Blood Bourne (Chapter 4)

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Blood Bourne (Chapter 4)

Post  thisangel on Wed 02 Jun 2010, 12:53 pm

(Sorry about not being online lately...my computer crashed the other day, and although I managed to salvage it enough to do offline stuff - the moment I try to go online..."poof, bleh, freeze, blackout!"....So I am in an internet cafe at the moment. I will get online to post more chapters when I can. The good news is I've finished Chapters 12 and 13, and am on to Chapter 14 now - wh00t! - meanwhile...here's Chapter 4. As always, any and all feedback is greatly appreciated. Cheers! Very Happy)

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Chapter Four: Ur Temple Complex, Sumerian Empire. 1940 BCE

The day dawns bright and hot, the fields out beyond my chamber window already shimmering in the light of the rising sun. I have been up for three hours before sunrise, praying, meditating with both still and physical held forms - preparing for the next stage of my service to the gods. The past fifteen years have passed swiftly under the tutelage of the priesthood. I have learned my lessons well, and know the ancient teachings and laws by heart. I have taken my turn embodying Inanna, learning the art of lovemaking and offering myself to the men who are found worthy of representing the god at each New Year. I have presided over ritual and ceremony, time and time again. And now I have been found worthy to undergo the rites that will make me a High Priestess of Inanna. The High Priestess. When my mother dies, I will be her successor. She has named me so.

There are some who whisper behind my back because of this. They say there was never any doubt, that I am and always was simply spoiled, and that the Priesthood is corrupt. I hear what they say. And I ignore them. The envious mutterings of small minds. I know that I was chosen by the Goddess Herself. In my mind there is no doubt. My mother is the Voice of The Goddess – as I shall be after her.

As the sun arcs over the horizon, three younger priestesses enter my chamber, to bathe and dress me in the finest new linens, to oil and braid my waist-length black hair and coil it around my head, and to place about my person the beaded jewelry of bronze, inlaid gold and precious stones that the people have tithed to the temple. The ritual will take place at Sunset, as the sun passes through the doorway on it’s way into the underworld. This symbolizes that my education is complete, and that I too may journey at will into the underworld to speak with the gods, and deliver their message to the people. After the women wash me, and anoint me with sacred oils, they give me a drink made of sacred roots and herbs to aid me on my journey. Then I am led into the cool darkness of a hidden chamber - built for this very purpose - in the courtyard beneath the modest temple of Inanna. I will stay here, fasting in silent meditation, communing with the gods, for the next three days and nights.

The herbs make me ill, but I am ready for this. I do not allow myself to be sick – not yet. I wait in silence for the message that I know will come. It isn’t long until the visions begin. I feel a last wave of nausea wash over me and watch as the two serpents inked into my arms, marking me as a chosen of Inanna - begin to move, dancing and writing along my skin. Then all the color around me – of my robes, and jewels, of the lapis inlaid tiles in the stone wall around me, even of my own skin and hair - first intensifies, then melts together. Everything begins to spin around me in sickeningly complex patterns - faster and faster, until I am dizzy and must close my eyes against the storm. As soon as I do, the walls and ceiling of the little stone chamber melt away, and I can see the sky above. Galaxies whirl in great spirals of stars, stars spin in their orbits, planets spin around stars and moons around planets. All in perfect synchronicity. It is beyond beautiful.

I see the world our gods came from, and the world beyond that their gods came from. Suddenly, I understand - that the gods have gods and those gods also have gods and even those gods have gods. One day I see that I too, and all my people will become as gods to another people, and those people will one day be as gods to a people so far into a future world that I cannot comprehend it. The understanding fills me with wonder and I begin to weep uncontrollably. As I do the visions take a darker turn, and I watch as world after world begins to burn and fall from the sky. Thunder and fire crash together and this world – my world - also begins to burn.
I cry out as I hear the screams of the people in the city below. They are dying, burning. I reach for them, trying to help them, to save my people from this terrible fate - and I fall face down to the cool floor of the chamber, awake, sick...and horribly aware that outside the walls there are screams, and they are real.

