“So,” said Iola.
“What have we learned?”
I glared at her, rubbing the
back of my head where someone had thrown a melon at it. It really hurt!
“Fine,” I grumbled. “Maybe calling the local sky god an
overstuffed pigeon with delusions of grandeur, in the middle of the marketplace,
was not a great plan.”
“Don’t forget ‘at peak traffic,
on a festival day, to a priest,” Iason added oh-so-very-helpfully.
“Hey, that priest had it
coming! ‘Women shouldn’t do magic’ my ass!”
Iola pitched the bridge of her nose.
“I meant,” she said finally, “what did we learn that’s
useful for our quest?”
“Oh yeah, that. Well…
we learned the folks here aren’t big fans of women doing magic. Or
fighting. Or traveling, or being merchants, or… much of anything that
we could use as a cover to get close to the book, really.” I sighed.
“And that there is just enough residual holiness in the temple
walls that blasting my way in will be… annoying.”
“Lemma, did you try to blow up
the temple?” Iason asked sternly.
“No,” I replied sullenly.
“I just looked it over while I thought about blowing it up later.”
“This is getting us
nowhere,” said Iola. “You’re sure the book is in the temple?”
answered. “Somewhere.” Which was part of the problem: like a lot of
cities in this part of the world, the high priest of the local god was
also the king, which meant that the main temple was also the king’s
palace and city hall. Add that Lagasch was what passed for an empire in
these parts–it ruled towns as far as 25 whole miles away!–and that
meant a big temple, with lots of rooms, and lots of people, and lots of
locked doors, and guards, and… You get the idea. Point was, knowing
the book was in there wasn’t as helpful as you’d think.
“And you’re absolutely certain
the book isn’t a serious threat?”
“23 Glamours That Will
Change How You Look at the World?” I scoffed. “Nah, I know
the series. No theory, simple recipes for simple spells, half of which
won’t even work. We’ve got nothing to worry about.”
“Are you certain?”
Iola pressed. “Weren’t you also confident that there was nothing to
fear from that prince in Khemia, or that pirate, or when you came back to
“Okay, okay!” I
said. “Let me rephrase: we’re in no danger from anything that book
could have taught him. It’s all stuff like glamouring food to be tastier
or clothes to make the wearer prettier; he won’t have learned anything
you can cast on other people to change how they feel, like Brinksmoor
Iola gave the tiniest shudder at the
name–small enough that I wondered if I imagined it. “Then, if we
can be confident that we won’t be enslaved or compelled to do anything
against our wills… I know how we can get in.”
“Why do I get the feeling I’m
not going to like this?” I asked.
“While you two were
causing riots in the marketplace, I went to see if the temple was hiring,
and they are–they’re looking for guards.”
“That’s me covered,”
said Iason, “but based on what that priest said, I doubt they’ll be
much interested in hiring you or Lemma as guards.”
“No,” said Iola.
“In fact, they’re not interested in hiring women at all. The
only women working at the temple palace are slaves. And they’re looking
to buy girls for–”
“Oh no,” I said, realizing
where this was headed.
“–the King’s harem.”
“What!?” sputtered Iason.
Iola raised her hands. “I
know. But listen, they said the King is bored of local women and
wants,” she looked pained, “’more exotic fare.’ This is our
best chance of getting in! We won’t have to do anything–Iason sells us,
gets a job as a guard, and then once we’re in we find the book and he
helps us escape.”
“Hrm,” I said. “And
failing that, once we’re inside those walls, blasting our way out is easier
than trying to blast in.”
“Lemma,” Iason said
“What? Just saying.”
“I can’t believe you’re even
considering this plan,” Iason said. “Either of you! I mean… harem
“Do you have any better
ideas?” Iola asked.
He didn’t. None of us did. So, after
a quick trip to the market to get a little slutted up (it’s amazing what the
loot from a prince’s pet project will get you), Iason put bronze collars on our
necks, chains on the collars, and led us to the temple palace. (The collars
weren’t locked, of course–they just looked like they were.)
There, we soon found ourselves
standing in front of a skinny, bored-looking old man at a high podium.
“Name?” he asked.
“I’m Lemma,” I started,
“and this is–”
“Name?” he asked again,
pointedly staring at Iason.
“Iason,” said Iason.
“Business?” asked the old
“I’m here to sell these two
lovely women as harem slaves to–”
“Names and origin of the
“Lemma of Lemuria, and Iola of
the Sea People.”
The old man leaned forward and
peered down at me. “Are you sure she’s Lemurian and not Hattushian? I’ve
never heard of a Lemurian with that color hair.”
“I’m sure,” said Iason.
“The hair’s a recent development.”
“Hrm,” said the old man.
“Well, they’re definitely unlike anything we have now. I’ll give you five
measures of silver.”
Five!? I seethed. I’m worth at least twenty!
“Five each seems a bit
low,” said Iason, “especially when–”
“I meant five for the
pair,” said the old man.
I ground my teeth, trying very hard
to not set him on fire. He looked dried out enough that he’d probably burn the
whole place down, and I didn’t want that to happen until after I had the
“Oh, I don’t think
“Take it or leave it,”
said the old man.
Iason sighed. “Take it, I
“Good man,” said the old
man. He rang a bell. “Simta,” he said to the woman who entered.
“Take these new slaves to the harem.”
Simta looked like a pretty typical
Lagaschian: tall, brown, curly dark hair, hook nose. But she was a really
pretty pretty typical Lagaschian–her curly hair was lustrous and full, she
had big dark doe eyes and a warm, sensuous mouth, and her slender body was
draped in sheer red cloth that simultaneously hinted at everything and revealed
nothing, shifting as she moved to reveal glimpses of clear, soft brown skin,
but never more than a glimpse, everything else a slightly blurry shadow under
the thin red cloth.
The gold collar and fine gold chain
hanging from it made it pretty clear what she was, too, in case the skimpy
outfit hadn’t given it away: a harem girl, just like we were supposed to be.
She smiled at us like the moment
after a spring shower, and took our chains. “Hi!” she said brightly.
“I’m Simta, and I’m going to show you how to be the best, happiest,
sexiest harem girls you can be!”
“Um, great?” I said as she
led us into the maze of twisting corridors that made up the interior of the
“Now remember,” said
Simta, “no men are allowed in the harem quarters except King Lugal
and his guests. If you see any strange men in here, tell me right away,
“Sure,” I said. Made
sense: the king didn’t want to share his toys.
