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Black Pearl 18


The Black Pearl of Pharazionby Cobalt Jade ( 18: Spiders and SilkwormsOn her own Marnessa went to the altar, her eyes fixed on Lassimla's; first her tunic, then her trousers, fell to the temple floor. Her eyes were bright, her lips parted, she walked with the fresh energy of a six-year-old. Yet for all the childishness it was a very sensuous act, because of what she was and the enhanced sexuality that made her that way."You are eager for change, I see," Lassimla said with a smile. I noticed she still kept her robe on."Mistress?" Marnessa said. She looked a little confused as she found herself nude and wondered how she had gotten to that state.Lassimla poured her a silver cup of dark amber liquid. "Drink this." Marnessa took a long swallow. "The rebels tell me you were once one of them, and had been made a slave by the Queen. Is this true?"Marnessa blinked. "I don't know, Mistress. I don't remember. But I think...I may be true. They treat me familiarly, yet differently from how they treat each other. It's as if a silk shroud covers me, one that is beautiful but blocks my soul.""Indeed," Lassimla said. "Would you like to be cured of it?""If you wish, Mistress," Marnessa said."No, do you wish it?""Mistress?""You must give your consent. Tontaxir's magic does not work on one who is unwilling."Marnessa stared long and hard at her. What Lassimla said was true; even Shezrine could not break an unwilling victim, though she used her sexual skills to bring them to the point of submission. Marnessa had been abruptly torn from that sexual bondage, and I could tell she still longed to go back there. But in the few days since her rescue I had also seen how she had come to long for her personhood. I saw her features struggle with the internal contradiction. She glanced around at the statue of Tontaxir, the mosaics, the flower offerings that always fringed the dais. "Yes," she said finally. "Will it hurt, Mistress?""No," Lassimla said. "But you must enact it yourself." She pulled on the edge of the animal skin that covered the altar, denuding it in one swift sweep. The surface had been carved into a statue of the god, the curves of his/her body rising in soft undulations from the stone. At the center rose a hard marble cock at a perfect 90 degree to the floor. Lassimla ran her fingers down Marnessa's naked spine. "The god waits for you, Marnessa." Her fingertips touched Marnessa's breasts. "Bring the god to life, if you desire to be free."Lassimla could not sway her through magic, but the force of her personality, combined with the drugged wine and the atmosphere of the temple itself, conspired to make Marnessa mount the supine statue of the god. She looked down into the cold marble eyes. Unbelievingly, I watched as she began to treat the stone statue as one would a lover. She kissed the sculpted lips, the broad chest, the hard stone breasts. She kissed the thing's belly, rubbing her hands up and down its flanks as if she enjoyed the feel of the stone. I had barely recovered from the shock of seeing Karina lose herself in oral pleasure, and seeing Marnessa lose herself--to a statue this time--was almost more than I could take. I watched, transfixed, as the slave girl lowered herself onto the stone cock, her juices providing enough lubrication for it to slide in smoothly and easily. She wriggled on it as if trying to draw it deeper, then, with her thighs gripping the statue's hips, she began to raise and lower herself in slow, languid motions.She did nothing else, just applied herself to the one action. The sensation must have been a new one to her for her face grew amazed, then ecstatic, at the stimulation. Lassimla stood by, watching intently. She did not participate herself but seemed to be supervising to see things went as planned. As I watched Marnessa's slave girl training slowly fell apart. At first her features remained composed, her curly black hair falling just so; she kept her posture at the correct angle to display herself well to onlookers. But the act soon had an element of wildness introduced to it. Her eyes flashed open, rolling in their sockets, and her movements became more frenzied. Her even up and down rhythm began to vary, now fast, now slow; the front of her body flopped down onto the stone torso, then arced back like a dancers'. Her breasts flopped from side to side and her pretty half-smile became a grimace, lips pulled back from her teeth like an animal.Her pace increased. She was sex incarnate now, highly erotic in spite of, or perhaps because of, being cleansed of the animal elements