surface

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 2013



This chapter is sort of an interlude (a very long one). We’re back to a little more sex with purpose in this, and everything is building on what came before.




****



I tried not to think about the fact that I hadn’t truly lain down in reverie since the fourth or fifth or sixth time I’d fucked Kerse. It seemed a much longer time ago than it was.



Meanwhile inside the cloister, Jael wouldn’t have received much rest either—if any. I expected to find her in a certain condition—that is, unclothed and well used, maybe injured depending on how much she’d been “raging,” as D’Shea had put it— and I was not wrong, although she had also been bathed very recently and was very clean; her hair was still damp.



She was curled on a bare spot on Rausery’s floor; she still looked confused and as though she was biding her time, her eyes shifting here and there and around. One could think she was slow for not having gotten the point of her treatment by now, but I could grant her this: I didn’t clearly remember my fifth cycle here, or at least what had been going on when it passed. Our race’s various time measuring devices weren’t nearby, I’d already spent several cycles in a magical lust-heat that came and went, with rest and food at extremely erratic intervals.



As I understood it, the break with one’s previous life had to be complete: strip her down to her bare essentials, and rebuild her as a Red Sister. The bestial look in Jael’s copper eyes was a good thing as far as her Elder was concerned, and watched her so amusedly as I bowed and checked in that one might think she was enjoying the antics of a particularly cherished household pet.



“Glad to see you made it back in one piece, Sirana,” Rausery said, casually fixing her eyes on me. “Anything interesting to tell me?”



She jested.



I smiled. “The Sanctuary is drafty despite all the tapestries and Noble Houses use too many candles.”



The tactical Elder snorted and stood up from her desk to walk around and stand in front of me. Her blood red eyes—lacking the shots of yellow of Shyntre’s but no less vibrant—stared slightly down at me and she leaned to inhale near my ear and my hair.



“Not up in braids?” she asked, reaching to caress one of the free flowing locks.



“No, Elder.”



It would have taken too much time before leaving, and D’Shea had been stripping Gaelan at a faster rate than I’d been dressing. Truthfully I hadn’t wanted to stay, and D’Shea wouldn’t take her eyes off me until I’d left, despite her excitement in fondling my roommate.



“Might prove an inconvenience. Jael will use any hold she can get.”



I was still looking into the Elder’s eyes. “Forgive me ignorance, Elder, this is my first time on the other side. What will I be expected to do?”



“Whatever you want. Whatever you think she needs to handle in order to earn your acceptance, barring maiming and death. Those two aren’t for you to decide, although feel free to report serious transgressions on her part.”



It would take serious maiming or death by Jael’s hand to force that; what Red Sister would admit if she lost control of a new recruit? And if that was all, after all I’d seen, then she already had earned my acceptance.



“Have all Sisters had her?”



“Not yet. Some are still out on missions. But of those now in the cloister, only you haven’t, so it’s your turn.”



Should be fun.



“Even D’Shea?” I asked, and Rausery smirked.



“Yes. Never was sure why she took her sweet time with you.”



I tilted my head at the too-light tone. Yes, I was pretty sure Elder Rausery did have a guess, but she wasn’t offering it to me now.



“May I take her to my quarters?” I asked.



“Of course. Surely you remember being hauled around the cloister last year?”



I nodded. “Yes, but not dragged directly from my Elder’s room.”



Rausery grinned wider. “One thing I like about you. You’re so polite in your tacti obedience. Most of the time. I’ll save my score for the times you haven’t been for another time.”



Oh yes…she was referring to the snippy tone I’d taken while trying to convince her of the impossibility of Jael’s given test in the wilderness. I could expect either a caning, a mounting, or long service with my mouth for that one. Maybe a combination.



“I look forward to feeling again the skill of your firm hand, Elder,” I replied with a bow, and Rausery laughed aloud, waving her hand generally toward the naked Drow on the floor.



“Take her. You’ll give me your thoughts later as well.”



The young recruit scowled at me as I came closer and she fisted her hand, ready to strike out. I leaned down as if to take her wrists, waiting for that first attack, and shifted to let her hit air before darting back in to grip her upper arms and yank her up at least to a sitting position. Only a hoarse growl of frustration came out as she remained in my grasp and I knelt on one knee so we were at eye level with each other.



“Get to your feet and come with me, ‘Thietti,” I said.



She blinked those fierce eyes at me hearing the short-name. Some of the fog withdrew from her eyes and only then did I think she recognized me. I supposed she had never seen me with my hair down, even disregarding the lack of adequate sleep I saw in her face.



We were two of a kind, then.



“Need I repeat myself?” I asked.



Jael shook her head once and when I released her, she got carefully to her feet. As she uncurled herself, I noticed that she didn’t have any white fur on her mound. Interesting. I was also aware of Rausery’s gaze on my back even as I dared not take my eyes from Jael; the Elder was watching every muscle twitch we made from her desk, in spite of her casual gesture for me to take the new meat away.



“Keep her for the rest of the cycle, Sirana, though if another Sister finds or comes for her, it’ll be up to you to hold on to her unless you’re ready to give her up.”



I glanced back at Rausery and narrowed my eyes. “I don’t recall that, Elder…”



“Oh, it was going on. Trust me. Why do you think some came back for seconds?” Rausery gave me her huntress’s smile. “Jaunda was best able to hold you and that helped Gaelan, make no mistake. I think that three-cycle gangbang with one of my teams was while Jaunda was gone. They came to get you soon as she returned, though.”



“So… you knew about that, too.”



Rausery chuckled. “Of course. You’re burning your time, Sirana. Go on.”



Jael allowed herself to be led but I could feel the tension coursing through her. I pondered Rausery’s odd little purge of information while keeping an eye on the hallways and on Jael.



Why mention that to me now? Trying to tell me how it worked, of course, straight out—the way D’Shea never did. But she’d mentioned Jaunda as though I might want to consider doing the same thing…coming to get her. But I couldn’t do that, could I? Jael wasn’t D’Shea’s. We were on opposite teams, although still Sisters.



Jaunda, my protector, had said she had been the one to watch me before at Court, like I had been the one watching Jael in the field and at her House before her recruitment. My Lead had never had seemed to act like I had anything to prove to her—she only wanted to enjoy my charms, her way. It was one reason I’d “chosen” her to help me.



I had already decided Jael didn’t need to prove anything to me. I’d already seen her potential or I wouldn’t have saved her. But I didn’t have Jaunda’s position, nor her skill. Yet. The best I might do for Jael—if Rausery was indeed hinting for me to be somehow different to her from the others, to set myself apart in Jael’s view—would be to…well, be myself.



I knew what I wanted to do with her.



Jael shivered a bit and I saw tiny bumps spreading across her skin; I glanced at her dark purple nipples, enjoying the turgid, tight form. She glanced at me, her gaze burning with what seemed accusation, but she said nothing. She looked forward again with her mouth tightly closed and went where I led her.



We stopped by one of the store rooms so I could grab some food to take with me before entering D’Shea’s area of the barracks. Gaelan would be with our Elder for this eve; Jael and I would have the small room to ourselves. When we arrived there, I made sure to lock the door behind us, even knowing it would not prevent all Sisters from entering if they wanted. At least it would give me some warning.



Jael looked around the sparse room and I recognized the expression; she was considering possible weapons. It was a good thing all mine were back in D’Shea’s quarters and Gaelan’s own chest was still magically sealed to where even I couldn’t open it, much less a stranger to the room. The wash basin and pitcher could be used for blunt force attacks, but there was precious little else.



I pushed my hand on Jael’s bare back to guide her toward Gaelan’s bed, and she went, although reluctance still radiated in each barefooted step. She kneeled to crawl onto the low, basic mattress—again a stark contrast to those beds I’d been around during my last assignment—and rolled to sit on her backside with her knees drawn up. She looked up at me as I began to undress, a tightening of her mouth her only show of dismay.



I wasn’t even sure I was up for anything rough; I was tired and hungry, and it wouldn’t be a challenge or a game or a high. The tender new Red Sister in front of me behaved much more like a wounded animal than healthy prey. It wasn’t really to my taste, forcing a weakened and vulnerable target that I hadn’t already taken the time to wear down myself. It was kind of like scavenging, at least in my opinion.



I still knew what I’d seen before in Jael as well, and I doubted my Sisters had broken that in five cycles, despite some of those with a lack of any grace.



I waited until I was nude before picking up one of the small bags of rations and sitting on the edge of the bed. I ate first, dipping into the mixture of energy-rich pods, seeds, dried meats, and toasted pastes. Chewing methodically and swallowing, I offered some to Jael from the same bag.



She didn’t take long to accept; she had been watching my hands, which I’d kept in full view the entire time. The risk in eating it was as low as she could expect. We finished that bag and again she watched me open and sample the second before accepting more. She was as hungry as I was.



When we had finished the two bags—and I’d kept back a third for later—I gestured with a twirl of my finger. “Roll over, Jael. On your side, facing the wall.”



That would put her back to me. The muscles in her arms flexed and she stared at me, glanced around the room again looking for something to use against me, then back. I watched her without moving. Once given long enough to consider alternatives, Jael did the smart thing and obeyed.



I lay down and moved up close to her, cradling her back and buttocks with my body, very similar to how I’d slept with Kerse that last time. With one arm folded beneath my head, my free hand drifted over soft skin and the occasional bruise, over her flank and hips and right buttock. She flinched when I caressed her ass; still sore, no doubt. No surprise. I’d been constantly raw except for two times a Sister had given a healing draught—but that was just so she could make me sore again.



I kept my hand away from her orifices since it was not my intent anyway. She was toned and strong, and her scent was one I enjoyed up close; fragrant and earthy without being tart, neither too musky nor flowery.



I stroked her arm up and down and then reached beneath it to cup one pert breast, first rubbing my thumb back and forth over her nipple, then in slow circles. She drew in breath and tensed as I nuzzled through her hair and nibbled on the back of her neck. My nibbles became a lazy suck, and the slow circles around her nipple became even slower.



“What are you doing?” she asked through clenched teeth.



“Whatever I want,” I responded, my breath hot in her hair.



“So… do it already.”



“I am. And be quiet. I’m very tired right now.”



She huffed a laugh tinged with bitterness. “Tired? Oh, poor Sister! So sorry to have burdened you so with my waiting cunt!” she sneered, and I couldn’t help but chuckle against her shoulder. “What’s so funny? You’re supposed to fuck me with your magic prick, aren’t you? To take your turn? That’s what Elder Rausery said, plain as candlelight.”



I gave her nipple a little squeeze and a twist; I was just playing with it but she tensed and squeaked. “That’s not what I heard.”



She growled, “Then you must be deaf.”



In that short exchange, I was also more than mildly aroused. The wounded animal mindset seemed to be passing, just as I thought it might. It was a pity…my libido was now warring directly with the dire need to rest. I removed my hand from her breast and spread it flat over her abdomen, hoping that might help. I breathed in deeply, then back out, slowly, enjoying her scent and managing to relax more.



The silence stretched as I closed my eyes and listened to her breathing—faster than mine—and felt her charged energy as we were pressed skin-to-skin.



She was waiting for something to happen.



Nothing would. Just as Rausery had instructed, I had decided what she needed to endure in order to earn my acceptance: Nothing. I already knew it would be a good test for her.



I accepted the risk of drifting into reverie, resting while I had the opportunity.



*****



In my dreams, that dark silhouette was stroking my belly tenderly. The skin of my abdomen was exposed to sunlight, highlighting a little more grey tone to it than I’d ever realized was there. My stomach still was mostly flat but the feminine hand fancied that she could detect the new bulge just beginning to distend.



The birthing time was more than a year away, if I survived that long. Because of my station, the choices—all of them—would be hard ones. All except for the initial choice to take seed in my cunt in the first place.



It wasn’t my fault…. I didn’t have the choice this time.



How could I have known?



The dark silhouette spoke this time. She didn’t have her dagger. She said it was useless.



*How ironic. The growing one, protected in your womb…was the only one who could have protected you from me…*



*****



Jael jerked when I did, startled by the sudden movement as I was jarred awake. I was still holding her against me, and by the scent and the warmth surrounding us, neither of us had moved for quite a while. Had she slipped into reverie as well? If she had, she’d passed my test.



The dream itself faded from my mind’s eye slowly. If not for the reoccurring shape and the sunlight, I might have discarded it already as just one of my anxieties expressing itself after the terrible tension of dealing with Wilsirathon’s impregnation obsessions and Kerse’s damnably high volume of semen when he climaxed. Now the unknown Surface and the pregnancy worry were mixing. Lovely.



I really hadn’t liked that dream. I didn’t want to be pregnant. I wished I could have become a Red Sister without my fertility being restored… Of course, I hadn’t ever been pregnant so I didn’t have absolute proof that it had been restored, but I could easily believe so. Not only from what Lelinahdara and the Red Sisters had told me, but from how it had felt after that ritual: that insane need to couple, and the fact that it had been best eased when semen had been present. The longest reprieve from that heat that I’d been given had been right after Kain had come inside me.



I heard Jael lick her lips and swallow as she came fully awake. She shifted her head slightly, trying to look around her. I wondered if she was confused where she even was. It was possible.



“Rest well?” I asked, and she tensed against me but didn’t pull away or try to turn around. I was sure now that she had indeed rested; the comparative tension that returned was a stark contrast. Good girl.



“Sirana.”



I smiled even though she couldn’t see it. “You know my name?”



“I heard Qivni say it…in the field, when they caught me.”



“Impressive. Panagan was really driving into you by that time. Surprised you were aware of anything beyond her grunting and the plowing you were getting.”



She growled softly but didn’t take the bait. Another mark in her favor. “They’ve also mentioned you since then.”



“Oh? What do they say?”



“Mostly Panagan and Moria crowing about beating you in the Hunt for me. I think they mention it too often for it to be quite as they say.”



That pleased me very much to hear; Jael was not too gullible. However… “Maybe Panagan did beat me. Rausery’s unit claimed you, after all.”



She made a scoffing noise. “I saw you fighting the Duergar. Panagan just stayed back shooting.”



“She’s a very good shot. It was the most effective way for us to fight.”



Jael paused as if she was confused why I was defending my rival. Mostly it was that Panagan in truth was a good archer, she was a Sister, and I no longer had anything to prove to her. I didn’t care what she was saying, and there would be no benefit to Jael underestimating any Sister just to feed my ego—not while she was at the bottom of all of them.



Jael decided to drop it.



“Why am I alive?” she asked instead. “I was dying out there in the wilderness, I knew it…after the fight I knew I couldn’t survive my wounds. I closed my eyes. Next thing I knew…I was awake and I was well. Full of energy. And you two were standing there looking at me.”



