Dragged And Washed With Eager Hands

 

 

I should warn my readers that the next episode deals rather inevitably with the subject of sex. If you are a virgin, or sworn to abstinence, or if your religious beliefs forbid you to carry out an examination of sexuality, I suggest that you give this part of my tale a miss. To summarise, it deals with the ridiculous episode during which, thanks to a popular front originating in the Theme of Crete, Tihocan and myself were encouraged to produce offspring.

It was some five years since the debacle at Mount Pelion and although there had been no more hostilities, the semi-independent colony of centaurs and men styling itself "Attica" was a continual sore in the heart of Atlantis. Astarte had stopped producing babies to everybody's secret relief, and Qualopec was almost spry in his grey-green crab suit. Tihocan, in addition to producing an entire canon of High Atlantean Court Music, had almost perfected a sound that could kill people at a distance, although his attempts at a time machine were still stillborn. I had been dabbling with flight, inspired by the winged creations that I had hatched in my laboratory. I was on the verge of experimenting on myself - there were certainly no volunteers - and growing on my body a working pair of wings. Working out the details of how to articulate these wings to the human frame, whilst providing enough muscle power and energy to power actual flight was a huge challenge. I had already established that gossamer wings that moved at high speed, like those of a wasp or a fly, were out of the question for a large mammal. I was thinking of something with a high surface area that flapped downwards every second, pushing upwards the body suspended in between the wings. Hardly graceful this awkward bobbing flight, to date the only solution I could manage; however once height was achieved, the ability to glide on an updraft brought its own elegance.

The five set of twin kings, meanwhile, ruled as before, little more than figureheads by their own choice. Each area of the Atlantean State was nominally under the control of a king; Mneseus, for example, was titular ruler of the area containing what is now called Ireland, whilst Eumelus was constitutional monarch of that encompassing Spain. And so on.

It was in an area under the nominal purview of Autochthon that the bizarre popular movement one day to be named "democracy" would spring up - named after a phrase (in the prehistoric language of the area) "Dimos Kretes" - which we were reliably informed meant something along the lines of "The Bunch of Cretans." In those days there existed a plain to the south of the City which encompassed a great rectangular plain extending in one direction about three thousand stadia or four hundred miles, bounded at the south by a mountain range topped by the scared peak of Mount Ida (the mountain being sacred to the Olympeans Zeus and Rhea, the place where these two first set foot on the earth). Nowadays, Mount Ida is merely a small peak on the island of Crete and the plain is now part of the seabed of the Sea of Crete.

The people of this region, either described as Autochthonic, after their king, or Cretan, after the geographical division that they inhabited, had long had a reputation for being backward and stupid and easily excited by the most trivial nonsense.

One year there arose in the Theme of Crete a ... what? Preacher? Rabble-rouser? Politician? I don't know how to describe him and I also have to confess that I cannot recall his real name. I shall name him for the purpose of this memoir after one of the slopes from which he used to regale his disciples with interminable sermons on the mount, a slope that is now a beach; Pelagios.

Naturally we in the Royal Family were oblivious to all of this. There are local politicians and crackpot philosophers standing on the benches in every village square, and this is healthy, as it gives the common people the illusion that somebody cares what they think. In reality the average "common person" can barely be left in charge of bringing up children, yet alone get involved in important decisions affecting thousands of people and requiring large piles of precious metal and gems. May as well put a monkey in charge of the White House, to use a metaphor comprehensible to my modern audience.

Then - Pelagios called a General Strike and organised a March for Civil Rights on the City. Some aspects of the General Strike didn't make any sense - if a slave stops working as a rule the owner executes them and obtains a replacement from the local prisoner-of-war camp. However Atlantis was more than just an army of slaves guided by benevolent overlords. There was a "middle class", citizens who were part of the New State; educated with the wisdom of the Olympeans, mostly in service industries. A life without hair-dressers, musicians, writers, priests, courtiers - well, what would be the point? And those not officially involved in the Strike began to drag their feet. To top it all a large crowd of Cretans assembled on the central island of the City, yelling, singing silly protest songs and waving hand-scrawled banners with inscriptions such as "One Two Three Four Qualopec Is Crap At War" and "Hey Hey Astarte How Many Kids Did You Eat Today?"

