My footsteps echoed on the beautiful grey flagstones restrained to the floor with fine mortar. I took a deep breath, panned back and forth with my flashlight, tried to rid myself of the feelings that coursed through me. An unidentifiable ache lived behind my breastbone, and tears threatened to well up in my eyes if I let my emotions loose for more than a second.
Here, in here, Rhysh Castle, I had learned how to be a beautiful slave, worshipful first to a Master and then to a Mistress. Here I had learned about bodies and knots, needles and knives. Here I'd learned to give as good as had been given to me.
I wasn't the only one who was going to cry, or who had cried, this night.
"Fuck magic," I growled. Somehow, this all seemed so unreal. The Hall Committee calling a Meeting of Mages? Unheard of. Even the term itself was so antithetical to everything I believed in as a technological being. Three AI failures in a millennia couldn't be ignored, however, and the only thing related to all three failures was the location.
Either that or the activities. Yet every AI who had reviewed Lynn, Raine, and Mindy had found no fluctuation in their behavior that might be caused by perceptive difficulties. Only AI volunteers are taken for delicate assignments, and while Rhysh Castle was considered a very important and valuable post, it was also a very delicate one. AI's aren't like organics. Their respect for the post of Rhysh AI was reflected strongest in the fact that so few asked for the position.
That left the conclusion of the Mages. Ley Lines. I suppose that it was destined to happen, and the fact that one of the Lines arced over the Ruins of Luccas and terminated here only contributed to the feelings of the Mages. I've seen drawings of the Ley Lines of Pendor, and they're impressive. But that didn't help the fact that I was walking through Rhysh for the last time. It didn't help that half of my being rejected the explanation as mumbo-jumbo.
I made my way through empty rooms and hollow hallways, abusing both privilege and privacy. I imagined quite a few people would have liked to have been doing what I was doing right then, walking through the Castle the night before its...
I breathed the word aloud. "Demolition."
My gods, I was crying again. My free hand gripped the cherry redstained oak bannister as I climbed to the rampart where Borodir had first taught me how to fly. From here, I could see the daylight patio where I had first met Lynn in her human form.
And from here, I could see The City. Too big to be just a town anymore. I couldn't see it, but I knew where the Hex was down there, hidden behind two taller buildings. I thought about what this all meant to me, and I sat down on one of the stone benches, and I wept silently at the dim lights spread out across the valley before me.
Hands touched my back, warm hands that didn't startle. More grateful for companionship than I was startled by my not being alone, I looked over at my shoulder. The hand was feminine, human, with long slender fingers unadorned by jewelry. I reached up across my chest and touched that hand. The hand flexed slightly, turning me around. My gaze followed the hand, along the wrist and up the arm to the shoulder... and right into the face of the last AI of Rhysh Castle, deceased.
She nodded, but didn't speak. Instead, she turned, walking back into the Castle. As she moved, a curious haze seemed to follow her imprecisely as if her form were shrouded in a soft, white fog.
"Hey!" I said as she turned the corner and disappeared into the castle. I ran after her. In the hallway I heard her footsteps descending the curving stone stairs towards the Great Hall of Rhysh Castle. "Mindy?" I asked again.
"Down here, Ken." Her voice had a softer timbre to it than I was used to hearing. It felt warmer, more human, to my ears. It was also most definitely Mindy's voice.
For some reason it never occurred to me that this might not be Mindy. I skipped down the stairs two at a time, but I never broke out into a run.
I emerged into the Great Hall of Castle Rhysh, now filled with a thousand tiny yellow flames, candles everywhere around me. Mindy stood in the midst of the candles, in the middle of the floor, alone next to a four_poster bed that hadn't been there minutes before, when I had first walked through the Hall.
She smiled, one hand reaching forward to me, beckoning. I walked towards her, trusting. Trusting. I wondered why I felt so safe and secure. Weirdness like this usually makes me paranoid; after all, there are enough people out there who want to kill me to make paranoia a great survival mechanism. This, though... this felt so unreal.
I walked into her open arms, and held her body close to mine. She closed her arms about my waist, returning the gentle clasp, resting her head against my chest. "You were crying," she said, finally.
"It's all going to be torn down, Mindy. So much happened here, so many lives changed. More for the better than the worse, I like to hope. This place is so important to me, I can't believe, I don't want to believe it's all going to be gone soon. Damnit, Mindy, I met Aaden here! I fell in love here, over and over, cherishing it each and every time, appreciating what I had and what I had found. I can't believe that all the stone and wood and metal, all the water and all the fire... it's just going to be disassembled. Demolished."
