Talla's Fallen Temple Ch. 07byxtorch©
Of all the courses the Temple was speeding Talla through, History was the most interesting. Here were the battles, the Fighters, the deaths. Here were listed the weaknesses of the Temple, and the ways in which those who opposed the Temple had failed to bring it down.
Laced into all of this, quite naturally, was Talla's scepticism. Were these true stories Had the Temples really existed for over nine centuries And before that time, had it really been as bad for women as the teachers said
Today, however, with their little wooden desks in a semi circle around a large desk at the front of the room, they were learning about the Temple. The chalk board was blank; the curtains billowed inward occasionally as a gentle breeze washed over and passed through hallways to the back rooms of the school.
"As you may already know," Orella was saying as she stood in front of them, her arms folded. "We have very strict rules about the treatment of those younger than we are. Today, you are on the lowest rung of that ladder, where every other adult you see is charged with your safety."
"Your only obligation is to those who have not yet reached adulthood."
Orella's eyes traced over the entire class, the recently Unsealed Gerta and Malin included.
"As you grow older," she said carefully, "we will expect more from you. Even as the gods expect more from us."
"It was a terrible time, before the first Temples."
'Here we go,' Talla thought. 'Bring on the fear.'
"Girls were the property of their fathers, traded away for sacks of flour or treaties of peace, or even as tribute to avoid plunder and pillaging."
'We've heard this before,' Talla thought, trying not to let her feelings show on her face.
"The gods would not have it," Orella said. "So they imposed rules upon us. In agreeing to those rules, we sealed a treaty with them. We had to be better than the men who had used us. We had to treat our children better, raise them more wisely, more humanely and -- above all -- protect them from sexual exploitation before they were ready."
'And what do you do with us' Talla thought. 'You send us out there. You use my vagina to keep the peace. How is that any different'
"You all remember menstruating the first time" she asked.
There were nods all around. Talla hadn't heard the word before her first History lesson with Shanata, but it seemed that all of the Sealed Virgins had come across it at least once.
"From that day forward, every girl - for her protection -- is kept on a diet containing two ingredients," Orella explained. "One we called Aloysia Divinus, the other Aloysia Castus. The first, which is still in almost every food served in the Temple, ensures that a girl can not conceive children. The second, which is fed to girls until they turn eighteen, prevents sexual maturation both emotionally and physically. In this way, neither your thoughts nor your body will get you in any sort of trouble."
Talla stared open mouthed, trying to take on all of the repercussions of what she'd just heard.
"What do you mean by 'sexual maturation'" she asked.
"All of the gifts you receive during an upgrade, of course," Orella replied.
This wasn't natural They were intentionally stunting her growth So if she hadn't been fed a steady six year diet of of this herb, she'd have grown breasts and pubic hair and the whole bit
"Why" she called out without thinking. "Why would you do that"
Orella took this in stride.
"It makes things simpler," the teacher explained, her voice patient and soft. "Any man who makes any sexual advance towards you is clearly and unmistakeably in the wrong. Without seeing how things were in the time before the Temples, it is hard to understand how important it was to the gods and the founders of the first Temple that all doubt be removed about who was corrupting whom. Aloysia Castus assures us, from a judicial point of view, that the girl in question is without blame and that only the man deserves punishment."
Talla and Orella stared at each other for a moment. Talla started to feel anger boiling inside her. Orella looked confused, as if not quite understanding that Talla could be upset.
It was Illya who stepped in to save Talla from saying something truly stupid.
"Why eighteen, Mistress" Illya asked innocently.
Orella tilted her head and leaned back to perch her behind on her desk.
"It is somewhat arbitrary," she admitted. "Are there girls at fourteen who could handle being sent out like you, to Serve men Possible, but doubtful. Are there girls who might be better off waiting until twenty Fewer of those, but also possible."
"I wasn't there when that decision was made, so many centuries ago," she said. "But we needed to draw a line somewhere, to say that these ones over here were old enough and these ones weren't."
