Sarlene's Touch Ch. 06byFuinimel©
The shop was a moderately large one, yet still dominated by many of the other buildings in the neighbourhood. The spires and domes of the nearby temples reared over the nearby roofs, giving this quarter its distinctive character. Even the streets were relatively quiet, at least when worship services were not beginning or ending. This building, then, while better than many others in the city, looked almost nondescript here, its smooth stone walls and decorative sign no more impressive than many others on the street.
Almandar and Tarissa were here to stock up on supplies in anticipation of their next foray into the wilderness. There was no great urgency, for they had no plans to head out again for a couple of months at least, but one never knew when supplies would come in handy, even here in the city. The shop, of course, given the neighbourhood, specialised in religious goods. That was, primarily, Lady Tarissa's field of expertise, but it was still useful for another party member to be present.
In fact, while he had passed the shop before, on previous visits to this quarter, he had not been inside. Tarissa, apparently, was a regular, so it clearly made sense for him to let the paladin do the talking.
Inside, the shop looked a little less discrete than it had from the street. A range of holy symbols decorated the walls, and the long counter held a number of assorted items, making the place look as much like an antique shop as anything else. There were prayer wheels, incense holders, decorated flasks, and a few items whose function Almandar could only guess at. Evidently, he mused, he had not attended a wide range of religious services. At least he could recognise most of the symbols on the wall...
The man behind the counter was middle-aged, and well dressed in a navy blue tunic. He greeted Tarissa as if she were an old friend, and then called out through the back door to the room that they had customers; apparently, he had a shop assistant working out the back.
"What can I do for you today, my lady?" he asked, turning back to the paladin.
"I was looking for some holy water," she replied, "we used our entire supply on the last trip, and we will need some more. And some of your healing potions, of course."
"Certainly..." said the shopkeeper, but Almandar's attention was distracted from the next part of the conversation by the arrival of the shop assistant.
She was a young woman, perhaps the shopkeeper's daughter, probably no more than nineteen or twenty years of age. Her black hair was tied back in a ponytail with a simple silver clasp, and lively green eyes flicked between the two customers; Almandar felt that they lingered longer on him, but perhaps it was just because he was a new visitor. Her complexion was smooth, and paler than that of the shopkeeper, with full red lips and a sensuous mouth. Unbidden, and ignoring the religious atmosphere that the shop should have been provoking, the half-elf's eyes wandered down the young woman's body, assessing her figure. She was wearing a dark green dress, the neckline demurely just below her neck, and the sleeves long to her wrists; the counter concealed her skirts, but he rather imagined they would be long, revealing little.
Yet, despite that fact, the dress could not quite hide the shape of her body. She had a narrow waist, a girdle tied around it bearing the symbol of the hearth goddess, and her arms were equally slender. Where the dress maker had chiefly failed, however, was in disguising the shape of her breasts. They were high and firm, large compared with the width of her waist; only the loosest and baggiest of clothing could possibly have hidden that fact. All in all, Almandar felt, she was wasted on religion, and he would have greatly preferred to see her in something a little more revealing.
He dragged his attention back to the matter at hand. The shopkeeper was laying out a range of bottles, and he and Tarissa were deep in discussion about the prices of various options. So far as he knew, the paladin would have no difficulty acquiring holy water blessed by the priests of Pardror, her favoured deity, and the god of honour and martial virtue, at the temple. But sometimes, a range of alternatives came in handy, and there were always the healing potions to be considered, along with whatever other accoutrements of religion there might be. There were several gods, after all, and he supposed that it was wise to keep all of them on side where possible. But, while healing potions were certainly of interest, he had to admit that only two of the gods could really lay any claim to receive prayers or offerings from him... and, of those, only Sarlene, goddess of love, was likely to be truly pleased.
A thought suddenly struck him, and, seeing the shopkeeper was busy, he turned instead to the assistant. "I wonder if you have some small holy symbols?" he asked her, "a sort of pendant, perhaps, not one of the large ones. Just as decoration?"
"Of course," she replied, "we have a range of religious jewellery."
