The sheets responded to Iltani's whim like silken anacondas, wrapping themselves around her victim's arms and legs, stretching his limbs tightly to the four corners of the bed. She did not need to bind him so. He would do whatever she told him, but Iltani liked to feel sure he would not touch or grasp her. Iltani brushed one of the long, writhing tendrils of her raven hair out of her face as she smiled down at him. She continued to whisper her incantation, the rhyme of dedication and devotion to her Mother, barely audible over the man's heavy breathing. Iltani watched as his cock swelled and stood at the power of her words, pointing upward like a granite pillar. Iltani appraised her man now, taking a moment appreciate his clear, dark skin, the defined ripple of muscle across his abdomen. When she and Mother had been young, many millennia past, emperors of Ethiopia used to come to pay tribute at her ziggurat. They had looked like this man.
"See me," Iltani murmured, leaning down and swiping a pale, thin hand over the man's eyes. They flickered open, but the orbs beneath were blurry still with the signs of sleep. He dreamed with eyes wide open. A drugged smile spread across his lips as he tried to raise a hand to pet, to touch, the woman who floated above him, but the sheets held tight. A flicker of fear traipsed across his face, and he tried to pull free, mumbling in protest, his voice heavy and slow. Iltani grazed her fingertips across his cheek, down to his lips.
"Quiet now," she told him, pressing her finger there. Her hands fluttered down his chest, across his stomach, to his cock. She dipped her lips down to his and kissed him, sweet and brief, to try to calm him. He kissed her back, more passionately. As her hands worked over his shaft, he sighed against her. "That's it now. This is a beautiful dream, isn't it?" She kissed him again, moving her delicate hands up and down. His hips rose up off the bed, bringing his cock up through her hands, trying to seek out her mound.
Iltani let herself settle down on the bed, her knees on either side of the man's strong hips. She gripped his cock and guided it into her willing cunt. Her very nature dictated that she would be tight and wet, and her victim grunted in apparent satisfaction as she took him. She moved one hand up his chest, to tweak and pinch at a dark nipple as the other played against her own trimmed thatch of hair. Iltani circled her hips, gripping the cock within her. The man beneath her moaned as she ground against him, her finger now dipped down against her clit. She stroked herself as she moved, up and down, the silver bells tied into her hair tinkling in time to her movements. He seemed close now. Iltani could sense it, could feel his body clutch, and hear the increased fervor of his breathing. His responses to her body became urgent, frantic. Iltani flicked at her clit more quickly. Need built up in the man beneath her, and she spread her hand across his chest in order to steady herself as he bucked, moaning.
He came then, and Iltani brought herself to climax shortly after, clutching his seed within her. It became the offering for Mother, the unguent for her dying soul. With it, Iltani felt stronger, fed and satiated, and through her, Mother would feel the same. That was the purpose of the Daughters, of Iltani's Sisters, to care for their aging Mother, the demon-priestess Lilith.
Iltani brushed a final, soft kiss across the man's lips and slipped her fingers down over his eyes, closing the lids.
"Sleep now," she told him. She climbed down off the bed, adjusting her linen shift about her as she stepped toward the large mirror through which she had arrived. Behind her, the sheets binding the man's hands and feet relaxed and untwined. When Iltani released the pressure, the man turned to his side and pulled his legs to his chest. Iltani watched him in the mirror, heard him whimper and bring his two hands to clutch in a fist in front of his mouth. In the morning, he would feel oddly tired and remember snippets of an obscure dream, of a visit in the night by a pale beauty whose feet had been bound tight in silken slippers of strange design, embroidered in sigils and cactus flowers. Iltani touched the mirror with a fingertip, whispered a few words, and then stepped through to the other side, to home.
Follow now, deep into the shifting, whispering sands of a foreign land, a land once fertile now baked dry by the golden sun. Now a land of strife, of bombs and guns and fanatics. But look! Look there. In years past, some have seen it. The crusader whose horse had begun to stumble in the heat, burdened by the weight of his master's armor and weapons, or the rare legionnaire dying of thirst, his camel, like the horse before him, taking its last shaking steps beneath its rider. Or the lost goatherd, relying on the blood of his last kid to sustain him until he can find his camp, the sand clinging to his feet, pulling him down into its permanent embrace. These men have seen it, but the secret of it stays with them, silenced when their tongues were cut off, along with their manhood, in exchange for their survival.
But there stands Lilith's palace, a place where its night coincides with all the world's nights, and its day, all the world's days. Time has little meaning at the oasis of the one who served the goddess once called Inanna, once known as Ishtar. She had been a goddess of fertility, of regeneration, and of the flowing Tigris and Euphrates and the lush lands that existed in the V where they joined. Lilith served as the goddess's hand on Earth. Priestesses sanctified the altar over which she ruled with the seed of their devotees, sacrificed white camels and fat sheep to her. Now, though, deep in her isolation from those who once worshipped her, she became relegated to the status of myth, not religion.
Lilith is weak and has but her Daughters, her immortal priestesses, to keep her company. Here, when not feasting on the decadent dreams of men, these Sisters find their sanctuary.
Deep in the sighing desert, this gleaming temple rises up, a mirage of sandstone, palms, and pools. In its rosy marble halls, white doves and peacocks coo and call as alabaster-skinned women, supple of breast and rosy of cheek, tap their taloned claws, unbound from their silken slippers, in anticipation of the night's outing. Bronze fountains filled with perfumed water cooled the air, and the tinkling of the drops serve to create a symphony with the calls of the birds, a sound pleasing and soothing to all. Reclining on a silken bed surrounded by her Sisters yet somehow alone, we will find Iltani once again.
