The date was Nenime' 11, and that meant I had a promise to keep. Not the kind of promise I'd begrudge, but certainly a responsibility I didn't particularly enjoy having just because I don't like responsibility.
But I awoke early and checked the weather to make sure that at least the morning promised to be warm and sunny, which it thankfully would. I smiled and, trying desperately not to awaken P'nyssa, stuffed the gear I'd want for the day into a waterproof bag. I made my way to the roof and leapt down the controlled-G slide to the lagoon sands, then out to the beach. Off shore about half-a-kilometer away was the Succubus, my sailboat. I looked through the glasses at her to make sure that there wasn't anything visibly wrong with her from here, threw the bag around my shoulders and dove into the calm ocean. The swim was hardly difficult; the bag was mostly buoyant and I'm in reasonably good shape. I reached her and swam between the center and starboard hulls to the back where the ladder was dropped. As I swam I checked for barnacles and rot (Okay, they're technically not barnacles, since all Pendorian life is diverged from Terran development in the Pleistocene era; they still smell bad and screw up the dynamics of boat hulls), and there didn't seem to be much of either. I clambered up the ladder and onto the rear deck, hauling the bag up after I had decent footing.
The Succubus seemed to be in working order, and the water and food stocks were still more than sufficient for the short outing I was about to take her on. I unwrapped the protective canvas from the sail and checked the lines. That's when I realized I had forgotten... Oh, hell, I thought. I ran forward and pulled up the forward storage compartment. Damn! I had forgotten to bring the new jib in, all I had were these two jibs from previous vessels, one of which was too damned large for this boat, and the other was far far too small. I swore again. The last time I'd tried to use these things the weather had been so accursed as to make my life hell; take one up, change, change, change. I shrugged and decided to live with the smaller one. So I wouldn't move nearly as fast as I had hoped to. Until I got that Kilm jib in place I was out of luck.
I hauled up on the main sail, put the keel in place and lowered the rudder. Without the jib I slowly maneuvered her to spinward and to port, trying to avoid the larger reefs surrounding Monastery Isle.
After putting to open sea, I hauled out my maps and the inertial compass (what do expect on a ringworld? A sextant? Like Hell!) and plotted a course for Shipping SDisk S111. There was naught to do but wait. I tested the wind, decided on the larger jib, and was mildly pleased to note that it seemed to be sufficient for the job. I ate nuts and fruit and drank lots of water and sat under the rudderwell's canopy.
Handling a ten-meter trimaran is a breeze, so long as that's all you've got for wind. Blessedly, there wasn't any weather pattern threatening either here or at my destination that would make my life difficult, and well before dark I arrived at my destination, as far as I could tell. I set the rudder to full tilt, latched it down and dropped sails. I waited.
And waited. Night came. Shipping SDisks are cranky things, and I could wait here for a while, or I could drift out of range. They can also be subtle. If it weren't for the fact that the lights changed and the horizon suddenly went down instead of up, I may not have noticed the change at all.
But it is hard to miss the horizon, and the stars, and the lack of neighboring daylight regions blazing away in the millions-of-klick distance. When I finally looked up and saw these things, I jumped to my feet, determined my position (Shipping SDisk P009) and set sail. On Pandora, directions are more familiar; I was headed about forty degrees off magnetic north. After a few hours of gauging my headspeed and distance from the SDisk, I spotted my target, a small clump of island off in the dark distance, with a single lantern indicating my eventual landing spot.
I dropped anchor and slowly went about closing up the Succubus. This simple daytrip had been short and pleasant, and she had safely brought me to this different shore, and she would bear me home again, if I cared for her. I remembered a phrase I had heard a long time ago- "In Space, like the Sea, your second mistake is the one that kills you."
I once again stripped down to my shorts and packed my clothes into the bag; I wandered over her deck one last time to make sure everything was perfect, then jumped over the side.
The moment I hit the warm ocean water I knew something was up; there was a definite tug on the bag, and as I clung to it the tug got stronger, so I gave it up; it vanished into the waves. I began to swim towards shore and the waves bore me swiftly. When I clambered out of the simple surf onto the shore I was not surprised to find my yellow bag waiting for me. I retrieved it and walked up to the lantern I'd spotted earlier. There was a little yellow note attached to the tree underneath with a thumbtack. It read in Centaur, her language of choice, "Ken, if you find this note I'm still out getting dinner. Make yourself at home. You know the way. O."
