Chapter One Schools out.
“My name is Horren and I am a teacher of Animal Husbandry and Botany at the Valley school at Loudon in my country of Dyffid.
This is the record of events that took place when I and five other teachers took a trip up into the mountains when the school was shut for two eight days break in the spring.
A trip that nearly killed me and it had started so nice too.”
Horren opened her eyes slowly to greet the new day a task she didn’t take lightly. She yawned and rolled over to cuddle up to her partner but as usual only the warm spot on the bed was any indication she had been there. She raised her head up and rested it on the palm of her right hand and watched her lover going through her morning exercise routine.
Serin was tall and slim standing a good bit over six foot in her bare feet. She had a small waist, wide shoulders and the most delectable small pear shaped rump while her breasts were perfectly formed and in perfect proportion for her frame. Serin moved slowly in a routine that to Horren seemed to mimic dance steps, changing gracefully her weight from one foot to another as she pushed forward with her hands. Her long red hair swished like a fiery waterfall over her buttocks as she moved her head from side to side.
Horren wasn’t jealous of Serin, more envious than jealous, as she watched her young lover sleepily. Horren was short, only standing a tad over five foot, with a Junoesque body shape and what she called mousy short fair hair. Her waist was narrow as was the fashion but her hips were wide and her bottom a round apple shape. Her bust was larger and more rounded than Serin’s making her look a little top heavy and while Serin’s nipples were pert and small Horren’s were large and flat, much to her chagrin, making her feel embarrassed.
In fact Horren couldn’t see what Serin saw in her. She was amazed when Serin agreed to be here life partner and move in with her, after all, ignoring the body shape issues, at twenty nine she was ten years older than her. Since joining the school Serin had lived in the cave that was attached to the natural auditorium where taught instead of the main staff hall so it was a surprise when she agreed to move in with Horren and not vice versa. Serin was the newest and youngest teacher and had taken to her role as Teacher of the Arts like a duck to water and with her naturally cheerful demeanour had charmed adults and children alike. Her singing voice though not as pure as her brother Owens was beautiful and when coupled with her amazing ability to dance it was spellbinding.
As Horren started to drift of to sleep another morning ritual took place one which she could well do without. Horren unlike Serin was not an early morning person preferring to come too gently and slowly, while her partner became wide awake and raring to go the moment she opened her eyes.
“Ow!!” Horren moaned trying to bury her face deeper into the bed after her evil lover had pulled of the sleeping furs and had given her now exposed buttocks a smack.
“Up you get sleepy. The Wren has been singing since dawn while you lazy have been snoring your head off.” Serin’s voice was light and full of humour.
“Oh I’m pleased for the Wren, believe me I am, but can’t it wait for an hour or two.” Horren said sarcastically.
Serin replied by jumping on the bed and tickling Horren’s waist. Horren hadn’t been able in the four eight days they had lived together to convince Serin of the therapeutic benefits of a good lie in, but it hadn’t been for the want of trying.
“Stop it, stop it!” Horren called breathlessly in between squirming with laughter. She rolled over to try and get away but it was to know avail her torturer followed. “Look I’m getting up. See feet on the ground.” The fact that the rest of her was still lying on the bed was to her irrelevant.
Serin looked down on her and smiled that smile that always melted Horren’s heart. She reached up and drew Serin’s head down to hers and kissed her tenderly on the lips.
“Come back to bed darling?” She asked.
Serin lifted an eyebrow quizzically.
Though Serin was ten years younger she made Horren feel as if she was her pupil when it came to their love making. Serin was so supple that she could get into the most extraordinary and exciting positions.
Horren placed her hands on the girl’s buttocks and drew her down till their skin touched. The air was electric as their tongues searched out each others and hands wandered over each others flesh.
“Miss Horren, Miss Serin!” A girls lisping voice called through the door as she knocked loudly.
“I don’t believe it. Just go away.” Horren moaned softly her head buried into Serin’s soft neck.
Serin just laughed.
“What is it Morgan? I’m afraid you can’t come in child as neither of us are decent at the moment.” Serin’s grin grew wider as she realised what she had said.
