Nights of Silk and Sapphire.

by Amber.

  See Part 1 for disclaimers.



When Dae emerged from her room early the next morning and wandered out into the still cool air of the seraglio gardens, it took her only a moment to sense the tension that crackled around her. Most of the other girls were already awake, and Dae glanced about curiously, seeing the worried looks on their faces and hearing their nervous whisperings. "What’s going on now?" she mumbled to herself, emerald eyes seeking out Inaya. She found her friend over near the entrance to the seraglio, speaking in hushed tones with one of the two guards stationed there. "Hey. Why is everyone so tense?"

Inaya glanced up at Dae, her lips pulled into an unusually somber frown. "Zafirah ended her abstinence last night," she explained.

Dae shrugged. "So? Isn’t that a good thing?"

"Perhaps." Inaya abandoned her conversation with the guard and stepped closer to the young blonde. "She summoned Nasheta in the dohar. But Zafirah has always preferred to sleep alone once her passion is spent. It is a habit of hers that she has kept all the years of her rule."

"So what?"

"So…Nasheta has not yet returned from the Scion’s bed-chamber. We grow worried."

"Why?" Dae’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. "I thought you said Zafirah wouldn’t ever hurt a lover."

"She would not. But this strange behavior is unlike her." Inaya took Dae’s shoulder and gently guided her off to the side. "You must understand, Dae, that in a world such as ours, where we live in such intimate an arrangement, any change at all gives us cause for concern. That Nasheta has not returned is unusual…and therefore gives rise to ill whisperings."

Dae considered this thoughtfully, then nodded. "I understand." Still, she thought it seemed the harem girls were making too much of this. So Zafirah had abstained for a few days? It didn’t seem like any cause for such alarm to the young blonde. And so she had decided to keep Nasheta with her through the night? That was something Dae would have expected in any event.

A sudden commotion from the hallway leading into the palace proper caused the guards to immediately snap to attention, their eyes hardening with professional intent. The harem girls quickly abandoned their tense whisperings and gathered closer. Even Dae was curious, and her eyes widened when two new guards entered the gardens, bearing between them a litter on which lay Nasheta’s pale form.

The girls quickly flocked closer, their concern making them ignorant of the guards who tried to clear the way. Dae hung back, feeling a sense of dread foreboding fill her senses. Her imagination – which had lately been investing its energy in vaguely tantalizing contemplation’s of untasted erotic delights – now suddenly began to conjure images of terrible sexual tortures that might have been inflicted upon poor Nasheta. She watched the tangle of bodies before her, seeing the guards trying without success to get the pleasure-servants to give them room.

Eventually, Inaya stepped forward and began to clear the way. Though she was young, and of a typically gentle nature, the enchanting young girl held a place of high respect within the harem, and her fellow pleasure-servants respected her instructions to move aside. "Come, give them some room!" Inaya parted the clustered girls with seemingly magical grace. "We shall learn nothing by scrabbling about like turkey’s in the dust! Let them through."

The guards gave Inaya looks of extreme gratitude, then carefully shouldered their burden. Inaya gave the prone Nasheta a quick once over, her face impassive, then gestured to the guards. "This way." Then she turned and led them through the seraglio, back towards the harem sleeping quarters. The other girls trailed behind at a discrete distance, wary of raising Inaya’s ire and whispering excitedly among themselves.

As they passed by her, Dae managed to catch a quick glimpse of Nasheta, and she covered her mouth in shock. The blonde’s skin was deeply flushed as though from a fever, and her eyes were closed as though she slept peacefully. Her beautiful face was streaked with sweat, and her hair lay matted and wild about her shoulders. Purplish bruises marred her neck and breasts, and her clothes had been torn at and ripped in many places, leaving them barely sufficient to give grace to modesty. As she was carried past her, Dae’s nostrils twitched as she detected a strange scent…something musky and animal. Dae stared a moment at the comatose blonde, hypnotized by the terrible sight. Yet just before she managed to look away, she noticed something strange…something extremely out of place.

Even in her unconscious state, Nasheta’s lips were bowed into a slight, lingering smile of utter contentment.

Dae followed the other girls back to the sleeping quarters, where they all crowded around outside the doorway to Nasheta’s room. Dae had noticed that while there were no actual doors or barriers of any kind among these desert people, the boundaries they represented were always respected. No-one ever entered the personal domain of another without invitation. And so she watched now as Inaya directed the two guards to gently lift Nasheta onto her pallet, noting the scarlet marks of fingernails that had been raked down the poor girl’s inner thighs and buttocks.

Satisfied that their charge had been safely deposited, the two guards left the harem, ignoring the questions thrown at them by the pleasure-servants. Curious despite herself, Dae managed to shoulder her way to a good spot just outside the doorway, and watched as Inaya knelt beside the now-stirring blonde.

Inaya poured water from a nearby jug into a tin cup and held it to Nasheta’s lips. The blonde drank thankfully, then lay back against the cushions of her bed. From her place in the doorway, Dae watched as her friend asked the blonde a question. The words were so soft they didn’t travel across the room, and Inaya had to lean down so she could hear Nasheta’s reply. The two exchanged a few words, and Dae watched Inaya’s face carefully, hoping for some kind of explanation in her expression. The dark girl smiled a little…a soft, gentle smile that seemed reassured, and Dae wondered what Nasheta had said. Rising from her place, Inaya stroked the blonde girl’s face and offered some final words, then headed over to where Dae and the others were waiting.

"She is well," Inaya reported simply. "Let us leave her in peace for now. She will need much rest before she is recovered."

"What happened?" asked Johara.

"Was she hurt?"

Inaya held up a single delicate hand. "She is fine. No harm befell her. It was simply…a long night, that is all." Dark eyes sparkled with something like playful amusement – a look that confused Dae, but which apparently communicated something to the other girls, for they smiled and nodded in understanding, then began wandering back to the seraglio in small groups. When they were alone in the hallway, Inaya sighed and wiped her hands daintily together, her eyes studying Dae with a curious expression. The young blonde glanced into the room where Nasheta lay, asleep.

"Will she really be okay?"

"Given a day and a night to sleep, she will be fine," Inaya confirmed.

"Wh-what about the bruises? What happened to her?"


Dae stared at her friend for a moment. "Nothing? She was unconscious! Something must have happened to her!"

Inaya regarded Dae seriously, then took her arm and guided her back down the hallway. "Come. We shall talk." She took the blonde back to her own room and sat her down on the sleeping pallet, then knelt beside her. Dark eyes studied Dae a long time, before Inaya sighed and looked away. "Nasheta was not harmed," she stated, choosing her words with care. With the recent changes in Dae’s attitude towards notions of sexual intimacy, Inaya didn’t want her explanation to frighten the innocent girl. "She is simply…exhausted, that is all."

Dae’s face was blank for a moment as she processed Inaya’s meaning, then her eyes widened. "You mean-"

Inaya nodded, looking Dae squarely in the eyes. "She has been ravished." A pause, then she smiled wryly. "Quite thoroughly ravished."

The young blonde sat still, trying to figure this out. She had never seen a pleasure-servant return from a night in the Scion’s bed in such a condition as Nasheta…yet she recalled again that strange smile on the comatose girl’s lips, and wondered. "So…" She gave her friend a curious look. "This is…normal?"

"Not exactly…but it is understandable."

"The bruises? The scratches?"

"Marks of passion Zafirah inflicted during their coupling…yes." Inaya shook her head at the face Dae made. "Do not wear such a mask of horror, child. Nasheta will be the object of great envy in the coming days…that the Scion chose her as the vessel through which she would relieve eight nights of unspent passion."

Dae was very confused, unable to comprehend that anyone would want to be so injured. "She’s hurt."

"No, little one. She is tired and doubtless a little sore from her experience…but the pleasure of Zafirah’s ministrations will more than overshadow such earthly discomfits for her. When she recovers, I predict Nasheta will be in a most joyous spirit."

Dae’s brows contracted in puzzlement. "She liked it? How could anyone enjoy being bruised like that?"

"The line between pleasure and pain is a thin one," Inaya explained gently. "In the heat of the moment, when one’s body is consumed by desire, all extremes of sensation tell the same tale…a tale of pleasure. Zafirah is an intense woman, and an intense lover. The marks are not as bad as they might seem, little one."

The young blonde studied Inaya curiously. "Has she ever…done that to you?"

Inaya smiled seductively, her eyes growing hooded. "That…and much more."

Emerald eyes widened. "L-like what?"

The dark girl shook her head. "My descriptions would only confuse you, child," she said. "Such pleasures cannot be conveyed with mere words; they exist only as sensation."

"But…you liked it?"

"Of course." Inaya saw that Dae was clearly perplexed, and she reached out to pet the young blonde reassuringly. "It is a strange world, the world of pleasure. It compels us all to experience it, yet few will ever come to understand its mysteries completely…even those who pursue it their entire lives. Do not let yourself be mired by confusion, Dae."

Dae listened to her friend, then nodded firmly as she cast aside her ponderings. "You’re right. I’m not interested in such matters anyway."


"I have no desire to warm Zafirah’s bed."

"So you have said."

"And as long as Nasheta is unharmed, all is well once more." Dae gave a determined smile. "Just as I told you, Inaya, there was nothing amiss with Zafirah’s behavior. Her abstinence didn’t herald any doom as you were certain it would. Things are back to normal."

Inaya cocked her head to the side and gave Dae a sly look. "Oh…I would not be so certain of that, little one."

"Why not?"

The dark girl lay back on the cushions of Dae’s bed, a single graceful eyebrow arched in muted contemplation. "Because Zafirah has not yet claimed what she desires. And what she desires…is you."

"Me? But-"

"You are the cause of her strange behavior of late," Inaya continued in confident tones. "I have known Zafirah some years now, and in that time she has had many lovers. But never have I seen her so affected as she has been since you arrived. You have captured more than the Scion’s eye, Dae…and I believe she is just now beginning to realize the effects of her fascination for you."

Dae sat up straighter, interested in Inaya’s words despite herself. "She lusts for me," she disputed, "but that’s all."

Inaya shook her head. "If it were only lust she felt, then why did she not simply spend her passion with one of us? Lust is nothing new for Zafirah. She has known it since she was younger than you; it is a part of who she is. No, child. She abstained from taking pleasure because she felt only your touch could satisfy her…and she would never force you to submit to her against your will."

Dae waved a hand dismisively. "She took Nasheta, didn’t she?"

"Ah, yes. But she did not choose her at random." Inaya’s eyes were intense as she gazed back at an uncertain Dae. "Do you not find it coincidental that Zafirah chose as her lover the only other girl in her harem possessed of blonde hair and pale skin? You and Nasheta resemble one another closely in form and figure…right down to the green eyes. Zafirah could not contain her hunger any longer…so she claimed a substitute for the lover she truly wanted: you."

"That’s ridiculous!"

"Is it?"

"Yes!" Dae shook her head. Inaya’s smile and expression were unnervingly calm. "How can you be so certain?"

Inaya didn’t even blink. "Because Nasheta told me so herself."

That stopped Dae’s defense instantly. The young blonde stared at Inaya, unsure that she’d heard correctly. "Wh-what?"

"She told me so herself," Inaya repeated quietly. "Zafirah even asked her permission." The dark-haired girl sat up on her elbows and studied Dae’s reaction carefully. "Though she took Nasheta’s body, in Zafirah’s mind, it was you she loved through the night."

Dae’s mouth opened and closed a few times, her brain struggling to process the truth of Inaya’s claim, even as her body flushed with a strange, exciting heat. "Sh-she wanted to do…that…to me?"

Inaya nodded. "Wanted it with such zeal that she asked Nasheta to mimic your behavior and mannerisms that she might more fully loose herself to that fantasy." Inaya shifted closer to the young blonde. "Does this news disturb you?"

"I-I don’t…" Dae shrugged a little helplessly, feeling extremely confused by the emotions and physical sensations that rushed through her. "I don’t know."

"If it is of any comfort, I can assure you that you are perfectly safe," Inaya offered in a gentle tone, not wanting Dae to be fearful. "No matter how powerful her desires, Zafirah would never force herself upon you. It is not her way."

Dae nodded absently, images of what Nasheta might have experienced in the night filling her innocent mind…what joys or terrors that could cause the kind of great pleasure Inaya hinted at.

"And of course," Inaya continued with an innocent face, "you have made it quite clear that you have no interest in sampling the delights of Zafirah’s bed…so…"

"Yes…th-that’s true," Dae murmured, though some deep part of her she didn’t fully understand seemed not so certain.

"I suggest you put all thoughts of this matter aside," Inaya suggested with an earnestly sweet smile. "As long as your opinions remain as pure and chaste as they are, it is not an issue of consequence for you…is it?"

Dae shook her head. "Of course not."

"Well then…" Inaya clapped her hands and rose gracefully to her feet. "Shall we see what food we can find for morning meal?"

"Y…Yes, that sounds…fine." Dae joined her friend, and together they walked back down the hallway to the sitting-room beyond, where they found the tables laden with fresh fruits and other delicacies prepared by the palace kitchen.

Inaya watched with a smile as the young blonde picked through the food without her usual interest, noting the way Dae’s emerald eyes were somewhat glazed and unfocused…as though she were considering something of significant – yet uncertain – importance. The seeds of possibility had apparently found fertile soil in the young girl’s mind…and Inaya wondered how much longer it would be before they gained sufficient nutrients to sprout…and yield fruit. Dae’s ignorance was still strong, she knew. Only time would tell if her budding desires would prove stronger.

