Queen's Sacrifice
by Jennifer-Oksana

The blonde Cylon woman moved like a machine, but not a literal machine. She moved, thought Laura, the way every fantasy of a blonde sex goddess should move, a metaphor of desire and repetition. And because she was too much should and not enough self, there was something distinctly false about her.

But she was dressed the part, in a long and jagged gown of deep grey, nearly black but not exactly, the girdle a mass of complicated silken cords and sable fur providing the neckline of the thing. Her gloves, which went up past her elbows but left the rest of her arm bare, were deep crimson, the color of blood, and on several of her fingers glittered jeweled rings, except all the jewels looked to be obsidian or fire opals. In one hand, she carried a long dagger, made of a slightly luminescent material, not glassy or quartzy, but like marble, except sharper and crueler looking. As if stone and steel had become some kind of hybrid.

And the blonde, like Laura herself, was barefoot.

But there was no grass underneath this woman's feet, nor dirt, nor anything that even looked alive. From what Laura could see, the blonde was standing on a dusty stone step. A lost and forgotten temple, maybe. Her feet were very, very clean, even though the stone was spattered with the memories of bloodstains.

"It will be simpler, you know," said the magnificent blonde, leveling the dagger toward the woods and Laura's vantage point. "Cleaner. No dirt on our feet, no blood on our hands, no great and tedious hubbub of voices, always voices, always claiming they are unique and special as they discover every common emotion and every human experience as though it were the first time."

Laura knew it was a dream at that moment. Because despite having a hundred things she could have answered to that, she didn't say anything. Instead, she tried to focus on what was beyond the Cylon, the temple structure Laura could swear hadn't been there before the arrival of the blonde who was now illuminated by dancing, ominous firelight.

"Do you remember this?" the blonde asked.

She could almost remember. Hands covered in blood, blood to her elbows, and the vicious dagger that slit the throats and exposed the hearts that were being returned to the gods that made them.

For every treachery, she had a right to kill.

And there was always blood for her.

"One more sacrifice, and it will all be equal," the blonde said. "You know it, don't you? One great sacrifice. And then everything shall be made perfect."

Traitors' blood was hers. And the drums' beat, the sacred incense, the roar of the crowd. As long as they were just in the sacred ways, they were entitled to the power of the gods, the deep magic that all things were based on. The river that was all existence that no man nor woman could understand until the gods took them to themselves.

"I'm not the executioner this time," Laura managed to say, even as her hand remembered the perfect fit of the dagger and the rhythm of sacrifice. "I didn't want to do it anymore. It was so meaningless."

The blonde sneered at her, walking into the grass and dirt where Laura was still standing, still unable to make her eyes focus enough to understand what was up those steps, waiting, in the firelight.

"You rebelled against the order of things," the woman said. "You. Why did you do such a thing?"

"Too much blood," Laura said sadly, looking at her dirty feet, at the hem of her white nightgown. It was wet and muddy now, and Laura was aware that next to the glittering woman who was advancing on her, she looked sad and old and faded. "No reason for so much. Every traitor's blood? Wasn't there any room for forgiveness? For mercy? For those who sought another way?"

"You cannot escape who you are," the woman says, reaching her hand out. "My lady. My queen. There is only one way for you."

Who else could be queen with so much blood belonging to her? Every life would eventually be forfeit to her. Everyone falls. Everyone betrays, eventually.

Every life was hers, ultimately.

Laura knew all that, and still she raised that dagger so many times her arms burned with the tension, the muscles so tight that it took a pair of slaves an hour to work out the pain and soften the flesh so she could sleep and work the next day.

In her tent. In a different life, with a name long lost. By the firelight of the temples in midsummer, when the cicadas buzzed and they had needed two acolytes to keep watch and shoo the carrion-eaters away with torches. She had washed and washed in the sacred basin, with pumice and lye, until the water was scarlet, and her hands were still scabrous with the stains.

"I'm not the executioner," Laura repeated as the blonde took her by the arm and drew her forward toward the ruins of the temple.

