duergar

Author’s Notes: This story is erotic fantasy written by Etaski. I reserve the right to be listed as the author of this story, wherever it is posted. If found posted anywhere except Literotica.com with this note attached, this story is posted without my permission. © Etaski 2012



The story so far heavily references both “Sisterhood” and “Subterrane” and is continued.



Please be warned this chapter contains more graphic details of gender-based violence.




****



Chapter 8



It turned out to be ridiculously easy determining which direction the missing Duergar had gone. The recent path of seven grey dwarves coming into this area, all wearing metal and tools and hard boots, was clear as candlelight even with my lesser tracking skills.



The female dwarf was backtracking that path, going the opposite direction in which Jael had just run. Panagan and I were able to follow at a fast jog, which would slowly close the gap as we knew dwarves were not long-distance runners. She would stop soon and burrow in somewhere. Where we needed to be much more wary was if we got too close to her own territory.



While the gnomes were the most proficient in Underdark traps and similar contraptions, Duergar were also smart enough to find and use obstacles to slow down hunters who were faster than them—in the rare instances where they ran, of course. In other instances, they would choose their spot to stop running, turn around, and fight with everything they had.



We were banking on the fact that she likely did not have anything set up in advance; a gnome might have planned an escape route out much farther in ahead of time—rather like the Illithids did—but a Duergar was more likely to be pulling together something quickly and under duress, as the grey dwarves did not often imagine themselves to be on the retreat.



The best Duergar obstacles and traps were at their strongholds, and very rarely did the Drow see it necessary to assault one of those. Too much loss for too little gain. Here in the tunnels, with one lone dwarf and the unlikelihood that this escape had been pre-planned, we only had to catch up with her before she got close to a dwarven stronghold.



We ran into one of those hasty traps just as I began to feel that now-familiar itch of psionic energy just up ahead, as the tunnel widened into another cavern. We knew to stop before that prime ambush or trap spot and check it out before going forward, but the trap triggered without our having to touch anything. I shoved Pangan to one side and we barely avoided being crushed by a recently compromised boulder falling from a ledge over the tunnel’s mouth.



Our prey made the mistake of shouting something at us, a threat and a crow of confidence not unlike her male counterparts but definitely with less bass to it. She was outside of range for detailed dark vision, but I still pinpointed her most likely position just as Panagan stood up, withdrew an arrow and nocked it. She drew back and released right where I would have said the dwarf was standing.



We heard a cry of alarm but not one of pain.



*Caught her armor or clothing,* I signed and Panagan nodded with a scowl.



*Hope that shuts her up. Can’t stand that hack and gargle language.*



I smirked but made no comment. It didn’t sound as coarse to me anymore, but I had a good reason for that; part of it was strapped to my lower back.



The dwarf had said, “Leave me be, Drow, or this stone will make your tomb.”



Not very creative but I heard the determination in her voice…and something else. Something I couldn’t define. Not fear, Duergar feared very little, but…something causing a great deal of tension.



Panagan put up her bow and drew a dagger. *Flank her,* she signed.



I nodded as we both sprinted in opposite directions, circling around intending to trap her on either side. We didn’t see an obvious escape route for her unless she could climb the rock very quickly. As we closed on her, however, she ducked down and made her way into a smaller tunnel that went down, not up or out.



*Oh, fuck Lolth’s snatch with a snake-staff….* I thought.



I heard no scraping of metal as I figured the Duergar had to be moving quickly on hands and feet in a very narrow space. We saw why when we reached the mouth; she’d shed the bulk of her armor and her helm and left it behind. It had been a good idea; she’d no doubt get hung-up by it if the passage got any smaller farther in. It reminded me of the path I’d taken underwater to avoid the sentry point and ultimately reached the Consort’s tiny farm of solitude, only it wasn’t underwater.



Panagan cursed with her hands but stayed silent, then looked at me. *I’m not going in there. She’ll collapse the tunnel on us.*



No doubt. Or there might be other traps. This tunnel was intentional—built, not natural—and that close space would be very hard to fight a psion. Dexterity and evasion would mean very little.



*We don’t know where she’ll come out,* Panagan continued.



*Are you saying she’s escaped?* I replied.



She hesitated, not wanting to admit that outright, but did not have any ideas on what to do.



I only had one idea that might off-set our disadvantage, but I could not do it with Panagan watching.



I took off my cloak and rolled it up. *Don’t suppose you’d carry this?*



She jerked her head no. Fair enough. I wedged it between two rocks, less obvious than the discarded, dwarf-sized armor.



*What are you doing?*



*Going in. I’ll try to flush her out. You stay up here, watch for her to pop up.*



Her look of disbelief also held mocking laughter. *If you want to just walk into the trap, go ahead!*



I wasted no time arguing but ducked down and slipped into the narrow crawlspace headfirst, just as I’d seen the Duergar do. After I’d crawled on my belly using elbows and knees to get just out of sight of Panagan, I reached back to loosen the Feldeu from my belt.



This was a risk, of course, but if I was in a Duergar-made place, I could make the gamble that some interesting knowledge might rise up if I were crawling with a ready erection after a short female dwarf. If nothing surfaced, I did not have to move forward; I could still back out without getting trapped at this point.



I loosened and tugged down my pants, squirming to get it over my hips in the close space and simultaneously sticking the bulbous end of the phallus into my mouth, sucking off the dust and grit that had collected from exposure, spitting it out, then going back to slicking it up with as much saliva as possible. The previous fight and seeing Jael run off in perfect health had left me somewhat aroused, but I still needed the added moisture.



I lay on my side and opened one leg until it touched the top of the passage, pressing the bulb into my sex without delay. It burned a little as I stretched myself too quickly, but soon I had it seated and I whispered the command word. The attachment and rush of pleasure was not diminished much for the lack of foreplay, but instead of lying there stroking it as I wanted to, I hurriedly pulled up my leathers again to secure them, repositioned my belt, and marveled for a moment what it felt like to have this tool straining so hard to be released, pressing scalding hot against my belly and creating a visible ridge beneath my clothes. It made me want to crawl faster, to be more aggressive in my hunt after this…this…



I breathed raggedly for a few moments, trying to think past the rising lust and watch the tunnel around me. My eyes had adjusted, and I saw the scrapes left by pickaxes and chisels; it wasn’t extremely recent but certainly not old, maybe a score of years. There were several of these in various caverns between here and Rothlech Deep, for emergencies like this one. It would lead to an underground source of water and another chance to lose any pursuit. With any luck, they had left mounts on their way here.



I knew I only had maybe half a klick of crawlspace before she’d reach the water.



I slithered along as quickly and quietly as possible; I could hear the female dwarf scrabbling up ahead, breathing heavily and not nearly as silent as I was. I could smell the heat coming from her ore-dusted skin. I would catch her, and I would grab her, hold her down…



*Right,* I told myself. *She’s got large muscles in her arms and legs from working for the males in the forges every cycle of her life. Let’s just wrestle with her in a small space and see if that turned out any better than it did with the last one…*



My thought drifted as I wondered exactly what I planned to do once I caught up.



Something told me I only needed to touch her, just touch her skin.



And then what?



I didn’t know. *Just touch her—



*…Dung.*



I kept crawling and saw the trap hatch above my head immediately, as if I knew it should be there. It was a simple trap, but potentially nasty. I could hear as something slapped a bare tail against the enclosure. Something poisonous was in there and ready for when I snagged that impossibly thin metal wire that she’d set up as she passed by this spot….



I reached into a pouch and pulled out a small metal wedge that I could either press into softer substances or hammer into stone using the hilt of my dagger. In this case, I didn’t want to noise, so forced it in at an angle through the lighter material that made up the hatch door itself and the filler they’d used to try to camouflage it. Somehow I got the perfect spot, and it sealed the hatch closed. Now I could remove that wire which I could neither crawl under nor over, and I continued past unmolested.



*Nice try.*



My quarry had paused up ahead to see what happened with the trap. It took her too long to determine that I’d somehow gotten past it without tripping it and I could actually make out the smooth, bald line of her round head before she saw me clearly and made a sound of surprise.



My muscles seemed to explode in a surge I would not have tried without the hard prick pulsing against my abdomen, but it seemed to have surprised her as well. She got one good kick—a hard one—to my side before I grabbed her leg, hauled myself up and threw my relatively slight weight on top of her.



These were the Duergar impulses guiding me, I knew; in the proper body, the male’s weight on its own would have prevented her from doing much. My weight was awkward for her but nowhere near dense enough to keep her from throwing me off and against the stone. Of course, my real training kicked in at this point because I wanted to live, and I had a blood-stained dagger out and in front of her face, very close to her blank, white eye, just before she could throw me off.



“Shh,” I said, “one scratch is all it will take.”



I was telling the truth, and she knew it. Something else shocked her into going still as well, and it was only when she spoke that I realized what it was.



“S-so why have you not already, Drowen?” she hissed, as wary as she should have been with the poison dagger so close.



I’d understood her so clearly, and she had understood me. It hadn’t been the trade language; I’d spoken in her tongue.



Her expression changed as my weight shifted, settling on her so our joints weren’t grinding together. It was a look of dawning horror as she felt my erection.



“Are you… male or female?” she asked.



I half-smiled and didn’t enlighten her, only pressed the Feldeu into her and rubbed against her a bit. It felt good and she didn’t smell so greasy as I remembered the male Duergar being. She had no hairy beard; indeed, it looked as though she did not have any hair at all: not on her head, her cheeks or chin, not on her bare arms or the backs of her hands. She was completely smooth, dark-skinned but lighter than my own, with strong features—the heavy jaw, cheeks, and brow, plus the rather large nose and prominent lips common to the Duergar.



The most notable quality at the moment, however, was how incredibly plush her breasts her—much larger than mine and soft enough on which to lay my head down, though I would never risk that. Almost everything about her was hard from years of physical labor, except for those breasts. The impulses told me she was a young but fully-grown grey dwarf, and decently comely for her race.



She stiffened beneath my next slow, dry hump.



“Unnatural creature!” she exclaimed in a hoarse whisper. “Get off me—!”



“Be still, Tugren,” I commanded lowly in a tone unfamiliar to me, but she immediately stopped her attempts to struggle. I was a bit surprised at her obedience, and for some reason I felt no discomfort at what I was doing—though I should have.



*Tugren.* I had called Gaelan that, after climaxing inside her that last time, wearing this Feldeu…I tried to reach for a meaning to the word but nothing came to me quickly…



“Kill me or let me go, but be done with it,” the Duergar demanded, seeming to recall that she didn’t have to obey me. “I will fight to my last breath than endure your sick torture, Drowen!”



