Willow stared in utter amazement at the sight before her. "Holy Goddess," she breathed. Lady Tara quirked her mouth up into a half smile that the red headed mage found as breathtaking as the Show Room itself.
"That's what we were going for... come Willow." Lady Tara said and entered the domed chamber.
The Mage was in awe as she looked around. The domed ceiling was painted with a mural that depicted Quinlan's accession to the heavens. The peak of the dome was a stained glass window that filtered the sunlight through, casting dancing colors on the already stunning artwork.
"What do you think?" Tara asked quietly pulling Willow out of her awe. Willow lowered her view from the ceiling to the room itself. She gasped.
In the middle of the room was a large silver fire bowl in which a good-sized fire was burning. All around the room she saw groups of two to four people engaging in activities she'd never even conceived of.
The group closest to them consisted of two men. They appeared to be the same age. One was completely naked and bent over a lavish purple bench. The other, dressed in only a studded leather girdle, was thrusting deeply into afore mentioned man as he whipped him with a riding crop.
"Beautiful isn't it?" Tara whispered into Willow's ear as the red head watched the two men climax together. Willow only opened and closed her mouth a few times. Tara's mouth hitched into a smile. "Not your thing? Hmm, let's see if we can find something that you like..."
With that Tara laced her arm with Willow's and guided her around the circular room. They stopped in front of three beautiful women - one of which was suspended in a leather harness like device that hung off of a beam that protruded from the wall. She was blind folded as one woman caressed her with a feather and the other with the tip of a knife.
The two women doing the caressing walked about the suspended one randomly choosing places to caress. Willow could see, clearly, that the bound woman was incredibly aroused.
"This more like it?" Tara asked gently. Willow's eyes were wide and she couldn't tear herself from the sight of the bound woman's glistening pussy.
Tara's eyes twinkled as she disengaged herself from Willow and approached the two women caressing the other. She spoke quietly for a moment to them. The two nodded. Tara then went and whispered something into the bound women's ear. She too nodded.
As the three women returned to their play, Tara walked around to the suspended woman's open legs. Reaching down with a long fingered hand, she gently ran the tips of her silver ringed fingers over the glistening folds, causing the woman to arch a bit.
Tara smirked and then pushed her fingers deeply into the woman. The Mage felt her own core contract at the sight. Lady Tara thrust into the woman for a moment before withdrawing and walking back to Willow.
"Is this what you want? Do you want a woman?" She raised her wet fingers and held them in front of Willow's face. The red head breathed deeply as she smelled the woman's arousal on Tara's fingers.
"Uh..." Willow tried to speak but her mouth was way to dry. Tara smiled mischievously.
"I guess not," Tara replied huskily, before slowly bringing her own fingers to her mouth and sucking them clean. Keeping her eyes locked onto Willow's. She pulled her fingers out of her mouth and flicked her tongue over her own lips. "Mmm, delicious."
Willow's knees suddenly felt very weak.
"Are you all right?" Tara asked reaching out and steadying the red head as the Mage swayed a bit.
"Uh-huh, just a little - uh, o-overloaded." Willow managed the best she could since all her blood had gone south.
Tara pulled Willow close so that her full breasts were brushing Willow's. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to throw so much at you. Here, let me show you the main altar that we use for large ceremonies."
The Mistress guided Willow past a few more groups - which the red head didn't notice since her mind was replaying the sight of Tara pushing into the harnessed woman. Willow shivered, for some reason she was jealous. She wanted to be that woman.
Tara led them around a purple silk screen that divided the Show Room in half.
"This is the main altar," Tara spoke pulling Willow's attention out of her own mind and to a raised stone dais that wasn't so much high as it was large. Rooted around the altar were four massive red stone pillars which atop sat smaller silver bowls in which fires burned, lighting the main stage area and casting the rest of the room into shadows.
In between the pillars were smooth wood posts that were a good three feet taller than the average man... At the top of the posts was a steel meat hook. Willow shivered; she could only guess what it was used for.
Atop the altar were two silver beams that crossed and connected diagonally, forming an X. At the top of each beam hung a length of chain that Willow saw could be adjusted and secured on the back side of the cross. Where the beams connected to the dark red stone of the altar floor were two smaller lengths of chain. Off to one side of the cross was a black chest that was inlaid with silver.
Looking up Willow saw that four pyramid shaped cages were suspended from the ceiling over the stage.
"Do you like what you see?" Lady Tara's voice purred into Willow's ear, causing shivers to run up the red head's spine.
Willow opened and closed her mouth a few times and then finally managed: "I don't... I don't know what everything is for?"
Lady Tara smiled mysteriously and reached out running her fingertips lightly down Willow's arm. The skin that she touched tingled deliciously. "I'll show you."
The Mistress sauntered over to one of the posts that surrounded the stage. "This, my dear Willow, is a whipping post. It's meant for punishment or... pleasure." She purred the last word and looked at the Mage with smoldering blue eyes. Willow gulped feeling like she was a bird that was being stared down by a cat.
"You see, what happens-" She cocked a finger towards Loki, who Willow had forgotten about, and motioned for the woman to come to her. Loki was beside Tara instantly her head bowed in a submissive position.
Lady Tara reached out and caressed the side of Loki's neck. She whispered something into Loki's ear. Loki nodded and moved away into the shadows, only to return a moment later with a pair of cuffs with a chain between them. Tara smiled seductively at Loki as she took the cuffs and attached them to Loki's wrists.
"The submissive is bound," She nodded to Loki, who gripped the chain between two hands and swung it up onto the hook so that her muscles were pulled nearly taunt and she was facing the post. "This way the most sensation is experienced by the submissive, and their body is the most prostrate for their Mistress."
