The Queen's Belt

Vicky is an ordinary 16-year-old girl from Edinburg. Accidentally, she comes into possession of a stone, which leads her to a time portal. Vicky becomes involved in the search for a stolen ancient artifact. Not fully in control of her time travel ability, she takes a chance and travels to a prehistoric world. There she lives with a female Amazon tribe and learns horse riding and archery. But will she find the stolen relic and be able to come back home?

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7. Chapter 7: Éroros Oqos

~~As Serahwe promised, the next morning Swaseeia found Vicky with the intention of taking her to her first archery practice. After last night’s exciting discoveries made together with Khase, Vicky was pleased that she was her usual self again. She felt that after a good night’s sleep and a quick bathe in the river she was ready for her training, although she still doubted her physical strength. Vicky may not have been an expert in arrow shooting, but it did sound to her like an activity requiring a lot of muscle strength.
Vicky was a lightly built, thin girl, who never was especially good at any of the games which she tried at the PE lessons at school. For the same reason, she never felt devoted to any kind of sports. Even horse riding, on which she lately spent quite some time, was mainly something her parents had insisted on but not something Vicky herself felt passionate about.
Vicky slightly shrugged her shoulders so as to feel her backpack resting on her back. She rarely left it behind in Swaseeia’s and Serahwe’s tent and decided to take it with her also on this occasion. Swaseeia did not seem to have the intention of riding to the location of Vicky’s bow practice. Instead she walked leading Sturakos by the bridle.
“Where are we going? Is it close?” asked Vicky. 
“We are almost outside the camp. It is best to practice bow shooting in the steppe,” explained Swaseeia. “The noble kinswoman has found a spot for you over there,” she said pointing ahead, where there was an open field with a single tree interrupting the straight line of the horizon.
“What noble kinswoman?” asked Vicky.
“She’ll be teaching you,” said Swaseeia as if surprised that Vicky had already forgotten it.
“But I thought that my teacher’s name was Eagle Eye,” said Vicky in a confused voice.
“Varkida is the name she got from her mother,” answered Swaseeia.
In the gibberish of Scythian language Vicky discerned “Varkida” being the Scythian equivalent of what the stone translated as “the noble kinswoman.”
“We call her Éroros Oqos, because she has an eye of an eagle when she shoots arrows,” followed Swaseeia’s explanation.
“Oh, a nickname. I understand,” said Vicky. 
“She is the best in the camp. That’s why Skeleiei ordered her to be your teacher,” said Swaseeia as she and Vicky were approaching a girl standing with her back to them. When the girl turned around, Vicky was stunned to see the braided fair hair, the big green eyes and the fair features of the familiar face. Éroros Oqos, or Varkida, as Swaseeia called her now, was that same girl whom Vicky had noticed the day before on her way to the river and who stared at Vicky in that unconcealed way.
Once again, Vicky felt an immense pleasure at seeing the girl. She was so immersed in this feeling that she did not even notice how Swaseeia disappeared. Neither did she register how instead of her backpack she was equipped with a bow and a quiver with arrows.
“Wagma,” Vicky heard Éroros Oqos say, “do you hear me?” On hearing the girl talk to her Vicky felt as if she was coming out of a daze.
“Ah, yes,” Vicky hurried to answer.
“We begin now,” said Éroros Oqos in a categorical fashion, which Vicky started to get used to as every woman in the camp, except Swaseeia perhaps, seemed to speak that way.
Vicky weighed the bow, which she had been holding in the right hand, and was pleased to discover that it was not nearly as heavy as it looked, or as she had expected it to be. Vicky never thought of it before, but somehow she had never imagined a bow being made of anything else than wood. The material of the bow which she was holding, nevertheless, resembled the sinew treats which she sometimes gave Lumpy.
“Wow, I didn’t expect it to be this light,” said Vicky smiling to the girl, “Is this sinew?”
Éroros Oqos smiled back.
“Yes,” she answered, “it makes the bow stronger.”
Vicky had already gotten used to the raw smells of skin and metal following her everywhere she went in the camp. Now the array of smells was broadened by the smell of dog snacks.