“What about us?” asked
Iola. “Where are we allowed to go?”
“Oh, everything we need is in
the harem quarters. Except for little errands like this, or if Lugal asks us to
attend him, there’s really no need to leave. I mean, I guess there’s nothing to
stop you if you really wanted to, but why would you ever want to? This is the
best life there is!”
Simta led us into a large room
practically made of cushions. Actually, my first reaction on entering was to
think it was made of smoke, but that was just the air. Once I finished coughing
and wiped the tears out of my eyes, what I could see were pillows, everywhere,
heaps and heaps of them, all shapes and sizes and colors, or at least all
eye-searingly bright colors. Here and there girls lounged on the cushions. All
were dressed like Simta and most looked more or less like her, but there was
one woman who was a bit shorter and curvier with reddish-brown hair, clearly
Hattushan, and another with dark skin, incredibly tall and slender with the
longest, smoothest legs I’ve ever seen, and a puff of dark, tightly curly hair
that formed a big ball around her head.
“Zehra and Endelea,”
whispered Simta. “Endelea is Pwenean. I don’t know where that is, but it’s
She wasn’t kidding. Pwene was all
the way up the Great River of Khemeth, farther than the whole distance I’d
traveled in my entire trip–and that had taken me almost two years so
far! Even imagining it was making my head spin.
Actually, no… my head was just
spinning. I concentrated, or tried to, feeling for magic… but no, nothing.
But then I looked at the middle of the room, and the source of the smoke: a
tall brazier, and piled on it, smoldering… poppies, soma, and hashish.
No wonder all these women were
lounging, and Simta wasn’t entirely there–they were drugged to the
“Okay,” said Simta,
“since you’re new you get to wear these!” She pulled out two… well,
outfits is a strong word. Two assemblages of cloth, one green, one blue.
And dripping with magic.
I glanced at Iola and, when she
looked back, tilted my head at the outfits. She nodded. Time to stage our
breakout and go book-hunting.
I looked around the room for the
entrance we’d come in by. The round room, full of almost nothing but pillows,
with at least eight identical-looking arches that led out. Okay, wait,
Ende… Inda… Endel… Pwene girl was on my… left when I came in? Or was
that right? What’s her name, Endelpe… Pwene Enda… Pwendelea! I laughed
at my own joke, then looked around to see if anyone else thought it was funny.
Iola yawned. “We need
to…” She yawned again. “Get out..?”
Simta looked scandalized. “Why
would you leave?” she asked. “Come on, you have to try on your new
clothes, they’re one of the best parts!”
I shook my head, backing away.
“No, no, we, um, we have to, uh…” I couldn’t think. How did these
girls stand this all day every day? Literally. How is Simta standing? I’m
about to fall over… I guess you get used to it? Or just lie around all day
like the other girls…
Lying down was sounding pretty good.
Except it also sounded really bad because… something.
“Lemme just rest a
moment,” I said, and tried to sit on a pillow. I missed, which was kind of
amazing because everything in this room was pillow, and then I just sort
of sprawled. Iola flopped down next to me a minute later.
“Stop the room,” I mumbled
as it spun around me. “I wanna get off.”
“Shh,” said Simta.
“Let’s just get you two changed.”
I wasn’t in much state to put up a
struggle, though I tried. Iola tried too, with slightly more success, at least
I think that’s how Simta got that bruise on her arm–my memory’s a little fuzzy
about this point. But pretty soon we were in our outfits–which, like I said,
is a strong word for them.
Simta put me in the green and Iola
in the blue, but otherwise they were basically the same: a gold collar, with a
fine gold chain that was pretty clearly just for show, and a similar gold chain
around the waist. A sheer piece of cloth that connect to the front of the chain
and hung down to about mid-calf, and another in the back that went down to my
ankles. Another, longer cloth, looped around my back and over my breasts, then
tied behind my neck. A veil that covered my face below my eyes, and another
cloth wrapped around my hair in a cone, so it gathered above my head and then
cascaded down my back from the tip of the cone. Gold bracelets on ankles and
And that was it. It was like
they’d found a way to be nakeder than naked. The cloth was too thin to
actually hide anything, even thinner than what Simta was wearing, and all it
did was call attention to what it supposedly covered–which wasn’t much to
But more important than that was the
spell imbuing it. Which, fuzzy-brained as I was, I still tried to get a look
I couldn’t. It was like the cloth–I
could see it was there, but it was so fine, it was practically transparent. I
couldn’t get a grip on the weave. It was like a glamour, but so tightly
woven, so complex… “This didn’t come from Twenty-Three Glamours That
whatever,” I mumbled.
“What?” asked Simta,
looking puzzled. But her smile returned quickly. “No matter. All dressed
now! Ready to meet your new owner?”
She took our ridiculous little
chains in hand and gently tugged. Vaguely, it occurred to me that if I got out
of the room, my head might get clearer, so I attempted to stand.
It was not a successful attempt.
Oh well, it’s not like dignity was
possible while in those outfits anyway. Iola and I had no choice but to crawl
behind Simta, slowly and unsteadily, as she led us out one of the arches and
down a hallway.
There was air here, but my head was
still swimming when we reached what I can only assume were the king’s quarters,
or maybe just his quarters in the harem part of the building. Anyway, it had a
lot of cushions too, but they only took up half the room. The other half had
ornately carved wooden furniture–a desk, a couple chairs, a table.
Sprawled on the pillows was an
astoundingly gorgeous man, a vision of absolute perfection–
I closed my eyes and reminded myself
there was a glamour trying to work on me. I felt for the threads, and pushed
them back, visualizing them slowly peeling back from my skull like a wet cap.
Confident that I would be seeing with my own eyes, I opened them again.
Sprawled on the pillows was an
astoundingly gorgeous man, a vision of absolute perfection.
He was maybe a very healthy forty,
tall, muscular, lean, with a strong jaw and magnificent, curly black hair that
spilled down to his shoulders. He was mostly clean-shaven, except the area
immediately around his mouth and his chin; there he’d grown his beard long,
combed and oiled it into a cone that hung a good four inches down from his
chin, also black but with little touches of gray here and there. A sort of net
was wrapped around the cone, and little jewels glistened everywhere two strands
crossed. Other than that, he was naked. I could see every plane of his chiseled
brown body–and I could feel his dark eyes looking over mine as well.