"Certainly, part of that decision was made for us," Orella pointed out, raising a finger. "Aloysia Castus just stops working on boys around the age of eighteen, no matter how high a dose they're given."
"If we let girls out sooner, they'd be much younger than any boys who were ready. If we held the girls longer, the boys would be out of place. And the longer we can wait, the safer it is."
Talla was barely listening. She was staring at Illya and risking occasional glances at Yua. These were not happy women.
"What would happen," Yua began to say slowly, "if girls weren't given Aloysia Castus after their first menstruation"
Orella raised her eyebrows and answered Yua as if it were merely a technical question -- an amusing tangent.
"They would grow breasts and pubic hair," Orella said, looking at the ceiling and scratching her head. "Muscles would develop, inside and out. Sexual desire would grow, landing them in all sorts of awkward situations. Sexual energy needs to be controlled and channelled, of course."
'Channelled,' Talla thought. 'Like a river. Controlled, like an aqueduct. By you. For your purposes. I'm your waterwheel. That's why I was whipped. I was using my vagina in a way that didn't make you stronger. That's why you made me watch him with someone else. So we would stop wanting each other. So we would stop wanting sex in a way that didn't serve you. So I could return to being the waterwheel and he could go back to his life as your ox.'
"A girl at the age of twelve is far too young to take on such responsibility," Orella said, turning her palms up in a rare shrug. "No telling where she'd end up."
It was a simple, academic matter for their teacher, apparently.
The Form upgrade was going to be different. Zhair'lo had understood that from the outset.
By his count, and it had been confirmed by Malin when she'd come to his room, he and Zo'kar had emptied Endowment of Sealed Virgins. So here they were, standing outside Form's small gate.
The armoured guard waved her hand to indicate he should pass through the gate and follow her.
With a shudder, he followed the guard in, discovering as he did so that he had developed a general distaste for passing through any doorway with a square over it.
It might have been wise, all things considered, to have taken down a half pint or so of ale on his way in. Just to take the edge off. There was something troublesome about the buildings in this section of the Temple, with their excess of dark, grainy wooden surfaces displacing much of the light and relatively cheerful sandstone that dominated other parts of the Temple.
He listened carefully to the briefing that explained to him, as if he hadn't done this many times before, how a Conduit was to behave. The lecture differed only by word choice and tone from those he had heard before.
He was ushered through the waiting area into Form's Priming Room. Even that was awkward. Where the women of Endowment had trusted that the Primers would do their jobs correctly, Form designed its Priming Room a bit differently. It was the same three door layout as Endowment had one door for the Conduit to enter; one door for him to leave; the last door for women to come and go.
The difference That third door had a small, screen-covered portal in it. Zhair'lo, like any Conduit, like the women who were Priming him, had to wonder if the woman who had escorted him was perhaps standing on the other side of that door, listening for violations of Protocol.
All things considered, it didn't really matter. He knew better than to attempt to foment rebellion in this Division. There were still, however, things that he could have learned.
On the other hand, the unnamed girls seemed unconcerned. They applied both soap and their tongues to his body like any other Primers, guaranteeing his readiness for what was to come. At the appointed time, after the standard set of knocks, the guard opened the door to the Augmentation Chamber and ushered him through.
The drums were already pounding. He stepped through the doorway.
This was different.
The first thing he noticed was that he really felt, from the moment he came through the door, as if he was outside. Sure, Endowment's high walls eventually gave way to sky, but the towering, inward curving nature of those walls had always given him a feeling of protection from the elements. Here, even though it was pitch black, he knew by the lack of echo that the place was open.
Given the way everything else was done, he had assumed that he would be walking into a room identical to the one in which he had done all his upgrades thus far.
But no. Form had its own idea of how an Augmentation Chamber should look.
He found himself walking down a narrow passageway, tiled with barely visible rocks. What he thought were high wooden walls on either side of him turned out to be tiered, wooden seating. It was dark enough that he couldn't make out more than the vague shapes of the women seated closest to the path he walked.
