The Past Tense Of Youth : The besieged

kahve-ocagi Osman Hamdi Bey sultanGurel had crossed the outer court in the still of the blue dawn and been greeted by an eerie silence.  The guardhouse was almost empty apart from those of lower  rank and file and he knew that it was time .  He  had been instrumental in the recruitment of  Mountain men from the Caucases who had amassed on the boarder with Salonica and were probably very close to the main square in Sultan Ahmet.  They would soon be joined by Janissaries and halbadirs loyal to The Committee Of Union and Progress which had taken over the parlaiment.  He knew that there were still those willing to fight for the empire and that elite guards and ground troops were  preparing to resist a military take over at all costs.  While still on the grounds of the palace he must appear loyal to Hamid.  The sultan still had many from the ‘Sipahis’ ( cavalry ) close by ready to mount at his command.  Most would remain loyal as they owned lands obtained by title deed.  Gurel had had close ties with members of the ‘Sipahis’ as he had sold them his horse on becoming a janissary.  Hopefully he could find the cavalier who had bought the white steed from him, steal back his horse and make his way out of the gates without being recognised or called to account.

He moved silently through the grounds to the barracks of the ‘Sipahis’ using trees and topiary for cover. The sun was rising over the Bosphorous. He must find his horse  and ride out of the gates at great speed in order to be part of the march.  He could hear the sounds of the ‘mehter’ or marching tune in the distance and his desperation grew.  The barracks were a hive of activity with the officers preparing their weapons and dusting off their uniforms.  The horses including his own had been made ready and stood patiently in their stalls. He waited for the young officer to leave the barracks and enter the stables where he then followed him. Gurel knocked him to the ground with the butt of his musket, stole his uniform along with his pass and mounted his horse.   Two others entered and before the men could say a word Gurel rode out of the stables toward the main gates with a valiant ” Not a moment to waste men. They are almost upon us”! Once out of the gates he turned to look back at the cavalry contingent gaining fast upon him.  He stopped so as not to arouse suspicion and just as they caught up  .. sped on ahead.

They laughed and called him impetuous and continued onwards holding their banners high.  Imagine their surprise when their young compatriot galloped with ease into the folds of the advancing infantry. The janissaries resplendent in their dark tailored uniforms were tailed by the troops dressed in all manner of garb for no-one had ever thought to devise a complete outfit for their use.  There were foot soldiers on the side of the monarchists too along with members of the cebecci corps who carried and distributed arms amongst it’s own. revolution Gurel rode to the side of Mahmut Sevket,the leader  of this organised machine known as the third army.   Divisions of the ‘Sipahis’ who had deserted the night before also rode with him. Skirmishes broke out all over the city as the battle between the two sides commenced. Great throngs of volunteers gathered in front of the blue mosque for the last  advance.

Through it all the march continued until finally Hamid’s forces were defeated and the ‘Army Of Liberty’ had reached Yildiz. Losses had been few on both sides and it was almost as if the monarchists had given up on the very notion of resistance.  The Aghas ( commanders ) from all the different branches of military service seemed to join together as one to oust the reigning ruler of the besieged empire.  Mahmut Sevket sat high in his saddle as he led his army through the gates and onto ultimate victory. For Gurel the victory was bitter sweet for Rana was no – where to be be seen amongst the hundreds of women and children now freed and leaving in droves by wagon, on horseback or even on foot.

The sultan had retreated to his opera house trying to save the guilded furniture pieces he had made and loaned to the set of a visiting opera company.  Saddened at the thought of all his artistic endevours gone to waste he sat on one of his chairs and began to weep.  It was there that they had found him, a crumpled form draped in a heavily embroidered kaftan,all alone except for a loyal child servant standing in front of the curtains awaiting his masters orders.  Gurel looked up at the domed ceiling covered in stars and actually felt a pang of sympathy.  This lasted only a brief moment,however, for he must find out where Hamid had taken Rana. harem romance I don’t know whether he thought of me in the same breath but I do know that he felt a deep sense of something missing.  For at that moment he had been just as confused as I had been toward the end of our three way lovers tryst.  I saw it on his face as he ,with the help of the guards, unlocked the door to our harem chamber and gathered us both into his arms.

© Renee Dallow (  Hybiscus Bloom )  26/7/2014


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