412: Proving Grounds

on September 8, 2009 in Book 14

In Which Amaranth Switches Things Up

Caron moved faster than I would have thought possible, leaving Little Mouse struggling to scurry after her as best as she could. The suit did not appear to be flexible enough to allow her to actually stand up.

Amaranth looked at me, and though she was making a valiant attempt to keep up the firm demeanor, her lower lip was trembling. I knew that what she had just done was very close to an act of violence for her. There was no way in hell that she would out Caron and Mouse… if word got back to the dwarven community that one of their own had taken up with a kobold, it would make things uncomfortable at best and fatal at worst for them.

I had no idea how much danger they’d actually be in. Dwarves had a reputation for following their own traditions over human laws when dealing with things among themselves, but I was in no position to know how much of that was truth, how much of it was things that might have been true once, and how much was simple stereotyping. Caron evidently had some real worries about the repercussions, though.

I gave Amaranth the best smile I could, knowing that my best smile on my best day was nothing more than a pale reflection of the warm light she radiated on me. She smiled back and took my hand by the index and middle fingers, squeezing them gently. She put her other hand up by her face, pointing a finger upwards by the tip of her ear, and then held her finger to her lips.

I took her meaning: with Mercy in the room, the less said the better. Mercy seemed to be willfully obtuse on a few scores, but she was clever enough to capitalize on opportunities when they presented themselves. Blackmail was a sordid business… if she noticed that her intended “Puppy” and her current informal owner seemed to be holding something over “Lady” Caron, she might decide to try to turning it around on us.

Standing there in the middle of the room with nothing to say or do, though, left me right where I’d been shortly before Mercy found me: listening to people shrieking and breathing in the scent of freshly spilled blood. Amaranth’s fingers wrapped around mine gave me something else to cling to, and I worked on my meditative breathing.

I only had half the hunger of a full-blooded demon. It still might have been boundless, but it was a smaller boundlessness. I had a half-human mind and a human soul. Demons could put their hungers aside when it suited their purposes, and that meant that I could, too.

It smelled so good.

Lulu was out there still, somewhere. I could just almost taste her in the air, but “just almost” was almost enough. The traces of her scent spread throughout the club were like a sauce washing over everyone else.

I closed my eyes to help myself focus. An image jumped up behind my eyelids… the girl I’d seen being shocked a minute or so before. She was kind of heavyset. Not really fat, but plump. She had dark hair in the kind of short bowl cut that I thought looked stupid on guys and worse on girls, but it kind of worked for her. She certainly looked tasty enough. I imagined the wizard holding her until she started to cook, until skin started to sear and fat started to sizzle and muscle started to break down through the strange alchemy by which flesh became meat.

Amaranth started humming something to herself. It sounded like a tango or something. I wondered where she’d picked it up… I’d never noticed her listening to music before. She could definitely carry a tune better than Two.

I could smell her, too, of course. I could smell her body and her sex… a subtle womanly musk without a hint of the sweat that usually went along with it. Behind that I could smell something earthy and sweet. I felt something like the kiss of sun on my forehead and a touch of wind on my cheek, rustling my hair.

Was that always there?

That was how nymphs introduced themselves without names, she’d told me… and shown me… once before.

“Ma’am?” I said. I’d reached for Amaranth’s name and that was what had come out. It was just where I was at the moment, it seemed. The distant promise of blood all around wasn’t enough to pull me out, so far.

“Yes, baby?”

“Did you… did you just do something?”

“I was just humming a silly little song,” she said. “I can stop, if it bothers you.”

“No, ma’am, it doesn’t bother me.”

I’d imagined it, it seemed… my focus on the sensory impression of Amaranth had conjured up my memory of the time she’d “told” me her name.

It was a thoroughly pleasant memory, though, and far removed from the thoughts of blood and teeth that were trying to claw their way out of the back of my brain, so I held onto it, focusing on it as I worked on my breathing. I lived in the sensation of sun and wind and scent until I heard a man’s voice.

