Some magic is learned with the head, and some with the heart, but there is also magic that can only be understood with the body.
Nessa dourly lifted the handle on the door for what seemed like the hundredth time.
"Nessa! You weren't even trying that time!" Bellemir exclaimed.
The two women stood on the narrow stone stairway that circled the castle's central keep. While Nessa stood in front of the door leading to the baron's private quarters, Bellemir stood a few steps above her.
Nessa was a muscular woman with wide hips, broad shoulders, a firm stomach, small breasts, and a well-curved ass who stood a trifle less than average height. Dressed in a simple long-sleeved brown dress with slippers to match, her dark blond hair was worn in a braid which fell to mid-back and showed the golden streaks of regular exposure to sunlight. Though she often thought of herself as "masculine" that was more a reflection of her own doubts than reality and her essential femininity could be seen plainly on her pleasant face.
Though currently looming over Nessa, Bellemir stood only little more than an inch less in height. Though not a particularly delicate woman compared to most, Bellemir's light build, slender hands and fingers, and rounded features almost appeared so next to her companion, though her breasts and ass were, in truth, a trifle fuller if not quite as broad. Dressed in an overjacket and skirts a lock of blond hair, of a much lighter shade than even the sun-faded parts of Nessa's hair, had fallen out of the cap where Bellemir had kept it tucked out of way and fell to below the small of her back.
The door itself was of thick red oak banded with iron straps. The handle was a well-worn tube of bent brass set horizontally into a circular wooden plate on the door. A key was set into a keyhole above the handle plate, but that was an intentional distraction. The real thing keeping the door locked was magic.
"Maybe if you explained!" Nessa snapped.
"Can you explain to a baby how to walk? No. A baby just tries things and then one day she's walking. Since you aren't a mage you just have to keep trying until something works for you. How are you going to kill mages if you can't get through a simple lock spell that's been prepped for you?"
Nessa bit her lips to keep from cursing and angrily lifted the handle yet another time before pushing down. To her surprise this time the handle went down much further and a muffled "CHUNK" came from the door.
"That's got it!" Bellemir said joyfully. "Don't just stand there, push the door open and step in."
Aside from those closest to the baron, not even servants were allowed in this private chamber. Nessa had no idea what to expect when she entered the room, but was nonetheless surprised. She knew about the glass windows, of course. Looking in each of the four cardinel directions the sunlight could occasionally be seen for miles glinting off the leaded panes of the doubled casement. The problem was that the room had no distinct character. It was basically round, with large timbers supporting the ceiling, but the enclosures for the stairs and a few closets reshaped the circular pattern of the tower into something else. Additionally, the two large canopied beds on each side of the northern window had nothing in common with the stone workbench to the southeast. The bookcases to the northwest didn't match huge wooden tubs opposite. The hooded brazier was offset from the center of the room and everything else and seemed to have no particular purpose. Nessa knew she was overlooking things; the contrasts in the room kept her glance skipping from place to place and refusing to settle down.
While Nessa tried to reconcile the slapdash nature of his private room with the baron who insisted on order and long-lasting construction, Bellemir stepped in behind her and pulled the key from the door as she shut it behind the two of them. Moving over to the beds she knelt at the foot of one in front of a moderate sized chest and beckoned to Nessa.
When Nessa knelt beside her Bellemir tucked the key into her girdle. "Here. This is yours now." Then she pointed to a circular design near the bottom of the chest. "See that pattern? There's one just like it on the other side. Look at the front of the chest and see what happens when I turn them." Bellemir matched her words with actions and Nessa saw a rectangular piece of wood pop out of the chest close to the floor.
"This is our room; the mages' that is," Bellemir said as she removed the piece of wood which had popped out of the chest. "A place where we can be free to be ourselves without worrying what other people might think. But even though only those who know about the House's magic are supposed to be in this room, we still keep all information about magic hidden when it's not needed." Reaching into the gap left by the wood block she proceeded to pull out a hidden tray, tightly fitted with six books books bound in red leather. "That includes your own studies as a Guardian." Pulling one of the books out of the tray she handed it to Nessa and proceeded to put everything else back the way it had been.
Trotting over to the shelves Bellemir pulled a box off the bottomost, saying, "Writing supplies, of course, don't need to be hidden. This box has inks, reeds, scratch paper, and penknife -- everthing a scribe needs." Pulling another box off the shelf she unfolded it and said, "I prefer to lie on my stomach to write, but if you want to kneel there are writing trays available."
Bellemir opened the box of writing supplies and took the book from Nessa's hands. Lying on her stomach she proceeded to ink a reed and write on the very first page "The Book of Guardians -- Year 5." Then she twisted to look up at Nessa. "Ya know, yar lesson's gonna difft if ya insist ona stand."
Nessa's mouth actually fell open in shock. It was all too much, the wealth, the secrecy, and then hearing the lady talking with the accents of a lower class townie. She just stood and gaped.
Rolling onto her side Bellemir pointed in front of the writing tray. "Nessa. Kneel."
The command broke through her shock and Nessa knelt down.
The quiet was unbroken for a minute or more before Bellemir spoke again. "Nessa," she coaxed, "tell me what's bothering you. Please?"
"I don't know any of you, do I? Ever since the baron came to power you've been . . ." Nessa stopped and bit her lower lip. The word "lying" didn't seem appropriate.
"You know one thing I like about you Nessa? You are who you are. You don't play emotional games. You tell the truth. You try to get along with people, but you make your own choices, then you let people know what they are, and anyone who doesn't like it can ream themselves. It's going to make you a great Guardian."
"The thing is," Bellemir continued, "you don't realize that most people aren't like you. In the infirmary they don't want to know my doubts, they don't want to hear 'might,' they want to believe that I have all the answers. But almost all of those exact same people would have me raped and collared without thinking about it if they found out I was a mage."
"In this room I don't have to be 'Nurse Bela,' or 'Lady Bellemir,' or 'Jadrol's concubine,' or anything at all but myself." Bellemir shook her head. "I'm not saying this well. Kariss or Senkia could explain it a lot better. You do know us though. You know us by the things we've done. You may not trust us, and I'm not saying you should, but you do know us.
Bellemir watched Nessa face as she worked through what had just been said. When she was finally a little more comfortable Bellemir spoke again. "Now, about this book." She put it on the writing tray. "It's yours. Put everything in it that you think should be passed along to future Guardians. You don't have to keep it private, but you're the only one who can grant permission to look at it."
