(The following is an initial draft of this work. All content is (c) Andrija Popovic 2015)
“Can you see it?” Anton tilted his head. Tellus did. He knew his efforts were in vain, but he could not let go
“Yes.” Tellus toppled his king. “I am beaten.”
“Gods, what a graceful game…” The High General shook her head. “He does this, constantly. I can never find his endgame strategies until it’s too late.”
“You two share very common instincts where the game is concerned. You tend towards calculation and cold approaches.” He took a sip from his wine glass. “The two of you playing would be fascinating.”
“Perhaps another night. I sense, however, another wishes to challenge.” Tellus reset the game. He stood up and offered his place to Anton’s usual opponent. “Please, High General.”
“Here I am Bellia, just another challenger before the master.” She sat down across from Anton. Her smile was impish. “Besides, even he must re-learn his lessons. Especially when encountering an equal.”
Tellus raised his hands. “Please, again, you give me too much credit. The compliments will swell my head and I will hear no end of it from Adia.”
“You might do well to learn from your more hot-blooded friend. Always invest passion.” His eyes glimmered and he fixed Bellia with a gaze. “Too much cold calculation freezes the mind. Do remember this.”
“Thank you.” Tellus bowed his head and touched his hand to his forelock. “I appreciate the lesson. I shall endeavor to apply it now and in the future.”
“The future is now, Tellus of the Anutai clan.” Bellia quirked her lips in a half-smile. She narrowed her gaze and let a lock of her hair fall across her eye. “Begin.”
There was no slow game here. The pendulum could not keep up. Pieces were exchanged at a furious pace. They played the game the way Adia fought with her swords: a whirlwind of strikes, feints and crippling cuts. But in the end, Anton remained the victor.
Tellus leaned back. “You two are very…familar with each other’s play styles.” Without asking, another mug of tea was placed at the table. He inhaled the mint scented steam.
“We have fought this battle many times.” Bellia rubbed her chin. “Maybe I should divert from my normal form. Actually follow the clock? Or, maybe challenge our guest to a game…?”
“Ah. Well…” Tellus paused. “My friend is watching a swordfight demonstration. I’m unsure how long she will be.”
Anton and Bellia exchanged looks. Tellus swore he heard at least one person giggle.
“I think there will be sufficient time for quite a few games,” said Anton. “Besides, who knows who will come wandering in. We may get a chance to play a four person variant?”
Tellus blinked. If Adia would be running late enough for a four-person game of ajedrez to finish… Tellus suspected he may be departing early, and alone, this evening.
Cool water splashed down her face and chest. Adia cupped both hands and drank. How anything with the chill of a mountain stream could reach under this city baffled her, but she did not care. Her body glowed with heat after two practice duels. Aches pinched her wrists and arms. Little muscles she never knew existed twinged.
Just as the cold became too much, warmth grew along her back. Ufric, all sweat and exhaustion, pressed against her. His cock, weight down by cold and exhaustion, nestled against her backside. She pulled him closer, borrowing what heat he offered. Cormac dunked his head under the stream. Dirt and grime washed away into the pool. Adia reached out and brushed away stray grains of arena sand from the puckered scars on his chest. She ran her hand down his belly and cupped his sex, pulling him into an embrace.
“The water’s cold.”
“We can step out, get dried off and warm.” Ufric wrapped his arms around Cormac’s waist. They created an envelope of living heat between them.
“You exotic boys and your temptations.” She toyed Cormac’s dark, curly hairs.
“Because we’re foreign?” said Ufric.
“Because you’ve got curly hair down around your swords,” she said. “I’m starting to appreciate those curls.”
Cormac chuckled. “Two people who appreciate my short and curlies. The gods are being kind.” He stood on his toes and kissed Ufric. Adia ducked down, looking at their lips meet. Their tongues played together, dancing.
“I could watch you two kiss for the rest of the night.” Adia turned around, letting her body rub against Cormac’s shaft while she toyed with Ufric’s. She kissed one of his scarred nipples.
