Thursday, January 21, 2016

Greyhawk Origins Interlude: Pretty


an interlude for Greyhawk Origins

written with Matt

Besilana hadn’t even closed the door behind her before Felicity was bouncing on the bed. Besi could tell that the mattress was stuffed with something other than the straw they’d slept on in Myhalas – cotton batting, perhaps. She took a moment to lock the door before taking in the rest of the little room.

Felicity had set her candle on a simple desk and chair which sat across from the bed, next to the fireplace; the far wall held a single shuttered window. Ostler Gundigoot had mentioned that the room key would also unlock the chest at the foot of the bed. Hommlet seemed safe enough, but one could never be too cautious in unfamiliar surroundings…

“Oh my gosh oh my gosh!” Felicity cried, spinning around as she bounced on the bed. “This new place is so funandsofulloffriendlypeopleIcan'tbelieveIT!”

“It’s… nice,” Besilana agreed, setting her pack on the floor before carefully propping her shield against it. Spotting a series of hooks on the wall beside the door, next to a small mirror, she unbuckled and hung her sword belt there, her fingers tracing the starry carvings on the empty wooden scabbard that dangled beside the full one.  You’ll find her,  Besi told herself.  Starsong cannot be so lost that you cannot find her.

“Furnok called us pretty! That priest liked my ears! Everyone was so nice! Except for the druid, he was crotchety but that's probably what happens when you spend all your time in a tree.”

That made Besi laugh. Felicity always knew how to do that; the halfling’s love of life had lifted her own spirits as far back as either of them could remember.

But Felicity contined before Besi could say anything: “That barmaiden was really nice too and she kept looking at you and she looked like the sign, maybe she was the person they drew on the sign or do you think the owner hired her because she looks like the sign and did you see how she walked away after we talked about being birds and she said she was a cat she has so many curves and she wiggled when she walked and it was nice!”

It was nice, at that. Darla  had  seem unusually interested in her, in a way that Besi found somewhat exciting and very confusing. Even if there were no non-humans living in the village, she must have seen many travelers pass through Hommlet…

Besi backtracked through the tangled skein of Felicity’s ramblings. “That’s right; Furnok said we were  both  pretty. I'm a little relieved to hear it from someone else's mouth. I mean, you and Mother always said I'm pretty, but best friends and mothers have to say those things.”

Felicity looked her friend over, almost seeming to linger here and there. “I guess, but I stand by the fact that you are really pretty. Not just saying it because we're friends but you really are pretty. You got the luck of having the prettiest parts from two worlds, it's amazing and beautiful. Awesome even! I'm glad someone told me I was pretty, especially in a place full of people who are so... big. I mean I'm used to being around bigger people but in the temple people don't talk about who is pretty.”

Besilana could feel herself blushing, all the way to the soft points of her ears. If Felicity  had  to say such things, she clearly took great pleasure and pride in it. Whenever Besi feared that she would never belong to either the elven world or the human one, Felicity was there to remind her that she still belonged to someone. She unfastened her bracers and moved to lay them on the desk.

She heard the halfling mutter: “I wonder if any of the priestesses thought they were pretty themselves? Wouldn't that be an exercise in hubris? Is that bad? Ehlonna is beautiful, so naturally her followers should strive, not only for inner beauty, but also for outer beauty as well?”

“Those are.... all very good questions.” Besilana herself had only striven for strength, both physical and spiritual. Half-elven blood had made her muscles wiry and lean, a far cry from the hulking thews of must human warriors. But she was hardly beautiful, not within or without. Not like Darla… “We're in agreement that Darla was pretty? Or, at least, that a man would find her, um, appealing?”

“Who? The serving girl? Oh yes-yes-yes. She was very...” The halfling made an odd throat-clearing-nervous noise. “Appealing. Although by the looks of her and the smile she gave and the expression toward being a cat when we are all birds made me get the feeling she would want to… eat us up...” She tittered nervously.

Besi laughed and shrugged out of her tabard, folding it onto the desk.

Felicity’s voice dropped to a near-whisper: “She certainly looked at you very hungrily.” But then she piped up again. “She was very pretty though! She had all those pretty human curves and fullness that makes one of them pretty. I'm afraid my abundance makes me look frumpy. But on her they look nice, so yes, to answer, she is very... appealing...” The last part trailed off.

“Oh, stop. You haven't an ounce of frump on your bones.” That was the gods’ truth; Felicity was half her size, but no one would ever mistake her for a human child. In fact, the curves of  her  hips and breasts put Darla to shame. She’d seen hourglasses that were less hourglass-shaped. “And I think Furnok would agree with me,” she said with a wink.

“Huuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhh??? Furnok? Yeah, he's said I'm pretty, said you were pretty too, so he's obviously not dumb! I think he's okay too; he has a good sense of humor but seems to have a flair for the dramatic. I'm glad he has decided to come with us, always could use an extra set of eyes to help watch our backs! I mean your cousin is nice too but he can be so stodgy and Furnok likes to have fun...” She paused. “Wait, you winked at me didn't you? Why?”

Besilana gathered her long blond hair to keep it from getting tangled in her holy symbol’s chain as she removed it. “I think he might like you. I mean,  like you  like you.”

“WHAAAT?” Felicity squealed. “Nooooonono... WHAAAAAT? I mean he seems nice enough but I just met him and he's all tall and stuff and I mean I like him too but I like him like he's fun and funny but I haven't thought about him like  like  like him I haven't really thought about any...” She sputtered to a stop, then resumed. “Uh... haven't thought... about... hrm. I mean. My heart didn't do the thing... Like...” She coughed. Her pale cheeks blushed mildly as a flustered look came over her face. Quietly, looking up at Besi, she said: “Like they say it does.”

