Story of a dragon still worshipped by billions, based on scriptures in the Old Testament .
| -2070 words-
For the first time in her pampered existence, hot mud oozed up between the milk white, manicured toes of Rahab and the thirty-one other virgin priestesses of Ba'al. Like errant lambs, they were roughly pulled on their rawhide tethers through the enormous, crowded, shepherds’ camp of filth-caked, goat hair tents, barking dogs and braying herd animals. Such a place would stink in the best of times, but now the stench was unbearable. Everywhere Rahab looked there were bodies, countless thousands of butchered male children of all ages, and their mothers, all with their throats slit, and with those violent deaths, came the pungent coppery smell of blood, as well as a fouler smell that came from the inevitable, involuntary discharge of liquid and solid wastes of humans in their death throes. Rahab nearly gagged as she realized that the thick red mud between her toes and that filled the camp came not from rain, for it had not rained in weeks, but was a mixture of dust, dung, urine and human blood.
Every man of fighting age in her entire nation had been slain some hours previously only a few leagues away on an equally blood-drenched field of battle. Now, the only humans left alive of this once proud tribe of the Midianites were virgin females of tender age, most already distributed amongst the victorious nomad warriors, and these thirty two servants of a despised, enemy god that their own God would now be appeased by their sacrifice.
Rahab could not contemplate any sane human beings slaughtering woman and children like this, and on the very doorsteps of their abodes, no less, but this had not been the original intention of the conquerors. They triumphantly returned from their victory with these innumerable slaves to relieve them of their work. But to their dismay, they were met with the curses of their wild eyed, white-bearded patriarch who demanded all but the women who had never known a man to be immediately exterminated. The wanton slaughter of valuable slaves befuddled the warriors, but all obeyed, lest they incur the wrath of the old white beard, or worse, the immeasurably more horrifying wrath that could be meted out by the Living God that dwelt among them, who had demanded their firstborn calves, lambs and sons alike.
The chaos and stench of the camp thankfully subsided as Rahab and her fearful companions were pulled into an open space that was at the very heart of the nomadic metropolis. It was a large compound enclosed by a billowing curtain of spotless, fine white linen sheet held up by cedar poles topped by silver pomegranate shaped finals, that seemed strangely incongruent in this sea of dung colored hovels of felt and hide. Even the fetid odor of the slaughtered multitudes and waste of thousands of animals subsided, as the delicious aroma of carefully roasted lamb wafted from the enclosure.
The doomed women were pulled towards an opening in the center of the long curtain wall, above which, was the likeness of a mythic serpent-dragon, wrought from highly burnished bronze, fearful in aspect, with sharp teeth and claws, outspread wings and a coiling, scaly tail that wrapped around its staff of finely polished cedar.
The priestesses gazed at the glittering apparition in wide-eyed terror, praying to their useless Ba'al that this was not the true form of the victorious Living God whom these barbaric, goatskin-clad shepherds now boasted actually dwelt among them, coiled in the sanctuary they were now being led, presumably to be devoured by it.
As the senior priestess of Ba’al Hadad, Rahab recognized the reptilian deity from the scrolls and tablets in her own temple library. The earliest gods in the fertile crescent of the Tigris and Euphrates all had this form, in fact the oldest gods throughout the world did, and the most terrible was the storm dragon Enlil, who caused the huge deluge that drowned innumerable people. It was said that these bloody shepherds honored this God but by the name by which He was known in the land of Canaan. Here he was called Yaw, and according to legend, her own patron God Ba’al Hadad, supposedly defeated this dragon and drove him from the land centuries earlier.
Had Yaw returned to the land of Canaan? It was said that this one dragon had scorned and humbled all of the Gods of Egypt, wreaking terrible plagues upon the people, and liberated their shepherd slaves from the old Pharaoh, now deceased. Everyone in the Land of Canaan had heard the story, how this same storm dragon that drowned countless numbers in the great flood of the ancient past also drowned the crème of the Egyptian army that dared to hound the fleeing slaves in a vain attempt to destroy or recover them.
And now, her own God Ba’al Hadad seemed just as powerless against this mighty guardian of filthy shepherds, as the great Egyptian Gods had been. But how could this have happened? Civilized human beings no longer worshipped such demonic reptilian monsters as did their foolish, primitive ancestors. In these modern times they likened their gods to handsome, virile human warriors who slew or humbled these dragons in their hymns and ballads.
But if that were true, where was Ba’al now, Rahab wondered in anguish? She came to His temple when only five, and served her deity, faithful and celibate for almost thirty years, yet never saw tangible evidence for his existence, only an inanimate idol of gilded wood. Nor did the idol physically consume the offerings to him as these shepherds claimed their Living God did. Ba’al’s priests burnt the offerings to their God to ashes, even sacrificed children, which was a horrible sight and stench.
But she now watched as the priests of this Living God grilled His meat like an appetizing meal for men, even sprinkling it with salt, she observed. Would she be slowly cooked, and salted too, and would the air be filled with her succulent aroma, just like the roasting lamb, she wondered?
The thirty-two women were roughly herded into a line facing the portable dragon’s lair in the center of the enclosure, a large rectangular tent of ram’s hide dyed blood red. With a practiced eye and finger, the white-bearded Patriarch inspected each offering. Satisfied as to their suitability, the old white beard gestured towards Rahab, the senior priestess of the hated Ba’al Hadad, to be the first sacrifice. Six more would follow her today, seven being both a sacred number, and as many human sacrifices that the Living God usually deigned to consume in a single day.
Two burly priests in blood-spattered vestments roughly gripped Rahab and with a swift stroke from a fine Egyptian dagger of bronze, one cut the rawhide tether, separating her from her temple sisters. The remaining bits of clothing were torn from her body, along with golden earrings and bracelets that would be added to the horde of precious metal that the Living God slept upon in his artificial cavern of the finest woods, cloth, and hides. Another priest came forward with a dripping wad of pinkish white intestines, offal from the lamb now being grilled, and handed an arm’s length to each of the men who held Rahab.
