DAUGHTERS OF AYESHA

 

Lowestoft, England, 1912

Once there was a very famous man. He was a teller of stories, a spinner of yarns, a forger of legends. His capacity with pen and word brought him acclaim, celebrity and riches. In most respects his was a perfect life, but it had not been untouched by tragedy: his wife, whom he had loved deeply, died of an illness whilst still quite young; though not before she had borne him two fine daughters as appreciable compensation. The man, whose name was MacNaish, was so heartbroken that he never countenanced marrying a second time - instead, he lived with his girls in a big, fine house perched atop the cliffs just along from a popular coastal resort. He raised them as best he could on his own, and where his capabilities as a father reached their limits, there were always nannies, and maidservants, and governesses to fill the gaps. And as they grew up, blonde, bright and beautiful, the girls became quite the thing about the streets of the seaside town. People often mistook them for twins, which they hated, for though they looked alike they differed in temperament: Jada, the elder, was thoughtful, serious, sensible; unconsciously adopting many of the family roles that would otherwise have been her mothers. By contrast, Patrina Maris (the second name a late addition, in tribute to her deceased mater) was free-spirited, spontaneous, possibly a little bit crazy.

In the summer of 1912 - a year to remember - MacNaish found the muse stealing upon him once more. Thus, in what had become a time-honoured ritual, he bade his daughters (by then twenty and eighteen years of age, respectively) a temporary farewell, and retreated inland to a small cottage in deepest Norfolk, there to craft his new tale in splendid, undisturbed isolation. Thus his daughters not-so suddenly found themselves facing a season without authority, without parental control, without restraint: without the remotest clue of how they were going to fill their time.

*

Jada checked her reflection in the hall mirror, adjusted the brim of her hat. She tried to see herself as others - men, specifically - might see her: an open, slightly squared face, heavy of chin and jaw but soft of cheek. The ragged fringe of pale gold spilling across her brow (despite her best efforts), above narrow, catlike, deep blue eyes, widely-spaced by a slightly flattened, flared nose. Below that, her best feature - a perfect, taut Cupids bow of a mouth, backed by gleaming, prominent incisors; flanked by tiny creases at its corners that tugged into life whether she was smiling or not. Perhaps, if one were being overly critical - and she was, frequently - it might be deemed disproportionately small: but nonetheless, her best feature. She essayed a smile at her reflection - it didnt look quite right.

Oh God, youre not admiring yourself again?

The sweet, bell-like voiced chimed in Jadas ear, making her start and blush. Patrina, her little sister - though not so little anymore. She was not yet quite old enough to be concerned with the entrapment of a suitor, the elegant and slightly manic art of wooing, but all too soon they would be rivals for whatever gentlemen might come calling at the Grange. As she turned, Jada could not help appraising her sibling, much as she had just been appraising herself, and felt a stab of envy: Patrina was maturing into a strikingly attractive young woman. Her hair frothed free like a spill of white-gold silk; her cheeks were high and roseate; her face soft, the chin adorably, almost babyishly rounded; a dainty, delightful snub nose; voluptuous, bee-stung lips; round, clear eyes that were even bluer than Jadas own - bluer than a midnight sea.

Just checking my hat, Jada dissembled snappily. Are you ready?

Patrina paused, pouting - her pouts were a thing of great spectacle.

I dont want to go into town, she muttered. Jada sighed.

But you said

I know what I said. But I dont want to go into town. I dont know what I want to do.

Jada sighed again, took off her hat, slung it carelessly down the hallway. It was always like this when their father went away: the paralysation of absolute freedom. Sometimes they were like it for weeks, unable to settle to any sort of self-generated routine until it was too late, and the elder MacNaish was on his way home.

Its too nice a day to be indoors, she said firmly. Lets lets go and sit on the lawn for a while, at least. Ill ask Jervis to serve tea a bit later on.

