Talla's Fallen Temple Ch. 01byxtorch©
Four girls, wearing nought but the shortest of white skirts and tops just big enough to contain their breasts, walked slowly down cobblestone streets. The afternoon heat beat down on their heads, bleaching their dirty brown hair, reflecting off the bright, clean streets and the light brown of the sandstone buildings around them.
The heat had left the streets quiet, a spooky feeling when one considered the thousands of women that were living within the walls of the Temple.
'So we're sweating,' Talla thought, glad that the shortness of her skirt left her thighs to the gentle caresses of the occasional breeze.
In front of them walked a woman in orange, apparently unaffected by the heat. She was something to behold. Her rank and age put her a great distance above her charges. It also gave her breasts that made the girls jealous. Even Talla, who was no slouch in the that department, didn't compare. And those legs, taut and muscular ...
They came to a bronze gate large enough to admit, were it completely open, at least two horse carts side by side. As it was, the doors were cracked just wide enough for women to pass in and out.
A pair of leather armoured women guarded the metal doors. They wore the scant kind of armour selected by those who weren't in any actual physical danger. It went no further below the waist than the girls' skirts and left a good space of hardened mid-riff exposed to attack.
There never were attackers, were there?
Talla's lips twisted in derision.
'I wish I knew people who would attack you.'
But the Temple had a lot of well trained guards. And where did one find those against whom they guarded? Talla certainly didn't know.
"Women of Endowment," the guard challenged them. "What business have you in the triangle of Sweetness."
"I am a Orella, a Teacher," the woman in orange responded. "I bring them here to see the Wall."
The Wall? You could hear the capitalization from the way Orella spoke.
The guard bowed politely and waved them in.
Talla knew that it wasn't common for women of one Division to enter the triangle of another. As she came from Endowment, Talla had spent most of her few weeks of Temple life in that section. She had been through Sweetness once, with permission, when she'd been late for an assignment.
She'd been in Form's triangle twice, neither of which occasions had been pleasant. The only reason she knew of that any outsiders went to Form was to be part of a trial, either as witnesses or accused. Talla had been both, her last journey there having set her at odds with the Temple's idea of justice.
The five of them passed through the gate, taking a moment to notice the way the doors had been embossed with thousands of triangles -- that being the symbol of the Division of Sweetness.
'So proud you are,' Talla thought. 'Most elevated of Divisions, even highest on the hill upon which the Temple slopes.'
The last time she'd been rushing through this triangle, taking a short cut to her child-minding duties, she'd seen what she'd assumed was construction. There had been men here, apparently disassembling a wall to use the stone elsewhere.
That broken wall, however, was still there. It was still broken and, furthermore, still unnecessarily thick. There was just no reasonably need for a wall of this strength in the middle of the Temple.
It was in front of this strange wall -- or perhaps "Wall" - that Orella stopped.
"Trini," Orella turned to the girl next to Talla. "When was Gern sanctified?"
Easy stuff, even for the timid Trini.
"The Temple of Gern was sanctified in the year two hundred three," Trini answered.
"Correct," Orella answered. "Behind me, you see what is left of one of the original defensive walls of the Temple of Gern."
This had been an exterior wall once? That explained the thickness.
"The damage you see was done over six centuries ago in the year two hundred sixty three," Orella explained. "At the time, most of the warlords who lived in the area had been subdued and were enthralled to the Temple."
Talla gulped. Warlords. It sounded like the stories Shanata had told her in her very first History lesson. War was something not discussed with children. It had come as something of a shock to find that human beings had waged deadly battles against one another throughout history and that many of these battles had been fought by anti-social men against the Temple.
"Sixty years after Gern was founded, however," Orella went on, "three such warlords, the most powerful in the area, made an unprecedented alliance. Seeing that the future was the Temple, and disliking that future, they gathered their forces together and brought great weaponry to bear on these walls."
Orella walked through the line of girls and stood behind them while they continued to stare at the broken wall.
"At the time, this area behind me was heavily forested," she explained. "Although we try our best to clear away any trees blocking our lines of sight, resources are not always available. The men were able to hide their catapults and launch boulders from the cover of darkness."
