Netherworlds: Night of the Hallowed


Keira turned to leave, stopping at the doorway to cast one last nod towards Godric. "Luck be with you." He said, with a final nod.

"You also."

Godric smiled, his lined face creasing with the effort.

* * *

"Hey, Charli? Sweetie, are you home?" Keira called brightly as she opened the creaky wooden door to her cottage at the north-eastern corner of the village, near the border of Kendril Forest. The rapid pad-pad-pad of light feet on the flagstones gave away her slave's location before she appeared from the scullery and stopped, beaming happily down the corridor at her mistress.

Keira looked her slave up and down, feeling her heart flutter as it always did when she set eyes on her. She took in her mass of golden hair tumbling past her rounded, girlish face with its big blue eyes, cheeks dimpled by her big smile, left cheek still bearing a small scar where she had failed to withdraw her face quick enough when they last made love, her pinched nose and her pale neck. A slave's white sash covered her body, following her gentle curves to her hips, where it jutted a little awkwardly over her steel chastity belt before dropping away to her feet.

Keira felt a brief moment of sadness as she saw the hard steel disrupting the lines of her sash: the wolf poison in Charli's blood was strong, and it wanted to break through. In the early days Keira had watched helpless as it tortured poor Charli; it coursed through her veins and aroused her more and more each day, until she could no longer help herself and her hands began to wander, longing to ease her frustration. Eventually Keira could do nothing to keep the girl from risking herself and had sent for a craftsman from the distant city of Mithian to craft her a chastity belt from the rare steel that never rusted, and from that day forward any access to Charli's sex had been entirely under her control.

This had caused its own set of problems, for the turmoil and uncertainty of adolescence and the constant frustration combined in Charli's head to turn her into an uncontrollable whirlwind of rage and tantrums. Such behaviour did not befit a slave, and reflected badly on Keira's standing as a ranger, and so she had begrudgingly resorted to old methods of whip and shackle to discipline Charli into obedience.

Over time that obedience became natural, and Charli had developed into a beautiful young woman, and Keira had fallen head over heels in love with her, completely besotted with her beauty, her serenity, her constant devotion.

Keira's eyes flickered a little as she returned from her misty-eyed reverie and began to remove her armour and her weapons and her packs, hanging them on the rack by the door, not taking her eyes from her slave. When she was done she turned back to the waiting girl and opened her arms, giving the unspoken command to come forward.

Charli broke instantly into a run and threw her own arms wide to wrap them around her mistress and embrace her tightly, burying her face into Keira's neck. Keira felt a grin break over her face as she let her arms fall around her slave and kissed her golden head gently. They remained in that embrace for several minutes, saying nothing and moving only to caress one another gently.

"Sweetie, I missed you." Keira said with a wide smile as she pulled her slave away from her and looked down into her wide eyes.

"I missed you too, Mistress." Charli replied, her smile seemingly fixed and unbreakable. "Are you staying tonight?"

"Yes, my sweet. I must stay in the village until the dangers have passed. Are you not afraid?"

"No, Mistress. I fear nothing when you hold me so."

Keira felt her heart dance at her slave's words. "My love..." She said softly, suddenly unable to think of any words to describe how happy it made her to hold Charli in her arms. Words did not come naturally to Keira, particularly words of love; instead she planted another kiss on Charli's forehead before she stood away from her embrace and made her way further into the house. "Come, heat some water and draw me a bath. Seven days have passed since I last felt clean. I must prepare, then rest. We may have a long night ahead if there are further attacks."

Keira headed into the scullery with her armour and weapons, and set immediately about cleaning, polishing, checking and sharpening, a task that she relished and indulged with devotion. Unclean armour showed no cracks; a blunt sword tired the muscles quickly in battle; dirty throwing knives did not fly true. When the equipment was clean she returned it to the racks near the door then retired to the main room of the cottage, where Charli was emptying pails of hot water from their hanging place above the fire into a large tin bath that she had dragged from the scullery.

Keira stripped herself of her clothes, threw them in a heap near the door and stepped into the bath. The water was warm, but the autumn chill filled the cottage despite the roaring fire, although Keira did not feel the cold like most others. Her eldritch blood, she had assumed – cold did not bother her, although warmth was a comfort that she enjoyed when she could.

"Sweetie, come join me." Keira said softly as she let herself sink back against the bare tin.

