Ferrezoth Ch. 01byicehead©
Kalan and Durren exchanged confused looks. "Guareth is three days' ride by horse," Durren said, "and if Parrik does in fact have this artifact, then I'd think you'd want to reach him as quickly as possible or he's likely to sell it before you reach him."
"It's a chance we're willing to take. I don't suppose either of you could show us the way, and help us find this Parrik?" The question was open to both of them, but Renas was primarily looking at Durren.
Durren frowned. "Unfortunately, that would also be easier if you were to take the transport. My brother will expect me to be home when he returns from the summit in two days."
"And I have a farm to tend," Kalan said.
"You'll most likely have to pass through Sharmala on your way to Guareth," Durren offered. "Parrik is fairly well known in his town; once you get there, you shouldn't have much difficulty finding him."
"Our thanks, Durren," Renas said. "Perhaps we should be off then."
Renas spoke a few words in elven to his companions, Lesgar exchanged a few words, and the two male elves arose from their seats. Lesgar spoke an awkward-sounding "Thank you." Renas beckoned to Xeres, who had not yet taken her eyes off of Kalan.
Xeres stood up, and began saying something to her brother that Renas seemed to be quite stunned by. Though Kalan didn't know what they were saying, the dialogue ensuing between the three of them was definitely the most intense he had heard from any of them yet. Ultimately Xeres said something that left a moment of silence between them, before Renas finally turned to Kalan and said something that Kalan could never have expected.
"My sister has requested to stay with you until we return."
Kalan blinked a few times. "She what?"
"The only reason I accompanied my brother on this quest is because he suggested to me that the experience of being among humans would be beneficial to me," Xeres said. "You are the most intriguing human I've met since entering Ferrezoth, and you interest me far more than any trinket, no matter how old it may be."
"Well then... does your brother approve?"
"Truthfully, I do not," Renas said, shaking his head, "but the decision is hers."
"Indeed it is," Xeres smiled. "Hadn't you best be going then?"
Renas and Lesgar looked back and forth between Kalan and Xeres, and finally Renas sighed and said, "We will return for her in a matter of days. I trust she'll be kept safe."
"Of course," Kalan nodded.
Xeres made an annoyed comment to her brother in their language before Renas and Lesgar left. "What did you just say to him?" Kalan asked once the elves had walked out the doorway.
"I told him I can take care of myself," she said. "So then, I still haven't seen much of Saum; we came to this tavern as soon as we arrived in town."
"You'd like a tour, then?" Durren asked.
"Is that the word you use? Then yes, a tour would be lovely."
Jevanna strolled along the grand, pristine halls, admiring the magnificent view through the giant slanted windows. Far below her sprawled the Imperial capital city of Tolevant, home of the Imperial family and the nexus for all Imperial activity. Shortly after the airship docked, her father had left for the senate meeting, and she had been wandering the halls since. Many others from different lands had passed her, most of them identified by the style of clothing they wore as to where they hailed from; the light tunica Jevanna was dressed in clearly marked her as a denizen of Ferrezoth.
She paused a moment, marveling at how much, for lack of a better word, more there was to the city below her than the land she knew. It wasn't the first time she'd been to Hub of the Senate, but the difference never became any less breathtaking. There was Imperial technology to be found in Ferrezoth to be sure, such as the transports that allowed speedy travel between towns, or the weapons carried by Imperial soldiers and mercenaries, but mostly it was a simple place built up from the ground out of sticks and stones. Here, however, the city seemed to be made of nothing but Imperial technology. Huge towers and churning factories dotted the land; small personal vehicles flew about like insects. From this distance, Tolevant seemed like all one giant machine network.
"Beautiful, isn't it?"
Jevanna groaned, already knowing who was standing next to her. She slowly turned her head and looked up to the pompous smirk on his face. That head of dark hair, the light armor of a mercenary that did little to conceal his muscular frame, the sword at his hip and the rifle on his back; she knew it was only a matter of time before he crossed her path. "Hello Davir," she moaned.
"Hello, Jevanna. You're looking radiant as always."
"I could comment on how you're looking, but I don't think this is the place for such obscenity."