"Uh-huh," she hummed softly, her hands caressing my shoulders.
I slowly pulled away from her, holding her at arms' length. I'm used to seeing her as an ELF, ghostly and shimmering. Now, she was full-fleshed and human and very, very beautiful.
In the back of my mind, I felt surprise that the only thing that surprised me about her was her apparent humanity. "Mindy?" I asked, looking up into her eyes. "There's no tactful way to say this, but... aren't you dead?"
"Don't you believe in ghosts, Ken?" She pulled me towards the bed, wheeling me around and then gently coaxing me down until I was horizontal, my legs dangling over the edge.
I smiled up at her. "To be honest... no."
"Believe in me, Ken." Her hands stroked the soft fabric of my shirt, opening the buttons one by one.
I looked up into her face, framed by soft, golden curls. Large, almost purple eyes flecked with silver topped a small, slim nose and full, expressive lips of soft pink, and I knew her pussy would be the same color.
I reached up and pulled at the bows above her shoulder, freeing the lace shrift that concealed her pale body underneath. I pushed it down, and her pliant, large breasts almost seemed to tumble into my hands. "Mmmm..." she sighed. "Nice. Ken... Believe in me one last time."
I smiled up at her and caressed the soft flesh gently. Her body was warm under my fingers, and her hand stroked along my shirt, calmly undoing the buttons.
I smiled up at her as her fingers caressed my chest, her fingers leaving a soft rhythmic trail along my skin. I gasped, feeling my lust seem to 'catch' in my brain.
She slowly rolled over onto her side, onto the bed. I noted, again without surprise, that the shrift I had been struggling with so pleasantly a moment before had now vanished, leaving her naked but for a pair of brown, feminine boots, almost a trademark among the three AI-ELF's of Rhysh Castle.
I reached up to caress those large breasts, and her face reflected sudden pleasure, her eyes open and her smile wide. "You were always so very beautiful, Mindy."
"Were?" she replied, giggling.
"Okay, are," I said, my hands sliding down her soft belly, unmarred by a navel, a feature I found a little jarring, but not too badly. As my fingers slid over the wheat-colored fleece that protected her femininity, she raised her hips against my probing fingers, moaning softly. Her warm body rolled slightly towards me, pressing her calves against my own. My fingers slid deeper, parting her swelled lips, feeling the moisture of her sex against my fingers. She gasped. "You want more?"
"I'm a virgin, Ken," she moaned softly. "I want you to take me one first time, one last time, before..."
"Before what?" I asked, curious.
"Before I go forever."
Oddly enough, the answered satisfied me, and I slowly slid two fingers against her cunny, sliding them inwards until they wouldn't slide any further. "Do you feel that?" I smiled.
She gasped. "Please... I need to know what it's like, in this form, in this place. Just once. Ken, please..."
I smiled downwards at her. Her attitude emboldened me, as if she were encouraging me on without words. I still felt as if I were in a dream. "I'm going to kiss you there, Mindy," I said as I sat up and eased myself down between her legs, pushing them apart with my hands. She stared down at me, her eyes wide, as I opened her up with my guiding hands. I leaned down and hovered above her sex, covering it softly with my warm breath. "Ken, please," she moaned.
"You know I can't stand to see someone beg, Mindy," I laughed, kissing her mound gently through the soft, yellow curls.
"I... >gasp<... I know," she moaned. Her lips parted as under their own volition, willing me into her body. I kissed her hood, the same color as the lips of her mouth, and felt her clitoris underneath, already urgently ready. I circled her labia with lips and tongue, reaching up with my arms over her hips to grasp her fingers in mine and be a part of her as my mouth probed and circled this new, beautiful woman beneath me. I knew I'd never see her again, that if this were a ghost, a dream, or an AI's hallucination that whatever the illusion could be, it could never be again.
"You're sweet, Mindy," I said. "I like the way you taste, and I like the way you fight to maintain your dignity as my tongue probes and caresses you." I did as I spoke, kissing her cunt gently, applying pressure directly to her clitoris. She moaned, her mouth wide open. Her skin glistened with sweat in the light of the thousand candles. The tension in her thighs grew explosive, and finally she came, screaming, and it took my strength to hold on and not let her get away from me, not buck me off.