“You can do that if you wish.” Ufric toyed with her short, dark hair. “You essentially own us, body and soul.”
“No, you two belong to each other. I’m just borrowing both of you for the night.” She felt them shiver as the cold finally sunk past the heat of the duels and practice. They stepped out of the fountain together.. The air slapped her as she stepped onto the stone floor. Before a chill set in, Ufric and Cormac pulled two long strips of cloth from beside the fountain and began to dry her.
Cormac knelt down, wiping drops from her feet, calves and thighs. He kissed the small crest of her navel. Ufric patted down her arms and shoulders. He wrapped the cloth around her breasts and belly. He kissed the nape of her neck. .
They fell together into the silks. Adia nestled between the lovers. She watched them touch each other, tracing the lines of their muscles and scars. They kissed just above her, grew erect against her, and ran their hands across her skin. “So where do we go from here?”
“We go where you wish. Just let us know.” Ufric touched the ritual scars on her chest, puzzled, unable to match them to battle wounds. Adia took his hand and cupped his palm against her nipple. And she laughed.
“What’s so funny?” Cormac blinked.
“I’m drowning in an embarrassment of riches. I don’t know where to start.”
“Well, if I can suggest… Cormac can do more with his tongue than talk.” Ufric glanced over to his partner.
“Oh?” Adia grinned and let Cormac nestle himself between her legs. He kissed her just above the tiny pearl most men forgot existed. She closed her eyes, sucking a breath through her teeth. The bastard knew what he was doing. She grabbed his hair and held him down.
“Don’t get greedy,” said Ufric. He leaned over and ran his teeth against her nipple. She gasped. He switched from teeth to tongue, distracting her until she held his head in place while Cormac switched his attentions. His hand took Ufric by the shaft, stroking him and kissing him.
Adia sat up and watched. Cormac toyed with Ufric until body grew as rigid in pleasure as his cock. She held onto him, kissing the hollow of his throat, playing with him, but kept her eyes on Cormac’s ministrations.
“Should I stop?” Cormac looked up.
“Yes.” Ufric gasped.
“No.” Adia rubbed herself while Ufric quirmed. “I want to see and feel him.” She grabbed Ufric tight. “Go on.”
Cormac smiled set to work once more. Ufric moaned into breasts then shuddered, crying out. Cormac played him a lyre, plucking his strings until he reached an unbearable pitch. And then the string snapped. Ufric collapsed between them.
Adia reached down and grabbed Cormac’s hair. She kissed him, tasting Ufric’s salty remains on her tongue. She pulled Cormac up, wrapped her legs around his waist, and buried his length inside her.
Ufric knelt behind them. He cupped his lover’s backside and toyed with him as they moved together. She felt his tongue dance where her lips and Cormac shaft moved together. Ufric even found a way to sneak a finger between them, so her pearl was never unattended
As the thrusts drew her closer and closer to a climax, red curled around her vision. She bit into Cormac’s shoulder, but it did not dissuade him. If anything, it sent a distinct shudder of pleasure through his back. He answered by almost howling into the pillows as his seed spilled deep into her.
When the color faded from her eyes, she had Cormac and Ufric surrounding her. They panted, and wrapped their arms together. For the first time, in a long time, she felt safe.
Safe, but not sated. She tickled Ufric’s curly hairs and said, “So… how much more time do I have with you boys?”
Livia sat back in a pile of silks and pillows and listened. The pipes carrying water and heat through the body of the building amplified sounds as well. Here, in the center of the house, in her family’s quarters, she absorbed it all. Voices and songs and poems and moans all became a chorus of information.
A door opened in the back of the room. Anton, eyes dark with fatigue, stepped inside.
“Hello, brother of mine.” She smirked. “I’m surprised you are not spending time with the High General, as usual.”
“She has been seduced away, sister of mine.” He walked up to the the bath, testing the water. Steam still clung to the surface. “I’m taking the last of your bath.”
