Night swam in her eyes, the full moon a small speck of light shining out at him from within her inner darkness.
He knew better. He knew Sheolana was trouble. Trouble? There wasn’t a word for what she was. It was too dark, deep and dangerous for a simple man. Tom was fascinated. She had no need to use her will to keep him with her. Her flame was bright and he but a moth.
There were others here. Others lashed by her will to the huge circle’s stones. He bared his teeth and growled at one nearby. The woman screamed, jarring him from his adoration. She jerked away, unable to move from the stone at her back. Her tears fell quietly.
Tom’s breath caught. Sheolana turned her dark eyes his way, pinning him in his pleasure against the rock. Finished with the one before her, her attention turned to him. Blessed night. Her eyes held his gaze unwaveringly as she skimmed across the grassy clearing. She skirted the stone palanquin at the center.
Moonlight filtered through her sheer robes. Her milky curves glowed. Her long, black hair seemed to shine nearly blue. She had full, crimson lips that curved in a smile, one just for him. Her eyes, though. Darker than the night, the only light in them the reflected moon.
She was close enough to touch, if only he could move his hands from the stone. Straining against her desire to keep him still, he leaned toward her. Her eyebrows rose, her laughter a bubbling spring.
His voice found itself. “Mistress, let me serve you, my Goddess, please let me be yours.” He heard the words spill out of him, felt them rise from his gut. Even as he wondered at them, he knew that he meant them with all he was.
Her smiled widened, bright teeth shining in the darkness. Sheolana reached out and grazed his cheek with a long nail that left a hot, tingling path. She turned to her servant. “We’ll come back for this one.” Mourning as she left him alone, he yet trilled to think of her return.
She stood before the sniveling woman, her tall, grey servant at her side. He held an urn. Sheolana held the woman’s chin and stared into her eyes. The woman was frozen as Sheolana’s deliciously husky voice sang a few syllables. She closed her dark eyes and bent to press a kiss to the woman’s forehead. A silent scream came from the woman’s open mouth. The bright tendril was drawn from the spot on her forehead, drawn out and gathered into Sheolana’s graceful hand. Immediately, the woman lost all expression. She slumped, held by the invisible ropes of Sheolana’s will. Turning away from the carcass, she dropped the shining strand into the waiting urn. The grey servant placed a top on it. He fetched another from the ground by the palanquin.
Tom saw them drained. His eyes and thoughts were only on his Goddess. He was jealous of the attention she gave them. He writhed with envy as her lips touched their brows. Anticipation of Sheolana’s return rose as she finished with each. In the end, twelve lifeless dolls hung from the stones of the mysterious circle in the forest.
Her attention turned to him. Blessed night. He trembled with excitement. Fear had a small voice, adding to the adrenaline coursing through him. She reached out and crooked a finger, beckoning. He was hardly aware that his hands were free. Hurrying, stumbling, he reached for her, aching for the merest touch. She glided over the grass toward him.
The met by the stone palanquin at the center of the circle. With a flick of her wrist, she forced him to stop abruptly and fall to his knees. There was that private smile again. His heart pounded in his temples. He felt he would explode with worship. His hands raised in supplication. “Please take me with you. Let me be near you, my Goddess.” So unlike him, yet he meant every word.
She turned away. His head fell forward in defeat. When her musical voice said simply, “Lift him,” he looked up. The servant, slight of body, picked him up and tossed him onto the palanquin. Air went out of him in a rush as he landed on the cold stone. Sheolana waved a hand. Once again, he felt the bonds of her will holding him.
He watched in dread fascination as the grey servant bent and held something high. Sheolana took the offering. The curved blade shone in the moonlight. She stepped to the head of the palanquin and smiled down. Beautiful, her hair hanging over her shoulders, her body aglow within the diaphanous robes. She sang strange words, her voice rising in volume. She bent to kiss him, not his forehead, but her lips on his own. Shot through with pleasure, he didn’t notice the blade slice his throat. His head lolled, a smile fixed upon it.
Sheolana gestured. Tom rose, leaving the sticky stone, and walked to her. “You will serve me,” she told him. The tall, grey servant seemed to be smiling. To the servant, she said, “You have done well. You may now rest.” He bowed and took a place in the circle, the stone Tom vacated. Once again, there were thirteen against the stones.
She called out one word, a loud, high note, and raised her hands suddenly. In that second, each body went up in white flame, just as quickly settling into ash. Her eyes reflecting the bright full moon in her satisfaction, she pointed to the box of urns. He fetched it. When he returned, she put her hand on his shoulder. Blessed night, she touched him. He was hers.
The circle of stones and the moon disappeared, replaced by cold, blue flames. They reflected in her dark eyes, shining out from her inner darkness.