The lawn rolled away from the Granges impressive frontage, down almost to the cliff edge itself. From its cresting sward one could see the broad pale curve of the beach, lightly dusted with shingle, and beyond the great sweep of the North Sea, today steel-blue and benign, flecked with dainty herds of white horses. They sat on the grass, keeping low out of the breeze, feeling the July sun beat down upon them.

What do you suppose Daddys doing right now? Patrina mused.

Hunkered down in the cottage garden, scribbling on parchment, I expect. Another tale about Aled Quarterflash, or Her, I expect.

No, it isnt, said Patrina blithely. Jada blinked at her.

I saw his notes, before he left, came the smug, smiling answer. Jada sat up, horrified.

Are you telling me youve been prying in his study, going through his private papers? Hed have you flogged if he found out.

Oh? And whos going to tell him - you?

Jada shook her head. I should, though - just to teach you a lesson.

And I suppose youve never been in his study? Never seen something you werent supposed to see?

No, Jada answered, then checked herself. Well, once - but that was an accident.

Patrina glanced at her. And what was it?

Im not telling you.

Patrina huffed, turned her eyes back to the sea. There was a silence, broken only by the ruffle of the breeze.

So, Jada eventually nudged, What is the new story about?

Im not telling you. Not unless you tell me what you saw

All right, all right, Jada put up her hands. Ill tell you. But you tell me, first.

Patrina pulled a face. Well, its quite a queer thing, from what I could gather. No Aled, no Her - its actually about some Oriental woman whos part snake, or something; she has this sister, who it turns out isnt really her sister. And theres a French scientist type, with a boat couldnt really make head nor tail of it, to be honest.

Im sure it will be wonderful, whatever it is, replied Jada firmly.

Patrina clutched at a blade of grass, tore it free. Now, your turn: what did you see?

Well, it was nothing, really. Id actually completely forgotten about it til just now. It was just, one

day, I happened to she broke off abruptly, sat up straight. I say - dyou see that?

Patrina followed her gaze, shading her eyes with her hand. Her lovely mouth fell open.

My God - can that really be what I think it is?

One way to find out, Jada snapped, and she was on her feet, running across the lawn towards the house. Once inside, she cursed quietly - never a servant around when you needed one. Dashing to the gun room, she snatched up her fathers field glasses and headed back outside. By the time she reached Patrinas side she was panting violently.

Is it still there? she gasped.

Yes, Patrina replied, pointing, But its going at a terrific rate

Jada pressed the hard glasses to her eyes. Bright light, brutally magnified off the sparkling sea, momentarily dazzled her; then suddenly a dark shape filled the viewing circle. And another. And another. Quickly she counted thirty projections in a string around sixty feet long, rather like buoys except they diminished in size towards the trailing end; moving in a line through the water, carving through it at a ferocious rate, far faster than any boat, or anything she had ever seen. She swung the glasses sharply, from the things tail to its head: she could see a only a rather shapeless blob.

Let me see! Patrina shouted, all but snatching the glasses from her sister. But even as she lifted them to her face the thing dropped suddenly beneath the waves, and twas as if it was never there.

Drat! she fulminated. Its gone

Maybe itll resurface, said Jada, her eyes trained intently upon the water.

It wont, Patrina moaned. It was going too fast. But you got a good look at it, didnt you? And it really was?

Yes, said Jada firmly, turning to look at her sister. It really was - a sea-serpent.

*

Jervis served their tea, and they bombarded him with questions, but it turned out he had been busy indoors and had seen nothing unusual. At their insistence he went and quizzed the rest of the staff, reporting back when he came to collect the tea things that they, likewise, had been busy at their duties and not observing the sea.

Bloody servants, Patrina hissed towards his retreating back, Theyre useless.

Dont swear, Jada chided.

Well they are. We should send them all away, so its just you and me

Jada looked at her. And just how long dyou think wed survive without them?

Long enough, Patrina replied defiantly. I bet we could last til Father gets back.

That might be a tad ambitious, said Jada thoughtfully. Why dont we start with two or three days, and see how it goes?

