Lemma the Librarian: The Contractually Obligatory Anachronistic Beach Episode


I took the pain with characteristic dignity and fortitude. “Owww! It
hurts! Why does it hurt so much!? Why don’t you two hurt?” I huddled
under my cloak. It hurt like hell, rubbing against my red, burningly
painful skin, but at least it wouldn’t get any more sun.

Iason shrugged as we trudged along through the hills. “I just don’t burn,” he said.

“This is insane,” I muttered. “What kind of crazy, evil country is this, where the sun can burn you?”

“We assumed you knew,” said Iola. “Doesn’t everybody know?”

“Not everyone,” I seethed, “is lucky enough to grow up in a land where the sun is trying to kill you! No wonder we Lemurians are so far ahead of the rest of the world, the rest of the world is either dreary, chilly little islands where it never stops raining or treacherous, evil countries that lure you in with sun and warmth and then burn you alive! With some kind of, of, invisible sun-fire!”

“Is she going to be like this the whole way?” asked Iola.

“Until she heals,” sighed Iason.

“I heard that!” I snapped. “My back may be one giant red scorched mass of agony, but my hearing’s fine!”

“I knew we should have just moved on,” said Iola. “I said we should, you two wanted the extra day.”

“Nuh-uh!” I countered. “This isn’t my fault! Neither of you warned me the sun can do this out here!”

Iason and Iola both sighed.


Twenty-four days ago:

“Land,” I moaned, crawling out of the little boat onto the sand. “At last!” My stomach was even happier than I was–it wanted to kiss the sand, even though I’d learned my lesson about that ages ago.

“Land,” Iola agreed, stepping smartly out of the boat. Iason was right behind her, just wrapping up our business with the fisherman who’d taken us north from Motya, a Sea People colony on an island east of Qart Hadast. From there he’d taken us to a peninsula sticking down from the north shore of the Inner Sea, which belonged to a people called the Rasni. I’d vaguely heard of them before, but I didn’t know much about them. Iason and Iola knew a little more, but not much. They traded with the Sea People and the Forest People–the mysterious denizens of the huge dark forest that covered most of the landmass that stretched from the north shores of the Inner Sea to the south shores of the cold northern seas where the Tin Islands lay. But they didn’t take much to ships–smart people, I say–so they didn’t have much contact with anyone else.

Supposedly they were like most trading cultures–welcoming to outsiders in direct proportion to how much money they had to spend. Which wasn’t a lot, in our case, but hopefully it’d be enough to get the book I could sense ahead of us.

“Well,” I said, getting to my feet. “We may as well get moving.”


Earlier today:

“This is the life,” I sighed, stretching out on a towel laid out on the warm golden sand, basking in the bright Rasnian sun, wearing only a sunhat and a light, tight, one-piece green garment, scoop-necked and backless, as well as sleeveless and legless. I was practically naked, but so was everyone else on the beach, and no one seemed to mind very much.

“We’re alive, yes,” agreed Iola, towering magnificently in a barely-there burgundy two-piece number, an upper part that cupped and covered her breasts and hardly anything else, and a lower part that clung to her hips and butt. It left basically nothing to the imagination–the dark curls tumbling down her back covered more skin than her outfit! “If we wish to stay that way, maybe we should be moving on?”

Nearby on a towel of his own, Iason yawned. He was wearing almost nothing, too, just a pair of very, very short, baggy blue breeches that almost but not quite reached his knees, and everything else was just tan skin stretched over tight muscle. The three of us made a pretty yummy view, I’ve got to say, though obviously I’m the hot one. I mean, unless your type is big beefcake-y dudes or towering dusky Amazons, and that’s just weird, right?

Anyway, Iason yawned. “Do we really have to hurry? I mean, he has to go all the way home, find a new excuse, and come all the way back here, right?”

I shrugged. “Yeah, that should take at least a couple hours.”

“Hours!?” Iason sat up suddenly. “I thought we had weeks! Months!”

“I mean, we probably do? But in theory, if he went straight back and immediately got a new assignment…”

“This is what I mean,” said Iola. “We should move.”

“I mean, he’ll find us regardless,” I pointed out. “I mean, that’s sort of his deal. We can’t actually hide, or run really, so we may as well relax a bit, take things at our own pace.”

“You want to relax?” Iola asked. “While that thing could come after us at any moment?”

I shrugged again. “It’s not like not relaxing would do any good.”

“I… suppose that is true…” Iola admitted slowly. “Very well. I shall join you in relaxing for the remainder of the day, and we can resume our journey tomorrow.”

