In the days before the dark Godsbrought their legions and flames, the spring brought a special time at the Homely House, where I was steward. Every year, the Sultana came to meet our orphans. She ate and played with them, and at the end of the day one lucky child was taken into the royal household to be trained as a servant.
This was no mean honor for the person selected, for not only were they granted access to those who hold power, they were given an education and training in the social graces that allowed them to do well within those exalted circles. Many married into nobility. Others were selected as viziers. Such it was that the humblest of us all were uplifted into greatness. Through their elevation the Court ensured both fresh blood and exultant who remembered how it felt to be poor.
But as head of the Homely Houses, the event could not have been more stressful for me. And particularly that year, for the Sultana’s visit I both dreaded and anticipated with baited breath.
For earlier that year she had granted me the boon of laying with me, the sweetest gift of all. The memory of that night was embedded in my memory, rich and hearty like the flavor of her sex, and the memory of small breasts shimmying as she rode me. It was a memory I carried to my bed every night, and often sustained me as I touched myself, and fueled my lonely cries of pleasure.
And yet, I realized that what we shared was love, it was not the love I truly sought. It was a moment sweet and pure, but no more than that, something to be cherished like the lily that blossoms only for a single morning, glorious but ephemeral.
And yet as the day approached I found myself wondering if another moment would come, if she remembered me as I had her, though I realized that I was far from her only lover even on that very day we shared inside the House of Peace.
Such are the foolish thoughts of men. But as the day approached the orphanage was a beehive of activity. Students and staff alike scrubbed our minarets and cloisters, shook out the tapestries and shined our marble floors. I walked among our children daily, listening as they practiced favorite songs and greetings, worked on their recitals, and yet continued their lessons. For I would not postpone their schooling, not even for Royalty. Only the well disciplined mind can shake off poverty’s vise.
But things were different that year in other ways. Perhaps it was newfound manhood, mixed with the wisdom I read nightly in a slender volume given my by the Librarian of Peace, but I began to see the women under me in a different light. I began to see desire. Our aging cook Joyce always smiled sweetly whenever the Librarian Timul came down for his meal, and her eyes followed his every move, though he noticed not. Head Aunt Malika fawned over our children, but also the unleavened baker Tamash. And I began to notice that one or two of the younger Aunts occasionally cast their eyes toward me.
That would not do. Not so much as they were unworthy, or unattractive, but rather that I was Steward and they Staff. Dalliances within the staff at best result in backbiting and other petty jealousies. The house was functioning well; our children were learning and making progress. Their future was too important to risk for my personal desires.
So I easily resisted the lures of our younger Aunts until Del T’yana joined as Apothecary. She seemed very young at first, yet she had a way with the children that surpassed even Malika. Sickness declined sharply, and attention to the lessons improved. All liked her, even the normally suspicious Seniors. I too found myself drawn to her. We shared a love for the same books, and history. I often found myself near her at the children’s recitals, as if driven there by some unconscious desire. Until the day I realized she was beautiful.
We had been sitting in my quarters, the door open as always playing chess and talking of the children. I had poured some wine, and begun to pluck at my l’yarp when I noticed her as Woman. Her beauty was not the perfection of a Goddess, for her nose was too flat, her figure too boyish, her skin freckled. And yet I realized those very features become beautiful to me, her eyes were large and brown, and her skin smooth as fine silk. Her smile warmed me, her bottom was full and womanly, and her calves shapely. In watching her I realized that she had redefined beauty for me. I knew then that my feelings for her had passed beyond those appropriate for my position.
That was the last time I played chess with her alone in my quarters though the door was never closed. And the last time I came to visit her at the apothecary, except on those occasions where official duties required. And so at night I lay awake with those twin memories of the Sultana’s vibrant skin, Del’s soft voice and the realization that I could have neither of the women who had touched me most.
And so it was that the Day of Choosing began.
It began in the usual rush, as the piper announced that the Sultana had left the palace and begun her journey to our hospitality. Young girls screeched and shuffled to take their places in the reviewing line, and boys elbowed each other aside, often pushing aside the younger ones so they might be seen first.
I allowed this small mayhem, for the older children had been seen before, and felt the greater despair that they had not been chosen. Secretly I hoped for them, particularly for Tamil who had changed so much for the better in this past year. Yet the choice was not mine, but Her Majesty’s, and it was wrong for me to root for any of my children above the others.
The door boomed twice, and the room fell silent, grooming done, children in a line, Aunts and Uncles sternly glaring at their charges. By tradition the youngest parent would get the door, in this case Uncle K’ef of the middle boys. He took a deep breath and went to the door, careful to first peek through the eyepiece.
He nodded to us. It was the Sultana.
“Who seeks to enter the House of Children?” he intoned, his voice a rich baritone that belied his years.
“I come in the name of Shahira, Lady of Peace and Love,” came the reply in a deep feminine voice that filled so many of my fantasies. I took my place upon the stair’s landing, and then nodded at K’ef, who pulled open the doors that are never locked.
“Why have you come?” K’ef had clearly practiced his part, and stood at the door before Her Majesty Sela kim Jerom, my Sultana.
“I bring the gift of Love reborn.” And the Sultana bowed low, before all assembled, before receiving our bow.
“The gift of Love is never ending,” intoned Malika, our Senior Aunt. She bowed low and offered the Sultana a tulip from our humble winter garden.