like body hair and cellulite. Her rear pumped up and down like a paddleball as the white marble phallus repeatedly pierced her flesh. She was no longer pleasing a Master or Mistress but herself, and the act had become far more personal and messy for it, yet all the more arousing. Finally she reached her orgasm, mouth open in silent ecstasy. Her skin began to glow. The light seemed to ooze out of every pore like liquid gold, coating her in an eyeblink, so hot and bright I could barely watch her. For a split second she remained so, a golden statue sealed to a marble one, then the shell burst apart with a loud crack, the shards flying off into nothingness. I blinked. Instead of Wild Nipples the slave girl there was just Marnessa, the plain-featured noble's daughter from the palace. She shook her head, woozy, as Lassimla helped her off the altar. A long strand of listening gold connected her still to the phallus, a last remnant of magic. Lassimla broke it with her finger and it disappeared into the air.Marnessa was breathing hard, her shoulders hunched as if she had run an exhausting race. Lassimla helped her into a robe and had one of the priestesses take her back to the inner chambers. "Will she be all right?" I said."Yes. She just needs to rest now, like any newborn," Lassimla said. The spell hadn't drained her at all, it had been Marnessa who'd done all the work. "Shezrine's slaves are conditioned by sex to submission and being acted upon, so I--and the God--broke the spell by forcing her to impose her will on another. She couldn't have done it with a normal human being, hence the statue." "Hmm," I said. It made perfect sense, the statue as substitute. "So Shezrine's magic *can* be broken.""It looks that way." Lassimla said. "Of course, given the large numbers of slaves she has, this method is a little impractical." I told her then about the ritual Shadow and I had witnessed at the palace. "It doesn't surprise me that the rite is so similar," Lassimla said. "Shezrine stole many of the Temple's secrets. But the question is, how do we destroy these crystals? Of late she wears them, but not always. She may have glass substitutes, as some rich woman do for their valuable jewels.""We can always drop a boulder on her to find out," I muttered.Lassimla laughed. "And she will magic herself out from beneath it. No, if there is a way to break them, we must be most circumspect about it. Trick her, perhaps."We came to the back chambers, the place where I had been brought on my first visit to the palace. Marnessa was lying asleep on one of the couches, a velvet throw pulled around her. Karina had been sleeping too but stirred when I came up. One eye flicked open, and she yawned. "Oh, it's you ," she said. A low table before her held a tray of half-eaten meatpies and honeycakes. "I feel so peculiar! I've had a couple of hours of sex, so full and rich and satisfied. " I noticed the rays of the white star now stretched from her hairline to the top of her nose, much more noticeable than the previous mark had been. She would have to use face-paint if she wanted to keep it a secret.Lassimla heard us and turned to me, giving me a private look. I saw her stick her tongue in her cheek.I decided then I didn't have the courage to tell Karina what had really happened, not knowing how she would take it. "Lassimla says Marnessa should rest for a few hours more before we go."Karina raised herself on her elbows and got a good look at the former slave girl. "Extraordinary!" she breathed. "You never would's the difference between doll and a real person. I had no idea Shezrine's magic could do that." She shuddered. "Can you imagine being turned into something like that, with sex on your mind all the time, always begging for a lay?"From what I had experienced with the Duke, it might not be such a bad idea, but as a lifestyle it had its limitations. I only nodded sagely. Karina took another bite of honeycake. "The rebels will want to talk her now to see what she knows.""J'Wabra told me she was only a pawn," I said. "She didn't really know anything important.""You're wrong about that," Karina said. "She's been a member of court for the past year and a half. She knows all the secret ways in and out of the palace, according to Shadow. She's got intimate knowledge of the Queen besides. There's a lot she can tell us." She yawned again, showing her teeth. "Ugh. I think I'll go back to sleep."Since they were still napping I decided to see what had happened to Shadow. I felt it was my duty, both as a friend and as a fellow freedom fighter, to see why he had run out, so I left the Temple and began to