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The Damascus Road: part eight

The Sacred Stair

Anastasia pulled me with her. When we reached the armoury the other women were already donning their war gear. Anastasia put on her black breastplate over the chain mail, and fitted her sword-belt. I felt both ridiculous and redundant. But, wanting to be useful, grabbed a small bow and several quivers of arrows.

Anastasia explained that somehow the enemy had gained access to the lower regions of the complex. The most likely explanation was that the recent drought had exposed the secret entrance. A detachment had been sent to seal it up from the outside, so that its secret was kept, but the imperative was to deal with the incursion. The scout reported that there were more than fifty soldiers.

Anastasia turned to the others.

’To gain access to the Holy of Holies, they need to climb the Sacred Stair. We can hold them there whilst our troops come at them from behind.’

There seemed general agreement that this was a good plan, but it seemed as though there were few enough to hold it. Anastasia explained that their main force was still in pursuit of those who had attacked the convoy. With the remaining garrison split into two, there were ten to resist fifty; the odds were not with us.

’Stay here, Rahab,’ Anastasia commanded.

’I can handle a bow, let me cover you.’

’You are all I was told. So be it.’

I ran with them.

Anastasia cursed as we approached a precipitous staircase.

’Some fool left the footbridge down. If they get across, we will find it hard to hold the stair. With me, Theodosia and Helena.’

The three ran down the staircase like gazelles. Though not called for, I followed.

By the time we reached the footbridge, the enemy were already there. It was too late.

Across the bridge ran two burly warriors.

The first swung his sword down on Anastasia, she parried with her shield, and her sword drove home. He staggered, she pulled it out, he fell. His companion fared the same at the hand of Theodosia.

I saw an archer load. He was too slow. Even as he drew his bow-string, my arrow struck his throat.

The Assassins stood, looking at the bridge. Their leader, a huge brute of a man, charged across, with two companions, clearly intending to overwhelm the defenders by their momentum. An arrow to his thigh slowed that down, and as he faltered, Anastasia’s sword struck his neck, and down he went. From the staircase, two more archers dispatched arrows. I took out their second archer.

Helena and Theodosia parried and countered attacks from two more, Anastasia's sword put paid to another one.

The dauntless three held the bridge, another wave of attackers was seen off, with the swordplay brutal, but effective. The enemy hesitated. Leaderless, and with so many already dead, they faltered. Ana wiped her gory sword.

Then, from behind, came the roar of our troops. Anastasia led the others across.

The slaughter was grim and bloody. No quarter was asked or given.

It was over within fifteen minutes. Not an Assassin was left, and apart from a few flesh wounds, we had no casualties.

Anastasia embraced me.

’You shot well, little one, bringing down their leader helped turn the tide.’

I was breathless, and to tell the truth, slightly nauseous. In awe as I was of their martial prowess, my stomach turned at the result of the Bodyguards’ efficiency. Anastasia smiled.

’You did well. But this is no place for you. Go back with Helena, let us dispose of these scum.’

I was glad of the reprieve.

Helena was another tall Amazon. Shaking her long blonde hair loose, as she took off her helmet, she squeezed my hand.

’You were amazing. Where did you learn to shoot like that?’

I smiled back.

’At home we had to keep the wolves at bay, and I got a lot of target practice; I am just glad my aim is still good.’

’So are we, Rahab.’

Back in the armoury, Helena stripped to her tunic. Again, like Anastasia, it had the imperial purple trim.

‘We shall celebrate when the others return, excuse me while I give the orders.’

Finally relaxing, I trembled. I grabbed a cup of wine, and taking a huge gulp and a deep breath, felt better.

As I waited and got my stability back, I reflected on events.

I presumed that the Sultan thought me dead, and it grieved me to think of the anguish he and Jess were suffering. I needed to get back. But then, with Ana, I had found something I had never known. Here was not simply lust for pleasure, here there was a meeting of souls. How could I leave her? The dilemma was painful, but I knew I could not realise what was expected of me here, in this sacred place. That, alas, was not my lot. There was a sudden sense of anguish. I took another gulp of wine. I heard the noise of the others returning.

Ana was leading, smilingl triumphant, and in that, as beautiful as I had ever seen a woman be. She seemed to glow. She smiled when she saw me. She held her arms out.