But Sela, as I had come to know her, smiled as if she had been given a great prize, and cupped the simple flower between her too hands. “Love never perishes.” She followed according to the old ways but made them feel fresh. And then she looked up at me, for the part was now mine.
“One who loves is always welcome.” My voice cracked as a spoke, despite my feigned dignity. But she did not appear to notice, and bowed again, before the Uncles and Aunts made way so she could inspect our children.
We waited in silence as she greeted them, one by one. For each she gave a small present, and treat, and she held their hand as each child told her their name. Though she asked them questions and listened sincerely, I believed that I alone knew that it was with Touch that she chose, sensing innately the child sweetest and most worthy of Royal service. It took hours yet she never lost patience, never slighted a single child, and made all feel worthy, even rowdy Micah who seemed awed into decorum.
She went with us to take our noon meal, eating at the table with the children, and laughing as they began to tease each other as children do. Our cook Joyce brought out a fine meal, potato khorash, sweet flana, and savory t’pesh. It was simple but well prepared, as I had directed, to show that we had a cook who could make simple fare rich. Joyce blushed at the compliments, and even more so at the appreciative gaze of our librarian.
Finally the time came for her Majesty to depart. A name was whispered to Malika, and then her Majesty came to me, a smile wide upon her face. “I am pleased, bar Telannin to see Love’s children under such good care. Never have I felt such happiness here.”
I bowed low, my face flushed with pleasure at her kind words. “Thank you for your kind words, Lady. But it is my staff you must thank, with such people a fool could do my job.” As I spoke I turned to direct her attention toward my staff. In their eyes and smiles I could see that the Sultana’s praise had touched them, and looked upon one and all until I caught Del’s shining eyes. It seemed that she too, shared in the pride of that day, and her joy seemed particularly focused upon me. Her gaze left me feeling both exalted and in dread, for I feared and relished where it might lead.
Her Majesty reached out to take my hand, her fingers warm against my skin. “I do not think such people as yours would suffer a fool.” She bowed to my staff. Then honored me with the same wry smile I had seen once before, upon the eve of my invitation to visit the House of Peace. “The Goddess will bless you for your work on Her behalf.”
“The work itself is blessing enough.”
“So it always is when the work fits the worker.” Then she bowed once more, and strode down the great stair, across the ancient halls and out the great oaken doors that are never locked.
The children exploded into conversation and wagers over who had been chosen the moment the doors swung shut. I found myself sagging against a pillar, relieved that the thing had been done, and so well received. Malika came to me and whispered in my ear, “It is T’eth. She chose T’eth.”
“T’eth?” Tiny, rebellious T’eth? It hardly seemed possible. But then I remembered a story Del had told me of him, how he had brought her an unweaned kitten whose mother had been lost, and how he bottle fed the animal and warmed it in his bed every night. “We should make him ready, and he will want to say his goodbyes.”
“What of the kitten Jumper? It will be hard for T’eth to lose her.”
“Then send the kitten with him. T'eth has already lost his parents. He should not also lose his cat. I think Her Majesty will understand.”
Malika nodded. “Perhaps you are right about the Sultana. You certainly know her better than I.” And she winked at me, in a way that frightened me that she might’ve heard some tale of matters that must remain forever inside the House of Peace.
Alone I climbed the winding stair to my chamber atop the west tower, and stripped off my ceremonial caftan. Clad only in my shorts, I sat down upon my bed, and wished for a tall glass of ale.
Something caught my eye, beneath the arch of the southwest window. I stood and walked to the sill. It was a pyramid of glass, light blue and clear. Within it was contained the image of flower, long dangling petals of crimson, that seemed to shift and move in the sunlight, as if the wind had caught it on a spring day.
I heard a knock, and though I was half-dressed, acknowledged it. One cannot live in an institution like this and maintain constant decorum. The demands are too many, and too unpredictable. Particularly on a day such as this. Aunt and Uncle alike had seen me in less, and I asked no more of them.
It was Joyce, and her wide leathery face was beaming. “Fresh spices, Milord, saffron and sage, were just delivered to my kitchen. The note said they for ‘a cook who could use them well’.”
I laughed. “Well, you can! Although sometimes you dare too much for my stomach.’
“Administrator bar Telannin, I cook for all children as if the household were my own. Should I deprive their growing taste buds?”
“It’s not their taste buds, but my bowels that sometimes suffer. But the problem is mine, not yours”
“The problem would not be yours if you found yourself a good . . . Oh, by the Lady!”
Joyce was staring at the tiny encased flower I held in my hand. “Truly the Goddess has blessed you.”
“Do you know what this is?”
“Aye. ‘'Tis Shahira’s kiss. You do not know?”
“I come from Unktyr, where Shahira’s worship is less than ‘fashionable’.”
“You poor man. I have heard how they speak of Her in your country. Slanderers! The ways of all the Gods should be correctly taught. How else can one make a proper Choosing?”
“Shahira’s forgiveness sometimes works against her. There are benefits to being a jealous God.”
“So you’ve never made your debut?”
“I suppose not.”
“Then it falls to me to instruct you. First, you must not eat meat from the time the last new moon before the spring solstice. I will see that your diet pleases both Her, and your tender bowels. Then when the first crescent appears, you must go to the House of Peace.”
“You will know what to do when you arrive.” Then she sprung upon me, hugging me with surprising strength. “Oh, I’m so excited for you! It couldn’t happen to a finer man.”
