tagNovels and NovellasThe Balance Ch. 25-26

The Balance Ch. 25-26

byGlaze72©

Hello Friends:

Well, this tale is almost over. Only one section to go. As always, I welcome your comments and votes.

*****

Chapter 25

Angela gave a startled squawk of shock and surprise. She scrambled over Abiron's body, seeking to put him between her and the High Priestess' wrath. Trembling, she raised herself on one elbow so she could look over Abiron's shoulder.

"Hello, Mother," Abiron's voice was...amused? "It is polite to knock."

"So it would have been, had these not been my own rooms as well as yours," said Ariana. The High Priestess was, she saw, spectacularly nude, dark hair trailing down her back in a wave, magnificent as a queen out of legend. One hand was lightly fondling one breast, the brown nipple high and hard. "I thought to spend an hour in love-play before we slept. How rude of me not to realize that you had already found a bedmate for the evening."

Ariana scrambled out of the bed. All fears for herself were gone. She placed herself between Ariana and her lover. "My lady, please! Do not fault Abiron! It is I that seduced him. I...I..." her voice broke. How could she have thought that she could ever contend for Abiron's heart with the vision of beauty which stood before her? She sank to her knees. Incredibly, she heard a small laugh.

"You wanted a happy memory to accompany you into exile," the High Priestess said with a small smile. "Oh, get up," she said impatiently, "I am no Goddess for you to prostrate yourself. And this is not a competition." She lowered her hands and raised Angela to her feet. Smiling mysteriously, she examined her, walking in a small circle so she could look at her from all sides.

"I was right. You are a very comely lass. And you will be even more so in days to come. Yes. You will do nicely." A finger ran down her spine, stopping just short of the cleft of her buttocks, and Angela had to bite her lip to avoid giving voice to an unexpected jolt of desire. She had the feeling that she had missed something very important. What was it that Abiron had said?

"Well, children," and the High Priestess' voice was amused, "I think you should finish what you have begun so well. Get back into bed, Angela. No, do not trouble yourself, Abiron," she said, as he began to get up. "I can make up a bed on the couch by myself. I am not yet decrepit." She walked to the wardrobe and removed a pair of blankets. She stopped at the bedside and took one of the pillows, as well.

"I'll see you in the morning, children." And with that, she walked out, closing the door firmly behind her.

Hello, Mother...Go back to bed, children.

She turned to Abiron on the bed, eyes wide and blank with shock.

"She's your mother," her voice was flat with disbelief.

He met her eyes. His own were guileless. "Yes, she is. And she is my wife, as well. And the High Priestess. I think you knew without knowing, my angel. You called her my mother yourself when we were having our chai earlier this evening."

Ariana knew she should be screaming in outrage. This was one of the foulest sins possible. A son married to his own mother? But it seemed her capacity for surprise had finally been reached. What was one more impossible thing when measured against the events of this lunatic day?

"How?" she asked dully, not even expecting an answer.

In answer he pulled the blanket over them and gathered her close, one hand cradling her hip, the other snug and warm against her back. Despite herself, she gave a small sound of comfort and wriggled closer to the heat of his body, muscles relaxing, drifting towards slumber.

"It all started a few months ago, when I was woken from a deep sleep by an incarnation of the Deity..."

@@@

So you were ordered by your god to marry your own mother?" Ariana's voice was a mingling of shock, horror, and sympathy.

"Yes. I would have thought it nothing more than a dream, if my mother had not confirmed it the next morning. And if the Deity had not shown up various times the next day to harangue me into accepting the fact." Abiron's voice was dark with amused remembrance.

"You poor boy," she said. "How do you bear it?"

Abiron drew away and looked her in the eyes.

"I do not think you completely understand, my lady. My marriage to my mother is the single most joyous event in my life. I love her, both as my mother and my wife. And I hope soon that we may make a child together. I do not regret an instant of it."

Indeed, she could feel the proof of his regard for his mother pressing against her even now. And something dark within her responded to it. How freeing, how liberating, to set aside all restrictions, and to couple with the one most capable of bringing you joy. Memories of the High Priestess stirred, mixing with her appreciation of Abiron's body. Indeed, their Deity had blessed their union. Beauty and joy and power, and the bond that lay between mother and son. Thinking on it excited her to a degree she had not thought possible. She felt her nether lips warming, dampness pooling between her thighs, and that damnable itch rising within her again, one that only his cock could scratch.

