|The Song of Kala Khoam|
|The Song of Kala Khoam|
2435 B.C.E. The Julian Alps.
Sometimes, not very often, an age of human life on Earth comes to an end.
For so many of us to live on the Earth at the same time, a great many things have to go right, and to keep going right. When one of them goes wrong - and it only takes one - we die. A few survive - in shacks amid the fallen towers. One such catastrophe, a drought, happened around 2150 BCE, in the eastern Mediterranean; and perhaps as far east as the Punjab. A time of troubles comes to an end, always, and the towers are built again. And those who build think, once again, that the towers will stand forever.
NOTE: This story contains what is sometimes called "adult content." The recent practice of trying to keep children ignorant of sex has not proven to be a good idea. Nevertheless, if you are a child, and you are reading stories about sex on the internet, you should tell your parents. Until you do, don't read this story.This is the third story of a trilogy. These links go to web postings of each story; the web postings contain a few illustrations, some music I wrote for the songs, etc.
home page ( http://adult.pornparks.com/dnds ) | mirror ( http://www.asstr.org/~Davo )
- "... and run between the fires on a warm midsummer night."
( http://www.asstr.org/~Davo/Arkwan.htm )
- Brothers of the Ox-Yoke
( http://www.asstr.org/~Davo/tektu.htm )
- The Song of Kala Khoam
( http://www.asstr.org/~Davo/kalakhoam.htm )
"Soon, Bard. But Nute will wish to know of Nakien. And Fiya is with him, who was Nakien's student."
"Even Fiya may not be safe - the student of a bard. So far, she has not made war on peddlers. Or sea-captains."
"They must be warned, Ghoiokh bard. If you go on the cart-track, toward Ishan's kingdom, you can overtake them."
"I do not overtake anyone, and I can walk no faster than I do. Captain, could you send a sailor to warn them? I have no wealth besides tales, but whatever service a black bard can do, I will give you. For Nakien's sake. If you will send a warning to save his student."
"Honor, bard, and I will do you service, and give wealth too, for this news. But no one shall go but me. And I will go now. Go to the ship, and tell them to put out to sea. You are a black bard, they will believe you. Go with them - you are safest from storms on the open sea, far from land. Come back at the dark of the moon - on the night of the Gathering of Cattle." And Dragnric ran off, before Ghoiokh had time to say he had no idea where the ship was. And that there were many things about the High Queen, that Nute would need to know.
But if he found the ship, and they went to sea until new moon, then the sailors would have no choice but to listen to him. He need not pick some crowd-pleasing tale. He could give them a serious work, an important song. After all, what are they going to do - swim away? He could even - Ghoiokh counted the days on his fingers - sing them The Battle of Kala Khoam.
"But why won't you let her go?" Fiya shouted. "Her price is nothing to you!"
"Why you want I give her you for nothing?" - that was the Ekoopti's squeaky voice. "I have say, I not fuck her. What you want more."
"Because she is unhappy. And I love her. And she is my brother's wife. Can't you understand?"
Imhuotpa said nothing. Then Fiya said "And she's not a slave anyway - she's been rescued. She was taken in a stock-raid on the High King's lands, and she is back in them."
"Fiya!" Nute thundered. "That's a lie! You're Nakien's student, and you've turned into a liar. He's the most respected bard there is - even if he is the most disreputable one - and you're a liar. You know Sujasa was taken from the land of King Kahul - not under the High King. Not then."
"You should buy her, Nute."
"I will not. I'll whip you right now for being a liar."
But then Dragnric came up to them. "Fiya!" he gasped. "son of Aher." His lungs were hungrier now he had stopped running. "Health and," ... "Safety." ... "Wvak...." His head spun, and he had to lie down. He breathed deeply for a while, then Fiya helped him sit up. Nute took a wineskin from his pack.
"Wvaksa," he said, when he could speak. "there is danger. Nakien white bard has been killed. By the High Queen. All bards are in danger, and Fiya most of all. You must come, and we can sail away."
"Nakien dead! Dead! Killed by the Queen? But why?"
"I don't know."
"But how did you learn Nakien was dead?"
"A man called Ghoiokh told me. A black bard, he said. He wanted to escape on my ship. He said all bards were in danger."
"The High Queen is killing bards! And you didn't ask him why? Did he say anything else.?"
"No. Well, he said he didn't want his penis shoved in the Queen's fire."
Imhuotpa said: "We away go, if ankle danger. I want not penis shoved in fieh."
Nute said: "Go if you want. But I'd like to know what is going on. The High Queen gives many gifts to priests, makes many sacrifices. She thinks we should serve the Gods more, rely on them more - that when bad things happen, it is punishment from the Gods. The bards quarrel with the priests. That's the only thing I can think of. But killing bards - killing even one bard. Surely she can't think the Gods want that."
"We should at least go back and talk to Ghoiokh. He can tell us what is happening." - It was Sujasa. She spoke in her own tongue.
Fiya understood a bit of the northerners' tongue, but spoke in his own: "Sujasa. You sound as if you are well again."
"I was not ill, son of Aher. And it has pleased me to see one face that I knew from the time before. I have just been sad. I lost my husband, my baby, everyone. My father. My son. And as a whore I had to pretend. That every man's penis filled me with lust. And with the nomads ..." She stopped. And the brief flame of life that had entered her face, sputtered and died away.
Fiya said: "But Arkwan isn't dead. Didn't we tell you?" "Arkwan is not dead," he repeated in the northerners' tongue.
"Not dead? You said - but I didn't understand. Not dead - he must be - are you sure - what have you heard? No, it is impossible - I saw his father's house burn to the ground, and I know he was in it. There's a mistake. Someone is lying!"
Fiya ripped his loincloth off so violently he made red marks on his skin. He pointed to his two lines of tattoo. "When I got that line, that one there, Arkwan was there, getting his penis tattooed on the same day, by Nakien. We clasped hands and said we would be brothers. And this was the first moon of summer. This summer. I cannot have been mistaken. There is no lie. Nute will say the same, and say that Nakien knew Arkwan also."
"Where is he? Where was he going?"
"He may be in danger, I think," Fiya said. "Nute knows the story. I don't understand it. But I think Arkwan had something to do with the quarrel between bards and priests. If the High Queen is killing bards...."
Sujasa used the southern tongue, as much of it as she had learned in a whorehouse, to talk to Imhuotpa: "Wvaksa Imhuotpa, I am your slave - I want serve you any way. Any way. But I must go my husband now. We must go polestar. But no, we must go back. Best is talk to Ghoiokh, to, to, ... to listen more. Master, you are kind master, very good to Bitch. Can you rent me Wvaksa Nute? Do you are sail away, Master? Arkwan my husband in danger. Go you, stay Bit ... Sujasa."
Fiya asked: "Teacher, What did Nakien tell you? What was the story about Arkwan?"
"Nakien told me you did not listen. I hope I have taught you that, at least. Or I had a lot of pain in my shoulder for nothing."
"I revere my teacher, and my friend. I have no one on the green Earth now, except you. And Arkwan. And Huwh, if he is still alive. What is the story - how is Arkwan involved in this quarrel with the priests? What should we do?"
"Father, who ankle this Arrehkwan," Imhuotpa asked. "Goddess Cunt - I mean who is this Arrrkwan!"
"You cuss in the tongue of the wild men, at least," Nute said in Ekoopti.
Nute told the story of the midsummer dance, and told it again in Sujasa's speech. And he babbled some in Ekoopti as well. He said: "And they were all talking about the Kohiyossa. A man said to me 'I knew the baby was the Kohiyossa, when she rescued him from the tree. Now the God has come and planted his seed again. And they say babies have been born overnight!' And this was an intelligent man, the man who plans their tunnels and mines. I think there is some story about this Kohiyossa. But I don't know it."
"I do," Fiya said.
Nute continued: "Gods come to that dance often. And as for the God using a man's body - why not? My disgusting little cousin Koo'wi, who once rubbed his penis till the seed came out, in front of a party of foreign ambassadors, is God. He calls himself Nofarirku'Rugya - Beautiful as the Sun God's light. I hope Arkwan is the God. I paid too much for him if he isn't."
Dragnric said: "You bought a God? Where did you sell him? Did you make a profit?"
"I gave him to that liar, Nakien. That liar who was my best friend. Who saved my life. And my son. And saved Nofariptuc, if only for a while." Nute stopped talking.
Fiya said: "Teacher, honor. We should go east to the village of the law-singer. I know bards. If Nakien has been killed, the white bards will fight back - in some way. Using their knowledge. The gathering at the village of Sugga is the heart of the white bards' power. The Queen may bring warriors against the village - and we should help them, defend the bards."
Nute said: "You are known as the student of Nakien, Fiya. You are in danger just walking along a track."
Imhuotpa said: "Fiya ab'Aher go ship talk Ghoiokh maker of signs. Stay with Ghoiokh. Send message. Ship safe at sea."
"Ghoiokh is already at sea," Dragnric answered, "and I told him to stay until the dark of the moon."
Nute said: "None of us is a warrior, Fiya. If a village of bards is attacked by trained warriors, we can do nothing."
"Safety, Teacher, one of us is warrior - a hero for her skill. I saw Sujasa shoot before King Kahul and Queen Mea of the mountains of the north. None of their warriors could match her."
"I might have guessed Arkwan would teach his wife."
"What do you mean, teacher? Arkwan has no great skill with the bow."
"He can shoot four arrows while I shoot one. He can hit a stick tossed in the air. I think this is skill."
"Health and riches, teacher; I lived with him and Sujasa for a moon and more. Slept with them. Practiced with them. Switched him, most mornings, for missing his target. I saw no skill."
The peddler and his student looked at Sujasa.
"He has his tricks," Sujasa said, in her own speech. "And he is very good at shooting rabbits. He claimed his tricks would be good in battle or on raids. But targets that stayed still, didn't interest him. He missed targets he should have hit. That's why I whipped him."
"You had me whip him, Wife of my brother. I hated it. I saw no great skill but he was better than I was. Why did you want me to whip him when it was Tanyata who won?"
"Huwh's Tanyata. And her breasts had no tattoos. But that didn't stop my husband's penis from swelling when she scampered about flashing her red bottom. I wasn't going to let her whip him, as well."
"His wasn't the only swelling penis. But his sister? What did you think?"
"You didn't know? But they were like twins! They even talked alike. And they lifted their bottoms for the switch the same way. How could you not know?"
"They were alike - but I don't think they were brother and sister. And I'm quite certain Arkwan didn't think they were."
"We asked Karipas. Huwh and
She told us, but we had to promise not to tell anyone.
Tanyata was the daughter of Eos. Karipas said there was no doubt:
there was only the one time with Eos, at a dance, but she had quarelled
with her husband. He couldn't be the father. I can't
believe Huwh didn't tell his father.
He must have seen that bulge in his father's loincloth as well as you
"Huwh would not have broken a promise, Fiya."
"When I switched Tanyata, she spread her knees and waved her cunt at me. It made my little penis rise every time - and she knew it. I had to bring the seed out with my hand. I think she wanted Huwh to fight me. Or maybe she wanted me to fuck her, to make Huwh beat her for it. But Huwh just laughed. He knew he had nothing to fear from me. Huwh would have trusted his father, however stiff our penises got. Trusted us more than we deserved to be. At the Midsummer dance, when she ran between the fires and the Sex Frenzy took us, Arkwan and I ..."
Imhuotpa put his hands in his ears, and howled. "Ka - Ka - Ka. You talk talk ankle ugly gibber-gabber. I go look water, wash ears."
"Are they making a plan?" Dragnric asked Nute.
"They are not - they are talking about something else altogether. And I don't know what to do. Fiya can try to keep out of sight from now on, but we passed through a village. Fiya may have already been seen and known."
"He has been, Wvaksa. I asked at the village. They said Wvaksa Nute had come through. They said you were with Fiya student of Nakien, a woman, and the strangest man they had ever seen."
"They may have sent word to the King's warriors. Well, the worst thing would be for Fiya to continue on. We must head back to the ship. Go around the village. Food is a problem, but we'll hunt, and stay out of sight until the new moon."
Sujasa jabbered quickly with Fiya about what Nute had said. Then she said: "Safest is, we not stay together."
"Right ankle." Imhuotpa struck himself across the mouth. "Right is. She right is."
"Very well, Sujasa goes with Fiya. My son and I will go north. Fiya, from here to Doleinth peddlers now know you as my student, and will help you for my sake. Ask my friend Ulabasja - you know, Gilku's father. You can be a peddler, or a red bard, or a white. We will be peddlers of the islands together, if that is what you want, and if we both live. Sujasa, my wishes for your health and safety."
"What of me, Wvaksa?" Dragnric asked.
"Don't you want to go back to your ship?"
"You and the Ekoopti are heading into danger. I think you need someone who can fight. You hardly even have weapons."
Imhuotpa unsealed the heavy jar that he carried strapped to his back. He reached in, grabbed a handful, and passed it to the captain. It was gold. Beads and bars and chunks of gold. A bead of dark blue, streaked with gold. A Queen would give a hand of cattle for it. Beads of ivory. A bead of a hard cold stone, like amber but more the color of fire, a thing too beautiful to be of this green Earth - as strange and wonderful as the arrows of the Lord of Storms.
"We weapon have ankle very good. This wars win."
He should have dodged the arrow at the distance. But he must have expected a parley before the shooting started, and had not been on his guard. By the time his men responded, Sujasa had drawn again. And they knew now she was an excellent shot. Fiya held his shield in front of her, and had his bow in the other hand, with an arrow nocked but not drawn. "They can take us, but some of them will die," Sujasa said. "They are thinking about how many. I don't think these warriors want to die for the High Queen. And they must have orders to take us alive - they would be shooting now if they didn't."
"Can we back up, slowly? If we can reach the trees, we might be able to slip away." Fiya asked, also using the speech of Sujasa's village.
"We can't. But it is you they are after."
"I will stay, and you go, then. And may the Lady protect your husband, if he lives."
"Shoot, Fiya. If you can kill one now, I can reach the trees while you hold them."
Fiya dropped his shield, and aimed carefully at a warrior. I must make this, he thought. He shot high, because of the distance, and the warrior easily, casually, moved his head aside. He heard a moan to one side, and when he looked there was a warrior with one of Sujasa's arrows in his crotch. The man must have been watching Fiya. Sujasa could have put an arrow in his eye at that distance - in a corner of his eye - but she must have chosen the low shot to make it more difficult for him to dodge. The poor fool had raised his shield when he saw the arrow coming. And by the time he groaned Sujasa had drawn again.
Fiya said: "You can shoot better than I can. But we knew that. I still think you should go, while I hold them."
"It will not work, Fiya. But I can hold them while you go."
"I will not leave you."
"Fiya, in my village, when it was attacked, we were trapped in a house, surrounded by enemies. We knew that our best chance, the best chance for anyone to live, was to run in different directions. Huwh refused to leave me - I was having a baby. But I made him do it. He knew it was the best chance. You once told Huwh you would do anything for him. In his name I say what he would say: Fiya, go!"
Fiya went. He had not yet reached the trees when he heard Sujasa shout to the warriors, in the southland tongue, that she was throwing away her bow. An arrow caught his calf. His stumble saved him from an arrow that passed where his head had been. He ran, despite the pain, dodging and weaving as best he could and kept running some way into the trees. An arrow went into his buttock. By then the warriors had reached the wood, and Fiya could not run fast - his foot was dragging. He hid. The warriors knew he was somewhere in the wood, and could search it carefully. But Fiya could do nothing but keep still.
Somehow, the warriors missed him. He heard them searching, looking in places much cleverer than the leaf-filled hollow where he was. They combed and probed. Fiya kept still till the sun set, kept still through the night, and kept still through the next day. The warriors searched the wood again. The wounds festered; he began to see visions. Toward morning of the second night, with no thought except a desperate thirst, he slithered across the forest floor, one leg useless, no plan except to find water. The warrior on watch did not bother to waste an arrow on another animal of the forest night.
"Your heart's desire, Princess. And it is only if you wish it. But we did say that if any of us missed with two arrows ..." And little Dafnya blushed and covered her face.
Kahela, who had been thinking of other things, removed her tunic. "Honor, Arrow master. It is not, if I wish it. You must order us to bend, when we miss - Princess, captain, everyone the same. You are the arrow master, and I'm your pupil who missed the target, twice. You shouldn't have had to ask me to take my tunic off. Whip me more for that."
"I could not do that, Princess."
Kahela knelt, and dropped to her knuckles. The sting was breathtaking. She was a good enough archer, usually, so this was her first switching since they had made this astonishing girl their arrow master - and this little girl, thin as a switch herself, whipped as hard as she fought. She used her whole body, not just her arm. And Kahela's bottom was soft. She hadn't been sitting bare on rocks, or getting a lot of switchings, like the boys. The stinging pain woke Kahela from her daydream mood - and she wished she hadn't allowed herself to shoot so badly. "You don't learn by singing it wrong and getting whipped," her father used to say, "you learn by singing it right." Kahela shot another hand of arrows, with the little arrow master standing behind her. Shooting naked, with a switch that stung like a bee, poised ready to strike, she shivered in the warm fall morning. She was not daydreaming now. She had eyes only for the target. She used the draw Dafnya taught them, the draw they called "the dance." Kahela's body spun and and bent, so that the force of the spin went into the bow - more force than she had in the strength of her arms. The wild dance seemed stronger, now she was naked - even her breasts, slammed across by the force of her spin, seemed to add to the draw of the bow. Every arrow found its home - and sank deep. That was the power of the dance.
Dafnya watched her pupil, and put her hands on Kahela's body as she drew the tightly strung bow. "Use your hips, Princess. The hips help the shoulders, the legs help the arms. A woman's strength flows from the womb. The womb between Earth and Sky." Kahela had not understood until now. "You hit the wolf, but you didn't kill the wolf." That was what Dafnya would say to a weaver-boy, when his arrow hit the target, but did not sink in. And the boy got a whipping for that, more than for missing the target. "It hurts, when the wolf bites," Dafnya would say as she whipped. But until today none of Kahela's arrows had sunk deep, and Dafnya hadn't whipped her for it. This little girl turned weavers and shepherds into warriors - telling men twice her size to bend and bare their bottoms. It can't have helped that Royalty was allowed to shoot badly and not be punished. Kahela said: "From now on, Arrow Master, whip me like the others, when I hit the wolf, but don't kill the wolf." Kahela kept shooting. On the mountain, with no fine cloak and no bullhide shoes, but bare feet on earth and bare body under the sky, her buttocks whipped and sore, she flung her body into the bow - she had the strength of the wind, the hardness of the Earth. The sinew bowstring snapped like a linen thread.
Then she looked up. The men and boys were watching her. The men's cloths bulged. The boys looked away, blushing and covering their penises with their hands. Except one. Hyaramon. He looked her straight in the face, grinning like a fool, proud of his rod. It's a good thing I don't have to shoot any more, Kahela thought, I wouldn't have eyes only for the target.
Kahela said: "Arrow master, have everyone shoot another hand. And stand behind them with the switch, as you did with me. Young Hyaramon first." Kahela didn't put her tunic back on, but stood talking to the stiff-rodded boy as he shot. His first arrow missed. Serve him right. Good practice for the distractions of battle, Kahela thought. Dafnya spun around, and put force and speed into her stroke, but if it hurt, Hyaramon wasn't going to let it show. He stared at Kahela's teats, licking his lips, and when the stroke fell he said "Oooh," with a look on his face like a man shooting his seed. Perhaps the stokes did not hurt him much - his skin was tanned leather from running naked through the woods; his bottom toughened from sliding down rocks in the streams. War was a holiday for the boys, so far. After his second miss he made a fucking motion toward Kahela, as he was whipped, watching her face to make sure she was not laughing at him.
His next arrow sank deep into the center of the target, and he winked at Kahela. Then he sent his next arrow into the ground, about half-way to the target. And he winked at Kahela again. He began to sing softly, a lullaby:
Oh sweet little baby oh why do you cry -Dafnya waited until the end of the verse to strike, and came down on "prick" as if his buttocks were a slit-drum. Lust gripped him so strongly it could be felt. In a hurry, he shot his last arrow, a wild miss, and completed the song, tumbling over the notes in a rush to get to the end.
have you got a tum-ache, or ash in your eye?
Do you need a teat or to give me your dick?
Oh sweeter than honey is little boy prick.
I've suckled your pricky and offered my breast,He jerked forward hard on "bed," as the last stroke fell. He looked down at his hard rod. It seemed he had expected to shoot his seed, just from being whipped, and from looking at a naked Princess. But his seed had not shot, and he would get no more strokes. Nothing would satisfy his need now. His hand would not - his need was for her, not for seed. And it tugged at Kahela like a fishing line.
but still you keep crying and won't let me rest.
How much will you cry when your bottom is red -
do you need a spanking to put you to bed?
