A masked lesson
By: Anoshia Posted on: January 27, 2007
The two met under the eaves of the Crystal Leaf Inn, having both wished to escape the dreary weather of the nearby highway. She, a lovely, frightened siren most likely recently bequeathed from the Flame and him a young knight training in the way of the blade, but both still unknown and innocent in the realm of respected adventurers...
Taking his seat at the bar, the knight ordered a flagon of ale from the local, shapely barmaid. He cupped the cold mug between his gloved hands, sighing deeply as rain droplets trickled from his sodden attire. The drink, though unfittingly cold, was proving helpful in aiding his attempt to ease his worn limbs. After gulping down the last dregs of foamy malt, he relaxed his stature, shrugging off a tattered cloak as he wandered over to the hearth's side.
As he stood warming the linens of his tunic, an individual clothed in soaking rags quickly entered the inn, collapsing atop a seat at the bar. The tavern girl was quickly at her side with a warmed towel, for which she removed the weathered maiden's sopping coat to wrap the cloth around her small shoulders, revealing her siren form. The two women conversed for a short time as the knight tottered ever so slightly on his heels, mildly curious at the contents of their hushed conversation. Catching his glance, the barmaid locked eyes on him, and he felt his cheeks flush a deep crimson.
The barmaid retreated into the kitchen, leaving the girl alone on her stool. Careful to keep his gaze low, the knight cast her quick, occasional glances, and though he fidgeted in embarrassment, she made no move to look his way. Soon, the tavern girl returned with a frothing mug hot with steam, which she placed in front of the siren. Weaving amid the inn's chairs, she strode to the knight's side, grinning mischievously.
"Pity, isn't it?" she chimed with a hint of sorrow and a nod towards the seated girl. "I dare say she would have drowned if she hadn't rushed in."
The knight nodded curtly.
"I'm Cherry," she continued, sticking out a small hand in his direction.
"Well met," the knight mumbled. He looked about himself, seemingly unabashed before offering a fast, "I'm Amun."
Cherry giggled happily, shaking her tousled locks at the awkward reply. She kept her eyes upon the uncomfortable man's face, shuffling slightly closer to him.
"She says she knows no one in these parts," Cherry whispered, "Sad to see such a sweet, young girl all alone. I thought maybe you could help her, you know, find her way?"
Amun nodded slowly, cautious of the woman's brazen approach. His eyes wavered from her gaze to the seated lass, and he sighed once more, stepping away from the fire.
"Right then, I'll fetch you another flagon, Mister Amun. On the house," Cherry beamed. She strode away, disappearing again behind the kitchen door.
Amun stood for a moment, contemplating his next move. After finally choosing to only offer the lady help, he took a deep breath, assuring himself it was truly his knightly calling. He walked slowly, taking a seat several stools apart from the siren who was now sipping gaily at the lip of her mug. Amun coughed softly. "Greetings."
The young woman turned her head towards him, blushing softly as she offered a small smile. Amun wavered, taken by the siren's fair, innocent features that had been previously masked by her dark, sodden tresses. For a moment she looked at him through bashful eyes, fidgeting anxiously with the handle of her drink.
"Greetings," she replied, in a coy, silken voice.
"My name is Amun. I ah, well," Amun stammered, "I saw you come in, and the barmaid seems to think you could use some directions. Are you new here?"
The siren nodded as a frown played upon her rosy lips. "I would be pleased to offer you my services, Miss ah, um..."
"Iukui, that's a very nice name," Amun replied, his confidence growing at the girl's trust. "Where are you going, m'lady?"
"I, I... I cannot say for sure, sir," Iukui sighed. "I very much wished to find my family in Hashan, though I fear I do not know the way."
Amun nodded avidly, happy that the poor girl had chosen such a convenient locale. "I'm actually on my way to Hashan. Perhaps you could accompany me on the morrow?"
Iukui beamed, bobbing her head eagerly. Just as soon as joy entered her piercing blue eyes, she receded, frowning at herself.
"Have I said something wrong?" Amun asked.
"No, no. I'm very sorry. I wish to go with you, but I must leave tonight. You see, I, uh," the girl blushed. "What is it?"
Reluctantly Iukui spoke, keeping her discomfited gaze from Amun's. "I cannot afford to stay. The lady Cherry has already offered me this tea for which I cannot pay. I must go as soon as I finish, I do not want to burden her further."
Amun pursed his lips. He was not a wealthy man, though he had gathered a fair amount of sovereigns from his recent trek to the southern valleys of Actar, and well, he did wish for Iukui's company...