With a convulsive movement, she hurled the blanket off of them. Laying on her back, her legs spread wide, leaving her sex exposed and vulnerable. Her hands framed it, fingers softly stroking the tender skin of the inside of her thighs, upper arms pressing her breasts together so they stood up in cheerful little hillocks on her chest.

"Take me, Abiron. Take me again."

Without words, knowing what she wanted, he rose above her. Braced on his elbows, he lowered his mouth for a searing kiss that left them both breathless. Unguided except by their love, the head of his phallus tickled her loins. Strong and sure and hard, he drove his hips forward and found her hot and wet and eager for him. With a soft cry, she pulled her lips away from his and drove them into the angle where his neck shoulder met, biting his skin softly, eyes closed, blind to everything but the heavenly sensations pouring through her.

"Harder. Harder, Abiron. As you love me, fuck me harder!" she begged breathlessly. Oh, it was too much! In response to her urging, his pace doubled, and his thrusts grew powerful and relentless. She could feel her climax approaching and rode it like a ship rode the sea. Her fingers clutched his back, nails scoring his skin as she clawed him frantically. Hissing in pain, he tried to pull away, and she retained just enough of her sanity to gentle her touch, whispering soft apologies as he pounded into her. Suddenly the coiled heat in her womb flung itself outward, and with a convulsive cry she reached the pinnacle of joy, all but mindless of the wash of seed as Abiron spent himself within her.

@@@

She left in the dark, cold hours before dawn. She and Abiron had made love, gently, one last time. Almost too gently, she thought, and smiled in hazy memory at the look of wariness in his eyes as they came down from their second bout. Her fierceness had frightened him, it seemed. Well and good, she thought. Now he knew her.

She caught a few hours of sleep, but woke when the birds began to sing outside her window. She dressed swiftly and went to her door, where she was happy to see that her guard had changed.

"How long until the audience?" she asked.

"Still more than an hour, mistress," he answered.

"That is well," she replied. "When my maid arrives, please ask that I be bought breakfast. Also, I have several items which will need laundering before I take my leave. Can you ask that this be attended to?"

He smiled at her. "Mistress, I will."

Smiling, she thanked him. Closing the door, she entered her bedroom, and one last time she prayed for guidance. Just like every other time, no answer came. Hearing soft voices from the sitting room, she saw her maids setting out breakfast, a warm bowl of porridge and a small tray of fruit. More at ease in her heart than she had been in years, she took the time to thank each of them kindly for their service of the past few weeks. She then asked that her clothes be cleaned and brought back to her rooms to be packed once the audience was over. With their aid, she dressed and groomed herself. With a grimace, she slid her dagger-sheath into her boot, and secured it firmly. Looking in the mirror, she saw that her face was pale, except for two hectic splotches of red, high on her cheekbones.

She took a deep breath, opened the door, and looked at her guard.

"I am ready."

@@@

Abiron and Ariana ate in silence together. Once finished, they dressed in full regalia as High Priestess and High Priest, the gold sunbursts hanging from their chains of office, splendid against their robes of office.

Standing at the door, Ariana took a moment. She stepped close to her husband and brushed a stray lock of hair back from his brow.

"Well done, my son."

His lips quirked. "So I am forgiven, Mother?"

She smiled at him ruefully. "You know there is nothing to forgive. She is a beautiful child. My only regret," and here her voice deepened with humor, "is that somehow I have spent two weeks here, surrounded by beautiful men like Prince Alan and Brother Paul, and have yet to find someone besides yourself willing to take me to bed.

"It could," she said solemnly, "make a woman wonder if she is as attractive as she thought."

Arm in arm, they left their rooms together.

@@@

The last trickles of sand ran through the hourglass. Grit in his eyes, Kris levered himself to his feet and with a grin brought his baton against the bars of the cell with a clang, enjoying the sight as Titus jerked to a sitting position.

Producing a set of keys, he opened the door, then held out a set of manacles. Sighing, Titus allowed himself to be cuffed. Guards surrounding him on three sides, the spy was led to the upper levels of the palace, and by back halls moved to a bare room a short distance away from the audience chamber, where they would wait for Captain Diogenes for the right moment to produce him.

Kris sat down, back against the door, dizzy with weariness.

Waiting again.

