Talla's Temple Ch. 06byxtorch©
"She can hear nothing now?"
"The shock will clear her mind for some time, Second of mine," the Sorceress of Abundance responded.
Atreya was worried. She'd seen a lot of corporal punishment carried out, but had never seen anything so painful in her life.
"Indeed," the Queen added as she looked down at the head cradled in her lap, "she hasn't her wits about her yet."
Talla looked up blankly at the Queen, confusion and the memory of pain creasing her brow.
"There, dear, easy now," the Queen said soothingly. Unlike Atreya, the Queen had seen the like before, but never at an upgrade. She pulled the thick white robe more tightly around her young charge to stop her shivering. It helped very little.
"Perhaps you could tell Us what happened."
Abundance sat in a chair at right angle to her Queen's couch. Atreya stood before them wearing only her skirt, not having taken the time to retrieve her top when they had taken Talla out of the Augmentation Chamber. The Sorceress of Point had been left to finish the evening's docket. The upgrades remaining were all hers anyway.
"He took too much," Atreya started. She stammered a moment and then corrected herself. "I gave him too much. I – I've never seen anyone draw it out so quickly. I thought it impossible, that I was fooling myself somehow. But he really pulled it out of me before I even - "
She stopped speaking and shook her head.
"How much, do you think?" the Queen asked patiently. There was only one more thing she could do for poor Talla. Cradling Talla's head in with her left arm, she began undoing the toggles of her blouse with her right.
"I don't know," Atreya replied.
The Queen slid her right arm out of her dress sleeve and let the left shoulder slide down as well. She drew Talla in closer, bringing the young one's mouth to her breast.
"Drink, dear," she said softly as she squeezed her breast. "You'll feel better."
A tiny drop of milk came forth and dripped in to Talla's mouth. She latched on mindlessly and began suckling from her Queen.
"There. It will calm you some."
Abundance, following Protocol and finding herself in the presence of a topless Queen, unlatched her sash and removed her bikini top. She looked at Atreya and raised an expectant eyebrow.
Yes, rules, Atreya remembered.
If a Queen is wearing only a long skirt and a Sorceress is wearing only a mid length skirt, a Second has no business wearing the same. She unlatched her skirt and let if fall to the floor. Too bad she hadn't worn anything underneath.
"You didn't consider halting?" the Queen asked. Her voice was still quiet but the soothing had gone out of it.
Atreya shook her head. Halting the Rite was her responsibility. But it was a difficult thing to do. It was frowned upon as an admission of failure. "Not until I saw him ... when I saw him twisting like that. I knew I hadn't been imagining things. I was about to -"
"Yes," Abundance put in as she folded her arms under her pendulous endowment, "I saw that. Late."
"Yes, late," Atreya admitted.
"This is a violation, you realize," the Queen said.
Protocols. If she had done this knowingly – and with intent – the punishment was severe. Mere incompetence merited punishment as well, but not as harsh. A woman of her rank was expected to know what was going on with her body.
"A lack of control," Abundance put in deadpan, "from my Second."
"In your defense?" the Queen asked.
Naked, in this quiet, dark room in the Queen's offices, she was to defend herself?
"It is difficult," Atreya began, "to pierce the seal of an unupgraded Virgin. That's why we use Officers and High Officers."
"Indeed," Abundance said, unimpressed.
"Many woman even take two or even three tries to get the first upgrade to take."
"When has any man every taken more than one upgrade from a woman in such a short time?", Atreya added, "I have heard of a double upgrade, but even that never led to such – such -"
She looked down at Talla, sleepily taking in the wonder drug that was the milk from Perfected mammary glands.
"Such pain," she finished sadly.
"I have myself witnessed several accidental double upgrades," the Queen said. "If I were to search the histories, I would probably find many more. I would probably also find that punishment for such was minimal."
That was hopeful.
"But what have you done today, Atreya?"
That wasn't quite as hopeful.
"I don't know. He was so fast. I don't know how much he took."
The Queen pursed her lips and looked down at Talla. She shifted her body to the side and let her other breast in her charge's mouth.
"I'm nearly empty," she remarked to the Sorceress.
"Let me know."
They turned back to Atreya.
