Christi was barely awake when she heard the knock on her door. Looking next to her at Arilee curled up in the sheets – smiling sweetly in her sleep – the Duchess couldn't help smiling as well.
Another knock jolted her out of her reverie, this one registering in her mind as something requiring a response. Christi stretched, yawned, and then rose to pull on a robe. She opened the door a crack, to see it was Ashtar who was knocking.
"Sorry I am being to be disturbing you at such a very much early hour, but I am having word from Cerebus and must to be speaking with you."
"Okay, Ashtar. Give me a minute to throw something on."
"You may be coming to my room if you are not wishing to be awakening young Arilee."
Christi raised an eyebrow. "And how did you know she was here, Ashtar?"
Ashtar smiled, his bright white teeth contrasting sharply with his dusky skin. "The walls and doors of the Hall are being thick, but not that thick." He punctuated the statement with a wink.
Christi chuckled, realizing that she and Ari had likely made a great deal of noise, although she could only remember the feeling, and not the screaming. "I'll be there as soon as I'm dressed."
Ashtar nodded and turned to return to his room. Christi closed the heavy oaken door, and quietly selected the first clean clothing she came across in her drawers. As soon as she finished dressing, she proceeded to the room Ashtar always used when in the Hall.
As usual, the door opened before Christi's hand could reach it to knock. It was one of his favorite enchantments, and one that never failed to amuse him. If her hand actually touched the door of his room, she knew that he wasn't there, and there was no sense in knocking.
Ashtar's room was the same as always. It was sparse, having plain furnishings that served their purpose and nothing more. He could have afforded lavish surroundings, and even if he could not have, the Duke and Duchess would have provided such if he wished. Only a few pieces of art from his land were displayed unobtrusively upon shelves containing his books and other trappings of the Art.
"You could at least let me get you a nice down-stuffed cotton blanket for your bed. It wouldn't kill you to enjoy a few comforts now and again."
Ashtar smiled. "I am being from a hot land. Coverings are being most alien to me."
Christi shook her head and chuckled. "It gets cold here in the winter, Ashtar. You might feel different when the snow blows."
"This is why I am only being visiting during the summer, Christi."
Christi shut the door. "Okay, I give up. What did Cerebus have to say?"
"He has been discovering that the goodly peoples which are being delaying his arrival in Darius are being charmed by magic. He is being requesting that I might come to his side to aid him."
"By all means, go. With all the weird magic we've been having here, he wouldn't ask you to come to him if he didn't really
"I am being prepared to leave already. I was wishing to be telling you of Cerebus’ message, and to be telling you that Crystania will be coming most quickly to take my place, before I was going."
Christi smiled upon hearing that news. It had been quite some time since Crystania had been to the Hall to visit, and Christi was looking forward to it. "Well, get going then. Be safe, keep an eye on Cerebus, and bring him home safe."
"I will be. Crystania will be coming at the high sun, and I am being wishing safety unto you as well."
With that, Ashtar smiled and vanished in a flash of light – a bag lying on the bed vanishing with him. Christi walked out of the room and shut the door behind her, knowing it would safely lock if anything dangerous was still inside, or remain unlocked for the servants to clean if not.
Christi walked back to her room, planning to let Ari rest a little while longer before she awakened her and told her about Crystania's impending arrival.
"I trust you bring good news," The self-appointed Governor of Darius said to the man in rough, threadbare, homespun clothing before him.
"A dark-skinned fellow with a pointy beard is in the camp, now. He showed up this morning out of nowhere."
"You're lucky, that is good news. You're dismissed. Get back to your place."
The man made some attempt to bow before leaving, but appeared to have no idea how to do so properly, because the action looked more as if he was bobbing his head while watching a rabbit hop.
As soon as the man had exited the room, another man in dark leather armor stepped forward from where he had leaned against the wall.
"The sand-eater is in our trap. Any word about the others, Cordell?" The Governor asked the approaching man.
The man hooked his thumbs in his belt when he came to a stop and answered, "There's only one other that's any real threat that they would call for – the elf mongrel. The rest are otherwise occupied."
"Have the clerics ready to move, if she shows up in the Hall. I want her out here in our snare as quickly as possible."
"They'll be ready, Garvin. It looks like the half-breed and his bunch are getting ready to head this way."
