|Brothers of the Ox-Yoke|
|Brothers of the Ox-Yoke|
2435 B.C.E. The Julian Alps. by David Nunes da Silva..
Comments welcome: @sneakemail.com
The 'songs' in this story are from (that is, mangled from) the Avesta and the Rig Veda. Translations of these ancient songs tend to have a dry, academic quality, even the best ones. The songs were not dry - they are about sex, cattle rustling, and the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sporting events. In my imitations, I have tried to make the tone raunchy, without changing the content, which is raunchy enough already. For example, instead of:"Pusan, rouse her to be most eager to please, the women in whom men sow their seed,"I prefer, as giving the tone I think the original would have had:"Make her beg for it, Pusan. Make my wife a fuckable woman."
Tektu didn't need his eyes, to know it would be a miss, but he lifted the cloth, in time to see the arrow smash into a stone, nowhere near the target. The stick Poradis had tossed into the air, clattered to the ground. Tektu had tried too hard, trying to be fast, and had released much too soon. Another arrow to replace. Tektu wished he minded missing the target, but he didn't feel anything. It was as if his pain and pleasure were happening to someone else. When Arkwan had watched his morning practice, and when Tektu could tell, by the sag of his brow, that his brother was disappointed, it had hurt like an arrow in the guts; Tektu wished he could feel that now. Arkwan didn't whip for mistakes, but with Poradis he followed the normal custom; a stroke for a miss; ten for a broken arrow. He dropped his loincloth and took the strokes, but Tektu's bottom was as tough as tanned bullhide, and a stroke of the greenwood hurt him about as much as a pinch on the cheek; nothing like the misery of disappointing Arkwan. Of course, when he'd shot well, and Arkwan got that tiny crinkle in the corner of his eye, Tektu had felt like the High King of the whole green Earth, a feeling of joy that made him giddy, like drinking Hema at midsummer.
Kahela shot next, and she watched her arrows miss the target with dead eyes. She was not trying. There was a flicker of greedy pleasure in her eyes as she lifted her tunic for the strokes that would, if only for a heartbeat, distract her.
Poradis too, missed every day, trying to match Tektu's tricks, and it was not a cheerful way to start the day, whipping the old man's skinny, wrinkled bottom. Tektu said to him, as an arrow master shames his worst pupil, that he must shoot naked, and Tektu stood behind him, switch raised and ready to blister his bottom. But this morning Poradis did not try any fancy fast shooting, or cover his eyes; he aimed carefully. Arrow after arrow hit the target; his old body standing as wooden as a carved God. Then Tektu and Poradis practiced dodging cloth-head arrows, and Poradis was hit. But he got no whipping for that: being hit by the arrow hurt enough.
"You should try harder to hit the target, Kahela," Tektu said, once they had retrieved the arrows and lifted their packs. "Even if there is no battle, there could be bandits. We could be taken as slaves."
"We may be robbed, and raped, and killed, Tektu, but not made slaves. Not in the lands under the High King."
"What do you mean? Arkwan was taken for a slave."
"Do bards never come to your village, weaver boy? Or do little weaver boys spend all their time playing with toys?"
They walked for some time. Tektu could see that Kahela was going to make him ask. He was pleased in a way; her nasty remarks showed some spirit. "Punish me for a dunce, O wise bard," he said, mockingly, "but explain your wisdom."
Kahela said: "They must tattoo baby's' penises in your village."
Tektu was hurt. "Arkwan said I was ready for tattoos, and Nakien himself pricked me."
Kahela stopped suddenly. Her face was white. Tektu grabbed her in time to keep her from falling. Too late he remembered that Nakien had also pricked Huwh. Kahela looked like she was about to bawl, and Tektu wanted to slap her. Instead he lowered her to the ground, and yelled in her ear. "Dunce! Why do you say we may be killed, but not taken as slaves? Arkwan was taken!"
Kahela looked at him and shook her head. She said: "Arkwan was not a man of the High King when he was taken; so Kros had the right to say he was on a cattle raid."
"So it's against the Law to take slaves," Tektu argued. "Isn't it also against the Law to kill?"
"Tektu, if you were taken and kept as a slave, in some village, every bard and peddler who passed through would know you. You are the son of Nohas; everyone knows you, so no one can take you as a slave. We may meet bandits along this path, but they will kill us, or we will kill them. Raiders might take us as slaves, and carry us back to their own lands, but raiders will not reach us here, in the heart of the kingdom."
"Bandits could take us to their cave, and keep us as slaves to their pleasure."
"Ha! In a bard's tale," Kahela snorted. "Real bandits don't live in caves - they live in some village, and pretend to be honest men."
"But there could be some who live in caves."
"And live on bugs? And how would such men keep slaves? Stay up all night to watch us?"
"I wondered why Arkwan did not escape," Tektu said.
"Where would he go?" Kahela asked.
"He said he wanted to join King Taslan, and fight the nomads."
"And tell Taslan that he escaped from Kros? Taslan would have to return him, to keep honor. Arkwan was taken fairly under the Law, so for Taslan to keep him would make Taslan a thief. King Taslan is fighting; he can't make an enemy of the bronze makers."
"A raid - nomads from the north. They could take us as slaves."
"Nomads do not come this far south - and before you say pirates, we are too far inland for a coast raid."
"You have taught me, Kahela," Tektu admitted. "I was the dunce."
"For punishment, you shall enter me," Kahela said grimly.
Tektu felt his penis shrivel. Kahela was a teacher of student bards, almost a bard herself, and he had called her a dunce, which was no different than calling a warrior a coward or a deserter of friends in battle. And having challenged her, he had proved the dunce instead. So he couldn't call her punishment unfair, whatever punishment it was. But the punishment she had chosen was worse than she knew. Tektu had entered a woman only once before; with Nakien, sliding into her a heartbeat after Nakien pulled out. His seed had burst out. Tektu had liked the smooth easy sliding, easier than a man's shit-eye, since his penis had been still sore from getting his tattoo. Nakien had said that he should learn to keep his seed in, to prolong his pleasure. Tektu never found out that woman's name. That same night he had met Raki-Dannia-a`hik; they had spent the night playing, and wrestling, and laughing, Laughing at nothing. Toward morning they had slept, but Raki had woken Tektu in the gray light before sunrise.
Raki had his hand around Tektu's long stiff shaft. "Tektu, in your sleep you said ... Do you really want to?"
Tektu nodded, and Raki turned away. Tektu pushed his sore penis tip slowly and carefully into Raki's shit-eye, and then pulled out again. Then he put his hand on Raki's bare penis, and fondled it to nearly, but not quite, the point of bursting seed. Then he took his hand away: "We may come back to this village, Raki. I don't know. It depends on Nakien. Get your tattoos soon. If you have them when I come back, we can do anything you want."
Raki had wept. "I suppose you'd rather enter a woman. I saw you. You put your seed in her, didn't you?"
"Raki, I'd rather put seed in your bottom than spend a night with a hand of women, learning Nakien's secrets of pleasure. Get your tattoo."
"I'm learning to be a priest. That's what my name means in the old tongue: priest of Dannia. I was dedicated to her when I was born. I'll have to enter a women for the planting sacrifice, but I'm not sure I'll be able to. And it's very bad luck if the priest doesn't spill seed. You're lucky: you might perfer boys, but you'll never have a problem with women. Not me. I can't fuck women."
Tektu had boasted that his penis would always rise when he wanted it to, but now, with Kahela, he didn't feel a stir. So her punishment was going to be his shaming. And Kahela won't like me very well after this, either, he thought. But there was nothing he could do; no one refused fair punishment. He dropped his loincloth, and started to remove Kahela's tunic.
Poradis, who rarely spoke, grabbed Tektu by the shoulder. "Can't you wait till tonight, young ram? We should keep going in the daylight."
Tektu didn't wait for Kahela to agree. He put his loincloth back on, lifted his pack, and headed along the trail, putting three arrows in his belt, and carrying his bow, strung. "We'll carry our bows strung as long as we are in the woods," he shouted. "If Kahela is right that thieves will kill us, we need to shoot first."
Toward midday, Poradis stopped Kahela and Tektu with a touch, and put his hand across his mouth. "What is it?" Tektu asked, as quietly as he could.
"A lot of people. See this dust on the leaves? Ahead of us, going slowly. We are overtaking them."
"Shall we hide?"
Kahela said: "We can't go along this path and not be seen. This large party - they can't be thieves. We should join them. That way, we will be safe."
Tektu looked at Poradis, who nodded. They started to walk. Poradis spoke quietly: "Put your bow over your shoulder, Tektu. Or they'll shoot you for a thief. Walk slowly. I don't want to turn a corner in these woods, and find ourselves face to face with drawn bows. It will be better if they see us first from a distance. Keep your eyes and ears open; they may have heard us. They could be waiting in ambush."
After some distance through the woods, the path climbed to more open country, and they saw a few people, seemingly the rearguard of the large party. There were two warriors, with shields and spears on their backs, arrows in their belts, and bows in their hands. They were with three old women, who carried heavy packs.
Tektu shouted: "Well met on the roads, friends."
The two warriors had their arrows nocked by the time they turned around, but Tektu thought they should have been faster. At this distance, Tektu thought he could dodge the arrows. But it would be a lot harder to dodge two than one. Tektu held his hands away from his body. They did not shoot.
"Well met if you be a friend," the older warrior shouted. The younger warrior gave a loud shout, and there was an answering shout from further ahead.
"I am Tektu, son of Nohas headwoman. In our village, we keep sheep, and weave cloth."
"Honor, road-friend Tektu. We know of the village of Nohas. But you are far from home."
"I am Marwat, warrior of Queen Ishan."
"Honor, Marwat. Health and safety to your lady Queen, and great honor. You, too, travel far."
"Not so far, yet, but we go to the sanctuary at the smoking water. The Queen is taking rams for the Great Sacrifice."
Kahela shouted: "Honor, Marwat. Health to the Queen and her warriors. I am daughter of Kratik: Kahela, of the village of Sugga law-singer."
"All revere the Law-Singer," Marwat shouted.
Poradis said nothing, and neither did the younger warrior. Tektu didn't know if Poradis drank from the honor cup or not, but he was acting as if he was Kahela's man, standing behind her. Clever, Tektu thought. He's making Kahela seem to be a great lady, traveling with her own warrior. She always looks so good in her clothes, and dirty scruffy Tektu had better take a step back too, and let Kahela be the leader of their party. No would harm a bard, and she had wrapped the dignity of the law-singer around herself.
But Marwat was not impressed. He made them hand over their weapons. They walked along with Marwat and the young warrior behind them, with arrows nocked. Before sunset, they reached a marsh. There was open water in the middle, but separated from the shore by a thick stand of reeds. The Queen's company had set up camp under some trees on the sloping hillside, where a little rill tumbled down the rocks to sink into the swampy grass. The marsh midges made it a poor camp, but a large party can't camp just anywhere.
Tektu and Kahela spoke their names and households again to the chief of the warriors, who made no move to give them back their weapons. One of the warriors asked Tektu if he would like to join their evening practice. Tektu knew that it was the sport of warrior bands to give cocky young fighters a good thrashing. It had been the same when the High King had come to Tektu's village last spring : one of the King's warriors had asked Tektu: "Want some practice with shield and spear?"
"No," Tektu had said.
And the warrior had given Tektu a kick on the bottom, and the warriors, and the villagers, had laughed. Tektu had been content, glad no worse had happened. But Erdiosh, Tektu's best friend, shouted: "He is not a coward."
"Do you want a match with me, boy?" the warrior had asked.
Erdiosh, as all the village knew, liked to suckle on Tektu's penis. Boys do that, of course, but people will say that the boy whose penis is sucked, is usually the brave one. "As penis, so dagger," is the old proverb. No one really thought Tektu was a coward, but Erdiosh thought he had to prove himself to the village, and so he took on the king's warrior, fighting with shields and headless spears. It was horrible. Erdiosh was soon curled up on the ground, shouting "Stop. I'm a coward, a coward" His shoulder was mangled, a rib broken, and there was a bad gash in his groin, bruises all over, and a cut from his own shield below his ear. And he had bitten his tongue. The King's warrior had not been touched. Before walking away, the warrior kicked Erdiosh's bottom.
Tektu didn't want to travel with Queen Ishan's company of warriors, slinking along as an admitted coward. With the fast shooting Arkwan had taught him, he knew he could win at some challenges - and he allowed himself the pleasure of seeing in his eyes these warriors with their grinning faces, grovelling in the dust, submitting to his punishments. But Tektu knew it wouldn't happen like that - they would choose the challenges, not him, and unless he could beat their best archer at that archer's best challenge, he would lose. The point wasn't to win - if he put up a good show, lost, and took his punishment well, that would show these grinning warriors he wasn't afraid of them. He said casually: "I had in mind to practice with my bow tonight, not the spear."
A different warrior, no doubt the Queen's best archer, answered him: "A wise choice, son of Nohas headwoman. It doesn't hurt when an arrow misses a target."
"When you miss, son of I don't know who, I'll beat you with my bow. Will that hurt enough for you?"
"Name your target!"
"I have no bow."
The Chief of the warriors gave Tektu back his
bow and quiver. Some warriors nocked arrows to watch him.
The Chief brought out an ash stick; of
course no one was going to beat anyone
with a valuable bow, that was just a way of speaking.
A slave boy came to summon the three
captives to the Queen, but the Chief said Tektu should finish the
see the Queen later. Kahela and Poradis went with the slave into
house of skins.
Tektu slung his quiver off his hip, facing forward, tied to his belt as well as hanging from his shoulder. He pointed to a grassy bank, not very far away. The warriors laughed. What a beating this boy was going to get, they thought, challenging a real warrior. The Queen's archer shot first, shooting a hand of arrows in a tight cluster. Tektu took off his loincloth. The warriors sniggered. This calf was submitting to a beating without even trying to match the archer's shooting. This was going to be fun, they thought. We'll torment this fool all night.
Tektu waited for the noise to stop, then laughed. He wrapped his loincloth over his eyes, and faced away from the target. He stood still for a few heartbeats, and quickly spun around. Then he waited, with the cloth still over his eyes, as the warriors began to murmur, and then to shout.
"Three arrows!" someone shouted. "Did you see that? Did you see him draw three times? It was like lightning!"
Tektu took the cloth from his eyes. The arrows were not as close together as Arkwan could have done, but at least he hadn't killed anyone. His arrows were not as close together as the other man's. Good. He would take his beating bravely - something else that Arkwan had taught him. The warriors would respect him for his skill, but not feel that he had won by a trick. But the warrior handed him the stick.
"It is good to have a contest," Tektu said, taking the stick. "I usually practice alone. A contest, with a merry wager - a little bottom-tickling as a prize for the unlucky one - that makes a pleasant change. Who has been my companion, this evening? I judge myself to be the loser; take this again."
"Health to you, Tektu, son of Nohas. I thought to win this contest, and would have beaten you hard. Do not spare me, but strike hard, or you dishonor me. I am Aru son of ... Ishan."
Prince Aru had spoken the Queen's name in a whisper, and was blushing. It is not very admirable, to force a young guest to compete with the chosen best of a company, and beat him for losing. It is even less admirable, when a prince does it. But least honorable of all is when a prince tries to do it - and loses.
"Beat me hard, Tektu," the prince said, in Tektu's ear. "If you hit light, they will think I am using my royal rank. I will lose the name of honor."
Tektu wondered, what will the Queen think? Will she hate me for beating her son? And the warriors: will they hate me for beating their prince? After winning by a trick? But there's nothing I can do: it would be an insult to Prince Aru, to refuse to beat him.
"Your health and safety, Prince. Remove your loincloth!"
"Safety, and your heart's desire, Headwoman's son."
This prince does well to wish me safety, Tektu thought. It is a dangerous thing, whipping a prince. Prince Aru removed his cloak, then loosened his belt and pulled his loincloth through. He kept his dagger at his side; it was plain copper, just like the other warriors', not a hard copper one by Kros or Tlossos. The prince's loincloth was thick linen cloth, it covered his whole bottom, and the wear showed he'd been sitting on it. Such is wealth. Tektu's was rabbit skin, a mere strap twisted up his crack. Sitting bare on jagged rocks had toughened Tektu's bottom, and he winced just to think of how much this was going to hurt on the prince's puffy soft white skin. Tektu's bottom had scars from the many beatings of his life; Prince Aru's white globes were flawless, as if he had never been beaten, not since his little penises day. Every eye in camp was on Prince Aru; they didn't look at Tektu. Someone told the queen, and she came out of her house of skins. There was a bard with her. Tektu knew him, a red bard named Heyos. The prince looked at the queen, begging with his eyes, and he lay down, facing away from her and the crowd. Some warriors moved around, so they could look into the prince's face as he was beaten. Others stood on logs, or climbed trees, so they could look down at the royal bottom. There was complete silence.
Tektu put his own loincloth back on, and looked at the Queen. She nodded. Tektu stepped across Prince Aru's legs to get a better position - he was left-handed. Then he his raised the stick and brought it down hard across the prince's royal bottom. The rod was solid ash, and this would be a serious, bruising beating. This was nothing like the pleasant sting of a snappy greenwood switch. This was even worse than the whippings with knotted leather straps that Tektu's mother gave him, that left his back a plaid of bleeding cuts. A heavy rod like this could crack a rib. Better to pulp the buttocks with blow after blow, than to land any across Prince Aru's back. But there was no doubt that this very rod was what Prince Aru had planned to use.
Tektu delivered another stroke, then another. The prince gave no sign. Tektu looked at the Queen, at all the watching eyes. He could not tell what they were thinking; no one looked at him. He gave another stroke. Little tears of blood showed from the little jags and knots of the ashen rod. There was now just one strip of unbruised skin across Prince Aru's bottom. Tektu aimed for it, but missed, and landed the rod on the juicy dark bruise of the first stroke. The prince made a little sound. Tektu put down the rod, and sat down. A slave boy helped Prince Aru to stand, and they walked away; the prince leaning on the slave's arm. Only then was the silence broken - a few whispers among the warriors. Tektu, all eyes on him now, retrieved his arrows, cleaned them, and carefully put them into his quiver.
Marwat came over to Tektu. Tektu thought he would be killed. He tried to show no fear, and made no sort of move to defend himself.
"Would you like another match?" Marwat asked.
Tektu expected a contest of plain
He planned to lose. Then the warriors' honor would be
without shedding Tektu's blood. Or at least, not very much
of it. Tektu expected a severe beating, in revenge for
having beaten their prince. Perhaps he would not be able to
walk tomorrow. But that was better than a dagger between his ribs while he
But Marwat wanted a contest with eyes covered. Tektu shot as badly, and as slowly, as he could. Marwat, with his first arrow, shot so wild he hit a woman; fortunately, she was only scratched. "I am not a prince, son of Nohas," Marwat said as he handed the rod, "you do not need to strike so lightly with me." Tektu did not strike him any harder than he had the prince; Marwat took his hand of blows without a sound, and sprang to his feet with a reproachful look, as if Tektu had doubted his courage, in striking so lightly. It had not seemed light to Tektu. He wondered what these warriors considered hard. Several warriors spoke at once, challenging Tektu to another blind match. Tektu thought: they'll be angry if I refuse. But if I beat them all, what then? Will I see the sunrise next morning?
The slave boy came and said Prince Aru wanted to talk to Tektu. When Tektu came to the prince's space behind the Queen's skin house, the royal prince was lying on his belly, under some blankets, but with his bottom exposed to the cooling breeze. His bottom was shiny, greased with bear fat.
"I want you to finish," Prince Aru said. "I made a sound - I am dishonored. Beat me harder. I will be silent. Give me the strokes you would have, if I hadn't cried."
Tektu said: "Honor, Prince. How hard would you have struck, and how many, if I had lost?"
The prince put his hand on his bottom. "I've used that rod a lot. I didn't know how much it hurt, until now. But I think your hand is lighter than mine. But I would have given you only one stroke; that is our custom. But I lost the wager - I must endure as many strokes as you choose to give."
"Punish me, Prince. I meant only to do what was fair. I did not know the custom was one stroke--I thought you would make a sign."
"One stroke for that challenge, Tektu. But we would have challenged you again, all night long. Until your bottom was so beaten you could no longer walk. Unless you were brave enough to say you were a coward, and refuse a challenge. And if you did refuse, I would have pissed on your face. I've done it before. You want to do what is fair? Challenge me over and over until sunrise. And piss on my face - piss on my face in front of everyone. If you do that, I will never be king."
"Prince, if one stroke is the custom, I can't give you any more."
"The custom with us, stranger, is the same as it is everywhere; the winner does what he wants. But with us, a long whipping is an honor we don't give to stangers. I would have given you only one stroke, but I beg you will not be so crue. Beat me now - I will not cry out again."
"Royal Prince, I can't do this."
Then I challenge you to blindfold shooting, a hand of strokes for the loser. And I will challenge again, again and again, all night long, until my arse is too beat for me to stand to shoot. If you only give me a hand of strokes for each challenge, it will take longer until I cannot stand, but I will challenge for as long as it takes. You would honor me more if you just whipped me now. Hard and long."
"I am not brave enough to keep winning against a prince. However badly you shoot, I can shoot worse."
"But they know how well you shoot. It will look as if I made you lose to me."
"You did, Prince. When you let me give you a hand of strokes, when the custom is one. That may be dangerous for me. How many of your warriors are brave enough to win against you? You said you had not felt the ash rod."
"They are not my warriors, they're my mother's. Let's have a real contest, Tektu. Something I might win and you might. A foot race."
Tektu said: "Prince, shooting at a target. A far target. No blindfold."
"Agreed. I suppose you're good at all kinds of shooting. But you may be surprised. I am a good archer, even if they do let me win."
They laid out a target. The prince told Tektu to go first.
Tektu stood on a log: "Hear, all of you! Health and safety to the Queen! Honor and her heart's desire! Health to her son and daughters! Prince Aru has challenged me at archery. My best skill is blind shooting, but I will win at the target he has chosen! We agree: a beating for the loser, a hand of strokes. He will regret challenging me!"
Tektu was never very good at a far target, and he had not practiced that kind of shooting since he left his village. Arkwan had said: "In a battle, enemies don't stay still." so they had only practiced shooting at thrown sticks, and other fancy shooting. So Tektu would lose. If Prince Aru was any good at all, Tektu would lose even if he tried to win, and he didn't plan to try to win. He wanted to lose, but he didn't want to shoot so badly, that everyone would know he was losing on purpose. It was very important that he not miss badly. He shot. He missed badly.
All his life, at training, Tektu had been told about fighters who are good at practice, but useless in their first battle. Sometimes the arrow master threatened a beating for a miss, so his pupils could learn to shoot calmly, even when they were terrified. Tektu was terrified by the beatings, but they didn't make him shoot any worse. The arrow master tried a new test, just for Tektu: "From now on, Tektu, I'll whip your friends - whip 'em double with the pig-whip - when you miss, and whip you when one of them misses." With his friends' bottoms on the line, Tektu had aimed his arrows, thinking, I have to make this shot, I have to make this shot. Thinking like that, of course he missed. Day after day, for a moon, his friends were whipped for his failure - whipped on backs and bottoms bruised and sore from the days before. The arrow master made Tektu shoot quickly, and the master stood with the pig-whip raised over Erdiosh or Danha or Ardaha. Arrow after arrow missed, and for each miss the master brought down the braided straps; two strokes. Tektu would never forget the sound, or the crying. And if Tektu did not shoot quickly enough, he heard the lash strike before he released. When it was Ardaha, Tektu tried desperately hard not to miss - and shot horribly. Ardaha thought he was doing it on purpose, and when it was her turn to shoot, with Tektu bent over the log to be whipped for her mistakes, she shot badly on purpose. When it was Danha's bottom under the pig-whip, that was the worst of all, because she never made a sound. Nothing was worse for Tektu than his mistakes being whipped for on his big sister's bottom. Erdiosh was such a loyal friend, that he never complained, and that made Tektu ashamed. The master said: "See the target, Tektu. Only the target. Do not see your sister's face, do not see the pig-whip hitting her bottom. See only the arrowhead in the target." And by the time the new moon rose, he could. But after that time Ardaha never again talked of marriage.
Tektu realized he had nocked an arrow, drawn, and shot, while thinking about practice at the village. The arrow stood in the center of the target. That was a mistake--he hadn't meant to shoot so well. He shot a trio of arrows to finish the hand. Each one went exactly where he wanted it, as he knew it would. But he took care that they were not too close to the center.
As Prince Aru drew for his first shot, the Queen came out of her tent, with Kahela. The prince waited as his mother found a spot with a good view of the target. The Queen put her hand on Kahela's shoulder - Tektu wasn't sure what that meant. Kahela shouted: "Your heart's desire, Prince, shoot well," and Prince Aru shot his hand of arrows. They struck in a fairly wide scatter, but with Tektu's one bad miss on his first shot, it was clear Prince Aru had won. With this beating, Tektu thought the warriors' honor would be satisfied, even if he won in other contests. But first he would have to endure the beating.
