Before and below us is a patch of red light, hanging in the darkness. I try to nod, but he still has a hold of my hair. He pulls me to my feet by it and leads me the rest of the way bent double in his wake, gasping, his fingers knotted in my locks. There is no chance of me falling now. He leads me onto an island of stone that floats in the void. It is pillared with painted columns and furnished with mounded cushions. The gate in the far wall is of red bronze with two leaves; barred on this side. I realise for the first time that the gates are not there to keep intruders out of the Underworld; they are there to bar the way from below. There is a figure between us and that door and my sickened heart clenches.
‘This is the Great Lady Inanna, Queen of Heaven,’ says Neti, pushing me forward onto my knees upon a rich rug. I am grateful just to be still for a moment.
‘She smells like a gutter slut,’ observes the Keeper of the Second Gate, who gives light to this place. He is tall and built like a warrior. His skin is scarlet and flames burn about his head where hair should be.
Neti laughs. ‘She seeks to pass the Second Gate while still living.’
‘Then she must surrender her earrings.’ He closes until he is standing right before me, his feet nearly touching my splayed knees. I look up mutely, in dismay. His eyes are crimson.
‘Must I?’ When we write, the word for ear is the same as that for mind.
‘The laws of the Underworld are perfect, Inanna. Do not question them.’
‘As you command,’ I say. He unhooks the heavy gold clusters from my ears and they turn to water in his palms and run away over his wrists. I bow my head.
I will do this, I tell myself, for the sake of Uruk, for the sake of my love; I will do whatever it takes. And Inanna is with me. I feel her move more strongly than ever in the heat in my blood, in the pulse that beats at my sex.
Thoughtfully, the Keeper of the Second Gate hooks his bare foot under my skirt. His foot nudges up against my mound and I gasp at the heat of his skin as he plays roughly with the folds below. He does not find me dry. ‘So the Lady Inanna is humbled before the Great Below,’ he rumbles.
‘Yes,’ I whisper.
‘Yes,’ gloats Neti. ‘Do with her as you wish. As I did.’
‘Do you suck cock, Queen of Heaven?’
‘Yes.’ I can’t keep my voice calm.
‘I would have you suck this, little queen.’ He opens his kilt. My eyes widen involuntarily: given his body size I should expect a daunting length and girth – but this is a monster. It lolls and drools like a drunk between his thighs. The gatekeeper takes hold of me and rubs my face in his groin, forcing me mouth-to-cock, marking me with the scent of his crotch. The scarlet bludgeon kicks eagerly against my jaw. His skin is hot – not so hot as to burn but uncomfortable on my tongue. It is all I can do to stretch my mouth around his turgid glans. I tongue the slit, tasting his readiness and finding it both smoky and sharp.
‘Good,’ he says, surprised. ‘You are well trained, for a queen.’
Rebellion kicks under my ribs and my eyes flash.
‘Thank him,’ instructs Neti dryly. ‘He has complimented you.’
I pull my lips from his cock, leaving sticky saliva trails. ‘Thank you,’ I whisper.
Laughing, the gatekeeper turns his back on me. ‘Stay,’ he orders, and I do not move as he goes to sit upon a mound of cushions. He spreads his knees, opening his kilt so that I can see his huge, ruddy erection. Lovingly he strokes it up and down, hefts his balls and preens himself. ‘Now come here.’
I gather myself.
‘On your knees.’
I flush. Nobody has ever treated me with such contempt. Not even Nergal has dared do that to me. He knows I am a goddess. And Inanna…
Inanna loves this. My vulva is soft and wet and swollen.
Hitching up my skirt I crawl slowly over to the Keeper of the Second Gate on my hands and knees and look up from between his splayed thighs. He pats my head and strokes my face.
‘Lick my cock.’
I lick the hot, throbbing column, kissing the pronounced underside ridge all the way to his juicy plum.
‘Lick my balls.’
I roll his stones with my tongue, sucking them into my mouth.
He sighs and leans back in the cushions. ‘Now lick my hole, Queen of Heaven.’
And I do it, pushing my face down between his spread cheeks to probe that deep hole until the root of my tongue burns and my mouth is filled with the tang of him. He likes that. He sighs and spreads himself for me, jacking his cock with one hand, pushing me deeper with the other. His scrotum has tightened to a mass of wrinkles. Then it becomes too much and he pulls me out and forces my mouth down over his cock-head so that he can stroke off with a last few jerks, filling my throat with a fiery liquor that burns me and explodes behind my eyes like a sunrise. I choke as I gulp it down. Released, I fall gasping against his thigh and he caresses me roughly.
‘You liked that, didn’t you? Who would have thought it? The Queen of Heaven likes to get dirty for me.’ He pushes his bare foot back between my thighs and rubs it back and forth in my wetness, even hooking his toe in my cunt. I wriggle and whimper upon him. ‘Like that too? You going to beg me for more?’
Without warning he pushes me flat over on my back. The thick carpet cushions my bones if not my dignity: I stare as he stands over me and plants that same foot on my face. I can smell myself on his toes. I lick the salty skin.
‘Second Gate,’ he says as he pushes his big toe into my mouth and lets me suck it. From somewhere he has brought a red leather collar and leash such as one would use for a hunting dog: he stoops to knot it around my throat and then he drags me to my feet. I’m sick with frustration and physically reeling - his inhuman ejaculate has made me dizzier than the strongest beer. Then he pulls me over to the bronze Gate and knocks aside the bar.