The people of Dolten knew better than to enter the forests. Even the bravest of fighters avoided the woods unless there was a dire need. Anyone who had business going would either have to brave it alone, or pay through the nose for mercenaries.
Rohaan Mirza would have braved the forest alone, and crossed the oceans alone to do it. But when he arrived in Dolten a pair of mercenaries were there waiting for him, having been paid for by uncles. The mercenaries quickly proved themselves to be loud and crass, but Rohan had left his desert homeland with only enough money to cover his own expenses—hiring replacement mercenaries was out of the question. And so it was that balmy, overcast day that Rohaan rode into the forests of Dolten with Juuls Gratac and Daniel Aglen in tow.
To their credit, they could find paths through the forest, and they could even keep to them. They were not seasoned fighters, but they were trained fighters at least. On one occasion Juul had managed to frighten off the spare centaur or two, although Rohaan wondered if that didn't have more to do with how long it had been since Juul had last bathed.
So Rohaan tolerated them. After all, his uncles had paid for them, and it would have been a poor show against his family if he turned down the help (not to mention, according to what Daniel had said, a waste of a great deal of money). The bad jokes at the expense of his shorn face, shaved every morning, eventually came to feel affectionate. The constant questions about cleaning up sand were a welcome reprieve.
The one thing Rohaan couldn't bear to see was the abuse their poor horses suffered.
Not that he could convince Juul or Daniel of otherwise, but their horses were overburdened with both all of the gear and gold they carried and the weight of their riders. And the three were riding long hours every day. Juul and Daniel couldn't be bothered to even brush the horses at night, which deeply upset Rohaan. Every time he made eye contact with one of the poor creatures, they seemed to beg him for help.
Today was a particularly bad day for the horses. It had rained all morning, and so the mercenaries insisted they all plow forward nevertheless. Rohaan bit his lip and prayed that the horses not slip in the mud, and thankfully they didn't. But when the rain let up, the threesome encountered a swollen stream, aggravated by the weather.
Juul scratched at his eyepatch, hidden underneath his long greasy hair. “Nothing for it,” he grunted. “We're gonna have to ford the river.”
“Dammit, and there I thought I could dry off from the rain,” Daniel whined.
“We'll ride for a few miles then make camp for the day,” Juul spat. “Come on—Rohaan, what the hell are you doing?”
Rohaan had dismounted from his horse, and led his horse on foot near the river. As he waded into the bank of the river, Rohaan noticed the current was a little stronger than he had thought as it lashed at his knees. Still, he kept his footing.
“You guys go on ahead,” he called. “I'll catch up.”
As Juul and Daniel glared at him, Rohaan raised a finger. “You guys already got paid,” he reminded them.
“Your funeral,” Daniel sneered. The two nudged their horses into the river and raced into it. The poor horses were up to their necks in the foaming water—the men had their knees soaked.
Rohaan shook his head, and turned to his horse. It was a lovely creature; the stable he had rented it from said it was an “Appaloosa”. He had never seen a horse whose colors ran from chestnut to a speckled white, but then again, he'd never been to Dolten before.
“Alright boy,” he whispered. “Follow me.”
The horse was slow to step into the river. But with Rohaan's assuring gaze and voice, it slowly followed.
Rohaan never broke eye-contact with his horse, even as he walked backwards into the river. He walked slowly, feeling around behind him with his foot before he secured a step. The water was freezing as it rose up his legs and waist, but he never broke his gaze with his horse. Meanwhile, his horse followed with measured, confident steps.
A shout from the other side of the river interrupted Rohaan; “Hey buddy, if you get stuck we're leaving you behind!”
“Yeah, we don't have enough rope to reach you!”
Rohaan grimaced and choked back a retort. He wasn't above cussing out the mercenaries, but he simply couldn't afford to be petty. The water was well on its way to reaching his chest. He knew it wouldn't rise any higher, and that his horse could follow him along the path under the river. But the slightest misstep could still doom him—and this whole trip would end in three deaths, not just his and the horse's.
“Come on,” Rohaan quietly urged his horse. “We just need to cross this river. That's it. Once we're across, we'll—we'll light a nice big fire, and you'll be able to rest all night long. Come on, boy, that's the way...”
It seemed to Rohaan that the horse was matching his careful footsteps. He smiled, confident in his choice of horse. Juul and Daniel had chosen big, strong horses with hardly any stamina. Rohaan's family had known better.
“Right this way, boy,” Rohaan said. It was tougher to speak, with the cold water assaulting his chest. But he kept calm and still as he continued.
Suddenly, his horse twitched, and the water burst into foam. Rohaan braced himself as his horse fought to regain balance in the river. His life flashed before his eyes as he felt the horse's weight drag him across the rapids. Amidst the freezing cold of the river, Rohaan steeled his breathing and whispered to his horse.
It was a melodic chant, passed down by families in the desert since times forgotten. It was a Majital chant that spoke of his home. He spoke of endless skies, of warm sands, and the priceless treasures of the desert. The quiet chants carried over the roar of the river and the horse's bellowing, until the horse quieted down—and somehow set its feet upon the riverbed.
Rohaan continued the chant as he regained his footing. The horse was much deeper in the water than he felt comfortable—no doubt his packs would be waterlogged, if not washed away entirely. But the horse could still walk, and as Rohaan continued stepping backwards he noticed the horse was walking well. Between his chants, Rohaan quietly thanked his stars that the horse hadn't kicked a rock or twisted a leg. And he continued his path, stepping backwards through the frigid river.
Slowly, the water began to sink. It dipped beneath his chest, it revealed more of the horse's neck, it sank beneath Rohaan's waist, it sank beneath the horse's knees... and then, both Rohaan and his horse stepped on dry land. They were soaked, shivering, and shaken, but they had braved the river.
Rohaan laughed, high off of the excitement. He cooed and praised his horse in his desert tongue, patting and scratching its neck as the horse nickered and nuzzled his chest. “You're the envy of every king's stallion for leagues around!” he finally said in common.
A swift slap on his shoulder distracted him, and Rohaan was face to face with Juul's sneer. The brief trip in the river washed away distressingly little of his smell.
“And you are the biggest asshole I've seen since I fought that ogre two years ago!” Juul spat. “The hell is wrong with you? You could have just run right through the river!”
“We don't all have Clydesdales, Juul,” Rohaan shrugged. “This was safer.”
Juul arched his eyebrows. “'Safer'?” he repeated mockingly. “You and this witless horse almost got swept away! The hell was safe about that?!”
Rohaan sighed. As he glanced at the river, he saw how the surface swelled where he had crossed. There was a wooden bridge there, underneath the waves. The rapids Juul and Daniel had forded were rough with stones that could have tripped or even crippled one of their horses—and sent Juul or Daniel to their end. And yet, it felt rude to Rohaan to point this out. After all, they had crossed and kept their footing. Rohaan had crossed and was left with--nothing.
Juul was arrogant and rude, and Rohaan was quite tired of his mockery. But Juul and Daniel were still guiding him through the woods. Rohaan was a child of the desert, he would never survive on his own in the woods. Especially not now, when he didn't know how much of his supplies had been washed away. All Rohaan had to do was endure. If he didn't it wouldn't be his own life in danger, but his mother's as well.
So, he deflected Juul as best he could.
He frowned as he peered at Juul's horse, and nodded at him. “Hey Juul, your horse looks like it's got a bad leg.
Juul sneered. “What are you talking about? Don't change the subject, my horse is just fine anyway!”
“Is it?” Rohaan asked. He nodded at Juul's horse again. It was standing next to a tree—and indeed, it was lifting one of its legs slightly.
Rohaan walked over to his horse and pulled a leather satchel out from a sopping wet bag, sighing internally in gratitude that it hadn't been washed away. “He must have kicked a boulder while he was thrashing over,” he said as he approached Juul's horse. “You're lucky he didn't break a leg. Best case scenario, we're short one horse and all the supplies on him. Worst case... well, I don't quite want to even think about what could have happened.”
As Rohaan tended to the wound on Juul's horse, Juul shuffled in place. “Uh, gee. Thanks,” he mumbled.
Rohaan shrugged as he bandaged the wounded leg. “It's alright, you're welcome,” he said. “It's been a long ride through the rain, it's been rough on all of us.”
“Should we make camp?” Daniel asked.
“We may as well,” Rohaan answered. “With Juul's horse like this, we ought to give him a moment to rest and heal.”
“That'll put us behind,” Juul cringed.
“So would have waiting for the river to calm down,” Rohaan said. “It evens out. There's nothing to it but to rest.”
“We're burning daylight,” Juul grumbled. “We could be miles away from here by now.”
Rohaan held his tongue. No doubt his uncles would have wanted to pay for good mercenaries, not fast ones. But the money his uncles paid definitely made Juul and Daniel more than a little anxious to finish the job and get to a tavern. Between the jeers and the runaway pace, it felt like Rohan was the hired help and Juul and Daniel were taking him for a ride.
Just a little longer, he told himself. I just need an Eveningstar...
“Tell you what,” Rohaan called. “You grab the tinder and get us a fire started. I might be able to make some türk kavhesi before the beans go bad from the water.”
Rohaan didn't need to look up from his work to know he had both Daniel and Juul in the palm of his hand. If there was one thing he could bribe Juul and Daniel with, it was the traditional coffee of his homelands. Besides, he wasn't lying—the few coffee beans he had left would need to be used up, now that they had been soaked in the river. He might as well make the rest of the day as comfortable for his guides as possible.
After Juul's horse had been tended to and the remaining beans had been ground and broiled (thankfully, Rohaan's favorite percolator had not been swept away), Juul and Daniel were quite taken with the idea of lounging by a crackling fire and sipping Rohaan's coffee. Rohaan, meanwhile, was tending to his own horse and taking stock of what he had lost.
It was all gone. The river had taken most of his supplies. His ladder, his pole, his spare clothes, two days worth of food, even his horse brushes. All he had left was his percolator, the clothes on his back, and the jeweled pin on his collar. For a moment, Rohaan felt absolutely foolish. Perhaps he should have risked charging through the river...
