Harold Saves Her Husband Part 01

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Harold Saves Her Husband Part 01Harold saves her husband (Part 1)This is a sequel to the earlier story “Harold Plays The Hero”*************************************************Copyright Oggbashan June 2006The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.This is a work of fiction. The events described here are imaginary; the settings and characters are fictitious and are not intended to represent specific places or living persons.This is the first part of the sequel. .*************************************************Chapter 1 An East India Company Office Princely India 1850sIt had been a boring day at the office. I had been writing reports that might reach London in three or four months’ time. When they did, they would be out of date. Such was the reality of mid-nineteenth century communication.I had just finished the last one and was relaxing in a cloud of pipe smoke, with my spurred boots resting on the desk, when there was a knock at the door.”Sahib!” a voice called softly from the partly opened door.”Yes?””There is a Royal Messenger here for you.”I brought my feet down from the desk in a hurry. I knocked out my pipe and stood up.”Send the messenger in.””Yes Sahib.”The door swung open and a closely veiled sari-clad woman entered. She had my full attention. Only Queen Serena would use women as messengers. When she did, it was for very secret matters. She had a small group of women who were her close confidants and the Goddess’s priestesses. They were her secret service. If Serena had sent one of them to my office the message must be important.The woman unveiled. It was Pushpa. I bowed to her.”No, Prince Harold, you should not bow to me.””Why not, Pushpa? You are a beautiful woman, a priestess and Queen Serena’s closest friend. You deserve a bow for each category.” I bowed twice more. Pushpa spoilt the effect by giggling. I took her hand and kissed it, keeping hold of it afterwards. “Is that a better greeting?””Perhaps? But would Princess Lisa object?” Pushpa asked.”No, she would not. She knows that you are our friend.””Then, friend and Prince, here is my response to your greetings.”Pushpa wrapped an arm round my neck and kissed me full on the lips. That was pleasant. A kiss from Pushpa is to be treasured even if only a friendly one.”And now, O highly esteemed Royal Messenger, what is the message that your Queen has sent to my humble self?” I asked.”Only an invitation to dinner tonight at the Palace for you and Princess Lisa.” Pushpa replied.”Dinner tonight? Of course, since it is a Royal Command, Princess Lisa and I will be delighted to accept. Is that the whole of your message, O trustworthy counsellor?”Pushpa giggled again. “Yes, Prince.””Then, O Matchless Pearl of Wisdom, I do not believe you.””Is my Prince suggesting that I, a Royal Messenger, could lie?” “Yes, O Vision of Beauty, you can lie, and that cannot be the whole of your message.””Oh ****!” was Pushpa’s unladylike retort. She whispered in my ear “Queen Serena told me that you would suspect something. I underestimated you. She didn’t.” Pushpa looked serious. “She needs your advice and help, and Lisa’s.””Then she shall have it.” I whispered back “Why the formal invitation?”Pushpa’s reply was equally quiet “Because she cannot admit openly that she needs you, not this time.””Thank you, Pushpa, Princess Lisa and I will attend the dinner in our best finery. Are my sword and pistol necessary?””I don’t think so, Prince Harold.” Her whisper sounded doubtful.”If even the highly intelligent Pushpa is not sure, then I shall wear my sword and pistol with my full uniform. What Princess Lisa will bring I know not but I am sure she will prepare herself appropriately.” I spoke in a normal voice “Will you convey our formal acceptance to the Queen?””Yes, Prince Harold.” Pushpa dropped into a low curtsey, splaying her fine d****ries wide across the spur-scarred boards of my mundane office. Then she rose lightly to her feet, kissed me again, veiled herself and swept out of my office in a swirl of silken skirts. Serena must be in real trouble. If she was, so were Lisa and I. Sending Pushpa, the head of her secret service was a message in itself. So was the need for Pushpa to whisper even in my office. That was a sign that even my office was NOT a safe place. There must be a spy on the staff. The trouble must be urgent. Lisa and I met Serena once a week as the official representatives of John Company and Her Majesty Queen Victoria. We are a Prince and Princess in Serena’s state that caused some amusement with my fellow John Company officers but our status was real as far as Queen Serena’s realm extended.The titles of Queen Serena and her King (Consort) Vishaladeva and Princess and Prince for Lisa and I were a complete break from the local traditions. After the last Rajah had led a failed revolt against the English, he and his heir were executed by their wives who were then strangled by Serena. She had ensured that her husband, who was the late Rajah’s second son, did not take part in the revolt. She also made sure that it would fail. Then she had rescued the Englishwomen under siege in the zenana. Lisa and I with Jane and George had helped. For services to the state, Lisa and I were made nobles ranked immediately below the heir to the throne. There had been some dispute with the realm’s courtiers about our exact titles. Serena had settled the matter out of hand by appointing us as Prince and Princess. Neither of those titles actually mean anything in the state’s traditions, but then Queen and King don’t either.Serena was the actual ruler of the state. King Vishaladeva was her consort in practice but notionally they were equal rulers because some of Serena’s subjects could not accept the idea of a woman as head of state. Three months after her coronation they were beginning to accept the idea, reluctantly. They still had difficulty accepting Serena’s eldest daughter as heir to the throne. They saw Serena as an anomaly that would end when her son succeeded, when one was born.Outside Serena’s realm, I was apparently just a volunteer officer of John Company troops, but I left the real soldiering to the Colonel and our friend George. I was the diplomat, and I admit it, the spy. My real task was to make money for the Company. As long as I did that, whatever else I did didn’t matter to them.I tidied my office, called a messenger to get those reports on their long journey to London, and called in at George’s office.”Afternoon, Harold? Anything the fighting soldiery can do for the gallant courtier?””Yes, George.” I looked around. Unlike my office that was surrounded by others, George’s was at the end of a blank walled corridor. Anyone approaching it could be seen. Overhearing our conversation would be impossible without being seen.George noticed my scan of the surroundings.”Feeling that you are being watched, eh? Wondering who knows things they shouldn’t know?”I nodded.”That’s why I choose this room for myself. You cannot be overheard. What’s the problem?””Queen Serena has invited Lisa and me to dinner tonight.””What is so unusual? You are friends.””Yes, but she was due to meet us officially the day after tomorrow. Whatever it is can’t wait that long.””Um. So what do you want from me, Harold?””I think Lisa and I ought to arrive in style and with a show of strength to indicate John Company’s backing for her rule. Can you provide some of your troops to escort us, and to stay around in case they are needed?””Maybe. But what is the threat?””I don’t know. All I know is that it could be serious and it is urgent.””Right. We will have a nice night exercise around the palace. You will get a flashy escort of lancers, but they will be backed up by vicious looking troops with blackened faces playing around. I’ll take a leaf out of Sir John Moore’s book about the uses of light infantry, but I’ll add a few cannon for effect. Napoleon showed the effectiveness of cannon in street fighting. A few meaty 9 pounders should deter any possible threat.””Thank you, George. It may be nothing, but…””…but if it is, it is better to look silly than be unprepared.””Exactly, George.””Warn Queen Serena what we are doing as soon as you arrive. We don’t want her thinking that we are going to overthrow her government, do we?””Will do, George.””Right. Get going. I’ve got a lot to do. This will shake up some of the junior officers. Get their minds off their Gin and Tonics and Polo. It could be jolly good fun. See you.”Chapter 2 The CantonmentsI left the office at a fast trot, s**ttering people in the crowded streets, and extended my waler into a gallop as soon as we were clear of the town. If Lisa and I were to be ready in time to arrive in state we had to move fast.As soon as Lisa heard the speed at that I was arriving she dropped everything and ran to the door. Most unladylike! She should have waited for one of the servants to announce the arrival of her husband. I thrust the waler’s reins into the groom’s hands.”What’s up, Harold?” Lisa asked.”We are invited to dinner at the palace – tonight – and we have to arrive in state with an escort.”Lisa needed no more hint than that. She spun round in a flurry of crinolined skirt and rushed in, calling for her maid. I bounded up the stairs yelling for my valet.I had a cold bath as quickly as I could. I had no time to wait for the water to be heated. The valet laid out my official uniform, then asked whether I had any special instructions.”Yes, please make sure one of my big revolvers is fully loaded. I’ll need its holster and belt, and my sword – the one for use.”As a good valet should, he did not query my instructions. By the time I was fully dressed my revolver was loaded. He fitted the gunbelt round my waist. It was a nuisance with the sword as well. Usually I wore one or the other, not both. It took a precious five minutes to get both adjusted so that I could draw either.I walked through to Lisa’s dressing room. Lisa looked at my