The heroine Tatli is stolen from her tribe and enslaved by Sultan Murad. She resists him, but only fuels his desire.
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The sultan's favorite slave is also his least receptive. After returning home from war he intends to take her, but she has an unexpected visitor instead.
Tatli ~ A captured desert princess. She is a concubine in the sultan's harem. Despite her repeated attempts to escape, the sultan still favors her.
Sultan Murad ~ Based on the historical figure of the Ottoman Empire. Murad was a vile sultan who murdered his brothers to assume power.
Kasigo ~ The African eunuch assigned to protect Tatli, and to make sure she doesn't escape.
Muhteşem ~ A young concubine the sultan uses to rile Tatli. It is said she was born and raised just for the sultan.
The Assassin ~ When Tatli is at her most vulnerable, an assassin obtains entrance into the chamber. He has plans for the sultan, but turns his plans on her instead.
Kapaneus ~ The Grand Vazier and Murad's chief European eunuch. He controls many of the affairs of the palace.
The zenana swirls with incense and perfume. It’s a strange concoction of imported and local scents, reflecting the various tastes of the women who reside here. Oud wood from the south, bergamot from the Balkan Peninsula, sugarbush and myrrh from Africa, and bakhoor, the locals’ favorite.
The women are preparing themselves in anticipation of the sultan. The excitement is tangible. Despite the colored light cast by spacious windows, eloquent decorations, and painted ceilings, a cloud of gloom settles on me. For almost ten years I’ve lived in the western wing of Topkapı Palace, never permitted to leave the grounds. Though they don’t call me one, I am a slave.
Over the years I’ve come to believe that everyone at the palace is a slave. Since Murad assumed power of the empire, the traditional advisors and servants have been replaced by captured peoples from distant lands. Eunuchs guard the palace, traded or captured from the west or from Africa. They are fierce warriors, but the sultan only trusts them because they have no allegiances to family or homeland. Most of the women arrived here the same. Captured by pirates as they crossed the Mediterranean, given as gifts to the royal family, or taken as slaves after the Turkish army conquered their people. The few local women in the harem are seclusive and bitter, veiled by their burqas and rarely leaving their quarters. Though the sultan does visit them, he has taken none as his wife, as tradition dictates he should have done long ago.
The sultan calls me Tatli, but my domen name was Ochranca, meaning guardian. My father was bey of the nomadic Kara Domen, until Sultan Murad destroyed my village and took me prisoner.
A musician begins to play on a deep based dutar, each vibrating string reawakening emotions and memories I’ve tried long to bury. The pain of that night returns as I stare across the open room of the zenana.
We were camped in the wind-rippled dunes of the Kara Kum desert. As the sun set over the Elburt Mountains, I walked into the desert. The sounds of the village musicians softened as I climbed a steep hill. Soft sand shifted beneath my bare feet.
Moonlight and shadows made the desert appear like a bride’s flowing gown. The wind joined with the joyful music, making the night seem alive. Alone, I danced atop the dune, fingering the jewelry that was presented to me the night before during my woman’s coming of age ceremony. But there was still one more gift I was waiting to receive.
I spun, kicked the sand and made silver crystals rain into the darkness. The music heightened, as if they played just for me.
Someone comes up and grabs me from behind. I’m not frightened, besides a brief gasp of surprise. I recognize his gentle, yet firm grip on my arms.
“You missed the ceremony.”
His breath is on my neck, followed by his soft, curly beard.
“I would have loved to see you dressed in our finest muslin.” Chills rushed down my arms from his baritone voice so close to my skin.
He wrapped his arms around me, lifting something wrapped in dark cloth into my view.
“For my desert flower.”
I opened the fabric, glad he was behind me so he couldn’t see me blushing.
Large, pink petals sparkled under the light of the full moon. I opened the petals to reveal yellow trimmed with deep red. It’s a desert hyacinth, though I’ve never seen one so beautiful.
Inside the glistening white piston, something flashed silver. I push the petals aside to reveal a slender silver ring around the white piston.
I turn to see his eyes, dark and cool like still oasis water at midnight.
The joy of the memory turns sour, the vision in my mind turns black. Any comfort I would have in that moment was stolen from me.
I cover my ears to the music, trying to make me remember the rest of that painful night. Nauseated and dizzy from the concocame of smells and sounds, I stand. I have to leave this place before it drives me mad, once and for all.
As will most of my books, I find inspiration from paintings and images online. These all are related to the Imperial Harem, the Ottoman Empire, Harem Slave Trade, and life in the Harem.
Topkapi Palace is the cite of the famous "Imperial Harem" of the Ottoman Empire.
The "dutar" is a two stringed instrument popular in Turkey.
Eunuchs were servants to the sultan. Some had their genitalia partially or completely amputated.
The "baglama" is another stringed instrument popular in Turkey.
As Islam forbade the use of Muslims as slaves, Circassians, Syrians and Nubians were the most commonly used.
The Turkish bath was called a hamam.
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