Sticks & Stones Ch. 01byBlack Tulip©
A word of thanks for HawaiiBill and A7inchPhildo for their comments and support.
Warning: this story features a priest who errs from the straight and narrow. If you find this offensive, do not read further.
For nearly 250 years the Witches' Hammer (the Malleus Maleficarum was published in 1487) was the guidebook for the witch hunters. Open hunting season was declared on women, especially herb gatherers, midwives, widows and spinsters. Women who had no man to supervise them were of course highly suspicious.
It has been estimated that between 100.000 and 200.000 people, overwhelmingly women, were burned or hanged during the witch-craze.
Deirdre nearly stumbled as she hastened along. The path was barely visible and wound in steep curves around the mountainside. She wore sturdy boots, but the loose gravel made the going tricky. Even though she knew this mountain like the back of her hand, she still had to be careful.
The wind whipped her long skirts around her legs, at times lifting them up and getting them snagged on the thorn bushes that grew everywhere. It was cold on the mountainside. Although it was almost spring, this high up there was still snow to be found and right now, the sky was a bleached grey. Deirdre was sure it would be snowing again.
With a puff she climbed over a big square piece of rock and dropped the haversack inside the cave. Turning around she knelt on top of the rock and peered down. The cave was just below the top of the mountain and from her threshold she could oversee most of the path, the part that wound through the low brush. Lower down, where the trees grew, the path was obscured from her view, but that was okay. She could see enough to get early warning of visitors. There were none, she saw with relief.
Satisfied that she was safe for now, Deirdre jumped down. She picked up the haversack and entered the real entrance, a narrow tunnel that lead to a huge cavern. Once inside she sighed in pleasure. The fire in the back was still glowing a soft red and the small flow of water provided a murmur that always made her happy.
The big cavern looked more like the hall of a mansion than a cave dwelling, and Deirdre often felt a sense of wonderment. She had found the cave by accident when she had been running from the priests for the first time. Scared and cold she had crawled inside the tunnel, only venturing deeper inside the mountain after she had come back from the village the next week.
Since then, many years had passed - she guessed close to ten - but she had never seen any evidence of another human being visiting the place, apart from ... him. Right now she had been living here permanently for almost five years. The priests of the Inquisition had been getting more and more fanatical, so it was no longer safe for her to remain in the village.
She had lived on the outskirts of the little hamlet, but it had been too close anyway. Although most people made use of her extensive knowledge about the healing powers of plants and herbs, most of them shunned her in public. It had been only a matter of time before the black-robed, hooded men of the church picked up the rumors about a 'witch'. Deirdre shivered with the thought of those ruthless bigots. She knew very well what would happen to her if she were ever caught.
It had been painful to leave her house behind. Her mother had died there, not long after teaching Deirdre everything she knew herself. She had warned her daughter to be careful, to be discrete with her knowledge as if she had known how bad things would get in only a matter of years. Deirdre had to leave everything behind, so nobody would guess she had disappeared on purpose. The only things she took with her were the old herbarium and the clothes on her back.
Deirdre had often thought how odd it was, to have a fully furnished place to live in at the moment you were forced to flee your own home. He had lived there, but had left without a trace. The place didn't feel evil or haunted, however. In fact it felt more welcoming than anything else. It got dirty like a normal house; it got cold in the winter, and stayed nice and cool in the summer. There was a storage place for food, but she had to replenish that herself. No magic there to fill the sacks and jars.
While she had been remembering all that had led up to her being here right now, she had unpacked the haversack. She stored the potatoes, onions and carrots that had been left at the foot of the old oak. There had even been half a side of pork. She smiled, no doubt a gift from that farmer who had called her to help his wife with a difficult delivery. They would not risk their necks for her, but most villagers relied on her skills rather than the prayers of the black robes, and up till now, the village had kept quiet about her.
