Sarlene's Touch Ch. 11byFuinimel©
It had come as no surprise to Calleslyn when Almandar had returned to the villa in the morning, and looking as if he had not had much sleep the night before. She had not met Raylana, but the inference about what had happened was a fairly easy one to make. It had been rather more surprising, however, to realise that Dolrim had also returned home at around the same time. It seemed unlikely, from what she knew of dwarves, that anything of a similar nature had happened to him - and, indeed, if it had, she would have expected him to appear rather more cheerful than he actually did.
But, instead, he had shut himself away in his room at the villa, brooding on his own. Presumably he was looking over the secret dwarven documents that he had acquired, wanting to look over them before he shared them with the rest of the party. When Almandar had returned, a couple of hours later, he had briefly tried to talk to the dwarf, even going into his room, but he had obviously been sent out again almost immediately, apparently without much of a word of explanation.
Still, it was not long after that that Dolrim had finally emerged, looking somewhat sheepish, and bringing the documents with him. Much of the writing was in dwarvish, so although the maps were reasonably clear, actually fitting them to the above ground street plan was probably going to take a while. So they left him to examine the maps further with Vardala, and Calleslyn had suggested that, in the meantime, she and Almandar try to find out what they could at the Wizards' College
Almandar had, in fact, slept much of the morning, which suggested a certain degree of vigour on Raylana's part, but now they were both here heading across the lobby towards the College library. The Wizards' College was, in effect, a guild, although, unlike most others in the city, apprentices were often taught on the premises, rather than in private businesses elsewhere. Almandar himself had learned magic here, many years ago, although Calleslyn had only joined after her own education was complete.
It was a magnificent building, with a high golden dome and slender towers. Magic infused the place, and those without the talent were barred entry, even as guests. Wizards' magic required considerable study to perfect and master, so the existence of the College was vital to all of the gifted community in Haredil, and a place that they all visited on a fairly frequent basis.
It also meant, of course, that the College was fairly indiscriminate about its membership; it included no small amount of really quite tedious people. One of whom was approaching right now.
"Ah, the adventurers," said Valmor, his rich voice booming across the cavernous lobby. He was a middle-aged wizard, dark hair just starting to go grey, and already carrying a good amount of surplus weight on his tall frame. "I had heard you were back... and in one piece, too. What a relief that must be to you. I would have greeted you earlier, but my life is such a social whirl, you know."
"Yes, we are quite intact," said Almandar, drily, "thank you for asking. But we wouldn't wish to keep you from your busy schedule. Another time, perhaps?"
"What? Oh, of course. Well, I do have a meeting with the Master of the College, and an invitation to the palace later in the week, which I really must prepare for. How much simpler it must be not to know anyone of consequence, eh?"
"Ha! I am sure you to do. Well, pleased to meet you. Do call in some time – after checking with my secretary, of course." And with that, the pompous fool headed off, doubtless to find someone else to harangue. They both sighed silently with relief, and made their way to the library.
The College Library occupied a large part of the building, and was, perhaps, the largest collection of documents in the city. The only exception might have been that of the Temple of Knowledge, but since only the priesthood ever had access to that, it was difficult to know for sure. The official guardian of the library was a small mousy woman by the name of Naritti, who popped up from behind her desk as they came through the stone archway into the room.
"Good afternoon, good afternoon," she said, with her usual, somewhat nervous smile, reflexively smoothing down her robes. "Is there anything I can help you with?" Her eyes darted from one to the other, as she clasped her hands together earnestly.
"We are looking for documents on the magical history of the city," explained Calleslyn, "personalities and events of the past."
"Oh, yes, of course," said Naritti, "our records are extensive, as you know. Allow me to show you what we have... I am sure you will find it most enlightening. The Wizard's College is one of the oldest institutions in the city, you know. It's history is really very interesting." Evidently pleased to be able to help them with something, she led them through the towering shelves laden with books and scrolls. "I... uh... you have been away recently?" She seemed to be trying to make conversation, as if someone had told her this was how you were sociable, but was not something she had much experience at. Truly, Calleslyn could not recall seeing her anywhere other than the library, usually with her nose in some ancient tome; she imagined that the woman did not get out much. "I suppose you will be in the city for a while longer, though? I mean, since you are interested in its history?"
