Great Rite – We need rain.

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Great Rite – We need rain.Great Rite*************************************************Copyright Oggbashan June 2016The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.This is a work of fiction. The events described here are imaginary; the settings and characters are fictitious and are not intended to represent specific places or living persons.*************************************************I had never expected to be King. One of my uncle’s sons should have inherited the throne but they were too young when Egbert died in battle. Aged 23, I had been in command of the right wing when a sudden sea raiders’ charge cut their way through our centre. Egbert died with sword aloft surrounded by his companions. By the time I had swung my men around behind the enemy, all the King’s companions and most of their attackers were already dead.The raiders’ leader had been among those slain. Some say he died at Egbert’s hand but that is the sort of myth that grows around any dead leader. The rest of the enemy band retreated in good order to their ships and set sail. I led the saddened but victorious war band back to our fort.We had to replace Egbert. His sons had a better claim but were still c***dren. I had thought one of his brothers would seek the throne but they stood aside and nominated me. I was elected by the Witan, our council of elders, and consecrated by the secret rites of the Goddess.That was three years ago. I have been feeling my way as a King. So much is expected of me and I can do so little. I have pushed my authority and my people’s patience to the limit in those three years. I seem never to have a moment to myself, dealing with all the problems I have created by introducing change. The members of the Witan are older men and they don’t like change. My younger King’s companions just think of fighting and defence, not about crops or the skills needed to make things. It can be lonely being a King.I have continued Egbert’s work on our fort and in my first year I insisted that a tenth of each good year’s corn harvest must be stored there. Now I am praised for my foresight because so far this year the rain hasn’t come. At the time there were many muttered curses.The other changes I have made were even more unpopular at first but have been gradually accepted. The King’s companions, his chosen warriors, did nothing but sit around in the Royal Hall drinking when they weren’t training with their weapons. Most of the boys and young men wanted to be a King’s companion. They did nothing but train to fight or were servants at the Hall keeping the companions supplied with food and drink. The boys learned more about drinking than fighting. I reduced the number of companions and made those that were retained into weapon instructors holding classes three days a week. All the former companions were assigned to our farmers and artisans to learn a second trade. I set up classes for the young men and boys so that they too could work as well as fight. I expected the farmers and artisans to be minimally competent as fighters.Young women were already going to the Goddess’ temple a couple of days a week for education. I was firmly warned against interference with that. I added training for girls in other trades such as weaving, preparation of skins, pottery and other useful things. I changed the male servants at the Royal Hall to handmaidens. Although called handmaidens I didn’t insist that they remained single women. A couple were already married. The result was more efficient service, better food, and part of the Hall was separated off to make space for looms. The preparation of skins and pottery were in separate buildings.The results of those changes were having an effect. We were beginning to trade with neighbouring kingdoms because we were making more than we could use. Our metalworkers were not as good as others, but our weaving, carpentry and pottery were gaining a market.Our fort is all that makes our realm safe. Once it was Roman, abandoned by them a couple of hundred years ago when they finally left England. My grandfather had started its restoration and Egbert had continued the work. We were not really restoring it. We don’t have the skills any more. We have patched it as best we can but our work shows as crude compared to the original.Grandfather had cleared the outside ditches, cut down trees within a hundred paces of the fort, restored the great walls to their original height and paved the walkway. He had started collecting materials to repair the great granaries. Egbert had re-roofed the granaries with the old Roman tiles. Some of the other roofless buildings have been thatched because there weren’t enough unbroken tiles. He had blocked the North and South Gates with crude masonry and reduced the width of the West and East Gates so that a single cart could enter or leave.We were fortunate that the water supply had still been working into the fort. Once we had found the source and repaired the dam the flow is impressive. Now the dam is shrouded in thickly planted trees and bushes. The water runs underground from the dam into the fort. An enemy would have to look very hard to find the dam, and even if they did, the water inside the fort runs through several large cisterns before emerging into a fountain and pool. The cisterns are so large that they can supply everyone inside the fort for six months even if the water supply were to be cut off outside.There are stone lined trenches around every building. Rainwater runs off the roof into the trench and then all the trenches lead to a masonry lined pool for watering the horses and cattle. All we had done was repair the cracks in the pool’s walls and now we have two sources of water.Water is our realm’s blessing and curse. Our fort has enough. Our land is often too dry for the crops. The real curse is the sea that laps the edge of our fort and provides ways for the raiders from the sea to strike deep into our countryside with little warning. I had lost my mother to one raid. She had been gathering nuts in the forest with my baby sister strapped to her back when the raiders found her. One raider had cut her down with a sword to stop her from raising the alarm. That sword stroke had cut my sister in half before slicing through my mother. Even the raiders’ leader had been shocked by that. The man responsible was later declared a wolfs head, a man unworthy to be trusted, and abandoned in England.The fort is our ultimate refuge, the King’s palace, the communal granaries, the workshops for the artisans, the storehouse for anyone’s valuables, and the home for the five priestesses of the Goddess. They have taken over the former underground Mithraeum and the temple above it. We could survive a siege but since the Romans left no enemies have the ability to besiege anywhere. The raiders come but stay no longer than a couple of days before moving on to easier places to raid.This year our crops are again in danger from lack of rain. Last year’s harvest was only moderate because the spring rains came late. The grain stored in the fort’s granaries might be all that stands between us and starvation next winter. If rain doesn’t come within the next ten days we will be facing real trouble. Even with all our trade goods we could not buy enough food for the whole kingdom. The grain stored in the fort would prevent real starvation but we would be very hungry.We have another problem. An attack of the sweating sickness has laid many of our people low. Several older people have died recently and our babies are at risk. What can I do? I have little experience as a King. I can ask for advice from the priestesses of the Goddess. I had already asked the priestesses to pray for a good crop this year, before a sighting of a small raiders’ fleet had sent me and most of our depleted war band on a fruitless march along our sea shores waiting for them to land. As before, the fort was manned with the older men and those recovering from injuries. It would take more enemies than we had seen to storm the fort even when it was lightly garrisoned. We had returned two days ago and there had been no rain.I sent one of my handmaidens to ask that a priestess come to me. I could go to them but unless during some of the seasonal rites, the presence of a man in their precincts causes them much labour in re-consecrating their temple. The only time that isn’t necessary is when they execute a criminal or traitor as a sacrifice to the Goddess. I don’t know how they do that in the temple, but a bound man is delivered to them, and a shrouded corpse is returned for burial. I am pleased that I have not had to order an execution so far during my reign. Enemies captured in battle are either given a clean death by sword, or sold as slaves. My handmaiden returned saying that a priestess would be with me within the hour. That was a real surprise. Normally they ask for at least a day to consult the Goddess. Was such a prompt response a good omen or a bad one? I waited impatiently. I had expected to wait a day. Now I was too eager when the visit was coming soon. I had ordered everyone to leave the Hall. I needed to see the priestess alone.I was even more surprised when the priestess arrived. Helena is the oldest and chief priestess. She had been a c***dhood friend of my mother. She limped as she walked through the doorway. She rarely left the temple precincts. Yet she had come to me. She must have a significant message. I came down from the raised dais in the Royal Hall to greet her. I dropped to my knee and kissed her outstretched hand. I remained kneeling before her.“Alfred, thank you for your greeting,” Helena said. “Egbert was polite to me but never bent the knee. Why do you? You are the King.”“I may be King, Helena, but I am too aware of my limitations. I need your help. Greeting you with respect could be seen as an indication of my desperation. It isn’t. You are a wise woman and more importantly you are my mother’s friend. You need my reverence for both.”Helena’s hand lightly brushed my head.“Stand up, Alfred. In public you should not kneel to me. In private? I thank you for your courtesy. But you might not like my message.”I stood up. Helena and I perched on stools beside one of our few tables. “What is it that I might not like?”“If we are to have a good harvest we need to invoke the Goddess with the Great Rite, Alfred.”“The Great Rite? I know you have several rites for addressing the Goddess and asking for favours but I have never heard of the Great Rite. Why not?”“It hasn’t been performed in your lifetime, Alfred, and possibly not in your father’s. It involves you as the King. You act for the people.”