“Oh!” Morgan was sixteen and in her final year before leaving the valley to be a journeyman for an instrument maker in Gwynedd so was well aware of what was what. But she was old enough to understand the proprieties even, as could be told from her voice, they embarrassed her. “Ah yes. Sorry to disturb you both but Sister Tesler asked me to let you know that she would like to see you before lesson assignments are given out.”
“That woman!” Horren hissed as she tried unsuccessfully to nibble Serin ear.
“Will you tell her we will be along directly Morgan? Thank you for bringing the message.” As the girls foot steps faded away Serin burst into girly laughter.
“That woman.” Horren repeated with a pained sigh. “At this rate we will have to call her Coitus Interrupters. How does she do it? Does she read my mind do you think? Every time we try to cement our love she either turns up or sends a messenger.”
“Not every time.” Serin purred kissing her lovers face and neck.
“All right not every time but most times.”
“Stop moaning and get up. You can help me plait my hair.” Serin picked up a fine bone comb off the table before slapping Horren’s backside again. “I wonder what she wants? It can’t be about lessons can it it’s the last day of school?”
Sometime later the two women exited from the wood building that served as accommodation for the teachers and ancillary staff. The school valley was very long and if you could see it from above you couldn’t help but notice that it was roughly a diamond shape. Inland a waterfall dropped into a meandering stream that exited in another quite spectacular cascade at the other end of the valley. Totally isolated by sheer cliffs from its surroundings it still managed to comprise a sizeable woodland and many good sized farm fields. School buildings were dotted around the landscape but in the centre of the valley stood the sacred grove and its brick built temple. It was toward this temple and is assembly building the two women were headed.
Serin’s hair was plaited into two fiery streamers from the back of her head while the front had been back combed to take a silver tiara with opal droplets underneath which around her forehead was a brightly beaded band that transformed into a rosette in front of her right ear from which protruded three hawk feathers, two down and back and one up and back. Her dress was of soft calves’ skin with a geometric design picked out in beads of her totem, the Ghost Hawk, which was drawn in at the waist by a belt of silver chain tied at her left hip. Because it was warm she had forgone the leather leggings and boots for naked flesh and a pair of beaded moccasins.
Horren felt a little underdressed with a beaded band around her head sporting two hawk feathers at the back of her head in a v, a white linen dress with a small beaded symbol of a brown bear on one breast. On her feet were two three inch high heeled boots of soft leather and red dyed leather leggings.
Things weren’t made any easier for her by two girls practically ignoring her. One was carefully combing the others long hair as she applied rouge to her cheeks and lips.
“Hello Miss Serin it’s a lovely day today.” They called waving at her before adding as an after though. “Good Morning Miss Horren.”
The two teachers called back greetings but Horren felt a little annoyed. She sighed. It wasn’t as if the children didn’t like her because they did, it was simply due to Serin’s amazing magnetism.
Serin was singing now and dancing down the pathway swinging a group of little children that had flocked to her around in circles. Two of her best pupils had appeared out of nowhere to join in the fun, making the little girls giggle and laugh as they were spun round.
Horren was feeling decidedly left out when a small group of children rushed up and dragged her into the merry throng. Soon she too was laughing and singing.
As they drew near to the circular grove of trees Horren spotted their Matron, leader and teacher of Religion and the Healing arts standing in the sun waiting for them.
Serin said a few words to the children and they melted away like the snows in the spring sunshine.
“Are you going to see ‘Even Hand’ Miss?” A child asked and when answered the girl curled up her nose, pondered a moment before answering innocently. “You must have been really bad then.”
“I don’t think so. We haven’t have we Miss Serin?” Horren asked worriedly wracking her mind for any misdemeanour.
‘Even Hand’ was the affectionate name the children had given the matron and Horren had to admit it had a good ring to it, Sister Tesler of the Even Handed. Tesler was a foreigner to Dyffid coming from the Prussian confederacy in the Coln but had been readily accepted.
She was another tall woman standing about six foot tall with a generous bust and backside with the fashionable narrow waist. Her hair was corn blond cut into a short bob and as usual she wore her habitual metal banded chain mail armour that always glinted in the early morning sunshine.
