413: When Caron Met Nae

on September 16, 2009 in Book 14

In Which Judgments Are Passed

Amaranth pulled me out of the downpour and draped something fluffy and light around my shoulders that smelled strongly of her hair and skin. Still shaking and not really capable of standing upright, I allowed her to work my arms into sleeves and found it was the bathrobe she wasn’t supposed to have.

I felt completely numb… well, completely emotionally numb. I was feeling some pretty vivid and specific physical things. My backside tingled all over, and there was the stripe across it that felt like I’d been cut with a blade. I could feel hot tears on my cheeks. I could feel my own ragged breathing. I could feel the water dripping off my back, and the results of Amaranth’s ministrations running down my legs.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to worry about the dress code after seeing the performance,” she said, holding me upright, “and if they are, it’s hardly going to matter. This is… um… it’s kind of passed beyond the point of repair spells, isn’t it?” she asked. She was holding up a sodden strip of scorched fabric.

“Yeah,” I said. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Oh, well… at least the understanding was that we were buying them from Two, not borrowing. We’ll get you some real gear before next time,” Amaranth said. “How about the sawhorse?”

“It’s basically only broken in two places, and all the pieces are there,” I said. “So it should be fixable.”

“Good,” she said. She sounded kind of absent or distant, but that might have been on my end. “I think I cracked the cane a bit, too. It’s definitely fixable, but I feel bad about breaking other people’s stuff. I don’t want to get a bad reputation on our first time out.”

“Hey, don’t worry about any of it,” Celyddon said, climbing up onto the stage between two of the bars. “That was a fabulous deflowering, one of the best I’ve ever seen, especially considering you didn’t have a pro helping you out.”

“I may not be a professional, Master Celyddon, but what I do is a religious vocation and I take it very seriously,” Amaranth said. “I have a few things to talk about with Lady Caron… is it going to be a problem that my toy’s garb is ruined? I was told that bringing her in naked would be insufficient.”

“Appropriate attire is an entry requirement,” Celyddon said. He offered a hand to Amaranth, who took it and allowed herself to be led along with me towards the back of the cage. “It helps to ensure that all entrants to the club have a minimum of effort invested in maintaining the atmosphere. Once inside, most of our events are clothing-optional. Things are often removed or destroyed… consensually, of course… during the course of the evening.”

“Hopefully we’ll be able to get something a little sturdier before we come back,” Amaranth said as Celyddon opened a section of the bars at the back of the stage. There was no visible horizontal attachment between them, though they swung out together like they were part of a door. There was a set of steps leading down to the floor behind them.

“I should think so,” Celyddon said. He held out a small bag towards Amaranth, who accepted it. “Though, honestly, with a creature like that, we’re used to being flexible on the entry requirements.”

“I think you mean a person like her, Master Celyddon,” Amaranth said… and it was only then that it really registered what he had said. I felt detached from it all. “My sub is not a creature. She couldn’t consent, much less submit meaningfully, if she weren’t a person.”

“Oh, yes, of course,” Celyddon said. He reached for the bag in Amaranth’s hands and dropped what sounded like a couple of coins into it. “I didn’t mean to imply… well, I have duties to attend to. Please enjoy the rest of the party.”

He backed away around the side of the stage, bowing the whole way.

“I’m having second thoughts about coming back here,” she said. I could hear the frown in her voice. “If that is part of the prevailing culture… on the other hand, though, if Mercy’s victims are all they’ve ever known of half-demons, maybe we can change the culture?” There were clinking sounds for several seconds. I heard a sharp intake of breath from Amaranth, and then she went very still. The coins rattled around a little bit more, then they cut off abruptly. “I’ll just put the rest of this away for now. I suppose it would be vulgar to count it out in public… on the subject of payment, though, let’s find ‘Lady’ Caron and get her to acknowledge that we fully discharged our obligation.”

