Tales From the Universe Tree: The Children of War. Part Nine.
(Continued From Part Eight)
The water in the tub was like hot coals. Harsh crimson bloomed onto Risa’s scar littered skin as she slid into the water with agonizing slowness. The shadows from the candles that were mounted on the walls cast the room into a deep dull twilight. Risa lowered herself neck deep into the piping hot water, letting out a long sigh of pleasure from her lips. “Ahhhhh…” By the Tree, how long had it been since she had had a proper bath? The tension that she thought must be permanent fled from her muscles. She dunked her head under the water and just floated in that black calming abyss for a moment. How easy would it be to just stay there, forgetting her mission, her pain, the loneliness? How easy would it be to let go and embrace the darkness? Just don't lift your head. She thought. Her lungs began to ache. Stay here and let go. It would all be over soon. so- Her lungs began to throb and then to burn. And she finally gave up, and lifted her head above the water and drew a deep breath. She leaned back. Yes, it would be easy...and cowardly.
She ran her hand over her throat where her scarf had been absently and felt a pang of guilt. She swallowed back unbidden tears. She had rarely taken the scarf off since leaving Durranna. As long as she wore it, Yuska was with her. She glanced at her clothes piled near the door. Her scarf topped it, staring back at her. “Why did you leave me?” The scarf seemed to accuse. Risa forced herself to look down at her chest. Don’t worry little one. I won’t be long. She took a deep breath, held it for several seconds, before letting it out slowly. She took another and waited. Her heart pounded in her chest as she thought about what she was waiting for. She was always nervous before a battle. That’s what this is. She told herself. Another battle I have to win. Nothing else. Her inner thigh throbbed, and she bit back a curse.
A Young Man's Dreams.
“M-my lady?” Jessica’s voice was small, almost meek.
Risa glanced at her and smiled wistfully despite herself. Jessica’s face exploded into crimson and she looked down at her feet, a fat bar of soap was clutched in front of her crotch. Risa stifled a giggle. The maid was innocence (or a phantom of it anyway), but with the curves of a young man’s dreams. By the Tree, is it any wonder that she’s Geddowyn’s favorite?
“D-d-do you w-w-w-want me t-to w-w-wash yo-”
“Yes,” the words trembled slightly as they left the Shogun’s tongue. Jessica’s perfume slipped into the Shogun’s nostrils. Focus, woman. Focus Roots Crush you!
The water rippled skittishly as Jessica climbed into the tub. She swallowed audibly as if her throat had suddenly gone dry. And then the maid dunked the bar of soap into the water, and then rubbed it vigorously between her palms. The lather swallowed her hands like white mud. “M-m-m-my lady.” Jessica stuttered. Her nervousness was almost convincing. “D-do y-you wa-”
“Is this the first time you’ve ever bathed another woman before?”
Jessica froze, the color in her cheeks darkened by four shades. Her eyes almost popped out her head. She chewed her lower lip pensively. “Wha? No-no, no, I!” the words came out all in a rush, the words tumbling over themselves. “I-I m-mean, I’ve h-h-helped a lady in her b-b-bath before, but…but” she trailed off into an inaudible squeak. Her eyes sunk down to her chest.
The Shogun’s smile was almost a smirk. Her foot reached out and brushed the maid’s knee. Jessica shuddered abruptly, the barest shake of her shoulders. A small sound, almost a moan, bumbled from her lips. “Then why did you take off your dress?” Risa’s foot glided up the other woman’s leg with torturing slowness. “I asked you to join me, I didn’t tell you to do it unclothed.” To easy.
Jessica made a small noise that could have meant anything. The Maid darted to the door as if she wanted to be anywhere but there. “I…” she bit her lip furiously. “I, I thought it would please you, m-m-my l-lady.”
Risa’s giggle was low and throaty. “You know the answer to that or you wouldn’t have done it.” Risa purred. She raised her hand and crooked a finger. Jessica hesitated, her face was a small red sun. But eventually, she scooted, inch by inch, to the older woman. She looked into the older woman’s eyes as if she was trying not to notice their nakedness. The maid licked her lips nervously. They were red, like Shenal’s hair, and full. She was close enough to kiss now. Having her this close—Stop it! She suppressed a shudder. Focus! This is a battlefield, not a whore house.