Iltani's eyes fluttered open. She felt the coolness of the night approaching, although shafts of sunlight still leaked through the slatted shutters covering her west-facing window. She yawned and turned away from the sun. Her eyes met the glowing green gaze of her white cat.
"Get up," he told her.
"Oh, Zuzu, not yet. Let me sleep a little longer."
"I'll eat one of those precious doves if you do not get your sorry limbs from your couch and fix me a proper meal."
Iltani resented having a cat tell her what to do, but she had grown used to it. Many a century passed since he had shone the proper humility due his mistress as a Daughter of Lilith. Iltani yawned and turned away from him, back toward the light of the widow. Around her, she could here the sounds of the palace waking, the whispered moans of greetings from the Sisters who shared their couches with someone other than a cat.
Most of the Sisters had a companion, a female lover with whom they could entwine their claws when making love and feel no shame for it. Iltani had never taken such a lover, though she often considered it.
She looked down at her own feet. At the ankle, a soft sprinkling of black hair began, and became more full and lush farther down. There her foot was no foot at all, but a four-taloned claw: three splayed to the front, one, wicked and curved, to the back where her heel should have been. The claws grew sharp and strong, meant to grip and tear, the foot of a harpy, of a beast, not of a beautiful woman.
Iltani sighed and threw her silken coverlet over her hated appendages. She wanted nothing more than to have the soft pink feet of a mortal woman. A foolish wish, one that could never come true, despite the fact she made it everyday since her inception.
At least Zuzu could pull his claws in when he didn't need them.
She felt those very claws kneading at her back now.
"Did you not believe me, girl?" he asked.
"I'm still waking up."
The cat could have easily left the room to find a feast at any of the tables the eunuchs set for the waking meal. The Sisters never shunned animals in this palace from their plates. All had been precious sacrifices in the past, and the Sisters treated them as such still.
Finally, the last shaft of light piercing through the window slipped out of sight, Iltani arose from her bed. Her scarlet coverlet slipped to the floor as she stood, and she revealed her naked body to the quickly cooling air. Her nipples tightened to little peaks. Her long hair, black as the fine fur on her feet, reached to her waist and the bells and other fetishes, charms, and trinkets tied into its strands clacked and chimed as she stretched. She walked to the balcony, passing her mirror, a single sheet of polished silver, etched around the edges in sacred sigils and signs. Iltani allowed herself a brief, appraising glance at herself before she opened the shutters and stepped out into the open air of the night. On the horizon, the sky still glowed golden with the setting sun, but it quickly darkened to red, then purple as Iltani watched. Zuzu joined her, wrapping himself between her ankles before jumping to the carved stone railing. Iltani scratched him behind an ear as the smell of the evening blooming flowers drifted up from the gardens below.
"It is a fine evening, is it not?" Iltani said to Zuzu. He purred in response, pushing his head harder against Iltani's fingers. "Right then. Let us find something to eat."
She picked him up off the railing and took him back into her chamber. Iltani set Zuzu back on the bed, found a clean shift, and slipped it over her naked body. She left her slippers where they lay, in a pile at the foot of her bed, discarded when she returned the previous morning.
"If you want to eat, you're going to have to bring yourself," she said over her shoulder as she opened her chamber door and stepped out into the palace hall.
"You try my patience, Woman." He bolted out of the room and scampered ahead of her. Iltani looked down to the central courtyard, where the evening's torches lit and tables already set. She made her way to the stairs and descended, meeting more of her Sisters on the way. One, Enheduana, called her name and took her hand as they climbed down to their meal. Enheduana was far more voluptuous than Iltani, and the fabric of her shift stretched tightly across her chest. At each step, her breasts rose and fell heavily. Iltani liked Enheduana and counted her as a friend. They often ate together and shared stories of their evening's conquests. Enheduana seemed to like their time together much more than she, but Iltani felt grateful for the companionship.
They sat together at one of the many tables and ate their meal. Lilith's throne, a grand seat of alabaster carved with owls, remained empty. She would join her Daughters later in the evening, before they set out for their evening's duties. Zuzu sat on the table, taking proffered bits of meat from his mistress's fingers as she ate.
"Tell me about last night," Enheduana told Iltani.
Iltani sighed. "There is not much to tell. He was a great, beautiful man, like the lords of Africa's past. I was very fortunate to have been given to him."
"Did you... ?" Enheduana's voice trailed off suggestively.
Iltani had told her friend, many, many centuries ago, of her problem. Never in her millennia of existence had a man brought Iltani to climax. Only by her own hand had she been able to complete the necessary end to the ritual of coupling. Iltani did not find this topic suitable for dinner conversation. In fact, the whole topic of sex in general - such an integral part of her life - always made her a little uneasy. She shook her head sadly. "Do you not tire of asking me?"
Enheduana smirked maliciously. "I will never tire of it, Sister." She took a sip from her goblet of wine and swallowed. "When will you take a lover?"
The directness of the question shocked her.
"You know I would gladly take you, Iltani." As she said this, she lifted a plump piece of fruit from her plate and raised it to Iltani's lips. Iltani hesitated, but took it, the taste of it tart on her tongue. "Let someone else bring you to the edge for once. If a man cannot, surely I can."
Through the years, Enheduana had taken many of her priestess Sisters as lovers, and she was known for her prowess, sleek tongue, and tender lips, but Iltani could not think of her friend in such a way. "I... I cannot."
