A Visit to Pyu Rika

The Sea Voyage

The docks smelled of three hundred years of discarded fish innards, old tar, seagulls, and somewhere upwind Aimeé was quite sure a sailor smoked the cheapest tobacco ever harvested. The bright sunshine of morning did nothing to dispel the impression that the docks of Barraminum existed for one purpose only: to ship the wealth of the colonies back to the Imperium.

She thought briefly of the leaflet she had picked up yesterday, but one of dozens that had been available to her, either handed surreptitiously or simply nailed to every available post and wall in some sections of the city. If there was anywhere that those leaflets should be layers deep it was here at the docks, but there were none to be found. Yet here was where the city's poor, that portion of it that still had work, most saw the results of their labor flow ship by ship across the sea to the Emperor and his majestic city on the sea.

"Are you Mage Aimeé?"

She started at being addressed by a stranger, but turned and looked in the direction of the speaker. He was taller than she by a head, and rounder too, although his massive hands were knotted with the kinds of muscles that could only come from years at the wheel and ropes of a sailing vessel. He wore a black beard and a blue cap. She nodded for a moment, and he said, "Good. I was told to expect ye'. I'm your Captain. Captain Alec Shondar."

"I'm pleased to meet you," she said, watching with some mild annoyance as his facial features took on the same cast as that of all men when they heard her voice. Well, not all men. Neither Filo nor Darynn had reacted that way. There were good reasons why she appreciated those men in her life.

He recovered quickly enough. "Neither of the others has shown yet, and we must get moving quickly if we are to take advantage of the morning winds. They come off the plains and blow reliably, but by noon they'll wander in the other directions and we'll have to tack against them for the rest of the day. I'd like to get as far away from here before that happens."

"I cannot call them or make them come any more rapidly, Captain."

"I am merely speaking, Mage," he said. "Do you know which is mine?" She shook her head. He gestured over towards a ship small enough to be anchored at the docks. "That's the Swift Teacher. A crew of thirty-five, and cargo space for barely three tons, but she'll easily take Mages anywhere they want to go, especially those who are paying double what the school is offering." He smiled. "Ah, there's my own mage now. Hektor! You're on time for once."

Walking along the poured stone road was a tall, lanky figure who must have come from a stock identical to Filo's, since he had the same curly red hair and the pale grey eyes. His nose was sharper and his mouth tighter, but that may just have been worry. "I promised I would be, Captain, and I am," he said, flashing a small smile that vanished as quickly as it appeared. "I have already checked, and we will have clear weather. I am going to say that we'll have two days of clear weather, but I cannot tell any more than that."

"Any hints beyond that?" Shondar asked.

Hektor shook his head. "None."

"Well, two days of fine weather is more than any man can ask for. Hektor, this is Mage Aimeé. She is accompanying us on our trip to Pyu Rika."

Hektor turned and bowed. "It is an honor to meet you, Mage. I am but a humble apprentice in a humble profession."

Aimeé returned the bow. "It is an honor to meet you, Apprentice Hektor. The Captain misspeaks; I am but an apprentice as well, and in an even more humbling profession than yours."

"'Apprentice Aimeé. You are apprenticed to Master Darynn! I remember hearing about your trial. I am, uh, truly honored to meet you, then." Even as he spoke, his voice became flustered. "Excuse me. I must make my place on board the Captain's ship."

Aimeé bowed again and watched him leave. She sighed. "One of these days, I shall understand men."

"If you do, Apprentice Aimeé, will you also tell me the secret of women?"

Aimeé shrugged her shoulders. "I didn't know there was one."

Shondar laughed. "You haven't talked to many men, then! Ah, here are your companions!" She turned and saw Darynn walking, carrying a mage staff, but a metallic one, topped with a statuette of a dragon curled on itself, sleeping. He had the look of a man in his older prime, strong and healthy, but she knew that such appearance were the result of profound magics. Darynn was much older than he looked, and he was fading even then into his old age. Next to him stood Talen Silisto, who was even older that Darynn and looked the part. He wore a hat against the sun, his heavy face lined with age and the signs of at least one bout of the pox. How that had happened to the man most agreed was one of the five most powerful in the New World with no-one at hand to cure him was a mystery Talen had not chosen to divulge.

She bowed to both, dipping deeply on both knees in a sign of respect for Talen. She knew Darynn would have laughed at the symbolism, but she took it seriously. A formal distance had served her well with her first master. She hoped it would serve her well with others who held power over her.