“M-my L-lady?” Jessica held up her hands, soap dripped from her palms. “D-do y-you wa-want me too…”
Risa nodded, and Jessica’s cheeks blazed. But she did as she was told if skittishly. She started kneading the soap into the Shogun's shoulders. Risa shut her eyes and exhaled with a long missed sense of pleasure. The girl’s hands felt good, soft like silk but strong like an old oak. If only- “ow.” A small prick of pain flared on her shoulder and vanished just as quickly as it had come. Jessica snapped her hands back, eyes popping from her head. “I’m sorry my lady! It’s my nails, they’re very long and...I hope I did not...“
“It's fine, girl. Really.” Risa fingered the cut on her shoulder. It wasn’t deep and there was hardly any blood. Elysium, Shenal had done worse during their nightly couplings. Still, the blasted thing itched terribly for some reason.
“S-still, I’m so sorry, My Lady. Please, at least let me clean it. Please.” Before Risa could answer, Jessica’s hands were back on her shoulder, kneading her skin and, slowly, skittishly, moved her hands outward over her arms and then they glided back and down over her chest. Risa let out a small moan as she felt the maid’s hand brush her breasts. By the Tree how she had missed this. How-Focus, Roots Crush you! You've indulged enough. Risa bit her lower lip. How could she draw what she needed out of the younger woman without being obvious?
Betrayed With A Kiss.
“Tell me, why did Geddowyn come to greet me and no—oooh” Risa shivered as Jessica squeezed the Shogun's breasts in a lazy slowly, lazy rhythm. A small part of her screamed at Risa, ordering her to retreat. But she couldn't bring herself to care, not anymore.
“I don’t know,” Jessica leaned in closer, Risa could feel the other woman’s breathe tickling her ear. The Shogun gasped as the Maid’s legs brushed Risa’s throbbing sex. “Does this please you, my lady?” The girl’s voice took on a raspy quality that made Risa’s body tingle.
“You know it does.” Risa moaned softly. Jessica’s generous chest pressed against her own and then she kissed her, the maid’s tongue wrapped and unwrapped Risa’s in a twisting dance. She tasted like wine and cinnamon. Small explosions rocked Risa’s body. By the Tree she was soft. She had missed this, missed having her loneliness burn away in a moment of love and passion. Shenal, I’m sorry, I can’t resist any more… She wanted to throw her arms around this girl, and to kiss her and to--her eyes shot open abruptly. What?! She tried to move her arm. Her veins bulged in her arms with the strain. But it wouldn’t move. She tried to move her legs, but they refused as if they had been strapped down.
Jessica broke the kiss and smiled cruelly, like a snake. Risa shivered, “The Venom has set in, hasn’t it?” Jessica lifted a hand up to her face and inspecting her long fingernails. Then she chuckled low in her throat. “I’m almost surprised how easy this was.” Jessica began to stroke the underside of her middle finger with her thumb. “Yes, it’s almost insulting, really. I was told that you were supposed to be a general.” Risa growled, or she would have. Cotton balls were lodged in her throat. Abruptly something on the Maid’s finger moved, and then she pulled on her finger and yanked off…a ring. Risa blinked, had she had that on the entire time? Why hadn’t she seen it? Jessica held it up and turned it over in her fingers, it seemed to vanish between her fingers. The band had been painted the color of flesh, and a small barb stuck out from the bottom like a thorn. “If you are, then you’re not a very smart one are you?” She giggled, an awful, trilling sound that made Risa’s stomach’s shrivel like a prune.
A Night Remembered.
“You know,” the Maid went on in a low voice, holding the ring between her thumb and forefinger. “It’s interesting how nature works sometimes, don’t you think? Take the Orange Cage Spider’s venom,” She tossed the ring aside and extended her index finger. She swiveled her nail down Risa’s chest, coming to rest on her reaming nipple. “To insects, one drop is deadly…but” she flicked her finger hard and Risa grimaced. A line of blood welled up above her nipple, staining the water. Jessica giggled “In everything else, robs them of their limbs, seizes up their muscles for a few hours. And yet…they can still feel everything.” Her hand glided lower over the Shogun’s stomach. Risa thrashed against the tub or would have if she could move. Her eyes bulged out of her skull with building horror. How could I have been so stupid?! How- Suddenly she felt a presence on top of her. Not soft and feminine. But course and heavy like a collapsed house. It rubbed something large and hard and familiar against her, almost like- She tried to scream, but no sound came out. No! Cried a little girl decades in the past. Please, don’t! I don’t want this! Mother…help…me…!