Kahela wanted to feel this hard young body against her soft skin. Wanted that long sharp penis skewered into her. Wanted to take him in her arms - not take him, and the other boys, into battle and death. Why this morning does every man's strong back and every boy's bottom switched, make my cunt hunger? Hunger for Aru, I mean - it would never do to fuck one of my boys. But all the same Kahela wished Hyaramon would be touched by the Frenzy, and grab her and fuck her. Fuck her as roughly and urgently as if she were one of his ewes - bare penis smashed into tattooed cunt, all Law and the Sky-Father forgotten. Speaking with her eyes, she told him she wanted it. Told him if he came to her, in secret, he would have her. The other boys, when they saw those eyes, shot very badly indeed.
But she had a job to do, and it was important. Hyaramon's body, beautiful as it was, told her that - every rib could be seen. Their task was to gather food, but they could barely feed themselves. "Practice with the sling," Kahela ordered. Kahela watched the boys - naked, beautiful, confident - skilled as heroes with this shepherds' weapon. The women were the same age as the boys, but they were tattoed, every one of them, except the arrow master. Among shepherds, girls who bled were tattooed, just like that. Held down and pricked at the next dark of the moon, without sympathy or fuss - sheep-raising villages couldn't risk trouble with the Lady of the Wombs. But Hyaramon had a mustache, and a fine piss-beard, and a man's penis under it. And some other boys were the same. Young men in every way, except the tattoo. Perhaps they were afraid of the pain. Or perhaps they wanted to be boys as long as they could. Some shepherd boys didn't get tattooed until they wanted to marry.
"Princess, if you wish it. But you did say everyone should practice with the sling." It was Dafnya, holding out a sling, and a stone. They both knew - everyone knew - that Kahela was useless with the sling. "It is not, if I wish it, arrow master, everyone must practice." Kahela spun and released, and the stone went in roughly the right direction. But still, a miss. With as much dignity as she could, she walked through the laughing shepherds, and bent over with her hands on a stone. The boys stood around her, rods pointed; some of them used their hands as Dafnya applied the switch. Hyaramon kept his hands away, but pointed - a wordless promise that his seed would stay inside him - until it could go in her. He asked with his eyes if it was true, if he really could come to her. She nodded. Dafnya whipped hard. My bottom will be as tough as the boys', she thought. I wonder if I might get fucked if I go swimming with them. She kept her eyes on Hyaramon; he was holding one hand with the other to keep himself from touching his rod. She hardly felt the blows.
They put their loincloths and tunics on, those who wore them, and they all lifted their packs, and climbed uphill through woodlands of broadly spaced oaks. Ancient trees. The deep silence now broken by trudging feet, bleating lambs, and the young warriors' shouts and laughter. And all at once Kahela was overcome with shame. She could hardly believe it had been her, that shameless queen, waving her cunt at a boy - tattooless boy! What had possessed her? But she knew. It was the Sky-Father. She had defied Him - asked for His punishment, even. The Sky-Father had sent Lust, to show His power. He could have made her fuck young Hyaramon. If the boy had asked, if the Sky-Father had made him bolder, she would have taken him - Lust had been that strong. Fucking a bare-penis boy. Naked on the ground, in front of everyone. She would not be the rebel Queen then. The rebellion would be over.
On the ridge, there was an open grassy space, with half-burned logs poking through the grass, in a rough circle. An aisle with no logs crossed the circle in the direction of midsummer sunset. So this was a place of dancing at midsummer. A shepherd played a pair of notes on his pipe, and the dogs led the sheep to the grazing. Gur made a sacrifice - a bit of hard bread. "Accept this, Sky-Father. It is small, but I can spare no more. Accept it as you would a piglet - given by a man with enough to eat."
"Only large villages hold midsummer dances." It was Old Hyaramon. He was young Hyaramon's father and Gur's uncle, an old dyer who had never left the village of Nohas, but he had kept his ears open when the bards sang. "Only rich villages, with a wvaksa as headman, and other wvaksas, can hold dances - the wvaksas join together to provide for the feasting, when so many come. A triad of dances in the lands of the High King - ours, the bronze makers', and the High King's village itself. Perhaps there are some smaller ones. And the kingdoms that give tribute; they hold their own dances."
"This one is not small," Gur said. "And the King's village is further west, I think. And we are not as far north as Taslan's kingdom. So this is the place. The dance ground of the bronze makers. The God we ... He ... " Gur choked. Shepherds and dyers, spinners and weavers, hushed and looked at their knees. They all knew Gur had been tortured for saying the God had danced on this spot. When the followers of Nohas had tried to return to their homes, after the battle of the King's Messenger, they had found the High Queen in their village, with a few warriors. The High Queen, with Taucon beside her, demanded they deny that the God had danced. Tektu had refused, and the Queen attacked. Not expecting a fight, and not even willing to fight about whether the God had danced or not, quite a lot of them had been killed, until Erdiosh and Tektu had managed a retreat.
Erdiosh had been splendid. He asked the survivors if they wanted to deny the God, and live under Taucon and under the High Queen's rule. If not, then Aru would lead them, and be High King. "Isn't that right, Princess Kahela?" Erdiosh had asked. And Kahela, with no time to think, had agreed. They returned to the village ready to fight, and the Queen and her few warriors had fled without an arrow shot. Gur, who had been gelded in the fire, and a few other prisoners, were still alive. Many had been killed. And now Gur stood on the spot where his God had danced - the God he'd refused to deny, even when the coals were piled in his crotch, and fanned to white heat.
And so Kahela found herself here, with a troop of half-trained warriors, at the spot where the God had danced. After they drove the Queen from the weavers' village, Kahela and Erdiosh had gone to tell Ishan that they had fought against the High Queen, in Aru's name. Ishan had been furiously angry, and began to cough blood. Aru shouted in rage, and smashed Erdiosh's backpack over his head. But the rage passed. Ishan realized they had no choice - the High Queen would not believe their loyalty. And so the little girl from the law-singer's village was, except for the actual running of the mare, the rebel Queen.
Queen she did not want to be. And in becoming Queen she had lost the thing that, now she had lost it, she wanted most. Aru would not fuck her - not since she had called herself Princess, when she was not in fact his wife. In private, they did not speak - in public they were the rebel King and Queen. King and Queen of villages she had never heard of, full of men ready to fight and die for her. King and Queen of rebels who had every chance of success, except one - they had nothing to eat. The High Queen's warriors had taken food as they retreated. Men and woman joined the rebels every day, and the problem of finding food was desperate. And so they had divided into three: Kahela had gone north, and Tektu south, while Aru with the largest band went west, toward the High King's own village.
Kahela's task was to claim these northern lands for the rebels, to gather farmers and shepherds who wanted to fight, and to bring food for Aru's host. Each village had welcomed them, and proclaimed hatred for the High Queen and support for the rebels. This meant little - if the High Queen passed through with her warriors, the same villages would loudly proclaim loyalty to the High King. Many wanted to join Kahela's band, so many that Kahela took only those who brought food. The villagers were not starving, but they feared they would need their food before the next harvest, and would give none away. Gur refused to consider demanding food with torture, but they had to do something. From one village, they had stolen some sheep.
"There will be a path to this dance-ground, from the village that holds the dance," Old Hyaramon said. "More than a path - a sacred road. For the procession. Shall we go down?"
"We are not strong enough to attack the bronze makers' village," Gur said.
Kahela said: "We can't rejoin Prince Aru - my husband - with no food. They will be starving. We must do something, Gur headman."
"Tektu son of Girtu is village headman, Kahela Queen."
"And I am no more a Queen, than Tektu is a headman."
"Do not mock the fight. And when you are High King and Queen, there must be a king of these lands, to give you tribute. Who will the king be? Who but the headman of the largest village in the kingdom, a man on the winning side. The man who made the winning side. Tektu. He must be headman now, because later he must be king."
"I know, I know - he's no king. I know. He's from my village. He and the other weaver brats piss on our doorposts, and get into fights with the dyer boys. But he will grow up, and he's a wvaksa born. I'm just an old man who can dye cloth. And anyway the king can't be me, Royal captain. I don't have the tool. The running of the mare would be quite a disappointment, if I was the one trying to fuck the cow."
"But - Erdiosh and ...."
"Erdiosh will make Tektu marry, so Tektu
have a queen for the king-making. Some wvaksa's daughter, perhaps
even a princess. The King West of the Mountains probably
has some plain cousin he needs to marry off."
"Erdiosh will not like it."
"Erdiosh will arrange the match!
But the wife Erdiosh picks
for him will be as ugly as the cow. You'll see."
"So Erdiosh will be satisfied as second wife."
"All Erdiosh has ever wanted is to be Tektu's
wife. But Tektu was to marry Ardaha - that was his mother's
plan. An alliance with an important house. Tektu was
willing - he only worried she didn't like him enough. And
once Tektu married - well, a second wife is always an insult to the
family of the first wife; and if that second wife were to be a man,
that would be worse. But they could have done
it. If Tektu kissed Ardaha in public every day, and fucked
her at every festival, and if Erdiosh was discreet, it might have
worked. Provided her babies looked like Tektu, and provided Nohas
was still alive. But not now."
"Why not? If Tektu is made King, he can
do what he wants."
"Whether Tektu is King of the Earth, or just
headman of my village, Erdiosh will care more about Tektu's alliances
and standing than he does about his own happiness. He will
sacrifice for Tektu's sake, his chance to be Tektu's wife."
"You trust Erdiosh better than I do."
Old Hyaramon interupted: "Honor, captains. And harmony. Tomorrow night is the Gathering of Cattle. My son and I could go into the bronze makers' village. There will be a lot of people coming in."
Gur asked, "Do you think they will give you food, Uncle?"
"We may learn something, Captain nephew."
"We need food."
"We must try something, Gur," Kahela said. "And I will be the one to go."
"Queen - no!"
"The mare has not run, Captain. Headman. And if my life is to be High Queen over King Tektu and Erdiosh - well, I'm not ready for it yet. And I'm taking the arrow master with me."
He hated the cloak and the undercloak. He despised the shoes. But most of all he hated the hat. Stinking fur of some wild animal he had never even heard of. And for all this heavy, ugly clothing, he was cold. The damp cold soaked into his bones - colder than nights on the desert. And tonight, Father had said, there would be something called "snow."
"Why should I dress like a wild man," he whined in Ekoopti. "They'll know I'm a foreigner as soon as I open my mouth."
"You, they will know before that. Do you have to strut about like a scribe? And if you don't like the loincloth, I have a needle in my pack."
"What was it like, getting your penis tattooed."
"What do you think it was like, you fucking idiot?"
"You still cuss like a prince of the two lands."
"I was never a prince."
"Ah. Well. Well. ... I see you have a simple design."
"I'd like to see how many lines you ask for, Son. Want to try it? I do have a needle - and you can get the burns as well. They hurt even more - but they say women like the scars, going in. And some men wag their scarred penises about."
They looked at Dragnric, who was drying his loincloth over the fire. He noticed what they were looking at. "I got these in a quarrel, if that's what you're talking about. A quarrel with a fisherman. About some badly dried fish. I was a bit tied up at the time, or I might have objected. He is scarring penises for dolphins, now." And he stood up and proudly showed off the marks. Too much mead at a midsummer dance, was what Nute thought - he didn't believe the fisherman story. A disappointed boy at his first midsummer dance, showing the woman how much pain he would take for her pleasure. Touching the red-hot bronze to his penis, telling her he would not stop until she promised a fuck. That was the usual story behind a scarred penis. It did not count as a tattoo, according to Nakien, but boys who were desperate burned themselves, called it a tattoo, and tried to win the woman they burned for. Nute wondered if she ever let him put it in, when it healed, and felt the tickling pleasure of the scars that Dragnric had won for her with so much pain and danger.
Dragnric rescued his loincloth from the fire, and draped the hot cloth over his shoulder, as he pissed on the fire. Then he put the cloth on, hooting a bit, and dancing, but enjoying the heat of the cloth on his frozen bottom. The plan for today was for him to go into a village, while Nute and Imhuotpa kept out of sight. He had gone to a farmstead the day before, to buy food, and shepherd's clothing for Imhuotpa, but he hadn't learned much - only that two of the King's warriors had passed through, asking questions. So Nute wanted him to try a village. At sunset, they would return for the gold, buried under the fire, and carry it north during the night. Dragnric hadn't thought about digging up the fire when he had pissed on it.
Nute and Imhuotpa spent the day sleeping in the forest. Nute had heard so much news from Ekoopt, that he didn't want to talk about it any more. All his old mates were now rich men, with important jobs. All but the ones who had stood up to Nofarirku'Rugya - they had died in the desert. Imhuotpa told him all the gossip, and names of children, and children's wives. The names were starting to tumble together in Nute's ears. And Imhuotpa couldn't tell him about his real friends, the girls and boys who had played with the jar-cutter's children. Mu'gya's gang - that was what they had called themselves. Little Koo'wi had been in the gang too. Even then the little snake had cheated in a game, and the sandal-braider's son - who was the leader - said Koo'wi had to ask for a whipping, so they'd know he wouldn't cheat again. Koo'wi wouldn't ask, so the leader said he couldn't be in Mu'gya's gang any more. When Khuntkawanut had vanished, their old playmates might have been suspected. Questioned. Tortured. Little Koo'wi paying them back. No scribe and judge for such as them - just a strip of river-horse hide. But Imhuotpa didn't know what had happened to them.
So Nute didn't want to talk about Ekoopt any more. They slept by the stream, between two fallen logs, and the yellow leaves, blown about by the cold wind, settled on them until they were almost covered, another lump on the forest floor. Imhuotpa stopped complaining about his bearskin hat, and snuggled close to his father's bony wrinkled back. Hunger woke him. He got up and dressed without waking his father, and went to the camp, starting a fire with the skin of coals - in a different place, so they could dig up the gold. He was about to drop a red stone into the cooking skin when Dragnric walked in.
Dragnric's eyes darted from side to side. Kneeling, he dipped his loincloth into the skin of cold water, and dabbed tenderly at his thighs and penis. "It is not as bad as I thought it would be," he said, still looking into the distance. "From the way it hurt, I thought my skin would be coming off in sheets. It is just red. There is only one spot on my thigh where the puss is coming. But I didn't learn anything from that village; I'll have to try again."
Imhuotpa took the cloth and washed the burns more thoroughly. Dragnric clenched his fists. The burning was worse than he had said. There were blisters starting in many places, and the sea-captain's burned foreskin would likely fester and slough off. But except for the penis itself, when the skin came off there would be new skin under it. Imhuotpa had helped his father stitch cuts and set bones, and he knew the difference between an ugly swelling pussy burn that would heal, and a clean dry deep burn that would not. "What questions fight men ask?" Imhuotpa asked.
"The same questions we already knew they asked - I learned nothing! I told them I was a trader from the islands, here to trade - I think they believed me, or they would have killed me. They wanted to know if I heard any news. I asked what sort of news they wanted, but they didn't let anything slip. I'll have to try again - find a village where the villagers are ready to talk."
"Maybe man woman live alone on farrum heah some thing. Not so dangewous it ankle."
Dragnric sighed. "Not likely a shepherd would have heard anything. We need to know what is going on!"
"Why we need - what we do if we know?"
"I don't think the villagers are happy. These villages - with no bards, no traders, they will die. How can they reap, with no copper and no flint? They have cloth no one wants - who wants cloth in a village of weavers? Traders would give them beads, or salt, or spices, or copper blades, for their cloth - and then the weavers could give to the farmers who give them food. So when the warriors tortured me, just for being a trader, the villagers could see death. The bards are gone. If the traders go, they will die. If the villagers knew that we are gathering men to fight the High Queen - and have gold to give - many might come. Gold will save their lives, if there are no traders to take their cloth. They can give gold and get food."
"Why we not do that? Why not get fight men? Gold give. Why we need to know what Queen does?"
"Because, son, we can't fight a war if we don't know what we are fighting about." It was Nute, who was standing by the fire - or at any rate, where the fire had been, since Imhuotpa had let it go out. But there were a few embers. Nute took tinder from his pouch and blew the embers into flame.
"That was what they did. They heaped coals on me. That was bad. But when they didn't like an answer they blew on the coals, or fanned them. I thought I was burned through to my bones."
Nute gave Imhuotpa his handful of twigs, and led the captain away from the fire. He took his blanket from his pack, and held the captain in an embrace, his own cloak and the blanket wrapped around them both. He handed the captain a strip of dried mutton. "You went to find out what is happening, sea-lore master. We needed to know. If we fight against the High King, we fight to kill him. Only a man who wants to be king, can fight a king. We are foreigners. No one will fight to make me king, or you. No matter what gold we give. I had hoped that someone else was fighting. A rebel king. Someone the people know - Taslan of the north, or Ishan of the east. Or some wvaksa or hero. Or the headman of a big village. If someone was fighting, and we joined him with our gold - Imhuotpa's gold - we could bring victory. But we can't do it ourselves. That was why I wanted you to go to the village. But I won't let you go to another one. You are no safer than we are - than anyone is in this kingdom."
"Are we defeated, Kunt - whatever your name is - Nute of Ekoopt?" Dragnric asked. "Do we slip away, back to my ship, and never come to this land again?"
"I owe Nakien more than that. And I can't go back to Ekoopt, and neither can my son. What you said to him was true - the High Queen has driven away the bards, and the peddlers will go too, and people will starve. These are my friends. This is my homeland. But I don't know what to do. And you, Wvaksa of the deep dark water - the sea is your homeland. I have asked too much of you already."
"Tomorrow night is the Gathering of Cattle. There will be strangers in every village where the Gathering is held."
"It is still too dangerous."
Nute would not allow the gold to be moved that night. When they had cooked what little food they had, they lay down. bodies pressed together, with their cloaks and blankets around them all. Snowflakes drifted down from the cold calm sky. Dragnric talked, talked loud and fast, about the fire that had burned between his legs. The Ekooptis, although they had slept through the day, yawned. But they tried to talk with the captain. Most of the snowy night passed away before they slept.
Tlossos had died staked out and killed by a fire lit in his crotch. But Pataka was not thinking about that. The High Queen's men would come for him next. But Pataka was not thinking even about that. Pataka had a toothache.
He had stolen a blanket, and went from man to man, begging for something that would help. Kneeling as a slave should, and offering the blanket. But no one could help him - or would help him. No one wanted to be seen with a slave of the house of Tlossos. It was the Gathering of Cattle, so the village was crowded - shepherds drove flocks into brushwood pens; farmers carried huge sacks of barley on their backs. Shouting, and embracing friends they had not seen for a year. But none of them knew what to do for a toothache. Pataka knew them all, almost. There was a woman he did not know, driving a few sheep with a thin pretty girl to help her. A big man Pataka had never seen before, offered to look at the tooth - but he seemed to be some sort of fool or madman. He claimed to be a peddler, but was dressed in rags. Pataka passed him by, and knelt before a farmer - everyone knew farmers had worms in their teeth. The farmer took the blanket, but gave no help; he just told the slave dog to sacrifice to the Wvaksa of the Storm. Pataka was so angry that for a moment he forgot the pain in his tooth. Someone threw a pebble at him - dogs and slaves have to expect that. He was lucky it wasn't bigger. But he looked to see who had thrown it. It was the ragged madman, and he had a larger stone, ready to throw; a yellow stone that shimmered in the sun. Pataka picked up the pebble that had struck him and fallen to the ground. It was an amethyst bead.
Without attracting too many eyes, Pataka slipped away from the milling crowd. The peddler followed. Pataka went into his master's house, through the stable door. There were people about, but he hoped they weren't paying attention. In a little while the peddler came in. "It is loose enough," he said, when Pataka opened his mouth. "I can take it out."
"Can't you fix it - make it stop hurting?"
"The worm has gone too far - this tooth will never be whole. You may as well have me take it out - that will stop the pain."
"You are no peddler. Are you a bard?"
"I am a warrior. I am here with the warriors of King Tishan. We are going to kill the High King."
"King Tishan? You mean Queen Ishan?"
"That's right - and her husband, King - oh - what is his name?"
"Her son, you mean - Prince Aru. Ishan and Aru are fighting against the High Queen?"
"We are just outside of town - do you want to join us? We can give gold - we've got lots of it." And the mad peddler lifted a handful of gold from his pouch, and let it slip through his fingers. Pataka said nothing to this. His master's tools filled the stables, leaving no room for any animals, and each was sharp and polished and carefully hung on its peg - that was one of Pataka's jobs. The peddler whittled a stick into an odd claw-like shape, and then selected a thin pointed bronze blade. Holding the wood on top of the next tooth, he stuck the point of the blade down the side of the rotten tooth, pried against the wood, and popped the tooth out. It hurt - and then the toothache was over.
"I am in danger here," Pataka said, "so I will go with you. But I do not believe you."
"But it is true. Queen Ishan is going to attack - and she has piles of gold to give to anyone who fights for her." The peddler gave Pataka a gold bead. "I want to gather more men - can you take me to others who hate the High King's warriors?"
