Don't worry too much about the title, it's not as bad as it sounds. :)
It was on the first day of Harvest Month, that the Black Priests were seen approaching the town. Rumours proceeding their slow procession soon led to much panic, and wailing mothers could be seen searching for their young. Those who could, and even some who couldn't, fled into the mountains. Left were those with crops to bring in, and livestock to care for. They were all lined up, bowing reverently when the first horse-drawn cart entered the town gates, reins held by a surly bull man wearing a black hooded cape. Many followed, until sixteen carts and seventy-two Black Priests were amassed at the small town square.
There was plenty of room, for all the merchant had long since fled.
Six elderly Priests held a whispering conversation, unaware or uncaring of the eyes that were upon them. Once they had all nodded their agreement, they began a slow walk towards the house of the town Elder, an old rabbit woman with whom they spoke until the sun had set.
Outside the Elder's open window, a small figure crouched behind a row of blackcurrant bushes, listening intently. At one point, when the Black Priests revealed their true errand, the figure had to force back a squeal of fright. Ignoring the natural urge to run, fast and far, it stayed for several more minutes. Then it did run, but to warn rather than hide.
The smallest hut in town was barely used, but this night it was filled with children. All the young ones who had been unable to flee were gathered there, and they were now awaiting news.
Alvin was not among the oldest, nor the youngest. He was a goat boy, son of a farmer who had chosen to stay in town, and he was just as nervous as everyone else. Nobody really knew why the Black Priests had come, nor why they had requested all the town's children to be made available, but rumours were many and horrifying. Some said the Priests ate children, others that they would be fed to some terrible god. Whatever the truth may be, Alvin knew that he wanted no part of it.
He sat more or less alone in the middle of the room, tracing the black and white patterns in his otherwise mostly brown fur. The other children did not avoid him, but neither did they seek him out. He had no siblings and no real friends, and he mostly liked that. Now, though, he looked with envy at those who were comforted by older brothers or sisters, or the youngest who huddled together for strength in numbers.
Before long, there was a scratch at the window. One of the oldest boys, a horse named Kein, opened it despite the frightened squeals of the youngest. In came Cate, a black-furred cat girl. The one who had hid outside the Elder's house. She had news that made the young ones cry and the older cringe. Some of the rumours had been true, she told them. There would be a sacrifice to the Black Priests' ancient Sea God. A virgin child, come of age, would be given by this town, to the God.
Some were relieved; the ones who were either not of age, or no virgins, but others were now trembling visibly. One of them was Alvin, who had turned fifteen the week before and thus was just barely of age. And given how shy he was around others, he was certainly a virgin. More crying was heard, both among the ones in danger and among their siblings. But when Kein, also an endangered one, stood up to speak, they fell mostly silent. His idea was fairly simple; to save themselves, all they had to do was to make sure there were no virgins-of-age left to sacrifice.
The plan was met with approval. First the safe ones were sent home, then the rest began to pair up. Alvin did his best to catch someone's eye, but he found that his shyness stopped him from being successful. He was simply put no good at talking to girls. Every time someone brushed against him, or spoke to him, he would stutter and look away. Before he knew it he was alone in the hut. All the others had left, to help save one another from the Black Priests' clutches. As he was trying to figure out what to do, heart racing inside his chest, the door to the hut swung open. The six Priests and the town Elder all entered, and their eyes were drawn to the solitary Alvin. He stared back at them, his eyes wide and his knees trembling.
"Meep!" he said.
* * * * * *
The next day, a caravan of horse-drawn carts made its way down a serpentine road towards the sea. They had travelled all night, and even though he felt scared, Alvin was almost falling asleep. The sight of the ocean revived him, though. In all his life, he had never been this far from his home, and he had never seen so much water. He found that he could very well believe the old stories that told of the sea as endless, a place where ships that got lost would sail forever without reaching shore. To see it with his own eyes made him excited, but his joy waned quickly as he remembered why he was there.
His robes itched, and he scratched his neck once more. The robes looked ridiculous, especially on a boy, all red and gold and far too feminine for his tastes. He had fought back when the Priests dressed him, but they were too many and too strong. The memory of being paraded through town as they left made him blush, and he glanced surly back at anyone he thought might be staring.