“Yes.” Jessica slipped two fingers inside the Shogun. Risa’s scream was still locked in her throat, too afraid to come out. “So. Very. Interesting!” She finished in a shout, and then the pain began. Risa’s mouth writhed, but no sound came out. The little girl in her past screamed when she could not. She wasn’t sure for how long it went on. Tiny daggers dug into her secret flesh. The pain wracked her, filled her like a tree trunk. The veins in her arms and legs bulged. Her stomach churned in a sea of flames. NO, TAKE IT OUT OF ME! IT HURTS! PLEASE! NOOOOOOOO!!!!! The pain exploded, her vision blurred.
And then, an eternity later, Jessica stopped abruptly and pulled her fingers out. A thin string of blood trailed after her fingers like smoke. The Maid brought her hand up to her face and stared at the red rivulet flowing down her fingers for a moment. She grinned. She brought it to her mouth and ran her tongue over the blood, slurping it up greedily. Risa's shook, her face was a rictus of horror and pain. “Geddoywn wanted me to ask you somethings.” She chortled. “He thought you were part of some conspiracy with Lord Illwater. He wanted to use you, did you know that? Surely a Great General like you would have seen that. A blind idiot could have seen it. That was why he came to greet you instead of Lord Illwater. He thought he could convince you. Turn you into his...creature. I jumped at the chance to watch you."
Mother…The voice was hardly a whisper in Risa’s ears. It wasn't her own, she couldn't place it anywhere. But it was familiar somehow, comforting. In her past, the little girl was still screaming. Her lower body felt as if it was being sawed in half.
“But you know what he wouldn’t let me do?” The Maid’s features fell into a snarl. “He wouldn’t let me kill you when he was done with you. I begged,” She slapped Risa. “And I begged” she slapped her again “and I fucked him for weeks! I even let him put his manhood into my bunghole! But no! He wouldn’t relent.” She grabbed Risa by the shoulders and shoved her hard against the back of the tub ‘thud!’ Risa’s head spun, her vision blurred around the edges. A trickle of blood dribbled from the corners of her mouth. The heavy, course presence vanished, Her old self, decades in the past, fell silent. Reality took back hold of her with torturous slowness.
Jessica bent over her and licked her cheek. “But you know something, My Lady?” Jessica’s fingers slammed back inside Risa and stabbed her fingernails into the roof of her insides. “I don’t CARE what that fat fool wants! All I want is you! To make you suffer!” Her fingers dug into the older woman with all her strength. Risa’s face contorted into wet lightning bolt of pain. She barely felt it though. She felt numb. Tears fell down her cheeks. Her mouth moved, but the sound refused to come.
Am I Mad?
Mother! The small voice was louder this time, desperate. Fight it!! Please! Auntie Shenal needs you!
Risa knew that voice now, a voice she would never forget. She took hold of it, anchored herself to reality. “Yu…ska…” she bumbled over the name silently like a child learning its first word. Was she really there? Or was this just the beginning of her own madness?
Jessica’s thumb clamped down on Risa’s clit and then she jerked on it as if she would rip it off. “You know, I can still hear them,” Jessica snarled through gritted teeth. Her other hand clapped loudly on Risa’s throat. “Whenever I’m alone. Their screams. Do you remember them, Shogun? My Family. Do you remember how you slaughtered them?! My Father, my older brother choking on your steel? My little brother wailing in his crib, my step-mother pleading for you to spare them? But you didn’t, did you? No, no mercy for traitors you said! You cut them down like mad dogs!” Jessica’s grip tightened on her throat. Risa blinked slowly, her vision clearing. She tried to gulp air, pain hooked into her throat. Jessica looked down at the older woman’s face. Her perfect lips twisted into a burning smile of triumph. The look in the younger girl’s eyes made her skin crawl. Risa felt a tingle in her arms. “Little Jin didn’t die immediately, did you know that?”
Mother! Yuska’s voice rang in her ears. Fight! Fight it!
“He drowned” The Maid went on. “In a pool of his mother’s blood.” She paused, and glared white hot hate right into The Shogun’s eyes. “You asked me when you arrived if we had met before now? Well, we have. You didn’t see me the first time, but I saw you. In Rofin, during the war. Do you remember?” Risa shook. First in a shiver. Then she shuddered. Jessica didn’t seem to notice though. “You haven’t figured out who I am, have you?” Jessica bent over Risa and bit down on her ear lobe. A bead of blood bloomed on the sight. Risa gritted her teeth, a low growl rumbled in the back of her throat. How. DARE. You! A tingle crawled up her arms.