"I don't write well -- at all," Nessa said, looking down at the book.
Bellemir laughed. "You think I do? Hells, three years ago I thought reading and writing was something some people were just born with." She tapped the book. "The only way to write better is to write. If you fill up this book we'll give you another one. Ink a reed now and open up your book, it's time for your first real lesson." She smiled, "Don't worry, I'll go slow, and even stop if you need to catch up."
Bellemir proceeded to roll onto her back and put her hands behind her head before starting to speak very deliberately. "While all creators of magic are called mages, there are actually five distinct types. The weakest are called 'common mages' or just 'mages' and are the basis of all the others."
"Mages who become strong enough can start 'leaking' magic. Magical things happen around them, things that they have no control over. Such mages are called 'devils.' Devils can cause real problems, but they don't have to. If they keep away from other people their magic can form wonders like the Ice Palace or Barga Oasis. Of course their magic might also form horrors, dragons and manticores. The creatures that people think are magical, and probably quite a few people think are normal, were probably originally created by a devil. A devil's magic works subtly over long periods, and they can use their magic voluntarily and more powerfully than a common mage."
"However, if a devil desires, there is a way to prevent her from leaking magic. She can give away her magic, giving non-mages magical abilities. Such a mage is called a 'demon.' Now a demon has almost no magical abilities of her own, all her magic is going to support others.
"Those whose magic is given to them by a demon are known as 'witches.'"
"Excuse me," Nessa interrupted.
"Would it be all right if I used some of the paper from the writing box and wrote it into the book later?"
"Whatever works for you. Paper and ink are cheap. Just be sure to burn the notes when you're done with them, and don't leave them out."
"Now where? Witches. The abilities of witches aren't nearly as flexible as those of mages. Effectively they have a very limited set of spells. However, with those spells they seem to be more powerful than a devil, and a demon can support multiple witches. A dozen being typical."
"The last type of mage is the sorcerer. Mages can use certain spells to pool their abilities and form a 'house.' Sorcerers within a house share their powers, and can be even stronger than the most powerful of devils. All of a house's sorcerers draw from the same source however, and if that source is depleted it affects all of them equally."
"Finally, you should be aware that there are people who, strictly speaking, do not actually use magic, but can still do things that affect the magic of the world. These effects are directed though objects and are either subtle or very weak."
"Wait," Nessa said. "Is that what this is?" she asked holding out the wrist with the ankh on it.
Bellemir turned her head to look. "Exactly."
"What good is it?"
"That's your first project. You tell me."
"Anyway," Bellemir continued, "traditionally these people are known as 'the faithful' because their best known abilities use religious icons in the service of others. Right now we call them 'resonants' although it's not a good term . . ."
Bellemir was interrupted by strangled noises coming from Nessa's direction and looked over to see her turning red. She quickly rolled to her knees, only to see Nessa fall over and lie shaking on the carpet while continuing to make strangling sounds.
"Nessa? What's wrong? Is it the ink?" Bellemir ran her hands over Nessa, sending her magic into the woman's body trying to figure out what was wrong. Gradually Nessa relaxed, producing peals of laughter, and Bellemir realized that the strangling and convulsions weren't a problem at all. Nessa had just been trying to control her laughter so hard that her body had locked up.
"All right girl! What's so funny?"
It took several attempts before Nessa was able to answer. "You . . . plan . . . to turn me . . . into a saint?!" Hearing herself say the words set Nessa off again and she continued to laugh helpless tears on the floor.
Bellemir reminded herself never to underestimate Nessa. The girl might be slow about some things, but her intuition bridged gaps that straight thinking never could.
While waiting for Nessa to recover Bellemir went and filled two mugs with beer from a broached barrel in the room. Putting one mug aside for Nessa, Bellemir sipped at the other and worked out what she was going to say next. Nessa wasn't ready for the whole truth, not yet, but deserved as complete an explanation as possible.
Finally, Nessa recovered and Bellemir handed her the second mug alongside a cloth to wipe her face. "Drink up." She paused. "I don't know how you got there, but your conclusion is nearly correct. We hope," and Bellemir stressed the word "hope," "to give you some of the abilities associated with saints: dispersing magic, calming and encouraging people and animals, a large amount of luck, and possibly others. If you believe in saints," Bellemir's dry tone said that she didn't herself, "it's likely that their knowledge came directly from the gods. Your knowledge will come from our ability with magic, and will be able to be passed on to others."
"Chastity isn't a requirement?" Nessa said, barely managing to control her laughter.
"Not even a strict pairing or restriction to the opposite sex," Bellemir continued in her driest voice. "Indeed, it's quite possible that sexual activity will help to energize some icons, but that's a lesson for another time." She made a slicing gesture with her hand. "Forget I said that. It's much too far in advance of what you need to know right now. Back to the book."
Bellemir thought for a moment and then shrugged. "Those are the types of mages. Any questions?"
Bellemir nodded. "There are a few spells that any mage can work. Igniting fires for example," she pointed at a nearby lamp and Nessa saw its wick catch fire, "or purifying air. There are also effects than can be achieved in many different ways. Things like dousing fires . . ." Bellemir nodded at the lamp again and Nessa saw its flame go out, "and moving objects . . ." She pointed at Nessa's writing table and Nessa saw her ink well slide a couple of inches and move back to where it had been, "are so convenient that most mages will figure out how to do them no matter how limited their magic is."
Nessa was startled. "Magic has limitations?" That wasn't what she meant. "I mean . . ."
"I know what you mean," Bellemir interrupted. "And, please believe me, magic is much more limited than whatever stories you might have heard. If it wasn't the South Empire would never have fallen. We may not need sacrifices, but we still have to learn each spell, which can take a great of time. Most mages are also limited in range of effects -- and there is one things that's impossible."
Bellemir paused and looked down at Nessa's hands. Nessa obediently repeated as she wrote, "one . . . thing . . . impossible."
"A mage cannot create something from nothing. We can move, we can transform, we can imagine, change, control, and adapt, but we can't create. The stories about creating balls of fire and throwing energy bolts are just stories. To make fire we need a source of fuel, and if we strike something with lightning it's because there was already a thunderstorm or something similar."
"A moment." Nessa paused to collect her thoughts. "So a mage can still produce fires and lightning. She just can't do it out of nothing?"