Further down the trail, near the edge of the timberline, she had created a kind of calling post for her services. The ancient oak tree, with its massive trunk and gnarled limbs was the perfect place to leave messages and gifts for the herb wench. Sometimes her help was needed urgently and some farmer came searching for her up in the mountains. That's why she had spun a thin thread in a dodgy corner of the path, so the tiny bells attached to them could warn her in time. Nobody knew there was this cave and she liked to keep it that way. To those who came seeking her knowledge, it always seemed as if she popped into vision around the next corner.
Deirdre poked the small fire at the back of the cave and settled in the big chair next to it. The chair was so big; she could easily draw up her legs and tuck her skirts around her bare feet. She had left her boots at the end of the tunnel, so the soft furs and carpets that covered the rock floor stayed clean. Before she came back up the mountain, she had already looked through the messages left for her but there had been nothing really urgent. The miller's wife wanted new ointment for her baby's rash, the old man living with his daughter on the other side of the village was suffering from painful joints again, a young woman asked her for something to relieve her monthly cramps, nothing that couldn't wait. She'd fix the ointments and the potion and take them down in the morning.
The flames from the little fire danced and painted red and orange patterns across the walls. Deirdre stared into them and felt her mind drifting towards her favorite fantasy. One day, one day she would find someone who would not be afraid of her. A man who would understand there was nothing mysterious about her knowledge. The big violet eyes had a dreamy look and her hands twisted the deep black curls that framed her face.
A deep sigh escaped her as she tried to imagine who would be idiot enough to fall for her. One hand trailed down the front of the purple shirtwaist and then the second as well. They caressed the skin that was left bare by the heart-shaped neckline. Her full breasts strained against the tight fabric as she lightly passed her palms over the stiffening nipples and she arched her back. Deirdre closed her eyes as her hands teased her breasts, then unbuttoned the shirtwaist and freed her breasts from their confinement. The heat traveled through her body in waves, sending tingling sensations from her nipples to her clit and back up again. Her legs slipped to the ground. Her left hand was still caressing her pink nipples, but the other had traveled down to hitch up the black and white stripped skirt with the purple underskirt. Her fingers lightly danced across the soft skin of her thighs, tantalizing herself by not quite touching her pussy.
Deirdre moaned as her fingers excited her nipples into hard, swollen peaks. God, how she wished she could find someone. Her legs were spread and as she felt her own hand touching her pussy, she ached to be filled by a living cock. Instead she left the big chair and went to the corner that held her mattress. She looked at the beautiful cock of buxus wood that rested on a small ledge, while she slipped out of the skirts.
Again she sighed as she lay down on her back, with her knees drawn high so she could drive the wooden cock inside. One hand circled her clit as the other started fucking her in slow strokes and soon the murmuring of the little brook got company from the tiny sounds Deirdre made in the back of her throat. The image she had of herself, spreading her legs in full view, her breasts exposed, was a tremendous turn on. A flush spread over her body and her face. Suddenly she pressed down on her clit while her hips bucked as she pushed the wooden cock as deep as it would go. She climaxed but deep down she felt something missing. It never fulfilled her completely, it never had.
The wooden cock she had carved herself was still in her hand as she drifted slowly off to sleep. The striped skirts lay in a heap at the foot of the mattress and the shirtwaist hung loosely on her tall frame. Somewhere during the night she woke up enough to get rid of the rest of her clothes. After that she slipped under the thick furs lined with cotton that served her as blankets.
Next morning Deirdre shivered as she crawled out of bed. The fire had died and it felt as if the temperature had dropped considerably. After she had rekindled the fire, she heated enough water for a bath. The tub she used was just big enough to sit in with her knees drawn up, but it was better than nothing and it warmed her back to humanity. She grinned at her own silly thoughts.
Humming softly, Deirdre prepared the requested ointments. The potion was easily seen to as it was often in demand and she still had some left. With the different cures in the haversack, she walked over to the entrance tunnel. One sniff was enough to tell her she had been right the other day. There was snow in the air. She pulled on the sturdy fur lined boots, donned the heavy woolen cloak and picked up the haversack.
The violet eyes sparkled when she stepped out of the tunnel. The world was transformed into a quiet and pristine place by the thin layer of snow that covered already most of the rocks. Deirdre lifted her face to the oddly luminous sky to feel the snowflakes caressing her skin. She knew the path would be more treacherous than ever, but she couldn't help herself. She just loved the snow.
