Natures Denied - Part III

Now hold thy paws together. Aye, like that,” Sir Saulius counselled as Charles gripped the reins of his steed Malicon. He held his chin up, and guided the pony forward in what Erick assured him were regal steps, Malicon raising his forehooves high before stamping them down. It seemed rather silly to Charles, but he did not say so.

“Is this better?” he asked, feeling the eyes of the Glenners nearby on them. The sight of a knight training one of their newest townsfolk as a squire was something unheard of in this small hamlet. Even before the curses had struck, knights were a novelty seen at festivals in Metamor. With so many large trees about there was little space for equestrians to train. Besides, the people of the Glen had always shown a preference for fighting upon foot, or from the trees. Riding was something reserved for plains folk, of which there were none in the Glen.

Still, it had been several hours now, and it was nearing late afternoon already, and yet still many watched, some applauding his efforts, most laughing at his failures. Charles looked to the knight as he led Malicon in a circle, always trotting regally. “Erick?”

Saulius regarded him with an austere glance, and then nodded. “‘Tis proper form, aye. Thou shouldst practise this every day until the joust.”

He frowned then, and looked down at his paws clasped before him. “But why? We didn’t have to do this last year.”

“Aha, my good Matthias, but we wert not champions last year. We shalt enter the arena proudly, for we art the champions. And shalt be again, methinks.”

Charles nodded then, and kept up the pace for a few more minutes. His wrists began to ache soon though, and even though he let his Sondeck flow through them, they grew tired from staying in one position for so long. Not to mention his neck began to ache from holding his head high. His incisors too were beginning to pester him, the nearly constant dull throbbing beginning to grow. He’d need to chew on something soon to ease that.

“‘Tis enough, methinks.” Saulius drew Armivest around in front of Charles and nodded in approval. “Thou art doing very well, Matthias. Let us see if thou canst strike the rings again. This thou shalt do until thee canst snag each one on thy run.”

Charles nodded and brought Malicon to a stop, patting the pony’s neck in assurance. He dismounted then and led him to the trowel of water along one side of the clearing. He drank eagerly, while the rat rubbed at his thighs, feeling excessively sore already. In fact, he had to keep one paw on Malicon’s side to steady himself. He wasn’t sure he could walk straight just then.

Turning back, he saw that Saulius was busy resetting the three poles that they’d put up earlier along the middle of the clearing. They were quite familiar, each pole having an arm that swung outwards from the top. At the end of that arm hung a wooden ring, each one smaller than the last. It was much the same set up from the jousts, though from his earlier runs that day, it was clear he was in desperate need of practice. It had taken him three runs just to snag even one of the rings! And the runs he’d done after that had not gone much better.

Saulius rode the length of the field once, inspecting each ring twice before he was satisfied. His muzzle turned back to Charles, and he smiled. “When thy steed is ready, wilt thou be?”

“Aye,” Charles nodded, smiling a little weakly. He was quite tired already in fact. The life of a scout was rigorous, but spending all day in the saddle was tiring in a completely different way. It used completely different muscles, muscles he had not known he’d possessed in fact. Still, there was an undeniable thrill to it, one that he remembered well. Gripping the horn of the saddle, he pulled himself up atop Malicon again and led the pony back into the middle of the clearing.

“Thy lance,” Saulius said, holding out one of the practice lances that they’d spent much of the morning fashioning. Nudging Malicon in the side, Charles led the pony to Saulius’s side and grasped the lance in one paw. It was fairly comfortably weighted, but he still had to use some of his Sondeck force to keep the tip from falling to the ground.

Saulius edged his own charger from the field, watching with paws resting upon the horn of his saddle. He chittered softly to himself as he observed his squire steadying the lance, snout turned down the field. Charles narrowed his gaze, and with the lance finally steadied, gave Malicon a kick to the sides, and he was off. The sound of hooves thundered in his ears, but he held himself steady, paws bracing against the stirrups as he aimed the point of the lance for the first ring.

