Tsemo, Laong, and Vladi were already sitting by the fire in front of Kiro's father's house when Aegir and the others finally arrived, dragging AtthYs along. The young fisherman was still beside himself with joy. Seeing his aunt, he couldn't help but rushed up to her, kissed her, lifted into the air and tried to spin the overweight woman around. "Aunty, Aunty! The most wonderful girl presented me with this gay feather. She looked so beautiful in her wide flowing dress, so perfect! She is so pretty, lovelier than a butterfly, her hands are softer than duck down and she walks like a rail over water. Aunt, she's the most beautiful girl in the whole world."
His aunt began to laugh. "Let me down, let me down, I am much too heavy. You'll break to pieces!" Back on firm ground, she gave him a big smack! "My dear nephew AtthYs, save your energy for the girl or do you want to disappoint her on your wedding night?"
Later in the evening Kiro's whole family, his friends, the sun seekers and AtthYs were sitting around the big fireplace, sated with roast fish and waterfowl waiting for the setting of the sun. Kegs with a slightly sour beverage passed around and Kiro senior told the story of the day when he met his wife, at the Celebration in honour of the Great Mother. "Milli, my dear Milli, she was one of the Daughters of the Great Mother also. She was slender as a deer, smelled like red roses and had a voice like a nightingale. She was lovelier than the morning sun and hotter than the sun at noon! Today she doesn't look like a slender deer anymore, but I still love her the way I did on the day she presented me with the gay feather!" AtthYs' aunt laughed heartily, "Sure you still love me, but I guess it's because of my good cooking and the beer I brew!" With a big smile on his face, he turned to her and kissed her to prove his love to everybody.
The merry round drew on till the sun was down. "Hey, AtthYs, don't dream!" Kiro reminded his cousin, "You should be on your way to Temple Town already. Or do you want to miss meeting the Daughters of the Great Mother? Do you want to disappoint the beautiful girl that has chosen you?"
When AtthYs face went white and he began to look frightened. Nilo teased him, "Should I go instead of you? I would jump at the chance to make off with the adorable butterfly."
"Shut up! Bigmouth! She did not choose you, because she knows why!" Kiro senior chided Nilo for his pert remark. Then he poked AtthYs in the rips, "Go ahead dear cousin! Tonight, the Daughters of the Great Mother will examine the chosen ones very carefully. If they are not the right ones, they will them send them away without mercy."
Now AtthYs's face turned even whiter, but his uncle reassured him, "You will survive the examination and win the prize. I survived examination also and got the most wonderful gift in the world!" turning to Kiro, "You and your friend go along with him and make sure he does not bunk off."
Tired from the excitement of the day's celebration, bloated with food and slightly dizzy from the beverage the four sun seekers retired to the annex of Kiro's home for the night. Aegir and Buri made themselves comfortable in one corner while just an arm's length away Tsemo and Laong made their bed. Spooning under the covers they soon began to talk about the events of the day. "I really was curious to see if one of the Daughters of the Great Mother would choose you out of the young men lined up." Aegir giggled. "Buri, you stood out from the other because of your black skin and your curly hair! You were the best-looking lad on the whole square!"
Buri turned around tickling his friend "I bet not one of the handsome maidens wanted to get black fingers by touching my skin. They certainly took me for an unwashed country lad." tussling Aegir's hair, "I thought one of the girls would catch you, my pale-skinned boy, because of your flaming red hair! Even the Great Mother eyed you! "
"No way, none of the maidens gave us even a second look! I guess every one of the maidens knew who she was looking for."
"Their bad luck, I would never let a girl steal my boy from me! I would have bitten her head off!" Their bantering changed into kissing and a short time later Aegir protested squealing, "Stop it! Stop feeling me up! That hurts!"
"I know you like it. You are as hard as a rock."
"Hush big boy! We are not alone!"
"Are you shy of Tsemo and Laong?" Buri made fun of Aegir, then he asked into the dark, "Laong, does Tsemo have a hard-on or not? Tell me?"