Alvin had started out in the last cart of the caravan the night before, but a couple of failed escape attempts had earned him a place at the very front, where everyone could see him. His hands had been untied once the sun rose, but his left foot was still chained to the side of the cart. At least once he had promised to stop screaming, the Priests had let him spit out the gag.
It was almost noon when they reached the shore. The gentle breeze of the morning had increased, and the waves were breaking as far out as Alvin could see. Dark clouds had rolled in, and he thought he heard thunder in the distance. Alvin didn't like thunder much, especially not out in the open like this, but as long as it stayed in the distance he would try to be brave. As brave as he could possibly be, given the circumstances.
The elder Priests led him to a wooden podium down by the water, and they tied his hands to a tall pole, so high above his head he had to stand on his toes. Other Priests formed circles along the beach and were chanting and singing, their eyes on the turmoiled sea and their hoods pulled back. There were all kinds of them, the small part of Alvin's mind that wasn't too terrified to think noted. About two-thirds were animal people just like him, but the rest were humans.
Alvin had never seen humans before, except maybe from a distance as travellers passed the town, and he took a good look at the furless ones. They had hair on top of their heads, except for the old ones who were bald, and some had beards, but otherwise their skin was bare.
Alvin began to shiver when the oldest of his captors, a wizened human with skin like old parchment, pulled out a long, sharp-looking knife, and approached him slowly. After chanting in some language Alvin didn't know, he raised the blade high. Alvin whimpered and closed his eyes as the Priest began his slash, but the pain he expected never came. Instead there was a ripping noise, and he felt cold air on his body. When he opened his eyes he saw that the Priest had cut away his ceremonial robes, and that he now stood bare and naked for each and everyone to see.
And with his hands tied, he had no way to cover himself up.
His embarrassment only lasted for a brief moment, though. Then another Priest struck a gong, and the rest of them fell silent. The sound of the gong died out as well, and all that could be heard was the breaking of the waves. Alvin stopped trying to hide his nudity, and instead he started shivering. A short ways out from shore, the water seemed to start boiling. First just a little, then more and more until bubbles burst at the surface with such force that they sent water all the way up to Alvin. He squealed as the cold spray hit his bare feet.
What followed was so terrifying that he almost forgot to be scared. An arm of water, as wide as his body, rose from the surface, followed immediately by three smaller ones. The Black Priests all turned and ran, and even though he was tied to the pole Alvin's feet started kicking as if he were running, too. Slowly, agonisingly slowly, the arms began feeling their way ashore. The smaller ones a bit ahead, as if scouting for the large one.
Alvin screamed when the first one touched his foot, and paused as if to try and figure him out. Or taste him. It was a weird feeling. Though it seemed to be made out of water, it was at the same time solid. The touch was a firm one, and it was now joined by the other two small arms. No, some still functioning part of Alvin's mind corrected him. Not arms. He had seen squids at the market, and these things reminded him more of tentacles than of arms.
The small ones felt their way up his body, touching him everywhere. Even... there! Alvin squealed as he was fondled, then his mouth fell open without making a sound. One tentacle had found its way in between his buttocks, and it prodded him where nobody had touched him since he was a toddler and his mother used to give him baths. His terror gave way to a fresh bout of embarrassment, as he felt another part of his body react. It, too was being examined by a tentacle, which rubbed and fondled and brought him to full attention.
The last of the small tentacles paused over Alvin's face, touching his cheeks and his nose and his ears, then his hair and his tiny goat's horns. Alvin saw it reach his hands, but he couldn't decide if he felt relieved or even more scared when it untied him. Definitely scared, he decided with a scream as the large tentacle now wrapped itself around him and lifted him up high into the air.
He found himself hanging upside-down, staring up at the boiling water below him. The tentacle that had untied him was back in his face, and it was pressing against the side of his muzzle, almost as if it wanted to get into his mouth. Alvin squeezed his lips shut, but the thing persisted. In the end, it was the other two small ones that settled the matter. The one in front suddenly engulfed all that Alvin had to offer, while the one in the rear pushed its way into him. The double sensation made Alvin part his lips in a gasp, and his mouth, too, was invaded.