revolver.”I see,” she said, “I thought it might be that sort of invitation. I have my Navy Colts and a few other useful things.”I looked. Lisa looked as if she was being formally dressed en grande tenue for an evening out. Her dress ballooned out over her largest crinoline. The low cut bodice revealed her cleavage in its full glory. She had an embroidered overskirt looped up in four places, looking suspiciously bulky in front.”Lisa. I know, and you know, that you are expecting but does it need to be so obvious?””Harold, you know it doesn’t but it is an excuse to cover these.”She lifted part of her overskirt to show her gunbelt with two Colt’s Navy .36 calibre Holster Pistols. Those ten shots might be useful. They weren’t manstoppers like my Walker Dragoon, but they could be concealed. My gun couldn’t. It was massive and heavy. I had two but I never wore both. I needed both hands to fire one.Lisa’s guns had been mine but now I relied on the Dragoons. The Navy Colts were effective weapons but too light for serious use on a battlefield. It had been unfortunate that we had left our personal firearms at home at the time of the last Rajah’s revolt. Except for target practice I had used a Dragoon only twice. The first time I had used a Dragoon was to kill a bull that had been mauled by a tiger. The shot had smashed the bull’s skull, satisfyingly stopping its rampage, but I didn’t admit to the awed natives that my aim had been the bull’s heart. The second time had been on the North West Frontier visiting my old regiment and had gone along on a “showing the flag” expedition. We had been ambushed but the ambushers came off worst. I had fired the Dragoon at a charging mob of hashish crazed tribesmen fifty metres away. The man I hit had been knocked backwards, dead of course, with a large hole blown through his chest. I had nearly lost hold of the gun from the shock of the recoil. By the time I had re-cocked the Dragoon a volley from the troops’ Brown Bess muskets had blown away the tribesmen. Finally, Lisa was ready. Our carriage was waiting outside with George’s lancers forming up as the escort. Lisa’s maid d****d a shawl over Lisa’s bare shoulders. As we left the house the escort saluted and our personal standard was unfurled. In the distance I could hear the tramp of infantry and the rumble of the gun carriages. If our assessment of Queen Serena’s need was wrong, we would have annoyed a large number of our troops unnecessarily. I could take a phlegmatic view. Any military complaints would be addressed to George.Chapter 3 The Royal DinnerWe entered the town with a blare of trumpets that sent the locals s**ttering. The lancers clattered ahead and formed up beside the main palace entrance. Already there, either side of the gateway were two of George’s 9 pounders. The linstocks were alight and the firers ready for action. Each gun was attended by a small group of infantry with their Minie rifles resting on improvised barricades. They looked ready for war and made a stark contrast to the dress uniforms of the lancers. The streets around were empty. The locals had decided that the area by the palace was likely to be unhealthy.Lisa and I descended as if we were attending a normal social occasion. Apart from exchanging greetings with the Gunners’ Captain we ignored the presence of so many soldiers. As we entered the gate Queen Serena’s Major Domo came to meet us.”Thank goodness you are here, Prince and Princess. We were concerned about the cannon outside.””What cannon?” Lisa asked innocently “Is that what they are? I understand that our soldiers are playing some of their games this evening. Is that the correct term, Harold?””No Lisa. What the Princess means is that the troops are taking part in an exercise. It is part of their training. I am sure Queen Serena will understand the need to train soldiers.””If you say so, Prince,” the Major Domo replied. He understood very well that training did not usually happen in the evening, nor with loaded and aimed cannon. He looked pointedly at my Dragoon and the “for use” sword. They are not pretty. The sword has a plain oiled wooden sheath. The oiled wood keeps it sharp. The dress sword’s fancy silver decorated sheath blunts the edge. The Dragoon looks like the killing machine it is. He sighed and led the way to the Audience Chamber.The crowd of courtiers parted before us. Queen Serena and King Vishaladeva came down from their thrones to greet us. Serena whispered in my ear.”Don’t be surprised by Visha. He’s drunk too much.”King Vishaladeva was enthusiastically kissing Lisa’s hand. She looked closely at him, then kissed him on the cheek, before giving her cheek to Serena. Serena spoke aloud.”Princess Lisa, will you accept the King as your partner for dinner?”Lisa bowed her acceptance, then moved to the King’s side. I held out my arm. Serena tucked her hand in it and we followed the King and Lisa to the dining chamber. It was arranged unusually. Normally the King and Queen sat in the middle of one side of a long row of tables. This time they and we were directed to a raised dais at the end. There was a wooden screen at the front of the dais. The diners below the dais would see only our heads. There was another oddity. Normal protocol would have sat the King and Queen together, then Lisa beside the King, and me beside the Queen. This time Queen Serena was sitting in the centre beside Lisa, with the men on the outside. I was beside the Queen.We watched as the diners processed in and took their seats. As the meal started to be served the conversation level in the chamber rose. Queen Serena whispered in my ear, loud enough for Lisa to hear.”Harold, the King is not himself tonight.”Lisa cut in. “I know he isn’t. I’ve had to stop his hand wandering twice already. He isn’t Vishaladeva. Who is he?””I thought I couldn’t deceive you two,” said Serena. “He is the King’s second cousin, Ranjit. He is an amiable and loyal friend but he likes women too much.””I know about that already. He might get a surprise if his hand wanders much further,” retorted Lisa.”Please be discreet,” hissed Serena. “It is important that he is recognised as the King tonight. It won’t be for long. This dinner is a simple one by our standards. Afterwards the four of us will retire and then Lisa can kick Ranjit in the balls or take whatever unladylike action she likes. Until then he must appear to be the King. Ranjit doesn’t understand English.””I see,” said Lisa. She whispered in Ranjit’s ear in his own dialect. That shook him. He looked terrified and nodded his agreement to Lisa.”What did you say to him, Lisa?” asked Serena. “He looked just like Visha does when you tell him off.””I told him that if he didn’t behave I’d slice his balls off with my husband’s sword and serve them to the guests as shish kebab.””I think he believes you.” Serena said.”He should. I’d do it.””I know you would,” said Serena, “but not until afterwards, please, for my sake.””If that’s what you want, Serena. His hands have stopped wandering.” “I should not be surprised, Lisa, but that is probably the first time in Ranjit’s life that he has ever accepted “no” from a woman, except his Queen. Despite that I like him. He is a loyal friend and would die for me.””I hope it doesn’t come to that, Serena. You may have been told about the training exercise outside.””Yes. They terrified most of my court. I knew that was Harold at work.””George, actually. Harold asked and George arranged for a demonstration of our support.””Is that what it is? Some of my guests thought they had been invited to a massacre instead of a dinner.” Serena lowered her voice. “Ranjit and I will leave soon. He will have a slight indisposition. You two will continue as the hosts until you signal the end of the dinner and the guests leave. Then you can come to our private chamber for the real business of the evening.” Soon afterwards, Serena summoned her Major Domo. He announced the King’s slight indisposition. The King and Queen withdrew. The meal continued with a few curious looks at us. It was the first time that we had taken any formal role in Serena’s realm.Lisa noticed Pushpa signalling to us from the far end of the chamber. I summoned the Major Domo who asked Pushpa to attend us. She mounted the dais, bowed low, and spoke very quietly.”Prince and Princess, there is likely to be trouble when you tell them it is the end of the evening.””What trouble?” Lisa asked.”I don’t know. It can’t be too serious with all your troops outside. Without them, it might have been.””Thank you, Pushpa,” I said. “We are as prepared as we can be.”Pushpa bowed again and backed off the dais. I don’t know whether she has to walk backwards when leaving a Prince and Princess. I shouldn’t think Pushpa knows either. We are the first she has met.The rest of the evening passed quietly. Just before I rose to make my announcement I drew my Dragoon, cocked it, and held it in my right hand. It was concealed from the guests by the screen at the front of the dais.The Major Domo asked for the guests’ attention. I rose to my feet and announced the end of the evening. I thanked the guests for coming. A man stood up and shouted that he wasn’t going to take orders from an Englishman. There were murmurs of support. I replied that I was not present as an Englishman but as a Prince of the realm. He shouted back that he did not recognise me as a Prince nor the right of a Queen to rule the state. That did it, as far as I was concerned. He could insult me, but not the Queen. I lifted the Dragoon and pointed it straight at him.The people around him s**ttered, leaving him alone. He stood still, waiting for me to shoot. Still keeping the Dragoon levelled at him I said (in the local dialect) very clearly and slowly:”You have expressed treason against the ruler of this state. Do you want to be tried for that offence by my justice or hers?”He said nothing for a few seconds. Then he was distracted by the entry of a group of George’s soldiers who levelled their rifles at him. His shoulders sagged.”I