SGA: Revelation

Rating: NC-17, for adult readers only  

One-shot. When a delegation of gods arrives at her temple, a naïve young Wraith worshipper gets into a situation that leads her to question her beliefs. 

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I knew they were coming. Knew it from the way the long, green grass swayed, bowing down in the gentle summer breeze as if to announce their arrival. I knew it from the sudden flight of parakeets, over at the small wood, warm sunlight shimmered on their plumage as they passed by overhead, like a loud, bright green cloud, foretelling the arrival of the gods. They are coming. After many years of waiting, the Portal had come alive!

I hurried up the white marble stairs of the temple to get a better view. The old, cracked steps leading up were treacherous though, and in my eagerness to run up, I stumbled and hit my knee painfully. Clumsy! I cursed myself as I sat down and examined the injury, which was no more than a bruise, beginning to darken like ink. It still hurt like hell, though. Nonetheless, I sent a quick prayer of gratitude to the skies – it would have been very embarrassing to look less than immaculate in the presence of the gods. Seated on the hard stone, I rubbed my achy knee and watched my fellow worshippers bustle like headless chickens. They are coming!

Excitement spread wave-like among the small flock of loyal servants always present at the temple. Today, I was one of them – Servant of the Gods, to fulfil whatever they wished for. Pride and joy in equal measure flooded me – and fear, for we all knew the risks. If you didn’t please the gods, they would ignore your prayers, or even worse, your life was forfeit.

Taking a last, resigned, look at my knee, I got up and straightened my midnight blue skirt, welcomed the cool sensation of silk flowing against my legs. I walked up the rest of the stairs with more care and turned, shading my eyes to peer in eager anticipation towards the edge of the forest. The breeze carried the heavy scents of summer to me – sweet blossoms, mixed with the lush, juicy smell of cut grass. Then I saw them emerge from the shadows of the forest – four dark figures, the silvery white of their long hair contrasting sharply with their black coats. My heart quickened in my chest and I realised I held my breath. What do they want? Will I see them up close?

They approached the temple with long, determined strides, long coat tails trailing behind like wings. All were male and had a confident, even arrogant, air about them, yet I saw their eyes scanned with restless attentiveness their surroundings, wary. They moved with such grace, effortless and smooth, in a way no human could or did, that I had no doubt of their divine nature.

Eager, I absorbed every last little bit of detail and committed it to memory, to tell my future children about the time their mother had seen the gods. The pale complexion of their skin, the elaborate hairstyles and their elegance burned themselves into my mind. Two of them had tattoos on their faces, black swirls and flowing lines I thought were similar to the decorative borders in the temple’s main hall. The god at the rear of the delegation stood out – unlike the others, he didn’t seem too bothered about his looks. His hair appeared slightly tangled, not meticulously groomed like the others and I noticed he almost seemed relaxed.

By now they had reached the base of the stairs and all worshippers they passed stopped in their tracks. Heads bowed in respect and right hands flat on their hearts, they bid the gods welcome as is custom and right since the beginning of time.

The gods stopped and the one who seemed to be their leader spoke into the expectant silence, his voice sending shivers down my spine. It was the first time I heard a voice like that, human yet distinctly inhuman at the same time, layered with echoes. Later I would find out that at close range, those echoes had the power to resonate in my very soul.

“Where is the High Priestess?” the leader demanded in firm tones that made clear he expected his orders obeyed instantly.

Anar, Keeper of Records, stepped forward to answer and bowed with a flourish. “My Lords, you will find Ansegna, High Priestess of the Temple of the Skies, in the main chamber of the temple. I shall inform her of your arrival and she will greet you immediately –”

“This will not be necessary,” the leader of the gods cut through Anar’s words. “She knows we are coming, the stone has spoken to her. I want to assign a very important task to her and our most loyal warrior servants, and I will not waste time waiting. Lead me to her so our meeting can commence without delay.”
Anar wasn’t amused at all, I could tell from the annoyance flashing across his face. What a pain for the pompous ass, to be deprived of his beloved protocol! Quickly, he smoothed his features, displayed nothing but professional nonchalance as he bowed deep.

“Very well, my Lord.” As slowly as he dared, he led them up the broad stairs. The three other gods remained silent but their eyes never stopped examining every aspect of the environment.

I watched them draw closer, standing rooted to the spot, queasy with shock, when I realised they were headed in my direction. My body wouldn’t obey me, my feet unable to move a mere inch, and the gods were approaching fast! Get out of the way! Now! I moved aside and a sharp sting ran up my injured knee, making me stumble and gasp with pain and embarrassment. Damn! What a crappy first impression!