The thing had a salty flavour, just the way Alvin had heard that sea water would taste, and it filled his muzzle completely. The one that had attacked him from behind filled him, too, but in another way. It poked and prodded him from within, stretching him and touching something deep inside that made Alvin see stars. Then fireworks erupted as if out of nowhere, when the tentacle down his front began a suckling, pumping rhythm, squeezing him tightly.
It only took a minute or two until every muscle in Alvin's body tightened up, and he fed the insistent tentacle every drop that he could manage. Shortly afterwards, while he was still reeling from the bliss, Alvin felt the two that were inside him begin to swell. For a second he thought that they were going to tear him apart, but then he realised what was happening. Just like he already had, they seemed to reach their peaks. Alvin's buttocks clamped down tightly, reflexively, as he felt himself get filled by a liquid much hotter than sea water. There was so much that some of it got out past the tentacle and ran up his back.
At the same time, his mouth, too, was flooded. Like the tentacle itself, it tasted salty, but also kind of sweet. Alvin swallowed the first jet on instinct, but he was soon unable to keep up. Liquid escaped his muzzle and got into his face, into his hair, and dripped down into the frothing sea. When it finally abated, Alvin was all but spent. If he hadn't been hanging so high up in the air, he would have fallen asleep, so at ease with the world did he feel.
He was only mildly surprised when the large tentacle pulled him down, into the water.
* * * * * *
Alvin felt as if he were soaring in the air, rather than sinking into the cold sea. His fur was immediately soaked, but the water that pressed against his skin was somehow warm. It felt... friendly. Daylight faded above him as he was pulled even deeper, and before long the darkness around him was complete. His chest ached, as his final breath could no longer sustain him. There was a brief moment of panic, then he could no longer help himself.
He opened his mouth, and breathed in the salty sea water.
Only... it wasn't water. What he got was a lungful of air that was the sweetest he had ever tasted. He spent a couple of minutes just breathing in and out, even letting out a giggle or two. In the darkness of the deep, he could not see what had saved him, but when he touched his face he could feel the tentacle that had been inside his mouth. It was now covering his entire muzzle, giving him air. But why? What would happen next?
Thoughts filled his mind of the small cabin where all the children had gathered, less than a day ago. He remembered how they had talked about getting fed to some god, and suddenly what had felt like a fairy tale back then became frighteningly real. The darkness, Alvin thought to himself, was actually a good thing. At least he wouldn't have to see what awaited him.
No sooner had he thought this, when a light appeared. Not above, where sunlight would have been, but below. It started out as a pin-prick of a faint yellow glow, then grew as he was pulled closer. Alvin shuddered, and tried in vain to get away from the tentacles. Whatever was down there, he did not want to see it.
The light grew to a ball, then to a large sphere that lit up the bottom of the ocean. Strange creatures scuttled around outside it, drawn by the unfamiliar luminescence. Alvin could see crab-like things that waved their claws at the sphere, and fragile-looking eyeless fish that bumped uselessly against it. It grew uncomfortably bright as he got close, and he closed his eyes as he was pulled through the surface of the sphere.
He landed on something that felt like soft pillows. The light still hurt his eyes, so he kept them tightly shut. His mind was filled with fear, but Alvin still knew that he had a decision to face. Perhaps the last one he would ever make. Should he keep his eyes closed and hope for a quick but mysterious death, or should he open them and maybe, just maybe, find a way out? If he did, however, he would have to see the ancient Sea God.
In the end he couldn't do it. He remained lying on the pillows, shivering and with his arms covering his head. The tentacles were gone now, and he got a strange feeling that he was all alone. There were no sounds except for a faint echo of his own ragged breathing and the little whimpers he let out now and then. If something else had been there with him, surely he would be able to hear it breathe? Or growl...
Nothing happened, and the longer it kept on happening, the less scared and more curious Alvin got. In the end he changed his mind, and sat upright. Ever so slowly he opened one eyelid a little bit, and peered around the brightly lit inside of the sphere. It looked like nothing he could have possibly imagined.