"Nonsense," Amun replied, "You needn't worry about a thing. I will cover the fees."
Iukui blushed deeply, and refused his generous offer. For several moments the two bantered, until Amun was able to finally convince her that he would accept no other option. It was resolved. The two would share one more round of drinks and perhaps a stew, and Amun would see that Cherry fitted the young lass with a nice room where she might have a good night of rest for the following day's journey.
The meal went much better than Amun could have foreseen, and he was beginning to count himself increasingly lucky to have made company with such a sweet, sensitive, and admittedly very appealing woman. She laughed quietly at his foolishness, and they teased at each other's stories. Several hours passed until they both found themselves stifling yawns, and as such, they resolved to retreat to their bedrooms.
As Amun was making way to escort Iukui to her room, Cherry intersected them at the stairway.
"You must forgive me," Cherry said sullenly, "The storms brought in more visitors than I expected. I miscounted; there is only a single room left."
"It is no worry," Amun replied quickly, "She will take my room. I'll rest my legs out here in the common room."
"No, no! I won't have it," Iukui exclaimed, "You've already been so kind, I insist on staying out here."
Cherry tilted her head, pondering the arguing two.
"Perhaps you could share?" she offered. "It is only one night, and the bed is our house's biggest. I'll bring in extra pillows."
Amun lowered his head, hoping to hide the apparent crimson that touched his cheeks. He shook his head, but before he could open his mouth to protest, Iukui nodded, agreeing to the offer. He was taken back at her readiness to share his bedroom, though his head was light with the merriment of the evening and perhaps the extra ale, so he nodded reluctantly.
"Good, good. You two go on up, I'll return in a few moments with some extra bedding," Cherry said with a dismissive wave of her hand, leaving the two bashful guests to stumble up the staircase.
The room Cherry had set aside was pleasant, but not nearly as spacious as she had implied. Situated in the centre of the space was the quilt-covered bed, and single, solitary candle lit the darkened quarters. Amun and Iukui stood placidly still, both waiting to see the other's first move. Luckily for them both, Cherry burst through the door almost on cue, her arms full with fluffed pillows and another warm quilt.
"Iukui, give me your dress," Cherry ordered, "I'll place it by the fire so it can dry while you sleep."
Iukui blushed deeply, casting her glance from Cherry to Amun. Amun, still feeling the alcohol's effects, mirrored her embarrassment, keeping his eyes fixated on the floor. Still, Cherry insisted, and she strode to Amun's side, grabbed his shoulders, and turned him forcefully towards the wall as Iukui undressed to her undergarments and scampered into bed. After the barmaid made sure the room was to her liking, she opened the window overlooking the nearby amphitheatre, blew out the candle, and bid the two 'goodnight' as she closed the door behind her. Amun slowly turned from his wall-facing position, careful to avoid staring at his now barely dressed companion. Iukui lay with her back towards him, and he removed only his outerwear, climbing reluctantly into bed still adorning his trousers, tunic, and pack. Slowly, Iukui rolled over, turning to face Amun. Her eyes glimmered with a new, surprising intensity, but Amun paid the peculiarity no heed for his mind was wrought with anxiety and embarrassment. Her fingers lightly caressed the side of his cheek, and he shuddered visibly, unable to look from her moonlit facade.
So enamored with the maiden was Amun that a wave of comfort passed over him, allowing him to drop his guard with the girl who was now paying him such sweet, innocent attention. Her fingertips crawled over his clothed shoulders, rubbing his neck and side. Moments passed, and Amun grew ever entranced by Iukui's gaze. Slowly, she brought her lips to his, and as she kissed him softly, she raised a hand, snapping her slender fingers.
The next few moments seemed like hours, leaving Amun awestruck and unknowing of his actions with the maiden. A surge of unexpected generosity tugged at his mind, and he eagerly sat up, removing his pack. Unable to avert his eyes from the beautiful Iukui's gaze, he handed her his precious belongs, one by one. Once he was stripped to his undergarments, Iukui laid a gentle palm against his temple, placing an equally gentle kiss once more to his neck as she bit his skin, envenoming him. Amun's eyes rolled back, and he fell upon the pillow, passing silently into a deep, soundless sleep.
Iukui fled the inn, stopping only to slip the barmaid a handful of sovereigns and a clever wink as she stole into the night. When Amun finally awoke, he would find no remnants of his companion, though he would depart freshly, and very regrettably knowledgeable of the serpent's ways.