Deirdre made a mental note to replenish her stock of firewood when she came back. It looked like the snow would last for at least a day. Glad that she had enough food to last her a couple of days, she climbed down to the timberline, left her medicines in the hollow beneath the old oak tree, and checked for messages. There was nothing there so she had time enough to roam the mountainside for firewood.
Careful to stay out of sight of the trail that lead to the village, Deirdre circled the mountain till she reached the eastern slopes. The trees there were almost all evergreens, keeping the light snow from the ground for now so the fir cones were still dry. She filled the haversack with cones as she steadily climbed higher. Finally she stopped, her path blocked by a deep ravine with the river at the bottom. The small trickle from her cavern ended up in this river and all she had to do, was follow the ravine up to reach the cavern from the other side.
With a respectable bundle of twigs on her back, Deirdre climbed up the steep slope, the bottom of her skirts wet from the snow. It was no longer fun by now, since the wind had started up and the flakes were getting bigger and bigger. "It's a good thing I know my way", she thought. She wiped the snow from her face and stood for a minute to catch her breath.
As she started to climb the last stretch, she thought she heard something. Frowning in concentration she cocked her head. Was it the wind, her imagination, or did she really hear moaning? She looked around but there was nothing unusual. Tired from carrying the pile of firewood all the way up, she scrambled over the flat rock, glad to slip inside the tunnel.
The stack of wood near the fireplace was sufficient, more so with the supply of twigs she had brought with her. Rubbing her hands, Deirdre emptied the haversack in a box and threw a few cones in the fire. Within seconds the smell of burning fir filled the cavern. It made the space almost cozy. With her back to the fire she tried to dispel the feeling of unease. It had been the wind, that was all. Nobody ever climbed that side of the mountain; there was no real path there.
Nuts, absolutely nuts. She had to be, to go out again. Deirdre was muttering under her breath as she tugged on the heavy boots and wrapped the still damp cloak around her. Not sure whether she had heard a sound, she found she could not let it go. She had to find out. With a sigh she slithered down to the top of the ravine to take a closer look.
The wind had picked up even more, so she could hear nothing over the howling through the outcrops of rock. Deirdre squinted against the snowflakes. There, what was that? She wiped her face and looked again. A piece of black that was too black in this world of white and grey and pale blue, together with a touch of red.
Careful not to slip, she climbed down to have a closer look. Near the bottom of the ravine she halted in shock. No! It couldn't be. Not here! The violet eyes were wide in disbelief and her face had lost all color. The young man at her feet had obviously been caught unawares by the snow and had slipped on the icy gravel higher up. His face was pale against the red of his hair, but that was not what had her so upset. She had seen worse than the cut on his forehead. It was the black that had attracted her attention in the first place.
A priest. A goddamn, bloody priest. On her doorstep. She studied his face, but she had never seen him before. He must be new to these parts. The freckles on his cheekbones made him look young, maybe twenty, twenty-five at the most. God, what should she do? Leaving him out in the snow could easily kill him. Taking him in was probably signing her own death warrant. Deirdre stood staring down at the young priest, biting her lip and clenching her fists.
Finally the cold made her move again. Her feet were getting numb from standing still and that more or less decided for her. With a big sigh and uttering some very elaborate descriptions of her own intellect, she started hauling the limp body towards the cave. Maybe her good deed would earn her a lapse in memory on his part. Yea, right. When hell freezes over. The thought made her laugh derisively.
* * *
What had happened to him? Where was he? The young priest felt confused, his head hurt terribly and his body ached all over. His body, he could feel his body. Oh Lord, have mercy. Somehow he had lost his clothes. He could feel his body touching cotton and fur. He opened his eyes cautiously, expecting to find himself in the clutches of devils, at least lewd old women.
Surprise made him open his eyes wide and he bolted upright, forgetting his state of undress for the moment. He was lying on a straw mattress under a couple of furs, in front of a small fire. The real surprise however, was the woman sitting by the fire, watching him with a stolid expression. She had beautiful violet eyes and deep black curly hair.
