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A Princess in Chains Ch. 03

Posted on : 2012-01-28 13:30:53.950336

Revised 6-5-11

[ This story features a different princess than the preceding episodes. Sharni will return in a later tale. ]


Scora's Innocence

1.

The priests had condemned Princess Scora to death. They had declared her a heretic and a blasphemer, and at dawn, she would be fed to their dark god, Chal Sar.

Chal Sar had been human, once, and the king of Loya?Princess Scora was his granddaughter. He had used stolen magic to repel demonic invaders ... by transforming himself into something far worse. The demons were driven away. But Chal Sar had been unable to reverse his enchantment.

Ever since, he had lived alone on a little island, off Loya's coast, in the ruins of a lighthouse. Loya had no more need of that lighthouse, after Chal Sar's transformation, for no more ships came to Loya's harbor, in fear of him.

Chal Sar left his people alone, provided they made no attempt to leave his country, and that they made daily sacrifices to him. One living man or woman each morning?preferably a woman?chained to the cliffs that faced his island. He would fly across the narrow channel, in the form of a gigantic bird of prey, to devour the offering there on the cliffs, or occasionally carrying the individual back through the air to his tower, still alive. That usually only occurred if the offering happened to be female. But not always. And plenty of females got eaten on the cliffs, straightaway.

The priests of Loya found a means to spare their citizens this fate. They fed Chal Sar foreign captives, instead, brought in by foreign mercenaries. (Chora-Chat tribesmen, in their distinctive metal masks. They entered Loya from the opposite direction than the sea, in endless caravans.) Loya was a land rich in valuable metals. Those metals paid the mercenaries for a steady and ceaseless supply of fresh slaves. Not only to feed Chal Sar, but to work Loya's mines. And, soon enough, its farms and its factories, as well.

For long years, this cycle persisted. Loya, with its demonic protector, was said to be the most secure and prosperous nation on the Raskand continent.

But then Princess Scora had spoken out against this system, and the priests that administrated it. She attempted to rally her people to resist Chal Sar, putting forward a simple plan?they could pay the mercenaries to attack the monster, rather than provide slaves. She had already found a few Chora-Chat leaders willing to take the new contract. Young fighters, hungry for glory, and with newly developed weapons they believed could prevail against Chal Sar.

But Loya's citizens felt no desire to topple their god. They lived in peace and luxury. No Loya citizen was poor. No Loya citizen labored. They had no shortage of slaves, no shortage of metals to pay for them. No reason to resist Chal Sar?save shame, for the suffering of their slaves. But Princess Scora alone would acknowledge that shame. Her people wouldn't stand for it.

Her own guards put her in chains, and the priests took over her castle. They announced it would be converted into another temple, to Chal Sar. Loya would no longer bother with royalty. The priests themselves would govern. They already had, of course, in all but name ... now their primacy was outright established. Princess Scora had done them a favor. Challenging their authority had only solidified it for them.

She had always been strange, in the opinion of the citizens. Too quiet, too thoughtful. She had spent most of her time in the castle's old library, rather than the great hall where the ruler belonged, and over a period of years, in place of a proper court, she had collected a group of oddball scholars and artists, as companions and advisers ... Many of them had been brought into the country originally as slaves, but she had taken note of them by various means, and freed them, to bring them into her circle. All this foreign riffraff were immediately put back into bondage, after the priests took charge of the place, and set to work in the mines or the fields.

Scora felt a curious satisfaction in seeing her people's disapproval finally demonstrated so openly. There was something actually pleasing and fulfilling in their unveiled contempt. If nothing else, it set her apart from them, totally and irrefutably. And from the guilt of her entire bloody nation. She had tried to put things right?the blame was no longer hers. Instead she would perish as another victim to that shameful selfishness. It would be a purification for her, and for her family name, to die this way. Devoured, or worse, by her own corrupted ancestor.

They took away all her clothes, which was not the standard procedure, for the sacrifices. But they wanted to humiliate her as much as possible. She had never been naked like this, outside, in view of others. Or even by herself, for more than a few moments?changing her underthings behind a screen, before her serving girls assisted her with all the rest. Even when she bathed, or when her legs were shaved, she always wore a light shift, because it was improper to ever be completely uncovered in the presence of her attendants. And a princess was never unaccompanied. Always at least half a dozen servants, always at least half a dozen guards ... Though screens and curtains often shielded her from sight, she had never been alone in a room her whole life.

She was not even alone now, not really. Not even now at the finish of it all. Though she was alone and isolated on this high, protruding rock, the soldiers and the priests and swarms and swarms of spectators still surrounded her. All of them distant, now, on the beaches far below, or out in boats in the channel, but they were there. They weren't going away, until afterward. She could no longer see any of them, in the angle they had positioned her?but she could still feel their presence, their gaze. Watching, waiting, eager. All the hateful, mocking eyes upon her?naked and chained, for her execution. Thousands and thousands of wicked eyes.

They left her with a tiara. Only a symbolic costume piece?it was a crude wreath of shiny wire, with phony gems made of paste. A piece of nonsense, a mockery of her real crown, but it would look good enough, from a distance. To the citizens watching from the beaches, and on all the boats in the channel ... and to the eyes of the monster, when he flew over to take her. It made her stand out from the ordinary sacrifices, the silly thing. As did her nudity. She was special?the heretic princess, stripped of privilege and pride, displayed for all, in absolute disgrace.

They let her keep her eyeglasses as well, after she asked. One of the High Priests didn't want to, but the other convinced him to relent. It was a small kindness, she believed, but he justified it to his companion as further cruelty. Because the spectacles would allow her to clearly see Chal Sar, when he approached (which was what she wanted, actually?to be able to face him boldly, and her own death, and see all the details without a blur, and the headache that always accompanied it). And because, like the phony tiara, the spectacles served to highlight everything that was wrong about her, as a princess, to the audience below. Her weakness and weirdness. With their thick, round lenses that magnified her eyes. People often said the things made her look like a frog. Spectacles were a foreign invention, and not well regarded in Loya, like everything else from beyond its boundaries. But they'd always been her greatest treasure. They'd entirely changed her life, when she'd got her first pair?transforming her whole view of the world, figuratively as well as literally. The blessed things had made her into the woman she was.

They'd led her to this disgraceful death, no doubt?with that ability to see things clearly. But she honestly didn't regret it, not for an instant. She kept repeating that to herself in her mind, over and over. Not for an instant! Not for an instant!

The priests had given her a choice, where she was positioned. There were two ways it was done. You could be chained standing, on a narrow ledge?with your back against the actual vertical face of the cliff, and an unobstructed view of the sheer drop beneath you, to the sea, and the island ahead of you, with the lighthouse tower, where Chal Sar would eventually emerge, to come get you. That island was a few leagues away. As for the cliffs, Scora couldn't have given an exact figure for how tall they were. Quite tall, was the best she could say. Tall enough that it would take you a good little while to fall all that distance, before splashing at their bottom?splashing bloody on gravel, though, not directly into surf ... Or if you asked, the priests could put you a bit higher up, and angled backward slightly, on a particular point of rock that stuck up from the very top edge of the cliffs like a castle battlement. But it was tilted backward from that edge at a steep angle. It was steep enough and smooth enough that if you weren't held in place against it by your chains, you'd slide right off that rock and drop to your death. Whereas chains weren't necessary to keep your footing on the ledge, thin though it was. (Just to keep you from leaving there, before Chal Sar showed up.)

The sloped stone was said to be a bit more painful, with your weight straining against the chains, than standing on the ledge lower down the cliff. And the sun was also rougher on your body, at that angle, the way the rays beat down directly on you upon the slope. But the one advantage was, you were facing more or less upward, at the sky. There was less vertigo in that position. You couldn't see the ocean or the island unless you tilted your head, chin to chest. And some sacrificial victims preferred not to see the monster coming at them, from such a great distance. Having to wait on him to reach you, gradually closing in ... for Chal Sar didn't rush his meals. Easier, then, if he just pounced down upon you much more suddenly, while you were leaned all the way back staring up into the clouds, oblivious to his approach.

Princess Scora would rather have been able to watch the monster the whole way?but she had a rotten head for heights, and a rotten stomach to go with it. If they put her on the ledge, she'd have gone to pieces, just from the dizziness. She'd have been sick all over herself. So at the last moment she had picked the other spot. The Cliff's Tooth, it was called. Or more often, because of its angle and its funny shape, rounded at the upmost end, people called it the Cliff's Dong.

"Ledge or Dong?" they had asked her.

"Put me on the damn Dong," she replied.

The heat was bad, worse than she expected. Even with the wind off the sea, the sun was frying her on the face of the rock, like an egg in a pan. Her skin was very sensitive to it, as well, since she was so pale?never before exposed like this. And the sunbeams also heated up the manacles clamping her wrists and ankles. Soon the metal was scorching her flesh. The damn tiara, too, on her forehead, and even the rims of her eyeglasses.

She was sweating so much, she'd leave a dark stain on the rock, after Chal Sar had finished with her. Of course, it wouldn't only be sweat, afterwards, all those stains. It would be quite a mess, no doubt. But underneath all the other stuff, there would be a perfect silhouette of her prone figure, just from her perspiration.

She reeked of it now. She stunk like the slaves did, from their labors. She'd never had to sweat like this ever before, her whole privileged worthless vile decadent life.

She wished she could close her legs. The wind from the sea particularly tickled her crotch, for some reason. Her shamefully exposed and degraded vale. Made her feel she might have to piss soon, if she had to wait here too long. She refused to let that happen. She would not allow anyone to see her pee down this damn rock.

At least when the monster showed up and started ripping her to pieces and eating her, it would take her mind off all this horrid heat and burning, and her humiliation and impatience and the tickling trembling in her exposed, stretched privates.

But the other and more important advantage, besides not having to look all the way down the fucking cliffs at the ocean, she didn't have to look at any of the damnable spectators, watching her. Of course she had known she would draw much larger crowds, than these offerings generally got. The people had more than met her expectations. A good few thousands had assembled on the beaches this morning, or gone forth in boats. Most all the citizens, no doubt?wasn't as if any of them had any other real work to bother with. This event must have emptied the city, today. (But only the houses, the mansions?not the mines, not the farms, not the factories.) And though it would have been better to stare back at all of them with unbending defiance and righteousness, it was nice not to have to. Instead she stared at the sun, as it seemed to stare at her. Glaring, rather. Staring was too objective a term. The sun's regard felt judgmental and unforgiving. No better, no kinder, than the citizens', the soldiers', and the priests'. Or even, perhaps, her own.

