Kindred Spirit Lodge Presents
Heron's Fan Fiction
Uber tale: extreme graphic violence, and explicit love between women. © Oct. 2001 Feedback to HeronW@aol.com
A second chance, 4000 years and wanting so bad, anything is possible.
Gods! This was incredible! Awake after four thousand years, give or take a century, Sh’alla was delighted. From the top of her raven-colored hair, which was nearly thick enough to drown in as it reached her hips, to the veriest tips of her silver-lacquered toenails, matched by the self-same color on her fingernails, the newly astir woman nearly vibrated with joy. A deliciously slow frisson meandering up her spine nearly made her swoon, but Sh’alla kept herself from falling into that trap of mindless ecstasy in the dreamland. After all, that’s how she had passed the last few millennia, not that it wasn’t excruciatingly pleasurable, but she so did want to experience what the world was like these days.
Sh’alla's creamy flesh had not suffered one iota from her internment, though the silks she had worn with their spun-gold thread trim was little more than dust and the occasional speck of glitter. Her strange lavender-grey eyes narrowed quite catlike as she extended her senses into this brave new world to learn how she should appear in the currents of this new civilization.
Buildings of strange stone were as tall as mountains, yet a few native folk still lived in caves or simple grass dwellings. Hollow metal spears called 'needles' and 'rockets' carried both life and death, depending upon their size. The same sun still drifted with her attendant stars but the moon seemed a bit tarnished since footsteps had marred her virginal singularity.
And what of speech? The murmur of a thousand different tongues grew to a roar then diminished as she concentrated on one or two threads. Ah, as in her time, the leading language of the strongest kingdom became the common voice for study, commerce and the arts.
The sheer variety of humanity was a joy to look upon. Beauty came in a diversity that was nearly chaotic when mixed with the additions of clothing, jewelry and body adornment. For a moment Sh’alla laughed softly in wonder, why she would fit in with nary a ripple. She cast about for her companion, the scent of her love….
Yes—yes? No. Alia wasn’t there. A small salty drop came to one eye and tipped out over the sculptured cheekbone. Sh’alla lifted a finger and carefully took the drop in between her lips. She inhaled deeply trying to catch the faintest wisp of her lost Alia. Oils staining waters and earths, waste loose and buried, metals enervated and lethal. One part in a million, in a billion, intangible, therefore absent. Sh’alla closed her eyes tight; I shall miss you, by all the Gods and Daemons, I shall miss you, my Alia.
Sh’alla took a tangible form as she appeared inside a large shop in a great city that sold clothing and accessories. It was after midnight and empty save for a guard outside in the hall that led to other shops. Lights with strange dim flames were on. Electricity. The thunderbolts from the Gods had been enslaved to endless leagues of fine copper wire and fragile glass. Stranger things had happened. And would. Sh’alla smiled and sought out her beloved silk.
The pile of dresses, pantaloons…no—pants, skirts and blouses, jackets and scarves, was nearly waist-high and of every color imaginable. Sh’alla divined the use of undergarments but saw no need for them for either support or warmth. Her bosom should not be expected to hide behind or be bound by the silly cupped items called bras. They must have been designed by a madman. The britches were at least rather more practical but not really obligatory. Still, silk was silk and the styles were fascinating. Sh’alla picked out a few that were no more than a quarter-finger’s width between her cheeks and barely a palm in the front.
She was nearly disheartened at the shoe department but discovered her size in over two dozen pairs, hiding behind the wall. Sh’alla wondered how the leather was made so soft and laughed at the thought of cows coming in aquamarine and Phoenician purple. The transparent stockings were passed up, again, as unnecessary. Her long legs were flawless, smooth and hairless. The pile of garments was complete.
Sh’alla, wearing only a pair of silver sandals and a smoky grey thong, found the jewelry area next to the cosmetics and soaps. Kohl was now in a stick, colored eye powders came in tiny pans and red lip glaze was in a tube. Women still improved with artifice. Some things never change, these Sh’alla passed by. She could alter the color of her skin at a whim now, so her lips were always deep burgundy; her eyelids were well defined and accented a few shades darker than the irises. Dew on the rose, Alia would have said. Anything more would be gaudy and inconsequential.
However, the lovely scents of soaps and body oils were irresistible. Rose, orchid, frangipani, sandalwood, three different musks, violet, gardenia, lavender, and fanciful names of blends that nearly made Sh’alla drunk. She took them all, contained in papyrus, um, paper and those bottles of plastic made from oil. That sort of confused Sh’alla. The natural sponges were available next to fine wax candles that matched smell for smell with the bathing substances. She took all of them as well. False lightning may be available but Sh’alla was at heart, an old-fashioned girl.
Platinum. Now that was a new regal metal. Denser than silver, much more precious than gold. It was but the work of a few moments for Sh’alla to split the seams of the safe, pulling the thick amalgam of steel and lead apart like damp papyrus pages. She didn’t even break a nail. Rings for hand and ears, necklaces and torques, bracelets and anklets. She pushed the lesser gold pieces aside as she gathered up the platinum ones she fancied.
One gold necklace in particular though, caught Sh’alla’s eye. It was made in the manner of old, of linked coins, though not the ugly ones used today, in a descending order of size like a pectoral. On the one side were two roses entwined inside the ancient symbol of Astarte, the mirror with a crossed handle. On the other side, a subtle bas-relief profile of a young woman… Sh’alla’s breath stopped.
