I finally finished my novellette, so, as promised, I’m going to post it here for everyone to read. Before I do, however, a couple caveats. This is part of a larger work (still in progress) so the last couple of paragraphs might not make a whole lot of sense, because foreshadowing. I suppose I could spoil the plot point, but what if I become rich and famous and someone sees this post?
Yeah, I wish….
So anyways, if by some miracle you like it
and are kind enough to not steal it, there’s more coming eventually. I’d originally intended it to be a bit more cynical in tone, but what I got was a love story–go figure.
Oh, and there is some sex in this novellette and the pairing is….well….”unconventional”, it’s not that graphic, but in case you don’t want to read it, I’ve separated those scenes out using a bunch of asterisks, so whenever you see these (*), like this:
Just skip to the next set of them and you’ll skip the sexytiems.
Also, like all my work, this story is raw, so expect plenty of grammatical errors, but hopefully few spelling errors.
Anyways, enjoy the story, and don’t worry if you don’t get all of it, just think of it as a nice coming-of-age tale featuring two people who are in love with each other–and then one marries a god, but don’t worry, it’s all good!
Hit the jump to read the story!
I was chosen to be the Consort of the Bright Moon God when I was but ten cycles old.
My elders did not inform me of this fact, of course, as there was no sense in entrusting such a burden to a small child. I know now, however, that the god had made his wishes known to his ensi, and no one was fool enough to argue with a god, especially not one before whom the future is laid bare.
At first, nothing changed—I was still harshly chastised for forgetting a line of poetry or not naming the correct herb to soothe a sore stomach—but then I began to notice changes, small things, mostly, like how my peers would maintain a stony silence the moment I entered a room, glancing nervously at each other as if looking for direction. They did not know how to interact with a Consort, even if sie was only a Consort-to-be, and so they simply huddled together in their groups and made like I did not exist, children can be cruel even when they do not mean to be.
That night, I told my mother and father how my peers had acted. I still remember the look they exchanged, the one that said: “It’s time….”
They took me by the hand and brought me to the Temple of the Bright Moon.
There, I flourished. The ensi that cared for the temple were patient yet stern teachers, but, perhaps most significant to my child self was that I made a friend: a girl named Sanga who was hoping to someday join the ranks of ensi. Best of all, she did not treat me as if I were someone to be ostracized.
“I want to be an ensi someday, like my father, and my father’s mother,” she would say; a note of pride in her voice. I could not help but be in awe of her. We were the same age, and it seemed as if she knew her place. I, on the other hand, had no inkling of any vocation.
I spent the years leading up to my First Cycle steeped in poetry and song. I recited the Great Epics until I knew them by heart. I was taught the ways of various instruments: harp, lyre, tambourine, until my playing was judged to be competent if not masterful, which, all things considered, was to be expected from one so young. I was also taught the precise art of making music with the voice alone, and my singing was judged more favourably than my attempts with the instruments. Besides artistic endeavors, the ensi had me study history. In later years, I would learn somewhat of strategy and statecraft, economics, all things that were necessary for a Sovereign of the City to learn in order to be an effective leader.
I was being taught how to play my part and I remained oblivious to that fact.
A month before I was due to have my First Cycle, Sanga adopted a new name and a new identity, or, actually, a more familiar identity. From that point on, he was known as Sangasu, though he still looked and sounded like the girl I had known. He had already experienced his First Cycle, already reckoned an adult by society. What’s more, his tidegifts—those talents the deities give us depending on the season of our birth—had since manifested, and he delighted in using his newfound ability to manipulate shadows to steal mine. Shadowplay was a gift of the Dark Moon God, but as he was lover to our Bright Moon, he freely gave of his gifts to those born in our Lord’s tide.
I was eager for my own First Cycle to begin.
It came soon enough, a fire that threatened to devour me from the inside, and I had scarcely breathed a word of it to one of the ensi before she grabbed my arm and hauled me to the temple baths, where I was given a quick dunking in cold water (much to my surprise and chagrin) and made to dress in a cloth of plain white linen.
I met Sangasu just as I exited the baths, hot on the heels of the ensi who had brought me there. “San-umu!” I cried, using the polite method to address peers. “What is happening?”
The only indication Sangasu gave that he had heard me was a soft chuckle, to the ensi attending me, he said “I will take hir now, return to your duties.”
“But the Great Ensi—“
“—Has been overruled by the god,” Sangasu finished. “You have the truth-seeing gift, do you not? Tell me if what I just said to you was a lie.”
The ensi blinked. “No, it was no lie,” she said at last. “Take hir then.”
“Pardon me, but I am not a prize cow,” I said crisply as I went to Sangasu’s side. “San-umu, what is going on?”