It was so white?like the best linen. You always thought of the sun as golden, but if you really stared at it, you saw it was actually burning white. She wondered how long it took to blind you, if you did this. She wondered if she'd go blind before Chal Sar turned up. She had to squint to keep staring, but the sun didn't hurt her. You'd think you'd feel your eyes actually burning, but all she felt was an ache from her straining eyelids.

But then a man appeared in front of it. For a split second, she thought it was Chal Sar, swooping down upon her already, much sooner than she'd thought he would. But it wasn't him. It was someone else. The man had moved into sight from the wrong direction. Coming over her head from behind her, from inland.

He was in the air, up very high. He was riding a giant bird?not as big as Chal Sar, maybe half as big, but still big enough for this man to sit astride the creature, comfortably. He had a shining helmet, and a shining sword. But his torso was bare. He was extremely muscular. Hulking, in fact. With a shaggy beard, and his hair in several long braids. She noticed the helmet was a very plain, no-nonsense design. No decorative frills. No horns or plumes. Not even a proper, adjustable visor, just a straight nose-guard. Actually it was crude. Antiquated. Soldiers didn't use helmets like that any longer.

She didn't know who he was, but she did know, immediately, that he had arrived to save her, or to try to. To fight the monster for her. He was a hero. A hero had come to rescue her.

That was pretty astonishing, to say the least.

She wondered if he would win.

Actually it was frightening to think about. She didn't dare allow herself to hope for it, or she would go mad. She'd been doing so well, up 'til now?but this would make her break down, if she had to see this man mess up his attempt and fail. To have liberation dangled in front of her, only to be snatched away again ... That would be too much for her. She hadn't prepared for anything like this.

She wondered what she was going to say to him, afterward, if he didn't die. Meaning she wouldn't die either.

Oh Gods. Oh Gods.

2.

The fight didn't take long. In fact it was more than a little embarrassing, to see how easy it was for this man to kill her people's so-called god.

Chal Sar probably never knew what happened?never noticed the other bird in the sky, above him. What the hero did was jump off his bird, just as Chal Sar was passing beneath them, so he landed on Chal Sar's back, and then he beheaded the monster with his sword. It only took him a moment. Chal Sar never even screamed. Didn't have time.

A great deal of dark blood sprayed out, the thick streams reaching forward a surprising distance before they started to arc downward and separate into black rain ... then she watched the drops, like dribbles of tar, pockmarking the ocean surface, once they got down there all that way, for they took a while.

Chal Sar's body rolled over and began to drop, though his huge wings kept flapping ... The hero had already leaped from the body. He kept hold of the Chal Sar's head. For a few moments, the hero fell parallel with the monster's body?though the hero didn't thrash around, like the corpse did. Then the hero's pet bird dived down and caught him with its talons and carried him back up as high as before.

But then the hero let his sword drop?because it turned out Chal Sar's poisonous blood had dissolved most of the blade. Princess Scora watched the weapon tumbling down and down and down ... and the blade was still dissolving as it fell and spun, fizzing away into green smoke. Only the hilt was left, by the time the discarded weapon hit the water.

Looking up again, to the hero and his bird, she watched him climbing astride the creature, back to the position in which he'd first appeared, using a rope that hung from its saddle down over one shoulder?if birds could be said to have shoulders?so the man could reach the dangling end from the bird's feet. The hero had flung Chal Sar's head into his steed's beak, but the bird made no attempt to eat the thing. It just carefully held the grotesque trophy for its master. The head was much larger than its own, and much too big to fit in its mouth?the bird seemed to have snagged one of its eyelids with its beak, in order to support it. The purple flesh of the eyelid stretched far, against the massive hanging weight. The skin didn't tear, but the half-exposed, glaring eyeball on that side of the head was dreadful to behold.

It had been quite a spectacular stunt, this hero's performance. But only partially. To some degree, it had been too spectacular. Too efficiently done. It would have looked much more spectacular if it had been less so. The approach, of course, and the speed of it, the perfection of the man's timing?all that was undoubtedly amazing and impressive. Yet it had all been done too easily, she felt. Not enough struggle and mess. There had been something almost disdainful in it. Somehow it felt strangely irritating, the fact that Chal Sar hadn't got any licks in. Hadn't even managed a roar or a shriek. It hadn't been a proper fight?it had been an execution, or an extermination. And now Scora was unclear in her mind whether that signified this man was a particularly exceptional hero and monster-slayer, or did it mean, instead, only that Chal Sar had not in actuality been a formidable threat? Perhaps all these years, her homeland had allowed itself to be swindled. If this guy could do the job in less than a minute, somebody else should have probably put the beast down ages ago?except no other fucker ever had the balls to try.

Then again, you had to consider that this hero had showed up with his own flying creature. And the thing had been essential to his strategy. Without it, he'd have been just another asshole on the ground with a sword, and he wouldn't have stood a chance. He wouldn't even have been able to get close enough to Chal Sar to try anything. Except maybe standing next to Scora, if he had got up to her in time, and that wouldn't have worked. It would have been like trying to fend off an avalanche.

But this hero evidently had some intelligence. He'd found himself a means to swoop down unstoppably on Chal Sar the same way Chal Sar had always done to everybody else.

Scora feared the hero would simply fly away next and leave her where she was. He didn't, but for a long, long while he just sat in his saddle draining a canteen, or possibly more than one, as his bird glided back and forth in wide, slow circles, so high up that if not for its barely visible rider, you wouldn't realize how large the beast was ... You'd think it was an ordinary hawk. But finally he took up his reins and steered his bird toward her. They came down quite low, but didn't land, instead just hovering directly over her. The bird had to work hard with its wings to hold position like that, stirring up quite a wind. It had a funny smell, the creature?not really unpleasant, but very odd. Or then again, maybe what she was smelling was the head of Chal Sar, and its blood.
The hero climbed down his rope to get her, with a leather tool bag on a strap over his shoulder, containing a hammer and chisel to break her chains. He didn't bother trying to unlock her manacles?perhaps he thought that would take too long. So though he freed her from the rock, in only a few moments?and she had to catch hold of his legs to keep from immediately sliding off the sloped surface of the Dong and plunging to her death down the cliffs?when he picked her up afterward and put her over his shoulder, and then carried her up his rope to the top of the bird, she still had cumbersome lengths of leftover chain attached to her wrists and ankles. The chains on her arms ended up much longer than the ones on her legs. Thankfully at least each piece was separate?they were a burden, but she was no longer in any fashion bound.

Several soldiers were stationed closer to the Dong than everyone else, guarding the base of the long wooden stairway up its side?to prevent escapes or rescue attempts. Such things did happen every once in a while?an offering got loose from the chains, somehow or other, or somebody else would try to get up at them before Chal Sar did, a relative or a lover ... Nobody had ever before succeeded in getting away, though. The soldiers always made sure. But they didn't interfere with this man, this hero, now. They just stood and watched him chisel through the chains. One man finally shouted something, as he was carrying the princess and her broken chains up his rope. Scora only half-heard it. It was probably "You there!" or something like that. The hero just glanced over that direction with a grim expression and nothing else was said. Instead she heard jingling armor?and realized the guards were all running away.

3.

"Thank you," she said. Then she tried to put it more formally, like a princess should say it. "I thank you for what you have done. I thank you for my life."

"You helped a young kinsman of mine, not long ago. Made him part of your unusual court. Your wretched priests sent him into their mines, of course, after they deposed you. I got him out of there. And then he sent me to get you." He had a funny accent. She had never heard anything like it.

"Who are you? Who is your kin?"

"You know him as Shun the Poet. He is my sister's son. I am usually called Tajar. Perhaps you are familiar with my name."

"Of course! Tajar!" He pronounced it differently than she had always heard, though. "Tajar of Jev!"

"Yes. But no?I am of Jev no more."

She realized her mistake at once. "You are said to be?I mean, they say you?that you died."

He smiled. "If that is how the story is told in this part of the world, I would be very pleased. Yet I doubt it."

And he was right to do so. What everyone really said was that the famed Tajar of Jev had gone mad, a decade before, because of a witch's curse. He had slain all his wives and all his children, three sons and three daughters, and then fled howling into the wilderness, living as a beast ... and that was why he had said he was "of Jev of more."

It was clumsy of her to have brought up his homeland. She ought to have known better. She was lucky she hadn't enraged him.

Some storytellers claimed he still did deeds of heroism, attempting to atone for his crimes, or in other versions, simply because he had forgotten everything that had happened to him ... and sometimes it was even claimed Tajar had never done anything heroic at all until his madness. That the curse had not ended or spoiled his career, as many now told the tale, but had in fact been the start of it, the original cause. And that he could only remain a mighty hero so long as he was insane.

He didn't seem insane, though. Not as far as she could tell.

She noticed, now that she was close to him, that there was gray in his beard, and some of his chest hair, as well. None in his braids, though, after he removed his helmet. But the braids were so ink-dark it was possible he dyed them.

He was not at all a handsome man. His face was rather stupid-looking, and sad. It was the face of a laborer, not a hero or a warrior. A peasant's face. (But true warriors were peasants, most of them.) His nose was huge and red and misshapen, and his eyes were sunken and slightly crossed. Half of one ear was missing?lopped off in battle, she imagined, or perhaps bitten away by something.

He stank of sweat?of course she was the same?but on him that was mixed with the odd unnameable stink either from his bird, or from Chal Sar's head, or perhaps it was off both. And that smell, whatever it was, had got all over her now almost as bad. But he'd brought them to this place to bathe.

They were on Chal Sar's island, the far side. You couldn't see the coast from here, nor the old lighthouse tower. They were in a wide clearing, a sunny, grassy area beside a shallow, fast-moving stream. A water meadow, perhaps. Wasn't that what this was called, this type of place? At certain times, the stream would flood and fill this area?that was what kept this place open like this, exposed to the sun. That was why there were no trees here, though the surrounding woods were dense and dark. This stretch of ground, at least now, for today, was as neat and comfortable as the garden lawns of her palace. But she knew in other seasons this pretty stretch of paradise would transform into a mucky swamp, full of wriggling, stinging things.