The blonde sighed as she took in the form of her submissive. Willow had to agree. The way the post stretched out the Assassin's body caused the red head to wonder what it would feel like to be that open to someone. Especially, someone like Lady Tara...
Willow's mind flashed with visions of herself being naked. Her nipples rubbing up against the grain of the wood as her arms were stretched out above her. Without her consent, her breath hitched and Lady Tara looked knowingly at Willow before giving the red head another enigmatic smile.
"Come with me Willow."
The Mistress turned and advanced to the stage. Willow hesitated. Lady Tara turned back. "Yes, Willow?"
The red head turned and looked back at the Assassin that was still stretched prone against the wood. "Are you going to let her down?"
Lady Tara gave a half smile and shrugged. "Loki can take care of herself. See."
Willow looked back and in the few moments that it took for Willow and the Mistress' exchange, Loki had managed to unhook the shackles from the whipping post and then release herself from them. Willow's mouth dropped open.
"Impressed? That's not the only thing she's good at releasing..." Tara stated with enough double meaning to make the red head blush. Loki just gave a mischievous smile and wink at Willow.
The red head found it difficult to swallow as she followed the Mistress up to the cross on the stage.
"This," Lady Tara turned, a seductive glow to her face. "Is my favorite, mmm, implement. Do you mind?"
The Mage shook her head as Tara placed a hand on Willow's lower belly and gently began pushing her back towards the cross. Willow's body was humming with energy, originating from the place Tara was touching her.
"You see, the submissive is lead to the cross and then pushed up against it," Willow felt her body being firmly pushed up against the cool silver. She shivered, though she didn't know if it was from the coolness of the cross or from the strong sexual energy that was radiating off of the Mistress.
"Then the submissive is bound, feet and hands-" The blonde nudged Willow's thighs apart by gently nudging them with her own. Lady Tara then ran her hands up the length of Willow's arms all the while holding the red head's gaze.
Willow stared helplessly into the deep blue eyes. Her brain tried to work but her body was burning with arousal.
"This leaves the submissive open to anything the Mistress may whim. Or, anything the submissive may want..." Tara's eyes were hooded with apparent arousal as she held the red head's gaze. "Is there anything you want Willow?" She asked huskily her lips brushing against Willow's.
The Mage's mouth went dry. She licked her lips. She didn't know if it was to bring moisture back to her suddenly parched lips or if it was to try and catch a fleeting taste of Tara.
"Uh..." Was all that Willow could manage before they were interrupted.
"Lady Tara," A singsong voice spoke from behind them. Willow thought for a moment she saw Tara cringe but the movement was so quick she couldn't be sure. Tara held Willow's gaze for another moment and then let go of Willow, turning slowly to face the interloper.
Drusilla was the last person Tara had wanted to see.
"Yes, Drusilla?" Tara asked with all the enthusiasm as a child going to church. The lithe dark haired woman put on a face of mock hurt and pouted.
"Mistress isn't too happy to see me, is she?" She asked to a deathly thin looking sub to her left. The sub looked up; his expression glazed and shook his head.
"No, Mistress." His reply was as hollow as his cheeks.
"Tsk, tsk that makes me sad. Especially after all that I've done for her..." Drusilla replied audaciously.
Tara looked at Drusilla, her blue eyes cold. "You haven't done anything for me."
"Such anger..." the lithe woman shook, "And they call me the Mistress of Blood-"
"What do you want Drusilla?" Tara cut in.
"I have a patron coming in today. Since he's very important, I thought I would greet him personally." Drusilla looked about her. "But it seems that no one is here... except someone who is not suppose to be." A wicked grin crept onto the lithe woman's porcelain features. "Who are you hiding Tara?"
Lady Tara's nostrils flared at the Drusilla's impertinence in calling her by her name and not her title. "I'm not hiding anyone."
"But you are Mistress," Drusilla stepped around Tara and looked at Willow. "My my, a young powerful thing with fire in her hair and eyes..."
Drusilla walked to Willow and looked the red head up and down, sizing her up. "She's very strong. She's very young and... she's never been touched."
Tara's eyes shot to Willow's face in time to catch the shock and mortification that played over the red head's features.
She's a virgin! Oh Goddess... Arousal shot through the blonde followed closely by fear. Virginity was commodity, especially in the Night Clan. Tara realized that Willow was going to be sought after by every Mistress in the Clan. The red head would have to be on guard...
Drusilla turned back to Tara. "She's not wealthy enough to pay the tithe to lose her virginity here... why is she here?"
Though Lady Tara's face was composed, in side her emotions clashed. She couldn't tell Drusilla that Willow was caught trespassing because that would put the red head in danger worse than death, but she also couldn't lie and risk being found out - that would cost her her position and put both Willow and her self at risk. Come on Tara think...
"She paid the tithe." Loki spoke from behind Drusilla. Tara looked up quickly at her sub. Loki's gray eyes caught Tara's blue ones before she dropped them into a submissive gesture. In that moment, Tara caught her sub's silent apology.
"Really now Loki?" Drusilla turned and stalked up to Loki. "And if I were to ask you where the money went?"
A grin played upon the corner of Loki's mouth.
Loki don't say anything stupid... Tara held her breath. Even though Loki and Faith commanded respect for being the Lady Tara's sub they were still subject to respecting even the lowest Mistress's in the Clan. The blonde silently hoped that Loki wouldn't do or say anything that would command punishment.
"I'd tell you it's none of your business." Loki replied to Drusilla.
Tara groaned and cheered inwardly at the same time. In one minute, Loki had managed to save Tara's position as the Night Mistress as well as save and release Willow from her debt. But she had disrespected a Mistress, which meant Tara would have to release Loki to Drusilla for a time.
This thought made Tara sick. Drusilla was known for her cruelty to her subs. Granted her subs for some reason unknown to everyone else, seemed to enjoy it.
