Talla's Temple Ch. 04

byxtorch©

More information, coming in tiny little bits. This 'Orientation' had better live up to the name.

They had reached the ground floor offices that were underneath Talla's apartment.

"Hallo, Salee. Hallo, Lara!" Meena called up.

A blond head poked out the door.

"Hallo!" she called down and waved behind her to Lara.

"Coming, coming," the other replied.

In a flurry of long white skirts, her room mates swirled down the stairway to join them on the ground.

"This way," Meena directed them down the deserted and torchlit street.

"The office you will enter is that of Officer Kara T'lai," she said. "All that you need to know is that you bow to her as you would any Officer and refer to her as Mistress."

Her three charges nodded carefully.

Meena knocked on the doorframe.

"Enter," came a hard female voice.

The four of them entered, Meena first.

Kara was a stern woman with a body to match her voice. Black hair tied back in a ponytail meant no nonsense would be entertained. The fact that their arrival did not prompt her to stand – in fact she barely looked up – meant that she was busy and important. She looked strong enough, and more than willing enough, to break any of younger girls in two.

"Sit," she said while continuing to write on the papers arrayed in front of her. There were three chairs in front of her desk.

"A moment, Meena," she said as Meena attempted to leave.

"Yes, Mistress," Meena said and waited, standing in the doorway.

Salee and Lara took the seats closest to the door. Talla couldn't blame them. The idea of an escape route was foremost in her mind as well.

Kara fished three fine pieces of parchment from the stacks on her desk.

"Salee, Lara and Talla," Kara said as she slid one sheet to each of them along the surface of her desk.

Talla took hers and looked at it. It was a simple chart with two columns. On the left were the nine symbols of the Disciplines of the Temple. The odd thing about them was the order. Usually the Sweetness Disciplines were at the top of any list. Here in Endowment, she thought that the three local Disciplines would appear at the top. Instead, this chart started with Facial, then Point, then ...

She looked over at Lara's sheet. Hers started with Iron.

She looked back at the second column on her own sheet. There was Temple script there. Outside the Temple, they had only taught the printed characters that men used. The fancier curving syllable symbols of the Temple women were new to her. Based on what little she had learned, she tried to make out the first word, next to Facial.

Ha-lo?

Har-lo.

It struck her suddenly.

Zhair'lo!

This was a list of all of the boys from her Initiation night, in the order that they had ejaculated on her. Following each name was a number of stars. It pleased her immensely to see his name at the top, especially with five stars next to it. None of the other names had more than two except for Zokar's, at the very bottom of the sheet, which had three.

"You will receive your first upgrades tomorrow," Kara told them sternly. "The Temple gives a privilege to Virgins like yourself. You are permitted this once to choose the male who will participate in your upgrade."

Three pens dipped in ink bottles were pushed across the desk.

"As you may not remember all of their names, the ring you won when each one ejaculated is listed next to his name," Kara explained. "Circle the one you wish to use for your upgrade. I advise you to take the one with the greater number of stars. Your teachers marked those down based on their performance."

She would have taken Zhair'lo regardless, and wondered for a moment what his "performance" consisted of. The amount of semen? Zhair'lo had won that contest, certainly. She sneaked a glance at Lara's sheet. There was no boy there with more than three stars. That won a sly smile from her. She circled his name without hesitation.

"Good," Kara said as she collected the papers. "Now there are some things I have to teach you about life in Temple. After that, we will delve in to the Protocol for your first upgrade."

She handed the papers to Meena. "Take these down to the Hall so they can get on the docket tomorrow. Also, I have Service tonight once I'm done here and I haven't picked up my orders yet. Be a dear."

Meena bowed curtly, took the papers and was off with a whispered, "Yes, Mistress."

Kara went to the blackboard behind her desk and began writing.

"You should know by now that there are nine Disciplines," she said as she drew the nine symbols on the board, "They are grouped in to three Divisions: Sweetness for the genitals; Endowment for the breasts; Form for fitness."

"Now each of the Disciplines has a Sorceress who has been upgraded eleven times to the point of Perfection in that Discipline. She also stands one upgrade short of Perfection in the two other Disciplines of her Division."

"For example, consider my own Mistress, the Sorceress of Strength," she said. "She holds the Perfection of Strength. She also has been upgraded ten times in both Abundance and Point. Should she be called upon, as any Sorceress might be called, she is only two upgrades away from being Queen of Endowment."

A Queen, it turned out, held Perfection in all three Disciplines of her Division. In addition, she was upgraded to the tenth level in the Disciplines of the other Divisions so that she could take over as Goddess should the need arise.

The Goddess, then, held Perfection in all Disciplines.

It was essential that the Perfections be maintained. Without that, Kara averred, chaos would result. The peace that the Temple brought to the men and women around it was dependent on the maintenance of the Perfections the gods had given. Kara painted them a very dark picture of a future without the holy influence of this precious gift.

