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A HEAD FOR A HARLOT
Two burning candles and a chalice filled with strong drink sat on either edge of the cream, silk lace draped over the altar stone erected at the base of the throne steps; and down those same steps came a graceful woman in a pair of crystal shoes with leather straps snuggly spiraled up her firm, olive tone legs. Her luscious body hid behind a billowing, linen, high-neck dress handspun from the flax of the Old World and ornamented with dazzling beads that webbed passed the soft leather ivory belt hung loosely on her hips to the fringes that brushed against her fleshy thighs.
Nothing covered her slender arms but a pair of thin, silver bracelets dangling at her wrists and reflecting her wide, shimmering earrings. A circlet of fine silver, forming two wolves that met with a center ruby gemstone, wrapped around her long, ebony hair, dyed with henna, that fell to her waist in long, cascading locks; all of which complemented the dark kohl that accentuated her almond-shaped eyes and deep pupils and the red ochre that stained her full lips and high cheeks. She had even glossed her nails, but her fingers remained nude except for a silver signet ring on her left hand.
Five, strapping young men fully covered in hoods and double-breasted, raven-colored, moiré cassocks cinctured with full-grain leather belts bearing a wolf insignia marched proudly out of the vestibule and through the nave, one of whom carrying a silver platter with a polished, dome top. None of the glabrescent and castrated novitiates dared to approach the altar and incur the great wraths of which the ecclesiastics had warned them should they offer strange worship to the gods, so they halted at the crossing and waited for the bewitching matriarch to invite them. The echoes of her gentle stride amplified her dark presence so that the subordinates prostrated themselves until she stood before them, the echoes ceased, and she ordered them to rise and remove their dusky moccasins embroidered with an X of two arrows on the vamp.
“That is the royal crest of the House of Sagittae, not the house of my fathers,” she said with contempt, as they kicked off their soft-soled shoes clotted with dirt. “You will not ever defile this sanctuary again with those vile rags lest I use your blood to purge the walls. Have you understood your queen, Gentlemen?”
All of them bowed penitently and swore vows to uphold the house and throne of their empress till world’s end. Then the leader genuflected on one knee with his head hung low and his arms held high and offered the polished serving dish as an oblation. “We have found your prince, my queen,” he reverently whispered, as she gingerly reached for the oval finial and removed the domical top to expose a severed head, bruised and scarred with long strands of blood-soaked, deep-brown hair and coroneted with an olive wreath. She handed the lid to one of the partisans without drawing away her lustful gaze from the abhorrent visage and lifted the head off the plate to more closely inspect all the minutiae and nuances.
“The head of our once undying warrior now in the palms of my hands,” she declared triumphantly, but then the fire in her chestnut eyes burned out and turned hollow as her nefarious smile metamorphosed to a scowl full of gnashing teeth. She flushed with anger and hurled the decapitated head over the men with a trail of blood and tissue streaming out the neck followed by a succession of crimson splatter as it tumbled down the nave. “You foolish pigs! This day you have brought shame upon my house and throne twofold!”
“We have brought you the head of your prince, Goddess,” the leader retorted, sharing puzzled glances with his reticent comrades. “What do you mean by this, that we have brought shame upon your house and throne? Did we not afflict ourselves with knives to stem our lust and yield ourselves to your house and throne? And moreover here we have brought you the man adequate to stem your own lust, but you are unsatisfied. For what, Goddess?”
“The prince you have sought is not here,” she hissed with flaring nostrils and tingling nerves; her face turned a darker shade of red as her heart pounded with fury and angst. “That is not the man I sent you to fetch!”
The leader stood erect and stared boldly into the queen’s eyes. “We traveled to a dangerous place where your great kings of old were laid to rest after they suffered the trials—to a place where you said we would find your prince, and we have brought him here before you this day. That man is the man that we swore to find for you, and there is not another like him.”
“You dare defy me?” she screamed with malice. “You will not speak out of place!” She stretched forth her arm and levitated the gallant leader whose body sprawled and stiffened as the other four men prostrated themselves in fear. The chief eunuch could not even speak, as a malevolent force slowly compressed his throat; beads of sweat blurred his vision and his skin turned pale blue as he hovered several feet off the ground. “And you will not fail me again.” With a deadly frequency she telekinetically calcified his soft tissue till he was nothing more than a living statue lying in a mound of salt that cascaded off his fossilized body.