That was one opinion where we differed. I could endure the “sick torture” just fine. It was just sex, pain, and power-play. Why was it worth dying over? Not that I felt the need to debate that with her; I wasn’t even sure whether that was my intent or not. True, I was comfortable lying on top of her, my Feldeu pressing against her inner thigh and her breasts overwhelming mine in a surprisingly pleasant way, but there was something else I could do here that might have more value to me…



I hadn’t yet touched her skin, I realized, though the heat of it was slowly building between us in the small space. My gloves had prevented contact, despite the fact that out of her armor she wore a short-sleeved leather work tunic and her thick, muscled arms were exposed.



“Why did you run?” I asked, still speaking in Duergar. “You and six others were chasing a Drowen. I never saw you, so you ran before we arrived to take care of them.”



She shook her head defiantly.



“You will answer every question I have, or I will paralyze you from the neck down, Tugren,” I reminded her I still held the blade by gesturing in front of her eyes slightly. “You will have to watch every unnatural thing I do to your body and not be able to lift one finger against me. It will only hurt after the poison wears off but until then you’ll feel absolutely nothing while seeing everything.”



The threat was perfect and hit her very deep; I felt the flash of heat flooding her and heard her heart rate nearly double; her expression flinched once before she ground her teeth and glared up at me.



“You intend to do that anyway,” she accused.



“Actually it depends on you, young one,” I answered, “maybe I will not, if you talk with me.”



I could believe that I was telling her the truth. It wasn’t my first choice for how I would spend the next few hours, but if she just played the stubborn, hard-headed dwarf who couldn’t see a Drow trying to bargain when it was staring her in the face, then—



“What kind of bargain?” she asked and I blinked.



“Did a little mind-sweeping, hm?” I asked wryly. “You are a psion, then.”



She nodded cautiously. “And you…have been touched by one. You are female and yet…”



Her tone held a little bit of awe in it, and I didn’t understand why. But now I knew exactly what I wanted from her.



“Why did you run?” I asked again with more force in my question.



“I sensed you, it must have been you,” she answered.



“What did you sense?”



“A surge. We had not yet found the place where our scout died but we were close, I knew it. Then we saw a naked Drowen. She was running from something down the tunnel where we needed to go. The fighters had to take care of her before we could continue and face whatever was in the tunnel.”



Hadn’t that been successful for them?



“That still does not explain why you ran before the fun started, Tugren.”



“Stop calling me that!” she cried, anger making her face full of bright energy in the blackness. “I am not your Tugren! I will not be! I’ll fight you if you try!”



Finally a meaning found purchase with some context in my mind. Like a consort and a servant together but…more strongly bound. Ritualized, monogamous, entirely so the male could know for sure that he was the sire of any children that came from her womb…



That was one disadvantage to following bloodlines through the male: having to control the female’s choices, or get her to control her own. Natural impulse and opportunity often didn’t go that way, I knew; better to follow a line through the mother, like we did. Of that parentage, there could be no doubt.



But I had called Gaelan that name as well. She was not…that. Not to me. She could not be a bound consort or servant who bore me children. Maybe it could also mean whoever submitted their body to the pleasure of another…the one intended to be used, for pleasure or breeding…



As I was quiet a moment thinking about this, she shuddered once and I heard her breath catch on a strong emotion.



“Why did you run?” I asked for the third time.



“My Vungren ordered it,” she finally said. “He said a ghost was coming and I…was not strong enough to face it yet.”



“Ghost,” I repeated.



“You. You carry his ghost in your mind.”



I found it hard to argue that point, given that we were speaking in her native tongue and I felt calmed and pleasured by her scent and her presence.



“Who is ‘he’?” I asked, dreading this to be a mistake, but I still wanted a bargain with her and I needed…something. Information. Some connection.



“My first Vungren, Kain,” she murmured. “I served him before he left to scout and did not return. He…must have run into Drowen, and you must have been touching him when he breathed his last.”



If the rock to the temple had been the killing strike, then we’d definitely been touching; dwarven prick had still been softening inside a leaking, Drowen cunt.



“They brought you with them, the only female,” I almost sneered, “to find your former mate’s remains, but sent you away as ‘not ready’ when you nearly found it?”



She did not reply at first, bewildered at my derisive tone. “I do as they bid me or I am beaten for it.”



I huffed a laugh, wondering at the mix of confusion inside me. I personally was not impressed at her answer but I shouldn’t care so much; if that was her sex’s lot with her race then no wonder she was the first female Duergar I’d ever laid witness to. I’d certainly never heard that they were entirely bald with large, buoyant breasts and thick, soft lips.



But why did I feel…indignant, mentally cursing the stupidity of the group we’d just killed?



Of course they were stupid. They weren’t Drow.



*But she could have…freed me…if they had just sent her down the tunnel as they cornered the Drow. That had been part of the mission, to find answers, yet they sent her away! She knew me, she would have sensed me… Idiots inhaling their own beards! Always underusing the female psions, always! And her new Vungren had known something about it…it served him right that he had died so painfully!*



She stiffened again as my dagger wavered closer to her skin, as my other hand closed on one of her large breasts. I growled lowly, fondled it absently as the heat in my groin had generated some sweat between us.



“Stop,” she whispered. “Tell me what else you want, you said you would not…”



“Help me, Tugren.”



The female dwarf was utterly silent after that plea. Rightly so.



“Let me touch you.”



Her white eyes widened and she shook her head slowly, still wary of the stained dagger near her eye.



I didn’t accept her refusal; I moved the dagger to the side and leaned down to kiss her, mouth to mouth. So much flesh to her lips, soft and full, it felt like I was pleasuring a particularly swollen, highly aroused set of Drow netherlips…



As soon as I felt it, however, there was a flash in the back of my skull that caused a disconnect between my mind and my body. I was only aware of her more intangible presence, and the way—both familiar and foreign—that we could merge our consciousness together. The first feelings to pierce through the veil were grief, denial, and fear. There were no actual words but I still struggled to understand them that way, forcing them into translation so I would not so utterly insane right there and then.

*You’re only a ghost, an echo! I won’t help you, I won’t, you deserve this punishment! You earned damnation!*



I felt memories swirl and mix in a dark spread of stone, metal, and smoke. Her naked, curvaceous body was his to use as he saw fit. His brutality was expected and would only prove to the others she was no weakling, and he was powerful enough to control her. Especially with her gift of mind.



*You’re dead, Kain! You’re dead!*



I relived that death yet again and she cried out in disgust and horror at the way that it had happened.



*How…why would you…mate a Drowen? How could you…?*



Psychic hooks snagged hold of my memory, my *real* memories of my trials that led to that: the ritual on the altar, the divine magic and fever-pitch lust that was entirely alien to her. The female Duergar screamed through us both; my trials were the horror story, the very nightmare tales told of the Drowen made clear and real and justified in her fracturing mind.



In return, I saw a brutal slave culture, much more physical than our own but not much different in that the strongest lived longest. The continuous plots and the cruel magic among the Drowen, however, scared the psion down to her core. What she witnessed was too chaotic, the rules changed all the time—at least the Duergar never changed, she thought, at least the beatings and the deaths were straightforward and expected.



Endurance, fortitude, stubborn determination—those with the will to work another day, to worship a neutral, uncaring god who granted no mercy to the weak, those were the ones who crawled over the bodies of the dead to find the riches and the food.



It was the same for us but that the measure of that endurance, that determination, could be physical, or mental, or magical…or it could be an insane influence from the Abyss, or pure luck from a fickle goddess who only never wanted to be bored, and rarely was— watching a people who thrived on the constant ebb and flow of power among them. Even the rule of the Valsharess was not necessarily set in stone, I thought…it could change, easily, given enough time…



*How can you live with that?!* the Duergar cried in my head. *How can you live not knowing what the next waking will bring?*



*If it never changes, that’s when I want to be killed,* I replied. “I will have done it all then.”



There was a vocal cry from what seemed far off; I thought we may be struggling, rather like I only vaguely remembered struggling with D’Shea…



*That’s where the rage comes from! He’s afraid and you aren’t, but you haven’t dominated that fear yet and when he was afraid, he’d force himself on another!”



I became enraged, hot and immediate. That was wrong. It couldn’t be, I knew it! *I’m not afraid, Lana! I will not be dominated! Be still and accept me! Do your duty and free me!*



*I can’t! You’re dead! No, please! Don’t! Stop!*



Intense pleasure flooded through our connection suddenly, but in her I recognized the shock and denial—because I’d felt it the last time: a prick she very much didn’t want had invaded her body.



Mine.



I surfaced only enough to feel the hard stone scraping and hurting my knees as I pushed forward, her trousers stretched tight across her ankles and partly in the way as I scrabbled to settle myself between her thighs and flopped down heavily on her breasts. I felt her body’s pain and discomfort, and the impulse was there to chastise her for not being ready for me. She’d had plenty of warning that I was ready for her, how dare she try to refuse me…?



*I’m glad you’re dead, Kain, I’m glad!* Her pure, hateful emotion surged balefully between us. *It brings me rare joy that a Drowen killed you with your prick hanging out!*



*The second Vungren was no better,* I sneered, both insulted and with an odd urge to laugh in pure satisfaction.



*He would protect me from others, unlike you after you were done! He never left me behind, either! Do you know what happened when you left? He never intended me to deal with your ghost if we found it, it was to be him but he still wouldn’t leave me behind without protection!*



*Well, he died with great dignity,* I growled spitefully. *Hooked in the balls by the very Drowen he hunted, with his own barb!”



The surge of grief—feared before but confirmed now—infuriated me, made me jealous, possessive. My pride was wounded and all I wanted to do was make her sorry she’d said she felt more for him than me. I thrust harder and she strained; I could feel spikes of pain jump between us—I loved it, it meant she was receiving her punishment. So much better than coupling with a non-psion where I couldn’t feel it quite so clearly.



She was my prize, not his. Mine.



*You’re mine…*



*No—*



*MINE!*



*What have I done…? You’re not…you’re female!* the dwarf pleaded. “I know you are, despite that thing you wear!”



How could she know if I didn’t? If only felt good, satisfying doing this, wearing this…



*Drowen!*



I kept fucking her harder, hurting her, I’d strangle the very breath of the cheating, ungrateful Tugren when I was done—



*R-Red Sister! Listen to me, you have to remember!*



My victim took great pains to wrench loose my memory of Auslan and then throw it between us, and she held the arresting image in my mind until I finally experienced a feeling that was from before my introduction to the Feldeu. Then she switched the image to another: Callitro. She didn’t know who they were but knew that they were mine—not his—and the ghost couldn’t even pretend that they were anything other than Drow.