Patrinas eyes widened. You mean, youll do it? Really?

Why not? Jada smiled. Itll be fun

And Patrina whooped, clapping her hands and dancing a little girlish jig that made Jada laugh out loud. Joining hands, they marched back toward the house, there to impart the news

*

They had done it. They had asserted their authority, and packed the servants off for a long weekend, back to their family homes or wherever else it was they existed when not in the McNaish employ. Most had gone happily, a few grumpily - Jervis had sloped off like an old, scolded bloodhound. But the important thing was, they had gone. Now the big house was truly silent, for the first time that the girls could remember, save for the sonorous ticking of the various clocks and the distant, omnipresent whisper of the waves. They stood in the hallway, drenched in afternoon sunlight, awed and slightly intimidated by what they had accomplished.

So, said Patrina, a little timorously, What are we going to do now?

First things first, we must write to Father immediately, Jaden answered firmly. We must tell him what weve seen: its an adventure to rival anything he may be concocting right now

Yes! Patrina all but squealed. And we must do it on his paper, with his pen, in his study

Patrina Jada suppressed an urge to wag her finger. Were not supposed to go in there

Maybe were not, Patrina giggled, But right now, we are the Ladies of the Manor, and the only ones here, so we can go wherever we please

And she more or less skipped off in the direction of the Great Mans study. Jada sighed, wondered what she had got herself into, and then followed.

They were in the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies. Here was where McNaish conducted his business affairs, his private correspondence. Here, more importantly, was where he jotted down his passing fancies, his half-formed ideas that would eventually be fashioned into spellbinding stories at the Norfolk retreat. This was where the whole process began - no clocks in here, nothing to distract from the purity of thought, the lyrical promptings of the unseen muse. And it was while she watched her sister rummage shamelessly in their fathers desk for paper, pen and ink that Jada felt her memory abruptly stirred.

That was it. She pointed to a particular drawer.

What? Patrina was briefly bewildered.

What I didnt tell you, earlier. About what Id seen, that one time I came in here

That drawers always locked, said Patrina blithely. Trust me, Ive tried it.

But it wasnt - not then. As I said, it was an accident: there was this message, from Jervis - it seemed quite important at the time, but for the life of me I cant remember what it was. Anyway, I suppose I was in a bit of a fluster: I knew Father was in here, and I forgot to knock; just walked right in on him

He was writing something, and he was so startled - it was like Id caught him doing something really bad. He just shoved everything in that drawer and locked it, really quickly - I was so taken aback I forgot the message. He seemed so angry with me, but now that I think about it, it was almost like he was scared

And what do you suppose he was writing? Patrina inquired archly. Love letter to some secret admirer, perhaps?

It didnt look like a letter. From what I could see, it was more like a story; possibly even a book

But Father never writes his books at home.

I know, but thats what it looked like.

Patrina began another, detailed search of desk, then began casting around the wider study.

What on earth are you doing? Jada asked.

What dyou think Im doing? Im looking for the key

Oh Patrina, no - whatevers in there, its clearly something he doesnt want anyone to see.

Which is exactly why we need to see it, Patrina responded, a devilish gleam in her eye. Father needs to learn: he can keep all the secrets he wants up at the cottage, but here nothing is safe from us a-ha! she added in triumph, holding up a small, brassy, tell-tale object.

Where did you find that? Jada gasped.

Inside one of his First Editions, of course. You know, for a novelist, sometimes our father shows a chronic lack of imagination.

Jadas heart was beating fast, and she actually held her breath as Patrina tentatively tried the key, then turned it with a decisive, loud click. Like a pirate smashing into a treasure chest she ripped the drawer open, extracting a large sheaf of slightly yellowing pages. As she spread them across the desk, the sisters began to read together. And then, they stopped. And turned to stare at each other.

We - we shouldnt be reading this, Jada whispered. She felt suddenly flushed, a little giddy; Patrina looked just how she felt.