“Didn’t they tell you?”



She was still tense and hadn’t yet looked my way; my breasts were warm pressed to her back. “I want to hear it from you.”



I considered. So what had they told her? Rausery said Jael had been having a harder time because not all Sisters were convinced she should have lived…



Maybe I should just be truthful here.



“I gave you my life-saving healing potion. Each Sister out on a mission has one, but only one.”



Jael didn’t reply at first and I waited, content to lie comfortably, relaxed for the first time in weeks, truthfully.



“So…it was true. You didn’t let me die. Why?”



Simply, I had wanted her. For several reasons. “Are you disappointed? Do you wish it otherwise?”



“…no. But…several others wish it were so.”



“But not the ones who count.”



“Which are?”



“The Prime, and the Elders. And me. I made the decision.”



“And you were the youngest, before they grabbed me.”



Now I paused. “That wasn’t why I healed you.”



“No? You didn’t want a new cunt to take your place?” She clearly didn’t believe that, and she wasn’t entirely wrong.



“Not just any new cunt. I’ve watched you, Jael. Other places aside from the last Illithid battle. You are right for us, and you did make it back to the City from the wilderness. Being the youngest is a necessary test. Each Sister who gains her leathers has gone through it.”



Again she paused. “So you watched me…you are the reason they came for me?”



“No. *You* are the reason they came they came for you. My assignment was just to observe.”



“Which you didn’t do when I finally fell in battle.”



“Well, by then I was given leave to act on your behalf.”



“So, what…you strictly follow rules? Or only when it’s convenient?”



Her tone of voice implied she had a fairly accurate guess about that. I chuckled.



“I work within the rules to make them work for me. You could do with a little less flat-out rebellion against your Sisters, Jael. It only attracts more force being used. Your trials should have told you that.”



She was dead silent for a long while. “Still watching, then?”



“When possible. I know you don’t like Draegloth. What was it like being surrounded by them at the Sanctuary?”

I had pushed her already-fragile composure past a breaking point with that one. She tried to jerk away and I only just caught her back. She cursed at me and tried again to escape. Her struggles were much more challenging than Shyntre’s, and I had Jaunda and her one-on-one tutoring to thank for managing to hold Jael now. Eventually, I had to turn the new Sister onto her belly, force her to hold still and climb on top. It wasn’t a hardship for me—the wriggling and flexing of her buttocks against my groin made me groan low in my throat as I held on to both her wrists above her head and held her down with my weight.



The side of her face was pressed to the mattress and now she looked up at me with one eye through her hair. Her teeth were still clenched. “Now you’re going to do it? Fuck hard as you want to, you won’t impress me.”



I smiled and kissed her ear. She was assuming, just as I had, that every Red Sister had her own Feldeu. Not always. “Mmm. Tempting. You do smell good. But first… tell me whether you knew there are Abyssal commands that can be used on a Draegloth that stops him cold or sends him away?”



She blinked, needing to focus to expand her lungs enough to talk. “No. Are there…?”



“Yes. Qivni knows some, and I know she watched you against the Draegloth. She’s only impressed with self-discipline, however, so you may have some trouble with her on that account.”



Jael was quiet but I could almost hear her thoughts racing; some of the frustration on her face melted away, along with some of the tension in her body. It was abrupt enough to make me wonder whether I could be wrong about something I’d just said.



“How was Qivni, anyway? Satisfying?” I teased.



I didn’t see how she could be. I’d found Rausery’s Lead to be anything but satisfying. However, Jael’s reaction did intrigue me; she turned her face into the mattress so I couldn’t see it, muffling any possible reply as well. Perhaps her relationship to Qivni was somehow a little warmer than was my own? She would have had some time under her by now; if they’d found anything in common…



“Ah…does she like you? Why would that be?”



Her hips moved under me again as if she was trying to wriggle out…or trying to tease me. It had been brief.



“Jael?”



“Shut up,” she mumbled. “She warned me not to talk to you about her.”



Darling. As if I could resist that challenge.



I pulled her arms down to cross her wrists at her lower back so that I could keep her in submission but have one hand free. She made an enticing sound, wordless but protesting, as I slid my fingers down her side and in between us, along the crease of her butt and thigh, reaching to touch her sex. She squealed softly as I felt her netherlips and probed at her hole with a finger. She was a little moist, but only to have felt some kind of arousal very recently: as we struggled, but not before. She’d have been very dry before, and I knew her soreness would have been the cause.



I thought she wasn’t fighting me as hard as she might.



“As you wish,” I said and released her, lifting my weight and moving to one side, keeping her between the wall and me.



She rolled and scooted to gain a little space between us then she looked at me with high suspicion and incredulity.



“You’re either playing with me or you’re frigid and can’t fuck. Which is it?” she demanded.



I burst out laughing and took her hand, leading it between my thighs. “If that feels frigid to you, let me know.”



I was far wetter than she was, and her fingers played around with my sex in a more automatic motion, I thought, because she seemed to realize what she was doing. She snatched her hand back as soon as I moaned aloud.



“Little tease,” I chuckled.



“So you’re just playing. Qivni told me you were like that.”



I propped my head with my elbow and smiled, studying her face. “I think I know what it is. You both have that serious streak with a lower threshold for play. Am I not dour enough to arouse you?”



Jael frowned but looked more confused. Finally she seemed to be catching up with me. “So… what’s Qivni to you?”



“Nothing much. Someone who’d like to whip my ass until it’s raw, I’m sure, because I tend to laugh at her.” I paused, screwing up my face in thought. “Oh wait, she has.”



“Nothing much? She’s as high in rank as Jaunda is.”



“And Jaunda laughs while she fucks me. I know which I prefer.”



“Which might explain the general lack of forethought Qivni gives you.”



“So good humor equals brainlessness, does it? Goddess, you *have* had some good conversation with Qivni, haven’t you?” I grinned. “I’m impressed. She barely said anything to me. I think it annoyed her that I was climaxing and she wasn’t. So why hasn’t she told you about her familiarity with Draegloth?”



Jael shrugged, still frowning. “I’m new…not yet time, maybe…”



“I’ve had the same thought. You’ll find that thinking is pervasive in all levels of rank regarding information and who should know what—whether or not anyone laughs about it.”



“But…couldn’t the Sisterhood could be stronger if the Leads knew more…?”



“Or they’d use that extra information to do more harm to us out of ignorance. You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘Knows just enough to be dangerous.’”



Jael smirked. “Strange. That’s what she said to watch out for in you. That you are unpredictable, ignorant, and do not keep the good of the Sisterhood in mind at all times.”



“Aww. I’m hurt.”



I also couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Not the exact words, they didn’t surprise me in the least, but the fact that in gossiping about me this way, Qivni was already planning for Jael to stay and had been grooming her to her own way of thought while I was away.



“I’d really like to know how you moved your tongue to get her to move hers that way, Jael. A bit hypocritical of her, though, as she has me and my ‘unpredictability’ to thank for you even being in her bed.”



Jael gave me a look and withdrew from the discussion then. Perhaps she realized that she didn’t know more, or didn’t know what to do with what she did know. I think she also realized she’d been talking too much about her Lead. I, for one, was very grateful it had taken her that long to realize it—and I had been trading information with her, whether she knew it now or not.



I added, “I suppose she’s just training you early. She likes you. That counts for a lot. Don’t do anything stupid like try to kill another Sister through your tests and you’ll stay with us. Give it time and forge some successes, and those others will forget how you came to be here.”



“But you’re still new as well,” she said. “How do you know they’ll forget?”



“Most Sisters live in this moment of time. Only a few are required to live in perpetual forethought. Wasn’t it the same at your former House? We’re still Drow, aren’t we?”



Hesitantly, Jael nodded once. She seemed to be thinking of Qivni as her tutor, but I could see on her face… she was comparing and weighing me as a contrast. That was good; knowing the value on both sides had more options than willful blindness toward one side or the other.



“You lived in your present at your former House, Jael. Whose task or burden was it to live in the future?”



“The Matron’s.”



“And in this cloister…whom would you say has that burden?”



“The Prime…and the Elders, Rausery and D’Shea.”



I nodded. “Like I said, do what you do best and as their show of appreciation the others will forget what I did to bring you here.”



I saw a wry smile touch her mouth as she looked at me. “And you mean to be one of those perpetual forethinkers, don’t you? Given enough time.”



I smiled back. “Maybe.”



“You can have it,” she said. “Always hated the Court.”



“I could tell.” I reached out now to nudge her shoulder. “On your back.”



She blinked, surprised and tensing up again before she regained control of herself and slowly rolled herself in place to recline. I liked that I was keeping her off guard. I moved closer, remaining on my side, and smoothed my hand along her inner thigh. I could smell her fragrance, subtle as it may be without the hair. I wanted to taste it and make that fragrance stronger.



Jael’s protest was incomplete as I pulled her leg open and crawled between her thighs on my elbows and knees. Her mound had been shaven clean recently, and it made me wonder which Red Sister had opted for that? I’d kept my adornment through my tests—even though Jaunda liked to cut it short—and Jael had still had the white, curling fur crowning her thighs when I’d seen her in the wilderness.



I kissed the bare mound. It was incredibly smooth as if the shave had just happened, and Jael again made a sound like she didn’t want me to continue but knew she had no choice. I ran both hands along her inner thighs and ended by rubbing both thumbs slowly along her netherlips. Her hands were gripping the blanket and I had to wonder what she expected, or dreaded, from me?



Then again, I supposed I’d had one blessing last year that she didn’t: for the first few days of the continuous rapes at the hands of my Sisters, I’d still felt the effects of the fertility ritual. The pleasure had been ever-present, even with the pain. By the time it faded and my responses were more normal, I had already been well-trained on how to glean pleasure from the rough treatment. With myself, Gaelan, and Jaunda as my prime examples, it hadn’t occurred to me until now that perhaps it took other Red Sisters longer to learn to take pleasure from the tests.



Jael was showing avoidance responses still after six cycles…and I could lay the blame for that right at Panagan’s feet for her short-sightedness. I sighed.



I admired the novice’s naked slit, noticed the hot pink, raw look inside her dark lips, and on closer inspection I saw tiny, swollen bumps where the individual hairs would have been. I touched and peered closely, and realized that no blade—no matter how thin—could have removed not only the hairs but the roots as well…



“Did a Sister pluck every hair out of your sex, Jael?” I asked, letting the surprise come through in my voice.



She shook her head but didn’t elaborate.



“No? This wasn’t done with a blade. How was it done?”



“Wax,” she said shortly, staring up at the ceiling. “Thena used wax and strips of cloth to rip it all out.”



I took a moment to imagine that and grimaced. That had to hurt intensely for several moments. “Well, that might be preferable to plucking out one at a time.”



She tried to shrug it off but she was anxious. “Perhaps. It was still blinding. She said now I was officially the ‘baby’ of the group and that I’d be like this for weeks. She said she’d remove the hair the same way anytime I grew more.”



Symbolic pre-pubescence? That could have been one of the responses to Jael’s questionable “validity” on her wilderness test… I could see it. At least it had been done with some skill; I didn’t see any torn skin. Just bare, slightly pebbled dark skin. Fairly rare amongst females, from what I knew, even if trimming and sculpting was quite common. It wasn’t discouraging for me, though; I could still admire the full, mature lips and the lovely symmetry with which Lolth had blessed her.



All the same…it would seem Thena was making a play for Jael as well, not just Qivni and me. I’d have to do something about that eventually.



For now, I lowered my mouth onto that naked sex, offering sucking kisses and flicking my tongue gently over the smooth flesh. She drew in her breath. I tasted a mild soap and felt the heat of her slit was greater than my tongue as I tested the spongy, swollen flesh. She was indeed sore; forceful penetration at this point would just make her draw away from me. Her body language told me she was waiting for it, expecting it, ready.



I opted to see how long she could anticipate pain that might never come. I could mouth another female for ages and not lose patience; it was one skill, though forced on me while young, had since been transformed into a kind of quiet contemplation. I did not have to think about anything much except for the scent below my nose, the give of tender flesh against my tongue and lips, and the moist heat that reminded me of an underground hot spring.



Sometimes I’d withdraw and let her feel the chill of the air as I blew soft breath onto her, then I’d lick lightly, suck with pure enjoyment, and always keep her wondering when I’d turn from lavishing to punishing as my hands explored her thighs and buttocks.



I heard her arms move at one point and I looked up; her eyes had closed and her left hand was gently twisting one of her nipples. She opened her eyes almost instantly and stopped, either sensing my gaze… or else she had felt my lips smile against her.



“Mmm,” I hummed, encouraging, and I saw her mouth open at the sensation. Her hand fell back to her side just before I closed my eyes again, continuing to service her.



Her reluctance made for a very slow climb, but at least the climb was there. Her tension through it changed at last from the anticipation of pain to the acknowledgement of pleasure.



When Jael started closing her legs involuntarily, a little bit at a time, and when those smooth, strong thighs finally began to squeeze my ears, I wrapped my arms more tightly around her thighs, forcing them to remain open, choosing my preference over hers. She gasped at the first show of force and I mouthed her with more enthusiasm, finally pushing her toward that steeper part of her climb. It was time she be pushed.



“Ah! Lolth…” she moaned, and for a moment she sounded afraid as she gripped the blanket in both hands. “S-stop—”



She felt she was losing control of her responses, and maybe it hurt just a little. Good. No dominant in her right mind would stop at this point.



I pierced her with a spear-shaped, stiff tongue, over and over, alternating with harder strokes against her clitoris. She yelped and shifted her legs, then I felt her heels digging into my back. She gave me an aborted scream when I released one thigh to push a single finger inside her, rubbing hard a few times at the firm ridge at the roof of her cunt.



*That’s it, little scrapper…let it go.*



Jael moved her hips of her own accord and made more and more frequent sounds—chirps and calls and groans—such a contrast from her earlier silence that it drove my excitement higher. I wanted to push her farther, to see how far she could go. I was so aroused at this point, aching, I wished I did have a Feldeu ready to penetrate her, to feel her slick body clutching around me as I felt our breasts pressed together, her legs wrapped around my hips…



I was using two fingers, thrusting into her, hearing those delicious, sloppy noises that told me she might be staining the blanket below us very soon…



At that worst possible moment, the door opened.



Someone gloated, “Ha! Found you.”



Jael jerked away from me, her gasp one of utter horror as her climb came to an abrupt halt.