“And what do I have to do in the Great Rite, Helena?”“You have to humble yourself to the Goddess, and…”Helena paused. It was obviously hard for her to tell me.“…to women.”“Is that so difficult?”“It could be. Egbert would never have done it. You? Even for you it might be awkward to accept.”“I have just humbled myself before you, Helena. So why will the Great Rite be worse?”“Because you have to humble yourself totally, Alfred, and not just in a momentary gesture. You will come to our temple and be a plaything for women because that will please the Goddess. She likes any worship that humiliates men. The Great Rite requires the King to be Her servant and servant to women. Sexual servant, Alfred. You will not be the instigator of sexual encounters but the victim of them, restrained for women’s pleasure.” “I have not…”“I know you have not, Alfred. You are a male virgin. At your age and as a King that is very unusual. Most men of your age are married and if not have mistresses. You have handmaidens but have not…”“They trust me. I would not abuse their trust.”“Some of them are disappointed that you have not abused their trust, as you put it, Alfred. They would be very willing to share your bed, even if they didn’t become a wife. A King’s bastard has status. So does the bastard’s mother. Yet you have no c***dren. Perhaps, only perhaps, that displeases the Goddess. I don’t know. At the end of the Great Rite you will have a mistress, or a wife, maybe even both. That woman or women will be chosen for you by the Goddess and you cannot, must not, refuse to accept her or them.”“So I have to take a wife as part of the Great Rite, Helena?”“No. A woman takes you. The Goddess chooses her, and the chosen one becomes your partner for life. As King, you rule. As a man, you will be ruled by her. That is why Egbert would never have agreed to the Great Rite. He had a poor opinion of women’s abilities. He couldn’t accept a woman as his equal, and never as his ruler, and the Great Rite makes the chosen woman the ruler of the King as a man.”“This is a hard thing that the Goddess asks of me, Helena. I have to take an unknown woman, not just as a wife or mistress, but I have to submit to her?”“Not quite correct, Alfred. You don’t take. She does.”“And is she any woman? Is there a list of the chosen?”“You have to agree to accept the woman that the Goddess has chosen for you, but the women who might be that woman are selected, by the Goddess’ chief priestess, me. You can’t influence that choice. I have already made it because I expected that we would have to use the Great Rite. All I will say is that all of the women are suitable to stand beside the King. They have intelligence, learning, wisdom and perhaps more importantly from a man’s point of view they are all pleasant to look upon. Each one of them you have already met. None are the King’s close relations. That would be unseemly. Their current status matters far less than their acceptability to the Goddess. She has indicated that they are not displeasing to Her.”“And I have no choice at all?”“None, Alfred. No choice at all.”“And when do I have to agree to use the Great Rite?”“Now.”“Now? This minute? This hour?”“Now would be best, Alfred. Within the hour would be acceptable but the reason I came to you so quickly is that the Moon and Stars are right for the Great Rite to start today. A few hours’ delay and they won’t be. What you must do is appoint someone to run the Kingdom while the Great Rite is performed. Since you have been a good King, and have been away to repel our enemies, I’m sure you know who to set to rule in your place.”“And for how long?”“That depends on the Goddess. A couple of days at least. At worst and She doesn’t help, a couple of weeks.”“Very well.”I clapped my hands. A handmaiden appeared from behind the dais.“Ask Thane Manfred to come to me, please, Edith.” I said.Edith left. Manfred arrived within a couple of minutes. Manfred was Egbert’s brother and one of my uncles. I had expected him to become King after Egbert but although he had been Regent before my election he had told the Witan firmly that he was a soldier, not a King for peace. He would serve when needed but he didn’t want to be King. Manfred was my most trusted advisor and chosen Deputy.“You asked for me, King Alfred?”“Yes, Manfred. The Chief Priestess of the Goddess wants me to invoke the Great Rite to bring rain, crops and prosperity to our people. That will take some days, maybe a couple of weeks…”“The Great Rite?” Manfred interrupted, “isn’t that dangerous for you? Egbert wouldn’t…”“I’m not Egbert. I don’t think it is dangerous. Difficult for me? Yes. Life-threatening? No. But we need rain. The Great Rite has to start today -within the hour. Will you take the power while I’m not available?”“Of course, King Alfred. I will do my best.”“I know you will. If the raiders return you know our tactics – if we have enough fit men.”“We may have, King Alfred. Most of the young adult people are recovering.”“Good. But I’m still worried about our c***dren.”I unbuckled my sword belt with the ornate Roman Centurion’s parade sword, our emblem of Kingship, and passed it to Manfred. He accepted it with a bow.“Thane Manfred?” Helena asked, “I may send a priestess to you shortly with a request. It should be easy to grant.”I nodded my approval.“Of course, Priestess. I will grant it.” Manfred said.“Whatever it is?” Helena insisted.“Yes. I know you have care for the well-being of our people, and my King has approved, so whatever it is, it will be granted.”“Thank you, Manfred. And now King Alfred and I must leave for the temple. Rule well.”Priestess Helena needed my arm to support her as we left the Royal Hall. Outside two of her priestesses were waiting. They followed us as we walked the short distance to the temple entrance. Inside the poorly repaired doors we turned into a side chamber. Helena sat down on a stone bench with obvious relief. She whispered in the ear of one of the priestesses who nodded. The two priestesses left.“That was a long way for me to walk,” she said. “I’m not as young as I was. My priestesses will get the inner sanctuary ready for the Great Rite. Will you wait with me, Alfred?”“Of course.”It was a short wait during which we talked about the need for rain for our crops. Half an hour later the older one of the two priestesses returned.“We and they are ready, Helena,” she announced.“Go with her, Alfred, and do what she says. You can question but you must obey. Obedience is essential.” Helena stroked my arm. “Remember that you are doing this for our people. Go!”I followed the priestess. We descended into a dark passageway lit by a couple of flickering lamps. At the end was a heavy door covered in bronze plaques. We stopped before it. Even in the poor light I could see that the metalwork was exquisite, far beyond the skills of our best craftsman. The light flickered on the central panel showing Mithras killing the bull. I sighed at the loss of skills since the Romans had left.“King Alfred,” the priestess said before pausing. “That is the last time you will be called King. No free man passes this door.”I looked at her.“I said ‘no free man’,” she repeated. “Beyond that door you are not a King. You are a slave, a slave to women and to the Goddess. Before you enter I must put on your slave collar, your chains, and you must be stripped naked. This is your last chance to refuse.”“I do not refuse,” I said firmly. “I am undertaking the Great Rite for my people.”“That is the best reason, Alfred. Please strip for me. That is my last request. There will be no more requests, only orders to a slave.” I stripped. The priestess took each item of clothing from me, folded them carefully and laid them in a niche to the left of the door. She went to a niche on the right side, opened a wooden box and took out an iron collar.“Kneel, slave,” she ordered.I knelt. She clasped the collar around my neck and clamped it shut before attaching a leather leash.“That collar is inscribed with the three names of the Goddess to show you are Her slave. Now your chains…”From the same wooden box she pulled out a heavy mass of iron. She fastened shackles around my wrists, threaded a light chain through loops on them before locking it around my waist. The loose end fell to the floor with a loud noise.“Stand, slave,” she ordered.I stood.More shackles went around each of my ankles. The end of chain was split to attach to each ankle restraint. I could only take short steps and couldn’t raise my hands more than six inches above my waist.“Kneel again, slave.” The priestess emphasised the word ‘slave’.I knelt.“You will be blindfolded before you pass that door. There are aspects of the Goddess you should not see. Your blindfold will be removed when you are in your proper place.”She covered my head with a thick black cloth hood. She pulled a drawstring to tighten it around my neck. I couldn’t see and my breathing was laboured.“Stand, slave.”I stood. I heard her knock three times of the door. The hinges creaked loudly as it was dragged open. I felt a tug on my leash. I shuffled forwards, stubbing my bare toes on the sill of the door. I swore under my breath. The tug was more insistent. I moved slowly, feeling with my feet as I moved. We stopped. The tension on the leash stopped and I felt it fall against my side. The door hinges creaked again before a resounding thud as the door closed. There were sounds from beyond the door of it being secured.My leash was picked up and pulled again. Slowly I edged forwards. I tried to guess the distance. When the door had closed we must have been two yards beyond it. About ten yards further on there was another stop as a lighter door was closed and locked behind us. I was pulled forward again. I was beginning to panic because the thick cloth was really obstructing my access to air. I panted under the hood.After another five yards we stopped for yet another door to be closed and locked. I hadn’t known that the underground part of the temple was this large. I took five more short steps before the leash pulled me roughly to a stop.“Kneel, Slave!” That voice was different, younger than the priestess.I knelt. Fingers scrabbled at the knot securing the hood. It was wrenched off. I could breathe! A hand pushed my head down.“Look at the ground, slave. Do not raise your head.”I continued to be grateful for the air I was breathing. There was a strong rancid smell of hot burning oil, the familiar scent of many oil lamps being used. All I could see was a smooth floor until a pair of feet came into view. They were very delicate bare feet. “Kiss my feet!”She reached out a hand to push my head down. Getting down towards her feet was difficult because the shackles and chains impeded my movements. I clanked and clattered as I afyon escort brought my face close to her feet. I kissed one foot and then the other. I remained bent forward with my head close to her feet.