Lady Tara, though, did not relish the idea of Loki be subject to Drusilla for any amount of time. Drusilla had been trying to get a hold of Loki and Faith for sometime. Drusilla craved Loki for the woman's ability to take the most severe punishments and still walk away and function normally. On the other hand, Drusilla wanted Faith because the lithe woman lusted after the dark haired Assassin.
Tara saw the gleam in Drusilla's eye as the lithe woman turned and faced Tara. "Mistress, your sub has disrespected me. I demand retribution."
"And you shall have retribution, what do you wish?" Lady Tara replied formally even though she wanted to hit Drusilla as hard as she could.
"I wish to punish her." Drusilla stated, a hungry look in her eye.
Tara gritted her teeth. "You may punish her, under the condition that it is performed her in the Show Room for the public to see. And she is not permanently marred in any way."
Drusilla looked disappointed. "As you wish."
"The punishment shall commence at the mid day bell." The Night Mistress said in a tone that left no room for discussion.
"Fine." Drusilla threw back and turned on her heel leaving the altar. "Come slave - we must find my patron."
With that the Mistress of Blood was gone. Tara looked towards Loki who was still in a submissive stance.
"pet, go and ready breakfast for me as well as my new found guest."
"Yes, Mistress." Loki replied and left quickly. Tara watched Loki leave with a sick feeling in her stomach. She had deemed that Loki's punishment be in public but that didn't mean that Drusilla would hold back at all. She worried for her.
Turning back to Willow she managed a smile. "Willow. Do you care to join me for breakfast? Then we shall return to the Show Room and take in a few of the scenes, so you can see what we do here."
Willow nodded. "Yes, thank you Lady Tara."
Tara led them out of the Show Room and towards a large, ornate staircase. Willow sensed a change in Tara's mood as they ascended the stairs.
"Lady Tara, can I ask you a question?" Willow began.
"Of course, Willow. Besides, you don't have to ask to speak now. You are officially a guest now - thanks to Loki. What can I answer for you?" Tara replied solemnly.
"What just happened back there?" Willow asked chucking a thumb over her shoulder towards the direction of the Show Room.
Tara laughed tersely. "Politics."
"O-okay." Willow was confused. She looked over at the blonde.
Tara's brow was furrowed. "We'll discuss it when we reach my chambers, it's safer."
Willow nodded and walked the rest of the way to Lady Tara's chambers in silence, wondering what exactly she'd gotten herself into.
As Tara led Willow towards her chambers, thoughts ran ramped through her mind.
Part of her was completely intrigued by the beguiling red head that was walking beside her. In the twenty five summers that she had been alive, Lady Tara had never met anyone that had captivated not only her attraction but also her mind and soul as quickly as the Mage had.
Through all the patrons and Mistresses she had experienced, even with her own two devoted and loving subs whom she loved and adored, she'd never felt as strongly as she was feeling towards Willow.
It disturbed and yet fascinated her at the same time.
Tara came up to the two red oak doors of her chamber.
"Here we are," Tara announced as she reached the doors. Without a reply, Willow sprung into action and pulled open one of the doors. A small crooked smile crossed Tara's features. Interesting.
"Thank you, Willow." Tara whispered. As she stepped past the Mage, she ran her fingertips across Willow's jaw. The Mistress felt the red head shiver at the contact, which caused a mirror reaction in the blonde.
Tara stepped into her chambers and then stepped aside to allow Willow to see her board. Tara smirked inwardly as the red head gasped quietly.
"This is... amazing." Willow breathed.
"Isn't though?" Tara mused. She watched as Willow took in the surroundings. They were standing in a round foray that was divided by hanging wine colored cloths that effectively separated the foray from the Mistress' sleeping area.
The drapes were pulled aside to reveal the Mistress' large four-post bed. On either side of the bed was a large oval window that reached from the floor to the ceiling. Willow moved forward and peered around the drapes. Off to the left of the bed was another freestanding cross. To the right was a low table that was surrounded by cushions. On the table, Tara noted, Loki had obediently set breakfast.
Tara smiled as she saw her sub standing with her hands behind her lower back, gazing out the window behind the table.
"It looks wonderful Loki," Tara spoke rousing her sub from her thoughts. Loki turned and inclined her head slightly.
"Thank you, Mi'lady."
Tara's smile faded as she heard Loki's emotionless tone. The Mistress' turned to Willow.
"Willow, if you like, you may begin breakfasting with out me. I must speak with my pet." Tara spoke gently. Willow nodded her understanding. Tara looked at Loki, "pet. Come with me."
The Mistress moved off further to the right, towards a single archway that led into Faith and Loki's private quarters.
Tara stepped into their quarters and turned as Loki entered. She reached out and caressed Loki's cheek.
"What's wrong Loki?" The Mistress of the Night Clan asked. Loki's gray eyes were downcast and her jaw was flexing. Tara knew her sub well enough to know that she was wrestling her emotions.
"I'm sorry Mistress." Loki muttered despondently. Tara's chest tightened at her sub's tone.
"For what, pet?"
"For speaking out of line. For lying to Drusilla and thereby forcing you to give me up to her. For releasing Willow from her debt without your permission." Loki listed off the reasons quickly with shame in her voice.
Tara's face contorted into a sad smile even as her heart was about to burst with pride and love for her sub. She's not even worried for her herself. She's worried that she's displeased me. Goddess she's wonderful.
The Mistress wanted to pull her sub into a comforting embrace but she resisted. She really wanted to know the reason behind Loki's actions.
"Why did you do all those things pet?" Lady Tara asked in an even tone that betrayed nothing of her feelings.
"Because Mistress," Loki finally looked up and held Tara's eye. "I want to see you happy."
