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by Summer Wilde
Category: Erotica/Erotic Fantasy/Romance
Description: For generations, no men have been allowed in the Kingdom of Handor, although the annual mating ceremonies are legendary. Ojeria, next in line to lead this tribe of warrior horsewomen, faces trouble when her cousin is abducted by sex-slave traders. On Ojeria's quest to rescue her, she meets handsome Galen, a healer. Will they succeed in achieving all their desires? To My Readers: I hope you will enjoy the world I have created, where women are strong and self-sufficient forces to be reckoned with, but still human enough to fall in love and enjoy all life has to offer.
eBook Publisher: Red Sage Publishing/Red Sage Presents, 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: August 2010
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [253 KB]
Reading time: 166-232 min.
Ojeria's Journey: Chapter One
Ojeria was worried. Taleck should have been back from hunting by now. Taleck drew misfortune like honey drew flies, and Ojeria had begun to worry that the hunt for that evening's meat had gone awry. Her cousin tended to daydream when she was on guard duty, become absorbed searching for the perfect piece of wood to carve when gathering firewood, or just forget what she was doing. Taking advantage of a low branch, Ojeria swung herself into an oak. While the other trees had leafed out, the sturdy nut trees had not, offering a fairly unobstructed view through the branches. Ojeria spotted something moving across the valley. Taleck was just visible, a moving shadow in the dark green shade of the tall pine trees.
Habitually, Ojeria checked the horses. They were grazing contentedly, knee-deep in sea of emerald-green grass. It had been a hard winter, on the heels of a wet fall that had seen the oat crop plagued by fungus. Winter rations had been scarce, but the new grass was making the mares' milk flow thick and rich to the leggy new foals and putting flesh atop ribs that had shown too prominently only a month ago. Shaggy winter hair was gone, replaced by gleaming bays, blacks and grays that had strung themselves out like earth-toned jewels over the valley floor.
Ojeria jumped down and twisted her long blond hair into a braid, securing it with a strip of leather to keep it out of her way. She went into the small copse of oak and maple to gather more firewood. A recent storm had swept many dead branches from the trees, and she quickly had her arms full. As she returned to the campsite, Taleck arrived, trudging through the grass with two rabbits dangling from her hands. The younger girl dropped the game on the ground unceremoniously and smoothed her straight dark hair back from her sweaty face.
Ojeria admired the rabbits, "Nice and fat. I wish we still had some potatoes left to set in the embers to go with them."
"I could go down to the swamp and get some cattail roots," Taleck offered.
"I'll settle for oat cakes and roast rabbit if you will." Ojeria made a pile of dried grass and tiny sticks over the small nest of coals she'd kept going throughout the day. She pulled her knife out of its sheath and expertly honed a green stick to skewer the meat with.
"I had to wait a while for the rabbits to come out for their evening meal. It's too hot for this time of year," Taleck grumbled.
Ojeria gave the girl a sideways glance. Taleck always could find something to complain about. She was Ojeria's best friend, but there were times when she wished the girl would simply embrace life instead of finding fault with everything.
"Be glad we have rabbits and a peaceful valley to eat them in," the older girl admonished quietly. Ojeria had appreciated the perfect spring day. Perhaps it was because they usually had the horses graze this end of the valley first and it meant winter was over, or perhaps it was the music of water cascading down the stream just over the bank. Though the oaks were bare, the maples and beech were crowned with new foliage that danced easily in the breeze, dappling the ground with light and shadow. She said, "I love this time of year, especially after sitting around the fire all winter in the common lodge, listening to the other women gossip and pick petty squabbles. Sometimes it's all I can do not to scream and run out into the snow like a crazy woman."
Taleck plunked down on a log by the fire, unlaced her moccasin, and shook a pebble out of it. "You're always happy in spring. That's because down here, you're away from your mother."
Ojeria sighed. "You have a point. I try to remember she's ill, but we argue more than ever lately. Part of me wishes she would step down and let me rule. Then again, I don't want to be queen by default. I want her to realize that I'm ready to lead the Handors. We disagree on this problem of the Mahleps. I think we need to get rid of them permanently, not just defend our borders against them. She says it is not my duty to murder them all."
Taleck nodded thoughtfully. "I spoke to an Uxer man at the Edallow market last month. He said that on his way there, two Mahleps tried to steal his food. He tried to kill them, but they got away."