Inaya hoped Zafirah had patience to last that long.


Light from the rising sun bled slowly across the floor in Zafirah’s bed chamber, bringing with it the first subtle rises in temperature that heralded the arrival of yet another scorching day. The room was quiet and peaceful now, and the Scion lay naked on her bed, one arm draped over her face to shield her eyes from the dawning light. She could feel her body still tingle with the aftermath of spent passion, and with the languid bliss of pure satisfaction. With each breathe she took, Zafirah inhaled the sweet perfume of incense, and the stirring scent of Nasheta’s desire that still lingered in the air.

But although the Scion’s sexual appetite had been appeased – if only for the moment – she felt an emptiness pervade her senses that spoiled the perfection of this moment. Now that she had quieted the screams of her lust, Zafirah felt oddly empty…and her drifting thoughts concluded somewhat bitterly that, while her night with Nasheta had settled her immediate needs quite effectively, it was at best a temporary solution to a far larger and less easily solved dilemma.

Desire that feeds from the heart cannot be so easily sated as desire that feeds from the eye.

Falak’s words rang through Zafirah’s mind…and they sang to a tune that was starting to make sense to her.

Zafirah felt very confused. She had never experienced these new kinds of emotions that struck her heart every time she was around Dae. They defied logic and reason. Afterall, she was the Scion of a great and powerful desert nation. She had legions of women under her rule who would have considered it the greatest honor to provide for her every desire. The girls in her harem were all gifted with extraordinary beauty and grace…and they were all extremely talented lovers. Why then did their faces no longer interest her? Why was it she had become so fascinated by the innocent, naïve young blonde?

Through the years of her rule as Scion, and even before, Zafirah’s appetite for pleasure had led her to the embrace of many lovers. Yet though she had only spent in some cases but a single night in their bed, if she concentrated, Zafirah knew she could recall the faces and names of every one of those women she had taken. Many had been friends. Many – like Falak – still were. Zafirah took pride in the fact that she did not seek her pleasure as blindly as some others; as she had told Falak, she had cared for every woman with whom she shared her body. A sharing of pleasure was mutually satisfying and enjoyable. But for Zafirah, that was as far as her desires had ever ranged. Though she believed that true love existed – had seen it in the depth of connection that joined her father and mother together – Zafirah had long ago decided it wasn’t something that held any interest for her. She was far too much in love with passion and lust to devote all her energies to a single person…or so she had believed. Now, with these strange and alien feelings surfacing, Zafirah was growing less certain of her own heart.

Scowling, Zafirah lifted her arm and looked around, her confusion turning quickly to frustration. She needed a distraction; something to take her mind away from these longings. Rising from her bed, the dark woman quickly dressed herself in a pair of white cotton trousers, a loose-sleeved shirt, and a soft leather vest, and headed out to the stables in the army barracks located to the east of the palace. Perhaps, she thought, a long ride out among the expansive dunes would help to soothe her restless spirit.

The heat of the Jaharri desert was intense that day, and Zafirah was careful not to push Simhana past her limits. She rode out alone along the coastline of the great sea that bordered El-Kasari to the north, feeling the cool of the coastal wind catch the blistering heat from the sands as it rolled inland. Zafirah smiled to herself beneath her haik as she paused a moment to savor the desert air; dry and wild, with a slight tang of salt. She welcomed the emptiness of the desert, willing her mind to follow the example of the barren environment. But the teasing memories of Dae’s smile as she had danced with the other harem girls to the beat of pulsing drum music refused to be diverted…and Zafirah shook her head, irritated.

You cannot have her! she scolded herself silently. You can never have her! Accept it now, or she will drive you to madness and misery.

For a moment, it crossed Zafirah’s mind to offer Dae to Rehan afterall; certainly the girl would be well cared for among the Tek…though her life would be harder living with the nomads than in her harem. Could removing the temptation help to cure this strange attraction? she wondered. But then the Scion scowled, wheeling Simhana around and beginning her ride back towards the city. No. She knew Dae would haunt her dreams forever, no matter how far away she was sent.

It was just past midday by the time Zafirah finished washing down Simhana and returned her to the stables. The sun was stunningly hot, making the streets of El-Kasari shimmer with heat-waves. The palace was far cooler than the streets outside, and the Scion breathed a sigh of relief as she entered her chambers, stripping out of her sweat-stained clothes with a casual lack of modesty. Filling a wide bowl with rose-scented water from a pitcher, she took a few moments to scrub her body clean before slipping into the comforting caress of a silk robe. Glancing towards her bed, Zafirah was pleased to note her servants had changed the sheets during her ride, and straightened everything up after her night with Nasheta. She contemplated taking a nap, but her body was still too awake with uncertainty for rest, so Zafirah wandered back out into the hallways of the palace, smiling absently to the guards who passed her by.

With her mind preoccupied with thoughts of Dae, it was unsurprising that Zafirah’s rambling footsteps led her to the harem. She paused a moment before entering the seraglio gardens, her thoughts a tangled mess. A part of her wanted desperately to see the young blonde girl…but what could she say that could woo Dae now that had not been said before? Accustomed to being an assertive conqueror in the game of seduction, Zafirah didn’t much like the feeling of being so out of control. Still, her thoughts led her on before her brain managed to convince her to retreat, and she entered the gardens of her harem.

Few of the pleasure-servants were about, the midday sun far too stifling for any kind of activity. Those who were splashing about in the relatively cool waters of the great pool didn’t notice Zafirah as she slipped past them into the rooms beyond the garden. The Scion strode quietly along the hallways that led to the sleeping quarters of her pleasure-servants, pausing when she came to Dae’s room. Peering in, she smiled at the sight of the young blonde sprawled across the cushions of her bed, eyes closed in sleep and an innocent smile curving the edges of her lips. The vision of such simple, graceless beauty shot like an arrow to Zafirah’s heart, causing her to clutch her chest at the physical ache that spread through her body. For half a second, the dark Scion felt herself stepping into Dae’s room, thoughts of waking the blonde with a sweet caress dancing through her mind. Then she shook herself clear of the erotic notion, knowing that she would ruin even the tenuous respect Dae had for her.

Zafirah stood a while longer in the doorway, just letting her eyes roam at will over the inspiring curves of Dae’s ill-concealed form. Then, sighing heavily, she turned away and headed further down the hallway…her thoughts turning to another of her pleasure-servants. One who might be able to offer some solace or advice to ease her suffering.

She found Inaya in her room, awake as she had hoped. The dark-haired girl was sitting on her sleeping pallet, carefully working on an intricate necklace of colorful glass beads. Zafirah hesitated, then cleared her throat. "Inaya?"

Inaya glanced up, smiling instantly as she rose to her feet. "My Scion."

"Are you busy?" Zafirah gestured to the necklace. "I-I do not wish to disturb you."

"Of course not, Scion. My time it yours to command." Inaya laid her beadwork on a table nearby. "Come in. How may I be of service to you?"

Zafirah stepped into Inaya’s room, swallowing nervously. She caught a seductive glint in the harem girl’s eyes, and realized what Inaya was thinking. "I-I was hoping we might…talk."

The wicked glint shimmered for a moment, then vanished. Inaya raised an eyebrow, obviously intrigued, but nodded. "As you wish. Please…will you sit?"

"Thank you."

"Would you like something to drink, perhaps? Some sweetened water?"

Zafirah nodded, though she wasn’t thirsty. "Yes…please." Among the desert people, it was considered rude to reject such simple offerings, so she accepted the small cup Inaya handed her and drank gratefully. "Thank you."

Inaya inclined her head. "Most welcome, my Scion."

There was a moment of awkward silence after that. Inaya watched the Scion curiously, wondering at this visit and thinking she had a fair idea what had motivated Zafirah to seek her out. Her suspicions were confirmed when the dark woman looked her in the eye and said, in a carefully casual fashion, "I wanted to talk with you…about the young foreign girl. Dae."

Inaya nodded knowingly. "Ahh."

"I-I understand you have grown close to her," Zafirah continued. "She seems most comfortable in your presence. I have seen the bond grow between you, and I…I hoped perhaps you might have some insight into her mind."

"I see." Inaya spread her hands and cocked her head. "And what insight would you have me impart, my Scion?"

Zafirah sat up a little, her eyes alive and intense. "Everything," she whispered.


"Yes. I want to know everything about her. Omit no detail, however irrelevant it may seem."

Inaya studied Zafirah for a long moment in silence. "You like her very much, do you not?"

Zafirah’s eyes softened, then looked away. She sighed longingly. "May I speak with you as a friend, Inaya?" Her voice was soft and held a rare note of vulnerability, and her eyes were shy. "Not as your ruler, but just…as a woman?"

"Of course." Inaya smiled warmly. "You have no need to ask such a question, Zafirah…of any of your servants."

Zafirah returned the smile, grateful at least that she had such people as Inaya in her life – people who could look beyond her title and see the person beneath. She was still a minute, considering her words carefully before she gave them voice. "I have found my thoughts of late…dwelling more and more upon her," she said at last. "She confuses me – makes me feel things I have never felt before."

Inaya nodded sagely. "She is very beautiful. It is natural for you to desire her."

"Perhaps but…" Zafirah threw her arms up and scowled. "There is more than simple desire to this! She fascinates me…compels my every waking thought and rules my dreams each night! And yet I barely know her…have barely spoken with her." She looked at Inaya with eyes that hungered for things beyond erotic delights. "That is why I come here – to better understand her, that I might better understand how it is that she can inspire such feelings in me."

Inaya listened carefully, hearing the stark desperation in Zafirah’s tone. "You think perhaps you love her?" she asked bluntly.

Zafirah looked away instantly. "I do not know."

"Mmm." Inaya tilted her head in consideration. "She has a certain…quality about her, does she not? Something rare and special. You are not the only one to feel it."

The Scion glanced up, curious. "Really?"

"Of course." Inaya smiled. "It would be a cold heart that would not beat faster in her presence…yet I think her charm has struck you harder than others."

Zafirah sighed. "And yet I am the one most distanced from her."

Inaya smiled. "The heart is often wiser than the head, Zafirah; it can see things deeper than our eyes. Yet all too often we ignore its teaching in favor of a more sensible form of reason." The slender girl lay back against the cushions of her bed and regarded Zafirah with a slightly playful look. "Yes, Dae and I have grown close. I value her companionship a great deal…as I value her trust. But you will find my words a poor substitute for what you truly desire, Zafirah."

Zafirah shook her head. "Then what am I to do?" she demanded, her tone harsher for her frustration than intended. "Her body stiffens whenever I draw near! She can barely bring herself to look at me…knowing how I desire her."

"And therein lies the problem," Inaya said with a smile.


"Dae does not fear you, Zafirah…she fears the unknown. She recoils from your hunger because it frightens her. She does not understand it. But if you were to put aside all thoughts of lust and carnal gratification, I think you might find her nature may change."

Zafirah’s eyes narrowed in speculation. "So…you think she would talk with me? As a friend if not a lover?"

"There is but one way to find out." Inaya fingered a strand of her blue-black hair thoughtfully. "Dae has mentioned on occasion her admiration for the city…and her desire to see more of it. She said you offered to show it to her when first you spoke with her…"

As intended, the suggestion took root in Zafirah’s mind, forming quickly into a plan. Sapphire eyes widened. "Y-you think she would like me to take her outside the palace?"

"I think she would find you less intimidating if she could see more to you than simple lust." Inaya hesitated, wanting to give Zafirah comfort and hope, but cautious of betraying Dae’s trust. "Dae has been settling in well," she said at last, her tone careful. "She is young…and adapts easily to change. Lately, I have seen her growing more confused by the urgings of her body." Inaya saw Zafirah’s eyes widen instantly with interest, and held up a hand. "She has not spoken of desire," she stated firmly, "only of a curiosity that is quite natural in one her age. If you do not wish to frighten her away, Zafirah, you would be wise to tread cautiously, lest you crush what hope you have beneath a careless heel."

Zafirah absorbed this council, and nodded. "Yes…you are right." She thought for a long moment in silence, then bowed to Inaya with a smile. "I thank you for your advice, Inaya," she said, rising from her place on the bed. "It has helped me greatly."

Inaya bowed in returned. "I am always glad to serve, my Scion." Her eyes twinkled daringly with hooded fires. "Would that I could offer solace beyond mere words."

Zafirah grinned fully at the blatant invitation, and winked. "Perhaps another time."

"I look forward to it."

Zafirah turned to leave, but just as she reached the doorways, Inaya called out. "Zafirah?"

"Mmm?" She glanced back.

Dark eyes regarded her seriously. "Dae may be innocent," Inaya said, "but she is also intelligent. If you can show her a part of yourself outside the bedroom, she will see it and respect you more for it. Do not try to be more than who you are for her – such deception would only win you her contempt."

Zafirah nodded. "Thank you."

"Most welcome."

Inaya watched the Scion leave her room. Things, it seemed, were moving nicely. Zafirah was out of her element playing the pursuer…but she was smart enough to realize it, and not pretend a confidence she didn’t have. Picking up her beaded necklace, Inaya found her place once more and continued with her project, humming to herself as she worked. She was looking forward to seeing how Dae would respond to Zafirah’s more gentle overtures.