Don’t mess up more! Head down, eyes fixed on my toes, I placed my hand on my chest. Under my palm, my heart pounded out an excited rhythm; sweat began to bead on my skin. They surely must hear it, it’s so loud, Anar passed me by, displeasure pinned to his face, I had no doubt. From the corner of my eye, the gods passed me, I saw their feet and heard the smooth rustle of their leather clothes.

So close, so close… my fingers burned to reach out, to brush the smooth dark leather of their robes. My stomach churned with the sudden risky, stupid thought that I could risk a quick glance. I might never get the chance again – who knew when they’d come back? And so what if I got punished later, because at least I would have this to tell my children? They hadn’t paid attention to the other servants, why should they notice if I sneaked a peek?

Slowly so not to draw attention, I looked up and my breath caught in my throat – they were so big and impressive, I felt tiny in comparison! The third god passed, features sharp and set in an expression of indifference. The sunlight played on his silken hair, glinting off silver beads fastening his braids. As I had hoped, he didn’t notice me at all. Then the last god reached the top of the stair and my gaze turned towards him, and my heart stopped.

He looked straight into my eyes and I lost myself in those alien pools of speckled gold. Slitted against the bright sunlight, his pupils were narrow, like those of a cat, and I found myself unable to look away, trapped in that piercing stare for eternity. Time stopped, I was frozen, nothing moved except him. His presence was too powerful for my ordinary world; it was like gazing into the sun – he obliterated everything in my consciousness, outshone it. I was exposed, naked before his eyes as my clothes turned inadequate in my mind, scanty even. My legs went weak and I struggled to keep standing, to not drop down to my knees, awestruck, when he turned his head so slightly, keeping me in sight as he walked past, and I could swear I saw the corner of his mouth tilt. Oh not an inviting smile, but one of knowing, like he could see straight through me, right down to my very core.

Transfixed I gaped, reduced to a gawking ninny, until he released me from the spell by turning and walking away. Even so, I couldn’t help but keep staring at that wonderful, silver hair that cascaded down his back. What would it feel like between my fingers? Would it be soft like silk, or would it be like wire, as human hair did when the colour has bled from it?

Common sense prevailed. What did I think I was doing? Wondering about his hair when I should sink to my knees in gratitude and consider myself lucky for not being punished for my impertinence. I calmed down and, feeling sheepish, remembered I had a duty to prepare somewhere for our honoured guests to rest if they wished.

After taking stock of possible rooms, I decided the terrace on the edge of the temple’s gardens would be suitable. An ancient oak shielded the garden from the worst of the day’s heat, a welcome, and cool, breeze stirred the air, and the shade offered relaxation. At each of its four corners, a slender column rose to carry a fragile frame from which long translucent curtains flowed down that could be closed to give a sense of privacy. It was one of my favourite places and often I came just to get lost in the floor mosaic of dark, blue stones, dappled with bright glass jewels, depicting star constellations and giant ships in the sky.

Dashing back and forth I pulled up four comfortable chairs stacked with silk cushions and a low mahogany table. Custom dictated that a bowl of the finest fresh fruit should be offered to the gods and clear spring water available at all times even though it was known they seldom tasted the food of mortals, and I wondered about that as I laid the table.

Satisfied with my work, I stepped back to check for a last time that everything was in place and brushed my hair out of my face. The best furniture, silver goblets and a lavish offer of fruit – this place was fit for any human king to dine in. As an afterthought, I clipped some roses and arranged them on the table so their scent would sweeten the air.

Slivers of ice ran the length of my spine, and I spun on my heel, certain I was watched. My senses hadn’t fooled me – I was about fifty paces away, a dark figure looked over at me. I couldn’t be sure because he stood in the shadows but I thought it was the fourth god, the one who had looked into my eyes, and I looked away. Time was wasting – better to hurry and find Anar, let him know everything was ready, than hang around in the vain hope he had really noticed me.

My nerves hadn’t had a chance to calm before I realised two of the other gods had come outside, they were watching me, and then they spoke with each other. Alien eyes fixed on me as I approached, almost stunned me with their attention and sweat ran down my back. What do they want? Will they punish me for not showing proper respect?

“You,” one of them called. “Lead us to our retreat. We have need for rest.”

Is that all? I simply nodded and bowed my head. I didn’t dare look round to check if they followed me; I went back the way I came, hoping they would be satisfied with what they’d find. Their feet made barely a sound; they were like ghosts behind me and I glanced sideways to see my shadow moving across the grass, followed by three much larger shadows. I walked in the company of gods – I felt like flying, as if my feet didn’t touch the ground, and every hair on my neck stood on end, thrilled.

