Festival Ch. 1bySabledrake©
"This is going to be such fun!" Natalia said as they descended the wide stone steps leading to the Cathedral Cavern beneath the plateau village of On the High Place.
Rick slipped his arm around her waist. "I hope you enjoy it."
He couldn't help but marvel at his good fortune, to be on his way to a holy Dorianite festival with a loving and lovely woman, his bride-to-be.
Villagers and travellers gave the both of them appreciative looks as they came into the warm, spacious temple of stone. Down here, sheltered from the winter weather above, the hot springs made the caves almost tropical. At the guidance of some of their new acquaintances, they had dressed accordingly.
Rick wore a maroon silk shirt that did little to conceal the width of his shoulders and the sculpted muscles of his chest and arms. His cream-colored trousers clung to his long legs. His hair, clean and shining, was tied back in a simple horsetail that dangled most of the way to his waist.
He felt mildly self-conscious as local women pointed and stared. He knew he was tall, dark and handsome, but that was Dorian's doing and not his own. As for his impressive build, well, anybody could do the same with enough sword practice. It wasn't as if he was anything special.
Natalia, on the other hand ... in her every step, her every movement, he could see Dorian's generosity at work. She had inherited her mother's ivory skin and changeable, northern-sky eyes, not to mention the glossy blue-black hair that would have fallen to below her hips if she hadn't twisted it into a redoubled plait.
Her long shirt was fine, snowy-white linen trimmed at the neck and sleeves and hem in frothy lace, and was so thin that a bodice or vest should have been needed to preserve modesty. Natalia had opted to go without, which left the ripe curves of her breasts clearly defined and visible. Her nipples, already tight with anticipation and excitement, stood out in little pinpoints and made Rick feel somewhat delirious.
She also wore a colorful skirt, purple and blue and silvery silk all woven together. It was drawn high on one side, exposing shapely leg to well above the knee. A matching scarf tied off the braid in her hair, and a pair of low blue slippers finished the outfit.
Yes, by the gods, she was beautiful and strong and gutsy. All the things he'd admired in women, all the things that he and Damon both had looked for ever since they met Raven and their lives had changed forever. And best of all, Natalia was accompanying him to this festival, not that they might just share each other's pleasure but that they might share each other's delight in the pleasures of others.
He still shivered when he recalled that night with Sorcha. How he and Natalia had begun talking about it, how he'd been tempted to lie and declare her the only woman he could ever want. But she had been understanding, no, eager, to invite Sorcha to share their bed. Not grudgingly, as if she feared that she would have to make allowances to keep him. Not angrily, planning to make him pay by witholding herself from him. Openly, honestly, with a sincere and reverent wish to make all three of them happy.
He hadn't wasted any time, but swiftly fetched Sorcha to their room. Natalia's only wish after witnessing and enjoying their copupling had been that their wedding might be speeded along, that she too could finally, fully experience the entirety of Dorian's Gift.
The Cathedral Cavern was not actually a cathedral, although it was certainly a cavern. The ceiling soared, majestically adorned in rock formations and glittering crystals. The floor was a sea of smooth, frozen ripples.
At one end, several springs both hot and cold trickled down the walls and through a series of ponds and basins before all ending in one large pool. Already, the shores of that stone lake were littered with discarded clothes as people swam and played and caressed in the water.
Low tables were stacked high with soft blankets, furs, cushion, and woven mats for the comfort of the festival-goers. Several were already in use.
Natalia gasped in surprise, this being her first sight of so many men and women entwined in so many different ways. Rick glanced at her, and was thrilled to see only excitement in her eyes. Rising color pinked her cheeks, and she leaned to press the whole length of her side and hip against him. He dropped the arm around her waist to give her bottom a good squeeze.
"So," she said as if they were strolling through the marketplace, "see anything you like?"
He let his gaze sweep the room. "Oh, yes."
The women of On the High Place were on the short side, and rugged as many of the mountain people were. Some of them had an aristocratic beauty that bespoke Turan heritage, while others had the wiry build of Crysians. They all conducted themselves with an openness that would have been unusual even in an Orelarian village. Here in the Chaos Mountains, marriages involved many people, and there was no such thing as adultery.
Even more unusual was the number of dwarves in attendance. The village atop the plateau looked as if it held a mere couple of hundred people, but the rocky bluff was honeycombed with caverns and tunnels where hundreds more, human and dwarf alike, lived in very close harmony. Even co-mated harmony.