They fell into silence, and finally Lilith joined her Daughters. Out of the gaping black doorway behind her thrown, she appeared. Her fiery red hair writhed around her head as if serpents inhabited it. At one moment, it would settle into a tangled pile on her head and rest, only to rise up again and form itself into a new style the next minute. She wore only a wide collar of scarlet and black feathers and a golden girdle. She walked, leaning heavily on a staff, its top marked with a circle and cross, a sign of her position as Inanna's incarnation on Earth. She moved to the front of her throne and lowered herself down, spreading her legs as she sat. Her empty hand toyed with the hairs covering her mound for a moment then came to rest on the arm of her throne. She crossed her legs. Feathers covered them from the knees down, her feet the great taloned claws of a bird of prey. Of an owl.
"Sisters, my children... " Her voice sounded weak. "I am hungry, Daughters, and must be fed."
Iltani had never seen her mistress this weak. She cast a worried glance at Enheduana, but the other woman was too engrossed with gazing at Lilith to notice.
"Go, this evening, all of you, and fulfill your sacred duty to me. Enheduana... " Lilith pointed a heavy finger at her. "... I will sup on you tonight."
It was a great honor to be chosen as Lilith's consort for the evening, one Iltani never received. Enheduana smiled and looked at Iltani.
"Do you see?" she whispered. "That is how good I am. I could do the same for you." At this, she rose and walked to Lilith's throne, took her mistress's hand and helped her back through the doorway. Tonight, Lilith would replenish her strength by taking the energy Enheduana acquired from her man the night before. Lilith did not need to very often, and it would leave Enheduana weak, but when the power she absorbed from all of her Daughters each night proved inadequate, it became necessary.
When the feast concluded, and the eunuchs cleared the tables, the Sisters played music and danced until the moon rose high into the sky. Some bathed in a large pool, the central feature of the courtyard. Others reclined on the silken divans and toyed with each other, licking and pinching nipple and clit between languorous kisses, whispering promises about what the evening's ceremonies would hold, preparing each other for taking the men to whom they would be given.
Finally, the palace bells chimed, and each woman returned to her room, to her mirror, the portal through which she would travel to her man. Iltani sat on one of the couches, listening disinterestedly to the talk and laughter of her Sisters as she petted Zuzu. Now, she stood with the others and climbed the stairs to her room, completely ignorant of where the evening would take her, as she had been every night since she became one of Lilith's Daughters. Nothing ever changed.
Justin Dupre hailed a United Cab and climbed into the back. The night was hot, even for a New Orleans's summer, and he quickly welcomed the freezing cold A/C.
"Where you headed?" the driver asked. Justin opened his bleary eyes from a slow blink and met the driver's gaze in the rearview mirror.
It took Justin a while to remember where he lived at that exact moment.
"Dauphine and Mazant." He knew his voice sounded heavy with drink, and he knew the driver probably had trouble understanding him.
Justin sighed. These new drivers had a lot to learn. Back in the day, they could have told him the history of every house they passed on his way home, and then tell him whose relative they knew used to live in his house when they dropped him off. These days, Justin had to give directions to the cabbies. It sickened him.
Fortunately, this man didn't ask for directions, so Justin leaned his head against the cool glass of the window and closed his eyes. His guts churned, full of too much rum. Why did this always happen? Another woman, another fuck-up. She looked cute, too, a paralegal at his brother's law firm. After this, Guy wouldn't set him up again. And she seemed smart, with a tight little ass. He probably could have banged her. He bought her enough Sazeracs at the Carousel Bar, but then he started thinking about where a fuck would lead, about kids and alimony and responsibility. He started drinking more to shut all those voices up in his head, and poof, she somehow lost interest, saw a girlfriend outside on the street and excused herself with a pitying smile. He had caught a cab back to his bachelor's pad in Bywater. Alone. Again.
Maybe he'd go down to the neighborhood bar for a drink once he splashed some water on his face. The fellows there would understand his pain.
Guy sure wouldn't. Justin's older brother, he never tired of reminding Justin of all the things he'd done wrong. Guy used his trust fund to go to law school where Justin used his to hang out, live cheap, and avoid as much responsibility as possible. His family's status got him into all the great masque balls and the best Uptown parties, and that was all that really mattered to Justin.
That's all that really matters, right?
"This is it, Buddy," the cabby said. Justin looked up, all the sudden not feeling too well.
Justin fumbled with the handle of the car door, finally got it open, and stumbled out of the back seat of the cab. He leaned over, put his hands on his knees, and promptly puked into the gutter. Relief flooded over him at both getting the wretched alcohol out of his system and the fact he managed not to throw up in the back of the cab. That would have added an upholstery-cleaning bill to the long list of other things that had gone wrong tonight.
He straightened up and looked behind him through the cab's window at the driver.
"Give me a second," Justin told him. He wiped his sleeve across his mouth and then grabbed his wallet out of his back pocket. He turned and looked at the fair on the meter, $11.25. Happy to be home, Justin handed the driver a twenty. "Keep the change." He tried to smile, but it only made him feel sick, so he waved a hand dismissively at the driver before turning away again and assessing his front steps. Hello, steps. Behind him, he heard the cab pull away and head back toward the French Quarter, most likely already in search of his next fare.
Justin approached the steps apprehensively, realized he still had his wallet in his hand, and put it back in his rear pocket. He retrieved his keys from his front pocket. When he pulled them out, something else fell to the street. Justin looked down at it, blinked his eyes, and squinted. What else was in his pocket? All he could see was a bright red plastic blob of some kind. He tilted his head and remembered the plastic monkeys which hung off his drinks. It must have been one of those.
He leaned over and tried to grab it up off the concrete, but his fingers couldn't quite grasp it, and he lost his balance. He stumbled forward and caught himself by placing a hand on one of the steps. He straightened up.