wish to be tried by the bahis firmaları ruler of this state, not by a foreign so-called Prince,” he said.”Very well. You will be.” With my left hand I gestured to the spear carrying native guards. They surrounded him, tied his hands behind his back and led him away. I carefully lowered the Dragoon’s hammer and holstered it. Then I looked at Lisa. Her hands were hidden by her overskirt. I was sure she had her Navy Colts ready for use. George entered the chamber between his men. At a curt order from him they lowered their rifles. Then the sergeant took over. The soldiers shouldered arms and marched out.”Is there anything else I can do for you, Prince?” he asked.”Thank you for your timely arrival, sir, but I think everything is under control now.””In that case my men will continue their exercise.” George bowed to Lisa and me before leaving.I sat down as the room was clearing. I grabbed a glass of wine and drained it. A female hand refilled the glass. I looked at the hand’s owner. It was Pushpa.”I think you handled that very well, Prince,” she said. “That large gun of yours is very intimidating and you have a reputation as a marksman. What a shame he chose local justice, isn’t it?” Pushpa grinned at me. We both knew that John Company justice would have told him not to be so naughty again and fined him a few rupees for the offence. Local law was still as left by the late Rajah. He could be torn apart by elephants or fed piece by piece to crocodiles. There were many barbaric punishments allowed by the local laws. As for marksman that reputation depended on a lucky shot during the revolt. I doubt that I could have hit him at that range. Pushpa knew that my reputation was undeserved. But if I had missed, Lisa could have emptied her two revolvers into him. She regularly outshot most of our soldiers with rifle or pistol. “Why, Pushpa, why?” asked Lisa.”Now I know who, I know why,” Pushpa answered. “He was one of the ringleaders of the revolt. Now he supports the late Rajah’s third son Sanji who thinks he should be the heir instead of Queen Serena’s daughter. This might have been more serious except for the show of force outside. The Queen can tell you more. The challenge to you was meant to be the start of something much larger. Ask her.” “I will,” Lisa said “I don’t like being threatened. I can get nasty when provoked.”She could. She is much more ruthless than I am. Chapter 4 PrecautionsWe left the empty chamber. We followed Pushpa to the former orgy-room with the interesting wall carvings. The King and Queen were wrapped together in a quilt. He was completely concealed except for one hand and his head. He was smoking a hookah and had a blissful expression on his face. Queen Serena’s head was turned towards him. Her flowing d****ries extended well beyond the quilt. A group of musicians were playing restful music. A group of dancers were gliding around the room.As we entered, Queen Serena clapped her hands and gestured. All the musicians and dancers left. Lisa, Pushpa and I were alone with the King and Queen.”Pushpa, get the King taken away and looked after – all night.” Serena ordered.Pushpa left the room and returned with the female dancers. Serena stood up, wrapping the quilt back around the King. Pushpa took the hookah’s mouthpiece from the King’s unresisting hand. The dancers wrapped scarves around the quilt tying the King inside. They lifted the bundle and took the King away. Serena sat on the gaddi revealed by the removal of the bundled King. Pushpa stood beside her. Lisa and I sat down facing the Queen.”Serena, what do you mean by “looking after”?” Lisa asked.Pushpa replied “The Queen leaves such things to me. He will be well wrapped all night long by women’s bodies. Every time he stirs he will be pleasured back to sleep. Part of him might be sore in the morning but probably not. The women are very skilled. He will enjoy the experience.”I sniffed at the hookah’s mouthpiece.”Opium?” I asked.”Yes” said Pushpa.”Why?”Pushpa looked at Serena who nodded.”Ranjit is standing in for the King. It is possible that he may be assassinated. Even Ranjit is worried about losing his life but is willing to take the risk to save Vishaladeva. In exchange he has asked for one smoke of opium a week and the attentions of numerous women. He is getting both. Tonight he may find that he has too many women even for him.”I looked at Serena. Assassination was a possible threat at any time. Ranjit could only be a short term substitute for the King. There must be another problem. The real target of an assassination attempt would be the real ruler, Serena, not her puppet consort.”We are wasting time. Serena, what is the real problem? Why do you need us? Why tonight? And I don’t mean that hot-headed idiot at the dinner.””As usual, Harold, you see more than you should. It is unsettling to have such perceptive friends. I asked Pushpa to give you a simple invitation to dinner, yet you arrive wearing weapons and attended by a substantial part of your army including artillery. Yet Pushpa tells me she did not say that I was in danger. Did she?” “No, Serena, she didn’t.””Then how did you know that I needed such a strong show of support? I admit that I needed it. Without it, tonight might have been very different.””Because of what Pushpa did not say. She invited us to dinner when we were due to come in two days’ time. That meant that your need was urgent. She did NOT explain why. She behaved as if my office walls have ears. Maybe they have. Yet she could have brought a written message or written a note herself. She didn’t. My conclusion was that you were in real trouble but you did not know as much about it as you needed. So I took some precautions. So did Lisa.””That reminds me,” Lisa interrupted. “I need to unload some of my precautions. They are uncomfortable when sitting. I’m glad to get rid of them from inside my crinoline. They are heavy.”She reached under her overskirt. I expected her to produce her Navy Colts. She didn’t. She produced two fuzed mortar bombs.”Lisa!” I yelled. “Those things are dangerous.””I know. They are fuzed for contact. If I dropped one, you and I would have been blown to bits. I thought they might be useful if we were attacked by a crowd.””Useful!” I snorted. “This time, Lisa, you are wrong. There is no way they can be thrown far enough to escape the blast. They are meant to be fired from a mortar.””I know that. But if we were to be overwhelmed, it might deter the attackers to know that a few hundred would join us in death. I worked it out. Two of these would have brought the palace’s roof down in the blast. Everyone at dinner would have died.”I shut up. Lisa is capable of anything. If she were to die, then she would happily take a few hundred with her. I took the fuzes from the bombs and put them down carefully.”Are they as dangerous as that?” Serena asked.”At least. I don’t know what the effect would be inside a building. No one has ever tried because they would die finding out.” “What if Lisa had dropped one?””Then we would all be dead and in hundreds of pieces.” I said flatly. Chapter 5 RevelationsI looked at the Queen. She dropped her eyes. “Serena, you are avoiding the issue. We are not here to discuss Lisa’s dangerous precautions. What has happened? Why is Ranjit playing the King? Why him? You are a more likely target for assassination.”Serena’s body sagged. Lisa quickly moved to her side and hugged her.”Come on, Serena.” Lisa said “We are your friends. You can tell us, if you can tell anybody.””I know. It is so difficult to accept that a Queen has friends that she can trust. I have Pushpa and her young ladies but their role is limited by what women can do in our society. It is both their weakness and their strength. The nobles who are the originators of most of the plots against me disregard women. But as women they cannot take an active role outside the palace. They certainly can’t deal with a military threat. There could have been one tonight. I don’t know. That idiot as you described him was supposed to give the sign for something to happen. What – I don’t know. The presence of so many English soldiers may have stopped whatever was to come next. He might have been the sign himself. He might not have given the sign because he was afraid that Harold would shoot him. He didn’t know that Harold is unlikely to hit whatever he aims at.””But I wouldn’t miss!” interrupted Lisa.”I know YOU wouldn’t. But he wouldn’t expect a woman to actually shoot him. He doesn’t know what you are like, Lisa. Harold’s massive gun might have stopped him giving the sign. I don’t know.””Serena,” I said, “You have said several times that you “don’t know” but you haven’t said what you DO know. You know something you are not telling us. What?””Visha has been k**napped.””What!””Visha has been k**napped.” Serena repeated and burst into tears against Lisa’s shoulder.”I waited until Serena had cried herself out before asking:”How? When? Who? and most of all Why? Why would anyone k**nap Visha?”Serena sat up again, wiped her tear stained face with her sari and tried to answer logically.”How? He was visiting Mohan, one of his step-brothers. We thought we could trust Mohan. We were wrong. The visit was set up just for the k**nap. Ranjit was an innocent dupe used by them.When? Last night. Visha was supposed to stay there overnight and return this morning. He didn’t. Instead I got a set of demands brought by Ranjit. Who? I think, but I don’t know, that it is Visha’s younger stepbrother Sanji or if not him personally then people acting to put Sanji on my throne.Why? Their demands make that very clear. They want me to abdicate so that Visha can rule alone and Visha has to make Sanji his heir. Visha would be a puppet King with them, whoever they are, ruling through him. My daughter would not rule after me. Their ultimate aim is to restore the male line of succession. Neither Visha nor Sanji have sons. After Sanji the succession would be open for the strongest noble to grab. They also want the English to leave