Chapter 27.1


Her seat was an uncomfortable piece of lumpy root from the great central tree.  The roots were at their most tangled here, making it an unideal place to set up a merchant spot.  This left the area clear for the two women to talk in peace.  Elmiryn would have preferred the forest, where there was no one but the nymphs, but she was certain the dryads wouldn’t take kindly to her presence.  Her forehead was still throbbing from their last encounter.

Nyx was pacing before her, her arms crossed over her chest and her head bowed.  Her steps weren’t hurried, but there was a tension in her movements, like the muscles were seized up and refused to move.  Elmiryn sat and watched her, her cerulean eyes tracking back and forth, back and forth.  Her elbows dug into her knees.  Her palms felt sweaty.  The giddy feeling was…gone.

She felt caught in a circle song, certain that this was a tune of life she’d played before.  Where?  When?

Nyx stopped, raising her eyes to peer at the woman through her bangs.  Elmiryn’s brows pressed up and together, wrinkling her forehead.  “I’ve told ya everything.” She lowered her eyes.  “I even told ya ’bout how Meznik spoke to me.  I…couldn’ tell the others.”  She spread her hands.  “There’s nothin’ else…”

The girl didn’t say anything for a time.  She sniffled, making the woman think she was crying, but when Nyx turned her face fully to her, Elmiryn saw no tears.

The Ailuran shrugged and looked down.  “I appreciate that you’d trust me, Elle.  I feel honored, even.  But it doesn’t make me feel better about the matter.”

Elmiryn sighed.  “Yeah.  I know.”

“It isn’t as much of a surprise as you’d think.” The girl said, smiling ironically.  “The way your hands have been shaking all of this time.  The way you deflected the blast from Tonatiuh’s fall.  The way you looked in the Somnium…it all makes sense.  I’ve already known you were changing into something.”  Nyx sighed and rubbed at her forehead.  “I just didn’t think it was this…”

“What do you know of the fae?”

“Probably no more than Quincy does, and I’m certain the wizard knows more.  I may read a lot, but that’s still a layman’s knowledge.”  Nyx stepped close, brushing her fingertips over the warrior’s forehead, as if trying to smooth out the worry lines.  “Fae aren’t inherently evil, Elle.  They’re just…different.  They see things in a different perspective, live life at a different rhythm.  You can still survive this with your mind intact if you just try.”

“And trying’s the thing, isn’t it?” Elmiryn snapped, grabbing Nyx’s wrist.  “You have to have the will of a fucking god to get over this, and…” the woman sighed and released the girl.  She hung her head.  “An’ I’m not a god.  I’m not.”

The silence stretched on between them.  The redhead saw her friend crouch before her and glanced up at her face.  Tears were in the girl’s eyes, but they had yet to fall.  They glistened like emerald’s from the glow of the trees.

Elmiryn’s first thought was, “She’s beautiful.”

Then… “I’m upsetting her.”

The girl took hold of the woman’s face.  “You’re right.  You aren’t a god.  Yet you have conquered all obstacles that have come your way.  There is no reason…no reason for you to think that this problem will not meet the same end.  So don’t you talk like that…okay?”  Nyx smiled shakily.  “You are Elmiryn Manard, the Demon Hunter, famed Dragoon Captain, and much-loved Savior of Gamath.”

“Much loved by who?” Elmiryn asked quietly, touching the girl’s hand.

Nyx bit her lip and stood.  Her fingers left the woman’s skin tingling in their wake.

“Let’s…find a place to rest before supper,” the Ailuran said, pulling at the warrior’s hand.

Elmiryn slowly stood, following the girl down the tree roots and back onto the dirt.

Nyx seemed intent on returning to the medicine man’s hut, which was understandable as he was one of the few who could speak Common and the only Lycan in the entire village who had showed her any amount of civility.  But Elmiryn’s heart was loud in her ears as she stared with wide eyes at the back of her friend’s head.