Lady Tara sighed. "Seeing you punished by Drusilla's hand does not make me happy."
The shorn woman looked up and caught Tara's eye. "Pardon my boldness, Mistress, but I'm not talking about momentary happiness."
The Mistress opened her mouth to reply only to see Loki's infinite knowledge of her Mistress. It seemed to Tara that sometimes her submissive knew more about her than Tara knew of herself.
Relenting, Tara reached out and pulled her sub into an embrace. Settling her face in the musky, soft skin of her sub's neck she inhaled deeply and then sighed: "I just wish you could have found another way that didn't land you in Drusilla's blood stained hands."
Loki shrugged, gently wrapping her arms around her Mistress' back. "Can you think of any other way?"
Tara pulled back and looked seriously at her sub. "Promise me that you'll use the safe word if it becomes too much."
"And disgrace you? Never, Mi'lady." Loki shook her head resolutely. "I will make you proud."
Tara used her lips and nipped at Loki's chin. "You make me proud anyway."
The sub's patented mischievous grin crossed her features. "Really? So, you'll show me tonight?"
Chuckling, Tara ran her hand over her pet's head. "Of course, pet. I show you nearly every night, don't I?"
Loki nodded. "But at least this time you'll have a reason."
Tara growled and pulled Loki into a fierce kiss before pulling away roughly and purring: "You better watch your tongue, or I'll find something for it to do."
"Promise?" Loki slipped in another cheeky remark.
"That's it," Lady Tara growled grabbing Loki by the back of the neck and pulling her head down so that the Mistress could whisper into her pet's ear. "You just earned me a tongue lashing."
"Oh, yes Mistress!"
Willow sat down and perused over the food that was laid out on the table. There were fruits, breads and exotic looking pastries. The Mage could tell that a good amount of work went into the preparation and she idly wondered if Loki had prepared the meal...
"You haven't touched the food." Tara's husky voice cut into Willow's thoughts. The red head looked up quickly.
"Oh, uh - I... I was waiting for you." Willow managed to get out. It never fails. I look at her and suddenly all my blood leaves my brain. Great, she's gonna think I'm some sort of unrefined scamp.
Lady Tara smiled coyly and dropped gracefully to the cushions opposite of Willow. "That's very considerate of you," she breathed.
Willow said nothing only nodded and watched as Tara picked up a bunch of grapes and delicately began to eat them. The Mage was fascinated. She'd never seen anything so erotic in her life.
Tara held Willow's gaze as she lifted the bunch just above her lips. Her tongue snaked out and curled around the bottom most fruit. With a gentle tug she pulled the luscious fruit from the stem and into her mouth. It was at that moment, that Lady Tara's eyes rolled shut and she chewed the fruit carefully.
"Mmm, delicious," she whispered. Opening her sapphire eyes she looked at Willow. "Would you like a taste?"
Willow nodded dumbly. Giggling, Tara gently plucked a grape and reached over running the fruit over the Mage's lips lightly. "Open up..." she purred.
The red head opened her mouth and accepted the offered fruit. She bit down and maybe it was her imagination or maybe it was the smoldering look Lady Tara was giving her - but Willow could have sworn it was the best tasting grape she'd ever eaten.
Come on Rosenberg! You need to get it together! Willow chastised herself. The red head cleared her throat.
"So, if you don't mind my asking, what happened back in the, uh, Show Room?" Willow asked suddenly taking great interest in the platter that held the pastries. She didn't know why, but for some reason Willow wanted to move into safer territory. Unsexy territory. Definitely need that before my brain explodes.
The Mage suddenly regretted asking as she noticed a shadow cross Lady Tara's face.
"Like I said, Willow, politics." Tara replied grabbing another piece of fruit and picking at it.
The Mage sat quietly waiting for the Mistress to continue. Tara looked up and arched an eyebrow.
"You're not going to let this go are you?" Tara asked. Willow shook her head. The Mistress shook her head. "You're stubborn. I like that."
Relaxing back onto her hip Lady Tara looked at Willow. "As you know, I am the Mistress of the Night Clan. That means that I represent the Night Clan in the Court of the Quinlan Alliance."
"You're a politician?" The red head blurted out.
Tara quirked an eyebrow. "Is that so hard to believe?"
"Yes... I mean... no. It's just with the- sexy and the sex. I didn't..." The Mage stumbled through trying to explain her surprise. Lady Tara laughed.
"Relax Willow. Being from Galen, I doubt you would believe it - but the Night Clan actually holds an immense political power in the Alliance. You see, as I said, the Night Clan is almost a spiritual icon. Since I'm the Mistress, I'm held to an honor code. I represent everything the Clan is about."
Tara grabbed a goblet and poured water from a pitcher into it. Taking a sip she sighed.
"It's a coveted position. The power. The respect. Some view the Mistress of the Night Clan as a rival to the position of Imperial Mistress."
"I obtained my position a few years back when the previous Mistress stepped down. Serving out her commitment to the Clan she decided that she wanted to become a Free agent and marry one of her submissives. So, the Clan was put in the position of having to make a choice between two lower Mistresses that qualified. Myself and Drusilla."
"Qualified? How? I mean, how is one considered qualified?" Willow interrupted.
"The night Clan is all about the exchange of power. A Mistress is only as good as her submissives. The more submissives a Mistress has the better a Mistress she is considered to be, since it's the submissives that choose their Mistress."
"Drusilla had many, many subs. I only had two, Loki and Faith."
"So, why didn't they choose Drusilla?" Willow asked. Tara smiled grimly.
"Because, Drusilla in infamous for hurting her subs beyond acceptable limits. Several of them have "disappeared". Some believe that she seduced weak-minded people who want nothing more than to be accepted, into becoming her submissive. Loki and Faith on the other hand are Assassins who have no allegiance by nature - but they came and willing submitted to me."