I received an aetheroscope call from Uncle Eumelus complaining that the rabble were disturbing his afternoon naps and preventing him from completing his thesis upon "The True Colour Of The Fifth Celestial Sphere And Its Connection With The Dorian Mode of Music."

So we four - my Royal Siblings and I - met in the Palace of Elasippus and Mestor. After the obligatory period of ceremonial greetings Qualopec said; "Should I not awaken my Royal Brother Tihocan's cunningly contrived Wooden Horses out of slumbering storage and smilingly smash the blustering bastards into a carmine carpet of guts and gore?"

It seemed a reasonable solution. We toasted each other's health and good sense with various arcane toasts, clinking our chalices at a worthy battleplan.

There was a moment's silence and then I said; "Will it work?"

Qualopec's voice equipment had been improved over the years. These days he sounded less like an emotionless robot and more like a English robot with a trembling stiff upper lip. "Will what work?" he demanded.

"Smashing the protesters?"

"Well as far as I know, my Royal Sister, dead men don't talk. Or chant. Or wave insulting banners."

"It won't make us very popular, my Royal Brother, and what about if another mob takes the places of the fallen?"

"Popular?" said Qualopec, in a sort of mechanical quack. He began to drum the marble floor with an irritated claw. "Are you high?"

"Maybe," said Tihocan, tentatively, "we could meet this leader, this Pelagios, and see if he has any sensible to say?"

"Maybe we could string him up from the nearest tree. It's the only language these people understand."

"We could still do that. I could compose a stirring Execution Cantata."

"And I could arrange a lovely Execution Ceremony and dedicate it to the gods," chipped in Astarte. They joined hands and skipped in a twinnish sort of way.

"That all sounds tremendous fun, my energetic and esteemed Brother and Sister," I said, "but first will we still talk to the demagogue Pelagios?"

We all looked to Qualopec for his lead. After an incredulous moment, he waved a dismissive crab leg. "Whatever, my Royal Siblings," he boomed. "We are experimenting in forms of government, so we may as well investigate this surreal protest."

"And maybe we should broadcast our talks via the aetheroscope to the mob outside. This will have the dual function of demonstrating the idiocy of Pelagios whilst yet again showing to our people what an excellent pantheon of Princes they have in ourselves."

Astarte cleared her throat. "There are complaints out there specifically directed at my Royal Brother Qualopec and myself. Is it possible that this Cretan rabble are un-nerved by our altered appearances, our transcendence of mere humanity?"

I looked at many-breasted Astarte and many-limbed Qualopec with an Autochthonic eye. "You are wise, my Royal Sister, although it pains me to think that our people do not revere both yourself and my Royal Brother Qualopec for your manifest sacrifices to the Atlantean State. However, if you think it prudent, I am sure that my Royal Brother Tihocan - master of airs and graces - helped wherever possible by my own limited ability, will soon crush this pervenu politician, this rhetorical rabble rouser, this toy of the hoi polloi."

"Let us retire, my Royal Sister Astarte," said Qualopec in a basso of disgust, "and discuss the mechanics of a monstrous mass immolation," and they departed, arm in claw.

"Set up the aetheroscope and attach some brass screens on the outside of the palace wall," ordered Tihocan. "Then send the guard to arrest this self-styled King of the Cretans and bring him before his betters in the full glare of publicity!"

It seemed important to us the emphasize the vast gulf in status between ourselves and Pelagios, and so we received him in the Primary Throne Room, flanked by flunkies and functionaries, observed by serfs, servants and slaves and guarded by swordsmen, archers and axe-men, all wearing their most formal and emblazoned uniforms. Our two thrones were backed by an enormous representation of the setting maritime sun, half tapestry, half projection. To each side an arrayed panoply of lights and speakers allowed us to address our visitor in the highest and most ornate of High Atlantean, with all of the bells and whistles. I was dressed in my most regal "Ruler of the Western Territories" robes, and on my head was my radiate crown, framed by noble metal lightning flashes arranged like the rays of the sun.