Sangasu shrugged a little, but he was grinning. “Politics, mostly,” he said, but then he grasped my hand warmly. “Come, Shem-umu, you only come of age once, let’s make sure you enjoy it.”
He took me to a room close to the temple library, part of a series of bedrooms that I had assumed were for guests of the temple, and they were, at times, but mostly they were used for the rite of passage known as the First Rite of Heart’s Ease.
Sangasu explained it to me as he undressed me, kissing the spot where my neck met my shoulder. “It’s to regulate the flow of energy in the body,” he murmured as he traced my collarbone with his mouth, making me gasp with pleasure. “Make it work for you, not against….”
“And all we have to do is….” I gestured to the bed with my head.
“Just so,” he grinned. “Not so difficult, eh, Shem-umu?” He took a step back from me then, and I realized he was waiting for me to give my consent to this thing we were about to do, so different from our youthful fumblings.
My lips met his briefly in answer. “No, not so difficult,” I agreed. “Show me, Sangasu-aramu,” the endearment was like honey on my tongue.
After that, our mouths and hands found each other, and we kissed and caressed so feverishly that we ended up almost missing the bed entirely as we stumbled towards it. Once we lay side by side, however, our explorations became less hurried. I kissed my friend’s breasts, slid my hand between his legs to touch his sex. My own body was no less immune to inspection, and he reached down to grasp my member and stroke it as his fingers played with my own pale flower.
“You’re my first femalun, you know,” he remarked as I moaned and writhed in response to his caresses. “Are all third-sexes like you?”
I shook my head. “No more than any—ah—man or woman! I –I think!”
“Ah, I see,” he said, and then, with a wicked smile, he bent and took me into his mouth. Ah, Illuminator! Nothing I had experienced before this moment could even hope to compete with this—except, perhaps, my own explorations. I did not know how long he kept at it before climbing on top of me, my member piercing his slick sex easily, both of us aroused beyond reason. He rode me expertly, like a man who had done this dozens of times before, and I screamed his name as I came to completion with a great shudder.
“Did you ever think of asking the god to….change you?” I asked as we lay together afterwards, the devouring fire having been quenched only to be replaced by a strange tingling and a sense that there was something inside of me that was just waiting to be put to use, an empty vessel waiting to be filled with water.
Sangasu considered my question for a moment. “I might ask him to give me the semblance of a man, but….” and here he spread his legs, parting his lips with his fingers. “I quite like my vulva, all things considered.”
I blinked, trying to understand. “But, why, when you could have a man’s part as well as a man’s semblance….”
“Who has said this is not a man’s part, Shem-umu?” He asked, smiling. “You are femalun, and you would not say your member is a man’s part or your vulva is a woman’s part, but they are femalun parts, because you are femalun, are you not?”
I considered this. “I suppose that is so,” I conceded. “So, will you ask the god?”
He shrugged. “Perhaps, in time.”
It was then that I recalled the discussion outside the baths.
“San-umu,” I began, reverting back to the way of speaking from peer to peer. “What was that about, that confrontation with the ensi?”
For a moment, Sangasu looked confused by my words. “You didn’t know?” He shook his head. “No, of course not….”
“Know what?” I asked.
He looked up at me, and I felt my body tense. “The Great Ensi was to be your partner tonight, Shem-umu….”
I snorted. “I thought that one chooses one’s partner for the first Rite, as they do ever after.”
Sangasu shook his head. “You don’t understand, Shem-umu. Well, I suppose you will soon, they were planning on telling you tomorrow.”
“Tell me what, Sangasu?” I snarled, tired of my friend’s obfuscations.
Sangasu swallowed. “That you were chosen to be Divine Consort….they have known for some time, Shem-umu.”
The ground could have opened and swallowed me up and I wouldn’t have noticed.
Divine Consort! It was unbelievable, and for a moment I was convinced that I was dreaming, that none of this was real. Suddenly, so much made sense, and so much made little sense at all.
“But—why?” I managed to choke out, at a loss for words.
Sangasu shrugged. “Who knows the motivations of deities apart from the deities themselves?”
I shook my head. “No, no, it can’t be true. Why should I….I know nothing of running a city, much less being a spouse to a deity.”
Again, he shrugged. “I’d imagine that’s what goes through the head of every Divine Consort.”
I sat up, suddenly in no mood to sleep. “So the Great Ensi was to be my partner, but you, San-umu, what is your role in this?”
He sighed. “The god made it clear that whatever designs the Great Ensi might have for the City, that you were his Consort-to-be, and you had to be allowed to choose.” He grinned. “I think you made a great choice, personally.”