Behind them, a pair of porters pulled a small wagon laden down with their boxes. She had brought a single bag and a large chest; they both seemed determined to bring entire laboratories with them on this voyage.

"We are assembled, then," Shondar said, commenting not at all on the size of their personal cargo. "Let us be aboard and away." He turned and walked towards his ship without waiting for them. Aimeé followed, as did the rest.

As they approached, three men came down and began to assist them with the bags. Another ran past at a pace that implied a brief run. "Where is he going?" Aimeé asked.

"To inform the harbor-master that we will be leaving. Our flag and notice of our course will be hung from that tower there." He pointed to a white tower a half-mile north-west of their position. "Others will be informed of our coming and the coastal guard will not be alarmed at our pace."

They were quickly assisted into the ship. The crew busied itself with preparations for departure, leaving Aimeé adrift about where to go or what to do. "Mage Aimeé?" She turned and saw Hektor standing there. "Please come below and stow your belongings."

She followed the tall, almost deadly earnest and desperately nervous young man down a narrow stairway to a collection of cabins at the back of the vessel. "This one is yours."

"Thank you, Apprentice Hektor. And please stop calling me 'Mage'! I have not earned it."

"Many of us think you have."

"I have not!" She turned to look at him. "I was lucky. I'm just an apprentice. That is all. What skills and talents I have are undeveloped and unready for the title of Mage. Hektor, I don't deserve the label. It is wrong."

He bowed his head, his face flushed with embarrassment. "I did not mean... I, I... we--"

"Hektor, I'm just a student." She held her hands out to him, palms up. "I just wish to be allowed to study in peace."

He nodded, retreating awkwardly. She sighed. She had encountered that attitude among a few students and never been sure what to do when she did. She wanted to like her fellow students, especially since in the case of Hektor she was going to be on the same ship with him for four weeks and friction between mages in such tight quarters could be problematic in the extreme.

Her cabin was small but unremarkable. It had an ordinary bed and a hammock, the latter she had been told necessary for rough weather which would toss her out of a flat mattress. The ceiling was low enough to cause Mage Darynn to have to bend over while maneuvering in his, she thought. Or perhaps he got a different room, one with higher ceilings. She rather doubted it. There was a dresser, nailed into place she was pleased to see, and next to it her one massive trunk had been left, unopened. The wood was carefully hewn and painted.

Her days were not regimented on the shore, she thought. She had her studies, which she accomplished by their due time and without the kinds of difficulty her other students seem to suffer, the mysterious distractions of mischief and courtship. Darynn offered to her that neither mischief nor courtship were mysteries to her, and so did not tempt her in much the same way.

But now, looking at her darkened room with its one small window, she wondered what she might accomplish all these weeks stuck on board one small ship (and it was by all accounts a small ship) with little to do but her studies and conversations with her fellow mages.

The ship seemed to suddenly tilt to one side, accompanied by much creaking of wood and a strangely loud cracking sound from somewhere in the middle of the ship. She heard no voices of alarm so she left her room and went up to the main deck. There were men moving with deliberation upon the ropes, casting lines to one another and shouting out orders and confirmations, a call-and-response of responsibilities swirling about her. For a moment, she held the illusion that the ship was the living thing, the men merely its parts, interchangeable, and if one fell over the ship was ill until healed in the next port.

"It is magnificent, is it not?" Darynn asked her. "All these strong, young men going about their duties, each full of body and spirit. And there are no feeble minds on a sea voyage, Aimeé, trust me of that." He smiled, enjoying the display.

She stood with him on the deck, watching the long, rocky straits of Barraminum slide by. The Swift Teacher maneuvered surely, running with all sails billowed to their fullest. They passed by small towns that lined the straits, fishing or lumber or a bit of both. Smoke curled from the chimneys of mills. Aimeé's memories began only in the orphanage, and she wondered if she came from a family on those shores, or further inland, up in the mountains, or down south where the farms and sheep herds were as thick as summer gnats.

At noon, bread slathered with a thick preserve was passed around. They passed by the Island of the Emperor's Eye, its lighthouse standing bright white against the blue sky background, and then the Swift Teacher took to the open sea.