That warm sound in your voice…

“Nyx.” The warrior tugged the girl’s hand, bringing her to a stop.  The girl didn’t turn around.  “Nyx, say it to me.”

The Ailuran bowed her head.  “Elle, I’m tired.”

“Kitten, please?”

Nyx’s shoulders hunched around her shoulders.  “I won’t.  I won’t…” she hissed.  She turned and looked at the woman with anguish on her face.  “I am a vermagus, and you may hear what you will, but the Words are still mine and I shall keep them, do you understand?”  The girl looked away.  “I’m…not a fool, Elle.  I know your nature, and I wouldn’t dream to change you.  But it’s for that reason that I say the words are mine…”

Elmiryn stepped forward and gently hugged the girl around the shoulders.  “Are ya so afraid that I’d hurt you?” she whispered.

Nyx laughed and shook her head.  “It’s not about whether or not someone gets hurt.  It’s about accepting the consequences.”

“And what consequences are ya ready to accept?”

The girl bit her lip and started to backpedal away.  “Share my bed and I might tell you…”

Elmiryn’s eyebrows went high at that.


Hakeem emerged from the medicine man’s hut with a sigh.  He had been counting the seconds as they passed, waiting for that precious moment when he and Quincy would be reunited.  Truth be told, his vision had been much less spectacular than the reality.

Was it right to say that Quincy was different?

…Or that Quincy had been restored?

How ironic that she seemed a ghost to him, and he, a ghost to her.  What happened to them that they could become such shadows of themselves?

Hakeem blinked and looked down at his hands.  They lacked the callouses of years, the scars of time.  He flexed the fingers and marveled at how small they seemed to him.  It was like awakening in his new body all over again.

“Can’t quite get used to it?” Sedwick said from his seat.

Hakeem looked up at him in surprise.  He’d forgotten the elemental was there.

He recovered with a shrug.  “As the years have gone by, I’ve learned that things happen, and sometimes all you can do is go with it.”

“Like water.”

The wizard looked at him curiously as he took a seat beside him.

Sedwick elaborated with eyes looking into a past unseen.  “Water flows to the basest places, slowly carving its way through the earth.  It can take the shape of whatever container it is in.  You go with this flow.  I can already tell.  Any other person would be raging against their circumstances, screaming about how it isn’t fair.  Maybe even hiding in shame of it.  Yet you live as if nothing has changed.” Then the man glanced at Hakeem.  “I hope you don’t think I’m being too presumptuous.”

“I’m a hard person to offend.”

The elemental chuckled.  “As expected!”

Hakeem smirked.

They sat in silence, and the wizard was grateful for the chance to mediate on all that had happened.

When he’d woken up in the Lycan forests, it had been a shock.  That had been…

336 hours—20,160 minutes—1,209,600 seconds ago…

Hakeem awoke with a start, his heart beating so hard in his chest that it almost hurt.  He wheezed and shot upright, his skin sweat drenched.  All around him was dark.  It took him a while for his eyes to adjust.  Even before they did, he knew something was wrong.  He felt heavy things blanketing him.  His hands and feet were covered.  The wizard lifted his right hand to see that it was swallowed in his chain mail sleeve.  His eyes widened and he looked at his legs next.  His pants were more than a foot longer than his legs.

From that point, Hakeem had realized he had somehow been made smaller, though it wasn’t until he stumbled across a Lycan hunting party that he realized he’d also been made physically younger.  He’d been forced to abandon all of his clothes, except for his enchanted chain mail of course.  Walking through the forest naked with a piece of armor that weighed close to twenty pounds was hard.  Not an incredible feat for an adult, but more-so for a boy moving through dark and unfamiliar territory.  The Lycan’s had nearly killed him for collapsing in their path.  They’d thought he was the monster they’d been hunting.  Luckily for him, they had refrained.

The hunting party had been led by Halian, one of the hunting captains that lead the men and women into the forest.  Just as the Lycan had done with Quincy and the others, so he did with Hakeem, bringing him before Artemis herself.  The goddess had not been a little surprised to find him, and had quizzed him at length about why he was there.

