Natir didn’t stop to catch a breath until she was finally back and the village’s gate closed behind her.
She breathed with relief. For a time, she hadn’t thought she was going to make it for how much the dark had tampered with her nerves. It was only just now when she relaxed a bit that she realized what little conception she had had of the state of her own body.
Natir was a mess. She was tired, cold, soaked to the bone, filthy as a rat; her clothes were but wet rags on her skin, the struck she received from Keelin hurt like fire, and her calves ached from running.
She was wracked with pain when she touched the swelling on the side of her head. She cursed Keelin’s name as she walked in the rain towards Alfred’s house, then she cursed her again a hundred times over and wished to push Keelin into a pit of human waste and scorpions so deep she would never get out.
Natir had not yet reached the door when Alfred’s voice called her out, sending a shock through her.
Her eyes scanned the dark looking for him. He was in a barn attached to the house where a torch burnt, shoving the hay with a spading fork late into the night.
“What are you doing here?” Natir stuttered.
“I was under the impression that I live here.”
“No..I meant—” She paused to regain her composure. “Were you waiting for me?”
Alfred came out.
“You shouldn’t. No, stop, you’ll get wet.”
He tilted his head back and spun around himself, letting the rain shower his face.
She shook her head with disbelief and said as he looked her way again, “That wasn’t very smart.”
Alfred chuckled. “Oh? Someone seems in a bad mood.”
“No..I’m not..I mean..I’m sorry. Look, we should go inside before both of us catch a cold.”
“True, but right now I’m more interested in hearing what happened.”
Natir raised an eyebrow. “You’ve been shoving hay, out in the cold, waiting to hear what happened?”
He shrugged. “Let’s just say it wasn’t my best night’s sleep. So, how did it go?”
“Oh, you should have seen her—”
Natir hopped to her toes with shock. She spun around and saw Keelin standing right behind her.
Keelin put on a comical show. “She ran into some idiot who pissed her off, and she was like: ’I’ll kill you. I swear I’ll kill you! Rawr, Rawrrr—’”
“Oh, who was it?”
“Some man from, um, oh, rats, I forgot! But it’s her fault: she made me laugh so hard afterwards that I couldn’t remember my own name. Anyway, don’t interrupt. Let me finish. So, they had this big fight—”
“Keelin!” Natir warned, still in the process of taking in the new scene.
Keelin continued nonstop, “—and they both went down on each other, wrestling all over the place. And he was big, three times her size. I’m not making it up, I swear, but she was totally all over him, biting and scratching and didn’t give him a chance to breathe—”
“Stop. No, that’s not what happened!”
“—and kicked the poor bastard in the face like a maniac. I thought she was going to gouge his eyes out with her feet—”
“It sounds vicious,” Alfred said.
“No shit! It was like watching a boar on rampage, and I was there the whole time, wanting to give her a hand or something, but when I saw what she was doing, I was like: Screw this! Who wants to go near someone like that? So, I stood by and watched her beat the light out of his eyes and then, oh, my, gods! I swear, you should have seen this, she thrust her spear into his chest so hard I think I saw his heart blow out through his back.”
The secret was out. Natir felt the hair on the back of her neck rise, and she quickly interrupted Keelin, “When did you get here?!”
“Two steps after you did. I was following you.”
“Didn’t you say you’re not allowed in the village?”
“Oh, that was obviously a lie. I can’t believe you fell for it.”
A shocked gasp escaped Natir.
“Seriously now, use your head a little,” Keelin said. “I was responsible for you, so what would happen if you lost your way or ran into trouble or something? Someone had to keep a close eye on you.”
She passed by Natir and sat on the barn’s fence between two posts, which each had cows’ skulls hanging on top of them. She addressed Alfred again.
“And you’d think that was enough, but then right afterwards, she went out of her mind and tried to pick a fight with me—like it was all my fault! Can you believe that?”
“Now I’m really interested.”
Grinning, Keelin swayed her hips. “Mmm, nothing for your dirty mind to feast on, I’m afraid. I simply talked her back to her senses.”