“Ladies? I’m Master Celyddon, the Dungeon Master of Ceremonies,” he said. “We’re about ready… so if you would please come with me?”

“Well, that didn’t take long,” Amaranth said happily as she improved her grip on my hand.

I had to take her word for it. It had seemed to me to have taken far more than five minutes.

“Indeed. Lady Caron seems to have taken a liking to you,” Celyddon said as he led us towards a door at the edge of the room. “Not surprising… we don’t get a lot of ladies who are six foot in their bare feet. But her good word carries a lot of weight. And she’s not the only one who has expressed interest. Several members have asked if you’ll be getting up on stage. More than a few are hoping to get you up with themselves.”

“Really? It seems to me like we’ve been given a pretty wide berth, considering,” Amaranth said. “People here seem really shy.”

“Members and regular guests don’t like to crowd unattended newbies,” he said. “You’ll find most people are fairly approachable.” He gestured for us to go ahead of him through the door, which opened directly onto a spiral staircase going downward.

“That’s really good to know,” Amaranth said. She let go of my hand and indicated that I should follow her. As I did, she called back over her shoulder to Celyddon, who followed behind us. “We’re kind of focused tonight, but if I ever get a chance to get back here…”

Celyddon laughed.

If?” he said. “Not all our events are closed, and I have a feeling you could get an invitation any time you wanted if you mingled a little… and I think Mistress Mercy was applying to get your friend permanent guest status. I think she’d try to get together a quorum of the membership committee to rush through full membership if she thought anyone would let her.”

“I had the impression Mistress Mercy was somewhat highly regarded around here,” Amaranth said.

“Oh, well, she brings a lot to the club,” he said. “But she has a habit of bringing people in as a prelude to pursuing a more permanent personal arrangement. No one objects to such things among consenting adults… and Mistress Mercy has always been beyond reproach in obeying the letter of the law in such things, but… well, there are some reputations a club can’t afford to have. Now, how would you like to be introduced?”

“Well, I’m not comfortable taking the title ‘Mistress’ for myself,” Amaranth said. “It seems presumptuous. On the other hand… just ‘Amaranth’ sounds terribly plain. What does the ‘Lady’ signify, in ‘Lady Caron’?”

“In her case? It’s an inherited title,” he said. “Unofficially. Her grandfather was a Merovian Lord, but the estate was abolished when he was just a child. He continued using the title, and passed it onto his son. He adopted our Lady Caron, and she adopted the title, though she only uses it for social occasions.”

“Well, I certainly don’t want her to think I’m tweaking her,” Amaranth said.

“May I suggest ‘Madame’?”

“Would you introduce us ‘Madame Amaranth the Divine and her Infernal Toy’?” Amaranth asked. “No name for her. There are some sensitive issues that…”

“There is no need to get into them, Madame Amaranth,” Celyddon said.

“Is there something else we need to fill out?” Amaranth asked. “Those forms at the door were pretty short.”

“That they are, but they are also all-encompassing,” Celyddon said. “We live in an enlightened society where the private business of adults is very correctly regarded as just that. But there is a saying in the sadomasochism scene: everyone starts at the bottom.” He chuckled. “That is among the reasons why the entrance to the Virgin Cage is gained from below.”

He led us through a tunnel-like hallway that was more drably utilitarian than anything upstairs. There was a circular platform set into the floor at the end of it, surrounded on three sides by railing.

“Just stand there,” he said. He pointed up towards an opening the same size in the ceiling above. “In a minute, you’ll hear me announcing your debut from the edge of the stage. Please keep all limbs you are dead set on keeping within the protective confines of the circle as it lifts you to the level of the stage. From that point forward, what you do is entirely between the two of you. If you would like to back out, now would be the best time to do so. I would say it’s the last chance, but nothing stops you from stepping off the circle before it rises or from getting up on the stage and doing nothing but bowing out. However, if you’re feeling self-conscious, such a remedy is often worse than the complaint. Therefore, if you aren’t certain you are up to performing, it is best to say so now.”

