The Tale of a Mage (part 28)

Drucilla pushed vines aside and ducked under low hanging branches as she made her way across the island. The last two hours had been spent trekking deeper and deeper into a thick jungle. Now, however, the flora was beginning to thin. She had discovered a variety of fruit trees and a small stream. She would go back to them later. At present, she was intent on scouting the island for potential threats. Much to Drucilla’s relief she had yet to encounter any, not even hostile wildlife.

As she explored she entertained herself contemplating potential embellishments which could turn this into a better story. Fought off a lion with her bare hands? No, she needed to go bigger. Single-handedly defeated a reclusive death cult. Yes, that would make for a tremendous story.

It was not long before the jungle opened into a small cove. Drucilla’s face lit up as her eyes fell on a small boat sitting in the middle of the tranquil water. It was bigger than her previous one but still small enough that a large crew would not be required.

Solution to every problem.” Drucilla grinned. Now hopefully there was some rum on that boat. Wading into the water Drucilla swam to the boat at record speed. Gripping the side she pulled herself up and clambered onto the deck. She paused for a moment admiring her surroundings. The woodwork was exquisite. She drew her sword and began to search for any pesky former owners who might prove an obstacle to her enjoying her new acquisition. The deck was suspiciously empty. She did a sweep checking potential hiding places before pulling up the hatch and venturing below. She descended down a ladder into darkness. When she felt wooden floorboards beneath her feet she paused, blinking, waiting for her vision to adjust. The lack of lanterns indicated that this section of the boat was also empty. It seemed strange to Drucilla that such a marvelous sea craft would be left abandoned but she wasn’t about to question good fortune.

Floorboards creaked behind her. She spun around eyes falling on a shadowy figure. Suddenly she felt herself propelled backward at inhuman speed. Shackles snapped closed around her wrists and ankles. The figure paced around her eyes running over her body with an intense hunger. Smooth raven hair framed ivory skin. Ruby eyes emitted a faint glow. The woman’s lips curled up in a predatory grin revealing a pair of pearly razor-sharp fangs.

Now, where did you come from?” The woman came to a stop in front of her, reached for her. Obsidian nails scraped softly down her cheek in a gesture that almost mimicked affection.

Well…” Drucilla began “Many years ago, roughly nine months before I was born to be more specific, my mother was visiting a tavern…” The woman before her emitted a low growl an expression of impatience flickering across her face.

As I’m certain you understood I was inquiring as to how you and your little friends came to be on this island.” The woman’s eyes remained fixed on Drucilla in expectation. Drucilla noted the woman’s mention of her friends with a measure of relief. The reference had to mean the others where alive. Her relief was short-lived as the woman’s intense stare reminded her of her current predicament.

Ah” Drucilla smirked “Now, that is an excellent story. My companions and I are demon hunters, you see. We were hired to track down a particularly duplicitous fiend who possessed the body of a sea serpent and used it bring down the ship of High Priestess Vestra. We managed to slay the beast, however, we lost our ship during the fight.”

Demon hunter?” The woman chuckled “And here I thought you were a common pirate trying to steal my vessel. Let me guess, you need to borrow this boat for important demon hunting business but you’ll bring it straight back as soon as you’re finished? Or perhaps you’re here to hunt me? Your capture was all part of the plan? Your friends are closing in on me as we speak?”

Yes!” Drucilla nodded with feigned sincerity. The woman shook her head tapping her palm against Drucilla’s cheek softly, a warning. Drucilla inhaled a sharp breath as a heat began to rise within her. She cursed her body’s inopportune reaction. This was not the time, she needed her wits about. The woman was, unfortunately, rather attractive.

It matters not.” The woman shrugged “I was merely curious. Your arrival is quite fortuitous. I am in need of a crew who are able to venture above deck during the day. My last one fell victim to… an unfortunate accident. My possession of you shall serve as motivation to ensure your friends are cooperative.”

You should be prepared for disappointment.” Drucilla chuckled “I’m not certain all of my ‘friends’ as you call them are overly fond of me.”

For your sake, I hope that’s not true.” The woman began to circle her once more. “You are only useful to me if you facilitate their compliance. If you fail to prove useful… well… I have been stuck on this island alone for many weeks. I am hungry.”

Drucilla groaned, ending up stuck in the clutches of a hungry vampire had not been part of the plan. She needed to find a way out of here. At present, however, no viable plan presented itself. She sighed in resignation. She would have to bide her time, wait for an opening.

May I ask your name?” She addressed the woman. The woman paused in front of her.

You may if you will tell me yours.” Eyes fell on her in expectation.

Drucilla” There was no harm in the woman knowing her name.

My name is Adrielle.” Adrielle purred.

You wouldn’t happen to have any rum would you, Adrielle?” If she was going to be trapped here she might as well make the most of the situation.


Behaviour Unbefitting

Aurelia’s fist collided with the stable wall. She flinched as hot tendrils of pain shot up her arm. Grimacing she began to pick splinters out of her bloodied knuckles.

“Perhaps you should visit the healer, Princess.” The tone was disinterested. Aurelia spun around her eyes falling on Cassia, who stood leaning against the door frame. She was clad in her usual attire, leather boots, leather breeches, and a cotton shirt slightly tighter than could be considered respectable. Each item of clothing was a marginally different shade of beige. Her dark hair fell over her left shoulder in an untidy braid. Grey eyes bore into Aurelia with an intensity juxtaposed to the detachment in her tone of her voice. The corner of her mouth curled up in a subtle smirk.

“Get the fuck out!” Aurelia flung a grooming brush at Cassia’s head. At least that had been her intention. The brush sailed through the air, colliding with the wall a few feet to Cassia’s right. Cassia rolled her eyes.

“My pleasure, Princess. I have no desire to endure distasteful company for longer than is strictly necessary.” Cassia spun around and stalked out of the stable.

“The entire kingdom is aware of your preferred company!” Aurelia shouted after her. She sank to her knees on the dusty floor. Tears began to fall, leaving unseemly trails down her cheeks. It was public knowledge, Cassia was having an affair with Tullius, Aurelia’s betrothed. She had been observed entering and leaving his quarters at strange hours since the first day he arrived at the palace. The combination of humiliation, rage and emptiness Aurelia felt intensified each day as her wedding drew closer.

Cassia was her father’s stablemaster. She had taken the position a year earlier when the last one retired. While the rest of her father’s subjects grovelled and pandered to her every whim, Cassia regarded her with disdain. That brought rise to a sense of longing combined with a variety of other emotions Aurelia couldn’t quite place. Aurelia had always loved spending time in the stables, being with the horses. She had ridden every single horse her father owned. Naturally, when Cassia arrived bringing a horse of her own Aurelia had wanted to ride him too. When she was met with an emphatic no she had been both taken aback and intrigued. She had wanted more. Ever since she had gone out of her way to antagonize Cassia at every opportunity. She was rude, made outrageous demands, threw tantrums. When she took a moment to reflect on her behaviour she felt a measure of guilt. She wasn’t normally that type of person. However, she thrived on Cassia’s attention. To her father and Tullius, she was useful for what she represented. To the people, her position of power was something to be feared. Cassia was emotionally invested in her on a personal level. Even if that emotion was contempt in some sense it could be said she cared more than anyone else did.

Aurelia always knew, had accepted, she could never have Cassia in the way she wanted. As a Princess, her life was not her own. She had a responsibility to her kingdom. Desire based relationships were a luxury people such as herself were rarely afforded, at least not in the long term and certainly not in the open. That was, perhaps, part of the reason she had opted to antagonize Cassia. It was the safer option. It allowed her to receive attention of a passionate nature from Cassia without the risk of ending up in a situation where she would have to choose between her relationship and her responsibilities. At least that’s what she told herself. If she was being honest she wouldn’t have known where to begin had she decided to pursue the alternative. Aurelia was not well versed in human interaction which extended beyond the superficial.

She could have kept her feelings in check if things had remained the way they were. However, at present, the man she was required to marry was engaging in illicit relations with the woman she wished she could marry and it was becoming too much for her to bear. She felt her control slowly slipping, felt like at any moment she might find herself engaging in a course of action highly unadvisable, whether that be attacking Cassia or professing her love for her she was unsure. She was furious with Tullius, furious with Cassia, but mostly she was furious with herself.

As night fell Cassia made her way through the palace corridors to Tullius’ bedchambers. She slipped through the door and closing it behind her. Tullius sat at his desk attention intently focused on a set of scrolls he was reading. Candlelight flickered illuminating the room and casting eerie shadows on the walls.

“You should stop paying me evening visits, Cass.” Tullius didn’t look up from his reading “It appears highly improper. Surely, you have heard the way people talk about us.”

“Let them talk.” Cassia shrugged. Silence stretched out for a long moment. “I don’t know how you can stand her, Tulli.” Cassia sighed.

“She may not be endowed with the qualities I find preferable in a partner but she’s a sweet girl.” Tullius glanced up at her with a frown.

“Sweet girl? She’s an insufferable spoilt child.” Cassia huffed. “Are you truly going to marry her?” Tullius eyed her a subtle smile breaking across his face.

“Actually, I believe you should marry her.” Cassia emitted a strangled noise as an incredulous expression broke across her face.

“Have you taken leave of your senses, brother?” Her expression transitioned into one of irritation.