"When it came down to the Right of Ascension, the ritual in which the Clan watches displays of a Mistress' qualifications, Loki and Faith were extraordinary in their obedience to me. It was obvious they were devoted. Drusilla's subs on the other hand, one could tell they were just frightened."
"Since the day that I was chosen as the Night Mistress. Drusilla has been doing everything in her power to usurp my position."
Tara fell silent and sipped her water some more. Willow's brain was working trying to process the information.
"So," The Mage asked after a few moments. "What does that have to do with what happened downstairs?"
Tara traced the rim of her goblet.
"It's complicated. You see, I broke Clan rules by allowing you out of the dungeons. As I had said earlier, the ancient mandate is "submit or Die". I don't believe in it. I couldn't bring myself to take away your freedom."
Lady Tara looked meaningfully at Willow. The red head wondered what the Mistress was really saying.
"When I brought you out of the dungeons without your "choice" - I broke the mandate. Only Patrons that have paid the tithe can be in the House of the Night Clan. Drusilla, as obtuse in the ways of human nature as she can be, is incredibly perceptive. She can... sense things. Somehow she was able to sense that you were not a patron. I couldn't lie to her - she would know - she..."
Lady Tara trailed off with a frown.
"She... she what?" Willow pressed wanting to know why Lady Tara, who she'd only seen composed was now acting unnerved.
"She was my first Mistress," Tara whispered.
Willow looked at Tara in shock.
She couldn't fathom Tara ever having been at the will of Drusilla. Not that I really know her, but Tara just seems like such a gentle soul.
Outwardly, all Willow said was: "Oh."
Tara looked at Willow as though she wanted to say something more. She opened her mouth to speak but catching herself, she sighed.
"It's a long story, perhaps I'll tell it to you some other day. If you are here, that is."
"What do you mean, "If" I'm here? I thought... I mean..." Willow stammered.
The Mistress smiled patiently, reached over and laid her hand on Willow's. The soft tips of her fingers played over the back of Willow's wrist. "Just so we understand each other - you are free to leave at anytime, Willow."
The redheaded Mage nodded looking down at the food in front of her. Frowning at her plate, Willow wondered why she was suddenly so confused.
Since the moment she'd come over the wall, she'd wanted nothing more than to escape. She needed to get back to Galen. She'd come to Herisena on a mission to find out information.
Her mentor, Giles and a few other Free Mages had been hearing rumors that the Herisena Mage Guild was planning to bring both the Galen Mage Guild as well as the Free Mages under their charter, by any means necessary.
Giles had sent Willow to find out if this was true or not - because if it was it would mean a devastating three way Magicks war.
Willow had heard enough while spying on the Herisena Guild meeting to know that the rumors were accurate. She would have heard more if a civil guard hadn't spotted her and chased her.
Now, by sheer dumb luck she had her freedom back. She could leave and inform Giles of what she had uncovered, but the rub was this - Willow did not want to leave. Not yet.
It cost a small fortune to come into the Night Clan's walls and an even bigger fortune to be in Mistress Tara's presence as intimately as Willow was now. There would be no way Willow would ever be able to afford to come back if she left.
But she's worth every coin. Willow mused as she stole a glance at the Mistress.
"What is it Willow? What's troubling you?" Tara's voice interrupted the Mage's revelry.
"Uh... I, uh... was just thinking," she replied. She didn't know how, but Tara always stole Willow's ability to make proper sentences away.
"About?" Lady Tara prompted leaning forward, her blue eyes dancing.
"Um, someone mentioned something about a tithe and uh, it seems I fit into the category for that tithe and I was wondering what exactly you pay the tithe for if you happen to be someone like me who hasn't been with anyone. Not that I'm a loner - I just mean I've never been with someone in THAT way. Well, I kissed someone before but it never went any farther than that because, well, I really wasn't in the position to be kissing her. Well, I was. I mean, I, we, were standing up - but that's not the kind of position I meant and now that I said that I'm embarrassed because, hello, you're obviously the queen of positions and -"
Willow stopped when she felt the soft, moist pressure of Tara's lips on her own.
She didn't know at what point during her babble Lady Tara had crawled around the low table to her and subsequently began to kiss her. But what she did know was she was now lost in a haze of silky euphoria that was quickly becoming arousal.
The Mistress, at first, just held her lips against Willow's. The Mage moaned inwardly and slowly began to move her mouth against Tara's. Soon, the Mistress had sucked Willow's bottom lip between her own and was seductively running the tip of her tongue over Willow's lip and suckling gently.
Fire shot down Willow's spine and into her clit. Desperately, she reached up and cupped Tara's face, trying to pull the blonde in more.
Tara, for her part, pulled away and smiled knowingly.
"You're evil," Willow whimpered. The Mistress' smile became lopsided and cocky.
"Now, where were we... of course, you were asking about the virgin tithe?" Lady Tara pressed on with the conversation, even though she was fully away of what she had just done to Willow.
All Willow could do was nod.
"Well, Willow, the virgin tithe is for those who wish to give a great gift to the Goddess. To willingly give your virginity to a Mistress or Master of the Clan is a high honor to that said Mistress or Master. Mainly because a virgin does not know the ways of the flesh. For someone to freely submit and let their virginity be taken without the first idea of what is about to occur and to do so without being in "love" is a huge show of faith in the Goddess and her ways."
Tara looked into Willow's eyes. "Most who give the virgin tithe - stay in the Clan. Most of the time they become submissives of whatever Mistress or Master performed the right with them. It's any incredibly intense experience for both people involved."
The Mage found herself lost in Lady Tara's eyes. She knew that there was more meaning behind just the words the Mistress was speaking. The redhead searched those endless blues for the Lady's true meaning but she found that she couldn't focus when she looked into Tara's eyes.