My body trembling with excitement, I managed to bow, a low, sweeping bow that indicated the terrace. Trying to keep my voice steady I said, “I hope this place meets your expectations and requirements, my Lords. If there is anything amiss I will hurry to set it right for you.”

Sweaty, I waited for a reaction but they just filed into the enclosed area and took their seats without so much of a glance. The god with silver beads in his hair let his bored gaze wander over the seats and the table. “This will do, I suppose,” he said, a faint sneer curled his lips as he spoke. “You may leave us now.” He didn’t even look at me.

Not like the fourth god with the ruffled hair – his eyes were trimmed on me all the time while he sat down, smoothing his coat tails behind him to avoid them creasing. It was hard not to squirm under his scrutinising golden gaze and I started when he spoke to me for the first time. His voice was low and smooth, almost hypnotic. “Stay in sight in case we need your assistance.”

“Yes, my Lord.” I felt hot, like all blood had rushed into my head, and I barely managed to say the simple words without choking. To hide my deep blush, I bowed and turned on the spot to retreat to the shadow of a cherry tree; keeping a watchful eye on the gods.

They simply sat there, it seemed, doing nothing, except every now and then one would open his mouth as if to speak but they were too far away for me to hear even though I strained my ears. Occasionally one would swat at a curious bee with a casual flick of his hand, but none touched the fruit or the water. If I didn’t know better, and if these had been ordinary men, I’d have guessed they were bored out of their minds. Before long, I found myself leaning against the tree, stifling a yawn.

The cursory glance I shot them, just to make certain nothing changed, and they didn’t want me, shook me out of my sleepiness. One of them was missing! It hadn’t been something I expected, but I should also have been more attentive.

As I tried to shake off the drowsiness and looked around wide-eyed, a noise right behind made me jump – a low, rasping chuckle. When I spun round, I saw the fourth god lean casually against the trunk of the cherry tree, one arm up against a low branch. His eyes sparkled with suppressed laughter… and something else, a sparkle that set off alarms at the back of my mind, of something vexingly out of reach. Something I should know.

An inhuman intelligence burned in the depth of those eyes and the longer I stared back, drawn down into the well of gold, the colder I felt despite the day’s heat. This being was old, very old and very different from me. And there was also something enquiring and wary in his eyes – somehow, it felt like a test, one he didn’t know if I could pass.

Then I remembered the advice from one of my tutors: When in doubt, bow, which was exactly what I did. “My Lord,” I addressed him. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Hmm.” He seemed to ponder, tilting his head slightly and narrowing his eyes in mock thoughtfulness. “Hmmm.” It sounded almost like a purr. “Yes, there is something you could do for me. We will be staying for still a couple of hours and there is only so much time I can spend sitting around being bored. I feel the need for distraction, perhaps you can recommend something?”

He moved smoothly, cat-like, and untangled his arm from the branch to saunter closer until I had to look up. Close enough for me to feel the warmth as it emanated from his body and his scent flooded my nostrils, musky, with a hint of summer rain – it was glorious and I inhaled deeply. His close presence overwhelmed my common sense and my knees went weak with excitement.

A distraction? What kind of distraction could I give, and my mind whirled. All thoughts were extinguished under that hypnotic gaze, making it hard to come up with a coherent plan. My mind raced, half-phrased sentences fluttering about like mad butterflies, impossible to follow. “When I am bored, I go for a walk on the temple grounds,” I stuttered eventually. “Usually I find that relaxing. May I show you around, my Lord?”

At first he didn’t react but then a slow smile lit up his face, revealing his teeth and I paused – they ended in a sharp point. But even though I was suddenly aware of his differences, just how alien he was, from the slits in his cheeks, to the yellow cat eyes, I didn’t find it threatening because a glimmer of humour lit his face and softened the edge. “Yes, that will be adequate for now. Go ahead.”

My own smile was hesitant at first, but widened as I motioned him to follow. “This way, if you please.” Now this was something I could tell my future children about!

Heart in mouth, I trembled, but he seemed ready to accept my nervous behaviour, and little by little I relaxed as I showed him the various ways through the gardens and some of my favourite places.

His eyes followed my every movement and even though I knew it wasn’t possible, I’d have said he looked hungry. That was nonsense, of course – a god would surely not suffer from mundane needs like hunger or even… No, that couldn’t be. That expression, no, it couldn’t be, it was impossible… I had to be mistaken.

