Posted by Barbanne on November 18, 1999 at 23:47:43:
THE CLEOPATRA PLOT
I looked around.
This was dreadful.
We were prisoners of the Tauregs. When they appeared around our camp on our first morning out of Al Khartum, I had thought they were desert nomads come to barter or come to rob us, but they had soon made it clear we were their prisoners and they had herded us together, master or mistress and slaves alike, and had force marched us through the awful desert to the west of our camp, away from the road we wished to travel, until, on the third morning, we came to a strange walled city of mud bricks which they referred to as Quadi-el-Timbookoo. Here they caged us in open wooden cages covered only by a thin canvas cover and, in conditions of horrendous heat and dust, they had kept us on a diet of as little food as would just keep us alive and a pittance of water.
I thought I had been in this cage for ten days. But I couldn't be sure. One thing only I knew and that was, that if I wasn't freed soon, I would be a corpse within another ten days. And a dessicated old one at that.
I looked down through the messy collection of huts that formed a sort of street, more an open air bazaar. Taureg soldiers in their black robes were coming and they started releasing my companions and hustling them away. Oh if only I could have spoken with Petra, or Lisatia or Vickina or Chrisinus. But no, I had been kept caged on my own. Mo-Ooki was nowhere to be seen. I was, at that time, in a state of black misery and, when the soldiers released me and rushed me away, I hoped that it was to my death that I was going.
I was dragged along into the main building of Quadi-el-Timbookoo. I thought I must be hallucinating. Inside, it was dark and cool and the rooms were covered, floor, walls and ceilings in mosaics of great beauty, colourful and filled with a richness that rivalled the best I had seen in Alexandria. I was half carried through passageways and past rooms until I had no idea where I was. Finally we stopped in a room all of blue. Blue tiles lined everything and in the centre of the room was a deep pool filled with clear, cold water which sparkled blue in the reflection of its surrounds. Standing or lying around in the room were about a dozen dark, Taureg women of different ages all heavily robed and veiled. The soldiers thrust me into the room and abruptly left. As soon as they were gone, the women began disrobing until all were gloriously naked. Two young women, about my own age, came to me and gently stripped away my filthy clothes, little better than rags after my confinement, until I too was nude. I couldn't help but compare my skinny, half starved body with the lush, ripe, femininity of the others. I felt like crying, and indeed tears rolled down my cheeks unbidden, but nobody seemed to notice or care. The two young women seemed very kind and took me to a sluice area to one side and, using a bucket of warmed water and perfumed soaps, they washed me clean and scrubbed me until some semblence of humanity returned and my hair shone and my skin glowed pinkly. Then I was led to the pool and all of these women joined me in the water as together, all absolutely naked, we frolicked, if I can call it that, in the crystalline water. I felt a sense of weirdness and wondered if I had lost my mind.
One of the women, she seemed to be about thirty plus years of age, spoke to me in a language I understood.
"What is your name my dear?"
"And where are you from Barbanne?"
"Far to the west. The land of the Celts."
"I thought you were Egyptian, but no matter," she clapped her hands, "Giselle."
One of the young women left the pool and returned a moment later bearing a tray of gold with a golden goblet filled with red liquid. The woman passed it to me.
I smiled and sniffed the goblet. I didn't want to drink it much as I hated strong drink, but they were all watching me and so, smiling bravely, I upended it and drank. At first I felt nothing and then I thought I had been poisoned I felt so strange. I felt darkness creeping onto me and thought "I have been drugged.........or poisoned." Then I felt weak and slumped into the water, but immediately hands grabbed me by the arms and I was held up. A brief moment passed when I think I may have blacked out and then my mind settled to whatever it was I had drunk and I felt a great feeling of well being and incredible happiness, but I was totally without control over my mind or body. My mind swooped from joyousness to joyousness, but my body was as limp as a rag doll and I was totally at the mercy of the women around me.
How to describe what happened?
I was in a state of drugged euphoria and for all of the day as far as I know, those women played upon my body like maestros upon a harp. Every form of erotic pleasure known to women was enacted upon my willing but helpless body. I reached heights I had not dreamt of and I shuddered to climax after climax as my body was wrung empty of its love juices and essences. At last, weaker than I had thought possible, they carried me to a silken couch where I sank into a sleep so deep, so empty of consciousness that I was more than dead.
I woke feeling rinsed out.
Washed out, drained, totally wrung out. Those women had taken more from me than just my body essence, they had siphoned off some of my spirit. I had never felt so weak, so vulnerable.
Clothes lay beside the couch on which I awoke. I had lain down nude and must have remained nude as I slept the sleep of the dead. I dressed in the soft white shift and the older woman with whom I could converse, led me through to another room where I found my companions around a table on which food was spread. Our slaves were seated with us. The Tauregs recognised no difference between Petra and the least Nubian girl. All of the women were dressed as I was and the men were dressed in a similar although more masculine version of our shifts. I ate, but found that despite my long confinement and my experience in the pool room, I had little appetite although the food was excellent.
The woman who spoke for them returned with three men who looked old in a way that would only be possible for a desert dweller since birth. Despite their seeming great age they were fit and healthy and their eyes were sharp and piercing. They stood by as the woman spoke.
"As is our custom, one amongst you will battle one of our warriors. If that person wins you all go free. If they lose, you all lose."
There was a babble of voices and then Petra spoke.
"I shall be our champion."
"Ah no," said the woman, "the girl Barbanne shall do battle for you."
"No!" I shouted, "No. Do not let their fate rest on me. Kill me if you wish, take me and sacrifice me now, but do not let my friends' lives hang by mine."
"It is you. In the arena in a half hour."