“I know you wish to experience the world from the perspective of a common person in order to better understand the needs of our people when you finally take your rightful place as father’s heir. However, you have been gone long enough. You have lived in many kingdoms, worked in many professions. We all miss you, Cass. Father needs this alliance and you know my heart belongs to the Prince Aarian of Caerulian Isles. Besides, Aurelia is quite… fond of you.”

“Fond of me?” Cassia chuckled. “Her behaviour would indicate quite the opposite. She is ill-mannered, entitled…”

“Yet, she only behaves that way around you. Have you never asked yourself why?” Tullius questioned.

“I would presume she dislikes my propensity to refuse her demands. I’m the only person who does you know.” Cassia remained unconvinced.

“I believe you presume wrong and I’m sure if she were to become your wife you would not allow her to remain ill-mannered for long.” Cassia shook her head.

“I’m sorry Tulli but I will not marry that brat.” Cassia’s voice was firm.

“I will accept that answer for the moment.” Tullius acquiesced with a frown “At least agree to travel home with me after the wedding.

“I shall consider it.”

Aurelia’s mood had only darkened as the day drew on. It had taken all her willpower to plaster on a smile and remain civil with her father’s councillors during a dinner feast that lasted far too long. Now she was finally free for the evening, she stormed through the corridors intent on making it back to her bedchambers as quickly as her impractical footwear would allow. Under her coat, she concealed two bottles of wine, appropriated from the kitchen. Tonight she would be drinking both in their entirety. As she passed Tullius’ chambers she heard the sound of voices and paused.

“…agree to travel home with me after the wedding.” Tullius beseeched. A voice, unmistakably Cassia’s responded.

“I shall consider it.” Aurelia froze a sense of dread overcoming her. If Cassia accompanied them home this, the thing she was currently feeling, would never go away, it would become her life. She knew she should walk away but her impulses took over. She threw the doors open, trembling with rage.

“Do you think me an imbecile?” She spat, her wrathful gaze flickered back and forth between the two of them. “Do you think I can’t see what is taking place here? Every person in the Kingdom is aware. You… you philanderous swine! If you so much as speak to one and other again I shall have father throw both of you in the dungeon!” She was bluffing, she knew her father would never jeopardize the alliance by imprisoning Tullius and she had no desire to see Cassia end up in the dungeon. However, right now it hurt and if she couldn’t make the pain stop she wanted them to feel pain too. She retrieved one of the bottles from under her coat and hurled it at Cassia. Her aim was better this time. Cassia ducked out of the way just in time to avoid being hit but not in time to avoid the cascade of wine and broken glass as the bottle shattered against a bedpost. Cassia’s expression turned to one of fury as she began brushing shards of glass off her clothing. Aurelia turned abruptly and took off down the hallway at a run. Again, tears began to fall. It seemed all she did these days was cry.

“Do you plan to do something about that?” Cassia snapped. Tullius responded with a shrug and picked up his scrolls. “If you refuse to get your future wife under control you can be certain that I will!”

“You should indeed go speak to your future wife.” Tullius glanced up from his scrolls. Cassia growled and stalked out of the room.

Aurelia rushed through the hallways and out a side door. She needed to get out of the palace, clear her mind. She headed for the stables. Divesting herself of her shoes she donned a pair of, far more practical, riding boots and saddled up her favourite horse. She placed her remaining bottle of wine in her saddlebag, it would still be put to use tonight. Leaping into the saddle she gave the horse a gentle prod with her heels and rode out into the night.

She guided the horse towards the forest path and set out into the woods. Aurelia hadn’t been in the forest alone since she reached puberty but as a child she had sneaked out there often. She had found the solitary of the woods calming. She hoped they would have the same effect tonight. She rode deeper and deeper into the woods, finally settling on a small clearing. She dismounted and retrieved her wine before allowing the horse to wander over to a nearby stream. Removing the cork from the bottle she took a swig and tried to relax.

Cassia started off by checking Aurelia’s chambers. Much to her chagrin, the princess was nowhere to be found. She paused for a moment to contemplate where Aurelia might have gone. The stables, she concluded. The girl spent most of her free time with the horses. If she hadn’t retired for the evening that must be where she had gone. Cassia set off at a determined stride. She reached the stables just in time to see Aurelia riding in the direction of the woods at an alarming speed. She cursed under her breath and began to saddle up her own horse.

By the time Cassia was prepared to depart the stables Aurelia was nowhere to be seen. Cassia exhaled a dramatic sigh, this was going to be a long evening. Following the forest path, she began her search. A torch in her hand illuminated a small area around her as she slowly made her way through the trees. She hoped Aurelia had not strayed far from the main path, that would make finding her significantly more difficult.

When Cassia, at last, located Aurelia she had already polished off three-quarters of the bottle of wine. Much to her frustration, it had only served to deepen her distress rather than relieve it. She had not achieved the calm for which she had been aiming and now she was miserable and drunk. Caught up in self-pity as she was she did not, at first, notice Cassia’s presence.

Cassia dismounted, staking her torch into the ground, and approached Aurelia with a determined stride. Stopping abruptly in front of her she waited for a moment. When Aurelia’s attention did not fall upon her she cleared her throat. Aurelia’s attention fell first on Cassia’s boots. She ran her eyes up Cassia’s body at a protracted pace until she met her eyes. A mix of conflicting emotions overwhelmed her. Usually, such attention from Cassia would thrill her but right now Cassia was the last person she wished to see. She squirmed under the intensity of Cassia’s glare, cursing herself for the reaction. Under these particular circumstances, Cassia had no right to be angry and she had no reason to feel shame. Cassia should be the one feeling shame cavorting with another person’s betrothed. Aurelia stood on unsteady feet, taking a moment to adjust to the new position, before meeting Cassia’s furious gaze with a mutinous scowl. Cassia took a step in her direction. Aurelia drew a blade and waved it around in a manner lacking the sufficient coordination to convey the threat for which she had been aiming. Perhaps she should not have drunk quite so much wine. Cassia raised her eyebrows and gave Aurelia a moment to reconsider her actions before wrenching the knife from her hand.

“That display back at the palace was completely unacceptable! You showed an utter lack of decorum befitting someone of your status.” Cassia’s tone was cold.

“I suppose it’s fortunate I don’t concern myself with the opinions of whores.” Aurelia spat. Cassia’s expression darkened. Aurelia felt a twinge of fear. She had not believed Cassia could appear angrier than she had when she first noticed her in the clearing. She had been wrong.

“If you believe this marriage between yourself and my brother will still go ahead you are sorely mistaken.” Aurelia found herself more intimidated by the calm in Cassia’s voice than the fury which still burned in her eyes. “I shall be informing my father of both your attempts at assault and your vulgar language. You can be certain he will not be pleased to hear of such behaviour directed towards his heir, particularly by someone he was about to welcome into our family. Furthermore, having experienced how you treat those you view as your inferiors I am determined to prevent you from subjecting my people to such disrespect.”

“Y… your… brother…?” Aurelia stammered in confused relief.

“Yes, my brother.” Cassia snapped. “Now, given that I do not plan to remain in your father’s employ any longer, I believe it’s past time for me to demonstrate exactly what I think of the behaviour I’ve observed from you over the last year.”

Aurelia was unsure how to react so she cooperated as Cassia took hold of her wrist and sat down on a nearby tree stump hauling her over her lap. Cassia flipped up the multitudinous layers of Aurelia’s skirts. Aurelia felt a cool breeze caress her bottom as Cassia loosened her drawstrings and bared her. A part of her was giddy with excitement not only was Cassia not involved with Tullius, she was touching her. All the times she had pushed Cassia for a reaction this was more than she had dared to hope for. She also, however, felt a sense of building anxiety. She had witnessed enough servants and peasant children punished to understand the meaning of the position in which she now found herself. However, she had never been subjected to corporal punishment personally. She shivered in a combination of fear and anticipation.

Cassia’s palm descended meeting its target with a crisp smack. Aurelia flinched it hadn’t hurt quite as much as she feared it might but it had definitely hurt. Cassia smacked her again, a little harder this time. Aurelia drew a sharp breath. Cassia’s hand rained down a swift barrage of smacks, spread out to cover every inch of Aurelia’s bottom. Aurelia squirmed under the onslaught.

“I understand you were jealous of me, felt threatened by the relationship you perceived to exist between Tullius and myself. However, your choice of methods to address the issue were unbefitting of an adult much less a future ruler.” Cassia emphasized her statement with a pair of extra hard smacks to Aurelia’s sit-spots. Aurelia yelped.

“That’s not why… I’m not…” Aurelia stopped and started, unsure how much she wanted to say. “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” She barked. Cassia responded with a rapid volley of smacks, igniting a sting Aurelia had not thought possible. Aurelia attempted to twist out of the way but Cassia held her in position with ease.

“You would have me believe your most recent display of unacceptable behaviour did not come from a place of jealousy?” Cassia’s tone was doubtful.

“I didn’t say that.” Aurelia mumbled, “I just wasn’t jealous of you.”

“Oh?” Cassia prompted.

“I was jealous of Tullius… and I was angry with you for wanting him when I wished you wanted me…” Aurelia’s voice was barely above a whisper. Cassia groaned inwardly. Tullius had been right.

“And your disrespect prior to Tullius’ presence?” Cassia questioned.

“You treated me like a person rather than a princess. It was… nice. I just wanted more of that.” Aurelia mumbled.

“It did not occur to you to simply be yourself? Treat me as a friend?” Cassia snorted.