"What of this?" the Queen said. "This can be no accident. You should have realized what you had given to this boy. The harm done to Talla could have been immense."
She nodded to the Sorceress as she lifted Talla's limp body to a sitting position. They switched places so Abundance could cup her own breast to let Talla suckle thereon.
"Yes, Highness," Atreya said contritely. "It pains me."
"As it should."
Atreya nodded in agreement.
There was silence for a time. The Queen refastened her dress. Atreya remained, by reason of her Sorceress's semi-clothed state, naked. The three women stayed in these positions for some time – nude, topless and fully-dressed – while Talla suckled peacefully away.
"She is done now," Abundance said.
The Queen rang a bell. The door opened immediately to admit two attendants – Endowment women with several Form upgrades.
"Take her to my quarters," the Sorceress said to them as she replaced her top and her sash, "Find someone to keep a close eye on her, then find a physician. Within, if you can find her, or her Second. Let her know that there was an overloading incident during an upgrade."
"Yes, Mistress," the senior of the attendants replied with a curt bow. They produced a stretcher, in to which Abundance gently lowered the young girl in her thick white robe. Talla was carried off.
Neither of the attendants showed any awareness of the naked woman standing at attention in the middle of the small room. They both knew who it was, even without the clue of the blue skirt sitting in a pile at her ankles but the tension in the room was palpable enough to speed them out.
The door closed behind them.
The room became decidedly cooler. All sense of soothing was gone. Atreya stood stiffly with her hands clasped behind her back and looked over the heads of her seniors.
The Queen rubbed a forefinger on the bridge of her nose and looked at the floor.
"A court would say six common lashes and one night severe Service," she said. "We offer you six common lashes, here and now. Five of them to the rear."
The Sorceress nodded her agreement.
"We make the offer to keep it a private matter," the Queen said, "out of respect for your many deeds. You may protest and take it to court on the morrow."
Court would be worse. Without the context of seeing the Rite – seeing how fast Zhair'lo's absorption had gone – a judge might not be so lenient. It was just so rare for a Second to be lashed at all. At least if she did it this way, in this room and without protest, few would know of it.
At least she was already naked. That saved a lot of time.
The Queen produced the common whip from a drawer in her desk. Did she always keep one there? Atreya had never seen it before. Was there a heavy whip in some other drawer?
The Protocol was clear. Already bare of clothing, Atreya needed only to lean over the couch while keeping her knees straight and her feet planted shoulder width apart. If this were done in court, there would be a wooden table upon which she would have to lay her upper body and restraints to hold her wrists in place. Here, in this informality, she was trusted to accept her punishment without resistance or evasion.
"For the crime of Overloading a Conduit, for causing unnecessary pain to two human beings and for reticence in acknowledging your failure in time to prevent such pain and suffering, you will receive six lashes," the Queen said.
"I am ready."
The Queen was a strong woman. She possessed eleven upgrades in the three Disciplines of Endowment. That wasn't the part that worried Atreya. Except for some pectoral strength, it hardly mattered. What really mattered was that a Queen was upgraded to the tenth level in every other Discipline, lest some accident require her to suddenly become Goddess. That meant ten upgrades in all of the Form Disciplines.
That was why the first lash she'd had in so many years stung so badly. The funny thing was that she heard the snap before she felt any contact. Her ears gave her a tiny fraction of a second to anticipate the pain that was coming. It seared a line across her rear that almost made her move. Almost.
But she didn't move. That would have been unforgivable in these circumstances. They were giving her the chance to keep this off the record. She must demonstrate her appreciation by acting as if she actually were tied down to a piece of wood somewhere in the domain of Form.
The second strike was just as bad. The Queen might not have to personally punish her underlings often, but she was more than dexterous enough to repeatedly strike a single spot with a lash. Her cheeks burned.
She accepted it, though. What she had done to Talla through her negligence had been far worse than this. Hell, what she had done to Zhair'lo had probably been far worse. At least he had recovered and walked away.
The third strike was vicious; an assault to remind her of her failure, not just as a qualified source of upgrades, but as a human being.
Number four scraped across the upper part of her thighs. It surprised her so much that she had to stifle a scream. They would get no such protest from her. She knew that what she was enduring was only what she deserved. A protest would be an attempt to deny that simple truth.
