The two day trek back from the market lands had finally brought the caravans home to a rousing welcome from the Njada people. As the procession passed under the battling stallions, you could hear the cheers and cries of the people, as they ran out of their huts and tents. Scores of wives and children, servants and the like, all happy to see the brave Njada men return home, with what was sure to be a plentiful bounty in their days of trade.
Togar rode on proudly, with IIyra at his side, as they were the first to enter the village proper.
One that was pleased to welcome them home was Togar’s brother; Marmut who emerged from his elaborate tent, wearing a simple flap of leather, since he had just mated with one of his slaves. He beamed as he saw his brother, and then when his eyes fell upon the white haired elf that was riding the white mare, his grin only increased. Tagor had done well in this year’s trade. Such a fine slave, but he was quizical as to why the girl was riding a horse at all. Normally they had to walk behind the caravans. What had brought about this change? Either way, he could feel the stirring in his loins just looking at IIyra. He could only imagine how she would feel, when he had her on the furs.
Marmut continued to watch, as Tagor pulled up and then dismounted his horse, only instead of greeting his brother, he went to help IIyra off her horse. From here, he simply walked her to his own tent. No doubt he wished to have some time alone with her. This only made Marmut frown.
What was going on?
Ilyra’s eyes were wide as she looked upon the multitudes of men, women, children and servants who rushed from their huts and tents to welcome the Njada men home. If these people ever went to battle, they would surely outnumber the raiding armies by at least 20 to 1.
They pulled to a stop outside what she assumed was Tagor’s living quarters. He dismounted his horse and went about helping her down from hers. She thanked her mare for the safe journey before Tagor whisked her away to his tent.
She was unaware of the eyes…of Tagor’s brother, Marmut, that followed them.
Inside Tagor’s tent, it was much bigger then the one they’d spent the night in and much more lived in. She could see his armaments of battle stacked in the corner, almost hidden by a thick fur that served as a curtain of sorts. Curious, she walked around, looking at his things, but not touching them as she wasn’t sure it would be allowed. Though her heart knew she was no longer a slave, her mind told her a different story and it was difficult to blend the two. It would take some time, she knew.
She turned to face him, her hair gleaming in the firelight, her eyes as dark as shadows. For some reason, she was inexplicable nervous, now that they were in his homelands.
“It’s lovely.” she whispered, clutching her hands nervously.
Jamai was not far along in the procession, but he could see up ahead, that Tagor had helped IIyra from her horse and then taken her into his tent. He knew what this meant, and was swift to act, so that the Chief would not be kept waiting. As the large carts were pulling in, and many families were being reunited, Jamai made his way to one of the slave women’s tents and called out for Sharma, who was once one of Togar’s slaves but very long ago. She ended up being given to another man, who had lost his wife in child birth, and kept the man happy to the end of his days. Now she helped with everything from child birth, to the preparing of women for feasts. She was regarded as one of the more fortunate of the slaves, though not free…she was treated with much respect.
Sharma appeared out of the tent and bowed to Jamai, curious for this summons.
“Tagor has returned from the trade lands,and brought with him a woman.” Now, at first Sharma suspected it was just another slave, but there was something in Jamai’s expression that said otherwise. She didn’t want to push it, but her look was one of confusion.
“She is a Winter Elf. A special woman, and I suspect that Tagor…has planted his seed.” Jamai said firmly.
Sharma nodded, but inwardly she was shocked. Tagor never did this sort of thing normally. There had to be something special about this woman, something very special indeed.
“What you have me do, Jamai?’ Sharma asked, now wanting to know what was expected of her.
“Go to Tagor’s tent. I know him well, he will want her to have a maiden to help her prepare for life here in the Njada. You are best suited for this. Tagor also trusts you above many. Go now.”
Sharma didn’t wait to be asked again. She bowed and quickly hurried across the settlement to Tagor’s tent.