The scene before him continued to bounce, juggling up and down as he approached, skewered, and then deftly removed the first ring from its pole. He allowed himself a slight smile, but kept his eyes on the next pole rapidly approaching. One paw wrapped firmly about the lance, bracing it under his shoulder, while the other gripped the reins so tightly his claws nearly cut into his palm. With his knees he braced himself, and kept Malicon charing in a straight line. Though it had been nearly a year since last he’d ridden, the heat of the moment was all too familiar.

And then the second ring glanced along the point of his lance, and slid across its edges. He gritted his teeth as he missed the ring, but consoled himself that there was still plenty of time to practice. Turning his eyes to the last ring, the smallest of the three, he hunched forward anew. His chest rose and fell as if in a dream, the sound of the pony’s pounding hooves echoing as if from some distant mountain. The last pole grew nearer, a bobbing and weaving slender pillar that danced in his vision. But the ring, the one ring left, remained as steady as the sun in his eyes.

He leaned forward, reaching out to snare that ring with his lance, and saw the ring bend backwards as the tip of his shaft struck just along the bottom edge. With a quick frantic tug, he pulled the end of the lance upwards, sliding it fully through the hole, snaring his second ring. It came free as it slid along the lance as far as it could go, and the pole spun around as Malicon charged past.

Charles leaned back in his saddle then and pulled up on the reins. Malicon’s head reared backwards, and the pony came to a slow stop, turning about to face the rest. The Glenners who had come to watch applauded at his showing, cheering his name. He smiled to each of them, nudging his bay back along the field to where his knight waited. Sir Saulius still rested his paws upon the horn of his saddle, studying him with the detached appraisal of an instructor.

“I managed two that time, Sir Saulius,” Charles said, showing him the lance with his prizes. “I am getting better already.” He heaved his breath, feeling the soreness filling him with such rapidity that he nearly dropped the lance. But he knew far better than to do so in front of the knight, and so used his Sondeck to hold his balance.

“Good. Now thou shalt do so again,” Saulius instructed, smiling lightly. “Replace the rings as I hath taught first.”

“The hour grows late, Erick,” Charles point out. “We will not have the sun for much longer. It does not shine as well here as it does in Metamor.”

Saulius turned and glance dup towards the still bright sky, obscured mostly by the canopy of trees overhead. “Thou speakest true. Run until we hath no more light then, my squire.”

There were a few sniggers amongst the onlookers at this, but most kept it behind their paws. Taking a deep breath, Charles nodded his head, and then bade Malicon canter back down the field so he could put the rings back on their poles. He began to wonder just how serious his friend was of making him into a knight.

While Kimberly had spent her day reclining in the main room, working over the new drapes that she and Baerle had settled upon, the opossum had busied herself in the kitchen, preparing a meal for the two rats, or at least, it would be two when Charles returned. As she stirred the stew that was burbling away merrily in its pot upon the stove, she could not help but smile at the thought of seeing Charles dressed in a full suit of armour straddling a pony. It brought a noble air to his figure, something she could sense there, but that he did not exhibit from either modesty or ignorance.

Yes, he would make a dashing knight, Baerle knew. While it was all fine and good to be a scout, and Charles was more than capable there – he’d been training some of the younger Glenners to move silently through the treetops almost since he’d arrived – how much finer would it be were he to be invested as a knight? He could ride at the vanguard of the Duke’s army, crushing the last remnants of Nasoj’s forces, riding up the slopes of the Dark Keep itself to cast that wizard down once and for all.

Yes, Baerle thought with a smile writ upon her muzzle, Charles would ride up that slope, dressed in glimmering armour, riding upon a destrier whose barding shone just as brightly, brandishing a sword that caught the sun. He would sing that blade and sheer through the ranks of Nasoj’s army, driving ever forward to those black gates. There, while the last few who served the evil wizard quailed in fear, he would smote those gates with the pommel of his sword, and bring down the walls of their enemy once and for all.

