I was slowly starting to get used to the scratching of a quill and the constant splatters of ink I was leaving everywhere as I wrote. Unfortunately, I had no time to improve my writing utensils at the moment.
It would be easy to blame Isra, but the issue lied elsewhere. Even two brain cells were enough to understand that the disproportionate response wasn’t aimed at her but at me and my future plans. They simply saw an opportunity.
But what was the point? Were they planning on dangling it in front of us in the future, expecting something valuable in return? Or were they trying to slow my progress down? After all, Esmat Fidda wasn’t just an influential member of the local smith guild, the ‘College of metal’, but also the Smith of Kiymetl.
And she was working directly for Amanzhan.
All that meant I could not afford to stop anymore. Especially when Domina had been summoned once again. To meet the Matriarch herself.
I was immensely grateful to Yeva for her quick thinking, but ore required an additional step I was trying to skip. Additional furnaces to build. Additional blueprints and drawings to produce.
So the quill continued to move.
With a sigh, I dipped a piece of fabric into yet another stain to absorb the ink. I needed a coke oven too. It would be small, inefficient, and would occupy Keivan’s workers even longer. But it would give me the proper fuel to smelt ore into pig iron. Then I could melt it together with the discarded bloom iron and see where my carbon content was.
That reminded me that I needed to try fixing the screaming lithoscanner I pulled out from the wreck. It was made to discern the composition of the ground underneath and could just as easily tell me the composition of an iron ingot in my hands. Simple, like hammering nails with a microscope.
The constant loud beeps and gibberish on its screen meant one thing — it was working. I just had to make sure that it could do useful work rather than being a portable sound alarm.
I grunted. Yet another task. I knew of the spark method to check for the carbon content, but I wasn’t a smith to look at a shower of sparks while grinding a steel blank and say something like ‘yep that is one per cent carbon alloy’. Isra probably could… if she knew that steel was an alloy, that is.
And I didn’t need just ‘blade steel’: I wanted her to produce not only cast iron but multiple different steel types for different purposes. Mild steel for structural components and harder forms for different tool bits. Blades and armours too.
“I think you need a break, Erf. Take some time off and relax a bit.” A familiar voice stopped my writing.
Lifting my eyes, I was surprised to see not just Anaise but also Irje in the doorway. Both were clad in new, vivid kaftans, marbled with multiple colours to make them look like living flames. Another ‘easy’ invention so to say. With the access to better dyes and paints from the bio-printer, the fabric didn’t need to be boiled or soaked for extended periods. Now they could sprinkle different dyes on a water surface, let them mix into unique swirls and shapes, and place the cloth over it.
The resulting patterns weren’t just unique: they were, until now, unheard of in Emanai. And that made them worth noticing by the ruling elite, who were always on the lookout to showcase their wealth and, with it, power.
Aikerim’s grumble about needing to replace Anaise’s dress a third time in a row was rather lacklustre. And the rest of its impact was further diminished by the gleam in her eyes and a smirk on her lips.
And her swaying tail.
I stretched with a yawn and sat a little bit more comfortably. “Perhaps you are right, I’ve been stuck here for most of the day. But I hate to sit idle when stuff is happening elsewhere.”
The desk and chair setup was rare in Emanai due to the tails and hooves of the most prominent members of society, but Wrena had done her best to cater to my needs. As always, the desk was rather large but it worked in my favour: more room to spread papers and other clutter around.
Anaise smiled and smoothed her kaftan as she walked closer: my staring was noticed. “Have trust in my mother. Once she is sure of her path, nothing can steer her aside.”
There was a sway in her steps that made me swallow. I tried glancing at Irje but Anaise quickly turned my head back with her tail. “This worry will not help you now, dear. You already did what you could have done and the new plans won’t happen overnight. And I am here to remind you of that and ease your vexations. Just as you have with mine.”
Her hands reached out and caressed my chin, “Or are you planning to make something wicked again? Will you tell me?”