Flattered by the attention, I found myself drawn towards him, spiralling inwards, ever decreasing, a planet drawn to its primary. And it clouded my judgement. I felt an inexplicable and irrational urge to touch him – if only to feel the soft leather of his coat – just to convince me he was real. I found little excuses to reduce the distance between us further; a tiny sidestep here and lingered there to bring me closer, ever closer to him…

This is insane, I scolded myself. You’re not really going to touch him, are you? The moment you do, something terrible will happen! I knew all the stories by heart, the solid foundations of my beliefs; I’d recited them over and over since I was small.

Fear the Gods!

For the gods will see your soul
and try you with their divine touch.

Bestowing enlightenment and life
only to those of pure heart and devotion.

And bring torment and death
to those guilty of sin.

Fear the Gods… Would I become a sinner for wanting to touch him? Would he strike me down and punish me?

Curiosity, as much as the danger of such thoughts, prompted me to remark, “I hope this is not boring you. You surely have seen much more impressive gardens. Our small temple grounds must be insignificant in comparison.” Leaning on a wall, I spread my hands on the warm stone surface and looked at him. In the uneven light that shone through the green canopy, a halo surrounded his hair and once more I felt an urge to reach out, to feel the strands between my fingers.

“Indeed I have,” he admitted freely. “Though it’s not the garden that provides the entertainment but the way in which it is presented.”

I blinked in surprise. No… a flirt? Surely not? But he couldn’t… or could he? I felt my blush return, heat crept up my cheeks, I looked down at my feet, and stood ramrod still. “I’m not sure I understand, my Lord,” I responded, playing for time.

His hands sank down, slowly, deliberately, next to mine where it still rested on the wall. Long green fingers rested next to mine, the middle one of his right hand covered in a glossy, dark armour, the colour of a beetle’s back, with a large curved talon at its end. Yet again I felt reminded of a large predator.

“Oh, I think you do understand,” I heard him say, words soft in my ear, the multi-layered purr in his voice lifting the hairs on my neck, and tiny bumps over my skin. “You understand all too well…”

Unhurried, his hand reached across the gap and covered mine, light as an autumn leaf. I jerked as if lightning had struck me! Gasping in shock and panic, I half pulled my hand away before I realised nothing terrible had happened – no thunderstorm brewed overhead, I still breathed and a deep sigh of relief escaped me. Instead of pulling away, I left my hand where it was, underneath his. It didn’t feel supernatural at all, but warm and firm, and from that moment on, the way I perceived him would change forever.

When I pushed away the superimposed image of the god, I could see the man. For a man he was, without doubt, and now I recognised the hungry expression in his eyes. It must have been obvious because his smile widened, showing his sharp teeth as he watched me keenly.

“Yes,” he whispered. “I can see it in your eyes. You have finally opened to what your senses tell you.”

Yes… I did, and my whole body went weak in sudden response. He’d played with me, the movement so gentle as he withdrew, and my heart squeezed tight with pain at losing his touch – dark clouds dimmed the light of my soul. But his intense scrutiny told me, the soft touch of his hand had been just a small token of things yet to come.

Turning towards me, he leaned closer until I felt his warm breath caress my skin. Underneath lowered lids, his eyes glowed and held mine captive – golden pools speckled with liquid honey, the black pupils at their centre inviting windows to a mysterious world of pleasures. A fire blazed to life that pulsed through my body and consumed all rational thought, pulling me closer to him, and I moved forward entranced.

My fingertips ached with the need to touch him, and taking a deep breath, I moved my hand up to his shoulder, allowed it to rest on a strand of his hair. His smile widened even further as I studied his silver mane in silent wonder; it felt smooth and ran through my fingers like silk. My gaze wandered upwards and came to rest on his face where his breath was warm on my lips, his nose almost touching mine, and I wanted to kiss him – no, craved to kiss him, even if it was the last thing I did. The sweet longing got stronger the longer I revelled in his scent and I closed my eyes and parted my lips in hopeful anticipation.

But the kiss I was so yearning for did not come; instead his hand closed gently around mine and my heart skipped a beat as he leaned closer to brush his lips lightly against the curve of my jaw. I gasped, drowned in a wave of sudden arousal as he murmured into my ear, his breath hot on my neck. “Not here, not in broad daylight, hasty one. This is not how it is done.”

Of course not… barely able to think, I nodded in agreement. “Come with me. Please,” I begged him and didn’t recognise my own voice, raw, breathy with excitement. Instead of replying, he turned me, both hands on my hips, gripping my flesh with gentle force, tiny stings marking the places where his claws penetrated the thin fabric of my skirt.