“Take the bow with your left hand. You shoot with the right hand,” continued the girl. Vicky did as she said, wondering how Éroros Oqos would know that her right hand was her best. Then Vicky remembered that on the previous day it had already been determined that Vicky was right-handed and aimed best with the right eye. It seemed clear to Vicky that Éroros Oqos was in full possession of this information.  
“Now try to take an arrow out of the quiver,” suggested Éroros Oqos. Vicky reached for the arrow nock, felt one with her fingers and tried to pull one out of the quiver. Lifting her arm up, Vicky felt that the arrow was stuck in the quiver.
“Stop!” said Éroros Oqos, “Take this one.” She took one of the arrows and handed it to Vicky. “You take it like this,” said the girl, lodging the arrow end between the middle phalanx of Vicky’s index finger and her thumb. Éroros Oqos gently pressed Vicky’s fingers holding the arrow together. “Feel it,” she said, “this is how you hold it.” Éroros Oqos kept her fingers around Vicky’s. Vicky did not know for how long, but it seemed as if the time had slowed down. Vicky had the whole eternity to look at Éroros Oqos’s face and study its details. The girls’ eyes met, and Vicky scrutinized the girl’s face expression for the signs of reciprocity to what she herself was feeling: A tickling sensation which could only be a mixture of the physical attraction and fear of the unknown. “I want you,” thought Vicky, not daring to say it out loud. Looking at Éroros Oqos in this prolonged moment, for the first time she felt that she knew the meaning of these words. She knew how it felt to want someone so intensely that she ached to tell it to them. She looked at Éroros Oqos, hoping that she would somehow express it to the girl, or that the girl would miraculously be able to read Vicky’s mind. “I want you so bad, I could scream,” she thought sighing quietly.
To Vicky’s disappointment, Éroros Oqos let go of Vicky’s fingers and stepped back. She seemed completely absorbed by the lesson she was giving Vicky.
“Don’t press too hard,” she kept instructing, “do this”.
The girl took an arrow from her own quiver and wiggled it in the air. Making an effort to come back to the reality, Vicky tried to repeat the movement.
“Yes, now it is right,” approved the girl, “it is how you check that you hold the arrow correctly.” She took a step towards Vicky. “Hold the bow like this,” she said lifting Vicky’s left arm up, “and aim. Keep your back straight.”
“Where do I aim?” asked Vicky.
“Aim at that tree,” Éroros Oqos pointed ahead. “Like this,” the girl kept repeating as she helped Vicky swing the arrow onto the left hand, which was holding the bow. She ordered Vicky to practice the movements which she had shown.
“Enough,” said Éroros Oqos after Vicky practiced for a while, “now I show you how you pull the string.” She came close to Vicky and stood behind her. She took Vicky’s right elbow and lifted it carefully up to the level of Vicky’s shoulder.
“Keep it up here, when you’re shooting,” she said fixing Vicky’s elbow with her hand into the correct position. “Hold the string like this. Try it,” she added as she stepped back again.
Vicky felt her muscles tense as she tried to pull the string of her bow. At the same time she tried to keep her elbow where Éroros Oqos showed her. She opened her fingers and the arrow flew ahead. Instantly, she felt Éroros Oqos’s hands on her biceps.
“Relax here when you shoot,” she said.
“How will I be able to pull the string if I relax my arm?” asked bewildered Vicky, “it is so hard!”
“It is hard because you are tense. Relax here and here,” she said impatiently while moving her hand from the biceps, along the shoulder and all the way to Vicky’s blade bone. She went over to face Vicky, took her hand holding the bow, straightened Vicky’s arm and raised it up.
“Keep it up there,” she instructed, “now do this.” She took Vicky’s right hand and hanged the right hand fingers on the bow string.
“Like this. Relax, now pull. Keep the bow up. Pull down,” Éroros Oqos kept issuing the instructions.
“Feel how easy it is to pull the string?” she insisted.
Vicky had to admit that with her bow aiming at the sky and her right arm dangling off the bowstring it required almost no effort to pull the string. Éroros Oqos finally allowed Vicky to aim at the tree again and went back to stand behind Vicky in order to control her arm movement and the tension in Vicky’s arm muscles.
Vicky’s right elbow must have dropped since Éroros Oqos had to lift it up for her again.