I was moving before I had thought beyond a venomous, *Fuck you.*



The intruding Sister was ready for a response as I charged the tiny room, but she still fell for a feint. Her eyes were focused on my arm and my fist as I wound up for a solid right hook and at the last moment, I side-kicked her knee instead.



Oh yes, the knee again; one place where it didn’t matter that she wore armor and I was bare naked. If this cunt thought she was going to interrupt me and reclaim Jael at this point, she was sadly mistaken!



I followed up with that strike to her face with the heel of my hand and she stumbled and fell to all fours. I had the metal wash bowl in hand as she reached for something on her belt, and I discovered that whatever she’d selected wasn’t an area effect as I smashed the bowl into her hand. She cried out, dropped it, and I had barely enough time to fall on her and seize her in one of Jaunda’s holds. I wrapped my legs around her from the back and hooked my heels at her knees, slipping my arms beneath hers and clasping my hands together at the base of her neck.



She cursed at me, infuriated and unable to reach any more tools. We rocked and thrashed for good long time, the jutting points of her armor and weapons bruising and scraping my nude body. Jael remained on the bed at first, watching but not interfering.



“LET ME GO!!” Thena screamed. “Fuck you, Sirana! I’m going to split your ass for this!”



I felt my mind fill immediately with gleefully sadistic thoughts. “Hey, Jael? Come over here and start stripping Thena naked, would you?”



I saw Jael think about it, smile, and she started moving toward us.



My captive who’d denuded Jael’s crotch struggled even harder. “No! Jael…” she warned intensely. “I’ll make it *much* worse for you later if you do.”



I saw Jael’s more wary expression as she slowed up, and agreed. Yes, Thena was probably right. Neither of us had a working Feldeu or any other sexual equipment, so breaking Thena would be difficult. The novice would pay a high price later, and I wouldn’t have discouraged Thena one whit from training Jael more to her liking than mine….



What I needed were witnesses, not simple torture.



“Okay, then. Jael, take off her belt and weapons instead, and step back.”



I accepted quite a lot of pain to hold Thena as her struggles intensified. I managed long enough for Jael follow my instructions and it wasn’t lost on me that Jaunda’s skill and Kain’s stubbornness, I would have lost my hold.



Nonetheless, I enjoyed the sight of Jael smiling again, her naked thighs still glazed with her own lubricant as she stood over us with Thena’s belt in hand.



I said, “Now pull off that third pouch on the right side, the one with two knots side by side.”



“Sirana!” Thena yelled, gasping from her efforts to break free and I gained another bruise as she snapped her head backward and struck me in the ear. I’d turned my head just enough that she didn’t get my nose.



“Agh, ow…okay, yes, that one, Jael. Open it and sprinkle a pinch of the powder over her face.”



“I’m going to kill you,” Thena seethed.



I kissed my captive’s ear. “Oh, come now, sometimes we’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is one of your times. Make sure she breathes it in, Jael.”



I held my breath and closed my eyes as Jael followed through; Thena tried to do the same, but the youngest Sister punched her straight in the stomach, forcing her breath to explode and draw in air again immediately. The elder coughed and moaned and cursed us both as the powder covered her face.



Given enough time, Thena fell unconscious, going lax in my grip. I kept hold of her, breathing out very slowly with my mouth and nose pressed as low on her spine as I could reac, then breathed in again as slowly. My lungs were burning for more air than I was getting for several long moments as I waited to see if Thena was acting.



Jael saved me some time by slapping the older Sister’s face. A good thought on her part; I couldn’t have given her instruction at that time without breathing in the lingering sleep powder. When there was no response at all to the slap, I let go and got to my feet.



The newest Red Sister laughed softly, looking from Thena to me.



“Now what?” she asked.



“Now we dump her and her equipment outside where Rausery’s Sisters will find her, then we come back here and pick up where we left off.”



“Naked?”



“Absolutely. That’s even better. Although keep one dagger just in case; that one, the one made with obsidian. Be ready to pass it to me.”



With Jael’s help, I managed to get the dead weight of our unconscious Sister face down over my shoulder, and the novice got the door for me as I carried Thena out farther into the cloister. It tested my endurance at this point, but we managed to find a few members of Rausery’s Team Five.



I kneeled in front of them to lay Thena down on the stone ground, managing not to crack her head. It was a good idea not to be *too* aggressive unless I was looking for another fight. I would much rather have a fuck.

They blinked and stared at me, able to see the many clear marks on me from the struggle, her bloody lip and nose, and also able to see the fact that Thena was still fully clothed. Jael tossed her belt and weapons on top of her and stepped back behind me, holding on to one sheathed dagger.



I said, “Please tell Elder Rausery I may be a little longer, but will bring Jael to her quarters when I’m finished.”



After a silent moment while I waited to see if these three would decide to attack Jael and me, I saw one notice Thena’s obsidian dagger and a second cover her smile behind a glove. They each looked at the other, and at last the ranking one nodded, staring at Thena’s unmoving form.



“Sure.”



I bowed with a smile. “My hungry cunt thanks you.”



They chuckled as I hooked Jael’s waist eagerly with one arm, taking the dagger from her—which she surrendered willingly—and pulled her away with me. I listened for an attack at our backs and was ready for it, but it never came. My witnesses had decided to let me keep what I’d earned, and it was up to them what to do with Thena.



I considered it a very good sign.



There were no words as we made our way back quickly to the room, but I could sense genuine excitement in my prize. I slid my hand down to cup her rump once and squeezed, and again there was that soft laugh.



I was glad she could still laugh.



Once inside the room, Jael turned and kissed my mouth first, pressing herself to me. I reacted on instinct, clutching her hard and keeping our mouths locked, stroking inside hers with my tongue. I pushed her to step backward toward the bed. She explored my back and my backside, squeezing and scratching, and as we settled onto the mattress on our knees facing each other, she leaned down to suckle my breasts. I lobbed the dagger to the side, still within reach for either of us.



Even though I had expected it, Jael’s intense enthusiasm nearly left me spinning. It was so different from before. My skin was now bruised in many places and my bedmate pressed a lot of those sore spots without thinking, but I couldn’t help chuckling, kiss after kiss. Something buoyant and powerful surged in my chest as she whispered that she wanted me, wanted to please me, and did I like it *this* way…?



I groaned, threading my fingers into her loose hair, and soon I was not feeling a lick of pain now that didn’t blend with pleasure as she moved down my body. When I felt her fingers slide inside me, I sucked in breath to say, “Fuck…don’t stop…”



Perhaps as my reward, or a show of gratitude, she made me cum quickly with her fingers and her mouth while I was still kneeling and leaning back. I had been more than ready.



Jael was surprised to learn that I didn’t have a Feldeu to use on her but accepted the fact, adjusting her expectations. She still lay back with her legs open, holding and tugging on my wrist to pull me to her. “Cover me.”



I believed I knew what she wanted and I found I was eager to try this. I had watched her do it before, but only she had been on top.



I lay on her now with our legs intertwined; my left thigh was between her legs and pressed tight to her bare bound, her own left thigh in the same place tight against mine as she crooked her knee to apply pressure. Oh, yes…



I moved my hips similar to a thrust, grinding my sex against her thigh and I felt her doing the same against mine, sharing the heat and slickness of our bodies. I shuddered and breathed raggedly, both hands clutching her hips, my mouth pressed to her neck. Jael arched her back, breathing quickly as she moved her hips faster against me.



“…ah…ah…” she moaned in rising volume. “Yes…oh, oh! Oh!”



The sound of her voice made me fuck harder, moving in a powerful rhythm and I bit her neck with a growl. She squealed, starting to thrash beneath me as she screamed, “YES!”



My thigh became so slick between her legs I almost couldn’t hold the pressure and friction hard enough. She clutched her hands to my back, digging in her nails, and helped us by thrusting her hips up and riding her peak as long as she could, hollering as she coasted. She was one of the most vocal Drow I’d had, and the excitement at hearing it so raw and uninhibited—something I hadn’t been expecting—pushed me to my second climax with her. I marked her thigh with my juices as thoroughly as she had marked mine.



My face was buried in the mattress at the crook of her neck and I gasped hard trying to catch my breath. Jael moaned softly and kept stroking my back, trailing her fingernails slowly down toward my buttocks. We were covered in sweat and I thought our legs might stick together if we fell asleep like this…



When I felt fingers combing my hair, I also realized that her breath was stifled; I was putting a lot of my weight on her again. I shifted some of it onto my elbows and felt her chest expand farther in response. My eyes were still buried against her and she remained quiet.



Waiting for something to happen.



The warmth and stickiness was pleasant enough, earthy and humid like a steam bath, but eventually reality returned. I felt some tension rise in her right about the time it came to me that I didn’t know what to do next.



In my Court years, after a fun or intense bout, I’d get up and stretch, say something amusing if there wouldn’t be a next time, or something suggestive if there would. Sometimes I’d clean up there, or sometimes I’d go to my own quarters first, the scent of sex wafting behind me. All those had been male.



With Jaunda or any of her team, I was sent away when they were done; with Gaelan, we’d either be hustling to our next summons or would fall into reverie, exhausted, knowing only too soon we’d be working again. With D’Shea and Rausery….oh, those were more a series of lessons. And Kerse? Well, I had plenty to see to afterward.



In one form or another, I’d always left a lover relatively soon after climaxing.



It didn’t feel…smart. Not at this moment. As if I’d be missing some opportunity.



I lifted my head to look down at Jael’s face. She was wary and a little uncomfortable, looking up at me and meeting my eyes. The simple reality was that the youngest Red Sister didn’t know what to expect from me now, and my being so caught up in my victory— standing against yet another ranking Sister—well, I hadn’t thought quite far enough ahead to know myself.



It was up to me what happened next. I could get off and let the cool air separate us and take her back to Rausery. I could start touching her again and delay the inevitable….



But half of maintaining control of any situation was acting like one knew what she was doing. I didn’t know quite yet but I could bluff it.



I reached to cup her face, my thumb running lightly over her bottom lip, darker and swollen from the intense activity. I smiled. She relaxed, just a little.



“I’ve wanted to ask…why your eyes are that odd color,” she said quietly.



“Are you asking now?”



She nodded. “Yes, Sister. I am.”



“Born that way. Somewhere back in my line, another Drow had blue eyes.”



“Mm. It’s memorable.”



“I bet that was the point at the time. I tend to forget until others bring it up, and often it’s too dark to tell.”



Jael nodded but went quiet again, lying still beneath me and relaxed for once. As her eyes drifted and ceased looking at anything inside the room, I squeezed a breast to get her attention.



“What are you thinking about?”



“Qivni,” she admitted, lowering her chin a bit.



“What about her?”



“I think I see why she dislikes you. But…I don’t. I have no reason, and more reason to… I…I’m uncertain…how to—”



“How to handle liking one of D’Shea’s Sisters?” I asked.



She nodded. “Near enough.”



That was indeed an interesting dilemma. It gave me several ideas at once.



“I have a suggestion.”



“I’m listening.”



“The more you show any preference for me, the more they’ll put us at odds with each other. When you get an order to test yourself against me, because you will eventually, I won’t hold it against you. I’d expect you to do your best. You have to expect the same in return.”



She nodded reluctantly. “At odds…but we’ve never been. Not since slaying the Illithids’ creatures. And then the Duergar…”



“Defend me too much to Qivni, or show in public anything you’ve shown in this room, and we *will* be fighting each other, ‘Thietti. Guaranteed.”



She frowned at my tone. “And you’d fight to win.”



“I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.”



The tension I felt now was mostly muscles hardening, and she sounded more feisty, as I’d overheard before. “I wouldn’t just *give* you victory, Sirana.”



That made me smile. “Good to hear. My suggestion, in case I haven’t been clear, is to be neutral toward me, or show a slight distaste if you like. It’s reasonable to prefer me to Thena after what happened, we’ve got witnesses, but still focus on impressing Qivni and Rausery, not me. They are the ones who decide your fate, not me.”



She smirked in amusement. “You, being the one who gave me this second chance at having a fate at all.”



“The importance of that will fade with each future test and achievement. Even to you.”



“I almost feel like proving you wrong. Perhaps I was captured by the wrong team.”



I shook my head. “That thinking will hold you back. It was a well-timed potion, nothing more. You’re alive and in the cloister of the Sisterhood. So now what?”



She didn’t realize I was requesting an actual answer until I repeated it: “Now what, ‘Thietti?”



Jael swallowed and nodded. “I want to convince Qivni to teach me those Draegloth commands, eventually.”



I raised my brows; she had surprised me. “Ambitious goal. Are you going to tell her that I told you about them?”



She shook her head. “No. I believe I saw something like that in the Sanctuary during my trials. I will bring it up from that angle.”



Nodding, I shifted off of her halfway, unsticking parts of our skin but still lying close enough to drape a leg over hers and stroke her abdomen. I propped my head up again, studying her face. It was rounder than mine but not by a lot; the jaw and chin softer. Her eyes actually seemed to tilt slightly downward and always had a fierce glint to them even when she was in repose as she was now. Her mouth was small but shaped perfectly, her nose smaller and more pointed than mine, and each ear possessed more of a flare leading down from the tip—more like a curved, wide blade than a long spear head.



Jael still possessed the Nobility features and was not someone I would ever call plain, but her style of beauty was a bit older, I thought, which made sense. House Aurenthin was one of the oldest ones, even being near the bottom. It had had a long, long slide backward over the centuries, and it was expected to disappear before another two had gone by. It had avoided extermination or a coup somehow—the more common reasons a House might disappear entirely and a new one take its place—but had lost resources, connections, and power steadily. I didn’t really understand why.



With the classical, older beauty, Jael’s face was more exotic to me. The Consorts had been bred for different features since the last time House Aurenthin may have possessed a Consort of their own to breed.



“What happened at the Sanctuary?” I asked quietly. “That was one time I was not able to watch you.”



She looked from the ceiling to me and anger passed over her face at my second time bringing that up. “Tell me about *your* trials, Sirana.”



That was one performance every Sister who’d been available at the time had been able to watch, from beginning to end. They knew the story and heard my confessions with their own ears. It was easier for me to talk about now as a result.



I nodded. “Like you, I faced a Draegloth first. I handled it differently and was willing to couple after an agreement—any agreement, it almost didn’t matter what. I had never encountered one up close before and found him interesting.”



Jael did not look impressed. I grinned at the twisted expression and continued, “Second I took on two male Drow, also like you. However, no more than that were sent against me. Again, I was more willing. Overall. “



“Manipulator,” she said.



“Well. Yes. Fighting as you did would have only made me too tired to climax.”



She blinked, then looked amazed and shifted away so she could get on her elbow and look at me straight on. “Wait…you climaxed during your trials? Even when you were forced?”



