Sarlene's Touch Ch. 40byFuinimel©
The raid on Sashjant's lair had been a far shorter venture than any of their great expeditions into the wilderness, plundering ancient tombs or forgotten labyrinths. Yet it felt just as satisfying, producing the same thrill that escaping from near-death in an underground catacomb did. Or so Almandar felt, and he got the impression that the others did, too. Admittedly, in his case, the manner of his escape had been somewhat unorthodox, if far from unpleasant.
Presumably, for the others, the experience had been rather more conventional, but what really mattered was that they had saved five women from a terrible fate at the hands of a wicked demon. It was clear, now that they were free of his mental influence, how they regretted what they had done in his name, and, for some, at least, he suspected it would take a long time for their emotional scars to heal. Which meant that he currently felt as if he was walking on egg-shells when he was around them.
The former members of the harem were currently gathered in the main room of the adventurers' villa. Calleslyn had left to give Ornejirhs the good news, and Dolrim had left them alone, unaccountably bashful – perhaps he was overwhelmed by the emotion of the event, since dwarves were known for their taciturnity. That left Almandar with Tarissa and Vardala, talking to the rescued women.
Gut'rul was standing at the back of the room, looking stoic, although he could tell that even she had been deeply affected by the rescue, and perhaps ashamed by the way the demon had taken her over. The other four women were in a huddle around a sofa, clearly overjoyed to be free and together – Mei-Xing had received a rapturous greeting when the others found her safe and well.
"Thank you again," said Rupinder, "I can hardly begin to... well, I am still coming to grips with how this day has turned out. It is as if my world is upside down..." she paused, eyes flicking to the floor, "in more ways than one..." she rallied herself, leaving Almandar to wonder what her sudden reticence had been about, "but in a good way. In every respect... a good way. You have not just saved us, you have opened our eyes."
"What will you do now?" asked Vardala.
"I don't know... we will find something. Perhaps stay together... at least our experience has given us a common understanding. But in the longer term, I don't know; we shall just have to see what the world has waiting for us. We have seen a lot of the bad side of this world, perhaps now we shall have the opportunity to see some of the good."
"We do have a question, if you don't mind," said Tarissa, business-like as ever, "something that you might have learned while with your captor."
"Please ask, anything!" The others nodded in agreement.
"There is something terrible in this city," said the paladin, "we thought Sashjant might have had something to do with it. But if he did not, well, perhaps he knew of it. Did you hear anything about another demon in Haredil, perhaps?"
Kara nodded, "in a way, but we cannot tell you much. Our captor came here for a reason. He said there was something powerful here, something that he could be a part of. At the time, it did not make much sense to us, because we all believed that he was... well, you know what he thought about him... but, yes, he came here looking for something."
"Did he have a plan to meet it? Do you know anything more about it?"
The red-haired woman shook her head, "no, he never did meet it, or its slaves, if it had any. If he had a plan he did not share it with us. Perhaps he was just hopeful?"
"Wait," said Almandar, "how did he even know about it? Did he just sense something?"
"I'm not sure..."
Rupinder interrupted, "he said there was a legend. That is what he told me, once when we were alone together. A legend about how something had come to this city, and how it would rise again. He seemed to think it might happen soon, although I don't know why."
"What was the legend," asked Tarissa, "do you remember?"
"No, I am afraid he didn't tell me that much. I am not even sure where he heard it. But there was something... a name he used, something or someone connected with the story." She frowned, struggling to remember, and then her eyes lit up. "Throndar," she said, "that was the name: the Legend of Throndar. Do you know what that means?"
Tarissa looked around, but both Almandar and Vardala shook their heads. "No, I have never heard that name before," she said reluctantly, "and you don't even know whether that is a person or a place?"
"No, I am sorry. I wish I could help you."
"Probably a person," said Vardala, "or an entity of some kind. The place would have to be here, wouldn't it? I mean, if the legend is about something that came to the city."
"Maybe," agreed Tarissa, "but at least it is some sort of clue. Although I am afraid that we have little time in which to pursue it. We at least know where we have to go, because we have been there once already."