"Let me wash you first, Mistress." Charli replied, as she tipped another warm pail over Keira's body, leaving just one remaining on its hook above the fire.

"As you wish, my pet."

Charli picked up an ancient sponge that Keira had acquired during her travels through the coastal regions and soaked it in hot water from the hanging pail, leaving a trail of splashes across the flagstones as she brought it to Keira's shoulders and began to wash them gently. Keira let herself sink into the moment of relaxed comfort, indulging in the sensation of hot water running down her chest, over her breasts, down her spine. Everywhere it ran it left her skin tingling, warm and fresh. Charli's slow motion with the sponge eased the tension from her tired shoulders and neck, and then down her back as she wordlessly beckoned Keira to sit forwards. Down and down Charli worked her sponge, over Keira's hips and thighs, between her legs, down her calves to her feet, then back again.

Only when she was done did Charli wring out the sponge and throw it to the floor, pull her sash over her head and stand before her mistress, naked but for the steel chastity belt between her legs.

"Join me, sweetie." Keira said, slipping back against the bath and swirling the cooling water about herself. Charli said nothing as she stepped into the bath, her skin immediately bubbling with goosebumps in the cold, and turned into Keira's form.

They lay together in the bath until the water turned cold, and Charli began to shiver in the mid afternoon air. Keira responded to her juddering body by whispering into her slave's ear, "Rise, my pet." Charli left the bath and fetched a thick towel, her teeth chattering as she moved. Keira rose behind her, standing in the bath until the water had finished running from her hair, then took the towel from Charli's outstretched hands.

A feeling of tender relaxation swept over Keira as she rubbed her slave delicately with the towel. Despite the threat of further attacks from some unidentified eldritch creature, Keira could not help but feel contented with her situation – here in her arms was the girl she loved, and even if it was just for one evening, Keira had her all to herself.

"Come, let us lie down, pet." Keira said softly when they both stood dry and naked by the fire, bodies glowing in the heat. She led the way to the small bedchamber with the bed against the wall behind the fireplace. Charli liked to curl up against that wall in the winter, basking in the heat of the dying fire. With a happy smile, Keira remembered waking on many winter's morns to find her lover sandwiched between her and the wall, smiling contentedly in her sleep. In those quiet moments Keira felt closest to her lover, occupying one small part of the large bed, one tiny area of contained heat in a house full of needle-sharp cold.

Keira threw back the bedskin and slid across the cool mattress, guiding Charli on top of her before she pulled the skin over them. She gazed up into Charli's eyes, wide and beautiful above her, and felt her heart flutter again with giddy bubbles of uncontrollable love. Charli's lips were cool and soft as they met hers, her tongue sweet and delicate as it gently tasted her teeth and sought out her own tongue. Keira's eyes instinctively closed as her arms raised across Charli's back and scratched it playfully. Charli responded with a giggle that sounded girlish through their unbroken kiss and filled Keira's mouth with her sweet air.

Replying to her playful laugh, Keira rolled herself so that she and Charli tumbled across the bed, entangling themselves in the bedskins and in each other. Charli yelped and giggled in surprise as they tumbled, until they came to rest against the fire-heated wall and stopped, panting with effort and excitement. Keira gazed down through a lusty, love-tinted haze into Charli's flushed face, taking in every detail of her blushing cheeks, her white teeth, her wide, clear eyes. Acting in response to some sudden impulse, Keira leaned forwards quickly and planted a delicate kiss on the fading scar on Charli's cheek, watching as her slave giggled and squirmed playfully under her. "My poor pet." whispered Keira quietly. "I hurt my poor pet."

Charli stopped squirming and reached upwards with her lips suddenly, gifting a soft kiss to Keira's surprised mouth. "Anything for my beautiful Mistress." Charli replied, blushing again.

The heat of the fire against the wall warmed Keira's shoulder and arm, and the thick bedskin tangled between her and Charli trapped the heat that her excited body generated, but these were nothing to the fire in her heart that burned for her slave. "I love you, pet." Keira said, feeling as if her heart would burst if she did not let some of the love escape through her mouth. "I love you more than words allow me to describe, and still more."

"Mistress..." Charli said, her face flushing so red that Keira feared it may burst into flame. "I love you too." She paused, biting her lip in what looked like playful timidity. "Make love to me."

