Chapter 312: The Gnome’s Ring

on June 3, 2016 in Volume 2 Book 10: Lucky Thing, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Hazel Has The World On A String

Before anyone could get too uncomfortable with it, Amaranth realized that she was treading a line as far as pressuring the unclad elves about their choices and started looking around for something more complimentary to talk about.

I was watching her face… always so expressive, but more so when she was surrounded by people… as she looked around the room and then seemed to stop on nothing. I looked again, and realized she was looking right at Hazel.

It wasn’t that unusual for the burrow gnomes to go unnoticed. Something about them seemed to repel attention the way a raincoat repels water. The effect normally extended to whatever they were wearing, but something was glinting on Hazel’s chest. Amaranth drew closer, and I found myself doing the same.

It was a ring… not gold, but some vaguely golden, slightly bronze material. If you’ve ever seen gold model paint, it looked like the metal version of that.

It was clearly too big for her fingers, which made my enchanter’s mind immediately jump to the notion that it probably wasn’t magic as resizing enchantments had been standard on rings for centuries, and so she was wearing it on a thin silver chain.

Where a setting might have been on the band, there were three sort of flat, boxy protrusions of the same material. There might have been stones inset in them or something, but nothing that was visible while the whole thing was hanging backwards.

It registered on my mind that the ring was not actually all that shiny, but it had caught my eye as if it was. Again, that pinged my enchanter’s brain. It was as if it had the property of notability without actually being notable.

“That’s such an interesting ring, Hazel,” Amaranth said. Out of someone else’s mouth, that might have had a backhanded edge, but even when Amaranth couldn’t muster a sincere sentiment, she wasn’t one for insults. In this case, though, it sounded like interesting just meant interesting. Actually, the word I would have used was fascinating. Once I saw the ring, it was hard to take my eyes off it. “Wherever did you find it?”

“Oh, this old thing?” Hazel said. “It’s funny you should put it that way, you know, because I actually did find it.”

“Oh? I hope someone else didn’t lose it,” Amaranth said.

“Not any time recently, they didn’t,” Hazel said. “It was in this very building, among the clutter in the back rooms upstairs. I found it on a, er, scouting mission, I guess you could say, before things were finalized.”

“That’s interesting,” Glory said, gliding over to see it, too. “You know, part of my deal with the university was that I was responsible for clearing out all that ‘clutter’.”

“Yeah, well… I guess you had that much to clear out, didn’t you?” Hazel said. “You’re welcome.”

“I’m just saying, a case could be made that I paid for that ring,” Glory said. “I mean, I was made responsible the state of the house and all its contents.”

“Yeah, except the ring wasn’t among the contents at the point you took possession, was it?” Hazel said. “I mean, if you want a row over it…”

“Perish the thought!” Glory said with a laugh, and just like that it was like a spell was broken. The ring… I wasn’t sure what had been so interesting about it. I wasn’t even sure it wasn’t just covered in cheap paint. “It’s not like I was expecting to get a vast horde of treasure for my trouble when I took this place over. If someone’s old class ring is the most valuable thing you took from the hall before I had a chance to inspect it, then I don’t think I’m missing out.”

“Good,” Hazel said. “I was going to say if you want a row over it, it’s not worth the trouble to me, but all things considered, I’d like to keep it. I’ve been… well, not to sound superstitious, but I’ve been thinking of it as my good-luck charm. Ever since I found it, things have just been going my way in a general sense. I wasn’t worried about sitting my exams, exactly, but I breezed through them in a way I wasn’t expecting, and the one I wasn’t ready for? Was delayed until I was.”

“Then by all means, hold on to it and keep it close,” Glory said. “We should all be so lucky.”

She slid away, in the slinky way that I knew for a fact was designed to keep my eyes following her ass, because she was an elf and her very slightly curved behind only moved from side to side when she walked if she wanted it to. It was a skill she’d picked up with a lot of practice from watching how humans and other people who were stuck obeying the basic laws of physics like chumps moved when they walked.

There was still something otherworldly about it, something too fluid about the motion, too smooth. I wasn’t sure if I would describe it as being as if the parts of her body passed through more points in space as they described a curve, or if they somehow skipped some. Either way, it was… something. Elven perfection defied human perception.

“Time was, you would be so flustered if someone caught you staring at another woman’s ass, baby,” Amaranth said, suddenly standing beside me, with her hand on my backside… and just as suddenly, I was so flustered, cheeks flushing red-hot. No matter how much I got used to the idea of being the sort of person who, you know, did things with other women… I felt like I would never really get used to it. “She wants you to follow her.”

“I’m not sure I’m up for that,” I said. “I… our sex life is still a little complicated. I mean, we’re still kind of… feeling things out, in, you know… certain areas?”

“Well, I think maybe the best way to do that is to… feel things out,” Amaranth said, pausing before adding, “in, you know, certain areas.”