"What couldn’t happen?”
Joyce hugged me, firmly. “Now, now, Sir, you may be my boss, but that would be telling.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want you violating any oaths.”
“Oh wait ‘til the staff hears.”
“Of course, they’ll all want to know your good fortune. And frankly, Sir, we’re all agreed that you’re needing this.”
“You’ll see! Upon the first crescent after the last new moon before the Spring Solstice, that is. Now I must be off. I have your menu to plan.” And she darted out the door and down the winding staircase. But I could hear her voice carrying, and other excited voices mumbling. Soon, I realized, everyone would know that I had been invited back to the House of Shahira.
All night long I worried about nothing. My staff treated me exactly as they did before, except meats disappeared from the faculty table. No one complained, but they all smiled knowingly at me, and I felt at the center of some great conspiracy, yet apart from it, at the eye of a social typhoon.
* * *
Upon the first crescent after the last new moon before the spring solstice I dressed in my finest robe and sandals and began my walk to the House of Peace. The moonlight shone quietly upon the city, silhouetting it in pale blue light broken only by the occasionally lighted window. The night was cool, and I pulled my robes tightly around me as I approached the Bridge that led to the Obsidian Gate. It seemed strange to me that a Goddess of Light should begin her festival in darkness.
As I approached the Bridge I noticed others walking in the same direction. Not many, but more than a handful, all clad as I in the heavy hooded winter caftan. They were men and women of all shapes, sizes and age, all walking in silence toward the Bridge. Two I recognized as exultants. I recognized one scholar and a man I whom I had thought indigent for he was always with the poor.
We crossed in pairs, pausing briefly at each of the seven spans, and I paused as well, unsure why, but not wanting to appear out of place. The Obsidian Gate stood open, with no guardsman at all, which seemed strange for all the furtive whispers on the street of those who wished to enter this place. And then a noticed one young man stride purposely toward it, only to stop part way and turn around. He moved back two spans, then abruptly turned back toward the gate. Three times he repeated this, three times he turned away, until he accepted failure and left muttering under his breath. I began to understand why no guards were present, for Shahira's house was protected by a powerful enchantment.
But there was no point on pondering this from the bridge. I joined the others and passed through the Obsidian Gate. Down the stairs we walked in pairs, and exited through the twin doors at the bottom, women to the right, men left and into the vestibule. Down another flight we descended. The wardrobe door stood open, there was no attendant, so all took care to hang up their own garments, some woven of fine colored silks, others threadbare, all left abandoned as their owners stripped and headed to the baths.
There was no attendant either, just a mountain of folded towels upon the tables, and very large tea service, filled with the Blessed Tea. In silence we washed, in silence we bowed, filled our cups and drank. In silence we entered the vestibule, where no masseuses and grooms awaited us. Instead, racks of purple and yellow hooded robes awaited us, huge, and baggy. Unlike the well-fitting, revealing togas I had been provided before, these concealed almost everything, making even gender difficult to distinguish.
As we dressed, the men pulled open the great bronze doors leading to the atrium. I followed silently, trying to blend in and wondering what exactly was going to happen this night. Already the room was crowded with men and women in caftans, though the four balcony tiers remained empty. So too did the pools, though a few of the rocks had sitters. All seemed to face to the south, which was dominated by a large round window that capped the top tier. I walked among the crowd, men and women, waiting silently for something, looking for at least one familiar face. And finally I spotted one, the friendly pockmarked face of the cook Bakkala and her partner Amy. They recognized me as well, and greeted me with a smile, though Bakkala held her finger to her lips, to warn me that talking was not permitted.
But it was good to see a familiar face, and Amy squeezed my arm as we assumed our places watching as the moon began to appear in the corner of glassed, vaulted roof.
Just as the moon’s shape first peeked through the great round window five figures entered from either side and walked to the center of the top balcony. The tallest walked to the center, until he was framed precisely by the large window. He appeared a black silhouette in the moonlit sky. Two others of indeterminate gender took a place at either side of the window. I heard the tinkling of wind chimes, as the waxing moon touched the center pane of the large rounded window.
The tall man spoke first, initiating the ritual. I recognized him as the High Priest of this Temple. “The Hour approaches.”
A woman followed: “Tis the first waxing moon, of the new dawn.”
The chimes tinkled again, and we waited for the moon to move higher, until it was centered precisely within the great round window.
A young man’s voice: “I have seen it, new buds upon the trees”
“Then a woman, “New life arises as winter flees.”
“Even in winter, there is life.”
The high priest spoke again, and the lamps shone brighter, making their faces clear to all. One of the other priests brought forth a potted tree, very young and small. He bowed and handed the plant to the high priest. All the priests then bowed, as the high priest held the sapling over his head, so its new branches were silhouetted in the blue moon.
“It is as you say. The tree has budded. Spring comes.”
On their own, the lamps around the balcony grew brighter. The young male priest stepped forward, and out of his caftan, standing before us upon the balcony naked as the day he was born. His skin was smooth, almost hairless and muscles clearly defined. He was erect, and his penis seemed enormous, almost a club.
“In the spring of my life, I have few cares, and only the hope for the love of my life, blooming together like a brace of flowers.”