And it would be Charles that would drive the point of his sword to Nasoj’s neck, leaving but a pitiful creature begging on knees before the mounted rat. Baerle smiled and sighed happily at that thought, and could only imagine the way in which he would return triumphant to Metamor, hailed by all as a hero. He would be showered with rose petals and lilacs as he rode his steed through the lanes of Metamor and the Glen. His visor would be lifted, that regal rodent snout held aloft in triumph, the butcher Nasoj’s head now but a trophy born aloft on his lance. His dark eyes would see all his fellow Keepers and Glenners, and he would smile at them, knowing that he’d saved them from that wizard.

Baerle could well imagine that day, pressing through the throngs of others, beast, babe or human, who had come to adore that saviour rat. He would see her in the crowd then, and hold out his lance to his squire, who would take it and wave Nasoj’s head about so that all might cheer anew. And Charles would dismount then, and stride across the pavilion and take her up in his arms as she threw herself at his metal feet.

But then her smile faded at that, as she knew that would never be. Grimacing at last, she stabbed the spoon into the pot of stew and cursed herself for thinking such foolishness. Charles had a wife, Kimberly. They were sisters, she and the rat, and though she may have once wanted to drive her from Charles, she knew that she could never forgive herself for even thinking it.

Closing her eyes shut, Baerle stirred the stew some more. She leaned forward and sniffed, the rich aroma of the meat filling her with insatiable hunger. It would have to wait though. At least for a while longer. When Charles returned they would eat. But if he did not return soon, they would eat anyway.

Baerle opened her eyes and sighed, no longer feeling quite as silly or ashamed of herself now. She was to be their wet nurse, and she would help raise Charles’s children. That was far more than she could have ever hoped for after all. And Kimberly trusted her and wanted her close so much, it was hard to imagine how she could live life any other way now.

Still, there were many things that had to be discussed about living here, but they would come in time. Kimberly did not seem to mind her faith. Baerle had never given much thought to their own, and had mistakenly assumed that Charles would naturally give honour to Artela himself, being a man who hunted in the wilderness after all. And then what Kimberly had told her earlier came back to her just then, that saying in Brathas, “A new wife, a new god.” Perhaps that was true even if she were only a mid-wife and wet nurse?

That was for later of course, she knew. Setting the spoon to one side, she turned to the counter top where she’d set out a small loaf of bread. Taking a knife from the drawer beneath the counter top, she sliced the loaf into three pieces, and set them on the wooden plates she’d cleaned earlier. A bit of the bread was mouldy, so she cut those parts off as well. Scooping up the mouldy crumbs in one paw, she turned to the window and opened it. After tossing the crumbs outside where they scattered amidst the roots until the birds should find them, she closed the window and wiped her paws off on her apron.

Baerle’s tail curled about her ankle then as she heard the front door open. Kimberly’s excited voice made her smile. “Charles!” came the rat’s voice from the main room. “You look tired.”

She heard him grunt as he shut the door behind him. “Erick wants me to start again first thing in the morning.” He collapsed down in one of the couches with a heavy sigh. “I think he even intends on speaking to Lord Avery to have my duties as a scout curtailed so that I can be his squire.”

Baerle took a few brisk paces so she could stick her head around the corner. Charles was sprawled out on the couch opposite his wife, and his tongue was almost dangling outside of his muzzle. His brown fur was dishevelled and he still had not bothered to take off the mail shirt that Saulius had made him don. “Ah, Charles,” she said, smiling as she stepped around the corner fully. “Do you need help with that?”

He nodded as he let his head roll back along his shoulder. Kimberly chuckled lightly and waved her paw before her face, holding a chewstick between her fingers. “Oh Baerle, could you get that off of him? He looks dreadful.”

It took the opossum only a few moments to reach where the rat had collapsed. She stood with paws on her hips and tail swaying back and forth in agitation. “Well, I could if he would sit up.”