“I’m here,” Caron said, coming around behind us from the other side of the stage . “Yeah… that was… not what I was expecting, but… yeah. The deal’s done. We’re done, right?”

“I think my original plans might have been more to your tastes, Lady Caron, but that was before somebody interfered with the safety runes,” Amaranth said, turning us around to face the dwarf. She was alone. She looked awed… subdued.

“Look… okay… look,” Caron sputtered. “I… we’re even now, right? You got your piercings for her and it looked like you two had a great time and there were a lot of coins going into that jar… I mean, I put some in, too… so everything worked out pretty well for you, right?”

“Yes… I suppose if you had just invited us here and asked us to perform, I’d be thanking you,” Amaranth said. She held out her hand. There was a glint of gold in it. “Here.”

“What?” Caron asked, even as she held out her own hand. Amaranth dropped four gold coins into it.

“Three for the enchantment. One for the jewelry,” Amaranth said. “You can keep the change on that, or mail it to us, as your conscience dictates.”

“Amaranth… ma’am… we’ve already paid,” I said. Why would she throw away that much gold after all we’d gone through to pay Caron off?

“I’m buying our performance back, baby,” she said. “It was for us, not her. Don’t worry… that’s all the gold that was in the bag, but we’ll still see a nice profit from tonight.”

“Look, you don’t have to do this,” Caron said, though she’d already tucked the gold away out of sight.

“I believe we’re finished with the part of this evening where you get any say in what we have to do,” Amaranth said. “Maybe someday you’ll be able to look back on this moment and think about what you would have done if our positions were reversed.”

I could see that Caron didn’t get it, though… Amaranth giving her the gold was her way of saying we’re finished with you, but Caron’s eyes were as big as saucers and the look in them clearly showed she thought Amaranth was circling around for the kill.

“Look, do you want membership here?” she said. “I can get you in. How about another piercing? I feel like I owe you…”

“I can think of a couple of things that you might owe us, but I’m not about to force them out of you,” Amaranth said. “That would diminish their meaning, and demean what I have with my Mack. If you don’t mind, though, I would like to hear more about you and Little Mouse.”

“What do you need to know about her?” Caron asked, bristling. She really didn’t get it… even if Amaranth were the blackmailing type, she was absolutely the last person in the world who would use someone’s choice of partner against them.

“I don’t need to know anything about her,” Amaranth said. “I know she’s very satisfied with you, which should be the extent of what anyone needs to know… but I would like to know more about her because she seems very pleasant.”

“Yeah… okay,” Caron said. “But… not out here, okay? I have a private room downstairs.”

“I’d rather we use one of the publicly available private rooms,” Amaranth said. Caron put up no argument. She looked like she thought she was being led to her execution, and she was resigned.

The room we’d used before was occupied, but there were plenty more. We found one with a similar layout. Amaranth closed the door and the privacy curtain, then sat herself down on a concave couch and pulled me onto her lap. Caron stood there awkwardly, awaiting some cue or clue as to what was expected of her.

“So… how did you meet?” Amaranth asked.

“She was a shoplifter,” Caron said. “A very obvious one. I don’t get a lot of kobolds in my store in the first place, and she had this look on her face like she knew she was going into the lion’s den with a great big steak strapped to her head. I was watching her, but I didn’t expect trouble… I guessed that she was a student and I guessed that she was there on a dare. I was right on both counts. I just didn’t guess what the dare was.”

“Somebody dared her to steal from you?” Amaranth asked.

“Yeah… terrible, isn’t it?” Caron said. “Bunch of second and third year bitches in her dorm who knew exactly what I do with thieves. If I could somehow catch them for conspiracy or something they’d be Mercyburgers now, but human law’s not that generous. Anyway, Mercy wasn’t interested in Nae… that’s her name, it means ‘mouse’ in Kobol…”

“Do you always sell your shoplifters to Mercy?” Amaranth asked.

