Talla's Temple Ch. 04byxtorch©
Talla, Lara and Salee walked bare-chested out of the Initiation room, led by Shanata through the torch lit alleys of the Temple. The medallions they wore were all the explanation needed for their otherwise objectionable partial nudity.
The girls had been given an opportunity to shower - quickly and en masse – and then were separated in to their Divisions. The Sweetness girls covered only their chests and left with Maksa. The three Endowment girls wore only their skirts. The Form girls were left completely naked but for their medallions.
"The celebration will be unusually bright tonight," Shanata said. Gone was her stern countenance. Talla was surprised to see such glee from her teacher.
"Why?" Talla asked.
"You have brought us much honour," she explained. "You have chosen our Discipline ahead of Lips and Pussy."
She hadn't thought of that. She had never felt anything but small and insignificant next to her teachers, but now...That this particular decision would matter to Shanata? And to others? Why should the opinion of an untested Virgin matter?
While she was thinking, they arrived at the entrance to Endowment's section of the Temple. She had seen the entrance before but had never been allowed inside. The doors were large and plated with bronze. Hundreds of overlapping circles of varying sizes had been laid into the bronze. On either side of the doors were bronze statues of women, topless, their large breasts and nipples in sharp relief.
In front of the door stood a single armed guard. She wore imposing full leather body armour and was armed with a spear, yet appeared quite casual about her duty. She perked up noticeably when she identified Shanata and made out the state of her charges.
"Initiates to be welcomed," Shanata announced. "Talla here was second in tonight's Rite."
The guard perked up further and grinned.
"An honour to meet you Talla," she said.
This was a bigger deal than Talla had expected. Shanata introduced Lara and Salee quickly and all three were ushered through the door.
Talla didn't know what to expect. What she saw was a large, squarish courtyard with numerous alleys and buildings facing it, all in the same sandstone beige as the rest of the Temple. Some of the buildings were lit from the inside, others were darkened for the night.
A single large building dominated the courtyard. Two stories high, with a dozen torches burning under the same number of windows, it stood a little over fifty paces away from her. Its wide double-doored entrance stood open and beyond it Talla could see a common area where hundreds of women were gathered talking and drinking.
"It is a customary gathering," Shanata said. "After giving Service in the town, we gather here at Endowment Hall to talk and relax with one another. On Initiation nights, the celebration is a little larger. Many women who were not scheduled to Serve in town will be here tonight to welcome their new sisters."
As they approached, Talla could see that the common room was lit and warmed by a central fire. The warmth would be nice. It was closing on midnight and with the adrenaline wearing off – and her nudity – she was finding it quite cool.
Someone in the common room noticed their party when they were half way across the courtyard. She raised the glass in her hand in their direction and pointed them out to her companion, a second level Acolyte who turned to face them. She too raised her glass and the pair of them, alone of all the women in the common room, came to the entrance and watched them approach.
Both wore orange bikini bottoms. One wore a full blouse, signifying that she was an Officer, only two ranks away from being a Sorceress of her Discipline. The other wore the double sashes of an Acolyte II.
Both had enormous breasts. Talla supposed that, in this house, everyone would have giant breasts and she might as well just get used to being the skinniest one around. She would get there eventually.
Arriving at the giant doorway, Talla was just about to observe the ornate patterns moulded into the bronze doors of the common room when the Officer gave a signal to someone Talla couldn't see. A loud gong was struck shortly after.
The room went silent as hundreds of pairs of eyes turned to face the three topless girls at the entrance. Talla was aware that she had gone painfully white under that focus. Was she expected to say something? No, it was Shanata who stepped forward.
"My sisters," she said in her sternest voice. "I bring you news and fresh blood."
Shanata stepped back between Lara and Salee and placed her hands on their shoulders. "These are Lara and Salee. Salee placed seventh in her Rite of Initiation and Lara sixth. They have chosen the Discipline of Point."
A polite round of applause went up at this. It was probably expected that, if ten girls were Initiated, the first three or four would go to Sweetness and the next three to Endowment. Sixth and Seventh was nothing to get excited about.
"This is Talla," Shanata said, careful about her timing, "She placed second in the Rite and has chosen Abundance."
