The paladin stopped outside the Primary Gate of the White Lotus Temple high on the side of Mount Holy Divine. He inclined his head minutely to the monk, one of three, who approached. The monk's hood was pulled up, hiding his features in deep shadow.
"Who dares darken the Gate of the White Lotus?" the monk intoned the ritual words.
"A paragon of God and weary traveler," the paladin replied.
The monk nodded once before his stoic façade faded and he smiled, though just a little. "It is good to see you, sire."
The paladin smiled in return. "And you, old friend."
"You'll be needing a confessor I take it? I've taken the liberty of choosing one for you."
The paladin sighed. He longed for the hearty meals, warm beds, and steaming baths of the White Lotus Temple, but the monk was right, he was in need of a confessor. It was, after all, why he was here. Though the White Lotus Temple was home to monks and clerics and choristers of the highest order, it was best known for its confessors.
Another monk, ponderous in the dull robes of his calling, approached, hood up, face stoic, and led the paladin through the flag-stoned yard and to a small side door. Weapons were not allowed to be carried though the elaborate front doors.
In the small, dimly lit antechamber beyond the side door, the paladin stood still and quiet, eyes closed, as a trio of squires relieved him of his weapons and plate mail. He hadn't had a squire in several years and had gotten used to taking care of such tasks himself. He'd perfected the awkward arm stretch required to both secure and loosen the back plate, the plate most knights required help with.
He knew that the squires of White Lotus would take good care of his arms and armor, probably better than he did himself, but he still felt an itch of irritation at letting someone else tend his gear.
When the armor was off he opened his eyes and took a deep breath. His whole body trembled with the breath. Being within the walls of the White Lotus Temple took a weight from him, a weight far greater than the arms and armor just shed. Here he was protected from the ills of the world, those same ills he fought when outside the walls. Here he could relax, a comfort he seldom felt.
He took another breath and realized that he was chilled. The squires had stripped off even the cloth padding that went under the metal plate mail, leaving him in only a thin sleeveless shirt and shorts.
As the squires left with his gear, the monk led him from the antechamber into the labyrinthine halls through which echoed the Long Song, the song sung by the White Lotus Choristers in praise and fear of God and lamentation for sin and joy for all the world. The paladin padded on the hardened soles of his bare feet after the monk, listening to the distant and echoy song.
"There's a lot of pain in you, paladin."
The paladin was jarred from his contemplation of the Long Song. Monks weren't talkative at the best of times, and they all knew better than to speak to a paladin about his woes. He wasn't interested in talking, he wanted only to go to his chamber and await his confessor.
The paladin grunted in reply.
"I have often wondered at the dichotomy," the monk continued.
The paladin realized that the monk was a woman. Either that or he had a particularly feminine voice. Female monks were rare.
"What dichotomy?" the paladin asked despite himself.
"That God should demand so much from those Ze favors most."
The paladin grunted again, biting his tongue against a retort. Monks were allowed to question truths paladins took for granted. He clenched his fists and fought his ire.
"There are stories about you. They say you held off a legion of orcs at Thyrmo'polae Pass, that you stood strong against the Rhagnerak Eye, that you cast the Lord President of Gally'ferry back into the void."
"I don't want to talk about it," the paladin said through his grit teeth.
"They say the people of Gally'ferry were already lost, that confronting the Lord President was an act of vengeance."
The paladin grabbed the monk by the shoulders and pushed her hard against the wall, shaking her hood back from her face and stunning them both. The paladin stared at the girl, wide-eyed, surprised at what he'd done. Never before had he struck out in anger. His shoulders and elbows and knees began to shake.
The monk smiled at him, her dark lips thick and full, her broad nose smooth and delicate, her wide eyes dark and soulful. She reached one thin, graceful arm up to his right shoulder and placed it there gently, ignoring that he still gripped her tightly, that his body was pressed against hers threateningly, that he'd attacked her.
"I know that you do not wish to speak of it, Lord Paladin," she said, "but you must."
"You're my confessor," he realized in a choked voice.
"Why the subterfuge? Why pretend to be a monk?"
"Because I was eager to meet you. You are the most famous of paladins. And confessors aren't encouraged to leave the halls of the temple."