Aimeé had never seen the sea before, and although she had read about it, the reality of it, the frightening emptiness as it reached all the way to the horizon, where the sea and the sky met in an unbroken line, momentarily terrified her. She looked back at the land, watched that island with its one, tall tower, beckoning her home. The clarity of the air meant that it did not disappear, but merely shrank in size and curved away until even that was gone and they were alone in the vast, wide sea. "It does that to everyone their first time."

She regarded Captain Shondar. He appeared both amused and sympathetic with her plight. "I hope ye are not afraid, Apprentice Aimeé. This is all ye shall be seeing for the next four weeks. Ye have been standing here for almost three hours, did ye know that?"

She had not realized. In her hand she clenched one small hunk of the remaining bread, and she passed that to her mouth, chewing slowly. "What will I do for all this time?"

"Yer teachers will find work for ye. And if ye know anything about a needle and thread?" She shook her head. "Well, we will teach ye. There are always ropes and clothes that need mending. And ye are all invited to the Captain's table for the remainder of the voyage."

She smiled at him, and he grinned back. "I thank you, Captain."

"Thank me when ye have been returned to Barraminum, and not a moment earlier," he said. "Every voyage is a game of dice, and the gods are doing the rolling." His eyes searched over the deck of the vessel. Aimeé had seen a look similar to it in Darynn's eyes, deep in the throes of a spell of seeing. Shondar was seeking something, but he knew not what. He would know it when he saw it.

Eventually, he turned his attention back to her. "I seem to have a better crew this trip."

"Is it always a different crew?"

"I have thirty-three men, the Apprentice Hektor, and myself. Six of them I count as officers, who will share my table now and then. But the men, there are nine with which I am unfamiliar. I am looking for the mistakes they have made that my own men may have missed. I do not see any."

"Is that good?"

He grunted. "It is probably the best I have ever witnessed."

"I count myself fortunate to be on such a lucky vessel."

He smiled. "If ye were a sailor, ye would not say such a foolish thing. But ye will learn."

"I hope to, Captain."

"Ah, Aimeé. Making nice with the Captain already?"

She turned to see Darynn standing beside her. She had not been aware of his presence. "I think the good Captain is attempting to make nice with me. He seems to think I need reassurance against the loneliness of the sea."

"And do you?" Darynn said.

She nodded. "It is frightening."

"I have taken it upon myself to craft a curriculum, if you will, while we are at sea, Apprentice, in the hopes that you will not lose your training before we arrive at Pyu Rika or on the journey home." He gestured towards the narrow stairway leading down into the rear of the vessel. She knew that she would have to learn the names of the parts of the ship before long.

"Excuse me, Captain. My studies call."

"Indeed," he said.

A week passed. Aimeé spent most of her day either on the deck or in her room, and in either place she studied her texts and cast minor spells. She co-ordinated with the increasingly awkward Mage Hektor for those times when her presence as a spell caster did not disrupt his concentration, and the four mages on the boat had achieved a state of harmony.

Most of her studies concentrated on investigation. The history of a thing, the nature of it, perhaps a glimpse of its previous owner, or a sense that one was near the previous owner. Magicked items had more of that than mundane items; they seemed to have a story they wanted told. There were so many different spells for knowing a thing and all of them gave only small parts of the whole. She saw Darynn and Talen daily, conversing together in low tones. She wondered about what they discussed.

She practiced in her room, raising her eromancer's powers through her own fingers. She had learned to appreciate her own strength and lust and the way she could use it to great effect. More and more in her private moments, when she was not thinking about casting a spell, she found herself wondering about Captain Shondar. Such a big man, so powerful in his presence. She wondered if being a ship's captain required such a bearing.

Not today, however. Today, she studied only the mundane aspects of spell creation in the investigative arts. She was a little annoyed at the interruption, being deep in a section on the necessity of perfect handwriting in the making of scrolls of revelation, and had wanted to reach the end of the lesson and practice. "Miss? The Captain asks that you join him for dinner."

"I shall be there in a moment," she said, remembering "the way a lady should speak," as Bethsany had instructed her. She carefully packed away the books and pen and inks and closed the latch on her trunk, then rose. She had no idea what she looked like and only one mirror which she reserved for ritual purposes. She worried that she would begin to stink on this trip, as Darynn had taught her the benefit of regular bathing. She had already discovered the head, latched and battened in case of storm, and the rigmarole through which she had to go in order to use it. She had been warned, twice, that her failure to latch it down properly could sink the boat and that she was the only one on board with a 'lady's head.' The men, she learned, merely pointed and urinated off the lee side of the ship.