"Oh, Jevanna, you wound me," he grinned.
"I only wish."
"Now, now," Davir said, putting a hand on her shoulder that she pulled away from, "there's no reason we can't be civil."
"No, I don't suppose there is," Jevanna said, walking past him. "Goodbye, Davir. Be well. Civil enough for you?"
A spark of irritation flared up inside her as she felt his calloused hand grab her by the wrist. "I think you've misconstrued my intentions, my dear."
"Your intentions are quite clear, O brave fighter."
"You seem to think I plan on taking advantage of you. I assure you, love, I have nothing but your pleasure at heart."
"Then move on to another girl. I would derive much pleasure from that."
"What's this?" another voice said. Jevanna turned to see another mercenary approaching them with an amused look. "The future chief general of Ferrezoth is being rejected by a woman? This seems like an event to me."
Davir's proud look faltered just for a moment. "I wouldn't announce a holiday just yet, Haxton," Davir said, quickly regaining his composure. "Jevanna, it seems, is difficult for any man who isn't a pitiful farm boy."
Jevanna fought to stave off a scowl—and then turned her attention to the mercenary behind her. "Haxton, is it?"
"Yes," the other mercenary grinned, clearly interested. "You know, I was raised on a farm in Ferrezoth myself."
"Were you now?" Jevanna smiled, twirling a finger in her hair. She was still talking to Haxton, but turned taunting eyes to Davir as she said, "Very interesting."
"Would you care to have a look at my quarters?" Haxton asked. "They're unusually well kept."
"That sounds wonderful," she said, taking Haxton by the hand and pressing up against him. Before walking off with him, she looked back to a flustered Davir and said, "Have a wonderful afternoon, Davir."
She imagined the look on Davir's face all the way back to Haxton's quarters. She still didn't know what magic the Empire used to make doors that slid open on their own when someone put their hand over what looked like a red jewel on the wall, but for once she didn't stop to wonder about it. When the door was shut behind them and she reached to Haxton's side to begin unfastening his armor, she wondered if Davir was standing outside the door. She hoped he was.
When Haxton had her bent over his bed and was thrusting into her from behind, she made a point of being louder than she normally would be just in case Davir was listening. She became ecstatic and wild, shouting encouragement to Haxton purely out of hope that Davir would hear. She began to realize she was enjoying taunting Davir even more than the act itself.
She also tried to make it go for as long as she possibly could. After Haxton came, he collapsed onto his bed, saying "Thank you for that, that was wonderful," but she quickly countered with "We are far from finished yet." She took him into her mouth and proceeded to suck him back to hardness, and climbed on top of him once she had brought him back to a satisfactory level.
She rode him to two more orgasms before he finally came again, and once again she took him into her mouth to get him ready for another bout, which took longer this time, or at least seemed to. This time it was he who judged when he was ready, as it was he who mounted her. He rose up from where he lay, pulled her onto her back, pushed her legs back 'til her knees almost touched her shoulders and bent over her. It was at that point that she realized to some dismay that she was losing steam. He drilled her to one final climax, at which point he came one more time and collapsed by her side. She would've tried to get him up for another round, but her morning excursions with Kalan had already taken too much out of her, and at last she had to accept that she was spent.
Jevanna didn't know how long they both spent lying there, catching their breath without saying a word. And when she finally did speak, it was not to Haxton. "Enjoy the show Davir?" she called to the air.
No response came from outside the door. She didn't know whether that meant he wasn't there or was simply staying silent.
"Is Davir perhaps a former lover of yours?" Haxton asked.
"Well, regardless, I hoped you enjoyed humiliating him as much as I did."
Jevanna laughed. Haxton had managed to lighten her mood after her mild disappointment at not being able to continue. She stood up as soon as her legs had regained enough strength to support her, and asked, "May I be allowed to wash up before I leave?"
"By all means, use my shower. I'll simply relax here a bit longer."
Ah, yes. Jevanna had almost forgotten about the showers. A seemingly endless stream of hot water that rained down from a spout on the wall as if from nowhere; Imperial technology was amazing. As soon as she stepped inside the glistening glass booth and felt the warm spray on her body she let herself feel very glad she'd decided to make this trip, if for no other reason than this simple pleasure that one could never experience in Ferrezoth. Not that she wasn't fond of the bathhouses there, but still...
