A serpentine strand of gold beads encrusted with emeralds encircled her breasts, and a large sapphire nested in her navel, her silken black hair laced with gold filigree. The illusion of nudity enhanced the fluidity of her hips punctuating each soft throb of a solitary drum breaking the poignant silence. Herod and the men in the room gasped in murmurs of pleasure.

Salome danced. Her lithe, youthful movements rose and fell with what was now a chorus of thumping drums, inviting a feast for aroused eyes, building to crescendo, then diminishing into whisper of movement, tiny bells and silver tassels clinking in syncopation. Slowly and purposefully she danced to each man, pausing, teasing, taunting, inviting. At length, this exotic, dancing apparition approached Herod’s table. Reclining on the table before him, she seized his goblet of wine and drizzled the wine slowly, strategically over her body inviting him with her eyes to drink. Blood surging, Herod leaned toward her—breathless . . .

“Stop!” It was the voice of Herodias, commanding, insistent. Throbbing drums ceased instantly. The girl, as if to tease again, swung velvet smooth legs slowly from the table. “Would my husband take this child in front of the elite of Rome?” Herodias herself appeared, it seemed, also dressed to dance. She was a picture of mature sensuality. “Would he prefer an untested child to seasoned experience?”

In his drunken stupor, Herod was apoplectic. “What do you want?” he said to Herodias, his voice rasping with anger and lust.

“What are you doing? I know you seek something of this.”

“Is it not your birthday my husband?”

Salome stepped forward moving with deliberation, each step titillating with sensuality. This had its effect. Despite Herod’s sense of being manipulated, he was helpless before this display of sexual anticipation. Herodias gestured to the other dancers who then stood. In a practiced move each dancer touched the place where their costumes were fastened, swayed their bodies gently and their costumes fell to their feet. “Happy birthday, darling. These are yours; for your pleasure and the pleasure of your guests.”

Herod appeared somewhat a fool as he stood behind the table on which Salome now sat, her legs curled beneath her. “Salome awaits you, my husband.” And then she paused, “for a small compensation . . .”

“Half my kingdom!” roared Herod. His guests howled with laughter as only those who have had too much wine can laugh. “Ask of me anything!” He was now serious and swore with an oath. “By Yach-Weh! By all the gods in Rome, by all the gods who have ever lived, I will give it you!”

The girl turned and looked at her mother, who simply nodded. This is the moment she had been waiting for, planning for, hoping for. Salome knew what was required. “I desire that you give me here at once on a platter of polished silver . . .”

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