tagSci-Fi & FantasyMy Travels with Clytemnestra Ch. 03

My Travels with Clytemnestra Ch. 03

byZoZa©

CHAPTER III
'ISIS & JUNO'



Clytemnestra's sources, whoever they were, had been accurate. Within an hour of leaving the forest our path meets a real road. A wide, straight, flagged road on a raised dyke that shoots arrow-straight in both directions across the open green farmland to vanishing point in the east. It terminates in the west in a dark smudge of city nestling amongst the foothills of the imposing, muscular mountains which had loomed over our shoulder throughout our woodland journey.

Here and there little blurs of other traffic can be seen on the road, but far less than so broad an artery deserves. People work the fields either side of the road, growing the food the city needs to prosper.

"Think we'll make it by nightfall?" I ask, pessimistically.

"I could, you won't."

I've wondered before about the protocol and politics of asking her to carry me. I have no intention of actually asking, especially not when she already has a lot of weight to carry from Lecto's house, but the thought does cross my mind from time to time.

So we walk. Clytemnestra's unshod hooves clop cheerfully along the worn flagstones and I tinker with spell elements in my mind. It's altogether a pleasant walk for perhaps an hour until another sound reaches us: gunfire. We both turn as one and shading my eyes against the sun I can make out a big wagon perhaps half a mile behind us. Little figures scamper about it and there's another gunshot.

Immediately Clytemnestra is thundering towards the scene and I hare after her as best I can. She outpaces me easily, but even at full gallop she can load and fire that colossal gun. She fires twice and the figures, five or six I think, scatter. I guess they must have spell-shields because I cannot imagine Clytemnestra missing, even at the gallop. Desultory return fire patters back at her... And me!

I skid to a halt, not daring to go any closer unprotected. I drop to my knee, working the lever of my rifle to chamber a round and sighting along the barrel as Clytemnestra crashes into the scattering figures, sword drawn. She hews down two before I can do more than that and the rest flee as I let fly, aiming wide despite Clytemnestra's shield. My shots have no effect save perhaps chasing the fleeing figures of a little more emphatically.

Hands shaking I sling my rifle and trot the good distance to the wagon, where Clytemnestra waits, blood-slicked sword in hand. Two corpses, both cleaved almost in two lay haloed in blood on the road and I note academically that the sight does not affect me nearly so strongly as Lecto's body did.

A pretty, brown-skinned woman clutches the reins of the wagon and stammers her thanks to Clytemnestra, who callously wipes her blade clean on a scrap of her foe's clothing and sheaths it.

"Think nothing of it, lady. Bandits are the enemy of all."

"If you hadn't been there... I just don't know what I would've done!" she cries, standing on the running board and clutching at Clytemnestra's hand.

She is in fact a startlingly pretty woman, with very fine, elfin features, deep, clear brown eyes like a gazelle and long, lustrous black hair, not only on her head, but distinctly peeking out from under her arms. Her bust is nearly flat under a cream-coloured linen blouse trimmed with lace.

"They would have robbed you of everything you carry," Clytemnestra sniffs dismissively, "what is it you carry?"

The wagon is open-topped and filled with big barrels, at least a dozen of them.

"Spirits, exotic spirits."

That's torn it. Clytemnestra has mentioned, more than once, her love of a good drink and I can almost see the wheels turning in her head.

"You were lucky we were here. They would have taken every drop. Wicked women they were, maybe would have had their way with you first."

"I really cannot thank you enough!"

"Perhaps there's some more solid way to show your appreciation... Or liquid way," Clytemnestra smiles hopefully, "It's just a shame those bastards ran away so soon. My companion here is a sorceress, you know."

I nod dumbly when the woman looks at me and wonder how deep Clytemnestra can dig.

The woman looks between us for a moment and then nods, "Of course! My sister and I run an ordinary in the city, the Cross Staves. You are most welcome! Both of you!"

"You are too kind," replies Clytemnestra as though she's not planning to drink the place dry.

"Would... would you travel with me? You are going to Pyre Silver?"

"We'd be delighted."

That's that. The woman invites me to sit by her on the wagon and she whips up her four oxen. She introduces herself as Isis and I introduce myself and Clytemnestra, who walks companionably alongside.

"You're really a sorceress, Mistress?" she asks, not quite looking me in the eye.