The look in Prince Aru's eyes, made Tektu's heart sing. Tektu was a warrior of the
Kohiyossa - the little weaver boy had come a long way. The little
who disappointed his mother, embarrassed his friends - the last boy in
the village whom anyone thought could ever
be a warrior - what did he think was he doing? How could he
have set out to rescue a god? Arkwan had said he could do it,
and what Arkwan said, Tektu believed. But still he felt
like the boy he was. What had he to do with warriors, with
heroes, with gods? And yet - and yet ...
What was it? When Prince Aru looked at him - what was
it? The prince did not treat him as a boy.
Kahela did, Danha and Nakien did, even Arkwan did. But this prince didn't. This prince did
not give him honor, this prince thought he already had honor.
That was the difference. Prince Aru - a
seasoned warrior, a grown man, and of course a prince, looked on Tektu
as an equal - or even as a better man. Tektu knew he
hadn't fairly earned that, just from trick shooting.
But it felt
very good to have Prince Aru look at him like that, all the same.
But it could not
last. Tektu had never, never in his life, taken a hard beating
without screaming. That tiny moan the Prince made
- Prince Aru thought he was dishonored by it. How
was, compared to the screaming that Tektu was about to
do. The prince's admiration and respect - all
lost. He was supposed to rescue a god - little boy Tektu
was supposed to rescue a god! But in a very short time
Tektu would be no longer the
companion of princes and the admiration of warriors, but a
But there was nothing for it, but to do it. He bent and whispered in Aru's ear. He said, "Honor, Prince. Strike hard."
"Queen, your heart's desire. This woman says she is Kahela daughter of Kratik, of the village of Sugga law-singer. The man of their party, Tektu son of Nohas headwoman, has just been challenged by Prince Aru. I will bring him after his beating."
Queen Ishan had summoned the strangers to her
as soon as they reached the camp. Tektu had been detained
by his match with the prince, but Kahela and Poradis had followed the slave boy to the queen's house of of skins.
The queen looked at Kahela with suspicion. She turned to the red bard by her side: "Heyos, do you know this woman from the Law-Singer's village? Daughter of Kratik?"
The bard looked Kahela up and down. "Honor, Queen. I know Kratik well, but it was long ago when I was with the Law-Singer. Does Kratik still have his bullhide whip?"
Kahela answered : "His elbow pains him. The students come to me now, for help with their singing."
"Hah! Help! I think you are indeed the daughter of Kratik. And this ... Poradis? Poradis!"
The two old men embraced and kissed. "But why do you not give your name?" the bard asked. "Have you become a slave?"
Poradis answered: "I and my daughter guard the doorposts of my house. All is well with the house of Aradis."
Heyos said: "Health, Queen Ishan. I know this man, he is Poradis son of Aradis of Sugga's village. And I will know Tektu son of Nohas, when I see him. You remember the tale of the God we do not name, at the dance of the bronze makers? When I last saw him, Tektu was traveling with the slave who claimed the God had used his body."
Kahela said: "Honor, Queen. The slave makes no claim. Nute, the peddler, was at the dance, and Nute says that all who were there, saw the God in the slave's face."
"And was the Kohiyossa born in one night, as they say?"
Kahela didn't know what to say. She wanted to discuss it with Tektu, before revealing any information to this Queen. She wanted advice. She wanted, desperately, Huwh.
"Speak!" the queen commanded. "Warriors, whip this woman!"
"The Kohiyossa was not born in a night!" Kahela shrieked.
"Tell me what you know," the queen commanded.
"Honor, Queen Ishan. Last summer, a year and a night before the dance at the bronze makers, the God came to a dance, in a village in the north. At that dance too, He used the penis of a man - the same man. At that dance too, He entered every woman. Not in a night, but at the tenth moon, a woman bore a son with golden hair. The bronze makers tried to sacrifice this boy, but his mother saved him, crushed by a tree-trunk in the rescue. Nakien, the white bard, has ruled that this boy is indeed the Kohiyossa. This summer, at the dance of the bronze makers, the God used the same penis again. He entered every woman, putting His seed in them all. The smashers ..."
A slave stuck his head through the door. "Prince Aru has lost his challenge to the young stranger! The Prince has handed him the rod! Um. Honor, Queen Ishan."
"Khanikos!" "And as for you, daughter of Kratik, I shall question you later."
They all followed Queen Ishan out to the practice ground. The watching warriors made a ring around Tektu and the Prince; they parted to let the queen through, but did not let Kahela through, and Kahela couldn't see anything behind the solid ring of warriors' bodies. She stood with the other women at the edge of the crowd. They heard the smack of wood hitting flesh, over and over. "What is happening?" a woman asked.
Another woman said: "Prince Aru is getting a long beating. He challenged a stranger, and lost."
"And the stranger is beating him? What a fool. I'll cook and eat his balls when the queen cuts them off."
When the Prince was helped away from the practice ground by his slave, they passed Kahela, and the Prince gave her a little shy smile. Kahela followed them, and hid behind a tree. The slave was indignant. "How dare he beat you!" he said as he soothed the royal behind with bear grease. "You should drink some Hema for the pain, Sir. And when you have this serpent whipped to death, let me handle the rod."
"No Hema," the Prince said. "Fetch the stranger. And Khanikos, his name is Tektu son of Nohas headwoman. Speak to him with proper honor - or I'll have him, beat you."
When Tektu was fetched to the prince, Kahela, behind her tree, could hear everyting they said. When they agreed to another match, Kahela could tell that Tektu was planning to lose. But couldn't Tektu see that the Prince also planned to lose? Kahela ran to the queen's tent.
"Where have you been, Kratik's daughter? Do you know that the man you came with, beat my son with a rod?"
"Be well, daughter of Metik-Dannia-dae. Tektu may win again, if you do not stop them."
"Why should I stop them? If my son challenges a better archer, let him be beaten."
"But the warriors will kill Tektu!"
"Why does he challenge a Prince then? And I am a Queen, daughter of Kratik!"
"Honor, Queen Ishan! Punish me for not speaking to you properly! I think Tektu plans to lose. But I think Prince Aru plans to lose as well. I don't know why."
"My son sees himself a hero. It must be sweet for him, to take his beating honorably, in front of everyone, after a fair contest. The warriors always lose to him on purpose."
"Safety, Queen, and long life. But I fear Tektu will have neither."
"My warriors will obey me. But we shall go see this match. Do nor fear, Kratik's daughter; I will not allow harm to come to your companion."
It was Huwh's voice. As clear as if he was standing next to her. "Well done," he said.
Tektu had already shot. Prince Aru was about to begin. The queen looked at her son, her eyes speaking, and she put her hand on Kahela's shoulder. Aru wasn't sure what that meant. Kahela wasn't beautiful, but there was something in her eyes; when she had come into the camp, in a heartbeat, he had wanted her. He wanted most women he saw, and the woman he wanted, came to him: he was the Prince. But not Kahela; she was almost a bard, and would not care about his title. He would have to prove himself to get this one.
Aru planned to lose and get another beating, only this time, he wanted Kahela to look at his face. He didn't think she had seen it the first time. He would lose and take a beating, honorably, and she would watch his face as he endured the blows without a sound. Just an amused smile on his face. Surely she would be impressed. But as he drew, she shouted "Your heart's desire, Prince. Shoot well!" She must know what his heart's desire was - she had those eyes that could see into a man's heart. He shot his hand of arrows, not quite knowing if he wanted to win or lose. He thought he had lost. But the warriors shouted "Aru, Aru!"
Tektu dropped belt and loincloth for his
beating, and stood waiting
for the Prince to command him. He looked into the Prince's
face proudly, as an equal. Not the way the men looked
at him; they never let him forget he was the prince. But
Tekto was his equal - more than his equal, Aru
thought. This young man was a hero for his skill; true, he
had shot one arrow wild, but then he shot the other four
accurately - showing he could have
won. He had just lost out of courtesy - and as a gentle
reproach to Aru for having moaned when he was beaten.
Tektu had lost on purpose, just to take this beating silently,
just to show Aru how a
real man takes a beating. Aru had no one
else who looked into his face like this. He had never met
with the air and presence of this young man, this hero wandering the
roads like Rhonan of
the old tales. Aru thought
- I could have this man for a friend. He's a wandering
hero, and she's a bard or as good as, so they might be just wandering
the roads together. They didn't say they were man and wife.
But why would she want me if she could have him?.
Tektu had a snub nose and a lopsided grin, but he had a warrior's strong body, and a long penis, tattooed with a spiral pattern. His ball sack was smooth, and his piss-beard hardly more than a boy's. He had scars across his bottom, like most warriors who trained with strict teachers. His black hair was braided close around his head, in the hero pattern, showing that he, or his father or grandfather, had won that high honor. Aru made Tektu bend over a pile of packs, with his legs spread. Young as he was, Tektu was as tall as Aru, and heavier. If he is coupling with her, Aru thought, I don't have a chance. But she wished me luck, not him! Aru was frantic with desire, and his penis stiffened inside his loincloth; I should remember not to wear it so tight, he thought, as he loosened his belt. The tight hard rod made Aru want punish Tektu like a naughty slave girl, by raping his shit-eye, and Tektu was positioned for it, his shit-eye no more than a hands-breadth from the tip of Aru's pulsing, naked prick. Aru, in the grip of a frenzy that made him need to fuck or hit, smashed the ash rod across Tektu's bottom, hard and fast. As he gave blow after blow, in his eyes he was thrusting into Tektu's bottom with his own rod. His penis hurt. He gave more than the hand of blows they had agreed, but he stopped at last, and threw down the rod. How she must despise me now, he thought.
Tektu stood up, in a daze, and took a few steps, trying not to show the pain that every step cost him. Poradis came over, holding Tektu's bow and quiver.
"Health and good appetite, Wvaksa Tektu, son of Nohas. Have you finished your evening practice? Shall we do some battle shooting?"
Tektu took the bow and quiver; trying to act normally. Poradis stood a short distance away, holding a slab of bark the size of his hand. Tektu faced away from him, quiver tied low by his hip, and the bow hung to the front. Poradis shouted, and tossed the bark up and to the side. Tektu spun around, grabbed an arrow with one hand and the bow with the other, nocked, drew, and released. He missed the bark, but not by much. He turned away again, and hung his bow. Poradis threw again, and shouted. This time the arrow clipped the bark as it fell. One more time: Poradis threw, toward the lake this time, and the arrow went solidly into the bark. Poradis and Tektu walked over to the fire, where food was cooking. Tektu seemed to have forgotten the pain, and he walked along easily, his long penis swinging with his steps. The warriors crowded around, asked Tektu what battles he had seen, and began to tell tales of battles, two or three of them talking at once. Skins of mead came out from under cloaks. Tektu drank standing up. Aru sat alone on the practice ground, his hand on the ash rod.
As Aru sat, alone, not joining the men, the sweet familiar tune of the evening sacrifice was raised; and they sang to the lake waters as they each cast a seed of grain or a drop of mead into the fire. The warriors hugged their women, or each other, and thought of the homes they did not have.[ source ]
.Now the Gods enjoy our gifts,
and to the giver is given joy,
of home and hearth and rest.
He who set us tasks by day,
now makes us leave them all undone.
Flies eagle home to nest.
A heavy load, under the goad.
Sunset comes and out to grass, go oxen free.
Wind blows across the troubled water
Then evening brings stillness to water and tree.
In the west the Sun commands:
Let the weaving be halted and the cloth be rolled.
And all the Sun obey.
Sun has set the time for working,
but now we turn to quiet thinking.
It is the end of day.
A business asks, for endless tasks,
but evening comes, and father goes home; it is his joy.
A flame spreads out and mother's soup is brought to boil;
She dips for the best bits and gives them to her boy.
Hungry he, he's done his chores,
and he thinks of his brother who is far from home.
He longs to clasp his hand.
At Sunrise we all began to work,
and now in the evening we gather home.
It is the Sun's command.
Thunder, Lord of Law, dashing here, in a flash He is there!
Bird to the nest, and - flock to the fold; and -
Thunder to his home in the waters goes.
Sunset speaks, and Sky obeys, and the evil Gods, and good.
Great Storm obeys, and Friend-of-Men
- Sun, whom all obey, hear me!
I sing your praise, to you I bow,
but I am but a poet who dreams of gold:
I give to you my song.
May Good Luck and Fortune come to me;
O Sun who makes happy all those who praise Him,
and grants their lives are long.
Wealth from the Earth, or under the ground
however it comes, I will to the Sun, my praises give.
This song across the Waters and the Earth will go,
Men sing the Sun's praises wherever they live.
Tektu's penis sprang up.He had to turn on his side, but the bodies were so tightly packed, he had to push to do it. The woman who had stepped on his bottom slithered down, and got her mouth around his penis. "Stop," he shouted, about to burst. She didn't stop, but licked and suckled and nibbled like a lamb at teat. Tektu's head was against an old slave woman, who was being fucked from behind, and two warriors were rubbing each other's penises and leaning against his back. But he didn't have time to be polite. He pulled his penis from the woman's mouth, and stood up, lifting her; and the men leaning against him fell off backwards. Tektu ignored their yelps and dropped the woman on top of them, and thrust into her, seed bursting at once. All around, men had been as quick, and panting hoots and sighs sounded like a chorus of singers. Only a few men continued to stallion, here and there in the heap of bodies. A warrior called out: "I let Marwat use my shit-eye, and he won't trade. Does anyone else want my penis tonight?"
Tektu asked the woman her name. She was Adjehan, wife of Runad spearman. Tektu apologized for being so quick. "I am very sore," he said. "Could you fondle my balls? And please, in a while, can we fuck again? I want to do it right, to suck your teats, and your ears, and tongue, and cunt, and every part of you." But Adjehan said she should go back to her husband. Tektu lay on his side, pleased that he had been able to get it up with a woman. But the pain in his bottom nagged and worried at him. He knew he was supposed to go to Kahela. His quarrel with her, that morning, had been a debate, and he had lost. Since he had challenged her - calling her a dunce - he was bound to submit to her, and the punishment she had named, had been to enter her, which was fair. It wasn't honorable to avoid a punishment. And it wasn't that he didn't like cunts. He had liked fucking Adjehan. But Kahela? Kahela? He wasn't that brave. Men trying to sleep complained of his tossings and twitchings.
Aru ate with his mother. Slaves brought them food, and the queen had a small fire by her tent. Prince Aru lay down to sleep in the tent. One of the slave girls came and said "Punish me if I fail to pleasure you." She had a whip in her hand. Maybe she really did like him - she wanted to fuck all the time. And when Aru was impotent, she didn't make fun of him, but demended a whipping, saying it was her fault. But tonight he didn't feel like trying--he told her he was going for a piss. She followed, but he slipped away from her in the dark, and he found a place to curl up in a pile of windblown leaves. If he went back to Mother's tent, the slave girl would pester him for a fuck, so if it got too cold, he would have to slip in with the men instead. But he was ashamed. They despised him. Prince Aru turned over on his other side. His bottom was sore, and he couldn't sleep.
Aru was a warrior - an archer. Just an archer like the others, even if he was the only son of the queen. He might not even be chosen king, unless he could prove himself. If I had honor, Aru thought, I should have asked to be punished like the others, from the start. I'm not worthy to be king, and the men know it. And it wasn't so bad, really, the beating. I did well. I didn't make a sound, except for that one little moan. I could have stopped it with a word, but I handed over the rod and bared my bottom. I was brave enough to do that. Mother won't like it, but I'll tell the Chief that I must be beaten the same as any other archer, from now on. I have to do it; for respect and honor. They despise me. Why would anyone want a king who is impotent? When I am beaten the same as they are, side by side, maybe the men will take me along when they go to steal a pig, or to rape some village girls. And if we're caught, we will sit in a stream together, cooling our bottoms. We'll hold each other's penises, and say to each other: "You're such a baby; can't take a whipping," the way brothers do when they've been whipped.
Aru wished he could cool his bottom now. It just went on and on hurting. He wished he had someone to laugh at the pain with, to hold penises with. I could go find Tektu, he thought. Tektu is a hero, for his weapon; it won't matter to him that I'm a queen's son. He's not afraid of me like the others. We could be friends. But I can't - I beat him more than we agreed. Aru stood up, and stretched. Then it really hurt. I have to sleep, he thought. Real warriors can always sleep, even after a beating. He lay down, then got up again. Naked in the cold wind, carrying his cloak, he walked through the trees. The icy blast cooled his bottom a little. The moon was rising, large and low in the east, and he felt his way through stripes of moonlight and shadow. He tripped over a man; it was Kahela's slave, the old warrior. Where he fell, his hand felt a woman's hip. "Tektu?" she said. It was Kahela. She was not sleeping with Tektu at the moment, but she obviously expected him. It was as he feared - Kahela was Tektu's woman.
"I am Aru, archer" he said, "Health, Daughter of Kratik, and I wish you your heart's desire." He pulled at her cloak, which he was kneeling on, and felt with his face in the deep darkness. He found her shoulder, her breast, her teat. He suckled. "You know my desire," he said, "it is you."
"Prince," she said. "Uhm. Honor. Health and safety."
He said: "Don't call me that, I am just an archer; just a warrior of the queen." He moved beside her and felt for her lips with his own, but she ducked her head and he kissed only cloth and hair. It was cold. Her skin felt very cold. Aru found the cloak he had dropped, worked his legs under her cloak, and spread his thick woolen cloak over them both. He hugged her tight. She kept her head down, and her knees high. He nuzzled her ear for a bit, then lay still. The wind had picked up, now blowing down the valley. He was cold, his bottom hurt, and he wasn't sleepy. He tried to lie still. The short burst of joy he had felt, at finding her alone, made him all the more heartsick now. Now that she had refused him.
Some time later, Kahela reached out and felt Aru's body, found his penis, and held it. She snuggled into him, but kept her head down and her knees up. I'll rape her in the morning, he thought. Except I don't want to do it with everyone watching, 'cause I might have one of those times. But if I ever catch her alone, I'll rape her and rape her and rape her. I'm sure to get hard if no one is watching. I'm sure to spill seed with her, I want her so badly. I'll win some battle, and she'll love me. I'll ask my mother for some gold, and pile golden jewelry on her like a queen; like a goddess. To the fire with her! I want her!
Aru realized his bottom didn't hurt any more, and he felt a great desire to sleep.
Kahela made her way to the lake, wrapped in Aru's warm cloak, as he had rolled over on top of hers, and was still sleeping. She folded the cloak and left it on a log, before pushing through the reeds to the open water. She sank in the mud up to her knees, so she was glad she had left the fine royal cloak behind. At the open water, she tossed in her few grains of barley, but they floated, not moving, as if her sacrifice was not accepted. "Queen of Wombs, may I be carrying Huwh's son! Give me that, and I will sing your praises forever!" Kahela was starting her monthly bleed, so it was impossible, even for the Goddess. But it was a comfort to say the words. Huwh always included the King of the Sea in his morning sacrifice, so she added: "Great King Sea, strong and kind, and Great Rod of the Centaur, whom all praise: may I have pleasure and comfort from a man again, on this green Earth! May I have pleasure again from a penis!" It seemed impossible. Aru was kind. And polite, for a prince. She had been willing to have his penis inside of her. It was an honor, she supposed, to be desired by a prince, since after all no one would call her pretty. But it would be Huwh's face she saw, Huwh's voice she heard, yelling "Goddess Cunt!" as he reached his peak of pleasure. And it would be no pleasure, for Kahela, to be fucked by a memory. She churned her cunt with a reed stalk. But the muddy reed just made her think of Huwh's penis, horribly blotched by disease, and now moldering in the dark, under the ground. She did not think she would ever desire a penis again. The thought of a penis - of warm flesh stuck into her - made her sick. Man's seed seemed at that moment as polluted as menstrual blood.
In her village, women were careful not to be seen naked, but Kahela had no thought of anyone else being by the lake. It was before sunrise, cold, and the swamp mist had not yet risen. Only the tormenting midges were awake, singing their tuneless song and dappling her bare hide with spots. But she heard a voice, nearby, in the reeds, and in a tongue she did not know. Raiding pirates should not be here, but here they were. She had no weapon of any kind. She was stark naked. She would be taken; she would spend her life as a slave, raped by scores of men. The Sky-Father's joke: she had dared to pray for pleasure from a penis - she, who had taken Huwh's bare penis into her tattooed cunt! Everyone knew that Huwh had broken the Sky-Father's law: he fucked Sugga with a penis bare of tattoo. There should be a blood sacrifice for that. Kahela could have made it for him, naked on his grave at sunrise, so that Huwh would have unstained honor. Then she could have been whipped at sunset for having Huwh's bare penis in her own cunt, until every scab from the morning whipping was peeled away. And shamed too - not only stripped naked before the village, but a leafy sapling stuck in her shit-eye, and honey smeared on her so the bees would sting. But she hadn't done any of this. And now, instead of being whipped for a day, she would be whipped until she died, a slave taken by pirates.
But then the voice continued in the ordinary speech, and Kahela knew it - it was Aru's slave boy, not slavers from a foreign land. He used the ordinary tongue, but he wasn't praying to any Gods Kahela had never heard of.
"King and Queen of Heaven! Ela'u and Ashrath! Accept the sacrifice of Yahedar son of Metik-Danniadae. Watch over me in this foreign land. I pray to you as my mother taught me, and I will teach my children; we will never forget you, or your sacred land, our true home. Take the breath of Abid-Ashirat my mother under your ridgepole. And watch over my nephew Aru, and my sister Ishan. Forgive Aru: do not punish his wickedness. They call him Prince, and it makes him ashamed to weep for the death of a slave. But he is still the boy who sat with me on her lap, held penises with me when she switched us. My mother was his mother more than the Queen ever was, and he does weep for her, inside. I will tell Aru the boy is his, at the right time. For the Queen, punish her for making me do what I don't want to do. But she doesn't know she is my sister."
Kahela waited, and the boy left. She waited some more. She did not know why it mattered, that a slave should not know that she had heard, but it did. By the time she came out of the tall reeds, the sun was up, and a few warriors were about. But Kahela was not thinking about being naked. She had been about to praise the Sky-Father when she had heard the slave's voice. Now she remembered that she had not sacrificed to Him at all. She would have to go back. She heard again in her ears the slave saying: "King and Queen of Heaven." What were the names again? Nakien will want to know. So many Gods. Kahela didn't want to sacrifice to the Sky-Father. I will never praise Him again, she decided. Let Him be angry. Let Him punish me. I owe a blood sacrifice - let him take it. He killed Huwh. He can't punish me worse than that. Kahela walked past the men who were looking at her nakedness, and then she put on Aru's cloak.
The Queen was at the campfire, preparing Hema, using the milk from a young slave woman, that she suckled and spit into a skin. Marwat was trying to provide the seed. "It's Tektu," the Queen said. "Go and see."
Tektu looked ghastly; pale and haggard. "It is only the beating," the Queen said. "but when he tries to stand, he screams. He vomits; even water. The Hema is ready, except for the sacrifice. Do you know the song?"
The Queen threw butter and a drop of the Hema into the fire; Kahela sang, and Marwat intoned the counter-strophes:[ source ]
.For all the bards who contemplate the ancient songs,Then Kahela sang the revenge song:
Hema can still delight them.
And if they need some fortitude when fighting any wrongs,
Hema will help to fight them.
Hema can give you courage and the strength to fight all day ;
Hema will make you faster. ( for when you run away )
And when the village council meets just take a little drink ;
you will be wise and eloquent. ( at least that's what you'll think )
In all the songs there's never been a more disgusting King
than Ker the Hema drinker.
And Manzen was a simpleton to swallow everything ;
and they call him a thinker!
"I have great love of learning, and I honor you," Ker said ;
and Manzen called him "wonderful." ( but then he lost his head )
That evil King thought Hema could abolish all decay ;
but great Lord Hema murdered him. ( He likes to trick that way )
.Irhona in her agony hoped for a grateful son ;
. she cried to Hema - save him!
And Rhonan took the honor when the stallion race was run,
with strength that Hema gave him.
All maidens who are getting old and weeping to be wed :
I don't think tears will help you. ( just try Hema instead )
Hema can make a shy young boy the boldest man on Earth ;
and also helps the woman. ( at least for giving birth )
Go dally with a damsel and a little Hema skin
with lust and pleasure fills you,
but put your joy in jewelry and try with dice to win,
then lust for treasure kills you.
Your lover's hidden secrets can the great Lord Hema show,
There are some things He won't reveal. ( but you don't want to know )
Ask Hema for the honor cup; so beautiful and round,
and you will have it in your hands. ( when you are underground. )
.Lord Hema in the starry sky sing proverbs as of old ;
your precious words will make us wise ;
and when we have to fight we hope that You will make us bold,
and please go fuck those o-th-er guys.
Lord Hema wrote the ancient songs and helps the bards to think :
a bard will wait to be inspired. ( he's had too much to drink. )
He'll ask no sneaky questions, but He's open and direct ;
and you'll tell things you hoped to hide. ( but what did you expect? )
And all of you who're listening better change your wicked ways :
don't think you will escape Him,
not when a man you've injured to the Great Lord Hema prays :
"Pull down his cloth and rape him!"
Hema has sung the song of Law from every mountain top :
Your wickedness can't be concealed. ( And you will get the chop. )
Your seed will stay inside you and you won't get any sleep,
You won't see pretty bath-ing girls. ( Or recognize your sheep. )
.The terrible green dragon spits poison in his rage - Kill him!