Tesler had fled persecution and torture for her faith in her own land in a smugglers small sailing skiff full of brandy barrels. Once out in the Cold Sea she was over come by a sudden squall that broke the mast before leaving her becalmed. At a very low ebb from the pain of her wounds she broached a brandy barrel and drunk herself into oblivion working on the principle that she would be too intoxicated to feel her demise when it came. And that is how the teachers and children found her when she was eventually shipwrecked in the schools sheltered little harbour. They took her in and nursed her back to health even managing to return her to her faith and much to her surprise when the previous holder retired she was unanimously voted in to the position of Matron, the leader of the teachers.
“Are there you are my dears, I thought we would have the meeting out here in the sunshine. It is too nice to go inside.” Her voice was clipped and showed her origins with its ‘W’ being replaced with ‘V’. It was her eyes that got to Horren. They were very pale blue and seemed to be able to bore right into your mind and read everything that was there. “Where are the others I sent word at the same time as I sent word to you? Lorren and Darius should be here by now.”
“Perhaps they wanted a lie in too.” Horren said sarcastically.
“Not everyone is as lazy or as disagreeable as you are first thing in the morning, tubby.” A silky smoothed voice called from a window sill with a slight chuckle.
The owner of the voice uncoiled from where she lounged and turned a pair of phenomenally green eyes upon the waiting group. If Serin could make Horren feel a little dowdy little Hanna made her feel down right ugly. Hanna was the teacher of potions and the magic arts assuming she found any one with real talent. Contrary to popular belief mages and sorcerers were thin on the ground and much rarer than most people think. For instance the Dwarf and Halfling races have no such abilities while the Gnomes had a limited talent which was cultivated by a form of national service. The elves were natural Sorceresses while humans had to learn complex visualisations and oral chants from books and scrolls. Those humans who managed the skill were either ensconced in high towers or burnt at the stake depending on the view of the nation. But Hanna was of none of these peoples being from a much older age, she was Dryad a female fairy of the ancient woods and as such an instinctive magic user. Her skin was a polished brown; her shoulder length hair a coppery reddish brown of autumn leaves, her body slim and exotically erotic. She was beautiful and sensual even though she only stood four foot six in height. Her small breasts and waist and tight boyish backside made her all the more desirable even excluding her hypnotic glamour she could exude at will.
“I am not fat!” Horren snorted. “I am well fleshed which is more than can be said for you boy girl.”
“Fatty bum.” Hanna snapped back.
“Skinny.” Horren replied hotly.
The two women yelled at each other like two spoilt children for a moment while both Serin and Tesler rolled their eyes in despair.
Hanna had been sent to the school by her parent’s, who were finding her a bit of a handful in general, no matter her tendency to purloin anything that wasn’t screwed down just for the joy of it. They sent her to the school for disciplining and with Tesler that is precisely what she got. The two of them got on like a house on fire resulting in Hanna eventually returning home a more self disciplined more rounded individual, in fact she returned a year later to take up the teaching post. Tesler and Hanna were like mother and daughter and there wasn’t anything they wouldn’t do for each other, though often Tesler would complain of her usual very skimpy attire she adored the little woman.
“Enough the pair of you.” A new voice called. Her words seemed to work as both of the women shut up instantly. “If you carry on acting in this childish manner I will tan your hides and get Matron to powder your arses and stick a pacifier in your mouths.”
This was Horren’s younger sister Lorren, an austere looking young woman with her jet black hair drawn back into a tight bun. Her face was bone white save for the black lips and eye makeup and three blood red tear tattoos coming from the inner corner of each eye on to her prominent cheek bones. Though she was two years younger than Horren there was no doubt who was in charge. Her slim curvy body was encased as usual in night black fighting leathers. Lorren was the teacher of Sword craft and Blacksmithing and for some reason the children loved this severe looking young woman with her dry wit, though Horren could never work out why.
The woman beside her gave a wry grin. This was Darius the teacher of Archery and Field craft and she was a famous heroine.
She originally was a ranger working and protecting the borders of Dyffid and was rising meteorically up through the ranks she was so skilled, but that was before an encounter with a band of fifteen foot hill giants gave her the slight limp she still sported and smashed her career.
The patrol she was leading ran into them up near the northern coast, a place which was totally devoid of anything the invaders needed to survive. The creatures had destroyed two fishing villages killing all the occupants for no logical reason at all other than the sheer pleasure of killing.