Two of our tallest and ferocious praetorians marched Pelagios before us and came to a halt with much clicking of boots and snapping of salutes. Pelagios looked disdainful. He was wearing a plain white robe and a long white beard, neither particularly clean looking. "A true man of the people" was what his outfit was designed to say.

Tihocan made the smallest of gestures which was amplified into a thunderclap and a burst of red light, and added; "Throw him to the ground. Throw him to the ground very roughly."

I raised gentle fingers - to the cooing of electronic doves and the palest of pink wave patterns - and said; "Hold hard, my Royal Brother, although naturally I crave your indulgence for my interruption."

"I welcome your intervention, most merciful and most beloved Royal Sister," said Tihocan with a smile, and a burst of loving emerald.

"And I bathe in your forgiveness, my solicitous Royal Brother. May I suggest that we bring chairs and beverage and delicious cake," I instructed the slaves. "If this self-appointed leader fails to please we can always recover the comestibles from his intestines."

Tihocan inclined his head to a ripple of bass harps. "I bow to your wisdom, oh most beautiful of Sisters, and to your obvious love for the Atlantean people," he said.

But we were stopped in our couplets by an unexpected sound, an "Oi!"

It was Pelagios, hands cupped around his mouth. "Excuse me? Could we possible cut through the bullshit pageantry and have a sensible conversation?"

The praetorians to each side of him drew their swords, but I gestured to them to desist. I gazed down impassively and implacably at Pelagios for nearly a minute. Nobody moved and there was a deadening silence. I held Pelagios' brown eye with my own glowing blue, unblinking, daring him to speak again, willing him to understand that with one eyebrow I could destroy him, his mob and the entire Cretan race. He held my gaze but he also held his tongue.

Finally Tihocan and I exchanged slow glances, and I moved a languid orichalcum-sheathed finger to indicate that he might as well proceed.

"Very well, little man," said Tihocan. "Speak."

Pelagios cleared his throat and stood a little taller.

"You rule by divine right, or so you claim ..." I kept my face impassive "... and that's all well and good. But what do you royal types know of the lot of the - as you so pompously put it - "little man"? Your experiences are so removed from the majority of your so-called subjects that I doubt your competence to rule. Astarte creates psychotic religious ceremonies in which the innocent die and Qualopec rampages around the world chopping people to bits. You, Tihocan, are a blithering idiot who spends his time inventing pointless machines to tuneless music, whilst you, Natla, are an ethic-free egotist filling your pyramid with perversions of nature that run off and declare war on the state!"

There was a roar of anger from the assembled courtiers, and Tihocan gripped the arms of his throne whitely. I remained un-moved, or at least that was the impression that I hope I gave, and raised my hand again for silence.

"Do you deny the authority of the Olympeans and the five twin sons of Poseidon who have been set over the Realm of Atlantis?" I enquired in a mild voice.

"I ...," Pelagios began to say something and then dropped his eyes and his voice. "No, of course not. I recognize and revere the Lord of the Sun and the Lord of the Sea and the ten sons that helm the Themes of our country."

"That is most generous of you, you irreligious and irreverent worm," said Tihocan, aridly. He took a moment to swallow his anger. "And so, most impolite and impolitic of men, what would you have your rulers and betters do? What precisely do you demand, oh paragon of parvenus?"

Pelagios mopped his brow with a hemp rag. "I wish there to be an assembly, a parliament of the people to dictate the running of the state, at least at the level of authority of your royal selves, a popular government topped by the constitutional rule of the sons of Poseidon."

"You mean - an assembly of advisors," I said.

"No. I mean an assembly of rulers. The people ruled by the will of the people."

Tihocan concealed his mouth with his golden fan whilst I lowered my kohl-rimmed eyes and depressed my lower lip with the tip of my jeweled flywhisk. The courtiers, however, were less restrained and there was a huge gale of laughter.

"To be clear," I said. "You want us to hand over the Atlantean State to a mob?"

"That would be both a dereliction of our duty, and a waste of our talents," said Tihocan. "In fact, it would be perverse, perhaps even evil."

There was a noise of general agreement from the court.