“I…” The words got stuck inside my mouth as I felt another set of arms: caressing my legs and slowly sliding higher. Right under my tunic.
“Don’t mind that,” Anaise placed the familiar orb on my table, “She has her task. Talk to me.”
I swallowed. This was a heck of an intervention. “Just…working out the kinks in the steel production.”
“Kinks, you say?” She smirked, “Why do you worry about needing so much iron and steel right now? You only have one smith.”
The fingers slid over my thighs and gently pushed my legs apart. Reflexively, I squirmed in my seat as a wave of shivers ran down my spine. I did that trick to Irje plenty of times — she knew exactly what to do.
“I need to build machine frames.” I licked my lips, “They will need to apply tremendous pressure to bend and gouge steel. That steel would push back with equal strength. A frame with flex in it will throw any precision out of the window.”
The pressure was building as the fingers pushed my tunic aside. As the soft cheek brushed my inner thigh. As I felt Irje’s warm breath on my groin.
Anaise leaned on my chair while still caressing my face. Watching and enjoying my emotions in the process. Intentionally distracting me. “Do you need precise sheets so soon? A mastersmith can do much with just a hammer and an anvil.”
“Not when you need a complex shape, like a cuirass, made from a single sheet of steel.” My eyes and my hands slid over her body, accentuating my words. I didn’t know what kind of game these two were playing but I would be a fool not to play along. “I asked. That is why your breastplates are cast from bronze. It is not something you can make on an anvil.”
My hands slid up and cupped her breasts, still covered by a fine cloth. A cloth that could not stop her nipples from poking through, could not stop my fingers from playing with them either.
Just as my clothes could not stop Irje from kissing the tip.
“Don’t worry so much about that,” Anaise breathed before pulling me into her kiss. “You will not face the Forest unprotected. I will make my mother dress you in Creature scales if that is necessary. It is extremely strong as is.”
Her body pressed into mine as my shaft was skillfully milked by a hungry cougar. Stoking my desire and need and pushing the stress of recent days away from my mind. I gave back in turn. My foot slid out and wedged itself between Irje’s legs, rubbing her hot and dripping core. In the meantime, my hands were full of the foxy lady: caressing, massaging, invading deeper into her dress.
I shuddered as I came, feeling their tongues on me. A twin assault I had no defence against. Their actions built off on each other, smothering me in layers of bliss.
My eyes popped open as I sat up straighter.
“Hmm?” Irje glanced at me in a questioning manner, her mouth still occupied.
“Brigandine,” I murmured. “Layered plates of steel riveted to a tunic that would hold them close. Similar to scale armour but flipped inside out. It would hide my skinsuit but won’t constrict my movements. And it will be unique yet mundane looking so that it would both avoid unnecessary attention yet explain its strengths from a glance. The plates would be small enough to be worked on an anvil.”
My hand slid from Anaise’s butt and caressed Irje’s hair. Gently pushing her to continue, I made it known to her that the fun wasn’t over yet. “I will make tunics out of spider silk and we can carve runes into individual plates. With you powering them, such armour would be almost impenetrable.”
“Speaking of runes,” Anaise grabbed my hand and put it back to where it was, “why are the runes dark, Irje? Did you lie to me?”
Irje gleefully smirked without interrupting her task in getting me hard once again.
“Can this wait?” I tried to distract Anaise with my fingers. “It is not the time for that right now.”
“Yes-s-s… I mean no!” the werfox hissed. “The only reason why I invited her during my day is so that she could practice her magic, trying to channel the feeling of shame!”
“Shame?” I looked at her askance and glanced down at the shameless cougar. “What are you talking about?”
Anaise turned red. “I mean… that!”
“Oh?” I drawled with a teasing smirk. “You mean that going down on someone is shameful? What about me going down on you that you enjoy so often?”
“That’s different!” Anaise sputtered, beet-red. “I… I wash myself! And… and you did it on your own. I didn’t force you to… did I?”
