Priestess 14 – Marriage Guidance
Aliera, the new High Priestess, led the daily Observances. Naturally she was a little pale, and quiet, but that was only to be expected. The Temple was full, everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of their lovely Lady.
Goran went to the Palace to catch up on the work he’d missed. Before he left he’d looked at her, standing so pale and dignified in her new robes, and awkwardly patted her on the shoulder, wishing her luck for her first Observance as High Priestess. What he wanted to do was sweep her into his arms and kiss her sweet lips, whispering his love and telling her how wonderful she was. But her attendants were waiting, and she seemed so quiet and still, and the moment was gone. He turned and walked away.
Aliera had watched her husband go, knowing that he could hardly bear to touch her. She wanted to weep, but the Observances must be made. A Priestess had her work to do.
And all through the Temple complex the work went on. A Temple is a busy place at the any time, and during Offering week it was bustling with visitors, worshippers and those who were just trying to get their normal work done. Some tasks always need attention, and there are those who are dedicated to doing them.
Serving the Goddess not only gives girls a good education, it gives them support in later life. Even those girls who don’t choose to go on to serve as full priestesses can still call on the temple for help. All kinds of help. A job, child-minding, an extra chicken now and then…whatever is needed.
And there’s a very special form of help that can be called upon, by the temple-trained: Marriage guidance counselling. Many a young woman has come back to the temple in tears, sure that her marriage is finished, only to find that the Goddess can solve even that problem. The Relationship Healers are a specially-trained group of women, dedicated to putting broken hearts and broken relationships back together. In their own, very effective way.
“He doesn’t want me any more! He never – we don’t – it’s weeks since he – with me – and I love him so much!” The tears started falling again.
“There, there now dear, it’s not too late, these things happen but there’s always a way to sort it out. Have a nice cup of tea.” Sister Dominica patted Joriela, one of her ex-students, on the shoulder. “Now, tell me all about it dear. You’ve been married less than a year, haven’t you?”
And bit by bit it all came out, through the tears – young love, rosy romance, then mundane life taking the shine off, disagreements, nagging, arguments, and then a very attractive young widow moved in next door…
“Now this can all be sorted out in no time. You just finish your tea and I’ll get my ladies together, and we’ll have a nice chat to your young man.”
Werril was cuddled up in bed with Sheria, revelling in her attentions to him. Sheria never nagged him to take out the garbage, or to spend less of his wages at the tavern. She treated him like a real man, always so sweet and loving when he found time to slip in next door to see her. Sheria didn’t nag and try to change him the way Joriela did. He felt a flash of guilt – Joriela really loved him, he knew, but she wanted him to work, and change, and grow up, and he just wanted to have fun! It’s not like they were an old married couple yet, he wasn’t ready to settle down when he could be drinking with his friends, or here with Sheria.
The knocking on the door startled them, the door slamming open was an even bigger shock. Sister Dominica and her ladies filed into the bedroom.
“Now, let’s see – Werril, is it? We need to have a little talk about the way a newly-married man should behave. And who would this – lady – be?”
Werril gabbled out explanations, introductions and excuses while he grabbed for his pants. Sheria was made of sterner stuff: “I don’t know who you think you are, but you can just get out of my house this instant! OOOOF!” She would have said more, but Sister Nemesia pushed her not-so-gently back down onto the bed.
Sister Dominica went on, “Now, the Goddess believes that the marriage vows are sacred. Especially when you make them to a temple-trained girl. So, Werril, before we discuss how you’re going to improve your marriage we’re going to have a little chat about how a married gentleman behaves. Let’s just get the two of you ready for the discussion. I think the sitting-room would be the best place.”
The sisters were quite persuasive. They didn’t bother to wait till the romantic pair were dressed. In less than a minute Werril and Sheria found themselves on the couch in the sitting-room. Or, it might be more accurate to say, over the couch. Both were bent over the back of the couch, bare bottoms high, two very determined sisters holding their hands down on the seat of the couch.
“You have displeased the Goddess by ignoring the sacred bonds of marriage. You must atone.” So saying, Sister Dominica and Sister Nemesia took up their positions, one beside each sinner. Each sister reached for her badge of office, a sturdy leather strap attached to a wooden handle, that hung on her belt.
Years of marriage counselling had given each sister arm muscles that would make a blacksmith proud. Two strong arms lifted, then fell with practised unity. Two slaps echoed as one, two agonised wails rose.
Sheria struggled madly, still not able to believe that this was happening. She’d been a spoilt child, then an indulged wife, and all her life she’d firmly believed that whatever she wanted should be hers. She DIDN’T want that terrible strap to keep slapping her tender bottom – but for once in her life what Sheria wanted didn’t matter. She bucked and screamed as Sister Dominica methodically striped her cheeks and thighs. Dominica was an expert with the strap, she could make the tip curl around and sting the most exquisitely painful places. Sheria’s wails would hit an even higher note whenever the tip of the strap found an exceptionally tender spot. Sister Dominica was good at in-depth counselling.