I get to my feet, still retching from the herbs, stumble to the window and pull back the heavy curtain. Black smoke billows from the buildings below, blotting out the sun, and an orange glow fills the darkening sky. My city is on fire. With a cry I run out into the courtyard. The screams grow louder, and I can now hear the clash of weapons in the streets below. Marauders. Down from the mountains – it must be.

Even as I think it, dark shapes run out of the smoke and up to the gates of the Temple complex. The gates will not hold – they are not designed to keep anyone out. I run across the courtyard toward the buildings that house the priesthood. As I do, a shout goes up from the enemy at the gate as it goes crumbling to the ground in a cloud of rubble and dust. They’re in. I run harder, faster – trying to make it inside before they see me. I round the corner of my own house, the one I share with my mother and sisters – and stumble and fall over a pile of what at first seems to be a heap of smoldering rags. I hit the ground hard, and for a second I lie there, stunned – not registering what I’m seeing. The smoldering rags...are the charred and broken remains of the body of my mother. Her eyes are open and staring, her skin blackened, her rich jewelry torn from her, what is left of her clothing shredded and bloodied. My mother – the High Priestess. Dead. Murdered.

Someone starts to scream, and keeps on screaming - and it isn’t until the men are upon me that I realize it’s me. One of the men lunges at me, grabbing my legs, while another yanks my arms up behind me, painfully. I realize then what they want. Wildly, I tear myself out of their grasp, kicking one of the men in the face and then lunging backwards, bloodying the nose of the one holding my arms. The men shout, angrily at each other, and me in their course foreign tongue, as I struggle to my feet and start to run, back to the courtyard – no thought in my mind but to get away.

I don’t get far. There is a whistling sound, like the wind through the long river grass – and suddenly I feel a burning pain in my side. Startled, I look down – and see the bloodied black point of an arrow protruding from my abdomen. The pain hits then – a cold fire blooming from the wound. My own blood pours hot against my skin, my breath fails me, and I stumble, falling to my knees at the edge of the courtyard. The men surround me, their rough hands pulling at me, their rough voices ringing in my ears like thunder. Someone holds me down, pulling at my bracelets and rings – my skirts - and the burning pain becomes searing as the arrow drives deeper into my side. My vision blurs as the men take what they want. I am bleeding horribly – they must know that I am dying, but it doesn’t matter to them as they rob me, stripping me of my jewels and linens, and then moving away. All but one. I choke and retch as he leers over me, pressing his stinking weight down against me. He would take more than the others. I meet his eyes, dark to my blue, and see nothing but greed and a vile and twisted lust. He struggles with his belt, and as he does so, I feel the cold hilt of his dagger dig into my thigh. Somehow, my mind latches on to this one chance. Straining against the pain in my side, I reach – stretching as far as I can – and my fingers close around the weapon. I know I only have this one last moment to act.

I yank the dagger free of its scabbard and before he can react, drive the curving blade deep into his throat. A wound for a wound. His snarl turns into a gurgling gasp as his eyes open wide in shock and pain. Using all my strength, I shove him off me as he dies, biting my tongue against the pain as the arrow in my gut breaks off in the process. Rolling away, I get to my knees and yank the other half of the arrow out of my side. Blood gushes from the wound, and a wave of dizziness washes over me. But I cannot stop now.

Keeping the dagger, I manage to crawl away, and then stumble to my feet, clutching the deep gash in my side and gasping with pain. Desperation drives me on, as I half-run; half fall down the narrow passage that leads to the Great Temple, E-gish-shir-gal. The smoke of the burning city makes me gasp and choke as I weave toward the safety of the Ziggurat. The enemy will not destroy the Temple of The Great God – surely they are afraid to. There I will be safe, there I will make my stand. I reach the shelter of the last building before the open courtyard of the temple, and stop, my right hand clutching the wound in my side, my left gripping the dagger tight.

The square is filled with the smoke of a hundred burning buildings, and through the haze I can see the bodies of my dead brothers and sisters, and the shadowed forms of the soldiers of the enemy. I will have to run, and risk discovery to make the temple – but I will die at a place of my own choosing.