"How about one for the goddess Sarlene?" She was an accepted member of the pantheon, after all, treated politely by the other temples, even if they sometimes kept themselves at arms length. Love was an important and positive part of the world, an essential force in the universe, something the other gods had no wish to deny. It was, he suspected, mainly the priests of some of the more ordered temples who were a little wary of its physical implications, and even they praised concepts such as romance and marriage.
The girl's eyes widened slightly, but her mouth twitched slightly into a smile. At least he had not offended her. "Yes, we do," she said, "I can fetch some from the storeroom, if you like." She half-turned, then paused, as if mulling something over, then turned back. "In fact, it might be easier if you came with me, and you can pick something." He sensed a slight blush on her cheeks, and wondered what it meant. Perhaps she was just a little embarrassed by being reminded of that particular deity... or perhaps it was something more.
"Why not?" he said to her, glancing back towards Lady Tarissa. She had evidently overheard some of the conversation, and nodded her agreement, before turning back to the array of bottles in front of her. He rather thought he saw an amused and indulgent smile on her face as she did so. Quite why, he could not be sure – it was not as if much could happen in the short time they were likely to be gone, let alone in a shop of this sort.
"I'm Lyrette, by the way," said the assistant as she showed him through the back of the shop, "and you are?"
"Almandar. I'm a wizard."
"That explains why I have not seen you before. You spend more time over in the University Quarter, I expect?"
"Yes, I suppose I do," he admitted. Certainly, he had been there just yesterday, visiting the guild and its library of spell books. "Is this the family business, then?"
"No, Derivon is just a friend of my father's, but I have been working here for nearly two years. I still live with my family, but they are away at the moment, so I have their house to myself."
He nodded, not sure what to say to that. Walking just behind her, he noted the pleasant curve of her hips. As he had expected, her skirt was long, the hemline just above her ankles, and her soft leather boots hid even the skin of those. Even so, the shape of her body was enticing, and he had to forcibly return his thoughts to the purchase. Lyrette reached a reinforced door at the back of the workshop, and unlocked it, revealing a narrow storage space beyond.
The room was stone, like the rest of the building, lined with wooden shelves on one side that reached up to the ceiling. The shelves were stacked with boxes and miscellaneous items, and jutted out far enough to leave little space between them and the far wall.
"Let me think..." she said, "They are on one of the upper shelves, I think." She pulled up a ladder that moved on runners along the shelves, and raised a leg onto one of the rungs. As she did so, the skirt lifted up, and she – apparently absent-mindedly – hitched it up further to free up her movement. It slid back above her raised knee, revealing that her boots were calf length, but also showing off a patch of bare skin on her knee and lower thigh. Her legs were slender, and well formed, much like the rest of her body, the skin pale, save for a small mole he could now see on her inner thigh. Almandar swallowed, but this time he did not pull his eyes away.
"See anything you like?" she asked, and now he was almost sure she was teasing, since she had yet to bring down any items of jewellery.
"Maybe," he said, noncommittally. Perhaps Lyrette did not have the religious commitment that her parents apparently thought... this might be interesting.
"I don't know much about Sarlene," she said, apparently still searching through the boxes, "what do you do in your worship services?"
He resisted the urge to reply that it was not what she might think. "It's not so different from the other deities really," he said, "we give thanks for the goddess's bounty, make sacrifices of beautiful items. They pass round rose water for purification, that kind of thing." Of course, the social meetings that sometimes followed the services could be a different matter, he thought silently, his eyes still drinking in the shape of her legs and body.
"You believe in love for the entire world, don't you? A bit odd for an adventurer... or are you not with Lady Tarissa?"
"The goddess teaches that love is the bond that holds the universe together, yes. And Lady Tarissa is a colleague of mine, but she's not a worshipper. It does not go well with being a paladin, I gather. Paladins love the power of Good, and have a love for their communities, but they channel it in different directions than the followers of Sarlene." He did not answer her other question; the truth was that it was part of his identity, not contradicting his adventuring career, but not directly helping it either. He did not have the pacifist inclinations necessary to join the priesthood of the goddess.
