We found out what Anubis’s game was (and it sucked big time); Mosi was kind of into it though? Cassie was displeased, but Nubs was a Good Guy and carried the boy inside for her (least he could do after kind of dubcon vampire action).
Oly stormed in to give Artemis a stern dressing down about Lena dream shenanigans (because embarrassing), but Artie was like “nah!” and Oly had to say sorry, and they had weird tension, which led to almost flirting, which led to Artie getting hiccups, and then Oly confessed name stuff to soften Artie up for kissing. Totes worked too.
Too bad Selene was standing outside listening the whole time.
It was auspicious timing that the completion of the Queen’s Rise coincided so well with Horus’s birthday, for it meant an end to the monstrous building project (and the accompanying daily splinters) that had overshadowed his life for as far back as he could remember.
For a long time, no one except Uncle Pili had even seemed to know what it was; an ‘improvement’, they were told. Horus didn’t remember his father, but apparently Uncle Pili learned a lot about woodworking from the guy…enough to build a honking ‘improvement’ anyway.
With the women moved up onto the terrace, the interior of the cave had suddenly become infinitely more spacious…
…even though Anubis still left his piles of books all over the place.
Still, wasn’t it a wonderful thing to only have to share a sleeping space with two other people? And even better that they were men who would not fuss over excessively manly smells (which just can’t be helped, for Goddess sake, Nafi!)
Hot on his heels, Princess Hatshepsut was growing into a fierce young lady; she was a quiet girl when compared to her elder sister, but clever, and Horus could see it would be foolhardy to underestimate her.
If anyone were up to the task, however, it was undoubtedly Princess Kebechet, who was determined to ignore them all (as they were beneath her, apparently); her Highness had only time for sitting on her mother’s throne-bench and daydreaming about the day she could overwhelm them with grovelling slaves.
As a child he remembered adoring his younger sister, for they were near in age and had once played well together…but time, and the repetition of cruelty, had dulled his regard to the bluntness of resigned duty; he would endure her, because he must.
The wagon-box swayed pleasantly from side to side; after a week of travels, it was beginning to have a certain ripeness to it’s interior, but no doubt soon they would reach a village, and it could be emptied and scoured for the next leg of the journey.
The girl was called ‘Deshret’, a clever name, given the mop of fiery curls that spilled out over her shoulders, for it was the formal name of the Red Crown of Lower Al Simhara; no doubt some fool or another was pleased with themselves for coming up with it for her.
Long, elegant bones with a wash of dusk across her skin hinted at some genuine Al Simharan blood, and the coppery hair could have come from a nordic predecessor, but those gleaming red eyes gave away her true pedigree.
‘Gaul,’ Arsinoë permitted herself a slight sneer, ‘a nasty little Gaul succubus, from her smirk to her sandals.’
The pale, red-eyed savages who were said to have been cast out from the northern reaches of their celtic homeland for bestial wickedness; it mattered little what else was mixed with it, the demon blood of a Gaul always won out, it was a well known fact.
“Ugh! I’ll never be dry again,” demon or not, however, the girl wasn’t wrong about that…
A stark contrast to the dry heat of Al Simhara’s golden deserts; the air of Simchu Pichu’s jungles was thick, and heavy. It suffocated the lungs with moisture, and seemed to leave a permanent clammy film on the skin, never allowing a person to ever get quite dry.
Arsinoë was decidedly not a fan.
“Did you hear where they’re taking us?” The creature’s gleaming eyes will filled to the brim with excitement which surely foretold a horrifying revelation.
“The City of Sim’Caritambo!” As usual, the girl didn’t wait on an answer, perhaps she had finally learned none would be forthcoming, for Arsinoë did not consort with demons.
“Can you believe that shit? I’m so stoked…I mean, freaked? Something like that!”
Arsinoë sat with practiced stillness, though she felt the flutter of curiosity mixed with dread; this journey had been taxing, uprooted from the culture and language (and climate) to which she was accustomed, though she tried her best not to show it.
A well trained slave should always be above such things, and Arsinoë would never succumb to being one of the wide-eyed mewling masses of low-bred chattel, completely lacking in manners and dignity, barely fit to serve, hardly better than a stray dog…
“Did you know they fuck dead people there?”
The wagon lurched over a rut, sending the lamplight flickering for a moment.
“I know right?!” The beast’s eyes lit up with feverish delight, grotesque satisfaction exacerbated by the thrill of acknowledgement.
