A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 40


"So you have been spying on me, handsome boy? I wish that I had known. I need a wondrous male in my life these days, you know."

She reached out and stroked his cheek for a moment and watched as his eyes closed and that sawing sound began again. It stopped suddenly when Dakhete leaned forward and kissed the top of his nose. As she leaned back, his eyes opened and he stared at her for a moment before her world tumbled into a blur and she found herself almost flat on her back as he held her down gently with one paw on her shoulder so that he could lick her face.

Dakhete sputtered and laughed, forcing him to let her up by pressing against his chest so that he understood. They looked into each other's eyes and Dakhete suddenly knew that his intellect was far closer to hers than it was to a normal leopard. She felt nudges at the edge of her consciousness and knew that he tried to communicate.

"You surely are wondrous if you try to talk to my mind," she told him as they stared at each other until he carefully placed one paw on either of her shoulders and slowly brought his head forward to rub against hers. She hugged him for a moment in spite of his weight, "Come, Saddiq Anmar. Let us go. If you wish for me as your friend, then wish no more. I did not know that you sought to know me. Who could resist a fine one such as you?"

They walked back together, "I seem to have acquired a boyfriend somehow," she laughed as she walked, resting her hand on the cat's neck. Yasmin came to meet him and she fussed over him.

"What about Yasmin's donkey?" Dakhete asked, suddenly worried for the ass if there was now a large cat in her life.

"He knows about the beast already, he has seen her," Nasira said, "though it may take a time for her to adjust ... to being the most closely-guarded donkey alive."

"No," Yasmin said.

"Oh yes," Khyan grinned, "It will be fun to watch. She will try to move away, and he will try to stay close, thinking that she needs his protection. She will think that he stalks her and move again. Finally, she will bolt, and he will catch her, but he will not harm her. Sooner or later, she will accept it and ignore him."

"If she does not kick his teeth out of his head," Yasmin laughed, "You do not know my Najmah."

Nasira nodded, "There is much to know of these ones and I can tell of it later. Know only that to him, you are to be guarded, for in his way, he sees you as one that he wishes to be near."

She smiled a little, "Khyan tells me that you have a large bed. That is good, because you will need it. He would sleep very near to you always. It is their way. If you wake in the night, you will see that he does not sleep, really. He will watch and guard ceaselessly. If you need more room to sleep, then only say it to him gently. You will be alone and he will prowl the house and the grounds.

The largest adjustment that you will need to make is to train him that you may not wish to do everything in his company. You may need to use the commode and he will be locked outside as you do your business. He will be silent almost always but it is right then, when you wish no one to know what you do that he will make noise because he is so upset that you have left him outside. The neighbors will think you are torturing some animal when all that you wanted was a quiet piss alone.

Bathing is another trying task," she smiled.

"Bathing?" Dakhete laughed a little, "What danger is there for me in that? He is a cat, yes?"

"He is a cat, and his kind like the water, unlike the other cats. And this one," she smiled, "he loves to swim, and a bath would make him happy, though it cannot be hot."

Dakhete threw back her head and laughed. After this long day and the emotions which had come to her, to hear something such as this, it was too much. "Nasira," she chuckled, "I thought that you were giving me a cat, not a husband."

Her old friend smiled and shrugged, "I wish for you to know that I am warning you fairly. This boy," she said as she ruffled his ear, "he will find his own way into your heart. Before you know it, he will be a companion such as you have never known, and you will know nothing of it until the day that you cannot take him with you for some reason. He will be upset, but not as much as you. I am not giving you a pet, since that is something which he could never be. I am giving you a friend who already holds you in his heart. You will see," she nodded.

It was a strange procession which passed through the dark forest and then began to make its way across the grasslands toward the city gates. Its passage was more like a rumor than anything really noticeable. Two huge cats slunk along in the center of a vanguard of leopards who paced them from the perimeter of a twenty yard circle. The cats themselves were remarkable due to their size, but it was the ones who rode on them that might cause the most attention. On one, Khyan sat in front leaning forward a little to keep his hands on the shoulders of the animal while Yasmin sat behind him with her hands on Khyan's hips.