“sisters?” the same voice asked, “Are you satisfied?”“Yes,” two voices said. Another said “I’d like my feet kissed too, but yes.”“He can kiss your feet anytime. That was a test and he passed it.”“Slave? Kneel and raise your head to look at your mistresses.”The shackles and chains shook again as I lifted myself to a kneeling position. The room was well lit for an underground chamber even if some of the lamps were smoking badly. Four women were standing in front of me. I recognised all four immediately. They were four of my Royal handmaidens, my servants as King. Thane Manfred must have sent them in response to Helena’s request. I had kissed Edith’s feet.The four women were Edith, Bertha, Gudrun and Helga, all of them my handmaidens. Bertha was holding a small piece of parchment in her hand. Gudrun was holding a lamp to illuminate it.“Slave,” Edith said, “these are the rules set by the Chief Priestess for us to perform the Great Rite…”“You can read?” I blurted out in surprise.“Yes, slave. I can read. All four of us can. We know you can’t. Listen!”Edith read from the parchment.“You are our slave. We are your mistresses, not just during the Great Rite but for the whole of your life. We have been chosen by the Goddess to help you. All four of us will continue to be your mistresses after the Great Rite has ended. The Goddess will choose one of us to be your wife and Queen but you will owe duty to all four. Understood so far, slave?”I nodded.“That’s not enough. You must answer, slave.”“Yes, Mistress, I understand,” I said.“Good. While you are here you will address each of us as ‘Mistress’. Only if you want to speak to one and there might otherwise be confusion will you use our names as Mistress Edith and so on. You have no name. You are ‘slave’.“Yes, Mistress.” Edith had paused expecting an answer.“Now you must be shown to the Goddess as a slave in chains. Bertha?”Bertha walked to the end of the chamber beyond a heap of mattresses and furs piled in the centre of the floor. There was a large shape covered in a woven cloth.“Forward, on your knees, slave, and kneel beside Bertha.”The chains clanked again as I crawled forwards past the mattresses.“Flat on your face, slave!” Bertha ordered.That was difficult. The chains impeded my movement. I had to lie on my side before turning face down. The women stood either side of me. Bertha pulled at the cloth which came down to cover me completely. It tightened around me as they stood on its edges. I felt them kneel because four legs were pressed against my sides. Two hands gently pushed my head against the stone floor.All four women chanted something I recognised as Latin but I couldn’t understand all the words. It seemed to be a plea to the Goddess.The hands lifted from my head folding back the cloth to my shoulders.“Look, slave, and adore,” Bertha ordered.I raised my head. I was looking at a massive statue at a woman in the extreme of labour. Her pregnant belly loomed above me. Her head, almost touching the high ceiling, was thrown back, mouth open in a silent scream. Below her bump was a black skirt. Bertha and Edith lifted the lower edge of that skirt to show a gaping hole between the statue’s legs. Helga and Gudrun dragged my body forward, lifted my head, and pushed it into the statue’s vagina. I expected hard stone. I met soft yielding material smothering me as my head was pushed deeper.My nose and mouth were obstructed by the soft material. I was suffocating again until the women pulled me out. They rolled me face up and carried me to the mattresses. Gudrun and Helga covered the Goddess’ statue again. I panted like a landed fish as Edith stood above me.“Slave, that is how criminals are executed as a sacrifice to the Goddess.” Edith said. “They are lashed to a board from their shoulders to their feet before the priestesses sew them tightly inside their shroud leaving the head free. A cloth saturated in menstrual blood tightly covers the sacrifice’s mouth and nose, and he is hooded as you were.If the man is an ordinary criminal, the hood is covered with another hood followed by more and more hoods until he is struggling to breathe. He is pushed face up into the Goddess’ vagina that is lined as it was for you. As he tries to breathe he swallows menstrual blood. Her vagina suffocates him. He is left with his head inside Her for an hour before his body is taken out of the temple for burial.For traitors the method is different. A traitor is gagged with the blood soaked cloth over his whole face. His head is covered by a single hood. His head is pushed into the Goddess’ bare vagina before her stone legs slowly move together and crush his skull. His futile attempts to scream mean that he too swallows menstrual blood. It takes at least an hour from the legs first touching the sides of his head to his death. The crushing continues even after death until the bones of his head are totally destroyed. The hood contains the blood and crushed bones. His body is then taken out of the temple. Your soldiers take the traitor’s body and leave it for a****ls and birds to eat.Criminals and traitors when they die piss and shit themselves. As they are already sewn into their shrouds they are left in their own mess.But for you, slave, you were placed in the Goddess’ vagina to show how helpless you are. We will not kill you. All we have done is to show that we could.”The four women were standing around me.“Slave,” Gudrun said, “you are our slave who has to obey us. You have become our slave by your own free will. It is your consent that has enslaved you, not any force. That consent means that we do not need the heavy shackles that bind you. You will obey us implicitly, won’t you?”“Yes, Mistress,” I answered.Their relief was obvious. All four of them knelt around me and their hands unfastened the shackles on my hands and wrists and removed the chain. The slave collar around my neck remained, as did the leash attached to it, but otherwise I had freedom of movement, or would have except that four pairs of hands were gently holding my arms and legs.I was suddenly aware that I was naked, completely unclothed, and four attractive women were around me. My penis began to rise in salute. Helga noticed.“That is homage to us, not to the Goddess. We welcome your homage and shortly we will acknowledge it. But now we will show you around our prison.”Our prison? My puzzlement must have showed.“We are prisoners too, slave, until the Great Rite is completed,” Gudrun said. “The outer door is sealed and we could not breach it without a battering ram. We have the keys to the locked inner doors but are not allowed to open them until the outer door is cleared. All five of us stay here until the end. But we do not have to stay underground in this stinking chamber. Come. Stand up!”I needed Gudrun and Helga’s help to stand. My limbs were stiff from the restraints.“Over there,” Helga pointed, “is where we wash and shit.”She was pointing to a doorway to the left of the Goddess’ statue. I could see a hint of daylight from above.“Upstairs,” Helga said pulling on my leash, “we cook, eat and sleep. This chamber is reserved for the Great Rite.”She was pulling me towards a curtained doorway to the right of the Goddess. Through the curtain was a circular staircase leading upwards towards daylight. Helga went first pulling me behind her. Edith went round the Goddess’ chamber extinguishing the oil lamps before the three others followed us. I wished that our masons could build as well as this staircase. It was longer than I had expected it to be.At the top we emerged into a large room lit from stone latticework far above our heads. There were stone fur-covered benches along two sides. A stone table stood in the centre. Helga pulled me into a small room which had a fire pit with a tripod over it, a large cistern of water and shelves of pots crudely labelled with words I couldn’t read.“We cook here,” Helga said unnecessarily, pointing at the stacks of wood for the fire. She tugged on the leash to pull me back into the main room.“Here we sleep and,” She pulled me through another doorway, “here we can look out to see if the Great Rite has succeeded.”The last small room had the stone latticework down to waist level. We could see along two sides of the temple. The rooms were above the main roof and concealed in the detail of the portico. I could see beyond the fort’s surrounding wall. We must be at the highest point within the fort except for the roof of the Royal Hall, invisible from here. I sighed, looking at our parched fields devoid of the smallest sign of green shoots.“No one can see us up here,” Gudrun said. “We can see but from below these rooms appear to be just part of the decoration of the temple. The smoke from the fire pit comes out where smoke rises from the sacrifices. Did you know this was here, slave?”“No. I rarely went beyond the anteroom of the temple because a man should not enter…”“Unless he is the sacrifice,” Helga interrupted, “and you are that sacrifice. You have sacrificed your freedom to the Goddess and to us.”We went back into the larger room.“Sit there, slave,” Helga said, dropping my leash and pointing at a bench. I sat down. The four women sat on the other bench facing me across the stone table. Edith pulled the piece of parchment from her waist rope and consulted again before speaking.“Slave,” she said, “the Great Rite is very simple. You, the King, have become a slave to the Goddess. As part of that slavery you have accepted we four women as your mistresses for life and for one of us to be your Queen. The next part is also simple. You, prone before the Goddess, must be ridden by each of us in turn until both of us have reached sexual satisfaction. Look at how we are dressed.”I hadn’t noticed before in the dimness of the underground chamber. Each of them was wearing a white floor length robe with a different coloured woven woollen rope around their waists. The rope fell at the front almost to the ground and ended in a tuft.“We are dressed both as temporary priestesses of the Goddess and as brides, your brides. After each successful coupling we will pull a strand of coloured wool from the end of our girdles and tie it around your slave collar. When the next woman has achieved satisfaction she will add her own marker and so on until the Goddess grants sufficient rain. When that happens, whichever woman’s marker was last placed on your collar will be your wife and Queen. Understood, slave?”“Yes, mistress, but what is sufficient rain? Can you tell me?”