I think fast and have no choice but to allow that it is so, "I am."

Well, I am in a very very technical sense. I've cast three different spells in my life and own two spellbooks. It's not a lie, just a massive exaggeration.

Isis asks why we're going to the city – to Pyre Silver – and I have to think for a moment before replying.

I settle on, "We're simple wanderers. We travel the world for its own sake."

"That sounds nice," she sighs.

"It has its moments."

"Ah, but then, I couldn't do that. I've too much to leave behind, and besides, seven days' journey from Pyre Huntingbird nearly did for me, had you not been there."

"Clytemnestra saved you, not me," I point out truthfully. Not that I really want to disabuse her of any goodwill she might have for me, she's a most attractive woman.

"You'd have done the same if your legs were less short," Clytemnestra lies, smiling.

Part of me wonders how willingly she'd run into a fusillade without magical protection, but honestly, it wouldn't surprise me if she would act just the same. I unsling my rifle and start sliding fresh cartages into the tube magazine. It seems a suitably martial, 'woman of action' sort of thing to do at that moment and it has the desired effect on Isis, who looks at me with something not a hundred miles away from awe.

It's a look she gives me again that evening when we halt a little way off the road. Clytemnestra cut some firewood before we left the forest and has been carrying it ever since. I never even thought to. She arranges it in a little pile and hands one of the stouter pieces to me. I hold it in my hand and mentally tell it that it's twenty times as hot as it was. It starts to smoulder, and within thirty seconds, is alight. I've kindled fire with a thought, just as I did last night.

I've almost no idea how I might create fire from nothing, creating anything from nothing seems to me very very complicated, but altering a single property of something that already exists, temperature, for example, is almost too easy.

Isis gasps when smoke appears, and leaps almost to her feet when flame overtakes the end of the stick. I wriggle it into the middle of the firewood and tell her that everything is okay. She does settle down, but keeps eyeing me warily. I've cemented my reputation in her mind as a sorceress of great power, I think. Clytemnestra seems to think it's all very funny, to judge from her broad, pretty smile.

We reach Pyre Silver around midday. Clytemnestra has been walking lighter with her luggage on the cart and I think Isis was driving a little faster than she normally would in her excitement to get home. The road ends at the walled city's broad gates where soldiers in mail quiz us about our business. Isis tells them that we've been to Pyre Huntingbird, apparently another northern city, to buy rare spirits for her business and that satisfies them.

We roll into the city along a wide cobbled road that leads all the way from this eastern gate to what I judge a palace in the centre of the city. Grand gabbled houses line both sides and multitudes of people bustle around us.

Oh! The people! Women and men of all ages hurrying everywhere, else standing and talking, or shouting or laughing or kissing. Every one of them looks fit and healthy and slim and strong. Everyone has the same attractive brown skin as Isis, varying by only a few shades lighter or darker.

All of the women are narrow-wasted, with breasts ranging from small to entirely flat. Most of them wear abbreviated tops which show off their toned tummies and, as often as not, dark trails of hair from the navel on down under their waistbands.

I had feared that Clytemnestra might attract a lot of attention, and she does. I see no other centaur anywhere. What I had not anticipated is how much attention I attract. I've never felt so obvious, so distinct, pale and blue eyed in a city where everyone has rich dark skin and brown eyes. Clytemnestra and I could not more obviously be strangers here if we tried.

"Ah, homecoming is good for the heart" Isis smiles happily.

"I wouldn't know," admits Clytemnestra, equally happily.

"I'm... not sure I can go home." I mutter.

Isis shrugs, "Then take me at my word, it is. I have travelled for two weeks. Less than you maybe, but I'm ill-made for such privations. In an hour or less I shall see my sister again, there will be much joy to share. And I will not forget to tell her how you came to my aid my heroines, and her gratitude will be no less than mine."

In fact it proves to be more than an hour – the pedestrians are thick on the ground and once we leave the main road the streets become hazardously narrow for our unwieldy overland cart. Nevertheless, we eventually turn into a walled-off stable yard which abuts a fine brick building and an ostler appears who defers to Isis and calls her 'ma'am'.

"Welcome to my home," she declares inviting us to go with her as more servants gather, first carrying her little luggage for her and then starting to unhitch the oxen and manhandle the barrels off the cart.

