There were no guards atop the wall, and no moat. The iron gate was open and likewise undefended. He walked sedately into the courtyard having expected a desperate battle just to reach where he now stood unnoticed.
The arrogance of her.
He slid his sword back into its scabbard, and looked up. There were arrow-slits, but they were empty of archers. There was no smell of cooking or of death. It was as if the place were wholly abandoned.
He walked up to the heavy doors of the central keep, pulled them open. Inside, torches burned, but still no challenge came. The stone staircase up to the master apartments were right there, waiting for him, and he bound up them with a gleeful purpose.
Her symbol, cast in iron, adorned the door at the top: a knocker. He laughed, and kicked the door with all his might. It swung open.
Torches and candelabras and a fireplace lit the room with a warm orange glow, but at its center, she stood, her hair the blue of the ocean and her skin the blue of the sky. Her dress was white and gossamer-thin, hinting at the blue beneath.
“I expected you earlier.”
Arrogant. They had told him so, but he hadn’t thought she would retain her hubris with her end so close at hand. “What would I care of your expectations, witch?”
“So they told you that much, at least. Good.”
He drew his sword again, as menacingly as he could. “Of course. The town fathers have regaled me with tales of your greed and cruelty—”
“As they have done so many times before, to others.”
“—and I have taken this quest to rid their lives of your scourge!”
“They’ve exaggerated, I have to tell you. My taxes are low, comparatively. And I don’t take their sons for my guards and their daughters for my sport. Well,” she grinned, “not often, anyway.
“Foul witch! You—”
“That’s the one thing they were truthful about, you understand. I am a witch. Or rather, a sorceress.” His sword was no longer in his hand, but in hers. It fell to dust and sand and spilled across the floor at her feet. “Not a pretender, or a hedge magician with delusions of grandeur. I’m the real thing.”
“I will kill you with my bare hands!” He lunged at her, and the back of her hand was a light blue blur across his field of vision. He found himself skidding across the stone floor to crash heavily into the wall, clutching in pain at his jaw to make sure it was still attached.
He staggered to his feet, and focused on her again. He took a step. He found he could not take another.
“I should have known, they’ve enchanted you as well. You’re no soldier, no killer-for-hire. You have more of the look of caravaner about you. Do you even know why you’re so angry? I do. It’s a spell.”
She waved her hands in complex patterns in the air, spoke a few words he didn’t understand…
…and his mind came back to him. It had been days.
He was still frozen in place, one foot out in front, like an ancient statue. She stepped very close, inspected him. “I hope I haven’t broken your jaw. Does it hurt?”
“Yes, ma’am. Or mistress, if that suits you.”
“Good. Still compelled to do me harm?”
“Excellent. You can move again. I suggest you sit down: you’ll still be light-headed.”
He found a chair, collapsed into it, rubbed his jaw. “What—”
“The town fathers — not all of them, just a few bad seeds — have been trying to rid themselves of my rule for a dozen years now, mostly so that they wouldn’t have to pay their taxes. I suppose I should kill them as an example to the others, but they’re not really a threat, and the truth is, I find it… entertaining. Sometimes. You were fired from the caravan, I take it?”
“Yes. Rotten business… I didn’t steal anything. I don’t steal, ever. But Miggin said—”
“It doesn’t matter. You were set up, left in a strange town where no one would know you, and then dragooned for their purposes. Poor lad.”
He looked up at her, now clear-eyed. Where before she had been a terror, an object to be smashed, now she was beautiful, ethereal and enchanting.
“If you let me, I’ll go back into town and… I’ll take your revenge for you. I swear it.”
“Now, we’ve already established: you’re not the type.”
“They did this to me, too!”
She spoke to him as if to a child. “They have guards. None that would be a threat to me, of course, but you’d never make it to within striking distance of the men who sent you here to die.”
He sat and fumed.
She knelt down, reached up, took his jaw in her fingertips, slid her palm under his chin. Her skin was oddly cool, almost cold. “I don’t think it’s broken.”
“No, ma’am.” He was transfixed by her. Every feature was a rich blue: pupils, lips, and the nails on her fingers, in striking contrast to the pale blue skin of her face, her arms, her long neck and the cleavage of her bosom. The corners of her lips curled up into a wry grin: she had caught him staring. “Sorry…”
She stood. “The sun is already below the horizon. You’ll never make it safely back down the hill to the road before its too dark to see where you’re going. You’ll have to stay.”