"And what directions are those?" she asked, as she picked a box up off one of the higher shelves, and returned to the floor, her skirt falling down around her ankles again as she did so.
Almandar did not immediately reply, thinking of how to frame his answer. Was she flirting with him, or were the questions actually innocent? If, as seemed likely, it really was the former, how blunt could he afford his answer to be? Fortunately, there were many aspects to the goddess. "We believe in romantic love before all else. We promote marriage, of course, so long as it is for love, not for money or social advancement. But we do not seek to restrict love between people, and there can be many ways of expressing that."
She held out the box, opening it to show a number of small pendants, amulets and bracelets, all decorated with the goddess's symbol. Most of them were clearly intended for women, to be worn as items of jewellery, but he soon selected a small silver piece on a fine chain. As he held it up, he added one final comment, just in case she had the wrong idea. "Mutual consent is at the heart of everything we do, of course. Without that, it is not love."
She placed the box onto a free space on one of the lower shelves. "Of course," she said, with a slight smile. She stepped past him, heading for the door. In the cramped space, her hips brushed against his body, and then she stopped, turning to face him. Her breasts pushed against his chest; even in the narrow storeroom, he suspected that they did so more than was strictly necessary. Certainly, the move had not been accidental.
"You must tell me more," she said, her face inches from his, the ruby lips inviting. "But not now; your friend is waiting. Perhaps you could come round tonight." She gave him her address, and Almandar readily agreed. This had been a surprising, and most pleasant, turn of events...
When she opened the door to his knock, she was still dressed in the same clothes as at the shop. This time, he made no pretence of not feasting his eyes on her figure. There was no doubt she was pretty, and, even in the lamplight from within the house, he could see she was flushed, a red blush rising to her cheeks. She almost looked nervous, and he wondered if she had done anything similar before. Perhaps not; she had said that her parents were away, so maybe she rarely had an opportunity like this. It was unlikely to arise frequently where she worked, and she was a young woman. Probably not a virgin, as forward as she had eventually been, but not very experienced in such matters, either. After all, she was still dressed demurely.
"Come in," she whispered, glancing about to make sure that nobody else could see them. He quickly stepped inside, and she closed the door behind him, leaning back against it, her eyes now running over his own body. "Sarlene believes in free love, does she not?"
Almandar smiled, "I think you are well aware of that. Many prefer to make a commitment, but, so far that has not been my way. So, Lyrette..." he said, making no secret that he was watching the rise and fall of her breasts beneath the dress, "what particular aspects of theology did you wish to discuss?"
"Some of your... religious acts are quite physical, so I hear," she said, her voice becoming husky, "In the interests of experiencing more of the pantheon, I think I should really try some of them out. Elani the Hearth Goddess is very important to me, but all the gods are related, and one should worship the others from time to time, don't you think?"
"True," he admitted, "and Sarlene is Elani's daughter, after all. As for physical acts of devotion, those are not part of the religious services as such. But they are still an act of worship, and I feel in a mood for worship tonight. How about you?"
He moved toward her, and she stepped straight into his arms. "Yes, worship is good," she breathed, "intense, physical, worship." He held her close, and kissed her red lips, feeling her tongue slide past his own. Her lips were full and sensuous, and her kiss passionate, if not fully practiced. Definitely not a virgin, he decided, but probably with relatively little experience. He was determined that that would no longer be true by the time the night was out.
She pulled back, breathing heavily. Her breasts pressed against his chest, and his arms were already wrapped around her slender waist, while her own encircled his neck. She was almost panting, her green eyes wide with anticipation. "The bedroom is upstairs," she managed, the words tumbling over each other. He nodded, then swept his arm down to lift her up under the knees, holding her to his chest as he headed towards the stairs and moved to the upper floor.