He had sent his giant bird away, temporarily. Taken off its saddle and the baggage attached to it, and let the creature fly off?to hunt for itself, she expected. She wondered what it would go after. Snatch fish from the sea? Tajar had a silver whistle or flute of some kind, with which he said he could summon the creature back, at any moment. She wondered what the range of it was, and if magic was involved. The bird was out of view, but maybe her people could see it, from the mainland, depending where it went, what it did. She hoped nobody would try to attack or capture it. Wasn't likely, she supposed.

No food here for them in this place, not that she could see, unless they fished or hunted. But he gave her strips of something from his saddlebag. It was preserved meat of some sort. They looked like leather laces, and were tough to chew, but she discovered they didn't taste too bad, and made her feel surprisingly full, when she had finished them. The spicy flavor lingered in her mouth and made her thirsty. After her time on the rock, it shouldn't have been possible for her to become more thirsty than she already had been. But somehow the meat-strips managed to do it. Made her very grateful for the stream, and she slurped so much of it, drinking like a dog on her hands and knees, she almost expected it to dwindle suddenly down to a tiny trickle on the pebbles. But it didn't, thankfully.

She imagined herself for a moment living like this on this island indefinitely as a primitive savage, drinking naked on all fours this way every day, like an animal, day after day after day ... And as a primitive, she further imagined herself eventually growing to worship this stream, not only on account of her dependence on it, but out of genuine feelings of gratitude and love for this water ... because genuine feelings of gratitude and love were what she was feeling right that moment.

But of course she recognized she owed her gratitude far more to the man drinking beside her than to the waters of the stream itself.

"Can you get these manacles off of me now please?" she asked him.

"I will, yes," he said, "But it will take some time. We must do it carefully. I don't have the right tools to pick the locks. I can cut through the bands, or perhaps pry them apart, but if we rush it you could easily be hurt."

"Do you have any clothes I can wear?"

"Yes, I have some simple things. A shirt. It won't cover your legs, though. You can put on my cloak, if you like. It will be a bit warm, in this climate. But we must wash first. We both of us stink of that obscene creature, and of its death. Come into the water now."

He was pulling loose the braids of his hair, as he waded into the stream, and suddenly she realized he was naked?he had slipped off his breeches and boots while she wasn't looking. His buttocks and thighs were shockingly pale, compared to the rest of his body. He was more naked than her, at the moment, with her manacles and dangling chains, her eyeglasses, and her ridiculous tiara.

He had a little, grubby ball of greenish soap, which he tossed to her after covering himself all over with a thick lather. The suds from the soap were more yellow than green, for some reason, and it had a flowery smell. It was bizarre, realizing that this was the scent the brutish hero was putting on himself.

He kept his back to her, as he washed. But when she went into the stream, she didn't step straight in, but first deliberately walked along the shoreline over to the other side of him, so she could see his front, if she chose to look. Though she didn't. She kept her eyes on her feet instead, her toes on the smooth pebbles under the water, as she picked her way carefully forward to slightly deeper water. Even at the center of the stream, the level only reached her waist. But she hunkered down, submerging herself to her chin, in a crouch. She hadn't removed her spectacles, because she had nowhere to put them?if she set them on the ground, they were sure to get stepped on or lost or something?or her tiara?the fake crown was actually pinned in place. She couldn't take it off without pulling her hair down, and she didn't think she wanted it to get wet. She had no comb or brush. It would turn into a shaggy mop very quickly, if she let it free. That was probably inevitable, but she wasn't ready to let it happen just yet. Also, the hairpins might be useful?she didn't want to draw Tajar's attention to her having them, if he hadn't already noticed.

"Be careful you don't lose my soap," said Tajar, "You can't imagine what I went through getting that stuff. If you hold it too long under water like that, you'll dissolve it all."

"Sorry," she said, raising the little cake over the surface, high enough for him to be able to see it. But then it slipped out of her hands, and vanished with a plop ... and it literally had seemed to vanish, when it landed back in the water. She couldn't see it sinking, for some reason, though she saw right where it broke the surface. "Shit. Where did it?Wait, I'll find it. I can find it."

But she couldn't. Tajar had to come over and find it for her, diving under the surface.

"All right, I have it."

"Sorry about that."

"Stand up now out of the water, so I can put this on you. Raise your arms out of the way."

"I can do it myself."

"I'm not risking my precious soap again that way, your worship."

"One does not address a princess in that fashion in this nation, sir."

"My apologies, your worship. It is the custom of my homeland. Why are you backing away from me? Are you afraid of me? I shall not harm you. If you don't wish me to help you with the soap, then so be it. But you must make do without, in that case. Why are you looking at me that way? Why are you looking at my?"

"Because it's?it's jutting! It's jutting at me, like it's looking at me! Now it's getting worse!"

"No it isn't, not really. That's foolishness."

"Your?your manhood. Your manhood is?"

"Does it offend you, your worship? Why does it offend you? I assure you, you need not fear it, or me. Whether it juts or not. Tajar of Jev does not force himself upon women."

"But it's?it's completely engorged!" She could think of no other word. "You're going to try to rut with me! Please we can't?you mustn't?don't! I've never?Please stay away from me."

Her own sudden panic surprised and startled her almost as much as it did him. But it had hit her, like a fist in her gut. She could not recover composure. Her legs almost gave way beneath her. She knew she was going to have a fit of hysterics and she knew there was nothing she could do to stop it from happening. She also knew it would only make her situation worse?which made her panic worse. The realization of the breakdown was worsening it and accelerating it ...

She started to bawl all at once like a small child. She couldn't help it, couldn't hold it back. A soul-crushing humiliation. She was literally screeching.

Tajar's face had turned purple and then green. "Do not weep, Princess. You mistake me. There is no need to weep. Calm yourself, girl." She thought he had got angry, but she was wrong. Instead he seemed baffled, and sad. "I'm sorry to have frightened you. Why are you weeping? Can you not control yourself? I give you my word I shall not assault you. I vow it, by the hills of my forefathers."

"There's nothing I can do. I'm completely defenseless and I'm completely unclothed." Once she started babbling in this fashion, she couldn't stop. "Oh Gods. Oh Gods. You've brought me here and you can do whatever you wish with me. Perhaps you've earned the right to. I would be dead now if you hadn't arrived. If you hadn't me carried me away for yourself. Oh Gods."

"I didn't carry you here to ravish you. Just to bathe. I promise you, you worship."

"But your manhood! It's?"

"Yes, it is, as you said. You're right. It does that in the presence of desirable females, especially if not exclusively when they are unclothed. But it does not mean I'm going to lose my head and spring upon you like a beast to plunge it into you, regardless of your feelings on the matter. Just because a soldier unsheathes a blade doesn't make him inescapably compelled to stab another with it. A man has a mind, as well as manhood, believe it or not."

"How can I trust you? How can I believe anything you say with that thing pointing at me like it is. You don't understand. I've never?I am still ... I still retain my innocence. I've been chaste, all my life. I've never been unclothed like this in front of a man. Any man! Until today ... when they stripped me bare in front of my entire kingdom. Oh Gods. And it's?it has excited you, hasn't it? Having me like this? Bare naked and in chains. That's why the men did it. Because it excited them?and they knew it would excite Chal Sar?and it's excited you, the same way. You want to rut with me?you want to rut with the helpless disgraced naked princess! Don't try to deny it, with your thing pointing straight up at my face. How can you stand there and try to deny it? I may be helpless, and an innocent?but I'm no idiot. I know what you're going to do to me. Just please don't hurt me, when you take it. I don't how to give you what you want."

"Please stop crying, Princess. Listen to me, will you? Just listen. You're right about one thing, yes. I confess, your worship, I do desire you. Your body, your beauty and your youth, your nobility, your nudity?yes, it excites me, all of it. The chains, too, perhaps. Your plight, your sense of debt to me ... If I dare admit it ... And it seems I must. Yes. I am aroused, just as you can see. Pointless denying that. But I'm not going to force myself on you. That's not what I desire! Listen now. Would I like to 'rut' with you, as you put it? Certainly! Yes, indeed. It's true. But only if you wanted the same from me. Only if I knew you would enjoy it as much as I would. I will not plunder a weeping innocent.

"I made a mistake, Princess. I misread you, when you came into the stream. I suppose I was testing you, when I brought you here. You were right about that too. I didn't just bring you here only to bathe, as I claimed, but to test you?to see if you might allow me more. I kept my back to you, and my manhood, as you call it, when I started to wash. And even before, as we flew over here, I tried not to look directly at you, since I took you off the rock ... at least, as much as possible. Or as little, I should say. I've looked you over some, now and again, when you were looking elsewhere, but only a bit ... I've tried my best not to let myself stare too bold. I should have given you the shirt or my cloak sooner, maybe right away, after I got you free. I would have done so if you had asked me first off, but you didn't say anything until just moments ago. I thought you were all right with being unclothed. In my country, much of the time, men and women often go about their affairs unclothed and there is no disgrace in it, or cause for fear. I did not realize your wicked priests displayed you that way to demean you. I thought your body was displayed in pride, not humiliation ... Your body is beautiful, after all. Its youth and delicacy. And then here in the stream you came around in front of me, when you came into the water. I thought that meant you wanted me to keep looking at you. I thought you wanted to look at me, and to see the excitement my body feels at the sight of your own."

"Maybe I did, a little," she answered, not sure why she was confessing it?and not even knowing, in fact, that was true until she'd spoken it aloud. "I don't know. I'm not sure. Maybe I was testing you, as well. And maybe I was testing myself, Tajar. I don't know. I've never been?with a man?in a setting like this, and a situation like this, my whole life. Nothing like this would ever have been allowed to happen to me, before I was deposed and disgraced."

"I thought you dropped my soap to make me approach you. I thought you were playing a game with me."

"I wasn't. I don't think I was. I just dropped it and then when I saw you getting so close to me and I saw that you were?that you'd got?well then I got scared. I couldn't help it. I just got so scared."

"Are you still scared?"

"Yes. But not as bad now." At least she had stopped crying, and her legs weren't shaking quite as bad?they still felt shaky, in the water, but at least not quite as bad as before. "Because you're still keeping your distance. I don't think you would have, if you really intended to do what I thought. I think you would have done it already."

"So you believe me now when I tell you I promise I won't rape you, you worship?"

"I think I believe you. I'm trying to."

"Will you let me soap you now? You can keep your back turned, and cover yourself with your arms, if you'd like. I will only soap your back and your shoulders and perhaps your arms and legs, a little, if that's all right."

"Will you stop if I ask you to, if I get scared again? Will you promise me, Tajar?"