“Lead the way,” he whispered. The full length of his body pressed against my back and his lips swept over my neck with tantalising lightness. A fleeting touch, but it sufficed to let me lose control – lust made me arch backwards, pushing my buttocks against his groin, urging him to continue his caresses. He drew a sharp breath that almost sounded like a hiss. “And better be quick,” he rasped, his mouth close to my ear, before he gently pushed me forward, away from him.

Without hesitation, I lead him to the temple. The way passed me like a dream and I can’t even remember how we got there – all the time a sense of urgency propelled me to find a place where we could be one, and the heat in my veins would burn me to ash.

Hurry, hurry! Up and down the stairs, and through the tapestried hallway to the sanctum. I don’t know what led my steps there; it just seemed right. No one would come here since it was reserved for the holiest rites. And could it have served a better purpose? What could be more sacred than this union we were about to celebrate?

As expected, no one was here; the only proof of recent usage a silver bowl on the altar with the incense still smouldering from an offering. With the last drop of self-restraint, I watched him enter the room and closed the door with much more force than necessary and locked it. Alone. Finally.

Breathless, I turned towards him, saw him reach out for me. Before I could react, his hands were on my hips and pulled me close, drawing me into the embrace I’d waited for so long. Words were no longer necessary – we both knew what brought us here and I laughed silently at the ease I now felt in his presence. All nervousness had left and I experienced a moment of deep understanding – no matter who we’d been half an hour ago, now we were equal.

Wrapping my arms around his neck, I let myself fall, knowing he would keep me safe. His tall body pushed me backwards and pinned me against the wall, knocking the breath out of my lungs. Delightful trails ran over my hot skin as his hands explored the curves of my body, wandering upwards from my hips to the waist and the tender mounds of my breasts. His left hand reached my neck and buried itself in my long hair, tilting my head backwards, his grip firm and possessive. As if I ever wanted to escape!

I was on fire in response to his moving, muscular form as I felt his strong leg push my thighs apart, grinding against the sensitive centre. Just when I opened my mouth in a choked moan, he bore down on me and sealed my lips with a hungry kiss, almost rendering me unconscious by its passion and intensity. I felt his teeth capture my lower lip in a playful bite. He tasted of fresh herbs and I greedily drank his breath as his tongue entwined with mine.

My fingers clawed themselves into his back in a frantic attempt to get even closer, to melt into him. Waves of heat and sweet lust washed over me, and I writhed in his arms, rubbing against him and the smooth leather of his coat while I rode his leg.

Letting my hands slide down to the small of his back, I grabbed him firmly and pulled him towards me. His hips met mine and I couldn’t hold back a moan when I felt him hard and curved against my belly. A long, low growl escaped his throat in reply and he broke the kiss to bite my neck, the sharp points of his teeth nipping my skin while his hands grasped my hips, digging his claws into my flesh.

Without further ado, he lifted me in his arms and half carried, half dragged me towards the altar, the only piece of furniture in the room. A swift and careless sweep of his arm sent the silver bowl tumbling to the floor with a loud clatter. Its contents spilled onto the white marble and continued to smoulder; sending intoxicating wafts of burning incense into our nostrils as he picked me up and sat me on the cool stone surface. An inviting smile on my face, I pulled him closer and wrapped my legs around his torso, captured him with no intention to ever release him.

“You are one enthusiastic servant,” he remarked with a sly grin as he bent over me, gently forcing me to lean backwards by running his hands up my body. In return, I reached up for his neck and drew him down for a greedy kiss.

“Well, I’m supposed to be worshipping you with all my heart, aren’t I? My body and soul belong to you… Right now especially my body,” I whispered and ran the tip of my tongue across his jaw and down his neck. He shivered and growled in response, the grip of his hands tightening on my breasts.

“You will be rewarded for your devotion,” he rasped into my ear, as his fingers wound their way through the fabric of my top, questing for the fastener. With a quick yank of his armoured talon, he severed the thin threads holding the top in place and let the garment slide away, revealing my naked skin. As his mouth travelled down my neck, delicately tracing my collarbone with his lips, my skin ignited with anticipation. His long mane brushed over my skin as he moved, tickling and teasing, and I buried my fingers in it, cupping his head as his lips found my nipple.

