Like a Long Road Home: Erotic Tales of Perilous Travel
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by Cecilia Tan
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Science Fiction
Description: Fantasy/romance/erotica. Travel can be dangerous, but that danger does funny things to people. Sometimes the journey brings out a romantic spark that's been there all along. Sometimes meeting a stranger leads to unexpected passion. The four stories in Like a Long Road Home explore the dangerously enticing side of perilous travel. Table of Contents includes: Touching Hemingway by L.A. Mistral, Ota Discovers Fire by Vinnie Tesla, Neither Bird Nor Tree by Sunny Moraine, On the Rocks by Elizabeth Coldwell. Warning: Explicit Sex.
eBook Publisher: Circlet Press, 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: May 2010
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [142 KB]
Reading time: 90-126 min.
On the Rocks
It was Palemon who first saw the woman, hanging in her bonds in the cave mouth. I was tempted not to believe him: how many times since we had begun our journey along this gods-forsaken coastline had he claimed to spot a sail on the horizon, or some other sign of rescue, only for it to be a trick of the light against the water? Sometimes I believed he was raising my hopes for his own amusement; that mocking sense of humor of his had had me close to slitting his lying throat as he slept even before we had found ourselves so hopelessly lost. But he was my captain, my leader, and no matter how much I despised him at times, I still owed him my loyalty. And as we neared that rocky outcropping, we could hear her cries, faint but unmistakable, and I realized that for once, Palemon was telling the truth.
"What do we do?" Phiclus asked. Of the three of us, he was always the least disposed to rush to action.
Palemon's hand hovered close to his sword. "We free her, of course. Gods know how long she's been hanging there."
She was a piteous sight; the once-white robes she wore had been reduced to tattered rags, and one of her small, pink-tipped breasts was clearly visible. Her hair was matted close to her skull with salt water, and her face, which would undoubtedly have been pretty in kinder circumstances, bore the pallor of exhaustion.
"But it could be a trap," Phiclus cautioned. "There could be brigands hiding in that cave, waiting to attack us if we try to free her. What do you think, Mentius?"
"In truth, I would welcome it," I told him. "At least it would convince me that we were not the only people left on the face of this barren chunk of rock. Remind me again, one of you, how long we've been walking without seeing a single living soul?"
My instinct was, like Palemon's, to cut the woman free of her bonds. This scene bore none of the hallmarks of an ambush; she had been left here as some kind of punishment, I was sure of it. But something still nagged at me; I feared that she had not been left there purely to die of starvation. Something worse awaited her.
This was the kind of adventure I had craved when I joined the crew of the Calathon, bound for the distant lands on the other side of the Great Sea, on a quest to find the home of the immortals. There, it was believed, rose the spring that kept the gods forever young. Our king, Thalacite, was close to death, crippled by some wasting disease, though many believed he had fallen to the curse of an enchantress. His son and only heir was a boy twelve years of age; with the water from the spring we hoped to prolong Thalacite's life until the boy was old enough to reign in his place. Palemon, the captain of the king's guard, had been chosen as the leader of this expedition, and he had recruited men to join him not only from the ranks of the finest warriors but also those young men of the city who had skills which would become necessary as the quest progressed. I was a fisherman's son, and no one was better than I at guiding a small boat through choppy waters. Phiclus was a hunter, deadly with his slingshot. Both of us were bored with our lives and eager to explore the world beyond our little village. We imagined ourselves returning in triumph to many nights of feasting and drinking. We would also, Phiclus believed, be able to take our pick of the local women--an enticing prospect to someone who had as little experience as I did. I couldn't admit that in all my eighteen summers I had never actually lain with a woman, and I could hardly bear to listen when the other crewmen bragged loudly of their conquests. When I get home, this will all change, I told myself. I will be a hero, and I will find someone to love me.
But now it seemed as though all the dreams I had had, the dreams I had shared with almost all the other men on board--dreams of money, a place in legend, and the chance to bury myself between the thighs of a woman--were turning to dust. Two weeks into our voyage, the Calathon had been caught up in a great storm, the like of which none of us had ever seen. Lightning, forked and vicious, rent the sky. Rain hissed down on the boat, hot enough that it almost burned the skin where it touched, and the thunder was so loud we knew we were hearing the voices of the gods, raised in anger. Legend told they guarded their sacred spring jealously, unwilling to share its miraculous properties; we must have ventured too close to their home, and now they were doing all they could to prevent us from reaching it.
Sturdily built though the Calathon was, she could not withstand the power of the storm. First the mast cracked in two, falling to the deck in a tangled mass of rigging and sailcloth. That would not have been sufficient to cripple the ship, had we been able to row her to a safe harbor where repairs could be made. But the sea frothed up in a fury, tossing the ship until the very planks from which it was constructed began to split apart. I saw men who had become my friends being sucked down beneath the water, and though my eyes were almost blinded by the salt spume, I will swear to my last breath that, just for a moment, I saw the face of the Sea God, laughing in triumph as the Calathon's crew disappeared. Gods know how any of us were spared; when my head cracked against a floating piece of wood and the blackness descended upon me, I was sure that I was dead.
So it was with shock and some relief that I came to and found myself lying on a pebbled beach, battered and bloodied, but whole. A face was staring down at me; I blinked a couple of times and recognized Phiclus. He helped me to my feet and we hugged like brothers, scarcely able to believe that the gods had chosen not to destroy us. "There are others here, but they're all dead," he told me.
"Not all," said a voice, and we turned to see Palemon, a length of rag wrapped round his head to cover a bleeding wound. Like Phiclus, he had wandered a little way along the shore to look for other survivors and had found no one. Of a crew of three score men, only the three of us had survived; the rest either lay where they had been washed up or had vanished forever beneath the waves.
We found what we could in the way of wood, some of it from the Calathon's hull, the rest branches from the low, scrubby trees a little way inland. Then we made a fire and burned the bodies of our fallen crewmen in the traditional way. No one was attracted by the flames, and when we began to walk in search of rescue, we found this stretch of land deserted and almost barren. Surviving on berries, roots, and the odd coney which Phiclus managed to kill with his slingshot, we had traveled on, and still we had found no evidence of anyone living here--until now.
Warily, we approached the woman, clambering up the slippery rock face. When we were within a few feet of her, her eyelids flew open and she regarded us with her pale green gaze.
"You have come, just as I foresaw you," she said. Her voice cracked a little, and I wondered how long she had gone without water. "The trio who would be my salvation. The tall, dark one: the leader of the three, a little too sure in his own abilities. The lanky one, with the broken nose and the kind heart. And the fair one, no more than a boy, but brave beyond his years, with a craving for adventure...."