“Chief Priestess Helena has placed a cup on the roof of the temple. When that cup is full and overflowing, sufficient rain will have fallen and the Great Rite will have ended successfully. The size of the cup is traditional. If it is filled then enough rain will have fallen to produce the crops we need. That could be today, tomorrow or in a week or two? Only the Goddess knows. After two weeks the Great Rite will be assumed to have failed, and so will our crops. Helena and her priestesses will be praying to the Goddess all day every day until the rain comes. We hope that their prayers will be successful…”“So do I. We need that rain,” I said.“Edith and the others,” Helga said, “will prepare our evening meal while you and I return to the Goddess for your first experience of sex. Helena drew lots before the Goddess. I was chosen to be the first. Edith will light the beeswax candles for us, and then…”“Then you get fucked, slave.” Gudrun said crudely.Edith went downstairs. She returned a couple of minutes later. Helga picked up the end of my leash. I followed her downstairs. The beeswax candles were much brighter than the previous oil lamps and the smell of burnt oil was reduced. I, as King, was slightly concerned at the use of candles. They were so difficult to produce. But I wasn’t here as King.“Down on your back, slave,” Helga ordered.Once I was on the heap of mattresses and furs she attached shackles to my ankles and a chain connected them to rings set in the floor.“Your hands will be free,” Helga announced. “You will need them. You must kiss me – there.” She pointed at her dress where the fork in her legs would be.“But first, I too must be naked before the Goddess.”Helga stripped off her white dress, deliberately walked astride my body from my feet to beyond my head. I looked up to see her breasts bouncing and the hair between her legs. She knelt before the shrouded Goddess for a few seconds. Silently I prayed to the Goddess that my ordeal would be bearable.Helga came back to stand with her feet either side of my head and lowered herself. She spread her legs as she came down. She pulled her lower lips apart as they met my mouth. I kissed. She pressed down harder.“Tongue, slave!” Helga ordered.I extended my tongue. Her taste was like nothing I had experienced before, nice but different. She writhed above me. Slowly her body moved down mine. Her breasts swung above my face. One by one she pushed each erect nipple into my mouth. I sucked. Helga moaned as I sucked hard.She moved lower, extending a hand to grasp my erection that she eased into her warm cleft. As I slid inside her the sensation was exquisite. I knew instinctively that I had to hold back but that was so difficult. I had penetrated a woman for the first time in my life. My head thrashed from side to side as I tried to stop my erection from ejaculation.I barely heard Helga say “Well done, slave, hang on.”Her body became warmer where it was touching mine. She began to moan quietly until she rammed her hips downwards. I gasped as I shuddered into emission. I panted as Helga continued to pound up and down on my diminishing hardness until she collapsed against my chest. Her head snuggled under my chin as a hand stroked the side of my face. I wrapped my arms around her upper body and hugged her.“Well done,” Helga said faintly. “For a first time, that was brilliantly done.”Helga’s voice trailed off. She was almost asleep. If this was what sex was like, I wanted more. I would get more. Three more women wanted me and they would ride me again and again until the rain comes. I prayed to the Goddess this time to thank her. This had been no ordeal but a wonderful experience.I began to doze very aware that I had a woman on my body and in my arms. I seemed to hear the Goddess speaking to me in my head:“Silly boy,” She said, “You were surrounded by women who loved you. They wanted to show you that worshipping them and Me was enjoyable. Now sleep. Three more of my women need you.”Did the Goddess brush her lips across my forehead? It felt as if She had.+++Helga stirred. She climbed off my body, dressed herself and removed the shackles from my ankles. She playfully slapped my naked chest.“Up, slave!” She ordered. “Time to eat.”I followed Helga upstairs. She hadn’t taken the end of my leash. The three women looked expectantly at us.“Our slave knows what to do,” Helga announced, “and for a beginner…”She turned around, grabbed me and kissed me on the lips.“…he’s great!” she finished.“You haven’t put your marker on his collar,” Edith observed.“I haven’t? I forgot. I’ll do it now.”Helga pulled a length of blue wool from the end of her girdle. She looped it through my slave collar and knotted it. She kissed me again.“You’re wearing my badge, slave.” She kissed me again.We sat at the stone table to eat and drink. We had stew, bread and wine. Edith put her hand over my goblet before the wine was poured. She looked fiercely at me.“No more than half this measure, slave. We need you to perform tonight. Too much wine would harm your performance. Be careful.”I filled the goblet only a quarter full and showed it to Edith. She nodded. The four of them drank several goblets of wine each. I know our wine is weak but I had never seen women drink so much of it. After a couple of hours as the sun was setting they became more talkative and giggled a lot.Gudrun raised her goblet.“To our slave. May he perform well for all of us.”The other three raised their goblets too, turned towards me, and drank.“Now, priestesses, for that’s what we apparently are,” Gudrun said, “let’s show him in the last of the daylight what he is to endure. Strip for the Goddess!”Bertha seemed slightly reluctant but as the other three eagerly threw their clothes off she stripped too.Gudrun persuaded them to sit along one of the benches with their legs spread apart.“Slave,” she ordered, “worship each of your mistresses, there!”She pointed at the hairy cleft between her legs. I knelt before her and kissed. Her legs lightly scissored around my head and a hand pushed me closer in. She was reluctant to let me move on to worship Edith, and Edith wanted my tongue. Gudrun had to tell Edith to let me go on to Bertha. Bertha was initially reluctant but started squealing loudly as I kissed and licked. Helga was much fiercer. She grabbed my hair and clamped me hard against her. She had to loosen her grip so I could breathe. She tasted as wonderful as she had in the Goddess’ chamber. All four of them had slightly different tastes. I wasn’t sure that I could identify any of them from the taste alone. The colour of their bushes and the taste might be enough.After Helga I had to start again with Gudrun. By the time I was back between the legs of Helga my erection was becoming painful. I was relieved when Gudrun grabbed my leash and pulled me towards the stairs. Helga went before us to relight the candles. I was surprised when the other two followed us. Gudrun’s naked body was ahead of me. Edith and Bertha, still naked, were following us. All four had taken their girdles, carrying them in their hands.Gudrun pushed me on the mattresses. All four of them knelt before the shrouded statue of the Goddess before Gudrun straddled me. She impaled herself on my taut erection almost before I knew what she intended. Edith’s cleft descended onto my face. As my lips touched her, my erection came violently into Gudrun.Gudrun tightened her muscles around me and started to move up and down. I would have protested that I couldn’t respond so soon but my protests were stifled my Edith’s warm flesh. Bertha and Helga pressed their naked bodies alongside mine as Gudrun continued to excite herself.I don’t know how long it took. It might have been an hour or more before Gudrun was satisfied. Edith’s use of my face had been replaced first by Bertha then Helga. Eventually Gudrun climbed off me before tying her red wool around my slave collar. I was already beginning to feel sensation down below as Edith slid me inside her.By the middle of the night my lips and tongue were numb. My tool was slightly sore but I had satisfied all three women and had four pieces of wool tied to my collar. I crawled out from their naked bodies to go for a piss. When I returned they moved sleepily before I was buried in female bodies. I went back to sleep, sore, but grateful for so much enjoyment in a single night.+++In the morning we all washed before going up into the daylight. “It hasn’t rained,” Edith announced, “and there’s not a cloud in the sky. Sorry, slave, we’ll have to use you again and again. But not now. We eat first before we show you other things you need to learn.”Other things? What other things? The women were fully dressed. I remained naked except for my collar and leash.I found out what they meant by other things. They thought that a King should be able to read and write. The day seemed long as they took turns to teach me to recognise letters they wrote on a slate. I had to practise forming each letter over and over again. By the evening they and I were delighted that I could recognise and shakily copy my name in Latin – Alfredus Rex. There were inscriptions all around the rooms of the temple. I was stunned to be shown that all four of them could read and translate every word. Most were dedications to the Roman Gods and Goddesses. Mithras was only named in the underground chamber with the Goddess statue. Down there were chalked inscriptions to the Goddess on many otherwise blank areas of wall. Those inscriptions had been made by the priestesses. I could recognise one word – Dea – Goddess.I and most of my people can speak crude Latin. We need it because it is still the only language that almost every kingdom recognises. Among ourselves and our neighbours we have our own language, but the sea raiders’ language is meaningless to us. They shout obscenities in Latin and if we have to parley, we do that in Latin. I don’t know a single man in my kingdom who can read and write Latin. I thought the priestesses could, but it was startling to know that most of my handmaidens can read and write. That is what girls are taught in the temple. Many of the women of the kingdom can read and write, and their men don’t know they can.The women insisted that I shouldn’t let it be known that most women can read and write. They use it to communicate with each other, knowing that their fathers and husbands can’t understand the message if it is accidently found. What they lack is materials to write on. Parchment is expensive even if reused many times. Paper is unknown to us. The women use tree bark, some leaves, pieces of broken pottery or even just a message scratched on the ground.I became excited with the idea that writing ağrı escort could be used to store hard-won knowledge. The women sitting on the bench laughed at me.