Her eyes slowly opened, brilliant green wide eyes the color of emeralds or the green, green grass that grew in the gardens during the all too brief months of spring and summer. They were slitted. Like a cats, people would always say. Even after all this time, she couldn’t help roll her eyes when someone said that. It was so… cliché. Obvious.
Obvious or not, it was still pretty accurate. Like a cats, Silmaria’s eyes were slitted, sure. They also saw incredibly well in the dark. The room was near pitch black; the candles had already burned down to nothing, and the fire in the tiny, pathetic excuse for a hearth in the corner of the room was out as well, leaving nothing but the barest remaining glow from the embers, and the very first rays of sun peeking meekly through the cracks of the room’s stone slab walls.
Silmaria threw the threadbare cover off and sat up. She stretched, yes, catlike, arching her back and wriggling briefly, then glancing around the darkened room with clear seeing eyes. None of the other girls were awake yet. Good, she thought; most of them she couldn’t stand to begin with, and the few she could would hog all the water. The young woman rose gracefully to her feet, silent and careful. She quickly threw on one of her plain scratchy woolen dresses, more for the sake of warmth than modesty, before gingerly stepping around and between and even over the other women sprawled in their pallets in the small servant’s quarter.
Quietly, Silmaria padded down the sleeping halls, the cold stone under her bare feet, causing the short, sleek hair of her pelt to raise all over her body. The halls at the back of the Manor were a maze, twisting and winding and leading to a multitude of servant’s quarters, washrooms, storage cubbies, broom closets, larders, pantries, and other dusty and neglected nooks. But Silmaria knew the Manor well and could have found her way even without her night-eyes. She pushed a door open, wrinkled her nose at the screech of the old hinges, and stepped out into the only-just-barely dawning air outside. The cold rushed over her even more frigidly than in the empty halls inside.
Wanting to spend as little time out in the cold as possible, Silmaria sprang to the small stone well to the left of the door and set to pumping water into a much used wooden bucket. It was hard work; this early in the morning and this close to winter the pump took an agonizingly long time to get the frigid water moving. The Gnari girl was persistent though, and working the pump kept the chill at bay. At last, her beat up old bucket was full. She hefted it carefully; in need of a washing or not, she had no desire to get drenched out here in the cold. A careful nudge pushed the door open, then closed once more.
Silmaria was almost feeling awake and in a halfway good mood as she rounded the corner to the corridor leading back to the washroom adjacent to her quarters.
“Sil, drop the pail and get your narrow ass in here,” A familiar voice called just moments after she passed the main kitchen.
Silmaria blanched and for fleeting moment she considered walking on as if she’d heard nothing. But it would be pointless; Cook would only raise her voice and scream after her until the whole Manor was springing wide eyed from bed. Turning, she kept her bucket of water still clutched hopefully in her hand.
She really didn’t want to see Cook this morning. Sure, she would rather see Cook than just about anyone else in the Manor, but she didn’t want to see anyone this early in the morning.
Cook stood in the door of the kitchen, her large, round form blocking most of the light from the kitchen fires crackling behind her. Cook had been working the kitchen at the Manor longer than Silmaria had been living. So long that most people half believed Cook really was her name. She had short, wiry brown hair gone gray, a plain face that scowled frequently but smiled well when someone made the old lass laugh, and an abundance of hip and bosom that made Silmaria’s own, which were amply generous to anyone’s appreciative eye, look like a girl barely in bloom.
Cook’s old apron was already heavily caked in flour from the first batch of bread she’d already sent into the oven, and a similar film of the white powder was splotched all the way up to the elbows of her heavy arms. Her hands were strong and worn from many a year of kitchen work, and presently planted on her hips as she absently tapped a big wooden ladle on the thigh of her dress, missing the apron completely.
“My ass isn’t really all that narrow,” Silmaria replied wryly. She silently hoped Cook would relent and leave her be even as she knew there was no chance. Her bath was slipping further away by the moment.
“I’ve enough backside for three of you!” Cook quipped. “In the kitchen! Now!”
Silmaria sighed. She knew it was useless to argue; Cook was as relentless a woman as ever lived, and if she had her mind set on Silmaria helping in the kitchens, she wasn’t likely to give the a girl a moment of peace until she complied. Which normally wouldn’t have been a problem. Silmaria didn’t mind helping Cook with kitchen duties; on the contrary, of all her duties and tasks and work at the Manor, kitchen duty was one of the most enjoyable to her.