A nudge on his shoulder from his horse changed his mind. Smiling, Rohaan pet the horse's neck and offered him compliments in his native language. No, he had made the right decision. This horse would never have survived charging into the river head-first. He was loyal and smart, and it had fought with all its heart to keep afloat from slipping off the sunken bridge.
“We'll figure it out,” he said. “Even if I do have to beg those two for food. You're helping me find that Eveningstar. In my eyes, that makes you finer than any royal steed.”
As if he understood him, the horse whinnied, and nuzzled some more against Rohaan's face, nearly knocking him over.
“Hey Rohaan, you better finish up making out with your horse there!” Juul called. “If you don't, I just might finish off what coffee is left!”
Rohaan smiled as he picked himself up. “You know we don't filter the grounds out. You sure you want that in your cup?” he called back.
“You kidding?” Juul called. “This here's the best damn coffee I've had in my life! I'll take every drop I can get, even if you spit in it!”
Rohaan dropped himself next to Juul at the fire, taking a moment to let the heat soak into his bones. The exhaustion of the day finally caught up to him, and in the heat of the crackling fire his bones turned to lead and his muscles turned to rubber. Rohaan found himself wincing as his tired legs fell asleep and erupted in a storm of numbing prickles that bit deep into his bones.
“Gee, it almost looks like you shouldn't have your little stunt in the river back there,” Daniel jeered. “What else could he do?” Juul answered. “With that tiny pony he rented, I'm surprised he could keep up with us!”
“Boys,” Rohaan breathed. “I can't exactly stop you from roasting me right now, but if you could please pass me the coffee so I can at least warm up a little from these savage burns I'd be much obliged.”
The two men roared with laughter, but nevertheless passed Rohan a tin cup steaming with his kavhesi . For a moment, the roast scent of it brought him back home. He was sitting in a stool, with a blazing sun overhead. A wide field of his family's prized horses was rollicking in the dunes. His father was teasing him with joking complaints about how he should have become a doctor (in truth, Rohaan's father was proud as he could that Rohaan wished so badly to inherit the stables) and his mother was slapping him over the head as she dragged him out of the stool to go feed the foals.
Rohaan found himself gently tracing the pin on his collar as he was snapped back to his damp reality. The pin grounded him. It still radiated the heat of the sands back home.
As he held his coffee, Rohaan's face set itself stiffly as he reminded himself of the Eveningstars he so badly needed.
Juul and Daniel noticed that their jeers weren't reaching Rohaan anymore. Daniel nodded to Juul, and cleared his throat.
“Rohaan. Hey, buddy.”
Slowly, Rohaan looked at his companions.
“You still alive?”
“We need you sharper than that, boy-o,” Juul smiled. “You've heard about these woods, right?”
“It's the only forest where there are any Eveningstars left,” Rohaan shrugged.
“Well, yeah ,” Juul said. “But that's not all that's in these woods.”
“Any man with sense wouldn't wanna stick around in these parts,” Daniel smirked. “They'd get what they're here for and hurry off.”
Rohaan nodded as he sipped his coffee. Of course, he knew the truth. There was a brothel on the other side of the Dolten woods. No doubt his uncle's money would buy them several nights of entertainment there. The sooner they cleared the Eveningstar field in the forest, the sooner they'd be knocking boots.
“So, what's in these woods?” Rohaan asked.
Juul grinned as he leaned in to Rohaan. “The Laughing Mad,” he growled.
“Legend has it that there used to be a world of the fae,” Daniel started. “It was beautiful and all the fairies loved it. But a disaster happened and the Faewild was destroyed overnight. The lucky fairies died. The rest went crazy from it all. ”
“They say the ones that stayed alive just started laughing and never stopped,” Juul said. “Life after the death of their world became one big joke to them. They just wanna share the joke with everyone. So they took up in the woods near Dolten. They have hunts where they snatch women and children away. They replace children with shapeshifters. They trick men and drown them in the rivers.”
“Their world was destroyed?” Rohaan asked.
“Yep. Nobody knows what happened,” Daniel said. “They say it could happen to our world next.”
Rohaan shrugged. The display from Juul and Daniel was childish, at best. Life in the desert meant having to keep an eye open at all times from the jackals and manticores that hid behind the dunes—or the vipers that hid within the sands. He had never seen a djinn in the desert, but one of his aunts insisted she had, and that the djinn possibly stole a horse from her and left her boxes of gold the following day.
The forests had wolves and venomous plants—hardly much difference.
“If there are despairing fae in these woods,” Rohaan said. “Then it would be best for us to respect their new home and disturb as little as possible. And maybe that means not racing through like an army caravan and disturbing the quiet.”
Juul and Daniel laughed.
“You can't be nice to the laughing mad!” Daniel said. “They don't know what 'nice' is!”
“But they do know what hospitality is,” Rohaan answered. “Where I come from, the laws of hospitality bind even the mightiest of kings, and even the cruelest of of despots wouldn't dare to be a bad host.”
The men laughed harder. “So-so-so, if one of the Laughing Mad came up to you and bound you in their magic rope,” Juul sputtered, “you'd just say, 'Gee Oberon, thassa nice couch you got, where'd you get it from?'”
“No,” Rohaan shrugged. “When we entered these woods, I said a prayer blessing it and those who live in it. Tonight, before bed, I will remember to include the Laughing Mad in my prayers. When I wake, I will pray in gratitude of these trees that kept us safe, and to the good dreams of you, my companions--and the Laughing Mad, our gracious hosts.”
The men continued to laugh as Rohaan mentioned them. He continued, unfazed. “I will disturb no branch, upturn no rock, and give any creature of these woods their space so that they may continue on their way. And when I finally find an Eveningstar... I will consider it a gift from the Laughing Mad, and I will offer them a gift in return.”
“What'cha gonna give them, another prayer?” Juul howled in laughter. Daniel kicked his feet as he tittered. “Do you even have anything left, after what you went through in the river?”
Rohaan stood up, and proudly spread his shoulders. He pulled the pin from his collar, holding it before the fire. It was a tiny silver horse, with its front legs raised in a proud whinny. The eyes were cast in the tiniest, shiniest sapphires. His heart swelled as the light of the flames glittered off of it.
“I will give them this pin,” he said. “It is worth more to me than any king's ransom,it is the pride of my family, and a treasure beyond any worth in my eyes. Surely the Laughing Mad are gracious-enough hosts to accept it, along with the deepest gratitude of my family.”
“They're the Laughing Mad, not the Laughing Inkeeps!” Daniel roared. “These fairies would just as quickly stab you as they would rob you blind, boy!”
Rohaan quietly sat back down, placing his pin back on his collar. “Even so, they must have heart enough to allow a son the chance to aid his ailing mother,” he shrugged. “If not... well, then I can only hope my mother doesn't have to pay for my foolishness.”
The mercenaries were on their backs, kicking and howling with laughter. Rohaan bit his tongue as he fought down the shame of it all.
“I bet you'd stick your head right into a lion's mouth!” Juul howled.
“I bet you think a rattlesnake wouldn't bite you if you asked it nicely enough!” Daniel answered.
“I bet you'd think a witch wouldn't curse you if you gave your coffee!” Juul said.
“I'd rather be a fool than a bad host, or a bad guest,” Rohaan shrugged. “My family taught me as much.”
Rohaan shook his head and finished his cup of coffee. He approached his percolator hanging over the fire and realized there was just enough for one person. Deciding that Juul and Daniel were too distracted to concern themselves with coffee, he poured it for himself. As he did, he noticed something moving through the trees. Rohaan froze as he watched the shadow approach, until the bushes rustled and parted to reveal a wizened old figure leaning on a wooden staff, limping towards them.
Juul and Daniel stopped laughing once they noticed the cloaked person limping towards them. They quickly sat up. Rohaan could see light reflecting from the throwing knives the two mercenaries had palmed. As he looked back at the old figure, Rohan noticed they were bent over a wicker basket laden with rain-kissed wildflowers. The staff they were leaning on seemed curiously thin to be a walking cane for such an old person, with a head crooked in odd bends and ancient studded vines wrapped around it. All the while, the figure seemed to be muttering to themselves.
Clearing his throat, Rohaan called to the traveler. Juul and Daniel shushed him, but Rohaan waved them down. Quickly trying to decide if the old cloaked person was a man or a woman, Rohaan called again, “Hoy, traveler!”
The figure snapped to, quickly darting their hooded face in all directions. “Oh, oh my, what have we 'ere? You're not some king, are you?” they asked in a high, wizened voice.
Deciding the voice definitely belonged to an old woman, Rohaan shook his head. “No... ma'am , no kings here. Just a trio of travelers.”
“Oh,” the old woman hooted. “Good. I didn't vote for any king.”
“You don't vote for kings,” Juul growled.
“Well, how'd you become king then?” the old woman asked.
“ Ma'am ,” Rohaan called again. “There are no kings here. We're just travelers, just like you.”
The old woman seemed taken aback. “Travelers? Why, I'm no traveler. I'm from Dolten, I am. I was just stepping through the wood. Lovely good flowers this time of year, but then it rained and now I must get home before the petals get all soggy,”
“Oh, ma'am, you won't be getting home this way,” Rohaan said. He carefully stepped towards the old woman, still carrying the cup of coffee. “The river swelled up in the rain and swallowed the bridge. There's no way across, at least until the surge dies down.”
The old woman seemed besides herself for a moment. “Why—why, that can't be—oh no, these poor flowers will all go to waste! Oh, what will I tell Daiyo, I was going to sell these in town, and now we can't get the oil for the well and we'll have to eat the bread heels from last week...”
Juul and Daniel muttered between themselves as Rohaan offered a sympathetic shrug. “I'm sorry, ma'am.” The old woman sneezed suddenly, making Rohaan jump.
“Oh, ma'am, you must've gotten caught in the rain. Here, take this, it's coffee. It'll warm you up.”