"This time, his food. Next time it'll be his wife or daughter," Ojeria answered. "They are a menace to the entire countryside. Why won't my mother listen to me? Her ideas are old, and I'm tired of her obeying every outdated tradition just because our foremothers did things that way. I want to lead us in a different direction, not just sit back like a cat at the mouse hole waiting to see what happens. Our army could be gotten ready and sent to destroy them. Isn't that why we keep an army? Isn't that why we have our war-horses? If we could avenge even one girl who was sold as a sex slave at the Arb market, it would be worth the effort."
Taleck nodded and re-tied the moccasin's thong around her ankle. "At least they've never gotten any of us. That's why your mother won't attack them. You think like a warrior, Ojeria. Your mother wishes to avoid trouble."
"My mother is going to see us dwindle away to nothing," Ojeria replied, angrily thrusting a stick in the fire to stir up the flames. "That generation is steeped in Queen Sasha's prophecy. Personally, I think perhaps we should do more business with the men from the North. Those who have traveled the Silk Road and barter in Arb have fine goods that don't make it to Edallow market very often. Some of them are fine looking men, too. The Norse sailors, for instance. I'm sure I could convince one or two to make themselves available during mating week. They'd sire some strong children."
Taleck slanted her a glance before pulling a rabbit towards her for skinning. As her knife slipped into the soft skin she said, "The Uxer and Enothwix men know our ways and abide by them. I'd be afraid men from strange lands might try to possess us as their own. And from the whispers I've heard, there are Handor women who'd let them. It frightens me to think that some of our tribe might wind up across the sea. Maybe your mother is wise not to encourage strangers."
Ojeria's head shot up at Taleck's statement. It was rare for the girl to offer an opinion. Ojeria was impressed that Taleck had given the matter any thought at all, much less phrased it so succinctly. Ojeria, however, had given it plenty of thought. "Let them go. I've seen the way most men treat their wives when we are at the market. If they choose to be disloyal to their people, then let them discover how it is to be constantly dominated by a husband. I'll bet most of them would be begging to return to Handor within a year. Any man who behaved like that towards me would feel my sword, and I can't imagine any of Handor putting up with that."
Ojeria watched Taleck peel the rabbit skin away. With the pelt gone, the rabbit looked half the size. By next winter, the soft fur would be lining someone's boots. As Ojeria picked up a suitable stick for roasting the rabbits on, she considered the problem of restless Handor women, and admitted, "Even though the last thing I would want would be to marry some man, I'm afraid that there will be more like Renleigh. I still can't believe she ran away to be with a man. She seems happy, though. There could be more women who might be swayed. Saracco, for instance. She's such a romantic. I see her exchanging glances with the men at the market. If anyone ever did leave us for love, she'd be at the top of my list. She's such an excellent shot with a bow. What a shame it would be to lose a warrior such as her."
"Renleigh was in love," Taleck said matter-of-factly, emphasizing the word 'love', and letting her eyes roll. Then she slid her knife expertly into the soft belly of the rabbit, careful not to taint the meat by puncturing the intestines. "Renleigh's man is nice to her, but I can't imagine loving a man more than I love my life in Handor."
Ojeria sat back on her heels and was silent for a moment, pondering that last statement. She began to put sharp ends on a stick for roasting the rabbits. "I don't know what love feels like, and I don't want to know. I think it must be some kind of weakness. Renleigh's mind became as mushy an overripe melon. She wasn't thinking like the warrior she was trained to be."
Ojeria sharpened the stick with renewed vigor. "Renleigh chose to be exiled, not just because of the man, she also wanted to keep all her babies. She couldn't face sending the boys away."
Taleck thought about this, and then asked, "I think I would like to keep all my babies, wouldn't you?"
Ojeria scowled, then stood to her full height of almost six feet, stretched, and then settled her hands on her flat stomach. "I feel no particular need to have babies, although I'll have to in order to keep our line going. I must admit," she said with a sly smile, "that I can't wait to feel what it is like with a man."
Taleck glanced up with an embarrassed flush, and then went a few feet away to dig a hole to bury the rabbit guts in, hiding her blush with a curtain of dark hair. Ojeria couldn't understand Taleck's shyness about all matters regarding sex. Most Handor women discussed it freely, since it only happened with men once a year during the mating week at the mid-summer moon, and then only to those chosen by her mother, Queen Aritza. Telling and re-telling the stories of the weeklong orgy was a favorite entertainment during the tedious mountain winter.