I returned his grin. “I do not recall you mentioning any alternatives to yourself, San-umu, fox’s son!”
“So I did not,” he admitted, pulling me back down so that once again I lay beside him. “Did you find it unpleasant, Shem-umu?”
“No!” I laughed, kissing him. “I am glad it was you, San-umu, and not the Great Ensi.”
“Ah, well, good!” He exclaimed, returning my kiss. “Sleep now, Shem-umu, for tomorrow we face the ensi.”
I have a few words for the ensi. I thought as I drifted off to sleep in the circle of Sangasu’s arms.
The next morning, Sangasu presented me with a morning gift—traditional for this rite and after one’s wedding night—of a necklace of silver and lapis lazuli depicting the Bright Moon illuminating the night sky. I did not think, even as an ensi, that he could have afforded such a costly gift on his own, but it came from his hands, and so I was pleased to accept it even if I had my misgivings regarding the coffers which had yielded the money for it. Sangasu was visibly relieved by my acceptance, informing me that a refusal meant that the giver had been a horrendous lover. I laughed when he told me that.
“Ah, no! Never!” I cried, giving him a kiss by way of thanks. “Sovereign Sun forbid that Sangasu damu Adad damu Adapa should be known as a bad lover!”
Our conversation could have continued like this were we not interrupted by the arrival of a servant who informed us that the temple elders wish to meet with us after we broke our fast. He would not meet my eyes, and quickly scurried away once he had delivered his message. Was the Great Ensi wrathful today, or was it simply because everyone knew in what direction my life was headed?
“Well, I suppose we need to face them eventually,” Sangasu sighed. “Although,” he took my hands, grinning wickedly. “We could simply….delay breaking our fast….”
“Mmmm,” I replied, nuzzling him a little. “Tempting, but you and I both know that the ensi hate to be kept waiting.”
“True,” he replied. “Ah, well, I suppose we’ll have all day afterwards. No one who has just had their First Rite is ever worked too hard the next day, anyways.”
We broke our fast in the main courtyard. I was given cold milk and dates, while Sangasu was given a slightly heartier fare of barley cakes with onions and a bit of cheese. Upon pointing out the discrepancy between our meals, Sangasu shrugged. “It’s traditional—or so they told me.” He patted my shoulder reassuringly. “Don’t worry, Shem-umu, it’s just for the one meal. Soon you’ll be feasting like a Sovereign!”
That put me in mind of my meeting with the ensi. I popped a date into my mouth, chewed, and spat out the pit. “How mad do you think he will be—the Great Ensi, I mean?”
Sangasu grinned. “Oh, he won’t be mad at you, Shem-umu, but he might have a few strong words for me.” He glanced over at the entrance, and my gaze followed his to where one of the ensi stood waiting for us.
Sangasu rose from his mat and acknowledged his brother ensi with the slightest nod of his head. “We should go,” he murmured. “Go ahead of me, Shem-umu, you’ll be doing a lot of that in the next few decades.”
I scowled at him before turning to the ensi, who inclined his head to me in a way that, had I not known about my change in status, I would have thought odd, before gesturing for us to follow him.
He brought us to the chamber where all the ensi of the temple sat in council. This day, Divine Consort Gizida himself sat in the most prominent seat, where the Great Ensi would usually sit. In his hands he held the measuring rod, symbolic of his authority—at the god’s behest, of course—as confidently as a warrior would hold a sword. I did not have to look around to see where The Great Ensi himself was, as he was at the Divine Consort’s side, hovering like a great white bird in his robes and crown of office, and scowling like a bird who had lost most of its feathers. Surrounding them on both sides were the other ensi, no doubt here to witness my change in status.
I took my place in the centre of the room, reserved for petitioners, pressing myself to the floor in the ki sub posture. I could not see where Sangasu was, but by the time I rose from my obeisance, he had taken his place with the other ensi, close to the Great Ensi, in fact, and I caught his smile and nod of encouragement before the Divine Consort spoke, commanding all of my attention.
“Do you know why you are here?” He asked, his voice raspy. It was common knowledge that the Divine Consort had fallen ill last Suntide, though he had recovered. Even the Consorts of deities were susceptible to illness, and no one was preserved from death’s embrace.
I took a deep breath. “I do, Divine Consort.”
He made a gesture that indicated that I should elaborate, and so I continued. “I am to be the next Divine Consort when you….walk the road to the Underworld….”
I heard a few gasps from the semicircle of ensi and guessed that the Great Ensi had not deigned to inform everyone of this impending change, but the Divine Consort merely nodded. “Indeed, it is so.” He rose from his seat and came towards me, grasping my chin and tilting my head up to meet his eyes. “There is so little time, for one so untried,” he murmured, releasing me. “You will begin your training this afternoon.”
