The Cost That Lies Between Heaven and Earth By Matt Piskun

The sweet perfume wafting from the grape vines was strong that morning, making one dizzy despite the fruits lack of fermentation. Isabella studied the figure before her, its features hidden in the shadows of the mid-summer sun.

“Do you know what it means to call me, child?” The beast’s growl was deep and rhythmic.

“I do.” Isabella was not afraid. The young girl moved slowly forward, struggling to contain the anxiousness brimming inside her.

“I sense a kind heart in you. It is merely buried under several layers of venial sins. Why do you seek me? ”

“My brother, Henry, has stolen my inheritance left to me by my father, the King.” Her olive eyes narrowed. “He leaves me with nothing. Am I to beg for crusts of bread? Furthermore, the family fool, Alfonzo now threatens my path to the throne. Spain is my birthright, but he desires it as his own and would toss me aside as one would a barren cow.”

Sensing her ambition the figure in the shadows smiled, its breathing now faster. “I don’t know if I’m drunk from the nectar that drips off these vines, but I think I am falling in love with you, child.”

Isabella’s cheeks flushed pink as she moved toward him. “Let me see your face.”

Emerging from the darkness came a young male demon. The sunlight made his skin, the color of ripe plum flesh, all the more brilliant. He was slender and muscular with two small horn buds protruding from his forehead. Two majestic wings of burgundy leather were folded neatly behind his back.

Isabella smiled and extended her hand to be kissed.

“I may be a youthful demon but I am no fool. I can help you reach the throne.” He looked into her eyes of lime-colored sea and knew this was what she was waiting for. “Although royal blood may course through your nubile body, it’s you who will be subservient to me.” The young hell-spawn spread his great wings and hovered above her.

Isabella took pause. She had vowed to never let any man hold dominion over her. Surrounded by incompetent males trying to prevent her ascent to the throne, she knew in her heart that she would still one day be queen and any man that was lucky enough would be her king. However, this was no mere man that floated above the earth before her. A feeling spread through her that she’d never known before. An ember of admiration and desire lit inside Isabella and the beating of leather wings now fanned it to flames. Isabella took a knee and bowed before his floating body.

“Save yourself for me, girl.” He grabbed hold of his horns. “When you become a woman I will come back for you. It is with your first blood that we will consummate our arrangement.”

Isabella, looked up into the swirling ash of his eyes and told him, “For my rightful place, I will wait for you…”

“Ingot, my name is Ingot.” With that being said he sailed up above the clouds and out of sight as Isabella clutched her pounding heart.

# # #

Father Juan de Valera watched with pursed lips, shaking his head back and forth. He pulled his beard, dotted with black hairs drowning in a chaotic sea of grey, into a fine point. His queen spoke through clenched teeth of sheen ivory and cruelty.

“Whore!”

A young woman kneels before her, nude and covered in binding chains. Long, red hair sticks to her face as she trembles with fear.

“I can smell your sex, that which you give so freely and without commitment from God. Whip her again!”

The high priest, whose fat and swollen face is hidden beneath a brown hood, cracks his whip. It sounds like thunder and the young girl whimpers as the lashes tear thin, scarlet lines into her milk-white flesh.

“Again!” Isabella commands, her fist raised.

The priest snaps his whip repeatedly and the wooden cross hanging from his neck swings back and forth wildly. Large droplets of sweat fly from the darkness of his hood.

Every cry from the naked girl elicits a small burst of excitement from Isabella. She presses her thighs together tightly, enjoying the hot pleasure building between her legs. When she can no longer endure the mounting desire she commands the high priest to take the girl away and convert her to God. “If she does not admit to believing, make her do so! Spare not one inch of her!” A sweaty smile spreads beneath the hood of the priest.

Isabella, Queen of Spain, tries to hide her lust as she speaks but her eyes, wild with desire expose her growing passion. “I’ll pray for your success, priest.” Father de Valera, his tanned and wizened face looking all the more angular from his sharpened beard, watches as she turns and enters her private quarters. He makes the sign of the cross, whispering the names of the holy trinity as he turns to leave, unseen.