He stepped to the side, and a young priestess took his place, naked and beautifu, her straight auburn hair hanging almost to her waist. She bowed and raised her hands over her head, and began to sway, as if dancing to a rhythm only she and the other priests heard. “In the summer I danced, surrounded by other blossoms, and the bees sought me out bringing gifts of honey. I took many lovers, and remembered them all, all the kisses of my youth.
Then the High Priest stepped forward, lean and wiry. “In the autumn my children grew to full height, and my house was warm and filled with laughter. My partner and I grew closer, as our lives bonded into a single rhythm.
He stepped backward and another priestess assumed the stage. She was quite old, her breasts drooping, skin spotted, belly swollen and her face was lined with care. She bowed to the moon and stood with arms outstretched over her head, so we could take in all of her elderly body. “In my winter partners depart, and the cold nights wrap tightly around my bones. Yet I remember the songs I sang as a young girl, and the smooth skin of the young who wanted me. I remember falling in love, and wearing the White Dress for my beloved. I bore our children, raised them to adults. I cared for my beloved as he aged, and I planted his ashes beneath a poplar tree. I remember all of this. Now I am old and failing. My life was blessed, yet I crave more. Who would share the joy of living with me?”
“I would”, cried the middle-aged priest.
“I would,” announced the younger priestess, and her hands swept across her smooth belly.
“I will,” announced the youngest priest. He seemed to skip over to the aging woman, his erection huge. They kissed, and then he knelt before her. His lips covered her sex, and I could see his jaw move as he gave her a most intimate kiss. The crowd caught its breath, and we stood upon tiptoes to watch as licked her with long, careful strokes. Slowly she lowered her arms and let them shimmy down her body until they rested in his curly hair, and gripping it she held his head tight against her.
She swayed softly, and I could see her hips pushing hard against his licking tongue, his sucking lips. Her skin grew shiny with perspiration; her drooping breasts shook as she ground herself against his sucking lips. All around me there was silence, and somehow the room reflected the sound of their lovemaking down to us so I cold hear every sigh, and every squish of her moistening pussy. Her body began to shudder, and then she pushed him away, legs still open so we could all see her glistening pussy, and the shiny juices upon his face. “I am old and empty, fill me with new life.” Then she turned her back to us, placed her arms upon the wall, and raised her bottom in offering.
The young priest rose from his knees and walked to her, taking his enormous erection in his hand. He moved behind her, and she gasped loudly as he entered, pushing his way deep inside her. He began slowly, but soon their cries came sharper and faster as he began to fuck her in earnest, pounding hard inside her.
I was stiff, hard as iron, and I was certain that everyone could see the tent in my loose garment. But no one would have cared, or looked, for all eyes lay upon the couple high upon the balcony, locked in the rhythms of love. For their lovemaking was vigorous, and punctuated by many sighs and coos of pleasure.
The aged priestess cried out first, her cries a long agonizing scream, that nevertheless announced her total pleasure. The Priest quickly followed, declaring his own joy with a loud groan. Then he withdrew, and left her, arms still outstretched and grasping the frame of the large round window. And then she turned to face us. It was the same priestess, but no longer was she old, but young again, her breasts firm, her skin clear and belly flat. The lines had all fled from her face, her color returned. “Spring has come, I am renewed. The Circle of Life Begins Again.”
I heard a drum slowly beating march time as all the lamps came up just enough to illuminate the room in a low golden glow. The priests and priestess left the balcony from each side, their robes discarded upon the ornate ironwork. I felt Amy’s fingers upon me, lifting my caftan. All about me caftans were being discarded, as one the entire room undressed, leaving their garments where they lay. As one we began to move to the south, down a wide staircase onto a landing and beyond. Never had I seen so much flesh in one place. Old stood by young, slim by heavy, rich beside poor, all together in the flesh. Down we went together, sometimes brushing but in silence, waiting for an opening ahead. As the crowd came we were pressed together, tight, man and woman, flesh against flesh, breasts against backs and groins against bottom. Nothing was said, no liberties were taken. The crowd relaxed, and slowly we began to move forward, down the stairs. Here the lamps burned brightly, and I began to see what was ahead. At the base of each stair waited a Priest and Priestess, still clad in their robes. The priest dipped the chalice into a deep bowl of pink liquid. The priestess gave the full chalice to each of us as we passed, and whispered something. Each worshipper would drink, hand the chalice to the man, then move on as the priest refilled the cup for the next person. I waited my turn. As I approached, the invocation became clearer, until it was my turn. I looked into the eyes of the priestess, and realized that she was Del T’yanna. My Del was a true Priestess of Shahira.
Her hands wrapped around mine as she pressed the glass to my fingers. “Drink now,” she whispered, her eyes never leaving mine, “for this is the Spring wine, first taste of renewed life.”
From her hand I drank my first taste of Spring wine, rich and sweet almost to excess. I handed the empty glass to the male priest, and turned back for a last glance at Del, who was blessing the man behind me. As she blessed the next worshipper, I began to feel a strange warm glow in my belly. Soon it seemed as if my whole skin were shimmering and alive. Then the action swept me downstairs onto a blue marble floor, and into the largest greenhouse I had ever seen.
“This is the Winter garden,” whispered Amy from behind. “Here you must choose your favorite flower, and wear it for your love.”
“Choose?” I whispered. The world shimmered and I stood no longer in that room, but rather in a sunny grove, alone, with a hot summer sun high in the sky. I staggered for a moment, realizing that I was quite intoxicated, and then gathered myself, and suddenly the queasiness faded.