They led me out to a room adjacent where armour was laid out. I donned a short tunic and a skirt of chain mail which reached mid thigh. I had embossed steel shin pads and sandals of leather and a metal breast plate which moulded to my upper body like a second skin. A plain helmet with cheek and neck protectors finished it off. Despite its metal content it was really light weight and I found I could move with ease.
Petra passed me the sword of Judaea. It looked like the plainest and simplest of swords. "Take this and do your best."
"Oh Petra. What if I lose?"
Mo-Ooki placed a hand on my shoulder.
I walked out into a circular arena of fine sand. It was about fifty metres in diameter. My friends sat together to one side. The Tauregs occupied the rest. I saw the women from the pool room among them. The three old men sat together. A dark haired, fair skinned woman clad in armour like mine walked out and saluted by bowing to the three old men. She was at least a head and shoulders taller than me and, while not big, she was beautifully built and very muscular. I felt my tummy sink into my boots. I was going to die but I was going to die trying. They would not die because I didn't give of my best. One of the old men signalled that we were to begin.
The woman moved toward me and I could see she was a skilled combat fighter. I walked forward awkwardly and Mo-Ooki called out.
"Barbanne. Fear not."
I felt something flowing into my body, into my arms into my legs and suddenly every part of me felt alive. Alive and fluidly together. The woman rushed at me and I pirouetted as her sword slashed by me, nicking my arm and causing blood to ooze. She looked confident. Confident and haughty. She was very pretty, but also very cruel. I lifted the sword of Judaea and it hummed in my hand. I hefted it and it sparkled with inner light. I looked over at Mo-Ooki and smiled but he was sitting with his eyes closed, concentrating deeply. The woman rushed again and her sword flashed, but my magical sword leapt in my grasp and parried the blow. She lunged and thrusted but I spun and brushed her attack aside. My own sword glinted and flew through the sunlight and bit into her shoulder. Blood flowed and she gasped and stepped back. I rushed, feinted and flicked and the sword of Judaea cut her again and again. Blood appeared on her leg and her cheek. She attacked again but she had lost her initial confidence. I flayed at her, moving like quicksilver, and now I could feel Mo-Ooki in my head. My sword caught her and cut her arm, severed her wrist and she cried out and dropped her weapon. I thrust and the singing sword penetrated her breast and she groaned and slipped and her eyes went wide and she called out something in her own language. I knew not what, perhaps she asked for mercy. Mercy she would never have shown me. I moved forward the sword with a life of its own. A thrust and it penetrated her throat. A downward jab and it cut through her armour and pierced her breast and her heart. Blood gurgled and her eyes crossed, she swayed and toppled onto her back on the sand. One twitch. A great shudder.
She was dead and her blood pooled on the sand.
I walked away. Suddenly, whatever had animated me during the fight was gone. I was frightened and shaking with reaction to having killed and wanted to be rid of warrior staus once and for all. I'm a lover not a fighter.
I reached my companions and handed the sword back to Petra. I had wiped it clean on my tunic. I stripped off my armour and cast it aside and stood shivering, clad only in that brief, blood stained tunic. Chrisinus put her arm around me and I leaned into her warmth. Two men, black as midnight and stripped except for a small breech clout wrapped around their manhood, came to where my fallen opponent lay, her life's blood staining the white sand. I watched, half appalled that it was I who had put her there, and half excited by these magnificent specimens. Their bodies were to dream about. Perfection in the male animal. They stopped over the dead woman's body and bowed briefly to the three elders. Then they each attached a leather thong to one of her ankles and using this as a wrist strap, walked slowly from the arena dragging the beaten girl behind them. Her helmet had fallen off and her long black hair spread out behind her head. Her slender arms were sprawled away and dragged through the sand. The cheeks of her ass furrowed the surface of the arena as she was towed away. Her body, totally limp now life had gone, bobbled with every movement, every unevenness on the surface. They reached an opening on the far side and disappeared through it. My last sight of my late opponent was as her head banged down steps to some hidden charnel house.
I turned to Petra.
"I shall never fight again. Its not me to be one to enter the arena. I am too much a coward. Had not I had the sword of Judaea and had not I had Mo-Ooki, its my body would be being laid out on a slab now."
Petra smiled and took my hand. "It was thrust on you and you served us well. The magic of it all was to bring out what you had hidden."
I smiled quirkily and squeezed Petra's hand. "No........there was more than that. I was for a moment transformed. That was not me who killed that girl."
The Tauregs sent a message that we could and should leave immediately. Only a messenger was sent, no member of their ruling group came near us.
We regrouped and set off headed south once more. We travelled at speed anxious to put distance between us and Quadir-el-Timbookoo. For myself I never cared to see the place again.
Some ten or so kilometres down the road, Mo-Ooki came to me. He put an arm around me and held me tight as we walked together. "Today you learnt something my sweet Barbanne."
"Oh yes. Today you learnt what you are not. You are not meant to war on others. You are too much a woman. You were built to be the partner of a devious man. Hmmmmmmmmmmmnnn. And I am a devious man."
I turned my face to him and succeeded in doing something awfully tricky. Walking along while hugging and kissing a man with my eyes tightly shut.
That night my need was magnified to a painful degree. I called Mo-Ooki to me and without preamble, stripped myself naked and took him to me. Only after the third time was I sufficiently sated to relax.
I slept then like a babe until a horrible dream of blood, sand and death brought me awake, screaming, just before dawn.
We travelled through the scrubby desert for about two weeks until eventually we started to climb into the mountains in the centre of this vast land. Here in the cool upland heights we would find the land to which Mitrius had said we must travel and here the secret of the fate of the Queen of the Nile and those who were with her would finally be revealed.....................