Closing the door behind her, the Queen loosens then drops the purple ceremonial robe she wears exposing her scarred skin. A myriad of criss-crossing magenta scars decorate her breasts and abdomen. She runs her hands over them and shudders as her fingertips play with the grooves in her skin.

“I yearn for you,” Isabella moans. A small flame deep inside her flickers, reminding her of the first time she laid eyes upon him. She thinks back to that day as a young girl in her garden, but she can no longer remember the sweet smell of the flowering vines.

# # #

Her scars writhe as if alive in the candlelight that illuminates her bedroom. Ingot sits in a chair with his arms resting on his now sizeable belly.

“You are a wicked woman, Bella.”

“I need satisfaction, my lord.” Isabella kneels before him.

Ingot stands and strokes the great, curved horns that sit upon his head. “So be it.”

She takes the demon’s member in her mouth and works it feverishly until her pleasing him results in the monster’s orgasm. He releases his semen upon her chest and it sizzles leaving a new pattern of fresh scars that ooze bright red in their infancy. Isabella moans with pleasure and writhes in pain, unable to tell the two apart.

Ingot sits back down in his chair and sighs. “Must I always please?”

“I’ve another favor to ask of you.”

“You’ve such greed in you! Did your brother, Alfonso, not suffer from an unfortunate case of poisoning, along with a slit throat for good measure? You were there grinning in the shadows as he choked, gurgling on his own blood, knowing I did this for you, for your crown. And what of your other sibling, Henry? For wronging you I removed any chance he could have to bear children. Like grapes his manhood were in my talons, oozing from the palm of my hand.” He ran a long black fingernail across her face racing her cheekbone. “And yet you need more?” The swirling embers that made up his eyes grew a little brighter. “I suppose this is why I love you.”

“My kingdom needs land. The people demand it from their Queen and I am not accustomed to disappointing my citizens.”

The demon smiles with jagged, yellow stained teeth and waves a hand in Isabella’s direction, causing his stomach to shake. “You are a good Queen. There is a man who prays to my black kingdom for fame and discovery. He’s not a Spaniard but he will suffice if you will have him. His name is Columbus. I will deliver him to you and he will discover new lands in the name of Spain, allowing you to keep hold of your coronet.”

Isabella winced as she put her ceremonial robes back on. “I will do as I must. Now I must return to the business of running my kingdom.”

“And I think I will pay a visit to mine.”

# # #

Father Juan de Valera finishes his tapas of chorizo and bread then puts on the surplice and purple stole he wears for the sacrament of confession. He’ll confront her today. He has finally seen enough and will tell her that he can no longer sit in silence as she performs atrocities in the good lord’s name.

The torture, the sacrifice, and the experiments must come to an end.

His Queen comes to him in a simple green dress, her straight, brown hair, tipped with gold, flows over her bare shoulders. She likes to appear a simple woman when confessing to him.

“Good afternoon, Father.”

“Blessed to see you, Isabella.”

She will not allow herself to be called Queen during penance. Isabella takes the velvet, padded seat across from Father de Valera who twirls the grey hair of his beard between his thumb and forefinger.

“I no longer love my King.”

“We must meet together, the three of us.”

“No. He is more of a house pet than a man. I no longer know what to do with him.”

“We can annul the marriage if you feel the relationship can’t be mended.”

“That carries risk, father. The people grow restless and I do not want to give them further cause with the belief that I have chosen an impotent and spineless king who can’t handle his woman. I will pray for an answer.”

Isabella rises to leave but the priest quickly stands and raises his hand, signaling for her to wait.

“What is so pressing that you choose to waste my time?” The gold of her hair twinkles as if full of stars in the candle light of the tabernacle.

“That young girl today…”

“The harlot being whipped?”

“Yes. What became of her?”

“Are you spying on me father?”de Valera twisted his beard into a fine point. “All that concerns our loving God finds it’s way to my ears.

The Queens eyes looked black in the deep shadows of the church. “I don’t know yet, but whatever happens will surely be God’s will and then I’m sure it will make its way to your foolish old ears.”

“You talk of God’s will and yet I heard her cries of torture,” he looks Isabella in the eyes as he speaks, “as I have the screams of all the others.”