The paladin chuckled at that. His grip on the confessor eased and he took a step back.
"Please, forgive my outburst."
"As you forgave my subterfuge."
They walked in silence to a hallway filled with doors. The confessor stopped at one on the left and opened it. Beyond the door was a small, bare stone room. In one corner was a well-appointed bed footed by a trunk. Upon the trunk was a variety of implements: a leather glove; a leather crop, a rowan switch, three sizes of paddle, a variety of rods and canes, and a thick leather strap.
The paladin shuddered at the sight of the strap. He'd had it once, but the thick meaty slap it resulted in reminded him too much of battle, of the sound a sword made biting flesh.
The confessor shrugged and let fall her monastic robe, revealing a sleeveless, short, sheer gown. Despite his vows, the paladin felt a stirring of lust.
She gestured at the chair in the center of the room, a thick-legged, high-backed, armless piece without a cushion. It would hold them both without complaint. The paladin sat.
"Shall I hear your confession?" She spoke the ritual words.
The paladin clasped his hands and bowed his head. "Forgive me, Confessor, for I have sinned and must be rebuked."
He told her of the Battle at Thyrmo'polae Pass, where he had slain one hundred orcs. Not all in single combat, of course, that would be impossible even for one such as him. Instead, he'd set upon their camp in the night, where they'd set up under an overhang. He'd set a blockade and set the camp ablaze. Several had escaped, and he'd cut them down as they came staggering through the flames and smoke. When they'd organized and counterattacked, there were only a few dozen left, and he met them with sword and shield.
And, finally, when only the orcish shaman was left and he knelt among the bodies of his brethren and surrendered, the paladin had taken his head with barely a thought.
The paladin clenched his teeth so they wouldn't chatter, his hands so they wouldn't shake. The confessor's slim hand on his shoulder summoned the tears he'd fought since that day.
"You are forgiven, paladin. Now you must be rebuked. Are you ready?"
He nodded, the tears flowing freely down his cheeks. He sat up straight and let the confessor sit upon his lap. She straddled him, her thighs hugging his, and he felt another stirring of lust. Other confessors he'd known had sat upon his lap demurely, side saddle. And when they kissed his lips it had been quick and chaste. But she put her broad lips upon his and kissed him deeply, her tongue darting over his lips.
When she finished, the paladin gasped, feeling the weight of his actions at Thyrmo'polae Pass leave him and enter her. She shuddered under the burden of it.
"Select a tool, paladin, and beat the pain from me."
The paladin looked at the implements upon the trunk, within easy reach, then at the confessor, so small and delicate upon his lap. He felt he deserved the heaviest strap in White Lotus Temple for his actions, no matter how justified they'd seemed at the time.
While he considered, the confessor stood, trembling, and slipped out of her sheer gown to stand nude and perfect before him. Her dark skin was like the night sky and he hated what he must do now to that flawless skin.
"I need no tool for this," he said.
She looked at him solemnly. "You must not go easy upon my flesh, paladin. You must beat the pain away or the confession will be incomplete."
"I will be thorough."
He grasped her thin wrist in his large hand and pulled her to him. She struggled as he pulled her over his thighs covered only in thin shorts and only half way. He was stronger than her, significantly so, but it took some effort to pull her over his lap and position her properly. He put one broad hand on her back and that was enough to pin her in place. She struggled, he knew, not because she feared what came next, but because the pain of the sin she'd taken would not leave them without a fight.
It was her lot.
Her naked bottom was smooth and plump. When he rested his hand upon her bottom, he found he could cover most of it. There was a heat there, and she trembled faintly.
The paladin struck her hard. The confessor gasped and arched her back and kicked her feet. The paladin raised his hand again, waited a moment for her to relax, and struck again. Her gasp was tinged with the edge of a scream. He struck her again and she strangled a sob. She was soft, softer than any other confessor he'd had before, but the deed was begun and to stop now would do more harm than good. The paladin adjusted the hand on her back to grip her around the waist, the better to steady her, and began to spank, slowly and deliberately, covering the breadth of her plump bottom.
