|Lavina, Canto 11: Lavina the Slave (Part 1 of 2)|
by Julian X  /  poetry  /  27 May 2008
It was not the last time that the master would enjoy her.
Lavina had been thrust into slavery,
but at least she got clothing out of the bargain.
When the master finished with her that first time,
he left her for the others to dutifully clean,
carting water over from the pool
so as not to pollute it. Then, they dressed her,
bound her legs and arms with rope,
and left her blindfolded under guard in the sand.
She was left alone throughout the night
and slept throughout the day. When she awoke,
her dress was being removed from her lower body
as others held her, pressing her face down in the sand.
This time, the master took her in the smaller hole.
Afterwards, she was washed and redressed,
then put on the back of a camel with several bags
of goods to be sold.
The master enjoyed her, through one hole or another,
each night after waking, before they set out
in the cool night air. Sometimes, though only rarely,
the man who spoke her tongue would approach her
during the nights, when she was left bound and blind
in the sand. He called her Oasis and ignored her
when she claimed to be called Lavina.
He said that his name was Ahremed,
but refused to provide his (and her) master’s name,
saying that, as a woman, she was not entitled to speak it.
When she asked the name of this island,
he laughed and said, “truly, you are an idiot woman.
This is no island. This is the center of the world.
Or, at least, you are headed there.”
He said that they were heading for the capital of Bahtud,
which was fortunate because she would surely fetch
the highest price there. He added that her intact clitoris
marked her for a barbarian, and that, under God,
they could do no evil unto her. Most nights, though,
he did not deign to speak to her, instead
leaving her alone, in the dark of the cloth about her face,
with not even the desert air on her skin for company.
After seven days’ journey, Lavina one night
heard the sounds of others, then the sound of stone
beneath the camels’ feet, and knew they had arrived
at some city. After some time, they stopped,
and Lavina was escorted off the animal
and into a house that was not a ship or a hut
for the first time since she’d sailed from home.
She remained blindfolded, and slept on the floor,
finding oddly that she missed the sand beneath her
and the whisping desert wind that hushed her to sleep.
She barely slept, knowing it was still night,
before she was kicked in the side to wake her up.
Ahremed explained that she had overslept
and that they were headed to market.
“Every day we keep you is money lost,” he explained.
This time, she wasn’t put on a beast of burden,
nor did the master take her, lest he sell a freshly soiled product.
Instead, they marched her through the streets, blind.
When they stopped, she heard a great commotion,
and when, at last, they took the blindfold off,
the morning rays revealed a thriving market
the likes of which she’d never imagined,
rows of booths stretching as far as she could see
down the wide stone street, itself teeming with people.
All around her, the same men who’d held her down in the desert
now stood, surrounded by goods from foreign shores,
jewel-encrusted lamps, spices carefully measured,
silken garments that would seduce the hardest god.
Men passed, stopping to buy objects brought from half the world away,
but none, on either side of the street, failed to note the fair skin
of sweet Lavina, though few inquired further,
knowing she was out of their price range.
The day continued, and more people filled the stones
than Lavina had ever seen, including in Triemte at its busiest.
Eventually, a man with a large retinue of his own
stopped by and pointed out the beauty standing,
her fair white cheeks exposed beneath the beating sun.
Yet instead of passing, his comments little more
than idle wishes, he stopped, and there negotiations began.
Lavina could understand nothing.
Then, some of the men escorted her back into a house
lining the street, where she was hidden from view.
As the inquiring customer watched, her robes were stripped from her.
Lavina wanted to ask what was going on, but knew
none would understand, Ahremed being nowhere to be seen,
and all such inquiries would yield was a beating.
The customer approached her nude body,
gazed at her breasts, then put his hands between her legs
with no more thought than one would hold a fruit
to test its freshness. He felt her clitoris, then turned
and spoke to the others. The master stood by,
speaking to him occasionally, explaining, and talking up his wares.
The customer turned back to face her eyes
and pinched, crushing her clitoris between his fingers.
He turned and spoke to the men again,
then stepped away, and Lavina was bound back up
beneath all the layers of fabric. The customer
then began deeper negotiations with the master,
as Lavina was expected to stand silent.
At length, the master and the customer agreed upon terms,
and the customer beckoned for someone, who
handed two bags to the master, who grinned widely
when he looked within. Then, all went back outside,
Lavina in tow. There, Lavina spotted Ahremed
and asked what was going on. “You’ve been sold,”
said Ahremed. “Praise be to God.”
Lavina asked who this customer was, and Ahremed obliged,
explaining that he was a price of royal blood
looking for something to impress his half-brother, the king.
This price, whose name was Galehmad, was well-known
to be in trouble with his half-brother, and it was for this reason
that he’d come to Bahtud, to explain himself
and make things right. He’d come to the market
looking for some trinket to astonish, and found Lavina.
Rumor had it this prince hated the king, but the king’s lust
was legendary: he had forty-two wives, Ahremed noted
without affect. “We’ve lucked out,” he concluded.
“They’ll be no one to talk to,” she cried out as Galehmad’s men
led her away. “So much the better,” Ahremed replied
without moving. “Perhaps you’ll learn to shut up
and be a woman.” With this, one of Galehmad’s men jerked her,
shouting something sharp and terse.
Lavina wanted to cry out, to say that the master
who sold her had used her, that he was disreputable,
that she was a foreigner and not a slave,
anything to stop, to spoil this exchange,
but knew nothing could come of it save beatings,
and so restrained her speech.
When she turned to look back,
just before the master’s booth faded
behind the walls of passing customers,
she could see Ahremed already turned away,
talking to a widely smiling master
who was gesturing at the heavens,
no doubt thanking their slavemaster of a god yet again.
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