Pelagios was nonplussed. "But what happens should you die?" he said. "Qualopec himself was nearly killed in battle. There is no mechanism for a succession, and not even the grandchildren of an Olympean can live forever. The present state is fragile. It is this anxiety that forms the background to and justification for our proposal for a people's government - after all, there will always be the people."

Tihocan and I sat back in our seats. The Cretan had a fair point. The five pairs of twin kings were unlikely to breed, and the current climate was set against an heir grown in my laboratories.

"You could at least give us a royal wedding," persisted Pelagios, "and agree to communicate better with your subjects, especially with those who are more loyal than myself." He permitted himself a smile at this last phrase; none more foolhardy than he.

I drew myself up, and composed my painted features into that of a fond parent. "For an ill-educated man you are a promising rhetorician, Pelagios of the Theme of Autochthon. You have - despite yourself, no doubt - given the Royal Tihocan and myself an amusing topic to mull over, and we will announce if we have been inspired to any action. We will not execute you, nor destroy the crowd of followers that you have placed in harm's way. Instead we will allow you and your fellow Cretans to return to the fair slopes of Mount Ida and we thank you for the diversion that you have provided."

Tihocan and I stood, ornaments tinkling, and the sensory barrage of the Atlantean Imperial Anthem began to fill the Throne Room. I paraphrase, but the words went something like;

The Sun o'er Atlantis is summery warm.
He smiles on the Lord of the Sea.
All singing together to greet the storm -
�Tomorrow belongs to me'.

Pelagios was marched from our presence and the Cretans were sent home, escorted by the Wooden Horses and the Lapithae Regiment and glowering Qualopec, who obviously rued the lack of an opportunity to cremate the lot of them.

A year passed, a year of peace. Qualopec enshipped his armies and flew over the wide water to his newly discovered kingdom of Aztlan in the extreme West. Astarte traveled in the opposite direction, converting the Mesolithic mammoth hunters of the mountainous plains beyond Mount Nimrod to her Goddess-based religion. As for Tihocan, he for his ingenuity was commissioned by his Royal Father Eumelus to improve the defenses against the all-encircling Ocean, defenses spanning what is now known as the Strait of Gibraltar; as the persistent rise in sea level since the Ice Age constantly threatened to turn fertile farmlands between the Theme of Gades and the City into salty swamp. As for myself, I laboured in the Pyramid of Aea to produce human flight, and fell in love with two of my own creations, the fair winged maidens Ma'at and Nike, whose leathery crimson dactyls stroked and lulled me either to sleep or to ecstasy in our communal bed. But still the succession stood unsettled.

One day I went to visit Tihocan in his engineering works. I looked through a heavily darkened glass porthole where Tihocan and his assistants, dressed in suits fashioned of lead with armoured limbs powered by gears and waldos and motors, were pouring a molten blue material into moulds of stone. I could see the very air around them trembling with heat or sound or some other energy, and the rocks in the walls of the cave sparkled and glittered with some kind of un-natural light. Dimly I could hear a continual klaxon sounding. A wooden table to one side burst into flames and was quickly smothered with grey fibres.

"Greetings, my Royal Brother," I said when Tihocan emerged some time later. His hair was wet and his skin looked as if it had been scrubbed with a brush. ""You have bathed rather too vigorously." I stroked the hair from his forehead and laid the back of my hand on his burning face.

"We work with the most poisonous of elements, my Royal Sister," he replied. "I think it may be lore that the most potent substances in the world are also the most deadly."

"And what potency do you hope to harness?"

"I wish to trap the power of the sun into the smallest of objects. I shall fashion an ornament with which all of the machines and weapons of Atlantis may be controlled. With such an object within a mechanized land, we four may rule even more securely."

"Oh most ingenious of engineers and yet an ing�nue," I said. "We cannot mechanize love."

We moved to lounge on silken couches near sparkling fountains and refreshment was brought to us.

""You have a train of thought in motion," said Tihocan with a smile.

I sighed. "It has become clear to me - in fact logic has overwhelmed me - that the only member of the Royal Family capable of producing an heir is myself. There are only two imperial females, myself and my beloved sister, and she for her duties as High Priestess is not ... appropriate."

"You refer to the demands of that pond scum Pelagios."