“I prefer self-confidence to self-consciousness,” Amaranth said. She pushed me into the circle, and then stepped in with me. “And we are fully committed to this.”

“Excellent,” Celyddon said. “Then I will be seeing you presently.”

“Just one question,” Amaranth said. “Which way will be facing out towards the front of the stage when we come up?”

“Back down the way we came,” he said. “Towards the gap in the railing.”

“Thank you,” Amaranth said, and she shifted us around so that I was facing that way and she was behind me.

I could feel my stomach doing flip-flops. What was for all intents and purposes my “first time” with Amaranth had been a public performance, but I hadn’t realized it until after it was finished. I probably would have spontaneously combusted if I’d been faced with the prospect from the beginning of it, but I hadn’t even realized that what we were doing was sexual.

Now I was far more self-aware, at least with regards to those things… and in a club full of people for whom things like domination and discipline were inextricably tied to sexuality. Did that make it better, or worse? I wasn’t sure… but one thing was certain: there could be no illusions. Everyone who watched would understand perhaps better than I did just exactly what it was that we were doing.

“Baby?” Amaranth said quietly.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Do you remember the night we made up, when I asked you what you wanted?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. It was the night I’d asked to be her toy.

“Do you regret that at all?”

“No, ma’am,” I said. I regretted going to Caron’s shop and agreeing to a stupid deal with a lopsided penalty, but that had been all me. Stupider things had been done by people trying to impress or please their partners within the confines of more conventional relationships, I was sure.

“I’m glad,” she said. “I’m glad you decided that and I’m even more glad that you don’t regret it. I hope that ultimately you don’t regret coming here, even under the circumstances. I think it might prove educational and rewarding… or at least kind of fun. But it would have been better if we had made the decision freely, by seeking out a place like this or by accepting the leather shop man’s invitation. Do you agree?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

“I know it seems like you have terrible luck… and really, there have been some unfortunate things in your life… but I think you have a habit of falling into bad situations not just by making bad decisions, but by also not making the good ones,” she said. “When you said you wanted to be my toy, that was you… that was entirely you. Nobody put that image or idea into your head, so I hope you find it rewarding. On the other hand, you dithered on your Veil costume until it was too late to do anything yourself, and you didn’t seem terribly excited about what Ian came up with. You might not have been unhappy with it, but you didn’t seem to be terribly happy, either. Is that about right?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

“Maybe it seems like that didn’t cost you anything or hurt you… but you could have had a costume you enjoyed, one that had personal meaning,” Amaranth said. “So it did sort of cost you that. Do you see what I mean?”

“I… I think so, ma’am,” I said.

“I guess what I’m saying is… while we have certain responsibilities to each other as part of our relationship, you are responsible for yourself,” she said. “For the direction of your life, for your own happiness and pleasure. I’ll always be here to support you, to share your happiness, and increase your pleasure, baby, but I can’t do everything for you. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“When we get up to the stage, I’m going to… well, I want this performance to mean something more for us than the fact that we’ve wriggled out of trouble again,” Amaranth said. From above us, I could hear Master Celyddon saying something. Amaranth began to speak faster. “So… I’m going to be trying something. If you don’t like it, or you think I’m asking too much, say your safeword once and I’ll switch it to a straight spanking scene. I don’t want you to think that you have to comply with something you don’t like in order to avoid Mercy’s clutches. I want it to be your decision. Got that?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

“Also… we don’t often have to worry about the possibility of physical harm from our play, but when it comes up… well, you have to trust in my judgment and concern for your well-being, and I would have to trust in your willingness to tell me when I’ve misjudged something,” Amaranth said. “Tonight it’s going to come up. I think I can do what I want without harm, but you need to feel free to stop me if it’s too much. Can you do that?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good,” she purred, ruffling my hair.