"You're not an innocent, either," the woman said sharply. "Do you think none of this has to do with you? That there aren't consequences?"

"I know there are consequences," Laura said, closing her eyes as her foot touched the warm, familiar, and dry stone. The scent of blood had finally gone from here; instead there is only the sound of night and nature reclaiming this horror from god and human alike. "We lost Kobol because of our sins."

"Which we?" the woman hissed into Laura's ear. "Who do you think you are? Do you think anyone will claim you when the truth comes out? When the balance must be restored or all perish in fire and ice?"

Laura still could not understand what she was seeing. There would be an altar. There was always an altar in a temple, but there was something on the altar that her eyes wouldn't turn into an object. Or anything at all. As though she blinked every time she tried to see.

"I am the queen and you are my executioner," Laura heard herself say scornfully, as though it was only the part of her that couldn't see that was confused about what was going on here. "Don't pretend to be my teacher when every word you speak you learned from me, girl."

"I wasn't sure you remembered," the blonde said cruelly. "Do you, even now, remember what you have done?"

"Last time I was the executioner," Laura said.

"And this time you're the sacrifice," the blonde answered, pointing with her dagger at the centerpiece of Laura's nightmare vision.

Laura could finally see what was on the altar. She was on the altar, and for some reason, that made perfect sense.

One great sacrifice, and it will all be equal.

Oh. Oh, how clever of her, in a terrible sort of way. Queen's sacrifice. But for whose side? She was the queen and the sacrifice, but who was she sacrificing for?

"That was the deal we made, yes," Laura said, voice sounding hollow in her own ears. "To appease the order of things. To allow for mercy to appease justice by the power of the gods."

"By the queen of the gods," agreed the blonde woman. "The only god left. They all died, you know. Without the blood, they could not stand against you. Against us."

There was something desperately wrong with that, the death of a god. About making a deal that Laura could not now remember but remembered making.

She was looking up at the stars now, the fires stabbing her eyes with their brightness, and now she was bound to the altar and surrounded by roses. Roses with thorns, biting into her cheek and a few other spots, but mostly her cheek so she is blinking tears and seeing a few spare drops of blood on the altar as teardrops dislodged the blood.

The drums were beating in her ears now, and now the blonde Cylon was looking down at her, a hundred feet tall, with a raven on her left shoulder and a snake coiled around her neck.

"When you are dead, what will prevent me from killing them all?" the treacherous blonde asked in a voice as soft as wind over grass and as terrible as an army with banners. "And who can stop us then, my queen?"

Trap. It was a trap, a trap, a trap, but Laura had made a promise, and the order of things would be appeased, no matter how foolishly. The blonde Cylon, the ultimate betrayer, held Laura's dagger above her, and smiled.

"Understand that you have given us humanity, you have lost your life for nothing and not saved them," she said, taking the sacred herbs and oil and anointing Laura's forehead with them contemptuously, dragging her thumb across the skin roughly.

"I will be queen of the gods, the one and only God, for who will know to contradict me? Understand you have given me the Cylons and you have lost your life and not saved theirs," she said next, consecrating Laura's feet in the old way by cutting her own hand open and drizzling her blood on them.

And finally, the blonde raised the dagger, already bloodied, and the drumbeats were very loud again, even if they were only in Laura's memories that weren't properly hers.

"And there will be no gods, for in your death, all gods shall die. Understand that you have given me the gods and you have lost your life and not saved anything," she said. "In that knowledge, despair and die."

The dagger would come down then. The Cylon would light the altar on fire, because the fire of roses purified. All according to the sacred order of things.

The dagger has come down and the blonde is laughing, howling madly, and when she lifts the torch to set the altar ablaze, she makes sure to spatter Laura's body with extra oil so it burns high and hot.

Which it does.

Laura, who is still watching, can smell the roses as their smoke twirls up in lazy spirals.

The old order is dead.

Everything will be made perfect at last.


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