I had never seen so many flowers in my life, and so perfect as well. There were roses and snapdragons, lilacs and daylilies, fuscia and sunflower, and dozens more varieties I had not imagined possible. Light shined from their petals, colors brilliant enough to scald the eye, leaves deep green and shiny. Such a garden I had never seen, for it seemed to extend to each horizon. The paths were covered with soft grass of the most brilliant green, and it was cool and rippled from side to side though I could feel no wind.
I heard a woman’s voice, deep and unearthly, yet lovely as the bells on a spring morning. “Choose carefully, bar-Telannin, for your true love grows here.”
I turned and faced a woman, not young, but hardly old, and more beautiful than I imagined possible. Her hair was black as night, skin shiny and brown, limbs more fair than any woman I could remember. And not a little, but a form of perfection I had never known. It was as if she were not one woman, but Woman herself, the very ideal of femininity. Instantly I became hard, almost overcome with lust, every vein and muscle tense.
She laughed quietly, “I am not the one you seek, but you have already received My kiss. Will you not choose? Your true love awaits.”
I forced myself to turn from her and to concentrate on the Garden. It seemed that I was completely alone in this place, though that seemed hardly possible. The air was fragrant with blossoms, the sky cloudless and deep blue. I walked among the endless flowers, each a little different from the other, all beautiful in some unique way. My hands swept over them, and often I bent to sniff, for the aroma was sweet, though it varied sharply from flower to flower, which seemed odd for blooms of the same variety. I had passed the tulips and impatiens, when I noticed a certain lily. It was pale, and not perfectly formed, but the color was rich and pure, and the scent smelled like the sky after a clean rain, only sweeter.
I reached out to touch it, and for some reason it felt warm in my hand. And I felt Her hand upon my mine, and Her breath in my ear, her breasts pressed against my back.
“You have chosen wisely, bar-Telannin, but I knew you would through the purity of your worship.”
I trembled, accepting that the woman behind me was the Goddess Herself. She touched the stalk and the bloom came lose, so she could work it into my hair.
“But I never worshipped you.”
She laughed as if such prejudice were the most trivial thing in the world. “Long ago you turned from the sword your father pushed on you to gave your heart to children left with nothing. When you gave your heart to them, so to you gave it to Me.” She kissed me on the cheek, her lips liquid and continued, “Go now, for your true love awaits.”
And then my mind cleared, and I found myself standing in the Winter garden, naked, except for a single flower in my hair. All around me I noticed men and women, all wearing a single flower in their hair, all different, many departing into different doors and passages. I felt as I was before, except my skin still glowed, and I had lost sight of Bakkala and Amy. Not certain what to do, I walked onward, and out the other side of the garden, down a wide set of granite steps.
This room was different, the ceilings low and held up by many granite pillars, wide and carved with the ornate shapes of trees and flowers, irregular and flowing, as if they were more sculpture than structure. The pillars seemed endless and I wandered among them, noting tiny squares that appeared periodically. Each was equipped with a couch, a fountain and a coverlet. All were different, designed to resemble great stallions, fair people, and fanciful creatures I did not recognize. Throughout the shapes of art and object flowed together, the cloths embroidered with natural scenes, where even the people fitted themselves into the greater nature. I found a table set with wine and tiny cakes, and I stopped to refresh myself. There I sat wondering what the Goddess had meant when she said that ‘my true love awaits’. Was she Del? But no, Del was a priestess, and my employee. Could she be someone else, someone unknown to me? Finally I decided my love had to be Del, unless I was greatly mistaken. I wanted it to be her.
But what of the consequences?
My children did not need a house divided. They had so little. Not wishing to face my dilemma, I decided to move on, hoping for distraction. The next little squares I encountered, I bypassed, for they were occupied by a man and woman deeply involved in the act of love. I passed beneath overhanging vines, between wide leaves then chanced upon another square. It was Amy and Bakkala, spooning upon the couch, clearly recovering from a recent bout of passion.
I started to back up, but Bakkala called me forward, her pockmarked face soft and happy. I noticed their flowers, purple posies, dark and light at once, and identical to each other. “I apologize for interrupting,“ I began.
“Don’t. We were just pausing, and welcome company, for spring is upon us.” Amy giggled at me, and then I noticed that Bakkala caressed Amy’s pink sex from behind with her long, calloused fingers.
That stopped my thought processes cold. Bakkala whispered something, and Amy reached for my stiffening cock. Slowly she worked it between her fingers for a moment. She turned her head back to her lover. “What do you think, my Love. Could he be the one?”
Bakkala slipped her moistened fingers from Amy and reached out for my manhood. The juices felt warm upon me. “I think so, beloved. Many of our sisters will he please tonight.”
Slowly the stroked me until Amy sat up and took me into her mouth, sucking softly. She swallowed me whole a few times and then let me fall from her mouth. “He doesn’t taste of anyone,’ she said.
“Really,” said Bakkala. “That’s surprising! I’d have thought he’d have had least one lover by now.”
“He’s a romantic, and romantic men are the worst.”
“Ah, yes, they have to think about everything until they learn better. But, he’s handsome, intelligent and kind. We should corrupt him.” They both turned to smile at me.
“I thought you both didn’t like men that way.”
Bakkala laughed. “This is the festival, and Spring wine makes you a bit crazy. Besides, we have a special need only a man can fill. Don’t we darling?”