She pulled another layer of clothing over her head and cinched a vest over her shoulders, brushed out her hair. She hadn't thought about how she would wash herself on a ship where there would be no new water for days on end and every drop that fell from the sky needed to be preserved somewhere. She would put out a catchbasin of some sort, she supposed, then bring it back in here and wash.

She knocked on the door to the Captain's Cabin and was let in. The table was short, and with eight people arranged about it it would be a tight fit. The room, as it was, would barely hold all of them anyway and still have space for service. "Ah, Miss Aimeé! I am so pleased you could join us!"

She bowed, suddenly nervous. She already knew she liked Captain Shondar, but there was the matter of his voice. She wanted to cower whenever he spoke. He committed every act with volume. She wondered what sort of noises he made in the heat of passion.

A collection of faces came to her, Bethsany, Lilli, Meli, Brandy. The girls of the brothel where both Darynn and even Teltirray had thought she might learn the skills and acts of love. Each woman knew one or more men a night, hundreds in a year. What did that do to them, she wondered, the touch of a man, the attention of one? She had known three, she thought, and each of them viewed her differently. Teltirray had approached her as a matter of power, as if they would never be equals and so he had every right to dominate her, overpower her, control her. Darynn, in contrast, viewed her as one whose power had the potential to equal and exceed his own. She had a kind of power there, but it was tempered by the knowledge that neither of them was attracted to the other in a romantic manner. Filo, on the other hand, was interested in a romance he could not sustain and his interest was tempered, as it must be, by the knowledge that she was both a superior mage and wealthy in her own right.

Her reverie ended abruptly as she sat in her chair next to Darynn's, who in turn sat next to Mage Silisto. Opposite her were a collection of faces she had come to know: Shondar's first mate, Merrilin, and his other officers, Ferranti, Bozia. They were both thin and wiry, but of different casts: Ferranti hard and hungry, Bozia relaxed and unconcerned. At the opposite end of the table, to her right, sat Hektor, looking as nervous as she felt.

"Is the sea treating you well, Miss Aimeé?" Bozia asked gently as a young boy placed the first serving before her.

"Well enough," Aimeé replied.

"We've not seen you much topside," Shondar said.

"I have my studies. They keep me busy. I wouldn't want to be a disruption to the men anyway."

"They know you are here," Shondar said. "And I don't believe it its bad luck to have a woman aboard my ship. Such sentiments do not become a man who has traveled with so many Mages as I."

"Your men don't feel the same way," Talen Silisto pointed out.

"True," Shondar said. "But they're hardly the interested-in-women type. Sailors have a taste for sodomy even before they head out. Sailors who cross seas, that is. The ones who stick to shore work are more acceptable in their passions."

"I should have been a sailor!" Darynn said.

"And we would have lost a great mage, had you been one," Talen Silisto said.

The third round of dinner was passing by, a palatable mixture of meats and vegetables, when Shondar said, "And you, Apprentice Aimeé?"


"We all know what Darynn and Hektor study, and Talen here has revealed his great love of books and papers. What is your field of study?"

"I follow my Teacher, master Darynn," Aimeé said softly. "I raise power with my sex."

"You do that already with your great beauty," Shondar said, the first soft thing he had spoken all evening. "Surely you are bewitching enough without mastering some eldritch art."

"So I am sometimes complimented," Aimeé said, her face candle-hot with embarrassment. Her eyes sought something else to see, she could not face Shondar. "But if I am to be more useful than a prostitute, Captain, and live a happier life, I must have more than just my face." She felt oddly confident. He had admitted his interest in her. "That is not to say that I never practice my skills for pleasure, Captain."

She saw the confusion cross his face. He hadn't expected her to take the initiative in quite that way. The rest of the table had grown silent, spectators to a familiar dance. "I see," he said, lifting his narrow wineglass to his lips and holding it thoughtfully. "I am not like my shipmates. The world of women is not frightening to me, although it is foreign territory to all men, naturally."

"I would not say I was frightened by women," Bozia said. "Merely not interested."

"You are a most difficult case, Mr. Bozia. It is a good thing you are so competent."

Bozia grinned.

Dessert passed around, propelled again by the young lad who had served them all through the evening. He could not have been more than ten or eleven years old, she thought, and she wondered what kind of cruelty put a boy like that on a ship. The same world-encompassing cruelty that put a girl like her on a slave-block when she was his age.