Willow opened her mouth to ask what Tara meant but she never got the chance as the sound of a bell echoed through the chamber.
Lady Tara inhaled deeply as she broke eye contact and looked towards the ceiling.
"Mistress, it's the mid day bell." Loki spoke softly from behind Tara. Lady Tara closed her eyes and nodded.
"Thank you, Loki. Are you ready?" Willow noticed that the Mistress' voice had a slight tremble of emotion to it.
"Of course, Mistress." Loki replied as she took Tara's proffered hand and helped her Mistress up.
"Very well then... shall we go?" As she spoke she looked at Willow. The redhead stood up. "Come Willow, hopefully you will find something enlightening about this."
Willow stepped around the door. She had taken a few steps when she realized that Loki and Lady Tara weren't behind her. She turned and felt her heart tighten a little in sadness.
Behind her, Tara had pulled Loki's head down her arms were wrapped about the base of Loki's neck and the other was cradling the sub's head to her neck. Lady Tara was whispering gently into Loki's ear, her full lips moving over the flesh. She paused and then turned and pressed a kiss to Loki's temple.
The sub pulled back a little and Tara pressed another tender kiss to her sub's lips before releasing the woman and walking towards Willow.
Willow looked down quickly hoping that she hadn't intruded on the moment between the Mistress and the sub. It had been so tender and so loving; Willow began to wonder if maybe her long held views on the whole Domination/submission interaction weren't completely off base.
The three women walked in silence back to the show room. Loki stepped around Tara and Willow and knocked once on the door. The heavy doors, now being attended to by servants, swung open.
Tara heard Willow gasp again at the sight of the Show Room. In the hour or so that they had been breakfasting the Show Room had transformed.
All of the tapestries had been pulled back allowing everyone in the chamber to see the main altar.
Tara noted that many of the Night Clan's inhabitants as well as their patrons had begun to fill up the three tiers of seats that ran along the wall that the Cross faced. Others had assembled around the altar itself.
A few of the Mistress' were having their slaves pleasure them as they waited. There were soft moans and the occasional sound of flesh striking flesh.
The room quieted down though as Tara entered and strolled purposefully yet gracefully towards the altar.
Tara noticed as she walked around the altar there was a young Mistress whose sub was still licking feverishly at her pussy. She arched an eyebrow as she neared the Mistress. Through her lustful haze, the Mistress noticed Tara looking questioningly at her. Quickly, the Mistress put her foot on her sub's shoulder and pushed the young man away.
Tara paused for a moment in front of the young woman who looked down in shame. Satisfied by the act of apology, Tara continued towards the front of the altar.
For the first time, she saw that Drusilla had brought her own personal whipping post. Tara flinched inwardly as she remembered the post.
The dark wood was covered in embedded nails. Thus, as the sub or slave was whipped and their body naturally jerked forward, their flesh was pierced by the metal. The nails led to a sub or slave reflexively thrusting back towards the blows to save themselves from the dual pain of being stabbed. With the tensing of their body, the blows hurt worse in themselves. Either way, the pain of the punishment was worse than a normal whipping.
Tara's mind and heart raced with concern for her sub. She well knew that Loki was renowned for her ability to take the most severe of punishments - but Tara and any of the other people she had allowed to punish Loki had never inflicted the amount of pain Drusilla could inflict with the use of her post.
The memory of her one time upon the post passed through Tara's mind. She shuddered. Drusilla only used the Post when a sub or slave had severely angered her. Tara had only angered Drusilla once and she never did again.
Lady Tara looked around in the dancing lights of the torches and realized that she was probably the only one in the room other than Drusilla's own subs who had experienced the Post. The rest of the audience had no idea what was about to take place.
The Mistress was snapped back to reality as Drusilla approached her.
"There you are Mistress." She said the last word with seething hatred. "Is your deliciously naughty sub ready?"
Tara forced herself to keep her cool and hid her fear and rage towards the smaller Mistress. "Yes, she's ready. You may have her for the period of half an hour."
Drusilla smiled evilly and Tara could have sworn she saw demented pleasure pass through her eyes.
"Remember Drusilla, she can not be marred beyond healing. You may not harm her beyond reason. You must obey the safe word and I reserve the right to call off the punishment if I feel it's getting out of hand." Tara laid down the rules.
"Of course, Mistress, but you well know you will lose respect if you do." Drusilla sneered.
"I know," Tara turned to Loki and spoke, her voice emotionless. "pet. For the next half an hour you shall obey Mistress Drusilla."
"Yes, Lady Tara." Loki bowed her head. The Mistress of the Night Clan looked pointedly at Drusilla giving her an unspoken warning. Drusilla just smirked.
"Will the Guardian of the Show Room please bring me shackles," she announced loudly. A look of disbelief and anger flashed across Tara's eyes.
Faith came forward from the shadows. Rage had settled into her body and on her face. Tara could sense that her other sub's emotions were out of control. She knew that the only reason why Faith wasn't attacking Drusilla was for Tara's position and for Loki's safety.
Faith walked to one of the chests and pulled out a pair of shackles and stalked towards Drusilla and Loki.
"Would you be so kind as to remove her shirt and place the shackles on my slave," Drusilla spat the last word at Faith. "And lead her to the whipping post."
The dark woman's jaw flexed. She fixed Drusilla with a look that would have killed her if it was a weapon. She turned her gaze to Loki. It instantly changed and softened.
Tara choked back a sob as she saw the look pass between her two subs. It was tearing Faith apart to have to be the one to strip, shackle and restrain Loki. Faith placed the shackles on her shoulders as she stepped towards Loki. Her hands ran down the Loki's sides gently, sliding her fingers under the hem of Loki's shirt she gently pulled the fabric upwards. Her hands lightly caressing the soft flesh of Loki's stomach and ribs.
