Tags: julie cox, microfiction
Fresh out of Virgins
by Julie Cox
The men and women of the tiny village crowded around the platform where the Wise Woman spoke, a huddled mass of humanity in rough linens, wools, dust and fear. They watched her ascend the steps, stand before them, and speak. Her hands and voice shook, but her eyes were sharp and clear with fury and retribution.
“It is true,” she said, “the dragon and his priest come tomorrow.” A wave of murmurs swept through the crowd. “The oracle tells me they will come, and the priest will tell us to select a sacrifice for the dragon, a virgin of marrying age.”
Several people began to cry out at once. The Wise Woman whacked her cane upon the platform to regain their attention.
“They will come,” she cried, “but they will find no appropriate sacrifice. The dragon may yet choose to eat one of us, but we will not pick his meal. We will not be party to murder by offering up one of our own. If he takes one of us, he will do so against the will of the people, and it will not be a meal of his liking. You virgins – we cannot send you away – you wouldn’t get far in the mountains in the snow that still clings to the tops of the trails, and could he not just follow you there? We can’t hide you – where could you hide that a dragon could not sniff you out? So I give you this one curious command.” She smiled, toothy. “By tomorrow, if you are of age, don’t be virgins.”
A stunned silence fell over the crowd like a cloak, and as one they stared unblinking Finally one fellow, known for his trickster soul, laughed and kissed his neighbor with great fanfare. She slapped him, but laughed too. Some cried out in protest, and the wise woman said she would speak to those with objections in private. In the meantime, the crowd scattered, each household retreating home for preparations.
A bonfire was lit and a feast was prepared. It consisted more of mead than of food, all the better for easing the nerves of the young things. Two fiddlers broke out their instruments, joined by a piper and a rotating cast on small drums. The villagers began to dance, to smile, to laugh Two by two the unmarried stole away in the twilight to the tents set up around the square, then some time later would rejoin their fellows, flushed and alight from within.
There were a few who went through all in a rush and stole home, but the rest danced all night. Unfettered, they opened their bodies with joyful abandon, released and justified. They were under orders from the Wise Woman herself! It was a command. There were few who did not take up the opportunity to, for once in their lives, do exactly as they pleased, to whomever they pleased.
Three good girls pulled the blacksmith’s roguish son into a tent, and had him by turns on his back until he rolled all three of them off of him, and their shrieks of laughter summoned his friend to come to his aid. Into their late years these three would still smile at each other and recount the night they had shared those two dark, thrusting bodies.
The horseman’s youngest son sat alone on the edge of the light, watching and fretting. He felt hands upon his shoulders and looked up to see his closest companion, a thoughtful boy of few words who ran nearly wild. His friend said softly, “It doesn’t have to be a girl.” They kissed, and the wonder of another boy’s mouth upon his own made his heart sing and his body shake. They didn’t go to the tents, but to the barn and its drifts of hay, its smells of dust and leather and sweat. Before they went to war together, years later, they would go there again.
The weaver’s black-haired daughter found her future husband in the unlikely shape of the Wise Woman’s grandson. Try though he might, he could not shake the image of her hungry eyes above him, and he would ask for her hand within a month. Never was a pair so unexpected, nor so perfectly suited to each other, the secret sorcerer to the not so secret spellcaster.
By the morning there was not a single virgin of age in the village, but an exhausted crowd of still-tipsy, lust-sated young people wearing crooked grins and little else, even in the cold. They reluctantly dressed and met the rest of the village, still draped around each others’ shoulders. Hand in hand, they waited for the dragon.
The beast came, a glittery black creature with a crown of horns. He curled up near the remains of the fire while his priest argued with the Wise Woman.
“Go,” she said, “find a virgin of age if you can. There are none here.”
“None?” said the dragon. He looked with his serpent-eyes into the massed crowd, and laughed, horrible and hot. With a demon smile he regarded the old woman.
“Well done, hag. It has been half an age since I was so amused with the cleverness of a human. However, I must have SOMETHING to eat.” His eyes flicked to his priest. “You’ll do.”
He picked up the screaming priest, tossed off the unpalatable robe, and gulped him down. Then up he rose, and started on the long road out of the village. He turned at the border and called back, “One question.”
“What will you do with the babes in nine months?”
The Wise Woman straightened. “They will be our Dragon Children, and they will belong to us all, conceived in lust, and raised in love.”
And they were.
Julie Cox lives in Texas with her husband, children, and ever-expanding menagerie of animals on their farm. She runs a small online yarn business, teaches yarn spinning, and is the associate editor of Gearhearts magazine. She has numerous stories published with Circlet Press and elsewhere. For her full list of published works, see her website at www.lazypifarm.com.