search.I guessed that Shadow, like any man, would probably be drowning his anxieties in a tankard of ale, so I took my search to a livelier neighborhood. I furthermore guessed he would frequent an alehouse that catered to mercenaries, one without the frippery of dancing slave girls or the loud hallelujahs of gamblers, so I narrowed my search accordingly. In fact I found him in the first one I walked in.He was sitting in a corner, the other patrons giving him a berth. He wasn't as tall or imposing or scarred as they were, but something in him warned them away. It might have been the wolf tattoo. I had never realized just how different he was compared to the other mercenaries and their petty, mortal vices, and now I did.He raised an eyebrow when he saw me but he wasn't surprised. He kicked the chair beside him so it slid out from the table, inviting me to take a seat."It's over," I said.He took a sip of his ale. "Good. How perverted was it?"It was surprising coming from him and I was speechless for a moment, as he had shown no signs of being priggish on the road. Neither Karina nor Marnessa remembered what had transpired, and if he knew, he might tell them; who knows how they would react. So I hedged. "I didn't find it perverted at all. It was all part of the ritual, and the ritual was successful. Karina has become the Mistress of the Beasts and Marnessa is herself again."He raised his eyebrow again."They are resting," I added, knowing he wanted to hear more about how Karina fared. The knowledge stabbed me inside like a tiny knife."Karina is an innocent," he said. "I'm only her second lover. I don't trust the *jaggaidrin.* That's what the High Priestess is, isn't she? *Jaggaidrin.* I could tell from her face."I had no answer for that. He had a private history that existed independently of me, one I had only the barest grasp of, and it gave him a new complexity that I wanted to know about, Karina or not. I felt ashamed of myself for being so interested, but I couldn't stop myself from wanting to know more. "What do you have against *jaggaidrin?*""Ages ago," he said, "this world was ruled by them. They had a civilization of marvels; Xingu, in the east reach of the Rift, is the remnant of it. They were male and female in one, and they considered themselves perfect for it, gods, even. They were cruel and extremely decadent. Some members of their race were born deformed and made these outcasts into their slaves. To us, though, they wouldn't be deformed. They'd be normal men and women."But the Jaggaid civilization destroyed itself after excavating the Rift; it was where they'd gotten the precious metals for their wars. The earth eventually healed itself of them, but the Rift remains...and their former slaves, who we now call human beings. Every once in a while, though, a throwback is born who is as cruel and evil as their ancestors."I had never heard of such a tale, nor did Lassimla's behavior support it. "That's ridiculous," I said. "Where did you hear of such a thing?"He finished his ale. "I have traveled more than you, Amazon. I also have more scars."I fumed. Among my people, though I do not believe it, the story is that Phtha, the first of the gods, carved the Rift to give His people more room to live in, as a flat area of land can only support so many. I couldn't counter the validity of Shadow's assumptions, but I could point out the unreasonableness of them. "Even if you do have suspicions of Lassimla, I'm afraid you have no choice other than to cooperate with her. Furthermore, if the rebels are successful, you and Deneir will have to continue cooperating with her, so you'd better get used to the idea."He said nothing, but I could see rebellion flickering in his eyes that told me not only was his relationship to Karina conflicted, but also his friendship with Deneir. If Deneir re-conquered the city he would want Shadow by his side as an advisor, and both he and I knew a wolf had no business in civilization.At that moment Karina and Marnessa came in. Karina drew a few bemused stares; female mercenaries were rare in Obn Dhregni. Marnessa, without her former body, drew none at all. "Shadow?" Karina said. She looked upset, more upset than he did, in fact.Shadow threw some money on the table. "Let's go," he said. He didn't look too willing to me to discuss his behavior.But Karina would try. The two walked together in front of Marnessa and I, at a distance where I couldn't hear what was being said, though I did note their gestures. Karina was trying to get him to explain himself, and he wasn't listening; things were complicated by the fact neither of them knew exactly