Welcome to my 2017 December project! 26 letters in the Western alphabet, 26 characters. I'm not going in alphabetical order. As always, some stories will be longer than others, some typos will have been missed, and I hope you enjoy them all! Starting things off, we have the story of Delilah. Or, at least a story I wanted to write to change things up with the tale.
The sun did not wake her, she had been awake for hours. Everyone else in the city slept, but she’d received a message in her dreams and had spent the early morning attempting to decipher the meaning. Other than danger, she had found nothing. She had not recognized the man in her dreams, but knew she would recognize him if she saw him waking. His pleasing figure and handsome face taunted her as she finally stood from her bed.
Servants of the house awoke around her and she went to her bathing chamber to await assistance with her bath. All through her morning ablutions, the face in her dreams haunted her. Even her morning meal, usually her favorite, tasted of ash compared to the memory of the man. Pulled from her reminiscence by a knock at her gate, she sent her lead woman out to answer.
The servant returned, bowing in a group of powerful men from the city below her hill. She did not bother rising to greet them, but reclined on her couch as another of her servants combed her hair, a pleasing sensation even with her agitation. The men looked uncomfortable in her house of women, but she preferred it that way. Let them be wary of her.
“Long have we let you sit unmolested here,” the eldest of the men began.
Her mouth turned upward, and she stretched her legs, toes pointed straight, as their attention fell to her thighs. “Long have I been most gracious about your forbearance,” she said in reply. None, she thought, were unaware of the undertone of her words.
“The time has come to collect,” the fattest of them said. “You will learn the secret of our enemy, so we might destroy him before an army arrives to support him.”
The third and fourth man said nothing. Junior members of the city’s council, they likely had already been cowed into silence. So, she directed her answer to them.
“I do not work for free,” she said. “And whatever your pretty words, I exist here, because it pleases me to reside here. If you try to run me off, you will find yourselves without authority.”
“We shall pay you,” the eldest said and before she might scoff at his offer, he named a sum great enough to silence her.
“And in return?” she asked, still sounding bored. Well, she’d long stopped pretending to care about the words of any man. Those who came to her preferred such behavior.
“You will do the task laid out and find the man we seek. From him, you will learn the secret of his strength and deliver it unto us.”
“Give my woman the information. And I expect payment before I begin my work.” Before they might object she smiled and rose from the couch. “It is how I conduct business.”
She left them to dither with one another, her lead woman waiting patiently for the information and acceptance of a delivery of the sum promised. There was work to prepare for and she had grown weary of the conversation.
In the hall, she stopped one of her servants, “Bring me the soothsayer. Immediately.”
The woman bowed away, and Delilah continued to where she conducted the background of her work. The books needed updating and she must consult the secret tomes kept by herself and her predecessor in the business. Trouble was ahead, the danger of her dream made manifest. It would not catch her unprepared for battle.
Business in the evening was quiet, the house settled long ago into routine, and Delilah sat in the center of it all. She saw none of the clients other than her own, preferring to not be bothered with the smell of men. Not unless they paid her. The duty of her lead woman was to handle outside communication and she excelled at such.
“Did the auger deliver good news?” Tabitha asked as she stroked Delilah’s bare ankle from her place on the floor. “I have worried since I saw her arrive.”
Delilah smiled down at the other woman and played with her hair, freed from the scarf she wore over it when out in the public rooms. “There is no reason to fear. I simply had a dream I wished interpreted.” The news had not been good, but she’d expected that after the visit from the town. “There is nothing to fear, my sweetheart.”
Tabitha pressed a kiss to Delilah’s calf. “I am only ever anxious for you.”
“I know. Did you not have a client this evening?” Because she enjoyed Tabitha, but the woman was wearing after too long. The sweetness others enjoyed only made Delilah’s teeth ache. At least outside of the bed.
Tabitha stood and stretched, the sheer robe covering her moving in a way made to entice the eye to the place it desired to go.
Delilah enjoyed it as much as any customer, but it did not make her keep the other woman to herself. And not only because it might impact her bottom line. Tonight, she had arranged for the mysterious man of her dream to be brought here. Soldiers were aware of her establishment and plenty were willing to do a favor in return for a few affectionate moments from their favorite at no charge.
