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On the face of it, today was a day that began much like any other. Jessa rose with the sun, smiled down upon the small, round faces of her still sleeping siblings as she slipped on her often-mended dress. She breakfasted with her father, then joined her mother at the door of their clay and stone hut. As always, they waited there for the rest of the village women to join them on their walk to the river to bathe.
As she stood quietly beside her mother, tracing swirling shapes into the dry, dusty ground with her bare toes, Jessa tried hard to convince herself that it was just another spring day. But although her breakfast of eggs and fish was routine, her father’s uneasy silence was not. Although she was used to her mother casting her gaze around the village to note who was on time and who would be late by the colour of smoke puffing through chimney holes, she was not used to her shifting her weight from foot to foot, or chewing her nails to the quick in agitation.
For the first time since the onset of winter, the smoke that drifted from the roof of each small hut was the same colour. Today, nobody would be late. One by one, doors opened, and women of all ages emerged, blinking, into the bright morning. All of them silent, all of them sombre.
As soon as the first woman drew level with Jessa’s hut – the one closest to the village boundary – her mother shuffled forward to join her. Jessa followed and was soon flanked by her dear friends, Alice and Celia. Both girls were of a similar age to her, but she was the eldest among them. In fact, she was the eldest daughter in the village, having turned eighteen on the day of the Mid-March festival.
Ever since that fateful day, Jessa had been haunted by the horror she’d seen in her mother’s eyes when the ground had shaken beneath their feet. The older woman had frozen in the act of placing a circlet of daisies upon her daughter’s head, and though her mouth had opened wide, she had held her scream in her throat. She knew as well as Jessa did that it would have been pointless. Once again, the Gods had spoken, and their desires would not be denied.
The walk to the river was made in silence. As she approached the bank, Jessa pulled her dress over her head, breathing deeply to fill her lungs with the scent of home, and handed it to her mother. She didn’t look at the others as she walked into the river, but she knew they would be disrobing too, that they would be following her into the water.
She waded out, stopping once the water was chest high. Her friends joined her and set about her skin and hair with lemon scented soap. She didn’t roll her eyes as Celia reached around her to soap her breasts. Didn’t catch Alice’s eye and smirk as the pretty redheaded girl plunged her hand beneath the water to wash between her thighs. Jessa closed her eyes and let them do what they had to, and soon she was back on shore.
Hair braided, skin rubbed pink and glistening with lavender oil, Jessa fell into line behind her mother. The steady swish of her hair lulled her into a false sense of peace, and she was surprised when their small gathering came to a stop. The hour-long trek to the top of the mountain was over already.
They congregated around the Element Stone. Hands. There were so many hands, lifting Jessa onto the stone, pulling her legs one way, her arms another. Rope whipped off rock, women grunted. They tugged and pulled at Jessa, some sniffing back tears as she gasped and tried to shrink away from the quick stinging nicks that ran alongside each twist of rope.
Then, all at once, she was alone. Alone and staring up at the white tufts that drifted on blue above her, Jessa flexed her toes against the stone. She wanted to move her legs but couldn’t, her calves were trussed to her thighs. She wanted to soothe the stinging cuts, but her hands were bound behind her and she was lying on them.
All around her, candles floated on water in earthenware bowls. Their tiny flames flickered in the wind. Jessa watched the water in one bowl slowly redden as her blood trickled into it. Though it was the Earth God who had called for a sacrifice, each of the Elemental Gods were receiving an offering. All Jessa could do now was wait for the Earth God to come and claim her.
As she lay there, bound, bleeding, waiting, Jessa was tormented by nature. Bees buzzed around the flowers in her hair, butterflies landed on the stiff peaks of her nipples. She could hear rustling on the ground, wings displacing the air. How long would the Gods make her wait? Until unconsciousness took her? Until death came for her? The latter would stand to reason, given that she was a gift to the Earth God.
Quite suddenly, the sky began to darken. Thinking that she must have dozed off, Jessa looked for the sun. She hadn’t fallen asleep at all, the sun said she’d barely lain there an hour. So why, then, was day becoming night? A storm, maybe? The way the clouds roiled and the temperature dropped, the way the air crackled with an electrical charge suggested so.
Something shot across the sky. Something massive. It hurtled towards the ground, twisting the clouds and churning the air as it went. Jessa squeezed her eyes shut, braced herself for impact, but all she heard was a soft thump. Had the object burned itself out as it fell? Surely a collision with something so large should have shattered the world.
As if someone had snapped their fingers, all sound ceased. No birds chirping, no animals snuffling, creeping, or slithering. In that eerie silence, Jessa heard something that arrested her heart. Footsteps. Slow, measured footsteps that grew louder as they approached.
First, she saw a flowing mane of white blonde hair and a forehead adorned with a single white gem. Then eyebrows, a darker blonde, and beneath them storm blue eyes that were fringed with thick, black lashes.