For the wise and honorable man - take revenge.
The giant thirsts for blood, his crimes beyond belief - Kill him!
Hema, his club and fury overcome!
The wvaksa was a murderer, he made himself the king - Kill him!
For the wise and honorable man - take revenge.
A Killer and a Law-breaker, he's hated by the Gods! - Kill him!
The Law is on his lips, not his deeds.
Mind-bending body pleasure with the soft and fickle whore - Kill her!
For the wise and honorable man - take revenge.
For the man who plans us evil with a smile on his lips - Kill him!
Hema, Great Lord Hema, overcomes!
Kahela said: "Queen, be well, and ... Ishan, that is, Queen, do you want to go to your son? He was beaten as well."
"Slowly, a swallow at a time. And then wait to see if he vomits. Don't give it all yet! Can you do that?"
"Queen, long life. I can do this. Aru was under the oak, behind your tent. The big oak. I should have said Prince Aru, all honor to him."
Queen Ishan ran.
The Queen came back, dragging Aru by the hair. "Did you rape her?" she asked.
He was naked, and his eyes sought the dust like a boy about to be whipped. "No, Mother."
"Punish me for not speaking properly, Mother. I mean, Be well, Royal Captain Ishan; and punish this archer for not speaking properly to the queen, for calling her mother.. And no, mother, I did not rape her." He straightened his shoulders and raised his eyes to her face. The top of his mother's head was about level with his nipples.
She turned and snarled at Kahela: "Are you coupling with Tektu as well as my son, Kratik's daughter?"
"He didn't f... I mean, Safe travel, Queen Ishan. We did not couple last night."
"You are wrapped in his red cloak, Kahela, and he was sleeping under yours. Did you think I don't recognize them? Just don't bring your swollen belly to my doorposts!"
"Honor and praise to Hema and the Queen! I swear he did not enter me."
"Hmph! You lay under the same cloak."
"Queen, I know the arts of pleasure. Nakien was my teacher; I watched him often, as a girl. I put my hand on Aru's penis, to stoke his desire; his heat increased. I could feel his heat; his balls like soup pots on the fire. He was Womb, I was Fetus with tiny hand. I waited craftily to make his desire more, and when his desire was biting I moved to the position called the Tunic, but he ... um ... fell asleep."
Tektu burst out laughing. He had gotten to his hands and knees, and was trying to stand, but when he started to laugh, he fell over. He screamed, but kept laughing. "You can't learn it all by watching, you, you!" and he collapsed in helpless laughter. "Look at Aru! Look at him!"
Aru was as red as a sloe berry. He kissed Kahela, and began to dance, pulling her along. The unfastened red cloak went flying. She raised her knees high, and smacked his penis from side to side as they danced. She turned around, and he took her from behind, making the four legged beast. Locked together, they jumped and twisted. Then they stopped dancing. Kahela spread her legs a bit, and rested her hands on a pack. Aru bucked. Then he bulled. Then he rammed, very hard. And then he stallioned; he seemed able to go forever. Nakien had never done so well. Rhonan winning the stallioning race had not done so well! The men were standing around the fire, waiting for breakfast, blankets draped over their shoulders. They stared, open-mouthed. Aru's face while fucking was as calm as a meditating bard.
"Well, I guess they told the truth, they didn't couple last night," the Queen said. "If that wasn't a first time fuck, I've never seen one. Or had one." Tektu was standing, and seemed at ease. "How much Hema did you drink?" she asked.
"Be well, Queen. Just a swallow. But I'd like some of whatever the Prince drinks."
"That, you drink from the eyes of a woman."
"Queen, I could have had those eyes. Yesterday, I didn't think they were pretty. Now look at them."
Aru had started dogging, no longer stallioning in and out. He was hooting and panting. Then with a sigh, he pulled out. He dropped to the ground, taking Kahela down into a kiss. The Queen tossed the cloak over them.
"Warriors get busy!" she shouted. "Fires! Firewood! Water! Food! Work! All of you! Slaves, the tent!"
Kahela stood up, taking the cloak and leaving Aru naked on the ground. "I need to shit," she said.
It was Huwh.
"that was exquisite. And I will also pray to the Lady of the Wombs."
"And now, Tektu, you will tell me everything. About the Kohiyossa." The Queen sat on the ground by the fire. "Kahela has told me ... never you mind what! Just you, tell me all. I'll know if you lie, or leave anything out."
Not all, Tektu decided. Let her punish me all she wants. But there were some things, that he wanted her to know. Things the warriors of the Kohiyossa wanted everyone to know: that the God who is not named, had danced, at midsummer, on the bronze makers' ground. Tektu could remember, word for word, Arkwan telling the story; Nakien dragging it out of him. It was the day Tektu's life had changed forever; the day he stpped being a weaver brat and started being the brother of a God. He tried to make the story as convincing, as powerful, in the telling, as it had been in the listening.
"Arkwan, a friend of King Taslan of the northern lands, was taken as a slave by the bronze makers ..."
Aru sat up, listening intently. (How can he sit? Tektu wondered.) Kahela stood in the shadows behind the Queen; Tektu avoided a glance in her direction. He told the tale, from the dance at the bronze makers to Arkwan's going with Nakien to the north, and he told it well. But he said nothing whatsoever about the Kohiyossa.
"..., and my sister went north with Nakien bard, as wife to Arkwan, Nakien's slave. Bards wander so I hope I'll see my sister some day. And that is the end of the tale."
Tektu stopped, and waited. The Queen knew something about the Kohiyossa, so she would know he had left something out, and would punish him. But whatever the punishment, he dared not tell her where the Kohiyossa was.
"And why to you wander on this road, son of Nohas, you and the daughter of Kratik?"
"Queen, wisdom. I am just going home. As for Kahela, who knows? Perhaps she liked my penis, until she found a better."
"Khanikos! Aru, fetch the rod."
"I will not."
"And by ash you will learn to address a queen, archer! But, son, what should we do about Tektu? ... I suppose you know he lost to you on purpose, Aru-kin? You beat him more than you agreed; I thought he might die, this morning. And even another such beating will not make him talk. But we can try another way. Tektu, let me tell you what I already know: a baby was born, seed of the slave's penis; he had yellow hair. His mother snatched him from under a tree; she was crushed. And Nakien has ruled that this is the Kohiyossa of legend. What I do not know, is where this baby is."
"Happiness, Queen. He is sent to a village. I do not know where. Only Nakien knows." Tektu said.
"Did Nute carry the baby when he left the bronze makers? Did he? You will not say? And you, slow-shitting Kahela?" The Queen turned around.
Women, and some of the warriors, were working by the fire. They minded their tasks, did not look up. But there was no chatter and gossip. They were listening.
Queen Ishan spoke louder. "Well here is something you don't know, travelers. Blood has been spilled! Nohas is fled. Battle rages at the village of Kros!"
"Mother fled? Where? Blood? Do you mean in my village? Who? Why?"
Queen Ishan shrieked. She pulled her dagger, a fine Tlossos, and ran at Tektu, pointing at his eyes. He raised his arms. She threw the dagger down to her left hand, and pricked his thigh before he could drop his guard. "You are slow, headwoman's son," she said. "so the next time you address me, remember. Speak to me properly or you may get pricked where you like it less."
"Happiness, Queen. Wealth, Queen. A long-rod slave boy, Queen. I do not know why my mother is fighting, nor what side she has chosen. But I fight on the side of those who say that Arkwan is the God. If you have chosen the other side, I am your enemy."
Aru said: "Queen, honor. I too, will fight for the God we do not name."
"I stand with the Prince, royal captain Ishan." This was a spearwoman named Vaishga, the only woman in the company of warriors.
"Aru archer, Vaishga spearwoman, I have not yet chosen a side. We do not even know yet what are the sides. We have learned much from Tektu, if we can believe him. Based on what we have learned, we will now go west, into the fighting, and not south to the smoking water as planned. We have not chosen a side, we just seek to learn more. If it is true, what Tektu says, that all at the dance saw the God's face . . . well, when we know more, I will hear your words, Aru and Vaishga. And then I will decide, and you will obey. Bow now to the Queen's rule, or be my enemies."
Several warriors grabbed their weapons. Arrows were nocked - even pointed - at the prince and at the spearwoman. Vaishga fastened her cloak, so she wouldn't wave her bare bottom in the air, knelt, bowed, dropped to her elbows, held one hand in the other, and touched her forehead to her thumbs. Aru, naked, did the same. And then, so did Tektu. And then, so did every warrior around the fire, and the camp followers as well. Poradis knelt with the rest. Warriors at practice put down their weapons, and came running. Only Kahela remained standing upright. Someone shouted, "Sovereign Ishan, our captain, Long Life!" "Long Life," everyone shouted the reponse.
The Queen nodded, then broke into a grin which she hid with her hand. She raised Aru to his feet. And whispered in his ear.
"Whatever happens, we will remain loyal to the High King. We must. He is strong and I am weak."
"By today, we would have been at the smoking water," the Queen explained. The moon had waned; after many days of travel, and they had passed through the mountains. The Queen continued: "But we have traveled west this moon, heading into the fighting, instead of south to the sanctuary, and now we are not near any holy grove. We had not planned to sacrifice on the road. But we do have the rams, so we can conduct our own small version of the ritual. Have you ever been fucked by a ram?"
Kahela said: "Be well, Queen Ishan. The High Queen is only fucked by the High King. He wears horns, and they only pretend to cut his balls off. Why don't you do it that way? Have some man play the part of the Ram?"
"Some wvaksa of my kingdom? Have him play the King's part? He might get ideas. No, a ram's cock inside me once a year isn't so bad. Even if the Rams do think I'm the worst-smelling ewe they've ever covered. The hard part will be the dance. But if we don't do it, then my kingdom will not have sacrificed this year, at all. The Lady will be offended. When she chooses lambs and calves for next spring, and babies, we won't get any. Can you sing Sasoyhan's Rides?"
"Dominion, Royal Captain ... "
The Queen interrupted: "Only the warriors call me 'Captain'."
Kahela continued as if the Queen hadn't spoken: "I know all of Sasoyhan's responses and songs. I know them well. I learned them as a girl, since I was sure I would dance Sasoyhan on my wedding night. I dreamed of all my friends, sick with envy, watching me. Watching as the husband I had won fucked me like a hero from an old song. And I dreamed of blood on my bridal gown, raised like a flag the next morning, But things ... Well, anyway. But isn't the Bride of the Centaur supposed to be danced by a bride? Or at least, by a married woman?"
"But who? Adjehan is a treasure; I love her dearly, but can you see her as blushing Sasoyhan? Or Runad as the Horny Centaur? He'd be too nervous to speak, and he wouldn't get his rod up. But Aru ... Aru and you ... great-grandchildren will be told of this dancing of Sasoyhan! The longest fuck in a dance ever. The Lady will say we made her praises last forever, and send twin calves to every cow."
.Smell the buds and garlands, and feel the polished wood ;Kahela climbed onto the ox, and Tektu and Poradis led it around in a circle.
golden are the carvings and, the wheels are round and good.
Your line will last forever, when this cunt the Centaur gores ;
so get ready for the journey to the home that will be yours.
The penis of the Centaur goes inside!
What a thing to mention to a bride!
I know you did not notice that this woman has been wed -
there are many blossoms here for you to take to bed.
Centaur you are deathless and - we your praises sing :
so find a willing maiden girl, and with her have a fling ;
for this one, her husband has a rod!
With a husband I don't need a God!
.Now that you are married with your husband please agree.
Bound to your new altar from your father's you are free.
Rhonan takes you riding and the two Sky-Father's boys
can let you have a sample of your coming marriage joys -
his body into yours will be as one!
I hadn't realized marriage could be fun!
You are the mistress now so you unbraid the flowing hair,
and hunger for his penis or you won't get anywhere.
To every man a maiden and, to every maiden man
and so we see the Gods above are doing what they can.
May you have the blessing of Good Luck!
Aren't we going somewhere for a fuck?
.By lusting for his body you can overcome defeats
and be the one they turn to when the village council meets.
I hope that he will love you and King Thunder give you sons,
I hope they will not turn out to be disobedient ones.
Spoiled little boys are often seen!
I will rule my household like a Queen!
Smell the buds and garlands and, feel the polished wood ;
golden are the carvings and, the wheels are round and good.
Your line will last forever when this cunt the Centaur gores ;
get ready for the journey to the home that will be yours.
Blessing on the beautiful new bride!
And just when does the penis go inside?
The Queen said: "You didn't miss a line. But can't you give it more - sex? With a cart, Sasoyhan bends over in front, with Rhonan behind her, and on 'her husband has a ROD!' he thrusts hips forward. It's all done with the look on her face. No one can see, because of the garlands."
"But we haven't got a cart - Goddess cunt! - I mean, Honor Queen Ishan we haven't got a cart. How can I fuck her if she's on the ox and I'm leading it?"
"Poradis, you lead the ox, and Tektu rides behind her."
Tektu said:, "Queen, it won't work. Does Rhonan go for his friend's bride, naked? Does the shy virgin Sasoyhan come out to meet him, naked? But if they are both clothed on the ox, how can we make it seem she is being fucked? How can we make it seem we are stripping to fuck, unless we do? And the real Sasoyhan wouldn't strip to fuck if people could see her."
"Sasoyhan wears a cloak, but no tunic. She's young, only just tattooed. And for you, singing Rhonan, you just pull your cloth loose, like this, and pull your penis ... Great Lady, Tektu, I hardly touched you. You're fast, but are you lasting?"
"Queen, it's just, I've been thinking about the rams."
"Keep it up. If you can sing Rhonan with a stiff rod, all the better."
In the morning Kahela slipped away from Aru, without waking him. She had practiced with Tektu and Poradis late into the moonless night, while Aru slept. A lot of practice, for what was only the first dance and song: the wedding procession. Two more dances, four more songs, to practice today. They must dance Sasoyhan's Rides tonight. The Queen would go to the Ram tomorrow, before sunset. If their count was right, the sliver of the new moon would be seen tomorrow night, and then it would be too late - the time of the Great Sacrifice would be over.
Warriors were standing around the fire, rubbing their sleepy eyes, blankets draped over their shoulders, enjoying the rising sun,. Each had a dagger, and most had bow or spear as well. They had their belts on, for the daggers, but would not put on their loincloths until after practice. Kahela had never seen so many tattooed penises as she had seen on this journey: her village was too poor to hold a midsummer dance. They were spectacular - Tektu's clean black spiral, Marwat's dots like a dappled fawn - each was different, the work of many hands. The warriors stood close, with arms across each other's shoulders, or hand in hand. Each companion was greeted with a firm clasp on the shoulder, a word of friendship, a penis squeeze, a hug. Vaishga, the only woman warrior, was greeted with hugs and feels of her cunt. They insulted each other in jest. They wrestled. Marwat was dozing on his feet, and Vaishga smacked his bottom with a javelin butt, without him seeing it coming. Everyone laughed, Marwat most of all, and he chased her around the fire. Tektu was greeted in companionship like the others. The Queen would not allow him his weapons, except during practice, but the men acted as if he were one of them, and not their captive. He was teaching them the fast shooting he had learned from Arkwan. Poradis too, was embraced. There was a potent smell, the smell of many penises together. The smell was the sign of The Companion, the God who loves the sacrifice that one warrior makes for another.
Kahela felt the lure of this warrior
she wasn't any good with weapons, but then neither was
Poradis. But wives and women
were not a part of the
fellowship. Only Vaishga,
who never let a penis in her cunt, and who had no special friend among
the men, was accepted. The men would certainly never accept the
bed-mate as a companion - not even if she could shoot as well as Tektu.
knew that more than anything, Aru longed for this fellowship, this
but the men gave him respect instead. No man would
to the Prince: "you stink like a horse." No man would say:
"I'll fuck your woman, you see if I don't." No warrior
when clasping Aru's penis, jab him under the foreskin with a
while watching his face to see if he winced. No one would
him up and grind his face into the dirt, and stomp on his fingers until
he cried "you win," or do any of the other things that are signs of
among warriors. Aru now took
strokes for mistakes at practice, like
the others, but it was not going well. Without
the prince, evening practice had been full of shouts and laughter -
winners singing in triumph, losers taking their strokes with a laugh
and a boast. When a man earned a lashing by some mistake, the company would laugh at him, but his
best friend would try something even harder, and likely earn the same, so they could be lashed side by side. Then
they would wrestle and kiss, and sit down to supper together, hands on
each other's penises - the sting of punishment turned to the comfort of
companionship. But when the Prince competed the men
were nervous; they dared to win against him now, but when he lost they
did not dare to laugh at him - and that made all the difference.
This morning, for the first time, the warriors looked at Kahela with the same cautious respect they gave the Prince. They seemed a little too cautious. They looked guilty; even Poradis and Tektu. Poradis's eyes flickered. Kahela went to search, in the direction he had glanced. She found a body. A boy, or rather a young man, for he wore a man's loincloth. There was an arrow in his back. In his hand was the leg of a sheep, the stolen prize he had lost his life for. He had many old wounds; some had turned ugly. He was not skin and bones, but in the past, to judge from his fingernails, he had starved or been very sick, and he was very small for a man. Perhaps he was a boy, and just wore the cloth. He was lying face down, but even so Kahela could see that his belly and paps were swollen from some disease. He was covered with mud and the stains of the forest ; he stank like a shit pile. Kahela looked him over, and gasped. The arrow shaft went in just under his shoulder blade, but the arrow had been broken off, and the fledging was not in sight. But what drew Kahela's eye was the bottom - the narrow loincloth was twisted up his crack, not covering his bottom, and his bottom was a mass of jagged scars. This young man's life had been a life of beatings - beatings till the skin broke, and more beating before the wounds could heal.
Kahela wept. No one should be beaten like that. Anyone would shoot a thief, but to die for a bit of mutton! Did the man who beat him so cruelly, make him steal? Kahela thought of her father's whip, how it made her feel punished and ashamed. How much it hurt. How much she hated him, while he whipped her. But her bottom had no scars on it. And her father usually let her off, even when she had been very wicked. Had she told him how much she loved him? Queen Ishan was heading into battle, and this age of the green Earth was coming to an end. Would Kahela ever see Kratik again? Could it have been a father, who beat this boy so much, who made him steal? Could any father do that?
"Who shot the thief?" Kahela asked the warriors. They looked at the ground, even Tektu. "This has nothing to do with fighting for the young God, for Arkwan," Tektu said. "These are my friends. I won't say who shot the arrow."
"Be well, Princess; arrow luck in battle. Whoever shot him, the man was stealing." It was a spearman. Dan-something, Hek-Danniadae, that was it.
"I am not a Princess, Hek-Danniadae spearman. The Queen will punish you, and me too, if she hears you say so."
"Princess, long life. Hek-Danniadae is my brother. I am Ohrsos."
He was being insolent, telling Kahela his name was Ohrsos, which meant arse. He was Hek-Danniadae. Kahela went to wake the Queen.
The Queen did not care who shot the little thief. "Give him to the corpse-birds. Why should we bury him? Carry him away. We'll be gone before he smells. Ohrsos, cut his penis off and skin it - someone may recognize the tattoo. I want to know which village is sending out thieves."
Ohrsos pulled his dagger and cut the man's belt, and turned him over. "Many grandsons, royal captain. He, I mean she, is not a man."
"I can see that, Ohrsos." The Queen looked at the body. "She has no tattoos, but she had become a woman - obviously. There are wounds, turned ugly, but not many old scars. Great Lady - look at that. I want to see - spread her legs and lift her. I want to see her cunt. And her shit-eye. Fuck with fire! Look at those scars!"
The Queen touched the body, feeling the scars. She said: "This girl was raped, often, since she was small. She was beaten and starved. Before midsummer, she escaped, and has been living in the woods. She must have known she was carrying a child. Her belt is grass rope, badly made; she lacked the skill to set snares, I guess. She has eaten through the summer, nuts and berries, but she must have hungered for meat, to come into a war-camp. And with the baby - Great Lady, how long ago was she shot? She is still warm."
The Queen plunged her Tlossos into the dead woman's belly, and pulled out a baby boy, large but blue and clearly dead. Kahela held the boy against her chest, under her cloak, and slapped his back, trying to coax him to breathe.
The Queen looked away. "Warriors, you've let the fire go out. Ohrsos, Tektu: carry away the body. All of you - any more thieves, any strangers, capture them - I want to question them, to torture them. We are heading into a war. Kahela, when you are ready."
Kahela walked behind the body, holding the dead boy against her chest as if he were still alive. They laid the woman on a broad stone, where the carrion birds, the tombs of the bravest, would feast. Kahela laid the dead boy on his side, his mouth to his mother's teat, and his hand on it, as if it were an honor cup.
They returned toward the camp, but Aru came out looking for them, and wanted to be taken to the bodies. Kahela took him, and let Ohrsos and Tektu return to their chores. She wondered why Ohrsos's father had named him Arse. His brother's name was worse, now she thought about it, at least for a boy. In the old tongue "Hek-Danniadae" meant "Clitoris like Dannia's"
Aru knelt down and kissed the dead boy on the temple. "They said you were trying to get the boy to breathe, that you walked away with him at your breast. He is not cold. Could he.. ."
"Prince, he is dead."
Aru cut a leafy branch and laid it across the mother and child. "She was young. Some village that sends children out to steal."
"Didn't your mother tell you how much this girl was beaten and raped? Prince."
"I'm an archer. So, she was raped."
Kahela took away the branch, picked up the dead boy, and handed him to the Prince. Then she turned the mother's body over. Aru looked at the scars. Around the shit-eye there were scars on top of scars, a ring of bumpy, cut-up flesh. Kahela lifted the body's hips and spread the knees so Aru could see the terrible scarring of the cunt. Kahela said, "Prince, the man who did this: you are holding his son. She would not let him do it to her child, so she ran. She is not so very young, just small. She never got enough to eat. She was a slave, bought to be fucked. Fucked as a little girl without tattoos."
Kahela's eyes had a sudden sight of Huwh's bare penis sliding into her. "That was different, Sky-Father!" she cried aloud.
Aru said: "They should have stopped the man who did this, in his village. We should have helped her, not killed her. If people were kinder, she would have tried asking us for food, and not stealing it. People should ..." Aru stopped suddenly, looking ashamed. He dropped the dead baby. The dead woman was on her belly, bits of her insides coming out through the gash the Queen had cut. No one put back the leafy branch. The Prince looked at his lover's face, then at the ground. He seemed frightened.
Kahela wanted to talk of something else. "Why do two of the warriors look exactly alike, and why are they called 'Bottom' and 'Goddess Clitoris'?" Not many knew the old tongue, so she gave the two warriors' names in ordinary speech. She wondered if Aru even knew what the names meant.
"They are twins, of course," the Prince answered. Their shit-eyes, their bottoms ... their step-father ... they are ..." Aru pointed to the dead woman. "Like her. They have scars around their shit-eyes, scars on their bottoms so there is no skin. It was their step-father. He died when the boys were - when they had started to get their piss-beards. Two moons later, on the day of Purging, they walked naked into the middle of their village with bloody daggers held high above their heads. They had killed their mother. They asked the village for judgment according to Law. They asked no forgiveness. The village knew what their step-father did, but perhaps not how bad it was - but they could not ignore the scars. The boys spoke no word of accusation against their mother, but since they had killed her, clearly they held her to blame. Killing a parent is not an ordinary killing. It was her family who should strike first, but they wouldn't. Not even her own brother! He pointed to the boys' scars and said: 'My sister was as much to blame for these, as the man she married. These are my nephews, my kin, but their mother I say was no kin of mine. And so, let some other take this club from me, if any will claim her as kin.' And in all the village not one person was willing to take the club, and he threw it into the sacrifice fire. An old priest gave the ruling - the boys must make the circuit of the village, and every one, to the smallest child, must strike them with a whip; then they must be driven from the village and never return. And so it was done, unwillingly, but the priest insisted on the Law. If the villagers had been allowed to choose, the boys would not have been punished at all."
"But they killed their mother!"
"I suppose they have ordinary names, but do not wish to use anything their parents gave them. Arse and Holy Clitoris are the names they chose for themselves, as exiles."
"They didn't have to kill her!"
"Many woman feel that way, but in the warrior band of Queen Ishan, they are loved. But they can't bear to fuck a shit-eye, or to have theirs fucked, and women fear that seed of such penises will kill them inside. So I make my slave girls take turns to fuck them."
The Queen came out to fetch Kahela. "Sasoyhan's Rides," she said. "Practice."
Tektu, with his penis hanging out of his cloth, mounted behind Kahela, who was leaning forward over the ox's neck. She was naked except for a cloak, hanging down to one side, and he swung his own cloak to the other side. The cloaks did not hide much. He snuggled his soft penis against Kahela's cunt, as he had during the practice. But this was not a practice. It ought to feel different. He was dancing a holy dance; a sacrifice of seed to the Lady - to the mother of the God who is not named. But Tektu could not feel Her touch. He thought of Arkwan's holy penis, that gave the seed of the Kohiyossa. He thought of the tattoos that bound that penis with his own. Now his penis was playing a part in this most holy of all sacrifices, and he felt nothing. It felt no different than the times they had practiced. Did the Lady not care?