"Then what difference does it make?"
"To most people, probably none. You however, need to understand a mage's weaknesses. If you're under a clear sky, a mage can't strike you with lighting. Unless you're standing in a pile of tinder a mage can't surround you with fire. A mage who appears to create something is trying to trick you. The problem is going to be figuring out the trick. Look to your left."
Glancing that way Nessa saw a snake suddenly appear and start slithering towards her. She smiled. She liked snakes, and this was a harmless goldsnake.
"What's the trick?" Bellemir asked. "Is the snake an illusion, or is it real and just I kept you from noticing it was in the room before?"
Though Nessa liked snakes she hadn't seen too many up close, but looking at this one, she noticed that the yellow stripes on its back were just a little too regular, and the scales appeared to be more painted on than actual scales. Really, it only looked like a goldsnake at first glance. "It's just an illusion," she stated confidently. Reaching out with her left hand she waved it through the snake. At least that's what she intended, but the snake immediately wrapped itself around her wrist and the ankh on it. Tingles shot up her wrist as the snakes proceeded to worm its way under her sleeve and up her arm. "Stop it!" she cried.
The snake disappeared, leaving a handkerchief wrapped around Nessa's wrist and tucked into her sleeve. She pushed the writing tray away from her and pounded her thighs. "I hate magic; hate, hate, Hate magic."
Bellemir looked at her with concern. "I'm sorry you feel that way, but you need to get used to . . ."
"I understand," Nessa interrupted. "It's like weapons training. You have to get past your fear of the sword in the other person's hand, and the only way to do that is to face it. That doesn't mean I'm going to like it." She paused. "I may hate magic, but I don't hate you. Not even for tricking me like that." She frowned at Bellemir, "Real or illusion; ha! Like it was that simple."
Bellemir gave her a heartfelt smile. "Thank you. But keep that in mind -- magic isn't simple."
Bellemir tapped the writing tray, and Nessa pulled it back with a sigh. Bellemir smiled, "Don't worry, we're almost done for today. I mentioned earlier that mages have a limited range of effects. These effects fall into patterns called talents. Tomorrow we'll discuss the details of the different talents, including the things that we're unsure about. For right now you just need to note that the vast majority of mages are limited. A mage who is good with illusions, for example, probably isn't going to cause briars to tangle you, or turn your own body against you. Unfortunately the more powerful a mage is, the more likely she is to have multiple talents, and devils seem to have access to all talents. Sorcerers are more limited than devils, but they have access to all the talents of their house."
"And so endeth the first lesson," Bellemir intoned solemnly. "Any questions?"
Nessa looked down at her notes. It all seemed clear enough. Almost too clear. "I still don't understand why a mage is telling me things that will help to kill mages."
"Magic isn't much like the stories and has its limitations, but even a weak mage who doesn't care about the damage she does can be a threat. For example, before linking with House Blythe I was just a body mage, and a weak one. Still, after only a little practice I could have caused people to get angry. I could have made it impossible for two people to agree on something, or caused a man to beat his consort, or a woman her children. If they knew what was going on they could resist, but how are they to tell whether their anger is natural or not? It's all too easy for a mage to become a bully and go on to worse."
"That's it?" Nessa asked. "But how does teaching me prevent that? I'm only one person."
"You're not thinking far enough ahead. You have to know that we mages are going to fight a war, maybe several of them. What happens if we win? Please believe that we don't want to recreate the South Empire. We want to live as mages and without being enslaved, but we want to create something not only better than the South Empire, but better than what most have right now. You and those you'll train will stop the worst abuses of mages, and as those abuses decline you'll be able to stop lesser abuses. The Guardians won't stop all the problems, but they'll be able to head off the worst ones."
Nessa shook her head. "I don't understand."
"I don't think I can explain it better right now, but I think as you learn more you'll understand."
"Any more questions?" Bellemir repeated.
"Uh." Nessa checked her notes. "Yes. What are your, ah, 'talents.'"
Bellemir grinned. "I'm glad you asked. If you're ready to put your book aside I'll demonstrate. We'll cover this in more detail later, so you don't have to take notes, and you can copy your current notes into the book later."
Nessa nodded and the two tidied up before Bellemir drew Nessa over the wooden containers in the southeast.
"Magic isn't much good for big stuff like they tell about in the stories, but it's nice for day to day stuff. How would you like a hot bath?"
Nessa was aghast. "A bath! In winter?! As cold as . . . it . . . isn't?" Nessa realized that the room was actually warm. Actually too warm for the clothes she was wearing. "How did you do that?"
Bellemir grinned, "Air is good for moving heat, or keeping it where it is. I used Air talent, which comes from Senkia, to keep the cold out and the heat in. It can take a while, but I laid the spell when we entered the room. Unfortunately, it's no good for moving water, so we have to do that the hard way." She pulled a leather strap on the wall and water poured from a spout in the wall to start filling a wooden bucket. "Luckily one of the castle cisterns is right above us or we'd have to haul all our water up those stairs. Help me fill the tub?"
"That's a tub? Why is it so big?"
"It's made for two people. Although four can fit if they're friendly enough."
Nessa noticed the water from the spout that missed the buckets was flowing towards a nearby alcove. When she pointed this out Bellemir said, "Garderobe. It drops straight to the cesspool below the castle. We rinse it regularly and purify it with air magic so it doesn't smell too bad."
"The way the water flows is magic?"
"No. Just good stonework. If there's a way of doing something without magic we prefer to use it."
The two worked with only an occasional comment until the tub was half full. The Bellemir spoke. "Hmph. Air moves heat, so I'll use air to encourage heat in the brazier, and move that heat into the water. This is a bit tricky so I'll have to concentrate."
After a moment the water in the tub started to bubble. Nessa leaned over to touch the water. It was still cold enough to numb flesh, but as she lifted her hand she noticed that the air bubbling out of the water was hot.
"Please don't get in the way Nessa," Bellemir said.
Moving back, Nessa noticed the wrist under her ankh was tingling again. A thought struck her and she started waving her hand in the air around the tub. She noticed when the tingling grew and faded, and then burst out, "It detects magic!"
The tub stopped bubbling and Bellemir jerked. "What?"
"The ankh. It detects magic doesn't it?"
Bellemir looked chagrined. "Hells; an' thoughtten ya mark nah an a half-moon. Shavel ta passioning."