“Awesome,” I said. I rolled over to enjoy the warm sun on my back.


Twenty-four days ago:

The place where the book was being kept wasn’t hard to find. It was a villa just south of the city walls, part of a little cluster of them between the city and the beach. They were all more or less the same shape, though they varied in size: a long, low building with lots of columns built along the city wall, with another, similar building sticking out at each end, forming three sides of a square courtyard. The fourth side, the south side, opened out onto the beach.

We approached the largest of them, which was definitely where I felt the book. A helpful merchant in the town marketplace had told us it belonged to Larth, the richest trader in town, and it certainly looked like it. We walked into a broad, open courtyard lined with laurel trees, with a small pool of clear, fresh water in the center. A statue of a seal rose out of the water, and the tile floor was decorated with a mosaic of fish and coral. For a successful overland trader, this Larth guy sure had a major aquatic theme going.

He emerged as we entered the courtyard. At least, I assume it was him–a broad, short man, powerfully built with just a hint of a belly. He was tan and dark haired, with a distinguished bit of gray at the temples, and wearing red robes and a gold chain. He looked like a rich guy starting to think about retirement, who’d been a strong fighter once but let himself get just a little soft with age.

He smiled as we approached. “Hello, travelers!” he said expansively, spreading his arms. “I am Larth, welcome to my home! Who might you be?”

“Lemma,” I replied. “And these are my… companions, Iola and Iason.”

He nodded politely to us. “And what brings you here?”

I looked at the other two, then shrugged. Might as well tell the truth; if he reacted badly, I was pretty confident the three of us could take him. “I am on the trail of a book, taken from my people years ago. I believe it is here.” I braced myself for him to call for guards or summon some kind of monster or start throwing fireballs or something.

“Oh, yes, that?” he asked. “I think I know just the book you mean. Dear!” he called back into the villa. “Dear, could you just grab the book and bring it out here for our guests?”

Wait, seriously? That easy? No way it’s gonna be this easy.

And, of course, it wasn’t.


Last night:

The seal slipped into the water with graceful ease, a dark, sleek shape just under the surface. It burst back up happily and clambered back onto the shore.

“Hrm,” said its companion. “Well, that’s that, then,” he growled. “But next time–”

“Yeah, yeah, next time you’ll get me and kill me or whatever.”

“Next time,” he spat, emphasizing each word, “I will feast on your entrails. You and any who stand with you! You’ll all be my prey.”

“Sure,” I said, waving a hand dismissively. “But that’s next time. Bye-bye now!” I gave him my biggest, cheeriest, most rage-inducingly friendly smile.

He snarled and turned away, walking into the sea. The seal swam away with him, pausing only a moment at the edge of sight to wave to us.

“Is it really necessary to antagonize him like that?” asked Iola.

I considered a moment. “Yes,” I decided firmly. “Now. We’re alive and free and there’s a real pretty beach with a nice sun overhead, not to mention a villa that’s empty except for us. A villa with, I seem to recall, a well-stocked pantry and an excellent wine cellar. Who’s up for a couple days of fun on the beach before we move on?”


Twenty-four days ago:

One of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen emerged from the villa. She was about my height, pale and thin, almost ethereal, with a fountain of dark, dark hair reaching almost to her feet. Her face was absolutely perfect, sweet and sad with big dark eyes. She was wearing a sheer white gown edged in silver, and carrying an ornately carved wooden box just about the right size to be holding a book.

Larth grasped the gold chain around his neck and drew out a key which dangled from the end of it. He unlocked the box his wife held and opened it to reveal a book, sitting atop some kind of dark, shimmery cloth. I felt the magic surging from it–that was definitely what we were here for!

I reached for the book, and Larth snapped the box shut. “Nah-ah-ah,” he said, wagging a finger. “What kind of trader would I be if I just gave treasures like this away?”

I glanced back at Iason and Iola. “We have some money,” I said. “But…”

He waved his hand. “Don’t worry! I know how tight money can be on a long journey! But clearly you are adventurers of some skill, yes? Your companions seem quite fit, and I would hazard a guess that you yourself have some skill in magic, Miss Lemma?”

I had to admit, I was impressed. Most people don’t recognize a sorceress when they see one, in my experience. “That’s true,” I said. “What’s your point?”

“My point is that an exchange does not necessarily have to involve money or goods. Instead, you could perform a service for me in exchange for the book. How would that be?”

I shrugged. Couldn’t do any harm to hear him out–if I didn’t like the favor he wanted we could find something else or, push come to shove, just take the book. There didn’t seem to be anyone here but him and his wife, and we could easily take them. “Yeah, okay,” I said.