“Stand up and face us, slave,” Bertha ordered. I stood.“How do you think the priestesses got their reputation as wise women?” Gudrun asked. “They have been keeping records for many years.”“And they have some old books the Romans left behind.” Bertha added. “One is about farming. That’s very helpful.”“And we have been keeping notes of your actions as King,” Edith said. “Particularly the changes you have made and the impact of them.”“It goes further than that, slave,” Bertha continued. “Do you know why you became King?”I shook my head. I had always wondered why I had been chosen when there were older more experienced candidates.“Helena wanted you as King because she thought you would bring change that was good for the Kingdom. She spoke to several members of the Witan telling them that you were the Goddess’ chosen candidate. It worked, not just because Helena said it, but because it was true. Helena had inscribed the names of the possible Kings on potsherds and thrown them on the ground in front of the Goddess hoping for a sign. The sign was very clear. Your name was the only one that landed face up.”“And Helena, the priestesses, and all your handmaidens know that you were the right choice, Alfred…” Edith said.The three others were startled. Edith shouldn’t have mentioned my name. Writing it was one thing, but here I should just be called ‘slave’. She noticed their reaction.“It doesn’t matter,” Edith said, “whether we call him slave, or Alfred, or even King Alfred. He has accepted us as his mistresses. That is the important thing. But we are his friends too, and his lovers. We know he was the best choice for King, and his voluntary sacrifice of his freedom for his people is a sign of that. He wants to learn, to make our land better, and our people happy and prosperous. Our task is to help him as best we can. And what makes our work easier is that we love him.”Edith came towards me, threw her arms around me, and turned her face up to be kissed. As our lips met the three others joined in the hug.“Edith is right,” Gudrun said almost into my ear. “Your submission is the important part of the Great Rite. The collar, the leash, calling you ‘slave’ – they are all symbolic, no more. You are ours, for life. Once the Great Rite is over we will defer to you as King in public. Our people won’t notice any change. But in private? You will always be our slave. We will make your servitude as pleasant as we can, and enjoyable for all five of us, but we are your mistresses.”“And we hope one of us will be your wife, and Queen,” Bertha added.I was beginning to understand just how much I had been manipulated by the Goddess and Chief Priestess Helena. I had been their choice of King despite other more experienced possibilities. I had asked Helena for a dozen suitable handmaidens. These four were the first names Helena had mentioned, and none of the handmaidens had been my close relations. Eventually I would have had to invoke the Great Rite when the spring rain came late. It hadn’t been necessary until the start of my fourth year as King. I might have married before then – or could I? Had Helena kept potential wives away? Or loaded me with duties so that I had no time to court a wife?As the four women continued to hug me I decided that the manipulation didn’t matter. The Goddess and Helena shared my desire for a better future for our people. Should I object because I had been used? Or should I just relax and enjoy the delightful women surrounding me? I chose to enjoy. I kissed each one of the four as they pressed against me. They kissed me back.+++That night started early, shortly after the evening meal. The women had worked out a different order for our couplings. I started under Bertha, then Gudrun, Helga and finally Edith. In the morning Edith was against my chest and I had four more markers on my collar. I was aware that two of the women had gone upstairs. Gudrun rushed back into the Goddess’ chamber.“It’s raining!” Gudrun shouted. “It’s raining! It’s not much, it’s the soft gentle rain not a heavy shower, but it must have been raining for an hour at least.”Soft gentle rain? That is what our crops need. A heavy shower might have washed the dry top soil away. We all went upstairs and looked out. There were no visible puddles, just damp soil as far as we could see.Four naked women were hugging me as we celebrated. “Edith?” Bertha said, “You were the last to put your marker on Alfred. You will be his wife.”“Perhaps,” Edith replied. “This rain will take a long time to fill the measure. If it stops? It still might be any of us.”“You have until tonight, Edith.” Bertha said. “Anyway, you are the oldest of us four…”“By two months!” Edith retorted, “And I’m six months younger than Alfred. But what about the other three if one is chosen? Alfred?”“Ladies,” I said plaintively, “by the conditions of the Great Rite you choose me. Remember? I am your slave.”“But if you could choose?” Edith asked.I looked at her carefully. That could be a very awkward question to answer and could cause recriminations for years to come.“Alfred?” Gudrun prompted.“Whoever is chosen by the Goddess will be my wife, and Queen,” I said slowly, “but I will have four wives. The other three will be Deputy Queens – in order of their ages.”“Sorry, Bertha,” Edith said. “You’re the youngest and third deputy.”“If,” Bertha emphasised, “if enough rain falls today to make you Queen. But I am delighted to be a wife, not a mistress.”“So am I,” Gudrun said. “But can Alfred take four wives?”“I can,” I said. “Even if it usual for our King to have only two wives with any number of concubines. With four wives, who are also my mistresses I have to obey, I think I’ll have enough without adding concubines. The four of you are enough for any man, even a King.”“Good,” Helga said. “Any concubine might have a hard time from us wives. We wives need to prepare breakfast and celebrate our engagements.”We had a small amount of wine with that breakfast. The next few hours we spent watching the rain continue to fall. All four women had not put their clothing on. They sat on my lap in order of seniority with another woman cradling the back of her head between her breasts. We were all excited that the Great Rite seemed to have worked. The low cloud extended as far as we could see with no sign of a break.In the middle of the afternoon Chief Priestess Helena struggled up the stairs to tell us that the measuring cup was full. She was delighted not that Edith would be Queen, but that all four would be wives. The formal marriages would take place in three days’ time. As we left the underground chambers Edith ordered me to kneel while she removed my leash and slave collar. They would be placed in front of the Goddess’ statue in gratitude for granting us rain and as a relic of my submission during the Great Rite. She gave me an arm bracelet also inscribed with the names of the Goddess. It would be hidden when I was dressed but visible when I was naked. All four women helped me to put on my clothing. That took much longer than necessary as eight hands caressed my body.The rain continued to fall gently until the joint wedding. As the five of us left the temple as King, Queen and three Deputy Queens a shaft of sunlight illuminated us as we walked out of the temple. The assembled people seemed delighted. I wasn’t sure. Four wives and four Queens were stretching the Royal authority to near breaking point. The real delight was for the rain. We soon settled down into a routine after the first few nights when my wives demanded satisfaction for all four of them. They organised a rota for when each of them would be in bed with me, sometimes just one, sometimes two, and rarely, all four.The real impact was on the administration of our Kingdom. They were not just Queens and my wives, but my deputies and secretaries. Their secret record keeping slowly became public knowledge. People knew how much grain was stored, by whom, and what our artisans were producing. They continued to teach me to read and write. I’m not slow, but I found learning to write was a difficult task. Within weeks I could read some of the common Latin inscriptions, and write a few dozen words. I had a lot to learn if I was to be as competent as any of my wives or handmaidens. We were fortunate that for the next month no sea raiders came. The training of all the men in use of arms continued as did the work of extending the skills of our soldiers.One night when we were alone in bed together Queen Edith made a startling suggestion.“Alfred, we are always short of men when the raiders come, aren’t we?”“Yes. Our kingdom may be small but it takes time to assemble the men from further afield. So?”“We defend the fort’s walls with bowmen and spears, don’t we?”“Yes, Edith, you know we do.”“And the older men and the younger boys can do that if they have to?”“Yes.”I didn’t understand what Edith was getting at. She knew as well as I do, perhaps even better than I, just how few men we had available to repel invaders. She had lists of every man and their weapon skills.“The boys can’t use full size bows.”“True.” I replied.“But the smaller bows can kill at short range?”“Yes, Edith, they can. If the raiders try to storm the walls an arrow can kill at thirty yards or one yard.”“So…”I wondered what was coming.“Could we make many more of the smaller bows?”“We could. It would take time. We have bowyers and fletchers who could produce more.”“Then women could use the bows.” Edith stopped speaking and looked steadily at me.“Women?” I hadn’t expected that.“Yes. Women. When the war band is out hunting raiders, there are many more women in the fort than all the old men and boys. Three times more women than males. If they could use bows, and poke with spears, our defence would be much more effective, wouldn’t it?”I had to think. Edith was snuggled up against me, both of us naked in bed. She was right about the numbers. The old men and boys were defending not just our women but our wealth, our food supplies, and everything that made us a kingdom. If the fort fell to the raiders we would lose almost everything. It would be difficult but not impossible for a large enough group of raiders to storm the fort. If they had decoyed our war band away? That was an evil thought.“Some of the boys are no more than c***dren. Adult women would have more strength to pull a bow or use a spear.” Edith added.“Let me think,” I said. “All you say is true but women could die on the walls. That is less worrying for me than how we could persuade the Witan to accept such a change. I only rule because of their consent. They have been muttering about the changes I have already made. Trying to turn women into warriors could end my kingship. Women dying? They would die or be enslaved if the raiders took the fort. Have you talked to the others about this idea?”