“You’re turning pinker by the
moment, I see,” he said to me. “It’s quite charming.” He nodded
to Simta. “Leave us,” he said.
I’d barely been paying attention to
her; as soon as we entered, she got down on her knees as well, folding her
whole body forward so that her head almost touched the ground. At the king’s
word, she stood quickly, said, “Thank you, Your Majesty,” and hastily
“You may stand,” the king
said, sitting up.
We may, I thought. But can we? Next to me, Iola put a hand
on the wall to steady herself as she slowly rose. Well, I wasn’t going to be
the only one lying down, so I sprang to my feet as well.
Okay, so less sprang and more
grabbed onto Iola’s arm and slowly hauled myself basically upright, though I
wobbled a bit too much to really call it “standing.” Wavering?
Anyway, the king smiled. “I am
Lugal,” he said. “I believe you are called Lemma and Iola?”
“Muh-huh,” I mumbled.
Standing up had made my head feel like it was swelling to three times its
“Wonderful!” he replied.
“Ah, I can see the smoke is affecting you still. My apologies, but it was
necessary to ensure you didn’t tear out of the harem and start hunting for this
immediately.” He held up something square and brownish.
I tried to focus on it, but my
vision was still all swimmy. Slowly, though, I realized what it had to be.
“You knew who we were,”
His smile broadened. “Oh yes.
I’ve known for weeks that you would be here sooner or later.” He put the
book down on the cushion next to him.
Seeing my chance, I leaped forward,
grabbed it, and ran out of the room. Well, I tried to. I let go of Iola’s arm,
nearly fell over, and grabbed it again. “Woog,” I said.
Iola, on the other hand, was getting
steadier by the moment. She’s bigger than me; the drugged smoke probably hadn’t
affected her quite as much to begin with. “What’s to stop us from killing
you now?” she asked.
“Well,” Lugal replied,
“hopefully the enchantments in your garments, to start with.”
Iola laughed. “You think
so?” she said calmly. “I’ve been wrapped in glamours before, I know
what it feels like–and how to push against it. And if you think I have any
more qualms about ripping these clothes off than ripping your head off, you are
quite mistaken.” She reached for the cloth over her breasts.
“I wouldn’t, if I were
you.” Lugal’s voice was smooth, confident–but underneath was just a hint
of urgency. “The results would not be pleasant for any of us.”
I was starting to feel a little
better, a little clearer. I breathed in slow and deep, and that seemed to help.
If I could just get my head straight enough to lob a fireball, this would be
over. “Waddaya mean?” I asked, slurring just a bit more than I’d have
“Well, we don’t want him to
come back, do we?” Lugal asked.
I paused. Had I missed part of the
conversation? Was I more out of it than I thought?
“Lemma,” Iola said,
“don’t listen to him. He put glamours on these clothes, I can feel it, and
I’m sure you can too. We can’t believe anything he says, it’s all a trap.”
“Well, yes, this is a
trap,” said Lugal. “Obviously. But no, I’m afraid I’m not the one who
enchanted those two outfits. That’s rather the point.”
We stared at him. Slowly I worked over
what he was saying in my still slightly addled brain, until I found a clear and
cogent statement I could make that fully expressed my response.
“Wha?” I asked.
“Well, it’s why I said none of
us would like the result of you trying to remove or damage those clothes. It’s
part of the bargain, you see.”
“Bargain?” Iola asked
Lugal’s story started years ago,
when he was a young king and the book first came into his possession.
Fascinated, he soon learned all the glamours in it by heart. They were useful,
but hardly life-changing–he could be more impressive when he wanted to be, or
ensure that a foreign dignitary enjoyed a feast, but nothing major. It never
even occurred to him to wonder if anything more major were possible… until he
It was only a few months ago, during
a festival celebrating the union of the god Ningirthu, the city’s patron, and
the goddess Ntinugha, his bride. As king and high priest of Ningirthu, Lugal
led the procession of worshipers from the palace temple to the temple of
Ntinugha. There he ritually wed (read: fucked) the high priestess of Ntinugha,
an old woman named Shirat.
After that came the Barley Dance,
and that was when he saw her, one of many acolytes who danced to celebrate the
divine union. Newly come of age, beautiful, graceful, sexy–Simta.
Afterwards he asked around and
learned her name, that she was Shirat’s granddaughter, that she was stubborn,
willful, and clever. Everything he learned made him want her more, so he
pursued her, offered to make her his third queen.
She refused. No matter what gifts he
promised, no matter if he begged or threatened or charmed, she refused.
“Queen?” she scoffed. “You mean slave–or would you relax the
laws that state a married woman must serve her husband, must be veiled and
escorted to leave his home?”
“Those laws are the will of
divine Ningirthu,” Lagash replied. “I could not lift them even if I
wanted to–but why would I want to change a law that keeps you by my side? You
will be cherished, celebrated, your beauty the light by which I view my
“No,” she said simply.
“I will remain an acolyte, and learn the goddess’ arts of healing, and do
my own work as my own woman.”
Despairing of ever winning her
heart, Lugal’s heart fell into a dark despair. (Seriously, that’s what he said.
“My heart fell into a dark despair.” Like, I was trying to just write
down what I remembered him saying, but seriously? Not “my heart sank”
or “I fell into a dark despair.” No, he’s a king. No single cliche is
enough for him, he’s going to fuse those fuckers like a chimera. Behold the
Anyway, Lugal sad because Lugal dick
no wet. He had tried everything else, so he tried magic. He used glamours to
make himself seem as attractive as possible. He paid for new ceremonial earrings
for all the priestesses of Ntinugha, and put a glamour on Simta’s to make her
life seem as uninteresting and unimportant as possible.
It didn’t work.
He was about to give up when a
strange traveler appeared, an enchanter from a distant land, and offered him a
bargain that would prove the key to Simta’s heart.
What he offered, of course, were two
magical harem outfits. Each was enchanted to draw the wearer to Lugal, to make
her love him and desire to obey him. All he had to do in return was use them–specifically,
when a small, red-haired Lemurian sorceress named Lemma came, he was to use it
to make her part of his harem, as well as any female companions she might have.
“Let me guess,” I said, by
now definitely feeling more clear-headed. “Did this traveling enchanter
have red hair and very sharp teeth? Ate a lot of meat?”