He was, in fact, sitting on pillows. Hundreds of them, covering half the floor. Where the pillows ended was something that had to be a bedroom. The most luxurious bedroom Alvin had ever seen. The bed itself was larger than his entire room back home, and it was covered with blankets and pillows of what looked like finest cotton, in red and gold colours that would have matched his ceremonial robes. He almost regretted not having them on anymore. There was also a table and a couple of chairs, and even a fireplace. A giggle escaped Alvin's lips and echoed around the room.
Fire under water, what utter strangeness!
Alvin stood up and kept looking around, but couldn't see hide nor hair or even glistening teeth of any aquatic monster. Just a bedroom, unoccupied. He watched the fish outside for a second, then he turned around and screamed. The face had appeared no more than a couple of decimetres in front of his own, and the shock made him fall over. Another giggle reverberated, but this time it did not come from Alvin.
It came from the boy who now stood in front of him.
For a long moment, Alvin's brain was unable to grasp the unreality of it all. Another boy, in here? Was he a sacrifice, someone who had been dragged there, just like him? It was possible, since the boy looked to be Alvin's own age.
He couldn't quite decide what kind of creature the boy was. Clearly not human, even though he had no fur. His scrawny body looked pretty much normal, with thin arms and legs and hands and feet. And it was definitely a boy, Alvin realised with a blush as he tore his eyes away from the other's mid-section. A boy every bit as naked as he was.
The face was the odd thing about him. It had a narrow, almost pointed muzzle, with thin lips that formed a warm-looking smile. The eyes were large and dark, and belied his youth. His eyes looked wise far beyond those of any ordinary teenager. They spoke of ages upon ages, countless years of life. Yet they retained the curiosity of youth, and they were kind. The boy's hair looked like the leaves of kelp, or seaweed, and kept moving slightly as if to a non-existent breeze.
Or waves, Alvin thought, as he realised that he was sprawled out before the Sea God himself.
He clumsily got up to stand on his knees, then bowed deeply. There was another giggle, then the boy's thin, soft fingers cupped his chin and lifted it so that their eyes met. God smiled at him, and Alvin smiled back. Then they kissed. Alvin was at first taken aback, but he soon recovered as he found the sensation highly pleasurable. The boy tasted sweet, but there was also a hint of the salty sea to him. He was soft and warm to Alvin's touch.
After a while, Alvin felt something press against his lips. He had seen others kiss, so he knew what was expected of him even though he had never experienced it. When their tongues touched, time froze for Alvin. Jolts of pleasure shot through his body, and he pressed himself against his newfound friend. Slender arms reached around his back, and he returned the hug, feeling the other's excitement rub his own.
As the kiss deepened, moans and whimpers escaped their liplock. The two let themselves fall among the pillows, rolling around and around while the inevitable end approached. Alvin was first, and before he was done calling out his joy he felt more wetness between them. Panting and blushing, he stared into those deep, dark eyes, and found himself unable to keep from laughing. The Sea God looked puzzled for a moment, then joined in. Their bright young voices sang around the sphere room.
Time passed that seemed like hours to Alvin. They lay on the pillows, barely moving except for occasional touches and caresses. A couple of whispered words had made it clear that they shared no language, and rather than confusing each other further, they chose to stay silent.
It had taken him a while as he searched his memory, but Alvin had finally figured out what kind of animal folk the boy was. He knew very little of sea dwellers, but he recalled a book about strange creatures that he used to borrow when visiting his grandfather. Being a farmer boy, Alvin couldn't read much, but he enjoyed looking at the wonderful pictures. And now he remembered one of the strange creatures, a favourite page that he had often turned to.
That was what his new friend reminded him of. A seahorse, slender and agile, with a narrow snout and with leaf-like bits that served as camouflage. Only now they had become hair. How such a creature could breathe out of the water, Alvin could not understand, but he reminded himself that this was an ancient god. Surely that would mean extraordinary abilities?