"Do you think your mother will let you mate this year?" Taleck asked.
"She hinted that she might take me on the trip to pick out men. I don't know if she'll let me mate, too. Maybe she just wants me to see how she makes her choices. I didn't want to seem too eager, for fear she would change her mind. But, since she's been so weak, I don't know how she will make the journey at all. Maybe I'll be in charge." Her eyes gleamed.
"You get to see them naked, don't you?" Taleck kicked the last bit of dirt over the whole and then looked at her friend with a faint rosy glow spreading up her face.
"I've heard that's how she makes her choices," Ojeria said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
"Do they, uh, demonstrate?"
"They certainly wouldn't demonstrate on Mother," Ojeria said with a short laugh. While love and babies were not something she desired, mating had held a certain fascination for quite a while. There had been nights she had pleased herself many times over imagining what a real man would be like. She wanted to feel hot throbbing flesh inside of her, not the same old wooden dildos with their sheep skin covers that she'd used for years. Through the long winters she'd listened intently from the smoky shadows of the common room in the main lodge, pretending to be absorbed in mending harness or attaching new fletching to her arrows, while her ears tuned in on any conversation that involved sex.
Taleck impaled the rabbits on the roasting spit, balanced it on the forked stakes to either side of the fire, and said wistfully, "Ojeria I envy you. I won't know a man for at least another year. I hope by then I will want to do it. The thought of that thing going in and out, all the groaning and sticky stuff, ugh!" The disgusted look on her face made Ojeria laugh, and Taleck blushed even deeper.
Ojeria sat down next to her and leaned in closer. Although there was no one for miles to overhear, she whispered, "What I would like, is to have some of Unad's elixir that keeps the babies away, and then be free to do as I please without worrying, even if Mother says I can't participate."
Taleck's eyebrows shot up. "What elixir?" Then the rest of the statement sank in, and a look of horror replaced her surprised expression. "You wouldn't mate without permission!"
"Oh, yes I would, and now you need to keep two secrets. Only a few women know of the elixir, and if word got back to mother, or First Elder Holth, there would be consequences for Unad. My mother would hand out severe punishment if she knew why some women fail to conceive. Maybe she would even ban Unad from the tribe, although her status as the medicine woman is strong. Unad is looking out for them, after her own daughter died in childbirth. So, you have to swear that you won't utter a word to anyone."
Taleck nodded solemnly and reached out to Ojeria. Their hands clasped each other's wrists and Taleck said, "I swear by all that is holy in Handor that I will keep the secret of Unad's elixir."
Ojeria nodded in satisfaction and said, "You're so tiny, Taleck. I worry about you bearing children. You don't have wide enough hips for the baby to come through. When you were born you were almost too small to live. I don't think you've ever caught up with the rest of us."
Taleck looked ready to argue this point, but Ojeria held up her hand. "Don't argue. You know you're the shortest of us all. I've already spoken to Unad and got her permission to tell you about the elixir. Of course, it will be your decision whether to use it or not. It is a mix of black willow root, powdered oxen horn, and some foreign herb she trades for at the market. For it to work, you must mix two large pinches of the powder in hot water and drink it morning and night for two days before being with a man, and keep drinking it all the while you are exposed to him. Then the man's seed can't take a hold in your belly."
Taleck considered this for a while. Ojeria let the idea sink in before speaking, for Taleck was a wonderful friend, but not the quickest thinker. "I've decided that I'm going to use the elixir. If mother does let me mate, then I won't have some babe at my breast, interfering with my life. Babies can come later. Either way, I'm going to have a real man inside me, even if I have to sneak into a tent." She snapped her fingers flippantly.
Taleck was awed, as usual, be Ojeria's rebellious antics. More than once Taleck had felt the sting of a switch across her backside for following her older cousin's lead. Those had been harmless childhood pranks. Breaking a tradition was another transgression altogether.
"Your mother would beat you till you bled."
Ojeria continued, unfazed by the thought of her mother's wrath. "My mother is too weak to beat me at the moment. I feel it is my duty, as the future ruler, to see exactly what all the fuss is about."
"Your duty?" Taleck grinned. "You don't have me fooled. You've wanted to lie with a man since you snuck into mating week last year. At least all you did was watch."
Ojeria shot her a look that would wither most girls, and turned the spit so the rabbits would cook evenly. The smell of roasting meat was making her mouth water. "Well, yes, that was," her eyes rolled up while she thought of the correct word, "...memorable. I didn't know a man could grow his penis that big."
