Iola in the Light
The young priestess ducked her head as she entered the room, small but bright because of its light-well, to which her mentor, Tinellukke of the Inner Courts, had summoned her. She blinked as her eyes adjusted, and then gasped softly despite her eight years of training. Sitting beside Lady Priestess Tinellukke, manicured and impeccably refined next to the earthier-looking woman, was the Queen Priestess herself, her raven hair bound with ropes of pearl-shell beads in three long strands, a thin braided silver coronet on her head; she was dressed for important work, and Iola trembled, wondering how such important work could concern her.
The Queen smiled, and beckoned with one long-fingered hand; Iola bowed as low as she could without falling, took two quick steps, and knelt as gracefully as she could. Tinellukke's rare smile said that the girl was doing well, and Iola willed her heart to stop pounding and prayed fervently to the Goddess of Maidens that she could keep it up.
For a long moment the Queen looked Iola over; Tinellukke was quiet, and under that regal gaze Iola froze, barely daring to breathe, feeling like a little brown nut before the elegant queen. Iola'd been nicknamed "Hazelnut" as a child, for her round brown curls, large, nut-brown eyes, and brown-freckled creamy skin. Now she had grown into a short, plump young woman, all rounded prettinesses that fit well with the bare-breasted ritual dress, but she still felt like a farm child before the urbane queen's opaque eyes, before her gaze as pitiless and penetrating as that of the summer sun.
Finally, the Queen said "Lady Tinellukke and I have been speaking of you, Iola," with a small smile. Iola, not trusting her tongue, nodded silently. "She tells me you have the Sight."
Iola's heart felt as if it might burst from her chest. As a child she'd talked to spirits as if to her friends and dreamed daydreams the way others might dream at night, one reason she was chosen from her family to be sent to the Temple of the city their village looked to. Since commencing puberty four years ago, she had been in training to focus her Sight, to leave her body and return, unfortunately with only mixed success. "Speak, Iola", prompted Tinellukke, and the girl managed to stammer "S-some, my Lady", and drop her head.
"She also told me of your difficulties," the Queen continued, causing Iola's head to drop further; as she studied her linen undershift, Lady Tinellukke took up the thread. "Your main difficulty is in staying where you've traveled." Iola nodded, her heart sinking. She could close her eyes and concentrate on slipping to Another Place, but it was like a brief dream; realizing where she was would send her right back to the waking world. "We were discussing how to help you reach the fullness of your potential, because we think you could be a powerful Seeress indeed."
"The key is, of course, to have you leave your body for a time and be able to return, so you can learn to control when you leave and for how long. How to do this without hurting you. You are a Priestess in the service of our Lady and our Lord; still, we don't want to send you to Them so early, and having left us no children." Tinellukke smiled at Iola, who couldn't quite manage to smile back, but did feel a bit heartened. "So, nearly killing you would be too dangerous, and unproductively uncomfortable for you. Besides, you are a beautiful young maiden, and it would be right to offer that beauty to Peleia of the Doves, the Goddess of Maidens."
"And it would fit your warm young blood." The Queen smiled, broadly, showing all her teeth, at Iola, who dimly began to realize what the two high priestesses meant; she tried to shove that interpretation away, but it did call to the warmth of her blood. "So, Iola, will you take the rite we shape for you? Will you lie with several people and accept their worship of the Goddess within you, until the pleasure and the sweet weariness drive your soul out with happiness only to return with knowledge and wisdom to share?"
"I---I---" Iola's head swam. Part of her thrilled at the idea, at being the center of several people's arms and attention; she had fairly recently taken her first lover, six months and so ago, but she had found joy in two people's arms at the Spring Flower festival, and had been recently talking to her lover about these things... her lover. Alixis. What would he think of this?
She could ask him.
Iola lifted her head, despite its spinning. "Yes, your Majesty, I will. May it help make me the Seeress you and my Lady Tinellukke believe I can be."
"Besides, girl, you'll enjoy it." Tinellukke winked at Iola and waved her hand dismissively. Iola rose, bowed deeply, and all but ran, to find her lover and to clear her whirling head.
