Meanwhile, I tried every method at my disposal to quench the raging fire of my need. Nothing helped. When I could not satisfy it through self-pleasure, when Ligia's agile tongue brought me no release, when the ivory device left me as tormented as before, I sought to rid myself of desire altogether through cold baths and calmatives.

Still, nothing helped. I passed another unthinkable night, this time alone. Once again, my fitful sleep was broken by half-formed dreams. When morning came, I rose from my bed pale and red-eyed, but knowing what it was that I needed. What I must have, else I would die.

I bathed, adorned myself in my queenliest best, and bade Ligia accompany me to the workshop of Daedalus.

It was a place that I had never before visited, and pausing in the doorway I wondered if this was what the realm of Hephaestus must be like. Forges and coals, barrels, unimaginable contraptions, tools. And there in the midst of it all, stripped to the waist with sweat shining on his chest, the master craftsman. Daedalus. A man in his prime, but already a widow, and father to a young son.

He greeted Ligia, and was astounded to see me there. I surmised from a sly smile he tried to conceal that he had guessed the use to which the carved phallus of ivory had been put. But he did not speak of it, and neither did I.

"I have a request, inventor," I said.

Daedalus, grimy, was nonetheless handsome as he raised an eyebrow. "As you are my queen, would it not be an order?"

"I intend to reward you well for your time and efforts."

"All that I need, I have here," he said. "But tell me what it is that you require."

My throat felt dry and I wished for wine. But, as there was none, I had to settle for a dipper full of tepid water that Ligia brought me from a corner barrel. Now that I was here, my resolve faltered. I pressed my knees together, the resultant pressure in my loins reminding me, promising me that there would be no more sleep, no more rest, no more satisfaction until the deed I so desired was done.

"I require," I said, taking his word because he spoke true – it was not a request. It was a command, an order from his queen. "I require for you to fashion another costume, such as you did at my husband's bidding."

"Another bull?" he asked, and I could see that I had puzzled him.

I took a deep breath. "A cow, clever Daedalus. One that will not be made to disguise one of the herd, but that a person could hide within. A … a woman. With a … with an aperture at the rear."

"Aperture," he said. His smile grew. He toyed with the word. "Aperture."

A blush suffused my cheeks, but I nodded. "Yes. And it must be lifelike. So lifelike as to fool even a … a bull."

Ligia was staring at me. I do not think she had known until this instant what I intended, and it dropped her jaw. I avoided meeting her shocked gaze, fixing mine on Daedalus.

He still seemed amused, but his expression was also pensive. As if already at work in his mind, testing ideas, casting them aside, testing others. "A disguise of a cow, so lifelike as to be indistinguishable from reality."

"Are you able to do this?" I asked.

"Of course," he said, nettled.

"Will you?"

"I have no choice but to obey the queen."

"I also require that you speak of this to no one," I said. "Not even the king, my husband."

"Ah, now, that is a difficulty," Daedalus said. "I am first and foremost in his service. To keep something from him would not find his favor."

"Surely your discretion can be bolstered by some reward?"

Daedalus looked directly at me, boldly. "I have been without my wife for more than a year now. I find that I miss certain pleasures of a woman's company."

"Oh, indeed?" I could not look away from him, though a delicious prickle ran down my spine and brought the peaks of my breasts to rigid points. The drape of my thin robe could not hope to conceal them.

"I am a man like any other, with a man's urges," Daedalus said. He glanced deliberately down at my breasts, then back into my eyes. "However, I am not seeking a new wife."

"You presume a bit much to look on your queen in that manner," I said.

"I should hate to presume." He indicated Ligia with a gesture and a nod. "What of her?"

The young woman started, and forgot herself enough to blurt, "Me?"

"She is no slave girl, no prostitute," I said.

"But she is your servant. Surely, to be of help to her mistress …" He let the words trail off.

Ligia was quite understandably flustered, the poor dear. She had been standing to the side, hearing us but not speaking, and was at once the center of the conversation.

"I am sure," Daedalus added when the silence drew out, "that she is of help to you in many, many other ways."

"I am pleased to serve my queen," said Ligia, turning pink and casting her gaze to the floor.

"In all things, and all ways?" the inventor asked.

"Whatever is required of me."