Werril struggled mightily, but the two sturdy sisters holding him down had years of practice at relationship counselling. And Sister Nemesia was determined to help him re-examine his value system and discover new inner balance. Right now he was balanced over the back of the lounge as Nemesia striped him methodically. Werril’s loud objections only reinforced the sad knowledge that more counselling was needed. Nemesia’s arm rose and fell with determination.
Finally, after much longer than Sheria and Werril would have thought possible, the regular slapping sounds were stilled. The sisters let the miscreants recover themselves for a moment, while one of the junior members of the team made a nice cup of tea for everyone. Then Dominica and Nemesia sat down to have a serious talk with the two counsellees. Sheria and Werril chose to stand. And sniffle a little. And rub their throbbing cheeks.
The two sisters spoke about the sanctity of the marriage bond, and the need to maintain decency in society. Now and then one of the sisters would punctuate her discourse by slapping the strap gently against her thigh. Each time this happened Sheria and Werril would give her their undivided attention.
Finally the counselling team stood and prepared to leave. Sister Dominica looked at Sheria, “I hope you won’t need any follow-up visits. But we’ll be back for another session if necessary. We’ll give you as much time as you need, it’s no trouble. We’ll be keeping a friendly eye on you. Just to see how you get on.”
Sheria started packing before they were out the door.
The sisters waited while Werril grabbed a few clothes, then escorted him back to his front door. Joriela was watching for them and ushered them in, her eyes anxious. Sister Dominica patted the girl on the shoulder, “Now dear, we’ve had a little talk with your husband, and it’s time we aired a few matters.” Werril looked anxious, he had no desire for his bride to hear every detail of that discussion. “Joriela, we’ve had a chat with your husband about the duties of a married man. He understands what’s expected of him.”
Joriela smiled, “I knew you could solve the problem. Thank you, I’m so grateful.”
“We haven’t finished.”
Werril looked nervous, Joriela confused.
Dominica surveyed the newlyweds, “We’ve discussed Werril’s actions, now it’s time to discuss yours. Joriela, what made Werril so dissatisfied?”
“He – he wouldn’t come home after work, he’d go drinking at the tavern. And then he saw that woman….”
“Joriela! Why would a newly married husband not want to come home to his bride? What did you do when he came home? Did you speak sweetly to him, and cook his favourite foods, and keep a good home? Or did you nag, and weep at him, and turn away from him?”
Joriela shuffled her feet, “But he was – he went with his friends – the tavern…”
“Any man is entitled to a little break after work. He’d have come home sooner if he had a reason, wouldn’t he?”
“I – I only -”
Dominica nodded, “The situation was definitely Werril’s fault.” Joriela smiled. “He should have dealt with this quite differently. Now, we’re going to make sure he can deal with any future problems. Werril, go and sit down on that kitchen chair.” Under the sister’s orders, Werril sat down. Carefully. Joriela was sent to stand at his side. “Now, Werril, we’ve discussed your responsibilities, and I’m sure you won’t fall short again. But if you find little Joriela is starting to nag, or is neglecting her wifely duties, it is one of your responsibilities as a husband to offer her loving correction. If you’d done so earlier, she’d never have fallen into bad habits.”
To Joriela’s shock, within moments she was inspecting the carpet closely. Her nose and toes pointed to the floor, while her pink, plump bottom was raised high over her husband’s thighs. At the sisters’ direction he lifted her skirts and lowered her panties to bare her full cheeks. And then he raised his hand high, and –
“Ow! No! Werril, you can’t!”
But Werril most definitely could. His hand rose and fell as Joriela’s cheeks turned bright pink, then red. The sisters watched his technique approvingly. Finally they signalled a halt when the only sounds in the room were Joriela’s gasping sobs.
Dominica nodded, “It seems you have the right idea of it. Now, you’ll take her to your bedchamber and comfort her. And if she forgets herself, and begins to nag again, you have the remedy. BUT remember, we’ll be checking on you both. You aren’t to neglect your duties, but you’re not to overstep them either. Warm her tail when she deserves it, but only then, or you may need a more intensive counselling session yourself. And make sure, after your time at the tavern, that you come home to the right house.” Werril’s expression was all the answer the sisters needed. “Come ladies, we’ll leave this young couple to their – debriefing session.”
As they strode down the street, the sisters smiled. It was always good to see a young couple work out their differences. Nemesia pointed, “Sintra lives down that way, the one who married Gabik the butcher. Remember their counselling last month? Perhaps it’s time for their follow-up visit.” The team moved purposely towards the laneway, ever happy to ensure smooth-running households. Counselling is a special talent, it takes care and enthusiasm. And strong arms.
Aliera made her way through the courtyards of the Temple on her way back to her chambers. The attendants were taking her the long way round – letting as many people as possible see their new High Priestess. She smiled, and nodded, and smiled again as her thoughts ran along the same miserable path – he doesn’t even want to touch me, he can’t love me, he’s disappointed in me. He’s back at the Palace, he’s probably forgotten all about me, he probably won’t even come back tonight, and if he does, he’ll sleep in that damn chair again. And I’ll be all alone in that big, empty bed. He doesn’t want me.
And then she looked up, and there were familiar eyes smiling at her. Full of love.
Aliera smiled for the first time since her Offering.
And Lord Kevan smiled back at her.