Kir-eleyne

There was a pause in the heartbeat of the earth.

The god of the sun exhaled for the last time and for a moment everything stopped. Reason ceased. A small flock of belling birds, the last thirty or so left in Etelenty, forgot how to fly. More than half of them simply fell out of the sky, their small bodies landing with muffled thumps on the dead leaf carpet.
Spreading in a concentric pattern from Ra’s body, any plant still clinging to life lost its fight, the ground blackening as though burnt. The ring spread rapidly, and in moments everything to the horizon had darkened.
At the same time, the air diluted, losing its freshness, its vibrancy. Its life.
Above the head of Nephthys, maniacal violet thunderheads surged across the sky. The hue of the world changed to a sickening vermillion in the challenging rise of the winds. Magenta explosions raged inside the swirling clouds, threatening a monsoon of blood.
A storm unlike any other. A cataclysmic storm.
Her mother had begun to grieve. Her mother the sky.

Below her pretty bare feet, she felt her father’s protest.
A rapidly intensifying tremor rumbled through the sanctity of Aedom, tumbling her backwards across the charred and brittle turf. The sudden imbalance in all things was personified by an enormous crack, the loudest sound Nephthys would ever hear. An angry jagged fissure opened up in the earth, splitting the great Acacia in half. The fountain of truth disintegrated into thousands of obsidian chips, which whistled in all directions like tiny missiles. The psychotic fissure screamed through the ground, splitting Etelenty from one coast to the other, releasing choking sulphur. Nephthys gasped for air as the great trees began to be consumed by the quake, spilling like toys into the growing abyss. Deep below, the ravenous magma began its hungry climb, preceded by the fiery glow of warning
As her beautiful Mother Sycamore plummeted into the chasm, she actually did stop breathing, the air at the epicentre too thin to maintain respiration. She slumped forward crazily, the pricked balloon of a dying goddess. As she came to rest on the ground her wavering vision tried to focus on something. Anything to give her hope.
A familiar face swam through the haze.
An important, familiar face.
Green catatonic eyes staring.
I…..know………..you.
Sister.

With the last of her strength, Nephthys gave her voice to the hellish sky. A desperate call to the one who had always come. Without hesitation or judgement.
The magnificent Kir-eleyne punctured the armies of warring clouds, hurtling towards them.
My dear friend.
Thank you.
She felt a lopsided, palsied smile on her face.
Thank you.
The mighty raptor snatched up the two sisters like mice.

The charred bodies of the remaining belling birds dropped like stones into the molten mouth.

Kir-eleyne thundered its massive wings to get to safety, but the poison in Isis climbed rapidly though its talons and into its body. It dipped in the air as this strange sensation coursed through it. Kir-eleyne had never suffered weakness. Never been afraid. It would have dropped Isis but for the call of the girl with eyes the colour of sky.
Help us.

The great bird drew upon the essence of Belleren, using it to limit the spread of poison to the blue eyed girl. Knowing that it must do this.
It struggled ahead, crashing though the now brittle trees of Aedom, trying to gain height. Magma spewed out of the ground, bringing forth deadly cannon balls of fiery subterranean rocks. Kir-elyne’s wings were punctured, leaving smoky holes.
It had never felt pain either.
Somehow it lifted the sisters over a ridge, but it flew drunkenly as blood loss weakened it more.
A little further.
A little further.

Help us.

Get them safe.

As the poison reached Kir-eleyne mighty heart, it recognised the touch of the pale man.

You will not have them.

One giant push of its wings was all it had left. It pulled the two girls in close to its body. With the help of Belleren it encircled them with its golden wings, locking itself into a ball around their bodies.
Kir-eleyne said farewell to the sky and died while still in the air.
It crashed to the earth, protecting them as it tumbled and broke.
It was far enough to be safe from the earthquake. But not the rain of molten rock. They peppered the great bird’s body, and its feathers and flesh burnt with a stench lost in the madness of the apocalypse.
The ka of Kir-eleyne passed to Isis and Nephthys, giving them the essence of its being and the remnants of Belleren. It was just enough. It would allow them to survive.