The fifth lash was the hardest, striking diagonally across her cheeks and cutting across the three streaks that had already been laid in to her delicate skin.
She took a breath as the stinging faded. There was only one left. The Queen had said that five of them would be to the rear. That didn't leave a lot of options. There were only two other places that Protocol allowed a lash. One of those places was the stomach. But this was Endowment. The abdomen wouldn't do.
Atreya stood up and turned her body sideways to her Queen.
Protocol dictated that she stretch her arms over her head and close her eyes, so she did just that.
She clenched her teeth as she heard the whip whistling through the air.
It struck across the tops of her breasts, narrowly missing her nipples but catching the edge of one aureola.
Gods, that hurt. Sensitivity was the gift and the curse of the Upgrade. She knew that she deserved neither sympathy nor pity, so she tried to hold back the cry of pain that wanted out. It was all she do to hold her protest to a low moan.
While the Queen returned the whip to her desk, there was moment in which Atreya could consider her pain. The Queen hadn't chosen that last part of the punishment idly. This was the pain that Talla had felt, stinging and burning in her chest.
Being in pain was awful. Knowing that she deserved it was depressing.
"I would like to keep watch over Talla," she said without turning to face either of her superiors.
In the periphery of her vision, she saw the Queen nod.
"See to yourself first," she said.
"Yes, Highness. Of course."
Atreya quietly collected her skirt but didn't put it on. She didn't want to stain it with blood.
Zhair'lo was waiting. He'd been waiting for a while.
He was in the departure room – for so he'd dubbed it – just outside the Augmentation Chamber. He'd been there, with a single guard to watch over him, since they'd dragged him there. Two other men had come in, received their clothing, waved politely to him, and left. The mere presence of the guard quashed any chance for conversation.
He reeked of trouble and knew it. He'd screwed things up badly. He'd hurt Talla. He'd disrupted the whole peaceful, musical thing they'd had going.
All he gained from the men passing through was that the evening's upgrades were proceeding despite whatever had happened between him and Talla. There was no one who spoke to him. No one gave him updates. He asked the guard once if someone could tell him how Talla was. She was only willing to say that she had been ordered to keep him here, so she couldn't leave to perform any such check. And yes, she agreed, that was not the way upgrades normally went. But she assured him, in a tone that failed to reassure him, that Talla would be just fine.
So he sat in his beige Temple robe, the bottom of which someone had kindly brought to him, and waited.
The last upgrade was apparently finished. The last of the three men he remembered from the waiting room came through. He was given his clothes by an attendant dressed in white and changed immediately. He looked at Zhair'lo's sad face, looked at the guard with her spear and did the same as his comrades had done: polite wave and out.
The room wasn't big. It was just a place with a small bench for a single man to change and leave. Four made a crowd. But once the attendant left, it seemed more vast and empty than the Chamber ever had. Silent companions could do that, even in a small space.
Zhair'lo heaved a sigh.
"How long do you think it will be?" he asked.
"I can't say for certain," she replied without looking down at him, "but I would guess that, the docket being complete, they will have some time to get to you now."
"How much trouble am I in?"
"Trouble?" she asked, showing her first emotion of the evening. She was so confused that she actually made eye contact. "You followed Protocol perfectly. Far better than many rookies. You have no idea how often I've seen premature ... well, never mind. It's more likely they're concerned for your health."
The guard pressed her lips together and looked at the wall.
"It's hard to say," she replied, "and mostly not for me to say regardless."
She looked down at him, sitting on the bench, and something like pity overtook her. At first she had thought that he was ill from his part in what had transpired. Now she came to the realization that what she was seeing was a man fretting with concern for the health of a sister of the Temple. This endeared him to her somewhat, despite her training.
"It is possible that you took on too much," she said in what she hoped was a comforting voice. "You may have been overloaded with the -"
The door to the chamber was pushed open at that moment. The guard snapped to attention, cutting herself off. Zhair'lo jumped up. He hoped to see Talla. He hoped to see her come in, eyes wide open, to tell him everything was all right.
But it was just Ella and Renia. What were they doing here?
The guard relaxed her stance as she looked at them carefully. "What is it, Initiates?"
Ella and Renia looked at each other and shrugged.
