“…I swear you get better looking with every year…your sexual peak, your full figure physique…”
Every year in the Spring, the Queen of the West gave a banquet. It was opulent beyond the dreams of avarice, but the Queen had great wealth which she administered for the benefit of her people. At the banquet every year, she held a lottery. All of the eligible males were required to enter (and they were all eager to do so), all of those unmarried and between the ages of fifteen and thirty. Every year only one man would be chosen to be the Queen’s consort, and only then for a single night. Afterward, the man joined the others from previous years, where they were kept for the rest of their lives in comfort and ease on the nearby island of Stateira.
They were never seen or heard from again and, if the stories were true, they would never willingly leave Stateira and return to their previous existence.
Lugo was in love. Of course, all the men, even those who were married, even boys too young or men far too old, longed for a night with the Queen. She was the very essence of beauty, charm, graciousness, and poise. The image of her body burned in their hearts and minds. The loins of old men long dead were still stirred by even the mention of her name. Men would kill to possess her. Men would surrender their limbs, lives, and souls for a night in her bed chambers.
But Lugo was different. He stood on the main floor of the banquet hall with the other men, dressed, as they, in the robes and gowns provided by the Queen’s retinue. Lugo, along with the other men, spent a week being bathed, perfumed, groomed, hair cut and styled, make up applied, and then dressed in silks and jewels in order to be presentable to the Queen on Banquet Night.
Lugo looked much as the other men but he was different. He gazed up at her as she presided silently over the crowd. The love in his eyes all but sparkled visibly, his heart beat faster, his soul felt lighter. She was called the Queen of Goodness and he could see the goodness in her, the kindness, the justice of a monarch who cared only for her subjects. Under her rule, both men and women shared the same rights and privileges, unheard of in other lands. After this banquet, a week later, the women would have their own in joyous celebration, but tonight only the men held the Queen’s attention.
“Choose me dearest one, and I shall promise not only to consume you with my passion but with my undying love and devotion.” He dared not utter the words aloud, but he cherished them in his heart as a mother might cherish her infant babe at her breast.
Lugo was twenty-two years old and this was his eighth year attending the banquet. This was his eighth year standing on the floor with the other men the morning after the Feast Eve. This was the eighth year he, with the many others, waited hopefully, anxiously, desperately for the Queen to raise her scepter and point it at the chosen one, the winner of the lottery, the one who would spend a night in the unparalleled carnal embrace of the magnificent Vashti.
Eight years, and with each passing year, she only grew more beautiful, more exquisitely desirable, more agonizingly appealing. Other women waned with the years, the appearance of wrinkles and other slight imperfections, a bit less round (or in some cases far too round), hair not quite as lustrous. Even the wealthy who could afford the finest dyes and cosmetics might only cover up their aging for a time, and then time would take them over, possess them, consume them, as it does with all the living.
All the living except the Queen. With each passing year, her figure, her face, her eyes grew…well not younger but more radiant, more perfect, and the process had never failed in the eight years Lugo remembered. He had spoken to the older men, those who never did win the lottery but who had spent the full fifteen years, each year on the banquet hall floor, as hopefuls among the hopeful, and they have said that in ten, twenty, thirty years past, the Queen was always the Queen, at her sexual peak, her physique full-figured, her skin flawlessly smooth, her lips red and luscious, and ready to drink deeply from the cup of the wine of life.
The Queen’s personal attendants, maidens, one on each side of her, held up their right hands, a sign for the murmuring and scuffling among the men below to cease. They each stood tall, proud, chests out, guts tucked in, waiting, waiting, each one pleading, “Let it be me. Let it be me.”
In Lugo’s heart he begged the gods, promised them anything, anything they might desire from mortal man, if he would be chosen as the Queen’s consort for tonight.
Finally the moment came. The attendants backed into the shadows. The Queen looked down on the hall of men. She glanced left to right, right to left, back to front, front to back. Then her right hand which held the royal scepter rose slowly, very slowly. Then the Queen moved it, guided it, pointed it, lower, lower, the man who was its target, like the target of an arrow, it would be he.
Lugo! He could scarcely believe it. She pointed directly at his chest. His heart beat like a hummingbird’s as she said, “That one. He will be my consort tonight. Clear the hall of the others.”