The old lady looked up at Rohaan as he held the cup to her. He couldn't quite make out her face from within the hood as she grabbed it and held the cup close to her, sipping at the cup from beneath her cloak.
“ O-o-oh , why, this is special!” she hooted. “What kind of coffee is this, child?”
“It's türk kavhesi ,” Rohaan said. “It's how we make coffee in Majital, where I'm from.”
“Majital, you say?” the old woman asked. “Why, what's a boy like yourself doing so far from the desert?”
Rohaan felt the old woman's eyes dart to his neck. He tried to put it out of his mind as he glanced at Juul and Daniel. The two mercenaries glared at him with daggers in their eyes—and knives in their palms. Nevertheless, Rohaan sat next to the old lady.
“It's my mother,” he said. He noticed the old lady sit up a little straighter when he said that. The old lady seemed to pay a little less attention to his neck...
“She fell ill a few months back. At first, it was just headaches, dizzyness. We thought she had overdone training some of the horses. It was foaling season, after all. But then she had a hard time telling people apart or reading. Then one day, she simply... fell blind.”
“ O-o-oh ,” the old lady said. “That's quite sad, my child!”
“Indeed. My mother wasn't originally from Majital, she used to live up in Firstcliff. But she was an adventurer, and she especially loved horses. One day, she rode to Majital and saved a sultan's life. He offered her his hand in marriage, but she had fallen in love with a stable-boy. The sultan instead gave them a ranch and a number of his finest horses.”
“An adventurer ,” the old woman said. Her high voice broke into a giggle. “Why, what a lovely woman she sounds like! And to live in a desert, how brave of her!”
“Yes, mother always spoke of the treasure of the sand,” Rohaan said. He raised a hand, and spread his arm before the old woman. “When the full moon rises, her light almost turns night to day, and the sand itself turns to silver. Sometimes, it even glitters with the stars that fell from the skies. My mother would take me on rides into the dunes so we could watch the oceans of silver.”
“That is why I'm in Dolten, seeking an Eveningstar flower,” Rohaan continued. “My mother has life in her yet. It would break my heart if she could never see the silvery sands, the foals grow into proud steeds...”
“Or the faces of her grandchildren?” the old lady giggled.
Rohaan coughed on his own tongue, and struggled to regain himself. Now he wasn't sure what the old woman was watching, but it definitely was more than just his neck.
“All in due time,” he managed to croak.
“You are a fine son,” the old woman said. Even from beneath her hood, Rohaan could tell she was smiling. “So dutiful to his mother, so honor-bound. You must have the hearts of women a-flutter all over town!”
Again, Rohaan was at a loss for words, and could only resort to vague gestures and mumbles. He had had a few paramours in the past, but even with the reputation of his family's ranch there wasn't much appeal in being a ranch-hand.
“Tell me, my child,” the old lady continued. “Do you work with your family's horse's often?”
“Ever since I was a boy,” Rohaan said, glad for the change in conversation. “I was wrangling my family's horses before I was even tall enough to ride them!”
“And you've grown up surrounded by such powerful animals,” the old lady cooed. “You definitely seem a virile young man. Any woman would surely dream of a lover like you.”
After the assault from the river and the rough days riding with Juul and Daniel, Rohaan found his calm crushed by the old woman. It was all he could do to sit next to her, affixing a polite smile as best he could. “I'm flattered,” he intoned, praying that the old woman wouldn't try to introduce him to someone.
Instead, the old woman rose to her feet. She took great care of the basket of flowers nestled in the crook of her free arm, and leaned on her staff. All the while, she stole glances at Rohaan's neck. “You're such a cute young man,” she said. “You're definitely on the right track for those Eveningstars. If you follow the path, you'll pass by a lovely field full of them. Your mother will be so pleased. Oh, but now I must be going. I'll have to steal my way back home to Daiyo before the rain starts again. Hopefully, these flowers will still be good enough to sell tomorrow...”
Rohaan rose to his feet with a start. “Oh,” he said. “Before you go...!”
Hurriedly, Rohaan checked his pockets—and checked them again. Desperately, he looked for a coin he could give the old woman. Sadly, the river had washed even the smallest scrap of copper in his pockets. Rohaan's hands found their way to the only spare piece of metal on his clothes—the pin at his neck ...
With a great weight descending on his shoulders, he sighed and nodded. “Ma'am,” he said. “Do you live in these woods?”
“Why, yes,” she answered. “Just me and Daiyo. He's a nice boy, you would love him.”
Rohaan nodded as he pulled the pin from his collar. He took the old lady's hand with one of his own, and placed his pin upon her palm with the other.
“In Majital, it is the duty of those who have to share with those who do not,” he said. “I have no coin I can give as alms, but this pin should be worth at least a few silvers. Regardless of whether your flowers wilt or not, you can sell this in town.”
The old woman hooted, clearly taken back. “ O-o-oh , why—why, this is beautiful!” she said.
“I had a feeling you would like it,” Rohaan said sadly. “You'd been watching my neck the whole time.”
“Finally noticed, did you child?” the old woman asked. “I'm quite sorry. My old heart is helpless when it comes to shinies.”
“This pin is no mere trinket,” Rohaan said, still holding the old woman's hand. Her skin felt smooth and cool in his palm. The pin glittered as it rested in the old woman's palm.
“My mother was given this pin by her mentor,” Rohaan said. “When I told my parents that I wished to inherit the ranch from them, she gave it to me .”
“And you would give it to an old woman?” the old woman asked.
“It pains me greatly,” Rohaan said. “But it would pain me even more to think of an old woman not having enough to buy bread.”
The woman raised her head just enough to look at Rohaan's face. The barest hint of her eyes was revealed from within the hood of her cloak. A bright blue eye studied Rohaan, and for a moment it felt to him that he was being sized up by the most ravenous of wolves.
“You are truly a man of heart,” the old woman cooed. “I'll be praying for you—and for your dearest mother, who raised such a valiant young man.”
“You're welcome,” Rohaan said. “And if possible, send my regards to your friend Daiyo.”
The old woman's eye shifted from an undeniable smile. “Oh, he will be glad to hear that,” she said. Her hand slid away from Rohaan's palm, leaving a cool smooth echo of her skin. She turned around and headed back down the path, from where she came.
“Keep safe, dear Rohaan,” the old woman called. As she hobbled off, leaning on her staff, the vines seemed to waver and twitch. Were those knots on the vines, Rohaan wondered, or bulbs...?
Slowly, with his legs feeling like jelly, Rohaan returned to the fire and tried to warm himself. He realized that he could feel the old lady's hand in his. Didn't they feel a bit softer and suppler than they should for a woman of her age...?
Rohaan was brought out of his fugue by Daniel slapping him over the head.
“Yer an idiot, Rohaan,” Juul grumbled.
“You can't just go around giving old ladies jewelry because you feel bad !” Daniel added.
“She needed it more than I did, and it's not like either of you were going to give her alms,” Rohaan said. “Both of you were thumbing daggers the moment she appeared!”
“You don't know if she's working with bandits!” Juul spat. “Hell, that might not have even been a woman ! It could have been some man putting on a voice!”
“And you even gave her that stupid pin !” Daniel said. “So much for being a good guest, now what are you going to give the Laughing Mad when you take an Eveningstar?”
Before he could answer, Juul had thrown a pebble at Daniel. “Oh, come on, don't tell me you fell for that crap! I was trying to freak Rohaan out!”
“Wait, you were?”
“ Of course ! Why the hell would there be traumatized fae, running around? Fae are already batshit insane, they can't get any crazier!”
Rohaan paid no attention to Juul's ranting. Even if he had never seen a Djinn, it was simply common courtesy to have some manner of gift for them on the off-chance that you encountered one in the desert. For another, even if there was no such thing as the Laughing Mad, he wasn't going to risk it. Rohaan didn't know much about the fae, and about all he had in his favor was being polite. He was fully in earnest when he spoke of hospitality, surely that would be enough to placate the fae of Dolten.
That just left the matter of the Eveningstar. Without his pin, about the only thing Rohaan had left to him was his horse—and he was a rental. Would the Laughing Mad try to curse him if he took an Eveningstar unbidden? Rohaan cursed himself for having been torn between duties; on one side, his duty to the old and inform, and on the other, his duty to his hosts.
A pebble smacking his shoulder dragged Rohaan. “Get your head outta your ass, Rohaan!” Juul hissed. “You have first watch tonight! If you wanna help old ladies, you can keep an eye out for them!”
Rohaan mumbled his agreement, and stared into the fire. The day had been far too long for him. As he contemplated the flames, he began to wonder just how that old lady learned his name...
Night fell, and Rohaan dutifully kept watch while Juul and Daniel fell asleep. He steadily paced around the campsite, careful to not step on any twigs. Occasionally, he would take a moment to check on the horses and pat them and whisper to them quiet lullabies from his homeland. He carefully kept the fire lit, and eyed the lights in the woods. He expected shining eyes to poke out from the bushes, but only saw fireflies. No twigs snapped from the underbrush. A mocking laugh seemed to come from a nearby thicket—but it was merely an owl, preening itself as it eyed the campfire suspiciously.
The woods were dangerous nevertheless, and Rohaan minded the darkness. He quietly prayed to his gods that Juul and Daniel's rest would be soothing, that their horses would be kept safe through the night. He prayed for the owl that watched him. He prayed that his mother be kept safe.
And at once, he fell to his knees, and prayed for the Laughing Mad.
“My Lord of the Sands, blessed and exalted,” he spoke to the campfire. “Extend your grace to the souls of the Laughing Mad. Keep safe their home, these pristine woods. Carry in your heart the departed Faewild and the lost souls that lived there. May their laughter find mirth, not pain. May their tears bring peace, not fear. May their revels bring joy, not chaos.”
“Blessed and exalted lord, bless the old woman, and her friend Daiyo. May her hearth be warm, her bread sustaining, and may my alms reach her. May she walk in peace, and find richness everlasting. May my gift to her be multiplied tenfold.”