She started pulling out other male faces from my memories, from my life before the Red Sisters. It cooled the fever that had been building, stopped a rise that was going to lead to a violent murder. Our struggle eased and her pain stopped crackling through my head. I stopped and we were breathless though still connected.



*So many mates,* she murmured. *All of your own choosing, Drowen. Tell me, why so many?*



*Fun.*



I knew she was confused by that. *And…?*



*Desire. Challenge.*



*Not for children?*



I laughed inside our head. *Not possible at the time.*



She understood why after the next moment as a painful memory flashed between us and I felt the horror that she held for my kind once again. Even with some rules in place, some which we enforced more than others, those wide-spread obsessions pushed the boundaries all the time…and it was a sickness to her, that obsession and subversion within our “society.”



Similar differences between her kind would be worked out in a fighting ring, with weapons and witnesses. It made it official and everyone followed the result— until the next time. No worship balls, no two-faced politics, just open hate, violence, and aggression.



*Even if it were possible, I wouldn’t have taken so many just for children, Lana. You have your ways to find purpose. I have mine. Through strength or through speed, take your pick.*



She seemed to accept that as all pain, aside from shallow scrapes and bruises, finally subsided.



*A Duergar would be driven mad, taking on the death-memory of a Drowen,* she thought quietly. *You…just live with it. You will continue doing so.*



A fearful surge tried to come up as I gripped her harder, as I thought surely there had to be something she could do to make it all stop…! But Lana immediately thought of my male lovers again and the rise ended.



*It’s not really Kain in your mind.* She almost seemed to be talking to herself. *Just a leftover shard of his memory. I feel shame for talking back to it, for making it real again… You might not have…made me remember what it was like…with him.”



Her body shifted uncomfortably and I became aware enough to withdraw the Feldeu from her without ever climaxing. For the first time, I did not feel the need. I did not even know this was possible; the magic did not urge me to begin coupling toward completion again. I could still feel its heat, its stiffness, but it was….controlled. I controlled it.



*You are already absorbing the shard into your own psyche, Drowen.* Lana’s thought sounded tired, and it felt as if she’d given up and submitted to the more dominant will—as she had long been used to doing, over and over again. That was why she was speaking, telling me her thoughts plainly.



*The catalyst…that thing attached to you…is helping but you will not need it with time. The impulses…will lose their cohesion and will become just memories for you. You only understand too well right now that he would not want to dissolve into chaos, that it is his greatest fear…*



*Especially when he died that way.* I felt her acknowledge my finishing her thought.



*And he *is* dead, Drowen. You killed him.*



Her tone held no accusation whatsoever, no regret; it was a statement of fact.



It was really just the Tugren dwarf and me in this tunnel, then… and it had always been just me and D’Shea, and sometimes Lelinahdara, back in the cloister. My Elder and the Priestess had always spoken of the “imprint” as a foreign body, a male piece that needed to be exorcised out of my mind. The experimental magic they’d performed…they had described it as if it all would rise like some solid body of knowledge and suddenly spill from me like a lanced boil. They would hear my confession and I would be cleansed. It would be gone, once they figured out how to reach it, how to control it….



It had been easier for me to cage it up, then, and only let it out when there was something inescapably male on which I could focus. But this female Duergar was saying….that it would just be part of me going forward. Stop fighting it, bend with the change, it would become…just me.



I was me, and always would be.



“Kill me now, Drowen,” Lana spoke to me with her physical voice now, hoarse, wheezing. “Just make it quick.”



I had to work to draw in the physical details around us again. Pants down, skin scraped, weapons askew, moisture and heat pressed between bare thighs. I still gripped my dagger in one gloved hand and the other was holding her throat.



“Why?” I asked, easing the pressure on her windpipe so she could speak more easily.



“I know too much,” she said simply.



She was absolutely right, of course. The psion had much knowledge of the Red Sisters now and some very intimate details of our race. The grey dwarves had no business knowing any of that and I couldn’t let her live…



…but it was interesting to me that she did not want to fight for the right to be the survivor between us. She’d taken it as a foregone conclusion that it would be me who walked away.



“True, but why not be the one to return home?” I asked, confused at her lack of spirit after our first contact and her bold words.



“My second Vungren is dead, now I have no protection,” she whispered, blank eyes not seeming to see me directly as her face fell to passiveness. “They will consider me a cursed Tugren after two dead Vungren in two years. Only low males will fight for me now. If I return alone…and they find out what has happened in this twice-cursed area…”



“Wouldn’t your knowledge be of worth to them, a bargaining coin?”



She shook her head. “Not without a male of status to vouch for me. And I am…tired, Drowen. I am ready to stop working.”



To say such a thing back at her Stronghold, I knew, would mean they’d oblige her only after a sound whipping and wringing the last bit of physical strength they could from her, moving stone or moving anything that needed to be moved…she’d stop working only when her malnourished body failed her.



“You don’t care that I would give up, Red Sister,” she said. “And you have other pressing matters, don’t you? In exchange for my help with the ghost…I only ask you make it quick for me. I know you can.”



I could grant her that, yes, and once I did, the entire group—all seven of the Duergar sent out here after the first never returned—would be dealt with according to mission. I’d accept, of course, but first—



“Will they return again next year, having lost eight and knowing little what became of them?”



She nodded, her face hardening at the clear betrayal to her kind. “Yes. They will send fourteen next time. There will be five psions among them. It is tradition. And if those are slaughtered, they will send twenty-eight with seven psions.”



“They are that hard-headed,” I said.



“They will get what they seek. Strength in numbers. Sooner or later it will work.”



“While the females bear more replacements at the Stronghold?” I said wryly, more as a joke, but she nodded silently. “What if they run out of psions?



“It has not happened yet.”



Fair enough.



I still had a moderately wet Feldeu pressing to her thigh and I shifted on top of her clumsily; she winced and cursed at me, trying to close her legs against the false phallus and it was apparent that she was feeling some cramping in her muscles. They were an excellent distraction.



I got off her, staying hunched over so my head and shoulders barely missed the low ceiling, and scooted backward from her, pulling up my leathers and cinching my loosened belt. I would have to double-check all my pouches again before leaving here.



She sat up, pulling up her pants as well as I gave a cursory cleaning to my dagger before sheathing it. She glared at me, white eyes flashing dangerously.



“You are not going to kill me, Red Sister? You should, or I will kill you.”



“I already did,” I replied. “Wait.”



She blinked and reached to the side of her neck with her bare hand; I could see in her face the moment she felt the sting of the scratch. She withdrew her hand and saw the bit of blood on her fingers. She nodded, but the deep-seated fear of dying—which any being with a survival instinct possessed—was clear on her face.



I sensed a reflexive surge of psionic energy in the tunnel and started my retreat quickly as possible. I did not want to be anywhere near another psionic Duergar at their moment of death.



I left her to suffocate as the poison seized her muscles and, eventually, her lungs.



****



“Sirana?”



Panagan’s voice was agitated and she was already waiting at the mouth of the tunnel when I hauled myself up and out so fast it was as if something might be biting my toes. I had been so focused on getting out before Lana died that I did not even remove the Feldeu from my sex, it was still in my pants—and now with Panagan watching, I couldn’t. I quickly grabbed my cloak where I’d left it, needing the added cover for my ridge.



*What in the Abyss happened down here?* she demanded “loudly” with her hands.



*Did you hear anything?* I asked first.



*Distant shouts in the Duergar tongue, I heard two voices speaking with force. Were there more down there?* She looked me over; I knew I was disheveled. *You are injured again?*



*Mildly, and yes, one more lay in wait,* I responded, glad she couldn’t understand the grey dwarf language. That would have been so difficult to explain; easier to lie to her, particularly being distracted still by the sensation of the Feldeu rubbing along the inside of my leather pants. *She planned to escape with one they’d left behind to watch their mounts.*



*And you killed them both?* she asked earnestly. *I saw none surface, though I paced this entire cavern.*



*Both dead,* I affirmed. *No witnesses to return with tales, Panagan.*



She narrowed her eyes at mine for a few seconds before deciding to believe me and calmed some as she nodded. *Then we have completed our mission as my Elder dictated.*



*Yes.*



At that, Panagan spun and whipped her leg around, solidly striking me in the left knee, and pain overtook me as I cried out and fell. I managed to catch myself but hard pebbles bit into my palms through the gloves and my attempt to get back up was met with a second kick to my temple and I collapsed again.



“I told you that you shouldn’t have given away your last healing potion, Sirana,” Panagan hissed at me, sounding very pleased and withholding a full-throated laugh. “The hunt for the initiate starts now, but you will be too busy trying to leave this cavern alive.”



I withdrew a dagger from my boot, teeth gritted against the pain and my mind full of viscous thoughts, but she had already vanished from my immediate view when I looked up. I had intended to try for a spinning throw at her sprinting form but I realized it would be a waste of a dagger as her cloak shielded her from standing out so clearly against the rock, blurring her form to where I couldn’t be sure I’d even hit her.



“Cunt,” I growled lividly, my head pounding and my knee throbbing from the strike of her boot. She hadn’t cracked my knee—I didn’t *think* she hadn’t—like I had Moria’s in Rausery’s sparring room, but it had been a similar kick and it would become near impossible to walk before long as my joint swelled and my leg refused to bend properly.



Leaving me here had to be in direct conflict to what Qivni had told me about Red Sisters not letting other Red Sisters to die on a mission, “and that is what this hunt is.” So she’d said. For all I knew, she’d been lying, or it had been a deliberate set-up, having me following a different set of rules. Clearly Panagan had been waiting until the last dwarf had been killed before giving herself the competitive advantage in capturing Jael.



True, I had been planning all along to let Panagan capture Jael ahead of me—much as I didn’t really want to—but this change in events infuriated me. If I did not make it back, either in good time or at all, Panagan could tell them anything and they’d have to take the report as is unless they sent someone to investigate. They might not; how was I to know? D’Shea had been left out of the loop on this one, and she would already be displeased with me. Perhaps she would think I had brought this on myself.



Of course I had, but I wouldn’t give up; I would see the fruits of my second trial out here in the wilderness. Thanks to several events I could have done without in my short life, I knew a great deal more about this area than Panagan did. If she wanted to even the score, she’d find it a bit more difficult than a simple surprise kick to my leg.