Inside Tagor’s tent
Tagor watched Ilyra silently as she nervously made her way around his tent. He smiled somewhat, knowing that she would be out of place here, not sure of what to touch, or what to do. He crossed the floor and then reached for her head, planting a kiss on her forehead.
“Happy…you will be. Tagor make sure of this. Later a feast is held for our return. You will see all of the people.” He pulled back and caressed her cheek with his large hand. There was much that he had to do, now he was back, but he knew she would not be alone. Right on cue there was a cough from outside the tent, and Tagor growled the word enter.
Sharma appeared, and kept her eyes down as she came in and got on her knees.
“I have been sent to care for Tagor’s woman.” Sharma said softly, hoping that she was not speaking out of turn.
“Good.” Just one word, and Tagor was pleased. He took one last look at IIyra, and you could see that he wanted more than anything to stay, but he had his people to lead, and so he left the tent, leaving the two women alone.
Sharma remained kneeling, her head down. IIyra would need to instruct her to move.
“Enter” he commanded. A young woman entered and knelt before them both, not looking at either of them. Ilyra wondered what she was here for. Was he already tired of her and was seeking his nights elsewhere?
The woman spoke then. “I have been sent to care for Tagor’s woman.” she stated.
Tagor nodded, pleased. He looked at Ilyra once more before he left the tent. Ilya watched him go, unsure of what she was to do now. She looked at the woman kneeling at her feet.
“Please…you do not need to kneel before me. Stand, if you will.” Ilyra stated, waiting as the woman did so. “What is your name?”
“I am Sharma, mate of Tagor. It is an honor to serve you.”
“Oh! You’re a slave?”
“No slave. Honored servant to house of Tagor. I help you.” Sharma stated.
“Oh, thank you.” Ilyra nodded, a small smile flitting about her face. “I am unsure what to do here. I would hate to disappoint Tagor with my inexperience.”
Sharma noticed the mark of the snow upon Ilyra’s neck and now understood so much more.
“You have mark of Winter People. You will be fine. Come. I show you where you may bathe and refresh.” Nodding, Ilyra rooted through the things Tagor had purchased for her and took out a fresh shift and soft boots. She and Sharma left the tent and headed off together, unaware they were being followed.
Not far from the main encampment of the Njada, was a place known as Basalt falls. It was used primarily by the women of the Njada, and traditionally a place where men did not go. When women were experiencing their monthly cycle, it was here, that they often came to bathe. Also, it was a place where the free and slaves were able to speak openly. It was only fair in a male dominated society, that the women did have a place to their own.
As Sharma led IIyra into the tranquil setting, she let out a sigh of relief coming through the canopy and hearing the delightful gurgling sound of the waters spilling over large pebbles and stones. Around the outer perimeter of the lagoon, was a moss covered bank, that had many places to lay and catch the filtered rays of the sun, that streamed down through the boughs filled with leaves. Setting down her basket of clothes, soaps, and cleaning rock, she looked back over her shoulder as IIyra came on after her.
“You are safe here, IIyra of Njada. No men can enter.”
Words said in the spirit of what the elders had declared, but…someone did not care for rules or rituals, and followed along silently, hiding in the brush.
Sharma approached IIyra and reached to undo her dress ties, to strip her for bathing. She looked upon the girl with kind brown eyes, much like you would imagine a leopard. She smelt strongly of exotic oils, and her body was covered in tattoos and markings of being owned by many masters. She even bore Tagor’s mark.
“Master Tagor likes you. I can see why.”
She started to stroke her hands down the woman’s body and then took her hand, to lead her into the cool blue waters.
Basalt Falls – Njada Lands
Sharma lead Ilyra to the common area the women use for their bathing needs. It was a lovely spot, not far from the village, but isolated enough that they could not be seen.
Ilyra looked around in wonder. It was a very tranquil setting.
“This is lovely.” she stated, setting her things besides Sharma’s. “And we won’t be bothered here?”