Eyebrows were raised. A few in the back gasped, "Second?"
The second round of applause was thunderous. There were whistles and shouts. Talla was awestruck. This was for her? There had to be a thousand women cheering for her?
Shanata meant to complete her introduction but was stymied by the continuous cheering. She gave up and simply shouted, "Welcome them to our sisterhood!" She needn't have said so. Talla's new Division-mates were already approaching her.
The Officer and Acolyte II who had stood nearest the entryway were the first to greet her.
"Yolana, Abundance," the officer introduced herself. "Welcome, and thank you for the honour."
"Egleena, Point," the other said. "Thank you."
Topless and skinny to the bone, Talla became lost in a sea of happy faces and congratulatory handshakes. Would someone be getting her a top to wear? She was supposed to be wearing a bikini top whenever she was with other women. A drink was handed to her. Some kind of sweet liquor. Thirsty, she drank it too quickly.
"Water, please," she croaked to the crowd as it continued to introduce itself to her. A wooden mug found its way to her hand and she drank heavily from it, hoping it was water. The liquor had been quite strong and the mood was festive. She didn't feel cold any longer, nor particularly concerned about her nudity. Apparently she was to remain in this state of undress for the night.
At some point, she came across Lara and Salee, both of whom had clearly had more than one swig of the sweet liquor. The two were falling over each other and soon stumbled in to Talla.
"Isn't this great?" Salee shouted. "Home! We have a real home now."
Lara agreed, probably, but seemed to have lost the power of speech.
It was heady stuff, coming home and being drunk.
The three of them found a soft couch to sit on just a short distance from the overly large fire. Talla sat in the middle with Lara and Salee leaning amicably on her shoulders.
"It's gonna be so nice," Salee was murmuring. "We'll do our first Upgrades soon and then we'll be on our way."
Salee had goals, apparently, but wasn't about to enunciate them. She began to snore softly and then slumped over, her little blond head coming to rest in Talla's lap.
"Never had liquor before," Lara said, although it wasn't clear if she meant Salee or herself. "It is nice to be in here."
Talla took in the whole room. The celebration had calmed down quite a bit. The population was about the same but much quieter and no one seemed to be staring at the three of them. She breathed a sigh of relief. This place was her place now. The giant common room, all in beige sandstone, with its tall, grooved pillars, bronze statues and wall engravings flickering in the firelight. It was a nice place to be, she decided.
She had just started to relax when two blurry shapes, orange and blue, appeared standing in front of her. It took her a while to focus. One was Yolana, the officer she had just met. The other, in a blue bikini and a skirt so short its hem was at Talla's eye level, was clearly a Second. Second of what, exactly, Talla didn't know.
"Welcome Talla," she said with a smile that showed she had had a drink or two, "I am Atreya, Second to the Sorceress of Abundance."
Every Discipline had but one Sorceress who held the Perfection of that Discipline. Every Sorceress had but one Second who stood one step – one Upgrade – behind her, ready to take her place and maintain the Perfection of the Temple. Abundance was Talla's Discipline. The Sorceress was her Mistress and this was the Sorceress's chosen assistant.
"Nice to meet you," she said, hoping her words weren't slurring. She was tired and drunk and couldn't even show the courtesy of standing up without waking Salee.
This was apparently acceptable, given how informal everyone seemed to be at this occasion. Atreya and Yolana pulled up stools and straddled them – Atreya somewhat gingerly and with a wince.
Yolana muttered, "Yet you keep going back to him..."
"It feels good at the time," Atreya defended herself.
Talla realized that they were talking about sex; sex that Atreya had just had. She was only slightly distracted by the fact that she could see up Atreya's skirt. She'd wondered if the girls and women whose uniforms included skirts wore underwear. In Atreya's case, at least on this occasion, the answer was 'no'.
Atreya's eyes returned to her and she twitched. Had the other caught her looking? She would not have this liquor again, she decided.
The Second only smiled, however, and spoke, "Are you aware that you have brought much honour to us?"
"They tell me so," Talla said, not trusting herself to longer sentences or more complicated expressions of humility.
"You should believe them," Atreya admonished cheerfully. "It is very rare for any other Discipline to be chosen before all of the places in Sweetness are taken. The gods have given us you."