“I… I don’t know how.” Aurelia’s voice was barely above a whisper. “I’ve never had a friend. I could never just be myself around members of the nobility. In all my interactions with them, I was a representative of my father. He would instruct me on how to behave, what to say. The peasants, well, they’re all afraid of me.” Tears slid down her cheeks. All she really wanted was someone to care about her, not just about what she could do for them, or what she might do to them if they displeased her. It seemed now that Cassia may have been prepared to do that had she done things differently. She had quite obviously ruined her chances now though. Perhaps, it was her own fault that nobody cared.

Cassia regarded the trembling figure across her lap for a long moment. She felt a not entirely welcome but growing concern for the girl. She couldn’t imagine what that must have been like. Her own father had always valued her as more than simply a tool to be used to his benefit. She and Tulli had been inseparable as children and she was well loved by her father’s court. A small part of her wanted to hold Aurelia, comfort her. However, the anger Aurelia’s behaviour had inspired had yet to fully fade and that part won out. Against her better judgment, she was actually starting to consider Tullius’ suggestion. However, if that was ever going to happen Aurelia needed to understand poor behaviour would not be tolerated regardless of the reasons behind it.

Cassia recommenced the spanking. She peppered Aurelia’s bottom and thighs with sharp smacks. She kept the spanking varied. Whenever Aurelia started to feel like she could anticipate what was coming next Cassia would change her style. She delivered many swats in quick succession leaving Aurelia squirming and breathless. She spanked extra hard leaving long pauses between smacks to let the pain sink in, eliciting a series of howls. She alternated between spacing the swats out evenly and smacking the same spot repeatedly until Aurelia almost bucked off her lap.

Aurelia wriggled and kicked, attempted to roll off Cassia’s lap however a vice-like grip kept her firmly in place. Tears flowed in rivers blurring her vision. She was sure she must have created a puddle on the forest floor by now. She felt like she had sat in a nest of recently antagonized hornets and no amount of wiggling would ease the ever-increasing fire. Cassia continued to lecture as the spanking progressed but Aurelia could not concentrate on what she was saying. The stimuli around her felt out of focus, overpowered by the raging inferno that was her bottom. Though the haze of pain she willed Cassia to stop, recognize she was sorry, she couldn’t quite bring herself to say the words. As much as she wanted the pain to stop she also wanted to be close to Cassia. There was a small part of her which feared this was the best she was going to get, that as soon as the spanking stopped Cassia would be gone from her life forever. That hurt almost as much as the spanking.

Cassia began to slow the spanking, delivering successively lighter smacks. Her hand was beginning to throb and Aurelia’s broken sobbing did not provide the satisfaction she had anticipated when she first decided to do this. Eventually, she stopped altogether and lifted Aurelia to sit on her lap. Aurelia whimpered as her bottom met rough leather. She looked up at Cassia through her tears, her posture tense, expression questioning. The vulnerability in her eyes broke through the last vestiges of Cassia’s irritation and she wrapped her arms her. Aurelia’s body relaxed and she buried her face in Cassia’s neck. She continued to sob, clinging to Cassia as if even the slightest space between them would make her disappear. Cassia ran her fingers through Aurelia’s hair.

“Don’t leave me.” Aurelia pleaded in an almost inaudible whisper.

“You know…” Cassia continued to stroke Aurelia’s hair “before you stormed into my brother’s chambers throwing things, he was proposed the outlandish idea that I should be the one to marry you. At the time I thought he had taken leave of his senses however the suggestion is starting to grow on me.”

Aurelia looked up at her. The joy in her eyes almost eased Cassia’s uncertainty. Her father needed this alliance and Tullius had been right about Aurelia’s feelings for her. She may have seen a more pleasant side of her tonight but she knew little about her beyond her title and the fact she was emotionally maladjusted. She had a distinct feeling such a union would end poorly.

“I have some conditions.” Cassia continued “As I mentioned before, I am my father’s heir. Someday I shall rule the Kingdom of Alsilvis. If we were to marry that would mean you would someday become my Queen. Before I commit to this I expect you to prove to me that you possess the capacity to behave with a level of maturity appropriate to such a role. I do not expect perfection from you. However, I expect to see consistent improvement and you can be certain that any time your behaviour fails to meet my standards I will not hesitate to put you back over my knee. Do we have an agreement?”

Aurelia was submerged in a cocktail of emotions. She was exhausted from the spanking, ashamed of her behaviour, her insecurities still lingered, but she also felt a rising sense of excitement and hope. She didn’t trust her voice so she nodded and hugged Cassia tighter.

The Tale of a Mage (part 27)

Cassandra felt terror well up inside her. She gripped the edge of the sinking vessel until her knuckles turned white. Her head spun and she tried to focus on slowing her breath. In the back of her mind, she admonished herself. She should be better at this by now. After spending the better part of seven years as a guest in Queen Cerise’s dungeon she should be stronger, better able to handle adversity. Izzy didn’t appear to be afraid of anything, Livia and Drucilla seemed much the same. Even Nyx who did at times noticeably display fear was resourceful and usually able to act in spite of it. Cassandra had thought her magical mastery had improved significantly but in this moment it failed her. As horrifying as the prospect of being eaten alive was, Cassandra found herself overcome by an increasing melancholy that threatened to overshadow her fear. In this moment, the thought that she was about to die without having proved herself anything beyond useless caused her more distress than the prospect of her impending demise. A sudden sharp pain interrupted her musings as a piece of falling debris collided with the back of her head. Her eyes shot open, instinctually, searching for the source of the pain. Her head swam, the chaotic world before her began to blur and then fade. The experience was almost one of peace. If any of the people she loved survived this they would be free, they would no longer need to risk themselves for her. That offered a measure of comfort.

When Cassandra awoke the first thing that invaded her consciousness was pain. Her head throbbed, her throat burned, her whole body ached. It took several attempts to pry her eyes open. She was greeted by Izzy learning over her. Her face marked with a combination of relief and lingering concern.

“Thank the Gods you’re alive. You were so close to death…” Izzy’s skin was pale and clammy, her eyes glazed. “I used all the magic I could muster, I wasn’t sure it would be enough.” Her voice was shaking. Cassandra ran her gaze about her surroundings. It appeared they were on a beach. She refocused her attention on Izzy.

“Are you okay?” Cassandra pulled herself to a sitting position and reached for Izzy her discomfort temporarily forgotten.

“I… I don’t think so Cass.” Izzy trembled in Cassandra’s arms. Cassandra gently guided her to a lying position. Izzy’s eyelids flickered for a moment and then fell closed. Cassandra leant over her. She was still breathing but her breaths were weak and erratic.

Cassandra froze a sense of horror overwhelming her senses. This couldn’t be happening. Izzy had always been the strong one. The one who had kept her sane all those years she had been trapped in the Queen’s dungeon. Izzy had saved her in so many ways and now it appeared she might pay for it with her life.

Cassandra shook herself. No! She couldn’t let this happen, wouldn’t. She lay shaking hands on Izzy’s chest. Closing her eyes, she focused on the feeling of magic welling up inside her. She visualised Izzy waking, healthy, as she cast the healing spell she had practised many times before. Izzy remained motionless her breathing becoming weaker as the moments passed. A regular healing spell wasn’t going to work. Healing spells repaired the flesh and there was nothing wrong with Izzy’s body. Izzy’s problem was magical depletion. A mage’s magic was connected to their lifeforce. Reaching the end of their reserves could kill them. It was a rare occurrence. Usually, spellcasting failure occurred long before a mage reached this limit.

Cassandra pushed down the rising panic. There had to be something she could do, a way to fix this. She would not allow Izzy to die for her. She began going over her training in her head, every spell she had practised, every historical text Izzy had sneaked into the dungeon for her during her captivity. At last, she remembered something. An ancient scroll, recounting events prior to the mage purge, had spoken of dark mages who strengthened their magic by syphoning magical energy from other mages. Surely, if it was possible to steal another mage’s magic it was possible to give some of one’s own to another. Cassandra felt a measure of uncertainty. She had no idea how to do this, had never practiced it, wasn’t even sure anyone before her had attempted it. However, she was out of options.

She took a deep breath and focused. She imagined her magic building up in her body, slowly reaching her hands, passing through her fingertips, into Izzy’s body. At first, she felt nothing but she continued to visualise the magic following its path from herself to the woman before her. After what felt like a lifetime she began to feel a warm tingly sensation deep within her chest. Slowly the sensation dispersed throughout her body, working its way down her arms to the tips of her fingers. The magic poured through her into Izzy. She felt her lifeforce entwine with Izzy’s. She could feel Izzy’s heartbeat, weak at first, it slowly steadied. All uncertainty was gone, instinct took over as if on some level she had always known what to do. When she felt Izzy’s strength returning she pulled back, severed the connection.

Cassandra had expected to feel drained, but she didn’t. In fact, she felt invigorated a stark contrast to how she had felt when she first awoke. Izzy’s eyes flickered open and she stared up at Cassandra with a combination of astonishment and awe.

“That should not have been possible… Everything I have read on the topic of magical transference suggests it should have killed you…” She fell silent for a moment then a look of recognition dawned on her face. “The prophesy…” She whispered.