Darius troop had been ambushed and had to fight a rear guard action. They were so unprepared for the atypical assault that several of their numbers were kill or wounded in the first few seconds. Darius stood firm and with her arrows and her incredible archery skill held the creatures at bay allowing the injured to be removed by the remainder of her patrol, having several times to fire her missiles at point blank range with lethal results. At last came the call that all the injured were clear and with a final arrow launched, she dashed for safety, but it wasn’t to be. A dying giant picked up a rock and threw it at her retreating figure. It didn’t hit her but struck a large boulder beside her instead shattering into a hundred lethally sharp shards of rock. The shrapnel tore into the flesh, muscle and bone around her knee felling her instantly. Hitting her head as she fell she passed out only to come too to find a team of healers fighting desperately to save her leg. The healers could not be blamed they had never dealt with the horrific injuries caused by shrapnel being more used to sword cuts and arrow wounds. It is a testament to their dedication and skill that she survived with a leg at all for all the fact that it was weaker than the other and pained her when it rained.
Bards created a series of heroic songs about her feat, exaggerating of course, turning her into a national hero, a hero that could no longer take the path she wanted to follow. Forced to write out orders for others instead of carrying them out herself drove her to despair and the borders of depression until she had recourse to visit the school valley to deliver a batch of newer composite bows. Not long after arriving a fierce storm out in the Cold Sea made it unsafe to return even though the valley itself was bathed in sunshine. News that she had arrived spread like wild fire and soon she was surrounded by young admires. Slowly as she was marooned at the school for an eight day the dark clouds meteorologically and psychologically lifted and she discovered a joy she had though she had lost for ever. Even though the sea had calmed she elected to stay as a teacher and was received by the others with open arms.
Darius was slim short young woman at around 5 foot 4 with a deep golden tan, curly short light brown almost ginger hair and hazel eyes. As usual she was dressed in tight leggings, to support her knee, a tunic top and waistcoat of a glorious mix of browns, reds, greens and yellows that somehow broke up her outlines against the bushes and trees. On her hair was a cheery little bonnet perched precariously on the side of her head with three long Pheasant tail feathers sticking out the back and hanging down to her shoulders.
Tesler cleared her throat as if in readiness to give one of her verbose rambling speeches but a look from Hanna stopped her before she had started, instead she said simply.
“Hanna is taking us on a trip to celebrate Serin’s birthday.”
Hanna grinned and with a wave of her hand made a tray appear on which five goblets of cool white wine were sat and one of sparklingly clear spring water for Serin. Everyone took their goblet and waited expectantly for the tiny woman to speak.
“My friends.” Hanna said with a dazzling smile extruding her full glamour over the others. But then when she realised that everyone had raised their defences against her hypnotic skill her face fell into a childlike pout. “Oh that is so unfair.”
Tesler was examining the wine in her goblet critically.
“This had better not be my ‘Pea and Rhubarb’ wine young woman or you’ll be in trouble.” She said sternly before taking a tentative sip.
“I think we’d all be in trouble if it was the stuff, pure gut rot if you last batch was anything to go by. They are far too strong Holy Sister.” Darius quipped with another slight grin.
“The last few bottles you gave me have made a perfect cleaner for the practice armour; even then it can only be used outside in the fresh air.” Lorren said wryly with a deadpan expression on her face.
“No it’s not your pea and rhubarb it’s a good glass of Engle white as it happens from Bordeaux.” Hanna sighed loudly. “Now can we concentrate please?”
“You’ve take one of mine haven’t you? From that new case I had delivered.” Tesler grouched. “I had a whole crate brought over last eight day; cost me a pretty penny I can tell you.”
Tesler considered herself a bit of a wine connoisseur but when it came to making her own they left much to be desired not that that stopped her producing copious quantities of the foul stuff.
“Alright I’ll pay you! What are you some sort of miser of a money lender?” Hanna cleared her throat once again. “As you know my friends, and if you interrupt again Holy Sister I’ll turn you into a frog, our youngest teacher will reach her nineteenth birthday while the school is closed for its two eight day break.” She turned her charms on to Serin making her squirm with embarrassment. “She’ll be eighteen and still not married, in two years she’ll officially be an old maid. Now do we want her to suffer Tesler’s fate? No of course we don’t so I suggest we couple our celebration trip with finding her a suitable husband, agreed?”
The others all raised their goblets and called out their agreement.