Most any day she would have gone readily. Only… Silmaria had a well-known stubborn streak of her own. And it was too early for people to be ordering her about already. Even Cook. Especially Cook.
And… her bath…
“But… my bath…” Even to Silmaria it sounded little more than a halfhearted, grumpy complaint. It was all she really had the energy for this early in the morning.
“Bath nothing! Taleesha is abed with fever and Tomar was sent to the fields to help with the last of the harvest. There’s no one else, and I’m not about to feed this whole bloody house on my own. And you haven’t had kitchen duty in longer than I can spit! Get your mangy hide in here!”
“My hide isn’t mangy! Now move if you want my help. My ass may be narrow, but it’s not going to get itself into your kitchen if yours keeps taking up all the doorway!” Silmaria snapped. She let her bucket drop to the floor ungently, sending water sloshing over the side to the stone floor. She stomped her way to the kitchen, taking some small satisfaction in her little protest. She would help, and she wouldn’t complain about it. But if she were going to be separated from her bath to go sweat and labor in the kitchen all day, she damn sure wasn’t going to act glad about it!
Cook just let out a cackle of laughter and walked back into the kitchen; the old woman was well used to Silmaria and her dispositions. The Gnari girl’s moods were as bright and warm as summer’s sun, and likewise as dark and frigid as a moonless winter night. Silmaria could be prickly at times true enough, and frequently guarded. But she never meant much harm by her grumblings, and no matter what black mood might take her, she would work hard through them.
And work hard through her sulk she did. She pulled the first batch of bread from the oven and as Cook prepared a vast amount of porridge, Silmaria set to making a second batch of bread. She beat at the dough on her board with her fists, kneading it with energy and purpose, heedless of how much flour dusted her worn out dress. After the dough was set aside to rise she took a large joint of venison from the larder and skewered the meat upon a spit, then pushed it over the central fire to roast. This done, she helped Cook prepare small griddle cakes.
As it often did, Silmaria’s bad mood lifted quickly. She and Cook worked together and she laughed at the older woman’s crass jokes, her own wicked humor coming out as they worked over the cooking fires. The two made jests at each other’s expense and laughed easily together. Cook was too old and had done too much living to have much in the way of shame or decency left. Silmaria, on the other hand, simply had too sharp and loose a tongue for her own good. With just the two of them there they could speak and laugh plainly without worrying about the judgment of the other servants, most of whom snatched at gossip the way the dogs snatched at kitchen scraps. Not that either of them cared overmuch what their fellows thought of them.
Still. The surly, sharp humored old cook was the closest thing that Silmaria had to a real friend.
Breakfast was a busy affair. The other servants and workers came to the kitchens in a rush of bustle and activity. Most of them simply grabbed up food and provisions and left, the field workers especially taking their meals and breaking their fast on the way. For a few moments the kitchen was crowded and full of the noise of stomping feet and yelled jests, friends and fellows exchanging goodmornings and how-do-you-dos.
Cook was a bear of a woman during it all, roaring at this person and that. No, your venison is over there. The bread is not burnt, take it, there won’t be more later. No you can’t have seconds, I don’t care if you missed supper last night, it’s almost bleeding winter and I haven’t got a bottomless pantry or an endless larder, thank-you-very-much. Hey, you, get out the sodding doorway!
Silmaria stood to the side, helping Cook as best she could and making as much of a point to not talk to the others as they made a point to not talk to her. Few people in the Manor spoke with her, and those few seemed to be elsewhere this morn. Those who acknowledged her at all did so with baleful stares and narrowed eyes. The women were especially bold with their stares, contempt and sometimes outright hostility naked in their gazes.
Silmaria didn’t flinch from the looks and in fact made it a point to meet them glare for glare. She was used to it by now; even in DarkFyre, the biggest city in the North, jewel of the Dale and the land’s namesake, home to nearly every race and folk you could dream, Gnari were passing rare and mistrusted.