She had been freed, but that did not mean she was free. Teltirray had seen in her both the joy of her own body and the strength of her youth and, for a time, had made her hate both. She had regained the strength of her youth, but she wondered if her joy at her own bodily pleasures would be forever tainted by his touch. She wanted it to be otherwise.

The officers filed out after a time, leaving only the Captain and the Mages. "This is but the end of the first week of a five week voyage, my gentle Mages," Shondar said, "and I would speak to you without my men at hand. They know we are heading for Pyu Rika, and they are nervous. The Bones of the Dragon are enough to frighten even the strongest of sailors. They are a superstitious lot, whatever I may have said. I have made this voyage before, with Master Darynn, and I ask for the same privilege as last time-- that we be allowed to sail over the horizon for the three days of the Ritual."

"Of course," Darynn said. "Why would you expect it to be otherwise?"

"The last time, Darynn, you went alone. Now you bring not just yourself, but three others. I hoped that you did not want us to be about in case one of them was caught with a wish to leave the comforts of Pyu Rika suddenly."

Darynn glanced about the tiny room. "I don't think we'll be having that kind of trouble, Shondar."

"I hope not." For a time, it was quiet in the room.

"Well," Talen said softly. "If you'll excuse me, I believe I must take some air."

"And I have a casting to do," Hektor said suddenly. Aimeé did not need to glance into his thoughts to know that he would rather have been anywhere else but alone with a pair of eromancers.

"So, Darynn, this is your Apprentice," Shondar said after the door had closed. "After all these years you take another, and this time it is a pretty girl. Are your tastes changing in your old age?"

"No," Darynn said. "She is the best student I could find in that season. There has been none like her in quite a while, and there will probably not be another like her for as long a time as that." He regarded her with the open admiration that made her blush intensely. "She will be a Mage, Shondar, not one of my playmates. And for Magick, I care not what she carries between her legs."

"So you say," Shondar. "And you, Aimeé, how do you find yourself in this?"

"I am... learning. It is hard. Darynn rescued me from a terrible man, a man who kept me as a slave even a century after His Majesty banned all slaves from the face of the Earth."

"And... eromancy?"

"Is a pleasure to work, even to practice," she said. "Why, Captain, do you want me to practice on you?"

Shondar was taken aback once more, and she smiled. He leaned back in his chair and said, "I have been, for most of my life, a celibate man, dear Aimeé. My passion is for the sea and the life it affords me."

"I am not asking for your hand in marriage, or coin from your purse. I'm asking you for the passion you proclaim you have for women. Can you have it for me?"

"You are serious."

"Very much so," she said. Darynn's eyes measured her seriousness and registered his approval, and for a moment she basked in that gaze. "I will not be a slattern, but I cannot pretend that I wish to a husband and a house, either."

"Just for tonight, then?"

"If we find it unwelcome, then yes, just for tonight. Otherwise... we shall see." She smiled. The scars inside ached gently, but they were overwhelmed by the warmth in her belly, the promising pleasure to come.

"Then I shall not refuse you," Shondar said.

"If this is the course of the evening," Darynn said, "then I am going to go onto the decks and sing bawdy songs with the men. To make some noise. Good night, you two." He pushed his chair back, bowed to the two of them. They rose and bowed back. He left.

Aimeé walked around the table and faced the good Captain. She tilted her head back to look at his scruff, bearded face. "Are you frightened of me, Shondar?"

"Alec. Frightened of you? No. Mages do not frighten me, nor young women. If I have a worry, it is that I shall disappoint you."

"I am not so experienced that I have a measure against which to be disappointed." She touched his shirt and his body beat loudly against her palm. She felt desire trickle within her groin. "All I ask is a night of pleasure."

"It is not so simple."

"It is," she whispered, her hand sliding down the front of his shirt until it reached his belt. "All men say it is not simple, when it is they who wish it was the most simple of things."

"My cabin," he said, his mouth full of confusion, "is over there." He led the way through a glassed door to the right, and on the other side was a space twice as wide as the bed built for one. He closed the door and looked for her.

She was already reaching out for his belt, pulling at the cord that held his pants on. Before he could react, his pants fell about his ankles. Aimeé looked at the tent his prick made through his loose undergarment, very unlike a loincloth, and appreciated that Captain Alec Shondar would stretch her more than any of her other lovers. He was truly gifted, if one could say that, with his prick.