“The others? Which others?”“The deputy Queens.”“No, Alfred, not yet.”“Tomorrow you can make your suggestion to them. I value their advice as much as yours. That’s the first step. After that, the women need to give their view. The Witan is wholly male. They would reject your idea without thinking about it – unless…”“Unless?”“Unless the women suggest it, not me. As King I can only order so much. If I proposed it? They would consider me mad.”We left it at that. Edith climbed on top of me and made love until we went to sleep exhausted.Late the next morning I and the four Queens met as the inner group of leaders. I let Edith put her suggestion. At first the others were dismayed until they began to appreciate how much the women could suffer if our walls were taken. The other three wanted time to consider Edith’s proposal so we moved on to other less important matters. My sole suggestion was that even if all five of us agreed, before we spoke to anyone else we should consult Chief Priestess Helena and the Goddess.+++Two months later and the Witan, still incredulous that I attended with Queen Edith at my side and flanked by the deputy Queens, had agreed that women could be trained to be archers and spearmen on the fort’s walls. I had insisted on one fixed rule. Under no circumstances whatever were the women to try to fight outside our walls. We could not afford them to face swords and axes in the open. They would be slaughtered by skilled warriors and all the sea raiders were full time soldiers. The majority of our men were unable to fight a single raider in one to one combat. Only our best were their equals and the women could never be that strong or that skilled.Two days after that decision the raiders returned. As before, our older men and the boys manned the walls as our war band tried to chase the raiders away. We lost a couple of men but captured three of the raiders. I was worried to learn from one of the prisoners that our kingdom was considered to be a prime target because we had more wealth than our neighbours. If that were true? Larger bands would seek to attack us.A month later and the women were beginning to be minimally competent with bow and spear. I wouldn’t want to test them in battle but our walls were lined with more heads than ever before. At a distance no one could tell the difference between old men, young men and women. They looked like a formidable force, but it was appearance, not reality. It would take months of training before the women were really useful.We didn’t get those months. A larger force of raiders was back in two weeks. They landed about five miles away and formed into battle order. Our war band was still depleted by the sweating sickness. We had lost several young c***dren to it in the last few days. Our warriors were outnumbered and had to retreat carefully. The raiders came straight along the seashore as we stayed inland on slightly higher ground. They were heading directly for the fort and they were carrying ladders. They intended to assault the walls and ignored our watching war band.Our gates were secure. On my orders they had been blocked first with carts laden with heavy stones and then the carts were covered with more and more stone. The whole passage through the gateways was solid. Our war band couldn’t retreat inside but I hoped our enemies couldn’t breach the gates. They would have to go over the walls which now had three times as many spears and bows as we would have had six weeks earlier. Whether the women would stand their ground? I prayed to the Goddess that they would but I had little confidence. The challenge had come too soon.On the left flank of the raiders the tide was ebbing strongly exposing an edge of dry sand and mudflats beyond. A few years ago Egbert had pushed a smaller band of enemies on to the mudflats. Their movement had been impeded by the sticky mud and many were killed by arrows from our war band and from the fort’s walls. If we could push them into the mudflats again? But this time we were outnumbered. As the raiders came within a hundred yards of the walls a few arrows were shot at them, uselessly. Those arrows lacked the force to do any damage. The raiders seemed encouraged by the feeble display and started to run forwards. They were still ignoring our war band as if we were an insignificant threat.To my surprise not a single arrow was sent from the walls until the raiders were within ten yards. Not one. There was not even a single feeble shot. At ten yards a continuous line of bows sprung up from below the pa****t, presented and loosed. The carnage was impressive. The raiders stopped in their tracks. Another volley and they were falling in their dozens dropping the assault ladders. I saw our opportunity. I ordered the war band to charge their flank, hoping that those within the walls would hold back from firing once we were hand to hand with the enemy.As we raced towards the raiders two more volleys of arrows were discharged distracting the enemy from our approach. We hit them hard with a phalanx of spears. As I had hoped but not expected, they gave way to their left and ran out on to the mud flats. Our war band knew exactly what parts of the exposed beach was safe. Our enemies didn’t and suffered from our spears and arrows. At that point one of their arrows pierced my right shoulder, ending with the shaft sticking six inches beyond my back. I dropped my sword before picking it up in my left hand.The archers on the fort’s walls had moved around to fire at the enemy struggling in the sticky mud. At my order the war band kept to the dry sand leaving a clear field of fire for our archers and those from the fort.A few of the raiders escaped but we had slaughtered hundreds. There had been a cost. We had lost half a dozen of our men and about twenty were wounded. I asked Thane Manfred to take half the war band to the raider’s ships to see if we could overcome those left as guards on the ships. I and the rest of the war band killed all the wounded enemies. We daren’t keep so many as potential slaves. We dragged all the bodies above the high tide mark before stripping them of all their arms and possessions. Many had gold ornaments and good swords. By the time one of the fort gates had been cleared so that we could enter I was feeling weak from loss of blood and that arrow was still fixed in my shoulder. I ordered that the enemies’ bodies should be thrown into a pit dug many hundreds of years ago by people mining flint, and earth thrown after them. I had to use a broken spear to prop myself up as I slowly walked through the fort gate. Gudrun met me. She supported my left side as we made our way to the Royal Hall. Once inside she called Bertha. They sat me down with my head against Bertha’s breasts. Gudrun cut through the arrow shaft with her knife and pulled the two halves out. Bertha was all that was stopping me from falling as Gudrun cut off my clothing before wrapping my shoulder tightly.I was barely aware as my four wives carried me to bed. Once there, and able to rest, I asked for Thane Manfred. He came within half an hour with the great news that we had captured fifteen ships intact. They would be moved to under the walls of the fort when the tide permitted.I asked him to lead the war band while I was recovering.“The war band? Of course I will, King Alfred. But…”“The Kingship?” I looked directly at Edith. “I have a Queen. She has three deputies. She will rule.”Manfred bowed his head.“Yes, King Alfred. I will obey her as I would you.”“Thank you, Manfred.” I said.Edith was shocked. I pointed to the ornate sword of kingship on the mattress beside me.“You can’t,” she protested.“I can,” I replied. “And so can you. Pick up that sword and wear it. Do it! That’s an order from your King.”“She will,” Bertha said, “with our help if she needs it, and advice from the Witan.”“One last thing, Edith. Who decided the tactics on the wall? They were great.”“Manfred. I asked him,” Edith said. “He told me to let the boys loose their arrows at a hundred yards and leave the wall to the older men and the women. We were to wait until the raiders were ten yards away. We had marked ten yards with a line of small stones and we all held off until their feet met the line.”“Well done, and thank you, Manfred.” I said.“I had my doubts that the women had the resolve to hold back that long,” Manfred said, “but they did. No one will now question the right of women to be on our fort wall.”“But they must NOT, never, go outside to face the enemy in the open…” I said. I slipped into u*********sness as I heard Edith answer “We won’t.” +++I had expected to be out of action for a day or two at most, then sore but I developed a fever. Sometimes I was sweating while a wife or two cooled my body with damp cloths; sometimes I was very cold and warmed by naked Queens wrapped around me. The severity of the fever made me very weak and barely aware of my surroundings.I became aware that a warm breast had been pushed into my mouth and milk was dribbling down my throat. I’m not a baby! I pulled my head away, opened my eyes and looked up at the woman. It was Ingrid, one of the married handmaidens. She tried to put her breast back in my mouth. I resisted.“Alfred,” Ingrid said, “you need it. You are weak from lack of food and have been unable to eat. My milk will help you.”“But…” My voice was little more than a croak. “Your c***d needs…”“My c***d doesn’t need my milk, unlike you. I have milk, you need it, and why not take it from a woman who loves you?” Ingrid said.‘Loves me’? I didn’t understand. I had married four of my former maidservants but not Ingrid.Gudrun spoke from behind my head. I was leaning against her naked breasts. “Ingrid loves you, Alfred. All your handmaidens love you, and they’re not alone. You are popular with almost all the women of our kingdom. Many would offer breast milk to you, but Ingrid is here. Take her milk.”I slowly turned my head to look at Gudrun and at Ingrid. They were worried for me.