"Good. Let's give him a nice welcome," Garvin said, punctuating the statement with a loud laugh, which Cordell echoed.
"Wake up, sleepy," Christi said as she gently shook Arilee.
Ari stretched and opened her eyes, smiling up at Christi. "Good morning."
"It's almost good afternoon," Christi responded, and then laughed.
Arilee blushed. "I guess I was really tired."
Christi offered her a mischievous grin. "You had a busy day – and night."
As Arilee started to rise, she noticed that her thighs were sticky. "I think I need a bath."
Christi shivered just a bit, remembering what had caused the need for that bath. "Just wash up a bit, and we'll go a few rounds down in the courtyard, I think you're ready for a little harder training. We'll both need baths after that."
"I really am learning a lot, aren't I?" Ari mused as she stood up, stretching again, and yawning once she was on her feet.
Christi kissed her on the cheek and crossed the room to get the woman a robe. "It's about time you realized it. Yes, you're doing very well. I was right from the beginning. You have natural ability. I should probably let you look through my spell books sometime, too. If you have any aptitude toward magic, I can teach you what little I know."
Arilee was still trying to rub the sleep from her eyes. "I don't think I could do magic."
Christi handed Arilee the robe and said, "You didn't think you could fight either, so what does that tell you? While we're on the subject, Crystania will be here shortly. Ashtar left to go help Cerebus. He's running into magic out there, and needs Ashtar's help. Crystania is going to take over for Ashtar here. I'll introduce you when she gets here, but I should tell you a few things first."
Ari put on the robe and said, "Okay."
"Crystania is half-elven, and she can't bear to have a man touch her – can barely stand to have a man near her. She’s had some bad things happen in the past. Most everyone here knows that, but they may forget, and some might not know. So, try to keep anyone from making a mistake and touching her. She manages to control it most of the time, but sometimes she'll lash out with her magic instinctively, and she feels terrible about doing that."
The pair reached the bath and walked in. Arilee said, "I'll do my best to help."
"She's getting a little better. She does fine with Ashtar, Darkni, and the other wizards at Darkni's college – and she's okay with Cerebus now. I think she'll overcome it eventually, with time. She has elf blood. She has plenty of years to heal."
Arilee shed her robe as she listened, and stepped into the bath to wash the sticky evidence of the previous night's passion from her.
An idea occurred to Christi as she waited for Arilee to bathe – something that was not only practical, but quite naughty as well. A crooked grin crept across her face. "I've got an idea."
"Oh?" Ari said, and turned to look at the Duchess while she continued to scrub.
"These things keep popping in on us indoors, so it would make sense for us to practice a bit here in the Hall, where we have the obstacles and close quarters we'll run into if we get attacked again," Christi explained.
"That does make a lot of sense," Ari agreed as she stood up in the bath, preparing to get out.
The mischievous glint in Christi's eyes grew brighter. "And since I, at least, keep getting caught by surprise in the all-together, maybe we should practice naked."
Ari covered her mouth and giggled. "That is going to be very distracting."
"That's good. You have to learn how to deal with distractions in a fight. I'll be more than a little distracted too," Christi said with a wink.
"I guess I don't need to get dressed then," Ari responded with a grin that had just the slightest hints of mischief within it.
"I'll go grab us a couple of swords."
"Calm down, people! I'm Duke Cerebus, and you've all been bewitched. The spell is broken, but you all need to return to your homes and stay there," Mindblind yelled at the confused farmers and villagers milling about in front of him, staring at weapons in their hands that they couldn’t remember having picked up.
It took a little while longer to get through to the befuddled people, but eventually the crowd came to realize what had happened. Cerebus' men confiscated all the real weapons, ignoring the farm implements pressed into such service, and told the people that the weapons would be returned to them once the current situation was resolved.
The villagers were then sent away, save a few that had come from villages still between the Duke’s men and Darius. Those men fell into line with a few others at the rear who had also not yet reached home. As before, a few requested weapons and a place in the coming battle, angry that they had been charmed and forced to fight their rightful ruler.
Mindblind's forces had swelled to twice the original size in one day, albeit with mostly untrained farmers and villagers. His captain assured him that a place could be found for the newcomers where they would be both useful, and not in too much danger should it come to a real fight.
