Blood and Lotuses
Ebook ISBN: B00MD4JPY8
[ Dark Fantasy Romance, MF ]
A demon disguised as a goddess is “purifying” Dakura by wiping out love and beauty as a stepping-stone to conquering the mortal world. Courtesan-priestess Anchali knows an ancient erotic ritual that can weaken the demon. But she must seduce broken-hearted widower Thanom to love again. Defeating a demon will be easier.
In an almost-cool hour of the night, when the heat of one day had finally faded and the swelter of the next had not yet struck, the demon Nshlic’s first victim woke with a start in the child-brothel.
For the time it took to draw a breath, the dockworker Beyun felt about as good as a man could possibly feel, aglow with the memory of the night’s near-perfect combination of scamming money, drinking, and whoring, and the possibility, based on the warm, sticky little forms curled up next to him, of the last of the three starting all over again.
Then his dreams slammed back into him and he realized that everything in his life was wrong.
The boy and girl Beyun had rented for the night, sensing his movements, began cooing and stroking at him even before they were fully awake. He shook them roughly off.
“Sinners!” Beyun cried, his voice rough from drink and barbed with dreams. Then he looked down at his own naked body. “As I am, too.” He grabbed his knife from the bedside table. “Sinners, do you repent?”
The two young whores looked at one another, then nodded, wide-eyed. They had grown up in the brothels of Dakura, and placating the customers, however odd their desires, was second nature. “Oh, we repent.” The girl, perhaps thirteen or so with the start of a woman’s curves, subtly gestured at the somewhat younger boy, but not so subtly that Beyun didn’t pick up on it. He’d learned when he was younger than these whores to pay attention to his surroundings, because you never knew when someone might be sneaking up on you.
“We’re due for some praying, I’m sure,” the girl continued, her voice high and frantic. “We’ll go ’round to the temple of Pichitra with you, soon as you let us grab our clothes.” As she spoke, the boy slithered down between the wall and the bed and began crawling for the door to get the bouncer.
“Not that whore-goddess Pichitra,” Beyun said, although some part of his brain wondered why. He’d always been partial to the temples of Pichitra. Pichitra’s Chosen were sweet-smelling and pretty and brightly colored as birds, and their charity meals came with a nice hot chili sauce and even a bit of mango or green papaya, not just rice and bland vegetables like the gray-clad, quiet Chosen of Jananya dished out. Still, he said, “we go to the temple of Jananya.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the boy had almost reached the door. Beyun wheeled around, threw his knife, aiming for the door just above the boy’s head.
Since Beyun had made the money he’d spent for the evening’s extravagant entertainment in a knife-throwing contest, using that very knife, he should have done what he intended: scare the boy into staying put while he gave the oration that was filling his soul.
The knife swerved and struck the boy through the heart.
The girl opened her mouth to scream, but no sound came out. Soundlessly, she dropped to her knees and pressed her face against her dead friend.
Beyun started to panic. He hadn’t meant to kill anyone. He was supposed to be repenting, changing his life for the better. And now this… He’d done plenty of wicked things and he knew it was bad he liked to go to the child-brothels sometimes instead of the brothels with grown women and men, which were bad enough, but killing someone who wasn’t trying to hurt him was worse than anything he’d done before.
Then a great calm filled him, the kind he’d heard pious people saying came with meditation and jhang addicts say came with smoking just the right amount.
The boy’s death wasn’t his fault. It couldn’t have been his fault.
Beyun knew knives. Beyun knew all about knives, and how they behaved, and what could go wrong if you played with them carelessly. What had just happened was impossible.
Therefore, it was the will of Jananya—a sign, a lesson.
And he knew what he had to do to fix the child and in the process, fix his own messed-up, sinful life.
Beyun knelt down beside the two young whores, the living one and the dead. “Do you repent?” he asked the girl, putting his hand gently on her head. She nodded mutely, her almond eyes terrified but her young face otherwise expressionless, frozen with shock.
She probably didn’t repent, not yet. She was just scared, more scared than he’d wanted her to be.
“You don’t have too much to repent, I suppose,” he said, as softly as he could. “I mean, you and your friend were whores and all, but that’s because the world’s an awful place and it dragged you down before you had a chance to do better, just because you needed a way to put rice in your belly. The goddess understands that. But me, I’m a sinner, an evil man. Bear witness for me.” He retrieved the knife from the still-twitching corpse. “I repent my sins, Jananya, and sever myself from temptation!”
He knew what he had to do. The goddess told him in his dreams, but he’d forgotten until just now.
With one blow, without hesitation or flinching, he sliced off his own genitals.
Beyun paled and shook as the pain overwhelmed him, but he didn’t make a sound.
Holding his severed manhood in one hand, the knife in the other, he whispered to the dead boy, “I’m sorry. I’ve been a bad man all my life, but I’ve never killed anyone who wasn’t trying to kill me first. Especially not a child.” He hesitated, not sure what to say next, but words came to him, big, important words in a big, important voice that sounded like it belonged to someone who hadn’t grown up a street rat and worked on the docks all his life because he wasn’t pretty enough to make a good whore. “Be healed by my sacrifice and repentance.”
Beyun hadn’t even known, until the last sentence spilled from his lips, that he could speak so nicely. He knew what sacrifice and repentance meant—when he was a child himself, his parents had dragged him to the temple of Jananya whenever the goddess’s Chosen offered meals to the poor—but they weren’t words he ever used or even thought about. Yet now, with his own blood staining his hands and his view of his own life rearranged by the visions brought to him in the night, the words came easily to him. Must be the wisdom of Jananya making him smarter already.
His blood mingled with that of the dead child.
The boy stirred, groaned, and rolled over.
Somewhere in that nebulous place between the worlds, neither its own world, nor the mortal realm, nor yet the half-world where sorcerers and those chosen by a deity could walk, the place where such beings wait for entrance to the mortal realm, the demon Nshlic laughed its terrible laugh. It was a little closer to entering the mortal realm now—and then conquering it.