Clutching his hair, Rohaan fell to his elbows and cried bitter tears into the dirt. “May this wretched fool who calls himself your servant find forgiveness in failing his duty,” he sobbed. “I have no gift to offer the Laughing Mad for their hospitality. I have no sustenance to share with my traveling companions. I have no claim to that which my mother needs.”
As he cried, Rohaan's head pounded with Juul's words. What a fool he had been. Torn between his duty to the impoverished and his duty to his hosts, he failed both. He could only pray that his gift to the old lady indeed sustained her. But now? With no food, no coin, nothing but the clothes on his back and his loaned horse, what could he do? Could he even find an Eveningstar in these endless woods?
“Blessed lord,” Rohaan sobbed, “may the Laughing Mad forgive me for my arrogance.”
Crying the last of his tears, Rohaan ended his prayers, and sat back up upon his knees. He instinctively reached for his neck—only to remember his pin was long gone.
Rohaan dried his eyes, and flinched as the owl hooted mockingly.
“Yes, I suppose I am worthy of ridicule,” he said to the owl ruefully.
Then, Rohaan went to wake Juul for his turn at watch. After Juul cussed him out for waking him, Rohaan curled up against the most comfortable tree he could find, and tried to sleep. Amid the sound of Juul's grumbling and spitting, Rohaan could finally appreciate the sounds of the forest. The wind through the trees whispered soothingly. The cool night air refreshed him. And as he drifted off, the sound of laughter once again echoed in the night.
Strange, thought Rohaan as sleep took him. That didn't sound like the owl that time. It sounded like a girl...
Rohaan never noticed when he had fallen asleep. The dark had simply taken him. Voices brought him back; it was Juul and Daniel.
Of course , he thought. Those two must have had a bit of grog laying around. I suppose they'll be carrying on until the sun rises .
But then there was a woman's laughter.
Rohaan cracked an eye open so quickly it almost made a sound. Across the clearing, he could see the campfire still ablaze. Past the campfire were Juul and Daniel, puffing out their chests and sucking in their guts.
And between them was a woman Rohaan had never seen before.
Rohaan had seen tieflings before in Majital, and this woman was clearly one of them. None but a tiefling would have horns and hair that turned from black to red. Blossoming vines were wrapped around her horns, bursting into tiny pink flowers. From here, Rohaan could see there were delicate swirls painted upon her face and hands. And she was wearing--
That cloak... that stick...
Even from this distance, there was no mistaking it. As she leaned against a tree and demurely giggled at Juul and Daniel's flattery, Rohaan recognized the cloak and stick she was wearing. The vines around the stick had bloomed, just like the tendrils on her horns, and the branches on tip curled into curious heart-like shapes.
There was no denying it—that was the old woman from earlier. She had to have been a witch from the Laughing Mad, and she had glamoured herself into looking younger.
Rohaan cursed Juul and Daniel for falling so easily for the glamour, but even he had to admit that it was a fetching glamour. The woman's hair fell in waves over her delicate neck and shoulders, and she had the loveliest, hungriest blue eyes.
Rohaan wondered how well Juul would be able to defend himself against her when he leaned in towards the woman and rested his arm above her head. He leaned his face close into hers, whispering to her, as he brought his hand up and grabbed at her chest. Rohaan scarcely had time to react when a snarl from behind him made him shut his eyes and curl up tighter at the foot of his tree. Something bounded over him and landed with a thud, something big and furry-smelling. It growled like a saw cutting through wood while Juul and Daniel both cussed. An airy “thwip!” announced a dagger being thrown; Rohaan cracked an eye open just in time to see a dagger embedded in the dirt and a large white wolf bounding down upon Daniel. Surprisingly, Daniel turned tail and ran off into the forest, not even looking back at the wolf howling after him.
Juul also drew a dagger and lunged at the wolf. To Rohaan's surprise, the woman rolled her eyes and waved a finger at him. A pink blast of light landed on his rump, bursting his pants into a shower of pink petals. The wave of flowery smells reached Rohaan on the other side of the fire. As Juul mindlessly ran into the woods, clutching his ass and screaming bloody murder, the woman giggled to herself, and gently knelt at the tree.
“Here, Daiyo!” she called. The wolf obediently walked to her and rest its head upon her lap, letting her stroke his ears and pat his head. The woman seemed to speak quietly to the wolf as she pet him, lovingly scratching his chin. Then she stood up and pointed off into the woods. The wolf snorted, but padded off into the night, twitching its tail in what looked to be an annoyed manner.
And Rohaan was alone with her.
Rohaan shut his eyes as he saw the woman walk around the fire. What more would she do? Would she ransack Juul and Daniel's bags? Would she curse the horses into frogs? What would she do to Rohaan ? And what if the wolf came back?
His body tensed as he heard her footsteps get closer. The entire forest seemed to silence itself as the woman approached where Rohaan lied, pretending he was asleep. The last footsteps fell right before his face, and Rohaan kept still, hoping that the Laughing Mad wouldn't take a man in his sleep.
“You're not fooling anyone,” the woman mocked. Her voice rang sweetly, like nettle wine. “Daiyo told me you were awake. And I'm pretty sure your friends woke you up with their screaming.”
Rohaan kept still, hoping that the woman would get bored of him and move on. He didn't know how the fae thought or acted, but surely they'd leave someone alone if they slept?
“Won't you wake up?” the woman asked cloyingly. “Your poor horses might get scared. Daiyo let them know he wouldn't hurt them, but your friends probably set them off.”
Again, Rohaan played possum. It was his only defense.
“If you don't wake up,” the woman sighed, “I might have to let those horses go. With any luck, they'll make it back home. These woods are awfully dangerous...”
Rohaan lept to his knees as the woman spoke. “That horse is all I have left! The river took everything else that I had when I crossed it! My pin was the last of my wealth! If the Laughing Mad is going to punish me for not having a gift for them, at least leave the horses out of it! That horse has been better than gold to me!”
As Rohaan looked up at the woman, her face softened into a knowing smirk. “I knew you were awake,” she purred.
“You caught me,” Rohaan said. “I'm dead to rights here. If the Laughing Mad must take me, then I'll go peacefully. I only wish my dear mother didn't have to suffer, losing both her sight and her son in one go.”
“And why would the Laughing Mad take you?” the woman asked. Her every word seemed to be a joke only she knew the punchline to, and as Rohaan looked up into her blue eyes he felt he was being eyed by a wolf not unlike the one she spoke to.
“You're the old woman,” he answered. “You are one of the Laughing Mad. You came to see me after I spoke of you and your hospitality. I failed your test by giving away the pin I had promised you in exchange for the Eveningstar. So now you've come to steal me away for the wild hunts.”
The woman mockingly dropped her jaw. “Old woman?” she gasped. “Why, I'm shocked! Is this the body of an old woman?”
Spreading her arms, she dropped her cloak behind her, revealing herself to Rohaan. Her clothes—what little of them she wore—seemed to emphasize how naked she was than anything else. The swells and curves of her chest were covered by leaves, and her navel was hidden behind a vibrant tree branch stretched across her waist. Velvety straps stretched from her chest to her hips, leaving her creamy skin exposed all the same. The little swirls were painted all over her arms and legs, with a whispy heart-like shape drawn on her navel. A crude mockery of wings made of twigs were tied to her back, and a delicate black tail slithered around her legs, wreathed in the same blossoming vines as her horns.
Rohaan was simply agog, and struggled to find words. The woman before him was more than he could have ever imagined.
The woman seemed to revel in Rohaan's reaction, and giggled as she leaned over his face, playfully offering a deep glance into the valley of her chest. “Don't tell me you think I'm some old lady dressing up as a hot chick,” she smiled. “I'll have you know, every last inch of these are home-grown .”
“I still know you're one of the Laughing Mad,” Rohaan managed to cough out.
The woman stood up and made a show of shaking her head and tossing her hair. Her tresses bounced across her shoulders before resting coyly across her face.
“'Laughing Mad'-this, 'Laughing Mad'-that!” she sighed. “A perfect-ten drops into your lap in the middle of the woods after the worst day ever, and all you care about are the Laughing Mad! If you care so much about hospitality, treat me like a guest!”
The woman leaned in close to Rohaan, and knelt on one knee. Her velvety skirt peered into her thighs as she leaned in.
“After all,” she whispered. “I did come by to visit your campsite. And you were so nice to me. Don't tell me your nasty friends rubbed off onto you? They seemed so mean to be traveling with a nice boy like you.”
Rohaan swallowed as he tried to look the woman in the eye. Her gaze peered right into his soul, but if he dared look away for a moment he knew he would get drawn into her soft, unblemished chest or inviting thighs— no ! He had to focus... he coughed, and tried to speak.
“My name is--”
“Your name is Rohaan,” the woman purred. “I heard your friends shouting it.” She smiled as Rohaan swallowed; he was wholly at her mercy.
“My name is Revlis,” she said. “And I think you need better friends. My forest is a bad place to be lonely. I've heard you're a good boy, and it would make me so sad if a good boy like you got hurt here.”
Revlis stretched back up onto her feet, gazing down on him imperiously. As he peered up at her, she bit her lip and smugly gazed down at him.
“Shouldn't good boys know to ask before making camps in other people's forests?
Rohaan raised his hands, and bowed his head. “I am sorry,” he said. “I came to these woods in search of an Eveningstar flower. I did not know the Laughing Mad dwelled in these woods.”
Rohaan flipped onto his back; a gentle nudge from Revlis's bare knee had graced his cheek and scared him.
“I said to leave the Laughing Mad out of this,” she purred. Revlis once again knelt before Rohaan, pressing her thighs together and puffing her curvy chest out. Her face was dripping with mock indignity. “I'm trying to be your friend,” she whined. “There's no telling what any of them would have done to you.”
Once again, Revlis shot Rohaan a feral glance, and smirked. A flash of her tiefling fangs glittered at Rohaan in the light of the campfire. Slowly, Revlis leaned forward onto her hands, crawling over Rohaan's body.