“Yes.”



“Even when it hurt?”



“That depended on how much damage I took. I tried to minimize it.”



Jael narrowed her eyes at me. “You are right for D’Shea, then.”



“And you’re right for Rausery.”



She paused, looking between my eyes, one to the other. “What was your third trial?”



I smiled more tightly, almost a grimace. I no longer felt the hot, impotent anger of before, not fully; it was distant anymore because I had so much more to look toward, I thought. But I wanted to show Jael that I had once been more like her.



“They recreated a ritual from my childhood. My older sister used to practice on me; she wanted to be a Priestess. One of the rituals involved the Drow on the altar to accept a blade into her cunt to heal her barren womb—not that I understood it at the time. Of course there was no true divine magic in my sister, so it didn’t work. It only made me bleed. The Red Sisters brought in a Priestess to show me how it was supposed to be done and I went through it again on the altar.”



Jael’s eyes had widened significantly. “And…you made it here so…you must have overcome it.”



I nodded. “I’ll wager it was the same for you, although you still seem to be angry about it.”



She flexed a hand, looking down at it as she played with the blanket. “I just don’t like the half-breeds.”



“So what happened in your third trial?”



She didn’t want to describe it or discuss it—that was plain—but she was hesitant to refuse me after what I’d told her, after what I’d done for her.



“You can make it brief,” I smiled. “So long as there is a beginning, middle, and end.”



Her eyes became vacant a moment as she relived it, and she blinked, drawing in a breath. “Um…”



“They lifted you off the ground in the candle chamber, after you took six males and still had energy to spit at them,” I coaxed, leaning my head down like her and looking up, trying to match her gaze.



“Put a bag over my head again,” she murmured, continuing my narrative. “They bathed me quickly, used a cloth with something on it to close my wounds and make me less sore. Hauled me somewhere else—it took time to reach it, through a passage. When they took the bag off, I was in a darker chamber. No candles this time, no light. I could feel them, three of them.”



“Draegloth?”



She nodded. “Like in…my childhood, too. I’d wake up to one in my bedroom. Sometimes crouching at the foot of my bed, close enough to touch my foot.”



Yes, now I recalled Rausery saying something to that effect after the first trial.



“The same one each time?”



She shook her head. “I knew of at least four distinct ones over a score of years.”



Now it was my turn to be amazed. “Why were they there?” I asked.



Her mouth pursed tight a moment. “I never knew. It stopped when I was old enough to bear young.”



“What stopped?”



“The stalking. The whispers. Occasionally they would reach out of nowhere and cut my arm or ankle, only to disappear. They’d disturb my reverie, hide belongings, move things just to make me doubt my sanity…”



Four Draegloth…four Priestesses plotting? Why in the Underdark would a group of Priestesses want to send their sons to harass one child, and a mere fourth daughter at that! And having them stop such activities once Jael was old enough for breeding…it did imply someone or several had sent the creatures and had then kept them away to prevent unwanted results.



“Is that experience unique to you?” I asked, and Jael blinked at me, confused.



“What are you asking?”



“Has anyone else in your blood family been visited so?”



She went through a series of expressions and nervous gestures before settling on a frown and a finger tap. “I don’t know. We didn’t compare stories.”



“So you never told anyone?”



She shook her head.



“May it be possible?”



She shrugged. “Maybe. No one likes the half-breeds at House Aurenthin.”



Interesting.



“Then what happened in the dark chamber with the three?” I reminded her. She clearly wished I hadn’t.



“They remembered me,” she said. “Knew my name, whispered it over and over. And since I was grown and they were not restrained, it…was like with the first two trials.”



“You fought and they dominated you.”



She stared at me in silence, but I took it as a yes.



“Did any of them have a bulge in his penis?” I asked plainly.



Why ask so blatantly? Because there was no chance of coaxing details in a more subtle way out of Jael about this; I could see that scrawled on her face. I was lucky to have gotten what I had so far.



She gave me an odd look. “A what?”



“A bulge. A very wide, round spot, like some of our phallic toys. You’ve probably seen them with some Sisters. You’d have known it if one of the Draegloth had it. It tends to get hung up inside and he can’t pull out for a while after climaxing until it shrinks back down.”



Jael’s face flushed brighter with energy and her horrified expression almost made me laugh. “…oh. No. No… I hadn’t even known some of them were shaped like that.”



So it was possible for me to assume Kerse hadn’t been one of the three harassers—in the chamber, at least. Who knew exactly which half-breeds had been visiting that low-ranking House and its superfluous daughter for twenty years? Someone knew, but who may be something Jael or I never discovered. It had already been more than half a century in the past.



Although the three still remembered her name…



Surely D’Shea and Rausery both knew a lot more about this?



“I wouldn’t mention that detail casually to anyone,” I said, “about the bulge.”



“Why?”



“It might draw the wrong kind of attention at a time when you’re still vulnerable as a molted spider.”



“Why bring it up at all, then?” she asked testily.



I smiled and found my voice silent. Maybe I could understand a bit of D’Shea’s position here…questions leading someone around. After a while she just might not want to answer the questions one could figure on their own.



In this case the answer was: because I knew a Draegloth who was shaped like that. The answer should be rather obvious, shouldn’t it?



I wondered whether I looked to D’Shea’s eyes as Jael did to me now? Something about teasing her mind was thrilling. The detail would stick now and Jael would continue to think about it and might come back to me with more information or new questions to consider… this newest Sister knew a side of the Draegloth that I didn’t.



Huh. This was probably what D’Shea habitually did. I supposed I enjoyed interacting with my Elder like that as well. I often brought her more information than she’d given me—unfortunate for me—but my consistent reward was to be given enough lead to discover more on my own.



Jael herself might not be like that, or enjoy it as much as I did—I didn’t think Gaelan would—but this might be a good way to find out.



So I didn’t answer her.



“What was different about the third trial from the first that they decided to test you further in the wilderness?” I asked instead.



“Other than the number of paws and cocks involved?” she spat.



“Yes.” I kept watching her face as she struggled to keep her patience with me.



“What does it matter?”



“I was sent out to capture you. That would not have happened if it had been a repeat of the first trial. You didn’t do anything impressive then.”



She gave me a meaner look which, oddly, reminded me of Shyntre. “I’ll try to put more ‘impressive’ flare into the rape the next time you’re watching.”

I grinned. “Oh, no need. You were glorious to watch. I wanted my turn with you there and then. But other than fighting, much as you do in battle, it didn’t tell me a lot.”



“Tell you a lot,” she repeated. “About what?”



“You under pressure, near the breaking point.” My voice had turned softer, more intimate and level, and I noticed she focused harder to grasp my meaning. “Instead I saw you out in the wilderness, running on pure adrenalin and willing to cause yourself harm to get revenge on the Duergar who hooked you with that barb. You used my smaller dagger to dig it out, didn’t you, rather than your short sword? You knew that would still ruin your leg, didn’t you? But you didn’t care, you were tough, you were going to prove it.”



Jael had tensed up at my vivid description as though she was seeing and feeling it again. She tried to lean back from me but I caught her shoulder and held her.



“And you attacked his genitals. I don’t mind telling you that as many times as I’ve been forced, that actually isn’t my first choice for revenge—”



Her lips tightened and a muscle in her jaw flexed as I spoke.



“I was on the ground, it was the most vulnerable spot I could reach!” she interrupted quickly, stubbornly, and I closed my mouth to let her talk. “And I told you…I already knew I couldn’t make it back. I ruined my leg to give *you* the chance to kill them! He was doing something to you, to your mind, and the one behind you was getting too many close swings.”



Her voice got tighter and her eyes a bit brighter as she kept speaking. “If you fell, I could only look forward to capture and worse torture from them than that barb. I wanted to die more easily than that. I didn’t know why you were there in battle with me again, or whether you were only there to test me more, but…I wasn’t too far gone to see you were my best chance to die while still free.”



I’d described only what she’d done, in detail. She had felt the need to give me her motive…and I could understand it. As much duress as she’d been under, I was impressed she had recognized me even then. That she aided me to aide herself was natural. I had chosen the hands of the Sisterhood over the denizens of the wilderness as well.



“Then I woke up, and you winked at me.” Jael stared at me. “I couldn’t be sure it was you who healed me, but…later, they said it was. You weren’t supposed to do that.”



“Maybe. There was still one Duergar alive in the area, you said so, and I was supposed to keep *you* alive until they were all dead. My orders by Elder Rausery, actually.” I smiled.



“Hm.” Jael’s mouth slowly became a small, wry curve. “Working within the rules… so giving away your last healing potion to a non-Sister was the lesser sin?”



“Compared to failing Rausery’s given objective?” I asked. “Absolutely, and you can tell that to Thena and any others with something stuck in their craw. The fact that you’re here shows that Rausery can appreciate the command decision I made in the field—fulfill her orders even over my own security. It’s probably one reason Qivni accepted you, too—because arguing about it would imply she thought I should have failed Rausery rather than give you my potion. And she would never think that.”



Jael nodded slowly. “Is it always like this? The ranking politics?”



“Yes. Some play harder than others.”



When at last Jael let that rest, I asked again, “So what was different about that third trial—?”



“ARGH!” she growled in frustration. “You aren’t going to let that go, are you?!”



“Not as long as the caverns have stalactites.”



She gritted white teeth at me, sitting up to cross her legs and put her elbows on her thighs. I sat up with her, trying to see her face. She was unhappy, frustrated, angry…and shamed?



“I climaxed, alright?” she cried. “I didn’t want to, I didn’t! It just got to be too much and…it caught me suddenly, I…screamed even around the…there was one in every hole…”



When she closed her mouth, I ran my hand up lightly up her bare back and she stiffened and went quiet. “And after?” I prompted.



She ground her teeth. “Another three. These didn’t know my name. I fought them harder, hated it, hated them, hated the Sisters and the Priestesses…still climaxed again. I don’t know why… Made me go a third time, like they wanted to be sure or something, and I…I just let it come that time…”



I remembered Jaunda’s bark of a laugh when I’d asked her if Jael had withstood the final test:



*No, she broke. But she stood back up again…That’s what counts.*



She broke. Not as in weeping or mentally retreating and lying as a cold fish, but…having orgasms by the creatures she hated most. More than just once.



I scooted to massage her shoulders a little, rigid as they were. She emitted a squeak of protest but stopped fighting me after a moment.



“I think that was what they wanted to see,” I said. “I’ll tell you that I never had a female lover at Court, because of my sister. I had an…aversion.”



Jael let me continue to massage her, and she was still listening even if she wasn’t looking at me.



“I handled my trials with the male tests so well…they knew it wasn’t a real test. When D’Shea uncovered my distaste after ordering one of the Sisters to clean me with her mouth”—Qivni, actually, but that wasn’t important now—”she required that I not only accept it but show my gratitude by responding to her. That was…difficult, Jael. But I managed it. I am glad now not to be burdened by the aversion any longer, and even at the time, I knew that I could survive it and it was far from the worst thing to happen to me.”



The youngest Red Sister listened to me talk and let me touch her but said nothing. I’d finished my little parallel tale, having decided to hold back the more shocking story about the Duergar for now—even though it was probably much closer to Jael’s experience with the Draegloth, truth be told. For now I used my mouth for more interesting purposes, kissing her shoulder and nibbling her ear. She tilted away slightly.



“You don’t expect me to grow to enjoy those beasts the way you grew to enjoy females?” Part question, part statement.



“I have few expectations at the moment,” I murmured, licking the warm spice of her skin and she relaxed a little. “Apart from convincing you to demonstrate something for me.”



“What?”



“How you made that stock trainer squeal so in the House stables that one time.”



She huffed a laugh, and I thought her muscles had finally become reasonably pliable under my hands. I moved to her breasts next.



“So you were watching then, too?” she asked.



“She had a brass choker around her neck and sometimes asked for the animal crop on her stomach and thighs, right?”



“I guess that answers my question.” She turned toward me and slid her hand deliberately up my sticky thigh.



******



Rausery received her novice back before she came looking for her, and no other Sister interrupted us again. The Elder let it be afterward, not asking me my opinion or any questions, which baffled me. I went out on smaller, different errands for D’Shea than I’d been doing for the last year.



For now my own Elder seemed to be keeping me away from House Itlaun. I could see why, my being so much more recognizable to the House now, although some other Sister collecting the reports from Auslan made me jealous. The very fact that it did meant it was a good choice that I was being given something else to do. D’Shea may not have realized how much so, given my neglecting to mention certain conversations, but I didn’t fight it.



It was easy to distract myself with watching or hearing about Jael’s progress as well, whenever I could. In the meantime, I had a few of my own bargains to make good on—Jaunda’s Hunt for me and Gaelan’s straight fight-and-fuck. Both happened soon as I could manage, and both seemed to put me in their better graces once again—though I knew Gaelan would be much more vigilant around me regardless. That I could not undo.



Gaelan’s was a fierce wrestling match done in private; we’d hit our heads in the small room a number of times. If not for the fact that she had taken something to numb pain in general, and thus was partly immune to pressure points, she would not have dominated me that night.



Not that I blamed her for cheating. In any event, she paid for it. Even with the Feldeu she’d managed to get her hands on, the pain-numbing had the side effect of preventing her from achieving climax until the drug had begun to wear off. By then, of course, I’d been thoroughly fucked and was worn out from my own orgasms, and her endurance was sorely taxed. It was easier for me to resist further rather than allowing her to simply saw in and out of my hole until she finally lurched over the hill.



Oh, no, I was rarely that passive, and she had to prove to me how badly she needed it…



I would say that we ultimately ended up on even ground.



D’Shea honored my agreement with Jaunda as well, and let her and me off for a cycle. My Lead anticipated her Hunt much more than she had our occasional fight before, and I knew she would be impossible to evade forever. There was a point where, if I reached it, I’d won and she couldn’t touch me, but she knew some shortcuts that I didn’t and had blocked me several times as I searched for a crevasse or tunnel or crack to give me the chance to slip past her and sprint back toward the outskirts of the City.



And if I couldn’t find a way, I was at least determined to see what secrets she might feed to me as she took her reward for catching me.



As I streaked across a basin a couple klicks just outside of the City boundary, I knew that she was mostly playing and choosing her time. I was allowed one blade, just like the first time, to be able to defend myself if I ran into a threat aside from Jaunda. The largest creature I ran into before the end was a juvenile lizard, either escaped from a pen or was one of the rarer wild ones, so mostly spent my time in constant motion on silent—and much tougher—bare feet. I could have tried for a defensible place and hide instead, but that wouldn’t get me any closer to my “safe point” and I did not really want to be cornered and dragged out of a hole by my ankle like some furry yuru.