"Women of Endowment and Sweetness stood atop the walls and fired volleys of arrows into the night," Orella explained, swinging her arm in an arc over their heads to indicate the flight paths. "It was the women of Form who slunk off into the woods, working their way outside the range of the arrows, to get into the encampments of the men."
"When the wall finally fell, the catapults went silent."
Orella paused there, letting Talla transport herself back in time. How would that have felt, to know that the defences were broken, that wild men could invade the Temple?
A shiver ran through her. Was that what she wanted? To bring down the Temple?
It was Nadine who spoke.
"What then, Mistress?" she asked.
"Then nothing," came the reply.
"Nothing?" Talla asked.
All of the girls had turned their heads in surprise.
"The men didn't attack?" Trini added.
"They awaited orders to do so," Orella said. "And no such orders came. Their leaders, you see, had been disabled."
So no feral men had crossed this broken threshold. They'd waited out in the forest, expecting their leaders to rally them into the breach, and their leaders were -- what? - dead? What did "disabled" mean in this context? It wasn't like the teachers to use euphemisms for death. They weren't shy about describing the hazards of war.
"When the morning came, the men surrendered," Orella went on. "Hundreds of them had been killed in the night, along with a great many women of every Discipline, both inside and outside the Temple. The men were inducted into the city and helped to rebuild what they had destroyed."
"The Temple was expanded to four times its size. It's old boundaries became the Goddess's Domain while three new triangles were built around it. This wall, repaired in a great rush and thus with poor quality, crumbled over time with the force of erosion. It was decided to leave this broken portion untouched, so that we would not forget."
'I won't forget', Talla thought. 'I won't forget that your walls can be broken.'
But that painted an interesting picture, from an engineering standpoint, which was how Talla was being trained to view things. The original Temple had been a small triangle -- equilateral as Temples always were. In its first expansion, the Goddess claimed the old Temple as her domain and had three triangles built around it so that the whole thing formed a larger equilateral triangle.
That second Temple had since become the domain of the Queen of Sweetness, which made it one corner of the new Temple, the one which currently existed.
Talla had learned that this was the standard way for Temples to expand, quadrupling in size as controlled population growth required it.
Orella stood before them, hands on her hips. The orange scarf-like sheets of fabric that hung from her elbows draped elegantly toward the ground without actually touching the cobblestones. She let the moment sink in for them.
"That ends today's lesson," she said. "We will return to the central triangle. Follow me."
While they quietly followed her out of the Division of Sweetness, Talla sidled up to Yua, the quietest member of their group.
"That was something, eh?" Talla said.
"Scary stuff," she agreed.
They passed through Sweetness's great bronze doors and Orella dismissed them with a wave. She seemed to have urgent business to which to attend.
"I'm heading off for a quick bath before the next class. You wanna come?"
Yua's face visibly brightened.
"Sure," she said eagerly.
Nadine looked back at Talla with a glare that bordered on hatred. Talla ignored it. There was a problem there that Talla hadn't been able to breach. She'd tried being friendly, hoping to find a kindred soul in her dissatisfaction with the Temple, but Nadine seemed principally dissatisfied with Talla.
Shrugging it off, Talla turned her attention back to Yua, who seemed much friendlier. Both had something in common with, which was that they had both been upgraded by a young man named Zhair'lo -- a young man for whom Talla carried a particular affinity.
That was why Yua wore the same tiny skirt that Talla did -- by virtue of Zhair'lo's overly enthusiastic upgrading skills, she'd skipped the rank of Virgin and the year it normally took to reach Initiate. It meant that, like Talla but to a lesser degree, she sported a pair of breasts that were the envy of her age mates.
"How was last night?" she asked Yua. It was considered polite, in female circles, to enquire about sexual exploits.
"Great," Yua said in that quietly excited voice she always used. "I wish they could send me out more than five times a week. After being stuck in that -"
She inhaled deeply through her nose.
"Well, I get another tonight at least. You?"
Talla was actually at the same pace. They only required women to meet a quota of one or two sexual encounters -- what they called "Service" - per week. Most purposely asked for higher pacing either out of raw sexual desire or to make themselves appear more loyal to the Temple.
"Good," she whispered back. "Did you try it from behind yet?"