They were safe.

from the novel “Last Goddess”

Morton Street, eight years earlier…

She felt conspicuous in her St.Bernadette uniform. But within her, right from the start, she knew she could have been wearing a potato sack and it wouldn’t have changed a thing. He was looking at her face. Mainly. Trying not to stare in the clumsy way of boys. He kept stride with her from the other side of the road. A quick glance revealed enough information for her to work with. She recognised the drab grey of the state school uniform. She hadn’t seen him before. Tall. Fair haired. Non threatening. Not creepy but annoying. Was he lost? He stood out amongst the dispersing tide of St Bernie’s kids in their royal blue. As she crossed another side street he did too.
Why me? Lucy Bower was walking with the pretty girls ahead of her. Everyone looked at Juicy Lucy. She had a career in T.V. or modelling ahead of her. And the others in her well groomed pack Amanda, Rachel and Carina. They plumped and preened and chewed up boyfriends like crazy. Aleesha didn’t consider herself attractive in the slightest. She tried not to be. But her peripheral vision picked up the line of his eyes. As she was walking on her own (as always) it was her in his sights. She felt exposed, her anonymity taken.
Increasing her pace, Aleesha used Lucy’s group for cover as she ducked into the mini mart. Prising a hand basket from the stack, she rummaged a pocket for the brief list of supplies Ruth had asked her to pick up on her way home.
She’d been in the store a full five minutes when the door chime signalled a new customer. Though several people had come and gone since her entry, Aleesha knew it was him. She wore no makeup or jewellery, which most of the other girls did despite school policy. Her skirt was a modest length, at least four inches longer than Lucy’s. Aleesha chided herself for suddenly caring. It was just a boy, damn it.
His sun bleached hair contrasted like a new mop on top of the slate grey shirt and pants. State school haircut to match the uniform. Straight fringe and shapeless cut. Done by his mum, possibly while having a beer, she thought. His sleeves were folded back to the bottom of his biceps. Nice arms, she conceded.
Picking up a magazine, he pretended to read while scanning for her over the top. Found her adding a packet of pasta shells to her basket. The small amount of his face she could see around his roaming green eyes was blushing.
She smiled an “oh brother” which he interpreted as a “come here baby” and was there before she had got past the rows of spaghetti sauce.
Up close he was cute-ish. Kind of.
He stammered through an introduction with a voice struggling with nerves and adolescence. His name was David and he was two years older than her. His unease transferred to her but she kept a lid on it. Ruth had told her men took a lot longer than women to mature. This guy seemed light years away. Aleesha cursed herself again for being aware of her plain appearance. And for seeing something in his eyes which brushed ever so lightly at her soul. For feeling something. It felt uncomfortably nice. Double damn.
David appeared genuinely shocked when she knocked back his offer of a movie date.
“But you smiled at me” he reasoned, leading her to a second grin.
For a moment he just stood there, and she saw a brief flash of something she would never forget. As though she could read his very thoughts, she knew what he was going through. I’m losing her. I can’t lose her. I’ve only just found her.
After just a few moments of meeting, he already valued her. It scared her to realise this. And it scared her how much.
His brain, obviously in tunnel vision- hunter mode, struggled to work it out. He raised the magazine he still held.
“Was I holding this upside down?”
Aleesha shook her head as he realised which publication he had grabbed. Cleo. The sexually transmitted diseases special. His face went from awkward pink to traffic light red. He glanced down, then back at the magazine, serious as though checking his symptoms.
Aleesha couldn’t hold back a snort.
He broke into a laugh that was contagious. She laughed along, something she did far too little of.
“Find a guy that makes you smile.” Ruth.
The words escaped her lips before she could reel them back in.
“Would you like to walk me home?”
He looked almost ridiculously happy. Oh lord.
Aleesha paid for her items. The cashier returned her change and a sturdy brown paper bag. David reached for it with eager chivalry but Aleesha wrestled it back. She was independent and wanted to show him that right away. It would have been weird to let him carry it, despite his wounded look.
He crammed his hands into his pockets as they exited the store. They walked side by side along Morton Street with little conversation. He seemed content enough to just be with her, which confused her. The awkwardness made her wonder if this was a mistake.
But along the way their hands slipped together. She wasn’t really aware of it happening. Her small hand felt right in his warm grip.
And for the first time in a long while she felt special.
Safe.
She belonged.

