tagSci-Fi & FantasyAt the Baths

At the Baths


"These are the baths," Bevrianna said, pushing open the heavy door. It smelled damp despite their best efforts to keep it aired out, but the privilege of having hot, warm, or cold baths available at any time of the day made the slight inconvenience worthwhile. "And I certainly need one," she added, brushing at the dried blood that was flaked across her face and clothes.

He gazed around the room. She went to one of the benches along the walls and started disrobing, listening to the laughter and splashes from the pools. Late afternoons saw the highest use of the baths, before the cool of the evening set in and after lessons were concluded for the day.

Rick was staring at the bathers, mouth hanging slightly open. It occurred to Bevri that perhaps people weren't so free with their bodies in his homeland as Turans were, and that he might be embarrassed. But she quickly realized that his shock was more appreciative than mortified, and he simply didn't know where to look first.

A spirited game of net-ball was going on in the cold pool, mostly involving the younger women. In the warm pool, other women swam or lounged. Nobody was currently using the hot pool, from which steam rose in lazy clouds. Several other women were stretched out on towels or benches, all unabashedly naked even when they noticed a man in the room.

Bevri pulled her chemise over her head, and when she could see again she saw that Rick was now looking at her. He swallowed, and seemed to be perspiring more than the humidity of the room would normally produce. She folded the thin silk garment and placed it on the pile of clothes, feeling his eyes stay with her as she moved.

"Is anybody allowed to get a bath?" he asked in halting Turan.

"If you want. I usually start with a dip in the hot pool, then move to the warm one." She smiled at him. "But you can't take a bath with your clothes on."

"Huh?" He looked down at himself. "Oh. Um ..."

"Oh, go ahead," she laughed. "Dorian's Eyes, you wouldn't be showing anything we haven't seen before." But even as she said it, she realized that she was partly wrong. She'd seen plenty of slaves unclothed, but this was a free man. A sudden blush stained her cheeks, but he didn't see it because he was pulling off his shirt. Up close, his chest was finely sculpted and smooth, marred only by a fist-sized bruise.

"What happened?" she asked, touching the bruise lightly. "You're hurt. Was it in the fight with the war hawks?" Dorian, but his skin was pleasant to the touch!

"No," he said, struggling for words. "It happened in a tournament. I unhorsed the other one, but he gave me this to remember him by. It doesn't seem to go away. And it hurts when rain is coming."

"Does it hurt when I touch it?" She ran her fingers over it.

He closed his eyes. She felt his heartbeat quicken. "No," he said again. "It doesn't hurt."

Her touch was more of a caress than a healer's examination, and she reluctantly took her hand away. He opened his eyes, looking at her with such intensity that she was flustered and dropped hers. When she did, she found herself looking instead at his waist, and below, where evidence of his reaction pushed out the fabric of his trousers. She caught herself thinking that he was a large man in more than height, and felt her face flame anew.

They simultaneously turned away from each other, both overwhelmed. Bevri hurried to the pool and dove in. The water was deliciously hot, slipping over her skin, making her hair stream back as she glided through it. Swimming had never felt so sensual before. She should have jumped into the cold pool.

She surfaced just in time to see Rick dive in. He had the finest legs she'd seen in a long time. He swam well, cutting swiftly through the water with those long arms of his. He came up beside her, flipping back his hair to hang in a sleek river down his back. He flashed her a dazzling white grin and she had to fight back an urge to kiss him.

They swam together for a while, until the hot water was too much for them. By then, the netballgame was over and most of the women were getting out and drying off to prepare for dinner. The two of them moved to the warm pool.

As she swam leisurely, he came up suddenly from behind and dunked her. Sputtering, she rounded on him and sent a sheet of water across his face. He retaliated, so she kicked his feet out from under him. They splashed back and forth, splashing and dunking each other, until he simply tackled her and pulled them both underwater.

The water turned their skin to satin, rubbing against each other. In the course of their struggles, he squeezed her firmly against him. He was standing in the deeper end of the pool, holding her up. She gripped his shoulders and her leg became wedged between his, so that the smooth column of his rod was pressed against her thigh.