us alone.”Serena stopped. “Pushpa. Please arrange some drinks for us and check that Ranjit is fully occupied. This is going to take some time.” Pushpa left. Serena watched her go.”There was a hint in the demand that only I can interpret. They want Visha to father a son. That son would cut Sanji out of the succession and the infant son would rule through a Council of Regents, that is the nobles. If a son is born, Visha would not live long after its birth. If I abdicate my life expectancy will be shorter than Visha’s. They do not want ME to have a son. He might be as intelligent and determined as his mother.””And you haven’t told Pushpa this?” asked Lisa.”No.””Why not?””Some of the high ranking ladies have vanished as well. I suspect that the noble ladies are to be mated with Visha. Whoever of them conceives will be married to Visha. A King or even a Rajah can have several legitimate wives. Visha has only one wife, me, so far. He finds me enough of a handful. One of the missing ladies is Pushpa’s cousin. Pushpa might become cousin to the Queen Mother. So I can’t trust Pushpa.”Lisa cut in “If you can’t trust Pushpa you might as well abdicate now. She knows all your secrets, and ours. You must continue to trust her or your rule will be crippled.””I know, I know.” Serena sighed. “I have to trust Pushpa. Without her, I cannot rule.””Think, Serena, you know Pushpa better than we do.” I said. “Yet Lisa and I would trust Pushpa with our lives. What does your heart say?””It says that I trust Pushpa. Not that I must trust her, just that I give her unqualified trust.” “Then tell her, Serena. She needs to know.””You are right, Harold. Yet Sanji, Mohan, and the other conspirators, whoever they are, have been much cleverer than I expected. They have plots within plots and many of those involved do not know the full extent of what is planned. Most of the nobles are unsettled just enough to want me to take a less prominent role and appear to rule through Visha. They still can’t accept a woman as ruler. It hasn’t helped that some of their wives have become unsettled in their traditional roles. The wives are demanding more involvement in their husbands’ business and even taking a more active role in bed. Some of the nobles are scared stiff of their women’s new found assertiveness. One of the older nobles provided justification for their fears. He likes young concubines. It was said that one of his youngest was displeased by his pathetic sexual fumblings. She complained. He argued with her but she overpowered him, tied him up in her sari, and left him like that all night long. His senior wife had the concubine whipped. He had been found by two of the female cleaners. Within hours the story was all round the town. Of course the story changed and became more lurid. By the time one of Pushpa’s ladies heard it for the third time it included details of her pissing over his bound body and forcing him to lick her backside, neither of which happened. Even the original story wasn’t the truth. The noble liked being wrapped in women’s clothes as foreplay. That night he couldn’t manage an erection so his concubine wrapped him tighter and tighter. He fell asleep. She got bored so she knotted him with tightly wrapped saris before returning to her own bed. She had done it on several occasions and he had enjoyed it. She intended to return to him before dawn but this time she overslept. She was whipped for her carelessness in causing him such embarrassment but the damage had been done. The cleaners were whipped as well when the noble’s senior wife found that they had told their friends.” “I can see the effect of that story on some of your nobles,” Lisa said “They feel threatened. But surely not threatened enough to revolt?””No, for the majority of them. However they want a return to the old values even though their lives and estates were at risk from the caprices of the former Rajah. What they would really like is my benevolent rule but with the traditional women’s roles maintained. That is why they are sympathetic to the idea that I should rule through Visha. They protect the conspirators who want far more but don’t admit how much they want to change.” “I think you need to call Pushpa back, Serena,” I said. “She has to know that you trust her and we need her advice.” “Are you sure, Harold?” Serena asked. “Yes. We MUST trust Pushpa.” “Very well.” Serena clapped her hands. A female head peered cautiously round the door. “Send Pushpa to me.” The head nodded and withdrew. Pushpa entered a few seconds later. Serena looked at me.”Pushpa,” I said “Serena tells me that your cousin has been k**napped. Is that true?” “Yes, Prince Harold, my cousin Bhavini was k**napped with the noble ladies.””Why?””What do you mean, Prince Harold, when you say “Why”?” Pushpa asked cautiously.”I mean why was Bhavini k**napped with the others? You must have a good idea why she was included.”Pushpa burst into tears. Lisa and Serena rushed to hug her. They looked accusingly at me.”Before you answer my question, Pushpa, you must know two things. First. I know why Bhavini was k**napped. Second. A few minutes ago Queen Serena said that she cannot rule without you.”Pushpa looked at Serena who nodded.”Then I can answer your question, Prince Harold. Bhavini was k**napped so that Queen Serena would be unable to trust me.” Pushpa looked at Serena who was still hugging her tightly. “It seems that the k**napping failed to destroy my Queen’s trust.””It made me doubt,” said Serena “but Prince Harold made me look in my heart. There I found no room for anything but complete confidence in you, Pushpa.”Pushpa wriggled out of Serena and Lisa’s embrace and sank to the floor. She lifted the hem of Serena’s sari to her lips.”Thank you, my Queen,” she said. “and thank you, O Prince and Princess.”Chapter 6 Renewing AlliancesShe had barely enough time to finish her sentence before she was swept up in an orgy of hugs and kisses that enfolded me as well. At the end I was sitting on the gaddi vacated by Ranjit. Pushpa was on my left knee, Serena on the right and my head rested back against Lisa’s slightly swollen belly as she sat on my shoulders. The only flaw in my bliss was the pressure of Lisa’s two Colt pistols against my ears. Lisa felt them too. She lifted her overskirt, unbuckled the gun belt and laid it aside. She removed my sword and pistol as well. Lisa said “I think we need to celebrate Serena’s confidence in Pushpa. That decision has foiled the plotters. How shall we mark our renewed alliance?”Serena whispered in Lisa’s ear. Lisa nodded.Then I was blindfolded by her overskirt as she dropped it over my face. Pushpa and Serena pulled it tight around me and held it there with the weight of their bodies.From above me Lisa said “Assertive women can be enjoyable, can’t they, Harold?”I couldn’t reply because her hands were gagging me through the skirt. I couldn’t move either because the three women held me tight.”I think that his silence means that he agrees,” Serena said.I relaxed and enjoyed their wandering hands. They were whispering to each other but Lisa’s enveloping skirt prevented me from hearing what they said.Serena’s hands were busily undoing my trousers. Pushpa had slid off my knee and was removing my shoes. Soon I was naked from the waist down.”Perhaps he too likes being wrapped as part of foreplay.” suggested Serena. “Shall we see?”I heard the slither of silk. I was pulled from the gaddi to the floor with Lisa sliding down with me. She kept hold of my head under her overskirt.On the floor the three women moved quickly to strip me completely and swaddle me in Serena and Pushpa’s saris. I saw glimpses of the lithe naked bodies of Serena and Pushpa as they tightly wrapped me with their silk saris tied in place with their petticoats’ drawstrings, leaving my manhood uncovered. Lisa swamped me with her crinoline again. In the darkness under her dome of skirts I felt her straddle me before she lowered her bush towards my face. She held herself poised above me. Just before she lowered herself on to my face she said: “Harold, we three women have decided to have a ceremony to mark the alliance of Serena, Pushpa, you and me. We could have drunk a toast to each other but that did not seem to be enough. We wanted something much more intimate. We three also have something else to celebrate. All of us are pregnant. We have decided to hold the ceremony ON you.”She dropped on to my face squashing any protest I might have made. I felt another woman straddle my middle and lower herself on to my erection. Hands were gripping my ankles as Lisa and the other began a slow rhythmical movement on me. I was gasping whenever Lisa let me breathe. Even then the air I gulped was becoming stale under her stifling skirt and petticoats. Their pace grew faster and faster as we became more and more aroused. I was desperately holding back on until I felt the woman who was riding me shudder into a series of climaxes. She cried aloud as Lisa crushed my face deep into her sweaty crotch. That did it. I could not hold back and I too shuddered in release.Lisa dragged her clothing off my face and stroked my cheek.”I hope you enjoyed being ridden by a Queen, Harold. Not every member of her court gets such personal attention.”Lisa climbed off me revealing a naked Queen Serena still impaled on my shrinking erection. Serena smiled at me.”Thank you, Prince Harold. Your restraint under pressure made my ride most enjoyable. I wish my Visha had such control. I claimed you first. Now you must get ready for the rest of the alliance.”Serena slid herself up my body and sat across my chest with her glistening yoni poised just below my chin. I felt Lisa’s skirts spread over my legs. Another naked woman, that must be Pushpa, took Serena’s place across my hips. I shook my head wearily. I could not be ready so soon.”Do not concern yourself, Prince Harold,” said Serena. “We know that we have to wait. While we do, you can kaçak iddaa have a Queen to eat.”Serena’s yoni moved over my mouth. I extended my tongue to lap between her lips. Her hands stroked my head. She slid closer and closer to me until my mouth was covered by her yoni. She pressed down so that I had to stop using my tongue and concentrate just on breathing. Four hands caressed my body. Pushpa’s warm yoni moved up and down my flaccid member. I relaxed and enjoyed the attention until Pushpa felt the revival of my manhood. Her yoni claimed it.Slowly she and Serena moved together to rouse me further. Lisa’s hands were still stroking my body. As I became more erect I also began to lose myself in the passion of being the centre of attention of three sensual women. I lost awareness of myself as Serena’s sex swamped my face pulsing rhythmically with Pushpa’s downward thrusting. Even crushed under the weight of three women my back began to arch as Pushpa’s movements reached a frenzy. I wanted to hold back until Pushpa had climaxed but I was being controlled by their bodies and unable to resist. Pushpa’s last thrust was echoed by Serena whose yoni clamped around my mouth and nose, smothering me. That I could not endure. I erupted into Pushpa.Serena slid back on to my chest. I gasped for breath, my head cradled by her softly moving hands. Pushpa and Lisa continued to caress me gently.As my breathing returned to normal Serena looked down at me.