“Relax here,” reminded Éroros Oqos touching Vicky’s shoulder and sliding her hand towards the blade bone again. “You don’t focus,” observed Éroros Oqos, “why, Wagma?”
The girl went quiet waiting for Vicky’s reply, but none followed. Then the girl’s arm slid down from Vicky’s back to the front and stopped, embracing Vicky just along the upper edge of her waste belt. Vicky felt a careful touch of the girl’s lips on the back of her neck, and an intense wave of pleasure arrested Vicky’s every limb making her unable to move. Even if she could, Vicky did not want to move so as not to interrupt this moment. She stood still enjoying the girl’s embrace sending the orgasmic wave like electricity through her whole body.
A moment later the two girls were vigorously undoing each other’s quiver straps and belt buckles. The girls’ heavy breathing filled the pauses between the kisses, the clinking of the metal buckles and the sound of the grass disturbed by the weapons and clothes falling onto it. Shooting arrows with precision did not matter much to either of the girls, at least not for a while.

***

Vicky and Éroros Oqos were lying in each other’s arms hidden by the high grass, enjoying the warmth of the afternoon breeze tickling their bare bodies. Vicky did not think about anything else than the moment which the girls were sharing.
Suddenly Éroros Oqos sat up and reached for her blouse.
“What? What’s wrong?” asked Vicky sitting up as well and peeking above the grass for the signs of the potential danger.
Éroros Oqos quickly threw her blouse on and answered: “Nothing. Dress! I want to show you something.”
The girl continued dressing. Vicky also reached for her clothes and began to get dressed. In the pile of her clothes lying on the flattened grass, Vicky fished out the strap with the little velvet bag and put it discreetly around her neck. 
When Éroros Oqos was fully dressed, she put two fingers into her mouth and whistled so loudly that it almost made Vicky jump. Seconds later followed the sound of a galloping horse. As the sound became louder, Vicky saw a gorgeous brown horse approaching. When the horse came close enough, Éroros Oqos took it by the leather bridle and stroke its nose.
“What is his name?” asked Vicky.
“Gergo,” uttered the girl in response.
“The wind,” repeated Vicky reflecting over the meaning of the horse’s name, “it really suits him. Are you not afraid to let him go off like that on his own?”
“He is as free as the wind. But he always comes back,” answered the girl assertively.
Éroros Oqos eagerly helped with Vicky’s belt buckles and quiver straps, which only a short while ago she was undoing so impatiently. In the process, Éroros Oqos was interrupted by an occasional playful, almost flirtatious, push of Gergo’s nose: the horse had clearly missed its owner.
“Don’t be silly, Gergo,” said Éroros Oqos stroking the horse’s nose in response.
“What do you want to show me?” asked Vicky.
 “Come!” said the girl. She waved Vicky towards herself as she mounted Gergo.
“Wait a bit,” said Vicky in search of her backpack, which she earlier dropped somewhere nearby. She quickly spotted it in the thick grass, grabbed it and returned to Éroros Oqos, who extended her arm to help Vicky up. Gergo started with a careful trot. Vicky had already noticed that to the west, the even steppe horizon was interrupted by a rocky area. It seemed as if Éroros Oqos was directing her horse towards those rocks.
As the girls were approaching the rocks Éroros Oqos stopped Gergo and waited for Vicky to dismount. Then she dismounted too and sent Gergo off again.
Vicky noticed that there was a large dark triangular shaped crack in the middle of one of the large rocky formations. Éroros Oqos went directly towards it.
“Is it a cave?” asked Vicky trying to keep up with the girl’s brisk tempo.
“Come and look,” Éroros Oqos avoided answering again.
Vicky hesitated: The idea of walking into a dark cave did not seem especially appealing to her.
“It isn’t scary. Come,” said Éroros Oqos as if reading Vicky’s thoughts.
“Ok,” thought Vicky, “I can take a quick peek, I guess.”
Still reluctantly she entered the dark opening together with her companion. A “wow” of astonishment fell off Vicky’s lips as soon as she saw the cave from inside. Éroros Oqos was right: The cave was quite spacious and not in the least frightening, mainly because it was not dark inside it. The walls and the ceiling of the cave must have had cracks in the stone as the thin rays of light were either falling downwards or streaming from the sides and across the darkness of the cave, thus illuminating it. Apart from the geometrical figures produced by the light beams, the light falling onto the walls revealed some amazing cave drawings of animals, people and nature.