They sang the cart song, as Marwat prodded the ox. Tektu tried to stiffen by thinking holy thoughts - a ram's penis fucking the Queen. But his thoughts strayed to the Chief's rod, surely the thickest ever to piss on the green Earth. Since they had joined the Queen's company, Tektu had slept with the warriors - he had been embraced and had his penis suckled like the others. But when a warrior had pointed to his own penis, Tektu had said he would rather not. The warriors laughed, and Tektu's shit-eye had been tenderly but thoroughly raped. Then the Chief Warrior showed him his tree branch. "Front or back?" he had asked. Back was out of the question. Tektu had run his tongue under the Chief's foreskin, the way Nakien had shown him, and had nearly choked on the flood.
"He yah!" Kahela screamed. The watching warriors laughed. Tektu's rod had slipped past her doorposts, and was pounding to be let further in. Kahela pretended to be a virgin having her first peak of pleasure, and the warriors hooted. Kahela shifted, pulling her cunt off Tektu's rod, which was jammed in at a painful angle, and sat on top of it instead. She worked her hips, the ox plodded, and Tektu soon burst, leaving a patch of wet on the ox's neck. Their cloaks, draped on either side, hid what was happening, but the warriors watched, as exited as spying children. Only Aru scowled. Looking at her lover, Kahela touched Tektu's ribbon of seed, and put a drop on her forehead, to scare away the Gelded Ones.
Adjehan and Runad, who danced the groom's parents, did a dance of welcome, and Marwat led the ox around the family altar. The song to the green Earth, and the dance for the animals who give themselves as food, went smoothly. Now was the Hema song. Of them all, Kahela knew this one best, but every practice today had been a disaster. Kahela touched the seed on her forehead, then licked her finger. "Hema, help us to praise you," she prayed, but it was useless. Trying to sing, she choked, she stumbled. The Queen had to prompt her with: "Then Rhonan took the honor when the stallion race was run ..." How could I forget that line, Kahela thought - Aru can stallion longer than any man since Rhonan. Kahela in her thoughts pledged a whipping for every mistake, as Huwh used to do. The revenge song went better, with everyone shouting "Kill him!" together.
Kahela put down the Hema skin. She danced away from the others, and alone, she danced the blowing out of a lamp, and lay down, as a virgin awaiting her husband. Overcome with shyness, she covered her face with her hands. Then she put her hands over her cunt, instead. Then she moved one hand to cover her teats. Then she pretended to have a shocking thought, and moved that hand to cover her shit-eye. The warriors began to tap their weapons on the ground, and to chant "Sasoyhan, Sasoyhan." Aru danced in as the Centaur, naked, pretending to look for Sasoyhan with a lamp, but he wasn't erect. The dance was going badly. He should have been stiff before coming in - what sort of a centaur was he? Kahela, as virgin Sasoyhan, caught sight of his penis, pretended surprise, then turned on her back and spread her knees as wide as they would go. But the joke was spoiled by Aru's limp puppy-tail.
The Centaur danced over and knelt with knees spread over Sasoyhan's head, his limp penis on her face. His balls on her eyes, his tip dangled in her open mouth. She used her lips and tongue on his tip, and he stiffened nicely, but then he stood up, quickly. Kahela thought: he's not worried about his spilling his seed too soon, is he?. Not the everlasting Aru?
They danced the nipple pinching and the thigh caress, the ear nuzzle and the cunt kiss; Aru's dancing was elegant, formal. But every time his penis touched her, between her breasts, under her ear, up the crack of her bottom, he pulled away quickly, as if his solid rod was a robin's egg to crush, or a spider's web to wither at a touch. Cutting a few moves, he moved to the cunt fuck. This was not proving much of a ride. The Queen would be disappointed.
Aru whispered in Kahela's ear. "Remember all the cows and ewes; they'll want their calves and lambs. The Queen is rather short tempered - don't you find? And you are surrounded by her armed men. So if you should happen to think of running away before the dance is over, you should think again. And you have been a bit naughty."
Kahela had no idea what he was talking about. She spread her ...
"Yaghhaha," she screamed. The pain was intense. Was he fucking her with a dagger? But he pulled out - she could see his penis. Ram, in it came again. Ahihyah, that hurts. Ou-w-YAH! But that - feels good. Ram! in again. Agha! He's right, I can't run away. And the Queen won't blame him - it doesn't look like he's hurting ... Huhua! How is he making it hurt so much? If I could figure it out ... Ram! If only this didn't feel so good I could think better ....
Aru switched from ram to stallion. The quicker, faster strokes were not as painful. But the pleasure was even more unbearable. Kahela tried to get away. He held her. She squirmed and flailed - she couldn't control her need to make it stop, even though it didn't hurt, exactly. He switched to wolf, not pulling his tip quite out on the out stroke. That made it less intense. She remembered Nakien saying: "We call this wolf because it's like dog, but wilder - no one knows how wolves really fuck." She hoped Aru would stallion again. It felt so good when it felt so good she couldn't stand it. He pulled out altogether. For a moment, she thought he had burst, and was disappointed - she liked his usual dog finish. But he was not finished.
He had fucked her with no pretense of dancing, but now he began to sway his hips, and the warriors began the chant. "The CENtaur entered SASoyhan and SASoyhan was GLAD ..." Sasoyhan began to sway and twist. The Centaur bit her cunt her belly her nipples her lips ouuw ouuw. Kahela was aware of Sasoyhan feeling intense pleasure from the bites and losing herself in them, while she, Kahela, remained apart. The bites were hard. Kahela was glad for Sasoyhan's pleasure but felt neither pleasure nor pain, just the bites. This was Nakien's "Red Mountain." It was like Hema. But Kahela doubted she'd be quite satisfied with Hema, after this.
Aru dropped his look of calm. Or perhaps Aru was gone and Centaur had come, and Centaur looked at Sasoyhan with desire. Centaur bulled, although it was not exactly bulling. Not exactly like any fucking Nakien taught. For all his tricks Nakien wouldn't have been able to fuck so long and so violently without shooting his seed. Of all the penises that ever formed in a womb, only Aru's could do this. They swayed deeply and widely with the chanting and the pounding spear butts, and fucked in rhythm, quick ins and slow outs. They were now standing now lying now rolling now over now under, and the chanting pounded and pounded on. Aru's desire was overwhelming, and Kahela let her body, let Sasoyhan, slip away, entirely his. But she, Kahela, remained apart.
Kahela kissed the Centaur's pap, and caressed his strong thighs, and felt pleasure not in her lips, not in her hands, but in his body. Desire gripped her, stronger than any pleasure in her own body. She began to scratch and bite, drawing blood from his penis, his paps, his lips. She felt the pain of the bites. Briefly, Aru resisted. But his desire proved stronger; his own body slipped from his mind. Kahela owned his body; the penis was hers, and she felt its desire - to let its waters flow. She slowly brought the penis - her penis - in. It did not take long.
"I understand. And you must have known. Tanyata. And I like your Aru. He can be a hero, I think, and will be my brother's champion. I was there tonight, even if you never thought of me. It was - nice. And the Lady was there. I felt Her hands reaching into your womb. Taking my seed. So the baby - well ..." But from now on Aru will have to fuck you on his own."
"Don't fight the Sky-Father."
Marwat danced in as the priest, with his pot of coals, and pretended to look for Kahela's cloak. Finding the couple sleeping on it, he pulled it out from under them. He held it up and pointed to a spot, where there was, of course, no virgin blood. The warriors laughed. Throughout the song he kept pointing to the non-existent spot, and got a laugh each time: He worked his rod up, and thrust it into the gathered robe, shot his seed, and got more laughs. He had done nothing of the sort during the practices.
Stained with red the bridal gown, it is her father's pride,
and much Good Luck to him, and his, who gave the virgin bride.
And every bride will keep the man who stains a bridal gown:
his love is bound up in the bonds we see here red and brown.
The penis to the gown is drawn, to see the virgin blood;
he longs to mix the color with another milky flood.
He pushes in, pulls out again, the woolen cunt he fills
with milk, but soon the penis feels the pains of many ills.
For all the ills and sicknesses that flocked around the pair,
and plagued the bride were trapped inside when she untied her hair.
The Demons gather 'round the robe and sicknesses in throngs,
and that is why you pay the priest - for sacrificial songs.
Demons all: I warn you now, this flag is white and red,
a shield against your mischief will protect this maiden's head.
Their travels safe from highwaymen; on lucky roads they'll roam,
and so we ask politely: please all Demons to go home.
The priest cuts up the bridal gown, dismembers limb from limb;
he sings with love the verses of the gown-disposal hymn.
A robe of white with stain of red will Fire's altar dress;
no penis in this woolen cunt should seek his happiness.
Marwat ripped up Sasoyhan's cloak, and burned it. Aru got up, naked. He was no longer the Centaur but the son of a man. But his erect rod was Rod - the undying god of the fuck. Rod of the Centaur - that part of the son of a man, that partakes of the everlasting. He danced waking up, rubbing his sleepy eyes. The son of a man picked up the Hema skin, and stood beside the priest, squeezing a drop onto the fire. Then he danced waking Sasoyhan up. Sasoyhan touched Rhonan's penis, the Hema skin, Centaur's Rod, the Fire on the altar, and finally, no longer a goddess, she took the hand of the son of a man, in front of his homestead altar. Hand in hand, they tossed grain into the Fire, holding their hands in the flames as long as they could, before dropping the grain and pulling away. The son of a man sang to his wife:
My father here made sacrifice; our family altar stands.The son of a man spoke aside to Rhonan, but pointing to his own penis:
Let friends and kin their own wives win! I take you by the hands.
Good Luck and Hospitality, Lord Sun, and Fruitful Earth,
all say you'll live for long and give to all my children, birth.
O Rhonan use our penis, and make Sasoyhan desireThen the priest questioned, and Rhonan answered :
like other wives so all our lives we'll have wood for the fire.
You can make her fuckable and make her want to please,
our penis won't get lonely if she'll spread apart her knees!
first of all; He was the first one in.
On such a ride He took her it's just luck they're home again.
And to whom did Hema give her? Who was He, who had her next?
Centaur took the gift Lord Hema gave.
and without a little Hema - I doubt she will behave.
And who from Centaur had her? And what husband was her third?
I hope that
gives to Rod the praise that He deserves :
He's the only reason why - she at this Fire serves.
But will Fire pass her on? Her mortal husband begs!
for Fire gives, a hundred years of life ;
and he'll be rich and happy if - he can get back his wife!
This is the world I give you : spend your life with me ;Then Rhonan sang to Sasoyhan :
all the Gods will love you ; mistress shall you be
of all the little rascals who run in and out the door -
some of 'em with two feet - some of 'em with four.
I want you here beside me ; the gifts we give today,
give we will to Fire still when both of us are gray ;
with little rams and baby lambs still running after you,
some of 'em on four feet and some of 'em on two.
Look kindly on your husband and from time to time, behaveThen Rhonan pronounced the invocation of The King :
you are the mistress here but still - don't drive him to his grave!
The love you give to strangers will make them friends anew :
some'll walk on four feet and some'll walk on two.
And may the Lady give the gifts a grandmother enjoys
lambs and pigs and calves and kids and little girls and boys.
Wombs'll fill with blessings till you can't take any more :
some of 'em with two feet - some of 'em with four.
Wind and rain and thunder and - the battle-axe of light ;Finally, Aru took the ash rod in his hand - the same rod he had beaten Tektu with - and spoke the doorpost words; the words of the son of a man, to Sasoyhan. With them, the Great Sacrifice began. All that they did and said, until the new moon rose, was now sacred to the Lady of the Wombs:
the captain of the horses of the blast :
the ground that we stand on shivers at the sight,
and trembles when your thunderbolt is cast.
Like the fury of the wind his love for her shall be ;
her womb shall bear the stallions of the Sun :
beautiful and fearless, powerful and free -
and among them make her husband one!
All that will ever be under this roof,
and all who will pass through the door,
all of our animals, all of my kin,
and all who will sleep on the floor ;
all we are given, all that we grow,
our pottery, barley, and wine ;
you are the Queen of all who live here
and mistress of all that is mine.
The Ram was staked, the knife sharpened, the Queen naked, except for a necklace of sheepskin and the ewe's horns on her head. The drums sounded. The cymbals clanged, and then fell silent. The dangerous part of the Great Sacrifice had begun. The faint cackle of the Great Fire, and the Queen's footsteps, were the only sound. The last rays of the sun touched the eastern hills.
"A horse - a horse and rider!"
The Queen stopped. Then continued. Whatever it was, whoever it was, would have to wait. If the thinnest sliver of the new moon was seen before the sacrifice was over, it would be too late.
Aru took a hand of archers. As they ran across the grassy hillside toward the rider, the rider tried to urge his horse in their direction. The horse, a dappled mare, shook him off. Then she decided to go look at the strangers anyway. Aru sent an archer back for honey-cakes - or anything the horse might like. "Weapons down, men," he ordered. He was no captain, no chief - but for once, he was going to act the prince. A man who could ride a horse was certain to be important.
Aru and his archers ran to where the man had fallen. Aru, not looking directly at him as he lay sprawled on the ground, addressed him: "Well met on the roads, if you be a friend."
The fallen rider did not get up. He said: "Water." Aru sent a man for some. The rider had a bit of rope around his neck, the knot sealed with dried clay. The clay had the impression of a seal. The seal showed a ship. Aru bowed.
"Health, Wvaksa. I am Aru, son of Ishan, Queen. Health and our loyalty to the High King."
The High King's messenger - for there could be no doubt of that - said nothing until the water came. He ate the honey cakes Aru had intended for his horse. Then he tried to stand - and could not. Aru and an archer helped him stand, and they had to help him with his loincloth. He pissed for a long time. Then they had to hold him as he squatted and shitted, and Aru made the archer wipe the messenger's shit-eye with grass. But then he was able to stand on his own, stiff but erect.
"Prince Aru, what do you do, bringing a company of warriors here?"
"Wvaksa, we hope to stand with honor."
"Arrow-luck, son of Ishan. That is a careful answer. But on which side do you stand?"
"And also arrow-luck to the Great King - and our service."
"All you desire, Prince. And in that King's service: answer his messenger!"
"May the King's messenger find joy in our welcome, and what he seeks, and honor - from the Queen."
"Ishan is here! Take me to her."
"Health, King's messenger. She is busy."
The messenger turned red with fury, and walked away from the Prince without a word, toward the gathered warriors. There was a shout. Men turned toward him, nocking arrows. The Queen turned to look - and the Ram butted her, smashing into her ribs and catching her breast with the tip of a flower-decorated horn. The men converged, the Chief slit the Ram's throat; Tektu plunged his flint into the ball sack and pulled out the balls and cut them free while the ram's heart's blood was still spurting onto the ground. An archer held the Queen's breast-wound closed with his hand, while Kahela, who had a bit of bard-lore, hugged the Queen's chest until she began to breathe again.
The messenger arrived, with Aru close behind him. The messenger could see that the Queen was not going to die, at least not at once. He gave Aru just a moment, then grabbed his arm. "Prince Aru - there is no time. Warriors - no not warriors - weavers and shepherds, but with bows and spears, are coming here. They were grabbing at my horse's hooves. Form up. Find a defensive position. They are many. But real warriors can scatter them."
The warriors, even the Chief, looked at the Prince. Hek-Danniadae said: "Should we fight them? Do we know they are enemies? Perhaps they fight for the Kohiyossa." The Chief smashed Hek-Danniadae across the face with a spear, but it was too late. "So, you are on the side of this Kohiyossa!" the messenger shouted.
Prince Aru sat down, and scratched behind his ear. He picked up a skin of mead. "Messenger," he said, "the King's seal is very nice." Aru took a little drink. "But at the moment, I have a few warriors, and you don't have a horse. I have her. I suggest you tell me what you know, and tell it quickly."
The messenger paused only for a heartbeat. "I do not know if this mob is for this Kohiyossa, or not. I don't know any thing about any Kohiyossa, except the old tales. I asserted the High King's authority, and they would not listen - and they would have killed me - a sealed messenger - if I hadn't gotten away."
Aru stopped the messenger. "Ohrsos, Adjehan, Tektu - carry my mother up to those trees - only Adjehan stays with her. Everyone else - we'll fight on the larger hill. Fill water skins. Go now. Messenger - I haven't finished with you. Everyone fights - women and slaves too. Let Tektu and the other captives have their weapons. Keep your eye on the messenger - hold him if you need to. We'll let the enemy have the oxen and the sheep - if they are the enemy - if it comes to a fight. Chief - choose the battle lines on the hill."
The Chief would not have chosen to fight on the hill. He thought it was foolish. Aru had never seen a battle, since the High King had kept the peace for many years, but the Chief had seen many as a young man. The Chief knew that he was a better battle leader than the Prince. And the Prince was, he himself kept saying, just an archer. But choosing which side to fight - against enemies who might or might not be enemies. Arresting King's messengers. And making a parley with the mob that was coming. The Prince would do all that better than he could. And if there was one thing the Chief knew, it was that in battle any leader was better than a fight about who would be leader. So the Chief formed the men on the hill. "Warriors," he bellowed. "We need to look like warriors, and throw fear into weavers and shepherds. Polish your spear points. When the horn sounds - all move together. Make those shepherds shit their cloths. Slaves, women - try to look like warriors - hold your weapons straight. If it comes to fighting: don't try to be heroes - just try not to get in the way. Warriors, load up with arrows - fill your packs. When we come down from this hill, we won't come back - any weapons we leave behind will be the enemy's. All carry water - this will be a long one. If scattered, form up again if you can - you know how. We have practiced; they have not; we are warriors, slaughtering weavers. And you are the best of the best. Arrow-luck and safety to the Prince!"
"The Prince!" they all shouted.
"Prince - let me put a few men in the trees - a few at least," the Chief pleaded. "Let the mob think that we are more than we are. That they have walked into a trap. That we are all around them."
But before anything could be done, the fastest runners of the enemy came into view. It was too late for any changes now. The Prince shouted: "Archers. When you hear the fast drumbeat, shoot at the men around the spokesman of the enemy. Fast shooting, as we've practiced. A trio of arrows - no more. Most of you are not accurate at fast shooting yet, but shoot fast anyway - we want to terrify more than to kill. When you hear the slow signal, shoot slowly and carefully, pick your man, shoot him, and kill him. Dodge arrows, but don't use your shields so much you don't shoot - better to keep the enemy busy. These shepherds have not seen battle - harry them like wolves! Arrow-luck and safety!"
"The Prince!" they all shouted again. The foremost runners of the enemy, who were looking at the ground, tracking hoofprints, heard the shout and noticed the warriors gathered on the hill. They turned and ran away.
The Queen's warriors waited. The sun sank behind the western hills. Flocks of birds in the forest rose crawing into the sky - the enemy was moving into position in the forest. Well, the Prince had chosen to stand on this hill, and stand there they must. They could only hope that the enemy, moving through the trees, would not find their wounded Queen. It began to grow dark. The Prince and the Chief whispered to each other. The mob appeared, and advanced up the western slope of the hill until they were just out of arrow shot. Someone in the mob shouted "What make you here, warriors?"
The Prince sounded the drum, a fast tarattat. There was just enough light for the attacking mob to see a little commotion among the archers on the hill. Then the archers stood still again. Only then did the arrows, fired in a high arc, descend on the front rank of the attacking crowd. They raised their shields - but the arrows were so many and they came so fast, that most under that deadly rain were hit by an arrow, or two. The mob shot back - ineffective at the distance, shooting uphill.
Then the Chief of the Queen's warriors bellowed: "Bow before the High King; or die!" Runad, who was at least thin and bald, stepped out in front of the ranks of spearmen. The mob of weavers and shepherds, looking up, could see the proud bald head, red in the light of sunset, and the glinting spearpoints behind him, black against a dark sky. A ram's horn sounded, and the wall of spears began to move slowly down the hill, like a giant living beast. Arrows, invisible in the dark, landed thick as hailstones on the weavers and shepherds at the foot of the hill. There were screams, and shouted orders. Many bowed to the ground - which did not protect them from the arrows. Some shot back in the direction of the spearmen. But more and more began to run away. The darkness of a moonless night had fallen.
The drum sounded again. The Queen's warriors, no longer shooting, moved in a block across the meadow. There were now many bowing men, faces to the ground, proclaiming loyalty to the High King. The Queen's warriors took their weapons, stripped them, and tied them with their own belts. They wrapped each captive's head with his own loincloth. But most of the enemy had retreated to the forest. When there was no one on the grassland still shooting, the Queen's warriors began gathering the captives together.
Tektu looked about for the Prince, or the Chief, but did not find either, so he took two archers to where he had left the Queen and Adjehan. The Queen was comfortable, and well enough hidden, in the dark, so after telling her of the battle, he left the two archers, and returned. A fire had been lit on the hilltop, and he went to it. The Chief had arranged his warriors for defense, in case the enemy who had fled to the forest, regrouped and attacked. Inside the lines, he was preparing to torture the captives. "Heat more spearpoints," he said loudly. The captives still had their heads wrapped in their cloths. "Find the whips we use on the rams. Bring the ox - we don't want to drag them ourselves." The men helping him turned the captives, who had their wrists tied to their ankles, on their faces, so that their bottoms were high in the air. They tied a cord around each penis, behind the balls, and yanked. Only one resisted, and was beaten; the others were silent, and did not resist.
Tektu whispered in the Chief's ear: "Chief, the Queen is safe. She seems well, and comfortable. I am no bard, but if there was any worse than a broken rib or two, I think we would know it by now. I want to tell the Prince - do you know where he is?"
The Chief said the Prince was with the wounded, where they had camped. As Tektu headed in that direction, he heard his name called by a captive.
"Tektu! Is that you? Have you become one of the High King's warriors?"
The voice was that of Erdiosh, his best friend from his village.
Tektu glanced at his friend; turned back to the Chief. "Chief, I know one of the captives."
"Many are from the village of Nohas. I want you here when I question them."
"Chief - this captive. May I take him now to the Prince? He may speak - without your tortures."
The Chief whispered: "All men speak better without torture, Tektu. It is the fear of torture that loosens tongues. Take your friend. Tell him that you'd like to help him, as a friend - but you need him to tell you what he knows. But don't let the others hear you."
The Chief shouted: "Take this captive, this one there. Torture him first." Tektu led and dragged Erdiosh, hands bound, by the cord tied to his balls. The boy's head was wrapped in his cloak, and Tektu did not speak. When they were out of earshot of the other captives, Tektu whispered: "Erdiosh, don't be afraid, it's me, Tektu. You won't be tortured. One thing - is my mother alive?"
"Courage, Friend. She is dead."
"Tell me how it happened."
"There was a quarrel, about Nute and the Wvaksa. Taucon priest said that the peddlers were liars, that they had stolen you and Danha with a trick. Gur, the dyer, said that peddler Nute and the other one were honest. And your mother .... Well, she went mad - when Danha and you disappeared, she went mad. It was just a quarrel between a priest and a dyer - a village quarell - but Taucon goaded her on, and she was a madwoman! She had Gur tied up and she whipped him - for days - to make him say that the peddlers were liars. Then Heyos came through and told us it was not a lie - that all the bronze makers had seen the God's face. Then Gur wanted to be headman, and the council said that after all, he had been right - Gur said he forgave her and she didn't need to fight him, because honor didn't require a woman to fight when another was chosen head replacing of her. But your mother chose to fight. I don't think Gur wanted to kill her. Is it true, Tektu? Did the peddlers steal you with a trick? I thought Taucon was right about that, because you went - and you didn't say 'Stay in safety' to me - I couldn't believe you would do that."
"But why did you leave the village? Why did so many leave the village?"
"Friend, we - we were the ones who had been on her side. We had done nothing to stop her when she tortured Gur, and the others. We were ashamed. We didn't think we could stay, when Gur became headman. Gur forgave us but we didn't want to stay. The shepherds from the countryside, they didn't know what your mother had done; they followed your house - they followed the house of Girtu as their fathers had done. Then she decided to fight, and was killed. We could have begged Gur to let us back, but we didn't. Gur exiled Taucon and we followed him. It was Taucon who defied the High King's messenger. But we all tried to kill him. And now the High King will punish us all."
Erdiosh gave a sudden backward jerk, yanking on the cord, and fell down. Tektu had to wrestle him on to his back, and then he couldn't see in the starlight to untie the noose. He had to cut it with his dagger. There was a lot of blood. Erdiosh said: "A sealed messenger! The High King's sealed messenger! We killed a messenger." Tektu had to drag the frantic, screaming boy to the camp.
Kahela and Aru were tending the wounded by the firelight. Kahela gave direction, and Aru was helping to pull an arrow from a shepherd's thigh. Tektu knew the man. He used to come to midsummer fires every year, looking for a wife. There were about a score of wounded, from both sides, lying or sitting around the fire. Hema was being prepared, and mutton - the Great Sacrifice ram - was roasting.
"Hek-Danniadae is dead," the Prince said. "A battle-axe. Vaishga had an arrow through her knee. Kahela says she will never walk on it, even if she lives. Most of the arrow wounds are not too bad - long shooting, and they had their shields."