"Again, I give you my word, your worship."

4.

She had never taken a lover, but she had wanted to. She would have done, a year ago, but the man she picked, or intended to?it had been Tajar's kinsman, in fact, Shun the poet?turned out to be a Mirror Man. That was what they called men in Loya who desired only other men. He had paired himself with another of the artists in her court, the sculptor Raphan. Thankfully she was made aware of this liaison before she had expressed her own interest to Shun.

His was a hard choice for her to understand. Not the fact of his Mirroring?that was unfortunate, for her, but it was the way he was made. His nature. Nothing to be done about it. But the man he mirrored?that was baffling, since Shun himself was so young and handsome, while Raphan was neither, and always possessed by a gloomy, sour disposition. Princess Scora had never like the man, though she much admired his works. She had felt obliged to tolerate his displeasing face and manner for the sake of his creative gifts. His was not the only mildly offensive personality she indulged among her court.

It was fascinating for her to watch the pair together, once Shun took up with him. Painful, yes, as well?but irresistible. Frequently she had spied upon them, in their chambers. She had observed them several nights running, through a peephole, when they rutted at each other. Their acts had been so much more violent and absurd-looking than she'd imagined such things to be. The whole business felt more than a little frightening for her, because it was so noisy and disgusting and ridiculous. She had not enjoyed what she saw?but she kept watching them, even so, night after night. And it wasn't only horror she felt, though horror was dominant?also there were embarrassing twinges of jealousy and of curiosity ... a disturbing yearning to experience such an encounter for herself. For the pair took so much visible delight in the awful acts they subjected each other to. She wondered if she herself could enjoy the same things, in the same way. Though it didn't seem likely. And she had continued to harbor the belief?or at least the hope?that acts of copulation between a man and a woman would turn out to have a different and less savage, less comedic quality to them than the love of Mirrors like these two men.
She had hoped that?and she hoped that still?but also she doubted it was true. More likely, she expected?and feared?the business was actually much the same. That love is love, whether it's between Mirrored men, Mirrored women, or a pair of different genders ... There would of course be certain differences, in certain details. But only some. Similarities, rather, would outnumber and outweigh those differences.

She didn't know for sure. That was only a feeling. A suspicion. A dread.

It was the absurdity of it that most troubled her. The indignity. She wanted love to be beautiful and noble?and not only the sentiment, but the enaction of it. She had imagined coupling to be something of a dance. Performed with the care and caution and stately seriousness of a holy ritual. But the physical reality, at least as she had witnessed between those two artists, had been crude and clumsy and brutal. Like they'd been trying to disgrace each other. Their rutting had looked no more noble and no less silly than the coupling of dogs or horses or goats.

It was all the same rutting.

Tajar had promised not to touch her special parts, when he soaped her ... and he held true to that promise. He only, just as he had said, applied the lather to her back and to her shoulders, and then a little bit down the sides of her arms and the sides of her legs. His hands didn't venture around to her front, didn't try to come near her breasts or her crotch, nor her bottom, right before him, and he didn't take long with the job, though he didn't rush it, either. The way his hands moved, the way he rubbed the soap upon her?it was very matter-of-fact, methodical. Though his touch was gentle, cautious, he did not in any fashion attempt to caress her skin, as he did it. There was nothing sensual in it?the way she had expected, the way she had feared ... She had thought he would try to undermine her defenses. Try to win her over, with his touch. But he made no such ploy. He soaped her in the same businesslike manner he might soap a horse. Except he would probably put more affection into that.

She should have felt relieved, she knew it. Because he was keeping his word. He was doing exactly what she told him to?not trying to trick her, or seduce her, after all. Only cleaning her?doing a better job with the soap than she could manage on her own. And as he did this, behind her back, he was standing in the stream as far away from her as possible, while still able to reach her?with his arms at full-stretch. She had expected him to move close?to take the excuse to press himself against her, and then try to embrace her as he washed her. She had been readying herself for the feel of his engorged manhood, when it would brush her back or her bottom, when he would press closer and squeeze it between them ... but that hadn't happened. Because he had maintained a safe distance between them, this entire time. And she found herself annoyed by this. She had been certain he would break his promise ... dreading further advances, wracking her brain for new strategies to meet them ... only now, spared of any of that struggle, she felt no relief. Only irritation. As if he was snubbing her.

And something else?another maddening reaction she was completely unprepared for ... though he wasn't groping any of her special parts, wasn't trying to stimulate them?nonetheless, they had all become stimulated, all on their own. Severely stimulated, in fact. Even without him touching them!

She thought he would use the pretext of washing her to grope her and caress her most sensitive places, in order to arouse her. To seduce her. She was sure he would try this ... She'd been dreading those sensations, if or when she was made to experience them. Dreading what they might do to her?if she allowed him to stimulate those places, those parts. Even if it was only a moment or two, before she stopped him, if she could stop him ... But he hadn't done it. He hadn't tried to. And somehow this was so much worse?so much harder to handle. Not touching those places, those parts, had inflamed them anyway. The fact?the contrast?of everywhere else he was rubbing her ... It made the places his hands didn't go?the places she knew she was most sensitive?heat and ache and pulse for the same attention. Hungering to feel what that would feel like. What it would do to her. She'd been dreading it so much ... but now, not knowing, having to keep wondering about it ... this had become agony. This was hellish.

Maybe he had planned it this way. Maybe he had tricked her and this had been his strategy all along. He acted like he wasn't trying to inflame her and seduce her ... but that, indirectly, was exactly what he was managing to do.

Did he know? Could he tell?

If she were a man?if she had a man's appendage, like his?it would be engorged now, just as big and tall and horrible as his had got.

Thankfully, a woman's body doesn't display its desire quite so blatantly. Still, there were signs ... but maybe he couldn't tell. Maybe not yet. Since she was facing away from him, at least. He might not realize how strongly he was affecting her, deliberately or otherwise.

But she doubted she could hide it from him much longer, whichever direction she was turned. She doubted that very much.

If he wanted to take her now, he could do it. She thought she would probably give in to him, if he tried to do it now. She wouldn't be able to fight him?she would no longer want to. The filthy beast could rut with her?because she herself was transforming into another such ghastly creature. Overwhelmed by these beastly humiliating instincts.

She had never experienced arousal like this?not to this level, this pitch. She had thought she knew what it was to experience lust. Her attraction to Shun?and the half-pleasurable torments she felt throughout her body, when she had spied on him with Raphan ... she had believed that was what it was to be inflamed. She had believed that was as bad as it could be. But those times were nothing to this. Nothing at all. She could never have imagined any form of physical desire could build and burn and overwhelm her mind this powerfully, this completely. Like a sickness, like madness. And all the man had done was soap her back, and her sides, for a few moments. And he'd done it brusquely! Mechanically! No passion or seduction in it. She didn't understand this. It should not have affected her this way. It didn't make any sense at all and she didn't know what she could do or what to say.

If she told him to stop, she knew he would stop. But that wouldn't save her now. That wouldn't fix this. That would just make it worse, instead, wouldn't it? It would, yes. It would.

The signs. The signs of it all were there to see, by anyone with eyes?except she wasn't facing him. He was behind her?the signs were hidden. But she herself could see them, as much as she could feel them. They weren't as big and bold and irrefutable as his own desire had been?like the battle-flag of a charging army. Like a drawn weapon, brandished at her face. But all her body's own signs and signals were upon her. Smaller and subtler, but nonetheless visible, if she allowed him to look.

She mustn't. She must not. He must not see it. Or she would be undone. All would be lost.

But her breasts! Her nipples now! Oh Gods! Oh Gods! They were like spearheads. They had been stiff before?they had stiffened, defensively, of course, the moment they were first uncovered to the sky and the sun, when the priests and soldiers had stripped her on the cliffs, before putting the chains on her. But this was different?this was worse. She hadn't known the things could swell so large. And their stony tips now stretched so much, so far ... she'd never seen them like this. Sticking out like nails, like spikes. So red they looked almost black, and aching, aching?she knew if anything touched them, even the slightest nudge, she would shriek and writhe. She would fall over in a fit. Because they had become too sensitive. Too engorged. Yes, that was the only word. They had become engorged like Tajar's manhood. They jutted from her lusty torso just as huge and just as dark and just as arrogant. Oh Gods!

And below. Her crotch. Her vale. And not just there?not just within in. The same itching clutching cramping heat went all down the insides of her legs?clear down past her knees, even. All through the muscles under her skin. Tickling feelings, squeezing feelings. She wished they were standing in deeper water, like earlier, but they were not. Where they stood at present, the stream surface stood barely above their ankles. If her legs and her vale were fully submerged, like where she had dropped his soap, the chill water would probably have prevented her feelings from flaring in this way, at least to this degree of wildness, of savagery. The current would keep her cool and keep her clean, outside and in. But posed as they were, the stream could give her no assistance, no protection.

Hot fluid was seeping from her. More and more. There was no way to stop it or control it. Her vale was like a starving mouth?salivating. Oh Gods. She could feel the thick oil on its grasping lips, soaking them ... and she could feel it flowing further, too, running down her thighs now, in several separate tiny trickles. The trickles all felt cold, on the blazing sweaty skin of her legs, though the oozing, pooling stuff was so hot above, when it first escaped her passage. Like candle wax or lamp oil?and she could feel the yellow flame of that lamp or that candle within her. Feel it flashing and flickering against the sides of her passage, and making all those surfaces leap and sting and shudder.

And its worm. It was engorged, too, obviously. Just as horrid as her nipples. Protruding from its cave so far she could look right down and see its face peeping out. She wanted to cover it with her hands, but dared not, for fear of what it would feel like, if she pressed it or even brushed against it a little, accidentally. She wouldn't be able to prevent herself, she knew. And it would force her to cry out. It would force her to keep pressing it.

Now Tajar had finished applying the soap, so then he went away. And not only a little distance, but a large one. As she, staggering, moved back to the very middle of the stream and huddled down to immerse herself again to her chin and thus rinse the soapsuds off of her?and also, of course, to try to cool her body, and to calm it?Tajar went ashore on the opposite side, from the sunny water meadow, and then disappeared over there behind a felled tree, though she didn't realize for some considerable time that, behind her, he'd gone completely out of her view?that he had left her seemingly alone.

Crouching in the deepest part of stream did indeed help her some?but it didn't kill her arousal completely. Her nipples and the worm of her vale both shrunk and subsided partly, but not all the way. The flame within her passage was dampened, by the rushing water, as she opened her thighs wide to it?but not extinguished.

