Talla's Temple Ch. 19byxtorch©
"What -- precisely -- have we done, then?"
"I don't know Imminence," the Queen replied. "It may have been a coincidence."
The Goddess rolled her eyes.
The Queen of Sweetness looked aside in doubt.
"No, you don't believe it either," the Goddess added, rubbing her belly subconsciously. "They found no Synergist?"
The Queen shook her head.
"Nor any reason to think there might have been any."
That was just as frightening.
"Zhair'lo I can understand," the Goddess said. "He is what we expect."
She looked down at her belly. For such a private audience she had chosen the smallest top in her wardrobe, leaving her overheated stomach bare.
"But what of Talla?" she asked. "What is she?"
Talla's heart skipped a beat and she read the card again.
"Upgrade. Strength. Extraordinary."
She suddenly wished that she had never visited the doctor. Sure, her chest hurt, but couldn't she live with it? Wouldn't that be preferable to going through another upgrade? Maybe she could get out of it; just say it wasn't that bad after all.
There was no point in running from this particular ordeal.
She stilled her heart. Upgrades would be a part of her life for the next decade at least. She would have to get used to them.
Deep breath, again. Relax.
That calming influence wasn't just her own. Zhair'lo was out there somewhere, sweating in a field on a day not quite hot enough for the heat bell they'd both wanted. Zhair'lo, perhaps sensing her anxiety, was sending gentle waves of calmness in her direction.
Reason and logic returned.
Zhair'lo would not be coming in tonight. She would be so much more comfortable with him as the Conduit. If he became overloaded, he would know. He would recognize the difference between one or two upgrades and being charged with a life-threatening quadruple.
But he had done an upgrade last night. They wouldn't have him back tonight. She had learned enough to know that boys were never allowed to do upgrades two nights in a row.
As a Seal Breaker, like Zo'kar, he'd be pushed to the limit. The two of them would be doing Virgins every other night until the Temple was emptied of them.
How she'd wished for the heat bell today; for a chance to go looking for that blue ribbon.
Zhair'lo was out there, far away. She could feel him - him and every metre of the distance between them.
Her eyes narrowed.
They would have their chance.
And if they didn't, they would make their own chances.
"Beshenna?" her Mistress asked.
"I have a desire to travel," Maksa said earnestly. "To see other cities."
The Sorceress of Lips looked at the document in front of her. Migration requests were not uncommon. Some liked to move about, some didn't. The women of Pussy were ardent that migration be encouraged for the sake of genetic stability. The women of Form supported it for a sense of inter-city cohesiveness and uniformity of culture. Within thought it was a barely tolerable nuisance of administration and Endowment really didn't care as long as they still got to build things somewhere.
"You are currently assigned to the Virgins' dormitories, are you not?" Lips asked.
The Sorceress nodded thoughtfully.
"I have no reason to hold you here," she said. "But you will need the permission of my sister across the way. The Virgin dorms are the province of Pussy, after all, and that is your current assignment."
"Thank you, Mistress," she said and bowed herself out.
"Safe journey", she said and waved her Disciple away.
It had been a difficult decision.
Talla's mother, if the documents were correct, was in Turiksa. But there was no guarantee that she was even alive. In a way, that made Maksa want to travel there first, on the chance that the woman might even now be on her death bed. Mih'lan's possible demise wasn't the only downside of heading that way first, though. Even if she were alive, what would she remember of the mysterious events around Talla's birth? If something truly strange had gone on, Mih'lan might not even want to talk about it, and she would have a good deal of seniority with which to brush Maksa off.
On the other hand, her real desire was to see what had happened to Zhina, Talla's half-sister. Had Zhina strayed from the leanings of her genealogy? Was there something in that ancestry that Maksa didn't understand? She'd only been doing it for a few months now, after all. Surely she had much to learn.
So it was Zhina she wanted to meet.
And therefore it was to Beshenna that she wanted to travel.
Talla was passing through Endowment Hall, preoccupied by her impending upgrade, when she was startled to see the Engineering women once again bent over a central table, consulting with men.
"A beverage?" one of the women asked those around her.