Talla peered at Kara and started to speak, but was somewhat afraid. This was so much like Shanata's lessons that she feared a stick was hidden somewhere in the room.

"A question," Kara asked, her tone strongly indicating that such were not appreciated.

"Begging your pardon, Mistress," she said. "But if it's so important, why is each Perfection only given to three women? Why not give it to more?"

This was a bad question to ask. She decided this, based merely on Kara's facial expression, before she was even done asking. It would have been better to shut up, but it was too late now.

Kara looked at her. There was a rebuke there. Talla could see it. A scolding waiting just under the skin. Kara's lips pursed and her eyes narrowed. Then she glanced away as if suddenly remembering something. Her countenance changed. After a deep breath, she spoke.

"While it's really none of your business at this point, Talla," she said firmly, "The fact is that any attempt within a single Temple to pass a Perfection on to a fourth person fails. And it fails in a spectacularly painful way for the recipient. It's not clear why, but we presume the gods have limited us in this way for some reason. So, long ago, we adapted our hierarchy to it, knowing that there must be a Goddess to influence the people and that she must have auxiliaries in case some accident befalls her."

The two gazed at each other for a moment.

"Questions like these are more appropriate for the effete scientists of Sweetness," she said dismissively. "We prefer to get work done here."

With that out of the way, Kara continued with her lesson.

Silken red robes trailing behind her, she let herself in to her Mistress's candlelit quarters carrying a single sheet of parchment. It was nearing midnight, but High Officers were traditionally night owls.

"Have you seen the docket for tomorrow night?"

Her rank allowed her to wear pretty much whatever she wanted as long as it was red. The target of her question wore a closer fitting, more practical dress entirely of black.

"No," the other replied without looking up from her work.

"Good thing I checked then."

She held the paper over the other woman's desk and let it float down over her work.

As the woman in black blinked her eyes, blue flashes of light twinkled from her eyelashes to float off in to the air. She looked up, glaring at her underling with eyes that had gone black as black could go under the weight of so much Perfection held in one body. It was a frightening glare, even to a friend who had seen those eyes so many times before. It was much more frightening, even, than the eerie golden glow of her skin.

She went over the parchment. Nine upgrades were scheduled in Sweetness. A truly full schedule.

"So your people will be busy tomorrow," she said, unimpressed. "This should concern me?"

"Keep reading."

Such things happened, statistically, after all. One did not bother her with such details.

The docket had only six upgrades in Endowment and four in Form. Everything averaged out over time.

She began scanning the names.

The woman in red waited patiently. She knew her superior had hit the mark when she swore very softly.

"Monogamous beasts," she whispered.

It wasn't the worst she had heard, not even the worst today or the worst from this particular woman.

"Zhair'lo."

"Indeed."

"He was supposed to have been assigned away in the fields somewhere. They were not supposed to meet."

"I know."

"Monogamous beasts, rutting in the fields," she cursed again. "We could exercise absolute control over her except on this one night. This one night where she could go off randomly. I ordered him tucked away, safely out of her range."

"I made the arrangements myself," the woman in red answered apologetically. "They did not go through in time. It is my fault."

"Possibly. Shall I have you lashed?"

"What would you put on the decree? This was to be a secret."

"Hm. I could simply list 'disobedience', but it would still raise questions I'd rather not answer. I suppose I'd have to do it myself."

"I'll just hike up my skirt, then," she answered, not making any move to do such a thing. One did not lash a Queen.

Her superior laughed darkly.

"You could overrule. The right to choose the Conduit is a Protocol, not a Dictate. The authority is yours," the Queen offered dubiously.

"And not yours, conveniently, dear Sweetness. Do you know how much suspicion overruling would arouse?"

The Goddess rose and began pacing, still holding the copy of the docket. Shimmering blue sparks danced off her hair as she moved.

"We assumed, with her parentage, she would come in first in her Contest," the Queen said, "and she would take Within."

"Yes, and you could watch over her then."

"And even if she came second or third, we assumed she would take Lips or Pussy."

"And she didn't. Something went wrong," the Goddess said as she handed the parchment back.

"And she picked Zhair'lo," the Queen of Sweetness replied. "Rutting beasts, who wouldn't? Shanata put five stars next to his name. How many boys that age can put out five stars?"

That was a stupid question. It was no surprise that Zhair'lo could.

"There's nothing we can do," the Goddess said. "The choice is hers. That's the rule. After that, we can keep them apart."

Zhair'lo was exhausted. He'd suffered under a lot of different work orders in his life, but farming had to be the hardest. Sure, the oxen and horses did a lot of the labour, but there were still a lot of things to lift and shove. And an ox wasn't necessarily an obedient animal.

He didn't think he'd ever get the taste of dust from his tongue or the feeling of grit from his skin.