I was briefly pained by the idea that this unnatural compulsion would lead me to this, but once more the thought of the white bull rose unbidden in my mind and turned my innards to melting butter.

"You shall have my gratitude if you agree, Ligia," I said. My voice was hoarse, husky, hardly my own. "This … this is important to me."

Important? Life or death! For I knew that if I could not ease this hunger, it would surely drive me mad. I could not sleep, I could not eat, I would waste away from my unrequited desires.

"I know that it is, mistress, and I would not fail you."

"Very well. So be it, inventor. Have we a bargain?"

"Yes, my queen," Daedalus said. He rose and extended a hand to Ligia.

As he stood, I could hardly help observing evidence of his arousal. Even clothed, it was most obvious that he did not share Minos' inferiority.

"What, now?" Ligia blurted. "This very day?"

"Our queen, I take it, does not wish to delay any longer than necessary," Daedalus said.

Apparently, my state was as evident to him as his was to me. I did not bother with any further embarrassment, however. I would have that which I must have, and nothing else was of any import.

Daedalus took Ligia's hand and began leading her to the rear of his shop, where there was a cot that might have served as the sleeping-place of an apprentice, had he had one. He did not, at the moment, for he was by all accounts a demanding task-master and had sent more than one apprentice fleeing in tears.

Ligia cast a nervous look back at me, and I saw that she was unsure about my presence. She carried herself stiffly, and when Daedalus touched her, she did not respond.

His clever hands moved swiftly over her garments, undoing the clasps and brooches, baring her nubile form. Ligia bore this with eyes once more tightly shut, cheeks once more aflame.

"Lovely," murmured Daedalus, caressing her breasts. He ran his hands slowly down her body, tracing her waist, her hips.

I suppose I should have left them. I was not a prisoner in my own home as women in some parts of the world were. I was queen of Crete, wife of Minos, and if I chose to wander my palace, city, or kingdom unchaperoned, what of it?

Yet I did not move. I remained where I was, watching avidly as the inventor sank onto his knees, and encircled Ligia's thighs with his strong arms. He nuzzled his face against the trimmed curls of her pubis, and seemed to be savoring her scent.

Still, my handmaid stood rigid and tense. I saw her quiver as Daedalus nudged her legs apart, and kissed her inner thigh. Her blush had spread from her face to the upper slopes of her breasts, and her nipples were taut, but she clenched her fists and jaw.

She uttered a small whimper as Daedalus moved his kisses to her labia. She swayed on her feet, had to clutch at the wild mane of his hair to keep her balance. I could now see only the back of his head, but could easily imagine how his tongue – as clever and nimble, no doubt, as his hands – teasing along the delicate folds.

"Ligia," I said softly.

Her eyes opened, found mine, averted. Not before I had seen the rising passion in them, and understood.

"Ligia, do not feel that you must play the stoic," I said as Daedalus continued his ministrations. "I would not have you merely endure this, if it is within your grasp to enjoy it. Oh, no! For too long have women suffered or been left bereft by the attentions of their men, so many of whom are callous or indifferent. You have here, it seems to me, a partner who is anything but uncaring of your pleasure. Accept what he offers, and be thankful! Do not feel that you must only do this for me and take nothing from it for yourself. Ah, but how I envy you this moment, sweet Ligia!"

During this speech of mine, she had relaxed by increments. Her hips tilted, pressing her loins at an angle against the face of Daedalus that gave him greater access to her most sensitive regions. He cupped her rosy buttocks in both hands, and burrowed deeper with his talented tongue – or so I judged him to be doing, what I should have hoped he would do were I in Ligia's place – and Ligia moaned.

I would have given much to switch with her. My body reacted with pangs of desire. A man who knew his business, a true man! It had been far too long. Yet somehow, even then I knew that had I thrown all caution and sense to the winds, and pushed Ligia aside to present my own nakedness to Daedalus, I would have been dissatisfied.

No man would do, not now. No mortal being. Only the bull, the white bull, divine beast that it was. God, perhaps, that it was.

"Lie down," Daedalus said, raising his head from Ligia's thighs.

She did so without looking my way. It was, and I was glad to see it, as though I were no longer present. I liked Ligia, and I did want her to enjoy herself. She reclined on the cot, breasts rising and falling on her rapid breaths, one leg draped languidly over the side, the other knee drawn up. I could see the tender pink of her vulva, how it shined with juices and saliva.