The next evening found Dae walking nervously through the palace hallways, flanked on either side by an escort. The young blonde had been surprised when Zafirah summoned her to her chambers, and had been trying for over an hour to quell the butterflies that stirred in her stomach. A part of her was terrified, fearing the Scion had finally succumbed to her lust…but another part of her was humming with excited anticipation, almost hoping that she might be subjected to the same mysterious delights as Nasheta. Dae’s hands were sweating, and her heart was beating fast in her chest. When they reached the entry to Zafirah’s bed chamber, Dae hesitated, and one of her escorts gave her a gentle nudge and an encouraging smile.

"Do not fear, little one," the guard whispered kindly. "You are safe."

Taking a deep breath, struggling with a body that seemed uncertain what it wanted, Dae stepped into the chamber and looked around.

As soon as she saw Zafirah, a large part of Dae’s fears were set aside. The tall, dark-haired woman was dressed in loose cotton trousers and a leather shirt. She wore sturdy boots, and an open haik was wrapped around her head. From that attire, Dae concluded Zafirah’s thoughts were running to destinations other than seduction.

She wasn’t sure whether she was relieved or disappointed.

Zafirah turned when she heard Dae enter, her smile so brilliant it almost stopped the young girl’s heart. "Dae! Enter, please." The Scion waved her guards away with a simple gesture.

Dae took a few nervous steps into the room, her eyes unconsciously flicking over to the great bed. Her mouth was dry and she swallowed hard before remembering to bow to the Scion. "Y-you sent for me?"

"Yes, but…" Zafirah grinned at the obvious fear in Dae’s eyes. "I had plans other than carnal pleasure this night."

Dae smiled hesitantly.

"I thought perhaps you might deign to join me for a walk," Zafirah continued. "You wished to see more of the city, did you not?"

Dae nodded without thinking. "You would show me?"

"If you like. However," Zafirah took a moment to cast her eyes appreciatively over Dae’s figure, still clad in almost transparent silk pants and a top that barely managed to contain her full breasts. "I think perhaps a change of wardrobe is in order first. Walking the streets in harem clothes would attract far too many admirers to you…and I would prefer to be only one this night." She waved a hand towards the bed, and Dae saw a pile of neatly folded clothes laid out on the sheets, topped off with a pair of elegant boots. "Please…change. I will not watch, if it makes you uncomfortable." Zafirah turned her back on the blonde, giving her privacy.

Dae fidgeted a moment, considering. Indeed, she wanted very much to see the streets of El’Kasari up close, having looked upon them from the seraglio gardens all this time with wondering eyes. But she was ever cautious around Zafirah…and sensed a ploy. "Wh-what if I don’t want to go?"

Zafirah glanced at her. "That is your decision…and I will respect it." Her eyes softened a moment, and Dae was caught for a moment by the uncertain, fearful longing that lay beneath those stunning sapphires. "I just hoped we might…talk. Without consideration of desire, or sex. I wanted to know you better, Dae."

Emerald eyes narrowed doubtfully. "You won’t…try to seduce me?"

Zafirah cocked her head to the side, a playful half-smile forming on her lips. "The temptation may prove stronger than my resolve, but…I shall endeavor to resist my baser urges for the night."

Dae couldn’t help it – she giggled. "I guess that’ll have to do." She gestured to Zafirah. "Please turn around."

Zafirah grinned and did as bade.

Studying the clothing that had been arranged for her, Dae hesitated only a moment before she stripped off her harem clothes and began to pull on the far more concealing shirt and skirt. The boots fit her feet snugly, and Dae grimaced a little in discomfit; she had grown accustomed to walking barefoot these last few months in the harem. When she was fully dressed again, she turned back to Zafirah, smoothing down her new outfit nervously. "Okay, you can look now."

Zafirah, who had been fighting valiantly against the desire to sneak a quick glance at the beauty unfolding behind her, turned. Her eyes ran up and down Dae’s figure, and smiled warmly. "I think I prefer the harem clothes better."

Dae shuffled her feet self-consciously. "They don’t cover much."

"They cover enough that I am driven to the brink of madness for want of what lies beneath," Zafirah assured her. "You are far too magnificent a creature to be covered in swathes of cloth. But…I would prefer our walk be inconspicuous as possible, so…"

Dae smiled. In truth, she felt a lot safer and more comfortable with Zafirah now that she wasn’t so exposed. While she had grown accustomed to wearing the revealing harem outfit, and to being in the presence of so much bare flesh in the seraglio, the young blonde couldn’t help but feel especially vulnerable when she was around the enigmatic Scion. Zafirah’s eyes had a way of looking at her that made her feel very strange – a tense, warm sensation that wasn’t entirely unpleasant, and which sent confusing shivers over her skin. Wearing these new clothes went a long way towards settling her nerves.

Zafirah held up an arm in invitation. "Shall we?"

Dae nodded, and preceded the Scion out into the corridor.

Having been unconscious when she’d first been brought into El-Kasari, Dae had never seen the palace from outside. Looking around her at the magnificent architecture of gold-laced marble and amazing base-relief carvings, the young girl soon forgot all about any concerns regarding her chastity. A stunning archway marked the entrance to the palace proper, standing over thirty feet high with walls studded with a mosaic of silver and dazzling semi-precious stones that flashed rainbow colors across the cool marble floor. With a trembling hand, Dae reached out to touch the arch, her eyes roaming upwards in awe. "It’s so beautiful!"

Zafirah watched the young blonde, pleased with her reaction. "The wealth of a thousand kings…all in a single wall of my palace," she said softly, smiling a little in irony. "The people from your land and the lands to the west pay us tribute to cross the desert safely. They have done so for many generations, since the time of my ancestors. Most often, they give jewels or gold or rich cloth…things they consider to be of tremendous value. But in the desert, such riches mean little compared to food or water. They sparkle prettily in the sunlight…but that is their only true worth to us."

Dae regarded the wall curiously, wonder still shining bright in her eyes at the treasure so casually displayed. She gave Zafirah a shy smile. "I still think it’s beautiful."

Zafirah laughed. "Then come. Let me show you more pretty things."

The two walked out of the palace and along a shining marble bridge. The streets of El-Kasari spread out before them in carefully-planned lines, busy with people going about their errands in the cool of dusk. From outside, Dae realized for the first time just how large the palace truly was; it perched at the heart of the city, at the highest point, serving as a focal point for all those living under the Scion’s rule.

Merchants hawked their wares from wide, open windows in their shops, or from the convenience of a sheltered cart. Dae saw only a few horses among the commoners; most seemed to prefer using camels to move around. The city was noisy with the sounds of the merchants crying out for buyers, and it had an interesting smell to it – something like the desert itself, but with a subtle hint of many people all living and breathing together in close proximity. Certainly the air wasn’t as fresh here as it was in the gardens of the harem, but Dae remembered the stench of the open sewers that ran through the cities of her homeland, and decided this was comparatively pleasant. Wandering along the streets, her eyes wide with excitement at the exotic sights all around her, Dae grinned easily at her companion as she walked. "Is it safe for you to be out here without your guards?" she asked, noting the absence of any escort.

"Of course." Zafirah spread her arms to encompass the city. "I have walked these streets since I was but a child; there is no need for me to fear my own people. Besides, I am a skilled fighter. Any thief foolish enough to attack me would soon regret his error."

Dae turned her attention back to the streets, considering. She wouldn’t have expected a ruler to act in such a manner as Zafirah. In her homeland, no personage of the ruling class ever went anywhere without a small army of body-guards. It struck her again just how different this desert world was from the world she once knew…only now, the differences seemed not so distasteful as they once had.

El-Kasari was a riot of color and movement. Everywhere Dae looked, she saw amazing things that shocked and intrigued her. Scantily-clad women with jewels in their navels danced to the tune of wailing reed pipes. A man with a monkey on his shoulder begged for coins, the small animal aiding his master by turning back-flips and chattering at potential donors. Dae’s eyes caught sight of a street performer on a small stage, and she stared in fascination as the skinny man somehow managed to swallow the blade of a slender, straight sword all the way down his throat.

"H-how did he do that!?" She moved closer, amazed.

Zafirah watched curiously a moment, then shrugged. "I have no idea," she admitted. "It is not a skill I have ever had cause to pursue." The Scion was enjoying just watching Dae as the blonde girl moved from one wonder to the next, her attention easily caught by one thing, and just as easily stolen by another. Her youthful exuberance was refreshing, and Zafirah felt some of her inner tension ease just from being in the presence of the innocent blonde. She also noted, with some amusement, the way Dae managed to attract the eyes of many men and women from among the crowd, her face and figure drawing more interest even than Zafirah herself. Yet she seemed blissfully unaware of the attention, and the Scion grinned at her naivete, even as she warned away the would-be suitors with an occasional glower.

Dae strolled past the vendors, pausing every now and again when something caught her fancy. She stopped at the stand of a jeweler to admire his assortment of necklaces, reaching out to caress an elegant silver chain whose design was familiar to her. "I remember the jewelry my mother gave me just before I left home for the last time," she whispered. "There was a garnet ring, a bracelet of gold with a ruby set in it…and a necklace that looked just like this one."

Zafirah heard the hint of sadness in Dae’s voice, and immediately sought to ease it. She plucked the necklace from its place and held it out to the young blonde. "Here…take it."

"Oh, no…I-I couldn’t."

"I insist." Zafirah tossed a small pouch of coins to the merchant, who hefted it briefly then bowed in gratitude. "It is a gift…and among my people, it is considered rude manners to deny such an offering."


"Please." Zafirah held the necklace out earnestly. "I want you to have it."

"Well I…I guess. If you insist."

"I do." Zafirah smiled as Dae turned and allowed her to clasp the slender silver chain about her neck. As she fingered the necklace to settle it, the dark woman couldn’t help herself, and she let her fingers linger a moment too long among the silken tendrils of blonde hair that curled about Dae’s neck. Her breath caught in her throat and her body began to thrum with desperate longing.

Dae sensed the lingering touch and froze momentarily. Turning, she gave Zafirah a wary, shy look. "I thought you said you wouldn’t try to seduce me," she reproached softly.

Zafirah took an unsteady breath and looked away. "Forgive my lapse," she said hoarsely. "It is difficult."

Emerald eyes narrowed, but Dae nodded after a moment. "That’s okay."

They continued walking along the street, and Dae could see plainly that Zafirah was suffering from some inner confliction. "You’re not used to women saying no to you, are you?" she observed in a casual tone.

Zafirah’s eyes met hers cautiously, wondering at the question. Seeing only genuine interest in Dae’s emerald orbs, she shrugged slightly. "It is not often a problem for me, no," she admitted.

"And you have a lot of women who are happy to be with you." Dae fingered her new necklace absently as she watched Zafirah. "Why do you care so much about winning me over?"

Again, the Scion shrugged. "You are different," she said quietly. "Something in you calls to me…and I cannot ignore it, no matter how I try." She sighed, then managed to meet the young girl’s gaze without flinching. "I am not ashamed of my desire for you, Tahirah…but my interest goes deeper than the flesh. I want to understand you…be near you. I hunger for it beyond reason." She turned away and continued walking. "I would never try to force myself upon you, but neither will I fight against my own nature by denying my attraction."

Dae listened, struggling to understand the mind of a woman unlike anyone she had ever met before. "Are you trying to say that…you’re in love with me?" That was the closest approximation she could reach.

"Perhaps," Zafirah said non-committedly. "I have never been in love before…and I have never felt so powerful an attraction to another person before. It is possible the two are cause and consequence of one another." Twin sapphires regarded Dae curiously. "Would it offend you greatly if I were in love with you?"

Dae flushed, but shook her head. "I-I guess not. I mean, it’s kinda flattering…in a weird way."

Zafirah grinned at her small victory. "Perhaps I could court you," she suggested playfully. "An unrequited courtship of course, if you would prefer."

Dae giggled, seeing a new and interesting side of Zafirah’s personality begin to emerge. "Let’s just enjoy the walk, shall we?"

The Scion gave a martyred moan. "As you wish, my Tahirah."

Dae raised an eyebrow at her companion. "Why do you keep calling me that?"


"Tahirah. You use it more often than my real name."

"Oh." Zafirah shrugged. "I do not know. It just seems to slip from my tongue more easily. If it bothers you, I will try to stop."

"No, it’s okay. I like it." Dae hesitated. "It means chaste, doesn’t it? The name Tahirah?"

Zafirah nodded. "It does, but…I mean no insult by terming you thus. It is a term of affection, nothing more."

"Well…I am chaste," Dae admitted. "I’m not ashamed of that fact…even if it is considered out-of-place here."

Zafirah considered that a moment, then shook her head. "Chastity for a purpose is respected among my people," she said. "Like the priests of Inshal, who abstain from pleasure for periods so that they might better understand the Goddess. But when that chastity stems from ignorance…or from fear of the unknown…then I would consider it a wasted resolve." Zafirah saw Dae flush a little, and held up a hand. "Again, I mean no insult against you. It is simply an opinion I have."

Dae swallowed, uncertain how to respond. Since coming to the desert, she had felt the changes in her body – like an awakening that grew stronger every day. Her curiosity was indeed growing, just as Inaya had said…but still she fought against it.

Seeing that her companion wasn’t going to offer a response, Zafirah continued. "Of course, such matters are highly personal in nature…and I think it a good thing that not everyone sees things in the same light as myself. Take my father for instance. He governed the Scion Peace for five years without knowing the touch of a woman. He waited all that time to fall in love…and after he met my mother, he stayed true and devoted to her until his death."

"Really?" Dae’s ears pricked up with interest at hearing the Scion speak of her family.