“Wow, these are amazing,” said Vicky as her voice echoed through the cave becoming considerably louder. “Have you drawn them?” asked Vicky in a lower voice this time.
“No, I don’t draw,” answered Éroros Oqos, who clearly misunderstood Vicky’s question.
“No, I mean the women from the camp,” explained Vicky.
“No, we do not know who drew them,” said Éroros Oqos, “they were here when we found the cave.”
Vicky took a better look at the drawings. She noticed now that they must have been made very long time ago: Some of the drawings slightly faded away and looked vaguer than the others.
The most well-preserved drawing was of a flaming sun in the middle and figures of people and animals standing in a circle around it, perhaps worshipping it. The drawings of the people and the animals seemed caricature-like, reminding Vicky of the ancient cave drawings one would expect to see on the picture postcards from the tourist shops around the world or in the books on prehistoric art. The people and animals looked flat like on the drawings from Egyptian pyramids, only much less elaborate. She remembered grandpa explaining her once that the Egyptians had not known other drawing techniques back in their days. In their place of origin, with the scarce lighting available in the cave, these drawings looked amazing.
Vicky was still admiring the cave when she felt that she also wanted to impress Éroros Oqos somehow, do something special for her. 
“But what?” thought Vicky.
She thought about the song which Khase sang the night Vicky arrived to the camp.
“Music,” thought Vicky, “anyone, anywhere, at any time of history can relate to music. If only I could…”
Vicky’s internal monologue stopped. She took her backpack off her shoulder and felt inside it for her phone. She took the phone out and turned it on. As the screen lit up, Éroros Oqos asked: “What is this?”
“I can’t explain,” said Vicky, “wait and see for yourself. Only don’t be scared. It’s nothing dangerous,” said Vicky who imagined all sorts of reactions.
Vicky reflected: being in prehistoric Scythia, she could hardly expect the internet connection to work, so she found what she had on the hard drive of the phone. Intuitively, Vicky was searching for music that would appeal to Éroros Oqos. It had to be something primeval, something raw and powerful. Vicky went through the list of the artists. There were not many to choose from. Vicky’s face lit up as she found what she was looking for.
“Loreen,” she thought, “it has to be Loreen. She is just perfect for this.”
Vicky chose the number, which she thought ideal for Éroros Oqos and laid the phone on the rocky floor.
As soon as the music started, Éroros Oqos ran out of the cave. Vicky realized her mistake: she completely forgot about the cave’s acoustics and had not turned down the volume.
“She is probably scared to death right now,” thought Vicky.
She did not have time to turn off the phone. In this instance she had only one concern: to catch up with Éroros Oqos and to calm the girl down.
Vicky ran quickly out of the cave. When she reached the girl, she grabbed and hugged her to stop her.
“Stop and just listen,” said Vicky trying to catch her breath again.
Even at some distance from the cave the music was still surprisingly loud. The sound, perhaps reflected off the walls of the cave, as if off the walls of a cathedral, seemed to leave the cave with intensity equal to a loudspeaker.
“Don’t be scared, Eagle Eye,” Vicky hurried to calm the girl down, “this is just music. A song … like Khase sings for you by the fire.”
“They’ve said that you are an oracle. You are a powerful one,” said the girl with her face white with fear.
“Me? An oracle?” laughed Vicky, “Who told you this?”
“Skeleiei and Khase,” answered the girl.
“But I am not an oracle,” protested Vicky.
 “You are. You’ve just proved it.”
Vicky realized that there was no way of convincing Éroros Oqos otherwise. Éroros Oqos was now looking in the direction of the camp. 
“It’s Swaseeia and Serahwe!” said Éroros Oqos.
“Eagle eye indeed,” thought Vicky who at such distance could only discern two figures yet could not identify them.
“What is this sound?” asked Swaseeia as soon as the two women approached the girls. “We can hear it all the way to the camp. Skeleiei and Khase sent us to find out what it is. Chiwos is scared: I almost feel her talons on my skin,” she continued obviously referring to her falcon.