They kissed again when they reached the landing, he still carrying her in his arms. She nodded towards one of the doors, and he manoeuvred it open with an elbow. "Just a moment," she said, suddenly, "I think Elani should wait outside." He frowned, uncertain as to what she meant, but she answered his question by reaching down with one hand to unbuckle her girdle, the one bearing the holy symbol of her deity. He helped her pull it free, and then dropped it, as carefully as he could with his arms full, on a small table beside the door.
"I hope she doesn't mind listening," he said, making Lyrette blush again, and then give a small giggle. He stepped into the room, kicking the door shut behind him, and at last lowering her back to the floor.
She immediately reached for his shirt, pulling it free of his breeches, and sliding one hand up beneath it to stroke his stomach. He pulled her forward for another lingering kiss as her hand slowly pushed its way up, feeling the hair on his chest. They embraced, Lyrette's arm now round his back as he held her narrow waist, pushing her hips towards his, pressing his rapidly growing erection against her body. She pulled back slightly, then used both hands to pull his shirt up, hastily unbuttoning his tunic. He helped her, throwing the clothes down in a heap on the carpet. She smiled, her eyes wandering over his naked torso, and then running her small hands over it again, feeling the shape and firmness of it. If there was one advantage to being an adventurer, he reflected, it was that it kept his body in trim more than most other wizards managed.
Still Lyrette made no move towards the bed, pressing her body against his for another kiss. She was still fully clothed, the fabric soft and velvety against his skin. That dress was now an obstacle, hiding almost all of her body from his view. He kissed her neck, still holding her by the waist, and nibbled under her ear. He moved his hands upward from the small of her back, finding the ties that held the dress together at the back. There were several of them, tightly laced, but he was used to this sort of thing, undoing them one by one, feeling the lighter cotton of her shift with his fingers beneath the green dress. He moved his kisses to her chin, and then back again to those luscious red lips, losing himself in the moment as he pulled apart the final ties.
He did not want to damage the dress, which seemed to be made from a valuable fabric, so he pulled away from her again, holding her at arms length for one last look at her while fully clothed. Her hair was slightly disarrayed now, a few loose strands falling in front of her eyes, despite the clasp holding her pony-tail together. She was breathing heavily, her mouth part open, her eyes locked with his, as if unsure what to do next, but eager for it, nonetheless. Gently, he reached up to her shoulders, pulling the dress forward over them, allowing her to pull her arms free from the tight sleeves, then sliding it down her flanks to rest above her hips.
Beneath, she wore a plain white shift, cut slightly lower, but still showing no trace of her cleavage. The sleeves were short, little more than shoulder length, and he ran a finger along one arm, feeling her bare skin against his. She wore a silver pendant about her neck, nestling against the upper curve of her breasts. He recognised it as a simplified version of the symbol of Elani, and, after the business with the girdle, decided not to mention it to her. The hearth goddess had children; she could hardly be offended by the method of their production.
She rested her arms against his chest, as he slid his hands along her waist once again. He moved up, the cotton of the shift soft against his palms, and the warmth of her body apparent through it. He reached her breasts, cupping them through the fabric. He could feel her nipples hardening under his touch, and looked up to see her blushing once again. He pulled her to him once more, and they embraced passionately, she kissing his face, and he moving one hand through her hair – her pony-tail becoming more ragged as he did so – and the other along her back. There seemed little fat on her body, save for those breasts now crushed against his chest once more. A slim, enticing, young woman.
He pulled her outer dress down over her hips, letting it fall naturally towards the floor. She stepped out of it, moving at last in the direction of the bed. Almandar kicked off his shoes, and cupped her buttocks through the shift. Breaking apart again, but this time leaning forehead to forehead, he gazed down her body, as her own eyes strayed towards his stomach and then lower, to the bulge in his breeches.
The shift was shorter than the long dress had been, but because of her calf-length boots, only her knees were exposed. "Let me see what the goddess has to offer," he said, lifting up her shift, and raising it over her hips. She had a pair of rather prudish and un-sexy loose cotton drawers underneath, reaching to mid-thigh – back at the shop, she had obviously hitched up her skirts about as far as they would go. Well, there were only so many undergarments she could be wearing.