Besilana started squeezing out of her chain shirt. Desperate to pick Felicity’s mood back up, she said, “I could be wrong! It's lot like I'm an expert or anything. It doesn't always go both ways, I think.”

Felicity looked down. “Yeah. I guess not.”

“Hey.” Besi touched her friend on the shoulder, reclaiming her attention. “Are you planning to sleep in your vestments? You know how mad Mother Eiravain would be.”

The mention of Myhalas’s missing high priest could have struck a nerve with Felicity; luckily, the halfling grinned instead. “Can’t have that, nope!” She pulled one boot off and sent it crashing into the rest of her gear under the desk, chasing it with its twin. “Race ya!”

“Oh, that’s not fair!” Besilana kidded. “I have so much more equipment than you, and you don’t take care of yours…”

“That’s not true.” Felicity leaped from the bed and thumped next to her pack, drawing a sheer nightgown out of it as she pulled herself free from her robe.  That  she folded and set on the desk. But then her little hands were already working the buckles of her studded leather armor. “You just take  excellent  care of yours.”

Finally free of her chain shirt, Besilana draped it on the back of the chair. “It’s how I was raised.” She stuck her tongue out and began unlacing her breeches.

“That’s why you lose!” Felicity had somehow discarded all of her armor and smallclothes, shoving everything under the desk. Besilana glimpsed the pale, round globes of the halfling’s backside before they vanished under the falling nightgown. When Besi had mentioned that the white gown with green floral embroidery was her favorite, Felicity announced that it would be the one she brought on this trip. “Ha ha! You lose, you lose!” Felicity performed a brief victory dance before hopping back into the bed.

Besilana clasped her chest and fell to the floor, pressing the back of her hand to her forehead. “The shame… it’s too great.”

“Yep.” Felicity leaned over her like a tiny, adorable gargoyle. Something about the way the halfling’s arms pressed her pendulous breasts together beneath the nightgown caused the half-elf to swallow… “Something wrong, Besi?”

“Maybe. No. I’m fine. Just let me finish.” Without getting up, she slid off her boots, breeches, and smallclothes, carefully arranging them before slipping into her forest green nightgown. She thought she felt Felicity’s eyes on her while she worked, but the light of a single candle raises more questions than answers.

“Ready?” Felicity called.

“Ready.”

“Then get over here, loser.”

She sat on the bed beside the halfling. “Will I have to perform a forfeit?” Besilana asked.

“Maybe later. You’re a loser  and  you’re wrong about Furnok.” Her tone was playful, but the message was serious.

“Probably. Clearly, my judgment can’t be trusted. I mean, I thought that Darla was looking at me like Furnok was looking at you.”

This seemed to startle Felicity out of her brief melancholy. “Oh yes she was if it's the way you were talking!”

“Wait, you thought the same thing?”

“Yeah, maybe. She seemed very interested in you!” Felicity enthusiastically hopped next to Besi, causing more jiggling under the halfling’s gown. She elbowed Besi lightly in the thigh and grinned up at her. “She gave you those cat eyes!” She paused as though thinking something through. “Wait! She  likes  likes ladies?”

The nightgown’s neckline showed more of Felicity’s creamy flesh than Besi remembered, ample breasts pressed together. She forced herself to meet the halfling’s gaze. “Is... is that something that ladies do?” With Ehlonna’s priesthood almost entirely female, rumors of such trysts were not unknown at Myhalas, but Besi was too removed from that little society to know if those rumors were true.

Besi sensed hesitation in Felicity’s eyes. “I mean, not that that's anything bad, I like ladies too but I don't know about liking them in the way she seemed to... I mean ladies are nice. Definitely prettier than men although I'm not really experienced with either. But Darla looked like she was liking what she saw on you and that was...” She looked down at her chest. “I don't think it would be wrong... right?” She looked back at Besilana with soft blue eyes.

 “I'm glad to hear you say that.” She let out a long-held breath. “When Darla was leaning over me, with her…  titties  in my face (and Felicity gave the slightest gasp at the word she’d never heard her friend use before), some part of me wanted to... i don't know, GET IN there.” She mimed pawing at an invisible bosom. “But why? I mean, I  have  breasts. Kind of.  You   definitely  have breasts.”

Felicity giggled and looked down at her own breasts. “Yes I do. I mean I guess I understand, they were very soft looking, like pillows.” She bunched them together and bounced them a little between her arms, unaware of the hypnotic effect she had on her friend. “Very soft... I mean I don't know about getting in there, I would probably get lost in them. I mean, but is it just that? I dunno...” She looked up at Besi for a moment, eyed her up and down a little, faltered for a second. “I mean I don't think there is anything wrong with liking things that are... worth liking. I mean MEN like them, so why can't I...” The ‘I’ tripped her up for a long second. “Other women?”

“Oh, Felicity.” She put an arm around the halfling’s shoulder, pulling her tightly under her wing. “I wouldn't think any less of you if you did. Maybe I feel the same way?” It  was  a question. She sat up a little straighter, feeling the tension of her nightgown against her stiffening nipples.  It’s low summer,  she thought.  Why is that happening?  

“And that would be fine if you did! I mean... assuming that's what I mean, I mean if I knew what I mean, if I meant, because what’s wrong with liking things like that?”

“Nothing. I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with that. Still, it’s all very new to me, being… I've hardly been around anyone who wasn't convinced by Mother Eiravain that I'm some sort of circus freak.”

Felicity took Besi's free hand in hers and looked into her eyes lovingly. “You, my... beautiful, darling, lovely” – she swallowed a little – “friend, are no circus freak. You are beautiful and lovely and wonderful and kind and I love you.” She tried to smile a bit, even with a hint of sadness in her eyes.

 “I... thank you, Felicity.” What else could she say? A lone tear rolled down her cheek. “I love you, too. Your friendship has meant the world and moons and stars to me.”

