The Cull Sow Queen
Beyond the walls, Panthalassar dripped pensively.
Eff chanced a step closer to the only female goddess within an empire of him. The torn up leathers he wore made a tightening sound, around his legs. The ripped shirt or harness, whatever he believed he was wearing, clung to him unhappily wherever the cloth and leather were still soaked and stuck together. He was very dark skinned and the green tattoos on his chest, arms and stomach could best be seen in the shadows, where he seemed capable of making them glow involuntarily, like a cat’s eyeshine.
“Can’t your brother talk? Can’t he use actual words and save us some time worrying when his next tantrum will be?” Whenever he spoke, his mint-green teeth distracted from what he was saying. It was either delightful, or disorienting, one never knew.
Hichristy shook her head and smiled a little at the silly effect Eff was capable of having, and how he must thoroughly infuriate everyone else in life he encountered. The gold rhombus diadems hanging from the sashes tied around her thighs clinked gently when she did the smallest thing. A reach above were small white shorts. The top above her bare stomach also had a silken sheen. Actually lovely with her warm brown skin, and without the help of deadly firelight.
Pure white. Dastardly dark. And for some reason, Hichristy felt compelled to have purple hair.
“A millennia-old silent treatment, maybe?” Her brown eyes beneath amethyst brows and all that regal mane now flitted away from his figure.
“I’m asking you, Eff. Is that what you think it is? Is that how petty you think we are?”
Eff weaved, on reflex, when she came near to him. But Hichristy wanted to walk around the other god, sort of see him fully now that she had the chance. Size him up properly. Their fight down below the tower was truly over, Eff now realized, for her to be so easy with him.
“Good. I’m not hearing any complaints.”
Eff’s tone, gone very rich, sparked interest in Hichristy that she felt sure she would regret. But Hichristy asked him anyway, “…Complaints about what?”
Eff looked down to see what Hichristy was really doing. But Hichristy was shorter and he saw the top of her head, mostly. Then this loving urge to play with the purple puffballs of her hair seized him. Hichristy surely felt him staring and looked up. Eff grinned like a naughty child, caught before he could get up to something. Eff twined the fingers of both hands together tight behind his back instead.
“Hichristy, I’m telling you there’s nothing to complain about, not on my body.”
Hichristy might have smiled again, but she didn’t let her annoyed look quite make it there, this time, “Speaking is strictly a human thing to do. I chose to be more like them, deal with my followers as they are. But Panthalassar is lord over all the animals. Animals say a lot more without words.”
“And you actually understand one another? You’re sure? Because, in a two-god system, I think I’m beginning to see where a lot of your religious crises are coming from…”
“Shut up. Here, hold my hands,” though Hichristy snatched Eff’s fingers.
“I make you frustrated.” Eff grinned, “And now you’re touching me.”
She pursed lips, raised an eyebrow, “You have resurrected a mortal before, correct? And it will take both of our powers to do so in this instance. We should… mingle our energies. We have to, Eff.”
“I know that.”
“And once the Queen of Hichrisom has returned to the earth, she and I will rid the world of idolatry, savagery… Gods of foolishness, and worse.”
“And when my Cull Sow Queen is back in the saddle, we’re going to end the rein of mysticism, xenophobia and oppression. I mean, come on… I’m standing right here, Hichristy, and you still insist on there only being two gods.”
“EFF IS A MIGHTY TRIUNE GOD.” Eff used the trio of his voices, to execute that.
“Fine. I like a challenge.” Hichristy dug her nails in. Eff hissed in pain.
It began as a warmth between their palms. All spells begin as desire, don’t they? Something that is felt, wanted and then seen. Once perceived, it is teased, drawn out, even seduced… and if it cannot be tempted out of the confines of reality, then it is bludgeoned to do so, it is chained and dragged and forced to obey. Only the gods can ask this of the way of things, for ‘what is’ to sit up, give master rapt attention, and become ‘what is mine.’
So the goddess says, ‘Give it to me,’
And the prone, shapeless form on the altar, she wrenches away, ‘I cannot.’
A second god also demands it, ‘Give yourself to me,’
The soul, on what is only a table, in the end, she still resists, feeling now that it is, indeed, her own resistance, ‘I shall not.’
Now, together, the god and the goddess reach, they cramp fingers round the collar, and they pull together, ‘You are still mine. You will do as I say. That, or obliteration!’
And she lays there, the soul. She considers obliteration, how unsweet that is. She sees how she can go from shapeless to fully formed, to aware, to seeing and breathing again. But she is too afraid. She will be hurt.
‘Even the choice you have, that was mine to give.’ Says the goddess.
‘Even your dream of ending—I, death-maker, I crafted that perfect finality.’ Says the god.
‘I giveth, I taketh away.’ They say together.
Even as the soul considers, she sees her arms, her whole self, being lifted. She sitting up on the altar, against her will. Like a child being told, being pulled, picked off the floor by two larger people. Two dazzling people. One engulfed in orange flame, the other ignited by bright, humming, green energy.
Who are… kissing one another?
People kissing. Yes, after a failed marriage, a kingdom and my friends divided in war over the divorce, many other dreams of my heart and spirit crushed… Yes, that is the first thing I wanted to see…
And then Vanuva’s soul went.
When it was done, and both Eff and Hichristy knew this… they pretended they did not know it. For a few quiet moments longer, they kissed and indulged. Hearts thrumming in their ears, the secret pact made, that they would try and get away with it, before reality returned to them.
