Return to Hellebore Chapter Twenty-Two


Author: Chris Cook
Rating: NC-17
Copyright: Based on characters from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon and his talented minionators, and Diablo II by Blizzard Entertainment. All original material is copyright 2003 Chris Cook.

It was with considerable reluctance that Tara finally finished getting dressed, and turned to see Willow fixing her belt in place, and giving her a long-suffering expression. She ventured a sympathetic smile, and got in return a sneaky grin that showed Willow was far from being as perturbed as she was pretending.

"You're sure you don't want to lunch here?" Willow tried again, reaching out to run a finger along Tara's neck, ending up stroking her cheek. "We've got plenty of food... fresh fruit juice... and you'll love desert," she added, licking her lips.

"I told you, sweetie," Tara said reasonably, indulging Willow's playful sulk, "Tryptin said we should meet him once the caravan stopped. And we've stopped, so no matter how," she paused and caught Willow's finger between her lips, sucking for a moment before letting go, "...appetising that sounds, we really should go."

"Hrmph," Willow vocalised her adorably indignant frown, while Tara gave her finger one last kiss and moved to rear of the wagon to get out. "He's lucky he's so nice, otherwise he'd have a very disgruntled sorceress on his hands."

"Come on," Tara said, offering Willow her hand as she let herself down to the ground. Willow graciously let herself be helped down, not protesting that Tara held her quite a bit more firmly than was strictly necessary for the tiny drop from the tailboard.

"By the way," Tara murmured, leading the way up the column to Tryptin's wagon, "do you think I might be able to sample that desert you mentioned anyway?"

"Well, it could be arranged," Willow admitted with a smile, "if you're good. Luckily for you, the desert really, really wants to be sampled..."

"I'll be better than good," Tara promised with a knowing smile.

"I don't doubt it," Willow whispered, before raising her voice to greet Tryptin, who was waiting outside his wagon with four other men, two of them already seated on wooden stools around a plain camp table.

"Miss Willow, good day. Tara," he said, nodding to both of them. They quickly greeted the others: Shan the caravan captain, Jasken the gemstone dealer, the Kingsport lieutenant commanding the guards, who introduced himself as Kert, and the leader of the Duncraig ambassadors who Tara had met when he and his people arrives at the Baron's castle, a middle-aged, portly man with bristling white whiskers, called Gerrid. As they shook hands Melcan hurried around, bringing enough stools for everyone to sit, and fetching bread from the supply wagon.

"I'm sorry to interrupt everyone's day," Shan said once they were all seated, and Gerrid has wasted no time attacking his bread roll, "but the next stage of our journey will not be as easy as we had hoped, and it seems prudent that we all be aware of what lies ahead. And, as we're in this together, we should all have our say."

"Quite right," Gerrid observed, holding up a napkin to keep from spraying crumbs over his tunic. Shan smiled blandly at him, then nodded to Kert.

"Sirs, ladies," he began, "we're four days from the next settlement that's anything to speak of, Torrestad. We knew there would be a possibility of some bandits operating along the road, and we're prepared for that - frankly, it's been twenty years or more since a caravan this size had to worry about attack from brigands. Nevertheless I spent some time last night sounding out the travellers staying at the inn, as well as the locals, and some of what I learned was disturbing. You'd have noticed the locals weren't keen on spending the night outside the town walls - well, there's been stories going around of livestock being killed or stolen, and even some reports of people going missing, solitary travellers and the like. There's some unpleasant rumours going around. I can't say how reliable these rumours are, but I judge that some solid men were believing them, so there may be something to them."

"What do the rumours say?" Jasken asked sharply.

"They say Carvers are about," Kert said grimly. "I met no-one who'd seen one, but that was the general consensus, and if you ask me it may not be just tall tales. There used to be some big groups living along the northern borders, back in my father's day - there were expeditions to wipe them out, but it's not unlikely some survived, and have been breeding."

Tara noticed Willow nodding grimly, and ventured a question in the lull that followed Kert's report: "Um, wh-what are Carvers?"

"They're demons," Willow said flatly, "small creatures, no real magical power, but they came from demon blood."