Staring into the flames reminded Ojeria of the revelers around the fire during mating week. One fateful evening last summer she'd spied. After sneaking out of the lodge, she'd walked through the moonlight to the sacred woodhenge. It was nestled in a large clearing within the thick Handor forest at the opposite end of the valley from where they were camped. The ring of ancient oak trees that stood sentry over the area were as gnarled as old crones, and when their contorted branches creaked in the breeze they formed leaping, devilish shadows in the firelight. Each of the twelve Handor women chosen for mating that season had her own felt tent for the week, but there were many couplings that took place in the open air near the fire. Nights stretched long into the wee hours, and nothing was considered taboo except to fornicate outside of the henge itself. Legend said that the offspring of such a mating would be deformed. The heady blend of firelight under the soft black summer sky, and the sensual atmosphere of the oaken henge drove the revelers to act on every animal urge that struck them.
Having gone on foot, Ojeria was able to stay concealed in the darkness outside the glow of the fire. The sentries, women past their mating years but still able to wield sword and shield, didn't notice her. Ojeria wondered how alert they could possibly be, given the sights and sounds behind them. She was shocked, seeing the normally sedate, dependable women of her tribe, her extended family of aunts and cousins, dancing naked with wild abandon in the flickering firelight. It wasn't just arousing. It was amazing. She had wondered if Unad had put a spell on them or given them potions to drink to make their everyday personalities slide away like a snake's old skin. Or, might the ecstasy of the mating be even more magical than she imagined?
And the men! Ojeria had never seen a naked adult before, only children. The sight of one naked man dancing would have been shocking enough, but to see a dozen strutting around the fire was spellbinding. Their swaggering vanity reminded her of the way young roosters strutted about Handor. One group, the Uxer men, was known for their intelligence and cunning in business and for their metalwork. Strong and swarthy, their penises tended to be quite large in circumference. The Enothwix tribe was well represented by their usual blond-haired, blue-eyed men, including one set of twins who were well over six feet tall. While not quite so well endowed as the Uxers, they had smoother, golden skin and Ojeria thought their penises would do quite nicely. She wasn't sure how an Uxer man would fit her.
Despite the spice of lust and fertility that filled her nostrils and the wanton sex that filled her eyes and imagination, a thought whispered through Ojeria's mind. Perhaps her father had been an Enothwix. She smiled, for she could imagine herself as part of the tribe of tall blond shipbuilders and explorers who lived on the coast not far from the trading port of Arb. Of course, Enthowix women didn't go to sea. Their adventures would involve childbirth, wiping snotty noses, and waiting for their husband to arrive home and get her pregnant again. As she thought about that, she wondered what it would be like to have a father. In the market, she'd seen fathers with their sons hoisted on their shoulders, and the poignant gesture had left her feeling as if she was missing something important in her life. Her mother had done a good job raising her, but Ojeria had sometimes thought that having two parents, such as the other tribes allowed, also had merits.
The dancing that night had gone on and on. She had gasped aloud when one of her cousins had unabashedly gone down on her knees in front of one of the Enothwix twins, grabbed his penis and had seemingly swallowed it whole. He set his own cadence, thrusting her harder onto him. He was as lean as a cat, with his golden mane haloing his head in the dancing firelight. He had resembled the mighty lion Ojeria had once seen when a dusty caravan from the south had stopped in Arb. His perfect body gleamed with sweat in the firelight, his ass and cock as smooth and hard as river rocks. Ojeria wanted to open her thighs for him and revel in the feel of his shaft thrusting mercilessly into her slickness until she came in wave after wave of pleasure.
Tasso's eyes were on him as well, especially when he allowed her to stop sucking and let her tongue dart and dance along the length of his glistening shaft. Ojeria had kept perfectly still under a fragrant cardim bush, its spicy scent mingling with the sandalwood thrown on the fire, and the ripe tang of sex on the warm summer air. She hardly dared breathe, but couldn't bring herself to leave. She was fascinated by the revelation that sucking a man's cock seemed fun. She could understand the man liking a soft wet mouth and a clever tongue, but Tasso enjoyed the deed as much as if his flesh had been one of the honey and almond-paste sticks the Handors made for the Harvest Moon Feast.