“Alfred! Remember the Great Rite. I order you to take Ingrid’s breast!” Gudrun’s words were forceful but spoken quietly.I had promised to obey my Queens in private. I opened my mouth to take Ingrid’s breast and drink her milk. As I drank, two women’s tears dropped on my head.A couple of days later Helga explained that Ingrid’s baby had died of the sweating sickness, and her husband had been killed by the raiders. She had come to see me for escort bayan a few sympathetic words, had seen how weak I was and acted. As her milk dribbled down my throat, Ingrid’s tears had been washing my head.Eventually I managed the few sympathetic words Ingrid had wanted but she had found that looking after me helped her more. She had a purpose that she had lost with her husband and c***d. She defended me ferociously from everyone except my Queens.From then on I began to improve. I slept most of the time with a naked Queen holding me or beside me. Ingrid came several times a day to give me her breast, and other handmaidens came with bowls of slop which they slowly spooned into my mouth. It seemed as if all my handmaidens, married or not, wanted to press their naked bodies against me. Naked? Bertha once explained when I was slightly more coherent that it was easier for them to feed me naked. If the slop was spilled it wiped off a naked body but would stain clothing. I wasn’t convinced. I think the handmaidens just wanted to press their naked flesh against me to show that they would be willing lovers.It took me nearly a week before I was awake and conscious most of a day. I had noticed that Edith had come to see me much less frequently than my other wives. One day, as I was resting against a naked Helga, Edith came into the room. She slumped down on the edge of the mattresses. She laid the sword of Kingship aside with a sigh of relief and stripped herself naked.“Alfred,” she said as she pressed her nude body against me, “I had never appreciated how hard it is to rule. The Witan…” She made a face, “…are a load of old women. They hate change and resist it as much as they can. Taking orders from a Queen sticks in their throats. I have to cajole, persuade, and argue just to get the simplest point across to them.”I stretched out my hand to take Edith’s.“They are the same for me, Queen Edith. Of course they will find it hard to obey a Queen. They didn’t like obeying me, and you’re a woman even if you are Queen. They’re not used to listening to women, let alone taking orders from them.”“I’d like to put some women on the Witan,” Edith said.I shook my head.“That wouldn’t help you, Edith, or me. Our women can be even more resistant to change than our men. Remember how hard you four Queens had to work to persuade the women to use bows? Even with the support of Helena and the Goddess, you barely won.”“He’s right, Edith,” Helga said from behind my head. “The Witan has accepted massive changes since Alfred became King. They might have been reluctant but they did and do support him including accepting you, Edith, as the temporary ruler. Think what the Witan would have been like if it was made up of our grandmothers.”Edith sighed.“You’re both right. I want to hand power back to Alfred. Advising him I can do. Acting alone and taking the blame is hard.”“Being a King, or a Queen who is ruling, is hard. That is why Manfred refused to be King. He didn’t think he could perform the role competently. He might have been wrong, and I didn’t know just how difficult it can be to be the King. In a few days I’ll be fit enough to move around and I can take back the role. You can be my advisor again.”“And mistress?” Edith asked.“You and the other Queens are, in private, but in public I am the King. Now you know some of what that means.”“And I hate it,” Edith said.“Sometimes, so do I. It is my duty to my people to do the best for them especially when they don’t like what I order.”“I’ve been jealous of Ingrid,” Edith said suddenly.“Ingrid? Why?” I asked, puzzled.“Because she’s been stuffing her tit in your mouth several times a day and I couldn’t.”“You could. You may not have Ingrid’s milk but you have delightful breasts…”What I might have said was suddenly stopped by a mouthful of an Edith tit. Helga squashed her breasts either side of my head. I was surrounded by soft warm breasts.“What I really want,” Edith said above my head, “is to make love to Alfred as we did for the Goddess.”“I’d like that too,” Helga agreed, “but his wound hasn’t healed yet.”I couldn’t comment. My mouth was too full of breast.“If you support his left shoulder, Helga, and I sit astride him, I think that would work.”My feeble protest was ignored.“Shut up, slave,” Edith said. “Just rest back against Helga and enjoy.”I did enjoy it until I became close to a climax. My wounded shoulder was throbbing painfully as Edith bumped her backside up and down on me. I nearly fainted as I shuddered into emission.Edith was still impaled on my fading erection as Ingrid came in.“The Witan wants all four Queens,” Ingrid said. “They’ve had an approach from another Kingdom wanting to take over the raiders’ ships we captured.”“The Witan?” Edith said. “We’ll get dressed. Ingrid, please stay with King Alfred until one or more of us return.”Helga lowered me to the mattresses. Edith was buckling the sword belt around her. She looked at me.“What would you do, Alfred?”“Simple. Leave the negotiation to the Witan. They have some very good negotiators and the wisdom of their ages. Agree to let them do the talking. But, Edith, you are wearing the sword of Kingship. You have to decide until I’m recovered. You have my advice but the decision rests with the Queens.”Edith bent over me and kissed me.“I’ll follow your advice, Alfred. Obey Ingrid while we’re gone.”Edith and Helga went.Ingrid knelt down beside me.“How’s the shoulder?” she asked.“Throbbing and hurting,” I replied.“Stupid Queens!” Ingrid said forcefully. “You weren’t fit enough for sex. Just stay there and I’ll breastfeed you again as you go back to sleep.”sleep? How could I sleep with my shoulder hurting as much as it was? I had underestimated Bertha. Once her breast was in my mouth and milk was trickling down my throat my pain diminished. As her milk stopped flowing she rested my head against her soft breast. She hugged me gently as I went to sleep.I came to hearing Ingrid abusing Edith who had returned with Gudrun.“You may be Queen, Edith. He is your slave. But you hurt him! You should be ashamed of yourself.”Edith burst into tears.“I didn’t mean…”“But you were stupid, thoughtless…” Ingrid continued.“I’m here…” I started to say. My words were cut short as Ingrid hugged me fiercely to her.“Shut up!” Ingrid said. I had to. Her breast was squashed across my whole face and I couldn’t breathe. I scrabbled with my left arm to push Ingrid away enough to get some air.“Ouch!” I said. “I know you love me, but gently, please?”Ingrid relaxed her grip and kissed my forehead.“Sorry, Alfred,” she said.“And I’m sorry too,” Edith said, kissing my cheek.“He’s not just yours, Edith. He belongs to all the handmaidens, and the women, and the people of the Kingdom. We need him fit and well again.”That was a long speech for Ingrid. She pushed a leaking breast back into my mouth, gently this time.I listened. Ingrid made sure I couldn’t speak. Edith apologised again and told me that the Witan had been pleased that the Queens had given them responsibility for the disposal of the raiders’ ships. They intended to negotiate with a neighbouring Kingdom. What they wanted to get was more metalworking skills, more metal to work with, and if possible an agreement with the sea raiders to leave both Kingdoms alone. Each of the fifteen ships had been a considerable investment for the sea raiders. Losing them had been a major disaster, more than the slaughter of that particular band of attackers.+++Three days later I was walking carefully around for a couple of hours each day. Ingrid was always at my side ready to support me if I became too tired. She insisted that Queen Edith should continue to rule for a few more days. She berated me kindly but firmly if I suggested I was fit enough. Ingrid was right. I wasn’t.The King’s companions honoured Ingrid as my fiercest defender, if only with words. One of them even carved a wooden sword for her to wear. He had asked one of the Queens to write on it with a red hot poker. It read “Ingrid, King’s Companion”. She accepted it in the spirit that it was meant. They had made her one of the King’s official escort.+++A month later, several weeks after I had resumed the Kingship, we had worked out roles for my four Queens as my deputies. Edith’s responsibility was the war band, the training of all our people to weapons including the women, and the weapon makers. Bertha looked after the farmers, fishermen and workers on the land. Gudrun was learning about our artisans and workmen. Helga’s role was liaison with the temple, the domestic arrangements within the fort and most importantly, the education not just of c***dren but of all our people. All four of them were working with small groups from the Witan. The older men of the Witan were showing that they possessed a wide range of knowledge that was now being passed on.Ingrid had become my secretary, the coordinator and recorder of the formal meetings not just of the King and Queens but the Witan. She was badgering the older members of the Witan to tell her about decisions made before I had become King, decisions that influenced our current actions. Helga and the priestesses made copies of Ingrid’s records so that the knowledge wouldn’t be lost. The administration of the kingdom was more effective than it had ever been. My role? I could plan for the longer future if the raiders stayed away.+++Our crops this autumn were good. We had enough grain to store more than a bare tenth. Our negotiations about the raiders’ captured ships had led to mutual cooperation with the neighbouring kingdom. They were training new metalworkers for us; we were training their carpenters, and a treaty had been made with SOME of the sea raiders.Between the combined artisans’ skills of the two kingdoms, with information from the old Roman writings stored in the temple, we were trying to reconstruct some of the Roman military siege weapons. Our first attempt at a catapult had been ridiculously weak and had fallen apart after the first three trial shots. We were learning, not just about Roman war machines, but about their engineering and agriculture. It frustrated me that we were so incompetent by comparison with those old Romans. Even our newly made roof tiles broke too easily.Our people were happy. We had a good harvest. The sweating sickness had passed with only a few deaths. Ingrid was still mourning her baby, as were a few other women, but the deaths could have been many more.When the first autumn storm arrived with no sign of the sea raiders our vigilance might have slackened. I, Edith and Manfred made sure it didn’t. We had sentries posted day and night. Our coastline was constantly watched. Edith and Manfred were trying longer spears for the women on the fort’s walls. They were lighter than the spears the war band used but had a longer shaft. I thought they might be too long, but left the two of them to their trials.I was able to travel around our kingdom to visit the various villages. All were protected by ditches, ramparts and wooden palisades but were not as safe as the old Roman fort. I encouraged them to consider replacing the wood with stone walls. That would take decades to do with our tiny number of half competent masons. We don’t have the resources that were available to the Romans.I was back in the fort in bed with Edith when a sentry thought he had heard something in the hour before dawn. Gudrun came to tell me. I started to get up.