“It’s hard,” I said. “She has her elven hang-ups, I have my… secondhand religious ones, and there’s just not a lot of stuff we can do. The things we’ve figured out kind of go between just a lot of light touching and cuddling, which is nice, and…”

“What you need… or what she needs… is a good harness,” Amaranth said. “I mean, you and Steff never have any trouble figuring out what to do with each other.”

“Penises,” Steff said, throwing her arms around me from behind and grinding hers against my ass, through her skirt. “They just have a way of cutting through all of life’s thorniest problems. Related note? Do not attempt to cut thorns with your penis. Well, not unless you have a healing potion in a wide-mouth bottle handy. Related note?”

“Do not stick your penis in a potion bottle?” I guessed.

“I can see this isn’t your first time around the block,” Steff said. Her hand slipped around my front, touching my inner thigh. “Are you sure you don’t have a penis?”

“I’m sure,” I said, knowing with absolute certainty what was coming.

“Want one?”

I looked around the room to verify that it was still not that kind of party… some nudity, some people grinding on each other a bit, but not both at the same time. I would have needed to be in the right kind of head space to do anything that exhibitionist at even this level of public, and Steff knew this… but she hadn’t asked if I wanted to tear my clothes off here and now or anything.

There were rooms in the house for that sort of thing, there always were. I just didn’t know if I wanted to use them, if no one else was going at it. Elven senses being what they were, a private room was only slightly less public than the public space. There were ways to block sound, but everyone who could suddenly not hear what was happening would probably have a pretty good idea what wasn’t happening.

Sometimes a thing like that wouldn’t necessarily bother me. Sometimes it would. Sometimes being bothered by that would just turn me on more, in some perverse, paradoxical way. Minds were complicated. Sex was complicated. Desire was really complicated.

Right at that moment, with two of the people I loved most touching me and surrounded by people I loved, admired, and desired, I was so turned on I kind of wanted to have sex with literally everyone… but I kind of didn’t want anyone to know about it.

“I’m not sure,” I said. “Would we be… I mean… is anyone else… I don’t want us to be the only ones…”

“Fuck, Mack,” Steff said. “There’s juicier shit going on right now all over the building. No one’s going to be paying attention to us when they could be listening to Nicki trying to fit her skull inside Grace’s cervix. There is nothing you and I can do, and I mean nothing, that is kinkier the pointy-eared crowd than the former queen’s sister letting a human inside her v-zone.”

I looked around and noticed that Nicki and Grace had, in fact, disappeared, as they were so often wont to do.

“I have an idea that I think might satisfy everyone,” Amaranth said.

“Is it you satisfying everyone?” Steff said.

“It’s you and I take my little toy here,” she said, slipping an arm around me and pulling me in close, “and we catch up with Glory.”

“…I don’t know if she’d go for that, Ames,” Steff said.

“I do,” Amaranth said, her voice dropping into a low, honeyed purr. “Believe me, she’s been thinking about you for a while, but it wouldn’t have been… well, she’s had to think about politics. And the issue that she and Mack have alone, together? It would be a bit less complicated with more bodies in the mix.”

“How… how is that less complicated?” I said, eyes down and face burning, even though I couldn’t deny… well, things were definitely happening.

“It’s… hard to explain, maybe,” Amaranth said.

“That doesn’t sound less complicated,” I said.

“Sex is all about moves, right?” she said. “Decisions. Strategies, even. Some are better than others, but you can go too far worrying about the right move versus the wrong move… especially when what might be the obvious move is unappealing because of cultural hang-ups. Then you add the pressure that comes when the only other pair of eyes in the room is on you, is looking at you, waiting for you to do something, anything…”

“So adding more bodies to the mix adds to the number of moves?” I said. “But doesn’t that add more wrong moves, too?”

“There are less wrong moves than you think there are,” she said. “And far less wrong moves than there are right ones. As long as you know your partners’ boundaries… and we all do… it’s easy to spot them. The right moves are harder to spot, but the more you learn about your partners’ bodies, their drives and desires, the more obvious they become. And if you and Glory still haven’t figured things out, you at least know what you’re doing with us.”

“…so the three of us have sex while she looks awkwardly on?” I said. “I’m not seeing what she gets out of that.”

“I don’t know, Mack,” Steff said. “I’d watch me fucking you any day, if I could.”

“There’s that,” Amaranth said. “And I can’t imagine Glory standing by for long… even if she doesn’t have the same familiarity with us as you do, I imagine she’s a fast study… and if she gets physical with us and Mack, that might be a good way to segue into being more physical with Mack?”

“So basically, in this scenario, we’re the toys that are aids in their relationship?” Steff said.

“So are we going to talk about it, or do it?” Steff said.

“We can talk about it as long as we need to,” Amaranth said. “Or we can stop, if we’re making you uncomfortable… I mean, I know what you want, sexually and to an extent, emotionally, but that’s not the same as knowing what you’ll choose…”

“No,” I said. It had taken me a while to force the word out, so caught up in a whirlwind of sensation and possibilities I was.