Daedalus stripped off his clothes, and I gasped. My heart stuttered. I blushed anew. For, rearing up proudly from a wiry nest of curls, was a very familiar sight indeed.

He had molded the ivory phallus in his own image.

It was exactly as I knew it, down to the last detail of vein and curve and contour. I had felt it inside me many more times than I had that of Minos, and it had given me untold pleasure.

This one, of course, was not pale ivory inlaid with gold and jewels. It was warm flesh, and I drew in a breath longingly at the sight of it.

Daedalus spared me one wry glance over his shoulder, one knowing wink. Oh, yes, he knew for what purpose that ivory plaything had been intended. His notion of a jest, maybe, for I suspected that there was no love lost between him and Minos.

Ligia began to giggle, recognizing it as well. She reached out and stroked it, toyed with the bulbous tip, licked her finger and ran it playfully along the seam of the foreskin.

I should have brought the ivory version with me. Instead, I had to allow my own hands to suffice, dropping them into my lap as Daedalus lowered himself onto Ligia.

She lifted her hips to him, and as he entered her, I slid three fingers into my damp and aching cleft. Ligia's drawn-out sigh, her smile, made me envy her more than ever. Her arms came up to embrace the inventor, to pull his weight down atop her. I admired the muscles in his back and shoulders, his buttocks flexing as he moved in slow, purposeful thrusts.

He soon had Ligia writhing and crying out in abandon. If she had worried before that I was watching, she no longer cared. I might have been as unseeing as a marble bust. Clearly, clever Daedalus was as skilled in this as he was at his other craft, and oh, how I wished that I had foregone wisdom and given myself to him!

It seemed hours that they went, as if the organ of Daedalus, like its ivory counterpart, could never lose its stiffness. Ligia quaked with a succession of climaxes while I whimpered in misery, unable to reach my own.

At last, with a hoarse cry, Daedalus poured his seed into Ligia, wringing one last ecstatic wail from her with those final urgent strokes. Such a scene it would have presented, had anyone walked in. The inventor and the queen's handmaid, bodies sweatily entwined on the narrow cot, while the queen herself perched on a stool with her knees wide apart.

But no one walked in, no one saw, no one knew. Ligia and I made our way back to my chambers, neither of us very steady on our feet.

I hoped that Daedalus would be quick about his work. This was the greatest torture of my life. Sleep continued to be an elusive prize, and when I did seize it I was beset once more by dreams. It seemed that every part of me ached for release. Food and wine tasted like dust, and no diversion could hold my attention.

Days went by, and more days. I began to think that Daedalus had no intention of keeping his bargain, that he had merely promised it to me that he might have his way with Ligia. But she, having taken to sneaking out to visit him at night – and share his bed, and enjoy his body! – swore to me that he was working on that which I had requested.

Soon, she told me. It would be done soon.

If she lied to me, I told myself, I would have her sent away to Sparta. Each morning, I saw that warm glow upon her face and knew how her night had gone.

At last, Ligia brought me word that it was finished.

I had never received any news more gladly. Luck, too, was with me for Minos was busy with matters of state that day. Talk of war would keep him happily occupied until well past sunset.

Had I been thinking prudently, I would have waited until dark. But prudence was not within my possession. I was half-maddened from my deprivation. My days had been spent in agony, gazing out into the pasture and watching as the bull, my bull, serviced cow after cow.

My worst moments were haunted by the idea that Minos would repent of his trickery and sacrifice the white bull after all, fearing the wrath of the gods.

So it was that I rushed down to the workshop of Daedalus, and beheld the finished product.

It was so real that I first thought he had some living cow to serve as his model. But the construction in the center of the room did not move, did not breathe. It was a perfect replica of a sleek and healthy cow, and I circled it in amazement.

Daedalus showed me the slit in the underside, through which I was to climb. I hastily cast off my garments, not caring in the least how his eyes widened at the sight of my nudity. I was frantic to see my plan through, frantic to sate this burning need.

I clambered into the mock-up cow, twisting around until I was properly positioned. My arms extended down into its forelegs, hidden eyeslits in its neck allowed me to see out, and my buttocks were pressed hard into the wooden curve of the cow's rump. I could feel a cool draft on my fevered loins.

"And, as my queen required," said Daedalus, "the aperture, here."