At one point I had climbed farther up and then down again into a smaller cavern, still searching for that path that might lead me home, when I thought I sensed a ward nearby. Walking by a boulder streaked with exposed quartz, which made it look a bit like a gash wound in the stone, I paused and soon was sure of what I felt.



*Danger. Threat. Leave.*



Fairly forthright message. But a ward by itself right here, in an otherwise bare cavern? I had been going for several marks now and had not seen sign of Jaunda in almost one; I didn’t know where she was or how close. It was not good to stop for long and I wondered whether I might be able to come back when I had my bracers?



Or I could test myself, just out of curiosity…



Touching the stone hurt, sudden and sharp, but I tried to apply some of what I already knew about the pain not being real—without the aid of the bracers—biting the inside of my cheek to keep from making any noise. I couldn’t manage more than a few moments of this and got up to sprint several long strides away, quivering and breathing harder when I’d stopped.



At least I had been able to resist the urge to run and not stop until I was very far away. That was something, at least.



I kneeled out of direct sight behind a larger stone where I could still see the quartz and remained in place for much longer than I should have. I kept looking at it, trying to glean anything more about it as if my dark vision could pierce right through to whatever hole it was hiding—I was assuming it was a passageway, otherwise why place a ward there?—but knew no more after the shaking had stopped than I had when I’d touched it.



I heard a subtle scrape in the dark and went still. Then I looked up first; in the Underdark, one should always look up.



As my vision adjusted to see beyond however it had been cloaking itself, I thought first, *That is a very large spider leg—*



I gasped. Oh, fuck.



A Drider can no longer speak as the Drow it had once been, but it could shriek. And Lolth, this one shrieked as if nine voices of the Abyss were trying to sing in disharmony as I started to run. The purpose was to freeze its prey with fear, I knew that, but I would be dead if I gave in to the effect. Running wasn’t much better—a Drider was fast and could climb cavern walls with acrobatic speed—but I had to move or I would freeze in place.



A Drider was guarding that ward! I was so fucked.



I ran toward a lower tunnel, opposite of where I’d climbed in. There would be a point the monster wouldn’t pass if it had indeed been placed here by Auranka the Shifter, the only Priestess blessed by the Valsharess and Lolth to control the Driders.



The creature behind me was the physical form of Lolth’s worst curse, afflicted as an ultimate punishment by the Valsharess. The mind was reduced to the very basic elements of hunting and killing, with no self-awareness, no memories, no true will. A beast of pure instinct and empty thought with—the legends said—only the lingering sense that it never wanted to see what it had become.



The lower part of the twisted form was the thorax of an enormous spider, the upper half was mostly that of the Drow she had been from the waist up, her face somewhat recognizable as an Underdark elf, except for the mandibles warping the mouth, the extra set of eyes, and the deformed hands with fingers that had fused together to form pincers. Some hair on the head remained on this one, but it was matted, unkempt, and seemed to be coming out in patches while growing in again randomly. In the dark, veins of tainted energy pulsed through the neck and also where the malformed waist met the bulbous abdomen.



When she screeched again, I shuddered at the pure hunger and rage that I heard in the sound. I didn’t know how far she might follow me out of the cavern.



The chances weren’t good, but might be improved with a little light…



Against every fighting instinct I had, I closed my eyes and gestured over my head. “Lucinitrel!”



The next scream almost made my ears bleed, but enough of my sight was preserved to gain some distance. Driders hunted in the dark normally so it wouldn’t be long before she came after me blind and I didn’t have any tools to slow her down. Maybe I’d only live if I found a small tunnel into which she couldn’t fit before she caught up with me.



Jaunda and I ran headlong into each other coming around a curve and she cursed luridly as we caught our feet. I was so glad to see her even as she cuffed my ear hard.



“Are you fucking crazy?!” she bellowed, shoving me hard to the side and out of her way.



“Apparently,” I quipped but she didn’t have time for a reply.



My Lead already had something in her hand before she’d run into me, and I recognized the tough bottle of the alchemist’s fire. She snapped the round top off and squeezed the powder inside down into the bottle as I heard the Drider skittering full speed down the tunnel toward us. Jaunda pitched it immediately and didn’t have to tell me to run.



I heard the whoosh and the shriek at the same time, catching the scent of chemical fire and feeling the scalding air caress the skin of my back. The fire would burn on the rocks for some time and drain the tunnel of breathable air fast. The Drider would not have the will to approach the fire anyway, but regardless would have to retreat to its own cavern or suffocate. Though cursed by a goddess, it still breathed air like the rest of us.



I was coughing a bit more than my Lead, my lungs burning, when we’d reached a larger cavern with more air. I thought the Hunt had ended; she’d caught me, and I waited for her next move.



That move was to gesture to the right.



Jaunda signed, *Take the second right and keep moving, I’ll catch up.*



I stared at her a moment and she scowled.



*NOW!*



I left, following her directions while trying to remain aware of other threats. I listened for as long as I could to the sounds behind me. Before long I couldn’t hear the fire or the Drider or Jaunda. I actually didn’t know whether she had gone back to see to something particular, or if she simply just didn’t want the Hunt to end quite yet.



Mine was not to question why. Not right now. Not of her, not of that stone, not of that ward.



Eventually the path led me to a familiar part of the great cavern that was Drow territory; I was still up high but realized that down below was the camouflaged cave where Gaelan had taken me after capturing me at the farm. There would be softer places to recline inside.



I played with the idea of going inside and lying down to wait for Jaunda to find me. She had saved my ass and caught me, technically. The fact that she and I had collided meant she had probably heard the Drider screeching and had been close enough to run toward us.



Another thought had me thinking that Jaunda might be disappointed if I did just give up and wait for her. I was on the wrong side of the cavern for my safe point, but I could try to cut across the basin and gain a lead on her. I could conceivably still make it.



I climbed down and reached the great cavern’s floor, which slowly turned from bare rock to silt to actual, useable soil warmed from beneath by the world’s core. The ground was much softer on my feet and I surged forward at a forced, barely sustainable pace, for once going in a straight line toward my goal.



Jaunda had to catch up within the next mark or I would reach the only spot where she couldn’t fuck me.



I didn’t look back because that would slow me down, so I didn’t know exactly when she emerged from the tunnels into the basin. About halfway across, however, I knew she was back there and gaining on me. I pushed myself harder, feeling my lungs and the soft flesh beneath my tongue beginning to ache as my air debt increased. Every muscle was tight and coiled, pushing and sending me forward through brush and across creeks and open fields, and still I did not hear her boots striking the earth behind me.



As I closed the gap with my safe point, I was high on adrenalin and felt as though I was flying over the ground. My ears remained my primary sense of what may be behind me but not once did I look back. I heard something whizz through the air behind me, and then the small, round stone missed my right shoulder—barely.



I resisted the urge to go to the left. I veered right instead and heard Jaunda’s single burst of laughter behind me. I thought I recognized the sound—she was pleased, and excited.



In going right I found the much easier place to leap over the next creek. Just off to the left—where Jaunda had tried to steer me—was a sharp bank that would have slowed me down. The path I’d taken was level and narrow as the water flowed by. It was rather nice when your Lead showed you where to go, if you knew her well enough.



The final push would be the most difficult, the last test. I could just make out ahead the short but hazardous climb up a slide of shale. I could scale it on four points of contact, but my feet would sink in the loose dirt and shards of flat, light stone would move beneath my hands. I judged that I had enough distance to beat my pursuer to the top if one of two things happened: I did not stumble even once, or Jaunda did.



If she failed to catch me now, I could make another arrangement with her to help my status among the Sisters. However another part of me also knew I was making such progress regardless, and I almost craved what she’d do to me if she caught me, what she’d say or what she might talk about. I knew by now that it was not a bad trade to open up my hole so that I could listen to what came out of hers.

The one thing that did keep the Hunt genuine at this point was the quality of what I might learn; it would be far less if she believed I threw the victory to her on purpose. I imagined the Drider was chasing me instead of Jaunda to help with that.



I took a running leap just before the base of the shale slide, starting my climb a couple body lengths up, and pushed hard trying to navigate the least unstable areas of the hill. The sheets of broken rock were so light they almost sounded hollow, tinkling a bit like broken glass as I disturbed them scrambling past.



I heard the second set of limbs behind me and stubbornly refused to panic, focusing on one hand and one foot in front of the other. No slips, no stumbles, I still had a chance.



The only downside was that Jaunda hadn’t slipped either, and in the end her very last gambit paid off. As I stretched my left arm straight out and touched the level top of the hill, Jaunda risked a jump for that last few feet to reach me. Lolth saw fit for the ground to not collapse enough beneath her weight and she managed that tiny bit of extra distance. I felt the gloved hand snatch tight hold of my ankle and pull, my fingernails digging into the dirt and leaving small furrows as I slid backward almost on my belly.



“No!” I blurted in genuine dismay, trying to kick her off and make the top, even though the game was over. I had been so close!



My cry of denial excited Jaunda even more; I felt her hands pawing up me as she moved from ankle to calf to thigh, finally seizing my hips. Her chuckle was deep and primal as she handled me roughly, gaining her feet over me and actually heaving my body up a little farther so that my belly was pressed to the very edge of the hill where my hand had touched. Then she dropped on top of me and held me there, hooking her arm beneath my right pit and across my neck to hold my left shoulder.



She was compressing my chest and making it hard to breathe. Fortunately only a few small pebbles were beneath me; mostly I lay belly-down in the dirt, unable to escape from beneath my captor. I became aware of the length of Jaunda’s Feldeu pressed against the crack of my ass; it was beneath her leathers. She must have been wearing it during the chase, much like I had while crawling after Lana.



It didn’t stay hidden for long. Parts of Jaunda’s belt rubbed or poked against me as she used her free hand, jerking impatiently to free her erection. It felt incredibly hot as it pressed naked to my sweaty skin.



Jaunda groaned and panted hard, intent on penetrating me right there at the edge of the safe point. “Fuck, Sirana…you almost got away.”



I felt the spongy head wedge itself at my sex and my Lead’s hips surged forward, forcing herself partly inside. I grunted, wheezing a little, as she used three hard thrusts to plant herself in fully to the hilt. I was not exactly dry down there, but she hadn’t so much as touched my sex before she had speared it.



I became wet with the first proper strokes however, and accepted Jaunda’s rut, closing my eyes as I focused on the growing pleasure. I didn’t have the breath to say anything at this time, and Jaunda could barely slur the occasional lewd insult in my ear—how slippery my slit was for her, how tight— which made the pleasure more intense for her.



I would have to say that fucking immediately after a prolonged chase like this didn’t provide much air or thought for conversation.



My Lead climaxed before I did while seated in my pussy; she had left my ass alone for the time being. She withdrew, crawled up to the top to kneel in front of me, and took hold of my loose hair while pressing the fragrant tip of her Feldeu against my lips. I gave her just enough resistance to get the explicit order from her.



“Better clean me, spider-bitten slut…wrap those talented lips around my shaft.”



I opened my mouth and she pressed in; I worked busily at the slick pole, finding myself smiling with my mouth full. My cunt was buzzing and I could feel the air cooling the fluid on my thighs. I hadn’t peaked yet, but I could wait and make the release so much more. I stopped when she tugged on my hair.



“Alright,” she sighed, and I watched her pull a small black bag from the back of her belt. I blinked up at her and she grinned. “What? You remember this part, right?”



Jaunda pulled the black bag over my head and cinched it beneath my jaw, muffling all my senses except for touch, and dragged me to my feet. Before I had gotten my bearings, I found myself lifted and hefted face down over her shoulder.



She started carrying me and found plenty of opportunity to slap my ass with her gloved hand and tease the glazed, puffy lips of my slit with her fingers. All of it made me squirm and squeak and, as far as losing the race went, I wouldn’t be holding much of a grudge.



Jaunda brought me to a second interrogation room similar to the first, except I didn’t know exactly where this one was located. She had not removed the black bag until she had me bent over something waist-high, my belly barely resting on it, and my neck and wrists strapped down to a short, carved platform of stone. There were smooth depressions where my forearms and chin settled, and the restraints kept me only looking forward. At least I was held with thick leather rather than bare metal; I would have some raw spots from the straps after Jaunda’s usual enthusiasm, but no open cuts.



My hips were supported as well and that would relieve some of the strain—which could only mean she didn’t want me wearing out too soon—and Jaunda decided not to shackle my ankles. My back and buttocks and legs were completely exposed to her, and my breasts hung down underneath next to the platform.



As the blunt, forceful Drow she was, Jaunda picked up a thick flog with quite a few wide lengths of leather and slapped my ass several times without ceremony. I gasped and flinched, feeling heat build in my skin.



“Sound’s dampened in here, Thall,” Jaunda murmured. “You can make as much noise as you want.”



“I take it you want me to, Lead?”



She slapped me again and I yelped. I realized as the heat spread farther across my buttocks that neither the strike nor my cry—both of which we could hear—had had any sort of echo. It was an odd realization. Jauda thrust two fingers into my twat then and fingered me roughly; my body knew her touch well and I moaned in pleasure.



“Yes, novice. Louder. Make a lot of noise for me.”



Like most of the times she’d had me—except when she’d been telling me about the Surface party and the blonde elf she’d fucked—Jaunda focused much more on pleasuring herself with my body and less on talking for the first mark or so. It was just as well…she teased me so badly that I couldn’t have focused on a conversation. She alternated between strikes across my back and buttocks, playing with my breasts and twisting my nipples, and using her tongue between my legs. The latter surprised me so much that I failed any power of speech and only mewled and moaned and shrieked for her.



I felt her hands slide up the backs of my legs as she kneeled behind me, squeezing my flesh roughly, slapping, licking, biting…



“Uh, guh…” I groaned.



“You haven’t tried to kick me, Thall,” she said slyly. “I left your ankles free just so you could. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you wanted me to ride your back portal until it gaped.”



I moved my hips, tilting them up as I felt her tongue again, as I sucked in air. “Y-yes, Lead…”



“Hmm?” she hummed, her mouth still buried between my legs. Her tongue flicked and darted everywhere and I squeaked several times.



This was such a rare treat from her, I didn’t understand why, but it made me ache for the rest of her, to feel her fill me. When I caught my breath I said in a rush, “I want you to ride it. Ride my ass!”



“Want it bad?”



“Yes, Lead!”