“Prince Harold, I think we have done enough to you to cement our re-founded alliance. We could ask you to continue with Princess Lisa but we need your brains as well as your other parts. Princess Lisa will have to wait.”I nodded as best I could. That brought my face back into contact with Queen Serena’s yoni. She brushed it against me and then climbed off leaving Pushpa and Lisa still astride me. Lisa stood up.“I am leaving Pushpa in control,” Lisa said. “She needs to know that we trust her with everything, including you.”Pushpa contracted around my unresponsive member. She smiled at me but the tear trickling down her cheek showed her emotion.Queen Serena dressed herself in another sari and d****d a shawl around Pushpa’s naked body.Chapter 7 Who are the Lady Archers?“What are we going to do about the King’s k**napping?” I asked, “Now that we have established that we trust Pushpa.”I winced as Pushpa contracted her yoni.“We have to get him back.” Lisa said bluntly.“How?”asked Queen Serena and Pushpa together.“I have a couple of ideas…” I said.“Out with them!” said Lisa.“OK. They know that we know where he is. They know that Ranjit isn’t the King. The people don’t know that anything is wrong.”“We know all that,” said Serena.“Yes. So we act as if nothing is wrong. We – that is Queen Serena and Ranjit still pretending to be the King – go to visit the King’s stepbrother Mohan. Why not?”“Because he will capture me and Sanji can do what he likes. Visha and I will die. That’s why not!” Serena exploded.“Not if you make it a full state visit with your English friends paying a visit as well. George will provide a suitable escort that would deter anyone.”“Prince Harold,” Pushpa said quietly, “George and his soldiers cannot enter the women’s quarters where Serena will stay. They will be useless outside it.”“I have thought of that. Along with the gallant soldiery some of the English ladies will accompany Lisa to see Sanji’s palace.”“Would these English ladies be members of the Archery Club, by any chance?” asked Lisa who was following my train of thought.“What use will Lady Archers be to me?” asked Serena.“Well,” said Lisa, “Archers is a loose term for what we do. Sometimes we do have archery contests in public but most of our meetings are in private and guarded so that no natives – sorry Queen Serena and Pushpa – can see what we do. We were concerned that under the late Rajah’s rule we might be attacked so we prepared to defend ourselves and help our menfolk. We practise with small arms and artillery. We are quite good with George’s nine pounders. It is such a shame that we can’t smuggle one into Sanji’s zenana. Artillery pieces are rather large.”Queen Serena and Pushpa were looking astonished. Neither of them knew about the real purpose of the Archery Club despite their effective secret service.“But, why…?” asked Serena.“Why didn’t we defend ourselves better in the late Rajah’s zenana?” Lisa finished for her. “That was a mistake we regretted and want to correct. We thought that because the Ranee had invited us that we would be safe. We didn’t bring our weapons. We should have. If we had, the rebels would have died in the doorway.”“So what weapons would the Lady Archers have?” asked Serena.“That depends on what we could smuggle in. All of us have revolvers or pepperboxes. Most have single shot carbines and shotguns. We have trained with the soldiers’ rifles and muskets but find the recoil too much for us. We have trained with knives and swords. Some of us have special talents. Jane is brilliant with a wire garrotte or a Thug’s rumal. My speciality is bone breaking with my arms or legs.”“How? Boxing and Kicking?” asked Pushpa.“No. I wrap them around my target and squeeze.”That stopped their questions. My Lisa is a big woman and very fit. Her leg muscles are very strong.“I think that the Archers could protect you very effectively, Queen Serena,” I said into the silence.“But wouldn’t Sanji suspect?” She asked.“If you didn’t know about the Archers with your efficient Secret Service,” Pushpa, the head of Serena’s Secret Service squeezed me again. “then Sanji won’t know.” “It could work…”Serena said “but if Sanji does know then the Archers would be in real danger.”“When they know, I am sure that they would take the risk for you, Serena.” Lisa announced.“Why? Why should Englishwomen risk their lives for a native, even if she is a Queen? I don’t understand.”“It is very simple, Serena. We live here. We may talk of Home but this IS our home. This is where our husbands and c***dren are. We know that we are much safer with you as Queen than we were when the Rajah ruled, or we would be if Sanji ruled,” Lisa paused.“We became Archers to defend ourselves and our families. Defending you would be defending ourselves. Despite our military superiority we really control this part of India with the consent of the people and their rulers, even if some of us call them natives. Our soldiers would support you. Why should their wives be any different?”“It is a difficult concept to grasp,” said Serena. “It is hard enough to realise that English gentlewomen have trained to arms. It is even harder to accept that they would fight and perhaps die for me.”“I think that they will but it is better to make sure. The Archers meet tomorrow afternoon, no that will be this afternoon, and I will tell them that you have a problem…” said Lisa.“You can’t tell them about Visha. Only a few of us know. If that got out…”“Don’t worry, Serena. I will only tell them enough without revealing your secrets. Then I will ask if you can see the Archers in action. That should convince you. Harold could escort you and Pushpa to the cantonments. If the Archers agree they will show you. If they do not, that I don’t expect, the four of us can plan what else we can do.”Chapter 8 Unfinished Business“Then I agree to see what the Lady Archers can do, Lisa,” Serena said Until then…”“Until then we have unfinished business. Pushpa, please get off my husband. I haven’t had my turn. I think we should finish with all of us naked. Could you help me undress, Serena, while Pushpa unwraps Harold?”“Of course.”Pushpa squeezed me one last time before climbing off me. She untied the petticoat strings and unwound the saris binding me. As she did a hand brushed casually across my erection. The second stroke was no accident. She finished unwrapping me at the same time as Lisa shed her last item of clothing.Serena rested her back against the gaddi. My head was laid between her legs against her bush. She settled herself. Her thighs briefly gripped the sides of my head. Pushpa sat on my chest facing Serena feeding her folded knees between Serena’s thighs. Her feet rested on my shoulders. She slid her hips forward until my tongue could touch her. Lisa straddled my hips and eased my erection into her warm cleft.Serena’s hands passed Pushpa and cradled Lisa’s breasts. Lisa leant against Pushpa’s back, burying her face in Pushpa’s flowing hair. Lisa’s hands sought Pushpa’s breasts. Pushpa stroked Serena’s breasts. Looking up between Serena and Pushpa I could see their nipples become proudly erect. That was the last I saw of them for some time.Lisa thrust down on me, pushing Pushpa’s yoni into my face. I extended my tongue, licked, nibbled and thrust between her lips. Pushpa’s belly cut off my view upwards as she leant forward to kiss Serena.The three of them started to move as their mutual caresses excited them. As Lisa bounced on me her movements edged Pushpa’s body forwards over my face. Pushpa’s lips spread allowing my tongue to slip further in.I felt the heat of their rising passion as Lisa’s movements became faster and faster. Pushpa’s yoni thrust back against me and covered more of my face. Now I could only breathe as Lisa lifted herself and reduced the pressure on Pushpa.I was struggling to hold back. I wanted all three of them to climax several times before I let myself go. If not they would be so lost in their ecstasy that they would continue after I had finished. That might be painful for me and there was nothing I could do about it. I was sandwiched between hips, squeezed by thighs, and weighed down by two women.I concentrated hard. I may not be a good shot but I have a reputation to uphold. The three of them were making my reputation fragile. I felt them reach climax after climax as I gritted my teeth against the pounding I was enduring now completely under Pushpa’s yoni. At length I could endure no more and I released myself into my already pregnant wife.As their passion subsided Pushpa moved backwards allowing me to pant for breath. Lisa released me so that Pushpa could slide further back. Pushpa lifted her legs from between Serena’s. The last thing I remember before drifting into an exhausted u*********sness was the softness of Serena’s thighs hugging my head.Chapter 9 The Archers DemonstrationWhen I woke up I was covered by Lisa’s dress and my head was resting on her breast with her arm holding me. I kissed the breast.