Justin decided to leave the monkey on the ground. If he still wanted it tomorrow, it would probably be there. Another reminder of another failed hook-up. He had an entire bowl full of trinkets like that sitting on his mantel. Sad reminders, all.
He turned back to his front door. It would be hard for him to climb the steps, and maneuver the screen door out and around himself in his inebriated state, but he made a go at it. As he pulled the screen door out, he lost his balance, slipped down one step, and caught himself. He recovered, moved back up toward the door, and began the next battle of getting the right key in the right hole, something he had never been good at. It didn't help he had two deadbolts along with the knob lock. He decided to approach it systematically, starting with the top deadbolt and working his way down. After resting a few times with his head against the door-jam, he finally succeeded in getting all the locks open, and he pushed open his front door, only to fall flat on his face in his living room.
The finished hardwood floor felt cool against his livid flesh, so Justin shrugged out of his clothes right there, kicked his loafers inadvertently out the front door and onto the steps, and in his boxers, fell asleep with the front door wide open.
Iltani stepped through her mirror and into a strange room, as she had nearly every night of her existence. Usually she found a bedroom, sometimes not. Tonight, in the bedroom she entered, the bed held no man. What was the point of entering a home if she found no man in it? Iltani tilted her head in confusion. She realized he must sleep in some other part of the house. Otherwise, she would not have been brought here. She would only arrive in the dwelling of the man who she was supposed to be with that night. Never the same man twice and the man must always be asleep. That was how it worked.
She crossed the room, her steps muffled by her slippers. She moved from one room to the next until she came to the front of the small house. There, the man lay on the floor in front of the door. He only wore his underwear, his other garments in small piles around him. He slept the sleep of the drunken, his breathing punctuated by the occasional snort, stall, and deep inhale. Iltani shook her head.
The system sometimes sent Daughter to a man deep in the hold of drink, but it was never a welcome occurrence, especially for Iltani. It meant nothing but work. She could first perform certain cleansing rituals, driving the alcohol from his pores, and she would have to wash him. Finally, she could bed him, even though his body would be so exhausted from the drink it would take a long time for him to climax.
Iltani sighed and realized how warm it was, not the heat of her desert home, but a sticky, fecund heat which smelled of jasmine and moist earth. The scents coming in through the front door even overwhelmed the aroma the sleeping man produced, which was none too pleasant. Iltani stepped to the front door and looked out at a narrow street, lined with old, shiplap houses, each nearly identical to the next except for the gay colors with which they were painted, bright even beneath the wan, yellow light of the streetlamps. Somewhere someone played a trumpet, a slow, mournful solo up at the gibbous moon that hanged low in the east, weighed down it seemed by the humidity of the air. Iltani, used to the cool nights of the desert, felt like the moon looked.
Then, her eyes caught something on the sidewalk outside, a small plastic fetish of a monkey. Iltani smiled. Yet another offering she could tie in her hair. She stepped down to street level and picked the small figure up off the ground. She reached up and hooked its small, crooked tail into one of her thin, rough plates. This made her happy, to have something to add. She climbed the few steps back up to the entry, stepped back into the room, and shut the door behind her.
She gazed down at the man at her feet. His face rested on its side, and she took in his profile. His nose looked straight, his cheekbones high, and his cheeks slightly hollow. His hair was sandy and short. His stomach caved in slightly below his last ribs. Iltani found something innocent and childlike in the way he slept on his side, a small area rug punched beneath his head like a pillow. If he had been sober, asleep in his bed and prepared to receive her dream without all the extra work, Iltani would have welcomed the rites with this man. At least, despite his apparent drunkenness, his underwear seemed clean and new enough. Iltani kneeled next to him and placed her hands on his sleeping form. She sang him into a deeper sleep and chanted the drink from out of his veins.
For all her power, she could not levitate another human, and she did not want to have him begin his dream now. He may try to grab at her, and she would end up with his stink all over her. Instead, Iltani crooked her arms beneath his and, keeping contact to a minimum, dragged him back through the bedroom to a door she assumed led to his washroom. She found there an old - by human standards - claw-foot tub.
By halves, first his torso, then his legs, she lifted him into it. She stripped off his shorts, and what she found hanging beneath his curly patch of blond hair pleased her. His manhood seemed promising, long but slim, in accordance with his build. Iltani set the water running. She sat on the commode and pushed her hair back from her face, waiting for the tub to fill. This was not how she wanted to spend her evening, but having seen Lilith in such a weakened state, she was loath to return home without her ceremony completed.
When the tub filled, she turned off the water, found a washcloth, and began cleaning the man. She murmured to him as she did, making sure he still slept. Iltani dabbed gently at his face, wiping the small trail of spittle from the corner of his mouth. She ran the cloth, lathered with soap, down his chest, swiping it briefly over his genitals, then down each of his legs, and across each arm. Afterwards, Iltani put down the cloth and cupped a few handfuls of water over his head, letting it wet his hair and trickle down his neck.
When she finished the job, she drained the tub. Iltani reached for a towel, somewhat frayed at the edges but fresh and dried the man where he sat in the tub. She ran her fingers through his damp hair to give it some order, sat back on her haunches, and assessed her work. Finally, she changed her chant, to bring him to the state of sleeping wakefulness when she could suggest he move himself.