The Dragon Heist

Hazel ducked behind a pillar, heart pounding in her chest. She held her breath in trepidation as she listened to the pounding of the soldiers’ boots, falling on marble tiles, as they marched past her. She exhaled a sigh of relief as the footfalls faded. That had been far too close. Most would think her crazy for attempting her current course of action. She preferred to think of herself as an idealist. Hazel had been planning this operation for months. She had scouted the castle in various disguises, mapped the floor plans, memorized the movements of the guards. Tonight, was the night her efforts would come to fruition. Tonight, was the night the Queen’s dragon would finally be liberated.

Hazel’s blood boiled any time she thought about the Queen’s dragon. To keep such a magnificent creature locked away in a castle was the epitome of cruelty, in her opinion. A dragon should be free to soar the skies at its fancy, collect treasure, hunt, meet other dragons and have little baby dragons. The only times Hazel had seen the Queen’s dragon permitted out of the castle were in times of war. Brought out to fight the Queen’s battles and then pushed aside as if she was worthless. Hazel was disgusted. The Queen did not appear to value her dragon as anything beyond a weapon. In fact, Hazel could not recall seeing the Queen and the dragon together on even one occasion.

“Dragon Queen my arse!” Hazel muttered under her breath. “More like over-privileged dragon exploiter.” Those of royal blood thought they could treat the little people however they wanted. Tonight, Hazel would make a stand.

Queen Evelyn sat in her bedchambers looking out over the castle courtyard. Movement caught her eye and she shook her head as she watched the cloaked figure duck behind a pillar. Fiery locks peaked out from beneath the woman’s hood. Evelyn sighed, that was unmistakably Hazel. Hazel had been skulking around the castle for the better part of a year now, always in a different disguise, always embarrassingly conspicuous. Had Evelyn not strictly instructed her soldiers to leave Hazel be they would have put a stop to it months ago. Evelyn knew she should have permitted her soldiers to arrest Hazel. Allowing this to continue made her look weak. In all defiance of logic, she couldn’t bring herself to do it.

Evelyn and Hazel had known one and other since they were children.  They had been friends once, had played together, shared secrets, joys and sorrows. Once they grew older they had shared more. That had ended when Hazel’s mother, a commander in the royal army, fell in combat. Evelyn had been barely beyond childhood, had no control over her father’s battle strategy. Hazel had blamed her nonetheless, had never been able to forgive her.

Evelyn felt she was a good Queen. She cared about her subjects, knew many of them by name. She gifted them gold when they fell on hard times and invested in public infrastructure. Hazel, however, could not see anything beyond the pain of losing her mother. She now ran a small band of revolutionaries intent on toppling the monarchy. Calling them revolutionaries was generous. Hazel’s followers consisted exclusively of village children and rumour had it their participation was largely based on the provision of free cake.

Judging by Hazel’s current attire she was about to commit the crime she had been planning. Evelyn wondered what role Hazel would be taking tonight. Thief? Perhaps assassin? Evelyn hoped it would not be the latter. The punishment for violence against a member of the royal family was death and she did not wish to see Hazel harmed. She rose to her feet. Her heart was heavy with longing for what might have been. Regardless of Hazel’s intentions, it was time to greet her uninvited guest.

Hazel continued making her way across the courtyard, keeping to the shadows. When she first hatched this plan she had been afraid she would fail. Every successful scouting mission had bolstered her confidence. Now, she felt like victory was within her grasp. Perhaps she would live to one day see a society ruled by the people for the people. The dragon, however, was the first step. Who knew? Perhaps, after she freed her, she would demonstrate her gratitude by supporting the cause. The prospect was thrilling. A revolution against the monarchy aided by a dragon. It would be glorious! She could rain fire down on all those who thought they had a right to trample hard-working families just like her own. She was getting ahead of herself, she acknowledged. Once she completed her mission the dragon would be free to make her own choices and Hazel would respect whatever she decided.

Hazel’s musings were interrupted by a loud swooshing sound. She spun around just in time to see the dragon alight in the middle of the courtyard. Hazel was taken aback. She had expected to find the dragon chained in the dungeon. She had never spotted her about the castle on her scouting missions. Given, she had not scouted the dungeon. However, she had not felt the need. There wasn’t anyone being kept in the dungeon at present. The soldiers would never expect a dungeon break-in. Getting through the populated parts of the castle was the hard part. She had expected to sneak into the dungeon have a quick look around, find the dragon, and then leave. Evelyn must have let the dragon out for a special occasion she decided. The dragon was usually kept in the dungeon, she was sure. She cleared her throat.

“I’m here to free you.” She addressed the dragon. The dragon’s expression appeared almost human. Surprise flickered across her face, swiftly replaced with a look of amusement. “Didn’t you hear me?” Hazel barely restrained herself from stomping her foot in frustration. “You no longer have to be a slave, no longer have to endure the Queen’s cruelty. You will be free to live your own life, free to make your own choices.” The good-humoured expression drained from the dragon’s face, replaced with one of fury.

Evelyn had intended to remain in her dragon form for the duration of her confrontation with Hazel. She had been afraid to see her in a form she would recognize, didn’t wish to hear the vile words Hazel would surely hurl at her. However, Hazel’s implication struck a nerve.

The switch happened so quickly Hazel barely registered what was happening. One moment she was staring up at the dragon. The next Evelyn stood before her trembling with rage. Hazel gaped.

“You think I would abuse a dragon?” Evelyn struggled to keep her voice steady. “I have never hurt an animal. Would never…” Evelyn’s voice trailed off momentarily. “You should know that!”

“You… you don’t own the dragon.” Hazel stammered “You are the dragon… why did you never tell me?”

“I developed the ability after our friendship ended.” Evelyn stated coldly. “Why would I tell you?” Hazel continued to stare at Evelyn wide-eyed for several moments before regaining her composure.

“I should know you wouldn’t abuse a dragon?” She shouted. “I thought I knew you cared about me. I thought I knew you would never knowingly allow harm to come to my family! You knew your father’s battle plan, knew he planned to sacrifice her. You should have warned her! Maybe…”

“You think your mother would have deserted the army?” Evelyn snapped. “Grow up, Hazel!”

Hazel drew a dagger and charged at Evelyn. Evelyn glanced frantically around the courtyard relieved upon noting a lack of witnesses. In moments, she was back in her dragon form. She rose into the air. Picking Hazel up in her claws, she flew to her bedroom window and tossed her inside. Switching back to her human form she fell through the air, flipping just in time to project herself through the window. She landed on the bedroom floor her irate gaze falling on a stunned Hazel, who still sat on the bed where she had landed.

“This Kingdom has laws!” Evelyn’s glare bore into Hazel. “The fact that I’m the Queen does not mean I can flaunt them at will. We have a council designed to prevent such abuses of power. Don’t you understand? If you continue your actions against me I may not always be able to protect you!

“Protect me?” Hazel scoffed “Like you protected my mother? You don’t care about protecting me. You don’t care about protecting anyone! You only care about yourself. Do it! Have me executed. Watch the people rise!” Hazel jumped to her feet and began stalking towards Evelyn, dagger in hand once more.

“It was her idea!” Hazel froze. Her eyes met Evelyn’s, confusion and uncertainty flashing across her face.

“What?” She snapped.

“You mother…” Evelyn held her gaze. “Sacrificing herself was her idea. My father forbade it. She did it anyway…” Hazel felt a numbness invade her body. She wanted to scream at Evelyn, call her a liar, but she could feel the words were true.

“Why…” Tears began to fall. “Why, didn’t you tell me then?”

“I knew it would devastate you.” Evelyn wanted to close the distance between them, take Hazel in her arms. However, she was unsure if Hazel would want that. “She always prioritized her role as a soldier over her role as your mother and I could see how much it hurt you. I thought it would be better if you hated me instead of hating her. I thought it would be easier for you… Had I known it would turn you into this… I would have done things differently.” Hazel remained motionless as waves of pain washed away the numbness, replacing it with feelings of abandonment, guilt, and self-loathing. She lifted her blade again and continued her advance on Evelyn.

“Hazel! I don’t want to fight you.” There was desperation in Evelyn’s voice.

“Then don’t.” Hazel’s voice sounded hollow. “Call your soldiers! The punishment for assaulting a member of the royal family is death, right? That’s what I deserve. All you ever did was try to protect me and I…”

Evelyn’s expression hardened. She closed the distance between them in a few determined strides. Gripping Hazel’s wrist she wrenched the dagger from her hand. She threw the blade to the floor. Keeping a firm hold on Hazel with one hand she brought the palm of the other down on her bottom, smacking her six times in quick succession.

“Don’t say that. Don’t you ever say that!” Hazel could feel Evelyn’s breath against her neck. She stumbled as Evelyn pushed her in the direction of the bed but strong hands held her upright.  Evelyn undid the clasp on Hazel’s cloak, pushing it from her body, allowing it to fall to the floor. Reaching for the buttons of her breeches she undid those too, stripping the tight fabric down her thighs. Hazel began to protest but Evelyn paid her no mind. Sitting down on the edge of the bed she hauled Hazel across her lap.

Hazel squirmed. She had only been in this position with Evelyn once before and it had not been a pleasant experience. All things considered, however, she was getting off lightly. She had tried to kill Evelyn. She should be in the dungeon awaiting her trial. She certainly did not deserve to be treated to such intimacy.  Tears continued to slip down her cheeks and she buried her face in the quilt.