"You've encountered them, miss?" Kert asked.

"No," Willow explained, "but my order has detailed accounts of all the breeds of demons that survived the end of the Sin War. I've studied them."

"Well miss, you probably know more than me," Kert conceded, "all I know is the stories my father told." He looked at her expectantly, and she blinked, suddenly finding herself the centre of attention. Tara gave her a little smile as she glanced her way, and she relaxed somewhat, leaning forward as she spoke.

"They're a hybrid," she explained, "demons that were brought here during the Sin War by the Prime Evils, and bred with living creatures. They still look like the demons they came from, but they can breed, age and die, just like natural animals. The Prime Evils started creating hybrids when the old Horadrim mages perfected their banishing spells - a hybrid demon is born of this world, and can't be banished any more than a person could be. Luckily they're not as powerful as real demons, but they're still a real danger, especially in large numbers. Carvers aren't the strongest or smartest of the hybrids that survived the end of the war, but they've got a strong urge to group together, and they can breed fast. A lot of them were killed during the Reckoning, but not all. They were still having trouble wiping out the last bands of them in Entsteig when I was there."

"What can my men expect, I we encounter them?" Kert asked.

"Oh. Um, they're about four feet tall at most, strong for their size, but a trailed soldier won't be overpowered by one of them. But they attack in groups usually, one of them on its own would never attack unless it was sure its victim was defenceless. They mostly come out at night. They use weapons, but not very well. Some of the very old ones can do simple cantrips, very rudimentary fire magic. Oh, and there's some evidence to suggest that they can animate their dead for a short period, I'm not sure how."

"They look demonic?" Shan asked.

"Very," Willow said, "their skin varies, red and brown usually, but some of the cave-dwellers paint themselves blue or black. They've got horns, claws, prominent fangs... you can't miss them," she added with a wry grin.

"Then we'll have no trouble spotting them if they're about," Kert said. "How smart are they?"

"They're vicious," Willow said, "cunning, in a rudimentary way, but not very bright... they know enough to band together to attack people, but not much more than that. They tend to attack anything that they think is vulnerable, and run at the first sign of real trouble."

"That tallies with what I've heard," Kert commented. "From the sound of things in Sorenstad there's not enough of these creatures to pose a serious threat, but it's possible they may be damn fool enough to attack anyway. If that happens, we can't afford to be careless. Alright, I need to know now who among you can fight, if need be."

"I-I've never handled a sword in my life," Jasken said, looking pale.

"My men are trained to defend themselves," Tryptin said, "but they're not soldiers."

"I am," Tara said before anyone else could speak. "I can fight. I-if we have to."

"And me," Willow added. "Not hand to hand, of course, but I can cast strong cold magic."

"My ambassadors are not untrained," Gerrid offered, "but we're not exactly suited to battle, if you take my meaning."

"Very well," Kert said. "I've got three squads of guards, so I don't expect any of you or your people will have to fight, but it's best to know, just in case. Sir," he said, turning to Shan, "in light of the lady's advice, I recommend we scout for defensible locations every night, and if that means we have to stop while it's still light, better that than be out in the open while it's dark."

"Sound advice," Shan said, "so be it. We won't halt for lunch beyond today, either. I'll make sure we set a pace the horses can keep up, and we'll be ready to move fast if need be. You'll handle the disposition of your guards?"

"Yes sir," Kert said, "we'll divide into three watches, and the night watch will be at full strength. During the day I'll have riders ahead and on our flanks, scouting out to several miles. With luck, if there's any trouble we'll see it before it sees us. I'll ask all of you not to ride out from the caravan without seeing me first. Under the circumstances, sightseeing is a luxury we may have to forego. Miss," he added, to Willow, "I'd like a word with you, if you please." After a few pleasantries the meeting ended, and Willow and Tara both went to stand with Kert while the others dispersed back to their wagons.

"This business of the creatures using magic, miss," he said to Willow, "what can they do, exactly? What kind of threat are they?"