"Yes. During his reign, the harem grounds were unoccupied."

"How did he die?"

"A sickness claimed him. Though I was young at the time, both the priests and the council accepted me as the new Scion. My mother was of the desert – born to the Herak tribe. When she fell in love with my father, she moved to El-Kasari to be with him…but I think a part of her never truly parted with the dunes. After he died, she returned to her people to grieve."

"Is she still alive?"

"Yes. I do not see her often, though. Her people are very proud…they do not often journey to the city for water or food, preferring to accept only what the desert offers." Sapphire eyes regarded Dae intently. "So you see, I do understand the concept of devoted love like that. I respect it a great deal…as I respected my father."

"But you don’t ascribe yourself to it."

"No." Zafirah smiled. "I believe more strongly in pleasure and freedom. In my way, I have loved all those with whom I have lain in passion…but not to the exclusion of all others. To my mind, it seems selfish to place boundaries on something as beautiful and sacred as sexual pleasure. It is a gift to be shared with the world, experienced by all, not just bestowed upon a single lover." She raised an eyebrow at Dae. "You have seen Johara and Hayam, have you not? You have seen the strength of their passion?"

Dae blushed and looked away. "They’re not exactly shy about it," she observed wryly.

"They love one another very much – enough that they sanctified their union in the Goddess’ name. Yet their connection is such that they are able to invite others to share in their love…to partake of their passion and join with them in ecstasy." Zafirah sighed. "Theirs is a love I can understand and admire; a love that is devoted without being caged or controlled."

Dae absorbed this explanation thoughtfully, appreciating Zafirah’s honesty. "And have you ever thought about being with a man?" she asked.

"Why would I? I do not find men appealing in a sexual way…either physically, or mentally." Zafirah gave Dae a rakish grin. "A beautiful woman, however, can turn my blood to fire."

Dae swallowed at the definite glint in the Scion’s appraisal. "But…what about children? Who will be Scion when you die?"

"I am young," Zafirah said. "My death will not come for many years, I hope. But when it does, a young man named Kadin will be my successor."

"Who’s he?"

"He is a child of the Bharinah tribe…a nomad. He is but a child now…barely past his twelfth year, but with luck he will have opportunity to grow into a man before his time comes to rule El-Kasari."

"Is he a relative?"

"A cousin, yes."

"So…why him? Don’t you have any closer kin?"

"I do, but the decision is in the hands of the priests of Inshal. And I do not dispute their wisdom in this matter. I have met Kadin many times in his life. He is a strong boy; brave and honorable. Though he is young, he already hunts with the men of his tribe, and he is an excellent rider and archer. The desert will teach him patience, wisdom…and when he is ready, I have little doubt he will enforce the Scion Peace with a firm but just hand."

"Why doesn’t he live here, in the city?"

"Because he prefers to stay in the desert." A group of rowdy children armed with wooden swords came racing down the street towards them, and Zafirah took Dae’s arm and guided her gently out of their way. "I lived for three years among the tribes myself. It is important to understand the nomads and earn their respect, for without them the Peace would crumble into chaos."

"I can’t imagine why anyone would want to live out in the sands," Dae said with a confused shrug. "It’s so hot…and there’s no food, or water, or shelter."

"It is a hard life," Zafirah agreed, "and it breeds a hard people. But there is a certain savage beauty to the desert that takes time to appreciate. Once it is in your blood, however, that beauty is never forgotten."


Zafirah clapped her hands. "But enough of this. Tell me about yourself, my Tahirah. I wish to learn more of you."

"Umm…well…" Dae shrugged. "Wh-what would you like to know?"

"Anything! What things make you smile? What do you enjoy doing? Perhaps you could tell me more of your homeland…your family."

"Well…okay, I…I guess I could do that." Dae chewed on her lower lip a moment. "Ahh…for starters, I’m an only child. My mother had complications giving birth to me, so she couldn’t have any more children afterwards. So my parents poured all their affections on me; they gave me everything I could have wanted. My father waited a long time before he would allow any man to court me. That was why I was traveling to the city when I was kidnapped by the slavers…so that the priests could confirm my purity for my future husband."

"And who was your husband to be?" asked Zafirah curiously.

Dae shrugged. "I don’t know. I never actually got the chance to meet any of the suitors."

"So…you would have joined with a man whom you did not even know? Did not even love?" Zafirah scowled. "Are such practices common among your people?"

"I-I guess so…at least for the more wealthy families, yes."

"I think then that your lands must be populated with much discontent and little true pleasure," Zafirah concluded stoutly. "Not to mention a great deal of stupidity."

Dae grinned. "Perhaps." Remembering the faces of her mother and father, the grin was dissolved by a sigh. "My parents must think I’m dead by now. I wish they could at least know that I’m safe. It would ease their grief."

Zafirah saw the wisp of loss in the young girl’s face. "I am sorry to stir up such memories that sadden you," she apologized.

"No, it’s okay." Dae squared her shoulders and pushed away the sense of homesickness. "I don’t really think about it much anymore. The palace is a nice enough place to live, Scion, really. I’m grateful to you for saving me from the slavers…" She flushed a little. "And for taking me into your home, knowing that I can’t repay you as you wish me to."

Zafirah’s eyes sparkled. "So…your new life here pleases you?"

Dae considered the question seriously, surprised to find herself nodding quite sincerely. "Yes…actually, it does."

"Then I have reward enough simply in the smile that curves your lips. What more could I ask of than to see you happy?"

Dae raised an eyebrow at Zafirah knowingly. "You could ask for my body," she observed. "I know it’s what you want…and I appreciate the fact that you haven’t just taken me."

"Yes, well…" Zafirah smiled modestly. "You have made your thoughts on such matters quite clear, little one. Still, my desire shall not wane with your refusal…and if ever you find your curiosity grows, I would be most honored to entertain and enlighten it." The Scion’s tone was light and playful, but Dae’s face was serious as she returned the dark woman’s sapphire gaze steadily.

"I’ll be sure to keep that in mind," the young blonde whispered softly.

Zafirah stared wide-eyed at the girl as she deliberately turned her attention back to the street, thinking perhaps her ears had fabricated the response her heart most longed to hear. But from the awkward silence that followed and the steady flush that crept up Dae’s neck, she realized she had heard true. Warmth flooded through her loins in a familiar tide and she swallowed hard. Suddenly, Zafirah saw that something had indeed changed in Dae since her arrival, just as Inaya had hinted at. Where once the young girl had recoiled from any flirtations in disgust, she now seemed almost interested and shyly responsive. Possibilities began to whirl through Zafirah’s mind in an exciting, confusing tumble, and she had to take a moment to calm herself with a few steady breathes.

Take things slow, she remonstrated silently. Do nothing to frighten her. If she perceives a threat, she will retreat and all will be lost. Let her come to you in her own time.

Dae concentrated on the sights around her, conscious of the effect her words had had on Zafirah and fighting the urge to giggle. She was pleased with the response, seeing the Scion struggling to process the unexpected statement, rather proud at having taken the confident woman so completely by surprise. Dae wasn’t sure what had prompted her to say the words out loud…but she couldn’t help but enjoy the delightful tension that now pulled low in her gut, or the shivers that ran across her skin.

By now, the sun had diminished on the horizon to little more than a distant glow. The streets were lit by hundreds of torches that burned from sconces all over the place, and which cast shadows into the alleyways and hollow windows. Glancing at her companion quickly, Dae was mesmerized by the way Zafirah’s eyes glowed in the flickering firelight, and by the elegant, strong lines of her face. The Scion was, without question, an incredibly beautiful woman…and for the first time, Dae allowed herself to more intimately appreciate that fact.

The two walked in silence for several minutes before Dae decided to continue their conversation as though nothing had happened. "Umm…I like to draw. My mother taught me to paint and such from when I was a child, so it comes easily to me." She looked around at the city with eyes that saw everything. "There are so many wonderful things here to draw…and in the gardens. I used to just draw things I remembered from my homeland, but then I realized how much beauty I was overlooking all around me."

Zafirah cleared her throat, pushing aside her desire to pursue their last conversation to its end. "Perhaps," she said softly, "you might allow me the pleasure of viewing your pictures the next time I visit the harem? I would very much like to see them.

"Sure." Dae glanced at the dark woman shyly. "That’d be nice."

"And what of the dancing?" Zafirah probed with a teasing smile. "I watched you from a balcony that night you joined the others. It seemed you enjoyed yourself very much."

"You saw that, huh?" Dae giggled and let her hair fall over her face. "I wasn’t very good."

"You were amazing," Zafirah protested. "My dreams since that night have been filled with your image, so greatly did you inspire them."


"Indeed. Did you not enjoy the dancing?"

"No, it was…nice. I liked it."

"Yet you have not joined in since that night," Zafirah observed, offering a slight pout that gave Dae’s uncertain body an extra tingle. "Was it because I was there? Did you not participate for fear that I would see you?"

Dae shrugged. "It wasn’t you," she said quietly. "I was just…a little nervous about it, that’s all." She took a deep breath, wondering how to explain. "It’s hard for me to do that kind of stuff – I guess the same way as it’s hard for you to go against your nature by restraining your, umm…urges." She flushed prettily. "But I did like it…and I do intend to do it some more, so…" She offered what she hoped was a demure look. "I don’t mind if you want to watch me next time, okay?"

Zafirah grinned fully. "I would like that very much." An invitation! Inside, the Scion’s heart beat double tempo. She actually invited me to watch her! The flower is beginning to bloom. Zafirah had seen the signs of dormant arousal awakening enough times in her life that she recognized Dae’s body language now. The girl was still shy and nervous, and probably not a little frightened…but she was also giving definite signals of interest. Zafirah ordered herself to be patient. She had already gained more from this night than she had ever expected – interacting with the young blonde as a friend and as an equal, in the process gaining a better understanding of this strange girl for whom she had developed an unequaled desire and fascination.

They walked along the streets in silence, casting one another secretive, sidelong glances. There were still many people about, taking advantage of the cooler night air to conduct their business, and Dae watched the reactions of the few who recognized Zafirah. Many who passed them by gave slight bows of homage to the dark Scion, which she returned without thought. Those few with courage enough to reach out to her were rewarded with light touches, and Dae saw in their eyes such looks of devotion and rapture that she couldn’t help but be impressed. These people clearly loved Zafirah deeply; their respect was more than simply a facade to hide contempt or envy, as it so often was in Dae’s homeland. Glancing at the tall woman as she accepted their gestures with graceful courtesy, the young blonde felt her admiration for Zafirah rise a few notches further.

The streets circled back to the palace, and before long the two women found themselves passing back into the cool marble embrace of the great halls. Their footsteps slowed, neither wanting to hurry the end of their night. "I should let you get some rest," Zafirah allowed quietly.


"May I walk you back to the harem?"

"Sure. That’d be nice."

Zafirah smiled charmingly, and Dae felt her heart-beat double its tempo. They walked side by side back through the palace hallways, pausing outside the entrance to the seraglio gardens. Dae looked up at Zafirah shyly, shuffling her feet. "Well…Thank you," she said quietly. "I ah…had a really nice time tonight. The city was beautiful."

"If you would like, perhaps I could show you more of it another time," Zafirah suggested hopefully. "Or perhaps you would like to see the palace grounds?"

Dae lowered her eyes, but nodded. "Okay…I’d like that." When she glanced up, the young blonde was caught and held by the dark sapphire eyes watching her – eyes that were suddenly filled with an intense hunger that carried with it an almost physical strength. Dae’s legs felt suddenly weak, and her mouth became dry as heat pulsed through her stomach and groin. She swallowed hard and forced herself to look away, confused more by the reaction of her body than by Zafirah’s evident lust. The smell of spicy incense and exotic oils reached her nostrils as Zafirah stepped closer, then a hand gently cupped her chin and forced her eyes back up. Again, Dae swallowed nervously as she found herself suddenly in close proximity to the powerful, dark-haired woman – so close she could feel the heat radiating from her body.

Zafirah leaned closer to the trembling blonde, seeing the emerald green eyes flicker to her lips, then back up to her eyes, aware of what was coming. She smiled faintly and paused a mere inch from her goal, hearing the ragged edge in the girl’s breathing. "May I?"

Dae shivered, dazed by both the closeness of the tall woman, and by the strength of her body’s response. And suddenly, all the old-fashioned rhetoric of her homeland…all the teaching of what was right and moral and good…everything she had ever been taught by her father, and the priests, and the tutors…it all fled from Dae’s mind, overwhelmed by a hunger to experience the touch of those lips that breathed so close against her own. She nodded very slightly, and whispered in a voice that sounded barely like her own, "Okay."

Given permission, Zafirah completed her descent and pressed a light kiss against Dae’s lips. The kiss was brief – almost chaste compared to those the Scion normally bestowed upon her lovers – but it earned a quiet whimper from the innocent blonde. Hearing that, Zafirah decided to press her advantage slightly, returning for a second kiss – this one not so modest. Her tongue traced intimately along the edge of Dae’s lower lip, sparking unknown flames along the way, and making Zafirah long for something more carnal.

Dae’s eyes were closed as she accepted the kiss, her whole body totally fixated on the light caress of Zafirah’s lips against hers. When she felt the soft, wet sensation sliding across her lips, she almost swooned when she realized what Zafirah was doing to her. But just before her body and mind had the chance to open more fully to this wonderful experience, Zafirah withdrew and retreated back a pace. Dizzy from the brief but frighteningly erotic exchange, Dae opened her eyes slowly and looked up at the Scion, her lips still pursed.