Alixis was practicing with the other bull-leapers, flipping over Daidalos' model bull, his long dark hair streaming behind him; Iola stopped a moment to watch them, heart in throat at the power in the face of danger, at their slender dancing beauty as they practiced to dance the bulls. Her nails were always short, had been even before she and Alixis fell in love, because every time she watched the bull-leaping she bit them off with excitement and fear for the bull-leapers. Every time one was caught by the bull she wept. Some of the priestesses were caught in the hunger of the Crone and moaned and roared when the bull won, but Iola always wept.
Alixis caught sight of her and vaulted down showily, a half-flip and three turns in air, and Iola bounced and clapped her hands. She had a full bosom, high with youth, so she bounced prettily, and knew it; Alixis' eyes lit, and he caught her around her waist and kissed her to greet her. "Iola! I thought we'd meet tonight after dinner. What bring s you here now?"
"I have something to tell you." At his look of mixed fear and elation she shook her head, smiling. "No, I'm not with child. I... I have been chosen for a ritual..." Iola shook her head again, and waited while Alixis took her hand and guided her through the bleachers of the Bull-court to a place where they could sit and talk privately, hidden in shadows. There, she wound her arms round his waist and told him of her interview with her mentor and the Queen.
Alixis sat silently for a few eternal moments, staring into space, and Iola tried hard not to worry as she watched thoughts move over his face in light and shadow. Finally, seeming to make up his mind, he dipped his head to kiss her cheek. "Thank you for telling me."
"You're my lover. Of course I'd to tell you." Alixis' grey eyes were smoky in the dimness, and Iola was worried despite the kiss. He did not look very happy. "But, Alixis," Iola began slowly, before spurring herself on. "Do you... mind? Are you upset?"
"I don't own you." Iola winced, and Alixis realized why and smiled reassuringly. "I remember the Spring Flower, after all." Four months after they had decided to be lovers, Alixis and Iola went to their first Spring Flower festival, and had found a friend and made another. Iola smiled, and blushed, hiding her face in his shoulder, remembering with him. At one point, each of them in another's arms, they had leaned over to kiss each other, and the friends they lay with smiled to see it. "Besides, well, I love you. This will help you become a Seeress, as you've dreamed, these past eight years and more."
"If I conceive..."
"If you conceive it is the god's child, and I'll help you raise it."
Iola pressed her face further into Alixis' shoulder to hide her happy tears. "I just didn't want to lose you, for anything, even this."
"You could lose me to the bulls any day." Iola clutched Alixis, biting back a reply; belying his harsh words, he kissed the top of her head, and she relaxed against him, and then tensed much more happily as he ran fingers up her back. "I wonder what we could do back here, before I have to return to practicing...?"
Iola giggled, and raised her face to his kiss.
Three weeks later, when the Moon was at half, Lady Tinellukke led Iola to a wide bed in a sacred grove. The copse was not far from the Temple, but Tinellukke led Iola on a winding path, a spiral of sacredness, and also of thick rough brush that made Iola glad to leave it for the appointed place. It heartened Iola to see it, beautiful in the sunset, with trees lacing overhead for a latticed roof, and soft grass and herbs underfoot around the immense quilted cushion that made up the mattress.
Iola started to push her swathing cloak back from her head; both she and Tinellukke were wrapped in thick dark woolen cloaks, head to toe, at the elder priestess' insistence. Tinellukke touched her hand to stop her, and directed her to stand beside the bed; then Tinellukke lifted her hand with a flourish and cried formally "come forth!"