“So you are awake?” Lisa said. “Time to be up, dressed and on the move. We have much to do.”She didn’t release me. She pushed her breast against me. What could I do? I opened my mouth and sucked. My tongue rolled her nipple around. Then a hand slapped my backside.“Sorry, Harold. We have to move.”We got up, dressed in our creased clothing and went back to the cantonments. We showered and changed before a leisurely breakfast. Lisa went to see some of the Archers while I dressed in my full dress uniform to collect Queen Serena and Pushpa. First I had to warn the Colonel. He would not be too pleased to have an unexpected visit from the local ruler. He’d have to dress formally as well, and in the heat of the day.He was sympathetic even if slightly annoyed. I told him everything. That saved me from criticism for borrowing the soldiery last night. He would provide whatever support he could for Queen Serena even offering to reduce Mohan’s palace to rubble if required. He knew, and I knew, that Visha would be killed as soon as the bombardment started. From the Colonel’s point of view, Visha was expendable but Queen Serena wasn’t. He was not happy at the prospect of her exposing herself to danger but he knew Serena too well to expect to be able to deter her. He would provide the necessary troops to escort Serena and enough to storm Mohan’s palace if that became necessary. We hoped that would not happen.The Colonel knew of the Archers but disapproved of some of their activities. While it might be useful for a woman to know how to load and fire a pistol, practising with artillery and learning light infantry skills was going too far. The Colonel had argued with Lisa about it, but the Colonel’s wife had eventually persuaded him that it was good for the sergeant instructors because the women asked “why?” and didn’t accept that the known way was always best. The Colonel was proud of the efficiency of his soldiers. If they became more efficient because the sergeants were made to think that was an acceptable reason for humouring the ladies. Lisa and I met back at our bungalow. The Archers were willing to demonstrate their skills to Serena and pay a dangerous visit to Mohan’s palace. They would only take volunteers. Those with small c***dren would be persuaded not to go but the older ladies and those who had no c***dren yet wanted to try their skills. I was still doubtful. None of them had faced a determined enemy. I didn’t doubt their willingness. I had no idea how they would react under fire. The unsuccessful revolt had been their only experience.I had to collect and escort Queen Serena and Pushpa so I had my waler saddled. Lisa went to arrange with the sergeant instructors for a demonstration. The Colonel’s wife was the commander of the Archers but Lisa was the adjutant who did the real work.As I arrived at Serena’s palace a closed carriage was waiting with an escort of her cavalry. Instead of their usual lances they were armed with carbines. Their lances were booted behind the saddles making a brave display but the carbines would be more effective against any opposition that might be expected.Serena and Pushpa, closely veiled by their saris, entered the carriage and we set off at a trot. As we reached the cantonments the gates were opened for us. I had a brief word with the colonel. Serena’s cavalry dismounted. I escorted the carriage to the practice area. The sergeant instructors presented arms as Queen Serena went through the gates of the walled practice area. Once inside and the gates had closed behind us, About two dozen of the Archers came from behind buildings and formed up on parade. All were wearing round dresses, that is dresses without crinolines and in most cases without corsetting. Their arms were a miscellaneous assortment. All had pistol belts and most carried some type of long arm, a rifle, musket, carbine or shotgun. They didn’t look very military.Serena and Pushpa kept themselves veiled as the Colonel’s lady led them to inspect the assembled Archers. Serena’s body language showed her disappointment. The Archers did not look like a formidable force or a force at all. Their long arms were on either left or right shoulders, their pistols were a weird assortment, and they just looked like English Gentlewomen dressed to shoot rabbits.Lisa nodded at one of the sergeant instructors. He began to bellow commands. The Archers split into four groups. Lisa approached us.“Please follow me, ladies and Harold.”She followed one of the four groups of Archers. They walked to a shooting range. Set up about thirty feet away were a set of man-sized targets. The Archers stood each facing an individual target. The sergeant shouted “Now!”In less than a second all the targets had more than one hole in them. Within five seconds the Archers had discharged all the loads in their various handguns and had started to reload. In less than a minute their guns were fully loaded again and holstered.Lisa brought us down the range to the targets. Every target had been hit by every discharge. Some were off the painted roundel but all had two or more hits within the scoring area. At thirty feet with revolvers I doubt the average British soldier could have done as well. If the targets had been men, all would have been very dead.Serena nodded at Lisa.Lisa said a few words to the group leader and led us away. At the next group the targets were as before but the Archers had no weapons visible. They just looked like ladies standing in a line. When the sergeant shouted “Now!” guns appeared out of skirt pockets or waistbands. The accuracy was just as good but the first shot was slightly slower.The next group was arranged similarly with no visible weapons. At the command throwing knives were pulled from behind the neck and thudded into the targets followed by two more from each lady.Lisa told Serena “The groups did not know until they arrived at the range whether they would be using holsters, concealed guns or knives. Each one can use all three methods. The last group will be slightly different but every Archer can duplicate any of these roles.At the last range one lady was standing with a shotgun. We could see but she could not a sergeant preparing to project a wooden model of a duck from a large catapult. The model duck flew low, about three feet from the ground, faster than ducks can fly. The shotgun load caught it in mid flight and knocked it to the ground with splinters flying. Several ladies repeated the feat that was made more difficult because we hadn’t noticed the sergeant on the other side of the range. The model ducks could come from either side and be sent high or low. All were hit.Lisa led us to a flat roofed building. We climbed the external staircase to find that the building had a central well. It had two exterior doors that were both guarded by male sentries. Looking down into the well we could see several soldiers lying on straw filled mattresses apparently asleep.Some of the Archers approached the building passing by the sentries. Suddenly the sentries were grabbed and gagged before being efficiently tied up. There had not been a sound. The Archers crept into the buildings and the soldiers pretending to sleep were overpowered silently. The Archers’ group leader looked up at us and nodded.“OK. Let them go now.” Lisa ordered.The sentries and the sleeping soldiers were untied. Most got at least one kiss for the indignity they had undergone. Chapter 10 The Archers are told some of the truthOur party descended the stairs and went to the sergeants’ mess. It was empty.“You can unveil now,” said Lisa.Pushpa and Serena unwound the saris from their heads.“What do you think of the Archers?” Lisa asked.Serena replied “I am impressed. I didn’t expect such efficiency. The overpowering of the sentries was well done even if it was only an exercise. I didn’t hear a thing. Whether they will do as well for real, I don’t know, but I would be very pleased to have their help.”“You will have. Now can we tell them what we are about? The cover story, not the real one.”“Yes.”“OK. Shall I call them in?”Serena nodded.Lisa left, returning with the twenty-four Archers.“Lady Archers, this is Queen Serena and her Lady-in-Waiting Pushpa.”The Archers curtsied in unison.“Ladies, I need your help,” Serena commenced “I have to visit my brother-in-law Mohan at his palace. While there I will be in danger, possibly mortal danger. I have to rescue some of my ladies who have been k**napped without being captured myself. I don’t know friend from foe once I am at the palace. The only allies I know I can trust are Prince Harold, Princess Lisa and you. It will be risky if you are suspected of being more than a group of curious Englishwomen. Are you willing to take that risk?”Jane stood forward from the Archers.“Yes, Queen Serena, we are prepared to take that risk. We have volunteered to help you. We will.”“Thank you. Apart from my own safety, the future of my realm depends on the next few days. We will be leaving at noon two days from now for a visit to my brother in law. My own cavalry will escorted me, a contingent of Company troops who will treat the visit as a reconnaissance exercise, and you. Only you can protect me once inside the zenana. You know that my enemies do not respect zenanas. There I must depend on you because I expect to be threatened.”Jane spoke “We will be there and ready for whatever your enemies plan, Queen Serena.”Lisa thanked the Archers and dismissed them, signing to Jane to stay behind.After the Archers had left Lisa asked Serena “Can we tell Jane?”“Yes. I trust Jane.”“OK. kaçak bahis It isn’t as simple as Serena said. Visha has been k**napped by Mohan and Sanji…”“But I saw him last night!” protested Jane.