Almandar nodded; with the aid of the druid's potion, they should be able to get past the deadly plants, although who knew what lay beyond? This particular adventure was far from over yet.
"Could you and Calleslyn look in the College library again?" the paladin suggested.
"We didn't find anything like that last time," he said, reluctantly, "I don't think we are going to find more, at least not with a quick search. Possibly we could... no, wait, I have a better idea," he said, suddenly, "this is a legend, right, something oral?"
"He first mentioned it when we were in the eastern wilds," agreed Rupinder, "so it would have to been an oral tradition of some kind, I suppose."
"Right, well I know a bard, a woman called Yarai, and she knows lots of legends about Haredil and the lands all about. If anyone would know, she might. It's not as if it would take long to ask her, and there's no reason Calleslyn can't check out the College at the same time. I think it's worth a try, at least."
"A good idea," said Tarissa, "it is getting late now, but tomorrow, you can find this Yarai, and see if she knows what the word or name 'Throndar' means. If she doesn't know, or it doesn't help, then come back here. Quickly, for preference," she added, with a knowing look.
"Yes, of course."
It had been a long day, and Almandar was glad when he had the chance to finally slip between the sheets and try to catch some sleep. Hardly had his head touched the pillow, however, than there came a knock at the door to his room.
"Wait a moment," he mumbled, grabbing a silk robe and wrapping it about himself before answering the door. Peering through it, he saw Kara standing outside in the corridor. "What is it?" he asked, stifling a yawn.
"Can I come in?"
"Yes... sure," he said, pulling the robe tighter, and wondering what this was about.
"Thank you," she said, slipping inside and closing the door behind her. "I wanted to ask you a question. About magic."
"I'll do what I can. It's about... him, isn't it?"
He had noticed that some of the women were reluctant to mention Sashjant's name. She nodded, confirming his suspicions. Although, what else could it have been?
"Are there spells to make you forget?" she asked, looking directly into his face, green eyes wide.
"No,," he replied, suddenly uncomfortable in her gaze, "I'm afraid not, at least not for the duration of memory you're talking about... a few minutes, perhaps, but certainly not years. Even if there were such a spell, I would think it would be very damaging. Trying to wipe so much from your memory... even if it could be done, it would destroy who you are. It's just too difficult. I'm sorry."
The redhead slumped down on the bed, gazing at the floor, "I didn't think it would be that easy," she said, sounding dejected, "but I had to ask."
He sat down beside her, noticing for the first time how she was dressed. She had, of course, had the opportunity to rescue her belongings from the magical dwelling, and it seemed that that had included a nightdress. They were, he understood, a southern thing, for the nights were much colder there; people in Haredil might wear a light shift at night, but many, like Almandar himself, slept naked.
Kara's nightdress, however, was more substantial than anything local. It was made of white material, with long sleeves and a skirt that fell to her ankles, secured about the waist with a long belt similar to the one on the robe he was now wearing himself. In the light cast by the two moons – both of them full tonight – he could even see small flowers embroidered around the collar and in a double row down the front, and cuffs of fine lace at the end of her sleeves.
She looked dejected, red hair falling partially across her face, hands held listlessly in her lap. She was, of course, an attractive woman, as all of the harem had been, in their different ways, but the gloom on her face was not bringing out the best of that at the moment. Which was probably just as well, considering the situation. Given what she had experienced, the last thing he wanted to do was take advantage of her, and he resisted the temptation even to pat her shoulder, concerned that she might take it the wrong way.
She was the first to break the awkward silence. "He made us do such terrible things. Burying the bodies of those he had slain, setting traps, destroying..." she broke off, taking a deep breath to steady herself, her voice sounding increasingly miserable, "how did we do all that? How could he make us think that was right? Why didn't we question it?"
"It's an evil spell, the one he used on you. Most charm spells are not so potent, they can twist minds to make somebody think they are your friend, make them eager to help, but not to act against their natures. His was a stronger version. It's illegal in most places, a forbidden spell, like necromancy, but, well, that would hardly have worried him."