Felicity brightened a little. “Oh, and yours mine!”

Besilana brought Felicity’s hands to her lips and gently kissed them. “You know, it seems to me that, with Myhalas behind us, you and I are free to become who we're meant to be.”

“You’re right! And I'm glad to be whomever I am as long as you're with me!” Felicity climbed onto Besi’s lap and put her arms around her, burying her face in Besi's chest and squishing her own soft body against Besi, almost knocking them back down onto the bed.

Besi needed a moment before she wrapped her arms around Felicity, squeezing her tightly, stroking her lovely black hair with delicate half-elven fingers. “I would hate to be here, or anywhere, without you.” She realized that Felicity was straddling her hips, was sure she felt a pair of full pouty lips briefly pressed to her chest. Then she heard a whisper:

“I'm so glad.”

Besi felt a moment of embarrassment, realizing that Felicity must feel the hardness of her nipples. Yet the halfling only leaned against them more, and the half-elf realized the same thing had happened to Felicity’s breasts.

“That feels... can I ask you something, Felicity?”

“Anything.” Spoken into Besilana’s chest, the word was more felt than heard.

She continued to stroke Felicity’s hair. “Did you ever... lie with anybody, back in Myhalas? You know, like sex?”

Felicity took a moment to answer. Besi knew that moments of quiet like this were rare for her, and tried not to spoil it. “No. The only couple of times I even thought about... IT... I remembered how unlike everyone I am and so who would lie with me? How would I even manage it? No use in dwelling on it after that...” She let out a sigh and went a little limp under Besi’s ministrations.

“I'm sure you'll figure it out when the time comes.” Besi sighed. “I just... feelings are confusing, you know?”

Felicity seemed to shrink down a little more in Besi’s arms. “Yeah... confusing.” Her voice, her body, seemed a little shaky: “What about you? Did you ever lie with anyone on your excursions outside or inside Myhalas?”

“No.” Besi's fingertips grazed across Felicity's forehead. “There was a boy, once... a ranger who seemed quite taken with me, but. If I lie with someone, I want it to mean something.” She gently lifted Felicity's chin so they’d be eye to eye. “Does that make any sense?”

Felicity stopped shaking and gazed deep into Besi's hazel eyes. “I... Yes, that makes sense. I want the same thing.” She reached her hand up slowly and traced the half-elf’s jawline, then pulled her fingers away swiftly as they began to flutter across Besi's lips. As Besi leaned onto the caress, Felicity broke her gaze away suddenly, slightly embarrassed, but then looked back to Besi, her breath caught in her chest. Softly she whispered: “I.. I want it to be someone special, someone...” She trailed off a little as she kept her eyes on Besi's.

“That's exactly what I mean,” Besilana heard herself say.

Felicity traced her hand down Besi's cheek, brushing a strand of hair back and along the slightly pointed ear, her eyes moving down to Besi's lips and back up. The halfling bit her lower lip briefly in a moment of indecision. Her eyes fluttered closed slowly and Besi beheld the sight of Felicity’s lips pouted, almost expecting. Her eyes closed for a moment, her breathing shallow. The small hand along her ear almost imperceptibly pulling.

Besi breathed in deeply through her nose, inhaling Felicity's scent. She closed her eyes as she leaned an inch closer to the halfling. “Exactly what I want...”

She felt Felicity lean up a bit, felt the halfling’s lips brush her own. A shock went up her spine and she involuntarily pressed her lips to Felicity's. She felt the halfling shiver in her arms, her mouth open slightly, the tip of her tongue slowly tracing the edge of Besi's lip, her breath once again caught.

Besi moaned a breath into Felicity's mouth as she kissed the halfling back and moved her hands to frame Felicity's face. She felt the halfling’s arms circle loosely around her neck, felt her body pulled in close, felt the two of them lost in each other’s lips.

She lost track of the world until Felicity broke away to breathe in the air she forgot she needed. She pulled her head back from Besi and beamed at her, flushed. “Well... I...” She kept her body pressed to Besi, her breathing ragged.

Besi opened her eyes to find her own lips still in mid-purse. She laughed, nervously. “Yeah. That was weird. I think I’ve had this dream before.”

“I... I'm glad it wasn't just me.” Felicity shyly looked down and fidgeted nervously.

“You're my heart, Felicity. You're my sister. Closer than a sister. There's no one I'd rather be with.” She gently tilted Felicity's head back up to face her. “But we really should get some sleep. Big day tomorrow and all that.”

“And you are mine Besilana, and I wouldn't have it any other way.” Felicity looked down again and sighs. “You're right... But...” She paused for a long moment. “Dibs on the big spoon!”

They both broke out in peals of laughter. Besi felt the tension between them dissolve, and could see that Felicity was also relieved. She stretched out on the bed with her back to the wall, holding her arm up so that Felicity could press her back against her stomach.

“Spoons! Spoons! Spoons!” the halfling nearly squealed, wiggling herself into place for maximum contact. Besi draped her arm over Felicity, gently rubbing her tummy and causing her to make the contented sound they both called the halfling purr. This had been their way since their earliest childhood days – in a community comprised almost entirely of elves, the need to sleep was one thing that Felicity and Besilana had always shared.

But things were different now. Besilana knew there was a damp patch on Felicity’s nightgown, somewhere south of her hand. She thought about reaching for it – reaching for her own – but not tonight. Enough had happened tonight.

“I love you,” Felicity said. As many times as she’d said it to Besilana before, this time felt different from all the others.

“I love you, too,” she replied, placing the lightest kiss on Felicity’s head and sparking off another chain of wiggles.

Besilana slept, but did not dream.