Sh’alla cast backwards in time. When was this derived from? Nine, ten centuries at least. No, more than that. Crafted originally in that pathetic little region where men still argued and killed for eons over three petty religions. There, Alia had been on earth. She might, just might, Gods be kind…be somewhere here and now, even though Sh’alla could not detect her. The tall storm-eyed woman gathered her choices and cast for a place of residence, a place to bathe and think.
In the upper reaches of this state, a marbled-trimmed twenty room villa was absent of occupants. Sh’alla appeared with her wardrobe and set a mental shield about the home and the many hectares of land. People would think nothing of it, as though it were not there at all, on neither parchment map nor fallible memory, although beasts were immune. It was currently between owners and thus vacant and perfect for her use.
Sh’alla set up several candles around a large ceramic bathing tub and lit them with a thought. She found out how to make water come forth and discovered that she could adjust the temperature. Hidden devices stirred the water into delightful currents at various levels. Sh’alla untied her sandals and slipped out of the thong before easing into the tub. It felt rather odd, not to have any body servants assist her. With so many clever inventions, she supposed such service was no longer needed. The warm earthy scents from the candles played welcome and provided pleasant reminders of many earlier baths.
Shepherd pipes playing a rustic tune accompanied a skillful drummer who sang the simple melody as well. Rhisa and Merat were accomplished musicians, two of the best Sh’alla had heard in a long time. When she had listened to them in the marketplace, whilst shopping, she waited ‘til their song was finished before offering a handful of coins and a proposal. Now they were valued members of her household, safe from unscrupulous agents who would have had the talented women exploited mainly as bed warmers.
“A copper for your thoughts…” The low voice sometimes still made Sh’alla shiver, even in the hot baths. She kept her eyes closed in anticipation, a wisp of beloved flesh filling her nostrils.
“Silver for your dreams…” Sh’alla replied smiling as she heard a familiar splash in the pool. Ripples nudged her chin as the last line was whispered in her ear.
“Gold for your heart.” Alia’s sea-green eyes gazed into her own. The younger woman’s red-gold hair was loose as it hung to her shoulders and spread out on the water behind her. She nipped Sh’alla’s ear then kissed her.
“And what would our fair musicians think of this hedonistic display?” Alia asked with a mischievous smile, indicating the nearby tray of assorted fruits, spiced lamb, feta cheese and an amphorae of watered wine that a servant had set down. She took a sip from Sh’alla’s goblet.
“That they’d throw me out of our house and ban me from the kitchen if I didn’t get cleaned up after repairing the midden ditch,” the raven-haired woman replied. Wine sputtered from Alia's lips as she tried to hold back a laugh. An off-key toot came from Merat’s pipes as she sat playing on the divan.
Rhisa started giggling beside her, “Even your neighbor’s puppy tried to cover her up, she stunk so!” Merat abandoned even the thought of trying to hold the song as Alia laughed.
“No! No…” Sh’alla tried to regain her reputation from the joke. “He was looking for a bone to gnaw on.”
“And you weren’t it!” Merat quipped, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes. “We had to rinse her off with buckets from the well—“
“That water was COLD!” Sh’alla interjected. Alia put down the wine cup.
“And the poor dog was so disappointed!” Merat finished, shaking with mirth. “We’ll leave you two alone.” The two musicians held each other for support as they chuckled their way out of the baths. Alia blinked expectantly at Sh’alla, trying not to laugh anymore. Little snorts came out from her anyway.
“What I wouldn’t have given for a mural of that in our atrium.”
“Uh huh,” Sh’alla couldn’t keep a stern look anymore, her rich laughter echoed off the water. “I really should try to make it up to the puppy.” She pantomimed the pet’s expression before he ran off, “Yike! Yike! Yike!”
Alia shook her head, “What shall I make of you? A woman who adores the feel of silk on her skin, then she plays in the ditch like a common laborer. A naughty little girl who gets dirty so fast. You are bad.” She licked the tip of Sh’alla’s nose. “Well, maybe not that bad.” Her tongue traced between Sh’alla’s lips. They kissed, slow and deep.
“Not bad at all,” the older woman murmured as they tasted each other. Their tongues slipped and slid in gentle wrestling, teeth nibbled while lips pressed and pulled.
Sh’alla drew Alia closer, their breasts pressed against each other. She lowered her head to a swell of flesh and grazed upon Alia’s breast. She bit slowly on the red tip as Alia arched her back and reclined upon the surface of the water. Sh’alla rolled the other neglected nipple between her callused thumb and forefinger. The rough skin from years of handling a bow was perfect for eliciting those sweet moans from Alia. She grasped onto the sides of the pool as Sh’alla slipped around, the water here to her waist. Alia opened her legs as Sh’alla knelt and took Alia’s thighs, placing them over her own shoulders. She tilted Alia’s hips upward and spread open her nether lips.
Alia gasped as Sh’alla’s tongue plunged inside then pulled out to circle the highly sensitive nub. Sh’alla sucked on Alia’s center, her tongue dancing and teasing the younger woman into a frenzy. Then Sh’alla slowed her ministrations and stopped before Alia was satisfied. Sh’alla let Alia’s hips and legs slide down and rest, buoyant in the bath water.
“What?” The blonde began to complain. Sh’alla placed her fingers to her lips and stepping back, reached beside the food tray and pulled open a leather bag. Alia smiled slowly when she realized her lover’s intent. She moved to stand in the water while Sh’alla retrieved the double ended ivory phallus and belt.
“Aren’t you going to help me with this?” Sh’alla teased as she assembled the toy.