She wrapped her arms around herself and shut her eyes as her moment of blissful abandon slipped away. As much as she enjoyed the conveniences of Tolevant, she just couldn't help wishing that Kalan was there to enjoy them with her. How much longer was he going to insist they keep playing around with people who meant nothing to them before he realized they belonged with each other? What they were doing now was fun, but she wanted more.
Was Kalan really more attracted to these meaningless games than having a real future with her?
Kalan and Durren spent the better part of the day guiding their unusual charge around Saum, showing her all there was to see and ultimately returning to the tavern late in the day for dinner. Xeres garnered much attention from the townsfolk; more than once during the day they found themselves being followed by a crowd of giggling children.
Ultimately as the evening came on, Kalan decided it was best he return to the farm, and Durren agreed that he had some work at home of his own to attend to. Durren suggested that Xeres should stay on the farm with Kalan, as he wasn't sure how his brother would react to the presence of an elf in their home when he got back. That seemed to sit fine with her. She took a seat on the empty cart next to Kalan as the horses proceeded to carry him home.
Kalan had always imagined that the elves would be incredibly foreign and exotic, but the more time he spent with Xeres the more he realized her people were not too different from his own. It was certainly evident that the human language was not her first, and on multiple occasions she'd asked him to explain a word he'd used in conversation, but he was growing progressively more relaxed speaking with her. He was starting to see her less as an elf and more as a person.
Her style of dress was very different, but the elves seemed to have the same kind of minimalist attitude about clothing as Ferrezoth. Her clothes looked like they were mostly made from deerskin, consisting of a thin halter top and a tight set of shorts that extended less than an inch down her legs, plus her short leathery boots and a knife strapped to her left thigh. The style seemed fitting for the woodland region she hailed from, but not much more substantial than his long blue sleeveless tunic that extended just barely past his knees and was secured at the waist by a belt.
Clothing in the tropical climate of Ferrezoth was worn more for appearance than out of need. People generally dressed in light silk or linen clothes that didn't conceal much, and were often thin enough to see through anyway. Kalan had seen pictures of people in other countries bundled in heavy dress that he couldn't help imagining were incredibly uncomfortable. He'd heard, in fact, that some of these countries had social taboos about nudity in public; a concept Kalan was certain he would never understand. Here people always took their clothes off in front of others at the beaches and the bathhouses, and sometimes just wherever they happened to be on a hot day; not to mention the slaves and small children who went naked constantly.
By this point Kalan and Xeres had learned many of the smaller details about each other. Xeres was a native of the elven kingdom of Quirdell in the forest far to the north. Kalan was quite surprised to learn that she was nearly fifty summers of age, because he would have sworn she was younger than he. But then she explained that elves were known for living anywhere from 300 to 400 summers; by elven standards she was still quite young.
She seemed just as interested in his life as he was in hers. He'd never thought there was anything interesting about his life, but she reminded him that he was the first human she had spent this much time with. She asked him countless questions about his childhood growing up on the farm, and about his parents, and expressed effusive sympathy when he told her about how they died. He assured her that time had healed the pain, and he had managed fine.
"Don't you feel some anger to the Empire for sending your parents to their deaths like that?" she asked him.
"There was a time when I did," he said. "My parents were always content just bringing food to the people; they never wanted to have to fight, and when I first learned that they'd died I hated the Empire for conscripting them and taking them from me. But then I remembered what they always taught me: the Empire exists for a reason, and sometimes sacrifices are necessary to keep the peace."
"What are 'sacrifices'?"
"It means to give something up. The Empire provides us all with secure and stable lives, and sometimes we have to give something back. That's the balance of the world."
For the first time since he met her, Xeres fell awkwardly silent.
They arrived at the farm, and Kalan returned the horses to the stables and put the cart to rest. "Shall we go in, then?" he said, walking to the doorway. As he had done many times throughout the day at other places they visited, he lifted the beaded curtain over the doorway to allow her entry.