Sweet Dorian, how good he felt in her arms! He must have realized it at the same moment, for all of a sudden their playful spirits turned to arousal. Neither of them dared to move. Slowly, breath quickening, she raised her head. He lowered his, their lips just inches apart. All she would have to do was shift her legs, wrap them around his waist, and she knew that he would sink into her with complete ease.

The door thumped open.

Startled, he let go of her. Her surprised gasp took in a mouthful of water as her head dipped under. She kicked to the surface, coughing.

A pair of youg girls stood in the doorway. They were pages, too young yet to be squires or Initiates, and they were cupping their hands over their mouths as if to catch their merry giggles.

"Excuse us," they chorused. One added, "We were supposed to be announcing dinnertime, but I'm sure it's no rush."

The other grabbed her by the elbow and they scurried into the corridor. Before the door shut behind them, their peals of laughter echoed in the humid chamber.

Bevri smoothed back her soaking hair. "Are you hungry?" she asked, trying to regain her composure. She was not embarrassed, but was slightly alarmed by what had just nearly happened, by what she had almost done and wanted to do so very badly.

Dorian did not object to Her paladins enjoying Her Gifts. No one at Castle White was sworn to chastity except for those who were undergoing their year-long period of abstinence that they might better appreciate the pleasures of physical love. But even the rest remained celibate, more out of enforced lack of opportunity than chance. None of them would make use of a slave, and there were few free men at the castle. Those that were, mostly farmers and herdsmen, rarely lacked for company among the working class women, but their lack of status intimidated them when dealing with one of the clergy or knighthood.

Rick, as a knight and paladin candidate himself, was a perfect choice. But Bevri was afraid that he might mistake her advances, might feel that he owed it to her for freeing him. She had not hawk-struck for him, freed him, and brought him here to be her grateful prize. If he was as sincere in his desires as she was, then they could take a bit more time to get to know one another. It had only been half a day since she'd carried him off.

The mood had been broken. He felt it too, and they hastily emerged from the pool to dry and dress and make their way to the grand hall for the evening's feast.

* * *

She lay in her bed watching the moat cast ripples of reflected moonlight onto the sloped stone ceiling. The window was open to catch the night breeze, but since Castle White had been built with the awareness that it would likely someday fall under attack, the window was quite small.

Her bed was comfortable, a good cotton mattress stuffed with sweet rushes from the marshlands to the north. The sheets were plain linen, and the blanket, which tonight still lay folded on the chest at the foot of the bed, was fluffy wool. Instead of the narrow cots one generally expected a squire to sleep in, the beds in the Squire's Wing were almost big enough for two, if the two were not adverse to being cozy. The rooms themselves were tiny, seeming to be little more than monastic cells until compared with one of the true monastic cells in the deeper sections of the castle. The rooms where the squires slept were adequately furnished and private. Upon becoming paladins, they would be moved to larger quarters.

Bevri sighed and fluffed her pillow, then lay down again in hopes that this would be the proper adjustment necessary to help her fall asleep. But she lay as before, feeling restless all over. It did not take much to realize what had put her into this state.

She was in need. The episode in the baths had fanned the fires of her passion to a blaze, the heat of which had not cooled much throughout dinner as she'd sat beside Rick, their knees occasionally bumping, their hands sometimes touching as they reached for the same piece of fruit or bread. One of the few men in a room otherwise entirely populated by lovely women, he was quite aware of the attention he was getting and clearly enjoying it. His bold smile flashed often and brilliantly, and his voice provided a deeper counterpoint to their higher tones. His difficulty with the language was more charming than irritating, mostly because he knew he spoke poorly and passed it off with jokes. It was clear he was already a favorite among the paladins.

He told them of lands they'd never visited, of places they'd only heard of. When he haltingly described how Chenbar of Zereth, the Highlord and Rick's own grandfather, had condemned him to slavery, Bevri was not the only one to scowl angrily. His description of his homeland, Orelar, sounded much different from the tales on which Turans were raised.

Rick displayed a hearty appetite for good food and strong ale. He would have been well-fed on his march, to keep his strength up, but the fare would have been plain and repetetive. And his capacity for ale was staggering. He confessed that ale had been one of the things he had missed the most on the long march. Few of the paladins could match his pace, yet despite the amount he drank, he seemed not to get drunk.

