Prince Zyrcon exhaled soft and warm as he watched his riding instructor round the yard. Her elephant, a matron named Shirik slowed from a frenzied gallop to a saunter when she thrust her hips forward and spoke the command. Tun’rilly had an alluring air about her and a peculiar habit of thrusting her chest out and up when she spoke. Perhaps she imagined herself a bull, raising the head and trunk in challenge so that people would ignore her body and listen to her self.
An evolution of a kind, necessary for a woman so distracting to make herself seem brusque. King Balim had told his son this once. Immediately after, the King roughly reminded Zyrcon to stop staring at the woman.
“Did you see? That is the way to execute a gallop. The way you tried before could have hobbled Aisha before she even grew to mounting age.”
Mount. That word made Zyrcon smirk.
“Eyes up here, boy. If you weren’t the prince, I’d call you a pervert to your face.” Rider Tun’rilly tossed her head at Zyrcon and thrust her mango breasts at him again.
“I was watching. The command is huptha, right?”
Tun’rilly nodded. Zyrcon turned to the elephant calf behind him, named Aisha. She was just a baby, only a month old, but she was the same height as Zyrcon who wasn’t a man yet.
“Huptha!” Zyrcon raised both arms over his head and tossed his head back the way his father the King did.
Aisha swung her trunk playfully in front of her then let it slap noisily against her furry head. She flapped her ears and seemed to be laughing at her master.
“Huptha!” Zyrcon said again, and stamped his foot.
Ridemistress Tun’rilly shook her head. Savage golden dreaded locks fell over her shoulders. “You imitate your father in practice only… he speaks from the heart, from where the fate of Bul’dirin touches him. I warn you, it is no act, Prince Zyrcon.”
Zyrcon saw how animated his teacher got when he failed and so failed some more during that hour, until she finally sucked her teeth and pushed him aside.
Tun’rilly wrapped both her long tanned arms around the calf’s neck once lessons were done and fearlessly pressed her clean cheek against the mussed baby elephant fur on Aisha’s head. Another thunderclap above.
“Dear girl, you know of Bul’dirin don’t you? He was your grandfather, yes?”
Aisha left off swinging her trunk. She seemed to calm.
“Yes… the great Bul’dirin who walks the sky. He is the strongest animal spirit. The power of fate he balances on two white tusks, each the length of the firmament. Under his feet, he tamps flat the will of the crocodile, the ibis, the silverback gorilla… all the spirits. He is speaking to you now, isn’t he?”
“He is telling her to behave.” Zyrcon answered for his elephant.
Tun’rilly came up slowly from the calf and smiled. Zyrcon was so distracted by the revelation that he forgot to shield his gaze from where it had been fixed on his teacher’s backside. The woman sighed, indulgent. “Your first vision. I congratulate you, prince.” She watched him carefully. “Can you hear what else Aisha is saying?”
Zyrcon furrowed his dark eyebrows together and listened. His skin was like red mud in the rainy season and his hair black like obsidian. His bright almond eyes were large with long lashes. “She is afraid.”
Tun’rilly became worried. “Of what, Zyrcon? We must mind a mount’s instinct, always.”
Zyrcon tried to focus, but then he shook his head. “I’ve lost it.”
Tun’rilly turned back to Aisha and rubbed the calf’s underbelly rhythmically. She began to sing to her.
“What does that do, Ridemistress?”
It was a while before Tun’rilly came out of her trance. “Nothing, really. I just adore her. She is cute, isn’t she? I hope that she calms down. Perhaps it is just that she misses her mother.”
Both Zyrcon and Tun’rilly glanced at the bulging black mare grazing across the yard. Aisha stretched her little trunk out to her mother. For a moment, the two people saw what she saw, and the round sides of the mare looked warm, the musk of the grown elephant smelled very good, like when they embraced their own mothers as children. In that celestial moment of connection, Zyrcon saw his mother the Queen, and Tun’rilly saw her mother Cavalry-General Irielle and they both felt the childlike terror of being separated from the maternal, even if just a few feet away across the elephant yard.
“Huptha.” Zyrcon was saying before he even realized it.
The little calf shook itself free of Tun’rilly and trotted across the yard. Aisha trumpeted happily and tried to hide underneath her mother, but she was already getting too big for it.
“Well done, my Prince.”
Zyrcon frowned. “Aisha made me do it. Again.”
Ridemaster Tun’rilly laughed, delighted. “In all my years of training, I never saw an elephant order about her rider. You two have a rare connection.” She patted Zyrcon’s shoulder. “That’s it for today, then. Her mother still minds her, but tomorrow I will begin teaching you how to clean and care for your elephant. Will you be ready?”