This is what people have been asking him to do, isnt it? Patrina breathed. Aled and Her, in the same story

Yes, but not - not like this, Jada protested. She gathered up the sheets. We must put this back where we found it: we must try to forget we ever saw it

But

No buts, Patrina, Jada snapped, and her voice was far harsher than she intended. Go down to the kitchen - we need to see about something for supper. I will take care of this.

With unaccustomed meekness, Patrina went. Jada carefully secreted the documents back in their drawer, slid it shut, and locked it. But not before she had taken another glance at a couple of sheets, just to be sure

*

Before he had left, Jervis had prevailed upon the kitchen staff to prepare some food for the girls to consume across the weekend. Naturally, they ignored this kindness, and set about attempting to create a meal of their very own, with predictably disastrous consequences. What had once clearly been an animal of some sort reached their plates as smoking black char, to be served with vegetables boiled to the point of destruction and beyond. They sat and ate it all anyway, to the welcome accompaniment of wine illicitly purloined from the cellar.

Maybe its a joke, said Patrina suddenly, between efforts to chew something that refused to be chewed.

Maybe whats a joke? asked Jada innocently. Patrina rolled her eyes.

You know. That - that thing in the study.

Jadas face clouded. I thought we werent going to talk about that

I know, but - I was just thinking. You know how Father always says he hates his characters; that theyre more popular than he is: maybe he just did it to be funny

Its not funny, said Jada firmly. Its revolting. Almost as revolting as this food.

Patrina smiled, but then turned serious, animated.

But how can we say that? I mean, we didnt even read it - not properly.

I dont need to read it, was Jadas firm response. And I dont want to talk about this any more.

They retreated to a parlour, taking the last of the bottle with them, unable to face the prospect of clearing up their mess, at least for now. The long, hot day had ripened into a stifling, warm evening, and their culinary efforts had only added to the oppressive atmosphere in the house - it did not occur to either of them to open any windows until it was much too late. Slightly giddy with unaccustomed alcohol, her face flushed vivid pink and sparkling, Patrina suddenly leapt from her chair and began, quite perfunctorily, to undress.

What on earth are you doing? Jada snapped, wide-eyed with dismay.

What does it look like Im doing? Im getting out of this blasted dress before I cook - I shall smell like a huntsmans horse if Im not careful.

But what if someone sees you?

Patrina threw her arms wide. And just who might see me, sister mine? There is no one here apart from you, and we used to take baths together, so dont pretend youll be offended.

Jada sniffed. It just seems inappropriate, thats all. Unseemly.

Unseemly, my foot, Patrina snorted, flinging her rippling dress aside, to stand resplendent in a rather demure, frilled nainsook slip. There: whats so inappropriate about this?

Jada just shook her head, blushing vividly. Though she would not say it, she rather envied Patrinas sudden freedom - she could actually feel the perspiration gathering and trickling in her armpits, about her waist.

Well? Patrina prompted, Arent you going to join me?

Certainly not, Jada harrumphed. I am perfectly comfortable, thank you.

No, youre not, Patrina smiled. Frankly, you look like a pot thats about to boil over - I think, old woman, that if you dont get out of those things soon, youre likely to explode

Jada sighed heavily, tossed back the dregs of her wine, then stood.

Very well, you insufferable little brat - if it will make you happy

With a strangely thrilling ostentation, she removed her jacket and her long skirt, to be revealed in lacy bust bodice and long, slightly formidable nuform corset. She was about to laugh at her own ridiculousness, when she caught her sister regarding her with an expression she had never seen before: something vaguely like reverence.

You look very fetching, Patrina whispered. Jada smiled dismissively, turned away.

Well, she blustered, now that we are cool, if scandalously under-dressed; what shall we do next?

Patrina thought, and as she did so a deep blush flamed her ivory cheeks.

Youll think it absurd, she murmured.

More absurd than taking our clothes off in the sitting-room? I doubt it.