The feline Demi-Humans were unnerving to many Humans. Gnari seemed a hybrid of Humans and some great hunting cat; though Human in shape in nearly every way, Gnari had the pronounced ears of a feline, twitchy and attuned to carefully listen for prey or threat. Where a Human’s tailbone ended a long prehensile tail extended, giving them superior balance. Their graceful, slender fingers ended in small wickedly pointed hooked claws which could be extended and retracted much in the way any feline could. Their eyes, slitted and feline, gave them exceptional night vision, but simply struck most Humans as eerie and unnatural. Gnari’s bodies were covered in a pelt of fur which ranged from short, sleek, and smooth to long and thick shags of hair. The coloring and patterning of a Gnari’s fur was as unique and individual as a fingerprint.
Most Humans insisted that it was Gnari culture, so unlike their own, that made them so distrustful and uncomfortable of the catfolk. Silmaria found that hard to believe; she knew even less about her people’s culture than most Humans did, and that had never stopped them from finding fault with her.
She got more sympathy from other Demi-Humans at least, but they numbered few. Though Dwarves and Elven folk, Halflings and even SkyRacers were more common than her people, Humans by far were the most predominant species in the Northlands. And in her experience, the most prejudiced.
Many races cohabited the Dale, but Humans held the power. Most of the wealthiest merchants and most successful tradesmen were Human. Demi-Human land owners were almost unheard of. And, of course, Humans made up the Noble and Royal caste ruling the land. Demi-Human blood in a Noble was… well. Half breeds happened, certainly. But a Noble half breed wasn’t even given the luxury of being an unacknowledged Bastard. Demi-Human blood was tainted blood in a Noble’s case and any half breed child born of a Noble was promptly put down.
It was a bitter draught, one Silmaria still struggled at times to swallow. It wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t right. She was what she was, and there was no help for it nor changing it. She’d never been given a choice in the matter. In a house comprised mostly of Human servants and workmen, Silmaria was a pariah through no fault of her own. Many of the servants distrusted her and kept their distance. They tolerated her because they had no choice. The unfriendly looks had become worse though, more blatant and open now that Master Edwin was gone. His watchful eye and stern hand was gone, leaving tongues to wag more freely than in the past.
“Sil?” Cook clapped her hands in front of the girl’s face and a small puff of flour rose. Silmaria started guiltily and blinked her vivid green eyes at the robust woman. She swallowed down the complex whirl of emotions. Humans. If nothing else, they were never simple.
“Sorry, I was miles away,” Silmaria apologized. Breakfast finished, their work was still not done; kitchen work was an all-day affair, and they were already working on the midday meal. Cook was preparing meat pies, stuffed with lambs meat, potatoes, carrots and shallots. Silmaria was rolling out sheets of dough to form the crusts of the pies, and had lost herself in thought while working.
“All the attention getting you down?” Cook asked as she diced the carrots on an ancient and much notched cutting board.
“Hardly,” Silmaria returned, rolling her eyes. “I really don’t give two shits what they think of me. Most of them are too spineless to say anything to my face anyway, and it’s not as if looks can kill.”
Cook chuckled and tossed a smirk her way. “Good thing, too, or you’d be buried out in the east gardens.”
“Hah! Not likely. They’d probably say my corpse would poison the roses,” Silmaria returned with a half-hearted scowl.
“Don’t let that sour lot bother you, Sil. Not worth your troubles,” Cook said as she started in on the parsnips.
“No, they’re not. And they don’t. So drop it,” Silmaria replied firmly.
“Hmph. Maybe they’re right about you, anyhow. Huffy little wench.”
“I haven’t even started huffing yet,” Silmaria shot back in something very much like a huff.
“Now there’s the pot calling the kettle black!” Cook laughed, and gave that smile that made her not-quite-so-plain. “If you’d keep those legs of yours shut once in awhile the lasses around here wouldn’t give you such a time, you know!”
Silmaria finished rolling out the pie crusts and turned to face Cook, grinning despite herself and resting the flour dusted roller on one curving hip. “Aw, what’s wrong, Cookie? Is that a bit of jealousy I hear?”
“Please,” Cook snorted. “When I was your age I had the lads lined up so thick the guards told them to move along for ruining city commerce.”
“No doubt. Yet somehow, I don’t think you got nearly as much grief for it,” Silmaria replied, her voice gone melancholy as her playfulness fled. She picked up the sliced carrots and put them in the pies.
