as food at some perverse feast
where guards had once again tortured and raped the mothers
until they died.
Her father saw Lavina crying and apologized
for saying so much, for the horrible description.
But Lavina asked, as calm as she could,
“Did you… did you rape too?”
“No, my child,” began to tell her.
“Your father would never...” –
but he could see that she could detect his lies,
that she had not forgotten her father’s mannerisms
in all her time unseen. In his weariness,
he swallowed his nervousness and confessed
to the adult met fresh before him:
“All the guards did. He made us,
that wretched baron who’d seized the throne.
He had each of us, all of us, rape the girls in shifts.”
Her father crossed himself. “I’m ashamed to say,
my daughter, but life is not kind.”
Lavina cried even harder now. Her father continued:
“I could lie, tell you I’ve done nothing
in my quest to save you
but the purest of things. But I shall not.
I am too tired, and I will expect you
in turn to tell your father the truth,
though you’re older now and I know not
how much the truth will wound me.”
Some silence passed before Lavina spoke:
“And… was Isabel there? The wife of Guyesp?”
“Yes,” her father answered, “that cunt was there,
that foreign whore, the nearest I’d ever get
to dead Guyesp, to vengeance upon
that noble who took you from your mother and me –
the closest I’d get to vengeance upon all the nobles,
upon that whole damned world.”
Lavina listened to this, weeping.
“You raped her – Isabel?” Her father stared
and for the first time realized
the depth of his daughter’s sadness.
“No, no,” he said. “I never raped.
I never raped,” he repeated,
catching up his daughter in his arms
and letting her cry a time.
that she knew
that he was lying,
and he held her a while.
“How did they die?” Lavina asked, her tears dry.
“You mean the specific tortures?”
her father sought to clarify.
“Yes,” Lavina responded.
Her father mutely held her for some time,
Then told her, “I don’t know.
I just know that they were tortured and killed.”
Lavina let her dad hold her for a while more.
At length, Lavina stood, began to stroll,
and bade him continue.
“Well, since you insist… as you no doubt know,
Anarolyni was taking one harem girl at a time,
and I was right back escorting them.
Do you know what he was doing with them?”
“Killing them,” she responded, but he could hear
something of the guess in her voice.
“Yes,” he replied, confirming her fear. “But
do you know how? He would have them
held down by his personal guards,
and he would kill them while he had sex with them.
He would strangle them or slit their throats
or slit their breasts in half and lay down
against their bloody chests, against… that.
He would coordinate with the guards who held her
to make sure each died precisely as he came.
He said that the death rattle enhanced his orgasm.
He said that he could not come unless someone died.”
Lavina’s eyes again grew wide; she thought
of all the girls who’d gone before her,
of the horrible fate they and the nursery had all received.
“That was the fate I sought to save you from,
the fate unto which I had to deliver girl after girl,
night after night – girls who reminded me of you,
girls from other small towns, girls
Guyesp too had taken.”
“Couldn’t you save any?” Lavina asked,
her arms wound tight around her, as if holding herself for warmth.
“Daughter,” her father replied, closing the distance between them,
“I was not sure I could even save you.
Anarolyni took them one at a time. I couldn’t –
he’d have surely noticed the absence in his bed.
I could only save one – if even that.
Would any father have done differently?”
“And what will become of them now?” she asked.
“Who knows?” her father replied. “One a night,
as usual. Nothing’s changed.”
Lavina thought on this. “But my departure.
Nothing’s changed but my departure.
One a night, you said, and one more last night,
presumably, in place of me.
And if I had stayed, one more
would be alive this morn. That’s if
he didn’t have them all slaughtered
or raped for eight days
as you say Isabel had been.”
Her father noted well his daughter’s specificity,
but said nothing. After a time,
Lavina spoke instead. “Father,
how did Isabel die?” “Why do you ask?” he asked.
“Because I loved her,” his daughter said,
staring straight, paring into her father’s eyes.
In a moment, he greeted his daughter’s aggression
against him with some of his own. “She died
with a mace in her cunt,” he said
as unapologetically as she had spoken.
“A large one, with spikes,” he added,
gesturing to help her imagine the wide,
spiked mace. “She had her breasts cut off
and placed on a platter before her.
She was made to stand, the mace still in her,
and rape another girl with the mace that was in her,
and then she was sodomized as she bled to death
while her rapist cut apart her face and eyes.”
Lavina’s eyes went wide at her lover’s fate,
worse than even she had dared fear.
“Did you have sex with her?” her father asked.
“In the harem, yes,” Lavina said calmly, sadly.
“I kissed those breasts many times in love.”
Her father watched his daughter stare down, away
in sadness. “Well, then,” he observed,
“we’ve both committed sins with her body:
I rape, and you…”
He did not finish his sentence,
nor did she move her eyes up to his.
“Let’s go see mother,” she said
and, passing him, stepped back into the carriage.
Exhausted from lack of sleep, he climbed back aboard,
took the reigns of the horses,
and had them continue their journey home.
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