I Get My Caresses
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part 2 of 4
2There are no legal consequences when you kill and you are queen. And even if there were, he had been on my grounds without permission. That makes him a poacher. That provided Zusanna with the grist of her argument. She was making this loudly, and in human form. Men tell me I’m beautiful when I’m naked and angry. Not so, Zusanna. When she is naked and angry, she looks like a fury.
“But it is your rules, Rhiannon. The meat of poachers are a meal for my pack.”
“Not until I figure out who he is and what he was doing here.”
“By that time the meat will have been spoiled.”
“I’ll preserve it in salt, Zusanna.”
“Yuck. You know how that affects the taste? Humans are salty enough as it is. Especially offworld ones.”
“I’m sorry, Zusanna, but my decision stands.” She stalked off to her pack, furious; her rage making her transformation back into wolf all the more terrifying. But she’ll come around. She always does. The loyalty of werewolf and the two legged (as they call us) they’ve bonded with is deep.
We took him to the tower of pain, where I am now preparing to speak to his spirit. Sweat was pouring down my body and I made sure that I was covered in maidens’ blood, as I couldn’t perform this ritual unless I was thus defiled.
I chanted, and dead things sang. I chanted, and their very souls rang. I chanted, and what was their’s became mine.
“Who calls me from the Otherworld?” the severed head spoke, its brow furrowed in pain.
“I do,” I answered.
“And who are you?” he groaned out.
“I am Rhiannon, princess of New Fairy, Queen of New Dyved; Regent of New Gwynedd. I am Rhiannon, the mistress of all things dead.”
“What do you want of me, oh, mistress? Why are you causing me this pain?”
“If I know them, I will be happy to give them,” the bodiless head said, wincing. “But my soul came to the Otherworld damaged and the valkyries who have brought me here have not yet healed it.” Arianrhod was holding herself with her arms, and looking like she had when we were girls together, and a Harpy had picked her up by her skirts and dropped her into its nest.
“Then answer me this. Who are you and why were you on my grounds during my hunt?”
“My first name is James. I do not know my other names,” he said, his teeth grinding. “And I do not know what you are talking about when you say I was on your grounds. As I told you, my very soul was broken when I arrived here, and I am still unclear as to who I was.” There was a rattle in his throat.
“You were naked and on my grounds. That is why you are dead. I mistook you for prey and shot an arrow into your heart. That is why I must know why you were running naked on my grounds.”
“Perhaps I was running to you. You are also naked, I see. Was I your lover?” His eyes were tearing from the pain.
This is disgusting, I thought. Even the dead lust after me in my nakedness. “No, we were not lovers,” I answered primly. “And you weren't running toward me. You were just running.”
“Was something chasing me?” He squeezed his eyes shut.
“Perhaps. But if so I did not see it,” I answered. That would explain the terror of the buck though. Had someone else been using my private preserve for their hunt?
“Then I can answer you no further. My name is James, and I do not know why I was running naked in your grounds. I am sorry I was, because I do remember I had much to live for. There was a girl I was to marry. Her name is Priscilla. If you do see her, tell her that, even in death, I love her,” he rasped.
Which is why you thought you were running to me as a lover, I thought. Men, living or dead, they are all alike.
But I try to comfort the dead, as I try with the living. I answered him, “I will do so.” That satisfied him, because his eyes once again become lifeless, and the strange wind that blew into his vocal chords, allowing him to speak, ceased.
“Great, I feel all creeped out and for nothing.” Arianrhod lifted the head, as if it were made of fecal matter and brought it back to its body. Placed it gingerly by the neck, so it could reattach and then, stamping her feet to get off invisible bugs, doubtlessly having originated from the head, went to the sink to wash her hands.
“Not for nothing,” I said.
“Oh, yeah, right. His name is James and he has a girlfriend, Pricilla. That is going to be a big help in identifying him and finding out why he was running naked through your grounds.”