“Okay, baby,” Amaranth said. “We can talk about something else, or go somewhere…”

“I mean, no, let’s not stop,” I said. “Let’s do it. Let’s find Glory.”

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16 Responses to “Chapter 312: The Gnome’s Ring”

  1. undertheteacup says:

    Yaaaaaaaay sexytimes!

    Current score: 2
  2. tigertoe says:

    i’ve missed steff and amaranth
    excited for what this book holds

    Current score: 1
  3. euthanatos says:

    I could listen to Steff expound on the benefits and perils of penises all day long.

    Current score: 5
  4. Readaholic says:

    Ooh, a gnome with a ring on a string! That may or may not cause trouble!! Verry interresting…

    Current score: 1
  5. Glenn Brown says:

    Judging from the way she plays Soldier Stones, I think it likely Hazel will push her newfound power to the breaking point. She’s ambitious, hates to lose, loves to stretch rules, and has a bit of a chip on her shoulder about being a river gnome. The question is, how powerful is the ring? So far, it seems to be mostly a mind control device.
    Did it cause Hazel’s instructors to only put questions on their tests that Hazel could answer? Did it prevent Hazel’s boyfriend from becoming interested in hanging out at Glory House (the way Glory hoped he would) because Hazel didn’t want him hanging around all the time? Would Mack and her friends be about to have group sex if the ring hadn’t needed to distract them from thinking about it?
    Is the ring demonic? It reminds me a bit of the last mind control devise we saw, the pitchfork. I wonder if Hazel got the ring by accident. If someone planted it recently, they may have intended for Mack or Glory to find it.

    Current score: 1
  6. Nocker says:

    I have a feeling it’s just a ring of luck or something. A student from the old frat probably made it, then got bored and abandoned it. Or else it has some heavy drawback from abuse given how magic works sometimes.

    Or else it really is some kind of dread artifact. It’s unlikely but Mack Daddy already planted something in the building once. Though if I had to guess he planted the same sort of substance Mackenzie exudes when not on the potion, and anything else he planted would need to be either demonic enough for someone who can’t do arcane or divine to make himself, or off the rack enough that he could get it easily.

    The more I think about it the more sense that makes, weirdly. It wouldn’t have a size enchantment because it isn’t enchanted at all, cursed. Our short friend can’t tell since she’s no Diabolist and was never the one to theorize on such things when Ian and Stuff would back and forth.

    I obviously have no evidence other than “well it could be”, and it’d still probably just some frat dudes missing trinket, but it’s fun to theorize.

    Current score: 0
  7. Alex says:

    Love your writing. I like the insights into magic, the dealings with powerful (and not so powerful) folk in realistic ways and the differing levels of drama, many minor that keep the story interesting.

    Current score: 1
  8. Aged Sage says:

    Hmmm….Ring has “three” raised protuberances on it….instilled calm & confidence in Hazel. Could it be a ring of “TWO’S”, creator ?

    Current score: 0
    • ANocker says:

      Two wasn’t named Two because of any aesthetic, the runes used to give her life and her allow her to do her duties to specification happened to resemble the word Two, mostly out of coincidence. She assumed it was her name simply because he never actually gave her one. She was basically a piece of lab equipment that got junked because his wife thought keeping a woman in a glass case to do magic stuff was creepy looking.

      While I don’t doubt that that enchanter has a lot of goods he made somewhere or another as a professional, he doesn’t seem to go for aesthetics that way and has no link to a larger story, nor any desire to reclaim his creation. As an enchanter it’d probably just be easier for him to make a second Two with modernized updates than hunt down a decade or more model that’s clearly picked up eccentricities.

      Current score: 0
  9. Arancaytar says:

    It was a ring…

    Wait, I know this story!

    “Oh, this old thing?” Hazel said. “It’s funny you should put it that way, you know, because I actually did find it.”

    Won it in a game of riddles. 😀

    Current score: 2
    • Amy Amethyst says:

      I was thinking something similar.

      Current score: 1
  10. Arancaytar says:

    trying to fit her skull inside Grace’s cervix

    Well there’s a picture I’m not sure I needed.

    Current score: 2
    • elle says:

      And yet it’s such a Steff thing to say.

      Current score: 0
  11. Zathras IX says:

    Burrow gnomes with golden rings
    Get noticed too much

    Current score: 2
  12. Morumotto says:

    Where a setting might have been on the band, there were three sort of flat, boxy protrusions of the same material.

    That shape, grabbing Mack’s attention… could this be the return of the pitchfork?

    Current score: 0
  13. elle says:

    “…I don’t know if she’d go for that, Ames,” Steff said.

    “I do,” Amaranth said, her voice dropping into a low, honeyed purr. “Believe me, she’s been thinking about you for a while..”

    I wish I had a nymph to hang out with in college to clear up all that sexual “I like this person but does this person like me?” nonsense. And, y’know, a nymph to do other stuff with too.

    Current score: 0