“No, you did not.” I toned down my teasing a bit. “I did it willingly. Because I enjoy giving you pleasure. In more ways than one.”
She bit her lip and looked away. “Is… that something you want?”
“Anaise,” Irje butted in, crawling from under the table, “kiss me.”
“Wha…” She was struck nearly speechless by the sudden intrusion, and so was I. “Wait! Hold your hors-mfmm!”
Irje didn’t completely glomp Anaise, but the kiss was anything but chaste. She parted away just as quickly. With a cute ‘mwah’ sound.
Leaving a stunned Anaise touching her lips in befuddlement.
“Do you get it now?” Irje grinned. “This is his taste. I don’t do it against my will because he asks me to. I do it because I want to.”
The werfox puffed her cheeks. “You made me think that this was for your training!”
“Well…” The cougar scratched her head. “I was going to do that afterwards.”
“Out!” Anaise hissed at her while pointing at the door. “If you want to waste my time on your training — do it during your days! Today he is mine!”
Irje licked her lips. “Deal!”
The tail swooshed through the air. “You…”
“Now,” I chided Irje while pulling Anaise closer into a hug, “you heard the Lady of the Day. You got your share, and we can play the naughty secretary at a later time: the table isn’t going anywhere. Right now, I have a feisty wife to please.”
Irje laughed gently and left us alone. Just as the door was shut behind her, Anaise turned her glare at me.
“Erf, why didn’t you tell me about the taste!?”
I scratched my head. “How do you expect me to say it? Anaise, I taste delicious — you should totally suck me off?”
“Idiot…” she murmured without any heat and glanced down at my dick. Irje left me clean yet uncovered.
Her fingers reached out and stroked it, “Do not speak to anyone about what happened today. Especially…” She gulped and glanced at the closed windows. “If I… were to do… ‘that’.”
I smiled and pulled the stuttering mess deeper into my embrace. “Be at peace, dear. I will not speak about your secrets even to the rest of our sadaq. As long as they don’t involve them, that is. Everyone deserves some privacy, and unity within our sadaq is only relevant when it is a choice.”
Anaise gave me a small smile. “Just…not today. Okay? I am not saying no…but give me some time.”
“That is fine. But don’t expect that we are done, yet.” I wiggled my eyebrows.
She smirked and climbed onto the table, right in front of me.
“Would you like to do ‘that’?” she shyly asked as her hands pulled the sides of her kaftan up and away, revealing to me her already glistening folds. “Or do you wish for me to give you pleasure?”
“Decisions, decisions,” I murmured, pulling my tunic off.
Only to frown. “What is that noise?”
Shahin Esca Yusuf-ja
Shahin was in the middle of saying her farewells when she felt the Flow move. Like a tide, it pulled away from Samat.
And like a tide — it poured back in.
Amir’s head snakes hissed in surprise among the cries of other lamuras. Yet, somehow, Shahin was expecting this to happen all this time.
She raised her face to the sky and let the incoming rush of air hit her straight on, with her eyes wide open. Shahin counted many years of her life and had seen many curiosities and outright wonders, but the appearance of a Divine Castle was not a common event.
One never knew when and where they would arrive next. And their direct oversight during the Divine Rituals was not that common either.
Shahin watched in awe as the flying island parted the firmament as if it was a pool of water, sending ripples across the sky. Slowly entering the mortal realm.
Quiet for all but the most trained wermages.
Flow was still moving all around them, pushed away by the new presence. It would be a blessed year in Samat: wer would sire wermages under the Divine Grace, while wermage children would be born even stronger.
“Do you trust me now, Amir?” Shahin asked without looking away. The island had finished its transition but was still too far above the ground. Despite the lack of any walls, all she could see were the rooftops of the tallest buildings. And a handful of towers that were floating around it.
“Do not start another tale, Shahin. It is not the time right now.”