Natir’s jaw dropped before the screaming lie.
“Oh, and finally? She found her way back all on her own without using a torch.”
“It went so well?”
“You had any doubts?”
Alfred approached Keelin and held her face in his hands, teasing, “Very little.”
He laughed and kissed her.
Keelin sucked on her lower lip. “Mmm, sweet. But not sweet enough to make me forget my promised reward.”
“You know where to find it. Also, I’ve got something else for you: a gift.”
“It’s a surprise.”
Overtaken by excitement, Keelin jumped off the fence and bumped into Alfred, almost knocking him back.
“I love surprises. What is it?”
“If I told you, then it won’t be a surprise. The real question is, will you be able to find it?”
“Watch me.” She ran into the house, not seeing a thing in her way.
Natir was left standing there, silent and facedown, watching raindrops disappear into the mud. Keelin had tricked her yet again and spilled out everything. Each and every word of it could get Natir killed.
Yet she didn’t feel afraid.
The feeling Natir had in her gut, the one that made her unable to raise her head in his presence, was something so very different from fear: it was shame.
Never before had Natir felt as naked before a man as she did then. Keelin had stripped her from every secret and laid Natir’s whole night utterly bare before Alfred until there was nothing left to hide.
She heard him approach.
She felt his warm hand on her cheek.
She panted, nervous beneath his gaze as Alfred made her lift her head and look up at him.
“You look dirty.”
A skin-quivering pain ran through her like a knife to the heart, stealing her breath away and turning the taste in her mouth more bitter than wormwood.
Natir couldn’t understand why his words hurt so much. Why did they matter so much? Why did she feel like such a disappointment? And she didn’t understand how her emotions could crumble into chaos by the power of his voice alone, so much so that in an instant she was holding back tears.
None of it made any sense.
She couldn’t understand anything anymore.
“I… I’ll go clean up,” She stuttered on the verge of tears, and she turned on her heel to leave.
All at once, he grabbed her and pulled her back.
Her dress ripped in his hand and she didn’t even feel the ground underneath her until she was already pressed against him, chest to chest.
She looked up into his eyes with shock. Her face was soaked with sweet rain and bitter tears.
“I like it.”
He kissed her so violently a shudder worked its way down her body and turned the ground to waves beneath her feet. All traces of self-control left her at the mere touch of his lips, and she sunk against him, fiercely kissing him back. Her tongue swirled and lapped in his mouth, against his lips, over his chin.
There was no act this time, no night games, no thinking ahead, and no faking it. Her mind was blank. She was not Natir. She was not even a person anymore, but a living, breathing hunger, a sensuous entity existing only to feel.
His strong grip on the small of her back and on the back of her head was hurting her, and her hands, surrounding his head, were hurting him back.
“Don’t!” She pushed forward when he tried to pull back for a breath. Her voice was foreign to her, filled with need to the limits of despair. No longer a mistress of herself, Natir dug her fingernails into his skin ever harder and kept coming after him, demanding more.
“No, no, please don’t, no—” She no longer knew what she was saying as she kissed him like a mad woman, drank the running rainwater off his lips, and licked his face everywhere.
He muttered a vague reply through their kisses.
She didn’t care what.
His grip on her back hardened until it felt like he was about to break her in half.
She didn’t mind the pain.
Her dress tore in his fingers under the strain and left rainwater to caress her body.
She welcomed the bareness.
It didn’t matter what feeling he was inflecting into her, she just wanted to feel something, feel anything, feel everything. She wanted to feel him.
They spun together, almost out of control. Natir clung on to him until she was swept against a pillar at the entrance of the barn with intense force that made her shriek with pain.
Rain-soaked, they froze, looking into each other’s eyes, both panting, breathless, both having gone drunk. Her breasts heaved in and out like a bull; it felt as if her chest were about to explode.
Natir didn’t know why she was overwhelmed by a sudden rage. Why did she hammer her fist to his chest? And again, with all her force.
