Salome: the Seventh Queen: 6: She-Who-Rides-the-Dragon
by Aline deWinter
Just then there was a loud hissing sound followed by howling as of a hundred
jackals chasing a herd of antelope across the desert.
“What is that?” Salome cried as her serving girls clung to her.
“Who dares to enter the Sacred Garden of the Most High Goddess?”
A flock of dark birds flew up, blasted by the woman’s voice as on a
wave of volatile wind. An early moon suddenly rose above the rocks.
Nothing else moved, even the patch of scrub grass that Salome saw from
the window of her carriage was as still as the surrounding rocks.
Salome stood up and shouted,”It is I, Salome, Princess of Judea, daughter of Herod!”
“Come, Salome, Princess of Judea! Leave your shoes behind, and enter,” the voice commanded.
“Oh, Princess, must we go?” Aaliyah cried.
“Surly, if we enter there, we shall never come out again,” said Etana.
“Yes, we will,” said Salome, swallowing hard. “I was promised a boon.
Etana, take the mirror and pick up the torch. Have the driver light it,
for it will grow suddenly dark. And, Aaliyah, carry the head of Jokannaan.”
Drawing the scarlet hood down from her head to reveal her radiant
crown, Salome stepped out of the carriage, followed by her maids. They
slipped off their delicate sandals, wincing at the heat and roughness
of the ground beneath their feet. The driver held the horses, looking
to the Princess for direction, as did the three musicians whose
instruments hung stiffly in their hands.
“Come, Salome, Princess of Judea. You are expected.”
The voice was like liquid amber, pouring through the gate and casting a red-gold light over the stones.
“Come Salome, Princess of Judea, and bring to me the head of Jokannaan.”
The voice was like silver with scales, and the light that washed over
the rock was deep violet as the old command of Herodias, and then of
Salome, echoed through the gate.
“Give me the head of Jokanaann,” she said to Aaliyah. “I must carry it in myself.”
“Yes, Princess,” said Aaliyah, looking treacherously relieved as she handed the casket to Salome.
Salome raised her eyebrow at Aaliyah as she took the beloved head. She opened the casket and set
the Prophet’s head so it was visible from above. Then the Princess of
Judea carried it high before her and walked between the two chimera,
entering the Gate of No Return. Her maids came behind, carrying the
mirror and the torch, and several sheaves of roses and caskets of wine
pulled in a little cart behind them. The musicians followed, playing a
strange, snaking melody of Protection From Enchantment. The duty of the
driver was to stay behind and guard the jittery horses.
Salome slowly swayed down a narrow cleft in the warm, pale rock that
curved like a snake for several yards before letting her out into a
clearing surrounded by the high, crumbling walls of the garden.
“So, you have come.”
Birds flew up. The voice was high above, in the
rustling treetops, in the air, no — behind her — no, no — in the
wash of moonlight through the leaves, on a hill opposite a sparkling
stream. So startled that she almost dropped the Prophet’s head in a
faint, Salome was suddenly transfixed by the sight of the Speaker. Her
maidservants were bowed to the ground in terror at the sight, and the
music abruptly stopped as the musicians froze like the Obelisks before
the Temple of Isis.
Naked but for a mass of streaming, flame colored hair, her neck,
wrists, and ankles adorned with heavy gold and pearls and precious gems
as bright as fire, she rode on the back of a dragon whose seven,
horned, heads hissed and wove, and whose scales were purple, red and
golden. She smiled at Salome, then laughed, her eyes like green
quicksilver. Then she raised her golden cup in salutation — the cup
that was said to be brimming with abominations. As if to show off, the
Demoness rode the dragon to and fro, made it rear up and hover above
the ground. Its many tails swished and lashed out across the stream,
towards Salome. All the seven heads, with their fourteen dangerous
eyes, gazed at the Princess as if they could read her very soul. For a brief instant,
Salome thought the dragon’s seven heads wore pale oval of face of dark browed Herodias.
“So you dare to bring the head of the Prophet, Jokannaan, into the Holy
precincts of the Great Goddess?’ the liquid voice said, spilling honey
into the air.
Salome stepped forward, holding the casket high. “Yes!” she shouted.
Lightning flashed from the eyes of the Demoness. “How do you dare?”
“My heart is made bold by the fire of love,” cried Salome. Tears started in her eyes for
memory of the Prophet’s poignant beauty, and for mercy of the terrible
Presence before her.
To be continued…