Her dark skin did not redden under his hand, but it did bounce and warm and darken. She gasped and cried and yelped. She bucked and arched and kicked. But though he'd deemed her soft, she was not a coward, she made no attempt to abandon her duty, as some before her had. She stayed limp over his lap, moving only in reaction to each heavy blow of his hard, calloused hand.
Halfway through, as the darkening of her bottom shifted to the beginnings of bruises, the paladin reached to the trunk and took up the rowan switch. He took a breath, a deep, back-popping, eye-watering, ear-ringing breath. The confessor lay limply over his lap, still shivering faintly, her own breaths coming in slowly and shuddering.
With the switch, he changed tactics, flicking with his wrist and moving rapidly. The back and forth swish whispered through the room. The smack of the thin, whippy bit of wood smacking into her soft skin and leaving behind weals that edged white against her dark skin. He did not focus on her bottom as it was already well-beaten. Instead, he sent the switch up and down her thighs, marking her from the crease of her bottom to the tops of her knees and then up her back to her shoulders.
The confessor yelped at the bite of the switch. Rather than the bucking and kicking that had come when he'd struck her with his hand, striking her with the stich caused her to wriggle in a constant, painful dance. He switched her back and thighs thoroughly, so that she was crisscrossed with marks.
Pausing again, he looked at the trunk, considering the heavier implements. Before he'd started, he'd felt he deserved the heaviest, the thickest, that most painful strap he could find. Now, his shoulders trembled and tears slipped down his cheeks in unchecked rivulets. This, he knew, was the beginning of forgiveness. He was nearly there and wouldn't need any other implement.
The paladin rested the switch against his confessor's bottom. She tensed. He brought it down in a full armed swing. They gasped in glorious pain together. A weal raised immediately upon the bruises of her bottom. The edge came nearer. He did it again. She cried out and shuddered, though she did not buck or kick. The edge came nearer. He did it again and cried out, a flood of relief poured through him, his breath came easier, his arms fell to his side and the switch fell from his hand to the floor.
The confessor laid over his lap and sobbed.
It was several minutes before either of them could move.
The confessor put her hands on his knees and pushed herself to her feet. She moved slowly, her breathing slow and steady, the shakiness gone.
"You were right, paladin, that was thorough."
The paladin swallowed hard. "Forgive me, confessor, but you seem..." he didn't want to say soft, that would be insulting and, truly, she'd taken the beating well. "You seem new to this."
"You are forgiven." She smiled at him playfully through the tears that lingered. "In seriousness, you are correct. My training was extensive, but you're my first paladin."
"You did well. I feel a weight has lifted."
She nodded. "There is more yet to do, paladin."
"Yes, I have committed many sins since last I confessed."
"No, you don't understand. Pain forgives sin, but pleasure heals pain."
His look of confusion was open. The confessor smiled at him, she'd never seen anyone with less guile.
"I don't understand."
"No, I shouldn't think so. Do you known of the Venusian Sect?"
He nodded slowly, his brow furrowed in concentration. "One of the smaller sects. But I'm hardly a scholar of religious history."
She sat upon his lap again, despite her bruised backside and put her hands on his chest. She was warm. The thin material of his shirt and shorts wasn't enough to hide that from him. He began to feel the deep stirrings of lust again and tried to ignore them.
"Few other confessors understand that forgiveness is not all about pain."
She leaned in close, her hands going to his shoulder, her breasts pressing upon his chest, and she kissed him again. This was not the kiss of the confessor, the kiss that transferred sin, but a kiss of lust.
He pulled back and she looked at him, smiling gently.
"But, my vows," he said. "Is this not a sin?"
"Do you know the Allegory of the Lilly?"
"I do. 'Temptation is the bane of man.'"
"But do not forget the next line. 'Tenderness freely given, freely accepted, is the strength of man.'"
"I don't think they meant—"
The confessor put a finger to his lips. "I have prayed upon this, long and hard. You need not accept, but I assure you God does not see it sin to know a confessor in the line of confession and forgiveness." She stood then and grasped his shoulders. She hadn't the strength to pull him to his feet, but he came at her tug.
"Should you command me to stop, I shall stop. '...freely given, freely accepted...'."