Monday, March 23, 2015

III Epilogue / 3 Prologue: Nevermore

[With the D&D 4th Edition campaign I I I over, and a Fate Core-based continuation called 3 in the works, this serves as connective tissue between them.]



24 March, 103 CY

Aramis stared at his folded hands while he kept watch, chanting dirges in a low voice to regain his exhausted spells. Most of his healing magic had gone to Azal, so the tiefling rogue slept more soundly than Bhavik Devanta did. The rest of the warden’s mending would have to wait until dawn, when Aramis’s prayers were answered.

The three adventurers had fled the Black Lake, back up to the foundry’s abandoned library. The room reeked of moldy paper, but its single entrance made it the most defensible position they could reach. Though the dragon was likely licking her own wounds, many other threats still dwelled in the halls of Khundrukar…

Distracted once more by the shame of their retreat, Aramis halted his prayer. We threw everything we had at her, he thought again, and it still wasn’t enough. How can we slay the dragon?

How can we save Talgen?

A shadow crossed his face as a small black form fluttered past the everburning torch that illuminated the room. The intruder flapped to the top of a bookshelf, where it perched upon the cracked remnant of a white marble bust and turned to regard the cleric with one beady black eye, then the other.

“A raven,” Aramis found himself saying aloud. He stole a guilty glimpse at his companions, but neither stirred at the sound of his voice. A sign! It must be a sign… no bird could have possibly found its way down here – not unless it was sent by the hand of fate herself.

“Greetings, Shepherd,” the raven croaked, dismissing Aramis’s last vestige of doubt.

“Hail, raven,” Aramis replied. He didn’t care to be called Shepherd anymore – not after his last disastrous visit to his home in Oakhurst – but he wasn’t about to correct a divine herald on the matter. His exhaustion dragged down every syllable he spoke: “Has my Queen sent you to talk me out of what I must do?”

The bird tilted its head to a different angle. “What makes you say that?”

“I know that, when I go to face the dragon again, I’ll die. We will all die. And my Queen knows that I must face the dragon again. I cannot abandon the only hope my friend has.” Unless Aramis recovered the golden apple that the duergar stole for the dragon below, Talgen Hucrele would forever remain a monster, twisted by the Gulthias Tree into its supplicant…

“Yes. Our Queen knows.” The raven shifted from one foot to another. “Yet she also knows that there is another way.”

“What?” Aramis got to his knees. “Tell me. Please.”

The bird paused to fluff its feathers out, sounding like an opening parasol. “Nightscale may be a dragon, but even a dragon is a living thing. And every living thing owes a death to the Queen. Fate would have her, and not you, in this hour.”

So that’s the dragon’s name. A dozen questions poured into his mind, but he only dared ask one: “But how?”

“Nightscale has a weakness. She has many weaknesses, Shepherd, but this one may be of use to you.”

“But this wisdom comes at a cost.”

“Of course.” The raven flitted down from the bust to land on the top of Aramis’s backpack, within the cleric’s reach. “It is not our Queen’s way to make her designs plain, even to her servants. But these are trying times.”

“I will pay whatever price she asks.” As she well knows.

“She wants your eye. And she wants your companions.”

A river of ice flowed through Aramis’s veins. “They’ll die? Down here?” Losing an eye to save his friend was nothing. Losing Bhavik and Azal was unthinkable.

“That is not for me to say. But, should they live, you will be called to a place where the tiefling and the shifter will not follow.”

“Will I ever see them again?”

“Not for me to say. Fate wills what it will. But, were I you, I wouldn’t pin my hope upon it.”

The cleric considered this. “I have become the Raven Queen’s avenger,” he said, closing his eyes. “I am Death’s reaper sworn, bringing those who would challenge the natural order of life, death, and rebirth into her embrace, by her grace and my will.” But I’m nothing in battle without my friends. And I’m sure there will be many battles beyond this one… if my Queen wants me to survive this day, what plans could she possibly have for me?

The raven squawked, once, the normal sound seeming abnormal. Bhavik moaned, once, then turned over in his sleep. “The choice is yours, Shepherd,” the bird croaked.

Guilt panged Aramis’s heart as his thoughts turned to Sharwyn, the girl who’d fallen in love with him when he was only a shepherd. She’d confessed her love only nine days ago, after keeping it a secret for six years or more. She still loved him, though he could scarcely remember being that shepherd boy, could see no resemblance when he looked in the mirror. How much more could he change before it cost him this newfound love? Fate was cruel enough to tear them apart so quickly after bringing them together; fleeting love had brought him into the Queen’s service in the first place…

You vowed to save her brother, Aramis reminded himself. Sharwyn would give an eye, at least, to save Talgen. So would their mother! This is the only way. You must pay this price, but don’t count the cost…

“Fate wills what it will,” Aramis said. “I accept.”

“Come then,” the raven said, fluttering up to land on his shoulder. “Let us begin.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fate of Tamriel Prelude: Martine - The Family Business

(A prelude for our Elder Scrolls campaign, Fate of Tamriel, powered by Fate, and starring my Breton nightblade, Martine.)

Second Seed, 4E 164

He found her on the short run of steps leading down from the door of the alchemist’s shop, foiling her escape with the gentle insistence of a hand on the girl’s stomach. “Good day, Martine,” he said with mock friendliness. “Been awhile, hasn’t it? I do hope you’re well.”

“I am, Theo; thank you,” Martine replied. She hadn’t seen him since just before her thirteenth birthday, three months ago. Longer than I expected to avoid him, she thought, but still not long enough. She stopped herself from swatting his hand away. “Did you have business with Marie-Helene?” she asked, easing to the side and aiming a thumb at the alchemist’s door, though she already knew what he’d say.

Theo shook his head. “No. I was looking for you.”

“Well, here I am.” She managed some false friendliness of her own. “What can I do for you?”