"It was an unquestioning awe of him," she said, "that was what it felt like. I don't think he changed our minds, our natures, except when it came to him. If he told us to do something, we would just do it, and be happy for it, knowing that, even if we would never do such a thing otherwise, we had to make an exception for him. It's difficult to explain, but, looking back, none of it was pleasant, though that was not how it seemed at the time."
"I'm sorry, Truly I am. At least it is over." He dared to reach out, and squeeze her shoulder, just briefly, and she didn't flinch, but he still moved his hand away afterward.
"The first time, when he captured me... I was frightened, I thought he would kill me. I knew what he was, even though he was in human form, so... yes, he disgusted me, too, and I thought he might eat me or something. But then... it was... it's hard to describe, like somehow the world had changed, and I saw him as this magnificent figure. It was so sudden... an evil spell I realise now, of course, but, for some reason, it didn't feel that way when he cast it." She shuddered, "that's one of the memories I wish I didn't have."
"Moments before," she continued after a little while, "he had disgusted and terrified me, and then... I mean, I really didn't have much experience. A little, but never that good, to be honest. And then, we were... while all the others watched... he was shouting, pulling my hair, slapping me, doing it so hard it hurt... and I liked it. Because it was him. Gods, I actually thanked him! And then... then he returned to his natural form, and made me... made me..." her voice broke.
"It's all right, I know," said Almandar softly, "Calleslyn told me."
She leaned into him, nestling her head in his shoulder, tears starting to form in her eyes, "looking back, it was so horrible... and so... often..."
He did put his arm around her properly that time, stroking her long red hair as she cried, letting out some of the anguish. "It's over," he told her, "you'll never have to do that again."
"Hold me," she whispered, "just hold me."
Gut'rul was pressed against him in his dreams, naked and warm, body moving slowly against his, arousing him as she rained kisses over his neck and shoulders. Her voice was soft, murmuring, different to how it had been earlier in the day. But it was a dream, and he did not think about such things, just allowed her to stroke him as his clothes fell away.
"Are you awake yet?" asked the barbarian woman, her voice less harsh than it had been before.
It seemed an odd question to ask, but he considered it nonetheless. Experimenting, he opened his eyes, and realised the answer was 'yes'. For it was not Gut'rul's face before him, but Kara's, long red hair falling down onto the pillow as she leaned over him, still clad in her nightdress. His own robe was open, however, his chest bare, and as he struggled to full consciousness, she smiled and moved down his body, stroking his chest hair, lips brushing over his nipples.
"Uhh..." he said, still addled by sleep. Was this real? He thought so.
"Hush," said Kara, pressing a finger to her lips, "Mei-Xing told me what you did for her."
But not Gut'rul, presumably, thought the magician. But then, she did seem the silent type, and he could hardly describe her as 'touchy-feely'. At first, he followed Kara's lead, enjoying the feel of her caresses, finding himself increasingly hard as she slipped more of his robe open. When she moved up to kiss him softly on the lips, however, he at last found his voice.
"Are you sure about this?" he asked, glad that at least he hadn't made the first move.
She nodded, leaning back, legs straddled either side of his, flipping back a long fringe over one shoulder. The moons were both still up, giving him a better view of her than he might otherwise have expected in the night time darkness. He obviously had not been asleep for long.
"I told you, I've never truly had the chance to enjoy it before. I want to discover what it's really like, what it should be like. To remember that there's something good in two people sharing each other, that it isn't all just sordid and painful. You don't mind... I mean, after Mei-Xing, I assumed..."
"No, I don't mind. I just thought that you wouldn't want..."
"If I don't do this now, I might not build up the courage again," she said, "I need to see that it can be good, like the others say. Do this for me?"
He reached out a hand to pat her hip through the nightdress, feeling the soft cotton as he slid it up over her flank, her warm body beneath it. He moved it slowly round to her front, stroking her belly through the fabric, and she smiled, properly, for the first time since he had met her.
Kara undid the tie at her waist, and then slowly slid her nightdress up and over her head, shaking her hair free as she dropped it to one side of the bed. The moonlight glinted on the mounds of her breasts, prominent and pale, large reddish nipples slightly pointed, and on her ginger tresses as they fell over her freckled shoulders.