At first, being in such intimacy with an immortal had been unsettling for Hakeem.  But after a while, he became used to it, and could even understand how the Lycans were so familiar with the goddess.  She didn’t put on airs, didn’t seek to awe.  She was just a mother who loved her children, and wanted to keep them safe.

Hakeem told her about the events that led up to his arrival in the strange other dimension, and she was satisfied.  She offered him a temporary home in one of the huts near the village edge.  It was once the home of a young warrior who had died in the hunt for the evil beast.  Back in Fanaea, the people would find such a home to be cursed with bad luck.

Hakeem went to sleep peacefully in it.

The next few days was spent trying to puzzle out the nature of his condition with the medicine man, Eidan; getting the Lycan children to realize he was a man on the inside, and so could beat any of them senseless with his skills alone; and learning what his limits were in his young body by training with the Lycan warriors.  They’d laughed when he picked up a spear.  After a week, they clapped him on the back.  On the eighth day, he sought to join the hunt.  After beating back all who would disrespect him, none tried to stop him.

The other members of his hunting party were nervous.  As coincidence would have it, Halian was his hunting captain.  Hakeem had been careful not to cross the man before.  He was a hotheaded Lycan who was skilled in combat and unafraid to challenge anyone that would dare question his authority.  The captain’s eyes looked out at them all and he growled something in their native tongue.  Then he looked at Hakeem.  “We’re moving in hunting formation…do you know it?”

Hakeem nodded.

The man scowled.  “Then keep up!”

And the boy did.

The night had been uneventful, but his ability to keep pace impressed Halian enough that he requested Hakeem be assigned to his party a second time.  The second night had seen more action in the form of a rogue rage spirit, but they saw nothing of their intended target.  Some parties would suffer casualties and report not seeing the beast at all.  Other parties had to be found in the morning, torn to pieces out in the woods…

That Quincy managed to come through the forests unharmed made the wizard glad.  He’d seen what the beast did, and it was a horrible thing.

His thoughts simmered as they roved over the memory of Quincy’s azure eyes filled with such emotion, the sweep of her russet brown hair, the sound of her voice choked with anguish.  It had pained him to see her so hurt…but how long had it been since he’d last seen her shed a tear?  How long since she’d last said that she loved him?  Fanaean or no?

He hadn’t been lying when he told Quincy that he didn’t mourn his condition.  In a way, it was nice to feel so young again.  It reminded him of so many good things…but at the same time, its timing was unfortunate.  The woman he loved had come back to him, truly come back to him…

And Hakeem was not a man to greet her.  To hold her.  To love her.

He sighed heavily once again.  “I don’t suppose you have any idea how I could be returned to normal?” he asked Sedwick.  It was an offhand question, one that he wouldn’t have even bothered asking two weeks ago, but he couldn’t help it.

The elemental looked at him. “I…don’t rightly know.  I can tell you that getting off this shard is likely the right step.  Elmiryn and Quincy both had to travel to other places to find what had been lost.  So you probably have to do the same.”

Hakeem rubbed at his head.  “Mmm…well, I suppose things worked out for the best.  If I’d left two weeks ago, Quincy and I may not have found each other.”

Sedwick gave a nod.  Then his head turned and he smiled at someone coming down the trail.  “Back so soon?”

Hakeem turned his head as well.  It was Elmiryn and Nyx.


I waved at Sedwick and gave a slight nod to Hakeem as we neared the medicine man’s hut.  Elmiryn and I were still holding hands.  When had this become a habit?

“We were hoping to find a place to rest.  Do you think the medicine man would let us use a bed?”  I fought to keep the blush out of my cheeks.  I just realized I’d said ‘bed’ in the singular.  Gods, why did I have to be so transparent?

Hakeem stood, and I blinked at him.  My mind was still trying to wrap around his child-like form.  Remembering the broad-shouldered man from before, it was hard.

He gestured for us to follow him.  “Come.  Eidan doesn’t have the room to spare right now, but I have a hut that you two can use.”

