And they have gone to the daughters of men upon the earth, and have slept with the women, and have defiled themselves, and revealed to them all kinds of sins. And the women have borne giants, and the whole earth has thereby been filled with blood and unrighteousness.
The Book of Enoch, Chapter 8, Verses 7–9
Northern shores of the Black Sea
“Orzu, you promised to kill me,” Illyana cries out as the giant Tureal restrains her. “I’m not the rabbit. I’m your sister. If you love me, if you truly love me, kill me. Kill me now. Don’t let them do to me what they did to Mother.”
“Kill me. Kill me. Kill me,” rings in Orzu’s ears as he searches for a voice, any voice, to guide him.
As he stares down the shaft of his arrow pointing at Illyana’s young bosom, her breasts become larger, nursing a child. Illyana is standing with lips rouged and eyelids painted, her chest exposed and her loins bleeding.
She is screaming, “Orzu, you promised to kill me. You broke your promise. You did not truly love me. And look at me. Defiled. Worthless. My spirit gone. Kill me now. Kill me now.”
“Please tell me what to do,” Orzu cries out into the darkness. “Anyone. Please. I cannot kill her. I love my sister. I cannot kill her. Is not life more precious than death? Please, anyone. Speak.”
As he cries, he awakens in soft, warm arms that rock him, holding his head to a soft bosom. Orzu looks into the warm, dark eyes of a dear woman who tells him, “It’s only a dream. You saved me. You are my savior, and I will forever love you.” She kisses him. Again and again. They make passionate love and Orzu rests peacefully in her arms.
The next day, these lovers are out on a boat in the middle of the sea. Orzu and Narn are pulling in a fishing net with Orzu’s son of ten cycles, An. Orzu looks back and watches his beloved wife, the savior of his soul, Nanshe, cleaning the last catch with Ki, their daughter of fourteen, going on fifteen, cycles, who has grown up to be a fine-looking young woman. A blend of her mother’s beauty and the courage and spirit of his sister.
Nanshe is half a head shorter than Orzu and solidly built. She has an oval face and dark eyes, with straight dark brown hair. The perfect mate for him, the peaceful fisherman, Orzu thinks as he smiles at her. Ki is more lithe, but shows the same strength Illyana had, both in mind and body.
And he is snapped from his romantic trance by the overwhelming tugs at the net. Narn, brother of Nanshe, is almost pulled overboard but is held back by Orzu’s strapping young son, An. Orzu himself places his feet firmly on the backboards of the boat. Whatever is in the net is not the trout, bass, perch, or sturgeon they normally catch, but something so strong it pulls the boat downwards to a near swamping point.
Finally he spies it, and it is much longer than he is tall. They will be swamped if they don’t do something now.
“Nanshe, Ki! Shark! Help! Now!” Orzu yells.
From the side of the boat, Nanshe grabs two harpoons half as long again as she is tall. Ki grabs a club nearly her height. Nanshe rushes to the back of the boat, raises one of the harpoons, showing the musculature of her arms, waits, waits, and then drives the tip deep into the side of the shark once it surfaces near the boat. She repeats this with the other harpoon. Pulling the death stick back, she draws the shark to the back planks, and her beloved daughter clubs the head of this beast, over and over again until the behemoth is dead.
The men, relieved, pull the carcass into the boat. No small task, as this is the largest shark they have ever seen in all their years fishing. Orzu has learned from local lore that the lake was once saltier, and the shark is an ancient evolved monster from days perhaps as old as the stars. Only the largest and strongest survived the change to freshwater. Nanshe hugs her brother and then her husband, rejoicing, as shark meat will trade for a premium with the villagers and other fishermen. They are rich for the moment.
Orzu hugs Ki for her courage and then pats An on the back for a job well done. As Nanshe and Narn cut up the shark, Orzu sits his progeny down and asks them to recite the tradition, just as Parcza taught him. Ki takes after Illyana, reciting the words rapidly and trying to do it backwards. An, like him, struggles, but finally gets it. More practice. More practice always.