“The Laughing Mad loves their guests in ways no living mortal could understand,” she purred. “They rescue children from the mundane lies of the world and nurse them amidst the terrific dreams of their home. They grace honest women with hundreds of years of love in just a single evening before they ever know their husbands.”
“And I suppose men like me aren't favored very much,” Rohaan gulped. Revlis continued to crawl towards him. Her chest hung low, dangling but a hair away from his belt...
“You don't need to worry about that,” Revlis purred. “I think we can be good friends, Rohaan.” With the steady motion of a cat sulking through grass, Revlis lifted a hand. Her fingers gently brushed their way up Rohaan's body, the back of her nails gently catching on the buttons on his vest. Even through his layers of clothing, Rohaan could feel a chill from Revlis' fingers. The sensation crawled up his neck as her fingers reached his face, tracing his chin...
And then, with a cloying smirk, Revlis flicked Rohaan's nose. He jolted in place, and when he next looked a ghostly hand floated above his head, dangling a blanket above his face.
Before he could react, the blanket smothered him, and through his attempts at freeing himself Rohaan heard Revlis giggle. It was sweet and haunting, the same laugh he had heard teasing him when he fell asleep.
“I doubt your companions will mind if you borrow one of their spares,” Revlis said.
That's right—Juul and Daniel, Rohaan thought.
Once Rohaan had finally freed his head from the blanket, he found himself almost nose-to-nose with Revlis. Her blue eyes scrutinized him, sizing him up almost.
“Are they going to be alright?” he mumbled.
“You're far too nice for the Laughing Mad,” Revlis said. “And they? They're too smelly . Even the rats would stay away from them.”
Rohaan swallowed as Revlis leaned in closer still. The smell of flowers surrounded him as she leaned in close to his ears and whispered, “ Hey, can I ask you a favor? ”
“ Um... what ?” Rohaan whispered back.
“ It's been a while since the last time I went horseback riding, ” Revlis hissed. “ Your horse looks cute and friendly. Could I please ride him ?”
The heat from Revlis's body coated Rohaan more thickly than any blanket he had ever had. His every thought was stifled through the scent of fresh-cut flowers that emanated from Revlis's hair. He could feel her breath tickling his ear. Further down he could see her pale back arching, like a cat. Her delicate tail swished enticingly in the air, as if to beckon him. Rohaan's tongue felt fat, his throat felt like sandpaper, and he realized he was clutching at the blanket so hard it was threatening to tear.
Feeling a chill up his spine, Rohaan coughed, “Sure...”
He didn't see Revlis smirk, but he could hear it in her words as she giggled in his ear and said, “ Lovely ...”
Rohaan expected her to stand up as Revlis pulled away. He was glad to breathe in the cool night air, now that he was farther away from her warmth and flowers. But instead of standing, Revlis inched backwards on her knees, ever straddling Rohaan's legs.
Rohaan's jelly-like arms were rooted to the ground behind him as Revlis leaned face-forward onto her elbows, resting her chin a mere inch above his navel. To his embarrassment, Rohan's body had reacted all too readily to Revlis's warmth, and his pants were tight against his growing bulge.
Revlis looked up at him with a devilish mockery of concern. “What?” she asked. “I can't ride your horse if I don't meet him first.” With her coy smile, Revlis nuzzled her cheek against his bulge and gently moaned. Rohaan's entire body tightened as he fought down an eager twitch from his erection.
“He must have had such an awful day,” Revlis purred. “Traveling in these woods for days, getting caught in the rain, having to cross the river... it's only proper manners to show him the same kindness I've shown you, right?”
Revlis didn't even wait for an answer. She gently raised up a hand and traced a circle below Rohaan's belly button. “And your horse seems in need of lots of kindness. He's worked so hard to bring you this far. Let me meet him?”
Once again, a ghostly hand wavered into view before Rohaan's face. Working with Revlis's real hand, it set about loosening Rohaan's belt and parting his pants. Revlis giggled throatily as she used her own hand to pull down Rohaan's smallclothes, revealing his cock.
Rohaan's length stood up in the cold night air, twitching before Revlis's face. Rohaan gasped as Revlis's blue eyes danced between his twitches and his nervous expression.
“What a strong, virile mount you have,” Revlis purred. She leaned in slightly, her breath gently puffing upon Rohaan's length. He desperately tried to ignore it, as he did the weight of Revlis's breasts pressing against his thighs.
“ It's so nice to finally meet you, ” Revlis purred to Rohaan's cock. She cooed as her hands danced around his base. She licked her lips approvingly as she appreciated Rohaan's clean skin and tidyness. “You're so well-cared-for,” she marveled. “It takes a good man to raise such a fine steed.”
With a gaze that froze Rohaan's blood, Revlis stared deep into his eyes and smirked. Her fangs were like knives peering from her blood-red lips.
“He's so cute, I just wanna kiss him and pet him all over...”
Before Rohaan's eyes, Revlis gently slid her lips to his base, and nuzzled against his skin. His length twitched again, and Revlis wiggled her eyebrows at Rohaan approvingly. She moaned quietly as she nuzzled Rohaan's shaft with her warm, smooth cheeks, lingering as her lips met the edge of his skin and letting them drag on the outline of his crown. With cool fingertips, Revlis gently slid her grip lower, and revealed Rohaan's glistening tip.
“Aw, is he crying?” she teased. “He's not scared , is he? Rohaan ?”
Distantly, Rohaan recalled memories of previous lovers. They had been quick affairs, heart-pounding in their lust, over as quickly as they began. He had never had trouble performing. If anything, he was surprised how well he was reacting to Revlis after how long it had been since his last rendezvous. It was almost as though she were teasing this reaction out of him. As hungrily as she gazed at Rohaan, as vicious as those fangs seemed, Rohaan's only fear was that of how easily he bent to her whim.
Revlis gave him no time to react. She leaned in towards Rohaan's tip, and smiled. “Here,” she cooed. “Let me make it better.”
Gently, her scarlet lips graced his tip. Rohaan felt a deep groan escape his chest as the sensation of her kiss on his cock shook through his whole body. He felt stiffer and harder than ever before in his life. His stomach was tightened and empty, and his heart beat like a stampede. It was the same feeling as--
-- as riding across the dunes.
When Revlis's lips pulled back with a loving smack, they parted again in a smile. “ Ooh ,” she cooed. “Look, he's so happy! Poor thing, he must have been so lonely , wandering through these woods.”
Revlis dove in with more kisses, covering and loving Rohaan's shaft. Rohaan's fingers helplessly grabbed at the grass beneath him as Revlis kissed her way up his side, and planted another kiss upon his tip. Then, with a satisfied hum, Revlis's lips parted, and slid their way down Rohaan's cock.
Their moans blended together in the night. Rohaan raised himself on his elbows and watched as Revlis elegantly bobbed her head along his length. Her blue eyes peered at him through her lashes, and she hummed lustily, sending Rohaan's lust aflame. As he recovered, Revlis's lips slid off of his length with a slovenly pop, and she sneered.
“Just in case,” she throatily whispered, “don't grab onto my horns. I'm trying to rein in your stallion, it would be a shame if he got scratched ...”
Rohaan choked, “It never occurred to me.”
“Mmm, good boy,” Revlis purred.
Once again, Revlis took Rohaan's cock into her mouth, and continued her slow, deep sucking. Up, down. Up, down. Rohaan could only marvel at how Revlis could so elegantly suck him off. The women in his hometown scarcely did such things, and the one time he had had a lover try she quickly got bored and gave up.
Here, Revlis continued to bob her head with her eyes closed, utterly at peace. Her soft lips tickled his veins, her skilled tongue left no inch unloved, and all the while she was never anything less than the image of immaculate skill. Her cheeks and mouth remained clean, in spite of her dedicated caresses. Even when she slid her face all the way to Rohaan's base, Revlis never gave more than a gentle grunt of effort.
Rohaan, for his part, was beside himself. His breathing was heavy, and he couldn't hide his moans at all. He could only lay on the ground and answer Revlis's caresses with his moans, wordlessly praising her skill. His low voice carried on the wind, and Revlis smiled as the sounds of her skill melded with the nightsongs of the creatures in the wood.
Finally, she released Rohaan's cock, and giggled throatily.
“You're friend is such a lovely stallion. I think it's time for that ride now...”
The cold air shocked Rohaan's thighs as Revlis's breasts lifted from them. Proudly, she raised herself upon her knees, and snickered at Rohaan. Waving her fingers at her neck, Revlis's clothing gently wafted off to her side. The full power of her beauty was on display. Her creamy skin, touched with magic swirls. Her full bosom, tipped with cherry-like nipples. Her smooth cleft, crowned by the tattoo. She slowly shifted her knees to Rohaan's hips, and positioned herself above him.
“I haven't been in the saddle in a while,” she smirked. “I hope your friend is patient with me, Rohaan.”
With a sigh, Revlis lowered herself. First, her lower lips kissed Rohaan's crown. He shuddered, and Revlis hummed encouragingly. Then, with a slow roll of her hips, her folds parted, and Rohaan's crown was allowed within. With a breathy grunt, Revlis accepted him, and she smiled at Rohaan's panting.
Slowly, torturously slowly, Revlis settled herself down. The spreading warmth enveloped Rohaan's length, and yet his body broke out into chills as more and more of him was embraced by Revlis. She stopped, after taking just barely half of him, and smiled.
Rohaan's chest shivered as Revlis traced her fingers around the lines of his muscles. “Such a nice young man from the desert,” she breathed. “You've ridden through dunes, you've forded rivers... now, you'll join me on a ride through my forest.”
Revlis's fingers curled tightly, and Rohaan grunted at her scratches. As he did, Revlis gave one final breathy sigh, and hilted herself. She shook gently, taking staggered breaths as her head lifted skyward with her eyes closed. A smile grew across her face as she felt around the tattoo above her navel.
“Such a... good boy...” she muttered. Her hands traced their way up her belly, her creamy breasts, her neck, and into her flaming hair. “Such a good stallion...”