She stroked it through the material, watching his face contort into shapes that might have been pain. "Do I bother you, Captain?"

"Women are meek creatures and mages never are. I do not know which kind of creature you are."

"Both," she said. The heft of his prick felt warm even through the thin cloth, and she wanted to see what it looked like. "Take off your clothes," she implored him. "I want to see what you look like."

He still had his boots on. He sat down and pulled them off, then kicked off his breeches and his underwear, then pulled his tunic over the top of his head. Aimeé's attention followed every new exposure of cloth, every new revelation of the body underneath. Shondar, she saw, would feel like a bear in both the girth of his belly and the fur that covered him. He sat on the bed and looked up at her. The desire in her swelled like his prick, the monster with a soft upward curve and a helmet of dark pink, so pronounced it looked like a separate garment, an addition, an accessory that one might remove. She blanked to think of what might be underneath. She had better thoughts.

She knelt before him, looked into his eyes. There was a probing, desperate look in his face. He almost seemed to be pleading with her. He was afraid. She wished to know why, but she could not ask. Instead, she lowered her eyes to his prick. It was handsome, unmarred. She raised her hands to it, caressed it, felt its bulk once more, felt the warmth of him under her palms. The skin was silky, the smell manly without being unpleasant.

She had seen the men stand in the rain and scrape themselves clean. It might not be the Baths of Cortane, but cleanliness was truly a sign of civilization, and the men kept to it with the attention of penitents. Shondar led them, sure in his role as the keeper of civilization and order aboard his ship.

That was the source of his fear. She was a woman, and in his eyes, in his tradition, she was the source of disorder, the sower of trouble, the distraction of men's hearts from their responsibilities. She would have to somehow convince him that she kept no grip after tonight, that he was free of her even after they had loved.

She lifted his prick, her hands sliding down under his balls, his sack with its precious cargo small and tight against the base of his shaft. They were as hairy as the rest of him; it seemed that the only places on his body not covered in fur were his prick and half his face. He groaned, his legs trembling. "Easy, captain," she said.

"Only for you!"

She smiled and stroked her hand along his prick, watching the skin roll up over the head, then down again. It was truly huge. Her nether mouth watered to feel it. But she would taste it first.

He groaned as if possessed as she took the head of his prick into her mouth. It tasted sweet, she noticed, but like no sweetness she had tasted before. A sugar not found in any fruit, but it was surely there as her tongue played along the silky underside of it, her teeth scraping the top of his hood, then taking another inch, maybe two. It was all she could take at the moment, barely half his length. His body shook. Surely he was not about to climax, she thought.

But he was. She had barely bobbed her head thrice when her mouth was flooded with a bitter salted reward. She sighed, her lust aroused but also frustrated by the quickness of it. "I am sorry."

"Did you know it would be so quick?"

"I had hoped not. It has been so long, and I am not much with my own hands, unlike many of my men."

She stood up. She stood over him. She pulled her vest off, pulled her outer tunic off over her head, revealing only the thin shift she wore underneath it. Her breasts, already full and womanly, made prominences in her top. Then she pulled that off as well. He watched her, his eyes hopeful, and even as she watched his prick twitched with life. She wondered if she would be able to get this reaction out of men forever. She knew she would not. "Lie down, Captain."

He did as she said, his belly a rounded hill in the middle of the bed. It was, she realized, mostly muscle that had alternated between being let go and being worked hard, and she caressed his belly and chest with her hands, straying only occasionally to mischief down at the tangled forest that grew up about his prick. "Touch me," she said. His hand came up and laid trembling fingertips on the skin of her breast. His touch sang anticipating promises to her imagination. Perhaps that's all they would be.

She touched the skin of his thighs. She did not want to be the aggressor. She wanted him to fuck her. To take her. It would probably not work the usual way, with her on her back, but perhaps on her knees the reach would be enough. She prayed it would be.

She leaned over and kissed his chest, found a nipple hiding under a bush of black tangled hair, and bit it gently. He groaned, his hand, his one hand, pawing at her breast, squeezing it, stroking her skin, slipping along one side and down to her ass, holding her cheek in his hand and squeezing. She moaned, now, wanting him to be more sure, to touch her sex, to get a feel for the wetness that lived in her. His fingers did slip there, did find her furred, hungry lower mouth, did find the nectar that dripped from her. She felt those fingers pry at her, coarse, strong fingers that sought her opening. She twisted against his body, getting closer, giving him better reach. He slipped a finger within her. "You are very wet."