“If you’re good…” Alia said as she rubbed her fingers against the apex of her lover. Now it was Sh’alla’s turn to gasp as the smaller woman’s thumb teased her. Alia helped to fasten the belt then rotated the closer tip of the thicker ivory shaft against Sh’alla’s depth. She opened herself wider for Alia’s touch.
“Yes…” Sh’alla hissed as Alia slowly inserted the ivory shaft. Sh’alla grunted as she twisted it, adjusted it deeper. Alia went back to leaning her head against the stone side as she lay back in the water.
“Come to me, my love.” Alia once more readied herself for Sh’alla’s touch. She watched with heavy-lidded eyes as Sh’alla came closer, the smooth ivory span breaching the surface like a pale snub-nosed dolphin. She delved into Alia’s heat with her fingers then began rocking the knobbed end against her lover’s cleft. Alia locked her ankles behind Sh’alla and drew her close while at the same time aiding in her own luxurious penetration.
“Dear Goddess…” Sh’alla rested her forehead on her love’s shoulder as their hips rocked back and forth in a delicious rhythm. She held Alia’s sides, feeling the younger woman’s breath coming as fast and deep as her own.
“Now—“ The last quick thrusts dropped both lovers into a world without night, only stars bursting over and over in a tumultuous roar of one heart, one name, one sound.
The trickles of water were as warm as the tears that ran down her face. Sh’alla loved Alia so much. Missed her so much. In this modern world when more people were alive than at any other time, far out numbering the dead from every age, there was no one for Sh’alla.
Her stunning looks drew both men and women, but Sh’alla only felt beautiful in Alia’s eyes. Offers of liaisons for an afternoon or a lifetime meant nothing since she was with Alia. Even when Alia was consumed in her writings, ink stains on her fingers and broken quills on the floor about her desk, Sh’alla was content to be still and watch her love.
Demazul, the high priest, had a smug expression on his porcine face. Sh'alla had been summoned before the Great King, Akurasahd, but she was not impressed with either the ornate surroundings or the rich robes and elaborate headdresses of the two most powerful men in the land.
Sh'alla clasped her hands behind her to hide her irritation. She smiled and tried to be diplomatic.
"I believe I must decline, Sire. I am in my third decade; not a doe-eyed virgin to be brought fresh to a marriage bed. There would be no dowry since I am without parents, nor would this facilitate an alliance to strengthen the kingdom."
"This is a royal command, not a request!" Demazul seemed rather put out, as though it were he whom Sh'alla was rejecting.
"You will give me an heir. You are an unusual woman, with the strengths of a warrior. I can use those strengths." The Great King couldn't keep a greedy smile from his narrow lips.
"I am a free citizen of Ur. I am the head of my own house, and my taxes support the kingdom. Forcing me would lessen your stature in the eyes of your people."
“You should be honored to be a handmaiden to our Great King, may his name live for--“
“—Then call it by its proper name, Priest. Rape.” Sh’alla was loosing her patience. Demazul’s face turned bright red in indignation. “Take me against my will then, in return all I ask for is a scroll from Thurtas, the scribe from the fourth dynasty. His manner is exceedingly dry and tedious, with tepid accounts of floods, livestock, and harvests but it will suffice to hold my attention while the Great King grunts and spills his ineffective seed.”
“Sacrilege!” Sputtered the high priest. Akurasahd’s eyes narrowed dangerously.
“For speaking the truth?” Sh’alla shook her head. “You men have your weakest parts dangling limp outside of your bodies. Perversely, you trumpet it as your greatest strength like the great bronze statues of heroes at the harbor. Yet, when the cold winter winds blow down from the mountains, all one hears is moans and groans from these hollow men.”
“I have spoken to the Gods and they have answered me. You are chosen.” Akurasahd said in a deadly tone. The fingers of his left hand combed slowly through his black beard, the gold rings alternately flashing and hiding under the tight curls.
“And why should I have more success than your previous concubines? Most of them are childless. You keep adding cows to the field but the bull remains the same. Some men cannot be fathers, as some women cannot be mothers. That is in the hands of the Gods.”
“Now you claim to know the Gods?” Demazul’s voice held a sly tone.
“The Gods made all things, and all can speak to them. But only the heart knows if they reply.” Sh’alla felt like she was explaining to a child. A particularly dense child.
“Oh, really?” said the priest, raising an eyebrow.
“You say you intercede between Gods and men, for bribes of sacrifices that end up enriching the priests. ‘Oh, this is not enough,’ you say. ‘Give us a nine-week-old calf without blemish,’ or whatever the sacrifice of the month is. Two sheep for this sin and three she-goats for that. The meat goes to your table, Priest. I would feed you just as well, for an honest day’s work, if you ever got off your pretentious fundament.”
“Do you deny the Gods, woman?” Demazul gripped the heavy pectoral denoting his holy office.
“Not at all. Only the power-hungry priests who prey on the desperate, the ignorant and the gullible."
"This is heresy!" The high priest's knuckles were white with rage.
“When will you demand children for the flames like the barbaric tribes to the east? That threat will bow every parent into submission for fear, not for spiritual growth. You priests exhort, ‘Eat the heart of your enemy’ to become great with that warrior’s power. If that truly was so, then why, when the same men eat lamb stew, there is no effect? They do not gambol in the meadow, flicking their arse four times in a heartbeat and bleat for their ewes."
"This woman speaks treason, your Majesty," a tic throbbed just under Demazul's left eye.
