tagSci-Fi & FantasyAngel in Bronze

Angel in Bronze

byGuinahart©

Thanks for reading my story, and I hope you enjoy it! As always, comments are welcome.

Thank you, RNebular, for editing!

Guinevere A. Hart


**********

"I know what'll get you off," Ru said.

Eva's assistant shook his unkempt bangs from his eyes and flashed her a wicked grin. In the few years they'd worked together, occasional casual sex relieved their tensions. The trouble was that no matter what they tried, Eva could never have an orgasm. However, Ru always had an idea or two, and Eva did enjoy trying.

"Oh no," she laughed with him and squirmed back a bit on the cot. She wondered what sort of kink Ru had in mind this time.

He came back to her with one of her artifacts in hand. It was a small statue, carved from marble and highly polished. It was one of the first pieces she'd excavated on her own, and she'd kept it with her ever since. The idol was a simple representation of the Winged Man, also known as the Tenkaru. It was a humanoid figure with folded, bat-like wings. She believed the object had been used for some sort of magical fertility ritual, for the erect penis that proudly stood out was ridiculously proportioned. Its organ was as big as the rest of its body.

Ru pressed her thighs further apart and playfully waggled the idol between her knees. "I know you want him, Eva. The Winged Man and his monster prick are coming to your rescue."

Eva laughed and shook her head. Ru was her friend long before he was her assistant. He had a quirky sense of humor that kept her own more serious nature in balance. She'd never told him of her erotic dreams of the fabled Winged Man, but she wouldn't be surprised if he'd guessed.

"Well, shut up and rescue me already." She closed her eyes and enjoyed the massage, as Ru worked the smooth head of the marble phallus circling her clitoris.

Even before she'd begun her expedition in the Whispering Caverns, Eva dreamt of the Tenkaru. At that moment, her mind easily fell into dreaming, and it was the great Winged Man stroking her most intimate parts. She pictured his luminous skin, shining brighter than the lantern light. Fine horns curled back from his temples forming a sort of delicate crown about his head. His hair, long and white, framed a strong and handsome face, and it flowed over his broad shoulders and down nearly to his hips. His wings stretched out behind him, and his glowing presence consumed her vision.

In her reality, Ru seated the idol's erection within her, pressing its face against her stiffened nub. He stayed quiet, letting her live in her fantasy while he vigorously stroked her with the statue. Eva arched her back and clutched at her own breasts, pinching and pulling at her nipples. In her mind, the Winged Man took rapid thrusts, squeezing her ample flesh in his fingers. She heard him moan and growl her name. In her dreams, he often called her Nevvari, a name she'd grown accustomed to in that otherworldly state.

The Tenkaru lowered his body over hers. Though his wings closed around them, she was engulfed in his light, filled with his body's heat. Her heart raced, and she could feel her own heat and pressure building. She was close, closer than she'd ever been in her life. If she could have just a few more minutes...

Then a voice from outside the tent shattered her dreams and her opportunity. "Miss Cleverleigh? Miss Cleverleigh, you've a guest. He's from Regulum, Miss."

"Shit," Ru whispered. Then he called to the person waiting outside. "Just a minute!"

Her sexual relationship with Ru was definitely inappropriate. If their behavior was found out by their superiors, Ru would receive a strong reprimand and might spend a night in jail. Eva, though, would be imprisoned as a whore. Worse, if caught using the ancient idol in such a manner, they might even brand her a witch and have her executed.

Ru shoved the idol under the cot, while Eva grabbed her clothes and leapt behind the privacy screen where she quickly dressed. Ru pulled on his pants, threw his shirt over his head, and hurriedly wiped his face on his sleeve and finger-combed his hair. With a sharp-eyed glance at the room to see that nothing looked amiss, he pulled the tent flap back and addressed the man outside.

Eva winced as Ru's tone was a bit rough, but she couldn't blame him for that. "Who the hell is it coming out all this way, and at this time of the evening? Miss Cleverleigh needs her rest. This can wait until morning, damn it!"

"No, Mr. Ashley, I'm afraid it can't. The man from Regulum is Advocatus Ellsworth. He says he's got papers from the Synod. They're shutting down the expedition, sir." There was a small amount of panic in the laborer's voice, because the man knew he was about to be unemployed.