Payback would be riding a fast mount on this one. Literally.



It took time for me to drag myself back down into the tunnel and return again to where the second psion with whom I’d become entangled had finally died. I passed her body, slowing up some to note the rigidity of it and the evidence of foam at her mouth.



Like when Jael had slumped over having lost all strength and chance at life, I felt…regret.



I hadn’t wanted to kill this Duergar, somehow, I had only needed to. I would not live long if she still breathed, even if I returned. The Red Sister Prime would no doubt see Lana’s survival as a failure similar to being captured alive by an Illithid: I would have compromised the entire Sisterhood, exposed them, made them vulnerable to an entire enemy race, and there was no greater failure than that.



The Duergar had seemed to want to convince me—or perhaps herself—that she was better off with a quick death, anyway. I wasn’t sure I could ever agree with her on that, but…as long as it wasn’t me believing that I had no more choices left, no more chance for change.



I left the body where it laid and moved past it, the Feldeu still present against my abdomen like a nuzzling fire salamander, using my three good limbs to continue down the route she had been going. I knew I did not have far to go before reaching that water source; I could smell the moisture and heard the telltale trickle of liquid occasionally gulping for air as it moved through the spaces between rocks.



When I eventually stuck my head cautiously out of the tunnel connecting the last cavern with a new one, the first thing I heard was deep breath passing through wide nostrils, coming from what had to be a very wide set of lungs.

My eyes made out three individual four-legged and shaggy creatures, unfamiliar to me yet enough to cause a surge of success to fill me as I recognized the tackle of domestication very much like our lizard mounts. The animal was stocky, straight-legged, cloven-hoofed, and thick-furred, smelling of something that did not eat much flesh. The neck was long like a lizard’s but donned with a stiff brush of hair trimmed to stand straight up; its tail was cropped and wagged anxiously back and forth across its dung-portal.



In candlelight I thought it might have been white in color, and the diminutive size made it suitable for the shorter dwarf race as mounts, though it was not lacking in muscle to carry such weight. My sitting astride one would see me a bit long, my legs in particular, but I would be a much lighter burden compared to an armored Duergar.



My head still hurt but I was calm enough thinking that I could actually guide one of these creatures, and the image of Panagan running headlong after Jael, thinking me still completely out of the hunt with an injured leg, spurred me into crawling out of the tunnel and moving carefully down the rocks toward where the mounts drank their water.



“Ihnkrow, ihnkrow,” I murmured softly, and two of the mounts looked up with perked, tufted ears. Their eyes were on the sides of their heads, deep black and capable of making out movement most of the way around them—except perhaps right in front of them. Two small black horns jutted straight up from between their ears.



“Ishton yekh,” I kept saying, seeing that it kept them calm as I approached. “Ihnkrow.”



One of them snorted and started to back up against its lead, making the other two nervous as well—it was either my scent or that of the blood—but I made one final reach to snag the end of a lead and hold on tightly, preventing one from simply moving away a few paces with the other two, keeping the same space between us until I tired of following it.



“Nice try,” I grinned, barely balancing on one foot as I pulled at the lead, drawing the beast of burden closer.



I didn’t like the scent much; it was earthy and far too musky, and the coat was oily and reminded me of the male Duergar’s—of Kain’s—wiry, white beard. However, I had little choice as this was quite obviously my ride home, and the only way I might make Panagan’s victory a little harder to achieve.



I unhooked the lead from the bridle and hobbled to get myself in position to grasp the knob on the hard leather saddle. I could practically have bent myself belly-down over the animal’s without jumping, so I felt fortunate that I suffered only about half as much pain lifting my damaged leg over as I would have with a lizard. The hairy beast shifted and side-stepped as I lay my body along its back, gathering the reins and trying to ignore how much my leg was paining me.



This creature couldn’t climb walls the way the lizards could, I knew, though they did have extraordinary balance for their rocky environment. Nonetheless, I’d have to stick to more established, somewhat level pathways, which only increased my chances of running into company. I didn’t like it, but it was my best option still.



“Hyah,” I said, tugging my beast in the direction of my City before kicking its side with one good leg. “Hyishta!”



The furry mount whiffled through those wide nostrils in response, responding to my confident guidance, and started a sturdy trot, carrying me quickly along the ground with cloven hooves not nearly as noisy as I had expected them to be. Even with my bad leg, my ability to cling to its back allowed greater dexterity over boulders and gutters, and despite its smell I had to admit the mount was incredibly useful traveling quickly over uneven stone. I loosened the reins a bit, giving it more of its head, and our speed picked up though I kept it to a sustainable level.



It would not take long to overtake Panagan and Jael on foot, provided they left enough sign. Then we’d have some real fun.



*****



I traveled closer toward the deep earth pulse of my birthplace, and like the time before, I knew time passed but didn’t know how much as my body was sorely tested.



Eventually after I had gotten the hang of guiding the dwarven mount, I had stopped briefly to remove the Feldeu with some great difficulty while still atop my ride. Nevermind the awkward balance and my injuries, it had hurt much more coming out of my body than it ever had, having never been satisfied. I was glad to tie it securely to my belt and let my birth canal slowly shrink back to its normal size.



My endurance was flagging just as I sluggishly realized so was my prey—it was a long way and we were all tiring. I doubted many previous Red Sisters hunting a recruit had needed to follow their target all the way from the starting point of an initiate’s test.



Jael had run into something, I thought, as I passed a bloated, scaly body now poisoning a pool of water, covered with short sword wounds and not four marks old. A little Drow blood had been spilled, and I also found Panagan’s bootprints outlined in a splash of the black blood as well. I saw it definitely was not her fullest stride, and I continued on my mount without stopping to rest.



I was catching up, and the furry body beneath me had shown extraordinary endurance, so long as I kept the pace steady. It had been when I pushed too hard, or too irregularly, that the animal seemed confused and would fail to obey directions. Maybe we could keep it at the cloister after I returned. No sense slaughtering the thing when it had been so well-trained.



I recognized the point where I had stopped before, going off the known path and finding that alternate water-way to avoid the sentries. We were close. I had to catch Panagan, if not Jael, before the sentries met them. And I would, because I truly had the element of surprise.



Or I would have, if Panagan hadn’t stopped to sight-see for some silly reason. I unexpectedly came upon her after rounding a bend, still a good distance from the checkpoint.



Oh well, I still enjoyed her initial expression of plain, open-mouthed disbelief.



I drew my crossbow-pistol and shot at her before kicking the beast forward with a scratching of pointed hooves against deep earth. The bolt missed her—I was far too tired and in too much pain to have made such a quick shot an accurate one—but she yelled and ducked, rolling as if expecting to be trampled, and that suited me just fine.



I yanked back on the reins to stop right next to her and dropped off to the ground on top of her, landing my good knee in the big muscle of her thigh.



Such a satisfying scream. It was worth the bone-jarring agony of willingly falling off my mount.



New energy fueled by my desire for revenge poured through me, and I found that I could rise partway over her. I drew back my fist to punch Panagan hard in the face, stunning her as I lost my balance and fell forward, my chest smooshing her face and partially suffocating her. I felt her hands grasping for anything on my belt and I rolled just enough to jab my knuckles against her throat.



“Tell you what?” I gasped. “Forget Jael… I thrust, you swallow.”



She glared at me as she struggled to do simply that: swallow. She winced in pain and coughed several times. I scanned her belt for a healing potion, recognized one bottle, and went for it.



It was a hard struggle; perhaps I shouldn’t have taken the time to taunt her. We grappled over the bottle for a while before a particularly painful fall on some rocks brought the potion down too hard and the glass shattered in our hands. Enough spilled into the palm of my glove, I thought, that I quickly brought it to my mouth and strained it by pressing the warming liquid to the roof of my mouth. I spat back out a few tiny shards of glass with one still stuck in my inner cheek.



“Crazy slut!” she snarled hoarsely.



I laughed. It had worked. The swelling in my leg was reducing at a rapid pace and my head was quickly clearing of its fatigue and its dull ache. I’d be able to stand in another thirty seconds. I flicked at the remaining piece of glass with my tongue as the cut healed and spit it out at her face; I saw it glint harmlessly off her cheek.



“Fuck you, Sirana.” She licked at her own glove, clearly needing the extra pep after the long tracking and hunting.



“Take down your pants. I’ll oblige.”



Panagan struggled harder, this time trying to get away from me. I tried to hold her but couldn’t stand quite yet when she escaped and went straight for my mount. I watched her put too much energy into hopping onto the short animal and she nearly went over the other side. I began laughing hysterically.



“Shut up!” she bellowed as she scrambled to right herself.



Her voice right next to the tufted ears scared the nervous creature and Panagan nearly fell off again when the furry beast side-stepped several paces before rising up on its hind legs, kicking outward and making a bleating wail of distress. She jerked too hard on the reins, trying to force the animal to obey her, and it spun nearly in a circle before bucking its hind legs up and out, neatly throwing the Red Sister off before bounding several strides away from the two scuffling Drow.



“Not as easy as it looks,” I said gleefully, continuing to rock on the floor and laugh at her as my leg finished healing.



Panagan shook her head to clear it and gave me a murderous look. We were both still on the ground, barely able to catch our breaths.



“We both fucked up this hunt, you know,” I said.



“Don’t waste your breath,” she replied with a snarl. “I don’t want to hear whatever self-justified piece of trash would spill from y—”



“Red Sisters commonly leave each other to die on a mission, then?” I asked.



Her moment of silence was encouraging. Perhaps Qivni hadn’t been lying or setting me up.



“Wasn’t this hunt a mission?” I pressed.



“You interfered,” she accused. “It isn’t a true hunt. You should have let her die!”



“Yet you told her to run,” I rebutted. “You tracked her the entire way. You always intended to catch her. And with me gone, you could claim a valid hunt. You must want to stay above Moria pretty bad.”



“And you…what dung have you been pulling from nowhere? By Lolth’s soggy snatch, what is that thing?” she gestured to my short furry beast now nibbling on some moss and sipping at seeping stone. “Where the fuck are you getting your knowledge?”



I replied with a wide grin. “I’m very lucky.”



We lay there staring each other down for many long moments; only when I’d given my Sister enough time to consider the fact that we would both be giving our reports at the same time—that I’d be giving one at all—that I repeated: “You weren’t supposed to leave me unable to walk, Panagan, and especially by your own action. Qivni won’t be pleased.”



“I didn’t actually *break* your knee, you would have made it back eventually,” was her reply, but she was looking unhappy. “Qivni would have looked the other way. She doesn’t like you anyway.”