“Greedy.” Livia waved him on. Anton undid his vest. Two small but well shaped breasts, nipples dark as his hair, appeared when he pulled away his shirt. When he undid the rest of his clothes, the signs of both the male and female sex became apparent. Although he chose to be male, he could become his female mirror should his other position require it.
“I’m being generous..” He sank in, down to his shoulders. Under the water, the deception runes burned into his skin glowed like hot coals under amber. “For example: tonight, nothing is on the prohibited list tonight.”
“Oh?” Livia sat up.
“There was no information beyond the usual gossiping. It may amount to something, but nothing which compromises the safety of Ivre.” Anton rooted around for the bowl of scented palm shavings. He squeezed a few into his hand and scrubbed his feet with rough, white rinds. “Is there anything sellable?”
“Mostly about your opponent and his friend. He’s got a sharp eye. And the swordswoman is very impressive. She picked up a fighting style without blinking.” Livia stretched her arms upwards, reaching for the ceiling. “She and the boys are getting along.”
“Well, that’s not surprising. They were thick as thieves on the trip in.”
“Oh, it’s not just physical attraction and camaraderie. They’re comfortable with each other. I think, if she stays, they may actually remain friends beyond the sex.” Livia turned on her side. “What do you?”
“I wish I could keep him. You were right – very sharp eyes.” Anton scrubbed his elbows. “It always fascinates me how different cultures react to different environments. Both Adia and Tellus come from places where death is a regular companion. Yet their worldviews and behaviors are completely different. I wonder if it is a matter of more than simply survival. The mangroves are not the desert, after all.”
Liva rolled onto her stomach and faced him. “I love hearing you play scholar, brother of mine.”
“You love selling the information my scholarly rants provides you, sister of mine.”
“True, but we all gain from the arrangement.” She picked up a pillow and tucked it under her chin. “Guess who wants all they can get on these two?”
“Hanud and N’Talle?”
She threw the pillow at him. It fell short. “Cheat. But correct. More specifically, they want information on Tellus and his bow. N’Talle believes it will help her with her work, and Hanud wants the information because N’Talle wants it.”
“Hanud’s takes after his father. His mother was more of the artisan. He did not inherit her talents, so he focuses on money and politics.”
Livia shrugged. “Such is the way of things.”
Anton rose from the bath. “Strom wants information on the boys, though. What will you say?”
Livia walked to the bath. She dipped her feet in, letting the cooling waters tickle the soles of her feet.
“They are fine. Adia won’t endanger them as a couple or a fighting unit.” Livia peered at stubborn callous where the toe-loop of her sandals met skin. “Strom is ambitious. She wants her company moved to more lucrative positions. For that, she needs good soldiers.”
“It could be genuine concern, sister of mine.” Anton wrapped the towel around his waist. He sat down and combed the tangles from his hair. “It does happen now and again.”
Liva smirked. “Now and again. Genuine concern is a rare beast, brother of mine.” She waved him on. “No, go. Sleep. Dream of game pieces and your favorite general.”
Anton said goodnight. When the door sealed, she rang for a small bell. Two women entered. Alisha and Imari. In addition to being two of her sword fighters from the lower arena, they helped her in all business matters. Aegyptian river traders by blood, they fought with a very short, close style honed from pitched battles on moving barges.
“Is the report for Evericus ready?”
“Yes,” said Alisha. “Though I’m unsure if he’ll be all that interested in back channel gossip.”
“That’s where you are wrong.” Livia peeled off her clothes and slid into the tub’s cool waters. “The rumors are all he wants. Which is why he’s dangerous. But we’ll keep an eye on him until he becomes Anton’s problem.”
“And until then?” Imari poured herself a drink. Her sister unrolled the coded report for Evericus.
Livia inspected the summary of the night’s rumors. “Until then, we watch and profit. Get to our favorite spy. Then get some rest. The boys are back on duty tomorrow.”
The sisters departed, leaving Livia alone in her room. She sat back into the water and listened as the sounds of the pleasure house dwindled into the early morning.
Concern. She frowned, thinking of her brother’s last words. Rare beast, but not so rare it won’t be slaughtered given a chance.