“Why yes,” said Lugal.
“I don’t know why I’m surprised, he knew that you were coming, so of
course you’ve met.”
“Red,” I said. “Of
course.” That explained the complexity and subtlety of the enchantment,
and why it seemed like a glamour but didn’t act like one–it was that same
geas/glamour hybrid magic the fey loved so much.
“We definitely need to take
this off, then,” said Iola, and once again reached for the cloth over her
“No, you really don’t!”
said Lugal hastily. “I haven’t finished the story, you don’t know all of
“So tell!” I snapped.
He raised his hands. “All
right, all right. So, once I had the garments, I ordered another performance of
the Barley Dance. It’s unusual, but within my rights. I ordered new costumes,
too–and I put Simta in an enchanted one. Since I had two anyway, I put the
second-prettiest dancer in one, too.”
He grinned, clearly enjoying the
memory. “It worked. By the end of the dance they were quite worked up, and
happily joined me in my bed chamber. By the next day the other dancer was ready
to join my harem, and Simta uncertain about whether she wanted to return to the
temple. By the third day, Simta was happy as well–but she didn’t want to be my
queen. All she wanted was to be a harem girl–the enchantment had made her love
and crave that role.
"She pledged herself to be mine
forever, and in that moment the spell became permanent, even without the
garments. I told the enchanter how pleased I was with the results, and asked
what else he could make–with enchantments of this power I could turn political
enemies into friends, rival nations into allies, I could make Lagasch a power
to be reckoned with and be remembered as its greatest king!
"That was when I made a second
bargain. More of a bet, really, all about you.”
“Us?” asked Iola.
“What kind of bet?”
“It’s simple. If you surrender
completely to the enchantment and become my slaves, at that moment he will
return and teach me the secrets behind his magic. If, however, you remove the
garments before that time and break free, or try to leave the temple palace, he
will immediately return and slaughter everyone here.”
“…Fuck,” I said. The
only reason I could see that Red didn’t just appear in the middle of the night
somewhere on the road and slit my throat in my sleep was that he was still on
Queen Maev’s shit list. Obviously he’d talked her into commuting his death
sentence (for freeing me, natch) to community service, that was why he’d been
trying to free Sylki back in Rasnia, but that didn’t mean he was back in her
good books yet. She probably wouldn’t mind him killing me, but she probably would
mind him creating a diplomatic incident between Faerie and Lemuria, so
killing me was only an option if he could do it without breaking the
treaty–which meant as part of a bargain with a human, or if I was aiding an
enemy of the fey. That had been his excuse in Rasnia, but here?
Here he had to use the bargain. But
after two bargains with me going south for him, he’d realized bargaining with
me wasn’t the way to go–so he bargained with someone else for me.
Technically within the rules of the treaty, and there’s nothing fey love so
much as a technicality.
But that meant… that meant that
unless I could figure out a third option, my only choices were to become
Lugal’s harem girl, or risk being killed by Red–“And that’s why you’ve
told us all this,” I said out loud.
“What?” asked Iola. Lugal
just smirked at us, and dammit, even that was sexy.
“You and I both know we could
break out of this easily. But we also both know that fighting Red would be very
nasty, so knowing that he’s going to try to kill us the instant we try to take
“Exactly,” said Lugal.
“The longer you keep those costumes on, the better for me–but the longer
you keep them on, the longer you have to try to think of a way to get out of
them without being killed. It’s in both our interests for you to keep them
What you don’t realize, I thought, is that Red has tricked you, too. He can
teach you the secrets behind his magic, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use
it. I know I couldn’t, and I’ve got more power, more talent, and more training
in my pinkie than you have in your whole body.
It was a nice thought, but it didn’t
change one fact: we were trapped.
“Now then,” said Lugal,
“since we’re all in this together…” He clapped. “Dance for
“I don’t–” I began. But
those wet strands of magic, that net, closed suddenly around my head. I felt
them worming through my brain, tingles running up and down my limbs. My muscles
relaxed, music filled my head–insistent drums, combined with beguiling
woodwinds–and slowly, I began to sway to the rhythm. Next to me, Iola did the
same. We turned to face each other, and I knew her heavy-lidded, blank
expression matched my own.
Our arms waved up and down in
opposed unison, our hips swayed back and forth, and we began to dance. We
couldn’t resist, couldn’t want to resist; dancing was simply and
unquestionably what we were to do, and it was wonderful.
I tried to keep hold of my thoughts
as best I could, to analyze what was happening. A fey geas was a lot more
powerful than a human one; it didn’t require conscious, deliberate agreement,
just any act that implied agreement. We were wearing the uniforms of
harem girls, and we weren’t trying to take them off; that implied agreement to
be harem girls. As long as we wore them, we were bound by the geas to be harem
girls–and if we actually promised to be harem girls, that would be
enough to keep the geas going whether we wore the outfit or not.
Therefore, we were harem girls–and
then the glamours kicked in, making serving as a harem girl seem like a
wonderful thing. Making us enjoy it, making the idea of just giving in and
agreeing to be one permanently seem attractive. And since the glamours were
woven right into the geas, making the geas permanent would make them permanent
And Simta had had no idea. She’d
have no way of knowing the clothes compelled her and made her like it. She’d
have thought it was her own idea, her own enjoyment… and she’d still been
stubborn enough to last almost three days?
Iola and I bent backward, exposing
our bare midriffs and legs, only the bare concealment of the sheer cloth
between our legs making the pose less than completely lewd. Glamours slotting
into place, so hard to identify and push back out. Dancing feels good, exertion
feels good, being sexy feels good, dancing is sexy, all these
linked strands trying to worm their way into my brain while my body was
occupied. Of course they weren’t made of words–it wasn’t the thought
“dancing feels good” I had to push away. It was more primal than
that, deeper down–not ideas but feelings, trying to worm their way in beneath
But I was able to snip each one, cut
if off while it tried to find an attachment in my brain, so they couldn’t
completely root and dangled free. My outfit is sexy, I like being
sexy, I like being wanted–that last was a hard one, because who doesn’t
like being wanted, but I was still able to push it away while Iola and I
straightened up, leaned forward, and shook our breasts at King Lugal.