Armed guards entered and began to quickly escort the other men outside. For them the banquet was over. They would return to their homes, disappointed, heart-broken, hoping that maybe it would be them next year. Those who were thirty and not yet married (for some men refrained from marriage to compete in the lottery), returned to their homes alone, no one waiting for them, too old for most of the maidens to consider now, often remaining lifelong bachelors, their aspirations left in ruins.
Then he was alone. Lugo was alone with the Queen. She looked down at him, scepter still held pointing at him, he gazed up at her in unimaginable gratitude. It was forbidden to speak to her until they were in the bed chambers, until they were truly just one man and one woman.
“Prepare him.” Her command was soft but firm. She then turned and disappeared behind the curtains. Half a score of female attendants took him. He was again prepared, bathed, perfumed, groomed, fawned over, made as physically perfect as a man can be made for a night with a woman who was all but a goddess.
Lugo had eaten well but not overly much, been given herbs and potions to enhance his virility and to ensure that he would be able to endure the full night ahead. The Queen was said to make love to a consort from dusk until dawn, a charming notion in poetry, but a living flesh and blood man would become exhausted even before the moon was at its zenith. The treatments would assist Lugo, who had kept himself a virgin for his Queen, so he would be able to pleasure her for endless hours.
Tomorrow morning, he would board a ship for Stateira, the Queen’s Island, the Palace of the Consorts, where their every whim would be immediately satisfied, where they would live out their lives among wine, women, feasts, and pleasure. But tonight, tonight would be the finest night of Lugo’s youthful existence. Tonight would be…everything.
“My Queen.” He was dressed in a simple linen wrap, so unlike the layered silks and draperies he had donned for the banquet and then for this morning’s choosing. It felt light and cool against his skin. He was standing just inside her chambers. The door had closed behind him. The only light was that of the rising moon streaming in through the eastern window.
“Lugo, my consort. Would you love your Queen this night, would you love and pleasure Vashti?”
“My Queen.” Now that the moment had actually arrived, he was overwhelmed with emotion. He had kept himself pure for her and until arriving at the palace, had never known the ways of pleasing a woman. Each man, as part of his preparation, had been given instructions, and then after he had been selected, the maidens and matrons showed him the ways, not with him but with other men, how he should approach the Queen, where he should kiss, how he should touch. Lugo’s arousal was exceptionally painful and frustrating.
She was reclining on her bed, covered by flimsy robes, her luxurious body outlined by shadow and light. She sat up, stood, she was nude by moonlight, there was fire in her eyes. His loins quivered and threatened to spew its seed at the mere sight of her. Fortunately, the special mixtures he was given would prevent anything…premature.
Her nipples were erect, he could see slow trickles of moisture making hesitant trails from her engorged pubes down her inner thighs. Her body trembled for him as his did for hers.
“Come to me, my love, my Lugo. Come and pay homage to your Queen, make worship to your goddess.”
“Oh Vashti, my goddess, Queen of Goodness.”
The foreplay continued until after midnight and just when Lugo thought he would go mad with unbridled anticipation, she finally drew him into her inner secrets, her moistened golden grotto, her unfolding hidden flower, the butterfly of ecstasy.
Their hips moved as one, the pleasure coursed through his sinews, his mind, his being. Time after time, his hot male seed exploded forth from his member, as fodder from a cannon, as lightning from the heavens, as a fire offering blazing upon the altar of the gods. Surely no man had known such pleasure and no man had ever given his all for a woman as Lugo did for Queen Vashti.
He weakened as dawn’s first light peered over the horizon. He thought the potions were waning, that with the end of night, so was his endurance, but then he realized it was something else.
Not only was his phallus now limp and wrinkled, but so were his hands, his arms, the skin, it was dry and cracked, hanging off his bones like rags.
Lugo’s breath came short, his stomach turned like that of a sickened dog, even with the gathering of daylight, his sight was dim, and he could hardly hear the call of the birds outside or even the Queen’s voice.