The gods had done it, then? That must matter somehow.
"I understand the Fourth went to Form, is that correct?" Yolana asked.
Talla nodded. "Sila took Iron."
"Very odd," Atreya said, looking to Yolana, who shrugged. "A very odd night. They will be celebrating as well in Form, then."
"You must understand, Talla," Atreya said, suddenly turning very serious, "the Divisions of Endowment and Form are used to being subordinate in glory. It is only in rare circumstances that our traits are considered more valuable than the others. For someone to choose us over them is, ah, significant. In many ways."
Atreya seemed to be grasping for words. She sighed.
"You will come to understand," she said. "What matters is that the gods have put you here with us, and here is where you belong. You are welcome and you are a sister to us all."
"Now, if you would consent," Atreya continued, "I would be your sister in every sense."
Talla could hardly protest – or even move, what with Sara still snoring softly on her lap. Awestruck by the offer, she could only nod.
Atreya perforce untied her bikini top with one pull around the back of her neck. Talla barely noticed that the talkative crowd in the common room slowly became quiet. If Atreya's breasts had looked large while contained, they looked stupendous now.
Behind Atreya, required to follow Protocol, Yolana was pulling her orange shirt off over her head. The same act was doubtless being played out throughout the room as others took notice. Talla tried not to think about it all of those topless females staring at her.
As dictated by the etiquette she had learned, Talla knew that the higher ranking women must always go first. That made it clear that the lower ranker wasn't overstepping her bounds. So she waited patiently as Atreya knelt and, her heavy breasts rubbing against Salee's cheek, leaned over to kiss each of Talla's tiny nipples with the lightest brush of her lips. She then rose higher on her knees and offered each of her nipples to Talla's lips. Talla kissed as lightly as she could manage in her bleary state, feeling a tingle each time as she did so. Atreya blinked, possibly having felt it as well, and leaned back.
"Now we are sisters," Atreya said, "forever and always."
She stood and refastened her top. Yolana followed suit and crowd soon began milling around and talking again. Talla breathed a sigh of relief, hoping she had done it right. Her cheeks could still remember the price of doing things wrong.
"She likely needs sleep," Yolana admonished. "None of them look ambulatory."
Strong women were drafted in to serve to carry Salee and Lara. Talla vaguely noticed as she passed out that it was Atreya who carried her off.
"She came second."
"Hm. A little disa-"
" - and chose Endowment."
"Indeed. Even though Lips and Pussy were available."
"We had not predicted this. Any idea why?"
"No. I asked Shanata. She said that no one noteworthy ejaculated on her breasts."
"Odd choice. That's not a reliable route to power."
"Yes. And worrisome, too."
"Because her mother -"
Talla would definitely not have any more of the sweet liquor.
She woke in a new room.
The first thing to notice was sunlight streaming in. Figuring it to be morning, that made the direction in front of her east.
Taking stock of her surroundings she discovered a small white-walled bedroom. It was an odd contrast to the beige sandstone of which every other structure in the Temple was built. This one had large ports for sunlight, also unlike many other buildings.
She sat up, blinking her eyes. Salee and Lara were sleeping in beds across the room from her. A fourth bed, empty, was beside her. The sheets were clean and white. She was naked. Completely naked. Someone had taken her ankle-length skirt in the night. Beside each bed was a dresser, bleached to almost complete whiteness. On it were clean, folded clothes.
She stood up carefully and was punished with a blood rush to her head. Taking a deep breath, she waited for it to pass before donning her fresh clothes. The skirt was exactly the right length. The top was a rectangle of white cloth that slid over her chest and fit so perfectly that it didn't need any fastening over her shoulders – which was fortunate as it had no straps. Matching white sandals were found under the bed.
She glanced at the other girls, wondering if she should say something. They'd had more to drink though and probably wouldn't appreciate it. Other than the window, there was only one way out of the simple bedroom: a doorway on her right. She slipped quietly through it, opening the wooden door as quietly as she could. She closed it just as quietly behind her and turned to see what was outside.
