Daughter of the White Vulture
Published by: eXtasy Books
Author : Raymond Long
Word Count :20805
Publication Date :2012-02-01
Series : #
Heat Level :
- Product Code: 978-1-77111-065-5
Back in England after the Great War, Archie Douglas meets a young lady whose beauty takes his breath away. But Cicily Broadbent, student of Egyptology, has sworn never to marry. She believes that Nekhbet the White Vulture, virgin mother goddess of ancient Egypt, can grant women children without man’s touch. Determined to win her hand, Archie awaits the day when she grows out of this experiment with paganism. But when Cicily succeeds in re-awakening the goddess, Archie has more to worry about than just losing Cicily.
Morning lectures were finished. Before lunch was the ideal time for some exercise. On other days I tended to run, but on Tuesdays I had a regular weekly bout at fisticuffs. My sparring partner was Hector Carstairs, a young academic in Egyptology at University College who’d helped me with my studies in the Egyptian language.
I left the School of Oriental Studies and ambled over to University College, breathing in the warm spring air. Hector was there waiting for me outside the college’s gymnasium. We changed into shorts and running shoes. Most people were at lunch, so the gymnasium was empty but for us.
We walked out onto the mats in the middle of the gymnasium floor. There wasn’t a proper boxing ring with ropes, but we didn’t mean to fight a real bout. It was just a knockabout to keep the body fit and the old martial spirit keen.
We touched gloves and separated, our guard up. Hector waited for me to advance, so I did. We probed and hit each other’s gloves. He backed away. I pressed ahead, but his retreat was a trick. He slipped sideways, to the left of my guard, and stepped in with a low jab. I got my leading arm down just in time to deflect it.
Hector was away in a trice, light on his feet. He bounced around me as if stepping on air. I turned as fast as I could and pain jolted up my leg. I suppressed a cry, but Hector saw my weakness. He pressed in with a flurry of fast punches. I tried my best to block, but I hadn’t turned as far as I needed to. He landed two good ones to my ribs.
He backed off and looked me up and down. I turned to face him. I was slow, almost shambling compared with his nimble step. Sweat ran down my face and I tried to blink it away.
Hector came in for another circling pass, making me turn the same way again. This time I rushed forward to meet him. Our gloves clashed between us. I waded ahead, trying to bowl him over by sheer force. He slipped a jab past my guard and his glove glanced off my head, but I landed a solid one into his gut. He retreated and I carried on forward.
Again he danced away, and again my wound betrayed me. My leg almost gave out, and for a moment I forgot everything but keeping my balance. Hector took advantage, pranced back in and slammed in the old one-two, leading arm to my ribs and the money-maker to my gut.
My leg gave out and I went down. My arms flailed and I crashed onto the mat. I panted for a moment, then put my hands to the mat to push myself back up.
Hector stepped away and clapped his gloves together twice. “No, Archie. That’s enough. I can see you’re—I mean, your leg…”
I got to my feet. “I don’t mind another bout.”
He shook his head. “Best not push yourself too far, Archie.”
He was right. We went to the changing rooms.
“Look, Archie, I’m sorry about exploiting your war wound—”
I held up a hand. “Say nothing of it, old boy. We do whatever will win us the day. When I played Rugby, I never hesitated to exploit any weakness I saw in an opponent. Whether caused by injury or not.” I pulled off my remaining glove. “Anyway, boxing’s not like real fighting. As you’d know if you’d served.”
I shut my mouth and cursed myself inside. That was an unworthy thing to say. I suppose a chap shouldn’t be pilloried just because he was a pacifist. Hector bore it with equanimity. He’d probably put up with worse taunts during the Great War and since.
“Join me for lunch? Betty Field will be there. She’ll be disappointed if you don’t come.”
“You overestimate Miss Field’s attachment to me. It doesn’t go beyond friendship.”
“Come on, Archie! She hangs on your every word. She always lunches with us on Tuesdays because she knows there’s a chance I might bring you along.”
That was rot, but there was no sense in arguing. We dressed and went for lunch at Cyprian’s, a café near University College which Hector and his chums frequented. A few other Egyptologists were there, younger academics like Hector or students like Betty Field. Betty gave me a welcoming smile and greeted me. Hector shot me a silent look that meant I was right.
We were about to order when Hector stood. His face lit up with a smile as warm as Betty’s had been for me. “Cicily!”
I turned my head in the direction of Hector’s gaze and bolt of lightning struck me in the heart. A lovely girl was approaching our table, a creature of stunning contrast. Her skin was exceedingly pale, almost the colour of cream. But her hair was the sheerest midnight black. That magnificent hair was rich and glossy, almost straight but for a slight waviness. Most of it hung down her back, but a thick tress came forward over each shoulder.
I rose. I tried to speak, but the muscles in my face turned to stone and I couldn’t open my mouth. My throat locked itself shut, too. In such situations, one is liable to be struck mute. Perhaps that’s for the best. It can stop a chap from making an ass of himself.
Hector said, “You two don’t know each other, do you? Cicily, this is Archie Douglas. Archie, this is Miss Cicily Broadbent.”
She nodded to me without a word, then drew a paper from her bag. She said to Hector, “I’ve been trying to decipher this text, but a lot of it is beyond me. Do you know anyone who could…”
“Let me try.” Hector spread the paper out on the table in front of him and his brow furrowed. He made some umm and aah sounds, but said nothing coherent.
This was my chance. I walked around the table to look over Hector’s shoulder. “May I?”
Miss Broadbent looked at me. “May you what?”
“May I help? I’m reading Semitic languages, but I’ve broadened my studies to include Egyptian. In all its phases, from Old Kingdom to Coptic.”
I quelled my tongue. A gentleman should not boast.