Ashtar leaned against the thick bole of an Osage Orange tree, looking a little weary. The Duke walked over to him, looking up warily into the branches swaying in the wind as he passed under them. He'd been clonked in the head by one of the huge green fruits of the tree before. Thus, he knew they might as well be rocks, as hard as the things were. He'd disliked the trees ever since, and wasn’t happy to see the trees appearing with increasing regularity as he and his men approached Darius.
"You okay, Ashtar?"
"Oh, I am being fine, Cerebus," Ashtar answered.
"Okay – you just let me know if we need to stop. I know you're used to just popping around from place to place, not following along on a fast march," Cerebus offered, glancing back up into the tree again as a gust of wind kicked up.
Ashtar smiled and said, "Think you the trees will be taking up arms against us do you?"
"I've been attacked by one before, and if it happens again, I'll cut down every damn one of these stinkin' trees in the Duchy," Mindblind grumbled.
Ashtar laughed and said, "Going we should be, for long to walk we have before Darius we reach."
Arilee shot up out of the water, whipping her drenched hair out of her face and bringing up her sword. She saw that the Duchess had lowered her weapon and did so as well.
"That was a good dodge. That stroke would have taken you out of the fight for sure, if it connected – and having the high ground is never a bad idea either. That kick was a little over-ambitious, though. You weren't properly set, and that's why I was able to get hold of your leg and dump you in the drink," Christi instructed, wiping sweat off her brow.
Arilee blew out a breath, spraying the water that was dripping down her face, and waded over toward the steps. "I thought I could surprise you."
Christi grinned and lay her sword down on a dressing table. "That's always good, but you have to be ready, just in case you don't
surprise whoever you're fighting. Don't get out. Just hand me up the sword. That's enough for today."
Ari handed Christi the sword, which the Duchess carefully dried and placed with her own before sliding into the bath with Ari. "You get better every time we practice. I had to move fast a few times to avoid that blade, and I've been doing this all my life. I can fight most people in my sleep, and if you're making me think and move, you're doing well."
"You still amaze me, and I know you're not fighting as hard as you can," Ari responded as she picked up some soap and washcloths for herself and the Duchess.
"You'll get there. I guarantee you would give Cerebus a surprise if you want to spar with him when he gets home. I'd like to see that, actually. He won't be ready for it. He'll recover quick enough, but seeing him thrown off balance by a little slip of a girl will be fun to watch." Christi then dunked her head under the water.
Ari admired the water running down Christi's breasts when the Duchess pulled her hair back out of her face. Christi smiled and winked. "Cris will be here soon, so none of that. We'll see if you have any aptitude for magic when she gets here. She has always had a good sense of who might have the ability."
Arilee pouted prettily, and Christi laughed. "That was good
. I just about changed my mind when you pouted just now."
The shy, slightly mischievous grin that the blonde offered the Duchess would have told her it was intentional, even if she hadn't already known that.
"We should hurry up and wash so we can be ready when Cris gets here," Christi suggested. The two then concentrated on washing away the sweat from their spar.
Arilee went to make something to eat once the pair dressed, accepting the suggestion that she make a vegetarian meal, since Crystania ate no meat. Christi was called away to deal with some business of the Duchy – a turf war between two competing bawdy houses.
Only in Fightershaven could a dozen scantily clad ladies of the evening find audience before the nobility – let alone expect anything resembling justice. The fight was over a popular tavern situated between the two houses of ill repute. Both houses sent girls there in order to drum up business, and both claimed that they should have exclusive rights to work the tavern, citing a deal with the owner.
Once a soldier sent to fetch the tavern owner returned, it finally came to light that he had told each Madame that he had no problem with them sending girls to his establishment. He had offered neither any special treatment. He simply considered it a mutually beneficial arrangement that brought customers to his tables, as well as the bawdyhouse beds.
Christi asked the women to choose sides of the tavern, but had to assign the two houses their sides when another argument broke out. She then asked the tavern owner to keep things under control. He asked for more firepots to be placed near his establishment, which was in a darkened area that was starting to attract thieves due to his growing business. Christi agreed to this as well, and said that additional city watch would be stationed near his area until the firepots were constructed.
With that settled, the Duchess took care of a few other small matters before returning upstairs, her stomach growling like a caged beast. When she reached the top of the stairs, her eyes rolled up in her head and she moaned as the smell of vegetable soup washed over her.
