Catalyst [Part 10]

By M. Greene -
published August 24, 2017

Assassination and intrigue in Venice!

Venice, Serene Republic of Venice: 1575.

For over two weeks, the Bassani twins kept a careful watch on the mansion which housed the Ottoman Legation. They watched who came and went and began to get a sense of the daily routine of this strange foreign household.

Like many of the larger palazzi in the city, the property had once been owned by a trading family and was built over a large warehouse which could be accessed directly from the adjacent canal. Barges and gondolas delivered food and supplies on a daily basis to this lower level of the mansion and it was an easy enough task for Fabio to sneak into it under the cover of a dark, moonless night. Unfortunately, although the cavernous space was not used for storage, and was left open and unguarded, the heavy gate of iron leading to the upper floors of the house was locked and chained.

Swearing under his breath, Fabio took out his small bunch of skeleton keys and began to pick the first of three enormous padlocks. Although he had been well-schooled by the best Roman thieves and was extremely adroit in juggling the tumblers of any lock, he was impetuous and impatient by nature and disliked tasks that took too much time.

Eventually, he had all three of the padlocks open and, as slowly and silently as possible, eased the rusty chains out from between the iron bars. Just in case they made too much noise, he applied olive oil to the hinges, from a small vial he carried, before attempting to swing open the massive gate.

Fabio crept cautiously up the stone staircase that led to the kitchen and the main floor of the house. At the top of the steps he stood listening for some time, peering into the large, dimly lit space. It was often said by his sister that he possessed the eyes and ears of a cat, so acute were his senses. He detected three servants sleeping in the warmest part of the kitchen, on straw mattresses arranged near the open fireplace that was used for spit-roasting meat. Fabio could hear the soft sigh of their breath and one of them was gently snoring. Apart from the way he had come, there were three other ways out of the kitchen. From his observation of this house and his knowledge of similar properties in the city, Fabio knew that the western corridor led to the main entrance hall and front door, which would be heavily guarded. The door in the south wall connected to utility rooms and a small courtyard at the back. Finally, the passage on the eastern side would take him to the back stairs, which were only used by the servants. Noiselessly, on his soft leather soles, he tiptoed across the flagstones towards this.

The targets of his investigation most probably occupied one of the larger rooms on the floor above. Fabio felt his way up the narrow spiral staircase in almost complete darkness until he reached the first landing. This was richly carpeted and the walls were hung with expensive tapestries. It was obviously where the important people of the household slept. There were six doorways leading off from the wide corridor and, ahead, he could see the stone balustrade of the main stairs which led back down to the hall and reception rooms at the front.

Fabio hesitated. He instinctively knew that there was now less than an hour to go before sunrise. From his previous observations of the household, he realised that the heathen Mohammedans always rose before dawn to perform their first prayer ritual of the day, so this was as much as he could safely achieve tonight. It had been a most successful scouting mission, he decided. He had gained an idea of the general layout of the building’s interior and accomplished a relatively easy way of infiltrating the house from outside. The next time he came, he would determine in exactly which of these six chambers his quarry lay sleeping…

“I hope you did not leave the gate padlocks open,” his sister remarked when he described his nocturnal adventures to her over breakfast on their sunny balcony overlooking the Grand Canal. “We do not want the Turks to realise that their security has been breached.”

Fabio sighed. “Do you take me for a complete fool, Livia? Of course I refastened them. What can be picked open can easily be picked shut.” He helped himself to another piece of fruit. “It took me quite some time, however, I can tell you.”

Livia frowned. “Indeed, this mission is proving to be both slow and difficult. These Mohammedans do not allow any Christian servants to work inside the embassy building at all. They only hire their own kind, so my plan of infiltrating the property by gaining employment there has come to naught.” She gave a bitter laugh. “In fact, there are absolutely no women in that place at all! Perhaps these Turks are all sodomites.” She flashed her olive green eyes and playfully patted her brother’s thigh, knowing full well that he enjoyed a bit of sodomy himself.

Fabio grinned. “You will have to prepare the poison and give it to me,” he said. “As soon as I know exactly where the envoy lies, I will anoint his meat or add it to his drink. He is certain to have wine and a cold collation laid out for him in his bedchamber in case he hungers or thirsts during the night.”

Livia nodded. “That is how we shall have to proceed, although it would be preferable if I could apply the poison myself. I know which foods best disguise the tastes of my various preparations…”

“I still think it would be easier if I could just stab him as he sleeps,” Fabio mused, taking out his dagger and admiring the way the viciously sharp blade glittered in the bright morning sunlight. He smiled. “I do so enjoy stabbing things…”

Selim pushed his manhood deeper between Jamal’s tight, rounded buttocks and, firmly hugging his slave’s muscular torso, began to slowly fuck him from behind. The door of their chamber was firmly locked from the inside lest they be discovered by another diplomat or a wandering servant. Although it was strongly suspected by Ambassador Osman and the rest of the household that they were lovers, so long as they were discrete and enjoyed their intercourse privately, no serious harm would come of it. He heard Jamal begin to gasp beneath him as he increased the pace of his assault. Reaching down between the Englishman’s legs he began playing with Jamal’s stiff circumcised penis, stroking it in time to his urgent thrusts. Jamal moaned softly, completely lost in the pleasure of their coupling. Selim smiled and kissed Jamal’s back. They had been making love like this for so many years now and neither of them ever tired of it. After a few more minutes of steady long strokes, sensing that Jamal would soon climax, Selim began fucking him even harder and faster until his seed boiled up and erupted inside his lover’s soft passage. As he ejaculated, he felt Jamal’s own hot seed pump out over his fist and saw it splatter onto the marble tiles of their luxurious bedchamber.