Amy giggled, and again took me into her mouth, her full lips fluttering over my manhood. Her long, heavy breasts swayed slowly with each movement. Bakkala let her finger slip from her partner and reached for a small silver box. From it she removed a small white suppository. She lay down upon her side, and slipped it inside her womanhood, pushing it as deeply as she could. “There my love, I have it inside me. It should counteract the Tea for a brief time.”
“And he’s nice and ready for you.” Amy grinned like a hungry wolf as she stroked me. “Put it inside her, she’s ready now.”
Bakkala lay her top leg across the armrest, and lay upon her side, as Amy pushed me forward. I hesitated.
“But she said My True Love was waiting for me.”
They giggled. Amy slipped behind me, placed her broad hips to my buttocks moving me forward. “Your love is not going anywhere. When she meets you, tell her you taste of Bakkala. And she pushed me forward, as if she were wielding my phallus as if it were her own.” “Hurry now, for the suppository will not work for long.”
And so I entered my second woman. The mouth of her sex scraped at me in the most delicious way as I slid slowly inside her, then smoothed out as her wetness coated me. Bakkala grunted at my invasion and then shut her eyes. Amy wrapped her arms about my hips and pulled me partly out, then used her hips to thrust me inside again.
And so we made love, Amy’s breath hot on my shoulder, her hands on my hips, her hips to my own. It was as if my cock were here own, and she were the one taking Bakkala, until my cock began to speak it’s own demands, and I began to outrace her.
“Help me, Darling,” whispered Bakkala. “He feels so delicious, yet I need you to help me across the bridge.”
So Amy left me to thrust on my own and knelt between her lover’s outstretched thighs. She lowered her head, and extended her tongue, to kiss her lover’s sex, and by default my own.
By then I could not have stopped, if I had wished, for our thighs thrust together as a great machine. Bakkala’s moans grew deeper, guttural and her short hair bounced with every thrust, to which I added my lower tones, and the slurping sounds of our fucking. Until the moment came upon us, the sweetest convulsions, the lightness of being and then I was shooting, shooting deep inside her, and Bakkala’s own long moan of joy.
Amy wrapped her arms around my hips and pulled me tight, so I would not slip out too early.
“Do you think it will work?” Bakkala breathed, as her spasms subsided.
Amy released my hips, and my slowly softening shaft began to slip from our lover. She began to move her palm over Bakkala’s pubic mound and belly, softly singing in the scholar’s tongue. Bakkala joined in, and they sang a quiet harmony, until Amy leaned forward to lick at her lover.
“It is done, I can taste new Life.”
“Is the taste male or female?”
“A girl, I think, though it will be many days before I can be certain. Perhaps the High Priest could tell.”
“We shall ask him then. If we have a daughter her name shall be Elanor, and she will become a great Priestess.”
“I feel it too my beloved.” Amy turned to me and kissed me. “Genefather, you have given us a great gift.”
I found this too much, I was angry even, “But we are not wed? How is this possible? The tea . . . .”
Amy sighed. “This is the Springfest, festival of New Life. Bakkala and I are one in the Eyes of the Goddess. We desired a child, yet children come from both Man and Woman. So we needed a man, and one who would allow us to raise our child inside the House of Peace.”
“I am to be a Father?“
“You will have to come here often to visit our child, and us, her mothers.”
“Why didn’t you ask me?”
“During the coming of spring?”
But I was not asked!”
The two women exchanged a long look, and Bakkala spoke first. “I suppose we should apologize, for forgetting you are not familiar with our traditions. You are here, and not entirely certain why. The festival commences the coming of new spring, and the green life it brings. Children conceived now are especially blessed. You are a worthy man in so many ways, with so many children yet without a child of your own. We hoped to fill our need, and your unspoken desire at the same time.
“Of course, the power of Touch. Yes, I want a family. But this isn’t they way I imagined it.”
“Life is rarely the way we imagine it, Tel.”
Certainly Amy was right on that point, though in many ways my life had become what I imagined. “I thought the Tea prevented disease and pregnancy.”
“There in an enzyme that allows the man’s seed to enter and join with the woman’s egg. The Tea suppresses that enzyme. The suppository I used can replace it, for a brief time. It is permitted for those who love.”
I wasn’t sure what to say, to them. For a strange sensation filled me, a sense of sexual desire that felt inappropriate to what I was thinking. Involuntarily my manhood began to swell.
Bakkala must have sensed my confusion. “You have drunk the Spring wine, Tel. Your seed shall not run dry, not until the moon has returned after the sun. Now you should walk onward and share of it, for your True Love awaits.”
I did not know what else to do, so nodded to them and left. I walked on not really seeking anyone, and ignored a couple who looked at me invitingly. I was not ready for that, despite my pulsing manhood. I found a loveseat next to a low marble fountain, in the shape of a rhododendron, water dripping from its long leaves and petals.
I was angry, for if they had spoken truly, and I had no reason to doubt them, I would soon become a father. Or perhaps I already was. But not like this, not with someone I knew casually, but with my wife, my true love.
And I thought, despite the undying erection between my legs, I thought. And then it occurred to me that if I already had so many children, what was one more? Did it really cost me so much to grant Amy and Bakkala the child they sought, but could not conceive? It was my ego that was angry. A child would enter this world, and it would be partly mine. Was that so bad?