Ru's tone was kinder then as he spoke to the man. "All right, Miss Cleverleigh will handle this. Don't worry. She's dealt with the Advocatum before, and I'm sure she can work something out."

Behind the screen, Eva glared at her reflection in the mirror, and she swore under her breath. "Son of a bitch."

She was in a rage as she finished pulling herself together. Ru knew her moods and stayed clear of her path as she swore and stomped around. He tried to placate her, "It's a mistake or something, Eva. Just some stupid bureaucratic bullshit. It's fine."

It wasn't fine, though. She just knew that this expedition would yield definitive proof that the Tenkaru was more than just a legend. Now that she was close to realizing everything she'd studied and worked so hard for, a handful of zealots wanted to shut her down. It didn't help that those zealots ruled the known civilized world.

Advocatus Ellsworth paced the floor in the conference tent as he waited for her. Immediately upon her entry, he shoved his papers at her. She ignored his handover and raised a shaking finger at him. She was on the attack as she snapped, "This is a legitimate scientific expedition! You have no right to be here, so just go back to Regulum, and mind your own damn business!"

Beady eyes narrowed in a pudgy face, and a condescending smile curled his thick lips. "Miss Cleverleigh, I've got all the paperwork right here. The synod expressly forbids any further exploration of the Whispering Caverns. You are to cease and desist all inquiry into this 'Winged Man' heresy. You must pack up and clear out within the next day."

Eva hated the Synod. She hated their Advocatum, their Inquisitors, and even the false gods they forced upon a populace that seemed blissfully obtuse. She wanted to put a fist right in the middle of Ellsworth's smug face, but that wouldn't help anything.

He tried to give her his documents again, but Eva folded her arms across her chest, still refusing to take them. She was also hiding the fact that his mere presence made her so furious her hands shook. "Heresy? How do you consider the exploration of an ancient people's mythology, a heretical act? And if the synod is so terrified of actual fact-finding, why do they even support a museum of cultural sciences?"

"Miss Cleverleigh," his holier-than-thou tone was intolerable. "Ideas which do not coincide with present day doctrine can only serve to confuse and upset people. Besides, my dear, you are a young lady of nearly twenty-five. It's unseemly for a female to gallivant from one country to the next, digging through best forgotten ruins. Surely you know, the Synod advices that all goodly women of twenty-five marry eligible men. It is your duty to bear productive offspring for the greater good of our society, and it's time you accepted that duty."

Stunned, Eva stared at him in silence. Anything she said at that point was only going to make things worse than they were. She felt choked on her own rage, and she wanted to fight, but she kept still. She forced herself to breathe, waiting for the calm she needed to speak.

Ellsworth shook his head at her and his jowls shook with it. Gazing upon her as if she were a tot with her hand in the cookies, he simply waved a dismissal at everything she had worked her whole life for. "All this silly splunking..." His mispronunciation of the word only further rankled. "It isn't for ladies. The synod strongly suggests that you set this childish nonsense aside and settle into a life more befitting your gender. You must grow up, marry, and start a family, Miss Cleverleigh."

Eva drew in a deep breath, checking her thoughts before she did something stupid. She would not give him the satisfaction of a response to his Synod's suggestion. Instead, she took one more cleansing breath, then calmly stated, "It's 'spelunking', you gods bothering moron."

His chest puffed out, and his jowls shook again as his mouth worked like that of a landed fish. She snatched the papers from his outstretched hand and pretended to read them. She knew what the document said, and it didn't matter for she'd already made up her mind to do whatever she pleased.

She gave Ellsworth a tight smile and said, "Looks like this is all in order. If the Synod says I'm done, then I guess I'm done. They won't hear from me again after tonight."

His eyes narrowed once again behind the thin glass of his spectacles. He suspected her duplicity, but she didn't care. Eva rolled the document and tucked it under her arm as she continued, "If you'll excuse me, my assistant and I have a great deal of packing to do."

Though he was still suspicious, she was sure he wanted to be done with her as much as she with him. "So, you'll be out then?" he asked this with a dubious expression. "Before end of day tomorrow?"

She offered her most endearing smile, "Oh, Advocatus Ellsworth, don't you worry. I'll be gone before you know it."

