By now my missive must be nearing Mitylene, the other has got to Sardis surely. Apollion and I were entertained beyond their gate by Ileus and his royal guard, dressed in some gaudy Persian apple-bearer costume, they looked hardy and strong, and I wished all the time we stood that I could take his pike from him and heft it, to see what manner of strength it took to hold such a formidable weapon with such ease. What kind of musculature would be required for such a counterweighted pike? This is how my mind ran, as Ileus's servant led the courtesans forward to undress and display themselves to me.
Beautiful as women go, probably; but as strategies in the rules and games of warfare, some new thing. I realized that I must pry my eyes from their weaponry and pay attention to the exotic torsos and firm buttocks of these women, who were, though slender, elegantly endowed with both jewelry and bodily attributes. They displayed themselves, their breasts haughtily pointed, as though ripened without ever being molested by man, their demeanor calm but bold, these were no girls or inexperienced virgins, but trained to an arcane art of pleasure. I force myself to feign high interest, and let my eyes linger upon their intimate parts. A deep color spread across the face of the one, whom was called Bazrin, she felt the regard of my eye upon her, and did not have the courage even to preen under the weight of it. She met my eye, blushing, and I could feel as though she had moved physically closer, that she was drawn to me. This one, exotic in every way, tall and shapely, I could handle.
The other, less striking in appearance, though with a great long length of hair behind, that fit her like a mane fits a southern horse, far more bold and perhaps young, with a taut, brown rump, athletic and fit. I regarded them both with what I hoped was a hungry glare, to make Ileus, who stood before me, believe, and his servants, believe that I was of a mind to accept his offer. In very truth, I was prepared to consider the courtesans as part of the condition of his surrender, but we were not at surrender as yet, and he had not yet given me reason to accept his offer of garrisoning the correct number of infantry. I was still concerned that he had hopes of an engagement that would delay the end of his regime under Persia and surrender to me. There could be no real hope, though, and this I knew from Mithradates' own mouth; for it was part of Darius's ineffectual response to the threat that kept these cities, these countries, open for the taking.
He urged me to take the courtesans, who I then could make my new concubines, or grant one or more of them to my men. I inquired of Apollion, and he demurred, with the comment that I should reserve them to myself, to gain the respect of the army and my men. Ileus was so convinced by the look upon me that he suspended other consideration of terms to make his gesture a gift to me, to give me opportunity to lay with the women and see if I was pleased and if that softened me to his request.
Perhaps it is the devil in me; I took them, and they were put into the hands of my second to be made comfortable in such tents as could be arranged, separate or together, as they themselves willed. They could not have been sisters, from coloring, but perhaps in some Persian brothel they had grown up together or were in other ways friends and I should not disturb that. I wished only, however, to have audience with Bazrin this night, to find what additional skills she might have that I had not learned of in my brief experience; and found myself in fond anticipation of this.
If I were pleased with the one, I might try the other, but the accumulation of women seemed an extravagance unbecoming to my place. However, I indulged for this moment the Persian way of thinking; if I appeared to accept their offerings, perhaps further success would be aborning. The price would be the accumulation of concubines and other followers.
My first experiment was to inquire of Bazrin, when she was brought to me, as to what she performed for her tasks, and what pleasures she could evoke in me. She was Persian, and spoke easily in Persian tongue, and I was content that we could carry on in that tongue, which, though I was not expert in it, was adequate for such conversation as men would have with a servant woman abed. I did not seek from her a scholarly discussion, otherwise I would be challenged in Persian dialect. But there was nothing of a scholar in her. Some twenty years of age, or perhaps senior to me, she had been educated to brothel life and the evocation of physical pleasures, and it was these I determined to try.
I learned much this night, and much that intrigued me that she tried. Where there is no complication of love, merely the appointment for assignation, to evoke mere pleasure from the body of another, there is a simplicity, I found, that evoked the same sense of freedom I felt in the assignation with Mithradates, the same as the stolen pleasure of my hostages: a sense of personal anonymity and of pure pursuit, such as in the hunt. Was this all I truly craved, the sense of solitude in pursuit, as I had often hunted lions, in solitude? Something primitive was drawn from me, in the arms of one whose existence was given over to a sexual cause; and this was the way it had felt for me in Mylasa. And too, the element that I had missed in my experience of Schera, Bazrin in her native tongue was not shy to speak plainly of her desires, to talk in the coarser languages of pleasure while she handled me and strove with me, and to vocalize our pleasure. My evening with her had nearly ended when I discovered I had at no time grown concerned that I had caused displeasure, or disappointment, or pain within her -- nothing, it seemed, was beyond her ken, and she had a wealth of accommodation to all the peculiarites of male appetite. Nor did she gag on me or gasp in pain or protest. Yet, when I was peaceful again and drifting in that place between sleep and wakefulness, I stole a glance at the form recumbent upon my shoulder, the good shoulder that did not pain me to feel a weight upon it, and the look of gross satisfaction in her was obvious; the words of Apollion returned to me: I have satisfied a woman. And here, while she indulged me in all ways that I requested, and patiently explored me as though I were her only occupation for all time, I had managed to give pleasure to a woman.
I sent her from me very late, so late that my servant of the hetairoi sank down in weariness when he was called to watch on me. Some malevolent look passed his face...what boy was this, whose? I could not recall, in the slight swoon that came over me in my return to my bed. Dawn was nearing, and some request might be expected from Ileus upon the night's outcome. I wondered, then, as I lay abed, now in solitude, was this remarkable Bazrin called particularly for me, knowing that she had some hope in her skills of winning mercy from me upon her city? It did not occur to me to ask whether she were native to this place, or whether she dwelt in the palace, or in the brothel, of Ileus. I knew nothing of her but what she was willing to do to provoke the release of my weary and pent-up lust. And it seemed quite enough, this night. And so, I see the day rise, and commit it to paper once again; the taking of a new concubine to my bed, some new habit that has achieved so much in political favor of late.