Tara forced her face to remain impassive as watched Faith's attempt to comfort her partner even in the face of painful experience.
True to form, though, Faith and Loki went through the ritual with precision making Tara's heart once again soar in pride for them.
Faith returned and stood by Tara. The Mistress glanced at Loki and for a moment appreciated the shaved headed woman's beauty. Her lean strong muscles, her full but not large breasts. The way she held herself with pride even though she was half naked in front of people she didn't know.
Tara turned and looked at Faith.
"pet. Come and sit with me." Tara ordered but her eyes held a desperate need to have Faith beside her.
Faith nodded and with one last look at Drusilla followed her Mistress back to her usual seat on the first tier in the center. Tara sat down gracefully, Willow on her right and Faith on the floor by her feet.
Drusilla waited until they were settled before snapping her fingers. A thin woman hurried to her with her head down holding a long, vicious looking bull whip in her hands.
Tara felt Faith tense and placed a hand on her shoulder. Partially out of comfort to her sub and partially out of comfort for herself.
Drusilla took the whip and walked towards Loki.
"You can only count and thank me for your lashes. Any other noise will result in a stricter punishment. If you forget to count - well, let's just say that it would be better if you didn't forget." Drusilla purred as she walked around the whipping post.
She gently caressed the skin of Loki's back before laughing tersely and walking back a few paces. She locked gazes with Tara before spinning quickly and raining down the first screaming blow onto Loki's back. The strike split the flesh open and Loki instantly pulled closer to the pole piercing herself.
"One. Thank you, Mistress." Loki called out loudly her voice already edged in pain. Drusilla laughed again and landed the second strike.
Tara flinched as she saw it land. She reached out and grabbed Willow's hand before she even realized what she was doing.
"Two. Thank you Mistress."
Drusilla landed eight more blows, one right after the other, barely giving Loki time to "Thank" her properly.
"Ten... Thank you, Mistress." The sub bit out, her voice cracking. Her back was crossed with bleeding wounds and her front had punctures from where she had involuntarily jerked against the whipping post.
The dark haired Mistress dropped her arm and hummed a little to herself. She flicked her wrist slightly, causing the tip of the bull whip to twitch like a cat's tail. Slowly, she moved towards Loki.
Willow felt Lady Tara's hand, and subsequently her body, tense. The red headed Mage tried to soothe the blonde by releasing some of her energy to calm Tara.
The Mistress of the Night Clan turned briefly towards Willow: It's all right Willow. I'm fine.
The Mage's mouth fell open. Wha - how?!
Not now Willow. Lady Tara returned, keeping her eyes fixed intently on Loki and Drusilla. Stunned, by the mental exchange, Willow looked back towards the scene.
Drusilla was circling the whipping post, tsking.
"So, you really are a strong little assassin. Most have cried out or passed out by no. No fun. But you... you haven't." She purred. "Now I wonder if it's because you're one of the chosen few that find unbelievable pleasure in the throes of agony or if it's because you're Mistress taught you well."
The dark haired Mistress stopped and ran a manicured nail up the length of one of the wounds, causing more blood to bubble up from the wound.
Willow could see Loki shaking from the new pain and realized that it was by sheer will the sub was remaining conscious.
"Well, which is it? Are you blessed? Or did your Mistress teach you well?" Drusilla asked.
"Mistress Tara," Loki managed, "taught me well."
Drusilla laughed tersely. "Is she really worth all this? Is she worth the pain that you surely must be feeling?"
"She's worth all of this and more," Loki spit out.
Untold rage crossed Drusilla's face. "I don't think you're telling the truth."
Drusilla stepped back and sent the whip flying again.
"Eleven." Loki remembered to count. "Thank you, Mistress."
The smaller Mistress walked back up to the whipping post. "Do you want to know what I think? I think that you are one of the select few that are blessed by the Goddess. One of the few subs that find their pleasure in pain, I don't think it has anything to do with your Mistress." Drusilla regarded Loki's form for a minute, running her tongue over her teeth. "Let's take a peek, shall we?"
With that Drusilla stepped off to Loki's side, so that she was facing Tara directly, and roughly shoved her hand down the submissive's pants.
Willow saw Faith tense and ready as though to strike, but Lady Tara kept her hand firmly on Faith's shoulder.
"Drusilla!" Tara spoke, her voice commanding attention.
The smaller Mistress looked at the blonde, a defiant smirk still on her face.
"Lady Tara, are you invoking the safe word? Because it would be a shame that poor Loki here went through so much for your honor only to have you disgrace yourself."
The red head studied Tara's profile. Her face was impassive but Willow could feel the anger rolling of the blonde.
"I am not invoking the safe word. You chose punishment for Loki - not pleasure. You have violated your spoken intentions. For that reason, by the laws of the Clan, you have revoked half of your time with the submissive. You have five minutes left. Now, remove your hand or I will have you up on that post." Tara finished evenly.
Drusilla cast a death look towards Tara and pulled her hand from Loki's pants.
"My apologizies Mistress Tara," Drusilla seethed and then flashed a brilliantly sadistic smile and turned towards Loki. "Fear not pet - there is plenty of fun to be had in five minutes."
The Mistress snapped her fingers and two thin slaves scurried onto the altar. One held what appeared to be a black leather hood. Quickly, they removed the shackles from the hook they were suspended on. One steadied the sub gently while the other pulled the hood on.
The hood had no eye holes, just a circular opening where Loki's mouth was. Across the opening were thin metal bars. Willow didn't know if it was for intimidation or protection.
With the hood in place, the slaves gently (Willow noted) turned Loki around so that her back was to the whipping post. They lifted Loki's arms and refastened the shackles to the post.