Rohaan chuckled, leaning back up on his elbows. “You're better than the girls back home,” he smiled.
“Of course I am,” Revlis snickered. “This isn't my first rodeo. Now, lean back and let a girl have her fun.”
As if to prove her point, Revlis gave an almighty thrust with her hips, pushing Rohaan back onto the ground. Then, with another giggle, she began to gently rock against his hips. Rohaan's groans bubbled from his chest, answered by Revlis's quiet sighs. She bunched her hair in her hands as her hips undulated, smothering Rohaan's cock within her folds.
“Come on,” Rohaan panted. “Is this a ride or a slow-dance?”
“You're getting a little too bold, I think,” Revlis sneered. “I like it. Nice boys like you could learn to be a bit rougher. But just remember— I'm the power-top here!”
Suddenly, Revlis leaned forward, and pinned Rohaan's arms to the ground with her hands. With a devilish grin, she rubbed Rohaan's muscles with her thumbs, as if to dare them to push against her grip. “You look strong,” she said. “I hope you and your friend don't let me down.”
With another sigh, Revlis began to shake her hips, and the night echoed with the sounds of Rohaan and Revlis moaning, their hips clapping lustily in the cold air.
Revlis was experienced. Her hips rolled smoothly and confidently, angled just right for Rohaan's cock to slide against just the right spots. Her lower lips tightened and squeezed, effortlessly keeping Rohaan within their grip.
Rohaan was almost helpless to her motions, barely having enough purchase to answer her motions with thrusts of his own. But he was firm and resolute as Revlis rode him, answering her moans and doggedly withstanding her assault. As her voice rang out and the blossoms in her hair fluttered about, Rohaan felt a fire burn in his chest. It was elation unlike any other, a hunger for more of Revlis's body, of matching her pace and reaching greater heights. Struggling against her grip, Rohaan's hands raised up to grab at Revlis's bouncing breasts.
Revlis was too quick—she looped her hands around and pinned Rohaan's arms back to the ground. The softness of her gentle palms were betrayed by their iron grip as her fingers locked with Rohaan's.
Her hips never missing a beat, Revlis winked at her prey. “Don't ruin a good thing,” she purred. “Look with your eyes, not with your hands.”
As if to enforce this, she pushed her hips down. Her weight smothered Rohaan's crown, and his body shuddered in response to her heat. Revlis drank in his weakness, teasing Rohaan more and more with her undulating hips.
Suddenly, as if by accident, Revlis paused. Her body froze, and her voice caught in her throat. It was just for a moment—if Rohaan had blinked, he'd have missed it. But in that tiny moment, a tremor rumbled through Revlis's body, and her face melted from an expression of surprise, to smug satisfaction, to raw indulgence—and back to her leering smirk. But even through the glint of her fangs through her lips, Rohaan could tell.
“You just came a little bit, didn't you?” he asked.
“Aww, cute,” Revlis mockingly smiled. “The little farm boy thinks he has a way with women. If you think you can please me, then get up here and give me a real ride, boy .”
With a grunt, Rohaan sat up, and Revlis's legs welcomed him as they wrapped around his waist. Now he was face to face with those mocking blue eyes and those cherry-red lips. With a quiet moan, Revlis went back to her slow grinding. Her gaze leered at Rohaan expectantly as she snaked her arms around his shoulders. Her nails raked through Rohaan's hair, seemingly urging him.
“Should I have worn some spurs?” she teased. “What's it take to get this horse to gallop?”
Before Rohaan could answer, her nails scratched his scalp and pulled his head back, baring his throat. Revlis chuckled throatily as the points of her fangs dragged along his neck.
“Am I a bad hostess?” she sardonically whined. “Haven't I been hospitable to you? You were in poor company, so I visited you. You didn't have a blanket, so I warmed you up. Is this poor horse thirsty?”
Revlis smirked as Rohan felt her fingers dance around his base. They seemed to rub at where their bodies met. His head still tilted to the sky, Rohaan felt her cool knuckles sliding up his chest. With another of her mighty jolts from her hips, Rohaan hissed—and Revlis's fingers darted between his lips.
Rohaan gasped as he tasted the tart sweetness on Revlis's fingertips. Her fingers gently danced along his tongue and lips, filling him with her taste. “Is that better?” she cooed. “I'd hate to have overworked my poor stallion.”
The grip on Rohaan's scalp was released, and his face was pushed forward until his forehead touched Revlis's. Her breath was hot on his face, and a stray strand of her crimson hair tickled his nose. “Here,” she whispered. “Let me help you. Give me your hands.”
“More tricks?” Rohaan grunted.
“You know you love them!” Revlis smirked. “A big, strong stallion like you could throw delicate little me off anytime he wanted. I just want you to put that strength to work...”
Revlis's spare hand snaked its way to one of Rohaan's. Her fingers slid their way through his, ever silky and cool to the touch. With a chuckle, Revlis guided Rohaan's hand onto her thigh, and squeezed it in place.
“I can't ride alone,” she gasped. “Help a girl out?”
“I just might make you regret that,” Rohaan chuckled.
“I doubt it, but you're welcome to try!”
Slapping his other hand onto her painted thigh, Rohaan settled himself—and began to lift Revlis in time with her bounces. She fought to keep her face close to Rohaan's, even pressing her body closer to his. The warmth of her breasts encouraged him to press further. And so he did.
Rohaan's thrusts were blended with his throaty groans. He huffed like one of his workhorses on his ranch as he dug his way deeper and deeper into Revlis's inviting body. She responded with more singsong sighs and delicate moans, never ceasing to gaze deep into Rohaan's eyes. Her stare was hungry, coquettish, kind and cruel. It felt to Rohaan as though she was mocking him, daring him to devour her, to break loose upon her—even though he couldn't. Her thighs pinned him to the spot. Her hand on his head pressed his body to hers. There was no place for him to go but deeper within, sliding against her softness and heat and encouraging her devilish sighs.
Revlis welcomed him, tempting him deeper. Her voice echoed through his body. The caresses of her breasts welcomed the heat from his own body. Her thighs clutched at him hungrily, locked around his back. And her hands, gripping like iron yet soft as velvet, clutched him and guided him to her pleasures.
She moved her face in for what seemed to be a kiss; Rohaan answered, but jolted as he felt teeth instead of lips. Revlis giggled as she gently nibbled on Rohaan's lip, staring at him teasingly as she gingerly pulled away from him. With a flourish, she whipped her head back, letting Rohaan's lip free and tossing her hair wildly. Now leaning back, she smirked at him from behind the veil of her hair, and awaited his response.
“You minx,” Rohaan growled.
She responded with mock anger. “How dare you speak that way to such a pure-hearted maiden as myself! You beast! ”
Sighing tragically, Revlis leaned back upon one arm, linked to Rohaan only by her thighs and her hand gripping his. She renewed her rhythm through her hips, now letting her ripe breasts shake freely in her ecstacy. “You're so cruel ,” she teased. “You're going to—to break my heart! You're going to—make me cry ! I'm—I'm going to— cry !”
The night itself seemed to dim as Revlis' voice caught in her throat. Her eyebrows quirked with want as her mouth spoke wordlessly. Then, her hips seized as Revlis threw her head back and shrieked in pleasure. Her body convulsed as her face melted from strain to release and back to peaceful delight. Her cries echoed from the trees, and the night welcomed Revlis as her voice sang out.
Rohaan could scarcely notice.
All that mattered to him was Revlis's warmth. To urge more sounds from her. To feel more softness from her. To bring her steely gaze back upon his own face. Revlis's fingers were laced between his, and he tightened his own grip as he continued his relentless thrusts. He drank in Revlis's quivering form, her wild curls, her inviting breasts, her red lips.
As Revlis regained her composure, her soft moans continued anew. “You... animal ,” she teased. “Is this any way to treat a hostess?”
Licking her lips, Revlis sneered again at Rohaan. “ Because I'm fucking loving it ,” she whispered.
Rohaan felt the words deep within his navel. Before he could stop himself, he gripped at Revlis's bottom with his spare hand, and pressed her against his cock as tightly as he could. He dug deep into her navel, fighting for every inch he could earn. And then, huffing like one of his family's studs, he released his lust within Revlis.
Rohaan fought to maintain his footing. He felt himself melt into Revlis with every pulse of his body. More than accept him, she welcomed him, quietly gasping with each pulse. While neither spoke, their grasp upon each other's hand silently spoke enough for them. Rohaan's desperate clutching screamed his overwhelming hunger, while the smooth rubs from Revlis's thumbs welcomed it.
And through her haze, Revlis still eyed him with that predatory glare, until his pulsing ceased and no more of his lust could flow.
“You're still hard,” she breathed. “Most of the boys that come through these woods don't make it half as long, and your stallion is still good for another ride. Could it be I'm not playing hostess to a boy at all?”
As Rohaan's other hand gripped Revlis's rear seemingly for dear life, his mind struggled to break through the fog of the pleasure Revils shared with him, the lilting song of her teasing sighs, or the warmth of her body. And Revlis was ready for it. With a flick of her thighs, she was fully on her back, and Rohaan found himself looming over her smug expression. Her thighs renewed their grip around his waist, her hand led his closer to her flushed face, and her throaty giggle signaled his attention.
“I think you've earned a lucky chance,” Revlis purred. “Prove to me you're a real man and not just a boy. Don't disappoint me, now—this is a chance many die for,”
Revlis's words didn't reach Rohaan—only the sensation of her body laying beneath him, the vibration of her voice climbing his spine, and the silky grip of her fingers. Thoughtlessly he dove into her.
Instantly, Revlis sang out for him. Gone was the teasing, the sublety. As she fought to keep her eyes straight, her tiny yelps begged Rohaan to reveal more of his nature. She peppered small encouragements between her wordless cries, and welcomed the powerful thrusts that shook her ripe body.
“ M-more! ”
“ Just a little... deeper! ”
“ Higher—higher, dammit! Ah—right... there !”