The dwarves tended to be protective and jealous of their women, often binding them with severe social strictures. herefore, it was a surprise to Rick to see dwarfwomen, and especially ones in various states of undress, cavorting with dwarven and human males alike. He'd seen (and felt) naked elfmaids aplenty, and had sampled beauties from a variety of nations and regions, but if someone had told him a few weeks ago that he'd have the opportunity to get better acquainted with Reghar's rare jewels, he would have greeted this with some disbelief.
Still, here he was, and as he looked at them he saw that they were quite different from what he would have expected. For one thing, they didn't all have beards. Some did, but these seemed to be the older females, and the beards were fine and downy. They did all have long, thick hair where a man's sideburns would be, and many of them had braided these and adorned them with gold beads or jewels.
Their faces were broader and flatter, with thicker brows and more deep-set eyes, but there was a rugged beauty about their features that made Rick think of a view of mountain peaks against the sky.
Their coloration tended toward earth-tones, though here and there would be a blond. From something Mokik had said a long time ago, Rick knew that golden hair was muchly admired.
Evidence of their greater physical strength was apparent in their thick, densely-muscled limbs. The smallest dwarven female looked capable of combatting the average human male, with a better-than-even chance of winning. But, despite their sturdy, compact bodies, they were undeniably feminine.
"Hello, handsome and beautiful," someone said. "Going to stand here watching all day, or are you going to join the fun?"
It was Deegie, the seamstress who had outfitted Natalia. She had gotten her voluptuous body into a tight emerald-green tunic, left unlaced so far that her full breasts bulged into the V of the neckline. Her skin was the shade of almost-translucent white that was often found in redheads, so pale that the veins could be seen tracing along beneath a smattering of freckles. Her red curls, much more carroty and springy than Sorcha's auburn hair, were fluffed about her heart-shaped face.
"There's just so much to see," Natalia replied, smiling.
She and Deegie had hitten it off at once despite their many differences. Deegie, for instance, was involved in a loose orbit of six co-mates and ten children all sharing the same house. Deegie was bouncy, flippant, quick to laugh. She also had the expected firey temper, but hers was more like a spark landing on the skin -- a sudden pop and a sting and then gone.
"Like Trish's candy shop," Rick added. "Too many treats and not enough pennies!"
Deegie brushed her breasts against his arm. "Oh? That looks like a full purse to me!"
"Want to count my coins?"
She deliberately let her eyes rove over his body. "Hmmm ... I think I can change a shilling!"
"Yes," Natalia said, "but can you change a crown?" In a distinctly Turan gesture, she rubbed her hand along Rick's thigh in such a way as to pull the fabric of his trousers taut over the swelling at his groin. Brought on by the anticipation and sensually-charged atmosphere, he was already well-aroused.
"Honeypot," Deegie laughed, stroking Natalia's arm, "give me two bells and he'll be lucky to manage sixpence!"
"Oh, yeah?" Rick grinned. "We'll see about that!" He gathered the redhead into his arms and claimed a long kiss from her soft, ready lips. She was an enticing bundle, rounded in all the right places.
"In two bells," Natalia predicted, "you, Deegie, will have gotten your year's wages and an extra tuppence for Yuletide cheer!"
"Is that so? Well, mayhap I should introduce you to my friend Iduna. She's a moneylender's apprentice and needs to study ... foreign currency."
"Rick's always interested in extending the hand of diplomacy," Natalia said. "It's just a matter of where he puts it."
He was proud and pleased at their clever banter, although mildly embarrassed to be the center of their attention. He paused a moment to thank Dorian for letting him meet Natalia and letting her be all that he ever hoped for. The goddess image on the far wall seemed to smile lovingly at him.
"Iduna!" Deegie called. "I think I need your financial expertise over here!"
A dwarven woman turned toward them, flinging her earth-brown tumble of hair out of her face. She had eyes like diamond ore, dark yet glittery, and wore a topaz-colored velvet skirt and halter. She was a striking beauty by any standard (except possibly elven), and Rick was even more intrigued.
Natalia, a sly smile playing about her lips, glanced up at him. "Should I find Damon? Are you going to need to borrow from the group fund?"
He kissed her firmly. "I've got the group fund."
She returned the kiss, darting her tongue into his mouth. "Don't spend all of it!"
"I'll save a few farthings for you."