Later, once they had washed and dried each other’s bodies, they lay together on their bed and enjoyed a long afternoon nap, their limbs entwined between the crisp, thin, linen sheets. From outside they could hear the faint cries of the boatmen shouting at each other on the canal far below their window.

“I love you, but I also miss Nazir…” Jamal remarked.

Selim sighed. “So do I, my precious heart, but we must bear the pain until we return home once more.”

“I am not sure I can bear it, Master,” Jamal confessed. “It’s like a gnawing, aching agony that grows worse and worse every day. It is as though the Stone feels broken when the three of us are parted…”

Selim kissed his lover’s cheek. “Yes… We are fragmented, somehow…”

Spontaneously, without further discussion, they both liquefied and merged their silver bodies, the total unity of their beings providing them with some temporary alleviation of their pain.

Later, they continued to share the same body when Selim joined Osman and the other diplomats for the late afternoon prayer and their main meal of the day.

“Your young ‘servant’ is not joining us for dinner, today?” Osman asked, carving himself a large slice of the roasted shoulder of mutton and chewing it with relish. It made such a delicious change from their normal diet here of fish and seafood. It was extremely difficult to get lamb or mutton in Venice; the locals ate only fish or filthy pork meat which, of course, was forbidden to good Muslims. To ensure that their meat was halal, the Ottomans were forced to buy live animals and birds from the market and slaughter them in the proper ritual way here in their own kitchens.

“Oh, I sent him out on an errand,” Selim replied casually, sensing Jamal smiling inside his mind. The ambassador’s pronunciation of the word ‘servant’ had been teasingly arch. Of course they knew full well that they were lovers. So what? He was proud to be Jamal’s lover. Inside, he felt Jamal smiling once more. It was ironic that Osman kept calling them ‘young’ when in fact they were older than him. Selim fingered the hem of his robe. When at home in the embassy building they all dressed in the Turkish fashion and it was a relief to Selim to wear cool, loose clothes once more. Although men with good figures like himself looked much more handsome in the close-fitting European doublet and hose, there was a very heavy price to be paid for this fashion in simple comfort.

“Old Cardinal Adamoli had another private audience with the Doge this morning,” Osman was saying. “He was attempting once again to get him to sign an alliance treaty with the Pope.”

“Oh yes?” Selim kept his face completely impassive, but felt an internal pang of guilt. The mere mention of the cardinal’s name reminded him that he had so far done nothing to carry out the Valide Sultan’s secret instructions. The truth was that he did not see how he or Jamal could possibly succeed in their allotted task. They were not professional assassins, after all, and, as Muslim foreigners in a strange Christian city, they were constantly spied upon and severely limited in terms of free movement. The cardinal lived in a nearby palace on the Grand Canal, but it was heavily guarded and there seemed no way to even gain access to him, let alone kill the man.

“Luckily for us, the Doge refused to sign, as usual.” Osman swallowed down some more meat and clapped his hands for fresh water to be brought. “The truth is that there has been great enmity between Rome and Venice for many decades. The Papacy feels that the Serene Republic gets above itself in terms of its attitude to the Holy See, and they are right. The fact is that the Venetians have consistently ignored all Papal bulls and proclamations for the last hundred years or so.” He giggled. “The Pope doesn’t like that very much…”

Selim leaned over and picked up a small bunch of black grapes. “Oh, good,” he heard Jamal say inside his mind, “I like those, Master.” Selim detached a single grape from the stalk and popped it into his mouth. “So there is a strong chance that Venice may ally with us rather than with Rome and Spain?”

Osman shrugged. “Not if old Adamoli can stop it. The man is a complete nuisance and I wish that he was not here in the city. Inshallah the Pope will recall him to Rome, or he will die, or something…” He shook his head. “Mark my words; this cardinal is the greatest enemy to our cause in this city, my friend.”

“I suppose we could try to gain entry to the Cardinal’s home in our liquid form, Master,” Jamal said later that evening once they were alone in their bedchamber. They had now separated and Selim was lying down and already beginning to fall asleep.