It appears as though Isis and her sister are fairly wealthy from the number of servants they have, and the appointment of their home. The walls are handsomely papered, the carpets thick and the ceilings tall enough that, once she's ducked through the door, even Clytemnestra can stand upright without fear.

We've barely been inside a minute when who can only be Isis' sister appears. She's so obviously not only Isis' sister, but her identical twin. She is almost indistinguishable, the same long blue-black hair, warm brown skin, pretty, elegant face, narrow waist and flat breasts. Unlike Isis, who's attired for travelling, her twin wears a revealing gown of cream coloured silk embroidered with gold flowers and slit high, showing a generous portion of tasty, toned thigh. A diamond-shaped cut-out shows off her navel and a thick treasure-trail. Just the sort of thing to make a weary traveller smile.

Isis runs to embrace her sister warmly and for a moment they chatter greetings without a care for us as Clytemnestra and I stand awkwardly forgotten.

All of a sudden, "Juno, we have guests! They saved me from bandits yesterday."

I smile modestly as Isis introduces us. Clytemnestra is less modest, helpfully describing her own heroics in vivid detail as Isis tells the story. Juno really is as grateful as Isis had promised, embracing us both tightly, with real tears in her eyes. Her perfume smells bewitchingly of jasmine and spice, I cannot help but appreciate the feel of her firm body pressed hard against me through her thin silk gown.

"I promised them a reward, Juno."

"Of course! Of course! Name it, money? Jewels? Introductions?"

"I believe a drink was mentioned?" suggests Clytemnestra.

"Anything!" cries Juno, taking Clytemnestra's hand and leading her deeper into the house while Isis and I follow.

She leads us into a big hall full of tables perhaps a quarter of them occupied, there's a long bar along the near edge with many big, tapped barrels on stands behind it. There must be seats for two hundred people in here. The décor is a complete change to the attractive, opulent apartment we'd just left. The walls are whitewashed and the bare floorboards are lavishly stained, all of the furniture is simple and solid and much of it equally stained, notched and knocked about. The smell of sweat, alcohol and stale smoke permeates everything. Juno looks entirely out of place in her fine dress.

She takes a seat at the bar and I do likewise, Clytemnestra clears some stools out of her way and settles directly on the floorboards. A pretty, cheeky looking young girl with most of her ample brown bust on display hurries to serve us and Juno tells her to bring whatever we desire. Clytemnestra asks for sack, its served in a small copper cup which she drains before I can even ask if I could have some tea, please?

Clytemnestra makes the girl bring her a cup more suited to her thirst and then I ask for tea, which comes and is quite excellent, if again, unidentifiable as any kind I know.

Juno makes us recount 'our' fight fight with the bandits again, which Clytemnestra does, in suitably lurid terms while keeping the barmaid busy topping up her big goblet. I'm certain I'd be unconscious if I drank half what she is.

Juno can't get enough of the story, and when Isis arrives a little later, dressed rather like her sister but in green and looking refreshed, it's demanded once again. This time complimented by Isis' own, somewhat exaggerated recollections, which have grown to the point where she recalls my firing a hail of sorcerous bolts from my rifle and quite possibly having eyes burning with inner fire.

If that's the way she chooses to remember things then I choose to let her. Since our stock seems good here I ask after cigarettes, but am met with blank looks. When I ask after tobacco the barmaid brings me a clay pot full of long, slim cigars. I take one and, mostly for devilment, I ignore the proffered taper and light it magically as I had the firewood. Juno is as agog as Isis had been last night as I puff experimentally, it isn't bad at all.

Juno excuses herself and takes Isis to the other end of the bar where they chat animatedly for a while.

"Lovely girl, no?" muses Clytemnestra.

"Very. Both of them, in fact," I'm determined not to be out-cooled.

"We were lucky those bastards wanted a bit of Isis. Very pleasant welcome to a new city this is. I think you're my good luck charm, lady."

"Or maybe you're mine. If it weren't for you I'd still be wondering the forest, starving to death... If I was lucky..." I shiver involuntary as I recall Lecto.

"Then two halves make a whole," she smiles, reminding my how much I like her smile, and knocks her goblet against my clay mug.

"I like the sound of that."

"Me too. I think we'll stay here a little longer," she takes a drink, "Possibly a lot longer... Where was I? Yes, stay here a while and then we'll have to see about lodging. I don't know about prices in this city, but I think we can cover the night, and the loot from Lecto's we can sell in the morning. Unless I miss my guess it'll see us live well for a little while."