Eva left Ellsworth and went back to her tent. There, Ru waited anxiously for her. She passed the document into his hands before crossing to the privacy screen to change her clothes. She had a lot of work to do, and skirts would only get in her way. Ru rifled the papers, reading through them quickly as Eva shucked her skirts and pulled on a pair of his trousers.

As she dressed, Ru sighed. "Well, that's it then, isn't it? It's over. We've no choice now."

For Eva, it was most certainly not over. Ru was quiet for a moment, and she turned to the mirror to retie her hair into a knot. She licked her thumb and wiped a smudge of dirt from the end of her nose and another from her forehead. She wasn't sure why she bothered, for as soon as the camp settled in for the night, she was going right back to her caves.

Ru came nearer the screen and spoke softly to her. "Look, Eva, I'm sorry. I know how disappointed you are. But this doesn't have to be all bad. I-I've been doing some thinking, and I've wanted to speak with you about this for some time now..."

Eva stepped around the screen to find Ru standing there with a ring box in his hand. The diamond that flashed in the lantern light was lovely, and worth more than she knew he could afford. He tossed his hair out of his eyes and smiled warmly at her. She blinked at the ring and said, "Ru? What are you doing?"

After a nervous laugh, he said, "I'm proposing marriage, Eva. Will you be my wife?"

"Oh, Ru, are you serious?"

"Of course I am. You and I have known each other for years. We're colleagues and good friends. No two people were ever more suited for each other. And what better time than now? Besides, the Synod's position is pretty clear. If we're married, we're doing what they say, but we can still keep working. You can still keep working. It's perfect. We're perfect for one another, Eva."

Eva had no idea that Ru contemplated such notions about her. On the one hand, she could have intelligent conversations with him, and he was someone who understood her. On the other, as his wife, she'd be working under his name and his credit. In the male driven society they lived in, her work wouldn't be hers anymore.

"I can't marry you, Ru. I'm sorry, but it just wouldn't work out."

Ru stared at the floor for a moment, then he snapped the lid shut on the ring box. "I suppose I did sort of spring this on you. If you're not ready, I understand. I'll wait. Maybe in a few months, once you've put this life behind you a bit..."

It seemed he didn't understand her as well as she'd thought. "I am most certainly not putting my life behind me! I am going to finish what I started, and I'm going to do it tonight." Then another thought came to mind, and she searched Ru's eyes as she asked, "Did Ellsworth put you up to this proposal? Is this some sick ruse to distract me from my work?"

Ru's face crumpled, and she was instantly sorry she'd asked. "Gods, Eva, how can you think I would do something like that to you? To us? I love you. I've always loved you. I thought after so many years together, perhaps you'd developed some feelings for me. I was wrong. I see that now. There's no room in your heart for anyone but the Winged Man."

He took a breath, stood up taller, and hardened his expression as he turned the subject. "But Eva, you can't do this. The Synod's forbidden it. Besides, they claim the Tenkaru never even existed. You can't find something that was never there in the first place. He's not real!" The last part was said in anger, and Eva thought Ru seemed jealous of her subject matter.

"Oh, he's real all right. And the Synod's just confirmed it. They want me out because they know his tomb is somewhere inside those caverns. When I find him, they'll have to admit that they've been wrong, and nothing scares a bunch of crazed zealots more than the truth."

Two hundred years ago, the Order of the Chosen rose to power in the midst of a war against magic. In Eva's time, their Synod gave "benevolent counsel" across three nations, while their Advocatum and Inquisitors enforced that counsel. Those whose ideas deviated from the ways of the Chosen had a tendency to quietly disappear. Others were branded magical heretics and were made an example of.

Eva's parents were both professors of history, and she grew up with two separate educations. One was of course the sanitized learning approved of by the Order. The other was the truth, gleaned from hushed words of oral traditions and from secreted away art and writing of ancients. She was still young when she was caught up in stories of the Tenkaru who came down from the stars in a great ball of light. According to tradition, they defied the will of the Chosen, standing up for the mages and the old ways.

The Synod crushed all such stories. They claimed that the only sentient beings were human beings. Speaking for their new gods, they avowed that no other sentient life had ever been present on this world or in the stars. They put down the Winged Man as nothing more than a fairy tale for little children. But Eva felt something tugging at the marrow of her soul, and she knew beyond doubt that the being from the stars was real.