I took deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. I closed my eyes as Master Celyddon’s voice continued to ring out from up above. I couldn’t make out the words of his impresario patter… he sounded more like he was announcing a pro gladiator match than anything else. The platform began to rise as he spoke, and the last thing he said rang out loud and clear as my ears cleared the level of the stage:

“…presenting Madame Amaranth the Divine and her Infernal Toy!”

I opened my eyes as the platform clicked into place. Amaranth was still behind me. I ignored the urge to turn around and look at her. I was her toy. It was not just the role I’d chosen for myself, it was the one she had chosen to present me in, so toy I would be.

She hadn’t said anything about it to me… it was my decision, and I felt a fierce and defiant pride in it. Nymph’s toy, nymph’s toy, nymph’s toy echoed in my head the same way it had when she’d marched me around with that written on my forehead.

The name “Virgin Cage” proved to be somewhat descriptive. The black cloths had come down to reveal bars. They were spaced widely enough that anybody could get through them sideways and most people would be able to squeeze through barely turning. There was no door or entrance area that was any wider… I supposed that having us coming up from below helped heighten the illusion that it was an actual inescapable enclosure.

Beyond that, there were people, I supposed… but I couldn’t see them. The inside of the cage was brightly illuminated both from above and via little footlights. There was nothing but haze beyond it.

I knew that people were out there, though. I could smell them.

Amaranth put her hands on my shoulders and turned me at a right angle. She gave me a push.

“Walk,” she said.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said, and I did so.

“Stop,” she said when I got about a halfway between the center of the stage and the bars. I complied in my usual fashion.

“Now, look,” she said. “Turn around and look at me.”

I did, but my compliant ejaculation died on my lips when I obeyed the second half of the order.

After stepping onto the lift, Amaranth had supplemented her peacock mask with a cape of feathers that trailed down her back and draped her arms. She had to be skirting the edges of the nymphly edict against clothing, at the very least.

“How much do you love me, my toy?” she asked in a loud, clear voice… not as cold as she’d used on Caron and certainly not nearly as cold as she’d been to Mercy, but cool in comparison to her usual voice, much less the honeyed, sunny tones she used for me.

“Very much, ma’am,” I said through a constricting throat.

How much?” Amaranth asked, inflecting the question with more skepticism than she’d ever displayed towards any subject in my hearing.

“C-completely, ma’am,” I said.

“Will you prove your love for me, toy?”

“I will do what you want me to, ma’am.”

“Will you prove your love for me, toy?” she repeated.

“Yes, ma’am!” I said, minding what she’d said about things being my decision. It would prove more if I decided to prove my love because it was what I wanted. Even if I only wanted to do it because she asked me, there was still an important distinction there.

“Then look,” she said. “Look unflinchingly on the face of your owner as she reveals her truest self to you.”

She spread her arms out like wings, her fingers splayed out wide. I watched, staring intently at her. I had no idea where she was going, but that hardly mattered. I’d been told to look and I looked.

And then her hands began to glow… dimly and uncertainly, like flickering candles, but they pierced my eyes as if they were the first light I saw after spending years in darkness.

It was beautiful, but painfully so.

It didn’t just sting my eyes, either. It stabbed at my mind, my essence, my very soul… or at least the part of my soul that wasn’t human. But I’d been ordered to look, and I looked. It was hard… possibly the hardest thing I’d ever done… but Amaranth had done so much for me. She had taught me about sex, about love, and about pleasure… three things I would have been unlikely to enjoy without her. Even just that night, she’d taken all the necessary steps to undo the mess I had created.

The fact that she’d ordered me to look did weigh into the decision. It was my choice to be her toy, and my choice to obey. Fully committed, Amaranth had said. Maybe she had just meant that we were fully committed to fulfilling our contract with Caron, but it was how I felt towards her. I was fully committed to her.

I would miss Ian’s steady support and fiery challenges if he were gone from my life. I would miss Steff’s painful longing if she were gone from my life.

If Amaranth were gone, on the other hand, I had a feeling I wouldn’t miss her for long.

I needed her like I needed blood.