She pulled his shirt over his shoulders and he didn't command her to stop. She pulled his shorts to his feet and he didn't command her to stop. He did, however, sit suddenly, stunned at what she suggested.
She laughed gently. "That'll be fine." And when she sat upon his lap, gripping his thighs with hers, the stirring of lust he'd fought all his five plus decades stiffened and she took it in her hands, working it gently so that soon it was strong and hard, brushing the thick mass of hair at her nethers the hair he hadn't noticed before as would have been unfitting to do.
With one hand on his shoulder and the other on his lust, she wiggled closer guided herself onto him, sheathing him like a well-oiled sword. It was like nothing he'd ever known. She was warm and damp and close and wonderful. The tears came again. He'd felt the weight of sin lift after the confessor's kiss, after the beating, but now he knew it hadn't lifted entirely, that this third portion of the ritual was as cleansing.
She rocked upon him, her hips moving in a slow and gentle rhythm, her breasts swaying in time, her eyes slitted and her breathing careful.
The paladin swallowed hard and gripped the thick legs of the chair. His whole body tensed but, dichotomously, relaxed also. He lost himself in the movement of her hips, her dark, taught skin against his pale weathered skin, her dark bush of hair against his fine, white hair, her dark, purple nipples bushing against his hard, flat chest.
When her breathing began to include small gasps, when her hands on his shoulders began to clench, her fingernails to dig into the flesh, he was startled from the mesmerizing movement. Her body clenched deep inside and squeezed against his lust and his skin turned tingly. He felt a tenseness he'd never known. The confessor's rhythm shifted from slow and deliberate and mesmerizing to quick and longing and deliberate. She squeezed him again and he nearly lost control, lost something of himself. He breaths were filled with groans and squeals he didn't quite understand. His own breathing was low and touched with a growl.
She squeezed him again.
He lost his breath, his vision, everything. He stood on the edge of forever and fell in. He knew nothing but the thick thrusting of his body and the ecstatic joy that filled him with hot, exhausted relief. When he blinked and the world around him returned, he realized he'd experienced the Divine more closely than he ever had before.
The confessor slumped into him, her head on his shoulder, her hands at his waist. She was spent, but the paladin felt a surge of energy and strength.
"Do you see now? Do you see Zis wisdom?"
"'Tenderness freely given...' Yes. I think I do."
She patted his hip fondly. "Good boy. Now, perhaps we should take rest?"
But the paladin stood, cradling her in his arms. "I think not. I have longed for the baths and meals at White Lotus for months since I received the summons to return." He walked to the door of the small room, but the confessor squirmed and protested.
"We're not clad!" Her sleepy posture suddenly gone.
The paladin chuckled, reveling in the invigoration, but he set her upon her feet and watched her get dressed in the thin dress and heavy monk's robe. Watching her dark, lithe form stirred his lust but he ignored it. He dressed instead in the shorts and shirt he'd arrived in. It wasn't until they were both clad that he realized she moved without stiffness and he'd seen none of the evidence of his spanking her upon her backside.
"Ah, you've noticed, have you?" She smiled at him. "I'm a philomancer, my dear paladin. In Zis divine wisdom, Ze has gifted me with the ability to heal with orgasm."
"Orgasm?" The paladin repeated the unfamiliar word.
The confessor smiled at him, took his hand, and led him from the room.
The baths, deep in the caves beneath White Lotus Temple, beneath even the original monasteries, were hot and relaxing as the paladin remembered. He and the confessor shared a private pool, sitting close upon the stone benches worn smooth by centuries of backsides. They shared the steam and heat in silence.
The great dining hall, attended by squires and catered by the God's gifted chefs, fed them hot tea and buttered rolls and fresh vegetables and hearty gravy over well-seasoned meat. The paladin and the confessor sat close together in thick terrycloth robes from the baths, sharing the meal in silence.
And when, finally, she lead him back to his room, the paladin shed his robe without shame and slid onto the thickly cushioned bed. The confessor slid between the sheets next to him. He was surprised when she did so, but grateful.
"Sleep well, my paladin, for tomorrow you must confess again."
He rolled to his side and pulled her close where she fitted against him perfectly.