“Oh gods, terrible in your anger and magnanimous in your mercy, look kindly upon this sacrifice from your humble servants,” the executioner intoned, his deep voice resonant with majesty and reverence.
His full name was Great Grand High Executioner Baahb, and it was really disconcerting how the sacrifice giggled every time he said that.
Lots of things were disconcerting about the sacrifice, actually, like the way she rolled her eyes whenever he got to the ominous chanting, which he’d spent simply ages getting just right and properly ominous. Or how she kept muttering “Derivative!” or “Chauvinists!” every time he invoked the arcane and mysterious sacred texts of the gods. Or her whole general attitude of Oh drat, this again, well the priest’s a bit rubbish and I’ve certainly seen better sacrificial daggers and these ropes are chafing my skin, what an inconvenience.
“We call upon you, oh fearsome and wrathful gods,” he continued, trying to ignore the fact that she was smirking at him, and focus instead on the breathing exercises that his voice instructor had assured him would do wonders with the acoustics of the sepulchral temple and did she just yawn? “We call upon you and offer in payment this fair maiden, untouched by man, unbreached by his lusts, pure and chaste in every–”
She didn’t just say that. Sacrifices didn’t just say things like that. He had been a student observer at over a dozen sacrifices before he’d even been allowed to apply for the priesthood–let alone rise to Great Grand High Executioner–and sometimes they begged and pleaded, and sometimes they threatened, and sometimes they just wept, but they certainly didn’t say–
“I said, excuse me!”
“What?” Baahb snapped, high and peevish. “I mean–“ he quickly cleared his throat and dropped his voice back down an octave. “How dare you disrupt the ancient and hallowed rituals with your blasphemous tongue!”
“Yes, yes, very sorry and so on. Only there’s been a misunderstanding.”
Ah, so she was trying to bargain for her life after all! Baahb felt on firmer ground already. “Plead all you wish, young innocent, but the gods hunger for your unsullied flesh–”
“First of all, you’re not frightening in the least,” the girl informed him. “I mean, you’re a full three inches shorter than me, and I’m not about to win any beanpole contests. Besides, that mask’s rubbish; I can tell you’re the clerk who kept trying to grope me when I was doing research in the Hall of Records.”
Was that a titter he heard from the semi-circle of the Holy Brotherhood behind him? That was definitely a titter! “Speak not of matters you do not understand, wench!” He cast his eyes upwards. “Oh gods, believe your humble servant, I sought only to assess her purity and worthiness of sacrifice in your great names!”
“Ah yes, speaking of that. I’m not.”
“Pure,” she said, elongating the syllable as though he were an idiot. “Innocent. Chaste.”
“Well, my flesh has definitely been sullied. By men, by the way, in case you’re the kind of male chauvinist society that doesn’t count masturbation or lesbian intercourse as proper sex.” She flounced, inasmuch as one could flounce while bound from head to foot. “Which is just the kind of oppressive thinking I’d expect from a society where a bunch of old men kidnap young girls and stab them to death with a phallic symbol.”
“I have been touched by man,” she said slowly and with great emphasis, like a teacher with an especially slow student. “I have been breached by his lusts.” She brightened up. “And done some touching and breaching of my own, mind you. I don’t believe in women being passive partners during sexual congress.”
“What?” Baahb said again, since it seemed to be the only word he could remember how to make. Two more occurred to him. “How? When?”
“Well, I was a bit of a late bloomer, wasn’t till my third year at university. My boyfriend at the time–not very skilled, but then I wasn’t either, back then. And he was very sweet.”
“Ah then, a youthful mistake!” Great Grand High Executioner Baahb cried, clutching at strings. “A single incident, perhaps not even correctly completed, and–what do you mean, back then?”
“Well, we weren’t going to get any better without any practice, were we?” she said with a shrug.
“You…practiced?” His voice cracked. This couldn’t be happening. His first big sacrifice. He could hear the Holy Brotherhood muttering behind him. His first sacrifice, all mucked up. This couldn’t be happening!