"Of course..." Keira replied, relaxing her grip on Charli's shoulders and sliding herself down her body, planting kisses on her neck, on her chest, around and on her breasts as she went. Following a path down Charli's stomach Keira felt the cold hardness of the chastity belt touch her chin; she sat up on her elbows and manoeuvred Charli's legs until she had access to the tiny locking mechanism.

Keira lifted her left hand and bent her fingers at the second knuckle, at the same time manipulating the decorative symbol on a pewter ring around her little finger. It clicked quietly and a tiny key extended from the front edge; Keira moved her left arm to insert the delicate key into Charli's lock and twisted, feeling in her finger the clicks of the mechanisms opening around the belt. She heard Charli sigh gently as the belt fell open and smelt the scent of her heat as her sex was released from its closed confinement.

Keira knew that a good lover should take her time when giving pleasure, but her hunger for Charli was so great that she could not delay the moment any longer. It had been seven days since she last tasted Charli's sex, and she was mad for her sweet flavour. She pulled the belt free from her lover's hips and cast it to the floor, buried her face between Charli's legs and extended her tongue, tasting the glistening arousal spread around her sex and feeling the softness of her bare belly against her face. Charli's legs rose around her head and crossed behind her back, and at last Keira felt completely encased in her lover's company, trapped between her legs, giving the pleasure that she longed to give.

Slowly, delicately, Keira let her tongue wander up and down Charli's sex, responding to the instinctive rocking of her hips and the sound of her heavy breath. Sweet little moans accompanied her laboured breathing, filling Keira with a rush of sexual excitement that overflowed from her chest, up into her head and down between her legs. Sweet pet, my love, Keira said to herself in her mind, lost among the flavour of her slave's sex; sweet pet, sweet love. How I wish I could give you the pleasure you deserve, how I wish I could let you come.

Keira checked the speed of her tongue and slowed herself down, despite the increasing rhythm of Charli's thrusting pelvis and the rising volume of her moans. Charli immediately seemed disappointed, her body tensing in a moment of frustration as she adjusted herself to the new rhythm, but Keira knew that it was unfair to push her too far – to give her pleasure too intense and then have to deny her.

Feeling a brief moment of sadness at Charli's evident frustration, Keira released her hands from their delicate grip around her slave's hips and let them wander upwards, across her writhing belly where they were met by Charli's hands. She felt them close around hers, gripping tightly; she returned the grip with her own fingers and returned her concentration to her divine task of pleasuring her slave.

After a short while Keira noticed a change in Charli's rocking: she had become still, and her grip had softened. A moment later the sound of heavy knocking on the cottage door filtered through to her brain; she heaved a deep sigh of annoyance and lifted her head from between Charli's legs, disengaging her slave's crossed legs as she did so. By the time Keira had sat upright the knocking had stopped, but it began again a moment later, accompanied by the muffled shouting of a male's voice.

Keira stood up from the bed, suddenly filled with tremendous annoyance that her enjoyment and the pleasure of her slave had been interrupted. Charli seemed almost indifferent in contrast, lying motionless on the bed staring emptily up at her.

"Be a good girl, sweetie, I'll be but a moment." Keira said as she swung herself into her robe, stopping to wipe her chin clean of Charli's lust before she strode quickly from the bedroom, past the cold bathtub and the pile of discarded clothes towards the cottage door.

Keira opened the door just a crack, remembering with a tiny pang of guilt the tense situation in the village. A man waited anxiously; he tried to push the door open almost as soon as it moved, and wedged his hand in the gap that appeared. It was Evan, one of the younger warriors who had evidently not been part of the band sent ahead to Ronihul.

"What is it, Evan?" Keira snapped angrily, not letting the door budge another crack. His haste and lack of manners annoyed her; she was a ranger, not a public house.

"Come quickly, there has been another attack. You must come quickly." He said quickly, his breath fast as if he had been running. "You must come quickly."

"Where?" She replied, feeling her heart sink. Another attack; another girl lost. Another night spent tracking wolves in the forest when she had hoped to spend it in the arms of her slave.

"Meme's cottage. Her daughter has been taken." Evan shouted impatiently. "Come quickly!"

"Wait a moment. I was... Bathing. I must dress."

Keira slammed the door shut and withdrew into her cottage, picking up a fresh change of clothes from the shelf before returning to the bedroom.

