Sunday, July 20, 2008

Soraya Rishmal - Royal Harem Slave

Name: Soraya Rishmal

Age: 25

Your occupation: Royal Harem Slave

Brief background story of your character:

Soraya is the daughter of a merchant's household slave, and daughter to the same merchant, Haroun al-Hamid. She was thus born into slavery and, although not officially recognized as Haroun's child, her childhood was a protected one, for a girl slave, and her mother was happy in her lot and very much in love with Haroun. Soraya learned many courtly skills in the harem of her father, being destined to serve the wives of her father's household. However when Soraya was 10 her mother fell foul of Haroun's new wife, and found herself being sent for auction. Soraya saw the light in her mother's eyes die that day. The tears Soraya shed in front of her father would not make him cross his new wife – she was only a slave after all!

Her mother continued to live locally, and they saw eachother from time to time, but there was no life in her any more. She died six months after being sold.

As Haroun's daughter her life was still somewhat protected, but she was removed from the harem and sent for harder duties. The years passed and she blossomed into a beautiful young woman. When she was 14 she came to the attention of Haroun's young nephew, Khalid, who had come to work for her father. Khalid was a particularly unpleasant piece of work as far as the slaves were concerned, handing out beatings and other punishments as the whim took him.

One night he had her taken to his quarters. Only two things saved her from rape that night – a small knife she had bound in her hair that she used to keep him at bay, and the arrival of her father, brought at the run by Soraya's best friend amongst the servants.

After that, Khalid was even crueler to the slaves, but he was careful to avoid Soraya. She knew that only she could change things, so after two years of hell for everyone she offered herself to Khalid in the hope that he would go easier on the others. At first he pretended disinterest; then irritation. In the end she had to beg him to take her to his bed – quite the opposite of her true feelings. The first night with him was as bad as she had feared. She had heard many tales from the women and girls of the household, and had little hope or expectation of pleasure that night. But Khalid's inherent cruelty knew no bounds. He raped her that night, as she had expected, but she had not thought he would heap beatings and further cruelty on her. At least her hopes that he would be easier on the other slaves were realised, although this only meant he saved up every petty irritation for her. But he was clever; he never injured her in a place that could not be covered by clothing. And whenever she felt new life stirring within her, he was sure to snuff it out – nothing could be allowed to interfere with the enjoyment of his toy! And she colluded to keep it all secret, even though she might be black and blue beneath her clothes, or grieving inside for a life that would never be.

But this silent collusion ended when he started to show interest in the young daughter of another slave. She knew he was beginning to get bored with her; with and her lack of fight, her lifelessness and her refusal to cry. From somewhere deep inside her she found the determination to sacrifice all to make sure Khalid did not destroy yet another life before it could truly blossom.

That night she took a knife and slipped it between his ribs, deep into his black heart as he slept, exhausted from his exertions. He hardly stirred. It was over. She wanted to weep tears of relief that this ordeal was over. She wanted to weep tears of sorrow, for she too must now die having never truly lived. But the tears would not come. She was just a slave, and slaves cannot be allowed to kill their masters. It was her 18th birthday.

She walked through the quiet house, woke her father and confessed her deed. For the first time she could recall, he held her. He cradled her close, wept for then both and asked for her forgiveness for being weak. His tears unlocked hers, and years of pain and sorrow came pouring out like the flood of the Nile. They held each other for hours, until the rosy fingers of a new day touched the distant horizon.

Both knew that not even the new-found love of a father could protect her from the legal process that was her due. But it could delay the inevitable. All action once more, he summoned his groom and had camels prepared for them. They left the city as the gates opened and traveled for two hours. There they said a tearful farewell as he freed her from her bondage. She would go on, never to return, for she could not. He would return to the city to say he had dealt with the murderer of his nephew, which indeed he had, abandoning her in the desert. He made her leave before he did, to be sure she put more distance between herself and the city. She never saw his hunched form as it left.

Now a free woman, she went forward with some hope for the first time in years. The shade of Khalid would probably continue to haunt her for ever – she would never be entirely free from his cruelty, for she was now barren – but she could build a life now.

Soraya knew she had to keep moving, and found her opportunity at the next town where a caravan was preparing to depart. There she met a young hakim, Iqbal. He could have had a life of luxury in Baghdad if he had so chosen, but he wanted to travel, to see as much of God's creation as he could before his poor eyesight finally failed. But surely God is merciful, because in taking away Iqbal's eyesight, He had given him the great knowledge and sklls with medicines and in healing of the body and the mind. She already had some small knowledge of herbalism, and offered to travel with him. She did not want any payment (she did not tell him that she already had enough gold from her father in her saddlebags) and shelter, and would assist him in preparing his salves and generally look after him.

Almost at once, she fell in love with this young man, so tender, so open. For two glorious years they traveled together. During that time she learned much from him; about healing, but also about real love between a man and a woman. And he healed her heart as no other could have done. Khalid could hurt her no more. She even learned again to dance and to sing, for Iqbal and for others.

They loved each other with a fire and intensity, as if they knew that their time was to be short. For so it proved. They were in a distant town, Ireem. She danced in a tavern to earn some coppers. In the corner of the tavern, Iqbal, his sight truly failing, spilled an elixir on a client's expensive mantle. Heated words followed, a stupid scuffle, and Iqbal, falling, cracked his head open on a stool. It was nobody's fault, really. Just fate.

After that she spent months in something like a trance, just barely functioning enough to avoid slavers in the alleyways of Ireem. She danced in taverns, and warmed mens' beds, earning enough to keep body and soul together. When she woke from her trance, she found that Fate had placed her feet before the gates of the palace in Ireem. Confidently she pushed at the gates and walked in. There was nobody to stop her, and Fate led her to the palace apartments where she found herself before the Princess Sarai. She fell to her knees and begged the Princess to take her into service in the Palace. In no time Soraya found herself dancing for the Princess and her court, and then installed in the Harem. She might be in a cage, but at least it was a gilded cage with rich hangings and soft cushions.

Soraya is sure she is fated never to love for long. But she also believes that, if love ever comes again, it will be as intense as it was with Iqbal. She now loves Ireem, where she is closest to her departed Iqbal. She wants to live, because she has seen too much pain and suffering. It is her duty to live! And maybe love again for a short while.

Character personality traits, strengths, flaws:

Soraya is a determined young lady. She is sometimes impulsive and speaks without thinking first, but is capable of great love and sacrifice.

No comments: