The Clay Man

byAspernEssling©

We worked well together, for one thing. She carried her share of the load, and never complained. She didn't chatter, or talk my ear off. But if I wanted to talk, she was an attentive listener. Elpida knew that I liked her to be clean, so she made an effort to wash, even though the water in the bucket was bitterly cold.

In bed, she was willing and responsive, and it was a pleasure to curl up with her at night, just sharing the warmth of our bodies. For the better part of three months, she was my only partner.

That didn't mean that I wasn't thinking of the other girls. I was eager to have another go at them - all of them. But when I considered each one, outside of the sexual act, I found that they did not compare well with Elpida.

Thymos seemed to actively dislike me; I couldn't quite understand why she wanted to fuck me at all. Perifania was too full of herself. She thought that all she had to do was lie back, and let me do all the work. Nothrotita was too lazy to wash herself, or keep her house clean.

Pleonexia's obsession with getting paid was distracting. Laimargia was less complicated, and she did have those big breasts ... but she was fat, and likely to become fatter as the years went by. I had always liked buxom women, but I had to admit that I was beginning to prefer Elpida's slender body and delightful backside.

***

In the spring, there was another large gathering at the inn. The mountain folk were in high spirits - and drank plenty of them, too. There were new people, as well, that I hadn't seen before. But I was eager to see the girls that I had begun to think of as my 'harem'.

Sarkiki seemed happy to see me - and feel me, as she took hold of my balls and gave them a squeeze. Thymos snarled when I said hello.

Nothrotita whined that I should come over to her place, next time. Pleonexia had no time for me - she was cozying up to her cousins, Demas and Hurc. I noticed that she had a hand on each man's leg.

Perifania wouldn't meet my eye, and was curt with me when I tried to talk with her. Laimargia was polite, but didn't seem all that happy to see me. It might have been just my imagination, but she seemed noticeably fatter than I remembered.

Perifania was among the first to leave. When she stood up, I saw the swelling of her belly. She was with child! And, judging from the size of her stomach ... I did a rapid calculation on my fingers ... it might be mine.

Andonios, her husband, helped her on with her cloak. He hadn't cast so much as a glance at me, though. Plainly, he didn't suspect anything. I would give him no cause for doubt, in future. I would stay away from Perifania.

Sarkiki seemed to be my most likely partner for tonight. But she was involved in an argument with a freckled blonde woman I hadn't seen before.

- "You've all had ..." I couldn't hear the rest of what the blonde said, except for her parting shot: "It's my turn!"

Sarkiki murmured something to the other woman - placating her, no doubt. She came over to me, and smiled.

- "Sorry, handsome. I have to go." she said. "But don't worry - I'll see you in a few days. Keep up your strength - you'll need it."

That left me with the blonde. She had freckles all over her face, and on her arms. She was pretty, with incredible green eyes, but I wasn't sure about her expression: she looked almost ... predatory.

- "I'm Zileva." she said. "And you're mine, tonight."

Once in my room, Zileva told me that I would soon forget about those other 'bitches'. Once I'd had her, I wouldn't want anyone else, she predicted. Then she tried to prove her point.

Zileva approached sex as a challenge; she was out to prove to me that she was the best - at everything. She licked and sucked, and teased, bringing me to the boiling point. Then she drew me atop her, urging me to plough her furrow ever more vigorously. I came - hard - and collapsed beside her.

- "You were right." I panted. "That was amazing."

- "You haven't seen anything yet." Zileva said. "I'm just getting started."

She was true to her word; Zileva stayed with me all night, and through the next day and night as well. She rode me like a pony, facing me and then facing away. She had me take her from behind.

When I tired, she fetched food and drink, or went back to work with fingers and lips and tongue until I was hard again. On that second night, she gave me her ass.

If it sounds like a wonderful sexual experience, well ... it was. But it was damned hard work, at times. Plus, Zileva rarely stopped talking. She criticized the other women on the mountain, insulting their appearance, or their foibles. She told me tales about them.

And all the while, she pointed out to me how much better she was. A better lover, more skillful, more enthousiastic, more inventive ... more everything. The only time she stopped talking was when she had my member in my mouth. It was something of a relief when she finally left.

- "I'll be back, though." she promised.

- "Can't wait." I said.

I slept for two days.

***

That spring, Thymos came to see me one more time. After that bout of angry sex - our fourth, or fifth - she never came back. I couldn't say that I missed her.

In the early summer, I almost tripped over Nothrotita while walking in the woods, on my to bathe. She had been sleeping under a tree. So I took her down to the stream with me, and gave her a good washing.

Properly cleaned up, she didn't look (or smell) half bad. So I took her into the long grass, and gave her a thorough shagging, from above and from behind. But that was the last time I saw Nothrotita.

My days and nights were full. I had my work around the inn, and in my spare time, Sarkiki and Zileva seemed to be engaged in a competition to see who could fuck me to death.

Sarkiki seemed to genuinely like - or need - sex. She had an itch, and used me to scratch it. Zileva, on the other hand, only wanted me to confirm that she was better than Sarkiki - and better than all of the others.

I was thinking about it one day, and getting nowhere with my thoughts, as usual. I let out a long sigh.

- "Are you alright?" asked Elpida. I hadn't even known that she was there.

I didn't want to burden her with my problems - especially when they centred around having sex with other women. That's when I realized that I had not been treating her particularly well.

- "I'm sorry, Elpida." I said. "Here I am dwelling on my own little problems, without even asking you how you are."

Elpida seemed taken aback by that. She looked me, oddly, for a moment. Then a single, large tear slid down her cheek.

- "Elpida - I'm so sorry - have I made you unhappy?"

- "You're not responsible for my happiness." she said.

- "Well, maybe not ... I mean ... Wait - what do you mean?"

Elpida smiled, softly, and raised a hand to gently touch my cheek.

- "You're a kind man, Amyalos. A fool," she said, "but kind."

- "Thank you - I think. But ... why do you say that I'm a fool?"

- "You have no idea, do you?" she said.

- "About what?"

- "About the Clay Man." she said.

***

Elpida insisted that we wait until Adrie went out. It was six or seven days later, when he took a jug of beer and walked out the door.

- "He'll be gone for hours." said Elpida.

- "How do you know?"

- "He's going to Pleonexia's. Whenever he takes her something, it's because he's going to fuck her. She won't do it for nothing."

- "Really?" I said. "How do you know this?"

- "I know where he's going by the direction he takes, and what he's carrying." she explained. "I grew curious, because on the days he went out, he wouldn't bother me when he came back. So I followed him."

"If he goes right, with a gift, it's Pleonexia. Right, but empty-handed, it's Sarkiki."

- "Wait! He's sleeping with Sarkiki?"

- "She'll screw anyone." said Elpida. "Sometimes more than one at a time."

- "Who else does Adrie visit?" I asked.

- "Nothrotita. Zileva, sometimes."

- "Wait - when you said that ... on those days, he doesn't bother you, did you mean ...?

- "Rape me? Yes." she said, in a matter-of-fact way.

- "But he hasn't touched you - recently, I mean."

- "No. Not since you told him to stop."

- "But before that?" I asked. "Gods, Elpida - how long has he been ... hurting you?"

- "Two years." she said.

I was stunned. Horrified, too. She was right - I was a fool.

- "But ... why did he stop? Just because I said so? That makes no sense!"

Elpida took my hand.

- "Come on - we have time, but we can't waste it."

She led me uphill, on the narrow forest path. It was the same direction she had taken me once before, but at night. Elpida brought me to the same clearing where I had watched the mountain people gather, with torches, and where Adrie had poured a cup on the ground.

First, she took me a little higher up the mountain side, to where the people of Pagida buried their dead. There were dozens of graves.

Next, Elpida showed me, on the edge of the clearing, a patch of earth that had been thoroughly excavated, with shovels, or spades. The soil was red, and slick.

- "Clay." I said.

- "Exactly." Elpida then brought me to the centre of the open space, where there was a large firepit, and a massive iron cauldron.

"Do you see, now?" she asked.

I didn't. "Elpida, please - I don't understand."

- "Do you remember - when I asked you about the customs of your people, on the Eve of the Day of Souls?"

- "What does that have to do with it?"

- "As a child, were you never given a little man-shaped figure, made out of clay, to throw into the bonfire?" she asked.

- "When I was very little, once ..." I said.

- "What did you call it? The little figure?"

- "Pilos. It just means 'clay'."

- "Why did you do it? Why do people throw bits of clay shaped like a man onto a fire?" she said.

- "It's just ... an old superstition." I said. "Fertility in the coming year, and to keep the spirits of the dead happy, to appease them, or something ..."

Elpida waited for me to make a connection - to reach a conclusion of some kind. Then she realized that she would have to explain it to me.

- "Two years ago, Amyalos, my lover and I decided to flee from our village. We lived in the Vale of Ifnia. His father was a prosperous farmer, while my family ... oh, never mind. It's simple: we would never have been granted permission to marry, so we chose to leave."

"We knew that the Duke's writ didn't run on Mount Pagida, so we came here."

"Adrie and his brothers welcomed us. They let us work around the inn, to earn our keep. They even spoke of finding us a plot of land to farm. Adrie took my lover out, to show it to him. They went out together several times."

- "But there was no farm?" I guessed.

- "No." Elpida looked sad, then. "My lover was a fool, Amyalos. It took a while, but I realized that on days when Adrie took him to see 'the farm', my lover would stay away from me that night. He didn't want me to know, you see."

- "Know what?"

- "That he was fucking other women." said Elpida. "I followed them, and looked in the window when they went into Thymos' house. My lover was fucking her, while Adrie watched."

- "Thymos? But she -"

- "Just listen, Amyalos." she said. "My lover was a fool, but I was growing suspicious. I confronted him, and he broke down and confessed. There was no farm. He had been fucking half a dozen different women."

"Why would Adrie lie about a farm, and then take him around the mountain to meet these women? My lover finally understood my suspicions. We resolved to flee."

"You know the bell - over the door of the inn? Adrie rang it. We could hear it, as we went down the path. Demas and Hurc were waiting for us. With weapons."

Elpida fell silent, for a moment. And for once, I had the sense to keep my mouth shut.

"They tied us up." she said. "Adrie arrived. Then the three of them raped me. Repeatedly."

- "I'm so sorry, El -"

- "Shut up, Amyalos. Just shut up - and listen, damn you."

"On the Eve of the Day of Souls, they brought us up here. They prepared wood, for a big bonfire. And they dug clay, which they mixed with water, in the cauldron. When they heated it up, the clay became soft, and runny - like mud."

"They covered my lover in clay, Amyalos. From head to toe. Even the soles of his feet. They covered his eyes. They left his mouth and nostrils uncovered, so that he could breathe. But otherwise, he was a man of clay."

- "Gods above ..." I breathed "They ..."

- "They lit the bonfire. With him in it. At first, the clay protected him - he didn't feel the heat. But then the clay grew hotter. He boiled, Amyalos. He boiled to death, long before he caught fire and burned."

- "A ... a sacrifice?"

- "So that the farms would be fertile. So that women would be fertile. And so that the souls of the dead would lie quiet. Satisfied with the sacrifice offered up to them on the Eve of the Day of Souls."

I had no words. Elpida did not cry. She was staring off, into the distance.

It was only then that I realized it: I was next. I was the Man of Clay.

***

But I refused to accept it, at first.

- "You arrived on the Day of Souls, Amyalos. They all saw that as an incredible omen - as a sign of good fortune."

- "But ... Adrie treats me well - he left you alone, after I asked him to."

- "That's the tradition." she said. "The first sacrificial victims were volunteers. They were granted whatever they wanted. Their every desire: food, drink, women ... for one whole year. Then they went to their deaths."

- "But ... I didn't ask for those women. They came to me!" I protested.

Elpida just shook her head. "Don't you know anything, Amyalos? The child of a Clay Man is considered lucky. Especially if you volunteer - and you yourself offered to stay for a year. On the Day of Souls."

"Besides, there are too few people on the mountainside. They're all closely related. It's a good thing to bring in fresh blood."

"How could you not notice? They stopped coming to see you once they knew that they were pregnant: Laimargia, Perifania, Thymos, Nothrotita, and Zileva."

- "They're all pregnant?" I said. Was I so oblivious?

- "Yes."

- "What about Sarkiki? Or Pleonexia?"

- "Sarkiki can't have children. Everybody knows this. As for Pleonexia, who knows?"

I had a sudden recollection of my first meeting with Sarkiki.

"Why didn't I meet you sooner?" I asked her.

Sarkiki's face fell. "I was ... I was mourning my brother." she said. "He died just before you - ...." She stopped, suddenly.

- "How did he die? Was he ill? Or was it an accident?"

- "They can't always find outsiders." said Elpida. "Sarkiki's brother was stunted. A cripple."

- "But -"

- "Only a male will do. Re-seeding the land, they call it."

I sat down on a large rock. Tears sprang to my eyes, unbidden.

- "How could I have been so blind?" I said. "I'm so stupid." My father and my uncle had been right all along. You idiot - you never think.

And then, out of nowhere, a thought invaded my mind.

- "Elpida?" I said "Why ... why did you sleep with me? You didn't have to."

She sat down next to me. "I told you. You were kind, Amyalos. You made Adrie leave me alone. You never hurt me, or ..."

I put my arm around her.

- "We have to get out of here, Elpida." I said.

***

First, though, I had to show Elpida that I was grateful. I had no possessions to share, other than the beer I had crafted. So I tried to show her in another way. I went down on her.

- "No - no." she said, pushing at my head. But she didn't resist very hard, and I soon had my mouth fixed to her lower lips. I licked them, and ran my tongue just inside her vagina.

She grabbed my hair - roughly - and pulled my head up.

- "You don't have to do this." she said.

- "I want to." I said. "You don't have to do anything. I won't force you to do anything. Just ... please - let me give you a gift."

I took my time - this was about her pleasure.

***

The nearer to the Eve of the Day of Souls, the more closely they would watch me. It would be progressively more difficult to escape.

My plan was simple - too simple, perhaps. Elpida offered a few refinements, a few improvements, which I eagerly accepted.

Two nights before the Eve, Elpida lay back on my bed - or our bed - thrashing about while she moaned loudly.

- "No!" she cried out. "Not my ass! Ah! Ahh!"

Adrie heard her cries, of course. He couldn't resist sneaking up to the door of my room, and peeking through the crack. Elpida assured me that he had watched me with several of the women who had come to ... visit.

I had been hiding in the dark corner of the common room. It was easy enough to sneak up behind him, and smash him in the back of the head - with his own bell.

He fell to the floor. I wasn't sure, at first, if he was dead. I had untied the bell from the inn door, and removed the clapper. It was a solid, heavy piece of brass, that connected with his head with a solid thunk.

Adrie still lived. Elpida came out, and helped me to tie him up. We took him out the woodshed, and tied him even more securely.

Then I chopped off the thumb and index finger from his right hand. He stirred, but believe it or not, he didn't wake. I re-positioned him, and chopped off his second thumb. I was a bit inaccurate, though - I took off three fingers while aiming for his index.

- "Why not just kill him?" asked Elpida.

- "The day after tomorrow is the Eve." I said. "If I'm gone, they'll need another Clay Man. Who better than a man with no fingers - or thumbs?"

I left the bell on a table in the common room.

Elpida knew exactly where Adrie hid his wealth, such as it was. It was no hoard, no great treasure - but he had enough coins to support Elpida and me for some time ... if we could get away.

We were very, very careful, as we went through the woods, just off the path to the south. It was time-consuming, and nerve-wracking, but we weren't sure if we had any margin for error.

We were supposed to take turns on watch, but neither of slept that night. We both watched the house of Adrie's brothers. Just before dusk, Hurc - or Demas (I still couldn't tell them apart) - came back, and his brother went down the path to the south.

Elpida and I didn't dare take a nap, or fall asleep. She asked my questions about my childhood. I did the same. Then we made love. It was strangely comforting, and yet also wildly exciting.

- "You're incredible." I told her.

- "Finally." she said. "It took you a long time."

- "I knew it months ago. I'm just not very bright."

- "No, you're not." she said. "But you're kind - and that's more important."

We waited a few hours, and then crept down to the brothers' house. I opened the door - there was no lock - and crept inside.

Demas- or Hurc - was sleeping soundly, and snoring loud enough to wake the dead. I broke a clay jug over his head. He did not wake.

- "He's still breathing." said Elpida, once she had joined me. "Tie him up."

- "Do you want me to kill him?" I asked.

- "No." she said. "Tie him up, while I gag him. Then leave me alone with him."

I almost refused her. Then I remembered what Elpida had suffered at the hands of Adrie and his brothers. Whatever she did to him had been earned, many times over. I took a few items from the house, and then left her to her own devices.

When she was done, we left the house, and followed the path to the south. After a hundred yards, I slipped off, into the trees, while Elpida continued along the track.

Hurc - or Demas - the remaining brother - was not caught off guard. He stepped out of the shadows to bar her way.

- "Where d'you think you're going?" he said.

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