As my anger dispelled I heard the leaves part and a woman entered. I recognized her. She was the aged priestess, who had the bloom of her youth restored earlier during ritual copulation. That bloom had proven mostly ephemeral. Her breasts sagged again, her skin was thin and spotted, her belly wrinkled. Yet her eyes twinkled with mirth, and he cheeks retained their bloom. She stood naked before me and smiled warmly, and for the moment I forgot her age.
“You seem lost in thought young man,” she said and slipped onto the bench next to me. Her hand reached out to touch my forearm, and stroked it gently as she employed the power of Touch.
“So many questions. Do you always waste so much time thinking when you should be feeling?”
“I am sorry, but this is all so overwhelming to me. I’m not even sure why I am here. I don’t even worship Shahira.”
“Shahira teaches that you worship through living. We show our true faith through what we do in life, as you care for the least of us, so you pay homage to Shahira.”
“I didn’t know worship worked that way.”
“That's the only true worship! But now is not the time to contemplate. For you sit upon a love seat with a Priestess of Shahira and spring is come.”
I laughed. “I suppose this isn’t the place for ethical analysis. May I ask your name, for it seems to formal to call you reverend when we are both nude upon a couch.”
She stroked my thigh, with the softest touch. “I am Sindara, Pastor of Villara, a village to the east. I am here for my last festival.”
“Your last. That is so sad.”
“Not so! I have seen my end. When I depart it will be to Shahira’s garden, a small portion of which you glimpsed when you chose your flower. There I shall lay upon a bed of flower petals and enjoy again the taste of my departed lovers.” Sindara leaned forward to sniff at the flower in my hair. “I recognize the scent,’ she whispered in my ear, between kisses. “You have been richly blessed.” And then she lowered her head to my lap, and took my manhood between her lips.
I caught my breath, for she swallowed me whole upon the first plunge of my head. Her tongue fluttered over my manhood as she licked me up and down.
“I taste Bakkala upon you. And more, ‘tis the spice of new life! You are the one! My moment is here.” She sighed, and looked upward, as if searching for something I could not see. Finally she smiled. “I am ready, my love,’ she said to but not to me, before rubbing my hardness upon her face.
I lay back upon the armrest as her lips plunged over me, leaving me quite unable to move. Her tongue, her matchless tongue, floated over me. Soft, patient lips gripped me tightly and squeezed, rhythmic velvet vice. Her eyes were closed, and then open to flash at mine, a wicked grin before her mouth plunged down again, in deliberate ardor.
I felt a finger at my backside, gentle, circling testing. She let me fall from her mouth, only to take my twin stones to her lips. “So you still have one virginity, eh bar-Telannin? And it falls to me to take it, first as you are last.”
“Last?” I did not understand her statement and Sindara ignored my query. Rather she lowered her lips to my rosebud, and began to kiss, her lips full and wet upon my backside, tongue firm and probing. My hips began to pulse in meter with her sucking mouth, the probing of her tongue as she fucked me with it.
I moaned at this soft invasion, and began to stroke myself absently heeding the demands of my cock. She tongued me lovingly and stroked my stones, before covering my hands with her own and pumping.
This went on until I could stand no longer, and thought I would spill upon the marble floors. But my lover Sindara wriggled again, and stood, her hands upon mine, smiling like an imp. And I noticed most of the spots had fled her skin. Her breasts, which lay like small pancakes upon her chest had risen, belly flattened, wrinkles but a whisper. “Lay back, my beautiful young man, lay back and ease my journey into paradise.” She stood over me and lowered her sex to my lips.
I extended my tongue, flattened against her sex. Her taste was pungent, rich, and complex. And she was moist, so very moist, her pink skin liquid against me.
“Inside me you taste Tel-Makar, Aspirant to the Lady, Jerom and Sela Librarian ascended, Bartholomew, and Ka’Par. Taste me, and they, who have shared Love with me at my end.”
And I tasted, pushing my tongue deep inside, far as I could. She lubricated profusely, and my face and beard grew wet and shiny with her, and her lovers’ effluvience. But I would not stop, for her sailor tasted sweet between my lips, and she cooed when it fell to my tongue. I felt her mouth close over me again, and two fingers at my backside, probing. And she entered me; her mouth engulfed me, taking me all the way into her mouth. And her fingers found something inside me, a spot that made me quiver, and moan into her hungry sex.
My hips bucked and drove myself deeper, and hers bucked, pressing herself hard against me. And with each lick of my tongue, each plunge of her mouth, the years fell from her. The White hair covering her mound darkened and turned golden as she summer sun, her bottom smoothed and firmed, like a young girl’s at her debut. And I could feel her fingers inside me, massaging, as my loins began to glow. I felt my balls swelling, the semen traveling upward to wait in sweet golden glow in preparation for release.
She cried out, a deep agonizing moan, and shoved her sex violently against my lips, pounding me. Her sex quivered around me, spasmed and sent sweet juices dripping down upon my tongue.
With her cry of joy my contractions began deep within her mouth. For an instant I felt as though another was there with me, another mouth kissing us both, a second tongue upon her sex. The spasms continued, and she rolled to the side, a young girl again, beautiful as the dawn. It seemed as though she was kissing someone, before her flesh faded away and left me alone upon the bench, only the wetness of her upon my face, and her taste upon my tongue.