“I have known some fierce warriors who never eat meat. It is what is in a man’s heart that makes him great, not what is in his stomach. Most laughably, you tell them to eat the ballocks from geldings as well, to increase their potency for sons. That is ridiculous. If a man is incapable of producing children, no fried balls of any beast will do it for him. If that were so, every lion that ate a goat would sire kids, not cubs.”
“What would you know of men? You live with a woman as your wife. That is unnatural.” Akurasahd sneered.
“Then what of the ‘Twins of the Sword,’ Sire? There are many men in your army who love only men. These fighting pairs eat from the same plate, drink from the same cup, sleep on the same pallet. They wield two swords with one heart. And they are some of the best warriors for having the one they love beside them.”
“That is different. They are—“
“—Men,” Sh’alla finished for Demazul. “So you support this hypocrisy as well? I have spent time in the desert. I have seen lionesses doing the hunting, the killing and raising the next generation. The Gods have made those regal beasts. Are we less than them?"
“You are unlike anyone, male or female, that I have ever known.” Akurasahd mused. “Actually, I want the power within your soul, not within your womb. Prepare her for daemonic possession!”
A sword clashed softly as it was withdrawn from a sheath. Sh’alla looked around incredulously, to see seven guards rushing her from all sides. She struck out with the heel of her hand slamming one guard’s nose; blood burst over the center of his face. A kick caught another to the side of his knee. She punched a second in the jaw and elbowed another in the ribs but there were too many. Arms encircled her, hands gripped tight about her waist, her arms, her thighs. A sword hilt to her temple ended her resistance and she fell.
"How much do you want your lover now? Hmmm?" Akurasahd mused. Alia stood in shock, her arms held by two guards at the left of the Great King's seat in the deep chamber. "Tell me girl, is this the woman you want? Is she still beautiful?" Twenty paces away, Alia looked upon devastation.
Sh'alla raised her head upon hearing the faint gasp from Alia's lips. Gods and Daemons, not this, she prayed, please, don't let Alia see me like this. No one heard her.
At a signal from Akurasahd, the guards released the girl.
Alia's sea-colored eyes were full and her lungs empty. This was why Sh'alla didn't come home for three days. This was why Alia slept alone and badly, for want of any news. This was why, in the barest snatches of sleep, Alia had terrible dreams that she couldn’t remember upon awakening. No one knew where Sh’alla had gone or why, now Alia knew and she couldn't stop shaking.
The lush dark hair was matted with gore, Sh'alla's lavender-grey eyes were deeply circled with lines of pain. Her breath came in short rasping patches. Alia's love hung suspended from chains shackled about her wrists and ankles above the floor of the stone chamber. She was nude, no—worse than that. Sh'alla was raw.
Wet, red and glistening from shoulders to hips, Sh’alla’s flawless ivory skin had been flayed in strips that now hung in a grotesque travesty of a skirt covering her intimate parts. Alia's nostril's flared at the smell of stale spilt blood and the acidic musky scent of some strange oil. Even with the four tall, narrow openings hacked through the thick stone walls of the dungeon that let in air and light, the odor was almost too much to bear. Alia recognized that pungent aroma from the bloody year-end services Demazul presided over.
"Ah, yes." The high priest sneered, "Invigorating isn't it? Despair, agony, regret, fear. And the anointing oil to summon a power you can't begin to imagine." A young girl, clothed only in a short white linen skirt and silver wires woven into her long braids, held out a bowl of warm scented water. He laved his hands in a basin the slave held, then wiped his hands on the towel resting on the slave’s shoulder. She put the bowl of dirty water and the towel aside. Picking up a goblet of wine, the slave carried it to the great king’s right hand. She knelt on the dun wool carpet that Akurasahd’s feet rested on and concentrated on the chair's wooden leg closest to her.
“You see, the truth must be uncovered, not even flesh must hide her soul. Once the daemon enters her, she’ll be hungry… and your life's blood will take care of that.” Akurasahd smiled in triumph. “Then she’ll be mine to control. Females are more amenable, even with as strong a will as this one. Begin, priest.“
Demazul nodded and threw a powder on the brazier. Flames flashed blue then a sickly green. He chanted, mumbling words that made no sense to anyone but the incorporate phantoms Sh’alla felt pressing in on her freshly exposed muscles. On the second day, she had lost her voice from screaming. Still she had been given plenty of water and drenched several times a day with the exotic oil that kept her from bleeding to death.
Now the torches seemed to dim but there was no wind to bend the flames back on themselves. It was bright summer, early afternoon in the dry season. Somehow the sun was hidden, but if that was so, then what were those black tendrils that dripped down inside the rocky window frames and headed in her direction?
The high priest shouted out ancient summons, his eyes rolled back in his head in an ecstasy of religious fervor. More powder fell on the flames and they slithered into purple and umber churning waves.
“No!” Alia cried as she ran to her love.
“Stop her!” ordered the great king. A guard swung his sword and sliced through Alia’s calf on her third step. She stumbled and fell. The dark mist was closing in on Sh’alla. Alia rose and crawled closer on her hands and knees for a few more steps. A second soldier pulled his dagger and sliced at her, cutting a shallow gash on Alia’s ribs but he pulled back as the black smoke reached out to touch him. Alia fell again, holding her side. Scarlet leaked through her fingers.
“Don’t let it take you!” Alia urged as she dragged herself closer to Sh’alla and the twisting murky streamers that nearly surrounded the older woman's lean, glistening and ravaged body.