Now Evelyn had Hazel across her knee she felt uncertainty, feared taking such liberties might further inflame the situation. Hazel wasn’t hers. Hadn’t been for many years. A realization was setting in, this was her fault. She should have been honest. She had been young, foolish. She thought she was saving Hazel pain but really she had just allowed her to lose both her mother and her girlfriend at the same time. At a time when Hazel had needed the support of her partner she had allowed her to push her away, hadn’t even tried to fight for her. Evelyn felt a few tears of her own slip down her cheeks. She shook herself. She had committed to this decision now. As much damage as her current actions might cause, failing to finish what she started would be worse. She couldn’t simply leave Hazel to her downward spiral without at least trying to snap her out of it. She may not have fought for her back then but she was going to fight for her now.

She wrapped an arm around Hazel’s waist, holding her in position, and began. Her hand descended landing a smart smack in the middle of Hazel’s right cheek. She could feel Hazel’s body shaking as she sobbed into the quilt. She settled into a steady pattern working her way up and down both cheeks ensuring no area of her bottom was left unspanked. Hazel squirmed slightly but made no attempt to escape the blows. Now, confronted with the truth she was forced to acknowledge how unfair she had been to Evelyn. The worse thing was a part of her had always known or at least suspected. Her mother had always valued military success above all else. Disobeying orders? Knowingly getting herself killed with no thought of how it might affect Hazel? It was very much in character. Hazel just hadn’t wanted to believe it. Hating a dead person felt wrong. Directing her anger towards Evelyn was easy in comparison. Her behaviour towards Evelyn had been monstrous. Evelyn had just allowed it to happen, had never once attempted to defend herself, until today. She deserved any amount of pain Evelyn chose to inflict on her and she would take it without complaint.

Evelyn slowly built up the intensity of the spanking, incrementally increasing the speed, putting slightly more strength behind each smack. Hazel’s bottom rapidly turned a warm shade of pink.

“Never again!” Evelyn emphasized the words with sharp slaps to each of Hazel’s sit spots. “I will not tolerate you putting so little value on your safety. You may not care whether you live or die but other people do.” She delivered a rapid volley of swats continuing to focus on Hazel’s sit spots.

“Yeah, like who?” Hazel half laughed half sobbed. “You were the only person who cared back then… it’s not like I’ve made any new friends recently.”

“I still care.” Evelyn moved her attention to Hazel’s upper thighs. Hazel inhaled sharply.

“Well, you shouldn’t.” Hazel muttered. Evelyn stopped and pulled her into a sitting position. Hazel stared at her shoes.

“Hazel, look at me.” Evelyn’s voice was firm, Hazel glanced in her direction. “I love you, Hazel. I have always loved you. You feel guilty your actions over the past few years have hurt me. Your death would hurt me far more.” Evelyn let her instincts take over and reached for Hazel, pulled her close, wrapped her arms around her. Hazel buried her face in Evelyn’s chest. “Hazel?” Evelyn took a deep breath. “I need to apologise. I should have been honest with you. You may not have realized but you needed me. I should have been there for you and I wasn’t.” Evelyn could feel Hazel’s tears soaking her shirt. They both remained silent for a long moment. Evelyn held her breath waiting for a response, any response. Finally, it came.

“I need you to hurt me.” Hazel’s words were muffled.

“I…”  Evelyn’s words failed her. She cleared her throat. “I spanked you?” All she wanted right now to keep holding Hazel.

“It wasn’t enough.” Hazel raised her head to look into Evelyn’s eyes. “Please… I don’t think I can move forward unless I feel punished.” Evelyn took a deep breath and nodded. She rose to her feet pulling Hazel with her. Hazel felt a small measure of relief as gentle hands guided her to bend over the edge of the bed. Evelyn stood for a moment gazing at the woman before her. She wanted to reach for Hazel again, caress her. Hazel shifted position, restless. Evelyn closed her eyes, pushed the feeling aside, tried to reconnect with the anger and fear she felt when Hazel first came at her with that dagger. When she opened her eyes again her expression was harder. She reached for the buckle of her belt, undoing it she pulled it from her waist in a fluid movement. Doubling it over she snapped it together causing a loud crack to echo throughout the room. Hazel flinched slightly. Evelyn cast a last longing look at Hazel before slicing the belt through the air as hard as she could. The thwacking sound of the belt connecting with Hazel’s flesh reverberated through the room. Hazel dug her nails into the quilt. Evelyn inhaled deeply, taking a moment to renew her resolve. She lashed the belt down again, and again after that, building up momentum. Hazel bit down on her lip, the metallic taste of blood assaulted her taste buds. She deserved this and she was determined to demonstrate her acceptance of the punishment. The belt fell over and over igniting bursts of pain all over Hazel’s bottom. As welts began to overlap Hazel’s resolution to remain silent began to dissolve. When intermittent yelps turned into screams Evelyn threw the belt to the ground.

Hazel pulled herself to her feet, she stumbled. Evelyn caught her, gently ushering her to lie down on her stomach. Sitting on the bed next to her she ran her fingers through her hair.

“Please tell me that was enough? I don’t think I can…” Evelyn shuddered slightly her eyes falling on the crisscross of welts marring Hazel’s flesh.

“I love you too.” Hazel looked up at her with a fierce intensity.

Evelyn lay down next to her draping an arm across her shoulders.  Brushing her lips against Hazel’s neck she was greeted with a soft snore. Evelyn smiled. Snuggling closer she drifted off to sleep herself. This had been an exhausting night for both of them.

The Fan

Disclaimer: Given that is is for the Christmas exchange and some people who are unfamiliar with my writing may read it expecting something of a more TTWD nature I feel I should preface this with a warning that I rarely write healthy relationships and the Tops in my stories tend not to be the most responsible or loving in nature. This story is no exception. Please keep this in mind when deciding whether this is the type of story you want to read.

The wind howled, pelting twigs and leaves against the roof and walls of the tiny cottage. A loud crack in the distance indicated the storm had reached a level of intensity sufficient to topple trees. Aeliana sat as close to the fire as safety would allow, a fur rug draped around her shoulders. A scraggly grey cat lay curled up in her lap. In her hand, she gripped a piping cup of bear stew. She slurped her stew in satisfaction. She hadn’t expected to take easily to retirement but it had turned out she enjoyed the tranquil solitude of the woods. This was the first holiday season she had spent outside of the city since she was a small girl. The absence of festive crowds was refreshing. She had always despised this time of year. In the past, she had required vast quantities of ale just to get through it without burying a blade in one of the unnecessarily cheerful revellers.

Despite the many benefits of her tiny sanctuary, there were times she missed her former profession. Her eyes fell wistfully on her swords which hung on a rack near the door. She didn’t get to use them nearly as often as she would like out here. Her hunt for the bear, now graced with the honour of filling her belly, had been the most excitement she’d had in weeks. She ran the fingers of her free hand absentmindedly over her feline companion’s coat and was rewarded with a contented purr. She had found Marcella as a kitten, scavenging on the streets of Ilarium. Aeliana relished the amiable silence they often shared. She wasn’t overly fond of human company. People talked too much, had too many emotions. She had little use for them when they weren’t giving her the opportunity to exercise her skills with a sword. Aeliana had been a pit fighter in Ilarium for most of her adult life. Six months ago, she had been forced into early retirement after threatening to dismember a patron in front of a large crowd of fans for the seventh time in a two day period. It had been a poor decision on her employer’s part. She was the best fighter the Ilarium pits had seen in many years and the buffoon in question had deserved not only the threat but it’s swift execution, having implied she needed to be rescued from the life she had worked hard to establish for herself. The end of her career had signified the end of her time in Ilarium. The city officials had wanted her gone for over a decade, only her employer’s deep pockets had kept them at bay.

Marcella stretched, digging her claws into Aeliana’s thigh, she arched her back poking her bottom in the air. Turning in a circle three times, she paused, eying the human as she gulped from her cup. Tentatively she stretched out a paw batting at the cup, fixing her eyes on Aeliana’s face in expectation. Aeliana growled but lowered the cup and the cat started lapping contentedly.

A piercing scream penetrated the pandemonium of the storm, shattering the harmonious atmosphere inside the diminutive dwelling. Aeliana sighed, that had sounded distinctly human. She contemplated ignoring it, however, a second scream rang out, further disrupting her peaceful evening. Aeliana huffed, if she wanted to continue enjoying her evening she was going to have to put a stop to that. She leapt to her feet eliciting a disgruntled yowl from Marcella. Shrugging on her coat, she headed for the door grabbing a sword before striding out into the storm.

As she stepped outside the wind assaulted her, a combination of leaves, twigs, small stones, and heavy raindrops battered her flesh. She grimaced and pressed on following the sound of the shrieks. It was not long before she came upon the source of the disturbance. In the middle of a clearing stood a young woman clad in a lilac silk tunic. Around her paced a wolf of remarkable size. The wolf snarled and the woman shrieked yet again.

Aeliana shook her head, what could have possessed a young woman of the nobility to wander into the forest alone, in the middle of a storm, was beyond her. Yet again she contemplated leaving the woman to her, likely, well-deserved fate. However, it was apparent from her manner of dress, this was the type of woman for whom people would come searching. She didn’t wish to risk being blamed for the little imbecile’s demise. With a dramatic sigh, she stepped forward placing herself between the woman and the wolf. She hoped she would not have a need to harm it. Aeliana was fond of wolves. The wolf stilled, fixing its sight on Aeliana, curling its lip up in another snarl. Aeliana returned its gaze. They remained this way for a protracted moment regarding one and other with a combination of suspicion and curiosity. At last the wolf turned and bounded off into the darkness.