"See me," she whispered, moving her fingertips over his eyes. They fluttered open, clear of drink, but still locked in dream. Iltani smiled as she looked down at her evening's conquest. "Come," she told him, taking his hand and guiding him from the bath. He followed obediently after her, his hand clutched in hers. Iltani led him to his bed, where she laid him down and sang her commands to the sheets to do their binding. This was an old trick, and she knew it well. The Daughters of Lilith always remained in control, and Iltani liked the security tying her men gave her. Every touch, she initiated. Every move, she commanded. She would bring her men pleasure, yes, but only at her whim. She, too, could bring pain, and many men would reach their climax whether they enjoyed it or not. Some of Iltani's Sisters were known for the cruelty they showed their men. Iltani never liked to instill fear, only remain in control.
The sheets pulled at the man's arms and legs, spreading his limbs taut across the top of the bed. Iltani kneeled between his knees and gazed down at him. She whispered her words of enchantment, and her hair, like Lilith's, began to dance and writhe about her head as power filled the room. As she spoke, his cock rose, a slim, pale sword glowing in the light of the moon which filtered in through the open window. She watched it, reached out a tentative hand to stroke it. He smelled only of the soap she used to wash him, and she did little to fight the urge to kiss him. She lowered her lips to his manhood and pressed her coral lips to its tip. She heard him moan. She moved a hand down to cup his balls and moved them in her hand, feeling their silken weight. This man, she felt, who would father many children. His seed would be rich in power for Lilith. Iltani sighed, thankful that, despite the work, she would be able to make her mistress happy this night.
Iltani licked a drop that had seeped in anticipation from the man's cock. Salty and bitter, it made her hunger for more. She lowered her head, taking his slender shaft between her lips, still humming her chants as she licked and sucked, bringing her nose all the way down into the sparse sprinkling of blond hair which grew at the base of his cock. She inhaled, smelling his musk. His desire began to break through the soap's scent, and Iltani found it intoxicating. She licked his shaft again, moving her head slowly up and down its length. With one hand, she continued to heft his balls, but with the other, she reached down and dipped a finger into her own cleft. She was already wet, yet for some reason she held off taking him immediately.
The velvet rigidity of his cock in her mouth enraptured her as she sucked and licked. There was something in the air, or maybe in the fact she had first cared for, cleansed, this man before taking him, which made her draw things out.
He moaned again, and she looked up at his face. His lidded eyes opened to narrow, bright slits. They seemed clearer, more aware than they should. She saw a certain intelligence there, and for some reason, she wanted to hear him say her name. Such a thing was not outside her powers, but it was something in which she did not usually partake. She lifted her mouth from him and spoke.
"Hear me. I am Iltani. Say my name."
His voice was soft, lilting, as her name came from his lips. "Iltani."
Iltani sighed and returned her lips to his cock. This elicited another utterance of her name by the man beneath her, drawn out into a sigh. Iltani thrilled at the sound and increased her suction, the man's body responding in kind, his hips rising up to meet her lips. His movements became urgent beneath her. Iltani moved her hand from his balls and grasped the base of his cock instead, holding it steady as she worked her tongue, swirling around the tip, before dipping down again, and up. The man said her name, again and again, as he thrust into her mouth.
Iltani felt a gentle touch on her head, and she stopped, frozen in panic. She shrugged it off and scuttled back off the bed. Somehow, the man had gotten a hand free from her sheet bindings. How had that happened? His fingers now reached out to her, beseechingly, as he said her name again, this time a question.
She heard need in his voice, and sadness, not the demand she normally heard from the lips of her sleeping victims when they spoke in their sleep. Something was definitely different about him. She tried to command the sheets to bind, but the loose end would not respond. Iltani paused and watched. This never happened before.
His hand was still lifted toward her, his fingers curling in the air, beckoning her to return to him. Again, Iltani thought of Lilith and decided to return to her work. She crawled back on the bed and, with both her hands, grasped the man's free arm. She pushed it up over his head and pinned it there with her weight, her knees on either side of his chest. She did not want him to free his arm from her hold, so she sang to him as she held him there, sending him deeper into sleep. His eyes drifted closed. His hand clenched and relaxed opening and closing as if he tried to hold something.
With one hand, the other keeping the arm pinned, she reached down and gathered the hem of her shift up about her waist and moved her hand to her moist pussy to spread her lips open for him. She lowered herself down until she felt herself impaled on the slim shaft and pulled her hand away, returning it to hold down the arm with the other hand. She let herself sink down quickly and steadied herself a moment.
Iltani had longer men, and thicker men, but there was something about the gentle, slender curve of this man's cock inside her which seemed right, seemed to fit.
She raised and lowered herself, unable to hold off any longer.
Her predicament, however, was a puzzle. She was unsure if she would be able to hold the man's arm down with only one of her hands should he try to grab at her, but she had to climax to seal the ceremony.
Iltani's womb felt filled, complete. She could always, she figured, take care of it later, once she returned home. There would be less of his seed at this point, but it was better than nothing.
She raised and lowered herself on the man's prick again, holding him down as she did so. They were face to face, her breasts brushing his hairless chest, only the thin fabric of her shift separating them. It was too much.
She released his arm, sat up, and pulled her dress off over her head. The heat of the room became unbearable, and she wanted nothing more than to have the sensitive tips of her nipples grazing the cool skin of the man beneath her. His arm, now free, lifted and his clutching hand found one of her breasts. Iltani yelped in surprise, but did not push his hand away. His fingers grazed her nipple and she sighed as she resumed moving her pelvis, lifting and lowering herself. Iltani sighed, allowing the man to toy with her. She realized she enjoyed it, this limited touching. She leaned back down over the man's body and lowered her lips to his. She kissed him, slipping her tongue between his lips. In his trance, the man still responded, lapping his tongue against hers.
Wrapping her arms around his neck, she pulled him against her as they kissed. His free hand moved to the back of her neck, and Iltani felt his fingers twining in her black hair. He held her to him in return as their bodies moved in time together, each giving what the other seemed to so desperately need.