Aru held the shepherd's leg until the bleeding stopped, and Tektu told him that the Queen seemed safe, and told him what he had learned from Erdiosh. He said "Honor, Prince. This is Erdiosh son of Ra'udhvosh from my village. He may know more, if you wish to have him tortured. But the Queen must know of these things; Heyos must have told her. I think you do not need to torture him to learn what you already know."
Aru said: "Untie the boy's hands, Tektu of the house of Nohas. Unwrap his head. Put his cloak on him."
When Erdiosh had been dressed, the Prince spoke: "Erdiosh of the weavers, I am Aru son of Ishan, Queen. I speak for the High King. Speak good wishes and praise of the High King, now, or be his enemy."
Erdiosh said nothing. Tektu jabbed him in the bottom with his dagger, and said: "Say: Health to the High King."
"Health to the High King."
Jab. "Say: Good wishes for his safety."
"Good wishes for his safety, and I, I praise his rule. He is powerful. And wise."
The Prince said: "Enough, Tektu, you can stop jabbing. Health and safety, Erdiosh of the weavers. Go in safety. Or stay in safety, and be welcome. Tektu, give him your belt, and that knife. You can get another one from the spoils."
Tektu undid his belt, and handed it to Erdiosh. Erdiosh looked at the loincloth in his friend's hand, at the spiral line around his penis, his eyes open in wonder that his friend was now a man. Tektu embraced him. "It has hungered for your tongue, Erdiosh son of Ra'udhvosh. And your shit-eye. Tomorrow, we will find a needle. A joke - you'll be tattooed on Little Penises day."
Kahela said: "No tattoo tomorrow, it is still the Great Sacrifice."
"Did you see the moon, son of Nohas? I did not. And we stood looking into the west at sunset."
"No tattoo tomorrow then, Erdiosh," Tektu said. "Once you have it, you can have me in your bottom. Or your mouth."
"I ..." Erdiosh stopped.
"And my penis will know no shit-eye but yours, son of Ra'udhvosh weaver. Was that what you wanted to ask me?"
"Then I am not to be punished? For attacking the High King's messenger?"
"I speak for the High King," Prince Aru said. "I promise a spear in the gut to the Taucon - even though he is a priest. And he shall have a weapon in his hand. For the son of Ra'udhvosh, if you will serve me, and Tektu my arrow master, with that dagger, then you shall eat when I eat, and share rewards and dangers. If not, then fare well on your journey, with our gifts and our wishes for your health and safety."
Erdiosh bowed low, nose touching the ground. But he stood up to speak: "I will follow Tektu arrow master. Tektu guards the doorposts of Nohas - the doorposts where my father and grandfather had roast meat and sweet honey. As my fathers did, so will I, and so may my sons and grandsons."
Tektu was not the Prince's arrow master. When the sun had risen that morning, Tektu had been a captive; not trusted with his own weapons. When it had set, Erdiosh had been the Prince's enemy, across the battlefield. Tektu still did not know what the Queen planned to do - if she would fight for the Kohiyossa or against him. If the Queen had asked for his service, he would have refused. And it made no sense to promise service to Aru. The Prince was nothing - just an archer of the Queen. And at the moment, he was unarmed. Tektu's bright copper dagger, Erdiosh's now, caught the firelight as Erdiosh held it up to swear his loyalty. Tektu did nothing to stop him. His young friend's voice, slowly speaking the words of the oath - invoking the Lord of Oaths - hung in the dark night like a mist over a winter meadow. The Oath-Lord's bond, which the Sky-Father Himself could neither break nor bend, now bound the Prince and the young weaver. Then Tektu said, "Prince, my loyal service." Kahela gasped. If Aru noticed that anything unusual had happened, he gave no sign.
After a bit, the new arrow master said: "Honor, Prince: Let us go to the captives - men of my village. They are tortured; perhaps bravely keeping silent what we already know."
"No one has been tortured yet. I hope they are frightened. I want them to speak good wishes and praise of the High King."
Kahela said: "Prince, before you promise everyone else that they will eat when you eat, give a thought to when that will be. You have no rewards to share. The rams are scattered. We don't have enough food."
Tektu said: "Erdiosh, where are the women? The children? When those who followed the house of Nohas left their homes, they cannot have left behind their wives and children - but there are no women among the captives. I saw no children in the battle."
"Some women did fight, and some boys. The young ones could not keep up when we went after the King's messenger. They are lagging behind us, not far. I suppose some of their mothers stayed back with them."
Kahela said: "Health and happiness, Erdiosh daggerboy, son of Ra'udhvosh. A daggerboy must speak honor to the arrow master, when you speak to him; you will get a whipping if you don't. Don't talk to the Prince at all, and especially not to the Queen - you are only a dagger boy. If they talk to you - bow to the ground. Did you have much food with you? Wagons of barley? - or stock to slaughter? Are your food wagons behind you, with the women and children?"
"My service, arrow master. Be well, Lady."
Tektu said: "She is Kahela, daughter of Kratik. Of the village of Sugga."
"The Law-Singer! May the Lady Sugga make the Law prevail! Reverence, Kahela of the Law. We have no food. We are hungry. There is no food with the children."
Tektu wanted to go to the captives, and not leave them expecting torture any longer. Erdiosh, daggerboy, strode rudely ahead of his Prince and his arrow master. When he arrived among the bound and blindfold captives, he shouted. "Hear me! I am Erdiosh, son of Ra'udhvosh weaver. Friends, great news. Tektu - Tektu son of Nohas! - has returned to us. He is now a tatooed man, returning with honor, to guard the doorposts of his own house. He will agree to be our headman. But the house of Nohas is loyal to the High King. Shall we be loyal to the doorposts of Nohas, and serve the High King? And renounce Taucon, who defied the sealed messenger? Shall we have Tektu for headman?"
"The headship is with the house of Nohas - the house of Tektu," a shepherd said. "That is what we said all along. That is all we ever said. But we are captives. We will be punished for attacking the High King's messenger."
A weaver said: "Surely we will all be killed."
"We will all be gelded! Gelded by dragging!"
"We are slaves already!"
Erdiosh said: "Tektu is arrow master to these warriors. That may save us. Speak now - Tektu is headman, the son of Nohas!"
"Tektu, son of Nohas, headman!"
"Speak now - Health and safety to the High King. Death to Taucon, who defied the messenger!"
All the captives shouted through the loincloths wrapped around their heads.
The Prince said: "Unbind their ...." but Erdiosh, bare-penis daggerboy, silenced his new Prince with a wave of his hand. "The quarrel is over," he shouted. "Gur had the right of it. The peddlers told the truth. Tektu was not stolen for a slave, nor Danha. The peddlers' story of the Young God was true. Let he who says other, speak!"
No one spoke.
Erdiosh shouted: "We follow Tektu into battle, if he leads us. Arrow-luck to our headman, Tektu son of Nohas!"
"Tektu and the house of Nohas!"
Erdiosh bowed to Tektu and Aru. "I hope I have served." Then he glanced at Kahela. "I forgot your instruction, Kahela of the Law. I must speak honor to my masters." He bowed to Aru. "Honor, Prince, and pleasure in the days to come." Then he grinned at Kahela. Bowing to Tektu, he said: "Honor, arrow master, and pleasure in the nights to come." He asked Kahela: "Was that a good address of honor?"
But when they finally lay down to sleep, just before dawn, Tektu picked up a stick, a bit of firewood. In the village, Tektu had let other boys suckle him; Erdiosh had always hoped he was the favorite, but Tektu had never said. Until tonight. "No shit-eye but yours, son of Ra'udhvosh." Since he had heard those words, it had been like living in a dream. As if Strong Lust had taken him by the hand. And now this. Erdiosh, proudly, leapt into position, and Tektu, beating very fast, turned his bottom dark under the cold starry sky. In his eyes, Erdiosh saw himself in the village. He was wearing a spotless white tunic, embroidered with penises, and his long hair was bound up with the the beaded white hair ties used by married women. He saw himself before the village oven, with everyone there to watch him be stripped and shamed. But when he removed his tunic, he felt no shame, but gloating pride in his sash of golden beads. As he bent naked for his whipping, he heard himself saying "beat me hard, husband," the way proud women do, to defy the shame. Tektu shook him by the shoulder - and the dream was over.
"What did you say?" Tektu asked. "Why did you say, 'beat me hard, husband'?"
"Um. I. um. Never mind."
Tektu said: "That beating was for 'house of Nohas,' and 'son of Nohas'. I have told you never to say those things."
Erdiosh said: "The doorposts of the house of Girtu. I will tell everyone, Tektu son of Girtu. And now your mother is dead too."
Tektu, new-made arrow master, new-made headman, and, although he did not know it yet, a man who held a kingdom in the palm of his hand, curled up in his lover's arms and sobbed.
"The sun is rising on Little Penises day. But we have been whipped already."
It was King Taslan. He had been asleep when Nakien and the others had arrived, after sunset. Before dawn, Nakien had gone a short way from camp to offer a sacrifice to the sunrise, and the King had come to look for him. Nakien's spot had a good view of the eastern sky, and was convenient to a well-used camp, so he was placing bardic stones. Danha was helping him.
"Well met, King," the bard said, moving a stone out of the shadow of a tree. "It is not Little Penises day. There was no moon. I expected it, and am rarely wrong. But the western sky was clear - there was no moon last night. The Great Sacrifice is not over."
"Nakien, we are beaten men. We made no sacrifice. No one will come to us for weapon training. What do we care what day it is?"
"King, what did you mean, you have been whipped already?"
"Bard - we have been. We crossed the mountains and found the nomads. Or they found us. I lost men - too many. We were lucky to slip back across the mountains at all. I had to leave two wounded men. I had to ask if they wanted their throats cut. But they both took their chances with the nomads. Those were my men."
"So the nomads had the victory?"
"And they will be bolder now. They will cross the mountains and raid, not just the high valleys, but deep into my kingdom. My people will be slaughtered, or they will flee. The land will be empty. The nomads will graze their cattle and pitch their tents, where the doorposts of my house now stand."
"Nomads in this land graze sheep - this is not cattle country. And they live in houses, not in tents; they live in villages near their lowland pastures."
"Is this prophecy? How can you know what will be - in the dark land of what is to come?"
"I do not speak of what is to come, but of what has been. The past is a bright land, not dark, to those who keep the songs. Did you not know? Has King Taslan never learned of Taslan?"
"What do you mean, Taslan?"
"A boy, naked in midwinter, walked into the camp of a nomad king. He was set to tend the king's cattle, as a slave. Prince Annuas the king's son became his friend; they played together as boys, and in time he married Princess Sunyas, the king's daughter. So it is among the nomads, and so it is among your people today - to be a slave is no disgrace. You do not call them dogs, as people do in the southlands."
The warriors by the fire heard the measured voice of a bard telling a story, and climbed the hill, and squeezed together on the little ledge above the camp, where Nakien had marked the sunrise. They sat before Nakien and the King, looking up at the snow-dusted mountains. The King said: "This naked herd-boy, who was he?"
"His name was Taslan. And he was your grandfather. When the nomad king died, Annuas and Taslan led the nomads over these mountains, and took these lands. Taslan was a hero at fighting on a horse, and won battles for his friend's sake. But Prince Annuas could not perform his king-making, as he had no wife, and he refused to marry the Elder's daughter who was chosen for him. Prince Annuas said he wanted Taslan to be king instead. Among the nomads, the son-in-law of a dead king is sometimes chosen. Taslan refused; he challenged the Prince to a fight with dagger and shield. What Taslan hoped to gain, I do not know - perhaps he planned to be killed. They fought. Fought as men who fight to the death, and no one could stop them; not the wise men of the kingdom, not even Annuas's mother, the old Queen. But then Sunyas, Taslan's wife, sister to Prince Annuas, thrust her naked body between them; between the daggers that thrust and slashed. She was wounded. And the two friends stopped fighting, and agreed that she would be Queen. The ceremony was performed, she was made Queen, but Taslan was not called king. He took the title of Elder. Kahul your father was their son. Annuas also took the title of Elder - Elder of the mountain valleys."
An archer spoke: "Even in the south lands, we remember Queen Sunyas, the nomad queen."
"Her kingdom was strong, for she held lands on both sides of the mountains, and she formed alliances across the green Earth. King Taslan, your mother Queen Mea - she was a princess from the island in the northern sea. And your aunt Bohala married the King West of the Mountains - as his second wife."
King Taslan said: "I remember Nana Sunyas, a little. And I knew Mother's story. But not about Grandfather's young days. If we had such heroes today, we could defeat the nomads. But heroes like Annuas and Taslan are only in the past - there are no such men today."
"You are all the hero your grandfather was."
"Bards should not lie, Nakien. But even if we had a hero from the house of Taslan, the house of Annuas is no more. I had a message that Arkwan was alive: Arkwan son of Eos son of Annuas, but that is impossible - and when we sent to learn more, nothing came of it. His adopted son lives, but Huwh is no warrior."
"Huwh is dead, King. But a great hero of the house of Annuas is alive - he is my traveling companion. You would call me a liar again, if I told you of him - and again, if I told you of his skill. But you shall see. As soon as I can wake him up. May I use your whip?"
"I would not call the revered Nakien a liar. Not thrice. You are traveling with a man who does not exist. This wvaksa is a hero for his weapon-skill, and you wake him with a whip. No one would call these lies."
"It's a long story. What is impossible, you are about to see. But save your wonder until you see him shoot."
Only a few of King Taslan's warriors, had ever heard of the house of Annuas. But they all knew of Nakien. Those who had heard Nakien's words, woke their companions, with stories of a hero returned from the dead, to come to their aid. So the entire company was there to watch Taslan's face, when Nakien led his stumbling slave into the camp. Then Nakien casually tossed a bit of firewood over his shoulder, while telling Taslan that this slave had been a gift from Nute peddler. Nakien said nothing about the pair of arrows that sprouted from the log before it touched the ground. It took a while for the warriors to understand what had happened.
Then Nakien told the story of Arkwan at the midsummer dance, to the King. He spoke loudly so the warriors could hear. But they did not listen well. They spoke to each other about an archer who could shoot so quickly, and so accurately. They repeated bits of what Nakien was saying. They loudly told each other to be quiet and listen. They went on talking to each other for a long time after Nakien finished.
The king looked at the bard, and the bard said nothing. It was Danha who spoke. "Those are not beaten men," she said.
Nakien's eyes flashed a reproof for this failure of courtesy. Danha glared back - and Nakien remembered that he hadn't told the King who she was. But the King just stared at Danha.
"Back over the mountains. House of Annuas and house of Taslan. Arkwan and me. This is madness. A bard's tale."
"King, this is Danha dau..." Nakien started to say. But Danha spoke louder. "Honor, King - look at the men. Courage, King. Honor and glory. Look at them. You must tell them something - cross the mountains, or give them hope in some other way. They are not beaten men. Are you?"
"We were beaten. And if we go over the mountains, our fear will return. And we have not done anything for the Great Sacrifice; so the Lady will be angry."
Nakien said: "You have not done anything - yet. You have till sunset."
Danha looked at the King's horse. She was a mare. There was one stallion who was smaller than the others. The King saw where she was looking. "Not Demon!" he shouted. "Even the mares are afraid of him. Dokefalo is gentle." Then the King said - "what am I saying? You can't be fucked by a horse! A ram is bad enough, but not a stallion! You are mad! Have you seen a stallion's rod?"
"King, if a baby can come out, a stallion's penis can go in. And I don't care if the one hurts as much as the other."
Arkwan was looking at nothing in particular. Nakien said: "But since a baby is to come out, Danha, you can't risk a horse-fucking. Arkwan would whip you if he heard of such a thing."
"My hus... - he - never whips. He just yells. He might shoot you, when he hears of it, but it must be done; we won't find a ram by sunset. And if my baby can survive Arkwan's fucking, he can survive any stallion on the green Earth."
The King looked at Arkwan. "Has he gone deaf?" he asked.
Danha said: "He's fallen asleep. In fact, I doubt he ever woke up. You should see how well he shoots when he's awake."
Nakien said: "We do not need a ram, actually. Arkwan can do it. We'll tie dog's balls to him, and cut those off."
"Not my dog's," the King said.
"Not Lumpkha's either. Or Arkwan really would shoot us."
The King said: "But we can't do the sacrifice anyway - we didn't do the invocation."
Nakien pronounced: "The invocation can be on the same day as the sacrifice of seed. Our Praises to The Lady says nothing against it."
"So before sunset tonight, Arkwan fucks his wife for the invocation, and then fucks her again for the sacrifice of seed. I hope you allow him a little time - or the Lady won't get much."
Danha and Nakien spoke together. "I am not his wife," Danha said. "Look King," Nakien said. "I'd rather take two nights, and I'd rather use a ram. But this will do. The Lady may even be pleased, that we thought of her in a crisis. And there's nothing improper about using the husband's seed instead of a ram, that's the way the High Queen ... - what did you say, Danha?"
"I am not his wife."
"Well, you will be. If we do this."
"What do you mean?"
"If you dance Sasoyhan's Rides you will be married."
"You mean it counts as one marriage night?"
"I mean it counts as all of them." Nakien began to sing the legal argument: "It was the Lady, who made the Law that a woman leaves her father's doorposts, and goes to the door that her sons will guard. That is why a marriage dance - Sasoyhan's Rides or another - is used in her honor. To be married is to act married, to acknowledge the marriage openly. Sasoyhan's Rides is always danced by a married couple. So to dance it is to act married, openly - and thus to dance it is to be married."
The white bard raised his hand high - a judgment. He turned his hand to point to Danha, and pronounced: "It is marriage, openly and known."
So if we do Sasoyhan's Rides we are married?"
"Any bard would say so."
"Then I guess someone will be getting a surprise."
"We go to face the nomads who defeated us before. They will be braver, we more tired. We are stronger only by a single man, however well he shoots. But I think you face the greater danger, Bard. The High Queen, they say, chooses the words the King's mouth speaks. She is devoted to the priests, and will hate your tale of the God using the legs and penis of a man."
"My wish is for your safety, King, and your men's. I am in no danger, least of all from the devout Queen. We bards quarrel with the priests, but we wish them no harm. The Law, and the Gods, are clear: bards, and priests, must not be harmed. And this Queen will not break the Law by so much as a single grain of barley. But for your danger - Arkwan can teach some of his skill to the others. For a moon, Arkwan traveled with Danha's brother, a boy named Tektu. A man, I mean - I tattooed him myself. He practiced with Arkwan, morning and evening. Arkwan said he must forget his old way, and start again, as if he was a boy on little penises day. And Tektu gained such skill that, compared to anyone but Arkwan, you would say he was a hero for his skill. He learned it in a moon! If I were not a foolish vain old man, I would have ordered my slave to whip me, and gained such skill myself."
"So Arkwan trained Tektu, whipped him?"
"Never. But when Tektu's arrow missed, he felt such misery I almost wept to see him. He begged for whipping, and perhaps it would have been a kindness, for it could not have caused him more pain than he felt. When my arrow missed, I felt nothing - not in my heart and not on my skin. And in my foolish pride I thought I could gain in skill without pain. But a life of shooting badly is not so easy to overcome. If I had been afraid of the pain, I would not feel such a fool - but it was not that - I would hardly be afraid of a few strokes with a greenwood. I did not want to bend for them. I was too proud to bend and bare my bottom - to be whipped by a slave - that is all. And so I lost a chance to get a skill worth more than any wealth. I would not take a student who was such a fool."
"I will make Arkwan my arrow master. But he must whip the men - they are not boys with tattoo pricks still sore."
"Make him master - and let him teach in his own way. But take Danha as a spearwoman, not an archer - don't make the man whip his wife. He doesn't like to, for some reason."
"Is she a spearwoman?"
"King, I don't know. She's not that bad of an archer."
"Take her with you, Bard."
"Let the man have his wife - the Lady would approve."
"Bard, you find things in the Law very conveniently, sometimes. But I will take her. As something. I need all the warriors I can get. The men will like having her, I think. Watching the dance - watching them give seed for the Lady - gave the men confidence. And today we shall have Little Penises."
"King, what do you mean? There are no children here."
"The men know that Arkwan is good at shooting. And that he fucks pretty well, too. But the men know that one good archer will not win a battle. It happened in the Song of Kala Khoam, but on the green Earth one hero doesn't win a battle by himself. I need to make the men think that they will be good too - that they can learn well enough, and fast enough, that we have a chance at not being killed. I'm going to tell them that it is Little Penises all over again. They must obey Arkwan as if they were boys, and they must prove their courage to him."
"Are they all going to challenge Arkwan?"
"Half the men are mine, with snakes, and half are the High King's, with tattooed penises. The King's men call my men bare-penis boys. They say we are afraid of the pain, or we'd get real men's tattoos. So I will let them challenge us - us bare-penis boys. The challenges will show who is a boy. And who's afraid of pain."
"And the best archer challenges Arkwan?"
"I'm going to challenge
And then stand on that rock for a long whipping with my little penis -
penis - thrust out. I will tell the men that I'll challenge
Arkwan every day."
"So you will get a long whipping every day?
And that will prove - what?
"That I don't plan to always lose."
"Have you man know what ankle name Khuntkawanut?"
"No. Two score, a pair and a hand, and ... fuck in the fire!"
"Khuntkawanut peddlah. Heah Khuntkawanut ankle. At boat say they."
"Friend met on the road, you talk like a man with a spear up him. And you have the manners of a whore. But not the face for it. Do you remember if I said 'two score, a trio, and a hand?' or was it only 'two score, a pair, and a hand'?"
"Fwend-met-on-the-woad - Khuntkawanut. You him know? You kah jinnah? He peddlah ankle."
"Nute? Are you talking about the peddler Nute?"
Fiya, for he was the boy counting beads, pointed out the direction to the young man who had questioned him. In this strange, huge village on an island in the midst of the sea, there were many strangers, but this one, this lanky, very ugly young man, with a shaven head, was the strangest yet. Clothing that would make a cow laugh. Even his face was shaved - a boy's hairless face on a man's bald head. And his accent was so thick he kept saying ikeh - ankle - instead of ikheh - is. The stranger, before Fiya could react, stole a handful of the blue beads Fiya had already counted. Wagga growled. But as Fiya reached for his dagger, the stranger put the handful down on the cloth. "Score" he said. He pronounced it "scoah." Then he picked up another handful, looked at it, put one back, and made another pile. "Scoah" he said again. "Seven left. Beads of Kafftiaw. Low quality. Pale color. Too small. You offah Captain Dragnric two coppa sickles foah all. He will take - he knows not worth moah."
With that, the strange young man who seemed to know more about Nute's business than Fiya did himself, went in the direction Fiya had pointed, and met Nute coming out of the beer-house. The young man did not recognize Nute. But Nute spoke to the strangely dressed man in some babble Fiya had never heard, and they both began to babble. They seemed to have a lot to say. Fiya returned to counting the blue beads. Each of the piles the stranger had made, was indeed just a score of beads, and there were seven left over. as he had said. Fiya arranged all the beads into piles of a score each. With the ones he had already counted, there were just a hand of piles, with no beads left over.
Nute and the stranger came over. Nute said: "I told my student we would go to the Little Penises. Let us go - there will be feasting. We can talk more."
Fiya said: "Honor, Friend met on the road. I am Fiya the son of Aher."
"It for the God, this have small penis, like the Sookara?" the stranger asked Nute, not returning Fiya's polite address.
Nute answered, "For the Goddess was the Great Sacrifice - that was yesterday. This - it is our new year's day. On this day, boys and girls of seven or eight summers begin to practice with the village teacher. We will see their first contests, and judge their skill and bravery. It is called Little Penises because the boys are so proud, but the girls practice too. It is different than in Ekoopt."
"Ekoopt!" Fiya exclaimed.
"Yes, Fiya, don't you see his muscles? He is Imhuotpa son of Imhuotpa, and he builds mountains of stone!"
Fiya laughed. But only a little. Nute was making fun of him again.
"Your teacher, he makes laugh at you Fiya ab'Aher," the stranger said. "But we pay back he. I makes laugh at he. My father not he who ankle name Imhuotpa. My father he who ankle name Khuntkawanut."
"'My father is named Khuntkawanut - not 'My father he who ankle name Khuntka - WHAT DID YOU SAY? What do you mean your father was named Khuntkawanut?'" Then Nute unloosed a torrent of the stranger's babble speech, but whether he was excited or angry was always hard to tell with Nute.
"We make laugh at Nute very good, Fiya. Ankle good. Ankle gets better! My father is named Nute. But my mother - my mother is named Nofariptuc, she then Queen ankle. Queen is. Queen was."
The spear master shouted "LISTEN," verry loudly, and the talking ceased. The red bards put down their flutes and lyres. The spear master shouted: "Challenge with the spear! Zykit son of Ty challenges Pua daughter of Hegnrus!"
Zykit, who looked no more than a hand of summers, stood on a platform. The crowd shouted and the bards clanked their gongs and beat on their drums. A young couple stood - Zykit's parents, no doubt. This was very likely to be their first son to have his Little Penises. From today, Ty could say "I, and my son, guard the doorposts of my house." His parents would sit now with the council of wisdom, as the parents of a warrior. And Zykit's mother would from today be considered the ruler of the house, and whatever honor Zykit won, would be hers. She would get the right to speak in council before her mother-in-law. To start the ceremony, Zykit first proved his courage with a challenge:
"I will win, daughter of Hegnrus! You're no good. You will be sorry you fought me! You will weep!"