The only light source, just out of sight because it was blocked by the seats to his right, was a brilliant fire from which he could hear violent crackling. In front of him, basically a silhouette against the fiery background, a girl -- facing away from him with her head bowed - was kneeling on a dais raised just one step from the level on which he walked.
As he came around the left side of the dais -- for that was the only direction the stone path afforded him -- he came to see that the second woman, the Source for the Upgrade, formed an equilateral triangle with the smaller girl and the violent pit of fire.
The Source, a tall woman in the emerald green robes of a Sorceress, kept her head bowed until he stepped up on to the dais. When she raised her chin just a tick and flashed her blue eyes at him, he froze on the spot. Nine gods, she was beautiful. He caught his breath. Did she wink at him through those long, dark eyelashes, knowing what she'd done with that casual look
What had be been expecting This was a Facial upgrade, wasn't it He should have known from the moment he saw the green robes what he was dealing with.
Shaking himself, he recalled his purpose and continued his walk towards her as she brushed her jet black hair back away from her face.
The thing that threw him just a bit was the absence of altars. In Endowment, there were marble altars carefully designed to position women for the ritual. There were no altars here, just a blanket for each woman to kneel on. Did the darkness hide, besides all those invisible women, some apparatus for Tight and Iron upgrades
The Sorceress reached for him, pulling him along by the beige wrap they had given him to cover his lower body. She made quick work of untying it, releasing his erection from its confines and deftly folding the fabric so it could be handed off to an attendant.
Somewhere in the darkness, women began to sing. They were up high in the concealment of the stands, at least a dozen of them chanting away their haunting rhythm in what Zhair'lo guessed was the Temple's private language. He had heard music before, at festivals and even in the dorms of the children, but never voices and rhythms that chilled him like this song did. It reminded him, ever so faintly, of the song that echoed in his head whenever he meshed with Talla.
So close, as if they meant to sing that song, as if they were trying with all their hearts, but couldn't quite get there. He could hear, in the plaintive cries interspersed with words, that they knew they were missing it, too. Perhaps they even meant to say that it was impossible to find that particular melody with such crude tools as mouths and ears.
In his distraction, he hadn't noticed that his clothing had already been handed off. The Sorceress pulled him closer, the tip of his penis brushing gently against her nose. She turned her head, the soft blue eyes examining his manhood from all angles. He watched as the firelight played with her features the long thing nose; the high, fine cheek bones; the small but sharp chin.
A moment later, her lips parted just slightly and she slid her mouth down on his shaft.
All the way down.
He gasped, restraining himself from ejaculating as he found the back of her throat.
She withdrew, dancing her tongue across him as she did so, and smirked while looking downwards and to her side. She didn't need to meet his eyes to know what she'd just done to him.
Another attendant appeared from the darkness and held out a wooden chalice to the Sorceress. With one delicate hand stroking him, she took the chalice with the other hand and passed it to Zhair'lo. There was no question of her dexterity. Without missing a beat in her graceful handling of his penis, she dipped two fingers into the pool of Synergist and began applying it to her face.
She started at the bridge of her nose, tracing thick, wet lines of the syrup across her cheekbones to the corner of her jaw. One line on one side, one on the other. Another streak was smoothly laid across her forehead.
Lastly, four fingers were dipped in to the chalice and run through her scalp -- not once but twice. It seemed almost a shame to ruin that luxurious, wavy hair with the Temple's magical syrup, but it only seemed to add to effect the flickering glow of the fire was already having.
"There we are," she whispered. "All ready"
It was a question Did it really need asking Zhair'lo was pretty confident that his readiness was obvious.
He nodded anyway.
"Of course you are," she said, a bit more loudly than before.
There was some disgruntled shifting of booted feet from somewhere behind her in the darkness.
"Don't mind them," she added. "This is our place right now."
Zhair'lo was surprised by the careless, sing-song air of her voice.
Which place did she mean The blanket on which she knelt The dais The whole chamber And who was included in that "our" Zhair'lo All three of them Perhaps she meant the Discipline of Facial, for her faint sneer seemed to be directly excluding the women of Tight and Iron.