Pushing myself forward I stumble across the courtyard toward the steps. In the smoke no one sees me. Yet. I reach the bottom step, and begin to climb as best I can, the wound in my side bleeding freely. I force myself upwards by will alone. I am a third of the way up when I hear a shout from below, and I know I am discovered. Grimacing against the pain, I will my feet to move faster, as I hear more shouts and running feet below. Faster then – I half crawl up the steps, through the lower arch and up even further - using my hands as much as my feet - more even – the rough brick scraping the flesh from my fingers as I claw my way toward the shrine at the top – toward the House of the God Nanna.

The men below are gaining on me. To them this is a game – I can hear their jeers and taunts as they hound me – driving me to the top, where they will seek to take me again, I know it – and that knowledge more than anything else drives me on. I crawl up the last remaining steps, and fall though the final archway into the shrine. At last. Holding the dagger before me, I glare at the men as they approach. No. They are not men. They are animals that would desecrate this Holy Place – who would rape a Daughter of Inanna. They are no better than the beasts of the hills that they hail from. I spit at the first one that reaches the platform, and slash wide with the dagger.

The others soon catch up and surround me, jeering at laughing at me and at one another in their own tongue, assuming I will not understand. But I do. They call me black-headed whore and worse names that I will not repeat. One lunges at me again, and I slash his arm, slicing deeply with my stolen dagger – at the same time cursing him in his own tongue – which causes the other men to jeer even louder, laughing at him as he stumbles away.

I press back against the stone door built into the Shrine wall; the inlaid tile and stone cool against my fevered skin. Another of the men is circling closer, and I lash out again, nearly collapsing in the process. My own blood is gathering in an ever-growing pool beneath me – I know as well as my attackers that I do not have much time left. And still they will not leave me to die in peace. But they will not have me. I will give myself up to the care of my gods, I will go into the underworld and walk there as one of the Winged Dead forever. Just a few moments more, and all will be over. The knowledge gives me a moment of beautiful clarity.

From the top of the temple, I can see the whole city, laid out like a child’s block set – only most of the dwellings are smoking, and many of my people are dead, dying or captured. My vision wavers then and for a single moment I see the city as it was - whole, beautiful, shining in the sun and at peace… and then a great wind rises and stirs the sands until they cover even the Great Temple where I stand - until nothing is left but wind and silence.

Then the vision passes, and I look to the west to see the great golden sun slip to sleep beneath the horizon, lighting up the desert sky in gloriously descending shades of pink, purple, blue, silver, indigo and blinding, blazing gold as it dies. It is time. I look to the men that torment me – and slash wildly one last time to keep them away as I cry out to my gods with all that I have left in me.

“Nanna! Great Lord of the Night! Father of Inanna, Mother of us all!” I am here at your door! Your Daughter’s Daughter calls you! Save me from the infidels! Take me now into your arms!”

– And I close my eyes as I drive the dagger deep into my own breast, and fall down at last into nothingness.

But I am not yet dead. From behind me I hear a deep roar, and a great shaking begins, along with a rush of cool air from somewhere below. Then there is a great rumbling sound, like thunder, and a terrible shaking - as if some giant beast has been awakened.

A shadowed form steps over me, and all around me I hear terrified screams and the sound of flesh being ripped apart, of armor shattering and bones breaking. It seems to me then, as I lay dying, that the very sky has opened up. Lightening tears the heavens asunder and rain begins to pour, falling cold upon my face. I gasp for air, but I can no longer breathe – and as I slip away into the world of the dead, I feel that I am being lifted in strong and gentle hands, and carried down into a cool forgiving darkness - a darkness that finally covers me completely, until I know no more.
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thisangel

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Re: Blood Bourne (Chapter 4)

Post  Whisper on Fri 04 Jun 2010, 2:09 am

I like this. Smile It flows well and I can tell the difference in this between contemporary and historical. Great job!

One little critique: You use the dash a lot. In some places it would be better to replace it with a comma or semicolen. Smile
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