"Well, this is second-hand," Willow cautioned, "but the library my order keeps is among the best. The most common reports have the very old ones casting fire missiles, like weak versions of the spells a fire sorceress would use - you know, fireballs? Um, I suppose they're about the same threat as an archer, more or less. It's unlikely they'd get through solid leather armour, but the burns could be bad, and if they hit the face..." she shrugged and frowned. "The ones who can cast will probably carry banners or totems of some kind, and they'll probably have some kind of decoration, like warpaint, or symbols on necklaces, that sort of thing. They shouldn't be more difficult to kill than the younger ones, maybe a bit weaker even. We're taught, if we encounter them, to target any of them that stand out, to stop them casting, and to help scatter the others."

"I'll let my men know," Kert said, "if we run into any of these spell-casters, we'll be ready for that. I've got some crossbowmen who won't miss their shots. What about animating their dead?"

"Oh, that's not really confirmed," Willow said, "there's records of people seeing Carvers die, and then come back to life, and they say the spell-casters have some ability to bring them back to life. It's possible, they're not entirely natural creatures after all, so maybe it's not difficult for the old ones to use a sort of primitive necromancy. The, um, the life force animating them isn't really natural to begin with."

"They're like undead?" Kert asked.

"If that's what it is, then possibly," Willow said.

"We've got some experience dealing with undead," Kert said grimly. "Would you say they'd be able to rise if their head was cut off?"

"Um, probably not," Willow guessed, blanching slightly.

"I'll instruct my men," Kert said, "we'll see to it. I'm grateful for your help, miss." He nodded politely to Tara, then turned and hurried off towards the large wagons where the off-duty guards were housed. Willow took Tara's hand as they walked back to their wagon.

"Well, nothing like lesser demons to brighten up the day," Willow said with a wry grin.

"We'll be okay," Tara said softly as they climbed back into their temporary home, "there's lots of guards, and the lieutenant was just being thorough."

"Yeah," Willow allowed, "I guess so."

"I'll protect you," Tara added, kneeling behind Willow. "I-if need be... I won't let them hurt you." Willow turned and gazed at her, tenderly holding both her hands.

"Thank you," she whispered. She blinked back a tear and kissed Tara, slowly and gently, expressing her gratitude for the sense of safety she found in Tara's arms.

"I won't let them hurt you either," Willow promised. "Anything that even looks at you funny is going to get a faceful of ice shards." She and Tara stayed where they were for a moment, gaining strength from each other in a difficult moment. Eventually their determined stares turned to grins, and the tension that had built up during the meeting faded.

"Well then," Willow said eventually, "does my beautiful Amazon feel like more lunch, or would she like to sample that desert I mentioned?"

"I think," Tara replied, making a show of considering her options, "she'd like... the desert." Willow smiled wider and leaned up against Tara.

"In that case, close your eyes," she whispered. Tara did so, and felt Willow lean away from her for a moment before returning to press against her side. There was a rustling noise which Tara guessed was a package being unwrapped, and then she felt something smooth and slightly cool against her lips. She opened her mouth and Willow slid the small something inside. Tara bit down and smiled.

"Cherry," she said.

"That's right," Willow murmured, "but that was just an introduction, to get you started." She shifted position again, and Tara couldn't quite figure out what she was doing. A moment later she felt Willow touch another cherry to her lips, and she reached for it.

"Slowly, slowly," Willow admonished her, darting out of reach of her lips. Tara patiently waited, and slowly opened her mouth as Willow touched her again, this time content to run her tongue over the little fruit as Willow slipped it between her lips.

"Mmmm," she moaned quietly, "I taste Willow."

"There's no fooling you," Willow said. "Would you like another?" Tara nodded. "Open your eyes," Willow said. Tara did so to see her holding a cherry up by its stalk, dangling it in front of her. As she watched Willow lowered the cherry, trailing it down her cleavage as far as her top would allow, then reaching down lower. Tara noticed her skirt was lying to one side, leaving her with an unobstructed view as Willow gently pressed the cherry against the lips of her sex, rolling it around to cover it with her wetness. She shuddered slightly, and Tara gulped. When she was satisfied with her efforts she held the cherry up again, now glistening with her juices, carefully pulled it off its stalk, and offered it to Tara.