"It happens," she said. "I desire. You."

He smiled at her. "You are too kind to a man, Aimeé."

"It is something I am." Her hand slipped down the curve of his belly and found his hardened prick. "Something you are, is ready for something I am."

"Yes," he agreed. "It is."

"I want you to take me. I do not want to be on top," she said.

"I would crush you if we did as... a man and woman do."

She stretched out on the tiny bed, tight against his body, belly down, then bent her knees in, lifting her ass. "Would you crush me like this?"

She knew that from where he lay he could only see the raised slope of her back and, maybe, the hint of her cleft, but no more. He stared, unbelieving. Then he shook his head. "Like an animal."

"Like I deserve, if you cannot be comfortable doing it any other way," she said. "Please, Alec."

He rose and maneuvered behind her. She could not see what he did, but she felt his hands upon her hips, felt his massive prick find her hunger, felt him spear her. "Yes, Alec, yes," she urged. "I want you."

He thrust into her. She felt herself open wide to receive him, and she whispered sweet unintelligible blessings to him and his prick. Each drive into her body was accompanied by a surge of pleasure, each withdrawal held sweet anticipation of the next. She loved his slow, manly thrusts, each growing more confident as he realized he would not disappoint her, not on this second try.

That flared helmet of his prick glided along the flesh inside her, touching her. She could not help but thrash and moan underneath his cock, his belly battering her buttocks with each thrust, his hands now holding her hips like bruising vises. She could not believe this was the same man who had been so unsure when they had started. Now he was in a sea that all men understood and that she could not stop even if she wished.

She heard bed timbers creaking under the effort like this vessel would in a storm, heard the ritual thump of the headboard against the wall, and felt his hands grow even stronger in their grasp of her hips. He was lost in his ecstasies. She too.

The pleasure inside her grew relentlessly until it would not hold back, the levees of nature broke free, she came, she screamed, she had just enough sense to muffle herself in a pillow underneath. The sight and sound of a woman's climax was too much even for Shondar, who came three thrusts later with a scream of his own. He muffled it with a hand that left her right hip cold. That sent the solid rhythm of their lovemaking off-balance, and for a moment they hung there before Shondar crashed to the bed beside her, barely catching himself as his head aimed for a wooden bedpost.

"Girl," he gasped. "You are a witch."

"And you are a warlock with that prick," she replied. "A true man of action." She leaned over and kissed his cheek gently. "You mastered me as truly as you master this ship."

He smiled. He laughed. "You do know how to make a man happy, Aimeé! You do." He caressed her back, touching her down the length of her spine to her buttocks. "I am honored by your attention."

"And I by yours."

"Will you want this again?"

"Perhaps," she said. She could see the look of disappointment on his face. "It is all a question of responsibilities, Captain. I have mine and you have yours. But if you wish-- it is your ship."

He paused. "You think of how the men view me." She nodded. "A wise concern. This is no secret, not even now. We made too much sound even without our voices." His grin was wide, showing uneven teeth. "But they will follow me, and if you defer to me in all matters of the sea, so too shall they."

"I could do naught else," she said. "I want to get there and home, alive, and you have the years to do that."

He nodded. "You should return to your room soon," he said. "There is not space for you here, nor a lady's head."

She smiled, then stretched out beside him, her body once more the beloved petted housecat. "I shall take your advice." She rolled close to him, her breasts against his chest, her hips curling about his belly. She could feel his prick against her thighs, trying to return from its own post-coital slumber. "Are you heroic?"

"Never," he said. "It is not wise, on the sea, to pretend to be a hero."

"I see." She eased herself up, then leaned down to kiss his prick one last time. "You and your prick are beloved warriors in my heart, Alec." She rose, gathering her clothes. She assembled just enough of herself to walk down the short hallway to her room. He watched her garment herself, each layer further obscuring the lithe body that he had just loved. "Good night, Captain."

"Good night, Apprentice Aimeé. Sleep well."

"I shall."

She returned to her room, where she immediately undressed, washed briefly, and slipped into her own bed. She stared upwards, unseeing in the darkness, and thought about what she had just done. It was not like with Filo, where she had had more control, more power. With Shondar, there had been an equality, they were both hurting in their own way, both afraid for their own reasons. That made understanding it harder.

Eventually, she slept. Ensouled scars ached like scratches cooled with honey.