Ari had just finished setting the table when Christi walked in. The blonde smiled, and gestured for Christi to sit down to eat.
Christi quickly shrugged off her state regalia and moved to sit down, but a knock on the door stopped her midway. She returned to answer the door, and immediately opened it with a wide smile. "Come in, Cris. We were just about to eat."
Arilee had to suppress a gasp as the blonde woman walked in the room. Crystania's elven heritage was obvious despite the voluminous, loose fitting robes of deep crimson that she wore. Her face had a strange, alien beauty, dominated by piercing green, angular eyes. Her features were sharp, though they softened when she smiled.
"Arilee, this is Crystania. Crystania, this is Arilee. She's doing Gwen's job now," Christi said, introducing the two.
"I am very pleased to meet you, Arilee," Crystania said. Her voice was musical, and reminded Ari of a bluebird's song. Her eyes crossed slightly and her pink lips pursed as a bead of sweat formed on the end of her slight, pointed nose. She wiped the drop away with a petite hand, and Arilee noted how long the woman's fingers were. The half-elven woman then added, "I am quite unused to the heat, I'm afraid. The Isle is always kissed by cool ocean breezes."
"I'm pleased to meet you too. I've set a place for you, since we knew you were coming soon. It's vegetable soup," Ari said to the new arrival.
"Thank you. I am quite famished, and it smells delightful," Crystania responded.
Christi gestured at each of them in turn, speaking to the woman she was not pointing to, "We also call Arilee, Ari, and we call Crystania, Cris."
The three women then sat down and pulled close the bowls of soup tormenting them all with a wonderful aroma. Christi and Cris both caused Ari to blush when they gushed about how good the soup was, Christi noting that it was the best they'd ever had in the Hall. She said that the cook simply did not know how to cook without meat, or at least beef stock.
When the three finished eating, Christi said, "Ari has been sparring with me lately, and she's getting really good. I was thinking that maybe we should see if she could use magic too."
Crystania looked Arilee over, causing Ari to feel a little uncomfortable as the woman's piercing green eyes seemed to penetrate her skin and see into her soul. Crystania then said, "I sense nature's blessing upon her. I believe she might be able to learn the Art."
"Cris thinks that all women have the ability to use magic – some more than others – but she believes every woman could, if they just tried," Christi noted.
Cris rose and pulled a small book from a pocket in her robes. She opened it and sat it down in front of Arilee. "See if you can read a few words of this."
Arilee had to lean down a bit to see the tiny, flowing script in the book. "Formeen, Fira, Arseela, Day," Arilee read once she was able to focus on the words.
Christi's mouth dropped open and she asked, "Is that magic missile?"
The elfish woman nodded. "Indeed it is, and she has pronounced the words perfectly."
"I said them right?" Ari asked.
"That’s a true magic spell. Almost all of the magic that I know is what they call hedge magic
, little magics that arose in the country out of need, rather than study. It's much easier to learn than true Art. I could never pronounce more than a couple of words of the magic missile spell, and that made my head hurt," Christi said with surprise in her voice.
"I will instruct you in the Art, if such would please you, Arilee," Cris offered.
"Was it really that good?" Arilee inquired.
Christi laughed. "You've got to stop underestimating yourself, Sweetie. Yes, that was very good. Even if you can't ever best me with a sword, you've already defeated me in magic with those few words. You should let Cris teach you."
Something occurred to Arilee then, and she asked with excitement, "Will I be able to fly?"
Crystania smiled and said, "That spell is very difficult, but it is possible to use the Art to soar amongst the clouds."
"I'll try, then. I've always dreamed about flying."
Cris smiled and put her book away. "I will instruct you in the use of some cantrips this evening. I should examine the wards and become familiar with them, in case I need to restore them."
A knock sounded on the door, and Christi went to answer it. Arilee recognized the voice on the other side as Kronk's when he said, "A letter from Queen Alicia."
"Uh oh – I'm in trouble. This will be scolding me because I haven't set a wedding date yet," Christi sighed.
Kronk just laughed and said, "Told you so."
That prompted Christi to blow raspberries at him, and slam the door in his face.
Crystania rose and said, "I will go examine your wards. You may call if you need me, and I shall be ready should the beasts come upon us."
Christi hugged her. "Thanks, Cris. I'll let you know what Alicia had to say."