“—But!” The Great Ensi raised his voice in protest, but he was silenced by a sharp gesture and a withering glare from the Divine Consort. I stood there, and it was all I could do to keep myself from being slack-jawed with amazement. Few were in a position to ever bring an ensi, much less the Great Ensi himself, to complete silence.
The Divine Consort coughed. “As I was saying,” he continued, casting a final glance at the Great Ensi, whose expression was grave. “You will begin your training this afternoon, child. Your elders have taught you to please your people. Now I must teach you how to please a god.”
So began my lessons with the Divine Consort, and they were unlike any of the lessons that the ensi gave me, with them, I learned to be a ruler, with the Divine Consort, I learned to be a servant.
“Pour my drink just so,” he instructed, setting his cup to the side and indicating that I was to begin.
I bent to fill his cup, beer sloshing around as I shifted with the pitcher.
The Divine Consort sighed. “You lack grace,” he informed me, reaching up to reposition my hands. “There, now, poor without stooping.”
I did as he instructed, beer flowing from my pitcher in a steady stream before he gestured for me to stop, picking up the cup and squinting as if examining it for imperfections, which surely were no fault of mine. “Adequate,” he pronounced, setting the cup down.
That night, I went to bed grinning, pleased that I had managed to garner such high praise from someone so implacable.
My days settled into a regular routine after that: lessons with the ensi in the morning, lessons with the Divine Consort in the afternoons, and more intimate lessons with Sangasu at night. He had since asked the Bright Moon God to give him a voice and appearance in keeping with his identity, excepting his sex, which, he informed me, he was happy to keep, though many others in his position chose not to do so. I delighted in exploring this new body, fingers dancing over hard lines where there had been soft curves, caressing the flat plain of his chest, nuzzling his chin, where he was already growing a beard.
“I like this new body,” I told him. “It suits you.”
Sangasu grinned. “As do I, Shem-umu, as do I….”
At the end of my second month of training, right at the time when Brightmoontide gave way to Suntide and the dry season, Divine Consort Gizida set himself on the path to the Underworld. As Consort-to-Be, I was not permitted to attend the funeral rites, for I was to prepare for my wedding. Normally, the death of someone close was reckoned an ill omen for a marriage, requiring the parties involved in the union to wait a year before joining their families together, but Divine Consorts were different—death always precedes our nuptials, and so we are forbidden from attending the funerals of our predecessors, lest death come too close to us.
So I grieved, in my own private way, both for Divine Consort Gizida and myself, for the carefree days that would be no more. I learned later, that the Great Ensi had formally stepped down from his office, appointing a new Great Ensi to advise a new Divine Consort. This was not an unusual occurrence—though the reverse did not typically occur. Divine Consorts held their office until death or on the occasion that their divine spouse removed them from office, which had only happened once in living memory.
And I knew who had been chosen as the new Great Ensi. Oh yes, knew him in more ways than one….
That night, we did not share a bed. It was all well and good, for I wished to divine the future, and did not wish to be disturbed, even by Sangasu. Others require many years of practice to master divination, and then, one is only given brief glimpses of what may be. I was one of the fortunate ones, to be given skill in divination as a tidegift. I did not require aids: incense, candles, or bowls filled with liquid, to make use of this gift, it came to me as naturally as breathing. I used these things because I enjoyed using them.
A beam of light from the Bright Moon shone down upon the waters in the bowl. It was past the time when it showed its full face, the god had come and gone, and I knew some of the ensi were grumbling that the Divine Consort had chosen an inauspicious time to die, and it would have been best for the City had I been wed when the Bright Moon was full. Even so, I whispered a prayer to that god before contracting my awareness to the cycle within my body, drawing the energy out like thread on a spindle, willing it to show me how the City would fare under my rule….
My nose was abruptly assaulted with the fresh scent of green grass and the fragrant odor of cedar. I could feel the Sun—warm and inviting, not oppressive—and here the soft trickle of water. If I strained to hear them, I could make out the sound of hoofbeats, hear the clash of obsidian blades and smell the iron tang of blood. Then, when I was certain I would hear and smell no more, light encompassed my field of vision, angry and hot like the light from a thousand Suns….
I came out of my trance, the front of my robe wet from where the water had splashed it. The signs were clear enough—a peaceful rule, for the most part, skirmishes being a thing of the far future, but the light, that was what worried me the most. What it meant, I did not know, but could only imagine that it had something to do with the City of the Sun. In any case, it was too far into the future to merit worrying about—especially since I was to be wed very soon, so I resolved to refrain from dwelling on it, instead climbing into bed and readying myself for sleep.