Five people did, pacing out of the woods in a line to stand before the two priestesses, four men and a woman, all wearing masks of red or dappled bull leather decorated with small pottery beads and bright feathers, masks that covered their faces from hairline to cheekbones. Those masks, and a little jewelry, were all the people were wearing. One man looked to have Mainland blood in him, with a short pointed beard of reddish brown that matched his wavy, pulled-back hair, and crisp curls on his chest, arms, and legs; another, slender and whipcord-muscled, had long dark hair braided and wound atop his head, crowned with an eagle feather, and one earring with a bright stone set in silver; the shortest one was quite swarthy, honey-brown, muscular and broad-shouldered, his hair a large puff of black curls, his arms bearing matching golden arm-rings; the oldest one, a mature man in solid forties, had slightly thinning straight brownish-black hair bound with a band and a thong, and the long nimble hands of a scribe. And then there was the woman, long-waisted, taller and slenderer than Iola by far, with round breasts like apples and golden skin slashed with pink on arm and waist and leg and across one cheekbone, the scars of a bull-leaper. Her straight black hair was a shoulder-length, Egyptian style, thick and full, and a thin life-braid tipped with beads of carnelian and gold hung to her waist, which was girdled by a matching strand of carnelian and gold. Seeing these five people naked and waiting for her, Iola felt herself come out in goosebumps of apprehension and anticipation, and clutched her cloak more tightly around herself.
Tinellukke raised both her hands in a welcoming, invoking gesture. "Welcome, Hands of the God," she cried in a deep and carrying voice. "Welcome, Fingers and Lips of the Goddess. Bear our Lord and Lady's love to this maiden priestess; give her all the pleasure They will to her, and help her to achieve the fullness of her gift." With that, Tinellukke grasped Iola's cloak firmly, gave her a brief moment to let go of it, and then pulled it away in a fluid motion, revealing her. Tinellukke hadn't let the girl dress much, but Iola had insisted on putting up her thigh-length brown curls with a rope of red and blue faience beads; she wore only a girdled chiton of linen, and had spirals painted on her breasts, and her stomach under the chiton, in a dense mixture of hemp and honey. On her lips she wore pomegranite juice, on her wrists shell bangles, on her ankles simple ropes of more faience. All five of them smiled, and Iola blushed deeply and was relieved at the same time.
"Close your eyes, dear," said Tinellukke; Iola felt soft fur descend on her eyelids, a blindfold tied beneath her piled hair, and quailed briefly, putting her hands up to the fur-lined wool blindfold; Tinellukke laid her hands on Iola's and gently pulled them to her sides. "Closing the outer eyes opens the inner one. It doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter who they are. What matters is the Sight, and the Goddess, and pleasure. " To the waiting celebrants Tinellukke added "bring forth the mead", and Iola heard someone carry up a vessel, and liquid pouring as a warm, deep male voice recited the invocation of thanks to the Mot her for Her gift of intoxicating drinks. Tinellukke's broad hand gently placed a small conical cup in Iola's, and the melomel in it smelled spicy and tasted deliciously, magically, of pomegranites, rosehips and rowanberries. Iola heard Tinellukke drink with the others, and the cups clink as Tinellukke collected them; the older priestess kissed Iola on the cheek and drew away, leaving the girl trembling and blind in the evening breeze, her thoughts racing as the fruited mead burned its way into her blood. Why did I accept this? she thought. Do I even know any of them? If I do can I ever face them again? Iola breathed deeply, trying to open herself to the Goddess' holy fire, but all she felt was cool wind and fear.
A hand landed, lightly as a butterfly, on her arm, and she flinched. "Shhhhh" said a soft male voice, a whisper, and the hand landed again, and others with it, guiding Iola to sit back onto the bed. She sat bolt upright, her shaking easing but not yet gone, trying to empty her mind of thoughts as people climbed gently onto the bed with her, smelling appetizingly of perfume and desire, whispering soothing "shhhhs" in her ear, gently stroking her arms and shoulders and then her neck, letting her long curls tumble down and gathering them up to bind them with a ribbon into a long flat rope, tying a sacral knot into it at the top, level with her shoulderblades. Gently, bit by bit, they eased her chiton off her shoulders, eased her girdle unbound, eased her bangles off, eased gentle kisses onto her hands, her arms, her neck, her breasts, her face, her mouth. Iola found herself kissing one man back, found herself starting to warm, to melt, and when a butterfly-light touch landed on her thigh, when gentle lips and tongue started to trace the spirals on one breast, it seemed nothing more, nothing less, than natural, all her lovers really one, hands and arms and mouths of the One Lover, as they kissed her and stroked her and suckled her breasts and licked the spiral over her womb and someone parted her thighs and kissed a throbbing path up to part her inner lips and lick the kernel of her womanhood, gently, then firmly, then in pulsating rhythm to match the pounding of Iola's heart until, until, there, there! Iola reached her first peak, crying out into one mouth, her hands held by another's hands, another mouth kissing her inner lips.