@@@

Sean reached up to knock on the door, remembered his broken finger, swore softly, and instead pounded on the door with his other hand with the butt of his dagger. He was not going to spend a minute unarmed. Within moments, the door opened and Paul stood framed in the doorway. He was dressed in his monk's robe with the hood thrown back. His face was calm and his eyes were those that Sean had seen in effegies of saints in his youth, ready for martyrdom.

"It's time, Brother Paul,"

Paul nodded and stepped outside. Sean gathered up Lucien with his eyes, and was preparing to leave when he bumped his hand against the doorframe. He cursed softly as another stab of pain tore through his hand.

"What's the matter, my friend?" Paul asked.

With a crooked smile, Sean held up his hand. The ring finger was swollen to the size of a sausage, jutting crookedly outward. Paul frowned at it.

"Come inside," he said. He led Sean to a table, where the clothes the prince had lent him were piled neatly. He brought out the linen undershirt, and with quick motions tore several small strips from the hem. Motioning Sean closer, he bound Sean's ring finger to his middle finger with swift, sure knots.

"There. I can't do anything about the swelling, but at least you should have some use of the hand. The motions of your middle finger will guide the damaged one."

Sean gaped at him. Mistaking his expression, Paul shrugged, "I grew up in a rough abbey, Sean. This isn't the first broken finger I've seen. Though I would advise you to get a splint on it as soon as you can."

Sean shook his head. "It's not that. Those are the Prince's clothes!"

Paul raised his brows. "Don't worry about it. He doesn't like me much right now anyway. I don't think a ruined shirt is going to make much of a difference. Shall we go?"

@@@

They arrived at the audience hall. Singly, in pairs, or in small groups. Abiron and Angela, elegant and serene. Paul, followed by a single guard. Angela, eyes blazing in a fury of indecision. A small cadre of military officers. A somewhat larger group of nobles. The first of them to arrive saw the royal family already in attendance, faces like ice, frozen into immobility. Lastly came Lambert and Ulf, gloating like carrion-birds over a fresh corpse.

When all had arrived, the king and queen stood and left the dais. The king nodded to a captain at the rear of the room, and the doors to the chamber were closed and locked. He looked out over the gathering.

"My people," he said heavily, sorrow deep in his voice, "we are here to witness the end of the contest which we declared twelve days ago. The doors are sealed. No one is to leave until all the contestants have had their say. Once we have heard them all, we will make our judgment."

He and the queen moved to the right of the throne. With a motion of his hand, he bade Lambert to move into place to his left.

"High Priestess Ariana and High Priest Abiron, stand forth."

Faces pale, the two ultimate figures of their faith stepped forward.

"High Priestess Ariana. You have spent many days with Brother Paul. Has he been able to convince you of his god's divinity? Have you seen any proof that his god is the equal of, or superior to, our own Deity?"

Ariana's voice was calm and clear, her face serene. "I have not, Your Majesty."

"High Priest Abiron. You have spent much time with Sister Angela. What say you?"

"I say that Sister Angela's god is unworthy of her. She has far more claim to the divine than the being she worships. I have seen no sign of grace or divinity from her god."

A murmur swept through the room, and Lambert flushed angrily. Angela stood straight and tall, giving no sign that she had heard Abiron's words. With a step back, Benedictos ceded the hall to Bishop Lambert.

"Brother Paul, stand forth."

Severe in his monks' robe and cowl, Paul stepped forward.

"Brother Paul, acknowledge before these witnesses that the deity which these people worship is a false one, and that you remain unswayed. That you praise the might and majesty of our lord Jesus Christ, without whose intervention they will be damned to hell for all eternity."

"No."

Lambert frowned, marring his diplomat's mask. A shocked whisper ran through the chamber. Before it could gather force, he smiled gently.

"Perhaps you misunderstand me, brother," veiled steel was behind his words. "I will speak more simply. Can you tell me if you saw any hint, any sign, that the deity worshiped by these fools is anything more than misguided superstition and the desire of the priests and the royal family to deny them the blessings of heaven?"

"Lambert, I can,"

The bishop gaped. The whisperings grew louder. Behind Paul, Angela's face broke into a disbelieving smile. Eyes wide with surprise, Abiron, Ariana, and the royal family all stared at Paul with varying degrees of shock. Princess Hannah stood, eyes rapt, an incredulous grin splitting her face in two as her suspicions were confirmed.