“Too bad you can’t pull apart your own cheeks and show me how much you want it…”



I responded by spreading my legs a bit more and she laughed in delight. I felt her hands massage me as she stood up and settled herself between my sore, marked thighs. Her Feldeu sank straight into my sex, stroking hard for long enough that I was swiftly climbing toward a climax. I knew she wouldn’t allow me to peak yet, but couldn’t help trying to build it up anyway.



Jaunda pulled out before I could reach the top, of course, and realigned the slick knob at my second hole. I anticipated more teasing, a pause as she forced my rise to stall, but—



“Figure it felt like this for Jael?”



She buried her entire length in one stroke and my body jolted within the restraints. I had been relaxed already, willing to let her in, and the explosion of sensation forced a short scream from my throat. Then, just as Jaunda withdrew half way and thrust in again, I started to come. She stayed very still, her hips flush against my buttocks, as I convulsed around her and grunted in pleasure.



“Ohhhh, you like that…” she whispered hoarsely, “I can feel how much you like that… probably a lot better than Jael got, eh?”



“Yes…yes…” I gasped, struggling to answer her as the delirious coast downward left me with far fewer words present in my brain. I almost choked on my own drool as I felt her begin thrusting into my ass with force.



Oh, Goddess, yes!



I had loved fighting Gaelan; I could still top her, too, if I chose. I felt I had claimed Jael in some way, and I had thoroughly enjoyed blackmailing a reluctant Panagan. I knew I wanted to be the one in control with any male, to coax and direct their responses. I knew I was not much to D’Shea’s taste as a regular bedmate, for whatever reasons. I knew Qivni had trouble controlling me or keeping me serious, and most other Sisters just didn’t seem as intense, like our auras weren’t meshing as well.



Yet Jaunda and Rausery each turned me into something of a squealing leather-biter when they fucked me. I could relinquish my control; some of my best orgasms were with them, and my pride did not seem to matter until later when I’d flush afterward at some of the things I’d said. It wasn’t just their rank above me, I knew, but I would ponder why this was again and again.



My Lead climaxed inside my body for the second time and withdrew to step away, leaving me wet and sticky and soon chilled without the heat of her body leaning over me. I couldn’t see her but could hear as, at the other side of the room, she washed herself with water.



“So, what tonic sipper were you thinking about to stumble head-on into a Drider like that, Thall?” she asked in a tone I recognized well. “Don’t you know better than that by now?”



Well, at least she wanted to talk per usual, and it was on the subject I was most curious about at the moment. Leaving me bound and messed, of course, meant I had a lesson of some sort coming.



I shifted in the restraints, trying to flex muscles that were beginning to get stiff. “If you drink lots of tonics, that would be you, Lead.”



She huffed a laugh and continued washing. “I like Shaltric spirits best myself.”



I smirked even though she couldn’t see it. “One of the worst headaches after reverie.”



“Only if you’re a light weight,” she grunted, and from the sound of things, I would have guessed she was removing her Feldeu from her cunt the next moment.



“Granted. Some pretty odd dreams I’ve had under the influence of that stuff.”



“Never remember mine.” Jaunda started walking back over to me. When she reached me she slapped my backside. “Don’t change the subject. We were talking about the Drider.”



I smiled to where she could probably see it; she was barely in my periphery. “I’ve answered your question exactly, my Lead.”



“The first one. And the second?”



Dung. I thought for a moment. Oh, yes. “Yes, Lead, I know better than to run headlong into a Drider.”



“You’d never know it. How did you get caught off guard like that?”



I paused the shortest of moments then admitted, “I was distracted by a strong ward in the same cavern. Something’s protected?”



Jaunda grunted. “Should be obvious, shouldn’t it?”



“You know who or what?”



I felt her gloved hand spread over the small of my back, and the next thing I knew she was leaning on it, letting me support her weight. I quickly stabilized my stance and flexed to keep my knees from buckling. By Lolth’s Tits, she had a dense body.



“If I did?”



“Just looking for a yes or no, Lead.”



“And what would you do with knowing only that?”



I managed a small shrug.



“Just curious,” she filled in wryly. “What did you sense off that ward?”



“High warning, mostly danger.”



“Did you touch it?”



“Um. Yes.”



She paused. “Without your bracers?”



“Um…yes, Lead,” I said again, wondering if I’d somehow compromised it?



“Huh.” She patted my rump. “You always had guts, sweetcake. Just don’t let it get you killed. You still have a lot of training to do.”



“Yes, Lead. So…do you know what’s there?”



“No. Only that it is, and you aren’t supposed to know. Only the Prime, Elders and Leads. Of our order, anyway. You would figure there are some Priestesses who know, Auranka being the given.”



I would have nodded if I could. My thighs were starting to tremble under the pressure Jaunda was putting on my lower back. “So…I will tell Elder D’Shea that I know.”



My Lead paused for some reason. “No. Let me report that. You were under my watch, she’ll hold me responsible. No point both of us getting our butts kicked.”



My brows drew down. “Mm—”



“Don’t make me change my mind by arguing, Thall. I’ll be doing more than kicking yours for the next ten marks as it is. You’ll barely be able to sit down.”



I cleared my throat. She had a point. “Yes, Lead.”



Her weight suddenly lifted and I nearly lost my footing. I felt her begin to release the first restraint on my right arm.



“Time for a different use for that mouth, Thall. No point in bathing you quite yet, is there?”



Not with the way she tended to drown a body during oral, no. There was absolutely no point.



******



Four weeks more found me more bored with the smaller tasks I was being given by my Elder. D’Shea wasn’t telling me much of anything at the moment of her plans after the revealing conversation on the bloodstone, which was eating at me more than a bit.



I had long noticed my Elder had the tendency to praise me quite well when I found something for her, but tended to not include me in any follow up. It was the same this time, for my largest assignment in my time with the Red Sisters thus far— uncovering so much more of Wilsirathon’s plans with House Itlaun, and I still had no idea what D’Shea schemed to do next about it. If anything.



Gaelan could read me well enough and had said D’Shea was testing my patience and to not try to dig into it on my own.



*Yes, but I could still visit Shyntre at the Tower. That’s my own ‘secondary’ project, isn’t it?*



Once upon a time, I might have said that aloud. Now, knowing how she saw herself beholden to D’Shea, I didn’t share as many of my thoughts or plans with her. She’d have to tell on me.



Jaunda had a point about Gaelan’s will having been severely weakened by her Elder’s compulsion spell. I hadn’t even known my roommate before that, and I could see the disadvantage. It may be why D’Shea was keeping her closer to her lately.



There came another time in which Rausery wanted to borrow me, D’Shea granted it, and I was inwardly thrilled. If I didn’t know what was going on with D’Shea’s plots, then at least Rausery could give me something productive to do.



“I need an extra pair of hands to hold maps,” Rausery had smirked as we left the barracks. “I’m visiting the Tower briefly and you’re coming with.”



I had blinked at her, but recovered quickly. “I’ll carry as many as you want, Elder.”



“Good. With me, novice.”



Great that she still called me that. It reminded me of Jael, of course, and I’d been doing as much as I could to hear about her or watch things of interest in my more bored moments. I wasn’t going to ask first, though—



“So you never did give me your thoughts on our fresh meat,” the Elder said as we took one of the many hidden passageways to outside the cloister, stepping onto a rare open path the foot hills around the great cavern.



I looked around us; the City spread out before and below us, I could see the Sanctuary and Palace rising much farther away to our left, and the Tower was closer ahead and more straight on. It would take about half a mark to reach the perimeter of the Tower from here.



And we’d be visible the entire time. I hoped Rausery knew what she was doing.



“Sirana?”



“Yes, Elder. The personality I observed most of last year remains. She is a bold fighter with little fear and can tend to be impulsive.”



“She’s also one of the youngest we’ve ever taken on. Did you know what? She’s almost a decade younger than you even.”



“I didn’t know that, Elder. May I ask why now? Why not wait until she’d matured more?”



Rausery quirked a brow at me and gave me one of the most teasing looks I remembered from her. “Maybe when you’re older.”



D’Shea wasn’t the only one testing my patience. I focused on breathing and placing on foot in front of the other in silence.



When I was quiet for a full dozen breaths, Rausery commanded in a low voice, “Tell me about your personal experience with her.”



“Elder?”



“You fucked her, right?”



I nodded, hesitated, then shook my head. “Maybe. Do you mean with a Feldeu?”



“No. I know you don’t have one.”



“Then yes, Elder.” I could recite the basics, of course, but I got the feeling Rausery was already getting impatient. “I had her sleep next to me first. I needed a reverie after my last mission, and I wanted to see if she would be stupid enough to attack me as I rested.”



Rausery grunted. “Did she?”



“Attack me, no. I believe she slept.”



“Interesting. And then?”



I shrugged. “I did as I liked with her, mouth and hands, and she submitted with nominal resistance. We were interrupted by Thena—”



The Elder grinned fully there. “Mm-hm. Continue.”



I started to smirk. “I won the scrap and Jael dusted her face with sleep powder.”



“Did you instruct her to do that?”



“Yes, Elder.”



“Then what?”



“We dumped her unconscious with your Team Five and went back to bed.”



Rausery laughed out loud, and I saw something skitter into hiding out of the corner of my eye. “Pretty much what I heard from the other side. You’re doing a good job making enemies on my teams.”



“Perhaps you have noticed that they are only those who try to take what is mine, Elder?”



Rausery shook her head. “I’d say it is more fighting over mutual toys, novice, be it your ass or Jael’s. Don’t try to fool yourself. Grace varies a lot for those who lose their toys.”



She hadn’t yet asked if Jael and I had talked, or what we’d talked about. D’Shea would have by now. I was actually grateful for that.



“I heard Thena hasn’t managed to wax Jael again so far and she’s starting to grow her fur back a little,” I said.



“You’d be right. Not that Jael has a lot of time for that now that she’s passed the tests.”



“She has, Elder?”



“Sure. What were you doing by this time?”



“Shadowing Gaelan and Jaunda, Elder.”



“Likewise, Jael is shadowing Panagan and Qivni.”



I half-smiled. “May I ask if you request all experiences with a recruit, Elder Rausery?”



“An Elder’s an idiot if she doesn’t get a word from every Sister, Sirana. Sometimes it just takes some time. Are you satisfied with your stunt to keep her alive?”



“Yes, Elder.”



“Why did you do that, anyway?”



I was pretty sure she had already heard this from D’Shea, but stayed with my story. “My orders from you were to make sure the recruit lived past the initial threat of the Duergar, Elder. Duergar remained alive but she wouldn’t have lived without that potion.”



Rausery nodded. “Mm-hm. I understand your justification, Sirana, and it holds up. Now forget about that and tell me why you really did it. What you say isn’t going to change Jael’s status or yours at this point.”

I felt like swallowing and had to give this some thought. Why had I done it?



The Elder was patient enough but eventually looked at me, clearly expecting a more straightforward answer.



“I watched her. I already thought she was right for us.”



“Half we think are right for us don’t make it, Sirana.”



“I know, but… I… informed you before about the Duergar memories, remember, Elder?…why I knew we’d placed her in high danger without realizing it. It turned out to be true.”



“Your point?”



“I was badly affected by all the psionic energy in the area when we got there. Panagan and I unintentionally drove Jael right into the Duergar’s path,” I confessed. “That wasn’t supposed to happen, that was exactly why I came to you, to prevent that from happening. I wanted…to undo that. And I had the opportunity and justification.”



“You saved her because you didn’t want your personal mission to fail so publically after you’d asked a boon of me,” she said succinctly.



I felt like grimacing but controlled my face better than that. “Yes, Elder. I suppose that is close enough.”



“A lot of pride there, isn’t it?”



“Not just pride. Goals. Why do we bother to work together as an order if there aren’t goals?”



Rausery smirked, looking down at me. “I’ll give you that. Careful with the personal ones, Sirana.”



“It wasn’t just personal. It was D’Shea’s goal as well.”



“Well, that’s better by the width a spider’s thread. So, you like Jael. That’s good, nothing wrong with that, I know Jaunda and Gaelan both liked you from the start, wanted you to make it. But since you didn’t catch Jael and she’s not under D’Shea, I have to warn you not to let her get in your way. If she’s leaning anything from Qivni, she won’t let you get in her way.”



“I understand, Elder.”



“Good. No more on this now, we’ll be at the first Ward of the Tower soon. Phaelous likes to eavesdrop.”



The Headmaster greeted us similarly to how he had greeted me months ago when I’d last visited here and finally identified Shyntre as the invisible wizard from my trials.



“Greetings and welcome, Elder, Red Sister.” He bowed to each of us in turn. “I take it there is no executive order?”



“Not this time, old lizard,” Rausery said with a clear smirk. “Maybe next time. I’d like your fifth library to use, Phaelous, preferably not wide open to scrying.”



The Headmaster smiled. “Certainly, it will be protected from others, but no part of this Tower is completely warded from my own magic, Elder, you know this.”



“But you also know when to point your nose elsewhere, wizard.”



The venerable elf nodded slowly as he acknowledged her. Then his eyes found mine staring rather blatantly at him. “Is there a problem, young Sister?”



Not a problem, no, but I was struck by the gold flecks in his eyes and—if I could look past the golden hair, the age lines and creases—the shape of those eyes and the mouth. I had thought, looking at my wizard’s face for the first time in clear light inside Wilsira’s personal quarters, that I had seen those traits before. It turned out that I had seen them—very briefly—saying hello and then good-bye to the Headmaster of the Tower.



Phaelous and a Red Sister?



It certainly explained what Auslan had said about Shyntre being expected to show magical talent. The mother could have been any Red Sister at all, but Phaelous as the sire would guarantee a stronger magical gift in the offspring.



“Sirana.”



Elder Rausery verbally nudged me and I snapped myself out of my apparent stupor.



“No problem, Headmaster, forgive me for staring,” I dipped my chin to both him then Rausery. I said nothing more.



The Elder smiled broadly, her eyes shifting with a slyness I knew better than to ignore, and she looked at the wizard again. “That room, if you please, Phaelous?”



We were taken to the fifth level, to a smaller, round library lined with scrolls and manuscripts. I blinked at the comparatively brighter colors and rich nuance of the shelves built in to almost every corner of the walls, and the woven carpet on the ground. No real fire was used here, it was too vulernable, but there was the magical light that made the place useful. Any bit of writing was useless in the dark, even to those intelligent races who could see the world around them otherwise. Words simply did not show up on a scroll without light.



I rarely ever read for pleasure even though, as a Noble, was I required to learn how; I often felt vulnerable doing so. While I was reading in light, everything could see me, but I could not see far past the halo around me into the dark. I never understood how the arcane and divine users could ever concentrate on their studies being half-blind.