Iola fell back against someone's chest, gasping. The mouth on her inner lips wasn't stopping. The person between her legs, holding her thighs with his (?) hands, slid them in, stroking her lips, sliding a finger into her, all the while not stopping as Iola arched her back and felt like she would die and screamed and peaked again and mouths gently caressed both her nipples at once and Iola was held up by embracing arms and lost her count as the wave of sheer pleasure broke over her and drowned all her thought.
[this was where I put the original break between Part 1 and Part 2]
Iola didn't know when she swooned, but she did know when she awoke, a full mouth warm on hers, the fingers of a long hand stroking her cheek. "Lady, lady, wake," whispered a feminine voice, as Iola realized those apple-breasts were brushing her chest, and one of the men was curled warmingly round them both. She wrapped her arms around the woman who called her and returned her kisses, feeling the difference and the sameness. In her adolescence Iola had played with other girls, but hadn't lain down with a woman before, but now nothing seemed awkward, it all seemed natural, as she bent her head to those firm round spice-scented breasts and suckled, as the woman in her arms moaned and chuckled breathily and stroked Iola open with one long-fingered hand, tweaking her kernel, slipping two fingers inside her, reclaiming her mouth and holding her as they pressed themselves together and she stroked Iola to another sweet peak, whispering soft words into Iola's mouth as she swiftly took her to a second.
Iola cried out and buried her face in the woman's shoulder; she realized as she began to come down that in her ecstacy she was biting the woman, who was shuddering with pleasure, moaning softly herself. Finding a scar under her lips, Iola kissed it, and then kissed her way up the woman's neck to her face, sliding her hands down to her hips, wanting to do for her as she'd been done, but the woman pushed her hands away gently as she kissed her back. "Thank you, my lady," the woman whispered, her voice dark honey, "but not yet, not yet. You are our little goddess tonight, and you must carry all the worship and the pleasure we can fill you with to the Lady whose reflection you are." With those words the woman gently disentangled herself and yielded Iola to the arms of the man who had been curled up with them. The man who embraced Iola felt slender and muscled in her arms, perhaps familiarly; he didn't speak, but kissed her as if he had many things to say, were he able, and touched her as if he knew her, his hands cradling the curves of her breasts. His perfume wasn't familiar, but beneath it, the scent of his body was... Iola's hands, questing up over the top of his head, found a large broken feather; bringing them back down she brushed his ear, and he stiffened, his kiss on her neck becoming a nip before he could stop himself. Iola smiled triumphantly, feeling less passive in her discovery, and brushed his ear again, and he moaned, his hands going from stroking her hips to clutching them. She raised her head to his other ear and ran her tongue along its curve, and he cried out into her shoulder and plunged himself into her, up to the hilt.
She gasped, her hands pressing his shoulder blades. His swift entrance almost hurt. It felt wonderful. He buried his face in her hair, murmuring something indistinct in a voice Iola thought, with one last scrap of mind, that she knew; all the rest of her mind could think was that she wanted more, and of how to get it. She kissed her way across his face; he guessed her goal and tried to catch her head but she nipped his earlobe and now he gasped, his hands grasping her hair and her waist as she licked his ear. He tasted wonderfully familiar--- "Oh, Lady," he moaned, to her or to the Goddess she didn't know, and started to fuck her in earnest, with all the force and passion in him.
Iola screamed, arching her back. She found herself crying out in words as she clutched him, the filthiest most wondrous things. Distantly, the others curled round them were chuckling fondly, listening to her, watching her, and that only made her hotter still. She was sure they could hear her in half the Temple, but she didn't care, as she writhed and screamed, abandoning everything, her priestess dignity, her reserve, her control, and clutched this man to her and begged him to fuck her, to help her peak again and again, and he replied with his body for all he was worth, moaning in time with his thrusts, his hands gripping her thighs, until he screamed, and she screamed, and this peak was explosive, heat shooting through her, sending her outward, upward....She came back down and he held her, collapsed atop her, panting "I wasn't supposed to do that" into her neck, his voice receding as she sank past him, sinking with the weight of plea sure, the swoon of peaking claiming her.
