In a humid jungle in Southeast Asia there was a village and in the village center there was a stone cube. The villagers called it the godbox, as it had appeared suddenly in a burst of bright light and a booming voice told them they were now a god's chosen people and if one of them solved a puzzle on the face of the box the tribe would be cared for.
Their shaman was able to do this thing and, lo, it was as the voice of god had told them. As long as they solved one puzzle once a day the box drove enemies away from the village and drove game to them when the shaman asked. But if the box gave it also took and demanded strange rites to be performed. This however is the way of gods, the people reasoned.
Still there was much muttering at first for when a young man -- thinking to prove his worth to the tribe and impress the young maidens -- attempted a different puzzle than any the priest had yet dared: he got it wrong and was instantly dead.
At first the people feared that the god was angry with them all and they all immediately performed the rites they had been given. These rites were different from any they had heard of: mental exercises meant to stretch and ready the mind for strange energies and eventually provide a means of controlling them; but they did them hoping that god would not strike them down.
The priest spent many a day focusing his mind in meditation upon a question to the god, "What was the god's will as to the godbox? Should none other than he touch the puzzles or was it only that the young man failed that made the god angry?" Eventually an answer came to him.
The god told him a startling thing: that anyone male or female was welcome to try the puzzles -- but if they failed they died. If they solved them, however, he was to train them in the higher rites and make them priests or priestesses as well. The priest relayed this to the people adding on his own that he would be then be known as high priest and be in charge of all lesser holy ones.
The people accepted this but there was still some muttering, a few strange rites were one thing, but death? Still god was god and now they knew what angered it. A few generations passed and a few more priests were chosen. After a few more generations, an idea seemed to rise in their minds that all young people should attempt a puzzle sometime in their lives even if they did not want to be priests or priestesses. And the tribe now lived longer and expanded as it prospered with their god's help.
The people were on the verge of building a great civilization. They had absorbed other tribes, and all who were captured were required try a puzzle on the godbox. The god decided who lived and who died. Those who lived were accepted as full members and taught the sacred rites.
One day the last of the puzzles on the godbox was solved and the people waited for what they were sure would be an amazing display. They were not wrong. There was a burst of light from the godbox and a booming voice told them it was happy with them and that they had been chosen to move to a promised land where they and others chosen by other gods would live and work with the very gods to help them and in time help the gods in their fight with the evil demons with whom they were at war. The people bowed to the godbox, which suddenly got very bright and then they were somewhere else.
After the light faded they saw a small pyramid with a goddess on top. They had never seen a pyramid before but the goddess held their attention. They could tell she that was a goddess because she was lovely but clearly not human. She had glowing eyes and dark red skin. Then she spoke and her voice was the one they had heard from the godbox and she further proved her divinity by the fact that her voice sounded in their heads but her lips never moved! They all heard the same words as they found out later but in that moment they had accepted her as the goddess they had been worshipping and asking for assistance.
She told them the godbox had been a test. A test of worthiness to meet her and her fellow gods; to live close to them, learn from them and eventually help them defeat the evil demons who called themselves Galen and their evil helpers. They were told that they were the first to pass the test and so had a special place in the hearts of the gods.
"Pearls beyond price," was what she called them. She called the land they were on Atlantis and said she would teach them first how to live and prosper here and then all manner and types of knowledge and give them new rituals and exercises that would grant them great abilities if they were zealous about following her commands.
This made them happy and most were content but the chief, whose duty it was to plan battles as well as administer such justice as was needed asked a question: "How can we, mere mortals that we are, be of any help to such as you? For anything that might cause you the least harm would certainly kill us with but the least of efforts."
In their minds they heard, "Once we have taught you all I have promised it may be that several could overcome one of the demons but in truth it is not likely. However this is not be your role. The demons have created many helpers and while they cannot do us much damage they make it very difficult to come to grips with the demons. We can deal with them but this would provide the demons with time needed to hide from us again and we would need to find them again. This will be your task if you are worthy. If you are not then some other people will be given the knowledge and will be placed over you and with dominion. Will you not have faith in your gods and trust in my teaching?"