"Eat up," she whispered. Tara leaned forward, her lips closing around Willow's fingers. She kept them captured in her mouth as she ran her tongue over the cherry, and grazed her fingertips with her teeth when she bit down on it.

"I hope that tastes as good as it feels," Willow murmured, reaching down to the handful of cherries in their crumpled wrapping paper beside her. Tara's hand stopped her.

"Would you like to find out?" she whispered. Willow smiled and nodded eagerly, folding her hands in her lap and waiting patiently as Tara took the time to unlace the side of her skirt, rather than just slide it down her legs. She grinned a mischievous grin when Tara finished, revealing herself to be naked underneath.

"I didn't think you were wearing anything under that," she observed. Tara glanced at her, mingling shyness and playfulness in her expression.

"I'm not the only one," she countered, glancing down at the reddish curls just visible above Willow's hands in her lap. Tara leaned close to her and whispered in her ear: "Tell me, were you hoping we'd get back here quickly, or did you plan on taking me behind the supply wagon when no-one was looking?"

"Oh gods," Willow whispered, "don't give me ideas." Tara kissed her quickly, just long enough for her tongue to dart out and touch Willow's, before sitting back on her heels with her thighs parted, and taking a cherry from Willow's stash.

"First," she said, "just to get you started..." She held up the cherry for Willow, and smiled as she leaned forward and bit it, pulling it off its stalk.

"Nice," Willow grinned, "but somehow... I think it needs a little extra flavour."

"Well," Tara said softly, taking another one, "let me see what I can do about that." She dragged the cherry along her thigh, smiling at the way Willow's eyes followed every move. When she reached her sex she teased her clit for a moment, purring in the back of her throat, before sliding the cherry a little lower. With her other hand she parted her lips, running the smooth little cherry up and down the length of her sex, covering it liberally in her juices.

"Mmm-mmm," she murmured, "I think that's done the trick." With one last stroke, pressing the fruit firmly against herself, she plucked it off its stem and offered it to Willow. Willow leaned forward, reaching out to flick the tip of her tongue over the cherry and Tara's fingers, before closing her lips around both and sucking heartily.

"Perfect," she whispered as she leaned back, releasing Tara's empty fingers. She quickly grabbed another cherry from the pile and reached between Tara's legs. "My turn," she said. Tara leaned back, opening her thighs wider and presenting herself to Willow, who took far longer than was necessary bathing the cherry and her fingers in Tara's warm juices.

"You're insatiable," she grinned, "here I am, innocently preparing a cherry for you to eat, and you're getting all hot and wet about it."

"Mmm-hmm," Tara agreed, "now why don't you bring those innocent fingers of yours up here?" With a smile Willow complied, watching as the cherry vanished between Tara's lips with a flourish of her tongue.

"So which is better?" she asked, reaching for another, "Willow-juice or Tara-juice?"

"Hmm," Tara considered, "well, I have to admit, there's a definite attraction to your method of gathering Tara-juice." She smiled as Willow rolled the cherry against her sex. "But," she gasped, "Willow-juice comes straight from the body of a goddess... so there's really no contest."

"Ooh, someone's sweet-talking me," Willow said with a grin. "Won't your other gods get jealous?" She slipped the cherry into Tara's mouth.

"They've got their own lovers," Tara said, "you're all mine." Willow was already reaching for another.

"That I am," she agreed, touching the cherry to her sex before offering it to Tara. She reached back for another one.

"Hmm, last one," she mused.

"Why don't you have this one?" Tara offered.

"I think I will," Willow agreed, "but only if I get to prepare it." She pulled the cherry from its stalk and held it between her fingertips, nudging it between the lips of Tara's sex. Grinning at Tara, she pressed it in a little more, so that it stayed in place when she let go of it.

"Oops," she said unashamedly, "slippery little thing. Guess I'll have to go down and get it, won't I?" She gently lay Tara down, kissing her all the while, then slowly made her way down her body, pausing to lick her cleavage, and lifting up the bottom of her tunic to kiss her stomach.

"Mmm," Tara moaned quietly, "my goddess..."