"Everyone is frightened of them. Since Kros was killed and Kafassios was made headman, there has been fear. No one knows who to trust. But I can't help you - and if anyone sees me with you, they will be afraid to talk to you. You will be in danger if anyone sees you leave this house. Wait - follow me."
Pataka climbed a ladder to the room above the stables, and opened a sealed pottery jar. Inside, laid away with herbs, was a fine cloak. From a box, Pataka found a loincloth - and a winter undercloak. The mad peddler gave him another gold bead, and took the folded clothing under his dirty tattered cloak. He slipped out the stable door. Pataka waited a while, then went out the front door; he wandered among the thronging crowd. In the press of the crowd, people could not avoid Pataka altogether. "Queen Ishan is coming," he said to no one in particular. "To challenge the High King. She is just outside the village." Pataka hadn't believed the madman; he didn't believe that Queen Ishan was really outside the village with a band of warriors. But, if people thought she was, they would not be in such a hurry to kill the High Queen's enemies. If anyone listened to what he said, they gave no sign.
A warrior with a spear climbed the bench outside the headman's house, and made a speech:
"Bronze makers - health and safety to you! Men and women of the High King - joy and happiness at the Gathering: The High King wishes you the favor of the Wvaksa of the Storms - may the crops be safe from hailstones. Hear me! Two men have been taken - foreigners. They are spies. Do not listen to such men, when they come with lying tales about new and different gods - keep the Gods of our mothers and fathers. We will question these men - and we will question any who listen to their lies."The two naked men were forced onto the bench. The first one looked evil indeed. His hair was very short - like mouse fur, and his penis was bare of any tattoos. But the second one - everyone knew him; it was Nute the peddler. A murmur passed through the crowd. Nute was the best customer of the bronze makers, and the leader of the peddlers who traded between the hills and the sea. A man standing behind Pataka, who was a miner, said: "We can't eat bronze." Pataka turned to him and said: "Queen Ishan has come to kill the High King. Her warriors are just outside of the village. Unless Ishan wins, the peddlers will surely never come again, and the miners will all starve. We must go to her - help her." But the miner tried to look as if he had not heard.
Ropes were tied to the projecting rafters, and the captives' arms were tied above their heads. Their legs were pulled apart, and a rope tied to each ankle - the ropes were pulled forward to stakes in the ground, so the captives were in sitting position, but hanging by their arms, above the bench. Then coals were brought, and fires were started in clay hearths under each man. The fires were small, but even so the captives arched their backs desperately to pull their bodies out of the rising heat. They could not hold this position for long, and each man would drop back in agony; his bottom was then just above the fire. Then he would strain again. After a while, the fires were pulled aside, and the questioning began.
"What stories have you been telling? What lies have you foreign spies been telling?"
"I am a peddler - I come to this village to trade for bronze - nothing more."
A boy in the front of the crowd - the son of a wvaksa - threw a handful of snow and frozen dirt at Nute's face. "Roast him! I want to see his skin peel off. Let me build the fire." The boy was dragged off by his father. Pataka saw the madman who had popped out his tooth - now he was dressed in the fine clothing Pataka had given him, and was talking to some young men, handing out bits of gold.
The torturer said: "We know you have told stories, peddler. What you have said? But I think you need to warm yourself some more." And he pushed the fire back under Nute's bottom, and added a few small sticks to it.
"Are you with Queen Ishan?" someone in the crowd shouted. "Have you come to kill us all?"
Nute strained, but he was worn out; he could no longer arch his back, no longer get his bottom away from the fire. He shouted: "Ishan! Yes! I am with Queen Ishan! Bronze makers: you know my word is good. Queen Ishan has come with many warriors. Help her, and be rewarded. The High King has killed Nakien - best of bards! Ishan told me of the Kohiyossa. What you all saw at midsummer - Queen Ishan knows to be true. The God we ..."
The torturer drew his dagger, and jabbed the tip into Nute's ballsack. Nute stopped talking. There was a sound - a thwump - and then a thump and the clatter of the dagger on the mudbrick bench. The torturer was on the ground with an arrow in his head. Everyone turned. A girl - a thin girl, naked except for a cloak that draped down her back, was clinging with her heels to the protruding beams of a house, just below the thatch. She had an arrow in her drawn bow, a quiver on her hip. She shot, and everyone turned to see where the arrow would go, and heard another thud of a falling body - a warrior, with his hand on the fledging of an arrow, the head still in his quiver. When they turned to look at the girl again, she had already drawn.
The captain of the High King's warriors shouted: "When she shoots again, everyone grab an arrow and shoot her!" The villagers began to run away, but Pataka moved closer to the tortured men. His friend Nute was still straining. He could no longer arch his back, but he could swing a bit from side to side, so only one buttock at a time was in the flames. The ropes cut into his wrists. As the villagers cleared away, Pataka saw the mad peddler - he was standing under the girl. And he also held a drawn bow. Beside him were three men of the village, holding javelins and daggers. The mad peddler shouted "I am Prince Aru - I am going to kill the High King! I am here with my warriors. Praise to the God we do not name! Long life to the Kohiyossa!"
Pataka moved closer to Nute, grabbed the clay hearth, and pulled it out from under the peddler's bottom. It burned his hand, and he yelped. The captain of the King's warriors turned to look. The girl dropped to the ground, and took off, with the mad peddler and his three followers close behind. The warriors followed, shooting. Pataka picked up the torturer's dagger, and cut the ropes on Nute's ankles, and the other man's. With the tip of the dagger he could just reach the ropes around Nute's wrists. It took a while to saw through the ropes. Then he had to use Nute's body as a block, and stand on it, to reach the wrists of the other man. When he had cut them both down they just lay on the ground, curled up, unable to stand or even to straighten their bodies. A few men and women of the village had not run away, and they stood watching, but no one helped. They watched dumbly as the peddler who was the source of their wealth, moaned and twitched on the frozen ground.
But then a plump, cheerful body came out of the house. It was Szhasthar, the old headman's simpleton daughter. She carried Nute's arms, and Pataka took his feet, and they carried the screaming peddler into the house, and then the other man. The simple woman brought blankets, and rugs, and hot soup with wine in it; they propped the men up against posts, in a kneeling position, wrapped them in blankets, and Szhasthar fed them soup. Pataka massaged Nute's feet and hands. He did not know what to do about the wound to Nute's balls. The bleeding had stopped already, but the penis hung crookedly, as if the dagger had severed it at the root, deep inside the body. Szhasthar took the other man's penis in her mouth, like a doting aunt relieving the pain for a whipped boy. Pataka had done that for Tlossos - just once, when Tlossos was a boy and Pataka was first a slave. He'd been whipped for it - and the boy had been whipped too - whipped again on his bruised bottom for letting a slave dog's mouth touch his penis. But Tlossos had never forgotten it. He wanted Pataka to do it for his own boy, but Idrossos, though he wept uncontrollaby from a whipping, had always refused any comfort.
When the King's warriors had dealt with the girl, they would come looking for their captives. If Pataka wanted to save Nute, he had to find a way to carry him to a hiding place. Leaving his friend and the stranger with the simpleton, Pataka took a bow and quiver from pegs by the door, and ran out into the village. A miner asked him if he knew what was happening. Pataka told him: "Queen Ishan has attacked the village. She will kill everyone on the High King's side!" Pataka had not believed the madman, but now Nute had said so too. Many, perhaps most, of the villagers had believed that the rescued red-haired boy, was the Rescued One - the Kohiyossa. But only a few had helped Tlossos - and those were dead. The High Queen had done the tortures herself - and many had brought lying tales, to save themselves. Pataka did not have anyone to trust - no one who would even listen. And he would need help, to move Nute and the other man to some hiding place. He had the gold and amethyst beads. But the beads might be taken, and no help given. Only the mad peddler could help, if he was not already dead.
In the middle of the village, the fires of the Gathering feast were still burning, but the cooks had fled, and the meat was being roasted without being turned. But there were people standing about. A lot of farmers, come in from their lonely homesteads for the Gathering. Honest folk - not touched by the lying and betrayal that soaked through the village. But they had seen Nute tortured, and they would be loyal to the High King - they wouldn't help Pataka hide Nute.
"Queen Ishan has attacked the village!" Pataka shouted. "From the west. Everyone should come! Defend the village!" The farmers ran - ran east, as Pataka had thought they would. Pataka went in the direction he had seen the mad peddler run. He found the madman, the girl, and three village men trapped on the roof of a house, with the High King's warriors all around them. The madman, and one other man, were wounded. Pataka shot the captain of the High King's warriors through the back of the head, and ran away.
A milling crowd of confused, frightened men had gathered in the center of the village. Pataka, running with his bow, smashed into them, picked himself up, and ran back the way he had come. They chased him. There were shouts about Queen Ishan - but no one knew where she was. Pataka, waving his bow and shouting "Queen Ishan, Queen Ishan," with the crowd at his heels, ran into the space where the High King's warriors were, and the warriors shot him dead, and shot at the crowd of villagers behind him, as well. Many of the villagers had their bows, and they shot back. Then the warriors, leaderless but well trained, made an orderly retreat out of the village. The crowd of villagers ran after them.
The big man was badly hurt, and Dafnya needed his men. He stared at her, not denying her lie that she was his daughter. Perhaps he understood what she intended to do, or perhaps he was just too wounded to speak - in any case he said nothng. She said: "Men, we will have to leave the wounded. Give them your cloaks. Be brave, Father, help will come soon." She didn't look much like a princess - didn't look like a daughter of this man, who was obviously a prince or a wvaksa from his clothes. But without a glance behind her, as if she expected to be obeyed withoug question, she swarmed down the side of the house. All three men followed, even the one with an arrow in his shoulder. She said: "Good man, Stranik."
The center of the village was crowded, when Dafnya strode in, followed by the three men. She stood on the bench in front of the headman's house, and the three men placed themselves around her. She shouted to the crowd:
"Bronze makers! Queen Ishan is outside the village, preparing an attack. Princess Kahela, Prince Aru's wife, will enter this village from the other side, to defend you. The village is rising. The High King's warriors have been driven out. But they are fighting back, and Queen Ishan is not here yet. Men of this village are fighting. We must go help them."The villagers looked at each other. Dafnya strode through the crowd, with the three men marching smartly behind her. Some villagers followed, some ways behind, as she walked through the village. They were not joining her - just curious. When the procession - Dafnya, her three followers, and the straggle of villagers reached the outskirts of the village, thet found the High King's warriors had reformed, making a solid mass of men, bristling with spears, formed up on a hillside outside of the village. The mob of villagers, who had run after the soldiers as the fled the village, with no leader and no plan, now found themselves charged by a phalanx of well-trained men, and they turned and scattered and ran, running headlong into the crowd that followed Dafnya. There was confusion - no one knew what was happening. The warrior's arrows rained down on the villagers.
"After them - or they will charge again," Dafnya shouted, and ran after the retreating warriors. But no one followed. Seeing a little slip of a naked girl, with a bow much too big for her, come running at them, did not cause the High King's warriors to scatter, but only to laugh - and the villagers gaped too, to see a girl run headlong into death. But Dafnya, while still running, jumped and twisted, bent double, curled into a ball, and then untwisted with a violent jerk that bent the huge bow, drawing and releasing without a pause. The shot did no damage - a warrior caught the arrow on his shield - but still, it was a fine shot at a range a strong man could hardly have bettered. Dafnya turned and ran back to the villagers, as of course she had to do, since they hadn't followed her, and the King's warriors were shooting at her. The villagers cheered her as she came back.
"They will charge," she shouted. Then she jumped up to stand on one of her men's shoulders. "They will charge," she repeated. "Scatter. Some that way, some this. We have to be around them! Those without bows or shields, take off your cloaks. Roll them up and use them as shields. Guard yourself and guard the archer next to you! Hurry, here they come!" Dafnya shot while still on the man's shoulders, then jumped down and ran uphill. The High King's warriors ran right through the villagers, who parted and let them through. The warriors did not pause to be shot at from two sides, but kept running, toward the village. The leader shouted an order, and the warriors began a turn - having divided the enemy in two, they planned to deal with the two groups one at a time.
A few villagers, and some of the farmers who had come in for the Gathering of Cattle, had come out to see what was going on. When the villagers who were fighting split apart, and the High King's warriors ran through the middle, they found more villagers in front of them, and they shot at them. The watching villagers did not shoot back, but they scattered, and the King's warriors found themselves completely surrounded by a huge number of men and women, some shooting at them and some not. Their captain had been killed - their javelin master was in charge now, and they were not familiar with him. When he seemed not to know what to do, the warriors scattered, running in all directions, slaughtering all who got in their way with their spears.
Dafnya was with the largest group of villagers. This crazy girl who shot like a hero, who knew what to do - somehow they thought she would keep them alive. "Stand! she shouted. Don't run! Not too close together! Dodge the points! Get close and grab the shafts!" And then the High King's spearmen were on them, but scattered and spread out, not charging in a mass - and one by one they were pulled to the ground and sliced to ribbons, by the villagers who surrounded them.
But in other parts of the field the High King's warriors had better luck. The villagers who had not wanted to fight turned to run; they ran into each other, pushed, tripped - and the King's spearmen killed scores of unresisting villagers - men and women who had not even drawn their daggers to resist, not expecting the King's soldiers to be their enemies. And for those who fought back, the warriors' better training made the difference - the villagers were more numerous, but without a commander's voice they fought one to one, and not many villagers won dagger fights with warriors. It wasn't long before the King's warriors held the ground. Most of the villagers had gotten away - but still, there were a lot of bodies on the ground.
The ground the King's warriors held was a barley field. In front of them was the village hill, the gentle slope planted in peas and strawberries, with the houses of the villagers like a crown around the hilltop. There was no village wall - the outlying houses straggled down the hill - and between those houses the villagers waited. They had run from the warriors once. But they would not be surprised and confused any more. Behind the King's warriors, on the other side of a bit of swampy ground, planted with basket reeds, there was another slope, the foothill of a snow-covered mountain. This steeper slope was terraced, and now in fallow, waiting for the fall ploughing. On the terraces stood a compact mass of villagers, now armed with spears. In front of them was the naked girl who could bend a hero's bow. In the earlier fighting, the villagers had not had spears; those were the King's spears the villagers now carried. The King's warriors looked at each other, and counted. The men on the barley field had slaughtered at will, the blood lust pounding in their temples, killing men who could barely fight back - but now they realized that half their force was missing - and the villagers had their spears. The sun now setting in the west, had risen that morning on many of their companions, who would never see another.
The men on the barley field did not know where their leader was, the javelin master. An old veteran, the closest they had to a leader now, looked at the villagers on two sides. He looked behing at the spear-carrying villagers, led by the naked girl, and he looked up at the houses on the brow of the hill, where lines of bowmen were waiting - alert and organized, under someone's command. The old veteran did the only thing he could do; he led his men in the only direction that was open, sideways into the scattered trees, up the valley, toward the mountains. A freezing night was starting, the warriors did not have their packs, a storm was coming, and the valley they had entered, went nowhere. A rampart of snowy mountains could be seen in the fading sunlight - mountains surrounding the valley, making it a trap.
"March into the village" Dafnya ordered. She marched with her two men - Stranik had been killed - and the villagers marched after her.
Kahela was exhausted from running up the road,
and she could she not keep up as they ran back down.
Gur had not wanted to risk attacking the village, and he didn't
why Kahela thought they could win. She had come running
back from spying out the village, without Dafnya, shouting that they
must attack at once. Something about a rising against the High
King. But Gur knew something about the difference between trained
warriors and angry villagers, and in any case it did not sound like
much of a rising.
But he had obeyed her. His warriors - so many of them were just
boys. They could shoot
well enough, but they were hopeless at obeying orders. They
will be slaughtered in this battle, he thought.
The boys and
young women had been playing, when Kahela had come running in.
Holding their own Gathering of Cattle, they said. They played
pipes and drums in the mountain style, and held races and wrestling
The weaver boys solemnly pretended to give each other the
Gur's cousin Hyaramon danced around the circle, and ran the
"I've run between the fires!" he shouted. He ran towards a
naked woman. "I'll fuck you!" "I
was naked for wrestling, I wasn't
dancing," the woman answered "And anyway it's
midsummer. And you can't catch me." But
laughed as she ran away, looking over her shoulder, and she didn't run very fast. And
then suddenly, all the women were naked, and all the boys were running
after them. Gur ran about, with a few older women, using
belts as whips, trying to stop young women who wanted to play at being
fucked at Midsummer, from being actually fucked on the day of Gathering
And everyone laughed and laughed. It was this place - there
was Frenzy here. He ... The One who had danced ...
them all. The boys laughed as they were
And Gur laughed most of all. Since his balls had been burnt
off, he felt lust all the time. Watching boys fuck women
their breasts, between their thighs, between their buttocks, was
but also satisfying. Gur thought this pleasure was a gift
the God. Caught up in Frenzy, he licked and suckled on a
cunt, and as she scratched his paps he felt a peak of pleasure that he
never expected to feel again. Truly only the God could give a peak of pleasure to a burned-balls man. He was
than he had been since before the torture, and he laughed with joy,
when he caught a boy planting seed in a tattooed cunt.
Randy boys and laughing women. And in no time -
in the time from the thought to the action - in less than a heartbeat -
they were warriors. When Kahela had run, shouting
onto the sacred ground. These laughing, beautiful, naked
Gur would lead them into a hail of arrows, into spear-play and
They all ran together, down the sacred road, from the ground where the God had danced, to the village of the bronze makers. As they approached, Gur formed them up for an attack. He had been a warrior as a young man, but had never seen a battle. What he remembered from his training as a spearman, was not much use now. It was hard to plan a battle with no idea where the enemy was. Gur led his warriors up a slope, and captured some outlying houses, which were empty, except for a boy who was cooking his supper. "Good appetite, warriors," the boy said. "I'm afraid I don't have enough." Gur continued on into the village, and the boy took his pot off the fire, and came with his new friends. They marched into the middle of the village, sharing out the boy's stew, a spoonful each. Kahela Queen caught up with them, still panting. Villagers came and greeted them.
A gray-haired woman spoke: "Honor, warriors of Ishan; health and happiness to the Queen. The favor of the Lord of Storms be yours. The hero, Prince Aru, fought for us, and helped to drive out the High Queen's warriors. We give him honor. But he has died of his wounds."
Kahela thought, this can't be happening! Aru can't be here. Can't be here alone. But a chill gripped her, and she shrieked. She too had come into this village as a spy. Aru must have done the same - chosen himself as his own spy. It was exactly what he would have done. Kahela didn't want to be Queen, and Aru hadn't wanted to be High King. To be prince, and when his mother died (he had given a bronze horse, more than he could afford, to the Lord of Oaths, as a prayer for her long life) to be honored as the chosen king of his little kingdom - that was the life Aru had wanted. And to have a son - Kahela's son - to be king after him. And Kahela and Erdiosh had taken it away from him. And so he had gone as a spy. If he must be High King, Aru would need to win it - not to have it given to him by others who fought in his name.
"Our hearts are stone-like for your loss, Princess." And the bronze makers bowed to her, selecting her from among the warriors by her obvious grief. Brave, loyal, Aru. A fool, nearly. But he had needed her, in a way Huwh never did. Would she ever love a man this strongly, while he was still alive? The gray-haired woman led Kahela into a house where a dead man was curled up, naked on his cloak, with two arrows in him and a mangled right arm. His penis had been burned, and there were burns on his thighs. The blood had been washed away. His weapons were beside him, and the honor cup as it would be in his grave. Kahela had never seen him before. "It is not Aru!"
Gur's shepherds filled the space in the middle of the village. The great fires had burned low; the roasting sheep were burned to char on one side, raw meat on the other. But the boys plunged their daggers in, and found some meat they could eat. And they revived the fires, and began to roast the raw mutton, on skewers. A few villagers came out of their houses. These shepherd boys, stealing mutton, were not very frightening. There were pots of stew, burned on the bottom, and cold, and the villagers put them back on the fire. A man brought out a pot of mead.
A young village man stood on a stone:
"Warriors of Queen Ishan! My father, Laiohtegh, was killed by the High Queen - tortured and killed. Mudan daughter of Koradan brought the tale - her lies killed him. Mudan is your enemy as well as mine, warriors of Ishan. Let me have my vengeance on her!"A woman spoke: "Hold! They made Mudan watch as they tortured her father. And Mudan only told them what everyone knows, Laiohtegh - . everybody knows you think the baby is the Kohiyossa - and your dad did too!"
The woman and the son of Laiohtegh drew their daggers, and began to circle, looking for an opening. Other villagers began to shout - all at once.
Young Hyaramon looked around for someone to tell him what to do. Conquering a village was not at all what he had expected. But there were no leaders. The Queen and Gur had gone off somewhere. The arrow master - and she was just a girl, anyway - hadn't been seen. The javelin master - just a baby, even if he did have his tattoo - was roasting mutton, not paying any attention. And why were these villagers calling them the warriors of Queen Ishan?