Gently pricking me with his teeth, he began to suckle, and the banked fire blazed into being, a sweet, hot pain in my belly. Dizzy, my head fell back and in a detached way, I gazed to where a painted deep indigo sky spread, with the big ship-cities of the gods roaming among silver stars. Underneath the sky, cheerful men and women brought offerings to the gods who looked down with a distanced expression. If they cared about what we were doing on their altar they didn’t let it show. They surely wouldn’t disapprove though; after all I was giving myself as an offering. The absurdity of the thought distracted me for a moment and made me chuckle.

Just then, my own personal god released me to catch his breath and I seized the opportunity to open his coat, pull down the zipper and expose his bare chest. Black, beautifully curled tattoos graced his pale green skin and flowed elegantly over well-toned muscles, shifting and rippling with each breath and movement, as if they were alive. They disappeared under his coat and in his pants, beckoning me to undress him, to find out where they lead. I put my palms against his warm, strong belly and let my hands glide upwards, cherishing the touch of his smooth skin under my fingers while he kissed me.

My palms had reached his chest; my nails dug into his flesh, kittenish, playful, except he scared me when he sprang away with a loud hiss. Narrowing his eyes, he gripped my wrists, squeezing hard, and plucked my hands away. Wide-eyed and speechless, I gaped up at him, not knowing what was wrong and how to proceed. As quick as it happened, his sudden aggression vanished, and he relaxed, at first reproachful, and then a little sheepish.

“Be careful when you touch me there! I do not mean to harm you but it may trigger a defensive instinct.” He let go of my wrists and leaned forward, fixed on me.

“I did notice that,” I stated warily, unable to think of a better response. “Could you explain what I did wrong? I wouldn’t want to trigger any other instincts.”

His features calmed and for a moment he hesitated. Then he reached for my right hand, lifting it and spreading it flat against his chest. Covering my hand with his, he held me there with tender pressure against his torso, and I felt his heartbeat underneath warm skin, steady against my palm. His voice was low as he spoke. “It has something to with trust. Maybe one day, you will understand.”

I did understand, in the depth of my soul that he wanted me to feel safe but also that he hid something. Why did a god need defensive instincts? What was he afraid of? He didn’t give me time to dwell on these thoughts though – bending over me, his mouth sought mine. I let it happen and exciting sensations flowed back as I greeted his lips with mine.

Soon, his kiss became more urgent and impatient, he shrugged the long coat off his shoulders, letting it fall to the floor, where it sent up another waft of incense with the draught. A thin layer of sweat covered his body where leather had lain and his warm, masculine smell mingled with spicy incense, heady and addictive.

Sliding my hands around his waist, my fingers found something hard and stubby. What was that? Surprised, I explored further – a chain of small, bony ridges marked his spine from neck to butt. I couldn’t resist running a fingertip down the length of his spine, from ridge to ridge, when he let out a sudden growl, hoarse and slightly strangled.

His tongue delved into my mouth with unexpected force and his hands clawed at my skirt, tearing the thin fabric to shreds. Encouraged by his passionate reaction, I continued to stroke his back with one hand while the other groped for his belt buckle, opening it and diving into his pants. A deep, trembling groan rewarded me when I found him, and as I closed my fingers around his hard shaft, his talons sunk into my buttocks, squeezing me tight.

Breathless, he backed away and tangled his fingers in my hair, gently forcing me to look at him. His eyes were gleaming with intense desire and his pupils were wide circles as he purred at me with a lascivious smirk.

“I would not recommend you continue at this pace unless you want me to come first. Besides –” he paused to run the tip of a talon down my belly, only brushing the surface and raising the tiny hairs. Electric charges went off under my skin and ignited in my brain, rendering me mindless with lust. I closed my eyes and caught my breath as he lazily circled my belly button before continuing his way down – “I know how to play this game too.”

He proved his words by trailing his fingers further down to my shaven mound while his other hand knotted my hair as he nuzzled my neck. His lips and breath were like the soft fall of snowflakes, tickling and teasing, and I closed my eyes, leaning back in his arms and surrendering to his touch. A shiver ran up my body as his fingers reached soft flesh and explored my folds, slick and wet for him and I arched my back, pushed against his hand, begged for more.

Helpless, groping for support, I grasped his shoulders, fingernails digging into his skin as my hips directed him to my waiting depths. I wanted him, needed him to fill me… Already the aching, sublime pleasure of approaching ecstasy began to lap at my consciousness, erasing everything except his presence, his body firm and aroused against my burning skin, his breathing heavy.

Just when I thought I could take no more, he withdrew his hand and in one swift movement, he shook off his loosened pants and pushed forward, hard and fast, his hands clutching my hips, lifting them up to meet his with a force that forced a gasp from my lungs. Leaning back on my elbows, I watched his muscles flex, glistening with sweat as he threw his head back, his white mane flying, and he bared his teeth in a feral snarl, matching my own hoarse cry.