In the last silent moment in the new realm of kissing and touching and nothing else less sweet, when at last they… unkissed… Eff did pass a hand over Hichristy’s wild, soft hair. Smiled at the funny, fuzzy purple puffball ponytails she kept, above the long, dreaded tresses that fell over her shoulders and down her back. To him, it looked like her hair was half-finished, like she was a girl. A girl running around, looking for her mommy or her big cousins to finish braiding and locking her hair. But Hichristy, so serious, seemed to think her half-style was very normal and noble-looking indeed. Why? One day, he would have to ask her…
Eff then relaxed his other arm, to release around Hichristy’s waist and set her back down so that she was not standing on tip-toes.
Eff regarded the goddess before him silently. Then, he folded hands behind his back once more. No menace there, now.
Panthalassar dripped even more slowly over the balcony just outside. Then, it stopped. Like someone trying very hard not to make any more noise while he himself listened closely. Which, of course, is always awkward.
Hichristy fussed with a stray wiry hair, fitting it back into her violet updo. Then, she tried speaking to Eff again, “Where is Vanuva, now? At the start I… I thought I had a firm hold, but then you… And then I lost her.” She looked up, still nothing, “Well, Vanuva must be closeby her body, at least. One of us should go and get her.”
Eff was not listening to Hichristy. He was watching her. Seeing her breathe, seeing her move. Like he’d never seen a woman do those things before.
“Her exclamation could only be the very same… How that god must be called, who bears the frightful name.” Eff’s eyes wandered aside, at last, “Of Eff.”
“I don’t understand?”
“We fight after this, right? We tear each other’s worlds apart.”
“That’s what you want me to do.”
“It’s what… well, what we agreed. We did agree, didn’t we?”
“I don’t remember that.”
Hichristy went up on her toes again, then made a point of standing on flat feet. She smoothed the sides of her white regalia down, over her legs. Tugged the short fabric down the sides of her hips, where Eff was staring.
And then he also said, “We could do better. A lot better.”
“…Yes? I… what did I ask of you?” she walked away from him a little ways, “I don’t remember.”
“Then you still find me despicable, foolish.”
“You are my rival. We still haven’t decided who Vanuva belongs to. And one of us really should go and get her right now–”
“Then we have an even bigger problem, Hichristy.”
“Because now I want you, too.”
“Well, you can’t have me!” she flew into offense. Though of what, her frantic look afterward indicated she was totally unsure and that made her even more distressed.
“I am going to have you. Though you won’t take me. I’d buy you if there was enough money, or jewels. Is there a price?”
“I wouldn’t go to any man—or god—for any price!”
“There is always a price. Fine. I’ll gamble, then. If I win, I get what I want. If you win, then you can have whatever you want. An exchange.”
“A… a trade? What would we even trade, that I would… ever possibly wish for?”
“Another thing, it’ll make this adventure a little more interesting. It might even make it less… abominable. To avoid destroying a woman that I would rather…” then, he gained confidence, “Be sleeping with.”
“Was it all that ripping you apart with flames, being drowned by my brother that turned you on? Killing my creatures!”
Eff became flustered and his temper heated right back, “Isn’t the… well the depth a-and the reason for my attraction… isn’t it my own business?”
“I didn’t mean—”
“And if I do choose to share it, isn’t that for you to discover, gently? Not for me to offer it up right now and have you ridicule it?”
Hichristy crossed her arms, turned from him. Her gaze, where she alone looked at a pile of pig-shaped trinkets, was even more frightened. “I should never have let you touch me…”
Eff stood very close behind Hichristy. But he wouldn’t touch her again without permission. Hichristy sensed that. Could it be like that?
Eff told her, “Eff will win Vanuva over to his religion again, as his best servant. And if he does, Hichristy will become his lover.”
“For a night? Or… two?”
“For all time. Hichristy, I’m not going to risk my neck, my kingdom, my resources, on anything less.”
“For all time? I wouldn’t put up with that. I’d just leave.”
“No, I’ll make you stay.”
“I would go!”
Eff breathed in her scent. She let him, “Hichristy, I doubt you’ll want to leave me, once I get started—”
“And if Hichristy wins, then this horrible man-god will leave her kingdom, leave Vanuva alone, withdraw from everything and everyone in the East, so that things can go right back to the way they were before you and your foolishness ever became involved in our lives! Got it?”
“Either that, or we fight over Vanuva like rabid… bull elephants, destroying all we intend to protect and preserve once we do have her. Fine.”
He was so close, his voice so near. The space between was getting unbearable. Hichristy leaned back, into the man. Once welcomed, Eff put a hand on her shoulder. He kissed it. “So then, we have a deal.”
“…I suppose we do.”
He whispered, “Ah. So you still think you can kill me a thought. Which we already disproved, downstairs.”
“Well… you are a much bigger threat than I assumed.”
Eff laughed lightly and slipped arms around Hichristy’s naked waist again. He gave her a hug, “…Good.”
But out there, she roamed–
And isn’t that always the way?
The powerful ones warm and safe,
In their tower.
While the mice must race around,
Freeze while they try to survive.
And so Vanuva was,
A whitened soul freed from Pavilon,
Wandering and slipping away, always, in some wind,
Trying to find her old body,
That age ole’ affliction…
While the gods were so stupidly distracted,
And she scowled, since she knew why.
Trying hard to remember that she was not a cat
Nor a mouse.
And never a rat.
How well some other life,
How badly Vanuva craved to be a pig.
She followed the tracks for that.