“You can put my mind at ease,” Theo said. Barely three years older than Martine, Theo acted like he’d never been a child. She’d never found anything to like about him. “How are you getting by, without your father?”

“Well enough. Marie-Helene pays for exotic ingredients, and I bring her nirnroot from up the coast now and then. It’s not much, but it’s bread on the table.” Martine's father had taught her that a partial truth was easier to swallow than a whole lie…

“The coast? By yourself? Isn’t that dangerous?”

She shrugged, perhaps a bit too theatrically. “Mudcrabs don’t scare me. I’m learning swordplay. I’ve gotten pretty good, too.” She held up the slender longsword that hung from her belt. Please don’t ask who’s teaching me; I’d hate to drag Tralen into this.

Theo looked past her to the shop, before focusing his attention back on her. “You haven’t gone into the family business, then?”

“No.” She closed her eyes and turned away from him to sell the drama. “Father was one of the best, and all it got him was hanged. I – that isn’t the life for me.”

Theo’s fingers left Martine’s stomach, found her chin, turned her head back until her eyes found his. She fought down the urge to shudder. “We know he trained you, though. He told us you were very gifted. The Guild Master believes – and I agree – that it’s a waste of your talent to sneak roots out from under the noses of some bloody crabs.”

“Believe whatever helps you sleep.” Now she removed Theo’s hand from her person. “But I won’t steal for you. Good day, Theo.”

She managed three steps before he called after her, forcing her to stop again. “I only mention it because our friends in the Watch received a burglary complaint from Marcel du Foret. Three articles of jewelry were stolen, including a gold ring set with diamonds worth nearly a thousand septims. As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, the Guild didn’t authorize this heist. And we certainly didn’t receive a tribute.”

Martine put her bravest face on before turning back to face him. “I don’t know anything about that, Theo.”

“Are you certain?”

“I only know one fence, and he’s loyal to the Guild. What would I do, sell it to him?”

“You are just a child,” Theo said. “Perhaps you kept the shiny pretties for yourself.”

Or maybe I’m gonna give that ring to Tralen so he can see how I feel, and then sell the other two when we get to Skyrim. “Theo, I know how the Guild responds when they don’t get a cut.” I also know that the Guild Master could have pulled some strings and saved Father, and he didn’t. “I’d have to be stupid or crazy to fly in the face of that.” But that won’t stop me from hurting you every chance I get. “Do I strike you as stupid? Or crazy?”

Theo considered Martine, as if for the first time. “No,” he said. “No, you do not. I’ve been wasting your time. Forgive me.”

“Of course.”

“If you do hear anything about freelance thieves in Jehanna, you’ll let me know.” It was not a request.

“I will. Good day, Theo.”

He isn’t dumb enough to trust me, Martine thought as she headed for home… but he also knows that he can’t accuse me of anything without proof. He won’t rest until he gets that proof.

She could never work for the Guild, not after they let Father hang. She couldn’t ply her trade under their nose in Jehanna… indeed, to hear the Guild Master tell it, no settlement in High Rock escaped their shadow.

Then I have to leave High Rock, and sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Star Wars Silent Destiny: The Gift

(A flash-forward ficlet in honor of the birthday of Kaylani's creator.)

Zeva admired her handiwork until she sensed Kaylani just outside the crew quarters. This is it, she thought. Your moment’s finally here. I hope you're ready.

She set it on her bed and pulled the sheet up over it, sliding over to sit on her footlocker as the door opened. Kay’s half-smile came into its full radiance at the sight of Zeva. “Hey, pretty lady,” the pilot said. “Thought you might be sleeping.”

“No.” None of them had slept well since the horrors of Alemgotti. None of them would, for many nights to come. “No, I… I had work to do.”

That gave Kay a moment’s pause. “Really? Like what?” She walked into the crew quarters, glancing around as she moved toward her bunk. “This place has been spotless for weeks. It can’t be that hard to keep it up, even with the Captain and me to pick up after.”

“I’ve been making something. For you.”

“Oh, really?” Kay shrugged out of her flight jacket, laid it on her bed. “Making it in secret?”

Zeva nodded. “It has not been easy. But I’m finally finished. Would you like to see it?”

“Are you kidding? I can't imagine what you've been up to.” The mischief that Zeva had come to adore crept into Kay's grin. “It isn't Life Day, is it? Because I know it's not my birthday. At least, I don't think it is.” Her eyebrows knitted, but only for an instant.

“I've lost track of time, too.” This cabin had never seemed so cramped, the space between them so insignificant. “It hardly seems to matter, after everything we've been through. I just wanted to make something nice for you.” I guess I'm not ready to say why. Kay's smart, though - especially when it comes to people. Surely she knows why.

“Okay, I can't take it anymore. Show me.”

Without taking her eyes off Kay, Zeva reached under her bed sheet and drew out the slinky red dress.

Kay's eyes exploded like novas. “I don't... I don't believe it,” she breathed, reaching out to touch the sheer material. “You made this?”

“I did.”

“It looks just like the one we saw on Velcor Station.” She suddenly grew serious. “No. It looks better than the one on Velcor Station.”

“Thank you.” Zeva scarcely remembered Velcor Station – but she recalled the dress in the shop window with crystalline clarity, because of the way she felt when she imagined Kay wearing it. She understood the nature of that feeling, now, and had spent the days between that moment and this one coming to terms with it. Sewing this gift helped.

The dress lifted slightly in her hands; she returned to her senses, realizing that Kay wanted to take it. “May I?” the pilot asked.

Zeva relinquished the garment. Kay held it up, marveling at the way it shimmered under the light, then held it to her breast and turned to look in the mirror. “It’s so beautiful, Zeva. This can’t have been easy for you to make.”

“I had to guess at your measurements, but I’ve spent some time mending your other clothes, so it’s probably close.”