Zafirah smiled at Dae fondly and ran a single finger along her cheek and across her lips. "Thank you, Tahirah," she whispered in a husky timbre. "Just that single kiss is worth the thousand sleepless nights it will cost me." Her finger withdrew, leaving Dae staring at her with glassy eyes. "I shall leave you to your rest, little one. May your dreams be sweet." And releasing her magnetic hold on the young girl, Zafirah turned and walked slowly back down the hallway…letting her hips sway suggestively for the eyes she felt watching her the whole way.

Only when Zafirah turned the corner and passed out of sight was Dae able to pull herself out of the languid bliss that had been wrought by the Scion’s kiss. Shaking herself, Dae struggled to understand what had just happened. Her body was still aflame with that strange burning, and her lips still tingled from the touch of Zafirah’s tongue. The young blonde took a long moment to calm her racing heartbeat before she turned back into the seraglio gardens, glad to see that no-one had witnessed her moment of intimacy with the dark woman. Walking quickly past the other pleasure-servants – conscious of the curious, wondering glances that followed her – Dae retreated back to her room where she cast herself upon the pillows and cushions of her bed. Staring up at the ornate, carved ceiling, she let her thoughts rush through her head in a confusing tumble…aware that something had changed in her this night…

…And wondering how to satisfy the cries of a ravenous, dawning appetite.


At dawn the following morning, as the sun began to paint majestic tones of purple and crimson across the desert horizon, Dae sat in the seraglio gardens with her back propped against one of the many statues arranged about the harem grounds. Across her lap was spread a large piece of coarse parchment on which she traced idle scribbles with a sharpened stick of lead. She had been trying since the darkness first began to recede to summon some kind of interest in her work…some kind of inspiration from the beautiful gardens around her…but Dae's mind was far too distracted to concentrate on anything other than the events of the previous evening.

Zafirah had flirted with her.

And she had not been offended.

Zafirah had kissed her.

And she had allowed it.

No. Dae frowned and flicked at a blade of grass absently. She had not simply allowed the kiss…she had enjoyed it. Enjoyed it so much that she longed for another…longed to rekindle the flames that had sparked so deliciously through her at the touch of Zafirah’s lips. The thought of the dark woman’s body, with its powerful curves and intoxicating scent, was enough to have kept Dae up most of the night…struggling to readjust the perceptions she had carried all her life.

It was wrong for a woman to have carnal knowledge of another woman. It was perverse to even harbor such depraved thoughts! That was a truth Dae had been taught since she was old enough to understand such matters…and yet now, she was faced with the bitter realization that this cornerstone of morality she had believed in with such conviction…was flawed.

Looking around her at the dozen or so other girls who were enjoying the sunrise, Dae smiled. These people were not evil. They were fun, and loving, and caring. She had been told of the barbaric customs of the desert people all her life…but found the reality vastly different to all those stories she’d heard from her hand-maidens. These people spoke politely, in precise tones, and their manners were a good deal more civilized than those displayed by many people in the east. Yes, they were also licentious and possessed some rather quaint notions of morality…but the lives they lived were fulfilling in a strange way. They indulged so freely in their passions, with no fear of consequence or chastisement. There was, Dae had come to understand, a certain innocence to the pleasure-servants that had nothing to do with their sexual escapades – an innocence that stemmed from having lived their lives without ever being judged, or condemned. And having lived among these people for only a few months, Dae found herself envying their carefree existence for the first time.

A giggle and a low, throaty moan called her attention to the far wall of the seraglio. There, beneath the sprawling mass of a creeping honey-suckle vine that flowed across the stone, the lovers, Hayam and Johara, were engaged in a gentle yet passionate embrace. Johara, the taller of the two, had wrapped her long legs around the shorter frame of her mate, and Dae watched with studious interest as she ran her hands up Hayam’s body to cup her breasts through the cloth of her top.

Remembering the feeling of Zafirah’s tongue as it had skated against her lips, Dae tried to imagine what it might feel like to kiss the Scion as Johara was kissing Hayam. The two were avidly exploring one another’s mouths in a sensuous display that Dae couldn’t help but find stirring. The young blonde let her musings roam further, wondering what else Zafirah might do to her…if only she were granted permission. Would she touch her breasts? Dae considered that a moment, studying her own full chest curiously. Yes, she decided. Zafirah’s sapphire gaze always paused to admire her cleavage and breasts whenever she let her eyes wander. But would she herself enjoy such a touch? Would she find pleasure in reciprocating? Closing her eyes, Dae called to mind an image of the Scion’s body, letting her focus shift to Zafirah’s chest. She imagined her hands reaching out to touch the offered flesh…fondling, stroking, feeling the heat rise in Zafirah’s skin as her excitement grew.

Dae’s eyes snapped open and she pulled in a sharp breath, somewhat surprised by the quickness of her body’s response to the image. Yes, she admitted. The idea of touching the Scion like that was pleasing to her.

But…what else would happen if she were to give in to Zafirah’s seduction?

Trying to imagine anything further was futile. Dae hadn’t the vaguest notion how two women might make love. She had, in truth, only a child’s comprehension of how a man and a woman would couple – enough to understand the basic mechanics, but little idea of any practical realities. And so she watched Hayam and Johara as they basked in their love and desire, wondering what it was her body wanted that might satisfy these feelings of emptiness and hunger that plagued her more and more with the passing of each day.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a lilting, playful voice. "Salaam aliekum, little Dae! May I sit and enjoy the sun with you?"

Dae glanced up at Inaya as the dark girl approached. She shrugged. "If you like."

"Thank you."

As Inaya sat beside her, Dae focused her attention back to her drawing, marking a few lines on the parchment without much interest. Inaya watched, amused. "You seem distracted this morning," she commented. "Did you not enjoy your walk with the Scion?"

Emerald eyes shot up instantly. "How did you know about that?"

Inaya shrugged. "I wondered where you were last night and asked one of the guards. She told me you had been invited by Zafirah to see the city." Dark eyes blinked with utter innocence. "Why? Did something happen?"

Dae shook her head and returned to her drawing. "No. I-I’m sorry, I just…" She sighed. "Nevermind."

Inaya watched Dae as she carelessly sketched a few shapes. She had seen the focus of the young girl’s drawing shift these last few weeks. Where once Dae only drew pictures of her remembered homeland, now, she focused on the things around her. She sketched the gardens, the desert, the harem girls. The change was a subtle one, but Inaya understood the deeper meaning behind it; Dae had come to accept and enjoy her new world, setting aside her homesickness and moving on. When Inaya’s gaze lowered to her friend’s neck, she smiled and reached out to finger the delicate silver chain that now hung there. "This is a pretty thing," she admired. "A gift from the Scion, perhaps?"

Dae nodded, ignoring the wicked glint in the dark girl’s eyes. "She insisted."

"Of course." Inaya smiled faintly, certain that Zafirah had initiated some kind of courtship with the foreign girl last night. She had watched Dae for several minutes before coming over, and had noticed with some amusement the expression of interest on her friend’s face as she stared at Johara and Hayam’s ardent coupling. Even now, Inaya saw Dae’s attention drift back to the garden wall where they embraced.

"You no longer seem so repulsed by the sight of such a passionate display as you once were," she observed simply.

Dae flushed bright crimson and returned her attention back to her drawing immediately. "I-I just…I wasn’t really…doing anything…"

"Do not be defensive, my friend," Inaya cut off the girl’s stammerings. "You look upon a union of great beauty. It is only right and proper that such beauty should be appreciated. And," –Inaya’s eyes sparkled mischievously– "you certainly seemed quite able to appreciate it. You have changed much since you first arrived here."

Dae opened her mouth to offer a reflexive protest, but closed it after a second. She lowered her head a fraction, looking up at Inaya through a curtain of pale hair. "Maybe I have," she admitted softly.

Inaya beamed a smile at her. "And is it such a terrible thing to see the world through more mature eyes?" she asked. "Through eyes that have gained a greater depth of understanding, and from that, a greater wisdom?" She reached out and patted the young blonde on the shoulder. "The people of your land do not understand us because our customs differ so greatly from their own. Therefore they distrust us – brand us as barbaric and uncivilized…as living in sin and debauchery. What they do not realize…" She grinned broadly and sighed. "…is the pleasure we embrace, which they condemn."

Dae listened as she watched Hayam whisper into Johara’s ear, raising a devilish grin that was apparent even from across the garden. Hayam then rose and pulled her mate up after her, and together, they headed back towards the sleeping quarters at a brisk pace. Dae’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully for a moment, then widened in understanding as she turned to study Inaya. The dark-haired girl sported a wide smile, and her eyes danced as she watched the departing lovers.

"They’re going to…?" Dae left the sentence hanging.

Inaya nodded. "Passion that burns with such intensity as theirs requires very little incentive to burst into flames."

The young blonde considered this, her lips pursed. She recalled again the sensations evoked by Zafirah’s kiss…remembered the feeling of that powerful desire that the Scion had restrained. And the need to better understand what Zafirah wanted from her became suddenly more urgent.

"Can I tell you something?" she asked Inaya, her fingers twisting together nervously around the lead pencil. "Something in confidance?"

"Of course."

Dae hesitated, knowing that in the palace harem, little stayed secret for long. "You can’t tell anyone else," she insisted. "I mean it Inaya…no-one, or I’ll never speak to you again."

The dark girl nodded sincerely. "As you wish, little one. I would never betray a trust."

The blonde studied her friend carefully, until she was satisfied Inaya understood and was serious in her statement. She glanced away, knawing her lower lip nervously before she leaned closer in conspiracy. "Last night…" A long pause. "Last night…Zafirah kissed me."

Inaya’s brown eyes widened a fraction, and the very edges of her lips pulled tighter – though whether in a frown or a smile, Dae couldn’t tell. "You allowed her?"

Dae flushed, and nodded. "I liked it," she admitted in a shy whisper. "It felt…" She struggled for a moment to find words to express how the touch of Zafirah’s lips against her own had made her feel, then shook her head in confusion. "My body got all hot…like a fever ran through me. And I…felt sort of sick, too. But not in a bad way. My stomach felt like I’d eaten something disagreeable…but it was nice. And I got all dizzy, and I could feel the heat of her right next to me."

Now, Inaya did smile. "Then what happened?"

Dae shrugged. "She drew away…just when I was about to…" A deeper blush colored the young girls cheeks, remembering again the wet sensation of the Scion’s tongue tracing her lips. "I was about to…"

"About to what?"

Emerald eyes flashed away to study the sunrise intently. "She was…using her tongue, and I wanted to…open my mouth…"

"Ahhh." Inaya’s smile turned into a mischievous grin. "You wished to deepen the kiss?"

Dae nodded, thoroughly embarrassed.

The harem girl laughed. "You color so prettily, little one…yet there is no need to feel shame or abashment. It is natural to hunger for such greater contact from one you desire." Dark eyes narrowed with interest. "You do desire her…do you not?"

Dae hesitated a long while, still fidgeting. "I don’t know," she whispered at last. "All I know is I liked what she did last night. She was so open and honest with me…and she made me feel very special."

"I think Zafirah cares for you a great deal," Inaya observed. "More, perhaps, than she yet realizes."

The blonde smiled fractionally. "As soon as she pulled away, I wanted her to continue. I was dizzy and excited…but for a second there, I wanted so much more from her."

"More?" Inaya shifted closer still. "What more would you have liked?"

Dae shrugged. "I have no idea. I don’t know…what she might have done, if I’d allowed her the freedom to do as she pleases." Restless fingers set aside the lead pencil and parchment now, and Dae turned her full attention on her friend. "But you could tell me. What would… How do two women make love?"

Inaya’s gaze dropped away and she sighed. "I have told you before, little one, it is difficult to explain-"

"You couldn’t explain how it felt," Dae put in. "Surely you can tell me what happens. Would she touch me? Where? What would she want me to do? How would I-"

Inaya held up a delicate hand to stop Dae’s questions. "It is not so simple," she protested.

"Why not?"

"Pleasure is a jewel of many facets," she explained patiently. "One cannot see them all in a single glance. What one person enjoys, another might shy away from. Such matters are of a highly personal nature…and I cannot describe what you might find to your liking."

Dae grumped. "Well…what does she do when you’re with her?"

Inaya’s olive skin hid her blush somewhat. "Um…I-it is…somewhat difficult to explain."

The young blonde was getting frustrated. "How am I supposed to know whether or not I could be with her if you won’t at least give me some information?!"

A sudden light popped into Inaya’s eyes, and she looked up quickly. "You wish to better understand the expression of desire?"


A nod. "Then I believe I know a most perfect way for you to gain such wisdom. Come." Inaya grabbed Dae’s hand and pulled her to her feet, then started tugging her back towards the sleeping quarters. "It is past time your eyes were opened to such matters."

Dae suddenly saw where this might be going and she offered uncertain protest. "Um…Inaya, look, you’re my friend and I like you very much, but….I-I don’t think this is such a good idea. Can’t you just give me a few academic descriptions?"

Inaya grinned. "Relax, child. I do not intend to bed you," she assured the weakly struggling blonde. "Unless, of course, you wish it…?" A raised eyebrow was cast back.

Dae shook her head. "N-no, thank you."

Inaya shrugged. "Do not be afraid to change your mind."

Dae’s fear turned to puzzlement as Inaya led her past her own room and further down the corridor. "Wh-where are we going?"