“That’s because I didn’t go breaking the species barrier,” Cook said gently. She held up her hands, one still clutching her knife, before Silmaria could speak. “I’m not sayin’ there’s anything wrong with it, Sil. You know I don’t give a spit whether you bed a Human or a Dwarf or a donkey. It’s your business, not mine, and no one else’s besides. But you know most the sods around here have small minds and big mouths.”
“So I’m supposed to keep myself to myself, say yes sir and no ma’am and mind my manners. I guess I should be seen and not heard and never touch anyone that isn’t ‘my kind’ and all the other nonsense then, hmm? Sounds like a wonderful life to me,” Silmaria tried to keep a tone of sarcastic flippancy in her voice to disguise the bitterness, and failed spectacularly.
“No, lass. I’d never want you to be anything but what you are. Just remember, the bolder you are, the harder they’ll make it on you.”
Silmaria shrugged one graceful shoulder and wiped the sweat from her brow. “Life’s hard. You get used to it.”
“Hard and harder every day,” Cook nodded, and for a time the pair lapsed into silence as they worked.
The midday meal came and went. Cook was used to working with two hands to assist her, so the women had to work without break or pause throughout the day to keep up with the demands of the kitchen. Silmaria didn’t mind; the work served to keep her mind off the unpleasantness permeating the Manor of late, and she preferred Cook’s company and conversation over most.
Dinner arrived. Cook divvied out a thin stew of potatoes and chicken fat over the trenchers of crumbled or burnt bread Silmaria handed her, letting the stew soak into the bread. The field hands came trudging in. The lot of them were dirty and tired and caked to the elbow in mud, but even the most listless of them stomped his boots heavily before coming into the kitchen. Cook was fearsome with her threats when it came to keeping mud out of her kitchen, brandishing the sharpness of her tongue as readily as the sharpness of her knives.
As the Gnari girl handed out the last of the rations Cook wiped her hands on her apron and shook her head slowly. “Harvest’s bad this year. Worse than it oughta be.”
“How’d you figure that?” Silmaria asked. She leaned against one of the counters and wiggled her feet to relieve the ache in them. She’d never even gotten a chance to retrieve her shoes or slippers. Cook would’ve never let her regular help get away with being barefoot in the kitchens. The hard stones underfoot made her feet and calves ache after so many hours on her feet, but at least they were pleasantly warmed by the big cooking fires.
“You can see it in the men’s faces,” Cook explained, her face pinched. “Gloom over every one of them. Not the faces of men who’ve brought home food for a well fed winter.”
“Mm,” Silmaria muttered, and her tail flicked restlessly. “It’s already getting miserably cold, and winter’s not even really here yet. Our stores are lower than they should be. A bad harvest on top… it’ll be a long, lean winter. Too lean. And all of us leaner already. Even you.”
“Brat,” Cook muttered with a smirk.
“Master Edwin wouldn’t stand for it.”
“No, he wouldn’t,” Cook said, her voice as solemn as it ever got.
“Steward Jonor is making a right mess of all of it,” Silmaria scowled angrily and her ears flattened to the top of her head.
“Be quiet, fool of a girl!” Cook hissed, quickly glancing about the kitchen and the halls just outside, but already the workers and servants had either finished their supper or taken it away with them, and only the two of them remained.
“Why ought I?” Silmaria protested, crossing her arms stubbornly under her breasts. She had that wild look in her slitted eyes that Cook knew meant she was stewing for a fight. “What will he do? Cut my rations? Double my work assignments? Make me work the fields? Stop providing clothes, or blankets, or anything else I have need of to be warm and comfortable and content? Too late for any of that.”
Cook shook her head and let out the sigh of the long-suffering. “Don’t be stupid, Sil. Things can get worse. Much worse. We’re not in chains yet. We’re not being beaten or confined to quarters. We’re not working until our backs break, though I’ll be damned if mine doesn’t feel like it’s about to sometimes… the point is, our lot can always get worse. Jonor is the worst kind of man we could hope for right now; he’s a nobody like the rest of us, and he’s been given the authority of a Noble. He’s got no real power, but he’s got all the power. Until the young Sir comes back, Steward Jonor’s got the run o’ this place, and all of us with it.”
“If he comes back, you mean,” Silmaria interjected bitterly.
“He will. And in the meantime, you’d be smart not to tempt the Steward to flex his new authority,” Cook went on, “He’s already making life harder on us than he has to. Give him a reason, any reason at all, and he’ll make it straight up hell, mark my words.”