“I’m sure it’s fine,” she said instead. Her voice softening, she asked: “Would you like to see me in it?”

More than anything. “Of course,” she said instead. Even now, when the time for truth had come, the Jedi feared to let it all out. This passion might frighten Kay as much as it frightened Zeva herself…

They looked at each other for a long moment. “Can I have the room for a bit?” Kay finally asked, glancing at the door.

The request surprised Zeva. I’ve seen you in your microgarments many times. Sometimes you’ve made it your business to be seen like that. After all this exhibitionism, why so modest now?

Because you’ve been keeping her at arm’s length ever since you had that dream, and now she knows you’re interested. Nobody spends that much time making a sexy dress for a casual acquaintance. Do they?

“Sure,” Zeva remembered to say, getting to her feet. “I ought to have a word with Captain Varn anyway.” She deserves to know that this is happening.

Kay nodded. “Thanks, Zeva. This…” Zeva couldn’t remember seeing the pilot at a loss for words before, though she clearly had a lot to say now. “It means a lot to me. Really, it does.”

“You’re welcome.” The door slid open for Zeva; she found herself smiling as it closed behind her.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

StarCraft Interlude: They Can't Take That Away from Me


She found her in the makeshift plasteel rondavel where the medics spent their rare hours of downtime. Moira lay on one of the room’s cots, still wearing the mismatched scrubs she’d borrowed from the medics, poring over something on her datapad. Turning to face the door, she broke into a grin when she saw Angel. “Oh, good!” she said, swinging her socked feet from the footlocker to the floor and setting her pad down. “My knight in darkling armor is still here.”

“Of course.” Angel walked in and closed what passed for the door behind her, noting that only cots and lockers suggested that anyone stayed here. One little electric lamp lit the whole space. “I wouldn’t leave without seeing you first.”

“Relax, Angel. I’m just teasing you.”

“Oh. Okay. Are the twins still working?”

“Yeah, they’re monitoring Fenix and a few others.” Her smile grew a shade more wicked. “Mindy’s hot for him, you know.”

“For Fenix? Really?”

“That’s what she told me, yeah.” Moira blushed a little. “After they made me tell them about us.”

“You told the medics about us?” Angel felt something strangely alien; this relationship wasn’t really a secret, but sharing its existence still seemed premature to her. That’s not it, she thought. You just don’t want Revenant to know. But he did know, and he’d already made it clear that he didn’t approve of this ‘attachment.’

Moira nodded. “Well, yeah. What there is to tell so far, anyway. They can be pretty persuasive.” She stretched out her arms. “So what’s on your mind?”

“I brought you something.” She held out the pair of gray Velcro sneakers she’d found while patrolling the perimeter.

“Oh, thank God!” Moira stood up and whisked the shoes from Angel’s hands, then sat back down, holding one against the sole of her foot before sliding them under her cot. “Yes, these should do nicely. But where did you – wait, no. It’s better if I don’t know.”

“I think that would be best, yes.” Angel figured they’d keep finding bodies from the crash as long as they remained on this planet.

“I’m glad you’re here, actually. I finished my analysis of the infested colonists. I couldn’t determine how long it’s been since they were exposed, but you should definitely anticipate a zerg presence at the colony site.”

“We’ll be ready for them.” She had the utmost confidence in the skills and dedication of her fireteam.

“If they – if those shuttles are still there, do you think Silas can get them up and running?”

“I do, yes. If there’s anything there to save, Mr. Voss can save it.” And then it’ll all be over, Angel thought, and her head sagged.

“Angel? Angel, what’s wrong?”

“You know what happens if we escape, right? What happens to us, I mean? This colonization has been compromised, and we don’t have enough personnel or material to try it again.”

“I think I know where you’re going with this. Come on, sit down.” When Angel moved toward another bunk, Moira added, “Next to me, please.”

She didn’t think the cot would support them both, so she sat on the footlocker. “If we escape this planet, I’ll be reassigned, and I’ll have my memory wiped. And someday I’ll see you on GNN, accepting some science award, and the sight of your face won’t make me feel anything. Not like it does now.” She took a deep breath, feeling the start of a lump in her throat. “But it’ll be so much worse for you, living with the memory of what we could have had.”

“Hey, don’t say that.” Moira took Angel’s hands in hers. “I knew the risks, going into this. My father used to tell me that the hardest thing you can do is care about somebody else, because there’s a hundred different ways it can hurt you. But it’s also the most important thing you can do.”

Angel felt a tear roll down her face, saw Moira’s gaze follow it. “This is just like what happened to Rick, isn’t it? In the movie, I mean.”

“Pretty much. Some things are just more important than your own happiness.”

“I have to put you – and everybody else – on those shuttles, even if I… lose myself doing it.”

Moira reached up to caress Angel’s cheek. “We’ll always have Paris. Well, I’ll always have Paris. Thanks to you and your mission.”

“But it isn’t just my mission, Moira. I want to do it… even if I won’t remember.”

Moira’s smile carried traces of sadness. “There’s hope for you yet. You remind me of a song, Angel.”

“’As Time Goes By’?” The songs from that movie are the only ones I know... but she knows that.

“What? No! I mean, I love that song, of course, but ‘woman needs man’? Not very inclusive, were you, Hupfeld? No, this song. Gershwin.” She reached past Angel to tap her datapad; a woman’s voice sang out, about the end of a romance. “I always wondered who was taking her lover away; I guess now I know.”

“Her voice is beautiful.”

“That’s Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Song. You know, Hal Wallis considered her to play Sam in the movie? She’s always been my favorite.”

“I can see why.”

Moira hummed a few bars, sang a few, then got to her feet, walking to the middle of the rondavel. “Come here,” she said, crooking a finger in Angel’s direction.