“What in the name of the gods are you doing out here alone!” Aeliana shouted to be heard over the storm.

“It’s you!” The young woman squealed. “I heard you lived in these parts but I was uncertain I would be able to find you. I used to sneak into the pits, as a young girl and watch you fight. You are an inspiration! I wished to be a swordswoman but father said no. I have dreamed of meeting you for so long that now I find myself doubting this to be more than a dream. Please tell me this is real?” Aeliana pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. Perfect, just perfect. A deluded fan was the last thing she needed invading her tranquil piece of the woods.

“I am indeed real.” Aeliana stepped closer, her expression darkening. “However, that should not excite you it should terrify you. As such an admirer of mine, you are surely aware of my reputation. It is not entirely undeserved. Did you not stop to think what might happen if you found me? We are alone in the woods in the middle of a storm. If I chose to hurt you nobody would hear you scream, nobody would come to your aid. You should have listened to your father, little girl.”

“Do you plan to hurt me?” The young woman stood her ground her eyes never leaving Aeliana. She appeared more intrigued than afraid.

“No.” Aeliana shook her head in exasperation. “However, you could not possibly have known. There is a reason I’m no longer welcome in Ilarium. Seeking me out simply because you admire my fighting abilities was childish and dangerous.”

“I apologize for bothering you.” The woman snapped. The excitement faded from her face, replaced by a stormy expression. An impending tantrum, Aeliana grimaced, how wonderful. “I shall take my leave.” The woman stated stiffly. “You need not endure my company any further.” The woman attempted to turn but Aeliana reached for her. Gripping her by the shoulders she halted her retreat. The woman fixed her with a mutinous glare.

“Permit a high born Ilarian woman to wander off into a storm and perish? When half of Ilarium already wishes me dead?” Aeliana scoffed “No, little girl. You shall stay in my home until the storm clears, then I will escort you back to your father.” Aeliana turned and started back towards her cottage. The young woman followed with a scowl. At least she seemed to be realizing the error of her choice Aeliana supposed.

“My name is Gaia not little girl” Gaia’s voice rang out over the sound of the storm.

“I did not ask your name, little girl,” Aeliana shouted back.

Several moments passed in silence as Aeliana marched towards the house. She glanced over her shoulder to check the girl was keeping up and groaned to see her running back in the opposite direction.

“Bloody hell!” Aeliana spun around and dashed after her. It was a matter of seconds before she caught up. Gaia gasped in surprise as Aeliana’s hand wrapped around her arm.

“Now where do you think you’re going, little girl.” Aeliana’s eyes bore into her.

“You have made it abundantly clear you find my company undesirable.” Gaia wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Aeliana snorted. It seemed, to her, a waste of time to wipe away one’s tears in the middle of a storm. The girl’s face was going to remain wet regardless. “I do not wish to be an imposition.” Gaia’s voice was stronger now. “So, as I said previously I shall take my leave.”

“Your continued belief that such an option is available to you is mildly humorous.” Aeliana kept a firm hold on her arm. “You will return to my cottage with me and you will stay there until the storm has passed. If I catch you wandering off into the woods alone again, I’ll put you over my knee and spank you like the spoilt child you are.” Gaia gaped at her and Aeliana flashed her disingenuous smile. “Now, come along. I am tired of standing in the rain.”

A quick learner, Aeliana kept a firm hold on Gaia all the way back to the cottage. She only let go once she had pushed her through the door and bolted it behind them.

“The bedroom is over there” Aeliana gestured to a closed door on the right “There are plenty of towels and clean clothes. Go dry yourself and dress in something warm. I shall heat you up some supper.”

“What of you?” Gaia glanced up with what Aeliana presumed to be feigned guilt. “You are soaked and this is your house.”

“Do you think me a fool?” Aeliana stared at her incredulously. “Think I would just retreat to the bedroom giving you the opportunity to run straight out the front door to your death? I think not! Now, get yourself into that bedroom.” Gaia glared back at her for several moments before spinning around and stomping her way to the bedroom, slamming the door behind her. Aeliana shook her head. This was going to be a long evening. Possibly a long week depending on the length of the storm.

Aeliana put some more stew in a pot over the fire to heat up. As she waited for Gaia to change she grabbed a rag and began to run it over her sword in a loving caress. When she was satisfied the blade was clean she returned it to its place near the door. A shiver ran through her body. The warmth emanating from the fire was not enough to counteract the effects of standing around in soaking clothes. Aeliana stripped out of the wet garments and lay them out in front of the fire to dry. She wrapped her fur rug tightly around herself and let out a contented sigh. Reaching for the cup she had left behind when had taken off after Gaia she growled, noting Marcella had polished off the remainder of its contents. Shaking her head, she added some extra stew to the pot and sat back down next to the fire. Marcella bounded over and sidled up to her. Aeliana scratched her behind the ears and Marcella purred.

In the bedroom, Gaia paced back and forwards. Her heart hammered in her chest. What had she been thinking? All she had wanted was to meet her childhood hero and now she was stuck in an isolated cottage with a woman who considered her presence to be an inconvenience at best. Aeliana was right. She should have anticipated this. She was indeed well aware of her reputation, knew she had reacted in less than favourable ways to fans in the past. She had just hoped that perhaps it would be different with her. That she might be the one to convince Aeliana to take an apprentice. She had known there was a chance of rejection, perhaps even aggression, but she had not expected this. Aeliana didn’t even respect her enough to attack her. She saw her as an inconvenience and an incompetent one at that. She was deeply insulted that her former hero didn’t even trust her to find her own way home. Not that she planned to go home. If Aeliana wouldn’t teach her to fight she would find someone else who would.  Aeliana’s concerns for her safety were misplaced, she felt.  She got herself all the way here in the storm by herself, almost. She could get herself home too. She had no need for charity. Gaia’s mind was made up she was getting out of here.

Gaia’s eyes searched the room and a grin broke out across her face as they fell on a small window. Aeliana had been too busy worrying that she might attempt to run out the front door that she hadn’t anticipated an escape through the window. Given, the window was very small. Aeliana certainly wouldn’t have been able to fit through it which may have been why she hadn’t considered the possibility. Gaia, however, was much smaller. It would still be a tight fit but she was sure she could squeeze through. For a moment Aeliana’s previous words echoed through her mind but she shook them off. Aeliana was unwilling to let her make her own way home for fear of repercussions from her family. If her father found out she had spanked her… well if she was being completely honest with herself he would probably approve. Aeliana, however, did not know that. No, her behind was entirely safe. Feeling more confident she set to unlatching the window, taking her time to prevent any loud noises which might alert Aeliana to her actions.

Slowly Gaia began to squeeze her upper body through the window. She smirked to herself picturing Aeliana sitting in the living room, oblivious, waiting for her to emerge. She would be waiting a long, long, time. If luck was on her side Gaia would get a good head start before Aeliana realized she was missing. Aeliana would likely be relieved when she was gone. She would no doubt do a quick search of the surrounding woods to ensure she hadn’t died in a location which might lead Gaia’s father and other concerned citizens to her door. However, once she established Gaia was gone she would happily go back to her solitary life. The thought made Gaia sad but she pushed the feeling aside. There was no use lamenting what might have been. Gaia’s musings were cut short as she realized her wriggling was no longer propelling her in a forward direction. While the top half of her body had slid through the window with relative ease her hips were being less cooperative. She gripped the outside of the window with both hands and pushed as hard as she could in an attempt to force the rest of her body through the small opening. Her efforts, however, were to no avail. She cursed under her breath, mindful of the fact any louder vocalizing would attract Aeliana’s attention, and tried again. Yet again, Gaia moved no further through the window although if her intention had been to bruise her hips the endeavour would have been a resounding success. Gaia attempted the move again, more frantically this time. She felt her breath quicken, her heart pounded in her chest. This had to work. She had to get out of here before Aeliana took it upon herself to come check on her. She couldn’t bear seeing her again. Every moment spent in Aeliana’s presence was a reminder of her rejection. A reminder that her dream to gain the woman’s respect and companionship would never be realized.

Aeliana growled, pacing back and forth as she waited for Gaia to emerge from the bedroom. Marcella accompanied her, weaving her way from side to side, coming close to tripping her more than once. Every so often she would rub her body against Aeliana’s calves looking up at her with a demanding mew. She wanted more bear stew Aeliana surmised. Her impatience grew. How long could it take someone to dry themselves and change into fresh clothes? It certainly never took her this long although she supposed it may well be a quirk of the nobility. They were a peculiar bunch. Aeliana’s patience continued to wane and it was not long before she decided she’d had enough. If Gaia couldn’t handle the task in a reasonable timeframe she would dress the girl herself.  She shrugged on her still damp clothes and headed for the bedroom, covering the distance in a few short strides. She threw the door open as she reached it.

“You cannot even dress yourself efficiently and yet you think you could master…” Aeliana fell silent mid-sentence as her eyes settled on Gaia, halfway out the window and wriggling frantically. She blinked a couple of times and shook her head. “It would seem you lack both self-preservation and spatial awareness.” The statement was made in a conversational tone. Aeliana chuckled slightly as Gaia’s struggle against the very small window intensified.  She stalked closer and gripped Gaia by the waist. In one swift movement, she pulled her back inside.  Gaia emitted a high-pitched squeal as Aeliana spun her around. She shivered slightly as the other woman’s gaze bore into her. “Now, little girl. I believe I made you a promise.”