“It’s true though; my ex-master’s scribe’s sister’s daughter Masika said so, and her brother took history or something from some guy who was a really big deal.”
Arsinoë beat her composure into submission and returned to ignoring the fiend; she herself had been exceptionally well educated, and had never heard such a wild thing before.
“Oh man, what was that legend again…okay, something to do with how the king guy picks his queen…”
“…yeah, so after she fights all the other girls…princesses? IDEK, whatever, not important; So she’s Queen, right? But then, when the king dies, she’s supposed to sacrifice herself to one of their gods…”
“…umm, Tama– Tara–I dunno, something with a T…”
“…anyways, these people love them some sacrifice, okay, don’t even get me started!”
The First Handmaiden
When death claimed the first Son of Ayar to serve as King, His Father set Him as a star in the evening sky, and the people of Sim’Caritambo wept bittersweet tears, for he was wise and much loved.
The Queen came to stand beside her husband’s bier and said to her children: ‘Now, I am called Temaz’, and she plunged a shard of white stone into her heart, and her daughters rejoiced, for they knew she went to serve at the right hand of their Divine Grandmother, and would watch over them as they brought forth the next generation.
So it is, that with the passing of every star over Sim’Caritambo, that the Queen lays down beside her Husband to take her place next to Temaz’Calteci, and serve as handmaiden to the daughters that carry new life.
“Where was I? Right! Dead king equals sacrificed queen, you follow? BUT THEN, sometimes she dies before the king, right?”
“…So get this, omg, so gross, you won’t even believe it…they have this stuff they use to preserve bodies, and they like preserve the dead queen and kind of pretend she’s still alive, which is bad enough, right?”
“…But then ALSO, the king is supposed to bang the queen once a month, IDEK, something to do with moon calendars or whatever? So then the king has to go sleep beside the dead queen because symbolism, and like, apparently he rubs one out on her preserved lady bits, because he has to symbolize that too, you know?”
“…Which is gross, but okay, sure, no harm done really? But Masika said that the old king, the one they had before the one they got now…he went a bit crazy because he was totally in love with his wife who died, and he used to do a bit more than just jizz on her–”
“Enough!” Arsinoë’s rebuke shocked the younger woman into silence, “do not speak to me of such vile–“
The Al Simharan woman snapped her mouth shut, eyes blazing, and returned to pretending to ignore her surroundings.
Deshret snorted. Typical of these ‘high-bred’ Simharan slaves; bunch of narrow minded, superstitious, sheep…trapped by all their fancy manners and hand-wringing and tut-tutting over the tiniest bullshit.
‘This bitch won’t last a month.’
Thank you to Emerald City Taurus / Haids5987 for donating the lovey Deshret and Arsinoë to the cause! ❤
Today’s chapter is brought to you by Herod the Great; I stumbled across a reference of him having maritals for up to seven years with his deceased second wife, whom he had had (allegedly) preserved in honey after her execution, and I was like “wow, that’s freaky enough for LotL, even.”
The Simchu Pichuan culture I’m percolating is deeply entrenched in ritual and symbolism, and revolves heavily around sacrifice; they are a civilization very driven by the romanticization of death, and you’ll see this theme crop up a lot in the Ayarmaic society.
In the mean time, instead of a nebulous teaser for next chapter, here’s a mini-tour of the settlement lot as it now appears since I finished the little treehouse thingy!
The Queen’s Rise
The uppermost level is shared by all the ladies, and features a living roof, a meeting circle, a table and seats, and a lean-to for Nafi (so she can have a bit of privacy!).
Nafi’s lean-to (where said privacy is enjoyed); she even has her very own wash basin and chamber pot!
Raet stands in her new bedroom; there’s a stone bassinet on her right (in case another baby happens), and she shares the double bed with Kebs, while Hattie bunks down in the smaller bed next to the rail.
The view from Raet’s bed out onto the terrace with the staircase on the right.
We even managed to collect a few pieces of Al Simharan stuff to make everyone feel a bit more at home.
A better view of Nafi’s lean-to and the meeting area.
What is now the Man-Cave, looking a bit less cluttered than before (Horus is stoked).
The new throne terrace, at the top of the first set of stairs for general meetings and whatnot (stairs to the women’s terrace on the left there).
Nothing too exciting going on at ground level, under the curtain of trailing vines; might throw a workshop and/or workout area down here eventually.
Pili’s little campsite next to the cave is still a thing; maybe a nice guest suite now that there’s room for him in the cave shelter?