"Tsemo? I don't know. He is spooning me, but I guess he has because something hard is poking my rosebud!"
"Hush, Laong, my boy! Don't tell them! Or would you like Buri to do you! He is big, I know!" Then he turned to Aegir and Buri, "I am just teaching him what a good teacher should teach his students!"
"You don't have to be a shaman to be a good teacher, ask Aegir!" Buri laughed!
"Who started the lessons, Buri? He used to look like an innocent boy, but…." Aegir didn't finish the sentence because the entrance got dark for a moment and a shadow entered.
"Can I stay here tonight?" a small voice inquired coyly and then more brazenly "Can you teach me too Tsemo? I may want to become your student too!"
"Is that you Vladi?"
"Sure, it's Vladi! Didn't I tell you he has his eye on you Tsemo? I am not bleary-eyed, yet!"
"Don't get jealous my Laong!" Tsemo said slowly sitting up. "And Vladi, you come closer!" hesitating, then "Do you know what we are talking about? We are talking about making love. Aegir and Buri and Laong and I are lovers. It's not a mere boy's play. We are partners for life. This endeavour needs special people!"
"Please let me a wee bit into your company, at least for your stay in Agysst." with this plea he crouched down in the small gap between the two beds "Please Tsemo, please!"
Aegir was the most decisive of the group. "Let's push together our beds so Vladi can join us." he warned the boy, "It's just for the time we stay here. You can't join the expedition, but for now, you are welcome!"
Lovemaking, however, had to be cancelled for the night, but this was more than compensated for because Vladi became an irreplaceable helper during the following days in Agysst.
Agdistis was foaming with rage! She, the Great Mother, she who was worshiped and venerated all around the More Axsaina, the Black Cruel Sea, had been humiliated in front of all the citizens, of all the pilgrims! She who was also known by the names Cybebe and Daucia, by Enthea and Maia, by Kubaba and Turrita had been humiliated by a fair-haired kid! Even worse just by the sound of the fair-haired kid's flute, a kid's flute! Her ears still were hurting from the high-pitched sound that had pierced her eardrums while she was penetrating the mind of a young innocent man! Who was that kid, who deprived her of her sacrifice? She had been hungry for blood, for the blood of a strong youngster. She had been hungry for the semen of a virile young man. For a whole year now, she had been hungry for the blood and the semen of a virile young man!
This high-pitched sound had interfered with her plan, the plan to spend the next three nights with an innocent but strong youngster. She already had made contact with the youngster's mind, but this terrible sound broke the connection. She tried a second spell and a third one, but the mental connection was lost. This terrible sound had had another, a totally unexpected effect also. It had turned the young man's heart inside out and he fell for the next girl who looked at him. The Great Mother's heart turned to stone. Should the stupid young man get one of her Daughters, should they become happy, but she, she had to get the fair-haired boy with his flute. He should make up for the loss! She wanted his blood his sperm, his life!
Back in the Temple Town, she ordered the High Priest to kneel down in front of her throne! "Get the fair-haired boy with his flute! Get him alive! Get him now! I want to play with him as a cat plays with a mouse! Get him!"
The old High Priest, who was nearly deaf, didn't understand her at first. "Goddess, Great Mother! Your wish is my command! But Goddess explain to me what you want. I am a stupid old man and to my knowledge, the ceremony went perfectly. There was just one little flaw. You didn't point out the young man, the sacrifice, to your helpers. They were not told which of the young men was the chosen one! You didn't give the agreed upon signal!"
"Dammed old fool, half-blind, half-deaf old fool! A fair-haired boy crossed weapons with me! His weapon was his flute, but my weapons are your followers, the priests, the Galli, the temple guards! Send them out! They should hunt for him throughout the whole town. They should search every house, in every shed, every ship, every boat! Get the fair-haired boy alive! First, I want his complete submission!
Afterward I want his semen, his blood, his bones! Set your followers at work! Immediately! If you don't get him woe betide you!"