Silmaria knew Cook was right; even with spending most of her time tucked away in the kitchen, the old woman was shrewd and full of experience. But Silmaria was too willful and proud, and angry to admit it. Instead she simply said, “Lord Edwin would have Jonor’s guts for garters. If his son were any sort of man, he would, too.”
“That’s enough lip for one day, missy,” Cook said firmly. She made a clouting motion with one solid fist, which Silmaria slipped away from with hardly a thought. “The ovens gave you heat exhaustion for your tongue to be so bold. That, or your head is fuller of rocks than I thought! Go to bed and don’t talk no more nonsense on the way. You’ll have us all in gibbets, I swear!”
“Love you too, Cookie,” Silmaria laughed at her friend’s scolding. She lunged in and gave the large woman a hug, then ducked and spun away as Cook half-heartedly swatted at her again. The Gnari girl grabbed up a leftover heel of bread, shoved it into her mouth, and wished the cook a mumbled good evening before slipping away from the kitchens.
It bordered on ridiculous that Cook of all people should lecture her on being too outspoken; the woman was as blunt and subtle as a hammer between the eyes. Silmaria often imagined that Cook saw too much of her own brash, outspoken ways in her, thus prompting the outbursts of reasonable advise. Silmaria smiled at the thought as she chewed her pilfered bit of bread. Cook’s advice was sound and reasonable, she knew. She also knew that she would no more follow it than Cook herself.
Cook was doing a better job of biting her tongue, but Silmaria knew the woman felt the same way. Everyone did, she was certain, even if no one had the courage to admit to it. Jonor was a fool, a craven, a leech, and a bully beside. The Manor’s deterioration since Jonor came into control of the estate was appalling. Silmaria did not even understand how the little man had undone so much good and prosperity in a matter of months. He’d neglected the upkeep of the noble house, ground the servants under heel, and jealously coveted every bit of wealth and power he could get his hands on.
Even as he began to take ill, Master Edwin had seen that his home and his servants were in proper order. He had been a wise man, and kind in a curt, no-nonsense sort of way. He had a nobility and proudness of bearing that made his servants and serfs proud to serve him, and Silmaria had been no exception. The Lord had always been fair, and seemed to have genuine care for the lot of his servants, a passing rare trait in a Nobleman. He would never have stood for the neglect to his house, the sullying of his family’s name, the squandering of his hard earned wealth and the mistreatment of the servants that worked so hard in his name.
And then there was the son. Silmaria had nothing but contempt for her Lord’s successor and heir. Five months gone since Lord Edwin’s death and his son had yet to make any sort of appearance at his holdings. Oh, many argued, the young Lord was busy away at battle. He was occupied with the war effort. Silmaria didn’t care. Yes, the war was important, fine and sure. But she didn’t see how the man could possibly leave his father’s house unattended for so long. It smacked of the behavior of an irresponsible and uncaring boy to her, that he could leave his inheritance to crumble to nothing and the people who had served his line faithfully to suffer under a would-be tyrant. The son was little more than a shadow of the father, as far as Silmaria was concerned.
The Gnari woman stopped midstride, standing in the hall, clenching her jaw tight. Her tail lashed the air behind her in agitation as she struggled to swallow her feelings. Sadness, anger, and despair welled up from deep inside, bubbling and seething and ugly. For a moment they rushed up, overwhelming, trying so desperately to get out. Silmaria fought them down, swallowed them, beat them back and buried them deep once more. With a shaky breath she began walking once more, willing her claws back into their sheaths as she clenched her small hands into fists.
Deciding she wasn’t going to be getting any rest while in such a black mood, Silmaria turned down a turn in the corridor and padded off with purpose in her stride. Though it had only been full dark an hour the Manor halls were empty, for which she was grateful. Light radiated gently from the candles glowing behind wall sconces of glass as she made her way to the servant’s entrance to the gardens at the back of the Manor. She went to the same well she visited this morning and once more vigorously worked the pump until her bucket was full, breath puffing in steamy clouds in the silvery light of a half moon.
Silmaria had been willing to clean up in freezing well water this morning, but after a full day spent sweating in the kitchen she was having none of it. She slipped into the kitchen on her way back down the halls to find it empty and Cook already retired for the night. Silmaria was in luck; the cooking fires had burned down to little more than heated embers, just hot enough to warm the water without catching her wooden bucket afire. She hung the bucket by its handle on the hook arm they used to hold the heavy kettles up over the cook fires, and swung it over one of the slowly dying kitchen fires.