“There are servants quarters, though I have no servants.”
“You’re very generous, ma’am.” Especially considering he’d tried to kill her…
“Or you could stay here, and keep me company.”
He looked around. Here… this was her bedroom. He hadn’t noticed before, but there was an enormous canopy bed, fit for an eastern King and his entire harem. “Ma’am…”
“I enjoy the company of others so rarely, you know.” She reached down and took his chin in her hand again. “Most of the townspeople are so frightened of me. I try not to… it doesn’t matter. Power is frightening to those who lack it. So few come, and of those, few are brave enough to stay even if they would… like to. Would you like to?”
He was not brave, but… “Yes. Ma’am.”
She leaned over, brushed her lips against his; they were cool to the touch, and dry. “My name is Ourialine.”
It was a strange, foreign name, but beautiful. His was so harsh, the throwaway name of a peasant. He spoke it sheepishly. “I am Rinnick.”
“Rinnick. Stand, Rinnick.”
He obeyed. She slipped her hands around his waist and kissed him again. His tongue slipped into the wetness of her mouth, and it was as if she had been drinking ice water moments previously; not in any way unpleasant. His hands found her hips, her back. The dress, gossamer-thin, was a cloud under his fingertips.
The kiss broke. Her fingers flew across his chest, moving down. His buttons came undone, his belt came unfastened. His clothes fell away from him and she pushed him back and down onto the bed, climbing on after him, atop him.
Her body slid along his until their mouths met again. Her hand found his now-erect member, stroking and up and down its length. Her chilly grip was not unpleasant: if anything, it was decidedly stimulating.
He pulled at her gown. It came apart like a fresh pastry, shreds of it floating down to the floor around the bed like a gentle snow. She moved up again, her breasts passing his lips, her stomach. Her knees planted themselves on either side of his head.
He took her bottom in his hands and drew her womanhood to his mouth; he was drinking from a mountain stream, cold, sweet, pure. His tongue danced across her clit, pushed between her lips. Somewhere above him, Ourialine moaned. “Rinnick…”
He devoured her, soaked her up. She writhed, her hips quivering in his grasp as his tongue worked on her, in her. Her cool fingers slid into his hair, gripped it, pulled it. She twitched; she shuddered.
She was up, off his face, moving down. Her hand took him, guided him in, her hips crashed down against him as his cock slid into her cool, wet canal.
He stretched out, toes pointed, fingers spread. She moved atop him, eyes closed, her hands clutching her own breasts, squeezing them mercilessly as she rode him.
Her color seemed to deepen, darken, then lighten again, then almost to glow. He gazed up at her, awestruck. Icy sweat fell from her brow and sizzled on his hot skin.
She leaned over, kissed him. Her breasts cooled his chest, her cheek cooled his neck. Everywhere she touched, his skin came to life. His nipples hardened between her fingers.
Rinnick couldn’t take it any longer; he took her by the hips and shoulders and flipped around, lifting her and then depositing her beneath him on the mattress, all while remaining inside her. Ourialine laughed and clutched at him, pulled at him. Her legs closed around the small of his back. Their bodies crashed together ever faster, and steam rose from his body.
He lost himself in her with every thrust. She bucked against him, matching his rhythm. He felt his climax building, shouldering his control aside, pulling him to the precipice, pushing him over.
Rinnick slipped out of her as he came, shooting his seed across her stomach. There it froze against her skin before his eyes, into a string of cloudy ice.
Ourialine laughed though she was gasping for air, pulled his face to hers, kissed him, before releasing him to move off of her and to one side.
“That was very nice.” Her laugh had become a chuckle. “Perhaps I will thank the town fathers instead of cursing them. For once, they have sent me a gift.” She picked the icicle off her stomach, and tossed it onto the stone floor where it shattered. “Are you too cold?”
“No, I’m… I’m fine.” He hadn’t managed to catch his breath. “It’s quite warm in here, with the fire going. You… your skin is a pleasant contrast. Comfortable to the touch.”
“Some lovers I have taken, they never get used to it.”
“I liked it.” He rolled onto his side, facing her. “I like it.”
She smiled. “Good. Then you will stay.” It wasn’t a question. “There are rooms, pick one that suits you. But you will spend most of your nights here, in this bed. Keeping me… warm.”
“I’ll do my very best, mistress.”