what had occurred. It was a guilty revenge for me watching them spat; though it might split the rebels apart, it could also draw Shadow closer to me. But even this wasn't so much sweetness as torture, for even as they argued I saw how well suited they were for each other: almost the same height, the same build, the same way of arguing, both fierce and discrete. They even had the same color of hair, though Shadow's was longer.That left Marnessa as a conversation companion, which was awkward considering how thoroughly I had fucked her a night ago. She continued to wear her hooded cloak as if embarrassed of herself. "How do you feel?" I said tritely."Strange," she replied. Not very helpful in getting a conversation going."Do you...remember?" I said obliquely."Some," she said, just as obliquely. "As if it had been a dream. An erotic dream." She looked at me directly. It was hard to see the slave girl in her face now but her voice was the same."I'm sorry," I stammered. "But you wanted it, that is, you wanted to be used like that, when you were under Shezrine's spell...""Oh, I don't care about that," she said. "It's just desserts, after all. I used the slaves often enough when I was in the palace. It was turnabout, I suppose, to be turned into one myself.""You're very philosophical about it.""In my family we worshipped Gyzeur, the God of Karma, so it was just retribution that I became what I had once caused to suffer. Now that it is over with I can start the next part of my life with a clean slate."I must have been open-mouthed, for she gave me a small smile and said, "We worship Tontaxir too, so it wasn't that unpleasant...though as time went on, it would have become less so.""The lure of Tontaxir is very strong," I said. "Both in a positive and negative way.""That is what we are taught here." She was a sharp and insightful girl, something I couldn't have guessed from her incarnation as a slave. Meanwhile Shadow's and Karina's conversation had not gone well. When we got back to the townhouse they parted immediately. Marnessa went to speak to the other rebels, telling them her knowledge of the palace. Aylinn saw her and did a double-take. She had expected Marnessa to retain her old body and by the light that faded in her eyes I could tell she was disappointed. She would not invite Marnessa to her room again.Instead, she cornered me. "Duke Ushroez had accepted the Queen's terms," she said. "He is released from his estate and will surrender his mines.""Why did he do that?""To join us, of course," she said. "It's the only way he can. He'll get his property back anyway, of course, if we're successful. He's giving a party at his place tonight to celebrate. We're invited.""Count me out. I don't have anything to wear." The events of the day had left me more than a little melancholy and I didn't really want to go."You must come!" A newcomer joined us. It was Lady Nadysha, who I had met that night at the Duke's. "My brother asked specifically for you. We have many things to discuss." She scribbled on a piece of paper. "Here's the name and address of my favorite dressmaker in the market district. Buy yourself some suitable clothes, and charge them to me."I stared at the paper, dumbfounded. I had no way out now. "Thank you," I said, the only thing I could say.The other rebels there had heard of the party, but of course the priestesses could not go, and the men had other plans. Shadow turned his back on the event entirely, and Karina, chagrined, turned to me for solace. "It looks as if it's just us, then," she said. I showed her the paper. "Well, we'd better make the most of it. Lady Nadysha offered to buy us some gowns. I think we should take her up on the offer.""Sure," Karina said, with a look through her bangs at Shadow, who was occupied in a serious discussion. "Sounds like fun." Her tone didn't match her eyes, which were full of disappointment.So we went out into the marketplace, to Seamstress Alley. We didn't have enough time to get custom-made gowns, but there were plenty of existing ones that could be altered to fit our figures. Both Karina and I were puzzled over the choices. "I never had to wear clothes like this," she said, running her fingers over the silks. "In our village, it was always homespun, drab browns and yellows. We had festival garb, but we only wore it once or twice a year. The dresses had long, wide skirts covered with mirrors and embroidery, and I had to walk carefully in case they got dirty, for they could never be washed." She chose another gown, this one of emerald satin. "Did you ever wear garments like this?""Not regularly," I said. "When in foreign