While she waited for the water to heat, the Gnari woman sat on the still warm stones before the fire. She let out a long sigh as she willed herself to relax, then had a long, luxurious stretch before curling up with her legs tucked under her dress while she laid on her side. Her dancing slitted eyes gazed into the orange glow of the embers in the firepit, letting her thoughts fall away as the fire held her half mesmerized.
She could almost feel herself sway to the subtle, undulating dance of the flame. Fire fascinated her, and frightened her. And she had ever been pulled to its warmth. Her lips twitched into a smile as she considered what she must look like, curled into a neat little ball before the fire, her tail lazily flicking behind her with a sleepy will of its own. She’d always hated when Humans compared her to some common housecat… but for all her protests, her folk clearly did hold some common thread with felines of all kinds, and some habits were simply too firmly compelling a part of who and what she was.
Damned if she’d ever admit it, though.
Satisfied that the water was warm enough, she grabbed up a thick woolen cloth and pulled the hook off the flames. She kept the cloth in her hands to grab the bucket and hauled it out the kitchen. After the kitchen’s warmth, the smooth stones underfoot in the halls were cruelly cold. She stopped suddenly, her keen ears twitching atop her head as she made out the muffled sound of conversation.
A few more steps carried her to a bisecting hallway, and she saw two shadows dancing in the candle light cast from the wall sconce down the hall to her left. In no mood to be spotted, Silmaria slinked forward on sure, light feet past the intersecting halls. Carefully silent and avoiding spilling the water in her bucket, the girl made her way to the washroom and closed the door behind her, praying all the while the hinges wouldn’t squeak and draw some passerby. The door was mercifully silent.
The wash room was small and cramped, little more than a cell with a rack with much used rags hanging to dry and be reused and a shelf with a basin for washing. There was a dinged, smudged, dirty brass mirror hanging on the wall above the basin, a rare courtesy extended to the house’s women. It was past its prime and in bad need of replacement, but Silmaria could still see her reflection in it, sort of, and so it was one of the few luxuries the servant had left.
The water was just hot enough to put off a bit of steam when she poured it from the bucket to the basin. She slipped back out into the hall just long enough to swipe a candle from a nearby wall sconce, and set it in the candle holder inside the washroom. The lone candle was plenty enough light for her sensitive night eyes to see by. She slipped out of her dress and hung it on a peg set in the wall.
“Sweet mercy,” Silmaria groaned aloud as she dipped her hands and forearms into the warm basin water. “If I’d just gotten to do this in the first place, it would have been a much finer day all around. Damn you, Cook.”
The Gnari woman snatched the cleanest looking rag from the rack and wet it thoroughly, then grabbed a grubby sliver of hard soap from beside the basin and began to wash. She took her time, thoroughly working over each part of her body, scrubbing suds into her short pelt. She washed until she had the smell of sweat and cooking fire scoured away, then rinsed, and then because the water hadn’t gone to ice yet, she even washed her hair. It was a peasant’s bath, a standing scrub down at a basin with water that was just over lukewarm at best. Silmaria didn’t care; after a day’s labor, it felt divine.
After washing, Silmaria took one of the woolen clothes hanging from a peg. She stared at it dubiously for a moment, feeling certain that it would leave her dirtier than she was after the bath, if not before. But she would have to dry her hair, not to mention her fur, or she’d freeze solid during the night.
As she toweled herself dry slowly and thoroughly, Silmaria stared at herself in the mirror. She was not in the habit of reflecting on her appearance. Maybe it was tonight’s melancholy, but she found herself in an odd enough frame of mind to really linger and watch herself.
She was a fair woman, she knew. She could admit that without vanity. She was short of stature, with most Human men standing at least a head taller than her. Her wide eyes were a striking, rich emerald, made all the more eye-catching by her exotic feline pupils. Her nose small and cutely rounded at the end. Her face was delicate and heart shaped, with softly defined cheeks and full, pouting lips with her upper lip forming a neat, graceful cupids bow.