His graceful body swam before my eyes and the room began to spin as he pulled out, only to return with a powerful thrust. Any control I had fled and an oncoming tidal wave of release crashed against unresisting shores, carrying me away and extinguishing the blaze of madness that had my body writhing in his arms.

Sinking down on the cool stone surface, I panted. My body had turned to liquid, sprawled without control in blissful relaxation. I heard him groan, a long rumbling sound deep in his throat and he collapsed on top on me, falling into my embrace. I wrapped my arms around him, holding him close while his spasms subsided.

I held him for a long moment as we regained our senses, breathing getting back to a normal steady rhythm. A trickling sensation down the inside of my thigh made me smile in silly realisation. Another rather unusual offering on this altar – the seed of a god.

Only, he wasn’t a god. Divine though the experience had been, he wasn’t different from a mortal man in his desires and actions. And he had shown fear.

“You aren’t gods, are you? I said, voicing my suspicion for the first time while still caressing his back. He grunted, a low sound of annoyance that I had disturbed him in his enjoyable recovery. Slowly, he lifted himself up, leaning on his arms and fixing me with a relaxed yet attentive look.

“What do you think I am?” He waited for a reply, observing me down the length of his nose.

I decided to be honest and speak my mind – if he got upset then I’d probably get what I deserved anyway. “A man – a very extraordinary man, but still just a man.”

For a long moment, he said nothing; he just sized me up and eventually bared his teeth in an expression that could have been a smile as easily as a snarl. “You know I could punish you for speaking such blasphemy. I have killed for lesser reasons.”

“There is nothing I could do to stop you if you wanted to kill me so I just have to trust you won’t take my life for something as trivial as my humble, mortal opinion.”

“No, I won’t,” he admitted, smiling. “But you will keep your opinion to yourself and you will not talk about this to anyone, be it human or god.”

“No one would believe me anyway.” It was the simple truth. If I started to tell wild stories the other worshippers would frown at me and in no time I’d be expelled.

He purred like a content cat. “Very well. Besides, I cannot kill you because you still have a certain worth to me.”

I soon learned what he meant by that. We got dressed and I did my best to remove all traces that we’d been there. I lead him to my quarters where a comfortable bed waited and he loved me once more, this time at leisure and without the pressing urge and insanity of our previous act. We both took our own sweet time to make it last, exploring each other’s body with tender care and the afternoon passed by in a glorious haze of heat and drowsy passion.

But such days always come to an end despite what we want, and the sun sat on the horizon, bleeding golden light when he gently untangled himself from me and sat up, eyes wide and staring as if he listened to something only he could hear.

“We are leaving,” he said in a toneless voice.

Part of me wanted to cling to him, beg him to stay, and deep disappointment washed through me. I wanted to stay in his elating company and learn all about him and the true nature of the gods. A sudden idea struck me and a spark of hope made me grab his forearm – maybe there was a way. The old scrolls in the temple said sometimes the gods would chose servants to accompany them to their ship-cities in the sky.

“Will you take me with you?”

He took a deep breath before answering. “No, I cannot not take you with me. I have no use for you on my ship… Well, in fact I would have a use for you,” he said with a dirty smirk, glancing down on my naked body before becoming serious. “But my brothers outside would not tolerate it if I brought you along. They would think me weak for burdening myself with a human. For them, you are nothing but a mere toy. Of course we both know that is not true but they… would not be lenient.”

Lowering my head so he wouldn’t see my distress, I swallowed, biting back bitter tears. Silly me! I couldn’t really have expected him to care about me. But to be called a toy was degrading and infuriating – even if he made it clear that he did not think of me that way.

“I see.” Still, I wanted to get at least a chance to see him again; the wish to be with him one more time far too alluring. “Will you come back here, then?” The words came out without a trace of begging and I was proud of myself to have the control over my voice, to not lay bare my growing sense of sorrow.

He cast a long, thoughtful look at me. “You are not like the others, that is why I chose you. You deserve honesty and I trust you are smart and strong enough to deal with it.” Running a gentle hand across my belly, he continued. “The hours I spent with you were delightful and you will remain in my fondest memory but you must understand that is all that connects us. You are neither the first nor the last woman for me and the chances that I will come back are remote. We don’t have business on this world often and my duties forbid that I go out of my way just for pleasure with a servant on the other side of the galaxy.”