He gave Iason and Iola a look, and they both shrugged. “All right,” Iola agreed, and Iason just said, “I’ll go with what Lemma decides, that’s worked so far.”

He clapped his hands. “Excellent! Then we are agreed. I will give you the book after you serve me.”

“Wait,” I said. “That’s not exactly what we–”

“Kneel,” he commanded, and all three of us did.

No, all four of us–me, Iason, Iola, and the woman we’d assumed was Larth’s wife.



Earlier last night:

“Well, that’s that, then,” I said. I tucked the book under my arm and picked through the smashed remains of the chest. “Here you are,” I said, drawing out the black cloth that had lined it.

Our erstwhile ally snatched it out of my hands. Grumbling, he stalked over to Sylki and wrapped it around her. As it touched her, it shimmered and shaped itself around her, until it was difficult to tell where her dark hair ended and the black cloak she now wore began.

“Thank you,” she sighed with a voice like a song. She turned toward us. “All of you!” Then, joyfully, she began to skip down the beach toward the water. She leaped into the air gracefully, shimmering and flowing into a seal, and then plunged into the water with barely a splash.


Twenty-four days ago:

“Oh, fuck this,” I said, and threw a red-hot ball of fire straight at that Larth bastard’s head.

Water fountained from the pool in the middle of the courtyard and smacked directly into my fireball. When the steam cleared, Larth’s wife was standing between us, her palm outstretched. “I cannot allow you to harm him,” she said in a voice as beautiful and sad-seeming as she was.

Larth grinned. “Thank you, Sylki dear. Lemma, Iola, Iason, part of your service is that you may not attack me.”

And just like that, it was true. I couldn’t. I thought furiously, in both senses of the word. This had to be a geas, a magic contract. It was too much of a coincidence, we make an agreement and then suddenly we are unable to break it. But… this was much too vague for any kind of geas I’d ever heard of. We’d just agreed to perform a service to get the book, and suddenly it twisted against us like this? Normally a geas got more powerful the more specific it was–the one that had initially bound me to seek out the books had been a full-fledged contract, and even that I’d been able to break.

The fey might be able to make an unbreakable geas on a promise this vague, but even then, it wouldn’t be able to twist our words this far, from “doing a service” to “being in service,” could it? And anyway I was pretty sure this guy wasn’t one of the fey.

“Well,” Larth said, “this is nice. I’ve been meaning to get some new servants. I just sold off the last batch, they were getting a little worn out. But you look like a healthy trio. I imagine you’ll last quite a while before I tire of you.” He walked over to Iola, who was glowering at him, and looked her up and down. “Yes, very nice. An excellent change of pace from a tiny thing like Sylki. Now, let’s all get naked.”

I had no choice. It didn’t matter that I didn’t want to; my hands went to my clothing immediately and began to pull it off. I was trapped, helpless–and, worst of all, a little turned on. He hadn’t suggested that, hadn’t ordered it–I’m not sure if the terms of the geas would even give him that kind of control. I couldn’t deny that part of me genuinely enjoyed being helpless.

The others stripped as well, and soon we were all completely nude. Sylki had exactly the kind of body you’d expect–all lithe, gently rounded limbs and perfect little high, round breasts and slim hips and, near as I could tell, not a single hair anywhere on that perfect creamy skin.

“Now then, Sylki, what would you do for me?” asked Larth. It had the sound of ritual to it.

“Anything, my love,” Sylki replied in doleful monotone.

“Of course,” said Larth. “Well, you are the lady of the house. You should welcome our guest properly. Go get on your knees in front of Iason and suck him off.”

“Yes, my love,” said Sylki dully, and did exactly as instructed. She knelt in front of Iason, took his cock in her delicate little hands, and licked up and down it until it was hard. Then she started bobbing her head on it. She gave no sign of enjoyment or enthusiasm, but she must have known what she was doing, judging by Iason’s moans.

“You fuck her face however you please, Iason,” said Larth. “But when you’re ready to finish, spray it on the tile and make her lick it up. The little slut loves that.”

She certainly didn’t look like she loved it. Larth, on the other hand, clearly did–he was quickly getting hard just watching his wife on her knees in front of another man. He turned to Iola and me and said, “You two, over here. Your job is to get me to cum, as quickly as you can, without using anything but your mouths.”

Iola and I knelt on either side of his cock, facing it and each other. We both began licking up and down opposite sides of his shaft, occasionally pausing to kiss or suckle it.