There was only way to extinguish it. To reach down there and rub it out. She was no stranger to the secret art of pleasuring her special parts in that way. The urge to do it again right now under the water was torturous. Almost irresistible. But of course she could not allow herself to do that. Not in Tajar's presence. Not in the daylight.

Whenever she had indulged in that act before?in her bed, or in her library, or at the peephole where she spied on Shun and his lover?though she had never been truly alone, none of those times, she always had her screens or curtains to hide what she was doing to herself, under her sheets and under her gown, from the knowledge of all her inescapable attendants. She had learned how to keep the act quiet, though sometimes that was more than a little difficult.

She knew if she did it to herself here and now, in the stream, even if she could somehow hide the motions from Tajar, under the water, she would not be able to do it silently. She would thrash and she would splash?and she would holler. She would shriek. She knew she would. She would feel it all too strong, this time. She dared not try it.

Only then she looked around and realized Tajar had left her by herself.

Even then she didn't let herself do it. She wanted to. She almost started?but stopped herself. Because she thought he would come back in just a moment?guessing he had only gone into the trees to empty his bladder.

And then immediately she started to wonder if she was wrong. She started to worry that he had abandoned her completely, and would not come back at all. And the thought was terrifying.

She called his name. He did not answer. Then she saw his footprints on the mud of the far bank, and hurried over there to follow them.

It only took a moment to find him, on the other side of the fallen tree. He had not forsaken her after all. The relief of that was enormous. Then she was embarrassed to have panicked.

He was sitting on a branch of the downed tree, turned away from her. He was holding his manhood and for a moment she thought he was indeed relieving himself, like she had first guessed. But then she saw that wasn't at all what he was doing. He was not pissing. And he was not just holding his manhood. He was pulling on it, again and again. Almost like he was trying to tear it off of himself.

"What are you doing there, Tajar?" she asked, though she knew. Why did she ask? She could not have answered that question. She had no idea. "What are you doing to yourself, Tajar?"

He glanced over his shoulder to her, his face a wry, exasperated grimace, and very purple again. "Surely you can see perfectly well, Princess."

"But?I mean, I don't understand."

"You don't understand?"

It was stupid, and it was silly, but something unexplainable compelled her to maintain the pretense. As if he wouldn't see right through it. Even so, a proper princess should be ignorant of such base matters. So she continued to pretend.

"Why are you pulling on it that way? Is it cramped? Is it hurting you?"

"Ha! Cramped!"

"I was only asking." Standing there stark naked, pigeon-toed and dripping in front of him while he did it. Oh Gods. Oh Gods. This was madness. And this was dangerous. Very dangerous.

"Forgive me," Tajar went on, "I'd just never heard it put that way before ... Cramped! But what you said is right. It's hurting me, indeed. So I am easing it. Thus."

"But?I mean, how?"

"Come now, your worship, I cannot believe you are as innocent?and ignorant?as you pretend."

It was turning into a game now. A wicked game of teasing. She hadn't meant to start such a thing, or she didn't think she had?but now that it had got going like this, she knew she wasn't going to stop it.

"I have heard rumors, perhaps, of such easing," she said, "But of course I have never witnessed such a thing."

"I apologize if it offends you. I did not intend for you to witness this. Which is why I came over here out of your view, behind the branches of this tree. If you would allow me a few moments more of privacy, I will soon conclude my business."

"All right." But she did not go away. She started to, but soon she turned back. She hoped he would not notice, if she crept up quietly enough?that she could approach him again without him realizing, without making him stop?but she didn't manage it.

"Are you back again? Still watching me? Why are you still watching me?"

"I am sorry. I was ... merely curious. I did not intend to disturb you."

"I cannot conclude this with you spying on me."

"You did not mind me seeing your manhood like that before, when it first became ..." And again, she could think of no other, more accurate word, " ... engorged."

"This is different. In my country, it is a dishonor for a man to gratify himself in this fashion, especially in view of another. You cannot stay and watch ... unless you intend to take it in hand, yourself."

"Is there no dishonor in that, then?"

"None."

"But is it not the same action? Pulling it by hand, to ease it. Is that not still a misuse of the appendage?"

"A misuse, you say? Fah! It's not the pulling or the easing that's dishonorable, but only the doing of it to oneself. Or more accurately, it's having to do it to oneself, because one hasn't a companion to do it for one. It's the solitude that's dishonorable. A man should have a companion?or he's no man. If a man can't win a woman's favor?or another man's, if that's his taste, though it is not mine?and then keep that favor, he has no honor?or so we are taught, in my country."

"In this country, my country, the men are taught it's sinful to spill their seed by hand. Because it's a misuse of their manhood, and of their seed. Whether they do it to themselves, or have someone else pull it for them, that doesn't make a difference. The sin is in the waste. 'The seed is only for the furrow,' say the priests."

"There is no waste, and your country is foolish to think so, your worship. Or mad altogether. Might as well declare it a sin to scratch a bug-bite on your shoulder, or to take a piss, when your bladder's full."

"Would you allow me to stay and watch you, if I agree to, as you said, take it in hand?" She could not believe she had just made that suggestion. Yet somehow she had. The offer had been made. It could not be unsaid, now.

"Are you joking with me? Are you trying to tease me, Princess?"

"No. I thought, if I?if I pull it for you, then that takes away the dishonor of me seeing you, when you ... you know ... when ..."

"When I what?"

"You know ... I don't know what it's called. When you ... discharge."

"When I erupt? In my country, we call it eruption. Is that what you're so curious to see?"

"Yes. Yes, I suppose." Was she? She was, wasn't she? "And I feel badly about before?about cramping you, if it's hurting you. About making you cramp. This way I can help you to ease it, like you said, without?without allowing you more of me than I can."

He took a long time, thinking it over. But finally he let go of his manhood, and slid over on the branch to make a space beside him, where she could sit. And then she did. Though it was not a particularly comfortable perch. The rough bark was gritty and abrasive on her unprotected bottom. But she put up with it. Or else she would have to crouch down by his feet, or even kneel. She dared not lower herself as far as that. Seeing her kneel on the ground for him would give him too great a feeling of power and possession. And would make her feel all of that the same. Already, in her state of undress, she was feeling too much a sense of that. Because of his power over her was an undeniable reality. The only questionable aspect of that still undecided was how far this man would eventually exercise that power.

Then, after she had seated and settled herself close next to him on the branch as painlessly as possible, it took her another long while, and many deep, shuddering breaths, before she could summon the courage to reach across and take hold of the thing. His thing.

"You do not have to do this, if you do not want to," he told her.

"I want to," she said. "I think. I want to try."

Now for the first time she was holding a man's engorged manhood in her hand. She had expected it to feel like holding a sausage, but it turned out not to feel much like that at all. The textures were very different, much stranger. It was hot and sticky, softer and more flexible than she expected, but not as smooth as she had thought it would feel, and she could feel his pulse in the veins on it, against her palm, when she squeezed it. It was very alive, this thing. She locked her hand on it in as firm grip as she could and began to pull on it exactly as she had watched him doing. Up and down and up and down and up and down?not fast but not slow either. It was strange how stretchable and springy it was, and how loose the skin was on it, how much it slipped and slid?like a stocking, almost. She discovered she was more pulling its skin up and down the length of it, rather than pulling the shaft itself. Like tugging a stocking almost off and then back down tight on to it. Over and over, again and again ...
"Is that good, Tajar? Am I doing it properly?"

"You must hold it a little tighter, Princess. And pull it a little faster?"

"You're sure that's not too rough? I'm afraid I'll hurt you if I do it too fast."

"It won't rip off, I assure you. It's stronger than it looks."

"I can feel it getting stiffer, Tajar. Is it getting larger now? It feels like it's getting larger. How much larger can it grow? Are you close to discharging? Erupting, I mean. Are you going to erupt soon?"

"Don't slow down, your worship. Not yet! Not yet!"

But it was becoming difficult to keep up the same pace. "My hand's getting tired. It's starting to hurt. Let me change hands. I didn't think it would take this long. And I'm even a little out of breath. This is actually rather wearying work, Tajar."

He laughed at that, a little. His eyes were closed. His expression, when she looked at his face, was not what she would have expected. Very thoughtful, he looked. Very serious. Not like he was experiencing any great pleasure.

Pulling on him made her aching, swollen breasts bounce and judder all around a lot, which was also uncomfortable and embarrassing. But he wasn't looking at them. Hadn't seemed to notice. He was no longer interested in her nudity, at present. Only her grip, only her motion.

Her hand and his manhood made ridiculous, somewhat eerie noises. They seemed to be getting louder and stranger, as the process continued. Her hand had got very wet?the gathering moisture was the source of all the icky noises?and not all of it was perspiration. The stuff was oily?and smelled the same as her own body-oil. It dribbled on her hand hot at first and then turned rapidly cold in the exact same way, also.

Now she had been doing this quite a good while and was almost fed up with it, almost worn out. "I don't think you're ever going to get done, are you?" she said, "Your manhood won't ease. It's like it doesn't want to let itself."

"It doesn't, you're right. Because it wants more from you, than your hand."

"Well, it's not going to get any more than this, no matter how stubborn it is. If it doesn't finish before my hand gets too sore, it's not going to get eased at all. I hope your greedy manhood understands that."

"Please quit calling it my manhood."

"What should I call it then?"

"In my country, we call it our scepter."

"Scepter! That's so arrogant! You want me to call the damned greedy thing a scepter!"

"Yes, Princess. I think perhaps that may help convince it to erupt, if you address it with the name it's used to."

"All right, then, Tajar. I shall call it your scepter. I had a scepter of my own, before I was deposed. I didn't carry it around much, only for certain special ceremonies, two or three times a year. It was black, with a carving of Chal Sar's head on the end of it, and I have to tell you, though it was far longer and heavier than yours, it never ever made my hand as tired as yours has, here and now."

"If your hands are worn out, would you consider using your mouth on it?"

"No I would not. That is a vile suggestion. How do you mean? To kiss it?"

"To suckle it, your worship. As I know you know perfectly well ... And it's not vile, Princess."

"Sounds vile to me. This so-called scepter of yours is what you piss out of!"

"What does that matter? We're all born from the same channel a woman pisses from. I myself have tasted many such channels, to the delight of many women, and none of them tasted of piss. I would taste yours, if you'd allow me."