Silmaria’s hair was thick and heavy, a mass of dark tumbling curls that tended to fall in dense coils of black silk across one side of her face if she left it unbound. It hung in waves and curls, spilling down to the just above the small of her back. Where it should have appeared unkempt and messy and tangled, Silmaria’s hair looked untamed, wild, and sensually alluring, even more notable with the two delicate furred ears emerging from the lush swirl of curls.
The Gnari girl’s pelt was striking to say the least. Her fur was short, sleek and smooth, the texture like velvet to the touch. Its pattern was much like that of a wild tiger, mostly bright shades of orange with a patterning of white in places along her belly and the underside of her arms and the insides of her thighs. Deep shades of black striped her body along her flanks and back and breasts, and cut diagonal along her cheeks, giving her face a severity and ferocity that was disarming.
As her eyes slid along the mirror’s reflection, Silmaria let her hand follow her eye’s path. Her people were fit, svelte, graceful creatures, built for physical activity and sensuality, and she was no exception. Though short in stature, her limbs were long and lean, supply made and strong. Her belly was flat and taut, and her legs were powerful, made for leaping and springing and running, smooth and soft to the touch and firmly muscled.
Her hips had the shapely rounding of a woman who would breed well. Her breasts were generously heavy and alluring, perfect twin teardrops still firm with youth and well made, with dusky pink nipples stiff and thick from the cool air. Despite Cook’s insistence of narrowness, her ass was deliciously generous and rounded, firm and inviting to the touch and softly, smoothly muscled much as her thighs were. Her tail began just above the crack of her ass, extending down in orange and black stripes all the way to just above her ankles, and though it seemed to unnerve Humans to no end, most times Silmaria hardly noticed it more than she would the nose on her face.
Hands following eyes, Silmaria cupped one generously rounded breast, feeling the warmth and weight in her palm. She shivered softly, thumb and forefinger knowingly finding the thick, aching nub of her nipple and giving it a firm pinch. She bit back a gasp as pleasure exploded through her body, a direct line racing from her pink nipple, down her flat, taut belly, directly into her pussy. Her eyes staring at her reflection, smudged and warped in the brass mirror, flickering in the weak candle light, as mesmerizing as the flames in the kitchen fire had been. She pinched her nipple again, harder this time, and fire burned in her veins as the slight edge of stinging pain only served to stoke her arousal higher. Her fingers slinked slowly down, brushing over her smooth pelt where it paled on her white stomach.
With an abruptness that left her literally shaking, the Stirring came over her. It was beyond a want, beyond an ache. Her cunt burned. She throbbed intensely in time with the beating of her pulse. The desperate, maddening hunger was like a hole in her heart, a need to be filled and fucked until she felt some semblance of normalcy again. Every time the Stirring overtook her it was like a slap in the face, sudden and sharp and impossible to ignore. And it only grew worse as the years went by. She dreaded to think how it would be when she came into her prime.
Silmaria’s fingers unerringly found her cunt. Her palm cupped her mound, soft and pillowy and supply thick. Her fingers toyed with her outer lips, the same short, velvety smooth pelt of fur there. Her inner folds were pink and thick and slick already with her arousal. The Gnari girl bit her full lower lip as she stroked her slit, her fingers gliding along her swollen, slippery folds. Her sex ached from last night still. Only a night ago…the memories were vivid and heady. Hands gripping her graceful hips. The fullness inside her, her sex split and stretched. The thrusts from behind becoming more and more urgent as he grunted into her ear and she eagerly pushed back into him, gyrating her ass desperately, taking him deeper and deeper still…
Silmaria was practically panting now. She was so very hot. Her sticky pussy juice was flowing, dripping from her and coating her fingers as she ran them up and down her slit. She wetted her lips with her tongue and gasped as she ran her fingers over the hard swell of her clit, rubbing the aching bundle of nerves in slow, tight circles. She leaned against the wall, the stone cool against her bare back.
The young servant was trembling and her core throbbed, milking at nothing in her desperate hunger. Her free hand toyed with the aching tips of her breasts and she once again pinched and pulled at her nipples, the intensity of her firm, aggressive touch so good, so very good, but oh, if only it were someone else’s, a man with rough and capable and cruel hands who would grip her flesh tight as he took her…
The Gnari bit her full lower lip, groaning out her pleasure. She then tensed suddenly her body going still and her soft ears perked attentively as she heard the murmur of conversation and the scuff of soft footfalls coming down the hall.