They climbed down from the platform. The contest was short. Zykit's shield work was not bad, for a child, but Pua was a young woman, and it was not a real contest. She easily got within his guard with her headless spear; only taking care not to hit too hard. But Zykit fearlessly attacked, ignoring the bruises on his body, intent on getting one jab past the woman's shield. The crowd went wild. The spear master stopped the match with a blow of his stick, and the crowed sighed with disappointment.
Then Zykit climbed on to the platform and stood with his little penis thrust out, and the crowd cheered. Losing at a spear-fighting challenge means bruises from the spear, while losing at archery doesn't hurt. Thus when a boy chooses archery, he may be called afraid of the pain. So usually, to prove his courage, a young warrior who challenges at archery gives an insulting challenge - that way, if he loses, the winner will beat him. No one who challenges a better archer with an insult can be thought afraid of pain, for the winner will beat long and hard for the insult. To shoot coolly when there is a lot at stake, such as a beating - that is the test of an archer. But Zykit had challenged at spear-fighting, not archery, and his body was well bruised from the spear. There had been no need for him to insult Pua when he challenged her. Zykit had simply chosen to, to prove his courage beyond what other boys would do.
Little boys are frightened into obedience
stories of the beatings they will get on little penises day. Fiya had
with fear at his little penises. But Zykit smiled, accepting the cheers of the
A bard struck the drum. It was a big switch for such a
bottom, and Pua whipped hard with it. It almost knocked the boy
over. But there was no fear, no sign of pain even. If
anything Zykit's face glowed with excitement. His little
jiggled with each stroke - Fiya couldn't take his eyes off it. A
hand of strokes, and it was over. It had been a hard
punishment, and Zykit had won honor for it. But he was not
satisfied even with that; he raised his hand
with fingers spread - another hand.
The drum sounded, and Pua whipped. The crowd began to chant. The little hand raised high; the bard strikes the drum. Then again. The little body flinches from the strokes; the boy struggling to keep standing, to fight his fear, to hold his bottom still as the wood comes down. And his little penis shows his fear, but shows too his bronze determination. With tears running down his face, the little warrior raises his fist. Slowly he spreads his fingers. First one, then another. And then the open hand. A cheer. Ty stands, proud of his son, but Zykit's mother makes her way to the platform. Pua, kindly, holds off with the switch, although Zykit frantically signs for more strokes. "No! No!" he shouts as his mother reaches up for him. He cries in frustration and anger. His little friends crowd around, pointing to his bottom and laughing as he bawls in his mother's arms. How mean, Fiya thought. I bet she gives him long whippings all the time. But she wouldn't let him go on, the one time that the whole village was cheering him. She shamed him in front of everyone. He didn't cry from the beating, he cried from his mother treating him as a babe - and now look at him! Fiya felt a fist in his chest, as he watched Zykit bawling and squirming in his mother's arms, beating her face with his little fists. Fiya's own mother had died when he was born.
Ty held up the cloak Zykit would be given, and other relatives stood and showed off their gifts of child's weapons, toys, and clothing, for the young warrior. Fiya hoped Zykit would recover from his tantrum in time for the feast. If he showed the same courage in making his speech to the village council, as he had in facing the wooden spear and the switch, he would bring great honor to his ridgepole. As much honor for his house as Fiya had brought shame to his own. Then someone yelled "Zykit!" and they all shouted together, over and over again. Fiya heard someone say: "If that boy wants to lead a pirate raid tomorrow, I will go with him as an oarsman!" The childish tantrum was forgotten - the crowd remembered his courage instead. Someone said: "Think of the man he will be! Another Rhonan!" Poor Zykit, Fiya thought, he is too little for this. I hope he finds ... And then Nakien's face was in Fiya's eyes as clearly as if the old bard were standing there, watching the cheering crowd.
The spear master spoke again: "A contest with the javelin! Agiwa, the famous spearwoman, will judge the match. Fame for the winner, and luck for the loser, with the strokes from her hero's hands! The luck of healthy sons, born without pain! Snara-iyel daughter ..."
But Nute, who looked as if his veins would burst, took them away from the crowd, babbling at Imhuotpa. Imhuotpa glanced at Fiya, and answered Nute's question's in Fiya's tongue - or something like it.
"The King of Ekoopt, he choose judge - not judge - looker. Looker of gwain stoah house. A man he - it should not be such as he to judge to death slave! - King make he ankle judge of Queen - is judge of Queen. Great judges - judges of the black land - of Ekoopt - they would say to King - you is wrrong. They to the God say - you ankle God but you ankle wong - is wrrong. They say, you think she love man, for this not she put to death. It not ankle Mu'gya. He is king - he kill those judges he wants - but he fearrr they looks. He choose looker of gwain house - man he thinks not dare say King is wrrong. And so the king he thinks he has queen put to death, and great judges of Ekoopt he need not face. And so King thinks justice of Mu'gya can be defeated.
But this judge, this looker at gwain, he do what no great judge in Ekoopt dare do. He is greater judge than any. He tell King, it take time. This not ready; that not ready. Beaten reeds not ready. Signs from great judge not ready. Maker of signs eaten by water dragon. He say any thing. Any false lie he will say, as to say, it takes time. He say, I ankle only looker at gwain house, I not know how judge to death, I do my best, great king, but it take time. He say - soon vehy soon, but it not soon. He take time. So much time she have baby."
"Nakien told me she was dead! That she was dead before I left Ekoopt!"
"Father, I mean, not my father, but man who ankle like my father to me - I mean Imhuotpa - he say to me that King find you, King kill you and her. Looker not able save Queen - not save me, except you be go from Ekoopt."
Nute said: "Nofariptuc?"
"She ankle dead. Staked in sun by King's fwiend, Chief of desert rrangers. Looker at gwain house, he made looker at scowpions in south land. Not live long there."
Fiya said: "Nute, is this true? Is this man your son? Is that what he is saying?"
Nute did not speak for a while. A woman was selling beer; Nute bought a bowl. There was a lot of dust in this village.
"There were four of us, four cousins." Nute began. "Raised in the house of the King. Koo'wi, Nofariptuc, and me. And Prince Sa'arua, who would be the king. We were wild, and we ran about the city - 'city' means a big village, Fiya. A king of the old days - a king with a mountain of stone for his mound - was great-grandfather to all four of us - the last great king of Ekoopt. His mountain glistened in the sun like a dog's tooth, tipped with gold, and each time was saw it we swore to love as brothers and sisters, not cousins. We four would slip out of the royal house, and roll in stinking mud, and Nofariptuc - girls don't go bare in Ekoopt, even poor ones - she stole a peasant's smock. We played with peasant boys - we told them we were the children of a royal jar cutter. My best friend was a peasant boy, the son of a sandal braider.
My best friend, the sandal-braider's son, wished to marry a baker's daughter, but she had no dowry, so his father would not allow such a poor match. And in Ekoopt, a boy who wishes to marry a girl, can not arrange it by getting her with a baby. One night we shared a poor supper at her house. Her father the baker prayed before the meal - and it was to us! He prayed to the King and to the other Gods, and when he praised the King, he mentioned the God's children at the royal house. He promised to sacrifice loaves and beer, if he could only get a dowry for his daughter. He prayed to Sa'arua the God-King's son, and Prince Sa'arua himself, had he but known it, was sitting at his table; the poorest of the waifs and urchins he fed from his charity. The prince glanced at us, and we knew we must fulfill the man's prayer.
Nofariptuc dropped a golden pendant where the girl would find it. I carried no gold, since I was supposed to be the son of a jar cutter, and I was naked; Nofariptuc had the pendant hidden under her smock, and thus it was she who carried out the Prince's will. She was royal on her mother's side, but her father was not rich, and when she went home that night without the pendant, she was whipped. She gave it for my sake, for my friend's sake, the sandal-maker's son, and for the baker's daughter. For all those reasons Nofariptuc chose to drop the pendant and take the whipping, to fulfill a prayer to our brother in love Sa'arua, prayed to as a God. But the baker never sacrificed the loaves and beer he had promised! So we stole bread from his ovens, and beer from his vats, and Sa'arua was caught and got a smacking. The Falcon of the two Ladies smacked by a baker's wife! With the board she used to pull bread from the oven!"
"But then Prince Sa'arua went to the judgment
of Mu'gya, and the King had no other sons by Queens. So it
was nephew Koo'wi who was the golden Falcon; and so he could take Nofariptuc,
if he wanted. He took her. Her father was not a
- he was a hairdresser - so she was not a wife, was never a Queen, just
one of Koo'wi's women. His many women. But of all his
wives and women, he loved only one. And she loved me."
Nute drank beer. "I went often to the house of Imhuotpa, looker of the old kings' grave-mounds. He had many scrolls - I'll explain what a scroll is later, Fiya - scrolls of the old times. A man named Nakien, a smelly man from across the great green sea, lived with him. Nakien was learning to write signs - and singing to Imhuotpa many songs - songs of the laws of the wild men. He had more wiles than an antelope, this Nakien, when it came to women. He found a way for us to be together, me with my love. The king never knew. Only that Nofariptuc no longer wept. But this was enough. She told the King she was happy, because she had come to love him - but he could not believe that. He could have had a slave strangle her - could have done it himself. But he wanted her judged. Judged so that her heart would go to Mu'gya's judgment already sealed with guilt. And so he could say before Mu'gya: 'my heart is light of her death.'
"And Nakien told me she was judged. He told me she was condemned. He told me she was dead. Dead already. Or I would never have left her."
After a bit, Nute continued: "Nakien and I, we hid with my friends the sandal braider and his wife, from the King's bludgeon-men. Then we escaped on a boat - smuggled cargo for the land of cedars. My friends too, and their baby girl - it would have been risky for them to stay. A boat followed us, but ours was faster. That was all I knew. I do not see my face in this man - but nor do I see the King's - Koo'wi's - face. I see only Nofariptuc. But that is enough. Son he is to me, and all I am, or have, is his. If what an exile has, is any value to a man of Ekoopt."
Imhuotpa said: "The king know Nofariptuc was have baby. He guess she is have baby. He not know what happened to baby. He not know I, Imhuotpa looker his own grave mound, ankle that baby. I leave Ekoopt no permission - he go suspect now. I ankle exile now. I go leave Ekoopt anyway. This what my father ankle - is."
But Fiya, who had not had a father since his Little Penises day, did not think there was much love between this son and this father. And if the son had the face of Nofariptuc, she must have been as ugly as a marsh bird.
A boy, Gilku son of Ulabasja, came to say he would have his challenge soon. Ulabasja was one of Nute's customers, and Nute had promised to judge the match. Nute said, "Run to the inn, Fiya, and bring a cloak, one of the good ones from the village of Nohas. And cut a switch somewhere. Or borrow a whip."
Gilku spoke aside to Fiya: "My uncle is giving me a cloak - do you have any of those super northern yellow blankets? And I'm not afraid, but I'd rather have a switch than a whip."
Fiya recognized Gilku as one of the boys who
laughed when Zykit had cried in his mother's arms. He grinned at
the boy: "The switch my teacher used
this morning has plenty
of snap in it, and it's a nice long one, with knobs. You are very
brave to ask for it, and not just a whip. Are
you as brave as your friend Zykit? You
laughed at him for crying. So I'll tell Nute you want more
strokes than Zykit got. That is what you want, isn't
it? I mean you wouldn't have laughed at Zykit, otherwise."
Gilku stared, frightened. The boy was not just
nervous - he looked miserable. Fiya asked again: "Isn't that
right? You laughed at him because he
cried? And you could only do that if you wouldn't have cried yourself."
Gilku was almost crying already.
But though his voice quavered, he said bravely: "I do want as many as Zykit."
Fiya pinched Gilku's bottom. "And Nute whips so hard! Your bottom is soft - even a pinch hurts. Feel my bottom: it's like tanned leather, but even I can hardly stand the pain of my teacher's whippings. For you, it's going to hurt so much you'll wish you were born a rabbit - the only baby animal who is not nipped for punishment by its mother. You babies don't know what whipping is, until you start weapon training, on your little penises day." Fiya gave Gilku a grin and a little tug on his penis, to let him know he was only teasing. This sort of teasing was traditional, and Gilku must have gotten it from everyone. But Fiya had teased hard - or perhaps Gilku was ashamed now of laughing at his friend. Gilku started to cry. Fiya said: "We do have some excellent yellow blankets." But Gilku was now crying hard, inconsolable.
"Gilku, a greenwood switch doesn't really hurt, not like a real whipping. I'm sure you've had it worse from your Mommy. It stings a bit. It keeps you from getting careless - keeps your eye on the target. But if you don't want to be switched in training, just say so - they'll call you 'Bunny,' and tease you, but that's all. I wasn't switched. Don't worry about Nute's switching - you'll hardly feel it. I was only teasing you, to pay you back for laughing at Zykit. What you do have to do today is to shoot calmly - as if you would go on shooting, thinking only of the target, even if someone was shooting at you. If they judge you a coward on your Little Penises day, you can do many brave things afterwards and they will still call you a coward." Gilku could not stop crying.
Fiya ran to the inn.
Nute was acting like a bitch in whelp. He kept talking to himself in the babble of Ekoopt. At Gilku's little penies, the boy lost at archery, but did not choose to prove his courage by climbing on the platform. His mother threatened to whip him hard for days, at home, if he didn't get up there on the platform and take his punishment, but little Gilku just lay on the ground and bawled. Nute was judge, and let the boy be. Once the yellow blanket had been shown, and greatly admired, Nute and Fiya were free until the feast. They left poor Gilku with his mother, to face a whipping that would no doubt be manyfold worse than the one he had feared to take on the platform. Nute and Fiya ran to the harbor.
"Wind-luck, sea-master Scansarra," he said to a captain. Does any boat go north?
"I do, peddler. Before sunrise. I am full enough. Ibir-Danik is empty - he will go north, south, or across dry land, if you pay him. Dragnric goes to the west mainland with cumin and the flint he brought from Doleinth, any he can't sell here, then will return here with wine - after that I know not, but he may well plan on Achaeawa."
"Can you carry us three, and some cargo - what a hand of men might carry? And the dog?"
Scansarra said he could, and Nute said they would bring cargo during the night. Then they headed toward the peddler quarter, and the inn.
"Teacher, what about the oil?" Fiya asked. "We have more than a score of jars, still. And the beads we bought from Dragnric captain; we never agreed on a price. There are five score, I counted them. Imhuotpa says they are bad. He says they are worth only two copper sickles."
"Go to Dragnric captain, then. Set a price."
"Teacher, how much may I offer."
"As little as you can, Fiya. But buy the beads. It is the greenwood for you if you do not agree on some price. We will be at the inn."
When Fiya returned to the harbor, he shouted across the water to Dragnric's boat, but there was no answer. No one on shore knew if Dragnric was on board. Fiya pulled his loincloth from his belt and swam out, after tying his dagger safely in place. He found it harder to climb on to a boat from the water than he had expected. After slipping back, he looked up to see Dragnric's face looking down from the strake.
"Storm-luck, Dragnric sea captain, he shouted up, the waves bobbing him up and down. I am Fiya the student of Nute peddler."
"I know you, boy. What would you at my boat?"
"The blue beads. We had not agreed on a price."
"And you swam out? Did you not think I would come to the feast? What do you offer for these beads you want to buy so urgently."
"Two copper sickles."
"I can't hear you, you're under water. Swim around and grab the prow."
Fiya swam around. "Captain, we will give a pair of copper sickles for the beads."
"I have no need of copper. But for my fine beads I will take a hand of sickles, if copper is all you have."
A wave dashed water in Fiya's face. "We will bring you your beads tonight," he shouted up. "Sail well, with wind and free from storms, Dragnric of the green Sea."
"If you must have the beads I could take three sickles, and Nute shall do me a good favor at some other time," Dragnric said. It was hard for Fiya to hear him above the slosh of the waves on the boat side.
"At the feast tonight, when I bring a pair of sickles, you will like a cloak to keep away this island breeze." Fiya shouted.
Dragnric said nothing, and Fiya let go of the boat. "Hold on boy!" the captain shouted. "I'll go with you." The captain tossed a reed mat into the water, and jumped in, loincloth and all. He let Fiya use the mat. He swam much faster than Fiya could, and twice he waited, staying still in the water, for Fiya to catch up. Fiya was glad of the mat - swimming made him tired. But he wished the captain would not call him "boy." It was a reminder that his tattoo was so simple - some would say it was unfinished, and he was not yet a man. When they got to the beach Fiya's loincloth was gone. The captain wrung his out. Fiya tried not to stare at his tattoo, which was that of a very brave man, indeed. It was hard even to see Fiya's tattoo, his penis was so shriveled by the cold swim. Without a loincloth, there was nothing to mark Fiya as a man. They walked together to the inn. The captain was a man who liked to talk. Fiya thought the captain would deal with Nute about the price of the beads, but he just collected his cumin and some exquisite flint he had stored at the inn, and headed to the practice ground for the Little Penises. Across the inn courtyard, Fiya could hear Nute and Imhuotpa shouting in their Ekoopti babble. When he walked into the walled space that was theirs at the inn, they both shouted at him at the same time. Nute was louder.
"You shall have strokes for walking about with your penis in the wind, student," Nute shouted. "A peddler should walk around like a wvaksa. We are going to Little Penises. Dress in your best and spend some of your hand copper."
It was hard to understand the Ekoopti's squeeky voice with Nute shouting, but Fiya made out: "Nute north go; Nakien kill he wants!"
Then Nute shut up and Imhuotpa squeaked. "I say him: Nakien his life save!"
"I could have saved her! I would not have left her. She died staked on the sand!"
"You could not save. Only the King save. Looker of grain house he gived time. Time for the King remember loved more than hate. Ankle her best amtat. Me was Nakien by saved, and by looker of grain house saved, and by Imhuotpa saved. The King find you, the King is angry. You he kill, my mother he kill his own hands. Imhuotpa says this to me."
"I will hear what Nakien says, before I slit his lying throat!"
"Nakien, he was learn make signs. Look at old scrolls Ekoopt law. Sing his songs of law. Imhuotpa want hear Nakien law. Make signs on scroll. They make anew all law of Ekoopt, all law of wild men too - signs of Ekoopt Nakien in north teach - this was their dream. All this they give, all this they not have, for you be with woman my mother. Nakien give his dream for you, my Father. I look signs scroll Imhuotpa make, scroll of law Nakien sing. Ankle thoughts no judge in Ekoopt has."
Fiya never mentioned a promised whipping - Nute usually forgot about them. But the beads would have to be returned so he had to mention them. "Teacher," he said, "do you want to whip me before I put on my cloth? I did not buy the beads from Dragnric captain."
"He said he would take a trio of sickles, and that you should do him a good favor. I offered a pair, and a cloak to seal the deal. I swam away, thinking he would call out with a better price. He didn't."
"My dear Fool, you haven't failed to buy the beads yet, this is called negotiation. Bring the cloak and the sickles to the feast - just the pair, not a trio. If you think a pair is right, don't give a trio. Don't be afraid to promise a favor, though. Buy the beads for a pair of copper sickles, a very good cloak, a kiss, a meal, and a promise of a favor. The man you owe a favor to, remembers you - and to be in others' thoughts is the wealth of a peddler. But don't say to him - I've brought a pair of sickles, and a cloak, take it or leave it. You're a boy, he's a sea-captain - use that. Be humble. Flatter him. Let him hear you sing. I saw him look at you. And if he wants his great penis buried in a warm hole - well, you wont be the first merchant or the last to make a deal that way."
Nute borrowed the help of a pair of the inn's porters, and they made a procession to the practice ground, with a hand of the tall jars. Nute sat with the oil, and Imhuotpa and Fiya wandered about, looking at the cloth and grain, dried fish, mead and honey. Even tree trunks for roof beams, brought from the mainland. There were some fine antler combs and spoons, and larger amber beads than any Fiya had seen. The sheep were poor and small, and they wanted too much copper for them. Dragnric was there too, with his cumin and flint, and he had some color for tattooing in little bone tubes - blue color. Dragnric had gotten his penis design extended in blue; octopus tendrils under his crotch and back to writhe all across his bottom. The lines had been raised as scars as well as colored, and there were burn scars as well. Girls examined him carefully, feeling the raised lines, and begged their fathers to buy the new blue color. But one boy said: "I wouldn't want a wife with blue all over her cunt. Black's good enough for me."
The were offered a taste of honey, a dab of scented oil, a taste of milk mead. Imhuotpa thought the mead was vile. But it was Imhuotpa's turn to laugh when Fiya trembled with fear at the sight of a strange animal, even though she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Imhuotpa stopped him from buying her. "Next year so many you pay have dwiven away. And, they scwatch." But Fiya did pull out his hand copper, and he gave tweezers for a sheath for his little Kros dagger. It had a flap, which would hold the dagger in place, but could be folded behind, if he expected to need to draw quickly. As Nute had taught him, he asked the leather-worker's name, and about his children, and where he bought his hides, and if the herdsmen who sold to him, were honest men or sneaks. And besides he praised the workmanship to the skies, and he gave the man a kiss, and he squealed with pretended pleasure when the man pinched his bottom.
They talked to the red bards, and Fiya sang. His voice was not what it had been before he got his piss-beard, but many gathered to listen, and the young people started a circle dance. One of the red bards was a northerner, and had heard of Fiya, and told his companions of what they had missed. The arrow master stood to announce a challenge, but no one paid any attention, and the two contestants decided to wait. Between songs, Imhuotpa said "I go get whore. For dance. And fuck." After another song, Fiya joined the dance; the pipes sang and the lyre skipped, while the drum walked the measure. Imhuotpa came back, and started dancing; his long limbs flailing about - his dancing was as clumsy as his face was ugly. There was a pretty young woman dancing; shy, with her red hair unbraided and over her face. She left her hand in Fiya's a little too long, each time, as the circles wove in and out. Stretching their arms out before letting go. He tried to get a glimpse of her face, but she turned away, not looking at him, him especially, among all the men at the dance. There was something about her that was hauntingly, achingly familiar, as if they had been waiting all their lives to meet at this dance, as if they had danced at some Little Penises in another age of the world. As if, when they had danced long ago, they had been naked. He could not take his eyes off her dancing body. It seemed as if he could see her nakedness now; as if he was naked to her. She wore a sleeveless tunic, which on this strange island both girls and women wore. Was she a woman, or a bare-cunt girl, forbidden to his tattooed penis by the Sky-Father? Fiya imagined his penis, with its two simple lines, sliding in and out of a cunt that dazzled with swirling patterns. She would ask him why his tattoo was so simple, and he would be so ashamed, that he would shrivel and wilt like a dead plant.
Fiya had a mad desire to challenge some champion at archery, just to lose and stand naked on the platform with this red-haired girl to watch. Watch him endure whipping to the blood, without showing any pain or fear on his face. But it was madness. He was the same Fiya who could not endure the pain of the tattoo. He sang instead, a song of brave deeds, the deeds he wished he had the courage to do for her sake. The red bards had something new - horns, horns like rams horns, but made of bronze! They were very loud. Loud enough to use in battle to frighten the enemy. The children ran away when they began to play. Fiya sang of Rhonan at the battle of Kala Khoam, turning the battle when he arrived alone, clinging to the mane of a wild horse. With the horns blowing around him, and the red haired girl peeking between her hands, Fiya felt the Frenzy of battle, as if he were Rhonan indeed.
A woman in a richly embroidered tunic came up to him, and gave him a fine amber bead as a gift for his singing. "If you need any oil," he told her, "we are needing to sell, and will give a good price. Over there, in the shade of the olive." Fiya led her to Nute, who had sold all the oil except for the jar he was using for tastes. But she agreed to buy a jar. Nute sent Fiya back to the inn for more oil. Fiya stopped by the dancing, and signed to Imhuotpa. "I'm going to the inn," he said, when Imhuotpa had freed himself from the dance. "Do you want to come, with your whore?" Imhuotpa answered: "She fuck is for you I both. I buy her."
Imhuotpa's whore turned out to be the red-haired girl Fiya had traded touches with at the dance. He didn't want to look at her - her tantalizing pretended shyness had just been a whore's trick. Well, she fuck is for you I both, and he'd fuck her hard for this. It didn't matter what she thought of his penis tattoo now. They headed for the inn, but as they passed between two houses, two men with drawn daggers blocked their way, and another came behind them. The whore screamed. Fiya cursed the flap on his new sheath. But even so, he thought he could draw and throw. He might remove the man behind them. Then he would be weaponless. But their chances if he kept his weapon were not good, either. He did not know if the Ekoopti could fight. He threw. But it was slow, because of the flap. The bandit dodged and the dagger hit his shoulder. He pulled it out, not even disabled in that arm. Fiya ran toward him, for no better reason than to do the unexpected. The bandit hesitated. And Dragnric captain came around the corner and felled the bandit to the ground with a blow of his fist.