Serving the king is good–pfft, yeah right! This is my place, it feels
good to serve, none of these were going to stick on me. Obeying feels
good, obeying is sexy, I like being made to obey, being
made to obey turns me on–
That was bad. That was very, very
bad, because a certain dragon had left an unshakable little nugget of truth in
my brain, a fact about myself which I could not deny: Being made to obey turns
me on. That strand of glamour that said the same thing hit that little nugget
and wrapped around it instantly–inevitable, undeniable.
And once that strand was in place,
it was that much harder to push away the others that attached to it. Being
made to obey turns me on, being made to obey is sexy, obedience
turns me on, obedience is sexy, being made to dance is sexy, dancing
is sexy, dancing turns me on…
I tried to fight it. I really did!
But by the time the dance ended, and Iola and I held our final poses–on our
knees, bent backwards so the backs of our heads nearly touched the floor, our
hands stretched out as far behind us as we could go–we were both exhausted,
panting, and glistening with sweat.
But I was also wet and horny as
Lugal clapped politely as our
performance finished. “Not bad,” he said. “Untrained, of course,
but the enchantment takes care of that somewhat. In time, Simta will teach you
what she knows, and then we will really see what you can do.”
He hadn’t released us; we were still
locked in our positions. All I could do was stare at the ceiling, panting, and
hope someone did something about filling up the emptiness now filling
me. Then I felt his hand stroking my bare tummy, and for a moment I forgot to
breathe. His touch is pure pleasure, the glamours told me, and as turned
on as I was, I couldn’t deny it. I love when he touches me, I crave
his touch, I need his touch. More and more glamours layering in,
feelings and desires building on top of feelings and desires.
“Both of you, kneel,”
Lugal commanded, and my body–or rather, the geas–knew exactly what that
meant. Simultaneously, Iola and I curled upward and then forward, flowing into
a new position without moving our legs at all, until we were in the same
posture as Simta earlier: knees slightly apart, heels together, butt resting on
heels, head almost touching the floor, arms stretched out ahead of us. My abs
were going to hurt in the morning.
I glanced up at Lugal–that was,
apparently, allowed. He was hard, and his cock was long, slender,
smooth–I could feel my mouth and pussy watering at the sight of it.
“You both want me,” he said,
stating it as a fact, and it was true. It was part of the geas, part of being a
good harem girl, not to mention something the glamours were working very hard
to get into my head. And with the glamours that made me love and crave his
touch settled into place, it was very hard to fight off the thread that, put
into words, was something like I want my owner.
He is not my owner, I told myself. But I still needed his touch, and obeying
him turned me on. I could keep the thread from getting a permanent grip, but
not push it out completely.
He looked over us both, and I knew
that if he ordered me to fuck him, I would be lost. “Iola,” he said,
seating himself on the bed. “Suck my cock.”
I couldn’t help but groan in
frustration, but I stayed where I was while Iola rose, walked over to him, and
then knelt again. Taking his cock in her hand, she opened her mouth and took
the whole shaft. I wondered if that was something she’d learned how to do on
her own, or from Lord Brinksmoor, or if the geas gave her the ability. Either
way, she wasn’t bad, but from what I could see on the floor, she wasn’t up to
If he only knew what he’s missing, I thought, and immediately regretted it. One of the
threads probing endlessly at my mind found that thought and latched onto it,
then coiled itself into place, linked firmly with my mounting desire for his
touch and to be made to obey: I want to be made to suck him. And then
quick on the heels of that: I want to be made to service him, I want
to be made to serve him, I want to be made to fuck him.
I trembled with need and exhaustion
and the effort of trying to fight off all these glamours. The more of them made
it through into my head, the bigger a net they built around my feelings, the
more places there were for the remaining threads to attach. I’d gone from
fighting on one front to fighting on fifty, all at once. Threads about
obedience and sex bombarded me, trying to link with my desire to be made to
fuck him, my craving for his touch, my desire to be commanded, and all the threads
related to those desires. I tried my best, but something got through, linking
to both wanting his touch and wanting him to make me fuck him: I want him to
fuck me. Then a thread linking that to wanting to be made to serve him: I
want him to use me. And another linking to that and craving his touch: I
want him to take me.
Grunts from Lugal and choking sounds
from Iola signaled the end of his blowjob. She fell back, gasping for air, cum
spilling over her chin and dripping down onto her breasts. It was my turn. He
was going to take me, use me, fuck me, and I knew there was no way I could keep
“Good,” he said.
“Both of you may return to the harem now.”
It was phrased as a permission, but
the geas compelled us to understand it as an order. We both stood and walked
out into the hall.
We walked down the hall in silence.
Without his presence, without the ever-present possibility of new orders, I
could focus more clearly on the net of glamours settling in around me. I could
probe it, push it back and away, loosen it.
“How are you doing?” asked
“I’m… fighting,” I
“The same. I keep feeling
these… feelings. But I know they’re not mine, so I can force them away. I
can’t help but obey his direct orders… but I’m still me. I still hate
“Yeah,” I said, still
trying to pull those glamours out. I could push the net back, but I couldn’t
get rid of it completely. The strands were all woven into each other, and that
made them strong–and they had a very solid anchor point courtesy of the
dragon. If I could just find some weak linkages, and start breaking them,
tenuous connections that weren’t quite right, that I could doubt and question
and pull apart…
But the geas held us in its grip. I
could smell the smoke of the room ahead, feel my concentration wavering.
“This will not be easy,”
“No,” I agreed. Then we
plunged through the archway into the smoky room.
Iola was right: it wasn’t easy. I
needed to concentrate, but I was so tired, and that smoke made me so sleepy and
lightheaded. Lying down helped a little–there was less smoke near the
floor–but then I was tired and sleepy and lying down, and it was so easy to
just drift off, just relax and sleep and deal with the glamours in the
I woke with a pounding headache.
There was no telling what time it was or how long I’d been asleep, since the
room had no windows, but the brazier was burning low, and the smoke had thinned
quite a bit. I still felt a bit woozy, but mostly I was just thirsty.
Best of all, while I was asleep the
glamours had just hung there. My dreams had been lurid and incoherent, bursts
of color and bizarre imagery–nothing the glamours could latch onto.
I hauled myself into a sitting
position, which made my head throb even harder, but it also meant I could reach
for one of the large bowls of water on pillars scattered around the room. I
gulped water until my stomach started to hurt, all the while pushing back
against the glamours.
Where to start unraveling them? I
poked at the feelings, holding them back. Looking at them this way, they were
like echoes or memories of feelings, dulled and distant. But while no new
glamours had settled in while I slept, the ones that were already there had
tightened and strengthened their connections, linking up to each other in a
more and more complex web.