It didn’t take us long. Larth soon came with a grunt, pulling back and grabbing his cock so that he could pump long, sticky white ropes of cum onto our cheeks and breasts. “Lick that off each other,” he ordered, and we did.

“Lemma,” Larth said tauntingly, “what’s that?” He pointed at the tile between my legs, the shiny little damp patch.

“Uh,” I said. “That’s my, uh…” I tried to fight the urge to say it, but I didn’t have to. I could see he knew.

“So, another one like my little Sylki?” he asked. “Another filthy little slut who gets off on knowing who’s boss?”

I groaned, and he laughed. “I want you to kneel there and play with yourself while I fuck your friend’s tits,” he ordered. “I want you to imagine that it’s you I’m ordering to fuck me.”

Helplessly, I reached down to tease my wet pussy while Larth made Iola take him into her mouth until he got hard again. Then he slid his spit-soaked cock between her full breasts, squeezing them together while he slid up and down between them. I imagined him squeezing my breasts, his cock sliding up into me. I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t stop imagining it. My fingers were his cock, pounding me while I helplessly urged him on. He controlled what I imagined, and that made it hotter, which made it harder not to imagine, which made it hotter, which–

I cried out as I came. A moment later Larth spurted up in Iola’s cleavage, spattering cum on her chin and neck and tits. I glanced over at Sylki, who was on her hands and knees, licking Iason’s cum off the floor.

“Well, that was fun,” said Larth. “Now everyone get cleaned up. Sylki, Lemma, you’ll make lunch for all of us. Iason, you get this place clean. Iola, come with me, I want to see how many ways I can fuck you before lunch is ready.”


Even earlier last night:

I lay awake, staring at the ceiling, listening to Larth snore. Sylki lay on the other side. She didn’t snore, but her peaceful, slow breathing made clear that she was asleep as well. If I was going to do this, it had to be now.

Slowly I lifted the key on its gold chain from the mass of dark curly hair on Larth’s chest. You can do this, I told myself. He’s never ordered you not to. It took a moment’s concentration and a tiny, tiny bit of magic to snap the chain–can’t attack him, but this ISN’T attacking him, I told myself–and then I could slide out of bed and pad naked over to the shelf where the chest lay. I lifted it carefully and then went out into the courtyard–it felt easier to do this farther from Larth, out in the open air.

The moon made the courtyard look eerie, ghost fish trapped in the tiles under silver light. I slid the key into the lock, let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding, and–

“Stop, Lemma,” said Larth. I froze, physically unable to turn the key.

“Almost had you,” I said.

“Yes, very well done,” he agreed. “Now come here.”

I had no choice. I had to walk over to him. I’d tried and failed. He beat me, and now I was going to be his forever, or at least until he tired of me, and then he’d probably sell me off into slavery, still bound inescapably by the geas, unable to do anything but obey.

I bit my lip. Part of me really, really wanted it, want to just hand him the box–but he hadn’t actually ordered me to yet, had he? With a sigh, and without breaking stride as I walked toward him, I flung the box out into the darkness.

“Lemma!” he snapped, outraged. “How dare you–”

Out on the moonlit beach, the box landed at the feet of a dark figure. It bent down, picked up the box, and hurled it back with perfect aim. It smashed at my feet, and, as if in a daze, I bent down and picked up the book. In the light of the moon, I could just make out the title: Magical Contracts and You.

“Lemma!” Larth repeated. “Give that to me now!”

I grinned at him. “Funny thing. Remember how I’m bound in your service until I get the book?” I held up the book, waved it at him.

He reared back, face blanching in panic. “Sylki!” he shouted, but that was all he managed to get out before I torched him.

Sylki hurried out into the courtyard at his cry, and if I’d thought she was beautiful before, that was nothing compared to how she looked naked in the moonlight. “My love!” she said dully, and gestured. Water arced across the courtyard from the pool–but then, halfway there, it fell to the tiles as Sylki dropped her arm. Then she laughed. “He’s dead!” she cried in utter joy, a huge grin splitting her face. She threw her head back and spread her arms. “He’s dead! I’m free!”

And so was I. I turned to see Red stalking toward me, and I laughed in his face.

“You die!” he snarled.

I waggled my finger in front of him. “Nah-ah. Remember our bargain? The exact words of our bargain?”



Almost a month. A month of serving Larth, fucking him, doing whatever he wanted. I’d learned a few things in that time: that he kept the box containing the book on a shelf near his bed, that he preferred to fuck Iola alone or me and Sylki together, and that he never, ever set foot outside his villa, not even one step out of the courtyard. He even ordered us never to do it either, unless specifically ordered by him.