Then four things happened, all at the same time. An ugly, lanky man, with very short hair, staggered out of a big house, wrapped in a blanket. Princess Kahela and Captain Gur came back. The sun set. And a mass of villagers, carrying heavy spears, marched into the village center, led by Dafnya, his own arrow master. Kahela's warriors stood up. The villagers were all around them - they had been sharing mead and charred mutton together - and now Gur's boys were surrounded by villagers with drawn weapons. It was a trap. Hyaramon drew his dagger, and raised his shield, as his father had taught him. So this was the day. He had thought about this day often; his first battle. He had been training for it, ever since his Little Penises day. He had thought about the killing he would have to do as a man. Were these the ones? These women? One woman had been sharing her soup with him, passing the spoon back and forth. A spoon for you, a spoon for me - the way his big sister used to do. Was she the one, his first kill? Kill her so she doesn't kill me? This good dagger in my hand - stick it into her belly? He looked at his dagger, and at her belly. Just stick it in? Just like that? Hyaramon pulled back his hand for the blow. There was a spot on her tunic, over her belly button. Spilled soup. Hyaramon had spilled it there himself, and she had laughed, and slapped him for spilling on her clean dress, and he had licked it off, his cock rising, but too shy to kiss her. That's the spot, he thought, - stab her in the belly. If only she would look at me!. But the woman wasn't looking at him, she wasn't afraid of him. She wasn't acting like someone who had just sprung a clever trap. She was looking at the ugly mouse-haired man. Some villagers ran into the house the ugly man had come out of, and came back helping another man to walk. Hyaramon knew him, it was Nute, the peddler. Everyone knew Nute.
"Vengeance for Laiohtegh," a man shouted, and he waded into the fight, waving his dagger about, and not using his shield properly. The son of Laiohtegh turned - and was cut by the woman Mudan. His ear hung loose, half cut off; blood gushed out. Others joined in the fight on both sides. Some of the shepherd boys were fencing against the villagers, with daggers and shields. Now their was real fighting, Hyaramon tried again to stick his dagger into the woman who had given him soup, but still he could not do it. He lowered his shield - unable to kill, as he had been trained to do all his life, he felt frozen, as if he was dead already, and if this woman wanted to kill him, he was ready to die. But she was just looking around, still not looking at him. A villager, one of those who had marched in, lowered his spear to charge. It looked as if Gur's shepherds would be attacked from both sides. More daggers were pulled out, and arrows nocked in bows. Gur began to bellow orders, telling his warriors to pull back, to form up. Someone shot an arrow. Dagger blows were knocked aside with shields, as the fencing began.
Hyaramon saw Dafnya, his arrow master, on the other side of the fires. She had climbed on someone's shoulders, and was shouting orders. But he couldn't hear above the noise. Why was she on the side of these villagers? The villagers were shouting at each other, shouting of lies and betrayals. Gur managed to pull his boys back to one side of the fires, and the son of Laiohtegh, who was now giving orders, gathered some of his followers on the same side. Dafnya had managed some sort of order on the other side - and the defenders of Mudan gathered there, rallying to her spearmen. But some villagers were trapped on the wrong side of the fires, and there was some desperate fighting, and they had to run through the cooking fires to safety. It seemed there would be a battle - Gur's boys and half the villagers on one side, and half the villagers, led by Dafnya, on the other side. They faced each other across the fires. The shouting grew less, and Hyaramon could hear that Dafnya was yelling to the villagers not to fight; Kahela Queen was yelling to her warriors not to fight. But many were fighting, on both sides. There was no moon, only the fading sunset and the flickering fires. No one knew who was a friend, or who might be an enemy.
"Form lines!" Gur bellowed. "Spears to the front - archers and slings behind. Villagers - fight for us! That girl - she's on our side. Don't be against us - you don't have a chance."
There was a little pause in the shouting, as if everyone had to draw breath at the same time. And in that little breath of quiet, there was a crash, and a volcano of sparks climbed into the dark night air. Everyone looked. Peddler Nute, and his ugly companion, had tried to climb a cooking spit, and it had broken under them. They had fallen into the fire.
Fighters cautiously stepped back, keeping their shields raised, but pulling their dagger hands in. Drawn bows were lowered, and spearpoints raised, as men dragged the peddler and the other man from the fire. Nute raised himself to his feet. He was naked. A few drops of freezing rain fell. Nute shouted:
"Bronze makers! I have never cheated you! Hear me! If any are to be punished, bards will judge them. Do not fight! Vengeance has been claimed - vengeance for the death of Laiohtegh. A good man; I knew him well. I will hear this case, if both sides agree. Do not fight. Do not fight tonight - beware the anger of the Wvaksa of Storms! His Stallions of the Sun will run you down, followers of Laiohtegh, if you fight on His holy night. You offend the Gods, if you draw the blood of vengeance before the words of your enemy have been heard."Distant thunder rumbled in the mountain valleys, and dark clouds blotted out the stars across half the sky. Two cooks, using poles, lifted a huge steaming pot of soup off the fire, oblivious to the battle that hung in the balance. The son of Laiohtegh made his way to the space around the fires.
"For my part, I forgive Mudan, and would clasp the shoulder of friendship with her, and take the kiss."
Mudan gave him the kiss of friendship, a bit coldly. He hugged and kissed her like a long lost sister, getting blood from his ear all over her cloak. She spoke:
"Peace and joy to all! I do not ask Nute for judgment. For the house of Koradan, we forgive without blood-money all those, whose words may have led to my Father's death. All except Kafassios. Against him I will speak - and claim vengeance before any judge. And when his lying words have been heard, with the Mares of the Lady beside me I will trample him down - I pledge my life to it!""Kafassios is dead."
It was Szhasthar. The villagers didn't know if she was talking sense, or if this was part of her madness. But she had a long dagger in her hand. Her father's masterpiece, the longest dagger ever made; as long as a forearm, yet strong and sharp as chipped Doleinth flint. But it did not shine in the flickering firelight - it was covered with a sticky liquid. In the dim light of the fires, the liquid looked black.
The storm had borne down on the village. Strong gusts of wind lifted snow from the mountain and carried little flurries down to the valley below. Kahela tried to get the villagers to go to bed - but no one would leave the fires, except to come back carrying more wood. In the debate, two sides had formed, the same sides that had fought and spilled blood at sunset - Mudan and Laiotegh. For all the blood that had flowed, no one had been killed, no eyes put out. So they argued with good will - and got nowhere.
Young Laiohtegh supported the house of Tlossos.
Mudan objected, in her booming voice: "But Tlossos is dead, and his son Idrossos is only a boy - he cannot be headman. Why waste our time with foolishness?
Exhausted from fighting, and his voice almost gone, Laiotegh croaked: "A boy can be headman; there is no law against it, for all you say, Mudan. His mother Frah is head of the house of Tlossos, and can be regent for her son."
"But Frah is not likely to be alive," Mudan protested.
"Well, then I could be regent for him; I will foster him."
"You want to be the orphan boy's foster father, not for his sake, but just so you can act as headman, Liaotegh. A bard would never allow that. And anyway he is not in your clan."
"But Frah is. She's my cousin. Was my cousin."
"So what? The boy's foster father should be - let's see ... his ..." Mudan worked out the family tree on her fingers - "his father's father's nephew's boy. No, his younger boy, not his oldest - what's his name? Idian?"
"His name is Idarian son of Kotarian, Mudan, but he is not yet tattooed."
"Well, then ..."
Liaotegh climbed on the bench of the headman's house. "Someone find Idarian - tell him he's going to have a sore penis tonight. And tell him he's the richest man in the village. Call him Wvaksa Idarian - he will guard the doorposts of the house of Tlossos and have wealth beyond dreams - Oh, and by the way, tell him he's regent headman of the village. And if that doesn't kill him, you can tell him he's a daddy."
Mudan said, "No, I don't want Idarian as regent. We know nothing of Queen Ishan, and I have had enough of Queens. We must have a strong headman, to defend the village against our new Queen."
"You want to be headwoman yourself - don't you Mudan? And you betrayed my father! You will never be headwoman!"
Kahela was finding that conquering a village was not what she had expected it to be. She had her armed warriors about her - they had marched into this village and taken it. She was the rebel Princess. And the villagers wouldn't even listen to anything she said. No one spoke words of honor to her. By shouting as loud as she could, she could make herself heard, but the villagers didn't stop wrangling even for a moment to listen to her.
She shouted - "Queen Ishan has been wounded. It is Prince Aru who has led a host into this kingdom. I am his wife."
"But Prince Aru is dead."
"No, that man was not Aru."
"But his cloak - and the gold!"
A shy little voice said "He saved me." And every villager was quiet. The wind had stilled, and the only sound was the fire. A little snow had begun to fall. Dafnya stood up, and the villagers made signs with their hands, that everyone should be quiet and listen. She was now wearing a thick yellow woolen cloak on top of her own, a man's cloak that draped to the ground. A wvaksa's cloak, dark dyed with saffron, with beads of lapis lazuli set into the embroidery around the collar.
"I came into this village to spy," she said. "I think he did too, the man who was killed. He could have slipped away, but he was trying to save me. And so he called himself 'Prince Aru,' as a trick, and started a battle with the King's warriors. He died saving me."
Kahela said: "The real Aru is alive, and will claim the Kingship by victory. We will surely win. We hold already the two largest villages in this kingdom; the village of Nohas, and now this one."
Mudan asked: "So Aru will be our new High King, and his mother will give tribute for her kingdom?"
Kahela said: "No, this kingdom will choose its own king - who will give tribute to Ishan in her own kingdom."
"I think it will be the conqueror, who will tell us who to choose." came a boy's voice from the other side of the fire.
Mudan said: "Idarian is right. So tell us, - Oh, and health and safety to you, Your Great Royal Queenyness - tell us who we are to choose as our king?"
"You will choose," Kahela insisted, "in council. I will have a voice - for I am of this kingdom; I am from the village of the law-singer - but Aru will not force a king on us."
Gur spoke: "The weaver village of Nohas has chosen Tektu son of Nohas as our headman, and will stand by him for king in the council. He is a hero for his weapon, he is a hero's son, and victorious in battle; wise and just, and with many friends. He was the first of the warriors of the Kohiyossa. But we will hear how the bronze makers stand, and we will abide by the voice of the council."
Mudan said: "The house of Nohas is well known to us. We will meet this Tektu."
Idarian said: "But this village will stand by Idrossos of the house of Tlossos, my foster son."
Liaotegh and one or two others shouted - "The house of Tlossos!"
Mudan said: "You can't be whipped by your mommy any more, Idarian-boykin - but that won't stop me from pulling your cloth down. You may be a doorpost-guarder, but the village council can still have you whipped. You will not be regent headman, you're just a boy - and you most certainly will not be regent king! You will be whipped right now for claiming such a thing. Let he who says other, speak."
Kahela said: "Well, Tektu is also rather ... young."
one spoke in his defense, and Idarian gulped and rubbed his
bottom. So he'd be whipped in front of
a whipping with a leather pig-whip. People said that really hurt
- he had watched his cousin Idrossos get one once, but he'd never felt the lash on his bottom himself.
Mudan was having him whipped to put him in his place. Her house, - the
of Koradan - would be strong again now, now that the High King's warriors
gone. But he himself, guarding the doorposts of the
of Tlossos, would be a wvaksa too. He would be a power on
the council himself, her equal, if only he could keep
he cried like a baby when she whipped him, and begged for her to stop -
and he would beg, and scream, and cry - well, no one would respect him after that.
They would find out he was just a little boy, not a wvaksa who could
to the council. And after the whipping, the tattoo.
The village would watch that too, to see if the
new wvaksa had courage. Would he ask for many lines or
Many - horrible pain - or few - marked for life that he was afraid of
Idarian didn't feel like a hero. Why did he have to
get the whipping and the tattoo on the same night? That was
too much to expect him to bear.
But the whipping and the tattooing were still to come - for now he wasn't ready to be quiet. He spoke in a loud bold voice, playing the part of a wvaksa in the council, even if he didn't feel like one. "If we choose this Tektu - who is no older than me, I guess, - as king, how can he give tribute to Ishan? It has always been her kingdom that has given tribute. It has always been our kingdom whose king was called high king."
The villagers looked at Idarian with respect. Kahela sputtered: "but it is Aru who is conquering - driving out the evil High Queen."
"That did not happen here, Princess. We drove out the King's warriors ourselves. I helped. And it was ..." and he turned and looked at Dafnya. She had slipped the man's cloak to her back, standing by the fire, and her own skimpy cloak did not close across the front. There was a handsbreadth of bare skin, lit by the firelight. Idarian's eyes dropped from the small high breasts to her not-yet-tattooed crotch. He looked down at his own not-yet-tattooed penis. She saw where he was looking and blushed so darkly it could be seen in the firelight, and she covered her face with her arms - which slipped her own cloak to her back. She could not recall that anyone had ever looked at her, until that day when Kahela had stolen her, accidentaly, along with her master's sheep.
"What is your name?" Idarian asked, across the council fire, still speaking in his wvaksa's voice.
Dafnya's voice was so strangled with shyness that he couldn't understand her. She was trying to say that she did not have a name - she was just called sheep-girl or stupid little bitch. Dafnya had been the name of the lead ewe of her flock. When Kahela - terrifying woman - had questioned her, she hadn't understood the question, and had said "Dafnya" when asked for a name..
"Her name is Dafnya," Kahela supplied. "A foundling with no foster parents. A shepherdess. She kept off wolves with a bow and arrows. A man's bow. I made her my arrow master."
Mudan said: "Honor and happiness, Dafnya teacher of weapon skill. Hero. You, and no other, rescued this village. You won the battle of the barley field, and you stopped us from killing each other. I will be foster mother to you, or choose whom you will, if you wish to live here. Or if you wish to depart, you will have gifts - bronzework of the highest value - as much as you can carry. And if you stay, you will be headwoman. Let he who says other, speak!"
Dafnya fell to the ground in a faint. Idarian decided it was a good time to slip away, if he hoped to avoid the whipping, and he went off to find the tattoo artist. Maybe Dafnya wanted her woman's tattoos tonight - it was the dark of the moon. Maybe they could hold each other's hands. Idarian decided he wanted the most intricate and painful tattoo that the village had ever seen.
"Idarian is right - this kingdom has never paid tribute to Ishan's kingdom. This kingdom is large, and strong, or it will be; her kingdom is small and weak and poor. Aru can have himself chosen our king - if he has the victory. Then he will be High King. But if our king is Tektu, and Aru is king of his little kingdom, then it will be Tektu who is High King, and not Aru. The large kingdom does not pay tribute to the small. That is what I think. We need to ask a white bard."
Kahela said, "There are no white bards any more, Mudan daughter of Koradan. And the law-singer has been killed, we think. The Gathering of Teachers of the Law, at my own village, has been scattered to the winds."
"The Law-Singer! Sugga! Killed!" It was a farmer, screaming in desperate grief. The word passed from mouth to mouth. The farmer opened his massive pack, and tossed a handful of barley into the fire. His wife tossed in a bit more. "She is from the Law-Singer's village," the farmer said, pointing to Kahela. They knelt and spoke words of honor. Others came up to offer sacrifice, and the farmer gave grain to those who had nothing in hand. The fire was nearly smothered, and they had to move the sacrifice to the cooking fires in the middle of the village, where the cooks were still looking for edible bits of charred mutton. Everyone knelt before Kahela, who was pointed out and honored as the Law-Singer's helper. No one mentioned that she was also the rebel Princess. A crowd grew, waiting with bits of cheese, or bread, or grain, or small articles of wood or baskets. But the farmer told them to wait. He climbed up on the rock where the son of Laiotegh had spoken (a fat man, he needed to be helped up), and made a speech:
"Bronze makers! Health and prosperity! Those who come for the Gathering - joy in your sons and grandsons, the best gifts of the Wvaksa of the Storm. Prince Aru has brought a host against the High Queen - the High Queen who has killed the Law Singer. I give to Prince Aru my oxen, my pigs, all I have. My grain in the village grange and my cart to carry it - and my span of oxen. I trust to others - to the generosity commanded by the Wvaksa of the Storm - for my life until the next harvest. I hold back only my seed-grain. I ask the Law-Singer for fairness."And then the storm, which had been gathering, broke. Thunder and gusts of wind, to knock a man off his feet. A house was struck by lightning. Hailstones fell like seed sown on a ploughed field. Everyone scattered and ran into the houses.
Kahela ran into the big house, the headman's house. The peddler Nute was there, with his companion, and the madwoman with her long bloody dagger. She was trying to wake her brother whom she had killed. The house was a blaze of lamps, and the fire was high. Idarian was there, and Dafnya, along with a man with a needle, and a drummer. Bronze-makers and farmers pushed into the house behind Kahela, until it was jam-packed, and more who came were not let in, but had to run through the storm to a less crowded house. Idarian and Dafnya were at one end of the house, holding hands. The artist was about to start on Idarian's penis, and the boy was not tied, as if the artist thought he could stand still. The crowd that had fled the storm was excited to watch, and the ones in front sat so others could see. The artist gave Idarian a skin, and the boy drank his last drink while still a boy, holding the skin with one hand; Dafnya held the other. White drops drizzled down his chin. So it was Hema, or milk mead - or some poppy concoction of the artist's. The drummer began; a quick, complicated rhythm, not very loud. The artist pricked a line, his hand like a dancer obeying the drum. Idarian asked Dafnya for a kiss.
This felt like a marriage - or more sacred even than a marriage. Sacred as when a village gathers to watch a man and woman fuck for the blessing of the Lady of the Wombs. Sacred as a Queen-making. But there was nothing of the Lady tonight - they gathered to observe the Sky-Father's law of tatoo, and the Horses of the Storm-God's Blast were galloping past. As each row of jabs went into Idarian's penis, the pain, and the courage he drew from the touch of Dafnya's lips, could be felt by everyone - everyone in the room but the dead man, and the mad woman. Idarian was caught up in the feelings of the watching villagers - he seemed to feel no fear, although it clearly was a lot of pain. The artist, each time he stopped for a moment to give Idarian a rest, moved out of the way, so that the watchers could see the progress. But nothing could be seen of the pattern, only blood, black soot, and a swollen penis. The house was so packed that no one could move, so people passed small sacrifices from hand to hand, so they could be tossed into the fire. Idarian opened his mouth to scream, but did not make a sound. Whispered prayers to Sugga could be heard - prayers for the return of the bards, prayers for fairness, prayers for the peaceful settling of village quarrels. The heat in the house was almost unbearable; the lamps blazed and the Fire roared, fed by endless sacrifice. Outside, the rain froze as it fell, and turned the hailstones into a layer of crumbly ice.
Then the artist left the penis, with the work around the foreskin still not done, and drew the tattoo pattern around Dafnya's cunt. This was outrageous - girls' tattoos were sacred to the Lady. Girls were never tattooed by men. Girls were tattooed in secret, in the dark, in hidden sanctuaries deep in the forest, where priestesses conducted rituals in the dark of the moon, rituals which were never mentioned at any other time or place. But this artist had found the rituals out. He made Idarian do, what the secret priestesses had done when Kahela was tattooed - lick the cunt, and rub it and caress it with nose and teeth and hands. Idarian's penis swelled hard, and it was agony for him. He did not moan, but tears formed. But the artist would not let him stop. The drummer had modulated his rhythm, and there was now a slow loud beat, with a light tatter-tatter dancing around it. The slow beat made Kahela think of the crushing of green copper ore.
The artist began Dafnya's tattoo at the most painful spot, inside the lips - a hidden part of the traditional design. Idarian held the lips apart. Then the artist had Dafnya take the tip of Idarian's penis in her mouth, and run her tongue under the foreskin, while the lips of her cunt were cut and black charcoal forced inside. Idarian's seed did not remain in him long. He was now weeping heavily, and groaning; but he was fearless. Dafnya, in even greater pain, was as serene as a carved Goddess.
Kahela felt the fear of the Lady's vengeance between her shoulder blades - like the prick of a dagger . She writhed and shrugged, as if there were an actual dagger stuck in her back, that she could shake off. The blast of the wind, the hail driven against mud walls and wooden windows, was like a shield - the Horses of the Blast would protect them, for now, from the Lady's anger. It was the Wvaksa of the Storm, undoubtedly, who had put this wicked lust into Idarian's balls, so that He could take His pleasure. The Storm-God had used Idarian's penis, taking over the boy's body at the peak so the god could feel the pleasure, and it was surely the Storm-God's seed that Dafnya was licking off her chin. The Storm-God had added another to the countless mortal woman He had taken, paying his Wife back for the one time She had yielded to a mortal, to Rhonan - a betrayal the Storm-God could not neither forget nor forgive. But the Lady of Wombs would seek vengeance on her Husband in turn, and any sort of harm might come to anyone who got in the way. The battle of the Gods was coming. The Lady would be on the side of her grandson, the Kohiyossa - Kahela was sure of that. But which side would her Husband choose? Would the God of the Storm fight for the Sky-Father, or against him?