"Pond scum he, as you say truly, but one who merely provided the thought. We do not have any heirs."

"You and I work daily to prolong our lifespan."

"But we do not possess the elixir of eternity."

Tihocan nodded in thought.

"Having identified myself as a potential mother, the next question is to whom is suitable as a father. There are no other states in the world whose Royal Family can provide a prince as a husband; we are alone. I could mate with a commoner, but after the business of Astarte and Captain Attis this would seem hypocritical. Qualopec is too injured to father a child and it seems unlikely that any of our Royal Uncles would agree to impregnate me, leaving aside the damage that this might do to their divine dignity. I cannot generate a child artificially in the Golden Pyramid of Aea as nobody, not even my own kin, would find this acceptable after the business of Mount Pelion. The paternity is a pretty puzzle, taxing and tiresome."

"It is insoluble, my Royal Sister," said Tihocan. "Maybe you should cease to worry and allow the future to fix for itself."

"However there is one Royal person who is male, fit, beautiful and young - the very epitome of a potential Royal Groom."

Tihocan looked at me with a puzzled expression.

"We could have a gorgeous Royal Wedding," I said.

He finally got it. "Surely you jest?" he said, his face glowing with discomfort.

I rose from my couch. "Think on what I have said, my Royal Brother. You once described us as the drivers of the chariot of Atlantis. We can grasp the reins and attempt to dictate the route or we can be carried pell-mell to who knows where. Uncomfortable power or comfortable powerlessness. It is a pellucid predicament."

It was a huge production.

It was also a "first" in several ways. Marriage as such hadn't really been invented, yet alone the ceremony for a "Royal Marriage", and to top it all this was the first Royal Marriage ever to be broadcast to a nation.

My dress was based on the paneled gown a version of which you can see today in the Archaeological Museum at Herakleion on the statue called "the Goddess of the Snakes" (- a statue misnamed as it was in fact supposed to be a portrayal of myself weaving together two strands of DNA). The gown was ankle length and of many colours, and left my breasts - gilded and rouged - exposed to the open air. On my head I had a golden wreath of ivy leaves, artfully perched on what one might describe in modern terms as "tall hair". In one hand I held a pomegranate and in the other a dish containing a freshly-excised goat's womb. Tihocan was bare-chested, and sported a golden phallus of prodigious length, his train being held by two of his lovers - Ganymede of Phrygia and Sisene of Nubia - white-skinned and blacked-skinned respectively, both dressed as erotes.

Qualopec lined up the Lapithae Regiment in full battle order, and to the blare of trumpets and the rattle of drums one hundred and four captives were beheaded as we processed past, their blood lifting the petals under our feet. Astarte too had prepared the ground and for a week the new Temple of the Goddess of Love had been host to one hundred and four sacred prostitutes all vowed to have intercourse with whichever man should approach them, all in aid of producing a blessing of fertility on our union.

Of the ceremony itself I remember little, although I recall Astarte referring to Tihocan as "my Lord Baal-Peor, the maiden's hymen opener" and to myself as "honey-haired, pure, violet-eyed Natla", and I can still recite two of the vows that Tihocan and I exchanged;

Tihocan -
"Peer of the gods, the happiest man I seem
Sitting before thee, rapt at thy sight, hearing
Thy soft laughter and thy voice most gentle,
Speaking so sweetly."

Natla -
"Then in my bosom my heart wildly flutters,
And, when on thee I gaze never so little,
Bereft am I of all power of utterance,
My tongue is useless."

It was all a great success and the hoi polloi lapped it up with much adulation. Indeed, the bare breasted wedding dress and the large golden phallus were still thought fashionable for years afterwards.

We were led by the court to the Wedding Chamber and onto the Bridal Bed, an enormous edifice with porphyry pillars and deerskin cushions, and the heavy curtains drawn about us. The ladies of the bedchamber sang an archaic chant replete with overtones wishing us pleasure and fertility from our union, and then we were alone.

Tihocan unfolded his crossed arms from his chest and put down the ceremonial flail and the ceremonial wheatsheaf. He threw back the curtains - we were alone in the room, an unusual state for a Royal - and went to a sideboard for some wine.