That night, I dreamed that my City was ablaze.
The next day was a day of purification for both myself and Sangasu. I fasted the whole day, took comfort in the fact that someone else was undergoing this ordeal with me. It was not until the evening that I was given a light meal before being conducted to the bathing chambers. As servants scrubbed and rinsed every part of my body, the ensi that accompanied us recited the proper prayers, her voice the only sound in the room besides the shuffling of the servants and the sloshing of the water. I knew my part well, and responded to her prayers with my own supplications. When that portion of the ritual was over, my body was rubbed with fragrant oils and kohl applied to my eyelids. My hair they perfumed with the scent of crushed moonbright flowers, plants beloved by the god.
After that, I was given a length of white linen with which to wrap myself, and then it was time for the procession to the Palace, where I would henceforth live until I, too, made the journey to the Underworld. Fortunately, the Palace was not so far from the temple. It would not do for the house of the god to be so far away from the house of his Consort, the two being so intimately intertwined. Sangasu would have already gone ahead, to prepare to house the god’s presence with his attending ensi. I was to walk in front, flanked on either side by ensi in white and silver. Some of the richest citizens were travelling by palanquin. The palanquin that was to ferry me through the City from my coronation on was stowed away at the Palace.
I watched as people gathered behind me and fought to master my nerves. Me? Marry a god? What did I know of marriage? Oh, my teachers had endeavored to teach me somewhat of it, and the Divine Consort, no one knew what marriage to a deity entailed better than he. Ah, but he was dead, and could not advise me. Still, I whispered a prayer to his shade, wondering if he could hear me in the Underworld, or was he dwelling in the god’s Great House, pledged to him even after death?
My mind was like a chattering monkey when the signal was given for the procession to begin. I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other as incense wafted around me. Dimly, I could hear the chanting of the ensi, but the loudest sound I heard was that of my own footsteps.
After what seemed like an hour of walking—but was at most a few minutes—we passed through the gate decorated with lapis lazuli and entered the inner courtyard. All I could see was the great door in front of me, inlaid with gold and depicting scenes of the deities: there was the Bright Moon God embracing his elder and twin, the Dark Moon God, there was the scene depicting the birth of the Sun, hir coming driving the Dark and Bright Moons apart, there the Bright Moon God caressed the Lady of Waters, and all the land wept at the sound of their divine voices in unison, and there, there was the Bright Moon God’s meeting with the Wild Sovereign, Youngest of the deities, hir hand gently but firmly grasping our Lord’s, and there, there was the first Divine Consort, paying homage to the Bright Moon God with upraised arms as the god sat on his throne, holding out the measuring rod to the new Lady of the City.
I took a deep breath, and then I nodded to the ensi at my sides. They strode forward as one, and pounded on the door.
“Who is pounding on the door? Who disturbs the Lord of the City? Who disturbs the Great Illuminator?” The voice that came from the other side belonged to one of the senior ensi. I did not recall hir name.
“Tell the Lord of the City, the Great Illuminator, that his Consort is here. Shemsu is here to wed the Great Illuminator,” they replied. The inside of my mouth felt as dry as the desert sands.
It was a few moments before we heard a response.
“He comes! He comes! The Great Illuminator comes to wed his Consort!”
The doors were flung open and I was temporarily blinded by a brilliant light, as if all the light in the world had been gathered inside the Palace for this one occasion. I only caught a glimpse of the figure who stood in the doorway before I sank into the ki sub posture. It was Sangasu, wearing the silver crown of his office and grasping the measuring rod in one hand and an alabaster jar in the other, but it was not-Sangasu, for it seemed that now he was larger in size and glowing with an inner light, his eyes shrouded from me by a white veil.
The Bright Moon God in truth, I had not been permitted to attend the full moon ceremonies, where the ensi called the god to speak with his people, fearing that he might show favouritism towards his Consort-to-be. Even so, the god seemed like an old friend–he was occupying the body of my old friend.
But Sangasu was not there, I knew that much, the god filled him completely.
I shuffled forward to kiss the god’s bare foot. “Lord….” I murmured, there was more I had to say, but I found that they were stuck in my throat.
The god chuckled, a tremor which carried all the way down to his feet. “Rise,” said he, voice so familiar and yet not at all like that of my friend, the one who constantly shared my bed.
The ensi who was at the god’s side cleared his throat. “The Great Illuminator, Protector of the City, would ask these things of his Consort. The Great Illuminator, Protector of the City, would ask these things of Shemsu….”