Charles eyed her without any amusement. “You want me to sit up, eh?”

“Aye, I do. Not stop being such a baby,” Baerle chided him, and gripped him under his arms. Charles slumped forward a bit, but finally managed to sit straight up and hold his arms up. Gripping around his neck, Baerle lifted the heavy mail, and managed to slide it up over his muzzle. The rat wiggled his whiskers in agitation as it brushed past them, and across his round saucer-shaped ears. If Charles had not been sitting down, she doubted that she could have managed it, as it was much heavier than she expected.

Still, after a moment, Charles was sitting upon the couch in his oil-stained undershirt, while Baerle held out the mail shirt uncertainly. “Now how do I fold this?” she asked at last, as the mail rings clinked together.

“Erick drilled that into me last year,” he remarked. “And Misha wouldn’t let me forget it either,” he added after a moment. “You never fold mail. It’ll ruin it. There’s a tree over yonder that Saulius wants me to use.” He gestured to the wooden stands that had two arms like branches setting out and a downward sloping angle. Baerle looked down at the mail, but before she could move, Charles laced his fingers underneath her own, and had slipped the heavy shirt form her grasp. With dignified grace, he slide the mail shirt over the tree, until it settled into place, holding out its shape. He turned back and smiled to the opossum once, and then lifted his snout into the air, nose twitching. “I smell stew. And bread.”

“Oh yes, Baerle was just preparing our dinner. Do sit down so you can eat,” Kimberly patted the couch next to her, smiling invitingly to her husband. Charles began to grin rather boyishly then, and stumbled the few steps he needed to reach her. He slid down next to her, almost negligently laying his head across what was left of her lap.

“I like this seat,” he said, whiskers a twitter.

“You do fit there very well,” Kimberly added with a giggle.

“Many parts of me fit very well down here,” he added, his grin turning quite coy.

Baerle blinked at the two even as Kimberly laughed briskly. “I think I’ll prepare the dinner,” she said as she slowly made her way back into the kitchen. But the two rats ignored her, clearly delighting in each other. Frowning, she turned her face and stepped softly into the kitchen, where she could listen to the bubbling of the stew instead.

Still, she could hear both of them giggling softly in the other room. Shutting her eyes, Baerle set herself to stirring the stew rather loudly with the spoon. Teeth gritting after only a few moments, she set the spoon aside once more, and knelt before the stove. After slipping on the woolen glove, she pulled open the door to see the flames smouldering inside. Gripping the poker, she stirred about the wood, watching and listening as the sparks cracked and popped, the fire blazing a bit more strongly than before. She even tossed another log in, watching as the cinders snapped and glowed a deep crimson. Satisfied, she shut the door and set the poker aside.

The two rats had gone quiet now, for which she was thankful. Whatever they’d gotten into their systems must have finally left. Still, her paws trembled, and she had difficulty steadying them. Closing her eyes, she balled her paws into fists and held them close to her breasts. Baerle took several deep breaths, willing herself to be calm. It took longer than she expected, but finally the trembling ceased, while the only thing she could hear or smell was the burbling of the stew.

Feeling somewhat relieved, Baerle spooned out a large portion of the stew for Kimberly, and smaller but sufficient portions for herself and Charles. Holding one plate in the crook of her arm, she carried the other two in her paws, and stepped around the doorway to see an empty living room. Baerle blinked several times as she looked back and forth, but neither of the rats were there anymore. Finally, she heard a soft moaning, and her head turned towards the doorway to their bedroom. The thick tapestry that hung across the doorway blocked out most of the sounds, but the opossum had good ears, and could hear them now.

Her flesh began to tremble anew then, and she was quick to set down all three plates of stew on the table in the centre of the room. Her breathing was tight in her chest, as she looked at the suddenly unappetizing stew. She resisted the temptation to swat one of the plates aside to send the steaming mass into a heap upon the bear rug that lay before the hearth. Instead, she stood up, and found herself walking to the door.