I smiled, and made my way along the path towards the rather impressive marble structure that was my hostess' home. I found the doors unlocked and the lanterns lit. The foyer was large and despite the heat it seemed cold, mostly because of the exposed white marble. The inner rooms were better prepared, with tapestries of classic (and not so classic) scenes from her past. I lay down on a cushioned bench and waited, helping myself to some of the wine in the meantime.
She wasn't long in arriving. She walked in from the back, dressed in a flowing purple toga and having perfectly arranged little flowers in her almost floor-length flowing blonde hair. She smiled when she saw me, walked a little bit quicker and settled onto the couch, leaning into me and kissing me, just like she had last time. "You came," she said.
"Would I miss this?" I asked. "Once in a blue moon you invite me in to dinner, and I'm going to bow out?"
"You have," she said in an accusational tone.
"Only when it was something you knew I couldn't avoid, Oenone. And if I let half the people in my life take up two days out of the year every year I'd never have time for the other half."
"You know," I said, "You could be more sociable."
"No." Her face darkened.
"Why not? What are you afraid of? Look, I know what happened..."
"You do not know what happened! You do not know what he said, or how he left, or how long I sat waiting for him to return while he was off protecting his goddamned city all because of that bitch!" She seized my wine goblet and threw it across the room.
"You haven't forgotten, have you?"
"How could I forget? For you, Ken, and for everyone, that's myth, it's unimportant, it happened six thousand years ago! For me, I was there, it was only a few hundred years, and I was dying when you came for me, and do you know how surprising that is? Do you? How many people are there who can time travel, Ken?"
"None that I know of."
"Then why did you come and save me? I'm a one liner in an obscure poem!"
"I felt saddened for you. That's no way to treat a goddess."
"Nymph, Ken. The correct word is nymph."
"I'll agree to that. Can't toast to it, though, you threw my glass away."
"You've been hitting the wine a little early."
"Guilty, as charged," I said. She turned to the winestain she'd made on far wall and with a simple wiping gesture made it go away. Then two more glasses came dancing out of the kitchen of their own volition, filled with wine that just would not spill. I could do that, too, with AI, biocybe, and gravitics; the fact that Oenone did it with something far older and more profound than science still made my mouth dry.
I cured the dryness by sipping wine. "Do we eat, or do I simply ravish you here?" I asked.
"Men," she said. "Thinking either with their stomachs or their phalluses."
"Or both," she agreed. "But you're right. I did have dinner prepared." She rose and walked back into the kitchen, emerging a few minutes later with cold stone crabs and shrimp and a soup that was simply the finest meal I'd had in some time.
It took time to crack shells and dig out the meats, so I asked her "Be calm, sweetheart, and just tell me why you don't come out that often."
She sighed and said "Because I can't. Because I can't trust people like I need to, to go out. I can't... I can't forget."
"You trust me," I said.
"But you're different. You're like me. Call it science instead of magic, but you're as much a godling as I am, Shardik. Together we built the Great Hall, you and me and Rhys and Raine and Timor. You I can understand, and like I said, I trust you because you care enough. The proof is in the day, but that kind of proof isn't as forthcoming from others."
"But with the SDisk network and the science of the day you need never be alone."
"I don't want to be hurt."
"Being hurt is part of being human."
"I am not human!" she said in a shout that shook the walls and darkened the lanterns; a shout that threatened to storm the island and wreck the Succubus. Just as quickly the storm passed.
"No, you're right. Nor is the majority of Pendor. By population alone the felines take that. But, you are alive."
"Yes, I am alive. In fact, I was the first living thing to walk on the surface of Pendor without benefit of life support, before you had put the water in, even. That was not easy, you know."
"I can imagine. Look, Oenone, you choose not to... fade... the way you were about to. You chose to go into stasis until year one, to begin living your life again when life again walked the lands and people painted song and wrote pretty pictures. Do you know that there are people out there who've named their children after you?"
"There are?" She seemed honestly impressed.
"Yep. In fact, I'm willing to bet some of them are even human. You could walk around and nobody would know who you were. You just need never claim to be 'the Oenone.' Besides, there are quite a number of 'Kens' and 'Pauls' and 'Carrolls' on Pendor, too, and nobody asks if they're really the Shardiks." It was happening again. I could feel the simple pull towards her, the desire to bed this woman, this goddess in the ancient sense that Terrans could feel in their bones as she walked by. I knew exactly who the two people she like to collectively refer to as "That Bitch and Her Bastard" were, and personally, they got the short end of the stick.