"That's very good of you, Rick. A few farthings, eh?"
"Well, a couple of pounds, then."
"Better." She pushed him toward Deegie. "Have fun! I think I'm going to go ... talk ... to Jesse."
He wasn't the only one to watch her cross the room, and by the way she carried herself, she knew it. Many eyes were upon her, and she was loving it.
"We don't often have visitors who see things our way," Deegie said, walking her fingers up his chest. "Oh, sure, Paskaarni men will join us, but only if they are traveling without their wives or sweethearts. And the Turans -- ha! Amazing, the things they believe!"
"I've been all over the world," he said, turning his attention to the buxom young woman, "and I've never seen anyplace quite like this. It's refreshing."
"Well, Deegie, who is this?" Iduna asked, looking up at Rick.
She was four, maybe four and a half feet tall, the top of her head coming to just above his waist. But she was far from diminutive. No slightly-built elfmaid, no wispy fairy lass. Solid female, he thought, taking in his fine view of her cleavage.
"Iduna, this is Rick, a visitor and a warrior. Rick, may I introduce Iduna, apprentice to Roald the moneylender."
She held out a hand. "It is a pleasure to have the gift of your acquaintance," she said, with emphasis on the words 'pleasure' and 'gift.'
"Likewise!" He clasped it, pleasantly surprised at how warm and smooth her skin was. Her grip was strong as a man's, her fingers stubby but well-shaped. "I didn't know many dwarves followed the faith of Dorian."
"I can't speak for my kinsfolk in distant lands, but we here have always worshipped both our Creator-Father and His Sister. We females, especially. For don't we have reason? Without blessed Dorian, we wouldn't be here! Our males would have to craft their sons of gold and iron, had Dorian not given them females with forges better suited to childmaking."
"And better suited to tempering iron rods," Deegie giggled.
"Yes, that too." Iduna laughed, and drank deeply from a mug that was more of a thick bowl with a handle. When she lowered it, a smudge of rich foam remained at her lip. Rick bent low and kissed it off in one swift move, tasting hearty dwarven ale.
"Not shy, I see," she remarked.
"Never have been," he agreed.
"Well, what would we like to do first?" Deegie asked, taking one of his arms while Iduna took the other. "I was thinking a swim might be just the thing."
"I'd love a swim!" Rick said, letting them lead him along.
"Have you tried these springs yet?" Iduna asked. "They are rich in Reghar's sacred minerals, cleansing the skin as well as the spirit. In another cavern, there is water is so blessed that even my kind can stay afloat, while your kind can all but walk across the surface."
He caught her scent, and suffered a pang of nostalgia, for it reminded him of roasting briar nuts. Mr. Carter bringing back a huge sack of them from one of his visits to Briarglen (and oh, how they'd envied him, the great traveler!), the Nut Festival, Curtis the blacksmith yelling about stick-man, good times, simple times, times the world would be long before seeing again.
Wide, natural stone steps descended into the spring-fed pool. Other couples and groups splashed and played. Whatever apprehension Rick may have felt about his size being an impediment to sharing pleasure with Iduna vanished as he got a glimpse of two healthy dwarven males laughing and tossing a squealing girl back and forth. They were enormously endowed, disproportionate to their height, but far as Rick could tell, nobdy was complaining.
Deegie dipped a toe in the water. "Oh, good, it's nice and warm." She stripped off her tunic and stretched, showing off her curvaceous figure. She was soft and cushiony, with a plump jiggling bottom and a mound lightly covered in fine orange hair.
"Yeah, a swim, definitely!" Rick said eagerly.
"Here, let me help you." Deegie unbuttoned his shirt and peeled it off.
"By the stones, he's hairless as a boy," Iduna said, reaching up to stroke his smooth chest. She could just barely reach the discolored spot, remnant of a bruise, a souvenier of a joust with Andre.
"But he's no boy," Deegie replied, her own hands running over his shoulders and arms. She squeezed a bicep, and Rick flexed obligingly. "Look at that! He's strong as a stallion!"
"That's not the only resemblance," Iduna noted. She undid his belt and lowered his trousers.
His manhood sprang forth readily. He was stiff to the point of almost being in pain. Much as he loved Natalia and much as he thrilled in their nights together, he yet ached to be fully buried within a woman. Or two. Or many; the night was young.
"Ooh," Deegie murmured. "Dorian, we thank You for Your bounty!" She caressed the length of him.