"Sweetie, no!" She exclaimed, horrified when she saw what Charli was doing. "I told you to be a good girl!"

"I was only touching, Mistress!" Charli yelped in surprise, her eyes widening and filling with tears as Keira bore down on her quickly, grabbing her hands and lifting them away from her sex. "I was only touching..."

Keira relaxed her grip and pulled Charli's hands into her lap as her anger subsided, replaced by sadness and annoyance at the interruption of her beautiful evening. "My apologies, sweetie... Mistress meant not to shout at you. But you must be a good girl."

"I was only touching..." Charli sobbed, as tears began to leak down her face.

"I am so sorry, sweetie. Only Mistress can touch." Keira whispered as she leant forwards to plant a soft kiss on Charli's flushed forehead. "I must leave. There are problems in the village."

"Why, Mistress? Why now?"

"There are problems, Mistress must attend to them." Keira said as she stood, fetching Charli's discarded chastity belt from the floor and deftly fastening it around her forlorn slave's hips. "Be a good girl for me, tidy away the bath and warm the bed, I will be back before sundown, I promise."

* * *

The atmosphere in Meme's tiny cottage was filled with anger, hatred, fear and despair. Meme sat on her daughter's bed, sobbing uncontrollably into her hands, while all around her milled warriors and friends, all trying to comfort her and get some sense of what had happened. Keira kept herself out of the way and made her own investigations, prowling around the outside of the cottage, looking for wolf tracks, unusual markings, signs of struggle or forced entry, but found none.

The wooden door clattered as one of the less distraught relatives came into the fading afternoon light and headed towards Keira, shaking her head angrily.

"Leigha." Keira said quietly, her voice formal and low. "Do you know what happened here?"

"No." The woman replied as she stopped beside Keira, following her gaze towards the forest only a few paces away. "Meme left only for a heartbeat, and Shania was gone on her return."

"No sounds, no signs?"

"Nothing, so far as Meme can tell me. She cannot say much. Shania was her only daughter, her grief is too great to contain."

Keira took a deep breath and sighed thoughtfully, letting her eyes unfocus as she cast out her mind, trying to ensnare a morsel of an idea, a suggestion, but nothing came to her. "Meme's cottage sits too close to Kendril; Meme should not have left it unattended this day, not with such warnings."

"Meme knows this already. I challenge you to tell her." Leigha said, her voice affronted, almost angry. Keira shrugged away Leigha's offence – the villagers had all been told to take extra precautions, and yet one family must now pay the price for their inattention. How many more must disregard the warnings?

"Where is Godric? I have not seen him here." Keira said, switching the subject slightly to clear the air.

"Evan sent for him, but he has already set out."

"Set out? For where?"

"For Ronihul. He left in the early afternoon."

"He left?" Keira exclaimed, astounded that the village leader should set out on a day's journey on the Night of the Hallowed, especially given the current situation. "He did not tell me he was planning to leave..." She continued, almost to herself.

When Leigha said nothing, Keira resumed her inspection of the house and the nearby ground, although she found nothing worthy of note. Nothing more than boot prints from the dozens of others who had been milling around the area since Meme's cries had brought their attention.

Godric had left, left her alone to protect the village. She had no direct authority over the village warriors, and neither did she like them much, brash and hasty as they tended to be, but she expected they would trust her opinions given the circumstances. And yet Keira had no idea where she should order the warriors anyway; there were no clues, other than to search the forest. Or maybe, just maybe, Keira thought as she grasped hold of half an idea, to let the forest search itself, and reveal its own secrets...

* * *

The light was all but gone as Keira neared the higher regions of the forest near the treeline of the mountains, and she was alert for sight or sound of the banshee, but she was not afraid. The thorny tattoo that adorned her back, arms, neck and face looked at a distance like a single black print, but close to it appeared that the branching shape was made up from thousands upon thousands of tiny hieroglyphs, an ancient language that even Keira herself did not understand. Each glyph was smaller than a fingernail, and curved around its brethren in an intricate interlaced weave, so that the language stretched like a maze in all dimensions within the border of the tattoo. The glyphs formed a spell, a charm to protect her from the ethereal – ghouls, spirits and banshees, a spell that no eldritch creature but the Devil himself could break. Keira was safe from the hunger of the banshee.

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