My eyebrows rose and I looked at Elmiryn.  She looked at me and shrugged, her eyes at half-mast.  She was starting to sway a bit and the fear of her passing out on her feet seemed very valid.  With a sigh, I threw her arm over my shoulders and grabbed her by the waist.

“Come on, Elle.  You  need to lie down.”

“M’not sick…” she mumbled.

We started to walk, but Sedwick was on his feet and in our path within a moment.  He grabbed Elmiryn’s chin, forcing her eyes onto his.

“Sedwick!” I exclaimed, giving him a glare.  “What are you doing?”

The elemental’s eyes narrowed and he leaned in with a sniff.  He recoiled and let the woman go.  “Where did you get it?” he growled.

“Fairies,” Elmiryn giggled.  She pointed at the bump she had on her forehead.  “They gave me this too.”

“One of the Lycan’s must have given it to her.  Now Sedwick, can you please move?” The warrior was starting to lean on me, and she wasn’t light.

The elemental’s pale eyes snapped my way.  “Nyx, has she told you?”

I frowned, glancing at Hakeem down the way.  The wizard seemed aware of the personal nature of this conversation and was respectfully keeping his distance.  I was very grateful.  “Yes.  She told me everything.”

“Then you know she can’t be doing such things!”

“I know that!” I snapped.  “Now please!  We’d just like to get some rest!”

I tried to guide Elmiryn around him, but Sedwick just blocked our way.  He held up his hands, his expression softening.  “I’m sorry.  I’m just…I’m worried.”

I sighed and adjusted my grip on Elmiryn, her eyes had fallen shut and her head lolled onto mine.  “I know, Sedwick.  I’m worried too.”

“Then please, keep this in mind.” He leaned in close, his voice dropping to a whisper.  “Elmiryn is changing…but she isn’t a full fae yet.  She can still fight this.  The spiritual addiction isn’t as strong now…but the more fae she becomes, the hard it’ll be.”

I looked at him, my brows pressed together.  “Okay, Sedwick.  Alright.”  Was this really the time?

He held up his hands again and stepped away.  Awkwardly we started to shuffle past him.

“Do you want me to help you?” the man asked as we went.

I shook my head mutely and I heard nothing more from Sedwick as we followed Hakeem down the trail.  It wasn’t all that far off.  A minute or two later we were at a small animal hide hut, and the wizard was holding back the doorway curtain for us.  With a thanks, I guided us both through.

Hakeem poked his head in through the door.  “The latrine is out in the woods.  There’s a ribbon over it to mark it.  The dryads can point the way too, if you’re lost.  Don’t be afraid to talk to them.  They’re more likely to throw rocks at you for relieving yourself in the wrong spot than for you asking for their help.  Also, feel free to use whatever you find in here.  Nothing here belongs to anyone.  The owner died sometime ago, and the villagers use it as a sort of in-between home for visiting Lycans.”

I nodded, already eyeing the blanket of furs and hay I saw against the side wall.  “Thank you.”

“I’ll come get you when it’s time for dinner.”

As I laid Elmiryn down onto the makeshift bed, I turned and called out, “Wait!”

Hakeem poked his head back in.

I bit my lip and wondered if I was looking a gift horse in the mouth, but I had to ask.  “Why are you being so nice to us?”

The wizard smirked and looked at the ground, seeming to gather the words.  When he looked up, he was smiling openly.  My eyebrows went high.  He had a nice smile.

“Because,” he said. “You gave me back the real Quincy.”

When he turned and left, I was still blinking after him.  “The…real Quincy?”


I turned as I felt Elmiryn touch my hand.  Her cerulean eyes rolled open and she frowned up at me.  “Who ya talkin’ to…?”

I sat on the edge of the bed and stroked her cheek.  “Hakeem.”

“The…mud man?”

I hissed, giving her a shove.  “Don’t call him that!  It’s offensive!”