It was one of those ancient, lingering traits from our Surface cousins, I believed. Reading and writing would not have developed on its own in the Underdark otherwise. Perhaps some of our stronger spells would have had to develop another way, like they had with the Illithids and the Duergar and—I’d heard—the far more solitary Deep Dragons. I was no scholar, but the way the Drow did things seemed different enough that, perhaps, we had been underground for less time than those other powerful races.



Not that this possibility made our claims any less valid if we could hold them.



I had been tracing my leather-bound finger along the ornate edge of a manuscript when Phaelous left without a verbal valediction, something I found odd. Rausery stepped directly to an area of scrolls and maps, selecting a few to place on one of the three tables farthest from the door. Then she selected three fat, bound manuscripts and placed those down as well. She did not instruct me to help her so I stood at attention and watched the room.



Finally, she pulled a small, black pouch from the rear of her belt and placed that atop one of the manuscripts. There could not have been much in it; if I had to guess, the pouch had a single stone or crafted tool inside.



We seemed to be waiting for something; Elder Rausery didn’t sit down or relax but she was relatively at ease with the room inspite of it not being amongst her practiced elements. As far as I knew, anyway. She did know where to find certain maps and texts. I tried to speak once, but she gestured for me to be silent, and I obeyed.



Finally the door opened, but it was not Phaelous returned—it was Shyntre. I could not truly consider myself surprised, and as soon as he spotted me, I could almost hear the groan inside his head. I felt instant excitement. Rausery was doing something straightforward; I only had to wait for it to play out as she’d designed. I’d have something useful by the end of this, perhaps without even trying.



Elder Rausery gestured wordlessly for the younger wizard to come forward, and Shyntre passed me with tension obvious in his shoulders—as if he expected me to grab or touch him. The opportunity was there, but it wasn’t in my best interest. My Elder probably had something much more interesting planned. I kept my hands to myself.



He bowed with less reluctance for Rausery, and while his back was too me, I knew that he’d gestured something—likely a formal greeting, based on my Elder’s response:



*Took you long enough.*



But she was smirking in what I knew to be one of her more patient moods. The teasing had been familiar and personal.



“Sirana has something for you,” Rausery said in her low voice which did not carry far.



I blinked. I did?



Shyntre glanced warily over his shoulder then quickly back to the Elder Sister, who snapped her gloved hand at me.



“Come,” she said to me, and pointed toward the black bag atop the manuscripts.



I had the glimmering start of an idea what was in that pouch as I moved forward with purpose and stood next to Rausery in front of the table. She nodded when I reached for the soft leather and I tugged it open, tilting it to let the item inside slide onto my palm.



It was a pendant on a thin, silver chain, but instead of a sapphire, it was emerald. Green fire glinted as it caught the light in the library, and the shining platinum that mounted the stone was again formed into that “moon” shape around the stone.



His replacement, it seemed, for the one I had ruined for him.



The wizard kept his hands tight and closed at his sides and he did not betray any hint he might want to reach for it, as he had the last one I’d held. He looked up at the Elder, taller than either of us, his face a mass of complexity. I found myself smiling a little.



“Place it around his neck, Sirana.”



Absolutely.



The chain was long enough for me to drape it over his head and ears, and I took the time to sweep my hands beneath his hair and let the necklace settle fully around his neck. Shyntre didn’t even breathe while I was so close, and only after I’d stepped back did he reach up to touch it lightly at his chest.



“May I ask a question, Elder?” he said.



“Speak it.”



“Why an emerald?”



She smirked. “You’ve just graduated to instructor, Shyntre. You’re looking at your first student.”



When she gestured toward me, I could not keep my brows from nearly disappearing into my hairline. The wizard’s mouth fell open, just enough protest and emotion crossing his face to communicate his dismay before he withdrew back in on himself. He managed to keep his eyes looking up at Elder Rausery and he nodded acceptance amazingly quick.



“I understand, Elder. My deepest gratitude for this symbol of your favor,” he said with grace, indicating the new pendant. “I shall endeavor to be worthy of it.”



I did not think I had heard such words as these, ever, from his mouth, and certainly not with such humility—even if he had needed to suppress his initial reaction to me as usual. I held a high respect for Rausery as well, but wondered whether Shyntre had the experience like I did to make those words…genuine?



Rausery nodded in satisfaction and said, “I am glad to hear it. I’ve selected the texts I want you to start with. Make sure you stick to them and cover them thoroughly.” She then turned to me. “You will report back to me in sixteen marks. Twelve of those will be here studying. Four will be in reverie, so it has a chance to soak in. Phaelous will give you a place to rest. We’ll see how much of it you retain.”



Then she looked at both of us. “We’ll repeat this as necessary until a certain level of recall is reached, determined by me. Are we clear?”



“Yes, Elder,” Shyntre and I said at almost the same time.



I wondered how many cycles Rausery would keep me? At least it was something more intriguing than what D’Shea was using me for lately, but…being in a small, uncomfortable room with this particular wizard sitting in a chair for hours on end and—I glanced at the intimidating pile of fiber parchment—studying? It was not my strength. This was going to take a lot of effort to focus.



My only hope was that the subject matter was somewhat interesting. Otherwise it might be more fun to chase my “instructor” around the room, even though Rausery would beat my back for it later.



It also went without saying that the longer it took me to “retain” what I learned, the more time I would be set in this library with the wizard. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. No matter how much fun it might be to nudge the wizard’s tender spots and learn more of his history, sooner or later I would want to be back out in the field doing what I did best.



Rausery knew me well enough to see me weighing the pros and cons. She reached out and took the back of my neck in a firm grip, steering me a few steps away from Shyntre with our cloaks backs to him. I saw her other hand move by her chest, blocked from the mage’s view:



*Don’t waste my time, novice. You’ll be a long time paying me back for this one.*



I got it. At least part of it. I gestured back, *I will not waste your time, Elder. I will focus.*



She released me and moved next to Shyntre, only she put her entire arm around his shoulders—a very odd gesture—and pulled him close enough that he could have had his pick of the tools on her belt if he’d dared try. He seemed truly afraid and paid rapt attention to whatever she’d signed out of my view and responded quickly.



Satisfied, Rausery bid us a productive time and showed herself out. The following quiet was heavy and Shyntre stared at me a moment before letting out his breath and taking a seat at the table. He pulled the manuscripts and a few of the scrolls closer to him and scanned them quickly as if to review just what it was he was supposed to teach me. I stepped up to look over his shoulder.



“Sit down, pupil,” he grumbled irritably, although the command in his voice was unmistakable.



“Oo. You’re going to enjoy that, aren’t you, ‘instructor’?” I stayed standing.



“It’s true by your Elder’s own decree. Now *sit.*”



I took the seat right next to him and he scowled, pointing to the other one across from him. “Over there.”



“You didn’t specify. And wouldn’t it be easier to read the text side-by-side?”



“That’s not how I’m doing it. Now sit across from your instructor, pupil.”



“Use that word one more time and I’ll assume it is foreplay, wizard.”



He closed the manuscript at which he’d been looking and threaded his fingers together on top of it. He wasn’t looking at me. “Sirana. Sit over there. Please.”



I might not have even then, except for Rausery’s warning. Enough waste, it was time to sit and see just what Rausery wanted me to know. I sighed and removed my belt and weapons, placing them on the far side from the mage, and I took off my cloak as well, draping it over an empty chair. I removed my bracers, gloves, and the stiff chest piece I was wearing; I intended to get comfortable if we were going to be here for half a cycle.



The mage arched an eyebrow at me as I sat smiling at him, wearing my red undershirt, leather pants, and boots—and that was about it. He then carefully unrolled a map and laid it out in front of me. I scanned it but didn’t recognize where it was supposed to be or even many of the symbols on it. I saw some small threads of water—rivers and streams—and notes of rough, stony passage. There were short slashes in groups of three, jagged lines, tiny crosses and a handful more I didn’t know what they were supposed to mean.



“What am I looking at?” I asked, eyes still scanning.



“A forest.”



I lifted my head, narrowing my eyes at him. “Trees?”



“Very good,” he said a bit snidely and ignored the dirty look I gave him. He leaned forward and traced with his index finger along the parchment. “Trees, this indicates the eternal greens, this the ones that drop leaves in turns. On the West is a marsh. You would know it as inundated sediment although it’s not trapped by stone.”



“West?”



He shrugged. “The Common Surface word for which direction the Sun sets. East is the word for where the Sun rises again. They are on opposite sides of the world, if your hands pointed in each direction in the right season, your arms would be stretched out straight on either side.”



Season? I blinked, picking one question of many. “Why is that? Where does the Sun go?”



He sighed. “You already know the core of our world is a hot center that draws material to it—it is why we even have a concept for a floor and a ceiling. You feel the pulling force every time you trip on the rocks, right?”



I nodded slowly.



“If the world has a center, and it is drawing elements from all sides, think about it, what shape would that make?”



I pictured it. “A sphere. Like a pearl.”



Shyntre smiled. “You didn’t say circle. I’m impressed. A sphere, yes. On the Surface, the Sun disappears on one side of the hemisphere, a time called ‘night,’ and reappears on the other.”



I shook my head. “So…the Sun is moving?”



“That, or the world is. The Sun is the stronger source of heat and energy for the Surface because of their distance from our core. The land is exposed to the Sky and does not have the protection we have, the conditions are much more chaotic and very harsh with heat and cold. The creatures above rely on the Sun returning every day to live, and while it is traveling across the Sky, is it a time called ‘day.’ Repeat that back to me in your own words, if you will.”



I did, haltingly and with several corrections, and I felt I was with a tutor in the Thalluen nursery once again. This was basic stuff, I knew, and yet I had never thought about it, or the stories did not give this kind of foundation for the Surface world. For all I’d known, the Surface was a level, Sun-bleached flat of exposed land that had edges which fell off into the Abyss.



“Where does the Sky go?” I asked. “Why is it wrapped around the world like that?”



Shyntre pursed his lips. “As far as the Priestesses know, it goes to the Abyss and other places. It is ‘out,’ not ‘up’ as you would hear many Surface-dwellers call it. There are two moons and father points of light—stars—visible only at night when the Sun is on the other side of the hemisphere. “



Something came back to me abruptly from the bloodstone, what Curgia had described to Wilsirathon… *Cold, black. It is the space in between points of light. All of it is unfathomably far away…Empty.*



Wilsira had said she was dreaming not of the Abyss itself but the path that led there.



Shyntre tilted his head at me, reading my expression. “That makes some sense to you.”



I nodded slowly. “There are other worlds.”



The scholar shrugged. “A given, or we wouldn’t have demonic half-breeds.”



“Does anyone else?”



“Possible. We don’t know for sure if any of the Surface races do yet.”



That prompted me and I took a wild stab. “Except maybe the Ma’ab?”



Shyntre blinked, clearly surprised, and I took great satisfaction in that. “What do you know about them?”



“A war-loving race with Priestess-Sorcoresses and more advanced magic, currently overtaking parts of the Surface by brute force.”



“Succinct,” he commented, then paused to consider his next words. “Do you know how they became more advanced?”



“They captured one of our Priestesses.”



He nodded. “And her Draegloth. We know she is dead, we don’t know where the Draegloth is.”



I smirked. “So the Ma’ab may have a demonic half-breed they inherited.”



“Stole, but yes. They may.” Shyntre leaned forward and tapped the map in front of me again pointedly. “Evergreen forest, leafy forest, marsh.”



“Got it.”



“No, repeat it.”



I did. Shyntre was teaching me how to interpret these Surface maps. I had no trouble focusing.



“North, South, East, West. Repeat.”



I did.



“Mountains, mountain pass, cave, cliff, hills. Repeat.”



I probably sounded more excited that time.



“Farm, village, town, city.”



“What’s this?”



“A keep, like the Duergar build but atop a rather large hill.”



“Out where everyone can see it?”



“Also with a view to see in all directions farther than you ever have in the Underdark. The closer to the Sky one can get, the greater the distance visible though in less detail. If you see others coming long before they can get near, do you think this would be hard to defend?”



I knew what the answer was supposed to be so just shook my head. It was hard to imagine that distance, though.



He continued. “The angle of the map is even called a bird’s eye. Birds are like gliders but had the space to develop sustained flight, not just floating among the stalagtites. We inherited that idea for our maps from our Surface cousins.”



Until then, I’d never questioned why all our maps were drawn as if we were floating above them, but he was right….it may not have been a natural inclination for a place with solid rock ceilings.



He pointed at something else. “This is the scale here, you should recognize that, yes?”



I absorbed the distance it was implying and my eyes widened.



“That’s a yes,” Shyntre said with satisfaction. “This is more or less above us, and only shows the edges of what the Sisters have been able to reach. There’s more, but we don’t have the resources or the permission from the Valsharess to go farther.”

“Oh? Why do we have permission to go even this far?”



“I. Don’t. Know,” he said firmly, locking eyes with me and making it very clear that he was telling the truth on that and would not discuss it further. “I think there is possibly only one or two other Drow who know.”



“What’s your role been, then?” I asked.



“Archiving, studying, some rare traveling.”



“Have you been to the Surface?”



“Twice. Escorted by the Sisters.”



“Why?”



Some of that familiar resistance and tension bubbled across his face. “Because they decided I would go, just like they’ve clearly decided you will, too.”



If by “they,” he meant Rausery. I had enough commentary from D’Shea to be able to guess that she was not putting a trip to the Surface as a high priority for me. Perhaps only the fact that D’Shea wasn’t using me as heavily as she might that Rausery decided to claim some of my time for this? Was D’Shea even aware of where I was or what Rausery had intended to teach me?



“You’re not a Red Sister,” I said, wresting the conversation from him stubbornly. I was jealous that they’d taken him. “You’re not even female. Why would they decide you would go?”



Shyntre made more effort to control that flare of temper. “Red Sisters don’t have all the skills they need for a venture like that. They occasionally need the Priestesses and the magicians, too.”



I shook my head. “And it’s not talked about at all? I don’t buy it.”



“It’s not often they go, and those that do know better than to talk,” he said tightly.



“But why you? Is it true you belong to us?”



He went still and his gaze was piercing. “You’re playing with me.”



I smiled and shrugged. “Wilsirathon is one that does like to talk.”



“Well, she’s never been on the Surface,” he growled. “What did she say?”



“That I should ask you why you didn’t take her advice.”



“Is that all? The answer’s simple. Because it was self-serving advice. You couldn’t expect anything more than that from her, could you?”



“No, I couldn’t. But the result was that the Sisterhood noticed you, and from what I’ve seen, you probably do wish you’d taken her advice now, don’t you?”