Ojeria realized she was soaking wet and she'd been grinding her hips in rhythm with the mating in front of her. Every cell of her being was trembling like a freshly plucked harp string as she stared, enraptured, at the sweat-glistened, writhing, uninhibited performance before her. There were other couples, and threesomes, busy in the shadowy recesses of the fire, but she wanted to keep watching her cousin. Most of all, she longed to join in, but she had been too young to be chosen, and since she was of the direct royal line, her mate had to be of the highest quality, not just a superb physical specimen, but one of royal standing. It might be years before her mother found an acceptable mate.
As her cousin Tasso's head bobbed enthusiastically on the man's organ, his twin knelt behind her, grasping her around the hips and unceremoniously entered her from behind, shoving her even harder onto his brother. Tasso had groaned with pleasure at this new sensation. Her frenzied sucking increased, bringing her partner to orgasm with such a savage power that Ojeria wondered how Tasso managed to breathe. She swallowed frantically, eyes wide with the effort, as he held her still. When he had finished climaxing, her leonine partner stroked her hair. To Ojeria, it seemed like a loving gesture, even though he had acted like a complete barbarian just a moment before.
He probably didn't even know Tasso's name, but it seemed that he appreciated her untamed enthusiasm. Ojeria envied this tender gesture more than anything else that evening.
That long ago night she'd also learned that the whims of one man weren't those of the other. The tenderness of that leonine twin didn't influence the other, who was still ramming himself into Tasso, his face twisted in concentration until he, too, succumbed to a series of spasms that should have exhausted him. He proved to be insatiable, and not at all prone to sentimental stroking. Even though he paused for a moment to catch his breath, he wasn't completely idle. He slapped her soundly, once on each white globe of her ass. Tasso squealed. Whether her reaction was surprise or delight, Ojeria wasn't sure. The brothers locked eyes for just a moment, agreeing on some point of conduct. The one behind her stretched out on his back, his erect penis still jutting up as sturdy as a ship's mast.
Ojeria had overheard talk of two types of men. Those whose banner lost the wind after one storm, and those whose flag flew straight for hours. She didn't know the reasons for these differences, but what happened next made her determined to find a mate who had stamina.
The 'mean' twin, as Ojeria now thought of him, gestured for her to get on top. Tasso, however, obviously wanted his cock a different way first. She got on her hands and knees between his legs her beseeching expression and the sensuous slide of her tongue around her lips clearly indicating her desire to suck a second cock. He arched a brow at her apparent defiance. A sardonic smile played on his full lips. He gave a slight nod to his brother, who promptly delivered two more slaps to Tasso's derriere. She merely looked over her shoulder at him in a manner as provocative as any common whore, as if daring him to do it again. When he moistened his fingers in her vagina, her eyes closed in contentment, only to shoot open in shock when he arrogantly thrust his index finger in her anus. Alarmed, she shot forward with a small yelp. The mean one gave a short laugh, grabbed a breast in each hand, pinched her nipples, and pushed her towards his brother, who hadn't relinquished his finger-hold. She squirmed, but he wrapped his left arm around her waist and forced another finger in. As he played with her virgin ass, Tasso's initial shock had melted to an expression of utter self-involvement over the sensations flooding her body. He rocked her forward again. She received a tweak on each nipple, and then she went back and forth of her own volition.
Leonine brother never lost the rhythm of his right fingers fucking her ass no matter how she writhed before him. When she started to whimper, he added to her pleasure by using his left thumb in her vagina while the rest of his fingers cupped her mound. Tasso's hips bucked. Her eyes sparked in heathen pleasure as she focused everything in search of that ultimate zenith. Her dark hair tossed as wild and tangled as a horse's mane as the men's fingers abused and goaded her towards oblivion. Her nipples were now being pulled by the lower brother, the ache of which had to reverberate to her core. Ojeria began to ache, too. Tasso reminded Ojeria of a wild animal, and if she'd howled at the moon right then, Ojeria wouldn't have been surprised.
Tasso's frenzy increased, and the mewling soon escalated into an orgasm of such tremendous proportions that Ojeria wondered if Tasso's heart would burst. Ojeria's pounded, too, as her fingers fondled her own body. The brothers' energy was limitless. They ceased their ministrations for only a moment after Tasso's spasms subsided before lifting her sweat soaked body and impaling her on the hard cock in front of her. As this huge organ disappeared like magic into Tasso's slick body, he pursued his own orgasm with relentless enthusiasm. Ojeria feared Tasso would simply fall off, but the girl responded quickly and soon matched his thrusts with her own.
