Halfway back to the solar, Jewel heard that mellow chime again.
“Wonder who now,” Flair mused, and, as they came through the doors, “It’s Dagrun. She won’t do anything in your head, that’s not her thing. Here, take this to Mistress, I’ll take Nik’s, and then I’ll introduce you to Dagrun.”
The newcomer was impossible to miss: she had to be at least ten feet tall, and her build was fit and sturdy. Her hair, streaks of blonde and copper and crimson, lay forward over one shoulder in a long and very thick braid, and her skin was pale as old ivory. She was wearing blood-red leather pants, with leather boots to match that had heavy high wedge heels, and a red leather halter-top over breasts that must each be larger than Jewel’s head, and short red fingerless gloves. As Jewel watched, she settled herself casually into one of the largest chairs, which seemed to be sized for her, though she towered over everyone else.
Mistress had coiled herself in apparent comfort on one of the cushioned stone platforms, leaning against the raised side. Nikandros was in a more normal-sized chair with a shallow seat that accommodated his leg proportions; the short furry tail of a goat protruded through the opening at the back, and she saw it flutter back and forth excitedly as Flair approached with his wine.
Mistress accepted her glass with a nod. “Thank you, dear. Now go see if Dagrun would like something.”
She couldn’t let on how miserable she was currently feeling. That would upset Mistress, and that was bad. And it would probably disappoint Nikandros, and that was bad too.
Struggling to swallow helpless despair, she waited for Flair to finish with Nikandros—who had pulled her onto his lap, where she was giggling and arching into his hand with no sign of apprehension or reluctance at all.
“I have to say hi to Dagrun,” Flair said, when his hand wandered down between her legs.
He sighed. “I suppose so. But if I can’t have any of me in any opening of Jewel’s, I’ll just have to make use of as many of yours as possible instead.”
“Any time. Just let me make sure Jewel can handle drinks and things when I’m busy.”
“Fair enough. Off you go.” He moved his arms to the sides, his glass in one hand, so she could hop off his lap and join Jewel.
“Not a word,” Flair murmured. “I’m allowed to say no. But I don’t know why I’d want to.” She raised her voice. “Hi, Dagrun!”
The huge woman crossed her forearms on her knees and leaned down, like an adult responding to a small child. “Hello, Flair. You’re well today?” Her voice was deep, each word deliberate, but it was nonetheless pleasant and definitely feminine, and Jewel doubted the mind behind it was at all slow, not given the way those scintillating ruby eyes were looking at her, alert and attentive. Possibly she was moderating the volume deliberately, since it wasn’t nearly as loud as Jewel halfway expected.
“I’m wonderful today, I have company. Dagrun, Jewel.”
The giant inclined her head. “Hello, Jewel. You’re very pretty, little one.”
“Um. Thank you,” Jewel said, and cast around for something more to say. “Could I get you something to drink?”
Dagrun smiled. “I’d like that.”
“Mead?” Flair asked.
“Coming right up!”
“The big cups?” Jewel asked quietly, as they turned away.
Flair nodded. “And the mead is labelled. Can you do it alone?”
“I’ve got it.” Maybe if she could keep busy, the frightening feeling of everything being not only beyond her control but beyond her comprehension would go away. Or at least maybe she could ignore it.
She heard the chime again while she was in the kitchen, and ran into Flair coming out the doors of the solar as she was on her way in with Dagrun’s rather heavy glass, trying not to spill any of the contents. The newcomer was an elegant Middle Eastern woman dressed all in gauzy layers of white and amber and a lot of intricate gold jewellery, already seated in a chair. Right now, though, Jewel figured it was best to keep her attention on the glass she was carrying.
Dagrun took it from her effortlessly, and what had taken two hands for Jewel looked normal-sized in one of Dagrun’s. “Thank you,” she said, her smile warm and reassuring. “That is Roshanak. It will make no difference to her whether you greet her. My… the nearest equivalent would be wife… is on her way now. Would you get her a drink as well? The same? I think she will be here when you return with it.”
“Sure. I’ll be right back.”
“Take your time.” Dagrun chuckled. “Giants of any sort are seldom in a hurry.”
Jewel couldn’t help smiling in return. “Right.”
She heard a chime while she was in the kitchen, and as expected, when she came back to the solar with another extra-large ultra-super-sized cup of mead, there was a second giant there. This one had the build of an Amazon warrior, more muscular than Dagrun, with smaller breasts and narrower hips, but still very much a woman. Pale icy-blue hair was cropped short; her skin, even paler, had a chilly tone, especially compared to the warm golden hue of Dagrun’s, but her lips were sapphire blue. She was all in white leather and lush white fur, in the form of pants and a short-sleeved top with a low neck and laced boots with low heavy heels.
But her smile was friendly, as Dagrun took the offered cup and passed it to her while introducing Jewel. The white giantess was Sigrun. Jewel hoped that was a coincidence of names and not that they were related.
“Hello, little one. I hope your debt hasn’t been too unpleasant for you so far.”