I took a deep breath and prepared myself to make the oaths that would forever bind me to the god and to the City. Divine Consorts were forbidden to marry any others, though the same could not be said for any of the ensi. They were permitted lovers, but were not permitted to enter into a marriage contract with them, nor to make use of a dollsire—the straw doll fashioned by its parents and smeared with their blood which transformed into a living child when left in a temple overnight. In exchange, Divine Consorts were provided with the best of everything, it was a small price to pay for such status, most thought.
I suppose they are right, after a fashion, but now I see what a burden it can be—a burden as well as a blessing. I was not aware of such nuances then, of course. Had I the opportunity to speak to my child self of this, would I? In the end, I think not, some things can only be learned by experience.
The ensi cleared his throat, and then the oath-taking began in truth:
“O you who was chosen to be exalted among the people!” He began, loud enough so I was certain everyone heard. “O Sovereign, who is to be the greatest among us, it is from you that the deities demand the greatest sacrifice! Are you prepared to make that, in the sight of your god and City?”
“I am,” I replied, surprised at how loud I sounded in the near silence.
“Do you forswear all contracts of marriage, apart from the one you are about to make?”
I stole a glance at the god wearing Sangasu’s skin, thinking of the man who slumbered within—or was he aware, but dimly. “Yes, I swear it.”
“Do you forswear all children of your blood?”
“Yes, I swear it.”
“Do you swear to serve the god, the Great Illuminator, in all things? To rule wisely and justly when he is absent?”
“Yes, I swear it.”
“Do you swear to serve the City, to advocate for its needs before the god, and to treat all its citizens as if they were given form from your own blood?”
“Yes, I swear it.”
The ensi bowed to me, and then turned and bowed again to the god. “O Great Illuminator, Lord of the Bright Moon, you have heard hir oaths. If sie has given these oaths falsely, let hir be condemned! If she speaks truly, let hir be exalted! O Second-born of deities, the people wish to know your will on this matter!”
The god said nothing at first, he merely plucked the stopper from the jar he carried, and emptied the contents over my head.
The scent of sweet perfume filled my nostrils and dripped onto the clean linen I wore, but I could not have cared less, for the god was addressing the crowd. “Let it be known, the Great Illuminator, Second-born of deities, accepts hir as Consort. Let it be known, the Lord of the Bright Moon accepts Shemsu as Consort!”
The cheers were deafening, flowers rained down upon us, but all that paled in comparison to the feel of the god’s hand in mine as he drew me across the threshold and into the Palace proper, if we were any other couple, the drawing over the threshold would have solemnized the marriage.
But we were not any other couple; we were a god and his Consort, and as such, required a bit more ceremony. The Consort not only acted on behalf of the deity to whom they were wed, but they also served as a bridge between that deity and their people.
Tonight, I would serve as that bridge, my body the vehicle through which the god’s blessings would flow to the people.
The god led me through the rooms and corridors—he already knew the way, of course—to what must have been the royal bedchamber, judging by the size of the bed; the whole room softly lit by the light of myriad candles. There was a writing desk in the corner, and it suddenly struck me how odd it was to see something so utilitarian in such a sensual environment.
I was expecting the god to deposit me on the bed and take his pleasure forthwith, but to my surprise, he merely sat down on the bed. I remained standing, for I had not been invited to sit.
“Would you play for me, Shemsu?”
His words, spoken softly in a lilting voice that was both like and unlike Sangasu, one hand gesturing towards the harp that lay on its side in the room, did much to ease my anxiety. I bowed from the waist, as was proper, and took up the harp, fingers dancing lightly over its strings.
“What shall I play, my Lord?”
“Anything you wish, my Consort.”
I began to play, singing the Love Lyrics of the Lords Bright and Dark, which told of the great love between the Bright Moon God and the Dark Moon God. I did not have to look over at him to know the god was grinning, pleased by my selection. Although, I imagined it was one he was accustomed to hearing. It was sung every year at the great festival that marked the Creation of the Universe. This year, we were to host a delegation from the City of the Dark Moon, and the Great Ensi of both Cities would reenact that momentous event that preceded the birth of the Sun, and, indeed, the entire cosmos.
Was Sangasu ready for such a thing? I stole a glance at the god again, the god wearing Sangasu’s skin, and realized that, yes, of course he would be ready, just as he had been ready for this night.
Do not become distracted, Shemsu! I chastised myself, taking my time to finish the song. Instead of requesting another song, however, the god merely gestured with his hand, indicating that I was to join him on the bed again.
“You are nervous, my Consort.”
“Yes,” I admitted, biting my lip. “You are a god, my Lord.”
He chuckled. “Indeed, but I am not a monster, my Consort.”
I did not know what to say to that, so I kept silent. An instant later, the god chuckled again.