Yua looked down with a grin.
"The second time," she admitted shyly. "It's so weird like that, but he can definitely get deeper."
"Come on," Talla urged. "This way."
They were entering Endowment's Triangle -- their collective home -- and heading towards the pool and the baths. Endowment hosted a very healthy sized building for this purpose. The central feature was a large pool in which women could swim laps or simply wade around to cool themselves off. Around the large pool were several sunken baths.
Talla and Yua stripped off their clothing, skirts and underwear first, tops last. Talla made a casual attempt to turn her chest away from Yua for the latter.
"You don't need to hide them from me," Yua remarked as Talla kicked a lever that released a shower of water on them.
It wouldn't do to rub the fact of Talla's luck when it came to upgrades in Yua's face. Yua had needed three tries to break her Seal and become a proper member of the Temple. Talla had walked in and received a nearly fatal quadruple upgrade on her first try. Her thinking had been that it might make Yua jealous, and Talla needed friends more than anything right now.
"Oh?" she asked.
"We both got lucky," Yua smiled shyly. "Zhair'lo gave you four and he gave me two. Good for both of us, right?"
"I suppose," Talla replied as she lathered herself up with soap.
She turned to face Yua now, letting the other girl watch as she raised one arm and rubbed soap down the length of that arm and under her heavy breasts.
"It just seems rude, given how easily it came for me and how long you had to wait."
Yua shrugged it off.
"It was unfair," she said. "But that's not your fault."
Talla smiled in relief.
Clean and naked, the two girls let the falling water rinse the soap off their bodies.
"Hey, Talla!" someone called out.
She turned and waved, calling out, "Tina!"
It was no accident that Tina was here. They met here almost every day. With the way that the Temple seemed determined to make sure Talla didn't have a moment to go getting herself into more trouble, this was the only real free time she had. Given what they were up to, they took every chance they could to get together.
Tina had found an otherwise unoccupied bath in which to wait and, as was her style, sat with her arms draped around the the tiled edge so the water would gently lap at her exposed nipples. The protrusion it created would never confuse anyone who knew enough into thinking that Tina was a Disciple of Point, but the effect was still pleasant.
"This is Yua," Talla introduced her companion as they slid into the tub. "We're doing the Virgin classes together."
Yua grimaced, Talla noted.
"Oh," Tina said. "I'm Tina. You're one of the lucky double upgrades? You must have just joined the Temple."
Tina knew very well that Yua had not just joined the Temple. It was polite, however, to pretend otherwise.
"No," Yua replied, looking sideways. "Sealed Virgin."
She took a breath.
"That's all done, though," she said firmly. "Zhair'lo took care of that for me. I'm one of you now and -"
She paused a moment, seeming to choke up. Her head ducked under water and she came up sweeping her short, dark hair to the back of her head.
Talla kept her breasts politely below the water line while Tina, who held the same number of upgrades as Yua, kept hers on display.
"That's not easy," Tina pointed out to Talla.
"Being a Sealed Virgin?" Talla asked. "I really don't understand -- what was it like?"
Yua pursed her lips.
"It's like you don't really count," she said. "You get to live inside the Temple, but that's it. No sex. No lessons. Just one crack at the Seal every month."
"Oh," Talla said.
Yua went on, not making eye contact with either of them.
"The worst thing is that everyone can tell. As long as we don't get to have sex, we don't get to cut our skirts either. Everywhere I went for over three months, people would recognize me and see me in my long skirt. They knew -- they all knew -- that I was Sealed."
A shudder went through her.
"You have no idea how nice it is to wear that tiny skirt," she went on with a nod at the rack where her clothing hung, her voice still shaken. "Whenever I can get away with it, I don't even wear underwear -"
"Be careful," Talla interrupted, "Jin ree ..."
Talla vividly remembered what happened when two of her colleagues were caught exposing themselves in public. It was a crime that the Temple, with its adherence to the ancient tongue in matters legal, called "jin ree". The "free look", as it were. The punishment was distinctly unpleasant and painful.
"I know. But, oh, just to be free of that skirt..."
She let out a sigh as she trailed off.
"I hope I can get duty in the Queen's chambers someday soon."