The people, henceforth calling themselves Pearls, cried out loud in unison, "Yes!"
The Elders however wanted ethnic and genetic diversity. Both in preparation for later ease of infiltration into many cultures and because they believe in hybrid vigor. They sought genetics from every continent and thus we now look in on a what is a somewhat high risk operation for them.
A "Harvest Station" or "godbox" in Scandinavia. The tribe there was beset by those who would one day become Velorians although the Galen had not found them. The tribe was found by strangers claiming their god was false; and for proof they demonstrated physical abilities that they said come from their gods. They were all impossibly fit and prettier than average. Even the lovely women had a few times the strength of the strongest man in the tribe.
Their godbox protected them from raids in the village itself but did not act outside of it and they were slowly being encroached upon by the growing Norse religion. In the past few years it had grown worse. Traders now sometimes refused to deal with them and some of their own converted to the new religion. Finally they heard of a great host being prepared. The others had decided the tribe was consorting with demons and all gathered to attack them. The tribespeople hearing this held great ceremonies to ask great aid of their god. They wanted the god to smite their enemies or give them powers to do so. They prayed for strength to match the new ones' strength.
After three days of meditation and prayer an answer came but it was not one they liked. If, and only if, they solved the remaining puzzles on the stone in the middle of their village would their god save them. They were promised wondrous abilities if they proved themselves but only if they passed the test the god has set them.
The six priests, three male and three female started at once to try to decipher new puzzles but some of the people renounced the god at this news and left the village. This made the chief unhappy for they knew the defense plans of the village. The chief hoped the priests could get help before the village was attacked. He had seen the energy shield the god has raised in times past but was not sure it could hold against so many.
Still he thought of the things the god had done for them in the past. It had directed them to come here where it resided near a hot spring that kept the area warm enough even in winter that no one's hut was so covered by snow that they could not exit. Letting them move about in the winter darkness and the hot spring drew animals to it that they could hunt and some herbs grew around it all year long helping the people stay healthy. They had learned other things that kept them healthy and strong even when fevers broke out in nearby villages.
Yes the god had been good to them but could even it help them against so many? And there were rumors the chief did not share. Rumors that a god of the Others would join their fight. So perhaps even with their god all the way behind them they would lose. The chief sighed and watched the priests mutter and confer. It was summer and the hot spring kept the valley very warm so they wore only a loincloth and the beads of their position. Some were tattooed as well but that was a normal practice of the tribe. He sighed again hoping they secure help against those that called themselves Vanir.
A few days later several more puzzles were solved but six still remained and the attack began. The people lined up behind the glowing shield of the godbox with copper bladed spears ready and behind them priests struggled to solve the last few puzzles. A woman stepped forth.
She was one of the new ones, the strong, pretty ones that were called Vanir and she carried no arms nor wore she any armor. She was clad in nothing but sunlight. Sunlight and glory the chief added for she was clearly near divine herself, she was lovely and seemed flawless, graceful in motion and radiated strength even standing still.
She stood there a moment proudly watching her enemy gape at her beauty then called out, "You may cower behind your master's demon shield but it will avail you not. The gods have taken me about their flying longboat and in that miraculous vessel I was changed. I received from the gods a nectar and swallowing it I have become more even than I was before. I will smash your shield with my bare fists and even if it should defeat my blows for the moment it will fall eventually for neither I nor the host behind me will stop and until you diabolic ones are wiped from the face of this fair land."
The chief shuddered a bit but gripped his spear more tightly. Around him his men did the same; there was no more room for hesitation or time to pick any other side or solution. Their fate rested on that of the six priests at the godbox.
The woman strode forward and struck the shield. She hit it a second and third time and each time it absorbed her blows as if they were nothing. She waved to the horde behind and they charged the shield. They screamed her name as they charged, "Freya!!" They attacked the shield with all they had.
Meanwhile, at the godbox, the High Priestess, Anya, had solved one of the six remaining puzzles. She felt the pleasure a correct solution always produced and briefly wondered what it would feel like to solve all 6 one after the other. Then she pushed that thought from her mind and looked to see how the others were doing.