“Before I knew about Mercy, I just killed them,” Caron said. “Servitude is a punishment for accidental injury or loss. If somebody deliberately takes what’s yours… the penalty is death.”

“But you don’t execute them, you sell them,” I said.

“To somebody who will eventually kill them. It seems like a better deal,” Caron said. She shrugged. “I understand why you take this personally, but money’s money and it’s a dangerous world… anybody who doesn’t understand that stealing from a dwarf means death is probably not long for it, anyway.”

“So… Nae?” Amaranth said.

“When Mercy passed, I was going to just kill her,” Caron said. “She wasn’t trying to resist… she looked scared out of her mind, but also kind of… fascinated? It was weird. Later when I got to know her, I found out that she was terrified of dwarves… kobold parents tell their children horror stories about us. And vice versa, probably, though I wouldn’t actually know. Anyway, it had kind of an interesting effect on her… I guess you might say it’s almost a fetish.”

“Oh, it’s very much a fetish,” Amaranth said. “It’s actually not terribly uncommon for someone to fixate on something like that at a young age, and stay fixated as they grow to maturity.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t know how to deal with her,” Caron said. “I just kept her in the back. Gradually… we kind of got used to each other.”

“Is she your slave?” I asked.

“Baby, this isn’t the time to judge,” Amaranth said.

“I’ve given her freedom papers every seven days for the last five years,” Caron said. “She shreds them up unsigned and puts them in the box where she sleeps. It’s kind of adorable. I still don’t really understand her… but I love her, and you can’t tell anyone about her. They’ll kill her.”

“You live in an Imperial city,” Amaranth said. “You don’t seem to be particularly integrated with dwarven society.”

“You don’t understand how dwarven society works,” Caron said. “All full-blooded dwarves are bound by dwarven law. When I started my shop, I had to get a license from Enwich and one from the local dwarves. Because my shop is underground, I have to pay them rent on top of the rent I pay to my landlord. If I was killed for breaking their laws, there wouldn’t be any real investigation. If I had a human girlfriend and she was hurt, there might be some consequences, but the chance that human justice would take a lone kobold’s side against the dwarves is not something that’s going to protect her.”

“It’s her safety you’re concerned about, then, not yours?” Amaranth asked.

“Hey, I don’t want to die,” Caron said. “But if they were just coming for me I’d collapse my fucking shop on their tunnels… take a load of them with me, leave the rest of the bitches dealing with the aftermath. Humans don’t like it when dwarven conflicts cave in their streets, you know? But it’s not just me.”

“Do you ever look at her and think about how much you’d have missed out on, if Mercy had taken her from you?” Amaranth asked.

“Yeah, and I think how lucky I was,” Caron said. “That the one slave she didn’t want is the love of my life. What are the odds? Way too low to worry about it happening again. There’s a lot of dwarven baggage I don’t like, but that doesn’t mean I disagree with the whole mindset. What’s mine is mine, and you try to take it from me at your own peril.”

“You know what?” Amaranth said. “I think we really are done here… thank you for the invitation tonight, Lady Caron, and if we happen to run into you here again, I’ll look forward to seeing your Little Mouse, but I really can’t think of another thing I have to say to you.”

“So… that’s it?” Caron said.

“That’s it,” Amaranth said. “Please excuse us.”

“Okay,” Caron said. She kept casting one eye back at us the whole way to the door, like she was expecting Amaranth to stop her and make some sort of demand. Amaranth finally just waved at her, and then she left.

When we were alone, Amaranth slid me off her lap, got up, and checked the privacy curtain.

“Baby, check the seal on this,” she said. “I’m no good with enchantments.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. We passed each other crossing the room as she headed back towards the couch. I felt the sound-sealing spells on the door. They were pretty hefty, and there were scryguards built into the door and wall, as well. There were still the orbs on the ceiling, but nobody out on the club floor was going to be able to see or hear in.