Iltani felt the bunching feeling, which she always associated as the same feeling a leopard must have before it leaps, in her cunt, a sure sign she would come. So astounded, she almost stopped. She lifted from her kiss, aware now of the heat on every inch of her skin, the sheen of sweat between her body and the body beneath her, of the earnest expression of devotion on her man's face as he fought against his body, somehow knowing she was close. Frantically, she moved her hips against his and he clutched the back of her neck, and again said her name, this time a hint of warning, of impending release carrying on the sound. Iltani wished she had a name to scream when she came, wished to know this man who, after millennia, could bring her so close to the edge...
No, over the edge.
Instead, Iltani called out to Inanna, to Lilith's goddess, as she came. Beneath her, the man's body went rigid and a great grunting sigh of release pressed past his lips.
His eyes snapped open.
He was awake.
Iltani screamed, pushed herself off of him, and stumbled back. She breathed hard. The man's eyes were huge in the dark, reflecting the moonlight coming in through the window like two hardboiled eggs.
"Who... How... ?" he stammered. He tried to push himself up, but evidently realized he was bound to the bed. His free hand crossed his body and started working at the knotted sheets around his other wrist. His eyes did not leave Iltani.
"I'm - I'm sorry," she stammered
With another small scream, her hands clutched to her mouth, Iltani fled, launching herself through the nearest mirror.
Iltani stumbled out of her mirror and collapsed on her bed, awestruck and drained. She did not even bother to remove her slippers, which cramped her feet. Her breathing was heavy and ragged as she laid atop her bed, curled up in a ball, her hair covering her naked form. Her weeping eventually transformed into wracking sobs, and she abandoned herself to their release. Things had gone terribly, terribly wrong, and there was no explanation for it. Why had her powers failed? And more importantly, how had she been able to climax without touching herself? There was no explanation for it, other than the man.
A sob hitched in Iltani's throat as she realized that she would never see this man again. Daughters never visited the same man twice. There were too many men in the world and not enough Daughters. In all her thousands of years of existence, no man had brought her such joy, and now, she fled from it as an antelope from a lion. She could have stayed, sung him back full of strength and had him again, instead she ran, too scared by her own body to do otherwise.
He'd woken up. Yes, it was not just the bindings that failed. The trance failed as well. Iltani's sobs were now for the fact she seemed to losing her ability to serve her mistress, to do the one thing for which she existed. It had happened to a few of the Daughters. They lost the ability to weave a trance and harvest seed, and they were reduced to little more than common household staff, tending the flowers with the eunuchs. They were called Cousins and Nieces after, forever showing how they had been severed from the line of Lilith.
Iltani took a deep breath and steeled herself. She would not let this happen; she loved Lilith too much. She rolled and spread her limbs, feeling the man's sweat drying to skin in the dry air of the desert night. She could still smell him on her, along with a whiff of jasmine that seemed to follow her through the mirror.
She felt a movement on the bed and raised her head to see Zuzu padding across the coverlet toward her.
"Successful rites?" he asked.
"I... I don't know." Iltani raised a heavy hand to scratch her pet behind his ear. "Something happened. I can't explain it."
She sat up and pulled her feet to within reach of her hands. She began to remove her slippers. First, she untied the long ribbons which wrapped up her calves. When unwound, she peeled off the sections which covered her ankle and its telltale cover of fur. The fabric was damp from her earlier exertions. There were laces, too, cinched tight across the top of the foot, like a corset, to keep the talons crushed together. The illusion was passable if not too closely examined, and for the most part made her foot appear normal. These, she loosened.
"What happened?" Zuzu's green eyes watched her intently as he licked a paw and smoothed it over his head.
"My spells failed." She stopped herself. She couldn't tell him the rest, the real reason why she seemed to be feeling such turmoil inside. Iltani focused back on her feet.
The final step always seemed the worst. Her heel claw had to be bound and folded under the foot. When she stepped, she trod each time on her own digit. While it was passably tolerable for short periods, when she went to unbind and stretch it back, it always caused terrible pins and needles in her feet. Iltani sighed as she clenched and released her claws. It was nice to come home and take off her shoes.
I came, she remembered. Not by her own hand, but the cock of a man without any of her own touches. He made her come.
Iltani remembered Enheduana and wondered if her friend had returned to her own chambers yet. Maybe she could talk to her. These two events, coinciding, confused her. They made her worry. If her spells failed, she risked losing her position, but even at the thought of that man in that dark room, her womb clenched again for him. The memory of her orgasm nearly made her fall back to the bed and touch herself to bring it again, at his memory.
She stood and moved to the door. She reached out for the knob.
"Aren't you forgetting something?"
Iltani turned and looked at Zuzu, then down at her naked form.
"I must have left it behind," she told him. From the floor nearby, she retrieved another shift and slipped it on. As she left her chamber, she cursed herself. While it would be possible for her victim to think he'd undressed and gotten into his bed on his own, there would be no explaining a strange garment in his house. Daughters should never leave anything behind, but the dreams they wove. They were never to bring anything back but the man's seed. That was how it worked.
Iltani gasped, and her hand flew up to her hair. She felt for it and found it, hanging secure as if from a branch: the little plastic monkey. All the other charms she wore in her hair had been rightful offerings at altars, but this... She never took anything before. She told herself it had obviously been discarded there on the street. It belonged to no one.
Things grew worse and worse.