They had each taken a puzzle and Karl was nearest to her. He was still working. She looked towards the shield the god had provided and her lip curled at the sight of Freya. It was obvious that no woman was born that way so it was easy for Anya to believe Freya had many a pact with a demon.
When she saw the whole enemy army come forward to surround the shield and attack it she decided she needed to hurry her people along. She walked over to study Karl. He was halfway through and looking nervous. He kept starting to do something then paling and snatching his hand back. "Karl if they make it through the shield you'll be dead regardless. Why not take a chance and possibly save us all? I have faith in you Karl, I know you'll find the correct solution."
He looked at her with wide eyes. "What if I'm wrong?" He was afraid to die yes but even more afraid to fail his people when they needed him most. He thought he knew the answer but what if he was wrong?
She put her hand on his shoulder, "If you are wrong we both go and one of the others will try this, but I believe you will not fail. Come on; I know you have a solution in mind and I know you are very bright. You lack only confidence." She tightened her grip on his shoulders, "I will be your confidence. Try your solution, Underpriest. That is an order."
He sighed once and finished his solution. It was a good one. The pleasure washed over them. It was not halved. It might even have been greater. Anya's nipples were hard now and stuck out through her bead necklace like two rubies and Karl gasped as his member stirred. He gave her one of those looks and another time she would be nodding but, "Let us go and see if we can help anyone else."
Karl nodded and agreed with only a little disappointment and followed her to Hans. Hans seemed to be stuck. He was staring at a partly done puzzle, making no attempt to do anything further. Indeed his hands were behind his back as he thought. Anya and Karl put a hand on each of his shoulders and after a few minutes Anya saw a solution, "Hans do you trust me? I think I have this figured out." She tentatively reached her free hand toward his puzzle.
"Of course I trust you Anya." He put one hand over hers on his shoulder, "Go ahead. We stand or fall together." "Together," Karl echoed as she reached out to the puzzle and applied her solution. It was good! Three down and three to go! She looked at the men and they were both giving her 'I want you' looks. Karl had shucked his deerskin and she could see why. It would hardly fit now. Maybe it was a good thing that the next puzzle was Inga's. She smiled at them feeling things low on her body tighten. "Come with me guys. Lets go see if we can help Inga. We will stand or fall together."
"One for all and all for an orgy huh? I'm in!" He chuckled and headed towards Inga.
"Each of you men to one side of her," she ordered not trusting them behind Inga. She could see over Inga's head. She put her hands on Inga's bare waist and studied the puzzle. She was thinking hard when suddenly as she leaned forward to see past a hand she brushed nipples against Inga's back and gasped at how nice it felt. Such soft smooth skin and her hair smelled so nice.
She almost missed Karl's solution. The wave of pleasure was shared four ways this time and definitely stronger than when alone. She heard Inga gasp and press back hard against her. If this continued there really would be an orgy after the sixth puzzle was solved but it had taken three of them to solve this puzzle quickly and time was so definitely of the essence. She decided that she'd rather be embarrassed next morning than dead this afternoon. She moved away from Inga and ignoring her small sound of protest said in a voice made husky with desire,
"No time for pleasure now. We need to solve the remaining two puzzles first. Afterwards we can celebrate and I'll join in wholeheartedly but for now lets go see Loki." They did that and even through a haze of suppressed lust their combined brainpower made short work of the puzzle. Anya gasped as the wave of pleasure rolled over her and she almost came. She was not sure how coherent she'd be at the last puzzle but she would be there with her people. They all headed towards Ingrid.
Ingrid eyed them a bit nervously as they moved towards her. Anya looked like she was fresh from a long run, she was panting and sweating but her erect nipples and cum-soaked reindeer skin bottom told the true story. Karl was naked and his member was up against his belly and looked hard as steel. Hans and Loki were naked as well and more than half erect.
Even Inga was clearly aroused. She needed only time to finish not help and certainly not sex crazed co-priests. She wanted to finish before they got to her but she dared not make a mistake. "Wait! Don't touch me yet! I need no help, wait till I say and I'll let you grab what you like but wait till I'm done damn it!"