The woman giggled, her eyes falling shut again.  “Mmmm…sorry…meant mud boy…”


“Hey, hey!” With eyes still closed, she held up her hands.  “I like ’em folks jes fine!  Warner…my non-existin’ father, he owned a few Fa…Fanay…fa…aw, fuck it.  Those darkies from the South.”

My brow knitted.  “Owned?

“Yeh.  Owned.” Elmiryn rolled onto her side. “Nobles tend ta own things, Nyx.  Cludin’ people.”

“That’s horrible!”

“If it’s any con-sol-ashion, I never owned any slaves.”  The woman yawned and started to struggle out of her coat.  With pursed lips I helped her.  “Mother never liked it either…she use’ta give ’em money so’s they could buy their freedom, but tha’ jes made ’em stay.  Where tha hell else were they gonna find someone to treat ’em so nice?  Turn ’em loose in the kingdom, and they’d jes get caught an’ sold again…and prob’ly to a master that’d beat and rape ’em…”

Elmiryn freed her arms, her face turning into the cotton pillow with a satisfied groan.  She rolled back onto her back and was gazing off at something I couldn’t see.  “Ya gotta un’erstan’.  We didn’ have ’em cuz they were what they were.  We had other kinds too.  But they were the ‘least ‘spensive, so we had more of ’em than the others…”

“The lighter the slave, the greater the cost?” I growled.

The woman shrugged, her expression unapologetic. “I didn’ make the world, Nyx.  I grew up with this stuff, and that was jes how it went.”

“And when you were an adult?”

“Look…maybe I coulda done more once I got older.  Wha’dya want from me?  I was more concerned with gettin’ my military pro-mo-shions than freein’ a buncha slaves.  The people who fought against that sorta thing…they were pariahs.  Nobody wanted ta have anythin’ ta do with ’em.  You can’t get ahead that way.”

“That was all that mattered to you?  Getting ahead?”

Elmiryn’s eyes narrowed at me.  “Yeah.  It was.”  She rolled away from me.  “Not ever’body has a bleedin’ heart, Nyx.  The way I saw it, those people let ’emselves get caught, and they let ’emselves stay slaves.  I didn’ think it was my pro’lem.”

Her voice was turning low and her words more and more obscured, but I didn’t care.  I was too insulted to let this conversation die out.

“Those people couldn’t help themselves, Elmiryn!  Do you know how slavers catch their product?  They raid towns and villages late at night, when people are sleeping!  They overwhelm people, then break them so that they have no will to fight back!”  I shook the woman’s shoulder, my anger rising at the thought of her not hearing me.  “Elmiryn!  Elmiryn!  Gods damnit, not all slaves were like the ones your family owned!  If given that gold, they would’ve run at the first opportunity!”

The warrior sat up fast, startling me so bad I flinched and cried out.  She grabbed me by the shoulders, her grip tight, and hissed, “What…do…you…want…from…me?”

I stared at her, my mouth falling open.

The woman let me go, her cerulean eyes half-narrowed and her brow bunched so that the little wrinkle appeared once more on her forehead.  “Gods Nyx.  All I can tell ya is that I was a shitty person.  ‘Kay?  I didn’ know how slavers got their…their fuckin’ product, till jes’ a lil before I was cursed.  I guess I was stuck with the things I assumed as a kid.  That slaves jes’ walked onto slave ships.  That they fought the slavers in broad daylight, then jes’ gave up.”

The woman lay back down, and I started to feel an anxious guilt begin to tighten up my chest and abdomen.

…What had I been looking for?  An apology?  Why couldn’t I separate my anger at slavery from Elmiryn?  To stand up for slaves would have been difficult for her as a noble.  There was a lot of pressure to be a certain way.  I only understood that in a superficial sense.  After all, wasn’t I always outside of the norm?  I had grown up an outsider, already hated and despised.  I had nothing to lose but my family, but even then, I lost everything…

I turned my face, feeling suddenly lower than a worm.