That does sound nice. I'm feeling pretty good sitting here, drinking tea and smoking, and the idea of sleeping in a bed, perhaps even having a hot bath first sounds like the perfect encore.

Isis comes back to us and asks us to join her in the apartment. She leads us back the way we came and into a beautiful sitting room with embroidered tapestries hanging on the walls, handsome soft furniture and a grand marble fireplace on one side. Juno is reclined one one of a pair of identical chaises longues and Isis takes the other, inviting us to sit too. I sit in a big leather armchair while Clytemnestra settles on the floor as she usually does.

"The ordinary can be very rowdy after dark, quite rough indeed," says Isis, waving a hand in the direction of the drinking hall from which we've just come, "We used to employ a couple of bouncers to keep things in order. I thought we still did."

Juno takes the thread, "The guard came and took them away a few nights ago. Seems they were supplementing their income. Hired muscle, shaking down debtors, the occasional knife in the back."

"Nasty stuff," adds Isis.

"So we're short two bouncers, and that's not good in this business, not in this place, and I asked myself what to do?"

"And then I come home with two brave fighters," says Isis.

"Like the answer to my question," Juno goes on.

Isis takes it again, "You'd have to be a fool to misbehave when you're being watched by a sorceress and a centaur."

"Bloody idiot more like," says Juno, candidly, "How about it? The money is good if you can keep the peace, and I'm sure you can, and room and board, you need somewhere to stay in Pyre Silver, right?"

I glance at Clytemnestra. The idea of being a bouncer in a 'rough' place like this is supposed to be is intimidating to me, especially considering that I'm not half, not one tenth of the sorceress that the twins seem to think I am.

Clytemnestra needs little convincing, "We do indeed need somewhere to stay, and I for one can think of no better place," she looks at me.

With a real sense of dread I agree, "Sounds ideal."

We hash out the details with the twins for a while, discussing money, hours, duties and such. A servant brings food and watered wine on silver trays while we talk. With lunch and our negotiations concluded satisfactorily the twins stand and so do I. They each shake my hand warmly and then Clytemnestra's.

"I think that there is only one more thing remaining," says Clytemnestra, a familiar wild look in her eye.

She seizes Isis in her arms and plants a long, passionate kiss right on her lips, Isis freezes for just an instant before returning it. In a moment Clytemnestra does it again, taking Juno and kissing her deeply.

"I told you," pants Isis, when her sister is released.

I can only stare, shocked until Juno slinks over to me, taking my chin on one finger and teasing me into a lingering kiss of her own. I fall into the scent of her jasmine perfume, the taste of sweet wine on her lips, the feel as her sister caresses me from behind and then pulls me away to kiss her.

Juno is taken from my arms and Isis slides into them, her body against mine, her hands running over my back, my waist, my hips. I lean into her, stroking her lithe, hard body and trailing kisses over her neck. Juno is barely two steps away, worshipping Clytemnestra's bare breasts with her lips and tongue. I take a step forward, and another, forcing Isis back until she's back to back with her sister, I feel them rubbing lasciviously against one another and against us. My hands quest around both bodies until I am cupping Juno's firm, flat breasts and kissing her sister at the same time.

A strong hand twines through my hair and guides me to Clytemnestra's lips now. Her tongue enters my mouth and dances with my own as we share a lusty kiss across the twins' shoulders while they writhe against one another. As I suck Clytemnestra's long tongue the twins turn about one another until it's Juno in front of me and she tears me from Clytemnestra, shoving me forcefully on the chest and forcing me back until I fall sitting on the armchair.

Juno's cream gown falls to the floor as she strides toward me a naked vision of rich dark skin and feminine curves. Her golden brown skin is almost glowing in the soft light. Her deep black delta of pubic hair is wide and thick and glistening with moisture. Her dark brown nipples are long and stiff and just asking to be kissed.

She kneels on the chair, straddling me and I take a stiff brown nipple between my lips as she circles her hairy sex against my navel. She works her rocking hips against me for a moment and then starts to slide lower and lower still, arching her flexible spine to maintain as much contact as she can between us. I kiss her hard as her face comes level with mine, forcing my lips to hers, my tongue past her teeth, but even that does not stay her for long.

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