tagFirst TimeNights of Alsitor: Xanthe & Narciss

Nights of Alsitor: Xanthe & Narciss


The candle-light played on the tribal patterns stained into her cloak. Though it was a warm night, she trembled- she could not shake the feeling at the back of her mind that she might not survive the night.

She could see through the eyes of the featureless black mask covering her face, this wooden platform up on the highest tree in the oasis. The floor of a small room, a thatched roof and only net for walls, she was glad she succeeded the long climb up, an ancient trial of fitness long expected of those seeking the next level of status of that society. The climb wasn't easy in that mask and robes; in her world, males and females are raised separately, as independent nations. Boys and girls don't meet each other until teenage, and even then hold for each other a place similar to elves or goblins- strange, mythical, inscrutable beings to whom the other was inexplicably drawn and bound. The robe was necessary, none of the young boys in the village were allowed to look upon a woman until their awakening.

Her mind wandered, and when she turned forward there was someone standing in front of her. She gasped, staring at his bizarre features- he was tall, as tall as the tallest woman, but he was unlike any woman she had ever seen growing up at the neighboring village. His chest was flat, his hips narrow, and the shadows on his jaw and chin turned out to be hair! All that was strange, but what she noticed most was his build; muscles, thicker and bigger than anything she had grown up with. Shoulders so broad his arms hung swinging, wrapped in tight flesh, wearing nothing but a patterned fabric wrap girding his loins.

"Tell me your name"

Her guts trembled at the rumbling of his baritone voice- of all the voices she ever heard, none of them had ever made her feel like that.

"I am Xanthe," she spoke in a gentle voice.

"You succeeded the climb up. You have come for tribute, yes? You understand what this means?"

Xanthe gulped. She had grown up hearing stories about the ongoing war with the neighboring village, and she was born to the defeated nation. As a condition of peace, seven young women were sent as prisoners to the other nation, to be punished and suffered in penance for their nation's defiance. Every generation, those women who were brave enough to volunteer were admired with great reverence for the selflessness they offered for the peace of the nation. Nonetheless, most were far too frightened to take the role of [guest/prisoner/slave/student]. Through diet, medicine and generations of eugenics, a healthy female like Xanthe would be well educated, emotionally developed, self-dependent and well-rounded people by the time they are permitted to volunteer as tribute. Xanthe, only just turned 22, had borne menarche on a tribute year, having bled first only four months prior, and bravely offered herself out of love for her home. Hesitating, she slowly nodded.

"Good. Take off your mask."

She reached up and pulled the plain, shiny black slab from her face. She had orange hair and pale, freckled skin. She was very pretty.

He looked at her and smiled, his blue eyes stark against the jet-black hair all over his body. "Good," he said, reaching out and taking the mask. "Now the cloak."

It was late and they were far from the ground, so none of the boys would have seen them. Still, she hesitated. She looked into his eyes. As he was about to say something she tugged a pullstring loose, tugging the cloak away. She was slim but muscular, only the slightest wisp of orange flaming from the low corner of her belly. She looked strong, toned muscles all up her petite frame, which was covered in black and red markings staining her skin. The tradition of tribute was ancient, and had developed sophisticated rituals, such that the spirals and zig-zags and spots all across her thighs, arms, neck and back were unchanged from previous tributes for decades. Her eyes lowered as the cloak fell to the ground, but she tried to stand stalwart and intrepid.

"Good," the man continued, stepping up to her, illustrating his advantage in height. "My name is Narcissus. The elders have appointed me your host. Starting today, you are my initiate. You understand what this means?"

From as soon as she had studied logic, ethics and history as a child, the role of the [guest/prisoner/slave/student] was stressed as indispensably important, and that, for the sake of the country, their cooperation and obedience were sacrosanct. For the sake of everyone she'd ever known and loved, Xanthe was bound to unquestioning obedience. She nodded.

"Speak up," he rumbled, "It's important that you say it out loud."

"Yes, I understand," she spoke plainly.

"Good. Now, Xanthe," Narcissus leaned forward, closing their faces together, "I'm going to give you an order, and you're going to obey it. Do you understand?"

"Yes. I understand."

"I want you... to tell me what you feel. Right now."

She stared at him, confused. He stared back, his face motionless, quiet and patient. She glanced at the ceiling, then the floor. "Uhm... I hear rustling of wind through the canopy, I feel the wind blow on my back, warm in the night. I see candle-light-"

"That's not what I mean," Narcissus interrupted. "What do you feel?" He pointed at her, moving his hand up and down her body. "What do you feel in your head? Your heart? Your gut? Your toes and scalp?"

She inhaled, stalling. "I've been fasting for tribute, so I'm quite hungry, my left foot is sore from getting pinched on the climb up, and-"

"Not like that," Narcissus cut her off, leaning in to put his face closer to hers. Xanthe felt a powerful connection before she realized he was looking at his own reflection in her eyes. "What do you feel?"

She held his gaze for a moment before her lip trembled and she looked to her feet. "I feel scared, I fee I i feel scared and i don't know what's going to happen to me and i'll be punished if i say something wrong so i please don't hurt me, please i-" she bit her lip, hugging her arms to her sides an she pressed her knees together, shrinking down.

"I see." Xanthe's breath froze inside her as Narcissus stooped down, picked up the robe, and with a skilled fling had it wrapped around her shoulders.

She looked up at him, confused. "But i am-"

"Afraid," he finished, "I know. It's normal. But the initiation doesn't work if you're scared. It must be a strong feeling, memorable and moving, but fear will warp these magics and create powerful curses that bring pain to both of us." He tightened the draw-strings, fitting the cloak snugly around her. "Get some rest. Tomorrow we will try again. I will wait however long you need."

"But the tribute must be-"

"No." He wasn't angry, but the word was final. "We try again tomorrow."

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