But not everywhere was equally
strong. There were no dangling threads I could pull at, but there was one on
the periphery I might be able to do something with–dancing is sexy. I hate
dancing, especially in public, so that was definitely something I could
question. Something I could push at, weaken. It was connected into the other
glamours, sure, but not very strongly, and if I could just pull it out…
I was aware of Iola sitting up next
to me, but I was trying to concentrate on the glamour and pull out the weak
link. Almost… almost… there! It snapped and spun free, out of my
head back into the clothes. Dancing was most certainly not sexy!
And if it wasn’t sexy, then why
would it turn me on? Without “dancing is sexy,” that thread was
weaker now, and I could suddenly notice that Iola is about to take off her
“Stop!” I shouted, and
grabbed her arm. “What are you doing?”
“Getting out,” she said.
“I’m tired of having to fight these feelings off. I’m going to take my
chances with this Red person.”
Right, I thought. Iola’s never actually seen him fight.
“Listen, you have no idea how dangerous he is!”
“We beat Brea,” Iola
replied. “We can defeat him.”
“I’m not sure we can! Brea was
going easy on us, remember? He might not be as strong as her full power, but he
can definitely kill us a lot faster than a vampire that’s not trying
Iola stared at me. “You…
you’re actually admitting you have limits?”
“Ha. Ha,” I replied.
“I’ll have you know I’m very realistic about my limitations, it’s just
that most of the time I don’t have any.”
“Yes, I can see how realistic
“I’m serious! Most things I can
at least hurt with my magic! But Red? I can’t scratch him, and he can
tear our limbs off with his bare hands. The only one of us who stands a chance
against him is…” I sighed. I didn’t want to say it.
“Is?” asked Iola.
“Iason,” I replied.
“One scratch from his sword could kill Red dead–but even then only if he got
a scratch. He’s so fast, I’m not sure Iason could land a hit before Red killed
“Okay,” said Iola,
“but it’s a chance. Iason said he was trying to get a job as a guard, he’s
got to be around here somewhere! We strip, find him, and then we fight this Red
I shook my head. “You don’t get
it. A fey bargain is like a geas in itself. The instant we free
ourselves, Red is obligated to murder everyone in this temple. He would be
pulled directly to us, instantly, from anywhere in this world or Faerie.
He’d be on top of us before we could take a step.”
Iola stared at me. “This
creature really frightens you,” she said.
“Yes! He does! Which is why
we’re going to stay calm and come up with a plan before we get ourselves
“Okay,” she said.
“But we should still go looking for Iason, right?”
“What makes you think he’s even
“What?” asked Iola.
“Think about it. Red told Lugal
we were coming. He said you might be with me–do you think he didn’t mention
Iason, too? They probably kicked him out the door the minute they got us away
Iola looked at me in silence for a
long time, then sagged back on the pillows. “So we are on our own.”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Lemma…” She paused, her
dark eyes large and clear. “I don’t want to be a slave again. I won’t
be a slave again. If I feel myself going…”
“I understand,” I said.
“You too, right? If you can’t
hold out, you’ll tell me, and we’ll tear these off and make our stands.”
I nodded. “Of course.” I
mean, if it’s a choice between being a slave and dying… I mean, I know I want
to be made to obey, but… shit. This was a bad train of thought to be
going down. It was distracting me from fighting back, and more importantly, I
wasn’t sure I would rather die than be a slave. The glamours had their
in, and I could feel one slipping in: I’d rather be a harem girl than dead.
It burrowed in below my thoughts,
coiled around my uncertainty, and then grabbed onto the net I was trying to
push away, linking up to wanting to be made to serve, wanting him to take me.
At once that net was pulling itself back around me again, those echo-emotions
surging back up to feel present and real.
Simta approached us, smiling.
“His Majesty wishes to see you again, Lemma,” she said, and like a
puppet I immediately rose. “Oh, you’re so lucky,” she said, “to
be summoned again so quickly. But I suppose I’ve had more than my share in the
last few months!” She giggled.
I couldn’t deny how happy she
seemed, and another glamour slipped in, linking to my now-conviction that it
was better to be a harem girl than die: harem girls are happy.
As I walked down the hall, I
couldn’t help feeling excited. Thanks to the glamours, I craved his touch,
wanted him to take me and use me, to fuck me, to make me fuck him. Those
desires were getting stronger with every step I took, as I got more and more
Finally, I reached Lugal’s chamber.
Immediately, instinctively, I started to kneel, but he raised his hand.
“No, Lemma,” he said. “No need for that now.”
So I stood there, trembling with
excitement and need, while he slowly walked around me, examining me.
“Do you know why I made Iola
service me last night, and not you?” he asked.
A question was as good as a command
to reply. “No… Your Majesty.” The last two words were compelled out
of me, and that was hot as fuck, and there went another glamour, linking
to finding being made to obey sexy and wanting to be made to serve: being
made to serve is sexy.
He finished his circle and faced me.
“Because, Lemma, it was obvious very quickly that you are being affected
much more quickly than Iola.”
“I am not a fool, Lemma. I
could see that the other dancer fell quickly because she had a natural
submissive streak, while Simta very much did not. Not that it mattered in the
end–but it did help Simta hold out a full day and a half longer.” Lugal
took my chin in his hand and gently tilted my face up to look at him, and between
the thrill of his glamour-amplified touch and the sheer power it demonstrated
he had over me, I nearly creamed on the spot.
He smiled, then stepped back.
“Dance for me, Lemma.”
So I did, just as I had before. Like
I said, I hate dancing–but I hadn’t had a chance to deal with the other
glamours related to it. Even though I hated it, it still turned me on, and I
still found being made to do it sexy. I hadn’t been able to hold off the
glamour under those circumstances before, and I couldn’t do it now: once again,
dancing is sexy.
But it didn’t matter either way; I
did it because the king commanded it. I had no choice, I had to serve,
and being made to serve was sexy. Serving is sexy. Just like that, the
glamour was in my head, linking up to finding dancing sexy and finding being
made to serve sexy.
“Stop,” Lugal ordered, and
I did instantly.