The low sound of her voice gave him goose bumps. "You should not get up yet. You hit your head rather hard." She moved over to his side, knelt and pushed him softly onto his back. "Can you see this?" She held up a few fingers, but he noticed the outlines were a bit blurry.
"Yea..." He croaked and tried again. "I can see you, but not well. What happened? Who are you?"
The woman ignored his questions and offered him a mug. "Drink. It helps the headache. What is your name?"
"Rory. Who are you?" He was thirsty and swallowed half the contents in one go, making a face when he tasted how bitter it was.
"Well, Rory. You took a nasty fall down a ravine." She accepted the mug back. "You'll heal, but you have to lie down for a few days or you'll keep getting headaches and blurry eyesight." The woman stood up and looked down at him. "I'll leave you to rest now. Best to keep your eyes closed."
Rory followed her with his eyes as she walked through the, what was it? He finally looked around but he had trouble focusing. It looked almost like a cave of some sorts. Odd, because there was furniture, furs and carpets on the floor. And the woman... He felt his head throbbing and closed his eyes.
Rory drifted in and out of a light slumber, always aware of the woman. He had been ten when his parents had sent him to the church. From then on he had spent his days in the company of men. The monastery where he received his tuition was remote, self reliant and very strict. His bright intellect had provided him with a place in the retinue of one of the inquisitors. It had made it possible for him to travel, visiting all kinds of towns and villages. Women however, were terra incognita.
The woman made him nervous. He could smell her scent and it made him uneasy. She took care of him in an odd kind of detachment. She had taken him in, but it was as if she wanted nothing to do with him. Rory frowned as he tried to think of an explanation. He couldn't come up with one. As a priest he was used to people treating him with respect, with awe, but not with... It almost felt like distaste.
For the first time in days his head was clear and his eyesight was unclouded again. He had been on his back for almost a week now and he felt a lot better. In fact he wanted to get up, but he thought he had to ask her first. Her, he thought, he had not been able to get her name. She always managed to avoid giving him answers.
Rory kept his blue eyes half-closed as he searched the cavern. The woman was busy on the other side, where she spent the nights. His attention always came back to that corner of the cave. Sometimes he could see a faint outline of her behind the screen of woven fabric. And yesterday, yesterday. Maybe his eyes had betrayed him. It had looked as if the woman had taken of her clothes. But that couldn't be, could it? He had heard water splashing, but surely she would not do that in the same room with a priest?
His eyes roamed through the cavern, but they always came back to the screen. Would she take off her clothes again? No, don't think like that. It's the Devil, trying to get you. The priest shut his eyes tight and almost feverishly started passing the beads of his rosary through his fingers. Nonetheless, his thoughts circled around the woman washing his body. She must have done that, because he felt reasonably clean, but he could not remember.
The cavern was suddenly very hot and stuffy. Rory felt sweat breaking out all over his body and an uncomfortable tension between his legs. He swallowed and pushed the reddish blond fringe from his forehead. From the corner of his eye he saw a splash of color. The peacock blue bodice seemed to vibrate on the firm breasts, showing a creamy cleavage. The priest averted his eyes, only to find he was looking at the black skirts that hugged a pair of nice round hips. In agony he closed his eyes again and started praying for strength and endurance. His cock was not that easily distracted though.
Deirdre glanced at the priest. The past week had been a nuisance. She knew she could not have let him die out in the snow, but often enough she had been sorry she had taken him in. He was not very tall, but sturdy and heavy to handle. What was more, his presence had prevented her from taking care of business. She hadn't been down the mountain in days, afraid to leave him on his own.
Despite him being a priest, his body had reacted sufficiently male to her ministrations. She smiled with a bit of glee, when she saw him with his eyes clenched shut and the covers showing an interesting bulge. Praying for his salvation, no doubt. Question was which one? She knew she was being bitchy, but his presence was getting to her. Priest or not, he was still a man and his body was nice enough.