After pushing the door open, she turned one last tie and glanced back at the dark tapestry. For several moments she stared, one foot paw nearly ready to cross the threshold out into the dark of the Glen. And then, rather audibly, she heard one of the two rats giggling behind that tapestry, and she was out the door. It clicked quietly into place behind the shaking opossum.

Lars’s establishment was unusually busy that evening. Berchem laughed with some of the other archers as they shared the first taste of the bock beer that Lars had been brewing since early Winter. He’d tapped it late this year because the harvest had not been as plentiful as the bruin had hoped, but still, the Glenners did not mind. The taste of it was rich and heavy, filling their gullets with its cascading fire. The skunk felt as if he’d been lifted into the air at times, and laughed raucously at every antic his friends did show.

But as he was well into his cups, his dark eyes spotted another archer sitting by herself at one table in the back. She too was drinking, though she did not seem to be enjoying the bock nearly as much as his own companions. His eyes followed the curve of her ears, the way her slender arm stroked along the mazer. He felt himself captivated once again by the curve of her tail, his own flicking back and forth in pleasure. It had been some time since last she’d enjoyed his company, although their parting had been his doing.

Still, with the bock firmly filling him, he did not care about that. Standing from his place at the bar, he shouted to Lars, “Bring me another beer, master bruin!”

The lumbering bear laughed. “You’ve had enough already, Berchem! If you and your friends keep drinking like this there won’t be any beer left for the Summer!”

The skunk hit his fist upon the bar, though it was more for show than an actual threat. “There may not be a Summer for some of us, Lars! Bring me another bock or I shall put this one down thy trousers!”

Lars leaned over the counter top then and poked a claw at the skunk’s chest. “Oh you will, eh?” The bruin’s breath showed that he had not yet partaken of his own brew, which was not surprising. He was usually the last to ever taste it.

Berchem stood a bit taller, his friends scooting aside as his tail began to flail about, the faint hint of skunk musk filling the air. “Relax, friend!” he said, laughing at last as he held aloft his mazer. “It is not for me, but for a comely lass who needs it more than I!”

Lars snorted then and shook his head. “Very well.” He took a fresh mazer from under the bar, and set it beneath the barrel. As he turned the spigot, the dark rich bock began to flow, frothing as it filled the wooden cup. “Take that your lass.” He slid the mazer along the bar, coming to rest at the skunk’s one paw.

“Oh, I shall!” Berchem declared, hefting both mazers as he crossed the room. Though he knew he was drunk, he managed to keep his balance fairly well. It would take quite a few more drinks before he would stumble. Still, he did have some trouble making his way around a few of the other less sure footed patrons who were fumbling about.

Even so, the skunk finally reached the end of the table in the far corner, and smiled as he set down the mazer before the opossum who had only just now noticed his approach. “A drink for you, Baerle! Lars’s finest bock in years! Drink!” The skunk smiled and slipped in next to her, his tail brushing ever so subtly across her own.

She shivered at his touch as she always did, and a smile crept across her muzzle. “I shoodun do that,” she said, her voice slurring some. “But ish good.” She lifted up the mazer and began to drink heavily, the froth staining her muzzle. She set the mazer back down solidly, making his own jump from the impact. He laughed then and leaned his head in closer.

“It’s been a while since we’ve shared a drink, eh Baerle?”

“Oh yesh,” she smiled at him, her own tail beginning to ride up along the underside of his own. He began to stiffen, chirping softly under his breath.

“And a while shince you’ve done that,” Berchem laughed as he took another swig of the bock. He let one arm slip across her shoulders, even as she closed her eyes. He grinned. Ah yes, definitely the best batch of the bock Lars had made in some time. He leaned over and nibbled at her neck, tasting the froth still in her fur. He could hear her voice softly in his ears as her tail curled into the thick fur of his own.