The whore and Imhuotpa were getting the worst of it. The whore had a dagger - she must hide one under her tunic - but was cut badly. So was one of the bandits. Imhuotpa's pouch had been cut, gold spilled on the ground. The bandits fled when Dragnric and Fiya came running, after grabbing a bit of gold. Dragnric took off the whore's tunic to look at her wound; her tattoo was all Fiya had imagined, and she had the breast tattoos of the nomads as well - she must have been tattooed twice, like Arkwan. The whore saw his stare, and in spite of her wound, did her whore's business; she reached a hand inside Fiya's cloth, and with the other hand brought his face down to her teats. His seed flowed inside his good embroidered linen loincloth - like his teacher Nakien, Fiya always wore his loincloth loose.
The bandit was still breathing. They took his cloak, belt, loincloth, and dagger, though only the dagger was worth anything. Fiya raised the knife. "If you geld him, he will seek revenge," Dragnric said, "and if you kill him, his companions will."
"Can we do nothing?" Fiya asked.
Dragnric made a cut across the bandit's bottom with the man's own dagger. The man groaned, without waking. Dragnric handed the knife to Fiya, and said: "Make the cuts where the scars will be covered by his cloth. Cuts on his bottom will shame him, and hurt for many hands of days, but if you scar his face or geld him, he will likely try to kill you even if he gives his life for it."
Fiya made more cuts, and flayed a strip of skin from the bandit's bottom. The other cheek of the bottom he cut in a zigzag pattern, like on a Doleinth oil jar. They dragged the man away from the main path, and he groaned satisfactorily as they pulled his bottom over rocks; he was beginning to wake. They tore up his cloak and tied his arms and legs, gagged him, and bound his eyes. He was awake now. Dragnric made some more cuts, and gave him a kick in the balls. Fiya put the strip of flayed skin in his pouch - bits of leather are always useful.
Imhuotpa had gathered up his gold. Fiya had thought the Ekoopti's pouch was filled with hand copper, but it was all pendants and earrings and other jewelry - precious stones and heavy gold. They went to the inn. Imhuotpa was too upset to fuck. The whore pouted, but she went after Dragnric's face with her teats - he managed to get his cloth, which he wore very tight, off in time.
"Wvaksa of the sea, you shall have a hand of sickles for your beads; more; all you desire," Fiya said, thinking, let Nute whip me all he wants for making a poor bargain - this man saved my life.
"Two sickles and a cloak are a fine price - I accept it - I meant to tell you. And I hear you mean to go north with Scansarra, even though he has no room for your cargo. Why not go with me?"
Fiya said: "We will go on your ship, Dragnric of the wide waters." He was thinking, This is worse than making a poor bargain - Nute will whip me for days for this and he should. I've no right to make this promise. But what else can I do? The man saved my life.
Imhuotpa was recovering, so they left him with his whore, and went back to the practice ground, with a pair of jars and a brace of porters laden down with blocks of flint. When they came to Nute's spot under the olive, Fiya said in a loud voice: "I have told Dragnric, captain of the wide waters, that we will go north on his ship, and no other. He has no cargo; his whole ship is ours."
Nute hesitated, then decided. "We will go north on your ship, Dragnric sea-lore master. Honor and your heart's desire. Scansarra captain will be disappointed, but we are old friends." Nute thought: Fiya is not a fool; the trouble with Fiya, usually, is that he will not make a choice, when there is a chance he'll get a whipping for choosing wrong. Fiya would not have done this without a very strong reason indeed. Nute hoped for Fiya's sake it was a good reason. Well, Nute thought : A gift to Scansarra captain, and a promise of future business, and I hope he won't be angry. Now I have a ship to fill. And when we reach the north? Use the cart? And Great Goddess Cunt what do I do with an Ekoopti scribe in the mountains! Well, this Ekoopti scribe has done well in those mountains. Perhaps my son will manage too. But I have not done so well that I can afford to pay for a ship, and sail empty. Wine. That is the only cargo that can pay. And that means a stop on the mainland.
Nute sent Fiya to take a jar of oil, to the woman he had met at the dancing. "We will go to the west mainland, Dragnric, then to the north. We will load here my oil, and some other cargo I will buy tonight. Then on the mainland I will buy wine to fill the hold, and sell it in the northern waters. I will not be sailing back again at once. I will sell wine for promises to pay salt and dried fish, and head north by land without cargo."
"Honor and service, Wvaksa. I will not sell my flint and cumin here, for I will get the best price in the northern lands, since we are going north. When you sell your wine, I will fill my hold with dried fish and cloth. And copper - some of it borrowed. Your word and honor shall serve me well in the exchange. For the shipping of your wine, you shall pay me nothing."
"You bargain too fairly, sea-captain. Transportation, in exchange for nothing?"
"Your word is not nothing. In the north it is nearly everything. But we should leave soon. Fiya and I were attacked by bandits. We hurt one quite a bit, and they may seek revenge. If there is no reason to stay, we could be away from this island tonight."
"Wagga, guard," Nute commanded, and ran in the direction he had sent Fiya. Dragnric followed, hoping the tail-wagging bitch would provide some protection also for his flint. Fiya was unharmed, still carrying the heavy jar. "We can't be off this island too soon," Nute said, "but I must attend the feast. I frightened a boy to into fits today, with just the bundle of twigs we use for relaxing in the bath. I must make amends as best I can, and send him to bed with a new blanket. And I must speak to many, before we leave the island. Fiya, go with the captain, and see the oil on the boat - you will miss the feast. But go nowhere alone. I love and trust your new friend the captain, but make your own count of the jars. Seek me at the headman's doorposts; or later at the feast."
Fiya had wondered how Imhuotpa had hired a whore, with nothing in his pouch less valuable than gold. But that was made clear. The Ekoopti had not hired her, he had bought her. She was part of his cargo, along with a number of heavy sealed jars. Imhuotpa collected cargo from Scansarra captain, and from the inn, and handed over a few small packages, to be taken to merchant houses in Kafftiaw on the next ship to sail south. Dragnric didn't want to spend copper to hire a small boat, so the oil went out to his ship on his own raft, two jars at a time. Dragnric pulled the raft swimming, with a rope in his teeth. Dragnric's slave lifted the jars from the raft and stowed them, with Fiya's help, lashing them down with straw between them. There was another man on board with a bit of his own cargo; he also worked, and rowed, as Fiya and even Nute and Imhuotpa would have to do. Other than the one slave, there was no crew; everyone on board would work. No doubt the whore would work as well. But perhaps not with an oar.
When they finished loading all the cargo, water, and provisions, Nute had still not come from the feast. Fiya slapped the whore's face. "Bitch, suck me," he said.
"Make me," the whore said, removing her torn sleeveless tunic and taking position for a whipping. Fiya whipped a few strokes with a bit of rope, then she said: "that hurts too much. You have such strong arms. I'll have to do what you say." She licked a bit, then stopped, then a bit more, then stopped, until Fiya's need overcame his wish for longer pleasure, and he pushed her on her back. But she flipped over, and raised her bottom. "You must punish me," she said. "I have been disobedient." Fiya whipped for a while. She panted, and wriggled her bottom, and waved her cunt as he whipped. She said: "that makes me hungry for your penis" - as if a whore could be hungry for a penis. He started to fuck her from behind. But his penis softened. And nothing Nakien had taught him would bring it up again. "Bitch," he said. "Go fuck the captain."
Fiya leaned back between the masts, against the tightener of the hogging ropes, and thought about a red-haired island girl, who shyly touched his hand, and would not show her face. A girl who blushed, and buried her face in her arms, when he had tried to speak with her. A bare-cunt girl, not yet a woman, who had touched the hand of a man at a dance. A girl who never existed, who was only a trick of that leg-o-mutton whore. But he had seen her so clearly, seen her so clearly, dancing naked, cunt as bare of tattoo as the day she was born. That dance so achingly familiar. Their naked bodies dancing in light not of the green Earth, their bodies touched by light that made them impossibly beautiful, a warm light, red as sunset. Fiya slept, feeling frighteningly happy, a world of beauty open and welcoming him in. Beauty that could swallow a man. Beauty that would take him down like a dolphin, circling deeper and deeper into the dark waters.
He was roused by salt spray. His cloak and a blanket had been tucked about him as he slept; they were damp; his face was wet and tasted of the sea. Wagga had her head on his lap. The sea was choppy, the wind freshening as the sun broke above the waves, abeam of the port strake. Imhuotpa was arguing with his whore, shouting over the sound of the wind, as it thrummed and whistled on tight sinew ropes; and drummed on the stiff billowing linen.
"I not want bitch to you call," he shouted.
"Honor, master. You shall call me what you wish."
"But how what is you named?"
"She is right, Imhuotpa," Fiya said. "Bitch is the word in our tongue. But if you want to know her name, I can tell you. Who should know it but me? I know her well. She is the wife of a man I call brother. A man who calls me brother. Her name is Sujasa."
- November 2003 -
David Nunes da Silva
Page ( http://www.asstr.org/~Davo/index.htm
There is a calendar of the (fictional) events of the story, at the end of the last story.
Synopsis: There are new faiths, and kings who claim new powers - and everyone thinks they have the Gods on their side. An exile hears from his homeland, and a boy without courage, faces a test.
A reconstruction of a Vinca house. Digital Archaeology
Sex, a drug, and cattle rustling - The Rig Veda of the Aryans : The songs of the tenth mandala of the Rig Veda were composed around 1650 BCE (I think), in the land of the five rivers, now called the Punjab. The songs preserve the liturgy and tales of a people who called themselves the Nobles. They spoke Sanskrit, and "noble" in Sanskrit is "aryan." Although the songs were composed eight hundred years after 2435, Sanskrit is an Indo-European language, so the songs may be a guide to the beliefs and customs of the peoples of my story, who in my fictional reconstruction also spoke Indo-European languages.
This song is about a marriage. The bride is addressed as Suryah, who is the daughter of Savitar, an aspect of the Sun. She is married to four husbands, one after another :
[Perhaps spoken by Pusan at the bride's father's house:]
Mount the world of immortality, O Suryah, that is adorned with red flowers and made of fragrant wood, carved with many forms and painted with gold, rolling smoothly on its fine wheels. Prepare an exquisite wedding voyage for your husband.[Perhaps spoken by a priest, the next morning, as he shows the bloody bridal gown to the wedding guests, and burns it:]
"Go away from here! For this woman has a husband." Thus I implore Visvahvasu with words of praise as I bow to him. "Look for another girl who is ripe and still lives in her father's house. That is your birthright; find it. Go away from here, Visvahvasu, we implore you as we bow. Look for another girl, willing and ready. Leave the wife to unite with her husband."
May the roads be straight and thornless on which our friends go courting. May Aryaman, and Bhaga, united, lead us together. O Gods, may the united household be easy to manage.
I free you from Varuna's snare, with which the gentle Savitar bound you. In the seat of the Law, in the world of good action, I place you unharmed with your husband. I free her from here, but not from there. I have bound her firmly there, so that through the grace of Indra she will have fine sons and be fortunate in her husband's love.
Let Pusan lead you from here, taking you by the hand; let the Ashvins carry you in their chariot. Go home to be mistress of the house, with the right to speak commands to the gathered people. May happiness by fated for you here, through your progeny. Watch over this house as mistress of the house. Mingle your body with that of your husband, and even when you are gray with age you will have the right to speak to the gathered people.
The purple and red appears, a magic spirit; the stain is imprinted. Her family prospers, and her husband is bound in the bonds. Throw away the gown, and distribute wealth to the priests. It becomes a magic spirit walking on feet, and like the wife it draws near the husband. His body becomes ugly and sinisterly pale, if the husband with evil desire covers his sexual limb with his wife's robe.[Perhaps spoken by the husband, as he conducts morning sacrifice with his new wife:]
The diseases that come from her own people and follow after the glorious bridal procession, may the Gods who receive sacrifices lead them back to where they came. Let no highwaymen, lying in ambush, fall upon the wedding couple. Let the two of them on good paths avoid the dangerous path. Let all demonic powers run away. This bride has auspicious signs; come and look at her. Wish her the good fortune of her husband's love; and depart, each to your own house.
It burns, it bites, and it has claws. Only the priest who knows the Suryah hymn is able to receive the bridal gown. Cutting, carving, and chopping into pieces - see the colors of Suryah, which the priest alone purifies.
I take your hand for good fortune, so that with me as your husband you will attain a ripe old age. Bhaga, Aryaman, Savitar, Purandhi - the gods have given you to me to be mistress of the house.I have included an imitation of this song in the story, in three parts, "Smell the buds and garlands...:" "Stained with red the bridal gown, ...", and "My Father here made sacrifice;..." I tried to make my version raunchier, cruder, without changing the content. For example: instead of "covered his sexual limb" I have a clear reference to masturbation. I think the poet meant "masturbated" and said so in the most direct, ordinary language he had. But perhaps I'm wrong, and what the poet said is that the husband dressed up in his wife's clothes. But although we, after four millennia, may be unsure of what the poet said, I don't believe for a minute that the original audience was unsure of what he meant. I think he used plain, ordinary, language. It is just too easy to explain away our lack of comprehension in 2005, by assuming the original in 1650 bce, was poetically ambiguous.
Pusan, rouse her to be most eager to please, the women in whom men sow their seed, so that she will spread her thighs in her desire for us, and we in our desire will plant our penis in her.
To you first of all they led Suryah, circling with the bridal procession. Give her back to her husbands, Agni, now as a wife with progeny. Agni has given the wife back again, together with long life and beauty. Let her have a long lifespan, and let her husband live for a hundred autumns.
Soma first possessed her, and the Gandharva possessed her second. Agni was your third husband, and the fourth was the son of a man. Soma gave her to the Gandharva, and the Gandharva gave her to Agni. Agni, give me wealth and sons - and her.
Stay here and do not separate.
Enjoy your whole lifespan playing with sons and grandsons
and rejoicing in your own home.
Let the Prajahpati create progeny for us;
let Aryaman anoint us into old age.
Free from evil signs, enter the world of your husband.
Be good luck for our two-legged creatures
and good luck for our four-legged creatures.
Have no evil eye.
Do not be a husband-killer.
Be friendly to animals, good-natured, and glowing with beauty.
Bring forth strong sons,
prosper as one beloved of the gods and eager to please.
Be good luck for our two-legged creatures
and good luck for our four-legged creatures.
Generous Indra, give this woman fine sons and the good fortune of her husband's love. Place ten sons in her and make her husband the eleventh.
Be an empress over your husband's father,
an empress over your husband's mother;
be an empress over your husband's sister and
an empress over your husband's brothers.
Another translation: The
Rig Veda: Rig-Veda, Book 10: HYMN LXXXV. Surya's Bridal.
This god Savitar, the driver, has risen up many times to goad us on - this is his work Now he apportions to the gods the jewel, and to those who offer the oblation, he gives a share in happiness.My song in the story, starting "Now the Gods enjoy our gifts; and to the giver is given joy..." is based on this.
So that all will obey him, the god with broad hands stands upright and stretches out his two arms before him. Even the waters obey his command; even the wind stops in his orbit. Even the one who travels with swift horses now unharnesses them; he has stopped even the wanderer from going on. He has put an end to the voracious hunger even of those who eat serpents. Night has come by Savitar's command. She who weaves has rolled up again what was stretched out. The skillful worker has laid down the work half-completed. He stirs and stands up; he has set apart the different times. With his thoughts gathered, the god Savitar has come.
He who lives in a house, goes off into various dwellings, all his life. The glow of fire springs up and spreads out. The mother gives her son the best portion, because of the longing that Savitar has stirred up in him. He who went away because he wished to get something, has come back; the desire of all who wander, turns to home. All of them, leaving their work uncompleted, have followed the command of the divine Savitar.
Varuna goes to the watery womb that he loves best, after rushing about endlessly from one blink of the eye to the next. Every bird and beast goes to his nest or pen; Savitar has dispersed each creature to its proper resting-place. He whose law is not broken by Indra, not by Varuna, nor by Aryaman or Rudra, nor even by the forces of evil - that god Savitar I call upon for happiness, bowing low. Stirring up Good Luck, and Thought, and Abundance - and may Praise-of-Men, the husband of goddesses, help us - when blessings come and riches pile up, let us be dear to the god Savitar.
From the sky, from the waters, from the earth let there come to us that bounty that we long for and that you give, that brings happiness to those who praise, and to your friend, the singer, whose praises reach far, O Savitar.
Zarathushtra denounces cattle stealing : An early source, dating to perhaps 1600 B.C.E. are the yasnas (sacrifice songs) of the Avesta, which preserve the liturgy of the religion founded by Zarathushtra. They are in an early form of Farsi called Avestan, an Indo-European language closely related to RigVedic Sanskrit. The languages are similar, but there was a systematic change in pronunciation in Iran - a sort of national lisp. The chief gods of the Avesta are, seemingly, the same as Varuna and Mitra, who are important in the Rig Veda. The Avesta refers to Mithra, but calls the other god by a title - the Wise Lord. Wise is "mazda" and lord is "ahura" in Avestan. The drug Soma, which is Haoma in Avestan, is an important god in both texts. So is sacrificial Fire.
AVESTA -- Zoroastrian Archives
From the ninth yasna (sacrifice song) - to Haoma :
22. Haoma grants to racers who would run a course with span both speed and bottom (in their horses). Haoma grants to women come to bed with child a brilliant offspring and a righteous line. Haoma grants to those (how many!) who have long sat searching books, more knowledge and more wisdom.My songs in the story: "For all the bards who contemplate the ancient songs ... " and "The terrible green dragon ..." are imitations of this.
23. Haoma grants to those long maidens, who sit at home unwed, good husbands, and that as soon as asked, he Haoma, the well-minded.
24. Haoma lowered Keresani, dethroned him from his throne, for he grew so fond of power, that he treacherously said: No priest behind (and watching) shall walk the lands for me, as a counselor to prosper them, he would rob everything of progress, he would crush the growth of all!
25. Hail to thee, O Haoma, who hast power as thou wilt, and by thine inborn strength! Hail to thee, thou art well-versed in many sayings, and true and holy words. Hail to thee for thou dost ask no wily questions, but questionest direct.
26. Forth hath Mazda borne to thee, the star-bespangled girdle, the spirit-made, the ancient one, the Mazdayasnian Faith. So with this thou art begirt on the summits of the mountains, for the spreading of the precepts, and the headings of the Mathra, (and to help the Mathra's teacher),
27. O Haoma, thou house-lord, and thou clan-lord, thou tribe-lord, and chieftain of the land, and thou successful learned teacher, for aggressive strength I speak to thee, for that which smites with victory, and for my body's saving, and for manifold delight!
28. Bear off from us the torment and the malice of the hateful. Divert the angry foe's intent! What man soever in this house is violent and wicked, what man soever in this village, or this tribe, or province, seize thou away the fleetness from his feet; throw thou a veil of darkness o'er his mind; make thou his intellect (at once) a wreck!
29. Let not the man who harms us, mind or body, have power to go forth on both his legs, or hold with both his hands, or see with both his eyes, not the land (beneath his feet), or the herd before his face.
30. At the aroused and fearful Dragon, green, and belching forth his poison, for the righteous saint that perishes, yellow Haoma, hurl thy mace! At the (murderous) bludgeon-bearer, committing deeds unheard of, blood-thirsty, (drunk) with fury, yellow Haoma, hurl thy mace!
31. Against the wicked human tyrant, hurling weapons at the head, for the righteous saint that perishes, yellow Haoma, hurl thy mace! Against the righteousness-disturber, the unholy life-destroyer, thoughts and words of our religion well-delivering, yet in actions never reaching, for the righteous saint that perishes, yellow Haoma, hurl thy mace!
32. Against the body of the harlot, with her magic minds o'erthrowing with (intoxicating) pleasures, to the lusts her person offering, whose mind as vapor wavers as it flies before the wind, for the righteous saint that perishes, yellow Haoma, hurl thy mace!
From the twelfth sacrifice song :
1. I curse the Daevas. I declare myself a Mazda-worshipper, a supporter of Zarathushtra, hostile to the Daevas, fond of Ahura's teaching, a praiser of the Amesha Spentas, a worshipper of the Amesha Spentas. I ascribe all good to Ahura Mazda, 'and all the best,' Asha-endowed, splendid, xwarena-endowed, whose is the cow, whose is Asha, whose is the light, 'may whose blissful areas be filled with light'.Asha, Arta in Sanskrit, is Law or good order
2. I choose the good Spenta Armaiti for myself; let her be mine. I renounce the theft and robbery of the cow, and the damaging and plundering of the Mazdayasnian settlements.
3. I want freedom of movement and freedom of dwelling for those with homesteads, to those who dwell upon this earth with their cattle. With reverence for Asha, and (offerings) offered up, I vow this: I shall nevermore damage or plunder the Mazdayasnian settlements, even if I have to risk life and limb.
4. I reject the authority of the Daevas, the wicked, no-good, lawless, evil-knowing, the most druj-like of beings, the foulest of beings, the most damaging of beings. I reject the Daevas and their comrades, I reject the demons (yatu) and their comrades; I reject any who harm beings. I reject them with my thoughts, words, and deeds. I reject them publicly. Even as I reject the head (authorities), so too do I reject the hostile followers of the druj.
5. As Ahura Mazda taught Zarathushtra at all discussions, at all meetings, at which Mazda and Zarathushtra conversed;
6. as Ahura Mazda taught Zarathushtra at all discussions, at all meetings, at which Mazda and Zarathushtra conversed [I suppose this repetition is a typographic error, but have not checked. dnds] -- even as Zarathushtra rejected the authority of the Daevas, so I also reject, as Mazda-worshipper and supporter of Zarathushtra, the authority of the Daevas, even as he, the Asha-endowed Zarathushtra, has rejected them.
7. As the belief of the waters, the belief of the plants, the belief of the well-made (Original) Cow; as the belief of Ahura Mazda who created the cow and the Asha-endowed Man; as the belief of Zarathushtra, the belief of Kavi Vishtaspa, the belief of both Frashaostra and Jamaspa; as the belief of each of the Saoshyants (saviors) -- fulfilling destiny and Asha-endowed -- so I am a Mazda-worshipper of this belief and teaching.
8. I profess myself a Mazda-worshipper, a Zoroastrian, having vowed it and professed it. I pledge myself to the well-thought thought, I pledge myself to the well-spoken word, I pledge myself to the well-done action.
9. I pledge myself to the Mazdayasnian religion, which causes the attack to be put off and weapons put down; [which upholds khvaetvadatha], Asha-endowed; which of all religions that exist or shall be, is the greatest, the best, and the most beautiful: Ahuric, Zoroastrian. I ascribe all good to Ahura Mazda. This is the creed of the Mazdayasnian religion.
Amesha means not dying, immortal, and spenta means kind or good. (Amesha, amrta in Sanskrit, is indeed the same word as "immortal") There are six principle amesha spentas - undying goods. Here is the list from the 16th sacrifice song:
"And we worship the former religions of the world, devoted to righteousness, which were instituted at the creation by the wise Lord, resplendent and glorious. And we worship:
Hinduism and Zarathustrianism can seem opposite, as each calls demons the gods of the other. But it is just that the word 'deva'/'daeva' stayed with the good immortals in India, and with the strong in Iran, while the word 'asura'/'ahura' followed the good in Iran, the strong in India. Zarathushtra's teachings were courageous, and of profound importance, but they were not unrelated to pre-existing ideas - ideas that can be reconstructed, by comparing the Indian and Iranian sources.
India, in its own way, also turned away from the worship of the merely strong. King Indra - the storm - is the object of more sacrifice songs in the Rig Veda, than any other immortal. He is admired, but not for kindness or righteousness. His great exploit in the Rig Veda is the defeat of a demon, who seems to represent drought. There was a drought, between 2200 and 1950. This was the most horrific disaster that has happened to us, in all the time we have been living by ploughing the ground. Whole cultures were wiped out. Everyone died, killing each other in fights over scraps, and sometimes eating each other. Populous lands, crowded with tall cities, became uninhabited. Not even a remnant remained - a few nomads wandered about, but these were not survivors - they came into the empty lands from other places. Crop terraces, for lack of maintenance, failed. Topsoil blew away. Land, fertile before the drought, was ruined, and has never recovered - just stony hillsides now, where no one lives.
King Storm, by divine strength, and outrageous violence, defeated the drought, released the waters, and let cattle once again graze on green pastures. The Rig Veda says that the drought demon had imprisoned the cattle in a mountain, and King Indra let them out. But men's' memories are short. King Indra came to be looked down on as a mere fighter. He is very nearly despised, while the horribly good Vishnu was worshipped instead.
For myself, I find the wise Lord and the admirable Vishnu a bit tedious, and toss a little barley in the wind in praise of the King.
The Italian peninsula Skeletal remains portray long-term changes in violence. Skeletal trauma appears highest in the Neolithic, uncommon in the Copper Age, and moderate to high in the Bronze and Iron Ages -- a pattern which contradicts the image of the peaceful Neolithic and the warlike Copper Age derived from art and artifacts, ... Interestingly, from the Bronze Age onwards, trauma is highly gendered, with much greater prevalence in males; this does not seem to be the case in earlier periods (see J. Robb, "Violence and Gender in Early Italy", in Troubled Times: Violence and Warfare in the Past, edited by D.W. Frayer and D. Martin, 1998). Human skeletons and society in prehistoric Italy
Long term trends in dental disease through Italian prehistory show that dental disease was common in all periods, though it was less prevalent in the Copper Age, a fact possibly related to economic shifts to pastoralism in this period.