To find out more, he took his friend's hand and placed it on his own chest, then spoke his name. After a couple of tries, he heard it repeated almost right. That barrier breached, the seahorse boy now took Alvin's hand and held it to his chest. Alvin could feel a slow but strong heartbeat. What he said sounded like several long sentences, though, and Alvin couldn't even remember half of it. And what he did say sounded wrong. A few frustrating moments followed, then Alvin had an idea. He reached up and took a tuft of the leaf-like hair and let it fall through his fingers, then pointed at the boy.
"Seaweed," he said with a giggle.
* * * * * *
Alvin spent many days in the sphere room with Seaweed, who seemed to take his name change in stride. Though they were unable to talk, they still found ways to play and have fun. Whether it were a simple game of tag, or a board game that reminded Alvin of chess and that he kept losing at, it only took a little while of show-and-tell before they could both enjoy it.
The two of them also went swimming, and Alvin wasn't surprised to learn that the water tentacles emanated from Seaweed. They held him and let him keep up with Seaweed's much faster swimming, and helped him to breathe.
And they had other kinds of fun, games played in bed or among the pillows, and which required no explanation. Alvin's enjoyment of these togetherness moments grew with each new thing they tried, and the sphere often rang with his vocalised pleasure. Seaweed was a gentle and caring lover, and Alvin often forgot that he was with a god. The boy, the cute seahorse boy, began to win his heart.
But all good things eventually end.
Alvin had fallen asleep among the pillows, in Seaweed's arms, after a highly adventurous game that had left him breathless. When he woke up, however, the sphere was as empty as he had found it when he first arrived. Thinking that his friend had gone for a swim, Alvin got up. Sitting was out of the question at the moment, so he walked around the room, pausing now and then to watch the sea creatures outside.
He laughed as he remembered one time, when Seaweed had brought one of those crab-like things into the sphere. Thinking it looked almost like some weird kind of pet, Alvin had petted the thing, which had immediately pinched his finger. It hadn't been strong enough to hurt him, but he had still pouted as Seaweed seemed to make fun of him.
Time passed, and Alvin went from bored to concerned to scared. The thought began to sink into his mind that, for some reason, Seaweed might not come back. At first he thought about what would happen to him, trapped on the seabed all alone, but his worries soon turned to his friend.
What if Seaweed had been hurt? Had something happened that kept him away? Or had he lost interest, and moved on to the next sacrifice? The last thought brought tears to Alvin's eyes, and he cried into a fluffy green cotton pillow.
Long after the time when Alvin gave up hope, and sank into a state of despair, something happened that at first made him scream with joy. The four water tentacles returned, and he knew that Seaweed couldn't be far behind. He didn't get to see the Sea God, though, because after a quick caress the large tentacle grabbed him and pulled him out of the sphere. One of the small ones helped him breathe, and they headed straight for the surface.
Alvin struggled to break free, to swim back down to the sphere room. He called Seaweed's name into the tentacle that surrounded his muzzle, and his tears spilled out into the salty ocean. Nothing helped, and he soon found himself back on the beach. The Black Priests were there, waiting with another set of ceremonial robes. Ignoring his weeping, they quickly dried and dressed him, then chained him to his cart again after he had tried to flee back into the water.
* * * * * *
During the journey back up the serpentine road, once he had stopped crying, Alvin learned that it was still the same day as when he had been sacrificed. Not even an hour had passed. All that had happened down in the water, the days he had spent with Seaweed, it all suddenly seemed like a dream. Alvin wasn't sure which hurt more, that their time together had ended or the possibility that there had never even been such a time.
He cried again, for a little while.
To his surprise, the Priests did not take him back home. Instead they travelled inland, for so many days that he soon lost count. Over farmlands pretty much like the ones he had known since birth, then through a narrow mountain pass that was very cold, and finally into a dense, dark forest. The Black Priests didn't talk to him much, but he learned that he had been blessed.
Usually, one of the youngest Priests told him as they set up camp in a clearing, the sacrificed ones would be returned to their homes, but on rare occasions one would be blessed with the gift of the Sea God. Such a child was to be brought to the Sacredmost Temple, to spend his days worshipping an aspect of the God. Then the Priest held up a mirror to Alvin, and let him see the mark of the blessing.
