Aesma and the Red Eyed King

Part 3

This was a massive problem for Aesma, for she had never before felt love of any capacity, so at first she thought she had fallen violently sick.

“Stop that at once!” she gasped, clutching her chest, “You are using some foul art to explode my heart!”

“What misbegotten wretch are you?” said the Red Eyed King. He had a voice like drifting ash and it was said the moment you heard it you would not forget it for the rest of your life. It could reduce a normal man to a babbling, terror stricken mess. Aesma merely fell in love a little more.

“You!” she screamed, panting and sweating, “I demand you become my husband!” There was no response from the Red Eyed King, and Aesma was taken aback. For most of her problems she had solved quite easily by beating them to a pulp, and her usual approach didn’t seem to apply in this case. She was thoroughly stuck.

“I’ll beat you to a pulp!” she said, hesitantly.

“An odd threat to make to a man in a cage,” said the Red Eyed King, “I refuse.”

Aesma’s heart jumped again, and to her immense surprise, her face screwed up in a tight and pained expression of grief, and molten tears began to pour from her eyes in great rivulets, searing the iron floors.

“What are you doing to me?” she wailed in confusion.

“Nothing,” said the Red Eyed King, perplexed.

Aesma did not hear, for she ran, blubbering and wailing from the deepest pit of the Crucible to its exterior, her tears burning holes in the floor the entire way. And once she was outside, through her steaming eyes she groped for and found the tiniest particle of matter she could and smashed that particle into an explosion so violent it sent plumes of white fire shooting up and down the shaft, and hurled her up and out of the pit, where she grabbed a passing shaft of sunlight and broke it into a door she could travel through. When she hurtled through that door, the light in her destination was clear and unwavering, for she had returned to the only place that knew anything about husbands in her esteem, the Temple of the Disc of the Sun.

When Aesma landed, she ran right up the temple steps, leaking molten fire from her eyes, and knocked on the great temple doors so hastily that she bashed them right off their hinges. They flew right through the mid-day congregation, sending worshippers flying and completely demolishing the large and stately Altar of Philosophy. In any other time Aesma would have found this hilarious, but the matter of her leaking face and jumping heart terrified her, so when the hundred manly priests of the temple came to beat her away with their staves, they found her apologizing profusely and were thrown into great confusion.

“What’s wrong with me?” wailed Aesma.

The priests had a hurried and argumentative conference, and then the Hierophant said, “You appear to be suffering from a broken heart.”

“I think I will die!” said Aesma.

“I assure you, you will not,” said the Hierophant, with very little sympathy. “How did you come by this condition?”

“I found a husband, as you asked,” said Aesma, “but he will not take me!”

A great discordant cry went up then among the priests, and they threw themselves into furious debate. Some of them wanted Aesma out by the stave immediately, no matter the truth of her words. Others could not believe that such a wicked being could find love. But the sentiment that won out in the end was the rather self indulgent and completely wrong notion that if Aesma had indeed found a husband, she would be far better served by having a man to reign in her wanton and vile habits. The priests were very firm in their belief that the moral authority of a good husband could tease out an enlightened womanly virtue from even the most wretched of creatures, and therefore they ceased to see Aesma as a base and vile creature beyond redemption, and began to see her as a great conquest and affirmation of their own righteousness. They began to imagine in their enlightened minds the power and prestige of a tame and demure Aesma, the most infamous and despised of goddesses. This was a fantastic mistake.

“Aesma Ten Yondam,” said the Hierophant, “Do you truly desire a husband? Have you found such a man, with a nature to guard against your womanly vice? The priests of this good and holy temple can hardly believe that you have.”

“I have!” protested Aesma, and wiped her eyes clean of fire, “What should I do?”

“You must promise to submit to his superior will,” said the stern Hierophant. “It is accepted in this society that a woman should do three things for her husband: tend to his meals, darn his clothing, and obey his every command without question. In return he will be your protector, guide, and counselor, and will not lift his hand against you in violence. Go to your prospective husband and promise him these things, and he will surely take you as a wife.”

Aesma was very tempted to beat up the Hierophant, for she hated commandments, and she hated things that came in threes. But for once in her life, her desperate desire for a husband overrode her natural instinct to apply violence directly to her problems. This was very uncomfortable for her, but Aesma’s desire was the strongest among all divinities, for she was the Master of Want. So while the priests saw her twitch at their commandments and readied their staves in fear, Aesma merely knelt and bowed her head quite awkwardly, for she was unused to such things. “I will do as you say,” she said, and in quavering voice recounted the things the Hierophant had said to her.

The priests were ecstatic. “Go and bring your husband here,” they said, “And we will join you in holy matrimony, under the light of the great Sun Disc.” They were very firm in their belief that a great moral victory had been won, and saw Aesma off with great pride and vigor as she grabbed a passing sunbeam and rode it all the way back to the Crucible of Punishment.