"All yours, baby," Willow whispered. "And you're my goddess, too. Time for me to worship you." Tara whimpered as she felt Willow's lips close around her clit, starting a patient rhythm of licking and sucking that quickly had her writhing. Willow began to make forays down the length of her sex, kissing and nibbling gently on her lips. Finally she snuck her tongue between them and scooped out the errant cherry. She held it between her teeth as she made her way back up Tara's body, brushing her cheek against her stomach and nuzzling her cleavage on her way.

"Care for a bite?" she said, lisping slightly to keep from squashing the cherry between her teeth. Tara nodded, her eyes betraying a little of how desperately she wanted to feel Willow between her legs again. Smiling, Willow lowered her lips to Tara's and released the cherry into her mouth, continuing to kiss her as Tara chewed and swallowed the fruit.

"We're all out of cherries," Willow murmured, grinning seductively, "but I was thinking, perhaps I might just taste a little more of that luscious flavouring? What do you think?"

"Please, Willow," Tara moaned quietly, "oh goddess, please..."

"Your wish is my pleasure," Willow whispered with a smile. Again she took her time making her way down Tara's body, even halting and retracing her path up for a short while, pushing Tara's tunic out of the way and reaching underneath her to undo her bra. With Tara's breasts revealed to her she patiently nibbled and licked each nipple to excruciating hardness, all the while aware of how Tara's hips were slowly grinding against her waist further down. She pulled her own top over her head, leaving her clad only in her bra and her boots, and arched her back, feeling Tara's warmth against her skin.

"My Tara is very, very hot," she murmured, kissing her nipples between the words, "perhaps I should attend to her right away... or perhaps I should keep teasing her... what do you think?"

"Oh goddess Willow," Tara breathed, "anything..."

"Anything?" Willow asked. "Even if I decide to keep teasing?"

"Oh yes," Tara whispered, "goddess, you make me feel so wonderful..." Willow grinned and engulfed Tara's right nipple in her mouth, sucking it to full attention before gently but firmly taking it between her teeth. She bit down and tugged on it, not too hard, but enough to make Tara gasp and shudder beneath her.

"Oh yes," Tara said in a whispered moan, "oh yes, my Willow, just like that... oh goddess, I think I'm going to come..." Willow gave her nipple one last bite and tug, a little harder, then released her and moved her head to the other side of Tara's chest. At the same time she slid her hand down to Tara's sex and gently slipped a finger between her folds, teasing her entrance. She looked up at Tara, who was gazing down at her, eyes half-closed in pleasure, her breath coming in gasps between her moist lips.

"Yes?" she asked playfully.

"Do it," Tara growled, clenching her teeth. Willow gently sucked her nipple for a moment, giving her time to anticipate what was to come, and rocking her finger back and forth with just the tip inside Tara. Her other hand covered Tara's neglected right breast, thumb and forefinger converging on her nipple, the rest of her fingers pressing into Tara's soft flesh. Then, at the same moment, she thrust deep inside her sex, and bit down on her nipple, her face pressing into the softness of her breast as she held the hard nub between her teeth and licked it.

"Mmmm!" Tara moaned, clamping her mouth shut to keep from crying out. Her hands flew to Willow, one on the back of her head, holding Willow to her breast, the other covering Willow's hand between her legs, pushing her finger as deep as it could go and refusing to release her. Willow eased off on Tara's nipple just a fraction, giving more attention to licking that biting, and moaned quietly in the back of her throat as she felt Tara's sex clench around her, her body spasming and her juices flowing freely.

As Tara's body slowly stopped shuddering Willow let go of her nipple completely, and tenderly licked and kissed it, as if soothing it after her strenuous treatment. She slowly withdrew her finger from Tara, causing little tremors to run through her hips and thighs as she turned it this way and that. Tara regained the strength in her arms and gently urged Willow up, enveloping her in a warm hug as they lay side by side.

"Oh my love," Tara whispered, "that was so... mmm, intense..."

"I..." Willow said, a little nervously despite her smile, "that didn't... hurt? Did it?"

"No, baby," Tara soothed her, "no, it was wonderful."