Even though daylight has yet to be extinguished, he asks them to point to where they think the tail of the bird star would be. An asks him how he can tell, and Orzu reminds him of the stones they have in front of their house. They align with the direction of the tail of the bird. He hugs them both and returns to steering the boat, heading in a new direction.
The killings of his youth weighed heavily on Orzu. He became a fisherman to avoid the hunt and, more importantly, the haunting image of the arrow shaft pointed between his beloved Illyana’s breasts. He has become expert at navigating the lake. He knows by the season and the position of the sun where he is, and he meets with fishermen from the other side of the lake twice a moon cycle to trade and learn about the other side of the lake. And today is one of those days.
The two boats are tied together as Orzu welcomes his guests from the other side of the lake onto his boat. Nanshe has cooked a shark broth, not only as the perfect hostess wife, but as the perfect wife seeking the best value for the trade of shark meat, skin, and fin. She loves that Orzu tacitly understands who runs their household. Certainly her brothers understood so perfectly, as she takes after their mother.
Then comes the barter. Orzu and Nanshe have come to learn the language of the Other Siders. Their own language is richer and more descriptive, which helps them conceptualize how to negotiate win-wins, even in the Other Siders’ language. Orzu wants more than the normal amount of the black stones, which the Other Siders call obsidian. They offer twice the amount for half the shark. Nanshe sheds her perfect demure hostess mask and demands they tell her where this obsidian comes from as well as give them all the stones they have on the boat in exchange for two-thirds of the shark.
Reluctantly, they tell her and Orzu. The town that trades these stones is nearly a day’s sail from their location to the shore on their side, and another day’s sail along the coastline to the left. They come from a mountain further inland, about half a moon cycle by foot over three mountain ranges. One of the men draws a map on the floor of their boat. They conclude with Nanshe grinning at Orzu because she got them the best part of the deal. Once in their boat, the Other Siders hug each other, thinking that they got the best part of the deal.
Late evening arrives when Nanshe and Orzu reach their home on the shore of the side of the lake closer to the tail of the bird star. The walk to their home from where they anchor the boat grows shorter each year, as the lake is rising half the height of Nanshe’s lower leg each sun cycle, and grows ever so slightly colder with each cycle. They anchor at the site of Parcza’s former house, which is now half-covered by the tides. The land under the water is long and shallow, so the tides come far up. Nanshe worries that someday they will need to move their house. But not tonight, she thinks as she puts her half-asleep children to bed.
In the warmth of their own bed, Nanshe leans her head against her treasured husband’s chest. Orzu is quite proud of their obsidian trade, remarking that these stones were valuable to the Reindeer People, who, as they expanded away from the tail of the bird star, moved farther and farther away from the source of their obsidian stones. Orzu has struck a deal with them. He provides a new batch of stones each cycle, and they leave him and his family alone. Included in this deal is the safety of the home of Nanshe’s older brother, Namu.
“You were so good with the deal today, Nanshe. I love you so,” Orzu whispers in her ear. “It was almost as good as the deal we have with the Reindeer People. So far, our children, and your brother’s children, have been kept safe. Nonetheless, we are prudent to take our children fishing with us, as the lake is the safest place for them,” he says as he hugs his beloved.
He pets her hair as he says, “Ki is taking after you so much. And after Illyana.” His voice cracks as he mentions his sister’s name. “Ki is getting fuller like she was. She is nearly the same age as my sister was when…” And he can’t form the rest of his words.
He cries, unable to speak more. Nanshe moves from having her head on his chest and draws his head onto hers, stroking his head. “I look at Ki and I see Illyana in her. I can’t bear to look at my own daughter as my guilt, my failure, my fear that I cannot save Ki any more than I could Illyana.”
He murmurs, “I failed her. Not once, but twice. I could not kill. I cannot kill.”