She wasn't sure if they heard but they seemed to they were moving slower and watching her hand more than her body. She carefully made her way through the puzzle's intricacy and just as she was finishing a hand touched her shoulder. She had a second to think. Oh Great! If we all die who will solve the last puzzle?' when the pleasure washed over her. Six times stronger than the usual tingle. It was enough to make them all so aroused they barely noticed the brilliant light that came from the godbox.
A voice boomed in their ears, "You are safe now. I take you to my world to meet me and learn many and wondrous things. You have won over the Vanir because they could not destroy you as they sought to and when you next meet them you will have the knowledge to defeat them. For now enjoy your safety and your orgy. Know that any path of pleasure is acceptable to us your gods as long as all participating agree beforehand. We shall send someone to guide you when you are done."
It was night when they landed. They partied heartily. There was drinking and feasting and sex. Their god had provided for them. They were tables of food and kegs of mead. The next morning Inga awoke, her head pillowed on Anya's breast.
She was hungry not having had a chance to eat or drink the night before. She had been sating other hungers. She smiled slowly and it had been great fun but now she was hungry for food. She opened her eyes and start to look around to see if there was any food left when she saw it.
Two things really; one looked like a pointy stone house and sitting up against it a woman. The stranger saw her too. She sat up straight and nudged Anya subtly. The stranger stood and she was quite nude, which was only natural if the heat she felt was normal for wherever this was.
The god had promised sanctuary and that someone would meet them. She had hoped to see the god but she supposed that was a bit much to ask for. The woman moved forward. studying her, and Inga studied the woman in return. The stranger was short and dark with odd eyes but she was clearly a human not a goddess. Inga stood, poking Anya with a foot as she did so.
The high priestess should be the one to handle this contact but all the prod did was cause Anya to mutter, "I love you too." Inga was suddenly struggling not to giggle. Then she sighed; oh well it looked like she was elected. She waved when the woman stopped walking, just short of the first naked priest. The giggle started to rise again as she considered what this must look like. She should be embarrassed but she was still too happy at being alive and safe. "Hello, are you the one sent to meet us?" She called out trusting that anyone sent to meet them would talk their language at least a little.
The woman smiled. She had beautiful white teeth. "Yes I was sent by the gods to meet you and welcome you to Atlantis. Here you meet the gods and learn from them and its even possible you might sleep with one. Let us wake all your companions and we will get started to the city we have built since we were transported here by our god."
"There are many gods then?" They had seemed to be speaking to one only but what did they know?
"Yes. We thought there was only one too, yet when we got here she told us she was ours specifically but that there were many others. I have met several. I'm sure yours will meet yours soon. You cannot miss them. They have dark red skin and glowing eyes."
Inga went wide eyed at that comment. This woman had seen the gods! She was so happy to be here! Then her stomach growled and the giggle she had been fighting down erupted finally, "I guess a trip to the city is indeed in order. Does the god...the gods usually provide food like they did last night?"
The woman smiled: "No usually we grow it the old fashioned way. I admit I was a bit jealous when I heard you were provided a party. I hope you'll tell me about as we walk but I think we shou;d get everyone awake and moving first. I'm sure you all want showers and you at least could use some breakfast. Don't worry about money yet. You'll be my guests until I can acquaint you with our society."
They got everybody up and moving. The road was beautiful. It was made of all white stones, fitted together so well as to leave no gaps. Inga asked and was told the stone was quarried in the mountains ahead and that it purposely higher in the middle so rain would run off and gather in the channels on either side.
The gods had given them the knowledge to build the road and many other things. It was how Mara knew their language. Inga told her about the Vanir and how close they had come to being slaughtered by those ones.
Mara told them about the mission the gods have in mind for them. The Scandinavians were happy that they would be able to fight against those that destroyed the home and tried to kill them. They wanted to know how soon they could begin learning to wield the wondrous powers the gods had mentioned. She told them that the gods had said they would not start granting magic knowledge until all their followers were here on Atlantis, and that would not be until they all solved the test of the puzzles.
"How many more are there? And when do we get to the village?" The terrain was very hilly with mountains in the distance so it was hard to see very far ahead. She also wanted to ask when they'd see the gods but felt it was not a proper question. The gods would surely appear or not as they chose.