"Yes, I think we will be. And I am sure the library will prove a very useful resource."
"Oh, good!" said Naritti, genuinely beaming for the first time. The elven woman reflected that she actually looked quite pretty at that moment, but it soon passed; she really needed to get out more. "Well, here we are," continued the librarian, seemingly somewhat relieved to be able to talk about her demesne again, rather than the complicated mess that was actual human life, "these scrolls and parchments should have everything that you need. There is a reading desk just behind that stack there. But if you do need any help, just ask! You know where to find me."
They thanked her, at which she bobbed a little curtsey, fluttered her hands for a moment, and then vanished back into the stacks, back towards her desk, and whatever she had been reading as they came in.
"Not your type, Almandar?" whispered Calleslyn, noting that the half-elf had never even attempted to flirt with the librarian.
"Naritti?" Almandar smiled at the idea, "no, not really." Then his face turned reflective for a moment, "although, I confess, I am less certain than I used to be of what my 'type' is. Events can be surprising... but," he added, in a more business like tone, "that is not what we are here for."
"Very true," agreed Calleslyn, wondering what he was referring to, but realising that he did not want to discuss it further here. She looked about, seeing that they were in a narrow space between two high stacks, all piled high with written material. Many of the shelves were well above head height, suggesting that the designers had simply taken levitation for granted... although not, presumably, skirts.
They began to search through the shelves within arm's reach, an activity that took no small amount of time, considering how heavily they were stacked. The books were easy enough to check, but the scrolls had to be opened to see what they contained, and it was quite a while before they had enough relevant material to carry to the reading desks.
As they did so, Calleslyn saw another wizard, heading past them, further into the library. She was an attractive woman, with tanned skin and shoulder length black hair, but it was the dress that really grabbed her attention. True, there was nothing surprising about female wizards wearing revealing clothing; it seemed to be a popular fashion statement in Haredil these days. But, nonetheless, on this woman the clothing seemed eye-catching indeed. It was an all-white dress, with a skirt reaching to just above the ankles, yet slit up one side to half-way up her hips; a slit so wide at the base that it could not possibly cover much of her bare right leg. From her present angle, she could see little of the front of the dress, although it obviously went over her shoulders as no more than a pair of narrow straps. At the rear, however, it was cut to below her mid back, showing off an expanse of bare skin and the inner shape of her shoulder blades. The dress was sleeveless, yet her arms were not bare, for she wore golden bracelets on her upper arms, and lacy sleeve-like garments that reached from her hands to her elbows. A narrow girdle circled her waist, and Calleslyn's eyes paused for a moment, watching the sway of her hips and buttocks beneath the white fabric.
The woman turned a corner, and was gone. She and Almandar looked at each other, realising that they had both been watching the same thing, smiling at their obviously shared thoughts. "You spent the whole morning asleep," teased Calleslyn, "it's a bit soon after for that, isn't it?"
"Not for looking," he replied, with a slight grin.
They found the reading tables easily enough, and laid the documents they had found out on them. This was likely to be a long afternoon, Calleslyn reflected, as she pulled up a chair, and opened the first scroll for a more detailed look at its contents.
An hour later, they seemed to be little further along. Clearly, there was a lot of history to go through, and much of it might have been relevant to their search, but it was difficult to tell which. As Naritti had pointed out, the College was one of the oldest institutions in the city, and the wizards who lived there had catalogued a lot of events in that time. Much of it focussed around their own concerns, typically trying to make themselves sound as impressive as possible – Valmor was obviously not unusual in that regard.