Even as Iola drifted in the warmth after peaking, between wakefulness and sleep, arms were lifting her, turning her over; she came back to herself to find herself lying on her stomach, her face and arms being stroked, her behind and legs and thighs being stroked; surprisingly, she was ready again, but then, between the Goddess of Love in her and all the constant, encompassing, almost maddening stroking... Iola raised her face to whomever was before her, and the fingers on one side of her face were joined by a phallus laid gently against the other. This man smelled muskier than the last; Iola raised herself on her elbows, and he helped her, grasping her arms and pulling her gently. "Up on your knees, my dear lady," he said softly, pulling her forward and up, and she leaned her weight onto his thighs as she got her knees underneath her and took him into her mouth. He was a good size, slightly curved upwards; she slid her lips over his head, wrapping one hand around the shaft.
Iola wondered if they had talked to Alixis about what she liked. Some people didn't like to suck, but she had found that she did, to Alixis' obvious delight, and now this man's; she ran her tongue along him and felt him tremble and moan, and smiled to herself to give a little pleasure, to have a little control. Then she moaned herself, as someone else behind her touched her lower lips, stroking them gently as she heard him murmur a benediction. "O shining gate of life," he said as he bent to her, breathing gently on her. She was slightly sore, but his gentle tongue laid to her lower lips cured that and more. Unlike the first person who had drunk from her cup this man didn't use his fingers much, but he was very clever with his tongue indeed, and Iola found herself trembling with pleasure, moaning around the man in her mouth.
The one behind her knelt upright, and entered her, much less wildly than the last man had, one hand holding the curve of her hip, the other stroking her back. Iola had never done this before, either, and marvelled at the current of energy flowing through her as the man started to gently fuck her, running his hand along her body in long strokes, breast to hip. The man before her stroked her neck and her face as he spoke to her. "Our little Lady, do you feel that energy, flowing like a river through you? That is the energy of three people linked together, for three is a sacred number, the triangle a sacred shape." The man behind Iola chuckled breathily. "Then let us complete the sacred geometry," he said, and Iola smiled in her heart to hear the men start to kiss each other, holding each other with one hand and Iola with the other; she moaned, caught in the current of energy, feeling as if she floated in space, her whole body pulsating till she could not tell peaking from not....
Abruptly the man before her pulled away, gasping; Iola gasped too, feeling the loss of him, and made a questioning noise as she clutched his thighs with her hands. "Oh, oh, my lady, you undo me," he replied breathlessly, catching Iola's face in his hands; she raised herself on her arms and they kissed, and then Iola cried out into the kiss as the man still within her wrapped his arm around her waist, stroked his way down her belly, stroked her lips and her kernel and brought her to one more peak, a long one, an especially wrenching and wonderful one that went through her like a summer storm....Iola came back to herself with her head in the first man's lap, shaking, feeling at once aroused and weary. She was beginning to want to sleep, but then, that was the point, wasn't it? The man behind her collapsed across her back, soaking wet, panting; apparently he had peaked when she had, and Iola felt a twinge that she hadn't noticed in her ecstacy.
The men holding her stroked her and each other; Iola could hear the others talking softly, intimately, as she closed her eyes and relaxed and fell into sleep.