The Queen of Endowment had a specific rule in her chambers. Women in skirts were not permitted to wear underwear. It created quite the conundrum for women of the white and yellow ranks as they had to follow both that rule and the one against exposing themselves.
"It is tough," Tina pointed out to Talla. "Everyone tries to be nice to the Sealed Virgins."
"Ugh," Yua grunted. "That's the worst. All that pity."
Tina, unable to come with anything, shrugged in what she hoped was a sympathetic way.
"On the other hand," Yua said, cheering up slightly, "I've had nothing but sex for the past two weeks. Ten guys since Zhair'lo. I took the highest pacing I could."
Tina smiled at this.
"Kinda built up?"
"Yeah," she said. "Three months of ... um ..."
Talla had a good chunk of Zhair'lo's memories stuck in her brain. The last time they had met, just over two weeks ago, she had received a mental image of every girl he had ever seen, touched, had sex with or ejaculated on. Yua fell into all of those categories.
There was also a very fuzzy image of Yua and Nadine, passionately embracing, kissing and caressing each other. Talla was pretty sure that this image was a fiction of Zhair'lo's mind. For one thing, how could he have been present in the Sealed Virgins dormitory? For another, the Sealed Virgins dormitory didn't look like that.
The importance of the image, however, was not its accuracy. What mattered was that Talla knew that the Sealed Virgins, trapped in that pitiable state, used each other when sexual frustration overwhelmed them. Specifically, Talla knew that Yua had confessed to Zhair'lo that she and Nadine had been together.
Thus the rather absurd image in Zhair'lo's mind.
"It's okay," Tina confided. "We've done it, too."
Yua perked up at this and gave a quick look around the room to make sure no one was in earshot.
"You two?" she asked. "With -- with each other."
"When we, sort of, needed it."
Yua nodded. "I know that feeling."
Heads turned aside and there was an awkward pause in the conversation.
"Have you made any sisters since you got out?" Tina changed the subject.
"No," Yua shook her head. "But I'm sisters with almost all the girls who were Sealed."
"Would you like another sister?" she asked.
Yua brightened, the offer washing the misery off her face. She lifted herself out of the water until her breasts, glistening with beaded water, were exposed.
Tina ducked under the water, and came up against Yua's belly. What she might have touched while she was down there, Talla couldn't say for sure.
Giggling nervously, Yua held her chest out with a degree of pride. She'd had to go through hell for that pair. Gently, and with an unnecessary amount of tongue, Tina planted a kiss on each of Yua's perky nipples.
To complete the ritual, Tina offered her breasts to Tina, one at a time, to receive her kisses in return. Yua was not quite so salacious and kept her tongue to herself.
"Me, too?" Talla asked.
"Who goes first?" she asked.
"We're the same rank," Talla pointed out. "I don't think it matters."
"Yours are bigger than mine," Yua argued. "Four to my two. Shouldn't you go first?"
Talla pursed her lips. Talla actually had five upgrades, if you counted the medically invoked Strength upgrade. That probably wasn't worth pointing out.
"No," she said instead. "You've been in the Temple longer than I have."
With that statement, she presented her wet breasts to Yua and the girls exchanged kisses.
Sisters was the term for this relationship. It meant a bond closer than the normal level of loyalty between women of the Temple. In time, if they were lucky, they might find an ally in Yua.
Zhair'lo had done a lot of things in the six years of what they called young adulthood. Since the age of twelve, he'd built roofs -- both thatched and tiled. He'd learn to bake and even cook a little. Throw in the farming and the handful of other tasks that the Temple left for men to do and he'd come out a lot more well rounded than almost anyone he knew.
The Temple had a habit of fastening men to a single vocation fairly early in their lives. Find something that you're good at, which will hopefully be something you like, and spend your life learning to be as good as you can be at it.
But not Zhair'lo. He had a range of experience that would be the envy of any man his age -- if any such man ever thought there was anything to envy about being moved around from one place to another at the whim of the Temple.
There were, however, things left untaught; things for the real men, not the twelve to eighteen year olds like him. Martial things. Bows and arrows. Swords and shields. The Temple women, in that eternal, ineffable game they played, kept their tiles close to their chests and their weapons closer.