Worse yet, the Master of the Farm, a brutal block of a man named Harzen, hadn't taken well to him. Mind you, Zhair'lo thought, he doesn't seem to take well to anyone. The work term hadn't started well, not that it was his fault. He was supposed to have started a day earlier than he did but the notice hadn't reached him for some reason. He'd spent an extra day assisting a blacksmith instead. Harzen hadn't been pleased and had worked him hard yesterday – right through the evening.

At the same time, he was glad the notice was lost. It had let him stay in town the day he met Talla. He hadn't stop thinking about her.

He'd only just come of age, so it had been the blacksmith's duty to tie the blue ribbon in his hair on the occasion of his birthday. He didn't know what it signified except living for eighteen years. He had just decided to wander around the town for a while, wondering what it meant to be an adult.

And he'd run in to Talla.

He hadn't expected the Initiation. He had seen Temple women wandering through the streets at night. So exotic were they in their flashy clothing that they could send a young man like him to his bed to relieve himself. Some of them wore the tiniest bits of fabric as they went visiting at night.

But he couldn't see what they did during their visits. Doors were shut. Latches were closed. In a city with such busy streets, spying was so difficult. He'd managed to peek in on the blacksmith once when a woman in orange had come visiting him. Wandering around the side of the blacksmith's house, he'd managed to look in a small gap between the wooden shutters to glimpse the woman, unclothed, sitting straddle over the blacksmith. She would rotate her hips and he would thrust his. Zhair'lo had nearly been caught when someone came down the alley. He'd had to run away. After that he could watch no more.

She'd been making him come, that was Zhair'lo's analysis. He'd heard the word. He'd masturbated and knew what that meant. All he could make of it was that she had been rubbing up against him for the same purpose. No one had told him differently.

So he sweated in a corral, urging horses to do his bidding. But the horses didn't know him and didn't particularly care what he wanted. Harzen assured him that they would eventually obey him.

Panting, he took a break. There would be time to teach the horse to follow a line in another moment. Leaning on the low fence around the corral, he peered off toward the farmhouse where he would eat and sleep for as long as he worked here.

Harzen was talking to two young Temple women in white outfits.

Throughout his life, he had seen messengers come from the Temple. A pair of girls with a satchel would show up, hand a rolled up piece of parchment to some boy or man, and depart. These two must be on a similar mission.

Harzen put his right hand over his eyes to shield them against the evening sun as he scanned the farm. Then he pointed toward the stables and corral. For me? Zhair'lo wondered. There was no one else in the stables.

The two girls jogged out toward him.

Was Talla coming to visit him?

One of them had Talla's very dark shade of brown hair but the clothing was wrong. He very clearly remembered both the swirl of Talla's long white skirt and the minuscule coverage her top had afforded her. The fair haired woman wore the same top but a very short skirt. The other, the dark haired one, wore a knee length skirt and crossing sashes over her breasts.

There were making a good pace – in fact an incredible pace - and Zhair'lo soon realized the dark haired one was not Talla, even cleaned up and in a change of clothes.

He watched them carefully, thankful that his exhaustion would prevent any sign of arousal. The tinier of the two skirts was so short that he could see the fair haired one's underwear as she ran.

Presently they arrived. He wished he weren't so dirty and sweaty. What must they in their Temple finery think of him?

"Zhair'lo M'han?" the dark haired one asked, only slightly out of breath. She had incredible endurance. Her fair haired friend was only a little more winded.

"Yes," he said.

She handed him the parchment.

"You have been Summoned. The Temple requests your Service this evening."

"My Service?" Summoned? He could hear the capital letters. What the hell was going on? He was confused but also elated. Would he get to see Talla again? The Temple was a big place. He hoped to get a chance to go looking, at least.

"The details are written in the Summons," she said.

The fair haired one spoke, "This is your first time being Summoned?"

He nodded.

"Make sure to be on time," she chided. "You will need instruction in your role."

"What role?"

"That is all we can tell you," the dark haired one overruled any further conversation. She turned to her comrade and said, "Let's go."

And that was that. The two of them turned and ran off back to the farm; back toward the Temple. He watched them go. The underwear he had seen on the fair-haired one had almost no material at the back. She had incredibly strong legs. He ought to have stared longer, but his curiosity over the parchment overruled any arousal. A Summons to the Temple? That was intimidating. Deciding there was no use fretting, he cracked the green wax seal and unrolled it.

It had been written using simple words that any man could understand. The date and time were listed at the top of the parchment: this evening at the seventh bell. There was a gate symbol below that; a small circle.

He'd been by the Temple often enough to know the symbols: square; circle; triangle. The main gate had all three, with the square inside the circle inside the triangle. But each shape had two of its own gates as well, one large and one small. The small gate was usually closed, but that was the one he was to attend tomorrow evening.

And do what?

The only other legible thing written on the parchment was his name. After that it was Temple Script that he had no idea how to read.

He looked back to the farmhouse. Harzen was looking straight back at him.

Right. Back to work.

It was too bad that he couldn't read Temple Script. If he had ever been taught it, he'd have been able to read the last word on the letter.

"Upgrade."

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