It was an hour later before they had finally found their way through the tall redwoods to the small hole in the ground that Berchem claimed as his own. It was set back in the second line of trees from the main clearing, so the lights shining from their sconces there were much dimmer. And with both of them feeling rather intoxicated, it took them a moment to find the pair of roots that his door was nestled between. The roots pressed together so closely, that the door was turned upwards at a sharp angle, so that even after he’d opened his door, they had to walk down several stairs before they were safely inside.

Baerle herself was so wobbly that she nearly tumbled down those stairs, but Berchem steadied her as he let the door slam shut overhead. The room beyond was small and dark, though there was a small lamp burning upon a lampstand in the centre of the room. It faintly illuminated the small pallet that lay to one side, the hearth across from it, as well as the small clothes chest and the pile of fletching equipment stashed in one corner. Berchem did not possess much, but he was meticulous with what he had.

He glided one paw along Baerle’s backside, and she laughed, her own frame limned by the subtle golden light of the lamp. Her voice chirred slightly, and the skunk pressed himself against her, pushing her further into the room. Her foot paws gave out beneath her, and she nearly fell into the lamp, but his arms caught her, and he pulled her to the pallet, claws digging against her clothing. She let out a slow moan and then a laugh, even as her own paws slipped around his collar, fingers drawing through his thick fur.

Berchem chirred then, his thick tail lashing back and forth as he bent her across the pallet. She fell into the firm woolen mattress, resting against the thick quilts that lay atop it. Her voice trilled upon his ears as she laughed, and he smiled. She had been so good.

As he leaned over the pallet, her felt her paws brushing up along his tunic. He smiled and chirred then, tail curling forward to lay across her legs and tail. He could feel her fingers working loose the knots on his tunic. He leaned further, pressing his fore paws on either side of her shoulders, his knees on the edge of the pallet. Though there was no fire in the hearth, his home was already beginning to feel warm.

Though clearly inebriated, Baerle did manage to undo the lacings on Berchem’s tunic. He smiled as her paws slid beneath his shirt and cross over his chest, fingers probing through the fur at the heavy muscles he bore underneath. He leaned his head forward and nuzzled his snout against her own, chirring seductively to her. Her teeth clicked, tail twitching back and forth against his own. Her paws managed to reach his shoulders, and she pushed his tunic off onto his back. He bent one arm back, and then the other until the tunic was free and he tossed it aside.

“Your turn,” he whispered, as he slipped one paw across her front, fingers undoing the lacings on her shirt. Claws so used to working the strings of a bow, and the fletching of arrows found each and every fibre of her tunic easy to undo, and soon, he was spreading it wide, her arms pinned now at her sides as he lay atop her. He bent his head down and licked across the fur, and breathed in deeply of her own rich musk. He then leaned back, and slipped his paw beneath her neck, lifting her up form the pallet long enough to work the rest of her tunic free.

He then leaned his head down again, and slowly licked across her chest with his tongue, savouring every moan. She ran her paws along his back, brushing through his thick fur from his shoulders down to his tail. He flicked the tail, grinning as he licked, pressing his body against her, feeling her warmth. “Pleash,” she said, her tongue thick in her own throat. “Pleash!”

The skunk grinned and sat back up on the edge of the pallet, working his breeches loose until they fell around his ankles. He kicked them off quickly, the buckle clinking as it landed in one corder. Baerle lay upon the bed, her paws up by her head, dark eyes reflecting the feeble lamplight. There was a lopsided grin upon her face, though it may have just been the light.

Reaching forward, Berchem found her first foot paw, and stroked one of his claws along its underside. She laughed then, and jerked her leg away, but a moment later it slipped back against his paw. Her toes rubbed across the dark fur on the back of his hand, at which he flexed his fingers, breathing heavily in the warm air of his home. He slipped his other paw overtop of her foot paw, and brushed the smooth skin there, feeling the warmth fill it too.