Rohaan's hips crashed against Revlis's again and again. He could feel her heartbeat through the warmth of her folds. Slick and overflowing as she was with a mixture of their lusts, Revlis's body never once released him from her grip. Every thrust forward was a welcoming embrace. Every thrust out was a tearful farewell. He forgot the cold of the night. He was deaf to the whinnies of the horses, tied to trees opposite him. He could scarcely remember he was in the woods. Revlis was Rohaan's world. Her touch was his lifeblood. Her voice was his air. Her warmth was his sustenance.
With a groan Revlis threw a hand into Rohaan's shoulder and pulled him closer to her. She too delighted in the warmth of his skin, the sensation of his vital breath in his chest. She was not immune to his dedicated thrusts, her arms and legs occasionally twitching as he stroked her most precious spots.
“ Good boy... ” she breathed. “ Oh, what a good boy... such a good boy to have wandered into my forest... ”
Revlis threw her head back with a shriek as a pleasurable bolt thundered through her body. Her nails raked Rohaan's skin as they spidered out of control, her breath shuddering within her chest. She clung desperately to Rohaan's hand as she crested a wave.
Feeling Revlis's desperation, Rohaan's grunts crescendoed. The sharpness of her nails pushed him over the edge; looming over Revlis, he thrust home, and howled in release. Revlis yelped in response—but as Rohaan's warmth spread and filled her, she felt herself pulled back from her wave. Her body simultaneously melted around his while she gently urged him forward. And yet, as she gazed at Rohaan's exhausted expression, his hair clinging to his forehead with sweat, his sandalwood skin flushed with lust, she could only respond with a lusty chuckle of her own, and a gentle caress upon his cheeks. She welcomed and embraced his release, cooing in response to his staccato gasps. As his length weakened, Revlis's body shuddered, and she finally regained her words.
“You're... horrible ,” she gasped. “How could you be so cruel... as to cum before I did? And you were so nice ,” she teased.
Rohaan was at a loss for words. With a weak gasp, his softening pride slipped from Revlis's navel, and he fell onto his side. Revlis gasped as she was struck by the cold night air.
“Oh no, you don't,” she hissed. “You're not done yet. I could still go for a little canter ...”
Rohaan was helpless as Revlis snatched his spare hand and brought it to her face. She nuzzled and kissed his palm as her gaze pierced through Rohaan's. “Such strong hands,” she purred. “Such manly hands...”
Gently, Revlis led Rohaan's hand down her neck, tracing the lines of her pale throat. Below the ridge of her collar, Revlis pressed Rohaan's hand meaningfully against her breast, moaning as she gave him an encouraging squeeze against her soft curve. Her nipple dragged playfully against Rohaan's palm as she led him further along her belly, which still shook from Revlis's heartbeats. Biting her reddened lips, Revlis traced Rohaan's fingers along the seal above her navel, sighing as she dragged him further down to her lower lips.
“I want you to know,” she whispered, “you've proven to be a hard worker, but I hope you don't disappoint me now. You don't want to make me cry, do you?”
Revlis never waited for an answer; with a sigh, she gingerly rubbed Rohaan's fingers along her lips. The mixture of their lust coated them, and Revlis's heavy eyelids fluttered. Biting her lip, she slipped Rohaan's fingers into her warmth, and guided his hand.
“All good boys... should know how this works,” she panted. “Consider this... a... fa-ha-hav- ooooor !”
Her voice rang out and her body shuddered as Rohaan's fingers gently pressed against a delicate patch of her warmth. Instantly, her jaw quivered as she bit her lip, her breathing lost all rhythm, and her breasts jiggled as she squirmed in place. Her pleading glance to Rohaan encouraged more daring strokes from him, her face melting into delighted bliss.
More and more, Revlis spread her creamy thighs to invite Rohaan's fingers deeper. Their mixed lust spilled and gushed, soaking them both. As Rohaan's fingers made love to Revlis, she embraced and tightened against him, desperate to be filled and loved.
And even then, Revlis never let go of Rohaan's spare hand. She placed it near her face, where her warm breath caressed his skin. She released her hold of the hand stroking her lips and snaked it around his neck. With a whine, she pulled him in close to her convulsing body.
“ Good boy, ” she breathed. “ Good boy—good boy—good boy... ”
Her fingers tickled the nape of Rohaan's neck as she gazed deep into his eyes. Gone was the teasing, the predatory hunger. All that remained in Revlis's cold, blue eyes was need. She clung to him desperately, her eyebrows arched with want, as she breathlessly encouraged him.
“ Such a good boy... such a good boy... I'm almost there... please don't stop keep going please... ”
Once again, Revlis's body broke out into a wave of twitches and convulsions. Her fingers again spidered as they clutched and grabbed at Rohaan. Her eyelids fluttered and struggled to stay open as she uttered a wavy moan. Revlis's hips began to rub against Rohaan's hand, her delicate clit gently pressing against his palm all the while.
Revlis could no longer speak amidst her shudders. She could only moan in waves as she pressed against Rohaan's chest, the tremorss running through her body becoming greater. Her folds began to tighten more and more against Rohaan's fingers, in time with her staggered breathing. Her grip upon Rohaan's hand became frenzied.
Rohaan answered Revlis's whimpers with gentle shushing in her ears. In the tongue of the desert, he spoke of endless skies, of warm sands, and the priceless treasures of the desert. He spoke of silvery sand under the full moon, of icy nighttime breezes, and the raucous dances of the djinn.
And then, her entire body siezed.
Revlis pressed her face against Rohaan's shoulder and bit down as her legs snapped shut against his hand. Her back arched as she groaned with a long, unending note. Rohaan gasped as he felt her teeth upon his skin, and he could only press against her lovespot harder, sending a storm of ripples through her body.
As Revlis's moan tapered off, her jaws released Rohaan's shoulders. Eyes tightly shut, she struggled to draw in a whole breath as she shakily laid back on the ground. Tiny aftershocks of pleasure still set upon her body, and her hips delicately tried to shake Rohaan's hand away.
Getting the hint, Rohaan slipped out of Revlis. She whined gently as she felt herself empty again. Her body struggled against the unending wave of shivers as her hand clung to Rohaan's, seemingly to pull herself back.
And then, slowly, her breaths settled. Revlis's body calmed, and the shudders ceased. She gently moaned as the cool night breeze caressed her skin. And slowly, she opened her eyes, looked up at Rohaan, and smiled sweetly at him.
“ Hi ,” she squeaked.
“Hi,” Rohaan rumbled back.
Revlis giggled again, and coyly shifted her shoulder to her face. “You're awful , you know that?” she whispered. “You fuck me twice without a break, cum before I do, and when you do make me cum I almost black out. You're definitely not a good boy, and you definitely don't fuck like a man.”
The hand on Rohaan's neck pushed him closer to her face. Before Rohaan could react, Revlis snuck up next to his ear, and whispered,
“You fuck like a real beast. ”
With a giggle, Revlis kissed Rohaan on the cheek, and let him fall back onto his side. All the while, she looked at her hand—still laced within his. Smiling dreamily, she gently caressed his thumb with hers, humming tunelessly.
“So,” she breathed. “Have I proved my point?”
“What point was that?” Rohaan asked.
“That I'm not the Laughing Mad.”
“I feel like answering that is a trap,” Rohaan said.
“Oh?” Revlis smiled. “You don't think the Laughing Mad would be a more gracious host than me , do you?”
“Definitely not,” Rohaan said.
“ Good ,” Revlis purred.
With another giggle, Revlis let go of Rohaan's hand, and clutched him by his neck. She pulled him close again just as she flipped onto her side, until her back was nestled against his torso. She snaked her arms around Rohaan's until they were wrapped around her, his hands pressing against the bottom of her breasts.
“I'm exhausted after that ride, Rohaan,” she said. “Brush me and pamper me like one of your ponies.”
“You asked me for a ride!” Rohaan teased.
“And I'm rewarding you with the chance to touch me,” Revlis answered. “You were all about trying to grab at my knockers earlier, and now you don't want to? You'll break my heart!”
Giggling again, Revlis pressed Rohaan's hand against one of her breasts, and lifted it against her shoulder. Rohaan was quietly amazed her body was that voluptuous.
“Kiss it and make it better?” she whined.
And so he did. Rohaan leaned in, and gently smacked his lips against the top of Revlis's pale, soft breast. Her body gently shook as she felt his lips, and her legs kicked as she cackled. “Yep,” she said as Rohaan pulled away. “Definitely a beast. Look at how you're ruining my poor boobs!”
Indeed, Rohaan was gently massaging her chest. In spite of her words, Revlis offered no resistance, instead seeking out more contact from Rohaan's flesh as she squirmed against him. Rohaan could feel her muscles twitch as he pressed against her—it seemed her body was still very sensitive after having cum so hard.
“Don't go bruising me,” Revlis whined. “I work really hard to keep these babies looking so good.”
“You bit me,” Rohaan replied.
“That was just a... a pointy kiss!”
The two giggled and sighed together as the night surrounded them. Rohaan's large, warm hands caressed and loved Revlis's body, and Revlis's quiet breaths and giggles lulled Rohaan into a deep, restful sleep.
Rohaan was slow to notice the arrival of morning. He found himself naked, wrapped in one of Juul's less-smelly blankets. The campfire had burnt itself out. As he sat up, he noticed he was alone in the camp. The horses were still tied to their trees, but there was no sign of Juul or Daniel—or of Revlis. But there was evidence of her presence; as Rohaan sat up, a sharp twinge in his shoulder reminded him of where she had bitten him in a fit of orgasm the night prior.
As he studied his surroundings, Rohaan noticed something else: a familiar-looking basket sat at the end of his blanket. It was overflowing with peculiar flowers: black, with vivid yellow coloring within the petals...
“No,” Rohaan gasped. “ Eveningstars! ”
As he clutched the basket, Rohaan was struck by their scent. It was of gentle showers and fertile soil. Rohaan's mind drifted to the old woman that he had given the pin to. No—that wasn't any old woman, it was...