“It might not be as difficult as you think. He is obviously Terran, and so will be this Pricilla. We can go to the tourist areas and circulate his picture. And how many Pricillas will there be in the towns?”
Six hours of walking through the towns later we still no closer to the answer to that question. Unless, of course, the answer was none. The three of us attracted attention walking through the center of this town. Arbeth Dactyl, it was the major trading center of New Fairy. Since the resumption of trade with offworlders, they were used to strange sights, fascinating and terrible sights. Part of it was, of course, that I was their queen, and many knew me in person.
And of course part of it was that anywhere, I suppose, a six foot tall, raven haired woman, cursed to be naked and almost preternaturally beautiful, would attract attention. Arianrhod, blond, also six feet, and the winner of many a trophy for beauty would stand out as well. As would any two women, accompanied by a wolf, even if you didn't know that she was a lycanthrope.
Arianrhod was still in her swordswoman's uniform; she hadn't changed it, and it still smelled from the hunt. But she had insisted. “If I look like I can hurt them, men will not be molesting us, Rhiannon.”
“Thank you for that.” She had said 'us' but she meant me. I was queen, but this was a cosmopolitan little town. Its five thousand citizens would know me; know I was the guarantor of their freedoms, which they jealously cling to. The mayor and the town council had even adapted an ordinance that allowed for public nudity just for me. Normally such a display is confined to the countryside, or to big cities that allow prostitution. The fact that thousands of young men and women would flock to Arbeth Dactyl's beaches during the celebrations of spring and summer because of that liberality, of course, was simply an added bonus. They had said it was for me, and, of course, I believed them.
But this liberality meant at any given time, there would be flocks of strangers, who would not know me. Who would approach me offering money for my favors. Even though public nudity was allowed, no woman other than me and whores would ever go around completely naked anywhere on Daearu, except perhaps on the more primitive islands. Skimpy bathing suits were the order of the day for non-working girls and the non-cursed.
And there were a lot of them in skimpy bathing suits. None of whom were named Pricilla. None of the women with clothes on were named Pricilla, either. In fact, you'd think it was a banned name, one that could evoke a demon, at the vigorousness of the denial.
Discouraged, I had us sit at a coffee booth near the beach. I was rubbing my feet. Arianrhod was amused. “You'd think you'd have more calluses than you evidently do.”
“Bite me.” She was from New Gwynedd, with its thriving colony of ethnic Terrans, and so I slip into Terran slang around her. The first time I did it, she threatened to put me in jail, as the soldiers there would not recognize me. She wouldn't do such a thing; she was always teasing me like that. All my friends get a kick out of my nakedness, and the power that it could give them over me, if they didn't care about the consequences-to me, or to them, should I be in a position to retaliate. They would strike like furies if someone tried to abduct me or take advantage of my unclothed state, but they were sometimes merciless in their teasing. Challenging me to tickle fights, or, like now, commenting on how my feet should be more rugged, as they were always bare.
As I was glowering and rubbing, Rosalyn came rushing up to us. “There you are. Rhiannon, honestly, you've been all over the place today. I thought I'd never catch up with you.” Her breasts were heaving from her need of oxygen. Several men stopped what they were doing to watch that. Then they noticed me, did a double take, and hastily went back to what they were doing.
“What's so important, Rosalyn?” She wasn't usually this anxious.
“You've completely forgotten, haven't you?”
“Forgotten what?” I said, thus reinforcing the charge.
“This is the day of Perthesileia's arrival.”
“Oh my goddesses.” I had forgotten, in my haste to find out who my victim was and to make amends to his loved ones. She had traveled fifty miles to come to see me to honor me as high queen in this, the land of men. “Okay, let's not panic. She'll be hot and sweaty and stinky and would appreciate a bath and refreshment before an audience with me. That'll give me time to get back to the manor, bathe myself and meet her.” I made to get up. Arianrhod got out of her chair, and Zusanna, who had been sitting, sphinx like, with her paws out and her tongue lolling, got up as if she were on hinges.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2005 by Rachel Parsons