lands I adapt local dress if I have to look pretty, but I never take it with me when I leave. In Pharazion, where I was born, it is customary to go about naked, except in the cities. There we wear plain linen wrappings."She goggled at me, then held up a red gown to her curves, a confection of at least a dozen straps sewn with black beads. "We don't wear clothes like this in Deneir's court either, because we are so poor. That, and we always have to be ready to fight, so we dress for it. Everyone, men, women, and children." She stroked the silk, entranced. "I think I'll get this one."I continued to search, finally giving in to the dressmaker's advice and picking a revealing gown of sheer silver cloth that cupped my breasts but left my midriff bear, sewn all over with gold and purple sequins. The adjustments were quickly made, and when we began the walk back it was late afternoon."Why isn't Shadow going to the party?" I said."He doesn't want to," she said shortly. "The wormy bastard! It's like he doesn't want the Duke to think we're a couple.""He probably has other things to do," I offered.She snorted. We were walking down a wide alley now that ran in back of the gambling dens. "I love him, I really do, but he's so exasperating sometimes. I think there are two of him, one familiar to me, one a stranger. That wolf tattoo he has, sometimes I feel it's about to bite me." She picked up a long stick as she walked, twirling it in her fingers like a quarterstaff. "Maybe he'll settle down when Deneir becomes King. He won't have to go out scouting anymore, Deneir will want him at court. I worry about him when he goes away, but he just laughs. 'I can take myself of myself,' he says. 'I've been doing it for a long, long time.' "Suddenly three figures blocked the front of the alley; members of the city guard. We were trapped. "There she is!" one called. "The foreigner!"I should have known they wouldn't have forgotten about me. I drew my sword. Karina cursed and flung her package to the side, taking up a fighting stance with her makeshift weapon.Though we weren't fighting for our lives, we were fighting against our capture, which carried worse repercussions. The guards were well-trained, but we were better. Soon they were groaning in the dust, disarmed and bleeding but not dead. "Come on!" I shouted. We picked up our gowns and ran to safer territory, near the street. "What was that all about?" Karina said. "It's me," I said. "They're still looking for me, after what happened in the lower city the other day. They think I'm an escaped slave.""I heard about that, " Karina said. Her eyes narrowed in curiosity. "What was it like?"But another pair of guards appeared, and we had to fight again. Fortunately we had surprised them this time. I disarmed the one and Karina bonked the other on the head with her pole, and we slipped through another alley back into territory familiar to us."Don't tell Shadow about this!" Karina panted."Why?""He'll get protective, that's why!"I didn't. Our battles had cemented us; we were no longer enemies, but friends in arms.#When the first stars came out Karina, Aylinn and I went as emissaries of the rebels to the Ushroez estate. I had asked Marnessa along at the last minute, figuring she might provide insights into what the nobles hoped to gain. I'd learned not all of their motives were pure ones. Some of them considered a change of rulership no more than an opportunity to amass more power for themselves.Karina seemed to be having second thoughts about Shadow and their relationship, and I too; we were both quiet islands in the noisy throng. We were the only rebels present. But if the Duke thought Shadow and the Hharangi were snubbing him he gave no evidence. He was the perfect host, plying us with food, with drink, with attention, with such close consideration I began to entertain thoughts of seducing him again. From the twinkle in his eyes I knew he was expecting it of me. We'd been told the Ushroez wanted to discuss strategies with us, yet little serious discussion went on. There was music and dancing, and the delights offered by slaves; the other nobles asked me insipid questions about my skin color, my homeland. But in Obn Dhregni it had always been play before business. I drank more than I intended. Near midnight the Duke offered me a glass of dark-red wine, a special vintage he said. He brought his lips close to my ear and purred, "I've been dying to get at you all night, Amazon. What do you say to a little game of...*silkworm?