“Unsettling and sometimes uncomfortable,” Jewel admitted. Flair had warned her never to lie, but she hoped she could get away with downplaying it. “But not unpleasant, exactly.”
Sigrun laughed, and that was louder, the sudden volume startling. “Humans often find interaction with fae to be unsettling and uncomfortable. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, come sit by us and catch your breath.”
“Um. Thank you. I’ll remember that.”
Several more chimes sounded in quick succession, and that kept Jewel and Flair busy fetching drinks.
There was a man who looked like he was made of wood, with green living grass for hair and moss for clothes, and a man with large eyes and mottled muddy-coloured skin that looked wet and slippery, who immediately sat down in a shallow oval pool; Jewel saw him idly splashing water on himself.
A woman arrived who had eagle wings on her back, with feathers of mahogany and carrot and apricot, her small breasts bare, and the feet visible below her loose beige trousers were a raptor’s talons, and a woman with skin and hair so black that they seemed to absorb all available light, wrapped in a sari that looked like a length of clear night sky, only her eyes and lips as pale and luminous as moonlight.
There was a female centaur with a glossy red bay coat and a tail like midnight silk, matching her hair, and a spindly man about three feet tall and covered in grey-brown hair. There was a woman and a man, each no more than eighteen inches tall, limbs and torso all so attenuated and thin that they looked like they’d started off half that height and been stretched.
All made themselves comfortable, each with an appropriate drink. Jewel did her best to keep her eyes down and just do her job, speaking only when spoken to. The alien nature of the gathering was terrifying: she had no idea what any of these people could do to her body or mind, and Mistress’ protection felt like a very fragile wall between her and an unimaginable and possibly horrific fate.
Once they all had drinks, the two humans each picked up a tray from the kitchen and wandered around the room offering the contents.
Nikandros beckoned Jewel over, took a handful of nibbles from the tray, and gave her a wink. “Want to add a bit of extra flavour to these, sexy? I don’t have to break Min’s rules to get your juices flowing hard and fast, and there is nothing in the world that tastes better than that.”
Jewel took a deep, shuddering breath, feeling a rush of fiery heat that started in her lower belly but flooded rapidly outward. That breath, unfortunately, brought with it the musky scent of satyr. All of a sudden she remembered that she adored her corset, her heels, her whole current outrageous appearance, because Nikandros found it erotic and had told her so. And if he said she was sexy, then she must be. She certainly felt like it, with that warmth pulsing between her legs.
“M-maybe later,” she stammered, and fled towards Dagrun, who was currently deep in conversation with the centaur.
The fact that she couldn’t understand the language of that conversation didn’t help with the disorientation, but Dagrun paused in speaking to smile at her and delicately take a couple of the treats from the tray. “Try not to mind Nik, little one. He means no harm. He can no more pass up a chance to tease than Alkippe can choose to eat meat.”
“Just tell him no,” centaur Alkippe said carelessly, helping herself to the offered tray.
That was the whole problem. Being in the satyr’s proximity made it increasingly difficult to say no. To even think no. To even think about why she couldn’t think no or why she would want to.
But contradicting a fae, one who didn’t understand and didn’t seem to much care, was probably a bad idea, so she murmured a thank you and moved on to Sigrun. The white giantess had relocated in order to talk to the two tiny thin people, Eluned and Owain, who were perched on a structure that rather resembled a cat climber with broad-seated couches—not that Jewel would have dared say such a thing. Both were wearing clothes of something so fine it looked virtually weightless, although the styles of that and their pale hair could probably have come from the newest fashion industry magazine. Given their impossible thinness, high fashion actually suited them. Neither said a word to Jewel, barely acknowledging that the tray wasn’t floating in mid-air alone, though Sigrun thanked her.
It really didn’t take all that long before she spotted Flair with Nikandros. She was on his lap again, but this time, there was absolutely no question: he was buried deep inside her, and she was squirming, her expression blissful. The satyr kept a protective arm around her waist, his fingers absently stroking her mound and probably her clit, while he continued his conversation with Mistress and the dark lady Sati. That was one of the most bizarre and jarring things yet: none of the fae seemed to notice or care, and even Nikandros was only intermittently paying attention.
While she was distracted, she failed to notice events in her personal space until she felt a hand stroking her inner thigh above the top of her stockings. She bit down on a yelp and spun around. The small hairy man, whose name had been given simply as Henry, just grinned at her.
“Pretty thing like you, hard to resist wanting to pet you all over, even with limits. Why the fuss?”
“I… I don’t like strangers touching me.”
Pointedly, he linked his hands at his back, leaned forward until he could nudge his prominent nose just under the edge of her skirt, and inhaled dramatically. Being only some three feet tall, he could actually do it without losing balance or composure. When he looked up at her, his grin was even wider and showed rather pointed teeth. “You shouldn’t lie to fae, pretty thing. We know lies when we hear them, and we don’t like them. But you’re lying to yourself, not to me, hm? Got news for you.” He reached out again, fingertips wandering up her thigh with an unexpectedly delicate touch, and she gasped, part of her mind wanting to flee, but it felt so good. “Too bad it’s not me you’re paying a debt to. I’d have you over that silliness by the time you were done, and no rules keeping you from really getting into it. Or us getting really into you.” He chortled. His fingers were teasing her sex now, stroking the satin, and she shivered violently. “Would feel nicer without this stuff in the way. So wet it’s probably transparent anyway. Let’s look. Turn around and bend forward.”