“Curse you, bitch!” Akurasahd yelled, jumping to his feet and grabbing the nearest guard’s spear. The cedar shaft flew fast and sure as the girl reached out.
“Sh’alla—” Alia was pierced through, her lover’s name came out with a gush of bright blood when Sh’alla was almost covered in the midnight-flavored cloud. Alia looked up to her love’s eyes, the tip of the spear grated on the stone under her breast as she moved a hand’s breadth closer and whispered fiercely, “You’re mine, forever.” Her trembling fingers brushed the toes on Sh’alla’s left foot, making the barest of contacts before her hand fell to the darkly stained granite and her body followed. Alia's red gold hair covered her in a soft veil, flowing about the incongruity of the wide end of the iron spearhead that thrust out between her shoulder blades.
The black fog stopped. Sh’alla’s eyes rose and rested in an icy blue gaze upon the king. Demazul babbled on, oblivious to the change in the room. The shadowy tendrils faded about her bloody form, the shackles clicked open and jangled as the chains hit the ground. The priest heard that clinking sound; he stopped his chanting and opened his eyes.
“Well priest, whoever you were inviting into my flesh, couldn’t make it. They send their regrets.” Sh’alla’s chin snapped up and Demazul was shoved hard against the wall by an invisible force. Rock flowed over his wrists and ankles, pinning him to the wall. He began babbling in every language that he knew to try and undo the ritual of possession.
Sh’alla ignored him and stared briefly at each of the four windows and the only doorway that lead out. The stone began to melt and draw together, filling the openings with liquid rock, leaving only the space of a hands-breadth. Akurasahd fell back in his wooden throne at her glance. Twigs spiraled out of the long dead oak and twisted about the high king’s neck, arms and legs, holding him in place as he ordered his guards to defend him. Sh’alla disregarded his ineffectual injunctions as well.
The slave at his feet fell aside in terror and kept screaming over and over. Her shrill cries galvanized two guards who drew their swords and ran at the flayed woman. She stepped away from Alia’s body and caught the blades as they descended. Sh’alla snapped them off midpoint, then quickly shot her hands diagonally across each other, cutting the throats of both men. Her wrists snapped and the blades flew in opposite directions piercing through the right eyes of the two warriors who had wounded Alia.
A fifth guard, a youngish man whose nose Sh’alla had broken in the throne room, howled over and over again like a desert jackal. He had tried to crawl out a slit when the rock melted over his arms trapping him. She walked up to him and pulled out his sword.
“When I wanted freedom, you helped to bind me, and now you want to be released? So be it.” She swung once and severed both arms. He fell, shaking his head, denying his newfound liberty as he bled to death. Half a back and the legs of a sixth guard lay in the now solid doorway. She dropped the sword by the twitching boots.
The last soldier stared at Sh’alla. “I’m not afraid of any half-peeled woman,” he sneered, backed up against the rough-hewn rock wall.
“That’s not the half you should be afraid of, fool.” Sh’alla pressed the heel of her left hand against the brow guard of his helmet. He lifted up his hands to grab her wrist and push it away, but she didn’t budge. He drew his dagger and stabbed at her right hand. The blade broke against her skin. He roared then choked as she gave a small shove and the helm folded concave into his skull. He fell as Sh’alla turned away. She looked down at the slave girl, still screaming hysterically at the gruesome sights. Sh’alla knelt by the girl and held her gently by her shoulders, long scars both old and fresh from the whip marred the young slave's skin.
“Shush, child. Close your eyes.” The girl was quiet and still, shivering. Sh’alla yanked off the jeweled pectoral from Akurasahd’s chest and draped it over the girl’s hands. “Only a child when he took you, only a child when he used you. Forget all evils and ills and be reborn in joy and beauty.” She lay her hands on the girl’s dark braids for a moment then removed her hands and the girl disappeared. The girl would awaken on the edge of her village, without any scars or memories from the time a year ago when she had been captured and sold as a slave. Her arrival would be considered a blessing from the Gods, especially with the wealth she carried.
Sh’alla stood. She inhaled deeply, held her breath and concentrated. Slowly the ragged dry edges of the flayed strips swelled and glistened with fresh life. The thirty-six long slices of her flesh began to ripple. Thirty-six worlds of torment as Demazul stripped her, smiling at her shudders and pleas and tears. Gloating as the oil dripped over the raw exposed muscles, preventing a blessed death by exsanguination. Demazul cut and pulled open a new wound every hour of the day; twelve a day, for three days, letting her rest, if it could be called such, during the empty hours of the night.
When was it the worst? Feeling when he made those tiny slices, tracing the pattern before the curved flensing blade connected those scarlet dashes. Or when he sliced through the very center of her nipples and tore them away…or hearing the hissing whispers of the guards as she hung alone and in agony at night. They would take Alia, they would beat her and rape her: there were a hundred others she’d be passed through in the royal barracks. Then she would be hung up as Sh’alla watched, and they would begin with her sweet face.
The flaps of skin drew up about Sh’alla’s torso like a flower, petals closing modestly for the night, attaching to the muscles and joining seamlessly until she was a whole and entire woman. Sh’alla shuddered as she exhaled; now she had a debt to repay.
Sh’alla walked passed the priest and casually drew her nails across Demazul's abdomen slicing through both silk and skin. He shrieked high and long as his entrails spilled forth so like the hundreds of sacrifices he had handled. The loops and twists of intestines spilled out and piled about his sandals. The warm, wormy slick textures slid over his toes. The weight of the greasy lengths tugged at his stomach and liver, pulling them loose but they were held back by thin bands of his flesh, the organs too thick to go through any of the four gashes that stretched from hip to hip. Little high-pitched squeals from him tripped over each other like a slaughtering of hogs.