Then the artist had Dafnya lick and nuzzle Idarian's ear, while she held his penis, and held the foreskin back so it could be jabbed on the inside, as the design was continued in that hidden place. Thunder came in great, house-shaking booms, and the drummer's rhythms danced and played with the sound, making the Wvaksa of the Storm into a red bard. Then the artist made two small burns - dog's eyes - on the head of the penis, where the scars would be covered by the foreskin. And that was it - provided it healed well. There was a bit more to do on Dafnya's tattoo. Idarian suckled Dafnya's teats, while the artist pricked around her shit-eye. Dafnya asked for burns, since Idarian had gotten them, but the artist refused, as they were not part of the woman's traditional pattern. Dafnya's tattoo was, as far as Kahela could tell, just like her own, and just like every other woman's tattoo, in all the lands of the green Earth. A bit more elegant than some, perhaps - priestesses were not good artists, usually, and this man was a master.
No one prayed to the Lady, no one prayed to the Storm, no one prayed to the Sky-Father. Those great and powerful Gods, between whom they might be crushed, were too frightening even to mention. They prayed for fairness. They prayed to the Law-Singer. And Kahela, most fervently of all, prayed too. Prayed and promised sacrifice to the Law-Singer - the cranky and disgusting old woman who had been her neighbor. As she prayed Kahela thought of all the times that Sugga the Law-Singer had been so deeply, deeply, unfair.
They had taken off their clothes, which were wet anyway, and they were lying on the floor, and on each other, as there was no room. The fire was dying and the lamps were out; but it was still hot. From time to time, by some trick of the wind, a blast of icy wind and snow would be blown down the smoke hole, and anyone who was nodding off, in the steamy dark heat, would be suddenly awake. The wind kept the smoke from escaping, and the room was thick with it. Most of it seemed to end up in Kahela's lungs.
Kahela could not get the drummer's rhythms out of her ears, nor sight of Idarian's penis out of her eyes. Black-smeared and bloody, thick and solid, and the faintest lightest touch of Dafnya's lips on the tip had made Idarian scream and shake with desire. But when his penis tip had been savagely cut into with the needle, and burned with red-hot bronze, Idarian had not regarded it, only looking into Dafnya's eyes, summoning her breasts with suckling motions of his mouth, as if unaware that anything was being done to his penis.
It made Kahela long for a penis to bite and scratch, yearn for a man's desire burning hotter than red-hot bronze. And the room was full of hard penises. When Dafnya's tattoo was finished, young Hyaramon had asked the artist for pricking, but the artist said he would have to wait until morning. Hyaramon wanted burn scars like Idarian's, but an old woman told him not to bother, and then another old women had started an argument about whether a man with penis scars was better than a man wearing a wolf-tail. On the night of the gathering, people would say anything. Then the old women had argued about whether lamb's marrow soup, with the dildo boiled in it, was better than cold bear grease. And then the old women argued about whether leather dildoes with clitoris-ticklers, were better than horn ones without, until every penis in the room was as erect as the dead man's. Kahela looked at them all, a forest of dildoes in the flickering firelight. There was no need to boil them in lamb's marrow soup, they were hot already - and these dildoes had men under them.
But a forest of penises was agony for Kahela - the Sky-Father had taken his blood sacrifice. The pain when they said that Aru was dead, more pain than any whipping of her life, had not lifted when she had seen that the body was another man's. She did not think the pain would lift, until Aru held her in his arms - which he would never do. Living or not, he was dead to her. What no whipping could teach her, this pain had. In a forest of rods, she felt not a whisper of lust - there was only one rod, forever, on the green Earth, for Kahela. And she never expected to feel that rod again.
The two old women continued to argue across the room:
Kahela was lying in a tangle of bodies. The fire had sunk to glowing coals. Flashes of lightning could be seen through the smoke hole, but not bright enough to light up the naked boys' bodies around her. But from the tightness of the bodies Kahela could feel the painful hardness of their pricks - and she could see their eyes, still looking at her, although her own nakedness was hidden in the dark. Shepherd boys whispered to bronze makers' daughters, and said they knew how to hold their seed in, until the girl was ready, like Rhohan in the stories. The girls whispered back that they should prove it by not using their hands tonight So the forest of hot dildoes remained hot. For all the talk, no cunts or shit-eyes were entered that night. But many promises were made. In this, as in all things, gifts promised on his Holy Night, bring Good Luck from the Wvaksa of the Storm."Why do you need a dildo, anyway? Is your husband too small?""Oh its not for me - its for him. You know, for after, for his shit-eye.""What?""The Law - didn't you know?
While she lusts, but his rod wilts,
she takes his place, and fucks his eye.""Do men like that?""Ha. My husband doesn't. Not when I stick in the clitoris-tickler and twist it,
and pump it like the bellows of the forge! And I give:
bite for bite, blow for blow.""I wouldn't beat my husband for getting tired."But does he beat you enough before?"
All men are tired after they shoot their seed."He doesn't beat me at all. I bite his paps, and scratch him, when he needs it."Listen! The Law is:
He's not a young man any more."
, bite for bite, and blow for blow,
on holy places, high and low,
her lower lip his teeth must show,
with hardened rod the the time is now,
to slap her breasts, and bite her brow;
When his hard slap, soft dove-coo brings, for then the lust within her sings,
But when he fucks for his own need,
and like a tyrant shoots his seed,
while still her Lust within her grows,
then inside out the penis goes,
and penises become dildoes -
she the man; the woman he, and like a woman used must be.
That's when you ram him up his butt.""But why?""Well, to punish him. But also, to make his rod grow hard again. While his penis is limp, and the dildo is hard, you can beat him, but he may not touch you, not until his rod hardens again - that's the Law. Beneath you, rammed up, he gets blow for blow and bite for bite. Your lust will be like fire. He will harden quickly, throw you to the ground, beat you, and fuck you - and fuck and fuck and fuck.""You learned all this from Nakien, didn't you?"Mine is, that I am not."
I don't need my husband to be a sex-master.
My gift to my husband is, that I am satisfied."
No one seemed sleepy, and the wind was making a lot of noise, and there was thunder. Kahela couldn't stop thinking of the house that had been struck by lightning, how the thatch had burned in the rain. Someone called for a story.
"But we have no bards."
"Doesn't anyone remember anything? What about The Battle of Kala Khoam?
No - not that! Anything but that!"
"But it's the only one I know. I don't know the poetry, or anything, but I know the story. Ker son of Keresani was High King, and he told Manzen ..."
"That's not how it goes - you left out the part about when Manzen and Rhonan were born - Ihrona was pregnant, and people asked her who the father was ..."
"That's not right. She had told everyone she had been fucked by the Sky-Father before her belly ...."
"Why are we talking about Ker and Manzen? We're in the middle of the story of the High Queen and Nakien!"
"Because we don't know how that one is going to turn out."
"Well, we know how it turned out for Nakien - the same as for Manzen!"
"We know how it turns out - we will win."
"One battle, perhaps. But what if the Kohiyossa has been killed?"
"If the baby is the Kohiyossa, then he hasn't been - we know that the Kohiyossa will fight in the battle of the Gods."
"So who will be king - if you know so much? Do you think it will be Idarian? I'd like to watch him fuck that girl at his king-making."
"They say it will be Prince Aru. Ishan's boy. And that woman - she's Aru's princess."
"She'll hear you."
"I don't care if she does. I don't want some foreigner, I want someone from this village to be king."
"How about you?"
"Why not me?"
"Because you're an idiot."
Then came a voice Kahela knew; the peddler Nute. "Did someone say that the Princess of the rebels is here?"
No one answered. But everyone stopped talking. Kahela waited. "Princess, we need to talk." Kahela waited some more.
Nute said: "I can help in the fight against the High King. Where is the Prince of the rebels?"
Kahela still did not answer. But a voice came from the end of the room - Idarian. "Wvaksa Nute - is that you?"
"I am Nute. Who asks?"
"Idarian, son of Kotarian - I guard the doorposts of the house of Tlossos. Health and honor to you, friend of the bronze makers."
They were speaking loudly, across the length of the room. The Horses of the Blast were clattering and whinnying around the eves. Melting snow had worked its way through the thatch, and pitter-pattered as it dripped on the floor - or someone's face. Idarian, the new wvaksa, was using the slow formal speech of the council, and the villagers listened to his dealings with the peddler, judging his skill and courage, as they might judge a boy speaking to the council on the day of his Little Penises.
Nute said: "Honor, Wvaksa Idarian. What then of Tlossos?"
"He is dead. He was captured after the first battle, and died when the Queen tortured him - it was as if he willed himself to die. We all saw it. His wife Frah fled with the baby, the Kohiyossa, but the King's warriors followed."
"Frah was a good woman. Still is, I hope."
Idarian said: "Wvaksa, on the day after last midsummer night, you bought a slave - the slave whose penis the God used. Where is that slave now?"
"I gave him to Nakien, the white bard. I have heard that Nakien was killed by the High Queen, but do not know if this is true."
"I saw him die, peddler. He was tortured and killed by the doorposts of this house, in the same spot you were tortured. He died well."
"I wish to give him gifts in his grave, and to heap the earth above him - so his name will live forever."
"His songs will live forever, and his name will still live when this village hill and its grave mounds are the homes of wolves and wild cattle. But we may be able to find his bones, if you want to honor them. And the bones of Tlossos as well. Many will wish to do them honor."
Nute asked: "The slave - his name was Arkwan, son of Eos - did they, ah, did they bring him here along with Nakien? Did they kill him?"
Idarian said "They did not have him. The Queen questioned Nakien, under torture. She asked: "Do you claim that the slave who danced, was a God?" Nakien denied it. He said the God we do ... - the God who danced - had only used the slave's legs, just as the Sky-Father uses a man's legs, or the God of Storms uses a man's penis. The Queen was furious, and fanned the coals under Nakien until he died, gasping. Something broke in all of us when we saw Nakien die. Those who had been brave until then, scurried to the Queen, with tales, hoping to save themselves by accusing someone else. And if some of us didn't bring tales - well, we didn't save anyone, either." Idarian had slipped into his little boy's voice, and you could hear that he was crying. "Boys younger than me, were tortured, Nute! And girls too! The Queen wept when she tortured girls, but she did it anyway, to made them talk. About their families! I hid." He recovered his voice. "I skulked like a coward. There were brave ones in this village, you can tell them by their burns. Or their graves."
Nute said "But if the High Queen had captured this slave ..."
Idarian said: "Arkwan, the son of Eos. I will remember the name."
"... she would have shown him to you, to prove he was not a God."
"She would surely have shown him, or shown his body. So I hope Arkwan may be alive and free. And though Nakien denied that Arkwan was the God, I think the God is in him."
"He seemed like a man to me, and I traveled with him during a waxing of a moon."
"We all felt the God ... and we haven't felt the same, since that midsummer night."
"Idarian, honor to you, and may your village have harmony again. But do you know who is the rebel King? Is he here? What warriors has he gathered?"
"This village owes you much, Wvaksa Nute. And not least, for saving Arkwan's life. I have heard that Aru son of Ishan has led a host into this kingdom. I do not know where he is."
"So Aru claims the kingship? I have known him since a boy - I switched him at his Little Penises. He was, he is, a brave man, and not greedy. Not a great warrior. Not the mind of a bard or the cunning of a merchant, just a man like other men. You could do worse."
"A woman, she said she was Aru's princess, said that this kingdom would be allowed to choose its own king, in council. The village of Nohas will propose their new headman, Tektu son of Nohas."
"Tektu! But he's a boy. Well, he got his tattoo. Nakien pricked him. But he is no older than you."
Idarian said: "I think it is Arkwan who should be king. I want to fight for the Kohiyossa in the last battle. Tell me what you know of Arkwan - was the Kohiyossa the seed of his penis, as they say?"
The room was dark; not even a glow from the embers of the fire. The villagers were completely still and quiet, not a rustle or a murmur as they strained to catch the words, spoken from one end of the room to the other. The room was cooling, but no one reached for a cloak to cover their nakedness. When Idarian spoke of the Kohiyossa, there was a sigh and a deeper silence; breaths were drawn in and held, listening for every word.
Nute said. "I know nothing about the Kohiyossa."
"I do." It was a new voice, a woman. "Peddler Nute, I am Kahela daughter of Kratik, of the village of the Law-Singer; wife of Aru son of Ishan. I am the princess you are looking for. And I know of the Kohiyossa, of Arkwan, and of Tektu."
Idarian answered: "Honor, Princess, and joy. Contentment in the village of the bronze makers. We would hear your tale. But we do not submit that Aru should be our king."
"I do not ask you to."
"Tell us of the slave Arkwan - do you know if he is alive?"
"He went with Nakien to the north, looking for King Taslan."
"Taslan! Does he too fight against the High Queen? They say he is like the hero of a song - as skilled as the horsemen of Rhonan. Does he claim the kingship? He would be most fit for it. I never heard any praise of Aru son of Ishan, but Taslan is sung across the green Earth."
"I know nothing of Taslan."
"Then what about this Tektu? Is he a hero? Why does the village of Nohas want him for king? Do you know of him? - is he fit for king?"
"Arkwan sent Tektu, and me, and one other, to rescue his baby son, the Kohiyossa, if we could. Tektu calls us the warriors of the Kohiyossa."
Another man spoke: "Kahela royal princess, honor to you, but what of the Kohiyossa? Is He safe? Is he the son of the unnamed God?"
Kahela answered. "I do not know where He is. I can tell you that the baby called the Kohiyossa was born of Arkwan's wife. And Nakien ruled that He is the Kohiyossa."
Idarian said: "I understand now. Nakien was in despair, and went to death as if he welcomed it. He must have thought he betrayed the Kohiyossa to the Queen."
And then, for a long time, no one said anything. The fire was quite dead, and the room was growing cold. The sound of the wind had died away. No one stirred.
Then Idarian spoke. "I give up any claim to the high kingship for my foster son, Idrossos son of Tlossos. Let the king be Arkwan, whom the One, Deathless and Nameless, has chosen."
Kahela said: "I give up any claim to the high kingship for my husband, Aru son of Ishan. Whatever king this land freely chooses as king, let that king be the High King. Aru will give tribute as of old."
Nute said: "I have gold. Gold to reward those who fight. Gold to reward those who bring food. And I give it all to the warriors of the Kohiyossa."
And then Nute's lanky young companion spoke, his words twisted and misspoken. "From Ekoopt sent I. Get my father Nute. We rebels too ankle. Make my father king. But we stay. My father want help fight High Queen."
Nute said: "Rebels! What are you talking about? Rebels in Ekoopt! Against the God?"
"Many wish have other God, father. Make you be king."
"I'm no royal. What are you saying?"
"Your mother ankle, is, princess. Princess Khunt-Rugya-wa take you, be you Queen. And we say your father ..."
"What about my father?"
"We say Mankaf-Rugya ankle your father."
"He died before I was born."
"He die four moon afteh seed planted in you motheh, make you."
"And my real father - I'm supposed to deny him? I'm supposed to say my mother took ..."
"You motheh took a God, Fatheh. Mankaf-Rugya was God.. He was last real God rule Ekoopt."
"But it's not true!"
"Say it not true. Even so you motheh-grandfatheh be God. Koo'wi ankle same. Why not you be king and not him?"
"Why I be king? - But why should I be king? And how can you fight the God?
"Koo'wi - God - he not liked. He give to pwiests Rugya. He say each pwiest each village take what he need from farremers. Ankle very bad."
"So the priests of Rugya are strong. And are there many rebels in Ekoopt?"
"Not many rebels. We gold have."
"I know about the gold - I've just given it to Tektu."
"No, Father. Koo'wi, he say he want burial-mound bigger than any God have. I looker king's tomb. I steal it."
"Steal his tomb?"
"Steal his gold. Is hid land in of cedars. Gold make biggest tomb eveh be in Ekoopt. So much gold ship 'most sink."
"But to fight the God ... and if you don't have many rebels ..."
"Father, this fwiend you have, you friend who make sandals. I see him land of cedars; I give him little bit gold. Only little bit, only hand of jars. So so. That gold make him king, land of cedars. Has many men, so we have men. I buy ships Kafftia, ships Akeawanubia. Buy horses Illiawa. Daggers Luwwia. We have men, ships, horses, daggers. Gold will wars win."
"You want to lead wild men against Ekoopt! Wild 'Alamu from the land of cedars! Raping 'Alamu! And you didn't tell me!"
"Father what you want? You want rebel, you not want rebel? I not bring you, there be not rebel. We not man else, make God. You want go, you not want go?"
But to that question, Wvaksa Nute did not give his answer.
Idarian thought - well, the High Queen will lose. The wealth of Ekoopt is against her. Wealth like an ancient tale. No, wealth beyond telling. When the King's spearmen charged us, I was sure I would die. Dafnya held us, kept us from running. We would have died, if we ran - run down and skewered like piglets. My bones felt like water. They still do. Dafnya! In a sudden horrid panic, Idarian reached for Dafnya, hugged her to his breast, squeezed her tight. We won the battle of the barley field because of her. Dafnya won it. If it was victory, with so many dead. But that doesn't mean we can win the war. We're just miners, not warriors. We scattered before trained warriors. The fear was terrible. And the warriors of Queen Ishan - they're pitiful. Dreadful. Babies. Half-starved. I knew we couldn't win - but now that's over. These Ekooptis, they will give gold, and buy victory; and sail away. But what do they care of the Kohiyossa? Uncle Tlossos died for that baby. What do these foreigners know? What do they know the hope for a new Earth, after the battle of the Gods?
Kahela was thinking of the gold as well. Gold in Tektu's hands, or Aru's. Or maybe they will fight over it. The enemy had melted away before them - the warriors of the Kohiyossa were invincible. With the Lady fighting for her grandson, they could not lose. They didn't need this gold. What would it do to them? Aru wouldn't want it. But if he had it? And Tektu - but that was just silly; it wasn't possible to see Tektu as a king in an embroidered gown, sitting in council with gold around his neck. Tektu king? The overgrown brat couldn't keep his loincloth clean! Tektu would ... Oh. Erdiosh. Erdiosh will want the gold. He will know what to do with it. Tektu will be High King, and he will fight, when Erdiosh tells him to, and Erdiosh will rule the land. What will Erdiosh do, with the wealth of Ekoopt? Fight the Gods?
Young Hyaramon wondered how much gold he was likely to get, as a warrior for the Kohiyossa. He was going to get his tattoo tomorrow; he was. But he wished he had a girl - he wished he had a woman - to hold his hand, like that village boy, Idarian. He wished he had that woman, actually. Yesterday, Dafnya the arrow master had been the only girl in a war-band of bare-penis boys. And as far as Hyaramon knew, none of them had even asked her! And now she was above them all, as out of reach as the Queen. Hyaramon thought: with a few gold beads on a bit of string, to hang around a woman's neck, I might win a woman. But who? I've been wasting time, playing with village boys, holding penises when I should have been ... Oh, Rape the doorposts of the house of Hyaramon! Fuck 'em in the fire! I don't want to live in the village any more. I don't want to grow old and do nothing but dye woolen cloth. I want to be ... Well, I guess I'd be king, if they asked me. They can't really want that weaver brat Tektu. But .... I want to be a peddler. I want to live on the roads, not spend my life behind doorposts. I'm old for a student, but if Nute will have me ...
The big house was full of men and women, and all of them were thinking about the gold. Every person in the room except Szhasthar the simpleton was thinking of the fabulous wealth of Ekoopt.
There was a little murmuring around the room, then quiet. And then, out of the deep silence, the world was made of noise. And light. The arrow of the Storm-Lord divided, and passed down each post, and the thatch burst into flame in many places. Men and women streamed out of doors and windows, and ran naked through the rain, under a sky lit by the burning arrows of the Captain of Horses of the Blast. Some of the High King's warriors, weaponless and with their faces to the muddy ground, clutched at their knees, and begged for their lives for food, and to be allowed inside the houses.
"King, there may be high pastures in those mountains."
"What would we do with sheep, if we find them?"
"Kill them, King, and give them to the birds of the air. Nomads can't survive without their animals."
"Arkwan, I saw the burned girls of your village. I dug their graves and carried their bodies. I hunted your son through the forest with dogs and nets, when he went mad and began eating the bodies of the enemy. I want revenge as much as you do. But if Sujasa is with these nomads as a slave, if they starve, she starves."
"King, this has been a good summer for grass. The first in a hand of years. But men can't eat grass. The nomads are only now able to put flesh on their bones, by eating the animals that have grazed through the summer. If that is threatened, they must come out and fight. Or flee. But anyway they leave their hiding places in the mountain crags. When they move, we have a chance to kill them. You could add this land to your kingdom."