“Turn around and bend forward.” There was a hint of a growl in the repetition.
Mistress had said no sex, but she’d also made it clear that Jewel’s job was to keep her guests happy, and disobeying a direct command that technically wasn’t harmful was probably not going to go over very well with anyone.
Trembling, certain that she was blushing scarlet with humiliation, she turned around, spread her feet far enough that she could keep her balance, and leaned down. The corset complicated bending at the waist, compressing her diaphragm mercilessly and forcing her breathing to come in quick shallow pants. The heels interfered with her centre of balance and she wasn’t at all sure how long she could stay like this without falling over. She braced her hands on her own knees and let her head fall forward, hiding her face. This was in full view of the rest of the room, even, they could all see this.
Henry got so close she could feel his breath on her inner thighs and the cool of it on her panties. Fingers slid under the edge of the thin satin, stroking her hairless outer lips directly, and she whimpered.
“You are soooo wet,” Henry murmured, fingers never still. “And you think you don’t like being touched? You don’t like me looking and appreciating? You don’t like knowing that there are five males in this room who would all just love getting inside you from any direction? And the females could think of uses for you, too, believe me, and would love it. If you don’t like it, then why are you so wet it’s trickling down your legs? Wish I could slide a finger in there and see how tight and hot. But even if you begged me to, it’s not up to you, your owner says not to. But I can get a better look. Tell you what. If you tell me to stop, I won’t take them off for you.” She felt those dextrous fingers working their way upwards, starting to tug the panties out from under her corset, then he paused.
Oh god, tell him to stop. Do you want everyone in the room looking in between your legs and seeing absolutely everything? Isn’t this embarrassing enough?
But the touch felt so good, and the thought of how much better it would feel with less in the way, and the thought of this odd hairy little man with the extraordinary fingers being free to inspect her most private parts while she stood meekly still for it, all combined to leave her so aroused it was just shy of pain. She wanted… what did she want? It was so tangled together, so many things all screaming at once, and she was so light-headed, that she had no idea.
But she did hope he kept touching her. And that he liked what he saw.
Carefully, he wriggled her panties free, and slid them down over her hips with a lot more contact than necessary. Down to her knees, but he left them there. That only made her blush harder. How could she be standing here showing herself off with her underwear halfway down her legs?
Henry whistled softly. “Holy moon and stars. Now that’s just as pretty as the rest of you.” She quivered and dug her artificially-long cherry-red nails into her own legs as his fingers stroked her labia, one digit following right along the crease though carefully not parting them even the width of one of the hairs that were no longer there. “And you want me to believe you don’t like to be touched? Even here? How about you tell me the truth now?”
“I…” Jewel stopped to lick dry lips, and faltered. How could she say it?
“I like it.” It was only a whisper.
“A bit louder, pretty thing. I’m not young, y’know.”
“I… I like it.”
“You like what?”
“Being… being touched.” Like the gentle touch that was currently driving her half mad.
She squeezed her eyes shut, hating herself. “Looking like this. Having to obey.”
“Good girl.” The approval in his voice was unexpectedly strong and felt disturbingly good. “See, not so hard to tell the truth, eh? So let’s push for a bit more truth. Why did you move the first time I touched you, and why are you avoiding Nik?”
“Can I straighten up? Please? It’s hard to breathe.”
“Not until you give me the truth.”
She whimpered softly. “Scared. I’m scared.”
“Of what? Fae power?”
“But that isn’t all.”
“I have… I have a boyfriend. Supposed to… only want him.”
That made him laugh. “Pretty thing, even if he was the greatest human lover ever, it wouldn’t mean no one else can turn you on. And I doubt he is. Things humans brainwash themselves into are absurd. So why does that scare you?”
“Scared of… of liking it too much. Please?”
“Stand up. I said you could once you told the truth. But it’s a shame to lose that view.”
Jewel straightened and took a couple of deep breaths gratefully, aware that she was trembling.
“Here’s your choice, pretty thing, and it’s a genuinely free one, up to you. You can tell yourself that I’m a bully and you can pull your panties back up and go back to pretending that you aren’t dripping wet. Or you can kick them off the rest of the way and see if you can learn something about telling yourself the truth.” He stepped past her and strolled away.
Jewel stayed statue-still for what felt like a long time but probably wasn’t.
Why had she said any of that? It couldn’t be true, was it? Or maybe it was only true while she had too many external forces at work in her head, pushing her to obey? That seemed the most likely.
This was a battle she just couldn’t win. Everything was stacked against her. It was like sinking in quicksand, with her struggles only dragging her down and drawing the attention of nearby predators.
If she couldn’t escape, couldn’t even control her own responses… what was the best course of action?