"Brother Paul, what do you mean by this?" shouted the bishop.

"I mean this!" Paul thundered, "In the past two weeks, I have seen more grace, more compassion, more kindness from the Lady Ariana than I have seen in twenty years as a member of Christ's church. I have seen a priestess caught up in holy passion, made magnificent by the touch of her Deity. I have had my scars healed and the wounds of my soul eased.

"And I have seen proof, my lord bishop, proof of how you, a man of god, have set spies in this country while you served as an ambassador. You have tried to subvert the men and women of Heklos against their lawful lord." Behind him, Captain Diogenes unlocked the doors, and Kris and another guardsman came in. With a contemptuous heave, they threw Titus down at Lambert's feet.

"You seem to have misplaced this, my lord. How fortunate that I found it yesterday so I could return it to you. He has had quite a bit to say about his actions on your behalf in this country over the last several years."

Lambert was pasty, his face sheened with sweat. He swallowed convulsively and tried a last throw, "You have no proof."

"Oh?" Diogenes answered. He had a leather satchel slung over his shoulder. "We searched your quarters this morning. What a tidy record keeper you are, bishop. Money paid out, dates, names, actions to be taken once the invasion came...my goodness. You certainly like to be thorough, don't you?" He shook his head sadly. "You disappoint me. I thought I had found an honest man."

"I am an ambassador! You have no right to search my quarters!"

"Where such conventions hold," drawled the king sarcastically, "ambassadors generally agree not to try to overthrow foreign governments. Hold him," he told the guards. He paused, trying to gather his thoughts after the stunning turn of events.

"Your Majesty?" Paul asked softly.

The king smiled. "Brother Paul. You have done us a great service this day. How may I thank you?"

Paul smiled nervously. "My lord, I fear that I have made myself somewhat unwelcome back home by my actions today. I beg for asylum. And if the Lady Ariana is willing, I would like to begin to take instruction as a priest of the Deity."

Lambert's eyes bulged, enraged beyond measure. Behind him, a sound flew high to the ceiling; high, clear, joyous, and free. All eyes turned to the source. Eyes streaming with mirth, Angela laughed, laughed until she thought her heart would break.

With a savage twist of his shoulders, Lambert broke free. "Silence! Silence, you filthy slut!" All but foaming at the mouth, he drew a thin blade from a sheath on his forearm and launched himself at Angela.

"NO!"

Sean threw himself forward, knocking Lambert to the ground with a bruising tackle. He punched Lambert twice in the temple, stunning him, then drew his blades and kneeling on Lambert's wrist, held him for binding. He gave a quick bow of his head to the king.

"What is your will, my lord? Shall I gut him?" he said, prodding him in the stomach with his sword, "or geld him?" the blade slid lower, pointing steady as a stone at Lambert's groin.

"Cut his tonker off and feed it to the dogs," snarled Angela. She moved forward, dealing Lambert a savage kick to the ribs. She pulled up her sleeve, displaying her bruises to the crowd. "The pig came to my rooms last night and threatened me with rape if I did not go along with his plans." An ugly growl rose from the natives of Heklos. For the first time Lambert looked afraid.

"I too ask for asylum here."

The king nodded at both Paul and Angela. "Your wishes for asylum are granted. Brother Paul..."

"Brother no longer. Please, my lord, Paul will serve my needs."

"Paul, then," the king smiled. "You will have to apply to the High Priestess for training. But if your faith in the Deity approaches that which you formerly held in your god, I think you will make a fine addition to the priesthood."

He looked at Captain Diogenes. "What next? Oh, yes. Corporal, let up the good bishop, if you will. And bring Brother Ulf forward as well."

He looked at them in disgust. "You are expelled," he said flatly. "You have lost the contest and your embassy is over. You will be taken to the nearest border crossing and cast out, never to return, on pain of death. Tell your masters what transpired here. If they think they can take by might of arms what they could not take by treachery and deceit, they are welcome to try.

"Oh, and another thing, Captain," he said, as Ulf and Lambert were marched out. "Make sure that the gates to the castle are sealed. No one is to leave without my express consent. We need to go through this little treasure-trove," he said, nudging Lambert's satchel with his toe, "to see which of our beloved subjects would have sold us out to Rome." Angela noticed a few faces in the crowd go pale.

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