“I believe you stated you would spank me if I ran off into the woods.” Gaia covered her uncertainty with a smirk. “I suppose it’s fortunate I haven’t left the cottage.”

“It is indeed fortunate I caught you before you succeeded in your escape attempt.” Aeliana returned the smirk. “Now I’ve saved the energy it would have taken to chase you through the rain a second time I shall be able to punish you all the more thoroughly.”

“I’m still wearing wet clothes.” Gaia pointed out hopefully.

“No need to worry about that.” Gaia squirmed under the intensity of Aeliana’s stare. “I shall help you out of them.” Aeliana seized the front of Gaia’s dress with both hands and wrenched the delicate fabric apart.

“Do you have any idea how expensive that dress was?” Gaia protested.

“You claim you wish to be a warrior.” Aeliana shook her head. “A true warrior would not concern herself with such frivolities.”

“A woman can possess great skill with a sword and still appreciate nice things.” Gaia scowled.

“That may be true.” Aeliana conceded “You, however, do not possess any skill with a sword.”

“That’s a bold claim to make for someone who has never seen me fight. I’ll have you know…”

“You couldn’t handle one wolf by yourself.” Aeliana cut her off with a chuckle. Gaia opened and closed her mouth a few times unable to think of an adequate retort.

Aeliana kept her hold on Gaia as she sat down on the bed. With one tug Gaia toppled over her lap emitting an undignified squeak. Aeliana’s palm landed on her bottom with a powerful smack. Gaia yelped but did her best to hold still. If Aeliana thought her weak she would certainly not reinforce the belief by making an undue fuss over a mere spanking. Aeliana smacked her again and she grit her teeth. Gaia hadn’t been spanked for many years but she didn’t remember it hurting this much. It would seem Aeliana had maintained her strength despite her retirement. Aeliana continued to deliver crisp swats to the seat of Gaia’s undergarments intent on fully demonstrating her displeasure. She nodded in approval as Gaia yelped again. When she was finished the girl would stay put, in that she was confident.

“You are afraid my father will come after you if I’m killed by the elements yet you think he will tolerate you assaulting me?” Gaia wriggled in an attempt to free herself from Aeliana’s grasp.

“I am not afraid,” Aeliana emphasized the statement with a particularly hard smack. “I am simply reluctant to relocate. I love these woods. Also, I suspect you will be too embarrassed to recount these events to your father.” Gaia grimaced as the onslaught of slaps intensified. Aeliana was correct, she had no intention of sharing the details of this encounter and she had no further ideas on how to holt the punishment. The smacks rained down without pause, scorching Gaia’s flesh. Her intention to remain stoic was quickly forsaken. She squealed and swore, tried to twist herself out of Aeliana’s grip but her efforts failed to produce results.

“Now, where did you learn language like that?” Aeliana tutted her tone dripping with mock reproach. She delivered several swift swats to Gaia’s sit spots before stripping her underwear down to her mid thighs. “That sort of thing is not fit for polite society.  Your family must be terribly disappointed.”

“I do not wish to participate in polite society.” Gaia retorted “As I already told you I wish to be a swordswoman. You’re not very bright, are you?”

Aeliana snorted in response. She recommenced the spanking with vigorous enthusiasm covering every inch of Gaia’s bottom with searing smacks. She watched in satisfaction as the already pink bottom blossomed into a deep shade of red. As much as she loathed to admit it to herself her concern for Gaia’s safety was not entirely based on a desire to avoid a confrontation with the Ilarian aristocracy. Gaia was the first fan she had met whose adoration had not turned to terror within moments of meeting her. Even now, over Aeliana’s knee, Gaia had the nerve to insult her. Aeliana found that… intriguing. Perhaps the girl had potential exceeding that for which she had initially given her credit.

Gaia could have sworn the smacks were getting progressively harder although it was equally possible her bottom was just getting sorer. As Aeliana’s palm continued to rain down, swiftly turning the burning sensation into a raging inferno, Gaia’s resolve to hold back her tears began to break down. This hurt far more than she had expected. Aeliana’s dismissive attitude towards her also hurt. She felt like she had come so close just to have her dreams come crashing down around her. Tears began to fall but she was past the point of feeling embarrassment over it. She gripped the blanket and let the feeling take over. She barely noticed when the smacks slowed and then stopped completely. She was jolted back to reality when Aeliana lifted her and sat her on the bed. Gaia yelped as her sore bottom hit the bedspread. She snapped her head up to glare at Aeliana through her tears. Aeliana smirked at her continued defiance. Definitely, should have given her more credit.

“You know…” Aeliana stared at Gaia for a long moment. “Ever since I was banished from Ilarium I have wished to take revenge on the city council. I imagine they would be positively furious if I trained one of their daughters to be a fearsome warrior.

“Really?” Gaia eyed Aeliana with a combination of hope and suspicion. “I thought the whole reason for me being here was your wish to avoid the council’s ire.”

“Well, I certainly wouldn’t want half of Ilarium arriving at my door with pitchforks over something for which I bear no responsibility,” Aeliana explained. “Antagonising them with intent? Now that another matter entirely.”

“So, you will train me?” Gaia tried to reign in her building excitement.

“I suppose I shall.” Aeliana shrugged. “Now, get dressed. Supper is ready.”

“Thank you!” Gaia beamed her sore bottom momentarily forgotten. “I promise I won’t give you reason to regret this.” Aeliana shook her head as she turned towards the door. She was probably going to regret this.





Hi Everyone, just letting you know the frequency with which I have been updating The Tale of a Mage will be decreasing as I’m currently rather busy with life related things. There will definitely still be chapters being written and posted but that will be happening at a slower pace.

The Tale of a Mage (part 26)

From the moment the sea serpent skewered the boat Drucilla knew a further clash with the beast would prove fruitless. The vessel was in pieces like delicate china which had been misguidedly entrusted to a spirited infant. Specifically, it was in two pieces but keeping that detail vague would make for a better story, Drucilla decided. The priority now was to reach land. The fate of the serpent was unimportant. Any experienced sailor knew engaging a sea serpent was foolish. Drucilla enjoyed reaping glory from a skilfully spun tale. She did not have a death wish. Livia, however, appeared committed to revenge. That suited Drucilla just fine. The more Livia stabbed at the angry reptile, the more enraged it would become, and the more it would hone its attention on her. A distracted serpent meant an easier escape for Drucilla. When she shared this story with naïve land dwellers she would, of course, put herself in Livia’s role but right now it was time to bail.  With one last sigh in lament of the loss of her boat Drucilla dove gracefully into the water.

As she had expected the serpent paid her little attention as it roared and snapped at Livia. Drucilla smirked slightly, Livia was certainly predictable. She took a deep breath to calm the remainder of her nerves and began to swim in the direction of land. She should probably feel bad for abandoning the others, she mused to herself. She didn’t. Many years as a pirate had taught her too much investment in the interests and wellbeing of others only led to trouble. Drucilla had two priorities in life, keeping herself alive and acquiring personal wealth. Well, maybe three priorities. Drucilla had an extremely strong fondness for rum… and mead… and wine. Involving herself in pointless combat to temporarily preserve the lives of her travel companions did not fit into her life plan. Particularly not when the aforementioned companions would likely drown promptly even if by some miracle her heroic efforts didn’t result in her joining them as sea serpent food.

Drucilla directed all her attention and energy to the one task, making it to the shore. Having spent the majority of her adult life, and a fair portion of her childhood, at sea Drucilla was a strong swimmer. The distance between herself and her destination, however, was excessive even for her. That did not deter her from taking on the challenge. When it came to her own survival Drucilla was a paragon of determination. She paced herself and pushed all other thoughts from her mind. It was just her and the water, the kick of her feet, one arm ploughing through the water and then the other. Her focus remained in the moment. When her energy began to wane she told herself just once more, when the movement was completed once more again. Her head pounded and her body ached but she pushed on. She continued like this until she felt her fingers scrape sand. With a chuckle of relief, she relaxed and allowed the waves to carry her the rest of the way to the beach.

Drucilla lay on the sand and allowed the water to lap against her body. She might be stuck on an uncharted island but she was alive. Life had taught her there was a solution to every predicament. She just had to find it. Later, she would find it later. For the moment, a nap was in order. The sensation of the sand beneath her and the water caressing her skin faded as she drifted into a dreamless sleep.

Drucilla awoke spluttering as a wave washed over her. It would appear the tide had crept in while she slept. She shot up to a sitting position coughing up water. Once she could breathe comfortably again she pulled herself to her feet with a groan. Her muscles were stiff and her throat was raw.  Her stomach growled loudly. She reached into her pocket before remembering she left her rum on the boat. She let out a dramatic sigh. Her stay on this island was going to be far more disagreeable than she had initially anticipated. She needed to find a way to get back to sea and more importantly back to where she could acquire more rum. Unfortunately, food and water needed to be her first priority.

She wandered the beach and was pleased to quickly come upon a cluster of coconut trees. With great effort, she pulled her aching body up the trunk of the nearest tree, plucked a coconut, then slid back down to the ground. Picking up a sharp rock she cracked the coconut open with relative ease, it wasn’t the first time she had done this. She would still need to locate fresh water and a larger variety of food sources if she ended up stuck here for a lengthy period of time, but for the moment the coconut was sufficient. She sated her hunger and thirst before setting off to explore the island.