Well, dyou remember the games we used to play when we were little? The ones based on Fathers books?

Of course: I got into no end of trouble for chasing you up and down the stairs

Thats what I mean, Patrina suddenly gushed, her eyes sparkling. Were the only ones here - we can do anything, and no one will see

Jada blinked. Are you suggesting we play a game?

Thats exactly what Im suggesting: youll be Her, the evil queen and Ill be Utena, the slave girl who defies you - Ive just helped Aled Quarterflash escape from your clutches, and now youre hunting me down

Wait, Jada raised a hand. Why was I always the evil queen?

For the same reason I was always Utena, Patrina grinned. Its the perfect role for an old witch like you

And with that she was running off, towards the stairs, a blurring flurry of cotton and lace. Jada sighed, shook her head - compared to this, sighting a sea-serpent seemed positively mundane. She began to run in pursuit, finding it awkward as her corset reached down to her thighs and hobbled the motion. She briefly considered removing it, too, but decided that was definitely beyond the pale. By the time she reached the staircase her sister was nowhere to be seen.

Im coming for you, Utena! she bawled imperiously. You shall taste the wrath of my lash!

She struggled up the stairs, briefly overwhelmed with possibilities - there were a hundred places for Patrina to hide on the upper floor. Except, there werent: her sister was (almost) a grown woman now, so some of the old hidey-holes into which she would cram herself were now out of the question. As she began a systematic search of bedrooms and closets, she could feel herself beginning to warm and perspire again. She stopped a moment, tried to think as Patrina thought - impish and devilish. Of course: their fathers bedroom; a place almost as forbidden as his study. Where else would Utena seek to hide from her? She padded carefully to the taboo portal, easing it open and slipping inside - never once suspecting, as she stalked her prey, that her prey might have been stalking her.

There was an almighty, screeching, banshee wail, and something soft yet powerful thundered into her blind side. She staggered with the impact, feeling the splash of cool cotton and warm, silken hair. As they had not done for many years the sisters wrestled, falling into well-established roles: Patrina the aggressor, trying to assert herself; Jada patient, defensive, blocking every assault, biding her time.

Die, Evil Queen! Patrina shrieked, but though she gritted her teeth she couldnt suppress her giggles, and her violence was carefully blunted; fingers precisely curled in order not to scratch with her long, shapely nails. As her mock fury abated, and as Jada overcame her initial shock, so the tables were predictably, inevitably turned - Jada remained the elder, the stronger, the all-powerful Her.

Insolent sow! she barked, seizing Patrinas wrists and forcing her backwards. They tumbled, onto their fathers stately bed; Jada used her superior weight to pin her sister, forcing her hands up above her wrists. The pair of them were panting hard, flushed, sweating freely. Now you will suffer the penalty for defying me!

The look of fear that momentarily came into Patrinas eyes was utterly convincing.

What are you going to do to me? she squeaked timidly.

Im going Jada paused for effect, To tickle you to DEATH!

And she proceeded to do just that, tickling Patrinas armpits, under her ribs, across her belly, behind her knees. And Patrina writhed and sobbed and begged for mercy, but put up no real sort of resistance, convulsed as she was with helpless laughter. And Jada found herself slipping a little too well into character, relishing the power she was exerting, pushing the tickling beyond the realm of amusement into slight discomfort; almost turning it into a trivial type of torture. The more Patrina struggled and failed to struggle beneath her, the more her slip became disordered, riding up about her thighs, almost to her waist; peeling down off her shoulders, threatening to expose her breasts. Jada ceased what she was doing abruptly, got up off the bed. Patrina, gasping, her eyes full of tears, sat up.

Why did you stop?

This is a ridiculous game, Jada shrugged, not looking at her, And we are supposed to be grownups. Besides, its getting late - we should be thinking about going to bed.

But its not even dark yet, Patrina sulked. And I dont want to go to bed

I won the game, Jada snapped, more harshly than she intended, Therefore Im in charge - and I say its bedtime.