She'd dedicated her life to chasing what her superiors declared was a fantasy. Colleagues mocked her, scolded her, and then they simply ignored her, but she never gave in to their bullying. Just when she was about to discover her long sought after desires, they tried to kick her out. The Synod could punish her all they liked, but only after she saw the tomb of the Tenkaru with her own eyes.

Ru stepped closer to her, his eyes pleading. "They'll throw you in prison for heresy, maybe even execute you. Please Eva, turn away from this, I'm begging you."

It occurred to her then that she would have to delve the unexplored regions of the caverns alone, because she couldn't ask Ru to risk the Synod's wrath. She set her feelings aside, squared her shoulders, and tucked her blouse into her pants. She coolly asked, "Will you get my gear ready? I'm not going in until it's all quiet, but I'll need you to stay here in camp and run interference if something happens."

Ru's mouth curled up in a sort of half smile. "You'll break my heart, but you won't damn my immortal soul. That's good to know. I'm your friend, and like it or not, I love you. What's more, I'm your assistant. I'll get our gear ready."

"Ru, no. They're serious about this. And you're right. They'll probably hang me."

"I can't imagine a world that doesn't have you in it, Eva. If you die a heretic, then so do I. I don't believe in him the way you do. But I'm still with you in this, and I won't let you shut me out now."

Ru tucked the ring box in his pocket and turned his attention to their equipment. Eva really didn't want to put Ru in jeopardy, but she knew full well how stupid it was to delve a system of caverns alone. She was surprised at how relieved she was to know he would help her, in spite of everything. After a moment, she knelt beside him to help prepare.

They'd often worked together in a comfortable silence, but this time the quiet was awkward. After a brief discussion of the route they would take to sneak back into the Whispering Caverns, they fell quiet again. His proposal had built an instant wall between them, and Eva wondered if it would ever feel right again.

**********

The Whispering Caverns formed a long, deep gouge in the earth. A constant breeze made odd susurrations among the stones, sometimes sounding like whispered words. Eva had long ago stopped trying to listen, for she knew that what she was after was somewhere within the heart of the caverns. Though the way could be treacherous, both Ru and Eva knew well the paths leading down into a larger cave complex. They kept their lanterns hooded and moved quickly into the black crevasse. Once they were well inside, they brightened their lights.

Eva didn't hesitate, and with Ru close at her heels, she made directly for the yet unexplored portion of the cave system. She tore away the rope barrier she'd set up as a safety precaution, and the two of them stood at the rim of a deep pit. They called it the Well, because it was perfectly round. The inside walls were sheer, except for an occasional gleaming crystalline fragment.

Eva took a rope from her pack and bound a quick harness around her torso. Tossing the other end to Ru, she said, "Get my line secure, Ru. I'm going in."

Too slow for her liking, Ru went about tying the rope. As he did so, he tried to dissuade her. "I don't like it. It's not safe. You should let me go down there first."

Eva laughed off Ru's attempted chivalry. "Oh? Why is that? If there's some sort of cave monster down there, do you intend to beat it to death with your mighty penis?"

He barked a laugh at her comment and shook his head. "Damn it, Eva, give me a break. It's just... well, we don't even know what's down there."

"I do. He's down here, and I'm done pussyfooting around. Is that line ready?"

He grumped, "Gods, you're bossy. Wait for me. If you insist on going down there, we'll descend together."

She flashed a grin and said, "I'll meet you at the bottom, slowpoke."

It was a long, narrow, and dark descent. Eva wasn't concerned, for she had the equipment in her pack to tie off another line if she needed it. As impatient as she was to explore, she slowed for a moment just to enjoy the way her lantern light flashed off the crystal fragments caught in the walls of the Well.

She looked up at the fading circle of Ru's faint light and wondered what was taking him so long. "Ru! Are you coming down or what?" Ru's face suddenly appeared over the rim, but there was something wrong with him. He was red and looked like he was struggling. Then she could just make out a rope around his neck.

Advocatus Ellsworth peered over the side next to Ru. With a sneer, he said, "I'm afraid your assistant is a bit tied up with other matters, at the moment. You should have heeded the Synod's counsel, my dear. I had hoped to bring back a report that you would marry this idiot and settle into your place as a woman. Instead, I must report your tragic demise."

Ru croaked through the pressure on his neck, "Eva, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

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