"You're sure?" Willow asked, as Tara hugged her closer, running her hands up and down her back.

"It felt good," Tara said confidently. "It wasn't just a tiny nibble, but it felt sooo gooood..." she finished by kissing Willow, gently biting her bottom lip for emphasis. Willow giggled slightly and licked Tara's lips.

"Good," she replied, "that's good... 'cause you only had to say so, if you wanted me to stop-"

"I promise," Tara said, "if I ever want you not to do anything, I'll tell you. You don't have to worry."

"My perfect Tara," Willow murmured, snuggling up against her and pulling a blanket over them both.

"Y-you didn't..." Tara whispered, "Um, do you want me to...?"

"It's alright," Willow assured her, "you know, you can love me any way you want, any time you want, but I don't want you to ever feel as though you have to, as if I'm not happy unless I've come as well... I kind of feel like I did just come, in a way... I was so close to you, and you were holding me, and when the release went through your body, it felt like it went through mine as well... I know we'll make love again, very soon, so right now I just want to lie here and, oh gods, I feel so wonderful..."

"Any way I want?" Tara purred in her ear. "Any time I want?"

"Yep, I'll just lie here," Willow repeated, hugging Tara and giving her a playful squeeze around her waist, "just lying here, getting soaking wet..."

"So tell me," Tara said, "if you could make love anywhere... absolutely anywhere in the world... where would it be?"

"Are you going to take this as a challenge?" Willow asked, grinning and kissing Tara's neck.

"Maybe," Tara admitted.

"Okay then," Willow said slowly, deep in thought, "how about... on a boat. Right out on the tip of the bow... lying on my back, on the bowsprit in front of the figurehead, with you leaning over me, kissing me as you enter me... and then I could let my head fall back, and see the whole ocean, wide open in front of me, just like I'll be wide open in front of you," she giggled, "and as you make me come, I'll feel like I'm flying."

"I thought you didn't like boats?" Tara asked.

"Well, not when they're all lurching around and crashing through waves, no," Willow admitted, "so making love in the channel between the Twin Seas is out, or the only thing coming will be my lunch, up. But in calmer waters, boats are fine. They're like horses, so long as they don't do anything dramatic, we get along just fine."

"What's a bowsprit?" wondered Tara.

"It's the pole that sticks out the front of the boat," Willow said, "isn't it? They tie ropes from the top of the mast to it, to stop the mast falling over, I guess... actually I'm not sure. Everything on boats has got its own weird name. If I had my way, it'd just be called the sticking-out-in-front bit, nice and simple."

"With ropes tied to the big sticking-up-with-sails-on-bit?" Tara asked.

"Exactly. See? It's all so much easier than all this 'splicing the mainbrace' and 'running close-hauled' stuff. Just point the pointy end of the boat where you want to go, put up the big thing with the sails, and off you go. What about you?"

"What about me?" Tara asked, confused.

"Where in the whole world would you like to make love?"

"Oh..." Tara thought about it. "Well... I know. At home, in the temple of Athulua in the city, at midday the sun comes in at just the right angle, and it warms the grand altar. I'll sit right on the edge, and lean back, and you, my beautiful Willow, will kneel down between my legs and love me, with the sun warming our bodies, and the whole temple will echo to my moaning as you kiss me, and lick me, and slide your lovely tongue deep into me to taste me..." She shuddered lightly and hugged Willow tight, caressing her back.

"Well," Willow said, "that's certainly... that's not disrespectful of your gods, is it?"

"No," Tara said, "just very, very bold, seeing as there's always at least fifty or so people in the temple at midday, not counting the priests. That's unless it's a feast day, there'd be more like two hundred... all watching you feast... and the priests impatiently waiting for us to vacate their altar so they can get on with the ceremony. But so far as Athulua's concerned, making love in a temple is considered a form of worship."


"Oh yes," Tara said. "All our temples have private rooms, for couples to use if they want to worship in that particular way. It's not necessary, or anything, it's just... well, it's demonstrating the pleasure in your life to whichever god or goddess you're praying to. It's a way of saying 'You're my god, and I'm blissfully happy, so thanks'. Something like that. No-one's ever, um, made use of the grand altar like that," she admitted, "not in the middle of the day... there's always rumours floating around that some couple snuck in there at night and did a little worshipping without being discovered."