“Good. We will all meet this afternoon at the gateway for our adventure.” Hanna took a sip of her wine and gave Serin a cheeky wink.
“I had a husband once.” Said Horren staring deeply into her wine. “A boring old fart he was. He was sixty if he was a day when I married him the day after my fourteenth birthday. Died of a heart attack two weeks later you know.”
“We know!” Came a chorus of cries.
“Oh!” Horren said a little put out that her story had been cut short but mind you they had all heard it before, several times. She perked up when Serin put an arm around her shoulder and gave her a loving squeeze.
“Stop that you love sick pair or I’ll tip a pail of water over you. Gods you’re worse than two dogs on heat.” Darius laughed before downing the last of her wine. “Mind you it should cool your ardour.”
The pair of them stood there and enjoyed the affectionate banter at their expense even entering into the fun of it with a few well timed verbal thrusts of their own.
In Dyffid it wasn’t the norm to have single sex pairings but it wasn’t unheard of either. Society as a whole excepted these couples but also expected them to do their duty and get married and have children which had led to a few strange threesomes and at least one foursome, which made it difficult to know who was with who at any one time. It was all very confusing as far as Serin was concerned.
In Dyffid once a child was three they were sent to the valley to begin their schooling only going home during the school breaks which were plentiful for the youngest ones. Once a girl had her first period she had a years grace before become eligible for marriage. Since this could be as early as nine the druid high council put out a guidance that they felt that fourteen was a suitable age for a girl to wed but since it wasn’t a law still some girls were wed far too young. In fact their were quite a few young wives amongst the school children including the girl they had seen earlier putting on her rouge ready to meet her husband at the little harbour.
The thought of having this alien thing growing in her stomach made Serin feel quite sick; it both repulsed her and terrified her.
Boys on the other hand didn’t become prospective husbands until they were twenty one and had a career or some land to provide income. So there was less pressure on them but it wasn’t uncommon for a boy to be betrothed to a girl five to ten years his junior sometimes even before her first period.
Serin didn’t think this was right somehow and wondered how she could influence her stepfather, the Archdruid, to change things.
“Right that is decided then. To your lessons then ladies and I will see you later.” Tesler said as she collected up the empty goblets.
A little later Serin entered the coolness of the temple and waited awhile for her eyes to adjust to the gloom.
“You’ve come to pray too.” Horren whispered from the darkness of a niche.
Serin nodded before realising how silly that was in the gloom.
“Yes.” She said. “Will you watch over me at my vigil Horren?”
“Yes of course I will.”
There were many suborders of faith in Dyffid and this temple tried to cater for all of them. Off the central atrium were many small niches where idols and totems stood, most were attributed to the Earth Mother in her many forms as only sensible for a druid enclave but there was one, the one Serin headed for now that owed no allegiance to the ground.
Serin knelt in front of the intricately carved Totem of birds of all kinds with the Great White Tail Eagle at its top and bent back her head and called.
“High Father, Lord of the Air hear me!”
Horren for a split second thought she saw the head of the Eagle move to look down on Serin but concluded it must be a trick of the light, but she shivered just the same.
Serin belonged to the Iroquois tribe and revered the creatures that moved across the sky be it lizard, bird or dragon and pledged to protect them. In fact when the school started again her brother Owen would be visiting to accompany her up the cliff to receive her Totem beast. Then she would truly be a druid and a Shaman.
“High Father I go with my friends to find a husband up in the mountains, help me find one that is suitable in your sight. Strengthen my love and bond to Horren and my brother Owen. Let me never be found wanting in your sight.”
She lowered her head and then first lit then blew out a joss stick. As the scented smoke lifted upward she spoke again.
“Let this smoke take my words to your ever listening ears and may your sharp eyes watch over us always.” Then she began to sing a beautiful rhythmic chant for a few minutes before regaining her feet.
Horren looked at her lover a little shamed faced.
“I asked the Earth Mother to help us not to find you a husband. I don’t want to share you is that so wrong?”
“No my heart I don’t want to share you either.” Serin kissed Horren’s cheek gently. “We must see the children off, come.”
So that is how thirty nine year old Tesler, thirty two year old Darius, twenty nine year old Horren, twenty seven year old Lorren and twenty four year old Hanna took the eighteen year old Serin on her birthday trip. But how many will survive I wonder?