Thursday, March 6, 2014

WITHIN THE 'ENDERUN' ... THE PALACE SCHOOL OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE ... 3/6/14

They had a school for the training of children, mostly boys from subject areas, located deep withing the palace. And when I (Peter) say 'palace' I mean more an amalgam of palacial buildings than one discreet residence. The name of this school was Enderun, which in the language of the Turks meant 'inner most.' Jannasaries were made there, youths from the Balkans groomed to become renowned warriors, commanders and even generals. Others entered governmental, or diplomatic service.Some became pashas, or beys. 

But deep beneath the dungeons, for young lads also transgress, was another place, a dim world, lit by fragrant candles and furnished with cast-offs from the royal apartments. After perhaps three or four nights in rougher accommodations, I was taken there and placed in tutilage to a vampire-eunuch stolen from the manor of a provincial governor in the far off Empire of Abyssinia. Initially he was just a boy. Then they made him a eunuch, via a fast, quick procedure accomplished by the application of a specially crafted curved blade... a razor sharp scimitar, made for 'the close shave,' as it was called. For in one fell swoop all external gender-flesh was removed. The carp ate well on those nights. Slim, golden catheters, or perhaps ones made of jade, insured preservation of the urinary tract during healing. Fevers and delirium came next, as the tender wound, salved by fresh, hot dung, dried and healed. And the operation was quite successful for the time. Just under half survived. But the odds improved to just over half if done before the advent of puberty... mortal elferinos, if you will. Apparently they let this Abyssinian remain mortal for a while, as he had the form of a grown. but altered male. Menelik he was called, after an esteemed, ancient prince of his people. He wore long loose robes made from the finest silk, but bearing many interwoven threads of burnished lead to make the garment 'vampire proof.' His turban was fashioned in the same manner. And I never knew the purpose of those 'vampire proof' garments, as he was clearly a superior night-fiend (I know not who made him) and could have dispatched us at any moment. 

Please know that I say 'us' for I was obviously not the only student in that place. There were others.... a boy already 'elferino' (juvenile vampire) and another still quite mortal. The teacher brought him over, but not right away. Now it seemed strange that Paul, the other elferino captured with me, was not there. Maybe they had other facilities like this? Maybe they sold him, or traded him, or gave him to more distant courts in Persia, or Mogul India? I don't know. Basia, being elferina was trained in the seraglio (harem) for other things. I never saw her either. Male and female rarely mixed in that realm. Every aspect of life proceeded according to a pattern, as if proscribed by the gongs, lutes and whistles of the imperial musicians dispatched around here. 

The first night (I assumed it was night. Natural light never reached us. And our kind does see the deep, gray wash of early dawn, or the blue-gray sigh of deepest dusk) we just sat there, arranged on large, firm damask pillows, as an old pedagogue read to us from an over-sized, hand tooled, leather book, bathed in the burnished glow of three or four small, brass lamps scattered round the room. Later I learned he did this to familiarize us with the sound of the formal court dialect spoken in the palace. In the land where I was from, which I discovered was called Croatia, we did know a simple form of this language, but nothing like the tongue I learned now. Turks of the capital valued fine words, a practice picked up from the Persians, farther to the east. Indeed, Persian poetry and artistry was known throughout the cultured world.

A few weeks later, after learning a bit of vocabulary, they brought prisoners down from the dungeons and said that we should feed. I got an Ossetian girl from the Caucus. She cried. She knew. The other elferino, who was called Alexander, was given an addle-brained dolt of unknown origin. They made us drain them til they died, showing us a large, leaden 'iron maiden' off in a small, dark room. There was a slit where the mouth would be and tiny holes for 'eyes.' Inside we heard the muffled babbling of a tortured soul, an elferino who would not kill, for draining unto death is rare among our kind... and for this he was sorely punished.

The next night they brought in others and made us do it again. Living blood is addictive. Those with strength maintain their honor and avoid falling under. But that was not their plan.... and we were made into slaves...

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