Talla was on a second floor walkway in what appeared to be an apartment complex. Though the insides of the room were white, the outsides were wood-braced sandstone like everything else in the Temple. The walkway went on and on to her left, periodically interrupted by small landings and stairways both up and down. She quickly realized there was a walkway above her as well. More apartments? Probably. Outside the Temple, where the men had plenty of space, there were very few two storey buildings. Inside, with twelve thousand women sleeping, eating and working, they probably had little choice.
"Hey!" a voice called from her right.
She turned quickly – too quickly – to see another girl dressed in white.
It was Meena. She had placed a small chair and a table on one of the landings and was relaxing with her feet up. It left Talla with a brief view up her skirt before she stood up. Meena, unlike Atreya, wore underwear. Talla briefly flashed back to the night before. Had Atreya really lowered her breasts to Talla's lips? Yes, she had. Talla shook off the image and faced her other sister.
"It's a bit tough, first morning after drinking liquor," Meena said. "I thought I'd be waiting a lot longer."
"I didn't drink so much," Talla said.
"Thirsty, I think."
"Yeah, I bet," Meena sympathized. "The others won't wake up for a bit. I'll take you down to the caf for a drink."
Talla couldn't help but glance at Meena's chest. Though the two girls were about the same stature, Meena had had one upgrade to her breasts. Talla could see the difference. It wasn't fantastic or anything, but there was no question who was more mature. She flashed back again to the previous night, but this time to Zhair'lo's eyes, gazing in rapt fascination at her flat chest. Would one such upgrade affect him? Would he notice? Would he prefer Meena to her?
Meena had turned away and led her down a flight of stairs to a wide street between the apartment blocks. The ground floor of the Temple seemed to be taken up by offices whereas the two upper floors were apartments. She did take enough time to notice that the doors on the upper floor apartments were further apart, suggesting that the rooms were larger. Privilege of rank, she decided.
Women in orange and yellow were hard at work, pouring over drawings, arguing about things, writing. Younger girls in white were busily running around, carrying messages, food and otherwise maintaining things for their mistresses. The pecking order was obvious, even from this passing examination.
"You'll see no glass windows here," Meena was saying. "Some of the men's fancier buildings have it, as do some of the Goddess's. But not here. We don't believe in that kind of nonsense."
As they walked along, Meena continued to make conversation. "Most of our responsibility in Endowment is engineering," she said. "We lay out the plans for the construction of buildings, for the manufacture of all sorts of everyday items. We study ways to improve things, new ways to use materials. You'll see Acolytes and Officers working on things like that. The rest of us are apprenticed to them. Since you're wearing white, like me, you'll be running a lot of errands until you get a little more educated and find something useful to do."
"How come no one told me this before?" Talla asked. "What do the other Divisions do?"
"Sweetness are physicians and administrators," Meena answered. "If you've ever been sick, it was a Sweetness woman who healed you. If you've ever drunk a potion, it was made by Sweetness."
"Legislation. Order. Punishment. They write a lot of the Protocols that we use to keep life peaceful. If things go wrong, if people don't want to cooperate in our society, it's Form that makes things right, one way or the other. They know how to fight – with weapons I mean."
That sounded ominous. When had there ever been a need for such a thing? Not in Talla's memory.
"There's a whole Division for that?"
"They're artists, too," Meena added. "Most of the statues, if they aren't made by men, come from Form."
But Meena hadn't answered her first question.
"How come they don't tell us this before the Initiation?" she repeated sternly.
All they were told was that Sweetness was the most powerful Division. All they were told was that Sweetness was the surest route to power. It was a tactic guaranteed to put the fastest and most eager girls in to that Division.
"The Rite of Initiation is a test from the gods," Meena said, clearly uncomfortable. "The gods place you where you belong. Telling you anything more would mess with that."
"Then I chose wrong," Talla said.
"No," Meena was on firmer ground now and spoke as if she had memorized her words, "You can never choose wrong at your Initiation. If you are here and chose to be here, then this is where you belong."
That settled, they arrived at a sparsely populated, open air cafeteria. There were benches, clearly labeled so that women knew where to sit by their ranks. There was a counter where two Initiates in their tiny skirts, a Neophyte in her double sash and a single Keeper in yellow would take food orders.