The longer she watched him, the more she wanted him. For the first time in her life, she found herself wondering what it would be like to give pleasure to a man, to share, instead of taking and demanding. She wanted to know what he liked, to use her hands and mouth on him not just to force him into arousal but to delight him.

Bevri became aware that she was the object of intense scrutiny from Selvaine and the higher members of the church and order. She would be recieving a lecture later for her impulsive actions, a lecture fully well-deserved. She had not directly disobeyed any orders, and thus felt fairly secure that her discipline would be light. Whatever it was, she would undertake it gladly.

After the meal came the time for evening prayers. She noticed that Rick listened carefully, and at one point he explained to her in a whisper that in his travels, he had encountered many different variants of Dorianism and was relieved to finally find one that seemed so close to the religion with which he was familiar. As they left the chapel, she asked him to explain and he told her about Rakvi, where men and women were both often kept as slaves and women were so subject to the wills of their husbands and male relatives that they did not even have the freedom to dress as they liked or walk where it pleased them.

She showed him to his room, a duplicate to her own except that it lacked the few personal effects she chose to keep. She yearned to kiss him goodnight, partly in hopes that such a kiss would turn out to be a good morning kiss instead, but she hesitated. He, too, seemed to be wishing for more than a fond goodnight, but similarly hesitated. The door had closed between them as a woeful barrier.

And so it was that she had come to be lying alone in her bed. Her body felt out of sorts, at once languid yet tingling. Her breasts felt full, ripe, ready for the firm touch of a man's hands. Her pulse buzzed faintly in her ears. Her loins and lower belly throbbed in a way that was not entirely unpleasant, an unfulfilled ache.

She tried to think of other things, tried to concentrate on her training regime or her lessons, but all she could think of was Rick. She considered pleasuring herself, so that she could gain release and get some sleep, but the idea left her unsatisfied. Dorian didn't mind, although pleasure was meant to be shared. But she somehow knew that it would not be enough. She needed to feel a man inside her, filling her. Not just any man. She needed Rick.

She got out of bed and started go to him, even going so far as to don a light silken wrapper. Yet as she reached for the doorhandle, she realized that he must be peacefully asleep, the first time he'd slept in a bed in months. Sighing, she crawled back in bed and buried her face in the pillow. She would sleep! And in time, she did. But even sleep could not distract her, for she dreamt of Rick.

She awoke with the dawn, feeling refreshed and still needful. Her morning exercises calmed her, and a splash of cold water helped even more. She dressed in a simple white tunic and brushed her hair loose over her shoulders. On bare feet, she padded down the curved corridor to Rick's door and knocked softly.

"Come in," he called, obviously awake.

Bevri opened the door a bit and saw that he was still in bed, the sheets pulled up to just above his chest. Against the pristine white linen, his skin was a pure deep bronze. His hair fanned over the pillow just as she'd imagined. He smiled when he saw her. "Good morning," he said, and meant it.

"I just came around to see if you were up yet," she said. She immediately wished she'd chosen other words, for a quick involuntary glance showed that while he might still be in bed, part of him was, indeed, up.

He stifled a cough, leaving her no doubt that he, too caught the reference.

Hastily, blushing, the words stumbling over each other, she rattled something about morning prayers and breakfast. He invited her in, and for a while she sat on the edge of the bed, careful not to touch him and very sure that he slept as bare as she did.

He had a few questions about the castle, and about herself, which she was glad to answer. It helped take her mind off the fact that she was in the bedchamber of a nude man that she desired utterly.

The bells chimed elsewhere in the castle, sounding the call to breakfast. She reluctantly stood and took a deep breath, conscious of him watching the way her breasts rose and fell beneath the thin fabric.

"If you'd like, we can get some other clothes for you," she offered, handing him the maroon outfit he'd been wearing on the high bridge of Venna. "I doubt we have anything on hand for someone as --" she started to say "big" but caught herself in time "-- tall as you, but the tailors are most skilled and quick."

"That would be great," he said. She tried to avert her eyes as he flung back the covers and started putting on his trousers, but kept sneaking looks despite her good intentions.

He donned his shirt and was fastening the buttons, when he suddenly looked up and caught her admiring him. He grinned. "What?"