So I looked at her, pushing past the pain. My knees started to wobble, and I threw myself down before I had a chance to tumble gracelessly and lose my line of sight. I stared… maybe not quite unflinchingly, but as well as I could manage… as the glow spread out to cover the rest of her body. She lifted the peacock mask from her head as her face lit up, and I looked up at her, at her radiance and her beauty and her love.

Every part of me that wasn’t human cried out in agony, and the rest of me cried with it… only not quite as badly. The hunger receded. The awareness of the sea of humanity beyond the stage left me. I thought I could still feel Lulu out there, although that was probably my imagination… but she was outside and I was inside, safely wrapped up in bars of steel and love and pain.

The mask fell from Amaranth’s hands and the glow fell with it. The scents and the hunger came rushing back all at once. They seemed to be even stronger than before… but they also seemed to matter less.

I had proven my love.

I had looked at Amaranth while she radiated divine power… only a little bit, obviously. Likely less than she’d need to channel to heal even so much as a paper cut, but I had looked straight at her. I could barely see now… I had a pair of splotchy Amaranth-shaped afterimages slowly fading in front of me, but I didn’t care because I’d done it.

“Stand,” Amaranth said.

It took both arms and all the effort I could muster, but I managed to do so. I blinked my eyes to clear my vision faster. Beyond the stage, there was nothing… I couldn’t detect anything on the air but its own slightly stale taste, I couldn’t hear any shuffling feet or breathing or murmuring from the crowd. The two of us might as well have existed in our own private plane.

Probably the audience had simply grown bored with a drama that meant nothing to them, and turned their attention back to the other scenes unfolding around the club or to their own fun.

“Come here,” Amaranth said, and I did.

As I walked forward, she twirled sideways, putting a sawhorse into place. I blinked to be sure of what I was seeing… Amaranth producing objects from out of nowhere was nothing new, but that was taking it to a new height. There were ankle binders attached to two of the legs, just like the other one I’d seen, but she’d placed it sideways across my path rather than in line with me. I stopped when I came up to it… she’d given me no order, but it was clearly a barrier and a deed could be as good as a word.

“Step back one step,” she said, and as I did so I realized exactly what was coming. I was ready when she gave her next order. “Bend over.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said, leaning over and placing my hands across the beam of the sawhorse.

“You’ve shown me how much you love me,” she said. “Now, I’m going to show you how much I love you. Anyone who shares in your enjoyment is welcome to it, but what I do now, I do for you and for no one else.”

She carefully separated the bottom part of my improvised outfit, pulling it down my legs and then lifting my feet to get it completely off. I remained still while she positioned me exactly how she wanted me, with my butt sticking out and my legs splayed just so. I knew more or less what was coming, and I welcomed it like I’d welcome a hug and a kiss at the end of a long day.

It was only my decision to be her toy that kept me from wriggling in anticipation.

A barehanded spanking was probably about the tamest thing the club had ever seen, but I didn’t care. If Caron felt ripped off, I really didn’t care. We were performing, and that was all it took to fulfill our deal.

She gave me about two dozen good, hard smacks across my ass in a slow, steady rhythm. It should barely have qualified as either punishment or foreplay even for me, but halfway through it I was sobbing and then I was coming by brains out during the last three.

It was as Ian had said: all the emotions were mixed up in my head, and they were all magnifying each other. Amaranth’s forceful attention was pushing the emotions out, bringing them to a head and letting me release them. When she finished, I wasn’t propping myself up on the sawhorse… I was draped over it. She stroked my backside with her fingers, both across the cheeks and down the line from the base of my spine.

“Would you like more, baby?” she asked me.

“Yes… yes, ma’am.”

It wasn’t a bare hand this time, and it wasn’t my familiar leather strap. It was something whippy and sharp and thin, and she wielded it with more creativity and care than she had shown during the spanking. She used it like a wizard’s wand, conjuring pain and summoning the pressure that lead to pleasure welling up from deep within me. Stray flicks that happened at just the right or just the wrong moment caught me low and to the center, striking parts more tender and sensitive than my somewhat well-padded cheeks. I cried out all the harder at these, but as the initial sting faded it left behind tingling warmth and heightened excitement.