Iola felt crisp curls beneath her cheek; she hadn't even felt them move her this time. She was lying on the chest of the man with the curly chest hair, his arms around her, his phallus hard against her behind. She idly wondered how much longer she could rest there warmly and not have to do anything, but her changed breathing betrayed her, and he kissed the top of her head. "We've let you sleep too long already, sweet little Lady," he said, his voice warm and deep, sending vibrations through her despite her weariness. "Up again." He sat up, holding her, as he kissed her, a kiss so warm and encouraging, his beard tickling her with intriguing novelty, that Iola wound her arms around his neck and kissed him back, before she had to duck her head to cough. "How are you?" he asked, and she whispered "something to drink?" A quick conference over her head, and a cup, much larger than the mead cups and stemmed, was placed in Iola's hand. She took a sip, and found the cup full of sweet dense wine; she could already feel it rising up to intoxicate her head, but she was still thirsty, and drained the cup. The bearded man chuckled and handed someone else the cup, and chuckled again as Iola kissed him heartily, feeling the wine burn through her veins, refueling her desire. "You taste sweet, beautiful Lady," he whispered to her, his warm voice stoking the fire in her belly. "I want more of you." He kissed Iola's ear, and then her neck, and then bit her gently; Iola's moan opened into a cry, and she shifted her weight, suddenly wanting nothing more than to have him inside her. He sensed her readiness, and slid his hands under her behind to lift her like a child as he folded his legs beneath her and settled her on his erect phallus.
Maybe she wasn't quite ready....but the small bite of pain faded out, dissolving into pleasure, as Iola wound her legs around him and he kissed her again, rocking them back and forth. "This position is sacred, too," he whispered to Iola, his breath warm on her mouth as his hands cradled the small of her back. "Knowledge of it comes all the way from the Indus, whose sages say it is the position the gods choose to make love in." Iola wondered if she was meant to remember that, as they rocked back and forth, like the swaying of a palm, and she laid her head on his shoulder and relaxed, full of him, full of warm pleasure.
After a little, timeless while of this gentle lovemaking he sighed and kissed the crown of her head again. "This is wonderful. But you mustn't fall asleep." Even as Iola opened her mouth to protest "I'm not sleep--oh!" he had lain back, pulling her with him, her weight driving her down onto him. He gripped her waist and started to bounce her, and Iola threw her head back with a cry, arching her back and gripping his wrists as she bounced with him, her breasts jiggling, her whole body pulsating as she rode him. This man was definitely talkative, but Iola was too far gone to hear words anymore, just his warm deep voice washing over her as if he could stroke her all over, then that voice breaking up more and more into deep grunts of pleasure as he felt her peak around him and then reached his with a cry, warm inside her, his hands tightening on her waist till his fingers must surely have left marks, but even that pressure was an embrace rather than pain.
Iola collapsed onto his curly chest, feeling the crisp-damp hair all along her front, listening to his heart pound in time with hers; the bed was still moving, because the other woman and one of the men--- from his voice, the one Iola had sucked--- were entwined with each other on it, and Iola listened to them reach their own peaks as darkness gently flooded her mind, smiling even as she swooned again. Iola fell deeply into sleep this time. Deeply, deeply....her vision cleared and showed her a small plump girl with freckles and brown curls, arriving barefoot at the great Temple gates, all her clothes and beads and toys wound in one red-and-blue blanket her mother had woven for her. The girl she had been. A boy, only a couple years older but already wiry, his head shaved but for four long winding Boy-god locks, bounded up beside her, dust puffing from his dancing steps in the midSummer heat. "Come in, miss, come in! They sent me to greet today's arrivals at the Temple, so here I am to greet you." He smiled, and bowed, and the little girl curtseyed clumsily, her face all asmile.
The little girl's smile dissolved into the darkness of blindfolded eyes as Iola was gently kissed awake, one of the men wrapping his arms around her as he kissed her. Iola kissed him back, but gently pushed at him, feeling very tired, wanting only to sleep. The man let her go, with a kiss on her forehead and a hand trailed down over her stomach, and another man settled his lap under her head as if for a pillow; but then, another hand stroked her lower lips, and when Iola started to reach to them to tell them no, the man pillowing her caught her hands.
"I'm weary, I can't!" pleaded Iola, hearing the edge of panic in her voice. "Let me," she heard the woman say to the man holding Iola's hands, and they switched places, carefully passing Iola from one lap to another. "Little priestess," said the woman in her dark-honey voice, caressing Iola's hands in her own, "you must. When you can't you won't be able to tell us. You'll be talking to the Ancestors and the Spirits of the World."