“It is music. Songs,” Vicky started to explain, “just like…”
“It’s coming from the sacred cave,” interrupted Serahwe.
“Wagma made the cave sing,” explained Éroros Oqos.
“The sign. It is powerful. She will participate in the worship,” said Serahwe decisively.
“Will Skeleiei allow it?” asked Swaseeia doubtfully.
Vicky was unsure whether “she” who was supposed to participate in the worship referred to Vicky herself or to Éroros Oqos.
“We will ask her. She is on her way,” said Serahwe with authority.
Vicky decided to clear the matter up.
“Wait,” she said, “do you want ME to participate in the worship?”
“Yes,” confirmed Serahwe.
“But I don’t know the first thing about worship,” she protested, “Can I just watch you the first time?”
From the look in Serahwe’s face, Vicky realized that her suggestion was absolutely unacceptable.
“You proved you are the oracle. You have to worship with us,” asserted Serahwe.
“You don’t disobey Serahwe,” thought Vicky, slightly frightened by the woman’s stern disposition.
“And you,” said Serahwe looking at Éroros Oqos, “have to prepare.”
“Yes,” agreed Swaseeia, “Look at your hair. What have you two been doing?”
Swaseeia looked from Éroros Oqos to Vicky and smiled. Vicky looked at Éroros Oqos’s hair and realized that when they dressed, they did not redo their hair, which now was giving them away. After lying and rolling in the grass Éroros Oqos still had dry grass in her messy hair, and so did Vicky.
“She could not focus on the shooting,” explained Éroros Oqos apologetically.
Serahwe was nodding in a sarcastic manner, obviously mocking the girl’s ridiculous attempt.
“I told you, Wagma, she is the best in the camp,” Swaseeia continued teasing the girls, “she is a passionate teacher.”
“Yes, and Skeleiei will not like this,” Serahwe added grimly. 
The sound of the approaching horses interrupted the conversation. Vicky knew that one of the two figures riding towards them was Khase: the closer the new-arrivals were getting to Vicky, the warmer the stone was getting inside her blouse. Soon the figures were close enough to be able to see the details of their attire. Just as Vicky expected, the Rose of Scythia was resting on Khase’s chest. In the same manner as the very first time when Vicky had seen Khase, the Shamaness had the short sword with her. Only this time, it was hanging off the belt girding her long dress. Her hair was again embellished with bird feathers.
Skeleiei’s clothing on this occasion was not much different from Swaseeia’s and Serahwe’s, except it always was more elaborate in decoration and execution. The sleeves of Skeleiei’s blouse were embroidered with animal motifs, and instead of the wide belt she wore an exquisitely embroidered black vest. She wore a hat shaped as an overturned trapezium and spangled with small golden plates and beads. It looked almost as a crown.
Skeleiei and Khase dismounted and seemed waiting for something.
“Honourable Skeleiei, the ruler of warriors,” said Serahwe in an almost ceremonial manner, “Wagma has proved to be the oracle. She made our sacred cave sing.”
“Serahwe is right,” said Khase, “These sounds are from another world, a world we do not know. Tabbitti speaks to us through these sounds.”
“Tabbitti…,” thought Vicky, “I’ve heard that name before.” Vicky was desperately trying to remember where she heard the name. “Oh my god,” thought Vicky as her earlier conversation with Khase came back to her, “they think it’s their Goddess singing in the cave.”
 “I agree. It is new and powerful. It revives the soul,” confirmed Skeleiei, “you have proven your worth. Can you repeat it for the worship tonight?”
Vicky was going to say her usual “Sure. Why not?”, but she stopped and reflected. She was beginning to assimilate the way these women were talking to each other and to their queen. “I will be honored,” she answered instead. She then hurried back to the cave and stopped the music.
“What is this?” asked Skeleiei when Vicky returned with her phone.
“I can’t explain it,” said Vicky.
“The place of worship will be near the cave tonight, although it is irregular” announced Skeleiei. “Serahwe, Swaseeia, tell it to the others,” she then ordered turning to the two women, “and bring the helpers for Varkida. She needs to prepare.”  

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