Ari started clearing the table as Christi sat down and broke the seal on the letter. She had only read for a few moments when she exclaimed, "It's about time. Alicia's pregnant. I was getting tired of the mutterings about no heir to the throne."
Ari smiled and said, "That's wonderful. Has she been trying long?"
Christi answered, "Avoiding it, actually. She and Thakkor wanted to get things under control before they had to deal with the added responsibility of a child on top of a Kingdom trying to adjust from decades of being under the thumb of a dictator. I'm right – I'm in trouble."
"What do you mean?" Ari asked as she finished stacking the bowls.
"Here, look," Christi said and pointed out a passage in the letter.
Arilee looked down and read the line that said, If I am fat and ugly, or have to stop to feed my child in the middle of your wedding, I'm going to be very cross with you, Christi.
"Like I said – I'm in trouble. I've got about a month to put together a wedding and pull it off, or Alicia will be showing, and I'll never hear the end of it," Christi lamented, and then sat back heavily in her chair with a great sigh.
"I could help you plan your wedding. I've been dreaming about mine all my life," Ari offered.
Christi put the letter down on the table. "Really? We don't want anything too extravagant, but it has to be at least enough to pass muster as a state wedding. Cerebus' brother can marry us, and we can have it down in the audience hall."
Arilee smiled brightly. "I'll be happy to do it. You already have the place and the priest, so all I need to do is plan the decorations, send out the invitations, get your dress, decide on..."
Christi held up her hands. "Whoa – this is why I have been stalling so much. If you want to do it, I'll be happy to let you. Just try to keep the wedding simple, and the party afterward grand. Everyone will be drunk enough after the party to forget if the wedding was a bit too simple for their tastes that way. Other than that, just surprise me."
Arilee wiggled a finger at her. "You at least have to pick out your dress."
Christi stuck out her hand in a typical trader's gesture, "Done."
Ari raised an eyebrow – a little confused – but shook Christi's hand.
Christi let out a long sigh of relief and said, "You don't know how much better that makes me feel. If you can pull this off in a month – provided we can get the groom back here in time – I'll kiss your feet for a week. That is, unless you have something else you'd like me to kiss?"
Ari blushed and shivered at that suggestion. "I can do it. I've been planning my wedding ever since I was a little girl. Since you want something simpler, that will only make it quicker."
"Just ask for anything you need. I'll tell Sharon to have the coffers and the staff all at your beck and call. I'll sit down, draw up the guest list, and get that out of the way right now. With everything else off my shoulders, I actually feel like doing it," Christi said, getting up and going to look for a pen and paper.
"I'll clean this up and get started too, then," Ari said, and picked up the platter of dirty dishes to return them to the kitchen.
It was getting near dark, and Cerebus was not amused with the hedgerows that had sprung up everywhere as he and his soldiers approached the next village. First, they were thick enough to hide an army behind, and second they were Osage carefully trimmed for the purpose of forming a natural, bushy fence.
Cerebus turned to Ashtar and his Captain. "I say we get the hell as far away from all those damn tree walls as possible, and set camp. It looks like the next village is surrounded by those damn things. I'd rather have daylight on our side as we're coming up on the place."
"It's taking us forever to get anywhere with the attacks every couple of miles, and I don't like the look of that village with night falling either. I agree – we should set camp," the Captain expanded.
Ashtar spoke up as well, "I am being in agreement, also. I shall be setting alarms to be warning us of trespassers."
Mindblind kicked one of the hard, pebble-textured fruits of the tree that was lying at his feet off into the distance. "Get all these catapult stones out of the way, and set camp, men. Get some grub on."
Christi had sat down and finished the guest list, and Ari had already drawn up an impressive amount of notes regarding the wedding as night enveloped Blackhawk Hall. Crystania returned to say that she was now familiar with the wards.
Crystania sat down a well-worn old book, her first from when she began studying magic. The book had the same beautiful, flowing script as the book the elfin woman had shown to Ari earlier. Crystania pointed out a cantrip that she thought Arilee should try to learn first, and then sat down to assist her. Meanwhile, Christi studied the spell that told her if she was in danger of becoming pregnant. She had nearly forgotten a couple of the words when she had cast it previously, and thought it would be a good idea to refresh her memory.