"And why will Shavelude be passioning?"
Bellemir calmed down. "She's the only one who thought you might figure it out in the first two days. She wins the pool."
Nessa laughed. "You were betting on how long it would take me to figure it out?"
"Yes." A corner of Bellemir's mouth twitched. "Hope ya mind nah."
"Of course not. Just -- the next time you bet on me pick something out of a hat so I have a chance of winning myself."
Bellemir grinned. "Ist ya." Then she turned back to the tub and the water started bubbling again.
When the water stopped bubbling Bellemir began eagerly stripping off her clothing and putting it on a nearby shelf. Nessa followed her cue, if not quite as eagerly. Bellemir quirked an eye at her. "Something wrong?"
"Just . . . I don't like the thought of these clothes against clean skin."
"Not a problem. I'll tell Senkia to fetch your fighting outfit when she comes up, and we'll have your current outfit clean and dry by morning." Now stripped, Bellemir perched on the edge of the tub and watched in admiration as Nessa continued to take her clothes off. "Another ability that that all mages have is that we can talk mind-to-mind with a person we have strong ties to. Demons can talk to their witches, the sorcerers of a house can talk together, and mothers can talk to their children. We can also talk with non-mages, but its more difficult and usually involves strong emotion or lots of sex."
Nessa froze, "So you or Jad could -- I mean you or the baron could look into my mind?"
Bellemir laughed. "Call him Jad, he won't mind, and no we can't. First of all the only thing we can do is send messages, sort of like a voice in your head. Second, you would have to be willing; if you don't want to hear us you won't. Third, the sexual tie gets stronger with both repetition and passion, and one or two times won't create a strong enough tie unless it was completely amazing on both sides."
When Nessa was completely undressed Bellemir said, "The water is very hot. You might want to sort of ease yourself into it." She herself was sitting on the edge of the tub with her legs dangling into the water.
Nessa decided to follow her example. The water was hot; hot enough for her foot to jerk away when she first touched it, but Bellemir was right, if she eased in slowly she didn't feel the heat as much.
With Nessa settled on the edge of the tub Bellemir began speaking again. "Body talent is my gift to the house. It affects people's bodies, for example . . ." Bellemir snapped her fingers and pointed between her now well-spread legs. "Down here Nessa."
Nessa blushed. Bellemir obviously enjoyed shocking her, at least in private, and the best way to stop her from doing it was not to be shocked, but staring at another woman's crotch was just so . . . embarrasing. Managing to ignore her blushes she looked down. From their earlier encounter Nessa had thought Bellemir's pussy completely hairless. She'd been wrong. Instead Bellemir had a ring of hair circling her clit and going through the middle of her slit. Posed as Bellemir was it reminded Nessa of a ring on an archery target. Additionally, there was a gold ring hanging at the center of the target. Now, though Nessa had heard of earrings, and had seen a person with a nosering, she'd never though that anyone would put a ring down there. "Wasn't that painful?"
"Nope," Bellemir replied. "The hair just falls out a couple of days after the spell. Body magic is subtle, and sometimes you can affect even a mage without their noticing. A non-mage may notice things happening to their body, but almost certainly won't know the reason."
That wasn't what Nessa had meant, but there was a more important matter. "Wait a bit. You keep saying that you can only affect the body, but earlier you mentioned creating anger and earlier, when you cast that spell, I had . . . certain thoughts." Nessa blushed. She'd thought her time serving the guard-whores had chased away all embarrassment about talking about sex, but apparently there was a difference when you were talking directly to the person involved.
Bellemir laced her hands together into a tight double fist. "Body, mind, spirit, and dreams, though different from each other, are tightly linked. Just like you can't affect one of my hands the way they are now without affecting the other hand, so most things that affect a someone's body also affects their mind, spirit, and dreams. I can't create infatuation, but I can create lust that can give rise to infatuation. I can't create anger, but I can make a person feel like they're angry." She sighed. "I just wish the stories were correct and I could actually heal."
Nessa's immediately remembered the ambush on Jad and looking down to see an arrow sticking out of her chest. "Hold on! If you can't heal, how am I still alive?"
Bellemir sighed again. "Through a minor miracle I think." Seeing the look forming on Nessa's face she quickly added, "No blasphemy intended. Let me explain." Slipping into the water she urged Nessa to do the same, and once they were both in up to their waists she continued.
"The arrow that struck you missed your heart, and barely nicked your aorta, the big tube that carries blood out of the heart. In order to heal you Jad first stopped your heart to keep your aorta from tearing further. He pulled out the arrow and purified the wound to prevent infection. Then he stitched up the tear in your aorta, and restarted your heart. That done he shaped a spell to replace the blood you'd lost, and stitched up the rest of the wound. Then he tried to move some things around to stop your remaining bleeding and prevent as much scarring as possible, but collapsed when the House's magic ran out. (Generally, doing magic is like walking up stairs, but when a mage reaches a certain limit it gets exhausting quickly. When a sorcerer reaches her limit it's even worse because it affects all the other sorcerers in the house. Jad's intentions were good, but the rest of us didn't appreciate suddenly falling over too weak to move.) Later we shaped a spell to speed your healing, but basically you survived because Jad is the best physician in several kingdoms and was willing to use everything he had to save you. Even so, in the end it was a matter of luck."
As Nessa consider that Bellemir went on, "Jad's talent, now, is 'Sight.' Sight is the talent of, well, knowing things. For example, I can tell that the cook is making pork and barley stew for dinner." She frowned, "Not too impressive. Well, Oh! She has fruitbread rising on the counters. That will make a nice breakfast, and she started it after I came to your cell. Sight magic can also see into the past and the future. The thing is, the past and future are, well, blurry. Some things are fairly easy to predict, like the weather. Other things are very difficult. It takes a great deal of effort and skill to pluck out meaningful images."
Bellemir sank in the water up to her neck and stretched out her feet to massage Nessa's knees. "Kariss's talent is something we call 'Braid.' It's the ability to treat mutiple things as one with magic. . . . And if that sounds confusing its because we don't understand it all that well ourselves. Here's an example." Bellemir separated out a lock of hair at her temple. As Nessa watched the hair began moving. Some hairs twisted around each other, others crossed over. The movement began near Bellemir's head and quickly progressed down. The end result was a flat braid with no loose hairs whatsoever. "I can also use the braid talent to keep my hair from knotting or tangling when I comb it."