“It’s too risky,” Selim said, his voice sounding slightly muffled from underneath the linen sheets. “Be quiet now and come to bed…”

Jamal lifted the silver dome covering the plate of food that had been left out for them. He was keen to see what they could both feast on if they felt at all hungry during the night. He was pleased to find that there were some more of those delicious black grapes, two chicken legs, half a loaf of bread, a large lump of cheese and four hard-boiled eggs. He replaced the lid. He never felt properly fed when he and Selim ate when they were merged together. He was almost certain that he would be peckish before dawn…

It was the faintest ring of that same silver dome as it struck the metal plate beneath that awakened Jamal in the small hours of the morning. He opened his eyes and stared across the room towards the wooden sideboard where their food had been placed. A figure was standing beside it! The Angelical Stone had blessed those it inhabited with perfect vision both by day and by night. Even though the chamber was shrouded in complete darkness, Jamal could see the young man as clearly as he would have done at noon. He was European, like him, and very beautiful, with flashing olive green eyes and long black hair tied back behind his head. He was wearing a figure-hugging leather jerkin and hose which showed his slight, but muscular, body off to advantage. His backside was firm and perfectly rounded… He was also armed; Jamal could plainly see the thin dagger sheath hanging down from his belt…

Presumably alarmed by the tiny sound the silverware had made when he moved it, the young man was standing completely motionless, waiting to see if he had woken either himself or his Master. Jamal wondered what he was doing here in their private chamber. How had he gained entry through the locked door? Was he a thief? Could he be an assassin?

Without warning, the youth suddenly moved incredibly quickly towards the door. Instinctively and without really thinking it through, Jamal leapt off the bed and grabbed hold of the intruder before he could get out of their chamber. They tussled briefly with each other by the closed door. The stranger was wiry and strong, but Jamal was a trained bodyguard and the heavier and more muscular of the two. He managed to pin down the invader’s arms, but as he cried out in alarm to his Master, the youth somehow managed to wriggle his right arm free. Grabbing his dagger, he stabbed it deep into Jamal’s thigh.

Selim was halfway between the bed and the struggling pair by the door when he heard his lover gasp with pain. To his horror, he saw blood pouring from Jamal’s leg! Before he could reach them, the intruder wrenched the dagger from Jamal’s thigh wound and raised his arm to plunge it into his beloved’s naked chest!

The Adriatic Sea, near Corfu: 1575

Nazir awoke screaming from a deep sleep. So loud and frenzied were his cries that all the crew members of the galley in which he was sailing were also awakened.

The captain burst into the tiny passenger cabin next to his own quarters and leaned over the young African who writhed and cried out on his bunk amidst a tangle of sweat-soaked sheets.

The Bosun appeared in the doorway behind him. “Do you think he’s having some kind of fit, Captain?” he enquired.

The captain uttered an angry and impatient stream of invective involving sexual intercourse between the Bosun’s mother and a syphilitic donkey. “How do I know, you fucking idiot? Do I look like a fucking apothecary?” He stared back down at their passenger. Flecks of foam had appeared on his thick lips and only the whites of his eyes were showing. He was still moaning and crying out. “I just wish he’d shut the fuck up so that we can all get some fucking shut-eye…”

Nazir had never in his whole life felt such excruciating pain. It was as though his entire body was on fire. He tried as hard as he could to regain his reason, but the agony he was experiencing made it impossible to rise above the howling rage and fright of a wounded animal.

Eventually, after some minutes, the pain began to lessen and die away and he was able to think and speak once again. “I am sorry for the disturbance, Bey,” he said to the exhausted looking captain. “I very occasionally suffer seizures such as this,” he lied. “I apologise for any trouble I have caused you.”

The captain nodded. “Apology accepted, young man.” The African had paid very handsomely for his passage, double the usual rate, and he decided not to complain too much in the hope that he would choose his ship again to make the return trip. “If you are alright now, I will return to my quarters. May Allah bless you…”

“How long will it be now until we reach Venice?” Nazir asked quickly, before the captain could take his leave.

“We should get there in another day and a half,” the captain replied. “Maybe less if the wind is behind us, slightly more if we have to rely on oar-power alone.” He gave Nazir a final nod, then strode from the cabin, closing the little door firmly behind him.

Nazir sighed and chewed at his bottom lip in an agony of stress and anxiety. Thirty-six hours before he could reach his brothers. It was too long… He would be too late… Instinctively he knew that something terrible had happened - something very terrible indeed… He needed to be there…

He needed to be there, now!


Abruptly, the cramped little wooden cabin vanished and Nazir was standing in a sumptuously furnished chamber hung with gorgeous tapestries. The marble floor beneath his feet was stained by pools of thick, congealed blood. An enormous, curtained, four-poster bed dominated the room. On this lay an extremely pale looking Jamal. He was unconscious and covered in blood. Selim sat on the edge of the bed mopping Jamal’s brow. He was weeping and muttering to his unconscious friend.

Hearing the sound of a startled cry behind him, Selim turned and saw Nazir standing by the door. “Oh! Nazir! Thank Allah you are here! You’ve got to do something! He’s lost so much blood! He’s going to die!” He began sobbing uncontrollably, his shoulders heaving with emotion. “Please… You must help me… My beautiful Jamal is going to die…”

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