“And Rausery?” I tested.



Ah, there was the source of worry now. I jumped on it.



“Tell you what. Rausery doesn’t need to know about my little injury if—”



“She’ll still be able to tell Jael was healed, Sirana,” Panagan sneered. “You can’t hide that. It would have been so much easier if you’d just stayed out there for a while. I could have handled it and we’d have all gotten what we wanted. Well, except you, but you were the one who wanted to trade your last potion for the recruit’s life, so you reap what you sow.”



“So I’ll take the heat for that and you still capture Jael and present her to Rausery,” I replied, leaning forward with more intensity. “I will say I twisted my ankle after we went our separate ways and found the creature in trying to get back. That’s close enough.”



My rival stared hard at me, silent for a few moments. “I don’t see anything that you get out of that.”



“That’s because I haven’t said yet.” I let me eyes trail down slowly before going back up. “I hunted you, and I caught you, quite fairly. I want you to bend over. I want you to take down your leathers and let me mount you. After I’ve cum, you can go after Jael, get her, get the reward and be above Moria again. And I won’t report to Rausery about your treachery.”



Panagan’s eyes had widened significantly. “When did you get a….” She didn’t say the name.



“Not your concern. Jael’s getting closer to the sentries, Panagan, you don’t have much time,” I reminded her. “I’ll keep you here until some other Red Sister stumbles on her. You know they’re watching. You’ll lose your chance and I’ll tell exactly what happened after I finished off the last Duergar in that tunnel you refused even to enter.”



Her face flushed with tension in the dark; she didn’t like her position. She wouldn’t like her future position, either. I smiled.



“You want something else, you’re after something else!” she insisted.



“True, but it doesn’t concern you. All I want of yours right now is your tight hole.”



Well, I wanted that, and her belief that she could best me. I wanted that stripped from her mind, even if officially she was still ranked above me.



She could never best me alone, and I wanted her never to forget it.



“Candle’s burning,” I said, staring at her. “Come on, Panagan…you’ll get to see me punished over healing Jael regardless. You’ll not be outed on your indiscretion, not while it matters, anyway. You know how time makes all sins seem less important, particularly when they result in failure anyway. Your ploy failed, I caught up with you, so I get to fuck you—but you don’t have to take Rausery’s punishment for it.”



Panagan pursed her mouth and I watched her weigh giving me what I asked versus the tangible goal very near to hand. I had a good feeling which one would win. She’d been focused on this hunt for far longer than I had been and knew what she wanted out of it so badly. She could have it—provided she accepted it was at my tolerance.



I could almost read her comforting herself: it wasn’t as if she wouldn’t get another chance to dominate me sometime.



True—except that she wasn’t one to think far enough ahead to make it intimidating for me. She had lost twice; I could never be intimidated by her again. She’d realize that at some point.



Panagan nodded at last. “Alright, but if you go back on your word, I’ll tell Qivni you didn’t really kill the Duergar and she escaped.”



“We’d both pay for that one, not just me,” I grinned, “and I brought proof anyway.” I indicated the white furry mount wandering around grazing nearby. “Don’t forget, I have a lot more knowledge than you about that. Just take it that I have more benefit in *not* getting into a ‘she said’ battle with you over this, Panagan. Bend over for me, take my Feldeu, then take Jael, and I stay silent. We go from there.”



At last she agreed, still as bewildered at my bargain as I have been with some of D’Shea’s orders. She knew she was missing a large part of the puzzle but could do little else but trust that what I wanted most wasn’t petty revenge against her.



Well…except I did. That was why we were walking somewhere with more obstruction, less likely to be observed as she gave me what I wanted. It was petty revenge, just not my ultimate goal.



“Belly down, over that,” I said, indicating a nice boulder about the perfect height. We were behind several more columns and stalagmites, well off the beaten path.



Panagan showed she was still a lower-ranking Sister with how readily she could undo her belt and open her leathers. She knew she was going to get fucked and was even showing just the slightest tremor of anticipation. I noted that she did not have a Feldeu on her at all when she removed her cloak and wondered just what she planned to do when she caught Jael….



Next she nudged down her pants to just below her buttocks and leaned over, presenting her backside to me as she rested her abdomen on the boulder, but she kept her belt grasped firmly in one hand and rather far from me as she braced herself.



She looked over her shoulder, watching me remove Gaelan’s Feldeu from my belt and begin donning it. “Be quick. I have to have a real chance to catch her or our deal’s off.”



That was no threat to me. I was going to face a reckoning regardless, but I was going to mount her before it happened.



“I trust you don’t want me to be *too* quick,” I crooned, reaching to smooth my gloved fingers over her netherlips and sliding up to circle her pucker. I poked briefly at the dry hole and she grunted softly in protest.



“Yes, that’s what I thought.”



She didn’t reply as I tugged her pants farther down, exposing more of her legs, first to her knees and then I decided to go all the way to the tops of her boots, running my gloves over her calves and the backs of her knees. She looked incredibly vulnerable.



“Then again, you didn’t give me much time to adjust, did you?” I said, and she tensed.



“Just fuck me and be done with it,” she said, tinged with bitterness.



“Your cunt or your back portal?”



“I know you want to do the same to me that I did to you, so do it,” she said. “I can take it.”



“Mm-hm.” That pretty much decided it for me right there.



I leaned down quickly and parted her buttocks, beginning to rim her with my tongue, flicking and stabbing at her as she clenched tight in surprise; she barely gulped down a vocal cry. I was insistent with my tongue, starting to stroke the Feldeu as it began to ache but kept lavishing attention on her rectal bud. Only once it had relaxed and started opening to me in little pulses did I leave it and force her legs wider, tasting her fragrant lips. They were wetted already and most of it not by my mouth.



“Reach back and hold yourself open,” I commanded in a low tone, just to test her. I was very happy to see her obey, even happier to watch her arch her back a little.



“Well-trained, just like all of us,” I commented. “Just takes a strong hand to get the juices flowing.”



Her breathing was a little ragged with her ribs and belly pressed to the rock, but she looked over her shoulder at me again, keeping her hands gripping her rear. “Hurry. You can force it up my netherhole if that’s what you want, alright?”



I didn’t buy her resigned acceptance the second time; perhaps the brutal reaming that she’d done to me was only what she knew, or what she liked. “Does Qivni do that?”



“What?”



“You heard me. Does Qivni do that to you?” I bent my legs slightly and leaned closer, preparing to fit my phallus between her legs. I nudged at her sex but didn’t penetrate.



“Uh…” Panagan sounded distracted, but answered cautiously. “Sometimes.”



“Why?”



“Because I displeased her somehow.”



“Easy to do, from what I remember.”



“She’s…particular.”



I smoothly inserted the Feldeu into Panagan’s snatch, much hotter, I’d bet, than it had been just a little while ago as we wrestled on the stone ground. She gasped and I felt her body tighten around me, almost sucking at me; I groaned.



“That’s it, sweetcake. Oh, after all those crude humpings you gave me, Panagan, I didn’t imagine your sex would be so soft and welcoming.” I started stroking inside her; she was wet, and getting wetter. “I think you’re better practiced at being the receiver than the giver. So when Qivni would force it up you, did it start to feel good after a time?”



She emitted a soft growl; both annoyed and aroused. She still held on to her buttocks and kept herself open for me so I could watch myself sink into her and pull back out again. I reached beneath to start playing with her mound and she jumped, surprised, perhaps expecting pain. She relaxed some when I merely tickled her clitoris casually.



“It’s no mystery, Panagan, you can tell me,” I cooed, still enjoying the way she clutched at my phallus. “Jaunda often rides my netherhole roughly… it turns to pleasure after enough strokes. Is it the same for you?”

I took a few very long strokes, pulling out entirely before squeezing the head back into her cushy sex, pulling out and pressing in again. She moaned.



“Y-yes,” she said.



“Is that an answer, or do you just like what I’m doing?”



“Both,” she hissed. “Fucking cunt…”



I chuckled.



“So have you ever gotten Qivni to cum?” I asked, taking the opportunity to play not only with Panagan’s clit but also her open and available anus.



“Sh…ah…fu-…augn…” she moaned, starting to strain to get my fingers to touch certain places. I paid attention to the movements and obliged her, but also felt the tension coiling up in my abdomen as I approached a much-delayed climax.



“Keep your hands on your ass, Panagan….Don’t move them. Come, now…yes or no?”



“Yes…” she gasped.



“Yes, what?”



“Yes, I’ve…made her cum.”



“How did you do it?”



“Not…part of our bargain, Sirana…ah!…”



I pressed on her clit harder, as she seemed to like it. Then I released, squeezing her lips and rubbing her clit indirectly between them. It was getting in the way of my own thrusting and that was probably the only reason I hadn’t orgasmed yet. I kept rubbing harder and Panagan trembled and moaned, and as soon as I felt the first flutters around my cock, I removed my hand, my phallus, everything except for a hand on her lower back, prepared to hold her down and keep her from finishing herself.



She was shocked speechless. My timing had been about right; I’d wrecked a climax that had just begun, leaving her with one or two beginning waves of pleasure before it disappeared unfulfilled.



“How did you do it?”



“Are you done…?”



“No.” I shoved the Feleu back into her but otherwise held it still, using my weight to keep her hips from moving too much. “But we’ll save time if you talk. I like to talk when I’m fucking, Panagan, I learned it from Jaunda.”



The impaled Red Sister looked toward the City, apparently recalling that Jael was running closer, and that assisted me in breaking down her resistance to my additional demand. “She likes it when…you suck hard on her, and hold on…sometimes it can take half a mark. It makes her clit swell large.”



That was certainly an oddity. I’d noticed a generous clitoris before, the single time Qivni had taken me—impatiently and with distaste—and she had asked to be sucked, and yes, I’d been reluctant, but she had barely given me any time to explore that route before she threw me off, seeming to change her mind. Instead she slapped my backside repeatedly until it was burning hot and roughly pierced between my cheeks with the Feldeu. And that was that.



I withdrew from Panagan and pressed the well-oiled head of the magical phallus against her rear portal; I heard her suck in her breath and felt her yielding already. I paused, letting her orifice clench helplessly at the desired tool, only barely inside.



“That’s all you do? Suck hard?”



“She likes…sharp pains…”



“So…pinching her inner thighs at the same time, perhaps?”



“Yes!” Panagan gasped. “Sirana…you’ve got…more than we agreed. Hurry and finish!”



“Tell me one more thing true about Qivni. Your choice.” I sank only a small measure into her bunghole and she trembled, growled when I stopped.



