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Don't you just love them? Four young maharajas. Kyoot.



Anyway, my loves, this is the penultimate part of Beyond Simla. Only one left to go! I've enjoyed these boys, but then, whatever incarnation they are in, I love em!!

I hope you have, too. Hugs all my faithful readers for sticking with it.






Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] ladysunrope for beta. Hugs.


Part - 29


The next morning dawned bright and fair, and Dom and Elijah, breakfasting, as was usual these days, in Dom's chambers, were talking about the photographs to be taken later on.

They were interrupted by Billy and a line of servants bringing armfuls of clothing into the room. They laid them reverently over the chairbacks, before Billy shooed them out.

"The clothing you ordered for his lordship, my lord," Billy said, waving at the garments. "Now, where shall I put them?"

Elijah was puzzled. "You got these for me?" he asked, going to one of the piles and picking up a dark blue embroidered jacket with a deep silver border. It was very fine workmanship, and Elijah wondered when Dom had ordered it all.

"Do you not like them?" Dom's face was taut with apprehension. He had not thought that Elijah might not like the things - or that he should have consulted him before ordering them to be made. He was a king, used to giving orders; he had known no other way since childhood. But Dom was also a man who now had a partner he cared for above jewels. He would know better next time.

But Elijah was smiling. "They are all very beautiful, Dom - thank you! You are too kind to me."

Dom sighed with relief. Now, how to approach the next point? Not that he wished Elijah to be anywhere but near him, but...

"There is an adjoining apartment to this one, Lij. The door is there, as you see. They were my mother's rooms, when my father was alive. She never stayed in the harem, until I brought her back after his death as my supposed wife. He always wanted her near him..."

Elijah's face lost its happy grin. "You wish me to live there? Separate from you?"

Dom quickly closed the gap between them, and took Elijah's hand. "Never will I be parted from you, my life!" he whispered, whilst Billy discreetly busied himself at the farthest end of the room.

"I thought it seemly that you should have your own apartments, where you may receive visitors, somewhere your own where you may retire when you do not feel well, or just need to be quiet; somewhere to keep your possessions - somewhere near me, not half a mile away across the palace."

Elijah studied Dom's anxious face very carefully. It was plain he was waiting for an answer. Elijah took a deep breath. "I see that you wish me to have somewhere of my own, Dom Singh. But do you wish me to sleep there, too, and come to you, when you call, like an obedient wife?"

The horror showed plain on Dom's face. "Never! We belong together. My place is ever at your side, and I hope you think yours is at mine. I merely wished you to have the choice, that is all."

Elijah went to the adjoining door and opened it. It was a beautifully appointed drawing room, but, thankfully, Elijah thought, nothing like a woman's boudoir. He went further in. "How many rooms are there, Dom?" he asked, looking about him.

Dom stood in the doorway, hesitant - unsure of both himself, and of Elijah's reaction.

"Not above twenty, I believe. The same number as mine. I...I have had them all refurbished, in case you would like to.... but if you would rather stay with me, I would welcome that very much."

Elijah returned to the doorway, and gently pushed Dom out of the way. "Billy!" he called. "Bring my new clothing in here, if you will, and find my bedroom. Also order my things to be brought from the guest apartments."

Elijah was still not smiling, and that made Dom very nervous, indeed.

"But, Billy," Elijah winked at his man as he passed, an action unseen by Dom, "leave clean nightwear for me on his Highness's bed."

"Aye, my lord. It shall be as you please."

Elijah walked across the room in Billy's wake, then turned to Dom, still standing, uncertain, by the door. "Will you not come in, Udom Singh, and see if the bed here is as comfortable as is yours? We might, after all, use both sets of apartments, although forty rooms for two men might be considered a trifle excessive!"

The hesitant look on Dom's face vanished, to be replaced by a grin. He hurried to Elijah, and kissed him, hard, whilst Billy was out of sight. "Tease!" he murmured into Elijah's neck, as Elijah struggled to kiss him back. "We need to dress for the photographs!"

They heard a slight cough behind them, and Gafur stood in the doorway, bowing. They parted, but not in shame. These were their private chambers after all.

"I am here, Highness. Wafiya is sleeping, and I have left his mother with him, fussing, as mothers do. I am bored with inaction, lord - I like to be busy. May I assist you?"