Enheduana lived a floor below Iltani. Iltani did not want to bother her friend on the same evening the other woman served Lilith, but she did not know what else to do. The halls of the palace were empty, most women still out on their evening's quests. Iltani's talons clicked on the marble floor as she descended the stairs and turned. She stopped in front of her friend's door.
There was no answer.
"She's not back yet," a voice said from behind. Iltani turned and looked. Behind her, a woman watered the potted plants lining the railing of the hall.
"Thank you, Cousin," Iltani replied, trying more than ever to keep any contempt she might have felt for the woman out of her voice, given the current circumstances. Iltani knew the woman, as she knew every being who lived within the walls of Lilith's Palace.
She had been a great priestess and lain with more kings and emperors than any other of Lilith's Daughters in her day. Supposedly, she lost her powers, and now she worked as a gardener in the palace.
Iltani swallowed. "I suppose I should try back later."
"She will be quite exhausted," Taram-uram told her. "You may not want to disturb her." Taram-uram took a step toward Iltani. They could have been true sisters, rather than just in title. Taram-uram wore her black hair plaited and wound tightly around her head, and her dark eyes sparked in the torchlight. "Why do you need her?"
"I have to... " she trailed off, unsure of how to continue. Did she want to tell this woman of her night's trials?
Taram-uram tilted her head and looked at Iltani, something like concern crossing her face. "Does something weigh on your soul, Sister?"
Unable to respond with her voice, words caught in her throat, Iltani nodded.
"Come." Taram-uram set down her bucket of water and took another step forward, her hand outstretched toward Iltani. "Let's get a cup of tea. We are Sisters, and we can speak of what troubles us." Iltani, relieved to have found in the woman a sympathetic ear, took her hand. She did not bother to correct the "Sisters" comment.
Below, the courtyard was deserted, but the eunuchs had already set the refreshment tables for when the Sisters returned from their outings. Taram-uram filled two cups from a golden samovar and handed one to Iltani. They sat together on a red brocade divan. Around them, white peacocks strutted in the still of the evening and above, doves roosting on the balconies cooed in their sleep.
Iltani sipped her tea and tried to formulate her story in her head. Every Daughter had a different process to the rites she performed, only the result was ultimately the same. Iltani told about how she bound her men, and how she normally touched herself, to climax after the man, to finish the rites in that way.
After a long pause, she told what had happened. By the end of her tale, she was crying again, her womb glowed with warmth, and Taram-uram had her hand across Iltani's shoulder, nestled beneath the weight of her hair.
"Shush, shush, little Sister," Taram-uram said. She rubbed the back of Iltani's neck soothingly. "None of this means you are destined to join us Cousins, and all of it could be some strange sequence of coincidence."
Only, Iltani didn't believe in coincidence. She believed in fate.
Taram-uram continued. "You shift is easily replaced. Think of it as a trade for the bauble in your hair. The man will find your dress and puzzle over it a few days, perhaps, but he will quickly forget as so many have done before him. It will become as a rag to him. Meaningless." Taram-uram raised her other hand and brushed a lock of hair out of Iltani's eyes. Her fingertips lingered on Iltani's cheek, and Iltani looked the other woman in the eye.
"Are you sure?" she asked.
Taram-uram nodded. "Of course. Do not worry." Taram-uram leaned in closer to Iltani. "And I think I know what could make you feel better." She kissed Iltani on the lips, lightly at first, but then her hand gripped tighter into Iltani's hair, and she could not pull away. After a beat, Iltani decided she did not want to pull away.
After another pause, she returned the kiss, and her hands remained clenched in fists at her side. She was reluctant to touch the other woman, not knowing how or where. As if reading her mind, Taram-uram brought her hand down from Iltani's face and grasped one of her hands. She guided it to one of her breasts and held it there. Iltani felt the woman's heat through the fabric of her dress. The nipple beneath Iltani's questioning fingers tightened, and she felt her own do the same in sympathy. Taram-uram's hand left Iltani's and slipped down her side, resting first at her hip then traveling down to lift at the hem of her shift.
"You don't need this, little Sister," Taram-uram said. Iltani moved her hands automatically to remove her dress, and Taram-uram did the same to her own. For a moment, Iltani did nothing, only looked at the other woman, naked, before her. Iltani's hands sat again at her sides, but this time, of her own volition, she lifted them to her new partner's hips then grazed them up her sides. She felt the sleek muscle beneath the desert-tanned skin, the fine hairs shining like the first ray of sunlight on a winter morning.
"I will take you," Iltani told Taram-uram, hoping to convince herself with her spoken words, almost like a spell. Taram-uram only smiled, nodding, as Iltani pushed her back onto the divan. She crawled over the Cousin, and began kissing her again, breast pressed to breast, pelvis to pelvis. Their hands seemed to be everywhere, touching every part of each other.
"Lick me," Taram-uram said, her voice husky with need. Iltani raised her head, peered at the other woman's knowing smile, and let her eyes travel down to see their two bodies melded against each other.
Iltani stood, and Taram-uram sat up, spreading her legs, her claws planted firmly on the floor. She knelt between them and brought her fingers up, spreading Taram-uram's lips. Several golden rings, piercing the tender skin, lined her inner labia, a sign of the status she once held. Iltani ran a tentative finger across each one. One... two... three... four... five. Her nail tapped the metal as it passed, and Taram-uram gasped at the sound.
"Lick me," Taram-uram said again, and Iltani lowered her head. Taram-uram was clean-shaved, and Iltani could not detect her musk until she was mere inches away. She looked at the rings again, took a breath, and extended her tongue. She ran it up along the same path her finger had taken, tasting the sweetness of the woman and the tang of the metal. Her tongue stopped at Taram-uram's nub of a clitoris.