A hand stroked softly over Jessa’s brow and her eyelids fluttered, and when she looked upon the face hovering over hers, she gasped. Never had she seen a face like it. Never had anyone ever smiled at her like that, as though she was beautiful and precious. And never – ever – had anyone told her that the God of the Sky was a Goddess.
Without saying a word, the Goddess leant forward and brushed a kiss over Jessa’s lips. Jessa tasted sunshine and rain. She couldn’t blink, couldn’t speak. All she could do was gaze upon that most perfect of faces and lose herself in the most intimate of touches.
Lips at her temple. Thumbs stroking her nipples. Lips on her cheek. Nails skimming her stomach. Lips on hers, tongue in her mouth, fingers pushing between her thighs, parting her labia, drawing forth a torrent of wetness.
Jessa strained against her bonds even as the Goddess plucked at them. She teased the knots, trailed her fingers in the blood that ran alongside them. When she grinned, Jessa knew that she had opted to leave her bound.
Within the space of a blink, the Goddess was kneeling on the stone at Jessa’s hip. Slowly, she straddled her, hovering above her, laughing as she urinated on her stomach. The warm fluid flowed along the grooves in the stone, mingling with Jessa’s blood, trickling into the bowls, tainting the water, spilling over to stain the ground. With a flick of her hair, she called forth a gust of wind that extinguished the flames of the candles.
“My brothers,” she whispered, hands slapping the stone, knees knocking against Jessa’s arms as she crawled up her body.
“They have taught your men to serve them well. They have conditioned them to give their daughters in offering, but what do they ask for me? Incense. Song. Praise. Nothing I can touch, nothing I can physically feel.”
Jessa held her breath and stared in awe as the Goddess of the Sky settled with her knees either side of her head. She licked her lips as pale-haired labia hung inches from her lips. Jessa lifted her head, inhaled deeply, stuck out her tongue, so desperate was she to taste.
And then the Goddess lowered herself, stroked her labia over Jessa’s face, shifted her hips from side to side to work the lightly pointed tip of Jessa’s nose between them. The taste of scents carried on the wind burst in her mouth. Spring rains, summer blossoms, autumn fires, winter berries. For a terrifying moment, her mind was filled with impossible vistas. Sprawling lands, cloud banks that looked like mountain ranges that stretched as far and as high as the eye could see. She saw the shape of the world and what lay beyond the stars, and it was enough to overwhelm her.
Then she was back in her own mind, in her own body with the Goddess’ hand fisted in her hair, sweat stinging her eyes, her tongue straining into a hot, wet hole that tasted like honey and fresh air. She was aware of her breast being squeezed, slapped, the nipple being tugged. She raised her head as the Goddess leant back, bent on keeping her mouth on her cunt but pulling away with a gasp when she felt fingers pushing inside of her.
Could she? Did she dare? Staring up at the undersides of the Goddess’ breasts, Jessa raised her head and started to lap and drink the wetness that trickled from inside her. She tensed her own muscles around the Goddess’ fingers, licking, squeezing, sucking, clenching. She rocked her hips as best as she could and they worked together, becoming frenzied, moaning and gasping as the end came near.
Thunder split the sky. Wind tore at the trees, sent rocks careening down the mountains. The Goddess keened and Jessa cried out as her bonds snapped and lashed at her skin. Jessa allowed herself to be dragged over the stone, watched her leg appear in her line of sight, yelled as the Goddess wriggled one leg beneath her and pressed her vulva against hers.
Jessa could hear the river rising, she could feel heat and the stone beneath her vibrating. But still, the Goddess snapped her hips, ground her wet cunt against Jessa’s. They scratched each other, clung to each other, held hands and pulled to force themselves closer together. This time when they came, fluid forced from their bodies erupted from between them and sprayed their bellies and thighs.
Jessa blinked at sky as its fury faded, as black and grey became blue and white. The Goddess was beside her, propped up on one arm, cheek rested on her hand. The ground rumbled again but all she did was snigger.
“I am the sky which blankets the earth,” she said softly. “I am the gale which douses the flame, I am the storm which ravages the seas, yet they still refuse to acknowledge my power. They still refuse to admit that I am the only one among them who is not a man.”
Indignation on her Goddess’ behalf – and her own – tightened Jessa’s chest. The Gods certainly had made men in their own image. Men denied their women power because the Gods denied their sister’s. Men sacrificed their daughters because the Gods had taught them that their own lives were worth more.
But now Jessa knew that they were wrong. Women had just as much power as they did, and they would no longer live to appease men, be they God or mere mortal. She knew that, for the first time in history, the sacrifice would return to the village. And when she did, things would change. A new religion would be born, and women and the Goddess of the Sky would take their rightful place in the world.
“And where is that?” the Goddess mused, curling a lock of Jessa’s hair around her finger. “Where is our rightful place?
“At the top,” Jessa said.
The Goddess smiled the most secretive smile. “And how do we get there?”
“We stand on the bodies of the men we’ve laid at our feet. Men taught us the Gods’ lessons the hard way, so that is the way they shall learn yours.”