Ojeria wondered how Tasso could keep going, but realized that after the sensations of all those fingers, that mighty cock would feel wonderful. Ojeria's own body was trembling with need, and she cursed herself for not having brought a dildo. Or two. The thought of experiencing sex as Tasso had was overwhelming. Only the threat of Queen Aritza's wrath kept Ojeria from running from her hiding spot and letting herself be used in any way she could. She wanted to be catapulted into orgasms by more than her own searching fingers, more than a dildo, more than one man.
Her fingers quickly found her clit. In seconds she was over the edge herself, spiraling into a series of orgasms that quenched her immediate desire, but left her wanting more. Even as her own explosive contractions pulsed and rippled through her until she lay wet and exhausted, she still knew she hadn't experienced sex the way it could be. She had stayed under the cardim bush, wishing she were older, wishing there were boys in the tribe to experiment with, wishing she could feel cocks and fingers and tongues.
The scene before her changed again, as one brother finished with Tasso, the leonine one finally had his opportunity to plunge deep inside her. He pulled her off and laid her on the ground. Ojeria thought that he would take her with urgency, but clever Tasso reached down and spread open the lips of her swollen pussy. This time her compelling look did not solicit a spanking. He obliged her by flicking his tongue slowly around her clit as she held herself open for him. Her back arched. He laughed and spread her thighs farther apart, and gave a long slow lick from her vagina to her clit. Tasso quivered. Placing himself at her opening, he took her slowly. He moved deeply, almost coming completely out of her with each stroke until she clasped her legs around him and held him still while she climaxed again. With their bodies silhouetted in the dying firelight, they writhed until the blaze within them subsided into glowing embers.
Surging within Ojeria was a level of urgency she'd never known before. Out of control, her senses being assaulted by the sights and sounds of their unquenchable lust, her fingers dug into her tender flesh as she came again and again. In her mind, she played out the drama that had unfolded before her, only with herself in the role of the golden twin's woman. When she woke, chilled, in the pre-dawn gray, she knew she should begin her journey back to the main camp before her absence was discovered. As she padded quietly out, enticing noises coming from one tent drew her like a moth to a candle. Even though she couldn't imagine sex any more exciting than last night, she positioned herself where the bushes grew thick against one side of the tent. Making a slit in the felt as quietly as she could, she saw her cousin Naling. Candlelight flickered over her slender body while she delighted a man from the Uxer tribe. He was on his back in a mound of pillows, groaning as Naling's tongue flicked up and down his penis. Ojeria marveled at the thickness of it. She had seen him dancing the night before, and he surely had the widest organ of any man here. He twisted and moaned. As Ojeria's eyes adjusted to the darkness, she saw that his hands were tied to the center tent pole. Naling stopped licking him. She straddled his body, holding his shaft in one hand, barely lowering herself to touch the tip of it, and then rose again, teasing him. Her expression was one of total control. She would decide what took place between the two of them, building the suspense until she was satisfied. Tiny Naling was a force to be reckoned with as she toyed with the barrel-chested Uxer's cock. Tasso had been spanked and used by the men, even though she had wanted it that way. Naling held the reins here, or rather, she'd tied up her man with them.
Among her torments, Naling had blindfolded him, and she refused to touch his cock despite his pleas. She'd run her fingernails softly down him. She delighted him with a feather. At times, she graced him with a kiss somewhere on his body, or one stroke of his cock. Then she removed the silk scarf from his eyes and made him watch as she held herself open and stroked her own wet pussy.
Ojeria couldn't resist emulating Naling as the girl's finger massaged her own clit, then explored more intimate places in a profoundly slow manner, while the Uxer man licked his lips and thrust his hips in frustration.
Ojeria would never forget what Naling did next. Instead of lowering herself on the man's cock, she sat on his face. He licked eagerly. Naling held onto the tent pole as her thighs started to quiver. Unlike Tasso, delicate Naling didn't utter a sound as her body quaked to the man's tongue lashing. When she lifted herself off him she lay beside him until she caught her breath, leaving him still frustrated.
The tension and scent of sex was thick in the air, and when Naling had finally conceded to her prisoner's pleas, she did so by lowering herself in excruciatingly slow increments, her thighs straining with the effort. At last she'd plunged down and ground herself onto a cock so wide that Ojeria thought her fingers wouldn't even go around it. She wanted to try though. She had to settle for imagining she was with him and she climaxed before they did, envying the man's situation more than Naling's. She thought it would be wonderful to be at a lover's mercy, taunted and teased until she could barely stand it, then having all resistance shattered.