He kisses the ample bosom of his beloved Nanshe and continues, “I took more than two cycles of the sun to find the courage to search for Illyana and try to save her. I learned patience. I learned to hide. I learned to be invisible to the Reindeer People. I hid near the pyramids where Illyana was held. I watched her be taken, half-naked, between buildings. I learned to be still and wait while I listened to her screams.
“And then, as I became familiar with the times when the Reindeer People would not be around, I made my way into her building.” He gasps, swallows, and in a teary voice, says, “And there she stood looking at me. Just as Parcza said would happen. She was barely covered in those pitiful excuses for garments the Reindeer warriors made women wear. Her eyelids were purple, not from beatings but from the color they made her put on her eyelids. Her lips were deep red, not from blood, but from the covering they made her put on them.
“It seemed longer than a sun cycle that she stared at me. And I suddenly noticed she nursed a child, which I had missed at first as I stared in shock at the horror of what they had done to her. And she finally spoke. As if no time had passed since I had last seen her that day in the forest, she said repeatedly, ‘Kill me.’
“And I knew that I had broken my promise. I had agonized for two cycles of the sun over my cowardice, my failure as a brother to honor her wishes. I had come back to atone for my failure. And I asked for her forgiveness.”
He strokes Nanshe and searches for the courage to continue reliving the unbearable. “Illyana, no longer the young girl whom I loved so much, no longer would tease me, no longer would stick her tongue out at me. She could only say in a low, tired voice, ‘Please forgive me.’ And then she cried. She was so ashamed of what she had become, of what she had been made to do.
“And I asked her to come home with me. We would go far away from the tail of the bird star, as Parcza said, and make a new home far away. But she would only cry and tell me she could not go home. No man would have her.”
Nanshe wipes Orzu’s face of his tears and kisses his head as he continues. “I implored her, insisted that what she said was not true. I would love her and take care of her. Any man would. She was the finest young woman in all of our villages. I simply asked her for her forgiveness. I wanted only to make our lives all right again, only the chance to make life right for her again.” Orzu becomes so choked up that he cannot continue reliving the memories.
And so Nanshe continues the story. “And she cried again for you to kill the male child feeding on her breast, cried so coldly, as if the baby were a parasite. She cried that he would only grow up to enslave your sons. He would only grow up and brutally rape and denigrate your daughters.”
She lifts Orzu’s head and looks into his eyes. “And you said you could not. You begged her to forgive you, but you could not kill.” She kisses his forehead. “Miraculously, to my graces, to my wishes, to my prayers, she turned and pointed at me. Only fifteen cycles of the sun. Just like Illyana had been. And she said you should save me, for I was still pure, like she once was. That I would give to you the forgiveness that you so sought, and that she, so impure, could not.”
Orzu kisses his beloved wife back as he finishes the story. “And she implored me to kill her son, kill her, and take you. I cried for a voice to tell me what to do. Any voice. And the same darkness, emptiness, and silence that left me numb and paralyzed the first time in the forest overcame me there again. If not for your love, if not for the beautiful children you bore for me, I would not have been able to go on in spite of my failure to save Illyana.”
Nanshe holds Orzu’s head tight to her bosom, squeezing as if her life depended on it. “I love you so much, Orzu. I fear sometimes I don’t let you know how much. You have nothing to be forgiven for. Nothing.” She kisses the top of his head. “I stared in fear as you turned away to leave the room, to leave Illyana in her shame, to leave me.
“But before I could cry that I was to be left there too, you turned and speared Illyana through her chest. Her lips, her eyes, spoke out that she felt your mercy. Her big brother who fulfilled his promise to his beloved sister. You put your arm around me and your hand across my face, so I would not see her die, but I knew you were merciful. She did not suffer.”
They both cry. Tears of love they cry. Nanshe finds her voice through her tears and says softly, but strongly, “At that moment I witnessed your courage, your mercy, and your love. I never told you what Illyana did just before you came. We had learned from the Reindeer People about the gods they prayed to, the gods for which they built those pyramids with the blood and death of our men. We had nothing left. Nothing that we could hope for. And so we had prayed to a god, any god, anyone who would listen to our pleas. Illyana, she prayed for someone to come and kill her, and I, for someone to save me.