Elmiryn continued, unaware of my disquiet.  “Things changed for me durin’ the war.  The Fiamman army was gonna launch a new attack on yer people, called the Nu-ran-ian Offensive.  We were gonna use a new long-ranged cannon.  My dragoons were ta lead the infantry inta battle on horseback.  I was sure this was my final test ‘fore I was ta be promoted ta Major.  But things went wrong.  The cannons were out of alignment, an’ when they fired, they hit our men instead.  I lost halfa my dragoons, and I was forced ta call a retreat.  As we were ridin’ back, I saw who had been mannin’ the cannons…” here the woman trailed away.  I still couldn’t bring myself to look at her.

After a breath, the woman continued, but her voice sounded tight.  “They were all Higashans.  They’d been chained ta the cannon carriages, but the wheels had been taken off.  Turns out, the cannons were made by them.  The cannonballs ’emselves were meant’ta explode on impact, and handlin’ ’em was dangerous.  Rather than risk losin’ some of our men, the generals ordered the slaves to be the handlers.  Problem was…the Higashans made the gun, that didn’ mean they were good at firin’ it.”

“Were you angry at them?” I asked, still looking at the other side of the room.

“Naw… Some of my men wanted to resume the retreat, but I decided ta help the slaves out of their chains.  They didn’ have any weapons, and were weak from abuse.  I didn’ think it was right that they couldn’ even run away.  My men helped me, and we got the slaves free.  By that point, we had no chance of outrunnin’ the Ailurans and were gearin’ up fer a las’ stand.  But then one o’ the older slaves hobbled up ta me with the help of one o’ the younger men.  The man started ta speak to me, and the boy translated for ‘im.  He said that the cannonballs could be made to s’plode with enough heat and ki-net-ic force.  So my men and I, along with some of the healthier slaves, rolled the cannonballs out all along the field and fixed ’em close to the barrels o’ gunpowder.  When the Ailurans came to attack, we lit arrows on fire and fired them at the barrels.  The big s’plosion they caused made the cannonballs nearby fire, and it set off’a chain reaction.  The Ailurans were devastated.  With my men, we beat ’em back.  The Higashans ran away in the confu-shion.  People called us heroes.  The generals called us deviants.”


“Cause we set the slaves free, and destroyed all their shiny new cannons.  Turns out, those Higashans were gee-niuses, and we’d just cost the army one of its prized resources.”  Elmiryn sighed and I turned just in time to see her finish a stretch.  She batted her eyes and looked at me.  “When I go an’ say it all like that…s’no wonder I never made Major.”  She closed her eyes and grinned.  “Guess I do gotta bleedin’ heart.”

“But if you hadn’t set those men free, then they would have died!”  I couldn’t feel happiness over what the warrior had done to my people, but she’d done it to survive, and freed innocent men in the process.  That, I could get behind, and it made me mad that she’d been prosecuted for it.

The woman held up her hands and chuckled.  “S’politics, Nyx.  The generals’d been lookin’ for a reason ta stop my a’vancement fer ages.  It really riled ’em that a woman could make it in the military at all.”

I grit my teeth.  “It isn’t right!”

“Lotsa things aren’ right, kitten.”

And I blinked at that.  Wasn’t that what we’d been essentially discussing this whole time?

Again I felt foolish.  “I’m sorry, Elle.  I…I seem to get emotional over things without really looking at it from all angles.  I should just let you rest.”  I rubbed at my eye.  “Heaven knows, I need it too.”

“Jes’ shush and come over here, you.”

Elmiryn grabbed me around the waist and pulled me to her.  I laughed and settled in next to her, laying my head on her chest and my arm over her stomach.  My legs brushed intimately with hers and I closed my eyes.

Then a thought occurred to me, and I raised my head.  “Elle…?”

The woman’s eyebrow quirked up, and she let out a sound of acknowledgement.

“What did…the Fiamman people call…Ailurans?” I asked.

Elmiryn’s eyes opened at that.  She looked at me critically.  “Wha’dya wanna know that for?”

I bit my lip and looked down shyly.  I fiddled with the top button of Elmiryn’s vest.  “We called you…ginger weeds.”