Taleck spoke, breaking Ojeria's daydream.
"I remember Tasso's tales of those twins," Taleck said, standing to pick up a stick suitable for whittling. "Especially Naling bragging about an Uxer man with a cock as thick as a pole. She shouldn't have bragged about it, though. The next night Clendra enticed him, and Naling pouted long after mating week was over. It took them the whole winter to get over it and be friends again," Taleck spoke with a trace of sadness. "I miss Naling and Tasso, don't you?"
"Of course," Ojeria said.
"The fever should have taken Clendra instead of those two!" Ojeria spit out the name with disgust. "That manipulative wench. No matter what, I can't make my mother see through her schemes. Ever since we were children, Clendra has wanted anything I had. If there was a game, she cheated. If I got a new bow, she wanted it, even if she already had one just like it. Clendra is as possessive as a dog with a bone, only the dog has more pride. I know that she wants to take over the herds, and then wheedle herself into being queen. She's always despised me, and her ego won't be satisfied until she's queen."
Ojeria noticed Taleck was now studying her whittling with renewed interest. Taleck had heard this tirade before, but Ojeria was like a hound on a scent and couldn't stop until she'd vented her anger. She stood up and started pacing around the clearing. "My mother has been always been blind to Clendra's schemes. When she looks at Clendra, she sees her sister. I can't understand how she can be so forgiving. Aunt Morrlyn was funny and kind, like my mother. Clendra is cunning, and my mother misses the fact that Clendra's smile doesn't reach her eyes. The older Clendra gets, the more dangerous she becomes. There will come a day when she won't be satisfied with just influencing my mother. I think she may try to take the throne herself by getting me out of the way."
"You don't think she would actually kill you, do you?" Taleck asked, looking up, her brows knitted with worry. "How could she, you're the best we have with a sword or a bow. And with the horses."
"I don't think she would hesitate to poison me, or set up some 'accident' so she could rule. Her obsession with me has grown like a worm rotting an apple from the inside out. I wish she'd give me a reason to strike her down with my sword, but so far she has done nothing that would be considered treason by the elders. In her black heart, I would bet that she calls herself 'Queen' Clendra!" Ojeria picked up a stone and hurled it down the bank towards the creek. "Clendra would destroy us. She is greedy and thinks only of herself, not of the tribe of Handor as a whole."
Taleck flinched. She glanced away from her whittling from the vehemence of Ojeria's diatribe, sending her knife sliding from the wood into her palm. "Ow!" She cried, clutching her hand to her chest. Blood dripped from between her clenched fingers.
"Let me see," Ojeria came around the fire and took Taleck's hand. She could hardly make out the depth of the cut because of the amount of blood.
"Hold it over your head to lessen the flow while I get a cloth from my saddle bag," Ojeria said. She found a tattered but fairly clean scrap of wool that had been wrapped around some oat cakes, and dabbed at the blood. The cut across Taleck's palm was serious and went from the base of her thumb halfway across her palm.
"That's deep," Ojeria said, wrapping the cloth around it. "It needs sewing and some of Unad's herbs that prevent infection." The sun was low, with just a hint of pinkish-orange brushed along the snow topped mountains to the west. "There's not enough time to gather up the herd, our gear, and get back to the camp before dark. Riding alone, you can make it to the passageway before full dark."
"You shouldn't be by yourself out here all night," Taleck protested.
"I'll be fine. You just said I'm the best with weapons. You can send a replacement in the morning. Send Wasbeth, so we can practice our swordsmanship. She has a new, shorter sword that Mildreth made of a new ore, and I'd like to try it. I've heard that some armies equip their men with both a short and a long sword."
Taleck nodded and watched the blood seeping through the cloth. Ojeria tacked up Taleck's horse for her, although the girl put up a feeble protest.
"Don't fuss, and don't take the cloth off until you are standing in front of Unad," Ojeria said, tightening up the girth while Taleck fretted. Kulta was a sorrel gelding out of a fine battle mare that Ojeria had ridden before Avernia was even foaled. He could have gotten Taleck back to the village by himself, even if Taleck had been unconscious and flopped over the saddle like a sack of grain. Kulta lowered his head to inspect Taleck's bloody hand. His wide, slightly off kilter blaze gave him a comical expression that belied his intelligence.