Iola relaxed at that reminder, pillowing her head on the strong slender thighs of the woman, clinging to her strong, gentle hands. The touch on her lower lips returned, gently, but stroked its way up over her trembling stomach to curl spirals around her breasts and across her neck, where the man touching her kissed her, one side, then the other, then her mouth. Iola quivered against his mouth, but he persevered, kissing her warmly, stroking her gently, till she caught his fire and started to kiss him back. All the while, the woman held her hands.
This time was harder than before, Iola's weariness dragging down against her pleasure. Draped beside and over her, the man stroking Iola slid one, then two, then three fingers into her. He kissed his way down her body as Iola distantly heard one of the men---he of the eagle feather?---worry aloud, "are we hurting her?" The man he talked to said, "go help her, then," and he did, coming to kiss Iola, to cradle her breasts and kiss them as she trembled and struggled towards that last peak, the distance between pain and pleasure collapsing, the line between them dissolving....fingers turning within her, a tongue on her kernel and another twining round her nipple, hands holding hers, Iola thrashed towards that last peak, tears bursting from her eyes as finally, it took her, crackling over her, sweeping through her, bearing her out of her body....Iola heard herself sob once more, as distantly as a dream, as she rose up and up and up....
Iola opened her eyes. She stood on fathomless reaches of coruscating air, stars beneath her feet, the Moon dancing above her, wreathed in clouds of light. She knew the scene, but the realization didn't cause it all to break like a bubble; she was There, as long as she needed to be.... A woman with a glowing face, her dress shining light, her hair dressed with strings of stars, appeared with a smile, extending shining hands to Iola. The girl held out her hand, and saw that it, that she, was glowing too...
Iola never knew how long she was there. Things she was told there, faces she saw wavering and glowing, came back to her all her life, in dreams, in dreamlike bits of the day. Eventually, though, her own mother's mother kiss to her cheek sent Iola spiralling like a falling leaf back to the world of the living, back to her weary, happy, pleasure-wracked body. Birdsong dripped into her ear, and warm arms encircled her... Iola woke, and coughed, her mouth dry. The man lying beside her stirred, saying, "do you want water?"
Iola opened her eyes to the dawn, slowly turning over. Alixis sat up next to her, naked, his hair in a bedraggled pile still crowned by a broken eagle-feather. It had been him, her own Alixis. She smiled, and tried to speak, and was forced to nod when no sound came out. He smiled, but the corners of his eyes still looked worried; he gave her a large coarse-ware cup of cool water, and refilled it twice from the pitcher before she'd had enough.
Then, and only then, but with all his worry and impatience and love showing through, Alixis kissed Iola hard, clutching her tightly. "Iola. You're beautiful. You terrified me. When you went into trance---" he looked down, and then into her eyes again. "I'm glad they chose me to be with you anyway. The others told me I was fortunate to have you for my lover." and he smiled. Iola smiled back, reaching up a hand to his face. "I knew you were there," she said, her voice still a little raspy.
He looked surprised. "And you said nothing?"
"It fit to let you stay nameless then. You were being a hand of the God, a mouth of the Goddess." Iola sighed and stretched and reached a hand to the ragged sacral knot still loosely binding her hair. She felt wonderful and bruised all over at the same time. "I love you."
And hungry, too, as her stomach rumbled. "I love you, too," Alixis said, relieved to cheerfulness, and he clutched Iola and kissed her passionately, then remembered how worn she must be and let go of her. "So....you reached your goal?"
"Yes, yes I did!" Iola clutched Alixis in turn, exultation winning over weariness. "I reached Beyond, I stayed. I know Where to go, how to stand on light and not fall..." Iola looked into the morning light, remembering that clear light beyond any human eyes could see. "I have to try to go again." Alixis looked at her reprovingly, and she giggled. "Not quite yet, though. First, I need to recover. I feel as if I had been pressed like wine-grapes."
"Well, you were pressed." Alixis grinned, and Iola giggled again, as he got out of the bed and extended a hand to help her up. He wrapped the cloak around them both, his arm round her waist beneath it, and she leaned on him as they made their way back to the Temple.