Prince Zyrcon raised his right arm and pressed the back of his hand against his forehead in salute. Tun’rilly trumpeted silently back, imitating an Elphanti war mount. Then she marched away.
Prince Zyrcon pretended to clean Aisha’s yard until he heard the well water begin to slosh out behind the rushes. It was faint, but he did know it. At that moment, he dropped the broom and ran to the women’s bath house. Before approaching the back wall, he checked in all directions. No one was around. Just the dark green shadows of the low jungle bush and ferns that crowded close together at the top of the mountain. He got onto his belly and crawled, then lay in the thick ferns pressed up against the reed hut that surrounded the well and drain that the women who worked in the stables used. Like always, he waited until he heard Tun’rilly singing before he got started.
And the woman made all kinds of variations to her voice, singing many songs with only the name of the Elphanti tribe’s youngest calf. She really did love her, as did everyone. Prince Zyrcon took a deep breath, then unfastened his pants. He rolled over onto his side and peered through the one break in the reeds. It was just substantial enough for him to see what he wanted. Then his arm snaked down between his legs, and his hand pushed the fabric of his trousers aside.
Waiting for Tun’rilly to finally face him was torture. Zyrcon stared at her soap covered buttocks it seemed forever. He imagined himself between them, the way bulls mated. It made him smile.
Tun’rilly turned around, and lifted her arms above her head. She was washing her hair, he was in luck. Zyrcon nearly lost himself at the prospect of having even more time with her than usual. Tun’rilly had the largest breasts Zyrcon had ever seen on a woman. He’d been coming to the women’s bath house at the same time nearly every day for a year. One day, after his first week of lessons, he was burning up with curiosity to see his teacher’s exceptional breasts—and she made him call her the Ridemistress–and so decided that he was royalty and had a right to it. That he’d never been caught only emboldened the young man, and when beautiful women like Tun’rilly bathed, he felt like he was the king already, with amazing power that no one could see but every one believed in. The heat of the jungle went straight to the top of Zyrcon’s head as he watched Tun’rilly rub her hands all over the dark bar of soap and then caress her palms over her body. She reached a hand between her legs and Zyrcon could have yelled… but she was just cleaning herself. Many times, Zyrcon wondered if women needed to do what he was doing now. It felt so good, he couldn’t imagine going a day or an entire lifetime without it. His thumb felt wet over the head of his phallus.
No… not yet… he grimaced.
Tun’rilly’s hands glided backwards, palm first over her hips, then she reversed the direction of her hands as they crossed her belly and her fingertips inched toward her erect nipples. She pressed them in. Zyrcon’s eyes went wide. He looked at her face for the first time. She was moaning softly, tongue at the back of her throat, enjoying how she touched herself.
The horrible frenzied bugle of an elephant filled Zyrcon’s ears, raised the hair on the back of his neck and ripped apart his mind. Without really meaning to, he came.
“Aisha!” he yelled. Zyrcon rolled out of the bushes and raced back to the elephant yard. He didn’t think.
“Zyrcon?” Tun’rilly heard and saw the young man at the last moment. She swore.
“Aisha!” Zyrcon kept shouting. His voice was angry, he felt the rage building in him. His mind saw the dagger and the blood. The dark shadow of large feet, like black treetrunks obscured his vision. He felt Aisha’s wiry baby fur, as if it were his own scalp brushing up against the belly of her mother. The comforting trunk that caressed her was as warm and loving as his own mother’s arm. Next, it waved about, warding the intruder off, but it was too late. Aisha could no longer fit underneath her mother.
“Aisha, Aisha,” Zyrcon mourned, his face was torn with grief when Tun’rilly caught up with him at last.
The Ridermistress saw the poor creature’s throat, slit open by a crude dagger that had been left behind. The calf’s mother galloped about in a frenzy and the other mares in the yard on the mountain top became alarmed too. They started to stampede.
“Stay them! Someone stay the elephants, before they do more harm!” Tunrilly shouted orders to other students who were coming to see the commotion. Tun’rilly was in her hastily drawn on soggy clothing.
She knelt and held onto Prince Zyrcon and his slain mount. He screamed and cried out. His pants were open and the woman he wanted was pressed against him but he no longer cared. All he could see was Aisha lying in a pool of her own dark blood.
Above them, the great Bul’dirin roared and the tears of heaven burst forth from gray thunderheads. The old elephant spirit is now murdered too.