*"I downed my drink; it was a perfect palliative to the emotional distress I'd suffered on Shadow's account. "You have a victim," I said.I followed him upstairs to his bedroom. Marnessa and Karina had disappeared, lost in the greater crush of the party, and Aylinn did not notice me go: I would not be missed. I kissed the Duke's broad, bare chest, growling in my throat like a panther, and he laughed, proceeding to disrobe me of the carefully chosen gown until I stood before him naked.From a chest he took out armfuls of the lengthy silk strips I remembered. "The silk, yesss..." I said, wriggling my hips in an enticing way."It's all for you, my dear," he said with another soft nip at my neck. "Hold still." I stood there, rigid, my arms stiff, my thighs pressed together so tightly it began to arouse me even without the silk. "Quickly," I whispered, the wine making the room spin. A throbbing began between my legs.He began at my ankles, wrapping the white strips around and around, much more tightly, it seemed, than the previous time. When he finished I could scarcely breath; my ribcage was so constricted only little pants were possible. He placed me on the bed, as I was now too stiffly bound for a sitting position, and wrapped my feet together. Layer after layer of silk now covered me completely, even my breasts and sex. I wondered, through the haze of wine, why he had done this, as I couldn't be stimulated in areas that weren't accessible to him."Bound, and perfect," he gloated playfully. He sat next to me, still clothed, and ran his large hands over my body. I felt them only faintly through the layers of silk, but the extra pressure was still arousing. "Can you move? Not even a little?"I tried; it took all of my muscles just to turn myself even from side to side. I felt like a mummy from the Minnisk desert, stiff as a board and ready for burial. "No, I can't," I said. Moisture seeped from between my legs. "What are you going to do to me? Be quick about it, please, I'm so wet...""Shh," he said, wadding up the last strip of silk. I opened my mouth to receive the gag, and he tied it tightly behind my head. "Can you make a sound now? Let me hear you try to scream."So I screamed, as much from the growing frustration as the pleasure I took in the bondage, and tried yet again to break free. I only bounced up and down a little on the mattress. When I was done I could only pant shallowly through my nose."You can't speak at all?" I shook my head, the slightest of movements because of how my neck had been bound. "Or move?" Another shake. "Good," he said. He picked me up and slung me over his shoulder, then began to walk to the wall."Ajmid?" I tried to say, but no sound came out, only a faint *ahhhma?* no louder than a kitten's mew. Where was he taking me? The room continued to spin, and I realized it was not just wine I had drunk, nor was the silk the only reason my limbs felt so dead and immobile. A horrid realization began to dawn on me as Ajmid pulled on a sconce, opening a secret door concealed in the paneling. He took me into this passage and went down many steps in the darkness. I'd been drugged, and perhaps betrayed; in the name of pride I'd given into temptation, and it might cost me my life.Another secret door opened, letting us out into the manse's service room, the place where supplies were unloaded and wagons made ready. A driver waited with a carriage and a team of horses. "Are you ready to go, my Lord?" he asked."No," the Duke said. "There's one more to come." He opened the pantry. Karina and Marnessa blinked back at us, cocooned in white silk the same way I was. When they saw me they began to struggle, mouths working on their gags, dancing a little on the cords that held them suspended like flies in the web of a spider. The Duke's victims, all of us. I would have laughed if we weren't in such danger. The Duke pulled a piece of silk out of the cocoon at my shoulders and tied it into a loop, hanging me on a pantry hook in the same fashion. He pursed his lips and blew me a mocking kiss. "To keep you fresh, my little silkworm." He closed the door, sealing us in darkness.Captured. What an idiot I had been! And all I could do was hang here with the others, all of us unable to talk or even touch each other in the darkness, each alone with the intimate knowledge of our foolishness. A horrible way to spend several minutes, or an hour. *How could we have let this happen?*A short time later the door opened again, revealing another victim to join us...Aylinn. How the Duke had managed that, I didn't know. She was hung next to us like an extra cheese or sausage, dumb panic in her eyes, and then the door closed again, sealing us in darkness.


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