“No, I don’t,” he spat. “If I had, I’d be attending worship balls and rituals and making beautification potions until my fingers bled. Neither course was better than the other.”



I laughed. “Not true. You care about that pendant, so you care about the path you’ve chosen. Even if it did result in some…what was it, *confusing* experiences?”



I saw a muscle flex in his jaw. I seized the moment and pushed a little harder.



“They turned what you knew about your role as a male on its head and still left you without any power to embrace it.” Leaning forward, I whispered, “You’ve been a cock and a cunt and something else, something only the Red Sisters are in this City, and now there are thrice as many ways to humiliate you because you aren’t the right gender. At least the Consorts know how to gain something from their value as a possession, but you don’t want to be male and don’t know how to use anything you’ve got, so may as well be an empty-skulled slave. The strength of your will and your power is wasted on you, wizard. It should have been given to a female; I’ll bet your dam and your sire both agree on that.”



I did not necessarily believe everything I’d just said; all that I needed was for him to believe I did. I thought I’d found at last that fine point of pain that would turn his vision blood red. I would not waste the chance to see what happened when it did.



His hand moved and he released a force blast so quickly I’d barely half-stood before it struck my chest and sent me and the chair flying backward. I landed hard and was rolling toward my gear before I’d even managed to regain any breath. I knew how poorly Shyntre tended to grapple with me so didn’t expect him to come at me but wanted to keep out of the way of another blast like that first one. I thought maybe it had cracked a rib.



As it turned out, he did vault himself physically over the table, avoiding the parchments, and it was specifically to keep me from reaching my belt or weapons farther down. We collapsed to the floor with him mostly on top. His hands dove under my shirt, planting skin-to-skin on my sides and he gave me another shock that made my body buck and my back arch as pain shot through me.



“Cunt,” he hissed pure acid.



I managed to strike somewhere on his head with my elbow, almost by accident, and I could force first one roll, then another, trying to keep him from concentrating on another spell until more feeling had come backin my fingers.



At least that last shock hadn’t been the paralyzing one he’d mentioned before.



My arms and legs wrapped around him as I sought a good hold, even being not quite face-to-face and he fought hard not to lose the dominant position. Out of my armor and with him in just his robe, I detected his erection quickly and would have laughed if I could have managed the breath.



I hooked my arm behind his neck and grabbed his jaw in my free hand, squeezing hard and forcing his face up enough to press a bruising kiss on his mouth, sucking and biting his lips as we each tried hard to get enough air through our noses.



At first he tried to pull away but I made sure it hurt more to do that than it did to kiss back. It did not take him long to try to turn it around, forcing his tongue into my mouth and reaching to grip my left breast before giving the nipple a brutal twist through my shirt.



I responded with an almost delirious, muffled squeal and reached to tear as much of his robe open at the front as possible. It was enough to let me grasp his scrotum in my fist; I was nice enough to give him a warning squeeze and he stopped applying more torque to my nipple then. His cock was firm and hot against my wrist and as he let go of my breast, he massaged it a bit as if to encourage the blood to flow back in—which it did in abundance, growing hot against his palm.



I let go of his testicles then, giving up the advantage because I didn’t want it to be over so soon.



I broke the kiss and brought my hand up to strike him across the face.



“Oh, fuck you!” he growled hoarsely, recovering quickly as he tore at the leather ties at my right hip. He meant to strip my leathers down and expose me.



He meant to fuck me.



I laughed and growled back with lust, biting his neck and plucking the ties at my left hip to make it easier for him, helping him to shove my leathers down at least down to my thighs. I could feel the cool air hit the moisture on my netherlips and groaned as I stripped his robe down his shoulders, trapping his arms until he nearly roared in frustration and twisted to free one arm from its sleeve entirely. His new pendant swung and glittered between us with his movement as I could finally get the rest of the robe off him to toss it to the side.



Shyntre took the time I spent stripping him to wedge his knees between mine, forcing my legs apart and my leathers further down to my boots, not quite to my ankles. His hips were between my thighs and he was nearly in position. The only thing that slowed him down was that he was trying to grab my wrists, to control my hands; only his hips and mine were guiding any possible penetration.



I writhed and managed to get my shirt pulled up so our bellies touched, so my breasts pressed against him, before he was squeezing both my wrists in a grip so tight his hands were trembling. I did not struggle as hard as I could have against his pinning my arms near my head—Jaunda had taught me how to get out if I wished—but the next moment the alignment was right and I felt him penetrate me in one thrust.



I cursed lewdly and reacted with such force I accidentally struck the back of my head against the floor—I was glad for the carpet then. Shyntre put his weight on his hands, on my wrists, and started fucking me so hard I’d probably have bruises on my inner thighs from his hip bones.



I encouraged it, planted my feet to lift my hips a bit and spread my legs wider as he wallowed in me. I loved that he had lost control so completely, and I grunted and growled with him and matched the pace thrust for thrust. He called me every derogatory name he knew, threw every ounce of anger into our coupling. I laughed when I had the breath to do so, my eyes frequently catching the emerald glittering around his neck.



He felt when I climaxed around him, felt my sex fluttering and squeezing along his member. “Still get off…being raped, crazy slit?” he gasped. The derision and venom was palpable.



I grunted, grinning. “Taught you… well.”



He barely paused before thrusting in hard again. He was trying to make it hurt; I was too high to care. My eyes rolled upward and I chuckled.



“Should have… been female,” I said. “…either Elder would have taken you.”



Shyntre stopped abruptly, pressing his erection all the way in but holding still, panting. I could sense a change, a shift in his thinking—in that he had *started* thinking once again. It had taken longer than I expected, which was partly why I had started talking after getting my own satisfaction.



He withdrew quickly with a muttered curse. “You aren’t…on any protection, are you?”



Speaking of not thinking… I almost struck my own face for forgetting that. Fuck!



“No-o-o…” I drawled with a wry look and a shrug. At this point there was not much to do but smile. “Prevention is the first thing to cross your mind when I mention my Elders?”



“They’d kill me,” he said flatly, staring at me and scooting back further until his back was against a table leg. “You know what would happen to you, but they’d execute me.”



“Even being a wizard?”



“Yes. They’d have a replacement in two years.”



I grunted acknowledgement, looking at his endowment. It was softening slowly, but considering the scare he’d just given himself, the pace was not as quick as it would have been if he hadn’t been close to climax himself. Perhaps too close.



“Stupid of you, if it wasn’t your intent to get me killed by impregnating you,” he sneered, his hand lightly stroking himself. I thought the motion was automatic, was almost without thinking. He would likely be aching soon.



I lifted my eyes, the straight insult finally absorbing after I had considered his anatomy. I blinked and laughed aloud. “You’re right, I wouldn’t get pregnant by you just to see you die for it. What can I say? If you didn’t fight so hard, maybe…?”



The smile I had was a mean one. He got the reference and scowled. Almost to spite me, I thought, he started stroking himself harder, masturbating openly.



“You *are* insane, Sirana…” he said.



“I’m glad you have the baseline to be able to tell.”



He stroked faster, meaning to steal his own moment of release, and I rolled to my knees quickly. My long-sleeved shirt fell back down to cover me to the waist and I tugged up my leathers to sit haphazardly on my hips. Then I started crawling toward him.



“Get the fuck… away from me.” He left off stroking and immediately scrambled backward beneath the table.



“No.”



“ARNGH!” he half-yelled, half-groaned as I darted forward and grabbed first his hips, dragged him toward me, then seized his wrists as he’d done me, only I quickly pinned them near his waist. My elbows kept his legs open enough that I could settle my head down and nuzzle at the stiff rod.



“Can’t help it, can you?” I teased, licking him and tasting both my sex and his. “You get off on fighting.”



He tried to break my hold, tried to kick me, but mostly I just enjoyed the struggle until he tired himself out further.



“Come, you must be aching by now,” I murmured, closing my lips around the head in a sucking kiss. “Let me…”



The coaxing didn’t help; I received an awkward but effective knee to my sore rib that sent my head bumping into the table. Time was also starting to tick in my head and I knew we had more studying to do or Rausery would have both our hides.



“Stop fighting me, Shyntre. Think of it as gratitude for helping me against Wilsira, if that helps.”



“Let go of my wrists and I will,” he said, his body quivering from the start of physical exhaustion.



I only did that once I’d dragged him farther into the middle beneath the table, where there wasn’t anything for him within arm’s reach, not even a chair leg. Once he was positioned so, I released his wrists, took his hips in my hands and his cock in my mouth.



His hands went to the back of my head the next instant; for a while we were both trying to control the pace and the depth of the act. He was trying to choke me and I was trying to properly service him. I allowed several deep thrusts that blocked my air a few times because they excited me, but after that peeled his hands from my ears to go for faster, shorter strokes to bring him closer.



I knew he was holding himself back, but eventually Shyntre’s breathing changed and he sucked in a single draw before becoming utterly silent. In the next instant, several pulses of semen squirted into my mouth, and at last the damned wizard was coasting down from his peak, the near-constant tension in his body beginning to drain out.



I slurped his offering carefully onto my tongue as I lifted my mouth up, shifting further over him and smiling down. He caught my expression and immediately rolled away, knocking my arm to the side and I bumped my head again trying to keep my balance. Tables definitely weren’t the most comfortable of places to mate.



“Absolutely not!” he declared and skittered out from under the table to grab his robe.



I nearly choked before I’d swallowed enough to finish laughing.



My wizard used the excuse of retrieving food and drink from the kitchens to collect his head again. It wasn’t a bad idea; now I was quite hungry. By the time he returned, I was willing to eat and focus again on the next map, which showed a few interesting known landmarks and something else of which I’d never heard.



“Ley lines?” I asked.



“Those landmarks aren’t there by chance,” he said testily, as if I had openly doubted him—which I hadn’t. “Those more magically sensitive can feel them. They exist in the Underdark, too, but the pulse of the core can obscure it for most of us. On the Surface, they’ve also been known to move, so sometimes a landmark falls into a ruin when the magic isn’t as strong anymore. It’s always the same, remember: follow the ley lines and you’ll find the more powerful magic users on the Surface.”



I nodded.



Later Phaelous dropped by the library, heralded by a polite knock. I knew his eyes—Shyntre’s eyes, it was so obvious now—saw the disheveled state of my braids and my rather relaxed dress first, though I had at least straightened my clothing to be presentable. Shyntre had cleaned himself up completely before returning and looked his normal, sullen self.



“How goes it, children?” he asked, a very slight smile on his lips.



“It goes well, Headmaster,” Shyntre answered respectfully enough, but he wasn’t overjoyed to have his sire checking in on him.



“And you, young Sister?” he turned those gold-flecked eyes on me.



I smiled warmly. “Revealing. If this is just a fraction of your archives, I cannot imagine what else is here.”



Phaelous chuckled low. “This small library is the only one with these particular details, young Sister. Only three sons of the Tower have been allowed to study here, Shyntre one of them and being youngest himself. You have a gifted instructor, young Sister.”



“I am aware and thankful for the gift, Headmaster.” I glanced at the wizard but he was focusing hard on his text.



“I believe you have nine marks yet to go, and I will come get you for your reverie.”



“My thanks, master Phaelous.”



Shyntre had been introducing foreign words as we discussed the Surface, I asked questions and he referenced his material. He was the faster reader and only made me read wholes pages myself if there was a cluster of inter-related subjects that were too difficult to speak of individually. Otherwise he was a very good lecturer and held my attention—complete with backhanded compliments and subtle snide remarks, which sometimes distracted us and sometimes did not.



By the time he started practicing the more common “trade” Surface language with me, my head had begun to hurt from the overload of information. I made a suggestion, and at first he thought I was only teasing.



“I’m serious, Shyntre.”



He shook his head. “Sirana, we’re running out of time, we’re not going to reach the goal Elder Rausery set.”



“And I need a break. You want to practice tongues, practice on me for a while and then we can have something to eat and resume. The time left will be spent more efficiently, trust me.”



He shook his head. “I can’t believe your appetite.”



“Appetites. Plural.” I grinned. “And I can’t believe you claim to know Sisters, saying that.”



He breathed out in frustration, and I had already begun to think of another argument or two, anticipating his next protest, when my wizard surprised me.



Shyntre slammed his manuscript closed and threw up his hands. He stood abruptly and came around to my side of the table, looking down at me.



“Well? Sit on the table, unless you’ve changed your mind.”



I most certainly hadn’t. I stood up, moved my chair to the side, and turned to rest my bottom on the sturdy table. The mage tugged quickly on my leather’s ties again and I grinned, helping him get the red leather down around my knees for the second time. I enjoyed the impatient way he pushed my thighs apart and started licking me; he didn’t have to be pleased with the female, or really even like her very much in order to show his talent with his mouth and read her body with his fingers. It was a good skill to have.



He and I had that in common—although I would admit from experience that liking the female was usually more fun.



“Oh….”



I breathed out, threading my hands behind his head but, unlike him, refrained from mashing his face into my snatch. I finger-combed his hair instead, closing my eyes, neither fighting the rise nor trying to draw it out overmuch. The wizard did have a good point about running out of time, but a good orgasm would also give me a third or fourth wind that I needed for this much studying.



He picked a good time to start using his fingers, and I shifted to open my legs wider for him. *Good boy, oh, good…*



I could feel my legs start to tremble slightly as I felt that coil tightening up inside me, waiting for release. I mewled softly, then I felt a small spark go off inside me where his fingers stroked and I cried loudly in delight.



“Oh, Lolth! Do that again!”



I nearly white-knuckled the edge of the table when he did; he kept sucking on me and another small pop came from his fingers. My ass nearly slipped from the table as I bucked.



*Oh, fuck, yes!*



His fingers popped inside me twice more in quick succession; it practically shoved me over the proverbial edge and I screamed, quivering and squirting for the first time in my life—all over his face.



I thought at first I had pissed on him, but the fluid was clear and did not smell like waste. As with my first time when it happened with Jaunda, Shyntre needed to cough some of the fluid out of his windpipe when we’d finished. Gasping and trembling, I showed my gratitude by handing him a cloth from my belt. He accepted and wiped his face and throat thoroughly, getting to his feet.



“I didn’t know that you could do that,” he commented.



“Neither did I.” My smile felt lop-sided.



He gave me a look but decided not to pursue that subject for whatever reason. I was a bit too drained to care.



When Phaelous returned for the final time to take me to an even smaller room to rest, I was well on my way to mastering the basics of a new language.



*****



I stood before Rausery and she had hold of my chin, turning my head slightly as she studied the marks around my lips and on my neck. She smirked.

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