“Why?”

“Because I want to dance with you.”

Angel froze. “I don’t know how, Moira.” Oh, come on, Agent. You’ve faced the zerg and you’re afraid of this?

“But it’s so easy. Come on, it’ll be fun.”

Stifling a sigh, Angel stood and walked over to Moira. “Here,” the doctor said, pulling her close, “hold my hand up, like this. Now put your other hand here.” Angel found her hand on Moira’s back, not entirely sure how it got there. “And we just sway back and forth. See? Nice.”

It was, but Angel felt like a thousand butterflies were trying to flit their way out of her chest. “Moira, I – ”

“Shush. Just dance with me. Listen to the song. Be here, now.”

She did. She let herself go, let the butterflies go, and passed being part of the moment to become the moment. Time simply ceased to matter. She didn’t even notice when the song started over.

“You know,” Moira eventually said, her chin resting on Angel’s shoulder, “I was with Nikki for most of three years, and she never once watched Casablanca with me? But you did on the first date.”

“Was it a date?”

“Well, I intend to count it. I don’t know how you do it in the military.”

“Neither do I.”

“I suppose you’ll have to write your own field manual, then.” Moira chewed on her bottom lip for a moment. “I don’t know when you ship out, but the twins won’t be back here for another three hours.”

Angel gave this a moment’s thought. “Did you have another movie to show me?”

“What?” Moira pulled back into Angel’s field of vision. “Well, yes, but I thought we could do… you know… something else.” When Angel didn’t respond, she added: “Something more intimate?”

“Oh? Oh!” Ice and fire seeped into Angel’s blood, and she felt her limbs tense up.

Moira let go and took a step back. “Unless you don’t want to.”

“No, of course I want to.” Indeed, since movie night, Angel had struggled to think about anything else.

“Okay. But you still seem really hesitant. If you aren’t ready, we can just forget I said anything.”

“That’s my problem; I have no idea if I’m ready. How could I know if I can’t remember ever doing it before?”

“Fair enough. I know your hymen’s still intact, for what that’s worth.” She shook her head, laughing. “Clinical language is always a turn-on, isn’t it?” She looked a little disappointed when Angel didn’t laugh. “Sorry, I want to respect the importance of the moment, but I also want to keep it fun. I’m in uncharted waters here.”

“Have you never had sex either?”

“I…” Moira gave her a quizzical look. “Yes, I have. But I’ve never deflowered somebody before.”

“I see. Well, everything I know about the subject comes from what I’ve seen in people’s dreams and waking fantasies. Though it’s… interesting, I doubt it has any practical application.” Most of it seemed downright impossible, really.

“Doubtful, yeah.” The doctor puffed out a breath of air. “I feel like the moment’s slipping away, here. Let’s do an experiment. I’ll provide a stimulus and observe the response. Along the lines of the ‘symptoms’ we talked about on movie night.”

“Sexual arousal. Sure.” Anything would be better than all this anxiety. “What did you have in mind?”

Moira took Angel into her arms again. “This,” she whispered, closing her eyes and tilting her head just before kissing Angel’s lips.

Fireworks exploded in Angel’s brain as Moira held her close, the warm wet softness of the doctor’s mouth sliding against her lips, the natural scent inflaming her nostrils. Moira’s tongue stole into her mouth; when she met it with her own, the doctor gave a hot, deep groan and pulled Angel back toward the cot.

Moira broke the kiss at last, gazing at Angel with dark, half-lidded eyes. “I believe the experiment is a success,” she gasped as she sat on the bed. “How do you feel?”

Angel lowered her psychic defenses, feeding on Moira’s passion until her own rose up to match it. “Like you do.” She kneeled before Moira, the perfect height to start kissing her again.

“I wish we had more time,” Moira panted between kisses. “Your first time should be romantic, and special… we’ll have to do that some other time.” Bringing her mouth to Angel’s ear, she whispered: “Because, right now, I just want to fuck.”

Fumbling with the clasps on Angel’s chestplate for a few moments, Moira gave up and reached down to pull her own shirt up and over her head, allowing her bare breasts to drop into view. Discarding the shirt, she took hold of Angel’s gloved hands and placed one on her stomach, while she pulled the glove off the other.

Moira suddenly stopped and looked Angel right in the eye. “If I do anything for you, or to you, that you don’t like, just tell me, and I’ll stop.”

Angel nodded. As Moira’s breast filled her hand – smaller than her own, and a lighter shade of gold from the doctor’s lovely face – she thought, there’s nothing you could do right now that I wouldn’t like.

Then Angel’s communicator chirped. “Docs cleared me,” Fenix’s voice announced, “so we’re just waitin’ on you now.”

“Oh, damn it,” Moira moaned. “Why am I not surprised?”

“They can wait a few minutes.” Even as Angel said the words, she knew the moment had passed.

“No, no.” Moira fell back onto the cot and out of Angel’s grasp. “For God’s sake, answer him.”

She paused before keying her com to say, “I’m on my way.” She looked into Moira’s eyes. “Moira, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I knew this was a possibility.” She laughed. “I should have kept going till I got to ‘inevitability,’ though.”

Angel collected her glove and stood up. “I’ll be back.”

“You damn well better.” Moira grinned at her, also getting to her feet. She threw her arms around the ghost, pressing her naked torso to Angel’s armor. “But you don’t get to leave until I get one last kiss.”

That reminded Angel of the movie. “Should I kiss you as if it were for the last time?”

“Yes,” Moira breathed, parting her lips for the slow, sweet pleasure of the kiss… which very nearly was their last.

*   *   *



Moira danced alone to the jazz until she heard the APC roll out of the camp. Stupid, she knew, to cling to the hope that Angel would come back for her so soon… but, if life at Winchester had taught her anything, it was that a girl could hope.