I ran to her, and effortlessly, she picked me up and held me to her; our lips met in a long, sensuous kiss.

'Thank you, Rahab,' she whispered, pulling her lips from mine for a moment.

'You were wonderful Ana, so brave, so strong!'

She held me tight. The world seemed to stop.

She carried me to the pool, and once there, stripped my tunic from me, as she stripped her own off. Together we went into the warm water. It made my flesh tingle; or maybe it was her? Who cared? I certainly didn't. Neither did I care that we were not alone. Something primal possessed us both. We were alive, when we might have been dead, and it was the moment to celebrate that.

My hands caressed her breasts, stroking, kneading, feeling her nipples grow stiffer. I could not resist sucking; so I didn't resist.

As my mouth fastened on her hard, stiff nipple, my hand slid between her thighs, cupping her moistness; she was sticky for me, and as my middle finger slid into her sex, she moaned, gripping me closer to her. My thumb pushed at her bud, making patterns across it as I rubbed. My middle finger sank deep into her, feeling the velvet walls of her sex close in on it, clenching it, wanting me. I rubbed her bud some more, kissing her sweet lips. Her strength held me in the waters, our bodies making little waves as we played.

I just wanted to give her pleasure. It was all I wanted. 

She responded to my urgency. She pushed herself onto my finger, gyrating her hips. Our kiss deepened. Her tongue entered my mouth, making my finger work faster in her sticky wetness. We held each other. The pleasure swept through us both. It was like every nerve end was on high pleasure alert. She shuddered and moaned; I did the same.

Time seemed to stand still. 

I held her. She held me. We were one. Where she began and where I ended no longer mattered; the boundaries were down. The pleasure I was giving her, flowed into me also; I tingled with it. Her moans told me that she did too.

Then I felt her rub me. It was as though a thousand pleasure points had been touched. I panted. I heard a voice, my voice, as though it was far off, saying her name, screaming it, she she moaned my name.

And then it broke over us, a great wave, then another and another, wave after wave of pleasure, breaking over us as we held each other. There was neither time, not space, there was just the intensity of an endless tide of pleasure breaking over and in us. I held her. She clasped me to her. The warm waters rippled around us.

'I love you, Rahab,' she whispered to me, her voice husky with screaming, heavy with pleasure.

'Ana, Ana, I love you too.'

We kissed. 

Time meant nothing. It was as though we had become one being, floating in the warm waters, luxuriating in endless pleasure. Gradually we became aware again that time existed. Our hair was wet, we laughed, we rejoiced in being alive, we splashed each other, we hugged, we loved, we kissed.

Ana called for towels.

They were warm. We wrapped each other up. We sat, we drank wine, we ate figs and tender lamb cuts with mint. She looked at me, and I looked at her. The wine coursed through our veins, and the food seemed to revive us at once.

After eating, she called for clothes, and I donned my pants, then an under skirt and tunic, before putting on a longer shalwar kameez in red.

'You are pretty as a flower in spring, my Rahab,' she smiled at me.

'I am yours, all yours.' I hugged her.

But we both knew that this joy was not permanent, perhaps that was why it had been so intense? We had packed into a few moments more passion than some had in a lifetime.

'So, my darling Rahab, what next?'

'Well, my love, I think a message needs to go to the Padishah, he must know I am safe. Get me pen and ink and paper and I shall write swiftly.'

She gave the order.

I wrote to say that I was alive, and that the bearer of the message belonged to an ally who had saved me, and that he should reward her. I added that I loved him, and wanted to tell him all my adventures.

Once it had gone, we knew we had placed a limit on this time together; would we ever have more than this?

She held me. I felt her heart beating.

We discussed the future.

I was no seer, nor was she. We loved each other with a love rarely given to anyone. That, we agreed, must serve for what it was worth. If we had no more than this, then the memory would live as long as we did. But I told her that some instinct said that we should meet again. Indeed, I added that she really ought to come to meet the Padishah with me.

She was reluctant.

She could not, she said, leave the sacred precincts, but she said Helena could accompany me.

So it was that Helena and I set off for Damascus, that same afternoon. Looking back, I strained to see her until even the dot of the horizon was gone.

'She loves you Rahab. Let that be enough.'

Helena looked at me, smiling.

'It is, and is not,' I sighed.

And with that, we set our horses to the Damascus road and what lay ahead.



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