Patrina slowly peeled herself up from the patriarchal bed.

All right, Im going. But on one condition

Oh, yes?

I want you come and read to me, like you used to - because Father never would.

Oh, Patrina, thats so childish

I dont care! Patrina twitched with vexation. Either you read, or I dont go

Very well, Jada sighed. If it will get you to behave. What did you want me to read?

Patrina fixed her with an intense, deeply unsettling look.

You know.

Despite the suffocating heat, Jada felt a chill: it seemed to originate at the base of her neck, dripping like ice-water down her spine, spreading out across her body, actually raising gooseflesh.

Oh Patrina, no. Not that

That, Patrina nodded gravely. Or no deal.

With that she walked from the room, in the direction of her own boudoir. Jada stood a moment, swallowed hard, then, with a feeling she was no longer in control of her actions, began heading towards their fathers study.

*

By the time Jada reached her sisters bedroom, Patrina was already tucked amid the covers, her eyes sparkling and expectant, looking for all the world like some beautiful, outsize doll. Jada sat on the edge of the bed, placed the sheaf of papers on her lap. Turning them with trembling fingers, she began to read, in a voice unaccustomedly dry and husky

when Aled awoke, it was to find himself naked and spread-eagled upon an altar in the heart of

the temple. He struggled briefly, but his hands and feet were securely chained. It was then that he became aware of a figure stepping silently from the shadows, towards him - a beautiful, cruel figure. It was Her.

You witch! he snarled. What have you done with Utena?

The girl is secure, came the sardonic reply. She awaits my pleasure, or perhaps my pain. Tell me, Mr Quarterflash, how is it that you can care about a slave girl, and yet an immortal goddess holds no allure for you?

Youre no goddess, he snarled. Youre a monster. A very pretty one, but a monster just the same. And if youre going to make some sort of sacrifice out of me, why dont you just stop talking and get on with it?

Sacrifice? Oh, my dear Aled, your understanding of my wiles is so shallow. Why sacrifice such an impressive specimen of manhood, when I could much rather put it to use?

Aled blanched. What do you mean?

I mean, even though I am immortal, I am still a woman, with a womans needs and desires. My greatest need is for a man to satisfy me; and my greatest desire is for a child to mould in my image, to help me in my conquest of the Earth. And you, Mr Quarterflash, are the solution to both problems.

Aled laughed, harshly and without humour. You must be mad, if you think Id make love to you. Id sooner die

Oh, you will die, Mr Quarterflash, be assured of that. And you will make love to me, willingly or otherwise. You see, while you slept, I injected you with one of my most potent love potions - it causes uncontrollable priapism, while also enhancing the quality and quantity of seminal emission.

And with those words, she slipped the heavy robe from her shoulders, to stand resplendently naked beside him. Her brown body was perfect: high, round breasts, a slender waist, long lithe legs. Aled could feel a stirring within his groin - his prick began to swell, to stiffen, to rise in appreciation of this beauty, even as his mind reviled it. He struggled once more against his chains, but twas no use.

Oh, Aled, youre quite helpless to resist - why not just enjoy the pleasures I have to offer?

She bent over, took his swollen manhood in her fingers and guided it to her lips. As she suckled upon him he felt a surge of pleasure so intense he thought his heart might detonate; he cried out as one scalded. His gonads felt distended, massive: ready to betray him, ready to send their precious seed into the Queens evil mouth.

No, he shouted, pulling one last despairing time against his bonds, No.. And then he exploded, gushing with uncontrollable force between her sinuous lips, so that fluid spilled from her mouth and dripped back onto him. His heart was a steam hammer as he pumped and pumped for what felt like forever, until at last there was no more fluid forthcoming. The Queen straightened, a triumphant smile on her face. She lifted a hand to her mouth and let his effluent drip slowly into her palm, regarding it as if it were the elixir of life.

