“Before the Fast”
by T. C. Mill
Before the darkness, before the hunger, the people of Orriak donned their masks. Hidden even from the gods, they enjoyed their last indulgences. The winter would be long and even in these days of comparative advances, not all would survive. For those who would, it helped to have sweet memories.
And so when the ringed moon set for the last time until spring, an air settled over the city. A hush of anticipation. Many barred their doors, shutting their families and invited guests safely away. The rest took to the streets.
Safe or not, nobody spent the Night of Masks in comfort. But for some, these twelve hours of darkness would be worth an entire year of fasting. It was risk, it was challenge, it was adventure.
He knew all this when he went out.
Not that anything might happen free of consequences. Families could avenge insult or harm—if they knew the party responsible. The masks weren’t just tradition. But then, they could also hide someone who might otherwise be a target in the chaos of the carnival.
He was a modest person in a minor family who had no reason to become a target. He had no plans to antagonize anyone, much less to cause them harm. And whether it was foolish or not, he feared no harm himself.
He wore a dark suit that flattered his figure, thin enough that he looked taller than he really was. His mask was also black, plain velvet. He blended into the night, but not into the whirling pageantry that flooded the streets. No one collided with him by accident. A young couple took hold of his arms and pulled him into a dance, which he went along with gamely, but they released him after being outpaced by the marching musicians. Distantly he noted that the musicians went unharassed, the only group that had any form of immunity.
Before he could be dragged into more dancing, however spirited, he ducked down a side street. He continued down a maze of alleyways, until the only sounds were his own footsteps and his breathing and distantly a swelling and tuneless cacophony. He thought he’d known the city well, but this was a part of it where he had never gone and didn’t recognize.
Still, there was a sense of arrival as he turned one tight corner and found a figure standing there.
Its shoulders, beneath stiff lace in the shape of epaulettes, stiffened. Not in surprise, he thought, so much as increasing focus. Studying him.
She wore a plain mask edged in more lace—the fabric glimmered like scales. It revealed a round chin and firm mouth, which together seemed incredibly sensual. Her gown was cut full to allow movement, and as she took a step towards him, her body was not displayed so much as her physicality. Her movements, sharp and fast and powerful.
His heart hammered with anticipation almost beyond enduring.
“Good evening.” She didn’t sneer the greeting but her irony was apparent, dripping from her mouth like syrup. He licked his own lips.
Unable to find words to greet her, he settled on a bow. As he rose he saw her smile. His eyes darted down, to her hips, belted. The scabbards only proved what was already obvious by her bearing. “Your knives.”
“Do you want to see them?” Not waiting for him to answer, she drew one. The long, slender blade gleamed. It curved just slightly, tantalizingly.
“It’s beautiful…” he murmured.
She came closer, and he didn’t retreat. Her nostrils flared. Her breath fell on his cheek, then her lips, skimming over his skin in something not quite a kiss.
He swallowed hard, and then turned his face in an attempt to catch her mouth. She gasped, pulling back. He caught the flare in her dark eyes as she seemed to change her mind. Her gloved hand grasped the back of his neck, holding him in place as she closed her lips over his. He moaned as she added her tongue. Then her teeth.
His hands rested above her waist, above the belt. The hilt of her sheathed knife knocked against his knuckles as her body shifted. Her drawn knife, and the hand that held it, rested along his back, pushing him even closer.
Sensing the blade so near sent a surge of prickly excitement through him. As the kiss ended, he rocked his hips against hers, yearning for the sensation, not exactly soothing, of her warmth.
In contrast, her voice was cool. Considering. “Someone would only stride down a dark alley like this if they were completely innocent of the Fasting Customs, or if they wanted what was at the end of it. And an innocent wouldn’t wear a mask.” She stroked his, her fingertip running along its bottom edge. They both went still, otherwise, as if in morbid fascination. But then, after flirting with the one taboo of this night, she dropped her hand without revealing his face.
Her fingers skimmed down his stomach, which lurched as he took a shaking breath, then past his waist and over the laces of his trousers. She rubbed him through them, finding him already hard. When she chuckled, showing she approved, he reached between her fingers to unlace himself.
She pulled along his cock in a firm, slow rhythm. He rocked towards her, but from the corner of his eyes he saw the knife waiting in her other hand.
She followed his gaze. And he suspected she could feel his pulse pounding through her intimate grip.
“You are certain you want this?”
The question flowed thickly out of her mouth, and he answered with his own question, not mocking but ironic: “Don’t you?”
She gripped him tighter, but only for a moment—then made one more long, sweet stroke that left him aching but not enough to be distracted as she touched the blade to his chest. She cut his tunic open, and then began.
It hurt more than he had dreamed. First she muffled his cries against her palm, pushing him back against the alley wall. Her rich lips kissed the blood from his skin. Then she began to lick away the tears at the corners of his eyes, to gently kiss the lids and nibble along the line of his nose. He felt so tender that he was breaking apart, and all the while she didn’t stop, not her caressing or cutting. She quieted his last sob by sliding her tongue into his mouth.
He’d bear the marks of this night the rest of his life. The marks of her. Something that would last far beyond the fast. On any other night he might wonder if it was worth it, but her hand had closed around his cock again, and he tasted her smile as she found him still hard. Nothing in his life had ever been like this, or ever would be again. So terrible and lovely.
His hands were free; he followed the sides of her breasts through the gown, moved down her thighs, tried to work a hand under her full skirt, and when that didn’t work, she spread her legs wider and pressed against him so he could pleasure her through the velvet. She was so hot there, and growing wet. It would take very little to bring her to climax. But she broke his stroking off, dropping to her knees to lick more of the beading blood from his chest. This seemed to thrill her as much as his touch. Her next kiss stank of it, wonderfully.
Her hand returned to his cock, moved in mirror to his. It felt like they were becoming one being, in one moment; hurt and hurting, pleasuring and pleasured, with no need to ask and nothing to forgive, all fulfillment. It could last forever.
His thighs trembled and slickness ran over her fingers. A light sparked behind his eyes, and the moans she swallowed from him were of ecstasy more than pain. Her own breathing roughened with approaching orgasm.
She would release him, soon. And that was the only part he regretted.
T. C. Mill
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