“My name.” Jessica whispered in her ear. “is-GAHH!”
Escaping The Ambush.
Hot Blood splattered onto Risa’s face, she jerked her head back. Her teeth ground into the younger girls shoulder. Jessica pulled back desperately, but Risa bit down harder, pinning her in place. “That’s im-AHHHH! What are you doing?!!” Jessica’s horrified shrieks bounced off the sterile walls. Blood flew in every direction, ruining her perfect face and matting her bright hair. Jessica tried scrambled back, the tub rocked with them, blood stained the water that splashed onto the floor like. Risa bit down harder, growling, jerking her head from side to side. There was a sickening, fleshy ripping sound.
Jessica’s eyes widened in horror. She howled “NO!! STOP!!!”
A thick four-inch long strip of flesh broke free from the Maid’s shoulder. She screamed, and crashed to her right, spilling the tub over in a cacophony of metal and tile. Risa smacked the far wall and before she knew what was happening, she retched and vomited long, thick streams of bile that was almost black with shame. Slowly, ever so slowly, she rolled onto her back. Her loins felt stuffed with daggers. Her legs trembled. She sucked air into bruised and battered lungs. Tentatively, she reached down between her legs and felt the blood trickling down her thigh. “I-I’m alright.” She whispered hoarsely. She exhaled and a wave of dizziness washed over her. She forced it down. “Thank you, Yuska. T-Thank you for reminding me who I am." She waited a moment, would Yuska answer her? A part of her hopped, Elysium, longed for it. Even if it did prove her mad. But there was nothing. She wasn't sure how to feel.
Who Are You?
Jessica's wail cut through Risa's contemplation. Clutching her shoulder. Her body was saturated with blood. Risa growled and stumbled to her feet, wobbling a little till she found her balance. Then she pounced, seizing the girl by her hair and yanking her to her feet. “Who sent you!?” she demanded. Jessica’s eyes augured into the other woman’s skull. Risa growled. The Shogun pulled the girl back and rammed her into the wall like a battering ram. Jessica’s eyes shot open wide and she let out a cry of anguish. Blood gushed from her wound. Risa saw stark white patches between the red. Risa leaned in. Her eyes, terrible wolf eyes, sent a shudder down the girl’s body. “I won’t ask again. Who sent you to kill me?! Was it a man named Bongal? Do you work for him?! Where is he?!”
Jessica chuckled weakly, her skin was turning deathly pale. “You, you still h-haven’t figured it o-out, have you?”
“Answer me girl, or I’ll take another strip out of you! Now tell me!”
“My Father!!” Jessica spat back defiantly.
Risa backhanded her across the face. Stupid girl! She thought. She brought her hand back to strike her again. And then she paused. Something Jessica had said slipped into her ears. “Little Jin didn’t die immediately.” She studied Jessica’s face, really studied it. That sense of familiarity hit her like a hammer. Her chin, now that she got a good look at it, was as pointed as an icicle, prominent and strong. Her cheeks were high and rounded. Her eyes....It can’t be. And the name she had mentioned, Jin, That was a Rofinin name. One owned by thousands of Rofinin men and boys. Her father had been named Jin and so had… “Who are you?” Risa asked, shaking.
Jessica’s eyes flared with hatred and amusement. Her skin grew paler. It was amazing she was still conscious, Risa mused absently. She stamped the thought down and slammed the Maid against the wall again. “Who are you!? Answer me, Roots crush you! Jin, How do you know that name!?”
A Girl's Father.
“I already told you,” Jessica’s snarl was shaky. “It’s my brother’s name, traitor!” She coughed, hacking up blood. Her eyes fluttered.
Risa swallowed, her knees almost buckled out from under her. No, no it’s not possible! All of them are dead! But…she could see him in the contours of this girls face, like a shadow of a shadow. She shook the girl again. “Your father’s name, girl, what was it?!” Jessica’s head lolled, eyes fluttering, but her smile seemed to mock her. Risa shook her again, harder this time. “What was it?! Speak, girl! Speak damn you!!”
Jessica’s lips moved but whatever she said came out as an inaudible whisper. Risa brought her ear close to the other woman’s mouth. “What was that?! What did you say?!”
Risa’s eyes popped. She gasped and took a step back. Jessica crumpled to the floor in a bloody heap. That name...It had belonged to a man she had killed. No, not a man. A King. Rondilda Montchi The last King of Rofin.
(Concluded in Part Ten).
© 2017 Will English.