Once Tabitha had gone, Delilah changed into her best customer gown. Gathered at one shoulder, it left most of one breast exposed before falling to the ground freely. Her feet she left bare and she fixed her hair on her own, pulling it back into a loose tail. A sigh filled the room before she poured herself a swift drink. Crossing the room, she closed the door behind her once inside the chamber she received guests for work.
The lighting was kept low, and a tray of foods laid out already. She threw open the window coverings to let in the scent of the garden before reclining on the couch to await the delivery of the man in her dreams. Not the man of her dreams as the soothsayer had teased her. The old woman knew she desired nothing from men, but their coin. A knock on the door drew her attention to the present.
“Enter,” she called.
The lead woman stepped inside, bowed, and moved aside to let the handsome man into her presence.
He stared at Delilah and she softened her expression into a welcoming smile. The door closed behind him before he stepped forward. His eyes explored her body and she watched for signs his own body was impressed by her.
“They did not lie,” he said as he crossed the floor. He sat on the couch and stroked her bare arm. “You are the most beautiful woman in the city.”
Delilah sat up and felt him watch the shift of her body. “And yet, you show me no honor as you are.”
He smiled, strong lips widening to display his teeth. As her hand began to move along his clad leg, he stopped it with his own. Her lower lip came out in a pout, but he did not release his hold.
“My religion does not allow me to show myself to a woman not my wife.”
“Surely it does not require you to remain so covered even here? The heat is stifling.” Never had she seen a man wearing so much. Under his outer robe she saw trousers before his sandals showed clean feet. She thought she saw proof of a long-sleeved tunic under the robe as well. “You might take off your robe.”
“I may not. Never have I been more upset at this restriction.” He sounded upset, but she was not sure. “I am pleased to remain with you,” he offered as he used his free hand to stroke the bare skin of his arm. “We can, surely, find our company amenable within the constraints I must live by.” From within his robe he removed a small pouch of coins and leaned forward to lay it by the light repast waiting for him.
Delilah rose up on her knees and laid her arms around his shoulders. “Must we only speak?” she asked.
“Perhaps not,” he said as he turned his handsome, strong face to hers, “It shall depend on the arrangement we might come to.”
The men from town had grown bothersome. For three nights the man from her dreams had come to her and they had sat on her couch. They fed each other succulent morsels and he allowed her kisses to his lips and face, but no more. His hands had touched her, above and below her robe, but he kept it on her. Skirting the rules, she wanted to accuse him of, but the money paid to her sang of real pleasures.
“Lady,” her lead woman said, “Sampson is here again. One of the men from town has followed him. The one who works for the fat man.”
Delilah looked up from her mirror and left her hair as it was. She’d brushed it herself and left it loose to cover her breasts as tonight she left them bare. Because, she had vowed to herself, tonight she would not allow the man to deny his own desires.
“Do not let them meet,” she instructed. “And bring me Sampson. If the other man does not partake, escort him out. And check his coins are real before service is rendered.” Perhaps she might move her business. She adored this home, but the city grew more bothersome by the day. As if a woman had no right to run a business popular with the most important of men.
“Of course, lady,” was said before the lead woman left.
A moment later she returned with Sampson who hurried towards her to take her hands in his.
“My sweetest Delilah,” he said before laying a kiss upon her lips.
His touch aroused her, and she let him direct the kiss. For now. Soon enough, she would show him who held control in this room. The sure knowledge of what would come after made her shiver more than the feel of his hard chest against hers.
“Sampson,” she replied once her lips were free of his touch. “How I have counted the time until your arrival. Come. Sit. Let me show you how I have missed you.” She drew him to the couch and pushed him down.
“You are afire tonight, my sweetest,” he said as she knelt across his lap. “What a pleasure.”
“The pleasure is only beginning,” she promised before taking his hands. “We shall partake of each other this night as unlike not other.” Swiftly, as she had long practiced this move, she secured his wrists to the manacles built into chains on her couch.