"Thank the Lord of the Sea and the Lord of the Sun that it is completed," he laughed. "You make a beautiful bride my Royal Sister."

"And you make a handsome and virile husband, my beautiful Royal Brother."

"I suppose we must spend time together for form's sake, but I feel as if any disturbance in our reign has been effectively quashed by today's performance."

"We will only be truly safe when we produce an heir."

Tihocan sat on the edge of the bed.

"That may be tricky," he said, choosing an informal style of language. "I have never had congress with a woman."

"As never I have with man. We are effectively virgins on our wedding night."

"You represent all that is fair in the feminine, my Royal Sister. As the poet says - �thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins and thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies'."

I reached out and touched his manhood. I must confess I was curious although not aroused. Tihocan did not flinch but my fingers produced no reaction.

"Maybe if I blindfold you?" I said. "If I begin with my mouth you could pretend that I was the lustful Ganymede. Then I could lie with my face in the pillow and you could ride me as if I was bold Sisene."

"And maybe if I blindfold you, you could imagine that my kisses and caresses on your nipples and between your thighs were those of your handmaidens?"

"I shall be Athena to your Hephaestus, my womb your forge."

However. To cut a story short and to spare my blushes, neither of us could achieve enough arousal to effect penetration, yet alone to spur either of us to orgasm. Neither of us were hurt and both of us were amused, but our natures were not such that ordinary heterosexual congress was possible. May as well try to mate fish with fowl. We lay in each others' arms until rosy-fingered dawn tiptoed on her gold sandals towards us, but we were both aware that another solution would need to be engineered.

Looking back I realize that this was one of those moments where one is trapped by the concept of duty. I was effectively the ruler of the world after all, and something in me would not let things drift. I realized that nothing - not me, nor Tihocan, nor our friendship - mattered more than the question of the succession. I could have taken advice from the family, from Qualopec, from Uncle Eumelus, even from my father, but I sensed that it would only postpone the decision. I ask with an agony of hindsight - what would you have done in my place?

After a few months of non-consummation, I invited Tihocan to the Golden Pyramid of Aea under some pretext that I cannot recall. I had prepared my body with infusions of drugs and extracts to go into a state of hyper-ovulation; a multiple of paired ovi nestled within my womb waiting to be woken.

I had created a love potion with a plethora of parts; bark from the Madder and Yohimbine trees, fungus from the corpses of silkworms, juice from the testicles of bulls, extract of Sativa buds, a quintessence of coca and cocoa, belladonna and blue lotus, an esoteric entheogen to engender the ego and erection of an energetic elephant.

I could see Tihocan's pupils dilate at the same moment that he realized that he had been drugged.

"My Royal Sister," he said, staggering to his feet. "What is this?"

I took him by the arm. "Why, my Royal Brother, merely an aphrodisiac, a love potion, to help us with our conjugal duty."

"I feel the enchantment but the remains of my mind rebels at this loss of free will."

"It is a small pleasurable loss in the service of the state."

"No human deserves such servitude," he mumbled, smiling in spite of himself.

I led him to the bedroom where my lovers - my handmaidens as Tihocan had named them - were waiting. Naturally he and no other had set eyes on Ma'at and Nike before.

Tihocan jerked with surprise when he saw them. "What are these beings, these vermillion harpies, these winged nightmares?" he exclaimed.

Nike and Ma'at, being speechless, made no reply to this unkind assessment. Their red skins and the red lighting made it impossible to tell if they blushed. They stood one at the head and the other at the foot of the bed, their leathery pinions forming a crimson umbrella.

"They are my lovers," I said.

Tihocan, if he had been sober, might have been horrified but he giggled insanely. His hands were at his groin, trying to suppress the tumescence that had arisen against his will and his temperament.

"Surely there are human women enough? This is ... perversion."

"One person's perversion is another's delight, my Royal Brother."

Tihocan gave one more try. "I beg you my Royal Sister, my beloved sibling - Natla, please! Do not do this to me!"

We took him to the bed and Nike and Ma'at aroused me. I impaled myself on my brother and began to move like a milk maid milking a cow. Tihocan groaned and writhed as if from pleasure. I took a thin porphyry phallus and inserted it into him, making him ejaculate within me. After I had dismounted he rolled into a foetal position, weeping.