“You didn’t. You saw his cousin Ranjit. Visha has been gone more than a day as have some of the noble ladies. Our mission is to rescue Visha and all the ladies if we can. Some of the ladies might be party to the plot and could be unwilling to be rescued. Willing or not, we have to get them back to the capital unharmed. If we could k**nap Sanji as well we would stop the whole conspiracy. George is bringing enough soldiers. If we can get everyone out of the palace to George’s camp we should be safe. That is a larger task than just protecting the Queen.”“Yes, Lisa, now I know why you wanted the Archers. We will do what we can but…”“…but you give us more hope,” interrupted Serena. “You are our secret weapon. Sanji will be dismayed by my visit with such a large escort but he would still try to present the British with a fait-accompli. I hope to turn the tables on him, rescue all those he has k**napped and stop all the plots against me. If I succeed fewer people will want to try again.”Jane left to follow the Archers.Chapter 11 The Fate of Traitors“One thing, Serena,” I said “If we succeed what will you do to Mohan and Sanji?”“There is only one penalty for a failed revolt, Harold, you know that.”“Yes, but…”“…you don’t want a public execution or something messy such as ripping him asunder by buffalo teams?”I shuddered. “No. We, that is the East India Company, cannot afford to condone something that would upset public opinion in England.”“I see. Or rather I don’t see the necessity. If that is what you want…”Lisa nodded. So did I.“…then he will be executed in private. I will think of some suitable way. You may have to arrange for the report of his death to be edited to suit British tastes but I won’t contradict whatever you say.”“Thank you Serena. We have a massive task before we get to executing Sanji but we don’t want to jeopardise your reign by intemperate revenge.”“Intemperate!” Serena exploded. “They have k**napped my husband, will probably kill him, would kill me if they could and you suggest I might be intemperate. That is unfair of you, Harold.”“I know it is. You have to consider that your reign is by consent of the East India Company. You may not like that but you have to accept some of our prejudices. The late Rajah and Ranee’s deaths would have horrified our masters at Home if they had known exactly how they died. If they knew that you killed the Ranee yourself they could not accept you as Queen of your state. They don’t know and the Company officials in India will not tell them. We know things are done differently here. Back Home they think that Indian states are like English counties and Indian law is like English law. That reminds me. What did you do to that person at the dinner last night?”“He asked to be tried by local law. The judge only had the choice of that death sentence to pass. At my request the judge chose a quiet and secret death. This morning the women of his family smothered the traitor to death. His wives tied him up. His senior wife is a rather plump woman. She was and is one of my supporters. She was so disgusted with him that she insisted that she alone should suffocate him with her backside to show her contempt.” Lisa laughed. “That seems an appropriate ending. Perhaps we should include in English Law.”“Lisa!” I protested. “They’d never stand for it at Home.”“I know. Shame.”“What about the traitor’s family, Serena?”“His son is now head of the family and is so afraid of his mother and his stepmothers that he will be no trouble. He has told his mother as much as he knows about the plot. Perhaps she was sitting on his head at the time. His mother is now the effective head of the family. She will make sure that he doesn’t take any further part in the conspiracy. He has been confined to his father’s, now his, zenana and is chained to the foot of his wife’s bed. I’m told that he has to wash his wife’s feet with his tongue before he is fed.”“That sounds like a good idea. Shall I try it, Harold?”“No.” I said emphatically. “Can we get back to the serious business? How long will it take to arrange the visit, Serena?”“About a day. What about the Archers and the soldiers?”“The same,” I replied. “Shall we leave dawn the day after tomorrow?”“Yes. Pushpa? As soon as we get back please ask my Major Domo to make the arrangements.”Puspha bowed.Serena and Pushpa left the cantonments in state. I informed the Colonel of the expedition. He summoned George and the senior officers. Lisa was making plans with the Archers.Chapter 12 The Expedition The troops, the English ladies and their baggage were assembled outside the cantonments before dawn. Across the plain Queen Serena’s cavalry could be seen approaching. There was a heavy guard escorting her carriages. Even in the false dawn the dust could be seen swirling around them. The commander of the Queen’s Guard rode up to George and conferred. George spoke quietly to one of his officers who rode off to bellow commands.A vedette of cavalry led off, followed at a distance by a troop of lancers. Behind them the infantry started to march. The King and Queen’s carriages and escort swung in to the line. The artillery followed; then the baggage train; the ladies; more infantry and finally a rearguard of carbine carrying cavalry. The column extended for nearly a mile. Out of sight skirmishers were moving ahead and parallel to the column. It was an impressive sight yet was just a proportion of our strength.We made slow progress. The infantry could have gone faster but not the heavy cannon. The 9 pounders could move almost at the speed of the cavalry. The heavy guns towed by bullock teams could not. It took ten long hours before we arrived in the vicinity of Mohan’s palace. He had cleared a space for the troops to camp. The space had not been where he had wanted to put them. He had intended them to be sited close to his walls and in range of his guns. The officer sent on ahead had chosen the ground, advised by Serena. The camp would be on an elevation close to the river. It would be out of range of Mohan’s guns but his palace was within range of our heavier and more modern artillery. We soon prepared the elevated ground with ditches and palisades that included a protected access to the river. It would be very difficult to dislodge us from there, if not impossible.Our skirmishers reported that we had been shadowed by elements of Mohan’s forces and thought that some of Sanji’s had been present. Those forces had been no threat to such a large column but had the King and Queen been escorted by only their Royal Guard they could have been attacked successfully.While most of the English officers and their ladies remained in the camp, Lisa, I and the Lady Archers joined the Royal group. escorted by some the Company’s cavalry and the Royal Guard, we approached Mohan’s palace. The gates were thrown open as we neared the walls. An honour guard flanked the entrance. Behind them a crowd of the native population cheered Queen Serena. Even though the crowd was mostly women, this spontaneous demonstration was a good sign for us. Even Mohan’s troops seemed pleased to see the Queen.Lord Mohan was standing on a small dais in the palace courtyard. He descended to welcome the King and Queen who accompanied him to the dais, as did Lisa and I. He made a short speech of welcome to which Queen Serena responded. Then his courtiers led the whole party away to the quarters assigned to us. We would clean off the dust of the journey and then attend a banquet in honour of the King and Queen.Lisa and I had a suite of rooms at the edge of the zenana, next to Ranjit and Serena’s larger suite. Pushpa and her ladies were across the corridor in the zenana itself as were the Lady Archers. The Royal Guard set a watch at either end of the corridor.Female servants were bustling around us unloading our baggage. A large bath had been prepared for us. As we relaxed in the scented water Lisa spoke to me in Latin.“I do not trust these women, nor these rooms,” she said.“Nor do I,” I replied, also in Latin. “I think these walls have ears and probably eyes as well. Some of the ears may understand Latin. If we want to say anything important, it is better if we pass notes to each other and even then be careful the words cannot be seen by anyone else.”“I agree,” Lisa replied. She reverted to English. “I wonder how Lord Mohan will entertain us tonight? I have heard that he has some excellent dancers.”“I have heard that too. He has male dancers as well as women. That is unusual for this part of India.”Lisa emerged from the bath. Before the maids wrapped her in warm towels I saw her slightly protruding belly showing her pregnant state. Her naked body has always aroused me but her pregnant body made me feel warm all over. I ducked under the water before I too emerged to be wrapped by the maids in a cocoon of warm cotton and dried vigorously. I had to stop delicate feminine hands from rubbing too closely to my erection. The maid didn’t seem offended. She smiled at me until Lisa glared at her. Lisa’s glare can be intimidating.As we dressed Pushpa slipped into the apartment.“Oh good,” Pushpa said “You are nearly ready. Queen Serena would like to speak to you before we go to the banquet.”I nodded.“Not you, Prince Harold. She wants Princess Lisa.”“Oh.” I said, deflated.“I’ll be with her in a minute,” Lisa said.She was. She left me alone with a room full of Mohan’s maidservants. I was slightly embarrassed. What should I do while I waited? A dozen pairs of interested eyes followed my every movement as I buckled on my sword belt and attached my large pistol. One maid spoke. She seemed very nervous.“Prince Harold?”“Yes?” I replied. My gun wasn’t seated properly and I didn’t look at her as I tried to adjust the holster.“Is it true that you are much bigger than most men?”I looked at her then.“No. I don’t think so. Some of you saw just now, didn’t you?”“Yes. You seemed… adequate but not exceptional.”“Adequate!” I snorted. “I suppose I am. I am just a man like any other.”“But favoured by the Goddess?”“Oh that. Yes. The Goddess seems to like me.”