Jaspernon The Prince : The Rise of the Cult of the Goddess : Ch.1 : Court Of The King (Section 2)
By Kurt Rellians
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“I have been destined for the Priesthood since childhood, my lady, answered Patience most patiently. She was not easily irked, having suffered the slings of the world.
“A great shame, don’t you agree,” said the concubine, referring with her eyes to the gentlemen sat around the table.
The General, knowing Riala well now, and assuming that she referred to the waste of a beautiful woman, to be deprived of the many men who would have surely felt keenly for her, said, “It is a shame that such a handsome woman should be deprived of the company of men when so many, I am sure, would wish to know you better. Please forgive me if I upset you by this, but I mean these words only as a compliment to you.” He directed these words to the Priestess, and the words came easily to him because she was indeed a woman to be much sought after. If he were a few years younger he would have attempted to court this woman, unattached to any man as she was, Priestess or not, for she was very beautiful. He imagined that the black robe she wore, and the hood which often went with it, with which she could hide her features, were disappeared, and that her nakedness were revealed. He imagined full breasts, smooth skin and shapely buttocks. Patience’s face drove him very easily to such imaginations. What then would a younger man of the court do? He glanced quickly around the table.
Kaslarin, the courtier, sat proudly, intently scanning the progress of conversation with interest. He was relatively young. At around 40 years he must not feel himself too old for this lovely flesh. And then there was the young Prince Jaspernon. At 18 he was not new to the flesh. Princes lived very fortunate lives. He would surely be keen. The young Prince gave every sign of his rapt attention as he followed the conversation, but the young man was not yet apt to venture too many opinions to his elders.
The King maintained a quiet distance, as he often did on these occasions, encouraging by his silence, his guests to speak freely. He entertained himself in this way, and was able to remain uncommitted. The King appreciated good flesh, that was to be sure. For he had selected Riala himself, and she, at 24 years, was a wondrous beauty, alike, and yet very unlike the Priestess. While Riala was succulent and tempting, forward and sensuous, the Priestess was quiet and poised, beautiful in her childlike dignity.
“I suggest a trial,” said Riala airily.
The General could see the mood she was in. He inwardly groaned, preferring to avoid pressing this unwanted examination on the poor young Priestess, but he knew also that whatever was said could well be very entertaining, whether or not it was embarrassing to the poor Priestess.
Playful Riala went on, “Let us determine how much this resolution of yours is natural. You have already admitted that you were destined to your lonely occupation from birth. Your parents must have been very unhappy people.”
To anyone but a patient High Priestess these words would have seemed rude and may have evoked resistance. Patience however was a generous individual, blessed of a generous humility.
“My parents were stoical hardworking people, genuine believers in our cult. This is why they devoted my upbringing from the earliest days towards my destiny. They were also very happy. They brought me up in a spirit of guidance, and unlike many, I was always loved and attended to. I had a very happy childhood.”
“How much of this resolution is cultural, I am wondering. For your parents, influence was cultural. I suspect most of it,” said Riala, answering her own question. For if you were allowed to grow and develop naturally from the heart you would have surely responded to your many admirers by now, and at least one or two of them would have learned a good deal more about the real Patience within the shell!”
Still there was no sign of resistance from the Priestess. She remained true to her calling. No man or woman could anger her. Perhaps she was indeed flattered by the interest shown in her by this eminent royal concubine, or perhaps it was the knowledge that the other males of the table, King and Prince included, were watching her with more than platonic interest. Riala knew that, and she performed as inquisitor to satisfy their interest, as much as her own. Perhaps the Priestess saw this as a test of her patience, and indeed it was. She would prove to all the factions; King, Prince, General, and courtier, and to the concubine, that her religion was true, that the ways of the flesh, and of greed, were not necessary to her or the followers of her cult. By example she might lead these influential people in the ways of goodness.
“I have grown naturally from the heart. My parents allowed that in me, and I thank the Goddess that I have been able to flourish. I am only human. The ways of the flesh have tempted me like any other, but my Goddess gives me understanding and enables me to see that I am not for the ordinary life of motherhood, and caring for a husband. I have dedicated my life, not to the family, but to my people. That is not only the worshippers of our Goddess, but also to the service of all of your subjects sire.”
“You do not then, even hope to marry?” asked Riala sympathetically. The General Ageus detected condescension in her tone, but overlaid with what was probably genuine sympathy, sorrow, that such a fine woman should be closed to the sexual hopes of men. This Riala was a strange one. She was not like the King’s official wives, or indeed his other concubines. They adhered to polite conventions, just as the Priestess did, although they were more worldly, in the bedchamber at least, by the King’s account, and the account of many courtiers, himself included. The King’s two ‘official’ wives had been closer to the King’s own age. His concubines were many, and had been more, although he had long been in the habit of exchanging them with other eminent subjects and even foreign princes and kings. He had often been prepared to release these concubines, who he felt were unhappy, to other suitors, usually of their own choice. In so doing the King was popular within his palace, and amongst his women.