There was something in her demeanour that told him, with complete confidence, that he was safe from those armoured enforcers of protocol. They couldn't lay a hand on her here, and he was under her protection. He let out a sigh of relief, safe in the bubble she had created inside this most disturbing of places.
She gave him one last, deep plunge into her mouth, pulled herself off him and began rubbing the tip of his erection against the spot where the bridge of her nose met her forehead. That queasy feeling started to build in his stomach as he went through the process of Hunting.
It was, fortunately, a very short period of time before he felt his body Seize to the desired upgrade. Facial was easy compared to the delicate dance needed to get himself aligned to a Point upgrade. The nausea passed.
His senses heightened. Not just his eyes this time, but his ears, too. He could make out the individual voices in the song being sung. There were nine singers, not twelve. He understood the song as he hadn't been able to understand it before.
He knew then that it was a lament, a song filled with sadness because they could find neither words nor melodies to express the beauty of the mesh. So he sympathized with that song in a way that they couldn't. Probably. It certainly seemed like they understood his misery.
There was little time to dote on the song. Having assured herself that Zhair'lo had Seized, the Sorceress was busy cradling his penis against the side of her face, sliding it from her temple down to her jaw line, across her lips and up the other side her face. She ran him lightly across her hair, making a circuit that coated the entire surface of his erection with the clear syrup she had spread over her face.
The charge was beginning to build up. His eyes could make out women in the audience. Breathtakingly gorgeous women, tall as towers. Muscle bound women, looking out of place without their armour. All of them were sitting peacefully, eagerly watching him and the Sorceress. A quick glance around the periphery of his vision told him that the place was packed, at least for the arc of seating that he could see without craning his neck around.
"There we go," the Sorceress announced in her soft voice. "Go take care of Zoe."
Form, from the briefing to the Priming Room, had been very deliberate about anonymity -- at least for the women. Every woman he ran into seemed to know his name, but not one of them gave hers. He knew their ranks from their clothing, and that was it.
He muttered a polite, "Mistress" to the curious Sorceress and turned away from her.
As he did so, he scanned the crowd behind the fire. It was packed there, too, with four large thrones in the front row. Three were occupied, one was empty, since the Sorceress of Facial was still kneeling on a blanket.
Behind those thrones ... he shuddered.
Even without the iron circlet and the ankle length robes, he would recognize Sonja. He imagined he would know her even if all but her eyes was covered in armour, or her face was streaked with blood. The latter was how he always pictured her anyway, even if in reality she'd kept her skin and her very fine robes out of range of Talla's blood spatter.
Focus, he told himself.
"Zoe," he whispered to the kneeling girl.
She smiled and looked up at him nervously, gave him a courteous nod, and reached for the chalice on the ground.
"Another go round," she said, a taste of resigned hopelessness in her voice.
More coughing and foot shuffling from those in the darkness. Zoe rolled her eyes.
"This is our place," she repeated the Sorceress's words as if it was one of their childhood axioms, speaking not so much to him as to the complainers behind her. "Our way."
Not sure what precisely was going on, Zhair'lo decided to strike a middle ground by keeping his voice low.
"It's worked for me every time," he assured her.
"Good," she said, her brown eyes lighting up. "That's what I'd heard."
She paused thoughtfully for a moment before placing the chalice on the ground at her feet and then reached around her back to undo the ties on her little white top.
"I end up doing my own laundry," she explained petulantly and laid her top aside. She waved an explanatory finger at her chin and neck. "It always drips, y'know"
Zhair'lo looked down. It was his turn to pause.
Zoe had breasts. She was supposed to be a Sealed Virgin. She wasn't supposed to have any upgrades at all. Zhair'lo, with his lengthy experience doing upgrades and initiations, knew what women were supposed to look like when they didn't have any Abundance upgrades. They all had flat chests.
There was no question, however, of Zoe's state. No sign of Point or Strength, not to his eyes, but she appeared to have, at a guess, about half of an Abundance upgrade. Of course, he had seen mostly the breasts of those to whom he had given double upgrades, so it was hard to be precise -- especially in the light of the blazing fire.