A tuft of Alvin's brown hair, between his left horn and ear, had turned into seaweed.
Next day, they arrived at the Sacredmost Temple. It was a huge stone palace, with tall towers and high walls, and it did not look like a place where Alvin wanted to live. He was feeling quite miserable as he was led through bare stone corridors. Then they reached a new place, out the back of the Temple and beyond a small grove of trees, and he had a change of heart. The place was beautiful, filled with trees and flowers, and with a small pond at its centre.
The Priests left Alvin outside a small house next to the pond, and told him that his meals would be brought to him. If he so wished, he needed not visit the Temple itself. All alone, he walked through orchards and past flowerbeds, and he even took off his robes to swim across the pond and back.
After a couple of hours, the young Priest who had talked to Alvin last nigh at camp brought him supper. While he ate bread and cheese, and a tasty salad, the Priest began to tell him about the Sea God.
The God was water, and all water was the God. What people would sometimes see or talk to, or like Alvin get blessed by, were aspects of the God. Representations which took forms easily understandable and interacted with. Alvin didn't understand most of what was said, but he did figure out that Seaweed had been one of those aspects. A part of the Sea God, but not the whole. But what had happened to his friend, the Priest could or would not tell.
By the time he was left alone again, it had begun to darken. The Priest had told him that he would soon start his worshipping as a blessed one, and that he should find his blessing before that time came. Not knowing what that meant, or how he would look for a blessing, he went into the house that seemed to have become his new home.
It had three rooms. First, a bathroom with a large tub and a luxury Alvin had never seen before; hot and cold running water. He played a little with the taps before he washed himself. Next there was a kind of living room, with two sofas and a low table, and even a small bookshelf. After picking out a couple of books at random but finding none that had pictures, he sighed and headed for the third room.
It was a large bedroom, with a bed almost the same size as the one in the sphere. Alvin got undressed and lay down among pillows and blankets, and he sighed again. It was depressingly empty.
He lay awake for a long time, thinking about the Priest's words. How was he to find his blessing? They had already told him that he was blessed, so why did he need to find it? In frustration, he tugged at the seaweed tuft between his left horn and ear. And an idea entered his mind, as if magicked there from out of nowhere. He jumped out of bed, and without bothering with getting dressed he dashed down to the pond.
By the water's edge, he fell to his knees and stared into the pond. It was so dark that he could see little more than his outline, but he hoped that it would be enough. He leaned down so that his nose almost touched the water, then let the seaweed tuft dip in. He was crying, and all of his heart, all that he had felt during his time in the sphere, poured out of him with his tears. Time passed as he spoke softly to the water, and touched it with his fingers.
And the water responded.
Alvin wasn't surprised to see a slim hand reach up and touch his face. The rest of Seaweed followed, and soon the two of them stood by the pond, hugging and kissing and laughing and crying. Alvin knew what Seaweed was now. An aspect of the Sea God. A person made by the God and out of the God, but not the God itself. Made for him, to accept the sacrifice of his love and his virginity. It should have ended there.
Seaweed should have returned into the Sea God, and Alvin should have returned to his home. But two hearts had met and connected, and in the end they could not be denied. Alvin reached up and touched the tuft of plain brown hair that grew among the seahorse boy's leaf-like hair. He smiled as he stared into his friend's eyes. The age-old knowledge and wisdom that had laid behind them was gone, and what gazed back at him was just another boy.
The Sea God had brought Seaweed to Alvin, and had left him there. At that moment, he knew that he would never leave Sacredmost Temple and his house by the pond. Hand in hand, the two walked into the house and lay down on Alvin's bed.
And soon, up in the Temple, those of the Black Priests who were still awake nodded and smiled to themselves as the first pleasure-cries of the night were heard.
The sun had almost begun to rise, while Alvin still lay awake. He was very tired, and would probably sleep all through the next day. Beside him, Seaweed lay in a peaceful slumber, snoring lightly. Alvin touched the boy's face, then smiled. Every day from now on, he decided, he would give thanks to the Sea God, for the blessing and the gift that had been bestowed upon him.
For the boy who had been a god, but would now live with him, happily ever after.