Her skin was light and pinkish, quite untainted by the touch of Haredil's burning sun, and she shivered slightly as he stroked it, trailing his finger tips up her body to cup her breasts. Her nipples were already hard, but seemed to swell even more beneath his touch, as she leaned over to kiss him on the lips.
He responded eagerly, hands moving up around her back as her soft mounds pressed into his chest, tongue and lips slowly mingling as they tasted each other's mouths and she let out small sounds of encouragement. He rolled over onto his side, hands sliding down over her pale thighs, the pair of them still kissing as her own gentle fingers ran through his hair.
Almandar broke from the kiss, but only to press his lips against the angle of her jaw and then down over the skin of her throat as she arched her head back to accommodate him. Gradually, he moved lower, tongue gently flicking between pursed lips to taste every inch of her pink skin. He moved down over her upper chest, one hand caressing a breast, the other roving over a thigh, and she rolled onto her back to give him more freedom, silver light still outlining her body against the sheets.
He savoured her breasts, but not hungrily, taking his time, teasing each of her large nipples in turn with gentle brushes of his tongue before pressing them between his lips. She sighed, one hand still brushing his hair, the other resting on his shoulder.
"Mmm..." she whispered, "this is good..."
He abandoned the luscious mounds to move his kisses lower, across her belly, as his hands roamed across the rest of her body. He ran his tongue in circles round her navel, dipping it inside, pressing his nose into her rounded flesh before moving still lower, her body quivering in anticipation as he did so.
She still wore panties, he saw, slight affairs of a lacy material that went with the nightdress. He ignored them for a moment, pressing his lips into her thighs, running his hands over slender shins, tickling her toes before his kisses moved inward and upwards. She gasped, a quiet breathy sound, as he pressed his nose against the lace, and her hand fell from his head to grip the sheets as he began to slide the garment down.
He blew against the soft triangle of ginger hair, ruffling it before shifting her legs apart to view her pink lips. He blew against them, too, his breath cooling against the dampness there, and she whimpered as his lips pressed into her mound.
He ran his tongue along the length of her slit, at first with the slightest of touches, then pushing further inside, tasting her juices as her hips moved slightly, rounded buttocks rucking the sheets. Encouraged he went further, and she gripped his head again, other hand contracting against the sheets as she let out a low moan of pleasure.
He began to lick her with slow motions, probing between the swollen pussy lips, feeling every movement as her body responded to his touch, She gasped as he reached her clit, arching her back against the bed, thrusting her breasts into the air, moving her head against the pillow.
He bent expertly to her needs, moving her thighs to rest over his shoulders as he pulled her hips up towards his mouth. When he moved away for a moment, she begged him to continue, and he returned happily to the task.
Her gasps were becoming more frequent, although still quiet, little exclamations of pleasure as he sucked and licked every inch of her eager pussy. He could sense she was approaching fulfilment, and accelerated the pace of his own movements, teasing her throbbing clit for all he was worth.
She came suddenly, hips pressed against his face, body arching as she let out a long, low, moan of pure bliss, convulsing against him, until she subsided, panting, into the sheets once more.
Rupinder tossed and turned in her bunk as she struggled, yet again, to get some sleep. Geska did not seem to be having any difficulty she reflected as she looked across to the blonde woman. The villa had not had enough rooms for them all, and they were having to share, but it would only be temporary, and, in any case, there was something relieving in being close to somebody else who had been through the same experiences.
Although none of them for as long as she had.
There had even been others, who had died along the way. The life of a rakshasa was not without risk, and, while she had been Sashjant's first conquest, Mei-Xing had not been the second. They were long gone now, victims who had not survived to see their slave master brought low, and it was sad to think that they had never known true freedom again.
Yet, at the time, of course, her emotions had been clouded, as had those of all the others. To be enslaved, and not even to know it... it would be hard to imagine, had she not experienced it.
Her distaste for Sashjant knew no bounds now that she was free of his evil magic. His appetite had known no limits, whether for gluttony, debauchery, or simple malice. Yet, for all the thoughts of the day rushing through her head, she was not sure that it was that final battle, that feeling of liberation on seeing the demon die, that most kept her from sleep. But rather, what had happened before, of how she had been freed.