She hoped his hand would always be there.

from the novel “Last Goddess”

Tuccia

Rome, 31 A.D.

Tuccia pulled her veil firmly around her head. She didn’t want to attract any more attention than necessary. She prayed for the respect of the citizens as she descended the steep steps of the Atrium Vestiae.
At the edge of the square she strained to see through the crowd of onlookers. Their attention was focused on the column of condemned, meaning for the moment she stayed unnoticed. The parade of tragic souls moved slowly past, harassed and beaten by the ruthless Praetorian Guards. One by one Tuccia studied the manacled prisoners, hoping beyond hope her information was wrong.
She gasped when she saw that it was not. In the middle of the thirty men, she recognised Gallius, her childhood friend. It was obvious he had been treated as poorly as the others, his blonde curls and body caked in blood. The crowd remained eerily silent. None wanted to incur the displeasure of the guards. Established by Augustus, they once symbolised the strength and mercy of the emperor. But under the rule of Tiberius, they had become much feared. Led by the cruel Sejanus, the guards had become manipulators of the city, the state, and therefore the empire itself. A network of spies and informants fuelled their zealous drive. Few were safe from their growing dark reach. On their authority alone, without trial or even discussion, nearly anyone could be marched away to their death. While Tiberius led a life of debauchery in Capri, he grew steadily more ignorant of their activities.
The prisoners were minutes away from the end of their lives. Sweet Gallius, the only pure hearted man she had ever met, was going to die. For nothing. The time had come for Tuccia to act. She wormed her way through the crowd.
A gap presented itself when two guards focused their attention on a stumbling man. Within earshot, Tuccia called her friends name.
Gallius reacted to her familiar voice, but did not look at her. Brave, noble Gallius. Despite her position, despite his fate, he would not risk endangering her. He only had to look upon her to be free.
He would not.
She had no choice. Rushing forward, she threw her arms around him.
“No Tuccia!” he pleaded.
A blow from the hilt of a sword knocked her to the ground. As she fell her cloak parted enough for the guard to see the red and white bands of the goddess. Shamefaced, he ushered her to her feet. The line of condemned men halted as other guards came to the scene.
Regaining her composure, she addressed the forlorn soldier who had struck her.
“I have touched this man. He is pardoned.”
He, and the other guards who had gathered, bowed their heads in respect. This law was beyond all statutes and arguments. Her order predated the Praetorian Guard by seven centuries.
Gallius held his place, his shock visible. The nearest guard produced a ring of keys, stepping forward to free the man.
“Wait!” came a booming command from the rear of the column.
Tuccia felt a cool shiver as she recognised the voice.
The voice of Lucius Aelius Sejanus. Personally responsible for twelve thousand elite soldiers. The man whose power exceeded even the emperor himself. Why was he here today?
His troops parted like obedient children as he strode toward her. His deep bronze shield, breastplate and helmet contrasted with his cold pale complexion. In his hand, a silver lance with an intricately decorated grip. He fixed her in his proud amber gaze.
She stank of the goddess.
“Who are you, bitch?” he demanded.
“My lord,” began the guard who had knocked her down.
Like a striking snake, Sejanus spun the deadly lance in an arc. As he did, the tapering end flared into a narrow blade. Tuccia saw this clearly although it moved at such incredible speed. With a whoosh it was back at the side of Sejanus. The soldier’s severed head slid noiselessly down the angle of the cut. Like an overripe tomato it splotched to the ground.
“I was talking to her” he continued, casually kicking the severed head into the throng.
Tuccia stepped next to Gallius. She loosened her veil to reveal more of her face.
“I am a Virgin of Vestia” she announced boldly but not loudly. “And by my touch I free this man of all false charges against him.”
Sejanus looked over her with obvious contempt.
“The only falsehood before me is that of your chastity” he sneered.
Her mouth fell open in disbelief.
“The pontifex maximus will confirm it” she stammered.
He spat on the ground at her feet. He strode to her, tearing away her veil to reveal her shorn hair. Then her cloak, uncovering the palla pinned over her left shoulder. Roughly he tore away this shawl of dignity, leaving her bare breasted in the centre of all. The red and white ribbons of Vestia fluttered around her. She made no effort to cover herself.