“You are safe here, Ilyra of Njada. No men can enter.” Sharma reassured her. Ilyra nodded, feeling relieved she wouldn’t have to fight off other men vying for her attentions.
Or so she thought…
Sharma stepped up to Ilyra and helped her remove her dress, stripping her so they could bathe. Her eyes were kind and she understood some of Ilyra’s nervousness, being thrust into a new situation, with a man who seemed to think the world of her. Sharma looked over Ilyra’s body without censure and liked what she saw. Jamai was correct in stating the elven woman was special. She seemed to be made for Tagor personally.
“Master Tagor likes you. I can see why.” Sharma smiled kindly, running her hands down Ilyra’s hair and body, undoing the braids of her hair so it could be washed. They talked in low voices, and with the rushing waters around their legs, anyone who was trying to listen would only hear mumbling.
“I don’t see it to be honest.” Ilyra sighed as the two women waded into the water. “I’m just a simple slave.”
“No, Ilyra of Njada, Elf of Winterlands. You are not a ‘simple slave’ as you put it. You are mate to Tagor. You carry his child. No slave before you has ever held such an honor.” Sharma stated in a soft but commanding tone. It startled Ilyra for a moment.
“How did you know?”
“I bring all Njada into these lands. I always know. It is way you carry self, proud, yet delicate. There is light in your eye.”
“Oh.” Ilyra smiled, looking down. Sharma swam up behind her and began rubbing soap into Ilyra’s hair. Ilyra remained still under the woman’s ministrations. She pressed a hand to Ilyra’s shoulder so that she could duck low and wash the soap from her hair.
Once she was clean, they moved to a cropping of rocks where Sharma rubbed some oil into Ilyra’s hair to keep it shiny and healthy before she re-braided it. As she worked, Sharma explained to Ilyra what would be expected of her as Tagor’s mate.
“You must always be ready. Most important.”
“Ready? For what?” Ilyra wondered. Sharma gave her a very distinct look and Ilyra blushed fiercely. “Oh…that.”
“Yes. Njada men are sexual creatures, always wanting their women at any given time. It proves to the others that they have vitality.”
“Hmm.” Ilyra hummed.
“You have right to say no. Njada warriors tend to bend to their women’s wills on certain matters. Mates are equals. Not one-sided.”
“Njada males may not claim mated women for their own. It is considered an act of treason. Njada male come to you, not Tagor, you tell immediately. No hiding. No running. Tagor not like mate to be sniffed after like dog.”
Ilyra had wondered about that. When they had first arrived, she had caught one of the men looking at her appraisingly from her peripheral and it made her feel very uncomfortable. She had put it out of her mind for a time, but Sharma’s words brought it back. She nodded in understanding.
Sharma finished braiding Ilyra’s hair before she helped the elf dry the rest of her body. Then they moved toward their dirty clothing to wash them before the dressed, chatting more about Ilyra’s new life with Tagor and the Njada.
As Sharma and IIyra washed their clothes and chatted about life in the Njada lands, there was someone watching and had been the entire time. Marmut; Tagor’s blood brother who had seen the beautiful Winter elf arrive found himself captivated and definitely wanted what he believed to be owed. He licked his lips in anticipation, and when he saw the women hunched down and scrubbing on the rocks, he thought it was the perfect time to make his move. Rising up to full height, he broke the code, and ventured into the sacred women’s bathing spot. His footsteps did not go unnoticed, as the leaf litter below his naked feet crunched loudly. Sharma turned around, half shocked to see Marmut there, walking towards them
“You are forbidden, Marmut. This is women’s falls.” Sharma pushed herself up and then saw the lustful gleam in his eyes, directed at IIyra. The split second she knew exactly what his intent was, and she was not about to stand for it. Bravely, she stood in front of IIyra to shield her as Marmut spoke gruffly.
“Tagor bring back woman. Marmut has rights.” this is what Marmut believed according to the past trips to the slave markets. He had no idea that things had changed. Sharma gasped and shook her head, holding up her hands in protest.