"Is that why your hair always looks so . . . fluffy?"
Bellemir smirked, "The House says 'full bodied.' It does look good doesn't it? Part of it is because I keep it clean, and part of it is the way I use air magic to dry it. I'd be happy to demonstrate if you'd like."
"Well . . . Why don't you just unbraid my hair for now and I'll think about it."
Nessa sank into the tub until only her face was out of the water. She'd never bathed in hot water before and sort of floated, lost in luxurious feeling as her braid come undone and her hair drifted loose in the water. As she relaxed she let all her tension, all her fears for the future, drift away. Images danced behind her eyelids and the memories of the past few days intertwined with those more distant. A voice called in the distance, but she ignored it. The water splashed on her face and into her nose and she came back to reality with a start.
"Sorry," Bellemir laughed as Nessa sent waves splashing over the side of the tub. "I thought you were about to fall asleep." She handed Nessa a small pot of soap and a rough cloth.
Nessa took the items and replied, "Not asleep, but . . . I realized . . ." She started scrubbing herself down. "You don't really know what you're doing do you? This is almost as new to you as it is to me."
Bellemir was silent for a bit. "Why don't you turn around and let me scrub your back?" she asked. When Nessa obliged she continued slowly, "I wouldn't put it that way, but I suppose there's some truth in it. We learn new things almost every day, and some of the things we learn cause us to drastically change our plans. I guess you could say that we know what we're doing; we just don't know what we're going to be doing."
"So it really is possible that all mages are all doomed to fall to evil."
"Well -- maybe, but it really isn't likely. Lean back and rinse, and then you can scrub my back."
"You've never had any doubts?"
Bellemir waited until Nessa was done scrubbing before replying. "There was a point . . ." She sighed. "No. I'd better tell you the whole thing."
Bellemir turned around and cuddled up on top of Nessa. "Earlier you asked me about my ring. I dodged your question because it's an uncomfortable story, but it's something you really should know about. Just hold me, all right?"
Floating on top of Nessa with Nessa's arms around her, Bellemir began.
[center]*** *** ***[/center]
So-eh -- It was our second day on the road. We'd been riding hard because the day before we left the count had executed the old baron and put Jad in his place. Jad wanted to get to the baron's castle before the old baron's mercenaries found out what had happened. The count had acknowledged Kariss's mom as his bastard, so even though he'd given his own permission for Kariss and Jad to permanently pair, the king still had to give his own permission since Kariss was heir to the county at that point. Jad and Kariss had been trying to get together for moons, but since her relatives had given their tacit permission for them to hook up even the fact her duenna was riding with us wouldn't have kept them apart that first night on the road. Luckily he agreed and we weren't forced to do anything drastic.
The first night on the road those of us who knew about the magic gathered in the pavillion we'd been hauling. (That was Jadrol, Kariss, and me as mages, and Gotova, who'd been Kariss's bodyguard and duenna, Emai, and her brother Domril, who'd been told for various reasons. We had a score of guards with us as well, but they were sleeping under the open sky around the pavillion.) Kariss sat us all down and gave us a speech about how she wasn't the jealous type, and she approved of Emai as Jad's concubine, how if Jad and I wanted some time together occasionally she wouldn't mind, and a bunch of other rot.
"You didn't believe her?"
"We-ell, I don't think she was lying, exactly, but Kariss is a politician first and foremost and I'm sure that little speech was intended more to get our support than what she really wanted. Of course it turns out she was incredibly naive. Hells, we all were! Maybe we still are!"
It wasn't long after that that things started to go sideways, and that first night turned into an orgy. Now we know that Jad and Kariss had accidentally formed the house link, and when a house link is formed it causes the members to temporarily go mad. Having gone through it myself (though I hadn't when these things happened) I can tell you that everything seems perfectly normal at the time, and you don't have any problems coping, but looking back your thoughts and actions seem to belong to someone else. A smart lad up in the mountains thinks that while the link is forming it's like we're going through a concentrated adolescence, like five years of experience pushed into a few days.
But I was going to talk about our second night.
I'd finished going over our riding animals (I was using my magic to encourage them to go faster and make sure they stayed healthy), and the six of us were eating in the pavillion. Jad and Kariss were completely infatuated with each other, Emai was trying hard not be jealous, I was exhausted (even with magic I'm not a good rider), and I don't recall what Gota and Dom were up to. I hadn't been following the conversation, but then Emai said something like, "If Kariss is going to be tied down, I want to as well." (This was back when Emai was still trying to prove what a good concubine she'd be.) I don't recall details, but it wasn't long before I'd been volunteered to be tied down as well. I wasn't too interested, but Jad cajoled me into trying it anyway. After all, since I'd never tried it before, I might like it.
While the guys got some rope and stout ground pegs, we girls rearranged the carpets in the pavillion. Then we played strip and stroke for a bit and when everyone was naked the guys tied us down. When they were done I was stretched out on my back with my arms over my head and my legs spread. My wrists were tied to one ground peg and my ankles to two others. Kariss was on my left with one of her ankles tied to the same peg as my wrists and her wrists tied to the same peg as my left ankle. Emai was in pretty much the same position, but on my right, and of course the other girls had their outer legs pegged down too.
The ropes weren't painful, at least as long I didn't do anything stupid, but the most I could move was a few small wiggles. At least I had some thick blankets folded under my butt. Frankly, I was cooling off, but, even though we didn't have much light, I was in a great position to see the other girls. Kariss was panting through swollen lips and her breasts were tight with her nipples coming to hard points. Emai had her lower lip between her teeth and was moaning through her nose. The way the light reflected off her thighs showed her pussy was already leaking, and the main event hadn't even started yet!
Then Gota lay down next to Emai and started kissing her breasts. She immediately started to go crazy, writhing around as much as she could and begging Gota to finger her clit. I heard Jad say with amusement, "Keep it slow Gota, she'll peak higher and like it better that way." That caused me to look over at him. He'd knelt over Kariss's body, and his back was to me, but that didn't matter all that much. Kariss was moaning about how much she liked having his hands and prick on her breasts so it was clear what he was doing. Then my attention was drawn to my own partner.
Dom had knelt above me with his legs hugging my arms. He ran his fingers through my hair, and then grabbed hold as he leaned over and kissed me. I'd never been kissed in such a . . . authoritative way before. He forced my head back, first to the ground, and then bending it back even further so that I was looking up at my tied wrists. I couldn't see them of course. Something long and hard with a dangling bag at the end blocked my view.