“Minutes after our pleas, you came through the door. My savior. The answer to my prayer. Not only did you save me, but as I pleaded with you to do, you went to save my two brothers, who were enslaved building the pyramids, near to their deaths. You pulled them up to their feet and brought us all to safety. I learned that night there is someone, somewhere who listens to the prayers of the most debased, the most defiled, the most desperate. And for this I am forever grateful to you. And I love you, unconditionally love you. You do not need forgiveness from me or anyone else for my love of you. Please know this.”
Holding her precious savior tightly, she closes her eyes, savoring the love they share.
“And you showed me how deep your love was as we came back to your empty home. You took me not to your bed, but to your heart. You sensed I was not emotionally ready for you to take me as your wife. You waited. You were patient. I felt a love like you had for your sister as she wanted you to take me as her surrogate. You protected me, nourished me, allowed me to grow. And waited cycles and cycles of the sun for me to recover, for my love for you to grow, before I came to you to gently bed me. And I came to truly know love.”
Following this testament of devotion, they kiss, slowly and lovingly. Sitting upright, she gazes into his eyes and summons her courage, the most courageous courage she can find. The courage to say what needs to be said, what will either bond them more or, in her worst fears, break them.
“Orzu, your love for me will always be my salvation. And at times, I feel, I fear, I deeply fear I am unworthy of your love.”
She peers deeply into his eyes, searching for a sign his soul will be merciful, as she asks, “Orzu, is there anything, anything at all that I would do, would have done, might do that would lessen your love for me? Anything?”
Orzu, taken aback by this question, answers in a puzzled voice, “No. No, nothing. Why, why would you ask?”
“I have something so hideous, so horrible, so heinous, I have hidden it from you. The shame stands between us. I feel it keeps us from truly being the closest two souls can be.”
Orzu hugs her tightly and assures her that nothing could ever lessen his love for her.
She puts her hands around his head, her forehead to his, and glances down with shame. “You took me in as if I was your beloved, your cherished, your most adored Illyana, just as she had asked. To you, I felt, I was as pure and innocent as she was the day she was taken from you. And your love for me was as it was for her. A love so good, I did not want for anything else.”
She then cries and cries, and it is Orzu’s turn to wipe her tears as she says, “Illyana wanted you to think I was pure. But I was not. I had been defiled and debased and denigrated over and over and over again for more than a moon cycle the day you saw me. I had been put with Illyana because I was not enough for them. She was teaching me how to please them more, how to paint my face and dress improperly for them. She fed me the sex organs of another, who had died in the throes of violent rape, just as she was made to eat when she failed to perform.”
She stops in silence to gauge her husband’s reaction and then continues, “I was so afraid to tell anyone. I was so afraid I would be left. I saw other captive women who killed themselves as there was no hope. I heard stories of others who were recaptured after escape. About how their relatives would not accept them. About how they were shunned, one even stoned by her family and friends. I could not bear having my brothers shun me. But I am so sorry for hiding this from you, the one I love the most.”
She looks at Orzu and bravely puts forth, “I will accept my punishment for my deceit to you. If you wish me to leave, I will do so. But without your love, I would ask, as did Illyana, that you do to me that which you did so mercifully to her. Please spare our children. They are innocent of my deceit, my duplicity, my defrauding you.”
She cries. Orzu cries. They have cried most of the night thus far. And Orzu assures her his love for her is not lessened, but strengthened. He knew she never was impure, for the pureness of her heart is all he saw that day she was with Illyana. She should feel no shame, no dishonor, for she is his savior. He pledges that he will stand by her until their deaths. Strengthened by her courage to finally discuss her deepest, darkest pain with him, they cry more. And kiss. And kiss with the most passionate love of their lives coming to them, over and over and over again.