“I see the Virgin!” shouted one of the prisoners. Like wild fire, the cry spread amongst the condemned. They all knew that even the sight of a maiden from the temple, while en route to execution, meant their freedom. Their voices grew in number and volume along the line.
“Silence!” bellowed Sejanus. “I see only a whore. For who but a fornicator would throw themselves upon this pig.”
He turned with malice to the shocked Tuccia.
“I offer you the chance to prove yourself. A challenge. For is it not true that your goddess empowers you?” Her knees trembled, threatening to give way, but she held her ground and his terrible gaze.
“My goddess walks with me always” she said bravely.
“Good” He took a metal pot from the kit of one of his men. “Then this will be simple for you. You will take this to the Tiber. Fill it with water and return it to me. If it is still full when you get here, I will release every prisoner. If it is not, you will take loaf and wine to Campus Scelerus. Do you agree?”
“I agree” replied a defiant Tucci quickly. The prefect of the city had given her an easy task, apparently upon realising the impropriety of his actions. She was proud to have stood firm against this arrogant bully. The threat of Campus Scelerus, the evil field, was empty. She would not be joining the skeletons in the underground chamber of death. The food and drink were traditionally provided so that the victim was not killed, which was sacrilege, but rather died “by their own choice.”
He stood, holding it aloft so all could see. He turned slowly, scanning the sea of faces for the real target of his actions. She was here somewhere. He smelled her.
“The Virgin of Vestia has agreed to the challenge. Her word is binding. If she fails in this task, she is deemed unsuitable to maintain the flame. She will end her days in Scelerus.”
Sejanus dropped to his haunches. He pulled a jewelled dagger from his belt. Aggressively, he punctured the inverted pot with numerous holes, turning it into a sieve.
He threw it to her. She was too stunned to catch it and it clattered noisily to the ground.
“I will wait on the steps of your temple” he laughed. He walked away, resheathing his knife.
“Wait!” she called to him. Sejanus spun on his heels.
“You have changed the conditions of the trial. I demand the same right.”
His chest heaved in anger and his hand instinctively went to his sword. Still she would not cower beneath his cruel eyes, as so many had before. He cursed the obvious influence of the goddess.
Tuccia had pulled her garments around her and held the battered pot in one hand.
“I will bring you your water, but surely the Tiber is too far away. On such a warm day, you must be very thirsty. The fountain of our temple is just over there. You can watch me, to ensure there is no trickery. For surely water is water my lord. And this business can be ended much sooner.”
His fingers played eagerly upon the hilt of his lance. How easy it would be. But the hundreds gathered round would not tolerate the murder of a Vestal Virgin under any condition. His gold eyes flittered amongst them. Where are you?
He bowed with exaggerated grace to accept her condition. He still held the upper hand.
Tuccia turned to the people. This time she held the pot aloft. She raised her proud voice to the masses.
“The Prefect of Rome has given his word. It is as binding as my own.”
Sejanus bristled at her mockery.
The crowd parted to form a corridor from the steps to the fountain. She walked purposefully over and knelt before it.
She was no fool. The task was impossible. Her training had given her courage and conviction. But not the ability to perform miracles.
Trembling, Tuccia dipped the bowl beneath the surface, reluctant to raise it.
Her genuine devotion to Vestia had brought out her brave demand to draw water from the temple fountain. She had known nothing else since the age of eight.
Now, twenty years on, she would have her faith tested at the risk of forfeiting her life. She prayed it would be enough.
Her goddess answered.
On the temple steps, Sejanus tensed as he felt the influence of his sister.
Tuccia felt another pair of hands cup her own, giving her strength.
She raised the pot, trickles of water dripping off the outside. She watched the surface, for surely it must drop.
It did not. None escaped from the holes Sejanus had made.
She carefully got to her feet and carried it back to him.
He did not look in the least surprised.
Tuccia gently dropped to one knee and offered him the pot.
He smashed it away with the back of his hand.
He stepped past her, calling his troops to follow.
The prisoners were left, dazed in the middle of the square. Families and friends rushed to their loved ones, weeping with joy.
Some remained around the figure of Tuccia. She had fallen onto the steps and lay without movement. They longed to help her but none could touch one such as her. Several called to the temple for help. Finally two other maidens of Vestia came down to aid their fallen sister.