"I -- nothing," she said, putting one hand at the base of her throat. She felt her pulse fluttering like a captive butterfly.

"Go on, what?"

"I was just wondering something," she confessed, cursing her fair skin that she knew was betraying her by turning rosy pink.

"Oh, yeah?" He moved closer. His voice lowered to a near-whisper. "What were you wondering?"

Oh, Dorian. Well, why not? she thought. "I was wondering what you'd do if I did this," she said, and stepped close to him. She pulled his head down to meet her upturned face and kissed him with as much passion as she dared.

He moaned softly, deep in his throat, and his arms tightened around her. When she finally drew back her head, he gave her a lopsided smile. "Did you think I'd run?"

"I don't know. All that I do know is that I want you desperately."

"Bevri --" she loved the way he said her name "-- I want you too. I did from the minute I first saw you. It's been such a long time ... I was trying to last a year, you know, to become a paladin, but you're too beautiful."

"Your year ..." she began, dismayed. "I don't want to disrupt --"

He half-crushed her against his chest, taking her chin in his hand. "Some other year," he murmured, and kissed her again. As he did so, he turned and kicked shut the door that she'd left ajar.

They more or less fell onto the bed, not wanting to break their kiss. His large, strong hands could nearly encircle her waist, but they slid down and cupped her buttocks, holding her hips firmly against him. The iron rod of his passion throbbed between them. His tongue probed her mouth and she responded with artful thrusts and parries of her own. Her hands could not remain still but roamed over him, marveling at the smooth yet solid feel of his muscles.

The hem of her tunic rode up to the edge of her lacy undergarments. The neckline was low and draped, not meant for such combats of love, for it slipped off her shoulder and revealed a pale breast. She gently urged his head down to it, and cried aloud when he sucked hungrily at the nipple. Her fists clenched in his silky hair.

Somehow, she got his arms free of his shirt without either of them letting go of the other. She left a trail of kisses from his mouth to his jaw, and along the jawbone to the side of his neck. It was his turn to urge her onward, and she gladly nibbled at his ear, nuzzled at the tender place where his pulse beat. She slid even further down, delighting in the scent and taste of his skin. When she reached the bruise, she kissed it lovingly. Never had she so thoroughly explored a man, nor enjoyed it in such a way.

"Oh, yes," he gasped. Her hand found the large bulge below his waist and rubbed at it, gentle but firm. He fell back, only releasing his clutching grasp of the sheets long enough to help her strip off his trousers.

The skin around his groin was only a few shades lighter than his sun-darkened limbs, and seemed lighter still in contrast with the thick patch of black hair at the base of his manhood. He was one of the biggest men she'd ever touched, so perfectly shaped that Dorian Herself might have molded him with Her own knowing hands. As Bevri caressed and squeezed and stroked him, Rick uttered several words in his own language that she guessed by their tone were some sort of fervent prayer.

Never had she known that there could be such joy in giving pleasure to a man! His low cries excited her more than any show of obediance could have. She kissed the swollen head of his shaft, then ran her tongue from base to tip in one broad stroke. He thrashed, rolling his head from side to side, moaning her name.

She repeated the motion, but this time when she reached the end she swiftly engulfed as much of his length as she could in her mouth. His hips jerked, his hands seized the sides of her head. She sucked deeply, still using her hands on what could not fit in her mouth. He might spend, but Bevri's faith in Dorian was strong and she knew she would not have to wait long for him to be ready again.

"Wait," he said, the word all but torn from him on a ragged breath.

She released him, rising up on an elbow to see what was the matter. He sat up and kissed her, then removed her tunic so hastily that he nearly shredded it. Under the circumstances, she didn't mind. He paused then, drinking in the sight of her body, now clad in nothing but her golden holy symbol and a thin scrap of lace. That garment he removed with exquisite care, sliding it slowly down over her hips and legs.

He kissed the bottom of her foot, making her squirm and giggle softly. Holding her leg aloft, he began kissing his way over her slender ankle and up her leg. The higher he got, the less it tickled and the more inflamed her passions became. Then there was a brief tickling again, as his warm breath stirred the silky hair between her legs. She spread her thighs, arching her back. But instead of stopping, he withdrew and started over from the other foot.

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