He probed with his fingers. I sucked in a shuddering breath. I tried to remonstrate him for his boldness, but my voice failed me. He gently pinched my labia, rubbed my clitoris with the ball of his thumb. I groaned through clenched teeth. Daedalus laughed.

"Ligia will lead you out," he said, and instructed me how to operate the legs of the cow so that it could walk.

Carefully, with Ligia holding a rope to guide me, I maneuvered the cow from the workshop to the pasture. A few people paused to look curiously at us, but the creation of Daedalus was so true to life that no one suspected it was anything other than what it seemed.

We finally reached the green field. Ligia untied the rope.

"Are you sure you wish to do this, mistress?" she asked in a worried tone. "I see the bull. He is immense."

"Good," I said, my voice ringing hollowly. "Good, is he near?"

I heard her gulp. "And coming nearer."

"Go, Ligia," I said. "Leave us."

"Oh, but my queen –"

"Look at the white bull, Ligia. Is he not magnificent? Godly? Have you ever seen the like?"

"No … his hide, so white, as if glowing … but the beast is so big, mistress, so strong! He'll hurt you!"

"I shall not be hurt. Now, go, and return for me later, when the act is done."

She went, hurrying across the pasture and throwing back fearful looks. I felt the earth shaking beneath a heavy tread. I heard a rumbling snort. Through the eyeslits, I glimpsed a large, horned shadow. Then pure whiteness, as the bull passed before me. Immense, yes, and corded with powerful muscle, and a swooning wave of passion rolled over me.

The bull snorted again, tossing his gilt-horned head. Pawed the ground. I saw his eyes for an instant, deep and brown and intelligent, and I was more sure than ever that this creature was no mortal bull. He seemed bemused. I dared to hope that in all his countless conquests, perhaps mighty Zeus had never been greeted in quite this way.

He circled me, nudging the false flanks of the cow with his nose. I trembled. I imagined Minos, breaking briefly from his discussions and happening to notice, pleased, as his cherished bull took interest in another cow. If he had any idea of the truth …

A humid, hot puff of breath struck me as the bull sniffed and snorted curiously under the cow's tail. I felt the fleshy push of his nose. Then the supple slickness of his tongue as he licked that spot.

Immediately, I was on the edge of climax. The sound that issued from my throat might have been the lowing of a cow. I pressed harder against the aperture, mentally pleading. Now, oh please, do it now, take me now, I silently urged the white bull.

Again, the lick, a long and slow pass. Insinuating. I wanted to scream. I tried backing up, bumping the back end of the cow into the bull's chest.

His next snort sounded like a laugh. I thought I would die, just burst apart and die, so overwhelming was my need. But then, with a strong heave of his body, the bull reared up and set his forelegs on the back of the false cow. It creaked – I thought of it suddenly cracking like a dry gourd, dumping me to the ground naked and in full view – but held.

Anticipation thrilled me as I envisioned the bull's hind legs moving closer, moving into position. I wished I could see the enormous member, the fiery scarlet color of it, the throbbing glistening length of it.

Then I felt it, prodding apart my labia with its tapered tip. I could not breathe. I could not think. My entire being was concentrated in my loins as the bull shifted, aligned himself.

And thrust. A single hard thrust, impaling me on a shaft that felt as long and wide as a man's forearm. My tissues stretched unbearably, and I screamed, but even as I was reeling from the sudden splitting pain of his intrusion, I was wriggling and pushing back and trying to take more of him, more, all.

The bull withdrew almost entirely, and ran deep again. I screamed again, this time less in pain than in affirmation. Never had I been so filled, and if he ripped me asunder in his rutting, I hardly cared.

His forelegs held me pinioned, not that I wished to escape. The framework of the false cow squeaked and groaned in time with the bull's pounding movements. He went at me hard and fast, a steady fierce rhythm that threatened to crush me, to tear me open, even as I welcomed and relished every plunge of his thick heat into me.

My first climax struck with a force that would have made Mount Olympus shake to its very roots. It was as if every single one that had been denied me in all of these long and wretched nights had stayed pent up, and were now released.

I lost consciousness from the sheer ecstasy of it, reviving within moments to a second overpowering crash of sensation. My mind left me. Thoughts were nothing. I was in that brief span a beast myself, a goddess, an immortal.

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