"I'm fine, Kulta," Taleck assured him. He blew his breath out, not liking the scent of blood. She gingerly wrapped her reins around her bandaged left hand and mounted. "I really don't feel good about leaving you alone. What if some Mahleps come?"
"I doubt if a raiding party of Mahleps will happen to find me on the one night I'll be alone. I'll put out the fire after the rabbits are done and the smoke won't show against the twilight." She glanced up at the sky, which was filling with clouds. "It's going to be dark tonight. They would have to stumble over me, and they have never come this far into our territory before. Besides, I have my weapons, and a herd of warrior horses who haven't had any real war play in a while," Ojeria said, gesturing in the general direction of the herd.
Taleck hesitated. "When we were at the Edallow market last month, a man said he'd heard that some bands of the Mahleps were heading north. She fiddled with her bandage so she could hold the reins better.
"The marketplace is always full of rumors," Ojeria said dismissively. "Mahleps wander like dandelion fuzz. They are too stupid to pick a course and stay on it. They don't even have a true leader or a territory of their own. Wolves have more discipline, and more pride, than those feeble excuses for humans."
Taleck and Kulta galloped away and disappeared in the undulating swells and dips of the valley. Ojeria did feel a pang of regret shiver down her spine as she realized just how isolated she was. In a culture where one was rarely alone, the sensation was a little scary, but exhilarating as well. She embraced her solitude as an opportunity to test herself, to see how she fared outside the valley, the lone human in a vast world. Her conscious pricked just a little over sending Taleck off alone, but it was only a few miles to the entrance to the valley. Taleck had Kulta. They would be fine.
Ojeria took in her surroundings with a fresh perspective. The brilliant blue afternoon had rapidly shifted into a melancholy twilight. She looked down at the dirt clinging to her legs, and the blood on her hands. A wash in the creek was in order. She gave the rabbits a turn on the spit and then removed her moccasins, leggings and underwear. Wearing just her tunic that fell to mid-thigh, she picked up her skinning knife and the water bladder and then slid down the steep creek bank. She thought about calling the horses in, but decided to give them a few more minutes of grazing time. In the last few days they had cropped and trampled the grass around the camp fairly well. After Wasbeth arrived in the morning, they could make a new camp farther down the valley.
Barefoot, she gingerly slid down the bank to the creek and crossed the gravelly area at the edge. She tested the water with her toe. Very cold, for this stream began above their main valley and was primarily snow melt. As she waded in, a few yellow birds flew from their evening roosts in the bushes across the creek. Flapping wildly over Ojeria's head, they were soon out of sight. Their warning was not lost, however, and Ojeria stood still, listening. She could hear nothing but the frantic beating of their wings dying away. Her heart had picked up the same nervous tempo as their wings. It was almost too quiet, as if a storm were coming.
Standing knee deep on the slippery flat rocks, she splashed her arms and legs quickly, washed the knife, and stepped upstream from the silt she'd stirred up to fill the water bladder. Feeling tense, she did not slip the knife back in the leather sheath on her belt. Instincts focused her gaze on the opposite bank, where the water ran slower and deeper. Willow branches dipped into the dead, still water, their slender swaying fingers obscuring the water's edge behind layers of spring green that turned to murky darkness where the water and earth became one. Ojeria wondered if there were a cave behind there, it was so dark. The more she stared, the more the shadows played tricks on her, black on black. A hawk's shadow passed over, and Ojeria decided that the winged hunter must be what had spooked the little birds.
Just as she bent to pick up the full water bladder, three men burst through the willows, springing toward her in a flurry of splashing water and flying leaves. Their battle shouts froze her for just an instant as the image of their bearded, leering faces behind the shimmering droplets of water seared into her memory. Expertly, she flipped the knife in her hand into a throwing position and hurled it with all her might at the closest attacker. It sunk into the man's solar plexus. As his expression melted from lust to agony, he stumbled face first into the stream, clutching the knife. Unfazed, his companions rushed past him, greedy to claim their prize.
Cursing herself for being caught alone and now weaponless, Ojeria sprinted up the steep bank, grabbing at protruding roots and rocks for purchase, while gathering her mental energies into a summoning of horses. She willed them to gallop, sending them the urgent images, her fear. She could feel Avernia respond, but they were far down the valley.
Just as Ojeria reached the top of the bank and was clambering to her feet, a cold hand twisted around her ankle.