Dom laughed. "You may. Go and fetch both the Ranjipore pearl and ruby sets out of the strongroom, old friend. Also, the three princesses' wedding jewels. Take Commander Boyd with you, so that he may choose a head-dress ornament for his master. Show him where the keys are kept. If we are all being photographed for the world to marvel at, there must be something wonderful for the world to see! Send Fadi to warn the Lords Arjit, Basmin and Osman Singh to be suitably attired for the occasion."

*

Several hours later, after luncheon, six men sat in Dom's drawing room, exhausted, but happy. "It seems the Lady Aditi and the girls much enjoyed the experience, Udom," Osman grinned. "As for myself - well, truth be told - I enjoyed it, too."

Arjit, drinking a cup of tea laced with brandy shook his head. "Rascal! I can think of nothing more boring than sitting for what seemed like hours, trying not to blink, with an itching nose one cannot scratch."

Ian, who was the only one clad in an unremarkable, plain suit, agreed. "I thought you all looked very regal," he offered, smiling at Basmin, and receiving a shy smile in return.

"It is much easier than sitting for a portrait, in any case. I understand that M Dupont is an accomplished artist, and has evinced a desire to paint Elijah and myself, when we have the time to sit for him."

Dom put down his cup, and addressed his family, plainly.

"M. Dupont - hereafter Captain Dupont - and Commander Boyd are staying here, with us, for the foreseeable future. They will be in charge of palace security, and have access to every part of the palace without question, and access to private quarters upon application. I would have the place be safer for all of us than it has been in the past. I do not wish everyone to be told of this, for obvious reasons of security."

There was a murmur of assent. It was thought an excellent plan. When Jean-Claude's other duties were revealed to the men, they looked surprised, but glad that they were being warded by men of such talents that few would be aware they held them. That Jean-Claude was qualified to teach Udai was also approved. They agreed that, for the time being, the prince was safer in Ranjipore.

Dom continued, his face solemn; hiding any thoughts he had on the matter from his companions. "Basmin tells me that Mahmoud Khan has accepted the position as Chief Captain of the Guard. I am certain he will prove excellent. The guard respect him, and that is always good."

Nothing was said of the late Duleep Singh, but Elijah saw a sadness creep into Dom's eyes.

They talked of matters in general, before Elijah reminded Dom that he had promised to take Udai riding on his new pony, and the party broke up.

Elijah had decided, ostensibly, to stay behind and look through his new wardrobe. The real reason was to give Dom time alone with his son, but he walked with Dom to the stables, to meet Udai. Both men stopped suddenly, when they heard Udai laugh. He was in the yard, sitting on a mounting block, talking to Billy and Jean-Claude. His faithful valet, Premal, stood nearby, watching the trio with an indulgent eye.

"Aye, I agree," Billy said. "Learning long lists of the kings and queens of England is tedious. Why is it thought necessary?"

"I think," Udai offered, his brow furrowed with all the seriousness of youth, "that it is done to test whether one can retain certain unnecessary - and uninteresting - information. I can see no other purpose for it. But they insist, at Eton, that it must be learned. I remember the names, but often mistake the order they come in. It is most frustrating."

Encouraged to go on, Udai sniffed. "William the First, William the Second, Henry the First, Stephen. Er, is it Richard or Henry next, Mr Boyd? I forget already."

Elijah could hear the smile in Billy's tone, though his voice was serious enough. "I know a little rhyme which might help, Udai Singh. It proves useful, under some circumstances. Would you like to hear it? It starts with William the Conqueror. It takes five minutes to memorise, and I promise you'll never forget it."

"I remember this!" Elijah hissed in Dom's ear. "He taught it to me at Oxford. I wish I had known it at Eton."

Billy folded his arms, and recited:

"Willie, Willie, Harry, Stee.
Harry, Dick, John, Harry three.
One, two, three Ned's, Richard two,
Harry's four, five, six, then who?

Edwards four, five, Dick the bad,
Harry's twain, then Ned the lad.
Mary, (Jane), Bessie, James the vain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again.
Will and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Georges, four, Will four, Victoria!"

Billy was right. In a few minutes Udai had learned it. The boy was delighted. It seemed that he had already built up a rapport with the men who would be his tutors. It augured well for the future.

Elijah kissed Dom behind the pillar, then the king rode off with his son.

*

Three days later, they went to rescue Lord Cecil from the arms of the neglected - and very nubile - young men in Dom's harem. Before they went in, bets were laid between the pair as to the condition of Lord Cecil, what he would say of his ordeal, and whether - or not - he would come to fisticuffs with the king over his imprisonment - for it was nothing less - and flounce back to England in a huff.