She picked up the dress that she had worn to court, to Akurasahd’s summons. Remarkably, it was neither torn nor stained. Sh'alla had been undressed whilst unconscious and suspended from the chains. The deep blue silk was a bit dusty, but that was all right. It was a favorite of hers--, Alia had given it to her, her last birthday present. She held the soft cloth before her, then shook it and shrugged into it, tying the laces at the bodice. She let her sandals stay tossed against the corner. She seemed to ripple like the air just above a fire; her hair was instantly cleansed of blood and sweat, hanging freely behind her.
Sh’alla knelt by Alia and pulled the smaller woman into her lap so that Alia rested on her side. She tugged gently at the spear and tossed it away, then she smoothed the red gold waves back.
“You did it my love, you stopped them. Even when I thought there was only darkness left, you saved me. Neither Gods nor Daemons can deny you, your strength, your will, your love, your belief in me. I must stay a little while longer. This kind of man has to learn a hard lesson. Wait for me, my love, my Alia.” Sh’alla passed her hand over a length of floor and the stone sunk in to leave an opening a little longer, wider and deeper than Alia’s form. Sh’alla kissed the soft lips and with infinite care placed Alia within the bier, hands across her breast. The dark woman pressed both hands to the rock. Stone flowed slower this time, as mica was moved out of the rest of the granite and grew as a transparent cover over Alia in her hollowed emplacement. The outer rock without its glitter, darkly framed her resting place.
Sh'alla became aware of Akurasahd's curses and orders, neither of which did him any good. She arose slowly and walked to within arm's distance of the trapped High King. She touched his throat and his voice was silenced. His lips moved, face contorting in rage and fear but he made no sound.
“I do not choose to hear you O King, as my cries and pleas for mercy were fruitless, so shall your barren threats wither and die. I don’t know what you expected, but this,” she struck her heart with her fist, “should never have been.”
Sh'alla stooped and ripped his thick leather sandals off, then quickly shredded Akurasahd's gold embroidered, pearl trimmed robes until he was clad only in a silk loin-cloth. His powerful body was covered in sweat, his dark complexion lightened here and there with scars from battles and hunting the red-maned desert lions and wild aurochs.
"There is an ancient edict that no man may be a king unless he is without blemish." The dark woman's cobalt eyes scrutinized his muscular form. "You may have fooled them with the outer man, but the inner one is deformed than any daemon, and more unnatural. I will be merciful. At the end of thirty-six days you will die. One day for every hour I suffered, that is my due. I know no punishment severe enough to repay you for Alia's murder. You will bless Death when she takes you, O King. That will be your most fortuitous time."
Sh'alla lifted up Akurasahd's left hand and sliced through the end of his little finger with her nail; there was no blood by her will. She pinched through the first and second knuckles, dislocating and reducing the joints to powder. Then she poked through the skin and muscle with an unbreakable nail, and cut through the ligaments that held muscle to bone. Using her nails like tweezers, she pulled out the loose bone. She repeated the action with his right hand. She tossed the small irregular cylinders in her hand as the king wept and groaned, quite soundlessly. Sh'alla stepped back five paces and concentrated. Rock rose up to form a throne with back and armrests, the whole slightly higher than Akurasahd's. The dark woman sat, facing him, waiting for the night to come and the days to follow.
The following month wasn't totally silent. Demazul cried and whimpered and begged to no avail. He was still at the end of the fourth day and the stench of his body was making the air unpleasant. At a wave of Sh'alla's hand, the rock flowed over the high-priest and his guts, effectively sealing off the putrid aroma. She did the same for the bodies of the guards to remove their hateful presence from her sight.
At the end of ten days, Akurasahd had no bones in his fingers. When fifteen more had passed, both hands and feet were shapeless jellied masses. By the end of the third week Sh'alla had removed in order: wrists, ankles, lower arm and leg bones, elbows and knees. Sh'alla watched the disintegration of the king with greater and greater interest. He had bitten through his tongue and lips from the torment, she had not allowed him to bleed. Her will kept him alive as piece by piece she de-boned the one who commanded her agony.
Akurasahd's upper arms and legs were the consistency of clay without the inner support to hold their shape. Sh'alla entertained herself now with snapping through the cartilage at the breast bone and breaking off the floating ribs. She had been growing increasingly agitated as the king descended into a drooling filth covered idiot. The next rib she grasped too tightly and it splintered, perforating the High King's heart, killing him. Sh'alla screamed in frustration as his blood gushed over the ruined shell. Then she backed away and stopped. What was she thinking of?
Alia. Alia was dead, gone before her to the Otherside. Somehow Sh'alla must follow, must be with her love again. By all the Gods and Daemons, she could not fail her dearest heart. Tears came finally, blessed tears, of grief and loss. Sh'alla lay atop the clear mineral covering over her savior and willed herself to cease to exist.
The water in the whirlpool tumbled and flowed from more than a dozen ports, still pleasantly hot. The candles showed the passage of hours, they were burnt low, wax escaping through a dip in a side too full to contain the melting. The viscous drops flowed and hardened as they ran. Freezing and caught fast just when flight was an intimate reality. The heat waned; the wax slowed and ceased to move, trapped in stalactites.