“Ah…” she tried to answer. “S-she…is a Priestess’s daughter.”



“Which one?” I gave Panagan a few faster strokes as encouragement.



“Guh, oh…fuck,” she gasped, “yes, like that!”



I stopped. “Which Priestess, you slobbering slut?”



“Not one you’d know, cunt,” she ground out. “She hasn’t had…much to do with the Sisters.”



“Is that how Qivni learned to manage Draegloth with that Abyssal language?”



Panagan nodded. “I th-think so.”



Good enough.



I finally loosed my own reigns, fucking Panagan’s asshole has hard as she had mine when we’d wrestled in the past. It seemed exactly what she wanted; she cried out excitedly and I thought that as long as we’d both messed up this hunt from beginning to end, we might as well not try to be quiet about it now.



By this point I did not need long, however, and I gladly climaxed before Panagan did, groaning and pressing in to the hilt into her body as I shuddered over and over. She writhed under me, frustrated and unsatisfied, but I leaned back and pulled out, leaving her vacant.



I chuckled with a slap to her backside before stepping back. “Better go catch Jael, Panagan.”



She got up and glared hotly at me, setting her uniform to rights and picking up her cloak. It appeared that she would be finishing her hunt with a drenched and frustrated crotch as she would not take the time to wipe off.



From the look on Panagan’s face, Jael would be in for a time if she ended up as sloppy seconds.



“You keep to your part of the bargain,” Panagan demanded again.



“Of course,” I agreed casually. “I told you, this is better for me. And if I may say, you have a hungry pair of clutching holes, Sister.”



“So do you,” she spat, as if that were something we didn’t both already know.



I waggled my fingers in farewell as she finally took off running. I took some time to properly remove and wash the Feldeu then myself, checking over my equipment and listening to the environment around me. Smaller creatures, blind or spineless, crawled around and I heard running water somewhere to my right, but no caravans, no patrols. I was taking a lot of risks lately but felt myself caring less at this point. I’d be paying plenty for all that I had accomplished when the time came, but I couldn’t bring myself to worry so much as I might have before.



I was getting tired of that. Fortunate favored the bold.



I loved that Panagan had pulled down her own leathers to present to me. Perhaps she hadn’t realized it, but none of her group had ever gotten me to do that for them; they had always needed to forcibly strip me, if I wasn’t naked already, and spread my legs or my buttocks open themselves. I submitted to directions after that point, even willingly used my mouth, but the initial exposure of my quivering loins had needed to be earned.



It was not necessarily a game-winner between us, but it gave me an edge that I knew how to use. And now I knew a little more of what made both her and Qivni tick as well.



I prepared myself to continue the hunt—because I had to at least make the appearance—and went to collect my dwarven mount before finding out where the rest of the Red Sisters waited, and who ultimately captured Jael Aurenthietti.



*****



If I desired, I would have been able to ride right past the sentries; they did not slow me or signal to me. The uniform was more than enough, even if I could sense them staring at just what I was riding.



I slowed myself down, however, and signaled to them.



*Who has passed through in the last candle mark?*



The sentry who answered carried herself well, balanced and watchful. She wore well-made armor and a distinct helmet of unmistakable spider-like design, a cloak around her shoulders that could blur her form as well as mine could if necessary.



*Four other Sisters and one fugitive, Red Sister,* she signed. *Three appeared first, ordered us not to challenge the fugitive. A fourth Red Sister followed soon after the fugitive passed. Then you, three minutes later.*



I nodded. *As you were.*



Figuring Panagan had the same information—if she had a wit in her head after I’d fucked her to frustration—it would be close, and it depended who that trio of Sisters was, whether they simply pounced on Jael ahead of Panagan.



I rather hoped it wasn’t any of D’Shea’s party.



Though I was healed and could run again, my shaggy beast would allow me to close that three-minute gap much more quickly. Small farms and plantations were dotting the expanse of the cavern base as I galloped along the road leading to the City. It would still take three or four marks on a candle to reach it at a walk, less on faster transportation, and the Red Sisters had plenty of open, less populated land to track and chase the “fugitive” within Drow territory.



I found the footprints that went off the road and into the fields, and I looked ahead of me, straining to detect life movement. I heard it before I saw it and kicked the mount in that direction. I saw bodies darting after and flanking a naked figure, trying to steer her in some direction. I saw more detail as I got closer and recognized Moria and Zursa with Qivni.



My relief that it wasn’t Jaunda and hers warred with my caution and my competitive jealousy; it was hard to watch and not make my own attempt to capture the prey.



Jael put up an impressive effort to evade capture, but ultimately did not see Panagan until it was too late, and she was tackled in the farmers’ dirt. I dismounted and approached silently, noting how greedily—it seemed to me—that Panagan groped at Jael’s naked breasts and plunged a gloved hand between her legs before pinching her buttocks. The initiate squealed and shrieked in anger; she would have fought anyway, but my frustrated rival’s invasive and crude exploration made Jael understandably anxious about what would happen to her.



Panagan could hold her down for only brief spells, but in those moments, she worked on removing and tossing her belt toward Zursa, who picked it up, and opening and shoving down her own pants. I felt one of my brows rise when I saw Moria step forward to hand out a Feldeu to Panagan.



It was a foregone conclusion what would happen next, but I wanted to see if it was any different than what I’d experienced.



It was easier, with less chance for injury, to hold Jael down on her belly but she resisted putting her rear up in the air. By Moria and Zursa’s crows of delight, Panagan did finally penetrate Jael even with her hips on the ground, claiming her, but had difficulty staying in long enough to climax. Jael’s wriggling kept dislodging her.



I wasn’t sure that orgasm was a requirement to satisfy the claim, but I knew Panagan really wanted to cum after I’d left her so aroused and angry. She was desperate and not much in control of herself even when she managed to grip Jael’s hair and hold her face to the ground while getting her hips risen just enough to reposition her phallus.



I heard Jael scream in pain and anger as Panagan cruelly speared her backside, and I automatically scanned the field for witnesses. If there were any—likely there was at least one—they were staying their distance from whatever was going on. Any voyeurs would only see the Red Sister’s carrying out a well-known punishment and be glad it wasn’t them.



I thought Jael’s current responses were quite familiar on a personal level. Panagan hadn’t prepared her at all; she’d just done her usual insertion without any skill or finesse. Whatever previous use the initiate might have experienced wouldn’t have carried over after I’d given her my healing draught; she’d be tight and new again as if she hadn’t been gang-banged any number of times in the last two cycles. It could be a double-edged sword, the healing.



Panagan had no thought for anyone but herself right now, and Jael wouldn’t enjoy this. She could only endure.



Qivni saw me first as I slid closer and smiled in satisfaction. “Too late, Sirana. She’s ours. Be a good girl and inform D’Shea.”



Moria and Zursa looked as well and grinned widely, Moria sneering at me. Panagan’s back was to me as she humped a still-struggling and lividly cursing Jael with as much appeal as I recalled; she did not look at me.



I smiled back, but tightened one side of my mouth as if I tasted something sour. “Four against one in the endgame hardly seems sporting.”



“Jaunda’s nearby as well, novice. She saw you didn’t make it in time, so no need for her to help you.”



“Then now what, Lead?” I asked, deciding not to pick a fight right now.



“You go report to D’Shea. Leave her with us, we will bring her in.”



Fortunately for Jael, Panagan was ready to peak quickly and did so with a loud, aggressive growl of release, pressing her hips flat against their new novice. As soon as she dismounted and Jael tried to move, Moria and Zursa each grabbed an arm and hauled her backward and to her knees between them.



The initiate was infuriated, trembling with pain and overflowing emotion. I felt a stab of excitement and arousal watching her expressive face and her body language. She would keep fighting for now, and thanks to the tactics used in this very field, it would take time to break that habit and get her to start thinking before she attacked.



I was not impressed, and wondered when I would have my turn with her?



Gaelan had done me a favor after my capture, taking me somewhere safe and private and doing things the way she had, not so crudely and publicly as this.



Jaunda had been smarter as well for leaving us alone; I could believe, knowing what I knew now, that the Lead and her team could have walked onto the scene at any time after Gaelan had caught me atop Auslan. She and the others had come in only after I’d completely submitted to anything the younger Sister had wanted to do, after the divine magic had run its course for the moment.



It had to have been D’Shea’s doing, hadn’t it? Her instruction?



Maybe Jaunda has been well-aware this whole time of the plot to keep Gaelan raised above me, even though it was not the natural order. Maybe that was why she hadn’t walked in recently while I’d been worn the Feldeu with Gaelan for the first time…



Certainly more food for thought.



Jael was breathing rapidly, her skin dusted and smeared with dirt, her teeth bared still even though she’d probably been fighting long enough to burn down quite a few candles. It spoke well for her iron-strength will, but could she be guided?



She looked up and focused on me, recognized me quickly. I resisted the urge to wink at her again, but felt myself smiling anyway. Her expression in return was wary; I could not be sure what went through her mind right then, but I wondered whether she might believe I had more to do with her recent change in fate than I actually had? It would have been a thought of my own, were I in her place.



Qivni ended the eye-contact between us by roughly slipping a black bag over Jael’s head and cinching the drawstring. Our initiate panicked at first, trying to reach for the bag, writhing to escape as the other two Sisters held her firm. The Lead removed a crop from her belt and slapped Jael’s back and buttocks a few times.



“Stop,” she ordered. “Behave yourself.” She looked at me with an annoyed expression; she had certainly noticed my apparent connection with the initiate and she wondered about, it but was not going to ask about it now. “Sirana, return to your Elder. Sisters, come.”



They dragged Jael away with them and toward some mounts awaiting them as I watched, and I sighed quietly to myself.



I would have done it a different way.



I strode to return to my own loitering mount as they withdrew into the distance and the darkness, and Jaunda would have successfully sneaked up on me if not for the anxious dancing those cloven hoofs. I spun around.



“Lolth damn that beast.” Jaunda was grinning, nearly upon me.. “Looks like you have quite a story to tell.”



I took the moment I needed to reach for the creature’s reigns, just so it wouldn’t skitter away. I nodded and tried not to smile too smugly. “I do.”



Jaunda’s arm snaked around my shoulders and I felt her put much of her weight against me. It was not from any need for affection or closeness on her part. From what I’d grown to understand, she did it as a show of dominance, forcing the other Red Sister to focus on keeping herself upright while Jaunda spoke more privately to her.



“You need a bath, sweetlips.”



“I don’t doubt it, Lead,” I smiled. “Where is your team?”