Rick closed his eyes and sighed as the delightful sensations coursed through his body. He reached blindly for Deegie, finding her large pillowy breasts by pure instinct.
"I thought you wanted a swim," Iduna chuckled, and gave them a playful shove. Her great strength and better leverage proved sufficient to topple them both into the pool.
Rick surfaced, flinging back his hair in a shower of spray. The water was bath-warm and unusually bouyant. It moved over him like silk and oil, faintly tingly. Deegie, sputtering, came up beside him. He reached to steady her, and their skin slipped and slid excitingly. He pulled her into his arms.
Iduna had removed her skirt and halter, and was descending into the pool. Deegie wiggled free of Rick and doused the dwarfmaid. The two of them began splashing each other thoroughly. Rick watched for a moment, then joined in. If there was one thing a Stonebridge boy could do, it was water-fight. He jetted huge fans of water over the two women, until they teamed up and started soaking him.
When that subsided, all of them laughing and breathless, Deegie paddled over to stand next to Iduna, who had both feet firmly planted on the bottom.
"Now, Rick, you tell us," Deegie said. "Whose are bigger?" She lifted the twin globes of her breasts from the water and held them near Iduna's.
"Yes, whose?" Iduna thrust her chest out.
He was briefly dazzled by the two pairs of breasts glistening with water. It was a feast far better than the one offered on the banquet table, and it was all he could do to keep from just diving in. Which set was bigger? Did it matter?
But the ladies had asked, and no knight worth his shield would refuse to cooperate with their request. He held himself in check and moved closer, examining them both.
Deegie's were great soft islands, floating on the water. The nipples were large and so pale they almost blended with her white skin. Up close, he could trace the delicate path of her veins beneath the freckles. He touched them, kneaded the flesh, hefted them like he was testing produce in the marketplace. They were the sort of breasts a man could sandwich his rod between, something he longed to try soon as this informal contest was finished.
"Beautiful," he remarked. Deegie beamed.
He turned his attention next to Iduna's. Round and firm as ripe melons, with no sagging or floating, solid mountains capped with pebbly nipples the color of garnets. He rubbed his thumbs over those nipples until they stood out in hard points.
"I think Deegie's are a bit bigger, but these are magnificent."
Iduna smiled proudly.
Unable to resist any longer, he lowered his head and started licking and nuzzling, switching from one woman to the other, engulfing his face in female flesh. Iduna, he noticed, was much warmer, as if fevered, as if her body temperature was higher. He freed his mouth briefly to comment on it.
"Coal burns hotter than wood," she replied matter-of-factly.
"That's why they call it the forge," Deegie added. "Or so I've heard, from many a man!"
"How is steel different from a man?" Iduna asked in a jesting tone.
"Steel hardens as it cools!" a nearby dwarf male called over.
Deegie reached below the water and found Rick's erection. "And a man hardens as he heats up!"
The slippery-slick, tingly water turned her caress into something electric. When Iduna's sturdy hands joined Deegie's, Rick groaned and buried his face in their ample breasts again. He felt their bottoms, noting the same differences: Deegie's soft and bouncy, Iduna's rock-solid.
"Pool's getting crowded," Deegie gasped. "Maybe we should move to somewhere else."
Rick agreed. He waited until the two of them clambered out, enjoying the view of their water-shiny bodies as they toweled off.
He paused in his admiration of them to see how Natalia was doing, and found her sitting by Jesse.
Selvaine was on his other side. Jesse's expression was almost comical, as he evidently could hardly believe that he was holding a lovely royal princess in each arm.
Natalia and Selvaine, ivory and gold. Natalia's long legs moved restlessly, her skirt shifted to show a length of creamy thigh. Jesse, the soul of fairness, kissed first one woman and then the other.
Deegie was holding out a towel. Rick emerged from the pool and dried himself vigorously, wringing out his hair. By the time he was done, he saw that Selvaine had accepted an invitation to join two handsome local youths in a romping game of strip tag, and Jesse had turned all of his attention to Natalia.
Rick watched how she moved under his touch, and felt a surge of mingled desire and pride. He had shown her how to unlock those feelings, the passion Dorian had given her. He had shown her what a man liked, and she now used that knowledge to Jesse's benefit. She was confident and free, and while that was going to be a difficult and scandalous thing in Tarlak, in Orelar it would be wonderful.