Within days, Sejanus’ reign of terror had ended. Statues of him were torn down. Any mention of him removed from public records. His broken body was left, ironically on steps. The Germoin Stairs. He had been strangled. A crowd descended upon the body, tearing it to pieces.
In their rage, few noticed the fierce amber of his eyes gone. In their place, the kind blue ones he was born with.
As though his spirit had flown, leaving only the shell of his battered corpse.

from the novel “Last Goddess”

Kintsukuroi (Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with seams of precious metal-thus creating “imperfect perfection”)

Together
We chase the fruit of the sun
To the end of the world
A numinous and talon torn sky
Shredded strips of red rag
Sadistically smashed jaffa and gems
Which clot and cloy in floured glue
Elongated curds
Fallen ladders

A stubborn actor that
Pompous
Ungotten
Sullen
Parts the stage unhurried

The carob cordial horizon
Already
Dark and drunk with light
Finds a stoner’s appetite
To swallow an exhausted sun

The old king bows
Losing his crown as always
Leaving distant diamonds on wave caps
Glittering in the open carpetbag of dying day

Free and curious
And beautiful as her soul

The sea waits
Pregnant
Patient
For the last guests to leave

Sinews and snorts of cappuccino foam spat
Across the blurred and broken kaleidoscope
Of tortoiseshell shallows
Here a stegosaurus grazes just below the surface
His rocky plates curl out to the point
In the black and bold of ancient shadow

We are older now
The rocks far apart
But in my mind I jump them with ease
Even with her on my back

We land on the shore
Leaving cookie cutter footfalls
On brittle broken candy
Our adventure soon
Crumbs swept under the tongue of the moon

Memories caressed by the husky cinnamon breath of dusk
Brash and bluesy
Words unsaid bite bitter on the breeze
Salt stuck to my lips

Ironic gulls suspended on wires
Hang in regal vermillion
Their barbed and sulphur calls mock my silence

Punk plants murmur behind us
Mohawks shake in doubt and empathy
Atop lumbering, slumbering
Sleep talking dunes
Whose flesh we puncture
To warm our thin toes

She looks up at me
Emerald silk satin eyes
As always and ever my heart skips
It cannot be her
But it must be
For here I am
Everything I ever wanted to be

Wet
Dark
Chocolate hair
In chaos cascades
Kintsukuroi
Over peach brandy shoulders

The beauty within
Always escaping her
Spilling out
Mango and musk

Ambrosia
Under the sticky sweet and sour sky
In this
Our lonely, only freedom

She offers her hand
Our fingers don’t quite fit
They never have
Our knuckles knobble and knurl
And disagree
In ironic almost

But our hearts hold and hammer
In bonds beyond touch
Seams of gold poured through the cracks and frailty
Humbling and hungry its glow
Sealing the share of our dreams
Binding the strings of our souls
Holding back our snakes and spiders

I pat the blanket down around her feet
She wriggles her toes under the sand
And smiles as they pop out
The lines at her eyes
Remind me how many times she has
She laughs at the noise I make
The growl
That is really a sigh

There is a whisper not wind
The breeze drops to dapple
The ocean dulls
It is time
As always and ever
My heart sinks with the drowning day

I softly slip my arm from behind her
Immediately
Urgently
It pleads to return
The feeling brand new
And forever
But the bulb begins to blink and blacken
Time sends the hounds
And beats the bushes

Our lonely
Only
Waning light
Illumination yet

As always and ever
I kiss her hand
Those fingers that do not fit
Humble me
An ache
No one else can understand

I lift her from the sand
Feather light we fall
Tumbleweed to the shore
Silverfish of seventeen and seventy
Breathless and brave
Brilliant
Laughing aloud at the universe
At everyone but us

We run
Timeless
In rags and riches
Horrible and beautiful
In honest love beyond the scope of measure
Nothing more
Nothing less
Than us

On weary and wind peppered legs we fly
Away from what might have beens
And should have dones

Towards hell yeahs and everywhere
As always
Ever

Towards the never setting sun

For Kerrie