When I turned my attention back to Amaranth to report this, she was kneeling down on the floor on the other side of the couch, leaning against it. On the seat in front of her, she had already made three neat stacks of ten silver coins each and was pulling more out of the bag.

“I guess I win the bet,” she said. “What do you think about this, baby?”

“I seriously can’t believe you gave away the gold,” I said. “Ma’am.”

I expected a reprimand, but Amaranth laughed.

“That was impulsive,” she said. “But I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was worth it… anyway, if you don’t agree with how I spent it, then it’ll just be from my half.”

Four gold was equal to two hundred silver coins… I looked at the bag and tried to guess if there were possibly that many coins inside it. I’d never been good at estimating that kind of thing by sight, though, especially since I wasn’t used to seeing large amounts of money at once.

“You look skeptical, baby,” Amaranth said. “I can promise you there was more than four gold worth of coins in the bag. Come here and I’ll show you a magic trick.”

I came forward, uncertain but trusting that she had a reason. She held out her hand, open and empty, then closed it into a fist. She waved her other hand around it and opened it. There was a coin laying there now… silvery-white and stamped with an imperial dragon on it.

“Holy shit,” I said.

“No… just money,” she said. “But that’s a common mistake.” She flicked the platinum coin at me with her finger. I tried to catch it, though I probably would have failed even if I hadn’t been distracted by the fact that there was now another one where it had been… and then a third, when she flicked that one casually away, too.

“And that’s all, baby,” she said, tilting her hand so the coin could tumble carelessly from it. “Gather those up for me, will you?”

Three platinum?” I said, scrambling after them. “We got three platinum?”

“So it seems,” Amaranth said.

I found the two she’d flung at me and handed them to her. The other one was sitting next to the silver.

“I’m certain that one of them’s from Mercy,” Amaranth said, setting one down as she said it. “She’s your biggest fan here, she dotes on her ‘pets’, and it’s a great way to show us how serious she is about the money.” She put the other one down. “I’d also bet that one of them’s from Caron, who thought she needed to pay us to shut us up… and I know that one of them’s from someone with less scruples than either of them, because it was wrapped up in a note offering to buy you, ‘no papers needed’.”

“That could have been from Mercy,” I said.

“I really doubt it, baby… I’ve never seen an elf whose handwriting I didn’t have to squint to read,” Amaranth said. “This was both bigger and looser, like a human or dwarf. Anyway, Mercy has too much to lose by dabbling in illegal slavery… I really can’t see her risking everything like that. I mean, otherwise she would have just grabbed you from the penthouse, right?”

“So what are we going to do about the note?”

“Nothing right now,” Amaranth said. “If we do come back here it’s possible we’ll be approached more directly. I’d like to see whoever sent it arrested, but without knowing who it’s from…”

“Yeah,” I said.

“So, anyway,” Amaranth said. “What I figure is this: one platinum for you, one platinum for me. There’s probably about two hundred silver in the bag… if you’re willing to call it an even trade for the gold, so am I. The third platinum is yours.”

She pushed two of the shiny coins closer to me.

“Amaranth… that’s way too much,” I said. “We should split this up evenly.”

“Do you really want that? You were pouting like you’d lost your best friend when I gave away the gold,” Amaranth said.

“Okay, so we’ll break a platinum and take four gold out of your half,” I said.

“No deal, baby,” Amaranth said. “You can pay the inn bill out of the silver, if you feel bad. As for the platinum… if I’m right, then one of them is there because Caron was afraid of me and the other two are there because of you.”

“But…”

“But nothing, missy,” Amaranth said. “Anyway, I haven’t finished. The silver in the bag is your spending money. You earned it. Buy toys, treats, comics, whatever you want. Your two platinum are going into the bank and you aren’t touching them. They will be there for emergencies… if something happens to your school funding, if you get into more legal trouble, or whatever. It’s slaver money and it’s meant to entrap you. Instead, we’ll use it to safeguard your future. Do you understand?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

“And I mean what I said about the silver,” Amaranth said. “We’ll be responsible with the platinum but I want you to enjoy the rest… if we came back here every week, we’ll never see this kind of a windfall again. We could probably make decent money as erotic performers, but it’s only because it’s Veil, because we’re new, and because we’re novel that we got this kind of reception, even before we get into the platinum. So have some fun with it.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Now let’s figure out how much you’ve got,” she said. I knelt down across from her and we got to counting.