"To the High King's kingdom. I don't have one any more. And as you say, I can't eat grass. I need men and women on the land, as much as the nomads need rams and ewes. I don't have enough men and women as it is. We have killed enough. What killing can do, we have done. They will not cross the mountains again. We should go home, before the snows trap us."
There had never been much hope of finding Sujasa. They had to go, and go now, so now there was no hope at all. But Arkwan didn't want to say the words; to say that the search was over. He tried to get Dokefalo to ride away, up the hillside, but the gentle old stallion was enjoying the company, and didn't want to go. Dokefalo didn't like blood and bodies, and he felt happier when Kapi and his other friends were around him. Kapi wasn't ready now, but he had an idea from her smell that she'd be ready soon - that she'd have one more time before the cold. His penis pulsed, as he remembered running with her across the wide grass, running faster than the summer wind as she teased and tantalized him; then she stopped still; she whinnied like a colt when he mounted and thrust home. Her smell became even more wonderful when his penis drove in, in, in. There was space for a good run here, and the grass was sweet. He nuzzled her ear. It would be good to run in the cold. The wind had the smell of drifting snow. Kapi politely tossed Taslan to the ground, and Arkwan jumped off Dokefalo before he was thrown off, and the beautiful black mare and the strong but elderly brown stallion took off about their business across the frosted meadow.
"King, health, and a warm night! I know these mountains. That mountain there, with three heads - I could see that mountain from my high pasture. The wind will shift at nightfall, and these trees will be as much shelter as you will find. If we continue down into the valley, there will be no grazing."
"Then do it, Arrow master. Let the men who are most tired rest, while the others can warm themselves cutting wood."
King Taslan seemed as blue around the lips as the worst of the men, but he would not lie down, but began to gather wood. Arkwan whispered to Danha that she should keep an eye on the King, and then he took a pair of his archers to look for water. They crossed the pasture, and Arkwan noticed it had recently been grazed. The sheep must have been taken down for the winter only days earlier. Guessing where to look, Arkwan went to the trees at the edge of the pasture, and found a little hut, partly dug into the side of the hill. There was smoke coming out of the roof. A red-haired boy, naked in spite of the cold, stood before the door, brandishing his little spear. Arkwan's archers nocked arrows.
"Honor to the guard of the doorposts of this house!" Arkwan shouted. The boy threw his spear, which Arkwan easily knocked aside. The boy ran at Arkwan, waving his little flint knife. Lumpkha growled and charged. Arkwan simply grabbed the boy, spun him around, and spanked him. The sudden loss of dignity made the brave warrior into a little boy again. He howled with rage, a baby's rage and not a warrior's, and he did not use the knife.
"Do you fight babies?" A girl, older than the boy, stood at the door of the hut, a drawn bow pointed at Arkwan's chest. This was some danger. If she shot, he could not dodge at this range. Arkwan knelt down, using the boy as a shield. Lumpkha showed his teeth, and crouched ready to spring. The archers moved apart, keeping their arrows pointed at the girl. She had spoken his own tongue. Arkwan needed to show her he was not some nomad come to raid, but a man of her own land. "You deserve the sheep-whip," he said to the boy, using the scolding that was the custom in his valley. "Say 'I will obey' or you'll get it." If mothers scolded the same way in this valley, only one over from his own, the girl would have heard those words as often as Arkwan had.
The boy stood still while he was spanked, biting his lip. But as soon as Arkwan stopped he screamed "I will not obey!" and tried to cut Arkwan with his knife. Arkwan remembered feeling this rage; it was the touch of an evil God. Anger at his father so strong it was a frenzy: Arkwan would cut himself, or stick thorns in his own body. Or he would provoke his father and be whipped, and after the whipping he would yell "I will notobey!" If that was not enough to get another whipping, he would hit and kick and bite, and then he would be whipped again. Again and again, until he dropped into a kind of sleep - the God's evil touch whipped out of him at last. But Arkwan was not his father. He held the boy's wrists and waited for the rage to pass, enduring the boy's barefoot kicks, his shouts of hatred. The boy called him a friend-abandoner and a demon-spawn, words which would have gotten Arkwan a bloody bottom from his father.
The boy was surprised and infuriated by Arkwan's patience. He tried to free his hands from Arkwan's grip, and he looked Arkwan in the face. Then, all at once, he stopped his tantrum. "Uncle Arkwan?" he said.
Arkwan did not recognize him. But the girl was familiar. "Are you ...?"
"Zentas daughter of Keos, daughter of Annuas. And you are my uncle Arkwan. Except you are supposed to be dead."
The boy bowed. "Health Uncle. I am Annuas."
"Joy and happiness, cousins," Arkwan bowed. "You have grown well since I saw you, baby Annuas; such fine children must be my aunt's joy, and her boast to the gossips of your village."
"Mother is dead," Annuas answered.
"You are not orphans?" Arkwan asked, looking at the little hut. "Your father lives?"
Zentas looked at the ground, and Annuas continued to answer for both of them. "We don't like Father's new wife. We stay up here. But we're out of food, and she'll whip us when we go back. Real whipping - I'm not a baby to be spanked. And there isn't much food at home, anyway."
"But your father is alive?"
"Father is gone. He went with the High Queen's warriors."
"Went? Went where? What do you mean - the High Queen?"
Zentas answered: "Health, Uncle. Warriors came. They said they were the High King's warriors, but they talked about the Queen giving orders. They wanted gifts, and men to go fight. We knew King Taslan had paid tribute, so we knew we were under the High King, but we didn't want to be. They said our gifts weren't enough. The warriors tied up the men, and beat them with javelins, until the women brought out the food they had hidden. Then the warriors ate all our food and took our men off to fight."
"But what are they fighting about, Cousin?"
"They said there was an evil man, a liar."
"Liar? What sort of liar?"
"They just said, a liar."
"Zentas, cousin, I'm here with the real King, with Taslan. We have warriors. They'll need to eat; to rest. Who are the leaders, of the people here? Of the ones who didn't go to fight?"
"There's not really anyone. No one has any food, not enough for the winter. We didn't have the Gathering of Cattle sacrifice this year at all. Some people said we needed to choose a new place for the Gathering. Others said we should still have it at your village - even though no one lives there now. But in the end we didn't have it at all. Step-mother tried to say that I should be elder - because we're the house of Annuas. But everyone knew she wanted to be in charge herself, and no one likes her."
"Zentas, you need to talk to the King."
"No, not the King!"
Annuas ran, but Arkwan grabbed him. An arrow past her face, so close she felt the fledging, made Zentas drop her bow. She held her arms out in surrender, and an archer grabbed her. The other pulled his cloth aside, his penis already rising. These were archers borrowed from the High King, southern men, who did not speak the nomad's tongue, nor Arkwan's. They were ready to deal with these red-haired northerners just like they had dealt with all the others.
"Stop, they are my cousins!" Arkwan commanded in the tongue of the southerners. They didn't seem to take this seriously. Arkwan said: "If you harm her, I will kill you!"
"O, we won't harm her, teacher," and the archer, his penis stiff, gave Zentas a kiss, and pulled her cloak aside, tearing it. Arkwan shifted the frantic kicking boy to his other arm, and shoved his dagger a finger-width into the archer's bottom, and twisted. The archer laughed, and waved his thanks, and used his own dagger to tickle Zentas's bottom. Arkwan's men were veterans, older than he was; they had followed him through spears and arrows that fell like rain; stood beside him as horsemen charged, responding to his thoughts like a flock of birds turning on a wingstroke, or like practiced dancers moving together to the drum. But they weren't afraid of him. Or of anything. And that was the way Arkwan wanted it. But now that the killing was over for a while, perhaps he needed to put some fear into them. They already drew lots every morning to decide who had to wake him up.
The archer looked at his arrow master's face as he was thrusting home. He stopped, pulled out, and stood looking at the ground. He bowed. Dropped to his knees.
"Bring her," Arkwan said. "And put her cloak back on. And don't grovel with your face in the grass to me, Rahidzas; I'm only Arkwan."
"Why is there no food, cousin?" he asked as they walked back to the camp. "This has been a good year for grass, and you have mostly grazing here, don't you?" But his captive would not answer.
Zentas would not talk to Arkwan, or look at him, but when they got to the camp and she was politely asked her name and parentage by a cloakless, sweaty man who was chopping up a fallen tree, she responded with proper courtesy to the woodman. It was Annuas who recognized him as their king.
Arkwan said: "Food and good appetite, King. I have learned that the High King's warriors came to this valley and took men off to a war. Against an evil man, they said. A liar. These children are my cousins. They say there is no food, that the people here will starve before harvest. The High King's warriors took food, but I think that is not the only reason. The warriors did not take all the sheep, for many have recently grazed."
Arkwan continued: "King, last year - no, the one before, I mean - you came to our Gathering sacrifice, at my village. The shepherds of this valley always came to our village, driving their flocks. After the sacrifice, there is mead and feasting, and singing, and races, and at the Gathering of Cattle those with sheep give sheep and wool to those without, and those with good fields promise gifts of spelt and barley. The fire of Sacrifice is put out, and in the cold wind, in the dark, around the dead fire, the God, the Captain of the Horses of the Blast, comes to our village. And in the God's frenzy men and women give - more and more."
"It is the same in the King's village, Arrow master. And the same across the Green Earth."
"Last year my father gave half his flock. And Euarz headman promised to give Father grain - Euarz is headman of a village with broad ploughland.. And in the dark of every moon through the winter Euarz came - he and his sister - to the sacrifice to the Lady. Every moon except for winter ploughing. They carried heavy packs of spelt and pease to give my father, and Father feasted our village on bread and pottage, every moon, and gave a young ram for the sacrifice. Euarz's sister is a priestess; she performed the sacrifice, gelding the ram and cutting his throat, and she would spend the night with her sweetheart - my wife's cousin. And the woman of our village in turn kept Euarz warm, and he dandled on his knee a boy he fathered. So our villages were linked."
"Arrow master, I am starving. Is there a point to this endless tale?"
Arkwan continued - "King, the Gathering did not happen this year. I think the people in this valley have slaughtered the sheep they would usually give away. Or they soon will. They must - they have no lowland grazing, to keep so many sheep over winter. And they have no ploughland. Usually, they can count on gifts of grain coming in, through the year. But this year, there was no Gathering, so they made no gifts of sheep, and were given no promises of grain. So they have only mutton, nothing else to eat, all year, and they will sicken. And in the valleys with ploughland but no high pasture, there will be grain, but not enough meat or cheese, and they will die with swollen bellies."
"Well, my men must have food, Arkwan. We will take mutton, since they have it here. Perhaps we can send some food before the storms cut off these northern valleys."
"I think these northern valleys have food, King - perhaps more than the rest of your kingdom. What must happen is that the sheep here, if they haven't been slaughtered, should be driven to the villages with fields. And then the farmers must bring gifts of spelt or barley every moon."
Zentas said: "Health, Uncle. If we give our sheep away, we'll have less food. And they may not promise us any barley, without the Lord of the Storm to make them generous."
King Taslan said: "I will tell them they ought to give."
Zentas said: "King, they hate the High King so much, they hate you for giving him tribute. You can take their barley with your whips, but they will not give it to us."
"Hate the High King? Take barley with whips? What are you talking about?"
Zentas was silent. Arkwan said: "She told me the High King's warriors demanded gifts, and when they didn't get them, they beat the men until the women brought out hidden food. That was food those women needed to feed their children."
Zentas said: "King, a good journey - away from us. The people here honor the house of Annuas. If Arkwan stays - Arkwan returned from the dead - he will be obeyed as Elder of the northern valleys."
"I cannot spare him. If the High King is fighting a war, we must go to his aid."
Arkwan said: "King; I will ride to the village of Euarz - the village where Euarz used to be headman. I will take Zentas, if she can hang on. At the village of Euarz I will say: 'These northern valleys have an elder now: it is Zentas daughter of Keos, of the house of Annuas.' I'll make Zentas elder - and make the boy headman of this valley. I'll make promises I can't keep - make threats I can't carry out. They will know my cousins are watching, and that I'll be back. And so perhaps enough food will be given from valley to valley so that everyone lives through to next harvest. I'll need Kapi. Dokefalo needs a day's rest, at least."
"The men will need to rest, as well as the horses, and so I can spare you for a day, Arkwan. And spare Kapi, if I must. But then we must press south. Do not ride her hard - or yourself. I need you both."
"Come cousin. Do not be afraid of Kapi - it will make her nervous. She is kind, to those who trust her."
"Are we going to ride at night?"
"We must, but not until moonrise - I hope you know the way."
"I've been. But not at night. And I've never been on a horse. Do you know the song "Rhonan the Horseman?"
Arkwan bowed to his king. "I'll be back, and we shall ride south. But I may not be your arrow master when we do."
"Not arrow master?"
"King, I think I know the name of that evil liar our High Queen is fighting. I think he is Arkwan. Of the house of Annuas."
|.||. . .|
The path to the east stretched across the valley, between fields that were ready for winter ploughing. The path could be seen on the other side of the river, to a point where it climbed the hillside and vanished into the trees. The Queen's warriors watched. Distant specks - the enemy - came out of the trees, along the path; walking along in no great hurry. When the first warriors reached the river, they stripped and bathed, and then ate a little food. And still the line of specks was coming out of the trees.
Scouts spotted the Queen's warriors on the hill, and the advancing warriors moved across the plain with more speed and purpose. They assembled at the foot of the hill. The Queen's warriors could hear their shouts and yells; they looked like a crowd of revelers at some great sacrifice - a king-making or a midsummer dance. They did not look like warriors before a battle. No move was made to send out squads to surround the hill. It was just a vast crowd of armed men, and boys, and many women. It took a long time until the last of them were gathered on the plain.
The Queen, with three priests wearing hooded cloaks, walked down the hill, to a point well within arrow range. She climbed a little hillock, trampling down the shrubs and brambles, and addressed the gathered forces of the enemy. "Men of my Kingdom, what make you here? I am your Queen. The man you follow, is he King? Has he been chosen, in council? Has the mare run? Has the sacrifice of seed been made? Do the Gods approve of what you do here? Do you sacrifice to a new god, unknown to our fathers?"
Tektu was lifted above the heads of the warriors by strong men. If the priests had bows under their cloaks, Tektu was in range, but other men were lifted to guard him with shields. He faced his warriors. 'Warriors of the Kohiyossa! The Queen has slaughtered bards. And yet she asks - Do the Gods approve! The Kohiyossa, a little baby, has been taken. Let her show him safe, if she wishes to keep her life. All saw the God dance at midsummer, but if the Queen or anyone denies it, we will let them be. We are here for the lives of the bards she has killed, and the life of the baby she has stolen. We are here for the Law-Singer."
The Queen cupped her hands around her mouth to shout to the host: "Men of my Kingdom, and women! The Gods hate these lying claims. The priests know the songs and sacrifices that the Gods prefer. We serve the Gods, as our fathers and mothers did, as their fathers and mothers did before them. We see the Gods in our villages. Men are not Gods. The Gods hate these lying men who claim to be Gods - they hate men who say we do not need the priests. The Gods will punish us if we serve these liars. Worship the Gods as your fathers and mothers did."
Tektu shouted: "Our fathers and mothers tell us that the God we do not name has often come to dances. Are they liars? Or is it the Queen, who says this is impossible? The Queen, who says that priests can tell Gods what to do?"
The Queen was furious. "Men who fight against me, beware! I have few warriors here, it is true. The warriors of my kingdom were sent to the north, with Taslan, to protect you all. But Taslan has sent word: they return before the sun moves in the sky. King Taslan and his mighty heroes will defeat you: you are only shepherds, and ploughmen. They will sweep - like the wind - through the chaff. Save your lives, flee! Or wait - you will see my words are true. Do not let the liars lead you to death."
For a while, there was silence. The Queen remained on the hillock, far from her warriors on the hilltop. Then Tektu gave a signal, and a ram's horn sounded. When the echoes of the hornblast died away, his warriors looked at each other, but no one began to march. Again, for a while, there was silence. Then a man, an archer, pushed through the front ranks, and began to stroll up the hill. He had a limp. When he was near the Queen, he turned and faced her. "Queen, great honor." he shouted. "I ask for the life of Sujasa - a woman who has done no wrong. I ask for the life of her son Annuas, called by some the Kohiyossa. How comes a High Queen to seek the life of a baby? Have you condemned him for some crime? Did he wake you with his crying?"
The Queen said nothing. The archer pulled an arrow from his quiver, and nocked it to his bowstring. There was a little mumbling among the watchers below. The Queen made no move to shield herself. But the archer did not shoot her. He shot, badly, up the hill toward the warriors standing on the hilltop. The arrow did not even reach them. He turned to the Queen again. "I ask the life of Sujasa, and her son," he shouted. Then he began to walk up the hill, stopping from time to time to shoot an arrow at the warriors on the hilltop. When he was close enough that his arrows reached them, they blocked the arrows with their shields.
The archer had not faced the warriors below as he addressed the Queen, and no one could see his face. But a few had seen him as he had pushed through the ranks. And they knew him. Soon the word passed from mouth to mouth, among all the warriors standing on the plain. "They say he is Fiya the son of Aher. Nakien's student."
Fiya limped closer and closer to the warriors on the hilltop, his arrows becoming harder to dodge or block, as the range became less. He came to a very short range indeed, and slowly drew his last arrow and nocked it to his bowstring. He fell dead with at least a score of arrows in him.
The horn sounded again, and this time the spearmen, row after row, walked up the hill.
There were some shouts, and soon everyone was looking at the northern hills. A ragged band of dirty tired men, some leading exhausted horses, were coming down the path. King Taslan had come in time. The horns played a different tune, and the warriors of the Kohiyossa halted.
The two sides stood still, and waited while Taslan's band crossed the valley, and the river. They came to the foot of the hill. "Stop there, or we attack you now," a spearwoman said, standing in front of the warriors on the plain. Arkwan knew her: it was Kahela - the woman who had been with Huwh when he died. What was she doing here, dressed as richly as a queen? She saw him, too, and pointed him out to the man by her side - a wvaksa or prince. The word passed from mouth to mouth - a murmur passed through all the host, across the plain.
Taslan signaled his men to halt, and Arkwan tried to arrange his archers into some kind of defense. The position was impossible. And he did not know whom he would be fighting - this huge mass of men, or the small band who held the hilltop. If they had come to rescue the band on the hilltop, Arkwan doubted they could. If they could join up with them, then although they could not win, they might be able to retreat, to scatter into the hills and forests. The rearguard would be slaughtered; some of the others would live another day. But they could not join with the small band on the hilltop, it was impossible. Separated, they could hope for nothing but to take some enemies with them.
"Arkwan, brother. How may I serve you?" It was Tektu, held up on the shoulders of his men. Arkwan had sent Tektu, a boy just tattooed, as a spy into the land of the enemy. Sent him, with Kahela and Poradis, to rescue, somehow, a baby boy. Tektu had called himself the first warrior of the Kohiyossa. The only one, then. He had a war council about him now, and a bodyguard of heroes, and around them, filling the plain, a sea of warriors - host upon host - each host with some wvaksa or hero to lead it. The nearest host was led by Kahela and she had a prince beside her.
Arkwan considered this vast sea of men, as if
he might, after all, have to fight them. Only some war-band in an
ancient song could match this one for size,
but the men - or rather the boys, for they were mostly boys - were
skinny, and badly dressed for the cold.
weapons were not the best. These were not warriors,
- they were farmers and shepherds who had taken up such weapons as they
had - some
carried only slings. Arkwan's skilled warriors might do some
damage, at least, if Arkwan chose to fight. But with Tektu and
Kahela leading them, there
be no doubt - these vast but ragged hosts were the warriors of the
Arkwan did not know what Taslan would do. When Taslan had heard of the war, he had said he would not fight against the High King. As far as he had known then, he could not - half the men he led were the High King's own warriors, and they would not follow Taslan against their own king. And so Taslan had come south to serve the High King, not to fight him. He had urged Arkwan to flee into exile, but Arkwan would not go. They had not known, until now, that there were any warriors of the Kohiyossa, let alone a vast sea of them. In this battle, the High Queen would lose. If Taslan loyally served her, he would die, and so would all his men.
Tektu was looking at the ground, still finding it hard to look into his God's eyes. But he slowly brought his eyes up, to look across the space between them. "Brother," he shouted, "there was a battle at the village of the bronze makers. Frah the wife of Tlossos fled with the Kohiyossa, but she was ambushed and killed, by the Queen's warriors. Your son Annuas. The Queen has him - we don't know if he is alive."
Arkwan did not answer.
The High Queen and the priests walked around the great mass of Tektu's spearmen. It became clear that one of the hooded figures was bound, and resisting, and was dragged by the other two. They were in close range of countless arrows. The pointed arrows followed the Queen as she walked across the hill. She reached a point where she could shout to Taslan. She shouted: "King Taslan - these men are rebels. Kill them!"