Quality stuff, Aled - the best there is. And so good for the skin, too

With practised eroticism she smeared his copious emission slowly over her breasts. Aled moaned - this display was arousing him again, his cock refusing to wilt, his balls still full of vigour. With a leer she lifted one perfect leg and straddled him, guiding his ramrod directly to her dripping quim.

There: you have had your fun, she said, And now I will have mine. Fuck me, Aled - fuck me, and give me a child

Jada stopped reading. She was trembling, and she could feel droplets of perspiration slowly inching

their way across her brow. Patrinas eyes were closed, her breathing shallow - whether she was asleep or not, Jada didnt much care. She got up, placed the manuscript on a dresser, and silently slipped from the room.

Safe at her own dresser, she contemplated herself in the mirror: the haunted eyes; the flushed, serious face; the near-voluptuous figure defined and constrained by the clinging corset. Again she wondered, would Aled - would any man - desire her? Would he do such awful things with her? Would she want him to? Almost unbidden, her fingers crept to the stays of her corset, slowly releasing them, one by one. She exposed first one snowy, curvaceous breast, then the other. Her pulse hammered in her temple, her wrists, her stomach as she gently ran her fingertips over her distended, roseate nipples; the sudden ripple of sensation making her shudder and gasp. Slowly she unfastened all the stays, until the corset fell away like some discarded carapace, and she saw herself naked - save for her stockings - as if for the first time: the ripe hang of her breasts; the strong projection of her ribs; the slight swell of her tummy; the dense delta of sandy curls wedged between long, powerful thighs. Her mouth was dry; something else was wet Her fingers drifted to her belly, paused there a moment, then slowly began to descend

Behind her, the door opened. Jada froze, but did not turn. In reflection she watched as Patrina padded into the room, the papers clutched beneath one arm. Without words, with nary a glance in her sisters direction Patrina placed the manuscript at the foot of the bed then straightened, drawing her slip up and over her head. Jaden had a fleeting vision of pale, slender loveliness before Patrina pulled back the covers and deftly slipped into her sisters bed, tucking herself in to lie expectant, as she had before. Jada turned from the mirror, crossed to the bed, sat down upon its edge. With a deep, unconscious sigh she peeled the stockings from her legs, shivering slightly as she did so. Almost idly she picked through the papers at her side, before picking up a sheet, and resuming her reading.

Utena, her naked form securely strapped to the torture frame, legs spread wide and arms pinned high above her head; her golden skin glistening with the sweat of fear. The Queen wandered slowly around her, whip cradled ostentatiously in her hand, appraising with a cruel, glinting eye.

Well, you are a pretty thing, and no mistake, she sneered. Perhaps, when this is over, I might return you to the doomed Mr Quarterflash, grant him one last night of pleasure before his execution. Yes, my dear, your beloved Aled has betrayed you: his seed even now sits within my belly, so his usefulness has ended. But as for your usefulness She moved behind Utena, out of sight - there was a cracking as she tested the whip. Utena flinched involuntarily from the mere sound.

Do what you like, she said defiantly, though her voice quavered. I will never reveal the location of the secret mine.

The mine? the Evil Queen chuckled. What makes you think I have any interest in the mine? Oh no, Utena - your usefulness to me is far less prosaic

The whip cracked again, teasing, and Utena grit her teeth. Then there was thunder, and a slash of burning pain across her smooth back that made her howl in anguish. Another, crossing the first: ripping her skin with fire and making her shriek shamelessly, tears pouring from her tight-shut eyes. The third lash was across her left buttock, and while it, too, stung, it had nowhere near the force of its forebears. Similarly, a fourth strike to her starboard cheek seemed positively restrained. Even in her agony, Utena knew confusion. There were two more lashes, almost like love taps, across the backs of her thighs, and then the whipping ceased altogether.

Utena hung there, sobbing in pain and puzzlement: surely there would be more? But the next she knew, there were gentle hands upon her shoulders, soft lips upon the side of her neck, making her start.

You are too beautiful, Utena, the Queen whispered. I cannot afford to damage you too much.