And then he leaned forward over the end of his pallet, paws sliding up along her legs, through the short, dense fur, and then over the top of her breeches. When his fingers found the belt loop, he worked it loose, and then drew her pants down across her legs, slowly, watching as more of her fur was revealed beneath. When it slipped free of her legs, he folded it in two, then again, before negligently tossing it aside.

He could hear her breathing and chirred in response as he leaned over her once again. Berchem’s paws trailed along the inside of her thighs, gently pressing them apart. Slowly, she let them spread, her scent rich and alluring, like saffron and lilac. He closed his eyes then, feeling the familiar flesh slide against his own, as he drew himself over her once more, pressing his fur into hers. Baerle gave out a gasp a they lay together, feeling his body slowly creeping up across her own, his muzzle brushing across her navel. He blew his breath slowly across the short fur there, and a trilling laughed scaped her throat, before he continued to advance.

Drawing further up along her body, he nuzzles across her belly, and then at either of her breasts, until his hips finally met hers. Grunting, he rubbed his paws across her side as their desire found an answer. She gasped along with his grunt, her tail flicking backwards against the pallet, paws stretching outwards. His tail lifted high, his toe claws digging into his quilt, tearing through the stitching.

Berchem closed his eyes as he began to move back and forth against her, his tail lashing upwards at the remembered sensations. He grunt with each renewed pressure, his body knowing only one thing, and needing it above all else. The fog of the bock in his mind felt each exultant thrust as a soft giddiness. His grunts were becoming words as his excitement grew, though slowly, and without much sense.

The opossum pressed against him, her lithe form tensing with each thrust, until her gasping voice also began to speak. “Oh!” she squealed then, her eyes shut tight as her paws dug into his furry back. Berchem grinned as he moved, hips pressing against hers again and again, digging his claws into the quilt beneath them. By the gods, she was as wonderful as he remembered.

He leaned his head down, and pressed his snout against her breasts then, paws shifting up to grip at her shoulders, claws digging in firmly. She continued to cry out, her striated voice filling his ears even more than the creaking of his pallet under their weight. He tightened his claws and lifted his tail higher as he pressed, feeling his moment nearing as her cries drummed against his ears.

“Oh! Charles!” she cried out, and he felt himself jerk in surprise, that single word piercing the fog of beer in his mind. Still tense with the unsatiated desire, he drew himself back forcefully, until he was on his knees, the fur on his thighs sticky. The heat of passion was still there, but it was no longer burning for her.

“Charles?” he asked, his voice hot, nearly hissing in distaste. “Charles!” He snarled then and slapped her across her face. She squealed then, scooting up along the pallet, drawing her legs together and her knees up to her chest.

“Pleash!” she wailed, her voice trembling and slow. “Pleash! I didna mean...”

“By all the hells where Daedra walk,” Berchem swore, rising from the bed. He reached down and picked up her breeches and flung them at her. “Is that what you do there? Going to suckle his babes and get in his pants? Get out! Get out!” He grabbed her tunic and tossed it at the foot of the stairs to his door.

“Pleash, Berchem,” she started, even as she held her trousers close to her. She cried out and began to sob. “I didna mean.”

“Damn you!” Berchem swore and strode next to her, grabbing her arm tightly, yanking her form his pallet. “Get out, woman! Get out!”

Baerle cried out once more as she was flung to the floor. She crawled several feet towards the door, sobbing openly, her breeches still held in one arm. Her tail dragged along behind her, and Berchem kicked at it with one paw. When she reached where her shirt lay discarded, she looked back at him. Snarling, the skunk turned and bent over, lifting his tail. His voice low and menacing, he hissed, “Get out now, bitch!”

Scrambling up the stairs, Baerle pressed out the doorway and into the night, still sobbing, and still undressed. Berchem stood with his hands on his knees for several moments even after the door had slammed shut. He could still hear her calling out that rat’s name.

Thoroughly disgusted, he yanked the bedsheets from his pallet and threw them to the floor. He pulled his pants and tunic back on, secured the lacings, and then climbed the stairs as well. He needed more beer.

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