The High Priest's face pale, his hands were shaking, his heartbeat nearly broke his chest! She was a monster of wickedness! He knew her story. The old priest summoned a meeting to consult his followers. Nobody neither the priest nor the novices nor the temple guards had laid eyes on a boy with fair hair nor had one of them met him.
"He must be a stranger!" the eldest of the priests told him after consulting with the others. "Father, we saw a red-haired and black-haired young man, however, neither one of them looked like a fair-haired boy!"
The High Priest drew himself up to his full length, "If there was a young man with flaming-red hair at the celebration and a black-haired one also, then there sure was a fair-haired boy there too, a fair-haired boy with a flute! Check the whole town! Check the taverns and hostels first, check everywhere, in every house! Somebody will remember him!" Leaving through a door, he called back subordinates, "Don't be sparing with rewards! We have to get the boy! Soon! The Great Mother wants him! She wants him tonight"
In the falling darkness, about two dozen priests each accompanied by a novice or a temple guard left Temple Town and swarmed out to search in even the most remote corner of the city for that fair-haired kid. The crowd had left the town square long ago and were now celebrating the first evening of the Great Mother's return in their houses or in one of the taverns. Most of the pilgrims from out of town were either with their relatives or friends, only some had taken lodging in a hostel. Now the alleyways were empty with the exception of groups of young men escorting the chosen ones to Temple Town where the Daughters of Agdistis were waiting.
First, the priests and their companions knocked at the doors of the taverns, asked the wardens of hostels and checked any shops that were still open but nobody could remember a fair-haired kid. Then they turned to the houses. But nobody could remember a fair-haired boy. Finally, one of the search parties run into an old lady looking for her bitch in heat and she remembered Tsemo, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, there was a fair-haired guy; he nearly knocked me over, however that wasn't a kid! He was small and of light build like a boy of twelve, but he was definitely a grown up. He was dressed like a shaman from the west. You have to ask the shopkeeper over there!" pointing to the house of Vladi's uncle, the merchant. "Later on I saw him on the roof watching the ceremony with the others."
The priest knocked at the merchant's door, first with this fist and when nobody opened with his big decorated stick, the sign of the Galli. "Have you seen a fair-haired boy this afternoon?" He shouted at the merchant's slave-boy, opening the door! "Your neighbour told me he was at your place! The Great Mother wants to see him! Where is he?"
"A fair-haired boy?" The merchant, a corpulent man, asked back, shoving aside the boy, "What do you want so late? We are about to go to bed! Come tomorrow!" and he tried to shut the door.
"I am the representative of the High Priest! You have to answer my question! Where is that fair-haired boy, that criminal rat!" the Galli was foaming.
"A fair-haired boy?" the merchant's wife called from the kitchen, trying to calm down the situation, "Do you think of the young shaman?" she asked coming to the door. "Yes, a fair-haired young man was here! But he is no rat!" stamping her foot, "He is a young shaman and the most extraordinary shaman I met all my life! He is of polite manners!" and arms akimbo "He left long ago, he is not here, he is not our guest!"
"So, you know him, dear woman!" the priest answered in honeyed tones, "Where is he now?"
"He was with one of these city boys. They left together." the merchant answered.
"We don't know! They just left!" getting more curious, the merchant, "Why are you looking for the shaman? Who wants to know his whereabouts?"
"The High Priest!" said the priest and the novice, his escort, explained, "The Great Mother was furious. She wants to have the fair-haired kid immediately! She hates him!"
"You misunderstood the Great Mother" the priest corrected the novice sternly, trying to tone down his statement, "The great Agdistis was curious, and asked the high priest to search for him! She wants to meet the shaman!"
The behaviour of the priest made the shrewd merchant suspicious, "He was on the roof, but we saw the fair-haired shaman then for the first time. I don't know where he went!" Being a cautious man, he pushed his chatty wife back into the kitchen, "Get back to your cooking! I'm dying of hunger!"