“Do you imagine I am going to throw you onto this bed and ravish you?” He asked, mouth splitting in a grin. “No Consort, such an action is anathema to all of us, and in all our Cities, but of course, you know this.”
I shook my head. “No, Lord, it’s not that. I—“ I steeled myself, imagining my gaze cutting through the delicate fabric of the veil as I looked at him. “I wonder if you made the right choice,” I said.
“Do you think I made the wrong choice?”
The question caught me off guard. I opened my mouth, expecting the words to come, closing it when they did not. “I do not know,” I said finally. “I do not know if I have it in me to lead.”
“That,” said the god, leaning in to chastely press his lips against mine “is why I chose you.”
To my surprise, we did not lie together right away, though we were in the traditional setting for it. Instead, the god made it clear that he wished to bathe, and so, with me following at his heels like an eager puppy, we made our way to the bathing chamber.
It was large, comparable to the communal baths in the Bright Moon Temple, and I found myself wondering how many people could fit into it as I disrobed. There were no servants about to attend to us, so I undressed the god myself, wondering if there was some prayer I was supposed to whisper, or some ritual to carry out. If this was the case, the god did not see fit to inform me of it. His clothes I carefully folded, setting them aside next to his sandals. The Crown of the Great Ensi I carefully set upon a shelf, sparing the thought that maybe I should remove it from the room completely, to prevent the silver from tarnishing.
“Worry not, Consort,” the god’s voice floated to me from a few feet away. “The Crown is fine where it is. Come….”
I obeyed, turning and stifling a gasp as I beheld the god in the bath. The water churned and foamed around him, like a living thing, tendrils of water rising to brush against his skin in a loving caress. He tilted his head back, and I watched, fascinated, as water poured down upon his head as if it was being poured by an invisible helper.
I could not help it. I trembled a little. There were some who doubtless had tidegifts that produced the same effect, but I had never seen do much power used so casually. He is a god, remember? This feat is paltry compared to the power that he can command.
Ah, and his eyes! How could I neglect to mention them? They had been veiled from me before, and now that I beheld them properly, I understood. The god’s eyes shone, not in the way we humans do, as when we are overjoyed, this was something more. The god’s eyes reflected that same inner light I had seen when the doors of the Palace had been thrown open, and I had beheld my divine Consort for the first time. It was something I found so compelling and strange at the same time.
And, right then, desire welled up within me, warm and sweet as bread filled with raisins.
The god turned to me then, the tendrils rising up on either side of him like sentries. If he noticed how my skin had flushed, he did not remark upon it, merely gestured for me to join him. “Come, Consort, you will not be harmed. This is merely a gift from the Sweet Lady.”
The Sweet Lady, the Lady of Waters, of course, it made sense that she would teach him a few tricks. I felt more at ease now, and so I stepped into the water. It was pleasantly warm, as if it had been over a fire only recently, though I knew that was not possible.
Normally, servants would be entrusted with this duty, but since there were none present, I bathed the god myself, pressing fragrant soap into a cloth before rubbing it over his body. Sangasu and I had bathed together frequently, so I was no stranger to this task. Still, it was not Sangasu I washed, but the god in his flesh, and deities must be treated with a certain amount of reverence which one does not give to a friend, even if that friend is also a lover.
When I had finished I gave thought to my own needs, quickly cleaning myself. A gesture from the god washed all the soap away, and as he stepped from the tub, I noticed how the water sluiced off him; how his hair dried before my eyes. As I exited the bath, I felt it, a hot wind—not unlike the desert winds during Suntide—drying my skin and hair in much the same way as it had the god’s.
That, I thought as I followed the god out of the room, is a useful trick.
This time, we made use of the bed.
We began with kisses, light as a soft rain. He pressed one into the crook of my neck. I was a little bolder, touching our lips together. When we tired of it, we moved on to other things. The barest caress of his hands against my skin made me shudder in a way that Sangasu never could have managed. He was, after all, only mortal.
The god was also—it must be said—completely shameless. My people are not the sort to be ashamed of desire, but my new Consort practically reveled in it. The lips of his sex he parted like a veil, and I knelt between his legs to taste him, to worship with lips and tongue.
“Oh yes….” he murmured, pressing a firm hand to the back of my head. “Yes….”
He was generous as well, grasping my member with a firm hand and stroking until I cried out in absolute bliss. I felt as if I were on fire, light filling every orifice and radiating outward to illuminate the world…,
The god left in the night, and when I woke, it was to Sangasu’s smiling face. “Good morning,” he greeted me, his grin reaching his eyes. The ensi feared you would sleep until noon, and they would reckon it an ill omen if you missed your own coronation!”
“When did the god leave?” I asked, sitting up and stretching.
