| Ignis: Animus
“You be careful, now,” Lempi said with a sly grin. “A pretty thing
like you, the sauna spirit might take a liking to you.”
“Right,” I said. “And then what?”
She shrugged, but the smile still glinted in her eyes. “Well, it’s all
hot and ready for you,” she said, handing me a handmade wooden bucket with
a birch whisk in it. “Water from the lake to make it steam inside, so
you’ll sweat more. And a little birch to wake your skin up!”
“Well,” I said, “if the sauna spirit tries to get me, I’ll just beat him
off with this!”
Lempi turned away then, waving, but I heard her cackle from the nearby
house as I undressed. Sauna spirit indeed. Probably just having me on
because I was a greenhorn when it came to the real thing, sauna in Finland.
I’d taken saunas before, but this would be different as a hot springs from
a hot tub. I braced myself for the heat, opened the door quickly and shut
it fast behind me.
It was dark inside, but not yet unbearably hot. The cedar walls seemed
to whisper promises with their fragrance. Gradually my eyes became
accustomed to seeing by the dim glow in the heart of the rocks piled up in
the kiuas, the heater. They’d come from a volcano once, and you could tell
the fire still lived in them, easily roused by the touch of tongues of
flame. I set the bucket down and made my way to one of the shelves.
My skin warmed gradually. There was a draft from somewhere, but it was
warm. My breath seemed to come out hotter than it went in. I got warmer
and more relaxed, and could almost imagine a presence in the sauna, as
though I was floating in somebody’s breathing. “Anybody in there?” I
murmured in the direction of the kiuas. No answer.
A little sweat was beginning, and to encourage it, I took up the birch
whisk and flicked water from its leaves onto the rocks. Immediately, a
cloud of scalding steam sprang up. Another sprinkling, and my lungs began
to clear, stinging. When the wooden walls absorbed the steam, I would
throw on more water until finally the sweat was pouring off me. I dashed
from the sauna and before my rational mind could make me hesitate, dove
head first into the lake.
At least it wasn’t freezing. At least not actively. But I was glad to
scramble ashore and let the water evaporate off my glowing skin, cooling me
Inside again, my sweat came up quickly this time, and the drops trickled
over my skin like a caress. I closed my eyes, enjoying the dark, the touch
of the warm draft. It would be nice to have a lover here, I thought, but
the Finns are very proper when it comes to sauna — “One should behave in
sauna as in church,” I said aloud.
*whose church?* said a small whisper from somewhere. I jumped up and
banged my head on the ceiling, which made me sit down again, hard.
“Who’s there?” I demanded, but there was only silence, and the hissing
of the kiuas. Hearing things. I lay down again, my head beginning to
I stiffened as the hissing made words again: *in the churches of time — if one may call them that — the act of love wass thought mossst
“I don’t believe in you,” I said. “You’re a figment of my rattled
There was a broken hissing, like laughter. *if you truly want a lover
here, throw libation on the sstones, and then ssee whether or not i
“All I need right now is a cure for my headache,” I said testily.
Silence. Finally I reached down to the birch whisk and flung water into
the kiuas; as an afterthought, I threw water on twice more, then lay back
again, ignoring the sudden roar of steam.
I began to relax again, and could almost imagine warm, gentle hands
massaging my temples. *It is ssaid that lovemaking is a sssovereign cure
for headache*. This time, strong hands and solid held me back from hitting
my head again. I looked up and saw, sitting on the bench at my head, a
powerfully-built and noticeably male body, glowing from within with the
same light of the kiuas. His beard was golden and curled like the ends
of flames, and stood out dramatically against his skin. And his eyes
were the colour of amber, lit from within. *Let me help you to relaxss, he
said, you are over-tensse.* He took up the birch whisk and brushed it over
my skin until it tingled as from electricity. Then he laid it aside and
began to massage me.
His hands were warm and insistent, and I relaxed without thinking,
leaning back against his body. His fingers found every aching muscle and
worked every tension out. But I was very much aware of where his hands
were on my body, and as he continued to avoid touching my I began
to long for it. Touch me! I thought at him. This is a fair, body,
touch it! He didn’t make a sound, but the next minute I felt his breath on
my ear, and then he ran his teeth along the rim with great delicacy.
He ran his hands down my body, pausing to cup my and press my
nipples firmly before he laid one burning hand on my pubis. I reached up
to touch his face; he turned his head to my hand and pressed the mount of
Venus, the fleshy mound at the base of the thumb, between his teeth. My
whole body was shaking with wanting him.
I reached behind me, searching for his cock; touching it was like
touching sun-heated iron. *Ah,* he breathed, and slid alongside me as he
turned me so that we faced each other on the bench. He wrapped his arms
around me and held me tight for a long moment. Then he cocked his head
back and looked piercingly at me. *If you lie with me, he said, you will
bear my mark all your life long. Is this truly your will?*
I tried to still my mind even as my body trembled. “This is scarcely an
appropriate time to ask, when you’ve already got me wound up like an alarm
clock,” I said, stalling for time.
He smiled. *I am required to ask sometime before; when is not
“If it will not keep me from enjoying love with mortal men,” I said
after a moment’s careful thought, “then I do will it.”
His own body shook, with laughter. *Mortal woman, he said, when you
have known my passion, your passion will be fed like fire; you will love
the act of love even more than you do now, and both you and the who lie
down with you will rise up energized.*
“Then let it be so,” I said. “And quickly...” I couldn’t control
myself; I thrust my pelvis toward him, all the more excited by the touch of
that truly hot cock, and in the rising heat of the sauna my breath came
short and hard.
A quick, limber tongue flicked between my parted lips, but even as it
explored my mouth, what felt like two more tongues tickled my nipples, and
then, amazingly, a fourth began to tease at my clit. He must have sensed
my astonishment, for he leaned back to look at me with his golden eyes and
smile with his sharp, perfectly white teeth. *Have you never heard that
all my kin have nine tongues?* And indeed, tongues like flames appeared and
disappeared all over his body — but never more than eight at a time — while
one reptilian forked tongue flicked out of his mouth and back.
He ran his fingers over my skin, and his flesh had the heat of
hard-working engines. Sliding his hands under my buttocks, he lifted me up
to him and slid that amazing organ deep inside me. I nearly went wild as a
mouth opened up just above his cock and started licking my clit. Then I
felt a gentle probing at my anus. *Most of my kin also have tails,* he
said with a chuckle, and when he slid it inside me I couldn’t be still any
longer. But even as a howl of lust gathered itself in my throat,
his fiery lips closed over mine and all I could do was wrap my limbs around
him as he penetrated every opening and planted the fires of ardor there.
Just before I came, he took my hand again and bit into it, pressing with
his tongue the flesh caught up between his teeth. Then, I think, between
heat and orgasm, I slipped ecstatically out of consciousness.
When I finally came around, my head was light as I left the sauna. Been
in too long, I thought to myself as I took the icy plunge. Been
hallucinating. I groped for a towel and stumbled back to the house.
“So,” said Lempi. “You were a long time in the sauna. Have a drink of
“I think I fell asleep,” I said, reaching out to take the earthenware
cup she offered. Only then did I notice that the pad at the base of my
thumb still bore the prints of his teeth in a perfect oval, just beginning
to swell a little. I had not dreamed it!
Lempi smiled, and her eyes were soft as she saw the marks. “He is good,
isn’t he,” she murmured, and I saw her hand as I took the cup from it; it
bore the scars, white with age, of twelve keen teeth like a fairy ring.