The queen’s expression does not hide her surprise at the priest’s audacity. The sparkle in her hair vanishes as she stands. “The Lord knows what I do in his name and he allows it.”

“It is not God’s place to forbid you, it is your choice. Also, I respectfully disagree that God would want his teachings forced upon others.” Father de Valera bows his head and stares at the deep wrinkles around his knuckles in silence.

“You dare! You crusty, old eunuch! You may spread his word but the Lord speaks through me.”

The priest sighs. His highness’s reaction is expected. He looks at the silver cross that adorns the bookcase beside him. Its rubies sparkle in the candlelight as his Queens hair did moments ago. The images of Christ dying on the cross, the spear poking through his ribs, the briny rags stuffed in his mouth, fill his mind. He can feel his lord’s last breath across his cheek and finds the courage to truly speak his mind. “What sort of sins are you atoning for? What possesses you to produce converts in such a manner?”

“I do what I must.”

“You serve the devil when you act this way.”

Isabella’s olive eyes narrow and her hands ball into ring covered fists. Her chin quivers as she speaks. “Wrong! You are wrong! What I do, I do to fight the devil! You may have read of him in your texts, but I have met him, touched him! I create an army of worshipers whose belief in God’s kingdom will oppose such evil. I do what needs to be done!” Spit sprays from her thin, red lips, “Cross me or speak out against me again and you will meet God much sooner than you desire!”

The Queen turns and leaves, slamming the wooden door of the church with such force the stain glass windows quiver. Juan de Valera sighs long and hard then picks up the silver cross next to him. “You do what you must.” He pulls the top of the cross off, unsheathing a steel blade. He looks at his reflection and frowns. “Now I must do as I must.”

# # #

Isabella tosses and turns on her bed. The silk cloth that adorns her canopy sways as if alive. She sweats into her cotton sheets as her heart races. Her king sleeps alone in an adjacent bedroom, but her thoughts are not of him, they are of Ingot and Father de Valera.

A bead of sweat slowly slides down from between her breasts onto her stomach. Isabella feels as though the aged priest saw right through her. Maybe he knew her secrets, but who could read his withered old face? It hardly mattered if he did. The price of her throne was Ingot and Christ forgive her she loved the foul beast. Ingot was the only male she had ever been with that truly understood her. Despite loving as only a devil can; she thinks his feelings are genuine nonetheless. It’s with great sadness that she builds a kingdom of Christians to combat her lover’s dark realm, but the web of power stretches wide and is taught with deceit. Just as her sovereign duties must be necessitated, so too must the obligations to her soul be met. Her sheets are now soaked with sweat as she wonders how much more her conscious can take. A decision must soon be made and tomorrow she will make it. Satisfied with this resolution, Isabella closes her eyes to sleep, but as she does Ingot appears before her.

# # #

It’s dark. He can smell the wisps of smoke from the recently snuffed out candles that line the hallway to the Queen’s quarters. Father de Valera shuffles quietly across the stone floor his blade gripped tightly in one hand, the other stretched out before him feeling into the shadows. He stops as the darkness shifts before him. The priest flattens himself against the wall and hears what sounds like the scrapping of claws against stone. The air moves around him and he feels a cold, heavy darkness pressing upon his skin. He prays to God the almighty for courage then continues forward. He pictures, for fortitude, his lord carrying the True Cross, whipped and bleeding as his crown of thorns tears into him. Finally he comes to the Queen’s door made of carved cypress. De Valera hears talking inside and puts his ear to the door. In between beats of his heart he can hear Isabella shouting. “I love you! I love you! You are a part of me!”

Father listens for a response, but hears no answer to the queen’s admissions. He presses his ear more tightly against the sculpted wooden door. If she were with someone else he would have to terminate his holy mission. The priest is old and tired. He does not have the strength, physically or spiritually, to take two lives, but he fears he will never have the courage to get this far again. He holds his breath to hear more clearly and is quite sure he hears only Isabella’s voice inside. He presses his hand against the door, finding it unlatched. After making the sign of the cross he slowly pushes Isabella’s door open.