The land of Kalam : The southern part is Sumer, and the northern, Akkad. The land of the two rivers. It is currently occupied by the armed forces of the United States and the United Kingdom. The earliest writings are in the language of Sumer. By 2435, writings are also in languages of the Semitic family, recorded using the Sumerian syllabic alphabet.
The first letter written in Eurasia which can be assigned an approximate date, was written about 2385 B.C.E., in the language of Sumer. Here it is, from Letters from Early Mesopotamia, by Piotr Michalowski. It is dated year 5, perhaps the 5th year of King Enanatum of Lagash. Nin Girsu is the Lord of Girsu, a god. Girsu is the capital of Lagash. Nin Mar is a goddess - Nin means both Lord and Lady in Sumerian.
To Enetarzi, temple warden of Nin Girsu, speak. Thus says Luenna, temple warden of Nin Mar:The donkey caravans from Asshur to Kanesh : The land of Kalam has few things of value, but it has three in abundance: water, mud, and sunshine. With these, men grow wheat and flax; wheat feeds men and women; women spin wool and linen into thread. In the bronze age, the people of Kalam made fine cloth in great quantity; and traded for what they needed, chiefly wood and copper. Kalam traded with Elam, in the hills to the east, and by sea with Meluhha, in the land of five rivers. The ships of Meluhha came to Kalam with many things, and they wanted silver - Meluhha made its own cloth. Tin, from what is now Afghanistan, passed through both Elam and Meluhha to reach Kalam, and some was traded on to Kanesh and other places to the west.
600 Elamites carried off goods from Lagash toward Elam. Luenna, temple warden of Nin Mar, did battle in ?? and defeated the Elamites. He took 540 Elamites. Ur-Ba'u, the under-chief of Chief Nig-lunutum of the smiths ... in ... he captured, in the temple of Nin Mar. He recaptured? five mirrors of washed silver, 20 ..., ..., 5 royal garments, 16 fleeces from ....
As long as the ruler of Lagash is alive, as long as Steward Enanatum-sipa-zi is alive, ..., shall bring ... to Nin Mar. 5.
Kanesh was a great city in the central plain of Anatolia, and controlled copper mines in the surrounding hills. Kanesh was rich, and wanted the fine fabrics of Kalam, and they had silver; obtained I think not by owning the mines, but by local trade.
Thus the trade between Kalam and Kanesh in Anatolia consisted most importantly of cloth and tin flowing north, and silver flowing south. Kanesh had copper and Kalam needed copper, but Kalam obtained copper from nearer sources, and did not need to carry it over the mountains from Kanesh.
At Kish, in Sumer, a gardener named La'ibum raised a son, who became cup-bearer to Ur-Zababa the king of Kish, By 2350 (dates very approximate), the boy was king, not only of Kish, but of all Kalam. He established his capital at Asshur in Akkad, and took the name Sharru-kinu, which means - only rightful king. Sharru-kinu fought against Lord Dagan king of Purushanda, just south of Kanesh, perhaps around 2340. It is not clear what they fought about, but it is interesting that Sharru-kinu was asked to fight by his merchants, who offered to pay the cost of the campaign. This suggests a large-scale trade at that time, and it is reasonable to guess there was substantial trade already by 2435. It is unlikely, however, that tin was transported as early as 2435, as the bronze of 2435 is usually copper and arsenic, not copper and tin. By 2200 Sharru-kinu's empire had collapsed - it fell at the same time as the Old Kingdom of Egypt, the result of a long drought.
Climate studies suggest the drought lasted for 300 years, but every empire recovered after 100 to 150 years. Perhaps further climate records will resolve this puzzle.
Around 1950 BCE, after the drought, merchant from Asshur in Akkad established what they called a harbor - a kayrum - at Kanesh. The merchant firms were private family enterprises, and they wrote letters and kept records on clay tablets, 18,000 of which have been found at Kanesh. Trade was by caravans of about 200 donkeys, or by wagons; there were inns along the routes, bridges, ferries, and arrangements for the hire of porters, guides, and guards, the rental of donkeys and wagons, and sale of donkey fodder. Fluctuations in relative commodity prices were carefully tracked.
Here is a letter from Puzur-Asshur, a merchant of Asshur living in the Kanesh kayrum, to Waqartum, a woman of Asshur.
Thus Puzur-Asshur: to Waqartum: One mina of silver, plus tax, and duties paid, Asshur-idi is bringing you under my seal. The fine cloth you sent me - keep producing cloth like that. Send it to me with Asshur-idi; I will pay half a mina of silver. Let them comb one side of the cloth; they should not shear it; its weave should be close. Compared with the previous cloth you sent me, include one mina of wool extra each, but keep them thin! The other side should be combed slightly(?) If it is still hairy, shear it like a linen kutaynum.Here is an expense account for a caravan from Kanesh to Purushanda (called Purushattum) 155 km distance. A mina is about 470 g. There are 60 shekels in a mina, 60 mina in a talent. A mina of tin was worth 10 of fine copper, a mina of silver 60. Prices fluctuated.
From Kanesh to Washania I spent 2 minas of tin on guards, on an inn, and on donkey-fodder. ... I paid 20 shekels of silver for porters from Kanesh to Washania. The palace took 21 shekels of tin as nishaytum tax, the gentleman took (?) minas; the lord of the town took 9 1/2 minas.Each town through which the caravans passed, charged a tax, and the kassayru, or caravan captains, would often try to avoid the towns by taking narrow tracks through the hills. And if that failed, they would try smuggling. This is from a letter to Puzur-Asshur from Buzazu, an associate.
I spent from Washania to Ninassha 1/3? mina of copper on an attorney, and 10 minas of copper on an inn and donkey fodder. I paid 17 1/3 shekels of silver to porters and to my guides from Washania to Ulama. The palace took 24 shekels of tin as nishaytum tax; the lord of the town took 15 shekels of tin; the gentleman, the imrum, and the head of the ... took 10 1/2 shekels of tin; I spent from Ninasha to Ulama 2 minas of copper on an attorney, and 10 minas of copper on a stable, donkey-fodder, and an inn.
From Ulama to Purushattum I spent: the gentleman took 5 minas of copper, the attorney took 10 minas of copper; 10 minas of copper on an inn, 10 minas of copper on donkey fodder; 30 minas on smuggling; 15 minas of copper for the rent of a house; 10 minas of silver for my food and that of the servants. I gave one shekel of silver per mina, and one mina of copper per talent to the kayrum house as shaddu'atum tax. They took 8 kutaynum cloths as 5 percent levy at the kayrum house. The deficit of the biltum loads was 12 minas of tin. I gave 2 minas of copper at half a mina of copper per shekel of tin(?) to the kayrum house.
Let them travel on to Timilkia to reach my merchandise, and if the narrow track is safe, then my good quality tin and cloths, as much as he has brought there across the country, should indeed come to me by caravan using the narrow track. If however the narrow track is not suitable, let them bring the tin to Hurrama, and then either let the native men of Hurrama bring all the tin in quantities of one talent each into the town, or make packets of ten to fifteen mina each, and let the caravan men bring them into town under their loincloths. Only after they have safely delivered one talent are they to be be allowed to bring another one talent into the town. As soon as some of the tin has safely arrived in town you should send it on to me with the first caravan leaving.Thus we have a picture of sophisticated trade, with caravans, ferries, inns, arrangements for hiring porters, etc. The date of this trade is around 1950 B.C.E. What can we guess about trade 500 years earlier, well before the drought? What about places further to the west and north? In this case, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Without the written tablets, we would know little of the trade between Asshur and Kanesh. Asshur merchants in Kanesh ate local foods out of local pottery - they look like locals, archaeologically. If we ask what is most likely to have been the case, as opposed to what we can prove, it is reasonable to guess that trade of the scale and sophistication of the Asshur-Kanesh caravans, existed both earlier and over a broader area, than the clay tablets show. It is really very unlikely, that the whole apparatus of trade, as shown by the tablets, sprang up fully formed overnight. And there were rich kings all over - west to the Aegean, at least. It is perfectly possible to conduct trade, without writing.
So here's a guess as to how trade was conducted in 2435 BCE, at the head of the Adriatic sea. The draft animal was more likely the ox than the donkey, and wagon wheels were not yet spoked. Caravans were not as large as 200 animals - but there were caravans. Trade was conducted by family firms. There were inns and ferries, and arrangements for the hire of ox-boys, porters, guards and guides. And whores. Carts and oxen could be rented, fodder purchased. Prices fluctuated. Loans were made, with interest. Boats plied the sea, with cargos in the hundreds to thousands of jars, or hundreds of cloths. A few written symbols were used for numerals and common commodities. Merchants carried seals. Quality cloth, copper, and salt, justified long-distance overland bulk trade. Amber, silver, gold, perfume, and other precious items were also traded. Unfortunately for archaeologists, most goods were carried in bags or skins - there was no reason to transport heavy pottery.
The Dover Bronze Age Boat (http://www.dover.gov.uk/museum/boat/home.htm)
I am not claiming, by any means, that it can be shown or proved that this level of trade existed so early. But a picture based on what can be proved, must always fall short of reality. It is important not to fall into the trap of forming a picture based on what can be proved, and confusing that picture with what really happened. Somewhere between the most it could have been, and the least, is what it was.
The big caravans were naturally on the most important trade routes - my story begins in places where the trade was more of a retail nature. Traders with a single cart, or just a backpack, or a pack animal, carried goods to small villages and isolated homesteads.
Ebla : A library of 15,000 partial and complete tablets was found in the ruins of Ebla, in Syria. The dating is uncertain but the bulk of the tablets may date from around 2340. It is not clear whether Ebla was independent, or whether its ruler (called the En) was subordinate to the Lugal of Mari. The En of Ebla, in 2435, may have been En'har-Damu, or perhaps Ishar-Malik. Here is a letter, also taken from the Michalowski book. It is dated from the reign of En Irkab-Damu; the fourth En after Ishar-Malik. It is from Ibubu, steward of the En's palace in Ebla, to an unnamed envoy of the city of Hamazi.
Thus Ibubu, the steward of the palace of the En, to the envoy:The animals mentioned may have been onagers rather than donkeys, but I doubt it. Ebla engaged in extensive trade, goods traveling by boat up the Euphrates and then by wagon. The quantities are impressive; some records of just a portion of Ebla's tax revenue, covering a year or two, show a quantity of silver which at today's prices would be worth millions of dollars. The Ebla archive thus shows extensive trade, at a much earlier date than the tablets from Kanesh.
I am brother and you are brother: as brothers, whatever desire you express I shall grant, and you, desires you shall grant. May you deliver to me the best donkeys. You are brother and I am brother. Ibubu have given the envoy ten ropes, and two boxwood wagons.
Irkab-Damu the En of Ebla, is the brother of Zizi the king of Hamazi. Zizi the king of Hamazi is the brother of Irkab-Damu the En of Ebla. Irkab-Damu the En of Ebla, and the scribe Tara-il, have dispatched? the goods? to the envoy.
Sumerian literature from
The marriage of Martu (http://www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk/section1/tr171.htm)
... At that time a festival was announced in the city; a festival was announced in the city of Inab.
"Come, friends, let us go, let us go there, let us visit the ale-houses of Inab, let us go there."
The god Numucda participated in the festival; his beloved daughter Adjar-kidug participated in the festival, his wife Namrat, the lovely woman, participated in the festival. In the city, bronze cem drums were rumbling, and the seven ala drums resounded, as strong men, girdled champions, entered the wrestling house to compete with each other for Numucda in the temple of Inab. There were many coming to Inab, the city where the festival was taking place, to marvel at the holy Numucda.
Martu too strode around the great courtyard to compete in wrestling at the gate of Inab. They kept looking for strong fighters for him, they kept offering him strong fighters. Martu strode around in the great courtyard. He hit them with a destructive ...... one by one. In the great courtyard, in the battle he caused them to be bandaged; in the great courtyard of Inab he lifted the bodies of the dead.
Rejoicing over Martu, Numucda offered him silver, but he would not accept it. He offered jewels, but he would not accept them. Having done so a second time, having done so a third time:
"Where does your silver
Where do your jewels lead? I, Martu, would rather marry your
I would rather marry your daughter Adjar-kidug."
... [ lines omitted - Adjar-kidug is addressed by her girlfriend. ]
"Now listen, their hands are destructive and their features are those of monkeys; he is one who eats what Nanna forbids and does not show reverence. They never stop roaming about ......, they are an abomination to the gods' dwellings. Their ideas are confused; they cause only disturbance. He is clothed in sack-leather ......, lives in a tent, exposed to wind and rain, and cannot properly recite prayers. He lives in the mountains and ignores the places of gods, digs up truffles in the foothills, does not know how to bend the knee, and eats raw flesh. He has no house during his life, and when he dies he will not be carried to a burial-place. My girlfriend, why would you marry Martu?"
Adjar-kidug replies to her girlfriend: "I will marry Martu!"
Source: Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G., ETCSL: The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature , (http://www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk/)
Proverb tablet 28
1. The battle-club does not ask your name.
2. The city may change its name, but let my name stand!
3. The mongoose does not know fear of God.
4. Accept your lot and make your mother happy!
Run fast and make your God happy!
7. When a buzz-buzz enters, your mouth will buzz-buzz.
8. Let the ox be struck with a stick and let the sheep be given the whip.
Where there is no toughness, no one can go about their business,
not even a lord.
11. If a man does not treasure his God, that man will not be buried.
His heir will not provide him with water libations .....
25. When a man walks about, he finds something.
When a woman walks about, she loses something.
28. The palace is a forest.
The king, the lion, subdues men with a huge net like Nungal.
30. When the mistress left the house
and the slave girl came in from the street,
away from her mistress the slave girl set up her own banquet.
32. Where there is no grain, this is a sign of vengeance turned toward a city.
Where there are no reeds, it is the worst of all poverty.
34. "I bow over your thighs" is what the cobbler says. The tailor usually says:
"I swear by Enki that it will take no time at all."
Proverb tablet 14
1. Let the favor be repaid to him who repays a favor.
19. The palace and Hell;
they both require obedience from their inhabitants.
20. A palace cannot ignore waste land.
A barge cannot ignore straw.
A freeborn man cannot ignore toil.
21. The palace is an ox; you should catch it by the tail.
The Sun is a god; you should stare directly at him.
39. A man can obtain a wife. Children are from the Gods.
41. My husband heaps up for me, my child measures out for me;
my lover picks the bones from the fish for me.
42. A plant as sweet as a husband does not grow in the desert.
43. My husband should not bring me firewood;
it will not make an inlay for my cunt.
(idiom - sense unclear [seems clear to me - DNdS]) .
44. A malicious wife living in a house is the worst of all afflictions.
46. As for a daughter-in-law -- what about making a reed mat?
55. Every stranger is an important man - in some foreign city.
The land of Kmt : The black land. The valley of the Nile. Hieroglyphs do not record vowels, so what vowels there were in Kmt is a matter for guessing. The land of the Nile was called A3-ku-pi-ti-jo by the Minoans, which may have been pronounced Ahkooptia or Ahkiptia. Or, something else. I chose Ekoopt for my story. The -ia ending is Greek, it would not have been in the name itself. The name comes from Hwt-k-Ptah, house of the soul of Ptah, the city later called Mn-nfr ("Memphis"), the Old Kingdom capital. I think it likely that the land was usually refereed to by the name of its capital, especially when talking to foreigners, and it seems likely that the capital was called Hwt-k-Ptah in 4th dynasty times, and earlier. Assyrian, which is usually the best source, refers to the land of the Nile as "Misur" based on the name of the Hyksos capital.
The hieroglyphic texts contain two consonants which are not used in English. They are preserved in another Semitic language, Arabic. I asked an Arabic speaker to pronounce them for me. One I have rendered by an apostrophe - it may have been pronounced something like the sound a Cockney makes when saying "bottle." The other I have rendered by "gy" - it is something like the sound you might make if you were gently strangled while saying "aya."
BBC - Voices from Ancient Egypt
[ Pepi II, second year of his reign. Perhaps 2276 BCE ]
King's personal seal, year 2, third month of inundation, day 15. Royal decree to the sole companion, lector priest and chief of desert rangers, Harkhuf.
The matter of your letter has been noted, which you sent to the king at the Palace, to the effect that you have returned safely from Iyam together with the army that was with you.
You said in this letter of yours that you have brought all sorts of great and beautiful gifts, which Hathor, the mistress of Nubia, has granted to the spirit of my throne name, who lives for ever.
You said in this letter of yours that you have brought a pygmy, of divine dances, from the land of the horizon dwellers, like the one that the seal-bearer Bawerdjed brought from Punt in the time of king Isesi, and you said the like of him has never been brought back by any one who did Iyam in the past.
It is true that you know how to do what your lord loves and praises, and it is true that you spend day and night planning to do what your lord loves and praises and commands. His Majesty will provide many splendid rewards, so as to benefit your son's sons for all time, so that people will say when they hear what my Majesty has done for you, "Can anything equal what was done for Harkhuf when he returned from Iyam?"
Come north to the Palace at once! Drop everything - hurry and bring that pygmy you have brought, alive, happy and well, for the divine dances, to gladden the heart, to delight the heart of the king who lives for ever! When he goes down with you the boat, get trusty men to stand around him on the gangplank - don't let him fall in the water! When he goes to bed at night, get trusty men to lie all round him in his hammock. Inspect ten times a night! My Majesty longs to see this pygmy more than all the treasures of Sinai and Punt! If you arrive at the Palace and that pygmy is with you, alive, happy and well, my Majesty will do greater things for you than was done for the seal-bearer Bawerdjed in the time of Isesi, because my Majesty so wishes to see that pygmy. Orders have been given to the chiefs of the New Towns and the overseer of priests to furnish supplies from every depot and every temple under their charge. No exception has been made for this.
Annotated ancient Egyptian texts (http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/texts/)
From the tomb of Count Weni, Nomarch under Pepi I (c. 2270)
While I was judge, attached to Nekhen, his majesty appointed me sole companion and superior custodian of the domain of the Pharaoh, and [...] of the four superior custodians of the domain of the Pharaoh, who were there. I did so that his majesty praised me, when preparing court, when preparing the king's journey (or) when making stations. I did throughout so that his majesty praised me for it above everything.
When legal procedure was instituted in private in the harem against Imtes, the Great Royal Wife, his majesty caused me to enter, in order to hear the case alone. No chief judge and vizier at all, no prince at all was there, but only I alone, because I was excellent, because I was pleasant to the heart of his majesty; because his heart was filled with me. I alone was the one who put in writing, together with a single judge attached to Nekhen; while my office was that of superior custodian of the domain of Pharaoh. Never before had one like me heard the secret of the royal harem, but the king caused me to hear, because I was more excellent to the heart of his majesty than any official of his, than any noble of his, than any servant of his.
From the instructions of King Merikare to his son, c. 2100
Speak thus concerning the barbarian: As for the wretched Asiatic, unpleasant is the place where he is; shortage of water, difficulty from many trees, and the roads thereof awkward by reason of mountains. He does not dwell in one place, being driven hither and yon through want, going about on foot. He has been fighting since the time of Horus; he never conquers, yet he is not conquered; and he does not announce a day of fighting, like a thief whom a community has driven out.
But I lived, and while I existed the barbarians were as though in the walls of a fortress. ... broke open .... I caused the Delta to smite them, I carried off their people, I took away their cattle, until the detestation of the Asiatics was against Kmt. Do not worry about him, for the Asiatic is a crocodile on his riverbank; he snatches a lonely serf, but he will never rob in the vicinity of a populous town.
The Tale of Sinuhe (http://nefertiti.iwebland.com/texts/sinuhe.htm)
There came a mighty man of Retenu who challenged me in my tent. He was a champion without a peer, and had subdued the whole of Retenu. He vowed that he would fight with me, thinking he would win; he planned to steal my cattle, on the advice of his tribe. The prince took council with me and I said: "I know him not, in truth I am no confederate of his, nor one who walks about his camp. Have I ever opened his door, or overthrown his fence? No, it is envy, because he sees me carrying your messages. Assuredly, I am like a wandering bull in the midst of a strange herd, and the bull of those cattle charges him, a long-horn attacks him." ...
At night-time I strung my bow, and tried my arrows. I drew out my dagger, and polished my weapons. Day dawned and Retenu was already come; it had stirred up its tribes and had assembled half of it, it had planned this fight. He came against me where I was, and I stood within range. Every heart burned for me. Women and men jabbered. Every heart was sore for me, saying: Is there another mighty man who can fight against him? He lifted his shield, his battle-axe, and his armful of javelins. I escaped from his weapons and dodged his arrows; they flew past. We charged each other, and I shot him, my arrow sticking in his neck. He cried aloud, and fell on his nose. I laid him low with his own battle-axe, and raised my shout of victory over his back. Every 'Alamu shrieked. I gave thanks to Montu, but his serfs mourned for him. This prince Enshi, son of Amu, took me to his embrace. Then I carried off his possessions, and his cattle. What he had devised to do unto me, that I did unto him. I seized what was in his tent, I ransacked his encampment.
The Pronunciation of Ancient Egyptian (http://www.friesian.com/egypt.htm)
GREECE POTTERY ols In all, there are some 236 Egyptian objects found in good LH/LM I-IIIC contexts. ... Mycenaean pottery was ... in use over great areas of Egypt and was imported by a number of Pharaohs, from Amenhotep III to Ramses II
grain, textiles, and metals sent between
the two areas ... can be seen depicted in Egyptian tomb paintings and
occasionally mentioned in written texts.
"The high points of contact between Egypt and the Late Bronze Age Aegean seem to be during the reigns of Thutmose III (1504 BCE), Amenhotep III, Ramses II, and possibly Ramses III.
Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Abstract
Education at Sparta :
system instituted, supposedly, c. 850 BCE
In order to the good education of their youth (which, as I said before, he thought the most important and noblest work of a lawgiver), he took in their case all the care that was possible; he ordered the maidens to exercise themselves with wrestling, running, throwing the quoit, and casting the dart, to the end that they might have strong and healthy bodies.
... There was much care and art, too, used by the nurses; they had no swaddling bands; the children grew up free and unconstrained in limb and form, and not dainty and fanciful about their food; nor afraid in the dark, or of being left alone; without any peevishness or ill humor or crying. Upon this account, Spartan nurses were often bought up, or hired by people of other countries.
Lycurgus was of another mind; he would not have masters bought out of the market for his young Spartans, nor such as should sell their pains; nor was it lawful, indeed, for the father himself to breed up the children after his own fancy; but as soon as they were seven years old they were to be enrolled in certain companies and classes, where they all lived under the same order and discipline, doing their exercises and taking their play together. Of these, he who showed the most conduct and courage was made captain; they had their eyes always upon him, obeyed his orders, and underwent patiently whatsoever punishment he inflicted; so that the whole course of their education was one continued exercise of a ready and perfect obedience. The old men, too, were spectators of their performances, and often raised quarrels and disputes among them, to have a good opportunity of finding out their different characters, and of seeing which would be valiant, which a coward, when they should come to more dangerous encounters. Reading and writing they gave them, just enough to serve their turn; their chief care was to make them good subjects, and to teach them to endure pain and conquer in battle. To this end, as they grew in years, their discipline was proportionately increased; their heads were close-clipped, they were accustomed to go barefoot, and for the most part to play naked.
After they were twelve years old, they were no longer allowed to wear any undergarments, they had one coat to serve them a year; their bodies were hard and dry, with but little acquaintance of baths and unguents; these human indulgences they were allowed only on some few particular days in the year. They lodged together in little bands upon beds made of the rushes which grew by the banks of the river Eurotas, which they were to break off with their hands without a knife; if it were winter, they mingled some thistle-down with their rushes, which it was thought had the property of giving warmth. By the time they were come to this age there was not any of the more hopeful boys who had not a lover to bear him company. The old men, too, had an eye upon them, coming often to the grounds to hear and see them contend either in wit or strength with one another, and this as seriously and with as much concern as if they were their fathers, their tutors, or their magistrates; so that there scarcely was any time or place without some one present to put them in mind of their duty, and punish them if they had neglected it.Besides all this, there was always one of the best and honestest men in the city appointed to undertake the charge and governance of them; he again arranged them into their several bands, and set over each of them for their captain the most temperate and boldest of those they called Irens, who were usually twenty years old, two years out of the boys; and the oldest of the boys, again, were Mell-Irens, as much as to say, who would shortly be men. This young man, therefore, was their captain when they fought and their master at home, using them for the offices of his house; sending the eldest of them to fetch wood, and the weaker and less able to gather salads and herbs, and these they must either go without or steal; which they did by creeping into the gardens, or conveying themselves cunningly and closely into the eating-houses; if they were taken in the fact, they were whipped without mercy, for thieving so ill and awkwardly. They stole, too, all other meat they could lay their hands on, looking out and watching all opportunities, when people were asleep or more careless than usual. If they were caught, they were not only punished with whipping, but hunger, too, being reduced to their ordinary allowance, which was but very slender, and so contrived on purpose, that they might set about to help themselves, and be forced to exercise their energy and address.