The hands moved to Utenas back, fingertips tracing the cruciform of weals. Instantly, the agony ceased, replaced by a cool, soothing sensation so intense that Utena shivered from surprised solace.

My fingers do not just dispense pain, said the Queen, her voice like a soft cloud of opiate. They

are versed in dispensing pleasure, also

She caressed Utenas buttocks, each in turn, and the slave girl found herself quivering with uncontrolled delight - this was a torture far more insidious, far harder to resist. As lulling fingertips brushed her thighs, removing all hurt, she tried to stifle a moan of appreciation.

Thats good, Utena, came the Queens sibilant whisper, at her ear. Why should we be enemies when we can be such good friends?

The hands slithered up and around, over her hips and belly, rising to cup her full breasts. Utena struggled, but it was more against herself than the Queens assault - never had she known such sensations, not even with Aled; so novel, so strong. Fingers stroked her nipples, making them ripen and stiffen, making her melt. And whilst one hand continued to play with her bosoms, the other crept downward again, down into the bushy scarlet cleft between her legs, where she was already warm and wet and pliable.

No, she sobbed, a last flicker of resistance. Please, dont

Oh, Utena, the Queen sighed. You should know by now, I am as merciless in love as I am in hate. You are going to spend for me, Utena, whether you want to or not - you wont be able to help yourself.

Her fingers slipped deep into Utenas moistened slit, thrusting and taunting, making the girl sob with shame and delirium. Her body was betraying Aled - no, she was betraying him; sacrificing her virtue to her cruel, despised, adored Queen. With a scream of release and surrender she poured her feminine essence over the monarchs ruthless digits.

Dazed and quivering, Utena barely noticed as the restraints upon her arms and legs were loosened. She sank to her knees, panting. Looking up, she saw her evil queen standing naked before her, her long legs slightly parted, her look serene and expectant. Utena had no thought of trying to run.

My goddess, she whispered, pressing her face to the Queens enflamed, glistening quim

Jada set down the final sheet.

That is all of it, she said, her voice dry as dust, brittle as old bone. There is no more.

Gently, silently, Patrina drew back the coverlet, and Jada slipped into bed beside her. They held each other, a sudden cool thrill of skin on skin; no more words expressed or needed. Then they kissed, as they had never kissed before: wet-lipped, open-mouthed kisses; awash with dewy spittle and slithering tongues; hungry and vulpine. Propelled by some dark, unfathomable instinct Jada rolled on top of her sister, pressing down with all her curvaceous mass; breasts and belly and thighs rubbing with sweet, delicious friction. Her skin and flesh rang with heretofore unknown sensations, burning and aching: she had no clear idea what she was doing; only knew that she had to do it, or she might die; and right at that moment, kissing her little sister so fiercely twas as if their lips might chap and their teeth chip in the process, she had never been so alive. Nor did Patrina lie passive beneath her, but writhed and flexed, arching her back and pushing up with all her slender, bony projections; turning friction to near flame. They tossed and tumbled, wrestling now with serious, loving intent; and Jada knew, as her excitement built beyond all possible control, that this time she would be the one to surrender.

Patrina, I she gasped, quivering in the final throes, I cant oh god, Im - oh, God

Yes! Patrina squealed up in ecstasy. Oh, my darling, yes so good, so good

Together they trembled, together they felt the sudden wet, warm rush like a summer storm, the relief like the breaking of thunder. In counterpoint they called out, a riot of bird calls and animal cries; percussive language of release. Instantly, overpoweringly enumerated, Jada slid off Patrinas body, awash with sweat and ennui. Amid a mess of damp and sticky covers the sisters held each other, panting and trembling in the musk-scented aftermath.

I dont Jada whispered, I dont understand what just happened

Me neither, Darling, came Patrinas response; her voice a little cracked, as if she had been crying. But I know I love you, sister mine - I love you more than life itself

They were silent then. And, a little while later, they slept.

*