“Master Tagor…mated Illyra. She is Njada, you cannot touch.” Sharma was truly putting herself in danger now, as the Njada tribesman grew fierce, his face like thunder as his hands balled into fists.
“Slave no talk to Marmut like Njada!” He then drew back his right arm, and smashed Sharma in the face, knocking her off her feet and sending her flying back, tripping on a rock and then landing with a splash in the waters. Sneering at the fallen slave, he then turned his attentions to IIyra and commanded;
Something about him screamed danger and it was confirmed a moment later when Sharma stated that he was not welcome.
“Tagor bring back woman. Marmut has rights.” he growled. Ilyra’s eyes went wide. After what Sharma had just explained to her, she knew exactly what he was here for and she became frightened. Sharma stood in front of her and scowled at Marmut, letting him know that Ilyra wasn’t a slave, but Tagor’s mate.
That didn’t seem to matter to Marmut, who grew enraged that Sharma would dare speak to him as such. He drew back his large fist and smashed Sharma in the face, sending the poor woman splashing into the water, where she floated and did not move.
Shivering in fright, Ilyra watched all this as Marmut turned toward her.
Ilyra gulped and shook her head, concerned for Sharma, herself and the life of her unborn child.
“No. You will not touch me. I am not yours to command.” she stated, backing away slowly, into the water and toward Sharma’s unconcious form. She needed to put some space between herself and Marmut. Her magic, sensing her distress, began to tingle beneath her fingertips. It had been a very long time since she had used it and she didn’t know if she would be strong enough to do so. But she had to try.
She dipped her left hand into the water as she used her right to keep Sharma’s head above the waves so she wouldn’t drown in her unconcious state. Coldness surrounded her fingers and she flexed them as the magic within her slowly began to build.
If Marmut made to step toward her, she would use the waters of the falls to build a barrier of ice between the two women and the rampaging, horny Njada.
“Tagor…I need you!” she prayed, not knowing how long her magic would react to the threat.
Jamai was coming back from tending to the horses, when he saw one of Marmut’s slaves appear out from his tent. She was beaten and bleeding, and as the air hit her she collapsed on the ground. Jamai and a few of the nearby slaves raced to her aid, and on reaching her, Jamai pulled the girl’s head onto his lap, as he sang out for the Njada medicine woman for aid. The woman was hiccuping up blood, from internal injuries, and Jamai asked…begged..
“Who did this, Kaleaf?’
With a trembling body, her head jerked as another spasm gripped her.“Mar…Marmut…he…no…want…Kaleaf. Want…Togar..slave.” As the last word came out, the medicine woman arrived, only to see the slave girl stare into space, her body finally succumbing to death. The women surrounding Kaleaf and Jamai started wailing, as the Medicine woman started to speak rapidly in tongues. Marmut had killed his slave, so he could replace her with IIyra. Jamai laid Kalaef on the ground, as he used his fingers to close her eyes for the last time. If Marmut was prepared to do this, to get IIyra, what chance did a woman who was with IIyra stand. Immediately he realized that Sharma and IIyra were both in danger. He jumped to his feet and raced for Tagor’s tent, leaving behind the sobbing group of women around Kaleaf.
Reaching the tent, he didn’t bother to stop and call out, running in only to see it was empty. He did a mad search around the tent for clues to where the women would be and saw that the wash basket was gone.
“The falls!” His voice rang out and as he left the tent, Tagor was heading towards him. Tagor looked at him sternly, as Jamai appeared panic stricken. Would Marmut break the very rites of the women’s bathe spot? Looking over at the howling slaves, he knew the answer. He stared up at the hulking Njada and told him what he thought.
“Marmut kill his slave. He has gone after IIyra.”
“WHAT?!” Tagor thundered, enraged at the very notion another man, let alone his brother would dare so much as look at her. He then remembered the tradition and realized that Marmut thought he had the right. The large Njada looked about, then asked.
“Where is IIyra?”
Jamai already knew. “The falls. Washing.”