“Stay here,” Edith said. “Wait until dawn. You have unfinished business with me.”“Sorry, Edith,” I replied. “I need to go.”“Stay, Alfred!” Edith said forcefully. “That’s an order and you can’t refuse an order from your Queen.”“I can, and do,” I answered shortly. “My duty as a King overrides my submission to you and the Goddess.”Edith was angry as I left.I joined the sentry on the wall. He was puzzled because the sounds had come from inland. When dawn came we knew that the raiders had returned. We thought it was too late in the season for them to be on the sea. We were wrong. Not only were they on the sea but they attacked us from inland. They had landed where our kingdom ends in wasteland, circled inland and attacked from the high ground. Manfred and I led out the war band to confront them but attacking uphill was more difficult. We thought we were winning when more raiders landed from the sea. This time it was high tide and they could beach their ships on the dry sandy beach.We were trapped between the two sets of raiders. We formed into a defensive circle as they surrounded us. We were too far from the fort for even skilled archers to shoot. Gradually we were being worn down. After wielding my sword for a couple of hours my right shoulder was showing that it wasn’t fully recovered. I sheathed the sword and picked up a double handed axe dropped by one of the dead raiders. I could use that.Manfred and I had decided that we had to make a break for the fort. Even if we were trapped against its walls we would have the enemy only on one side of us. Those inside the fort could shoot over us. I was at the head of the wedge trying to break out. That is where the King should be, backed by his companions. Our progress was blocked by a massive raider fighting with an axe even larger than mine. I parried his strokes but each one jarred my axe and produced pain in my shoulder. I was losing.Suddenly he staggered. Three spearheads came through his chest from behind. I struck with my axe where his neck meets the shoulder, burying my axe deep into his body, but I think he was already dying before that.The raiders pulled away and began running towards their ships. We let them go. After several hours of fighting we had no energy left to run after them. Behind the giant raider stood three of my Queens, Bertha, Gudrun and Helga holding their bloodied spears. Edith was a few steps behind them leaning on a broken spear shaft.“What are you doing here?” I asked.“Saving our King,” Bertha replied.“And disobeying you, like you disobeyed me,” Edith said as she hobbled up. The skirt of her dress was ragged and blood was running down her leg. I looked at it. She lifted her skirt to show a clean sword cut on her thigh.“Ouch,” I said.“Ouch indeed,” Edith said. “But it was worth it. We’ve saved most of the war band. We left Ingrid in command of half the women, mainly the older ones who hadn’t trained with spears. They could have still kept the raiders out, even if all of us had died. But we women didn’t die.”“No. You saved the day. We were losing, and would have lost but for you.”“But we disobeyed the King,” Helga said.“And I disobeyed a Queen and the Goddess. Neither matters since we have saved our Kingdom. Back we go to the fort to tend our wounded and bury our dead.”I carried Edith back inside the fort. Ingrid and Helga dressed Edith’s wound and put her to bed. Edith’s injury was minor but she was in a state of delayed shock.The women left with Ingrid had successfully harassed the retreating raiders with arrows. In the months since the women had first defended the walls they had been practising. Now they could shoot aimed arrows out to at least one hundred yards. They had killed at least thirty of the raiders. The spear women who had left the fort had killed fifty or more. Edith’s sword cut had been the only wound the women had suffered. The women’s approach had been unobserved because the raiders were facing us. The war band had killed over one hundred but twenty of our own were dead or dying. +++In the morning a week later I was recovering after a night with four naked wives. Edith sat up beside me. She asked that the four naked Queens should meet me as the King. After we had dressed and had breakfast I sat on the dais in the Royal Hall facing the four Queens standing in front of me. Edith was standing with a help of her broken spear shaft.“I should be able to walk without this within a couple of days, King Alfred. We wanted to ask you what you are going to do about King’s companion Ingrid. I am asking for all four Queens.”“What do you want me to do about Ingrid?”“Do you love her, Alfred?”“Yes.”“Then what we four Queens want is for you to make Ingrid the King’s companion in more than name. We want her to be your wife and the fifth Queen.”“You’re sure? All of you?”Edith looked at the others.“You’re sure?” I asked again.“Yes,” All four of them answered firmly.“As Alfred the man, I have to obey my four Queens. I suppose it won’t make much difference if I have to obey five. That’s a joke. I love Ingrid. I would be delighted to marry Ingrid and appoint her as the fifth Queen. Have you thought what her role should be?”“Yes,” Edith said. “We want her to be the King’s Companion, the woman always by your side. Her responsibility will be you. All four of us love you and look after you but you and the Witan have given all of us substantial roles that take us away from you. Ingrid already is with you more often than any one of us. As fifth Queen her role is to support you…”“…and sometimes tell you to obey,” Gudrun added. “You can be your own worst enemy with your sense of duty as King. She will protect the man we love.”“With a wooden sword?” I asked.“No. The Witan have ordered that small swords be made for all five of us. Real swords for use, not the decorative sword of kingship.”“The Witan has ordered FIVE swords including one for Ingrid?”“Yes, Alfred.” Helga replied. “FIVE swords.”“So the Witan know what you want for Ingrid?”“Yes, Alfred,” Edith said. “The Witan know and have agreed.”“It’s a rebellion!” I said as I laughed. “I surrender. Please ask Ingrid to come here.”“No need,” Ingrid said coming through the open door at the back of the Royal Hall and walking to join the four Queens. “I am here.”The four Queens made room for Ingrid to stand in the centre of the five. I stepped off the dais, walked towards her, and dropped to my knees in front of her.“Ingrid, will you be my wife and a Queen?” I asked.“Will you obey me, like you do the other Queens?” Ingrid asked.“Yes,” I replied.“That doesn’t mean much, Ingrid,” Edith retorted. “He’ll wriggle out of obeying by claiming he’s being the King.”“That doesn’t matter,” Ingrid said. “It’s the symbolism, not the reality. He’s promised to obey me. He had already agreed to obey the Goddess. That’s enough.” She rested her hands lightly on my head. “Yes, Alfred, I will be your wife, and yes, King Alfred, I will be the fifth Queen.”The other four Queens surrounded me and each put a hand on my head. Ingrid became the fifth Queen. I have the love of five women whom I’m supposed to obey. I rarely do except when all of them agree that I should. But they don’t always obey me as King either. If I get annoyed with their disobedience they remind me that their disobedience saved my life.Ingrid was like a walking cane for me. She was there all the time, and if I needed her she was propping me up and making me able to continue. I was injured several times fighting the raiders. Ingrid made sure I had time to recover by fiercely defending me. She would even insist that I should stay in bed long enough. If I objected, not only did she tell me to obey, but she had all of the Queens available to enforce her order.The Goddess doesn’t seem to mind that I don’t always live up to the promises I made as a naked slave during the Great Rite. Maybe she thinks giving me five wives to obey and five Queens to coordinate is punishment enough. EpilogueOver the next few years we had to fight off several raiders’ attacks. We were successful every time but each encounter cost us a few men. Gradually the raiders decided there were easier targets than our Kingdom.From time to time a Queen became pregnant. As with all our women, they worked almost until they gave birth and were back on duty within hours even though the other Queens would help. I was the father of several sons and a couple of daughters.Our Kingdom was successful in defending itself. I wanted more knowledge available so that we could learn to match the Romans’ achievements. It’s too much to expect in my lifetime. Raising crops and c***dren in safety is a legacy I can live with. Appeasing the Goddess through the Great Rite was a small price to pay.The EndAuthor’s Notes:As with all my stories, the whole setting, places and people are fictional.I have assumed the era to be about 600 AD, a couple of hundred years after the Romans had left England but before St Augustine had extended Christianity beyond the immediate area of Canterbury. The fort is based on the massive remains of a Saxon Shore fort such as Porchester, Brancaster or Reculver. The kingdom is small, perhaps four or five thousand people living within a day’s walk of the fort. The sea raiders were long before the Vikings but had been a problem even in Roman times. When the Romans left much of their knowledge of workmanship and engineering was lost. I assumed that the surviving people would try to relearn those skills but would be incompetent compared with Roman specialists. Most of the population of that time would be illiterate. Reading and writing came back with Christianity but it took the real King Alfred, much later than the time of my story, to spread literacy even among a few.I have used modern equivalents of Anglo-Saxon names, not historically accurate but easier to read than the original names of that time. The conversations are more modern than they would have been, again easier to read. Worship of the tripartite Goddess – Maiden, Mother, Crone – was still prevalent during the Roman occupation but it is doubtful that it applied widely in England at this time. Goddess worship continued as an underground religion for centuries. I used the Goddess because it fitted my story.If anything is historically wrong? Blame my imagination.

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