“Revlis,” Rohaan said. He stood up, still holding the basket. “Revlis! Revlis !” he called. There was no answer but a gentle whinny from one of the horses.
Rohaan's head dropped, and he sighed. Somehow, it was fitting that Revlis would simply vanish. And yet, it seemed like there was now a hole in his chest.
“...Thank you,” Rohaan sighed. His eyes misted over as he looked at the flowers overflowing from the basket. He had only needed one flower when he came to these woods.
“Blessed and exalted lord,” he whispered. “Thank you for your guidance. Laughing Mad... thank you for your hospitality and generosity. Revlis...”
He struggled to find the words as tears dropped from his eyes.
Eventually, Rohaan decided that standing naked in the woods holding a basket of flowers was no way to go about his day. So he fetched his clothes and tidied up camp as best he could, gently storing everything on the horses. Just as he was beginning to wonder how he would lead them all back to Dolten, he heard the sounds of more horses.
“ Ahooooy~! ”
Rohaan looked up to see a cart pulled by a single pony. One man sat at the front, while another sat in the bed of the cart.
“Juul?” Rohaan called. “Daniel?”
“Nope! Not us!” the other man called. “We're Al and Tom!”
“What are you doing in these woods?” his companion asked.
“My name is Rohaan,” he answered. “I'm from Majital. I came to these woods looking for Eveningstars.”
“Majital?” one of the riders said. The other whistled and arched his eyebrows. “Long way to come for some flowers. And you came here alone?”
“No, my frie—my companions Juul and Daniel were with me. They got scared off by...”
By Daiyo, Rohaan thought. He's a big, grey wolf that belongs to Revlis. Have you seen Revlis? She's a beautiful woman, she wears false wings and smiles like a devil, but she smells like the freshest cherry blossoms and her hair--
“Scared off, huh?” the man named Al said. “Some companions! Shysters in search of a quick buck, I tell ya.”
“Some folks think they're tough and camp out in these woods for a few coins, then run off the first time they hear an owl,” Tom said.
Rohaan shrugged. Owls sound like people, though, he thought. They can sound like the sweetest giggle from a woman ...
“Tell you what, Rohaan,” Al said. “You look like you need a ride out of here. Tom and I were headed for Dolten. You hitch up your horses, and we'll be back in town before sundown, just as the crow flies.”
Rohaan looked around the clearing that was his camp. Maybe he had hoped to catch a sight of that black-on-red hair. Maybe he had hoped there would be a pair of blue eyes staring back at him. But there was no such thing, and the thought of it made his shoulders drop—and he couldn't explain why.
“That,” Rohaan said, “is very hospitable of you. I thank you.”
Revlis was nowhere near Rohaan's camp. As Rohaan set off for Dolten with Al and Tom, Revlis was sauntering into a den in the side of a hill, deep within the woods of Dolten. It was once a wolf's den, but now was fashioned into a cozy hole for herself—and for the one remaining wolf that lived there, who was currently curled up against a pile of worn blankets.
And, for the moment, a single horned man who was stretched across a bundle of old furs.
“You're back,” the Laughing Mad smiled. “I was told you were out exploring last night with a man.”
“ Oooh , Master...” Revlis cooed. “You'll break my heart if you spread rumors like that. Don't you know I'm a pure and innocent maiden?”
The Laughing Mad's smile grew wider, and he stood from the furs as Revlis approached him. “Of course ,” he said.
She stretched her arms, still feeling gentle tingles across her skin from where the hands of another had been. “If there was a man, he should be long gone by now. These woods are very dangerous for mortal men. Did Daiyo mention if he got the Eveningstars?”
“He mentioned he was out all night getting them,” the Laughing Mad answered.
Revlis gently sighed as she ended her stretch. “Good boy,” she said. “I'm so lucky to have you both, Master.”
“I can think of worse ways of spending a night than picking flowers,” the Laughing Mad smirked. “So. About this man...”
Revlis opened her mouth to answer when she instinctively tightened her belly. She noticed a warmth within her that began to spread, teasing at her cleft beneath her skirt. For a moment, Revlis could feel the heat of Rohaan's body surrounding her as the pulses of his cock echoed through her womb. But as quickly as it came, it went, and all that was left was the teasing warmth of his cum slid downwards. As Revlis froze, the Laughing Mad studied her.
“I—I just said, there wasn't a man...” Revlis said. “But I... I did meet a vicious beast ...”
“A beast, you say?” the Laughing Mad asked. He raised an eyebrow at Revlis, silently urging her to continue. Revlis felt herself grow warmer under his gaze as she tried to subtly hold her legs together...
“Oh, yes,” Revlis said. “He was a...a mad horse,” she tried.
“Odd,” the Laughing Mad said. “You don't see many horses in these woods, other than the ones travelers bring.
“Well, that's why he was mad !” Revlis tried. She tried a smile as her legs tightened further against the cum that tickled at her lips. “He was lost and he was going to... to stomp all over the poor forest flowers!”
“And is that why you asked Daiyo to get the Eveningstars?” the Laughing Mad asked.
Revlis was about to answer when she gasped. She noticed she was clenching her belly along with her legs, and not-so-subtly crossed her arms before her womb tattoo like an embarrassed schoolgirl. “Y-yes!” she said. “I... I thought he would be nice and that he would like some flowers, but—but oh , he was so mean ! Why, he thought I was you , and he—he tried to grab my breasts without permission , ”
“This horse tried to grope you?”
Revlis tried to turn a gentle moan into an affirmative “Mm-hmm!”. The cum had now slid down to her inner thigh. It felt like an errant kiss determined to tease her. “He was unstoppable once he went into one of his stampedes,” Revlis purred. “But—but I made sure to come out on top!
“Did you fight him off?” the Laughing Mad asked.
Revlis sighed as the remaining heat between her legs turned her limbs to jelly. “Oooh, his big...tail was definitely between legs as he left...”
The Laughing Mad smiled, and stood from the furs. He headed back for the forest, teasingly tapping Revlis on the shoulder as he passed her. Ignoring her shaky breath, he said, “Well done, my child. Remember the way of the forest, Revlis.”
Exhausted, Revlis dropped herself onto the bundle of warm furs. As the cum slid down her thigh, she sighed again and shut her eyes. “How can I forget?” Revlis purred. She rested her head on her pile of furs as she palmed her cleavage. “ We are the power-tops.”
When she opened her eyes, the Laughing Mad was gone. Revlis slid her hand to her thighs and dabbed at the cum trailing down her leg. She moaned as she brought her fingers back to her lips to lick them clean, the taste reminding her of so many warm caresses and desperate kisses she had felt upon her body in the past. Reaching back into her breasts, Revlis pulled out a tiny pin. It was a horse, wrought in silver, with tiny sapphires for eyes. As she lay against her warm furs studying the shiny pin, Revlis smiled, and raucous laughter echoed in her ears. It howled and shouted their wordlessly, in a voice that was of both pain and pleasure. But amidst their din, there was another voice—one deeply familiar to Revlis. It was couched in memories of warm fireplaces and cozy blankets. It spoke stories of valiant battles against dragons, delving ancient tombs, and an unending desire for treasure. It was a voice with gentle hands and loving hugs that Revlis had not heard since before the Laughing Mad's jeers had taken her.
With laughter in her ears and on her lips, Revlis curled up and drifted to sleep.
With Al and Tom's help, Rohaan made it back to Majital safely and quickly. Indeed, the Eveningstars he had been given were more than enough to cure his mother. Their nectar was refined, and her vision was saved. Rohaan's village had now more than enough to cure the disease that struck his mother, for years to come. For his bravery, Rohaan was cheered as a hero, and his family's ranch was spoken of even more in tones of reverence.
Rohaan's mother lived to be a stunning 100 years old. Even when she officially passed the ranch onto Rohaan, she still tended to the horses. She greeted the new foals, and bade farewell to the aging nags during their last breaths. She and Rohaan were always seen riding into the dunes on the night of the full moon to marvel at the silver sands.
And yet, the sands were no longer precious to Rohaan.
The cheers of his people and the adulation of the local women fell upon deaf ears. More and more, Rohaan's village felt too small and cramped, too dry and dusty. He felt a hunger that, strangely, none of the women in town could satisfy. While his love became the secret of the women in town, leaving no woman unsatisfied beyond her wildest dreams, Rohaan still longed for the love he had been given that night in the forest; for teasing giggles in the night, hungry blue eyes, a devilish nibble upon his skin, and a desperate hand clinging to his. Eventually he married, and had a great family that was loved and cared-for. But he could still be seen staring out into the sands, as if hoping to see trees sprout from them. On the nights that the moon turned the sand to silver, his heart turned to stone as he hungered for the scent of fresh-cut flowers kissed by the rain.
The Appaloosa horse that Rohaan had rented was returned to its owner in Dolten while Rohaan traveled back to Majital. But Rohaan's family quickly sent for it, and paid its owner a handsome sum for it. The horse became Rohaan's personal favorite, and was named Riverstride in honor of its feats. He proved to be a fine sire to a family of steeds that were the envy of noblemen the world over. In spite of his malaise, Rohaan treasured the loyalty and friendship of Riverstride for the rest of his life.
Juul and Daniel were eventually seen a month later in Dolten. They were naked, covered in mud and sticks, deliriously ranting about having escaped from the Laughing Mad. They were met with jeers and taunts by the other villagers. They abandoned adventuring, and spent the rest of their lives fruitlessly fishing in the river in the village, too terrified at the mere thought of fishing in the forest's rivers.
And as for Revlis... there would come a time where she would venture out of the forest, bearing a seed gifted to her by her patrons. There would come a time where her heart would be crushed by the cruelties of the world of man, and where the flowers in her hair would be kissed not by rain but by hellfire. There would come a time when there was no longer laughter in her ears. There would come a time where she would be called upon to resolve a matter of death and debts. But until then, she remained the Forest Witch. Her laughter echoed through the night in the forests of Dolten, as the treasures of the world glittered in her eyes and the hearts of all that met her fell into ecstatic despair.
To say the least, nothing could have made her happier.