The woman erupted into a hoarse laugh, sending the sound echoing through me.

“Ginger weeds?” she exclaimed.

I giggled and leaned over onto my elbow. “Fuchsig krut, in Ailuran.  It basically means ‘ginger weed’.”

Elmiryn smirked as if she couldn’t get over how silly it sounded.  “We called you guys fleabiters.  One word.”

I grinned and shook my head.  “By themselves those words sound so stupid…”

“But put them in the mouth of someone who hates you, and they take on a whole new meaning.”  We both sobered up at the thought.

I hugged the woman around the middle, my face nuzzling into her neck.  “Elmiryn, you don’t…you don’t mean it that way when you say those things, do you?”

The warrior didn’t answer me right away, and after a while, I thought she had finally gone to sleep.

Then she started talking, her voice a low, husky mumble. “I once had a wash maid.  Her name was Lunielle.  Real shy, but re-al pretty.”  I raised my head enough to look at the woman’s face.  Her expression was quiet and peaceful, and her eyes were closed.  Her lips barely moved as she spoke.  “I like teasin’ people now, but back then, you could say I was a real bully.  It wasn’ that I liked hurtin’ people.  It was that I liked gettin’ a reaction out of ’em, same as now…only back then, I had been stuck in my father’s trainin’ grounds and I didn’t get to see people a lot.  I was attention starved, I guess.  So tha’s why I was the way I was.  But Lunielle always ignored me.  It got on my nerves.

“She use’ta hide her hair under a han’kerchief cos’ otherwise it’d puff out into this big soft ball.  One day, when I was takin’ a bath and she was scrubbin’ my back, I pulled the han’kerchief off her head.  She got real mad, and her eyes went wide—wider’n I ever saw ’em—and she tried to get her han’kerchief back.  Her face got all red, making her skin even warmer than it was before.  She kept babblin’ at me in her language, and I started staring at her lips.  Next thing I knew, I kissed her.  After that…I wanted her.”

The woman smiled, and I frowned, feeling my wickedness stir.  Elmiryn resumed, oblivious.  “I didn’ force her.  I told her if she didn’ wanna be with me, than I wouldn’ say anythin’ and I’d leave ‘er alone.  I was gonna be leavin’ for home soon, anyway, an’ I wouldn’ see her again after that.  But Lunielle ended up kissing me back, and we ended up having sex in my room.  It was my first time.”

I sat up, still frowning.  “Why are you telling me this?”

Elmiryn’s eyes creaked open and they rolled to fix their light gaze on me.  “Partly jes ta answer yer question.”  Then she smiled crookedly.  “And partly jes ta see if you got jealous.”

I flared red and went so far as to punch the woman in the shoulder.  “You’re terrible!”

Ow!  That was close to the boob!”

“You deserved it!”

The woman laughed, grabbing me and pulling me over her body.  I struggled, but she straddled me, pinning my arms up over my head.  My breath caught as Elmiryn leaned in close.  “Got you!” she said in a sing song voice.  She kissed my cheek, then nuzzled my ear.  There, she whispered.  “When I say those things, I don’t say ’em in hate.  I don’t have anythin ‘gainst what’s different from me.  I like different.  Prefer it, even…an’ I prefer you, Nyx…over everyone and everything.”  Her tongue traced the edge of my ear and I shivered.  “I fear we may have started something, kitten…”

Elmiryn raised her head and her cerulean eyes pierced into mine.  My mouth parted, maybe with the intent of saying something, but then the woman leaned down and kissed me, and all my thoughts fled, including my desire for rest.  She freed my arms, and I wrapped them around her, body arching to meet hers as I eagerly returned her kiss.  There was that fruity taste in her mouth again, and it struck me as familiar, but with my mind clouded by the haze, the capacity for such concerns were lost.

All I wanted was for us to be lost in this feeling forever, because nothing felt as good, nothing felt as right, as when I held Elmiryn in my arms…

…And that was a consequence I could deal with.

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