The Tale of a Mage (part 25)

Silence stretched out and Nyx held her breath in anticipation of a wrathful outburst. Livia, however, looked more tired and defeated than angry.

“Fine” she sighed “I guess it doesn’t really matter now that she’s most likely dead.”

“No!” Nyx’s voice boomed through the trees. “Do not say that! She’ll be okay. They will all be okay!”  Livia looked unconvinced but if Nyx was being honest she was trying to convince herself more so than Livia. They slipped back into an uncomfortable silence

“Never imagined my destiny was to end up stuck on a deserted island with such poor company.” Livia muttered under her breath. Nyx bristled. She was about to respond with a sarcastic retort but thought better of it. Given that Livia seemed to have temporarily lost her bite this was the perfect opportunity to interrogate her about the reasons for her less than amicable behaviour.

“Why do you hate me so much? What have I ever done to deserve this attitude from you?” Nyx glared at Livia, the volume of her voice steadily increasing as her rant continued “I know you’re capable of kindness. You’re always nice to Cassandra. Seriously, what is your problem with me?”

“You tried to kill me!” Livia bellowed in response.

“Don’t use that as an excuse!” Nyx trembled with rage “You hated me long before that. I only tried to kill you because of the way you treated me. I have never done anything to you that wasn’t in direct response to something you did to me! Do you expect me to believe you hate me because I was a bit rude to you when you tried to capture me? Because I tried to escape? We both know you wouldn’t be cooperative if a bounty hunter tried to capture you! So why? I want a proper answer.”

“Well, to be fair, I didn’t try to capture you. I did capture you.” Livia smirked evading the question. Unthinkingly Nyx took a step forward and slapped Livia hard across the face.

A tingle of dread crept down Nyx’s spine as she realised her mistake. Livia’s face was the picture of incredulity as if she couldn’t quite believe Nyx didn’t know better by now. They remained frozen staring at one and other in a shocked silence for several moments. Livia’s eyes began to narrow. Nyx snapped herself out of her horrified stupor and attempted to dart out of reach. Livia, however, was faster and caught her wrist, yanking her forward.

Nyx let out a string of curses as she toppled over Livia’s lap. Livia’s hand descended landing on her bottom with a loud crack. Nyx responded with a piercing shriek thrashing from side to side in an attempt to break free of Livia’s hold. The one smack hadn’t really hurt enough to justify such a dramatic reaction but Nyx was in a combative mood. Livia settled into a brisk rhythm, spanking Nyx hard and fast, leaving no inch of her bottom unsmacked. Nyx continued to struggle and curse but her efforts were in vain. Livia’s uncompromising palm continued to find its target without error. The longer Livia spanked the more genuine Nyx’s squeals became but she was too angry to give in, certainly too angry to cry.

“Solving your problems with violence? How true to character.” Nyx snapped.

“Oh?” Livia smirked spanking Nyx with increased force. “And would you not define slapping someone across the face as violence?”

“You deserved that!” Nyx retorted.

“And you deserve this.” Nyx yelped as a sharp slap landed on her thigh.

“I don’t deserve this!” Nyx shouted “I have never deserved this! You’re an ogre. No wonder Drucilla didn’t want to marry you.” Abruptly, the spanking stopped. Livia dumped Nyx on the ground with a growl and stalked off into the trees. Nyx sat on the ground catching her breath as Livia retreated. Had she just found a way to get herself out of spankings or was Livia simply looking for an implement with which to fully demonstrate her displeasure at Nyx’s comment? Nyx was unsure. She contemplated finding a place to hide in case it was the latter but Livia would probably find her if she wanted to and Nyx was tired. She settled instead for taking another nap.

When Nyx awoke Livia had returned. Nyx sat up eying her with apprehension, preparing herself to flee, however, Livia made no move towards her.

“When we were together I always treated Drucilla well.” Livia’s voice was softer than usual. Nyx rolled her eyes. “You remind me of her…” Livia took a deep breath. “That’s my problem with you. You remind me of her.”

“Are you serious?” Nyx felt herself getting angry again. “That’s so unfair.”

“Well, I was right wasn’t I?” Livia snapped “You find her stories about the end of our relationship so very funny…”

“Only because you’re such an awful person.” Nyx cut her off “If it had been anyone else I would have been sympathetic.” There was a long pause before Livia spoke again.

“You were right.” Livia’s voice was barely above a whisper.

“Um, what?” Nyx was sure she couldn’t have heard that correctly.

“I said you were right” Livia spoke more clearly this time. “You never deserved to be treated the way I treated you.” Nyx remained silent confusion marking her features. Perhaps those coconuts had hallucinogenic properties she pondered to herself. Livia sighed and tried again. “What I’m trying to say is I’m sorry.”

The Tale of a Mage (part 24)

Splinters of wood flew in all directions as the small boat cracked in half. Nyx could just make out Cassandra’s scream through the chaos. She gripped the edge of the boat to prevent herself from toppling into the water as her side of the vessel began to tip. The attack passed in a blur. Nyx was vaguely aware of Livia shouting, her sword drawn. Magic crackled at Izzy’s fingertips, her expression fixed in determination. Cassandra, like Nyx, was clinging desperately to the side of the boat, panic marking her features. Drucilla simply dove into the water and began swimming towards land, barely visible on the horizon.

Nyx was unsure how long she spent clutching the side of the boat. It couldn’t have been very long but it felt like an eternity. At some point, the serpent had struck Livia with the tip of its tail sending her hurtling into the ocean. Nyx shuddered. While she hadn’t expected to reach old age, not in light of her lifestyle choices, she had not expected it to end like this. Being eaten alive was not at the top her list of preferred deaths.  She squeezed her eyes shut waiting for sharp teeth to tear into her flesh but they didn’t come. As the boat sank, clinging to its side became unfeasible. Nyx opened her eyes for long enough to locate a floating plank of wood to grab onto before closing them again.

Nyx did not open her eyes again until the pandemonium of the fight receded to silence. When she did, she noticed she had drifted a fair distance away from the wreckage. The sea serpent was nowhere to be seen. She could make out the remains of the boat, some parts still above the water, however, she couldn’t determine whether any of the others were present amongst the wreckage. She let out a miserable sigh and closed her eyes again. Drowning would be better than being eaten she supposed.

Hours passed and the sun set. Nyx drifted in and out of sleep never letting go of her plank. During her waking moments, feelings of despair overwhelmed her. She was hungry, thirsty, and cold. Her whole body ached. Questions about Cassandra’s fate rose in her mind and a sense of guilt and dread enveloped her. She tried to tell herself her sister would be fine. Izzy was a powerful mage, surely she would not allow any harm to come to Cassandra. It didn’t help. She should have done more, should have tried. Cassandra was her little sister. It was her responsibility to protect her and she had failed. Goddess knows what might be happening to her right now, if she was even alive. When the sun rose in the morning she was much closer to land. Mustering what little energy she had left Nyx let go of the plank and swam in the direction of the shore.

When Nyx reached the shore, she collapsed onto the sand. She lay there for a long moment catching her breath. She couldn’t quite believe she had made it through the ordeal alive. She must be alive she reasoned. This didn’t feel like the afterlife. The sun beat down on her and grains of sand stuck to her body. Her eyes stung, her head throbbed, and her skin was uncomfortably dry. Her parched throat burned and her stomach growled loudly. She needed to find food, water, and shade. Water first though. With great effort, she pulled herself to a sitting position and glanced up and down the beach. A couple of hundred metres away a figure lay motionless.

On unsteady feet, Nyx made her way in the figure’s direction. As she got closer it became apparent the figure was Livia. For a moment, she considered leaving her as she was but decided against it. She had no idea where she was or how long she would be here. The presence of someone she knew would be to her benefit, even if it was Livia. She made it across the remaining stretch of sand and knelt down to lean over Livia. She was unconscious but breathing. Nyx let out a sigh of relief. If Livia was alive the others might be too. She took hold of Livia’s shoulders and dragged her in the direction of the tree line inch by inch. She took many breaks along the way as she was exhausted and Livia was heavy.  At last, they reached the trees and Nyx lay Livia in the shade.

She set out in search of food and water and was pleased to find several coconut trees close to the spot she had left Livia. She didn’t even have to find a way to harvest them as several had fallen to the ground. She picked up two, one for herself and one for Livia, when she woke up, and then headed back. It took her several minutes of smacking the coconut with a rock before she managed to crack it open. She drank all the milk she had managed not to spill and then ate a bit of the flesh before lying down a couple of metres away from Livia to take a nap.

When Nyx awoke it was dusk. She glanced over at Livia and noted with some apprehension she was now awake. She appeared to have helped herself to the coconut Nyx had brought for her and was now staring intently at her a quizzical look marking her features.

“I’m surprised you didn’t kill me.” Livia’s voice broke the silence. “You had ample opportunity.”

“There was no point.” Nyx shrugged “You were unconscious, you wouldn’t have even known it was happening. If I kill you I want you to know it was me.”  There was a long silence during which Livia continued to stare at Nyx her expression unreadable. Nyx took a deep breath. “We’re even now.” She returned Livia’s stare. “It’s my fault your gold was stolen and it’s your fault we were attacked by a sea serpent. I will not be paying back your gold and when we find Drucilla I’m telling her I’m not actually your girlfriend.”