King Taslan shouted: "Royal Queen, a good appetite and a pleasant dinner. I know these men - they are of your own kingdom. Some are of kingdoms that give the High King tribute. Some of them are from my kingdom. What complaint brings them armed against you, the Lady of our High King? Does the High King parley and hear their words? I would hear their words as well. I must hear the complaints from men of my own kingdom, before I fight them - that is the Law. I can't fight men of my own kingdom, unheard. The Law of the Sky-Father forbids it."
The Queen shouted: "Men - my men - warriors of the High King - kill Taslan. Kill these enemies."
Taslan said "Warriors, wait for my command." Arkwan turned to look at his archers. They looked at him. Arkwan shouted: "Archers, wait for Taslan's commands." In a battle, he always knew what his men were thinking - what each of them was thinking. They would not obey the Queen. His men were his now, not the High King's who had lent them to Taslan.
One of the two priests holdng the captive was Taucon, the priest from the village of the weavers. He and Arkwan saw each other, and stared. Taucon spoke to the Queen. The Queen shouted to Taslan's band, pointing at Arkwan: "That man there is hated by the Gods. He claims to be a God. He is a liar. He is evil. He must be killed!"
Taslan shouted, "Long life, Queen. You wish us to kill these men, you call them enemies, because they say that a God danced, on the legs of a man. Everyone saw the God's face at that dance. I believe the God was there. Why should we help you fight your own people?"
The Queen shrieked, and jumped, and suddenly she stood with her dagger at the throat of the bound figure. Taucon pulled back the hood. It was Sujasa.
The Queen shouted: "Taslan, order your men to fight, or this woman dies."
King Taslan, after a few moments, shouted to his warriors: "Men, we fight on the side of the High Queen."
Taslan's warriors looked at their arrow master. Most were the High King's warriors, sent to raid the nomads under Taslan's command. They were willing to obey Taslan, and certainly willing to fight for the High Queen, if Taslan said so. But if they fought against this sea of men, they would lose and be killed. And they didn't know why they were fighting. They did not think their arrow master was an evil liar.
But if Arkwan said they should fight, they would. If he wanted to fight those who said he was a God, that must be the right thing to do. He had always managed to avoid battles he could not win, and win the ones he fought - even when it seemed impossible. He had never failed them. They would follow him, if he chose to fight. They would follow him, and expect to win. Arkwan stood perfectly still, and said nothing.
After a while, Taslan's warriors started to drift away, one by one, to the hills and the trees, abandoning the battle. The High Queen plunged her fine Kros into Sujasa's throat. Arkwan's arrow smashed into the Queen's skull. Her little band of warriors left the hilltop, and walked down to the waiting spears.
"I do. Stay and be king."
"And you could make them accept me? You could. But I will not stay for that. Honor, King Arkwan. Or High King Arkwan - Tektu will not refuse, if you ask. But you won't ask. Too close to being a God, for you. You don't even want to be king of this little kingdom - the few mountain valleys I had from my father. But you will be - you'll find no one else. No one but a fool would be king, and have a God under him. Worst of all a God who doesn't want to be one. I'm not such a fool. I hope your king-making goes better than mine did. At least your Queen loves you. And you love your people. You would not betray them to their deaths."
"I can't. I mean - Honor, King, I can't. Punish me for not speaking properly, King. It must be death or exile for me. For I have been king, and am king no longer. It will be exile, I will not force you to kill me - I give you that as a gift, friend."
"And the boy?"
"Annuas is mine - sometimes a man knows when he has begotten a child. I will find him before you do, I think. Either I take him, or you kill me. King."
"Where will you go?"
"King, where you won't find us. No, why should I fear you - I am no threat. The house of Kahul has no followers. I will go to my cousin the King of the West, who is trying to conquer the island in the northern sea. He will need warriors. I will get on my horse, find the boy, and go."
"King, the house of Kahul still has one follower, at least. If the kingship does come to me, then I will send you wealth. I will bring it to you, and fight by your side. And visit my son. As soon as the kingdom can spare me. High King Tektu - if Tektu is chosen - will be glad to see me go."
"King, he may not spare you soon. You have a magnificent band of warriors - the warriors of the Kohiyossa - and no Kohiyossa. Such weapons itch the hand. Tektu will be no different. He will grow so big he will fight my cousin in the West, or make alliance - and then the warriors of the green Earth will not stand against them."
Arkwan - King Arkwan - spoke. It was a judgment: "High King Tektu will tell your cousin, that if he wants an alliance, he should make you king of the island in the northern sea. I will see to it. You were the best king that ever was. You did nothing wrong, ever. Nothing that I do not wish I had done."
Taslan sat quietly for a time. The corpse-birds circled above the battlefield. Taslan said: "It is too far for Kapi - I will choose a young stallion, if my King will give one to me. You may have Kapi for your king-making. The one perfect horse. She deserves to make a better king than me."
But he had to know how the story turned out. He wanted to hear the part that Daddy said would give him bad dreams. But it was just something about a dance, about a man sticking his pisser in a lot of women. That wasn't going to give him bad dreams. He knew all about girls' pissers, about how boys' pissers went into them. He wasn't a baby. The man they were talking about was Daddy's grandfather, the one who was named . . ..
He'd been seen. It was Daddy. Arkwan scampered back to the sleeping place, and cuddled in with his sister Danha under her rabbit-skin blanket. He hoped Daddy wouldn't bother to come after him, and he closed his eyes, but he heard the heavy footsteps, and found himself picked up, kissed, and slung across Daddy's shoulder. Back at the fire, Daddy didn't give him a spanking, but set him down to sit by the fire. Daddy was leaving it to him. Arkwan sighed. When Daddy left it to him, there was no way to get away with anything. He headed back to the sleeping place. But then he heard in his ear the little voice, saying: "Daddy left it to you, Arkwan." Arkwan sighed again, and went back to the fire, and bent across Daddy's lap. Well anyway, it was better than going to bed.
But before Daddy could start spanking, the King spoke: "You needn't be hard on the boy, Sindjas. It's good he wants to hear about the heroes of the past, his own ancestors."
Daddy said: "Indeed, King Girtu. Let us ask what he has heard of out talk. Arkwan, who was my grandfather?"
"King Arkwan!" Arkwan turned to look at Daddy's face.
"Who was he?"
"He was a hero."
"Because he sat at the feet of the Goddess."
"What Goddess?" the King asked.
"Lady Sugga the Consort of the Sky-Father."
Daddy smacked him and said: "Arkwan! You're talking to the King! Speak honor!"
"Great honor, King, and, and, ... a good time with the slave-girl."
The grown-ups laughed at the joke, but Daddy spanked him hard for it. Arkwan looked at all the laughing faces.
"With your pisser in her pisser!" he shouted above the sound of the smacks.
The grown-ups gasped, and Daddy spanked really, really hard. It was worth it. And it didn't last long, because the King said "Sindjas, enough! That is a brave boy. Will he have his Little Penises this year? I'd like to watch him shoot. Or maybe, Arkwan, you'd like to come with me, and train with my boys, and Princess Dafnya?" The King reached over and tousled Arkwan's hair. "Tektu is older than you, but he's frightened of spankings - you laugh at them, and are even more a rascal when you're spanked. Dafnya's the same as you, you'll like her. Come sit in my lap, Arkwan, and tell me, was there nothing else that made King Arkwan a hero? I lived with him when I was your age, when my father was fighting in the northern island. I used to sit on his lap just like this, and look at his long white beard. He had a dog named Lumpkha too. He never spanked, not for anything, not even if I woke him up from a nap. But after my Little Penises, the javelin master switched me, so I went to my kind uncle Arkwan for protection. He looked at me - well, after that I was ashamed to be afraid. Every time I'm frightened, even now, I remember him, and then I don't want to do the cowardly thing. Wasn't he a hero for something else besides meeting Sugga the Law-Singer?"
Arkwan said, "King, honor, and ... pleasure..." This got a laugh, and he looked at Daddy. Daddy's eyes promised a spanking, but for the moment he was safe in the King's lap, so he added: "... tonight." The grown-ups really laughed at that. Daddy looked ready to cry, but he gave Arkwan a wink - you win, but just you wait, was what he meant. Arkwan winked back - we'll see about that. Arkwan thought, if the High King of the green Earth really does judge at my Little Penises, that will help the family; it will help Daddy be headman.
Arkwan told the King: "Well I know King Arkwan stuck his pisser in a lot of woman at a dance. Does that make him a hero?" The King enfolded Arkwan in his cloak, and shifted him from his lap to his knee, so he could look at the boy's dirty face. Arkwan grinned, but he didn't like having his bottom stuck out over the side of the King's knee. It's a little too close to the King's big right hand, Arkwan thought.
Arkwan spread his knees and showed the King his penis. "I'd like to do that too, King. I'd like to stick this pisser in and pull it out again, in a lot of slave-girls' pissers, like you ..."
The King gave a sharp smack to Arkwan's bottom.
"... do with this one." He grabbed the bulge in the King's cloth. The grown-ups didn't laugh at that. The King laughed. But even though he laughed hard, he spanked Arkwan anyway - and that wasn't fair. And the king pushed Arkwan's head down, so his bottom stuck way out, and spanked him like that. This wasn't the way Daddy spanked him, and Arkwan didn't like it. But this way of being spanked made it easier to escape than the way Daddy held him for a spanking. Arkwan wondered what would happen if he tried to escape. Whipped maybe? There was a pig whip hanging from a peg on the wall. Or worse, he might be sent to bed. But the danger made it more exciting.
The King spanked hard and didn't stop. Arkwan waited until he was very sore, but when he had been spanked as much as he thought was fair, he jumped up, looking behind to see if the King would chase him. The King would. They ran around the fire, grown-ups scattering. Arkwan jumped across the fire. When the King ran to the other side, he jumped again. But he tripped when he landed, and the King grabbed him before he could get up. The King carried him over to the wall, and took down the whip. The king was laughing.
"But Arkwan the hero stuck his pisser in a lot more women than you ever could, King!"
This time, the King really laughed. He tossed Arkwan in the air, and kissed him, and sat down with Arkwan snuggled close to his chest, and kissed his forehead, running his hand through his hair. When Daddy kissed and hugged like this before a spanking, that meant a long hard one. Oh well. It was fair. Arkwan was going to get the first pig-whipping of his life. He had wondered what a pig-whipping felt like, and now he was going to find out. He wished the King would stop cuddling and start whipping, he didn't like this waiting. He wondered if he would cry or not. Daddy's hardest, longest spankings didn't make him even think about crying, as long as they were fair. He cried when a spanking wasn't fair, even when it happened to his sister. But the King just cuddled Arkwan into his arm, and started to talk to some grown-ups. Arkwan had won again; he'd been too wicked to be whipped.
The King's words "a brave boy" rang in his ears - he couldn't stop hearing them. Those words had made him brave enough to tease the King - and the King liked him for doing it he hadn't whipped him for doing it. If the King liked him, that might help Daddy. Arkwan liked being wicked and getting away with it - but you couldn't get away with it every time - and the king's spankings hurt even more than Daddy's. He was happy, though, snuggled and warm, thinking of the King's kisses and carresses, and his laugh, and the way he had forgiven Arkwan the whipping he had earned, because he was such a brave boy. It felt so good to have the King think he was a brave little boy. Arkwan wriggled his warm sore bottom on the King's lap. He liked the way his bottom felt after a spanking, if the spanking had been fair. Wrapped up in the King's cloak, inside, right against the King's old wrinkled skin, as the King accepted the flattery of the grown-ups, Arkwan breathed deeply, very excited. He felt the God's touch, on the backs of his ears. The unnamed God. But the King's hand was on the handle of the pig-whip. The next bad thing I do, Arkwan thought, I'm going to get it. Get a pig-whipping. It's too risky to try anything now.
"I remember him, and then I don't want to do the cowardly thing." That was what the King had said, talking about the way King Arkwan had made him feel, when the King was a little boy, sitting on the lap of old King Arkwan, against his wrinkled skin.. Perhaps, Arkwan thought, if I am brave enough ... wicked enough. . . And then Arkwan thought of a plan. A plan to whip the bottom of the High King of the green Earth with a pig whip. If this works, Arkwan thought, the King might say I'm a brave boy. If it doesn't - well - I'll find out what a pig-whipping feels like. Arkwan thought about it some more. He thought: even if this works I'll find out what a pig-whipping feels like. There is no way I can whip the king's bottom and not get punished for it. But the king said I was a brave boy. This is what brave boys do. I'll do it. I need to get the King' loincloth off first. Arkwan thought hard until he came up with a plan.
"Honor, King - do you want any more beer?" Arkwan asked.
But then he looked at Daddy.
The laughing crinkle in the corner of Daddy's eye, was gone. Suddenly the game wasn't fun any more. Arkwan wasn't scared of the King, but he hadn't thought about how scared Daddy would be.
Arkwan said: "What really made King Arkwan a hero, King, wasn't sticking his pisser places, it was being with the Goddess Sugga when She was on the green Earth. He took baths with Her, and She taught him wisdom, the holy Law. That is why he is a hero. It's almost as if he was a God."
- December 2003 -
David Nunes da Silva
Page ( http://www.asstr.org/~Davo/index.htm
Synopsis: The struggle between the ways of
knowing the Gods mounts to open war. But even
on the day of battle, there are thoughts of other things than blood.
Two old women sing the songs that in time, will become the law
of the Kama Sutra.
Seven times in every nineteen years, there
thirteen moons before the sun came round again, instead of
The extra moon was unlucky - and so it was called "the lucky
But that was in the south - among the northern nomads, and among
people, who were but settled nomads, the sun was more important than
moon, especially in winter. The nomads named the first nine
moons of each year (starting from the spring equinox), but if they
to speak of a date in the winter, they would say
- when such and such a star can be seen. The path of the
in the sky, bringing warmth, was more important, in the depths of
winter, than the moon's light. The didn't go outside much
sunset in winter. So they never noticed if there were twelve
or thirteen, and thus avoided much bad luck. Of course it
only priests who understood these matters. If you wanted to
feast, you asked a priest to help you make a tally stick - each
morning, you would cut a foot
for each notch on the stick, changing it from I to L, and when every
was done it would be time for the feast.
[ This calendar is fictional - the calendar
used at the place and time of the story is not known ]
----- events before the first story ----
----- The Song of Kala Khoam ----
The peoples of Europe have always marked the turning seasons with festivals and sacrifices, but what these were like in 2435 is anyone's guess. Accounts of seasonal events are not available until the first millennium before the common era, and this is not much use for guessing about life, two thousand years earlier. But if these works are not especially timely, they are at least very pleasant to read - Homer and Hesiod in Greek, and in Latin no less than the very Master - of pornographic elegiacs.
Works and Days :
W&D This is from about 800 BCE, but
is nearly the earliest Greek source, not counting the palace tax
in Linear B. Hesiod addresses the poem to his brother Perses, who
had cheated Hesiod, with perjury, in a lawsuit concerning their
farm. Perses could not make a living on the small
farm, and had to beg for food from Hesiod, who gave him some grudging
calling Perses lazy and shiftless.
) Lines 106-201.
I have another story, if you'd like to hear it. I have the skill to recount it well, so listen - and remember. It tells of the origin of men; that men and the immortals are, in their origins, the same.
The first mortal men were made of gold. They were made by the immortals when Kronos was king, and they lived as the immortals do, and didn't have to work. They had no misery, no sorrow. They didn't suffer from old age; and as they got old, their hands and feet stayed young. They enjoyed festivals, and everything good; nothing bad happened - even death was, for them, like falling asleep. The land gave grain of its own accord, and they harvested at leisure, every good thing. The ground lies over them now, but Zeus has provided that their spirits are immortal, and truly this was a kingly gift. We call them Daemons now, our guardians; and people pray to them for wealth.
After that, the Olympus-dwellers made men from silver; and they were as far below the golden men in mind, as in body. They were indeed such simpletons that they remained as children, playing near their mothers, until they were a hundred years old. Then they reached puberty and could leave home, but they were still so childish that they got into a lot of trouble, with their boasting and misbehavior. They would get into fights, and so they were usually killed, before they got much older. Also, they did not think they needed to give the Immortal Ones any service, nor the Blessed Ones any sacrifice, as every people should do, according to the customs of their own land. Zeus did away with them - the son of Kronos was angry at their failure to do service to the Olympus-dwellers. Today we call them the blessed ones, and point to their graves. Not as much honor, in their graves under the ground, as the men of gold. But still, in due measure, they have their reward.
And then Zeus Father brought about a third race - men of bronze, not at all like the men of silver. Their mothers were the Meliae, ash trees [which grew from drops of semen, spilled when Kronos cut off his father's penis]. Strong, terrible men - war was all they cared about, the groan-making violence of Ares. They never ate bread, and their wills were hard and unstoppable, their bodies were massive, and their arms sturdy and very strong. Their weapons and their houses were of bronze. They worked in bronze - they had no black iron. They killed each other, and so, despite all their strength, they went to Hades. And they left no honored names behind them, when they left the bright sunshine, and went to moulder in the blackness of their graves.
When the men of bronze lay under the earth, to that fertile earth there came a fourth race, the Godlike heroes. Zeus son of Kronos made them, more noble in that they were more just. War destroyed some of them, in the battle before the seven gates of Thebes, fighting with terrible shouts for the sheep of Oedipus. Others in their ships, after they sailed to Troy, across the deep sea, to fight and die for blond Helen. Death took these, and covered them. But others of this race, Zeus took to the edge of the world, to the shore of the Ocean. And by its deep and circling waters the son of Kronos found for them a place far from other men. That land gives three good crops each year, and they live free from sorrow, immortal, and thus their lands are called, the Happy Isles.
The fifth race of men: well, I wish I was not part of it, for we are men of iron. I wish I had been born to an earlier race, or a later one, for in our own time, not for a moment during the day can we cease from working, and we have sorrow day and night.
The Gods make life hard, but even to men of iron, they allow some little joy among the sorrow, for now. But when the time comes when a new-born babe is already starting to go gray around the temples, and when a father is not a father to his child, nor the child a child to his father, when the guest is not a guest, the host is not a host, when companion is not companion, and when a brother is no longer a brother and a friend - then Zeus will destroy them all. In that time, men will not honor their parents as they grow older, but will scold and castigate them without any Gods-fearing shame, ignoring what is right: the debt that they owe for their upbringing. There will be no right, except for the power of city-conquering hands. If a man should keep an oath, he will get no honor for it; and no praise for the upright man, for the good man - praise will go to violent men, and honor to the wicked. Without shame, the fist will be the law. The bad man will overcome the better man with perjury.
Men in their misery will have a companion - hideous, foul-mouthed Envy - cackling with joy at the trouble She can cause. Decency and correcting Shame will forsake the roads of the Earth, and leave the homes of men. Covering their beauty with their white robes, and veiling their faces, they will climb Olympus, there to dwell among the Immortals. And men, defenseless, will fall prey to every pain and evil.
This is the law of the plains, and of those who live near the sea. Also of those who live in valleys, large or small, far from the waves of the sea, but fertile -
The Gods ordained work for men. Do it, Perses, or you will be sorry. You will go begging, with your wife and children, to your neighbors. You will beg for what you need to live, and they will not give it to you. Two times, three times, perhaps. But they will become annoyed, and you will get nothing more. Your smooth talk will not work; your wit and humor will not work. Pay your debts - that is what you need to do. Hunger awaits you.plough naked and sow naked - and so, reap nakedDo so - if you wish to enjoy Demeter's fruits, each kind growing in its proper season, and in its time coming to harvest. Do otherwise - and you may go hungry. And then you will have to beg. Beg from other men - you have already begged from me and I will not give to you again. I will not give you any more. You fool! You must work.
in the fall, sends us rain - and we feel
For then the heat grows less. In summer the Dog Star is in
the sky during the day, over our heads; the heat is penetrating and
- to such misery are we born. But in the fall, the star is
more at night, and for only a little while during the day.
Timber cut in the fall is less subject to worms. Do this work in the proper season - swing your axe when the leaves have fallen, and the green sprouts have passed away.
These flutes were called Auloi by the Greeks. With any sort of pipe, the holes are kept covered by the fingers, with fingers raised to produce a desired note. Overblowing can produce more than one note per finger, but still, the number of notes from an aulos played with one hand, must have been limited. The number of notes from two one-hand auloi, is no greater than they would have got, from one long flute played with two hands. So what is the advantage of two pipes? Only one, that I can see - it makes it possible to play two notes at one time. How the auloi were played is uncertain even for classical Greek times. But I think it likely that the notes of the Ionian mode (major scale) were distributed between the two pipes. (If they sometimes wanted to play tunes in other modes, there could have been extra holes that were kept plugged, with a change of modes done by moving the plugs.)
There must have been drums in Cycladic music, although there is no direct evidence. There are drums all over. I think music would have been strongly connected with dance.