There was some agreement that this was a good idea and the whole group, men and women, retired to a nearby counter where a girl in white offered them water and iced fruit drinks. It was a little odd, seeing men and women together like that, so casual. At least they weren't eating together. That would have been ridiculous.
Curiosity getting the better of her, Talla trotted over to the table with the abandoned drawing. It wasn't a secret, was it? Endowment was her Division and the women of Endowment built things. Her curiosity was perfectly justified, wasn't it?
Besides ... no one was looking.
It was the same tower she'd caught a glimpse of before. There were a few light correction marks here and there. She looked at the drawings and felt a faint sense of disappointment.
She knew how to read these sorts of drawings. Like every teenage girl, she was well versed in the mathematics and geometry that weren't worth teaching to boys. Consequently, cross sectional drawings were nothing new to her.
So when she looked at this tower and noted its lack of windows for most of its length, she understood that its primary purpose was as some kind of observation tower. Thinking about the dimensions, she figured that it would be the tallest building in Gern -- taller even than the presently existing watchtowers out on the periphery. Were they building taller watchtowers? Possibly.
That wasn't Talla's concern.
What she saw in the drawings ... she couldn't put her finger on it.
Ugly. That was the word. Not 'ugly' in the sense of a poorly painted picture or some creeping vermin. It was a different kind of ugly. She should have a different word for it, but she -
"Talla!" came a harsh whisper.
"Tina," she whispered back.
Tina jerked her head toward an empty corner of the common room.
"What did you find out?" Talla asked in a low voice as they walked.
"I had Y'ris check out the upgrades," she said.
"It just says 'Impedia'."
"I think that's what they put whenever they have to call a Halt," Tina said. "I really don't know and I don't want to poke around too much. Y'ris was already suspicious, wanting to know how I knew there was a problem."
Talla nodded in agreement. Y'ris had seen the two of them ... together. There was no sense irritating her.
"We need someone that we can trust, but who's high up enough to know stuff," Talla said thoughtfully.
Tina squinted and pursed her lips.
"Who's your highest ranking sister?" she asked Talla. "No one I know goes above Neophyte."
"Me neither," Talla said. "Unless, well ... no."
"Unless who?" Tina asked sternly.
Talla wagged her head from side to side.
"Technically," she said. "There's Atreya."
Tina's eyes widened.
"Atreya Or'yan?" she asked. "The second of Abundance? You've kissed her -"
"Yes," Talla said, flashing back to a drunken memory of the beautiful tips of a pair of incredibly large breasts being lowered to her mouth one at a time. "I don't think I could bring it up with her."
Talla suddenly remembered talking with Alli'anya the night before.
"I had a lesson last night," she told Tina. "The teacher told me we weren't in any trouble."
"Hm," Tina replied doubtfully. "That doesn't tell us what happened, though."
"No. No, it doesn't."
"It'd be nice to know what made them so upset."
"They thought we had Synergist," Talla said.
"But why?" Tina asked.
A shock went through Talla. Why hadn't she realized it before?
"What?" Tina asked, seeing the look on Talla's face.
"You requested an audience?" the Sorceress of Pussy asked.
She was alone, in the rearmost of her private rooms, unharried by any attendants. It was a quiet place for a calmly asked question.
"I'm afraid I have little time," she said as she slipped out of her simple working skirt. "I will be sourcing an upgrade for a Sealed Virgin tonight."
Maksa began unlacing her skirt, aware of the Protocols. But Pussy interrupted her.
"Oh, don't bother," she said. "I'm just getting dressed again. Now what is it you wanted?"
"To ask for the end of my assignment in the Virgins' dorms, Mistress," she said, "so that I may visit the city of Beshenna for a time."
The Sorceress paused just a moment, halfway out of her khaki-green underwear, before removing them entirely.
"Are you unsatisfied in your role?" she asked Maksa. "I understand you've been spending quite some time in the Stacks."
"Oh, yes, Mistress," Maksa said, unable to contain her keen interest. "I find it quite interesting, especially the predictable tendencies of the girls' Discipline choices."