The Queen. She was as lovely and as radiant as ever, perhaps even more so than the night before. She smiled at him but not with kindness or satisfaction. It was what you would imagine a cat would smile, if cats could smile, at having just consumed the mouse. It was lust slaked but lust also enjoyed and savored. It was as if Lugo were a meal she had consumed, a particularly delicious and nourishing meal, but once devoured what happens to what is left over on the platter?
She got off of him and out of bed, clothed herself in robes and rung the bell summoning servants.
Four strong men entered. They briefly gazed at Lugo and their faces failed to conceal the horror at what they were witnessing.
“Take him,” the Queen snarled like a feline predator.
As the men approached, she took one last look at Lugo. “You have served your Queen well. You have earned your reward and your rest.” Then she laughed maniacally, insanely. The men who were now wrapping Lugo in sheets preparing to lift his exhausted body trembled. She walked out of an exit hidden behind her bed and was gone.
The men lifted him, he was too weak to lift himself. The man closest to his right ear whispered, “You will recover a small bit of strength in time but not much. You will be nurtured for the rest of your days which I fear are now very few.”
As the men carried him toward the door swaddled inside the bed sheets, he happened to see his reflection in a nearby mirror. Even his aged grandfather upon the day of his death had not looked so pale, so thin, so old.
At last Lugo knew the secret of the Queen’s perpetual youth, the continual renewal of her sexuality, the annual restoration of her glorious physique. Each year in the Spring, she took to herself a young man and they spent one and only one glorious night together. But while the man knew pleasure that would light his memories with fire for a thousand nights to come, the Queen took everything else he had to give, his youth, vitality, and all of the span of years he would have lived. What was left of him after she was done was a burned out husk, a castaway body, the dregs of a human life.
Lugo felt the ship rise and fall with the sea. The island was not far. It was not a lie that his every whim would be satisfied for the rest of his life, but what needs did the old and dying men of Stateira have except to pray in the night that their hearts would still be beating in the morning.
Next year it would be the same. Men between the ages of fifteen and thirty would gather, they would be dressed in the finest livery, smell of the sweetest perfume, eat and drink at the feast on the Eve of the Choosing, hoping and praying each one of them that they would be the one.
And then a few days on, another member would be added to the ranks of the old men of Stateira, a single replacement for those who had since died.
I wrote this for the Simply Marquessa Writing Challenge. The idea is to use a specific song lyric as the inspiration for crafting a short story. The song lyric for November 16th is “…I swear you get better looking with every year…your sexual peak, your full figure physique…” You can learn more about the challenge and the lyric at #MarquessaChallenge – “Age Ain’t A Factor” #fictionfriday #music #prompt #lyricalfictionchallenge.
I suppose given the lyrics, I should have written something more “sexy,” but then I thought about how one could seemingly become more and more appealing with the passage of years. I discounted the romantic angle and considered the various stories and legends of queens who mystically retain their youth by “bathing in the blood of virgins” and that sort of thing.
I thought of Queen Vashti from the Biblical Book of Esther. As the story unfolds, Ahasuerus, the King of Persia was holding a banquet for the men while his Queen Vashti was holding a completely separate banquet for the women. The King became quite drunk and demanded that Vashti appear at his banquet. According to Rabbinic midrash, he expected the Queen to appear totally nude, which was a serious breach of etiquette. She refused and he banished her forever from his Kingdom. Biblical history doesn’t record what happened to Vashti after that, but the King did hold a sort of “lottery” of his own, and eventually chose Esther (Hadassah is her Hebrew name) for his Queen.
Vashti is considered an early “feminist,” since she both held a banquet just for the court of women and because she refused to obey an unreasonable command from her husband the King. Upon all of this, I “extended” her story in the most horrible (and fictional) way possible. Yes, she established a reign that was, on the whole, just and fair for both men and women, however to maintain her youth and beauty, each year, one man would have to pay a terrible price.
Last week I also wrote a story based on the prompt about a magical woman who led a man to his doom, but in the previous tale, it was completely unintended, and the woman was misguided, not evil. In today’s saga, Vashti, cast out and humiliated by her King and then replaced by a younger woman, takes upon herself a curse, one that preserves her but not so her annual male consort. Hopefully next week the prompt will lead me in a different direction
You’ll find links to other stories based on the prompt by clicking this link.