But there were also references to events where magical beings had apparently escaped into the city, some of them potentially dangerous. There was relatively little about the old ruins underneath, although even here, there were a few references, some of which they might well find useful. Calleslyn reflected that, long though this might be taking, it was likely not to be a complete waste of time.
She stood up, straightening her back after too long sitting down, "I'll see what else I can find," she said, gathering up the documents she had already finished, "I'll be back in a moment." Almandar nodded, and she went back to the history stacks.
They had finished many of the lower shelves, so, after returning what she already had, Calleslyn craned to look at some of the ones above head height. Her eye almost immediately caught the spine of one book, embossed with a pattern that looked a little like a spring, although the blue dye was now somewhat faded. It might have information on the sources of water beneath the city – although there were a dozen other possibilities. It was a little high, so she stretched up onto her toes, and reached an arm out above her head.
"Allow me," said a woman's voice, with pleasantly rich tones. No sooner had she spoken, than the book began to wriggle, pulling itself free from its neighbours, and then floating down through the air, to hover near Calleslyn's hand.
"Thank you," she said, taking hold of the book, a little embarrassed that she had not thought of doing the same thing. But then, it had not quite been out of reach, and she could probably have managed the conventional way. She turned to look at her benefactor, recognising the woman that she and Almandar had admired earlier.
From up close, she was, if anything, even prettier. Her skin was lightly tanned, and, so far as she could see, quite flawless in complexion, contrasting with and accentuated by the pure white of her dress. Her eyes were dark, framed by soft eyelashes, her lips full, and her nose pleasantly rounded. The dress, she could now see, was almost as deeply cut down the front as it was at the back, a wide triangular décolletage reaching to the upper curve of her breasts, and a narrow slit running down to below the base of her breastbone. The tight fabric hugged her figure, the space at the front showing off the bare skin of the inner curve of her breasts. Below, the front of her belt was decorated with silver ornaments and a wide buckle, but Calleslyn immediately raised her head to look once more at the woman's face, not wishing to seem too forward. Hopefully, as a human, she had not realised that she might have this sort of effect on another woman.
"I think it's the apprentices," said the woman, "sometimes they just put the best things out of reach for a joke. But then, they leave everything in a mess, without even trying. My name is Shamira, by the way," she added, holding out a hand.
"I'm Calleslyn. Pleased to meet you." Shamira's hand was warm and soft, the skin of a wizard, not a manual worker. The human seemed to hold it there for a moment longer than was strictly necessary, her thumb sliding over the elven woman's fingers for just a second before releasing it. "I wouldn't know about the apprentices," she said, "I trained among elves, a long way away. We do things a little differently."
"So I have been told," replied Shamira, the corner of her mouth lifting slightly as if at a private joke. Calleslyn wondered if she did know about the sexual habits of elves after all; it was not exactly a secret, but, in this city, it did not seem common knowledge. "There was an elven instructor here once, when I was an apprentice. She taught me a lot."
"My colleague studied here," said Calleslyn, nodding in the direction of the reading desks, invisible behind one of the high stacks of shelves. "But that was a long time ago. He's a half-elf..."
"...Older than he looks," Shamira finished for her, and they both grinned suddenly, for no reason. The elf decided she liked this human woman, with her smooth voice and smooth skin, and her easy smile, her perfect teeth white like her dress. "I can tell you one thing about apprentices here, though," she went on, "although I don't know if your friend was the same when he was here: it is a wonder they get any magical education at all, they spend so much time drinking, playing pranks, and thinking about the opposite sex."
"That definitely sounds like Almandar," agreed Calleslyn, "at least part of it. I don't think he has even changed that much! So, what about you?"
"You mean, what do I do for a living, or was I the same as the other apprentices back then?" As if ignoring the first possibility altogether, she went on, "well, I can't claim to be innocent. But the elven instructor I mentioned opened my eyes to some very interesting possibilities. So I can't, with all honesty, say that my time was necessarily filled with thinking about the opposite sex, if you get my meaning."