"This is not like riding on Najmah at all," she said, "the movements are different."

"If this one runs," Khyan said, "she will smooth out much more than a horse or an ass to ride upon. But the challenge comes when she turns. A horse's turns are a little predictable, once one is a good rider. A cat changes direction much faster."

On the other animal, Dakhete held onto Nasira loosely as they rode. "I do not understand something," she said, "I have seen all sorts of large hunting cats all of my life, wherever I have gone. I have never seen ones such as these. Some I know, like the leopards, but the ones with the long teeth, I have never seen before. These two largest ones, they look like tigers with different marks, but no tiger ever reaches this size. And of all of them," she smiled down at her dark companion who trotted beside her, "I have never seen one like Saddiq Anmar. I feel that they are all very bright in their minds. Where do they come from? How is it that all of these different kinds of cats can even stand to be near each other. It seems ... unnatural."

"From what was before, and what still is, this is unnatural," Nasira said quietly, "but these cats are not the same as the ones that are still here, the ones that we have always seen. A long time ago now, something changed very quickly in the world. It happened so fast that many did not ever know what it was that had killed them, even as they were dying. I almost missed it completely, since I was in my bed.

The world moved with no warning. It was over in an instant, the same way that it had begun, but when I looked out from Jebel Barkal much later, I saw broken buildings below; smashed tombs and even some temples had been destroyed. My head hurt, for I found myself on the floor, and the bed was on top of me. After that, it was still. Things seemed just as they had been. But they weren't. There were dead and hurt humans everywhere, and that was only there. I can only imagine what must have happened in one of their larger places.

I had been exploring some of the paths which my mother had closed long before. I knew that the one that I had been near to the day before led to a beautiful, but empty cavern. It had always been so. But when I went again to open the way, I found these cats – many, many large cats of all sorts. From them, I learned that some of where they lived and been destroyed and they were trapped in the cavern. I was hailed as a great hero for only opening a way for them to get out so that they could hunt and eat.

A little later, I found the blockage to where they had come from and I opened that for them and they were reunited with their loved ones. They made me their honored friend for it all, and any of them would do whatever I wanted after that. They do not like it here as much as they like where they are from. I have been there, and there is so much game that you could almost hold out your hand and your dinner jumps onto it. I told them that if they cherished their freedom, they must stay away from humans, and I told them what had been done to cats and other creatures all through history"

"But, ... they are cats," Dakhete said, "how did you learn what they wanted? You cannot speak with them, can you?"

"Have you not felt how your new friend there tries to speak with you?" Nasira smiled, "He has much that he wishes to say."

"I felt something, like a little push in my mind, but, ..."

"Wait until you can be alone with him for a little while without the fear of being disturbed," Nasira said, "Touch him then, anywhere. Scratch his chin or only lay your hand on his shoulder and allow this push. You may even try to push back. Sooner or later, your two minds will speak to each other and you will need no words. This is how they hunt, always talking silently to each other.

What is important is that they all told me that they had always been near the cavern, just not in it. But from this side, there was no opening and never had been, only the opening from my path to an empty cavern. I think that this is another thing that was changed that night. There are creatures now that were never here before, but they say that they were. I have no answer.

By the way, it means little to us, since even I have not learned enough to understand it all, but your handsome one there, he comes from one of their royal families. You might see it if you watch how they are to each other. Even these large ones that we ride now, they will defer to him. Among their kind, he is the highest one here. It is a little funny. He came to me asking to see this world, so I brought him and it was just before you came to Medewi with Yasmin and her donkey."

She chuckled, "I did not even know that I had a new neighbor yet when he came running to me through a tunnel that may be used to come to Medewi quickly, desperate to talk about the female that he'd seen in the dead city. I had no idea who he was talking about, but then Khyan's voice was in my mind to tell me of it. I told him to show himself to you and seek to learn what he could. Then I sat down with Saddiq Anmar and really listened.

He told me that he had seen a great and beautiful queen, and he had seen her raise the dead. This meant something important to him, very important."