By the time Dom broke the kiss my heart was pounding. I was aroused, helped along by the moans from both sides of me, and willing to overlook that I couldn't move. As his head rose up his hands moved to my breasts and started kneading them firmly, squeezing first one, then the other, but avoiding touching my nipples. Then his prick moved up to touch my lips and it was clear what he wanted me to do.
I reached out with lips and kissed the tip of his prick. I expected him to move into my mouth, but his prick stayed where my lips could just barely touch it. My tongue reached out to lick its head, and between tongue and lips I tried to draw him forward, but he continued to stay just barely in reach. Then, while I was concentrating on his prick, he leaned down and started sucking my left breast while his hand moved to stroke the nipple on my right breast. When I gasped in pleasure and surprise he finally moved his prick forward.
At the exact moment I wasn't ready for it, of course. While his mouth moved from one of my breasts to the other, sucking and licking, and he continued to stroke and squeeze them with his hands, the head of his prick moved all over my face, leaving trails of pre-cum behind. I tried to catch it in my mouth but it kept slipping away. Finally, after my face was coated with spit and pre-cum, I managed to catch it.
As I sucked on the head of his prick Dom moved down my body to kiss my slit. I expected him to move into my throat, which was ready and willing, but, instead, after a few licks at my slit he pulled out and swung around to put his knees between my legs before easing into me. (I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that I'm pretty sure he didn't want to hurt me by reaming my throat, but I also think sheer impatience played a role.)
I was worked up enough at that point that I didn't want the slow and easy thrusts he was giving me. "Hells! Ream me, don't tease me!" I yelled. He sped up as I yelled "Faster! Harder! Oh yes! Yes!" Then he stiffened on top of me. That mushroom had peaked at worst possible time! I was headed up and ready, but not really close to peaking myself. (I should mention that Dom has gotten much better in the past few years.) As he pulled out and rolled off to lie between me and Emai, I screamed in frustration. I couldn't move. There was no way to get the peak I desperately wanted.
As soon I stopped screaming, and just before I started swearing and crying Jad leaned down and kissed me. Now every kiss with Jad is an experience, but this one straightened my ankles and curled my toes. He just took control of my mouth; sucked the breath right out of me. Then his tounge caressed my mouth everywhere -- not relieving my frustration, but soothing it a bit. His hand reached down and started teasing my slit. I just know that he thought I'd peaked and was trying to get me ready for another round, but since I hadn't peaked all his teasing did was increase my frustration.
He broke the kiss a couple of times so I could catch my breath, but then went back in before I could say anything. I mewled, and moaned, did everything I could to let him know I was ready, but he didn't get the hint for the longest time. He just kept playing with my slit, stroking my lips, tugging my hair, pushing the flesh around my clit, but never actually touching my clit. Eventually, though, he got the idea and swung himself over and thrust into me. Gods that felt good! Jad isn't as large as Goto, but he uses what he has a lot better. A few hard thrusts and then he stopped, resting with his prick completely inside me.
While Jad and I were occupied, (or is that "when Jad was occupied with me")? Either way, Goto had moved on top of Kariss and was now thrusting into her. Kariss was lifting her hips as much as she could to match his thrusts. Yesterday's virgin was obviously having a wonderful time. The reason Jad had stopped though was Dom and Emai. He'd moved off to her left side and then petted her for bit. They'd been watching Kariss and Goto, and Jad and me, and now Emai was begging her brother to ream her. She'd managed to get him on top of her when Jad paused to add his own encouragements. "Do it Dom," he said. "She needs it. Don't worry about children, Bell has taken care of it."
I added my own urgings. "Do it Dom. Give it to her fast and hard. Give her what she needs and I'll get what I need.
In the meantime Emai was pleading, "Ream me Dom. I want you inside me. I want it bad!"
All the while Dom was poised above Emai. His balls were tight and his prick was as big as I've ever seen it. In spite of how ready he was though he was obviously still reluctant to ream his sister. Then she pushed him over the edge. "Big brother," she cried out, "if you don't ream me I'll never talk to you again!" He immediately moved to take possession of her. She cried out, and I repeated the cry as Jad surprised me by backing himself off and starting a pattern of hard thrusts that hit me just right.
I found that I could rock my hips from side to side, and did so while Jad pounded into me. My cries grew incoherant as his thrusts grew more frenzied and moved from place to place inside me. Then he moved a hand down to rub my clit. It was crude but effective and I peaked when he did. I proceeded to take a series of slow, deep breaths as he slipped out of me and moved back. It had been satisfying enough, but I was also disappointed. It hadn't been bad, but it was certainly worse than most I've had with Jad and I'd expected better. Still, you take your orgasms where you can get them. Right?
I sort of expected that things would be over at that point. I wasn't sure where Jad had gone, and Dom and Goto were obviously finishing off. Kariss and Emai were still enjoying themselves, but were on their last legs and needed some time to recover. Then Jad came over with a damp cloth and a basin of water and started cleaning me up. He kissed me after he wiped my face; a friendly kiss, not a passionate one, and then cleaned down my body. When Dom and Goto finished up they took his lead and started cleaning up Kariss and Emai. I wasn't sure about staying tied up, but the cleaning gave me such a warm feeling of being cared for that I decided not to say anything.
The guys all finished cleaning us around the same time, and moved the basin to the edge of the tent. "All right gents," Jad says. "What's going to happen next is that Bell is going to use her magic to make us hard again.
"You can DO that?"
"Of course. It's more difficult than it is with women, and you have to be careful, but it's not a problem. It's best to use a series of spells to prepare them in advance, but that takes a few days."
"Oh yes. Dry orgasms are painful, and if you do it wrong you can burst a blood vessel, sprain a muscle, or even worse."
"Oh, yes. . . . The guy deserved it, but I'm still ashamed of what I did. Ask me about it sometime when you want to hear about magical abuses and haven't eaten recently."
After Jad said what he did I chuckled, "All right, but you'll have to lean over my hands."
Jad chuckled back, "Oh, I think you'll find that you can work magic with your mouth." He then proceeded to arrange the guys around me so that none of them were touching me, but all were in a position to lean over and put their cocks up to my mouth. I'm pretty sure that he'd set thing up so that Kariss and Emai had a good view of what was going on as well. I'm not completely sure because I was trying to figure out how I was going to focus my magic through my mouth. Up to that point I'd always touched someone with my hands when I was using magic on them.