"Mistress," Ella said hesitantly. She stepped close to the guard and leaned in to whisper something. Zhair'lo only caught one word that sounded like, "Valee". It was not a word he knew.
"Here?" the guard asked in surprise, displaying only her second emotion since Zhair'lo had met her.
"Draco," Renia said, as if that solved everything.
The guard shrugged. "Inador. Harum Talla."
Ella and Renia nodded, apparently understanding this. The guard let herself out back in to the Chamber, leaving the door slightly ajar.
"Sit," Ella said as she gently nudged him on to the bench. She sat to his right while Renia sat on his left.
Were they here to give him bad news?
"Is Talla okay?"
He wanted answers. If they were bad answers, he wanted them immediately.
"She's fine. She's fine," Ella said, pulling a leg up on the bench so she could turn to face him, "We just went to see her. She's sleeping now. She was given, um, some medicine. She should be fine in the morning."
"She looked very peaceful," Renia added.
There was an awkward pause. If everything was fine, why did the two of them have to come here to tell him?
"Look," Renia said, "We have to ... um ..."
She trailed off.
Ella finished the sentence somewhat dubiously, "... make sure you're okay."
"I feel fine. I'm just worried."
What were they getting at?
He looked from one girl to the other. Both were biting their lips.
It was Renia who spoke next. "Why don't you just lie down?"
Oh. That kind of 'okay'.
Now he was worried. As Ella pushed him on his back, he asked, "Is there a chance I was damaged?" That would be terrible.
"Probably not," Renia said as she vacated her side of the bench so he could lie down. She knelt on the floor by his head. "We just have to make sure."
"You took on a lot," Ella said. "The important thing is that you relax and that you know Talla is doing fine."
Renia placed her lips upon his very softly. He closed his eyes as he felt her tongue gently probing him. Ella, meanwhile, was working below. He couldn't see her, with Renia blocking his view, but there was no doubt that she was going for a repeat exhibition of her considerable talents.
Was he damaged? That was concerning. There was no reaction from his lower body. That was very concerning.
"Shhhh," Renia murmured as she kissed him. Their tongues met, briefly. It was a very uncertain kind of thrilling.
"It's okay," she said after pulling apart. "Touch me."
He wasn't quite sure of the breadth of that invitation, but he was too stunned to refuse.
It felt like drowning. The light from the torches was waning. He was exhausted from his adrenaline rush and almost an hour of worrying. Renia pushed her lips in to his and he surrendered, hoping to lose himself and forget everything. One of his hands found the back of her neck. The other hand found her bare thigh.
Her hands were on the sides of his head, rubbing his temples. The friction of her fingertips against his head made the most soothing sound inside his skull. Ella continued her work. He ignored her. He couldn't concentrate on both of them at once and found, in his calm disregard for his sexual state, that he became aroused.
He slid his hand up along Renia's thigh to no protest. When he reached her cheek, his fingertips found those of Ella. That was odd. Renia twitched the muscles of her legs. He felt Ella respond with a squeeze. What was that about?
Renia pulled away from his lips with a soft smile. She pulled her top off over her head in one smooth motion and brought her mouth to his again.
"There", she said, pulling away, "try this."
She sat up a bit and pushed her chest in to his face.
Should he -?
Apparently he should. She pushed her nipple directly to his lips. He sucked gently on the little nub and was rewarding with a slight stiffening of its tissue. Renia murmured approval and looked skyward as he continued to tickle her with the tip of his tongue. He could spare a glance to Ella now, but could only see her dirty brown hair as she was tucked under the lower part of his robe.
He returned his attention to Renia, who apparently enjoyed such attention considerably.
"I like my Discipline," she said dreamily. Zhair'lo found that mysterious.
Ella came off his erection for a moment and looked at him over his stomach. "Point, you know," she said casually and just as mysteriously.
"Two upgrades," Renia continued in that dreamy voice, "makes them more sensitive."
Ah! Working the conversation backward. He knew "upgrade" was what he had done – or tried to do – to Talla. Renia had had two upgrades. Since she was referring to her nipples, that meant that her two upgrades must have been to them. For some reason, the Discipline involving the nipples was called 'Point'. And finally, therefore, she found direct stimulation to her nipples to be – pleasant?