“Sent them back once Aurenthietti was caught. D’Shea’s unhappy with you.”



“I knew she would be. It worked, though.”



“What worked?”



“Aurenthietti had a fair shot to make it back, so it protected D’Shea’s interests.”



“Meaning…you convinced Rausery the recruit didn’t have a chance, unless you and Panagan left right then?”



I nodded. “Close enough, Lead. Panagan and me leaving then was Rausery’s idea.”



Jaunda was silent a moment, then spoke again. “You know, sometimes they just die, Sirana. We don’t ultimately get every recruit that we pick. Maybe half.”



I didn’t reply, uselessly standing next to the dwarven mount holding the reigns.



“You fancied this one especially? Met her before, perhaps?”



“I met her before, yes. During the battle with the Illithids.”



“The last one?”



“Yes, Lead.”



“Ah. That explains something D’Shea said.”



I knew better than to ask with that tone. Something held warning in it.



Jaunda’s gloved had slipped down my back over my cloak. “Good for you following orders and letting Rausery take this one.”



When her hand reached the small of my back, I gasped involuntarily and tried to shift away, but realized too late that Rausery had been going for it anyway. She gripped me and pushed hard to bend me over the saddle of the mount, taking the reins from me and speaking what I thought were magical words as her hips pressed against my buttocks, her weight holding me to the saddle for the moment. The dwarven mount inexplicably went very docile and cooperated to keep me trapped between it and Jaunda.



My Lead’s hand withdrew the Feldeu from my belt.



“We were wondering where this had gone,” she murmured. “You’ve got some explaining to do.”



She didn’t want me to explain anything right then, however. She promptly put me back on the receiving end of her own Feldeu.



“Take down your leathers for me, Sirana,” she ordered, and there was no negotiation.



I did as ordered, well aware of the irony that I’d pressed Panagan into doing the same for me just a few marks before.



This was outside of Jaunda’s and my previous arrangement, but she’d found Gaelan’s missing Feldeu on me and I figured her stretching my holes out here in an open field was only the beginning of that punishment.



It could be worse.



“Ungh, Lolth, I’ve missed this,” she grunted as I flinched as she went straight for my netherhole. Her thrusts got very hard, very fast. I was gasping haggardly to keep breathing as the beast’s spine pressed up just beneath my ribs.



“And you…still owe me a hunt.”



I did, didn’t I?



“Fuck,” I gasped, writhing under an unabashed mixture of pain and pleasure in my loins and my ass.



She did me harder, slapping my haunches and talking to me as she did so. “You’ve been up to a lot lately…you’ll tell everything, all bargains struck, all secrets being kept, when D’Shea asks, won’t you, little apprentice?”



Apprentice? I groaned, unable to answer for a few moments as Jaunda kept her harsh tempo. “I…I…”



“I shouldn’t have to tell you…D’Shea can honor your deals with others, provided they don’t interfere with her own…but you have to tell her about them. If you don’t, she’ll make you. You know that, right? You know the mistake Gaelan made?”



I nodded. “Y-yes, Lead…I know…”



“You’ve crossed a couple lines now, worse than that sweet sub ever did. Better talk fast before she forces something down your throat… and it won’t be my cock.”



I understood clearly, feeling hot flashes both from the extremely forceful coupling and the fear of being made to take another compulsion potion… “W-why would you care, Lead?”



“I watched you back before you came to us, Sirana… I know you. Love the way your mind works. Don’t want…” Jaunda’s voice got thicker, huskier as she got closer to climax. “Don’t want D’Shea to make another mistake she’ll regret… because of her pride and station. Gaelan was never like you but…that potion was a mistake. She hasn’t been the same…too fearful, too meek. She will try but she won’t last unless she earns back D’Shea’s trust and somehow gets it reversed.”



Jaunda pulled out completely before thrusting all the way back in, making my back jerk with the force of it as I cried out.

“Got me, novice?”



“G-got it, Lead…I understand…!” I gasped.



Jaunda humped twice more before she came inside me with a low roar, and still the mount beneath me didn’t move or even whicker.



****



“Will it—?”



“It’ll be fine. The lizards can’t get at it and it has something to eat. Let’s focus on you, hm?”



I badly chafed as I followed Jaunda back through the cloisters. Red Sisters whom we passed perked up with interest and made a variety of expressions as they determined two things immediately: the hunt was over, and Rausery’s side had won. Even if they had heard already, my following Jaunda around empty-handed only confirmed it for them.



We went directly to D’Shea’s quarters without pausing, despite a few others who tried to engage my Lead for some practical reason or other. Jaunda told them gruffly, “Later,” and we continued past.



When we were bid to enter, I could tell from first glance that D’Shea was only waiting here because she knew Jaunda had returned with me; she was wearing her reds and looked as if she’d been busy recently. It was a notable difference from often finding her relaxing in her smooth robes working at her desk. The Lead withdrew Gaelan’s Feldeu from a pouch and set it without comment on one of the side tables where it could be seen clearly.



And, yes, D’Shea was not happy with me. She was scowling, and her copper eyes flashed with too many thoughts and a great deal of energy as she focused on me.



“Thank you, Jaunda,” the Elder said with a voice coaxed into being calm. “Please stay for the time being.”



“As you command, Elder,” her right-hand said and stepped quietly off to the side, standing straight and simply waiting to be directed.



D’Shea approached me immediately; I knew better than to speak before being spoken to, so remained silent. My Elder paced around me, raking every detail of my current state with her eyes. She took hold of my cloak and checked it with her hands, smoothing over the material methodically. I had no idea what she thought she might find, but it was my first hint that I wouldn’t be speaking for a while.



“Remove your cloak. Roll it and set it on the ground,” D’Shea ordered once she was satisfied that it hid nothing.



I obeyed, and then she checked every pouch on my belt, removing each bottle and tool and spent dose of poison, laying them out on the table next to the Feldeu I’d stolen. She checked the belt itself and commanded me to remove that and place it on the cloak, which I did. From there she checked my hair, my armor, my gloves, my boots. She found little that seemed out of place, but whatever she did find she placed on the table. Then I was to remove that item, and ordered to take down my hair.



Jaunda was right; I was filthy and needed a bath.



Shyntre’s blue pendant lay between my breasts, hanging from its black cord around my neck, and D’Shea’s gaze lingered on it for a while. She reached out, lifted it up in her fingers and turned it over again. She tugged at it.



“Take it off.”



I was loath to do so, afraid I wouldn’t get it back, but obeyed, and she placed it with the rest of my tools on the table.



By the end, I was naked and in a position very much as when I’d first laid eyes on D’Shea in the candle chamber. She checked over my body clinically, paying attention to minute details without a hint of the erotic.



“Take hold of your ankles, Sirana. You remember.”



I did as she commanded, immediately felt her touching my between my legs, parting my netherlips and studying my intimate flesh.



“She’s raw. Did you mount her before bringing her here, Jaunda?” D’Shea asked.



“Yes, Elder,” her Lead replied neutrally.



“Did anyone else?”



“Not that I saw, Elder.”



There was a very brief pause as I imagined them sharing a look. The fact that D’Shea neither asked why Jaunda had fucked me nor admonished her for possibly destroying evidence—or whatever she was looking for—told me it had probably been part of Jaunda’s own assignment. Did that mean the warning about telling D’Shea everything was part of it, too? Jaunda was being a bit of a hypocrite if it wasn’t.



“Sirana? Did anyone else mount you on that hunt?”



“No, Elder,” I replied, my head still pointing toward the floor. “No one else mounted me except Jaunda with her own Feldeu.”



“Yes, we’ll get to the one that’s not yours. First tell me how many healing draughts you’ve taken.”



I wished I could stand straight again; blood was rushing to my head and I fully understood the meaning of the position she’d placed me in, reminding me of my place. “One and a half, Elder.”



“I see two empty bottles. You spilled some?”



“No, Elder. Of those two bottles, not a drop was spilled.”



Obviously the math wasn’t adding up, but she only noted it and continued without pursuing that tangent.



“All your weapons have been used, some poorly cleaned, and your leathers are stained. What blood is on your weapons and armor?”



“Duergar blood and Jael Aurenthietti’s blood, Elder.”



Again D’Shea was quiet a moment. “Three doses of your poison were used. Did you use any on the initiate?”



“No, Elder. All Duergar.”



“How many received poison?”



“Three.”



“How many were there total?”



“Seven.”



“All dead now?”



“Yes, Elder. No survivors.”



“Who killed the other four?”



“Panagan three, Aurenthietti one.”



D’Shea paced some more before asking her next question. Meanwhile my head continued to pound.



“Several message pellets have been broken. Did you send any messages?”



“No, Elder,” I answered, surprised to hear they were broken. “It must have been from my encounter. It was very physical.”



“Any actual contact?”



“With one, yes. We grappled.”



There was a pregnant pause as D’Shea absorbed that. “Were any Duergar present psionic that you knew of?”



“Yes, Elder. Three were psionic.”



“And the one you grappled with?”



“One of the three.”



“Did anything happen? Yes or no only.”



“Yes, Elder.”



Some of her underlying rage seemed to withdraw when she heard that, but again she didn’t pursue that line of questioning. Jaunda would know D’Shea was being oblique referring to “something” happening with the psionic other than a fight, but apparently my Elder did not want to spill that pot quite yet.



D’Shea looked over the items on the table again, quiet and deep in thought.



“I haven’t known a thing you’ve been doing for six entire cycles, Sirana, since your last visit to House Itlaun. Do you realize that? Again you never sent me any messages. That is unacceptable.”



“Every event was connected to directives you’ve given me, Elder D’Shea,” I said. “They happened too quickly to ask your advice, but I am ready to give you complete reports.”



“Plural,” she repeated. “Let’s list the ones you owe me, shall we, in case I’ve missed any?” Her tone was the most sarcastic I’d ever heard it.



“Yes, Elder.”



“First, Curgia.”



“Ready when you are, Elder.”



“Second, Rausery knowing about the Duergar before me.”



She left out part of it but I understood what she meant: the connection, my borrowed memory of them shifting loose somehow to push me to tell Rausery about the danger to Jael in the first place. I had fumbled in not telling D’Shea about my recent conversation with the other Elder, admitting to my encounter on my trial in exchange for information about the Surface.



“I will explain all of that, Elder.”



She grunted. “Third, why you had Gaelan’s Feldeu on your person during your first hunt.”



“I can explain that, too, Elder.”



“Oh, yes, you will. Fourth, your second encounter with Duergar.”