There were eight fertilized eggs. I caused seven to be removed and placed in storage within incubators. The eighth I brought to term, and nine months later my daughter Chloe, the "green shoot" of Achaea, was born.

I held up the infant before a cheering crowd of my subjects whilst standing on the steps of the Temple of Demeter. My Royal Brothers and Sisters had all found reasons to be elsewhere.

My duty done, I decided to confront the demons that were threatening to split the state. Ever since the first centaur - my firstborn, my beloved Hylonome - had touched delicate hoof to cruel earth, we had in our hands a potential that once invented would never cease to be, or at least that is how it seemed to me. Our failure at Mount Pelios had been caused by our refusal to accept and welcome the new, and the farce of the Royal Heir had arisen solely because of a prejudice against in vitro methods. I had sacrificed enough to the status quo, I decided. I would embrace the new world with open arms and let the chips fall where they may.

Magnesian and Urania and all my other assistants were brought to a high peak of productivity in the Golden Pyramid, every red crevice and cave, orifice and recess pulsing with the blood of industry. The green eggs swelled with life and new creations were dragged forth from the amnion and washed with eager hands. Observe - a herd of bull-headed men and a gathering of goat-footed satyrs, fast running soldiers with weaponed foreheads. Admire - skeletal guards with the flattened heads of turtles and the semicircular jaws of rending canines. Praise my aqueous mer-folk with piscean tails, clever as dolphins. Commend my scarlet-skinned avians with leathery bodies carved for war. An army, a new monstrous Regiment, was thus created in the halls of Aea.

I myself underwent the knife and the graft. New bones grew from my scapulae, new long muscles formed around my frame. My body was lengthened and lightened, and new nerve endings intruded into my brain. My view of the world was forever subtly altered, having more of the impulses of a raptor than a simian.

At last I stood from my sickbed and thought deep on the various limbs of my body. Thus, my right arm was raised and thus, my left. I could roll one shoulder and then another. I concentrated in turn on every part of my upper torso. And then, when I was not expecting it, my wings unfurled. Six feet on each side, skeletal as a bat or a pteranodon, the skin a semi-transparent ruby red. More magnificent than any cuirass or crown, more commanding than any uniform or robe of state; finer than any imperial cloak blown in the wind, than the many-eyed fan of Juno's peacock. I gasped at my own alien beauty and the blood rushed into my face.

"By the Sea and the Sun," I exclaimed to Magnesian. "Such a brilliant image, burning bright, reborn imperial, virgin vermillion. How can my people fail to worship me?"

"Indeed, your Majesty," replied Magnesian, his head bowed. "Your transformation from a petite blonde to a towering scarlet bird-woman should make your subjects take pause."

Over the next weeks Nike and Ma'at, with patience and kind hands, taught me the waking orgasm that is flight.

At length huge convoy of carts and carriages and juggernauts was constructed at my command, and I and my new army started out on the road south to Mount Ida. On each side the citizens of Atlantis fell to their faces in abject terror, but I reassured them with showers of obols and roses, honeyed words and pleasant smiles. I perched on my mobile throne borne by a battalion of crimson creations, regally waving the false claws on my fingers and smiling a hawkish smile, my skin striped with lines and patterns, half feathered, half scaled, more owl than girl.

We arrived in the Theme of Autochthon and I ordered Pelagios brought to me, strapping the fire-firers onto my forearms.

We took to the air before the populus, Pelagios carried screaming between two harpies. They lifted him high and then let him fall, and in flight I destroyed him with a ferocious fusillade of flame. I and my squadron of red devils, with Nike at my left and Ma'at at my left, over-flew the capital of the Cretans in a display of elegance and raw power. I put in place a new human governor, Minos, guarded by the bull-man known as the Minotaur.

"I may have once had the body of a weak and feeble woman, but now I have the imperial wine-red wings of a Queen, and a Queen of Atlantis at that," I declaimed, and all of the Cretan race acknowledged my suzerainity.

And thus it was that I lost my former self and my former family but in the process saved Atlantis from democracy.









Lions And Tigers And Bears, Oh My!