Driven more by surprise than shame Silmaria almost panicked, yanking her fingers from the warmth of her loins and reaching for her dress. Then she calmed and a curious sort of anticipating crept over her. She thought about the possibilities. The two men making their way down the hall would likely be more than glad to provide some relief from the overwhelming ache Silmaria was feeling tonight… though she normally tried her best to practice some measure of selectiveness and discretion in her night encounters, sometimes the Stirring was simply too intense, too difficult to bear, and she became all too willing and desperate…
But as quickly as her hopes blossomed, they crumbled. It was, in fact, not two men, but a man and a woman. Not that that was a deterrent, per-se… but this particular woman happened to be Margle, a vehemently devout follower of the Highest Holy, the pure and chaste god followed by virgins and frightened maids and old spinsters who had no taste of wine or adventure or sex and certainly not any combination of the three.
Margle was one of the most outspoken champions of bigotry and hypocritical judgment Silmaria knew, in addition to being a liar and having an unreasonable conviction that Silmaria was trying desperately to sleep with her husband. Even though she was half tempted to do so just to spite the old bitch, Silmaria wouldn’t fuck the man based on one simple point. At some point, likely long ago when he was a much less miserable, down beaten sod than he was today, Margle’s husband had probably actually fucked Margle.
That was enough to keep her away, even in her most extreme of needs.
By the time the voices faded and the pair was cleared away from the hall Silmaria’s arousal fled, gone as suddenly as it had come. It wouldn’t be long before it began again, she knew, but for now her mood was so soured that the burning need was gone. She quickly shimmied back into her dress, dumped the now dirty basin water into her bucket, and put it at the door to be taken out in the morning. After blowing out the candle, she quietly slipped across the hall and into the quarters she shared with some of the other servant women.
The girls were already abed by the time she slipped in and the candles snubbed out. Bodies were rolled under thin, tattered blankets in their bed rolls and flat, uncomfortable pallets. None of them had wondered at her absence, though tonight it wasn’t for the reasons they likely assumed.
Stepping lightly over her room mates, Silmaria found her pallet and sank down onto it. Upon discovering her blanket had been stolen again, she heaved a quiet sigh, drew her legs up under her dress, and huddled into herself for warmth. Cold was already seeping through the cracks in the great stone walls and the floor was so frigid the chill was radiating up straight through her pallet.
It hit her all of a sudden like a fist in her gut; this was her life. Living in service to a man she hated for his thoughtless neglect and greed, who was himself nothing but a stand in for another man she lived in service to, whom she hated for not being there in the first place. Every day her rations grew slimmer and her work grew longer, and for naught. The only home she’d ever really known wasn’t even her home at all, but someone else’s.
The most decent, honorable, good hearted man she’d ever known was gone, dead before his time. She lived surrounded by people who hated her, or at best treated her like a stranger to be avoided like a contagion. Her only comfort in life was to share a bed or a stolen moment of pleasure with men she had no interest in beyond the attention her wretchedly out of control libido demanded. And that attention was the very reason her roommates would rather spit on her than say a word to her.
And now, someone had stolen her blanket, again, just because she had stupidly taken a few moments to wash up.
On another night she would have jumped on every one of them, spitting fire and curses until someone gave her blanket back, consequences be damned. But tonight, right now…
Silmaria was tired.
Alright, so this is just scraping the tip of the sexual iceberg to come. As you read forward some of you will be all like ‘Hey, there’s too much sex in this otherwise very plot driven story, my boner is distracting me from the quality of the plot! Less sex, more story!” And others will be all like, “Hey, there’s too much story in this otherwise super hot smutfest, it’s killing my boner! Less story, more smutfest!” Yeah, I know. ‘Know your audience’ and all that… but in this case, my audience is me.
I like creative and well written plots. I also like gratuitous and overdone sex. If you can get your peanut butter in your chocolate and your chocolate in your peanut butter and it’s awesome, then I can get my plot driven story liberally laced with my gratuitous sex and it’s awesome too. My hope is, if you lean one way or the other, you’ll be so enthralled with the bits you like, you’ll return for more. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find the bits you like less of high enough quality to appreciate it a bit more by the time this is all through.
As always, send feedback/hatemail/precious words of encouragement to More to come soon!
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with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
<a href="https://www.lushstories.com/stories/novels/darkfyre-chapter-one.aspx">DarkFyre Chapter One</a>