Although it had taken nothing more than a firm spanking to get me off the first time, the swishing slashes never did more than get me close… perhaps no further than the width of the instrument she used. With no climax or grand finale, I didn’t begin to suspect that she was done until the momentary pause between two strokes lasted a moment longer than the one before.

As it happened, my suspicion was slightly off.

Amaranth wasn’t finished, she’d simply moved on. I heard the next stroke whistling towards me and knew that it was going to be different, but I had barely an instant to get ready for it… and as it happened, an instant wasn’t nearly enough.

She caned me, right across both cheeks… with an actual cane. I would have guessed that on the scale of instruments of discipline, a wide leather strap with metal bits would have been greater than a wooden cane, but… ow. It had speed and force behind it that the strap just couldn’t equal and it bit like it was studded with mermaid teeth.

The beam of the sawhorse cracked and splintered beneath my hands. I shifted my grip so I could try to hold onto it without breaking it to pieces, bracing myself mentally for the next blow.

I might as well have been trying to hold back the swing with my mind. I was as unprepared for the second blow as I had been for the first, and as the third one hit me the sawhorse broke into three pieces. It and I both fell onto the stage. Amaranth hauled me up and ordered me to hold onto my ankles while she administered a fourth and then a fifth. I fell again, and was ordered to get to my feet and remain there for five more. She paused longer between each one, but it hardly made a difference. The pain hadn’t begun to die from the first one when the fifth one hit me… I wasn’t sure it was going to die away. Every stroke of the cane was lined up in a perfect line with the previous one. I felt like I had a highway of fire running across my backside.

“Are you ready to come home?” Amaranth asked me after the tenth stroke.

I sobbed an affirmative answer, not even knowing what she meant… and then I felt the slap of leather and metal, as welcome as a hug and a kiss, and I knew exactly what she meant. I knew what she’d meant when she’d said she would prove her love to me. My ass burned from her attention, it throbbed and ached with it and would probably do so for some time… but the cane and whatever else she had used, they could just have been fucking. Amaranth’s art and skill aside, they could have been done by anyone.

My strap, on the other hand… that was Amaranth and me. That was making love.

I couldn’t keep count of the strokes, but they were enough to take me through one set of explosive orgasms and into another, more drawn out chain. She finished me off completely with an underhanded slap right across my pussy that wrenched more than an orgasm out of me… I actually caught fire. This might have been alarming, but I was too far adrift in pain and pleasure to even care. I had only just barely realized it had happened when there was a thunderclap from above and heavy rain fell down onto the stage, dousing my fire and covering the stage in thick clouds of steam instead. I sank down onto the floor and closed my eyes, imagining I was closed up in the shower with Amaranth.

Exhausted and enveloped in love and warmth and pain, I started to drift off, only vaguely conscious of the sound of applause.

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5 Responses to “412: Proving Grounds”

  1. Daezed says:

    Yum. Just….. Holy flying spaghetti monster, yum. rAmen.

    Current score: 8
  2. pedestrian says:

    Absolutely magnificent panorama of sexual energy!

    Current score: 4
  3. Lunchbox says:

    “then I was coming by brains out during the last three.”
    my has become by…
    “then I was coming my brains out during the last three.”

    Current score: 0
  4. MackSffrs says:

    Given divine magic hurts Mack.
    And staring into the light is analogous to starting at the sun.
    Can half-demons get cataracts from staring at divine light?

    Current score: 2
  5. Grimm says:

    …this is really stupid, but I sort of teared up at this one. It’s just such a touching moment…Mack staring into the heart of Amaranth’s divinity. No wards. No protections. Raw, unbridled pain, just to gaze at the one she loves.

    It is the purest, most beautiful act of love I have ever seen, and I am not ashamed to say it brings forth heavy emotional responses from me.

    Current score: 14