"Wow," Willow said, "and to think, the Zakarum church says sex for pleasure is shameful... heh, makes me wish I was an Amazon."

"You don't have to be Amazon to enjoy making love," Tara said softly.

"No I don't," Willow agreed, "I just have to be with you."

"Me' te'ela," Tara whispered.

"I know, baby," Willow replied, "I love you too." She smiled and inhaled the scent of Tara's hair, snuggling in the hollow of her neck and shoulder.

"You know," she said after a moment, "I'm starting to think travelling isn't so bad after all."

"If you're planning on spending the whole trip making love and talking erotic talk, then I agree," Tara said.

During the afternoon Tara took a brief ride up and down the length of the column of wagons a few times, seeing rain clouds drawing close and knowing she wouldn't get another chance for some time. When she returned her horse and jogged back to her and Willow's wagon, she found Willow deeply absorbed in one of her books. After finding a waterproof cape and hood for the wagon's driver she checked that the roof was tied down tightly, then nestled into Willow's lap, listening contentedly as the rain began to fall softly on the roof, and as Willow read to her, all about the various theories regarding the planets and their movements through the sky.

As night fell and the caravan halted in a suitable location, in a grove of trees just off the road with good visibility on all sides, the two shared dinner and stories about the heavens, Tara telling Willow the Amazon names for the constellations and the legends of which planets were signs of which gods and goddesses, Willow adding a few stories from her own fund of myths and legends, amassed from the library of her order, and the folktales of Kurast and Entsteig. After they had spent a long time talking, slowly cuddling closer against each other, Willow finally reached up, turned out the lamp, and lay down next to Tara, smiling at the feel of their bodies fitting naturally together, as if this was the way they had always been meant to be.

And then, just as she was wondering whether to tell one last story, or engage her creative talents in a more physical way, Tara kissed her, slowly and gently, and her hands moved down Willow's body, touching her in all her sensitive places, making her moan and writhe in contented pleasure. No words were needed; Willow lay back, closed her eyes and marvelled at how Tara could know her so well, understand her body so completely, that every touch was perfection. For a while Tara was pleased just to kiss Willow, unhurried and unhindered in her exploration of her mouth, while her hands stroked and massaged her breasts and her sex. Then, with one last, soft kiss and a look that promised volumes, she made her way down Willow's body, kissing her breasts, spending a long time caressing and licking her firm stomach, finally reaching her goal. She closed her lips around Willow's clit as if the fate of the world depended on her care, and the tender, patient way she stroked and parted Willow's lips was rewarded when, with no effort at all, she slid a finger inside her, and to Willow it felt so fulfilling that she almost cried.

Tara continued to pleasure her with boundless love and patience, never hurrying or straining, but merely ushering Willow towards the climax that had begun to stir the moment they had kissed. Willow surrendered herself completely to Tara's care, yielding all control of her body and her reactions, freeing herself of everything but to experience the love in Tara's every touch. As if holding her hand on an enchanted journey, Tara guided Willow higher, moving back up her body, her thumb gently taking over from her lips on Willow's clit as her finger found the special spot inside her that connected them like nothing else. Bringing Willow to the edge of her climax, Tara leaned down and kissed her, so gently and perfectly.

"This is how you make me feel," Tara whispered, "always." As she spoke she applied the tiniest, slightest increment of pressure inside Willow, just enough to tip her over the edge. Willow felt as if her body was liquefying, swaying like gentle waves on the shore, rushing forward, slowing, retreating for a moment before surging again. Tara's mouth on hers stifled her moan as she came, her climax peaceful, blissful and inevitable. The whole experience was so soothing that afterwards, with her body still tingling, Willow barely had time to nestle against Tara and feel her gentle kiss on her forehead before she was drifting away from consciousness, her awareness closing to everything but the warm presence of her lover beside her, and sleep claimed her.

Continue to Hellebore Chapter Twenty-Four (Rated NC-17)

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