In just moments she must have landed a dozen slaps onto his chest, his shoulders and face until he seized her wrists and with a mad groan he surged forward with even more passion than before, locking her arms still, up above her head, and mashing her body in between himself and the wood.
Her voice rose with another cry of pain as she was pinned with her back flattened against the pillar behind her, and the two of them were madly into each other’s lips again.
A phantom lust had been awakened in her flesh by the way he was handling her. She did not resist, but embraced it, waved all restraint goodbye and let her desire take control.
With nonstop kissing, he let go of her hands and trailed down her shape. She kept her arms up, crossed over her head, fingernails digging into rough wood to find a perch as he sucked on her neck and claimed every curve of her body.
He was impossibly brutal. It hurt wherever he grabbed her, and her breasts were in agony; she couldn’t breathe. She let go of the wood and pushed against the pressure to cling to him. She felt him lock a hand under her knee.
Alfred pulled her leg up and she immediately responded, standing on her toes with one leg as she attempted to wrap the other around him when he lifted her up.
His hand slid down in between her legs.
The feeling was second to nothing. It was driving her insane and made her tremble in his arms. Her ache intensified to unbearable levels, she burned to feel him inside and the walls of her sex clenched in anticipation of his intrusion. She ripped off a piece of his shirt and set her teeth to his exposed shoulder, provoking him, urging him to handle her harder.
She groaned with ecstasy and a burst of coppery taste filled her mouth when she felt him thrust into her, for the sensation was so strong that she wound up wounding him with her teeth.
Her nails sank into his back.
Natir was rocked off the ground with every thrust he put into her, taking the craving between her thighs and writhing with pain and pleasure.
She threw the other leg up and wrapped her legs around him.
“More.” She panted, breathless, and tightened the hold her legs had on his waist. “More..fff..more.” She craved it and wanted to make every thrust a mark upon her body.
“MORE!” she cried and ground on his neck with her teeth, inflicting more pain on him.
He slipped with her in his arms, and they fell into the barn with him on top of her.
Though they landed on hay, the impact was still hard enough to knock the wind from her chest, but her arms refused to let go of him.
He settled atop her and threw her legs apart as they raced to strip each other bare while he worked on her still.
Natir pulled at his shirt again and he gave her just enough space to slip it over his head before he tore apart what was left of her dress.
She moaned and panted like a slut in heat beneath his thrusts. It was getting so intense that her breath wouldn’t stay in her lungs long enough to warm up.
Suddenly, Natir spotted something in the shadows beyond his head. A gasp caught in her throat, and a thrill of sudden fright sent shock waves through her flesh.
Keelin was there.
Her cheek rested on her forearms as she leaned over the fence, watching them with a smile on her face, and in her hand was her promised gift: a copper pan-flute.
Without breaking eye contact with Natir, Keelin leaned her face toward the cow’s skull next to her then she lewdly flickered her tongue out and ran it slowly along the length of its horn.
Natir wrapped her arms around Alfred’s head to keep it over her shoulder with Keelin out of his sight and shot a superior look at Keelin.
She wanted Keelin to watch. She wanted her to hear. She wanted the whole world to know it was her who had him in her arms. She wrapped her bare legs around Alfred, tilted her head back, shut her eyes and let her unbound screams call the night.
Keelin suppressed a laugh. She sat down somewhere behind the fence. Moments later a joyful melody rose against the rain, played by skillful hands on a copper pan-flute of the color of the stars.
* * *
The rain had eased, but it never stopped.
Natir lay on her side, naked and worn out, Alfred’s arm surrounding her and the striking heat of his bare skin at her back.
She could not see much now that the torch was dead. The place was uninviting and as far from a woman’s fantasies as it could possibly be: The cold crept in from every corner. The barn smelled heavily with the scent of birds, earth and hay. The straw stuck to her moist skin, and the rainwater dripped into the barn from some unseen hole in the roof, hitting the ground somewhere a few inches from her feet.