The emissary of the High Priest left full of suspicion and with intent to return tomorrow with some armed guards.
After the priest and the novice had left, the merchant turned to his wife, "Never tell these guys all you know! That's none of our business. These holy people are known to twist your words!"
The merchant was prosperous, most popular with the important people of the city, he loved his wife and they had been married since they both were twiggy young people. The merchant had one little problem, however. He had no children. He liked kids or more specifically he liked boys. Maybe just that was a problem of his childlessness. He found a rather easy way to solve the problem. After he got rich enough by his trade, he began to buy children at the slave market, boys or girls sold by their impoverished parents for money or taken prisoner by savage clans in raids on the backcountry or imported by traders from across the Inhospitable Black Sea.
The children he bought had to be nice looking of lithe build and bright. The girls had to help his wife with the everyday chores, while the boys had to help him in his shop. They had to learn all the tricks a good merchant has to know and had to help him to increase his wealth. He treated the boys well as long they were diligent and hard-working but sold them when they didn't satisfy his demands. He kept them in his house till after the rites of passage and then set them free to start a business of their own support with the merchant's money. For the girls, his wife arranged a proper marriage. The former slaves always stayed in touch with their "parents" and bit by bit a small trading empire resulted.
To the public, the merchant looked like a benevolent person, but he had one secret habit. If his wife wasn't present, he liked to fiddle around with the boys, but never hurt any of them. On the one hand, the boys had to accept these games and most did, aware of being slaves without rights, on the other hand, most of them liked to be his little friends.
MikkhY was one of the three slave boys living in the merchant's house at the moment. He was the oldest and just slightly older than Vladi, his closest friend for years. The merchant knew about the friendship "Search for Vladi, warn him about the priest. The fair-haired shaman had better leave town immediately."
MikkhY's first place to look was Vladi's house. His friend wasn't there. The next guess was the tiny extension of the house of Kiro's father's, where the strangers spent the night. Arriving there out of breath he stormed into the unlit room and dripped over Vladi. Vladi gave a loud groan and Aegir asked dryly, "Who's that? Strange ways here in Agysst! The darker night is, the more intrusive are the guests!"
MikkhY was not in laughing mood, "Where is the fair-haired shaman? The Great Mother wants his head! He has to leave and…" and feeling for Vladi in the dark, "You should leave also, Vladi. Someone told the priests you are a friend of his! The Great Mother is mad as Tiwaz, the highest of them all!" When he said Tiwaz, MikkhY clasped his hands in front of his breast and bowed.
Yawning aloud Aegir shook off the sleep. "Why for heaven's sake? Why Tsemo, the gentle Tsemo?"
Tsemo startled out of his sleep. Immediately he knew what the matter was, "I upset her plan to make AtthYs her own! I used the holy flute to defeat her, I did break her power. AtthYs is free now to marry a pleasant girl. He will never become a prey of that man-eating monster!"
Buri, quick in comprehension, jumped up, "The immortal one wants your blood; she is lusting for your flesh and bones, for your soul! You may be able to parry her attack but not the attacks of the whole brigade of her henchmen, the priests!"
"God help us! They are looking for Vladi also! If they can't get hold of the shaman, they want at least Vladi!" struggling to catch his breath, "They will tear out your fingernails, Vladi, they will roast the soles of your feet, they will water-board you till you spill your knowledge. I know them well! You both have to leave!" MikkhY beseeched his friend. "Let's leave, let's take my boat down by uncle's warehouse."
"I'm not leaving without Laong! He was with me and the evil woman sure knows that by telepathy."
"The hunt's on! Get your weapons and leave, we stay!" Aegir and Buri hugged those leaving goodbye and the four scrambled through the dark down the river-side to MikkhY's boat.
I would like to express my special thanks to my friend Anthony for improving my writing.
Comments, reviews, questions, and complaints are welcomed. Please send them to Ruwen Rouhs
Last, but not least I would like to add thanks for reading.