Shike – Day 109 of 306

Taniko shut her eyes. She felt herself about to cry, remembering Kiyosi and Atsue. But this Mongol woman would only despise her for her tears. She masked her feelings.

“I was, as I told you, a woman of noble family married to Prince Horigawa. He and I were estranged and I did, indeed, become the consort of a man who was not simply a noble, but the heir of the most powerful family on our islands and commander of all our warriors. I had a son by him. When he was killed in battle, I wanted none of his wealth. I only asked to keep our son, but he was torn from me by his father’s family. I was taken out of the country so I could not protest.”

“How many children have you had?”

“Two. I had a daughter, and Prince Horigawa killed her because she was not his.”

Bourkina said, “Among my people the penalty for adultery is death. For both the man and the woman.”

Taniko was astonished. “Death? If that were the law in my land, all the best families would be wiped out.” Instantly she wished she had not said so. If the Mongols considered it a great crime to couple with someone other than your spouse, perhaps Bourkina would think Horigawa’s low estimate of her to be accurate.

“The prince despised me long before I lay with any other man,” she said. “He married me only because my family is wealthy.”

Bourkina patted her hand. “I have seen the prince. He is not much of a man. And he is a fool to have given away a woman as clever and pretty as you. You have every reason to have strayed from his pasture.” She stood up. “Now let me help you undress.”

“Undress? Must I?”

“We have talked for a while now, and I know something of your life and your mind. But you are not being considered for a post as a general or an ambassador. I want to see whether your body is beautiful and without blemish.”

Taniko sighed and stood. “Then it is true that I am nothing more than a vessel to be used by men.”

There was a note of irritation in Bourkina’s voice. “You know too much of the world to talk that way. A woman’s fortune is founded on her beauty, just as a man’s rests on his strength. It is obvious enough, though, that your worth does not end with your body. If you were merely to be given to the troops for their pleasure, do you think I would have spent this much time with you?”

It took Taniko some time to undress. She removed robe, jacket, skirts and dresses. She had bound her hair up for convenience while travelling. Now she let it fall to her waist, and the Mongol woman’s thin eyebrows went up. Finally Taniko undid the last robe and handed it to Bourkina, who let it fall to the cushions as she appraised Taniko.

Taniko had never been embarrassed by nudity, especially in front of other women. When a man and a woman came together, they did not desire complete nakedness. The most attractive way was to open your clothes just enough to permit glimpses of your body and to give your lover access to yourself. But complete nudity for practical reasons, such as when bathing or changing clothes, was commonplace, and in her own household Taniko often saw women and men naked.

No one, however, had ever examined her as closely as Bourkina did. Without a word the Mongol woman walked all around her, squinting at her from the crown of her head to her toes.

“You do not bind your feet like the Chinese. That is good. We find that custom ugly.”

Now Bourkina began to touch her. Taniko shrank from the Mongol woman’s rough hands, and Bourkina ordered her sharply to stand still. Taniko felt like a melon being probed by a household cook. Bourkina peeled back her lips and poked her teeth. She smelled her breath. She kneaded Taniko’s breasts, pinched her nipples and felt her buttocks. She ran her fingertips over Taniko’s belly.

“Not bad. Only a few stretch marks. You had two children, you say? How old are you?”

Taniko quickly decided that she could have lost five years in the China Sea. “Twenty-three.”

“You are between twenty-five and thirty. But your small size and light weight have kept your body young. To a man, you might pass for even younger than twenty-three. Now lie on your back and open your legs.”

Taniko knew better by now than to protest., She lay back on the cushions, turning her head away and gritting her teeth as the Mongol woman peered and probed inside her.

“Good. Childbearing has not made you slack. You appear to be free of disease. Put some clothing on.” Bourkina beamed, the round, brown face stretched by a broad grin. “May I presume that you are as expert in the arts of the bed as a married woman who has also had two lovers should be?”

“I suppose so,” said Taniko.

“Are you prepared to use those arts with enthusiasm, in order to live well among us?”

“What is to become of me? You must tell me that.”

Bourkina held up her hand. “I don’t yet know for sure. I have to make my report. Then it will be decided. Meanwhile, your clothing and possessions will be brought to you. You will bathe. You will array yourself in your finest robes, as for your wedding night. Make yourself as beautiful as you know how to. You have until sunset.” Bourkina moved to the doorway of the yurt, her yellow silk robe swirling about her.

“You come from a land so different from our own that I find it hard to see it in my mind. Yet there are qualities in you I like. You are strong. You are quick-witted, and you have lived long enough to acquire some wisdom. I will give you a little advice. Do not try, because you are among Mongols, to appear beautiful in the Mongol manner. Make yourself beautiful according to the custom of your land, no matter how strange you think you might seem to us. You are a woman of experience. You understand men and you have attracted great ones to you. Do not be frightened. Try to be calm and cheerful. Behave as you would in your own home among friends and family.”

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)