She turned her head and smiled, "I do not know how to really say it. He is a prince, and has had his choice of many females before. He is used to being served, yet he seeks to serve you alone now. For his own reasons, you are very special to him, so you should ask about it as soon as you can understand each other clearly. I asked what I could, but he was so excited and smitten with you. He told me that he had to be near to you. He said that he wished to give himself to you.

I was a little cautious and asked what he meant by it, and he said that if he could see you and you were to like him, that he would want to be yours, that it would be the purpose of his life to guard you and keep you safe. He said that if it happened, then he would explain it all to you as clearly as he could.

I think that they have this goddess and that she was lost to them somehow. Seeing you and how you raised some helpers, I think that he believes that you are she in a different body. He says that he sees her in you. Anyway, you should ask."

Dakhete tried to see what had happened from the cat's view and she groaned to herself. When Nasira asked, she said, "I think that I know why he sees the goddess – whoever she is. I did not raise a few helpers, Nasira. I was furious and upset at the desolation that I saw around me in what was left of Medewi. I wished to see something which would make me feel just a little better."

"What did you do?" Nasira asked.

Dakhete sighed, "I raised the army of Kas,"

Nasira almost turned herself around in her seat on the back of the cat, "The army? Do you mean the city troops?"

"No, I mean the army," she sighed, "the full might of Kas, whomever could hear my servant's voice and come," she said, "I would guess more than twenty thousand troops only, over a hundred elephants, perhaps three thousand archer girls, I raised them all. I did not know that anyone watched."

"Well, two did," Nasira said, "and perhaps three. Khyan and his single guard from the mountain, and Saddiq Anmar as well. He saw what you did." She looked at Dakhete, "He could be right. I never knew that you could do such a thing. You have grown your own strength, Dakhete. Perhaps you are his goddess."

Dakhete shook her head, "I am the same person that I have been for more than three thousand years, Nasira. What he thinks cannot be."

"I know that," Nasira said, "I tried to tell him. He said that the goddess had been gone for longer than that."

"Well if that is so," Dakhete grinned, "then he must surely be confused. It is bad enough being this old. If his goddess is older, she must surely be a wrinkled old thing with her tits on her knees when she stands. I am bad enough."

"No, you are not," Nasira said, and the tone of vehemence and finality surprised Dakhete to hear it. She sat forward a little and leaned to get close to Nasira's shoulder, "What have I said, Nasira? You sounded a little upset there. I meant nothing by it."

Nasira sighed and hung her head a little, "I know, Dakhete. It is just, ... a little hard for me. I think that it was easier not being this close to you. I should have had you ride with Khyan. You always used to talk yourself down a little and it always bothered me. I have always thought that my girl was the most beautiful one alive. I still do, after all of this time, though everything has changed and we are not together anymore. But I still hate it when you belittle yourself. It bothered me then, and I am surprised, but I find that it bothers me still. Please forget that I said anything."

"Please forget that I even said the words," Dakhete replied quietly, "I should have remembered this."

She smiled as she looked at the grasslands around them in the twilight, "The way that you thought of me then, I felt as though there was not anything that I could not do if I only held your words to me in my mind and remembered how you looked at me when you said them. There was no fight that I could not win, no hardship that could even slow me then."

"I know," Nasira smirked over her shoulder, "That was why I said them to you – and they were the truth from my heart."

She sighed to herself, "And I always felt your heart pounding against me. It gave me my own strength to know love such as yours."

They rode in silence for a while after that until Nasira felt Dakhete's arms around her in a brief, but heartfelt hug before she sat back again. "Forgive me, Nasira. I only wanted to feel that once more."

Nasira said nothing, she only nodded, but Dakhete heard her quiet sniffle a little after.

"They have their old troubles," Yasmin said quietly to Khyan, "I wonder what will happen."

"If I know my mother," Khyan whispered, "she will try to forge this friendship anew, and yet, she will stay behind her fence. I have told her a thousand times, perhaps, but she does not hear my words, or she discounts them as coming from her own son. I do not know how she was before when they knew each other, but even I can see that she has changed. My mother feels as though she was damaged by what happened to her. She uses any excuse to gainsay what I tell her when I say that she should not hide herself away so much. She says that there is no one for her anymore and there never will be again.

