Rough Chivalry

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Chapter 20

Tewer had never known such a day. Nothing in his life compared to it. The two girls seemed to have overcome their shyness. Kissing tag soon turned to a requirement that the kiss be on the lips, and then they played a kind of wrestling game that he never actually understood, but got that he was supposed to catch the girls by the waist and throw them into the water. He grew a little dizzy with the sight of their beautiful bodies, glistening with droplets of water, their eyes and lips laughing, their voices, so different from his, so pleasing and sweet. He carried them pig-a-back several times, enjoying the feeling of their arms around his neck. He lay beside them on the warm sand, basking in the sun, and thought that even the mysteries of the Steamroom could hold nothing better. He imagined what it would be like if one of them did what the hag at the Bloodstain had done on his fourteenth birthday, and he realized it would be an entirely different thing.

When they got up they both wanted him to brush the sand off of their backs, and didn't even protest when he touched their bottoms several times to do it. Then they did the same for him. They went back to the campsite for a meal, and they teased him the whole time. He learned about butterfly kisses and hip bumps, and wondered what further mysteries lay in store.

"I may faint," he said, stopping in his tracks, "you two should have mercy."

"What do you mean," Nimianne said, leaning in to 'butterfly kiss' his neck.

"You're the ones that told me all about the rules of eticket and all," he said, "and I'm pretty sure you never mentioned any of this."

"True," said Darah, "but this is an emergency situation, so some of the rules are suspended."

"We haven't done anything that breaks the Second Birth Oaths, yet," said Nimianne, then leaned back and grinned at him saucily. "Though I admit I want to for the first time in my life."

"Nimi!" Darah sounded shocked, but then laughed. "Me too," she said, and arched her eyebrows.

"Well I haven't made any oaths," said Tewer, "so don't be too sure."

"Don't you want to make us your women?" Nimianne suddenly embraced him, her head on his shoulder, her arms tight around his neck.

"Of course," he said, "but I don't want to hurt you. You said it would ruin you before. I don't want to do that."

"Oh, Tewer," said Nimianne, as Darah came up behind him and kissed the back of his neck. "You're so good! How did you become so good?"

"I know," said Darah, "it's a miracle."

That brought them both up short.

"Wouldn't that be ironic," said Nimianne in a shaken tone, "if we, who know all about the Three and have been through the Second Birth, corrupted him, who knows nothing of the matter save what we told him?"

"Yet I'm tempted," said Darah.

"I'm not going to be corrupted," said Tewer.

"You could be," said Nimianne, "we told you about the Three Divines and righteousness and all that, and you'd never heard of them before. Then if we set you a bad example, you might think everybody only pretends to serve the Three, and are all a pack of hypocrites like us."

"Not hypocrites," objected Darah, then bowed her head, so that her hair lay on Tewer's shoulder. "Well, not yet anyway."

"What's a hypocrite?" Tewer hated to ask the question, but it worked. It broke the seriousness of the moment and the two girls laughed.

"It means somebody who preaches and teaches one thing, and does the opposite," said Nimianne, "not just suspending the rules because there's no choice, but doing exactly what they tell others is wrong."

"Ah," said Tewer, "there are a lot of those in Whaelhreow."

"And everywhere else in the world," said Nimianne, "or so I hear. You're right, Tewer. We shouldn't tease you so much. It's cruel of us, though I didn't mean to be cruel."

"I wouldn't call it cruel," said Tewer, "today was the best day of my life, better even than when I got the Martlet. I just don't know if I can take much more is all."

"Best day of your life?" Darah smiled at that and cuffed his shoulder lightly. "Well let's end it with a something special. Feel like dancing, Nimi?" Nimianne nodded and grinned. Tewer wondered why Darah had suddenly stopped calling Nimianne 'my lady.' He couldn't quite figure out when it had changed, but it obviously had something to do with the 'emergency' situation too.

"I'm afraid it's more teasing, Tewer," said Nimianne, "but a different kind. Have you ever seen a woman dance before?"

"No," said Tewer, "I don't think I want to. Dancing is when you're hanged, and you jerk around on the rope. Why would you want to pretend to do that?"

"No, that's not true," said Darah, "real dancing is much better than that. It has nothing to do with hanging. You'll soon see."

"If you like," said Tewer with a shudder.

They took his arms and kept looking at each other and giggling. Tewer had no idea what to do or say, but at least the tight feeling left him.

The girls prepared yet another delicious meal, Nimianne having learned to help in just a few days. Once Tewer had finished wolfing it down, they had some instructions.

"Go back to the beach," said Nimianne, "and built two fires about twenty feet apart. Make yourself a comfortable seat where you can see the space between the fires without any trouble. We'll be down in a few minutes."

"Fires? How big?"

"Not bonfires, but good sized," said Nimianne, "so they'll light up the beach. It'll be dark soon. And also they'll help us see where we are when we try to pull the Martlet free."

"And this is all for dancing?" Tewer felt relieved at least that they didn't ask for any ropes.

"Yes," said Darah, grinning and making a shooing gesture with his hands, "you'll want to see, I think."

"I hate not knowing anything," he growled as he left them behind. Being so ignorant of the world made him feel like a child, when he had always reckoned himself fairly knowledgeable and competent. He knew practically every waterway in the southern half of Whaelhreow, dozens of hiding places and hidden springs, the best places to fish and trap and hunt, and a hundred other things. Once he left the island behind, none of that mattered. He had swords, but didn't know how to use them very well, though at least he had skill with the spear. Soon he'd learn everything he needed. He had plenty of money, enough to live and eat for many years twice over. And that didn't even count what he might get for the Martlet, if he could ever bear to part with her!

He built the fires, and dragged over a log and laid some big leaves on the sand in front of it to make himself a place to sit. He sat there impatiently for many minutes as the sun slowly sank and the green moon rose. A few minutes later the yellow moon rose, and the twilight became night. As he waited he glanced back at the trail to the beach many times, and finally the two girls appeared.

He'd never seen them in such fine clothes. Nimianne wore a sleeveless golden gown with slits at the hips, while Darah wore a dress of the same type but of a pale, greenish blue color Tewer had never seen before. Bracelets and anklets and necklaces jingled as they walked, and both carried small some kind of reed in their hands.

"Captain Tewer MacKrasten," said Nimianne as the two girls drew themselves up and stood between the fires, "we wish to thank you for saving our lives among other things. We will perform three dances, first the Dance of Thanksgiving that was designed by Saint Dhamar Vyesa herself, then the Dance of Springtime Joy that is an ancient dance of Darah's people, and then the Dance of Wonder also designed by Saint Dhamar. We will each take a part of the dance and play for the other, but the last dance we'll need you to play."

"Play?"

"Well, beat a drum," said Nimianne, "that stick there? Hit the log with it."

Tewer did it, and was surprised to hear a deep, hollow sound. Nimianne smiled brightly. "That'll be perfect. We'll show you the rhythm when we're ready. Darah will start the Dance of Thanksgiving."


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