In other words, I wasn’t important. His words hurt but I was grateful for his bluntness and glad that he didn’t insult my intelligence by telling me some candy-sweet nonsense and give false promises like I’d heard from men in the past.

For a minute he remained silent while I digested what he’d told me. When he spoke once more, his voice was tinged with regret. “You know I am not a deity, and I also have to follow orders. Orders that may lead me into battle or a place far away from here. But know that if I can, I will come.”

What else could I hope for? I could not expect him to feel obliged to me in any way. My life would go on after he left, and so would his. I nodded – there was no need for words. Sitting up, I shuffled over to him on my knees and wrapped my hands around his waist, rested with my head against his broad chest in a gesture of intimacy. When I felt his strong arms close around me, I inhaled deeply, intent to preserve this moment in my memory forever. The sensation of his heartbeat, his warm breath on my skin and his unique smell in my nostrils while his long mane closed around us like a curtain.

We didn’t talk on our way back to the temple. There was a respectful distance between us as we walked and no one would have suspected we were more than god and worshipper. The other gods were gathered before the temple and seemed eager to go, frowning impatiently. While we were still out of earshot, my lover murmured to me. “Stay behind now.”

And he walked away from me, without another word, without even turning around to see me a last time. The god with silver beads in his hair sneered into our direction and I remembered that I would be just a toy in his eyes. I didn’t like him and now I didn’t even feel awed under his gaze anymore – he was just a jerk. If humans could be jerks, then gods could be as well.

They all turned towards the wood of the Portal and marched away, as silent and mysterious as they’d come. As I watched my lover leave, our last conversation ran through my mind, his voice still clear…

“Can you answer one last question?”

Turning to face me, he raised his brow ridges in expectation. “It depends on the question, but basically, yes.”

“Why? And why me?” I enquired, struggling to get into my skirt.

At that question he grinned, showing all his pointed teeth. “I like to play and you seemed to be like-minded. You did not disappoint me.”

The Portal awoke under the touch of the gods and its noise tore through the mellow evening. Cold, blue light shimmered in sharp contrast on the trees in direct vicinity of the Portal as it released its watery cloud of energy. One by one, the four distant figures disappeared as they entered the threshold. The last one hesitated and even though too far away to see him clearly, I knew, without a doubt, that he looked back and his mouth set in a lop-sided smile, exposing the tips of his sharp teeth. He walked through the Portal and it went dark, settling back into sleep and there was a strange, dull aching in my heart.

oOo

Looking back, the simple truth is he was bored and took shameless advantage of the fact I would feel honoured by his attention. Still, he was kind and gentle, even though he could have chosen to simply have his way with me, not caring about my feelings or my own wishes. That afternoon will be in my heart forever as one of the best of my life and not one day passes when I’m not looking at the Portal, willing it to spin into life. I will wait and maybe one day he will return to me – not the god but the man.

With the passing of weeks, the routine of the temple begins to restrict to me – I can’t share my experiences with anyone and the diurnal rites are strangely hollow to me. The only one who appears to notice my lack of enthusiasm is Ansegna, High Priestess of the Skies. She keeps observing me, and more than once I meet her gaze and find a kindred spirit – she knows. Perhaps she has hidden secrets of her own with one of the gods.

I made my decision: some day I will leave the temple and go through the Portal, to find other worlds and other truths about the gods for I feel there is much left to discover, and the beliefs they want us to follow are not what they seem to be. I only got a glimpse of their true nature but it convinced me they must have much more in common with us than they wanted us to know. Some day I will go and search for answers.

But not today.

A sudden noise makes me turn my head towards the Portal. The leaves of the trees have turned golden and red in the past three months and the parakeets have long departed for the south, but I don’t need the birds to recognise the activation of the Portal. In the crisp autumn air, sound carries well and I hear the metallic whirring, punctuated by seven harsh clunks.

Drawing the wool shawl tighter around my shoulders, I straighten up and walk to the edge of the temple grounds, patiently waiting for whoever comes through the Portal. All around me, my fellow worshippers start to bustle about but I remain untouched by their excitement. I hear Anar shout. “They are coming!”

The blue glow of the Portal dissolves and reveals a lone, dark figure, marching purposefully towards the temple. I would recognise his graceful gait anywhere and a slow smile spreads on my face as I wait for him to arrive.

The cool morning wind gets caught in his hair that still looks slightly ruffled, exactly like I remember it. As he gets closer I see half a smile tugging at his mouth, his cat eyes glittering in silent amusement, and the sun rises in my soul – the universe has answered my prayers and all is well.

FIN

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