"Ken," she moaned, not raising her head or opening her eyes. "Finish it."
"Your wish is my command, my lady," I sighed. Her legs were parted, her cunt wet, as I moved between them, over her. And then I realized I was still wearing my clothing. I slid out of my pants and shoes quickly, grateful for a lifetime habit of not wearing restrictive clothing, leaving my opened shirt on just out of a want for speed, even if I wanted the act itself to last a long time.
"Are you ready, Mindy?"
"Yes," she moaned, raising her head just a little to look at me. I looked down at my erection and knelt forward, pressing it between her legs, at her little hole, ready for me. I pressed inwards, sliding into her, pressing up against her maidenhead. And then with one powerful thrust I drove into her, and she gasped as her hymen tore away and my cock slid up to fill her.
I smiled down at her, and she smiled back. Her eyes were beautiful. I began to rock my hips, moving in a small oval of motion, rocking back and forth, sliding my cock in and out of her. Her moans were loud and passionate, small closed-mouth "Mmms" of pleasure as I made love to her.
She threw her legs over my buttocks, and the rounded heels of her boots pressed against my thighs on every withdrawal. I could feel my climax, dim and in the future, somewhere, the signal to me that eventually everything, even lovemaking, must stop sometime. I looked down, looked at where we were joined, my cock within her body, driving deeper into her with every thrust. She raised her hips slightly off the bed, encouraging me to a better angle, and I took that angle and thrust harder into her. We began to leave lovemaking behind, becoming raw in our passionate need for our pleasures. I started to thrust against her hips, fucking her, pounding into her. She seized my wrists with her hands and screamed out my name as she came, and then I shouted hers as well as I filled her cunt with my semen.
We didn't move for several minutes after that. Instead, we just stared at each other's eyes, waiting for the other to make the first, final move. Finally, I made it, because my arms just would not hold me up for much longer. I rolled over to one side, lying down next to her.
As I lay next to her, the candles about me started to wink out one by one, very slowly. Finally, all the doubts and curiosities that I had felt earlier welled into my mind, and I had to ask, "Mindy, tell me... are you a ghost? Are you real? You felt, you feel real to me– you certainly felt real while we made love!– and yet... you don't."
"I'm real," she assured me, a soft moan escaping her as she rolled over onto one side. "I'm really a ghost." She stroked my naked chest with her hand. "I needed to say goodbye... and when I heard you crying, I knew you were the one I was going to be saying goodbye to."
"A lot of people are crying tonight," I said.
Her lips smiled, but her eyes didn't mirror them. "I know. And you need to know something, Ken. The decision you've made is the right one. Raze this place to the ground. It's not evil, Ken... no place is ever intentionally evil, it's the people who make it so. And this place was always a place of fun and laughter and growing. Rhysh was never evil. But it's in the wrong place. I need you to plant trees here. Oaks, redwoods, evergreens. Trees that grow old with dignity. Don't put an SDisk in its place, and don't make it special. It already will be." She kissed my cheek. "And wherever you build the new Rhysh castle, that will be the right place... it will be right. I can tell you that much."
I felt sleepy, but I remembered her words as I seemed to fade away from her. "I needed to be loved, Ken. And I needed to say goodbye," she whispered into my ear. "Goodbye, Ken."
"Goodbye... Mindy." The last candle winked out.
I awoke with a start. I was still lying on the four-poster bed, a bed which looked like one of many stored down in the Rhysh props department. I checked my watch and found that I still had an hour until dawn and the arrival of the wrecking crews. My flashlight, forgotten earlier, lay on the floor by the bed, shining out into the cold darkness of the Great Castle Hall. Cold, dark and empty; no candles, no Mindy. I dressed quickly and made for a side door to the maintenance routes out of the Castle... but before I left, I turned to give the room one last glance.
The bed had vanished.
I had Halloran do a diagnostic when I got home. No AI logged any traffic of any kind into or out of Rhysh while I had been there. The groundwires had been cut earlier that week, including the power lines. As far as he could tell, I had been alone in Rhysh Castle until the morning of its demolition.
I believe in magic, for I believe in Oenone. I'm almost ready, then, to believe that I made love with the ghost of an AI, even if that by itself goes against much of what I believe in. But I'm writing this down because it happened to me, and I don't know what to call it. And I hope, if she's listening, that Mindy doesn't mind that this time, I didn't get her permission before writing about her.