"Somewhere you may find answers to your questions." Inaya stopped them outside the furthest room of the hall. Her dark eyes sought and held the emerald ones of her companion. "Better to see the truth, than to imagine it," she said simply, before tugging the blonde into the chamber entrance.

Dae’s mouth opened to pose yet another question, but she lost the power of speech at the sight before her. There, sprawled among a pile of pillows and satin sheets, Johara and Hayam were in the midst of removing the last of one another’s clothing, their lips and hands exploring every new area of skin as it was revealed. The light from several oil lamps lit the scene perfectly, gleaming off the couple as they entwined.

Grinning, Inaya cleared her throat. Two sets of eyes blinked, then turned at the interruption. Dae fully expected an outburst of some kind – anger sparked over the intrusion – but to her surprise, the two lovers grinned delightedly.

Johara, who was tall and lean, with long brown hair and the deeply tanned body of a huntress, lifted herself slightly from where she had her shorter mate pinned. "Inaya! Please, enter and most welcome." Her grey eyes shifted to Dae. "And the little one! What occasion brings you to our chamber?"

Inaya stepped into the room, pulling an uncertain Dae along with her. "A mission of enlightenment brings us here." She pushed the blonde forward.

Hayam, who was about as tall as Dae and carried the golden skin, midnight-black hair, and slanted eyes of the lands across the northern sea, grinned even more fully. Her voice carried a heavy accent. "You wish to join our pleasure? We would be most honored-"

Inaya shook her head. "Not today, I fear…though I should be overjoyed to accept another time. No…I hoped perhaps you might be willing simply to allow Dae here to observe." She smiled benignly at Dae’s startled expression. "She wishes to learn how a woman might please another woman."

Johara flashed a playful grin at Hayam and nipped the shorter woman on the neck, earning a muffled giggle. "Then you have indeed come to the right place," she said, "for we possess such knowledge in great abundance!"

"Uh, that’s…not necessary, thank you." Dae recovered control of her jaw and managed to glare at Inaya. "I-I don’t think-"

"Thinking is often overrated," Inaya interrupted, pushing the young girl over to a chair and firmly seating her so she could watch the couple on the sleeping pallet. "You have questions? What better way for them to be answered?"

Dae glanced at the lovers who were watching her with interest and some amusement. "I-I can’t-"

"Yes, you can." Inaya leaned close to Dae’s ear and whispered, "They will not harm you, my friend. Indeed, they will not even touch you unless you invite them to do so."


A finger pressed against her lips, quieting her protests. "Do not argue," Inaya stated firmly. "Sit. Watch. Learn. You will be better able to understand your own longings when your eyes have seen something of what Zafirah offers to share with you." Inaya turned back to Johara and Hayam, winking saucily. "Play nice."

"We will." Johara ran her eyes up and down Dae’s figure, her hands exploring the body of her lover as she did so. Feeling the heat in her appraisal, Dae shifted on her seat uncomfortably, her eyes searching about the room for anything to look at other than the nearly naked bodies that lay not five feet from where she sat.

Inaya chuckled at her friend’s discomfit, then, offering a final reassuring pat on the head, she turned and left the chamber.

Left alone, Dae offered the couple on the bed a weak smile. "I-I’m really sorry about this," she stammered. "You probably want your privacy right now, so I can just…go back to my own room for a while-" She started to rise from the chair.

"Nonsense, little one," Hayam responded quickly. "We are always glad of company…and would consider it a tremendous honor to be a part of your education into the world of earthly delights." Her hazel eyes flashed to her lover playfully. "Johara is quite a show-off," she grinned. "She appreciates an audience."

"And you do not?" the taller woman teased, her fingers seeking out her lover’s small breasts. She glanced at Dae, who was watching with a strange mix of fascination and absolute terror. "Please, Dae…do not leave," she pleaded sincerely. "It is right that you learn more of the pleasures you deny your own body."

Dae stared at Johara’s fingers as they sought out a hardened nipple and began to manipulate it with knowing skill, swallowing hard at the sight. Her mouth felt too dry to offer a reply, but she sat back down again and set her restless hands firmly on the arms of the chair…a precaution against them deciding to wander off on their own accord. Johara and Hayam both smiled at her surrender, and Dae felt their eyes crawl over her body even as they shifted on the bed to afford her a better view.

"So," Johara positioned herself behind her lover and began to caress the shorter woman with long strokes that ran the full length of her body. "What things do you wish to learn?" Dae remained silent, and Johara raised an eyebrow playfully. "Would you like to know how Zafirah might touch you…or how she might like to be touched?"

Dae’s gulp was audible even over Hayam’s increasingly ragged breathes as Johara incited her arousal to a deeper level. But after a moment, she managed to steel her resolve and offer a faint nod. "I-I…I want to know what she wants from me." Her emerald eyes drifted helplessly down Hayam’s exposed body to the juncture of her thighs. The northerner was slight of frame, with spare muscles and slender legs, but every inch of her skin glowed in the lamp-light like burnished brass. She was, Dae allowed herself to appreciate, an incredibly beautiful woman. It was impossible to keep her eyes from taking it all in…and as she watched in fascination as Johara continued to touch and caress her mate, the young blonde felt a tightening in her own groin, and a strange sensation of wet heat begin to flow through her loins. She shifted in her seat, somewhat uncomfortable at the strength of her body’s reaction.

Johara ran a line of slow kisses from Hayam’s shoulder to her neck, her grey eyes fixed on Dae the entire time. "Do you think you might be willing to give the Scion what she desires…if you find what you see here to your liking?"

Dae was finding it hard to think straight with the erotic display being played out before her, so her response was automatic. She nodded. "I might."

Johara grinned at that, recognizing the dawning hunger in Dae’s eyes as they feasted on what had been for so long a forbidden fruit. "You have affected Zafirah strongly, little one," she observed. "I have seen her eyes as they watch you from afar; they are filled with more than simple lust. There is much affection and true care in her regard. I know, for I saw the same look in Hayam’s eyes when we first fell in love."

Hayam whimpered softly and arched her back to gain a firmer touch from Johara’s hands on her chest.

Johara grinned at the unconsciously hungry expression on Dae’s innocent face, delighting in the effect of her performance. She let her own gaze drift to the young blonde’s chest, noting the way the girl was breathing faster now, and the way her fingers were twitching. "You are a creature of rare beauty, Dae," she whispered in a husky voice. "If you would like to join us, do not be afraid. It is one thing to simply watch an act of passion…but it is something far more fulfilling to experience the sensations themselves."

Dae blushed at the invitation. A small part of her was tempted to accept, itching to know the feel of that silken skin beneath her touch, but the stronger part of her nature was still ruled by uncertainty and fear. She shook her head. "I don’t think I should."

"As you wish." Johara’s left hand slid lower down her partner’s body. Hayam’s stomach contracted as fingertips roamed across her abdomen and began to scrape tantalizingly along her inner thighs. She spread her legs wider, and Dae stared at the treasures now suddenly laid before her. Johara ran a single finger through the sparse black curls that crowned her lover’s center as she cocked her head to the side, watching the blonde’s reaction carefully. "Have you ever looked upon another woman before?" she asked softly.

Dae shook her head, her eyes fixated by the sight of Hayam’s swollen petals gleaming with slick moisture in the lamp-light. In some lucid part of her mind, she wondered whether Zafirah would look the same.

"Then let me show you." Johara’s fingers split over Hayam’s sex and parted her folds, revealing the coral-pink flesh beyond. She stroked her lover slowly, and Hayam bit her lip in delight at the sensuous torture. Dae could only stare in amazement, feeling her body tingle with a powerful, erotic rush. Johara noticed and smiled slyly. "Hayam is quite aroused," she observed as she continued to caress her lover slowly. "You see how wet she becomes?"

Dae nodded, licking her lips unconsciously.

"That is a sign of how much her body wishes for deeper contact. She wants to feel me inside her…touching her most intimate places." Hayam cried out as Johara grazed her clitoris, and Dae’s eyes widened with concern.

"You’re hurting her!"

"No, child." Johara repeated her actions, eliciting another drawn out moan. Hayam leaned back against her, needing more support as she abandoned herself to sensation. "The sounds she makes are sounds of pleasure, not pain. Do not let them deter you. Hayam likes to make a lot of noise during our love-making. She will be screaming before we are done."

Blonde brows contracted now in academic curiosity. "H-how can you sure?"

"We can test her if you wish." Johara withdrew her fingers slightly from the velvet of her lover’s core. "Hayam? Dae here is concerned for you. She fears you find my touch unpleasant. Shall I stop?"

"NO!" Hayam’s eyes flew open instantly, pulled back to awareness by the suggestion. She desperately grabbed Johara’s wrist with a trembling hand and urged it back to her center. "Please…keep going! Never stop!"

"As you wish, aziza." Johara returned to her ministrations immediately, smiling at the wide-eyed blonde. "You see, little one. She feels only pleasure from my touch – pleasure so intense it shall soon grow overwhelming, and will rob Hayam of all reason." She lifted her glistening fingers for a moment and displayed them to Dae. "Her body reacts strongly. Hayam is very sensitive right now."

Dae leaned a little closer, interested in the proceedings despite her innocence. She could smell the same wild, animal musk that had lingered around Nasheta after her night in the Scion’s bed, and realized it was caused by this arousal. Indeed, she could feel her own sex beginning to tingle with heat, and she squeezed her legs together to ease the strange sensation…an act which seemed only to sharpen her growing ache.

Johara gently laid her lover on the bed and settled beside her, watching her own fingers dance through the slick heat of her core. Hayam writhed on the silk sheets, cupping her own breasts and tugging hard on her nipples. Dae watched in awe, while Johara simply smiled. "There are many ways to bring pleasure to a woman," the lean beauty explained in a casual tone. "Ways that do not require the aspects of a man. My touch alone could bring Hayam to fulfillment…and I find great joy in the act of providing her this pleasure." With her free hand, Johara pulled Hayam’s legs further apart, displaying her sex more openly to Dae’s rapt attention. "A woman’s sex is a highly sensitive realm," she continued. "It is a matter of individual preference what will bring the highest form of pleasure. Some like to be touched gently…slow caresses that build the tension, and linger long on simpler delights. Others prefer something a little firmer…" Two fingers slid into Hayam and began to thrust solidly in and out, drawing a high-pitched squeal from the northerner. Dae gasped, her imaginings never having dared consider such a thing. "…to be taken hard and fast, with a climax that stuns the mind with shocking ecstasy, and as quickly moves on to further delectations."

Dae’s breath was much shallower now as her body flushed at the sight of Hayam writhing under the assault of her lover. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing…but her imagination was absorbing the sight and busily applying it to a new and more detailed notion of what Zafirah might do to her.

Johara pulled her fingers from Hayam’s dripping sex and dragged them up to pull the hood from her hard clitoris. "This," she explained, "is the center of a woman’s desire – the heart of all ecstasies. It is called the clitoris…and a wise lover will treat it gently and with the utmost devotion and love, for it is very sensitive. Rough treatment will kill sensation after a time, and can cause pain that rivals the pleasure. You see…" She circled the hard little bud with a wet fingertip, and Hayam’s hips surged upwards, instinctively seeking more. Hayam growled. Johara giggled. "Too much too soon will end our play," she reminded her lover, before returning her eyes to Dae. "She is like liquid velvet – soft and hot. Would you like to touch her?"

"I-I don’t…" Dae shook her head, even as she noticed Hayam looking at her with eyes dazed with lust and hunger. "No…th-thank you."

Johara frowned. "As you wish." She circled the bundle of nerves once more, enjoying the responses of her mate, before continuing the lesson. "Of course, this is not the only way to touch a woman. It is a good way to start love-making…but all too often the hunger of lust must be appeased with a more…oral…form of expression."

Hayam’s eyes lit up and she panted anxiously. "Please, Johara! Yes…do it!"

"Patience, love," Johara soothed, petting her mate calmly. She saw Dae’s expression become puzzled, and continued her explanation. "Fingers are wonderful," she purred. "They are firm and long and can touch places deep inside the body. But a tongue can provide a far more sensuous means of contact…wet and powerful; a tactile, intense muscle that can more fully mold itself to every fold and crevice. Not to mention," she flashed a quick grin as her mouth descended, "the delight of tasting your partner’s essence."

Dae watched in amazed disbelief as Johara’s long tongue emerged and swept the full length of Hayam’s sex. The northerner gasped and abandoned her breasts to clutch at her lover’s mane of long hair, pulling her closer. Johara made certain her audience had a clear and unobstructed view of her attentions, then began to suck and lick at her partner’s wetness with avid devotion. Dae felt her inner temperature rise a few notches further, and the heat between her own legs became noticeably warmer. And, she realized with a deep blush, wetter. The amative acts she was witnessing easily sparked the first signs of arousal in a body that had never known such feelings, and Dae’s hands gripped hard at the armrests as she stared, unblinking, at the things Johara was doing.

Pausing in her ministrations, Johara glanced at the blonde girl, her lips wet with the nectar of Hayam’s pleasure. "The sensation of a tongue against one’s sex is truly exquisite," she offered with a grin. "Zafirah is much gifted in the art of oral service. Perhaps you would like me to show you something of what she could make you feel?"

Dae’s somewhat addled brain took a moment to figure out what Johara was offering, and when she did, she lowered her head instantly. "I can’t-" Her body, however, awoken to a hunger that was frightening in its strength, screamed out its approval at the suggestion, fueled further by a vivid imagination that considered how that soft, wet muscle might feel pressed against her most sensitive and private region.