These towers greatly resembled the seven flying Pillars of Emanai. Or, to say it properly, the seven Pillars resembled these towers.
“Yet, I am the only one here unsurprised,” Shahin murmured.
Emanai descended on her lands.
Aikerim Kiymetl Adal
“Away with your false accusations!” Aikerim glared at Amanzhan. “Playthings? What nonsense are you talking about.”
“Oh? Are you denying their upcoming union?”
“Anaise made a choice, and presented it to me,” Aikerim acknowledged among the murmurs of Kiymetl Dominas. “After a lengthy deliberation, I decided to accept her request.”
“You are throwing away your precious little moon, Aikerim,” her mother intervened, frowning. “Even without this, she will likely have trouble finding an exceptional male. With a murk as a first husband? She can just forget about catching anyone decent at all!”
“Give her ten years, and suitors will sail to her from abroad just to have a chance.” She had no intention of stepping back.
“Ten years?” her mother barked. “It would be ten centuries of humiliation for the entire Kiymetl! Just because you couldn’t say no to a whining child. Marry him to one of your relatives if you are that desperate to keep him bound. You have a few Kiymetl wers around and one of them is likely to agree, for a favour from you. And tell Anaise to pack — I think a few years in my Manor would help her to remember what is actually important.”
“Mother,” Amanzhan intruded, “I don’t think that murk is a good influence on her entire Manor. If he was able to sway her and her daughter, he will be able to do it again or turn his new wife against us. He needs discipline.”
Matriarch glanced at her and frowned in thought.
Aikerim sighed. Her sister went all in.
That meant it was her turn to do so.
“When I was granted the title of Domina,” her sudden words made them turn their heads, “I was given an artefact from the coffers of Kiymetl. The Gift. The Orb of Truth. I believe it is time that I return it.”
The room gasped in unison, while the lounging sofa creaked under her mother’s fingers.
Nanaya Ayda glared the entire room into silence and turned her eyes to Aikerim. Her ears — flat. “Are you giving away your status? Over that?”
“Oh, don’t misunderstand me, mother.” Aikerim bowed with a slight smile, her hands clasped together. “But I’ve grown over the last few years. And we do not have many Gifts to spare. By sharing my Gift, I can make Kiymetl grow even stronger.”
“Really, Aikerim? You are trying to bribe one of our younger sisters to go against our Matriarch.” Amanzhan shook her head.
“Just for that alone, I can strip from you the Gift and your status, Ai-kerim.” Nanaya sighed and rubbed her temples in obvious frustration. It had been many years since Aikerim heard that infection. “Must you be this obstinate? And choose your words carefully now. Another statement like that and I will start to contemplate whether you deserve to be called Kiymetl at all.”
Aikerim opened her hands, revealing the floating ball of blue runes. With a flicker of symbols all around them.
Just as if it was the Orb of Truth.
She raised her eyes at the unfolding pandemonium, assured in her position and power, and simply waited for the shrieks of awe and outrage to settle down.
She was able to copy Albin’s Orb since she took her time to memorise the patterns. Aikerim had her own Orb as long as she was Domina. She could recall these patterns even in her sleep. The patterns were a mystery to her until Erf gave her knowledge.
Aikerim was not going to let him go.
She felt Flow brushing across her body.
No matter what her mother thought about it. No matter what her sister plotted. No matter what her family had worried about.
“As you can see, my dear family,” she spoke with a slight smirk, “I won’t grow that much weaker without the Gift. While another sister of mine will definitely prosper.”
Her mother tried to speak but Flow shifted once again, silencing her mid-speech.
“And I was not guessing when I said my daughter will have suitors aplenty in ten years. I was stating the truth.”
The door slammed open behind her. “My Matriarch, Dominas! The Goddess is above us!” A panting guard finally wheezed.
Aikerim closed her eyes, mentally preparing herself.
After all, Aikerim was planning for this almost as soon as she saw Erf for the first time.