Now Pussy did stop. She had been reaching for a jewel-encrusted skirt, having skipped on the underwear that would be a hindrance this evening. She turned to look over her shoulder.
Maksa felt uncomfortable suddenly, and it wasn't just because of the relative nudity of the woman whose clearly visible pubic hair made her obviously superior by many ranks. Maksa barely restrained the urge, driven by that glare, to remove her clothing.
"The girls' Discipline choices," she said, wondering if the Sorceress were engaging in some odd teaching technique. "The way they're mostly predictable based on the choices of their ancestors."
Pussy fastened her skirt in place and began changing her top. There was a pair of breasts Maksa couldn't hope to have any time soon. A Sorceress would always be ready to become a Queen, and a Queen to become a Goddess. So, even out of Division, Sorceresses were constantly upgrading themselves in readiness.
"You are telling me that you can tell what Discipline a girl will end up in," she asked carefully, "by examining her parentage?"
"Yes, Mistress. With some degree of error, of course."
The Sorceress donned her top, a match for the bottom in both cut and glamour. It was a soft, complicated piece of work, leaving her breasts free to move about behind shifting layers of fabric.
"I have to attend upgrades," she told Maksa. "When are you free from the Virgins' dormitories?"
"I put them to sleep at ninth bell."
"Meet me half a bell later in the Stacks," she ordered.
No word on her request for transfer. She could, perhaps, pursue that later.
"Whom do you present to Us?" the Sorceress of Strength asked.
She was the highest ranking person present. This being a night of fairly low ranking upgrades, the Queen's throne was empty and the other Sorceresses' thrones were occupied by their Seconds. That was reassuring. Atreya's presence gave her comfort. So did the absence of the Sorceress of Point.
The Officer standing next to Talla replied to this query, as crisply as Talla remembered it.
"Mistress. I present Talla: daughter of Kain; out of Mih'lan."
The formula. The same formula as last time. Talla willed her knees to stop shaking. This was no time for cowardice.
"Talla out of Mih'lan," Strength called out. "What do you seek?"
"Strength, Mistress. An Extraordinary, for my health."
"I have no objection," the Sorceress said.
There it was, just like before. The torches were snuffed. The drums began beating.
Zhair'lo had found a quiet place. He imagined that the farm hands didn't actually know about it. He'd had to climb out his window, swing along an eavestrough and pull himself up on to the roof. There, nestled between adjoining sections of tiled roof, there was a small corner that looked out over the front of the farm.
It seemed to Zhair'lo that it was very rare for anyone his age to be assigned to a place so far from the Temple. There were no apprentices here. In fact, everyone here seemed to be well in to adulthood. Given their ages, it was quite possible that none of them had ever taken to swinging along eavestroughs and climbing up on roofs for the sheer hell of it.
Of course, he wasn't up here for the sheer hell of it.
He'd started to feel uncomfortable, maybe even anxious. It was a faint, distracting feeling that, over the course of his evening meal, he'd begun to realize was something he was getting from Talla. After dinner, when the anxiety became more noticeable, he had decided to get as far from the other men as possible.
So he'd come up to his room and then, finally, felt the desire to climb up to the roof where he could be alone.
He supposed now, sitting on the roof, looking over the intervening distance toward the Temple, that this was the nature of strange mesh that he had with Talla. Her feelings could just slyly insinuate themselves in to his awareness. He had started to mistake her feelings for his, but the song that played inside his head became loud enough that he knew it was her.
Somewhere on the horizon -- somewhere in that flickering glow -- Talla was anxious. Not in any danger, the way he perceived it, but unsteadied just a little bit by something or other.
Calm, he urged. Just be calm.
Well, Talla thought, here we are. Bare chested and waiting.
She had no point upgrades, but the cold air had caused enough stiffness that it might have fooled some people.
The young man in question, someone she did not know and who had barely spared her a glance, was currently thrusting up against a Keeper of Strength. Talla could see little of the interaction from her reclined position. Just the strips of a yellow skirt and the back of the guy's robe.
She took a breath and tried to relax.
The last time this had happened, it had resulted in Zhair'lo stumbling over to her and -
No, she told herself. Don't think about that.
A wave of relaxation came over her.
