Defining Freedom (Ghalib)
Today, I’d like to give you another standalone glimpse into Ghalib. This one happens during Deception, roughly mid-book. (It actually happens *during* chapter 17 of Deception. If you’ve read the book, you should recognize where. 🙂 )
This portion was originally posted on the Harmony Ink blog for their Day of Silence event, aim at helping to raise awareness for all of our GLBT youth who are forced to keep silent about their sexuality.
Ghalib stepped back and melted into the alcove when he saw the group of slaves coming toward him. They didn’t notice him as they passed, talking amongst themselves. He watched them as they walked down the hall, unable to look away.
They were pleasure slaves, property of the malik and amir. They were attractive, graceful, and fascinating to Ghalib.
Part of their allure was the inner beauty they all seemed to possess. Despite being slaves, despite having their choices taken away, they all held themselves with a quiet grace Ghalib couldn’t seem to stop thinking about. After spending time with one of the slaves—a gypsy named Teman—Ghalib had started to question the common assumptions made about these slaves.
Most assumed them arrogant because they commanded the attention of the nobles even more than the higher-born servants did. Many of his fellow pages looked at the slaves with disdain for what they did, which Ghalib thought was awfully hypocritical—most of the other pages wouldn’t hesitate to lure a scullery or laundry maid into a dark alcove to take advantage of her. Yet, those same pages would look down their noses at someone whose job it was to provide company to others.
When the slaves turned the corner at the end of the hall, Ghalib forced himself out of the alcove to continue on his way. He held a message for a visitor of the malik—a man who made a point of knowing Ghalib’s name when most nobles couldn’t be bothered to—and he was anxious to deliver it. The visitor was none other than the mother of the malik’s own personal pleasure slave. Some said the malik and his slave were in love. Ghalib could believe it, having seen them together.
The same pages that held the distain for the slaves, however, were not so willing to accept that particular rumor.
Ghalib knew why, as the love between two men or two women of equal rank was rarely discussed, and never openly. He’d seen the nobles who visited the malik’s court or attended the lavish court dinners choose slaves of the same gender often. But when it came to matches made within their own ranks, they were always with someone of the opposite sex.
That was, in part, due to the need to secure heirs, Ghalib was sure. But he also had heard the whispers of things that were simply unacceptable in “polite company,” as Safiya, the kitchen mistress, called it. Among those unacceptable items were things like the love two of the shayks seemed to have for each other, despite the fact that each had a wife. Or that certain other nobles never seemed to touch the female slaves.
It was simply not discussed. Only whispered about behind hands or closed doors.
And, as such, the idea that the malik would eschew a marriage with a woman for his personal slave and male lover was just not possible. At least, to those willing to say so. Even if it was in whispers.
Ghalib pulled himself out of his musings to properly address the visiting woman. He hurried into the room, bowed quickly, and held out the paper. “My Lady.”
“Oh aren’t you a sweet one, but I don’t need that,” she said, smiling. “Just call me Kaya, everyone else does… except those that call me Ommah.”
Ghalib blinked at her and stuttered out something completely incoherent, his cheeks red.
She chuckled as she opened the paper and read. He waited to see if she would need something else. “Oh, good. Thank you so much.”
Ghalib bit his lip and told himself he was supposed to just go. The footmen and guards would have a thing or three to say about him not leaving immediately, but he couldn’t resist. “You are Teman’s mother, yes?”
She smiled widely. “I am. Do you know him?”
Ghalib nodded. “I sometimes work in the malik’s chambers. He… he is very lucky and very good… um, nice.”
Kaya raised her eyebrows at him. “I agree, he is.”
Ghalib blinked. He hadn’t really expected that answer and didn’t know how to reply.
She smiled widely. “I couldn’t have picked a better mate for my son than Bathasar.”
“I… do… do the gypsies not care about that, then?”
“About what?” She asked, puzzled. “The slavery? We do not normally abide it, but in Teman’s case, the clan understands.”
“Oh, no, I meant… uh, I’m sorry,” he muttered, changing his mind. “Thank you, My L—err, Kaya.” He bowed again and started toward the door.
“Ghalib?” she called.
He turned in surprise. He’d told her his name once and she’d remembered it. “Yes, uh, Kaya?”
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Catch the last part of “Defining Freedom” here, next week.
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