The cantrip Crystania had selected had only three words and a single, simple gesture. Arilee perfected the proper pronunciation of the words in only a few minutes, and mastered the gesture shortly thereafter.
"Oh," Arilee exclaimed, opening her eyes wide.
"What did you feel?" Cris asked her.
"It was like the sound of a bell in my ears, and my face felt really warm," Ari explained.
"Try to cast the spell," Crystania instructed, pulling a candle on the table over closer to Arilee.
Ari stared at the candle and spoke the words, "Zee Po Chirak," as she made the snapping gesture toward the candle.
The wick of the candle flashed and caught flame, to burn cheerily.
Ari smiled so wide it made her face hurt. "I did it."
Crystania patted her on the arm and said, "That sensation you felt was an indication that you had mastered the spell. Every person feels it, but it is different from person to person. When I have attained mastery of a spell, I hear a sound like birds chirping, and feel a touch like water trickling down my back. Sometimes different spells will cause a different sensation as well. I believe you may have the potential to wield many spells of the Art."
"Do you really think so?" Ari asked, thinking about flying with the birds, high above the ground.
Crystania offered a knowing smile, as if she had read Ari's mind. "I can not promise that you will fly, but I believe you may learn much useful magic that will make your life easier, and spells that may compliment your weapons in battle."
Christi looked up and said, "Okay, let me try this. I think I have it down, now. I kept stumbling over the last word because I was rushing a bit when I first learned it."
Crystania observed as Christi cast the spell and placed her hand over her tummy, revealing a cool blue glow. The half-elven woman nodded approvingly, indicating that Christi had cast the spell properly.
"If you don't mind, Ari?" Christi asked, walking over to the blonde.
Ari sat back from the table to let Christi reach her tummy. Christi cast the spell, revealing the same blue glow of safety.
"One more time, Cris?" The Duchess asked of Crystania.
"Of course, Christi."
Christi cast the spell, the glow appearing as it had the two times previous. Just as Christi started to move her hand away, the color shifted to purple, then to rose, and finally glowed bright crimson.
Crystania's eyes opened wide and she gasped, pressing her hands over her loins.
"Crystania is it..." Christi began.
Crystania nodded and a pained look crept over her face. "I-it is upon me."
Two figures – wearing cloaks that were far too heavy for the season – stood further cloaked in the darkness of an alley, far from any of the torches or firepots that lit the night. The pair gazed upon the walls surrounding Blackhawk Hall.
"So, Ashtar is gone, and Crystania has come," said the first, far taller and leaner than the second.
"Yes, it is ridiculously easy to get information out of the place. They don't seem to care who knows what's going on in there," the shorter figure replied.
"I trust that Ashtar is with the Duke in the field?"
The stocky man nodded and looked warily around before replying, "Word only just arrived. He is within the snare."
The taller man chuckled, a haunting sound that held nothing resembling mirth. "The fool is perhaps better suited to the task than I would have anticipated. Soon, we shall be ready, and I have a delightful twist to add to the torment now."
"I like the sound of that," the second man said with a wicked sounding chuckle of his own.
"Go, then. You know what to do."
"Of course, Master."
"Ari, help me get her over in the bed," Christi said, ducking down to pull Crystania's arm over her shoulder.
"What's wrong?" Arilee asked as she mirrored Christi’s action on Crystania’s other side.
"I'll explain later. Just help me get her over to the bed," Christi answered as she lifted the trembling half-elven woman up.
Arilee and the Duchess managed to get Crystania on her feet, and Ari remarked, "She's burning up."
"I know what to do. She'll be okay in a little while," Christi explained as they half-carried Crystania over to the bed.
Crystania pulled something from within a pocket of her robes and handed it to Christi as soon as the pair helped her lay down on the bed. "Tap it to the door, please."
Christi handed the small, milky, crystal sphere to Arilee. "Go lock the door and tap this on it afterward."
Ari nodded and hurried to do as Christi had asked of her. Once she finished, she turned to see Christi helping Crystania remove her robes.
Arilee could not suppress her gasp this time, as the Duchess revealed Crystania's body. Part of her elven heritage was that she had no hair on her body whatsoever, save for the long blonde tresses upon her head. The woman's figure was lithe and willowy, and she had long, perfectly shaped legs. Her breasts were small, but taut as a drumhead and perky, the nipples erect and pointing toward the ceiling. Her whole body was flushed red from the tips of her pointed ears to the tips of her toes, and wetness shown between her bare, pink lips.