Sh'alla had let her body sink below the surface, the water caressing her, her hair floating about in delicate black silken threads. She didn't need to breathe or blink. Suddenly she arose, water streaming down her lean muscular body, dribbling around the full firm breasts and the strong thighs. Her face was expressionless, empty and terribly aware.
Her scream cracked the mirrors in the large bathroom. The six floor to ceiling panels fractured with snaps of lightning patterns in flailing angles, each split giving birth to new disintegrating progeny, until not a finger's tip piece was left unblemished. Like a wind flicking over the surface of a lake, in a meshing of tiny waves blurring the reflection, but not breaking apart.
Sh'alla stepped out and blinked slowly. She was now completely dry. From one pile of dresses, she chose a backless, sleeveless, ankle-length Prussian blue silk, slit up the sides with a pair of four-inch high matching sandals from another pile. The pectoral she fastened about her throat, her only jewelry, it in itself the cost of a hundred Ur cities. She was going out, where and why she didn't know, but there was an emptiness, a dissatisfaction she must address.
The city was a garish display of lights and sounds, but Sh'alla's new instincts lead her to the aromas of food and drink. People were waiting in a line to enter the restaurant but she was shown in right away to a corner table with a view of the entrance. The hostess opened the menu for her and left. Sh'alla took in the contents in a glance, reading it with no difficulty.
She ate of seafood and quail, lamb and veal. A different glass of wine came with each entrée, and she enjoyed crème brulee and a fine old brandy. The alcohol did not affect her; the food tasted good but did not fill her. She arose, angry, disappointed, still searching and not finding. The waiter saw Sh'alla leaving without paying and hurried to stop her, laying a hand on her bare shoulder. Something in her eyes looked out, cold and alien. The waiter stepped back, confused, his question forgotten.
Sh'alla followed a group into a theatre and sat, watching a flat show of people who weren't really there. After an hour of meaningless babble and superfluous actions, again she left, even more agitated. Something called, something was left wanting and she couldn't find it. She walked through an alley, her rage growing.
Behind her, a masculine voice full of disrespect and madness ordered her to, "Hand it over bitch!" while shoving something hard and uncomfortable into her back. Sh'alla turned faster than the wretched bastard could fire. She crushed his gun hand, breaking the grip of the Smith and Wesson while punching his larynx back so far she snapped the man's spine before he could scream. That… that fell good, but not quite good enough, Sh'alla thought, as she watched the scum twitch and die.
A beat reverberated through her shoes, drums and pipes and odd noises that might be music. Sh'alla followed the sounds to a loud raucous place. A few folks were outside, dressed in an amazing array of leather and chains. She smiled and again was allowed in gratis, her beauty the coin that was recognized everywhere and which was never spent.
Young strong bodies moved close together, some connected by leashes or slight manacles. Men dressed as women and women as men; many had on just the bare minimum for modesty. The musicians were so loud that voices were difficult to distinguish. She saw one young blonde woman in a pale violet dress that stopped at mid thigh, yelling into a small narrow contraption.
"I'm not going to stay long, you know this isn't my scene, but it's a riot! See you later, bye." The blonde folded the teal cell phone and almost walked into Sh'alla.
"Sorry, I wasn't looking. Are you--?
"Dance with me," said Sh'alla, looking down at a wealth of red-gold hair and sea-colored eyes. The young woman opened her mouth to speak, instead she placed the case on a table and moved from side to side slowly, watching the taller exotic woman all the while. The music changed to slow incomprehensible lyrics but the drum still held the pulse beat, the blood rocking steady.
No, no it wasn't her but she was so close, close enough for what Sh'alla felt. The woman was nicely curved, the dress tight enough to show her arousal.
"I--I'm Caren," Sh'alla heard over the riotous background as her long fingers combed through the softly scented blonde locks. "Uh, this is all new to me."
"Oh, I think you're doing just fine…" the dark woman felt the heat radiating from the compact form, as Caren closed her eyes and swayed. The warmth of her body slipped through the clothing, the scent of alcohol, a meal of garlic, wheat and seafood, excitement all blended in a melange wrapping about Sh'alla.
Caren stumbled into a warm yielding bosom, her eyes popped open, and she blushed. "Oh jeez, I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have had that second glass of wine."
"No harm done, none whatsoever," she spoke softly, knowing this Caren would hear her, only her as she chose. "Tell me, what is your position?"
The young woman looked surprised for a moment, considering the leather players bobbing about that could be a loaded question, so she opted for the mundane truth, "I'm the curator at the Seven Ages Museum across the street."
Sh'alla considered the concept; the knowledge was there to be tapped by anyone with the focus she now possessed. "You spend your life among memento mori?"
A sad smile and a faraway look came to Caren's eyes, "No, not death but life. Recalling those who ate and slept and loved, just like us, it's fascinating. It's a kind of immortality; a way that they live now thousands of years after they've gone. It's solving puzzles of what their beliefs were, what their pastimes were. It's honoring them for leaving us with something to learn. Writing about them is a perk, all these people give birth to characters that fill my stories."
"Your passion is admirable. Let's leave this place," Sh'alla urged, taking a small hand in hers.
Caren found herself outside before she could respond. The spotlights on the Seven Ages illuminated banners for two new exhibits and a fundraising.
"Show me where you work," Sh'alla asked, brushing back a dark lock.
"The museum is closed, even if I had the keys on me, I can't get in without setting off the alarm system."
Sh'alla looked deep into Caren's eyes, "There will be no alarms, no locks will keep us out."
She believed the taller woman, Caren believed the impossible to be true. She led the way down a block and a half, to the administrative entrance, a thick metal door on the east side of the building.