She searched around with her eyes and then, on a whim, closed them. A faint smile crossed her lips. It was him. It was Zhair'lo. He was far way. Really, really far. But even so, she could faintly hear his voice, telling her it would be alright.
Thank you, she told him.
The drum beat changed. Talla opened her eyes to see the young man approaching, his erection neatly hidden in the folds of his robe. He nodded to her, politely and tight lipped, before climbing the altar and straddling her.
She saw his penis, then. Gods, could she go for one of those. She had feared that the interruption two nights ago had permanently sucked the sexual desire out of her. Now that there was an erection hanging right there in front of her, she was reassured.
Not now. This was not the time for that.
The first business was preparing for his load and the magic it contained. She handed him the chalice of Synergist, which he took quite gracefully. He'd done this before.
As she dipped her fingers, she felt a little hiccup in the calmness that pervaded her mind. Something odd had happened to Zhair'lo, just enough to give him a start.
No matter. He'd done what he could for her. She was calm now, her anxiety having abated. She spread the Synergist across her flesh. The mandatory part, for a Strength upgrade, was the 'T' formed by her cleavage and the tops of her breasts.
For good measure, and perhaps for the pleasure of the arousal of the guy who knelt over her body, she rubbed it over the entirety of the ample breasts that still stretched her skin. She looked him in the eye, whoever he was, and watched him twitch as she gave soft strokes to the tips of her nipples before taking the chalice back from him.
"Ready?" she asked in a whisper.
Was there anything else she could do? She wanted this to succeed.
"As long as you've got lots for me," she whispered. "These things are killing me and I really need this upgrade."
He nodded again, nervously, as she took his penis in her hand.
"Any second," he warned, generously.
"Good," she said.
No point egging him on any further in that case. She started stroking him, letting the Synergist act as a lubricant. It was so much like her first upgrade: the coldness on her chest; the rod in her hand; the nervousness.
This one would be quick. The Primers had done their jobs well. He moved his body closer, the tip of his penis almost touching the centre of her chest. With one hand fondling his testicles, she knew the moment was near when they tightened in her grip. That hand went to her chest as the other hand kept stroking.
Don't be afraid, she told herself. They won't let that happen again.
The fragile, long distance link with Zhair'lo had nearly been broken by whatever he had seen. She was very much on her own. But he'd propped her up, gotten her past her negative anticipation. She could do the rest.
The boy in her hand twitched, thrusted through her grasp, and bumped against her before blowing a wet strip across the top of her breasts. She looked at it, that charged white fluid that had embedded itself in the clear white of the Synergist.
Rub it in, she told herself, and did it, smearing it in to her flesh, letting the magic soak through her skin in to the muscles behind. More was coming. She turned his erection to spray over one breast and then the other.
She started to feel a warmth there, as the magic-infused semen invaded her body. She was also feeling dizzy. It took her a moment to realize that she had actually been holding her breath.
There was no burning, just a comforting glowing feeling in her upper torso.
The Conduit was dry. There was no point squeezing or stroking him anymore.
Attendants were arriving with towels.
He looked at her inquisitively.
"It worked," she told him in a quiet voice. "Thank you."
He gave her a polite bow before taking his towel from the girls in white.
Zhair'lo, of course, had other things on his mind. There were two benefits to his position on the roof. The first was solitude. The second was that he had a good view of the path that led from the centre of Gern to the farm.
So his calming influence on Talla had been interrupted when he'd paused to open his eyes to the world around him and found a large crowd of women on the approach. They were still quite a distance and not in any particular hurry. It gave him plenty of time to crawl down from the roof.
In fact, he decided to wait a moment. He ought to be able to tell if any of those were here to see him. None of the farm hands were nearly as young as he was, so if -
Yes, there she was. There was no moonlight whatsoever, so it was only the faint torchlight from the house that lit the women. That mean that he couldn't be sure who she was, but she was definitely wearing a long, white skirt. That meant company for him tonight.
He started crawling down over the eaves trough, trying to remember that he was supposed to think of women as interchangeable, a different one in his bed every night. That was what respectable men did. They didn't get attached to one girl.