A lot of the silver coins bore private marks… about a third of them had an insignia for the Tomb of Horrors on one side and then one of a variety of tiny tableaux of torture on the other side. After that, the second most common category of marks on the coins belonged to temples, interestingly enough. Most of the rest were from provincial mints… about half Prax, but the others were from all over the place.

“I love looking at silver coins,” Amaranth said. “So many copper coins are just blah, and you rarely see privately issued gold coins… silver’s where you see the most variety. If you wanted to start a collection, I think you’ve got at least one coin from every province. You know, I know you don’t like to talk about your home life, but I don’t think I’ve ever asked where you’re from.”

“Blackwater,” I said. “I’m from Blackwater.”

“It’s probably a good thing that you don’t care for skirmish, then,” Amarnath said, snorting. “I’d keep that to myself, if I were you… you don’t need another reason for people to single you out.”

It turned out there were one hundred and seventy-two silver coins… and that wasn’t all. There were three more gold coins that Amaranth had missed in her quick survey

“We have to divvy this up properly,” I said. “You didn’t know there was still more gold in here when you gave it to me.”

“Baby… I’ll be honest, I’m just not comfortable taking money for doing what I do,” Amaranth said. “The gold I gave to Caron for my own reasons, and also so that in a calmer moment she’ll realize we weren’t actually out to extort money from her. The platinum that I’m taking for myself is actually going to be used to buy things we’ll both enjoy. The rest is yours, really and truly. I don’t have any use for it or need for it.”

“But…”

“But, nothing,” Amaranth said. She put on an unconvincing frown. “You were doing so good with the submissiveness… you have my permission to be responsible with the gold if you want, or to give it to charity, but I really can’t take it.”

With the money counted, I gave it back to Amaranth for safekeeping. I also gave her the robe.

“Are you sure?” she asked. “Nudity is one thing, but I don’t think they’d appreciate you walking around on the floor in your street clothes.”

As understanding as she was being, I had been kind of hoping she wouldn’t comment on my choice to go nude… her acknowledging it meant that I had to acknowledge what I was saying and doing.

“I’m your toy,” I said, blushing furiously. “This isn’t exactly public, and it’s Veil…”

She giggled.

“Alright,” she said. She reached out and touched the tip of my right nipple with her fingertip. “I understand. You want to have some fun with your boundaries, since we’re here and you’re naked anyway.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She hadn’t taken her finger off my breast. She started playing with the piercing. It felt kind of like there was a taut line connecting it to my clit… every time she pulled on it, I felt a sympathetic twinge below.

“You know,” she said, “I haven’t really felt comfortable touching these before… like they weren’t quite ours. Mine, I should say… right, baby?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. “Completely.”

“I think tonight’s fun has just begun,” Amaranth said. “Let’s go find a mirror and say hello to Ian, and then we’ll get you a drink. We won’t linger too long… but after such an outpouring of generosity, I think it would be gracious of us to be available for well-wishes and conversation, if nothing else. I’d also like a chance to get a more complete picture of the club’s membership, not just the few people we’ve met. Does that sound good to you?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

“One more thing,” Amaranth said. “Since you are my toy…”

She held up the high-heeled shoes.

If I ever used my safeword on an article of clothing, that probably would have been the time, but the way she looked at me… well, it was almost the way Feejee looked at me. It wasn’t just fearsome predators who could burn with hunger.