The guys started reaming my mouth in turn. First I sucked Jad, then Goto, then Dom, back to Jad, and so on. None of them stayed in my mouth for long, but after a dozen rounds or so Dom and Goto were halfway stiff and Jad was fully erect. Unfortunately, I still hadn't figured out how to get the spell out of my hands and into my mouth.
Dom was in my mouth when I figured it out. As the spell slipped off my tongue, I sucked harder and flicked my tongue into the hole at the end of his shaft. Jad realized I was actually working the spell and let Dom's turn stretch out as I patterned the magic. "Oh Gods Bell!" Dom cried out, "What are you doing? That feels so good!" Done, I released the magic and let it settle inside him. He continued to ream my face until Jad grabbed his shoulder and nodded to Kariss. She was ready to do her part and I saw her take Dom's prick in her mouth before Jad moved over me and blocked my view.
Jad was easy since I'd used that spell on him before, and he was barely in my mouth before the spell was set and active. He groaned but managed to pull out and rush over to Emai in order to leave me to Goto. I didn't see what Jad did to Emai, though judging by the cry she let out she really enjoyed it, because Goto immediately moved into my mouth. Dom and Jad's reactions had already aroused him a great deal, but I soon had him fully erect and ready for anything.
Unfortunately, I hadn't considered what would happen when I had him that desperate. He started reaming my face and couldn't stop. It took all his self-control to pull back when he hit the back of my throat, but he wasn't able to think of changing to a position where I could swallow him. I quickly decided there was only one thing I could do, and set out to get him off as quickly as possible. It took me a few tries before I caught rythm of his prick, but then I licked under its head as he moved forward, tried to close my throat around its head when he hit the back of my throat, and swirled my tongue to hit its top as he pulled back. Once I figured out the pattern it only took three thrusts before his whole body went rigid and he came in my mouth. He'd already come at least twice, and I swallowed this one down easily.
My spell had done well, and he was still semi-erect when he was through, but he was able to think clearly. "Gods, Bell. I didn't mean to do that," Goto said as he laid down next to me. "I don't know what happened."
"Not your fault," I croaked through my raw throat. "I let things get out of hand. Don't worry about it."
Goto leaned over and kissed me, and started to fondle my breasts. I could feel him getting hard against my thigh, when something dropped onto my chest and Jad spoke. "Folks, this next bit will go much better if the ladies are gagged."
I tried to protest, but my throat acted up on me and I started coughing. I already couldn't move; I did not want to be gagged as well. Not that I had a choice. Goto waited for my coughs to end, and then pushed a wadded up piece of damp cloth in my mouth and tied a leather strap around my head to hold it in place. I glared first and then actually whimpered, but Goto, as passionate as I am about him, has the problem that he would never think to question a nobleman.
Frankly, I was scared. I'd finally realized there was something wrong with Jad. He wasn't acting like himself, and I didn't know what this new guy was going to do. (Of course, there was something wrong with Kariss as well, but she wasn't the one doing things to me.) I lost control and struggled against the bonds for a bit, but even with magic there was no way I was going to pull free.
When I finished my struggle, Goto was lying on his side next to me. He kept stroking and kissing my body; now my breasts, now my stomach, and sometimes reaching down to stroke my legs. While I can't say that I enjoyed it, precisely, it was comforting in a way. As he continued to stroke me though, Goto looked avidly towards the right where Jad was busy with Kariss.
Looking that way myself I saw Jad's head was down between Kariss's legs using his tongue to take long strokes at her pussy, sometimes teasing her lips and sometimes reaching as deep as he could. Her muffled cries and and the movement of her hips urged him to keep it up, but when, between her cum and his spit, her pubic hair laid nearly flat, he paused. I don't know where he picked it up from, but there was now a metal splinter in his hand, shining gold in the lamplight. Inserting two fingers from his left hand into her cunt he pushed them up twoards her clit, then he brought the hand holding the metal down. I could feel him forming a spell, and then, as Kariss screamed in pain, it was obvious why he'd wanted the gags in place. At full voice that scream would have brought the entire guard detachment into the tent. I suppose the scream didn't last long, though it seemed long enough at the time, and as soon as they stopped Jad leaned over and rammed his prick into Kariss's cunt. A few strokes and he stiffened, gasping in pleasure.
Rolling off Kariss Jad ended up between my legs. His mouth and chin covered with Kariss's spendings, he smiled up at me, not a cruel smile, but a smug, "I know something you don't," smile. Shaking one of Goto's legs he gestured towards Kariss, who's movements made it clear that she was looking for something, anything, that would get her to peak. As Goto moved to cover Kariss Jad smiled at me again before he moved down to tongue my slit with the same verve that he had just given Kariss. The difference being that Kariss enjoyed the process -- and I didn't. I was too frightened to be aroused, even though Jad doesn't lick me often enough, and it's usually a treat when he does.
I think he realized this, because it didn't take him long to get my pubic hair plastered down. Then he reached behind himself to pick up a gold wire, pointed at one end. He placed it outside my clitoral hood, directly to the left of my clit, then he cast a spell and the wire started to burrow into me.
"Yeah. If you've never had an animated wire burrow itself into you, believe me you're not missing a thing. Jad used his magic to make sure the edge didn't wear off the soft metal, so it cut instead of tearing, but it was still painful."
"Uh; the later . . . "
"No he doesn't do it that way any more. Ask one of the others to tell you about her piercing if you're curious."
The wire moved forward as it used tiny cuts to create a path for itself. It moved in and looped around into my body behind my clit, almost but not quite touching it from the inside. The pain was excruciating, but I locked my teeth, glared at Jad, and refused to scream. Though the process wasn't fast, it wasn't exactly slow either, and soon enough the wire burrowed out as far to the right as it had entered on the left. Jad shaped another spell and I felt the ring form itself into a circle and the two ends twist around each other. A final spell and the circle was solid and without seams.
A kiss on my clit, another smug smile, and Jad moved on to Emai. Dom, displaced, came to stand over me. Whatever my own feelings about being bound, gagged, and having a ring around my clit, Dom obviously felt it was a great thing. His breathing was shallow and his prick stood straight up. I tried to beg him with my eyes to untie me, or at least ungag me, but either he didn't see or my helplessness just inflamed him further.