Again he took my chin in his hand,
and looked down into my eyes. I was transfixed, speechless; all I could do was
beg with my eyes. Then he kissed me, and it was like a fireball exploding in my
brain and lightning down my spine. I didn’t move a muscle except my mouth, my
tongue, and he just held my face with one hand while our lips and tongues met,
but it was intense, electric.
He broke the kiss, stepped back, and
I nearly lost my balance, I was so staggered. “Please,” I whimpered.
“No,” he said, his smile
not the least bit cruel. “Not until you are completely mine. Go back to
the harem and tell Iola to come see me next.”
I didn’t want to. I wanted to grab
him push him down, straddle him, fuck him, but I couldn’t. I had to obey
him, had to serve him like a good harem girl would, and that opened the door to
more glamours: Harem girls serve. Being a harem girl is sexy. I want to be a
By now the air in the harem was almost
completely clear. Iola was seated crosslegged on a pillow, her eyes closed.
Trying to fight the glamours, I assumed.
Probably with a lot more success
than me, I thought. And there was another
glamour: I can’t beat this. It’s surrender… or death.
And I already knew, surrendering
meant being a harem girl, and I would rather be a harem girl than dead. I
wanted be a harem girl anyway! Given the choice… another glamour. I want
to be his harem girl. I want to surrender to him. And that linked up so easily
to wanting him to take me… I want him to own me.
I want to be his completely.
It was over. I think Iola must have
seen something in my face, been tipped off by some instinct, because she looked
up at me as I approached her, and immediately her hand went to her breast, to
rip off the cloth.
I couldn’t let that happen.
“His Majesty wishes to see you immediately,” I said.
She stood, but her hand was still in
the same place. I had to stop her, I couldn’t let her ruin this, not
when I was so close! I understood, now; Red had tailored the glamour part of
the enchantment specifically for me. He didn’t know Iola, didn’t know the
buttons to push.
I’ve never been great at glamours,
but after two years of dealing with every imaginable type of mental magic, not
to mention a few I’d never imagined, I picked up a thing or two. My glamour was
crude compared to Red’s, but it was something I knew would work on Iola, the
careful, strategic fighter: Wait for the right moment.
I could see it settling in her
brain, and she was so startled she actually managed to stop, geas or no
geas, and jerk around to face me. “Lemma!” she said, her expression
one of total betrayal.
“I’m sorry,” I said, and
added more glamours: Avoid risks. Go along to get along. Conserve my
She was fighting, but she couldn’t
fight the geas and my glamours and the ones in the clothes. I could see them
curling around mine, joining my crude, clumsy network, making it harder and
harder for her to muster the will to resist.
The pull of the geas was too strong,
but I followed. His Majesty had said he would take me when I surrendered, and I
had surrendered, that was like an order to come back to him.
And while I followed, I put more
glamours into Iola’s brain, feelings something like It’s too dangerous too
try to escape. There’s no way to win. Better to survive as a slave than be
That last one bounced right off, so
I had to think a moment. Then I saw the answer: Survival is victory.
Survival is as close as I can get to winning. The only way to survive is as a
And that did it. The glamours were
definitely working their way in now–and more importantly, any desire to remove
her outfit or run away was firmly tied down by my own additions.
We entered the King’s chamber and
kneeled. I caught a glimpse of his face as I entered; he looked cross.
“Lemma,” he said sternly,
“Why have you returned? I did not command you to.”
“My apologies, Your
Majesty,” I said. “But you did. You said you would take me when I was
ready to surrender completely.”
“And are you?” he asked.
This was it. My last moment of
freedom before I became completely, entirely, eternally his, bound by
unbreakable fairy magic. But that was a lie; freedom was already gone, and I
was glad to be rid of it. “Yes,” I breathed. “I want to be
yours, your harem girl. I am yours. I am your devoted, obedient, sexy
harem girl, forever.”
“Then come here,” he said.
“Iola, you can watch as Lemma sheds her garments. See how happy she is to
be mine at least, and know that soon that will be you as well.”
Iola raised her head, sat back on
her haunches, and watched as I sashayed toward King Lugal, my hands already
reaching to tear off the cloth almost-but-not-quite concealing my nakedness.
“Wait,” he said. “I
like watching you dance. Do it while you strip, slowly.”
I groaned. I didn’t want to wait. I needed
him, desperately–but I was his obedient harem girl. There was no choice but to
do as he said–and it felt so good to do it, and know I had to do it.
I began to sway and twirl slowly in
place, running my hands up and down my body. Slowly I dropped my veils, the
gauzy pieces of cloth covering me, one by one letting them fall, until at last
I wore nothing but golden collar and the golden chain around me waist.
I stepped toward my owner, my master,
my King, as he lay back on the cushions, hand behind his head, his cock
sticking straight up in the air. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Iola,
biting her lip as she watched, and through the thin fabric of her outfit I
could see how hard her nipples were, how wet she was getting. The glamours were
getting her, and before long she would join me in bliss.
I was glad.
But then, before I could impale
myself on King Lugal’s lordly, half-divine cock, the door burst open. I groaned
when I saw who it was: Iason, his armor spattered with blood–other people’s,
it looked like–and his sword gleaming darkly in his hands. “Lemma, I’m
here to save you!” he shouted.
Iola half-turned toward him, as
close as she could get to disobeying the command locking her eyes on me.
“Help!” she managed. “Your sword, quickly!”
“No!” I shouted, but it
was too late. Iason touched the flat of his sword to the side of Iola’s head.
There was a sizzling noise, and she collapsed onto her sides, a puppet with its
“Thank you,” she said.
And then Red was there. No pop, no
glow, no portal, just one moment he wasn’t and the next he was in the middle of
the room. He grinned as he saw me, and time seemed to slow. I could see that he
was tensing, about to spring–and then he ducked as Iason’s sword whistled over
his head, missing him by a hair.
“Oh, how lovely!” he said,
straightening and spinning out of Iason’s reach. “The best of both
worlds–one last humiliation for Lemma the slave, and I get to kill her
and all her friends!”
“You’re wrong!” I
retorted. “I’m proud to be a harem girl, it is everything I want to
Red laughed. “Well, then I know
what I’ll be taking first.” He dodged away from Iason’s sword again,
grabbed Lugal, tore his head off his neck, and threw his body onto Iason’s
I screamed in agony. My lord, my
master, my reason for living, was dead!
“Ah, that’s what I like to
hear,” said Red.
Iason struggled to pull his sword
out of Lugal. “Touch her, touch either of them, and you will not
leave this room alive!” he roared at Red.