Johara licked her lips in consideration, very much wishing she could draw the captivating blonde into their love-making. She glanced at Hayam, who was panting for breath now, driven to the brink of release much faster than normal due to the presence of those watching emerald eyes. After a moment, she held out her left hand to the young girl and gestured for her to take it. Dae eyed the offered hand nervously. "Come," Johara invited. "Please, come closer."

Dae’s eyes flicked about the room anxiously, and she shook her head. "I can’t."

"Do not fear, little one," Johara soothed. "I only wish for you to be a part of our love…not the focus of it. Please?" She saw Dae’s will begin to falter, and pressed to reassure her. "You are quite safe, child. Do not let yourself be ruled by fear and doubt. I can see in your eyes that you find us pleasing; why deny yourself the opportunity to better learn the ways of passion and desire?" Johara wriggled her fingers. "Please? Will you at least come closer?"

Dae hesitated a moment longer, feeling her modesty and the indoctrination of her childhood war against the newly discovered hunger that surged with ferocious strength at the erotic sight of the two lovers on the bed. But eventually, her hunger overwhelmed her innocence, and she reached out to accept Johara’s offered hand.

The tall brunette smiled warmly and pulled the young blonde onto the pillows beside Hayam. Taking the girl’s hand, she took a moment to simply stroke her fingers gently, feeling the tensions ease at her touch as Dae’s eyes were caught by her own. When she felt Dae had relaxed enough to go further, Johara lowered their hands to Hayam’s thigh. Dae gasped, feeling the heat in the glistening skin under her fingers, and an answering heat that bloomed between her own legs. She eyed the northerner uncertainly, worried Hayam might not appreciate her presence during such an intimate moment. But Hayam’s eyes were filled only with lust, and when Dae’s fingers caressed her unconsciously, she moaned and bucked her hips.

Johara watched the expression on Dae’s face change from fearful, to wondering, and then to curious as she let her touch wander along the sensitive leg of her mate. "You see?" she husked, leaning closer to the fascinated blonde. "She finds great joy in your touch. It is not so difficult to pleasure a lover, is it?" Johara ducked her head and suckled at Hayam’s stiff nipples, watching Dae watch her with open-mouthed wonder. "But of course, pleasure takes on many guises," she continued, sliding a hand down Hayam’s belly to play briefly with Dae’s fingers, before she sought out the slick heat of her lover’s twitching sex. "Far more than we could show you in a day. A woman like Zafirah – who has engaged with so many and so often – learns many skills in the art of ecstasy. Many positions…" Her fingers quested inwards, drawing a sharp intake of breath from the writhing northerner. "Many ways to prolong the moment…" Johara grinned as she felt her lover begin to peak, glancing down to see Hayam’s eyes focused on Dae, who was staring at her in awe.

"Please!" Hayam panted, every muscle in her slight frame held as taut as a drawn bowstring as Johara’s knowing caress held her at the very edge of release. "Just a little more, I beg you!"

Johara appeared to consider the plea. "What say you, Dae? Shall we finish this?"

Dae, not entirely understanding the question, but seeing the desperation in Hayam’s face very clearly, nodded.

"Here…" Johara withdrew her fingers from their tight nest and reached for Dae’s hand. "You shall help me." Dae was totally caught by the look of intense rapture in Hayam’s eyes, and couldn’t offer any resistance as Johara guided her fingers along a journey of a few inches, across skin that grew hotter and wetter. Smiling as she watched the young blonde, Johara slid their fingers together over and around the hardened nub of Hayam’s engorged clit.

The result of this direct stimulation was immediate and spectacular. Hayam’s hips surged upwards and her body stiffened even further. Her mouth opened, but she couldn’t draw breath to scream. As the pulse of her passion thundered silently in her ears, and the waves of white-hot ecstasy tore through her, Hayam managed to keep her eyes open and locked with the emerald gaze of the young blonde, sharing her enjoyment.

Dae was stunned by the sight of Hayam as the northerner strained in the throes of her release, not certain exactly what was happening, but understanding on some primitive level that it was something very good. Looking deep into Hayam’s slanted eyes, she saw the anticipation building like thunder-clouds gathering on the horizon. The storm grew, then crested, holding for a breathless heartbeat before it erupted in an explosion of dazed wonder that rolled through Hayam’s almond orbs. It lasted a few seconds before Hayam gasped, panted, and cried out in joy, her sweat-slicked body convulsing a few times, then falling limply back onto the satin sheets.

It was, Dae thought, the most beautiful thing she had ever witnessed.

Only after Hayam had collapsed, drained from her climax, did Dae finally realize where her fingers were resting. Feeling soft, slick flesh under her touch, she stared a moment at her glistening digits, not quite believing they were her own, before she blushed bright crimson and tried to pull them away.

"Be calm, little Dae," Johara soothed gently, maintaining her hold. "You did nothing wrong – you have brought only pleasure to us both. Relax." Lifting Dae’s fingers to her lips, she proceeded to lick and suck the clear honey from them.

Dae shuddered at the sensation of Johara’s tongue as it wrapped around her fingers, her body craving something more, but her mind still uncertain how to attain any satisfaction. The carnal look in Johara’s gaze struck her like a fiery arrow, and she felt her body shiver with longing. When Johara released her hand, Dae could only stare at it uncertainly, wondering what to do with it now. At length, she returned it to her lap, and regarded Hayam’s form curiously. "Wh-what happened to her?" she stammered.

"She climaxed," Johara said simply. Then, seeing her explanation meet with only a blank look, she shook her head. "Gods above, girl! Did your parents tell you nothing of such matters?!"

Dae looked away, her blonde hair falling forward to hide her embarrassment. "They…told me about how babies are made," she said softly. "And about giving birth…but…nothing about…" She gestured vaguely between Hayam and Johara. "…this stuff."

Johara sighed. "Then they neglected your education much, I think, and cruelly kept you ignorant of pleasures no-one should be denied." Shifting on the bed, she considered how best to make Dae understand. "When one is touched by a lover," she said slowly, in a gentle voice, "one experiences a building sensation of pleasure. That pleasure grows in intensity until it reaches a peak…a climax. It is like an explosion inside the body that results in a great wave of ecstasy. When we touched Hayam just now, that is what she experienced."

Dae considered this explanation as she returned to her seat, putting some distance between herself and the two lovers. She remembered what Inaya had told her of physical pleasure; of the heat which consumed and embraced. She looked at Hayam, who was recovering her wits once more, and nodded slowly. In a very quiet voice, she said softly, "It was beautiful."

Johara smiled sweetly. "Yes…it is." She regarded the blonde with eyes both friendly and amorous. "Are you certain you do not wish to experience such beauty for yourself?" she asked. "Hayam and I would be very gentle…and would stop if you found our ministrations not to your liking."

Dae couldn’t meet her gaze; she was embarrassed and confused by the part of her that wanted to accept Johara’s offer. "I-I can’t ask you to…"

Johara considered this, seeing that Dae was tempted, but not so much as to give in to a seduction. Still, while she knew she had to respect the young blonde’s wishes, Johara felt it would be negligent of her to leave Dae still unknowing of what delights she might experience under the Scion’s touch.

"Perhaps there might be another way," a recovered Hayam offered, sitting up on her elbows and eyeing Dae with a definite look of hunger.

Johara raised a dark brow curiously. "Indeed?"

Hayam gave her lover a suggestive smile. "Perhaps we might offer instruction on another form of pleasure," she offered. "One which might serve young Dae’s desire to learn, but remain untouched by the hands of another woman."

Johara realized what her mate was suggesting, and grinned immediately. She planted a quick kiss on Hayam’s lips. "Yes, aziza. Perhaps we might."

Dae regarded the two lovers with a wary look, uncertain how to read their playful expressions. "Wh-what are you talking about?"

"Well…" Johara shifted on the satin sheets, positioning herself between the spread thighs of her still-reposed mate. "There is a way we could show you that would enable you to bring pleasure to your own body." Slate-grey eyes hooded sensuously. "We could instruct you how to touch yourself in ways that would simulate the caress of a lover…and might show you the many joys you have never known."

Emerald eyes narrowed in confusion, but widened in sudden, shocked understanding as Dae watched Johara begin to explore her own body. "You mean…" Her tongue locked in her mouth, for a moment unable to complete the words. "I could make love to myself?"

Johara nodded. Behind her, Hayam shifted so she could watch and enjoy the show as well. "Would such instruction be of interest to you?" Johara inquired, splaying her hands over her breasts and toying with her nipples slowly. "It would be but a simulation of a true act of pleasure, but might at least offer some level of illumination."

Dae stared at the way Johara was touching herself, still struggling to accept what she was seeing. She tried to picture herself doing such things and found it impossible – but still, her body wasn’t about to let this hunger go unattended, so she nodded. "I-I guess so."

"Then watch," Johara whispered, arching her back to present Dae with a better view of her thrusting chest, "and learn."

The harem girl continued to fondle herself before Dae, her hands and fingers bringing her nipples to painfully stiff attention and building the heat between her legs. Unable to leave her lover untouched, Hayam began to lightly stroke Johara’s back and shoulders, occasionally running the tip of her tongue erotically along a shoulder-blade. Johara shivered at the extra stimulation, but kept her gaze locked on Dae, remaining mindful of her mission here. "If you choose to employ this new knowledge," she said softly, "do not feel shame for it. You are young, Dae…and the passions of youth flow quick and hot. It is natural for you to want to learn more of your body as it awakens – to fully explore the limits of sensation. This is an excellent way in which to discover what feels nice…what pleases you and what does not."

Dae let the words flow over her, absorbing them but keeping the greater part of her focus fixed on what Johara was doing. She could feel her own breasts tingle in longing, jealous of the attention Johara’s were being paid. Her fingers itched to satisfy this craving, but she prudently kept them clutching at the arms of the chair.

Johara smiled, seeing Dae’s discomfit and guessing what was generating it. "You are very beautiful," she whispered somewhat breathlessly. "Moreso than you yet realize, for innocence is a quality that carries a potent and carnal edge. If you would wish to touch yourself now, do not be shy. I would find it greatly arousing to look upon you more intimately."

Dae shifted, uncertain. She saw Hayam pause in her gentle caresses and regard her with a hopeful look. She imagined herself removing her top, exposing her full breasts to those admiring eyes, then covering them with her hands. The ache in her center was more acute now, more desperate…yet not so much that it could overcome a lifetime of modesty. She shook her head, but did offer, "Perhaps another time. I-I just…want to…"

"You need not explain, little one," Johara shushed. "These matters should not be rushed or forced – they should happen in their own time." She smiled a quietly desirous smile. "If in the future you wish to share yourself with us, however, we would be most honored."

Dae was pleased, and started feeling a little more comfortable. This was all very new for her, and dimly frightening, but it was reassuring to know that she was safe. As Johara began to run her fingertips along her sides, Dae watched her tanned skin shift and writhe over the ridges of her easily visible ribcage. She licked her lips and enjoyed the sight. When Johara spread her knees wider and exposed her center, the young blonde gasped; Johara’s sex was bare except for a slender, elegantly shaved arrow of dark pubic hair. Such an intimate level of grooming had never crossed Dae’s mind, but she found the sight of those smooth, exposed petals extremely exciting.

The naked woman heard the gasp and smiled. "You like it? It is a common practice among pleasure-servants and body-slaves to shave our bodies smooth. Bare flesh can heighten one’s enjoyment of certain sexual acts."

Dae continued to stare, unable to form words.

"When one has the opportunity," Johara continued as her hands moved lower onto her belly, "it is often nice to take time to fully ignite one’s body. I would suggest you move slowly, for while it is often tempting to answer the call of certain lower longings, the destination is far more satisfying if it is attained by the longer route."

Hayam leaned closer to her lover’s ear and began to whisper words Dae couldn’t hear. Whatever she said, however, had a definite effect. Johara’s breathing grew even more ragged and sweat glistened over her lithe frame. She groaned, her eyes hooding as she stared at Dae lustfully. The young blonde had never been looked at in such a blatantly sexual manner…not even by Zafirah, who was far from chaste in her regard. She leaned closer, wondering what Hayam was saying, but the few words she managed to make out made no sense to her. Hayam was speaking her native tongue, the language of the people from across the northern sea.

"Wh-what’s she saying?"

Johara, who was now openly fondling her swollen sex with both hands, panted for breath. "She is describing…in great detail…exactly what she would do to you…if only she were given your consent," she managed to say.

Hayam gave Dae a wickedly hungry grin, her eyes roving over every pale curve of her body, leaving a burning trail in their wake. Dae swallowed hard, unsettled more by the way her body reacted to Hayam’s expression than by the expression itself. "And what would she do?" The words were past her lips before she could stop them.

Johara pressed two fingers into herself, shifting her thighs further apart to enable Dae to see clearly every move she made. "Can you not imagine for yourself?" she asked coyly. "I am certain she would make you feel wonderful…would enjoy sampling the untasted delights of your body." Johara’s excitement was mounting at the whispered descriptions her lover continued to make. She wanted to show Dae more, however, and so withdrew her fingers before they pushed her passion too far. Dae’s lips pursed instantly and Johara smiled, thinking the girl had been enjoying the sight. "There are many places that bring pleasure to a woman if touched properly," she said, trying to calm her racing heartbeat. "Do not limit yourself to the most obvious and intense, or you will miss out on many things." Slowly, Johara scraped her blunt nails along her inner thighs, shivering at the sensations she caused. At the same time, she felt Hayam move behind her, running a single digit down the ridge of her spine, pressing gently at her tail-bone before slipping lower with certain assurance. Deep pleasure pulled low in her center, drawing a sharp intake of breath. "Yessss!" she hissed, turning her head around so she could accept a long and passionate kiss from her smiling mate, who responded by pressing harder against her.