They disagreed. Elijah thought Cecil would be very angry, indeed. Dom thought that he would enjoy the experience, once he had settled down. Elijah pointed out that he had never, in his life, seen Cecil enjoy anything - except, perhaps, his dinner.

The fact that his brother seemed to be very much enjoying the attentions of Tom Belcher in the woods that time, when an unseen Elijah chanced upon them coupling, went unsaid.

Sayid, the old doorkeeper bowed low as Dom and Elijah entered. Dom stopped for a moment, listening carefully, but he heard no sounds of such terrible anger as Elijah had envisaged, and smiled at his companion, before asking for Brian.

"He is in the gardens, I believe, Highness, with Lord Cecil and Pierre."

Elijah looked startled. "Is my brother well?" he asked, almost afraid to hear the answer. The servant bowed. "I think so, my lord prince. He has made no complaint - well, not in recent days, at any rate."

Dom snorted with laughter. "Come, Elijah. Let us seek them out!"

There were a few young men in the gardens, sunning themselves after bathing, but they quickly withdrew as Dom and Elijah approached the trio set under a shady tree. Dom was finding it hard to keep from laughing, but Elijah was so astonished at what he saw, laughter was the last thing on his mind.

Lord Cecil lay, naked, face down on a silken couch which was covered by several sheets. Pierre was dripping scented oil from a flask onto his lordship's buttocks, whilst Brian, stripped to a loincloth, skilfully massaged the unguent into Cecil's unresisting muscles with practised hands.

If Elijah had expected his brother to leap up when he saw them, abashed, covering his nakedness with a towel, and mumbling excuses, he was far off the mark.

Cecil surveyed his visitors with half closed eyes. "I am sure your Highnesses will excuse me from rising," murmured the sleepy man. "It is so comfortable, here, with the most talented Brian working on my back. You must know, Elijah," he said, addressing his astonished brother, "that I have had some trouble with my back, of late years, but Brian has nearly eradicated the tension causing the problem."

Dom coughed as Brian concentrated on his work, blushing slightly.

"I see you are in good hands, Cecil," Elijah remarked, which was all he could think of to say.

"I am, indeed. And young Pierre is so very adept with the oils," murmured Lord Cecil, his eyes closing with contentment.

Dom knew he would begin laughing if he did not leave, so, informing his lordship that he would return in one hour to hear his report, he took an unresisting Elijah off to the baths.
One glance at his lover's astounded expression had Dom leaning against the marble walls, whooping with delight.

"Admit it, I was right!" Dom crowed, as servants came forward to remove their clothing. Sinking into the hot depths of the pool had an almost immediate affect on Elijah, and Dom, hugely enjoying himself, watched as Elijah's body lost its tension, and his face relaxed into a huge grin.

"Never would I have believed it, if I had not seen it. Truly a day of wonders!"

The two men enjoyed an invigorating massage, and were just leaving the bath-house when Lord Cecil approached them, dressed, as were they, in a fine silk robe, and carrying a sheaf of papers under one well-oiled arm.

"I am ready with my report, Highness," Cecil bowed, politely. "I hope you will find it of help."

As Dom had not desired a report, but had merely used that as an excuse to get Cecil into the seraglio, this came as a slight shock. However, Dom and Elijah covered their surprise, and went into a charming salon, where they sat and ordered iced, mint tea.

To Dom's amazement, Lord Cecil de Montfort Wood proved an excellent organiser. He had not, he said, tried to save Dom money - for he knew the Ranjipore coffers were bottomless - but had, instead, set himself to make the harem an efficiently run department.

He had, he informed them, classified all the men into age, type, nationality and sexual preferences. Elijah blinked.

All were listed, alphabetically, with those talents that stood out above the others highlighted in red.

Apparently, Adam was remarkable at fellatio. "His gag reflex does not exist," Cecil pointed out, unaware that he was causing utter astonishment in his listeners. "Brian - as you must know, Highness - is very well-endowed, which makes sexual congress with him most stimulating and satisfying. He is very skilled at it, and knows just what one would like. He is an admirable head for such an establishment."

Dom tried to school his features, mainly because Elijah was staring wide-eyed at his brother, totally unable to grasp what he was saying. He heard the words, but coming from Cecil's mouth, the words made no sense.

"Boris has a talent for bondage. Binding certain parts of the body in leather strips, you know," Cecil remarked, "can be very rewarding, if it is done properly. And Chatric..."