The door opens with a slight creak that may as well have been as deafening as canon fire. His Queen spins around to see who has entered. She is naked and the priest gasps, not at her nude form but at the great maze of scars that covers her flesh in various shades of scarlet.

“You abandon me now?” She turns and shouts to a fluttering shade of black silk that hangs over an open window. A small vase of citrus scented oil is heating on a black iron stand in the fireplace, making the room smell fresh and sweet.

Still lost in the labyrinth of maroon gashes that decorate her peach colored skin, Father de Valera keeps his knife at his side. Isabella grabs hold of the poker that lay across the hearth and swings it across the priest’s face. He screams, dropping his knife and covering his face with his hands. He gags as blood pours out from between his clamped fingers.

“You dare, priest, to invade my privacy? First you question my motives then you come to me uninvited?” She looks down at the jewel-encrusted blade on the floor. “And you have come to kill me.”

Father de Valera reaches out for the blade but Isabella brings her weapon down across his hand snapping his fingers. The priest shouts out in pain and brings his gnarled fingers to his chest. Blood drips steadily from his beard. He gets to his feet and charges her, hitting Isabella in the chest with his shoulder and knocking the poker from her hands.

She lands on her back by the fireplace, the priest on top of her, his one good hand pressing down on her throat. Isabella puts both hands around his wrist to remove it but can’t. Blood from the father’s nose falls steadily on her naked torso filling the scared channels in her flesh. De Valera’s eyes flicker with the fires roaring light. The Queen reaches behind her into the fireplace, grabs hold of a smoldering log and brings it down across his head, knocking him off with a showering of embers.

The priest rolls onto his back, consciousness coming and going, with Isabella standing over him. Her breasts heave as she struggles for breath. Queen Isabella’s body is sticky with blood and ash. She holds the smoking log overhead as the priest weakly covers his face. Suddenly, Isabella drops the wood in her hands. The Queen turns as she hears the beating of wings.

“Coward, you come to me now that the fight is over?”

Ingot comes in through the open window, the black window shade across his shoulders resembling a cape. “I can not lay hands on a holy man. It’s a treaty older than time itself.”

“You disappoint me, Ingot. For that you will pleasure me.”

The demon flies in on outstretched wings and lands in front of the fireplace. Isabella approaches him on her knees. ‘This disappointment is the end’, she thinks, ‘I will launch a grand inquisition today, forcefully shaping, as if from clay, an army of Catholics. Their faith will save me. I may give my body to hell but my soul is still Gods!’

Father de Valera opens his blood-encrusted eyes to see Isabella on her knees talking to herself. Her hands stroke the vase of boiling citrus oil as she pours it onto her chest, searing the skin where it hits causing more wounds to bubble and blister. She wails and writhes in ecstasy.

de Valera starts to crawl towards the blade that is still on the floor. He inches forward and grips the jeweled handle, but when he does he sees Isabella’s reflection in the blade. “Don’t worry, lover, I will take care of the priest.”

With blade in hand he turns over to face Isabella who is holding the iron poker in her hands. He points the blade at her. “You’re mad! There is nobody here but you and I!”

Whispering she tells him, “Tell God I do what I must.” Then the Queen drives the poker through his ribs.

With his hands wrapped around the iron protruding from his chest, Father de Valera’s vision begins to fade as shadows start to ebb out the light. He gasps for air as his punctured lung collapses. Isabella turns and walks toward the fireplace. Once more she appears to be talking to no one. From within the encroaching darkness the priest hears the rhythmic beating of his dying heart; or is it, he wonders, the beating of wings?

 

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Comments

  • Mariette  On March 24, 2014 at 1:35 am

    Wow! Just … ᏔᎾᏔ!
    Forgive my stumblings; I’m thoroughly gobsmacked!
    I was wholly mesmerized … saw and felt every nuance before me … from a lone candle’s illumination to disappearing black silk.
    WHAT a premise, WHAT an idea … and more importantly: WHAT happens next?! Does Ferdinand play a role? The Tudor brothers?
    Where may I (hopefully) find more?

    Congratulations on such a skilled and FUN narrative! And thank you for sharing it!

    Best to you,
    Mariette

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