Dae watched the two women with wide eyes, seeing only beauty and love in an act which would have repulsed her but a few short months ago. Though she couldn’t see Hayam’s hand, the young blonde knew something was going on by the way Johara had reacted…and she had a pretty good idea of what that something might be just from the position of Hayam’s arm. Her blush – having settled somewhat – returned in full force at the notion of what Hayam was doing, and she wondered if anything was considered taboo to these people.

Although she wanted to drag this out, Johara couldn’t contest with the sensations that bombarded her; the sensation of Hayam’s finger from behind, her own hands that returned helplessly to her slick core…or the feel of those innocent yet intent emerald eyes that watched every move she made with absolute fascination. Gasping for air, Johara broke the kiss and arched her body. Hayam, knowing from long experience that her lover was near the edge, lowered her lips to Johara’s neck and bit firmly at the pulse-point there. Johara all but collapsed backwards, all her strength focused on the task of bringing her body to fulfillment. As the first bolts of ecstasy shot inwards from her clutching sex and burned a path deeper into her belly, Johara’s eyes squeezed shut and she gave a high-pitched scream which ended in a strangled sob. Her hips thrust up, desperate to hold the pinnacle as long as possible, before she fell back against Hayam, who held her during the long moments it took her to recover, whispering words of love and devotion in her strange language.

Dae watched in awe, considering Johara’s release to be even more spectacular than Hayam’s. The scream startled her, but she realized instantly that it was one of pleasure, not pain, and wondered what feelings could be so intense as to draw such a cry. She imagined herself bringing Zafirah such pleasure, and comforting her afterwards, finding the image to be actually quite appealing. That the mighty Scion would offer herself so intimately, would let Dae see her in such an open and vulnerable state, and would share such great beauty with her – for the first time, Dae began to understand what an honor it was that Zafirah paid her such devoted attention.

And she began to wonder whether she might actually enjoy sharing such moments of emotional closeness with the dark-haired woman.

When Johara had at last regained her composure, she pushed her disheveled hair from her face and sat up straighter on the pillows, flashing a smile to Dae. "I apologize for not restraining myself that you might gain better insight," she said in a charmingly husky tone. "Hayam takes great delight in my pleasure, and cannot keep her hands from wandering."

Hayam grinned unrepentantly and nipped at Johara’s shoulder playfully. "I think Dae saw enough to understand how things work." A jet-black eyebrow raised curiously at the young blonde. "Did you not?"

Dae nodded dazedly. "I-I think so." Was the ‘lesson’ at an end then? she wondered. Apparently not.

"Besides," the northerner continued, "there are many other delights to explore – many other paths of pleasure that might be of interest to the little one. Positions and methods that we might demonstrate…" She poked at her lover playfully. "…if you possess the endurance to do so..?"

Johara gave an indignant scowl and twisted about, pinning the shorter woman to the bed with a growl. Hayam yelped, then giggled. "Endurance? We shall see who begs for rest first then, shall we?"

Amused at the obvious playful streak that outlined the sincere love and desire in Johara and Hayam’s interactions, Dae settled herself in her seat and looked on as the two began another passionate coupling…wondering as she did so who was enjoying these ‘lessons’ more: herself, or her instructors.


It was some time later that Dae returned to her room, having watched Hayam and Johara bring each other pleasure in a variety of styles they thought might be of interest to her. Her mind was reeling on overload from the demonstration. Her body was thrumming with electric tingles. Certain – long unappreciated – parts of her were downright throbbing! Dae needed some time to collect herself, to process the new wisdom she had gained before she returned to the seraglio and faced Inaya.

Breathing deeply, trying to calm her racing heart, Dae paced a few times across her room, eyes closed. She wanted to take her mind off the tension in her groin…but of course, this was not easily accomplished.

"Well," she lectured herself, "you wanted to know how two women make love. Now you know…and now you have to deal with it!"

After a few minutes, Dae managed to get a handle on things…except for one image that refused to depart from her mind – the image of Johara as she stroked herself with a lover’s caress, bringing pleasure to her own body. She recalled Johara’s parting words to her as the tall woman had placed a soft kiss on her cheek. "New worlds are often frightening, little one, and it is understandable to be wary or nervous. But there is no need to let that fear dictate your actions. Do not let the ignorance of your people and your homeland keep you from exploring what could be a beautiful and wondrous thing."

Almost of their own accord, Dae’s hands ran slowly, lightly, along her hips, just teasing her highly-sensitive skin. The touch sparked an instant reward; pleasure zinged through her, running straight to her center. Dae was surprised by the sensations, and curiously let her touches roam a few moments longer. In a gilt-framed mirror that stood against the far wall, the young blonde watched herself with eyes that saw things in a new light. Cocking her head to the side, Dae studied her body critically, standing up a little straighter and squaring her shoulders.

These months in the desert had had an affect, she admitted, narrowing her eyes in contemplation. The image reflected back by the mirror was that of a young woman…not the grown child she had been before her abduction. Her body was all feminine curves and smooth, ivory skin, accentuated and highlighted by the harem clothes she wore now without much concern. Her lips were stained with berry juice, her eyes shadowed with crushed indigo powder. What little baby-fat had once softened her frame was gone now, for though water was plentiful in El’Kasari, one never truly forgot the grim ward of the desert just outside, and Dae had grown accustomed to rationing what she drank and ate. Her blonde hair hung low down her back, the tips brushing just above her buttocks, and her emerald green eyes flashed charmingly from beneath her bangs.

All in all, Dae thought, the mirror presented a pleasing enough picture – certainly pleasing enough to warrant the attention she was paid by Zafirah and the other pleasure servants.

Looking at herself, Dae slowly let her hands move where they would. She watched as she traced the outer curve of each firm breast in turn, her lips parting at the approval her body voiced. "Mmmm." Closing her eyes, Dae summoned to mind an image of Zafirah – the tall, powerful body that was so often veiled beneath the folds of a chador…the alluring, playful half-smile that bowed those sensuous lips…and of course, the sapphire eyes that burned with an intensity so deep, sometimes it seemed their flames could reduce a woman’s soul to cinders. The image lent courage to her hands, and Dae’s touch became firmer. A soft whimper escaped her throat, snapping her out of her daydream just as she’d been about to let her hands drift lower, to where the ache seemed strongest. Dae stared at herself, blushing, then turned from the mirror and tried once more to settle her raging desires.

Throwing herself onto her bed, Dae growled in frustration. She felt the two halves of her nature warring…and was perceptive enough to realize that this newer half – the half that wanted to explore and experience what Johara and Hayam had shown her – was far stronger than its rival. The idea of touching herself so intimately was exciting…all the moreso because she was certain it would have been forbidden in her homeland. Her hands were itching to roam…and after several long minutes of restraint, Dae heaved a dramatic groan. You know you’re gonna try it sooner or later, she admitted silently. Might as well do it now and get it over with.

Sitting up, Dae turned again to the mirror. Her hands fluttered a final moment in indecision, then slowly reached for the laces that held her top closed. Slipping the jeweled cloth from her shoulders, the young blonde shook her hair a little and regarded her reflection seriously. Her hands followed the path of her eyes, very lightly running across her full, firm breasts, the touches causing her nipples to harden enticingly. Dae’s expression was earnest as she let her fingers drift lower, and she stood to allow them the opportunity to slip off her gauzy trousers and brief undergarments. She blushed only a little as she looked frankly at her naked form, her eyes exploring every secret inch for long minutes before she lay back on the bed and took a steadying breath. The tide of lust was still strong in her blood, its call incessant. Dae closed her eyes and let her fingers begin their first timid explorations over her sensitive flesh.

Silence reigned in the dim light of the room for the space of several breathes. Then suddenly, Dae gave a quiet, squeaky gasp. Emerald eyes shot wide open and the young blonde sat up, an almost comical look of surprise on her face. She stared a moment down the length of her frame to where her hands had paused in mute astonishment…then a very slow, very sexy smile pulled gently at the edges of her lips – the kind of smile that might be worn by a child who has suddenly discovered a forgotten stash of sugar-cookies…and who plans an instant feast.

Dae closed her eyes once more, lay back, and continued her explorations a little more boldly, humming at the brilliant flashes of sensation that rewarded her pioneer spirit.

The feelings that her touches evoked were far more powerful than Dae had imagined, and she began to understand a little better why Hayam and Johara had been swept along by them so completely. It seemed odd to her; afterall, she had touched herself plenty of times before, but had never experienced such things as this. She was aware of the throbbing that rose between her legs, its beat keeping time with her racing pulse. She was aware of the liquid heat that now slicked her core. Squirming on the sheets of her bed, her breathing growing harsher, Dae continued to fondle her left breast while she allowed her right hand to venture lower, teasing the crease of her rib-cage and down over her belly…to where she sensed the center of her need now lay.

When her fingertips encountered the swollen nub of her clitoris as it peeked somewhat shyly from its hood, Dae froze, stunned by the blue-white bolt of pure pleasure that arced through her body and sizzled her brain. She gasped, then curiously ran a single digit along the upper folds of her sex. Sure enough, the sensation was repeated, and her smile grew a little broader. Remembering what Johara had told her about prolonging the act, Dae resisted the temptation to explore this delightful treasure for the time being. There were, she reminded herself, other pleasures to explore. Her hand moved grudgingly past the slick petals of her center and began to comb along her inner thighs.

In some deeply entrenched part of her conscience, Dae felt the slightest pangs of guilt and shame over what she was doing…but Johara’s seductive voice was more than compelling enough to drown out the cries of her modesty. She was right, the young blonde thought as she returned both hands to her breasts. This feels nice. Why shouldn’t I want to feel like this? I’m young. I guess I’m beautiful. And everyone here says it’s natural for my body to want to feel this stuff. Still, the sliver of shame remained, and Dae supposed it would be some time before it would disappear completely.

As she continued along her journey of self-discovery, Dae felt the subtle changes begin to rise. The tension in her lower belly, at first a bare tingle, built itself into a steady and potent throbbing. Sweat covered her skin and her face was flushed with excitement over every new pleasure she discovered. And, she found, there were a lot of pleasures to be discovered. Eventually though, her hands were drawn inexorably back to the burning heat that pulsed from her now-dripping core, and Dae spread her legs unabashedly in order to get the most access possible for her questing digits. There was an emptiness she’d never felt before, but as much as she wanted to attain complete fulfillment, Dae was mindful of her virginity. She’d been told enough stories of pain and blood by her mother that even her current state of dazed ecstasy couldn’t entice her to penetrate that mysterious place between her legs. But thankfully, she found such a thing to be unnecessary anyway. The sensations elicited as she explored every fold of her slick sex were more than enough to keep those waves of blinding pleasure coursing along quite nicely…and Dae felt her senses begin to climb strangely higher, spirally upwards to dizzying heights.

The climax to this symphony of pleasure struck so suddenly it caught poor Dae completely unprepared. The first teasing ripples washed through her in a gentle roll, but they were swallowed almost instantly by a tidal wave that surged with ragged strength, stealing the air from her lungs. Dae’s limbs stiffened, her fingers pressed firmly into the velvet heat of her spasming center. The pleasure almost deafened her, but Dae could make out the high-pitched, breathless little screams that she managed to gasp out as her vision was stunned into blindness broken only by spots of rainbow colors. There was a sensation of falling from a great height… No, rather, it seemed she was floating. Dae’s hips thrust urgently twice, sensations of heat and raw pleasure running through her that seemed for a second to be so overwhelming she thought they might well burst her heart.

But then, just as she was beginning to sob for breath, Dae felt the ecstasy crest, then mellow back into a low, sensuous burn. Her limbs began to obey her orders once more, and she relaxed them with a grateful sigh. A sudden wave of sleepy contentment stole over her, and Dae began to drag air into her aching lungs in deep, hitching breathes. Her fingers still played in the silken petals of her sex, the sensations enjoyable but not nearly so urgent as before. She became aware of the sweat cooling her skin, and smiled a little shakily with a nervous/relieved giggle.

"Well…" Dae looked around her room in wonder, her eyes bright with the aftermath of passion. "I guess that’s what all the fuss is about, huh?"

She laughed at the silence that answered her question, looking at herself in the mirror. The flushed and tousled reflection surprised her, but Dae was past feeling awkward. She blew her damp bangs from her eyes and smiled quietly. "Maybe I could see my way to being a little more open to Zafirah. I mean, this is my home now, afterall." She gave herself a surprisingly wicked little grin. "It couldn’t hurt to embrace the culture…could it?"

Lying back on her pallet, Dae closed her eyes and let her wet fingers continue to caress her sensitive flesh…feeling languid and blissful in the wake of her spent pleasure.


Aseau: Sunset.

Aziza: Beloved.

Chador: An article of women’s clothing.

Dohar: Mid-afternoon.

Haik: A desert head-dress, consisting of a length of cloth wrapped about the head and face.

Salaam aleikum: A polite greeting of respect.

Seraglio: ‘The forbidden’; the place designated to the harem.

Souk: Market

Spahi: Desert cavalry troops.


Continued in Part 3.

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