"I shan't. And I shan't taste your scepter, regardless what you say. Either it discharges for my hand, or your own, or there shall be no eruption at all."

"As you command, Princess."

And then all at once it did.

All the times she watched Shun and Raphan together, she had never got to see either of them spray their seed, because whenever they had done it, they had sprayed inside each other, in their mouths or in their bottoms.

There was more of it than she expected, and she was surprised that it was white. She thought it would be clear. It turned clear, quite quickly, as it dried and evaporated?but when it sprayed out, the stuff was very white, a kind of cream.

Most of it landed on her forearm. A little hit one knee.

Looking at the stuff now that it was over, she felt disgusted and couldn't wait to wash it off of her. But the moment it shot out, it had been thrilling. It made her feel triumphant. But now she felt silly again, and soiled. Ill-used and exploited. She should not have done this to this man, or for him. She should at the very least not have allowed any of the foul stuff to land on her skin.

Still, better she was naked, doing this. If she had been wearing a proper gown, like a proper princess, it would have been stained and probably ruined. Better naked like a whore, to do a whore's business. Or a slave, rather. For she was not completely naked. Not like a whore. She still wore the chains of a slave. And the phony tiara ... She was not a whore. She was an enslaved princess. Even if it was the same demeaning sort of business, and made the same sort of sticky stinking mess, on her bare damp sunburned skin.

"Would you like me to ease you now, Princess, as you did for me?"

She had not expected that. Not even a little. Couldn't think how to answer. "I have no need to be eased."

"It is nothing to be ashamed of, whatever your priests may have taught you."

"I am not ashamed. I have no cause to be ashamed."

"I would only touch you as you touched me."

"How would that work? I have no scepter for you to pull on."

"You have your keystone."

"My what?"

"Do your people use another name for it? In my country, we call it the keystone?the keystone of your arch, or your gate." He pointed. "This. There. What do you call it here in Loya."

"We don't call it anything."

"No? Nothing?"

"I ... I've heard it called the worm."

"The worm?"

"In my court, some of them. From other lands, of course?they called it the worm in the apple."

"Ah, that's good. The worm in the apple. So the apple is what my people call the gate."

"Or the arch?"

"Yes. Because it's?"

"I know, I understood."

"But you can see how it could be thought of as an apple, as well. Or some other fruit. But why do you make that disdainful face? Oh, I think I know. Because fruit goes in the mouth?and we've already established that idea troubles you."

"It doesn't look much like a fruit to me. Not an apple or any other."

"Well, it takes imagination. Breasts are more commonly compared to fruits, of course."

"That makes more sense to me."

"I've heard other peoples call it a flower."

"Breasts?"

"No, the apple, the gate."

"And then what do they call the worm, or the keystone?"

"The sting, or the thorn."

"Flowers don't have stings."

"Yes they do. A thorn is a kind of stinger?and many flowers have thorns."

"But not there?not inside them, like that."

"It's a metaphor, Princess. And it does look like a thorn or an insect's sting, the way it's sheathed., regardless of its positioning. And I think the name is more for what it does than what it looks like."

"It doesn't sting."

"You'll learn, eventually, that it can. In a good way, though. Usually."

She actually thought he meant other people. Men and their scepters?like a bodily defense she'd never known about ... It never occurred to her they had meant the other way, when they gave it that name, whoever they were ... That it would be herself the sting stung.

"Let me touch it for you, a while. Just a little. Just to show you. I'll stop if you tell me to, if you don't like it."

"You don't have to show me, I know what it feels like."

"So you've eased it yourself, upon occasion. Of course you have."

"No, I didn't mean?Only that?"

"No doubt your damnable priests taught you that was sinful, same as they say it is for men."

"Your people say it's sinful too!"

"Not quite. They say it's dishonorable?that's not the same thing. And it's not the enjoyment that's objectionable."

"It's 'objectionable' because it's dangerous. It can make you sick, can't it? It can make you lose your mind, if you touch it too much."

"Is that what they've made you believe? Ha!"

"It's not true?"

"In fact, yes, that's quite true. Your priests are exactly right about that ... Oh, but now I've frightened you again. Be still, your worship. I was only jesting. That kind of madness is momentary, I assure you. I swear to it. You just watched my eruption, just moments ago. And it was only a matter of moments, just as you saw. It lasts only as long as that did. Never more than half a dozen heartbeats ... Then it's done and you become normal again?sadly."

"Is it not different for females?"

"Of course it's different?but no more dangerous. Don't expect me to believe you've never pleasured yourself."

"Believe whatever you want, but I never have. Not like that."

This was, of course, an outright lie. Red in the face, she knew he could tell. She wished she hadn't said it?she wished she hadn't needed to. But even now, she couldn't quite break free of her upbringing. She wanted to believe everything Tajar was telling her, but she couldn't manage it. Not quite, not out-loud. Not even her blazing hatred of the despicable treacherous corrupt priests could allow her to do it.

But yes, in truth, though she couldn't speak it, she'd pleasured herself in that fashion countless times. She'd always known in her guts that it wouldn't really make her sick. Yet she'd always been afraid and ashamed of herself when she did it, every single time. She always vowed, after finishing, that she wouldn't do it anymore ...

When she was deposed, she'd thought about all the times she had broken that vow. And though she'd told herself over and over it was stupid and juvenile to consider this, she had nonetheless continued to wonder if it was in fact because of that very sin that Fate had turned against her so suddenly and engineered her downfall ...

"Do not be angry with me, Princess. It was only a suggestion, an offer of reciprocation?that I might share some of the enjoyment you were so good as to afford me. I am sorry to have again offended you."

"I am not offended, Tajar," she insisted, in defiance of the fact, "And I am not at all angry with you! It was just?I only meant?It matters not! And I think now, having considered your offer, I have to decided you may touch me, if you still want to. If you still want to try. You may touch my ... keystone, a little, for a while. I do not believe it has any significant need of easing, as your scepter did. I do not believe I will respond in the way you believe I will, or hope I will, to such stimulation from you. But I am curious enough, I will admit, to allow you to put the question to a test. You may try to pleasure me with your hand, at least for a few moments. Only your hand! And you must stop at once if I tell you to. Is that understood?"

"Yes, your worship."

5. In fantasies, and speculations, when she tried to imagine what lovemaking would be like, she expected the experience of sexual pleasure would probably affect her similar to wine, or to a hot bath ... Soothing warmth engulfing her body, and her mind, in a comfortable, humming fog ... So she had believed it would make her languid, boneless, like a cat when it's petted. Because that was what wine always did to her, provided she didn't drink too much and make herself sick. And hot baths, almost the exact same way.

She had read sex was supposed to be intoxicating. She'd seen that description applied to the act in three separate books. Naturally she assumed it would feel the same as intoxication, from drink.

Then of course the poet and his lover made her question that assumption, when she spied on them together. Sex didn't make them languid, except when they were finished and their pleasure had passed. The pleasure itself, while they were experiencing it, made them both hysterical and violent and ridiculous. But perhaps it was only like that for men. It was frightening to see, if nonetheless fascinating.

And whenever she pleasured herself, she found it didn't feel at all like she thought it would, or should. The sensations were not relaxing at all. Instead they made her nervous and tense, and slightly sick to her stomach. They made her squirm and shiver ... made her heart pound ... made it hard for her to breathe, at least not without making a great deal of tiresome noise. But perhaps all that was only a consequence of doing it to herself, alone?a shameful and sinful act, if the priests taught the truth. Especially for a princess! She had felt guilty, and was always afraid of someone catching her at it?one of the servants, or one of her guards, or one of the horrid priests, worst of all ... She kept telling herself it wouldn't feel the same, when she was with a man. She wouldn't be so anxious and undignified, when she was doing these things the way they were intended to be done. She would have no cause to feel ashamed and anxious. It would feel the way she wanted it to feel. It wouldn't be so damn embarrassing, and so damn scary.

That had been her hope. But she'd never really believed it, hard as she tried. All along, she'd known it wouldn't be that way. It was a childish denial of reality. When she took a lover, whoever that turned out to be, her lovemaking would turn out the same as Shun's and Raphan's. Hysterical and violent, and ghastly. There would be no dignity in it, and no beauty. No comfortable humming warm soothing fog. The experience of sexual stimulation?sexual pleasure?was something else altogether, whether you did it to yourself, or a man did it to you. It boiled and burned and stung. It was a lightning storm, or an earthquake, or both together, both at once.

These sensations simply could not be endured or expressed in a calm, reserved manner, not even if you were a princess trained all your life in decorum and protocol.

But Tajar had been able to. He had not been like Shun and Raphan. He had just sat still beside her on the log, looking thoughtful, the entire time she had worked on him, pumping his scepter. Even when he finally finished, his expression had not altered. He had not even cried out.

Why was it so different for her? Why was it so much more difficult? Her youth, her innocence?those were the obvious answers. Did a man like him not experience these sensations to the same degree? Perhaps the older one got, or if one had sex too often, with too many different partners, the sensations in one's parts gradually deadened from the wear or overuse. But if that were true, how had been able to ejaculate? Furthermore, why would he still desire to, if it was no longer a delight? Or did the urge somehow persist, as an instinct, even if one no longer felt great satisfaction in the act?

So many mysteries. Hard to accept this was a natural process. Essential, in fact, and fundamental to the perpetuation of the race. It was all so bizarre and ambiguous and terrifying. It all seemed poorly designed to her. Why did the business of mating have to be so difficult and savage and messy? "Why do you keep pulling away?" Tajar demanded, "You must hold still if we are ever to finish."

"I cannot help myself. I do not mean to, but I cannot help it."

"I am not hurting you. You know I'm not going to hurt you."

"I know, I know."

"But you won't keep still."

"I can't help it. It tickles. It sort of tickles."

She felt a fool, putting it that way. But she could think of no better word to describe her difficulties.

"Tickles? You're not laughing, Princess." He was, though.

"It's not that sort of tickling. More like having to?having to make water."

"You need to piss?"

"No. I don't know. I don't think so. It just tickles sort of like that, when you ... what you're doing to me ... Oh! Oh!"

She grabbed his wrist.

"You want me to stop then?"

"No. No I don't. I want to?finish. I want to feel the finish."

"Soon, Princess. It will be soon. You're very close, I can tell."

"How can you tell?"

"Because you keep pulling away, of course. How else? You must let go of my arm."

"All right." But an instant later she had grabbed it again, though she hadn't meant to. "Wait! Wait! Don't stop!"