This story-scene goes with my story about the ritual evocation of erotocomatose lucidity. It's another view of the events of that story. Of course, read the disclaimer first.
Iola arched her back and screamed.
Alixis, his head pushed up by her body's violent movement, opened his eyes to watch her peak. She always looked beautiful in the throes of pleasure; she always looked beautiful. And when she peaked, her skin shimmering with moisture, her eyes closed, freckles radiant, all her body almost glowing...But this time almost, no it did frighten him. She looked as if she were in pain, writhing, tears running from her eyes.
As abruptly as she'd started, Iola collapsed. Unnaturally swiftly, frighteningly completely; Alixis raised his hand to touch her still cheek, and she didn't respond at all. "Iola?" he called gently, stroking her cheek, trying to resist the urge to shake her. No change; her wide eyelids, draped over those nut-brown eyes, looked sunken and blue. Alixis' other hand found hers, and it was cool and limp, barely warming in his own. "Iola?"
Potidi kissed Iola's stomach reverently just over her womb, then pulled himself up beside the young couple, draping his arm across Iola to pat Alixis' shoulder. "She's fine, my lad."
"She's as limp as a gored bulldancer!" Alixis stared down into his lover's pale still face, all the mouthwatering little freckles seeming to float above her unnaturally translucent skin. Had they hurt her? As if he heard the young man's thought, Potidi patted Alixis more firmly. "She's in trance. That's where we were all trying to send her." Alixis looked up, about to snap with worry, but couldn't stay angry at Potidi's cheerful grin. "Be proud! You've helped love a maiden half to---" Potidi caught himself, scratching his head of puffy black curls, and after a moment spoke better. "Helped her reach her goal through love."
Alixis nodded, but buried his face in Iola's brown curls anyway, holding her tightly to him. She felt as if she barely breathed. Potidi and the bulldancer from Phaistios spoke softly above them; then the bulldancer laid her long arm across Alixis and kissed his ear. "She will be fine, younger brother," she said in her smoke-and-honey voice. "She is communing with our Ancestors and the Spirits of the World. She will return to you in joy. She will be fine." Alixis lifted his head to look at her, but she was looking at Iola, her full lips curved in a gently lustful smile; he suspected she'd enjoyed her part in this evening, her turns with Iola. They all had. Iola was splendidly enjoyable, more beautiful than she knew, and Alixis, handsome bull-leaper that he was, the pride of the Temple and of its gentlemen and ladies, still counted himself fortunate to have her love.
The lady bulldancer smiled at Alixis and leaned over him to kiss him for a long moment, then pulled the long cloak Iola had worn up over them both. "Keep her warm", she advised. "She can't care for her body right now; she's not in it. You need to take care of her till she returns and recovers." Alixis nodded, awed; the lady bull-dancer seemed perhaps ten years his elder, which was very old (and lucky!) for a bull-dancer, and even wiser than her years. He wondered if she were a Priestess as well, she knew so much.
Potidi kissed Alixis' cheek too, and Iola's still face, and got up to shake the older scribe gently, as he'd dozed off on the grass. The scribe from the Mainland had vanished off somewhere, but soon returned with two jugs of water and a large coarse cup; he handed one jug round, since lovemaking was thirsty pleasure, but set the other beside the bed with the cup. "That's for the morning. She'll be thirsty and hungry and weak, as if from a fever. Make sure she drinks well."
Then the scribe winked. "Lively women you have here on your Island," he said, and the bulldancer laughed with him and went round the bed to take his arm. "We should leave these sweet young people," she advised. "The Lady has risen in the Moon to watch over Her handmaiden, and it is time for all of us to rest." Alixis wondered how much rest they would be getting, clinging to each other like that, as he saluted them with a smile; Potidi blew Alixis a kiss, and the scribe waved sleepily, and off they went back to the Palace, taking the oil-lamp to light their steps. Alixis was left in the soft moonlight, his arms around his trancebound lover. Within the cloak they were warm; Alixis wrapped his limbs more firmly around Iola and let himself relax into sleep, trusting the Goddess to help him care for Her servant, his lover.