With the grim efficiency that comes from performing a distasteful act far too many times, one priest bound her arms behind her back, the other, her legs, with the slimy, stretchy, but quite digestible binding cord of lamb intestine. Now in full realization of her awful fate, strength left Rahab’s legs, and she would have collapsed if it had not been for her tight gripping priestly escorts at each of her sides. They effortlessly lifted her up like a child’s rag doll, and put her feet into the laver, a decorative bronze, water filled basin next to the tabernacle, to wash away the bloody filth that caked her soles and toes. With a damp rag, one of them washed off any other noticeable patch of blood, dung, or filth on the stunningly beautiful body. Without any noticeable prayer or ceremony they carried her to the entrance of the tent, and despite her own terror of the unknown, she saw real fear in the eyes of the priests who carried her. She could not know that the Living God behind the thin screen of leather and fabric had incinerated two of their own number with His fiery breath, sons of the gray bearded Chief Priest, and nephews of the very Patriarch of the shepherd nation himself! It was said they had improperly prepared a sacrifice so they became a burnt offering in its stead, though the God refused to consume them for they were too unworthy.
It was also said that it was death to merely gaze upon the deity, and that the Living God warned the Patriarch of this at their first meeting on a mountain, in the very tongue of the humble shepherd nation. But the worshippers did catch glimpses here and there, for the Living God came and went from His sanctuary at night, guiding the way of the nomads with pillars of smoke by day and pillars of fire by night that He spewed from His mouth. And smoke now wafted through a vent in the top of the tent, and through the flap as the Living God seemed to pant in anticipation of His extraordinary offering.
The priests disdained to do more that push Rahab through the thick overlapping flaps and recoil quickly away. The doomed virgin saw the interior of the portable lair for only seconds before she was bathed in total darkness, as the stifling hot, multi-layered tent was quickly shut up again by her erstwhile priestly escorts.
In those few second she saw the Living God, or at least parts of His immense coiled bulk of nearly forty cubits -- a wall of shimmering, blood red scales, a huge paw of sharp black talons, folded wings that may have had feathers, a snout as long as her own body filled with wicked ivory teeth, golden, slitted eyes something like a cat’s, but which betrayed an intelligence beyond that of man, and plumes of steamy smoke exuding from two nostrils.
And the creature laid on great heaps of golden treasure. The wealth of a pillaged Egypt, and that of a dozen or more other desert nations these shepherds and their Guardian Deity had utterly destroyed, like her own people. Her earlobes still burnt like fire where her own golden ringlets had been torn away by the priests. She knew that they, and her other golden adornments would soon join this treasure pile, for no acolyte of the Living God would dare steal so much as the thinnest, tiniest, earring from the God-Creature's horde.
She could not know it then, but hymns to this diety would still be sung nearly three millennia in the future. Psalms, they would be called, and speak of the God-Creature's fiery breath, smoking nostrils, and mighty, protective wings. And despite her terror, she might have even laughed if she had been a seer, and divined that those future worshippers of the dragon would eventually forget his true form, and imagine him more like the staff-wielding, white-bearded patriarch who stood outside the tent flap!
It was all too much for Rahab to take in. Almost fainting, she fell forward to her knees, but did not feel the stony, mat-carpeted ground strewn with golden ornaments that she had stood on, but now felt soft, warm, and yielding flesh, as the God’s head evidently thrust forward to envelop her falling form in the darkness. In terror she tried to raise up, but her head struck something, and unable to raise her bound arms, lifted her head up until her face felt the God’s slick, unyielding palette, that inexorably pushed her head down into her ample bosom, effectively pinning her in a kneeling, supplicant’s position before a yawning throat quivering in anticipation that darkness thankfully prevented her from seeing, though she felt the hot, moist, slightly fetid breath, billowing from the depths of the God onto her delicate skin.
As she cringed in terror something warm and wet stroked her face. A tongue, she thought, that tasted her tears of despair. And she was right, for the Living God had a long forked tongue much like a serpent’s, a tongue of incredible sensitivity that tasted and analyzed every molecule it picked up from the air and from its incessant licking of the virgin priestess. Then the tongue found her lips, and forced its way in, tickling the back of here throat, and then it left. It seemed to lap every inch of her body, taking particular attention to her breasts, under her arms and in certain nether regions where the probing tongue prevailed to enter despite her clenching thighs.
She felt a quick dart of pain, and then a kind of euphoria she had never experienced before, as the practiced organ expertly dominated her. She cooed and squirmed in pleasure, forgetting her terrible predicament, and began to hypnotically praise the Living God who truly did rescue His grateful shepherd nation from slavery with His powers, and now so generously rewarded her praise in ways no idol of bronze or gilded wood could ever hope. For here was a living, real god, unlike the inanimate statues she had served all her life. Though muffled by the enveloping, fang-lined jaws, her chants of praise continued until a final tongue thrust drove her to ecstasy, and then the fading mind that controlled the exhausted, sweat coated body, mercifully passed unto unconsciousness.
With an audible gulp, the Living God sent the now spent convert to where she could provide one last service to her new deity, that of becoming His bodily nourishment, the ultimate and final act of adoration and worship.
The gurgling noises made as the Living God’s muscular throat pushed the wriggling, now slippery slick body, down the long, undulating esophagus could be clearly heard by all of those in front of the tabernacle, assuring the white-bearded patriarch that their God was well pleased by the offering. Relief could be seen in his sparkling eyes, so with a toothless grin, the tribal elder summoned the priests to bring the next virgin forward. -2070 words-