"You're fighting me."

"No?I'm not?No!"

"You keep fighting me, pulling my arm."

"I can't help it, I don't mean to ... Tajar! I can't believe you're doing this to me. I can't believe I'm letting you do this. Your fingers are?Your fingers are inside me! I'm all naked and you're all naked too, and I'm letting a man touch me inside my vale and I can't believe this is happening! Tajar, wait! Not so fast! Please Tajar I think?I think I'm?"

"I know. I know."

"I think I'm going to?I think it's happening?I think?"

"I know. I know."

She felt possessed. An evil spirit had taken over her body. But it wasn't completely in control?her own spirit was fighting it. She could feel the two spirits wrestling and clawing, inside her body. Like a pair of wildcats trying to mutilate and devour each other inside her stomach. She could feel them tangled and tumbling over and over in there.

One spirit wanted her to stop what Tajar was doing and get herself away from him, before it was too late ... while the other was fighting to make her stay put and see this though, until she reached completion. But as to which of them was the evil one, that she couldn't say. Not with certainty. It might have been the invader that was trying to save her, rather than ruin her. But actually, there was no invader, when she thought about it. Both the spirits, good and evil, whichever was which?neither one had crawled into her body from outside. She realized what had really happened. Her soul had split in two, and then the two halves went to war. She couldn't blame any exterior force for doing this to her.

"Tajar! Tajar! We can't do this! I can't let you do this!" She didn't feel like it was really her that was saying that. It was one of the spirits inside her, using her voice. And she wasn't sure she agreed with it. Maybe she did, but maybe she wished the other spirit was speaking, instead. She didn't know. She couldn't tell. But regardless, what she cried out was, "You mustn't make me?Oh! Stop! Stop!" As if she were certain. "Oh you have to stop!"

But he didn't listen. He broke his promise.

"Tajar, it's too much?I can't bear it! Tajar, don't make me! Please. I'm a princess!"

"Indeed you are," he countered, "A naked, lusty princess. Your gate is ablaze?I can feel it! You don't want me to stop. Do you?"

"No! No oh no! But Tajar! Oh Gods OH! Don't! I can't! Don't make me!"

"It's too late, now, naked Princess. You must trust me."

"Tajar! Tajar! Your fingers! Your fingers are?you're rubbing it too?Tajar!"

"I know. I know. It's all right. Let it happen. Let it come."

"I'm too scared! It's too much! I can't get away! I can't bear it!"

"You can! You will!"

"I shall scream. I fear I shall scream."

"Then scream."

"I mustn't. I'm a Princess. It's too?too much. I'm too scared."

"There is nothing to fear."

"But I'm embarrassed! A Princess mustn't?"

"Yes you must! Listen to me! Let yourself! Let it come! Now, your worship! Now!"

So in the end at last she did as she was told.

"Ahh!--AHH!--AAAHHH!"

She wasn't coming until she screamed as if she was?and then she was. It became real. She'd been trying to fool him into relenting. But pretending was somehow the breakthrough.

"Louder!" he insisted, "Louder!"

Again, she obeyed, and then again. She was sure she was dying. But it all made sense, then, everything she'd experienced?all the effort and turmoil. It all was proved worthwhile. It all suddenly made perfect sense, at least for a few brief moments.
Half a dozen heartbeats later ... "Stop now!" she gasped, panting, kicking, "It's finished! You can stop!"

"Not yet?not just yet!"

"But I?Tajar! TAJAR!" It happened again. Still, like before, she didn't quite die. She left her body and left the world, or seemed to ... but came back to herself, again. Too soon. And it was painful. It was so sad. One shouldn't have to return, from such a journey, such a height. She wished she could have kept going, kept flying off forever up and up into the blind burning white and red oblivion ... But it didn't work that way. And the flight was only an illusion, no doubt. Yes, it had to be. A cruel trick the body plays on the mind, disguising a messy physical experience as something spiritual and glorious. All that, just from a man rubbing a few minutes inside her secret parts.

"Oh Gods," she moaned, "Gods and Devils."

"See? I told you you weren't done," said Tajar, "You must trust me."

And that was when she looked sideways at him and noticed, to her wonder and dismay ...

"Tajar, your scepter! Your scepter!"

"Yes."

"It's?"

"Yes I know. I'm sorry."

"But it's?it's engorged itself again! We just eased it down?and now it's engorged anew!"

"Yes."

"But how? Why has it?"

"You know why, Princess."

"You mean me?"

"I mean you."

"Because I?because you made me?"

"Yes. Of course. A performance like that would fire the loins of any man."

"Even though I already?"

"Even though."

"But what shall we do about it now?"

"I must ease it again, I suppose. Unless you're willing to ease it for me, once more."

"I don't want to pull it again. I'm too tired now to pull it like that again."

"All right. That's all right."

"Don't do that, though. Don't do it that way. I'll still?help you. You needn't handle it yourself."

"But you said you don't want to?"

"Yes. I had another thought. I thought perhaps we could?perhaps you could?I mean, I thought I might let you?if you still wanted to?"

"What, Princess?"

"You know. You must know. Don't make me say it. I don't know how to say it properly."

"I need to hear you say it, even so. I want to hear it from your own mouth. There must be no doubt?no misunderstanding. Because before, you were so violently opposed to that idea."

"I have changed my mind. A princess may change her mind. And besides, I find I am still?I mean, seeing you engorged, again ... I realize that I myself need eased again as well."

"You are still aroused?"

"I think I am, somehow. I think perhaps I still am. Yes. Oh."

"Despite the touching?"

"It seems what you did to me, what I allowed you to do?what you made me experience?all that has only further 'fired my loins,' as you put it, rather than dampening those flames. I find I am more ... aroused now than when we began. I think now I want to?I want to try?I mean I would like to allow you to?to have me. To teach me to?"

"To what?"

"To rut. Do you want to? I think I would let you do it, if you want to. You may take my innocence, if you desire it. I ask you to treat me kindly. If you promise me that, I shall give myself to you. Fully. You may have all of me?if you vow not to hurt me."

"I cannot promise not to hurt you at all."

"I know. I know that. I only meant?"

"Yes. I swear, your worship, I will try to make it as easy for you as a man can." 6.

She owed this man. He had rescued her from a terrible death. And more than that, he had not forced himself upon her. She felt a greater obligation?and greater gratitude?to him for that than for the rescue. Because he could have done it so easily ... and she knew he had wanted her. From the beginning.

Many men would have seen it as their right, and her duty. He had taken possession of her, when he saved her. She would be dead if not for him. Thus her life?her body?belonged now to this man, and her obedience, along with it. He could make her a servant, or even a slave. If he chose. And many men, perhaps most men, would see nothing wrong in that. They would call that a fair deal. She herself had to admit the justice of that idea.

There was, after all, no one else to dispute his claim. No one else would want to. She had no family?no father nor husband, with a prior claim to her than Tajar. She wasn't wanted back at home, not by anyone. All her people, her entire nation, had turned against her, utterly. No citizen had spoke out in her defense, far as she knew. Not one. She was dethroned, and a condemned heretic, and would remain so. Tajar's actions?Chal Sar's death?had not altered those facts, had they?

She knew he had wanted to take her. Though he had denied it, over and over?she still knew he had wanted to do it. Her tears and pleading had moved him and dissuaded him?or at least dampened his desire. She wondered if it was true, when he said he had been testing her while they bathed, and that at first he had honestly believed she was encouraging his arousal, deliberately, and that she would welcome further advances ...that she would take equal delight in it. Or had he really not cared? Then only held off when she showed her distress?when she broke down, in front of him. It was possible he had actually meant to scare her, but then hadn't enjoyed it the way he had expected. So he hadn't gone further.

That was what she suspected. The way he had spoken, he had been trying to convince himself as much as her ... She was almost certain he had originally intended to ravage her. But then he changed his mind. He had spared her.

It didn't matter much what he had expected, what he had believed. It didn't make a difference whether he really thought she desired him then and would enjoy it, when he took her, or if actually in his heart he wanted her to suffer?because he thought he would enjoy that himself. That question was unanswerable, and irrelevant. All that mattered now, to her, was his final decision?the fact that he had relented, in spite of his lust. He had not yielded to his desire.

And if in fact she was right and his desire had been wicked, that made his choice more important, more powerful. She owed him more, if he was not as good and honorable man as he claimed, but had chosen to do right and spared her, even so.

She wanted to repay him for that now. He had earned it.

Because he had not forced what he wanted from her, she would now give it to him, freely. She would allow him what he desired. And not only out of obligation, but because she felt now she could trust him. She could trust him not to hurt her?not to ruin her. He could, and would, take what he wanted without hurting her.

So she shifted her position, on her back ... Stretching her arms and legs as far as she could, in the same angles they had been before ... when he first saw her, upon the rock.

"What are you doing? Why are you lying like that?" But then he realized.

She posed for him as if she were back upon the cliffs, upon the Dong. She stretched and tensed and trembled, as if she was again chained in place. Naked beneath him, spread wide open?entirely exposed, utterly defenseless.

She stared up into his eyes, through her spectacles, childishly chewing on her bottom lip.

"This is how you wanted me, isn't it?" she said, "This is what you want."

For a lengthy moment, he was stupefied. His expression, hovering over her, was quite comical. But then it changed. She watched him struggling with the idea?and with himself. Trying to find the words, and the will, to tell her not to make it this way. But then the conflict was replaced with resolution. His look went philosophical ... and now for a short while he held that expression, and held his body, very still ... studying her, contemplating her. Measuring her, and himself, no doubt. And then the thoughtful face dissolved, contorted, darkened?and Tajar's face became a face of hunger, and he was lowering himself upon her ... aligning his scepter to her gate ...

Would she scream? she asked herself, now the head of it was nudging her cleft?pressing, pressing ... Would she find she had to, when he started?

Would he keep pressing it in gradually like this? These slow, cautious nudges ... would he keep on like that until he tunneled in his entire length? That would take a century ... Or was this only preparatory? Would he all at once, any moment now, lunge and punch himself into her all the way in a single decisive thrust?

Which did she want? Which would be better?

He THRUST?

She found she had to scream. She found she couldn't prevent herself.

And she found, as he continued to THRUST and THRUST and THRUST?she found she couldn't stop.

7.

"Was I pleasing to you, Tajar? Was I enjoyable?"

"I think you know that already, your worship," he said. He wasn't looking at her, nor was she looking at him. They lay on the grass beside each other, both looking up into the sky.

