The Mark of Venus


Ghet eyed the dark-haired woman who's just walked into her room. She had a slightly amused, superior smile Ghet didn't much care for. "Who the hell are you?"

"Oh, I have many names, but in this time and place, you can call me Venus. And you, my dear, are Ghetsuhm Riker, bondmate to Galain Alcarin and lover of Y'Roden D'riel, and right now I know more about you than you do."

Ghet raised an eyebrow, and then sniggered. She hadn't let go of Galain, but she didn't want to distract him either, so she simply left a comforting presence and not her whole self. "Let me get this straight. You're telling me you're a goddess? I don't believe in goddesses, or gods for that matter. I'm borderline on believing in some of things I have seen."

The other woman shrugged. "You can not believe in me if it makes you feel better. And 'goddess' isn't really accurate, but it serves to simplify matters. But I know why you're here and what you're in the middle of, and I know you're going to need help. I also know why you don't want the supper they brought you."

Simple things first. "I'm not hungry."

"You're pregnant."

Ghet laughed. Now she was firmly back in her own comfort zone. This woman was a nutcase. "I can't get pregnant. I'm barren, I have been since I was twenty-three. I think maybe you should go."

Venus rolled her eyes. "It's true, then, pregnancy does soften the brain. Your body is barren, stupid girl, not your soul. The body you're in functions perfectly, as you and your delightful husband have discovered. And what's your Galain's defining characteristic?" She saw the look on Ghet's face, and for a terrifying moment, both women sniggered, identically. "His other defining characteristic."

Ghet's mind was racing. Part of her still rebelled, but it made an unfortunate amount of sense. The urge to giggle was just shock. She nodded. "He has far too many children. Oh heck, he has far too many twins. Not twins. Tell me, not twins."

Ah, finally, they were making headway. "No, not twins. A boy. A lovely boy, who will serve me well, though he might not know it."

Ghet sat heavily on the bed. There was a thread of hope, and she grasped it. "But it's not really my baby. He's not my son, he's this woman's. Livinia's." A whole new layer of consequence hit her. "Oh no."

Venus smiled quietly. "Are you that afraid to be a mother? But yes, by the time he is born, you'll be finished here." She chuckled. "Vesta is livid. She's got a hell of a temper, that woman. I think we all know what she needs. Anyway, we have a plan to deal with that. Just now you need to take one thing at a time."

Ghet grinned ruefully. "You reckon?" She turned her attention back to her husband. This was going to be so weird, for both of them. Honey? When you're finished with the spiders, we have something scary to deal with. No hurry. It's not going anywhere. Then she raised her head and met the goddess' eyes. "We need to have a long talk."

Ghet had been talking to Venus for some time now. They'd consumed rather a lot of a rough red wine, to the point that it now seemed like a velvety-smooth red wine. Ghet's head was spinning, though she liked to think that wasn't down to the wine. Not just one god, a whole lot of gods, having little spats, and she and her friends right in the middle of it. They'd formulated a plan, but she could see a couple of problems. "Galain's not going to like it."

Venus shook her head. "He'll just have to suck it down, won't he?" She frowned, and her eyes went distant a moment. "Oh. Oh, well that's torn it. Now Hades is playing. That's going to complicate things." She stood, and so did Ghet. "It's time to decide. Do you want my protection?"

Ghet's lips twisted. This seemed right, yet it ran contrary to everything she'd built her life on. No gods, no powers, only her own will and the immutable laws of science. "And in return?"

The goddess's lovely mouth curled. "My love, you already serve me. You've put love above all else all your life, even when you thought you were hiding from it. What more could I ask? And aren't you curious?"

There it was, of course, her weakness. She was dying to know what it was like, what would happen. She'd have had trouble saying no to a new experience even if the cost had been terrible and right in front of her. "Okay."

Venus smiled, radiantly beautiful. She put down her glass and walked forward until her body was touching Ghetsuhm's. She kissed her, and Ghet was conscious of a heavy sweetness, honey and apples... she closed her eyes and gave in to it, only shifting slightly as she felt the other woman's hand move between her legs.

And then there was this burning sensation, right at the top of her leg, not quite pain. She opened her eyes, full of question, but her only answer was a soft smile, and then slowly, the goddess faded and was gone, leaving Ghet gasping and shaken. She lifted her dress, and saw, in the hollow at the top of her left thigh, a dove, outlined in black on her white flesh.