“You taste sweet, bar-Telannin,” said a liquid voice, but I looked around and no one was there. Between my legs lay a single white carnation, and a hairclip with a single fiber of gray.
I lay as if paralyzed, languid, limbs heavy. And then I reached out take that lone flower between my finger and thumb, and lifted it to my nose, where I smelt both the flower, and something else, something like the woman I had just tasted. A voice whispered for me to put this flower as well in my hair, so I did.
Then I screamed, a long wail of frustration and wonder. What was happening here? Had Sindara just passed on? How? Where was her body? Was I to be a father? Or was this all a hallucination, brought on by the sweet Spring wine?
Yet, I could see the tracks of dried semen on my cock, and my face was still wet with the juice of a woman. I took a cake, and a glass of sweet, cold water from the fountain. And as my manhood rose again, as it had to, I walked onward.
I found a stairway at the end of the room, only not exactly a stairway, but rather a tree corkscrewing upward, constructed as if many thick barked vines had twisted together into one whole, and limbs jutting out at regular intervals, thick and ending in a triangle of smaller, triangular leaves. Up through it climbed through a circular opening, with many dimly lit balconies visible above. I decided to climb out of that basement, up this seemingly impossible stair, up to see what oddity would next come my way. At the second level, I caught as sweet scent from what seemed to be the east. This level began with a round room, the vaulting held up by pentagonal demi-ridges, braces that swept up from the outer wall in a parabolic curve. The floors were a terrazzo of brilliant colors, showing woods, trees, ponds and many flowers. Round crystals glowed dimly, and I could see the room had many rosewood doors, each set in their own vault, arched and with a single window. Between each door stood a single tall monolith, upon each a bas-relief, each showing a particular a stage of life. Before each sat stood a low marble bench.
I walked about the room, studying the monoliths, which seemed to show people in different phases of life, newborns in their parents arms, toddlers running in joy about, a child picking a flower, studying at volumes, practicing aikido and then one of veiled couple, hand in hand, kneeling together before Shahira, their friends about them.
It was a wedding. Strange that in this place there would be a wedding. Or perhaps not so strange, for weddings are all about love. The man and woman’s eyes were upon each other, and their joy was perfectly captured by the sculptor. And in the audience their were many couples traditional and not, and many children sharing their joy.
I could bear it no more. I could not marry. I knew that. How would I wed and take care of my children? This place of disappearing lovers might substitute for marriage, but it was not real. I passed through the nearest door.
I suppose I was running from myself.
As I walked down the hallway, I heard water trickling to my right. I peeked in an open door, and spotted a spring, and small pool. The room was filled with ferns and palms, and upon the wall a fresco of a humble village in the mountains, the wooden homes tall and angled like a ships prow, and adorned with painted designs.
It seemed beautiful and alone, but to my left hung a sheer curtain of periwinkle silk. I could see a shape beyond it, the shape of a woman reclining upon a pillowed bed.
Of course it was Del T’yana, apothecary, my forbidden love, and priestess of the Whore-Goddess of my youth. I saw her waive through the silk and call out. “Come my love, for I have been waiting for you.”
I pushed aside the translucent fabric and entered the room. Del lay back upon the bed, languid, legs open as if a lover had just left and she did not want to lose the experience. And of course a lover had just left, for I could see his seed trickling from her.
Yet her smile at seeing me was so real, that it lit up her face, and when she raised her hand to greet me I rushed forward to take to my lips, and hold it there, against my face, so close.
She took the white carnation Sindara had worn from my fingertips and lifted it to her lips. “So she has gone at last? I shall miss her greatly. To think you were the one who gave her away.”
Del took my hand to her lips and kissed it, then pulled me upon the dias beside her. And I noticed the flower in her hair, exactly as the one in my own. She leaned over and sniffed it. “I smell myself in your flower, as you are in mine.” Her hand stroked my face, as a lover or a mother might. “You must have so many questions, my Love.”
I did, but I could not speak, but contented myself to run Del’s hands between my own, to run my fingers over hers.
“I know this must seem strange to you, but Sindara knew this day would come. Death is a part of life, and the circle must be completed. Yet she lives still, and one day we will kiss her again, in a place where the leaves turn but do not fall.”
Del took my fingers and guided it to her breast. I stroked her below their fullness and above, feeling her intimately for the first time “What are we to do Del? I love you above all others, and yet, how? I cannot be your lover and supervisor?”
“Then I shall resign.”
“But the children . . . “
“Fear not my love. They shall have me, and you as well. I shall take you as my husband, bear your children, and share the burdens of your life. Including the need for your children to enjoy good health. But priestess I am, and priestess I shall remain, and openly from now on. Do you think you can be the consort of such as I?”
As if I could refuse her. “How could I not?”
“Then it is done.” And she kissed me softly, just lips and savored their softness and the sweetness of her taste. I wrapped my arms about her and pulled her body tight against mine, belly to belly, breast to breast, to feel my love for the first time. Her nipples swelled like berries and poked hard against my chest, and wondered why I had ever thought her boyish. And she cooed softly, and left little kisses upon my lips after each deep one.”
I slipped my fingers between her thighs, and caressed her from behind, squeezing her round, womanly bottom, slipping my fingers into her crack. And then I realized what I must do, for while she was my love, this was the first crescent after last new moon before the spring solstice.
So I knelt between my beloved’s legs and began to lick. As I tasted her she told me the names of those she had loved.
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