After looking his fill Dom got on his hands and knees above me. Moving even further down he put his prick at the entrance to my cunt. There was no give in him at all as he slowly pushed into me. After he'd sunk as deep as he could he pulled out far enough to give me a few smooth, deep strokes. I gasped in surprise. With the ring in place it felt like his prick was reaching deep inside me to touch my clit from inside my body. It took only seconds for me to go from being unaroused to being completely in heat. As soon as Dom realized I was ready he lost control and started slamming into me as fast and as hard as he could. His earlier activities had taken his edge off, and this time he kept going long enough for me to peak. As I peaked he kept slamming into me and the peak kept lasting, rolling over me like a stream.
I don't remember whether I came down first or whether he peaked and had to stop. Whichever, I was totally limp when we were done. For the longest time I couldn't have moved, and for some time after that I didn't want to. I lay there with my eyes closed as the gag was removed and I was untied.
"Gods," Emai said. "That was unbelievable. Are you always that good?"
I think I heard murmurs of agreement from the guys as Jad laughed. "In my dreams. Tonight was a special gift for my consort-to-be. I don't know how much time we'll be able to spend once we're at the castle. Though I promise we'll take a little -- or even more than that."
It was the sound of water in a basin that finally roused me to move. A rinse would do me a world of good. I'd hesitated so long that I was the last one to the bucket, but there was still enough water left. As I started with my face and rinsed down I thought about what I should do about Jad and decided that the best thing would be to notify the Demon Prince as quickly as possible. Whatever was affecting Jad had to be magical, and only the prince's witches had the magical strength to do something about it.
(It didn't come to that, of course. I got sick from the next day's ride. -- Do NOT get a piercing like mine and ride the next day. Definitely not fun. -- By the time I recovered so had Jad. The strangest thing was that when he recovered he didn't really like the piercings. He still has mixed feeling about them. He says he's seen too many minor cuts go bad to approve of doing something like that, but all of us decided to keep them anyway.)
I'd just made my decision when I started cleaning my pussy. As soon as I touched my ring I realized I had a problem. Under my touch it moved, slipping around slightly and pressing against the back of my clit. The effect was immediately arousing. My nub swelled and my slit grew moist with my desire. I tried to avoid the ring as I cleaned, but I couldn't completely, and with even the slightest touch my need grew. The others had finished cleaning and Kariss and Emai were snuggled on either side of Jad on a single pallet. If they weren't already asleep they soon would be. Dom was snoring on his own pallet, but I realized that Goto was lying on his side on a double pallet watching me clean up. It suddenly occured to me that Kariss and Emai had enjoyed theirselves a lot more tonight than I had. Since they'd peaked at least twice more than I had, that meant I was owed two orgasms, and, considering what Goto had done to my throat, he was the perfect one to give them to me.
Cleaned up as best I could I strutted over to Goto, letting him look me over as much as I could in the lamplight. From his grin he appreciated the view, but that grin disappeared when I stripped off his blanket lay down on it. After a grab for the blanket, much too late, Goto spoke, "What do you think you're doing Bell?"
"You," I told him.
"I don't . . ." he began, but then I took his face in my hands and kissed him -- with magic. I'd been working on him for nearly a half-moon, so I knew what he was capable of. As we lay on our sides facing each other I pressed myself up against him and then brought my upper leg up and around to rest my heel in the small of his back.
I was more cautious than I'd been earlier, but even so Goto's prick was soon hard enough to slap against my ass. Though that brought interesting thoughts to mind, it wasn't what I was after tonight. Breaking the kiss I murmured, "Don't move. Stay completely still for a bit." After another quick kiss I moved enough to put Goto's prick at the entrance to my cunt and slowly lowered myself, adding an occasional wiggle. As I slowly enveloped his prick I shaped another spell. When I was done he would be unable to peak until I released the spell. I wasn't going to let anything come between me and another two orgasms.
Once he was completely in me I gasped, "move -- now," and grabbed the back of his head to bring it down for a kiss. He goaned into my mouth and I moaned into his as we began moving together. Somehow he knew what I wanted. He reached out and grabbed my knee, pulling my leg even further up and allowing him to plunge even deeper. His thrusts were short and hard, and when he drew up my leg I felt him bottom out against my cervix. Between the ring in my triangle, the feel of him on my leg, and the push against my cervix, for a moment it felt like three cocks were thrusting into me. I peaked at the thought.
Coming off that peak I broke our kiss. "Wait," I whispered, quivering in the aftermath. "That was great but I need a bit to recover." Though he stopped he took advantage of the pause to wrap his lower arm around me. With one hand holding my knee and the other pressing me against his muscled chest it felt as if he was completely in control. I nipped at his chest. "Now," I said as I released a little bit of the control I had on him. "I'm ready. Do me."
Once again our mouths met in a kiss, but this time it felt like Goto was trying to split me in two. If he hadn't kept holding me and pushing me back I'm sure any one of his thrusts could have me off the pallet and straight through the wall of the pavilion. I wasn't as quick to climb to a peak this time, and as Goto took more control I tried to make the pleasure last longer, but that strange triple sensation kept drawing me higher, and higher, until I couldn't help but peak. As soon as I did it released the control I had on Goto and felt him peak as we muffled our screams in the other's mouth.
As we separated and fell to our backs I could feel quivers and tremors running through Goto, and I wasn't much better. "Thank you," I whispered. "Thank YOU," he whispered back.
Luckily it didn't take much effort to pull out the blanket I was lying on and spread it over the two of us. A quick thought and magic doused the pavilion's lantern. I started to snuggle up to Goto, but fell asleep before I'd had a chance to do much more than think about it.
[center]*** *** ***[/center]
"So that's the story of my piercing," Bellemir said, lying on top of Nessa in the tub. "Before that I never thought of magic as dangerous. Since then I can't forget that it is."
Before Nessa could respond there was a lound "CLUNK" from the door, which swung open to reveal Senkia, holding a small cauldron and a larger basket. Stepping in she noticed Bellemir and Nessa and smiled at them. "Sorry. Am I interrupting something?"
"Nothing that can't wait until later, I guess," Bellemir replied blandly, and gave Nessa a quick kiss.
Nessa giggled, and, alongside Bellemir, scrambled out of the tub to prepare for supper.