But it was all… all right. None of that could have troubled the true smile she had right now, and only peace and relaxation inhabited her chest. Natir was living rare moments of true bliss in the safety of her companion’s arms…
Alfred leaned against her from behind and whispered, his breath tenderly warming her cheek, “What is it that you want?”
Her smile grew wider, and she answered sleepily, “Again with that riddle?”
“Is it really a riddle?”
“I don’t know, and right now I really don’t care. I feel too good to play the game. Too tired, too.” A chuckle escaped her, and she peevishly slapped his arm. “You really worked me out this time. Now give it a rest.”
“Oh? I thought it was me who did all the work.”
“Even so, you were rough.”
“So said the woman who screamed: harder, harder, oh please love me harder—”
She burst with half a laugh.
For once, Natir was grateful to the dark, for her voice faked seriousness but her smile exposed how she really felt.
“I was acting,” she said.
“That was some act.”
“I was acting, and you were rough. Very rough. My knees hurt. Now be nice, I’m too worked out.”
“Mm? Will it work you out to answer a simple question?”
“Yes. Yes, it will. Hold me closer, I’m freezing.”
He clung to her until she could feel every muscle of his chest pressed against her shoulders, causing her to sigh with relief. She let a moment pass then she pressed her hips backwards against him and teased, gently fidgeting from side to side.
“But,” she intoned, “for all the hard work you did on me, I’ll play nice and tell you something else instead.”
“I will tell you what I really wish for right now.”
Her rubbed her side back and forth. “Okay, I’m listening. Tell me, what is it that you really wish for right now?”
She wanted to play some drama and keep him waiting for it, but almost immediately a laugh escaped through her nose. “Your tub!”
“Yes. Your tub.”
He chuckled. “Why the tub?”
“Because I like it.”
She turned the other way to face him, rested her head on his arm and said softly with her fingers tracing his chest muscles, “I want a tub just like it. And I want a sorcerer to enchant it for me, so that it will be full of clean, hot water every day, and every hour of the day, and it will never dry or go cold.”
“That’s some tub.”
“And where exactly did you say you’ll find this tubs’ sorcerer of yours?”
“Hushh, don’t ruin it. Wishes are unbound.”
She buried her face in his chest and he embraced her back.
She said again, “And I want your lamp.”
“Your lamp. The glass lamp I saw in your room. I want it. It looked so nice, and it felt and smelled so nice. Everything in your room is nice. I really want it… and your candles, too.”
He laughed. “Of all the things you saw in my room, you want my lamp and my candles?”
“Especially the candles. I’m tired of making candles from pig’s fat. They’re horrible. Pig’s fat candles. Pig’s fat torches. And cheap lamps with oil that smell like fish. I hate it. I hate all of it— they all smell so awful. I want real candles just like yours. Candles that smell of honey and glass lamps that smell of olives.”
She arched her back, stretching her body in his grasp, and let out the sweetest sigh. “And I want a hut.”
“Not a house?”
“No. Too big to clean and to keep warm. Just a hut half the size of this barn is all that I want for me and Aina. I want it to have square angles just like your home and walls of fresh logs of pine. And I want a fireplace with a fire that shall never die. I want soft fur on the floor and on the walls. And I want a dress of thick wool. For once in my life, I want a new woolen dress, a dress that is mine, a dress that has no holes in it and wasn’t worn by a hundred women before me. I want food that will never run out. And I want a mattress of hay three inches thick—”
He teased, “Why hay? Wishes are unbound.”
“Duck feathers, then?”
“Yes, better, goose feathers. Thirty inches thick.” She sighed. “If I had those things, I’d be the happiest woman alive.”
He opened his mouth to speak, but she beat him to it. “I know, I know, you’ll say that I’m stupid and it’s a wrong answer, otherwise everyone who owns a goose would be happy, or something… But I don’t care. Let it be the wrong answer. Let me enjoy the fantasy.”
She pushed her body totally into him, relaxed in his arms and her eyes shut soundly as if to sleep. “Let it go this time,” she moaned sleepily. “You can lecture me in the morning.”