"Do you think me unable to move that covering on my own?" she asked, sounding slightly peeved but with a smile on her face nonetheless. "You've been very quick to lift every one of those we've come to before I've gotten to it."
Kalan looked more hurt than he felt. "I'm simply trying to be a gentleman."
"A 'gentle man?'" she said. "What does this gesture have to do with gentleness?"
Kalan sighed. Maybe the elves were quite different after all. "It's just common courtesy here to show a lady kindness such as this."
"I see," she said. "Then thank you." She then proceeded through the opening he was still holding open for her. He stepped in after her to find her standing there, looking about the house with a large smile on her face. "This is wonderful!" she said.
Even though he knew every inch of the house better than anyplace, Kalan looked around also. Sturdy walls of wood, smooth straw mat floors, a thick thatched roof with a few wooden rafters... "Now I'm certain you're exaggerating. It's just a farmhouse. I've seen plenty of houses grander than this."
"You're so modest, Kalan," Xeres said, grinning at him. "I love it!"
Kalan raised an eyebrow at her. "Are your homes in Quirdell so unappealing? Because from what you've described of your tree dwellings, I can't imagine the place you're from as being anything but magnificent."
"No, our homes in Quirdell are fine. But I still think your house is beautiful."
"Well... thank you."
Kalan went to a low cupboard and produced a bottle of his best wine, and poured two glasses, offering his guest a seat at his table. She gingerly took a tiny sip, seconds before indulging in a much larger gulp that she nearly choked on. "Easy now," Kalan laughed. "You want to drink this slowly and savor it."
"I'm sorry," she said after she stopped coughing. "We have no drinks like this in Quirdell. I must say, this is much better than that bitter brew they serve at the tavern."
"A lady with refined taste," he grinned. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised."
After a brief moment of drinking in silence, Xeres said, "Tell me more of this girl you spoke of, Jevanna, was it?"
"Yes, my Jevanna. She's been my friend for as long as I can remember, ever since we were children. Maybe I'm biased in saying this, but she really is the most beautiful girl I know."
"Are you planning to marry her?"
"Eventually," Kalan shrugged. He went on to explain his reasoning for wanting to wait before they committed to that act. He did notice that she seemed to flinch when he mentioned that Jevanna's father was an Imperial senator. "Is something wrong?" he asked.
"Forgive me," she said. "It is just that... well, my people have little love for the Empire. They've been trying for many years to bring us into their fold, and our insistence that we do not wish to live under Imperial rule seems to fall on deaf ears. There is some fear that the Empire may try to conquer us by force."
"...I see," Kalan said. "Is that why Lesgar and your brother didn't want to use the transport today?"
"Yes. We prefer to keep a safe distance from Imperial technology."
"I wouldn't worry. The Empire does what is in everyone's best interest, and while they may be a bit pompous and think that their way is the only way, I doubt they'd go so far as to attack your people to prove it."
He could see by her expression that Xeres wasn't convinced. Uncomfortable, Kalan turned his gaze from her and took a large sip of his wine.
"You said you don't yet wish to marry Jevanna because you are too young," she said after a moment of silence. "What did you mean by that?"
Kalan paused, not totally sure how to answer. "Well... marriage is a large commitment, and there are things we'd be giving up. As much as I love her, we both still enjoy sharing our beds with others now and then... I just don't believe we're ready, although she does."
"I always thought that humans didn't join with each other until after they married."
"There was a time that was true," Kalan said, recalling what he'd learned in his history lessons. "That was a long time ago, before the Empire, before they developed the maiden's bracelet."
"Surely you noticed them on the wrists of young women in town," he said. "Those bracelets prevent illegitimate children from being born, so that only married couples can have children."
Xeres furrowed her brow and tilted her head. "Why should you ever want to prevent children from being born?"
"Caring for a child is no small task, Xeres," Kalan said. "It wouldn't do for there to be too many children running around with young, unmarried parents who didn't have the means to feed and raise them."
"Amongst my people, the birth of a child is never anything but cause for celebration," she said. Then she thought for a moment, and added, "But then, I don't believe there are half as many children in all of Quirdell as I saw in this town alone today. Do you humans really bear children so easily?"