The list went on. Elijah collapsed against the back of his chair, only able to listen. Dom, however, was enjoying himself, and asked many pertinent questions; all of which had Cecil nodding his approval, and he offered even more ways to make the place function more efficiently.

"...so you see, Highness," he concluded after a very interesting - and enlightening - hour, "by implementing these changes, the men will be happier, better suited to their tasks, and even more eager to serve you. By giving each man - or each couple - a separate chamber, instead of dormitories, they will relish their privacy, and be ever more willing to come together in amity and concord. The cost, as you see, will be trifling."

Cecil passed the papers into Dom's nerveless hand, and looked expectantly at the king.

Dom was not stupid. The man deserved praise, and Dom gave it, unstintingly, and told him that he was now free to leave the harem with them. Then Cecil astounded them further, by asking if he could stay for the rest of the afternoon, as there was one thing he had not yet tried.

Giving permission, Dom dared not ask what it was.

*

Back in the library, the two men spent a happy half an hour making suggestions as to what Cecil was doing. Elijah, having recovered somewhat from his stupefaction, listened in awe to some of Dom's more inventive suggestions.

"I do not think, my love, that you will hear any further criticism from your brother concerning your lifestyle. Do you?"

Elijah chuckled. "I think not, indeed. A day of miracles!"

Then he became serious. "What do you intend to do about the men, Dom? They are as closeted as were the women in the seraglio. They, too, deserve more freedom."

Dom nodded. "You are very right. I have already given the matter some thought. I shall give them all the opportunity to leave, if they so wish. Or they may stay, and live the life of luxury and indulgence they have become used to. I think that Brian will not wish to leave." He saw Elijah's eyebrow lift, and hurried to explain.

"I found Brian in an establishment that I patronised occasionally in London, a short while before I left Cambridge. It was plain to me that the young man had talent, and he also was adept at protecting the younger men from the excesses of some of the patrons. Brian did not enjoy working there for he told me so, and he had no money as the owner kept all the profits, allowing the boys only pin-money lest they escape to a better life. He was very happy to come with me. I bought him off for two hundred pounds."

Dom was now looking at his feet, again. "I was minded to set up a male harem for my own use, and that of my family. As far as I know, only Osman uses it still. I know Basmin did, at one time, but I see now, he had no real need. He and Ian seem very settled."

Elijah took Dom's hand. "As are we, my lord king. I need no other than you."

Dom looked up at that, his eyes shining. "Nor I as I have already told you. But, I must say I did enjoy the - very stimulating time we spent there with Brian and Pierre the day I, er, deflowered him." He pressed Elijah's hand. "If any remain after I offer them freedom, perhaps..."

Dom was unable to continue because Elijah was kissing him. He thought it an excellent response to the unasked question. Indeed, they would do it again.

*

It was early the next morning when the message came, via heliograph, from the garrison. The new general, sent out from Poona as the replacement for Portman, requested an interview with the king. The loss of one Captain Wenham and one Sergeant Hill was not usually a matter for undue concern to the army as losses were to be expected - but the missing captain was also a duke, and questions had been asked.


Billy came to inform them of the matter just as Gafur was hefting the massive silver tea tray through the bedroom door.

Billy waited for Gafur to leave. The old servant could not have known what had happened to Wenham and Hill, and all were anxious to keep the precise information secret. Even Dom and Elijah were unsure - except they thought the conspirators had met their end in the hills surrounding the palace.

"I have told your lordship - just say what I told you," Billy said to Dom, pouring out the morning tea. "You can't go amiss, there. I'll soon sort the bastard out, whoever he is. You, my lord king - just be as snooty and cool as I know you can be. That'll mean he'll have to deal with me if he wants any answers. I'll tell him a bit, and he'll go away satisfied. Captain Wenham died a faithful servant of the British Army, that's all he'll know."

Dom was not sure it would prove enough, but he trusted Billy, and as Gafur came back to help with dressing the pair, Billy hurried off to answer the message. He was certain that before sunset, the new general would arrive to put his questions to the king. Wenham was last known to be at the palace. This point would have to be addressed.

Elijah, waiting for Gafur to help him with his turban, thought Dom looked tired. He had spent a restless night, calling out, once or twice, in his sleep. The name he called out was that of Duleep Singh. Elijah determined to get Dom to talk over his fears with him. It seemed the only way to lay the ghosts to rest.

For better, or worse, they were in this together.
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