"There are three others aside from us. I do not know anything about them but I am sure that if the gods pick them they will be assets as much as your people and mine. The town is not far now. It is nestled between three hills and it is lovely. We have much you may find surprising. We live better than we ever did back home. We will go to the bathing hut first then the food hall."
She was interrupted by the hungover asking if they could skip the foodhall. "Of course. Afterwards all of you have your immediate needs met then our leader wishes to speak to your leader and our high priestess to yours."
The city was made of wood and stone. There was a central square with a fountain. In the center of the fountain was a carved stone tree with water rising in the center and trickling down the branches into the circular basin at the bottom. They were led to the left of the fountain and into a building. Mara pointed to the boxes along either wall, each decorated with a design on top.
"Here is where you would store your clothes if you had been brought here with any. The boxes each have a unique design so that you can find them again on your way out." Mara put her jewelry in a box and closed the lid, "It will also store anything you do not want to get wet. Nudity is fully acceptable here but if you should purchase yourselves clothing then the building to our right from here is the laundry where you may wash them or pay another to do so. I rarely dress because the laundry is so hot and humid and it takes so long for cloth to dry here."
She led them into another room through an arch that would one day be labeled Roman. It was a very odd room. The wooden floor had holes in it at regular intervals and so did the ceiling right over the floor holes. Mara explained, "This room we call the shower room because we make artificial rain showers here to clean off before soaking in the tub in the next room. I'll show you how to work it."
She stepped up to one of the wheel things in the walls and twisted it. Water from above and drained through the holes in the floor. They already knew how to use sand to scrub old sweat and grime off and there was similar stuff in little holders under each "shower." Mara called it pumice sand and if it was rougher than the sand in the hot spring it also seemed to work better.
As they scrubbed they asked Mara how they managed to give people their own rain to wash in. She explained that they brought water in from rivers up in the mountains. Then as she started explaining, in answer to their questions, how her people could do that she revealed she revealed that such doings were her regular occupation. She was what she called an "engineer."
After they were all scrubbed pink and even the hungover were fully awake, she led them through another arch in to a room with a huge marble bath big enough for 45-50 people and heated from below. As they slipped into the gently steaming water the Elders slid knowledge into their awakened but relaxed minds.
Suddenly it was if they had always known about hydraulics, and sanitation, medicine and a few other sciences. Mara, seeing their expressions change knew they were communing with the gods. She relaxed further into the steaming water of the giant bath thinking that her orientation had just gotten much easier if not superfluous. They came out of their trances floating naked in the gently steaming water.
"Wow you've done well considering your lack of infrastructure," Anya observed to Mara. She was looking around her with new eyes as were the others.
"I designed this building so I thank you for the compliment. I used a mixture of future Roman and Japanese design. We've found in general that early Imperial Rome is a good starting point for our construction and design efforts. Now lets go eat. Usually people are hungry after communing directly with the gods so I imagine poor Inga is famished now."
She smiled and winked at Inga to take any sting out of her words and led them back out through the front collecting her jewelry along the way. She led towards the cafeteria rather briskly. "I'm hoping we air dry before we get there," she said glancing at the water beaded all across her tanned naked body, "Clothes aren't the only thing that takes a long time to dry here. It was almost as humid back home but not quite. What about where you lived?"
The former Scandinavians told her about life in their village and what they knew of other places nearby. They had a rapt audience by the time they reached the cafeteria where all ate meals along with almost every person not engaged in work or already eating. In between bites and sips they continued the tale. Occasionally backing up to go over some point or clarify things their hosts had never known, such as snow.
"I think I would like to see this 'snow,'" one mentioned and they assured him it could be a great menace even if it was occasionally fun. After the meal, which was odd but good, was consumed and the questions died down.
The chief of their hosts and their high priestess came forward and lead Chief Tyr and Anya away to confidential meetings where they were integrated into the political structure of their new home and every other group was paired with someone already here to stay with until they could get housing for themselves. Inga ended up staying with Mara and they became partners in life and work and quite famous for their skill at both elegant construction and the best parties.
Continued in Harvest Two