Without a moment to spare, the two men both dashed into the forest and raced to get to IIyra and Sharma, before it was too late.
Basalt Falls – Njada Lands
Sharma was unconscious in the waters, only being kept alive by IIyra holding her head up. the angered Njada; Marmut was being kept back by the ice barrier, but he had started to smash at it with his fists, determined to have what he wanted. As he pounded away at the ice slab, he didn’t hear the sound of Tagor and Jamai racing up behind him.
“MARMUT…BROTHER YOU GET AWAY FROM MY WOMAN!”
Marmut spun around and there he saw the two men, and one of which was a seething Tagor, whose very veins were sticking out on his neck. Marmut spat at him. “Marmut has rights!” Jamai then bellowed. “Marmut killed own slave…to have IIyra. Marmut has NO rights to mate of Tagor.” Marmut withdrew a large dagger from his sheath, crazed by his need to rut with the Winter elf. He slashed at Tagor in defiance, but Tagor was faster, seizing Marmut’s wrist as the slash missed, and then broke Marmut’s arm in a fit of rage that was explosive. The very bone broke free through his flesh, and this sent Marmut crashing to his knees. Marmut screamed in agony, as Tagor took up the dagger, and then in one fitting blow, he slashed his own brother’s throat. Blood poured out of the wound, as Marmut gasped, and then collapsed on the grassy moss rocks, dead.
Jamai who was partially in shock, could see Sharma floating in the waters, and raced into the water to drag her out, as Tagor dropped the dagger, and walked to his woman, stepping over the broken pieces of ice. He went into the water, and then….he knelt down and placed his forehead to her belly, wrapping his powerful arms around her.
“Tagor…. kill for you.”
And he had.
Marmut’s roar of rage echoed all around as he finally smashed the last bits of the barrier away. Ilyra dropped her hand, trembling all over as she struggled with Sharma in her arms. He made to move toward her, ready to take what he thought was his when Tagor’s shout made him turn around.
“MARMUT…BROTHER YOU GET AWAY FROM MY WOMAN!” he roared.
Snarling, Marmut demanded what was his by right to which Tagor stated that Marmut had no right to covet another man’s mate. Marmut had broken several of their village’s laws and Tagor, as their leader, had every right to do what happened next.
Ilyra screamed when Marmut withdrew a curved dagger and made for Tagor with it. If he could kill his own brother, he would have what he long desired…control of the people and a beautiful woman to go along with that.
But there was a problem with that plan. He underestimated Tagor’s fierce determination to protect his mate and unborn child. As he slashed at the clan leader, and missed, Tagor took opportunity by the throat and grabbed at Marmut, snapping his arm and sending the broken bone piercing through the skin. Screaming in agony, Marmut fell to his knees, cradling his arm as he glared at his brother. Tagor grabbed the dagger and in one swipe across Marmut’s throat, sent the man to meet his death.
As the body collapsed to the ground, Tagor was splashing toward Ilyra, who was trembling from head to toe at what nearly happened. Granted, she was used to being raped…but the ferocity Marmut displayed toward her scared her to death. Jamai tended to Sharma, who was slowly coming around as Tagor, knelt before Ilyra, pressing his cheek to her stomach, wrapping his arms around her.
She took comfort in his strength, wrapping trembling arms around his head and pressing a cheek to his hair.
“Tagor…kill for you.” he stated. 4 words that meant so much to the elven woman. In a short amount of time, Tagor had come to mean so much to her, and she to him if his actions previously were anything to go by.
“Ilyra thankful to Tagor for his honor and protection.” she whispered, her trembling slowly subsiding as her mate held her close. She pressed her hands to his cheeks, so to get him to look at her. When he did so, she placed a warm and gentle kiss to his forehead.
Sharma, who was leaning against Jamai, a bruise forming at her eye and temple, stared at the two of them.
“Ilyra good for Master. Both shall be happy.” she whispered. Jamai couldn’t agree more.