Calleslyn sensed the woman's eyes on her for the first time. Her gaze was definitely travelling over the elf's body, taking in the shape of her hips and waist, then moving slowly up, to finish looking into her eyes. "And," said Shamira, "I often wish I could return to those days – experience them again, as it were."
Messandra immediately popped into her mind at that point. Of course, they were not officially 'together' – they lived apart, and, in any event, human society did not really acknowledge such a thing. But the friendship they had shared for some time had taken on a new, and richer, dimension. Messandra was improving in bed, too, learning exactly what turned her partner on, overcoming a lifetime's inhibition against same-sex relationships.
For elves, brief dalliances with other partners were nothing unusual. Indeed, she reflected, Almandar seemed to have inherited that aspect of his personality from his father. But to her, too, there was nothing unusual about it. It was only trying to have long relationships with two people at once that was frowned upon, and, for that matter, rather difficult to maintain. The affection she felt for Messandra was real, but, in elven culture, that did not mean she could not experience somebody else, too – whether male or female.
She felt fine about that, but she wondered if Messandra would feel the same. She was a human, brought up with human mores and customs. She had broken free of one already, but that did not mean she was ready for the full range of elven traditions. Humans had a much shorter life, for one thing, and they tended to think of things differently. Almandar never seemed to have a problem, but then, he had no steady partners, either, which, perhaps, made all the difference.
As she reflected, Shamira absently curled her hair with one finger, then released it, trailing the finger down over the base of her neck to the cleavage visible through her low-cut dress. Calleslyn found her eyes following the motion, watching as it strayed further down, resting between the smooth skin of Shamira's breasts, pointing downwards as if in invitation to explore further. She looked back at the woman's face, seeing the tip of a pink tongue running along her lips.
"I'll see what I can do," she found herself saying, huskily, "when should we meet?"
As soon as they were in the room, Calleslyn took Shamira's face in her hands and planted a full kiss on her lips. The magician was already turning her on, and she could not wait to explore more of her body; it had been hard enough to keep her hands from wandering as they had walked down the corridor. As they kissed, she felt her partner's hands wandering down her back, squeezing a buttock as she leaned back against the door to push it shut.
"Just a moment," gasped Shamira, pulling free of Calleslyn's kisses for a second. She took her hand away from the elf's hips and pushed it against the door, making a complicated gesture. There was a brief glow of light around the door frame as the locking spell took effect, ensuring they would not be interrupted.
They were in the apprentices' quarters, in a small bedroom that was currently unoccupied, waiting for a new student to arrive at the College. Calleslyn guessed that the room brought back more memories for her partner, of her first experience making love to another woman. That felt slightly odd, as if she was usurping someone else's place, but when the woman was as attractive and willing as Shamira, she was willing to overlook that.
They were soon kissing again, bodies pressed up against each other, fingers running through each other's hair, tongues entwined. Shamira manoeuvred the elf back towards the small bed, gently pushing her onto it. There was little else in the room, beyond a desk, some empty bookshelves and a tiny, unlit fireplace. A small window high in one corner provided light; they could both have created more magically, but there was no need.
As Calleslyn leaned back on the bed, feeling the mattress creak beneath her, Shamira broke free of the kiss, watching her face, lips slightly parted, as she ran her hands down the elf's smooth flanks, feeling her hips and the shape of her legs beneath her dress. She reached the hem of the skirt, and pushed it up, over Calleslyn's knees, then knelt down on the carpeted floor to kiss the back of one slender calf.
Calleslyn closed her eyes as Shamira continued the action, caressing one side of her leg with a hand, and kissing the inside as she did so. She sighed slightly as the woman reached the sensitive skin at the back of her knees, then continued on up her thigh. Opening her eyes to watch again, she saw Shamira's head disappear beneath the folds of her skirt, her kisses moving up the inside of her thigh, closer and closer to her groin.
"The silk stains easily," she said suddenly, as her partner began to nibble at the edge of her panties. Shamira obligingly stopped, pulling her head free from the skirt, and sitting up on the bed beside her.