She says that no one would want to know the old queen who hides inside Jebel Barkal. That one, she says has little beauty to anyone's eyes. That one has living proof that she is old, having a son my age. Then she asks who I think it would be who might want her, once they learn of my sisters, as though they are ugly themselves.

Can you believe that?" Khyan asked, "My mother is so beautiful, and while it is true that my sisters are wild and perhaps a little dangerous to ones who do not know them better, they are lovely as well, though in a darker way, perhaps. Still, I think that their beauty could stop anyone with a heart. I love them too. I have spent a long time teaching them of everything. They wish to come and live in this world, and not only hide in their chambers."

"I would like to meet your sisters," Yasmin said, "and if I can help in any way, then only say it, Khyan. Your mother is very wrong if she thinks that no one would want her. Look at Dakhete. Oh, I want to cry to think that they lost something that was their own. I have never heard a sadder tale than the one that we heard today. Look," she said, "Your mother said that Dakhete never lost her friendship. There must be something that we can do."

"Why do you sound so, ... angry, so indignant all of a sudden?" Khyan asked over his shoulder.

"Because," Yasmin said, doing her best to hide a little sob, "Because, ... well, I'm afraid."

"Afraid?" Khyan thought his eyes would get stuck from trying so hard to see over his shoulder, "What?"

"I am afraid," Yasmin whispered, looking down. It was almost impossible to hear from where Khyan sat, but he caught it. None of it made any sense to him.

"If they had this great love between them so long ago, well, ... Khyan, they are so unhappy now, and have been forever. What is the point then? It all turns to nothing."

"Come here," Khyan hissed, "You are too far away like this, and I think that I am breaking my own neck. Come closer."

Yasmin shifted herself forward.

"Closer, Yasmin," Khyan hissed, "Do you want them to hear us?"

Yasmin moved as far as she could. That brought her right up against Khyan, who wasted no time in reaching to grab Yasmin's hands and placing one of them around his waist and the other one up as far as he could from under his right arm to lay it over his heart.

"There," Khyan said, "This is the point, right here. This is why. Pull yourself tighter to me, as tightly as you can. Now just hug me. This is everything. Can you feel it?"

Yasmin had her cheek against Khyan's shoulder, "Yes," she whispered with a sob. "Yes," she nodded a little.

"Good," Khyan smiled as he turned his head and pressed it back against Yasmin's forehead a little. "Don't you ever say such a thing to me again, Yasmin, I mean it. What happened to them just happened. It does not mean that it happens to everyone. If you are trying to tell me that you do not want to be close to me, then say it. But don't stop my heart like that again over something that has not happened.

All that I know is how I feel," he said, "and that is what I go by now. I was very uncertain before, but I am not now. Now I am certain. I do not wish to hear anything less from you – unless that is truly how you feel."

"No," Yasmin said, squeezing her eyes shut and causing a tear to run from her cheek to Khyan's back, "No, Khyan. I am certain. I was only afraid, but I am not now, not when I hold onto you like this."

She took a deep breath and let it out. It eased some of her tension, but that didn't change what had been on the tip of her tongue demanding to be said.

"Khyan?" she whispered, "Khyan, I ... " She sighed and that finally helped her over the top.

"I love you, Khyan. I really do."

It earned her a quiet curse from Khyan and she lifted her head with her heart in her throat. "What have I said? I thought that you wished to hear that."

Khyan chuckled quietly as he lifted Yasmin's hand and bent his head at the same time to kiss it softly for a moment. He placed it back over his heart, and held his own hand over it.

"You can make me go mad," he chuckled, "and I ache to thank you for it. What is happening to me? You barely accept a kiss from me and want to hear about how Piankh loves us as though we were his own children. I spend over an hour kneeling next to you with ants crawling over my legs while we watch those two fight and argue. Now you tell me something which makes me want to hold you to me forever, and I am facing the wrong way. How do you do it, Yasmin?

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