Sangasu shrugged. “In the night, I woke up beside you.”
I slid out of bed. “Why didn’t you wake me?!” I demanded. The ensi always stressed the importance of caring for a person who had finished assuming a deity, to think I had not been there for Sangasu….the thought was horrifying…..
My friend shook his head. “It was fine, Shem-umu.” He pressed a kiss to my lips with a smile, grasping my hand. “Come, it’s time….”
If the procession to the Palace had been subdued, now the people felt free to be a little more festive. This time I went to the Temple of the Bright Moon on a palanquin, and could look out at the throng of people in brightly coloured attire, throwing flowers as I passed by them. Some landed in the palanquin itself, and these I threw back, tradition dictated that whoever caught them would enjoy good fortune for the whole of the next Cycle.
Inside, the temple had been decorated with candles, sweet incense perfuming the air. The effigy of the Bright Moon God was present this time, smiling down on all of us. Before the effigy was the great chair where I would sit for most of the ceremony, but not at the moment, my task was to make the initial offerings. At my gesture, servants brought forth honey and casks of oil, moonbright flowers, silver, and lapis lazuli as dark as the evening sky. These were placed before the effigy.
“Oh Lord of the Bright Moon,” I began. “Grant that I should rule wisely and well, in service to you, ‘til you call me to walk the road to the Underworld.”
And especially grant the part about ruling wisely, I thought as I mounted the great chair and sat as the ensi brought the Consort’s Crown in and placed it before the effigy in much the same way as the offerings. More prayers were said, then, for my protection and the protection of the City, and then I felt Sangasu’s presence directly behind me.
“May the Bright Moon God permit you a long rule,” he said, beginning the traditional coronation prayer. “May your feet set you on the right path. May your whole life be in service to your god and your people, and may the god grant you authority, truth, and peace.”
I felt the weight of the diadem settle on my head. The ensi in attendance bowed almost in unison, though tradition did not demand that an ensi assume the ki sub posture before anyone but their god.
That is how one becomes a Divine Consort.
In the weeks that followed, I entertained a steady stream of dignitaries from the other Cities. Fariq, the Consort of the Dark Moon God, came himself. He was a quiet, contemplative man with skin as dark as the deep night, and I liked him immediately. We talked at length, discussing trade, he was particularly enthusiastic when it came to perfecting methods of production, pioneering new styles of art, such innovations that, while I was hard pressed to understand what he meant at times, I could understand his enthusiasm, his passion for his work.
He left the City of the Bright Moon with many gifts and a promise that he would keep in contact. Some of the other Cities were less than forthcoming.
I did not receive a response from the Consort of the Sun at all apart from a letter in which excuses were made and apologies offered for being unable to greet the new Sovereign of the City of the Bright Moon, apparently due to repeated incidents involving steppe raiders, which, I knew, were a constant source of trouble for the City of Warriors. As War Leader, the Consort of the Sun would be required to address such problems before they became a hindrance to trade, that I could understand, even if a letter was a little brusque, though it must be said, she had sent along some fine cloth of a make I had never seen before. I immediately entrusted it to the Palace servants, bidding them to find someone who could turn it into a garment for me.
As for the remaining Consorts, I did not immediately dislike them, but I did not immediately take to them in the way that I had to Fariq, though Amma, the Lady of the City of Waters, was sweet-natured and Ara, the Sovereign of the Earth was a little indolent when it suited hir and sharp of mind when it did not. There were none that I immediately disliked, though it must be said that no Consort of the Wild had presented themselves to me–of all the deities, the Wild Sovereign was most selective when it came to the choosing of Consorts, and oftentimes the rest of us did not know if Sie had made Hir choice until they were at the gates of the City—but that was hardly a personal slight.
It was a week after the last dignitary departed for her home City that the god gave me instructions that would later save my life, though I did not know it at the time.
It was a long and time-consuming process, but each time a storm rolled through the area, I ascended the steps to the very top of the Temple of the Bright Moon. There, alone, I took a cut length of my hair, white as ivory in the night, and knotted it, adding another the next time the fury of the deities was felt in the City. It was more complicated than my gift of divination—especially since I did not have a talent for weather manipulation—but gradually, the Storm Knot—an object designed to contain the storm winds–took shape.
As to its exact purpose, the god kept his counsel, and Sangasu, who was closer to the god than most, could not offer any advice on the matter. “Wait and see,” he said to me, and then he gave me one of those boyish grins of his. “Let me take your mind off it with some bedroom sport, eh? I wouldn’t want you to be out of practice when the god returns next month!”
I scoffed at this, but followed him to bed, pushing the thought of the Storm Knot out of my mind.
It would be many years before I actually put it to use.