Willow, absorbed in the change of position didn't notice Drusilla procure another whip. This one, the red head recognized, was a cat o' nine tails but instead of leather strips - the flogging tendrils were made of fine chain.
The Mage cringed. She could only imagine what kind of pain the whip would produce, especially with the sub's already punctured front.
For a moment, Willow wondered why they had put the hood over Loki's head but the first wild blow answered that question.
There was no control with the whip. The strike sang and left a splayed pattern of rising welts across Loki's chest and stomach.
"Remember, slave, you may cry out at anytime." Drusilla taunted the bound woman before bringing down another blow.
The five minutes passed slowly for Tara. She watched in helpless torment as Loki was punished by Drusilla's hand.
No. Not helpless. But Loki had asked her not to use the safe word no matter what, that if need be Loki would invoke it. But Tara wondered if Loki was even conscious anymore.
Tara had given up watching Loki. She knew that she couldn't stand the sight of her sub's body being punished, no not punished, tortured. She instead turned her attention to Drusilla.
The smaller Mistress was panting and moaning slightly with every lash she fell on Loki. Lady Tara knew from experience that Drusilla was becoming highly aroused from beating. Had Loki been Drusilla's slave, Drusilla would have long ago released her and made Loki pleasure her.
The Mistress of the Night Clan also knew that if Loki were to scream, the sound would send Drusilla over the edge. Sick, twisted wench. But Tara also knew Loki would never give Drusilla that pleasure.
In all the situations in which Tara had given her sub over temporarily to someone else - Loki had never made a noise without first Tara's permission.
Tara smiled inwardly. She knew that Loki and Faith reserved all their passion and unabashed pleasure for her and her alone.
And for each other, of course Mistress Tara thought as she looked down at Faith sitting beside her feet. She gently reached out and caressed Faith's dark tresses. The dark haired assassin almost imperceptibly tilted her head towards Tara's hand. Seeking, though she'd never admit, comfort there.
"Don't worry, pet, it's done," She whispered to Faith before standing.
"Time's up!" Tara ordered. Instantly, Show Room attendants hurried onto the stage. Faith scrambled up and looked at Tara. Tara nodded once and Faith bolted towards the altar and was beside Loki in seconds.
"Come Willow," Tara commanded softly.
The Mistress approached Drusilla. "Did you enjoy yourself?"
The shorter Mistress turned. She was panting and a flush had crept up her usually porcelain pallor. Hatred danced in her eyes for Tara, but she said nothing. Tara looked at her knowingly and then turned towards where Faith was helping Loki out of the hood.
She wanted to rush over there and make sure that Loki was okay but she knew that she was being watched by other members and patrons of the Night Clan. Therefore, it was her sacred duty to appear detached and unconcerned.
Faith had managed to get the hood off by the time Tara reached her pet's sides.
Loki was standing with the help of Faith. From a quick assessment, Tara could tell that Loki was dazed and in her own world. The world in which she was purely detached from her physical body and was wholly in submission to Tara.
"Loki, pet, can you hear me?" Tara asked softly.
"Yes, Mistress." Loki replied in an odd tone. Tara's stomach clenched.
"You did so well my pet. I am so proud of you." Lady Tara continued her voice steady and soft. Tara knew that only she could bring Loki out of her world.
Tears of pain and relief came to Loki's grey eyes as her sub's mind came out of it's recesses. "Thank you, Mistress."
The blonde resisted the urge to gather Loki into her arms and comfort her. Later, I'll repay her later. Instead she turned to Faith. "pet, be so kind as to take her to your room and summon the healers."
Faith started to help Loki towards the doors, when she stopped. "Mistress, remember that Mistress Elizabeth is coming for your company today."
Tara nodded. "I remember Faith. Go, take care of Loki."
Faith flashed a rare smile and helped her partner towards the doors. Tara watched them go and then turned to Willow.
The red head herself looked dazed.
"That was unbelievable. She... I mean... she took that punishment and still managed to walk out of here. How? That's... wow. How did she do that?" Willow wondered aloud.
"It's a gift." Tara replied as she herself started towards the door.
"What do you mean a gift?" Willow inquired, following.
"Hmm, you see - Loki and Faith are truly devoted to me. That's their gift. We've developed a deep bond of trust and respect. At times like this they focus solely on that bond and slip into complete submission to me." Lady Tara explained as they left the Show Room and headed towards her chambers.
"But, how? You weren't the one punishing Loki - Drusilla was." Willow's face was scrunched up in confusion.
Tara resisted the urge to laugh at the adorableness of it.
"True. But I told Loki that I was giving her to Drusilla for the time. Hence, it was my "wish" that Loki be punished. Even though, truly, it was not my wish for her to experience that. But for Loki, it was my command therefore she was able to go into that place of submission." Tara glanced sideways at Willow and saw confusion. She stopped and gently grabbed Willow's hand.
Gazing into emerald eyes she said: "You don't understand now - but perhaps someday you will."
Tara reached up and traced her thumb along Willow's jaw before leaning in and placing a chaste kiss upon the Mage's lips.
"Now, I must go and get ready for a patron. You may come if you like and perhaps if it's all right by her - you may watch a true "ritual" to the Goddess." Tara spoke lightly.
Willow gulped. "You mean... watch?"
Tara gave a half smile. "If it's all right by you and Mistress Elizabeth..."
"Mistress Elizabeth?" The Mage squeaked. Lady Tara nodded amusement on her face at the panic threatening to over take Willow.
"Like in Mistress Elizabeth - her Imperial Mistress?" Willow asked again. Again, Tara nodded.
"You mean - Buffy?"
A full blown smile spread across Tara's face. "You know her?"
The red head's eyes widened as she nodded before they rolled back into her head and she hit the floor.