And he never ordered that, at least not until we ran low on flour and he ordered me into town to buy more. I didn’t have a choice, he was very specific: go into town, buy flour, bring it back, and don’t tell anyone that I’m anything other than his servant.

So I went into town, went to the marketplace, haggled a bit over the price of a large sack of fine flour, and then bought it. I hefted it in my arms, turned, and found myself face-to-face with the grinning, sharp-toothed visage of Faerdarrig. “Oh, hi, Red,” I said, trying to act nonchalant about running into a psychopathic, probably cannibalistic murder-fairy who wanted me in particular dead.

“Lemma,” he said, still grinning like a shark. “I’ve been waiting for you. I knew you’d be here eventually, but I missed you on the way in, had to wait a bit longer for you to come out.”

“Well, it was nice of you to wait,” I said. “Very patient.”

“I hate waiting,” he snarled. “But I hate you more, so I amused myself imagining what I was going to do with you once I got my hands on you.”

“I’m happy to have helped you while away those boring days,” I said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I really must be getting back with this flour…”

I really did have to. Staying and chatting with him was taking intense effort. Every fiber of my being was screaming as the geas pulled on me, trying to drag me over, walk me like a puppet back to Larth’s villa. I couldn’t hold out any more; I turned and started to walk, intensely aware of Red staring at the back of my neck. I have expected to feel his teeth close on it any second.

“Don’t you walk away from me!” he shouted.

But I had to, and it gave me a chance to think. “Wait a second,” I said, turning to look back at him even while I walked away. “Why wait here? Why not come after me wherever, whenever?” I thought about it a moment longer. “You’ve been sent here, haven’t you? You’ve got some kind of a mission–” And then it all clicked. “Fuck, Sylki is one of your people, isn’t she? And she’s protecting Larth’s villa, so you couldn’t get to me there.” It made sense–Larth’s book probably taught him something about geas, and on one of his journeys north, he ran into one of the fey of the northern seas and got control of her. She could make his geas as powerful as only a fey could–but he could make it twisty in ways a fey’s geas couldn’t be.

I turned back and nearly walked right into Red. “How’d you–” I started to ask, but then I realized that was a stupid question. Of course a hunting fey could go from behind me to in front of me in a moment, if he wanted.

“But I can get to you now,” he taunted, grinning. His hot breath washed over me, stinking of rotten meat.

“No,” I said. “You can’t. You have a mission, don’t you? You’re actually here to rescue Sylki, you just realized that the book meant I’d show up eventually too!”

Red shrugged. “That is why I volunteered for the quest when my Queen learned of this human treachery, yes. But just because that’s my quest doesn’t mean I can’t crunch your pretty little skull on the way.”

I took a deep breath. “Actually, it does, because you’re never going to get to her without my help.”

Red’s eyes narrowed. “What.”

“Really,” I said. “Larth never leaves his villa, he sends servants instead. And I’m guessing that Sylki doesn’t either. That or whatever hold he has on her means that you can’t just snatch her up and drag her home if she leaves the house.”

“The latter,” Red said sulkily. “He has her skin secreted away somewhere. As long as he has that, she’s trapped in human form and bound as his slave-bride.”

Her skin? Gross. But something like that had to be intensely magical, and I hadn’t felt anything like that in the house. Unless… I remembered a shimmery black cloth lining a box, with a book nestled in it, and I’d just assumed any magic I felt from it came from the book.

“I think I know where,” I said. “Listen, I can help you get her free, but in return–”

“I will not promise not to kill you,” Red said sharply.

“Okay, just… look. I’m stuck obeying Larth until I get the book in my hands. Promise me that you won’t me kill me until you’ve finished this mission, and that you’ll help me get that book, and I’ll help you free Sylki.”

“How am I supposed to help you get the book?” asked Red. “It’s in the villa, where I can’t go.”

I shrugged. “Fine, just… promise not to kill me on this mission, and I’ll help you as much as I can–and if I can get the book, that’ll be a lot.”

Red hesitated, then sighed. “I fucking hate you, you smug Lemurian cunt. Fine. If you agree to help me rescue Sylki, I promise not to kill you until I kill Larth or bring her safely back to Faerie.”


Red gave me another shark grin, and vanished. I bet he feels real smug, thinking I didn’t notice that ‘or,’ that he can just kill Larth, then me, and then take Sylki home. I resumed my journey back to the villa.

Not if I kill that Larth fucker first!