"I just wish to be certain."

He rolled over and propped up on one elbow, grinning, and when she turned to face him he bent close to kiss her lightly, on her brow. "Then I tell you, you may be certain of that. You were very pleasing to me, Princess. You gave me much delight. Just as you did before?but more, this time. I shall treasure this memory. You are a rare prize, indeed. Well worth the risky work of slaying an odious monster. If only all my battles could conclude as fine as this one did."

She still lay in the pose she had taken, as if chained, as if still mounted on the cliffs, the Dong ...

But now her belly and breasts were streaked with his spray. His eruption. For he had pulled out from her passage before erupting. Leaving her cleft breached and stretched and swollen, seeping blood and "sex-honey," as he had called it. The outflow was making a little pool on the grass right under her. It had also run all the way down the crease of her ass, collecting there. She could feel it on her bottom hole?it was an icky feeling.

His eruption had sprayed amazingly far, when it burst from him. She had expected less to come out his scepter than before, but if anything, the reverse had been the case ... Three great individual serpents of the stuff, leaping tall arcs out over her and across her skin, from the mouth of his scepter, in turn?and each reaching further and higher than last! A glop of the stuff had even reached her chin. She considered wiping it off, on the back of her hand?yet there seemed little point, considering the rest of her, and all the rest of it.

She wondered how long her sore passage would continue to leak in this fashion. She wondered how long it would take to calm down and stop throbbing and reseal itself completely, if in fact it ever would. Or from now onward would she just have to get used to the open feeling down there? The feeling that the gash gaped enormously as it never had before its penetration and use ... that she was incapable of closing it?as if its muscles didn't work there anymore?because it was too swollen and too painful, too thoroughly violated and despoiled.

She had been taken. She was no longer innocent. She had given that up. She was a taken woman. This could never been undone.

All her life, she had wondered when it would happen and what it would be like. It's the same for everyone. Everyone wonders the same things, until the moment finally comes. Now at least she knew the man. Now the man knew her.

She would never have guessed, obviously, it would be a man like this, a place like this. She had imagined many different things, many different men ... Nothing close to the reality. Not at all.

But it hadn't been as bad as she had feared, had it? In fact it had gone much easier, much better than she had ever expected. For she'd always expected it to be bad, hadn't she? Yes. Of course she had. Whoever it ended up being, she had been sure it would be bad. Because with women, it was always bad. She had always been taught that.

She didn't even know who had first instilled that into her. She couldn't remember who it had been. One of her caretakers, one of her teachers. But she had believed it, all her life, whoever it had been. And though of course she had fantasized about the moment not being like that, but turning out good instead?turning out wonderful, like romance stories led you to think it should be?even so she had always known in real life it would not be like that. It would be a bad experience, something to be endured. A trial to prove her strength against. Because that was always how it was for women, no matter the man. That was what she was taught.

This had been hard. This had been difficult. But it not been bad, or not all bad. There had been good in it also. Though probably 'good' wasn't the right word. Because it had been a bad kind of good. What did you call that? When something good was also bad, or when something bad was also good. When something hurt you, but you liked it?when you liked something, even though it hurt you?

It didn't make sense to feel agony and delight at the same moment, from the same experience. And she didn't mean in different places, different sensations, crashing over each other?stubbing your toe, at the same moment you're smelling a flower ... This had been the same sensations, the same places and parts of her body, registering paradoxical opposites at the same time. Agony that was delightful?Delight that was agonizing.

They were so right, after all, those that called "the worm in the apple" a stinger. That was so much truer a name for what it was and what it did.

Rutting was very, very strange. Her principal emotion, in the aftermath, was bewilderment. Something else she would never guessed about it?to end in this state of whirling confusion. Too utterly baffled to feel dismay or relief or anything else. Save only exhaustion ... Confusion was her uppermost feeling, but exhaustion stood a near second. The business of rutting was not only very, very strange, but very, very tiring. Even though all she had done was lie here and accept it and feel it. Tajar had done all the actual rutting?she'd only lay under him and been rutted. Yet feeling these feelings, alone, somehow, can wear one's body out. The experiencing of this experience, tactile and emotional ... It had drained her to dregs, body and spirit. Just the feeling of feelings! She had scarcely moved, the entire time, except jostling a little, and only because of Tajar's exertions on top of her. So there was something else she had never known could happen before?and probably never would have believed until right this moment, if anyone had tried to properly prepare her.

That wasn't the only unfathomable contradiction ... Because exhausted as she was, she also felt energized?exhilarated. She was too tired to move?and yet at the same time she felt like she could fly, if she chose to. Or no, like she was flying already ... if only in spirit. Separated from her body, floating up into the clouds ... She knew it was just a feeling, but what a powerful feeling it was ... Lying on this grass, staring at those clouds, it all felt like a dream, or even a lie?she wasn't really there, but actually far, far off, all the way up among those clouds. Part of them, perhaps?perhaps that's what clouds were. Spirits in the air. Hovering, drifting, intermingled ... an interesting idea. That was what she felt like, that was what she'd turned into?a spirit, a cloud. She felt elevated and vast and shining?but shapeless, intangible, and immeasurably distant, from the person she had been, the world as she'd always understood it.

Closing her eyes killed the feeling. Put her back into her body, back into the world. Back on her back, in the grass. And now, instead of feeling separate from her body, she was extraordinarily aware of every part of it, every sensation ... The needly tickling of the grass stems squashed beneath her and surrounding her, and the smell of it, and the smell of flowers. The noises of birds and insects, and Tajar's breathing, and the the current of the stream?and she realized suddenly she could smell the stream, as well. She had been smelling it all along, but hadn't noticed it for it was until just then. And then she noticed her heart was speeding?pounding in her ears. And it must have been pounding like that all this while. She wondered how long it would take to slow itself down. And her nose had started running, making her sniffle ... and then making her sneeze.

She felt wiser, now, and so much older?but the great revelation of it, another contradiction, was how little had actually changed, or ever would. A little web of tissue had been punctured within the channel of her womb, and it would never be restored. But there really wasn't much more to it than that. Physically, that wasn't much at all. She had been penetrated by a man, and then vigorously jostled beneath him until he had satisfied his lust ... But that had been all that happened. She had not been drastically reshaped or marked by any of it, at least not permanently?Tajar's spray, and stink, covered her now, but it would all wash off of her, easily enough. Her swelling and aches would fade and subside ...

There was, after all, no great lasting lesson to learn, from this experience?except that very fact.

She was a woman now, apparently?at least, by a man's definition. But if that was true, the distinction between a girl and woman is quite a trivial thing. The mere breach of a seal, a wisp of tissue ... If this was womanhood, it was joke, but not a funny one.

"Tajar of Jev," she asked, "Am I a good lover, would you say? Compared to others you have known? I know of course there have been many, many others. How do I measure, against the rest? You must answer me honestly. Please, I want to know. Am I a good lover?"

"You are a very beautiful and desirable, Princess. One of the most beautiful and desirable I have ever partnered with."

"That is not what I am asking."

"I understand, Princess. In truth, if you must know, you are not yet a good lover, your worship. Not in the fullest sense. But please, do not be alarmed. You must let me explain. You are exciting, that is certain. You are passionate and you flare my own passion. Not your form alone, but your character as well. You show much potential, as a lover. The idea you had, for us, the pose you took ... that was a daring suggestion, and yes, very exciting, indeed. But I will warn you now, in the future, do not rely too much on such a role, with me or any other man. You will learn the best lovers are not so passive, nor compliant. A woman must be more than a ... receptacle, if she wishes to achieve true power over her partners, and a true union. A good lover participates in the act more aggressively. Now, of course this was your first time. You must not at all fault yourself for not knowing more, not doing more. But you will discover, as a female, there can and should be far more to the acts of love than lying still with your legs apart, as you did for me this time. There are better and more engaging possibilities for a woman to perform, if she chooses, if she exerts herself. Many never learn that, or are never allowed to, by wicked or frightened men, oppressing them, which is tragic, and also foul."

"But Tajar, I?I mean I felt?"

"I know. Here, today, you gave your body to me, and put yourself entirely at my control, to make use of for my pleasure. It was an act of gratitude?a reward for the service I did you. You offered yourself up as a prize?a trophy, and a feast. And I delighted in that control and in that use, and the trust you granted me in allowing it, and now again I thank you for it. All of it. It is a formidable experience, for a princess to allow a brute like me to subjugate and rule over her body in such fashion. It made me proud and powerful, a mighty monarch. Today I took a princess's innocence, and even now it makes my scepter throb again, saying it, and remembering all the magnificent sensations of it. But take heed, you must not let yourself always be used thus. Not by me, nor by anyone else. Even if today on the grass here beneath me you enjoyed it."

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Greg and Cassidy Chronicles Ep. 01

Posted on : 2012-01-27 21:34:23.815172

For Fernando, it was a very bad day. He arrived at his new home, his new so called hell, a slave mine near the center of the galaxy. He had traveled aboard a galactic slave ship for over a week, packed together with others who had also lost their fre ...
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Tags : male submissive,strapon,story,read

A Teacher's Way Out of a Dilemma Ch. 10

Posted on : 2012-01-27 14:30:54.416449

Last of Chapter nine

I went to the ladies room and returned to find our breakfast was already on the table. We finished our meal and I washed down mine with a glass of milk. What I did not know at that time was that while I was away ...
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Tags : sub,strapon,femdom,female domination

All in a Day's Work

Posted on : 2012-01-28 17:11:19.189794

I had worked for this company for almost 6 months, and I'd never felt as invisible as I felt now. I worked as a receptionist for a medium sized business. Answering phones, sorting mail and copying documents didn't sound too glamorous and it wasn't, b ...
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Tags : female dominant,story,sex,bondage

Everything Has a Price Ch. 06

Posted on : 2012-01-27 13:38:27.947825

Author's note: This story doesn't seem to be as popular as some of my others, I don't know why that is particularly... it's a lot more 'real', certainly more 'real' than 'Owned!' or 'Out of Your Hands' which are both quite far-fetched really... It ...
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Tags : male submissive,book,strapon,read

Mickie Gets What's Hers Ch. 11

Posted on : 2012-01-26 15:11:33.189486

Torrie Wilson's eyes blinked slowly open as she tried to get her bearings. She appeared to be hanging by some kind of loosely hanging ropes however when Torrie tried to move she found out they weren't that loose. She could stand, even move a little b ...
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