“What is this?” he demanded as he tugged at the chains. “These will not hold me.”
Delilah rose and swept her hair over her shoulders. “No, not the strongest man known,” she agreed. “Not one who might split an ox in two using only the strength of his arms to pull.” She leaned forward and let her body brush against his clad form. “But a man who has desires so long denied him? One who would give in to his most basic of needs if not for the false restraints of his God? That man? He would submit to the one who promised him the ultimate in pleasure.”
Sampson shivered when she leaned in and took his lower lip between her teeth. His arms flexed, but he made no move to break free of her chains. As she suspected. The biggest, strongest men, always submitted so easily. Her tongue slipped into his mouth and he moaned as she toyed with his hair. Once sure of his submission, she would remove the chains and take him to her bed. There, she would do her true work.
“When I know,” she told him as she knelt up, “that you shall be a good man, and behave properly for me, I shall release you from the chains. In the meantime, I shall show you how much I desire you.”
Delilah knew her trade, but she was no match for the secret of Sampson. A secret so great, despite her assumption otherwise about the size of Sampson, it struck her dumb. As she scrambled backwards and fell f rom her sofa, Sampson broke the chains holding him to try to break her fall. He failed, and she felt her head hit the back of low table before the dim light in the room faded to nothing.
When she came to, she found herself in bed. Her real bed and not the one customers knew. A groan alerted the warm body next to her she was no longer unaware. As rough as her early life had been, she was no stranger to blacking out so stayed still and did not rush to sit or do much of anything.
“I am sorry,” Sampson said as she took Delilah’s hand. “I had not expected such a violent reaction.”
A slow turn of her head allowed her to look upon the other woman and Delilah cursed herself for a fool in silence. Now that she knew, it was impossible to miss the subtle hints that the strongest man in the world, was not. She pulled her hand away and curled her fingers into her palms.
“I thought, perhaps, your God demanded the loss of your manhood in obedience when I saw no rise all these nights.” After speaking, she began to ease herself up, hating to look up at anyone when speaking. “I need not your help! This is not the first time my head has taken such a blow.” She did allow Sampson to pile pillows up behind her so being seated was easier and did not take so much work from her.
Sampson watched her, but offered no help as she arranged herself on the bed. Once more, she took Delilah’s hand and held it loosely. “My God only requires my silence on this matter,” she explained. “My brother is the true Sampson, but he is recovering from a wound. The soldiers expected him here. His might was needed to show strength to the heathens here.”
“Such as myself?” Delilah asked with a scowl. “I care not for your strength, the strength of our God, or your brother.”
“And yet, you took the money from the city men.”
“I did! The sum will allow me to reassign all my clients to someone who does not shudder at the touch of men.” Delilah glared at Sampson despite the woman’s amusement. “Never have I found the attention of men to my liking.”
“Naomi,” was the only word given in response. She eased herself off the bed and poured a cup of wine to bring back to Delilah. “I understand such aversion,” she told Delilah as she held out the cup. “And I have been pleased to imitate my brother for that reason alone. I might never have met you had I not been called to such.”
“And when he arrives?”
Naomi slid back into the bed and laid her head in Delilah’s lap. “I shall be Naomi once more. And forced to hide my affections.”
“A shame,” Delilah said after emptying her cup. She let it tumble across the bed, so she might run her fingers through Naomi’s hair. “I am even sorrier now you resisted my advances so well.”
Naomi moved with caution, but sat up to kneel beside Delilah. “With great care,” she said in a voice that made Delilah shiver, “I might show my affection, so you feel no regret.”
“Lay your head back in my lap. I shall rest a moment longer.” Delilah smiled at the strongest woman in the world. “The feel of your hair brings me joy. Give me that until I am ready for more.”
“With pleasure,” Naomi replied.
Later, with the arrival of her brother, Naomi allowed herself to be coaxed into remaining with Delilah.
And, so, the most beautiful woman in town, and the strongest woman no one knew, lived together for the rest of their lives, and sometimes laughed at the stories told of Delilah’s part in the downfall of Sampson.