Christi laid her hand over the elven woman's mound, and some of the pain in Crystania's expression drained away. "Relax, Cris. We'll take the pain away," Christi told her.
"What do we do?" Ari asked with her eyes locked on Crystania's body, and wetness gathering between her legs. The scent of Crystania's arousal hung heavily around the bed.
"Make her come – hard," Christi answered as she moved between Crystania's legs, which the woman parted as soon as Christi moved.
Christi and Crystania both moaned as Christi's tongue parted the nether lips before her. Ari moved toward the head of the bed and wrapped her lips around the pebbled flesh of Crystania's right nipple.
Crystania's hands came to rest upon the other two women's heads, stroking their hair as she whimpered with each exhaled breath. Ari suckled first one nipple, then the other, an ache gathering between her legs as she listened to the musical sounds of pleasure coming from Crystania, and the soft slurping of Christi lapping the half-elven woman's folds.
Christi lifted her head from Crystania's sex with a moan and said, "Come taste her, Ari."
Arilee released the nipple she was suckling, and moved quickly between Crystania's smooth thighs. When her tongue touched the woman's labia, she gasped in delight. The abundant wetness flowing from within Crystania tasted like fresh, sweet fruit juices. Ari swirled her tongue all over and between the woman's folds, lapping up the sweet wetness and shuddering.
Christi lifted Crystania's hood to lightly swirl her tongue over the erect bud beneath. Crystania's whimpers changed to deeper moans as both women labored over her wet heat. Ari started to feel lightheaded, almost as if she was becoming intoxicated on the sweet nectar that she gathered up on her questing tongue.
Crystania's hips rocked, and the pressure of her hands on both women's heads increased as her pleasure mounted. As Crystania drew nearer to release, the flow of her juices increased, which drove Arilee to greater efforts. She didn’t want to miss one sweet drop.
Crystania suddenly stiffened, pressing down hard on both Christi and Arilee, and she gasped out, "Oh yes," as she toppled over the edge into orgasm.
Crystania emitted a series of loud, musical screams as her climax took control of her body. Her juices flowed from her in a torrent, and Christi moved to slide her tongue between Crystania's lips, to taste the sweet flood with Arilee.
After a few moments, Crystania gently pushed the other two women away from her quivering sex and moaned, "Oh, thank you."
After pausing for a moment, Crystania shivered and said, "It has subsided, but I still feel the heat upon me. It will swell again soon."
"What is it?" Ari asked, pulling the sweet juices coating her face to her lips with little whimpers of delight.
"Here's the short version," Christi began, "Elves tend to live lives lacking any sort of urgency, because they live for hundreds of years, and have plenty of time to get everything done – eventually. That unfortunately extended to making babies, and the number of elves started to dwindle. The elders came together and cast a great magic that brings the heat upon elven women after a certain age, causing them to be able to think of nothing except sex when they are fertile and have no children."
The Duchess continued as Crystania's skin once again flushed with rosy heat, "Because Crystania is half human, the heat comes on her more often. She either has to get pregnant, or at least have powerful orgasms to make it subside."
Crystania gasped out, "My robe, please."
Ari climbed down to the floor and retrieved the robe, handing it to Crystania. The slender woman rifled through it with trembling hands and pulled something out of a pocket. At first, Ari thought it was a wooden cock, but when Crystania handed it to Christi, Arilee saw that it looked more like a long stemmed mushroom.
"This... This seems to help. I thought to take the heat myself with it, but I still need another's touch to make it fade," Crystania gasped out and then fell back to the bed, reaching between her legs to caress her folds.
Christi moaned upon looking at the wooden toy, and then moved to kneel at the foot of the bed. She guided Crystania to move toward her and said, "Lick her while I use this on her, Ari."
With that, Christi sucked the wooden shaft between her lips, wetting it, and then poised it at the entrance to Crystania's canal. She slowly pressed it into Crystania's depths as Arilee leaned over to roll the elf woman's clit beneath the hood with her tongue.
Crystania writhed as Christi stroked the wooden shaft into her depths. Ari rolled and lapped the swollen bud beneath her tongue, occasionally sneaking away to lap up the sweet nectar from the thrusting shaft, and Crystania's folds.