The harp would likely have had about eight strings - Greek harps had seven. The harpist is using two hands - also to play more than one note at a time. So how did they use this ability to play more than one note at a time, on both the harp and the auloi? Was it for harmony, or for counterpoint? I think, for dance music, counterpoint is more natural. But remember that the range of both instruments is limited to little more than an octave. A larger range could have been obtained by using more musicians, one playing treble auloi and one bass auloi, for example. But on economic grounds, I doubt if big bands were used for most music.
Thus I imagine counterpoint, but very tight counterpoint - not much distance between the main melody and the counterpoint. With such close counterpoint, the melody does not stand out. The melodies weave in and out, as I suppose the dancers did - complicated dances that relied on each dancer knowing what to do. The sort of drumming found with such peasant dances is not the like perpetual drum beat of rock and roll - and is very different from the use of timpani in classical music - the drum pitch can be varied, and weaves in and out of the other melodies, like the other instruments.
I composed the tunes based on these ideas. Click on the notes to hear the tunes (.mp3). The underlined song names go to the songs where they occur in the stories.
This is from Holidays,
[ Notes: By "Tirynthian youth" the poet means Hercules, who was born in
Tirynthos. The Maeonian, also called the Lydian, is
Hercules is her slave for three years - although she is his mistress in
the more than one way. The Peirians are the muses.
Gaetulian purple was the second-best kind, Land-End level clothing suitable for a hike in the
country; Tyrian purple was the good stuff. ]
On the third morning, after the Ides, are seen the naked Luperci, and the rituals of two-horned Faunus. You Peirians, tell us: from where did these rituals come, to reach our Latin homes?
The old Arcadians worshiped Pan, the God of cattle of the Arcadian mountains. This was on Mount Pholoe, for example; and along the River Stymphalus, and beside the River Ladon, as it flows swiftly to the sea. He was worshipped in the pine forests of Nonacris town, and on Mount Cyllene, and at the village of Parrhasia, high in the snows. Pan guarded herds, and was in Arcadia the God of mares, and was given gifts for watching the sheep. Evander brought his woodland Gods with him. Here, where the City now stands, was then just a place where a city would be - thus the Flamen Dialis still worships the God, with the rituals of the Pelasgians.
You may ask why the Luperci run, and why they take off their clothes and run naked. The God himself loves to run about on those high mountains, scampering away. He is naked, and tells his worshippers to be the same - and anyway clothing is not very practical for running. The Arcadians are said to have lived in their land since before the birth of Jupiter, and to be themselves older than the moon. They lived like a herd of animals, rough and without any of the useful arts. Their houses were branches, their food was herbs, their best drink was water - scooped up with their hands. No oxen, in those days, pulled the plough - no land was ploughed. They had no horses to carry them, but carried themselves, and sheep's wool was clothing, only for sheep. They lived outdoors, naked, and were used to wind and rain. The naked runners remind us of the old days, and of what rough comfort there was then.
But there is a merry old tale of why Faunus in particular hates clothing. The Tirynthian youth was hiking with his mistress, and Faunus happened to see them from a high ridge. And the sight filled him with fire - "You, you mountain nymphs, I'm done with you forever," he cried. "That girl shall be my only love." And indeed that Maeonian girl had flowing golden perfumed hair, and she walked under a golden parasol, which Hercules carried. She was hiking to the grove of Bacchus near the Tmolus vineyards. As dewy Hesperus rode in on his dark horse, she took shelter in a cave near a babbling stream; a natural tufa cave. While the servants were preparing food and wine, she dressed the strong one in her own clothes. She gave him her Gaetulian purple tunic, and the girdle from her waist - but for him it was too small. She unlaced the tunic, and he tried to get his arms in - he had already torn the cuffs, they weren't big enough for his arms. His big feet snapped flimsy straps. She herself took his massive club, his lion skin, and his quiver of smaller weapons. This was how they dressed for dinner, and so they went to bed - on separate beds. This was because they planned in the morning to sacrifice to the discoverer of the vine, and wanted to be pure.
What will shameless lust not try? At dark midnight Faunus comes to the damp cave, and finds the servants dead drunk. He goes in, hoping their masters might be the same, and gropes about in the dark. By good luck he touches first the lion skin - this startles him, and he jerks back his hand, like traveler who sees a snake. But the foolish lecher tries again, and on the other bed he feels soft clothing, gets horny, and climbs in from the foot of the bed, already erect. Under the covers, the legs bristle with thick rough hair, but this doesn't stop him. He is making the attempt, when the Tirynthian pushes all of a sudden, and, plonk, Faunus lands on the ground. "Servants, bring torches," the Maeonian calls. Faunus raises himself, groaning The strong one laughs, and everyone does who sees him on the ground. The Lydian laughed too, at such a lover.
Since he was deceived, Faunus does not like clothing that deceives the eyes, and requires his worshippers to be naked for his rituals.
From these foreign reasons, Muse, let me now turn to Latin ones - let my horse's hooves trample my own native dust.
A she-goat was sacrificed, in the usual way, to hoofed Faunus, and people had been invited to eat a little meat. At midday, as the priests skewered the entrails on willow sticks, Romulus and his brother and the shepherds were exercising, naked, on the sunny plain, trying their strength at boxing, and the javelin, and throwing big stones. A shepherd on a high point shouted: "Romulus and Remus, robbers are driving off the cattle by the back roads, run after them." It would have taken too long to arm - they ran in different directions, but it was Remus who caught the robbers and recovered what was stolen. When he got back, the entrails were hissing on the fire, and when he took them off, he said "Only a victor shall eat these." And eat them he did, with the Fabii. When Romulus returned to the picked bones he laughed, but he was grieved that Remus and the Fabii had won, and his Quintilli had not. The fame of these lucky deeds has endured, and they run naked.
But why is the place the "Lupercal"? And why does the day have a similar name? When her uncle was King, the Vestal Silvia gave birth to heavenly children. The King ordered them drowned in the river. (Fool - one of them is Romulus!) The servants were reluctant, and wept as they carried the twins to the appointed place on the river Albula (the name was later changed to Tiber, when Tiberinus drowned in it). It was winter, and as it happened, there was a flood - boats floating about above where the Forum is now, and above what is now the Circus Maximus. The servants walked to the edge of the flood - they could go no further. One of them said: "How alike they are. Each is beautiful. But this one is more vigorous. And if fathers can be guessed from babies' looks, I think this one's father is some God. But why doesn't the God save you? Perhaps he is helping your mother, who had two babies and lost them, in a single day. Born together, you will die together." He put down the babies from his arms, and they cried, as if they understood. The weeping servants went away.
What a lot, depended on that board! The cradle drifted to a shady wood, and as the flood subsided it settled in the mud. It was near a tree (of which some traces remain), the Romulan fig-tree, now called the Ruminal fig. A wolf bitch who had just whelped found the twins, and, amazingly, she did not harm them. Indeed she helped them. Their own bloody-handed kin had tried to kill them, but they were suckled, by a wolf! She licked their soft bodies into shape with her tongue, and fanned them with her tail. They suckled from the she-wolf without fear - for they were the sons of Mars - and so they were nourished by milk, that was not natural for them. She gave her name to the place, and it is from the place, that the Luperci take that name. The wolf bitch was well rewarded for the milk she gave.
Or on the other hand, perhaps the Luperci took their name from the Greek "Lycaean," wolfish. It is Lycaean Faunus who has his temples in the mountains of Arcadia.
Bride, why hesitate? Neither strong herbs, nor prayers, nor magic spells will make you a mother. Patiently submit to these blows, struck with the fertile right hand. In a little while, your father-in-law will be happy "Granddad."At one time, unfortunately, there were few pledges of the wombs' fruit. Romulus was king, and he cried: "What was the point of raping the Sabine women! This wrong has brought me nothing - only war. I wish our sons had never gotten such wives." At the foot of the Esquiline there was an old sacred grove, dedicated to Great Juno. Husbands and wives went there in prayer on their knees. The treetops shook and trembled, suddenly, and in the grove, her holy grove, the Goddess spoke, spoke awesome words:
Spare the woman, Goddess, and with little pain let the burden, at its right time, come from the womb.
The Lupercalia, by the
of its celebration, may seem to be a feast of purification, for it is
on the dies nefasti, or non-court days, of the month February, which
signifies purification, and the very day of the feast was anciently
Februata; but its name is equivalent to the Greek Lycaea; and it seems
thus to be of great antiquity, and brought in by the Arcadians who came
with Evander. Yet this is but dubious, for it may come as well from the
wolf that nursed Romulus; and we see the Luperci, the priests, begin
course from the place where they say Romulus was exposed.
But the ceremonies performed in it, render the origin of the thing more difficult to be guessed at; for there are goats killed, then, two young noblemen’s sons being brought, some are to stain their foreheads with the bloody knife, others presently to wipe it off with wool dipped in milk; then the young boys must laugh after their foreheads are wiped; that done, having cut the goats’ skins into thongs, they run about naked, only with something about their middle, lashing all they meet; and the young wives do not avoid their strokes, fancying they will help conception and childbirth. Another thing peculiar to this feast is for the Luperci to sacrifice a dog.
But, as a certain poet who wrote fabulous explanations of Roman customs in elegiac verses says: Romulus and Remus, after the conquest of Amulius, ran joyfully to the place where the wolf gave them suck; and that, in imitation of that, this feast was held, and two young noblemen ran-
“Striking at all, as when from Alba town,- and that the bloody knife applied to their foreheads was a sign of the danger and bloodshed of that day; the cleansing of them in milk, a remembrance of their food and nourishment.
With sword in hand, the twins came hurrying down;”
dnds: What we know
the Lupercalia ritual is that on the 15th of February men,
with two boys of noble families, gathered in or near a cave, called the
Lupercal, supposedly the lair of the she-wolf who suckled the founders
of Rome. The number of men is not known.
A dog was sacrificed. A bloody knife was touched to the
of the boys. Then the blood was washed off with wool dipped
in milk, and the boys laughed. The Flamen Dialis, the most
sacred priest of Rome, conducted the ritual, although his exact role is
not known. Goats were also sacrificed, and eaten, along with
wheat which had been gathered by the Vestal Virgins the previous
Alcohol in some form was drunk. The skins of the sacrificed goats
were cut into strips. Each man, otherwise naked, tied a
of hide around his waist, and took another in his right hand, and
The route was from the cave to a point marking the original wall of
then around the original boundary of the city, and back to the
Some part of this route was along the Sacred Way. They used
the goat-hide thongs to whip the ground, or perhaps stones, marking the
original boundary of the city. Women who wished to become
placed themselves, sometimes naked, in the path of the runners, and
There were two sacred associations, or colleges, that provided the runners, who were called Luperci, or sometimes Creppi, that is, billy goats. On one famous occasion, Mark Antony was a Lupercus. He was said to have been drunk. One sacred college was called the Fabii, and the other the Quinctiales (founded supposedly by Remus and Romulus, respectively). At the Lupercal, there were temples of some sort, and a statue of a naked god, perhaps with a thong about his waist, and horned. The statue was called, depending on which source you prefer, Faunus, Lupercus, or Penetrator (Inuus).
The men ran, as the example of Mark Antony shows - he was 39 years old. The boys ran, originally, although they were forbidden to run by Augustus. Although the boys ran, it is not clear that they ever whipped.
Enough of what is known - now my speculation: The ancient Romans knew what their rituals were, at least the public aspects, but they had in many cases forgotten the meaning of them. Thus the Roman authors do not describe the rituals; rather, they offer speculations about origin and meaning. We have to put together a guess as to what the ritual was, from details that the authors let drop. The authors' speculations are contradictory, and so can't all be true; very probably none of them is true. But the fact that the speculations were made, may offer clues to some details of the ritual, which no author has mentioned. For example, I think it likely, that the two colleges, the Fabii and the Quinctiales, each provided one of the two boys who took part in the ritual, and that the boys were considered to represent Remus and Romulus. If so, then the ritual of touching a bloody knife to the heads of the boys, calls to mind the story of the murder of Remus by Romulus. But it is interesting that both boys were given bloody foreheads, and not just one.
Rome was founded, according to the Romans, by riff-raff. Some parts of the origin story have been confirmed. But it is certainly unlikely that a group of homeless men, building shacks on someone else's hill, would establish solemn rituals to commemorate events in their lives, such as the time their cows strayed. Rather, we can assume these vagabond shepherds brought their rituals with them, and continued to practice them. They would certainly have had holy places, and the Lupercal cave at the foot of the hill was probably one of them; to have a fig tree at such a shrine would be a usual thing, and it would have been a shrine to some God of importance to shepherds. A few generations later, as the Romans tried to recall the founding of their town, they assumed that the rituals they practiced had been established by the founders. Thus the origin story they put together, was in part based on rituals that were in fact older. At the same time, the rituals were modified to fit the origin story.
So which elements of Lupercalia ritual and myth, are likely to have been of pre-Roman date? The bloody foreheads and the wiping with milk and laughing, certainly seem to represent a mock killing and restoring to life. There is no reason why a ritual mock killing of two boys, should have been invented to commemorate Romulus and Remus. So we may guess there was a ritual, older than Rome, where two boys were driven away, in pretense killed, and brought back to life. There would have been a story or myth about the boys. Perhaps the bums who set up a campsite on the Palatine hill, were led by two brothers, and perhaps one killed the other. Indeed I think that this did happen. But this commonplace murder was given mythic significance, because of an existing myth of two brothers.
The running at the Lupercalia almost surely does not commemorate an actual event, such as strayed cattle - so the running is likely of pre-Roman date. If there was running, and pretended killing, that suggests a chase. So we may guess that in the older ritual, the whips were applied, not to the city wall, and not to women who wanted to get pregnant, but to the boys - they were chased around the village, chased away, killed, and brought back to life. The association of the two boys with wolves is strong. If the boys were wolves, then to have the chasers be goats, makes this a sensible ritual for the protection of the herds. Since there is no reason, connected with the foundation story, to connect the runners with goats, this connection is also likely to be pre-Roman.
To this ritual, the story of Rome's origin was fitted. The fit of the existing ritual to the worked-out origin story was not exact - in that only Remus was killed. But the fit was close enough that the ritual was associated with Remus and Romulus and their followers. The story of two boys suckled by a wolf is also very likely pre-Roman. The suckling story, the ritual running and whipping, the cave shrine, and recollections of actual events, were all fitted together.
That the boys were naked, is well explained - wolves are naked, the new-born are naked, and the boys were naked, in order to be whipped. The whips drove out bad luck, and brought rebirth; so to be whipped naked allowed these benefits to be more fully obtained. The men may have run naked, with only a strip of goatskin, because they represented goats.
We may doubt that the ritual was primarily concerned with fertility. The whips drove things out. For women who could not get pregnant, it cannot have taken much imagination to see these naked, whipping runners as likely to drive out the problem of infertility. The ritual would have still made sense, if no women were whipped - while on the other hand there are many features of the ritual that have nothing to do with whipping the women.
If the ancient form of the ritual was the chasing out of the boys, we may ask why it did not still have this form in Roman times. One answer is, that it may have. Our descriptions are imperfect - only Plutarch even mentions that there were two boys. Perhaps, until they were prevented from running by Augustus, the boys led the procession of runners. Perhaps they carried no whips. Perhaps they were whipped. Perhaps the boys wore strips of dog-skin, instead of the goat-skin worn by the men - it would not be surprising if these things happened, without any author mentioning them. But it would also not be surprising if the feature of the boys being chased and whipped had been dropped before the time of our authors.
Light of the moon : Light comes from the sun, the moon, and fire. In the summer, there is daylight each day for about as long as humans are awake, so the moon is not much needed. In the winter, it is too cold at night to spend much time outdoors. In the fall, the sun sets as early as in winter, but it is warmer, so people are out of doors for a time after sunset. On those fall evenings, it makes a great deal of difference whether the moon shines or not.
The amount of moonlight, the time of rising and setting, and the moon's position in the sky, all vary in the course of each month. The moon provides no light when it is new, of course. By first quarter. it provides fairly good light, and it is overhead at sunset, so the light is available in the evenings. From first quarter to full, the amount of light increases. However, each evening, the moon is lower at sunset, until at full moon, the moon is rising in the east just as the sun sets in the west. The rising full moon is very bright, but casts long shadows. After full moon, the moon does not rise until some time after sunset, so there is a period each evening when there is only starlight, and this period grows longer every night. Thus, each month, the moon provides good light at a convenient time, from a bit before first quarter to a bit after full.
So if, in early fall, you want to give a feast, there are only about 9 suitable nights in each moon. Want to bring sheep down from a high pasture, and it will take into the evening to do it? - same 9 nights. Want to visit another village, and will be returning after sunset? - same 9 nights. Hunt? - same 9 nights. If an important sacrifice is held each year, for example, on the tenth day of the first autumn moon, then every year a bright moon will shine on the feast. Evenings are pleasant at that time of year. If instead you hold your sacrifice each year on the autumn equinox, then each year the feast will be in a different phase of the moon. Two years out of three, the sun will set, and people will still be singing and dancing, but there will be no moon, or just a sliver. So a lunar, rather than a solar, calendar is more practical. A lunar calendar is most valuable in the fall, and for pastoralists - farmers will care more about the length of day. But even farmers need to think about moonlight for fall ploughing.
I expect that in agricultural villages, women's menstrual cycles synchronize. If the the moon's phase matters to daily life, for example if hours of sleep, work, eating, and sex all vary with the phase of the moon, then I expect that the menstrual cycle would also synchronize with the moon's phase. If this does happen, then of course it makes another reason for men and women to pay attention to the moon.
In a lunar calendar, unless is it is very sophisticated indeed, a month is reckoned to start when the new moon is first seen. The time between one full moon and the next, is 29 and a half days, plus 43 minutes. In general, a new moon is seen 29 or 30 nights after the previous new moon was seen. So the months are either 29 or 30 days long. Suppose you live in an isolated farmstead. During the first summer month you travel to the nearby village, and you learn what day of that month the villagers consider it to be - say it is the twenty-fifth. You want to return to the village on a certain day of the next month - say on the 10th, when an important sacrifice is held. You can count the days on tally sticks, but you don't know if the villagers will see the next moon on the 29th or the 30th of this month. It doesn't help to look for the new moon yourself, because your horizon is different. As a rule of thumb, the 29 and 30 day months will alternate, but not always. So what you do is ask whether the priest has predicted a long month or a short one.
The priest can predict whether the month will be long or short, based on the amount of time that the crescent moon is seen, on the first night that it is seen. If it stays up for a short time, that presages a long month.
The value of knowing whether a month will be long or short, is so great, that it makes some sense to start the reckoning of a month's days, on the predicted night, whether the moon is actually seen or not. And if it is cloudy, there is no choice but to use the predicted sighting. But once prediction rather than observation is used, the calendar can start drifting further and further away from the sky's events. In Roman times, they used what was clearly once a lunar system. On the first of March, priests would solemnly announce whether March would be a long or a short month, and they made such an announcement for every month. Such announcements are just what is expected, for a lunar calendar based on actual observation of the new moon. But every Roman knew March would be a long month, before the priests announced it, since March was long every year - as it still is today. So the calendar was predictable. But the price of this was that there was no longer any connection between the months and the phases of the moon - in Roman times, as today, March could start when the moon was full, new, or any other phase.
In addition, there are intercalary moons. The rule might be, for example, that the first moon seen after the spring equinox is called the first. Twelve moons can then be numbered or named. But about one year in three there will be a thirteenth moon. This must be inserted somewhere. The inserted month causes holidays normally a month apart, to be two months apart. This can be inconvenient, but it is unavoidable. There are 7 extra months every 19 years. Extra months are, naturally, unlucky. The services of a sky-watcher are also needed, for predicting when there will be an extra month.
The Romans believed that they once had a calendar of ten months, starting with March. Our month names September, October, Noavember, and December are based on this: they mean 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th moon. This calendar, rather than having twelve months in some years and 13 months in others, has 10 months every year, and a left-over block of time, not part of any month, that would have been 59 days in most years but 88 or 89 days in seven years out of nineteen. With a ten-month system, events in the left-over time can be scheduled according to the sun's position, or the rising or setting of certain stars. There is thus a block of holidays timed by a solar calendar, which is movable when compared to the lunar calendar of the rest of the year. Movable feasts are inconvenient - we still need a calendar to tell us when Easter is, a result of these ancient arrangements. Why would such an inconvenient system have been used? For two reasons. First, there may have been a time of the year, planting season perhaps, when the sun's position was more important than the moon's phase.
But aside from this, the inconvenience of movable feasts is
in a lunar calendar, so by choosing a lunar-solar calendar the ancient
Latins didn't make things any worse. Under the Athenian
calendar, holidays in the seventh month Gamelion normally follow just
those of the sixth month Poseidon, but about one year in three, there
what they called the second Poseidon, so a whole extra month separated
them. So in Poseidon, an Athenian would have to
a sky-watcher, to learn whether the important Lenaia festival, which
fell in Gamelion, would be
in a month's time, or two. And the sky-watchers didn't
get it right.