Iltani had seen plenty of women pleasing each other within the halls of the palace. Though she had never done it herself, she knew all too well what to do. With on hand, she kept Taram-uram's lips parted, and with the other, she reached up to feel the other woman's breast. Taram-uram sighed and leaned back. Iltani flicked her tongue against Taram-uram's clit, now stabbing, now swirling.
"Now, little Sister, take me with your fingers as well," Taram-uram gasped.
Iltani brought her hand down and slid a finger into Taram-uram's wet channel. The woman sighed and laughed quietly.
"Not that way." Iltani raised her head and looked questioningly at the woman. "The other way," Taram-uram told her.
"I... I do not understand," Iltani admitted
"The other way," Taram-uram said again. Iltani realized what she meant and lowered her head, her cheeks burning. She removed her finger from Taram-uram and traced a line further back with her nail, found the second tight, puckered hole, and slipped in the slick finger. Taram-uram moaned and said, "Another." Iltani did as she was told, at the same time returning her tongue to lap at the now-swollen clit.
Taram-uram's hands wound into Iltani's hair and held her fast against her cleft. She ground herself against Iltani's face.
"Fuck me with your fingers," Taram-uram demanded, and Iltani moved her fingers in and out of Taram-uram's ass. "By Inanna, that is right!"
Taram-uram's voice rose to a wail, and Iltani could hear the panicked flapping of birds over their head. She also heard Taram-uram's claws scratching at the marble floor beneath them as the spasms of her climax wracked her body. She fell back onto the divan, and Iltani raised her head, pulling her fingers out as she did. She looked up to find one of the eunuch servants there, silent as always, offering her a steaming linen cloth. Iltani took it, first running it over her face, and then wiping her hands clean. The eunuch retrieved the towel and disappeared as quietly as he had arrived. Taram-uram pushed herself up on her elbows and gazed down at Iltani. "Now it's your turn, little Sister."
She stood and took Iltani's hands, directing her to recline across the divan. Taram-uram stood over her and smiled. She began to hum. She knelt one knee on the divan and brought her hands to Iltani's breasts. She pinched the nipples to taut peaks and trailed her fingers down Iltani's stomach, finally resting over her neatly trimmed patch of pubic hair.
"I will show you something neither a man's cock, nor your own fingers, can accomplish," Taram-uram said, and then resumed the soft song she hummed. She brought up her other knee to the divan, and moved to push one between Iltani's legs. Iltani let her knees part, and Taram-uram settled, grinding her wet cunt against Iltani's thigh.
Iltani's eyes felt heavy. She tried to keep them open, but became so relaxed all she wanted to do was lay back and let whatever Taram-uram was going to do happen. She knew she could not fight it.
She felt Taram-uram's cleft slide down her leg, and then felt the other woman's fingers at her own cunt. Iltani's lips were spread, and cool air assaulted her burning heat. She sighed. She felt Taram-uram's assertive and agile tongue whisk across her clit. One finger, and then another, insinuated themselves into her pussy. It was different, though no less stimulating, than a cock. She slowly circled her hips against Taram-uram's tongue and fingers. The other woman slipped her fingers in and out as she lapped at Iltani's clit. She brought her own hands to her breasts, circling her palms against her nipples, and grasping them between her thumb and forefinger. She pulled. An absence appeared where Taram-uram's tongue had been.
"You like that, do you?" Her fingers still stroked into Iltani's pussy. "A little pain with your pleasure?"
"Oh, yes, but don't stop." Iltani forced her eyes open and met Taram-uram's gaze. "Don't stop what you are doing."
Taram-uram began to hum again, and dipped her tongue back down to Iltani's clit. Her fingers became fierce as she worked them in and out, and her tongue stabbed and fluttered. Iltani felt the warmth of her cunt spread up through her stomach, through her chest and to the tips of her fingers. She could feel the leopard-like bunching in her womb, the telltale sign she would come.
"Oh, Taram-uram!" she breathed as her head pitched back, and a wracking moan ripped from her lips. Her hips rose off the divan, and Taram-uram held her there, relentless, not allowing Iltani to escape her tongue. Iltani felt as if she were being ripped in two. Her fingers clenched at her nipples, pinching harder and harder until pain blossomed through her climax. Finally, her body fell back to the divan, drained, little more than a rag-doll effigy.
Taram-uram still hummed.
Iltani blacked out.
Iltani stretched languidly. She was in her own bed, but could not remember how she arrived. She knew, in the east, on the far side of the palace walls, the sun was close to rising; she could feel the heat of the day ascending. The Daughters of Lilith must have already returned, refreshed themselves, and gone to sleep, and Iltani had missed all of it.
Memories flooded back then, of the man in the humid, moonlit city, of Taram-uram and her ministrations in the courtyard below. Iltani turned on her side. Zuzu napped nearby. Though she wanted to talk to someone, she did not wish to wake him. Iltani would take this night for what it was, appreciate the gifts she had been given, and been able to give, and would sleep the day away, the man's musk, mixing with the sweet scent of Taram-uram, clinging to her skin.
Tomorrow would be the time for making choices.
Look again. Out to sea, near where the Equator bisects the Earth, and the waters of the Amazon empty into the Atlantic. See it? There!
A storm has formed. Look at it churn and twist like a dervish.
It will travel north, across the Caribbean, thrashing at the coasts of Hispaniola, bending Cuba's palms till they snap
Eventually, it will travel up through the Gulf of Mexico and dash itself against the muddy shores of Louisiana.
But for now, it sits and seethes, and the line of day marches across the City that Care Forgot, the Crescent City, New Orleans.
For Justin Dupre, morning comes.