Christi sucked her finger, then swirled the digit through a stream of wetness seeping out around the shaft she was thrusting at an ever-increasing pace into Crystania's clenching canal. She then slid the tip of her finger into the puckered opening of Crystania's ass and curled it upward, stroking it slightly within.
Crystania bucked her hips upward with each thrust of the wooden toy, grasping her firm breasts and tweaking the nipples as she climbed her mountain of pleasure once more. The heat within her swelled, and she screamed from between clenched teeth as it filled her whole body.
Just as blackness threatened to cloud Crystania's vision from the painful swell of pressure within her, the bubble burst, and all the energy seemed to flow from her sex, bringing with it a torrent of her juices. Crystania's back arched and she screamed her pleasure to the ceiling – an animalistic cry of pure release.
When the scream ended, her back fell to the bed once more and she began to writhe – her body contorting as waves of pleasure shot up and down her spine. She felt the toy slide from inside her, and Arilee's mouth leave her, but it did nothing to dull the power of her climax. On and on it went, causing her body to thrash, and her breath to catch in her throat.
When at last her body ceased to writhe beyond her control, Crystania opened her eyes and gasped for breath, gratefully sucking air into her deprived lungs. Ari and Christi both stroked her skin, looking a little concerned.
When at last she caught her breath, Crystania said, "I am fine. I believe the heat has subsided."
"Did it feel good?" Christi asked, and then sucked the wooden toy clean.
Crystania moaned and her eyelids fluttered. "Oh, yes. I thought at first that I would burst, and then I thought I might suffocate, but I have never felt such great pleasure."
Christi and Arilee allowed Crystania time to recover from her orgasm, though both women massaged their own folds beneath their clothes, unable to ignore the aching of their own bodies now that Crystania had found her release.
Crystania sat up and said, "I wish to give you both pleasure as well."
Christi gasped, and then let out a moan before saying, "I wanted you to touch me so badly last time you were here, when the heat took you, but I was afraid to ask."
Crystania leaned in and kissed Christi. "I have thought about it often, but now I find I need to taste you, as if the heat were still upon me."
Christi and Arilee quickly dispensed with their clothing.
Ashtar started awake and shouted, "Ware!"
The guards standing watch also called out, as the group of farmers and villagers swarmed out from around the hedgerows, screaming battle cries.
Everywhere, men leapt from their tents – grabbing weapons kept close at hand – to fend off the men, while Ashtar worked his magic.
Cerebus heard the familiar syllables that signaled the spell had been cast, and shouted, "Hold," in a loud voice. All around the camp, men stepped back and lowered weapons as their attackers stared in confusion at the weapons in their own hands.
The largest group yet to attack – over fifty men, most of whom were well armed – had crept out from the village to attack Mindblind's men this time. Cerebus had them maintain their weapons, and ordered the camp struck. He and his soldiers then followed the men back to their village. There, they commandeered the only inn – more of a bunkhouse – for their use, and barricaded themselves inside for the night.
"We'll do good to get a real night's sleep," the Captain of the company observed as his men collapsed into beds.
"As long as they don't set fire to the place while we sleep," Cerebus grumbled.
"No fire will be burning long against my magic, old friend," Ashtar said, and then started to cast his warning spells about the building.
One of the villagers who had just attacked stepped forward and said, "This was sort of our fault. We'll keep watch while you and your men get some sleep."
Cerebus' Captain looked a little wary of that offer, but the Duke overruled him. "Once we've removed the bewitching from a bunch, we don't run into trouble until we get close to the next village or cluster of farmsteads. When you add Ashtar's magic, I don't think it's a bad idea for all of us to get some unbroken sleep."
Ashtar completed his casting and wobbled unsteadily for a moment.
"You okay, Ashtar?" Cerebus asked.
The dusky wizard nodded his head and stood up straight. "Thinking I am that a good night of sleep I could be using as well."
"Hit the bunks and get some sleep, boys. We're walking into Darius tomorrow and dragging the jackass who's responsible for all this out by his nuts one way or another," Cerebus declared, and then flopped onto a bunk.
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<a href="https://www.lushstories.com/stories/supernatural/blackhawk-hall-ch-05.aspx">Blackhawk Hall Ch. 05</a>