“Productive, Elder. Look forward to that report.”



She noted my optimism, but I was still too far in the dung to her for it to lighten her mood.



“Fifth, your hunt against Panagan, resulting in the recruit being captured and currently in Rausery’s quarters.”



“Exactly as you directed, Elder, with more gained to offer you.”



“Indeed. And sixth, that gaurro you rode in on.”



“Gaurro, Elder?”



“The white mount with cloven hooves and horns. It has a name. It’s a creature bred by the Duergar, am I to take it that you stole it from them?”



“Yes, Elder.”



“Any particular reason?”



“I couldn’t walk, Elder. I needed something to carry me to catch up with Panagan.”



“And you could guide it; it understood and obeyed your signals.”



“Yes, Elder. As I said, a productive event. Command me when at your choosing, I will tell you everything.”



Each of my answers had been without hesitation, saying outright that I intended to come clean with D’Shea. It was the best I could do in taking Jaunda’s warning seriously about D’Shea being close to setting a compulsion on me to better control me—with my asshole still burning as a reminder. I could guess none of us wanted a compulsion spell, but I also didn’t want D’Shea feeling like she had no choices left but to leave me with none. I was sufficiently alarmed by now to decide against any secrets I may have been intending to keep.



“Stand up straight, Sirana.”



I did so slowly, dizzy and needing to close my eyes and let my head find its equilibrium again.



“Jaunda, please standing just outside. Make sure we are not disturbed.”



I needed to see my Lead’s expression and opened my eyes; she was looking at both of us, actually a bit wary.



Jaunda said, “Please do not do anything irreversible, Elder.”



Elder D’Shea looked a little surprised at the request, and how it was asked. Her tone hardened, however. “That is not your concern. Yours is guarding my door, and if Gaelan comes by, make her stay until I’m finished. I would speak with her.”



Jaunda nodded, bowed and took her leave the door closing behind her.



“She never did agree with me about Gaelan,” D’Shea murmured, turning her powerful gaze back on me again. “I take it you know where you stand? I will know all the details soon enough, but already know you’ve done several things of your own design without consulting me and at Rausery’s benefit. I know that you know about Gaelan’s inability to speak about my plans in detail.”



I nodded, feeling a flutter in my stomach. “I do, Elder. I know.”



“And you’re still confident in the choices you’ve made?”



Even after a second thought, I nodded the affirmative. “Yes, Elder. There’s more benefit than cost.”



“As far as you know,” she snapped. “We will see. First, report about Curgia. You let her see you?”



“Yes, Elder. In her plantation’s gardens, after three cycles waiting.”



“Then what?”



I recounted it exactly as I recalled it, including some boring details as I waited in the garden. D’Shea waited me out without interruption, and her expression became complex when I talked about Wilsirathon’s possible response to a recommended change in Curgia’s behavior.



“I see.”



She was quiet for several long moments, and I second-guessed my thoughts about benefit versus cost on this very first report. I hadn’t been told much of anything about what D’Shea wanted out of the Wilsirathon-Itlaun plot. Had I truly messed this up for her?



“You gave me no specific instruction, Elder,” I reminded her preemptively, “and you’ve always expected more from me than following your word to the letter.”



“I know.”



She turned away briefly, setting her gently curled fingers to her mouth as she considered the possible shifts in events. “You gave Curgia a reason to live and cease seeking an end to her pregnancy. You gave her insight into the Priestess’s actions, which you learned from me.”



“Yes, Elder.” I dared not say anything more at the moment.



“It has been a year, hasn’t it?” D’Shea said quietly, almost to herself. “Wilsirathon hasn’t waited this long before offering a solution to her prey in the past.”



“It’s…different, then, Elder?” I asked cautiously.



D’Shea nodded. “A little. I am going to want you to find out what becomes of Curgia’s negotiations, Sirana. Even if you have to speak to her again. But not until I tell you, understand?”



“As you wish, Elder.”



“Did you ask anything in return for your information?” she asked.



“No, Elder. I told her to expect something later.”



She nodded; of something like that, I knew she could be satisfied. She was one to love having favors that could be called in at will.



“Second, why did Rausery know about your knowledge and connection to Duergar at all?” my Elder asked. “Why would she believe you when you came to her desperate for her help?”



I swallowed. “The last time you loaned me to her…we talked. I…she was irritated you hadn’t taught me anything about the Surface yet but didn’t seem like she would step in without knowing something that you were up to. Since it was my own personal challenge, nothing that was originally yours, I told her about the rape and that you’d been helping me with it, and thus we weren’t focused on any Surface knowledge at this time. I didn’t tell her the trigger was the Feldeu, however. She doesn’t know any of that.”



D’Shea nodded once, shortly. “And what did she tell you about the Surface now?”



“The Ma’ab. A bit about them, about how they became powerful capturing one of our Priestesses, that we were watching them. That’s all.”



My Elder still looked surprised. “She wants you for something specific, then.”



“Like what, Elder?”



“A specific mission. I don’t know what exactly, but she’s looking at you.” Before I could inquire further she sighed and rubbed her gold-touched temple before pinning me with her gaze again. “No more on that. Why did you steal Gaelan’s Feldeu?”



I shifted my weight uneasily. “I…never intended to. Gaelan figured out you had initiated me on wearing one, she got me to admit it to her. She did a very good job persuading me to use her own Feldeu on her, so then I knew the command words.”



D’Shea quirked a graceful brow as if to say, *Clearly you are not finished.*



I wasn’t. “I was afraid to wear it, Elder…knowing what I’ve done to you and not remembered afterward. But…I…gave in, and I took her with it. It was…different. I remembered everything and stayed in control. Gaelan never knew about my struggle, just submitted to me.”



She looked intrigued despite herself. “Interesting. Go on. Did you feel any pain?”



I nodded. “My head. Right side. But I also experienced all the pleasure and remembered everything.”



She nodded. “How did you manage to take it without her seeing?”



“Jaunda interrupted us, saying a recruit had been collected and we were expected.”



“That’s why you were late.” Her mouth twitched on one side.



I nodded. “We were trying to prevent Jaunda from seeing us, so were hurried. Gaelan didn’t secure it and…I was the last one to leave the room. I picked it up.”



“Impulse?” she asked.



I nodded. “It truly was, Elder. I know you will never believe it entirely but it was like…it was calling me.”



She studied my face and body for several long moments before asking, “Did you use it after leaving Gaelan’s room?”



“Yes, Elder. Thrice.”



Her brows rose high. “Oh? On whom?”



This was skipping ahead a fair bit, but I answered the question, nothing more. “I stroked it by myself the first time, then I used it on a female Duergar, then on Panagan.”



I had the insane urge to laugh at her expression and bit the inside of my cheek hard enough to bruise.



“*Female* Duergar? You actually saw a female of their race?”



“Yes, Elder.”



“And you fucked her.”



“Well…that’s complicated, Elder.”



She shook her head and her sigh was equal parts astonishment and exasperation. “Let’s get to that in due time. First tell me what happened when you stroked the Feldeu. Did you cum?”



“Yes, Elder. But after I did, I was…immersed in thoughts that weren’t mine. The knowledge you’d been after finally knocked loose, and that was when everything started happening so fast.”



I had to back up a bit to tell her of my chat with Panagan while the Elders and Leads were gone seeing to Jael’s trial, then my thoughts as I recalled them, and the reason I sought out any Elder I could at the time.



“Rausery decided to send Panagan and me after Jael to prevent the Duergar from killing her. Then we had to follow her, and if she made it close to the City, then—”



D’Shea nodded. “Yes, I know this part. I spoke with Rausery. Tell me everything that happened while you were out there, Sirana. Everything.”



That took a great long time; my feet and back were aching as I stood and described everything to the best of my recollection. I answered her when she’d interject with questions, and she was most especially interested in my interaction with Lana. She was moderately pleased with my blackmail and domination of Panagan when I got to that part, also pleased that Jael had gone to Rausery just as planned, noting it all as per usual Drow politics—but she still went back to ask after Kain and Lana and anything else I recalled of my experience in that dwarven crawlspace.



When I was hoarse from talking and my head fully aching from trying to recall so much detail, D’Shea finally came close enough to touch me. She took off her glove and reached up to take my dust-coated chin in her hand, looking me straight in my eyes, studying me. She looked intrigued, and I told myself it was a good thing that she was not bored with my antics and that I had come out more positive than negative this time around.



“If the female psion was right…then we need do nothing else. You will heal your mind on your own and you will lose little of what you gained from that grey dwarf. Perhaps she’s correct that you’ll be able to recall their language and culture without wearing the Feldeu at some point.”



“Perhaps, Elder.” I still thought any memory would fade, given enough time or disuse, whether it was originally mine or not.



Her hand slid up to caress first my jaw, then to trace the edge of my ear. “I can agree with you, Sirana. Everything you did was focused on broad directives I have given you, even if your interpretation got a little creative. But you have always been good at thinking on your feet. You are more fearless and determined than many I’ve trained, and I like that you will claim all your actions. I’ve noticed only a few excuses here and there when you try to hide your true motives from me. But you’ll learn, won’t you? You don’t need magical assistance, I take it?”



“No, Elder,” I responded immediately.



“Good. Now, where you could fall, Sirana, is with over-confidence and recklessness. Never believe that you know better than me. Not until you are my rank and have lived six centuries.”



I nodded, shivering slightly at her touch as it went from my ear down my throat. I felt my nipples harden in the free air. “Yes, Elder.”



“I have to test that you understand what I’m saying, unfortunately,” she said with a wry smile. “I have put her off for as long as I have been able, but no longer.”



The potion from my struggle with Panagan had revived me well enough, but it had been a many cycles now and I was approaching exhaustion. Still, I refocused all my attention back on D’Shea. “Put off whom, my Elder?”



“Wilsira,” D’Shea said with a sigh, caressing one of my breasts casually before standing back to place both her hands on her hips. “She has wanted to meet you. Has asked again and again since you were accepted into the Sisterhood. I’ve refused, and the Prime has had no reason to override me. However, we were only able to use the Draegloth to test Aurenthietti with Wilsira’s permission, and in exchange, she wishes me to send you to her as an escort for a short trip she wants to take.”



I was fully awake now, my stomach tightening. I understood without D’Shea having to say so that this had potential to be very dangerous. Suddenly my opinion of the Priestess was called into question; I had been told she didn’t like me for controlling her son, even for that brief moment, but had assumed that her unwillingness to face me meant that she was weak, uncertain, intimidated by a younger, more attractive Drow.

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