"Oenone?" I said, quietly.
"Hmm?" she said, looking up brightly.
"I love you."
"I know, and you can't help it, either." She giggled. "But I'm glad it's you, Ken."
"Me too," I said, leaning over to kiss her. She leaned over the table and kissed me back, her lips soft and warm on mine and then she opened her mouth and her tongue flowed into mine, hot and wonderful.
We rose from the table and she escorted me back to the stairs which led down to her bedroom. The ocean lapped at the third step from the top, but I had long ago gotten used to her bedroom being completely underwater. She led me down, and as I went under I expelled all the air in my lungs and inhaled deeply; what met my lungs wasn't water, but it wasn't quite air, either. She smiled as she always did at my expression.
I looked around, noting that the water felt warm and comfortable; I wouldn't get cold in this. There were no Drexlells keeping me alive; this was magick, pure and simple, and it was something I barely understood, but it was entirely hers to play with, even if Neptune himself was an ancient memory long forgotten and gone away. I felt slightly heavy, and settled to the floor of her bedroom. Her incredible hair floated free in the seawater, as did mine. I kept brushing it back. She laughed.
"Well," I said defensively, "I haven't got anything to keep it under control with."
"Try this," she said, and with a small gesture it fell back into place about my shoulders. "Better?"
"Much." I kicked towards her and coasted until we met. I wrapped my arms around her and felt her body heat flow meet mine. We kissed again, and as we did her hands undid what minimal clothing I was wearing.
As they strayed over my groin, her fingers brushed against my cock, and she ran her sharp fingernails up along the length of it; that sent sharp shocks through my spine, and I closed my eyes in pleasure. I heard her giggle again.
I found the knot in her toga and undid it. I parted from her and floated free, trying to unwrap her from it; she laughed that oh-so-feminine laugh and helped me. I was still slightly tipsy. Underneath it she was magnificent; to most people, she was a touch overweight, a touch too soft in the middle, but my personal preferences run that way, toward the more 'classical' woman. I reached down and ran my hand over the soft skin of her belly, floating back towards her and pulling her towards me. We settled back down onto the bed. I thought that it was a lot like making love in zero-g, the air was just a little thicker, a little more viscous.
Her hands wrapped around me as mine did her, straying down towards her ass and stroking the soft skin there. She giggled as my fingers sought between her cheeks. She pushed away and floated down towards my cock, taking it into her mouth and closing down on it in one gulp. In the buoyant water I maneuvered around and tried to reach her pussy, but she wouldn't let me. Instead, she held me in place and sucked rapturously on my cock, her head bobbing up and down, her hair following free in the sea. I smiled as her insistent sucking brought me closer and closer to orgasm. I reached down; I wanted to do something, but her hands brushed mine away. I lay there passively as she sucked my cock for all it worth, and when I came I screamed out her name in ecstasy.
She looked up at me, smiling, a small droplet of my come at the corner of her mouth breaking free and floating up towards the surface. That made me laugh. "Still good?" she asked.
"Still the best. Come here."
"No," she said. "Lie there, and I'll be right back." She rose from the bed and floated up towards the dry dining room we'd been in earlier, returning after a few minutes with refilled wine glasses. "Drink this," she said.
"What is it? A love potion?"
I looked at her with this dubious half-smile, than downed the wine. She did the same. As I did, I felt revitalized, strengthened. "What was that?"
"Well, there was some magic in it, just a little. However, the main ingredient is phenylethylamine."
"Wow. Quite a kick to it. I feel much better now."
"Good. I was hoping you would."
"Any reason you need me at full capacity, O?" I asked.
"You'll see." She slid towards me on the bed and kissed me deeply, our tongues meeting again. I noticed that I couldn't smell anything, but that was okay; the fullness of Oenone filled my senses. I let my hands stray between her thighs and stroked the thick patch of pubic hair she had, my fingers stroking between her public lips. A small moan escaped her through our kissing, and I smiled through as well. She backed off a little and I looked into her demigod eyes. "Fuck me," she said.
"How do you want it?" Whatever she had given me was not just some amphetamine. But it did have that arrogance that goes with it. I felt empowered.
"From the rear, Ken. Like this." She knelt on the bed and leaned over full, her head lying on the pillow. She grabbed handfuls of the bedsheets to keep from moving in the increased buoyancy. I came up behind her, between her parted legs, my erection in hand. I paused for a moment to run my hands on her ample, beautifully smooth ass, and then I positioned my cock at the entrance to her cunny. With one hand on my cock and one on the small of her back, I slid into her. Her tight cunt wrapped around my cock and I could feel, really feel, her outer lips tightening further around the base of my cock.
