As promised – I’d love to share with you a short excerpt from my short story ‘Esther Jones and the Temple of the Moon’, recently published in the RWA Spicy Bites Anthology ‘Masks’. I hope you enjoy reading it half as much as I did writing it. But first, a quick intro…
Egypt 1939 AD: Esther Jones, archaeologist turned treasure hunter, unearths an unusual ritual mask in an ancient temple. When she shows the find to her business partner, they discover first-hand the sensual spells woven into the mask with her ancestor’s long dark hair, 4333 years earlier.
Egypt 2394 BC: With her village dying of famine, high priestess Hesta takes unprecedented steps to enhance the annual fertility ritual, transforming it into a true union between the bull god and the moon goddess. Will Hesta be rewarded with the survival of her tribe or punished for her audacity?Embed from Getty Images
The ceremonial procession paced parallel to the dying river to the bull god’s temple.
Hesta entered and, as her priestesses filed inside, allowed herself the indulgence of studying the high priest through her mask. Setka waited, motionless and regal at the head of his altar, polished skin tawny against the white cape thrown back from his shoulders, naked but for a white loincloth.
Many times, she had fantasised about the pleasure they might find together. Tonight, her goddess would have his power, and Hesta would have him.
Positioned in a circle around the altar stone, her priestesses began to chant, inviting the presence of the goddess.
Setka, shaved and oiled and glinting in the flickering light, intoned a monosyllabic ‘ooom’ to accompany the women’s voices.
Hesta remained standing to offer him the elixir, her first diversion from the ritual. She looked him in the eye, challenging him to accept her as an equal. He acknowledged the deviation with narrowed eyes but accepted the cup, drinking half the contents.
Hesta threw off her robe.
Despite his self-possession, the high priest gasped to see her greatest power – her uncut hair – shorn. He had known Hesta since she was an initiate and had never seen her so exposed. Gathering his composure, he offered the chalice back to her, bowing his head to show reverence for the beauty of the goddess. Hesta threw back the bitter potion, tossed the dish hard to break it and approached the alter.
His gaze on her back like a physical caress, she moved backwards up the steps and lay on the altar. She stretched out on a bed of grain from the last successful harvest, three years past, and looked up at Setka, who threw off his cape. He picked up the ritual jug of his temple, intoning the spell to transform the milk of lettuce into the bull god’s seed.
Hesta began to chant, not the traditional words of the fertility ritual, but the ones she had used to imbue the mask with power. Spells to override twenty years of the high priest’s training. If he broke tradition and touched her, she would know she had him, and their village would survive.
The priest frowned, but continued with the ritual, appealing to the bull god to join his power with that of the goddess and bless the village with fertility. His voice took on a depth not heard in previous rituals, the god now present in more than spirit. When the chant of the priest and the nine priestesses halted abruptly, the silence rang with power. Hesta closed her eyes, trembling with anticipation.
Starting at her forehead, the priest-god anointed her with milk from the jug, pouring it over her flesh until it flowed from her body to soak the grain beneath her—seed destined to be sown at dawn.
At the touch of his fingers on her forehead, Hesta’s eyelids flashed open. Never had a priest touched the high priestess directly, only ever via the liquid poured from a sacred vessel…
To read the full account of Hesta’s deviation from tradition, read the full story in the Masks anthology…
(To purchase a copy on Amazon, click on the cover)