The music from the club throbbed softly in the background as the dark-haired woman smiled and turned the knob. Caren stiffened expecting the shrill alert but when there was nothing, she preceded Sh'alla and turned on the lights. The door shut behind them and the last raucous notes were abruptly terminated.
"I'm working on several new exhibits for exhibition, these things come piecemeal, what with verification and paperwork. Then there's customs and politics and quarantine and always a few 'what the hell is that' to be identified." They walked past cases of artifacts: pottery, tools, jewelry, weapons. The backdrops were artists' renditions via computer generated layouts showing what might have been: homes, temples, a palace here and there. The twists of rivers then ran straighter now; forests and grasslands became deserts or swamps.
Her world gone, her love gone. The hunger rose again and a call from something, a tug from a line hooked into her. She stopped before a large photo of pictograms carved into clay.
"We haven't deciphered the text yet," Caren said. "The medium itself is extremely fragile after all this time. We're trying to save it, meanwhile as part of this exhibit from the Chaldee area it gives the audience something to puzzle out."
Sh'alla whispered: "Hubris be thy failing, twelve gates be the way, despair is the key, arise a new day."
She brushed by Caren, walked down a short flight of stairs, and went through a door marked "Acquisitions" into a large workshop/laboratory. The lights came on. Caren hurried after the long legs.
"How did you know I worked in here? What--"
Sh'alla was frustrated, she felt so close. She turned roughly pushing Caren against the wall, her hand moved down over the fine linen feeling the sweet fullness underneath, she bent and nipped at the smaller woman's lips letting her hands wander, her thigh parting Caren's.
Caren opened up to the insistent tongue and the urgent lips pressed to hers, the hands that made her feel so good, the tingling she caused. This woman confused her, wanting her, wanting into the museum, wanting--what? This was too fast, no matter how much she was fascinated by this dark stranger whose fingers squeezed her ass under her panties.
"Uh, can we take it slower? I don't--Hey! Ah shit, stop it--No!"
"I own you," Sh'alla's fingers scratched deep around Caren's thigh, tearing past the thin fabric and thrusting four fingers into her, her thumb rubbing hard on that super sensitive nub.
"It hurts--Stop it!" Caren couldn't push the taller woman away, couldn't stop her from reaching deep, pressing and stirring up a wave even as the pain flashed bright and hot in her head. A drop of blood came from her right nostril and Sh'alla pushed away. Caren's body slide down the wall, shock and regret on her face, her green eyes wet with her last tears.
"I--didn't--" Sh'alla reached in looking for what went wrong, she couldn't have killed Caren. There in her brain, the redness flowing as a burst vessel pumped in feeble spurts.
"It's what you wanted, even as you took her body you wanted it."
The voice came from inside Sh'alla's mind.
"And as she goes, so goes this world, in ashes and flames, blood and suffering. You've made me wait too long, my vessel. You shall walk the stars and blind them, touch the seas and turn them red. All the worlds and times are mine, and you shall be the means of their darkening."
She turned slamming her fist on a stone slab, "NO!" Fissures trickled out from her hand. "No, I will not do your bidding." She beat again, flakes and chunks fell away and she saw Alia's face. She was here, they had found her encased in crystal and brought her here as a curiosity.
”You can give her life, join with her, make her one of us. Go to any time and spread death, my child. My instrument."
False pride, time lost? No, not quite, not if she went back.
Sh'alla closed her eyes, felt for the time she knew, the time she loved. Back, and see the world wars, the deliberate spreading of diseases, the joyful holy battles, each started by an individual who infected others. She saw the killing fields in every country, the villages whose names were lost.
Not this time.
Demazul, the high priest, had a smug expression on his porcine face. Sh'alla had been summoned before the Great King, Akurasahd.
"Have you not heard the request of your king? Are you not honored?" The high priest reiterated.
Sh'alla blinked away 4000 years of memories, "My lord, may I speak to you alone, as a citizen of Ur and a subject of your land?"
"This is highly--"
"Leave us," Akurasahd ordered. He stepped down from his throne, his head tilted considering this tall dark-haired woman who had sword-calluses as he did. The high priest left them, bowing, disappointed.
"My lord, I cannot be your wife, to give you heirs. I am barren." Sh'alla shook her head. "Though I have lain with men as well as women, I have never borne a child. The midwife who also serves your palace can tell you this is true. You need a son, or daughter to carry your name. I know several worthy young women, widows of soldiers who fought in your armies. Those children need a father."
"That is an intriguing concept," the high king rubbed his beard, considering.
"How better to defend the greatest kingdom in the world than to have the children of Akurasahd watch over it? Sons and daughters adopted by you, educated and trained to serve others as the king serves his people. Teach them to love and honor all that the gods have created, to be stewards of the land and the flocks. Not just warriors but healers, architects, scholars. This way you will be the father of many nations, not just one."
"Demazul had his heart set on you, though I know his decision was a narrow one. Will you train my children for defense when the time comes? I know you have an excellent reputation with weapons." Akurasahd held out his hand.
"I would be honored, my king." Sh'alla bowed taking the proffered hand.
Sh'alla held Alia close, watching the first stars show from their patio overlooking the river.
"You're quiet tonight, my love." Alia ran her fingers through the dark unbound hair.
"I was just thinking of a young woman who likes to write stories." She bent and rested her cheek on the soft blonde hair, inhaling the scent she knew was love.
The End - 'Heaven Scent' - by Heron
Heron's Fan Fiction Index