“Pretty regularly, until he graduated and we broke up. I was rather distraught, so–”
“Aha!” Baahb grasped at the lifeline. “A single partner, back when you were barely out of childhood–surely the gods will not mind such an insignificant slip!”
“–so for awhile I just had casual sex,” the young woman continued. “Only with men I knew and trusted, of course.” She sighed, as if at a particularly happy memory.
“Casual. Sex.” He’d hoped the words would sound ridiculous coming out of his mouth, but in fact they only sounded more terribly real. Oh, the gods were going to kill him. If the Brotherhood didn’t do it first.
“Yes. Had a bit of a nasty experience with a professor, though, rumors and nearly lost a fellowship and all that, so I decided to cut back until I had firmly established myself in my field.”
“You saw the light!” Baahb could feel his lifeline shredding between his fingers, and clung to it for all it was worth. “You discarded your old ways, and were reborn in purity, and surely, my brothers–” he turned to face the circle behind him–“surely this is the greatest and most glorious purity of all, when it is not given at birth but chosen?”
They looked persuaded, they really did, well, their eyes through their masks did in any case, and he just might be able to salvage some of the dignity of this proceeding and–
“WHAT?” he screeched, whirling around.
She had the affront to only look mildly taken aback by his complete meltdown. “Well, I’m actually in a sexual relationship at the moment.”
“No. No no no no no no no.” Baahb clutched at his head. “I don’t believe you. You’re bluffing. This has all been a bluff, my gods!” he called to the heavens. “A foolish bluff by a foolish innocent, who knows nothing of the secrets of the lustful sins!"
The sacrifice huffed. “Oh, very well. I didn’t want to do this, as I’m generally very private, but these knots are advanced and somebody is late with his rescue.”
And then she began to talk.
Some of it was phrased scientifically, and some emotionally, but it was all anecdotal.
After about three minutes, several of the Holy Brotherhood began to take notes.
After five minutes, all of them were.
“…and then after the third clitoral orgasm, I told the Doctor that I really did need to get some rest if we were going to track down the alien scientists causing the famines on your world, so he jerked himself off and then we finally got out of the shower.”
There was a long silence, and then one of the Holy Brotherhood timidly raised his hand. “Is it really possible to do…that thing…with the, uh, hair conditioner?"
“Yes, but don’t try it with shampoo. That’ll sting.”
The Brother nodded enthusiastically, and jotted down some more notes. “Shampoo…will…sting…”
“I’m not late to the party, am I?” came a cheerful voice from the doorway. “Ah, Sarah Jane, there you are.”
“Finally sorted the other lot of aliens, have you?” the girl retorted. “Took you long enough.”
“Well, that’s gratefulness for you,” the Doctor said, striding across the room and beginning to cut through the ropes binding her. “You know, I’ve half a mind to truss you up like this again when we get back to the TARDIS.”
Sarah Jane smirked. “Promises, promises.”
“Just go.” Great Grand High Executioner Baahb had sunk to the ground, kneading his forehead. This was more than he could take. “Please just–stop flirting with each other, and stop…talking about sex, and just–go.”
The Doctor did an exaggerated double-take. “Talking about sex? You, Sarah?”
“Had to clear up some misconceptions.” She shrugged off the remains of the ropes, which pooled around her ankles. “One more to clear up.” She stalked over to Baahb and wrenched his hands away from his face. “You are not special, or grand, or important. You are slime. And if I hear of any of you--“ she glared at the semi-circle behind him–“reviving this ritual, or taking advantage of women in any way whatsoever…well, remember that thing I talked about with the ginger root?”
There was a frantic rush of fearful nods.
“Then you’ll wish I had done that to you. With a rusty fork.”
She turned and smiled brightly at the Doctor, offering him her arm. “Shall we?”
He took it with a grin. “I believe we shall.”
They strolled out of the temple, whispering in each other’s ears and laughing uproariously.
Great Grand–the former Great Grand High Executioner Baahb stared after them, forlorn, and said the only thing he could think of.