Outside, there was almost a concert atmosphere by this point… it seemed like the lights in the main room had been dimmed, though it was hard to tell. They might have actually been lowered when we came out on stage. We did get a friendly reception and a lot of smiles from the people who noticed us, but someone else was in the Virgin Cage now… a pair of women who were suspended with knotted ropes and being lashed with a scourge by a man in a black leather bodysuit.

I was guessing he wasn’t the virgin.

There were ornate full-length mirrors in alcoves near the entrance. We stepped into one and conjured up our inn room.

Ian answered right away… that is, he accepted the reflection right away. It was a good ten seconds before he had anything to say.

“Wow,” was what he finally came up with.

I figured he had to be referring to Amaranth’s peacock cloak, since he’d seen me naked plenty of times before… but his eyes were on me.

“Hello, Ian,” Amaranth said. “Say hello, Mack.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. “Hello.”

“Hey… so… everything okay? I mean, you guys did it? You’re okay?”

“Yes, we’re fine,” Amaranth said. “We should be getting on a coach within half an hour at the latest. I think the first order of business when we get back will be food… I know Mack doesn’t need it, but she had to watch us eat earlier and I think we’ll have money for some sort of treat. If you’re starving, of course, go ahead and order something… you can bill it to the room.” She giggled. “I’m sure we’ll be able to sort it out.”

“Hey, do you eat cheese?” Ian asked.

“No, but you can get whatever you want to eat,” Amaranth said. “Or we can go wherever you want to. I’m not bothered by what others eat.”

“Oh, no, I just asked because a cheese wheel came for you,” Ian said.

“A cheese wheel?” I repeated.

“Yeah, like a gift thing,” Ian said. “It’s got a ribbon and a card on it.”

“Oh, really? Well, help yourself to it,” Amaranth said. “We’ll be back soon.”

“Yeah, I’m really not comfortable having anything to do with it,” Ian said.

“Honestly, Ian, I don’t know how you can manage to be squeamish about anybody else’s sex life,” Amaranth said.

“I was squeamish about my own,” Ian said. “I got used to it. With other people, I don’t have the chance.”

“Well, if you don’t want it we’ll take it back to Harlowe,” Amaranth said. “Hazel would probably appreciate it, or we could use it for our next little party, or whatever… Ian, stop staring. Older married couples have sex. Really, they do.”

“I’m kind of past that now,” Ian said. “I’m even coming to terms with the idea that they might invite a nymph to join them. Now I’m stuck on the part where they pay for it with dairy products.”

“Oh, for the love of love, Ian, it’s not payment, it’s a gift to show appreciation,” Amaranth said.

“It just seems unusual.”

“Courtesy often does,” Amaranth said.

“You guys really are okay?”

“Yes, Ian, we’re fine,” I said. “We’re good.”

“Good,” he said.

“We’ll see you soon,” I said. “Love you.”

“Love you, too.”


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6 Responses to “413: When Caron Met Nae”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Well of course a cheese wheel. Doesn’t every toothsome, anniversary celebrating, three-way fucking deserve a cheese wheel?

    Current score: 7
    • capybroa says:

      No complaints from me, I gladly accept cheese in place of legal tender whenever I can get away with it. Shit’s delicious, yo.

      Current score: 5
  2. Elaborate says:

    Amarnath -> Amaranth
    This was a good storyline – it had me genuinely worried, because I couldn’t be SURE Mack wouldn’t fatally misstep at some point, and the whole thing end with a bloodbath as her father stepped in…

    Current score: 2
    • anonymus says:

      i was worried something like that WOULDN’T happen 🙁

      Current score: 0
  3. WsntHere says:

    I would think that he’d be relieved it went well. From the Other Tales mentions of her, I figure Mercy is on a level with Callahan, or at least close. At the very least it would be a helluva fight.

    Current score: 0
  4. Jechtael says:

    I enjoyed that chapter, but the cheese wheel terrified me. Does MU have a compulsion spell that pushes its students to avoid looking at return addresses and fromlines!?

    Current score: 1