But Red had thrown Lugal hard,
and Iason’s sword was almost hilt deep in him. It was taking too long for him
to pull it out, and Red was right on top of me. “A hundred humans could
not restrain me,” Red spat back at Iason. “What can one mortal do
alone, no matter how pretty a sword he might carry?”
He turned to me, death in his eyes.
I wasn’t sure I minded. What purpose was there to being a harem girl without an
owner? I might as well die with him.
Then something very large and very
fast burst through what little Iason had left of the doorframe, leaped across
the room, and shoulder-checked Red into the far wall.
“Who said I was alone?”
I looked up to see a familiar, short
figure standing in the doorway. “Sonneillon!” Rhoda ordered in a
clear, bright voice, obviously relishing the moment. “Kill.”
The huge wrath demon roared and
swung a fist at Red, but he was too fast. He grabbed Sonneillon’s arm, swung
around it and onto his back. Claws gripped the hair on the demon’s neck while a
mouth of gleaming sharp teeth widened, preparing to bite down–and then Red howled
and sprang back as a flurry of needle-sharp hairs fired out of Sonneillon’s
Red landed nimbly in a crouch in the
middle of the room, facing Sonneillon. I could see Red clutching his arm–he
was bleeding, a weird silvery-red color but definitely blood. He snarled
and leaped. Sonneillon punched, but Red slid under his fist, between his legs,
and slashed with his claws.
Sonneillon roared, and I saw
droplets of ichor sizzling where they touched floor and cushions. Red seemed
unperturbed as he kipped up to his feet behind Sonneillon, who whirled around
to face the goblin.
Red snarled again as Sonneillon
tried another punch, but Red ducked under it, then jumped the next one, and
then–jammed his clawed right hand shoulder-deep into Sonneillon’s chest.
Sonneillon roared, and shuddered, and I knew he was about to dissolve, and–
And not even someone as fast as Red
could dodge an attack he couldn’t see coming. Behind Sonneillon’s massive bulk,
Iason lunged forward, sword gripped in both hands. It plunged straight through
Sonneillon’s back and out the other side–right into Red’s grinning face.
An unearthly shriek echoed through
the room as Red dissolved into silver dust. Sonneillon shuddered as well, and
then melted away into goo, which soon dissolved as well.
The four of us stood, Iason, Iola,
and I panting, while Rhoda leaned against the doorway looking smug.
“How–?” Iola started.
Then, “Who–?” She shook her head. “No, first things
first.” She picked up Iason’s sword, lifted it in both hands, and stabbed
it down hard into my discarded clothes. There was another sizzling
sound, a little zap–and their magic was gone.
“Lemma?” asked Iason,
looking at me with concern.
“I’m okay,” I said,
surprised to hear myself say it, and even more surprised that it was true.
“Between destroying the enchanted garment, killing Red, and killing Lugal,
the geas had no anchor, so it dissolved, and took the glamours with it.”
“Just to be sure,” Iola
said darkly, and held out the sword. I gingerly touched the side of the blade
with one bare hand; nothing happened. “Good,” she said, but she
didn’t sound happy about it. “So… who is this person, and what
“What?” gasped Rhoda.
“You’ve never heard of Rhoda the Mighty?”
“You may just earn that
name,” I said. “How did you manage to get a demon inside a temple?
This is sacred ground!”
“Well…” she admitted,
glancing at Iason. “I may have had help.”
“Oh,” I said. “Of
course, the sword. It… what, cleared a path through the holy magic and let
“Yeah,” said Rhoda.
“Seriously though, next time you call me in for backup, can you pick
somewhere easier for me to get into? Like, literally anywhere?”
Iason leaned past her out the door,
and looked up and down the hallway. “We need to move,” he said.
Sonneillon and I killed a lot of guards to get here. Well, I killed
guards, Sonneillon killed anyone he saw.“
"Sorry,” said Rhoda,
blushing slightly. “Controlling him is hard enough normally, but in here?
It was all I could do to get him not to attack allies.”
“Anyway,” said Iason,
“we need to get out of here before the rest of the guards follow
the trail of screams and blood.” He shook his head. “I’m getting to
be like you, Lemma.”
“What’s that supposed to
mean?” I asked sweetly. “I don’t leave trails of blood, I leave
trails of fire. Case in point…” Turning, I examined the walls. Then,
with a shrug, I picked the one by the pillows and started blasting.
As we left the city in a calm and
orderly fashion, by which I mean one step ahead of a very angry army, Iason
filled me in on the rest: like I’d guessed, he’d been kicked out as soon as we
were led away. While he tried to figure out how to rescue us from what he now
knew was a trap, Rhoda showed up looking for me, so they teamed up.
“What I don’t get,” he
said, “is how Rhoda knew to look for us there?”
“Oh, that was me,” I
replied. “Remember that backup I sent for in Khemeth? I used a grateful
ghost to take a crossplanar message, let the demons know I wanted Rhoda to meet
me in Lagasch as soon as possible.”
“And eventually they got the
message to me,” Rhoda said. “Silly Sonneillon tried to tempt
me with it, get me angry by refusing to tell me what it said, but I forced it
out of him. And then I just summoned an Erinye to fly us here, took less than a
“Okay,” said Iason,
I sighed. “Because there’s one
book left, and if anyone has used it… well, we’re going to need
“Yeah, I was wondering about
that myself,” said Rhoda. “What book is it, exactly?”
I sighed. I didn’t want to say it;
it made it real. “The one book that might be more dangerous than the Rite
of Uncreation,” I said. “The Sepher Shel Agrat.”
Rhoda’s eyes widened. “You
don’t mean–” She covered her mouth. “I’ve heard of that! Demons have
“Care to share with the
class?” Iola asked testily.
“It is the most complete
collection of demon lore ever assembled,” I said. “With it, you could
learn in time to summon anything, up to and including a demon
“Is that as bad as it
sounds?” asked Iason.
“Well, we at least know that
hasn’t happened,” I answered.
“How?” he asked.
“Because they haven’t started
the apocalypse yet,” answered Rhoda.
“Fuck,” he said.
We walked on in silence for a bit,
Iola lagging a bit behind. I pulled back a bit to walk next to her. “Um…
are you okay?” I asked.
I thought about some of what had
happened in the past couple days. What I’d done. “Are we okay?”