He kissed her head, “A hut that smells of fresh pine, honey and olives?”
“A hut that smells of fresh pine, honey and olives… and has a tub.” She lifted her face. “You know? I’ve never tasted honey or olives.”
“No. Too hard to get. Too expensive to waste on a slave. Not many slaves can say they ever did, I imagine. But you know what else? One day, if I ever have such a chance, I still don’t think that I will taste it.”
“Because I don’t want to be disappointed. I love how it smells so much that I can’t help but to think: what if it doesn’t taste as good as they say it is? What if everyone was messing with me all along and it’s all just a bad joke? What if I find out that the honey is sour and that olives taste like grass? No, I don’t ever want to know. Just smelling it is good enough for me. I want to keep on dreaming about it.”
She went quiet in his arms and let him tenderly pet her head.
“Wait!” he said. “How come I didn’t hear the word man in your wishes?”
She grinned. “Not needed.”
“Mm, maybe occasionally.”
“When invited. The man can come when invited. And then he leaves.”
“That sounds mean. I feel bad for the man.”
She chuckled. “Not when I’m done with him! Don’t worry, the man will leave with a smile.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what.” He carefully backed away. “You keep dreaming of your beeswax candles and olive oil glass lamps while this man lights up his pig-fat torch and finds our clothes before we both freeze to death. Where is it? Did you have to throw it around?”
“It was in my way,” Natir replied, drunk with joy, and stretch out her body along the hay.
He found the torch and struck the flints attached to it. “Well, your dress was in my way, too, but you didn’t see me throw it out into the yard, did you?”
She giggled from within the darkness. “No. You ripped it off!”
“I did not.”
“You ripped it off. I heard it rip.”
She laughed as she tucked her foot into the hay and kicked it up in the air where it scattered and rained bits of straw all over her body.
“Now I have to weave myself a dress out of this hay, or I’ll end up walking back naked.”
He struggled with the flint. “Now that’s a sight I’d love to see.”
“I bet you would. You and the whole village! That will give them something to talk about for a month.”
“Then maybe I should ask you to do it—keep them busy for me. I could use the time off.”
He managed to light the torch and stood up to put it in a holder. When he turned back around, Alfred froze.
The dazzling sight of her struck him like a kick to the head. He could not take his eyes off her.
She was laying on her side in utter surrender, knees bent lightly, ankles crossed on the hay, one hand tracing faint patterns on her belly while her head rested on the other. Her eyes were wide and shone with obvious joy, and bits of straw adorned her moist skin and had gotten stuck in her hair. The playful torchlight caressed her bare body. Sweat glistened in the glow and highlighted her curves with brilliant radiance, making her look even more ethereal than she already was.
In that one magical instant, she was the epitome of beauty and femininity.
Oblivious to her own alluring moment, she looked up at him, clueless to the fire in his eyes. Her innocent gaze could only add to her feminine glory.
“What…?” she asked, a sudden sense of unease arising from his staring.
Overcome with desire, he suddenly dropped by her and pulled her in by her ankle.
“Wait! What—?” She yelped, but before she could tell what was happening, the world spun from all around her and she found herself thrown backwards in the air. She landed, sitting straight up, against a large pile of hay that cushioned her fall.
Just as fast, he was all over her, entrapping her body in between himself and the hay and throwing her legs apart as he propped her against the hay.
“Wait! Didn’t we just—”
Her head was thrown back and a deep moan escaped her mouth as he suddenly thrust into her sex.
Pinned like a butterfly, Natir clawed at his shoulders and ground her teeth together as his hard thrusts lifted her hips off the ground, slicing her tender flesh with such savage force and slapping against her with ever greater impact and noise.
He was out of control, had gone mad with desire, and he didn’t hold back at all in sating himself with all the pleasures of her body.
Natir screamed, swirled and wriggled helplessly in his arms for a few moments until she adapted to the asperity.
His violence aroused her. Her body eased up in his arms, and the pain vanished into the pleasure as she surrendered to his will and let him spear her as he pleased—taking her like an animal.