Angel’s lips still seemed to brush against hers; she still felt the gentle touch of her fingers, the heat of her embrace. She looked down at her bare breasts, her nipples still hard enough to cut glass. Angel had been this close to holding them, touching them, licking them, sucking them…

Moira reached into her panties. Even knowing what she'd find there, she was pleasantly surprised by the cotton fabric's wetness against the back of her hand. Holy shit, she thought, it's like I'm a teenager again. She cupped her pubic mound and gave it a gentle squeeze; the ripples of pleasure that swept through her turned to lightning strokes as she increased the pressure.

“Okay,” she sighed. “I'm gonna die if I don't rub one out right now.”

She switched the room's fan to its highest speed and pointed it straight up. That won't be loud enough to drown me out if I get carried away, but it's all I've got. She shed her scrub pants like a lizard's skin, leaving them pooled on the floor as she eased onto her cot.

As her hands worked light circles around her body, from breasts to waist and back, Moira closed her eyes and recalled the fantasy that had kept her from giving up hope on Winchester. Hua Mulan came to rescue her – disguised as a man, of course – on her way back to her homeland. In Chu Renho’s version of the story, once her femininity was revealed, Mulan committed suicide rather than become the khan’s concubine. But clever Moira, who knew how the story was “supposed” to end, convinced Mulan to marry her and run away first.

Even after the Confederacy rescued Moira, she never let go of the fantasy. Indeed, as she passed through puberty, she relished the thought of playing Mulan’s blushing bride, of feigning surprise on their wedding night, of giving herself to her new wife.

She slowed her breathing, her belly rising and falling beneath her fingers. As much as she’d relied on Mulan over the years, Moira had a new soldier, a real soldier in her life, with gorgeous hazel eyes and no baggage and a tight, sweet ass… Sure, she’s got no sense of humor, but she’ll learn.

Her hands formed a V that glided down over her body. As she touched herself through her underpants, she wondered what sort of lover Angel would be. Inexperienced, sure, but Moira could tell her, show her, how she wanted to be loved, how she needed to be fucked.

If Angel read her mind, she’d know exactly what Moira needed, even the things she feared to say aloud.

As she pictured the ghost coming back into the room, Moira’s breathing quickened, and the circles she ran around her clitoris grew faster and tighter. Her mind’s Angel, still fully clothed and armored, paused only to remove her gloves before taking a knee to gently kiss her. Moira’s hands became Angel’s, exploring her skin, lifting one breast up so Moira could (with some difficulty) lick her own taut nipple. Then she bit it, and not gently, making herself whimper.

One hand pulled her panties aside while the other rubbed the curly mound she’d groomed today in hopes her knight would see it. Slowly and gently at first, her hands gradually worked harder, faster, until she started moaning aloud. I can’t keep quiet; my pussy’s on fire! She was slippery enough to barely feel one finger as she slid it inside, so she sent a second in after it. Moira pushed them in and out, slowly, angling toward her G-spot while she stroked her clit with the other hand. But in her mind, Angel was the one fucking her with both hands – and now her mouth – with passion, with abandon.

Oh, Angel, you fuck me so good! Moira groaned as she came, riding the clench of pleasure for ten long seconds before Angel picked her up and turned her onto her stomach. “What are you doing?” she gasped, half into her pillow, as Angel lifted her pelvis off the cot to bury her face between Moira’s legs.

“What you want me to,” Angel whispered, holding a hand up to Moira’s face. “Get them good and wet.” Three fingers of her other hand were already buried in the heat of her cleft.

As she licked her own (Angel's) fingers, Moira's heart froze. What if one of the twins catches me? The risk of getting caught always lent a secret thrill to masturbation... but, if Lindy was the one to catch her, the medic might join in.

The twins always sounded flirty, no matter whom they spoke to, but the way Lindy reacted to the news of Moira's involvement with Angel said that the medic was at least bisexual. Moira had nearly asked Lindy to put her money where her mouth was before the crash... before Angel had taken over her dreams.

You have your knight in darkling armor now, she thought. Let Lindy join in with Fenix and her sister... Her free hand now slick with spit, she reached back and slid her middle finger up her ass. “Oh, Angel,” she sighed as her muscles adjusted.

“Am I hurting you?” asked the ghost.

“No. I just – I don’t usually do this.” Nikki had never done this to her, in fantasy or reality. “But it feels good.”

“You want me to keep going.”

“Yes, Angel; I want you to fuck my ass. My pussy and my ass.” She felt dirty, even filthy, saying it, but she’d never felt so sexy in all her life.

Angel resumed thrusting; she licked at Moira’s clit, hot breath against her lover’s flesh. “Are you going to come for me, Moira?”

“Yes. Yes. Jesus Chr – “ The hand that worked her sex stopped long enough to spank her ass like a cracking whip, making Moira cry out before it returned to fucking her. “Oh, God DAMN it!” she cried as another climax took over her body, dribbling her juices down on her phantom lover’s face. Angel wrapped her lips around Moira’s clit and sucked hard, causing her to come with so much force that her socked toes curled.

She tried to get her mind’s Angel to peel off her socks and suck her toes next, but it only reminded her of her would-be lover’s absence, which proved to be the beginning of the fantasy’s end. She teased out two final orgasms, neither as powerful as the third, before she ran out of steam and fell onto her bed, panting, sweaty, and exhausted, sure she could still feel Angel’s fingers stroking her back. “Never knew,” she moaned, “could be like this. Never like this before.”

“Shush. You need to sleep, Moira. If you can’t now, there’s nothing more I can do for you.”

“But you never took your clothes off.” She slurred her words. She had seconds of consciousness left, at best.

“Next time,” Angel said. “Sleep. You’re going to need it.”

Angel was right.