The General also respected him for his generosity. No one should be unhappy in the King’s Palace. The General himself had received the gifts of many of the king’s concubines over the years. Some of these were while they remained King’s concubines, loaned with the full acceptance of the King. Indeed it was usually at his behest. There was an understanding that many of his concubines were available to his chosen dignitaries. Some had been ‘given’ to him as gifts, and a few of those remained in his house as his own concubines.
He wanted Riala though, and so far the King had not been generous with her. He knew that Riala, popular with the King, and therefore powerful, was a very lascivious woman, just as her provoking of the Priestess suggested. She had thus begun and ended affairs with a number of courtiers when she so desired. Knowing the king’s exemplary tolerance, she had committed herself to those courtiers whom she desired on occasion, confident in the king’s fascination. Quickly she came into a position of great power in the court by the use of her own allure. But she had not yet misused her charm, except in the minor misdemeanour of provoking certain courtiers or other concubines in the way she did with Patience now.
Oh surely Ageus did wish to hold Riala’s beauty in his arms one day before he grew too old to charm her. She consciously tempted him whenever he was at court, and he made no attempt to hide his interest. But she stopped well short of giving that encouragement, which was necessary before he could act. The General Ageus did not wish to upset his King. There were times when his king could be jealous, and the General made sure that he would never provoke his King in any way. His position here at court, and as the King’s favourite minister could not be allowed to be threatened by ill thought whims. Like every man he wished to be blessed by Riala, but she was not worth any endangerment of his position.
“Patience, we at the court could determine how much of your creed is natural, and how much of it has been culturally placed within you by unnatural influences. I think you will find how much you have been restricted into the philosophy and creed like a plant which is forced to grow in a secluded place. I know courtiers who could erase the disciplines which bind you. They are accomplished and always willing. Kaslarin, over there, is an experienced courtesan.” Riala deliberately used the female description to bait the man, whom she disliked a little. She knew that his behaviour was not normally lascivious, but knew by the effect of blushing, which she could arouse in him, and by the way he glanced frequently at the Priestess, that he would not have refused an opportunity to court her. She knew also that he had frequently voiced strong views in public and in secret about the practices of decadent decay which he perceived within the King’s court. She knew that she was the object of much of his criticism, but also the King himself and other courtiers. But he was a man, and men were easily led. She hoped to lead him now into passing embarrassment.
“You Kaslarin could destroy her childish inhibitions and set her flying. You Patience would assuredly find your greeting highly delightful. Many ladies would exchange their marriage vows for such an experience. Kaslarin will offer it to you freely and afterwards we could see how many of your deeply held views remain, and how firmly. That would be a journey of self discovery to open a far more real understanding of the world.”
Patience hesitated politely under this onslaught of temptation. The only sign of impatience was her choice of words. Otherwise she carried herself as a lady of the court would. “I believe that you mean no harm, but merely wish to educate me to your own beliefs Lady. So I control my repulsion and hope that you will not make any more such insinuations.”
Riala, the King’s concubine, smiled, but not to mock. Feigning surprise she said, “I meant not to cause offence. I merely wish to test you, and you have passed my little test. You have proved most patient. My offer of Kaslarin however, I do believe to be sincere.” Kaslarin remained reddened by Riala’s playfulness. He judged it not sensible to say anything further.
“What brings you to Anachronar?” asked the poet Denison, who had sat quietly like the King, listening to and watching the exchange between two such lovely women; the one pure and above the flesh, the other deeply of it, but no less inspiring for all of that.
“I can see your city needs our example. Your people struggle to find hope. Many are poor. There are many of the aged and dying who need our help, and the young orphans too, the sick, suffering and lonely. We aim to transform your city, to bring care to it and to save its soul.”
“You will need a place to live while you follow this endeavour,” entered the King, speaking for the first time since the meal had begun, after listening to the flow of his courtiers’ conversations, as was often his way. He had listened to the newcomer sizing her up. Before he spoke he preferred to gain insight into his visitors.
“Sire, I have accommodation at our Temple, and there are many followers of our religion who I might stay with,” said the High Priestess.
“I would like you to understand that you would be welcome to stay in my court if you wish, but I would not order you.”
“Sire, I have work to do, with the poor and dispossessed. I cannot very well pursue that if I am in your court,” she answered.
“There are people here, courtiers, servants and kings, who would hear your words. It may be that some of us would act upon them.”
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Still reading with great
Still reading with great interest.
Now onto next part.
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