I grabbed her hips and began to stroke her cunt, slowly. As I did, I heard her muttering something in another language, one I didn't know; it wasn't Centaur or Quen, and as she did this other, equally empowering feeling settled over me. I was fucking her like a piston, feeling her tight cunt surround me, hold me. The water surrounding us began to flow, at first slow and smooth, like a gentle underwater stream, then with more force, and as it did it felt like it was streaming under my ass and between my legs. I smiled as I realized that Oenone had summoned a stream of water to play over her clit as I fucked her.
"Harder," she whispered. I gladly obeyed, holding her hips a little tighter and stroking in and out, in and out, pummeling her and watching her buttocks ripple in slow motion with each impact. It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen. I could see my cock passing between her lips, the small blonde wisps of hair floating free and wrapping around my dick as it retreated from her.
The water and my cock were doing their work and she came, groaning lightly into the cloth of her bed. "Don't stop," she ordered, and the order came down like a geas, and I redoubled my efforts, fucking her all the more. The flow of water around us was becoming a torrent, like the Divergent Stream from the Uncia Bands that sometimes warms the Castle. She came again, and twice more, and still my orgasm seemed to come only a little closer, cresting and falling, pleasant and frustrating.
"Stop," she said.
"What?" I asked. I did not want to stop.
"You've worn me out, worn my cunt out." She turned her head a little further but did not rise from her position. She smiled a leering smile and said "Take me... take me 'greek.'"
I returned the smile, then slid out of her pussy and repositioned my cock at her anus. I pushed against the resistant ring and it gave way, letting me in easily. I wondered if that was natural, or was she no stranger to anal sex? It didn't matter to me one bit as I plunged deep into the heated depths of her butt, feeling the smoother passageways of her rectum seize me tight as I stroked and fucked her.
It went on forever, and her orgasms came and as they came they grew in magnitude. Each one was a victory for me, and I could feel, finally, in the very base of my penis, that intense, almost painful coil of power that was my orgasm. But it didn't reach out like it normally does. As I looked down and saw my cock sawing in and out of her puckered asshole incessantly, that coil grew, tightening as it found it's way up into my chest. It grew as I came closer and closer to the point of no return, and when I came, the whole liquid world exploded in a white, blinding, majestic light. It was incredible, and I swore, as I felt, vaguely in the background, my cock shooting into her deep and wonderful ass, that I would ne'er forget this night...
Dawn. "Morning, sleepyhead," I heard Oenone's sweet voice above me, and I awoke with a start.
"Pass out and sleep through the night? Yes." She smiled.
"I'm sorry," I said earnestly. "I didn't mean to..."
"I know, I know. It's okay," she said, trying to be soothing.
"But that's so rude!" I protested. "I mean..."
"Ken," she interrupted. "It's okay. I felt it, too. I'm just more used to it," she said, looking wistful. "Not, mind you, that that makes it any less powerful."
"Well, I'm glad for that. It was intense. That light..."
"Yes." I leaned forward and kissed her. She replied back with a soft and friendly passion. "Thank you."
"Thank you," she said. "It's very rare I find someone I'll let do that to me."
"The magic. Oh, the stamina potion and the water flow and the anal sex, those are all things I'm very familiar with. It's the final spell, that one connective moment, that's so rare."
"What was it?"
She smiled. "Maybe someday I'll tell you." She stood up. "Look, we need to get you breakfast. You said you had to be home by tomorrow's dawn, and the SDisks are unreliable, so we should get started."
"Come and visit?" I asked as we stood at the shoreline.
She looked out over the ocean for a moment and finally said "I will."
"No promises?" I said.
She laughed. "No promises. But I will. Are there more children than last time?"
"Maybe not more, but different children, different parents. I guess you notice it less than we do. We're immortal, but we're not used to it yet; you've been doing it for a lot longer."
She nodded. "I detest long goodbyes."
"I do too. So long, sweetheart."
"Goodbye, Ken. I'll direct the streams to take you to the SDisk."
"I can find it, O. Thanks again. I love you."
"I love you too."
"Good-bye." I dove into the water. She helped me to the boat, but from there on she let me navigate on my own, for which I was grateful.
Normally, when I sail alone, I talk to myself to keep myself company. Not this time. This time I was very quiet. This time was very different.