“I think she has shown more than just a liking for you. Do you know, Prince Harold, that most of the women in this palace are devotees of the Goddess?”That brought me up short. If that were true…? Pushpa is the Goddess’s High Priestess and her ladies are Priestesses too. I am “most favoured” of the Goddess. Did we have allies in the palace?“Why do you tell me this?” I asked cautiously.“Because we serve the Goddess more than we serve our Lord. That is a dangerous thing for me to say, but it is true.” The maid looked at her colleagues. They nodded nervously.“Prince Harold.” She said firmly. “You are the Goddess’s consort on Earth.” I nodded. Pushpa had given me that title.“Then we are your servants, not Lord Mohan’s.”She knelt with her head touching the floor. All the other maids did the same.“What?” I spluttered. “What if someone hears or sees what you have done?”She raised her head.“No matter. The hearers are devotees of the Goddess as well. Aren’t you, O listeners?”“We are,” came the response from several female voices within the walls.Was this a trap? Were they genuine? Or was this a device to get me to accept them as trustworthy when they were not? I had to acknowledge their acceptance of me. I bent over and lifted the speaker to her feet. I raised her hand to my lips and kissed it.“Thank you,” I said “I accept you as my…” I paused “… friends.”She gasped. She hadn’t expected that. I pulled her to me and kissed her on her forehead. I had to hold her because she nearly fainted. Then I was swamped in a sea of maids all cuddling me. I kissed every forehead that I could reach. Lisa found me kissing the last forehead.“Well!” she said “I know you are a fast worker, Harold, but a dozen maids in ten minutes? That is exceptional, even for you.” She winked at me and joined the frightened huddle.“These ladies are my friends,” I explained. “They are devotees of the Goddess.”“Are they?” Lisa said “That explains everything – or does it?”“Princess Lisa,” said the principal maid quietly. “I am Ambika. I am the priestess of the Goddess in this district. Prince Harold is the Goddess’s consort on earth. You are favoured of the Goddess as well, even more favoured than Pushpa, her High Priestess. We have prepared for your coming. We welcome you.”Lisa nodded.“Prince Harold has declared us as his friends. That we did not expect. We expected to be his servants, and yours. Friendship is different.”“It is,” said Lisa. “But as Prince Harold has said it, then I am your friend as well.”That was the cue for another bout of cuddles and kissing, this time including Lisa. Ambika broke away.“Prince and Princess,” she said, “There is something important that I must tell you while I can.”“Yes, Ambika, what is it?” I asked.“We know something of the plans that Lord Mohan has made. Tomorrow there will be a reception in the zenana for the English Ladies. By then or just before, Prince Harold will be k**napped. That is the least important…”“…is it?” said Lisa at her most dangerous.“Yes, Princess Lisa, because he will have our assistance and that of the Goddess. We and SHE will not allow anything to happen to him.”“I hope so,” I said. “What about the reception?”Lisa glared at me. I tried to ignore her. That is always difficult.“The ladies will be caught and incarcerated in the zenana. That is intended to neutralise the armed forces that have come with you. Prince Harold is supposed to die of a heart attack while making love to four devadases…”“Four!” Lisa exclaimed. “I should think he would have a heart attack. One is usually enough for any man.”I should explain that devadases are temple slaves trained to please men. They are holy whores whose skill is legendary. They are the earthly equivalent of the heavenly asparses who pleasure the Gods. Several European men have availed themselves of the services of a devadasi and have found the experience overwhelming. “Three of them are ours. They will protect Prince Harold as best they can. The fourth and chief devadasi is related to Lord Mohan. It is intended that she should smother Prince Harold under her yoni as the others pleasure him. Prince Harold should be able to recognise her. She is slightly heavier built than the other three and will be wearing a red skirt. The others will wear blue. He should avoid being under the red skirt.”“I see,” I said. “Red is dangerous for me.”Lisa snorted.“Red or blue could be dangerous for you if you go to them voluntarily. You are married to me.”“Please, Princess Lisa,” Ambika asked. “It would be better if Prince Harold were to be k**napped. Otherwise Mohan will know that his plans are betrayed.”I could hear Lisa grumbling under her breath before she said:“OK, Ambika, but if Prince Harold is harmed…”“He won’t be. What are you going to do about the reception in the zenana?”“We’ll go prepared. I don’t think we will be captured.”“Good.” “But I should be?” I asked.“Yes, Prince Harold, it would be better if you are captured otherwise the plotters will have to revise their plans. We know what they intend to do. If they change their actions we might not find out in time.”I looked at Lisa. She nodded.“Then I agree,” I said. “I trust you ladies to find a way of rescuing me before it is too late.”“We will do what we can, Prince Harold. There is a risk that we might not succeed. Less risk than if you are not captured…”“…I am used to risk,” I said. “I will rely on my friends to help me.”“We will.” Ambika replied.“Then I think I should not give the conspirators the opportunity of capturing my weapons as well.”I unfastened my sword belt and handed it to Ambika. She staggered under the weight of the sword and the Dragoon Colt.“Look after these for me, Ambika. You will know when I need them.”“Is that wise?” asked Lisa.“Yes.” I replied. “Ambika and these ladies are our friends. I would rather our friends look after my weapons than let my enemies have them. If I am wearing them I might be tempted to use them and foil the k**nap.”That was it. After another bout of kissing Lisa and I went back to our quarters. Nothing of note happened that afternoon except that an invitation was delivered to all the English ladies inviting them to the zenana at 11 o’clock in the morning.Chapter 13 The DancersLisa and I prepared to attend Lord Mohan’s banquet in the cool of the evening. Although the Lady Archers would be with us, having been accepted as part of Queen Serena’s entourage, most of the English officers and their ladies would remain in our fortified camp. George had declined, having acquired a diplomatic illness. He wanted to ensure that his troops were alert for a surprise attack or a treacherous infiltration. Some of Lord Mohan’s officers had visited the camp during the day and some would be dining at the temporary mess tonight. George and I had been pleased that the officers seemed friendly towards us and showed no sign of wanting to learn military secrets.Were Lord Mohan’s troops genuinely friendly, or was this a ruse to make us less prepared? We didn’t know. We accepted the friendship as if it was genuine while keeping the camp manned as if we expected an attack at any time. Our preparedness was explained as another of George’s exercises to keep the troops efficient. Mohan’s officers were impressed by the alertness of our sentries, very different from the casualness of the local levies.The banquet meal was arranged in a mixture of English and Indian styles. Each lady was paired with a gentleman. The Lady Archers had escorts from Lord Mohan’s noble relations. Queen Serena sat on a dias beside Lord Mohan. I was on her left with Lisa.Lord Mohan seemed puzzled by the composition of Serena’s entourage.“Why Serena,” he asked. As cousins they addressed each other without titles. “have you brought so many Englishwomen? And so few of your own ladies?“Mohan,” she replied, “the Englishwomen wanted to come and I didn’t want to disappoint them. They think that your court is truly Indian and will provide experiences they wouldn’t have at mine. They are curious. Many of my ladies pleaded the heat, family commitments… you know how it is with our women. They are reluctant to exert themselves in the heat. The Englishwomen are made of sterner stuff.”“So I see,” said Mohan, looking around the assembled company, “these Englishwomen seem much more animated than a similar group of my relations. They are all young and look fit. Why is that?”“Because they all ride for the pleasure of it,” Serena answered. “Any of them could have ridden here in half a day or faster if they were in a hurry.”“You mean on a horse?” Mohan was incredulous.“Yes. These women are not used to being carried in litters. They ride their own horses, walk considerable distances…”“And they are ladies?”“Certainly Mohan. English ladies are very different from our ideas.”I couldn’t stop Lisa intervening.“Lord Mohan,” she said, “even our Queen Victoria rides a horse when she wants to.”I think Lord Mohan was more shocked that Lisa had addressed him directly than by the idea that Queen Victoria could ride. Women at his court could only reply if spoken to. Looking around the hall I could see that many of his courtiers were appalled by the apparent freedom of speech exhibited by the Lady Archers sitting beside them.I had overheard some snippets of conversation. One lady was asking her escort about the local method of horse-breaking. Another was discussing the methods of irrigation used locally. Both their partners were unable to give coherent replies. They weren’t used to women showing intelligence. One younger lord had unbent sufficiently to have an animated argument about rearing of elephants for forestry work. Lord Mohan looked as if he had a bad smell under his nose as he surveyed the assembled company. After the final course had been cleared away, Lord Mohan summoned his major-domo who asked the company to move to the dancing room for a display of local dances. Lord Mohan and Queen Serena rose from their seats. Lisa and I followed.To be continued…

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